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New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - The NFL will not issue any discipline to five St. Louis Rams players who displayed a show of support to the protesters in nearby Ferguson, Missouri prior to Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders.
As the Rams' offense was introduced, wide receivers Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Kenny Britt and Chris Givens and tight end Jared Cook all stood together and raised their arms to pay homage to those who protested a recent grand jury decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting African-American teenager Michael Brown in August.
The verdict triggered a wave of riots and looting in the St. Louis suburb.
The St. Louis Police Officers Association condemned the players' actions while calling upon the NFL to hand out some sort of punishment, but the league denied that request in a statement issued Monday.
"We respect and understand the concerns of all individuals who have expressed views on this tragic situation," NFL vice president of communications Brian McCarthy said in the statement.
Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said after his team's 52-0 win over the Raiders that he was unaware of the players' intentions to conduct the gesture, which drew the ire of SLPOA and prompted the organization to demand a public apology from the NFL.
"The St. Louis Police Officers Association is profoundly disappointed with the members of the St. Louis Rams football team who chose to ignore the mountains of evidence released from the St. Louis County Grand Jury this week and engage in a display that police officers around the nation found tasteless, offensive and inflammatory," the SLPOA stated.
"I know that there are those that will say that these players are simply exercising their First Amendment rights," said SLPOA business manager Jeff Roorda. "Well, I've got news for people who think that way -- cops have first amendment rights, too, and we plan to exercise ours. I'd remind the NFL and their players that it is not the violent thugs burning down buildings that buy their advertiser's products. It's cops and the good people of St. Louis and other NFL towns that do. Somebody needs to throw a flag on this play. If it's not the NFL and the Rams, then it'll be cops and their supporters."
Berea, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel?
Browns coach Mike Pettine isn't ready to make that decision just yet.
Pettine said Monday he'll announce on Wednesday who will start at quarterback for this Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts. He added that general manager Ray Farmer will be in on the meetings.
"Not ready to make a decision on that at this point," Pettine said. "Not leaning one way or the other."
Hoyer was benched early in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 26-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Manziel stepped in and engineered an 8-play, 80-yard drive that he capped with a 10-yard touchdown scramble.
Manziel, of course, performed his "money sign" celebration following his first NFL touchdown. He ended the game 5-of-8 for 63 yards, forcing the Browns into a critical decision about the team's future of the quarterback position.
Hoyer completed 18-of-30 passes for 192 yards and two interceptions before being benched. In the past three games, Hoyer has thrown only one touchdown pass and six interceptions.
Manziel, selected with the 22nd overall pick in May's draft, doesn't shy away from the spotlight. He was fined $12,000 by the NFL for a hand gesture (flipping the bird) that he made in a preseason loss to the Washington Redskins.
The flashy Manziel recently made headlines for an altercation that took place at an apartment complex in Cleveland last week, as a fan alleged that the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner and his "entourage" assaulted him and his brother.
The 7-5 Browns enter Sunday's game tied with Pittsburgh and Baltimore for second place in the AFC North.
Nashville, TN (SportsNetwork.com) - Tennessee Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger's shoulder injury is not believed to be serious, head coach Ken Whisenhunt told reporters on Monday.
The Titans are hopeful he'll be able to play Sunday against the Giants.
Mettenberger suffered a Grade 1 sprain of his AC joint following a big hit from J.J. Watt in the third quarter of Sunday's 45-21 loss to the Texans.
Jake Locker, who was replaced by Mettenberger as the Titans' starter last month, came on in relief, and his first pass was intercepted. Locker was picked off twice and tossed for 91 yards and a touchdown on 6-of-12 throws.
Mettenberger threw for 184 yards with a touchdown and an interception before leaving.
Whisenhunt also provided an update on wide receiver Justin Hunter, who suffered a lacerated spleen Sunday and was taken to an area hospital. Whisenhunt said he should be released in the next day or two, but didn't comment on Hunter's status going forward.
The Cleveland Cavaliers just began a campaign to get the 2018 NBA All-Star Game at the Quicken Loans Arena. LeBron James, as has been a trend for him lately, has already publicly reminded everybody who’s boss in Ohio, and undermined his franchise’s momentum with the effort.
"It would be too much for me," James said to reporters Tuesday, before his team’s 11-108 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, in which James collected 26 points and 10 assists. "It would be too much for me. I think it would be great for us to host (the All-Star game), but hopefully I'm no good in that year if we get it. Too much for me. I don't want it. My family, friends — I don't want it. Too much.”
In his second time around with the Cavs, James has been able to get things the way he wants them so far. He seems to hold more authority over his roster than rookie coach David Blatt, often acting as a de facto disciplinarian for a crew that he, at least partially, hand-picked. Mike Miller, James Jones and Shawn Marion were recruited by James this summer, while Tristan Thompson is largely believed to have survived the Kevin Love trade because he shares an agent with James, Rich Paul.
LeBron’s also already taken to the media, before, to critique fellow Cavs. Kyrie Irving’s ballhogging has been noted in so many words by the King, and he’s also openly wondered about the legitimacy of some of Blatt’s pedagogy. James has pushed the envelope in terms of how powerful a figure can be as an NBA player. He’s got an organization in the palm of his hand — and if he threatened to enter free agency again (a possibility in 2015, as James’ new contract has an opt-out clause) he could easily hold dominion over quite a few other teams, too.
— John Wilmes
The original reality TV show is sports. No contrived setting where seven strangers living in a house or one bachelor searching for love can match the excitement the Iron Bowl delivered last fall.
The beauty of college football lies in its complete unpredictability and drama. Here are some outrageous predictions for Week 15.
Note: The point of this column is to have some fun and make some outlandish predictions. Please react accordingly.
Two top 5 teams will lose
Something crazy always happens on Championship Weekend in college football. Four 10-win teams will face four top-six teams in championship games and Baylor hosts Kansas State. With six teams vying for four spots, the committee should be rooting hard for two top-five teams to lose this weekend. Never fear, it will happen. (My bet is Baylor and Ohio State).
There will be no controversy with the final four
Yup, the most outlandish of all predictions is that there will be no story when the Playoff Committee announces the final four. Should two of the top five lose (as I’m predicting), then the committee will have an easy job picking the top four. And as I predicted at the beginning of the season, the only story when the tournament is set is that there won’t be a story.
The Big 12 will have one true champion
No matter who wins the Baylor-Kansas State game, the Big 12 will have one true champion. Tiebreakers have been a part of determining championships in sports for a century and why should it change now? If Baylor wins, it will have played everyone in the Big 12 and won the league fair and square. If Kansas State wins, TCU will have played everyone in the Big 12 and won the league fair and square. Give the Big 12 a break, it’s not like some other leagues…
Listen to the Week 14 recap podcast:
The American Athletic Conference will have three "true" champions
Unlike the Big 12, the AAC will have a tie atop their conference standings but won’t have a clear-cut tiebreaker. Memphis is in the clubhouse at 7-1 and UCF will likely beat ECU to finish 7-1 as well. Cincinnati needs to beat Houston at home to also join the mix at 7-1. Unfortunately, UCF didn’t play either Memphis or Cincy so there is no way to know who the true champion is in the AAC. A three-way tie without tiebreakers is the real joke, not the Big 12.
A Heisman preseason front-runner will win the Trophy at a school that’s never won the award
This is outrageous because a true preseason front-runner hasn’t won the Heisman Trophy in years (Ricky Williams? Ron Dayne?). When Marcus Mariota exacts his revenge upon Arizona this Friday, look for the Oregon Ducks to win their first-ever Heisman Trophy. Mariota was the preseason favorite and has gone essentially wire-to-wire as the best player in the game.
Athlon Sports has formed a Heisman Trophy committee. Each week, we will ask 13 members of the national college football media to rank their top candidates for the Heisman Trophy.
Each voter will rank their top five candidates, with each first-place vote getting five points and each last-place vote getting one point.
Stewart Mandel, FOX Sports
Dave Revsine, Big Ten Network
Adam Zucker, CBS Sports
Steven Godfrey, SBNation
Zac Ellis, Sports Illustrated
Bryan Fischer, NFL.com
Tom Dienhart, Big Ten Network
Barrett Sallee, Bleacher Report, B/R Radio
Josh Ward, MrSEC.com
Mitch Light, Athlon Sports
David Fox, Athlon Sports
Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports
Braden Gall, Athlon Sports, SiriusXM
Dropped out: Bryce Petty, Brett Hundley
Listen to the Week 14 recap podcast:
The Top 3:
1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
Mariota is playing on another planet. With a national title hanging in the balance on the road against an archrival, Mariota accounted for six touchdowns and more than 400 yards of total offense. Among all players, his 9.31 yards per play is No. 2 nationally (New Mexico's Jhurell Pressley), his 342.2 yards per game is No. 5, his 36 passing touchdowns are No. 2 and his 190.2 passer rating is No. 1. Should he exact revenge on Arizona in the Pac-12 title game, the Heisman Trophy will land in Eugene for the first time in history.
Season Stats: 3,470 yds, 68.6%, 36 TDs, 2 INTs, 636 rush yds, 11 TDs
2. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
In a winner-take-all situation against an archrival, Gordon was excellent once again. In fact, in the most critical situations, Gordon was dominant in the final three weeks of the regular season against Nebraska (408 yds, 4 TD), Iowa (200 yds, 2 TD) and Minnesota (151 yds, TD). He is leading the nation in rushing yards (2,260) and rushing touchdowns (26). He needs 368 yards to break Barry Sanders’ single-season rushing record and has two games to do it. In any other year, Gordon would have locked up the Heisman over the last three weeks.
Season Stats: 283 att., 2,260 yds, 26 TDs, 17 rec., 151 yds, 2 TDs
3. Amari Cooper, Alabama
With a trip to the College Football Playoff on the line, Cooper posted the best game of his career. The Crimson Tide wideout was the difference-maker for Alabama against Auburn in the second half, catching 13 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns. He is third nationally with 103 receptions, second with 1,573 yards and second with 14 touchdowns. Should Cooper finish among the top three in Heisman voting, it would be the highest showing by a wide receiver since Larry Fitzgerald was the runner-up in 2003.
Season Stats: 103 rec., 1,573 yds, 14 TDs
For a challenge between the strongest major conference from top to bottom a year ago (the Big 12) against the most top heavy (the SEC), this year’s event has surprisingly interesting matchups.
The headliner, Texas’ trip to Kentucky, matches two teams with Final Four aspirations and star-studded frontcourts. Arkansas and Iowa State should meet in an entertaining up-and-down affair. The matchup in Morgantown features one overachieving team (West Virginia) with one still struggling to find its way (LSU).
Of course, there are a few clunkers. Missouri-Oklahoma and Baylor-Vanderbilt would be more interesting in other seasons. Perhaps Florida-Kansas could use a Gators team that’s not stumbling into Lawrence.
For the Big 12, the challenge is a chance to establish the kind of depth that allowed the league to send seven of its 10 teams to the NCAA Tournament. For the SEC, the challenge is an opportunity to undo some of those embarrassing losses from the first three weeks of the season.
Auburn at Texas Tech
9 p.m., SEC Network
Bruce Pearl and Tubby Smith won two games apiece when the former was at Tennessee and the latter was at Kentucky. Both are building from the ground up at their new jobs. Texas Tech is projected to finish last in the Big 12 but took LSU to overtime earlier this season. Auburn hopes to get a boost by the return of Antoine Mason from an ankle injury. Mason, a transfer from Niagara, is the nation’s top returning scorer this season.
LSU at West Virginia
7 p.m., ESPN2
West Virginia is off to a surprising start at 7-0 this season, headlined by a 78-68 win over Connecticut on Nov. 23. The Mountaineers, in the NIT a year ago, lead the nation in forcing turnovers on 32.4 percent of possessions, according to KenPom.com. LSU is one of the nation’s most disappointing teams early in the season. Johnny Jones has an NCAA-caliber roster, but the Tigers have lost to Old Dominion and Clemson.
Baylor at Vanderbilt
7 p.m., ESPNU
Baylor’s chances to win at Memorial Gym will improve if point guard Kenny Chery is healthy. He’s missed the last three games, including a 64-54 loss to Illinois in which Baylor had nine assists and 15 turnovers. Vanderbilt will have a size advantage with 6-10 sophomore Damian Jones against an uncharacteristically small Baylor lineup.
Arkansas at Iowa State
9 p.m., ESPN2
This has potential to be the most entertaining game of the SEC-Big 12 Challenge. The two teams are averaging a combined 170 points per game and both are in the top 25 in tempo, according to KenPom.com. After being on the NCAA fringe for a few years under Mike Anderson, Arkansas will look to pick up a key non-conference win while Iowa State will look to come back from a 72-63 loss to Maryland on Nov. 25.
TCU at Ole Miss
9 p.m., ESPNU
TCU won’t win the Big 12, but it could win the state of Mississippi. The Horned Frogs have defeated Mississippi Valley State and Mississippi State already this season. The Rebels, though, will be the toughest of the three. Ole Miss, like most SEC schools, has taken a bad non-conference loss (Charleston Southern), but came back to defeat Creighton and Cincinnati in a Thanksgiving tournament.
Texas at Kentucky
7 p.m., ESPN
We’ve been burned before saying this, so tread lightly when we say the following: Texas is legit. The Longhorns entered the season with the most experience in the Big 12, and they’re playing like it. Texas defeated Iowa and Cal in Madison Square Garden, and most impressively, the Longhorns defeated Connecticut on the road without point guard Isaiah Taylor. Winning in Lexington against this squad without Taylor (broke wrist) will be a tougher task. With its deep cast of bigs, Kentucky will be a tough matchup in an area that’s usually an advantage for Texas with Jonathan Holmes, Myles Turner and Cameron Ridley.
Florida at Kansas
9 p.m., ESPN
Kansas has rebounded since Kentucky dominated the matchup in Indianapolis. The Jayhawks handled Rhode Island, Tennessee and Michigan State in the Orlando Classic during the Thanksgiving weekend. Worth watching will be the use of the Jayhawks’ freshmen. Cliff Alexander has yet to start, and Kelly Oubre isn’t even cracking 10 minutes per game. Florida didn’t have nearly as much success in its holiday tournament, losing to Georgetown and North Carolina in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Injuries and suspensions have shortened Billy Donovan’s bench, but while last year’s Florida team found a way to win shorthanded, this team is struggling.
Missouri at Oklahoma
9:30 p.m., ESPNU
Oklahoma was billed as a sleeper contender in the Big 12, especially after Houston transfer TaShawn Thomas was declared eligible. The Sooners have yet to look the part, especially on the offensive end of the floor by shooting less than 40 percent from the floor in losses to Wisconsin and Creighton. That said, the Sooners should cruise at home against a rebuilding Missouri team that was outclassed by Arizona and Purdue in Maui.
Oklahoma State at South Carolina
Oklahoma State’s Le’Bryan Nash (18.3 points per game) and Phil Forte (17.2) are doing just fine without Marcus Smart and Markel Brown, thank you very much. The Cowboys are 6-0 but have yet to play a true road game. Meanwhile, the rebuilding job at South Carolina is still a slow go. The Gamecocks have already lost to Charlotte and Akron.
Kansas State at Tennessee
3:15 p.m., ESPN2
Kansas State needs a confidence boost in a major way. Bruce Weber’s squad was projected as an NCAA team, but the Wildcats have already lost to Long Beach State on the road and by 33 to Pittsburgh in the Maui Invitational. Those are not the kinds of things top-half Big 12 teams should be doing. An NCAA investigation stemming from Donnie Tyndall’s days at Southern Miss is looming over the Volunteers as they’re simply struggling to put a competitive team on the court.
Athlon Sports Staff Picks
|Game||David Fox||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||Nathan Rush|
|Auburn at Texas Tech||Texas Tech||Auburn||Auburn||Auburn|
|LSU at West Virginia||West Virginia||West Virginia||West Virginia||West Virginia|
|Baylor at Vanderbilt||Vanderbilt||Baylor||Vanderbilt||Vanderbilt|
|Arkansas at Iowa State||Iowa State||Arkansas||Iowa State||Iowa State|
|TCU at Ole Miss||Ole Miss||TCU||Ole Miss||Ole Miss|
|Texas at Kentucky||Kentucky||Kentucky||Kentucky||Kentucky|
|Florida at Kansas||Kansas||Kansas||Kansas||Kansas|
|Missouri at Oklahoma||Oklahoma||Oklahoma||Oklahoma||Oklahoma|
|Oklahoma State at South Carolina||Oklahoma State||Oklahoma State||South Carolina||Oklahoma State|
|Kansas State at Tennessee||Kansas State||Kansas State||Kansas State||Kansas State|
|Final Tally||Big 12 7-3||Big 12 7-3||Tie 5-5||Big 12 6-4|
In general, the best advice about the weekly playoff rankings is to take a deep breath and move on.
If there’s a time before the final playoff pairings to wonder just what is going on in that committee room in Dallas and wonder if some teams were better off with the BCS, this is that time.
Again, panic is not advised, but if that's your bag, we grant you permission.
TCU and Baylor have identical records in the same conference. Baylor defeated TCU by three points on the field yet TCU is three spots ahead of Baylor in the rankings. TCU is a playoff team this week. Baylor is not.
Meanwhile, Florida State is the only undefeated team in the country, yet the Seminoles are fourth. Florida State is a playoff team this week, but next week...
The selection committee is less than a week from setting the first College Football Playoff matchups in the history of the sport, and we have more questions than answers.
Let’s start with the Big 12, where the irony of the league’s “One True Champion” slogan is not lost.
In the event that No. 6 Baylor defeats No. 9 Kansas State and No. 3 TCU defeats Iowa State in the final week, Baylor and TCU will be tied for the lead of the only Power Five conference that doesn’t have a title game.
The selection committee will not play the role of tiebreaker. Neither will the Big 12, which will declare teams co-champions in case of a tie.
“We will not determine a champion for the Big 12,” said selection committee chairman Jeff Long, the athletic director at Arkansas. “We have not had the discussions on what if there is a co-champion.”
And despite the head-to-head result in Waco, Long says the committee believes TCU to be the better team. TCU has defeated three teams with winning records (No. 20 Oklahoma, Minnesota and West Virginia) while Baylor has defeated two teams with winning records (No. 20 Oklahoma and TCU).
In essence, that makes TCU’s 30-7 win over to four-loss Minnesota one of the most important results of the season.
“I can tell you it is contributing,” Long said. “But I can’t put a value on how much that MInnesota victory is contributing to the difference between the two teams.”
And then there’s Florida State. During the BCS era, the idea of the lone undefeated power conference team slipping out of the championship picture would be unfathomable.
Yet Florida State, thanks to a series of uneven play and close games against the ACC schedule and unusually weak Florida and Notre Dame teams, has put the Seminoles at No. 4.
Long won’t entertain predicting scenarios in which an undefeated FSU fails to make the playoff, but he said the Seminoles are in a “strong position” at No. 4. Florida State plays No. 11 Georgia Tech in Charlotte in the ACC title game.
FSU may be in a strong position. Perhaps TCU is, too. But the selection committee now is facing a situation where all four teams in Week 14 could win and yet one or more could be out of the top four in Week 15. Either that, or the committee could devalue a head-to-head result in the name of “body of work.”
Or they could all hope for the right loss to keep the huffing and puffing to a minimum.
“We’re waiting for results now,” Long said. “We’re waiting for teams to complete their body of work. We work hard not to project out. With that regard, the top four teams to this point are ranked where the committee believes they should be.”
|College Football Playoff Rankings: Dec. 2|
|1. Alabama||10. Mississippi State||18. Clemson|
|2. Oregon||11. Georgia Tech||19. Auburn|
|3. TCU||12. Ole Miss||20. Oklahoma|
|4. Florida State||13. Wisconsin||21. Louisville|
|5. Ohio State||14. Georgia||22. Boise State|
|6. Baylor||15. UCLA||23. Utah|
|7. Arizona||16. Missouri||24. LSU|
|8. Michigan State||17. Arizona State||25. USC|
|9. Kansas State|
Wait and see on Ohio State
The selection committee wasn’t ready to pass judgement on the injury to quarterback J.T. Barrett just yet. The Buckeyes are ranked fifth despite a season-ending injury to their Heisman contender. Long wouldn’t call it a one-game body of work for a Cardale Jones-led Ohio State team, but it sure feels that way. The committee’s directive is to take injuries into account, and few injuries will have much of an impact as Barrett’s at this stage of the season.
“We're going to be watching how he plays and how he leads that team, and that's certainly part of the evaluation that the committee will weigh,” Long said. “But it's a team game.”
Who Should Worry:
A bit of a mea culpa: We’ve had TCU in this spot for two consecutive weeks only to watch the Horned Frogs move to No. 3. Now, Baylor may be the one in trouble. The selection committee has been consistent in ranking TCU ahead of Baylor despite the head-to-head result. Perhaps defeating Kansas State will change that, but a three-spot gulf feels awfully tough to overcome without help.
Who Should be Pleasantly Surprised:
In the event of chaos at the top of the rankings, perhaps no team is better positioned than Arizona at No. 7. The Wildcats moved up from No. 11 after a win over Arizona State to become the highest-ranked two-loss team. Arizona can help its case in the Pac-12 title game against No. 2 Oregon. The three other conference title game participants facing playoff contenders are ranked outside of the to 10 (No. 11 Georgia Tech, No. 13 Wisconsin and No. 16 Missouri).
If the Season Ended Today:
Sugar: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Florida State
Rose: No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 3 TCU
Other bowls (projected)
Cotton: No. 6 Baylor vs. No. 5 Ohio State
Fiesta: No. 22 Boise State* vs. No. 7 Arizona
Orange: No. 11 Georgia Tech^ vs. No. 8 Michigan State
Peach: No. 9 Kansas State vs. No. 10 Mississippi State
*automatic Group of 5 bid
^automatic ACC bid to Orange Bowl
Michigan is the second Big Ten coaching position to open this offseason, as coach Brady Hoke was fired on Tuesday. Hoke went 31-20 in four seasons with the Wolverines, including an 11-2 record in 2011. However, since leading Michigan to a Sugar Bowl appearance and winning 11 games, the Wolverines are just 20-18 and missed out on a bowl in 2014.
Hoke was hailed as a “Michigan Man” when he was hired in 2011. Will the Wolverines look for a “Michigan Man” and hire Les Miles or Jim Harbaugh? Or will outside names appeal to interim athletic director Jim Hackett?
8 Candidates to Replace Brady Hoke at Michigan
Steve Addazio, head coach, Boston College
Addazio wouldn’t be a splashy, name hire like Jim Harbaugh or Les Miles, but he’s a good coach that would win a lot of games at Michigan. In two years at Boston College, Addazio is 14-11 and has recorded a .500 record in conference play in both seasons. Prior to taking over in Chestnut Hill, Addazio spent two years at Temple and went 13-11 during that span. Before taking over the top spot at Temple, Addazio coached at Florida from 2005-10 under Urban Meyer, spent three years at Indiana (2002-04) and also had stops at Notre Dame and Syracuse. Addazio’s style of play and emphasis on toughness would fit in well in the Big Ten.
Mike Gundy, head coach, Oklahoma State
Gundy is 82-44 since taking over as Oklahoma State’s head coach in 2005. Considering he works at his alma mater, Gundy isn’t necessarily looking to leave Stillwater, but reports have indicated there could be friction between the head coach and athletic director Mike Holder. Under Gundy’s direction, the Cowboys have played in eight consecutive bowl games and finished No. 3 nationally in 2011. Gundy’s name also popped up in connection with the opening at Florida and Nebraska. Is he really interested in leaving his alma mater? That’s the big question with Gundy.
Podcast: Who should be Michigan's next head coach?
Jim Harbaugh, head coach, San Francisco 49ers
Harbaugh would be a home run hire for Michigan. But does he want to leave the NFL? Harbaugh played at Michigan from 1983-87 and has been a successful coach at three different jobs. Harbaugh went 29-6 in three years at San Diego, 29-21 in four seasons with Stanford and is 43-16-1 with the 49ers. While Harbaugh is certainly in play at his alma mater, staying in the NFL is also a possibility. If Harbaugh wants to come back to Michigan, he should be Michigan’s No. 1 target.
Jerry Kill, head coach, Minnesota
Kill wouldn’t be the flashiest of hires, but he’s a proven coach at five college jobs. The Kansas native is 25-25 in four seasons with the Golden Gophers, which includes a 9-7 mark in Big Ten play over the last two years. Prior to taking over at Minnesota, Kill spent two years at Northern Illinois (23-16), seven seasons at Southern Illinois (55-32), went 11-11 at Emporia State and 38-14 at Saginaw Valley State (1994-98). While Kill has a good job at Minnesota, Michigan is one of the elite coaching jobs in college football. Wouldn’t necessarily move the needle nationally, but Kill would win a lot of games in Ann Arbor.
Les Miles, head coach, LSU
If Jim Harbaugh is the No. 1 candidate at Michigan, then Miles should be a close No. 2 or 1b. The Ohio native played under Bo Schembechler in Ann Arbor and coached at Michigan as an assistant from 1980-81 and 1987-94. Miles left Ann Arbor for Oklahoma State in 1995 and was elevated to head coach after a three-year stint with the Dallas Cowboys in 2000. From 2001-04, Miles guided Oklahoma State to a 28-21 record with three bowl appearances. Miles took over at LSU in 2005 and is 103-28 during his tenure in Baton Rouge.
Jim McElwain, head coach, Colorado State
McElwain is believed to be one of the frontrunners to replace Will Muschamp at Florida. But if he doesn’t land the job in Gainesville, the Montana native should be in the mix at Michigan. McElwain coached at Alabama under Nick Saban from 2008-11 and has previous experience as an assistant at Fresno State, Michigan State, Louisville and in the NFL with the Raiders. McElwain has thrived at Colorado State after a 4-8 mark in his first season, guiding the Rams to an 8-6 record and a bowl appearance in 2013 and a 10-2 mark in 2014.
Dan Mullen, head coach, Mississippi State
Mullen has spent the past six seasons at Mississippi State, recording a 46-30 record during that span. The Bulldogs also recorded four consecutive bowl appearances and will extend that streak to five in 2014. While coaching in the SEC is an attractive destination for all coaches, Mississippi State is one of the toughest jobs in the SEC. Mullen elevated the Bulldogs into playoff contention this season and led the program to a 10-2 record, which was its first season of double-digit wins since 1999. Prior to Mississippi State, Mullen worked as Urban Meyer’s offensive coordinator at Florida from 2005-08 and worked under Meyer at Bowling Green (2001-02) and Utah (2003-04) as an assistant. Mullen is clearly capable of winning at a high level. And it’s much easier to win at Michigan than in the brutal SEC West.
Greg Schiano, former Rutgers/Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach
Schiano has been out of coaching since he was fired at the end of the 2013 season in Tampa Bay. In two years with the Buccaneers, Schiano was just 11-21. However, Schiano was a successful college coach, recording a 68-67 mark at Rutgers from 2001-11. While his record was barely over .500, Schiano inherited a struggling program and transformed the Scarlet Knights into a consistent winner. Prior to his stint with Rutgers, Schiano worked as an assistant at Miami.
Pat Fitzgerald, head coach, Northwestern
Fitzgerald turned down Michigan in 2011. Would he be interested in leaving after a 5-7 record at Northwestern in 2014?
Pep Hamilton, offensive coordinator, Indianapolis Colts
A name to remember in future seasons, as Hamilton has helped mentor Andrew Luck over the last few years in Indianapolis (and at Stanford).
John Harbaugh, head coach, Baltimore Ravens
If Jim won’t leave the NFL, would John Harbaugh be an option?
Tom Herman, offensive coordinator, Ohio State
A rising star in the coaching ranks but needs a chance to run another program before jumping to a Power 5 job.
Butch Jones, head coach, Tennessee
Jones is a Michigan native but is reportedly not a candidate at Michigan.
Pat Narduzzi, defensive coordinator, Michigan State
Would be an excellent choice, but Narduzzi would be unlikely to leave Michigan State for Michigan.
Late in the third quarter, Alabama was struggling to score enough points to beat Auburn. The Crimson Tide’s quarterback Blake Sims, had thrown three interceptions and Alabama trailed Auburn 36-27. With 3:30 left in the third quarter, Sims connected with Amari Cooper for a 75-yard touchdown pass.
The Crimson Tide rolled on to score 28 unanswered points. The final score of the Iron Bowl was 55-44, with Bama coming out on top in the game and stayed at No. 1 in the Legends Poll receiving 12 of the 13 first place votes this week.
Oregon clobbered Oregon State in this year’s Civil War 47-19 and moves up to the No. 2 slot. The Ducks’ Marcus Mariota accounted for 6 TDs and looks to be the frontrunner for this year’s Heisman Trophy.
Florida State dropped down to No. 3, after hanging tough against in-state rival Florida and pulling out another win 24-19 to become the only undefeated team through the regular season at 12-0. The Seminoles’ defense continually came up big stopping the running attack of the Gators. They received one first place vote from the Legends.
TCU Horned Frogs leaped to No. 4 after demolishing the Texas Longhorns on Thanksgiving night 48-10. Baylor remained at No. 5 by just squeaking past Texas Tech 48-46.
Ohio State struggled past Michigan 42-28, moving up one spot to No. 6. Even though they won, they lost true freshman quarterback Barrett to an ankle injury. The Buckeyes will have to play the Big 10 conference chamapionship with a new quarterback.
Arizona comes in at No. 7 after beating Arizona State 42-35 and earned the right to a rematch against Oregon in the Pac 12 conference championship to be played next weekend. Arizona has beaten the Oregon Ducks the last two times they played and gave them their only loss earlier this season.
Michigan State crushed Penn State 34-10 and moved to No. 8.
|3||Florida State (1)||12-0||79||2|
To see the individual votes by coach, visit the Legends Poll.
The NBA’s Eastern Conference is bad, very bad — while its Western Conference is just the opposite. By season’s end, we might be facing a record-shattering competitive discrepancy between the league’s two halves. At time of publication, the Indiana Pacers’ ugly 8-10 start would have them in the East playoffs, while a superior 8-8 start from the off-the-radar Denver Nuggets has them tenth in their conference, outside of the postseason picture.
Understood in terms of point differential, the gap between the conferences is like this: The West has 10 teams who average more points than they give up, while the East has just five. Something, many believe, needs to be done about how much harder life is beyond the Mississippi, and you can count Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban among them.
"It's not like it'd be the first time we've ever realigned," Cuban said to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. "It's happened many times before, so there's precedent and I just think it shakes things up and makes things interesting. It's not like you're reducing competition. You keep Cleveland, Washington and other good teams in the East. It kind of shakes things up in terms of not just interest but also in terms of how people rebuild. It just changes things up and it changes the thought process of a lot of teams. It makes both conferences very competitive, at least for the short term and I think, based on the history of the teams, for the long term as well.
"I did the trial close right here," Cuban said about his plan, which would ship his Mavericks — along with the New Orleans Pelicans and Houston Rockets — to the East while the Pacers, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks would come west. "Then it'll turn into headline porn and then we'll see the response.”
— John Wilmes
Lucky for Tom Crean, the tumultuous offseason is over. Crean and the Indiana Hoosiers can breathe a little easier, for the time being, and concentrate strictly on basketball.
Just three weeks ago, Crean was feeling the pressure from an IU fan base starved for a sixth national title banner to hang in Assembly Hall. Or at least an Indiana program back in the NCAA Tournament after a one-year absence.
Instead, Bloomington had controversy.
Back then, the news that freshman forward Emmitt Holt had been driving a car that hit sophomore teammate and that both players were drinking underage led to an outcry for a changing of the guard in Bloomington. Police said Holt, 18, was not responsible for the accident and was below the legal blood alcohol limit, but the Nov. 1 incident was the latest in a series of off-court incidents involving Crean’s players.
After 17 wins and missing the postseason altogether in 2013-14, many called for IU athletic director Fred Glass to turn up the heat on Tom Crean. With the most recent string of off-court issues, the change in temperature may be justified.
Glass gave Crean his vote of confidence when he told the Indianapolis Star earlier in the month that Crean “is the solution, not even part of the problem.” The vocal majority was skeptical at best of a coach who failed to capitalize on the No. 1 team in the nation two years ago.
While the clamor for Crean’s job has diminished with the start of the season, Indiana faces a critical week to set the tone for the remainder of the season. The Hoosiers already have been on both sides of an upset, defeating a ranked SMU team on Nov. 20 and losing at home to Eastern Washington on Nov. 24.
IU’s next tests begin this week when the Hoosiers host Pitt in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge today and face Louisville at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 9.
Those will be tall tasks for this Indiana squad, but Glass could be right in assuming that Crean is part of Indiana’s solution. Crean has dug Indiana out of a mess before. Seven years ago, when Crean was hired, the program faced NCAA sanctions from the Kelvin Sampson scandal.
The vast majority of the state’s top recruits had been overlooking IU for years, and the roster was riddled with failing grades, drug abuse allegations, nothing but walk-ons, and a lame duck interim coach in Dan Dakich.
In 2012, Crean helped deliver Indiana’s first Big Ten title in 20 seasons, back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances and a No. 1-ranked team. For a time, Indiana was back among the elites.
Crean resurrected the program, recruiting players who succeeded academically and athletically. Last season, Indiana posted a perfect APR and received the APR Public Recognition Award for four consecutive years of academic excellence.
That counts for something, right?
Crean will have at least a season to deliver results, but what constitutes a success is open to interpretation. Athlon picked the Hoosiers eighth in the Big Ten and slotted them into the NIT, not a banner season by Indiana standards. Yogi Ferrell is one of the top point guards in the league, but his supporting cast is in question.
The arrival of freshmen James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson addressed the need for shooters and floor spacers the Hoosiers desperately lacked last season.
With sophomore sniper Collin Hartman returning from an ACL tear, and the arrivals of freshman Max Hoetzel and Illinois State transfer Nick Zeisoft, Indiana won’t be short on deep threats. In Indiana’s first six games they are averaging 9.7 3-pointers per game while shooting 43.6 percent from deep. Blackmon alone is shooting 57.1 from behind the arc.
The loss of big men Noah Vonleh to the NBA Draft and Luke Fischer to Marquette is Crean’s biggest issue, leaving the Hoosiers looking and playing like a run-and-gun Big East roster in the meat and potatoes Big Ten.
Rebounding and post defense are going to be the biggest areas of concern for the Hoosiers, especially in conference play.
Unfortunately for Crean, the frontcourt woes have been magnified by the rash of off-court issues.
Six-foot-nine forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea, who was arrested in February for DUI, is Crean’s most experienced true post player and averaging only 4.7 rebounds and 8.2 points so far this season against inferior competition. Sophomore forward Troy Williams, who was suspended four games for a second failed drug test, will be asked to play out of position and help solidify the post for Indiana this season.
Yet Crean has done enough in his tenure at Indiana to give him a chance to dig the Hoosiers out of their current predicament. Whether Indiana misses the tournament for a second straight year or surprises every college basketball prognosticator in America and goes dancing, Crean has earned the right to clean up this mess. He’s done it before.
-by Jacob Rose
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Dec. 2:
• 50 Anastasia Ashley Instagram photos. You're welcome.
• Jon Gruden might like to have last night's final call back. Of course, it's the kind of ending that game deserved.
• A dude tried to flee from police on a skateboard. New X-Games event?
• Cool holiday story: Andre Johnson's 80-second shopping spree for underprivileged kids.
• Jets coach Rex Ryan took this latest loss pretty hard.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Hornets started out their first year with their new/old moniker on an exciting, “buzzy” note. Since then, it’s been nothing but downhill.
Currently on a nine-game losing streak, the Hornets are lost. And many have speculated that their maverick off-season acquisition is a big part of their new malaise. Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson is, by all accounts, a handful as a personality in the locker room, and the Hornets have appeared ill-equipped to wrangle him in recent days. So much so that their front office is already considering moving the mercurial shooting guard. Here’s the word from the wire, via Grantland’s Zach Lowe:
“The Hornets are searching for upgrades on the wing and at power forward, per those sources, and they are willing to talk turkey on basically anyone other than Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson. Free agents signed this past offseason can't be traded until December 15, and few would be surprised if the Hornets make and take calls on Lance Stephenson ahead of that trigger date.
“The Hornets viewed Stephenson as a dose of perimeter dynamism for a plodding offense built around Walker's pick-and-roll work and Professor Al's post-up trickery. The 2013-14 version of that offense didn't really have a third leg — a creative off-the-dribble threat waiting on the weak side when smart defenses snuffed out the good stuff. Stephenson didn't promise to solve Charlotte's fatal spacing issues, but with Indiana he was an average 3-point shooter and a bullying rim attacker on the pick-and-roll.
“It hasn't worked. ... Stephenson is an easy scapegoat, and that's partly his own doing. His body language has been horrible, and that degrades morale. He pouts when he doesn't get the ball on the weak side, flapping his wings and looking skyward as if his teammates have wronged him. He steals rebounds, and he hot dogs with the ball at times.”
While a deal involving Stephenson is unlikely at this premature moment, a few more weeks of losing and bad P.R. for Charlotte could push the needle to “move now” territory quickly. Stay tuned for updates.
— John Wilmes
College football’s playoff committee has released four sets of rankings, and the debate about the top four teams will continue every week until the final matchups are released. While the top 25 rankings are expected to change each week and will look drastically different from the release of the first poll to the last one, the playoff committee's poll provided some insight into the process.
Each week, Athlon Sports hopes to replicate the playoff committee’s work by asking some of college football’s top media members to vote on their top eight teams. This poll will attempt to project how the playoff picture stacks up after each week until the end of the year.
Bobby Bowden (@TheBobbyBowden), Legends Poll
Gene Stallings, (@LegendsPoll), Legends Poll
Don Nehlen (@LegendsPoll), Legends Poll
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), Athlon Sports
Braden Gall (@BradenGall), Athlon Sports
Zac Ellis (@ZacEllis), Sports Illustrated
David Fox (@DavidFox615), Athlon Sports
Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis), CardChronicle.com
Teddy Mitrosilis (@TMitrosilis), Fox Sports
Steven Godfrey (@38Godfrey), SBNation.com
Matt Brown (@MattBrownCFB), SportsonEarth.com
Rich Cirminiello (@RichCirminiello), Campus Insiders
Brad Crawford (@BCrawfordSDS), SaturdayDownSouth.com
Allen Kenney (@BlatantHomerism), BlatantHomerism.com
Chris Anderson (@CMAnderson247), Eersports.com
Kyle Kensing (@kensing45), CFBHuddle.com
Adam Powell (@ACCSports), ACCSports.com
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch) Athlon Sports
Josh Ward (@Josh_Ward), MrSEC.com
Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), CollegeFootballTalk.com
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR), Athlon Sports
Post-Week 14 Playoff Projection
Takeaways From Expert Poll Results
* Alabama holds a sizeable lead for the No. 1 spot in the playoff projection. The Crimson Tide received 16 of the 21 first-place votes and ranked below second on just one ballot.
* Oregon passed Florida State by a small margin (four points) for the No. 2 spot. The Seminoles have more first-place votes (three) than the Ducks (two), but Oregon claimed 11 second-place rankings to edge Florida State.
* TCU dominated Texas on Thanksgiving, and that result swayed some of the voters to flip the Horned Frogs and Baylor. The Bears own a head-to-head win over TCU, but trail in Athlon’s playoff projection by eight points. Style points in Week 15 could be important.
* With a win over Arizona State, combined with UCLA’s loss to Stanford, Arizona jumped to No. 7 in this week’s poll. The Wildcats are still alive for a playoff spot if they beat Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship on Friday night.
* The battle to claim a playoff spot seems to be down to seven teams: Florida State, Oregon, TCU, Baylor, Ohio State and Arizona. Perhaps there’s a crazy scenario where another team could jump into the conversation with losses by all four of the top teams in this week’s poll, but the formula for the first playoff poll seems simple. If Alabama, Florida State and Oregon win this weekend, all three teams will be in. The fourth spot will be up for grabs between Baylor, Ohio State and TCU if the top three win in Week 15.
Group of 5 Rankings
1. Boise State
The Broncos are in the driver’s seat for the Group of 5 bowl spot in one of college football’s premier games. Boise State ranked No. 23 in last week’s playoff rankings and should move up after defeating Utah State last week. The Broncos host Fresno State in the Mountain West Championship on Saturday night.
The Tigers clinched a share of the American Athletic Conference title with a victory over UConn last week. Memphis pounded UConn 41-10 in Week 14 and finished the regular season at 9-3 overall. Coach Justin Fuente’s team could claim the outright league title if UCF loses to East Carolina, leaving Memphis and Cincinnati (if it beats Houston) tied at 7-1 overall in conference games. The Tigers beat the Bearcats earlier this year.
Next in Line: Cincinnati, UCF, Northern Illinois, Marshall
Games With Playoff/Bowl Implications in Week 15
UCF at East Carolina
7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN (Thursday)
Northern Illinois vs. Bowling Green (Detroit)
7 p.m. ET, ESPN2 (Friday)
Arizona vs. Oregon (Santa Clara)
9 p.m. ET, FOX (Friday)
Iowa State at TCU
Noon ET, ABC
Louisiana Tech at Marshall
Noon ET, ESPN2
Houston at Cincinnati
Noon ET, ESPN
Alabama vs. Missouri (Atlanta)
4 p.m. ET, CBS
Kansas State at Baylor
7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
Florida State vs. Georgia Tech (Charlotte)
8 p.m. ET, ABC
Wisconsin vs. Ohio State (Indianapolis)
8:17 p.m. ET, FOX
Fresno State at Boise State
10 p.m. ET, CBS
The final week of the 2014 college football season has arrived, and the bowl and national title picture is starting to clear. The playoff committee will release its sixth set of rankings on Tuesday this week, and there’s one more poll coming from the committee next Sunday after the Week 15 action.
The new playoff format has added a new layer of intrigue, as four teams – instead of two – will have a shot at the national championship once the bowl pairings are announced in early December.
With 14 weeks in the books, it’s time to take a look at what the bowl picture might hold for each conference and team this year.
Teams on the projection bubble and missing our projections this week: Oklahoma State, MTSU, Temple, UAB and Ohio.
College Football's Post-Week 14 Bowl Projections
|New Orleans||Dec. 20||Sun Belt vs.|
| UL Lafayette vs.|
|New Mexico||Dec. 20||C-USA vs.|
| UTEP vs.|
|Las Vegas||Dec. 20||Mountain West vs.|
| Colorado State vs.|
|Famous Idaho Potato||Dec. 20||MAC vs.|
| Bowling Green vs.|
|Camellia||Dec. 20||MAC vs.|
| Central Michigan vs.|
|Miami Beach||Dec. 22||American vs.|
|Boca Raton||Dec. 23||C-USA vs.|
| Marshall vs.|
|Poinsettia||Dec. 23||Mountain West vs.|
| San Diego State vs.|
|Bahamas||Dec. 24||C-USA vs.|
| Western Kentucky vs.|
|Hawaii||Dec. 24||C-USA vs. |
| Rice vs.|
|Heart of Dallas||Dec. 26||Big Ten vs.|
| Rutgers vs.|
|Quick Lane||Dec. 26||ACC vs. |
| Virginia Tech vs.|
|St. Petersburg||Dec. 26||ACC vs.|
| Miami vs.|
|Military||Dec. 27||ACC vs.|
| NC State vs.|
|Sun||Dec. 27||ACC vs.|
| Duke vs.|
|Independence||Dec. 27||ACC vs.|
| North Carolina vs.|
|Pinstripe||Dec. 27||ACC vs.|
| Boston College vs.|
|Holiday||Dec. 27||Big Ten vs.|
| Nebraska vs.|
|Liberty||Dec. 29||SEC vs.|
| Tennessee vs.|
|Russell Athletic||Dec. 29||ACC vs.|
| Clemson vs.|
|Texas||Dec. 29||Big 12 vs.|
| Texas vs.|
|Music City||Dec. 30||ACC/Big Ten vs.|
| Maryland vs.|
|Belk||Dec. 30||ACC vs.|
| Notre Dame vs.|
|San Francisco||Dec. 30||Big Ten vs.|
| Iowa vs.|
|Outback||Jan. 1||Big Ten vs.|
| Minnesota vs.|
|Citrus||Jan. 1||Big Ten/ACC vs.|
| Wisconsin vs.|
|Armed Forces||Jan. 2||American vs.|
| Houston vs.|
|Taxslayer||Jan. 2||ACC/Big Ten vs.|
| Louisville vs.|
|Alamo||Jan. 2||Big 12 vs.|
| Oklahoma vs.|
|TicketCity Cactus||Jan. 2||Big 12 vs.|
| Washington vs.|
|Birmingham||Jan. 3||American vs.|
| Memphis vs.|
|GoDaddy||Jan. 4||MAC vs.|
| Northern Illinois vs.|
|New Year's Bowls|
|Peach||Dec. 31||At-large vs.|
| Ohio State vs.|
|Fiesta||Dec. 31||At-large vs.|
| Boise State vs.|
|Orange||Dec. 31||ACC vs.|
| Georgia Tech vs.|
|Cotton||Jan. 1||At-large vs.|
| TCU vs.|
|Related: Projecting the Playoff Teams After Week 14|
|Rose||Jan. 1||Playoff |
| Oregon vs.|
|Sugar||Jan. 1||Playoff |
| Alabama vs.|
|National Title||Jan. 12||Semifinal Winner vs.|
| Alabama vs.|
Bold indicates team has accepted bowl bid.
* Indicates conference is not expected to fill all of its allotted tie-ins.
Nebraska is the best job in the Big Ten West.
But it’s the fourth-best job in the Big Ten.
After seven consecutive seasons with at least nine wins, Nebraska has parted ways with head coach Bo Pelini. The fiery and often abrasive head football coach had plenty of moments that caused fans and administrators to shake their heads. But he also won 67 times in 94 games, including three division titles in two different conferences.
Only Alabama and Oregon join Nebraska with at least nine wins in each of the last seven seasons. But if Wisconsin and Michigan State can win Big Ten titles and Rose Bowls, why can’t the Cornhuskers?
Self-awareness is a highly underrated characteristic and, after firing a coach who won a lot of games, the question becomes does Nebraska know where it’s located in the college football hierarchy?
Nebraska has the biggest and baddest stadium in the division. It has the richest tradition and history of success in the division. And it has more financial resources than any school in the Big Ten West. Competing for and winning division titles is absolutely something Cornhuskers fans should expect nearly every season.
But long gone are the days of three national championships in four years. Nebraska is no longer a top 15 job and may never be a national power again.
The entire landscape of college football has been rapidly evolving for two decades and none of that evolution has helped Nebraska. The facilities arm race once dominated by Nebraska is nothing more than conducting business as architectural limits are being pushed in places like Oregon and Texas A&M. Nebraska was one of the first schools to understand the importance of strength and conditioning and now every major program employs five-star chefs and personal trainers.
Podcast: Who should be Nebraska's next head coach?
Most importantly, recruiting is a totally different beast as technology has made the world a smaller place and given rise to layers of new programs. Nebraska used to be one of only a handful of programs that was on national television every weekend. Now, Rutgers is on national TV every Saturday. Would Mike Rozier (Camden, N.J.) or Rich Glover (Bayonne, N.J.) go to Nebraska if they were big-time prospects today? Would Florida native Tommie Frazier ever get out of the Southeast?
“The recruiting landscape is much more competitive today,” said Sean Callahan, publisher of HuskerOnline.com. “There really wasn’t a perennial West Coast power in the 90s like there is today with USC, UCLA and Oregon.
“Nebraska was a power in the state of Texas as well. Baylor, TCU and the SEC weren’t the recruiting powers in the state of Texas like they are today. Recruiting parity wasn’t a factor like it is today.”
Moving to the Big Ten was a financial and cultural windfall for the Cornhuskers, especially considering how weak the Big 12 appeared to be at the time. But it hasn’t helped recruiting. Population trends indicate that the Big Ten footprint is producing fewer and fewer big-time athletes and getting them to Lincoln is proving to be difficult.
The Johnny Rodgers and Dean Steinkuhlers of the world are no longer growing on in-state trees. According to 247Sports, Michael Decker of Omaha-North is the top prospect in The Cornhusker State in the Class of 2015. He’s ranked the 753rd-best prospect nationally.
“One of the biggest problems Nebraska faces today is getting recruits on unofficial visits,” said longtime recruiting guru Bill King, host on SiriusXM College Sports Nation Ch. 91. "The unofficial visit has become increasingly more important and you can’t get people to come to Lincoln on their own dime. They just don’t want to go.”
Nebraska has the tools and built-in support to compete at a high level in the Big Ten. Pelini wasn’t able to break through with a conference crown, was embarrassed in too many big games, never finished ranked in the top 10, never made it to a BCS bowl and his brutish personality never fit in the Midwest town.
But it may be unrealistic to expect more than nine wins a season from any coach at Nebraska.
“It’s very unlikely that the new hire wins more than Pelini. It probably will be a guy they like more but the end result isn’t likely to be better,” King said.
Said Callahan: “If you know what you are doing and have a plan in the place, you can routinely contend in the Big Ten West."
Both King and Callahan know what Nebraska fans need to accept. The days of competing for national championships are over in Lincoln.
In Tom Osborne’s prime, Nebraska was a one-of-a-kind program that dominated college football with advanced thinking and a fertile recruiting base. Now, the Huskers are just another solid Big Ten team and Osborne is busy trying to decide whether TCU or Baylor belongs in the College Football Playoff.
Rivalry week delivered on excitement but only one major alteration in the playoff race.
Mississippi State is out (we assume) after losing the Egg Bowl. Championship week, though, may go a long way to clinching that final spot — or more depending on upsets.
The selection committee has said since Day One that conference championships will factor into their decisions, but to what degree isn’t certain. There’s no rubric that awards points for league champions.
We may find out this week how much a conference championship is worth. Or a share of a conference title. Or none in the event of upsets of Alabama, Oregon or Florida State in a conference title game.
The Week Ahead: Dec. 5-6
All times Eastern
Listen to the Week 14 recap podcast:
Bowling Green vs. Northern Illinois
MAC championship in Detroit
When and where: Friday, 7 p.m., ESPN
We’re watching because... a rematch of last year’s title game wraps up an otherwise quiet year of MACtion. The MAC has lacked star power and hasn’t has a ranked team all year. Still, we should applaud the two teams playing for the title. Drew Hare isn’t Jordan Lynch, but he’s been an efficient dual threat quarterback for an NIU team on the fringes of consideration for a major bowl game. With back-to-back losses entering this week, Bowling Green hasn’t been the overwhelming favorite Athlon projected, but first-year coach Dino Babers has his team in the league title game despite losing his starting quarterback, Matt Johnson, in the first game of the season.
Vegas says: Northern Illinois by 6 1/2
Arizona vs. Oregon
Pac-12 championship in Santa Clara
When and where: Friday, 9 p.m., FOX
We’re watching because... Oregon has a Pac-12 title, a playoff spot and a potential Heisman on the line against a team that’s had the Ducks’ number. Oregon is 22-3 the last two seasons and two of those losses are to Arizona, including the Ducks’ only loss this season. In the first meeting this season, Oregon’s offensive line was in shambles, so the Ducks are looking to prove that was the problem back on Oct. 2. Arizona, though, is out to prove its win over Oregon and some of its close calls (Cal, Washington) are no fluke. With games against three ranked teams to round out the season, Arizona could also find itself a playoff contender with the right breaks. And lastly, this game could feature the Heisman winner (Marcus Mariota) vs. the national defensive player of the year (Scooby Wright).
Vegas says: Oregon by 13 1/2
Iowa State at TCU
When and where: Saturday, noon, ABC
We’re watching because... stranger things have happened, but not many. This Iowa State team isn’t the same as the one that spoiled Oklahoma State’s bid at a national title game. The Cyclones are winless in the Big 12, but we’re still keeping one eye on TCU in its finale.
Vegas says: TCU by 33
Louisiana Tech at Marshall
Conference USA championship
When and where: Saturday, noon, ESPN2
We’re watching because... these two teams combined to score 142 points last week. Also, we haven’t taken the time to properly acknowledge the wild season Louisiana Tech has had. Second-year coach Skip Holtz has turned Louisiana Tech from 4-8 to 8-4 with a C-USA West division title yet still found time to lose to Northwestern State and Old Dominion.
Vegas says: Marshall by 12 1/2
Alabama vs. Missouri
SEC championship in Atlanta
When and where: Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS
We’re watching because... Missouri won’t be a pushover as Alabama tries to seal the No. 1 seed in the playoff. The Tigers pulled away from Texas A&M and Tennessee in the second half and then located their run game just in time to defeat the hottest team in the SEC in Arkansas last week. Worth noting: Missouri leads the SEC in sacks while Alabama allows the fewest sacks in the league thanks in part to Blake Sims’ ability to move around.
Vegas says: Alabama by 14
Kansas State at Baylor
When and where: Saturday, 7:45 p.m., ESPN
We’re watching because... Baylor is looking for one last statement to get into the playoff. While most of the playoff contenders are simply looking to hold serve, Baylor has a chance to push its way past TCU and into the top four against a top 15 Kansas State team. The Bears will be watching Bryce Petty closely after their start quarterback sustained a “mild concussion” against Texas Tech. Baylor’s defense may be just as much of a concern after giving up four long touchdown drives in the final 16:38 against the Red Raiders.
Vegas says: Baylor by 8 1/2
Florida State vs. Georgia Tech
ACC championship in Charlotte
When and where: Saturday, 8 p.m., ABC
We’re watching because... Georgia Tech may be the team best-suited to capitalize on Florida State’s uneven play this season. The Seminoles have been pedestrian against the run this season (seventh in the ACC in yards per play) and now prepare for the Georgia Tech option. Jameis Winston has thrown 17 interceptions this season, and now he’ll face a team that is second only to Louisville in the ACC in picks. And if Florida State needs to make yet another second-half comeback, Georgia Tech may be able to limit possessions. The Yellow Jackets are allowing the fifth-fewest plays per game this season (63.6).
Vegas says: Florida State by 3 1/2
Wisconsin vs. Ohio State
Big Ten championship in Indianapolis
When and where: Saturday, 8:17 p.m., FOX
We’re watching because... the season-ending injury to quarterback J.T. Barrett has made Ohio State the mystery team in the playoff conversation. If Ohio State beats Wisconsin to win the Big Ten, will the selection committee give the Buckeyes a vote of confidence? Suffice to say, much of Ohio State’s outlook depends on new starting quarterback Cardale Jones. Issue No. 1 for Ohio State, though, is containing Melvin Gordon.
Vegas says: Wisconsin by 4
Fresno State at Boise State
Mountain West championship
When and where: Saturday, 10 p.m., CBS
We’re watching because... Boise State is likely one win away from playing in a major bowl game. The Broncos are 10-2, but this is hardly the same Boise State team that challenged for BCS games. Consider this: Two top-10 Boise State teams played in the MAACO Bowl and this unranked, two-loss Broncos team may end up in the Fiesta Bowl if it can dispatch a 6-6 Fresno State team.
Vegas says: Boise State by 19 1/2
When it comes to reborn players, Gerald Green is near the top of the genre. The 28-year-old was selected No. 18 overall, straight out of high school in Houston, by the Boston Celtics. He followed that with a six-team stretch that saw him struggle to find minutes or a defined NBA role. The extreme, eye-popping athleticism that got him into the league without any NCAA action appeared to be languishing by the 2012-13 season, when he played a reserve role with the Indiana Pacers and averaged less than 12 minutes per game in their playoff run.
Things have been different with the Phoenix Suns, though. Under the leadership of head coach Jeff Hornacek — last year’s runner up for Coach of the Year honors — Green’s springy style has blossomed. Watch as he creates one of our early season’s chief highlights last night, ooping it to himself for an emphatic finish against the Orlando Magic:
Green is now an indispensable rotation player for his team, running all over the floor in the Suns’ uptempo system and liberally shooting 3-pointers at a 38 percent clip. He pairs with tiny dynamo Isaiah Thomas to make the Suns’ second unit nearly as devastating as their turbo-charged starters, led by the two-headed guard monster that is Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic.
Green’s memorable flourish, this time, unfortunately came in a Phoenix loss. The Suns dropped the game 93-90 to the young, feisty Magic, who were led by the combined 39 points and 18 rebounds of Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris. The Suns also got a chance to say hello to an old ally — Channing Frye, a floor-stretching big man who provided invaluable veteran resolve to last year’s 48-win Suns squad, which narrowly missed the Western Conference playoffs.
— John Wilmes
Bo Pelini is out as the Nebraska head coach.
Braden Gall, David Fox and Mitch Light debate the Nebraska Cornhuskers head coaching vacancy in an Athlon Sports roundtable.
How good is the Nebraska job? Where does it rank nationally? What are the strengths and weaknesses? Is this still an elite job?
Are expectation levels too high in Lincoln or is it fair to compete for national championships on a regular basis at Nebraska?
Who are the coaches with Nebraska ties and are any of them worthy candidates? Who among them would be interested in the job? Is Craig Bohl qualified?
Who are the top Mid-Major (Group of 5) head coaches who are viable candidates? Is Jim McElwain heading to Florida or in the mix at Nebraska? Are Justin Fuente, Matt Wells or Troy Calhoun good fits?
Who are the top coordinators: Pat Narduzzi or Scott Frost? Is Frost ready? Would Narduzzi be a home run?
Would any current Power 5 coaches be interested in the job? Would Jerry Kill, David Cutcliffe, Steve Addazio, Mark Richt or Kyle Whittingham have any interest?
And finally, our hosts give their top three dream candidates and predictions for the job. They do not necessarily overlap. Each panelist makes a bold prediction as to who will be the next head football coach at Nebraska.
Hosts Braden Gall and David Fox breakdown all of the action from Thanksgiving Weekend. Championship games are set in the Big Ten, SEC, ACC and Pac-12. Ohio State is dealing with a huge injury, the ACC wins the rivalry series with the SEC, Nebraska makes a coaching change and the Pac-12 South race ends in dramatic fashion. We debate it all and offer our playoff predictions on this week's edition of the Cover 2 Podcast.
Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of football. With that in mind, Athlon Sports rounded up the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from Week 13 of the NFL season.
Houston defensive end J.J. Watt became the first player with 10+ sacks (10.5) and 3+ touchdowns (4) in a single season since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. Watt is the first NFL player with at least three offensive touchdowns (three receiving) and two or more touchdowns on takeaways (one interception return, one fumble return) in a season since Joe Golding of the Boston Yanks in 1948. Watt is the only player in NFL history with three touchdown catches, an interception-return touchdown and a fumble recovery-touchdown in the same season.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers extended his NFL record streaks to 360 consecutive passes and 31 touchdown passes in a row at home without an interception in the Packers' 26-21 win against New England. His last interception at home came on Dec. 2, 2012.
The game was also the first time Rodgers and New England quarterback Tom Brady faced one another. It is only the second time in NFL history that a pair of quarterbacks with at least 200 touchdown passes started against one another for the first time. The other instance was December 14, 1974, between Hall of Famers Len Dawson and Fran Tarkenton.
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees threw five touchdown passes without an interception in the Saints’ 35-32 win at Pittsburgh. Brees has seven career games with at least five touchdown passes and no interceptions, the most in NFL history.
Indianapolis scored six touchdowns of at least 30 yards in a 49-27 win against Washington. The Colts are the first team to score at least six touchdowns of 30 yards or more in the same game since Washington (seven) did so on November 27, 1966, against the New York Giants.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck passed for 370 yards and five touchdowns and eclipsed 4,000 yards (4,011) for the season. He joins Peyton Manning and Dan Marino as the only players in NFL history to pass for at least 4,000 yards in two of their first three seasons. Luck has a career-high 34 touchdown passes and joins Manning and Johnny Unitas as the only players in franchise history with 30+ touchdown passes in a season.
Minnesota scored two touchdowns on blocked punts in a 31-13 win over Carolina. Adam Thielen blocked a punt and returned it 30 yards for a score in the first quarter. Everson Griffen returned a punt blocked by Jasper Brinkley 43 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. The Vikings are the first team since the 1975 Detroit Lions (September 21 at Green Bay) to return two blocked punts for touchdowns in a half.
Jacksonville's 25-24 win over the New York Giants included a 21-point comeback that was the largest in the franchise's history. It also marked the fourth time in 2014 a team won after trailing by at least 21, which is tied for the most of any season in NFL history. Blake Bortles became the third rookie starting quarterback to help his team overcome a deficit of at least 21 points to win since at least 1970, joining Matthew Stafford (November 22, 2009) and Vince Young (November 26, 2006).
St. Louis rookie running back Tre Mason rushed for 117 yards with two touchdowns and had 47 receiving yards with one touchdown in the Rams’ 52-0 win over Oakland. Mason, who had rushing touchdowns of 89- and 8-yards and a 35-yard touchdown reception, is the fourth player in NFL history with an 85+ yard TD run and a 35+ yard TD catch in the same game. The other three to accomplish the feat are Jim Spavital (November 5, 1950), Joey Galloway (November 12, 1995), and Chris Johnson (September 20, 2009).
St. Louis' 38 points at halftime were the most the Rams had in any full game since Week 12 of last season. The 38-point deficit at the half was the largest in Raiders history. They went on to suffer their second-largest shutout in franchise history behind a 55-0 loss to the Houston Oilers in 1962.
Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch ran for 104 yards in the Seahawks' win against San Francisco, marking the fourth regular-season game in which he has run for 100 yards against the 49ers in the last five years. All other players in the league combined have had only five 100-yard rushing games against San Francisco over that five-year span. Lynch also ran for 109 yards in the NFC Championship Game against San Francisco in January.
Kansas City, which lost 29-16 to the visiting Denver Broncos, still does not have a receiving touchdown by a wide receiver this season, while every other team in the league has at least five.
Denver quarterback Peyton Manning has won eight straight regular-season starts against Kansas City, tying the mark held by Craig Morton when he was with the Giants and Broncos (1974, 1977-79).
Philadelphia remains the only unbeaten team on Thanksgiving of teams playing at least five such games. The Eagles moved to 6-0 with their win at Dallas.
Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson became the fastest NFL player to reach 10,000 receiving yards when he did so in his 115th career game, passing St. Louis' Torry Holt. Megatron had 11 catches for 146 yards and two scores in the win over Chicago.
Johnson also broke Cloyce Box's record for the most touchdown catches on Thanksgiving (7) in NFL history with his two against Chicago. Box played for the Lions from 1949-54.
Chicago's 13 rushing yards in the loss to Detroit tied the Bears' fewest since the 1970 merger. The Bears also had 13 rushing yards against Green Bay in 2011. It was the fewest ever for a team in a Thanksgiving game.
The Miami Dolphins look to stay in the thick of the AFC playoff hunt when they take on the New York Jets on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” The Dolphins (6-5) need a win to not only keep pace with the AFC East-leading Patriots (9-3), but also to join the pack of five teams sitting at 7-5 jockeying for one of the Wild Card spots. The Jets (2-9) are really just playing for pride and draft positioning from here out.
This is the first of two meetings this month between these longtime divisional rivals, as they will close things out Dec. 28 in Miami. Because New York’s game against Buffalo last week had to be moved to Monday night due to the snowstorm, the Jets will become just the fourth team in history to play consecutive games on a Monday. This could be a good sign of things to come for Rex Ryan’s beleaguered team, as Miami has lost five straight Monday night games. Then again, perhaps not since the Dolphins’ last Monday night win was against, that’s right, the Jets back in Week 5 of the 2009 season.
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Miami -7
[inline_team_schedule team-id=03 date=20141030 sport=nfl upcoming=1 limit=8][/inline_team_schedule]
Miami’s Key to Victory: Play Four Quarters
It may sound cliché to remind an NFL team that a game lasts 60 minutes, but these Dolphins have had their problems in the fourth quarter. In each of Miami’s past three losses, the Dolphins coughed up late leads and two of these were in road games. In Week 6, Aaron Rodgers threw a game-winning touchdown pass with just three seconds left to cap Green Bay’s 10-point, fourth-quarter comeback in Miami. About a month later in Detroit, it was the Lions’ Matthew Stafford snatching victory from the Dolphins’ hands, by way of a game-winning touchdown pass with 29 seconds remaining. But perhaps the cruelest blow came last week in Denver. Miami entered the fourth quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High with a 28-17 lead after outplaying the defending AFC champions on their own turf for the first 45 minutes. Unfortunately Peyton Manning and unheralded running back C.J. Anderson owned the final period, as the Broncos scored 22 unanswered points and wound up winning 39-36. It should be pointed out that the Packers, Lions and Broncos are by far better teams than tonight’s opponent. But the Dolphins can’t afford to treat any team, including the 2-9 Jets, lightly, as they need to win just to keep pace with the pack of Wild Card-contending teams. And as Miami is well aware by now, sometimes it’s not how you start that’s most important. It’s how you finish.
[inline_team_schedule team-id=05 date=20141030 sport=nfl upcoming=1 limit=8][/inline_team_schedule]
New York’s Key to Victory: Run, Run, Run
No matter how you slice it, the situation looks bleak for the Jets. Rex Ryan is a lame-duck head coach and because of injury, he has to turn the offense back over to the quarterback (Geno Smith) he benched four games ago. The Jets were embarrassed on this same stage a week ago and it’s really hard to find any aspect of the team to have a ton of confidence in. For example, even though the defense is ranked among the top 10 in total (324.8 ypg) and rushing (86.2 ypg) defense, New York is 28th in scoring (27.5 ppg) defense. An inefficient and turnover-prone offense can be assigned some of the blame here, which brings us back to the quarterback. The reason Smith was benched in the first quarter of the Jets’ Week 8 43-23 home loss to the Bills was that he had thrown more interceptions (three) than completions (two). For the season, Smith has more turnovers (12) than touchdowns (8), which is why it would behoove New York to keep the ball out of his hands as much as possible. That means a healthy dose of Chris Ivory, Chris Johnson and maybe even wide receiver Percy Harvn coming out of the backfield. The Jets are averaging 136.5 yards rushing per game, which places them near the top of the league. On the other hand, one consistent theme in Miami’s losses has been its struggles stopping the run. Overall, the Dolphins are giving up an average of 104.1 yards rushing per game. However, in their five losses that number jumps to 134.4, including the 201 they surrendered to the Broncos last week. Given the discrepancy between New York’s rushing and passing production, the return of a benched quarterback and a potential weak spot in Miami’s defense, it’s pretty clear that the Jets would be wise to take the air out of the ball tonight and take their chances.
Miami needs to bounce back from another fourth-quarter collapse and get a win on the road to stay in the thick of the playoff hunt. New York is in the thick of the race for the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft and has to settle for playing the role of spoiler the rest of the way. The Jets are a mess on offense and will be missing one of their best defensive linemen (Muhammad Wilkerson) tonight. Because of last week’s tough loss to the Broncos, I don’t expect the Dolphins to take the Jets lightly. These two teams are no strangers to this stage, as this will be their 13th time playing on Monday night. New York leads these matchups 7-5 and Miami hasn’t won a Monday night game in more than five years, but I think both of these streaks come to end tonight against an overmatched Jets team.
Prediction: Miami 27, New York 17
This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Dec. 1:
• Johnny Football had an eventful day: a fumble for a Bills TD, but also a rushing touchdown.
• Tom Brady let his feelings be known as the clock wound down on the Packers' win over New England. Hey, at least the guy still cares after all these years.
• Alabama fell behind against Auburn, but Nacho Guy wasn't worried.
• Gerald Green threw himself a sweet alley-oop.
--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s race back into playoff contention began in earnest over the weekend, as Russell Westbrook returned from a hand injury to lead his team to a dominant, morale-boosting 105-78 victory over the New York Knicks. Westbrook controlled the game thoroughly in every moment he was in it, tallying 32 points on 12-of-17 shooting to go with eight rebounds and seven assists. He was the best player on the floor, and it wasn’t close. Russ’s emphatic dunk early on said pretty clearly that the Thunder are a frightening foe once again:
Reigning MVP Kevin Durant was still watching from the sidelines, excitedly cheering on his Thunder and looking like he badly wanted to join them. Durant’s been practicing with the team, so it’s only a matter of weeks before he returns. It’s a fun time to be an OKC fan: The team suffered greatly without its stars — going just 4-10 — but it’s still early enough for their hole to be manageable. A mere five-game deficit in the standings separates them from the conference’s eighth playoff seed.
Over in the Eastern Conference, Westbrook’s buddy Derrick Rose found rhythm with his Chicago Bulls. Behind the All-Star level play of Jimmy Butler and the out-of-hibernation mania of Joakim Noah, Rose and the Bulls beat the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets over the weekend to finish their annual circus road trip with a 4-3 mark despite a litany of injuries to key players.
The Bulls now sit near the top of the Eastern Conference, where there may be a vacancy soon. During a 106-102 home loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the Toronto Raptors lost shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, who suffered a torn tendon in his left groin, as reported by ESPN and AP. The Raptors currently lead the East with a 13-3 record, but having DeRozan (arguably their best player) out for an indefinite period of time will make it hard for them to keep pace.
— John Wilmes