Articles By David Fox

Path: /college-football/how-could-each-college-footballs-final-10-undefeated-teams-slip
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If we learned anything from a wild Week 6, it’s that every team is vulnerable end every team is flawed.

 

Only 10 teams remain undefeated entering the second Saturday in October. Last week was only a reminder at how fragile those unbeaten records are.

 

The final 10 undefeated teams all have enough issues that could lead to their first losses of the season, perhaps as soon as this week.

 

Here are the issues and games that could trip up each of the final unbeaten teams.

 

Arizona

 

Fatal Flaw: Luck

Arizona is 5-0 thanks to four consecutive one-score wins. A win at Autzen can’t be understated, but the Wildcats beat UTSA by 3, Nevada by 7 and Cal by 4 on a Hail Mary. Arizona also played Oregon with its offensive line in shambles. Not that Arizona won’t be a factor in the Pac-12 race, but the Wildcats may be a team playing above its heads for now.

 

When will Arizona lose its first game?

Staff PicksDavid FoxBraden GallSteven Lassan
First Lossat UCLAat UCLAat UCLA
DateNov. 1Nov. 1Nov. 1

Auburn

 

Fatal flaw: Dropped passes

Auburn is an improved passing team from last season already, which should be a scary thought for the rest of the SEC West since dropped passes from receivers wiped at least one touchdown off the board against Kansas State. Misfires in the passing game have contributed to Nick Marshall completing 57.9 percent of his passes this season.

 

When will Auburn lose its first game?

Staff PicksDavid FoxBraden GallSteven Lassan
First Lossat Alabamaat Mississippi Stateat Georgia
DateNov. 29Oct. 11Nov. 15

 

Baylor

 

Fatal flaw: Kicking

Baylor has been automatic on extra points, but Chris Callahan has missed five consecutive field goals since connecting on his first attempt this season for 23 yards. Three of his five misses have been less than 40 yards, including a blocked 37-yarder against SMU.

 

Also worth watching: Baylor is among the most penalized teams in the country, losing 80 yards per game to flags. Baylor has picked up at least 10 penalties in four of five games this season. Will it matter? Baylor was the most penalized team in the country in 2013 and still finished 11-2. In those loses Baylor was penalized three times (Oklahoma State) and 17 times (Baylor).

 

When will Baylor lose its first game?

Staff PicksDavid FoxBraden GallSteven Lassan
First Lossat Oklahomaat West Virginiaat Oklahoma
DateNov. 8Oct. 18Nov. 8

 

Florida State

 

Fatal flaw: Field position

Florida State has given up more short fields than any other undefeated team. The Seminoles rank 50th nationally in field position advantage, according to Football Outsiders. No other undefeated team ranks lower than 34th. In non-garbage time possessions against Florida State, opponents are getting the ball on average at their own 32. Only nine teams have given up more short-field possessions. Florida State ranks 96th nationally in net punting as Cason Beatty averages 38.8 yards per kick. This should be a concern for a team that gave Auburn two short fields in last season’s title game.

 

When will Florida State lose its first game?

Staff PicksDavid FoxBraden GallSteven Lassan
First LossNotre DamePlayoffPlayoff
DateOct. 18----

 

Georgia Tech

 

Fatal flaw: Run defense

Only seven defenses have been on the field less than Georgia Tech this year. That’s good news for any team, but especially for the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech is last in the ACC in yards allowed per play (6.6). The Yellow Jackets need their offense to sustain long drives because its defense can’t stop the run.

 

When will Georgia Tech lose its first game?

Staff PicksDavid FoxBraden GallSteven Lassan
First Lossat Pittsburghat Pittsburghat Pittsburgh
DateOct. 25Oct. 25Oct. 25

 

Marshall

 

Fatal flaw: Turnovers

Marshall leads Conference USA in a handful of categories, so its pedestrian turnover margin (plus-1) stands out. Marshall turned the ball over three times against Rhode Island and Old Dominion, two teams not capable of capitalizing.

 

When will Marshall lose its first game?

Staff PicksDavid FoxBraden GallSteven Lassan
First LossCUSA champ gameNoneNone
DateDec. 6----

 

Ole Miss

 

Fatal flaw: Interceptions

Only two SEC teams have thrown more interceptions this season than Ole Miss’ six picks. Granted, the Rebels are interception-free in two SEC wins over Alabama and Vanderbilt. Has Bo Wallace turned a corner or will the turnover problems resurface for a quarterback who threw 27 total interceptions in 2012-13?

 

When will Ole Miss lose its first game?

Staff PicksDavid FoxBraden GallSteven Lassan
First LossAuburnat Texas A&MAuburn
DateNov. 1Oct. 11Nov. 1

 

Mississippi State

 

Fatal flaw: Big pass plays

Mississippi State has give up 23 passing plays longer than 20 yards, tied with Georgia for the most in the league and in one fewer game. In Mississippi State’s closest game to date, UAB scored on touchdown passes for 88, 81 and 75 yards.

 

When will Mississippi State lose its first game?

Staff PicksDavid FoxBraden GallSteven Lassan
First LossAuburnat AlabamaAuburn
DateOct. 11Nov. 15Oct. 11

Notre Dame

 

Fatal flaw: Run game

If Notre Dame can beat Stanford despite a lackluster run game, maybe this isn’t a major concern. Still, Notre Dame is averaging only 4.2 per carry and has only two rushing touchdowns coming from tailbacks (the other four are from quarterback Everett Golson). Throw out the season opener against Rice, and Notre Dame is averaging 3.4 yards per carry in its last four games.

 

When will Notre Dame lose its first game?

Staff PicksDavid FoxBraden GallSteven Lassan
First Lossat Arizona Stateat Florida Stateat Florida State
DateNov. 8Oct. 18Oct. 18

TCU

 

Fatal flaw: Pass defense

TCU has played one team with the ability to stretch the ball downfield, and Oklahoma took advantage. TCU gave up three pass plays of 40 yards or more against the Sooners, not a great sign for a team about to visit Baylor.

 

When will TCU lose its first game?

Staff PicksDavid FoxBraden GallSteven Lassan
First Lossat Baylorat Baylorat Baylor
DateOct. 11Oct. 11Oct. 11
Teaser:
How Could Each of College Football's Final 10 Undefeated Teams Slip Up
Post date: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 13:49
Path: /college-football/previewing-top-five-college-football-games-week-7
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Not that we needed any more reminders that last week was a three-day period of chaos in college football like none other, but take a look at the impact games in the aftermath for Week 7.

 

It’s the middle of October, and an Auburn-Mississippi State game and TCU-Baylor game carry more weight than LSU-Florida and Texas-Oklahoma.

 

That’s what happens when 11 AP ranked teams lose in a week, including five of the top eight.

 

Teams that just picked up major wins — Mississippi State, Ole Miss and TCU — have little time for rest. And teams that suffered upsets — Alabama, Oregon and UCLA — have immediate opportunities to rebound against major opponents.

 

Here’s what we have to watch as new contenders try to establish themselves and teams that lost last week try to pick up the pieces.

 

The Week Ahead: Oct. 11

All times Eastern. All games Saturday.

 

Auburn at Mississippi State

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

We’re watching because... now we’ll see how Mississippi State handles success. The LSU win two weeks ago was an upset. The Texas A&M win Saturday was an announcement that Mississippi State is a legit contender. Now, the Bulldogs are in the top three, they boast a Heisman contender and they’re facing the defending SEC champions. LSU and Texas A&M might not be as good as they appeared on paper, but Auburn is. With Nick Marshall and Dak Prescott at quarterback, this won’t be a replay of the infamous 3-2 game in 2008.

Vegas says: Auburn by 2 1/2

 

TCU at Baylor

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

We’re watching because... TCU’s rise means Baylor finally takes on a quality opponent. Shockingly, this game will upstage Texas-Oklahoma as the most important Big 12 game of the day. Baylor is on the radar for a playoff spot, but the Bears have played a light schedule so far. Meanwhile, TCU has added a Big 12-style offense to go with its traditionally stifling defense. Baylor can either solidify its Big 12 credentials or suddenly TCU is the league frontrunner.

Vegas says: Baylor by 10

 

Oregon at UCLA

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

We’re watching because... one of these teams will salvage its season while the other is in a world of trouble. Makeshift offensive lines have become the weak link on teams that had hoped to contend for the national title. Star quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley were sacked 15 times combined last week alone. A game we thought would determine a playoff frontrunner in the Pac-12 is now just a contest between two teams looking to avoid a 1-2 start in the league.

Vegas says: Oregon by 3

 

Alabama at Arkansas

When and where: 6 p.m., ESPN

We’re watching because... Alabama will be on meltdown watch. The Crimson Tide aren’t out of the SEC race simply because of a loss to Ole Miss. The West may be too tough for any team to escape unscathed. Facing Arkansas in Fayetteville won’t be easy. The Hogs are rested and have a clear identity on offense. For Alabama, a win would be a relief. A second consecutive loss would throw Tuscaloosa into a state of panic.

Vegas says: Alabama by 9 1/2

 

Ole Miss at Texas A&M

When and where: 9 p.m., ESPN

We’re watching because... now we’ll see how Ole Miss handles success. The parallel seasons for Ole Miss and Mississippi State continue as the Rebels also face another tough division opponent. The Rebels’ defense enjoyed a breakout day against Alabama, but can they do it on the road against Texas A&M? Ole Miss has intercepted 10 passes this season compared to allowing one touchdown pass.

Vegas says: Texas A&M by 3

Teaser:
Previewing the Top Five College Football Games in Week 7
Post date: Monday, October 6, 2014 - 14:06
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-ranking-sec-coaches-2014-15
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Sorry to break it to fans outside of Lexington and Gainesville, but SEC basketball is a little stale.

 

Kentucky and Florida have established a two-team power structure at the top of the league so close that the two teams have the same league record (64-20) since 2010.

 

If one coach can spice this league up, it’s the new guy at Auburn.

 

Bruce Pearl has one of the toughest jobs in the league at Auburn, but he’s back where he was when he was fired from Tennessee — with Calipari and Donovan as one of the top coaches in the league.

 

The rest of the coaches in the SEC need to deliver. Some are under pressure to replicate greater success they’ve had earlier in their careers (Mike Anderson, Kevin Stallings, Frank Martin) and some need to translate mid-major success to SEC wins (Mark Fox, Johnny Jones, Billy Kennedy).

 

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. 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.

 

2. 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.

 

3. 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.

 

4. 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.

 

5. 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.

 

6. Frank Martin, South Carolina

Record at South Carolina: 28-38 (.424)

NCAA Tournament: 6-4

Number to note: The standings show a one-game improvement from 4-14 in the SEC to 5-12, but the Gamecocks improved from No. 210 to No. 114 in KenPom’s rankings in Martin’s second season.

Why he’s ranked here: Martin may never get South Carolina to the 29-win/Elite Eight mark as Kansas State did in 2010, but progress is being made incrementally.

 

7. Mark Fox, Georgia

Record at Georgia: 85-77 (.525)

NCAA Tournament: 2-4

Number to note: Georgia had a non-losing season in the SEC in three of Fox’s five seasons, including 12-6 last season.

Why he’s ranked here: The Bulldogs have been tough to play during the conference season, but the non-conference resume hasn’t been up to NCAA standards.

 

8. Johnny Jones, LSU

Record at LSU: 39-26 (.600)

NCAA Tournament: 0-2

Number to note: LSU went 9-9 in the SEC in each of Jones’ two seasons.

Why he’s ranked here: The former Dale Brown assistant and player is a good fit, but last season’s NIT bid was a disappointment.

 

9. Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss

Record at Ole Miss: 171-101 (.629)

NCAA Tournament: 1-1

Number to note: Kennedy is Ole Miss’ all-time wins leader and carries the best win percentage of any Rebels coach since 1938.

Why he’s ranked here: The 2013-14 season lends more credence to the supporting cast, not Marshall Henderson, being the key to 27 wins and an NCAA appearance in 2013.

 

10. Anthony Grant, Alabama

Record at Alabama: 99-71 (.582)

NCAA Tournament: 1-3

Number to note: Alabama last season was winless on the road for the first time since 1999-2000.

Why he’s ranked here: Alabama has recruited too well in five seasons under Grant to have as many losing seasons as NCAA appearances (one each).

 

11. Donnie Tyndall, Tennessee

Record at Tennessee: First season

NCAA Tournament: 2-2

Number to note: Not many coaches leave the Ohio Valley Conference with two NCAA wins in such a short period of time. One of Tyndall’s wins came in a play-in game, the other was an upset of No. 4 seed Louisville.

Why he’s ranked here: Southern Miss kept the momentum going under Tyndall with 56 wins in two seasons.

 

12. Billy Kennedy, Texas A&M

Record at Texas A&M: 50-49 (.505)

NCAA Tournament: 1-2

Number to note: Texas A&M’s conference win total has increased in each of the last three seasons under Kennedy from 4-14 in the Big 12 to 7-11 in the SEC to 8-10 last season.

Why he’s ranked here: Kennedy’s resume at Southeastern Louisiana and Murray State suggests he needs time to build a program, but Texas A&M had made six consecutive NCAA appearances before his arrival.

 

13. Rick Ray, Mississippi State

Record at Mississippi State: 24-41 (.369)

NCAA Tournament: None

Number to note: A total of 11 players have left Mississippi State, not all of them by choice, in Ray’s two seasons.

Why he’s ranked here: Ray has been building from the ground up in Starkville. This needs to be a season for him to show some progress.

 

14. Kim Anderson, Missouri

Record at Missouri: First season

NCAA Tournament: None

Number to note: Anderson led Central Missouri to a Division II national title last season.

Why he’s ranked here: Though he’s a former assistant at Missouri and Baylor, Anderson hasn’t spent any time at the Division I level since 1999. Now he he has one of the better jobs in the SEC.

Teaser:
College Basketball: Ranking the SEC Coaches for 2014-15
Post date: Monday, October 6, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/northwestern-makes-unlikely-return-ranks-big-ten-contenders
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Northwestern gave up 259 rushing yards to Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, and as a result, the Wildcats will face Minnesota next week in a game to lead the Big Ten West division.

 

As much as Northwestern’s struggles during the second half of last season defied explanation, so does the Wildcats’ return to the top half of the Big Ten.

 

In a checkered season for the Big Ten, Northwestern's turnaround has become one of the bright spots.

 

Few teams endured a more trying year than Northwestern. The Wildcats lost seven of their last eight last season, starting with a loss to Ohio State with ESPN College GameDay in town. Northwestern continued the misery with losses to Cal and Northern Illinois to open 2014.

 

The tally as of Sept. 6: Nine losses in 10 games, six by one score, two in overtime. Meanwhile, Northwestern became the focal point player compensation issues when players held a union vote during the summer. Then, Northwestern lost its top offensive player in Venric Mark and leader in receiving yards in Christian Jones.

 

If any team deserved some breaks, it was Northwestern.

 

The Wildcats have won three in a row, including victories over Big Ten powers Penn State and Wisconsin. That sets up an unlikely matchup of Big Ten West contenders when the Wildcats visit Minnesota.

 

“We are definitely playing with a lot more passion and a lot more physicality than we did earlier in the year,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald told the media. “I don't have any issues with what we did earlier in the year, except what we were doing on Saturdays.”

 

So how did Northwestern turn this around?

 

There’s certainly an element of Northwestern not being nearly as bad as its record would indicate over the last calendar year.

 

And it helps that Penn State and Wisconsin are hardly the complete teams Northwestern is used to seeing. Penn State’s offensive line was in shambles when the Wildcats won 29-6. 

 

On Saturday, Wisconsin showed it is little more than its star tailback. Despite 259 yards from Gordon, Northwestern never trailed on the way to a 20-14 win.

 

Northwestern's personnel is also starting to settle in after the roster has been in flux for more than a year.

 

After early struggles, Trevor Siemian is playing like a solid Big Ten quarterback, completing 36-of-66 passes for 440 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a pair of Big Ten wins.

On Saturday, freshman Justin Jackson had a rare workhorse game for a Northwestern running back. He ran for 162 yards on 33 carries against the Badgers.

 

At the same time, Northwestern is starting to make its own breaks. Earlier this season, the secondary was dealt a major blow when veteran safety Ibraheim Campbell was injured.

 

Redshirt freshman Godwin Igwebuike stepped in to intercept three passes against Wisconsin.

 

“Nobody saw it coming,” Igwebuike told the media. “I mean, I didn't even see it coming.”

 

The same could be said of Northwestern’s spot at the top of the Big Ten.

Teaser:
Northwestern Makes Unlikely Return to Ranks of Big Ten Contenders
Post date: Sunday, October 5, 2014 - 18:40
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oklahoma Sooners, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/oklahomas-big-12-hopes-hinge-trevor-knights-next-move
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Oklahoma has long since put all its hopes into Trevor Knight at quarterback, and now the sophomore has to deliver.

 

Lucky for the Sooners, the national picture is as muddy as ever. A road loss to TCU may not eliminate Oklahoma from playoff contention, but the Horned Frogs proved that Knight will need to rise to the occasion before the Sooners face Baylor in November.

 

Against TCU, Knight passed for 309 yards and rushed for 61. He was able to strike at the Horned Frogs’ secondary with deep passes, including a 75-yard TD to Sterling Shepard.

 

But with the game in his hands, Knight struggled.

 

At a critical juncture in the second half, Oklahoma drifted away from the run game and put the game into Knight’s hands. Freshman Samaje Perine had scored three touchdowns on the day, but he averaged only 3.5 yards per carry.

 

Meanwhile, Knight at one point was averaging better than 10 yards per pass attempt.

 

The numbers and explosiveness indicated Knight was OU’s best bet to complete the comeback against the Frogs.

 

At the end of the third quarter and into the fourth, Oklahoma called 10 passes in 11 plays, including eight pass plays in a row. Knight went 2-of-9 during that stretch with a sack. Knight also had a pass intercepted near the line of scrimmage by linebacker Paul Dawson. The 41-yard return for a touchdown became the game-winning score for TCU.

 

“The quarterback had been throwing slants and balls on a rope the whole game,” Dawson told the media. “As soon as he looked to my side I just felt it coming. I stepped out, caught the ball and sprinted. It was supposed to be a blitz.”

 

Knight and Oklahoma can dissect this game, but they can’t look too far ahead to Baylor on Nov. 8.

 

The Sooners face rival Texas this week, and the Longhorns quietly rank second in the Big 12 in pass efficiency defense (TCU is ranked first).

 

“I know for sure that if you keep losing you're not going to have much chance of anything,” Stoops told the media. “To play, you don't look at the end of the season. All we care about is next week. Period."

 

 

Teaser:
Oklahoma’s Big 12 Hopes Hinge on Trevor Knight’s Next Move
Post date: Sunday, October 5, 2014 - 17:20
All taxonomy terms: College Football, TCU Horned Frogs, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/tcus-trevone-boykin-newest-star-quarterback-big-12
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As recently as Nov. 2 last season, the newest star quarterback in the Big 12 was catching 11 passes in a game against West Virginia. A loss to West Virginia no less.

 

By Saturday, though, the question had to be asked of TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin:

 

How did this guy have to fight for the starting job in a competition that wasn't settled until days before the opener? And, more than that, how did Boykin have to fight simply to remain listed as a quarterback on the roster.

 

In a 37-33 upset of Oklahoma, Boykin established himself as a bona fide star quarterback in the Big 12. The Horned Frogs already matched last year’s win total and enter a game with Baylor next week as surprising Big 12 contenders.

 

None of this would be possible if TCU didn’t find a way to put Boykin front and center at quarterback.

 

Against Oklahoma, Boykin completed 20-of-38 passes for 318 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed for 77 yards giving him a career-high 395 yards of total offense in a breakout win for TCU.

 

Hard to believe this was the same quarterback who was all but written off when Matt Joeckel arrived as a transfer from Texas A&M.

 

Instead of a pair of new coordinators opting for Joeckel, Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meachem had what they needed in Boykin. Keep in mind, Joeckel seemed like an ideal fit for the spread Cumbie, a former Texas Tech assistant, and Meachem, a former Houston aide, wanted to install.

 

TCU is running the spread just fine under Boykin. The Horned Frogs moved up and down the field against Samford, Minnesota and SMU, but a top-five Oklahoma would be a new challenge.

 

In the first half, TCU was just as effective against the Sooners as any team on the schedule. Boykin made plays on the move and squeezed passes into tight spaces as TCU built a 14-0 lead.

 

"Boykin scrambled around to make a play even when we had the right pressure on him, he made the plays,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops told the media. “He made quite a few of those in the first half in a similar way and not as many in the second half.”

 

Perhaps it was a streaky game, but it was clear Boykin has helped TCU look more and more like a Big 12 program. Sporadic absences from former starting quarterback Casey Pachall didn’t help, but TCU was ill-prepared for the new league on the offensive side of the ball.

 

TCU ranked eighth in the league in the Big 12 in yards per play in each of its first two seasons in the conference. The Horned Frogs rank fifth now, but they are one of seven teams averaging better than six yards per snap.

 

TCU is also excelling in the hurry-up, averaging 82 plays per game. The Horned Frogs averaged 68.5 a year ago.

 

And more than that, TCU is playing with plenty of confidence heading into a game with another league frontrunner in Baylor.

 

“It’s off the charts right now,” Boykin said. “Especially after this game and even going into this game we knew we could win. Nobody mattered expect the 53 guys in the locker room that believed.”

Teaser:
TCUs Trevone Boykin is the Newest Star Quarterback in the Big 12
Post date: Sunday, October 5, 2014 - 16:55
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-can-win-big-ten-behind-jt-barrett-ezekiel-elliott
Body:

If future opponents thought Virginia Tech provided the blueprints to beat Ohio State, the Big Ten can scrap those plans.

 

The Buckeyes offense that looked hapless against the Hokies now looks like it can win the Big Ten behind redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett.

 

With a 52-24 win at Maryland, Ohio State picked up a third consecutive lopsided win since the stunning loss at home to Virginia Tech, the latest victory the most impressive of them all.

 

Against the Hokies, Barrett struggled against a pass rush, completing 9-of-29 passes with three interceptions. The run game provided little relief for the quarterback who was pressed into duty only because Braxton Miller was lost for the season.

 

Now, Barrett is starting to look like a legitimate All-Big Ten QB. Since Virginia Tech, he’s completed better than 72 percent of his passes in every game to go with 15 total touchdowns and one interception. Barrett’s 17 touchdown passes this season is already the ninth-best single-season total in Ohio State history.

 

And this is from a guy who expected to be a backup all year.

 

Related: J.T. Barrett is Athlon Sports' National Freshman of the Week

 

Credit adjustments. Credit maturity. Credit an improved offensive line and run game. All are valid.

 

“I'm just trying to get better during the week and not wait until game day to just react to everything I learn the defense on Tuesday and Wednesday so come Saturday I can have that confidence and go out and play," Barrett told the media after the win.

 

Not to be overlooked is the emergence of Ezekiel Elliott. Ohio State tailbacks were ineffective in the first three games. Against Cincinnati and Maryland, the sophomore Elliott rushed for 321 yards and a touchdown on 52 carries.

 

Much of this may be due to Ohio State’s ability to adjust to the zero coverage every opponent has played against the Buckeyes since the Virginia Tech loss, coach Urban Meyer said.

 

Elliott has been able to run the ball, enabling Barrett to take shots down the field. Barrett completed five passes of at least 25 yards against Maryland, giving him 11 yards per attempt in the game.

 

"You start to see the quarterbacks, receivers and coaching staff get really excited and start making more aggressive calls,” Meyer said. “That's a sign that our run game is really solid and our o-line is growing up. The bare zero coverage takes away the other team's run game. It forces the other team to take some other shots. We've worked hard at it because we know what's coming.”

 

Now that Big Ten play has started, Ohio State is able to take advantage of those shots.

Teaser:
Ohio State Can Win the Big Ten Behind J.T. Barrett, Ezekiel Elliott
Post date: Sunday, October 5, 2014 - 16:15
Path: /college-football/despite-nebraska%E2%80%99s-comeback-michigan-state-can-lean-defense
Body:

Giving up 28 unanswered points to a healthy Oregon team on the road temporarily knocked Michigan State out of the national conversation a month ago.

 

The Spartans defense made sure it didn’t happen again.

 

Though Michigan State’s 27-22 win over Nebraska was closer than it needed to be, the Spartans defense proved again it is the cornerstone for a team with lofty postseason aspirations.

 

Nebraska ended the game on a 19-0 run and had the ball in Michigan State territory with a chance to take a lead in the final 1:07, but the Spartans held thanks to a Trae Waynes interception to seal the game.

 

Despite a fourth quarter outburst, this was the signature defensive performance of the season for Michigan State so far.

 

Michigan State dared Nebraska to win with the pass and the result was two interceptions and five sacks. Of Nebraska’s first 12 possessions, eight ended in punts. Three ended in turnovers.

 

Ameer Abdullah, who entered the game with back-to-back 200-yard rushing games, was held to a season-low 45 yards on 24 carries. The run game that steamrolled Miami and Illinois managed just 1.3 yards per carry.

 

“Coming in, we knew Abdullah was a great back,” Michigan State linebacker Riley Bullough told the media. “He's quick, he was going to try to cut back on us, so we preached all week that we all got to swarm to the ball. We all know schematically what we want to do, and I think for the most part we achieved it. The big thing was we wanted to get heads to the ball, and I think we did that.”

 

After the win, though, Michigan State may still have questions.

 

The Spartans let off the gas in the fourth quarter, allowing Nebraska to claw its way back on two touchdown drives and a punt return for a touchdown. The game was needlessly dramatic, and combined with Oregon’s come-from-behind win, Michigan State may wonder if it can hold up for a full four quarters against a quality opponent.

 

The dominance of the defense early also masked some issues on offense. Quarterback Connor Cook was a mere 11-of-29. The Spartans turned the ball over three times, but Nebraska converted none of its takeaways to points.

 

That brings up the next question: Who on Michigan State’s remaining schedule will truly challenge the Spartans if they slip up again? There’s a Nov. 8 home date against Ohio State and then, what? Michigan? Maryland? Penn State?

 

“It is good that you have a close game,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio told the media. “I don't like them, but it's good to have a close game and win it in the end.”

Teaser:
Despite Nebraska’s Comeback, Michigan State can Lean on Defense
Post date: Sunday, October 5, 2014 - 14:50
Path: /college-football/mississippi-states-dak-prescott-athlon-sports-week-6-player-week
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Dak Prescott did it again.

 

Mississippi State entered the season with a 15-game losing streak to ranked teams and reputation of futility against the powers of the SEC.

 

Now, the Bulldogs seem invincible against ranked teams.

 

Prescott completed 19-of-25 passes for 259 yards with two touchdowns in a 48-31 win over No. 6 Texas A&M. Prescott also rushed for 77 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries to earn Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors.

 

Mississippi State has defeated a pair of top 10 teams this season in LSU and Texas A&M, and despite closer final scores, the Bulldogs had both games well in hand by the third quarter thanks to Prescott.

 

“He’s going to get more attention now with his performance, but that’s what we expect from him. In order to keep winning, he’s going to have to keep playing at a very, very high level,” Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. “I think he handles it well.”

 

National Defensive Player of the Week: Cole Luke, Notre Dame

To beat Stanford, Notre Dame would have to find a way to upstage arguably the top defensive team in the country. Cornerback Cole Luke led the way in that effort with two interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble in the 17-14 win over the Cardinal.

 

National Freshman of the Week: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State

Reports of the demise of Ohio State’s Big Ten season were premature. Ohio State might not be in the national title hunt without Braxton Miller, but the Big Ten is a feasible goal. Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett completed 18-of-23 passes for 267 yards with four touchdowns in a 52-24 win over Maryland, a team that entered the game in the top 20 of pass efficiency defense. Barrett also rushed for 71 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.

 

National Coordinator of the Week: Dave Wommack, Ole Miss

How does a team beat Alabama with merely 323 yards of offense? A stout defensive effort will do it. Ole Miss shut down Alabama where it works best — in the run game and in the passing game to Amari Cooper — for 23-17 win. Wommack’s defense held Alabama to 3.8 yards per carry and held Cooper to 10.1 yards per catch and no touchdowns in the win.

 

Conference Players of the Week

 

ACC: Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson completed 17-of-29 passes for 267 yards with two touchdowns in a 41-0 win over NC State. Watson also rushed for 62 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries.

 

Big 12: TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin completed of 20-of-39 passes for 318 yards in a 37-33 win over Oklahoma. Boykin also rushed for 77 yards on 22 carries.

 

Big Ten: Michigan State wide receiver Tony Lippett caught three passes for 104 yards with a touchdown. He also rushed for a 32-yard touchdown on a reverse.

 

Pac-12: Utah defensive end Nate Orchard had four sacks and 11 tackles in a 30-28 win over UCLA.

 

American: Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch was 18-of-24 for 311 yards with two touchdowns in a 41-14 win over Cincinnati. Lynch also rushed for 45 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries.

 

Conference USA: UAB running back Jordan Howard rushed for 183 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries in a 42-39 win over Western Kentucky.

 

MAC: Miami quarterback Andrew Hendrix completed 32-of-58 passes for 437 yards with four touchdowns in a 42-41 win over UMass. Hendrix also rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries to end Miami’s 21-game losing streak.

 

Mountain West: Utah State quarterback Darell Garretson completed 19-of-25 passes for 321 yards with three touchdowns and a rushing TD in a 35-20 win over BYU.

 

Sun Belt: Arkansas State quarterback Fredi Knighten completed 21-of-36 passes for 284 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in a 28-14 win over ULM. Knighten rushed for 71 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries.

Teaser:
Mississippi State's Dak Prescott is Athlon Sports Week 6 Player of the Week
Post date: Sunday, October 5, 2014 - 08:00
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A wild week for college football reshaped the playoff race and naturally the Heisman race followed.

 

Despite a gallant effort, frontrunner Marcus Mariota was on the losing end Thursday against Arizona, meaning the race is wide open again.

 

Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott filled the void for the week, but a handful of players who were off the radar — Arizona’s Anu Solomon, TCU’s Trevone Boykin among them — can’t be ignored.

 

The Heisman race is an end-of-season award, but the race is part of the fun. Here are the contenders who added momentum or lost it in the last week.

 

TrendTeamPlayerBuzz

Dak Prescott

Prescott has gone from dark horse to potential frontrunner with another standout performance in a convincing win over a top 10 team. Against LSU and the Texas A&M, he’s 34-of-49 for 524 yards with four touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 182 yards and four touchdowns against the Tigers and Aggies.

Kenny Hill

Hill didn’t have a great game against Arkansas — his 51.2 percent completion rate was the lowest of the season — but he found a way to win. The bottom fell out against Mississippi State as Hill threw three interceptions, giving him five picks in the last three games. He still passed for 366 yards and four touchdowns, but his candidacy has cooled.

Amari Cooper

Ole Miss’ standout secondary kept Cooper in check, at least by his standards. Cooper still got his nine catches, but he was held to a season-low 91 yards. He was kept out of the end zone for the first time since the opener and didn’t have a catch longer than 30 yards.

Nick Marshall

Auburn wanted to prove Marshall could thrive as a passer. Check that box. Marshall completed 14-of-22 passes for 207 yards with two touchdowns in a  41-7 rout of LSU. He remained a threat in the run game with 119 yards and two scores. Next up: A showdown with Mississippi State and Dak Prescott.

Taysom Hill

The Heisman is the least of BYU’s concerns as Hill was lost for the season after sustaining a broken leg in a 35-20 loss to Utah State. Hill was off to his best season as a passer, completing two-thirds of his passes for 975 yards and seven touchdowns in five games.

Anu Solomon

Redshirt freshmen have won the last two Heisman trophies, and Solomon may be the best contender to continue the trend. He out-dueled clubhouse leader Marcus Mariota late into the night Thursday by completing 20-of-31 passes for 287 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Solomon led a game-winning drive against the No. 2 team with 2:58 to go.

Marcus Mariota

Mariota didn’t play poorly against Arizona, but the makeshift offensive line isn’t doing him any favors. Mariota no longer plays for an undefeated team, though his 276 yards and two touchdowns could have been enough to win Thursday. With Oregon’s struggles, this might not be the Ducks’ only Pac-12 loss this year.

Brett Hundley

Another great quarterback. Another bad offensive line. Mariota has some company in the Pac-12 in Hundley. The UCLA quarterback completed 16-of-21 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns but was sacked 10 times in a 30-28 loss to Utah.

Trevone Boykin

How’s this for an out-of-nowhere contender? Boykin proved his early numbers were legitimate with a masterful performance against Oklahoma. The junior accounted for a career-high 395 yards of total offense (318 passing, 77 rushing) and two passing touchdowns to upset the Sooners.

Trevor Knight

Knight was able to pick on the TCU defense for big pass plays early. Oklahoma put more emphasis on the pass late in the game, and Knight couldn’t keep up. He completed 14-of-35 passes for 309 yards with two interceptions, including the decisive pick six early the fourth quarter.

Bryce Petty

In the grand scheme of things, Petty will be judged on how he plays against Oklahoma (and now TCU, perhaps). A 7-of-22 performance for 111 yards and two touchdowns was a shockingly low total for the prolific Baylor quarterback.

Ameer Abdullah

Abdullah has had plenty of success against the Michigan State defense the last two seasons. That changed Saturday. After back-to-back 200-yard games, Abdullah rushed for a season-low 45 yards on 24 carries in a 27-22 loss to Michigan State. Abdullah rushed for two touchdowns but didn’t account for a run longer than nine yards.

Todd Gurley

In a huge weekend, Gurley made sure he wasn’t overlooked. The 163 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries in a rout of Vanderbilt is pretty standard for Gurley, but now he has the longest pass of the year for the Bulldogs with a 50-yard completion, 11 yards longer than any QB on the roster.

Melvin Gordon

Gordon may be the nation’s most important player — it’s scary to think where Wisconsin would be without him. Gordon rushed for 259 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries against Northwestern giving him 693 yards in three weeks. The Badgers still lost 20-14 to the Wildcats.

 

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Week 6 Heisman Movers: Dak Prescott, Trevone Boykin, Anu Solomon make statements
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Post date: Saturday, October 4, 2014 - 22:22
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Optimism abounds every preseason. Every move is going to work and every team is going to get better.

 

Logically, we know this won’t be the case. Not every hire or quarterback change or transfer is a stroke of genius.

 

Some moves are duds. Some moves take time to develop. Some decisions require an about face after only a few weeks.

 

These are the big decisions that didn’t work out as intended or at least haven’t produced the desired results through the first month of the season.

 

10 Offseason Moves that Flopped

 

Michigan hires Doug Nussmeier

The Wolverines don’t have Al Borges to kick around anymore, but the offense has still taken a step backward. Michigan is still turnover-prone with 14 giveaways — the Wolverines lost 21 all of last season. The offensive line can’t protect the passer. And neither quarterback, when heathy, can’t sustain a drive. A hire that Brady Hoke hoped would turn the program around may be the end of his tenure.

 

Jake Coker transfers to Alabama

Blake Sims’ emergence as Alabama’s quarterback has been one of the biggest surprises of the season so far. That surprise comes at the expense at Coker, who was expected to ease right into the starting job. If he doesn’t claim the starting job during the remainder of this season, he’ll have a shot in 2015 when Sims leaves. But had he stayed at Florida State, he’d have at least one start under his belt when Jameis Winston was suspended.

 

South Carolina tries out the 3-4

Without Jadeveon Clowney and with an excess of linebackers, South Carolina planned to spend more time in the 3-4, especially opening against a team like Texas A&M. Those plans were dashed in an embarrassing Week 1 loss to the Aggies. Coach Steve Spurrier said no defensive scheme would have stopped the Aggies in the opener. That may be true as Texas A&M racked up 511 passing yards, but South Carolina has allowed better than six yards per play in every game this season. The exception was a loss to Missouri.

 

Clemson starts the season with Cole Stoudt at quarterback

Dabo Swinney probably didn’t want to start his highly touted true freshman in the opener in Athens against Georgia, especially with a senior on the roster. Stoudt struggled against Georgia (16-of-28, one interceptions) before giving way to freshman Deshaun Watson early against Florida State. Watson is 46-of-64 for 701 yards with seven total touchdowns and one interception since becoming the primary quarterback.

 

LSU starts Anthony Jennings at quarterback

Similar to Clemson, LSU went with a veteran instead of a freshman in an opener against a ranked team. Jennings helped LSU defeat Wisconsin the first game of the season as freshman Brandon Harris didn’t throw a pass, but Jennings wasn't the long-term solution. Les Miles made a change before the end of the first month of the season in time for a road trip to Auburn this week.

 

Texas Tech runs off backup quarterbacks

Davis Webb took over the starting QB spot, leaving former starter Baker Mayfield and longtime backup Michael Brewer holding clipboards. Mayfield ended up at Oklahoma and Brewer at Virginia Tech, but not until Texas Tech attempted to pose limitations on their transfers. Given that Webb was hurt against Oklahoma State and is uncertain to start this week, Texas Tech could use an extra QB right now.

 

Wisconsin names Tanner McEvoy quarterback

Neither of the Badgers’ options are Russell Wilson, but quarterback may be a liability for Wisconsin. McEvoy has looked at times like a converted defensive back playing QB, but Gary Andersen may not have had much choice as Stave has been dealing with a “mental block” that has made his throws unpredictable.

 

Kurt Roper's plans to remake the Florida offense

Roper has a fine track record, but the latest coach to attempt to fix the Florida offense hasn’t made a ton of progress so far. Jeff Driskel continues to struggle against SEC competition, completing only 56 percent of his passes this season for 5.6 yards per attempt.

 

Jeremy Pruitt's plans to remake the Georgia defense

Like the hire of Roper at Florida, this may be in the “hasn’t worked yet” category rather than the “backfired” category. Georgia’s pass defense remains one of its biggest problems as South Carolina completed 70 percent of its passes for nine yards per attempt. The Bulldogs may have lost last week’s game against Tennessee had quarterback Justin Worley played the entire game. 

 

Assuming Florida State was invincible

Florida State was a near-unanimous pick at No. 1 this season — not that there many other viable candidates — but by the end of the first month, the Seminoles are starting to look vulnerable. Thanks to an ACC schedule, Florida State (and perhaps the Big 12 champion) may have the best chance of navigating a Power 5 conference to go undefeated. But other teams might be more trustworthy in a Playoff situation. The Seminoles’ offensive line has struggled to give FSU a consistent run game, and the pass defense has gone from allowing 14 touchdowns to 26 interceptions to six touchdowns and one interception.

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10 Offseason College Football Moves that Flopped in 2014
Post date: Friday, October 3, 2014 - 07:00
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After the Big Ten stepped into the national spotlight for the wrong reasons this week as a coach and athletic director found themselves not just battling their player safety procedures, but their job status.

 

By Saturday night, that may change as the league has a heavyweight matchup on par with any other game in a week full of key games between ranked teams.

 

Nebraska and Michigan State will meet in a key game — perhaps one of the last — for the league’s hopes in the College Football Playoff.

 

In other action, Ohio State will try to continue its progress on offense in a matchup with Maryland while Michigan tries to put a troubling week behind it when the Wolverines visit Rutgers.

Week 6 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC

 

Big Ten Week 6 Game Power Rankings

All games Saturday, all times Eastern

 

1. Nebraska at Michigan State

8 p.m., ABC

This could be the most important game in the Big Ten this season, at least until the league championship game. Nebraska is the league’s only undefeated team but hardly has the resume to put the Cornhuskers into the College Football Playoff conversation. That changes with a win in East Lansing. Meanwhile, Michigan State will look to atone for the loss at Oregon, one in which quarterback Connor Cook was a week removed from a shot to the knee.

 

Nebraska is one of the few teams in the country that has moved the ball consistently on Michigan State’s defense in the last four season. Michigan State has allowed six yards per play just four times in the last four years, and Nebraska has done it twice. Nebraska in 2013 is one of three teams to rush for 150 yards and pass for 200 against Michigan State the last four seasons, and the Cornhuskers' 313 rushing yards in 2012 is the most against Sparty in that span. Heisman contender Ameer Abdullah has been a part of both of those games, and now he’s in the middle of a career year. Michigan State will look to limit Abdullah and put the pressure on 54-percent passer Tommy Armstrong to win the game with his arm.

 

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2. Ohio State at Maryland

Noon, ABC

The problems in the Ohio State pass defense resurfaced last week against Cincinnati as the Bearcats picked up three touchdown passes in excess of 60 yards, including two that enabled Cincy to get back into the game. Maryland has a talented receiver group led by Stefon Diggs, but it’s not clear who will be taking snaps. Starter C.J. Brown, who is also a running threat, was knocked out of last week’s win over Indiana. Caleb Rowe went 12-of-18 for 198 yards with two touchdowns the rest of the way. West Virginia is the only opponent to consistently move the ball through the air against Maryland this season, so Ohio State may need to revisit the balanced offense displayed against Cincinnati. Elliott Ezekiel had the best game of a Buckeyes tailback this season with 182 yards.

 

3. Michigan at Rutgers

7 p.m., Big Ten Network

Who knows what kind of Michigan team will show up against Rutgers? The Wolverines spent more time talking about concussion procedures than football during the last week. Maybe Michigan rallies for its first win over a Power 5 opponent this season. Maybe Michigan looks as disorganized on offense as it has all year, or worse, a steady defense that’s been overlooked starts to show cracks. Quarterback Devin Gardner, not surprisingly, will return to the starting role this week. Rutgers isn’t a great team, but it can pressure a quarterback. The Scarlet Knights are averaging a Big Ten-best 4.2 sacks per game. 

 

4. Wisconsin at Northwestern

3:30 p.m., ESPN2

Congratulations to Northwestern, riding a genuine (two-game) winning streak for the first time since starting 4-0 last season. The Wildcats have held the last two opponents to 84 yards and 50 yards, but Wisconsin is a different challenge, to put it lightly. Melvin Gordon has rushed for 434 yards and seven touchdowns in the last two weeks. The question for Wisconsin this week will be how much Joel Stave plays, if at all. Starting quarterback Tanner McEvoy has struggled, and Stave, last year’s starter, says he’s over the “mental block” that made him unable to play so far this season.

 

5. Purdue at Illinois

Noon, ESPN2

Illinois can match its win total from last season, one that it didn’t hit until Nov. 23 against — yep — Purdue. This is a must-win for Illinois’ slim bowl hopes. Quarterback Wes Lunt is expected to return from a knee sprain that kept him out of last week’s rout against Nebraska. Backup Reilly O’Toole is also hobbled.

 

6. North Texas at Indiana

2:30, Big Ten Network

Even though running back Tevin Coleman is near-automatic, Indiana will try to work out its passing game. The Hoosiers rank 88th in passing offense after ranking in the top 20 nationally the last two seasons. North Texas ranks 37th nationally in pass efficiency defense.

 

Big Ten Week 6 Staff Picks

 David FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light

Purdue at Illinois (-11)

Ill. 35-14Ill. 34-17Ill. 34-20Ill. 23-13

Ohio State at Maryland (NL)

OSU 31-17OSU 45-25OSU 38-24OSU 34-27

North Texas at Indiana (-14)

IU 42-21IU 40-20IU 38-20IU 33-13

Wisconsin (-9) at Northwestern

Wisc 41-21Wisc 30-27Wisc 30-20Wisc 31-14

Michigan at Rutgers (-3)

Rut 17-10UM 17-14Rut 24-20Rut 23-17

Nebraska at Michigan State (-8)

MSU 35-24MSU 42-21MSU 27-20MSU 28-17
Last Week7-27-27-27-2
Overall45-1443-1645-1442-20

 

Teaser:
Big Ten 2014 Week 6 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 09:00
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In August, we think we have it all figured out. These moves will work, these won’t. This will be a team’s quarterback. This transfer will be the savior.

 

As usual, college football provided a few surprises through the first month of the season, causing us to look back at some of the offseason moves that made a major difference.

 

We’re looking at assistant hires, personnel decisions and transfers — what worked and what didn’t through the first month of the season.

 

These are the gambles or at least the tough decisions that ended up paying major dividends already in 2014.

 

10 Offseason Moves that Worked in 2014

 

Lane Kiffin lands at Alabama and starts Blake Sims

Nick Saban’s move to hire the controversial former USC and Tennessee coach to run his offense was greeted with skepticism, but it turned out to be the spark Saban was seeking. Saban says he’s wanted to pass more, and Kiffin has delivered. The Crimson Tide are averaging 10.3 yards per attempt, the best of the Saban era. Meanwhile, an Alabama wide receiver, Amari Cooper, is contending for the Heisman — imagine that thought 10 years ago. Of course, none of this might be possible without the play of the veteran Blake Sims, who never let go of the starting job when Jake Coker arrived from Florida State.

 

Texas A&M names Jake Spavital playcaller and starts Kenny Hill

A year ago, Kevin Sumlin filled Kliff Kingsbury’s slot on the coaching staff with the youthful Spavital, who shared offensive coordinator duties with Clarence McKinney. Now, Spavital is the sole playcaller in the post-Johnny Manziel era. The Aggies’ offense has shown little drop off. Part of that is Hill winning the quarterback competition over five-star freshman quarterback Kyle Allen. Texas A&M is third in the nation in yards per play at 7.99.

 

Notre Dame hires Brian VanGorder

Notre Dame is fourth in the nation in scoring defense at 11.5 points allowed per game, and the periphery numbers and the competition suggest the Irish aren’t quite that dominant. Still, this is remarkable given the circumstances. Notre Dame is still without cornerback KeiVarae Russell and defensive end Ishaq Williams, and the Irish transitioned from Bob Diaco’s 3-4 to VanGorder’s 4-3. After all that, Notre Dame hasn’t allowed more than two touchdowns in game this year.

 

Shaq Thompson playing offense

In an uneven season so far, Washington’s move to have Shaq Thompson play on both sides of the ball as worked without a hitch. He’s carried nine times for 84 yards with a touchdown, a development that hasn’t stopped him from making an impact on defense. Thompson has three defensive touchdowns this season, giving him three more total touchdowns than one school (SMU) has scored as a team.

 

Arizona starts Anu Solomon

The Wildcats had four quarterbacks competing for the job at one point, and it’s curious why this was such a hotly contested job. Solomon is arguably the nation’s top freshman quarterback so far, completing 63.4 percent of his passes for 1,454 yards with 13 touchdowns and two interceptions.

 

TCU’s new coordinators, same quarterback

TCU’s offense hadn’t been the same since Justin Fuente took the Memphis job. To compete in the Big 12, the Horned Frogs needed a major upgrade and attempted to do that with Sonny Cumbie from Texas Tech and Doug Meacham from Houston. Lucky for them, they already had an experienced quarterback who could fit in the system in Trevone Boykin, who had been moved to receiver at one point last season. TCU hasn’t played a Big 12 contender yet, but they’ve topped 70 plays in every game this season after averaging 68.5 per game a year ago.

 

Miami starts Brad Kaaya

The Hurricanes’ quarterback situation appeared to be in dire straits when fifth-year senior Ryan Williams was lost for the season and BYU transfer Jake Heaps failed to make an impression. Instead of falling apart at quarterback, Miami may have found the QB of the future in the freshman Kaaya. After taking his lumps in an ACC opener on the road against Louisville, Kaaya helped put Miami back in the ACC race with an interception-free win over Duke last week.

 

Gunner Kiel transfers to Cincinnati

Plenty of transfer quarterbacks have made moves that didn’t work out as some have found themselves riding the bench at a second school. Not so with Gunner Kiel, who finally found a home at Cincinnati. The former Notre Dame quarterback (and Indiana and LSU commitment) has completed 65.7 percent of his passes for 1,041 yards with 14 touchdowns and two picks. If Kiel can lead Cincy to an AAC championship, the Bearcats have a good shot at a major bowl game.

 

Cal hires Art Kaufman

In recent years, Kaufman already led defensive turnarounds at Texas Tech and Cincinnati. Cal needed any answers it could find after firing defensive coordinator Andy Buh after one year. Giving up 105 against Arizona and Colorado isn’t a great look, but the group is better. Cal is allowing 5.27 yards per play after allowing 7.08 a year ago.

 

Patrick Towles starts at Kentucky

Kentucky could have jumped right into the Drew Barker era but instead opted with its only experienced quarterback in Towles. The result was Kentucky’s first SEC win since Nov. 26, 2011 and a close call with Florida on Sept. 13. Towles’ best game was a 23-for-30 performance against Vanderbilt last week.

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Post date: Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - 15:10
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October may be the most important month of the college football season in terms of shaping the Playoff.

 

Don’t believe us? September losses can almost be forgiven ... or at least that was the old way. And by November, the field for the four spots in the semifinal may be whittled to a dozen or so.

 

In between is October, when plenty of teams still feel like they have a shot. Besides the 16 teams still undefeated at the end of September, a handful of one-loss teams still have good reason to be optimistic given what could be a wild and wacky year.

 

Oct. 4 is just the beginning, the most important Saturday of the most important month. But it won’t be alone in shaping what the selection committee will have to consider by the time it meets in Dallas for the first time on Dec. 28.

 

12 Games in October that will Shape the Playoff

 

Oct. 4

 

Alabama at Ole Miss

Both teams opened the season with non-conference wins in Atlanta, and now they open October with their most important SEC games to date. Neither team looked ready to contend for the playoff back then. Since Week 1, Alabama’s Blake Sims has established himself as the shepherd of a high-powered offense, and Ole Miss discovered it has a top-flight SEC defense.

 

Oklahoma at TCU

What more can we learn about Oklahoma after an impressive first month of the season? This may be OU’s toughest Big 12 road game. Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State all visit Norman, making this the Sooners’ only visit to face a ranked team. Since joining the Big 12, TCU has lost by three points and seven points to the Sooners. TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin won’t be intimidated — he has two career starts and fared well despite losses to OU.

 

LSU at Auburn

The SEC West is so good that it may be difficult to write a team off this early in the season, but LSU may be on a razor’s edge it loses in Jordan-Hare. Lose this game, and LSU falls to 0-2 in the division. The only thing separating LSU from contender or spoiler status? A freshman quarterback.

 

Texas A&M at Mississippi State

Early upsets of set in motion one of the most unlikely SEC games to carry weight in the Playoff race. The Aggies have handled South Carolina and Arkansas as first-year starter Kenny Hill has become a Heisman contender — despite an uneven performance Saturday against the Hogs. Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott, though, can continue to build his resume after a showcase against LSU two weeks ago.

 

Stanford at Notre Dame

Even though both teams have picked up key wins early in the season, Stanford and Notre Dame still need to prove their wares as national contenders. Stanford’s defense has been lights out this season — opponents have scored a red zone touchdown just once in three chances against the Cardinal all season. At the same time, Stanford’s offense has been dismal in converting scoring chances to points. Meanwhile, Notre Dame’s signature 31-0 performance against Michigan doesn’t seem quite so special.

 

Nebraska at Michigan State

The Big Ten’s reputation has been bruised this season, but the reality is that the league still has an outside shot at a Playoff spot. Nebraska has a win over Miami on the resume and has clobbered enough other opponents to show the close call with McNeese State was an aberration. The Cornhuskers are a legit Playoff contender with a win in East Lansing. Meanwhile, Michigan State is clinging to the hope that breezing through the Big Ten will be impressive enough to excuse a 19-point loss to Oregon in Eugene.

 

Oct. 9

 

BYU at UCF

BYU is probably a Playoff longshot with its three games against Power 5 teams coming against teams that may struggle to reach bowl games (Texas, Virginia and Cal). An undefeated season may be the only way BYU gets in. An at-large bid for one of the major bowl games in the “New Year’s Six” may be more likely.  That said, the notion of “impressing voters” in a Thursday night ESPN game on the East Coast is a relic of the BCS era. The only eyes that matter are those of the 13 selection committee. Still, we say any exposure helps.

 

Oct. 11

 

Oregon at UCLA

Provided Oregon can beat Arizona at home and UCLA can do the same to Utah — neither are guarantees — the Ducks and Bruins will be undefeated for this monster Pac-12 matchup. The favorites in the North and South might have to beat each other twice to get to the Playoff. Oh, and the quarterback showdown will be a bit entertaining.

 

Ole Miss at Texas A&M

Only a week after Ole Miss hosts Alabama and Texas A&M visits Mississippi State, the Rebels and Aggies meet in College Station. The two teams could conceivably go from undefeated to out of contention for the SEC West within two weeks.

 

Oct. 18

 

Notre Dame at Florida State

As we said earlier, Notre Dame’s Playoff credentials aren’t clear, though beating Stanford would make the Irish an instant contender. Either way, Notre Dame may end up being the highest-ranked team Florida State plays all season. 

 

Texas A&M at Alabama

Think October is a big month for the Aggies? Texas A&M plays three ranked teams in a row during the month. And that’s before the Aggies face Auburn, Missouri and LSU to round out the regular season. Even if Texas A&M enters the game with a pair of losses, Alabama may need this game to prove it can contain the hurry-up no huddle.

 

Baylor at West Virginia

Baylor faces TCU on Oct. 11, which may be the tougher opponent for the Bears, but this may be the tougher game. Baylor catches TCU at home while having to make a road trip to the furthest outpost in the Big 12. The likelihood of a shootout remains high. The Bears and Mountaineers have combined for 248 total points in the last two meetings.

 

Oct. 30

 

Florida State at Louisville

This isn’t the most compelling game of the month, and it might not be all that competitive if Florida State starts to play to its potential. But it is the last major game of the month, and its one with a history of upsets. Louisville defeated fourth-ranked Florida State 26-20 in a classic upset in 2002. The Cardinals coach at the time, Bobby Petrino, is the same this time around.

Teaser:
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Post date: Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - 07:00
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The Pac-12 has reversed its fortunes among the major conferences, but there remains an area where the league is lagging.

 

Remember, this is a league that is two years removed from sending only two teams to the NCAA Tournament, its regular season champion not among them.

 

That has changed with 11 NCAA Tournament teams during the last two seasons, three more than the previous three seasons combined.

 

Getting to the Tournament is one thing. Advancing is another. No active Pac-12 coach has a Final Four appearance. Every other major basketball conference (the Power 5, plus the American and Big East) have at least two Final Four coaches. The ACC alone has 30 Final Four appearances spread among five coaches.

 

That figures to change eventually, as Arizona’s Sean Miller has twice reached the Elite Eight since arriving in the Pac-12.

 

Even without a ton of trophies, the Pac-12 cast of coaches is interesting: Miller is the star here, but Tad Boyle and Larry Krystkowiak have proven themselves program-builders in the last four years. Johnny Dawkins and Herb Sendek resurrected their tenures with NCAA appearances last year.

 

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. 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.

 

2. 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.

 

3. 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.

 

4. 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.

 

5. 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.

 

6. Johnny Dawkins, Stanford

Record at Stanford: 117-87 (.575)

NCAA Tournament: 2-1

Number to note: Entering 2014, Stanford hadn’t defeated a higher-seeded team in the NCAA Tournament since 1998. Dawkins did it twice in his first trip. No. 10 Stanford upset No. 7 New Mexico and No. 2 Kansas. The Cardinal still managed to lose to a lower-seeded team in the Sweet 16 (No. 11 Dayton).

Why he’s ranked here: After missing the NCAA Tournament in his first five seasons, Dawkins saved his job with a trip to the Sweet 16.

 

7. Lorenzo Romar, Washington

Record at Washington: 254-144 (.838)

NCAA Tournament: 8-7

Number to note: Washington’s ranking on KenPom.com has decreased in each of the last four seasons from No. 20 in 2011 to No. 57 to No. 76 to No. 95 in 2014. The latter is Washington’s worst since Romar’s first season in 2002-03.

Why he’s ranked here: Romar has led Washington to the Sweet 16 three times, won the conference tournament three times and won the league twice. Still, he’ll be under pressure to reverse the decline.

 

8. Cuonzo Martin, Cal

Record at Cal: First season

NCAA Tournament: 3-1

Number to note: After NCAA Tournament snubs at Missouri State and Tennessee, Martin made up for lost time by winning three games in his first NCAA appearance, starting in the First Four and ending the Sweet 16.

Why he’s ranked here: Martin hopes he’s landed where he’s more appreciated at Cal.

 

9. Herb Sendek, Arizona State

Record at Arizona State: 141-121 (.538)

NCAA Tournament: 7-8

Number to note: Sendek’s last two teams, led by guard Jahii Carson, were the first two of his eight-year tenure to average better than 70 points per game.

Why he’s ranked here: Sendek is a survivor, that’s for sure. His second NCAA bid at Arizona State keeps him in Tempe.

 

10. Andy Enfield, USC

Record at USC: 11-21 (.344)

NCAA Tournament: 2-1

Number to note: USC at least played fast for Enfield, ranking 26th in adjusted tempo by KenPom.

Why he’s ranked here: Enfield is the only coach to take a No. 15 seed to the Sweet 16. Rebuilding USC will take more than one weekend.

 

11. Wayne Tinkle, Oregon State

Record at Oregon State: First season

NCAA Tournament: 0-3

Number to note: Montana won regular season and Big Sky Tournament titles two of the last three seasons under Tinkle.

Why he’s ranked here: Montana has a nice tradition of producing coaches who thrive on the next level — Jud Heathcote, Mike Montgomery, Stew Morrill, Blaine Taylor and Larry Krystkowiak. Tinkle may have an impossible situation at Oregon State, though.

 

12. Ernie Kent, Washington State

Record at Washington State: First season

NCAA Tournament: 6-6

Number to note: Kent is Oregon’s all-time wins leader with 235 victories from 1998-2010.

Why he’s ranked here: Kent has been out of coaching since 2010, and his last 20-win season came in 2007.

Teaser:
College Basketball: Ranking the Pac-12 Coaches for 2014-15
Post date: Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/brady-hoke-defensive-press-conference-handing-shane-morris
Body:

At a combative press conference won’t be enough for Michigan coach Brady Hoke to explain the handing of injured quarterback Shane Morris.

 

Morris was lifted from the game due to a high ankle sprain and did not sustain a concussion to Hoke’s knowledge, Hoke told the media in a Monday morning press conference. The quarterback would have practiced Sunday if not for the ankle injury, Hoke said.

 

Hoke said he’d never put a player on the field if there was a risk he sustained a head injury, but assessing that risk is ultimately in the hands of the Michigan medical staff.

 

"I don't make decisions who plays, who doesn't play, as far as when there's injuries, in particular, if there were any head or head trauma," Hoke told the media. "Those of you who know or don't know, I would never put a kid in that situation. Never have and never will because you get into this to coach kids.”

 

In a contentious press conference Monday, Hoke fielded questions surrounding his handling of Morris, who sustained a helmet-to-helmet hit against Minnesota and continued for two more non-consecutive plays. 

 

Morris needed help from a lineman to stand after taking a hit from Minnesota’s Theiren Cockran — a stumble Hoke says was brought about by an ankle injury. Morris stayed in for one more play but returned later in the series when Devin Gardner lost his helmet during a play.

 

The explanations Hoke gave, though, remain dubious.

 

Hoke says he “assumed” Michigan medical personnel performed the required tests for concussions, though those tests were not administered until after Morris stayed in the game long enough to throw an incomplete pass.

 

Hoke said he did not see the hit on Morris as the coach was following the ball downfield and attributed Morris’ stumble to his ankle giving out. Given the nature of the hit — the back of Morris’ head also hit the ground — Morris’ motions were consistent with those of a player who had suffered a concussion. Hoke said he did not see the quarterback struggling in real time and ultimately not until he viewed the coaches’ game film.

 

Hoke also repeatedly referred to a forthcoming statement from the Michigan medical staff, a statement that had not arrived as of four hours since the press conference. Hoke referred to the statement when asked if Morris received a concussion test on the sideline and why Morris still had his helmet after leaving the game for the first time.

 

Hoke also said he had not communicated with athletic director Dave Brandon since Saturday, though the school released a statement from Hoke on Sunday evening.

Teaser:
Brady Hoke on the Defensive in Press Conference on Handing of Shane Morris
Post date: Monday, September 29, 2014 - 16:45
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/previewing-10-best-college-football-games-monster-week-6
Body:

Welcome to the Week of Doom.

 

The College Football Playoff selection committee will meet for the first time in less than a month, and this week almost certainly will shape the conversations for that group.

 

Every league will have powerhouse matchups between favorites and ranked teams, so much that our usual preview of the top five games of the week has been expanded to 10. And we still feel like we left out some important matchups.

 

The gauntlet starts Thursday with Oregon and Arizona and lasts through Nebraska and Michigan State in primetime on Saturday.

 

Title hopes will be crushed. Teams will have setbacks in conference races. And perhaps the postseason and Heisman pictures will start to take shape.

 

Get ready. This week will shape the rest of the year.

 

The Week Ahead: Week 6

All times Eastern, all games Saturday, unless noted

 

Arizona at Oregon

When and where: Thursday, 10:30 p.m., ESPN

We’re watching because... games between Arizona and Oregon get weird. The Wildcats defeated Arizona 42-16 last season, effectively eliminating the Ducks from the Pac-12 and national title chase, and in 2007, they ended Oregon’s bid for a title. The Ducks are in contention again — with another Heisman favorite in Marcus Mariota — but their offensive line is in trouble. Behind redshirt quarterback Anu Solomon, Arizona has enough of an offense to put pressure on Mariota to perform on every possession.

Vegas says: Oregon by 22 1/2

 

Texas A&M at Mississippi State

When and where: Noon, ESPN

We’re watching because... the Aggies and Bulldogs keep proving their SEC West credentials. Texas A&M were able to take advantage of Arkansas’ fourth quarter miscues to stay alive, but the Aggies’ defense remains a liability. Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott is an emerging Heisman contender coming off his career game against LSU. Prescott has rushed for more than 100 yards in three consecutive games while improving as a passer. Could be trouble for the Aggies.

Vegas says: Mississippi State by 1

 

Ohio State at Maryland

When and where: Noon, ABC

We’re watching because... Ohio State may or may not be starting to putting its season together. J.T. Barrett and Ezekiel Elliott combined for 591 yards of total offense against Cincinnati, but Maryland’s defense has held its own despite mounting injuries. The Buckeyes pass defense remains vulnerable to long pass plays. Terrapins receiver Stefon Diggs, once a top recruiting target of Ohio State, can exploit that weakness.

Vegas says: Ohio State by 8

 

Alabama at Ole Miss

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

We’re watching because... Ole Miss is playing its biggest home game in decades. The Rebels are 4-0 for the first time since Archie Manning was a senior, and they’re hosing ESPN College GameDay for the first time. Alabama is a week removed from 672 yards against Florida while Ole Miss has risen — surprisingly — to fourth in the country in fewest yards allowed per game (248) and yards per play (3.74). Ole Miss can’t afford another two-interception game from quarterback Bo Wallace.

Vegas says: Alabama by 5

 

Stanford at Notre Dame

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

We’re watching because... Oct. 4 seems a little early for a Stanford-Notre Dame game, but the timing is right to sort out which team is for real. Stanford’s defense is masking the Cardinal’s inept offense inside the 40-yard line. The Cardinal is allowing 108.5 yards per game fewer than any other team in the Pac-12. Meanwhile, Notre Dame’s offense might not be as good as Everett Golson’s 25 consecutive completions against Syracuse indicate. Otherwise, Golson was responsible for two fumbles and two interceptions, one for a pick six.

Vegas says: Stanford by 1

 

Oklahoma at TCU

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

We’re watching because... Oklahoma can further show why it’s the most complete team in the country. The Sooners have handled every opponent they’ve faced, including Tennessee and West Virginia, the latter on the road. TCU may be the toughest test. The Horned Frogs are stout defensively as usual with a Big 12-best 218.7 yards per game and 3.04 yards per play. But with Air Raid and spread concepts brought in by Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meachem, TCU is fourth in the Big 12 in yards per play.

Vegas says: Oklahoma by 4 1/2

 

Baylor at Texas

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

We’re watching because... Baylor’s eventually going to start playing tougher games, right? Texas might not be that much better than Iowa State, but the Bears will try to improve their stock with a third consecutive lopsided win on the road.

Vegas says: Baylor by 14 1/2

 

LSU at Auburn

When and where: 7 p.m., ESPN

We’re watching because... this SEC West rivalry may be LSU’s last chance to prove it belongs among league contenders. Auburn’s defense may be the real deal after allowing only 4.56 yards per play after giving up nearly six per play in each of the last four seasons. Facing New Mexico State may have masked some of LSU’s offensive issues, but freshman Brandon Harris established himself as Les Miles’ quarterback (11-of-14, 178 yards, three touchdowns).

Vegas says: Auburn by 8 1/2

 

Miami at Georgia Tech

When and where: 7:30 p.m., ESPN2

We’re watching because... neither team can be written off in the ACC Coastal race. The division separated by a razor-thin margin, and Miami and Georgia Tech each have a leg up for the time being. Georgia Tech defeated Virginia Tech two weeks ago, and Miami is coming off a 22-10 win over Duke. Hurricanes freshman Brad Kaaya gets better every week, but he’s 0-2 on the road. That needs to change if UM is a realistic ACC contender.

Vegas says: Pick 'em

 

Nebraska at Michigan State

When and where: 8 p.m., ABC

We’re watching because... it’s safe to resume paying attention to the Big Ten now. The top two teams in the league rolled last week by a combined score of 101-28. Michigan State can regain ground lost by the loss to Oregon in Week 2 while Nebraska can establish itself as a Playoff contender. Ameer Abdullah enters a game against a stout Michigan State defense with momentum after rushing for of 437 yards in the last two games.

Vegas says: Michigan State by 9 1/2

Teaser:
Previewing the 10 Best College Football Games in a Monster Week 6
Post date: Monday, September 29, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-ready-contend-big-ten-results-are-mixed
Body:

After Ohio State arguably lost ground during a bye week, the Buckeyes gained some of it back against Cincinnati.

 

Where that leaves Ohio State for the Big Ten season, which starts Saturday at Maryland, remains in question.

 

While Ohio State had last week off, the Buckeyes' lone loss of the season started look more and more embarrassing as Virginia Tech lost to Georgia Tech, its second consecutive loss since the win in Columbus.

 

As for the Buckeyes, they defeated Cincinnati 50-28 on Saturday, answering some questions about the offense’s ability to win in the Big Ten, but the defense may remain a liability.

 

First the good:

 

For a team that couldn’t move the ball consistently against Virginia Tech, the 50 points is a welcome sight.

 

Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett was magnificent, completing 26-of-36 passes for 330 yards with four touchdowns and no turnovers to go with 79 rushing yards.

 

That said, the biggest development may have been running back Ezekiel Elliott, who rushed for 182 yards and a touchdown in 28 carries. Before that breakout by the sophomore, none of Ohio State’s tailbacks had rushed for more than 171 yards total this season.

 

Ohio State's 710 total yards also approached a school record.

 

Listen to the Week 5 recap podcast:



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

Now the bad: Aided by a leaky secondary, Ohio State needed nearly all of that production. 

 

Ohio State jumped to a 23-7 lead early in the second quarter, but that devolved into a five-point lead in the third.

 

The pass defense that prevented Ohio State from playing for a national title a year ago made this game more interesting than it needed to be. The Buckeyes allowed touchdown passes or 60, 83 and 78 yards, the last two in the second half.

 

How many Big Ten teams will be able to challenge Ohio State like Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel did? Perhaps a few.

 

Maryland passed for 361 yards and three touchdowns against Indiana and has averaged better than 10 yards per attempt in each of the last two games.

 

To boot, the Terrapins gave up a mere 126 yards through the air against a high-powered Indiana offense.

 

With that kind of matchup arriving Saturday, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer talked of a “hard conversation” with defensive coaches coming this week.

 

“You don't give up 200 yards passing and be able to look you in the eye say that's a championship level football team out there,” Meyer told the media. “I see certain units playing at a very, very high level, not nine."

Teaser:
Is Ohio State Ready to Win in the Big Ten? Results are Mixed
Post date: Sunday, September 28, 2014 - 16:00
Path: /college-football/penn-state-reaches-its-ceiling-behind-troubled-offensive-line
Body:

After a month of the season and a few close calls, Penn State learned a little bit about its ceiling.

 

The Nittany Lions can’t survive an off game by quarterback Christian Hackenberg, and the offensive line continues to be the team’s Achilles' heel.

 

Starting with a disastrous first quarter, Penn State lost 29-6 at home to Northwestern. On paper, this may be a shocking result with one of the Big Ten’s two undefeated teams losing in a rout to a team that entered the game on a 2-9 skid.

 

In reality, though, this moment was coming. Penn State had been playing with fire all season, and the flaws brought about in part by injuries and scholarship limitations are finally starting to impact the record. 

 

Maybe this was a market correction.

 

Penn State lucked out in the opener when UCF didn’t start the better of its two quarterbacks that day as a field goal from Sam Ficken helped Penn State win 26-24 in Dublin. The Nittany Lions started slow against Akron but won convincingly by a 21-3 margin. And two weeks ago, Penn State got help from five Rutgers interceptions to score 13 unanswered points in the second half of a 13-10 win.

 

All the while, Penn State’s offensive line couldn’t open holes for the running backs, and Hackenberg was forced into mistakes.

 

Northwestern was the first team to take advantage when the floodgates opened.

 

“I actually think you look how we've played all year long and we've started some games slow and we've been able to come back and rally late in games,” Penn State coach James Franklin told the media. “You can only do that so many times. You can only do that so many times before it comes back to haunt you.”

 

That moment happened Saturday.

 

Penn State punted on its first five possessions, four of which ending without a first down. That was better than the alternative, which included a blocked field goal, a Hackenberg fumble and the first pick six of Hackenberg’s career.

 

By the end of the second quarter, Penn State abandoned the run altogether. Hackenberg finished with 45 pass attempts. Tailbacks Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak carried 12 times.

 

The frustration was palpable.

 

 

Hackenberg and Belton put the moment behind them in the postgame interviews and on Twitter, but but the struggles of the offense won’t solve themselves as easily.

 

Penn State is averaging 3.1 yards per carry this season. Throw out a 226-yard outburst against UMass, and the Nittany Lions are averaging 2.1 yards per rush.

 

There are no easy solutions here. Penn State entered the season with a top-flight quarterback and established that its defensive front seven will be among the best in the country.

 

The offensive line, though, returned only one starter. The unit, especially after the spring injury to Miles Dieffenbach, was panned during the preseason.

 

That Penn State made it to Week 5 without a loss is probably something of a miracle and a sign the Nittany Lions are getting the most they possibly can out of a shorthanded group.

 

Saturday, though, showed how far resilience alone can go.

Teaser:
Penn State Reaches its Ceiling Behind Troubled Offensive Line
Post date: Sunday, September 28, 2014 - 15:45
Path: /college-football/brady-hoke-must-answer-handling-injured-shane-morris
Body:

Brady Hoke has more serious problems than an inept offense on gameday.

 

Before Hoke coaches another game at Michigan, he’ll need to provide better answers than ignorance for allowing his potentially concussed player to take two more snaps, including one after he had returned to the sideline to be replaced by a backup.

 

In the fourth quarter of a 30-14 loss to Minnesota, quarterback Shane Morris — already hobbled with a leg injury — took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Minnesota defensive end Thieren Cockran. 

 

Morris limped to the sideline to get the next play, but he dropped his head and had to be held up by offensive tackle Ben Braden. Morris, making his first start of the season, waved his arm to stay in the game.

 

Cockran was called for a roughing the passer penalty, though he could have been ejected for targeting. ESPN analyst Ed Cunningham called the officials’ oversight “appalling.”

 

That level of ignorance pales compared to what transpired later from Hoke. Morris continued for one more snap, an incomplete pass. Only then, did Morris take himself out of the game, wobbling to the sideline.

 

Do we know with certainty that Morris suffered a concussion? No. But Michigan and the broadcast team saw enough to warrant having Morris on the bench to determine for sure.

 

Morris didn’t stay on the bench long. Three plays later, replacement quarterback Devin Gardner lost his helmet on a run toward the sideline. By rule, he had to sit out a play.

 

Listen to the Week 5 recap podcast:



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

While third-string quarterback Russell Bellomy scrambled for a helmet, Morris ended up back in the game for a handoff before returning to the sideline. Cunningham called the player management “atrocious.” Even before the Cockran hit, Cunningham was critical of Hoke’s handling of an obviously injured Morris, who continued to throw passes from the pocket on an injured left leg.

 

The entire sequence was textbook negligence for the safety of a player, but Hoke’s explanation was so much worse, it's embarrassing.

 

“Well, I don't know if he might have had a concussion or not,” Hoke told reporters after the game. “I don't know that. Shane's a pretty competitive tough kid. Shane wanted to be the quarterback. So believe me, if he didn't want to be, he would have come to the sideline or stayed down.”

 

That statement is unacceptable.

 

I don’t know if he had a concussion or not.

 

Did Hoke not see what the ESPN cameras picked up? Did he not see a dazed Morris being held up by a lineman? That’s possible, even if Minnesota was flagged for roughing the passer. Did a member of the staff catch it? Also possible, but Hoke is not wearing a headset, so it's plausible that someone in the booth was unable to effectively communicate with the head coach.

 

But the lack of certainty is enough to pull Morris. And not only did Morris stay in the game for one play after the hit, he returned. Take a timeout. Take a delay of game. Have a running back take a knee It doesn’t matter. Anything that stops Morris from returning to the game.

 

Shane wanted to be the quarterback. So believe me, if he didn't want to be, he would have come to the sideline or stayed down.

 

Hoke is deflecting the responsibility onto his 20-year-old quarterback who may or may not have sustained a head injury, not the man in paid in excess of $4 million to make quick decisions that in part concern the safety of his players.

 

Blame players for poor execution or poor preparation, that’s fine. But deciding which players should and should not be on the field is part of the job, and Hoke was incompetent for a stretch of four minutes in this regard.

 

Whether Morris sustained a concussion or not, Hoke whiffed, and he may need to answer for it with his job.

 

Watch the entire sequence:

 

UPDATE: Michigan coach Brady Hoke released a statement Sunday evening through the school:

 

“The safety of our student-athletes is always our top priority. We generally never discuss the specifics of a student-athlete's medical care, but Shane Morris was removed from yesterday's game against Minnesota after further aggravating an injury to his leg that he sustained earlier in the contest. He was evaluated by our experienced athletic trainers and team physicians, and we're confident proper medical decisions were made. The University of Michigan has a distinguished group of Certified Athletic Trainers and team physicians who are responsible for determining whether or not a player is physically able to play. Our coaches have no influence or authority to make determinations if or when an injured player returns to competition. The health and welfare of our student-athletes is and will continue to be a top priority.”

Teaser:
Brady Hoke Must Answer for Handling of Injured Shane Morris
Post date: Sunday, September 28, 2014 - 11:40
Path: /georgias-todd-gurley-athlon-sports-week-5-national-player-week
Body:

After his team lost by 3 to Georgia, Tennessee coach Butch Jones likened defending Georgia’s run game to defending the wishbone.

 

Don't give Georgia any ideas. It's scary what Todd Gurley might do if he played in that kind of offense. Playing in the Bulldogs pro-style is scary enough.

 

The Georgia tailback rushed for a career-high 208 yards on 28 carries with two touchdowns in a 35-32 win over Tennessee to earn Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors.

 

The Bulldogs needed every bit of Gurley’s production, and despite playing the deepest backfield in the country, Gurley may be the nation's most indispensable player.

 

Gurley rushed for a 51-yard touchdown to boost a fourth-quarter lead, hurdled over a Tennessee defender and picked up a fourth-and-3 conversion with a gutty four-yard gain.  

 

"Earlier in the year, I said he is at least one of the best players in the country,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “Now, I'm saying he's the best player in America. I can't imagine anyone being more talented, a guy who loves his team more, and a guy who means more to his team than he does to us.”

 

National Defensive Player of the Week: Ishmael Adams, UCLA

Arizona State may have racked up 626 yards against UCLA but couldn’t stop the Bruins in the big-play department in any phase of the game. Defensive back Ishmael Adams helped changed the momentum twice. First, he recorded a 95-yard pick six as Arizona State was driving for a score to close the first half. Adams then returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown after the Sun Devils cut the lead to two touchdowns in the third quarter.

 

National Freshman of the Week: Deshaun Watson, Clemson

Deshaun Watson flashed his potential in extended work against Florida State. He delivered against defense-challenged North Carolina in his first career start. Watson completed 27-of-36 passes for 435 yards with six touchdowns and an interception in a 50-35 win over North Carolina. 

 

National Coordinator of the Week: Brian Stewart, Maryland

Injuries have been mounting for the Maryland defense, and Indiana is fresh off a win at Missouri. All signs would point to a shootout for a Terrapins team that two weeks ago gave up 40 points to West Virginia. The Terrapins, though, keyed the program’s first Big Ten victory, a 37-15 win over Indiana. The high-powered Hoosiers were limited to a season-low 332 total yards. Indiana was 14-of-37 passing with 126 yards and an interception.

 

Conference players of the week:

 

ACC: Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya completed 21-of-25 passes for 226 yards with two touchdowns in a 22-10 win over Duke.

 

Big 12: Oklahoma State quarterback Daxx Garman completed 17-of-31 passes for 370 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions in a 45-35 win over Texas Tech on Thursday.

 

Big Ten: Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah rushed for 208 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries in a 45-14 win over Illinois.

 

Pac-12: UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley was 18-of-23 for 355 yards with four touchdowns in a 62-27 win over Arizona State on Thursday. He also rushed for 72 yards on eight carries.

 

American: Temple quarterback P.J. Walker completed 20-of-29 passes for 231 yards with a touchdown in a 36-10 win over Connecticut. Walker also rushed for a touchdown.

 

Conference USA: Western Kentucky quarterback Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky completed 38-of-54 passes for 387 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in a 36-27 win over Navy. Doughty also rushed for a touchdown.

 

MAC: Akron linebacker Jatavis Brown had 11 tackles and a sack in a 21-10 win over Pittsburgh. The Zips are the first team to hold James Conner to fewer than 100 yards this season.

 

Mountain West: Air Force safety Weston Steelhammer had three interceptions, two tackles for a loss a sack and four tackles in a 28-14 win over Boise State.

 

Sun Belt: Georgia Southern quarterback Kevin Ellison rushed for 151 yards and a  touchdown on 21 carries in a 34-14 win over Appalachian State. He also completed 6-of-10 passes for 73 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

 

Independents: Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson completed 31-of-39 passes for 362 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions in a 31-15 win over Syracuse. Golson completed 25 consecutive passes at one point.

Teaser:
Georgia's Todd Gurley is Athlon Sports Week 5 National Player of the Week
Post date: Sunday, September 28, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/week-5-heisman-movers-everett-golson-and-todd-gurley-shine
Body:

If Week 5 reinforced anything, it was the role of clutch play for any Heisman contender.

 

The big play at the right time covers up a ton of miscues or stretches of ineffective play.

 

That is the theme for this week’s contenders. Kenny Hill and Everett Golson didn’t have the best games of their careers, but they were in charge when the game mattered most. 

 

Brett Hundley, after missing almost an entire game two weeks ago, showed why he is so valuable during a lopsided stretch for UCLA against Arizona State.

 

And Gurley remained one of the biggest gamebreakers of the week as the Georgia offense went from very good to great any time he was on the field.

 

Here is our look at the last week and who moved up or down in the Heisman race.

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Todd Gurley

Gurley may be the best hope to end Heisman dominance by quarterbacks. The Bulldogs junior set a career high with 208 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries in a 35-32 win over Tennessee. Georgia coach Mark Richt revised his statement that Gurley is one of the best in the country to making Gurley the best player in the country.

Kenny Hill

The Aggies quarterback didn’t have the best game of his young career. He threw an interception, completed 21-of-41 passes and received help from Arkansas’ defensive breakdowns. But 386 passing yards and four touchdowns — two in the final 2:08 of regulation and overtime — keeps him in the Heisman race and A&M in the hunt in the SEC.

Christian Hackenberg

Hackenberg couldn’t rescue Penn State in this one. Behind a leaky offensive line, Hackenberg had his worst game of the season, completing 22-of-45 passes for 216 yards with the first pick six of his career in a 29-6 home loss to Northwestern. Hackenberg as four TDs and six INTs this season.

Everett Golson

Golson had his official statline corrected, so he didn’t catch the FBS record of 26 consecutive completions as we once believed. And Golson also had three turnovers (two interceptions, fumble). Still, Golson’s 25 consecutive completions is impressive against anyone, anytime. Golson finished 32-of-39 for 362 yards with four touchdowns in a 31-15 win over Syracuse.

Brett Hundley

This guy was supposed to be hurt, right? Hundley came back from his injury against Texas two weeks ago with his best game of the season, leading a 62-27 rout of Arizona State on Thursday. Hundley completed 18-of-23 passes fro 355 yards with four touchdowns. He also rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.

Melvin Gordon

Gordon has picked up the first two fumbles of his career the last two weeks, but the turnovers only seem to make him stronger. Gordon rushed for 131 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries in the second half against USF a week after rushing for 253 yards and five touchdowns on 12 carries after his fumble against Bowling Green.

Ameer Abdullah

Abdullah made sure Gurley and Gordon didn’t remain the only running backs in Heisman contention. Starting with 127 yards in the first quarter alone, Abdullah rushed for 208 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries in a 45-14 win over Illinois. Abdullah rushed for 437 yards in the last two weeks.

James Conner

Iowa stymied Conner in the second half last week. Akron was able to do it through the course of a whole game. Akron held Conner to season lows in yards (92), touchdowns (none, the first time he failed to reach the end zone) and yards per carry (3.7) in a 21-10 win.

Shaq Thompson

Thompson returned a fumble 32 yards for a touchdown and added seven tackles and a tackle for a loss. The linebacker Thompson has scored four touchdowns this season (two fumbles, an interception, one rushing) but Washington needs to win a marquee game to keep him in the running. Washington lost 20-13 to Stanford.

 

Teaser:
Week 5 Heisman Movers: Everett Golson and Todd Gurley Shine
Post date: Sunday, September 28, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Georgia Bulldogs, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/georgias-todd-gurley-hurdles-tennessee-defender-sets-career-high
Body:

The only reason we won’t say Todd Gurley delivered his signature performance of the season against Tennessee is because it’s impossible to put limitations on the Georgia running back.

 

What can be said is that Gurley delivered a career-high 208 rushing yards on 28 carries in a hotly contested 35-32 win over Tennessee.

 

Gurley provided plenty of highlights, not least of which this hurdling of a Tennessee defender:

 

 

 

 

Gurley had plenty of big plays, including a 51-yard touchdown and two other runs of 20-plus yards, but one of his most impressive runs may have been when he fought for extra yards on fourth-and-3 to convert the first down and seal the game with 40 seconds remaining.

 

For now, let the memes begin:

 

Teaser:
Georgia's Todd Gurley Hurdles Tennessee Defender, Sets Career High
Post date: Saturday, September 27, 2014 - 16:53
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-ranking-big-ten-coaches-2014-15
Body:

The Big Ten has taken its lumps during football season, but all that changes on the hardwood.

 

Much of that is due to the coaches on the bench, a deep group of some of the nation’s best coaches that’s only getting better.

 

Tom Izzo, John Beilein, Bo Ryan and Thad Matta make up a solid top four of coaches who have made a combined 10 Final Fours at their current stops, and Beilein and Ryan are leading their programs to new (or rather, renewed) heights.

 

Meanwhile, Tom Crean has returned Indiana to national prominence, and Tim Miles and Fran McCaffery have rebuilt programs at Nebraska and Iowa.

 

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. 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.

 

3. 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?

 

4. 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.

 

5. 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. Still, Crean brought Indiana back from 6-25 in his first season.

 

6. 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.

 

7. 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.

 

8. John Groce, Illinois

Record at Illinois: 43-29 (.606)

NCAA Tournament: 4-3

Number to note: Groce has never gone one-and-done in the NCAA Tournament, reaching the round of 32 in 2010 (at Ohio) and 2013 and the Sweet 16 in 2012 (also at Ohio).

Why he’s ranked here: Illinois has yet to break through under Groce (15-21 in the Big Ten), but he has a top-10 recruiting class for 2015.

 

9. Matt Painter, Purdue

Record at Purdue: 191-112 (.630)

NCAA Tournament: 8-7

Number to note: Painter was 129-46 overall and 64-26 in the Big Ten with the Robbie Hummel/JaJuan Johnson/E’Twaun Moore signing class. He’s 62-66 overall and 25-43 otherwise.

Why he’s ranked here: Back-to-back losing seasons have diminished Painter’s status as a rising star.

 

10. Mark Turgeon, Maryland

Record at Maryland: 59-42 (.578)

NCAA Tournament: 5-5

Number to note: What is holding Maryland back under Turgeon? A 6-23 record on the road.

Why he’s ranked here: Maryland has been in the KenPom top 50 in two of three seasons under Turgeon, but he was 23-29 in the ACC with no NCAA appearances.

 

11. Richard Pitino, Minnesota

Record at Minnesota: 25-13 (.658)

NCAA Tournament: None

Number to note: In two seasons as a coach, Pitino’s teams have ranked 48th in tempo (FIU) and 257th (Minnesota).

Why he’s ranked here: Pitino turned an 8-21 team into a  25-13 team at FIU and won the NIT at Minnesota.

 

12. Patrick Chambers, Penn State

Record at Penn State: 38-59 (.392)

NCAA Tournament: 0-1

Number to note: In Year 3 under Chambers, Penn State averaged better than 70 points per game for the first time since 2000-01.

Why he’s ranked here: Winning at Penn State isn’t easy, but Chambers has kept the Nittany Lions competitive with two wins over Ohio State and a victory over Nebraska in a 6-12 Big Ten season.

 

13. Chris Collins, Northwestern

Record at Northwestern: 14-19 (.424)

NCAA Tournament: None

Number to note: A sign for the future? Northwestern was 14th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom last season.

Why he’s ranked here: Along with Marquette’s Steve Wojciechowski, Collins represents the next wave of Mike Krzyzewski assistants to get head coaching jobs.

 

14. Eddie Jordan, Rutgers

Record at Rutgers: 12-21 (.364)

NCAA Tournament: None

Number to note: Rutgers lost by 61 in its American Athletic Conference tournament elimination game to Louisville, not a reflection of a team that teams whose last four AAC losses (Memphis, UCF, UConn, Cincinnati) were decided by 4.3 points.

Why he’s ranked here: Jordan struggled as expected in his first season, but he brings a senior-laden team into the Big Ten.

Teaser:
College Basketball: Ranking the Big Ten Coaches for 2014-15
Post date: Friday, September 26, 2014 - 07:00

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