College football roundup (11/16)

The top two teams in the nation faced scares on Saturday.  TCU had a devastating weekend.  The SEC championship is set, and it appears the winner of the Bedlam rivalry will meet Nebraska for the Big 12 title.

Amidst all the allegations facing him, Cam Newton once again proved why he’s college football’s best player.  Georgia simply had no answer for him.  Don’t be fooled either, this was a Bulldog defense with plenty of talent and speed to contain Newton.  But like every other team who has face no. 2, he shredded them. 

Cam Newton greets the Auburn students before the game Saturday against Georgia

To his team, Cam Newton may be the most valuable player college football has seen in the past decade.  Auburn has at least three losses without him.

Auburn’s defense looked porous in the first half as they were torched by A.J. Green.  But, they came up big in the second half allowing only 10 points.  Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray looked outstanding at times.  This kid will be an absolute star next year in college football. 

The game ended on a sour note for Auburn as two defensive starters, Mike Blanc and Michael Goggans were ejected from the game and will subsequently miss the first half of the Alabama game.  By the way, this year’s Iron Bowl might be the best game of the year.  Can you imagine Cam Newton going up against Alabama’s stingy defense?

After one of their biggest wins in school history, the weekend couldn’t have been any worse for TCU.  After falling two touchdowns behind to San Diego St., the Horned Frogs rallied to score 37 straight before narrowly winning 40-35.  The Aztecs are a formidable opponent as they went wire to wire at Missouri, but this was a matchup TCU shouldn’t have struggled with.

TCU’s shellacking of Utah two weekends ago took a hit when Notre Dame beat the Utes on Saturday, 28-3.  Utah outgained the Irish, but had two costly turnovers.   My guess is that a Boise St. team that wins out will jump a TCU team that does the same.  After all, the Broncos did knock off TCU last year and returned virtually everybody.

Oregon gutted out a victory over a Cal team that gives up just over 200 yards a game at home.  Each season a championship-caliber team grits out a close win that perhaps shouldn’t be that close.  This was the Ducks’.  They definitely caught a few breaks from Cal playing their backup quarterback to an illegal motion penalty on a go-ahead field goal.  Which Cal’s Giorgio Tavecchio missed after the five yard penalty.

Oregon has two weeks to prepare for a visit from reeling Arizona, then travels to Corvallis for the annual “Civil War” matchup against Oregon St.  Expect Oregon to handle these two opponents easily en route to a BCS title berth.

Auburn knocking off Georgia solidified their position in the SEC championship game.  Their opponent would come from the winner of Florida-South Carolina. 

It was arguably the biggest game in South Carolina football history.  It was the ol’ ball coach returning to the “swamp”.  And it was all South Carolina. 

Florida returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown.  But failed to score again until less than 8 minutes left in the contest, and by then it was hardly that.  Gamecock running back Marcus Lattimore staked his claim as the nation’s best freshman by rushing for 212 yards on 40 carries to go along with three touchdowns. 

Florida managed only 226 yards of total offense and a meager 35 on the ground.  Going back to the beginning of the year I thought for Florida to compete in the SEC they had to run the ball efficiently.  They’ve failed to do so and are suffering their worst season since the Ron Zook era.

Oklahoma St. ended a 12 year draught against Texas as they thrashed the Longhorns in primetime Saturday night.  Brandon Weeden is one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the nation.  He is deadly accurate and has a strong arm (hence his experience playing Minor League baseball). 

This game wasn’t even as close as the final score of 33-16 indicated.  By the end of the third quarter it was all but over as the Pokes had a controlling 33-3 lead.  Shouldn’t we have seen this coming?  It was the first time since 1999 that Texas was a home underdog.

Wide receiver Justin Blackmon continued his stellar season.  His 67- yard score in the second quarter was a microcosm of his ability.  He used his elusive speed to get past the coverage, then leveraged himself just enough to where the ball fell right into his arms for what he made look like a simple reception.

Just how good is Blackmon?  He’s averaged no less than 125 yards receiving in every game and has scored at least one touchdown in each.  His numbers are shaping up to be better than Dez Bryant’s in 2008 and a shade less than Michael Crabtree’s in 2007.  Not to mention Blackmon missed a game due to suspension.

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NBA Power Rankings (1-15)

 

written by Tyler Merritt

With the NBA season now in full swing, the defending champs have put their stamp on the league yet again, the Hornets have surprised the league with a quick start, and Miami has growing pains.

Take a look at the top 15 teams in the NBA:

  1. Lakers (8-1) – The defending champs took a back seat to the TMZ show going on in Miami this offseason but took no time re-asserting their dominance.
  2. Hornets (7-0) – Chris Paul and first year head coach Monty Williams have the Hornets off to their best start in franchise history.
  3. Celtics (7-2) – Rajon Rondo continues to play at an elite level. They’ve beaten the Heat twice now, but have still dropped two games.
  4. Spurs (6-1) – The big 3 aren’t getting any younger, but their bench sure is. They’ve moved Manu into the starting lineup and Richard Jefferson is playing like the old RJ.
  5. Magic (5-2) – They were stomped by Miami early and let one slip away against Utah. They’ll need Jameer Nelson to take the next step if they hope to be a contender.
  6. Mavericks (5-2) – The Mavs are off to the same start as always. They’re undefeated on the road, but will need more contribution from Caron Butler and Jason Kidd.
  7. Jazz (5-3) – They’ve come back from huge deficits in their past 3 games on good teams. Let’s not forget though, they played bad enough to be down by that much too.
  8. Heat (5-4) – The Heat haven’t found their rhythm on offense, but they are playing strong defense and will continue to beat teams off of pure star power.
  9. Bulls (4-3) – Joakim Noah looks stronger and is making a large presence early this year. Look for them to get a big boost when Carlos Boozer gets back and up to speed.
  10. Trailblazers (6-3) – They’ve won big and lost big this season. They’ll need LaMarcus Aldridge to become a 20-10 player and Brandon Roy to start distributing the ball more.
  11. Hawks (6-3) – They ran through easy opponents to start, but have dropped three straight. Joe Johnson has more money but is giving less production. They have 6 guys averaging 10-plus points per game.
  12. Thunder (4-3) – They’ll beat a good team and lose to a bad one. They’re still young and looking for consistency. James Hardin is struggling early.
  13. Nuggets (5-4) – Despite an upset star player, they are still fighting and just had a big fourth quarter comeback on the Lakers.
  14. Warriors (6-3) – They lack depth, but Monte Ellis is playing at an all-star level.
  15. Pacers (3-3) – Danny Granger is coming off a superstar performance, but the Pacers still lack consistency. Look for them to be in a race for the 7th or 8th seed come season end.

Note: The Hornets, Spurs, and Mavericks are each a league best 3-0 on the road.

The Rockets will not be a threat in the Western Conference until they split ties with Yao Ming.

A healthy Spurs team could be the biggest threat to the Lakers throne when the playoffs arrive. Greg Popovich will rest his stars throughout the season and give his young bench a chance to establish themselves.

Why TCU should not play in the BCS title game

As always, we love dissent in the sports world. Here is one of our contributor’s thoughts on TCU

written by Tyler Merritt

It appears after a win over Utah and an Alabama loss at LSU, the team in waiting for a BCS title shot is clearly TCU. It appears the media has accepted TCU as a serious title contender now that Alabama has two losses. But why?

Let’s step back for a minute…tap the brakes on this TCU bandwagon and look at some facts. The facts are in the schedule. I know, same ol’ same ol’ argument. I myself got tired of it. So let’s take a different approach. We’ll evaluate the teams that are their “key wins” for what they are by looking at the numbers. Their top four wins are Oregon State, Baylor, Air Force, and most notably Utah. I’ll start from the beginning:

Oregon St: For starters, their 4-4. They don’t even have a winning record. Out of those four wins, one was over Louisville by seven and another over ASU (4-5) by three. This would be comparative to LSU beating Mississippi State. You wouldn’t even look at the final because you know they’ll win.

Oregon States national rankings in Points for and Points Against are: 59th and 65th respectively.
They just flat out are NOT IMPRESSIVE.

Baylor: Who is this Baylor team? I’ll admit this Baylor isn’t the same Baylor that has been getting curb stopped for years by everyone in the Big 12. They’ve got a very talented dual-threat quarterback in Robert Griffin who can cause a headache for a lot of teams. Baylor also boasts an impressive 7-3 record which includes wins over ONE…ONE team with a winning record (Kansas State). Put the “bear paws” back down Baylor, you’re still Baylor.

Air Force: STOP… just STOP. If you thought Air force’s ranking earlier this season was legit, then I guess you still think OJ’s innocent, that Mike Vick loves dogs, and the Cowboys still got a shot at the playoffs. They’re 6-4 overall and 3-3 in the coveted MWC. That’s enough about that.

Which leads me to Utah; TCU’s eye opening blowout victory on the road against the #5 team in the country. This is my favorite part!

UTAH: The Ute’s had walked their way through the season up until they met TCU. They opened with an OT victory over Pitt (whose most notable victory is Syracuse), and then followed by stomping the teams who followed. These teams were:
UNLV (1-8): 115th points for 115th points against
New Mexico (1-8): 114th points for 118th points against
San Jose State (1-8): 120th points for 102nd points against
Iowa State (5-5): 79th points for 85th points against
Wyoming (2-8): 113th points for 97th points against
Colorado State (3-7): 107th points for 98th points against
Air Force (6-4): See Above for thoughts

TCU has had years of chances to schedule strong out of conference opponents, and have been too cowardly to do so. They continually refuse to play top opponents and then at the end of the season hold their hands out like the hobo sitting at your local intersection. Not willing to work for it, but hoping you will give them a chance. So please, spare me the tears when America doesn’t care to put their two cents in your cup.

NFL midseason thoughts

Peyton Manning has thrown a touchdown pass to six different players

Now that every team has played at least half their games, let’s recap…

Offensive MVP
Peyton Manning, QB Indianapolis – Put any receiver or tight end in no. 18’s arsenal and he finds a way to get them the ball. Manning’s completing 65% of his passes and has an outstanding four to one touchdown to interception ratio. The veteran quarterback is doing this while the Colts’ running game is averaging a meager 3.7 yards per carry.

Defensive MVP
Clay Matthews, LB Green Bay – Not a very tough pick here. The second-year guy out of USC has been terrorizing opponents in Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense. Even sitting out a game due to injury, Matthews leads the NFL in sacks with 10.5. He added to his impressive stat line last week by returning an interception for a touchdown against Dallas.

Offensive Rookie
Jahvid Best, RB Detroit – Hmm… it’s hard to find an offensive rookie lighting up the stat sheet. Dez Bryant has yet to surpass 100 yards receiving in a game. Sam Bradford is showing potential, but is in the bottom third of the league in passer rating. Best is on pace to have over 1300 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns and is a big reason the Lions offense can score with anyone.

Defensive Rookie
Ndamukong Suh, DT Detroit – Not bad to have two potential rookie awards on the same team. Suh is starting to come on strong for a Lions team that has a very bright future. Over the past three games he has four sacks including a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Did anyone see his PAT attempt last week against the Jets?

Biggest Surprise
Kansas City Chiefs – I thought this team would be very competitive with its young talent. But 5-3 at the half-way point? The Chiefs could easily be 7-1 as they had heartbreaking losses at Houston and Oakland. With San Diego playing well, the AFC West race is one to follow as the season ends. Todd Haley is a coach of the year candidate.

Biggest Disappointment
Cincinnati Bengals – For the sake of time and space I won’t mention Jerry’s team. Considering the Bengals were a playoff team last year, they have to be upset with a 2-6 start. After Cedric Benson’s career appeared to be revived, he’s averaging just 3.7 yards per carry. Carson Palmer is one of the most overrated quarterbacks in the league. The lone bright spot? Ironically the guy who causes locker room drama is having a pro bowl type season. Yes, I’m talking about Terrell Owens who has 770 yards receiving to go along with 7 touchdowns.

Best Team
Pittsburgh Steelers – Tempting to put the Packers here, but I’ll stick with the best defense in the league and an offense that looks to be coming together with Ben Roethlisberger back. The stingy defense gives up less than 60 yards a game rushing. Rashard Mendenhall is one of the better running backs in the game. Receiver Mike Wallace leads the NFL in yards per catch at 23 a clip. Their only two losses are to Baltimore minus Roethlisberger and on the road at New Orleans. The remaining schedule is very favorable.

Worst Team
Buffalo Bills – Probably the least talented team in the league, it’s no surprise at the 0-8 start. However, they’ve had legitimate shots to win six of the eight games they’ve competed in. They appear to have two winnable games left on the schedule against Detroit and Cleveland. And with the effort the Bills put out each week I wouldn’t expect them to go winless. I hope Andrew Luck likes Buffalo because that’s where he’s headed in April’s draft.

Other rants

– Dallas should do everything in its power to draft cornerback Patrick Peterson of LSU.

– Brad Childress has absolutely lost it. He blew the Randy Moss deal, and is continually taking shots at Brett Favre.

– The Texans look to be headed down the same path. Great offense, no defense. Gary Kubiak’s in trouble if this team doesn’t make the playoffs.

– Has there ever been more parody in the NFL? Every division is up for grabs and about eight teams have a legitimate shot at winning the Super Bowl.

– Adrian Peterson (knock on wood) hasn’t fumbled this season.

Weekend’s games shakeup college football

The play of quarterback Andy Dalton has made TCU a legit title contender.

Perhaps two of the biggest results of the season occurred Saturday in college football. Many people (myself included) predicted an Alabama win, and a close game between TCU and Utah. The opposite took place thus shaking up the BCS title landscape.

Alabama losing Saturday at LSU knocks them out of the championship picture. TCU absolutely thrashing Utah on the road makes them a legit title contender. Can anyone remember the last time a top five team lost by 40 points at home?

So what exactly do these two results mean? By Alabama losing, it appears as though a one loss SEC team will not be in the national championship. As good as LSU looked on Saturday they need Auburn to lose twice in their two remaining SEC games to even make it to Atlanta for the SEC championship. That’s unlikely.

As for Auburn, if they lose at Alabama in their final regular season game, don’t be surprised if they are jumped by TCU in the BCS standings. And the fact that Auburn’s potential opponent in the SEC championship will be ranked outside of the top 15 doesn’t help either.

Scoring margin doesn’t factor into the BCS computers. After TCU’s big win this weekend, it should be a vital part of it. If TCU wins this game on a late field goal it’s still a very nice win. But to win by 40 on the road with your quarterback having a career day passing has to mean something, right? I’ve never been a fan of non-AQ teams being a part of the national championship, but this team is the real deal.

With that being said here is the case for five teams who have title hopes…

Oregon
The Ducks are on the verge of setting a record for points scored in a season. Scoring 53 points this past week versus Washington actually brought their points per game average down. They have a Heisman candidate at running back in LaMichael James and their quarterback doesn’t make mistakes. What concerns me is that they are giving up over 24 points a game in conference play. But does that even matter when your offense is putting up more than 54 a game? The toughest test remaining is the annual “Civil War” game at Oregon St.
They’ll be in if … All they have to do is win out.

Auburn
TCU’s annihilation of Utah on Saturday may mean the Tigers have to go undefeated for a shot at the BCS crown. A victory over Georgia this week guarantees Auburn a spot in the SEC championship game. Two of the last three national champions from the SEC had at least one loss during the regular season. Auburn at least has that going for them. However, when people look at Auburn they wouldn’t compare them to Florida in 2008. There’s no question Auburn has one of the best players in recent college football history with Cam Newton. Their defense however is average. It took overtime for the Tigers to knock off Clemson at home. They beat an average Mississippi St. team by three and needed a last second field goal to salvage a win over Kentucky.
They’ll be in if … They win out. If they lose at Alabama they need a TCU slip up which isn’t likely.

TCU
This is the best non-AQ team since the birth of the BCS in 1998. The defense has a legitimate six players that could be drafted in April. The offense is led by a fifth year senior who is playing like an elite college quarterback. The win at Utah may be the most impressive win any team has had this year. They may also have the stat of the year. The TCU defense has held eight of its opponents to their season low in scoring this year. If you want to complain about their conference schedule, fine. They can’t help that though. But their non-league schedule included a solid Oregon St. team, and a surprisingly good Baylor team which they beat handily 45-10.
They’ll be in if … They win out and either Oregon or Auburn loses.

Boise St.
The win over Virginia Tech is looking good again as the Hokies appear to be set for a date in the Orange Bowl. The Broncos are led by a veteran squad and have a quarterback in Kellen Moore who will probably wind up in New York City as a Heisman finalist. The TCU triumph over Utah also hurt Boise St. Two teams from non-AQ conferences will not play in the national title game. And it now appears people’s hearts are set on TCU. I like Boise going on the road to play Virginia Tech and the home win against Oregon St. is nice. But you can’t schedule Wyoming and Toledo as your other two non-conference games and expect to receive the same praise of other top teams.
They’ll be in if … They need a lot of help. An Oregon or Auburn loss is a must. A loss by TCU is also needed.

LSU
The Bengal Tigers are on the outside looking in. The defense is one of the best in the country with draft prospects scattered across it. However, the upset of Alabama was caused by the play of the two LSU quarterbacks, Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee. What’s scary about this LSU team is they could win every game they’re a part of if their quarterbacks play as well as they did Saturday. As we’ve seen throughout the season though, that may be too much to ask. The Tigers have an NCAA best four wins over ranked opponents. Their mediocre offense means they have trouble blowing teams out. But the outstanding defense also means they can play with anyone in the country. A win at Arkansas in their last game would add even more glamour to their season. But will it be enough?
They’ll be in if … The best case scenario is Auburn losing to Georgia and Alabama, thus vaulting LSU into SEC championship game. Assuming they win that, I think either Oregon or TCU will have to drop a game as well. As for this week, LSU fans will be pulling hard for Georgia.

The Randy Moss saga

Many opinions have been formed about Randy Moss over the past few days. But why should it surprise anyone? Moss’ temperament has been well documented throughout his career. Why else would he have fallen to the Vikings at number 21 in the 1998 draft? Lou Holtz has reiterated his thoughts on Moss calling him the greatest high school football player he’s ever seen. And while the stud receiver is not in his prime anymore, he is still elite.

Moss was his happiest in Minnesota when he had a mentor, Chris Carter. Which is why a few years after Carter’s retirement, Moss was dealt to the hopeless Raiders. Randy Moss is the type of player that has to play on a team with great leadership from a player (i.e. Carter) or coach (Bill Belichick). It’s no secret that Moss plays when he wants to. At the end of his first stint with Minnesota he literally walked around the field on called running plays. In a road game at Washington he again trotted off the field with less than a minute left in a one-possession game.

The media seems to think Moss was swiftly cut from the Vikings this week because of his tirade on a food catering service. This could not be further from truth. While the act itself was immature, you don’t release a hall of fame player because of it. If this was the case Moss would have been cut immediately after he virtually ran over a parking attendant in 2004.

Instead Moss’ comments regarding his “love” for the Patriots seemed to be the telling factor that he wasn’t happy in Minnesota. Randy could not have been in a better situation than he was at New England. He had the perfect coach, a star quarterback, and the team was winning. The biggest mistake wasn’t the Vikings releasing Moss, but Moss himself finding his way out of a Patriot uniform.

Minnesota should’ve known what they were going to get with Moss. Yes it’s nice to have safeties at an absurd 15-20 yards off the line of scrimmage to open up running lanes for Adrian Peterson. But to virtually use Moss as a decoy was brainless by Brad Childress. Can you really blame Moss for being unhappy back in purple?

I don’t know how Randy Moss will perform at Tennessee. I have no clue. What I do know is that Titan coach Jeff Fisher will keep him in line. The downside is Moss doesn’t have a capable quarterback to throw him the ball. Belichick and New England once again look like geniuses for stealing a third round pick from Minnesota. Now, the Vikings are reeling and head coach Brad Childress’ job looks in question.

Crucial conference games highlight weekend

LSU may need a "heisman-like" performance from star Patrick Peterson to defeat Alabama

Last week’s slate of games featuring top 5 teams were a bit one sided. Iowa obliterated Michigan St. at home. Oregon continued their offensive clinic by running through USC. Nebraska’s Roy Helu Jr. ran for a Husker record 307 yards. And Auburn’s Cam Newton showed his versatility by catching a pass for a touchdown.

This Saturday’s schedule should prove to be one of the better ones of the year, really though…

Alabama at LSU

Outside of a potential SEC West deciding title game between Alabama-Auburn, this is the most intriguing matchup of the SEC season. Tiger fans still haven’t forgotten about the Nick Saban debacle. Unlike two years ago where I felt Alabama was far better than LSU (that game went into OT in Death Valley), this year’s game should be close again. But why? LSU could easily have three losses, and many analysts still feel Alabama is the best team in the nation. Yes the LSU offense is sub-par averaging only 139 yards a game through the air (113th in NCAA). But the defense has NFL potential all over it, which will keep them in the game. If you’ve read me before you know how much I like Tiger corner Patrick Peterson. Some scouts say he is the best cornerback to come out of college football since Charles Woodson. And believe me he is that good. Drake Nevis anchors a defensive front which has dominated every game with the exception of Auburn, but then again who has played well against them. The LSU defense is giving up less than 16 points a game and it wouldn’t surprise me if they continued that trend on Saturday. Which means it will be up to the offense to generate some big plays, or perhaps Peterson on special teams.

Alabama will be happy to be coming off a bye week going into Tiger Stadium. And as good as the LSU defense is the Crimson Tide’s unit is just as strong. Alabama will look to pound the ball with the duo of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. Receiver Julio Jones had his best outing as a Crimson Tide player against Tennessee going for 221 yards on 12 catches. Look for a low-scoring game as it was two years ago. Whichever quarterback makes the fewest mistakes will be the deciding factor. And we all know LSU has instability at the postion…

The pick… Alabama … 20 LSU … 17

TCU at Utah

LSU can make a statement knocking off what many people think is the best one-loss team in the nation. TCU can make an even bigger one by winning on the road at a very good Utah team.

First off, this game features two outstanding coaches in Gary Patterson of TCU and Utah’s Kyle Whittingham. TCU is 0-3 playing in Salt Lake City and will be looking to avenge a 13-10 loss in 2008, one that propelled Utah to a Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. The Horned Frog defense is allowing less than nine points a game which is tops in the nation. Considering they lost Jerry Hughes and Daryl Washington to the NFL, this is an impressive stat. What I like even more about TCU is they are led by 5th year senior Andy Dalton at quarterback. Dalton rarely makes mistakes and can beat you with his legs as well as his accurate arm. They also run the ball very well and have one of the more unknown playmakers in the country in receiver/returner Jeremy Kerley.

Utah is led by the nation’s 6th best defense in terms of points allowed. However, the play of sophomore quarterback Jordan Wynne has vaulted the Utes into the top 5. The running attack is balanced by Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata who complement each other very well. Both these teams have convincing wins over Big 12 foes. With the season Baylor is having, TCU’s 45-10 thrashing of the Bears is looking more and more impressive. And Utah absolutely clobbered Iowa State on the road putting up 68 points. Both of these teams are top 10 in the nation in scoring offense and defense. Something’s got to give right?

The pick … Utah … 31 TCU … 27

Arizona at Stanford

This is an intriguing matchup because both teams are still in the running for the Pac-10 title. Arizona actually controls its own destiny in the conference because they’ve yet to play Oregon, while Stanford needs a win and a bit of help.

Arizona quarterback Nick Foles should be healthy enough to play in this game which is a huge positive. The Wildcat offense likes to stretch the field vertically with play-making receiver Juron Criner. The junior is averaging better than 16 yards a catch and helps lead a passing attack that musters over 300 yards a game. In a league known for its scoring, I love Arizona’s defense which yields less than 14 points a game. Cornerback Trevin Wade has the ability to lock down one half of the field. However, putting pressure on Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck will be a must.

The household name of the Cardinal is quarterback Andrew Luck. The potential top pick in the upcoming draft can make every throw. His savvy and poise in the pocket reminds me of a Drew Brees, only with better size. Don’t sleep on Stanford’s running game though which is averaging over 223 yards a game. And while Luck can easily beat you through the air, he is capable of tucking the ball and running. After a loss at Oregon (which Stanford led big early on) this team is clicking on all cylinders. And with Stanford only allowing three sacks in eight games, Luck should have all day to throw. With that being said…

The pick … Stanford … 34 Arizona … 24

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