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Week 6 gave us plenty of outrageousness, however, much of it took place away from the field. A couple of coaching vacancies and the loss of a starting quarterback on a contender due to PEDs dominated the headlines.
Week 7 is set up to be just as outrageous, with a huge slate of matchups in every conference. We have teams jockeying for position in tight division and conference races, teams trying to stay alive in the College Football Playoff picture, and some teams with nothing left to lose looking to play spoiler. When the season is over, we may look back at Week 7 as the week that shaped the season.
Here are my outrageous predictions for Week 7.
Florida wins at Death Valley
Will Grier's suspension took us all by surprise. That said, this is a well-coached Florida Gator team built to win on the road, regardless of who is under center. They run the ball well and play tough defense — particularly against the run. The Gators will be far and away the best defense LSU running back Leonard Fournette has faced this season. Once he's contained, Tiger quarterback Brandon Harris will need to make plays through the air against a feisty Gator secondary and one of the best defensive backs in the nation. That won't end well, with Treon Harris leading the Gators to victory in a low-scoring, defensive battle.
Georgia's Sony Michel rushes for 200 yards
If you haven't figured it out by now, it doesn't really matter who is toting the rock for the Bulldogs. Chalk it up to whatever you want — system or recruiting — but the Georgia backfield has become a revolving door of big-time running backs. Look for Georgia to get back on the winning track by doing what it does best: running the ball. Sony Michel will step in, as he did last week, and put up huge numbers on the way to a Bulldogs win over Missouri.
Kansas State eliminates Oklahoma from contention
The Wildcats had TCU cornered last week and came up just short. Bill Snyder's teams are not known to let those sort of losses linger, and the Wildcats will be ready to go at Oklahoma with the same offensive attack that has lit up the scoreboard tot the tune of 36.4 points per game. On the other side of the ball, the Sooners are reeling after losing the Red River Showdown to Texas. Bob Stoops' seat got a little warmer and a trip to Manhattan, Kansas, is not exactly the best way to cool it off.
USC stuns Notre Dame
Getting rid of Steve Sarkisian was the best thing Pat Haden could have done for the USC football program. The Trojans are arguably the most talented team in the country, but you can't function when your head coach doesn't have his affairs in order. Look for interim head coach Clay Helton to step in as a calming presence and focus the Trojans on upsetting Notre Dame. The Irish lost the only other game they've played this season against a team with comparable athletes. Look for a much more talented team, led by the best quarterback Notre Dame has faced this season, to take down the Irsh in South Bend.
Michigan State end's Michigan's magical season
Those three shutouts in a row by the Wolverines are impressive — no doubt. When you peel back the layers, however, you'll see that they came against two teams with weak offenses and one team broken down and exhausted after a grueling first month. Every player in Michigan State's locker room is tired of the Harbaugh love-fest going on in their state. Nobody is giving the Spartans a chance, and I think they like it that way. I like Connor Cook to challenge the Michigan secondary early and often like it hasn't been all season. Look for the Spartans to then lean on their offensive line in the second half, controlling the tempo and pulling away on the ground for a sound double-digit win.
The SEC may not have realized it at the time, but it did college football a favor when it made the Florida vs. LSU game an annual pairing. The two schools have met every year since 1971 and the Gators/Tigers matchup typically has a direct bearing on the SEC and national championships. This Saturday’s game between a pair of undefeated teams, top-10 teams currently leading their respective divisions is no different.
Critics have argued that both schools have an unfair difficulty added to their schedule with this mandated meeting. However, every rivalry has its peaks and valleys and this one has produced some great games regardless of the state of either football program. Here are the five best.
5. Florida 13, LSU 10
Baton Rouge — Oct. 22, 1960
After winning the national title in 1958 and finishing in the top five in 1959, LSU began the season with a 1-3 record. Nevertheless, the Tigers were up to 10-7 at the half on a good Florida team thanks in part to the plays LSU quarterback Jimmy Field was calling from his wristband (This was the era when quarterbacks called their own games.). Florida countered this with an unorthodox approach. The Gators blitzed and piled on top of Field. When he emerged, his wristband was gone. Thanks to the invaluable intel, Florida shut LSU’s offense down in the second half completely and won 13-10. At the end of the game, a Florida coach returned the wristband to a referee, claiming it was found on the field.
4. LSU 28, Florida 21
Baton Rouge — Oct. 11, 1997
Florida entered Death Valley ranked No. 1 and sporting a nine-year win streak over LSU. But on this night, the Tigers used their powerful rushing attack led by Kevin Faulk and put tremendous pressure on Gator quarterback Doug Johnson to take a 14-7 halftime lead. Johnson started the second half with 53-yard pass to Fred Taylor, who capped the drive with a two-yard touchdown run. Tied 14-14 in the fourth quarter, LSU pulled ahead for good in a span of a little more than 90 seconds. First, Tiger defensive back Cedric Donaldson intercepted Johnson’s pass and raced 31 yards into the end zone for a touchdown. Then Florida fumbled the ensuing kickoff and LSU capitalized with another score to take a 28-14 lead. Taylor scored another touchdown but that was all Florida could muster. The goal posts came down as Tiger fans celebrated the school’s first-ever defeat of a No. 1-ranked team.
3. LSU 33, Florida 29
Gainesville — Oct. 9, 2010
This game personifies blind luck. Undefeated LSU jumped out to a 26-14 fourth quarter lead but Florida’s Andre Debose took a kickoff 88 yards down the sideline to close the gap to 28-21. The Gators then completed a 51-yard pass from John Brantley to Carl Moore and used their rushing attack to pound into the end zone for a second score. Brantley then hit Frankie Hammond Jr., to add two points and make the score 29-26. LSU got the ball back on its own 38-yard line with a little more than three minutes left in the game. The Tigers then spent two and a half minutes moving the ball 26 yards. Facing a 4th-and-3 on Florida’s 36-yard line, LSU lined up to kick a 52-yard field goal. Instead, head coach Les Miles called a trick play and holder Derek Helton tossed the ball behind his head. The ball hit the ground and kicker Josh Jasper caught it off the bounce and ran five yards around the end for the first down. The Tigers scored four plays later and secured the 33-29 win. Gator fans were furious, but LSU’s faithful was bewildered by what had taken place as well.
2. Florida 16, LSU 13
Baton Rouge — Oct. 7, 1989
This game was jokingly referred to as college football’s first “overtime” game even though it took place before the NCAA established the overtime system. LSU took a 10-3 halftime lead and Florida responded in the third quarter with a field goal. In the fourth quarter, Gator running back Emmitt Smith broke free for a 19-yard touchdown run to put his team ahead 13-10. LSU tied the game with 1:19 left, giving Florida one final possession. The Gators got the ball on their own 20-yard line and then drove all the way to LSU’s 27. With 23 seconds left, Smith took the handoff and ran for three yards, but could not get out of bounds. With no timeouts left, the Gators raced to the line and quarterback Kyle Morris slung the ball out of bounds as time expired. Fireworks shot off in Tiger Stadium to celebrate the tie but the officials ruled that there was one second on the clock when the ball sailed out of bounds. Kicker Arden Czyyzewski squeaked a 41-yard field goal through the uprights and the Gators came away with a fair, but controversial victory.
1. LSU 28, Florida 24
Baton Rouge — Oct. 7, 2007
What makes this No. 1? A lot of reasons, but the biggest is LSU going 5-for-5 in fourth down conversions. The Tigers were undefeated and ranked No. 1 when the defending national champion Gators came to Baton Rouge for a night game. Florida quarterback Tim Tebow put his team ahead 10-0 in the second quarter with a two-yard touchdown pass to Kestahn Moore. LSU responded with an 80-yard drive that culminated with a touchdown by backup quarterback Ryan Perilloux with the Tigers facing 4th-and-1. A few minutes later, Tebow ran nine yards into the end zone to give his team a 10-point halftime lead.
LSU got the ball on its own 30-yard line to start the second half and moved the ball down the field. Facing 4th-and-5 at Florida’s 25-yard line, LSU lined up to kick a field goal. Quarterback and holder Matt Flynn took the snap and darted around the right end for an eight-yard gain. Running back Keiland Williams punctuated the drive with a four-yard touchdown run. On the next drive, the Gators went 75 yards in five plays, with Tebow completing a 37-yard touchdown pass to Chad Ingram to put Florida up 24-14.
LSU began to take control early in the fourth quarter, when defensive end Kirston Pittman intercepted Tebow’s pass on Florida’s 27-yard line. LSU then converted another fourth down with Flynn hitting Demetrius Byrd for a four-yard touchdown pass. The Tigers then got the ball back with 9:20 left in the game and down 24-21. LSU put together a 15-play, 60-yard drive that chewed up more than eight minutes. Along the way, LSU converted a pair of fourth downs — on its own 49-yard line and one from Florida’s 7. Jacob Hester smashed into the end zone with 1:09 left to put his team ahead for good.
Tebow would go on that season to become the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. LSU would play numerous exciting games en route to becoming the first national champion with two losses. None of those games matched this one in sheer drama from start to finish.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)
Now that we have passed the quarter pole mark of the 2015 fantasy football season, it's time to look back on Week 5. We lost Jamaal Charles for the season, which is a huge blow to fantasy owners — and to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs' offense simply fell apart without Charles on the field. If they have any hope of regaining control of their season, they are going to have to figure out what to do — quickly. While fantasy owners are scooping up Charcandrick West (and fantasy editors are learning to spell that without double-checking every time), what else happened in Week 5?
Should you just give up on Denver's offense?
Last week, we looked at the disappointing season that C.J. Anderson has put together. We speculated that Ronnie Hillman would slowly take over the starting running back job in Denver. Well, in Week 5, Anderson had 11 carries for 22 yards. Hillman had seven carries for 21 yards. Anderson added two receptions for 18 yards and Hillman had one reception for five yards. Neither looked good, but neither did the entire Denver offense. Both are low RB2s until further notice.
Owen Daniels may have been the biggest disappointment of the week. A tight end, playing Oakland, fantasy owners thought they were going to get double-digit points. The reality? They got a solid zero. No receptions, no touchdowns, just five targets, none of which led to a catch. After four weeks worth of tight ends burned the Raiders, Daniels couldn't even come up with a reception. Was this the fault of the tight end or the fault of Peyton Manning? Either way, Daniels can be dropped in standard fantasy leagues.
If you are a fantasy owner of Manning, you should be nervous. He clearly isn't the Manning of old, or even the Manning of the beginning of 2014. His 266 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions isn't a terrible stat line, but anyone watching the way he threw the ball knew it wasn't pretty. Sure, Emmanuel Sanders put up a nice day (9/111/0) but Demaryius Thomas only had a 5/55/0 stat line. If Manning can't get the offense going, his receivers are going to suffer. Both are still on the WR1 radar, but you don't feel really great about starting either each week.
Are we buying into Willie Snead?
After Week 4, Snead jumped onto the fantasy radar. He had six receptions for 89 yards and looked like someone Drew Brees was going to target in the passing game. In Week 5, he had a team-high 11 targets, which he turned into six receptions for 141 yards, including a 59-yard reception. In the preseason, it looked like Brandon Coleman was going to be vying for the No. 2 wide receiver position in New Orleans. By the end of Week 5, it is safe to say that role goes to Snead.
The news broke Monday that Marques Colston has a separated shoulder and is likely going to miss time. He had either three or four receptions per game in each game so far this season. Those receptions will now likely go to Snead. While Brandin Cooks is still the No. 1 wideout in New Orleans, look for Snead to have fantasy value moving forward. He may be a sneaky WR2, especially Week 6 on Thursday night against Atlanta.
Josh McCown: Fantasy stud?
Have a day, Josh McCown. In Week 5, McCown threw for 457 yards and two touchdowns. Quietly through three games, McCown has thrown for 1,154 yards and six touchdowns with only one interception. He's helped make tight end Gary Barnidge and wide receiver Travis Benjamin fantasy relevant.
The perennial journeyman, McCown has made his way through seven different teams over the course of 11 seasons. His best season was in 2004, when he threw for 2,511 yards, 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He is on pace to crush those figures. While he will come back down to earth (and not throw for over 400 yards on a weekly basis), it's finally time to look at McCown as a viable fantasy starter.
With the bye weeks continuing along, don't hesitate to pick up McCown to fill in your fantasy roster. The Browns do face the Broncos in Week 6, which is not a good matchup for him, but then they face St. Louis, Arizona, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh before their bye week.
More burning questions
Is Doug Martin going to cover the fact that Jameis Winston isn't that good?
How grateful are you that you drafted Todd Gurley?
Since when is Gary Barnidge for real?
Charcandrick West or Knile Davis?
Will Andre Johnson have a game even close to that good again for the rest of the season?
Is Arian Foster back to RB1 status?
Will Thomas Rawls have a role once Marshawn Lynch returns?
Tyler Eifert, when can we trust you?
If Matt Ryan couldn't throw for a touchdown against Washington's terrible secondary, what does that say?
Are we going to be seeing Alfred Morris and Matt Jones sharing the backfield for the foreseeable future?
What is going on in Detroit?
Seriously, does Sam Bradford hate fantasy football owners of his wide receivers?
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.
Roy Williams likes to say that he would rather coach a talented team than an experienced team if forced to choose between the two. What he likes best, though, is coaching experienced talent. That winning combination produced NCAA championships for Williams in 2005 and 2009, and Williams enters this season with another North Carolina team that features an abundance of both qualities.
The Tar Heels have been in a drought according to their own lofty standards, not having reached a Final Four since 2009. Recently, their program has faced uncertainty and criticism in the aftermath of academic misconduct involving past UNC athletes. This season has a chance to be a return to glory of sorts.
UNC’s rotation includes six upperclassmen, headlined by senior guard Marcus Paige, and Williams welcomes back nine of his 10 players who averaged at least 10 minutes per game in 2014-15. UNC returns 88 percent of its points, 84 percent of its rebounds and 75 percent of its assists from last season.
The following article and more can be found in the Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview magazine, available now.
Podcast: Who should be No. 1 in College Basketball in 2015-16?
As has been the case in recent seasons, the Tar Heels feature imposing depth inside. Brice Johnson is one of the nation’s best interior scorers with his long and lanky frame, and he and Kennedy Meeks are active on the offensive glass. Meeks improved as a defender last season after slimming down, but he and Johnson have room for more growth on that end of the court after being exploited by quick guards and big men alike. They also have been prone to silly fouls, especially illegal screens by Johnson, and it remains to be seen whether another year of maturity will help alleviate that problem.
Isaiah Hicks gives the Heels a capable third big man who would start on many other teams. Hicks has a slender build but excellent athleticism that helps him score points in flurries. Joel James is a bruiser who provides a mean streak that UNC’s other post players lack, and he showed surprisingly soft touch on his short jumper a year ago.
No. 3 North Carolina Facts & Figures
Last season: 26-12, 11-7 ACC
Postseason: Sweet 16
Consecutive NCAAs: Five
ACC Projection: Second
Postseason projection: Final Four
Paige returns as the team’s undisputed leader and most indispensable player. The sweet-shooting lefty fell short of preseason All-America expectations in 2014-15 as he battled a hip injury and plantar fasciitis, but he is back after offseason ankle surgery. Paige has the highest free throw percentage in UNC history, and he is just nine 3-pointers shy of breaking the school record in that category.
A key to UNC’s season is how much help Paige gets on the perimeter. Justin Jackson emerged late last season as a versatile scorer who can hit 3-pointers in addition to making his trademark floaters from mid range. He will share the wing with classmate Theo Pinson, whose defense and athleticism are needed after the early departure of J.P. Tokoto. Also in the mix is freshman Kenny Williams, a shooter who gives the Tar Heels another needed threat behind the 3-point arc.
Joel Berry II and Nate Britt return at point guard, where each will see minutes spelling Paige and playing alongside him when he shifts off the ball. Berry has breakout potential as a scorer and distributor, and Britt is a heady player who made strides last season with his shooting.
Key Loss: G J.P. Tokoto
Top Players: G Marcus Paige, G Joel Berry II, G/F Justin Jackson, F Brice Johnson, F Kennedy Meeks
Kenny Williams is the headline addition in North Carolina’s two-player recruiting class. A 6'3" guard who originally signed with VCU, Williams has a chance to contribute immediately because his biggest strength (perimeter shooting) has been one of UNC’s biggest weaknesses in recent years. Luke Maye, whose father played quarterback at North Carolina in the mid-1980s, is a good passer who could develop into a floor-stretching forward in the future.
The good news for the Tar Heels is that their best players are experienced, a rarity for top programs today. The bad news is that those players have so much experience because they weren’t good enough to leave school early as NBA Lottery picks. The question then becomes just how valuable UNC’s experience will be. The Tar Heels have not been elite defensively since the 2011-12 season, the year before the current seniors arrived on campus, and last season featured some particularly porous efforts. UNC was shredded by offensive juggernauts Duke, Notre Dame and Wisconsin in its final three losses. It’s probably unreasonable to expect shutdown defense from a group that has been merely decent in that area lately, but some improvement is possible. If the Tar Heels defend a bit better, get a healthy season from Paige and see continued development from the sophomore trio of Jackson, Pinson and Berry, they have legitimate potential to win the ACC and contend for the national title.
The NFL is in full swing, and the competition off the field among fans is nearly as heated as the competition on the field on game day.
The Athlon Sports Pro Football Experts Club presented by New Era gives you the chance to compete with your friends and our experts each week.
Here are this week’s picks from Athlon Sports senior editor John Gworek:
Atlanta at New Orleans
The Falcons are unbeaten but have been dodging bullets all season. This is the week their porous pass defense finally bites them.
Gworek's Pick: New Orleans, 30–28.
Washington at N.Y. Jets
Coming off an overtime loss, Kirk Cousins and the Redskins face a rested Jets team that has forced the most turnovers in the NFL.
Gworek's Pick: N.Y. Jets, 20–13.
Arizona at Pittsburgh
The Steelers escaped on Monday night, but if the Cards can protect Carson Palmer, he will find holes in the Pittsburgh secondary.
Gworek's Pick: Arizona, 26–20.
Kansas City at Minnesota
The Vikings are rested and unbeaten at home, while Kansas City limps into town without top weapon Jamaal Charles.
Gworek's Pick: Minnesota, 23–17.
Cincinnati at Buffalo
Tyrod Taylor was hurting after leading a comeback win at Tennessee. If he can’t go, Buffalo’s odds of pulling the upset drop considerably.
Gworek's Pick: Buffalo, 21–20.
Chicago at Detroit
Detroit is winless, and Matthew Stafford keeps thowing the ball to the other team. But is this a Chicago team that can win three in a row?
Gworek's Pick: Detroit, 28–20.
Denver at Cleveland
Josh McCown has been putting up huge numbers for Cleveland, but Denver’s defense is a different animal.
Gworek's Pick: Denver, 27–14.
Houston at Jacksonville
The Texans just keep finding a way to lose games and somehow are 25th in scoring despite ranking fifth in total yards.
Gworek's Pick: Jacksonville, 23–20.
Miami at Tennessee
The Titans have blown back-to-back fourth-quarter leads at home, but rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota hasn’t looked overmatched.
Gworek's Pick: Tennessee, 20–16.
Carolina at Seattle
The Seahawks was cruising to a third straight win before blowing a big lead at Cincinnati. Carolina is 4–0 but has beaten teams that are a combined 5–15.
Gworek's Pick: Seattle, 17–13.
San Diego at Green Bay
After a last-second loss on Monday night, the Chargers have to head to Lambeau Field. Green Bay looking to hit its bye undefeated.
Gworek's Pick: Green Bay, 30–20.
Baltimore at San Francisco
The 1–4 Ravens play their next two out West with a trip to Arizona looming. The 49ers have lost four in a row since winning in Week 1.
Gworek's Pick: Baltimore, 27–26.
New England at Indianapolis
Indianapolis is 3–0 against its own division and 0–2 against New England’s. And the Patriots are the class of that division.
Gworek's Pick: New England, 30–17.
N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia
Both of these offenses put up more than 500 yards last week. They Eagles are 26th in pass defense, the Giants are 32nd. Look for a shootout.
Gworek's Pick: N.Y. Giants, 34–33.
Week 5 Record: 8–6
Overall Record: 49–28
College football’s coaching carousel is already in motion. Five FBS head coaching positions are open prior to Week 6 and several more are expected to change coaches by the end of the season. With the carousel moving fast, it won’t be long before athletic directors gauge the interest level of coaches or coordinators and setup interviews for the open position.
As with any coaching search, all programs are looking for the next big hire. Whether it’s a big-name coach or a rising star, programs with a coaching vacancy want to hit a home run in the hiring process. Who are some of the rising stars in the coordinator ranks expected to be in the mix for head coaching jobs later this year? Here are some names to watch.
College Football's Top 10 Coordinators on the Rise
1. Brent Venables, Defensive Coordinator, Clemson
Despite losing several key contributors and returning only two starters, Clemson’s defense hasn’t missed a beat in 2015. That’s largely due to the coaching ability of Venables, who was a key hire for coach Dabo Swinney in 2012. The Tigers ranked third in the ACC in scoring defense from 2012-13 under Venables’ direction but led the conference in fewest points allowed in 2014. Additionally, Clemson finished first nationally in total defense, limiting opponents to just 260.8 yards per game and 4.03 yards per play. Through five games this season, the Tigers are holding opponents to 4.48 yards per play. It’s only a matter of time before Venables is hired as a head coach at a Power 5 program.
2. Doug Meacham, Co-Offensive Coordinator, TCU
Meacham’s arrival in 2014 was a big reason why TCU emerged as a playoff contender last season and is in the mix once again in 2015. The Horned Frogs averaged only 25.1 points a game in 2013 but jumped to 46.5 last season and 51 per contest in 2015. Prior to joining Gary Patterson’s staff at TCU, Meacham called the plays at Houston in 2013 and worked as an assistant for Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State from 2005-12.
3. Mike Norvell, Offensive Coordinator, Arizona State
Norvell has experienced a fast rise through the assistant ranks. After working for one season as a graduate assistant at Central Arkansas in 2006, Norvell was hired by Todd Graham at Tulsa in 2007 and worked with the Golden Hurricane until 2010. The Texas native followed Graham to Pittsburgh in 2011 and to Arizona State in 2012. Norvell has called the plays since coming to Tempe, and the Sun Devils never finished lower than third in scoring offense within the Pac-12 from 2012-14.
4. Lincoln Riley, Offensive Coordinator, Oklahoma
Riley is a Mike Leach and Air Raid disciple, and despite the sluggish showing against Texas in Week 6, the first-year coordinator is off to a fast start at Oklahoma. The Sooners are averaging 37 points per game and 6.4 yards per play in 2015. The Texas native worked at Texas Tech under Leach from 2007-09 and was hired by Ruffin McNeill at East Carolina prior to the 2010 season. The Pirates had a prolific offense under Riley, including a No. 2 rank in the American Athletic Conference in 2014 by averaging 35.8 points per game. Riley is just 32 years old and is stock will only increase over the next few seasons.
5. Kendal Briles, Offensive Coordinator, Baylor
After Philip Montgomery left Baylor to be the head coach at Tulsa, Briles was handed the keys to a high-powered Ferrari. While his father – Art Briles – is instrumental in the Bears’ offense, this unit is thriving under Kendal’s direction. Through five games, Baylor is averaging 64.2 points a game and ranks first nationally by averaging 9.1 yards per play. The Texas native has worked as an assistant with the Bears since 2008 and is regarded as one of the Big 12’s top recruiters.
6. Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator, Wisconsin
Aranda isn’t getting a ton of national attention, but he’s clearly one of the top defensive coaches in the Big Ten. Under his direction, Wisconsin’s defense ranked as one of the Big Ten’s best in 2013-14. The Badgers finished second in scoring defense in back-to-back years and are second in the conference in 2015 by limiting opponents to just 11.5 points per game. Aranda was hired by Gary Andersen at Wisconsin and was retained by new coach Paul Chryst this offseason. Prior to the last three years with the Badgers, Aranda worked as the defensive signal-caller at Hawaii and Utah State and also spent three years as a graduate assistant at Texas Tech from 1999-01.
7. D.J. Durkin, Defensive Coordinator, Michigan
Michigan’s defense has led the way in coach Jim Harbaugh’s first season. Durkin is the mastermind behind the Wolverines’ aggressive group and the Ohio native has guided this unit to three consecutive shutouts. Through six games, Michigan is giving up just 6.3 points per game and 3.1 yards per play. Prior to taking over in Ann Arbor, Durkin called the plays for a standout defense at Florida (2013-14) and worked under Harbaugh at Stanford from 2007-09.
8. Barry Odom, Defensive Coordinator, Missouri
After three years calling the defensive signals at Memphis, Odom returned to a familiar place: Missouri. The Oklahoma native played with the Tigers from 1996-99 and later coached under Gary Pinkel in Columbia from 2003-11. Memphis showed dramatic improvement under Odom and limited opponents to 19.5 points per game in 2014. So far, Odom has picked up where former coordinator Dave Steckel left off, as the Tigers lead the SEC in scoring defense (13.5), rank third in sacks (17) and are giving up just 4.1 yards per play.
9. Bob Shoop, Defensive Coordinator, Penn State
It’s not unreasonable to think Shoop is the nation’s most underrated defensive coordinator. The Pennsylvania native was on James Franklin’s staff at Vanderbilt from 2011-13 and guided a defense that ranked No. 2 in the SEC with 5.1 yards per play allowed in 2013. Shoop followed Franklin to Penn State and coordinated a defense that allowed just 18.6 points per game in 2014. Shoop has head coaching experience on his resume, spending three seasons at Columbia from 2003-05.
10. Jason Candle, Offensive Coordinator, Toledo
Candle isn’t as big of a name as some of the other coaches on this list, but the former Mount Union player is one of the top coordinators in the Group of 5 ranks. Candle joined Matt Campbell’s staff as a receivers coach in 2009 and worked in that role until 2012 when he was promoted to offensive coordinator. The Rockets averaged at least 30 points a game from 2012-14 and led the MAC in 2014 by recording 6.6 yards per play. Prior to joining Campbell’s staff at Toledo, Candle worked at Mount Union as an assistant from 2003-08. He’s also regarded as an excellent recruiter.
Other Power 5 Names to Watch
Chris Ash, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Ohio State
Geoff Collins, Defensive Coordinator, Florida
Josh Conklin, Defensive Coordinator, Pittsburgh
Scott Frost, Offensive Coordinator, Oregon
David Gibbs, Defensive Coordinator, Texas Tech
Jeremy Pruitt, Defensive Coordinator, Georgia
Mike Sanford, Offensive Coordinator, Notre Dame
Kalani Sitake, Defensive Coordinator, Oregon State
Jake Spavital, Offensive Coordinator, Texas A&M
Other Group of 5 Names to Watch
Kevin Clune, Defensive Coordinator, Utah State
Eddie Gran, Offensive Coordinator, Cincinnati
Tyson Helton, Offensive Coordinator, WKU
Todd Orlando, Defensive Coordinator, Houston
Nick Rolovich, Offensive Coordinator, Nevada
Bryant Vincent, Offensive Coordinator, South Alabama
Marcel Yates, Defensive Coordinator, Boise State
The University of Southern California’s football program has once again made headlines for all the wrong reasons. On Monday, it was announced that Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian had been sent home from practice and placed on indefinite leave when it became clear to athletic director Pat Haden that Sarkisian was "not healthy." Then on Tuesday, Haden made Sarkisian's leave a permanent one and fired him after just a season and five games. While Haden would not go into further detail, reports began to surface about the exact nature of why he had been sent home and the evidence pointed in a familiar direction.
Back in late August, the university held its annual “Salute to Troy” event to raise money for athletics. At one point during the evening, Sarkisian got on stage to speak to the gathered crowd and instead began slurring his words and uttering expletives. As it turns out, Sarkisian was drunk and on painkillers that night. As one would expect, the result was a steady stream of backlash and calls for Sarkisian's job. At the time, many of these seemed like knee-jerk reactions and most of them would still qualify for the title, but now things have changed a little.
Disclaimer: I should throw in a little caveat here before I go too much further. I defended Sarkisian in the press following this incident and I still stand by that defense of him now. This situation does not change the context of that situation, but it does provide us with a more complete picture. Sarkisian wasn't a popular hire with everyone following the firing of then-head coach Lane Kiffin, and the “Salute to Troy” incident didn't exactly set his actions apart from his predecessor. That said, getting drunk at a rally and showing up impaired to mentor young men are absolutely not the same thing and, as I just said, the situation has now changed.
What should happen next is going to be a subject beaten to submission by the media in the coming days. You're likely to hear the hottest of takes from the experts who saw this coming from a mile away, and though the answers will be many, the questions asked are likely to be minimal. These situations are often judged through the lens of wins and losses or on-the-field successes. This situation is about so much more than; this situation is about addiction, trustworthiness and enabling.
There are several aspects of this situation worth exploring in great detail. Finding out exactly how much Haden knew about this problem prior to his hiring of Sarkisian is one that should be near the top of the list. Reputable Pacific Northwest media outlets have written about this subject before, so it's not like the information wasn't out there. Assessing what Haden knew, if anything, will be critical to any future actions taken by USC.
Haden somehow missed the bus on this one and it's just as important to find out whether he didn't look for this or didn't want to know about it. If Haden knowingly took this risk with the expectation that Sarkisian would fix it or win enough games to hide it, then he must be judged accordingly. If Haden had a notion but not the full picture, it's worth peeling back those layers in an effort to understand why an AD hired following the biggest athletic scandal in the school's history would only do a cursory background check on his next football coach. Either way, Haden has lost trust on this matter and earning it back may prove to be an impossible task.
It's also important to understand how long this has been going on for Sarkisian. It will be critical for the media to do a responsible job sifting through the stories that are sure to come out now that this has gone national for a second time. It's easy to find someone who can relay a drunken story about Sarkisian, but the focus should be on talking to people who truly understand how deep this went. Stories and anecdotes from former players and media can help fill in the gaps, but they're not going to provide the deeper narrative needed for this discussion, nor should they.
A person's mental health simply cannot be defined by a story here or a story there. Mental health and addiction deserve so much more than that right now. Wins and losses were never going to provide Sarkisian and his family the comfort and counseling they need to overcome this disease, so making this about wins and losses isn't any more likely to produce fruitful conversation. Any discussions of wins and losses does an incredible disservice to all involved and only moves the focus further away from where it needs to be.
Making this about results also shifts focus away from how long this has been going on and why staff members never spoke up before now. It would be incredibly irresponsible to suggest that someone directly enabled Sarkisian's drinking, but the culture of silence in football allows for situations like these to fester and grow into something much more unmanageable. If you believe media reports out of the Seattle area and those of the Los Angeles Times, these problems were present when Sarkisian was the head coach at fellow Pac-12 member Washington. Given that, it seems logical to conclude that the coaching staff also knew about this problem back then, too.
In an ideal situation, an athletic director would sit down with them and have in-depth discussion about the severity and duration of this problem. This brings us back to Haden and how much he should be entrusted to do what is necessary in an effort to find out how deep this runs. Haden had an obligation to these facts long before either of these incidents ever happened, so how did this happen twice and why was it allowed to continue? At the very minimum, it would seem logical to have someone external to the situation conducting these investigations.
Somehow, someway, this situation progressed beyond Haden’s and Sarkisian's control. Once Sarkisian's problem got out of hand, Haden's Sarkisian problem got out of hand with it. Something had to be done, but it is still critical that the school attempt to understand how this happened. After ten years of stories like these dominating the headlines, USC owe it to themselves to finally start asking some questions that matter.
— Written by Josh Webb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Webb is a recruiting analyst for BarkBoard, Scout’s Fresno State affiliate. A contributor to USCFootball.com, Scout’s USC affiliate. He is also a regular guest and contributor for Reign Of Troy, USC’s FanSided affiliate. Follow him on Twitter @FightOnTwist.
Week 5 brought some greta misfortune for fantasy owners, and the NFL as a whole losing Jamaal Charles. This will open the door for a new running back to fly off the waiver wires this week as well, but the situation in KC may not be as optimal as it seems at first.
The other thing that will need to be considered is Charles owners may not be the only ones looking for a running back this week. Owners of other dissapointing backs in Dallas, Denver or Cleveland may also be in the market for a new RB. By default Charcandrick West will be the top waiver add in Week 6 and you will need to pay a hefty price for him. Just be sure to know this is not a guarantee add, but one that may be essential.
Good luck this week everyone. If you are having issues with who to drop, or hold from your fantasy teams, be sure to check out my latest series called Patience or Panic where I analyze players who are under-performing and whether you need to cut bait or hold.
I will be here to guide you each and every week with some players who are owned less than 40 percent in ESPN.com leagues and could have an impact on your squad for this particular week or the rest of the season.
1. Charcandrick West, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (0.3 percent owned in ESPN.com leagues)
West was plugged in shortly after Jamaal Charles' tragic ACL injury Sunday. Knile Davis was the hand-cuff last season and in drafts this year but West has a similair skill set to Charles, which may have allowed him to leap frog Davis on the depth chart. For now it looks to be a time share, but if last weekend was any indication West was given seven carries to Davis’ two after Charles went down.
De’Anthony Thomas also may have hurdled Davis, as he had been seeing targets as a receiver prior to the injury. For now, West should be heavily targetted this week, especially by Charles owners. If you want him, pay for him but know there is risk.
2. Gary Barnidge, TE, Cleveland Browns (37.5 percent owned)
This train may have likely left already, but he was still less than 40 percent owned as of Week 5. His performance over the past three weeks alone has solidified him as a top-3 tight end and he is clearly one of Josh McCown’s favorite targets. If you happened to read my latest Patience or Panic post and own Jimmy Graham you can see where I am going with this. Barnidge is a perfect choice to bench Graham for.
He isn’t going anywhere and without too many dominant receiving options, Barndige is clearly a top target in Cleveland at this point. Scoop him up with confidence. He faces a tough Denver defense in Week 6, but after that should remain useful.
3. Willie Snead, WR, New Orleans Saints (29 percent owned)
Snead has quietly and oddly become one of Brees’ favorite targets this season. He has been playing plenty as well leaving most of us thinking he is going to stick around, and should continue to see work this season. Brandin Cooks also appears to have finally broken out of his shell, but you should know by now Brees can have more than one favorite receiver. Snead being owned this low is rather shocking to me, and with more byes coming he won’t be available for long, if at all.
4. Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars (27.5 percent owned)
Bortles puts up fantasy numbers consistently in 2015, but he does it in ugly fashion. He completes less than 55 percent of his passes, but he also throws it nearly 40 times or more a game, He also has used his feet to get rushing yards. Think of how much people used Tim Tebow back in the day. It may be ugly, but in fantasy that doesn’t matter. Points do and in Week 5 Bortles had 33.1 with four touchdowns. That makes for a cheap, and overlooked bye-week option, although he is dealing with sprained shoulder, so keep an eye on his practice participation and the injury reports.
DST Streamer(s) of the Week
I am a part of the streaming DST movement. I don’t typically waste a draft pick, unless I need to, in my drafts and instead cut someone and add a DST. Clearly the top defenses will be owned and not available, but streaming is always an option when it comes to DSTs. So each week I will be providing a DST that is owned in less than 30 percent of ESPN.com leagues and can be useful.
Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears (32.2 percent owned in ESPN.com leagues)
The Lions have an opportunistic defense and because of this have had some very good fantasy performances. This week they will get the Bears and quarterback Jay Cutler, who is known for his turnovers. Cutler also may be without some receiving weapons in Week 6, which could add to the Lions DST's fantasy appeal.
— Written by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including socalledfantasyexperts.com. Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)
Utah stands as the last remaining undefeated team in the Pac-12. Luck has nothing to do with the Utes reaching this point. Utah has been dominating opponents with one of its best defenses in a long history of strong defensive play.
The Utes certainly made a huge statement in beating California 30-24 on Saturday. The Bears entered the game with one of the nation's most productive offenses. Still, California could not generate any sort of sustained rhythm against Utah and finished 22 points below its previous per game scoring average.
College Football Podcast: Week 6 Recap
Here are three things we learned about the Utes in their victory over California:
1. Utah's defense knows how to force turnovers
California came into the game leading the nation in turnovers gained with 18. In the end, it was Utah that dominated the turnover battle. The Utes finished plus-three in the turnover margin. Utah had five interceptions in a single game for the first time since a 48-24 victory over BYU in 2008. The Utes had takeaways to end three of California's first four drives and held a 5-2 turnover advantage by halftime.
Utah now has 17 takeaways this season (12 interceptions and five fumble recoveries). Sophomore safety Marcus Williams and junior cornerback Dominique Hatfield have been the catalyst for many of those takeaways. Williams leads the team with four interceptions and Hatfield is second with three picks. Hatfield had a pair of interceptions against the Bears, while Williams added a reception and recovered a fumble.
2. Devontae Booker is poised for another special season
Booker shifted into full beast mode against the California defense. The senior churned out a season-high 222 rushing yards and a pair of touchdown runs on a season-high 34 carries. It was just his second career 200-yard game. It also marked the ninth highest single-game total by a Utah running back. Booker now ranks eighth in school history with 2,177 career yards and is tied for 10th with 16 rushing touchdowns.
Utah's offense might need to rely on a heavy dose of Booker making plays on the ground once again this season. Senior quarterback Travis Wilson struggled to move the chains even when working with good field position created by turnovers. Wilson passed for just 170 yards while tossing one touchdown and two interceptions on 16-of-26 attempts. His inconsistency is one reason why the Utes scored just 17 points on six takeaways.
3. Utah has a strong Playoff resume
At 5-0, Utah is off to its best start since 2010 when the Utes won eight straight games to open the season. If Utah keeps winning, claiming a Pac-12 championship might not be the only thing in the picture. The Utes also could end up being one of four teams selected for the College Football Playoff in December and earn a shot to play for a national championship.
No other top-10 team has as strong of a Playoff resume at this point compared to the Utes. Utah already has victories over Top 25 teams Michigan and California and is the only team to defeat either school so far. Fresno State is the only team Utah has beaten that currently has a losing record.
— Written by John Coon,who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.
With this being Week 7 it's hard to believe the college fantasy football season is more than halfway through. Hopefully your team is in good shape as you make your push towards a possible championship.
Athlon has teamed up with college fantasy veterans CollegeFootballGeek.com to help you dominate in 2015! Over the course of the season, CFG will be providing insight into their weekly value plays, as well as helping you identify the top waiver wire candidates to bolster your lineups.
Whether you play daily or season-long college fantasy football, CollegeFootballGeek.com (@CFFGeek) prepares you to win with the best advice, tools and customer service in the industry — they've been doing it since 2008. Click here to learn how you can subscribe to CFG for FREE.
Below, you will find AthlonSports.com contributor and CFG writer Mike Bainbridge's five best waiver wire pickups for Week 6. To see the full in-depth article of over 50+ players, make sure to check out CollegeFootballGeek.com.
Algernon Brown (RB, BYU)
CFG was on Brown as a potential add to your roster last week with the news that Adam Hine is out for what looks to be an extended amount time with an ankle injury. The only hesitation was that he was potentially splitting time with freshman Francis Bernard, who impressed the staff enough to garner more carries as well. That was not the case against East Carolina, though, as Brown carried the rock 24 times for 134 yards and three touchdowns compared to just eight touches for Bernard. If that distribution in carries remains the same, Brown is a must-add if still sitting on the waiver wire.
Sony Michel (RB, Georgia)
There is a slim chance Michel is even available at this point due to the consistent amount of touches he receives even as the backup, but jump on him now if for some reason that remains the case. With Nick Chubb done for the season after suffering a gruesome knee injury on Saturday, Michel will now be thrust into the No. 1 role. We saw the potential Michel has as a starting running back, rushing for 145 yards in the loss to the Volunteers, though he will need to work on ball control as Michel had a crucial fumble late in the first half that eventually led to a Tennessee touchdown. Michel is not Chubb, but is a big-time talent at the position and will thrive as the starter.
Anthony Wales (RB, Western Kentucky)
The thought here was once Wales was 100 percent healthy, he would take over as the Hilltoppers' starting running back, and that looks to have happened this past Saturday against Middle Tennessee. With both Wales and Leon Allen out with injury, freshman D’Andre Ferby had taken reps with the starters the previous three weeks and performed well – 231 yards and four touchdowns. Against MTSU, Wales had 19 carries for 111 yards compared to just eight for Ferby. Our expectation is that Wales is the starter from here on out.
Michael Thomas (WR, Southern Miss)
Slot receiver Casey Martin leads the team in receptions by a wide margin, but it is Thomas who has been finding the end zone of late for Southern Miss with four touchdown catches in the last two games. In addition to that, Thomas now has three straight 100-yard performances, including 109 yards and a score last week against Marshall, which is currently ranked in the top third of FBS teams in pass defense. Southern Miss’ schedule is as soft as can be the rest of the way, with three of its next four opponents ranked 100th or worse in pass defense. Good opportunity for Thomas to continue his recent success.
Justin Hobbs (WR, Tulsa)
The initial belief was that it would be Conner Floyd taking over in place of star receiver Keevan Lucas, who is out for the season with a knee injury. Against ULM, it was the freshman Hobbs who thrived in the No. 3 role with 82 receiving yards and a score. We saw how successful the past few weeks Joshua Atkinson was in the Tulsa offense in a similar role, so the expectation is for Hobbs to fulfill that spot in the rotation and put up similar numbers. Tulsa averages 41 passing attempts per game so there should be ample opportunity for Hobbs to catch the football.
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and current writer for CollegeFootballGeek.com. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeBainbridge2.
Midweek college football action returns on Tuesday night, as Arkansas State travels to Mobile to take on South Alabama in the second Sun Belt game for both teams in 2015. This matchup marks the first of back-to-back Tuesday night contests for the Red Wolves, while the Jaguars only play one pre-Thursday matchup this season.
Arkansas State was picked by some to win the Sun Belt this season, and this team has faced its share of ups and downs so far. The Red Wolves lost by 49 at USC in the opener but gave Missouri all it could handle the following Saturday before losing 27-20. Blake Anderson’s team earned wins over Missouri State and Idaho and also dropped a 37-7 game to Toledo on Sept. 26. Injuries to a few key players have played a role in Arkansas State's record so far.
South Alabama’s resume is similar to its conference foe, as the Jaguars were handled in losses to Power 5 opponents Nebraska and NC State and knocked off Gardner-Webb and San Diego State. South Alabama opened conference play on Oct. 3 with a win over Troy (24-18). While the Red Wolves were picked by some to win the Sun Belt, the Jaguars were projected to finish in the middle of the league. Coach Joey Jones faced a significant rebuilding effort in 2015 with just five returning starters.
Arkansas State owns a 3-0 series edge over South Alabama. The Red Wolves won last year’s meeting 45-10 in Jonesboro but two of the matchups were decided by a touchdown or less.
Arkansas State at South Alabama
Kickoff: Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Spread: Arkansas State -4.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Arkansas State Quarterback Fredi Knighten
All signs point to Knighten returning to the starting lineup after missing the last three games due to a groin injury suffered in the 27-20 loss to Missouri. Knighten struggled against USC and Missouri, managing only 183 passing yards in two games and a completion percentage of 41.3. However with nearly a month off from game action, Knighten should be close to full strength and should resemble the player that passed for 3,277 yards and 24 scores and rushed for 779 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. The senior will test a South Alabama defense giving up 35.8 points per game in 2015.
2. Turnovers and Red Zone Performance
With a close game anticipated, an edge in turnovers or red zone scores could be the difference. Both teams have struggled with giveaways in 2015. Arkansas State is tied for eighth in the Sun Belt with a minus-five margin, while South Alabama enters this game with a minus-three total. The level of competition has factored into these totals, but both teams have to do a better job taking care of the ball on Tuesday night. Additionally, which team can score seven instead of three inside the red zone? South Alabama ranks last in the Sun Belt with a 71.4 conversion rate, while Arkansas State is ninth with a 77.8 mark.
3. Battle of Running Backs
The Sun Belt is home to some of the top running backs in the Group of 5 ranks, including Georgia Southern’s Matt Breida, UL Lafayete’s Elijah McGuire, Appalachian State’s Marcus Cox and New Mexico State’s Larry Rose III. And on Tuesday night, Arkansas State’s Michael Gordon or South Alabama’s Xavier Johnson will have a chance to showcase their talent. Gordon finished fifth in the Sun Belt last season with 1,100 rushing yards, while Johnson recorded 438 yards on 81 attempts. After starting the year behind Terrance Timmons and Tyreis Thomas on the depth chart, Johnson has climbed to the No. 1 spot. The sophomore has impressed through the first five games, averaging 6.4 yards per carry on 64 attempts. Both teams are giving up their share of yardage on the ground, so Johnson and Gordon could be in for huge performances.
Midweek college football is never a bad thing, and this matchup has potential to be an entertaining game thanks to the offenses. Arkansas State’s offense is capable of putting up points in a hurry, and South Alabama can match with the steady play of quarterback Cody Clements and an athletic group of skill players. If Knighten is at full strength, he should be the difference in this game.
Prediction: Arkansas State 31, South Alabama 24
First there were rumors about Rick Kaczenski (a Nebraska football defensive line coach under Bo Pelini) potentially leaking unflattering messages about the current staff to their players. Then former defensive lineman Jason Peter outed him on the radio.
At that point, it seemed like the issue was put to rest, but more prominent voices have spoken out regarding the scandal.
Another former Nebraska defensive lineman had words about Kaczenski. Adam Carriker (a Cornhusker from 2003-06) writes a weekly Facebook series called the Carriker Chronicles and did not hold back in the Oct. 11 edition.
“We have a former Nebraska coach (Rick Kaczenski) texting current players, trying to undermine the new coaching staff & messing with the psyche of young college kids. I’m not even going to say how glad I am that he doesn’t work here anymore.
I’m not going to express how unfortunate it is that a person who conducts himself like that, was ever involved with the football program to begin with. I won’t even touch on how I consider what he’s done to just be pathetic. No, I won’t say any of those things. Instead I’ll just simply say, get a life, and what in the blue hell is wrong with you?!”
Strong words from the former St. Louis Ram and Washington Redskin.
Interestingly enough, following Nebraska’s practice on Monday, local media took to asking questions of their own about the alleged communications.
Defensive tackle Maliek Collins was more than happy to share his feelings.
From the Omaha World-Herald:
"Just for the record, he wouldn't say anything like that," Collins said. "I'm a captain, if he were saying those types of things, he'd be saying them to me and that ain't what I represent. Just for the record: He hasn't said anything like that. I respect the hell out of the man," Collins said."
According to the World-Herald, he declined comment when asked for his opinion of former players’ critiques.
When Collins was told that a few ex-players — including Peter and Carriker — insinuated Kaczenski was trying to negatively influence the players, he dismissed the idea. “it’s just something else to distract us, man."
It’s completely understandable for him to back the guy that brought him into the world of college football and most importantly in this case, Nebraska football. He’s currently adjusting to a new position coach in Hank Hughes and regime under head coach Mike Riley. That in itself can be a load on a player’s mind.
However, Peter had words for reporters who suggested he simply alluded to any contact. Rather, there was no question about it:
I'd appreciate it if local media,when asking a player a ?,dont "insinuate" anything if my name is in the ? What u reported @OWHnews is wrong— Jason Peter (@jasonpeter) October 13, 2015
This situation appears to have plenty of layers. Will someone else from the past or the present speak up or is this the last we hear of any Kaczenski contact?
Week 5 has come and gone and another devastating injury strikes the NFL (and fantasy), as it loses another of its biggest stars in Jamaal Charles. The season-ending torn ACL will open the door for Charcandrick West and Knile Davis, who have nowhere near the explosiveness or talent as Charles, but will be some of the biggest names on the waiver wire this week.
As if this fantasy season couldn’t have more injuries, twists and surprises the fact I am able to easily come up with names for this post should say a lot. Once again there are four players I will delve into below who are simply not playing up to their preseason expectations and carry plenty of concern.
I hope to help you decide to temper the storm for another week, bench some surprising bums, or simply cut bait. So without further ado, let’s decide...
Patience or Panic?
Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinatti Bengals (Averaging 10.2 fantasy points per game)
Hill has five touchdowns on the season and two very productive fantasy weeks so far. However his 63 yards rushing in Week 1 are the most he has had this season, and as most feared in Week 5 the stout Seahawks defense held him in check with 25 yards. Needless to say he is losing carries to Giovani Bernard, and much like C.J. Anderson has not done enough to seperate himself from Bernard to reassure his owners.
The Verdict: Panic (bench or trade)
Hill like so many other players mentioned in this series was taken very high in fantasy drafts. Aside from his five touchdowns in two weeks Hill has rewarded his owners with a 4.6-, 2.1- and 3-point weeks in .5 point PPR leagues. He also gets a tough Buffalo Bills defense on Sunday and then has a bye week. Time to panic, but not drop yet. Perhaps an owner will bite on his potential and name and you can flip him. Target a Jamaal Charles owner perhaps.
2. Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle Seahawks (8.58 FPPG)
Graham has the same issue as Jeremy Hill but with less touchdowns. The Seahawks offense is simply not set up to utilize Graham as a top weapon. He complained and got some extra attention in Week 3, but with a run game featuring Marshawn Lynch (when healthy, Thomas Rawls for now) and a mobile quarterback, Graham is not a featured target.
The Verdict: PANIC
This is definitely a panic situation, but not a cut bait-type of panic, at least not yet. Graham is another big game you simply don’t want to bench but I don’t think anyone should continue feeling forced to play him. When there are other options out there who are seeing more targets and consisitent production, Graham’s name alone should not be keeping owners plugging him in automatically every week. You may need to, I understand that, but if you have options, why not use them?
3. Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos (17.1 FPPG)
Manning has not been a top-10 fantasy QB like most were hoping for this season. His weapons remain, but Denver's transition to a run-heavy team has not gone smoothly to say the least, further compounding Manning's struggles. He has thrown six touchdowns this season, but more concerning are his seven interceptions.
The Verdict: Patience (at least for one more week)
Manning has been awful all things considered and once again carries a name that over-shadows his performance. He also is the No. 22 fantasy QB to date, and has shown no signs of rapid improvement. He seems to have lost his touch and some zing to his throws, and both are contributing to the increase in turnovers. If, and that is a big IF the ground game can return perhaps Manning will rebound too.
I wouldn’t count on it however, and seeing that many other quarterbacks continue to exceed expectations, the time to bench Manning if he struggles in Week 6 against Cleveland has arrived.
4. Dallas Cowboys Running Backs
The definition of a Running Back By Committee (RBBC), the Cowboys have been literally a revolving door at the position as Dallas has tired everything. Joseph Randle is the starter but hasn't been able to seize the role, which has given Darren McFadden plenty of opportunity to remain in the conversation.
The problem is that McFadden hasn't exactly shined when given the touches, so for the time being, Randle's standing atop the depth chart appears safe. However, Randle's limited workload (5-10 total touches each week), only muddies the backfield situation in Big D.
The Verdict: Patience
Running back is a nightmare at the moment, and even though I would prefer not to start any of the Dallas options, some may not have any other choice. The potential for Randle to explode like he did Week 3 (105 total yards, 3 rushing TDs) will always exist, but can’t be guaranteed. There are also those who think it is only a matter of time before the flashy and talented Christine Michael will get his chance and run with it in the future.
Bottom line, if you can avoid using a Cowboy RB, do it. If not play Randle for now, but it may be worth stashing Michael this week if he is still available in your league.
— Written by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including socalledfantasyexperts.com. Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.
We had a slight lull in major injuries for Week 4, but on Sunday, a big-name running back went down, much to the dismay of his fantasy owners (not to mention himself and his team!). When Jamaal Charles hit the Arrowhead Stadium turf Sunday afternoon after a non-contact knee injury, we all knew the inevitable: torn ACL.
The fact he wasn't hit before going down, the way his right leg buckled, the agony on his face while he was holding his knee. We've seen it before. Heck, he's seen it before. In 2011, Charles tore his left ACL in a similar fashion. With the odds against him (the odds of tearing your other ACL or re-tearing your ACL skyrocket after you've had one ACL reconstruction), history repeated on Sunday. From a fantasy perspective, what is the impact of Charles' injury on the Chiefs?
Charcandrick West, RB
In re-draft leagues, Charles can obviously be dropped. The next man up in Kansas City is Charcandrick West. In Week 5, he had one reception for five yards and seven carries for 31 yards. West (5-10, 205) is about the same size as Charles (5-11, 199) and presumably will try and fill some pretty big cleats. The Chiefs have said that Knile Davis also will have a role, although based on what we've seen thus far, West will be given the lead back role to start. He's a must-add in all formats and should be a RB2 moving forward. The Chiefs play Minnesota in Week 6.
Knile Davis, RB
Davis has filled in for Charles in the past when he's been injured, scoring seven total touchdowns in 2014. However, based on his usage in Weeks 3 and 4 (none), it seems West has surpassed him on the depth chart. Even after Charles went down in Week 5, Davis only had two carries (for two yards) compared to West's seven. Because the Chiefs will likely not use just West, Davis is worth a waiver wire pickup as well. Don't start him in Week 6 until we see how the Chiefs use their backs.
Travis Kelce, TE
Kelce owners shouldn't be worried that the injury to Charles will negatively affect their tight end. While Kelce did only have six targets in Week 5 and he did not see a huge impact once Charles was out, keep in mind the Chiefs could not get anything going on offense. Prior to Week 5, Charles was averaging five receptions a game. At least some of those receptions (and targets) will likely now be headed Kelce's way. Kelce has been a TE1 thus far and this shouldn't change moving forward.
Jeremy Maclin, WR
Maclin has averaged over seven receptions a game so far, and with Charles out, more targets should be headed his way. He's the only Chiefs wide receiver worth starting in most fantasy leagues, and he's going to see a boost in value. He's not skyrocketing to a WR1, but he's a solid WR2 that will provide decent production on a regular basis. He's had two 100-plus yard games and a touchdown so far, which is more than most expected from him in the preseason. The Chiefs are going to have to find a way to get their offense moving, and it's likely going to be through Maclin.
Alex Smith, QB
Smith has been known as a game manager, and the focal point of Kansas City's offense was Jamaal Charles. It was hard to recommend starting Smith in most fantasy leagues before the Charles injury, and now the KC QB's value drops even farther. Once Charles left the game, Smith seemed completely lost. He is going to have to work with the other running backs and pass catchers to find a new offensive plan. Until then, avoid Smith at all costs.
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has decided to retire, ending an illustrious coaching career in the SEC. During his tenure with the Gamecocks, Spurrier went 86-49, which included three consecutive seasons of 11 wins from 2011-13. Prior to his stint at South Carolina, Spurrier was 122-27-1 at Florida and 20-13-1 at Duke. And Spurrier wasn’t just a successful coach - he won the 1966 Heisman Trophy as a quarterback with the Gators.
Needless to say, Spurrier’s departure is a huge loss for the SEC and South Carolina. Spurrier owns the only seasons of more than 10 wins in school history and helped to raise the bar in Columbia.
Who will replace Spurrier at South Carolina? Here’s 10 names to watch.
10 Coaches to Watch in South Carolina's Search to Replace Steve Spurrier
Dino Babers, head coach, Bowling Green
Behind a high-powered offense, Babers has emerged as one of the top Group of 5 coaches over the last two seasons. Despite losing starting quarterback Matt Johnson to a season-ending injury in the first game of 2014, the Falcons still won the MAC East and finished 8-6 last year. Bowling Green is off to a 4-2 start in 2015 and already has wins over two Power 5 programs – Purdue and Maryland. Babers has a wealth of experience as an assistant, including stops at UCLA, Texas A&M, Arizona, Pittsburgh and Baylor under Art Briles. He also has a two-year stint at Eastern Illinois (19-7) on his resume.
Matt Campbell, head coach, Toledo
Campbell is regarded as one of college football’s top rising stars and also one of the youngest in the coaching ranks. The 35-year-old coach is 31-13 at Toledo, and the Rockets are off to a 5-0 start in 2015. Additionally, Toledo is ranked No. 22 prior to Week 7 and has wins over Power 5 programs in Iowa State and Arkansas. The Ohio native played at the ultra-successful Mount Union program from 1999-02 and later worked as an assistant at Bowling Green and Toledo prior to taking over the head coach role after Tim Beckman left for Illinois.
Mark Dantonio, head coach, Michigan State
It’s hard to see Dantonio leaving Michigan State for South Carolina. However, it’s worth mentioning Dantonio has ties to this program as a defensive back for the Gamecocks from 1976-78 under Jim Carlen. Dantonio is one of the nation’s top coaches and is 81-31 during his tenure at Michigan State. Prior to taking over in East Lansing, Dantonio went 18-17 at Cincinnati, worked as an assistant under Jim Tressel at Ohio State from 2001-03 and Michigan State under Nick Saban from 1995-00. Dantonio isn’t likely to leave East Lansing, but South Carolina has to at least inquire.
P.J. Fleck, head coach, Western Michigan
Fleck is only 11-19 in three seasons at Western Michigan, but the arrow is clearly pointing up on his tenure with the Broncos. After a 1-11 mark in his first season, Fleck is 10-8 and guided the program to an 8-5 finish in 2014. The Illinois native worked as an assistant at Rutgers, Northern Illinois and in the NFL with the Buccaneers before taking over at Western Michigan. While Fleck is young and still learning on the job, he would have no trouble energizing the fanbase and is an outstanding recruiter.
Justin Fuente, head coach, Memphis
Fuente is a rising star in the coaching ranks and should have plenty of suitors if he’s interested in leaving Memphis. In three years with the Tigers, Fuente is 22-20 and guided the program to a 10-3 record in 2014. Last season’s 10-win mark was the best record in school history and included a share of the American Athletic Conference title. Fuente’s accomplishments at Memphis are even more impressive when you consider the mess former coach Larry Porter left behind after a 3-21 record from 2010-11. Prior to taking over in Memphis, Fuente worked as an assistant at TCU under Gary Patterson from 2007-11.
Related: 10 Coaches on the Rise
Tom Herman, head coach, Houston
Herman is going to draw plenty of interest from Power 5 programs at the end of the 2015 season. He’s only in the first year of his tenure at Houston, but the Cougars are off to an impressive 5-0 start. Additionally, Herman was a key cog in Ohio State’s national championship run last season. Despite losing the top two quarterbacks on the roster, the Buckeyes’ offense remained on track with Cardale Jones and scored at least 42 points in each of the final three games. Herman also has stops on his resume as an offensive coordinator at Iowa State, Rice and Texas State.
Chad Morris, head coach, SMU
Morris is just 1-5 in his first season at SMU, but the overall outlook for the program is trending up with this rebuilding project and there are signs of life after six weeks. Prior to SMU, Morris was one of the nation’s top assistant coaches at Clemson. From 2011-14, Morris called the plays for the Tigers and coordinated some of the nation’s top offenses. Clemson ranked in the top 10 nationally for scoring offense from 2012-13. Morris also has a one-year stint as Tulsa’s play-caller on his resume (2010) and was a head coach in the high school ranks from 1994-09.
Rich Rodriguez, head coach, Arizona
Rodriguez could be a name that generates interest in the USC and Maryland searches, so the West Virginia native could have plenty of suitors after Arizona’s final game on Nov. 21. Rodriguez is 30-16 with the Wildcats and is coming off his best year in Tucson after winning the Pac-12 South title in 2014. Rodriguez had a failed run at Michigan (15-22) but went 60-26 as West Virginia’s head coach from 2001-07. Additionally, he’s no stranger to the state of South Carolina after a two-year stint as Clemson’s offensive coordinator from 1999-00. While Rodriguez is mentioned here, it’s worth noting he has a good job at Arizona and now has a roster full of his recruits. Taking over at another school would require a rebuilding effort and a transition to his scheme. For a variety of reasons, that didn’t work well at Michigan.
Kirby Smart, defensive coordinator, Alabama
It’s only a matter of time before Smart is hired as a head coach at a Power 5 program. He’s well-versed in life in the SEC, as Smart played at Georgia as a defensive back from 1995-98 and coached as an assistant at LSU, Georgia and Alabama. Smart was promoted to defensive coordinator with the Crimson Tide in 2008 after Kevin Steele left for Clemson. Nick Saban has a huge role in Alabama’s defense, and with Smart at the controls, this unit never finished lower than third in the SEC in scoring defense from 2008-14. One potential drawback for Smart: He has never been a head coach at the FBS level.
Brent Venables, defensive coordinator, Clemson
Not only is Venables one of the nation’s top assistant coaches, but he also coordinates a defense for South Carolina’s biggest rival – Clemson. If the Gamecocks think Venables is the right coach to replace Spurrier, it’s also an interesting way to hurt your rival. Venables played at Kansas State under Bill Snyder from 1991-92 and joined the program as a graduate assistant in 1993. After working as an assistant with the Wildcats, Venables was hired on Bob Stoops’ first staff at Oklahoma in 1999 and stayed in Norman until 2011. Venables has been a key piece in Clemson’s recent success and coordinated a defense that was arguably the nation’s best last season.
Maryland endured plenty of change entering last season: A massive roster overhaul coupled with entry into the Big Ten after more than six decades in the ACC. The Terrapins’ results changed, too. They won 28 games, finished a surprising second in a new league and earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years.
With point guard Melo Trimble and wing Jake Layman remaining at Maryland, transfer Robert Carter Jr. eligible and touted freshman Diamond Stone in the fold, coach Mark Turgeon will field his most talented and versatile team since arriving in College Park.
“If we’re playing a smaller team, we can go small,” Turgeon says. “If we’re playing a bigger team, we can take advantage of matchups and go big. We have a lot of good pieces. We can go in a lot of different directions.”
Podcast: Who should be No. 1 in College Basketball in 2015-16?
Maryland was forced to frequently play small last season. That won’t be necessary this winter. The 6'9" Carter, who averaged 11.4 points and 8.4 rebounds at Georgia Tech in 2013-14, dropped 18 pounds while in putting his transfer year to good use.
“We expect Robert to make a huge impact,” Turgeon says. “He has the complete game. He’s a low-post player who can shoot mid-range shots. He can shoot 3-pointers. He’s become a much better ball handler, and we’ve worked hard defensively with him.”
The Terps also return junior Damonte Dodd and sophomore Michal Cekovsky. Dodd, Maryland’s top rim protector last season, is up to 252 pounds. Meanwhile, the once-wiry Cekovsky is less likely to be pushed around after adding 25 pounds of muscle.
Stone’s addition was significant for Turgeon, who lured the Milwaukee native out of traditional Big Ten territory. But as hyped as Stone is, Maryland doesn’t need him to dominate as a freshman (though it wouldn’t complain if he did). “There’s a lot of pressure on Diamond because he’s so highly ranked,” Turgeon says. “We’re going to be able to take that off him because we have so many good players.”
No. 4 Maryland Facts & Figures
Last season: 28-7, 14-4 Big Ten
Postseason: Second round
Consecutive NCAAs: 1
Big Ten Projection: First
Postseason projection: Final Four
Trimble was an instant difference maker as a freshman, leading the Terps in scoring, assists, steals and 3-pointers made and demonstrating a knack for getting to the line. He quickly established his value and can grow it further with improvement at the defensive end.
“That’ll be a challenge, for him to do that,” Turgeon says. “His assists will go up. He’s got even more good players around him. I think offensively, he’ll still be Melo. He’ll make the plays, get to the foul line. I think he’ll become a more complete player than he was as a freshman.”
Jared Nickens and Dion Wiley mostly played reserve roles last season but could develop larger profiles as sophomores. Nickens’ shooting helped open the offense at times, while Turgeon says Wiley has matured and improved since the conclusion of his first season.
Then there’s Rasheed Sulaimon, who was dismissed from Duke’s program in January and watched his old teammates win a national championship. His second chance comes with the Blue Devils’ old ACC rival, where he will be immediately eligible as a graduate student, have one year of eligibility and help fill the void created by Dez Wells’ graduation.
“Even though he’s new, he’s doing a great job here in the summer developing relationships,” Turgeon says. “He has experience. He’s played at a high level. Defensively, Rasheed is a very good on-ball defender. Dez was a big-time defender. Rasheed gives us that to go with his offense.”
The Terps’ bolstered frontcourt gives the athletic Layman the chance to slide back to his natural wing position. The senior showed steady improvement throughout his first three seasons and already has surpassed the 1,000-point plateau for his career.
Key Losses: G Richaud Pack, F Evan Smotrycz, G/F Dez Wells
Top Players: G Melo Trimble, G Rasheed Sulaimon, F Jake Layman, F Robert Carter Jr., C Diamond Stone
The Terrapins scored a recruiting coup on late March when center Diamond Stone, a McDonald’s All-American, committed to the program. But the coveted big man isn’t Maryland’s only significant addition. Junior college transfer Jaylen Brantley could slide in as Melo Trimble’s backup at the point, and former Duke wing Rasheed Sulaimon will try to script a better ending to his career than his unceremonious departure from Durham last winter.
Maryland will begin the year as a top-10 team. The last time it started a season there, it won the 2002 national title.
These Terps aren’t prohibitive favorites nationally, and they don’t possess the same postseason experience as the 2002 champions did. But they nonetheless are creating considerable excitement about building on a breakout season.
“We have good pieces and good players,” Turgeon says. “The personalities fit. I think the pieces fit. Every indication in how they’re working in the spring and summer is showing me they want to be a great team. We’re on the right track right now.”
USC has terminated coach Steve Sarkisian just 18 games into his tenure as the program’s head coach. The move to terminate Sarkisian’s contract comes one day after the second-year coach was placed on leave. The Trojans went 12-6 under Sarkisian’s watch and are 3-2 through five games in the 2015 season.
This is an important hire for athletic director Pat Haden. By the start of the 2016 season, USC will be on its third coach in four years. Lane Kiffin’s tenure ended during the 2013 season, with Clay Helton and Ed Orgeron working as the interim coaches for the remainder of the season. Who will replace Sarkisian at USC? Here are some names to watch in Haden’s search:
10 Coaching Candidates to Replace Steve Sarkisian at USC
Pat Fitzgerald, head coach, Northwestern
It would take a lot for Fitzgerald to leave Northwestern. After all, he’s a former linebacker with the Wildcats and has worked in the program as a coach since 2001. Fitzgerald took over at Northwestern in 2006 and is 65-54 as the program’s head coach. The Wildcats went to five consecutive bowl games from 2008-12 and finished with a 10-3 mark in 2012. Northwestern is not an easy job, but Fitzgerald has proven he can consistently win at an academic power.
James Franklin, head coach, Penn State
Franklin was reportedly in the mix when Steve Sarkisian was hired after the 2013 season. Could he get another phone call from USC this year? As a Pennsylvania native, Penn State is an attractive long-term job, but USC is arguably one of the top-five coaching destinations in the nation. Franklin went 24-15 at Vanderbilt and guided the Commodores to three consecutive bowl appearances. Through 19 games at Penn State, Franklin is 12-7 and off to a 5-1 start in 2015. The Nittany Lions are coming off NCAA scholarship sanctions, so depth has been an issue and a challenge for this coaching staff.
Justin Fuente, head coach, Memphis
Fuente has significantly improved Memphis’ program after inheriting a mess from former coach Larry Porter. The Tigers went 3-21 under Porter’s watch from 2010-11 and showed immediate progress with a 4-8 mark in Fuente’s first season (2012). Memphis finished 10-3 with a No. 25 finish in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll last season, and Fuente has a 22-20 career record over the last four years. Prior to taking over as the Tigers’ head coach, Fuente worked from 2007-11 as an assistant under Gary Patterson at TCU. Fuente’s stock is on the rise once again this season.
Tom Herman, head coach, Houston
Herman is one of college football’s top rising stars in the coaching ranks, and it’s only a matter of time before he gets an opportunity to run a Power 5 program. The California native worked his way through the coaching ranks as an assistant at Sam Houston State and a play-caller for Texas State, Rice and Iowa State before landing at Ohio State in 2012. Herman’s coaching ability was on display with the Buckeyes last season, as the offense never missed a beat despite starting its No. 3 quarterback (Cardale Jones) after injuries to J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller. Houston is 5-0 under Herman’s direction so far, including a non-conference win at Louisville.
Chip Kelly, head coach, Philadelphia Eagles
Full disclosure: This is a longshot. However, Kelly’s name is going to pop up in the rumor mill throughout this coaching search and USC would be wise to at least inquire. Kelly went 46-7 in four years at Oregon, including an appearance in the 2010 national championship. Under Kelly’s direction, the Ducks finished three times in the top five of the final Associated Press poll. Kelly is 22-16 with the Eagles but is 2-3 after five games. If things don’t work out this year in Philadelphia, would Kelly consider a return to the college ranks?
Dan Mullen, head coach, Mississippi State
Mullen is a former Urban Meyer assistant and has steadily improved Mississippi State’s program since taking over in 2009. After a 5-7 mark in his first year, Mullen has guided the Bulldogs to five consecutive winning seasons. Additionally, last year’s 10-3 record was just the third season of double-digit victories in program history. Prior to taking over at Mississippi State, Mullen worked with Meyer as an assistant at Bowling Green, Florida and Utah. The SEC West isn’t getting any easier – is Mullen interested in a move up the program hierarchy in college football?
Rich Rodriguez, head coach, Arizona
Outside of a three-year stint at Michigan, Rodriguez has been a successful coach at a high level at both of his FBS coaching stops. From 2001-07, Rodriguez went 60-26 at West Virginia, including three consecutive seasons of double-digit wins. The West Virginia native left Morgantown for Michigan and went 15-22 in three seasons before his dismissal following the 2010 campaign. Rodriguez landed at Arizona prior to the 2012 season and guided the Wildcats to back-to-back 8-5 records before a 10-4 finish last year with a Pac-12 South title. This isn’t necessarily important for this hire, but Rodriguez has experience in the Pac-12 and is winning at a high level within the conference.
Bob Stoops, head coach, Oklahoma
Stoops might be a better fit for our longshots category, but is he ready for a change of scenery? Stoops ranks No. 2 among coaches in tenure at his current job and is 172-45 during his career with the Sooners. Oklahoma won at least 10 games in all but two seasons from 2000-13 and has never won fewer than seven contests under Stoops’ tenure. The Sooners also won the 2000 national championship and finished nine times in the top 10 of the final Associated Press poll. USC is an elite job – would Stoops be willing to listen?
Kevin Sumlin, head coach, Texas A&M
Sumlin’s name popped up in USC’s last coaching search. Is there any interest on either side to rekindle that conversation? Sumlin already has a good job at Texas A&M, and the Aggies have invested a lot of money in facilities and stadium improvements since joining the SEC. Texas A&M went 11-2 in Sumlin’s first season (2012) and has a 33-11 record in his tenure. Prior to taking over in College Station, Sumlin went 35-17 at Houston, including a 12-1 mark in 2011. He also has experience on his resume from stops at Oklahoma, Purdue and Minnesota as an assistant.
Kyle Whittingham, head coach, Utah
Whittingham might be the nation’s most underrated coach. The former BYU linebacker is 90-43 after taking over the program from Urban Meyer on a full-time basis in 2005. Whittingham also guided the program on a successful transition from the Mountain West to the Pac-12. Utah recorded its first winning conference record (5-4) last season since joining the league in 2011 and is off to a 5-0 start in 2015. Sure, Whittingham isn’t the flashiest or biggest name out there, but he’s a proven winner and a solid all-around coach.
Jack Del Rio, head coach, Oakland Raiders
Del Rio has ties to the program as a former USC player and reportedly interviewed for the job back in 2013. Would Del Rio be willing to leave after just one year as Oakland’s head coach to guide the USC program? It’s a longshot, especially when you consider the Trojans would be better off hiring someone with collegiate head coaching experience.
Jeff Fisher, head coach, St. Louis Rams
As we mentioned with Jack Del Rio, USC would be wise to hire a coach with FBS experience. Fisher played his college ball at USC but has not coached on the college level.
Bryan Harsin, head coach, Boise State
Another rising star, but he’s coaching at his alma mater.
Redshirt freshman Will Grier is suspended for the season for taking performance-enhancing drugs.
During the press conference, the Florida quarterback looked visibly shaken and extremely disappointed in himself as he apologized to those around him. This will a tough loss for the Gators, who are 4-0, but they have a viable option in Treon Harris.
(h/t Orlando Sentinel)
The college football season is heading for its most important week, and the competition off the field among fans is nearly as heated as the competition on the field on game day.
The Athlon Sports College Football Experts Club presented by Nexium & Advil gives you the chance to compete with your friends and our experts each week.
Here are this week’s top picks from Athlon Sports senior writer David Fox:
College Football Podcast: Week 6 Recap
Iowa at Northwestern
Iowa’s run game and defense carried the Hawkeyes in two Big Ten wins over Wisconsin and Illinois. Kirk Ferentz’s team likely will need more from quarterback C.J. Beathard, who has completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes in the last two games, against Northwestern’s defense. The Wildcats offense has a long way to go after last week’s shutout against Michigan, but Northwestern will face a defense without its best player, Drew Ott, who is out for the season.
Fox’s prediction: Northwestern 21–13
Missouri at Georgia
After back-to-back losses to Alabama and Tennessee, Georgia needs this game not just to keep its head above water in the SEC East race but to maintain respectability. This will be the third time Missouri has faced Georgia not long after an injury to the Bulldogs’ starting running back. Nick Chubb broke out last season in a 34–0 rout of the Tigers. Sony Michel and Keith Marshall will look to replicate that with Chubb out this season. Missouri’s offense, meanwhile, ranks last in the SEC in yards per play (4.6).
Fox’s prediction: Georgia 24–14
Oregon at Washington
The Ducks are reeling after their third loss of the season, this one at home to arguably the lesser of the Washington schools. Meanwhile, Washington is celebrating after a 17–12 win over USC, which, as it turns out, has as much to do with the Trojans’ turmoil as the Huskies’ turnaround. This will be a matchup between Washington’s young and punchless offense (4.8 yards per play vs. FBS teams) and Oregon’s porous defense (5.8 yards per play). Oregon has won 11 in a row in the rivalry, but that may be about to change.
Fox’s prediction: Washington 35–28
Ole Miss at Memphis
Memphis has lost six in a row in the series, but the Tigers haven’t faced Ole Miss in the Liberty Bowl since 2009 and rarely with a top 25-caliber team. Both teams rank in the top 11 nationally in total offense and better than 525 yards per game. Memphis, though, doesn’t have a defense to match. Ole Miss has had its defensive lapses, but the Rebels still have the talent edge.
Fox’s prediction: Ole Miss 41–31
Alabama at Texas A&M
Alabama is six weeks into the season, and we’re not totally sure if the Crimson Tide is the best team in the SEC or simply one of the pack of solid, if flawed, teams. The Alabama offense turned in another uneven performance for three quarters against Arkansas. The Crimson Tide run defense has held all but one opponent (Georgia) to fewer than 100 yards on the ground, but Texas A&M’s offense — like Ole Miss — is built to challenge Alabama in the secondary and in tempo. Don’t look now, but the Aggies may have the SEC’s best defensive player (Myles Garrett), quarterback (Kyle Allen) and freshman (Christian Kirk).
Fox’s prediction: Texas A&M 31–28
Boston College at Clemson
Expect Boston College’s defense to put up a fight against Deshaun Watson. The Eagles are allowing only 7.2 points per game. BC, though, is averaging just six points against FBS opponents, the worst average in the country. Clemson’s defense suffered little drop off despite losing a host of players from last year’s standout squad.
Fox’s prediction: Clemson 31–7
Louisville at Florida State
The Cardinals are probably better than you think. Louisville’s three losses have come by a combined 13 points (Granted, it’s only FBS win is by seven over NC State). Florida State probably isn’t as good as you think, but the Seminoles still have Dalvin Cook, who is as adept at saving the day for FSU as he was in the Louisville game last year.
Fox’s prediction: Florida State 35–28
Virginia Tech at Miami
The Hokies put together a competent game offensively against NC State just in time to face a Miami team that’s allowing 5.6 yards per play against FBS competition. Virginia Tech’s defense is holding its own with cornerback Kendall Fuller out, but Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya may be the best QB the Hokies have faced since the opener against Ohio State.
Fox’s prediction: Miami 31–24
Nebraska at Minnesota
Minnesota may not have the best defense in the Big Ten, but the Gophers aren’t too far off the pace of Michigan and Northwestern. When the Gophers get good field position (i.e., when they’re playing Purdue), the offense can be functional. Nebraska, though, remains an enigma. The Huskers are getting gashed on defense and are minus-five in turnover margin — and their late-game collapses have led to four losses this season.
Fox’s prediction: Minnesota 24–17
West Virginia at Baylor
West Virginia’s promising season has gone sour with back-to-back losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and that’s before a visit to Baylor in a revenge game. The Mountaineers’ passing game has gone cold, contributing to a minus-4 turnover margin (WVU was plus-9 in non-conference play)
Fox’s prediction: Baylor 41–21
Florida at LSU
The Gators’ season has been turned upside down by the season-ending suspension for quarterback Will Grier, who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs this week. Backup Treon Harris has starting experience, but he hasn’t thrown a pass since Week 2 and has completed just 53 percent of his career passes. This should be a defensive struggle, but Florida’s margin of error has diminished. That’s not ideal against a team with Leonard Fournette on the other side.
Fox’s prediction: LSU 20–14
Oklahoma at Kansas State
After a mystifying loss to Texas, Oklahoma faces a team that has matched up well with the Sooners. Kansas State has won two of the last three meetings, but oddly enough, Oklahoma hasn’t lost in Manhattan since 1996. The Sooners’ run game has gone dormant for some reason, and Kansas State is allowing a Big 12-low 105 rushing yards per game, a stat skewed in part by the Wildcats’ clock-chomping ball-control offense.
Fox’s prediction: Oklahoma 35–28
TCU at Iowa State
Pity the poor Iowa State defense, the Cyclones just lost 66–31 to Texas Tech and now get TCU and Baylor in back-to-back games. The Horned Frogs’ beleaguered defense should get a bit of a breather.
Fox’s prediction: TCU 63–21
Michigan State at Michigan
The rivalry has been lopsided in favor of Michigan State with the Spartans winning the last two matchups by 23 and 24 points and six of the last seven overall. Michigan is poised to change that trend. The Wolverines’ defense has been the most dominant unit in the country, albeit against offensively challenged teams like BYU, UNLV, Oregon State and Northwestern. Michigan State has the best offense the Wolverines have faced this year, but the Spartans are facing injuries all over the field, most critically on the offensive line.
Fox’s prediction: Michigan 28–10
Vanderbilt at South Carolina
South Carolina’s injury list remains worth monitoring. Running back Brandon Wilds was cleared to play against LSU but did not against the Tigers. Quarterback Connor Mitch returned to practice. Lorenzo Nunez (shoulder) did not play against LSU. Vanderbilt’s defense remains one of the more underrated units in the league.
Fox’s prediction: Vanderbilt 17–13
Pittsburgh at Georgia Tech
This is a matchup with arguably the most surprising team in the ACC against the most disappointing. The Yellow Jackets offense has been ineffective in four losses this season, averaging 3.4 yards per carry in the last four games. Pittsburgh is missing running back James Conner, but has made the offense work with efficient play from Nathan Peterman at quarterback. The Panthers are allowing just 2.9 yards per carry this season.
Fox’s prediction: Pittsburgh 28–20
Arizona State at Utah
Mike Bercovici rebounded from his lackluster start against USC with solid performances against UCLA and Colorado. The Sun Devils’ run defense also has clamped down for just 2.1 yards per carry and 62 yards per game in Pac-12 play. Utah’s Devontae Booker will have trouble finding running room, so the pressure will be on quarterback Travis Wilson, who threw two picks against Cal.
Fox’s prediction: Utah 31–27
Oregon State at Washington State
Statistically speaking, the Beavers’ pass defense is not bad. Oregon State leads the Pac-12 in fewest yards allowed per game and is fourth in pass efficiency defense. Facing Washington State — rather than Stanford, Arizona and San Jose State — is a different animal.
Fox’s prediction: Washington State 54–28
USC at Notre Dame
Notre Dame faces a USC team in crisis. The Trojans are coming of a listless performance in a loss to Washington, and coach Steve Sarkisian has taken a leave of absence stemming from concerns over his use of alcohol. The Trojans regrouped under an interim coach last season, and this is still the most talented team in the Pac-12. Notre Dame has kept itself afloat despite injuries, but most teams are beat up after a matchup with Navy or another physical team. Notre Dame will be no exception. The Irish are on upset alert.
Fox’s Prediction: USC 28–21
Penn State at Ohio State
Ohio State’s quarterbacks had a solid performance last week against Maryland even as Urban Meyer went with the unconventional plan of using backup J.T. Barrett as a red zone specialist. Ohio State’s defense has to find a way to prevent the lapses that enabled big plays the last two weeks. Penn State’s defensive front is salty, but we’re not yet believers in the offense, especially as the Nittany Lions’ running back depth has been tested.
Fox’s prediction: Ohio State 35–14
Last week: 17–3
Season to date: 92–28
Think about your favorite team. Think about the last time you just completely gave up on them. Hopefully that hasn't happened.
This Eagles fan shows what a true, and optimistic fan, looks like. He goes crazy on television about a team who most people think is a lost cause this season based on numerous events. Don't say that to this guy's face because he will remind you that you shouldn't count the 2-3 Eagles out just yet.
Northwestern is dipping into its past this Saturday. The Wildcats will wear retro uniforms against Iowa, which are inspired by their 1995 team.
The 1995 team was one of the most successful in program history, as Gary Barnett guided Northwestern to a 10-2 mark and an appearance in the Rose Bowl.
Check out Northwestern’s throwback uniforms for Week 7:
#B1GCats Football (@NUFBFamily) October 12, 2015
For much of this season, Joey Logano has functioned as a forgotten title contender. Clinching his spot early by winning NASCAR’s Super Bowl, the Daytona 500 in February, he had the next seven months to “wait around” for the playoffs while others rose to prominence. Rival Kevin Harvick has popped up to have an incredible run, posting his 14th top-2 finish of the year Sunday; Hendrick Motorsports, with Jimmie Johnson winning four of the year’s first dozen races came out as the strongest organization. This summer, when HMS faded their replacement was Joe Gibbs Racing, a team that has all four of their cars still championship-eligible in NASCAR’s Contender Round of 12.
Lost in that is the fact Logano, without the “reset” of this playoff system, would be leading the points by 14 over Harvick. Already posting a career-high 24 top-10 finishes in 30 races he could potentially tie the modern-era record there posted by Jeff Gordon. Charlotte was his fourth victory this season, one behind the career high of five he set last year and only Harvick has led more than his 1,090 laps.
Does that mean Logano can get over the hump this time? An opening came Sunday when some of the JGR cars experienced problems; it’s unlikely now all four will be able to claw their way back into the round of eight. Harvick, while impressive in leading laps throughout the Chase, put himself in a deep hole last round the No. 4 team almost didn’t dig out of. The No. 22, by comparison has been consistently humming along while everyone else has been stealing the spotlight.
“You know, last year we did an incredible job getting ourselves to Homestead,” Logano said. “I felt like we had a great Chase. We executed perfectly. We did everything we had to do to get to Homestead.”
It was there, in the season finale it looked like Logano had the fastest car at points during the race. But a series of late pit problems cost him track position at the wrong time; it was too late to make up the difference and he ultimately lost to Harvick. Can the experience of that failure then help him now, prepping over the next couple of weeks with his trip to NASCAR’s semifinal round already assured?
“The lessons learned were in Homestead,” he claimed. “I feel like we'll be in a lot better shape because we all lived it once and know what we've got to do.”
At Charlotte, the lesson learned was Logano cannot be forgotten as a title contender. Sometimes, others dominate in the early round of a tournament only to fall by the wayside as they go further forward. The consistency of the No. 22 car is going to serve them well heading into the round of eight – and potentially straight through to NASCAR’s Final Four at Homestead.
Through The Gears we go...
FIRST GEAR: Don’t Count Chickens Before They Hatch
In this age of instant information, sports journalists have to offer weekly analysis. That’s dangerous in the case of NASCAR’s playoffs where every three weeks offer a full reset of the standings; it leaves everyone without an advantage and puts simple “racing luck” back into play.
That’s what JGR is dealing with after two of its four cars, flashing such speed throughout the Chase, are in serious jeopardy of missing the next round. Matt Kenseth, winning the pole at Charlotte and leading early, wound up 42nd after contact with Ryan Newman put his car into the outside wall. Seventy-two laps led wound up useless as a 42nd-place finish left him 45 points behind Logano for the point lead, 32 behind Brad Keselowski for the last transfer spot and in a “must-win” situation similar to what Harvick did in Round 1.
“If this is the best I can do,” the sarcastic Kenseth quipped, “It’s amazing I have a job.”
Luckily for him, JGR has run strong on intermediates, a strength which puts the No. 20 car in position to still win Kansas and steal a spot. That won’t help teammate Kyle Busch though, who struggled through “one of those racin’ deals” when he and Kyle Larson made contact just before the entrance to pit road. The 20th-place result leaves Busch 10th in points, in a similar position to Kenseth and without the track record at Kansas and Talladega ahead to feel confident a win is close at hand within the next two weeks.
SECOND GEAR: Hendrick House of Horrors
The self-destruction of Hendrick Motorsports during the Chase continues for a second straight year. Jimmie Johnson, who added insult to injury by blowing an engine at Charlotte is already out of Chase contention. Kasey Kahne, running dead last Sunday after slamming the outside wall twice, never even made the playoffs.
That leaves Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon as the only Chase-eligible drivers remaining.... and at this rate, they’re prepping to join their teammates on the sidelines. Earnhardt hit the wall on his own accord early in the race, never truly recovered and fought through damage to finish 28th, four laps off the pace. Talladega, in two weeks may be his saving grace after Charlotte – Earnhardt won there in the spring and is the sport’s best restrictor plate-racer. However, Lady Luck plays a bigger role there than anyplace else and you wonder if Earnhardt’s due a bad hand.
You can’t say the same for Gordon, still inside the top 8 after an eighth-place finish at Charlotte, but not showing the speed to be a true contender. Gordon’s team is struggling on intermediates and only a combination of late-race adjustments and potent pit strategy thrust the No. 24 team inside the top 10 after a poor qualifying effort. They’ll be hard-pressed to repeat that push at Kansas and then Talladega, the aforementioned Russian Roulette of Cup tracks will be hard to tackle. Gordon was outside the top 30 in the spring and has struggled to “finish” races as of late once the restrictor plate gets bolted on.
THIRD GEAR: Holding Serve
During an unexpected Charlotte day race where top contenders ran into problems, many of the Chase-eligible drivers simply entered Survival Mode. Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards posted top-6 finishes that weren’t flashy but kept them within striking distance of the point lead and well above the ninth-place cutoff to advance into the next round.
Still, for drivers like Truex, a single-car team fighting hard against their multi-car opponents, the unpredictability of Talladega looms. None of them will feel completely safe until the checkered flag falls on what’s become the “wild card” of NASCAR’s 10-race playoff.
FOURTH GEAR: Charlotte’s Rough Road
Like Dover last week, Charlotte this weekend featured a dominant leader with limited passing up front. NASCAR’s home track should be a place where the competition of the sport can be celebrated. Instead? Only 14 lead changes, most of them occurring during green-flag pit stops, made it easy to see why plenty of seats remained empty for this rain-delayed Sunday show.
To be fair, Mother Nature wrecked havoc with the plans, scrubbing the race from a Saturday night viewing on NBC. Moving the race back to the cable network NBCSN almost guarantees a fifth straight ratings decline for the Chase. After a surge in support for the new playoff system, this 2015 rules package combined with the way it limits passing up front has dulled enthusiasm. On intermediates like Charlotte there has to be a better way to pass than simply the first few laps after a restart.
Rookie Ryan Blaney, hoping to move up and run full-time in 2016 ran one of his more consistent Sprint Cup races for the Wood Brothers. His 14th-place finish at Charlotte was just his third lead-lap result of the season in 12 starts... Tony Stewart, struggling all weekend, slumped to 26th, his fourth result of 25th or worse within the last five weeks. Stewart, retiring after next season, has publicly backed crew chief Chad Johnston all year but privately you have to wonder if that thought process is changing; two of Stewart’s other teams are busy fighting for the championship... Austin Dillon was the highest finishing non-Chaser Sunday, placing seventh. No one ineligible for NASCAR’s championship has run better than fourth during the first four races of this Sprint Cup playoff.
Photos by ASP Inc.
So many Nebraska football fans have already thrown in the towel on the 2015 season and hey, I can understand why. After four heartbreaking losses, holding onto hope just seems like a recipe for more grief.
The cries for Mike Riley’s head after six games are there (of course), as are the idiotic memes that float around the Internet but hear me, Husker fans! If the Big Red had but one special element, they would likely be undefeated instead of holding their current record.
Do you know why? Sure you do. It’s the guy that ran for 1,000 yards or more for three consecutive seasons. It’s the guy who the Detroit Lions snagged for a steal in the second round. It’s the guy who appropriately went by AA8 as he was the most electrifying member of many a Husker team: Ameer Abdullah.
This is a player who prevented the worst loss in Nebraska history by using his razzle dazzle to rip victory from the jaws of defeat against McNeese State. Only the eventual No. 5 team in the country (Michigan State) could stymie him.
Nebraska’s been struggling massively during the past couple of games, of that there is no doubt. However, Abdullah was the cat that could turn a loss of three into a gain of seven. He ran for 208 yards and three touchdowns against Illinois last year.
Is there honestly any doubt he couldn’t have helped the Huskers put 30-plus on the board this season?
Even if Nebraska found itself in the same situation last Saturday against Wisconsin where it only needed seven yards on third down to move the chains and likely win the game, do you doubt Abdullah could run for at least five and extend the drive?
College Football Podcast: Week 6 Recap
Abdullah made an average offensive line look better than it was in 2014 and let’s be honest. This 2015 squad is full of guys with different talents trying to work together as best they can. Last year was no different.
Much like in 2001 when former Husker head coach Frank Solich had Eric Crouch under center, Bo Pelini could call upon his best player and Abdullah (to paraphrase Tim Gunn) “made it work” 99 times out of 100.
If he had a redshirt season, there are no Styrofoam cups that say “Fire Mike Riley” following the BYU loss. There are no articles simply titled “Nebraska's Mike Riley Supporters Are Wrong.” Instead, he is praised as a hero, lauded for his ability to implement a new system, etc.
The litany of injuries doesn’t exactly help, but an 80 percent Abdullah is better than plenty 100 percent backs in the country today.
An excuse? No. Poor timing? Definitely.
The Mike Riley era will continue with experimentation. No doubt it will with some heartache, too and it’s a shame it can’t go on with Abdullah.
The team could definitely use a spark.
If you weren't a fan of Bret Bielema before, this video isn't going to help.
During the Arkansas-Alabama game, Crimson Tide lineman Cam Robinson was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for getting in the face of the Razorbacks coach. A new video has surfaced that makes it appear as if Bielema was the one who started the situation.
Bielema gets in the middle of the scuffle and flops like he was pushed by Robinson, and once the flag was thrown, he does a little dance in celebration. Robinson was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Arkansas ended up scoring a touchdown on that drive, but it wouldn't help as they went on to lose 27-14.
As of Monday's press conference Alabama coach Nick Saban had not seen the video that has made it's rounds all over Twitter.
Nick Saban said he has not seen the Cam Robinson-Bret Bielema video.— Alex Scarborough (@AlexS_ESPN) October 12, 2015
College Football Podcast: Week 6 Recap
It was another rainy Saturday in Clemson, S.C. There also was another wet, raucous celebration.
The week after speeding out to a 14-0 lead over Notre Dame on the way to a 24-22 victory, Clemson jumped all over Georgia Tech shortly after running down the hill and cruised to a 43-24 win. Clemson is now 5-0 on the season and looks like a more complete team than chief ACC Atlantic Division rival, Florida State.
College Football Podcast: Week 6 Recap
Here are my five thoughts on Clemson, who is now clearly established as a national championship contender.
1. The Tigers Were Ready to Play
After the emotional win against Notre Dame, Saturday was a prime letdown situation. Georgia Tech was not playing well but was more than capable of exploding and Clemson fans had been celebrating the ND victory all week. But right off, Clemson was ready to go. Clemsoning be darned, the Tigers showed that they will be a handful for anyone, anytime.
2. Stopping the Georgia Tech Running Game
To clarify, the Tigers did not slow down the Georgia Tech option. They stuffed it. The Yellow Jackets' 71 yards rushing were the lowest total for a Paul Johnson-coached Geaorgia Tech team. And the entire defense pitched in. Ben Boulware led the way with nine tackles and fellow linebacker Dorian O’Daniel had seven stops with three resulting in lost yardage. Linemen Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd each got to Tech quarterback Justin Thomas when the Jackets tried to throw. Finally, safety play is key in defending the option and Jayron Kearse had another strong game for the Tigers.
3. Deshaun Watson
The sophomore signal-caller was not as effective running the ball as he had been against Louisville and Notre Dame. But he had a much better day throwing the ball. No. 4 was 20-of-31 for 265 yards with a couple of scores. The one interception was not a good throw, but the rest of his day was outstanding. Plus, he was instrumental in...
4. Getting More Receivers Involved
In preseason camp there were rave reviews on freshman wide receiver Deon Cain. When Mike Williams was injured, the hope was that Cain would slide into that spot. Cain had been solid early in the season, but on Saturday he busted out with five catches for 96 yards. Tight end Jordan Leggett doubled his touchdown total when he caught two scoring passes against the Jackets. Eight different players hauled in passes on Saturday, easing the pressure on star Artavis Scott.
5. The Offensive Line Keeps Getting Better
Part of Watson’s success came from the protection allowed by the offensive line. In the running game, the big guys opened up room for 201 yards rushing; 115 of which belonged to Wayne Gallman. The same group that had troubles with Louisville has had two solid showings in a row. There will be an even bigger test next week when Boston College – who is No. 1 in passing, rushing, and total defense – comes to Death Valley.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.