Articles By Steven Lassan
Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick has been ruled out for the remainder of the season due to a torn pectoral muscle. Crick suffered the injury during Saturday’s 34-27 win over Ohio State.
The senior entered the year with high expectations. Crick was selected as a preseason first-team Athlon All-American and was widely-regarded as the top defensive tackle in college football.
Through five games, Crick had collected 22 stops, three tackles for a loss and one sack. An injury held the senior out against Wyoming, but was a key cog in the Nebraska defense the rest of the way.
Crick is definitely going to be missed by the Cornhuskers. Even with him in the lineup, Nebraska ranked 80th nationally against the run and tied for 65th nationally in scoring defense. After ranking as one of the best defenses in college football last season, Nebraska has not lived up to the hype and has been one of the biggest disappointments in the Big Ten.
Crick’s absence will add more pressure to the defensive line. Junior Baker Steinkuhler will have to emerge as the leader on the interior. He has 19 stops through six contests. On the edge, Jason Ankrah and Cameron Meredith will also see more attention. Crick’s presence wasn’t always felt through the box score, but rather the double teams he drew from opposing offensive lines.
Senior Terrence Moore and redshirt freshman Chase Rome were listed behind Crick on the depth chart for Ohio State. Both players will see their snaps increase, along with sophomore Thaddeus Randle, who is listed as a backup to Steinkuhler.
Nebraska does catch a break in the schedule, as Minnesota is up after the bye this Satudray. The Golden Gophers have struggled on offense all year and would pose little threat to the Cornhuskers’ defense. After Minnesota, the offenses on the schedule get a little more difficult. Nebraska finishes the year with Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State, Michigan and Iowa. Northwestern and Michigan would figure to be the most challenging offenses to stop out of that mix.
Despite Nebraska’s loss to Wisconsin in Week 5, it was still considered the frontrunner to win the Big Ten Legends Division. However, Crick’s injury will help Michigan and Michigan State to close the gap.
Nebraska's Big Ten title hopes aren't finished, but it certainly takes a hit with Crick's injury. Even if the Cornhuskers win the Legends Division, a matchup against Wisconsin would be a nightmare in the Big Ten title game.
Although the defense has had its issues and is losing Crick for the year, Bo Pelini is one of the top defensive minds in college football. And he will need to come up with some answers or different looks over the second half of the season.
Crick is regarded as one of the top defensive line prospects in the NFL Draft. It’s unclear how this injury will affect his preparation for the 2012 draft.
Even though Nebraska's defense has underachieved this season, there's no doubt Crick's injury makes this unit an even bigger concern going forward.
This article about Bill Snyder's return to Kansas State appeared in Athlon's 2009 Big 12 regional edition. With the Wildcats sitting at 5-0, it's a good time to look back at Snyder's return to Kansas State, after a brief retirement.
There are days when that rocking chair looks pretty good to Bill Snyder. A quiet moment alone or a little mayhem with the grandchildren would be nice. Catch a nap. Devote a few hours to a good cause. Visit the old stomping grounds and enjoy the royal treatment. Ah, memories.
Then comes the shock of reality. That is not Bill Snyder’s life anymore. He chose retirement three-plus years ago and found it somewhat unfulfilling. Boring, even. And even though he says it took him “three weeks to a month” to make the final decision to return to Kansas State, something tells you his part of the process took far less time than that. Getting his family on board might have been the tough part. Bill Snyder is a coach, not a spectator. He needs a classroom in which to teach and a practice field over which he can preside.
“The fire in his belly to get back into coaching is phenomenal,” says KSU athletic director Bob Krause.
So, he came back to rescue a program that sagged to 5–7 last year. But there are times when the three years away from the maelstrom look pretty darn good.
The primary difficulty facing Snyder these days is a Kansas State program that has reversed the Manhattan Miracle. Over the past five seasons, two of which were on Snyder’s watch, the Wildcats have slid into the Big 12’s discount rack and are easy pickings for the conference’s powers — and some who are not so powerful. The trademark ruthless defense seems devoted to philanthropy. The offense, which helped pioneer spread fields and the 21st century running quarterback, was butter-knife dull, not cutting-edge. These days, some people think it’s a miracle if KSU goes to a bowl. Snyder has been brought back at the behest of school president Dr. Jon Wefald, who has been at K-State since 1986. Wefald figured that it made more sense to recycle a proven commodity who could energize the fan base and stimulate the bottom line than to try out some young colt who might be all sizzle and no wins. Snyder’s return is being sold as the homecoming of a legend who couldn’t bear to see the once-proud program he built sink into the mire.
“Because the Hall of Fame can wait.
“Because family matters most.
“Because hometown heroes become legends.
“Because ‘Wildcat Victory’ is more than a song…
“The Tradition Continues”
That’s the pitch, and it’s accompanied by the requisite dramatic music and compelling imagery. Snyder created the Miracle, and only he can conjure its revival. The good news is that things aren’t anywhere near as forlorn as they were back in ’89, when KSU was the most popular homecoming opponent on the planet. From 1955-88, Kansas State had a total of two winning seasons, both of the six-win variety. The good news is that the climb won’t be so long this time.
“At that time, it wasn’t a matter of trying to redirect things; it was a matter of virtually beginning over,” Snyder says.
That doesn’t mean a rebuilding job doesn’t lie ahead, and that Snyder isn’t partly responsible for creating the need for it. He understands that his final two seasons in Manhattan weren’t successful and that his “retirement” after a 4–7 2004 season and 5–6 ’05 performance wasn’t necessarily mourned. Some thought the venerable then-66-year old coach had lost it. Then came Ron Prince, and things were so bad that critics thought that perhaps Snyder was right when he spoke of his troubles simply being part of a cycle.
“I don’t think it had anything to do with being outdated,” Snyder says. “We were always pioneers.” But while other programs were emerging within the Big 12, the Wildcats were sagging. Granted, it’s harder to keep a program like Kansas State at the top every year, but the numbers spoke loudly against Snyder. “It was part of the normal happenstance,” he says. “You have to continue the climb. Whether we would have had I stayed, I don’t know. But (the losing seasons) were part of the process.”
Old Dog, New Tricks
You may have trouble getting parents or grandparents to enter the digital age, but Snyder has jumped right in. Truth be told, he probably wouldn’t be texting and sending out group e-mails if he hadn’t returned to the coaching ranks, but give him credit for understanding the necessity of communicating with his constituents on platforms they prefer.
“I get probably 150-200 e-mails and text messages a day,” he says. “I can communicate with the players on a very simple basis by using a mass e-mail or text. I can stay in touch with the faculty and past players. You name a group, and I’ve got them on this phone of mine. It took some learning, but I had some good teachers.”
Snyder has made some concessions to the 21st century, but the vast majority of his methods are decidedly from decades past. He remains devoted to the double shift at work. He is still a taciturn authority figure, more veteran leader than cuddly grandfather. And he still insists on strong control of the program. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of on-field modernity and off-field retroactivity. He’ll spread it out with four wides and blitz from all angles, while decrying the commercial personality of the sport.
“There are a number of things I’m concerned about,” he says. “First, college athletics, particularly football and (men’s) basketball, have become a business. I don’t think that’s how it was intended to be. There are certain things that are good and right as they are, and amateur athletics are one of them. I have seen young people grow and prosper and become men and become successful in all facets of their lives because they were in athletic programs with good values.”
Snyder stayed at Kansas State because he believed in the school and his mission there. He’s selling his players on a responsibility to something bigger than them.
“I know I’m going to be part of a rebuilding project, but I’m not doing this for me,” says fifth-year senior offensive tackle Nick Stringer, a Snyder Phase I recruit. “I’m doing it for every other Wildcat who comes here and puts the Purple on.
“People will look at the 2009 team as the group that put the work in that allowed the younger guys to be in the top 25 and compete for championships.”
Because Snyder is a returning hero, he will get the benefit of the doubt should things start slowly. He’ll have an experienced team, thanks to last year’s transfers, although few of them were particularly overwhelming, as the Wildcats’ final record proved. And since quarterback Josh Freeman headed to the NFL a year early, Snyder will have to find someone capable of running the team. It’s a challenge, all right, but it’s certainly not as bad as what he encountered the first time around, when KSU had only 47 scholarship players. And Krause is content to be patient with his old friend, whom he hired 20 years ago.
Snyder may well get five years, but if things are shaky beyond next season, he’ll be regarded by younger alums as an anachronism. At that point, it won’t matter whether Snyder received a standing ovation simply for being shown on the Jumbotron during a men’s basketball game or, as Krause puts it, “the dollars and cents are supporting the decision (to bring him back).” Ultimately, it will be wins and losses that determine whether this is the right move, and not the past.
Snyder is fine with that, because no matter how many newfangled ways he learns to communicate and how cutting-edge his strategies on the field may be, his tested way of working is the only method he knows. If that doesn’t work, chances are he’ll consider the climate more responsible for failure than what he did and how he did it. That’s not a stubborn approach, just a confident one.
“The people that surround the Kansas State program — alumni, fans, students, faculty — they believe that, yes, it can be done again,” Snyder says. “We’d all like to believe that. But you have to do the things that make it happen.”
Sounds tough, but it sure beats a life of leisure.
Most of the time.
- By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
With the defections of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC, along with TCU’s decision to join the Big 12, the Big East is in desperation mode when it comes to expansion. Only six teams are locked into the league for 2012: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida and West Virginia. Pittsburgh and Syracuse are scheduled to remain in the league until 2014, but both teams could explore a buyout agreement to get out of the league earlier.
Believe it or not, it could get worse for the Big East. Louisville and West Virginia are both rumored targets for the Big 12 if Missouri decides to depart for the SEC. The Mountaineers are also believed to be a candidate to be the SEC’s 14th team.
Although the conference is in trouble, the six remaining teams – Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida and West Virginia – isn’t a bad place to start rebuilding. And this assumes West Virginia or Louisville won’t bolt to the Big 12 or SEC anytime soon.
In order to secure the future of the league, the remaining six schools have to agree to up the buyout. A payment of $5 million to leave a league simply isn’t enough.
Once the buyout is increased, potential expansion candidates will be interested in joining a league that has some stability. If the buyout is not increased, the Big East could have trouble attracting some members.
Considering what the Big East is working with in terms of available options, it may have to get creative in order to rebuild the conference. And there’s not much time to waste. Since losing Pittsburgh, Syracuse and TCU, the Big East seems to be moving at ridiculously slow rate when it comes to making decisions.
Forget what has made conferences in the past. Geography is out the window.
In order for the Big East to survive as a long-term, viable BCS league, it needs to land the best possible candidates and move to a 12-team setup. With the available candidates on the board, an East/West split is probably the most likely scenario.
Which team should get the first expansion invite? Boise State. Yes, the Broncos are a strange fit in terms of geography, but again, the Big East can’t think about that. Adding Boise State would give the conference an instant boost and a team that’s capable of competing for a spot among the top 10-15 every season. Academics have been a concern for conferences interested in Boise State, but rebuilding the football image of the Big East is important.
After Boise State is locked into the Big East as the seventh member, it’s time to add to the western edge.
Houston and SMU are logical targets from Conference USA and would get the Big East into two key television markets. While neither is going to outdraw the Big 12, it’s important to have a presence in Dallas and Houston.
The other question with the teams from the west is the service academies. Navy was prepared to join the conference, but the defections of Syracuse and Pittsburgh have slowed that possibility. Air Force seems prepared to leave the Mountain West, which makes the Falcons a logical target for the Big East. Air Force may not win a national title, but they can compete in the Big East and helps to bolster the conference’s national appeal.
In Athlon’s plan for the Big East, we are going to project Navy will decide to remain an independent. The Falcons may choose to turn down an invitation if Navy and Army don’t join. However, we will guess they accept a bid and join the remodeled Big East, which still leaves plenty of flexibility to schedule Army and Navy in non-conference games every year.
Choosing teams to build the east division was pretty easy. Temple and UCF are right in the Big East’s footprint and get the conference into the Philadelphia and Orlando television markets. If Temple or UCF say no, East Carolina is a strong fallback option.
South Florida may have some second thoughts about allowing another school from its state into the conference. However, the Big East can’t be choosy at this point. And there’s plenty of room for both schools in the conference.
Although Villanova is a member of the Big East’s basketball conference and is located in Philadelphia, the football team would need a couple of years to transition and sort out the stadium issues to move to the FBS level. Temple was kicked out of the Big East, but is a logical fit for the conference. Making a play for the Philadelphia market is key for the Big East, but Temple has a better shot at doing that right now, as opposed to waiting a couple of years for Villanova to move up and get ready to play at the FBS level. Additionally, the Owls are no longer a doormat and would be competitive in their first season.
There have been a lot of rumors and ideas thrown out on how to rebuild the conference, but here’s Athlon’s proposed Big East divisions for 2012:
There you have it. The new Big East Conference and a title game played on the campus of the team with the best record or ranked the highest in the BCS if a tie occurs.
The divisions are fairly balanced, with West Virginia and Boise State as the anchors in each.
It’s not going to win the award for the most difficult conference, but at least it keeps the Big East relevant. Adding Boise State is the key. With the Broncos in the mix, it gives the conference a team that already has credibility on the national level.
Time is running out for the Big East to stay relevant on the college football landscape. But this is a reasonable plan that makes sense for the conference in many ways.
- By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Arizona is the second school to make a coaching change this year, with coach Mike Stoops getting the ax after a 1-5 start. Stoops went 41-49 in seven seasons, but the slow start this season was the final blow. Stoops inherited a program that was a disaster under John Mackovic, and led the Wildcats to three straight bowl trips from 2008 to 20010. However, Stoops’ sideline antics, an in-your-face demeanor, and the program failing to get any higher than eight wins under his watch was enough for the Arizona administration to make a switch.
The Wildcats will have a new head coach in 2012 and this will be an important hire for a program looking to climb the ladder in the Pac-12 South. With USC’s probation, UCLA struggling and Utah adapting to the Pac-12, the division is wide-open for Arizona to contend with the right pieces in place.
Athletic director Greg Byrne has been on the job for just over a year and was successful during his tenure at Mississippi State. His last football hire was Dan Mullen - a young, energetic coach who could recruit. Will Arizona follow a similar path?
Who could be the next coach at Arizona? Here are 15 names to watch:
Gary Andersen, head coach, Utah State – Andersen has a losing record in his tenure at Utah State, but there’s little doubt the program is headed in the right direction. The Aggies are 2-3, but have lost all three games by a combined eight points. Andersen has head coaching experience at two stops – Southern Utah and Utah State – but has not coached in a BCS league.
Major Applewhite, co-offensive coordinator, Texas – An up-and-coming assistant, who currently serves as Texas’ co-offensive coordinator with Bryan Harsin. Applewhite is only 33 and has never been a head coach. However, he is similar to Byrne’s hire of Mullen – young and a bright offensive mind.
Mike Bellotti, former Oregon coach – Bellotti was very successful during his time at Oregon, posting a 116-55 record. Bellotti resigned as Oregon’s head coach in 2009 and became the school’s athletic director. After a short stint in that position, Bellotti moved to the television booth with ESPN. Byrne was at Oregon during Bellotti’s tenure, so there is some familiarity. Bellotti is 60 years old, but being out of coaching for a few years likely has recharged the batteries.
Art Briles, head coach, Baylor - It would be somewhat of a surprise if Briles left Baylor, but Arizona is a better job. Briles has spent all of his coaching career in Texas, and his recruiting ties would probably allow him to establish a pipeline of recruits to the Pac-12. Briles has done a good job of elevating Baylor's program during his tenure there. However, how high can that program go? With Texas A&M departing, there is a possibility for moving up in the Big 12 pecking order every year. Coaching at Arizona would be an easier path to a conference title.
Troy Calhoun, head coach, Air Force – Calhoun is very happy at Air Force, and the Falcons could be moving to the Big East, which would help the school’s ability to get into the BCS. Calhoun has been successful at Air Force, posting a 37-19 record in five-plus seasons. Although he played at Air Force, could Calhoun be ready for another challenge?
Paul Chryst, offensive coordinator, Wisconsin – Chryst has done an excellent job during his tenure at Wisconsin, currently coordinating the Badgers to a No. 3 national ranking in scoring offense. Chryst has NFL experience, coaching with the Chargers from 1999 to 2001. His experience in college isn’t limited to Wisconsin, as he coached at Oregon State for the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Chryst does not have any head coaching experience, but is regarded as one of the top offensive coordinators in college football.
Manny Diaz, defensive coordinator, Texas – Diaz is definitely on Byrne’s radar, considering the two worked at Mississippi State for a short period of time last season. Diaz did a good job with the Bulldogs’ defense last year, as they allowed only 19.9 points a game. Texas gave up 55 points in Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma, but the defense has not been a problem. Diaz is young and energetic, but does not have any head coaching experience.
Sonny Dykes, head coach, Louisiana Tech – Dykes previously coached at Arizona from 2007 to 2009. However, his tenure at Louisiana Tech has produced only a 7-11 record. Dykes is a longshot, but is a name to watch considering his past experience.
Bryan Harsin, co-offensive coordinator, Texas – Harsin and fellow co-coordinator Major Applewhite definitely fit the mold of Byrne’s last football hire at Mississippi State. Harsin is considered one of the nation’s top offensive minds, serving as Boise State’s coordinator from 2006-2010 and Texas in 2011. Harsin does not have any head coaching experience, but is regarded as one of the top assistants in the nation.
Mike Leach, former Texas Tech coach – There’s no doubt Leach has some baggage from what transpired at Texas Tech. However, his record was 84-43 and his pass-first offense would generate excitement from the Arizona fanbase and likely help boost season-ticket sales. The Wildcats went the defensive route last time, but expect an offensive hire to be the selection his time around. Leach should be near the top of Arizona’s list.
Dan Mullen, head coach, Mississippi State – Mullen is a longshot, but deserves a mention with his familiarity with Byrne. Highly unlikely Mullen would depart for Tucson, but winning at Arizona and competing for a division title is probably easier at Arizona than Mississippi State.
Chris Petersen, head coach, Boise State – Another longshot. Petersen’s name turns up every time a BCS job opens, but he is very happy in Boise. Byrne is supposedly good friends with Petersen, but it’s unlikely that relationship will factor into leaving Boise State.
Greg Roman, offensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers – A sleeper candidate. Roman has 14 years of NFL experience and worked under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford. He doesn’t have any head coaching experience, but helped to develop Andrew Luck and was in the mix to get the Vanderbilt job last year.
Kevin Sumlin, head coach, Houston – Sumlin is a Bob Stoops disciple, coaching at Oklahoma from 2003 to 2007. Sumlin has been the head coach at Houston since 2008, leading the Cougars to a 29-16 record. He has hired some top-notch coordinators to run the offenses at Houston, including Dana Holgorsen (head coach at West Virginia) and current co-coordinators Kliff Kingsbury and Jason Phillips. Sumlin is a proven commodity and would bring a high-scoring offense to Tucson. Considering Houston's 6-0 start this year, Sumlin will be a hot name in coaching circles this offseason.
Brent Venables, defensive coordinator, Oklahoma – Stoops came to Arizona as Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator, so it would be a surprise if the school went in the same direction. However, Venables is considered one of the top assistants in college football and Oklahoma’s defense has solid during his watch. If Venables doesn't land this job, it won't be long before he gets his first head-coaching gig.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 6 SEC Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Alabama (6-0) – Vanderbilt put up a valiant effort in the first half, but the Crimson Tide eventually pulled away for a 34-0 victory. Quarterback AJ McCarron tossed a career-high four touchdown tosses in the win, while completing 23 of 30 throws for 237 yards. Running back Trent Richardson posted another solid performance, rushing for 107 yards and one score. The Crimson Tide hits the road for a matchup against Ole Miss this Saturday, before returning home to face Tennessee on Oct. 22.
2. LSU (6-0) – After Saturday’s 41-11 victory over Florida, LSU stands only two games away from its huge showdown against Alabama on Nov. 5. The Tigers hit the road for a date against Tennessee this week, but the Volunteers are without quarterback Tyler Bray due to a thumb injury. The two-quarterback system of Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson has been a success so far, while LSU’s defense has allowed only two touchdowns over the last two games.
3. Arkansas (5-1) – The Razorbacks trailed 14-7 exiting the first quarter in Saturday's game against Auburn, but pulled away for a 38-14 victory. Quarterback Tyler Wilson posted another solid outing, throwing for 262 yards and two scores. Arkansas has an uphill battle to knock off Alabama or LSU in the SEC West race, but barring an upset, the Razorbacks seem locked into the No. 3 spot in that division. Arkansas is off this Saturday, before returning to action on Oct. 22 against Ole Miss.
4. South Carolina (5-1) – Coach Steve Spurrier finally had enough of Stephen Garcia’s inconsistency and inserted sophomore Connor Shaw into the starting lineup against Kentucky. So far, so good. Shaw torched the Wildcats for 311 yards and four scores, including 42 yards on the ground. Although the offense showed signs of life, Kentucky isn’t exactly the best measuring stick this season. The Gamecocks hit the road for a matchup against Mississippi State this Saturday.
5. Georgia (4-2) – The Bulldogs have been on a roll since losing the first two games of the season. Georgia has won its last four contests, led by a defense that has allowed no opponent to score more than 13 points over that span. The victory over Tennessee on Saturday was huge for the Bulldogs’ SEC East title hopes. Georgia has only one loss in conference play, and the schedule is favorable the rest of the way, with a date against Florida in Jacksonville the biggest hurdle. There’s a lot to be sorted out in the SEC race, but Georgia looks like the best team in the East.
6. Florida (4-2) – Winning in Baton Rouge with your starting quarterback is tough enough. However, winning with your third quarterback is nearly impossible. With John Brantley and Jeff Driskel out, Florida was forced to turn to Jacoby Brissett under center against the Tigers. The true freshman completed 8 of 14 throws for 94 yards and one touchdown, but also threw two picks. The Gators could get Driskel back for Saturday’s game against Auburn, but Brissett may also play. The Gators are reeling a bit with two consecutive losses. However, a win on Saturday night would keep Florida in the race to win the SEC East.
7. Auburn (4-2) – After boasting one of the top offenses in college football last season, the Tigers are struggling to find the answer at quarterback. Barrett Trotter completed only 6 of 19 throws for 81 yards in Saturday’s loss to Arkansas. True freshman Kiehl Frazier has been getting more snaps as the season progresses and could see his role increase this Saturday against Florida. The Tigers’ defense will catch a break this week, as Gators’ quarterback John Brantley will be out due to an ankle injury.
8. Mississippi State (3-3) – Most expected the Bulldogs to have an easy victory on Saturday, but that wasn’t the case. UAB led 3-0 at halftime and was down by only four points going into the final quarter. However, Mississippi State’s offense got a spark from backup quarterback Tyler Russell, who completed 11 of 13 throws for 166 yards and three touchdowns. Considering starter Chris Relf has been struggling, coach Dan Mullen may turn to Russell more in this week’s game against South Carolina.
9. Tennessee (3-2) – The Volunteers had a shot for a key SEC win on Saturday, but fell short, losing 20-12 to Georgia. The defeat was not only costly in the standings, but also on the depth chart. Quarterback Tyler Bray suffered a thumb injury and will likely miss six weeks of action. With Bray sidelined, Matt Simms will move back into the No. 1 role. The Volunteers have a brutal two-game stretch the next two weeks, as they host LSU this Saturday, before playing at Alabama on Oct. 22.
10. Vanderbilt (3-2) – The Commodores have lost their last two games, but still deserve to be ranked over Kentucky and Ole Miss. Vanderbilt played well in the first half against Alabama, but two missed field goals and a struggling offense prevented the Commodores from making things interesting in the final two quarters. After two road games, Vanderbilt is back home for a matchup against Georgia this Saturday.
11. Ole Miss (2-3) – The Rebels had a bye in Week 6 and return to action on Saturday against Alabama. Ole Miss hasn’t had much success against the Crimson Tide, with its last victory in the series in 1993. Quarterback Randall Mackey showed promise in the win over Fresno State and will remain the No. 1 passer for now. The Rebels still have an outside shot to get to a bowl, but it’s not going to be an easy road with Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, Auburn and Mississippi State remaining on the schedule.
12. Kentucky (2-4) – Another week, another disastrous performance by the Wildcats’ offense. Kentucky’s only points (three) were setup by a South Carolina turnover on the opening kickoff. Quarterback Morgan Newton continued to struggle, completing only 4 of 21 passes for 17 yards. Backup Maxwell Smith wasn’t any better, misfiring on all three attempts, with two of them picked off. The Wildcats have a bye this Saturday, before hosting Jacksonville State on Oct. 22.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 6 ACC Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Clemson (6-0) – As expected, the Tigers had little trouble knocking off Boston College. However, the win came at a price, as quarterback Tajh Boyd suffered a hip injury in the second half. The injury initially appeared to be serious, but Boyd is listed as probable for Saturday’s game against Maryland. Freshman receiver Sammy Watkins turned in another big performance against the Eagles, catching seven passes for 152 yards. Watkins has three games of at least 100 receiving yards and is averaging 16.4 yards per catch.
2. Georgia Tech (6-0) – The Yellow Jackets posted a season-low 21 points against Maryland, but still found a way to get the victory. Quarterback Tevin Washington led the way with 234 total yards and two rushing touchdowns. The Yellow Jackets’ defense allowed 13 points in the second half, but delivered a big stop late in the fourth quarter to preserve the victory. Georgia Tech is off to its first 6-0 start since 1966. The Yellow Jackets control their destiny in the ACC Coastal race and hit the road the next two weeks for games against Virginia and Miami.
3. Virginia Tech (5-1) – One week after a disappointing 23-3 loss in Blacksburg to Clemson, the Hokies responded with a 38-35 win over Miami. Quarterback Logan Thomas was heavily criticized for his performance against Clemson, but turned in the best start of his career on Saturday, throwing for 310 yards and two touchdowns. The sophomore also posted two rushing touchdowns, including the game-winner with less than a minute remaining. The Hokies have another tough conference game this Saturday, as they travel to Winston-Salem to take on Wake Forest.
4. Wake Forest (4-1) – Most preseason predictions did not have the Demon Deacons even earning four wins all year. As the midpoint of the 2011 season approaches, it’s clear Wake Forest is a much-improved team and will be a factor in the ACC title race. The Demon Deacons knocked off Florida State 35-30 on Saturday, which was their fourth win in six games against the Seminoles. Wake Forest has another tough conference game this week, as Virginia Tech visits Winston-Salem this Saturday.
5. North Carolina (5-1) – The Tar Heels aren’t getting much national attention, but they are quietly off to a good start. Saturday’s 14-7 win over Louisville moves North Carolina one step closer to bowl eligibility, while the team still has a shot to win the ACC Coastal. Quarterback Bryn Renner threw for only 178 yards and one touchdown against Louisville, but has not thrown an interception in his last two games. Running back Giovani Bernard has also been impressive, rushing for at least 100 yards in each of his last four games. If the Tar Heels keep winning, will interim coach Everett Withers get the full-time job?
6. Florida State (2-3) – After entering this season with aspirations of winning a national title, the Seminoles have to consider 2011 a major disappointment. Florida State has lost three straight, which includes Saturday’s 35-30 defeat to Wake Forest. The Seminoles have struggled with turnovers and penalties, while the rushing attack has been invisible most of the year. Winning the ACC Atlantic is probably out of reach, but Florida State can still win out and finish with a solid 9-3 record.
7. Miami (2-3) – The Hurricanes played well, but dropped a 38-35 decision to Virginia Tech in Week 6. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris has struggled with interceptions throughout his career, but has not thrown a pick in his last two games. Running back Lamar Miller has been one of the top offensive players in the ACC so far this year, rushing for 677 yards and five scores. With a struggling defense, Miami needs Harris and Miller to carry the team right now. The Hurricanes hit the road for a matchup against North Carolina this Saturday.
8. Maryland (2-3) – After the 32-24 victory over Miami in the season opener, the Terrapins looked like a contender in the ACC Atlantic. Fast forward to Week 7 and it looks like Maryland is going to struggle just to get bowl eligible. Saturday’s 21-16 loss to Georgia Tech was the third defeat in four games for the Terrapins and it won’t get any easier this week. Maryland hosts Clemson and travels to Florida State next Saturday. Another alarming issue for the Terrapins is the play of quarterback Danny O’Brien. The sophomore completed only 1 of 6 throws for 17 yards and one interception against Georgia Tech and could lose time to backup C.J. Brown this week.
9. Duke (3-2) – The Blue Devils had a bye in Week 6 and return to action this Saturday against Florida State. Duke has never defeated the Seminoles, losing all 16 matchups between these two teams. Making matters worse for the Blue Devils is they have struggled just to be competitive against Florida State. Adding a glimmer of hope for Saturday’s game is the fact Duke is riding a three-game winning streak, while the Seminoles have lost three in a row.
10. NC State (3-3) – Saturday’s 38-24 win over Central Michigan was NC State’s first victory over a FBS team this season. Quarterback Mike Glennon posted a solid performance against the Chippewas, throwing for 244 yards and four touchdowns. NC State needs to get to seven victories to get bowl eligible, which is no sure thing considering the upcoming slate – at Virginia, at Florida State, North Carolina, at Boston College, Clemson and Maryland.
11. Virginia (3-2) – The Cavaliers had a bye in Week 6 and return to action on Saturday against Georgia Tech. Virginia has lost its last two in this series, including a 33-21 defeat last season in Atlanta. The Cavaliers have a realistic shot to get bowl eligible, but they may need an upset or two along the way.
12. Boston College (1-5) – The miserable 2011 season in Chestnut Hill continued on Saturday with a 36-14 loss to Clemson. The Eagles got more bad news off the field this week, as running back Montel Harris and defensive tackle Kaleb Ramsey are done for the year due to injuries. Boston College is expected to pursue a medical redshirt for both players. The Eagles have a much-needed bye this week, before returning to action on Oct. 22 at Virginia Tech.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 6 Big East Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. West Virginia (5-1) – It took a half for the Mountaineers’ offense to wake up, but when they did, the onslaught of points was on. West Virginia scored 33 points in the second half to defeat Connecticut 43-16. Quarterback Geno Smith led the way for the Mountaineers once again, throwing for 449 yards and four touchdowns. Running back Dustin Garrison continues to emerge as the No. 1 ball carrier, rushing for 78 yards and a score. Another positive for West Virginia was defensive end Bruce Irvin, who registered 1.5 sacks against Connecticut. The Mountaineers have a bye in Week 7 and return to action on Oct. 21 at Syracuse.
2. South Florida (4-1) – The Bulls’ first bye week of the season came at a good time. After losing 44-17 to Pittsburgh, South Florida had two weeks to figure out what went wrong and make the needed adjustments. Saturday’s game at Connecticut will only be the Bulls’ second Big East contest of the year, and there’s plenty of time to make up ground on West Virginia, Rutgers, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati for the battle to win the conference title.
3. Rutgers (4-1) – The Scarlet Knights are still struggling on offense, but continue to find ways to win. Saturday’s 34-10 victory over Pittsburgh was huge, as Rutgers has already equaled last season’s win total. True freshman Gary Nova started at quarterback and completed 11 of 24 throws for 173 yards and two scores. The Scarlet Knights step out of conference for a difficult matchup against Navy this Saturday. Rutgers has some question marks, but is the only Big East team with a 2-0 record in conference play through six weeks.
4. Pittsburgh (3-3) – One week after demolishing South Florida 44-17, the Panthers were unable to build upon that momentum in Big East play in a 34-10 loss to Rutgers. Contributing to the disappointing outcome was four turnovers, suspect quarterback play from Tino Sunseri and six sacks allowed by the offensive line. Running back Ray Graham continues to be one of the top players in the Big East this season, rushing for 162 yards and one touchdown against the Scarlet Knights. The Panthers step out of conference for a matchup against Utah in Week 7.
5. Cincinnati (4-1) – The Bearcats had a bye on Saturday and return to action this Saturday against Louisville. Cincinnati has won its last three games over the Cardinals. This matchup was moved from Nippert Stadium to Paul Brown Stadium (the home of the Cincinnati Bengals). The Bearcats have already matched last season’s win total and will move one step closer to bowl eligibility with a victory over Louisville.
6. Syracuse (4-2) – It wasn’t pretty, but the Orange posted a 37-34 win over Tulane to earn their fourth victory of the season. Syracuse was outgained, but won the turnover battle and outside of one 40-yard touchdown run, kept Green Wave running back Orleans Darkwa in check. The Orange has been living on the edge all year, barely beating Rhode Island and three games going into overtime. Syracuse is off this Saturday and returns to action with a date against West Virginia on Oct. 21.
7. Louisville (2-3) – The 14-7 loss to North Carolina capped an interesting week in Louisville. Offensive coordinator Mike Sanford did not make the trip to Chapel Hill, with rumors about his future with the team swirled late in the week. However, coach Charlie Strong indicated Sanford would return for the Oct. 15 game against Cincinnati. However, it’s unclear if Sanford will call plays or if Shawn Watson continues as offensive coordinator. One bright spot in the loss to the Tar Heels was the play of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The freshman completed 19 of 30 throws for 173 yards and one touchdown. Louisville takes on rival Cincinnati this Saturday.
8. Connecticut (2-4) – The Huskies hung tough for a half against West Virginia, but didn’t have enough offense to make it interesting in the final two quarters. Quarterback Johnny McEntee seems to have a firm grasp on the starting job, completing 21 of 37 for 192 yards against the Mountaineers. Although McEntee has settled as the No. 1 quarterback, the Huskies still need more production from him. Repeating as Big East champions is very unlikely. However, are there enough wins on the schedule to get bowl eligible?
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 6 Big 12 Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Oklahoma (5-0) – The Red River Rivalry was a one-sided affair on Saturday afternoon. The Sooners jumped out to a 34-10 lead at halftime and cruised to a 55-17 victory. The defense posted three scores, while quarterback Landry Jones threw for 367 yards and three touchdowns. Oklahoma is clearly one of the best teams in the nation and is on track for a showdown against rival Oklahoma State in the season finale. The Sooners and Cowboys still have a few landmines to clear, but the winner of Bedlam could be in prime position for a spot in the national title game.
2. Oklahoma State (5-0) – The Cowboys gave up an opening drive touchdown to Kansas, but that was about the only time Saturday’s game was in doubt. Oklahoma State cruised to a 70-28 victory over the Jayhawks, led by quarterback Brandon Weeden’s five touchdown tosses. Weeden’s day was done just before halftime, allowing backup Clint Chelf to get some valuable reps. The Cowboys have a tough two-game road trip up next, as they visit Texas this Saturday, followed by a date at Missouri on Oct. 22.
3. Kansas State (5-0) – It’s time to stop doubting the Wildcats. Kansas State was a home underdog going into Saturday’s matchup against Missouri, but emerged with a 24-17 victory. The Wildcats continue to be one of the top surprises in college football this season, with coach Bill Snyder deserving serious consideration for coach of the year. With the win over Missouri, Kansas State is 5-0 for the first time since 2000. The Wildcats travel to Lubbock for an intriguing matchup against Texas Tech this week.
4. Texas A&M (3-2) – After watching back-to-back leads evaporate in the second half the last two weeks, it was important for the Aggies to seize control of this game in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t easy, but Texas A&M snapped a two-game losing streak and defeated Texas Tech 45-40. It’s a longshot, but the Aggies could still win 10 games this year. The task starts on Saturday, as Baylor makes the short trip from Waco to College Station.
5. Baylor (4-1) – The Bears went scoreless in the first quarter, but eventually rallied for a 49-26 win over Iowa State. Coming off its first loss of 2011, it was important for Baylor to get back in the win column and rebuild the confidence before a tough stretch of games. Quarterback Robert Griffin remained squarely in the Heisman mix, posting 319 yards and two scores against the Cyclones. The Bears travel to College Station for a matchup against Texas A&M this Saturday.
6. Texas (4-1) – The Longhorns are better than they were last season, but still not anywhere close to the class that Oklahoma is in right now. Texas suffered its first defeat of 2011 with Saturday’s 55-17 loss to the Sooners. The quarterback combination of Case McCoy and David Ash struggled to generate much production against the Sooners’ defense, while the Longhorns had three turnovers returned for touchdowns. Texas’ young secondary also took a beating, with Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones throwing for 367 yards. The Longhorns won’t have much time to regroup, as Oklahoma State visits Austin on Saturday.
7. Missouri (2-3) – It’s been a season of close calls for the Tigers. All three of Missouri’s losses have been decided by 10 points or less, including a 38-28 defeat to Oklahoma. After Saturday’s 24-17 loss to Kansas State, it’s fair to wonder whether this team will be able to get bowl eligible. The Tigers host Iowa State this Saturday, but still have games against Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Baylor, Texas and Texas Tech remaining.
8. Texas Tech (4-1) – The Red Raiders fell short against Texas A&M, losing 45-40 for their first defeat of 2011. In addition to the loss, running back Eric Stephens is expected to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. Stephens was off to a solid start, rushing for 570 yards and eight touchdowns in five games. The offense should get a boost with the return of receiver Darrin Moore, who suffered an ankle injury in the 35-34 win over Nevada. The Red Raiders host 5-0 Kansas State this Saturday.
9. Iowa State (3-2) – After a hot 3-0 start, the Cyclones have cooled off with back-to-back losses. Quarterback Steele Jantz kept Iowa State within striking distance against Baylor, throwing for 244 yards and three touchdowns. However, the Cyclones had no answer on defense for Bears’ quarterback Robert Griffin and running back Terrance Ganaway. The schedule won’t get any easier for Iowa State this week, as they travel to Columbia to take on Missouri.
10. Kansas (2-3) – The Jayhawks began the year 2-0, but are trending in the wrong direction over the last three games. The defense has been awful, allowing 40 points in four contests this season. Additionally, the Jayhawks rank last nationally in total and scoring defense. Don’t expect those numbers to get any better this Saturday, as Kansas hosts Oklahoma.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Athlon sums up a full slate of college football with the most important things to take away from this weekend.
Arkansas – After getting throttled by Alabama in Week 4, the Razorbacks have bounced back with two solid wins. Arkansas had to stage a furious rally to beat Texas A&M, but easily defeated Auburn 38-14 on Saturday. Outside of the season finale against LSU, the Razorbacks should be favored the rest of the way.
Arizona State – It’s still too early to declare the Sun Devils the runaway Pac-12 South champ, but their remaining schedule is favorable. Outside of a date at Oregon this Saturday, Arizona State hosts Colorado, Arizona and California, while making road trips to UCLA and Washington State. The Sun Devils will be underdogs against Oregon, but there is not another sure loss on the schedule.
Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina – Steve Spurrier’s decision to go with Shaw appears to have sparked the offense - at least for now. The sophomore blistered the Kentucky secondary for 311 yards and four touchdowns, while adding 42 yards on the ground. Shaw’s four touchdown tosses against the Wildcats equaled Stephen Garcia’s total so far this year. Considering the opponent was Kentucky, it’s hard to put a whole lot of stock in Shaw’s performance, but he looked comfortable and the offense turned in its best performance of 2011.
Georgia – After losing the first two games of the year, the Bulldogs have fought back with four consecutive victories. The defense has not allowed more than 13 points in its last four games. Running back Isaiah Crowell rushed for only 58 yards against Tennessee, but has brought a spark to the offense. Georgia has a key test coming on Oct. 29 against Florida, but the Bulldogs look like the best team in the SEC East.
Houston – The Cougars lack a marquee non-conference win, but they have cruised to a 6-0 start. Considering the upcoming schedule – Marshall, Rice, UAB, Tulane – Houston should be 10-0 before the final two games of the year against SMU and Tulsa. It’s a longshot for the Cougars to make a BCS bowl, but there’s a strong possibility they could finish the season undefeated.
Kansas State – Once again, the Wildcats continue to prove the doubters wrong. Kansas State was a home underdog to Missouri, but posted a 24-17 victory to move to 5-0. There’s nothing flashy about this team, but the Wildcats simply continue to find ways to win. Quarterback Collin Klein is having a good season, while linebacker Arthur Brown has been a difference-maker on defense.
Illinois – The Fighting Illini is 6-0 and in the thick of the Big Ten Leaders Division title chase. Receiver A.J. Jenkins has been on fire this season, posting four games of at least 100 yards receiving and scoring five times in his last two contests. Although Illinois is off to a great start, Saturday’s test against Ohio State could be its toughest of the season.
Michigan – The Wolverines trailed Northwestern 24-14 at halftime, but there was no panic in this team as they rallied for a 42-24 victory. Michigan continues to make good adjustments on defense in the second half, while quarterback Denard Robinson overcame three picks to help lead the comeback. The Wolverines are off to their first 6-0 start since 2006 and face rival Michigan State this Saturday.
Nebraska – A week after getting blown out against Wisconsin, it looked like the Cornhuskers were headed for another loss midway through the third quarter of Saturday’s game against Ohio State. However, Nebraska rallied for a 34-27 victory, led by the one-two punch of quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead. The Cornhuskers still have question marks on defense, but remain the favorite to win the Legends Division.
Notre Dame – With Saturday’s 59-33 victory over Air Force, the Fighting Irish has quietly totaled four wins in a row. Notre Dame is off this Saturday and is back in action on Oct. 22 against USC. If the Fighting Irish can knock off the Trojans, they should be 9-2 going into the season finale against Stanford.
Oklahoma – The Red River Rivalry wasn’t much of a contest. The Sooners used a big game from quarterback Landry Jones (31 of 50, 367 yards) and three defensive touchdowns to blow out Texas 55-17. Oklahoma still has a few tests remaining – at Kansas State, Texas A&M and at Baylor – but is headed for a Dec. 3 showdown against Oklahoma State. If both teams are undefeated, a spot in the national title game could be on the line.
Oregon State – It’s been a difficult year in Corvallis, but Saturday’s victory over Arizona erases the goose egg from the win column. The Beavers have shown improvement each week, and will get a boost when running back Malcolm Agnew returns to the lineup. Coach Mike Riley is taking a lot of criticism for Oregon State’s slow start, but the talk of him being on the hot seat needs to end.
Penn State – The offense is going to be an issue all year, but the Nittany Lions have a solid defense to lean on. Penn State defeated Iowa 13-3 on Saturday to move to 5-1 this season. The Nittany Lions should earn their sixth victory with Purdue coming to Happy Valley on Saturday. If the offense can settle on a quarterback and get consistent production, Penn State should be in good shape to get to eight or nine wins.
Rutgers – It wasn’t exactly a pretty victory, but the Scarlet Knights defeated Pittsburgh to move to 4-1. How important was Saturday’s win? Rutgers won only four games all of last season. The offense is still searching for the right pieces, but after a disappointing 2010 season, the Scarlet Knights should be in the mix for a bowl bid.
UL Lafayette – The Ragin’ Cajuns haven’t beat any team in the top 25, but they are off to an impressive 5-1 start and own victories over Troy and FIU. New coach Mark Hudspeth has been one of the top hires for 2011 and the Ragin’ Cajuns are poised to earn their first season of more than six wins since 1993.
Virginia Tech – One week after a disappointing 23-3 loss to Clemson, the Hokies delivered in the clutch for a 38-35 victory over Miami. Quarterback Logan Thomas had the best performance of his career, completing 23 of 25 throws for 310 yards and three scores. The sophomore also added 28 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. With Thomas settling in, don’t write off Virginia Tech from winning the ACC title.
Wake Forest – After finishing 3-9 last season, there were some calling for Demon Deacons’ coach Jim Grobe to be placed on the hot seat. How quickly things have changed. Wake Forest is off to a solid 4-1 start, which includes Saturday’s big win over Florida State. The Demon Deacons still have a chance to win the ACC Atlantic, but Saturday’s game against Virginia Tech and the Nov. 12 date at Clemson will be huge. Even if Wake Forest doesn’t win the Atlantic, it should make a bowl game.
Arizona – The Wildcats dropped to 1-5 with a 37-27 defeat to Oregon State on Saturday. Arizona’s only win in 2011 came in the opener against Northern Arizona and its last victory over a FBS team was against UCLA on Oct. 30, 2010. Although the Wildcats had a lot of holes to fill this season, the dismal start has put coach Mike Stoops squarely on the hot seat. Whether or not he keeps his job will depend on how Arizona performs over the final six games of 2011.
Boston College – The Eagles have struggled all year and dropped to 1-5 with Saturday’s 36-14 loss to Clemson. Unfortunately, the bad news didn’t stop on the field, as running back Montel Harris and defensive tackle Kaleb Ramsay are both done for the year due to injuries. Boston College hopes to get both players a medical redshirt for a return in 2012.
Florida State – Saturday’s 35-30 loss to Wake Forest was the Seminoles’ third straight loss. Florida State began the year with national title expectations, but has struggled with turnovers, penalties and dropped passes by the receivers. EJ Manuel’s injury against Oklahoma was a setback for the offense, despite Clint Trickett’s play in the loss against Clemson. The Seminoles have a good shot to win all of their remaining games, but the mental errors that have plagued this team must be fixed.
Kentucky offense – If the Wildcats’ offense wasn’t at rock bottom already, Saturday’s performance probably pushed it there. Kentucky managed only 96 yards of offense against South Carolina and struggled just to move the ball past midfield. The Wildcats also turned the ball over six times. Kentucky was expected to have one of the top offensive lines in the SEC this season, but that group has been hit by injuries, while quarterback Morgan Newton has struggled mightily.
Maryland offense – Whether it’s a new scheme, coaching or different personnel stepping into starting roles, the Terrapins just haven’t been able to find their rhythm on offense this year. Quarterback Danny O’Brien entered 2011 as one of the contenders for ACC Offensive Player of the Year, but was awful in Saturday’s loss to Georgia Tech, completing 1 of 6 passes for 17 yards and one interception. Backup C.J. Brown did not fare much better, throwing four completions on 17 attempts for 36 yards. Brown did give the team a spark with his legs, but Maryland has to find its passing offense with a high-scoring Clemson team coming to College Park.
Minnesota – I still think Jerry Kill is the right coach to get Minnesota back into bowl contention every year, but there’s apparently more work than expected. The Golden Gophers lost 45-17 to Purdue on Saturday. And yes, that’s the same Boilermaker team that lost to Rice and barely beat MTSU in the season opener. An upset or two isn’t out of the question, but a 1-11 final record is probably the most likely outcome.
Pittsburgh – A week after blowing out South Florida, the Panthers fell flat against Rutgers. The problems on offense resurfaced, as quarterback Tino Sunseri threw three picks and was sacked six times. Running back Ray Graham continues to have a monster season, but the Panthers need the offensive line and passing attack to improve to contend for the Big East title.
UNLV offense – The Rebels are battling New Mexico to finish in the cellar of the Mountain West, but Saturday’s offensive performance against Nevada was horrendous. UNLV managed only 110 yards and seven first downs, while quarterback Caleb Herring completed only one of 14 attempts. Yikes.
Looking Ahead to Week 7
A small sample of what’s ahead
USC (4-1) at California (3-2) (Thursday)
Can the Golden Bears bounce back after Thursday’s loss in Eugene? Trojans have won seven in a row over California.
Michigan (6-0) at Michigan State (4-1)
Key game in the Legends Division. Spartans have won the last three matchups in this series.
LSU (6-0) at Tennessee (3-2)
Volunteers improving, but unlikely to derail LSU’s undefeated season.
Virginia Tech (5-1) at Wake Forest (4-1)
It’s time to take the Demon Deacons as a serious contender for the ACC Atlantic title, and a win over the Hokies would help keep pace with Clemson.
Florida State (2-3) at Duke (3-2)
No one predicted Seminoles would have no ACC wins entering Week 7.
Miami (2-3) at North Carolina (5-1)
If either of these teams wants to contend for the Coastal title, this is a must-win matchup.
Utah (2-3) at Pittsburgh (3-3)
After watching both teams struggle on offense last week, expect a low-scoring game next Saturday.
South Carolina (5-1) at Mississippi State (3-3)
Is Connor Shaw the answer at quarterback for South Carolina? Bulldogs still looking for first SEC win this year.
Oklahoma State (5-0) at Texas (4-1)
Longhorns’ young secondary will be under fire once again this week, this time from Heisman contenders Brandon Weeden (QB) and Justin Blackmon (WR).
Florida (4-2) at Auburn (4-2)
With quarterback John Brantley likely out for the Gators, it’s up to the defense to get the victory against the Tigers.
Ohio State (3-3) at Illinois (6-0)
Illini off to hot start, but Buckeyes showed some signs of life in last week’s loss to Nebraska.
Kansas State (5-0) at Texas Tech (4-1)
Wildcats continue to surprise, while Red Raiders should get a boost with the return of receiver Darrin Moore back in the lineup.
Arizona State (5-1) at Oregon (4-1)
Is this an early preview of the Pac-12 title game?
Baylor (4-1) at Texas A&M (3-2)
Bears’ quarterback Robert Griffin has a chance to bolster his Heisman campaign, as he takes on Texas A&M’s suspect secondary.
Injuries from Week 6
Arizona WR Juron Criner – sprained knee – questionable for Week 8
California DB Marc Anthony – shoulder – questionable for Week 7
Clemson QB Tajh Boyd – hip – probable for Week 7
Colorado WR Paul Richardson – knee sprain – out at least three weeks
Florida DE Ronald Powell – undisclosed – questionable for Week 7
Florida S Josh Evans – arm – questionable for Week 7
Florida State RB Chris Thompson – back – out for remainder of 2011
Georgia WR Malcolm Mitchell – hamstring – out for Week 7
Maryland OG Andrew Gonnella – leg – out for remainder of 2011
Ohio State QB Braxton Miller – ankle – questionable for Week 7
Oregon RB LaMichael James – dislocated elbow – questionable for Week 7
Tennessee QB Tyler Bray – thumb – likely out six weeks
Tennessee RB Tauren Poole – hamstring – questionable for Week 7
Texas A&M WR Jeff Fuller – concussion – questionable for Week 7
Texas Tech RB Eric Stephens – knee – likely out the remainder of 2011
UCLA QB Richard Brehaut – leg fracture – out indefinitely
UL Lafayette QB Blaine Gautier – ankle – questionable for Week 7
Vanderbilt QB Larry Smith – foot – probable for Week 7
Virginia Tech DE James Gayle – sprained ankle – questionable for Week 7
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
10 Key Storylines to Watch for Week 6
1. Considering his success at Florida, it’s been a surprise to see Steve Spurrier struggle with quarterbacks during his tenure at South Carolina. And the revolving door under center will continue for the Gamecocks this Saturday. After watching Stephen Garcia throw six interceptions in the last two games, Spurrier has decided to turn to Connor Shaw. The sophomore started the opener against East Carolina, but has played sparingly since. There’s not much of a sample size on Shaw (27 of 44 for 252 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs), and South Carolina needs to figure out if he’s the answer, or if Garcia gives the team a better chance to win. Regardless of who starts under center, the Gamecocks need to do a better job of establishing running back Marcus Lattimore, particularly after last week’s game against Auburn. South Carolina should cruise to an easy win over Kentucky, but all eyes in Columbia will be focused on Shaw and his performance this Saturday.
2. Its not quite desperation time, but Virginia Tech and Miami both need a win in conference play. The two teams square off in Blacksburg this Saturday, looking to get their first ACC victory of the season. The Hokies started off 4-0 thanks to a soft non-conference slate, but was handled 23-3 by Clemson last Saturday. Both of the Hurricanes’ losses were close, but they can’t afford an 0-2 hole in conference play. Quarterback play is a question mark for both teams and will be a key factor in this game. Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas has no touchdown passes in his last two games, while Miami’s Jacory Harris has thrown three interceptions against BCS opponents this year. Both teams should have success running the ball, but the play of Thomas and Harris will likely define who wins this key ACC Coastal showdown.
3. Florida’s SEC East title hopes took a hit in last Saturday’s loss to Alabama. Quarterback John Brantley suffered an ankle injury at the end of the first half and will miss Saturday’s game against LSU. The Gators can still win the SEC East, but with Brantley sidelined at least this week, they will be staring at a 2-2 record in conference play. Replacing Brantley is expected to be Jeff Driskel. The true freshman ranked as the No. 1 quarterback in the 2011 recruiting class by Athlon Sports. Driskel certainly has the talent, but getting your first start on the road in Baton Rouge is a difficult task. True freshman Jacoby Brissett and redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy could figure into the gameplan, along with fullback Trey Burton taking snaps out of the Wildcat formation. With a suffocating LSU defense ready to pounce on a young quarterback, the Gators could be in for a long afternoon on Saturday.
4. The annual Oklahoma-Texas matchup is relevant on the national scene once again. Texas’ struggles last season moved this game out of the spotlight, but both teams are 4-0 and ranked in the top 10 of Athlon’s weekly 120 poll. If the Longhorns are to have any shot at winning this game, the young quarterback duo of Case McCoy and David Ash has to play well. Oklahoma’s defense is allowing only 15.3 points a game, which figures to make life tough on the Longhorns’ offense. The Sooners own one of the top passing attacks in college football, but face a Texas secondary allowing only 178.3 yards per game. Considering the firepower on the Oklahoma sideline, the Longhorns’ best shot at winning is a low-scoring game. If the Texas’ quarterbacks struggle with turnovers, the Sooners will be able to get a couple of touchdowns ahead and cruise to a victory. Don’t be surprised if Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin has a few trick plays in the bag to throw at Oklahoma’s defense.
5. With South Carolina’s struggles on offense and Florida’s loss to Alabama last week, the door is open for the winner of Saturday’s game between Georgia and Tennessee to contend in the SEC East. The Bulldogs have a conference loss to South Carolina, while Tennessee suffered a defeat to Florida in Week 3. The Bulldogs have lost their last two games in Neyland Stadium, which is the site of Saturday’s matchup. After allowing 80 points in its first two games, Georgia has given up only 23 over the last three contests. Although the competition didn’t match Boise State and South Carolina, the Bulldogs are clearly finding a comfort level in coordinator Todd Grantham’s scheme. The Georgia secondary will be tested by Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray, who has 14 touchdown tosses in four games. Is a young Volunteer team ready to state their presence in the SEC East? If the Bulldogs win this one, you have to like their chances to emerge as the No. 1 team in the East.
6. Florida State entered 2011 with hopes of contending for a national title. A 2-2 start has put those dreams on hold for another year, but the Seminoles can still win the ACC – provided Clemson loses two more conference games. Quarterback EJ Manuel injured his shoulder in the loss to Oklahoma and did not play against Clemson, but will return for Saturday’s game against Wake Forest. Although the Seminoles are a big favorite, they cannot overlook the Demon Deacons. Wake Forest is off to a 3-1 start and has ACC victories over NC State and Boston College this season. If Florida State wants to have any shot at knocking off Clemson in the ACC Atlantic, a victory over the upset-minded Demon Deacons on Saturday is a must.
7. When the Big Ten schedule for 2011 was released, the Nebraska-Ohio State matchup was expected to play a key role in determining the division champs. Many expected these two teams to meet in Indianapolis in December to decide the conference title. After last weekend’s performances, it’s more about both teams just getting a victory in Big Ten play. The Cornhuskers were embarrassed in a 48-17 loss to Wisconsin last Saturday, while the Buckeyes lost 10-7 to Michigan State. Nebraska’s defense has not played up to its Blackshirt level, allowing 27.2 points a game and ranking 64th nationally in total defense. However, Ohio State’s offense hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. Will Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller find any success this week? On the other sideline, Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez is feeling the heat after a disappointing performance against Wisconsin. There’s a lot of question marks surrounding both teams and there’s a lot of urgency to get a win this week.
8. Auburn’s 16-13 win at South Carolina last week could end up as one of the most surprising outcomes in SEC play this year. The Tigers went into last Saturday’s game ranked as one of the worst defenses in the SEC, but somehow held South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore in check. However, Auburn’s defense is going to be under fire once again, this time from an Arkansas offense averaging 39.4 points a game. Are the Tigers capable of pulling off another road upset this week? Considering Auburn’s penchant for finding ways to win games, don’t count out this team, even though the Razorbacks look like they should easily scorch the Tigers’ defense. Arkansas’ defense is dealing with a handful of key injuries, which should allow Auburn running back Michael Dyer to have another huge performance.
9. When the Pac-12 schedules were released, the Washington State-UCLA game was circled as a meeting between two coaches on the hot seat. Through five weeks, it’s fair to wonder whether its now a matchup of two programs headed in the opposite direction. The Cougars are off to a solid 3-1 start, while UCLA is 2-3 with wins over Oregon State and San Jose State. Washington State coach Paul Wulff has only eight wins during his tenure, but has a chance to get bowl eligible this year. Although the Bruins have a lot of young talent, they have yet to put it together under Neuheisel. Neither coach should feel secure about its chances to return in 2012, but a win on Saturday would certainly help move closer to bowl eligibility.
10. Brady Hoke’s first year at Michigan is off to a fast start. The Wolverines are 5-0, have a big win over Notre Dame and the defense has shown big improvement from last season’s debacle. Michigan hits the road for the first time this season, traveling to Evanston to take on Northwestern. The Wildcats lost a close game to Illinois last week, but quarterback Dan Persa made his return to the lineup. Persa left the game in the fourth quarter as a precautionary measure, but threw for 123 yards and four scores during his time on the field. The senior has been cleared to start on Saturday, and will test Michigan’s secondary. Can the Wolverines challenge for the Legends Division title? It’s certainly a good possibility, however, the Wolverines have a tough upcoming slate of Big Ten games – at Michigan State, at Iowa, at Illinois, Nebraska and Ohio State.
Athlon editor Mitch Light predicts the 10 biggest games for Week 6 – here’s my take on how some of the top games will play out.
Oklahoma 31, Texas 20
LSU 27, Florida 10
Arkansas 38, Auburn 31
Missouri 31, Kansas State 27
Nebraska 27, Ohio State 13
Georgia 31, Tennessee 24
Texas A&M 38, Texas Tech 34
Arizona State 30, Utah 17
Notre Dame 34, Air Force 23
Michigan 34, Northwestern 31
Florida State 31, Wake Forest 24
Virginia Tech 26, Miami 20
Iowa 24, Penn State 17
Looking for a few upsets? Keep a close watch on these games.
Iowa at Penn State (-3.5)
Can the Nittany Lions generate any offense? If not, this should be an easy win for Iowa. The Hawkeyes have won their last three matchups against Penn State.
Georgia (-2) at Tennessee
The SEC East race is wide open. The Volunteers have a young roster, but with this game in Knoxville, don’t rule out an upset over Georgia.
Texas A&M (-9) at Texas Tech
Considering the Aggies’ struggles in the second half over the last two weeks, no lead is going to be safe in Lubbock on Saturday. Texas A&M’s secondary is ranked last in college football against the pass, which will be under fire against Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege.
Michigan (-7.5) at Northwestern
The improved Wolverines’ defense will be tested by Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa, who looked sharp in his return from a torn Achilles last week.
Missouri (-3.5) at Kansas State
The Wildcats are off to a surprising 4-0 start. Quarterback Collin Klein has carried the offense, while Miami transfer Arthur Brown has lived up to the hype at linebacker. This matchup is relatively even, so winning the turnover battle is going to be crucial for both sides.
Around the Web: College Football’s Must Read Articles to Prepare for Week 6
Could Washington's defense finally be ready to turn the corner?
Georgia Tech's defense could be without two key linebackers for Saturday's game against Maryland.
Iowa State's offensive line is banged up heading into a key conference game against Baylor.
Louisville coach Charlie Strong is looking for the right answers after last week's loss to Marshall.
Boston College running back Montel Harris will miss Saturday's game against Clemson due to a knee injury.
Arizona defensive tackle Justin Washington is out for Saturday's game against Oregon State due to a knee injury.
Duke's offense has found its rhythm over the last couple of weeks.
Arizona State center Garth Gerhart could play in Saturday's game against Utah. Gerhart is dealing with a sprained ankle.
In an effort to spark the passing attack, South Carolina is turning to sophomore Connor Shaw under center.
Who is to blame for Ohio State's slow start?
Miami safety Ray-Ray Armstrong is ready to get back on the field this Saturday.
Louisville's offensive line has a tough matchup against North Carolina's defensive front.
Want to know the reason for Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa's delay from Achilles' surgery?
The transition from Ralph Fridgen to Randy Edsall has not gone well for some Maryland players.
Washington State's Jeff Tuel is closer to a return (broken collarbone), but Marshall Lobbestael is expected to start Saturday's game against UCLA.
Rutgers has opened the quarterback spot and Chas Dodd and Gary Nova will compete to start Saturday's game against Pittsburgh.
Auburn freshman quarterback Kiehl Frazier is heading back to Arkansas this Saturday.
USC freshman linebacker Lamar Dawson is an important part of the defense.
How will Virginia Tech replace Antoine Hopkins at defensive tackle?
Is UCLA on the right track? Coach Rick Neuheisel thinks so.
Oregon Ducks running back LaMichael James suffered a rather nasty elbow injury in Thursday night's win over California. Before leaving with the injury, James posted his third-straight game of at least 200 rushing yards. The junior's final tally indicated 240 yards and one rushing touchdown against the Golden Bears.
James started the year off slow, managing only 54 yards and a score against LSU. However, the junior has reclaimed his spot among the best running backs in the nation over the last three weeks.
After the game, James indicated x-rays on the elbow were negative. However, the running back's elbow is believed to be dislocated and could force him out of action for next Saturday's game against Arizona State.
How's this for toughness? James told reporters after the game he popped the elbow back in place on the field. Wow.
Although the video evidence indicated a pretty nasty injury (an elbow is not supposed to bend that way), it appears James will be back sooner than later. And that's great news for Oregon, but bad news for the rest of the Pac-12.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Considering all that has transpired with the Big 12 over the last season in regards to realignment, it’s nice to turn the attention back to the action on the field. At least for this weekend.
Due to the struggles by Texas last year, the Red River Rivalry was pushed off the national radar. However, the Longhorns are 4-0 and back among the top 25 teams in college football. Coach Mack Brown made several changes to his staff after last season’s disappointing 5-7 record and so far, all of the moves seem to have paid off for the Longhorns.
The Sooners were expected to contend for the national title and have lived up to the hype so far. Oklahoma has one of the top non-conference wins this season, defeating Florida State 23-13 in Week 3. The Sooners opened up Big 12 play one week later and posted a 38-28 win over Missouri.
Unless Oklahoma stumbles during the regular season, it should be a lock to make an appearance in the national title. However, don’t expect Texas to let the Sooners walk into the Cotton Bowl and take an easy victory. Texas is hungry to erase last season’s disappointment, and a win over Oklahoma would certainly help announce its presence back on the national stage.
Although the Longhorns had a down season in 2010, they hung tough against the Sooners, losing only 28-20. Texas’ defense held Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones to 236 passing yards, but allowed running back DeMarco Murray to total 115 yards on the ground.
When Oklahoma has the ball
The Sooners enter Saturday’s game ranked fourth nationally in passing offense. Quarterback Landry Jones has thrown for at least 400 yards in back-to-back games. Additionally, the junior has thrown eight touchdown passes in the last two contests.
There’s no shortage of weapons for Jones to choose when he throws. Senior Ryan Broyles is on pace for another season of 100 receptions, while sophomore Kenny Stills is a big play waiting to happen. Receivers Jaz Reynolds and Trey Franks, along with tight end James Hanna, will also figure into the weapons in the passing game.
Texas lost three key cornerbacks off last season’s team, but has maintained one of the Big 12’s top pass defenses through four weeks. No opponent has managed more than 251 yards against the Longhorns so far this year. Also, Texas has allowed only two passing scores in four games.
Although the secondary has been rock solid this year, the Longhorns have yet to face a quarterback of Jones’ caliber. There’s no shortage of talent in the defensive backfield, but also a lot of youth. Texas could help its young secondary by getting more pressure on the quarterback. The Longhorns have only five sacks this year, which is something that has to change on Saturday.
Although the passing attack drives the offense, Oklahoma is far from one-dimensional. Walk-on Dominique Whaley has been one of this season’s biggest surprises, leading the team with 379 yards and seven rushing scores. Brennan Clay, Brandon Williams and Roy Finch will also figure into the ground attack.
Considering Texas will lean on two young quarterbacks to win this game, it could use a couple of turnovers or even a touchdown from the defense.
When Texas has the ball
The Longhorns struggled all last season to find a consistent passing attack, but there are signs of life this year. Garrett Gilbert began 2011 as the starter, but was benched after two games. Sophomore Case McCoy and freshman David Ash have split the quarterback duties over the last three contests. McCoy is the better passer, while Ash gives the offense a running threat.
Although both quarterbacks have shown promise the last few games, they are still inexperienced and face a tough task against a good Oklahoma defense. The Sooners rank 14th nationally in points allowed, while allowing 348 yards a game.
McCoy and Ash aren’t the only young players expected to play a key role in this game for Texas. True freshman running back Malcolm Brown leads the team with 327 rushing yards, while Mike Davis (sophomore) and Jaxon Shipley (freshman) are the top two weapons in the receiving corps.
Oklahoma’s defensive line is an active group, led by ends Ronnell Lewis and Frank Alexander. The Longhorns’ offensive line has done a good job of protecting the quarterbacks this year, but the Sooners will present a step up in competition. Oklahoma’s defensive line would like to get after and rattle Ash and McCoy early. The Sooners need to force the Longhorns into third and long, which will force the pressure on the young quarterbacks. With the inexperience on offense, Oklahoma wants to make Texas prove they can sustain long drives and force the young playmakers to play a mistake-free game.
Coordinator Bryan Harsin came to Texas from Boise State and considering the Broncos’ history of throwing a few trick plays into the gameplan, don’t be surprised if the Longhorns have a few in the works for Saturday’s matchup.
Field goals have been a concern for Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. After watching Jimmy Stevens kick a low line drive to help beat Florida State, Stoops decided to give Mike Hunnicutt an opportunity to win the job. Stevens has made all four attempts this year, while Hunnicutt has connected on four of five field goals.
Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles is averaging only 3.4 yards per punt return this season, but is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Trey Franks and Roy Finch are the leading candidates to return kickoffs.
Texas kicker Justin Tucker has connected on six of seven attempts this season, while averaging 38.4 yards per punt.
The Longhorns match Oklahoma’s ability on returns, with Jaxon Shipley handling punts and Marquis Goodwin on kickoffs.
The 2011 version of the Red River Shootout is almost a game of youth versus experience. A year from now, the roles in this annual rivalry could be reversed. Texas is probably a year away from contending for the Big 12 title, while 2011 is Oklahoma’s to lose.
There’s a lot of intriguing young talent for Texas, but are the Longhorns ready to win a game of this magnitude? Last season’s debacle has provided plenty of motivation, and Texas has responded with a solid 4-0 start. New coordinators Bryan Harsin (offense) and Manny Diaz (defense) have injected some life into the Longhorns.
Asking McCoy and Ash to win this game is probably too much for the Longhorns. The offense also needs a big game from running back Malcolm Brown, especially in helping to control the clock and keep the ball away from Landry Jones, Ryan Broyles and Kenny Stills.
Another key for a Texas victory will be the defense. The Longhorns need to keep this a relatively low-scoring game. If Texas holds the Sooners under 30 points, it should have a shot to win.
However, Oklahoma simply has too much firepower for the Longhorns to win a shootout.
Expect Texas to slow down Oklahoma’s offense for a half, but the passing attack will eventually get on track and help the Sooners put away this game in the final quarter.
Oklahoma 31, Texas 20
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
TCU was all set to join the Big East after the 2011 season, but it appears those plans have changed. The Horned Frogs have been invited to the Big 12 and all signs point to accepting in time for the 2012 season.
Although the Big East recently claimed TCU was committed to the conference, this is an easy decision for the school. The Big East has been hit by defections and only seven football schools (counting TCU), were prepared to play in 2012. The Big 12 has had its share of problems, but appears to be on stable ground with the schools granting television rights to the conference.
After losing Texas A&M and potentially Missouri to the SEC, the Big 12 was facing an uncertain future and needed to expand. Depending on what happens with Missouri, the conference could be stuck at eight teams. However, the addition of TCU bolsters the conference back to 10 teams for now, while the Big 12 waits to see what Missouri decides.
The Horned Frogs do not add any new markets, but this is a great move by the Big 12. The addition of TCU only helps the conference strengthen its hold in Texas and is an obvious geographic fit. Although finding ways to add revenue has been a driving force behind realignment, the Big 12 made a good decision to stay local and add the Horned Frogs into the mix.
TCU is one of the most competitive teams available for the Big 12 to add. The Horned Frogs posted a 13-0 season and claimed the Rose Bowl title over Wisconsin last season. Although boosting the conference's bottom line is important, so is adding a competitive team that will help stabilize things for the future.
Under coach Gary Patterson, TCU has posted a 101-30 record and consistently contended for a spot among the top 25. Patterson has been rumored to be in the mix for several head coaching jobs in previous years, but now that the Horned Frogs are in a BCS conference, it should keep him around for a long time in Fort Worth.
Patterson has done a great job on the recruiting trail, but having the opportunity to play for an automatic bid every year will continue to help attract talent. TCU ranked No. 26 in Athlon’s 2011 recruiting class rankings. Considering what Patterson did with TCU’s recruiting in a non-AQ conference, he should be able to only bolster those efforts now in the Big 12.
Also, Amon G. Carter Stadium is undergoing a massive renovation and will be a top-notch facility once it’s completed. Considering the upgrades to the stadium, location and budget, there’s no reason for TCU to struggle in the Big 12.
TCU was once rivals with Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech in the Southwest Conference. The Horned Frogs were left out of the Big 12 when it was formed, but now get a chance to rebuild those rivalries, with the exception of Texas A&M with its move to the SEC.
TCU is expected to join the Big 12 in time for the 2012 season and with a solid core returning, should challenge for a finish in the top five of the conference.
With TCU not joining the Big East, that conference’s future appears to be in doubt. The Big East was already dealing with the loss of Syracuse and Pittsburgh and has only six teams in its football setup for 2012.
Here’s how the Big 12 will currently look in 2012:
* Missouri is considering leaving the Big 12 for another conference, likely the SEC.
Here’s a look at TCU’s Record Against Big 12 Teams:
Baylor – Horned Frogs lead overall series 50-49-7
Iowa State – Horned Frogs lead overall series 3-0
Kansas – Horned Frogs lead overall series 16-8-4
Kansas State – Horned Frogs lead overall series 3-2
Missouri - Series is tied 1-1
Oklahoma – Sooners lead overall series 7-4
Oklahoma State – Cowboys lead overall series 11-9-2
Texas – Longhorns lead overall series 61-20-1
Texas Tech – Red Raiders lead overall series 28-23-3
Rashard Mendenhall and the Pittsburgh Steelers are off to a quiet start this season. And things could be even more difficult this Sunday with Mendenhall nursing an injured hamstring, suffered in last week’s defeat to Houston.
The Steelers have yet to rule out Mendenhall for Sunday’s game against the Titans, but he did not practice on Wednesday.
Even if Mendenhall is able to return to the practice field on Thursday or Friday, he’s likely to be listed as questionable for Pittsburgh’s Week 5 matchup.
Mendenhall has rushed for only 173 yards and two touchdowns through the first four weeks of the season. Expectations were high for the fourth-year back entering the 2011 campaign. Mendenhall was expected to be a top 10 fantasy option at his position, after rushing for 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2010.
Despite the high expectations and 1,000-yard season last year, Mendenhall has yet to get on track. Although some blame rests with the running back, Pittsburgh’s offensive line has been ravaged by injuries. The line could get tackle Jonathan Scott and guard Doug Legursky back for Sunday’s game, but even with both players in the lineup, the Steelers still have a suspect offensive line. With all of the injuries and concerns up front, Mendenhall hasn't been able to find many rushing lanes the first four weeks of the season.
Although Mendenhall may play on Sunday, fantasy owners would be wise to keep him on the bench. The Titans rank eighth in the NFL against the run, allowing only 87.8 yards per game. Tennessee’s defense has also allowed only one rushing touchdown this season.
With hamstring injuries and the potential for aggravation on any carry, there is no guarantee Mendenhall will be able to carry a full workload against the Titans. Third-down back Mewelde Moore is expected to miss Sunday’s game due to a high ankle sprain.
With the injuries to Mendenhall and Moore, expect Isaac Redman to see an increase in carries on Sunday. Redman has 354 yards in two seasons with Pittsburgh, including 40 in last week’s loss to Houston.
Redman will likely see 15-20 carries on Sunday, even if Mendenhall is able to play. Expect the Steelers to use more of a committee approach this Sunday with all of the injuries in the backfield.
For fantasy owners looking for a bye week replacement or a fill-in for Mendenhall, Redman is still on the waiver wire in a good percentage of leagues.
Also, keep an eye on New England’s Stevan Ridley, Washington’s Ryan Torain and Cleveland’s Montario Hardesty.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
The Big 12 has already lost three members over the last year, and Missouri appears to be interested in continuing the exodus. A Missouri Board of Curators meeting on Tuesday cleared the way for the Tigers to explore leaving the Big 12 for another conference.
Although the Big 12 is still on shaky ground, it appears to be more stable than it was a couple of months ago. Oklahoma and Texas seem committed to working things out, and the conference members appear all set to commit first and second-tier television rights to the Big 12. By pledging the rights to the conference, it should ensure the teams remain in the Big 12.
Despite the Big 12’s renewed interest in sticking together, it appears Missouri is ready to move on. The curator’s meeting and decision is a pretty clear sign the Tigers have zero interest in sticking around in the conference.
What options do the Tigers have when it comes to realignment?
Although no official word was given on which conference Missouri would like to open discussions with, the SEC is target No. 1. After adding Texas A&M, the conference is stuck at 13 teams. Although the SEC could play years with 13 teams, scheduling with unbalanced divisions is an issue.
The SEC has avoided mentioning teams for No. 14 and has insisted they are happy with 13 for 2012. However, there’s no question the SEC is very interested in Missouri. Columbia, Mo. is located nearly halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis. Both cities are potentially untapped and attractive television markets for the SEC.
Although Missouri may seem like an odd fit at first, it borders Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas – three states with SEC teams. Geography has basically been tossed aside in conference realignment, but there’s little concern about how Missouri fits into the SEC.
Also, the football program has raised its profile under coach Gary Pinkel in recent seasons. Missouri may not be a national championship team every season, but it’s not going to be one that goes 3-9 every year either.
If the Tigers leave the Big 12, there’s no doubt the SEC is a step up in competition. However, Missouri is a program on solid ground and should be able to continue to recruit well in Texas with the SEC adding Texas A&M in 2012.
Despite the increased competition, there’s more stability in the SEC. Considering all that has gone on with the Big 12, finding a conference with zero drama and a secure future has to be appealing for Missouri.
If the Tigers join the SEC, there are two theories on how the divisions could be configured. There’s no question Texas A&M is going in the West. However, will Missouri be assigned into the East or will they join the Aggies in the West?
If the Tigers are placed in the West, Auburn will be moved to the East to balance the divisions. However, Missouri could join the East division, which would help keep some of the SEC’s cross division rivalries intact.
The Tigers were one of the driving forces to keep the Big 12 together last season, but the constant instability and uncertainty has taken its toll. After watching Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech explore a spot in the Pac-12, Missouri has decided to look out for itself and secure a safe home for its athletic programs.
Despite the board of curator’s decision to allow Missouri to look for a new conference, it’s not a lock they will leave the Big 12. Although the SEC seems to be interested, what if the conference wants to wait on deciding on team No. 14?
Although the Tigers seem like they are headed out the door, maybe Tuesday’s announcement was to gain a few concessions or leverage from the Big 12? It’s unlikely that is the case, but interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas continues to insist Missouri won’t leave.
This option is truly a longshot. Missouri was believed to have heavy interest in the Big Ten during last summer’s expansion, but that appears to be an unlikely option in 2011. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has indicated his conference is happy with 12 teams and likely won’t explore adding teams anytime soon.
The Final Decision
It may be a couple of days, weeks or a month before Missouri makes an official announcement about its conference affiliation for 2012. However, Tuesday’s meeting left no doubt the school is unhappy with the Big 12 and is prepared to do something about it.
Returning to the Big 12 isn’t out of the question, but seems very unlikely, especially after Tuesday’s meeting. If the Tigers were serious about the Big 12, the board of curator’s would not have authorized chancellor Brady Deaton to explore options for a new conference.
Missouri wants stability and that’s something the SEC can provide. Although the Big 12 may stick together for 100 years, there’s no way the Tigers can pass on a home that brings more stability, exposure and money.
It’s not 100 percent certain Missouri will join the SEC. However, the odds are stacked heavily in favor of the Tigers joining the SEC in time for the 2012 season.
The Houston Texans suffered a setback on offense in Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh with an injury to receiver Andre Johnson. The exact nature of Johnson’s injury varied over the last couple of days, but reports on Tuesday have indicated he will likely miss three games. Johnson hurt his hamstring in the first half against the Steelers, after catching four passes for 36 yards.
Losing Johnson is a blow to Houston’s offense, but as Sunday’s win showed, the Texans are more than capable of surviving with their rushing attack. With Johnson sidelined, expect Houston to lean even more on Arian Foster, provided he can avoid aggravating his hamstring injury.
Although Foster’s fantasy value will increase, quarterback Matt Schaub won’t produce big numbers with Johnson out the lineup. Although the Texans were running the ball with success on Sunday, the passing game did not have the same rhythm as it did with Johnson on the field. Schaub ended with season-lows in attempts (21) and passing yards (138), while tossing only one touchdown.
The upcoming schedule isn’t overwhelmingly favorable for Houston’s passing offense. The Texans have a good matchup this Sunday against Oakland, who ranks 22nd in the NFL in pass defense. However, Houston hits the road for trips against Baltimore and Tennessee the next two weeks, which both rank in the top 10 in stopping the pass.
If you need a replacement while Andre Johnson is sidelined, take a look at these names:
Doug Baldwin, Seattle – Baldwin has been a pleasant surprise for the Seahawks this season. He has only one touchdown, but is coming off a season-high five receptions for 84 yards in Sunday’s 30-28 loss to Atlanta. The Seahawks will be trailing a lot this year, so expect Baldwin to see more passes coming his way.
Victor Cruz, Giants - Mario Manningham is still the Giants' No. 2 receiver, but Cruz is one to watch over the next couple of games.
Early Doucet, Arizona – Will always be No. 2 to Larry Fitzgerald, but has at least two receptions in every game this year. The Cardinals take on a porous Minnesota secondary this Sunday, ranked 28th against the pass.
Jacoby Ford, Oakland – Big things were expected of Ford this season, but an injury in the season opener has slowed his progress. With Ford expected to be closer to 100 percent this week against Houston, he should work his way back into the receiving rotation.
Michael Jenkins, Minnesota – Percy Harvin is the clear go-to guy for quarterback Donovan McNabb, but Jenkins has shown flashes of fantasy value. He caught nine passes for 88 yards against Detroit in Week 3 and has 16 receptions for the season. Expect the Vikings-Cardinals game to be a shootout this Sunday, and Jenkins is a name to remember.
Jacoby Jones, Houston – Although he did not catch a pass in Sunday’s win over Pittsburgh, Jones should become the Texans’ No. 1 receiver with Andre Johnson sidelined.
Preston Parker, Tampa Bay – With Mike Williams off to a slow start, its been Parker stepping up as the No. 1 target for quarterback Josh Freeman. Parker leads the team with 223 receiving yards and caught five for 70 yards and a touchdown in Monday night’s win over Indianapolis.
Kevin Walter, Houston – We like Jacoby Jones as the new No. 1 in Houston while Johnson is out, but don’t rule out Walter from gaining fantasy value.
Google's trends and hot searches is always an interesting read throughout the day. Related searches are never accurate, but this caught our attention earlier this morning. Jerod Mayo and Amanda Knox a related search term? What?
Additionally, what is this nonsense about Amanda Knox's hotness being "medium?" I am not sure what to say about that, but I am positive Raffaele Sollecito would have at least 30 minutes worth of ideas dedicated entirely to her hotness. Hell, if he rambles on long enough, it might even get him out of jail.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 5 SEC Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Alabama (5-0) – The Crimson Tide remain No. 1 in the power rankings after an impressive showing in the Swamp on Saturday night. The Alabama defense allowed a touchdown on the first play of the game, but put the clamps on the Florida offense the rest of the night. The Crimson Tide offense was powered by running back Trent Richardson, who rushed for 181 yards and two scores against a solid Gators’ defense. Barring an upset, Alabama should be 8-0 before a Nov. 5 date against LSU.
2. LSU (5-0) – The Tigers moved to 5-0 with an easy 35-7 win over Kentucky on Saturday. LSU held the Wildcats to 155 yards and scored on a fumble return by cornerback Tyrann Mathieu. Saturday’s game also saw the return of quarterback Jordan Jefferson. The senior had been suspended for his role in an off-the-field incident before the season opener and lost his starting job to Jarrett Lee. LSU hosts Florida this Saturday.
3. Arkansas (4-1) – It was a tale to two halves in Saturday’s win over Texas A&M. The Razorbacks were down 35-17 at halftime, but rallied for a 42-38 victory over future SEC foe Texas A&M. Quarterback Tyler Wilson threw for 510 yards and three scores, with Jarius Wright as his No. 1 target, catching 13 passes for 281 yards and two scores. The Razorbacks have experienced a rash of injuries on defense the last two weeks, and it’s uncertain if they will be at full strength for Saturday’s game against Auburn.
4. Auburn (4-1) – The Tigers entered Saturday’s game against South Carolina ranked as the SEC’s worst in total, scoring, rush and pass defense. Surprisingly, the Tigers held the Gamecocks to only 13 points and limited running back Marcus Lattimore to 66 yards. Auburn has lived on the edge all season, but continues to find ways to win games. The Tigers’ defense will be under fire once again this Saturday, as they travel to Fayetteville to take on a high-powered Arkansas offense.
5. Florida (4-1) – Things started out well for the Gators on Saturday night. Quarterback John Brantley found receiver Andre Debose for a 65-yard scoring toss on the opening play, but not much went right for Florida the rest of the evening. The Gators were shutout the final three quarters and lost Brantley to an ankle injury late in the first half. Florida doesn’t have much time to lick its wounds, especially with road dates at LSU and Auburn the next two weeks.
6. South Carolina (4-1) – The most surprising score from Week 5 action in the SEC had to be South Carolina’s loss against Auburn. The Gamecocks entered as big favorites, but struggled to get on track on offense. Quarterback Stephen Garcia completed 9 of 23 throws for 160 yards and two picks, while running back Marcus Lattimore was held to 66 yards and a touchdown. Considering Auburn’s defense entered the game as one of the worst in the SEC, it was a major surprise to see Lattimore struggle to find running room. The Gamecocks still have SEC East title hopes, but have to find some answers before the season slips away. South Carolina hosts Kentucky this Saturday.
7. Georgia (3-2) – With South Carolina’s loss to Auburn and the injury to Florida quarterback John Brantley, the Bulldogs continue to creep back into the picture for the SEC East title. Even though Georgia started 0-2, the schedule is favorable and the pieces appear to be falling into place on offense. Freshman running back Isaiah Crowell has posted back-to-back 100-yard performances and is just over halfway to 1,000 on the season. The Bulldogs head to Knoxville for a key SEC East matchup this Saturday.
8. Tennessee (3-1) – The Volunteers easily moved to 3-1 with a 41-10 rout over Buffalo. Quarterback Tyler Bray threw for 342 yards and four scores, while running back Tauren Poole rushed for 101 yards on 17 attempts. Tennessee’s passing attack should still remain one of the best in the SEC, even with receiver Justin Hunter sidelined for the rest of the year. If the Volunteers want to remain a contender in the SEC race, a win over Georgia on Saturday is a must.
9. Mississippi State (2-3) – The Bulldogs have lost three out of their last four games. There’s no shame in losing to Auburn, LSU and Georgia, but if Mississippi State wants to emerge as a contender in the SEC West, it has to win a couple of those contests. The Bulldogs still need four wins to get bowl eligible, but even with games against South Carolina, Alabama and Arkansas, should find a way to get to six wins.
10. Vanderbilt (3-1) – The Commodores had a bye on Saturday and return to action to face Alabama this week. Vanderbilt has not played in Tuscaloosa since 2006. The Commodores face an uphill battle to defeat the Crimson Tide, especially with an offense that is averaging only 258 yards a game.
11. Ole Miss (2-3) – Coach Houston Nutt is squarely on the hot seat after five weeks, but Saturday’s win over Fresno State should help quiet some of the calls for his job. The Rebels seem to have settled on quarterback Randall Mackey as the starter, after he completed 8 of 18 passes for 214 yards and one touchdown against the Bulldogs. Ole Miss is off this Saturday, before returning to SEC play on Oct. 15 against Alabama.
12. Kentucky (2-3) – After dropping their third game in a row, the Wildcats remain at the bottom of the SEC power rankings. Kentucky’s offense continued to sputter against one of the nation’s best defenses (LSU), mustering only 155 yards and seven points. Quarterback Morgan Newton has thrown for 647 yards, but has struggled with his decision making with six interceptions. The coaching staff did not rule out getting true freshman Bookie Cobbins a look under center this week. The Wildcats are at South Carolina this Saturday, before a bye and a date with Jacksonville State on Oct. 22.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 5 ACC Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Clemson (5-0) – After Saturday’s convincing win against Virginia Tech, it’s clear the Tigers are the No. 1 team in the ACC. The offense carried Clemson through the first four games, but the defense came up big in the victory against the Hokies. The upcoming schedule is very favorable, with Boston College, Maryland and North Carolina the next three opponents. With a tiebreaker edge over Florida State, Clemson is squarely in the driver’s seat to represent the Atlantic Division in the title game.
2. Georgia Tech (5-0) – The final score indicated only 10-point victory over NC State, but the Yellow Jackets faced little resistance in Saturday’s game. The offense collected 413 yards – including 296 on the ground – and has scored at least 35 points in every game this season. With Virginia Tech’s loss to Clemson, Georgia Tech is the top team from the ACC Coastal in this week’s power rankings. With Maryland and Virginia their next two opponents, Georgia Tech should be 7-0 when they play Miami on Oct. 22
3. Virginia Tech (4-1) – An easy non-conference schedule definitely helped the Hokies get new quarterback Logan Thomas comfortable in his first season as the starter. However, the easy schedule didn’t prepare them for Clemson’s challenge on Saturday night. The Hokies managed only three points, had two turnovers and lost for the first time in ACC play at Lane Stadium since Oct. 29, 2009 against North Carolina. Despite the loss, Virginia Tech still has a chance to make it to the ACC title game. However, Saturday’s matchup against Miami is a must-win situation.
4. Florida State (2-2) – After a bye week, the Seminoles are back in action on Saturday at Wake Forest. Quarterback EJ Manuel did not play in the loss to Clemson in Week 4, but is ready to return to the lineup against the Demon Deacons. If the Seminoles have any hope of making the ACC Championship, they likely need to win all of their remaining conference games.
5. North Carolina (4-1) – After losing in Week 4 to Georgia Tech, the Tar Heels had no trouble getting back into the win column against East Carolina. Quarterback Bryn Renner was solid in the victory, completing 13 of 20 throws for 230 yards and four touchdowns. Running back Giovani Bernard continued his hot start to 2011, rushing for 146 yards and one score against the Pirates. North Carolina faces Louisville on Saturday.
6. Miami (2-2) – The Hurricanes started slow, but eventually pulled away from Bethune-Cookman for a 45-14 victory. Quarterback Jacory Harris was efficient, completing 12 of 17 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Lamar Miller continues to prove he is one of the top backs in the ACC, rushing for 102 yards on 14 attempts. The next three weeks could be critical to Miami’s ACC hopes. With Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Georgia Tech up next, the Hurricanes have to find a way to win all three to have a shot at playing for the conference title in December.
7. Wake Forest (3-1) – The Demon Deacons have already topped last season’s conference win total through the first four games of 2011. Wake Forest finished with one ACC win in 2010, but has two this season – NC State and Boston College. It’s clear the Demon Deacons are one of the most-improved teams in college football, but are they ready to knock off Florida State on Saturday?
8. Maryland (2-2) – One week after an embarrassing showing against Temple, the Terrapins got back into the win column against Towson. Maryland got 123 yards and two touchdown tosses from quarterback Danny O’Brien to post a 28-3 win over the Tigers. The Terrapins return to ACC play this Saturday, traveling to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech.
9. Duke (3-2) – Since opening the year with back-to-back losses, the Blue Devils have righted the ship with three consecutive wins. Now that Duke is over .500, can it find three more wins to get to a bowl? The schedule isn’t too kind, but games against Wake Forest and Virginia are winnable. Needless to say, the loss in the opener to Richmond could come back to haunt Duke at the end of the year.
10. NC State (2-3) – A defense filled with injuries is a bad recipe when matching up with Georgia Tech. The Wolfpack allowed 296 yards and three touchdowns on the ground to the Yellow Jackets and allowed more than 40 points for the second time this season. NC State steps out of conference for a matchup against Central Michigan this Saturday. The Chippewas have struggled to stop the pass this year, which should equal a big game for Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon.
11. Virginia (3-2) – There’s not much to say about the Cavaliers’ performance on Saturday, other than they managed a win. Virginia needed overtime to hold off Idaho’s upset bid and snap a two-game losing streak. With running back Kevin Parks sidelined due to an injury, Perry Jones led the way on the ground with 110 yards and a score. The Cavaliers are off this Saturday, before playing Georgia Tech on Oct. 15.
12. Boston College (1-4) – Three of the Eagles’ losses have come by eight points or less. However, things could get worse over the next seven games. One glance at Boston College’s schedule and it’s pretty clear a miracle is needed to get to a bowl game. Will coach Frank Spaziani survive until next year? He appears to be one of the top coaches on the hot seat going into Week 6.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall is off to a slow start this year and suffered another setback with a hamstring injury in Sunday’s loss to Houston. Mendenhall’s status for this week’s game against Tennessee is uncertain and no update was provided after the game.
Before exiting the game, Mendenhall rushed for 25 yards on nine attempts and a touchdown.
The Steelers have been struggling to generate offense through the first four weeks of the season, largely due to a suspect offensive line. Injuries have hindered the line’s progress, but the front five has struggled to open up running lanes.
Mendenhall has only 173 yards and two touchdowns this season and is averaging a pedestrian three yards a carry. Although the fourth-year back tends to dance behind the line of scrimmage too much, the holes just aren’t there to run through. The last 100-yard effort by Mendenhall came on Nov. 28 against Buffalo.
Mendenhall was a top 10 fantasy back by most in the preseason, but will struggle to reach that status if the Steelers can’t find a fix for their offensive line.
If you have Mendenhall on your team and need a replacement, take a look at Pittsburgh’s No. 2 back Isaac Redman. He collected 40 yards on six attempts in Sunday’s loss to the Texans and would be in line for most of the work against the Titans if Mendenhall does not play. Mewelde Moore serves as Pittsburgh’s third-down back and would likely see 5-10 carries.
In addition to Pittsburgh’s struggles on the offensive line, Tennessee ranks as one of the NFL’s top 10 rush defenses and have allowed only one score on the ground this year.
Even if Mendenhall plays on Sunday, fantasy owners should be cautious about putting him in your lineup. And if he’s out, Redman seems to be a good RB3 or flex play against the Titans, but don’t expect much more than 70-90 yards and a touchdown.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are dealing with a rash of injuries, but none bigger than the one to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The veteran quarterback left Reliant Stadium on crutches, but a MRI on Monday revealed only a sprain, but his status for Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans is uncertain.
In the final seconds of Sunday’s loss to Houston, Roethlisberger’s leg was twisted awkwardly on a tackle - the second time this season that has happened to the quarterback. Although Roethlisberger stayed in the game for the final plays, it was clear he was not 100 percent.
Although Roethlisberger has played through many injuries in his career, if his mobility is limited in any way, he may have to sit out for Sunday’s game against Tennessee. The Steelers’ offensive line has been awful this season and starters Jonathan Scott and Doug Legursky were sidelined against Houston. Starting right tackle Willie Colon was lost for the year in the season opener due to a triceps injury. Even with Scott and Legursky possibly back in the lineup this Sunday, Pittsburgh’s offensive line is still one of the worst in the NFL.
Through four games, Roethlisberger’s stats aren’t bad – 1,148 yards and three touchdowns, but he has faced constant pressure in the pocket. If the Steelers can’t improve his protection, Roethlisberger is going to be dealing with nagging injuries all season.
One positive for Pittsburgh is the upcoming schedule. The Steelers face a relatively favorable stretch – Tennessee, Jacksonville and Arizona – before playing New England on Oct. 30.
Pittsburgh is still one of the contenders to win the AFC North, but have to play a lot better than they have over the first few weeks of the season. The Steelers have losses to the Ravens and Texans, while defeating the Seahawks and Colts – a combined 1-6.
Even if the Steelers win the division title and make it back to the Super Bowl, it’s clear the front office has to do something about the offensive line. Although Roethlisberger is one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks, there’s only so much he can do with his constant pressure in his face. Center Maurkice Pouncey is one of the few guaranteed building blocks up front, with rookie tackle Marcus Gilbert also playing well this season.
Roethlisberger played last season with a painful foot injury and led the Steelers to a Super Bowl appearance. Can the Steelers recreate that same magic in 2011?
At this point, making the playoffs would appear to be a challenge. Pittsburgh should be more concerned about Roethlisberger’s health and status for Sunday’s game against Tennessee, which is suddenly an important game for the Titans at 3-1.
Not only did Florida’s SEC East title hopes take a hit with the loss to Alabama, but the Gators also suffered a blow on offense with the injury to quarterback John Brantley. The senior suffered a leg injury at the end of the first half and is out indefinitely. Brantley will not play in this Saturday’s matchup against LSU.
Florida coach Will Muschamp declined to give a recovery timetable for Brantley during his Monday press conference. The senior quarterback will at least miss Saturday’s game against LSU and would figure to be a longshot to play on Oct. 15 against Auburn. However, the Gators have a bye week before playing Georgia on Oct. 29, and it’s not out of the question Brantley could return for that game. However, there is no indication on how serious his ankle injury is.
Before his injury against the Crimson Tide, Brantley was having a solid performance. He opened the game with a 65-yard touchdown toss to Andre Debose and completed 11 of 16 throws for 190 yards.
Brantley’s numbers this season weren’t overwhelming – 942 passing yards, five touchdown tosses and three picks – but he has looked like a different quarterback than we saw last season. The senior has looked very comfortable under the direction of coordinator Charlie Weis and is a perfect fit for Florida’s pro-style attack.
Replacing Brantley in the lineup will be Jeff Driskel. The true freshman has played sparingly this year, completing 7 of 16 passes for 73 yards and two interceptions. He also has 26 yards on 12 rushing attempts.
Driskel was rated as the No. 1 quarterback and the No. 17 overall player in the 2011 recruiting class by Athlon Sports. The true freshman will be making his first start in a difficult environment, as Florida takes on LSU this Saturday. The Gators have lost two out of their last three games in Baton Rouge and lost last season’s matchup in Gainesville 33-29.
Although Driskel isn’t short on talent, it’s going to be an uphill battle winning Saturday night’s game in Baton Rouge. The Tigers last lost at home came on Oct. 10, 2009 to Florida. If Driskel struggles, the Gators will turn to redshirt freshman Tyler Murphy or true freshman Jacoby Brissett.
Expect the Gators to get creative on offense and place this game into the hands of running backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. Although Driskel will have to hit some throws for the Gators to win, the offense needs huge performances from the rushing attack. Florida also needs a standout game from its defense and could use a score from its special teams.
Even with the uncertainty surrounding Brantley’s long-term availability, Florida still has a chance to win the SEC East. If the Gators can knock off Auburn on Oct. 15 and get Brantley back in time for the game against Georgia, they will be right in the mix for the conference crown.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 5 Big East Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. West Virginia (4-1) – The Mountaineers took out some of their frustration from last week’s loss to LSU in Saturday’s win over Bowling Green. West Virginia tied a season-high with 55 points, rolled up 643 total yards on offense and collected 33 first downs against the Falcons. Quarterback Geno Smith posted another solid outing, throwing for 238 yards and three scores. Another offensive highlight was the play of freshman running back Dustin Garrison, who rushed for 291 yards and two touchdowns. The West Virginia defense was also sharp, limiting a high-scoring Bowling Green offense to 217 yards. The Mountaineers open up Big East play in Week 6, as Connecticut visits Morgantown.
2. Pittsburgh (3-2) – After blowing back-to-back leads in the fourth quarter, the Panthers really needed a win on Thursday against South Florida. Mission accomplished. Pittsburgh finally got its offense going, led by running back Ray Graham’s 226 rushing yards. Quarterback Tino Sunseri had a solid performance, throwing for 216 yards and one touchdown, while adding 35 yards and one score on the ground. The Panthers have another key Big East test this week, as they hit the road for a date in New Jersey against Rutgers.
3. South Florida (4-1) – The Bulls’ hot start was cooled off in Pittsburgh on Thursday night. South Florida’s defense allowed over 500 yards to the Panthers, including 226 to running back Ray Graham. Quarterback B.J. Daniels was held in check, throwing for 223 yards and no scores, while completing only 18 of his 36 attempts. After a disappointing performance, the Bulls have some time to make corrections, as they won’t play again until Oct. 15 against Connecticut.
4. Cincinnati (4-1) – The Bearcats closed out non-conference play with a 27-0 victory over rival Miami (Ohio). The RedHawks did a good job of containing quarterback Zach Collaros and running back Isaiah Pead, but Cincinnati’s defense delivered with two turnovers, four sacks and a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Bearcats did lose four turnovers in the victory, which is something coach Butch Jones will be sure to work on during the bye week. Cincinnati returns to action on Oct. 15 against Louisville.
5. Rutgers (3-1) – It wasn’t pretty, but the Scarlet Knights found a way to win in two overtimes over Syracuse. Rutgers got a spark from freshman quarterback Gary Nova, completing 14 of 24 throws for 122 yards and one touchdown. The rushing attack struggled once again, with Jawan Jamison collecting 48 yards on 24 carries. After winning only one Big East game last season, Rutgers has already equaled that mark five weeks into the season. The Scarlet Knights host Pittsburgh this Saturday.
6. Syracuse (3-2) – After winning in overtime last week, extra time wasn’t kind to the Orange this Saturday. Syracuse dropped its Big East opener to Rutgers, losing 19-16 in double overtime. Running back Antwon Bailey posted a solid performance, rushing for 124 yards and a score, but his fumble in the second overtime allowed the Scarlet Knights to seal the victory. The Orange step out of conference one more time this season, traveling to New Orleans to play Tulane on Saturday.
7. Louisville (2-2) – Charlie Strong’s second year is off to a rough start. The Cardinals do have a win over rival Kentucky, but did not turn in a great performance in the opener against Murray State and have home losses to Marshall and FIU. The offensive line has struggled all year, and the rushing attack ranks 91st nationally. Louisville looks to build some momentum for Big East play, as they take on North Carolina this Saturday. However, considering the struggles of the offensive line, a very good Tar Heel defensive front is a nightmare matchup.
8. Connecticut (2-3) – The first year of the Paul Pasqualoni era is shaping up to be a major disappointment. The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth battle, but Connecticut lost a fumble on the final drive of the game to seal the loss to Western Michigan. The Huskies are still searching for answers on offense, but quarterback Johnny McEntee posted 300 passing yards and four scores. The Huskies face an uphill battle for Saturday’s game against West Virginia’s passing attack, as they will be without starting cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Post-Week 5 Big 12 Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Oklahoma (4-0) – The final tuneup before Texas was an easy one for the Sooners. The offense posted 655 yards of total offense, led by quarterback Landry Jones and his 425 yards through the air. The defense pitched a shutout in the second half and held the Cardinals to only 214 yards of total offense. Linebacker/safety Tony Jefferson turned in one of the top defensive performances of the week in the Big 12, picking off three Ball State passes. The Sooners appear to be hitting on all cylinders as the Red River Rivalry approaches in Week 6.
2. Oklahoma State (4-0) – Thanks to a bye week, the Cowboys had some extra time to enjoy their 30-29 win against Texas A&M. Oklahoma State is back in action this Saturday, as Kansas visits Stillwater. The Cowboys have won six out of the last seven in this series, including a dominating 48-14 effort last season. Considering the Jayhawks’ struggles on defense, Oklahoma State’s offense should post big numbers on Saturday.
3. Texas (4-0) – After losing 28-21 to Iowa State last year, the Longhorns had revenge on their mind on Saturday. Texas got a solid effort from all three phases of the game to cruise to a 37-14 victory over the Cyclones. Quarterbacks Case McCoy and David Ash combined to complete 14 of 24 throws for 255 yards and two scores. The defense forced three Iowa State turnovers, while a blocked punt resulted in a special teams’ touchdown. Even though the Longhorns were down last season, they still played Oklahoma tough and will bring a much-improved team to the Cotton Bowl this year.
4. Kansas State (4-0) – The Wildcats are easily the biggest surprise in the Big 12. One week after winning at Miami, Kansas State opened up conference play with a 36-35 win over Baylor. The defense entered the season as a question mark, but has made key stops in back-to-back games to secure victories. Linebacker Arthur Brown is finally living up to the hype surrounding him out of high school. Quarterback Collin Klein isn’t flashy, but continues to make plays. Can Kansas State keep up the momentum? The Wildcats host Missouri in a key Big 12 contest this Saturday.
5. Texas A&M (2-2) – Go ahead and throw out those preseason hopes of making a BCS bowl. The Aggies have tumbled in the power rankings over the last two weeks, after watching big leads slip away in the second half. Texas A&M held a 35-17 advantage at halftime over Arkansas, but was unable to hold on and lost 42-38. The Aggies have had success getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but the secondary has been torched and ranks last nationally in pass defense. Texas A&M’s defensive backfield will be tested once again this Saturday, as the Aggies travel to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech.
6. Baylor (3-1) – Three costly turnovers in Saturday’s 36-35 defeat to Kansas State doomed the Bears’ chances of beginning the year 4-0. Baylor got another stellar effort from quarterback Robert Griffin, throwing for 346 yards and five touchdowns. However, it was Griffin’s first interception of the 2011 season in the fourth quarter that allowed Kansas State to kick the winning field goal. Baylor should have a chance to rebound back into the win column with Iowa State visiting Waco this Saturday.
7. Missouri (2-2) – The Tigers did not play in Week 5 and will return to action this Saturday against Kansas State. Missouri has dominated the recent series, as it has won the last five games against the Wildcats. The Tigers need to pickup wins in the next two weeks, especially with a difficult stretch – Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Baylor, Texas, Texas Tech – waiting later in the season.
8. Iowa State (3-1) – After beating Texas last season, the Cyclones had hopes of knocking off the Longhorns once again. However, Iowa State’s battle with the turnover bug this year was showcased again, and Texas rolled to an easy 37-14 victory. Quarterback Steele Jantz threw for 251 yards and one touchdown in the loss, but tossed another pick, which gives him four in the last two games. Iowa State has a difficult road trip ahead this week, as they travel to Waco to play Baylor.
9. Texas Tech (4-0) – The Red Raiders are 4-0, but they are still the Big 12’s mystery team. Wins over Texas State, New Mexico, Nevada and Kansas haven’t provided much insight into how good this team is. However, Texas Tech will get a showcase to make a jump in the power rankings the next two weeks, as Texas A&M and Kansas State visit Lubbock. Wide receiver Darrin Moore did not play against Kansas due to leg injuries he suffered against Nevada. Moore’s health will be critical to Texas Tech’s chances of beating Texas A&M this week.
10. Kansas (2-2) – After four weeks, it’s clear the Jayhawks are an improved team. However, they aren’t quite ready to challenge for a bowl game. Kansas jumped out to a 20-0 lead over Texas Tech, but its defense was unable to keep the Red Raiders’ offense silent for the rest of the game. A positive for the Jayhawks offense has been the rushing attack, which ranks 11th nationally after four games. Kansas travels to Oklahoma State this Saturday.
By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Athlon sums up a full slate of college football with the most important things to take away from this weekend.
Alabama – While LSU has grabbed the national spotlight, the Crimson Tide has quietly thrived out of it. Not anymore. Alabama fell behind early against Florida, but rallied for a 38-10 victory. The Crimson Tide defense held the Gators to 222 yards and scoreless for the final three quarters. Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron turned in an efficient start, completing 12 of 25 passes for 140 yards. Running back Trent Richardson was the workhorse for the Crimson Tide offense, gashing Florida’s defense for 181 yards and two scores. Barring a surprise defeat, Alabama should be 8-0 before taking on LSU on Nov. 5.
Arizona State – It wasn’t pretty, but the Sun Devils knocked off Oregon State to move to 4-1. Beating a struggling team isn’t the reason for making this list. Arizona State shook off a slow start - likely due to last week’s win over USC - and should be the favorite to win the Pac-12 South.
Auburn – The Auburn-South Carolina game was not easy on the eyes, but the Tigers found a way to win. Auburn was nearly a double-digit underdog, but rode sophomore running back Michael Dyer for the victory. The Tigers came into Saturday’s matchup allowing 31 points a game, but held the Gamecocks to 13. The schedule won’t get any easier for the Tigers, as a trip to Fayetteville to take on Arkansas is up next.
Clemson – Another week, another big win. The Tigers easily knocked off Virginia Tech 23-3 on Saturday, moving to 5-0 and taking a commanding lead in the ACC Atlantic. Looking at the upcoming schedule, it’s hard to find a guaranteed loss until Oct. 29 against Georgia Tech. Clemson’s offense has been impressive all year, but it was the defense that delivered in the win over the Hokies. After five weeks, it appears the Tigers are the ACC’s best team.
Duke – After starting the year 0-2, the Blue Devils have won three in a row. Wins over Boston College, Tulane and FIU aren’t going to draw much attention on the national level, but it seems Duke is a much-improved team since the Week 1 loss to Richmond. The Blue Devils still have a shot to make a bowl, but need an upset or two along the way.
Dustin Garrison, RB, West Virginia – Have the Mountaineers found their running back? Garrison rushed for 291 yards and two scores in Saturday’s win over Bowling Green.
Georgia – With losses by Florida and South Carolina, combined with the Bulldogs win over Mississippi State on Saturday, the SEC East race is wide open. Georgia has won three in a row after beginning the season with two losses and seems to be finding its rhythm on offense. If the Bulldogs knock off Tennessee this Saturday, it’s likely their biggest obstacle to the SEC East title is the annual matchup with Florida in Jacksonville.
Houston’s offense – UTEP’s defense is nothing special, but it’s noteworthy the Cougars have had back-to-back games of at least 700 yards of total offense.
Illinois – The Fighting Illini are 5-0 and in good shape to make some noise in the Big Ten race. Illinois rallied from a 28-10 deficit for a 38-35 victory over Northwestern on Saturday. Receiver A.J. Jenkins turned in one of the weekend’s top performances, catching 12 passes for 268 yards and three scores.
Kansas State – Considering the loss of running back Daniel Thomas and a shaky defense, just making a bowl game appeared to be the most favorable scenario for the Wildcats in the preseason. However, it’s time to update those predictions. Kansas State knocked off Baylor 36-35 to move to 4-0 this season. The Wildcats have a good chance to be 5-0 with a home game against Missouri this Saturday. Coach Bill Snyder should be in the discussion for coach of the year.
Melvin Ingram, DL, South Carolina – Ingram continued his hot start to the season with another ridiculous effort against Auburn. The senior registered four sacks and 11 tackles in Saturday’s loss to the Tigers.
Michigan’s defense – Sure, Minnesota isn’t exactly the greatest offense, but the Wolverines pitched their first shutout since Sept. 15, 2007. After last season's defensive debacle, this performance is noteworthy.
Pittsburgh – After dropping back-to-back games in the fourth quarter, the Panthers turned in their best effort of the year in a 44-17 whipping of South Florida. Pittsburgh’s offense finally seemed to find its rhythm, while the defense forced two turnovers and held the Bulls scoreless in the second half.
Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh – Even though the Panthers got a team mention, Graham deserves his own category. The junior rushed for a season-high 226 yards against South Florida, which gives him 734 yards and eight touchdowns on the season.
SMU – The Mustangs had to win in overtime after blowing a big second-half lead, but beat TCU for only the second time since 1998.
Washington – Jake who? New quarterback Keith Price continued his impressive start to 2011, completing 22 of 30 throws for 226 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-14 blowout win over Utah. The Huskies are 4-1 with a favorable game against Colorado in Week 7. If the Huskies can get by the Buffaloes, they will setup a huge Pac-12 North game against Stanford on Oct. 22. Washington is flying under the radar, but this is a dangerous team that deserves more credit for its start.
Washington State – Although the Cougars may not make a bowl game, it’s clear coach Paul Wulff has this team playing better. Washington State used a late touchdown pass to knock off Colorado and improve to 3-1 on the year. If the Cougars want to make a bowl, beating UCLA on Saturday is a must.
Wisconsin – Saturday’s game against Nebraska was hyped as one of the top matchups in the Big Ten this year. Not even close. The Badgers easily handled the Cornhuskers, winning 48-17 behind quarterback Russell Wilson’s three touchdowns and nearly 290 yards of total offense. The Badgers are clearly the No. 1 team in the Big Ten.
Louisville – The Cardinals have a lot of young players getting significant snaps, but this team has home losses to FIU and Marshall. Although both teams are solid non-AQ programs, these are games the Cardinals should win. Louisville was one of the Big East’s biggest surprises last year, but could be headed for a losing record.
Nebraska – The Cornhuskers first Big Ten game was a major disappointment. Nebraska dropped a 48-17 decision to Wisconsin, which was the first loss by the Cornhuskers of 2011. Nebraska’s defense had no answer for Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson or the Badgers’ rushing attack. And the Cornhuskers struggled on offense, particularly quarterback Taylor Martinez, who tossed three picks on Saturday night.
New Mexico – The Lobos are staring at the possibility of a winless season after Saturday’s blowout loss to New Mexico State. New Mexico fired coach Mike Locksley after the loss to Sam Houston State, but this program needs a lot of work before it can become a bowl team in the Mountain West again.
Ohio State – The Buckeyes lost their Big Ten opener in ugly fashion. Ohio State’s offense managed only 178 yards and only a late touchdown prevented a shutout. Luke Fickell is not having the best audition for the fulltime job and with Nebraska, Illinois and Wisconsin coming up, Ohio State could be 3-5 going into the final month of the season.
South Carolina – The defending SEC East champs are in trouble. Yes, the Gamecocks are only 4-1, but quarterback play continues to be a problem and likely won’t get any better this season. Losing to Auburn was a surprise, especially with the way the Tigers were playing on defense entering this game. Sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore has to get more than 17 carries a game if the Gamecocks want to think about a repeat trip to Atlanta.
South Florida – After starting out the year 4-0, the Bulls fell flat in the Big East opener against Pittsburgh. South Florida’s offense didn’t score in the second half, while the defense was gashed for 523 yards. The Bulls can still contend for the conference title, but it appears they have more question marks than anticipated after the first four games.
Texas A&M – The Aggies have been awful in the second half the last two weeks. After blowing a 20-3 lead to Oklahoma State, Texas A&M watched a 35-17 lead slip away against Arkansas on Saturday. The Aggies entered the year with BCS bowl hopes, but it’s going to be a challenge to win all of their remaining games.
Utah – There was a lot of anticipation for Saturday’s Pac-12 home opener in Salt Lake City, but the Utes had a disastrous performance. Utah had been winning the turnover battle this year, but lost five in the 31-14 loss to Washington. Making matters worse is a shoulder injury to quarterback Jordan Wynn. The junior is unlikely to play in Saturday’s game against Arizona State.
Utah State – The Aggies are just a couple of plays from a 4-0 record. Unfortunately for Utah State, it has not had much success in the final moments of games this year, as evidenced by BYU’s wild comeback on Friday night.
Virginia – Yes, the Cavaliers got the victory, but needed overtime to beat…Idaho. The bye week comes at a good time for Virginia, especially with Georgia Tech coming up in Week 7.
Virginia Tech – A favorable non-conference slate had the Hokies at 4-0 and in good shape entering ACC play. However, Virginia Tech wasn’t ready for the challenge on Saturday night. Clemson’s defense kept the Hokies in check, while the offense made just enough plays to win. The good news? Virginia Tech can still win the ACC Coastal, especially with Miami and Georgia Tech remaining on the schedule.
Looking Ahead to Week 6
A small sample of what’s ahead
California at Oregon (Thursday)
Golden Bears nearly upset the Ducks last season, but can they pull out the victory in Eugene?
Boise State at Fresno State (Friday)
Broncos look to continue their quest for an undefeated season and a BCS bowl.
Florida State at Wake Forest
Seminoles desperately need a win to keep their ACC Atlantic title hopes alive.
Miami at Virginia Tech
Loser of this game will see their ACC Coastal title hopes slipping away.
Iowa at Penn State
Hawkeyes have won eight out of the last nine against the Nittany Lions.
Georgia at Tennessee
Are the Bulldogs the favorite to win the SEC East? A win in Knoxville would solidify their case.
Oklahoma vs. Texas (Dallas)
The Red River Rivalry has renewed energy this season, as both teams enter this matchup undefeated.
Auburn vs. Arkansas
Can the Tigers build off last week’s surprising win against South Carolina?
Ohio State at Nebraska
This game appeared to be one of the key matchups on the Big Ten schedule in the preseason. However, both teams are desperate for a win after disappointing efforts in its conference opener.
Florida at LSU
If the Gators are without quarterback John Brantley, it’s going to be a long night against LSU’s defense.
Injuries from Week 5
Arizona State C Garth Gerhart – sprained ankle – unlikely to play in Week 6
Arkansas DT Robert Thomas – leg – questionable for Week 6
Arkansas CB Darius Winston – leg – questionable for Week 6
Auburn WR Emory Blake – ankle – questionable for Week 6
Connecticut OT Jimmy Bennett – torn ACL – out for remainder of year
Florida QB John Brantley – leg – questionable for Week 6
Iowa State OT Kelechi Osemele – ankle – questionable for Week 6
Iowa State CB Leonard Johnson – head/neck – questionable for Week 6
LSU RB Spencer Ware – hamstring – probable for Week 6
Miami LB Ramon Buchanan – knee – questionable for Week 6
MTSU RB Benjamin Cunningham – foot – questionable for Week 6
North Carolina DT Tydreke Powell – shoulder – questionable for Week 6
Northwestern QB Dan Persa – leg – probable for Week 6
Northwestern RB Mike Trumpy – knee – questionable for Week 6
Notre Dame DE Ethan Johnson – ankle sprain – questionable for Week 6
Ohio State WR Verlon Reed – knee – questionable for Week 6
Oklahoma RB Brennan Clay – shoulder – probable for Week 6
Oklahoma CB Jamell Fleming – undisclosed – probable for Week 6
Penn State CB Stephon Morris – ankle – doubtful for Week 6
Pittsburgh OG Lucas Nix – knee – questionable for Week 6
South Carolina OT Kyle Nunn – knee – doubtful for Week 6
Southern Miss RB Kendrick Hardy – arm – questionable for Week 6
Texas LB Jordan Hicks – hamstring – probable for Week 6
USC RB Marc Tyler – bruised quad – probable for Week 7
Utah QB Jordan Wynn – shoulder – questionable for Week 6
Virginia Tech DT Antoine Hopkins – knee – out for remainder of season
Wisconsin OG Kevin Zeitler – ankle – questionable for Week 7