Articles By David Fox

All taxonomy terms: College Football, Big Ten, News
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2014-week-5-preview-and-predictions
Body:

The Big Ten isn’t the best conference in college football this season, but the season has at least been interesting.

 

By Week 5, we’re still left wondering where Ohio State stands, and a rare in-state matchup with the (distant) No. 2 program in the state will be an interesting barometer.

 

Perhaps Cincinnati-Ohio State is a mismatch, but we know Tommy Tuberville can beat Urban Meyer. The Bearcats coach is one of four coaches to beat Meyer twice in his career.

 

In other league action, Maryland and Indiana gained a little bit of intrigue as both teams picked up Power 5 road wins last week.

 

And the battle for the Little Brown Jug may be a game of chicken between two questionable passing games.

Week 5 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC

 

Week 5 Big Ten Game Power Rankings

All games Saturday. All times Eastern.

 

1. Cincinnati at Ohio State

6 p.m., Big Ten Network

This game will be a bigger game for Cincinnati, a program that would like to think of itself as a power program but has not defeated Ohio State since 1897. The two teams didn’t even play between 1931-99. At least for Ohio State, this will be a good opportunity for the Buckeyes to re-establish their Big Ten bona fides. Two of the two areas Virginia Tech exposed for Ohio State two weeks ago — pass defense and the offensive line — will be tested again this week. Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel, a Notre Dame transfer and former LSU commitment, is averaging 9.1 yards per attempt with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions against MAC teams. Meanwhile, the Bearcats have picked up 11 sacks in two games, eight of which against a bad Miami (Ohio) team.

 

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2. Maryland at Indiana

1:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Who would have pegged this one as a compelling Big Ten game just a few weeks ago? Thank a pair of road wins by the Terrapins (34-20 over Syracuse) and Hoosiers (31-27 over Missouri). Neither of these teams may make noise in the title race, but they can’t be ignored. Both have names Big Ten fans need to know: Maryland defensive back William Likely has two non-offensive touchdowns this season (a punt return and an interception return), and Indiana running back Tevin Coleman has rushed for 569 yards (8.6 per carry) and six touchdowns this season, giving him 12 games in a row with a TD. The injury bug has already hit Maryland as the Terps lost a starting defensive end (Quinton Jefferson) and a tight end (Andrew Isaacs) for the season.

 

3. Minnesota at Michigan

6 p.m., Big Ten Network

This game might not be pretty, though it’s not clear for whom. First on the Michigan side: The Wolverines don’t plan on naming either Devin Gardner or Shane Morris quarterback until Saturday (after saying they’d do so Tuesday). The pair has combined for 10 of Michigan’s 12 turnovers this season. Meanwhile, Minnesota is second in the country in takeaways (13 in four games). For the Gophers, their quarterback situation is no more certain. Mitch Leidner has not been ruled out but he missed the last game with turf toe. Leidner’s replacement, Chris Strevener, completed 1-of-7 passes for seven yards and an interception while rushing for 161 yards and a score in a win over San Jose State last week. For all of Michigan’s struggles, run defense has not been one of them. The Wolverines are allowing 2.5 yards per carry and 30.3 yards per game.

 

4. Illinois at Nebraska

9 p.m., Big Ten

Two teams are at a bit of a crossroads. Nebraska may be the Big Ten’s only hope for the College Football Playoff, but the Cornhuskers have to tighten up in a few spots. Miami freshman Brad Kaaya was able to pass for 359 yards, 8.5 yards per attempt and three touchdowns against a Nebraska team whose pass defense numbers have gotten worse each game. The passing game is Illinois’ top strength with Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt completing 65.4 percent of his passes for 1,237 yards with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions. Illinois also started last season 3-1 before a 1-7 collapse. Illinois might not be able to win in Lincoln, but this could be a key game to set the tone for the remainder of the year under embattled coach Tim Beckman.

 

5. Northwestern at Penn State

3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2

The question is if Northwestern will be able to crack Penn State’s defense. The Nittany Lions are allowing only 1.8 yards per carry and 49.5 rush yards per game. Every other Big Ten allows at least 2.5 yards per carry and 71 yards per game. Meanwhile, Northwestern has managed just better than three yards per carry against Cal, Northern Illinois and Western Illinois. If that puts pressure on Northwestern’s ineffective passing game, the Wildcats are in trouble.

 

6. Wyoming at Michigan State

Noon, ESPN2

When Mark Dantonio looks at Wyoming under first-year coach Craig Bohl, he sees a mirror image. “They are probably more like us than anybody we play,” Dantonio said. Wyoming is a run-first team that has allowed more than 20 points just once this season (to Oregon). Michigan State shouldn’t have too much trouble but Wyoming can be pesky — two of the Cowboys' three wins have come in the fourth quarter.

 

7. Iowa at Purdue

Noon, Big Ten Network

Will Kirk Ferentz make the call at quarterback? Will he even need to make a decision at all? Backup C.J. Beathard stepped in for injured quarterback Jake Rudock to lead a comeback against Pittsburgh last week, leading Hawkeyes to one of the few offensive bright spots this season. Rudock’s injury status isn’t clear, and even if he’s healthy, Ferentz hasn’t committed either way on his quarterback. Purdue will find out.

 

8. Tulane at Rutgers

Noon, ESPNews

Rutgers poised itself to exceed its modest expectations this season when Paul James rushed for 173 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries in the win over Washington State. Now, James is out for the season with a torn ACL. The Scarlet Knights will move on with Desmon Peoples (205 yards this season) and Justin Goodwin (104 yards).

 

9. USF at Wisconsin

Noon, ESPNU

Melvin Gordon is healthy and as productive as ever after rushing for 253 yards and five touchdowns against Bowling Green. Now, he’ll face a USF team two weeks removed from giving up 315 rushing yards to NC State.

 

Week 5 Big Ten Staff Picks

 David FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light

USF at Wisconsin (-34)

Wisc 56-10Wisc 41-14Wisc 45-17Wisc 41-10

Tulane at Rutgers (-12)

Rut 14-10Rut 30-18Rut 34-17Rut 30-13

Iowa (-10) at Purdue

Iowa 21-10Iowa 34-13Iowa 30-13Iowa 27-13

Wyoming at Michigan St (-31)

MSU 35-7MSU 45-10MSU 45-7MSU 34-14

Northwestern at Penn St (-11)

PSU 24-14PSU 27-17PSU 31-17PSU 20-10

Maryland at Indiana (-5)

IU 35-28Md 44-38Md 38-34Md 34-28

Minnesota at Michigan (-12)

Minn 21-14Mich 19-15Mich 24-17Mich 17-10

Cincinnati at Ohio State (-15)

OSU 35-21OSU 38-28OSU 34-20OSU 31-10

Illinois at Nebraska (-20)

Neb 42-28Neb 40-20Neb 45-20Neb 41-14
Last Week9-48-59-410-3
Season38-1236-1438-1235-15

 

Teaser:
Big Ten 2014 Week 5 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 25, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Arkansas Razorbacks, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/can-first-class-offensive-line-lead-turnaround-arkansas
Body:

Arkansas’ linemen know the deal when it comes to a football team and who tends to get most of the credit and public accolades.

 

The pecking order starts with the quarterback, the running backs, receivers. Probably a coach or a coordinator next.

 

The linemen are a footnote everywhere except for on Arkansas team flights.

 

The big guys get the big seats. By coach Bret Bielema’s policy, Arkansas’ starting offensive and defensive lines fly first class on team flights to road games. Sorry, quarterbacks and running backs, you’re sitting in coach.

 

“They get their names in the paper, and I couldn’t be any more excited for them,” Arkansas right tackle Brey Cook told Athlon Sports. “But it’s nice to know in-house that we have a big part in that.”

 

So far in 2014, the line has been part of headline-worthy play.

 

Bielema’s goal to turn Arkansas into Wisconsin in terms of offensive philosophy hasn’t been smooth. The Razorbacks head to Arlington to face Texas A&M seeking their first SEC victory since Oct. 13, 2012, against a top-10 Aggies team favored by 8 1/2 points.

 

Still, Arkansas’ outlook is looking as promising as anytime since before Bobby Petrino’s abrupt and embarrassing exit from Fayetteville.

 

The Razorbacks are the SEC West’s only unranked team in this week’s AP and coaches polls, though Arkansas is receiving votes in both. For a team that was outscored by more than 15 points per game in an 0-8 SEC season a year ago, this is a remarkable turnaround.

 

And for that, Arkansas can thank leg room for their linemen, including on the team flight to DFW this weekend.

 

“Our linemen are treated like most teams treat their quarterback,” Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman told Athlon Sports. “Most teams look at it as there’s only one quarterback. On our team there’s only one center. He’s not on the extra point team. Linemen we look at as skill players, and they tend to like it.”

 

This season, Arkansas’ linemen have been the stars similar to any skill player.

 

Of 27 scoring drives this season, nine have gone for 10 plays or more. Arkansas has already rushed for more touchdowns this season (17) than all of last year (14).

 

Beyond the season numbers, the 49-24 win over Texas Tech in Lubbock two weeks ago demonstrated the Bielema offensive line and run game philosophy in the extreme.

 

In a tie game in the first quarter on the road, Arkansas called a series like a team trying to milk the clock in the fourth quarter. The Hogs ran on a dozen consecutive plays to march 68 yards down the field to take a lead.

 

In the third quarter, Arkansas called 10 consecutive run plays in a 13-play touchdown drive, and 13-of-13 plays on a fourth-quarter touchdown drive were on the ground.

 

“It’s something we always wanted to do with our offense and our philosophy,” Cook said. “For us it was that nail in the coffin. Everyone knows what’s going to happen, and we’re still going to make it work. Those are the drives you dream about.”

 

That’s still a long way from where Arkansas started.

 

When Bielema arrived, the offensive linemen were surprised to learn of the workload expected in practice.

 

After running two or three periods of inside run drills in practice, for example, Pittman sent them back out for a fourth, fifth or sixth.

 

“It took a while for them to start enjoying our type of schemes,” Pittman said. “Once they did, we weren’t a bad offensive line a year ago.”

 

Center Travis Swanson was a quick study and a key cog in that last season, and his experience was instrumental in delivering on-field instruction to freshman starters Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper.

 

With Swanson and right tackle David Hurd gone in spring this season, Arkansas started over in a few ways. First, Swanson’s athleticism allowed Arkansas to run outside behind his lead.

 

That deparure has led to more runs up the gut.

 

“Because we’re big and physical, we put some more inside plays that could showcase our talents that way,” Pittman said.

 

Not that it’s been seamless. Kirkland needed to lose 25 pounds during the offseason, and Skipper's adjustment from guard to tackle was a bit rocky at first.

 

Pittman has praised both sophomores as two of the most improved on the line.

 

Meanwhile, Arkansas has had to look from coast-to-coast to build the front. 

 

Cook and center Mitch Smothers are from different high schools in Springdale, Ark. Left guard Sebastian Tretola is a transfer from Nevada who is originally from California. Kirkland is from Miami, and Skipper is from Colorado. Guard Luke Charpentier, who started the first two games, is from Louisiana.

 

“Everyone brings their own flair,” Cook said. “We’re about as different as you can get.”

 

What that means for the remainder of the season remains to be seen. Arkansas’ best moment of the season have come against Texas Tech, a team that has has allowed nearly 300 rushing yards per game going back to midway last season.

 

Texas A&M’s defense remains a rebuilding project. But if Arkansas can run effectively in each of its first five games of the season (that includes a 45-21 loss at Auburn), the Razorbacks will be poised to complete a critical turnaround season.

 

“As far as where we are in the process, we’re still a recruiting class away, offensive-line wise, depth at fullback and tight end and receiver,” Bielema said.

 

Granted, a policy of first-class seating for the big guys may be a key recruiting point to help Bielema further mold his ground-and-pound run game.

 

“He believed the big guys should sit up front,” Cook said. “His philosophies on the field match up.”

Teaser:
Can First-Class Offensive Line Lead Turnaround At Arkansas?
Post date: Wednesday, September 24, 2014 - 16:15
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-ranking-big-east-coaches-2014-15
Body:

The Big East coaching roster — back in its classic lineup — was notable for its firebrands on the bench with Jim Boeheim, John Thompson, Rollie Massimino and Lou Carnesecca.

 

The lineup in the second year of this version of the Big East may have personality but it is more notable for its familiarity.

 

Jay Wright and John Thompson III are as identifiable with their programs as anybody in college basketball in 2014-15, Chris Mack and Brandon Miller are alums for their respective schools, and Ed Cooley is a Rhode Island and Providence hometowner.

 

That will have to do for the Big East for now. The league that once boasted multiple Hall of Famers has only two coaches that have reached the Final Four in Wright and Thompson.

 

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. Jay Wright, Villanova

Record at Villanova: 286-149 (.657)

NCAA Tournament: 13-11, one Final Four

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

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

 

2. John Thompson III, Georgetown

Record at Georgetown: 227-104 (.686)

NCAA Tournament: 8-9, one Final Four

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

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

 

3. Chris Mack, Xavier

Record at Xavier: 111-57 (.661)

NCAA Tournament: 4-4

Number to note: Since starting 29-3 in his first two season in the Atlantic 10, Mack is 29-21 in the A-10/Big East.

Why he’s ranked here: Xavier’s pace has slowed since Mack’s first two seasons, but he’s reached the NCAA Tournament in four of five seasons and reached the Sweet 16 in 2012.

 

4. Greg McDermott, Creighton

Record at Creighton: 107-38 (.738)

NCAA Tournament: 3-6

Number to note: McDermott is 149-131 without his son on the roster and 107-38 with Doug McDermott.

Why he’s ranked here: No question, Greg McDermott is thankful his son turned out to be a three-time All-American, but don’t forget the elder McDermott was the first coach to win consistently at Northern Iowa.

 

5. Ed Cooley, Providence

Record at Providence: 57-44 (.564)

NCAA Tournament: 0-1

Number to note: Cooley’s 42 wins in the last two seasons are the best for Providence since 1995-97, and the Friars’ NCAA appearance last year was their first since 2004.

Why he’s ranked here: Cooley has improved Providence enough to raise the possibility of doing what Rick Barnes or Rick Pitino never did: post winning Big East records in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history.

 

6. Steve Lavin, St. John’s

Record at St. John’s: 71-60 (.542)

NCAA Tournament: 11-7

Number to note: St. John’s is 32-30 in the Big East with two NIT appearances in three seasons since the Red Storm went 12-6 in Lavin’s first year.

Why he’s ranked here: Treatment for prostate cancer in 2011-12 stalled Lavin’s ability to build upon his first season, but he’s recruited well enough by now to reach the NCAA Tournament again.

 

7. Kevin Willard, Seton Hall

Record at Seton Hall: 66-66 (.500)

NCAA Tournament: No appearances

Number to note: Seton Hall went 15-21 in the Big East in Willard’s first two seasons before dropping to 9-27 in the past two.

Why he’s ranked here: Willard appeared to have Seton Hall on the right track before a 3-15 collapse two years ago. Year 5 will be a big one for Willard.

 

8. Oliver Purnell, DePaul

Record at DePaul: 42-85 (.331)

NCAA Tournament: 0-6

Number to note: Purnell has one of the most unique coaching experiences in college basketball. He’s coached at five spots since 1988, he’s never won an NCAA game and has never been fired.

Why he’s ranked here: Purnell has turned around Radford, Old Dominion, Dayton and Clemson. Purnell (9-57 in the Big East) may have met his match at DePaul.

 

9. Brandon Miller, Butler

Record at Butler: 14-17 (.452)

NCAA Tournament: None

Number to note: Miller’s first season was Butler’s second losing campaign since 1992-93.

Why he’s ranked here: Miller faced an exodus of five players from November through April last season in his first season, but the former Brad Stevens and Thad Matta assistant knows the terrain here.

 

10. Steve Wojciechowski, Marquette

Record at Marquette: First season

NCAA Tournament: None

Number to note: Wojo is 38 years old, and he has spent 19 of those years as a player or assistant for Mike Krzyzewski.

Why he’s ranked here: Wojciechowski’s predecessor Buzz Williams was ranked No. 1 in the Big East a year ago, but Marquette has been a spot where Williams and Tom Crean were able to build names for themselves.

Teaser:
College Basketball: Ranking the Big East Coaches for 2014-15
Post date: Tuesday, September 23, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/previewing-best-5-college-football-games-week-5
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Most schedules are starting to move into conference play, but don’t tell the teams in some of the biggest games this week.

 

Teams like South Carolina, UCLA, Arizona State, Stanford and Washington all could look like they use another week or two to get into shape before critical games.

 

UCLA and Arizona State both have health concerns for the quarterback position. Washington and UCLA have played down to lesser teams. Stanford can’t find its way to the end zone. And South Carolina is just embarrassing (says Steve Spurrier).

 

There’s no more time shake off the offseason cobwebs, so someone’s going to have to figure things out before Saturday.

 

Week 5’s Top Five Games

All Times Eastern

 

UCLA at Arizona State

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

We’re watching because... the Pac-12 South is becoming increasingly unpredictable thanks to the emergence of Arizona and Utah plus USC’s egg-laying at Boston College. UCLA’s had its share of close calls with and without quarterback Brett Hundley, who may be ready to return after he missed most of the Texas win a week ago. Arizona State isn’t so lucky with Taylor Kelly out with a foot injury. Arizona State will replace him with Mike Bercovici, who has been on campus long enough to back up Brock Osweiler.

Vegas says: UCLA by 6

 

Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (Arlington)

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

We’re watching because... we like surprises, and Arkansas and Texas A&M being relevant in the powerhouse SEC West counts. Picked to finish sixth and seventh in the West, the Aggies and Razorbacks are a combined 7-1. Arkansas will try to control the clock with the run game as it did against former A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech. The Aggies have yet to face a high-level, full-strength offense all season.

Vegas says: Texas A&M by 10

 

Stanford at Washington

When and where: Saturday, 4:15 p.m., FOX

We’re watching because... one of these teams has to start looking like a Pac-12 North contender, right? Stanford has been inept in the red zone, and Washington is letting bad teams hang around. Even after converting all three red zone chances for touchdowns against Army, Stanford’s red zone touchdown rate (six TDs in 14 red zone trips) is last in the Pac-12. And a week after Washington made easy work of Illinois, the Huskies let Georgia State jump to a two-touchdown halftime lead in a 45-14 win. Oregon is vulnerable, but neither of these teams looks ready to take advantage.

Vegas says: Stanford by 7

 

Missouri at South Carolina

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

We’re watching because... at this rate the game between two SEC East contenders may devolve into a comedy of errors. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said the way his team plays is “embarrassing” and took over kickoff coverage coaching duties after giving up two returns for touchdowns against Vanderbilt. His team won by two touchdowns. Wonder what Spurrier would say if his team lost at home to Indiana as Missouri just did.

Vegas says: South Carolina by 6

 

Tennessee at Georgia

When and where: Saturday, noon, ESPN

We’re watching because... Tennessee is an improved team. Improved enough to further spoil Georgia’s season, though, we’re not sure. Either way, Todd Gurley facing linebacker A.J. Johnson promises to be an interesting matchup. Gurley missed the matchup last season, a 34-31 Georgia win in Knoxville.

Vegas says: Georgia by 18

Teaser:
Previewing the Best 5 College Football Games of Week 5
Post date: Monday, September 22, 2014 - 17:33
Path: /college-football/which-conference-has-had-best-2014-so-far
Body:

Conference bragging rights didn’t start with the College Football Playoff or even the BCS.

 

That said, fighting for championship postseason games has only magnified the “my conference is better than your conference” debate.

 

In some ways the selection committee may make those determinations, certainly in leaving out on conference (four spots for the Power 5) and potentially rewarding one league with two spots in the Playoff.

 

In 2014, the SEC looks to be on top again while the ACC and especially the Big Ten are licking their wounds.

 

Now that non-conference play is for the most part finished — the exception being Notre Dame games vs. the ACC and the SEC-ACC rivalry games — this is a good time to see how all the leagues rank.

 

To clarify: The Power 5 includes the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, Notre Dame and BYU. The Non-Power 5 includes the American, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt, Army and Navy.

 

1. SEC

 

Vs. Power 5: 5-2

Vs. Non-Power 5: 13-1

 

Best wins:

Georgia 35, Clemson 21

Alabama 33, West Virginia 23

LSU 28, Wisconsin 24

South Carolina 33, East Carolina 23

Arkansas 49, Texas Tech 28

Auburn 20, Kansas State 14

 

Key losses:

Indiana 31, Missouri 27

Oklahoma 34, Tennessee 10

 

Notes:

The SEC set the tone for its season with Week 1 wins over Clemson, West Virginia and Wisconsin. As non-conference play started to wind down, Auburn delivered an important, if sloppy, win over Kansas State on the road. The only head-scratcher is Missouri’s home loss to Indiana. If anything, the non-conference season re-established that the power in the SEC lies in the West, which is 24-2 overall with the only two losses coming in the division. The SEC West alone is 3-0 against the Big 12.

 

Key remaining games:

South Carolina at Clemson, Nov. 29

Florida at Florida State, Nov. 29

Georgia Tech at Georgia, Nov. 29

 

2. Pac-12

 

Vs. Power 5: 6-2

Vs. Non-Power 5: 15-2

 

Best wins:

Oregon 46, Michigan State 27

UCLA 28, Virginia 20

UCLA 20, Texas 17

Utah 26, Michigan 10

 

Key losses:

Rutgers 41, Washington State 38

Colorado State 31, Colorado 17

Nevada 24, Washington State 13

Boston College 37, USC 31

 

Notes:

Pac-12 teams, most notably Washington and UCLA, have played in unexpectedly tight games against teams like Hawaii, Eastern Washington, Memphis and Virginia. For the most part, they’ve all be able to escape with a win — except for USC’s loss to Boston College. The wins may not look overwhelming, other than Oregon’s over Michigan State, but credit UCLA, Cal and Utah for winning games on the road or at least out of state. Against the non-Power 5, the Pac-12 has gone 10-2 against the Mountain West alone.

 

Key remaining games:

Stanford at Notre Dame, Oct. 4

Notre Dame at Arizona State, Nov. 8

Notre Dame at USC, Nov. 29

BYU at Cal, Nov. 29

 

3. Big 12

 

Vs. Power 5: 4-7

Vs. Non-Power 5: 8-0

 

Best wins:

Oklahoma 34, Tennessee 10

Iowa State 20, Iowa 17

West Virginia 40, Maryland 37

TCU 30, Minnesota 7

 

Key losses:

Florida State 37, Oklahoma State 31

Alabama 33, West Virginia 33

Arkansas 49, Texas Tech 28

UCLA 20, Texas 17

Auburn 20, Kansas State 14

 

Notes:

The Big 12 can thank the Big Ten for helping the league pad its record. The Big 12 went 3-0 against the Big Ten while going 1-7 against the ACC, Pac-12, SEC and BYU. At least Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Kansas State were competitive with national title title contenders Florida State, Alabama and Auburn. The league has had few slip ups, a perfect record spoiled by Iowa State’s loss to North Dakota State of the FCS.

 

Key remaining games:

None

 

4. ACC

 

Vs. Power 5: 4-6

Vs. Non-Power 5: 14-4

 

Best wins:

Florida State 37, Oklahoma State 31

Virginia Tech 35, Ohio State 21

Boston College 37, USC 31

 

Key losses:

Georgia 45, Clemson 21

East Carolina 28, Virginia Tech 21

East Carolina 70, North Carolina 41

Iowa 24, Pittsburgh 20

Nebraska 41, Miami 31

 

Notes:

The ACC hasn’t changed much about the perception that the league is one powerhouse and little else. No. 1 Florida State is the league’s only ranked team. Any strides made from Virginia Tech’s win in Columbus have been undone: Since then, ACC Coastal contenders Virginia Tech and North Carolina lost to East Carolina, and three ACC teams lost to Big Ten teams, two at home.

 

Key remaining games:

Notre Dame at Florida State, Oct. 18

South Carolina at Clemson, Nov. 29

Florida at Florida State, Nov. 29

Georgia Tech at Georgia, Nov. 29

 

5. Big Ten

 

Vs. Power 5: 5-11

Vs. Non-Power 5: 18-3

 

Best wins:

Rutgers 41, Washington State 38

Iowa 24, Pittsburgh 20

Nebraska 41, Miami 31

Indiana 21, Missouri 21

 

Key losses:

LSU 28, Wisconsin 24

Oregon 46, Michigan State 27

Virginia Tech 35, Ohio State 21

Iowa State 20, Iowa 17

Utah 26, Michigan 10

 

Notes:

The outlook improved dramatically in Week 4, as three Big Ten teams (Iowa, Maryland and Nebraska) defeated three teams from the ACC. Indiana also picked up an unlikely win at defending SEC East champion Missouri. Nebraska and Penn State may still be the Big Ten’s only viable Playoff teams, but the sky isn’t falling at the same rate it was a week ago when the Big Ten was 1-10 against Power 5 teams. Of the Big Ten’s three losses to non-Power 5 teams, all were against programs from the MAC.

 

Key remaining games:

None

 

6. American

 

Vs. Power 5: 3-13

Vs. Non-Power 5: 2-5

 

Best wins:

East Carolina 28, Virginia Tech 21

East Carolina 70, North Carolina 31

 

Notes:

East Carolina has the inside track for a New Year’s Six bowl, and it may stay that way unless Cincinnati makes a statement against Ohio State or Miami.

 

Key remaining games:

Cincinnati at Ohio State, Sept. 27

BYU at Houston, Oct. 9

Miami at Cincinnati, Oct. 11

 

7. Mountain West

 

Vs. Power 5: 3-16

Vs. Non-Power 5: 6-4

 

Best wins:

Colorado State 31, Colorado 17

Nevada 24, Washington State 13

Boise State 34, UL Lafayette 9

 

Notes:

This is not the Mountain West you remember. The three Power 5 wins are over Colorado, Washington State and Wake Forest

 

 

8. Conference USA

 

Vs. Power 5: 0-15

Vs. Non-Power 5: 12-2

 

Best wins:

UTSA 24, Houston 7

Western Kentucky 59, Bowling Green 31

Louisiana Tech 48, UL Lafayette 20

Marshall 44, Ohio 14

 

Notes:

Conference USA had better hope its perfect mark against the MAC and Sun Belt and 3-1 record against the American is enough to put its league champion (read: Marshall) into a New Year’s Six game. It sure isn’t C-USA’s goose egg against the Power 5 and pair of FCS losses (FIU to Bethune-Cookman and Louisiana Tech to Northwestern State).

 

9. MAC

 

Vs. Power 5: 3-16 

Vs. Non-Power 5: 3-8

 

Best wins:

Bowling Green 45, Indiana 42

Northern Illinois 23, Northwestern 15

Central Michigan 38, Purdue 17

 

Notes:

The MAC has more wins against the Big Ten (three) than it does against the American, Conference USA, Mountain West and Sun Belt combined (two, that third non-Power 5 win was over Army).

 

10. Sun Belt

 

Vs. Power 5: 1-7

Vs. Non-Power 5: 2-9

 

Key wins:

Arkansas State 21, Utah State 14

ULM 17, Wake Forest 10

 

Notes:

League favorite UL Lafayette’s losses to Louisiana Tech and Boise State put a damper on the conference, but Arkansas State has proven to by pesky once again. 

Teaser:
Which Conference Has Had the Best 2014 So Far?
Post date: Monday, September 22, 2014 - 13:54
Path: /college-football/nebraska-leans-ameer-abdullah-new-identity-win-over-miami
Body:

If this season is going to be different for Nebraska, how the Cornhuskers defeated Miami will be a good example why.

 

A Nebraska team the last few years that found it way to four losses or found itself combusting on the sideline on Saturday found itself settling into an identity and a 41-31 win.

 

At the same time, Miami gave Nebraska every excuse to lose its cool. Chippy play and personal foul penalties kept the game teetering on the very of a brawl.

 

“I thought it got a little out of control,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini told the media. “I thought it could have been managed better. At the end of the day, there's going to be some of that. Two teams playing hard going after each other. But it got a little out of control there for a while."

 

Instead, Nebraska was in full control of its faculties.

 

In a key sequence in the fourth quarter, Miami, trailing by 10, was intercepted in Nebraska territory, picked up two personal fouls at the end of the play. With Nebraska on offense, Miami was called for a face mask penalty on a vicious takedown of running back Ameer Abdullah by the neck.

 

Abdullah finished the drive with 24 yards to set up the field goal to put it away.

 

Perhaps the only strange part of the game-sealing drives in the fourth quarter for Nebraska was their brevity.

 

The Cornhuskers looked like an old Nebraska team on the ground, at least as far as production.

 

By feeding Abdullah, Nebraska put together consecutive scoring drives of 14 plays for a touchdown, 11 plays for a field goal and another 11 for a touchdown.

 

Along the way Nebraska racked up 343 rushing yards, including 229 from the Heisman contender Abdullah.

 

The methodical and cool-headed approach means Nebraska will do something it hasn’t the last two seasons: Enter Big Ten play without a loss. 

 

The last two seasons, Nebraska lost in September for UCLA, helping to set the tone for rocky years that both ended with four losses.

 

This season is starting to look like it might be different.

 

“I thought our guys handled themselves well in those times,” Pelini said. “There were a couple times where we had a chance. We didn't retaliate. We were basically pulling guys off. There was a chance it could have gotten out of control.”

Teaser:
Nebraska Leans on Ameer Abdullah, New Identity in Win over Miami
Post date: Sunday, September 21, 2014 - 16:15
Path: /college-football/hope-shorty-supply-michigan-coach-brady-hoke
Body:

The sample size is limited, but home losses to Utah is not a good omen for Michigan coaches.

 

The only other coach to lose to the Utes at the Big House was Rich Rodriguez in his debut. He was fired three years later.

 

Brady Hoke added is name to that list with a 26-10 loss to Utah, but he’ll have far less leeway to atone for this loss than Rodriguez did in 2008.

 

The question now is what Michigan and Hoke will have to do undo the damage of the last three weeks, which included a 31-0 loss to Notre Dame. 

 

On Saturday, the fans in Ann Arbor booed until they gave up and left before and after a lengthy weather delay. 

 

Through four games, Michigan has shown little that could make the boos stop.

 

In the postgame news conference, Hoke referenced Michigan’s 1998 team. He was an assistant that year when the Wolverines opened the season with losses to Notre Dame and Syracuse but won a share of the Big Ten title (despite a 31-16 loss to Ohio State).

 

Hope, though, would seem to be thin for the Michigan team that’s shown up this season.

 

The offense has regressed under new coordinator Doug Nussmeier, failing to even reach the red zone against Notre Dame and Utah. Michigan outgained Utah 308 yards to 286, spoiling a defensive effort that included an interception returned for a touchdown for Michigan’s only trip to the end zone against a Power 5 team.

 

The Wolverines are last in the nation in turnover margin at minus-10, and a quarterback change made things worse. Devin Gardner threw two interceptions for six this season. Shane Morris, a four-star quarterback in 2013, threw an interception, lost a fumble and finished 4-of-13 passing.

 

Hoke was cagey about what that change means for Michigan’s future, starting next week.

 

“We will have a starting quarterback against Minnesota,” Hoke said.

 

While factual, that’s not an encouraging statement for a coach who may be fighting for his job during the final months of the season.

 

The fourth-year coach is 4-8 since a 5-0 start in 2013. Keep in mind, that undefeated start last year included close calls with Akron and Connecticut.

 

That kind of sustained struggles is enough for a chorus of boos, which Hoke says he hopes aren’t for his players.

 

“If they’re all for me, good,” Hoke said. “I don’t have a problem with that at all.”

 

Good news: They probably are.

 

Teaser:
Hope is in Short Supply for Michigan Coach Brady Hoke
Post date: Sunday, September 21, 2014 - 15:45
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Iowa Hawkeyes, Big Ten, News
Path: /college-football/will-iowa-ride-hot-hand-cj-beathard-quarterback
Body:

For a coach who got a sorely needed spark on offense, Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz doesn’t seem excited.

 

After a 24-20 win over Pittsburgh, Ferentz will head back to Iowa where fans likely will expect him to make a permanent quarterback change after C.J. Beathard led three scoring drives in the comeback win.

 

Ferentz, it seems, is greeting such expectations with an eye roll.

 

Iowa showed a more aggressive offensive approach in the first half against Pitt, but starter Jake Rudock was able to capitalize on the scoreboard just once. An injury at the end of the first half gave Beathard to lead the best version of the Iowa offense so far this season.

 

Rudock, who sustained an injury to what was termed the hip area, may be able to practice, putting Iowa in position for a rare in-season quarterback competition.

 

The last time Iowa made a quarterback change midseason was in 2008 when Ricky Stanzi beat out Jake Christensen.

 

Given the way Iowa moved the ball under Beathard in a game that re-energized Iowa’s season, the sophomore from Franklin, Tenn., will be the people’s favorite after he was able to take advantage of a more aggressive approach by coordinator Greg Davis.

 

Under Rudock, Iowa took shots down the field but converted on just one long pass play. And on fourth-and-2 from the Pittsburgh 13, the Hawkeyes shed their trademark conservatism and went for the first down. They got a touchdown.

 

But the offense truly flourished in the second half under Beathard. A 62-yard one-handed over-the-shoulder catch by Damond Powell for the rare explosive passing play for the Hawkeyes this season.

 

Iowa entered the game with two plays from scrimmage for 40 or more yards. The Hawkeyes doubled it in this game with the Powell catch and a Rudock pass for 44 yards in the first quarter.

 

That one long play, though, wasn’t enough. Rudock finished 5-of-10 for 80 yards with an interception. Beathard came in to finish 7-of-8 for 98 yards, not overwhelming numbers, but plenty efficient for the win.

 

The question is if it’s enough for Ferentz to continue with the hot hand.

 

First Half (Jake Rudock)Second Half (C.J. Beathard)
PlaysYardsResultYards/PlayPlaysYardsResultYards/Play
512Interception2.4794Touchdown13.4
520Punt4.0839Field Goal4.9
775Touchdown10.71352Touchdown4.0
521Punt4.2418Punt4.5
22128(Totals)5.832203(Totals)6.3

 

Teaser:
Will Iowa Ride the Hot Hand with C.J. Beathard at Quarterback?
Post date: Sunday, September 21, 2014 - 15:15
Path: /college-football/week-4-heisman-movers-marcus-mariota-dak-prescott-amari-cooper-rise
Body:

Showing up in a highlight package is usually a good thing for Heisman contenders. Not necessarily when that contender is out of pads on the sideline for poor decision-making.

 

That’s where Jameis Winston found himself as backup Sean Maguire led Florida State to a come-from-behind 23-17 win in overtime over Clemson. Winston found his way to the highlight package as an onlooker, reinforcing his difficulty in becoming the second two-time Heisman winner.

 

Other contenders found ways to fill the void as we take a weekly look at who is moving up and down in the Heisman race.

 

TrendPlayerSchoolBuzz
Marcus Mariota

Mariota wins the winning-under-duress award this week. With an offensive line beset by injuries, Mariota completed 21-of-25 passes for 329 yards with five touchdowns in a 38-31 win at Washington State. Mariota managed to finish with 58 rushing yards on 13 carries despite seven sacks.

Amari Cooper

Even for a receiver who hadn’t caught fewer than eight passes in a game this season, Cooper put on a show against Florida. Cooper caught 10 passes for a career-high 201 yards with three touchdowns against the Gators. If a receiver is going to make a bid for the Heisman, Cooper may be it. He’s on pace for 2,620 yards during the regular season. 

Dak Prescott

A big-time quarterback at Mississippi State? Believe it. Prescott led the best offense against a Les Miles-coached LSU team with 570 yards. Prescott himself finished with 268 passing yards and 105 rushing with three total touchdowns.

Ameer Abdullah

Miami’s defense tried to rattle Nebraska with physical play — some of it drawing personal foul flags — but Abdullah kept his composure. The senior rushed for 229 yards with three total touchdowns agains the Hurricanes, giving him seven TDs in two games.

Jameis Winston

Winston already had history against him as only one Heisman winner has returned to win the award again. As his suspension doubled from a half to a full game in perhaps the most important division game of the season, Winston probably won’t be a viable candidate no matter what happens the rest of the way.

James Conner

Pittsburgh lost 24-20 to Iowa, but Conner was the story early with 100 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries in the first half. With 544 yards in four games, Conner is on pace to eclipse Heisman winner Tony Dorsett’s school record (2,150 in 1976) in 12 games.

Maty Mauk

Mauk didn’t have an awful game with 28-of-47 passing for 326 yards and two touchdowns, but home losses to Indiana don’t yield many Heisman candidacies. Mauk has four total interceptions against Toledo, UCF and Indiana.

Melvin Gordon

Gordon’s hip is doing just fine, thank you. Gordon rushed for 253 yards and five touchdowns on 13 carries in a 68-17 rout of Bowling Green. Keep in mind, all of his yardage and TD came after he fumbled on his first carry, the only time he’s coughed up the ball in 334 career attempts.

Shane Carden

Can an East Carolina player win the Heisman, probably not? And even a QB as good as UCF’s Blake Bortles wasn’t a Heisman finalist. Still, Carden is a mighty fine ACC quarterback without playing in the ACC. After a 70-point effort against North Carolina, Carden is 53-of-85 for 856 yards with seven touchdowns and an interception in wins over UNC and Virginia Tech.

 

Teaser:
Week 4 Heisman Movers: Marcus Mariota, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper on the Rise
Post date: Sunday, September 21, 2014 - 11:50
Path: /college-football/mississippi-states-dak-prescott-athlon-sports-player-week
Body:

The possibility of Dak Prescott was interesting enough: A dynamic run-pass threat who could become the top quarterback in Mississippi State’s limited history at the position.

 

On Saturday, he made that — and more — a reality.

 

Prescott redefined Mississippi State’s recent history with a 34-29 win over LSU, ending a 15-game losing streak to ranked teams and 11-game losing streak in Baton Rouge.

 

Prescott completed 15-of-24 passes for 268 yards with two touchdowns against LSU to earn Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors. The Louisiana native also rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.

 

Behind Prescott, Mississippi State put up 570 yards on LSU, the most of the Les Miles era for the Tigers.

 

National Defensive Player of the Week: Gionni Paul, Utah

Patience paid off in a few of ways for Utah linebacker Gionni Paul. First, Paul sat out all of 2013 after his transfer after two seasons for Miami. Then, he missed Utah’s first two games with a broken foot sustained in spring. By the end of the day Saturday, he needed a lengthy rain delay to make his return official. Paul finished with 14 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery in a 26-10 win over Michigan.

 

National Freshman and Big 12 Player of the Week: Samaje Perine, Oklahoma

Before Saturday, Oklahoma’s running back position the subject of questions. Not anymore. Five-star freshman Joe Mixon is suspended for the entire season.  Keith Ford is out with a hairline fracture in his right fibula. With Oklahoma low on numbers, Perine only put up one of the best rushing performances for Oklahoma in several years.

 

Perine rushed for 242 yards and four touchdowns on 34 carries in a 45-33 win over West Virginia. Perine had the first 200-yard rushing game for the Sooners since DeMarco Murray in 2010 and the fourth-best rushing total for a freshman in OU history. Perine was a fringe top-250 prospect and the No. 30 recruit in Texas out of Pflugerville Hendrickson in the class of 2014.

 

National Coordinator of the Week: Lane Kiffin, Alabama

Kiffin’s impact on the Alabama offense came to full fruition in the second half of a 42-21 win over Florida. Despite early turnover woes, Alabama finished with 645 total yards against one of the SEC’s best defenses. Quarterback Blake Sims had the second-best passing day in school history with 445 yards, and for the first time in school history, Alabama had a 400-yard passer, 200-yard receiver (Amari Cooper) and 100-yard rusher (Derrick Henry). Alabama has eclipsed 500 total yards in every game of Kiffin’s tenure.

 

Conference Players of the Week

ACC: Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas completed 7-of-18 passes for 125 yards with a touchdown in a 27-24 win over Virginia Tech. Thomas also rushed for 165 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.

 

Big Ten: Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah rushed for 229 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries and caught a touchdown pass in a 41-31 win over Miami.

 

Pac-12: Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon was 47-of-73 for 520 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions in a 49-45 win over Cal. Solomon completed a 47-yard Hail Mary to cap a 36-point fourth quarter to beat the Bears.

 

American: East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden was 30-of-48 for 438 yards with four touchdowns and an interception in a 70-31 win over North Carolina.

 

Conference USA: Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke completed 27-of-43 passes for 430 yards with five touchdowns in a 45-42 win over defending C-USA champion Rice.

 

MAC: Toledo running back Kareem Hunt rushed for 142 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries in a 34-23 win over Ball State.

 

Mountain West: Boise State running back Jay Ajayi rushed for 150 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries in a 34-9 win over UL Lafayette.

 

Sun Belt: Georgia Southern running back Matt Breida rushed for 187 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries in a 28-6 win over South Alabama.

 

Independents: BYU quarterback Taysom Hill completed 13-of-23 passes for 187 yards with two touchdowns in a 41-33 win over Virginia. He also rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.

Teaser:
Mississippi State's Dak Prescott is Athlon Sports' Player of the Week
Post date: Sunday, September 21, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/east-carolina-states-early-case-new-years-six-bowl
Body:

The College Football Playoff era has plenty of uncertainties, but here is one thing we can say for sure: East Carolina has the inside track on claiming a major bowl game.

 

The BCS busters are a thing of the past, which is just fine for East Carolina.

 

In the past, a team outside of the power conference would have to go undefeated to find its way to a major bowl game. Not anymore.

 

The Pirates just have to be the best-looking team outside of the Power 5, and East Carolina is putting on a convincing show.

 

The Pirates of the American Athletic Conference demolished North Carolina 70-41 for their second consecutive win over an ACC team. East Carolina defeated Virginia Tech 28-21 a week ago and suffered its only loss by 10 at South Carolina on Sept. 6.

 

The Playoff selection committee’s top-ranked team from the Group of 5 is guaranteed a berth in the Orange, Cotton, Peach or Fiesta Bowl.

 

East Carolina is the only team from the so-called Group of 5 (the American, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt) with a pair of wins over teams from power conferences.

 

These weren’t gimmes, either. Other teams in contention for the New Year's Six bowl slot will have trouble matching East Carolina's pair of wins against ACC Coastal contenders, one of which is two weeks removed from a win at Ohio State.

 

Against North Carolina, East Carolina put on offensive showcase. Former Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeil has brought the Air Raid to his alma mater with help from 31-year-old offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, another Lubbock import.

 

The offense was at its best Saturday as veteran Shane Carden completed 30-of-48 passes for 438 yards for four touchdowns and an interception against the Tar Heels. Only one scoring drive — a fourth-quarter TD drive in 4:14 — exceeded three minutes.

 

Mind you, East Carolina’s quick strike offense was missing leading receiver Cam Worthy, who was suspended for two games for violating the school’s code of student conduct.

 

This comes a week after East Carolina had a rare 400-yard passing game against Virginia Tech as Carden went 23-of-47 for 427 yards with three touchdowns against the Hokies.

 

Numbers like that may make a decision easy on the committee determining the New Year’s Six games. Not only does East Carolina have the best case for one of those big-time bowls, the Pirates don’t have many true rivals for the spot.

 

BYU is ranked and outside of the Power 5 structure, but independence means the Cougars have no such guarantees in the postseason outside of the Miami Beach Bowl.

At the end of the day Saturday, only Marshall and Cincinnati likely will be the only undefeated teams in the Group of 5. East Carolina will face Cincinnati on Nov. 13. Marshall could flirt with an undefeated season given a weaker schedule and no games against the Power 5. It’s also worth noting Conference USA is 11-1 against the American, MAC, Mountain West and Sun Belt.

 

Perhaps East Carolina will be tripped up in a conference schedule that includes Cincinnati and UCF (but not Houston). A year ago, East Carolina lost in an upset to Tulane and then to Marshall to lose a spot in the C-USA title game.

 

For now, though, East Carolina is poised for its best season in school history.

 

Group of 5 wins over Power 5

AMERICAN

East Carolina 28, Virginia Tech 21

East Carolina 70, North Carolina 41

Temple 37, Vanderbilt 7

CONFERENCE USA

None

MAC

Bowling Green 45, Indiana 42

Northern Illinois 23, Northwestern 15

Central Michigan 38, Purdue 17

MOUNTAIN WEST

Utah State 36, Wake Forest 34

Colorado State 31, Colorado 17

Nevada 24, Washington State 13

SUN BELT

ULM 17, Wake Forest 10

 

Teaser:
East Carolina States Early Case For New Year's Six Bowl
Post date: Saturday, September 20, 2014 - 20:59
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Pittsburgh Panthers, News
Path: /college-football/pittsburghs-james-conner-continues-run-history
Body:

Cracking any list of prolific Pittsburgh running backs deserves note, and James Conner is on his way to putting his name with a few greats.

 

Pittsburgh's sophomore back continued a hot start to surpass Heisman winner Tony Dorsett’s start in 1973 and Craig “Ironhead” Heyward for the best starts for a tailback in Pitt history. Conner rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries in the first half against Iowa.

 

His 643 rushing yards through four games is the hottest start in four games in Pittsburgh history. Entering Saturday, Conner already shattered the school record for the best three-game start in school history, outpacing Tony Dorsett’s 487 yards through three games as a freshman in 1973.

 

Through 3.5 games, Conner is averaging 183 rushing yards per game. Stretch that over 13 games (12 games, plus a bowl) and Conner would outpace Dorsett’s 2,150 yards from his Heisman-winning season in 1976.

 

Conner’s start to 2014 goes back to his career-best performance against Bowling Green in the bowl game last season. 

 

James Conner: Last Five Games
DateOpponentCarriesYardsTD
Dec. 26Bowling Green262291
Aug. 30Delaware141534
Sept. 5Boston College352131
Sept. 13FIU311773
Sept. 20Iowa*171001

*through first half

Teaser:
Pittsburgh's James Conner Continues Run For History
Post date: Saturday, September 20, 2014 - 14:26
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/big-answers-auburn-nick-marshall-will-have-wait
Body:

Resounding answers about Auburn’s ability to defend its SEC title will have to wait.

 

Perhaps that’s a strange statement given a 20-14 win on the road against a ranked Kansas State team, but the Tigers didn’t need to show a mastery of the passing game or overwhelming defense for this win.

 

Auburn did to Kansas State what it proved it could do a year ago — Gus Malzhan’s team won’t squander opportunities. And Kansas State gave Auburn plenty of time to atone for early third-down issues, a slow start in the passing game and an uncharacteristically quiet day on the ground.

 

Kansas State’s three missed field goals and three turnovers sealed Auburn’s win as much as Nick Marshall’s arm.

 

"We should have won that," Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters told the media. "There is no excuse. It almost hurts worse. It is frustrating because you work so hard to get in those situations and to play a great team like that."

 

The Wildcats followed a plan most SEC teams are sure to follow this season — shut down the run game and make Nick Marshall prove he’s improved as a passer. A year ago, Auburn backed off the passing attack and allowed Marshall’s legs and Tre Mason to carry the way.

 

Kansas State held Auburn to 128 rushing yards on 45 carries. Auburn accounted for more yards through the air (231) than on the ground for only the second time under Malzahn and the first time since a loss to Mississippi State on Sept. 14, 2013.

 

The Auburn passing game was far from consistent as drops from D’haquille Williams and Sammie Coates and tipped passes at the line prevented Auburn from extending drives and cost one probable touchdown. Marshall and his receivers eventually settled in, converting 10 of their final 13 third down attempts and delivering on a 39-yard pass on third-and-9 to seal the game.

 

"Nick is always level headed, and he keeps his spirits up no matter what," Auburn running back Cameron Artis-Payne told the media after the game. "Whether he completes three passes in a row or whether he gets ten drops in a row, he is our leader so we look to him."

 

And the Auburn defense? Holding Kansas State to 285 yards and 4.1 yards per play should be noted. Kansas State managed only 40 rushing yards.

 

At the same time, Kansas State managed fair amount of self-sabotage with missed field goals of 34, 42 and 22 yards and an interception from the 1-yard line. On its first six trips inside Auburn’s 40-yard line, Kansas State scored 7 points. An extra 13 points, certainly would make those yardage figures seem awfully hollow.

 

In other words, not a very Bill Snyder-like performance in terms of turnovers and efficiency.

 

For that, Auburn has to be thankful. The Tigers leave Manhattan with all playoff dreams intact even if the team remains a work in progress.

Teaser:
Big Answers for Auburn, Nick Marshall Will Have to Wait
Post date: Friday, September 19, 2014 - 08:30
Path: /free-hugs-angry-tweets-and-kicker-swag-week-kicking
Body:

In just another example of the madness of a college football season, much of the most dramatic swings come down to players who weren’t recruited and may or may not be on scholarship.

 

As we learned this week, the coach might not even speak to such a pivotal piece of the puzzle.

 

The last week proved again how college kickers can surprise and infuriate — and also why they go through a different experience than the rest of college football players.

 

“No one really knows what a specialist goes through unless you’re another specialist at this level,” said Kentucky’s Austin MacGinnis, whose 51-yard attempt in the fourth quarter tied a game with Florida. “It’s such a different sport within itself.”

 

Let’s give that a try in a look back at what life’s like for a college kicker.

 

***

 

Adam Butler’s teammates saw the moment happen in real time. His coach, Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason, didn’t see it until he started breaking down film. His aunt saw it on TV.

 

Millions of others saw the moment on TV or on social media.

 

Pretty much everyone Adam Butler knows had one question after Vanderbilt escaped with a 34-31 win over UMass on Saturday:

 

Why did the Vanderbilt defensive lineman hug that kicker?

“I didn’t realize that we had two seconds left,” Butler told Athlon Sports. “I thought the game was over. I thought he was the first person I’d say ‘Good game’ to. I said good game and get us next time.”

 

It was also a sweet moment. The UMass kicker, Blake Lucas, had just missed a 22-yard chip shot that would have tied the game with two seconds to go. UMass had led the game by 11 in the second half and had a real chance to put together a signature win for the program.

 

Understandably, Lucas didn’t take the gesture the same way.

 

“He said ‘get off me,’” Butler told Athlon Sports. “That’s normal, though. He might have taken it as me being a jerk.

 

“It was our first win. I was excited. I didn’t know what I was doing in the moment. I felt for the guy.”

 

***

 

For the second time in two seasons, South Carolina kicker Elliott Fry was on the other side of an opponents’ missed kick that led to vitriol on Twitter.

 

A year ago, South Carolina defeated Missouri 27-24 in double overtime. The Tigers still won the SEC East but the loss at the time seemed to be a major blow.

 

And who was to blame? According to some Missouri fans, Andrew Baggett, who missed a 46-yarder in the fourth quarter and a 22-yarder in overtime. Some Missouri fans filled Baggett’s mentions with angry, profane tweets.

 

Proving that no one is immune from such reaction, Georgia’s Marshall Morgan took the brunt of frothing fans on social media. Never mind that Morgan set an SEC record with 20 consecutive made field goals thanks to two makes in the first half against South Carolina.

 

A missed 28-yarder that would have tied the game in the fourth, though, was enough to make a vocal segment of fans forget the 20 consecutive field goals.

 

Georgia lost 38-35, and Morgan’s Twitter mentions were filled with taunts of “You had one job” and blame for the Bulldogs’ defeat.

 

By now, most of Morgan’s mentions are those of support, starting with the kicker on the other sideline.

 

 

Fry doesn’t know Morgan that well personally, but they’ve attended the same kicking camps and are part of an unofficial fraternity of specialists.

 

“Those situations, they can be tough,” Fry told Athlon Sports. “After that happens, a late field missed in a game, I’ve seen the tweets people say terrible things, talking about killing the guy.”

 

As Morgan may learn, fans can be fickle with kickers. Fry, for example, missed early field goals in games against Missouri and Florida only for South Carolina to win the game later in part due to Fry’s field goals.

 

“You look at your phone after and you can see how quickly fans change on you. You open twitter and it’s fun . You see ‘Fry sucks’ and other worse things. You see it go from complete hatred to praise.”

 

***

 

Then again, maybe it’s just nice to be acknowledged.

 

West Virginia picked up a key win with a 40-37 win over Maryland. And what did Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen say to Josh Lambert before his game-winning 47-yard kick on the road?

 

Nothing. Not then, not ever, apparently.

 

“I haven’t talked to Josh Lambert since he got on campus, and we’re going to keep in that way,” Holgorsen told the media after the game.

 

“He’s a guy we have complete confidence in when it comes to make that shot. I know his name and who he is, but other than that, I’d doing the hands-off approach.”

 

Lambert is a redshirt sophomore and has been West Virginia’s primary kicker for two years.

 

***

 

Kentucky fans might not have too much trouble remembering the name Austin MacGinnis after last week.

 

MacGinnis got both the highs and lows of the kicking experience in only his third game at Kentucky.

 

A redshirt freshman, MacGinnis kicked a 51-yard field goal with 3:26 remaining to tie the Gators at 20. Kentucky hasn't defeated Florida since 1986 and not at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium since 1979.

 

In other words, quite the pressure situation for a kid whose last field goal came two years ago in high school in Wedowee, Ala.

 

“It was loud there for sure, but you try to block it out as a soothing noise rather than a bad noise,” MacGinnis said.

 

MacGinnis missed a 41-yard attempt in the third OT, but even a make may not have stopped the Gators — they scored a touchdown on their possession to win 36-30.

 

MacGinnis said he didn’t any grief on Twitter for his overtime miss — not that it would have mattered given the final score — but he did see Fry backing up Morgan on Twitter from earlier in the evening.

 

The SEC kicking fraternity has one more member, and another one with a sense of humor at that.

 

MacGinnis’ bio for Kentucky says he picked No. 99 because — and this is not a lie — “it is the definition of kicker swag.”

 

“I don’t know really why I put that down, but everyone thinks of a kicker as the last number you can have, like the last guy on the team,” MacGinnis said. “Kickers always look like the little kid that doesn’t belong, so the number kind of matches.”

 

***

 

When a kick goes wrong, a fellow kicker may be the only ones with a sense of empathy — even moreso than defensive linemen offering free hugs after a shanked kick.

 

When UMass’ Lucas missed his 22-yarder, former Vanderbilt kicker Carey Spear watched from the sideline and winced.

 

He wanted his former team to win, for sure, but not like this. Not at the expense of another kicker.

 

The missed field goal was salt in the wound for Spear, who missed a 27-yard attempt in 2011 that would have tied a game against a top-10 Arkansas team. Spear didn’t attempt another field goal the rest of the season.

 

Spear returned for the next two seasons to go 35-of-43 on field goals the rest of his career.

 

“I definitely felt more for him,” Spear said. “I think it will make him a better kicker if he learns how to handle it. It’s a defining moment in some guys’ careers.”

Teaser:
Free hugs, angry tweets and that kicker swag: A week in kicking
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 16:20
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2014-week-4-preview-and-predictions
Body:

Turn back the clock to the the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s. In fact, Nebraska and Miami might prefer that you do.

 

Nebraska and Miami will play the rare in-season matchup, but the two teams played in five bowl games that helped define the era. The Cornhuskers and Hurricanes met in six bowl games from 1983-2001 with four of those meetings resulting in a national championship.

 

The Cornhuskers, despite the Big Ten’s struggles, still have all of their goals in play this season, but not if they can’t defeat Miami.

 

As non-conference play starts to wind down, here’s a look at the week ahead in the Big Ten.

Week 4 Previews and Predictions
ACC | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC

 

Big Ten Week 4 Game Power Rankings

All games Saturday, all times Eastern.

 

1. Miami at Nebraska

8 p.m., ESPN2

Hard to believe, but these two storied programs haven’t met since Miami’s 37-14 rout of an Eric Crouch-led Nebraska team for the 2001 national title. Moreover, this pair of teams that met in four classic Orange Bowl matchups hasn’t played during the regular season since 1976. This meeting will lack the luster of any of those bowl games, with Miami already 0-1 in the ACC and Nebraska carrying the flag for an otherwise embarrassed Big Ten. The Cornhuskers have defeated FBS opponents 110-26 this season with a 31-24 escape against McNeese State of the FCS the only real cause for concern for Nebraska’s outlook.

 

Nebraska’s defense is at full strength with the return of end Randy Gregory this week, who leads a rejuvenated Huskers pass rush (four sacks vs. Fresno State last week). Still, all eyes should be on running back Ameer Abdullah. This may be his opportunity to vault into the Heisman race. He has the numbers (second in the Big Ten in all-purpose and rushing yards, both to Indiana’s Tevin Coleman), he has the highlight against McNeese State and he has the creative award campaign. All he needs is a big game against a major opponent on a national stage.

 

Listen to the Week 4 preview podcast:



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

2. Utah at Michigan

3:30, ABC/ESPN2

Michigan’s tour of past embarrassing losses continues. After dispatching of Appalachian State 52-14 in a rematch of the 2007 loss, Michigan faces Utah. The Utes handed the Wolverines a 25-23 loss in Ann Arbor in the debut for Rich Rodriguez in 2008. Michigan, however, has more recent losses for which to atone — the 31-0 defeat to Notre Dame two weeks ago, for example. Michigan’s 34-10 win over Miami (Ohio) was a nice rebound from the Notre Dame loss, especially with the return of cornerback Jabrill Peppers and tight end Jake Butt. But Michigan is still a team with clear flaws. The Wolverines have recorded one takeaway and four sacks on defense and remains capable of turnovers in bunches on offense.

 

3. Iowa at Pittsburgh

Noon, ESPNU

Northern Iowa and Ball State couldn’t make Iowa pay for playing a subpar game.  Iowa State finally did. Now, the Hawkeyes play their toughest opponent of the season in Pittsburgh. If there’s any consolation in this matchup, Iowa has yet to allow 100 yards rushing in a game this season. Iowa is one of eight teams not to allow a rushing touchdown this season and ranks eighth at 2.26 yards allowed per carry. The run game — specifically national rushing leader James Conner — is the cornerstone of the Pittsburgh offense. Iowa’s offense has no such identity after averaging a season-low 4.04 yards per play against Iowa State.

 

4. Maryland at Syracuse

12:30, ACC Network

Maryland continues its start to the Big Ten era with its third consecutive game against the old Big East (USF, West Virginia at Syracuse). The Terrapins will need to recover from allowing more yards against West Virginia (694) than they did in its first two games combined (559). Syracuse doesn’t run the Air Raid like WVU, but quarterback Terrel Hunt will be tough to contain. Meanwhile, Maryland’s offense continues its identity crisis. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs finally had his breakout game of the season in the shootout against West Virginia, but the tailbacks were virtually non-existent. Quarterback C.J. Brown ran the ball 18 times on a variety of scrambles, designed runs and read options. No one else on the Maryland offense had more than four carries.

 

5. Indiana at Missouri

4 p.m., SEC Network

A game with two high-powered spread offenses from the Big 12 school of thinking always has shootout potential. Perhaps Indiana will have the key player to neutralize Missouri’s once-again formidable pass rush led by ends Markus Golden and Shane Ray. Indiana running back Tevin Coleman has rushed for a touchdown in 11 consecutive games he’s played for 17 total. Coleman leads the nation with 437 rushing yards this year.

 

6. Bowling Green at Wisconsin

Noon, ESPN2

Wisconsin will find out if its off week came at a good time, especially Melvin Gordon. The bread-and-butter of the Wisconsin offense has been hobbled with a hip injury since the second half of the opener against LSU, contributing to 38 rushing yards on 17 carries against Western Illinois two weeks ago. Wisconsin’s defense also will be tested against a team that ran 113 plays in a 45-42 win over Indiana despite being down to a second-string quarterback.

 

7. Rutgers at Navy

3:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network

A road trip against Navy doesn’t set up well for a team that just suffered a 13-10 home loss to Penn State. Navy’s option already has proved plenty effective against one Big Ten team (370 yards, two touchdowns against Ohio State). Rutgers’ athletic defensive line will be on the spot.

 

8. UMass at Penn State

4 p.m., Big Ten Network

UMass may be the weakest opponent Penn State has faced so far, but even the 0-3 Minutemen might not be a pushover. UMass took both Colorado and Vanderbilt to the wire in losses by a combined a field goal each. Perhaps overlooked in Penn State’s season — which has included the debut of James Franklin, the lifting of NCAA sanctions and heroics from Christian Hackenberg and Sam Ficken — has been the play of the front seven. Penn State has picked up seven tackles for a loss in each game this season, led by defensive tackle Anthony Zettel’s seven.

 

9. San Jose State at Minnesota

4 p.m., Big Ten Network

Injuries are already starting to cut into the Minnesota offense with quarterback Mitch Leidner playing through turf toe. Left tackle Zac Epping and running back David Cobb are also battling ankle injuries. All of it — plus Minnesota’s limitations in the passing game — caught up with the Gophers in a 30-7 loss at TCU last week. Minnesota should be able to run the ball on a San Jose State team that has allowed 5.8 yards per carry and seven touchdowns in two games. What that means for Big Ten play is up for discussion.

 

10. Texas State at Illinois

4 p.m., ESPNews

Illinois got a wake-up call when it lost 44-19 to Washington, a score that’s not too surprising. Illinois will need to bounce back against Texas State, a program three years removed from FCS status, if the Illini are to have any shot at a bowl game.

 

11. Eastern Michigan at Michigan State

Noon, Big Ten Network

Michigan State is 21-3 all-time against the directional Michigans, with all three losses coming to Central Michigan. No reason for that trend to change.

 

12. Western Illinois at Northwestern

Noon, ESPNews

This would be a good time for Northwestern to end its 1-9 skid. Northwestern’s next seven games are: at Penn State, Wisconsin, at Minnesota, Nebraska, at Iowa, Michigan and at Notre Dame.

 

13. Southern Illinois at Purdue

Noon, Big Ten Network

Purdue played well in a 30-14 loss to Notre Dame, leading the game until the final 13 seconds of the first half. The Boilermakers can’t let that encouraging moment slip away against an FCS opponent.

 

Week 4 Big Ten Staff Picks

 David FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light

Iowa at Pitt (-7)

Pitt 27-10Pitt 27-20Pitt 27-20Pitt 27-17

Eastern Mich. at Michigan State (-45)

MSU 52-7MSU 45-0MSU 48-3MSU 41-0

Western Ill. at Northwestern

NW 35-21NW 30-13NW 40-10NW 33-10

Southern Ill. at Purdue

Pur 28-10Pur 34-17Pur 34-20Pur 27-7

Bowling Green at Wisconsin (-27)

Wisc 42-24Wisc 42-24Wisc 41-20Wisc 44-20

Maryland at Syracuse (-1)

Cuse 27-24Cuse 34-30Md 27-24Md 24-20

Utah at Michigan (-5)

Utah 27-21Mich 28-27Mich 27-24Utah 30-27

Rutgers at Navy (-6)

Navy 31-28Navy 34-30Navy 31-27Navy 27-20

UMass at Penn State (-27)

PSU 31-13PSU 34-13PSU 38-10PSU 34-14

San Jose St. at Minnesota (-9)

Minn 35-17Minn 35-27Minn 31-20Minn 28-14

Texas State at Illinois (-14)

Illinois 38-14Illinois 38-30Illinois 38-20Illinois 34-10

Indiana at Missouri (-14)

Mizzou 48-28Mizzou 42-17Mizzou 35-24Mizzou 40-17

Miami at Nebraska (-8)

Neb 38-14Neb 41-31Neb 31-24Neb 27-21
Last Week8-27-38-26-4
This Season29-828-929-825-12

 

Teaser:
Big Ten 2014 Week 4 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-ranking-big-12-coaches-2014-15
Body:

For the third year in a row, some of the top Big 12 coaches represent the best the University of Illinois has to offer.

 

It’s true: All three Illinois coaches from 1996-2012 have a home in the Big 12. In the combined 16 seasons from the three former Illini, only one didn’t end in the NCAA Tournament.

 

Of course, none has been more successful than Bill Self, who has won or shared a conference title every year since taking over at Kansas, but let’s not overlook the jobs Lon Kruger and Bruce Weber have done at Oklahoma and Kansas State, respectively.

 

Self gets the No. 1 spot in our Big 12 coach rankings, but Kruger isn’t far behind. Only Fred Hoiberg, who has turned around his alma mater in the last three seasons, stands in between Self and Kruger.

 

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. Bill Self, Kansas

Record at Kansas: 325-69 (.825)

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

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

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

 

2. Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State

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

NCAA Tournament: 4-3

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

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

 

3. Lon Kruger, Oklahoma

Record at Oklahoma: 58-38 (.604)

NCAA Tournament: 14-15, one Final Four

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

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

 

4. Rick Barnes, Texas

Record at Texas: 382-166 (.697)

NCAA Tournament: 21-21, one Final Four

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

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

 

5. Bob Huggins, West Virginia

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

NCAA Tournament: 27-20, one Final Four

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

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

 

6. Scott Drew, Baylor

Record at Baylor: 206-150 (.579)

NCAA Tournament: 8-4

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

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

 

7. Tubby Smith, Texas Tech

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

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

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

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

 

8. Bruce Weber, Kansas State

Record at Kansas State: 47-21 (.691)

NCAA Tournament: 11-10, one Final Four

Number to note: Weber is 2-6 in the NCAA Tournament since taking Illinois to the national title game in 2005.

Why he’s ranked here: Weber’s best seasons as a coach have come in Years 1-2 at Illinois and Kansas State. He’s entering Year 3 in Manhattan.

 

9. Travis Ford, Oklahoma State

Record at Oklahoma State: 125-77 (.619)

NCAA Tournament: 1-5

Number to note: Oklahoma State is 34-36 in the Big 12 the last four seasons. Ford was 18-14 in his first two seasons.

Why he’s ranked here: Ford’s burdensome contract will outlast Marcus Smart in Stillwater.

 

10. Trent Johnson, TCU

Record at TCU: 20-43 (.317)

NCAA Tournament: 5-5

Number to note: Since leading LSU to a 27-8 in his first season in Baton Rogue, Johnson is 60-99 since.

Why he’s ranked here: Perhaps no coach could lead TCU to relevance in the Big 12. At 2-34 in conference play, TCU hasn’t even been competitive.

Teaser:
College Basketball: Ranking the Big 12 Coaches for 2014-15
Post date: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Big Ten, News
Path: /college-football/big-ten-takeaways-nebraska-penn-state-still-standing
Body:

Congratulations, Nebraska and Penn State, you represent the Big Ten’s last hope.

 

A week after the Big Ten’s top Playoff contenders dropped key games, the league’s underbelly proved to be just as soft.

 

Minnesota, Maryland, Iowa and Indiana all took their turns with out-of-conference losses, leaving Nebraska and Penn State as the league’s last two unblemished team.

 

As Nebraska returned to form, Penn State had another close call that resulted in a win at Rutgers, the team that claims the Big Ten’s only win against a Power 5 program.

 

No, it wasn’t a pretty week in the Big Ten. Here’s what we learned: 

 

The embarrassment continues

Entering Week 3, the Big Ten had no way to atone for a Week 2 that all but seemed to take the league out of the Playoff. All this week — with Maryland hosting West Virginia, Iowa State hosting Iowa and Minnesota visiting TCU — could do was keep the bottom from falling out. The Big Ten couldn’t even manage that. Big Ten teams lost to three Big 12 teams, lost in a rout in the Pacific Northwest and added a third loss this season to a MAC team. The Big Ten is 1-11 against the other Power 5 conferences and Notre Dame this season. The lone win, Rutgers over Washington State in Seattle — came from a team that lost a league game Saturday. Only Penn State and Nebraska, which hosts Miami next week, remain unscathed.

 

Listen to the Week 3 recap podcast:



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

Hackenberg’s two-minute magic strikes again

Penn State’s offense isn’t pretty to watch. The run game, again, was a liability at 1.9 yards per carry against Rutgers. Even quarterback Christian Hackenberg had  a spotty game thanks to five sacks. The sophomore has a knack for pressure situations, though, as he spoiled what Rutgers hoped would be a signature win in its Big Ten debut. Hackenberg was 3-for-4 for 84 yards on the game-winning drive of a 13-10 win, the second time he’s marched Penn State down the field in the fourth quarter for a victory. These things are becoming commonplace for a quarterback who has played only 15 games.

 

Michigan, Ohio State bounced back

Let’s not say this is anything other than it is — which is Big Ten name teams beating up on MAC teams on hard times. And apparently in this league in 2014, MAC wins aren’t automatic. Michigan got a key contributor back at full strength in tight end Jake Butt, who caught three passes for 59 yards and a touchdown in the absence of Devin Funchess. Meanwhile, Ohio State got production out of its tailbacks after they were absent last week. Curtis Samuel, Ezekiel Elliott and Warren Ball combined for 206 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries. Meanwhile, J.T. Barrett came back from his rough start against the Virginia Tech secondary to complete 23-of-30 passes with six touchdowns.

 

Iowa has gone from sleeper team to major disappointment

The schedule set up so nicely for Iowa. No Ohio State. No Michigan State. No Michigan. Wisconsin and Nebraska at home. That was enough to make Iowa a sneaky pick in the Big Ten West. No one really accounted for this Iowa team being lousy. A week after dodging a loss to Ball State (which turned around and lost to Indiana State), the Hawkeyes lost 20-17. All-America offensive tackle Brandon Scherff is playing hurt. The run game is dismal (3.6 yards per carry). And the offense is so conservative that a winless opponent needed only 337 total yards to win on the road. At this rate, the easy schedule may be what Iowa needs just to get to a bowl.

 

The McNeese State game was an aberration for Nebraska

That’s what the Big Ten has to hope, right? The league will grasp at all it can get, and a 55-19 rout at Fresno State has to count for something. Nebraska’s offense was back in its Week 1 form with 280 rushing, 282 passing and 8.5 yards per play. End Randy Gregory returned to the lineup, and although he didn’t record a sack, Nebraska doubled its season total with four sacks against the Bulldogs.

 

Big Ten Week 4 Power Rankings

RkTeamPvsRecordLast WeekThis Week
111-1OffEastern Michigan
233-0W, Fresno State 55-19Miami
323-0W, Rutgers 13-10UMass
462-1W, Kent State 66-0Off
551-1OffBowling Green
672-1W, Miami (Ohio) 34-10Utah
792-1L, Penn State 13-10at Navy
842-1L, Iowa State 20-17at Pittsburgh
982-1L, West Virginia 40-37at Syracuse
1082-1L, TCU 30-7San Jose State
11122-1L, Washington 44-19Texas State
12111-1L, Bowling Green 45-42at Missouri
13130-2OffWestern Illinois
14141-2L, Notre Dame 30-14Southern Illinois

 

Teaser:
Big Ten Takeaways: Nebraska, Penn State Still Standing
Post date: Monday, September 15, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oklahoma Sooners, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/big-12-takeaways-oklahomas-nasty-d-trickett-stars-texas-blunders
Body:

So much of the early portion of the schedule has to do with league’s jockeying for position. The Big Ten is down. The Pac-12 scored a key win. And no league seems to scream that it’s in charge.

 

Maybe the Big 12 should take that spot.

 

No non-conference win stands out from Week 3, but the Big 12 quietly picked up some key victories — Oklahoma over Tennessee, West Virginia over Maryland, TCU over Minnesota and Iowa State over Iowa.

 

If Texas finished the job against a weakened UCLA, maybe the Big 12 would be thumping its chest. Either way, the league has a chance to do so Thursday when Kansas State faces Auburn.

 

Before that, here’s what we learned out of the Big 12 in Week 3.

 

Key Takeaways from the Big 12 in Week 3

 

Oklahoma’s defense is championship-ready

Even if Tennessee has its flaws up front on offense, Oklahoma turned in an impressive performance against the Volunteers. The Sooners were relentless in the front seven, sacking Vols quarterback Justin Worley five times and intercepting him twice. Eight Oklahoma players recorded at least one tackle for a loss, and other than one 43-yard run after the game had been decided, the Sooners overwhelmed Tennessee up front. The Sooners haven’t faced a Playoff contender this season, but Oklahoma has a defense that looks ready to contend for a Big 12 title.

 

Listen to the Week 3 recap podcast:



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher
 

 

Texas missed an opportunity for a name win

The game started with a blunder when a Texas captain elected to defend after UCLA won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, meaning UCLA started both halves on offense. That was only the start of Texas whiffing at an opportunity. UCLA star quarterback Brett Hundley left the game in the first quarter with an elbow injury, leaving the Bruins with untested backup Jerry Neuheisel. Texas is also down to a backup QB but one who has two games under his belt. The Longhorns led at half and led with with 5:45 to go. Texas didn’t have a turnover but a defensive breakdown gave Neuheisel the 33-yard game-winning TD. Texas could have used an extra offensive possession in a 20-17 loss.

 

West Virginia has turned a corner

The Mountaineers hinted at in a 33-23 loss to Alabama in Week 1. A 40-37 win at Maryland proved that West Virginia is a different team in 2014. A healthy Clint Trickett with a year in the system is only a piece of the transformation — a piece that completed 37-of-49 passes fro 511 yards with four touchdowns. After struggling in his first season from junior college, Kevin White has become an all-conference type receiver with 13 catches for 216 yards and a touchdown. Mario Alford added 11 catches for 131 yards and two scores. But most important, West Virginia learned to take a punch. The Mountaineers lost three games last season in which the led in the fourth quarter. This year’s team allowed Maryland to tie in the fourth but held for a game winning field goal in the final four seconds.

 

Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham Have transformed the TCU offense

Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson looked toward Texas Tech and Houston to add a spark to the TCU offense that had been lacking since Justin Fuente took a head coaching job at Memphis. Cumbie (from Texas Tech) and Meacham (from Houston) are making an impact. Nowhere is that more evident than with Trevone Boykin, who was moved to receiver at the end of last year and faced a challenge from Texas A&M quarterback Matt Joeckel before the season. Boykin completed 27-of-46 for 258 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in a 30-7 win over Minnesota. He also rushed for 92 yards on 12 carries. If TCU can put him numbers like that in Big 12 play the Horned Frogs will be poised for a turnaround year.

 

Coach Cool can’t stop the run

Bret Bielema has had few easy answers as coach at Arkansas. A game against Texas Tech, though, presented an easy gameplan. Run the ball because Texas Tech can’t stop it. Arkansas rushed for 438 yards and attempted only 12 passes in a 49-28 win. It was the most rushing yards allowed by Texas Tech since 2011 but part of an alarming trend. Opponents have rushed for 293.7 yards and four touchdowns per game in the last nine contests. Tech’s defense can’t get off the field, and the offense hasn’t helped. Texas Tech has been on the wrong side of the turnover margin for 11 consecutive games for a total of minus-18 since Oct. 12.

 

Big 12 Week 4 Power Rankings

RkTeamPvsRecordLast WeekThis Week
113-0W, Tennessee 34-10at West Virginia
223-0W, Buffalo 63-21Off
332-0OffAuburn
442-1W, UTSA 43-13Off
552-1W, Maryland 40-37Oklahoma
662-0W, Minnesota 30-7Off
771-2L, UCLA 20-17Off
891-2W, Iowa 20-17Off
982-1L, Arkansas 49-28Off
10101-1L, Duke 41-3Central Michigan

 

Teaser:
Big 12 Takeaways: Oklahoma's Nasty D, Trickett stars, Texas blunders
Post date: Monday, September 15, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/previewing-five-best-college-football-games-week-4
Body:

Saturday will bring the start of conference play in earnest as key games in the SEC, Big 12 and ACC dot our highlights for next week.

 

Before league play though, there’s one major heavyweight non-conference game, and it could be a critical momentum game for the SEC and Big 12.

 

Thursdays have quiet since the opening week of the season, but Auburn and Kansas State will bring us an anticipated midweek game to rival the NFL’s new presence on Thursday evenings.

 

Here’s a look at the top games for Week 4.

 

The Week Ahead: Sept. 18-20

All times Eastern. All games Saturday, unless noted.

 

Auburn at Kansas State

Where and when: ESPN, Thursday, 7:30 p.m.

We’re watching because... we want to see how many times Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall and Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters can punch and counterpunch. Both are effective runners trying to prove their wares in the passing game. We’re not quite sure what Auburn is bringing to the table in the SEC this season as Marshall has played only one half of a meaningful game this season. A win for Kansas State puts the Wildcats into Big 12 contention with Oklahoma and Baylor. 

Vegas says: Auburn by 9 1/2

 

Florida at Alabama

Where and when: CBS, 3:30 p.m.

We’re watching because... neither team has found its footing. No one expected Blake Sims to start Alabama’s SEC opener over Jake Coker, but Sims has done enough to hold onto the job. Will Sims’ short passing game and Alabama’s ample skill position talent be enough to win in the SEC? Meanwhile, Florida’s offense reverted to its 2013 form in a triple overtime home win over Kentucky. The Gators averaged 5.7 yards per play and just 2.9 points per trip inside the 40 in regulation (two touchdowns, two field goals, two missed field goals and a turnover).

Vegas says: Alabama by 14 1/2

 

Mississippi State at LSU

Where and when: ESPN, 7 p.m.

We’re watching because... Mississippi State will try to join the conversation in the SEC West. The Bulldogs have plateaued under Dan Mullen, not that regular bowl games are a bad thing for Mississippi State. But this is still a team riding a 15-game losing streak against ranked teams. The Bulldogs believe Dak Prescott is the quarterback to get Mississippi State over the hump, but LSU is outscoring opponents 108-0 since falling behind 24-7 to Wisconsin in the opener.

Vegas says: LSU by 10

 

Oklahoma at West Virginia

Where and when: FOX, 7:30 p.m.

We’re watching because... this will be strength against strength. West Virginia’s offense has returned to form with Clint Trickett and a pair of standout receivers in Kevin White and Mario Alford. The Mountaineers have improved each week on offense, impressive considering the starting point was 393 yards against Alabama. Will the Mountaineers’ passing game be able to move the ball against a speedy Oklahoma offense? The Sooners have looked the part of Big 12 favorite and Playoff contender all year, but this will be the toughest test of the year.

Vegas says: Oklahoma by 11

 

Clemson at Florida State

Where and when: ABC, 8 p.m.

We’re watching because... we’re expecting to see different teams than the ones that showed up in Week 1. Clemson was dreadful in the second half against Georgia, and Florida State hardly looked like a dominant title contender against Oklahoma State. Since the, both teams dispatched an FCS opponent and had a bye week. It’s the fourth week of the season, and Jameis Winston has been awfully quiet.

Vegas says: Florida State by 19

Teaser:
Previewing the Five Best College Football Games in Week 4
Post date: Sunday, September 14, 2014 - 16:08
Path: /college-football/west-virginia-qb-clint-trickett-athlon-sports-national-player-week
Body:

Crooked passing numbers are the hallmark of Big 12 teams. In that way, West Virginia is starting to fit in again.

 

After a one-year bowl absence and a rotating cast of injured and ineffective quarterbacks, West Virginia is starting to look like a real Big 12 offense after a one-year absence.

 

Quarterback Clint Trickett completed 37-of-47 passes for 511 yards with four touchdowns and an interception in a 40-37 win on the road over Maryland, earning Athlon Sports National Player of the Week.

 

The win is critical not only for helping to establish West Virginia as a factor in the Big 12 but also for the shaky tenure of third-year coach Dana Holgorsen.

 

Trickett had the help of two receivers who topped the 10-catch mark in Kevin White (216 yards, one touchdown) and Mario Alford (131 yards, two TDs) and Josh Lambert’s 47-yard field goal as time expired.

 

“I barely even did anything,” Trickett said. “I’m throwing it two yards and then they take it 90 and make me look good.”

 

That may be true, but Trickett also told Athlon Sports earlier in the week that he’s finally a complete quarterback for West Virginia. Trickett rose to the starting job last season without firm grasp of the offense, and by the time he was comfortable in the scheme, he was battling a shoulder injury.

 

“The only healthy guy these guys saw last year was a guy who had no clue what he was doing in the offense,” Trickett said earlier in the week. “Now they see a guy who is healthy and has a good understanding of what’s going on.”

 

National Defensive Player of the Week: Shaq Thompson, Washington

Washington finally got the lopsided win expected of the Huskies this season after close calls with Hawaii and Eastern Washington. As Shaq Thompson continues to see reps at running back, the linebacker was the focal point on defense with a pair of touchdowns in the first half in a 44-19 win over Illinois. Thompson returned an interception 36 yards for a score and a fumble 52 yards in the win.

 

National Freshman of the Week: Shaun Wilson, Duke

If there’s any concern Duke is more than a one-year wonder in the ACC, Blue Devils freshman Shan Wilson tried to ease it. Wilson entered the game as a freshman at No. 3 on the depth chart and left with a school rushing record. Wilson rushed for 245 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-3 win over Kansas, averaging an astounding 20.4 yards per carry.

 

National Coordinator of the Week: Lincoln Riley, East Carolina

Riley is already one of the top coaches under 40 and an assistant who will be in demand thanks to East Carolina’s prolific Air Raid in Conference USA last season. This, however, might end up as the breakout game for the 30-year-old.

 

East Carolina defeated a ranked team for the first time since 2009 and did so against a pass rush and secondary that just demolished Ohio State in Columbus last week. East Carolina passed for 427 yards against Virginia Tech, the third most yards the Hokies have allowed an opposing quarterback.

 

Conference Players of the Week

 

ACC: Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy rushed for 190 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries in a 37-31 win over USC. Murphy completed 5-of-13 passes for 55 yards with an interception.

 

Big Ten: Penn State defensive tackle Anthony Zettel and four tackles and three tackles for a loss in a 13-10 win over Rutgers.

 

Pac-12: UCLA quarterback Jerry Neuheisel was 23-of-30 for 178 yards with two touchdowns in relief of an injured Brett Hundley in a 20-17 win over Texas.

 

SEC: Arkansas running back Alex Collins rushed for 223 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries in a 49-28 win over Texas Tech.

 

American: East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden completed 23-of-47 passes for 427 yards with three touchdowns in a 28-21 win over Virginia Tech. He also rushed for a touchdown.

 

Conference USA: Middle Tennessee quarterback Austin Grammer completed 17-of-28 passes for 218 yards with a touchdown in a 50-47 win over Western Kentucky in triple overtime. He also rushed for 125 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries.

 

MAC: Bowling Green quarterback James Knapke completed 46-of-73 passes for 385 yards with three touchdowns and an interception in a 45-42 win over Indiana. The former backup also rushed for 37 yards on eight carries.

 

Mountain West: Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo completed 29-of-39 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-28 loss to Arizona. 

 

Sun Belt: Georgia State quarterback Nick Arbuckle completed 26-of-42 passes for 414 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in a 48-38 loss to Air Force.

 

Independents: BYU quarterback Taysom Hill completed 21-of-34 passes for 200 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in a 33-25 win over Houston. He also rushed for 160 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.

Teaser:
West Virginia QB Clint Trickett is Athlon Sports' National Player of the Week
Post date: Sunday, September 14, 2014 - 13:51
Path: /college-football/week-3-heisman-movers-shifting-fortunes-todd-gurley-trevor-knight-bryce-petty-0
Body:

Week 3 offered only one game between two ranked teams, so the notion of Heisman moments was in short supply this week.

 

There was one great play by the current frontrunner for the award, but that play came against Wyoming. It will live in Marcus Mariota’s highlight package, but there will be more to come in bigger games.

 

Instead, this was probably a more notable weekend for those who showed up in the sleeper category of all those preseason lists.

 

The Heisman race is the only sports award that determines its field of contenders before the season actually starts. As such, we’ll keep track of all the contenders (and pretenders) for the award here.

TrendTeamPlayerNotes
Trevor Knight

Knight completed 20-of-33 passes for 308 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a 34-10 win over Tennessee. That gives him a pair of 300-yard passing games against SEC teams, though the gulf between Alabama and the Volunteers may be wide.

Todd Gurley

First off: Nothing Gurley did should be counted against him. He was magnificent as usual with 131 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Georgia’s decision to pass on first-and-goal from the 4 resulting in an intentional grounding denied Gurley a chance for a potential game-winning touchdown in a road game against South Carolina. Those plays are the bedrock of a Heisman campaign, but Georgia opted for another, less successful, direction.

Bryce Petty

Petty played his first game at full strength this season and looked like the Petty of 2013. He completed 23-of-34 passes for 416 yards with four touchdowns in a 63-21 win over Buffalo on Friday. Petty missed the last game and was in visible pain in the SMU opener due to cracked bones in his back.

Shaq Thompson

Ho-hum, the Huskies linebacker is only Washington’s third-leading scorer with 18 points. The two-way star did it the old-fashioned way in a 44-19 rout of Illinois with an interception and a fumble returned for touchdowns. Reminder: a defensive player has as many touchdowns as Rice and South Alabama and more than Southern Miss and SMU.

James Conner

Is the Pittsburgh tailback the 2014 version of Andre Williams? Perhaps so. He rushed for 177 yards on 31 carries in a 42-25 win over FIU. He added three touchdowns for a nation’s-best eight this season. Conner probably deserves another nod a week late after watching what Boston College’s run defense did to USC. Conner rushed for 213 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles.

Brett Hundley

Under the circumstances, UCLA has nothing but good news surrounding its star quarterback. The Bruins found a way to beat Texas under backup Jerry Neuheisel for more than three quarters, and Hundley is expected back for UCLA’s next game at Arizona State on Sept. 25 after he mends a hyperextended elbow. He was off to a perfect start (4-for-4) against the Longhorns before his injury.

Taylor Kelly

Kelly completed 13-of-21 passes for 195 yards and rushed for 70 and a touchdown in the 38-24 win over Colorado, but his status is in question. Kelly left the game in the third quarter and returned to the sideline on crutches and with his right foot in a boot.

Clint Trickett

History and Geno Smith remind us not to get too excited about West Virginia quarterbacks in September, but Trickett is one of the most improved QBs in the nation. He completed 37-of-49 passes for 511 yards with four touchdowns in a 40-37 win over Maryland and is in the top five nationally in yards (1,224) and completion percentage (75.4).

Davis Webb

As long as Texas Tech’s run defense is abysmal, the Red Raiders will need 400 yards out of Webb. The sophomore completed 27-of-45 passes for 252 and offered up his second two-interception game of the season.

David Cobb

To the extend a Minnesota running back was a viable Heisman contender, Cobb rushed for 41 yards on 15 carries in a 30-7 loss to TCU.

 

Teaser:
Week 3 Heisman Movers: Shifting fortunes for Todd Gurley, Trevor Knight, Bryce Petty
Post date: Sunday, September 14, 2014 - 12:29
Path: /college-football/read-and-react-georgia-south-carolina-recap
Body:

The ramifications of a South Carolina-Georgia game remain as unpredictable as ever. At least we know the SEC East matchup can still deliver the goods.

South Carolina defeated Georgia 38-35 to keep the Gamecocks in the SEC East race following the Week 1 blowout against Texas A&M.

What does the win mean? The winner of this game doesn’t necessarily win the East, more often than not in recent years, the opposite has been true. And in the new Playoff era, we don’t know yet if this is a game that pushes South Carolina in the conversation or pulls Georgia out of the running.

For sure, though, South Carolina couldn’t afford to fall to 0-2 in the league. The SEC East as a result, literally and figuratively, is separated by the slimmest of margins.

Read and React: South Carolina 38, Georgia 35

The SEC East is as wild as ever

One picture tells it all. As South Carolina ran a quarterback sneak at midfield. One chain link kept South Carolina’s possession and clinched the game. Preseason favorites Georgia and South Carolina now have one league loss apiece while defending division champion Missouri still looms.
 

 


If you gave up on South Carolina, you shouldn’t have
Texas A&M gouged South Carolina’s defense in the opener, and the Gamecocks needed a long drive in the fourth quarter to put East Carolina away last week. South Carolina looked more like the team we expected against Georgia. No, the defense wasn’t great as Georgia amassed 406 total yards and 6.8 yards per play. But the Gamecocks had an answer for everything Georgia brought on defense. Dylan Thompson flourished early in the passing game, completing 21-of-30 attempts for 271 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. As the rain started to fall, South Carolina rode its offensive line as Brandon Wilds and Mike Davis combined for 159 yards on 31 carries.

Georgia’s coaches staff are going to hear about this one
Georgia has the top running back in the country and perhaps the deepest group of backs, but Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo may have been too cute in using Todd Gurley as a decoy. Fullback runs paid of in a scoring drive in the fourth quarter. Other gambles didn’t. Most egregious was a first-and-goal after a turnover. The call for a pass play resulted in an intentional grounding penalty. A missed field goal meant Georgia went from four yards to a lead in the final five minutes to South Carolina preserving a three-point edge. It's worth worth noting all of Georgia's top three tailbacks averaged at least 6.6 yards per carry.

Kicking is not fun
Maybe kickers deserve more credit. After all, no reasonable person would sign up for this. Georgia’s Marshall Morgan made an SEC record 20 consecutive field goals, including his first two attempts. Morgan missed a 44-yarder in the second quarter and then a 28-yard attempt that would have tied the game on Georgia’s final possession. He may escape scorn because of questionable play calling, but this is an unenviable position nonetheless.

 

 

Teaser:
Read and React: Georgia-South Carolina Recap
Post date: Saturday, September 13, 2014 - 20:30
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-ranking-american-coaches-2014-15
Body:

The top of the American Athletic Conference coaches brings two coaches who reached the pinnacle of the college game 26 years apart.

One is in the twilight of a 35-year career that has included titles in the NBA and college. The other is just getting started.

Oddly enough, Larry Brown and Kevin Ollie also coach at two programs that couldn’t differ more in status, though Brown is coaching the upstart while Ollie is at the established power.

 

Brown and Ollie aren't the name coaches to watch in the ever-changing AAC. Mick Cronin, Josh Pastern and Fran Dunphy have all led successful programs while Frank Haith and Kelvin Sampson are veteran newcomers to the league.


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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Frank Haith, Tulsa
Record at Tulsa:
First season
NCAA Tournament: 1-3
Number to note: Since winning the Big 12 Tournament in 2012, Missouri under Haith lost to a No. 15 seed and a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament before missing the Big Dance altogether.
Why he’s ranked here: Haith escaped Missouri ahead of the hot seat talk to start fresh at Tulsa.

8. Ed Conroy, Tulane
Record at Tulane:
65-65 (.500)
NCAA Tournament: None
Number to note: Progress has been incremental at a tough job: Conroy went 3-13 in Conference USA his first two years, followed by 6-10 then 8-8.
Why he’s ranked here: Conroy also supervised major improvement at The Citadel, but his Tulane program has been dinged by transfers (Josh Davis to San Diego State, Ricky Tarrant to Alabama).

9. Orlando Antigua, USF
Record at USF:
First season
NCAA Tournament: None
Number to note: A top recruiter for Kentucky the last six seasons where no class ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in the 247Sports Composite.
Why he’s ranked here: Though he’ll be associated with Kentucky and Calipari, Antigua helped Jamie Dixon establish his program at Pittsburgh with a five-year stint with the Panthers.

10. Jeff Lebo, East Carolina
Record at East Carolina:
73-61 (.545)
NCAA Tournament: None
Number to note: Lebo brought East Carolina its first 20-win season in school history at 23-12 in 2012-13.
Why he’s ranked here: At four stops (Tennessee Tech, Chattanooga, Auburn and East Carolina), Lebo has coached 501 games without an NCAA Tournament appearance.

11. Donnie Jones, UCF
Record at UCF:
76-52 (.594)
NCAA Tournament: None
Number to note: NCAA sanctions hit Jones with a show cause and stalled momentum for the program. UCF won 20 games in three consecutive seasons before falling to 13-18.
Why he’s ranked here: The former Florida assistant has never finished higher than fourth in the conference in his seven years at UCF and Marshall.

Teaser:
College Basketball: Ranking the American Coaches for 2014-15
Post date: Friday, September 12, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/how-clemson-helped-virginia-tech-find-its-quarterback
Body:

If Virginia Tech gets back to the ACC Championship Game, the Hokies should thank Clemson.

More specifically, the Hokies will need to thank Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris for tipping them off to his high school quarterback.

Virginia Tech went into 2014 knowing it needed a quarterback to replace the departed Logan Thomas. The Hokies were going to enter the season with a veteran backup, a sophomore who hadn’t attempted a pass and three freshmen on an inexperienced offense.

A meeting between associate head coach Shane Beamer and Morris at the Senior Bowl provided the answer.

Morris noted that his former quarterback at Austin (Texas) Lake Travis, where Morris coached two state champions in two years, had just received his release from Texas Tech.

The quarterback had run nothing but no-huddle spread since high school and never lived outside of the state of Texas, but he was a quick study, Morris said. Beamer and quarterback coach Scot Loeffler called the QB, Michael Brewer, visited him Austin and brought him to Blacksburg, Va., for an official visit.

By March, Michael Brewer signed with Virginia Tech. By September, he gave the Hokies a signature win to establish the Hokies’ ACC title credentials.

Brewer completed 23-of-36 passes for 199 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in Columbus, giving Brewer the kind of moment he’d been seeking for three years.

“The whole time I’ve been in college football I’ve been waiting for that one chance,” Brewer said. “It was one of those deals where I’ve waited for so long for one chance, I wasn’t about to let anyone take it away from me.”

Brewer signed with Texas Tech and coach Tommy Tuberville in 2011, redshirting his first season and seeing minimal playing time his second year behind veteran Seth Doege. Tuberville then left for Cincinnati, but Brewer seemed appeared ready to take the starting job under new coach Kliff Kingsbury.

Brewer, though, suffered a fractured vertebra in his lower back that derailed his season. By the time he was healthy, Baker Mayfield and then Davis Webb eventually supplanted him as Texas Tech’s quarterback. Mayfield also transferred.

With a degree in hand, though, Brewer was eligible to play immediately upon his transfer, but Texas Tech blocked him from going to his first-choice destinations of Texas or TCU.

Virginia Tech, with help from Morris, eventually stepped up — and with little time to spare for the Hokies. Six weeks after Brewer announced his transfer to Virginia Tech, Clemson dismissed quarterback Chad Kelly, freeing up a roster spot that could have been claimed by Brewer.

“The numbers weren’t there for them at the time,” Brewer said. “We joke about that, that I could have ended up there, but he’s really happy that I’m here.”

Ending up at Virginia Tech and in an offense not steeped in the spread may be a positive for Brewer as well.

Instead, Brewer joins Loeffler, who had moved from a pro-style offense at Michigan to the spread at Florida and Auburn.

“I think this is good for Michael’s development, just like when I had the opportunity to go to Florida with coach (Urban) Meyer,” Loeffler said. “It was completely different from what I did at Michigan. It was the best experience I had in coaching. It was out of my comfort zone.”

That’s not to say it’s easy.

Brewer had only June and July to prepare in the offense before training camp, during that time NCAA restrictions limited him to an hour or two of film study with coaches during the week.

In other words, not a ton of time for a quarterback to unlearn a style of offense that Brewer has run since high school.

“We use a lot of pro terminology, pro protections and pro concepts,” Loeffler said. “We asked all the questions if he can handle it, and (Chad Morris) said he can learn.”

This has been a two-way street, though, as Virginia Tech has adopted elements of the spread to use in the shotgun so the offense isn’t completely foreign.

“They did a good job of bringing it along easy for me and doing things that I’m comfortable with in the shotgun and making things similar to what I was used to do,” Brewer said. “That’s a credit to them.”

At the same time, the offense isn’t a finished product. Brewer threw the two interceptions against Ohio State, not the best sign for a team whose last starting quarterback had 39 career picks. Brewer averaged a pedestrian 5.5 yards per play, and the offense averaged 4.2 yards per snap.

The numbers weren’t overwhelming, but he did enough for the upset in Columbus.

“His escapability was really good I thought,” Meyer said. “We had him bottled up a couple of times, and he got out of there and extended drives. He’s an accurate thrower, but the best thing he did was escape pressure.”

The bright side is that Virginia Tech’s offense is full of new faces — two freshman tailbacks, a freshman starting receiver and a highly touted tight end, Ryan Malleck, who didn’t play last season due to a shoulder injury.

The presence of a veteran quarterback with experience running no-huddle spread and an Air Raid combined with the possibilities of personnel groupings could lead to an interesting season for the Virginia Tech offense, as noted by SB Nation’s Ian Boyd in a breakdown of Loeffler’s no-huddle spread attack with pro personnel.

Virginia Tech had a feeling Brewer would be ready to tackle such a task in a short period of time. The question was if he could lead and take a hit.

The Hokies learned about both against Ohio State as Brewer was knocked around several times against the Buckeyes only to get back up.

“You learned everything you needed to learn in that Ohio State game,” Loeffler said. “Those quarterbacks take a beating in that game, and he took a beating. He came back and never flinched and never put his eyes on the rush. He learned a lot.

“Any time you’ve got a good person who’s smart and tough you’ve got a chance.”

Teaser:
How Clemson Helped Virginia Tech Find Its Quarterback
Post date: Thursday, September 11, 2014 - 16:50
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Big Ten, News
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2014-week-3-preview-and-predictions
Body:

 

After two weeks, the top of the Big Ten has lost to Oregon, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and LSU. At the same time, the bottom of the league has lost to Central Michigan and Northern Illinois.

Seven teams are 2-0, but only one was in the AP preseason top 25 (Nebraska). This is a league grasping for solutions before third week of the season. Simply put, many of the coaches are at a loss.

“Keep recruiting,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “There’s no easy answer.”

The Big Ten won’t be able to repair all the damage to its Playoff hopes in one week, but it can save face. Even without a game against an Oregon, Notre Dame or LSU this week, Big Ten teams have key non-conference games that may be must-win territory just to avoid complete embarrassment.

Conference newcomer Maryland draws a West Virginia team that put pressure on Alabama in the passing game. After narrow wins over Northern Iowa and Ball State, Iowa faces its in-state rival. And Minnesota takes its stout running game to Fort Worth to face a formidable TCU defense.

At the same time, one Big Ten program has reason for optimism after Penn State learned the NCAA and Big Ten lifted postseason restrictions just in time for its league opener against Rutgers.

Week 3 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big 12 | Pac-12 SEC


Week 3 Big Ten Game Power Rankings
All games Saturday. All times Eastern

 

1. West Virginia at Maryland
Noon, Big Ten Network

With a group of healthy playmakers, Maryland hoped its offense would be the most dynamic of the Randy Edsall era. That hasn’t happened quite yet. Edsall says quarterback C.J. Brown last is trying to be perfect and wide receiver Stefon Diggs is navigating “unfair expectations,” as Edsall says. Brown turned the ball over three times against USF last week, and Diggs is averaging just 8.6 yards per catch. Maryland probably can’t afford another six-turnover game as the Terrapins had against USF last week. West Virginia will test a veteran Maryland defense that has allowed 3.6 yards per play against overmatched competition.

 

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2. Penn State at Rutgers
8 p.m., Big Ten Network

Few games have become more intriguing thanks to the last two weeks — Penn State now has the possibility of a bowl game and conference championship game this season, and Rutgers proved it has a pulse with a win over Washington State in Seattle in Week 1. In a wild turn of events, Penn State may have the best Playoff profile of any team in the Big Ten with wins over UCF and Akron. The Nittany Lions, though, have yet to put together a complete game on offense, averaging 2.8 yards per carry this season. This could be an important series in the Big Ten as Penn State aims to recruit New Jersey with regularity, but the two programs haven’t faced each other since 1995. Penn State is 22-2 all time agains the Scarlet Knights.

3. Iowa State at Iowa
3:30 p.m., ESPN

After two weeks, Kirk Ferentz probably didn’t envision quarterback Jake Rudock leading his team in rushing (53 yards) and needing 93 pass attempts to beat Northern Iowa and Ball State. The Hawkeyes offense is a major concern against rival Iowa State, especially with uncertainty surrounding star offensive tackle Brandon Scherff. Asked directly if Scherff had knee surgery as reported by KCRG in Cedar Rapids, Ferentz did not offer a definitive answer. Scherff returned to play and spoke during postgame interviews. Defensive end Drew Ott, who had 13 tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss against Ball State, was involved in a scooter accident but is expected to play against the 0-2 Cyclones.

4. Minnesota at TCU
4 p.m., Fox Sports 1

Who would have thought the odd Minnesota-TCU game would have storylines besides the namesake of two individual postseason awards (Bronko Nagurski of Minnesota vs. Davey O’Brien of TCU)? Minnesota coach Jerry Kill was TCU coach Gary Patterson’s best man, and Gophers defensive coaches routinely visit with the Horned Frogs during the offseason. “I didn’t want to play it.” Kill said. “No question about that and I think he had the same feeling. ... But I’m not the boss. I’m the football coach.” From an on-field standpoint, this will be an intriguing matchup of running back David Cobb (291 rushing yards in two games) against a traditionally stout TCU defense.
 
5. Nebraska at Fresno State
10:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network

Nebraska heads West after a close call with McNeese State in which the Cornhuskers needed a wild catch-and-run by Ameer Abdullah to seal the win. Where to start? Nebraska’s defense gave up two fourth-quarter touchdowns on a pair of extended drives. The Cornhuskers need defensive end Randy Gregory to return from a knee injury to improve a pass rush that has recorded two sacks this season. Nebraska will try to get its other star player, Abdullah, more involved. Before his game-winning TD, Abdullah had accounted for 92 yards from scrimmage on 19 touches. Fresno State might not be a vintage Bulldogs squad — they’ve been outscored 111-40 in two games this season.

6. Indiana at Bowling Green
Noon, ESPNU

Is this a new era for the Indiana defense or the product of a weak opponent in Week 1? Probably the latter, but the Hoosiers have to be encouraged by holding Indiana State to 3.0 yards per play and recording four sacks. Indiana also attempted only 18 passes, the fewest of the Kevin Wilson era, while rushing for 455 yards. Meanwhile, preseason MAC favorite Bowling Green is playing without starting quarterback Matt Johnson, who is out for the season.

7. Illinois at Washington
4 p.m., Fox

For the third week in a row, a Big Ten team goes to the Pacific Northwest where Rutgers defeated Washington State and Michigan State lost to Oregon. The seasons for Illinois and Washington have played out in similar fashion, each with a close win over an FCS and a non-Power 5 opponent. That probably says more about Washington, a team picked third in the Pac-12 North, compared to Illinois, picked near the bottom of the Big 12. Illinois will hope for a shootout, putting in the game in the hands of Wes Lunt. The Oklahoma State transfer has passed for 741 yards and seven touchdowns while completing 67 percent of his passes. Washington’s may be happy to oblige after giving up 52 points in a win over Eastern Washington last week.

8. Kent State at Ohio State
Noon, ABC/ESPN2

Ohio State’s start against Kent State will be worth watching after the Buckeyes have come up empty on opening drives in the first two games of the season. Ohio State went four-and-out against Navy and three-and-out against Virginia Tech, contributing to a 28-13 combined deficit at halftime this season. “Maybe it’s the way we practice,” Meyer said. “I’m looking at everything. Maybe it’s the play calling. Maybe I’ve conservative with who we have in there right now, but we’re beyond that now.” Ohio State also expects Noah Spence back after he was suspended for three games dating back to the Orange Bowl due to a positive drug test.

9. Miami (Ohio) at Michigan
3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Miami (Ohio) may be just the opponent Michigan needs to see for a confidence boost after a 31-0 loss to Notre Dame. The RedHawks have lost 18 in a row, the longest active losing streak in the country. Michigan’s roster is in flux. Raymon Taylor left the Notre Dame loss with injuries, so did star receiver Devin Funchess, who tried to re-enter the game for a series after a leg injury. Five-star freshman cornerback Jabrill Peppers was on the sideline in uniform but did not play. Michigan also is working tight end Jake Butt back into the lineup after a torn ACL ended his 2013 season. He should be a boost to an offense that didn’t reach the red zone against the Irish. Starting linebacker Desmond Morgan has also been sidelined.

10. Purdue at Notre Dame
7:30 p.m., NBC

Purdue coach Darell Hazell re-opened the quarterback competition after Danny Etling went 17-of-32 for 126 yards with two interceptions in a 38-17 loss to Central Michigan. Sophomore Austin Appleby could get an extended look, but it might not make a major difference against a Notre Dame team that has won eight of the last nine meetings.

Off: Michigan State, Northwestern, Wisconsin

Week 3 Big Ten Staff Picks

 David FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light
West Va. at Maryland (-4)WVU 35-24Md 34-31WVU 34-31

Md 30-23

Indiana (-7) at Bowling GreenIU 35-17IU 38-31IU 48-24IU 41-33
Kent State at Ohio State (-32)OSU 28-10OSU 38-17OSU 45-7OSU 30-10
Miami U at Michigan (-31)Mich 35-7Mich 41-10Mich 41-13Mich 34-10
Iowa State at Iowa (-10)Iowa 21-17Iowa 31-21Iowa 27-17Iowa 21-10
Minnesota at TCU (-15)TCU 17-10TCU 27-20TCU 30-20Minn 24-21

Illinois at Washington (-12)

Wash 42-28Wash 44-24Wash 45-31Wash 33-27
Purdue at Notre Dame (-29)ND 42-7ND 44-13ND 45-10ND 34-13
Penn State at Rutgers (-4)PSU 28-17PSU 34-31PSU 27-24PSU 23-20
Nebraska at Fresno State (-11)Neb 31-10Neb 44-24Neb 45-20Neb 44-20
Last Week9-49-49-47-6
This Season21-621-621-619-8

 

Teaser:
Big Ten 2014 Week 3 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 11, 2014 - 09:00

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