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College Football Week 4 Upset Alerts: Michigan, South Carolina and More

We are back for week four of our "On Notice" feature with Matt Elder of BuffaloBillsDraft.com. Back in week one Matt called the Richmond upset over Duke and since then we've decided to make this a weekly feature.


Make sure you go over to Matt's site BuffaloBillsDraft.com and don't let the "Buffalo Bills" name fool you, yes they cover the bills but they also cover scouting and have a lot of good college football content every week. This week head over and check out the feature they did on Notre Dame RB Cierre Wood. Here is who Matt has put "On Notice" this week...


I’m back! Through three weeks of the college football season, I am officially 3-6 straight up, but I'm opposite v. the spread at 6-3. This week I’m feeling really good about my three upset picks as I put three more teams on upset alert!


San Diego State over Michigan (Michigan favored by 10.5)


Many of you may know the name Ryan Lindley but few of you will know Ronnie Hillman. Who is Ronnie Hillman? Well aside from being the nightmare that keeps Brady Hoke awake at night he’s also the #2 rusher in the nation averaging 165.67 yards per game. He’s coming fresh off a game v. Washington State where he ran for over 200 yards. Michigan’s defense is improved but it’s not that much better as they are allowing an average of 202.50 yards on the ground per game. Michigan must find a way to contain Hillman if they hope to stop San Diego State from controlling the clock and keeping Shoelaces on the bench.


UMass over Boston College


The Holy War is one of the greatest rivalry games that not many people talk about. These two schools are only separated by 69 miles and whenever they come together to play its always a good game. Boston College is 0fer on the season while UMass comes in undefeated. UMass would love nothing more than to give BC another big push on their downward slide. Boston College will have to find a way to stop RB Jonathan Hernandez who ranks 3rd nationally in the FCS in yards per game averaging 159. If Boston College can do that they have a chance to get their first win, but as of now I don’t see it happening.


Vanderbilt over South Carolina (South Carolina favored by 15.5)


Before everybody disagrees with me and calls me an idiot at least hear me out. Something is going on in Nashville that nobody wants to acknowledge quite yet, this team is different. They are excited, they are energized, and they are undefeated. Their RB Zac Stacy has 331 yards rushing on the season and is fresh off tearing Ole Miss to shreds (11 carries, 169 yards, 1 TD). If they get Warren Norman back this week then watch out! Also this Commodore defense has been impactful averaging +2 TO’s a game and nearly 3 sacks. If they can get after Stephen Garcia it could be a long day for the Gamecocks. Let’s not forget 2 of Vandy’s 3 wins have come against BCS opponents.


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College Football Preview: LSU vs. West Virginia

Saturday night’s showdown between LSU and West Virginia in Morgantown has been circled on a lot of calendars as one of this season’s feature matchups. LSU defeated West Virginia 20-14 a year ago in Baton Rouge in the first game of the home-and-home series, and some may have seen the games as a preview of what might become a regular (interconference) matchup.


The No. 2 ranked Tigers bring a 3-0 record to Mountaineer Stadium, including impressive wins over Oregon and Mississippi State. West Virginia, ranked 16 in the AP Poll, also owns a 3-0 record, including an exciting win last week against Maryland in College Park. Oddsmakers favor LSU to win by 6. The game will receive a fair amount of attention as the setting for Saturday’s broadcast of ESPN’s Gameday, and ABC will carry the game in primetime.


Quarterbacks


LSU’s Jarrett Lee was forced into a starting role when incumbent QB Jordan Jefferson was suspended indefinitely for his part in a preseason brawl. Lee has had success at the helm of the Tiger offense, but his opponent Saturday is quietly having a terrific season. Geno Smith has thrown for 1008 yards and seven TDs against just one INT for WV. His performance to date, and prospect for success in the new Dana Holgorsen offense, have garnered him some dark horse Heisman consideration.


Edge: West Virginia


Running Backs


Michael Ford (218 yards, four TDs) and Spencer Ware (226 yards, 3 TDs) share the load for LSU. Their dependability has eased the forced transition at QB. West Virginia is high on true freshman Andrew Buie (88 yards, 1 TD), but he has not become an integral part of the new offense yet. Vernard Roberts (118 yards, 3 TDs) has outgained him in the first three games.


Edge: LSU


Receivers


West Virginia’s wideouts have been the cause of the team’s early success. Tavon Austin (20 catches, 236 yards, 1 TD), Stedman Bailey (15 catches, 229 yards, 2 TDs) and Ivan McCartney (17 catches, 211 yards, 2 TDs) have proven reliable targets for Geno Smith, and there is more depth behind this trio. LSU’s Rueben Randle (12, catches, 229 yards, 2 TDs) and Odell Beckham (15 catches, 111 yards) have stood apart among receivers, but Russell Sheppard returns this week after a three-game suspension.


Edge: West Virginia


Offensive Line


LSU is one of the most talent-laden teams in the NCAA. Despite losing some key players before the season began, the Tigers have not skipped a beat. LSU’s offense is not explosive, but the win the trench wars regularly. West Virginia’s line is improving, but is learning a new scheme under Dana Holgorsen. The running game has not enjoyed the success of the passing game. That will have to be different this week if the Mountaineers are going to sustain drives.


Edge: LSU


Defense


LSU’s defense is arguably one of the best in the country. With a great balance of talent and experience throughout and methodically wears down opponents with hard hits. The front seven constantly finds penetration into the backfield, snuffing the run and giving the secondary an easier task of pass defense. WV’s defense has not been stifling. It has kept the Mountaineers in games though, rising to the occasion in each game. If LSU can stretch them to the breaking point, this game could get out of hand.


Edge: LSU


Special Teams


Both teams have respectable returners. WSU’s Morris Claiborne has averaged 23 yards on kickoffs while WV’s Tavon Austin has netted 29 yards on kickoffs and 22 yards on punts. Placekickers Drew Alleman (LSU) and Tyler Bitancurt (WV) could play a significant role in this contest.


Edge: West Virginia


Coaches


On most Saturdays, first-year head coach Dana Holgorsen’s reputation and success as an offensive mastermind would give him better standing against an opposing coach of longer tenure. This is not one of those Saturdays. Les Miles has a 65-17 record and a national championship with LSU. He flat-out knows how to win. In a tight game, he’ll find a way to turn things to his advantage.


Edge: LSU


Intangibles


Most of the Big East football programs were spurned last weekend by the defection of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC. West Virginia was spurned by the SEC as well, when the league office publicly dispelled speculation about the Mountaineers entering the conference. Though the disclosure was not intended as a slight of the WV program, many bloggers and other pundits have enjoyed some teasing jabs at the Mountaineers as a bit too “back woods” for the SEC stage. Now one of the conference’s elite teams is on their turf, WV aims to turn lose both the Hatfields and the McCoys on the Tigers. This is a huge opportunity, under the lights and with a national TV audience, to show themselves worthy.


Edge: West Virginia


Summary


The Mountaineers have their hands full, but as coaches have told players week after week for more than a century: the will to win decides games more often than an abundance of talent. West Virginia will need a balanced attack to have any hope of consistent success on offense. If the Tigers’ defense limits WV’s Geno Smith and company on offense, that places more pressure on Mountaineers defense, which has not been tasked so far this year with having to keep their team in the game. Given the atmosphere of Mountaineer Stadium and LSU’s limitations on offense, I expect an emotional but low scoring and physical game.


Prediction: LSU 20 - WV 17


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MLB Reality Check: Yankees Don't Have an Unfair Advantage

The Yankees just secured their 16th playoff appearance in 17 years last night with a double-header sweep over the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yanx actually locked up a playoff berth in the first game with a division title coming in the second after the Red Sox lost. When you have that kind of success for such a long period, people start to wonder if the MLB system is equitable.


Of course, the resulting argument is that the Yankees and big-market teams like them (Boston, Philadelphia, etc.) have an unfair advantage. Sorry folks, but that’s straight garbage, and a salary cap is a ridiculous notion that doesn’t address the true problem: owners and GMs not managing their rosters well.


Take a look at the Yankees run of World Series in the late 90’s. Most of that team was homegrown talent. “But what about all of the big signings along the way?” If you look at the roster now, yes, the Yankees have Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira via big-time contracts, but what about the others?


Robinson Cano, Eduardo Nunez, Jesus Montero, Brett Gardner, Ivan Nova, David Robertson, Phil Hughes and of course, future Hall of Famers Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera are all from their farm system. Nick Swisher was acquired in a trade during the 2008 offseason, as was their MVP Curtis Granderson. The Yankees had to give up one of their best young arms, and current NL stud pitcher, Ian Kennedy in the Granderson deal. Also, don’t forget the Yankees did some bargain-bin hunting with Russel Martin, Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia this past offseason. The Yankees don’t just buy whoever they want whenever they want. Yes, it feels as though they have more money than 10 Bill Gates, but they’ve also been smart about acquiring talent (well, outside of that A.J. Burnett contract).


The fact is money doesn’t guarantee championships. Ask the New York Mets what their money is doing for them… or should I say was, since it’s now all lost in that ponzi scheme. How about the Chicago White Sox or the cross-town Cubs? They rank fifth and sixth in overall payroll (ahead of the Mets) and what good is that doing them?


Let’s look back at the last 10 World Series winners: Giants, Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox, Cardinals, White Sox, Red Sox again, Marlins, Angels, Diamondbacks. We can’t forget some of the World Series losers either: Rangers, Rays, Rockies, Tigers, Astros, along with the Phillies, Cardinals, Yankees and Giants.


That’s nine different champions and 14 different teams in the last 10 World Series. Several of those – Marlins, Diamondbacks, Rays, Rockies and Astros – never come near the 100-million dollar payroll, and others like the Cardinals, Rangers, Tigers, Giants and Phillies (to keep much of their own talent in town) have only recently done so.


The majority of America believes that the Rays are at a distinct disadvantage playing in the AL East with Boston and New York. Yet, it was just three years ago that they were in the World Series, and they are still in the Wild Card hunt this year. They maintain competitiveness through discovering, developing and maximizing their talent. Look at that pitching rotation! And now they have Matt Moore waiting to step in, meaning they can again trade a talented pitcher (like Matt Garza last year) for more youngsters to keep their farm system stocked.


You don’t need boatloads of money to compete in baseball. Does it help get the big-name free agents. Sure. Does it guarantee they’ll go to a certain team? No. And is it always spent wisely (Mets, Jayson Werth with the Nats, Burnett, etc.)? Heck no. A salary cap isn’t going to fix things in baseball, so stop clamoring for it, as it’s just an excuse for poor ownership not taking responsibility.


In addition to covering the NFL, MLB, NBA, and College Football for RotoExperts, Jake Ciely (a.k.a "All In Kid") is also a poker fiend and a Maharishi in the world of sports wagering. Jake was a finalist for the FSWA's 2010 Newcomer of the Year award. You may email Jake @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @JakeAllinCiely


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NFL Analysis: Bills-Raiders, Falcons-Eagles, Cowboys-49ers

In this edition of selected game recaps, we take an objective look at the subjective best of week two, including:   Oakland at Buffalo, in which Ryan Fitzpatrick dinks and dunks to victory.   Philadelphia at Atlanta, in which Matt Ryan can't lose the game and Mike Kafka can't win it.   Dallas at San Francisco, in which Tony Romo delivers an inspirational performance under adversity. No, really.   Buffalo 38, Oakland 35   When a game has a comeback factor of 100, it's probably the game of the week. The drive Ryan Fitzpatrick led to win the game will surely be what lingers in the minds of those who were lucky enough to watch this game, and deservedly so: the Harvard grad completed 9-of-15 passes for 68 yards and converted on two fourth downs, including the touchdown pass to David Nelson which all but iced the game with two ticks left on the clock.    But Fitzpatrick deserves credit for what he did the entire game, not just for a fantastic final drive. Fitzpatrick's week-high +1.16 WPA comes mainly from the final drive, but his +19.3 EPA (behind only  Tom Brady's +22.6 and Tony Romo's +20.4) comes from an entire game of successful passing.   To be more specific, it comes from a successful final three quarters. Observe, a chart of the Buffalo passing game:   Click to embiggen   This chart shows success by play (a success shows a blue square on 1, a failure shows a blue square on 0), success rate through each play (the red line) and yards per play (the blue line, on the secondary axis). The black lines denote the start of a new quarter.   The game started dreadfully for Fitzpatrick and the Bills, as Buffalo only managed one successful pass (on three completions) out of eight attempts in the first quarter. Fitzpatrick really hit a groove in the last 45 minutes, though, and even though the Bills couldn't cash in with a touchdown in the second quarter, the groundwork was laid for a passing attack to bring the Bills back from a 21-3 deficit.

Although the big plays of the prototypical passing game were lacking -- the Bills had no passing plays over 20 yards -- Fitzpatrick's accuracy was on point (66% completions beyond the second quarter). Even on passing plays considered to be "short," we often see five or more yards picked up , and this was the case with every single completion for Fitzpatrick outside of a third-down dumpoff in the first quarter. The Bills had a phenomenal 62% success rate through the air in the final three quarters, including a run of five straight which jump-started the Bills' final scoring drive.

Atlanta 35, Philadelphia 31


"By imposing too great a responsibility, or rather, all responsibility, on yourself, you crush yourself. "

 -- Franz Kafka

In the third quarter of week two's Sunday Night spectacle at the Georgia Dome, it looked like we were going to see another Matt Ryan special amid the return of Michael Vick. Despite a performance devoid of efficiency -- 52 adjusted yards on 17 attempts -- Ryan had his team up 21-10 on the back of three touchdown passes in the third quarter.

The Eagles responded, with Vick and LeSean McCoy leading a surgical scoring drive, gashing the Falcons defense for 70 yards on four plays. And then things went cold for Matty Ice. Over Ryan's next five action plays (three drives), Ryan threw a pick, threw three other incomplete passes, and took a sack. By the time the ball was back in Ryan's hands, the Falcons were down 31-21 and their win probability had sunk from 83% to 16% -- essentially, a total reversal of fortunes. Although the Eagles offense did work over their three scoring drives, Ryan's five awful plays account for a whopping -25% in win probability for the Falcons.

But Michael Vick was forced to leave the game on the Eagles' last scoring drive, leaving the keys to the offense in the hands of Mike Kafka. After the Falcons pulled within three on the back of -- what's new -- a clutch touchdown drive orchestrated by Ryan (6-for-8, 65 yards, and the touchdown), it was on Kafka

The philosopher Franz Kafka once said "it is often safer to be in chains than to be free." For Mike Kafka, it may be safer with a clipboard than under center. The Northwestern graduate actually completed seven of his nine passing attempts and averaged a solid eight yards per, but it was on the two critical points in the game which he failed. First, in an attempt to extend what could have been a game-sealing drive, Kafka threw a seven-yard completion on third-and-eight, leading to a punt.

But the most critical point, as it tends to be in one-possession games, came on a fourth down inside two minutes. With the Eagles threatening, Kafka couldn't convert on third-and-three from the Atlanta 21-yard-line nor fourth-and-four from the 22, failing to pick up yards on two straight short passes in the direction of Jeremy Maclin. With the full responsibility on Kafka, the young quarterback, as well as the hopes of the Eagles, were crushed, and these two plays combined for -0.29 WPA of Kafka's total of -0.36, by far a game-low.

The focus on this game will ultimately end up on the Falcons' Ryan-led comeback and Kafka's failure to lead the team to victory with Vick on the sidelines. It's unfortunate, as it misses the truth a bit on both accounts -- Ryan had nearly as much to do with the Falcons almost losing as he did on them barely winning, compiling only +0.13 WPA, and Kafka's comeback attempt was impressive despite its failure, and it showed the Eagles can sustain drives under his direction.

Dallas 27, San Francisco 24 (OT)

Much of what this game has to offer in terms of interesting decision making has already been covered. But there can't be enough ink (or theoretical internet ink) spilled over the accomplishments of Tony Romo in week two's game against San Francisco.

With 13:44 remaining in the third quarter and the Cowboys already down 14-7 and with a win probability of only 26%, Tony Romo was forced to leave the game with a broken rib. Jon Kitna is one of the more accomplished backups in the league and probably one of the more talented ones as well, but the Cowboys' offense is a very different one under Kitna than it is under Romo, and it showed. Kitna did manage to direct a scoring drive from 18 yards out (following an Alex Smith interception), but his next drive ended in an interception of his own. With 37 seconds to go in the quarter, Romo returned on his broken rib (with a punctured lung to boot!), which I'm pretty sure registers right about here on that pain rating scale they hang in all the doctors offices:



Now, I'm not one who believes in an inherent value to playing hurt. There are a plethora of times in which a player comes back and plays hurt when, due to the injury, he is no longer the player who gives his team the best chance to win the game, regardless of the intangible benefits seeing somebody play at 60% or 70% (or whatever) provides the men in the huddle. So no, I don't think Tony Romo deserves credit simply for playing hurt. He deserves credit because he played hurt and he won the game for the Cowboys.

At the point of Romo's return, the Cowboys trailed 14-21 with a mere 17% win probability. Unsurprisingly, his first drive back (with a broken freaking rib) failed, and by the time he'd get another chance, the Cowboys were down by 10, there were 11 minutes remaining, and their win probability was down to 10%.

From here on out, Romo went 11-for-14 for 195 yards and a touchdown, an insane 13.9 yards per attempt. He threw two of the most important passes of the game, a 25-yard touchdown to Miles Austin (+0.08 WPA) and the real game-winner, a 77-yard catch-and-run to Jesse Holley, who killed the hopes of hordes of soulless fantasy owners when he was dragged down at the 1-yard line. But it was enough to kill the hopes of the 49ers as well, as the play was worth a staggering +0.49 WPA, just under half of Romo's fantastic +0.96 total on the game (second of the week to the aforementioned Fitzpatrick).

And he did it on a broken rib.


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NFL Analysis: Is Panthers Cam Newton Exceeding Expectations?

Cam Newton was a no-brainer as the first quarterback prospect nabbed during the 2011 National Football League draft. Even so, there were many analysts and experts who questioned just how effective the rookie field leader would be during his freshman run. After Week 2 in the NFL, Newton is already turning doubters into believers... and rightfully so.   Week 1: Arizona Cardinals 28 Carolina Panthers 21   Newton had a solid National Football League (NFL) debut with a WPA of 0.37. The rookie threw two touchdown passes (both to Steve Smith). He chucked the "pigskin" for a total of 422 yards with just one interception. The first touchdown came on an impressive 77-yard pass in the opening quarter, while the second was a 26-yard toss with six seconds left in the half. Clearly, Newton can handle a little pressure; The first-year player even took the ball into the end zone and rushed for a total of 18 yards on eight carries.   Overall, Newton succeeded on 24 of 37 passes (64.9%); It's a small sample snapshot but (for comparison's sake) only six quarterbacks finished the 2010-11 season with a success rate higher than that. Carolina's leading quarterback last season, Jimmy Clausen, managed a success rate of just 52.5%. Newton's EPA of 15.0 was outstanding.   Week 2: Green Bay Packers 30 Carolina Panthers 23   Just when you thought the rookie quarteback could not top his impressive debut game... He threw for 432 yards with a 61% success rate. Although he tossed just one touchdown pass (to sophomore WR Brandon LaFell), Newton ran for his own touchdown for the second straight game. He has now scored a touchdown in each of his first two pro games, a difficult feat for a rookie wide receiver or running back, let alone a quarterback. He also posted a respectable 7.2 EPA but was bested by Green Bay's veteran QB Aaron Rodgers (9.3 EPA)   Although he threw more than 400 yards, Newton saw his WPA dip from Week 1 (0.37) to Week 2 (-0.23). The three interceptions are also a little alarming but he was clearly trying to do too much at times.   Upcoming: Week 3 vs The Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1)   If Newton can stay within himself and not try to do too much, he should continue to enjoy success in Week 3 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Newton matches up favorably against Jacksonville quarterback Luke McCown, and the Jaguars' defense has been one of the worst in the league so far.   Carolina has to find a way to stop the bleeding in the second half. The club has outscored opponents 27-14 in the first half, but they've been decimated 17-44 in the final half of their contests. The defenders have got to step up their games.   * * *   Carolina entered 2011 with certain expectations based on Newton's reputation for having a questionable throwing arm, which is hard to believe now. As such, Arizona and Green Bay both likely prepared for their contests against Carolina with the running game in mind. They may have been taken aback by the Panthers' approach. You can expect Jacksonville and the rest of the league to be fully prepared for both air and ground assaults moving forward. It will be interesting to see how Newton performs now that the element of surprise is gone.   Clearly, two weeks does not make a career - or even a single season. However, Newton has built a solid foundation for future prosperity, including success rates (SR) of more than 50% in each of his first two games.

 


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Week 4 SEC Predictions: Alabama, Georgia, LSU and More

Week three of the SEC season is in the books and our thoughts are here. So how did we do in terms of predictions last week? I went 7-2 (missing on Auburn/Clemson and Louisville/Kentucky) and Jay, who joined in last week, went 5-4 (missing the same two I missed and also missing on his upset picks of Tennessee and Navy). Jay typically out-duels me on predictions so I will won't rub it in. So far this year I'm 23-6 in picking the SEC but it's not against the spread or anything so it's not as impressive as it sounds. Let's get to week four:


Georgia (1-2) at Ole Miss (1-2), 12:21 EST, SEC Network


Many have dubbed this the "Hot Seat" bowl as Houston Nutt has replaced Mark Richt as the most talked about future casualty of this college football season. Both teams are 1-2 but Georgia has lost to two quality opponents whereas Ole Miss lost at home to a team that lost to Utah last week by 44 and got blown out by Vanderbilt. Both teams have a lot to play for but I just see the Dawgs winning this one.


Georgia 31 Ole Miss 14


Arkansas (3-0) at Alabama (3-0), 3:00 EST, CBS


The eternal question for Arkansas is "tested or rested"? Arkansas has tuned up for it's showdown with the Crimson Tide by knocking off Missouri State and New Mexico and surviving Troy by 10 points. Alabama hasn't exactly scheduled the who's who of college football but they did go into a hostile environment up in Happy Valley and came out with a workman like victory. This is a game that pits one of the top two defenses in the SEC (and possibly the Nation) against the team with the most weapons in the SEC at the WR position. This will be strength vs strength as the Bama defense goes up against the Hog offense in Tyler Wilson's first test on the road as a starter in the SEC. I think this one is close but without Knile Davis and on the road I just think this will be too tough of a game for the Hogs to pull out this early in the year without having been tested yet.


Alabama 27 Arkansas 21


FAU (0-2) at Auburn (2-1), 7:00 EST, ESPN3


So far this year FAU has lost by a combined total of 85-3 to Florida and Michigan State. I think Auburn has a more explosive offense than either of those two teams so this one could get a bit out of hand. On the other hand, Auburn's defense isn't as good as those two so FAU probably finally gets into the end zone.


Auburn 56 FAU 21


Florida (3-0) at Kentucky (2-1), 7:00 EST, ESPN


One of the two most disappointing teams in the SEC so far against one of the most surprising. There is only one way that I can see this ending and it's with the Kentucky faithful leaving with their heads down. Kentucky has had a lot of trouble scoring the football against Western Kentucky, Central Michigan and Louisville. What do you think is going to happen when Will Muschamp and his boys roll into town?


Florida 31 Kentucky 6


Louisiana Tech (1-2) at Mississippi State (1-2), 7 PM EST, ESPNU


This looks like a get well game for Dan Mullen and his troops but is it? Just last week it was Louisiana Tech that almost pulled off the upset of Houston before falling asleep in the 4th quarter and letting Case Keenum come roaring back. Mississippi State lost a heart-breaker on the road to Auburn in a game that they should have won and then just got controlled by the Tigers last Thursday. Look for Mississippi State to take care of business in this one.


Mississippi State 38 Louisiana Tech 17


Vanderbilt (3-0) at South Carolina (3-0), 7 PM EST, ESPN2 


Is Vandy for real? Despite being 3-0 it's not like they've beaten a top tier team as they hold victories over Elon, UConn and Ole Miss. This is there first test under new coach James Franklin and it will give us much more of an idea of exactly where Vandy is this year. South Carolina has a better resume with wins over ECU, Georgia and Navy but they haven't exactly blown doors as they've won their last two games by a combined six points. This game will come down to the fact that Vanderbilt doesn't have anybody as talented as Marcus Lattimore and he will wear down Vandy and eventually they will give in. Look for this to be closer than you'd think but look for sneaky Spurrier to pull out another one as the Gamecocks pull away late.


South Caroliina 30 Vanderbilt 17


LSU (3-0) at West Virginia (3-0), 8 PM EST, ABC


Here it is the big game of the week (besides Arkansas/Bama). Earlier this week WVU was rumored to have been turned down by the SEC. The fans in Morgantown are going to be rowdy and it's best that LSU not give them anything to cheer about early. LSU will be far and away the best defense West Virginia has faced and the Mountaineers have yet to hit the ground running with their offense (they only average 79 yards per game on the ground). In order to win this game West Virginia will need to be balanced and unpredictable but LSU's defense just looks so tough. They are stout on the line and wildly athletic in the defensive backfield. Much like last year, I think WVU puts a scare into the Tigers but I think the Tigers escape with a close win.


LSU 27 West Virginia 21


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NFL Analysis: Was Dunta Robinson's Hit Dirty?

This is a weekly free therapy session I provide for not only myself, but for all football fans. If you’re looking for politically correct, mainstream, polite, NFL content; you’ve come to the wrong place. In fact, on any given week you should be prepared to either agree with me or be offended, belittled, shocked, and insulted. You can expect to find anger, sarcasm, foul language (I will do my best to refrain), and whatever the hell else I’m feeling come 1 am CST Tuesday mornings this NFL season.  So, lie down on your couch and grab your tissue because your Week 2 session has begun…


I’M SCREAMING SO EVERY ONE OF YOU CAN HEAR ME UP ON YOUR HIGH HORSES!!! Dunta Robinson has become public enemy number one this week, but for what? Defensive backs are taught to separate the receivers from the ball since they learn to play the game. Now the NFL wants to change the rules on what a legal hit is and as morons that are too dumb to form our own opinion, we believe that these physical players are dirty.


Really? Since when? 


These were the type of hits that made Steve Atwater and Ronnie Lott feared. This is why we loved to watch them play. But now that Roger Goodell comes says that it’s a dirty hit so we change our opinions on the same hits that we praised just a few years ago? Can we quit being a nation of followers? Form your own damn opinion instead of just listening to a talking puppet like Cris Collinsworth. That’s the most frustrating part of this whole thing.  he former players that act like they don’t remember the league before it got soft and more geared towards business. If they want to penalize players and protect players, that’s fine but for the love of God, can we please quit acting like the NFL has always had a “defenseless receiver”, “leading with head”, and “hits to the head” rule. These guys are playing the way they were raised to play since birth.


Take the time while Collinsworth is polluting your mind with NFL corporate propaganda to actually watch the Dunta Robinson hit again. Was he aiming for Maclin’s head? HELL no? Was he trying to land a punishing hit and force a fumble? You’re damn right he was. That’s his job. It’s not to hug him and tickle him to the ground and then ask if he’s comfortable with his landing. Dunta and every defensive back is told to make the receivers regret coming over the middle. And we have always loved the guys that were best at this. When did this become unacceptable as fans? Check out the video of Robinson hitting Jeremy Maclin. Watch it with an open mind.


Robinson takes aim at Maclin’s chest when he drops his head to throw his shoulder into Maclin. The receiver shrinks down and turns sideways, all while Robinson’s head his looking down. All of this happens in the matter of an instant. The point of contact that Dunta was aiming for changed, due to Maclin preparing for the impact. So while Robinson intended a hit for the chest, Jeremy’s movements makes the contact land on his own chin. You can believe what you want, I’m just tired of listening to the puppets agree with everything the media says.

If ESPN says it was a dirty play, people repeat it. If Collinsworth says there is no place for these types of hits in the game, you sit there and nod your empty head along with him instead of saying “bullshit”. Watch these two videos, [Steve Atwater knocks out Christian Okeye], [Ronnie Lott blast everyone's head off, including Cris Collinsworth’s] where the NFL Network highlighted the Top 10 most feared tacklers.


Count how many shoulders to the head and helmet to helmet hits you see. Were Atwater and Lott both dirty players? No they were feared players. Also, count how many analysts brag about these “dirty hits”, that now go on TV and condemn players anytime they make these exact same hits nowadays. Finally, the funniest part is hearing Cris Collinsworthless dog out Dunta in the Maclin video and then laugh and praise Ronnie Lott for far more vicious hits in the NFL Network video.


Jayson Braddock is an NFL Scout / NFL Writer & On-Air Personality. Jayson is also a football insider for the Dylan Gwinn show on 790 AM in Houston, TX - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or sports790.com. You can also catch Jayson on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio with Scott Engel and the morning crew every Thursday at 10:30am ET. You may email Jayson directly @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @JaysonBraddock
 
Listen to Dr. Roto on ESPN’s @ RotoExperts Fantasy Football GameDay Sunday mornings from 10am to 12 noon ET.


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NFL Week 2 Power Rankings: Packers, Patriots, Saints and More

The first two weeks of the NFL regular season is in the books. Just like every season before this one, there were some surprises. Let me caution you about trying to grade a team off of one good or bad week.


Given the season is so young, these Power Rankings will factor in teams that I believe are good but had an off week and teams that I feel won by default or overachieved. Be forewarned as you will see some teams with lesser records ranked higher than others. Matchup’s will even out over time but after just two weeks, clearly some teams have has harder schedules than others. With all that being said, I’m sure 90% of you have jumped over this entire first paragraph and just looked to see where you favorite team placed….


 


1. Green Bay Packers (2-0) Can overcome adversity and win games when they’re not playing at their peak. I’ll reevaluate when they lose.


2. New England Patriots (2-0) This team’s offense has been able to overshadow their flaws easily. Intriguing divisional matchup this week.


3. New Orleans Saints (1-1) Oh no! A 1-1 team above several undefeated teams. No shame in losing a winnable game to the Packers in Green Bay.


4. New York Jets (2-0) Their best RB (Bilal Powel) is a rookie and buried on the depth chart. Running game need to improve for them to move up.


5. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) “Eagles ahead of the Falcons?” This is about who the best teams are 1-32. Philly looked better to me most of that game.


6. Houston Texans (2-0) Have to do more than beat Miami & Indy for me to buy in. If they can hold Drew Brees in check this week I’ll believe.


7. San Diego Chargers (1-1) Lost to NE by 14 and many will believe this is too high. SD always starts off slow and they’ll be lights-out the 2nd half.


8. Atlanta Falcons (1-1) Has all of the weapons on offense that you could want. If they don’t protect Matt Ryan better none of them will matter.


9. Detroit Lions (2-0) One of the most exciting teams to watch and they haven’t placed their #1 pick next to Ndamukong Suh yet. Watch out!


10. Baltimore Ravens (1-1) An emotional team that plays up or down to their competition. Forget Flacco, the offense lives and dies with Ray Rice.


11. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) Beat upon by Baltimore followed by beating on a bad Seattle team. Another cupcake (Indy) this week – jury is still out.


12. Chicago Bears (1-1) “They are who we thought they were”. If you don’t protect Jay Cutler he will fall apart, mentally & emotionally.


13. Buffalo Bills (2-0) R. Fitzpatrick is finally getting respect as a quality QB. Will have to play well against NE to make believers outside Buffalo.


14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) Lost to Lions then came back from the dead beating a bad Vikings team. Young team getting out of the gate slow.


15. Washington Redskins (2-0) Remember the name Roy Helu. A strong ground game + a talented defense = shot at stealing a wildcard spot.


16. Oakland Raiders (1-1) Al Davis finally found track stars that can play football. They may not make the playoffs but they’ll be in every game.


17. Dallas Cowboys (1-1) Could easily be 2-0. Could easily be 0-2 too. Injuries are killing the offense. Felix Jones is NOT an every down back.


18. Arizona Cardinals (1-1) There are teams more deserving of a playoff spot but the Cardinals may get it due because of a Rams tough schedule.


19. New York Giants (1-1) Probably too high for them. Monday’s game was given too them. Too many injuries on defense to be taken serious.


20. Miami Dolphins (0-2) Better than expected but that’s not saying much. They’ve found a running back in Daniel Thomas to help Henne.


21. St Louis Rams (0-2) Much better then 0-2 record shows. Monday night should have been a win but a loss is a loss. Brutal schedule.


22. Tennessee Titans (1-1) Dumbfounded by the Ravens game. Their personality is probably somewhere in the middle of their first two games.


23. San Francisco 49ers (1-1) Can’t afford to give away wins. San Francisco had a beat up Cowboys team on the ropes and couldn’t finish.


24. Denver Broncos (1-1) Cincinnati and Denver tried over and over again to give the game to the other. Denver finally had to accept the win.


25. Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) It’s hard to score the go ahead touchdown when your defense can’t get off the field.


26. Cleveland Browns (1-1) Should be 2-0 and in first place. Blew the Week 1 game against Cincinnati.


27. Carolina Panthers (0-2) Cam Newton’s talent is greater than his mechanical flaws. Took the team on his back last week. Kudos!


28. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) Jack Del Rio has proven once again he doesn’t have a clue on how to be a coach. Bad team.


29. Indianapolis Colts (0-2) We’ve said it for years. The Colts will be horrific without Peyton Manning.


30. Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) Jamaal Charles, Eric Berry, Tony Moeaki, Charlie Weis and Todd Haley’s brain are all out or gone. Need an NFL QB.


31. Minnesota Vikings (0-2) At least they’re making their losses entertaining. Adrian Peterson won’t be enough.


32. Seattle Seahawks (0-2) Tarvaris Jackson this year = Andrew Luck next year. An emotional roller coaster for the fan base.





Jayson Braddock is an NFL Scout / NFL Writer & On-Air Personality. Jayson is also a football insider for the Dylan Gwinn show on 790 AM in Houston, TX - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or sports790.com. You can also catch Jayson on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio with Scott Engel and the morning crew every Thursday at 10:30am ET. You may email Jayson directly @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @JaysonBraddock


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NCAA Football Realignment: Latest on Pac-12, ACC, SEC and More

By Michael Felder

We're pausing our regularly scheduled Slate of Eight Wednesday morning for a chance to do some writings on the entire landscape and some "what if" scenarios now that the Pac-12 has decided not to expand their conference footprint east with OU and Texas. That's just one of several bombs that have come down the shoot in the last few days so let's get on the same page by running down all this info-knowledge starting with the ACC "leading the charge to 14" by grabbing Syracuse and Pitt from the Big East.

This move has then kicked off discussion from all arenas as to "what the Big East does next" to save their souls. Everything from a possible merger with the Big XII or adding the Service Academies to going for round two of pillaging Conference-USA has since been bandied about. In addition to this we've now seen West Virginia turned down by not just the ACC but the SEC as well as they attempted to jump off what appears to be a sinking Big East ship. Oh, and ECU has again tried to get their wheels moving towards a BCS league by applying to the Big East which did not end the way Pirates fans have hoped for years.

In the SEC's house we know A&M is the 13th horse in the stable but who is number fourteen? WVU, as we've mentioned, has been tabled for now while Mizzou has now become the hot topic as the team to fill out the SEC's roster. Louisville is another quiet team tossed around but the whole "gentleman's agreement" in regard to adding schools from a current member's state comes into question.

On the Big XII front we've got Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and his league electing to stay at twelve members forcing the Big XII back to their disgruntled nine member existence. Reports started last night that OU and Texas were back to the drawing board on a deal that would keep league viable for five years but just a year ago we heard that Dan Beebe's gang was "committed" to their ten member league as well. What we do know is that should this deal come to fruition it means Baylor's lawsuit becomes less necessary as the Bears are, for the time at least, still in a viable BCS league.

Lastly, the Pac-12 folks. We know what the release said last night and as folks attempt to slough their statement off a "look left, go right" move take a look at the differences in their statements, brought to you by Andy Staples and facebook.

So, there's your knowledge drop. Let's get to the thoughts and what happens next...

Let's start with reactions from the masses. As the Pac-12 decided to stay one of the loudest "WHAAAA?!" came from the ACC folks who did not like the ACC's addition of Syracuse and Pitt to the fray. "If no one else is expanding then why did the ACC?"became the question as they bitched about how Pitt and 'Cuse prove the league "just cares about basketball" and they were submarining the football product. Look, I'm as "anti-basketball" as it gets but I see the value in adding both schools when the goal of the league is to protect their own product.

The league did not just add the schools, the most important move Swofford and the members made was increasing the buyout for the league's institutions from $10-12 million to a robust $20 million number. The ACC can't definitively say that "no one is going anywhere" but they helped buy themselves some insurance that it is less likely they are the league that is poached by the Big Ten or the SEC.

On the actual addition of Pitt and Syracuse; I'm not in love with either of the schools. Outside of Notre Dame and Texas who, at least for a time or in the future, appear to be viable options there really are no home runs for the ACC to hit. That said in adding Pitt and 'Cuse the league is, last decade-wise, getting more of what they already have; decent football teams. This isn't a downgrade by any means and outside of Virginia Tech and perhaps FSU there really shouldn't be much finger pointing from ACC schools, including you Clemson.

Pitt's at least been to a BCS bowl this decade, Syracuse is on the rise with an actual decent coaching hire and personally I find it to be an odd combination of ACC-myopia and ignorance in regard to the rich football tradition present at both schools. They both want to win, this is not adding a school that is not committed to fielding a winner.

Now with regards to the Pac-12 I fall somewhere in the middle on how true their desire to remain a twelve team league actually happens to be. I'm not 100% sold on it but I'm also not the guy screaming "They're lying to us y'all!! Don't believe it!" from the mountaintop. Larry Scott is a smart man, should a more attractive offer that boosts the overall league's stature and revenue come about no doubt in my mind that man takes it.

Which brings us to the elephant in the room; The Longhorn Network.

The ACC politely declined the notion of accepting Texas as an equal share member where the Longhorns got to not only split the TV contract but also retained all Longhorn Network revenue. It seems the LHN is a sticking point with everyone as the additional $11+ million per year greatly skews the payout equality in any league that accepts that deal and that is the reason Big XII is in the trouble it is in now and reason Texas A&M left for the SEC.

No conference is signing up to subjugate their current members for the newcomers and Texas is going to have to make a decision, along with ESPN, about what to do with their megatron behemoth of a deal. To get to the Pac-12, a league that has wrested power from USC and UCLA to give the conference more equality there will have to be restructuring and revenue sharing or forfeiture of some total league share to appease a group of schools that, at least on the surface, are on the same page.

As for the Sooners, their ultimatum regarding Dan Beebe's dismissal as the conference commissioner has now come back to create a legitimate issue of "sticking to their guns" for OU. Just over 24 hours ago OU folks believed the Pac-12 move, for the Sooners and Oklahoma State Cowboys at least, was a done dealso now they are humbled and back to the drawing board.

Dan Beebe and the Big XII, for the first time since pre-Nebraska/Colorado departure have a little hand. Who'da Thunk It?

To wrap up we hit on the conflicting reports of Mizzou to the SEC as some dispute the Columbia universities move to the SEC. This would be the second time in as many years that the Tigers were totally sold on their conference move only to have it yanked away from them. Tough. If the SEC does add Mizzou we can expect the league to re-draw lines between East and West and that probably means another set of Tigers gets filtered over to the SEC East. Auburn fans don't like the idea and I definitely hate it for them on a personal level all though it is not the world ending.

Texas A&M and Mizzou fill out an Arkansas, Alabama, LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss half of the league while a shuffling Auburn joins Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Sakerlina and Vanderbilt East. Play your Iron Bowl after Thanksgiving and go should the SEC take Mizzou.

Get more great college football news and analysis over at In The Bleachers.


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Does Bills Ryan Fitzpatrick Get Enough Respect?

The Buffalo Bills are off to a 2-0 start. When was the last time you could have said that? I’ll tell you when, 11 years ago in 2000. Buffalo went 2-0 back in 2000 A.D., but they didn’t win their third game until week seven and ended the year 8-8.


(Correction: They also went 2-0 in 2008 en route to a 4-0 start.)


The Bills quick start this year can be attributed primarily to their offense. After two weeks, Buffalo is first in scoring at 39.5 ppg and seventh in total offense with 422.5 ypg. While ordinarily just two games into the season is quite early to start praising players or teams, progress from the Buffalo Bills on the field measured by any metric is worth taking note, particularly when it’s in the win column.


Unlike the teams ranked ahead of them in offense, Buffalo does not have a marquee name at quarterback… yet. Their QB is not a young first or second year player learning his craft though; Ryan Fitzpatrick is an NFL veteran who has been around since 2005. Drafted out of Harvard in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams, he’s played for St. Louis, the Cincinnati Bengals and now the Buffalo Bills.


Fitzpatrick made his Buffalo debut in 2009 when then starter Trent Edwards went down with an injury in Week 6 against the New York Jets and led his team to a 16-13 overtime win. He then started the next game against the Carolina Panthers and won 20-0 before returning to the bench in favor of Edwards. Last year in Week 11 the Bills trailed the Bengals 31-14 at halftime. Fitzpatrick and Bills’ wideout Steve Johnson hooked up for three TD’s and Buffalo wound up scoring five straight touchdowns to win the game 49-31. Against the Oakland Raiders last week he connected with receiver David Nelson with 18 seconds left to lead Buffalo to a 38-35 win. While the sample size is small, Fitzpatrick has demonstrated that he can in fact come through in high-pressure situations when given the opportunity.


What’s impressive about Fitzpatrick is that he elevates the play of his teammates helping seventh round draft pick Steve Johnson and undrafted running back Fred Jackson look like annual Pro-Bowlers. Unknowns David Nelson and tight end Scott Chandler have also played well through the first two weeks. Not only is he working with young, inexperienced receivers, but his offensive line is still a work in progress as it gave up 94 quarterback hits last season. Fortunately for the Bills, his mobility masks their flaws. In 2008, when Fitzpatrick played for the Bengals, he finished with 304 rushing yards in 13 games, which was third among quarterbacks. Similar to Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers, Fitzpatrick is not a “running quarterback” but uses his mobility to pick up key first downs and to extend plays looking to attack downfield.


If playing with a young group weren’t challenging enough, he has to play against some of the more complex defenses around the league in New England and New York twice each year. You may have not thought much about Ryan Fitzpatrick before, however should he beat the likes of Tom Brady and conquer the Jets defense, Fitzpatrick will become a household name quicker that you can say, “Fitzpatrick.”


Two games into the 2011 season Ryan has a quarterback rating of 109.6, seven touchdown passes and only one interception. Not only is the Harvard grad being extremely productive, but he’s taking care of the ball. Contrast this to rookie Cam Newton who is grabbing all the headlines the first two weeks with his 400+ yard performances and you’ll find that Newton has a quarterback rating of 89.1 while throwing for three TD’s and being intercepted four times. Also, the Newton lead Carolina Panthers are 0-2 while Fitzpatrick’s Bills are 2-0. As you can see, headlines are deceiving.


When you combine his smarts, toughness, leadership and scrambling ability, Fitzpatrick has the tools to be an elite quarterback. For now, Fitzpatrick can continue to enjoy his anonymity in Buffalo, but if the Bills keep winning, that will all go away.


Ryan Fitzpatrick is the Rodney Dangerfield of quarterbacks in the public’s eye. Whether it’s because he plays in Buffalo, people don’t view him as an athlete because he went to Harvard, or they just didn’t think he was that good, the public has certainly underestimated his abilities as an NFL quarterback. Opposing coaches and players around the league know that Ryan can play and I imagine that many of you watching the NFL so far this young season are starting to find that out yourselves.


How many of you out there have Fitzpatrick on your Fantasy Football rosters? Ryan is tied with Matthew Stafford and Tom Brady for the league lead in TD’s with seven and unless you have Brady or Stafford, your QB’s have less TD’s.


The Bills take on the New England Patriots Sunday at home. The Patriots are first in total offense but second to last in total defense giving up an astonishing 479 yards per game. In Week 1 Chad Henne threw for 416 yards and 2 TD’s. Last week Philip Rivers threw for 378 and 2 TD’s. Against the Patriots porous pass defense, Fitzpatrick looks like a great start in Fantasy Football this week. If the Bills can somehow pull this one out at home, you can be sure you’ll start hearing the name Ryan Fitzpatrick a lot more often when talking about quality NFL quarterbacks. New England comes into the Week 3 matchup as a heavily favored 9 point road favorite.



From time to time we like to recognize our hard working interns by letting them shine in the field they aspire to work in. The article above was contributed by Travis Chan who is doing some fine work for us here at RotoExperts. Congratulations Travis, keep up the great work.




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