Monday, October 27, 2014

Week 9 Top Ten

Disclaimer: I was at a wedding all day on Saturday and didn't really get a chance to watch the games. My rankings are based on the few highlights that I can find and the box scores primarily.

1) Mississippi State Bulldogs
Week 9 Result: Beat Kentucky Wildcats 45-31 in Lexington
Last Week's Ranking: 1

2) Florida State Seminoles
Week 9 Result: Bye Week
Last Week's Ranking: 3

3) Auburn Tigers
Week 9 Result: Beat South Carolina Gamecocks 42-35 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 5

4) Michigan State Spartans
Week 9 Result: Beat Michigan Wolverines 35-11 at home
Last week's Ranking: 4

5) Alabama Crimson Tide
Week 9 Result: Beat Tennessee Volunteers 34-20 in Knoxville
Last Week's Ranking: 6

6) Ole Miss Rebels
Week 9 Result: Lost to No. 24 LSU Tigers 7-10 in Baton Rouge
Last Week's Ranking: 3

7) Georgia Bulldogs
Week 9 Result: Bye Week
Last Week's Ranking: 7

8) Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Week 9 Result: Bye Week
Last Week's Ranking: 8

9) Oregon Ducks
Week 9 Result: Beat Cal Bears 59-41 in Berkeley 
Last Week's Ranking: 9

10) Kansas State Wildcats
Week 9 Result: Beat Texas Longhorns 23-0 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 10

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Top Games of the Weekend

Noon Game
Maryland Terrapins @ Wisconsin Badgers (Noon on BTN)

Meh. Admittedly, there aren't that many good games on at noon this week. There are a few ranked teams that are in action, but this game has a few players that you'll probably be seeing on Sundays next season. Maryland had a surprising victory over Iowa last week who was the leader in the BIG 10 West. Maryland has had a lot of issues with their quarterback, but no matter who is starting behind center is helped out immensely by the presence of Stefon Diggs who is an explosive play waiting to happen. Wisconsin also sports the best running back in the country in Melvin Gordon who has been averaging just a hair under eight yards a carry and can take any carry to the house. Maryland was run over by Ohio State's rush attack a few weeks ago, so this game will be interesting to see how Gordon takes advantage of a week front seven. Camp Randall is one of the toughest places in the country to play, and Maryland has only played one road game against a BIG 10 team (Indiana). I would watch this game just to see how Gordon plays. 

Afternoon Game
Michigan Wolverines @ No. 8 Michigan State Spartans (3:30 on ABC)

What is going on? This is probably the weakest Saturday slate since the second week of the season. No game at this slot is really a must watch, so I'm going with this game because I get a lot of pleasure out of watching Michigan flounder. Over the last seven years, the Spartans have held Michigan to less and less points in each successive contest. Last year, Michigan could only manage six points against the top defense in the country. The Spartans haven't been quite as dominant this year and have been playing down to their opponents all season, but they are still allowing only 21 points a game. Michigan State has been winning with their offense this year as opposed to their defense, and the Wolverines have continued to struggle in all phases. They rank a pitiful 108th in points for, scoring just over 21 points a game. While they also allow only 21 points per game, they have not played a decent team except for Notre Dame who scored 31 on them while shutting them out on offense. But if you enjoy Shadenfreude and are hoping to see a coach fired at halftime, this game gives you the best opportunity for both.

Evening Game
No. 3 Ole Miss Rebels @ No. 24 LSU Tigers (7:15 on ESPN)

I don't know LSU is ranked again as they are a very average team this year, and I think that is going to show again in this game. LSU was rolled in their own place about a month ago by the other Mississippi team, but they should have a better chance in this game. Ole Miss isn't as explosive as Mississippi State is on offense, but they do a lot of things right. They have some workhorse running backs and a solid but not flashy dual threat quarterback. What really makes the Rebels' offense is a powerful offensive line and good receiving threats for Bo Wallace to work with. LSU's secondary has struggled a bit this year and they don't get consistent pressure on the quarterback which will make Wallace's life a lot easier. LSU's offense is going to really have their work cut out for them this year. The team is relying very heavily on freshman to step up and make an immediate impact, and the results have been very mixed. Brandon Harris took over the job for Anthony Jennings only to be benched the very next game, while Leonard Fournette hasn't been as explosive as advertised. The front seven of for Ole Miss is absolutely vicious against the run and can make life Hell for quarterbacks with their relentless pass rush. They recorded seven sacks against Tennessee last week while also forcing four turnover, three of them picks. I think this game might be a closer, low scoring affair than the rankings would indicate, but Ole Miss is still a better team. I like them in this one 28-20.

Best and Worst of the NFL

Best 3

Dallas (6-1)- How ‘bout them Cowboys?!  They stuck to what has been making them so good this year and that is running the ball.  They dominated time of possession by holding the ball for over seven minutes more than the Giants.  They had 423 yards of total offense, Dez Bryant had 151 receiving yards, and DeMarco Murray ran for another impressive 128 yards.  Tony Romo is playing as mistake free as he can and his completion percentage is a whopping, and NFL leading, 69.2.  The number that Eli Manning set out to do this season.  Murray needs to stay healthy for Dallas to sustain their success.  He tweaked his ankle during the game and with his history of missing games, 11 in his previous 3 seasons, the Cowboys need to give Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle the ball more.  The main negative against Dallas right now is their lack of pressure on the quarterback.  Through seven games, they are tied for 30th in the league with 6 sacks.  This team badly misses DeMarcus Ware but the Demarcus that they drafted, Demarcus Lawrence, is just about ready to step onto the field.  Hopefully he can make enough of an impact to help this team and the rest of that defense.

Denver (5-1)- Congratulations Peyton.  That passing touchdown record is a hell of an achievement and that number is only going to increase.  The Broncos dominated both sides of the ball against a pretty good 49ers team.  They got off to a hot start and coasted all the way to a victory.  DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller are wreaking havoc off the edge and that secondary is so much more improved this season without Champ Bailey.  They have 21 sacks (tied for third in the league) and have only allowed Peyton to be sacked 8 times.  That sounds like a championship recipe to me.  Denver’s next matchup is against the Chargers in Mile High Stadium.  The Chargers are coming off a loss to Kansas City, who was probably extremely excited for their beloved Royals finally making a World Series.  Philip Rivers poses a good challenge against the Broncos D.  Antonio Gates is a mismatch as always and Branden Oliver is that little scatback that gives teams issues with his speed and agility.  Side note, Philip Rivers is number 2 in QBR this year; Peyton Manning is number 1.  This should be a fantastic game to watch.

Green Bay (5-2)- RELAX Packers fans, you’re finally in my top 3.  As of right now, I don’t think that any team is hotter than the Packers and I don’t believe any quarterback is playing better than Aaron Rodgers.  Here’s a little stat for you guys.  Aaron Rodgers’ career touchdown to interception ratio is 3.89, the highest in the history of the National Football League with a minimum of 1500 passing attempts.  The next closest is Tom Brady at 2.74.  In addition to that, this year Rodgers has 18 touchdowns and 1 interception.  That is damn impressive and they are doing that without Eddie Lacy finding his legs or the endzone.  The Packers have been on fire but if they manage to get Lacy going a little bit more then that offense could be unstoppable.  They have a tough matchup Sunday night as they have to go to New Orleans and face a very desperate Saints team that has their backs up against the wall.  The Saints are staring down the barrel of a 2-5 start and will be fighting and clawing their way to make sure they don’t lose. 

Worst 3

Jacksonville (1-6)- FINALLY!!!  This team got a win and will not go defeated.  Blake Bortles played pretty terribly and wound up having a QBR of 9, the lowest for a winning quarterback since Andy Dalton had a 4 last year.  This win was clearly a team win.  The defense played big.  The Browns had not scored less than 21 points all season and Jacksonville held them to 6.  They stopped a running attack that averaged 133 yards a game and held them to a measly 69 yards.  The Jags forced three turnovers, managed only 3 penalties, and Denard Robinson played like a man possessed.  Robinson totaled 127 yards on the ground for a team that averaged 86.  Although even in victory there was a huge loss.  Paul Posluszny, the heart and soul of that defense was lost for the season to a torn pectoral muscle.  The young Jaguars will be looking for their next man up to fill the large shoes that Posluszny left.  It will definitely be a good time for General Manager David Caldwell to evaluate the young players on the team and how they handle being on a last place team.  There is another winnable game against the Dolphins this week, who is riding high after beating down the Chicago Bears last week.

Oakland (0-6)- The Raiders are now the last defeated team in the league.  This team is ranked 26th in passing yards, 32nd in rushing yards, and 29th in rushing yards allowed.  They have to find a way to get some aspect of their team going.  Despite spending quite a bit of free agent money on aging defensive players like Charles Woodson, Justin Tuck, and LaMarr Woodley, maybe it is time for them to step up and do what they can do.  Oakland has been the black hole of football for the last decade and has been the epitome of terrible.  Players come to this place to collect a paycheck and hope they don’t get hurt (a la Randy Moss).  The Raiders cannot allow this to continue.  Luckily, their most recent draft class has looked excellent.  Kahlil Mack has looked like the real deal, especially against the run.  The sacks will come for him but he just needs to be patient and hope that the rest of the defense comes together.  Derek Carr has been an impressive rookie quarterback and Gabe Jackson has mauled defenders (check out the GIF).  Next up for the Raiders are the Browns, who could still be in dismay and disbelief after getting shocked by the Jaguars.  If Oakland can bottle up Ben Tate and the other running backs then they can force Brian Hoyer and the offense to be one-dimensional and they may be able to squeak out a victory.

Tampa Bay (1-5)- Maybe the Bucs should call it a season and start preparing for next season.  How do they do this you might ask?  Trade away your top expensive talent in Vincent Jackson.  There have been rumors through the grapevine that they may already be fielding calls for the wide receiver.  Jackson has a cap hit of over $12,000,000 this season and is owed just over $18,000,000 for the next two years, so now it the time to deal him.  Especially to a team like the Patriots who desperately need a receiver of his caliber and can make a true difference.  A potential second round draft pick may be enough to sway Tampa Bay of one of their top talents considering they drafted young Mike Evans and Austin Seferian- Jenkins.  The team needs to stockpile picks for next years draft so they can upgrade as many positions as they can.  The division is not out of the question with Carolina leading the pack at 3-3 so Lovie Smith and General Manager Jason Licht may think it is too soon to call it quits.  But back to the game, the Buccaneers had their bye week last week so the extra week of preparation should be enough to give them a fighting chance against Minnesota.  Mike Glennon has to prove that he can be the starting quarterback of the future for this young team because this team might end up with a top 3 pick in next years draft and may be looking for a new quarterback to lean on.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Percy Harvin Debacle

by Justin Rasile

The Percy Harvin trade has sent shockwaves throughout the NFL and has caught many people off guard.  According to multiple reports, Seattle had been shopping their electric receiver for a couple weeks now and was hoping to make a deal happen before the trade deadline passed.  Seattle signed Harvin to a 6 year $67 million dollar deal after they acquired him from the Vikings in which they gave up a first, a third, and a seventh round draft pick for him.  So why did all this happen?  Ever since Harvin showed up in Seattle, he had been an issue in the locker room and a cancer to his team.  On a team where camaraderie has been one of the biggest reasons for the success for these young Seahawks, you cannot have a player that splits the locker room.  Harvin was a first round pick, 22nd overall, and has failed to live up to expectations.  The most alarming stats for Harvin in his tenure with the Hawks is his production when he is on and off the field with Russell Wilson.  When Harvin is on the field, Wilson’s total QBR is 45 with a touchdown/interception ratio of 5-2.  With Percy being off the field, Wilson’s QBR skyrockets up to 71 with a touchdown/interception ratio of 7-0 despite having 55 less snaps to work with.  Those numbers indicate to me that when Harvin is on the field, Russell is forcing throws to him to try and get him to make some type of explosive plays but in doing so he is not playing that mistake free, smart football we are so used to seeing from the young Super Bowl Champion.  These numbers are extremely eye opening and one that General Manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll have paid attention to.  The combination of his migraines, injuries, and poor work ethic and attitude has completely impeded his growth as a potential number one receiver on a team.  Now that he has been thrown off another team, maybe he will finally wake up and work hard to be the best player that he could be.  I honestly believe this trade will work out for both teams.  The Seahawks found a way to trade a player that was hurting their locker room but also managed to clear up a lot of cap space in order to retain the core of their team and sign Russell Wilson to the deal that he deserves.  They receive a conditional mid round pick so they could get anywhere between a second and a fourth depending on how well Harvin does.  Seattle has also routinely been one of the best drafting teams and have found plenty of late round steals that weren’t even high picks, a la Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson.  Now Seattle has no excuses to not perform up to the standard they have set in place for them.  As for the Jets, this trade gives Geno Smith an offensive weapon he so desperately needs, considering the only receiver really worth a damn is Eric Decker, and sometimes Jeremy Kerley shows up.  It will not be that overly difficult to get Harvin caught up and playing early because all Geno and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg really have to do is find a way to get the ball into Harvin’s hands.  Throwing those bubble swings and quick screens and occasionally lining him up in the backfield and handing him off the ball are all examples of ways to give this playmaker a chance to make something happen.  The Jets are basically out of the playoffs already with a terrible record of 1-6 but this trade will at least help show the Jets front office and coaching staff if they should continue going forward with Geno Smith as quarterback.  Only time will tell if this trade will pan off for both teams but if Seattle receives a second round pick for him that means the trade was great for both teams.

Week 8 Top Ten

1) Mississippi State Bulldogs
Week 8 Result: Bye
Last Week's Ranking: 1

2) Ole Miss Rebels
Week 8 Result: Beat Tennessee Volunteers 34-3 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 2

Ole Miss cornerback Senquez Golson
It wasn't the prettiest game offensively for Ole Miss, but the defense continues to improve and impress every single week. Tennessee played a tight game for a while, but eventually the Rebels were able to pull away thanks to their defense. As they've done all year long, they pressured the quarterback on every drop back and made plays on errant throws. They picked off Justin Worley three times, and it was the combination of a ball hawking secondary and a front four that can collapse the pocket that forced those picks. Worley was sacked eight times in this game as well. Ole Miss hasn't had a tremendous sack total in the first half of the season, but this game showed what they can do when they are clicking. Equally as impressive as their sack total is how they performed against the run. The Volunteers have a great freshman back in Jalen Hurd, but he was limited to a meager 40 yards on 13 carries. Overall, the Rebels held Tennessee to zero rushing yards on the day. As I mentioned, the offense was a bit underwhelming and was really helped out by the fact that their defense generated four turnovers. Bo Wallace played a clean game and threw for two touchdowns, but he was off with the timing of his receivers throughout most of the game. Receivers were open, but he just wasn't hitting them in stride or would often overthrow them on simple routes. Ole Miss also struggled to run the ball in this game. They averaged under four yards a carry against a team that can get bullied around. They did have a few good runs, but overall it was a struggle for them. Ole Miss will have its next big test next week against LSU in Death Valley. Their defense should have a lot of success against an LSU team that prefers the power run game, but their offense will need to play a cleaner game. Any mistakes could really sink them and their playoff hopes.

3) Florida State Seminoles
Week 8 Result: Beat No. 5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 31-27 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 3

Florida State running back Karlos Williams
Finally, Florida State was really challenged by a team of their caliber. Despite what you think about the offensive pass interference call at the end of the game (and it was the right call), Florida State met their match in this game and really should have lost. I don't know how it is possible, but their offensive line is downright terrible. Its insane considering they have so much experience, but they were pushed around like a bunch of high schoolers. Jameis had barely any time to throw and it really affected his timing with his receivers. Winston actually played pretty well despite the constant pressure in his face, but he did throw a terrible pick off of his back foot inside his own 20 that lead directly to an Irish touchdown. He really came alive in the second half however, leading three touchdown drives and making tough throws without his feet set. Receiver Rashad Greene made a lot of spectacular catches, but I was more impressed with true freshman Travis Rudolph who six passes for 80 yards and a touchdown and often had big separation from his man. As you'd expect with a struggling offensive line, the Seminoles had no success on the ground. Karlos Williams and Dalvin Cook carried the ball twenty teams for a mere 45 yards. Williams did have two touchdowns from the goal line however, with the second putting the Noles ahead for good. The defense gave up a lot of yards in this game, but really didn't give up anything deep. Golson threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns, but they were all on very short or intermediate routes. The secondary also picked him off twice and did manage to pressure him into rolling out a few times. Their front seven causes a lot of issues, but they are young and a bit inexperienced and were prone to over pursuits. But with this game out of the way, there really isn't a team that stands in Florida State's way to another undefeated regular season.

4) Michigan State Spartans
Week 8 Result: Beat Indiana Hoosiers 56-17 in Bloomington
Last Week's Ranking: 5

Michigan State running back
Nick Hill
The tale of two halves. That seems to be the theme for the Spartans this year as Indiana was well within this game at half time. But after that point, Indiana was held to no touchdowns and struggled to move the ball. Michigan State's defense had a few lapses in this game, but overall played very well. They allowed a 75 yard touchdown run on a double reverse which saw multiple missed tackles, but the defense tightened up a lot after that point. Michigan State allowed 213 yards on the ground, but most of them came on that 75 yard run and a 65 yard run by Tevin Coleman. While that might seem like a lot of yards, consider the fact that they only allowed 11 yards of passing. When put into that perspective, the rushing yards don't seem as bad. On offense, the Spartans absolutely rolled against Indiana. Cook played a much better game, completing 75% of his passes and three touchdowns, albeit with a single pick in the mix. He threw for over 300 yards in the game as well, consistently connecting on deep balls which have eluded him this year. Tony Lippett continues to prove himself the number one receiver on the team as he was the recipient of seven catches and 123 yards. The running game was equally as impressive, completely dismantling the front seven of Indiana who just could not keep up with the physicality of their opponent's offensive line. Jeremy Langford ran for three touchdowns, but what makes this attack dangerous is how effectively senior Nick Hill can come in and bear the brunt of the attack while Langford gets a break. Hill ran for 178 yards and a touchdown on a mere 16 carries and was a big reason for the Spartans holding onto the ball for almost forty minutes. The showdown between Michigan State and Ohio State will be a good one, but they can't overlook the Wolverines before reaching that point.

5) Auburn Tigers
Week 8 Result: Bye
Last Week's Ranking: 6

6) Alabama Crimson Tide
Week 8 Result: Beat No. 21 Texas A&M Aggies 59-0 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 9

Alabama receiver Amari Cooper
Alabama just took all of their offensive frustration from the last few weeks out on an imploding A&M team. I'm not ready to put them in the top five like the AP did because they've been so underwhelming and enigmatic in some games, but this was a great way to get back on track. Their defense just completely annihilated A&M's offense in every conceivable way. They were held to 172 yards and at one point had as many yards as Alabama did points. The defensive front harassed Kenny Hill all day and allowed only 31 yards of rushing on 24 carries. The secondary finally played up to their potential, blanketing the athletic receivers of the Aggies and never allowing them to get clean releases or much separation. Kenny Hill was forced into an interception but could have easily had a few more with his errant throws. The offense for Alabama really needed this game though. The Aggies have one of the worst defenses in college football and the Crimson Tide was able to take advantage of that from the first snap. The most impressive player on the day was TJ Yeldon who combined for 159 total yards and two touchdowns. The offensive line blasted the Aggies front seven off of the line all game long and allowed Yeldon to run for 8.8 yards per carry. Yeldon also caught three passes for some big first downs. Blake Sims had a great day as he had a clean pocket to throw pretty much every time he dropped back. He connected on three touchdowns with two of them going to Amari Cooper. After a two game slump, Cooper had his best game since Florida. He caught eight passes for 145 yards and those two mentioned touchdowns. His ability to do pretty much anything you can ask out of a receiver at a high level, he does. Alabama needed this game to rebuild their confidence going forward into a tough SEC schedule.

7) Georgia Bulldogs
Week 8 Result: Beat Arkansas Razorbacks 45-32 in Fayetteville
Last Week's Ranking: 8

Georgia defensive back
Damian Swann
I have no idea how this team continues to just pluck along after losing Todd Gurley. It just doesn't make sense. The biggest factor is the seamless transition freshman running back Nick Chubb has made from the high school ranks to college. After being a workhorse in Georgia's win over Mizzou, Chubb carried the ball thirty times for 202 yards and two touchdowns. He was able to gash Arkansas's front seven both inside and out and had several impressive long runs. He isn't quite as explosive as Gurley is, but he has shown the ability and willingness to take on a punishing amount of carries and makes the most out of them. Chubb was responsible for more than half of all their yards, but Hutson Mason actually made a few good throws to keep the Razorbacks from putting eight or nine guys in the box. Chris Conley caught five passes for 128 yards and a touchdown, and had two receptions for more than 35 yards. Mason still doesn't seem terribly comfortable throwing the deep ball, but this showed that he does have the ability to. The defense played a terrific game, but they let their foot off the gas too early and allowed Arkansas to sneak back into this game. They had only given up six points at half time, but then gave up four touchdowns over the second half that would have cut the lead even further if Arkansas would have been able to convert some of the two point plays. But as was the winning formula last week against Mizzou, Georgia was able to pressure Brandon Allen all day long and never allow him to get into a rhythm or set his feet for a comfortable throw. The secondary still gave up almost three hundred yards, but also picked off Allen twice which helped them build that large lead. The more impressive part was holding their dangerous rush attack to under four yards a carry. Georgia should not have that difficult of a schedule remaining with how terrible the Gators are this year.

8) Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Week 8 Result: Lost to No. 2 Florida State Seminoles 27-31 in Tallahassee
Last Week's Ranking: 7

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson
I'm only knocking the Irish down a spot because they played incredibly well and were one mental mistake from pulling off the upset. As I mentioned in the Florida State section, as painful as it was for people begging for an upset, it was the right call. I was really impressed by how Notre Dame played in this game despite being double digit underdogs. But as has been a theme for them this year, Everett Golson's mistakes would come back to bite them. The first pick he threw wasn't his fault as he was hit on the release for the easy interception. But the second was into traffic and was a bit reckless. What was surprising about this game was the Notre Dame barely challenged Florida State deep which is another reason why I think they weren't able to put this game away. Instead, Brian Kelly elected to throw a lot of short to intermediate passes and set up screens. It worked out for the most part as Notre Dame moved the ball extremely well, especially in the first half and continued to just gain solid yards on first down to make second and third downs manageable. But as I mentioned, they really didn't try that hard to stretch the field vertically even when Florida State was vulnerable with their coverage. The most impressive performance from this team came from the front seven and the defensive line in particular. They completely overmatched Florida State's offensive line and made life hell. They stuffed the run except for when Karlos Williams punched it in from a yard out, and they were in the face of Jameis all day. Winston was clearly frustrated in the first half as he was pressured almost immediately after taking the snap. They still got to him in the second half, but Jameis was laser-focused and made clutch throws. Notre Dame still has a few games remaining on their schedule in which they can make their case for a playoff slot, but this game won't hurt them that much as they played much better than what was expected out of them.

9) Oregon Ducks
Week 8 Result: Beat Washington Huskies 45-20 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 10

Oregon tight end Pharaoh Brown
This has been the theme with Oregon in recent memory, but as they typically do they just completely overwhelmed a conference foe who did not have the talent to keep up with them. Washington actually has some really good players on their defense, but the offense couldn't sustain drives to give the defense a break. The result was 554 yards by the Ducks. Mariota had another strong showing this week, pasing for 336 yards and two touchdowns while completing 73% of his passes on the day to eight different players. The most impressive wide out that they have is tight end Pharaoh Brown, who isn't spectacular as a blocker but has shown a lot of ability in the passing game. He caught three passes for 99 yards in this game and helped move the ball up and down the field all night. Still the most impressive player on the night was undoubtedly freshman running back Royce Freeman. Oregon has two other good running backs, Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner, but Freeman has really separated himself from the others and is getting the bulk of the carries. Against Washington, Freeman carried the ball 29 times for 169 yards and four touchdowns. The defense played a complete game against Washington as well. Washington didn't even pass for 200 yards in this game and found minimal success on the ground. Oregon has typically struggled against Stanford, but with how bad Stanford has dropped off there shouldn't be much of a challenge in the PAC-12 for the Ducks.

10) Kansas State Wildcats
Week 8 Result: Beat No. 11 Oklahoma Sooners 31-30 in Norman
Last Week's Ranking: Outside Top Ten
Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters

Kansas State got a bit lucky that Oklahoma's kicker can miss from 20 yards out, but they still played a great game, have only lost to Auburn, and are currently undefeated in conference play. That is why I have them ranked above both TCU and Baylor who could make a case for being ranked 10th. It really is incredible how Bill Snyder continues to recruit unheralded high school players and make the most out of them. The offense continues to run through the quarterback, Jake Waters. Waters isn't the most polished passer, but most of Snyder's quarterbacks don't need to be. Waters completed 65% of his passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns, and also ran for 51 yards and a touchdown on ten carries. Waters has great patience to let his blocks develop ahead of him and has some good speed once he gets to the second level. He is also confident in his throws and likes to head towards the line of scrimmage before firing off a pass, a lot like Tebow used to do at Florida. Only three players caught a pass in this game, but Tyler Lockett is a true all purpose player who comes through with big catches when his team needs him the most. Defensively, this wasn't the most impressive game for the Wildcats as they surrendered well over 500 yards of offense. Trevor Knight, who has been woefully inconsistent, threw for three touchdowns while the running backs combined for almost 200 yards. While they did allow a lot of yards, they managed to come up with some crucial stops to keep Oklahoma from grabbing the lead. Should Kansas be able to slow down Baylor, they could win out the rest of their games and provide the BIG 12 a chance to secure a spot in the playoffs.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Heisman Hopefuls

After week 7, you can start to get a pretty decent idea of who the leading Heisman candidates are. It makes me laugh that we try and peg this shit in the preseason when the last three or so winners have come completely out of left field. Hardly anyone knew who Jameis, Manziel, or Cam Newton were once the season had started. But at this point, it is pretty obvious who the top players in the country are. The problem is that the best player (in my opinion at least) is suspended. Todd Gurley is the latest player to face the hypocritical wrath of the NCAA when he was discovered to have signed some autographs for money. There is the chance that the Mizzou game will be the only game he will miss, but if he does in fact miss another I don't think that he will be able put up the kind of stats that a running back needs to win the Heisman. However, should he miss two games and then come back to lead his team to the SEC Championship game and possibly beyond, there is no doubt he will be a legit contender again. But barring his return, these are my top five candidates for the Heisman. The numbers in parentheses are their projected stats through twelve games.

1) Dak Prescott, Quarterback, Mississippi State Bulldogs
Passing Yards: 1478 (2956)
TD:INT Ratio: 14-4 (28-8)
Rushing Yards: 576 (1152)
Rushing TDs: 8 (16)

Prescott is benefiting by being the best player on the best team in the country right now. I don't want to take anything away from him, but this season doesn't seem to have the guy who is blowing away the competition like in recent years. That said, Prescott has had some damn impressive performances and is a big reason why the Bulldogs have achieved a number one ranking for the first time in decades. Prescott is completing 62% of his passes and is a very efficient quarterback. He isn't putting up 400 yards every game, but he delivers some lethal strikes and gets it done through the air. In the three game stretch this season against LSU, Texas A&M, and Auburn, Prescott threw for five touchdowns against only two interceptions, both of which came in a down pour of a game against Auburn when his grip was clearly affected by the rain. More impressively, Prescott is a good runner as well. He doesn't have quite the flashiness of Manziel, or the straight line speed of someone like Braxton Miller, but he is fearless hitting the hole and knows how to make people miss in traffic and in space. In that same three game stretch, Prescott ran for six touchdowns and averaged 101 yards per game. He has shown a lot of improvement from last year and will have more chances to prove his merit against some tough opponents. If he can continue on this pace and keep his team undefeated, he will have all the credentials he needs to be a serious Heisman candidate. Victories against Alabama and Ole Miss would really set himself apart from the rest of the crowd.

2) Melvin Gordon, Running Back, Wisconsin Badgers
Rushing Yards: 1046 (2092)
Rushing TDs: 13 (26)
Yards Per Carry: 7.9

Its a shame that Wisconsin doesn't have a better quarterback to help this team avoid bad losses or Gordon would be a true candidate. In my opinion, he is the best back in the country with Gurley out and is not that far behind Gurley. Gordon is different than what you have seen out of recent Wisconsin running backs. Rather than just a straight line power runner, Gordon has some real flash to him. He doesn't bust out spin moves or juke people like a game of Madden, but he can one cut and go or get to the outside and turn up field with the best of them. He has put up some pretty impressive stats this year, including four games of at least 175 yards and two four touchdown contests. He has dominated the competition, no matter if its a mid major or a power five school. To start off against LSU, he ran for 140 yards and a touchdown on only 16 carries before suffering a hip injury. His best game came against Bowling Green when he turned a mere 13 carries into a jaw-dropping 253 yards and five touchdowns. Before you attempt the math, that is 19.5 yards per carry. He had multiple runs of over fifty yards in that game. Most recently, Gordon ran for 175 yards and four touchdowns on 27 carries against Illinois. He has shown the ability to handle any variety of workload and has shown the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, although through design he doesn't do it that often. He has a lethal first step where if he gets the angle on a defender or hits the hole before it collapses, he can take it to the house. In Wisconsin's glorified history of producing top tier running backs, Gordon ran for 1000 yards in fewer games than any of them. Wisconsin does not have to face teams like Michigan State or Ohio State for the rest of the season. Instead, they will play Maryland, Rutgers, and Purdue before the season ends. Gordon has a great chance of becoming just the 15th running back to rush for more than 2000 yards in a season. If he does and if Wisconsin can avoid any further losses, Gordon has a tremendous chance of winning the Heisman.

3) Marcus Mariota, Quarterback, Oregon Ducks
Passing Yards: 1621 (3242)
TD:INT Ratio: 17-0 (34-0)
Rushing Yards: 290 (580)
Rushing TDs: 5 (10)
1 Reception for a TD

Mariota is a tremendous talent, but he is a bit further down on my list than most people would have on theirs. The reason is rather simple: he doesn't always come through when his team needs him the most and he is the product of a system. There is no denying that he has mastered this system better than any Oregon quarterback has during their renaissance of offense, but there always seems to be a dud week where he just doesn't have his best game and costs them dearly. You might think this is hypocritical given that Melvin Gordon is ranked second for me despite Wisconsin having two losses. But when you are a quarterback and you touch the ball on every snap, you are held to a higher standard. This far into the season, Mariota has led his team to some very impressive victories. None is more impressive than against Michigan State when his team was down at halftime and he rallied them back with some clutch throws and crucial runs. Down by nine at half time, Mariota lead a comeback of 28 unanswered points, including two touchdown passes to win the top ten matchup. Since then, he has been on a roll but his gaffe in the final minutes of the game against Arizona really cost his team. His offensive line is pretty porous, but he was sacked and fumbled the ball which allowed Arizona to pull off the upset in Eugene. While Mariota has been great at avoiding picks, he has fumbled a lot in his couple of years at starters and often in critical games. He is running the ball well, but his numbers don't match up to Prescott's and a couple of other dual threat quarterbacks in the nation. But with all the glitz and glamour that surrounds Oregon's program, winning out the rest of the season and getting to the playoffs with his passing numbers would really boost his chances.

4) Bo Wallace, Quarterback, Ole Miss Rebels
Passing Yards: 1700 (3400)
TD:INT Ratio: 15-6 (30-12)
Rushing Yards: 89 (178)
Rushing TDs: 2 (4)

Like Prescott, Wallace is benefiting from being arguably the best player on one of the best teams. In all honesty he isn't, but  he has done what he has to in order to win games and that means a lot when voting for the Heisman winner. He isn't the flashiest or the quickest or possesses the strongest arm, but he has made the plays he had to in order to win the games and has a victory over a top three team to his credit. His game against Alabama was his Heisman moment, as he made several key runs for first downs and threw two second half touchdowns to bring his team back and ultimately take the lead. Wallace isn't the runner that Prescott or Mariota is, but he also isn't asked to run it nearly as much as they are. He actually has one more carry than Mariota but almost half as many as Prescott, and many of his are designed keeps in short yardage situations. Bo is better as a passer, but as you will hear mentioned rather frequently is that there is too much disparity between the "Good Bo" and the "Bad Bo". When he is clicking with his receivers, it is very difficult to stop him and his group of athletic wide outs. But there have been two games in which he made some pretty dreadful decisions. He threw three interceptions in the opener against Boise State, all of which were either poorly thrown balls or just a terrible decision on his part. He also threw two picks against Memphis that allowed them to stay in the game a bit longer than Ole Miss would have wanted them to. Wallace has three more games in which to prove he is a worthy candidate. In two weeks, Ole Miss plays at LSU. The week after that, they get Auburn at home. And to end the season, Ole Miss plays their instate rival at home. If Wallace plays well in those three games and is able to win every one of them, he will likely vault Dak Prescott as the frontrunner.

5) Amari Cooper, Wide Receiver, Alabama Crimson Tide
Receptions: 54 (108)
Receiving Yards: 768 (1536)
Yards Per Reception: 14.2
Receiving Touchdowns: 5 (10)

Cooper would be a true candidate if he had a decent quarterback throwing to him, but inconsistency at that position and in his stat lines will keep him from getting an invitation to New York. Still, he is a tremendous talent and in a class of his own among other wide receivers in the country. He is a big, physical receiver who can make yards after the catch or high point the ball and beat the corner for the reception. Although not as tall as either, Cooper is like a smaller hybrid of Julio Jones and AJ Green, taking the best attributes from each. He rarely drops the ball, if ever. Cooper started out the season on fire. In each of his first four games, he caught at least eight passes and totaled at least 130 yards receiving. Against Florida's staunch defense, Cooper played like no one was even covering him. He caught ten passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns, often streaking down the field with no one within fifteen yards of him. He also played very well against West Virginia and made some clutch catches to keep the Mountaineers from pulling off the upset. In that game, he made twelve grabs for 130 yards. Cooper is the benefactor of Lane Kiffin's offensive strategy, which is to feed the ball to the best receiver on the field and let him do the rest. This was his strategy at USC when he had fantastic receivers and continues to work with a potential top five pick on the field. Cooper also benefits from average receivers on the opposite side of him. The next leading receiver on the team has 16 catches to Cooper's 54. Unfortunately for Cooper, he has really slowed down in the last two games. Against Ole Miss, he still caught nine passes but went for "only" 91 yards while being kept out of the endzone. He was completely phased out of the game against Arkansas, catching a mere two passes for 22 yards. It wasn't all his fault as Blake Sims was harassed all day and never had much time to throw, but Cooper wasn't getting great separation either to help out his quarterback. Alabama still has some really tough competition ahead of them. If Cooper can put up the production that he had at the beginning of the season, he could sneak back into the conversation.

You'll notice that there is one star that is not on this list. Famous Jameis. The fact of the matter is that he just has not played that well this year, and is in no way comparable to the season he had last year. Through five games, Winston has eleven touchdowns and five picks. He's never been a true dual threat, but he also has a meager two touchdowns on the ground. By contrast to last year, he had 19 touchdowns and only two picks through five games. This year, he has been held to only a single touchdown pass twice and looks like he isn't seeing the field as well. He is forcing throws, trusting his arm too much over his intellect and touch. It is almost impossible for a player to repeat winning the Heisman. The standard is elevated so much higher that Winston would probably have to throw fifty touchdowns this year which at this point seems unattainable. With the Seminoles only having one game against a ranked opponent left on their schedule, I don't think that he will be able to make up for his slow start.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Best and Worst of the NFL

by Justin Rasile

Best 3

Dallas (5-1)- Who saw this one coming?  I can tell you I certainly did not.  Obviously the biggest surprise is DeMarco Murray and Dallas’s unselfish way of actually running the ball.  That is still the way to win games because not only does your offense improve when you have a good ground game but your defense does too.  With an efficient running game, it keeps the opposing defense on the field and wears them down for later in the game, in addition to dominating time of possesion.  This defense went from allowing 418 yards per game last year to 342 yards this year.  Let us also not forget that this team let go of probably their best player in DeMarcus Ware.  What a transformation this team has made and they could easily win out up until their bye week.  So you go DeMarco Murray, run that ball down opposing defenses throats.

Denver (4-1)- Another win for Denver.  Even with Rex Ryan’s best efforts at mastering up a very good game plan to try and stop one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, it was all for naught.  Rex was forcing Manning to run the ball but when every single receiver needs to be covered because they are all threats, it is a very tough task at hand.  Especially considering any running back can find a way to gain 5 yards every down when facing so few men in the box.  Julius Thomas is quite possibly the hardest weapon to cover on the planet.  He is on pace for roughly 26 touchdowns if he keeps up the pace he is on and with 18 throwing the ball, anything is possible.  The Broncos now begin a tough stretch of three games starting at home against the 49ers, then onto the Chargers, and last but not least at the Patriots.  These games will help prepare this team for the playoffs and show us how tough they really are.

San Diego (5-1)- Philip Rivers and the bolts are cruising through and in the process are looking like a potential Super Bowl contender.  Antonio Gates, despite being written off each year, is playing big with the limited amount of targets he is receiving.  He has 6 touchdowns through the teams first 6 games despite only 24 grabs.  The next game for the Chargers is the Chiefs.  This is an obvious trap game because the Chargers will be looking forward a week to that Thursday night game against the Broncos on October 23.  Mike McCoy needs to make sure this team comes out firing on all cylinders and takes each game one game at a time.  This could be a tough task for the second year head coach. 

Worst 3

Jacksonville (0-6)- Being a fan of consistently one of the worst teams in the league is hard; writing about why they suck so badly is even harder.  The offensive line is atrocious and that completely impedes the running game.  Toby Gerhart may not be all that bad but it is nearly impossible to gain an inch when you are getting hit in the backfield every time.  Storm Johnson took over this week with Gerhart dealing with his nagging ankle injury and still could not get anything going.  Bortles ended up with the most rushing yards.  The lone bright spot on this team has been the emergence and quick development of Blake Bortles.  He has been amazing on third down conversions and is standing tall in the pocket despite always having somebody in his face (a big step up from Blaine Gabbert).  The big quarterback is going to have to find a way to rally this team to scratch and crawl for a victory.  Draft process, engage.

Oakland (0-5)- The Raiders actually looked pretty impressive this past weekend.  Despite losing the game they came out and played a tough game against a damn tough opponent.  The better team obviously won but if these Raiders play teams tough like this down the road, they will come away with more wins than most expect.  It may even be enough to get Tony Sparano the head job, unless current owner Mark Davis decides to completely overhaul the front office and fire Reggie McKenzie.  Derek Carr played pretty decent and may have already found a new favorite target in Andre Holmes, adding to other threats such as James Jones.  The schedule only gets tougher for this team when they face their next consecutive playoff team in the Arizona Cardinals.

Tampa Bay (1-5)- Lovie Smith has to start getting this team together.  No team has ever given up more touchdowns in the first 16 minutes of a game…ever.  And to none other than Joe Flacco.  Seriously Tampa Bay?  5 touchdowns to Average Joe?  But I digress.  The Buccaneers luckily have a bye week to prepare themselves for another pretty bad team in the Minnesota Vikings.  This could actually be a good week to get the team healthy and fully prepared for a game for once.  Hopefully Lovie uses his team’s time wisely.  Gerald McCoy and big free agent signing Michael Johnson have to recover and get their bodies right.  It will be interesting to see when this team really begins to give up and tries to tank for the number one overall pick.  Only time will tell. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Week 7 Top Ten

1) Mississippi State Bulldogs
Week 7 Result: Beat No. 2 Auburn Tigers 38-23 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 4

Mississippi State running back
Josh Robinson
The Bulldogs deserve to be number one. In the last three weeks, they have beaten three top ten opponents within their own conference. Realistically, two of them aren't quite as impressive now given that LSU was vastly overrated and A&M has been trending down ever since their huge win over South Carolina to start the season. But beating Auburn was a huge victory that has jumped the Bulldogs over Florida State in the AP Poll. Before Auburn could blink, they were down 21 points thanks to some aggressive plays by the Bulldogs defense. As I had mentioned, head coach Dan Mullen forced Nick Marshall to beat them from the pocket and the results were in their favor. Marshall did pass for two touchdowns, but also threw two picks that helped give Mississippi State an early lead. Marshall still ran for 100 yards, but he didn't accrue many of them until the game was beyond reach. Mississippi State's defense has some tremendous athletes at all levels, but plays more of a bend but don't break style. It was the prettiest game offensively as they still turned the ball over three times and had a fourth turnover on a terrible fake punt. Dak Prescott had two picks himself that were the more the result of some under thrown or poorly thrown balls as opposed to good plays by Auburn's defense. However, he did make some great throws early before the downpour started, and tacked on another 121 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Josh Robinson is their go to running back who ran for 97 yards and two touchdowns himself for the day. This team has the offensive weapons and the athletic defense to make a serious run for a championship.

2) Ole Miss Rebels
Week 7 Result: Beat No. 14 Texas A&M Aggies 35-20 in College Station
Last Week's Ranking: 3

Ole Miss safety Cody Prewitt
When was the last time the state of Mississippi was this relevant? Ole Miss continues to impress and climb in the polls while running over their conference foes. They seem to know exactly how to beat any team that they come up against with their offense. Last week against Alabama, they threw the ball to test the inexperienced secondary with great results. This week, they ran the ball down the Aggies throats in methodical fashion. They only gained 338 total yards of offense, but everything was so precise that that was all it took for them to pull out the impressive victory. Bo Wallace has really taken care of the football after throwing four pick in the opener against Boise State. It helps that he has a stud receiver in Laquon Treadwell and has good secondary and tertiary options if Treadwell is doubled. Wallace also punched in a few touchdowns on the ground from the one yard line. He doesn't have top end elusiveness or speed, but he is just very effective at hitting the hole and getting the yards he needs to without coughing it up. The defense was tested in this game and the secondary gave up a ton of yards, but they also forced Kenny Hill into a few costly mistakes. All-American safety Cody Prewitt returned one pick to the house to give the Rebels a three touchdown lead at one point. But the front seven played fantastically in this game, limiting A&M to only 54 yards on a stunning 1.5 yards per carry. No run went for more than six yards. They weren't quite as stout against Alabama, but they have continued to show improvement and can look dominant at times. This was a good victory on the road which should give them the confidence when they go into Death Valley to play LSU in two weeks.

3) Florida State Seminoles
Week 7 Result: Beat Syracuse Orange 38-20 in Syracuse
Last Week's Ranking: 1

Florida State tight end Nick O'Leary
This has been a long time coming. This is just not the same team that won the championship last year. I do have to give credit to Jameis who played a great game after learning Florida State would be bringing some action against him for his misconducts recently. He completed 30 of his 36 passes for 317 yards and three touchdowns. Syracuse has a terrible defense, and all around team really, but he made some great throws when his receivers didn't have optimal separation. In a season in which he hasn't looked like the Heisman winner that he is, this was a good, mistake free game to get on the right track again. He distributed the ball well, completing passes to seven different receivers and all touchdowns going to three separate players. Tight end Nick O'leary has again become a safety valve while he is developing a great rapport with true freshman Jesus Wilson who continues to improve as he learns the offense. The Seminoles were without Karlos Williams this week, but leaned on freshman Dalvin Cook who turned 23 carries into 122 yards and a touchdown. Its amazing the kind of depth that this team has and how they can use freshman to make an instant impact. The defense still gave up quite a few more yards than you want to see, but overall played pretty well. They forced Orange quarterback tandem into three interceptions and only 250 yards. Syracuse had some success running the ball, but ultimately they could not put up more points because of the costly interceptions. The Seminole's secondary is athletic and likes to play the ball in the air rather than the man which is can be effective but also costly. Next week's game against Notre Dame will have a huge impact on the playoffs. Whoever wins that game will likely make it while the other will be on the outside looking in.

4) Baylor Bears
Week 7 Result: Beat No. 9 TCU Horned Frogs 61-58 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 5

Baylor wide receiver Antwan Goodley
This game was absolutely insane. TCU had Baylor dead to rights with ten minutes left in the game and lost on a last second field goal. After having some stellar defensive performances to start off the year, Baylor gave up 485 total yards and put themselves in a terrible position to win this game. While they held TCU's quarterback Trevone Boykin to less than 21 of 47, he gained 287 yards and continued to put the Horned Frogs in a position to get touchdowns. They were gashed on the ground to the tune of 137 yards and four touchdowns as well. Their offense was another story entirely as they put up an astonishing 782 total yards, 510 of them coming from Bryce Petty as he lead the ferocious comeback. Petty also threw six touchdown passes, but also had two costly interceptions that put his team in a hole with one being returned for a touchdown by TCU. Baylor continues to recruit and immediately utilize some pretty incredible receivers. Three receivers had at least 120 yards and they each averaged over 18 yards per reception. Those are staggering numbers. They are lead by senior wide out Antwan Goodley who has had a bit of a slow start to the season but has really come on strong as of late. Freshman KD Cannon might be the most impressive of the group however as he brings both speed and height to the equation. Baylor also ran for 272 yards and were paced again by Shock Linwood, who averaged 6.2 yards per carry against what has proven to be a tough front seven from TCU. If Baylor can make it passed Oklahoma, they should be a lock for the playoffs.

5) Michigan State Spartans
Week 7 Result: Beat Purdue Boilermakers 45-31 in West Lafayette 
Last Week's Ranking: 6

Michigan State wide receiver Tony Lippett
Consistency is the only thing holding this team back from being a top tier contender is consistency. For whatever reason, they cannot put together four quarters of dominant football. Despite retaining a good number of players from the top ranked defense last season, the unit still has lapses that kept this game a bit too close for comfort. Purdue was able to score a touchdown in the last two minutes of the second quarter to cut the lead to seven and looked like they were primed for the upset. After going up by 21 points in the third quarter, they then gave up two touchdowns in a three minute span in the fourth quarter that made it 38-31. A pick six in the last few minutes gave them the two touchdown lead that was ultimately the final score. The good news for this team is that the offense continues to click and rack up yards on the ground and through the air. Michigan State dominated with their rush, with their committee of backs rushing for 294 yards at 6.8 yards per carry. Their three top rushers each averaged at least eight yards a carry and had runs of thirty or more yards. Connor Cook, was solid, but unspectacular. He is completing just over 50% of his passes in recent games and while he threw for three touchdowns, he also tossed a pick. The good news is that senior wide out Tony Lippett continues to abuse defenses with his height and speed. The 6'3 senior doesn't have a huge frame, but he's caught 32 passes and eight touchdowns this year and is clearly the safety valve of the team. I'd never thought I would say this before the season, but this defense could be tested next week against a powerful Indiana offense. They cannot afford any slip ups before playing Ohio State.

6) Auburn Tigers
Week 7 Result: Lost to No. 3 Mississippi State Bulldogs 23-38 in Starksville
Last Week's Ranking: 2

Auburn receiver Duke Williams
Its hard to drop Auburn that far considering they lost to a team ranked directly behind them, but the case could be made. This game was very sloppy from start to finish from them. Early turnovers lead to them being down by three touchdowns before the first quarter was even over. Nick Marshall threw the ball 35 times, very uncharacteristic in Malzahn's offense. The results were mixed. He completed only 17 of those passes while throwing two interceptions, but also made some key throws and added on two touchdown passes. The first interceptions was tipped at the line of scrimmage and an easy play was made on the ball, but the second was just a straight up bad decision. Auburn had some success on the ground, but a lot of it came later in the game when the Bulldogs were trying to prevent big plays down the field. They didn't always get the best play out of their receivers either. Duke Williams had a great game, catching six passes and both touchdowns by Marshall, but standout Sammie Coates really struggled in this game. He had numerous drops, including one in the endzone that would have put Auburn right back into this game. Defensively, it was an average game for the Tigers. They limited Dak Prescott through the air and picked him off twice on some poorly thrown balls, but they gave up too many yards and big plays. It doesn't help that they were put in a bad spot because of four turnovers, two of which happened right in their own redzone. But there wasn't always consistent pressure on Prescott who was able to turn loose on a few big runs and had time to set up his delivery. Auburn has a brutal schedule ahead of them, but they first need to take care of business against a desperate South Carolina squad.

7) Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Week 7 Result: Beat North Carolina Tar Heels 50-43 at home
Last Week's Ranking: 7

Notre Dame receiver William Fuller
The Irish may have moved up in the AP Poll, but I'm not so convinced after this performance against a vastly inferior opponent. If Notre Dame puts on this kind of performance against Florida State, they will have no chance at all. Everrett Golson has looked stellar in some games while being very mediocre in others. He threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns this game, but also committed three turnovers that turned into UNC points. Regardless of that fact, this is still one of the better offensive performances that I have seen out of Notre Dame since Brian Kelly became their head coach. William Fuller continues to develop as Golson's favorite target, as evidenced by his seven catches and two touchdowns. Tarean Folston has also picked up his game, becoming a reliable number two receiver coming out of the backfield to Fuller. Folson was also the leading rusher in this game, turning 18 carries into 98 yards and another two touchdowns on the day. The biggest disappointment outside of Golson's numerous turnovers was the defense which has been great until this point. As mentioned, three turnovers is going to put your defense in a bad position no matter what, but UNC was still able to rack up 510 total yards of offense. UNC's leading rusher averaged 7.3 yards per carry against them, almost unheard of for this team over the last several season. They got good pressure on the quarterback, but their secondary looked weak as they surrendered 303 yards and two touchdowns. Notre Dame has to prepare their asses off for Florida State this week or else they can kiss their playoff hopes goodbye.

8) Georgia Bulldogs
Week 7 Result: Beat No. 23 Missouri Tigers 34-0 in Columbia
Last Week's Ranking: 8

Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd
This had to be the biggest shocker of the day. I never would have expected this team to respond to the suspension of Todd Gurley with an absolute beat down of a solid Missouri squad. On the road, no less. Freshman running back Nick Chubb bore the brunt of the carries in this game, and while he isn't quite Gurley, he still had a good day. He was fed the ball a grueling 38 times and turned that into 143 yards and a touchdown. His yards per carry isn't tremendously impressive, but he grinded out yards when he had to and was really the catalyst on offense. My only real complaint about the offense is their quarterback, Huston Mason. He was incredibly efficient in this game, completing 22 of his 28 passes and totaling two touchdowns, but he has absolutely zero ability to get the ball downfield. Those 22 completions only yielded the Bulldogs 156 yards through the air, which is just over seven yards per completion. I didn't watch the full game, but every pass that I saw was just a small pass out into the flat or dump offs. His game is going to have to improve dramatically if they want to be a real contender in the SEC. The most impressive part of this game was how the defense played. They were simply lights out. They have been streaky on defense all year, but they showed up this game and held Missouri to only 147 TOTAL yards while forcing five turnovers, four of them being interceptions. Consistent pressure, especially off the edges, forced Maty Mauk into an atrocious showing where he completed only 9 of 21 passes. The defensive backs were ball hawks in this game and never allowed much separation from their receivers. Georgia doesn't play a ranked opponent until Auburn in a month, but they can't afford to overlook Kentucky and Florida in the meantime.

9) Alabama Crimson Tide
Week 7 Result: Beat Arkansas Razorbacks 14-13 in Fayetteville
Last Week's Ranking: 9

Alabama defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson
Again, this was a thoroughly unimpressive display on offense for a team that has enjoyed so much success in that area recently. Saban has always prided himself on his ability to create a stifling game plan defensively, but with the running backs he's recruited and the success he got out of AJ McCarron, this is a tremendous step backwards. Arkansas is not known for having a crippling defense, so the fact that Alabama could only muster 227 total yards of offense is pretty appalling. The ground game was completely shut down to the tune of 66 yards with an average carry of 2.5 yards. The backs simply had no room to run as the offensive line was handled pretty easily by the Arkansas front seven. Blake Sims had another poor outing as well, completing only 11 of 21 for 161 yards, albeit with two touchdowns. After getting off to a fast start, star receiver Amari Cooper only caught two passes for 22 yards in this game. It isn't his fault entirely, however, as his quarterback has been wildly inconsistent. The defense did have a much better day than what they experienced against Ole Miss the other week. Safety Landon Collins continues to prove he is the best in the country with yet another interception on the season. Arkansas really had to earn every yard that they racked up, but they shot themselves in the foot by missing a point after touchdown which was the deciding factor in this game. Alabama's defensive line and linebackers look like they have meshed as they limited an explosive rush attack to just 89 yards on 39 carries. But the secondary continues to look like a weakness as they gave up a few big plays through the air. Alabama has the talent to win some tough games coming up, but it doesn't seem like they'll be winning too many in a convincing fashion.

10) Oregon Ducks
Week 7 Result: Beat No. 18 UCLA Bruins 42-30 in Los Angeles
Last Week's Ranking: Outside Top Ten

Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu
I'm vaulting the Ducks over the Sooners this week because Oklahoma has looked terrible the last two weeks while Oregon has continued to improve since their crushing loss to Arizona. This game was also pretty indicative of UCLA, who had very high hopes at the beginning of the season but has really fallen off after an early season loss to Utah. Oregon looked very impressive in this game as they were up 35-10 by the start of the fourth quarter and really just allowed garbage time points when their starters weren't even on the field. The Oregon defense played a great game, consistently harassing Brett Hundley into mistakes and never giving him a lot of time to throw. Hundley was able to complete 66% of his passes, but all he netted was 216 which indicates that he was forced to throw underneath frequently. Oregon kept Jordan Payton to just sixty yards on six catches and never allowed him to really get passed the secondary. They did allow more than 300 yards on the ground which is worrisome and has been their bane in recent years, but they made crucial stops and only allowed two touchdowns on 58 rushes, a damn good statistic. As you can tell by the score, the Ducks rolled offensively in this game. Mariota had a very successful day, accounting for 285 yards and four total touchdowns. He did have a fumble, but he actually recovered it himself and ran it into the endzone. Mariota has been able to avoid interceptions all season, but he is fumble prone and that could really cost him against a more aggressive defense. The biggest surprise has to be freshman running back Royce Freeman who has gotten the bulk of carries this season. Freeman ran for 121 yards and a pair of touchdowns on only 18 carries. The depth at running back is truly remarkable. Oregon only has one real challenge left in Stanford. If they can get passed them, they will have a great shot at the playoffs.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Best Games for Week 7

Noon Game
No. 13 Georgia Bulldogs @ No. 23 Missouri Tigers (CBS)

This game has lost a bit of its appeal in the wake of Todd Gurley being suspended for receiving improper benefits. Gurley is the leading Heisman candidate and has been unstoppable in every game this year. Georgia is going to be in a tough situation heading into this game. They will also be without standout freshman Sony Michel due to injury, leaving them with their other standout freshman Nick Chubb and a strangely underutilized Keith Marshall in the backfield. I simply don't trust quarterback Hutson Mason to make the throws necessary to keep them in the game. Their defense will also be tested against a Missouri offense that has a lot of potential, but has been inconsistent this season. Their quarterback Maty Mauk has a good touchdown to pick ratio (14:4), but he is only completing 56% of his passes on the year. A big reason for this is that they throw a lot of intermediate to deep routes, as evidenced by their two leading receivers averaging over 15 yards a reception. Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy have combined for 733 yards and six touchdowns on the year at a solid 5.6 yards a carry. The Tigers also have a pair of dangerous edge rushers who will hassle Mason all day if he doesn't make quick decisions and deliver. Without Gurley, I don't think Georgia has enough fire power to keep up with Missouri. I think the Tigers solidify their position in the SEC East with a victory over Georgia, 28-20.

Afternoon Game
No. 2 Auburn Tigers @ No. 3 Mississippi State Bulldogs (3:30 on CBS)

This should be a great game. I'll admit that I really don't know that much about Mississippi State as I haven't had a chance to watch them this season, but their quarterback Dak Prescott has emerged as a Heisman front runner. Prescott accounted for five total touchdowns in the upset of Texas A&M last week and will need to have an equally big performance this week to pull off another upset. The Bulldogs have been averaging 43 points a game this season, best for 12th in the nation at this point. Its clear that they know how to generate yardage and points, but it is going to be up to the defense to give them a comfortable lead at home. The defense picked off Kenny Hill three times last week, but they still have given up an average of 30 points against their two SEC foes. We already know what Auburn is capable of as they retained a lot of players from a championship run last year. Lead by Nick Marshall, Auburn is a dangerous offensive team that can strike in any multitude of ways. Marshall is still developing as a passer, but his game against LSU can show you what he is capable of when he gets into a rhythm. For the Bulldogs to win, they have to limit the ground game and keep Marshall in the pocket and force him to beat them with his arm. Auburn has a surprisingly stout defense this year that is allowing only 14 points a game. I think experience and better coaching allows Auburn to walk away from this one in an all too close for comfort game, 41-35.

Evening/Night Game
No. 3 Ole Miss Rebels @ No. 14 Texas A&M Aggies (9:30 on ESPN)

Unfortunately, there really aren't any appealing games once the Auburn vs. Mississippi State game ends and this one begins. If you are feeling desperate, Alabama at Arkansas should be interesting to see if Alabama can rebound after last week's loss. But this game provides the most intrigue. Ole Miss is coming off of the high of beating a top three ranked team last week and vaulting eight spots up the polls. As I discussed in my top ten rankings for this week, the Rebels have a superb defense and an offense that is very dynamic when it is clicking. They are going to need a complete game to be able to beat a Texas A&M team that is looking very desperate after a loss last week and a poor outing against Arkansas the week prior. As was the problem last year, the Aggies defense just lets up too many big plays. They have some highly touted recruits on that side of the ball, but Sumlin hasn't been able to put it all together to make a strong defense that can show up every week. The good news is that they can score with the best of them. Kenny Hill is a talented quarterback, but sometimes he makes some absolutely dreadful decisions that lead to turnovers. Against Ole Miss, Sumlin is going to have to get the run game going from the start. Alabama churned out six yards a carry against Ole Miss last week, and with A&M averaging 190 yards a game on the ground they shouldn't have too much difficulty getting the ball moving. Still, I don't think that they will be able to overcome the Rebels' stifling defense. I like Ole Miss in this one 35-27.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Best and the Worst of the NFL

by Justin Rasile

Best 3

Denver (3-1)- Peyton Manning and those Broncos took care of the Cardinals this past weekend.  Granted, Arizona was onto their third string quarterback after Drew Stanton was knocked out with a concussion.  This Denver team is scary.  Their offense is clicking all cylinders and that defense is loaded with pro bowlers and talent that will be key in taking them deep into the playoffs.  Peyton just threw his 503 touchdown pass and will look to increase on that against a New York Jets team that is literally crumbling before our very eyes.  This game could be a blowout and very well could be over by halftime.  There is no stopping Peyton now as he has that look in his eye and will cut the throat of anybody who is willing to get into his way.

San Diego (4-1)- This Chargers team is impressing me more and more each week.  Philip Rivers is tossing that ball around at a very efficient rate; he is completing more than 70% of his passes, is averaging 8.75 yards per pass, and his 12 touchdown to 2 interception ratio is one of the best in the league.  Yes, they did just beat down the hopeless New York Jets but that defense did shut out that Jets offense for the leagues first shut out this year.  Impressive.  Branden Oliver was just inserted into the starting lineup after having a very impressive preseason.  Antonio Gates even went as far as to compare Oliver to former San Diego running back Darren Sproles, which if Oliver is even half of that comparison then he could turn out to be a pretty dam good back.  That defense is also adding to this teams mystique.  They are sacking the quarterback (12), forcing interceptions (3), and forcing/ recovering fumbles (8/5).  That is a recipe for success.  Next up for the Chargers is Oakland; need I say more?

Seattle (3-1)- Russell freakin’ Wilson.  Is there anything this kid cannot do?  In just his third year in the league, he has a very extraordinary home record as he has 19 wins and 1 loss, has won a Super Bowl, and he still manages to remain hungry week in and week out.  He did it all against Washington Monday night when he decided to run for a MNF quarterback record 122 yards, while passing for 201, and a total of 3 touchdowns against a Redskins defense that covered his receivers very well.  The next game for this Seahawks team is a very important matchup, as they will be playing against the Dallas Cowboys.  This game is in Seattle, which as we know is a huge plus for Wilson and his team.  DeMarco Murray has been a man on fire and it will take all that Seattle can throw at him to slow this running back down.

Worst 3

Jacksonville (0-5)- Another week, another loss.  Thankfully, the Jags defense decided to show up this week and held Ben Roethlisberger and company in check for the most part.  Antonio Brown was covered very well by Demetrius McCray.  Brown ended the day with 5 catches for 84 yards, but when McCray covered the Steelers number one target, he had 4 catches for 54 yards.  Pretty damn impressive if you ask me for a seventh rounder in his second season making his second career start.  Up next for Jacksonville is their divisional rival the Tennessee Titans.  This is actually a winnable game for the Jaguars but the way this season is going, even Charlie Whitehurst could win the game against those pitiful cats.

Oakland (0-4)- The Raiders are coming off a bye week where major changes were made to that coaching staff. The firing of Dennis Allen is one that needed to happen as well as the promoting of Tony Sparano to head coach.  It will be interesting to see how this team comes out of the gate Sunday when they face the Chargers.  Complacency is a killer in the National Football League and there is a very good possibility that could happen Sunday when Oakland plays the Chargers.  If the Raiders come out and run the ball down their opponents’ throats, they could catch San Diego off-guard and remain competitive in a game that is projected to be a blowout.

New York Jets (1-4)- Although this team has won one game, the Jets may be the worst, most dysfunctional team in the league.  Rex Ryan has overstayed his job by a few years and there is a possibility that he may be fired midseason, except for the fact that Woody Johnson has a woody for him.  For some reason Rex stays around.  Geno Smith or Michael Vick?  It doesn’t matter.  Both suck.  Eric Decker cannot stay healthy so this team has no offensive threats.  Then there is also the little issue of playing Peyton Manning and the Broncos this Sunday.  The Jets will be 1-5 staring into the face of a hungry New England Patriots team the following week in New England.  Hello top 5 pick in the draft.