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By riding a group of star freshmen to the school’s fifth national title, Duke finally seems to have found a winning formula in the age of one-and-dones. With another crop of highly touted newcomers coming in to play alongside a group of solid-but-unspectacular veterans, the question becomes whether Duke can sustain it.
This time, the challenge might be steeper. While the Blue Devils’ recruiting class comes with the usual amount of accolades, it doesn’t appear to have the same kind of NBA-ready talent as the last one. And the foundation of established players isn’t quite as substantial as it was a year ago.
And much like last year, the window of time this Duke team has in which to figure itself out is a small one.
Podcast: Who should be No. 1 in College Basketball in 2015-16?
The heart of senior big men Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee has never been in doubt. If the situation called for someone to dive on a loose ball, get fiery in a huddle or follow a big play with a vein-bulging scream, they have always been eager to rise to the occasion. But the ability to be consistently effective ACC big men is something neither has yet demonstrated.
Jefferson’s exit from the starting lineup, clearing out the power forward spot for the smaller but more versatile Justise Winslow, was a major factor in last season’s title run. Meanwhile, despite having the same imposing body of his older brothers, Plumlee has yet to start a game at Duke.
That means freshman Chase Jeter will get as many minutes as he can handle. A spirited rebounder who’s comfortable with his back to the basket, Jeter will be Duke’s best option down low. After sitting out last season, transfer Sean Obi should figure into the equation as well.
No. 2 Duke Facts & Figures
Last season: 35-4, 15-3 ACC
Postseason: National champion
Consecutive NCAAs: 20
ACC Projection: First
Postseason projection: National runner-up
When Las Vegas point guard Derryck Thornton decided to reclassify and enroll at Duke a year early, the entire Blue Devils program likely breathed a sigh of relief. With the graduation of Quinn Cook and the early exit of NBA first-round pick and Final Four hero Tyus Jones, the Blue Devils simply had no other option at point guard. It’ll help that Thornton will have a daunting array of perimeter threats at his disposal.
As a freshman, whenever Grayson Allen had an opportunity to get on the floor he always seemed to make the most of it. That came in handy when his timely shooting and aggressive edge ignited a Duke charge in the title game that lifted the Devils past Wisconsin. Thanks to that performance, Allen will enter this season as the face of the program. A solid shooter with a fearless style and freakish athleticism, he will likely play that role well.
Opposing teams will have trouble figuring out how to deal with freshman wings Luke Kennard and Brandon Ingram. Kennard was a high-volume scorer in high school and will stretch defenses with his silky lefty jumper. Ingram, a four-time state champ in high school, is a wiry 6'8" small forward who has shown the ability to knock down outside shots. Ingram will likely need to get stronger in order to reach his immense potential. But his rare mix of size and perimeter savvy will make him hard to keep off of the floor.
Of course, all of these wing players will have to contend with junior Matt Jones for playing time. With his defense and hustle, Jones clawed his way into the starting lineup and became an indispensable part of the Blue Devils’ title run.
Key Losses: G Quinn Cook, G Tyus Jones, C Jahlil Okafor, F Justise Winslow
Top Players: G Derryck Thornton, G Grayson Allen, G Matt Jones, G/F Brandon Ingram, F/C Chase Jeter
Duke’s recruiting class isn’t merely good; it also fills areas of desperate need. Chase Jeter will be the Blue Devils’ most polished post player. Brandon Ingram, whose mix of length and athleticism will be trouble for opposing wings, likely will start. Luke Kennard will fit nicely into the guard rotation, while Derryck Thornton will be Duke’s only true point guard
When Winslow, Tyus Jones and star center Jahlil Okafor bolted for the NBA after Duke’s NCAA Tournament triumph, the conventional wisdom was that Duke was headed toward a rebuilding year. There would simply be too many mismatched parts and too many unanswered questions for the Blue Devils to stay among the elite.
But when Ingram gave the Blue Devils’ recruiting class some star power by choosing Duke over North Carolina and Thornton’s reclassification solved the point guard problem, those doubts began to disappear. While they’re thin at spots — in the post and at point guard — the Blue Devils should have impact players everywhere. If they can create the uncommon chemistry of last year’s bunch, the Blue Devils’ ceiling should again be high.
Where before there were reasons why Duke wouldn’t contend in a loaded ACC, now it’s fair to ask: Why not Duke?
LOS ANGELES — Think of swagger in college football, and certain programs are bound to come to mind: Miami in the 1980s and early 2000s; Florida State through the 1990s; USC in the 2000s or many SEC teams of the last decade.
Swagger probably isn't the word one associates with Boise State during its rise under head coach Chris Petersen.
Petersen’s best Boise State teams embraced the role of underdog with a swagger that came out in defeats of traditional powerhouses like Oklahoma, Oregon, Virginia Tech and Georgia. For Petersen’s Washington squad, it came out in a 17-12 upset of traditional power USC.
“We love being underdogs,” said wide receiver Marvin Hall. “At the end of the day, we’re going to fight. That’s all we know is to fight.”
The Huskies brought the fight to the Trojans with undeniable swagger. They talked the talk — wide receiver Jaydon Mickens could be seen woofing on almost every Washington offensive play — and they walked the walk with their tenacious defense on erstwhile Heisman contender, Cody Kessler.
“We went to bed last night with a comfort and confidence,” linebacker Travis Feeney said. Feeney was the catalyst of a stifling defensive effort, swarming on Kessler to force him into his worst game of the last two seasons.
For his seven-tackle, 3.5-tackle for a loss, 2.5-sack night, Feeney was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week. He definitely embodied the swagger now shaping Washington football, looking to the Los Angeles sky on each big play, fists clenched at his sides in celebration.
That “comfort and confidence” of which Feeney spoke also was fueled by another motivating factor, one that drove Petersen's most successful teams of years past.
“Seeing how people said we were underdogs... we were going to lose,” Feeney said. “It wasn't a matter of if it was going to be a fight or not: They already had us down.”
It’s not the ubiquitous chip on the shoulder so commonly referred to in this sport. There’s no offense taken.
On the contrary. At Pac-12 media days in July, Feeney said he appreciated the conference’s voting media tabbing the Huskies near the bottom of the North division.
His stance hasn’t changed midway through the season.
“It goes back to what I said in the summer,” Feeney said. “Everybody has us down, that we’re not going to be that good, that we can’t beat these teams.”
Through Washington’s first two encounters against ranked opponents, the pontificators were right, albeit barely. A great defensive effort at Boise State in the opener was for naught in a 16-13 loss.
One bad quarter against Cal doomed Washington to a 30-24 loss in Week 4.
But the previous stumbles helped fuel the Huskies for their breakthrough at No. 17 USC, a particularly sweet win for a roster featuring a remarkable 32 players from Southern California.
Among them are Hall and tight end Joshua Perkins, heroes of Washington’s win. Hall and Perkins connected on a trick-play touchdown that harkened back to Petersen’s Boise State days, when the Broncos would unveil the unexpected against heavily favored Goliaths.
“All the Southern California boys were talking about this game for a while,” said Perkins, who caught Hall’s double-pass heave. Perkins attended Gahr High School in Cerritos.
“Any time we win is great,” Hall said, wearing a t-shirt with the phrase, “Just A Kid From Los Angeles” printed across it. “Just knowing my family’s here and watching me do what I have to do, it’s like playing in my backyard.”
When he called it his backyard, Hall’s hardly exaggerating. He went to high school at Dorsey, which sits in walking distance of USC’s campus off Exposition Boulevard.
Representation from family and friends for the many Southern Californians on Washington’s roster made last week’s contest as an underdog just a little bit more special.
This week, the Huskies stay on that emotional high against rival Oregon.
While the Ducks and Dawgs play in-state rivalry contests each Thanksgiving weekend against Oregon State and Washington State, the animus befitting a true rivalry is reserved more for this contest.
Unfortunately for Washington, however, the Oregon series has had about as much rivalry as Hammer vs. Nail in recent years. Oregon owns an 11-game win streak dating back to the 2004 season.
You know swagger when you see it. Washington’s heading into Saturday’s matchup with Oregon having swagger to spare.
Hosts Mitch Light and Braden Gall preview the biggest weekend of college football to date.
The SEC features two massive Playoff elimination games in Baton Rouge and College Station as well as a solid undercard. The Big Ten is highlighted by one of the best rivalries in college football in Michigan as well as two key West Division showdowns. The Pac-12 gets started on Thursday night with UCLA-Stanford and finishes with Arizona State-Utah and Oregon-Washington.
Oh yeah, and who could forget USC and Notre Dame?
The guys pick every Top 25 game, offer locks of the week against the spread and cover THE LEAST IMPORTANT GAME OF THE WEEK!
The allure of this match has waned over the past two weeks. First, UCLA lost at home by 15 points to unranked Arizona State two Saturdays ago. Then, Stanford's sole loss at Northwestern to open the season looks much less forgivable after Michigan steamrolled the Wildcats 38-0 last Saturday.
Despite the lost glimmer of this game, both teams still remain in serious contention for their respective divisions within the Pac-12. They might even have an outside shot at advancing to the College Football Playoff if most of the undefeated teams drop a game over the next several weeks. However, a second loss would end all hope of sneaking into the final four.
UCLA leads the overall series 45-38-3. However, Stanford holds the advantage 23-19-2 in the games played in Palo Alto. The Cardinal have won the seven most recent matches between these programs.
College Football Podcast: Week 7 Preview
UCLA at Stanford
Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET (Thursday)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Stanford -6.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Stanford's running attack keeps steamrolling?
UCLA has allowed an average of 197 yards and a touchdown in rushing per game to opponents. Stanford's running game has gained 209.8 yards and 2.4 touchdowns on average. However, in Pac-12 contests, the Cardinal's rushing average jumped to 278 yards and 3.67 touchdowns. If that latter trend continues, the Cardinal could trample the Bruins en route to victory.
2. Can Bruins relocate their running game against a stout Cardinal run defense?
UCLA struggled on the ground in its most recent game, only gaining 62 yards and one touchdown. In the first four, the Bruins averaged 233.5 yards of rushing and 2.75 touchdowns per game. In contrast, Stanford has only allowed an average of 127.8 yards. Northwestern was the only team to have gained more than 155 yards. The question is whether UCLA's one-game struggle was an anomaly or Stanford's defense can continue to hold down foes' rushing attacks.
3. Urgency vs. Complacency
UCLA has little room for error. In the South Division, the Bruins trail Arizona State (against whom they have already lost) and Utah (whom they still have to play). A second defeat in-conference would cripple the Bruins' shot at winning the Pac-12. Plus, they would certainly want to redeem themselves for the embarrassing performance against Arizona State.
A loss to UCLA would not devastate the Cardinal's quest to win the Pac-12 North. Stanford would still control its path to Santa Clara for the conference championship game. The Cardinal have smashed the last two Pac-12 opponents by double-digit point totals. However, Oregon State and Arizona without Anu Solomon are not on par with UCLA.
With longer than a week to prepare for this game for both teams, viewers should expect a few novelties on both sides of the ball. UCLA will try some new strategies to blunt the Cardinal's running assault. The Bruins' offense will also continue to hammer away on the ground. Those efforts will keep the score close through the third quarter. No team will lead by more than seven during the first three quarters as they will trade scores. However, Stanford's determined "ground and pound" will eventually bleed the game clock and put away the Bruins.
Prediction: Stanford 41, UCLA 30
— Written by John La Fleur, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network. A graduate of Michigan State and LSU, La Fleur also has been a Saints fan since he was old enough to understand football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.
It’s tough enough taking over a program in the middle of the season, as Mike Canales has done on an interim basis in the wake of North Texas’ decision to cut ties with Dan McCarney. But when your first game is against an offensive thresher, things get even tougher.
Western Kentucky visits UNT Thursday night with a 5-1 record, 58 points scored in its most recent victory and little sympathy for a program that is trying to regain its footing following an embarrassing 66-7 home loss to FCS top-25 team Portland State. It doesn’t matter that the Vikings beat Washington State earlier in the season. The defeat stung, dropped the Mean Green to 0-5 and led to McCarney’s ouster. Canales must find a way to rejuvenate the team as WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty takes dead aim at some more big numbers.
Western Kentucky at North Texas
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Thursday)
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Western Kentucky -33
Three Things to Watch
1. Mike-d Up
This is Canales’ second stint as interim coach at UNT. He went 2-3 in relief of Todd Dodge in 2010. Players respond to Canales, who will remain as the Mean Green offensive coordinator. He knows the game, is enthusiastic and will get the players to respond. That most likely won’t be enough against Western, which is rolling, but fans can expect a different team than they did the first five weeks of the season.
“We are going to try to bring some excitement and fun back,” Canales said.
2. No Doughty About It
Doughty’s passing numbers make him the 18th most successful passing team in the nation. He earned his third straight (and fourth of the year) Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week honor by tossing five scoring strikes and amassing 359 yards in the 58-28 walloping of Middle Tennessee. For the season, Doughty is completing a ridiculous 74.7 percent of his throws for 2,359 yards, 20 TDs and only three picks. Despite piloting an offense that has averaged 47.8 points over its last five games, Doughty sees room for improvement. That said, he understands the Hilltoppers are pretty strong right now.
“We’re just kind of rolling, like I said,” Doughty said after the win over MTSU. “We’re really tuned into the game plan. I think [head coach Jeff Brohm] has done an amazing job doing the little things. We have a little chip on our shoulder. That’s what we have to keep doing. We have to keep going. We can’t settle.”
3. Defensive Posture
Canales may be known for his offensive acumen, but he had better pay attention to the Mean Green’s D. North Texas is surrendering 547.4 yards and 49.2 ppg this year, not the best track record to bring into a game against an offense as potent as Western Kentucky’s. Opposing backs are averaging 5.7 yards/carry, and rival QBs have completed 73.4 percent of their throws. UNT has not intercepted a pass this year and has registered only eight sacks all year. That has to change quickly, or WKU could run wild.
Expecting Canales to turn the Mean Green into contenders during a short prep week for one of the best teams in C-USA is unreasonable. He has to hope he can motivate the players to make fewer mental mistakes and not to lose heart when WKU gets its offense crackling. Accomplish that, and Canales can consider his first game a success.
Western Kentucky, meanwhile, has big plans, not to mention a trip to LSU next Saturday. It’s possible the Hilltoppers could struggle a bit against UNT, as they think about their big challenge in Baton Rouge, but that shouldn’t matter. Doughty has too many weapons at his disposal, and no matter how slow WKU may start, it is simply too good.
Prediction: Western Kentucky 49, North Texas 14
— Written by Michael Bradley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bradley is a writer and broadcaster based in suburban Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @DailyHombre.
Despite Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp's best efforts to confuse everyone, today is indeed Wednesday and tomorrow is Thursday. Tomorrow, a rare phenomenon will take place. That being a Thursday night SEC game. While the conference usually schedules all games for Saturday, this one should be a fun mid-week contest.
The awaited expectation of this game is the need to learn more about Kentucky. The Wildcats are 4-1, but have struggled just to get by UL Lafayette and Eastern Kentucky. Yet at this point, Kentucky is the closest contender on the heels of Florida in the race for the SEC East crown.
Auburn, on the other hand, is not going to compete for its division. It has been a humbling and disappointing season for the Tigers thus far. The team struggled mightily to fend off Jacksonville State in Week 2 and is still winless in the SEC, despite possessing one of the conference's most explosive offenses. Or, so we thought.
This game is huge for momentum. For Auburn, it would get them back in contention for a bowl game. For Kentucky, it would provide more substance to their claim of being for real this time. The Tigers lead the all-time series, 25-6-1 and won the last meeting between the teams in 2010.
College Football Podcast: Week 7 Preview
Auburn at Kentucky
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Thursday)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Auburn -2
Three Things to Watch
1. Can Auburn's offense finally establish itself?
In Auburn's last game against San Jose State, Peyton Barber accounted for 147 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. It was nice to see, especially considering that Auburn's run-first system under Gus Malzahn hasn't worked very well all year. However, we must keep in mind the opponent didn't exactly field the nation's best defense. Even with that, it was a step in the right direction for the run game. Now, Auburn just needs to figure out the quarterback situation. The Wildcats are improved defensively this year, but they have shown signs of weakness which have carried over from last season. This could be a major opportunity for War Eagle to showcase its offensive weapons.
2. Is Kentucky for real this time?
The 'Cats started off last year 5-1 and still managed to miss out on a bowl game when all was said and done. This year's team is more seasoned and better overall, but it still doesn't mean we should all be sold on Kentucky just yet. Their schedule has set up nicely to this point, but they still face major tests down the road in Mississippi State, Georgia and Tennessee. A win over Auburn on Thursday in Lexington could help Kentucky with the confidence it needs moving forward to more difficult opponents on the schedule.
3. Which team took advantage of the bye week?
Auburn and Kentucky have had ample time to get ready for each other. The Tigers were probably a little more in need of the break, but now that both teams are refreshed, which one will come out ready to play? These two squads look similar on paper. Both are allowing quite a few yards through the air and neither has been efficient in the passing game. Oddly enough, the best game plan for both teams might be to get it moving on the ground. If so, it's difficult to say which team that strategy favors. Look for Barber and Stanley "Boom" Williams to both be significant factors in the outcome. Williams was held out in the 'Cats' last game but is expected to return this week.
Nobody thought this game would have mattered much before the season started. At a time when Auburn was seemingly loaded, who thought the Wildcats would have a chance? Kentucky is the popular pick in this one, especially when looking at the general way these two teams are trending. The Wildcats will come out looking to make a statement. A win would be yet another signature nod for head coach Mark Stoops, almost guaranteeing the Wildcats a spot in a bowl game. But the stakes are a little higher on the other side. Auburn is capable of far more than what we have seen so far. If they get the run game going, they will walk out of Lexington with a victory. It's time for War Eagle to turn the tables.
Prediction: Auburn 34, Kentucky 28
Week 7 of the 2015 college football season kicks off with three games on Thursday night, including a top 25 showdown between UCLA and Stanford and a meeting in the SEC between Auburn and Kentucky. Four games are scheduled for Friday night, including an intriguing matchup in the Mountain West with Boise State visiting Utah State. Saturday’s slate is filled with meaningful matchups and key conference games. The Noon slate kicks off with Iowa visiting Northwestern, while Ole Miss plays at Memphis. The afternoon games feature two of the weekend’s biggest matchups. Texas A&M hosts Alabama, and Michigan State looks to remain unbeaten with a trip to Ann Arbor to play rival Michigan. The night slate features USC-Notre Dame, Florida-LSU and Penn State-Ohio State.
Which teams will come out on top in every FBS game for Week 7? Athlon's editors predict the winners for every game this week:
College Football Week 7 Predictions
Boise State at
Georgia State at
Western Michigan at
Eastern Michigan at
San Diego State at
San Jose State
Boston College at
Virginia Tech at
Michigan State at
Wake Forest at
West Virginia at
Texas Tech at
Ole Miss at
Louisiana Tech at
Arizona State at
Northern Illinois at
Oregon State at
Kent State at
Air Force at
New Mexico State at
Appalachian State at
Penn State at
UL Lafayette at
How are we already at the midway point of the BYU Cougars’ 2015 college football season? We wait all summer to get football back and in the blink of an eye we are already halfway through the season. Sad reality when it comes to the greatest sport in the land, it just goes too fast.
Speaking of fast, BYU had a fast start to the 2015 season as the Cougars had the entire nation buzzing after two Hail Mary victories against Nebraska and Boise State to vault into the Top 25 polls.
The Cougars then lost a pair of games to UCLA and Michigan, both of which are currently in the Top 25. BYU entered October at 2-2 after facing the nation’s toughest schedule through the first month. The identity of the team was still an unknown.
Now BYU is on a two-game winning streak with the most recent victory coming in thrilling fashion yet again via a Tanner Mangum game-winning drive against East Carolina.
Six games down, six regular season games to go. So what does the mid-term report card for the 2015 BYU team look like? Here are my positional grades for the Cougars after six games.
Taysom Hill entered the season as a sleeper Heisman candidate. Hill lasted one half against Nebraska before being sidelined for the remainder of the season with a Lisfranc injury. In that one half, Hill showed why he was considered to be a Heisman contender with his versatile play gashing the Cornhuskers through the air and on the ground.
Most teams would have a huge letdown trying to replace a talent like Hill, but the Cougars were already used to not having their No. 1 quarterback, as this was the third time in four years he suffered a season-ending injury.
In comes Tanner Mangum, an Elite 11 co-MVP with former Heisman winner Jameis Winston out of high school, and the true freshman has continued to improve every single week with the lone exception being the Michigan game. But who doesn’t get shutout by Michigan these days?
BYU has always had a long history of success at quarterback, and 2015 is no different. Hill was a superstar, but Mangum is no slouch and he continues to get better every week. Mangum has already led three game-winning drives in his first six appearances for the Cougars under center, and there’s a belief around the program that he could become one of the all-time greats over the next three and half years.
Running Backs: C
Losing Jamaal Williams (withdrew from school) before the season looked to be a significant blow to the running game for BYU, and through six games, the Cougars have often wondered where they would be right now if the one they call the “Swag daddy” was leading the way. But the Cougars have managed with Adam Hine, Algernon Brown and Francis Bernard all contributing in different games this season. Still, the Cougars have average running backs at best. There’s a reason Mangum is already airing it out with 40-plus times a game, it’s because BYU doesn’t have game-changers in the backfield.
Wide Receivers: B+
“The Bomb Squad” is what the BYU receiving unit likes to call themselves, and through six games the receivers have been airing it out with Mangum now as the signal-caller.
Devon Blackmon leads the team with 342 yards, but senior Mitch Mathews has hauled in touchdowns in every game thus far, including the Hail Mary against Nebraska in the opener.
BYU has seven receivers right now that the team feels confident can make plays at any time. Only concern with this group is their physicality. Michigan dominated BYU at the line of scrimmage leading to wide receivers coach Guy Holliday questioning his guys’ attitude and effort. They’ve since responded well and they probably won’t see a secondary like Michigan’s the rest of the year.
Tight Ends: Incomplete
BYU hasn’t had a traditional tight end haul in a catch this season. I say traditional because inside receiver Terenn Houk is kind of a tight end in this offense, but he’s never putting his hand in the dirt. Tanner Balderee and Bryan Sampson are the “traditional tight ends,” but they don’t factor at all into the passing game, and nor will they in the near future. Needless to say, former BYU star Dennis Pitta isn’t coming through that door anytime soon.
Offensive Line: C
Not great, but BYU’s offensive line is trending in the right direction. The front line has given up 21 sacks, but a good number of those fall on Mangum, who at times has had a tendency to hold on to the ball too long.
The grade would be higher had it not been for the Michigan game where BYU’s line was dominated. Yes, I know Michigan is dominating everyone these days, but it was an eye opener for where BYU is currently at in the trenches. BYU also lacks quality depth up front.
Defensive Line: B
Senior DE Bronson Kaufusi has had his most dominating season yet. The strength & conditioning program with newly hired coach Frank Wintrich has had a noticeable impact on Kaufusi, who has been winning numerous 1-on-1 battles this season. Kaufusi has showed a better motor this season as well.
Travis Tuiloma is the heart of the defensive line at nose tackle. He suffered a knee injury against Nebraska in the opener and finally returned this past week against East Carolina. Logan Taele did a serviceable job in place of Tuiloma, and Graham Rowley has been another solid contributor off the edge.
Under head coach Bronco Mendenhall, BYU has produced many great linebackers. Every year with a Mendenhall-led BYU team, you can always count on a deep and talented linebacker corps, and 2015 is no different.
Former Utah running back Harvey Langi is in his second year at linebacker for BYU and he has become one of the Cougars’ playmakers on defense. Fred Warner is BYU’s best backer in pass coverage, while Sione Takitaki might be the Cougars’ most effective pass rusher period.
Historically, this has always been a position of great concern for BYU fans. Cornerback has always been a position that for one reason or another has been cursed for BYU. In 2015, the cornerback position has been a pleasant surprise, and is heading in the right direction.
Michael Davis who has gone back and forth between wide receiver and cornerback during his BYU career, is settled in at boundary corner, and has had only one pass interference call on him this season. Field cornerback Micah Hannemann struggled in the first couple of weeks with tackling, but he has really improved his decision making on the field, while learning how to use his athleticism to his advantage in coverage. BYU has actually pressed the line of scrimmage the past two weeks. For anyone that’s watched at least one BYU football game over the last 40 years, you know that’s a remarkable feat.
Also, Michael Shelton has been a pleasant surprise as one of BYU’s best options in its nickel package.
Quietly, this position has been BYU’s best every single week throughout the first half of the season. Kai Nacua is one of the leaders of the defense, and has been near the top of the nation’s interception leaders with four on the season.
Michael Wadsworth was a player who surprised everyone with how he’s been playing this season. The Hawaii transfer was third string throughout fall camp, but rose up the depth chart leading up to the Nebraska game. He then proceeded to make the most of his playing time against the Cornhuskers, racking 3.5 sacks. The following week, Wadsworth earned the start at free safety versus Boise State and has been a tackling machine for BYU’s last line of defense.
The Cougars also have nice depth at this position with Eric Takenaka, Grant Jones and Matt Hadley.
Punter Jonny Linehan, aka “Jonny Rugby,” has been a fan favorite with his rugby style punts. Some of his punts have been beauties; others have made folks wonder if he should have stuck to rugby. Consistency will be the biggest thing for the former rugby national champion.
Trevor Samson is automatic within 45 yards but that’s the extent of his range in the kicking game. He can’t be relied outside 45 and it has led BYU’s offense to be more aggressive than years past, going for it often on fourth down.
The return game has been nearly non-existent this season. The longest kick return for BYU has been 29 yards against UConn. As far as punt returns go, there hasn’t been a single return worth talking about in this column. The return game needs to get better, and it’s the main reason for the overall specialists grade dropping.
A year ago, BYU fans were starting to grumble about Mendenhall’s performance as the head man. Another 8-5 season that had no signature wins left many wondering if Mendenhall’s best days were behind him. This season has been a step in the right direction for both the head coach and BYU as a program. Mendenhall’s presence as the defensive play-caller has led to significant improvements on that side of the ball compared to last season, and the team as a whole feels like it is in a good spot at 4-2 after facing on one of the nation’s toughest schedules through the first six weeks.
— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is the BYU reporter and insider for 1320 KFAN and co-host of "The Cougar Center" podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.
The start of college football’s 2015-16 bowl season is still 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 6 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 six weeks of action. Expect several changes over the next two months.
College Football's Post-Week 6 Bowl Projections
|AutoNation Cure||Dec. 19||Sun Belt vs.|
East Carolina vs.
|Gildan New Mexico||Dec. 19||C-USA vs.|
San Jose State vs.
|Dec. 19||MW/BYU vs.|
|Dec. 19||MAC vs.|
Arkansas State vs.
|Dec. 19||C-USA vs.|
UL Lafayette vs.
|Miami Beach||Dec. 21||American vs.|
|Famous Idaho Potato||Dec. 22||MAC vs.|
Bowling Green vs.
|Boca Raton||Dec. 22||American vs.|
|SDCCU Poinsettia||Dec. 23||Mountain West vs.|
San Diego State vs.
Georgia Southern vs.
|Popeyes Bahamas||Dec. 24|
Western Michigan vs.
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||American vs.|
Utah State vs.
|St. Petersburg||Dec. 26||C-USA vs. |
|Hyundai Sun||Dec. 26||ACC/ND vs.|
|Zaxby's Heart of|
|Dec. 26||Big 12 vs.|
|New Era Pinstripe||Dec. 26||ACC/ND vs.|
|Independence||Dec. 26||ACC/ND vs.|
Virginia Tech vs.
|Foster Farms||Dec. 26||Big Ten vs.|
|Military||Dec. 28||ACC/ND vs.|
|Quick Lane||Dec. 28||ACC/ND vs.|
|Dec. 29||MW vs.|
Air Force vs.
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 29||ACC/ND vs.|
|Dec. 29||Big 12 vs.|
Texas Tech vs.
|Birmingham||Dec. 30||American vs.|
|Belk||Dec. 30||ACC/ND vs.|
North Carolina 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.|
Michigan State vs.
|TaxSlayer||Jan. 2||ACC/ND/Big Ten vs.|
Penn State vs.
|AutoZone Liberty||Jan. 2||Big 12 vs. |
Kansas State vs.
|Valero Alamo||Jan. 2||Big 12 vs.|
|Cactus||Jan. 2||Big 12 vs. |
West Virginia 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.|
Ohio State vs.
|National Championship||Jan. 11||Cotton Bowl Winner vs.|
Orange Bowl Winner
Ohio State vs.
* Indicates an at-large selection. Conference not projected to have enough bowl-eligible teams to fulfill the conference alignment.
As I sat in a sports bar during my lunch break on Tuesday, I watched and listened to Steve Spurrier's press conference where he announced his resignation as South Carolina's head coach. It was about what you'd expect, with thanks to the program, fans, students, administration, etc.
And then, Spurrier said something that made me think. He talked about the future of the program being in good hands and looking bright, due in at least some part to the caliber of the facilities.
Are we still talking about this?
There was a time when there was a real, noticeable difference between the haves and have nots when it came to facilities. Some of your blue-blood programs had locker rooms, weight rooms and football facilities that made those belonging to some NFL teams look downright terrible. It was actually that way for quite some time until recently.
In today's college football world, particularly in the Power 5, nice facilities are commonplace. Every school has everything a program needs to be successful. Sure, there might be a few more bells and whistles here and there, but for the most part, the only difference is the age of the facilities.
Standing at a podium and telling me your football program is going to be fine or even better than others moving forward and using your facilities as some sort of justification for that seems silly. It's like a guy sitting in a waiting room for a job interview in sales, telling everyone that he's a shoe-in because he's got a sweet new smartphone. Hold on there, bud. We all have smartphones. Yours may be newer and shinier, but mine does everything yours does and has the exact same apps.
When I hear a big-time college football program tout their facilities as that much better than their competitors, I imagine some lowly state school buried somewhere in Appalachia where the football players are stuck pushing wheelbarrows full of rocks and chopping down trees like Rocky training for a fight with Ivan Drago. "Boy", I think to myself. "I don't know how School X gets it done with their guys curling milk jugs full of water and studying game film that is actually on film. Must be tough."
And then I snap out of it, come back to reality and do a quick Google search. I pull up the football facilities at Rutgers, Wake Forest and Washington State. Who would have ever thought, but these Power 5 institutions have real, actual modern facilities that rival the old, traditional powers? It's almost like they've invested some of the television revenue back into the program in order to upgrade and stay competitive! My mind is blown!
Seriously, though. It's 2015. Everybody has shiny new things in college football. The days of any of your peers not having those things are long gone, and with them, the notion that bragging about your facilities should be anywhere near the part of your recruiting pitch where you move in to seal the deal.
The more I think about it, this did come from the mouth of Steve Spurrier — a man standing at a podium, bidding farewell to a game that has passed him by. I guess it makes sense.
Sitting at 2-4 with two conference losses is quite possibly the worst case scenario for the beginning of the Mike Riley era. Plenty of fans (not even those of the Nebraska persuasion) have made it clear they think the Cornhuskers botched his hire, but athletic director Shawn Eichorst’s “mistake” may be another longtime power’s fortune.
Look at how two traditional Big Ten powerhouses responded to recent changes. Ohio State brought in Urban Meyer after shoving aside Luke Fickell in the wake of the Jim Tressel scandal. He wins the first-ever College Football Playoff.
Michigan tanks following the Brady Hoke hire, so the Wolverines bring in the Michiganiest of Michigan Men, Jim Harbaugh. Now it looks like the Wolverines actually remember how to play football.
If Bo Pelini were in his eighth year as Nebraska’s head football coach, the firing of Steve Sarkisian means that another college football blue blood would be likely courting someone it had tried to get twice before in the past 15 years.
If Mike Riley had stayed at Oregon State… he’d be the leading candidate at USC right now. No question. Think on that.— John Canzano (@johncanzanobft) October 13, 2015
An assistant head coach/offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach for the USC Trojans from 1993-96, Riley had been floundering at Oregon State in Corvallis due to lack of support and fan apathy. Think about what he could gain from movin’ on up.
Not only does he likely retain USC’s entire recruiting class and prevent transfers, all other 11 Pac-12 teams are on alert. Recruiting just got horrendously harder.
Several recruits from Calabasas High School including Class of 2017 quarterback Tristan Gebbia, wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson Jr. and Class of 2018 wide receiver Brian Hightower have no reason to leave California.
All of the above are currently giving Nebraska a firm look thanks to Riley and his relationship with Keyshawn Johnson, Jr’s father. They’re also very highly-ranked and extremely talented.
Think of some other names that can (and probably will) pop up even in conversation such as Utah's Kyle Whittingham, TCU's Gary Patterson or Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin.
USC has the money, the tradition and the environment. Everything Riley would need to ride off into the actual sunset as his coaching career came to a close.
Instead, he just finished purchasing a rather large house in Lincoln after a long stay at a downtown Embassy Suites hotel because his future home needed to be cleared of chemicals that his wife, Dee, is allergic to.
Lincoln gives him a nice mix of what he left in Oregon and a football-centric state (that he’s obviously getting very familiar with right now). That’s okay, though. He’s admitted that this type of start to a football season is nothing short of amazingly unique to him.
All that said, if Riley’s good enough for one powerhouse to attempt his hire on two separate occasions (and potentially a third), shouldn’t another see why the Trojans wanted him so badly in the first place?
Food for thought.
Steve Spurrier’s midseason resignation as head football coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks isn’t surprising.
It’s not shocking.
Despite his comments to the contrary this offseason, conventional wisdom said 2015 would be Spurrier’s last. His comments during SEC Media Days, chuckling about how Tennessee was ecstatic about finishing 7-6 last year while his team posted the same record and found it to be a disappointment, were accurate and a coach doesn’t make such comments without thinking he can compete with said opponent.
So preseason rankings aside, maybe Spurrier had something up his sleeve. Did he have a diamond in the rough at quarterback? Were the newcomers on defense as good as advertised? Was Pharoh Cooper going to build on an exceptional 2014?
The answers turned out to be no, no and no, and The Head Ball Coach knew it. If he got out now, he could give an assistant the chance to establish himself as a head coach with a victory against Vanderbilt and potentially light a spark to salvage the season.
If Spurrier went down with the ship, he’d likely leave with a 4-8 record and his assistants would have difficulty finding high-profile work and the program’s recruiting class would suffer.
Personally, he’d have to endure embarrassing losses to Florida, Tennessee and Clemson. So the time was right to depart.
But even if you are one of the many who believe Spurrier is the greatest football coach South Carolina ever had, the departure is bittersweet. Yes, the Gamecocks won 33 games in three years under his guidance from 2011-13, but they never won the Southeastern Conference.
Now, with the program seemingly in its worst state since the 0-11 rebuilding season of Lou Holtz in 1999, there is a feeling the Gamecocks never will.
It shouldn’t be that way. There is a school of thought the South Carolina football program is a diamond in the rough itself that should enjoy greater prosperity than the team has historically, and Spurrier allowed Gamecocks fans to attend this school.
This school points to archrival Clemson, and asks if it can win a national championship, why can’t the University of South Carolina?
This school looks to the facilities, conference and support the program enjoys. This school points to the fact South Carolina is one of the most prolific states in the country for producing NFL players. South Carolina's 47 players on NFL rosters as of Kickoff Weekend ranked 12 overall and ahead of fellow SEC footprints Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri and Kentucky, according to information released by USA Football and the NFL.
In fact, South Carolina ranked ahead of non-SEC states known for producing football talent like Michigan, Oklahoma and even New York despite the fact the Empire State has nearly four times the population of the Palmetto State (19.7 million to 4.8).
Just two years ago the Gamecocks were a miracle catch by the Volunteers' Marquez North away from playing for the SEC title and a chance for a national championship. A season ago many pundits believed even after losing Jadeveon Clowney and Connor Shaw they could contend for such riches again.
But somehow the talent wasn’t there, especially on defense. Maybe rivals were able to sway recruits away from South Carolina because of Spurrier’s age. Maybe Clowney and Shaw just were that good and paired together could lead any program to once-in-a-lifetime riches. Maybe the fact The Head Ball Coach never produced an outstanding NFL quarterback meant after Dylan Thompson, quality signal-callers stayed away. Maybe the fact running back Brandon Wild didn’t play last week against LSU despite medical clearance showed a lack of contemporary motivation. Maybe the heavy-handed way Spurrier could treat reporters finally caught up with him. Maybe the program suffered from the nepotism of Spurrier hiring his sons to hold the titles of recruiting coordinator, co-offensive coordinator, and quality control.
Even the interim coaching search is unsatisfying. At first The State reported quarterbacks coach G.A. Magnus, who had been with Spurrier since playing quarterback for him at Florida, would likely succeed Spurrier. Instead it was offensive line coach Shawn Elliott who was named the interim head coach.
Wouldn’t the one weapon South Carolina has, receiver Pharoh Cooper, best be served by having a quarterbacks coach call plays than a line boss? What about Magnus’ experience as a head coach, something Elliott does not have? Granted such experience came at tiny Delaware Valley, but doesn’t the fact Magnus went 33-4 at the Division III school after inheriting a 2-8 program under his guidance sound intriguing, especially when the alternative is a former assistant from the College of Sparky Woods?
Hopefully athletic director Ray Tanner and president Harris Pastides will be more creative when choosing a permanent successor. If the interim coach doesn’t produce a Steve Taneyhill-esque turnaround and earn the job, it is important to remember South Carolina’s last two hires were already coaching legends with national championships under their belt. They were clearly the best available candidates that could come to Columbia.
Why can’t that happen again? The one great thing about the Spurrier resignation is that in South Carolina’s never-ending hope to take the abbreviation “USC” from the University of Southern California, it did push Steve Sarkisian’s firing to the second page. There’s no reason the Gamecocks can’t hire the most glamorous coaching candidate available again.
It might even be expected.
Such a coach must have a personality. Spurrier, like Holtz before him, won in large part because of his charm, something predecessors Woods and Brad Scott most certainly did not have. Coach Dull isn’t going to win a recruiting battle with Dabo Swinney, but Coach Personality will make Nick Saban and Butch Jones look like the bullies they are in comparison.
Yes, even today, there is a school of thought South Carolina can win the SEC. But that school’s campus is not located in a backroom in Aiken.
— Written by Marky Billson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. An experienced beat reporter and sports writer, Billson began contributing to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2000. He has covered the Steelers, Pitt Panthers, MLB and more during his career. Follow him on Twitter @MarkyBillson.
Week 6 gave us plenty of outrageousness, however, much of it took place away from the field. A couple of coaching vacancies and the loss of a starting quarterback on a contender due to PEDs dominated the headlines.
Week 7 is set up to be just as outrageous, with a huge slate of matchups in every conference. We have teams jockeying for position in tight division and conference races, teams trying to stay alive in the College Football Playoff picture, and some teams with nothing left to lose looking to play spoiler. When the season is over, we may look back at Week 7 as the week that shaped the season.
Here are my outrageous predictions for Week 7.
Florida wins at Death Valley
Will Grier's suspension took us all by surprise. That said, this is a well-coached Florida Gator team built to win on the road, regardless of who is under center. They run the ball well and play tough defense — particularly against the run. The Gators will be far and away the best defense LSU running back Leonard Fournette has faced this season. Once he's contained, Tiger quarterback Brandon Harris will need to make plays through the air against a feisty Gator secondary and one of the best defensive backs in the nation. That won't end well, with Treon Harris leading the Gators to victory in a low-scoring, defensive battle.
Georgia's Sony Michel rushes for 200 yards
If you haven't figured it out by now, it doesn't really matter who is toting the rock for the Bulldogs. Chalk it up to whatever you want — system or recruiting — but the Georgia backfield has become a revolving door of big-time running backs. Look for Georgia to get back on the winning track by doing what it does best: running the ball. Sony Michel will step in, as he did last week, and put up huge numbers on the way to a Bulldogs win over Missouri.
Kansas State eliminates Oklahoma from contention
The Wildcats had TCU cornered last week and came up just short. Bill Snyder's teams are not known to let those sort of losses linger, and the Wildcats will be ready to go at Oklahoma with the same offensive attack that has lit up the scoreboard tot the tune of 36.4 points per game. On the other side of the ball, the Sooners are reeling after losing the Red River Showdown to Texas. Bob Stoops' seat got a little warmer and a trip to Manhattan, Kansas, is not exactly the best way to cool it off.
USC stuns Notre Dame
Getting rid of Steve Sarkisian was the best thing Pat Haden could have done for the USC football program. The Trojans are arguably the most talented team in the country, but you can't function when your head coach doesn't have his affairs in order. Look for interim head coach Clay Helton to step in as a calming presence and focus the Trojans on upsetting Notre Dame. The Irish lost the only other game they've played this season against a team with comparable athletes. Look for a much more talented team, led by the best quarterback Notre Dame has faced this season, to take down the Irsh in South Bend.
Michigan State end's Michigan's magical season
Those three shutouts in a row by the Wolverines are impressive — no doubt. When you peel back the layers, however, you'll see that they came against two teams with weak offenses and one team broken down and exhausted after a grueling first month. Every player in Michigan State's locker room is tired of the Harbaugh love-fest going on in their state. Nobody is giving the Spartans a chance, and I think they like it that way. I like Connor Cook to challenge the Michigan secondary early and often like it hasn't been all season. Look for the Spartans to then lean on their offensive line in the second half, controlling the tempo and pulling away on the ground for a sound double-digit win.
The SEC may not have realized it at the time, but it did college football a favor when it made the Florida vs. LSU game an annual pairing. The two schools have met every year since 1971 and the Gators/Tigers matchup typically has a direct bearing on the SEC and national championships. This Saturday’s game between a pair of undefeated teams, top-10 teams currently leading their respective divisions is no different.
Critics have argued that both schools have an unfair difficulty added to their schedule with this mandated meeting. However, every rivalry has its peaks and valleys and this one has produced some great games regardless of the state of either football program. Here are the five best.
5. Florida 13, LSU 10
Baton Rouge — Oct. 22, 1960
After winning the national title in 1958 and finishing in the top five in 1959, LSU began the season with a 1-3 record. Nevertheless, the Tigers were up to 10-7 at the half on a good Florida team thanks in part to the plays LSU quarterback Jimmy Field was calling from his wristband (This was the era when quarterbacks called their own games.). Florida countered this with an unorthodox approach. The Gators blitzed and piled on top of Field. When he emerged, his wristband was gone. Thanks to the invaluable intel, Florida shut LSU’s offense down in the second half completely and won 13-10. At the end of the game, a Florida coach returned the wristband to a referee, claiming it was found on the field.
4. LSU 28, Florida 21
Baton Rouge — Oct. 11, 1997
Florida entered Death Valley ranked No. 1 and sporting a nine-year win streak over LSU. But on this night, the Tigers used their powerful rushing attack led by Kevin Faulk and put tremendous pressure on Gator quarterback Doug Johnson to take a 14-7 halftime lead. Johnson started the second half with 53-yard pass to Fred Taylor, who capped the drive with a two-yard touchdown run. Tied 14-14 in the fourth quarter, LSU pulled ahead for good in a span of a little more than 90 seconds. First, Tiger defensive back Cedric Donaldson intercepted Johnson’s pass and raced 31 yards into the end zone for a touchdown. Then Florida fumbled the ensuing kickoff and LSU capitalized with another score to take a 28-14 lead. Taylor scored another touchdown but that was all Florida could muster. The goal posts came down as Tiger fans celebrated the school’s first-ever defeat of a No. 1-ranked team.
3. LSU 33, Florida 29
Gainesville — Oct. 9, 2010
This game personifies blind luck. Undefeated LSU jumped out to a 26-14 fourth quarter lead but Florida’s Andre Debose took a kickoff 88 yards down the sideline to close the gap to 28-21. The Gators then completed a 51-yard pass from John Brantley to Carl Moore and used their rushing attack to pound into the end zone for a second score. Brantley then hit Frankie Hammond Jr., to add two points and make the score 29-26. LSU got the ball back on its own 38-yard line with a little more than three minutes left in the game. The Tigers then spent two and a half minutes moving the ball 26 yards. Facing a 4th-and-3 on Florida’s 36-yard line, LSU lined up to kick a 52-yard field goal. Instead, head coach Les Miles called a trick play and holder Derek Helton tossed the ball behind his head. The ball hit the ground and kicker Josh Jasper caught it off the bounce and ran five yards around the end for the first down. The Tigers scored four plays later and secured the 33-29 win. Gator fans were furious, but LSU’s faithful was bewildered by what had taken place as well.
2. Florida 16, LSU 13
Baton Rouge — Oct. 7, 1989
This game was jokingly referred to as college football’s first “overtime” game even though it took place before the NCAA established the overtime system. LSU took a 10-3 halftime lead and Florida responded in the third quarter with a field goal. In the fourth quarter, Gator running back Emmitt Smith broke free for a 19-yard touchdown run to put his team ahead 13-10. LSU tied the game with 1:19 left, giving Florida one final possession. The Gators got the ball on their own 20-yard line and then drove all the way to LSU’s 27. With 23 seconds left, Smith took the handoff and ran for three yards, but could not get out of bounds. With no timeouts left, the Gators raced to the line and quarterback Kyle Morris slung the ball out of bounds as time expired. Fireworks shot off in Tiger Stadium to celebrate the tie but the officials ruled that there was one second on the clock when the ball sailed out of bounds. Kicker Arden Czyyzewski squeaked a 41-yard field goal through the uprights and the Gators came away with a fair, but controversial victory.
1. LSU 28, Florida 24
Baton Rouge — Oct. 7, 2007
What makes this No. 1? A lot of reasons, but the biggest is LSU going 5-for-5 in fourth down conversions. The Tigers were undefeated and ranked No. 1 when the defending national champion Gators came to Baton Rouge for a night game. Florida quarterback Tim Tebow put his team ahead 10-0 in the second quarter with a two-yard touchdown pass to Kestahn Moore. LSU responded with an 80-yard drive that culminated with a touchdown by backup quarterback Ryan Perilloux with the Tigers facing 4th-and-1. A few minutes later, Tebow ran nine yards into the end zone to give his team a 10-point halftime lead.
LSU got the ball on its own 30-yard line to start the second half and moved the ball down the field. Facing 4th-and-5 at Florida’s 25-yard line, LSU lined up to kick a field goal. Quarterback and holder Matt Flynn took the snap and darted around the right end for an eight-yard gain. Running back Keiland Williams punctuated the drive with a four-yard touchdown run. On the next drive, the Gators went 75 yards in five plays, with Tebow completing a 37-yard touchdown pass to Chad Ingram to put Florida up 24-14.
LSU began to take control early in the fourth quarter, when defensive end Kirston Pittman intercepted Tebow’s pass on Florida’s 27-yard line. LSU then converted another fourth down with Flynn hitting Demetrius Byrd for a four-yard touchdown pass. The Tigers then got the ball back with 9:20 left in the game and down 24-21. LSU put together a 15-play, 60-yard drive that chewed up more than eight minutes. Along the way, LSU converted a pair of fourth downs — on its own 49-yard line and one from Florida’s 7. Jacob Hester smashed into the end zone with 1:09 left to put his team ahead for good.
Tebow would go on that season to become the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. LSU would play numerous exciting games en route to becoming the first national champion with two losses. None of those games matched this one in sheer drama from start to finish.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)
Now that we have passed the quarter pole mark of the 2015 fantasy football season, it's time to look back on Week 5. We lost Jamaal Charles for the season, which is a huge blow to fantasy owners — and to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs' offense simply fell apart without Charles on the field. If they have any hope of regaining control of their season, they are going to have to figure out what to do — quickly. While fantasy owners are scooping up Charcandrick West (and fantasy editors are learning to spell that without double-checking every time), what else happened in Week 5?
Should you just give up on Denver's offense?
Last week, we looked at the disappointing season that C.J. Anderson has put together. We speculated that Ronnie Hillman would slowly take over the starting running back job in Denver. Well, in Week 5, Anderson had 11 carries for 22 yards. Hillman had seven carries for 21 yards. Anderson added two receptions for 18 yards and Hillman had one reception for five yards. Neither looked good, but neither did the entire Denver offense. Both are low RB2s until further notice.
Owen Daniels may have been the biggest disappointment of the week. A tight end, playing Oakland, fantasy owners thought they were going to get double-digit points. The reality? They got a solid zero. No receptions, no touchdowns, just five targets, none of which led to a catch. After four weeks worth of tight ends burned the Raiders, Daniels couldn't even come up with a reception. Was this the fault of the tight end or the fault of Peyton Manning? Either way, Daniels can be dropped in standard fantasy leagues.
If you are a fantasy owner of Manning, you should be nervous. He clearly isn't the Manning of old, or even the Manning of the beginning of 2014. His 266 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions isn't a terrible stat line, but anyone watching the way he threw the ball knew it wasn't pretty. Sure, Emmanuel Sanders put up a nice day (9/111/0) but Demaryius Thomas only had a 5/55/0 stat line. If Manning can't get the offense going, his receivers are going to suffer. Both are still on the WR1 radar, but you don't feel really great about starting either each week.
Are we buying into Willie Snead?
After Week 4, Snead jumped onto the fantasy radar. He had six receptions for 89 yards and looked like someone Drew Brees was going to target in the passing game. In Week 5, he had a team-high 11 targets, which he turned into six receptions for 141 yards, including a 59-yard reception. In the preseason, it looked like Brandon Coleman was going to be vying for the No. 2 wide receiver position in New Orleans. By the end of Week 5, it is safe to say that role goes to Snead.
The news broke Monday that Marques Colston has a separated shoulder and is likely going to miss time. He had either three or four receptions per game in each game so far this season. Those receptions will now likely go to Snead. While Brandin Cooks is still the No. 1 wideout in New Orleans, look for Snead to have fantasy value moving forward. He may be a sneaky WR2, especially Week 6 on Thursday night against Atlanta.
Josh McCown: Fantasy stud?
Have a day, Josh McCown. In Week 5, McCown threw for 457 yards and two touchdowns. Quietly through three games, McCown has thrown for 1,154 yards and six touchdowns with only one interception. He's helped make tight end Gary Barnidge and wide receiver Travis Benjamin fantasy relevant.
The perennial journeyman, McCown has made his way through seven different teams over the course of 11 seasons. His best season was in 2004, when he threw for 2,511 yards, 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He is on pace to crush those figures. While he will come back down to earth (and not throw for over 400 yards on a weekly basis), it's finally time to look at McCown as a viable fantasy starter.
With the bye weeks continuing along, don't hesitate to pick up McCown to fill in your fantasy roster. The Browns do face the Broncos in Week 6, which is not a good matchup for him, but then they face St. Louis, Arizona, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh before their bye week.
More burning questions
Is Doug Martin going to cover the fact that Jameis Winston isn't that good?
How grateful are you that you drafted Todd Gurley?
Since when is Gary Barnidge for real?
Charcandrick West or Knile Davis?
Will Andre Johnson have a game even close to that good again for the rest of the season?
Is Arian Foster back to RB1 status?
Will Thomas Rawls have a role once Marshawn Lynch returns?
Tyler Eifert, when can we trust you?
If Matt Ryan couldn't throw for a touchdown against Washington's terrible secondary, what does that say?
Are we going to be seeing Alfred Morris and Matt Jones sharing the backfield for the foreseeable future?
What is going on in Detroit?
Seriously, does Sam Bradford hate fantasy football owners of his wide receivers?
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.
Roy Williams likes to say that he would rather coach a talented team than an experienced team if forced to choose between the two. What he likes best, though, is coaching experienced talent. That winning combination produced NCAA championships for Williams in 2005 and 2009, and Williams enters this season with another North Carolina team that features an abundance of both qualities.
The Tar Heels have been in a drought according to their own lofty standards, not having reached a Final Four since 2009. Recently, their program has faced uncertainty and criticism in the aftermath of academic misconduct involving past UNC athletes. This season has a chance to be a return to glory of sorts.
UNC’s rotation includes six upperclassmen, headlined by senior guard Marcus Paige, and Williams welcomes back nine of his 10 players who averaged at least 10 minutes per game in 2014-15. UNC returns 88 percent of its points, 84 percent of its rebounds and 75 percent of its assists from last season.
The following article and more can be found in the Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview magazine, available now.
Podcast: Who should be No. 1 in College Basketball in 2015-16?
As has been the case in recent seasons, the Tar Heels feature imposing depth inside. Brice Johnson is one of the nation’s best interior scorers with his long and lanky frame, and he and Kennedy Meeks are active on the offensive glass. Meeks improved as a defender last season after slimming down, but he and Johnson have room for more growth on that end of the court after being exploited by quick guards and big men alike. They also have been prone to silly fouls, especially illegal screens by Johnson, and it remains to be seen whether another year of maturity will help alleviate that problem.
Isaiah Hicks gives the Heels a capable third big man who would start on many other teams. Hicks has a slender build but excellent athleticism that helps him score points in flurries. Joel James is a bruiser who provides a mean streak that UNC’s other post players lack, and he showed surprisingly soft touch on his short jumper a year ago.
No. 3 North Carolina Facts & Figures
Last season: 26-12, 11-7 ACC
Postseason: Sweet 16
Consecutive NCAAs: Five
ACC Projection: Second
Postseason projection: Final Four
Paige returns as the team’s undisputed leader and most indispensable player. The sweet-shooting lefty fell short of preseason All-America expectations in 2014-15 as he battled a hip injury and plantar fasciitis, but he is back after offseason ankle surgery. Paige has the highest free throw percentage in UNC history, and he is just nine 3-pointers shy of breaking the school record in that category.
A key to UNC’s season is how much help Paige gets on the perimeter. Justin Jackson emerged late last season as a versatile scorer who can hit 3-pointers in addition to making his trademark floaters from mid range. He will share the wing with classmate Theo Pinson, whose defense and athleticism are needed after the early departure of J.P. Tokoto. Also in the mix is freshman Kenny Williams, a shooter who gives the Tar Heels another needed threat behind the 3-point arc.
Joel Berry II and Nate Britt return at point guard, where each will see minutes spelling Paige and playing alongside him when he shifts off the ball. Berry has breakout potential as a scorer and distributor, and Britt is a heady player who made strides last season with his shooting.
Key Loss: G J.P. Tokoto
Top Players: G Marcus Paige, G Joel Berry II, G/F Justin Jackson, F Brice Johnson, F Kennedy Meeks
Kenny Williams is the headline addition in North Carolina’s two-player recruiting class. A 6'3" guard who originally signed with VCU, Williams has a chance to contribute immediately because his biggest strength (perimeter shooting) has been one of UNC’s biggest weaknesses in recent years. Luke Maye, whose father played quarterback at North Carolina in the mid-1980s, is a good passer who could develop into a floor-stretching forward in the future.
The good news for the Tar Heels is that their best players are experienced, a rarity for top programs today. The bad news is that those players have so much experience because they weren’t good enough to leave school early as NBA Lottery picks. The question then becomes just how valuable UNC’s experience will be. The Tar Heels have not been elite defensively since the 2011-12 season, the year before the current seniors arrived on campus, and last season featured some particularly porous efforts. UNC was shredded by offensive juggernauts Duke, Notre Dame and Wisconsin in its final three losses. It’s probably unreasonable to expect shutdown defense from a group that has been merely decent in that area lately, but some improvement is possible. If the Tar Heels defend a bit better, get a healthy season from Paige and see continued development from the sophomore trio of Jackson, Pinson and Berry, they have legitimate potential to win the ACC and contend for the national title.
The NFL is in full swing, and the competition off the field among fans is nearly as heated as the competition on the field on game day.
The Athlon Sports Pro Football Experts Club presented by New Era gives you the chance to compete with your friends and our experts each week.
Here are this week’s picks from Athlon Sports senior editor John Gworek:
Atlanta at New Orleans
The Falcons are unbeaten but have been dodging bullets all season. This is the week their porous pass defense finally bites them.
Gworek's Pick: New Orleans, 30–28.
Washington at N.Y. Jets
Coming off an overtime loss, Kirk Cousins and the Redskins face a rested Jets team that has forced the most turnovers in the NFL.
Gworek's Pick: N.Y. Jets, 20–13.
Arizona at Pittsburgh
The Steelers escaped on Monday night, but if the Cards can protect Carson Palmer, he will find holes in the Pittsburgh secondary.
Gworek's Pick: Arizona, 26–20.
Kansas City at Minnesota
The Vikings are rested and unbeaten at home, while Kansas City limps into town without top weapon Jamaal Charles.
Gworek's Pick: Minnesota, 23–17.
Cincinnati at Buffalo
Tyrod Taylor was hurting after leading a comeback win at Tennessee. If he can’t go, Buffalo’s odds of pulling the upset drop considerably.
Gworek's Pick: Buffalo, 21–20.
Chicago at Detroit
Detroit is winless, and Matthew Stafford keeps thowing the ball to the other team. But is this a Chicago team that can win three in a row?
Gworek's Pick: Detroit, 28–20.
Denver at Cleveland
Josh McCown has been putting up huge numbers for Cleveland, but Denver’s defense is a different animal.
Gworek's Pick: Denver, 27–14.
Houston at Jacksonville
The Texans just keep finding a way to lose games and somehow are 25th in scoring despite ranking fifth in total yards.
Gworek's Pick: Jacksonville, 23–20.
Miami at Tennessee
The Titans have blown back-to-back fourth-quarter leads at home, but rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota hasn’t looked overmatched.
Gworek's Pick: Tennessee, 20–16.
Carolina at Seattle
The Seahawks was cruising to a third straight win before blowing a big lead at Cincinnati. Carolina is 4–0 but has beaten teams that are a combined 5–15.
Gworek's Pick: Seattle, 17–13.
San Diego at Green Bay
After a last-second loss on Monday night, the Chargers have to head to Lambeau Field. Green Bay looking to hit its bye undefeated.
Gworek's Pick: Green Bay, 30–20.
Baltimore at San Francisco
The 1–4 Ravens play their next two out West with a trip to Arizona looming. The 49ers have lost four in a row since winning in Week 1.
Gworek's Pick: Baltimore, 27–26.
New England at Indianapolis
Indianapolis is 3–0 against its own division and 0–2 against New England’s. And the Patriots are the class of that division.
Gworek's Pick: New England, 30–17.
N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia
Both of these offenses put up more than 500 yards last week. They Eagles are 26th in pass defense, the Giants are 32nd. Look for a shootout.
Gworek's Pick: N.Y. Giants, 34–33.
Week 5 Record: 8–6
Overall Record: 49–28
College football’s coaching carousel is already in motion. Five FBS head coaching positions are open prior to Week 6 and several more are expected to change coaches by the end of the season. With the carousel moving fast, it won’t be long before athletic directors gauge the interest level of coaches or coordinators and setup interviews for the open position.
As with any coaching search, all programs are looking for the next big hire. Whether it’s a big-name coach or a rising star, programs with a coaching vacancy want to hit a home run in the hiring process. Who are some of the rising stars in the coordinator ranks expected to be in the mix for head coaching jobs later this year? Here are some names to watch.
College Football's Top 10 Coordinators on the Rise
1. Brent Venables, Defensive Coordinator, Clemson
Despite losing several key contributors and returning only two starters, Clemson’s defense hasn’t missed a beat in 2015. That’s largely due to the coaching ability of Venables, who was a key hire for coach Dabo Swinney in 2012. The Tigers ranked third in the ACC in scoring defense from 2012-13 under Venables’ direction but led the conference in fewest points allowed in 2014. Additionally, Clemson finished first nationally in total defense, limiting opponents to just 260.8 yards per game and 4.03 yards per play. Through five games this season, the Tigers are holding opponents to 4.48 yards per play. It’s only a matter of time before Venables is hired as a head coach at a Power 5 program.
2. Doug Meacham, Co-Offensive Coordinator, TCU
Meacham’s arrival in 2014 was a big reason why TCU emerged as a playoff contender last season and is in the mix once again in 2015. The Horned Frogs averaged only 25.1 points a game in 2013 but jumped to 46.5 last season and 51 per contest in 2015. Prior to joining Gary Patterson’s staff at TCU, Meacham called the plays at Houston in 2013 and worked as an assistant for Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State from 2005-12.
3. Mike Norvell, Offensive Coordinator, Arizona State
Norvell has experienced a fast rise through the assistant ranks. After working for one season as a graduate assistant at Central Arkansas in 2006, Norvell was hired by Todd Graham at Tulsa in 2007 and worked with the Golden Hurricane until 2010. The Texas native followed Graham to Pittsburgh in 2011 and to Arizona State in 2012. Norvell has called the plays since coming to Tempe, and the Sun Devils never finished lower than third in scoring offense within the Pac-12 from 2012-14.
4. Lincoln Riley, Offensive Coordinator, Oklahoma
Riley is a Mike Leach and Air Raid disciple, and despite the sluggish showing against Texas in Week 6, the first-year coordinator is off to a fast start at Oklahoma. The Sooners are averaging 37 points per game and 6.4 yards per play in 2015. The Texas native worked at Texas Tech under Leach from 2007-09 and was hired by Ruffin McNeill at East Carolina prior to the 2010 season. The Pirates had a prolific offense under Riley, including a No. 2 rank in the American Athletic Conference in 2014 by averaging 35.8 points per game. Riley is just 32 years old and is stock will only increase over the next few seasons.
5. Kendal Briles, Offensive Coordinator, Baylor
After Philip Montgomery left Baylor to be the head coach at Tulsa, Briles was handed the keys to a high-powered Ferrari. While his father – Art Briles – is instrumental in the Bears’ offense, this unit is thriving under Kendal’s direction. Through five games, Baylor is averaging 64.2 points a game and ranks first nationally by averaging 9.1 yards per play. The Texas native has worked as an assistant with the Bears since 2008 and is regarded as one of the Big 12’s top recruiters.
6. Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator, Wisconsin
Aranda isn’t getting a ton of national attention, but he’s clearly one of the top defensive coaches in the Big Ten. Under his direction, Wisconsin’s defense ranked as one of the Big Ten’s best in 2013-14. The Badgers finished second in scoring defense in back-to-back years and are second in the conference in 2015 by limiting opponents to just 11.5 points per game. Aranda was hired by Gary Andersen at Wisconsin and was retained by new coach Paul Chryst this offseason. Prior to the last three years with the Badgers, Aranda worked as the defensive signal-caller at Hawaii and Utah State and also spent three years as a graduate assistant at Texas Tech from 1999-01.
7. D.J. Durkin, Defensive Coordinator, Michigan
Michigan’s defense has led the way in coach Jim Harbaugh’s first season. Durkin is the mastermind behind the Wolverines’ aggressive group and the Ohio native has guided this unit to three consecutive shutouts. Through six games, Michigan is giving up just 6.3 points per game and 3.1 yards per play. Prior to taking over in Ann Arbor, Durkin called the plays for a standout defense at Florida (2013-14) and worked under Harbaugh at Stanford from 2007-09.
8. Barry Odom, Defensive Coordinator, Missouri
After three years calling the defensive signals at Memphis, Odom returned to a familiar place: Missouri. The Oklahoma native played with the Tigers from 1996-99 and later coached under Gary Pinkel in Columbia from 2003-11. Memphis showed dramatic improvement under Odom and limited opponents to 19.5 points per game in 2014. So far, Odom has picked up where former coordinator Dave Steckel left off, as the Tigers lead the SEC in scoring defense (13.5), rank third in sacks (17) and are giving up just 4.1 yards per play.
9. Bob Shoop, Defensive Coordinator, Penn State
It’s not unreasonable to think Shoop is the nation’s most underrated defensive coordinator. The Pennsylvania native was on James Franklin’s staff at Vanderbilt from 2011-13 and guided a defense that ranked No. 2 in the SEC with 5.1 yards per play allowed in 2013. Shoop followed Franklin to Penn State and coordinated a defense that allowed just 18.6 points per game in 2014. Shoop has head coaching experience on his resume, spending three seasons at Columbia from 2003-05.
10. Jason Candle, Offensive Coordinator, Toledo
Candle isn’t as big of a name as some of the other coaches on this list, but the former Mount Union player is one of the top coordinators in the Group of 5 ranks. Candle joined Matt Campbell’s staff as a receivers coach in 2009 and worked in that role until 2012 when he was promoted to offensive coordinator. The Rockets averaged at least 30 points a game from 2012-14 and led the MAC in 2014 by recording 6.6 yards per play. Prior to joining Campbell’s staff at Toledo, Candle worked at Mount Union as an assistant from 2003-08. He’s also regarded as an excellent recruiter.
Other Power 5 Names to Watch
Chris Ash, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Ohio State
Geoff Collins, Defensive Coordinator, Florida
Josh Conklin, Defensive Coordinator, Pittsburgh
Scott Frost, Offensive Coordinator, Oregon
David Gibbs, Defensive Coordinator, Texas Tech
Jeremy Pruitt, Defensive Coordinator, Georgia
Mike Sanford, Offensive Coordinator, Notre Dame
Kalani Sitake, Defensive Coordinator, Oregon State
Jake Spavital, Offensive Coordinator, Texas A&M
Other Group of 5 Names to Watch
Kevin Clune, Defensive Coordinator, Utah State
Eddie Gran, Offensive Coordinator, Cincinnati
Tyson Helton, Offensive Coordinator, WKU
Todd Orlando, Defensive Coordinator, Houston
Nick Rolovich, Offensive Coordinator, Nevada
Bryant Vincent, Offensive Coordinator, South Alabama
Marcel Yates, Defensive Coordinator, Boise State
The University of Southern California’s football program has once again made headlines for all the wrong reasons. On Monday, it was announced that Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian had been sent home from practice and placed on indefinite leave when it became clear to athletic director Pat Haden that Sarkisian was "not healthy." Then on Tuesday, Haden made Sarkisian's leave a permanent one and fired him after just a season and five games. While Haden would not go into further detail, reports began to surface about the exact nature of why he had been sent home and the evidence pointed in a familiar direction.
Back in late August, the university held its annual “Salute to Troy” event to raise money for athletics. At one point during the evening, Sarkisian got on stage to speak to the gathered crowd and instead began slurring his words and uttering expletives. As it turns out, Sarkisian was drunk and on painkillers that night. As one would expect, the result was a steady stream of backlash and calls for Sarkisian's job. At the time, many of these seemed like knee-jerk reactions and most of them would still qualify for the title, but now things have changed a little.
Disclaimer: I should throw in a little caveat here before I go too much further. I defended Sarkisian in the press following this incident and I still stand by that defense of him now. This situation does not change the context of that situation, but it does provide us with a more complete picture. Sarkisian wasn't a popular hire with everyone following the firing of then-head coach Lane Kiffin, and the “Salute to Troy” incident didn't exactly set his actions apart from his predecessor. That said, getting drunk at a rally and showing up impaired to mentor young men are absolutely not the same thing and, as I just said, the situation has now changed.
What should happen next is going to be a subject beaten to submission by the media in the coming days. You're likely to hear the hottest of takes from the experts who saw this coming from a mile away, and though the answers will be many, the questions asked are likely to be minimal. These situations are often judged through the lens of wins and losses or on-the-field successes. This situation is about so much more than; this situation is about addiction, trustworthiness and enabling.
There are several aspects of this situation worth exploring in great detail. Finding out exactly how much Haden knew about this problem prior to his hiring of Sarkisian is one that should be near the top of the list. Reputable Pacific Northwest media outlets have written about this subject before, so it's not like the information wasn't out there. Assessing what Haden knew, if anything, will be critical to any future actions taken by USC.
Haden somehow missed the bus on this one and it's just as important to find out whether he didn't look for this or didn't want to know about it. If Haden knowingly took this risk with the expectation that Sarkisian would fix it or win enough games to hide it, then he must be judged accordingly. If Haden had a notion but not the full picture, it's worth peeling back those layers in an effort to understand why an AD hired following the biggest athletic scandal in the school's history would only do a cursory background check on his next football coach. Either way, Haden has lost trust on this matter and earning it back may prove to be an impossible task.
It's also important to understand how long this has been going on for Sarkisian. It will be critical for the media to do a responsible job sifting through the stories that are sure to come out now that this has gone national for a second time. It's easy to find someone who can relay a drunken story about Sarkisian, but the focus should be on talking to people who truly understand how deep this went. Stories and anecdotes from former players and media can help fill in the gaps, but they're not going to provide the deeper narrative needed for this discussion, nor should they.
A person's mental health simply cannot be defined by a story here or a story there. Mental health and addiction deserve so much more than that right now. Wins and losses were never going to provide Sarkisian and his family the comfort and counseling they need to overcome this disease, so making this about wins and losses isn't any more likely to produce fruitful conversation. Any discussions of wins and losses does an incredible disservice to all involved and only moves the focus further away from where it needs to be.
Making this about results also shifts focus away from how long this has been going on and why staff members never spoke up before now. It would be incredibly irresponsible to suggest that someone directly enabled Sarkisian's drinking, but the culture of silence in football allows for situations like these to fester and grow into something much more unmanageable. If you believe media reports out of the Seattle area and those of the Los Angeles Times, these problems were present when Sarkisian was the head coach at fellow Pac-12 member Washington. Given that, it seems logical to conclude that the coaching staff also knew about this problem back then, too.
In an ideal situation, an athletic director would sit down with them and have in-depth discussion about the severity and duration of this problem. This brings us back to Haden and how much he should be entrusted to do what is necessary in an effort to find out how deep this runs. Haden had an obligation to these facts long before either of these incidents ever happened, so how did this happen twice and why was it allowed to continue? At the very minimum, it would seem logical to have someone external to the situation conducting these investigations.
Somehow, someway, this situation progressed beyond Haden’s and Sarkisian's control. Once Sarkisian's problem got out of hand, Haden's Sarkisian problem got out of hand with it. Something had to be done, but it is still critical that the school attempt to understand how this happened. After ten years of stories like these dominating the headlines, USC owe it to themselves to finally start asking some questions that matter.
— Written by Josh Webb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Webb is a recruiting analyst for BarkBoard, Scout’s Fresno State affiliate. A contributor to USCFootball.com, Scout’s USC affiliate. He is also a regular guest and contributor for Reign Of Troy, USC’s FanSided affiliate. Follow him on Twitter @FightOnTwist.
Week 5 brought some greta misfortune for fantasy owners, and the NFL as a whole losing Jamaal Charles. This will open the door for a new running back to fly off the waiver wires this week as well, but the situation in KC may not be as optimal as it seems at first.
The other thing that will need to be considered is Charles owners may not be the only ones looking for a running back this week. Owners of other dissapointing backs in Dallas, Denver or Cleveland may also be in the market for a new RB. By default Charcandrick West will be the top waiver add in Week 6 and you will need to pay a hefty price for him. Just be sure to know this is not a guarantee add, but one that may be essential.
Good luck this week everyone. If you are having issues with who to drop, or hold from your fantasy teams, be sure to check out my latest series called Patience or Panic where I analyze players who are under-performing and whether you need to cut bait or hold.
I will be here to guide you each and every week with some players who are owned less than 40 percent in ESPN.com leagues and could have an impact on your squad for this particular week or the rest of the season.
1. Charcandrick West, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (0.3 percent owned in ESPN.com leagues)
West was plugged in shortly after Jamaal Charles' tragic ACL injury Sunday. Knile Davis was the hand-cuff last season and in drafts this year but West has a similair skill set to Charles, which may have allowed him to leap frog Davis on the depth chart. For now it looks to be a time share, but if last weekend was any indication West was given seven carries to Davis’ two after Charles went down.
De’Anthony Thomas also may have hurdled Davis, as he had been seeing targets as a receiver prior to the injury. For now, West should be heavily targetted this week, especially by Charles owners. If you want him, pay for him but know there is risk.
2. Gary Barnidge, TE, Cleveland Browns (37.5 percent owned)
This train may have likely left already, but he was still less than 40 percent owned as of Week 5. His performance over the past three weeks alone has solidified him as a top-3 tight end and he is clearly one of Josh McCown’s favorite targets. If you happened to read my latest Patience or Panic post and own Jimmy Graham you can see where I am going with this. Barnidge is a perfect choice to bench Graham for.
He isn’t going anywhere and without too many dominant receiving options, Barndige is clearly a top target in Cleveland at this point. Scoop him up with confidence. He faces a tough Denver defense in Week 6, but after that should remain useful.
3. Willie Snead, WR, New Orleans Saints (29 percent owned)
Snead has quietly and oddly become one of Brees’ favorite targets this season. He has been playing plenty as well leaving most of us thinking he is going to stick around, and should continue to see work this season. Brandin Cooks also appears to have finally broken out of his shell, but you should know by now Brees can have more than one favorite receiver. Snead being owned this low is rather shocking to me, and with more byes coming he won’t be available for long, if at all.
4. Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars (27.5 percent owned)
Bortles puts up fantasy numbers consistently in 2015, but he does it in ugly fashion. He completes less than 55 percent of his passes, but he also throws it nearly 40 times or more a game, He also has used his feet to get rushing yards. Think of how much people used Tim Tebow back in the day. It may be ugly, but in fantasy that doesn’t matter. Points do and in Week 5 Bortles had 33.1 with four touchdowns. That makes for a cheap, and overlooked bye-week option, although he is dealing with sprained shoulder, so keep an eye on his practice participation and the injury reports.
DST Streamer(s) of the Week
I am a part of the streaming DST movement. I don’t typically waste a draft pick, unless I need to, in my drafts and instead cut someone and add a DST. Clearly the top defenses will be owned and not available, but streaming is always an option when it comes to DSTs. So each week I will be providing a DST that is owned in less than 30 percent of ESPN.com leagues and can be useful.
Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears (32.2 percent owned in ESPN.com leagues)
The Lions have an opportunistic defense and because of this have had some very good fantasy performances. This week they will get the Bears and quarterback Jay Cutler, who is known for his turnovers. Cutler also may be without some receiving weapons in Week 6, which could add to the Lions DST's fantasy appeal.
— Written by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including socalledfantasyexperts.com. Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)
Utah stands as the last remaining undefeated team in the Pac-12. Luck has nothing to do with the Utes reaching this point. Utah has been dominating opponents with one of its best defenses in a long history of strong defensive play.
The Utes certainly made a huge statement in beating California 30-24 on Saturday. The Bears entered the game with one of the nation's most productive offenses. Still, California could not generate any sort of sustained rhythm against Utah and finished 22 points below its previous per game scoring average.
College Football Podcast: Week 6 Recap
Here are three things we learned about the Utes in their victory over California:
1. Utah's defense knows how to force turnovers
California came into the game leading the nation in turnovers gained with 18. In the end, it was Utah that dominated the turnover battle. The Utes finished plus-three in the turnover margin. Utah had five interceptions in a single game for the first time since a 48-24 victory over BYU in 2008. The Utes had takeaways to end three of California's first four drives and held a 5-2 turnover advantage by halftime.
Utah now has 17 takeaways this season (12 interceptions and five fumble recoveries). Sophomore safety Marcus Williams and junior cornerback Dominique Hatfield have been the catalyst for many of those takeaways. Williams leads the team with four interceptions and Hatfield is second with three picks. Hatfield had a pair of interceptions against the Bears, while Williams added a reception and recovered a fumble.
2. Devontae Booker is poised for another special season
Booker shifted into full beast mode against the California defense. The senior churned out a season-high 222 rushing yards and a pair of touchdown runs on a season-high 34 carries. It was just his second career 200-yard game. It also marked the ninth highest single-game total by a Utah running back. Booker now ranks eighth in school history with 2,177 career yards and is tied for 10th with 16 rushing touchdowns.
Utah's offense might need to rely on a heavy dose of Booker making plays on the ground once again this season. Senior quarterback Travis Wilson struggled to move the chains even when working with good field position created by turnovers. Wilson passed for just 170 yards while tossing one touchdown and two interceptions on 16-of-26 attempts. His inconsistency is one reason why the Utes scored just 17 points on six takeaways.
3. Utah has a strong Playoff resume
At 5-0, Utah is off to its best start since 2010 when the Utes won eight straight games to open the season. If Utah keeps winning, claiming a Pac-12 championship might not be the only thing in the picture. The Utes also could end up being one of four teams selected for the College Football Playoff in December and earn a shot to play for a national championship.
No other top-10 team has as strong of a Playoff resume at this point compared to the Utes. Utah already has victories over Top 25 teams Michigan and California and is the only team to defeat either school so far. Fresno State is the only team Utah has beaten that currently has a losing record.
— Written by John Coon,who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.
With this being Week 7 it's hard to believe the college fantasy football season is more than halfway through. Hopefully your team is in good shape as you make your push towards a possible championship.
Athlon has teamed up with college fantasy veterans CollegeFootballGeek.com to help you dominate in 2015! Over the course of the season, CFG will be providing insight into their weekly value plays, as well as helping you identify the top waiver wire candidates to bolster your lineups.
Whether you play daily or season-long college fantasy football, CollegeFootballGeek.com (@CFFGeek) prepares you to win with the best advice, tools and customer service in the industry — they've been doing it since 2008. Click here to learn how you can subscribe to CFG for FREE.
Below, you will find AthlonSports.com contributor and CFG writer Mike Bainbridge's five best waiver wire pickups for Week 6. To see the full in-depth article of over 50+ players, make sure to check out CollegeFootballGeek.com.
Algernon Brown (RB, BYU)
CFG was on Brown as a potential add to your roster last week with the news that Adam Hine is out for what looks to be an extended amount time with an ankle injury. The only hesitation was that he was potentially splitting time with freshman Francis Bernard, who impressed the staff enough to garner more carries as well. That was not the case against East Carolina, though, as Brown carried the rock 24 times for 134 yards and three touchdowns compared to just eight touches for Bernard. If that distribution in carries remains the same, Brown is a must-add if still sitting on the waiver wire.
Sony Michel (RB, Georgia)
There is a slim chance Michel is even available at this point due to the consistent amount of touches he receives even as the backup, but jump on him now if for some reason that remains the case. With Nick Chubb done for the season after suffering a gruesome knee injury on Saturday, Michel will now be thrust into the No. 1 role. We saw the potential Michel has as a starting running back, rushing for 145 yards in the loss to the Volunteers, though he will need to work on ball control as Michel had a crucial fumble late in the first half that eventually led to a Tennessee touchdown. Michel is not Chubb, but is a big-time talent at the position and will thrive as the starter.
Anthony Wales (RB, Western Kentucky)
The thought here was once Wales was 100 percent healthy, he would take over as the Hilltoppers' starting running back, and that looks to have happened this past Saturday against Middle Tennessee. With both Wales and Leon Allen out with injury, freshman D’Andre Ferby had taken reps with the starters the previous three weeks and performed well – 231 yards and four touchdowns. Against MTSU, Wales had 19 carries for 111 yards compared to just eight for Ferby. Our expectation is that Wales is the starter from here on out.
Michael Thomas (WR, Southern Miss)
Slot receiver Casey Martin leads the team in receptions by a wide margin, but it is Thomas who has been finding the end zone of late for Southern Miss with four touchdown catches in the last two games. In addition to that, Thomas now has three straight 100-yard performances, including 109 yards and a score last week against Marshall, which is currently ranked in the top third of FBS teams in pass defense. Southern Miss’ schedule is as soft as can be the rest of the way, with three of its next four opponents ranked 100th or worse in pass defense. Good opportunity for Thomas to continue his recent success.
Justin Hobbs (WR, Tulsa)
The initial belief was that it would be Conner Floyd taking over in place of star receiver Keevan Lucas, who is out for the season with a knee injury. Against ULM, it was the freshman Hobbs who thrived in the No. 3 role with 82 receiving yards and a score. We saw how successful the past few weeks Joshua Atkinson was in the Tulsa offense in a similar role, so the expectation is for Hobbs to fulfill that spot in the rotation and put up similar numbers. Tulsa averages 41 passing attempts per game so there should be ample opportunity for Hobbs to catch the football.
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and current writer for CollegeFootballGeek.com. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeBainbridge2.
Midweek college football action returns on Tuesday night, as Arkansas State travels to Mobile to take on South Alabama in the second Sun Belt game for both teams in 2015. This matchup marks the first of back-to-back Tuesday night contests for the Red Wolves, while the Jaguars only play one pre-Thursday matchup this season.
Arkansas State was picked by some to win the Sun Belt this season, and this team has faced its share of ups and downs so far. The Red Wolves lost by 49 at USC in the opener but gave Missouri all it could handle the following Saturday before losing 27-20. Blake Anderson’s team earned wins over Missouri State and Idaho and also dropped a 37-7 game to Toledo on Sept. 26. Injuries to a few key players have played a role in Arkansas State's record so far.
South Alabama’s resume is similar to its conference foe, as the Jaguars were handled in losses to Power 5 opponents Nebraska and NC State and knocked off Gardner-Webb and San Diego State. South Alabama opened conference play on Oct. 3 with a win over Troy (24-18). While the Red Wolves were picked by some to win the Sun Belt, the Jaguars were projected to finish in the middle of the league. Coach Joey Jones faced a significant rebuilding effort in 2015 with just five returning starters.
Arkansas State owns a 3-0 series edge over South Alabama. The Red Wolves won last year’s meeting 45-10 in Jonesboro but two of the matchups were decided by a touchdown or less.
Arkansas State at South Alabama
Kickoff: Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Spread: Arkansas State -4.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Arkansas State Quarterback Fredi Knighten
All signs point to Knighten returning to the starting lineup after missing the last three games due to a groin injury suffered in the 27-20 loss to Missouri. Knighten struggled against USC and Missouri, managing only 183 passing yards in two games and a completion percentage of 41.3. However with nearly a month off from game action, Knighten should be close to full strength and should resemble the player that passed for 3,277 yards and 24 scores and rushed for 779 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. The senior will test a South Alabama defense giving up 35.8 points per game in 2015.
2. Turnovers and Red Zone Performance
With a close game anticipated, an edge in turnovers or red zone scores could be the difference. Both teams have struggled with giveaways in 2015. Arkansas State is tied for eighth in the Sun Belt with a minus-five margin, while South Alabama enters this game with a minus-three total. The level of competition has factored into these totals, but both teams have to do a better job taking care of the ball on Tuesday night. Additionally, which team can score seven instead of three inside the red zone? South Alabama ranks last in the Sun Belt with a 71.4 conversion rate, while Arkansas State is ninth with a 77.8 mark.
3. Battle of Running Backs
The Sun Belt is home to some of the top running backs in the Group of 5 ranks, including Georgia Southern’s Matt Breida, UL Lafayete’s Elijah McGuire, Appalachian State’s Marcus Cox and New Mexico State’s Larry Rose III. And on Tuesday night, Arkansas State’s Michael Gordon or South Alabama’s Xavier Johnson will have a chance to showcase their talent. Gordon finished fifth in the Sun Belt last season with 1,100 rushing yards, while Johnson recorded 438 yards on 81 attempts. After starting the year behind Terrance Timmons and Tyreis Thomas on the depth chart, Johnson has climbed to the No. 1 spot. The sophomore has impressed through the first five games, averaging 6.4 yards per carry on 64 attempts. Both teams are giving up their share of yardage on the ground, so Johnson and Gordon could be in for huge performances.
Midweek college football is never a bad thing, and this matchup has potential to be an entertaining game thanks to the offenses. Arkansas State’s offense is capable of putting up points in a hurry, and South Alabama can match with the steady play of quarterback Cody Clements and an athletic group of skill players. If Knighten is at full strength, he should be the difference in this game.
Prediction: Arkansas State 31, South Alabama 24
First there were rumors about Rick Kaczenski (a Nebraska football defensive line coach under Bo Pelini) potentially leaking unflattering messages about the current staff to their players. Then former defensive lineman Jason Peter outed him on the radio.
At that point, it seemed like the issue was put to rest, but more prominent voices have spoken out regarding the scandal.
Another former Nebraska defensive lineman had words about Kaczenski. Adam Carriker (a Cornhusker from 2003-06) writes a weekly Facebook series called the Carriker Chronicles and did not hold back in the Oct. 11 edition.
“We have a former Nebraska coach (Rick Kaczenski) texting current players, trying to undermine the new coaching staff & messing with the psyche of young college kids. I’m not even going to say how glad I am that he doesn’t work here anymore.
I’m not going to express how unfortunate it is that a person who conducts himself like that, was ever involved with the football program to begin with. I won’t even touch on how I consider what he’s done to just be pathetic. No, I won’t say any of those things. Instead I’ll just simply say, get a life, and what in the blue hell is wrong with you?!”
Strong words from the former St. Louis Ram and Washington Redskin.
Interestingly enough, following Nebraska’s practice on Monday, local media took to asking questions of their own about the alleged communications.
Defensive tackle Maliek Collins was more than happy to share his feelings.
From the Omaha World-Herald:
"Just for the record, he wouldn't say anything like that," Collins said. "I'm a captain, if he were saying those types of things, he'd be saying them to me and that ain't what I represent. Just for the record: He hasn't said anything like that. I respect the hell out of the man," Collins said."
According to the World-Herald, he declined comment when asked for his opinion of former players’ critiques.
When Collins was told that a few ex-players — including Peter and Carriker — insinuated Kaczenski was trying to negatively influence the players, he dismissed the idea. “it’s just something else to distract us, man."
It’s completely understandable for him to back the guy that brought him into the world of college football and most importantly in this case, Nebraska football. He’s currently adjusting to a new position coach in Hank Hughes and regime under head coach Mike Riley. That in itself can be a load on a player’s mind.
However, Peter had words for reporters who suggested he simply alluded to any contact. Rather, there was no question about it:
I'd appreciate it if local media,when asking a player a ?,dont "insinuate" anything if my name is in the ? What u reported @OWHnews is wrong— Jason Peter (@jasonpeter) October 13, 2015
This situation appears to have plenty of layers. Will someone else from the past or the present speak up or is this the last we hear of any Kaczenski contact?
Week 5 has come and gone and another devastating injury strikes the NFL (and fantasy), as it loses another of its biggest stars in Jamaal Charles. The season-ending torn ACL will open the door for Charcandrick West and Knile Davis, who have nowhere near the explosiveness or talent as Charles, but will be some of the biggest names on the waiver wire this week.
As if this fantasy season couldn’t have more injuries, twists and surprises the fact I am able to easily come up with names for this post should say a lot. Once again there are four players I will delve into below who are simply not playing up to their preseason expectations and carry plenty of concern.
I hope to help you decide to temper the storm for another week, bench some surprising bums, or simply cut bait. So without further ado, let’s decide...
Patience or Panic?
Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinatti Bengals (Averaging 10.2 fantasy points per game)
Hill has five touchdowns on the season and two very productive fantasy weeks so far. However his 63 yards rushing in Week 1 are the most he has had this season, and as most feared in Week 5 the stout Seahawks defense held him in check with 25 yards. Needless to say he is losing carries to Giovani Bernard, and much like C.J. Anderson has not done enough to seperate himself from Bernard to reassure his owners.
The Verdict: Panic (bench or trade)
Hill like so many other players mentioned in this series was taken very high in fantasy drafts. Aside from his five touchdowns in two weeks Hill has rewarded his owners with a 4.6-, 2.1- and 3-point weeks in .5 point PPR leagues. He also gets a tough Buffalo Bills defense on Sunday and then has a bye week. Time to panic, but not drop yet. Perhaps an owner will bite on his potential and name and you can flip him. Target a Jamaal Charles owner perhaps.
2. Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle Seahawks (8.58 FPPG)
Graham has the same issue as Jeremy Hill but with less touchdowns. The Seahawks offense is simply not set up to utilize Graham as a top weapon. He complained and got some extra attention in Week 3, but with a run game featuring Marshawn Lynch (when healthy, Thomas Rawls for now) and a mobile quarterback, Graham is not a featured target.
The Verdict: PANIC
This is definitely a panic situation, but not a cut bait-type of panic, at least not yet. Graham is another big game you simply don’t want to bench but I don’t think anyone should continue feeling forced to play him. When there are other options out there who are seeing more targets and consisitent production, Graham’s name alone should not be keeping owners plugging him in automatically every week. You may need to, I understand that, but if you have options, why not use them?
3. Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos (17.1 FPPG)
Manning has not been a top-10 fantasy QB like most were hoping for this season. His weapons remain, but Denver's transition to a run-heavy team has not gone smoothly to say the least, further compounding Manning's struggles. He has thrown six touchdowns this season, but more concerning are his seven interceptions.
The Verdict: Patience (at least for one more week)
Manning has been awful all things considered and once again carries a name that over-shadows his performance. He also is the No. 22 fantasy QB to date, and has shown no signs of rapid improvement. He seems to have lost his touch and some zing to his throws, and both are contributing to the increase in turnovers. If, and that is a big IF the ground game can return perhaps Manning will rebound too.
I wouldn’t count on it however, and seeing that many other quarterbacks continue to exceed expectations, the time to bench Manning if he struggles in Week 6 against Cleveland has arrived.
4. Dallas Cowboys Running Backs
The definition of a Running Back By Committee (RBBC), the Cowboys have been literally a revolving door at the position as Dallas has tired everything. Joseph Randle is the starter but hasn't been able to seize the role, which has given Darren McFadden plenty of opportunity to remain in the conversation.
The problem is that McFadden hasn't exactly shined when given the touches, so for the time being, Randle's standing atop the depth chart appears safe. However, Randle's limited workload (5-10 total touches each week), only muddies the backfield situation in Big D.
The Verdict: Patience
Running back is a nightmare at the moment, and even though I would prefer not to start any of the Dallas options, some may not have any other choice. The potential for Randle to explode like he did Week 3 (105 total yards, 3 rushing TDs) will always exist, but can’t be guaranteed. There are also those who think it is only a matter of time before the flashy and talented Christine Michael will get his chance and run with it in the future.
Bottom line, if you can avoid using a Cowboy RB, do it. If not play Randle for now, but it may be worth stashing Michael this week if he is still available in your league.
— Written by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including socalledfantasyexperts.com. Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.