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As the fantasy regular season winds down these final weeks can be truly detrimental to your playoff hopes. It may be the worst possible time to be without Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger, Odell Beckham Jr., Drew Brees or Brandin Cooks, and those are just the guys on bye in Week 11. What about all of those who were already injured like Jamaal Charles, Arian Foster and others, along with the most recent additions (Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Julian Edelman, etc.) to the long list of those with Out (or worse) designations?
However, if you have some big holes to fill look no further than this week's flex rankings, as well all of our other positional rankings on AthlonSports.com. We certainly hope our rankings and articles have helped lead you to success so far this season.
Teams on bye: Cleveland, New Orleans, New York Giants, Pittsburgh
— 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.
Pittsburgh is one of the four teams on bye in Week 11, so DeAngelo Williams can't be the No. 1-ranked fantasy running back. Then again after last week's disappointing showing (69 total yards), he might not have been in the first place.
Todd Gurley also has been less than spectacular as of late, so he’s not No. 1 either. Adrian Peterson is coming off of a 200-yard game, so he's certainly in the conversation. So if it’s not any of these guys then who is No. 1 this week? Darren McFadden? Charcandrick West? Maybe even Jeremy Langford?
Teams on bye: Cleveland, New Orleans, New York Giants, Pittsburgh
Enough with the suspense. Here are the running back rankings for Week 11:
|1||Devonta Freeman||ATL||vs. IND|
|2||Adrian Peterson||MIN||vs. GB|
|3||Charcandrick West||KC||at SD|
|4||Darren McFadden||DAL||at MIA|
|5||Chris Ivory||NYJ||at HOU|
|6||Todd Gurley||STL||at BAL|
|7||Marshawn Lynch||SEA||vs. SF|
|8||Lamar Miller||MIA||vs. DAL|
|9||DeMarco Murray||PHI||vs. TB|
|10||Jeremy Langford||CHI||vs. DEN|
|11||Jonathan Stewart||CAR||vs. WAS|
|12||Latavius Murray||OAK||at DET|
|13||LeGarrette Blount||NE||vs. BUF (Mon.)|
|14||Doug Martin||TB||at PHI|
|15||Frank Gore||IND||at ATL|
|16||Ronnie Hillman||DEN||at CHI|
|17||Justin Forsett||BAL||vs. STL|
|18||LeSean McCoy||BUF||at NE (Mon.)|
|19||James Starks||GB||at MIN|
|20||Chris Johnson||ARI||vs. CIN|
|21||T.J. Yeldon||JAC||vs. TEN (Thurs.)|
|22||Danny Woodhead||SD||vs. KC|
|23||Matt Jones||WAS||at CAR|
|24||Giovani Bernard||CIN||at ARI|
|25||Antonio Andrews||TEN||at JAC (Thurs.)|
|26||Melvin Gordon||SD||vs. KC|
|27||Alfred Blue||HOU||vs. NYJ|
|28||Jeremy Hill||CIN||at ARI|
|29||Joique Bell||DET||vs. OAK|
|30||Ryan Matthews||PHI||vs. TB|
|31||Charles Sims||TB||at PHI|
|32||Carlos Hyde||SF||at SEA|
|33||Denard Robinson||JAC||vs. TEN (Thurs.)|
|34||Theo Riddick||DET||vs. OAK|
|35||Karlos Williams||BUF||at NE (Mon.)|
|36||C.J. Anderson||DEN||at CHI|
|37||Andre Ellington||ARI||vs. CIN|
|38||Shaun Draughn||SF||at SEA|
|39||Dexter McCluster||TEN||at JAC (Thurs.)|
|40||Eddie Lacy||GB||at MIN|
|41||Jay Ajayi||MIA||vs. DAL|
|42||Alfred Morris||WAS||at CAR|
|43||Jonathan Grimes||HOU||vs. NYJ|
|44||Darren Sproles||PHI||vs. TB|
|45||James White||NE||vs. BUF (Mon.)|
|46||Ameer Abdullah||DET||vs. OAK|
|47||Ka'Deem Carey||CHI||vs. DEN|
|48||Javorius Allen||BAL||vs. STL|
|49||Toby Gerhart||JAC||vs. TEN (Thurs.)|
|50||David Johnson||ARI||vs. CIN|
— Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)
Ranking tight ends for fantasy purposes isn't as easy as one may think. Slotting Rob Gronkowski in the top spot every week (except when he was on bye), is what makes the most sense, but that doesn't mean Gronk is going to lead all tight ends in fantasy scoring.
And the pecking order after Gronk is anything but certain. Even guys like Tyler Eifert and Gary Barnidge either have their ups and downs (Eifert was terrible on Monday night) or their circumstances changes. For Barnidge, the change from Josh McCown to Johnny Manziel as the Browns' starting quarterback could have a big impact on the TE's value the rest of this season. The good news for Barnidge owners, is they don't have to really worry about that until next week since the Browns are on bye.
Still it’s this mass confusion and lack of consistency (even Gronk has had his rough patches) that makes tight end rankings like these an important resource to consult before setting your lineup.
Teams on bye: Cleveland, New Orleans, New York Giants, Pittsburgh
|1||Rob Gronkowski||NE||vs. BUF (Mon.)|
|2||Greg Olsen||CAR||vs. WAS|
|3||Tyler Eifert||CIN||at ARI|
|4||Travis Kelce||KC||at SD|
|5||Delanie Walker||TEN||at JAC (Thurs.)|
|6||Antonio Gates||SD||vs. KC|
|7||Jimmy Graham||SEA||vs. SF|
|8||Jordan Reed||WAS||at CAR|
|9||Jason Witten||DAL||at MIA|
|10||Eric Ebron||DET||vs. OAK|
|11||Jacob Tamme||ATL||vs. IND|
|12||Charles Clay||BUF||at NE (Mon.)|
|13||Crockett Gillmore||BAL||vs. STL|
|14||Garett Celek||SF||at SEA|
|15||Zach Ertz||PHI||vs. TB|
|16||Richard Rodgers||GB||at MIN|
|17||Martellus Bennett||CHI||vs. DEN|
|18||Julius Thomas||JAC||vs. TEN (Thurs.)|
|19||Coby Fleener||IND||at ATL|
|20||Jared Cook||STL||at BAL|
|21||Vernon Davis||DEN||at CHI|
|22||Jordan Cameron||MIA||vs. DAL|
|23||Ladarius Green||SD||vs. KC|
|24||Austin Seferian-Jenkins||TB||at PHI|
|25||Darren Fells||ARI||vs. CIN|
|26||Anthony Fasano||TEN||at JAC (Thurs.)|
|27||Kyle Rudolph||MIN||vs. GB|
|28||Clive Walford||OAK||at DET|
|29||Lance Kendricks||STL||at BAL|
|30||Scott Chandler||NE||vs. BUF (Mon.)|
— Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.
Host Braden Gall sits down with ESPN college football guru Kirk Herbstreit on this special edition of the Cover 2 podcast. Herbstreit offers his thoughts on the College Football Playoff rankings as well as how the Committee process works.
The ESPN analyst also offers his thoughts on a potential Ohio State-Alabama rematch, the big games of Week 12 and which team in the top four is most likely to lose.
Check out AllStateCFB.com and listen to the podcast for your chance to win $100,000 and an all expense paid trip to the National Championship game.
Hosts Mitch Light and Braden Gall break down another weekend of college football with special guest Louie Belina of 1150 The Zone in College Station. The guys break down the latest Playoff rankings.
The Big 12 takes center stage this weekend with two marquee championship type bouts in Stillwater and Norman. The Big Ten features a great slate of games highlighted by a top 10 matchup between Michigan State and Ohio State. North Carolina visits Virginia Tech in a big ACC Coastal showdown while USC heads North to Eugene to battle Oregon.
The SEC has an interesting slate of games and the AAC has two important battles as well.
The guys pick every Top 25 game and offer locks of the week against the spread.
It seems that with each passing week the College Football Playoff selection committee finds ways to exclude the Big 12 Conference from the top four spots. This week's rankings were no different and honestly it seems the closer we get to Dec. 4 the less likely it will be the Big 12 will have a representative in the Playoff, again.
Last season the Big 12 was criticized for its lack of a conference championship game and the committee seemed to mirror that sentiment stating that a 13th game could have been a difference-maker for Baylor or TCU.
This season there is a team planted firmly in the all-important fourth spot that also will lack that elusive 13th game - Notre Dame. This is where things will get interesting.
Let’s take a look at who still has a chance to make the final four and why the committee may yet again shun the Big 12:
No. 4 Notre Dame
The Irish have a cakewalk of a game this weekend against Boston College at Fenway Park in Boston. Assuming a victory, the Fighting Irish will stay put in next week's rankings, depending on the outcome of other games this weekend.
The final test for Notre Dame will come next Saturday at Stanford. The No. 11 Cardinal will represent a quality win for the Irish and one that would keep the Big 12 from gaining ground. Let’s be honest, the Irish will be playing in a different time zone against a highly ranked opponent, the committee loves this.
Long story short, Notre Dame wins out and the Big 12 is again on the outside looking in.
No. 5 Iowa
The Hawkeyes have been in cruise control at the No. 5 spot for the last two weeks despite less-than-convincing wins over Indiana and Minnesota. Iowa only has to win one of its final two games to earn a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game. If the Hawkeyes can somehow can pull off the upset and beat presumably either Ohio State or Michigan State for the Big Ten title, then Iowa is more than likely in the Playoff and the Big 12 will have to wait and see how the committee treats the loser of a conference championship game.
Pay attention to Iowa's game on Saturday against 2-8 Purdue. If the Hawkeyes continue to win in unimpressive fashion yet keeps a firm grip on its No. 5 position while Big 12 contenders keep winning then the committee's perceived lack of respect for the Big 12 will become pretty apparent.
No. 7 Florida
The Gators have won the SEC East and will play in the SEC Championship Game, presumably against Alabama. If the Gators can pull the upset and win the SEC, the Gators will likely move up into the final four and then the Big 12 has to hope the Crimson Tide fall out.
Florida has a huge showdown coming against Florida State next Saturday. It would not be a shock to see the Gators leapfrog a Big 12 team if they beat the Seminoles, especially if they do so in convincing fashion.
No. 9 Michigan State
The Spartans' Playoff hopes are entirely on the line this Saturday, as they travel to Columbus to face No. 3 Ohio State. A Spartan victory would only muddy the Big Ten picture even more, while adding more variables for Big 12 backers to worry about. First and foremost, Michigan State would be in excellent position to make a significant jump in the rankings, potentially leapfrogging both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State next week.
Why is that possible? Well Michigan State jumped four spots this week after beating a terrible Maryland team 24-7. The committee seems to love the Big Ten.
Despite being presently ranked behind the Big 12 schools, should the Spartans win out, including the Big Ten Championship Game, it would most likely put the Spartans into the top four, at the expense of both Notre Dame and the Big 12 potentially.
While Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has said he did not intentionally backload the schedules this season that is exactly what has happened.
A Baylor victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday could only make the Big 12's path to the Playoff more challenging. Currently ranked 10th, the Bears need to not only win out, but also get help from several teams to put themselves back into the discussion for a spot in the top four. Further, the Cowboys losing would take some of the significance out of next Saturday's showdown at home against Oklahoma. A Sooners loss to TCU this Saturday could have the same effect.
And speaking of the Horned Frogs, they seem to have gotten the shaft from the committee more than any school in the country. After losing to the No. 6 team (Oklahoma State) two weeks ago, TCU dropped from eighth to 15th. To pour salt into the wound, the Frogs dropped three more spots this week after just getting by Kansas even though they lost their Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback and No. 1 wide receiver to injuries. Struggling against a winless team loses you style points, period. The Frogs are currently the lowest-ranked one-loss Power 5 conference school in the Playoff rankings.
What makes this worse is that three two-loss teams ranked ahead of TCU have fallen to unranked opponents. Stanford lost this past Saturday to then-unranked Oregon, Utah also just lost to Arizona, and LSU lost to Arkansas. North Carolina (9-1) also sits one spot above the Frogs at No. 17. The Tar Heels' loss was to an unranked South Carolina. But let’s not muddy this with facts. TCU struggling to win against Kansas is apparently WAY worse than actually losing a game.
As you can see, the Playoff selection committee has set itself up to have multiple reasons NOT to include the Big 12 again this season. With what seems to be an ever-changing criteria both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State may very well NOT control their own destiny.
— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of BlueGoldSports.com, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow BlueGoldSports.com on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.
East Carolina's postseason dreams hang from a loose limb with two games to play, but the Pirates look to have quite a favorable matchup at a good time. Needing to win both games to break even for the season and clinch bowl eligibility, East Carolina must do so on the road Thursday night against a struggling UCF.
Struggling may be putting UCF's status a bit too kindly, as the Knights have been a mess from start to finish this season. But can the Knights pull it all together just once and pick up their first win of the season, knocking ECU out of bowl consideration? Former Conference USA rivals will continue their series for the second time as members of the American Athletic Conference.
East Carolina at UCF
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Thursday)
Spread: East Carolina -15
Three Things to Watch
1. Can East Carolina score any points?
East Carolina opened the season by scoring no fewer than 21 points in each of its first seven games of the season. Then it hit a brick wall, managing just 14 points, 13 points and 17 points in each of the last three games. Quarterback struggles have held the Pirates' offense back at times, but more on that in a moment. Playing UCF may be just the cure for the scoring drought. Last year ECU scored 30 points against the Knights and they have scored at least 30 points in three of the last four meetings with UCF.
2. ECU going with a two-QB system
After heading into a bye week on a three-game losing skid, Pirates head coach Ruffin McNeill made the decision to come out of it with a new approach to the quarterback position. Rather than pull starter Blake Kemp from the starting job entirely and hand it off to James Summers, McNeill will use both to run the offense. How that two-quarterback system will work remains to be seen, but East Carolina needs something to rejuvenate the passing game.The problem is there has never been any real consistency in the passing game, regardless of who takes snaps. Kemp has completed 69.8 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns but 10 interceptions. Summers, when on the field, has completed 63.7 percent of his attempts with four touchdowns and two interceptions. Summers also gives the East Carolina offense a bit more of a dynamic look, as he is second on the team behind Chris Hairston in rushing yards (443 yards) but leads with eight rushing touchdowns. The good news is UCF does not particularly play well against the pass. The Knights have given up 24 touchdowns through the air, with just four interceptions this season.
3. Can UCF play spoiler?
This UCF team is a far cry from the team that beat Big 12 champion Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl just two seasons ago. These Knights are floundering in just about every conceivable way. The Knights do next to nothing well this season, which is reflected by a record of 0-10. UCF did find some scoring plays last time out against Tulsa, but still lost 45-30 loss, and there is no reason to trust this team to score more than two touchdowns on a regular basis. UCF has scored more than 15 points just three times this season, including a 16-point effort against Temple. UCF will need plenty of lucky bounces to go its way to keep pace with an ECU attack that should be ready to rekindle some offense of its own.
At this point in time, UCF is pretty much just playing through the motions and ready to shift its focus on the future, which will start with finding a new head coach for the program. East Carolina has taken a step back but had a bye week to try and fix some things. Against UCF, the Pirates may not have to have everything fixed, even on the road. Look for ECU to see what this two-quarterback system can do, but do not be surprised if head coach Ruffin McNeil pulls the plug on the idea and sticks with one guy leading the offense if good things are happening on a consistent basis from either. East Carolina is a big favorite, and should cruise to a victory in a big bounce-back performance.
Prediction: East Carolina 34, UCF 13
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for CollegeFootballTalk.com and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
With just three games remaining on its 2015 schedule, ULM didn’t wait until the end of the season to part ways with head coach Todd Berry. School officials announced Berry’s firing on Saturday, following ULM’s 59-21 loss to Arkansas State, the Warhawks’ ninth of the season. Defensive coordinator John Mumford was tabbed to replace Berry as interim head coach, a role Mumford's played twice in his coaching career. He served in the same capacity when Berry was fired as Army's coach six games into the 2003 season.
Texas State head coach Dennis Franchione, who has been the lead man at TCU, Alabama and Texas A&M, is now in his second stint with the Bobcats. He also coached in San Marcos, Texas, back in 1990-91 when the school was known as Southwest Texas State. This year's team is just 2-7 following a 41-19 loss to Georgia State last week.
With a combined three wins between them, both teams meet Thursday evening in Central Texas for a Sun Belt matchup in front of a nationally televised EPSNU audience. ULM hasn’t won since Sept. 12, while Texas State’s last victory came back on Oct. 24. The Warhawks hold an 8-3 series advantage, but Texas State won last year's meeting in Monroe, La., by a score of 22-18.
ULM at Texas State
Kickoff: 9:30 p.m. ET (Thursday)
Spread: ULM +7
Three Things to Watch
1. ULM QB Earnest Carrington
The Warhawks took a hit at quarterback last Saturday when starter Garrett Smith left the game with a shoulder injury that was later diagnosed as an AC sprain. Smith has passed for 2,033 yards and 17 touchdowns through 10 games.
Backup quarterback Earnest Carrington replaced Smith, but struggled in relief duty, as he connected on just five of his 19 attempts. And although he accounted for two touchdowns (one rushing, one passing), he also threw three interceptions. On the year, Carrington is 8-for-26 for 79 yards, one TD and four INTs.
Carrington draws a favorable matchup against a shaky Texas State defense that didn’t record an interception until last week when it snagged two against Georgia State.
2. ULM interim head coach John Mumford
The Warhawks defensive coordinator joined Todd Berry’s staff in 2014 after a 14-year stop at Army. Mumford brings continuity to a program in transition, as he and Berry served on the same coaching staff in the early 2000s when Berry was Army's head coach from 2000-03.
As a head coach, Mumford compiled a 40-70 record from 1990-99 at Southeast Missouri State, and was the 1994 Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year.
ULM has been plagued by injuries to a number of key players this season and Mumford’s coaching mettle will be tested as he attempts to stabilize the program through these last few games.
3. Texas State S Damani Alexcee
Heading into last week’s contest against Georgia State, Alexcee had tallied 47 solo tackles, which ranked second in the Sun Belt. The junior safety had just five stops against the Panthers last Saturday – his second-lowest output of the season. For the season, Alexcee has been credited with 70 total tackles.
Alexcee has broken the double-digit tackle mark on three occasions this season, to go along with two sacks and three pass deflections. While the Texas State defense as a whole has struggled, Alexcee hasn’t. And against an unexperienced Carrington, he could further add to the Bobcats’ interception total by the end of the evening.
Interim head coach John Mumford will lead an ailing ULM team into Bobcat Stadium on Thursday in search of its first win in more than two months and second overall on the season. The Warhawks do have some favorable matchups following this one, as ULM travels to Hawaii (2-9) on Nov. 28 and hosts New Mexico State (2-7) on Dec. 5 to close the season.
With just two wins this season, Franchione, who ranks third behind Frank Beamer (Virginia Tech) and Brian Kelly (Notre Dame) in wins by active FBS coaches, has not been able to follow up on the success of last season's 7-5 (but no bowl invite) showing.
The Bobcats definitely are not going bowling this season, but they should coast to their third win of the season Thursday night.
Prediction: Texas State 31, ULM 14
— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A Washington, D.C.-based sports writer, Hayes is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and he also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.
College football has hundreds of annual grudge matches, dozens of trophy games and a handful of rivalries that every year, regardless of record, that are mandatory viewing for fans across the country.
And yet none of them are the Iron Bowl.
In celebration of this year’s Alabama-Auburn game, one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports, Athlon Sports has released an exclusive digital edition that chronicles the greatest games and players in the history of the rivalry.
Here’s a taste of what you can find in the digital edition, including this run down of the greatest games in Auburn-Alabama history.
Punt Bama Punt
Auburn 17, Alabama 16
Dec. 2, 1972
In a game that did more than any other to put the Alabama-Auburn rivalry into the national consciousness, the Tigers’ shocking 17–16 win over the unbeaten, No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide featured the unlikeliest case of déjà vu in college football history. A lackluster contest for three quarters, the 1972 edition of the Iron Bowl entered the pantheon of greatest games ever played thanks to the dynamic special-teams duo of Bill Newton and David Langner, who pulled one rabbit out of a hat and then, miraculously, followed it with another. [READ MORE]
Alabama 25, Auburn 23
Nov. 30, 1985
“It was one of the greatest games I’ve ever been associated with,” Alabama coach Ray Perkins said after the wild finishing sequence. “All year long, I’ve said this group of men has been special to work with. I’m just honored to be a part of this team and this game.” [READ MORE]
Alabama 26, Auburn 21
Nov. 27, 2009
The season-saving march culminated with an unlikely hero — a little-used running back who hadn’t caught a TD pass in his career. Coming out of a timeout, Greg McElroy found Roy Upchurch with a 4-yard TD toss with 1:24 left to cap a march that consumed more than seven minutes. Auburn fought its way to the Alabama 37, but a final-play Hail Mary was batted down by Rolando McClain. [READ MORE]
Auburn 28, Alabama 27
Nov. 26, 2010
The year after Auburn nearly pulled a championship-spoiling upset of Alabama, the tables were turned for another classic renewal of the rivalry. Auburn was the unbeaten team with an eye on a national championship and had a Heisman Trophy winner of its own in one-year wonder Cam Newton. The Tide, who entered the season as the nation’s top-ranked team and defending national champions, had suffered a couple of uncharacteristic losses and were ranked No. 11. They also found themselves in the unfamiliar posture of underdogs against their rivals from the Plains. [READ MORE]
The Kick Six
Auburn 34, Alabama 28
Nov. 30, 2013
The Tide lined up for what they hoped would be a game-winning 57-yard field goal from Adam Griffith. Here’s how Auburn broadcasters Rod Bramblett and Stan White called the final play:
“Chris Davis is going to drop back into the end zone in single safety. Well, I guess if this thing comes up short he can field it and run it out. Alright, here we go. 56-yarder, it’s got—no, it does not have the leg. And Chris Davis takes it in the back of the end zone. He’ll run it out to the 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 45.
“Chris Davis just ran it 109 yards and Auburn is going to the championship game!” [READ MORE]
Alabama 55, Auburn 44
Nov. 29, 2014
The highest-scoring game in Iron Bowl history produced an offensive outburst that must have had Bear Bryant turning over in his grave — though even he would have to be pleased that it came at the expense of that hated “cow college” to the east. Alabama came into the game ranked No. 1 in the nation, yet again with a single blemish on the ledger — a loss to Ole Miss — while Auburn was 8–3 and ranked No. 15 in the nation. The Tigers’ leaky defense had been its undoing in losses to Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Georgia, and it would be its Achilles heel on this afternoon in Bryant-Denny Stadium. But the explosive Tigers offense sure kept things interesting. [READ MORE]
Week 12 of the 2015 college football season starts on Wednesday night with two matchups from the MAC. Northern Illinois looks to move one step closer to a MAC West title in a key conference game against Western Michigan. Central Michigan also travels to Kent State on Wednesday night. The pre-Saturday action continues on Thursday with East Carolina at UCF and ULM at Texas State, followed by two intriguing matchups on Friday night in Cincinnati at USF and Air Force at Boise State. The Saturday slate features six matchups between top 25 teams, with the biggest taking place in Columbus between Ohio State and Michigan State. Outside of the Big Ten, the Big 12 is in the spotlight once again. TCU plays at Oklahoma and Oklahoma State hosts Baylor in two of the week’s most important matchups. The SEC’s Week 12 slate is light on standout contests, but LSU-Ole Miss and Mississippi State-Arkansas headline the schedule.
Related: Post-Week 11 Bowl Projections
Which teams will come out on top in every FBS game for Week 12? Athlon's editors predict the winners for every game this week:
College Football Week 12 Predictions
Central Michigan at
Western Michigan at
East Carolina at
Air Force at
Fresno State at
South Alabama at
Wake Forest at
Georgia Southern at
Georgia Tech at
Michigan State at
North Carolina at
North Texas at
Miami, Ohio at
Charleston Southern at
Mississippi State at
West Virginia at
Iowa State at
Texas A&M at
Louisiana Tech at
Old Dominion at
Colorado State at
Notre Dame vs.
San Diego State at
San Jose State at
Bowling Green at
Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. Late American entrepreneur Jim Rohn once said that and it certainly applies to Nebraska football’s 2015 season.
Penalties will be the death of a football team’s dreams, their goals, their accomplishments. In the month of September, the Cornhuskers averaged nearly 11 flags per game. That’s a good way to lose any contest, regardless of the opponent. However, the Big Red is clearly gelling under head coach Mike Riley’s watch.
In October, Nebraska nearly slashed its shaming by the refs to six penalties per tilt. After crushing the College Football Playoff hopes of Michigan State and knocking off Rutgers, the Big Red has shaved that number down to four.
It’s no coincidence that Nebraska is able to upset teams like the Spartans when they play disciplined football even when hobbled. Nebraska lost the turnover battle by one versus the green and white, but Michigan State stacked 76 yards worth of penalties on top of its performance. Nebraska only totaled 55 yards.
Six of those Spartan penalties came in the second half while the Huskers committed zero. Zilch. Nada.
While Nebraska lost the third quarter 14-7, that discipline was rewarded with a 19-7 fourth quarter and…well, you know the rest.
All two of the Big Red’s penalties against Rutgers were for a combined 15 yards and came in the second quarter.
What does this mean? It certainly speaks to offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh’s ability to keep his unit from jumping very much as the year’s gone on. The illegal procedure penalties that were too common earlier in the year were cleaned up, too.
In short, the Big Red’s game was polished up, which puts this team in a prime position to knock off yet another top-ten opponent when Iowa comes to Lincoln the Friday after Thanksgiving.
It’s always ideal to keep that turnover margin in your favor or at least even, but playing crisp, clean ball likely sends the fans home happy next weekend.
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:
Tennessee at Jacksonville
These teams have only five wins between them, but the winner of this game is actually still in the AFC South race. Jacksonville has won two of three, forcing four turnovers in each victory.
Gworek's Pick: Jacksonville, 17-13.
Oakland at Detroit
The Raiders need to get back on track after a disappointing home loss to Minnesota. Despite winning in Green Bay for the first time since 1991, Detroit ranks 27th in offense and may not be able to keep up.
Gworek's Pick: Oakland, 30-20.
Indianapolis at Atlanta
Atlanta had the week off to get healthy and figure out how a 5–0 start turned into a 6–3 record. Indianapolis again turns to Matt Hasselbeck (2–0 as a starter this season) at quarterback for the injured Andrew Luck.
Gworek's Pick: Atlanta, 27-21.
N.Y. Jets at Houston
Houston has not allowed a touchdown in winning its last two over Tennessee and Cincinnati. After turning the ball over four times in a loss to Buffalo, the Jets have a minus-9 turnover differential in their four losses.
Gworek's Pick: N.Y. Jets, 23–20.
Tampa Bay at Philadelphia
Two 4–5 teams hoping to stay on the edge of the NFC playoff chase meet. Philadelphia, which will be without quarterback Sam Bradford for at least a couple weeks, needs Mark Sanchez to avoid the big turnover.
Gworek's Pick: Tampa Bay, 26–24.
Denver at Chicago
The Broncos have lost two in a row and give Brock Osweiler is first career start with Peyton Manning hurting. The Bears have won two in a row and moved into the NFL’s top 10 in total defense.
Gworek's Pick: Chicago, 16–14.
St. Louis at Baltimore
The Rams switch to Case Keenum at quarterback, but it won’t matter if the defense plays like it did in a loss to the Bears. The Ravens can’t catch a break and have lost seven games by 32 total points.
Gworek's Pick: Baltimore, 26–20.
Dallas at Miami
The Cowboys get Tony Romo back after going 0–7 without him. Amazingly, they still have a chance in the ugly NFC East. Miami needs to get hot fast and plays five of its last seven at home.
Gworek's Pick: Dallas, 23–21.
Washington at Carolina
Carolina may run away with home-field advantage in the NFC but plays four of its last six on the road. The Redskins are just a half game out of first place in the NFC East with four division games left.
Gworek's Pick: Carolina, 28–20.
Kansas City at San Diego
Kansas City has won three in a row to get right into the thick of the AFC Wild Card race. The Chargers have lost five in a row but can play spoiler with every team left on its schedule still in the playoff picture.
Gworek's Pick: San Diego, 27–24.
Green Bay at Minnesota
After averaging 127 yards per game on the ground during a 6–0 start, the Packers have averaged 69 yards per game since. Green Bay ranks 24th in the NFL against the run; the Vikings lead the NFL in rushing.
Gworek's Pick: Minnesota, 20–17.
San Francisco at Seattle
Seattle won the first meeting, holding the Niners to 142 total yards in a 20–3 victory. Blaine Gabbert beat Atlanta in his first start for San Francisco two weeks ago, but a road game at Seattle will be a bigger challenge.
Gworek's Pick: Seattle, 26–10.
Cincinnati at Arizona
Andy Dalton struggled in a 10–6 loss to the Texans, and it didn’t help that Bengals running backs gained only 51 yards on 15 carries. Cincinnati will need to be better to keep up with the NFL’s No. 1 offense.
Gworek's Pick: Arizona, 28–23.
Buffalo at New England
New England won the first meeting 40–32 in Buffalo, sacking Tyrod Taylor eight times. Before last season’s finale when the Pats rested starters, Buffalo’s last win in Foxboro was Nov. 5, 2000.
Gworek's Pick: New England, 24–20.
Week 9 Record: 5–9
Overall Record: 85–61
We are at the point in the college football season where the contenders make statements and the pretenders fall by the wayside. A handful of teams have their eyes on conference championship game appearances with outside shots at berths in the College Football Playoff. For three of those teams, Week 12 will mark the end of what were shaping up to be dream seasons, thanks to some outrageousness.
Here are the Outrageous College Football Predictions for Week 12.
Penn State takes down Michigan
Would this be a giant upset? No, but it would certainly increase the degree of difficulty for the Wolverines to get to the Big Ten title game. Look for Penn State's defense to stymie an inconsistent Michigan offense, getting to Jake Rudock early and often. On the other side of the ball, an ever-improving Penn State running game is going to loosen up the Michigan secondary, allowing Christian Hackenberg to have his way. The loss would mean that Michigan no longer controls its own destiny in the Big Ten East Division.
Virginia Tech upsets North Carolina
The Tar Heels can taste the ACC title game, and with it, an outside shot at the College Football Playoff. The Hokies will be playing for pride when they host North Carolina on an otherwise sleepy fall afternoon in Blacksburg. Look for the Virginia Tech defense to keep Frank Beamer's squad in the game, matching the intensity of the Tar Heels' D. In the end, it'll be Beamerball that prevails, as a special teams play by Virginia Tech seals the upset.
Cal ends the dream for Stanford
Just like Oregon, Cal likes to score and score fast. Look for quarterback Jared Goff to constantly challenge the Cardinal secondary all day, eventually breaking through and opening the game up. Once that happens, Stanford will find itself in yet another track meet that the Cardinal aren't built to win. A second conference loss won't keep them from playing for a Pac-12 title, but it will end any hopes the Cardinal had of sneaking into the College Football Playoff.
Iowa blanks Purdue
Of course Iowa will win, but look for the Hawkeyes to take out their frustrations on the Boilermakers — imposing their will and attempting to demonstrate that they belong in the national title conversation. Iowa matches up perfectly on defense to shut down basically everything Purdue wants to do. Combine that with Iowa's elite, clock-killing run game and the Boilermakers have little-to-no shot of putting together any sort of scoring drive. The Hawkeyes will be out to show that they can put away inferior teams the way a contender is supposed to.
Derrick Henry carries the ball only once against Charleston Southern
This is a case where the national championship far outweighs the Heisman Trophy. Henry is the consensus front-runner for college football's most prestigious award, but he's also the biggest reason Alabama looks like the team to beat. Nick Saban is smart enough to know better than to risk any damage to the biggest hammer he has. Look for Henry to take the first carry of the day to the house for a touchdown — adding to his Heisman-highlight reel — and coming out of the game immediately after.
The College Football Playoff Committee released its third set of top 25 rankings of the 2015 season on Tuesday night. Clemson remained No. 1 for the third straight week in a row, followed by Alabama at No. 2, Ohio State at No. 3 and Notre Dame at No. 4.
The committee will meet each week until the end of the season, releasing rankings on Tuesday night until the final reveal on Dec. 6 for the last top 25 and playoff announcements.
While the weekly rankings are critical in gauging where teams stand in early November, it’s important to remember last year’s top 25 featured Mississippi State at No. 1 and Ohio State – the team that won it all in 2014 – ranked No. 16.
Needless to say, this poll will look significantly different in early December.
College Football Playoff Committee Top 25 Rankings (Nov. 17 Edition)
If last year’s College Football Playoff rankings are in any way a guide _ and there’s no guarantee that its is — this week might be the turning point.
The Nov. 18 rankings in 2014 had Nos. 1-2-3 lined up perfectly. Although Alabama, Oregon and Florida State would move around in the final three weeks, they’d end up exactly where they were on Nov. 18.
This was also the time last season when Ohio State started to make its ascent, which would end in the top four.
Should any of this matter in this year’s Playoff process? Probably not. Different teams. Different résumés. Different opponents in the final two weeks.
That said, what seems to be clear is that Clemson, Alabama and Notre Dame are in win-and-you’re-in territory.
Everything else is just a guess.
1. Notre Dame is going to be the great mystery
Many of the committee’s pet phrases — game control, body clock and so on — have come up in the spur of the moment, but in writing as one of the criteria is “conference championships won.” That, of course, is irrelevant to Notre Dame, and how much that will impact the Irish in the final rankings isn’t clear. True, the Irish lost to their toughest opponent — No. 1 Clemson on the road — but clearly the committee thinks highly of Notre Dame’s wins. No. 16 Navy has rocketed up the top 25, and No. 24 USC entered the rankings this week. If No. 11 Stanford and USC both reach the Pac-12 title game, and Notre Dame has victories over both, would the committee go so far as to give partial credit for a Pac-12 title?
2. Maybe Baylor’s not out of it after all
Dating back to last season, Baylor has vexed the selection committee with its lackluster non-conference schedule. The September schedule, which included SMU, Lamar and Rice, would seem to erase a margin of error for Baylor. Yet the Bears lost their first game of the season, 44-34 to Oklahoma in Waco, and fell merely to No. 10. With games remaining at No. 6 Oklahoma State, at No. 18 TCU and Texas, maybe the Bears can climb six spots — as long as the Sooners lose. Baylor’s strength of schedule is ranked 76th by Sagarin, and the Bears lost at home to the best team they’ve faced. A competitive game, however, “validated the strength of Baylor,” committee chair Jeff Long said.
3. North Carolina is going to have trouble
With blowout wins over Miami and Duke, the Tar Heels have climbed at least in public notoriety in recent weeks. In a vacuum, moving from unranked to 23rd to 17th is no small matter, but the Tar Heels are little more than a fringe contender. North Carolina lost to a 3-7 South Carolina team, played two FCS opponents and avoided Clemson and Florida State in the ACC schedule. That’s a good way to get to 9-1 and perhaps win the Atlantic, but not a good profile for the top 10. And with a semifinal in the Orange Bowl, the ACC doesn’t have an automatic tie-in for a host bowl. The Heels may have to beat Clemson in the ACC title game to guarantee a major bowl — and it won’t be a semifinal.
4. Right or wrong, Ohio State is getting the benefit of the doubt
This could have been noted in any of the first three weeks the Buckeyes were ranked No. 3, but the committee is going with the eye test on this one. Iowa has road wins over two teams that have been in the committee’s top 25, Wisconsin and Northwestern. Ohio State is the only team in this week’s top 16 that hasn’t even played another CFP top 25 team. Many of the same players who won last year’s championship are still in Columbus, but this isn’t exactly indicative of “starting with a fresh piece of paper,” as the committee likes to say.
5. The final spots are worth watching
The final 5-8 spots are always interesting, if only as a peek into strength of schedule. Three three-loss teams entered the rankings with No. 22 Ole Miss, No. 23 Oregon and No. 24 USC. And getting close to that territory is one-loss TCU at No. 18. A team that was ranked in the top 10 two weeks ago might be in danger of slipping out. TCU lost its only significant game in the committee’s estimation and escaped close calls with Texas Tech and Kansas State.
New Year’s Six Projections
Orange Bowl semifinal: No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 4 Notre Dame
Cotton Bowl semifinal: No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Ohio State
Rose: No. 5 Iowa vs. No. 11 Stanford
Sugar: No. 6 Oklahoma State vs. No. 8 Florida
Fiesta: No. 7 Oklahoma vs. No. 9 Michigan State
Peach: No. 16 Navy vs. No. 10 Baylor
Northern Illinois is on the verge of winning its sixth consecutive MAC West title, but the Huskies still have work to do, starting with Wednesday night’s showdown against Western Michigan. Northern Illinois, Western Michigan and Toledo enter Week 12 action tied atop the West Division at 5-1 in league play. The Rockets play at Bowling Green on Tuesday night, while Central Michigan still has faint MAC West title hopes at 4-2 in league play.
Northern Illinois enters this matchup riding a five-game winning streak, which included a 32-27 victory at Toledo on Nov. 3. The Huskies survived a late rally by Buffalo last week to win 41-30. Injuries have hit coach Rod Carey’s team hard since November, as starting quarterback Drew Hare suffered a torn Achilles in the win over Toledo. In addition to Hare’s season-ending injury, receiver Tommylee Lewis suffered an ankle injury against the Rockets and missed last week’s game against Buffalo. He’s questionable to play against Western Michigan on Wednesday night.
Western Michigan’s overall record is just 6-4 entering Week 12, but coach P.J. Fleck’s team has faced a challenging schedule. The Broncos played Michigan State and Ohio State – two of the nation’s best teams – in the non-conference portion of their schedule, along with a road trip to Georgia Southern (one of the top teams in the Sun Belt). Western Michigan also played Bowling Green – the MAC East champion this season – and still has road tests remaining at Northern Illinois and Toledo. The Broncos started 1-3 but won five in a row before last week’s loss at Bowling Green.
Western Michigan owns a 23-17 lead in the all-time series against Northern Illinois. However, the Huskies have won the last six matchups against the Broncos.
Western Michigan at Northern Illinois
Kickoff: Wednesday, Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Spread: Northern Illinois -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Northern Illinois QB Ryan Graham
Drew Hare’s season-ending Achilles injury was a huge blow to Northern Illinois’ offense. In nine games, Hare threw for 1,962 yards and 14 touchdowns and added 252 yards and a score on the ground. Graham was pressed into action after Hare’s injury and has played well in his first extended action. The redshirt freshman completed 9 of 12 passes for 132 yards and one score in the 32-27 win over Toledo and threw for 190 yards and two touchdowns on 15 completions against Buffalo. Depth at the quarterback position is a concern for Northern Illinois, but coordinator Bob Cole has utilized Graham on 28 runs so far, recording 119 yards over the last two games. With a strong supporting cast and steady offensive line, Graham does not have to win this game on his own. The redshirt freshman needs to simply match his production and play from the last two games, limit his mistakes and take care of the ball. When Graham throws, standout Kenny Golladay (15.7 yards per catch) will be the top target. Graham and the rest of the Huskies’ offense should have opportunities to make plays against a Western Michigan defense allowing 5.8 yards per play in conference contests.
2. The Running Backs
This Wednesday night matchup features a couple of the MAC’s best at running back. Northern Illinois’ Joel Bouagnon leads the conference with 110.6 rushing yards per game, while Western Michigan’s rushing attack is a three-man rotation. Redshirt freshman Jamauri Bogan leads the way for the Broncos, averaging 76.4 yards per game. Bogan has recorded back-to-back 100-yard efforts and seems to have supplanted Jarvion Franklin as the go-to back for Fleck. Franklin rushed for 1,551 yards and 24 scores last season but has only 43 yards on 11 carries over the last two games. And when Franklin or Bogan needs a rest, LeVante Bellamy has showed big-play ability (7.7 yards per carry) in limited snaps. How will both teams handle the battle up front? In conference games, it’s a virtual draw. The Broncos rank fourth in the MAC by allowing 142.3 yards per game, while the Huskies are fifth at 147 per contest.
3. Northern Illinois’ Secondary vs. Western Michigan’s Passing Attack
It’s a matchup of strength versus strength when the Western Michigan passing offense takes on Northern Illinois secondary. The Huskies are No. 1 in the MAC in pass efficiency defense, while the Broncos rank third in the conference in passing offense. Quarterback Zach Terrell ranks third in the MAC by averaging 265.1 yards per game and has tossed 23 scores to just seven picks this season. Terrell has plenty of help from his supporting cast, which includes two receivers headed for All-MAC honors in Corey Davis (69 catches) and Daniel Braverman (90 catches). The junior has only one interception over his last six games, but that total will be put to the test against an opportunistic Northern Illinois’ secondary. The Huskies have intercepted 17 passes and are led by a strong group of candidates for All-MAC honors, including safety Marlon Moore and cornerbacks Shawun Lurry and Paris Logan. This unit has allowed only seven passes of 30 or more yards in conference games this season. Can the Huskies continue their streak of opportunistic play? Or will the Broncos find a few cracks in the secondary for big plays?
Northern Illinois has set the standard for the rest of the teams in the MAC West. And at 5-1 in league play, the Huskies are on the doorstep of another trip to Detroit. Western Michigan is a program on the rise under Fleck and needs a win in DeKalb to keep its division title hopes alive. There are reasons to like the Broncos’ chances at an upset. However, it’s hard to pick against a team that has experience in situations like this one, and the Huskies – while not flashy or as dynamic on offense as Western Michigan – can win with defense, limiting mistakes and a strong rushing attack. The Broncos come close, but Northern Illinois moves closer to the West Division title with a tight victory on Wednesday night.
Prediction: Northern Illinois 31, Western Michigan 30
If you are a football purist like myself, you love flipping through the channels and finding that mid-week MAC game, such as Wednesday night's tussle between Central Michigan and Kent State. It's not the Power 5. The teams more than likely are not in any contention for a College Football Playoff berth. You've probably never heard of any of the players.
But it's football.
MAC football exists in its own highly-competitive bubble in the Midwest. Every game is a rivalry game and the players are out there playing for love of the game and pride. For some of you, that's enough of a reason to watch. For others, unless your are a fan or alum of one of the two schools that are playing, you need something more to pique your interest.
That's where this preview and prediction comes in.
Central Michigan at Kent State
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Wednesday)
Spread: Central Michigan -10.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Demetrius Monday, CB, Kent State
Monday is a big-bodied, physical corner who is likely to play in the NFL one day. He's currently tied for third nationally with six interceptions on the season. He has all of the physical tools to be a great corner, both in college and the pros. Only a sophomore, he'll have plenty of time to polish his game. For now, this is an opportunity for you to get a first look and eventually be that sports "hipster" -- bragging about how you watched him before he was famous.
2. Cooper Rush, QB, Central Michigan
Rush is a protypical NFL quarterback prospect. He's a big kid with a decent arm who can make every throw. He has the potential to be that Group of 5 quarterback who sneaks into the conversation of best available quarterbacks in the 2017 NFL Draft. He's airing it out nearly 40 times a game with a completion percentage of 68.2 and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 2.4 to 1. The battle between Monday and Rush will be an interesting one when Rush chooses to challenge the young cornerback.
3. Central Michigan's emotion
Few in college football have faced the adversity that head coach John Bonamego has faced this season. The first-year head coach and Central Michigan alum was diagnosed with cancer in June and received treatment all through fall practice. No news has been good new so far on that front. On the field, you can imagine his Chippewas would love to send their new coach to a bowl game after all he's been through this season. A win against Kent State makes Central Michigan bowl eligible.
Kent State has Monday and not much else. They have struggled to move the ball and score points recently and that doesn't appear to be changing any time soon. Central Michigan is going to light up the scoreboard on the strength of Cooper Rush's arm and there won't be a whole lot that Kent State can do about it or to match it. This game will be a clear demonstration of the line between a middle-of-the-road MAC team and one at the bottom of the barrel, as the Chippewas win big.
Prediction: Central Michigan 28, Kent State 3
It seems appropriate after a fall filled with controversial, confusing calls NASCAR’s penultimate race at Phoenix stumbled through all of Sunday. Mother Nature literally rained on its parade, turning a “defining moment” in trimming the Chase field from eight to four into painful delays. When the race finally did get going it was around six hours after its scheduled time. The rain-delayed coverage on NBCSN scored a 1.3 Nielsen rating, easily the worst of the 10-race playoff.
That’s not exactly what you’re looking for in a postseason designed to build toward a climax. Instead, most of NASCAR’s audience simply left, unable to devote their whole day to a race that didn’t officially end until just before midnight eastern. Even then there was controversy, officials pulling the plug 93 laps before the race’s scheduled distance because more rain entered the dryness of the Phoenix desert. A sanctioning body that started a Daytona night race at roughly the same time chose to cut early an event that created their final four Chase contenders.
It’s not the first time a NASCAR race has been ruined by rain and it surely won’t be the last. The problem now, compared to the sport’s peak a decade ago, is its fans now have more entertainment options, less free time and are unwilling to devote 10 hours on Sunday to any one thing in particular, let alone a delayed 500-kilometer event. The Chase, in some cases has diluted the passion for the sport and made the more “casual” fan even less likely to stick around.
So what do you do? Rain tires, while a great idea on paper, don’t seem to be a solution Goodyear is capable of perfecting on oval tracks. Fans also pay their hard-earned money to travel to these races and it’s not fair to them either for an event to be called too early. An extra day costs everyone money, from the fans staying overnight in hotels to teams having to delay flights, pay overtime, and rework preparation schedules for the following race.
With that in mind, it’s clear the current policy of “waiting it out” isn’t working. Every playoff race should be finished to its conclusion and the subjective decision-making of “when” to call races isn’t doing NASCAR any favors. Every time they choose to wait until Monday, delaying the event a day it seems there’s a window to get the race in and vice versa. So my suggestion is to form a clear set of rules. Perhaps set a time limit. For example, the race will end at 7 p.m. Eastern regardless of weather. If the race is beyond halfway, at that point NASCAR will declare the race official and crown a winner during the regular season. If it’s a Chase race, the remainder of the event will be run on Monday until it reaches an eventual conclusion.
A clear set of rules here won’t make everyone happy but it will at least put everyone on the same page going in. As we’ve seen the past month inconsistency is what has fans up in arms about the sport and NASCAR needs to work on eliminating it everywhere; yes, even when it’s out of their control like with Mother Nature. For what resulted Sunday was a confusing ending where the final four were set long before certain drivers had a chance to assert themselves over the remainder of the 500-kilometer distance they expected. Everyone here deserved more than what a few rainy puddles delivered for them.
Through the Gears we go…
FIRST GEAR: Phoenix Equaled Status Quo
The final four heading into NASCAR’s race at Phoenix were Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. That’s how it ended with little, if any, drama in between. The much-anticipated “payback” against Harvick for the race-ending incident at Talladega never happened. Instead Harvick dominated the event, only losing in a weird ending where Dale Earnhardt Jr. essentially beat the No. 4 car out of pit road after a lucky caution. Gordon was already in, a “lock” after his Martinsville victory, while Busch and Truex had the points cushion they needed to somewhat play it safe. Yes, Carl Edwards was only seven points behind Truex, but never showed the speed throughout the weekend he needed to mount serious pressure on those above.
It was a rough exclamation point to put on a difficult weekend for the sport, one in where fans who did miss the race woke up Monday morning and realized they didn’t miss much. At least the final four heading to Homestead is filled with compelling storylines. Gordon, on the verge of retirement could earn his fifth championship on the way out. He remains a slight favorite in my mind. Harvick, easily the best of the four drivers on paper, is on the verge of completing one of the better seasons in NASCAR’s modern era. He has 15 top-2 finishes this season in 35 starts. That means 43 percent of the time he runs first or second, unheard of in racing circles over such a long year.
Busch and Truex wind up the underdog candidates for different reasons. Busch, missing 11 races at the start of the year following Daytona injuries, needed an exemption just to be Chase-eligible. Four victories over the course of his comeback, though cemented the bid and somewhat legitimized his presence at Homestead. Truex meanwhile drives for a single-car team based out of Colorado, fighting for relevance in an era where $100 million, four-car giants rule the sport. A victory at Homestead for a little guy like Truex, a driver whose girlfriend suffered through a public battle with ovarian cancer, would be a huge boost for the underdog, perhaps enough to give interested owners a second look at jumping into Cup.
SECOND GEAR: Quiet, Solid Season for Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt’s Phoenix victory, even though it was the result of luck also cemented a solid campaign for the No. 88 team. While the weird Talladega ending kept them from competing for a championship, new crew chief Greg Ives meshed with the team far better than expected. It’s far from the lifelong, brotherly friendship Earnhardt established with past head wrench Steve Letarte, but the duo works well together and has produced 16 top-5 finishes, tying Earnhardt’s career high from 2004 to go along with three wins.
Yes, you wonder what might have been had NASCAR not thrown the yellow before the No. 88 was out in front at ‘Dega. But Earnhardt could finish “Best of The Rest” with a strong run at Homestead and earn his second top-5 result in the point standings with Hendrick Motorsports. It’s a season to be proud of, results above expectations from what many thought would be a rebuilding year for the team.
THIRD GEAR: The Championships That Could Have Been
Phoenix marked the end of the Chase for Edwards, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, and Joey Logano. Logano was easily the most bummed of the four, his season-high six wins not enough to guarantee inclusion after two weeks’ worth of trips behind the wall. Team Penske now has arguably had the best team the past two seasons but has been unable to secure the championship, going 1-for-4 on final four bids in NASCAR’s new format.
Others meanwhile will be looking at the final four and thinking “what might have been.” Jimmie Johnson has flashed speed the last two weeks and would have likely survived each round without a $5 part breaking at his best track, Dover, one that shocked NASCAR and knocked the No. 48 team out of the Chase. Matt Kenseth’s issues have been well documented (see below) and the reality is the veteran had five wins and one of the top-performing teams throughout summer and early fall. The sport’s final four has some good drivers in it but they clearly weren’t the four best on paper, which is still hard for many to accept after the sport went years crowning the champion without any sort of playoff.
FOURTH GEAR: The Emergence of Young Erik Jones
The next domino to fall in NASCAR’s Silly Season 2017 (not 2016) may have asserted itself the last two weeks. Erik Jones, despite being pressed into service on the Sprint Cup side for Joe Gibbs Racing, regained focus in his full-time Truck Series ride, winning Texas and overwhelming rival Matt Crafton at Phoenix. His dominance of those two events forced Crafton’s desperation on a late Phoenix restart, the two dueling side-by-side until the reigning champ took himself out, wrecked both men and virtually guaranteed the 2015 title to Jones in the process.
Jones, meanwhile produced great efforts in the No. 20 Cup ride, producing top-20 finishes at Texas and Phoenix while outgunning any of the sport’s current rookies. With one more year of seasoning, moving to the XFINITY Series next year he’ll clearly be Cup ready and in position to slide into a JGR ride. So who does that leave as the odd man out – Denny Hamlin or Matt Kenseth? It’s easy to see Jones has championship talent and now hard to picture JGR letting him leave and fill a “satellite” ride until one of their four seats becomes available down the road.
Matta Kenseth had a special meeting with NASCAR CEO Brian France this week in advance of his return to the racetrack at Homestead. The 2003 Cup champ has been suspended the past two weeks after his “payback” of Joey Logano took out the No. 22 car while leading at Martinsville. While Kenseth got what he wanted – Logano missing the final four – and has no regrets about the incident, his public rebellion about the penalty clearly irked Daytona Beach officials. Both sides said the talk went well and they’re eager “to put this behind them.”… Now that Sam Hornish Jr. is officially out of the No. 9 Ford for 2016 David Ragan becomes the leading candidate to replace him. Ragan, who has ties to Ford in the past (Front Row Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing), deserves a permanent home after his yeoman’s job as super sub for several teams this season. However, don’t rule out a guy like Cole Whitt if he brings over either sponsorship or investment money. Richard Petty made it clear at Phoenix a little extra cash will be the deciding factor in who gets the ride after sponsorship woes plagued the car throughout 2015.
(Photos by ASP Inc.)
The start of college football’s 2015-16 bowl season is less than two months away, but it’s never too early to take a peek at the potential matchups this postseason.
The bowl season is bigger and better than ever with 41 matchups, starting on Dec. 19 with five games. The postseason concludes on Jan. 11 with the national championship, while the playoff semifinals are on Dec. 31 this year.
The post-Week 11 bowl projections are a mixture between picks for the next few weeks, how things would look if the season ended today, and the results from the first 11 weeks of action. Expect several changes over the next few weeks.
College Football's Post-Week 11 Bowl Projections
|AutoNation Cure||Dec. 19||Sun Belt vs.|
Georgia Southern vs.
|Gildan New Mexico||Dec. 19||C-USA vs.|
New Mexico vs.
|Dec. 19||MW/BYU vs.|
|Dec. 19||MAC vs.|
Appalachian State vs.
|Dec. 19||C-USA vs.|
UL Lafayette vs.
|Miami Beach||Dec. 21||American vs.|
|Famous Idaho Potato||Dec. 22||MAC vs.|
Utah State vs.
|Boca Raton||Dec. 22||American vs.|
|SDCCU Poinsettia||Dec. 23||Mountain West vs.|
San Diego State vs.
Arkansas State vs.
|Popeyes Bahamas||Dec. 24|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||American vs.|
|St. Petersburg||Dec. 26||C-USA vs. |
|Hyundai Sun||Dec. 26||ACC/ND vs.|
Washington State vs.
|Zaxby's Heart of|
|Dec. 26||Big 12 vs.|
|New Era Pinstripe||Dec. 26||ACC/ND vs.|
|Independence||Dec. 26||ACC/ND vs.|
|Foster Farms||Dec. 26||Big Ten vs.|
|Military||Dec. 28||ACC/ND vs.|
|Quick Lane||Dec. 28||ACC/ND vs.|
Central Michigan* vs.
|Dec. 29||MW vs.|
Air Force vs.
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 29||ACC/ND vs.|
Old Dominion vs.
|Dec. 29||Big 12 vs.|
Texas Tech vs.
|Birmingham||Dec. 30||American vs.|
|Belk||Dec. 30||ACC/ND vs.|
Virginia Tech vs.
|Dec. 30||ACC/ND/Big Ten vs.|
|Dec. 30||Big Ten vs.|
|Outback||Jan. 1||Big Ten vs. |
|Buffalo Wild Wings|
|Jan. 1||Big Ten vs.|
|TaxSlayer||Jan. 2||ACC/ND/Big Ten vs.|
|AutoZone Liberty||Jan. 2||Big 12 vs. |
West Virginia vs.
|Valero Alamo||Jan. 2||Big 12 vs.|
|Cactus||Jan. 2||Big 12 vs. |
Kansas State vs.
|Chick-fil-A Peach||Dec. 31||At-large vs.|
Florida State vs.
|Fiesta||Jan. 1||At-large vs.|
|Rose||Jan. 1||Big Ten vs.|
|Sugar||Jan. 1||SEC vs.|
Oklahoma State vs.
Ohio State vs.
|National Championship||Jan. 11||Cotton Bowl Winner vs.|
Orange Bowl Winner
Ohio State vs.
Week 10 was rather unexceptional fantasy-wise, as aside from the Andrew Luck injury announcement there were no real surprises. At this point in the season your bench should have hand-cuffs, and upside players. There’s also the trade route to explore if you need to bolster your starting lineup or are looking for that late spark.
There are still some targets you can pursue as flyers, but this week it looks as if we are talking bench stash players, or desperation moves.
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. Danny Amendola, WR, New England Patriots (21.6 percent owned in ESPN.com leagues)
Amendola should be the most sought-after free agent this week following the broken foot suffered by Patriots No. 1 wide receiver Julian Edelman. I am not expecting Amendola to be a PPR monster like Edelman, but the veteran should make for a nice flex play or additional depth.
2. Devin Funchess, WR, Carolina Panthers (10.9 percent owned)
At this point in the season barring an injury, you are primarily trying to identify the must-have hand-cuffs or a flyer pick who could excel in the second half. Funchess certainly fits the bill with the Panthers playing very good football, but also a team that could have a talented pass catcher to emerge on offense down the stretch. Funchess had a very nice Week 9 and we could see more of the same going forward from the first-round pick with weak defenses like the Cowboys, Saints and Falcons on tap. Get him now while he may still be cheap.
3. Dorial Green-Beckham (19.5 percent owned)
Beckham’s ownership percentage jumped up by 10 percent in Week 10 and he rewarded those who took the plunge with a big, fat goose egg. Then again, maybe that should be that surprising considering the Titans were facing a very tough Carolina Panthers defense. Look for Green-Beckham to get plenty of chances going forward with two games against Jacksonville in the next three weeks and a date with Oakland sandwiched in between. DGB is a nice stash option.
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 40 percent of ESPN.com leagues and can be useful.
Miami Dolphins vs. Dallas Cowboys (31.5 percent owned in ESPN.com leagues)
The Cowboys are expected to have QB Tony Romo back this week, which should greatly improve their offense. However he could be rusty, or may not be able to make it through the entire game. There’s enough uncertainty here that warrants monitoring this situation, and why I am leaning towards the Dolphins as my top streaming DST option for Week 11.
— 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.
With only one more week of teams on a bye, the end of the fantasy football regular is in sight. For most fantasy leagues, playoffs start in Week 14, so there are officially only three weeks left in the regular season. Teams will be awarded the coveted asterisk indicating they've clinched a playoff spot... and other teams are officially out of it and looking ahead to baseball season. But for those that are looking to analyze Week 10 and look ahead to Week 11, read on. Here are this week's thoughts, ponderings and observations.
What is the Chicago Bears backfield going to look like once Matt Forte returns?
When Jeremy Langford stepped in for Matt Forte in Week 9 and had 142 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown, most people thought it was because the matchup wasn't that tough. The St. Louis Rams, however, should provide more of a challenge. Langford responded with 182 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. That's great, and if Forte were out for the year, fantasy owners would be thrilled.
However, Forte is expected back in Week 11 in what seems to be a tough matchup against the Denver Broncos (although Charcandrick West just put up 161 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns). Will Forte jump back in as the every-down back? Will the Bears ease him in and give Langford half the carries?
Before getting injured, Forte only had three touchdowns on the year (Langford currently has five). He's been good, but not great. The factor that has kept him in the RB1 discussion was the volume of touches he was receiving. If Langford shares carries with him, Forte drops to a RB2. Langford is a RB3.
Also, keep in mind this is likely Forte's last year as a Bear. He's a free agent in 2016 and now that the Bears know they have a starting running back in Langford, they can afford to let Forte go. How does this play into this scenario? Well, the Bears have nothing to lose by throwing Forte out there as much as possible. If they want to win (which they should as they aren't eliminated from a wild card spot in the playoffs yet), they'll run Forte into the ground as long as he's healthy. This is good news for Forte owners; bad news for Langford owners.
How good will Danny Amendola be in Julian Edelman's absence?
After breaking his foot in Week 10, Edelman will be out for the rest of the fantasy season. After the Patriots lost Dion Lewis in Week 9, this is another blow to Tom Brady and the passing offense. James White didn't really step up as a pass-catching running back, as LeGarrette Blount just ran away with all of the carries. Edelman was used in short routes, as usual, but seemed to fill in a bit of the Lewis role.
Now, Danny Amendola appears to be the next man up in line for these opportunities. He had a team-high 11 targets in Week 10 and he caught 10 of those for 79 yards. Brandon LaFell will still have a role as the second wide receiver, but Amendola has to step up in Edelman's role. Look for Rob Gronkowski, LaFell and Amendola to lead the Patriots receiving corps for the rest of the season.
Amendola is just over 20 percent owned in ESPN.com leagues, so pick him up in all formats. In PPR, he becomes a high WR2; in standard leagues, a low WR2. He only has four games this season with five or more receptions, but in those five games, he has 309 yards and two touchdowns.
How impressive has Carson Palmer been this year?
The matchup was daunting: going into Seattle to face a Seahawks team that needed to win to stay alive in the playoff race. Yet, Palmer threw for 363 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He's has six games this year with over 300 yards. He has 23 touchdowns and seven interceptions on the year. For comparison's sake, in 2013, when Palmer played all 16 games, he ended the season with 24 touchdowns and 22 interceptions.
Palmer is on pace to throw for 41 touchdowns this season. In 2005, he threw for a career-high 32 touchdowns. In that year, he threw for 3,836 yards. In 2015, he has 2,749 passing yards in nine games; on pace to throw for almost 4,900 yards. He's only thrown over 4,000 yards four times in his career. Barring injury, it should happen again this year. Palmer proved in Week 10 that he is matchup-proof. Start him with confidence.
More Burning Questions
Is Karlos Williams going to score a touchdown in every game he plays?
Is Eric Decker going to score a touchdown in almost every game he plays?
How hurt is Allen Hurns?
What happened to Justin Forsett of 2014?
What's wrong with Aaron Rodgers?
What does Mark Sanchez likely starting this week mean for Jordan Matthews?
Should Lamar Miller owners be nervous about Jay Ajayi?
Is Johnny Manziel a serviceable fantasy quarterback?
What happened to DeAngelo Williams?
Will Dallas win once Tony Romo is back?
Who is going to be the running back in Tennessee?
Is Cam Newton a solid QB1 for the rest of the season?
Can the New Orleans Saints' defense get any worse?
Did you start Kirk Cousins in Week 10?
Why didn't the Chiefs tell us about Charcandrick West when we were all drafting Knile Davis?
Is Peyton Manning really too injured to play or is this a move of saving face?
I thought Marshawn Lynch wasn't going to play (again)?
— 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.
Arizona showed it still has Utah's number. For the fourth consecutive season, the Wildcats dealt the Utes a damaging loss. Arizona prevailed 37-30 in overtime against a Utah team that was in the driver's seat for a Pac-12 South title.
The entire landscape has changed for head coach Kyle Whittingham's team following its second loss of the season. Here are five key things we learned from the Utes' setback to the Wildcats:
1. Rose Bowl or bust
Utah can forget about claiming a College Football Playoff Spot now. Even if Utah wins out, the best that the Utes can hope for now is a spot in the Rose Bowl. It would still be a huge accomplishment for the program to make it to Pasadena. It also will feel a little bittersweet for a team that was ranked No. 3 and looked like a lock for a Playoff spot before losing to USC.
2. Utah does not control its own destiny
The Utes need help securing a Pac-12 South title now. Utah must beat UCLA and Colorado over the next two weeks and then hope either the Bruins or Oregon can trip up USC along the way. The Trojans are tied with Utah for first in the division currently and hold a tiebreaker by virtue of their 42-24 win over the Utes.
3. Utah can't move the ball without Devontae Booker
It really cost the Utes when Booker got banged up. The senior played much of the second half and both overtime periods on a hobbled leg. Utah could not finish drives and the play-calling did not adjust to account for Booker being less than 100 percent. In the end, Utah scored only three points after taking a 27-20 lead in the third quarter and finished with the second-fewest points of any Pac-12 team Arizona has faced this season.
4. Injuries taking their toll
Booker's second half leg injury is just the latest in a string of injuries to key players for Utah. The senior is questionable for Saturday's game against UCLA. The Utes have had center Siaosi Aiono, defensive end Hunter Dimick, cornerback Reggie Porter and linebacker Jared Norris sit out games because of injuries this season. Other important players like safety Chase Hansen and tight end Siale Fakailoatonga have suffered season-ending injuries. Utah has better depth to weather the storm than in past seasons, but injuries are still leaving the Utes thin at important positions.
5. Utah's offense has grown too predictable
Utah appeared to have broken out of its conservative shell on offense when the Utes routed Oregon in their Pac-12 opener. Since that game, the Ute offense has regressed back to a conservative scheme that has been a trademark of recent seasons. Utah ran the ball 52 times out of a total of 87 plays. Out of the team's 35 pass plays, 17 came in second-and-long or third-and-long situations. Utah should dial up some more creativity in short-yardage situations to keep opposing defenses off balance and uncover more options on offense.
— 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.
Most of college football’s eyes will be on Columbus, Ohio, this Saturday when Ohio State hosts Michigan State. Both teams still control their own destiny in winning the Big Ten East Division and getting an invitation to Indianapolis to play in the conference championship game. And the Buckeyes are certainly well positioned to get back to the College Football Playoff and have a chance to defend their national title.
But before that, some business must be attended to in the Horseshoe. These two longtime conference foes first met in 1912 and have played some great games in their 43 (Ohio State leads 29-14) contests. Here are the top five.
5. Michigan State 13, Ohio State 7
Columbus – Oct. 31, 1987
The top spot in the Big Ten was on the line for both teams, and it looked like the Buckeyes would claim it in in the game’s first 15 seconds. Quarterback Tom Tupa hit wide receiver Everett Ross with a 79-yard touchdown pass to give OSU a 7-0 lead. It would be the Buckeyes’ only score and account for more than half of their offense. Michigan State, guided by defensive coordinator Nick Saban, then proceeded to limit the Buckeyes to two yards rushing and six first downs. The Spartans also sacked Tupa five times and intercepted two of his passes, both of which led to field goals that ultimately proved to be the margin of victory. Meanwhile, the Spartans controlled the ball, amassing 247 yards rushing and held possession for the more than 35 minutes. Michigan State would go on to win the Big Ten title and beat USC in the Rose Bowl.
4. Ohio State 17, Michigan State 16
East Lansing – Sept. 29, 2012
Urban Meyer’s first Big Ten game as Ohio State head coach proved to be a rite of passage. The Buckeyes got on the board first with a Jordan Hall touchdown run. Michigan State kicked a field goal in the first quarter and then hit another on its first drive of the second half to make it a one-point game. Ohio State then extended its lead with a field goal by Drew Basil. On the next drive, Spartans quarterback Andrew Maxwell found Keith Mumphery for a 29-yard touchdown pass to put the home team ahead 13-10. Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller responded on the ensuing possession with a 63-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith to retake the lead at 17-13. A fumble by Miller in the fourth quarter gave MSU the ball on its own 46-yard line and the offense was able to covert the turnover into a field goal. After the two teams traded punts, OSU managed to put together a nine-play, 20-yard drive that chewed up the remaining four minutes of clock. "This was a war. This was two sledgehammers going at each other," Meyer said of the game that was “good for college football and good for the Big Ten.” Well stated.
3. Michigan State 11, Ohio State 8
Columbus – Oct. 15, 1966
This game’s ugliness added to its memorability. The Spartans were undefeated and ranked No. 1 when they faced 1-2 Ohio State in the torrential Columbus rain, but this game would cost them their top billing. The only score in the first half came on a bad snap during a MSU punt that gave the Buckeyes a 2-0 lead even though they had never crossed midfield. In the third quarter, kicker Dick Kenney booted a field goal to put the Spartans on the board at 3-2. Then early in the fourth quarter, OSU head coach Woody Hayes went against convention and called a slant pass on first down. Buckeyes quarterback Bill Long, who finished the game with three interceptions, hit wide receiver Billy Anders for 47-yard touchdown. Kicker Gary Cairns missed the extra point to make the score 8-3. With its back against the wall, MSU’s offense took the ensuing kickoff and put together a seven-minute, 84-yard drive that culminated with a one-yard touchdown run by Bob Apisa on fourth down. The Spartans then lined up to kick the extra point, but Kenney took the snap directly and tossed a pass to holder Charles Wedemeyer for the two-point conversion. The Spartans hung on for the win, but the sloppy performance, which included seven fumbles (only one was lost), cost them their top spot in the AP poll. They would go on to tie Notre Dame in one of the greatest college football games of all time and share the national title with the Fighting Irish.
2. Ohio State 28, Michigan State 21
Columbus – Oct. 16, 1993
Undefeated Ohio State took a 21-10 lead into the locker room at halftime thanks to three touchdown catches by speedster Joey Galloway. After an unproductive third quarter of offense, the Spartans finally closed the gap when kicker Bill Stoyanovich booted a 21-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter, but he then missed a 39-yard field goal on the next drive. It was his fourth missed field goal in a game wrought with missed opportunities for the Spartans. A shanked punt by Scott Terna on the Buckeyes’ ensuing possession gave MSU the ball on Ohio State’s 38-yard line. Spartans quarterback Jim Miller capitalized on the following play, hitting Scott Greene with a touchdown pass. On the two-point play, Miller found receiver Mill Coleman in the end zone and the game was tied 21-21. Buckeye quarterback Bret Powers, who was sharing snaps with Bobby Hoying that season, then engineered an 80-yard drive that ended with a seven-yard touchdown run by Raymond Harris with 1:06 left for what proved to the game-winning play. The Buckeyes went on to split the Big Ten title with Wisconsin.
1. Michigan State 28, Ohio State 24
Columbus – Nov. 7, 1998
This game tops the list for its significance and gutsy performance by the Spartans. Ohio State was ranked No. 1 and Michigan State was 4-4 in a season plagued with inconsistency. Oh, and the Spartans had lost five games in a row to Ohio State. It looked like it would be six straight, as the Buckeyes jumped out to a 17-3 lead in the first quarter. Michigan State’s Paul Edinger kicked the second and third of his five field goals for the game to make it 17-9 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Ohio State’s Damon Moore intercepted Bill Burke’s pass and raced 73 yards and then flopped into the end zone to put his team up 24-9. Not only did Moore reinjure his shoulder on the ill-conceived dive, but he also was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and unknowingly re-energized the seething Spartans. The momentum turned on the next possession. Michigan State’s Craig Jarrett took a bad snap and kicked a line-drive punt that hit OSU’s Nate Clements on the shoulder and the Spartans recovered the ball on their own 49-yard line. Burke then hit Lavaile Richardson with a 23-yard touchdown, but missed the extra point to cut the lead to 24-15. Ohio State then fumbled on its next possession and Edinger kicked another field goal to close the gap to 24-18. Burke then led MSU on a 92-yard drive that was punctuated with a three-yard touchdown run by Sedrick Irvin that put the Spartans up 25-24 in the fourth quarter. Ohio State fumbled again and Edinger added another field goal to extend the lead 28-24.
The Buckeyes had one final chance with less than two minutes remaining, as David Boston returned Jarrett’s punt 26 yards to midfield. Quarterback Joe Germaine completed two passes to put his team on MSU’s 15-yard line, but then threw three straight incompletions. On fourth down, Germaine underthrew Dee Miller and was picked off by Renaldo Hill. The win was Michigan State head coach Nick Saban’s biggest to date.
— 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)
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 12. To see the full in-depth article of over 40-plus players, make sure to check out CollegeFootballGeek.com.
Jehu Chesson (WR, Michigan)
Chesson had a record-setting performance against the Hoosiers on Saturday with 10 receptions for 207 yards and four touchdowns, three of which came in the first half alone. His final touchdown wound up being the most important, a five-yard pass from quarterback Jake Rudock with time expiring to send the game into overtime. After not scoring a touchdown in the first seven games of the year, Chesson has now found the end zone in each of the last three games, giving him a team-high seven on the season.
Shaun Nixon (RB, TCU)
A running back by trade, Nixon has been used predominantly at wide receiver the past two weeks with Josh Doctson out of the lineup, producing 16 catches for 224 yards and a touchdown in his absence. The Horned Frogs have dealt with a myriad of injuries at the wide receiver position in 2015, but have gotten good performances from some of their younger players such as Nixon and fellow freshman KaVontae Turpin. In this offense (depending on the health of QB Trevone Boykin) the targets will be there for Nixon to put up double-digit fantasy points in any given week and he is a perfect flex option.
Kenny Potter (QB, San Jose State)
San Jose State has rotated quarterbacks for much of the year, but looks to have finally settled on Potter, the former junior college transfer. In the five games since he took over as the starter, Potter has combined to produce 12 total touchdowns, including a four-game streak in which he rushed for a score as well. A dual-threat option, Potter had his best overall game of the year against Nevada, throwing for 186 yards and three touchdowns while also topping the century mark on the ground (116). Potter and the Spartans will travel to Hawaii next week where the Rainbow Warriors just gave up six touchdown passes to a quarterback who had just eight in his career coming into the game.
Brandon Radcliff (RB, Louisville)
Remember this name? Radcliff has not become the featured running back that many envisioned entering this season after rushing for a team-leading 737 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2014. The junior back started the year off well, rushing for 76 yards and two touchdowns in the opener, but fell off the map midseason and was eventually held out of the lineup completely three weeks ago against Wake Forest. The past two games have been a completely different story, however, as Radcliff has topped 100 yards against both Syracuse and Virginia, and is beginning to look like the same back from 2014.
Kerry Thomas (WR, UTSA)
Thomas is likely to be available in most leagues because let’s be honest here, who thinks of UTSA when it comes to college fantasy football? But Thomas is a name to absolutely take note of as the sophomore receiver has combined for 24 receptions in the last three games alone. Thomas actually tied his own school record this past Saturday with nine catches against Charlotte, matching the same record he broke just two weeks earlier. The Roadrunners close the season with matchups against Rice and Middle Tennessee, both of whom rank in the bottom third of the country in pass defense.
— 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.
April 6, 2015. Mike Krzyzewski was standing among his players on the floor of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, listening to the initial notes of “One Shining Moment.” His Duke team had just completed a five-point win over Wisconsin to capture the fifth national championship during his tenure, and it was time for the celebration to begin in earnest. The traditional clip montage from the NCAA Tournament brought out smiles and laughter from his players as Krzyzewski took it all in.
This was not a surprise. No, not at all.
Duke, with three superstar freshmen leading the way — Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones — began the season ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press top 25 poll. The Blue Devils rose to No. 2 for a five-week stretch in the middle of the season and then again ascended to that spot in the beginning of March. Save for the Kentucky team that blitzed through the regular season and first four games of the NCAA Tournament without a loss, an argument could’ve been made that Duke was the most talented team in the country.
So, cutting down the nets for the fifth time in his career couldn’t have come as that big of a shock to Krzyzewski. He has built Duke into a powerhouse, a modern-day college basketball dynasty that competes year in and year out for top recruits, titles and national attention. In sports, though, we like to see the best of the best end on a high note, riding off into the sunset without a sour memory tainting their legacy.
It was natural to wonder if Krzyzewski, 68 years old as he watched the confetti fall from the top of the stadium, would look around him and think: “How could this get any better?”
The ‘R’ words. They are always thrown around when Krzyzewski finishes one season and sets his sights toward another. He will be 69 in the middle of the 2015-16 season and has accomplished seemingly everything that a basketball coach could possibly set out to accomplish in a career. This season will be his 36th as the head coach of the Blue Devils and his 41st in coaching.
At some point, won’t Mike Krzyzewski have to … retire?
At some point, won’t Mike Krzyzewski have to … be replaced?
This feature and more appears in the Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview, available on newsstands in our online store.
They are questions that produce different answers from Krzyzewski and those around him. This past season alone, Krzyzewski gave two different answers on the retirement subject in a three-month span.
Following his 1,000th career victory on Jan. 25 over St. John’s at Madison Square Garden, Krzyzewski said: “There’s an end in sight. I’m going to be 68 next month, and it’ll end sooner than later, but hopefully not real soon.”
The morning after winning that fifth national title, Krzyzewski said in a radio interview: “I’m not close. I’ll be back next year, and I would think for a few more years.”
Will he or won’t he? Each year that Krzyzewski returns to the Duke bench — with a talent-rich roster, a high national ranking and a legit chance for another national championship — the question will continue to linger. But so will this one: Whenever Coach K decides that the time is right to leave Duke, who will be his successor?
It’s college basketball’s (multi) million-dollar question.
Inheriting the Throne
First things first: The coach who takes over for Mike Krzyzewski will have his work cut out for him.
In his 35 seasons at Duke, Krzyzewski has amassed a legacy that will go untouched by the coach who succeeds him. He has won 945 games (while losing just 251), produced a 378–152 record in Atlantic Coast Conference play, won 13 ACC Tournament championships and 12 regular-season conference championships. He’s been named the Naismith National Coach of the Year three times and produced 54 NBA Draft picks.
His postseason success is virtually unparalleled; he’s advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 31 straight seasons in which he coached the entire campaign. (He missed the final two months of the ’94-95 season with a back injury.)
Not to mention his head coaching duties with USA Basketball, where he will aim for a third straight goal medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
But most important, he turned Duke back into Duke.
“Durham was not a pleasant place to be in 1983,” ESPN analyst and former Duke player Jay Bilas told Yahoo! Sports in January, alluding to the long-since-forgotten alumni petition to fire Krzyzewski.
Related: Duke Team Preveiw
Now, though, Duke is one of the crown jewels of the college basketball coaching world. But it is a very insular environment, with Krzyzewski almost exclusively turning to former players to be assistant coaches and nurturing them until they are fully entrenched alongside him or ready to begin their own careers. Everything is done and kept in the family. So much so that many Duke assistants have felt the need to finally venture out on their own in order to escape K’s long shadow.
“It’s really safe,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey, a former Duke assistant for eight seasons, said in an interview during the 2014-15 season. “And you can get into a comfort zone. As a head coach, you’ve got to fight that. But even after my fifth, sixth, seventh year there, I thought, ‘Man, maybe I’ve stayed here too long.’”
And that was from one of the few Krzyzewski assistants who did not play at Duke.
That makes the succession all the more complicated. There are numerous worthy candidates with Duke pedigrees who have served under Krzyzewski — Harvard’s Tommy Amaker, Northwestern’s Chris Collins, Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins and Marquette’s Steve Wojciechowski.
But while the Duke job post-Krzyzewski remains a coveted position, there is a concern among his former pupils about being typecast as a “just a Duke guy.”
“Wojo was worried about it,” says Brey, who offered advice to the former top Blue Devils assistant before he took the Marquette job in 2014. “He had turned down Dayton, and after six months began thinking, ‘Uh-oh, no one is ever going to come back to me because I’m turning them down.’”
Chris Carrawell, who served in a number of roles on Krzyzewski’s staff in his post-Duke playing days and now is an assistant for the Golden Eagles under Wojciechowski, goes even further.
“Truthfully, guys are a little scared about the job,” Carrawell says of the head coaching position at Duke. “What Coach has done there, it can never be duplicated. But if you’re a Duke guy and you take over that job, you’re always going to be held to him and that standard.”
Who’s Got Next?
Those who have their finger on the pulse of the college basketball world continue to wonder which coach will be the right fit for Duke after Krzyzewski leaves.
Will Duke stick with Krzyzewski’s way of business and keep it in the Blue Devil family? Will Krzyzewski be allowed to name his own successor? Will it be a big name? A small name? A no-name? A college guy or an NBA one?
Krzyzewski and Duke continue to remain mum about the topic, which only fuels the speculation about who it might be — and under what circumstances it might happen. There are several ways to handle a succession plan in college basketball.
At Connecticut, Kevin Ollie was named the Huskies’ interim head coach after Jim Calhoun abruptly retired near the end of the summer in 2012. At Syracuse, Jim Boeheim announced he would stay three years before retiring despite NCAA sanctions; that led the school to officially designate Mike Hopkins, his longtime right-hand man, as the Orange’s coach-in-waiting. When SMU lured Larry Brown out of retirement in 2012 to be its head coach, it was done so with the agreement that Tim Jankovich — at the time the head coach at Illinois State — would join the Mustangs’ staff as the coach-in-waiting.
In basketball circles, three names repeatedly come up when the topic of Krzyzewski’s successor is broached — Wojciechowski, Collins and current Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel. Wojciechowski was especially close with Krzyzewski during his playing career and joined Duke’s staff a year after graduating, staying there until 2014. Plus, at 39, Wojciechowski is already older than his former coach was when Krzyzewski was hired at Duke.
In his first season in Milwaukee, Wojciechowski earned praise — despite a poor record — from a tactical standpoint, and he has done an outstanding job on the recruiting trail.
Collins was also a right-hand-man for Krzyzewski for 13 seasons, finally leaving the nest in 2013 to take over at Northwestern. But while Collins would presumably be on the short list, his candidacy seems iffy. An Illinois native and former Mr. Basketball in the state, Collins appears to be in Evanston for the long haul.
“In my case, I got to the point where I wanted to be a head coach,” he says about leaving Duke.
Related: ACC Predictions
There are other names, too. Former All-America point guard Bobby Hurley, a member of Krzyzewski’s back-to-back title teams in 1991 and 1992, saw his stock rise this past season in his second year at Buffalo. Hurley, the son of legendary New Jersey high school coach Bob Hurley, took the Bulls to the NCAA Tournament and nearly knocked off West Virginia in the second round.
Hurley is viewed as having the perfect blend for a Krzyzewski successor: Duke background, NBA experience, assistant coaching experience outside of Durham and success as a head coach. But Hurley is still considered green, even as he bolted Buffalo to take over at Arizona State in the offseason.
That leaves a candidate who originally didn’t seem to be a logical choice — Capel. He has been a head coach twice — at VCU and then at Oklahoma — but his tenure with the Sooners did not end well. OU went 43–51 in the three seasons in which Blake Griffin was not on the roster, and Capel was dismissed after the 2010-11 season due in part to some NCAA issues related to the recruitment of Tiny Gallon.
When Krzyzewski brought him on staff two months later, it was believed to be little more than helping out a former Dukie.
Instead, Capel has become integral to Krzyzewski’s continued longevity — and perhaps set himself up as the heir apparent. Capel is still young (40) and has emerged as Duke’s lead recruiter (he helped secure commitments from Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones). He’s also gained Krzyzewski’s trust, having been given scouting duties for every game during the 2014-15 season. And it’s clear he wants to be a head coach again. Capel was wooed by Arizona State after last season but opted to remain by Coach K’s side in Durham.
What did that mean for the future at Duke? At a press conference back in Durham following the team’s championship, Krzyzewski gave an answer that — finally — just might have tipped his hand.
“Jeff is savvy, and he is a hell of a coach,” Krzyzewski said. “But I mean, Jeff is a head coach. He’ll get something great. He is doing something great right now.”
But when does it become something more?
-By Brendan Prunty