The College Football Playoffs Are Finally Set

For the first time in the history of college football, there will be a four team college playoff to decide who hoists the National Championship Trophy will come January 10th, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The teams that made the final cut are The Ohio State Buckeyes, The Alabama Crimson Tide, The Ducks from the University of Oregon, and The Florida State Seminoles.

The request for a new playoff system has been requested for quite some time now. A lot of the sports world did not like the fact the BCS bowl selection took place.

Now more people than not are for the playoff system. The system is still flawed for some but better from where it was from previous years.

For the most part there was no movement between the first and second placed teams. The Alabama Crimson Tide, and the Ducks from the University of Oregon. They never strayed far from their positions.

The final two spots were a different story. The Seminoles from Florida State did the most movement. Even though, they did not lose one game during the season.

The top two teams have one loss each. The Buckeyes are also undefeated.

The reasoning for the placement is the toughness of the schedule and the conference each team is in respectively. The #1 team is Alabama, coming out of the powerhouse that is the SEC.

Oregon is coming out of another powerhouse from the west the PAC 12 conference, Florida State comes out of the ACC, and finally Ohio State coming out of the BIG 10 (but the conference has 13 teams, different conversation for a different day).

Other notable mentions were the Baylor Bears, and the TCU Horned Frogs. At one point TCU was ranked third a week prior to the final announcement, before Ohio State took the final spot in the last announcement.

With that said the teams are set, and there will be two games played on the first day of the New Year. The first is the Rose Bowl where the #2 Oregon Ducks will face the #3 Florida State Seminoles.

The Seminoles were always in the top four teams, but they struggled the whole season to beat some clearly easy wins against unranked teams. Despite this they were able to overcome this and still remain undefeated.

The Seminoles are the defending National Champions after defeating the Auburn Tigers. They are also led by reigning Heisman winner Jameis Winston. This year the Seminoles have struggled to say the least.

Yet they are still undefeated and share an undefeated record with the Buckeyes. This year Winston was not even nominated for a finalist in this year Heisman Trophy.

The Oregon Ducks on the other hand now have this years Heisman winner Marcus Mariota. Mariota was the clear winner gaining more than 90% of the total votes, second highest in the history of the Heisman voting.

This year Mariota was having a standout season. Leading into the bowl games he has 3,783 yards, 38 touchdowns, and only two interceptions.

His competition included another player that is in the College Football Playoff, Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper.

Also included in the list was University of Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon. Gordon was coming off a FBS record for single game rushing yards, only to have his record beaten the next week.

The matchups should be action packed, with four different types of high powered offenses.

The first matchup is the Rose Bowl between the #2 Oregon and #3 Florida State. One team has no losses while the other has one loss. Yet the team with the one loss is actually ranked higher than the undefeated team.

Jameis Winston and the Seminoles look to power through the quick play running Oregon. Even though, the Seminoles have struggled their past few games, they have found a way to win each one of those games.

This game will be like no other. It will show off the last two Heisman winners. Two amazing quarterbacks showing off their arm and capabilities on the field.

If the regular college football season is any indication of what will happen on January 1st, then the play of the quarterbacks is quite important.

The way Oregon runs their offense they will be scoring and scoring fast. The Seminoles will have to combat this with Jameis Winston and his arm.

Winston has thrown 17 interceptions this season. That against a high powered offense is definite trouble for the undefeated Seminoles.

The point is not to try to keep up with Oregon, but to combat them with smart offense, and even better defense.

The Florida State defense will probably not completely stop the Ducks, but they can at least slow it down enough for the Seminole offense to make the game competitive and try to come out victorious.

On the side of Oregon, they are already the favorite to win the game. They have their Heisman winner and a great overall offense as well as a defense.

Every game except the game they lost of course has been a dominant win for Oregon. That cannot be said for Florida State, who barely squeaked by in certain games, and in some cases needed overtime to carry them to a win.

In that case Oregon should probably prevail, but given the fight in the Seminoles it is easier said then done.

Next there is the Allstate Sugar Bowl between #1 Alabama and #4 Ohio State. The Crimson Tide has been in the first place spot for quite some time. They have not lost their ranking since they were ranked #1.

They are arguably the most difficult conference in the US next to the PAC 12. Alabama have been putting on clinics on their way to their wins.

They are led by head coach Nick Saban. Saban has four national championships under his belt, while at LSU he won one, at Alabama he has three (2009, 2011-12).

Along with a great coach at the helm they also have Amari Cooper who is having a stellar season and is leading all receivers in yards and points.

On the other side there is the Ohio State University. Leading them is a familiar name in Urban Meyer. Who left the Florida Gators, and tried his luck in his home state of Ohio.

Coach Meyer has led the Buckeyes to a 12 win season for the past three years, after they were not bowl eligible for the previous 2 years.

If the backs weren’t against the wall of the Buckeyes ranked 4th facing Alabama, they have to do it with their back up of the back up quarterback. That’s right they are facing the #1 team in the nation with their 3rd string quarterback Cardale Jones.

Yet with this same quarterback they were able to dismantle the Wisconsin Badgers in the BIG 10 championship. After the game they destroyed the Badgers 59-0.

In total Wisconsin only had 78 total yards on the ground, they held another Heisman hopeful Melvin Gordon who was leading the nation in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns to no touchdowns for the first time this season.

So the likelihood of this game being a great game is more than likely. Both of the games that will be played on New Years Day should be great and the championship January 10th.

No matter what the outcome of the Rose and Sugar Bowl, we are in for a treat when the four best teams in the nation face off against one another, and the final two will battle and claim the first ever College Football National Championship Final.

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Rapid Reaction: No. 2 Oregon 51 – No. 7 Arizona 13 (Pac-12 Championship)

By Ariel Bedford


The Ducks came into Santa Clara looking for revenge. Removing any doubt of their playoff worthiness as Kings of The West Coast, Oregon simply bottled up Arizona—claiming another Pac-12 football crown on a rainy Northern California night.

How Ducks Won: UO ran the ball with more effectiveness, especially from the quarterback position. Marcus Mariota finished the game with 313 yards passing and three rushing scores, including two key touchdown runs in the first half. Oregon’s Heisman front runner was looking to tuck and sprint much more often this time around, unlike early October in Eugene when he tallied only 1 yard on the ground versus the ‘Cats and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Scooby Wright.

X-Factor of Game: OLB Tony Washington, Oregon. The Senior from Rancho Cucamonga made up for the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty he received after a sack on AZ QB Anu Solomon late in the regular season match that may have cost them a close victory. His sack on the aforementioned Solomon in the title game, with 4:03 left in the second quarter for a loss of 6 yards to the Arizona 35, was the signature example of constant pressure applied  by Defensive Coordinator Don Pellum’s unit throughout the battle.

Stat of the Contest: After three quarters of play, Arizona only amassed 45 rushing yards as a team.

Why It Matters: Besides securing a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff by beating a Top 10 opponent, Oregon put the nation on notice—the Ducks are ready to play physical, championship caliber football versus anyone the committee pits them up against. The defense stifled ‘Zona’s version of the zone read attack crafted by Head Coach Rich Rodriguez, forcing the ‘Cats into 3rd and long situations on a very consistent basis.

Offensively, it wasn’t a perfect outing for UO. With 10:16 left in the second quarter OL Doug Brenner committed a false start on 4th and goal from Arizona’s 1-yard line; another false start by DL Erik Armstead made the chip shot field goal try in wet Levi’s Stadium slightly more slippery, with kicker Aidan Schneider missing a 27-yard attempt.

Despite choppy play at times from the offensive line, Oregon washed over the Wildcats to make a legitimate case for the top overall seed. Depending on how the rest of Championship Weekend pans out, the Ducks might be hitting Bourbon Street instead of going back to Cali for the National Semifinals.

Featured Photo Credit: Image via seatvalet.com


Ariel Bedford writes for Scouts Alley. A freelancer from Florida, he also is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Check out his personal media profile page and follow him on Twitter @mpcmi.

 

If The NBA Playoffs Started Today

The playoffs start in the last weeks of April, and it should be a good one this year. For starters there is the return of the injured Derrick Rose to the Chicago Bulls, the new big three in Cleveland, and the always powerful western conference. These results were based off the week of November 14-17.

If for some strange reason the playoffs kicked off tonight there would be quite a mix-up of the usual teams that are in the playoffs each season. 

For example, the defending champion San Antonio Spurs with the eight seed would face the hot Memphis Grizzlies with the first seed.

That is one of the surprises early in the season.  Yes we know that it will never happen having playoffs in the middle of November, but wouldn’t it be fun to see some of the other irregular playoff matchups as of now. 

Let’s start with the always powerful Western Conference

We discussed the defending champs taking on the Grizzlies.  These teams actually battle it out come playoff time, but most of the time the Spurs are first place while the Grizzlies are in the eight seed.  

The Spurs and the Grizzlies are two great teams.  So whether one is first, last, or vice versa.  These playoff bound teams will always put on a show in the stacked western conference.

Next, there is the battle of the 2 and the 8 seed.  There is the second seed Houston Rockets, and the 7th seed New Orleans Pelicans. 

The Rockets, since picking up James Harden and Dwight Howard are always a force coming out of the west.  They are no strangers to the playoffs.

The New Orleans Pelicans on the other hand are the new kids on the block but with their star Anthony Davis having a stellar season and their offense improving since last season; it is not farfetched to see the Pelicans chasing the Larry O’Brien Trophy. 

The third seed in the west in this young season is the Golden State Warriors and their young high flying team.  With names like the “Splash Brothers” both Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry lead this team with fast-paced offense and high percentage shooting. 

Besides their superb shooting, they also have big men that can hold down the paint, and yes take great shots.
The team that they will face off against will be the Phoenix Suns. 

The Suns were not even a playoff team last year, but with star Eric Bledsoe showing the league and the naysayers criticizing him of his big contract in the off season why they paid him so much. 
He also has the likes of Goran Dragic, and Isaiah Thomas in the starting lineup it is time to consider that the ever so difficult has improved even more with the Suns stepping it up this season. 

They are moving in the right direction to be a force in the west for the next few years.

If this team were in the eastern conference it would be a playoff team without a doubt.  That just shows how difficult the West is.  Not only do you have to win, but win a lot. 

The Phoenix Suns should be in the playoffs come April, but we shall see how that goes. 

The final hypothetical matchup is one between the Dallas Mavericks and the Portland Trailblazers.  The Blazers have the 4th seed while the Mavs have the 5th seed.  These two teams are always in the mix. 

The Mavs won it all back in 2011.  They were able to take care of the Miami Heat in six games.

These teams still have a tough long road ahead of them.  In this hypothetical situation there is a  team that  finished in second place last season, but are not even in the playoffs. 

This team is the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder has an excuse a pretty good one at that.  They are missing not one but two of its stars.  The Thunder had initially started out with their biggest star, Kevin Durant. 

Durant’s loss was an instant impact.  Durant is the defending NBA scoring champ, so you know that the Thunder is missing that.  

If that was not enough of a tough loss, a few games in the season they lose their other star Russell Westbrook. 

The Thunder look to get their stars back sometime during the season, and hopefully they are able to bounce back and be in the playoffs again.

Now let’s look at the Eastern conference.  The East has been known to have a handful of good teams. 

Yes they are not as stacked as the West is but the teams that are in the playoffs and most notably the top five or six are constant visitors to the playoffs. 

The first mock matchup comes with the number one Toronto Raptors vs. The Brooklyn Nets.  The Raptors are looking to bounce back from last season. 

This matchup will be a rematch of last years first round playoffs where the Raptors who were the Atlantic Division champs and the 3rd playoff berth. 

The Raptors are one of the hottest teams this season.  They stumbled in the playoffs where they were able to take the Nets to seven games, where they were able to beat the Raptors.

With young stars like Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry the Raptors look to continue being on top of the Atlantic and what looks like the Eastern Conference as well.  

They face off against the Brooklyn Nets.  The Nets are kind of a mystery at times. 

They are not talked about as much as other notable Eastern Conference teams.  With a combination of young and old stars the Nets are always in the mix come playoff time. 

The current leading scorer Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, and Brook Lopez it’s hard to say that they cannot succeed in April.
The next matchup comes with the seven seeded Miami Heat vs. the Washington Wizards. 

The Heat coming out of the NBA Finals a loser, and losing their biggest player in the offseason look to show what they got without the services of LeBron James.

They still have the majority of their core in Miami, with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.

Yet, without James the Heat struggle, but that does not mean that they will get it together and show why they went to the NBA Finals for four straight years.

The Wizards, who are trying to go back to the playoffs after they took on the heavily favored Chicago Bulls and taking care of them in five games.  

They still look to continue from last years success and after adding some help on the bench and starting lineup its looking good for Washington’s chances. 

They have the services of John Wall, and the veteran Paul Pierce to help them get there.

The next matchup is the Chicago Bulls vs.  The Milwaukee Bucks.  The Bulls who were taken care of by the Wizards last season look to come back to the playoffs with a chip on their shoulder. 

They will also have their young star Derrick Rose somewhat healthy after missing all of last season and only playing 10 games in the last two seasons. 

Besides Rose’s return they were also able to add the team with the Spaniard Pau Gasol joining the Bulls this season, after he left the Lakers for the Windy City.  

The Bucks are a surprise team right now even early in the season, but yet they are still in the mix.  Who knows if that will continue this season. 

Yet they have a stacked roster on paper.  There is O.J. Mayo, Brandon Knight, Jared Dudley, Larry Sanders, and Zaza Pachulia it’s easy to say they are playoff bound.

The final matchup is the fourth seeded Cleveland Cavaliers and the fifth seeded Atlanta Hawks.  The biggest news of the offseason was in Cleveland. 

For starters the Cavs got the first overall pick again, the return of LeBron James, and the signing of Kevin Love. 

The Cavs are the favorite to win the NBA Finals now that they have both James, and Love, but you cannot forget the young Kyrie Irving it is difficult to bet against this new big three. 

The Hawks on the other hand are playoff bound again after last season where they were able to nab the 8th seed before being taken out by the number overall seed Indiana Pacers.  

Yet they continue to be there when playoffs start.   Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague, and Kyle Korver are the ones leading the Hawks to the top of the east, but can they push through the first round of the playoffs or will it be the same story as the last few years.

Talking about the ones that are currently not in the mix is the former first seed in the Eastern Conference the Indiana Pacers. 

The Pacers have a dismal record and look pretty bad in this young season.  They are also missing their star Paul George, who was injured playing with Team USA in the FIBA championships. 
They are trying to come back and be a force in the east how they have for the past two years.  They took on the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals last two years.

So you know they are doing something right, but will that be the same this season.

We will hypothetically see this season, to see if these teams will be in the same spots they are now. 

Or will we see one of the teams that are currently out of the playoffs be the first seed or will they stay out?  Will teams that were in the conference finals, that are now out of the playoffs make a run again. 

We will see but if the playoffs started today it would still be a good two months of playoff basketball.

SEC-ular Sacrament: The Week That Giants Will Fall?

By Ariel Bedford


 

“It’s… About… To go-DOWN!”—a rap phrase by one Jay-Z that has never resonated more than when used to describe this upcoming weekend’s slate of college football games within the Southeastern Conference.

       Photo via rockdalenews.com
                                     Photo via rockdalenews.com

Mississippi State travels to Tuscaloosa. Auburn heads to battle UGA “Between the Hedges” with a motivated monster of a running back in Todd Gurley returning as starter. SEC East defending champs Mizzou taking on a suddenly hot Texas A&M Aggies squad led by freshman QB Kyle Allen. Most of the six head-to-head SEC matchups have some meaning in one way or another.

The implications of these contests will be huge after the dust settles Saturday. Why, you ask? Because the cannibalization of the conference will truly become apparent for all to see. A best case scenario would probably be the Bulldogs squeaking by ‘Bama, and only LSU and Texas A&M falling out of the AP/Coaches Top 25 ranks after respective losses.

The worst case scenario could be the Bayou Bengals, Aggies, Bulldogs, and Auburn Tigers losing on the same day. This chain of events would cluster the entire conference and make for some potentially wild outcomes before two combatants are chosen to face off in the Georgia Dome come December.

Photo via athlonsports.com
                                      Photo via athlonsports.com

If you’re a fan of SEC football, be on alert for the next 60 hours. The results from this weekend’s games could jeopardize your beloved conference’s chance of getting ANY team into this year’s CFP format, let alone two…

Featured Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


Ariel Bedford writes for Scouts Alley. A freelancer from Florida, he also is a contributor for Bleacher Report. Check out his personal media profile page and follow him on Twitter @mpcmi.

 

 

NFL Week 10 Mission Briefing

For the first time in three weeks (since losing Alex Mack), the Browns were able to run the ball. Against Cincinnati’s 31st-ranked run defense, the rushing yards came pretty easy as all three of Cleveland’s back found success. Whether you had Terrance West, Isaiah Crowell, or Ben Tate on your fantasy team, you came out alright.

If you were stuck with A.J. Green, Jeremy Hill, or, Lord help you, Andy Dalton, it was not such a great night, to say the least. Good news though: I can help you rebound. Read on!

As always though, we’ll start with the few of you still in your survivor pool(s). (Though if you’ve made it this far, you probably have not done so by listening to me.)

Sure Bet: The Browns’ Thursday night game against Cincinnati was quite possibly the first in a series of lopsided games this week, but the time has come when your survivor options are probably beginning to dwindle. You have probably already chosen the Patriots, Broncos, Colts, Seahawks, Packers, etc., and the choices are only going to get tougher and riskier.

This week, one good option might be the Baltimore Ravens. Unreliable up to this point, the Ravens get to play the hapless, Mettenberger-led Titans in week 10. The Titans might be the worst team in their division, and considering they play in the same division as the Jaguars and Texans, that is pretty darn sad.

If you still have them as options, you could also bet on Dallas (over Jacksonville in London), Arizona (over St. Louis at home), and Denver (over Oakland on the road). If you can do none of these, consider Green Bay to make it 11-of-12 against Jay Cutler, or the Philadelphia “Sanchise” to best Carolina at home.

Not So Fast: My upset pick for the week is the Miami Dolphins to go into Ford Field and take down the Detroit Lions.

Let’s face it, the Lions should be on a two-game losing streak. They pulled off miracle wins against New Orleans and Atlanta in consecutive weeks, but also lost to Buffalo not so long ago. You might say, “Well, they didn’t have Megatron.” To which I ask, “How did they lose to Carolina then?” Detroit’s only truly impressive win came in week three against Green Bay—a result for which I still have no explanation.

Miami, meanwhile, is hot—and I am not talking about the city; I am talking about the Phins. The Dolphins shut down and shut out a good San Diego football team last week—this on the heels of consecutive wins against Jacksonville and Chicago, and a tough, close loss to Green Bay. Miami has won four of their past five games (with the three-point loss to Green Bay being the outlier), and in that stretch have outscored their opponents 153-68.

Look for a defensive struggle in this game, as the top-ranked Lions defense meets the No. 3 Miami unit. I like Miami on the road.

On a less confident note, don’t sleep on Mike Vick and the Jets hosting Pittsburgh either.

Surprise Performer: It has been a while since I spotlighted a tight end in this section of the mission briefing, so how ’bout this: Owen Daniels is my surprise performer this week.

Daniels rebounded uncharacteristically quickly from a knee scope a few weeks ago that cost him week eight. Returning in week nine, Daniels posted six receptions for 53 yards in a bad loss to Pittsburgh, but also played on 52 of 67 snaps. Not bad for a notoriously injury-prone player coming off a knee scope at age 32!

Tennessee’s defense is bound to spend a lot of time on the field with Zach Mettenberger operating the offense; that translates to Daniels getting plenty of opportunities, especially considering Gary Kubiak’s tendency to feature tight ends. With only Crockett Gilmore behind him, Daniels has exclusive rights to that pass-catching tight-end role in the Ravens offense.

Disaster Waiting to Happen: This just in: don’t start any Bengals players!

Too late for that, but you can cut your losses by benching Michael Crabtree this week.

Crabtree has not scored since week six, and has a season-high of 82 yards, posted way back in week two. Since then, the 49ers offense has plummeted to 18th in the league, with the passing game settling in at 21st overall. The play-calling does not benefit Michael Crabtree, and he has not had more than five catches since week three.

Another poor start is any Rams running back. Arizona’s run defense is terrifyingly good. They are unrelentingly consistent, limiting opposing offenses to just over 79 rushing yards per game—good for third in the NFL. They are the only team thus far to keep DeMarco Murray under the century mark (holding him to—you guessed it—79 yards), so they should not have any trouble with Tre Mason, Benny Cunningham, Zac Stacy, or whatever tailback Jeff Fisher rustles out of the bushes.

The Lakers’ Struggles Continue

By Omar Rodriguez


After an already dim preseason, the Lakers were hit hard in the first game of the season.

Julius Randle, the No. 7 overall pick of the 2014 NBA draft is out for the rest of the season after breaking his leg in the fourth quarter of the game.

The Lakers, as of now, are still winless at 0-5.  This is the worst start of the season since they were in Minneapolis in the late ’50s.

The only shining star so far has been the return of the “Black Mamba.”  Kobe Bryant is averaging 27 points a game this season and is leading all scorers for the Lakers this season.

Los Angeles for the most part stays in the game against their opponent. Towards the end of the game is when the opposite team begins to distance itself.

Yet, the Lakers continue to move on.  In his first season as Lakers head coach, Byron Scott remains positive about his team.

The Lakers are not expected to go far this season and were ranked as one of the worst teams at the start of the 2014 season.  Kobe Bryant was ranked the 40th best player in the NBA, which is the lowest ranking of his NBA career.

Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer are the most notable new faces.   Boozer is averaging 10 points with only 5.6 rebounds per game.  His production was never in question and he will begin to improve as the season goes adjusting to a new offense.

The thing that really needs work is his defensive skills down in the paint.   Coach Scott is expecting more from Boozer on offense but especially his defense.

Ed Davis, who is behind Boozer in the starting lineup, has been outperforming the veteran who is entering his 12th season in the league. Yet Scott still has faith in Boozer, so he will remain in the starting lineup until further notice.

Jeremy Lin is also in the starting lineup for the Purple and Gold, replacing the injured and aged Steve Nash.  Nash is out for the remainder in the season after re-injuring his back carrying groceries.

So that means that Lin will definitely have his minutes for the Lakers, but his performance and defensive prowess are still in question.

He is averaging right around 11 points, which is one point more then his career average.  Lin is also averaging five assists per game, which is on par with his career.

He is still trying to learn the Lakers’ offense and work out his kinks with his teammates, but Lin is still projected to be a solid player in both scoring and minutes behind Bryant.

Defense is still the most important thing that the Lakers will have to work on as the season progresses.

The points will be there for the Lakers as its new stars, rookies and bench come together to make the team a contender in the tough Western Conference.

The Lakers are not expected to go far this season, according to the media, but it’s up to Los Angeles to write its own story this season.

Still, the odds are against them.

They lose their promising rookie, and they still have not won a game this season with their atrocious defense.  The Lakers should take these things in stride and prevail.

Kobe Bryant, who is right back in the swing of things after only playing 10 games last season, is the leader of this team.

He is known for motivating or upsetting his fellow teammates and expecting them to perform to the Laker standard.  He knows what he wants and what to expect from his team.

If the Lakers are able to improve their defense and get their offense up to speed, they should be near the top half of the Western Conference come May.

With teams like the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Los Angeles Clippers in the mix, it will not be an easy task.

With all that in mind, the Lakers are facing an uphill battle, but it’s something that the organization, the players, and their new coach Byron Scott are ready to face.

Heisman Watch 2014: Who’s In at Week 11

By Ashley Gulick


Although there is still a lot of football left to play, the 2014 Heisman Watch is beginning to finally take shape and produce a notable list of legitimate frontrunners. At Week 11 of the 2014 season, here are my thoughts as to which players are rising to the “cream of the crop.”

1) Dak Prescott – QB Mississippi State

Although the Bulldogs scraped out a 17-10 victory over Arkansas on Saturday night, it certainly was not their prettiest win of the season by any means. But, enter quarterback Dak Prescott. Once again, Prescott proved his ability and efficiency as a leader under pressure, and that is why I have him at the top of my Heisman list.

After a 69-yard pass to Fred Ross for the go-ahead touchdown, Prescott was more than clutch in a game-winning moment. After going 18 of 27 for 331 yards and a TD, Prescott is now the first Mississippi State QB to throw for 300 yards since 2007. The Bulldogs are also on an 11-game win streak, which is the second longest in the country behind Florida State. If Prescott can continue to lead his team—and most importantly bring home a huge win in a couple of weeks against Alabama—then I think he will definitely be sitting in prime position to bring home the trophy.

For the season, Prescott is 132 of 216 for 2,025 yards, 16 TDs and 7 INTs. He also has 137 carries for 725 yards and 10 TDs.

2) Marcus Mariota – QB Oregon

In true Mariota fashion, Oregon finally earned an impressive 45-16 win over Stanford to snap a two-series losing streak to the Cardinals. Finally getting the “monkey off of his back,” Mariota not only earned the plaguing victory, but also boosted the rankings for the Ducks and himself in the Heisman race.

This win was a huge confidence booster for the junior who threw for 258 yards and two touchdowns. He also had nine rushes for 85 yards. Another interesting stat after Saturday’s win: Mariota now has a passing TD in 35 straight games, which is tied for the fourth longest streak in FBS history.

So far this season, Mariota is 169 of 248 for 2,541 yards, 26 TDs and 2 INTs. He has 71 carries for 410 yards and 7 TDs.

3) Amari Cooper – WR Alabama

Although the Tide had a bye this week, Cooper stays at No. 3 in my opinion, simply for his position as the true leader of this offense. With several key games coming up against LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn, his performance in those games will factor heavily into whether he stays in my top three.

Cooper’s stats for the year stand at 71 catches for 1,132 yards total and 9 TDs. In his last performance against Tennessee, Cooper had a career and school single-game best of 224 yards in the Tide’s 34-20 victory. Cooper only needs one more yard to match Alabama’s single-season record set by Julio Jones in 2010.

4) Melvin Gordon – RB Wisconsin

Even though the Heisman race is quarterback-heavy, do not count out Melvin Gordon, who is quickly making a name for himself behind his consistency week after week. Although their schedule may not carry the weight that most find important, his numbers are still just too good to keep him out of contention. After routing Rutgers 37-0, Gordon ended his night with 19 carries for 128 yards and two touchdowns.

Although he left the game with a knee injury, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said he would be fine going forward. So far this season, the junior has 173 total carries for 1,296 yards and 18 TDs. Saturday also marked his sixth game in which he has rushed for at least 100 yards total. His performance against Nebraska in a couple of weeks will definitely be a determining factor in if he stays in this race or not.

5) Everett Golson – QB Notre Dame

Although their 49-39 win over Navy did not impress overall, it was not about the win as much as it was about what Golson did individually on the field. On Saturday, the senior QB became the first player in Notre Dame school history to throw for three touchdowns and also run for three scores. With the lack of defense for the Fighting Irish, they relied heavily on Golson’s performance to take home the win. Accounting for six TDs total, Golson was 18 of 25 for 315 yards. He also rushed nine times for 33 yards.

This season, Golson is currently 184 of 293 for 2,311 yards, 22 TDs and 7 INTs. He also has 78 carries for 275 yards and 7 TDs.


Ashley Gulick is a staff writer for Scouts Alley. You can follow her on Twitter.

NFL Week 9 Mission Briefing

By Jordan Jackson


I was lucky enough to have a ticket to Thursday Night Football in Charlotte. From my third-to-last-row seat in Bank of America Stadium, I settled on three conclusions: one, the best burger in Charlotte can be found right outside the stadium at The Burger Company (in case you are ever in the neighborhood); two, the Panthers are becoming the latest NFC South team to fail to defend their championship from the previous year (it has never been done); and three, the Saints, after all, are still a threat in the NFC. Watch out.

As for the other 24 teams playing this weekend, there is still much to learn. Before the games kick off, let’s go over the usual items.

Sure Bet: For the sake of variety, I am not going to go with Oakland’s opponent here. Let’s say you have already played your Seattle card in your survivor pool; who else has a lock on a ‘W’?

First off, I like the Eagles. As long as Ryan Fitzpatrick is their quarterback, the Texans will not be able to compete with the top half of the league. Andre Johnson is hardly a factor due to his age and Fitzpatrick—and Arian Foster, with his fragility—cannot and will not do it alone.

The Texans have a very talented defense, but if the offense cannot sustain drives (which they can’t against good teams), it makes little difference. The Eagles, meanwhile, are regaining the health of their offensive linemen. Theoretically, this should give LeSean McCoy and the run game an overdue boost. More reliably, the Eagles play well on the road, and are unlikely to lose two games in a row. They should overpower Houston assertively.

I also like the 49ers to sweep the Rams. Losing Jake Long and Brian Quick for the year is just awful for the Rams. Two huge blows coming in one game. They were sorely outmatched by San Francisco at home with a healthier team. To expect things to improve on the bay this weekend with the injuries the Rams have sustained is ludicrous.

For the record, yes, I also like Seattle over Oakland.

Not So Fast: This, as usual, is a bit tougher. It does not seem like a huge upset or anything, but I am going to go with the Ravens to win in Steel City. Despite the loss to Cincinnati this past week, I still believe Baltimore is the best team in the AFC North—maybe not the most talented necessarily, but they are playing the best ball. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is difficult to trust even after their resounding victory over the Colts to the tune of 500 yards through the air. This team, after all, lost to Tampa Bay and struggled mightily with Jacksonville.

This rivalry is always hard-hitting and hotly contested. It is usually a pretty even competition too. Ben Roethlisberger’s career stats against Baltimore are not great. Terrell Suggs loves to hit him. Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley has quietly been one of the year’s best defensive rookies. The Ravens D is, as always, a ferocious one. After a tough division loss against the Bengals, they will be out for blood against Pitt.

Surprise Performer: Offenses have had their ways with Oakland all season, so there is really no knowing who is going to be the one(s) to make plays against the silver and black. The Oakland game might be a great opportunity for Russell Wilson to get straightened out as a passer. Aside from the final drive, Wilson was ineffective and lousy in Carolina, and a matchup with the soft, beat-up Oakland secondary might be just what the doctor ordered. The Seahawks also seem intent on being free of their previous dependency on Marshawn Lynch.

The benefactor of all of this is Doug Baldwin. With Percy Harvin gone, the Hawks no longer have to worry about feeding him the ball. Baldwin is now the undisputed No. 1 receiver in Seattle. He has been the team’s consistent leader in yards and targets all year, but it never really translated to fantasy success until the Week 7 loss to St. Louis.

Clearly, Baldwin will have his looks, and no defense offers as much opportunity as Oakland’s. Now is the time for Doug Baldwin to break out for good.

Disaster Waiting to Happen: I’m not crazy about Demaryius Thomas this week. He is every team’s favorite Broncos receiver to attempt to shut down, and it is showing in the targets that have been recently deferred to Emmanuel Sanders—even in the red zone. Thomas can expect to see a lot of Darrelle Revis this weekend, and that, too, does not work in his favor. Revis leads a New England secondary that ranks second in the league in pass defense.

In all of the many times that Peyton Manning has battled Tom Brady, I cannot recall a time when both defenses were this good. It could be a surprisingly low-scoring affair, with lots of handoffs and field goals. If Thomas is going to have a good game, he almost has to get in the end zone. The Pats eliminate big plays, and there is no way Thomas breaks the century mark against Revis.

Happy Halloween, and happy week 9, folks!


Jordan Jackson is a writer for Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @JordanJackson1

A Turning Point For the New Orleans Saints

By Omar Rodriguez


The Saints seem to have bounced back.  After a tough one-point loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 7 and bringing them to a 2-4 record, they put on quite a show against the tough Green Bay Packers and their quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The win for New Orleans was the team’s best performance in the season thus far. The Saints were able to pull away from the Packers in the second half after a dominant performance from both their offense and defense.

Then on Thursday Night Football they secured first place in the NFC South after defeating the Carolina Panthers 28-10.

In the second half against the Packers, the Saints were able to force two Rodgers interceptions.

Drew Brees and the offense scored four more touchdowns in the 44-23 win.  Brees finished 27-of-32 for 311 yards and three touchdowns.  When the third quarter started the game was tied at 16 apiece.

The only touchdowns were scored in the beginning of the game by each.  The rest of the points came from a barrage of field goals.

It looked like it was going to be a rough Sunday Night Football game after the Packers were able to score on a 70-yard touchdown from Rodgers to wide receiver Randall Cobb on the opening drive of the game.

With the win the Saints were able to show the potential of a playoff team, despite their on and off again defense.

Luckily for the Saints they are in the struggling NFC south and are now tied with the Carolina Panthers for first place with a record of 3-4.

After the win against Carolina, the Saints are back to even at 4-4. The NFC South had no team with a winning record, until the Saints’ win yesterday.

It has the 1-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the 2-6 Atlanta Falcons, and the now 3-5-1 Panthers.  So even with an even 4-4 record the Saints are now the first in the division.

The offense was firing on all cylinders. This was one of their best overall offensive games, both in the air and on the ground.  Brees, who had a rough beginning to the game after a fumble and an interception in the first quarter, was able to brush it off as the game went to lead them to the win.  Leading New Orleans to scores on four out of five drives.

Mark Ingram had a superb game as well. Ingram ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns. This was his second consecutive 100-yard game after nabbing 157 in the win against Green Bay.

Ingram is starting to become the Saints go to running back after two solid performances back-to-back.

Brees went 24-of-34 for 297 yards against Carolina.  He was able to connect with Jimmy Graham for a touchdown even though Graham is battling a shoulder injury.

Despite this, he seems to be getting better as the season goes.  He was able to nab 83 yards in the game. Drew Brees also scored his first rushing touchdown of the season to put the Saints up 21-7.

New Orleans had not won a game on the road this season (0-4), before taking care of Cam Newton and the Panthers.

The Saints defense was able to sack Newton four times last night and also forced two turnovers.

Now, Cam Newton’s offensive line was missing three of its starters. As a result, Newton was only able to pass for 151 yards.  His receivers were not much help either.

For the second straight week rookie Kelvin Benjamin dropped a pass in the end zone. Jericho Cotchery also dropped a pass inside the 10-yard line in the first.

Also, Newton threw a perfect pass to Brenton Bersin that was jumbled and ultimately intercepted.  To say that the Panthers had a rough game is an understatement.

After forcing two turnovers, they were unable to capitalize on either of the turnovers from the Saints in the first quarter. The win is the Saints’ second in row.  The NFC south finally has a team that does not have a losing record.

The Saints are looking better than they have all season after these two great wins.  One win came against one of the best teams in the league, and the other win an away game against their division rival.

Next is a tough San Francisco 49ers matchup in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 9th.  The 49ers (4-3) are coming off a bye week after a dismantling at the hands of the Denver Broncos, 42-17.


Omar Rodriguez is a writer for Scouts Alley.

4 Questions for the Upcoming NBA Season

By Omar Rodriguez


The NBA is back.  The basketball gods are alive again.

Since the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Miami Heat to claim their fourth ring, a lot of things have changed. The biggest news of course is the return of the “King,” LeBron James, to the Cleveland Cavaliers.  The return comes after his rocky departure and the debacle that was The Decision, where he announced on national television that he will be taking his talents to South Beach.

Along with James, Kevin Love was added to the Cavs roster.  So now with Love, James, and young gun Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers are now the favorites to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy come June.

And there are more new faces in new places.  For example, Paul Pierce to the Washington Wizards, Pau Gasol to the Chicago Bulls, and Chandler Parsons leaving the Houston Rockets to join their Texas neighbor, the Dallas Mavericks.

Andrew Wiggins, the first overall pick of the Cavs, had not even played one minute on the team before he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Kevin Love trade.  It’s a good time to be a fan of basketball. With that said, here are some of the questions for the new NBA season.

 

Will the Cavs Take it All?

Before LeBron James’ announcement, the Cavs were among the bottom 10 teams in terms of winning the NBA championship.  After the announcement, they jumped up to the top five.

And after Kevin Love—aka “the Double-Double Machine”—was traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Cavs, Cleveland is now the favorite to win it all.  James, arguably the best player in the league, can make any team a contender.

Now, with an impressive supporting cast including Love and Irving, they are clearly the best team on paper.  The Cavaliers will still have some kinks to work out.  They will still need to decide on a starting lineup, and with James and Love getting plugged into the offense, the players will have to adjust to one another.

Throughout the preseason, the Cavs showed glimpses of what they can be—or are going to be—this season.  The team should only improve as its plethora of superstars mesh with one another.  Kevin Love is coming off a double-double average season with 26 points and 12 rebounds. In Minnesota, he was the lead scorer and the go-to guy for the Wolves.  Can he still be a force now that he will not be the go to guy anymore?  The claims that his defensive skills are lackluster will certainly be under the microscope this season.

Kyrie Irving, the star player before the arrival of James and Love, will have to adjust to being the third option instead of the primary option.  He will still get his touches and his points this season, but will he be what we know he can be this season?  LeBron James will now take those last-second shots for the win, and Kevin Love will be down low attacking the paint.  Will Irving be playing the clean up crew and still be able to be one of the best point guards in the game, or will he be overshadowed?  Only time will tell.

With all that being said, the Cavs are still the ones to topple in the East.  But with the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, and hot young teams like the Washington Wizards and the Toronto Raptors on their tails, it should be an exciting Eastern conference shootout.

 

Can the Spurs Repeat?

The reigning NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs took care of business and beat the Miami Heat in five games.  The previous season, with the Heat and Spurs playing in the Finals again, the Spurs fell apart in the final two games.

It all started with the debacle that was Game 6 where they were up by five points with less than 30 seconds left. They would eventually tie the game and send it to overtime after Ray Allen and his three-pointer. The Heat pulled away in overtime and eventually won game 7 to claim their second straight NBA title.  This stuck with the Spurs, who would soon get their chance to take on the Heat again for the championship.

Of course things would be different.

The Spurs outplayed the Heat and the rest of the Western Conference in the playoffs in 2013.  They finished with the best record in the league.  They were hot.

Along with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker the Spurs still had most of their core.  In the background, Kawhi Leonard was slowly developing and improving with the best team in the NBA.  Leonard had a great playoff run last year, nabbing the NBA Finals MVP.

He is one of the best all-around players in the league.  He is one of the young stars on the aging Spurs.  He is the future of the team.  The core of the team Duncan, Ginobli, and Parker all returned for the Spurs this season.  The most notable free agent for San Antonio this season was not a player this season, but a coach.

The Spurs were happy to announce that head coach Gregg Popovich would return for a few more seasons.  Along with Duncan and Boris Diaw, who decided to return to the team after signing contract extensions, it was obvious that Popovich would stay as well.  The core of the team is still there so they will always be a threat.  Yet nobody talks about the Spurs during the regular season, even though they always finish either first or second in the tougher of the two conference.

Teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trailblazers, Golden State Warriors, and the Los Angeles Clippers are always in the mix as well. San Antonio is not a glamorous team that always catches headlines, and they are ok with that.  They let their play do the talking.

With a great coach, seasoned veterans, and a young star, the Spurs will always be in the mix to be in the playoffs, and most notably the NBA Finals to claim their fifth title.  They now have to deal with a new revamped Cavaliers team that has LeBron and Love.

 

Should Games Be Shortened?

After the NBA announced that it would experiment with shorter game times, the league was unsure what to expect.  The new game would be played in 44 minutes instead of the usual 48.  The first game played with the new time was between the Brooklyn Nets and the Boston Celtics.

The average time for a regular game is two hours and 15 minutes.  The new game was played in one hour and 58 minutes. The quarters were now only 11 minutes, and the second and fourth quarters only used two timeouts instead of the usual three.  The time could benefit some players to take some ease off of them for the long season.

Another suggestion around the league would be to shorten the season instead of shortening the games. The season consists of 82 games for each team.  Now the possibility of the season getting shortened is unlikely.  There are clear financial issues that would stop both the owners and the players.

It would not benefit either financially, but will benefit the players giving them more time to rest and play harder with fewer games on the schedule.  It would ultimately benefit the fans of the NBA since the players would be better rested and not as fatigued.

The last time the season was shortened was the 2011 NBA season, and that was cut by means of a lockout that lasted from mid-July to Christmas Day.  The season was now 66 games instead of the regular 82.  The loss of the 16 games cost the owners, league, and its players over 400 million dollars.  So the likelihood of the season being cut down is pretty low.

The time shortage will be more of a possibility but not much of a difference in the eyes of the players and the fans.  The difference of only 17 minutes is not that drastic, so the likelihood of the four-minute shortage is not likely.  The league should try to look at things that can be cut down during the game.

Some of the things that can be worked on is enforcing when timeouts are done, times of free throws, analysis of replays, and delay of games.  Stricter rules should be implemented on these things before moving on to cutting the actual game and season.

 

Which New Face in a New Place (Besides James and Love) Will Have the Biggest Impact on Their Team?

The reason that James and Love are not included in this section is that we all know that they will succeed.

As stated earlier, the Cavs are the new favorites to win the trophy.  But who else has a shot to have the biggest impact on their team? Pau Gasol with the Bulls?  Gasol was one of the most sought after free agents this past season.  After rejecting the Los Angeles Lakers’ contract extension, Gasol decided to take his talents to the Windy City to join Derrick Rose and the fan favorite Joakim Noah.

The Bulls, now looking healthier than ever, sit behind the Cavs to win the East after adding Gasol and with a healthy Rose.

Then there is “The Truth”—Paul Pierce—joining the high-flying John Wall in Washington.  The Wizards are a little short-handed, so Pierce will most likely be starting this season, unlike like last season where he came off the bench with the Brooklyn Nets.

Another aging veteran who has been moved around is Vince Carter joining the Memphis Grizzlies.  Carter will likely still be coming off the bench, but his services will help the Grizzlies be an even bigger contender in the West.

One of the biggest stories was the previous Houston Rockets’ team being imploded. Chandler Parsons left for one of the other teams in the Lone Star State.  Then there was Jeremy Lin partaking in the Hollywood lifestyle by joining the Los Angeles Lakers, and most likely being the starter after Steve Nash announced that he will be out for the rest of the season due to lingering back injuries.

Then there is Omer Asik flew east to join the New Orleans Pelicans and their young star, Anthony Davis.  Parsons is one of the best small forwards in the league right now and should have an instant impact on the aging Mavericks squad. It’s interesting to see players with new teams, with some leaving entire conferences.  So they will then have to adjust to a new conference and a new team.

Finally, there is Andrew Wiggins, who technically is not a new face in a new place since he has not played one NBA minute yet, having been was traded from the Cavs to the Wolves in the Love trade.

So he changed teams within a few months, and before officially playing one regular-season minute this year, he is still considered the front-runner for rookie of the year.  His Minnesota Timberwolves seem to be taking shape with the Spainiard Ricky Rubio and the former UNLV star Anthony Bennett backing him up.

Wiggins was the first overall pick for a reason.  He now knows where he will play this year, after he was unsure whether he would be a Cav or not.  He now has some additional fire after the Cavs traded him to show them what they missed out on with their first overall pick.

This year’s NBA season should be a good one, with the new big three formed in Cleveland, other teams stacking up their rosters to combat the Cavs, and of course the reigning NBA Champs in San Antonio.  As the season plays out, some of these questions might be answered, some might not.

Can they come out swinging or will they stumble out the gate?  Or will the stumbling happen at the end of the season come playoff time?  The Spurs, no longer the favorite to win, even though they won it all last year, want teams to underestimate them.

They know who they are, and with their mixture of veteran and young talent, it looks like they have the formula to do it again.  The league can also continue to try out the 44-minute game to see if it can actually work.  Now that the crazy free agency has come to an end and we see familiar faces in unfamiliar places, we get to see what they can offer to their new clubs.  Let the threes fly, the dunks slam, the trash talking begin, and the nasty crossovers commence.

The NBA is back.


Omar Rodriguez is a writer for Scouts Alley.

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