Articles By David Fox

Path: /college-basketball/top-50-college-basketball-coaches-2014-15

Believe us, we don’t like repeating ourselves. Naming the same coach as No. 1 in the country for a third consecutive season is a little boring.


We tried to justify a new coach at the No. 1 spot if only to freshen things up a bit.


But each of the candidates for the top spot had a flaw. The last time we saw Mike Krzyzewski, he was walking off the court after a loss to Mercer. 


The coach of our preseason No. 1 team ended last year in the title game but only after limping to a No. 8 seed during the regular season. And a coach with three Elite Eights and a Final Four in the last four seasons (Billy Donovan) has a 5-8 record against the coach we just mentioned (John Calipari).


Given all that, we saw no reason to move our No. 1 coach from a year ago. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo is our pick again. His team won 29 games for the second time in three seasons and won the Big Ten Tournament.


The Spartans reached the Elite Eight, upsetting No. 1 seed and ACC champion Virginia along the way. Only the eventual national champion kept Michigan State from reaching Izzo’s seventh Final Four.


And all of this occurred despite a team that was snakebit by injuries all season.


Now, just because our No. 1 coach is the same as it was a year ago doesn’t mean we resisted change elsewhere.


Tony Bennett, an overachiever at Washington State and Virginia, moved onto the fringe of the top 10. National champion Kevin Ollie makes his debut in our rankings at No. 30 in only his second season as a head coach. And we also welcome back Bruce Pearl, who slides back into our top 20 coaches.

As usual, a handful of factors go into ranking the coaches — career accomplishments, career momentum, gameday acumen, player development, recruiting, conference records and postseason success.

Want to tell us how wrong we are? Tweet us at @AthlonSports or talk to us on Facebook.


1. Tom Izzo, Michigan State

Record at Michigan State: 468-187 (.715)

NCAA Tournament: 42-16, six Final Fours, one national title

Number to note: Consistency is the name of the game here. Izzo’s teams have ranked in the top 32 in KenPom’s defensive efficiency ratings in 10 of the last 12 seasons. Michigan State has been in the top 30 of the offensive efficiency ratings in eight of the last 10 seasons.

Why he’s ranked here: An injury-plagued season cut into Michigan State’s ability to reach the Final Four, leaving Izzo with the longest Final Four drought of his career (four consecutive years). The Spartans still won 29 games and the Big Ten Tournament and reached the Elite Eight, losing to eventual national champion UConn.

2. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
Record at Duke:
910-247 (.787)
NCAA Tournament: 82-26, 11 Final Fours, four championships
Number to note: The Blue Devils ended a streak of 121 consecutive weeks in the AP top 10 last season.
Why he’s ranked here: Forget about a loss to Mercer in the NCAA Tournament, Krzyzewski will reach 1,000 career wins this season.


3. John Calipari, Kentucky

Record at Kentucky: 152-37 (.804)

NCAA Tournament: 43-14, five Final Fours, one national championship

Number to note: Despite missing the 2013 Tournament, Calipari has 15 NCAA wins since 2010, most in the country during that span.

Why he’s ranked here: The disappointing 2013-14 regular season may not have been one of Cal’s shining moments, especially on the heels of an NIT exit a year earlier. The disappointment subsided with a run to the Final Four for the third time in four seasons.


4. Billy Donovan, Florida

Record at Florida: 451-169 (.727)

NCAA Tournament: 35-12, four Final Fours, two national championships

Number to note: Donovan has the second-most NCAA wins (13) since 2010 behind Calipari. The figure that doesn’t include two championships in 2006 and 2007.

Why he’s ranked here: Donovan will reach the 500-win mark next season and will be one of the top 25 fastest coaches to do so. His name will land somewhere around Lute Olson and Nolan Richardson in the record books in that category.

5. Rick Pitino, Louisville
Record at Louisville:
341-117 (.745)
NCAA Tournament: 50-17, seven Final Fours, two championships
Number to note: The Cardinals are 22-2 in conference and NCAA Tournament games the last three years.
Why he’s ranked here: Pitino’s teams are consistently among the toughest defensive squads in the country.


6. Bill Self, Kansas

Record at Kansas: 325-69 (.825)

NCAA Tournament: 36-15, two Final Fours, one national championship

Number to note: Last season was the first time since 2005 that Kansas ranked outside of the top 11 in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom.

Why he’s ranked here: Kansas lost 10 games last season, most for Self since 1998-99 at Tulsa. The Jayhawks still won (or shared) its 10th consecutive Big 12 title by two games.

7. Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
Record at Syracuse:
948-320 (.748)
NCAA Tournament: 53-30, four Final Fours, one championship
Number to note: Syracuse has declined in adjusted tempo in each of the last seven seasons. The Orange were the ninth-slowest team in the country in KenPom last season.
Why he’s ranked here: Syracuse has six 30-win seasons all time. Half have come in the last five seasons.


8. John Beilein, Michigan

Record at Michigan: 104-60 (.615)

NCAA Tournament: 16-9, one Final Four

Number to note: Michigan is 40-14 in the Big Ten the last three seasons. The Wolverines posted one winning conference record during the previous 13 seasons.

Why he’s ranked here: Since arriving at Michigan, Beilein is 15-35 against Tom Izzo, Bo Ryan and Thad Matta, but he’s caught up to the pack. He’s 6-3 in the last nine vs. Izzo, 2-3 vs. Ryan after losing his first 10 and 4-2 in his last six vs. Matta.


9. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin

Record at Wisconsin: 321-121 (.726)

NCAA Tournament: 20-13, one Final Four

Number to note: The Big Ten has been the best basketball conference the last few years, and Wisconsin has thrived. The Badgers have never finished lower than fourth in the league in 13 seasons under Ryan.

Why he’s ranked here: After 2014, no one can say Ryan is the best coach never to reach the Final Four. He’s now in the discussion for best coach to never win a national title. Could that change in 2015?


10. Sean Miller, Arizona

Record at Arizona: 129-48 (.729)

NCAA Tournament: 14-7

Number to note: Miller has reached the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament in each of his last five trips at Arizona and Xavier. The only two times he’s failed to reach the Sweet 16 were his first two NCAA appearances with Musketeers.

Why he’s ranked here: Miller has restored Arizona to national prominence and has the No. 4 signing class this year and the No. 1 class for 2015. The best coach without a Final Four appearance won’t carry that title for much longer.

11. Tony Bennett, Virginia
Record at Virginia:
106-60 (.639)
NCAA Tournament: 5-4
Number to note: Bennett led Virginia to its first sweep of the ACC regular season and tournament titles in 2013-14.
Why he’s ranked here: In eight seasons as a head coach, Bennett ended a 19-year Sweet 16 drought at Virginia and gave Washington State its deepest Tourney run in 67 years.

12. Roy Williams, North Carolina
Record at North Carolina:
306-89 (.775)
NCAA Tournament: 63-22, seven Final Fours, two championships
Number to note: The Tar Heels are 25-11 in the ACC, 12-11 on the road and 1-3 against Duke in the last two seasons.
Why he’s ranked here: The career achievements may demand a higher ranking, but schools like Virginia and Miami have been closer to Carolina territory than Carolina during the last two seasons.


13. Thad Matta, Ohio State

Record at Ohio State: 275-83 (.786)

NCAA Tournament: 23-12, two Final Fours

Number to note: At Butler, Xavier and Ohio State, Matta has never had a losing season in conference play. The lone .500 season conference season of his career came in his debut at Ohio State.

Why he’s ranked here: Matta could make the case for being the nation’s most underrated coach. Before a round of 64 loss to Dayton last year, Ohio State’s last four Tournament appearances yielded a Final Four, an Elite Eight and two Sweet 16s.


14. Shaka Smart, VCU

Record at VCU: 137-46 (.749)

NCAA Tournament: 7-4, one Final Four

Number to note: Smart has won 72 percent of conference games in his career but, oddly, has never won a regular season conference title in the Colonial or Atlantic 10.

Why he’s ranked here: The 37-year-old Smart has carved out an identity at VCU. Hard to believe even better days may be ahead of him.


15. Gregg Marshall, Wichita State

Record at Wichita State: 174-71 (.710)

NCAA Tournament: 6-10, one Final Four

Number to note: Marshall’s last four teams at Wichita have ranked in the top 40 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency on

Why he’s ranked here: Since March 1, 2013, three teams have defeated Marshall’s Wichita State teams — one won a national title (Louisville), one reached the title game (Kentucky) and one had Doug McDemott (Creighton, twice).


16. Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State

Record at Iowa State: 90-47 (.657)

NCAA Tournament: 4-3

Number to note: Iowa State’s 34 Big 12 wins during the last three seasons are one more than the Cyclones won during the previous seven seasons.

Why he’s ranked here: The Mayor has a formula that has returned Iowa State to national prominence: Owning the transfer market, high-powered offense and analytical savvy.


17. Bruce Pearl, Auburn

Record at Auburn: First season

NCAA Tournament: 10-8

Number to note: Pearl has missed the NCAA Tournament only twice as a Division I head coach, both in his first three seasons at Milwaukee. 

Why he’s ranked here: Pearl already pulled three four-star recruits (one junior college) for the 2015 class. Auburn will be competitive soon enough.


18. Steve Fisher, San Diego State

Record at San Diego State: 312-176 (.639)

NCAA Tournament: 25-13, three Final Fours, one national championship

Number to note: A program that never won an NCAA Tournament game until 2011 has won five with two Sweet 16 appearances in the last four years.

Why he’s ranked here: Fisher has turned San Diego State into one of the best programs out West. His ability to build a foundation and restock a once-dormant program has been astounding.


19. Jay Wright, Villanova

Record at Villanova: 286-149 (.657)

NCAA Tournament: 13-11, one Final Four

Number to note: Villanova’s Big East title in 2014 was the Wildcats’ first outright conference title since 1982. Nova hasn’t won a conference tournament since 1995.

Why he’s ranked here: After a brief dip in 2011-12, Villanova has returned to where Wright has had the program for most of his tenure. Villanova went 16-0 vs. Big East opponents not named Creighton during the 2013-14 regular season.

20. Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh
Record at Pittsburgh:
288-96 (.750)
NCAA Tournament: 12-10
Number to note: Pitt has never ranked lower than 45th in adjusted offensive efficeincy on KenPom in 11 seasons under Dixon. The Panthers have been ranked in the top 20 in that category six times in the last eight years.
Why he’s ranked here: The 2011-12 season marked the only time in Dixon’s career he failed to reach the NCAA Tournament or win 10 conference games.


21. Tim Miles, Nebraska

Record at Nebraska: 34-31 (.525)

NCAA Tournament: 0-2

Number to note: Miles ended combined NCAA Tournament droughts of 25 seasons at Nebraska (16) and Colorado State (nine) in addition to laying the groundwork for Division I newcomer North Dakota State.

Why he’s ranked here: The Big Ten is as good as ever, and Nebraska is a relevant program here. The next step is to pick up the Cornhuskers first NCAA Tournament win.


22. Tad Boyle, Colorado 

Record at Colorado: 92-50 (.648)

NCAA Tournament: 1-3

Number to note: The Buffaloes have ranked in the top 50 of adjusted defensive efficiency in each of the last three seasons, according to KenPom.

Why he’s ranked here: This is the golden age of Colorado basketball. Colorado has as many NCAA appearances under Boyle in the last three seasons as it did from 1969-2011.


23. Lon Kruger, Oklahoma

Record at Oklahoma: 58-38 (.604)

NCAA Tournament: 14-15, one Final Four

Number to note: Oklahoma ranked 17th in tempo last season. Kruger didn’t have a top-100 team in that category since 2005.

Why he’s ranked here: Got a problem? Lon Kruger will solve it. He’s led clean-up jobs at Florida, UNLV, Kansas State and now Oklahoma and taken all of them (plus Illinois) to multiple NCAA Tournaments.


24. Mark Few, Gonzaga

Record at Gonzaga: 403-100 (.801)

NCAA Tournament: 16-15

Number to note: Few is the active leader in career win percentage (.801), pulling ahead of Roy Williams last season.

Why he’s ranked here: He’s reached the NCAA Tournament all 15 seasons as a head coach but he’s reached the Sweet 16 just once since 2006.


25. Rick Barnes, Texas

Record at Texas: 382-166 (.697)

NCAA Tournament: 21-21, one Final Four

Number to note: Since 1993-94, Barnes has missed the NCAA Tournament only twice.

Why he’s ranked here: Barnes reversed the slide of his tenure with a surprising 24-11 season and 11-7 finish in the Big 12. The Myles Turner arrival signaled he still has some Lone Star State recruiting clout.


26. Bob Huggins, West Virginia

Record at West Virginia: 150-91 (.622)

NCAA Tournament: 27-20, one Final Four

Number to note: Huggins averaged 8.3 losses per season in 21 years at Akron and Cincinnati. He’s averaged 12.9 since his return at Kansas State and West Virginia.

Why he’s ranked here: Though West Virginia missed the NCAA Tournament, the Mountaineers improved offensively by 11 points per game thanks to Huggins’ most up-tempo team in nearly a decade.

27. Jim Larranaga, Miami
Record at Miami:
66-36 (.647)
NCAA Tournament: 7-6, one Final Four
Number to note: Masterful coaching job in 2013-14 preserved a streak of 16 consecutive winning seasons. At Bowling Green, George Mason and Miami, he’s had one losing season since 1993.
Why he’s ranked here: Larranaga had a nice career by the time he was 55. Then he took George Mason to the Final Four and swept the ACC regular season and tournament titles at Miami.

28. Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech
Record at Virginia Tech:
First season
NCAA Tournament: 8-5
Number to note: From 2011-13, Marquette reached the Sweet 16 twice and the Elite Eight once.
Why he’s ranked here: Williams proved he could go toe to toe with Syracuse, Louisville and Pittsburgh. Can he compete against those three, plus Duke and North Carolina, at Virginia Tech?

29. Larry Brown, SMU
Record at SMU:
42-27 (.609)
NCAA Tournament: 19-6, three Final Fours, one championship
Number to note: The Mustangs missed the NCAA Tournament but went 2-0 against eventual national champion Connecticut.
Why he’s ranked here: After only two seasons, the 73-year-old Brown has done what no SMU coach has done since Doc Hayes — make the Mustangs relevant.

30. Kevin Ollie, UConn
Record at UConn:
52-18 (.743)
NCAA Tournament: 6-0, one Final Four, one championship
Number to note: Ollie won a national title only four years into coaching career — two seasons as an assistant and two seasons as a head coach.
Why he’s ranked here: The future is limitless for a 42-year-old who took over for a legendary coach (Jim Calhoun) and recovered from NCAA sanctions a year earlier to win a title.


31. Scott Drew, Baylor

Record at Baylor: 206-150 (.579)

NCAA Tournament: 8-4

Number to note: Drew is 17-5 combined in the NCAA Tournament and NIT, claiming two Elite Eights, a Sweet 16 and an NIT title.

Why he’s ranked here: The even-year, odd-year trend for Baylor predicts a down year in 2014-15.

32. Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
Record at Cincinnati:
162-107 (.602)
NCAA Tournament: 3-6
Number to note: Cincinnati has ranked in the top 25 in adjusted defense on KenPom in each of the last four seasons.
Why he’s ranked here: With 101 wins and four NCAA Tournament appearances in the last four seasons, Cronin brought Cincinnati back from hitting the reset button 10 years ago.


33. John Thompson III, Georgetown

Record at Georgetown: 227-104 (.686)

NCAA Tournament: 8-9, one Final Four

Number to note: Before last season, Georgetown ranked in the top 100 in defensive efficiency in KenPom's rankings every year of Thompson’s tenure, including three times in the top 10.

Why he’s ranked here: Thompson may get dinged for early NCAA losses, but the Hoyas are a year removed from a Big East title. Besides, Georgetown’s NCAA draws have included Florida Gulf Coast, Final Four-bound VCU and Stephen Curry-led Davidson.


34. Fran McCaffery, Iowa

Record at Iowa: 74-63 (.540)

NCAA Tournament: 2-6

Number to note: McCaffery ended a seven-year drought of 20-win seasons at Iowa and an eight-year NCAA Tournament drought for the Hawkeyes.

Why he’s ranked here: McCaffery’s turnaround at Iowa has been remarkable but Iowa hasn’t posted a winning Big Ten record since 2006-07.

35. Mike Brey, Notre Dame

Record at Notre Dame: 300-159 (.654)

NCAA Tournament: 6-11

Number to note: Notre Dame has one NCAA win since 2008.

Why he's ranked here: Notre Dame averaged 11.6 conference wins from 2006 through 2013 before falling to 6-12 in its first season in the ACC.


36. Steve Alford, UCLA

Record at UCLA: 28-9 (.757)

NCAA Tournament: 7-8

Number to note: In Alford’s first season, UCLA reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008 ... with the help of a No. 13 seed (Tulsa) and No. 12 seed (Stephen F. Austin). That shouldn’t be ignored — two of Alford’s New Mexico teams were eliminated by double-digit seeds.

Why he’s ranked here: Alford’s hire wasn’t met with much excitement, but the jolt of energy seems to be working. UCLA had arguably its best team since the 2008 Final Four squad.


37. Dana Altman, Oregon

Record at Oregon: 97-47 (.674)

NCAA Tournament: 5-10

Number to note: A streaky program has stability. Oregon has winning conference seasons in three consecutive years for the first time in school history.

Why he’s ranked here: An offseason scandal casts a shadow over his tenure at Oregon. His career, though, has been marked by building consistent winners at Creighton and now Oregon.

38. Leonard Hamilton, Florida State
Record at Florida State:
241-157 (.606)
NCAA Tournament: 6-7
Number to note: Florida State hasn’t had a losing ACC record since 2006-07, though the Seminoles went 9-9 the last two years.
Why he’s ranked here: The Seminoles have reached the NCAA Tournament four times and the NIT five times in the last nine seasons. Not a bad stretch for FSU.


39. Tom Crean, Indiana

Record at Indiana: 101-97 (.510)

NCAA Tournament: 8-7, one Final Four

Number to note: Indiana won one road game in Crean’s first three seasons. The Hoosiers have won 14 in three seasons since.

Why he’s ranked here: Indiana’s collapse from spending most of 2012-13 at No. 1 to missing/declining the postseason altogether is a major concern. The same can be said of the alarming rate of off-court issues. Still, Crean brought Indiana back from 6-25 in his first season.

41. Kelvin Sampson, Houston
Record at Houston:
First season
NCAA Tournament: 12-14, one Final Four
Number to note: Sampson’s teams have reached the NCAA Tournament in 14 of his last 15 seasons in college coaching at Washington State, Oklahoma and Indiana.
Why he’s ranked here: He may be a risk to ignore NCAA rules, but he’s proven he can thrive in adverse situations at OU and Wazzu.


41. Larry Krystkowiak, Utah

Record at Utah: 42-55 (.433)

NCAA Tournament: 1-2

Number to note: Utah won more Pac-12 games in his third season (nine) than the Utes won total games in his first year (six).

Why he’s ranked here: Krystkowiak brought Utah back from irrelevance, and now the Utes will contend for their first NCAA spot since 2009.


42. Dave Rose, BYU

Record at BYU: 232-78 (.748)

NCAA Tournament: 4-7

Number to note: Rose had never lost more than nine games in a season in his career until he lost 12 in each of the last two seasons.

Why he’s ranked here: The departure of Jimmer Fredette and the move to the West Coast Conference has slowed BYU’s momentum, but Rose still has seven NCAA appearances in nine years as a coach.


43. Archie Miller, Dayton

Record at Dayton: 63-38 (.624)

NCAA Tournament: 3-1

Number to note: Dayton improved its road record from 5-16 in Miller’s first two seasons to 7-4 last season.

Why he’s ranked here: Sean’s younger brother has made himself a hot coaching candidate in his own right wins over Ohio State and Syracuse on the way to the Elite Eight last season.

44. Fran Dunphy, Temple
Record at Temple:
167-97 (.633)
NCAA Tournament: 3-15
Number to note: Before the bottom fell out in Temple’s first season (9-22) in the AAC, the Owls averaged 24.3 overall wins and 12.3 wins in the Atlantic 10 the previous six seasons.
Why he’s ranked here: Only Temple predecessor John Chaney (516) has more wins in Philadelphia Big 5 history than Dunphy at Temple and Penn (477).


45. Tubby Smith, Texas Tech

Record at Texas Tech: 14-18 (.438)

NCAA Tournament: 30-16, one Final Four, one national championship

Number to note: Smith hasn’t led a team to a winning conference record since his final season at Kentucky.

Why he’s ranked here: In what seemed like questionable hire at first, Smith led Texas Tech to its best Big 12 record since 2007-08 with wins over Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas.

46. Josh Pastner, Memphis
Record at Memphis:
130-44 (.747)
NCAA Tournament: 2-4
Number to note: Pastner ended a 12-game losing streak against ranked teams last season by going 5-5 against top 25 teams after an Oklahoma State loss in November.
Why he’s ranked here: Pastner’s not John Calipari, but he’s come into his own as a head coach the last two seasons.


47. Tommy Amaker, Harvard

Record at Harvard: 139-71 (.662)

NCAA Tournament: 4-4

Number to note: With wins over New Mexico and Cincinnati the last two seasons, Harvard is the first Ivy team since the field expanded to 64 to win games in back-to-back NCAA Tournaments.

Why he’s ranked here: After a mediocre tenure at Michigan, Amaker has found a home at Harvard, where he’s won four consecutive league titles.


48. Rick Byrd, Belmont

Record at Belmont: 299-175 (.631)

NCAA Tournament: 0-6

Number to note: Byrd has 689 career wins in the NCAA record book, counting Belmont’s time in the NAIA.

Why he’s ranked here: Belmont has won regular season conference titles in each of the last five seasons in the Atlantic Sun and Ohio Valley.


49. Mike Anderson, Arkansas

Record at Arkansas: 59-39 (.602)

NCAA Tournament: 7-6

Number to note: Mike Anderson is 4-1 against Calipari-coached Kentucky teams. While at UAB, Anderson went 1-1 against Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament.

Why he’s ranked here: Once considered a home run hire when the Razorbacks hired Nolan Richardson’s right-hand man, Anderson will need to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time at Arkansas to truly shift the momentum of his program.


50. Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt

Record at Vanderbilt: 292-192 (.603)

NCAA Tournament: 6-8

Number to note: During the last two years, Vanderbilt endured back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in 13 seasons under Stallings.

Why he’s ranked here: Vanderbilt is still searching for answers since the John Jenkins/Festus Ezeli/Jeff Taylor class left school two years ago.

The Top 50 College Basketball Coaches for 2014-15
Post date: Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-playoff-rankings-analysis-week-12

The first major dilemmas for the College Football Playoff selection committee may be on the way.


Baylor’s trouncing of Oklahoma in Norman vaulted the Bears into the top 10 of the weekly rankings, but it wasn't enough to push Baylor ahead of TCU, raising questions about head-to-head wins and non-conference scheduling.


Indeed, Baylor may force the selection committee some interesting explanations if the Bears continue to win.


Here's why:


• The question of head-to-head wins: Baylor defeated TCU 61-58 on Oct. 11, but four spots in the rankings separated the two Tuesday. Selection committee chair Jeff Long said head-to-head weighs more as the teams are considered closer in the rankings. Essentially, the committee views TCU’s body of work strong enough at this point to override Baylor's head-to-head win. 


TCU has wins over two top 25 teams (No. 13 Kansas State and No. 25 Minnesota) and a loss to No. 7 Baylor. Meanwhile, the Bears have one top-25 win (TCU), and their loss is more lopsided to an unranked West Virginia.


• One theme in the run up to the playoff was that the system would encourage teams to take on more challenging non-conference schedules. That wouldn’t seem to be valid if Baylor makes the playoff with a non-conference schedule of SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo.


• As much as Long wants to say the committee is starting each week with a “clean sheet” evaluating each team’s body of work, that won’t ease the feelings of fans who watch their teams climb into a playoff scenario and then out without ever losing a game. 


With Kansas, Texas and Iowa State remaining, TCU has completed the toughest part of its schedule. Meanwhile, teams like Alabama, Arizona State and Baylor all have opportunities for major wins down the stretch. By the end of the season, Long may have to explain TCU's plight to a horde of angry fans.


Here’s how the second top 25 shook out, followed by our observations.


College Football Playoff Rankings: Nov. 11
1. Mississippi State10. Ole Miss18. Notre Dame
2. Oregon11. UCLA19. Clemson
3. Florida State12. Michigan State20. Wisconsin
4. TCU13. Kansas State21. Duke
5. Alabama14. Arizona22. Georgia Tech
6. Arizona State15. Georgia23. Utah
7. Baylor16. Nebraska24. Texas A&M
8. Ohio State17. LSU25. Minnesota
9. Auburn  



Oregon at No. 2

In reality, Oregon’s move from No. 3 to No. 2 ahead of undefeated Florida State probably doesn’t mean too much. If the season ended today, the two teams would play in the semifinal at the same site, the Rose Bowl. But it does signal that the selection committee won’t necessarily honor the zero in the loss column for the sake of doing so. Selection committee chair Jeff Long explained that Oregon has three top-25 wins (at No. 11 UCLA, No. 12 Michigan State, at No. 23 Utah) whereas Florida State has two (No. 18 Notre Dame, No. 19 Clemson). FSU’s signature win of the season over Notre Dame was devalued by a 55-31 loss at Arizona State by the Irish.


Naming the “Group of Five” contenders

For the second week, the top 25 lacked a team from the American, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt. The highest ranked champion of one of those leagues is guaranteed a berth in the Cotton, Fiesta, Orange or Peach Bowl this season, and now it seems we have a field to consider. Long identified Marshall, Colorado State, Boise State, Northern Illinois and East Carolina as teams in the discussion for the top 25. Only “a little” of that discussion was about ECU, a bad sign for a Pirates team that was the clubhouse leader before a loss to Temple two weeks ago.


Who Shouldn’t Worry:



The Crimson Tide is sitting at No. 5 with games against Mississippi State and Auburn at home, plus a potential SEC championship game. Win, and the Tide are in the playoff, perhaps as a top seed in the Sugar Bowl.


Who Should be Pleasantly Surprised


Arizona State

The Sun Devils continue their rise up the rankings, though the committee is reticent to describe it as such. Arizona State was ranked No. 14 two weeks ago, but wins over Utah and Notre Dame put the Sun Devils at No. 6. Arizona State has the opportunity for two more landmark wins — at No. 14 Arizona to finish the season and potentially No. 2 Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game. Long said the committee considered that Arizona State’s only loss to UCLA occurred when the Sun Devils were missing starting quarterback Taylor Kelly, another good sign for Todd Graham's team. Arizona State lost 62-27 at home to UCLA, but the committee holds the Bruins in some high regard. UCLA is No. 11 despite one-score wins over Virginia, Memphis, Texas, Cal and Colorado and a loss at home to Utah.


Who Should Worry:



Certainly, the Horned Frogs would rather be at No. 4 than behind an Alabama team that will face perhaps two more top 10 teams. TCU helped its resume with a 41-20 win over Kansas State, but the Horned Frogs have reason for concern. First, Alabama is at No. 5 with a chance to move up if the Tide are able to beat No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 9 Auburn. Long described the margin between the Frogs and Tide as “extremely thin.” Second, Long indicated that this was the first week that TCU and Baylor were in the same group of six evaluated at a given time by the selection committee. 


In other words, the discussion between TCU and Baylor is getting closer. Should TCU and Baylor be more comparable teams in the committee’s eyes, Baylor’s head-to-head win over TCU may loom large. The Horned Frogs going from No. 4 in the rankings to outside of the playoff even if they don’t lose a game is a possibility.


If the Season Ended Today:


National Semifinals:

Sugar: No. 1 Mississippi State vs. No. 4 TCU

Rose: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 Florida State


Other bowls (projected)

Cotton: No. 7 Baylor vs. No. 8 Ohio State

Fiesta: No. 6 Arizona State vs. No. 10 Ole Miss

Orange: No. 19 Clemson^ vs. No. 5 Alabama

Peach: Marshall* vs. No. 9 Auburn

*automatic Group of 5 bid

^automatic ACC bid to Orange Bowl

College Football Playoff Rankings Analysis: Week 12
Post date: Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - 20:21
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/previewing-must-watch-college-football-games-week-12

Change in college football is all around us, especially in this first season leading to the playoff.


One truism remains the case in the changing landscape, though: It’s darn tough to win a conference road game.


The top two teams in the country may learn that this week when Mississippi State visits Alabama and Florida State visits rival Miami. 


Beyond the top two teams, the current cream of the crop in the Big Ten, Ohio State and Nebraska, will defend that status on the road. At the same time, Auburn attempts to recover from a damaging loss to Texas A&M by facing Georgia in Athens.


The Week Ahead: Nov. 15

All games Saturday. All times Eastern.


Ohio State at Minnesota

When and where: Noon, ABC

We’re watching because... this is suddenly an important game in the Big Ten. After convincing divisional wins last week, Ohio State and Minnesota are a combined 9-1 in the Big Ten. The only conference loss among them, remarkably, is to an Illinois team with a backup quarterback. Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett is on the fast track to stardom after 386 yards of total offense and four touchdowns against Michigan State. Meanwhile, Minnesota showed rare balance on offense as Mitch Leidner threw four touchdown passes in a 51-14 rout of Iowa.

Vegas says: Ohio State by 12


Mississippi State at Alabama

When and where: 3:30 p.m., CBS

We’re watching because... this week’s powerhouse matchup in the SEC West may be the most important of the year. The enthusiasm on the Mississippi State bandwagon has dimmed a bit as the Bulldogs have been pressed by Kentucky and Arkansas. Mississippi State can solidify its hold on No. 1, and Dak Prescott can push Marcus Mariota for the Heisman with a win in Tuscaloosa. The Bulldogs’ defense may be just what Alabama wants to see, however, after putting up 4.2 yards per play in the overtime win over LSU.

Vegas says: Alabama by 7


Nebraska at Wisconsin

When and where: 3:30 p.m., ABC

We’re watching because... the two best running backs in the country (arguably) meet in a critical Big Ten West matchup. Melvin Gordon and Ameer Abdullah have been friends since the recruiting process, and now they follow each other’s box scores every week. Gordon, the nation’s rushing leader, has the edge now, but Abdullah at No. 6 in the country isn’t far behind. The winner may be the favorite in the Big Ten West.

Vegas says: Wisconsin by 6


Auburn at Georgia

When and where: 7:15 p.m., ESPN

We’re watching because... one of the teams will salvage their hopes for the season after a devastating loss. Auburn is coming off a loss to Texas A&M while Georgia is two weeks removed from a loss to Florida. Both shocking defeats damaged college football playoff hopes. Georgia, at least, will get a jolt of energy with the return of Todd Gurley.

Vegas says: Georgia by 2 1/2


Florida State at Miami

When and where: 8 p.m., ABC

We’re watching because... Florida State is on upset alert again. The Seminoles are invincible in the second half, which is good news for a team that has struggled early. Florida State has trailed in the first half in six of the last seven games, including 21-0 at Louisville two weeks ago. Miami is one of the nation’s most improved teams during the last month. Duke Johnson is averaging 10.1 yards per carry in the last three wins while the defense has rebounding to allow 2.1 yards per carry in the last three games.

Vegas says: Florida State by 2

Previewing the Must-Watch College Football Games of Week 12
Post date: Monday, November 10, 2014 - 16:51
All taxonomy terms: Baylor Bears, College Football, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/bryce-petty-finds-groove-puts-baylor-back-playoff-mix

For stretches of this season, Baylor didn’t look much like Baylor teams of recent vintage, and Bryce Petty didn’t resemble Bryce Petty.


This version of Art Briles’ squad was 7-1 but easy to dismiss in the College Football Playoff race.


On Saturday, Baylor achieved the most un-Baylor-like feat it could muster to put the Bears back into the playoff mix.


The Bears not only won a road game against a ranked team for the first time since 1991, they won in Norman for the first time in school history.


Baylor started Saturday ranked No. 12 but likely will be in striking distance of the playoff when the new rankings are released Tuesday after a 48-14 win over Oklahoma.


“This game, for me, was circled on the calendar,” Petty told the media. “I don't like to make that public, just because every game is a big game. At the same time, I really wanted to win this game, being at Norman. I didn't even know 37 straight losses to top 25 teams. All the stuff that we unraveled, that's big.”


The Bears needed this kind of feat to build legitimacy for the season. True, Baylor defeated TCU 61-58 thanks to a fourth quarter comeback Oct. 11. Otherwise, the Bears’ record entering Saturday didn’t have much meat to it.


Baylor’s non-conference schedule of SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo is forgettable at best, and its loss came by two touchdowns at West Virginia.


More than that, Petty was hardly himself in October and into the first weekend of November. The Big 12 leader in passing efficiency in 2013 completed 47 percent of his passes during the four-game stretch entering Saturday.


That changed in the second quarter in Norman when Petty started to look like the quarterback who led Baylor to a conference title last season.


In the second and third quarters, Petty was 27-of-32 for 322 yards with a touchdown. He picked apart the Oklahoma defense with short completions for the most part, completing 18 consecutive passes at one point.


“It is sometimes good for people to be doubted,” Baylor coach Art Briles told the media. “He has gone through a little bit of that.”


A run game that struggled for most of the game was at least effective in short-yardage situations around the goal line for four scores inside the five-yard line. The hot streak gave Baylor 45 unanswered points to end the game.


How the selection committee views this potential turn in Baylor’s season is a mystery. The non-conference schedule could continue to be an anchor.


And even though Baylor’s first win in Norman is a landmark moment, the victory might not be resume-builder it would be in any other season. Oklahoma picked up its third loss of the season to fall to 3-3 in the Big 12.


Yet if the selection committee likes common opponents, consider that Baylor beat the Sooners by 34 on the road. Kansas State won in Norman, too, by 1. TCU beat Oklahoma by 4 in Fort Worth.


The most important victory, though, may have been a fourth quarter comeback against TCU. The Horned Frogs handed Kansas State its first loss in Big 12 play Saturday, putting Baylor, TCU and the Wildcats into a three-way tie for the conference lead.


Baylor will wrap up the season in Waco against Kansas State, and by then, the Bears could be in position to do the most un-Baylor-like thing of all: Compete for a national championship.

Bryce Petty finds groove, puts Baylor back in Playoff mix
Post date: Sunday, November 9, 2014 - 15:12
Path: /college-football/how-ohio-state-michigan-state-could-be-playoff-statement-game

Entering Saturday, one of the themes for Michigan State and Ohio State will be the differing character of the two programs.


One program features a classic dropback quarterback while the other runs the spread through a pass-run threat. One program gobbles up five-star recruits while the other finds ways to unearth gems for similar results.


Yet when Michigan State looks across the sideline, the Spartans may see a window into their own recent past.


Ohio State started the 2014 season scrambling for answers on offense due to an August a suspect offensive line and a season-ending injury to Heisman contender Braxton Miller.


In a case of playing the wrong opponent at the wrong time, Ohio State lost 35-21 at home in the second week of the season to a Virginia Tech team that has gone 2-3 since. The Hokies’ pass rush rattled redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett into six sacks and three interceptions.


A year ago, Michigan State was the team with an overwhelmed offense early in the season, losing 17-13 to Notre Dame in Week 4.


If Ohio State can defeat Michigan State in East Lansing on Saturday, the Buckeyes could have a chance to do something the Spartans never could — play for a national championship.


One way or another, the winner of Ohio State-Michigan State will present an interesting case for the college football selection committee, an opportunity to show a break for the old system and the flexibility of a more nuanced view of the season.


With the Buckeyes ranked at No. 14, there’s no guarantee this win alone could vault Ohio State into the playoff conversation. 


For starters, strength of schedule would not be a winning argument for Ohio State even if the Buckeyes win in East Lansing. Michigan State is the only ranked opponent Ohio State will play until at least the Big Ten championship game.


The counterpoint would be that Ohio State, despite a loss to Virginia Tech that looks worse and worse each week, has improved to one of the top four teams in the country from the start of September to season’s end.


“What we did in August is much different than what we did in November,” Ohio State coach Meyer said. “(Barrett)’s got the full capacity of the entire offense. The first game of the year was nothing close to this.”


That’s where Ohio State is similar to Michigan State. The Spartans broke last season with Andrew Maxwell at quarterback, and Jeremy Langford was settling into the running back position after playing cornerback and wide receiver a spring earlier.


A team still finding its way on offense lost to Notre Dame, but by November, Michigan State was unstoppable in the Big Ten.


“The quarterback position has taken off,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “He’s become much more experienced and proficient, and I think our supporting cast has done the exact same thing. At that time, we had no identity at tailback, wide receiver, quarterback and tight end. Now we have an identity at all those positions. That’s the difference maker.”


In the BCS system, Michigan State last season was never able to generate any buzz as a championship contender despite winning eight games in a row by comfortable margins on the way to a division title.


At this point last season, Michigan State was ranked 17th in the BCS standings. Though the Spartans finished the regular season ranked fourth, they needed an upset of then-undefeated Ohio State in the Big Ten title game just to move up from No. 10.


The 2014 Spartans, ranked eighth this week, have a better case than last year’s team or this year’s Ohio State.


Michigan State visited No. 4 Oregon, losing 46-27 in a game that remained competitive until the fourth quarter. Michigan State also defeated No. 13 Nebraska 27-22, again with a bad Spartans fourth quarter denting the final margin.


The Oregon matchup, though, will be key.


The conventional wisdom entering the season is that tougher schedules are supposed to be a factor for the selection committee. Few matchups are more challenging that a true road game to Autzen Stadium against a top-five team. 


The question is if Michigan State will be rewarded for such a game even if the Spartans didn’t win. There’s reason for skepticism. Mississippi State has wins over Auburn and LSU on the resume, but the Bulldogs’ non-conference schedule of Southern Miss, UAB and South Alabama offered few tests.




And then there’s the conference championship question. The winner of this game will be the frontrunner in the Big Ten East and a likely favorite in the conference championship game.


One of the stated criteria for the selection committee is conference championships.


Yet with the Big Ten’s paltry record against the Power 5 and Notre Dame (5-11), the league may be on the outs with undefeated or one-loss champions in the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC. 


But what if that doesn’t happen and the committee has to pick between a one-loss Big Ten champion over a one-loss SEC West runner-up?


The selection committee has met to issue rankings twice so far this season only to give us as many questions as answers.


The result of the matchup in East Lansing has enough baggage to keep the questions coming.


How Ohio State-Michigan State Could Be a Playoff Statement Game
Post date: Thursday, November 6, 2014 - 16:27
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Big Ten, News
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2014-week-11-preview-and-predictions

Finally. A Big Ten game with national import.


For weeks, the season has been pointing toward Ohio State-Michigan State as the game of the year in the Big Ten, perhaps overshadowing the conference title game.


Indeed, the stakes have been building after both teams have been able to rebuild their reputations despite Week 2 losses.


The showdown in East Lansing will play a major role in deciding the Big Ten East division, but the battle for the West is just starting when Iowa and Minnesota meet for the Floyd of Rosedale.


In other words, the best of the Big Ten this week boils down to a big prize and a pig prize (sorry, everyone).

Week 11 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC


Big Ten Week 11 Power Rankings

All games Saturday. All times Eastern.


1. Ohio State at Michigan State

8 p.m., ABC

In the short term, this game will determine a leader in the Big Ten East and end the College Football Playoff hopes for the winner. For the long term, either team could stake a claim to being the Big Ten’s dominant program, a title Michigan State has by virtue of a 34-24 win over the Buckeyes in the Big Ten title game a year ago. Before last season, Ohio State had won eight of the previous nine meetings. Including the playoff and Big Ten implications and the backstory, everything about this game indicates a powerhouse matchup. These are the top two offenses in the Big Ten and two of the top four defenses. Not surprisingly, the game may be decided by the quarterbacks. Against two solid defenses in Virginia Tech and Penn State, Ohio State redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett has completed 21-of-48 passes with two touchdowns and five interceptions. Meanwhile, last year’s game against Ohio State was a turning point for Michigan State’s Connor Cook, who has completed 60.6 percent of his passes for 9.14 yards per attempt with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 10 games since the first meeting.


Listen to the Week 11 predictions podcast:

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2. Iowa at Minnesota

Noon, ESPN2

The Big Ten West will be decided in November, starting with this matchup for the Floyd of Rosedale. Both teams still have fellow West contenders Wisconsin and Nebraska during the next four weeks, and Nebraska visits Wisconsin next week. Minnesota’s hopes of sneaking into the Big Ten title game were dented when the Gophers lost at Illinois two weeks ago. Meanwhile, Iowa had the look of a division champion a week ago with a 48-7 win over Northwestern. Jake Rudock had his best game of the season, completing 12-of-19 passes for 239 yards with a touchdown. That said, Iowa isn’t that far removed from giving up 316 rushing yards to Indiana and 212 to Maryland. Run-oriented Minnesota will try to replicate that success against the Hawkeyes’ defense.


3. Wisconsin at Purdue


Wisconsin will have one more game against the lower tier of the Big Ten before the pivotal stretch of the season against Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota in the final three games. The Wisconsin offense continues to be Melvin Gordon first and Corey Clement second, but the Badgers’ defense has been solid in the last two games. Wisconsin has held opponents to 2.7 yards per carry and 35.7 percent passing. Granted, that was against Maryland and Rutgers. Purdue will try to regroup at home after its progress was stalled in a 35-14 loss at Nebraska.


4. Penn State at Indiana

Noon, Big Ten Network

Penn State still has a good chance to be bowl eligible despite a four-game losing streak. The Nittany Lions have Indiana, Temple and Illinois in the next three games, but only Temple plays in Happy Valley. As for this week, the Indiana defense will be a welcome sight. The Hoosiers are 12th in the Big Ten in yards allowed per play and 12th in sacks. If Penn State can’t move the ball against Indiana the outlook might not be promising. Penn State is averaging 3.1 yards per play and 1.2 yards per carry during its losing streak. The Hoosiers aren't faring much better. Indiana’s prolific offense has come to a halt without starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld. The Hoosiers averaged 77.5 plays and 500 yards per game in the first six games and 51 plays and 207.5 yards in the last two. The move to a third-string quarterback couldn’t come at a worse time as IU faces three of the best defenses in the Big Ten (Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State).


5. Michigan at Northwestern

3:30 p.m., ESPN2

It’s the Make-it-Stop Bowl. As recently as Oct. 6, 2013, both of these teams were ranked in the AP poll. Now, Michigan is 6-11 in its last 17, and Northwestern is 4-12 in its last 16. The latter may be in bigger trouble. Northwestern has lost three in a row since an increasingly shocking win over Wisconsin. Michigan will need to win this game and defeat Maryland to reach bowl eligibility unless the Wolverines have something truly shocking in store for Ohio State to finish the season.


Big Ten Week 11 Staff Picks

 David FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light

Penn State (-7) at Indiana

PSU 17-10PSU 27-24PSU 27-13IU 24-20

Iowa (-1 1/2) at Minnesota

Iowa 21-14Iowa 30-27Iowa 27-24Iowa 27-20

Wisconsin (-17) at Purdue

Wisc 31-13Wisc 40-17Wisc 34-17Wisc 41-17

Michigan (-1 1/2) at Northwestern

Mich 27-21NW 23-21Mich 24-20Mich 21-14

Ohio State at Michigan State (-3 1/2)

MSU 28-24MSU 38-31MSU 31-24MSU 30-20
Last Week4-25-15-14-2
This Season65-2164-2265-2159-27


Big Ten 2014 Week 11 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, November 6, 2014 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/arizona-state-legitimate-college-football-playoff-sleeper

The last time Arizona State was on this kind of stage, coach Todd Graham exited Sun Devil Stadium using words like “atrocious” and “pathetic.”


More than a month after the 62-27 loss to UCLA, Graham still calls that defeat a “disastrous game.”


Perhaps the game was disastrous on the field but not disastrous for Arizona State’s 2014 goals.


Arizona State moved to No. 9 in the selection committee’s rankings Tuesday evening, giving the Sun Devils a five-spot jump from last week. The leap puts more attention onto an already-critical game against No. 10 Notre Dame in Tempe on Saturday.


Of any team in the top 10, Arizona State may be the biggest question mark, but College Football Playoff’s mystery team won’t be a mystery much longer.


The Sun Devils are 7-1, riding a four-game winning streak since the loss to UCLA. They’ve held their last three Pac-12 opponents to one offensive touchdown apiece. They’ve won despite a three-game absence by veteran quarterback Taylor Kelly.


Yet the lingering question is how much faith should anyone have in Arizona State as a true playoff contender?


During its worst moment of the season, Arizona State allowed UCLA free reign in the end zone. The Sun Devils gave up 35 points in 8:46 of game time thanks to two passing touchdowns, a rushing touchdown, a pick six and a kickoff return.


Since then, Arizona State has allowed 328 yards per game and 4.0 yards per play, both the best averages in the Pac-12 since Oct. 1.


Graham has good reason to see this as a trend. His defense replaced nine starters from last season, broke in a new defensive coordinator (Keith Patterson from West Virginia) and fielded four junior college or Division I transfers among the top six tacklers.


In other words, this should be a defense that gets better as the season goes along.


“Early on it was tough because what we do defensively is complex,” Graham said. “It wasn’t a whole bunch of errors it was just critical errors that were being made. Once they’ve got the system and got to where we can execute, we’re able to execute at a high level.”


The question here, though, is if the defensive numbers is as much a product of playing lackluster offense more than anything. Stanford, Washington and Utah combined for a total of 36 points against Arizona State in the last three weeks.


Those three teams are in the bottom five in the Pac-12 in yards per play. Two of them (Washington and Utah) rank 100th or worse nationally in that category.


Notre Dame isn’t Oregon, but the Irish rank 36th in yards per play for the most prolific offense Arizona State has faced since UCLA.


Arizona State has needed its defense to stifle opponents during the last three games because its offense has sputtered despite the return of Kelly, who is working himself into game shape after suffering a broken right foot Sept. 13.


Kelly is completing 57.7 percent of his passes for 7.4 yards per attempt in three games since his return, both figures are lower than his numbers from the first two games for 2014 and his season-long numbers from 2013 and 2012.


“When you think of a guy who broke his foot, had surgery, had a pin put in his foot, didn’t do anything for six weeks and then came back and then got put into the Washington game,” Graham said. “He played against two of the best defenses getting after you in attacking and blitzing in the Pac-12.”


Now, Arizona State will find out if its quarterback and defense are ready for what could be the defining moment of the season against Notre Dame.


Graham knows his team has received a reprieve from its loss to UCLA and still has an outside shot at the playoff.


“We talk about it differently than we had in the past,” Graham said. “Once we lost a game, we said it’s a single-elimination tournament from here on out. You can’t expect to lose another game and reach our goals.”

Is Arizona State a Legitimate College Football Playoff Sleeper?
Post date: Wednesday, November 5, 2014 - 15:35
Path: /college-basketball/kelvin-sampson-looks-revive-career-houston

When Kelvin Sampson tries to convince a high school prospect to play basketball for Houston, he’s probably not going to spend too much time talking about the glory days of Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.


Three Final Fours, two Hall of Famers and one great team nickname (Phi Slama Jama) in a three-year period is a fine brag sheet — if Sampson could guarantee that these 18-year-old recruits would have any idea who he’s talking about.


“These kids think Michael Jordan is the guy on the Hanes commercial,” Sampson says.


He’s joking, maybe. But the sentiment still echoes what kind of an uphill battle Sampson might have at Houston with challenges he never had to face at Oklahoma and Indiana.


Like Auburn’s Bruce Pearl, Sampson is re-starting his college head-coaching career after a detour spurred by NCAA sanctions. Sampson agreed to a buyout from Indiana in February 2008, weeks after the NCAA charged the coach with five major violations. Sampson was charged with making 100 impermissible phone calls to recruits and providing misleading information to investigators, all while he was under sanctions stemming from similar violations while at Oklahoma.


The NCAA penalized Sampson with a five-year show-cause that expired in 2013. The sanctions and the fallout that contributed to a 28–66 record in the ensuing three seasons at Indiana (under Tom Crean’s watch) would have made Sampson a tough sell for more high-profile programs, even if most of the phone call rules Sampson violated are no longer in place. Houston, instead, assumed the risk.


“He said the rules were the rules then, and he broke them and there’s no excuse,” Houston athletic director Mack Rhoades says. “He’s earned a second chance, no question. I think he’s going to make the most out of it.”


While Sampson’s history with the NCAA infractions committee was in question upon his return to the college game, his coaching credentials remain impressive. He reached the NCAA Tournament in 13 of his final full 14 seasons, dating back to his final year at Washington State.


He succeeded at two rebuilding projects early in his career, with Washington State (1987-94) and Division II Montana Tech (1981-85).


No doubt Sampson has rebuilding to do at Houston. The Cougars have had six head coaches, including Drexler himself, and no NCAA Tournament wins in four appearances since the Phi Slama Jama era ended in 1984. The challenge doesn’t seem to faze Sampson.


“I didn’t care about going back to the level I left,” he says. 


But Sampson could have stayed at the level where he was. He spent six seasons as an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets and interviewed for NBA head-coaching jobs. The allure of a return to college didn’t hit him until a conversation with his father in the final days before Ned Sampson’s death in February. Sampson’s return also gives him a chance to work with son Kellen, who joined Houston as an assistant after three seasons at Appalachian State.


“It’s been 30 years since (Houston) won an NCAA Tournament game,” Sampson says. “That’s what I needed. I needed a reclamation project. I needed something that required a lot of work and a lot of commitment.”


It will be hard work. Sampson is optimistic that Houston, with its recruiting base in the state of Texas, can make a move in the American Athletic Conference. The league contains defending national champion Connecticut, consistent programs in Memphis and Cincinnati and an in-state upstart in SMU. But after that, Houston is as good a bet to move up as any team in a league that includes UCF, South Florida, East Carolina and Tulane. Houston, at least, has a history those programs lack.


Sampson says he’s not interested in talking about the past — he’s referring to Olajuwon and Drexler, but he may as well be talking about himself.


The future to him is more pressing. Houston has hired a name coach, one that the Cougars wouldn’t have been able to lure if not for NCAA baggage, and the school has approved a $20 million practice facility.


“The school is a little bit of a have-not right now,” Sampson says. “Phi Slama Jama isn’t going to win any more games. A new practice facility will. A new arena will. Those are things we’re going to push for, and we’re going to push for them until they’re done.”

Kelvin Sampson Looks to Revive Career at Houston
Post date: Wednesday, November 5, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-playoff-rankings-analysis-week-11

Oregon took Ole Miss’ spot in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday, but a handful of teams may be gaining on a spot in the semifinals.


No. 4 Ole Miss’ loss to Auburn allowed the next three teams to move up a spot in the second top 25. The top three of Mississippi State followed by Florida State and Auburn stood pat at their spots from last week.


Those moves followed standard operating procedure for the traditional polls in which winning teams continue to move up as long as teams ahead of them lose.


Yet in other spots — most notably Arizona State’s move up the rankings — the committee appeared to follow its promise to start with “a clean sheet” each week.


Here’s how the second top 25 shook out, followed by our observations.


College Football Playoff Rankings: Nov. 4
1. Mississippi State10. Notre Dame18. UCLA
2. Florida State11. Ole Miss19. Arizona
3. Auburn12. Baylor20. Georgia
4. Oregon13. Nebraska21. Clemson
5. Alabama14. Ohio State22. Duke
6. TCU15. Oklahoma23. West Virginia
7. Kansas State16. LSU24. Georgia Tech
8. Michigan State17. Utah25. Wisconsin
9. Arizona State  



Oregon moves into the top four


With No. 4 Ole Miss’ loss to Auburn, some team was likely to move into the top four spots. The next three teams from last week’s rankings (Oregon, Alabama and TCU) all moved up a spot. The Ducks’ thrashing of Stanford’s defense for a 45-16 win helped, but selection committee chair Jeff Long noted wins over No. 8 Michigan State and No 18 UCLA helping Oregon’s cause.


Alabama “very close”


No. 5 Alabama may be the impact team for the final weeks of the season. The top three of Mississippi State, Florida State and Auburn were solidly in place, Long said, but the placement of the Tide, Oregon and TCU was a matter of question. Where Oregon’s quality wins gave the Ducks the edge for the No. 4 spot, Long said the selection committee used film study to give Alabama an edge this week over TCU. The Tide have one top 25 win (West Virginia) combined to TCU’s two (Oklahoma, West Virginia). 


On a conference call with reporters after ESPN’s rankings show, Long clarified a comment that “misrepresented” that the committee evaluated game film as a group. Long said the committee evaluated film prior to meeting, not during the rankings meeting this week in Dallas.


Who Shouldn’t Worry:


TCU, Kansas State and Baylor

The No. 6 Horned Frogs and No. 7 Wildcats meet this week in a critical game that could vault the winner closer to the playoff mix. Both teams could claim a better signature win than Alabama (Oklahoma for both) but continued to lag behind the Tide. Long reiterated that conference champions would play a role in the final selection. Only one SEC West team can win the division, much less the conference. That leaves the Big 12’s three one-loss teams feeling like they control their own destiny.


Who Should be Pleasantly Surprised


Arizona State

Just before facing Notre Dame this week, the Sun Devils enjoyed a major jump from No. 14 to No. 9, leapfrogging the Irish. That’s good news for Arizona State, but some of Long’s reasoning was puzzling. He noted a common opponent for Arizona State and Notre Dame (Stanford). Arizona State beat Stanford 26-10 and Notre Dame beat the Cardinal 17-14 on its final possession of the game. But both of those games were weeks ago. Arizona State needed overtime to defeat Utah, which stood pat at No. 17.


Who Should Worry:


Group of 5 teams

With East Carolina’s loss to Temple, the two-loss Pirates slipped out of the top 25. That left the American, Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt out of the top 25. One of the champions of those leagues is guaranteed a spot in the major New Year’s holiday bowls, but there’s no indication of the leader at this point. The contenders may be undefeated Marshall, Colorado State, Boise State or even a two-loss ECU.


If the Season Ended Today:


National Semifinals:

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Mississippi State vs. No. 4 Oregon

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Auburn


Other bowls (projected)

Cotton: No. 6 TCU vs. No. 10 Notre Dame

Fiesta: No. 7 Kansas State vs. No. 9 Arizona State

Orange: No. 21 Clemson^ vs. No. 8 Michigan State

Peach: Marshall* vs. No. 5 Alabama

*automatic Group of 5 bid

^automatic ACC bid to Orange Bowl

College Football Playoff Rankings Analysis: Week 11
Post date: Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - 23:59
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-must-watch-games-week-11

Time to sort through the contenders and the pretenders in the College Football Playoff race.


Certainly, the top teams in the mix have challenges ahead of them for the remainder of the season, but this will be a critical week for teams ranked fifth and lower.


Start with the Big Ten: Michigan State and Ohio State have recovered from Week 2 losses to set up the game of the year in the Big Ten in East Lansing.


Kansas State and TCU meet in a matchup to become the Big 12’s best representative for the playoff while Baylor and Oklahoma are fighting for survival.


Arizona State and Notre Dame will meet in Tempe in a matchup of one-loss teams looking for a signature win to boost themselves into the playoff conversation.


Not that Alabama needs much help to get attention, but the Crimson Tide begin a critical stretch that includes LSU on the road and Mississippi State and Auburn at home.


The Week Ahead: Nov. 8

All times Eastern. All games Saturday.


Kansas State at TCU

When and where: 7:30 p.m., FOX

We’re watching because... we’re happy to be along for the ride in potentially magical seasons for Kansas State and TCU. The winner of this game is in position to crash the SEC/Florida State/Oregon playoff party. TCU is two weeks removed from hanging 82 on Texas Tech, but the Horned Frogs can still win on defense. The D saved an inconsistent performance in Morgantown by forcing five West Virginia turnovers and holding the Mountaineers’ offense to 162 passing yards. TCU’s offense will be tested by a Kansas State defense that clamped down on Texas and Oklahoma State for a total of one offensive touchdown in the last two weeks. Neither opponent topped 200 yards passing.

Vegas says: TCU by 5


Listen to the Week 10 recap podcast:

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Baylor at Oklahoma

When and where: Noon, Fox Sports 1

We’re watching because... the preseason Big 12 favorites are relegated to undercard status. The two teams won their Week 10 matchups by combined scores of 119-28 over a pair of teams winless in conference (Iowa State and Kansas). The question is if any of this is too little too late for a two-loss Oklahoma and a one-loss Baylor with few major non-conference wins. Beyond the playoff, the loser of this game may find itself relegated to a second-tier bowl game.

Vegas says: Oklahoma by 4 1/2


Notre Dame at Arizona State

When and where: 3:30 p.m., NBC

We’re watching because... Arizona State may be the Pac-12 South favorite, and Notre Dame has yet to prove playoff-worthy. The Sun Devils have defied the odds all season: First, starting quarterback Taylor Kelly was lost for three games due to injury. And second, a rebuilt defense has become one of the best in the league. Heading into the game against Notre Dame, Kelly has returned to action (though he’s been unspectacular), and the Sun Devils’ defense has allowed two offensive touchdowns in the last three games against Stanford, Washington and Utah. Notre Dame’s Everett Golson will lead the best offense ASU has seen in a month. The selection committee isn’t convinced Notre Dame is playoff worthy yet, but this would be the perfect time to prove it.

Vegas says: Arizona State by 1


Ohio State at Michigan State

When and where: 8 p.m., ABC

We’re watching because... this will have the feel of a Big Ten championship game. The Spartans and Buckeyes are the top two teams in the conference (thought Nebraska may attempt to object). Michigan State swiped Big Ten dominance from Ohio State last season with a 34-24 championship game win and a victory in the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes could get revenge by knocking the Spartans out of the Big Ten East and playoff races in a single game. This game has all the signs for a powerhouse matchup as neither team has faltered since their Week 2 losses.

Vegas says: Michigan State by 1 1/2


Alabama at LSU

When and where: 8 p.m., CBS

We’re watching because... Alabama takes its final road trip of the season. That’s right, the Crimson Tide won’t play a road game after Nov. 8 after not playing on the road until Oct. 4. That’s some fortunate scheduling, but LSU is better in November than it was at the start of October. After a loss to Ole Miss and a scare against Arkansas, Alabama’s offense is back to its early season form, albeit against Texas A&M and Tennessee. Meanwhile, LSU is starting to look like LSU. In wins over Florida, Kentucky and Ole Miss, the Tigers are allowing 4.4 yards per play with three total offensive touchdowns. LSU also is averaging 254 rushing yards on 52 carries per game during that span.

Vegas says: Alabama by 6 1/2


Talk Back on U-verse Game of the Week: Florida at Vanderbilt

Each week, AT&T U-verse and Athlon Sports will host a live interactive experience for an SEC game in which two greats from each school will take fan questions live throughout the game. 


This week, former Florida quarterback Rex Grossman and former Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson will join Athlon Sports’ Braden Gall at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta for the fun.


Visit during Florida-Vanderbilt to watch the game with us.


When and where: 7:30 p.m., SEC Network

We’re watching because... Florida may be worth watching again. The Gators’ 38-20 win over Georgia might not be enough to save Will Muschamp’s job, but it at least makes the Gators a more interesting team down the stretch. The Gators rushed for 445 yards against Georgia in the first start for freshman quarterback Treon Harris. For all of Florida’s struggles, the Gators should be a bowl team this season a year after finishing 4-8. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, is just looking to pick up any kind of meaningful win. The Commodores’ victories this year are over UMass, Charleston Southern and Old Dominion.

Vegas says: Florida by 14 1/2

College Football's Must-Watch Games of Week 11
Post date: Monday, November 3, 2014 - 15:15
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/how-recruit-transfer-college-basketball

Anthony Lee had never been in greater demand as a basketball player than the morning after Temple released him from his scholarship. That day in March, Lee woke up to 40 text messages and dozens of missed calls from people he didn’t know.


“It was like a bum rush, a stampede almost, with so many schools calling as soon as they gave me my release,” Lee said. 


Before Temple signed the forward out of high school, teams from the Pac-12, SEC and a handful of prominent mid-majors all pursued Lee, so this was not entirely unfamiliar ground.


He was a veteran power forward who averaged 13.6 points and 8.6 rebounds last season for the Owls. And more important, he was on track to graduate by the end of the semester. He was the fourth-leading scorer from a bad team, but he was among the most valuable commodities in college basketball in 2014-15 — a proven veteran player ready to transfer and, as a graduate, eligible to play immediately for a new team.


Critics have called the recent transfer trend everything from an epidemic to free agency, but here’s what it is: reality. In 2012-13, 13.3 percent of Division I college basketball players had transferred from another four-year school. Another 14.5 percent were junior college transfers.


Transfer season has become a second recruiting season. 


The transfer trend isn’t just for upstarts or mid-majors. Final Four contenders and national powers have made Division I transfers a major plank in their recruiting strategies. Even Duke embraced transfers by adding Rodney Hood from Mississippi State in 2012 and Sean Obi from Rice following the ’13-14 season.


As the trend has become more pronounced, more public and more accepted, coaches and players have to be ready to navigate the transfer recruiting waters.


Ohio State, for example, rarely dives into the transfer market, but the Buckeyes knew they’d enter the 2014-15 season with major holes in their frontcourt. Lee, with the right skill set and the ability to play now, was one of the top targets on their list. 


Compared to the typical high school recruiting process, Lee’s transfer moved at lightning speed. 


Two days after Lee announced his intent to transfer, Ohio State was upset by Dayton in the Round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament on March 20. By March 29 — the day Dayton lost in the Elite Eight — Lee signed a letter of intent with the Buckeyes. In between, Ohio State coach Thad Matta and associate head coach Dave Dickerson met with Lee in Philadelphia near the Temple campus, and Lee took an official visit to Columbus.


Lee knew other coaches weren’t pleased that he committed to Ohio State before taking the visits he promised to make, but like many transfers, he knew the terrain better than he did as a high schooler.


“I didn’t want to let that opportunity slip by,” Lee says. “At that time, the (McDonald’s) high school All-Americans were making their decisions. I couldn’t wait and enjoy it too much. I was a high-profile athlete, but I was with other high-profile athletes, incoming freshmen and other transfers who were looking to make decisions, too.”


Lee had played through the recruiting game — and waiting game — before. VCU recruited him out of high school, and although Lee liked coach Shaka Smart, he wasn’t thrilled about living in Richmond. Instead, he hoped to land at USC with all that Los Angeles had to offer, but another recruit snatched the last scholarship offer before Lee had a chance to commit. He eventually signed with Temple.


He started 73 games, played in two NCAA Tournaments and helped the Owls win a regular-season Atlantic 10 title before they bottomed out at 9–22 last season. Lee says he enjoyed his time at Temple and parted on good terms with coach Fran Dunphy. But he asks himself, what if he signed with VCU? The Rams reached the Final Four in 2010-11 (a year Lee redshirted at Temple due to injury) and have played in the last four NCAA Tournaments overall.


When he approached recruiting the second time, Lee couldn’t be swayed by the cities or the facilities he considered. He was more interested in developing his game. Temple wanted him to rebound and play close to the basket — an area where he excelled — but Ohio State would allow him to expand his offensive game and play away from the basket.


“The only reason I didn’t go to VCU was because of the city, and when I look back at that now, it’s kind of crazy,” Lee says. “This time around, it wasn’t about the city or how the place looked.”


Experiences like that of Lee are why Florida coach Billy Donovan has been wore willing to seek out transfers in recent years. 


Donovan’s team this season will include four players who transferred from major conference programs — Dorian Finney-Smith (Virginia Tech), Alex Murphy (Duke), Jon Horford (Michigan) and Eli Carter (Rutgers). Finney-Smith led the team in rebounding last season, and another transfer, Mike Rosario from Rutgers, led Florida in scoring two years ago.


“A lot of times these guys don’t make the best choices in terms of what is going to make them happy,” Donovan says. “When you go out and recruit a kid who is transferring, there’s just a different level of maturity, a different level of understanding because they have more of a foundation of what’s important to them and what’s going to make them happy.”


For Donovan, one of the most important factors in targeting a transfer is learning why a player is looking to change schools. And, yes, more playing time and more opportunities to thrive are valid reasons.


“You always want to get to the core of why a kid is transferring,” Donovan says. “In a lot of ways, the problems that they’re enduring at one institution are not going to go away at another one.”


Like Florida, Iowa State under coach Fred Hoiberg has become a prime destination for transfers.


The last three Big 12 Newcomers of the Year (there’s a separate award for freshmen) have been Division I transfers at Iowa State. The haul under Hoiberg has included star players like All-Big 12 performers DeAndre Kane (Marshall), Will Clyburn (Utah) and Royce White (Minnesota) and role players like Chris Babb (Penn State), Korie Lucious and Chris Allen (Michigan State) and Scott Christopherson (Marquette).


Iowa State added three more since December in Bryce Dejean-Jones from UNLV (eligible immediately), Jameel McKay from Marquette (eligible in December) and Hallice Cooke from Oregon State (eligible in 2014-15).


Hoiberg’s program isn’t the first or only national power to take a deep dive into the transfer waters, but the competition for these collegiate free agents has become more intense since the former NBA player and executive returned to his alma mater in 2010.


Besides Iowa State and Florida, high-major programs like Gonzaga, Illinois, Maryland, Miami (Fla.), Missouri, Oregon, UNLV and West Virginia have re-stocked their rosters with multiple transfers from Division I programs.


“We weren’t competing against too many schools or so many high-profile schools as we are now,” Hoiberg says. “It’s become difficult, but it is the landscape of college basketball right now.”


The transfer trend is exacerbated by a number of factors, among them the graduate transfer rule allowing players like Lee to be eligible immediately if they’re holding a degree and want to pursue a post-grad program not available at their current school. Undergraduate recruits generally sit out one year by NCAA rules unless granted a waiver.


In addition, many new coaches encounter a wave of transfers after they’re hired or they release signees from a previous staff from their letters of intent. Or both. This transition creates an immediate need to fill some scholarships. There’s no official transaction wire maintained per the NCAA, but Jeff Goodman, a reporter for ESPN, has been tracking Division I transfers since 2006 — a list he updates regularly throughout the season.


Coaches check the list of hundreds of available players on a regular basis.


“Our staff does and I think every staff in America does,” says Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski, who was hired in April after 15 years as a Duke assistant.


After a transfer target is pinpointed, the recruiting process begins.


Coaches and assistants often call their counterparts at other schools to figure out how to track down a transfer. Even though transfers may have been in college for up to four years, the parents, high school coaches and AAU coaches may be gatekeepers to the process.


Point guard Matt Carlino, who signed to play for Wojciechowski at Marquette, used his father as well as BYU assistant coach Mark Pope as intermediaries in his most recent recruitment. During the summer, Carlino was taking two regular classes and an online class while serving as a teaching assistant and finishing papers at BYU so he could finish his undergraduate degree and be eligible immediately. With that workload, Carlino gave his father and Pope the parameters and allowed them to sift through requests so he could finish his class work. Like Lee, Carlino wasn’t interested in finding a sexy locale — he started his career at UCLA and decided it wasn’t for him.


He even considered playing time to be an unnecessary topic to broach.


“They’re not bringing in a guy for a year not to play,” Carlino says.


Carlino took a month to make his decision during a process that included visits with Purdue, Providence and Saint Joseph’s. His final decision came down to another truth in recruiting transfers — the coach matters perhaps even more than with high school prospects.


Strip away the bells and whistles like location and facilities, and what’s left? Coaching, style-of-play and ability to thrive.


“I knew everywhere I was going to go the facilities would be nice, the campus would be nice,” Lee says. “So it wasn’t about the facilities, the area. It was about the coaches.”


The same was true for Carlino.


Marquette wasn’t completely on Carlino’s radar at first. His uncle played there and his family is from the Midwest, but he had little contact with former coach Buzz Williams.


When Wojciechowski arrived — and needed a point guard immediately — that changed. Carlino clicked with the former point guard from Duke and signed in late April.


In other words, recruiters would be well advised to get right to business.


“The fluff is eliminated,” Wojciechowski says. “You talk directly about what the school can offer the player, what the player can offer the school and you really hone in on what I would consider are the most important things of the decision. It’s their last chance or close to it, so you’ve really got to get it right when you decide transfer.”


Bryce Dejean-Jones is another player who knew exactly what he wanted in a school this summer. After starting his career at USC, Dejean-Jones transferred to UNLV, where he averaged 11.8 points per game in two seasons. While Dejean-Jones was at UNLV, the Runnin’ Rebels went one-and-done in the 2013 NCAA Tournament and missed it altogether his second season. With a churn of freshmen — and, yes, other transfers — consistency was tough to find. In the transfer market a second time, Dejean-Jones looked more closely at rosters and where he had a chance to fit. 


“Choosing UNLV, I was coming there to sit out, so I wasn’t looking at the players that would be playing with me,” Dejean-Jones says. “This time, I looked at who else would be on the floor with me.”


When Hoiberg recruited Dejean-Jones, he talked about style of play and how the guard could step in for the departure of Kane.


And that’s a completely different conversation Hoiberg had with Cooke, his undergraduate transfer from Oregon State who would redshirt in 2014-15.


“You have a support system for those guys. You talk about skill development in their year off,” Hoiberg says. “When you recruit a kid who’s sitting out, it is more like recruiting a high school kid.”


In other words, the recruiting pitch is different, depending on the player. But as the players are more in tune with what they are seeking when they transfer, coaches have to be ready to prepare. And many times, decisions are closed within a matter of weeks.


If landing a transfer starts to sound like a lot of networking, background research and job interviews, there’s a good reason for that.


“It’s a business for the players, too,” Carlino says.

How to Recruit a Transfer in College Basketball
Post date: Monday, November 3, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/12-november-games-will-shape-college-football-playoff

The first College Football Playoff rankings are here, and now we have an idea of what the selection committee will value in the final month of the season.


We also have an idea of what the teams out of the top four right now might have to do to get in. For the SEC contenders, the answer is simple: Just keep winning.


For teams like Notre Dame and Ohio State, who were perhaps ranked lower than expected, not only to they have to win the major games on their schedule, they may have to look great doing it.


The playoff has made the season more interesting for several teams, and every game will be important. Some, though, will be more critical than others.


Nov. 1 


Auburn at Ole Miss

The selection committee’s first rankings with Auburn at No. 3 and Ole Miss at No. 4 give this matchup a little more juice. Both teams have one loss to a top-five team, but Ole Miss’ situation seems a little more dire. The Rebels are facing injury issues, but more concerning Bo Wallace and his playcaller don’t appear to be on the same page.


Nov. 8


Oregon at Utah

Whether or not Utah defeats Arizona State this week for at least a share of the Pac-12 South lead, Salt Lake City will be a tough trip for the Ducks. Oregon travels to the spot where Stanford saw its national title hopes evaporate with a loss in Salt Lake City a year ago. The Ducks will face a challenging road trip only a week after a critical game against Stanford’s physical defense. 


Notre Dame at Arizona State

The No. 10 Irish and the No. 14 Sun Devils are on the fringes of the playoff picture after the committee’s first set of rankings. Notre Dame’s best statement this season is a close loss in Tallahassee while Arizona State needs to atone for a 62-27 home loss to UCLA. A critical game for two dark horses.


Ohio State at Michigan State

The Big Ten’s playoff hopes appeared to be awfully dim on Sept. 6 when Michigan State lost to Oregon on the road and Ohio State lost at home to Virginia Tech. The Buckeyes’ loss to the Hokies is more embarrassing, but this game is a must-win for both. Not to mention — this is a division game in the Big Ten East.


Kansas State at TCU

Surprise. Surprise. The two Big 12 teams in purple were top 10 teams in the first playoff rankings. TCU has to get through a road trip to West Virginia and Kansas State has to beat Oklahoma State at home before this matchup. If both survive, this may be an elimination game. A bit of an irony: TCU became a contender thanks to an up-tempo spread and will have to beat a stifling ball control team to continue the ride.


Baylor at Oklahoma

The preseason Big 12 favorites have their playoff hopes hanging by a thread. A loss here probably ends the playoff and league hopes for either.


Nov. 13 (Thursday)


East Carolina at Cincinnati

This game won’t factor into the national semifinals, but East Carolina is the only Group of 5 team in the first playoff rankings. Winning the American and being the top ranked team from outside of the major conferences guarantees East Carolina a major bowl bid. The road trip against Cincinnati will be the last major barrier until ECU faces UCF at home on Dec. 4.


Nov. 15


Mississippi State at Alabama

Alabama started at No. 6 in the playoff rankings but no team has a more direct path to improve its stock thanks to remaining games against No. 1 (Mississippi State) and No. 3 (Auburn).


Auburn at Georgia

Hey, the SEC East makes an appearance in a playoff discussion. This is with good reason. Georgia’s lone loss is to South Carolina on the road by 3, and the Bulldogs have been able to absorb the absence of Todd Gurley. Provided Georgia can get through two more games without him (Florida and Kentucky), Georgia and Gurley can make a playoff statement against rival Auburn.


Nebraska at Wisconsin

One-loss Nebraska might be a playoff sleeper, but the Cornhuskers have no wins over ranked teams. The Cornhuskers need to beat Wisconsin and Iowa on the road and a Big Ten title to sniff the top four.


Nov. 29


Auburn at Alabama

Not that a rematch of the Kick Six and the Iron Bowl needed any extra juice, but the game could end up deciding the SEC West and a playoff spot by the time the two teams meet.


Mississippi State at Ole Miss

Like the Iron Bowl, the Egg Bowl has the potential to be a matchup with SEC West and playoff implications. As it stands now, it’s the No. 1 vs. No. 4 game in the semifinals. And there’s recent history here as an Ole Miss turnover meltdown contributed to a Mississippi State win to set the momentum for this season.

12 November Games that Will Shape the College Football Playoff
Post date: Friday, October 31, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Kentucky Wildcats, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/bud-dupree-living-dream-kentucky

How Alvin Dupree Jr. became Bud Dupree starts with a dream by his godmother.


The story is a little too unbelievable and a little too perfect, but this is how Bud tells it:


“My godma had dream before I was born that everyone was calling me ‘Bud’ because I was playing football, and they were saying how good Bud was playing football and how good he’s doing,” Dupree told Athlon Sports. “My mom just went with it.”


The dream turned out to be accurate, though the eventual outcome didn’t always seem clear.


Dupree is now the leader of a defense that has Kentucky on the verge of bowl-eligibility for the first time since 2010. The Wildcats have lost their last two games — to LSU and Mississippi State — but at 5-3, Kentucky has already exceeded its win total of the previous two seasons combined.


Second-year coach Mark Stoops said before the season he’d be “very shocked” if Dupree isn’t Kentucky’s first first-round NFL draft pick since 2003.


Again, that’s some dream.


Kentucky at Missouri (4 p.m., SEC Network) is the Talk Back Game of the Week. Join former Kentucky coach Rich Brooks and former Missouri quarterback James Franklin as they take your questions live throughout the game.



Dupree grew up in rural Georgia in a town of less than 600 people where football wasn’t even the No. 1 high school sport. The roster for the Wilkinson County football team had roughly 30 players, some of whom, like Dupree, split time with the school’s basketball team, a powerhouse in the state. For the football team, many played on both sides of the ball.


“A lot of guys had to play both ways, but that’s all we needed,” Dupree said.


That meant Dupree had to cut his teeth at wide receiver and then tight end in high school.


A big body like that split out wide could fool most high school teams — he’s now 6-foot-4 and 264 pounds playing defensive end and linebacker at Kentucky — but not rival Baldwin County.


That school had inside information from offensive Travis Carswell, a Wilkinson County alum who is a cousin and a mentor to the young Dupree since he was in elementary school. Carswell would eventually become Dupree’s offensive coordinator, but in that first meeting, Carswell was on the opposite sideline.


“I told our defensive coordinator, ‘If he’s lining up at receiver, don’t think he’s slow,’” Carswell said.


Carswell had good reason to know better. Starting when Dupree was 9 years old, he spent time trying to keep up with the Carswell family. Travis played college football at North Alabama. His younger brother, T.J., played at Bowling Green under Urban Meyer. 


Other members of Travis’ extended family, spanning several generations, played college football at a high level — Chuck Carswell and Travis Jones at Georgia, Ryan Taylor at Auburn, Robert Carswell at Clemson and Brandon Carswell at USC.


When Dupree was younger, T.J. Carswell would return home to Irwinton, Ga., to train. Travis Jones, who would go on to become a defensive line coach with the Saints and Seahawks, would return home, too. 


All the while, Dupree would tag along.


“He’d want to compete with the older guys,” said Carswell, who is now offensive coordinator at Miles College in Fairfield, Ala. “He was always around older athletes who played football at the higher level. That is what put him above the rest in high school.”


In high school, Dupree, also was Carswell’s most trusted lieutenant in delivering messages to the team and keeping an eye on his teammates. Carswell had only four coaches on his staff, so the extra eyes and ears on and off the field were critical.


“We had a lot of hard heads on our team,” Dupree said. “In high school a lot of people don’t want to listen to coach. He told me to do things, relaying things to the team make sure they’re focusing. Once you’ve got someone who can vouch for you on everything you say, it helps a lot in the coaching process.”


Dupree may have been above the rest on the field in high school, but recruiting didn’t pick up until he put up an MVP performance in a national camp before his senior year.


Kentucky, Auburn and Georgia Tech started recruiting him late in the process, but Auburn eventually took tight end C.J. Uzomah. Meanwhile, Kentucky and Joker Phillips stayed on Dupree through signing day. 


With he Wildcats. Dupree expected to play tight end, but Phillips quickly moved him to the defensive side of the ball.


As prolific as he was in high school with 10 sacks as a defensive end, he never considered it his primary position until the move at Kentucky. After all, he topped 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns as a tight end.


If defensive end was his future, that would be his focus.


“I wanted to be the best player to come out of my county,” Dupree said. “I worked hard every day to get out. I wanted to make sure I wasn't a person left behind I didn’t want to be stuck behind where I’m from.”


Dupree was on track at Kentucky to be an impact player in the SEC even though the Wildcats struggled with a combined 2-14 league record his first two seasons. As a sophomore, Dupree ranked in the top 10 in the league in tackles, sacks and tackles for a loss.


During a 2-10 season, Kentucky fired Phillips, and Dupree found himself wondering if he should stick around. New coach Mark Stoops wondered if his blossoming star defender would stick around.


“He was preparing to transfer,” Carswell said.


Carswell told Dupree to get to know the new staff first. A day after defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh was hired in December 2012 — three weeks after Stoops was hired and six weeks after Joker Phillips was fired — Dupree told Carswell he planned to stay.


As happened on Dupree’s high school team, the rest of Kentucky’s defense fell in line when Dupree opted to stay in Lexington.


The trend has continued through his senior season. Dupree is a potential high draft pick and has the athletic ability to “blow up the combine,” as he said at SEC media day. But his numbers don’t jump off the page — 45 tackles, four sacks through eight games — so far this season.


“We had some circumstances where, not Bud, but certain people were trying to do too much (to boost statistics) and it was hurting us,” Stoops told reporters prior to the LSU game two weeks ago. “You have to be very unselfish to play D line, and I think we're getting good D line play. No matter what the recognition they're getting, they're playing very hard and fundamentally getting better and better and Bud is starting to get his statistics.”


Meanwhile, Dupree is just as interested in keeping himself and his old offensive coordinator on their toes.


The two stay in touch through the offseason, but even a round of golf can get cut short for a voluntary workout. During the season, Dupree critiques Carswell’s defensive players at Miles College. Carswell would try to pick apart Dupree’s game at Kentucky, but Dupree is usually well ahead of him.


“He’ll tell me exactly what play and what he did wrong,” Carswell said. “That lets you know his focus. ... “He’s a kid who was destined for greatness.”

Bud Dupree Living the Dream at Kentucky
Post date: Thursday, October 30, 2014 - 15:23
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Big Ten, News
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2014-week-10-preview-and-predictions

“Two weeks until Ohio State-Michigan State” may as well be the theme for this Saturday in the Big Ten.


A nice way to put this week would be to call it a table-setting Saturday. Northwestern and Iowa meet in an important game to set the table for a Wildcats’ bowl bid or the Hawkeyes’ hopes for a division title.


Melvin Gordon and Ameer Abdullah have a chance to rack up huge numbers to further their Heisman campaigns. And the Buckeyes are looking to pick up one more win before a critical matchup against the Spartans.


Again, that’s a nice way to put this week in the Big Ten. 

Week 10 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC


Big Ten Week 10 Game Power Rankings

All games Saturday. All times Eastern.


1. Northwestern at Iowa

Noon, Big Ten Network

This isn’t the most sexy game in the Big Ten this season, but this is a key momentum game for both teams. Iowa hardly looked the part of Big Ten West contender by losing 38-31 at Maryland two weeks ago. Now, Iowa can’t afford to limp into its backloaded schedule against Minnesota on the road and Wisconsin and Nebraska at home. Northwestern, meanwhile, needs to win three of its final five games for bowl eligibility. Both teams are emerging from off weeks, but while Northwestern is getting healthier, Iowa has a host of problems. Among them is a two-game suspension for starting linebacker Reggie Spearman, who was charged with a DUI on Saturday. Iowa has allowed 528 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns in the last two games. Meanwhile, Northwestern has found a workhorse in the running attack in Justin Jackson, who has topped 100 yards in three consecutive games.


Listen to the Week 10 preview podcast:

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


2. Illinois at Ohio State

8 p.m., ABC

Hey, Illinois, congratulations on an upset of Minnesota, now you get to face Ohio State in Columbus. The Illini will face a Buckeyes team looking to make a statement on multiple fronts. Ohio State was ranked No. 16 in the first College Football Playoff rankings, giving the one-loss Buckeyes quite a climb if they want to get into the playoff mix. The Buckeyes needed overtime to beat Penn State 31-24 in a game defined by shoddy officiating. Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett saw his progress stall thanks to shaky offensive line play, two interceptions and a knee sprain. Illinois is coming of arguably its best defensive performance of the season after holding Minnesota to 5.8 yards per play. For a team allowing more than 300 rushing yards per game in conference play, that qualifies as a solid effort.


3. Maryland at Penn State

Noon, ESPN2

Some rivalry: Penn State and Maryland haven’t played since 1993, and the Terrapins haven’t won since 1961. Still, the two coaches during the summer talked like this was some kind of rivalry. Penn State likes to recruit in Maryland’s backyard, and as Terps coach Randy Edsall admitted, the Nittany Lions have rarely missed on prospects there. This has all the makings of a low-scoring, ugly game. Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown will face a solid Penn State defense after averaging only 4.6 yards per attempt with one touchdown and three interceptions in his last three games. In theory, Penn State’s lackluster offensive line and Big Ten-worst run game could pick up confidence against a Maryland defense that ranks 13th in the league against the run. But the Nittany Lions’ meager running attack is now down a tailback following a season-ending injury to Zack Zwinak.


4. Wisconsin at Rutgers

Noon, ESPN

Get ready to watch Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon go wild again. Rutgers allowed a total of 616 rushing yards, eight rushing touchdowns and 7.6 yards per carry in its last two games against Ohio State and Nebraska. Containing Gordon isn't the only problem for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights, already down starting running back Paul James, likely will be down to backup quarterback Chris Laviano. Starting QB Gary Nova left last week’s game against Nebraska with a knee injury.


5. Indiana at Michigan

3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

The rematch will be hard-pressed to live up to the 63-47 shootout Michigan won a year ago. The Wolverines have topped 20 points just once since Sept. 13, and the Hoosiers are down to a freshman third-string quarterback, who completed 5-of-15 passes for 11 yards in his only start this season. Look for a steady diet of IU running back Tevin Coleman against Michigan’s defense, which is actually an interesting matchup. Coleman has rushed for at least 120 yards in each game this season while Michigan is third in the Big Ten in rush defense.


6. Purdue at Nebraska

3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2

The Ameer Abdullah watch continues as the Nebraska tailback faces a Purdue defense that allowed 294 rushing yards to Michigan State and 285 yards to Minnesota in the last two games.


Big Ten Week 10 Staff Picks


 David FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light

Northwestern at Iowa (-4)

NW 28-21Iowa 31-30Iowa 24-20Iowa 24-19

Maryland at Penn State (-3 1/2)

Md 17-13PSU 30-27PSU 27-24Md 20-10

Wisconsin (-11) at Rutgers

Wisc 42-14Wisc 40-24Wisc 38-17Wisc 31-13

Purdue at Nebraska (-23 1/2)

Neb 38-17Neb 45-21Neb 45-20Neb 41-24

Indiana at Michigan (-7)

IU 35-28Mich 19-17Mich 31-20IU 34-30

Illinois at Ohio State (-28)

OSU 41-10OSU 48-21OSU 45-17OSU 41-10
Last Week4-14-14-13-2
This Season61-1959-2160-2055-26


Big Ten 2014 Week 10 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, October 30, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-playoff-rankings-week-10

The first rankings by the College Football Playoff selection committee followed the mainstream sentiment with three SEC West teams in the top four.


The only mild surprise was the three teams included. Auburn debuted at No. 3 despite a single loss to Mississippi State on the road on Oct. 18. Ole Miss landed at No. 4 on the strength of a win over Alabama on Oct. 4.


Here’s how the first top 25 shook out, followed by our observations.


College Football Playoff Rankings: Oct. 28
1. Mississippi State10. Notre Dame18. Oklahoma
2. Florida State11. Georgia19. LSU
3. Auburn12. Arizona20. West Virginia
4. Ole Miss13. Baylor21. Clemson
5. Oregon14. Arizona State22. UCLA
6. Alabama15. Nebraska23. East Carolina
7. TCU16. Ohio State24. Duke
8. Michigan State17. Utah25. Louisville
9. Kansas State  



Auburn at No. 3.

The Tigers ended up as the highest-ranked one-loss team ahead of Alabama, Ole Miss and Oregon. The selection committee put significant weight on the Tigers’ 20-14 road win over Kansas State, a team the selection committee ranked ninth. Auburn’s only loss is on the road to No. 1 Mississippi State 38-23


Ole Miss at No. 4

The selection committee showed it wouldn’t follow the lead of the polls by ranking Ole Miss at No. 4, two spots ahead of Alabama. Both polls, which have no role in the playoff process, ranked Alabama No. 3. The AP had Ole Miss at No. 7, the coaches had the Rebels even lower at No. 9. Ole Miss defeated Alabama 23-17 on Oct. 4.


Who Shouldn’t Worry:



The committee placed Oregon at No. 5 despite a loss to Arizona, a team ranked 12th. Committee chair Jeff Long cited a win over Michigan State at home and UCLA on the road as contributing to a strong “body of work” in his interview on ESPN. In interviews with reporters, Long also noted the injury to starting left tackle Jake Fisher in the loss to Arizona. Fisher is now healthy. The Ducks control their own path to the Playoff as the three SEC teams start to weed themselves out.



No reason for the Crimson Tide to worry about being No. 6. The Tide still have two of the top three teams on their schedule, both at home. If the committee liked the head-to-head win for Ole Miss over Alabama, it will love a Tide team with wins over Mississippi State and Auburn.


Who Should be Pleasantly Surprised


TCU and Kansas State

The pair of Big 12 teams that were nowhere to be found in preseason top 15, but both landed in the top 10. The Horned Frogs and Wildcats have wins over Oklahoma and narrow losses to fellow one loss teams (Baylor for TCU, Auburn for Kansas State).


Who Should Worry:


Ohio State

We don’t know what would be considered a major climb from the first playoff poll to the final one, but Ohio State could present an interesting test. The Buckeyes, who lost at home to 4-4 Virginia Tech, started at No. 16. Entering Tuesday, Ohio State knew it needed to beat No. 8 Michigan State for a shot at the playoff. Now, the Buckeyes have to wonder if even that will be enough.


Notre Dame

The Irish were ranked sixth in the AP poll but 10th in the playoff poll due to the lack of significant wins. A good showing in a loss in Tallahassee wasn’t enough to move up any further.



East Carolina and Marshall appeared to be the clubhouse leaders for the Group of 5 spot in the New Year’s bowls, but Marshall probably needs one-loss East Carolina to lose again ... at least. Marshall was unranked while ECU landed at No. 23. The Thundering Herd has one of the weakest schedules in the country while East Carolina beat Virginia Tech and North Carolina and lost to South Carolina.


If the Season Ended Today:


National Semifinals:

Sugar Bowl: No. 1 Mississippi State vs. No. 4 Ole Miss

Rose Bowl: No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Auburn


Other bowls (projected)

Cotton: No. 7 TCU vs. No. 10 Notre Dame

Fiesta: No. 5 Oregon vs. No. 9 Kansas State

Orange: No. 21 Clemson^ vs. No. 6 Alabama

Peach: No. 23 East Carolina* vs. No. 8 Michigan State

*automatic Group of 5 bid

^automatic ACC bid to Orange Bowl

College Football Playoff Rankings: Week 10
Post date: Tuesday, October 28, 2014 - 20:26
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, SEC, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/can-bruce-pearl-revive-auburn-basketball

Years before Bruce Pearl took the Auburn job, the coach had already secured the approval of the most important face of Tigers basketball.


Pearl was midway through his tenure at Tennessee, and he had the Volunteers humming. The program's return to relevance in the SEC and the national stage was enough to draw the attention of Charles Barkley.


The Hall of Famer and Auburn legend reached out to Pearl and left the coach a voicemail.


“You don’t need to call me back,” Pearl recalls Barkley saying. “I know you don’t know me, but I’ve watched you coach. I like how hard your kids play. I like the swagger. It seems like you’re passionate. I just want to let you know I’m a fan.”


Pearl took this as the ultimate compliment. At the time, when he had Tennessee in the same stratosphere as Florida and Kentucky, Pearl had no way of knowing that this was a sign of his future in coaching.


Still, he followed Barkley’s request and went about his day.


“I did not call him back,” Pearl says. “I saved the message. It was special.”

Pearl and Barkley have crossed paths more often in recent months, since Pearl began a twofold resurrection process — that of his coaching career and that of Barkley’s alma mater.


Three years after he was fired at Tennessee and slapped with an NCAA penalty that essentially made him unhirable in the college ranks, Pearl has returned to the SEC, where he’ll try to accomplish what no one has been able to do for more than a decade. He’s looking to make Auburn relevant in basketball, not just in wins and losses but also to the school’s fan base.


“If anyone can do it, he has what it takes to do it,” says Tom Davis, the former Iowa coach who was the first to give Pearl a job in basketball at Boston College.


Indeed, Auburn has good reason to believe it scored a coup by hiring a coach with Pearl’s track record. Tennessee reached the NCAA Tournament all six seasons under Pearl, three times won at least a share of the SEC title, and advanced to the Elite Eight in 2010. He had opportunities to make the jump to higher-profile programs — Indiana was reportedly interested before hiring Kelvin Sampson — but he found a home in Knoxville. He had no plans to leave Tennessee.


What happened next is well documented. A cookout at his home with high school junior recruits led to a lie to the NCAA, which eventually led to his dismissal at Tennessee. Slapped with a three-year show-cause — which among other things bans a coach from recruiting — Pearl was basically unemployable by any other college.  


Pearl embarked on a broadcasting career at ESPN and SiriusXM and served as a vice president for marketing for a wholesale grocery distribution company in Knoxville. He knew he wanted back on the sidelines but figured his next job would have to wait until the ’15-16 season at the earliest since his show-cause wasn’t scheduled to expire until Aug. 23. What school would hire a coach who couldn’t recruit for the first five months on the job?


How about a school that averaged 4.8 SEC wins in the previous five seasons and hadn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2003?


Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs fired Tony Barbee, the coach he hired in 2010, hours after the Tigers bowed out of the 2014 SEC Tournament with an 18-point loss to South Carolina. Shortly after, Jacobs began his pursuit of the popular, but potentially toxic, former Tennessee head coach. 


Jacobs admits he had reservations about Pearl before speaking with former Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton among other references. Jacobs then met with Pearl in Bristol, Conn., where Pearl was serving as a college basketball analyst for ESPN.


“He was remorseful and repentant (about his NCAA transgressions),” Jacobs says. “I was as thorough as I had been with anyone because of the history. I was convinced he was the right guy at the right time for Auburn.”


The timing, though, wasn’t perfect.


Rather than using energy to fight and appeal the show-cause, Auburn and Pearl devised plans to navigate the sanctions for the first five months of his tenure as required by the show-cause order. When recruits visited Auburn on official or unofficial visits, Pearl left campus or left town altogether to avoid any possibility of violating his show-cause. Instead of meeting with Pearl, recruits met football coach Gus Malzahn in addition to the Tigers’ assistant basketball coaches.


When Pearl hit the road for speaking or booster engagements, a compliance officer accompanied him in case a prospect would be present. Although he was barred from any contact with recruits or in-person evaluation or prospects, Pearl was not barred from evaluating prospects on film or keeping in contact with his assistants on the recruiting trail. 


When his staff was on the road evaluating prospects, Pearl kept in touch every few days for updates. Pearl brought in Tony Jones, who coached with him dating back to his Milwaukee days, and former Auburn great Chuck Person. Jones served his own show-cause for a year before coaching two seasons at Alcoa (Tenn.) High School outside of Knoxville.


Pearl’s son, Steven, also was listed as a full-time assistant to help in recruiting before moving into an off-court role after the show-cause expired. In other words, Pearl has filled his staff with people who know him and know the terrain of the SEC.


Recruiting limitations, though, didn’t mean Pearl could take the summer off. The NCAA now allows basketball coaches to work with players up to two hours a day and eight hours a week during the summer. Pearl took full advantage of this time.


“Him not being able to recruit doesn’t necessarily lessen his workload,” Jones says. “He’s got a head start on Xs and Os.”


The time away from recruiting also gave Pearl time to do what he does best (aside from coaching) — build enthusiasm for a program.


For all of Auburn’s passion for football, Tiger fans have good reason to be apathetic about the basketball product. Auburn has had nine losing seasons in the last 11 years — quite the feat considering how light non-conference schedules can make even a .500 record attainable for a major-conference program.


Barbee was not able to capitalize on the opening of a new $92 million arena and was fired after an 18–50 SEC record in four seasons.


Attendance dropped nearly seven percent during Barbee’s final season at Auburn, according to Auburn’s average home crowd of 5,823 ranked 13th in the SEC and was the worst since Auburn’s new arena opened in 2010.


“Auburn wanted more than just a guy that blows a whistle in a gym,” Pearl says. “They wanted somebody who would reenergize and educate a fan base about what college basketball can look like.”


Pearl sets lofty goals. He wants to have more home sellouts than 75 percent of the teams in the SEC. Auburn didn’t sell out a home game all of last year and may not be improved on the court in terms of wins and losses. Pearl returns only two players who averaged more than 20 minutes per game last season. He is filling the gaps with two graduate transfers (guards K.C. Ross-Miller from New Mexico State and Antoine Mason from Niagara) and the top junior college prospect in the country (forward Cinmeon Bowers).


The 2015 class, though, is where Pearl will make a major impact. He has four four-star commitments, according to the 247 Composite. The class is ranked 10th nationally and second in the SEC, behind only Texas A&M.


Pearl is essentially selling an experience, selling the up-tempo style of play and aggressive defense, selling the future and selling himself until tangible progress can be made. Jacobs has called him a “one-man marketing machine.” Pearl has visited students on campus, visited classrooms, visited dining halls and assisted with fundraisers.


“I try not to say no,” Pearl says. “I’d say five nights out of seven I’m somewhere visiting.”


That’s what the dean of admissions at Boston College saw when he recommended Pearl to then-coach Tom Davis in the late 1970s for a similar role — drumming up interest in a program.


“It was his ability to coordinate and get people to join him,” Davis says. “He had students painting signs and posters, knocking on dorm room doors, getting fans to dress up in costumes.”


But it’s another trait that may help Pearl rebuild at Auburn. Davis gave Pearl his first full-time coaching job and brought his protege to Iowa as an assistant in the late '80s. After a heated recruiting battle over Deon Thomas, Pearl reported Illinois to the NCAA for violations in 1989. The incident and the stigma of reporting another program likely cost Pearl a shot at more high-profile jobs. He settled for a head-coaching gig at Division II Southern Indiana, where he went 231–46 and won one national title in nine seasons.


“He’s a tough-minded guy,” Davis says. “He’s got mental toughness, which you need to bounce back.”


The reclamation project Pearl is now singularly focused on is the one at Auburn, where he says all the resources are in place for a turnaround.


The arena is new. The facilities are on par with other programs in the league. And while the SEC produced three teams in the Sweet 16 in 2014, the league’s pecking order after Kentucky and Florida is wide open.


“If I don’t get this done, it’s on me,” Pearl says. “It’s not on Auburn.”

Can Bruce Pearl Revive Auburn Basketball?
Post date: Tuesday, October 28, 2014 - 12:33
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/six-dilemmas-facing-college-football-playoff-selection-committee


The College Football Playoff selection committee will release its first rankings today, and no one really knows what to expect.


Will the selection committee’s top 25 be a carbon copy of the AP or coaches polls? Will it be wildly different?


How much change will we see from week to week as the committee goes through its made-for-TV rankings process every Tuesday?


How will the committee of 12 — the 13th member, Archie Manning, took a leave due to medical reasons — justify the teams in and out of the top four from week to week?


Indeed, this is a new era, but how much of a break the playoff will be from the BCS remains to be seen. Maybe we’ll find out Tuesday night. Maybe we’ll find out on selection Sunday on Dec. 7.


Either way, these are among the most heady issues the committee must face starting this week.


Dilemmas the College Football Playoff Selection Committee will Face


The SEC West question

The architects of the playoff have been clear that no limits will be placed on the amount of teams a conference can send to the playoff. That may be put to the test immediately within one division. In three of the last four weeks, three SEC West teams have been ranked in the top four of the Associated Press poll. Whether that’s an indication of what the selection committee might do isn’t clear. What’s certain is that the SEC West has the most playoff contenders of any conference as a whole in Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. That field will be narrowed to two or one in the final month of the season, but the SEC West may put immediate pressure on the committee to set some sort of precedent on league representation in the Football Four.


The case for Oregon

We’re told one of the advantages here is that a committee of 12 experts will be able to better gauge teams impacted by injury. There’s no better example than Oregon. With left tackle Jake Fisher, the Ducks defeated Michigan State, UCLA and Washington by an average of 18.7 points per game. Without their starting tackle, the Ducks lost at home to Arizona and survived a scare on the road against Washington State. Of the top playoff contenders, Oregon’s loss to Arizona is one of the worst losses. Will the committee overlook this glaring flaw on the resume as long as the Ducks continue to look like a contender when its offensive line is intact?


The case for Ohio State

Again, one of the advantages of the committee is that it’s supposed to recognize when a team improves as the season goes along. Look no further than Ohio State, whose lone loss to Virginia Tech looks worse with each passing week. The Buckeyes faced Virginia Tech in the second week of the season when J.T. Barrett, pressed into starting duty only 10 days before the season, was making his second career start. Since that loss, Barrett has looked more and more like an elite Big Ten quarterback, and Ohio State rolled over its subsequent four opponents. If Ohio State can defeat Michigan State on Nov. 8 and wins the Big Ten, the Buckeyes may have a playoff-worthy resume provided that loss to 4-4 Virginia Tech doesn’t become an albatross.


The head-to-head question

Ole Miss suffered its first loss of the season Saturday and dropped to No. 7 in the AP poll. That’s four spots behind Alabama, a team the Rebels beat 23-17 on Oct. 7. The reasons for the Tide to be ranked ahead of Ole Miss are reasonable — the Tide lost a close game in Oxford, defeated a Big 12 contender on a neutral field (West Virginia) and showed dominance on both sides of the ball in wins over Texas A&M and Florida. But one school of thought will maintain that as long as both have one loss apiece, Ole Miss should have an edge over Alabama in the rankings. The same dilemma could arise if Mississippi State and Auburn each end up with one loss — the Bulldogs defeated Auburn 38-23 on Oct. 4, but the Tigers may end up with a better resume with wins over Kansas State, South Carolina and potentially Georgia compared to Mississippi State’s East wins over Vanderbilt and Kentucky.


The rematch question

The seeding of the final playoff pairings could present a handful of rematches from the Iron Bowl to the Egg Bowl to Michigan State-Oregon to any other SEC West matchup. Will the committee artfully try to avoid rematches in the semifinals?


Marshall or East Carolina?

Remember: The playoff selection committee isn’t just seeding the semifinals; it’s also filling the Orange, Cotton, Peach and Fiesta bowls. One of those spots is guaranteed to go to the highest ranked team in the so-called Group of Five (the American, Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt). The two most likely teams right now to fill that slot are East Carolina and Marshall. East Carolina defeated Virginia Tech and North Carolina but lost by 10  to South Carolina. 

The Six Dilemmas Facing the College Football Playoff Selection Committee
Post date: Tuesday, October 28, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/previewing-top-college-football-games-week-10

By Saturday, the release of the first College Football Playoff top 25 may feel like an afterthought.


True, the playoff is one of the defining features of the season, but the first weekend of November is a clear indication of the other major storyline for 2014 — unpredictability.


On Nov. 1, teams like TCU, West Virginia, Utah and Arizona State will be playing in games relevant to conference title chases, if not the playoff.


Remember, this is a week in which Stanford-Oregon is a featured game, and games like TCU-West Virginia and Utah-Arizona State are nearly as important.


The SEC West, as usual, is a centerpiece of attention, too, as Ole Miss tries to recover from its first loss of the season while Auburn attempts to solidify its spot among the top contenders in its division.


The Week Ahead: Oct. 30-Nov. 1

All times Eastern. All games Saturday, unless noted.


Florida State at Louisville

When and where: Thursday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN

We’re watching because... Florida State is on upset alert. Despite being 7-0, the Seminoles rarely have looked like the dominant team they were a year ago. This could be a chance for FSU to flex its muscles or it could be a tricky game against one of the top defenses in the country. Louisville is second in yards allowed per play and first in total defense. The Cardinals have allowed more than 100 rushing yards twice all season and more than 200 passing yards three times.

Vegas says: Florida State by 6


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Auburn at Ole Miss

When and where: 7 p.m., ESPN

We’re watching because... this may be a crossroads for both teams in the SEC West. Auburn responded to its 38-23 loss to Mississippi State with a 42-35 win over South Carolina. The Tigers’ offense is clicking after they rushed for a season-high 395 yards against South Carolina. Ole Miss, meanwhile, may have its season hanging in the balance after a 10-7 loss to LSU. The Rebels have a handful of injuries (linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche and offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil) and shades of internal dissension between quarterback Bo Wallace and coach Hugh Freeze. The Rebels may need to take care that a banner season doesn’t crumble in short order.

Vegas says: Ole Miss by 2 1/2


TCU at West Virginia

When and where: 3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2

We’re watching because... no two teams improved more since the end of last season. Big 12 newcomers TCU and West Virginia both went 4-8 a year ago and now will play in a game that will factor in the league title race. Besides, given these two offenses, this matchup could be a shootout. TCU is the only team in the country averaging more than 50 points per game, while West Virginia has quietly put together a balanced offense ranked in the top four in the Big 12 in both rushing and passing.

Vegas says: TCU by 5 1/2


Stanford at Oregon

When and where: 7:30 p.m., FOX

We’re watching because... the matchup of the year in the Pac-12 now has Stanford playing the role of spoiler. Stanford has all but dropped out of the playoff race, but that doesn’t mean the Cardinal can’t give Oregon trouble. Stanford has won the last two meetings and still has a dominant and physical defense that can give the Ducks fits. The only question is if Kevin Hogan and the embattled Stanford offense can keep up.

Vegas says: Oregon by 9 1/2


Utah at Arizona State

When and where: 11 p.m., Fox Sports 1

We’re watching because... two of the biggest surprises in the Pac-12 will meet for at least a share of the lead in the South. Arizona State has overcome the loss of nine starters on defense since last season and an injury to starting quarterback Taylor Kelly (who returned last week) to beat USC, Stanford and Washington. Utah has been living on the edge in Pac-12 play with each league game decided by less than touchdown. Utah’s game-winning scores in the last three wins have come with 34 seconds left, 8 seconds left and in double overtime.

Vegas says: Arizona State by 5


Talk Back on U-verse Game of the Week

Each week, AT&T U-verse and Athlon Sports will host a live interactive experience for an SEC game in which two greats from each school will take fan questions live throughout the game. 


This week, former Kentucky coach Rich Brooks and former Missouri quarterback James Franklin will join Athlon Sports’ Braden Gall at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta for the fun.


Visit during Kentucky-Missouri to watch the game with us.


Kentucky at Missouri

When and where: 4 p.m., SEC Network

We’re watching because... Missouri has quietly kept itself alive in the SEC East race. Given the way the season has gone, though, that might not be a good omen for the Tigers. Either way, Missouri is 3-1 in the league but needs Georgia to falter to return to the SEC Championship Game. The Tigers also need more from quarterback Maty Mauk, who is completing less than 40 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and five interceptions in SEC play.

Vegas says: Missouri by 6 1/2

Previewing the Top College Football Games of Week 10
Post date: Monday, October 27, 2014 - 15:54
Path: /college-football/ameer-abdullah-continues-bid-mike-roziers-records-heisman-next

The #FearAmeer campaign was in full force Saturday, but we’re not entirely sure who should be trembling the most when Ameer Abdullah in on the field.


Let’s start with Rutgers: Abdullah set a school record with 321 all-purpose yards in a 42-24 rout of Rutgers with 225 rushing yards, 26 receiving yards and 90 kickoff return yards.


The tally included touchdown runs of 48, 53 and 23 yards and a kickoff return of 76 yards to set up a touchdown in the third quarter.


Meanwhile, Abdullah has given Nebraska legend Mike Rozier plenty of reason to fear losing his spot atop the Cornhuskers' record book.


With 4,226 career rushing yards, Abdullah is 553 yards short of tying Rozier for the school rushing record.


With 1,249 yards in eight games, Abdullah also has an outside shot of breaking Rozier’s single-season school record from 1983. Rozier rushed for 2,148 yards during his Heisman-winning season.


Abdullah started the season eighth on Nebraska's career rushing list and finished Saturday second. Along the way, he passed names like Ahman Green, Eric Crouch, Roy Helu and Rex Burkhead. On Saturday, Abdullah topped the 200-yard rushing mark for the fourth time this season and added his fifth consecutive multi-touchdown game.


At Abdullah’s current average of 156.1 rushing yards per game, here’s how he could finish at his current pace:


Year GamesRushing Yards
1983MIke Rozier122,148 (275 attempts)
2014Ameer Abdullah12*1,874 (270 attempts)
  13*2,040 (293 attempts)
  14*2,185 (315 attempts)



If there’s one possible hangup to his bid for a record season, it’s the final stretch of the schedule. Of Nebraska’s final four regular season opponents, only Purdue (83rd) entered Saturday ranked outside of the top 50 nationally in rush defense. That doesn't include what's likely to be a tough defense in the Big Ten title game — potentially Michigan State — and a bowl game.


Against Michigan State, Abdullah rushed for a season-low 45 yards and 1.9 yards per carry against the toughest defense he’s faced all year.


Still, with prolific numbers from Abdullah, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott may fear Abdullah as a Heisman finalist.

Ameer Abdullah Continues Bid for Mike Rozier's Records. Is Heisman Next?
Post date: Saturday, October 25, 2014 - 16:11
Path: /college-football/west-virginias-kevin-white-pace-join-elite-group-receivers

West Virginia wide receivers coach Lonnie Galloway was blocked from seeing the play of the day from his new star player on Saturday against Baylor.


Even from his spot in the press box, he missed the replay on the big screen at Milan Puskar Stadium.


After the game, he asked the source, Kevin White, about the 12-yard go-ahead touchdown catch against Baylor in the fourth quarter.


“I asked him if he caught that one-handed,” Galloway said. “He said ‘You know I did.’”


He also made the catch with a Baylor defensive back draped all over him.


For his part, White says he didn’t watch the replay of his potential season-defining catch until he saw it during film study.


Elsewhere, the catch was replayed all through the college football weekend as West Virginia upset Baylor 41-27.


The one-handed grab — and the 132-yard, two-touchdown day against Baylor — brought attention to what West Virginia and Big 12 fans already knew. White has emerged from obscurity to become of the nation’s top receivers.


White has topped six receptions and 100 yards in all seven games this season against a schedule that includes Alabama and Oklahoma. As the nation’s first receiver to 1,000 yards, White is on pace to rival two of the most productive receivers in college football history.


Both played for Dana Holgorsen in some capacity. Both won the Biletnikoff Award twice.


Through seven games, White emerged from being the No. 2 receiver on a 4-8 team to putting his name alongside Michael Crabtree and Justin Blackmon.


At Texas Tech, Crabtree set a Big 12 record with 1,962 yards, and he won the Biletnikoff in 2007 with Holgorsen as receivers coach. Blackmon at Oklahoma State followed with the second-highest total in Big 12 history with 1,782 yards to go with a Biletnikoff Award of his own in 2010. (Both Blackmon and Crabtree won back-to-back Biletnikoff Awards, the second coming the year after Holgorsen left).


White’s pace puts him in between the pair. At his current pace, he’ll finish a 13-game season with 1,894 yards.


If the Baylor game was any indication, opponents will do anything they can to make sure White does not reach those milestones. The Bears were called for pass interference five times while trying to defend White.


“He's just such a big, physical presence and the nature of Baylor's defense was going to put those guys in some one-on-one situations,” Holgorsen said. “Baylor is a physical team. They use their hands. They play hard. They play with good effort. They play reckless at times, too.


“We were going to take shots and we were going to take a bunch early and take them throughout the course of the game. If we hit on some of them or if we didn't hit on some of them, based on some P.I. calls. So he's a dominating player, that's for sure.”


West Virginia saw shades of this kind of season from White but not until the spring. This breakout for White required patience.


White committed to Pittsburgh out of Emmaus (Pa.), but grades forced him to take the junior college route at Lackawanna College. Once there, he had to redshirt a year.


"I don't know (why)," White said. "I guess I wasn't ready."


West Virginia signed White out of JUCO, and his first season in Morgantown was immediately stalled due to a foot injury to start 2013.


Beyond White, the Mountaineers’ offense struggled throughout last season, as quarterback Clint Trickett was in and out of the lineup and battled injuries.


White looked the part of a lost new arrival to the roster with a red zone fumble against Oklahoma in Week 2 of last season.


“It was difficult,” White said. “Coming from JUCO and high school, you didn’t have to put this kind of time into football. You didn’t have to put hours in the film room. You didn’t have to work out this much. Practice is different here. It’s mentally frustrating with different defenses they throw at you, and corners are smarter at this level.


“It was different. I didn’t know how to handle everything all at once.”


He had seven catches for 130 yards in October against Baylor, but Galloway said the game didn’t start to truly click for White in 2013 until the final games of the season.


“The Iowa State game (two catches, 27 yards, one touchdown) was a good one for him, that last stretch where he had made some plays,” Galloway said. “In spring practice, he started showing he could be dominant.”


The meager gains from the end of last season are now coming to full fruition.


West Virginia’s offense has stabilized with a healthy quarterback and a dominant receiver in White.


“He’s done a great job of high pointing the football, attacking the football,” Galloway said. “That’s been good to see. Kevin has put in a lot of hard work. The light’s come on for him and I’m glad it has. The best football is still ahead of him.”

West Virginia's Kevin White on Pace to Join Elite Group of Receivers
Post date: Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 14:30
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2014-week-9-preview-and-predictions

The ninth week of the college football season presents a pair of intriguing coaching matchups — one will be the first matchup in a new coaching rivalry, the other likely is the final meeting.


In State College, two of the most aggressive recruiters in the country will face off in the first meeting between Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Penn State’s James Franklin. The two never crossed paths at their former jobs in the SEC as Meyer left Florida a year before Franklin landed at Vanderbilt.


No doubt, the winning coach will use this game as bragging rights as both schools try to recruit Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland.


The other coach matchup to watch will be in East Lansing. Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio has tried to avoid overt references to the Spartans’ dominance in the series with Michigan, but it’s clear Dantonio’s program relishes the shedding of the little brother tag. That, of course, is why this may be the final Michigan-Michigan State game for Brady Hoke.

Week 9 Previews and Predictions
ACC | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC


Big Ten Week 9 Game Power Rankings

All times Eastern. All games Saturday.


1. Ohio State at Penn State

8 p.m., ABC

In the four games since the loss to Virginia Tech, Ohio State looks every bit the dominant team the Buckeyes were expected to be with Braxton Miller at quarterback. Credit J.T. Barrett and his development. The redshirt freshman has led four consecutive 50-point performances or better, completing 71.7 percent of his passes for 9.75 yards per attempt with 17 touchdowns and an interception during that span. Penn State may be be the toughest test of the season for Barrett so far with the game on the road against an imposing front seven. Penn State is allowing two yards per carry, the best average in the country, so it will be interesting to see how Barrett fares if running back Ezekiel Elliott is not productive. While Barrett vs. the Penn State defense will be a fascinating matchup, the Ohio State defensive line vs. overmatched Penn State’s offensive line may be as big a mismatch as any this week.


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2. Michigan at Michigan State

3:30 p.m., ABC

Michigan State now has the clear upper hand in this in-state rivalry, and that doesn’t look to change this season. Michigan State has won five of the last six, with four of those wins coming by two touchdowns or more. A year ago, Michigan State sacked Michigan seven times and held the Wolverines to minus-48 rushing yards in Ann Arbor. This game could make a run at being as lopsided as Sparty’s 29-6 win in 2013. Michigan State rolled over Indiana last week for 330 rushing yards and five touchdowns despite the absence of injured starting center Jack Allen, who is expected to be back this week. For all of Michigan’s struggles this season, the Wolverines are fifth in the country in yards allowed per carry (2.73 per rush).


3. Maryland at Wisconsin

Noon, Big Ten Network

The game may feature the Big Ten’s offensive player of the year (Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon) and defensive player of the year (Maryland’s William Likely). The pair are putting up wild numbers and will have plenty of chances to flourish. Gordon has rushed for 868 yards and nine touchdowns in his last four games. This week, he’ll be matched up with the No. 13 rush defense in the Big Ten. Likely has four interceptions this season, including his second pick six of the year last week against Iowa. Likely also has three tackles for a loss and a punt return for a touchdown. Like Gordon, Likely has a fortunate matchup. Wisconsin is sticking with two quarterbacks in Tanner McEvoy and Joel Stave, who have combined to complete 54.9 percent of their passes with six touchdowns and eight interceptions. Maryland’s quarterback situation also will be worth watching as C.J. Brown has been nursing a back injury all week as his backup, Caleb Rowe, was lost for the season to a torn ACL.


4. Rutgers at Nebraska

Noon, ESPN2

Welcome to the Big Ten, Rutgers. A week after a 56-17 loss to Ohio State in Columbus, the Scarlet Knights visit Nebraska. After that, Wisconsin visits Piscataway next week. Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah re-asserted his Heisman credentials with 146 yards and four touchdowns last week against Northwestern, but as much as Abdullah’s season deserves attention, don’t overlook the Nebraska D. The Cornhuskers are allowing 4.83 yards per play and 338.6 yards per game, both their best averages since 2010. 


5. Minnesota at Illinois


Minnesota needed a 52-yard field goal in the final five minutes to complete a 39-38 comeback win against Purdue last week. The Gophers are a surprising 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the Big Ten. They have to be taken seriously as Big Ten West contenders, but their schedule will get tougher into November. They may not be able to afford many slip ups against teams like Purdue and Illinois. Prolific running back David Cobb continues to be the centerpiece of the Gophers’ offense, but the passing game has at least proved to be capable in conference games. The Gophers average only 18.7 passes in Big Ten play, but they are second in the league in pass efficiency in conference games.


Big Ten Week 9 Staff Picks


 David FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light

Minnesota (-6 1/2) at Illinois

Minn 28-10Minn 34-27Minn 34-24Min 30-20

Maryland at Wisconsin (-11)

Wisc 31-21Wisc 37-24Wisc 31-27Md 28-24

Rutgers at Nebraska (-17 1/2)

Neb 49-14Neb 41-20Neb 38-20Neb 31-17

Michigan at Michigan State (-17 1/2)

MSU 42-10MSU 41-10MSU 38-10MSU 34-13

Ohio State (-13 1/2) at Penn State

OSU 35-10OSU 31-14OSU 34-14OSU 23-6
Last Week5-04-14-15-0
This Season57-1855-2056-1952-24


Big Ten 2014 Week 9 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/why-florida-and-michigan-might-have-trouble-making-big-hire

Rejection stings. When the time comes for Florida and Michigan to hire new football coaches, the two college football powers may find out how much.


The Gators’ Will Muschamp and the Wolverines’ Brady Hoke remain employed today, but both of their fates are all but sealed. The two fourth-year coaches who entered the season under pressure to win now, have not.


Florida lost 42-13 to Missouri on Saturday to fall to 7-11 overall and 5-8 in the SEC since last season. Michigan defeated Penn State two weeks ago, but Hoke remains the first coach in school history to lose three games before Oct. 1.


By December or earlier, both programs will be looking for new coaches, but finding the perfect answer will be tough.


Hiring the right coach for a power program is hard, and these two programs know as much as any. Since 2003, Florida and Michigan have made more questionable hires (Ron Zook, Rich Rodriguez, Hoke and Muschamp) than successful ones (Urban Meyer).


Finding an elite coach in 2014 may be tougher than ever, especially if Florida and Michigan are not able to land high-profile, popular candidates. The next tier beyond the dream candidates for fans — Dan Mullen and Jim Harbaugh — is a thin and somewhat unproven group.


Here’s why Florida and Michigan may be in trouble when trying to fill the most important pair of headsets:


The coaching talent pool has dried up


Arguably, coaching across the board is better than it’s been in a long time. Spread coaches have changed the dynamic from coast to coast. So how can the talent pool be dry? 


Coaching acumen across the board may be high, but so are coaching moves. In 2013, 25.2 percent of schools had head coaching turnover. In 2012, the rate was 22.5 percent. Generally, fewer than 20 percent of FBS programs hire new coaches in a given year. Back-to-back seasons of that kind of turnover hasn’t been seen in 40 years.


In other words, many head coaching upstarts have already moved into their new jobs. Meanwhile, the pool of second-tier or lower-tier coaches that would be candidates at programs like Florida or Michigan haven’t had an opportunity to build lengthy track records.


The most likely candidates to move up are staying put


Think about it: In general, Coach X who takes teams like Baylor, Utah, TCU or Boise State to major bowls would be on a fast track to a big-time job. That’s what Urban Meyer did when he left for Florida. Meyer’s successor, Kyle Whittingham, also took Utah to a BCS bowl but stayed put with the Utes (more on him later). 


Coaches like Art Briles at Baylor and Gary Patterson at TCU might not be contenders for the Florida or Michigan jobs to begin with, but for one reason or another, they didn’t take (Briles) or contend for (Patterson) the Texas job that opened a year ago.


Boise State’s Chris Petersen could have had any number of open jobs since leading Boise State to a pair of BCS games. He can only fill one of those, and he picked Washington this season.


...or typical candidates to move up have been there, done that


Again, Coach X who wins a Fiesta Bowl at UCF would generally generally a contender for a major job. Not so if that coach is a 68-year-old George O’Leary who previously was the coach at Georgia Tech and has plenty of baggage.


Even the Cincinnati job, which has been a stepping stone in the past, doesn’t have an intriguing young candidate. Mark Dantonio (Michigan State), Brian Kelly (Notre Dame) and Butch Jones (Tennessee) all turned the Cincinnati gig into major conference jobs. Cincinnati’s coach, Tommy Tuberville, already has been the head coach at Ole Miss, Auburn and Texas Tech.


Louisville has sent two of its last three coaches to the NFL (Bobby Petrino) and Texas (Charlie Strong). Now, Petrino is back, and his viability — and interest — for another job may be a matter of debate.


Good jobs are better


Why hasn’t Briles left Baylor? Two words: McLane Stadium. Surely, that’s not the only reason Briles isn’t the coach at Texas or anywhere other than Waco, but it doesn’t hurt. Facilities upgrades and other investments in football programs have turned good jobs or mediocre jobs into better ones.


Patterson rarely entertained jobs when TCU was in the Mountain West, though he did refute a report linking him to the Kansas State position in 2008. TCU also has a Big 12 affiliation that wasn’t on the radar six years ago.


For Mullen at Mississippi State, the Bulldogs are doing their part to keep up in the facilities arms race. They opened a $25 million football facility in January 2013. Ole Miss completed a renovation and expansion of its 10-year-old football facility in spring.


The College Football Playoff also opens up championship possibilities simply by doubling the field from two to four. The BCS standings aren’t a perfect indicator of what the selection committee might do, but it’s worth noting the following programs have been ranked in the top four of the BCS in just the last five seasons: Michigan State, South Carolina, Oklahoma State, Stanford (twice), Cincinnati and TCU (twice).


The notion that certain (Power 5) programs can’t play for a national championship doesn’t hold true as much as it once did. In other words, the coaches at Michigan State and Stanford don’t have to leave to be able to win a title.


Realignment casts doubt on would-be candidates


Utah’s Whittingham and West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen have seen their records take a hit due to realignment. Around 2010, Whittingham had the record of a coach who would follow in the footsteps of his old boss, Meyer, when he went 33-6 during a three-year span that included an undefeated season in 2008. Since then, his team is 11-19 in its first three seasons in the Pac-12 with one bowl appearance in four years.


Holgorsen was a hotshot offensive coordinator when he took over at West Virginia, winning the Big East and the Orange Bowl in 2011. The Mountaineers went 6-12 in their first two seasons in the Big 12.


Coordinators are playing the waiting game


How many times have Alabama’s Kirby Smart, Michigan State’s Pat Narduzzi and Clemson’s Chad Morris appeared on candidate lists for head coaching jobs in the last few seasons? Yet every time they stay put.


Thanks to rising salaries, the best assistants can make head coach money while remaining a coordinator. Smart and Morris both make in excess of $1.1 million. Narduzzi makes more than $900,000.


Top assistants can be choosy with head coaching jobs, but that also means they will be unproven if their first gigs end up at a power program. Bob Stoops, Mark Richt and Jimbo Fisher were first-time head coaches when they landed at their current jobs, but so were Will Muschamp, Ron Zook, Charlie Weis and Mike Shula.


When Florida and Michigan officially enter the market for a new coach, who knows? Perhaps they’ll make that clear, slam dunk hire and all of this will be moot. But at the same time, fans expecting the perfect candidate from Day One may end up disappointed.

Why Florida and Michigan Might Have Trouble Making the Big Hire
Post date: Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - 15:44
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/previewing-five-best-games-college-football-week-9

About a month ago, the schedule for Week 9 of the college football season probably didn’t look all that meaningful.


At that time, Baylor and Oklahoma were the clear cut favorites in the Big 12, so games like Texas-Kansas State and West Virginia-Oklahoma State probably carried little weight.


Ohio State was still stinging from a loss to Virginia Tech, so a game at Happy Valley probably didn’t carry much buzz.


And USC-Utah may have looked like a formality for USC rather than a matchup featuring a Pac-12 South upstart.


Recent weeks have changed the stakes.


The Big 12 is one of the most wide-open leagues in the country with Kansas State and West Virginia moving into the role of contenders. Ohio State’s offense has topped 50 points in four consecutive games. And Utah has picked up back-to-back Pac-12 wins over UCLA and Oregon State to position the Utes as a factor in the division.


The Week Ahead: Oct. 25

All games Saturday. All times Eastern.


Texas at Kansas State

When and where: Noon, ESPN

We’re watching because... Kansas State can further solidify its Big 12 credentials against an improving Texas team. The Wildcats squeaked by Oklahoma thanks in part to two missed field goals and an extra point in Norman. If K-State is truly a national contender, the Wildcats should be able to handle Texas at home. The Longhorns, though, may end up as one of the most improved teams during the second half of the season. Tyrone Swoopes is a rising star after passing for 321 yards and rushing for 95 against Iowa State on Saturday.

Vegas says: Kansas State by 10


West Virginia at Oklahoma State

When and where: 3:30 p.m., ESPN

We’re watching because... this game has the best chance for weekly Big 12 fireworks. West Virginia is a sneaky-good 5-2 team. The Mountaineers have a win over Baylor on the resume and the two losses came to Alabama and Oklahoma in games decided in the second half. After building a 3-0 record against the worst teams in the league, Oklahoma State received a rude awakening win a 42-9 loss to TCU. The Cowboys will need to bounce back from a two-turnover, 258-yard effort on offense.

Vegas says: Oklahoma State by 2 1/2


Ole Miss at LSU

When and where: 7:15 p.m., ESPN

We’re watching because... LSU is starting to look like LSU again. After starting 0-2 in the SEC, the Tigers picked up back-to-back wins over Florida and Kentucky. Does that signal a team ready to beat No. 3 Ole Miss? No. But this does look like a much tougher game that it seemed at the start of the month. The Rebels’ defense is dominant, but LSU returned to its running back-by-committee for 303 rushing yards against Kentucky.

Vegas says: Ole Miss by 3 1/2


Ohio State at Penn State

When and where: 8 p.m., ABC

We’re watching because... Ohio State is starting to round into Big Ten title form. If the Buckeyes’ are legitimate contenders, they won’t have too much trouble with an undermanned Penn State team, even on the road. Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett has accounted for 10 total touchdowns in two Big Ten games, and Ohio State’s defensive line should be no match for the poor Penn State offensive front.

Vegas says: Ohio State by 13


USC at Utah

When and where: 10 p.m., Fox Sports 1

We’re watching because... Utah is creeping into the Pac-12 South picture. The Utes should be kicking themselves for coughing up a one-point loss to Washington State at the end of September. The Utes have since defeated UCLA and Oregon State. A win over USC would be a clear signal that Utah is ready to contend in the Pac-12. Otherwise, this will be a matchup of two of the best running backs in the league. Utah’s Devontae Booker is averaging 188 rushing yards per game in league play. USC’s Buck Allen is averaging 149 yards.

Vegas says: USC by 1


Talk Back on U-verse Game of the Week

Each week, AT&T U-verse and Athlon Sports will host a live interactive experience for an SEC game in which two greats from each school will take fan questions live throughout the game. 


This week, former South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia and former Auburn wide receiver Ben Obomanu will join Athlon Sports’ Braden Gall at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta for the fun.


Visit during South Carolina-Auburn to watch the game with us.


South Carolina at Auburn

When and where: 7:30 p.m., SEC Network

We’re watching because... we haven’t written off Auburn as an SEC West contender. Mississippi State and Ole Miss remain undefeated, and Alabama flexed its muscles. Auburn can't be dismissed, even after the loss to Mississippi State two weeks ago. The Tigers still have Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama on the road, so they can’t squander an opportunity against a vulnerable Carolina team at home.

Vegas says: Auburn by 17 1/2

Previewing the Five Best Games in College Football Week 9
Post date: Monday, October 20, 2014 - 15:28
All taxonomy terms: Baylor Bears, College Football, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/loss-west-virginia-leaves-questions-baylors-offense

Art Briles has brought Baylor to new territory for most of his tenure. On Saturday, he’ll be in another place he’s rarely been.


He’ll field questions asking what’s wrong with the Baylor offense.


The Bears’ College Football Playoff hopes were derailed Saturday with a 41-27 loss at West Virginia in a game in which Baylor did something that has been rare in recent years. The Bears struggled to move the ball.


Baylor averaged only four yards per play against West Virginia on Saturday, the Bears’ lowest average since a loss to Texas in 2009. The quarterback for Baylor that day was Nick Florence.


The stakes then, of course, were much lower. Baylor entered Saturday as a legitimate playoff contender and the de facto Big 12 favorite.


The Bears’ schedule had been lacking, but they remained one of the six undefeated teams still standing. Bryce Petty entered the week back in the Heisman race after a comeback effort against TCU a week earlier. 


Against West Virginia, Baylor’s offense was as pedestrian as it has been since Robert Griffin arrived on campus.


Penalties didn’t help. Baylor was flagged 18 times for 215 yards. Only five of those calls came against the offense, including two offensive pass interference calls. West Virginia was flagged 14 times.


Penalties derailed the offense, but not nearly as much as West Virginia’s 3-3-5 scheme.


Petty completed only 16-of-36 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns. A year ago, the raw numbers would have been halftime statistics for the Bears.


Petty completed nine of his passes to Antwan Goodley and five to Corey Coleman. In a deep receiver group, those were the only players with multiple catches.


And at a critical juncture in the second half, K.D. Cannon dropped a key deep pass play in West Virginia territory.


Baylor’s run game was even more ineffective. The Bears rushed for 95 yards on 42 carries and didn’t break a run of longer than 10 yards until the fourth quarter.


Most troubling, this may be part of a trend.


Petty is two weeks removed from a 7-of-22 performance against Texas and a week removed from a two-interception day against TCU. Petty threw three interceptions all of last season.


The Bears have time to assess the damage with an off week and then a home date with Kansas. Baylor’s next major test will be Nov. 8 at Oklahoma.


If Baylor remains a Big 12 and playoff contender, the Bears will have two weeks to figure it out.

Loss to West Virginia Leaves Questions for Baylor's Offense
Post date: Sunday, October 19, 2014 - 17:00
Path: /college-football/opportunistic-performance-puts-kansas-state-big-12-contention

On its face, perhaps Kansas State’s 31-30 win at Oklahoma doesn’t put the Wildcats in anyone’s playoff picks next week.


The Wildcats remain a one-loss squad, and its win over the Sooners included a certain amount of good fortune.


Kansas State won in part because Sooners kicker Michael Hunnicut looked nothing like an All-America-type kicker from short range. A missed 19-yard field goal and a blocked extra point were major gifts in a game decided by one point.


At the same time, though, Kansas State can’t be ignored in the Big 12 or perhaps the playoff race after a win in Norman only weeks after a close call with Auburn.


Give Kansas State an inch, and the Wildcats will swipe a victory.


The Wildcats were outgained by 148 yards, but Bill Snyder quickly dismissed such numbers.


“Those numbers are not significant,” Snyder told the media. “Turnovers, those are significant. In all reality, that is the difference in the ball game. ... The right numbers can tell you something, but not yardage.”


This was a vintage effort by a Snyder team, reminiscent of the 2012 team that won the Big 12 title and flirted with the BCS title game.


Yardage differential doesn’t matter. A perceived edge in talent doesn’t matter.


Leaving the door just slightly ajar against Kansas State, though, is treacherous.


Auburn tried earlier in the year. The Tigers won a sloppy 20-14 game on Sept. 18. Auburn averaged only 2.8 yards per carry and had a handful of dropped passes that day, but Kansas State had more miscues with three turnovers to cost the Wildcats a landmark win.


On Saturday, Kansas State played the kind of opportunistic game that has been the foundation of Snyder’s best teams. The Wildcats didn’t turn the ball over and committed only two penalties for 20 yards.


Quarterback Jake Waters went 15-of-23 for 225 yards with two touchdowns, and his 51-yard run was the longest of the game. Meanwhile, Oklahoma threw an interception on an ill-advised out route near its own end zone for a pick six. A wide receiver pass in the third quarter ended a drive with an interception in the end zone.


As for the road ahead, Kansas State now has a signature win this season. Even if it came against an Oklahoma team that already lost to TCU, the Wildcats showed they have the ability to contend in the Big 12.


If they can win in Norman, Kansas State can win at TCU, West Virginia and Baylor. Even with one loss, Kansas State should will have plenty of opportunities to continue a climb into the playoff race.

Opportunistic Performance Puts Kansas State in Big 12 Contention
Post date: Sunday, October 19, 2014 - 16:00