Camellia Bowl Preview

Appalachian State Mountaineers vs Toledo Rockets

Two of the nation’s rising stars in the Group of 5 head coaching ranks meet in Montgomery for the Camellia Bowl (Play Now). Jason Candle was promoted to head coach of Toledo after Matt Campbell left to take the head-coaching job at Iowa State. The Rockets didn’t miss a beat with Candle at the controls. They finished 9-3 and averaged 38.8 points a game with an explosive offense. Running back Kareem Hunt rushed for 1,355 yards behind a standout line. Quarterback Logan Woodside threw for 43 touchdowns and 3,882 yards in his first full season as the starter. There’s no shortage of targets for Woodside in the passing game. The Rockets have four receivers with at least 38 catches.

On the other sideline, Appalachian State is back in the Camellia Bowl for the second consecutive year after finishing 9-3 behind coach Scott Satterfield. The former Appalachian State quarterback has helped this program through a quick transition to the FBS level. They’ve claimed 20 wins over the last two years. Junior Taylor Lamb (2,162 yards) is a steady leader at quarterback. The one-two punch of Jalin Moore and Marcus Cox will test a Toledo defense that has allowed 165.7 rushing yards per game in 2016. Appalachian State has a big edge on defense. They rank first in the Sun Belt in scoring (17 ppg) and yards per play (4.86 ypp).

ABOUT APPALACHIAN STATE (9-3, 7-1 Sun Belt)

Appalachian State has a second running back that’s topped 1,400 each of the last two seasons in senior Marcus Cox. He’d likely be nearing that mark again if not for a four-game absence caused by a left quadriceps injury that occurred at the end of a negated 79-yard touchdown run on September 17 against Miami. His injury opened the door for Jalin Moore to receive more playing time. The sophomore responded by rushing for at least 100 yards in eight of the last nine games. It gave the Rockets two explosive ball carriers on which to focus.

Cramton Bowl will be a familiar site for coach Scott Satterfield. Satterfield was the passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Toledo in 2009. He served on the same staff as Candle, who was in his first year, as a 29-year-old slot receivers/tight ends coach. Satterfield is a likely candidate to appear in both short lists to replace coaches at higher-profile programs such as Cincinnati and Indiana.

ABOUT TOLEDO (9-3, 6-2 MAC West)

Toledo wasn’t able to topple unbeaten Western Michigan in the MAC championship game on November 25, but few offenses have kept up with the Rockets this season. Behind the nation-leading 43 touchdown passes by junior quarterback Logan Woodside, they enter the bowl season ranked eighth in the nation in passing offense at 329.1 yards per game and fourth in total offense at 529.8. Appalachian State, by comparison, was 10th in the Sun Belt Conference in pass offense during the regular season (184) and second in total offense (429.6).

The Rockets have a solid running game they can implement if Appalachian State floods the secondary. Kareem Hunt has some incentive to end his collegiate career on a high note. He enters the game with 1,355 rushing yards on the season and 4,825 for his career. Hunt is 25 yards away from passing Chester Taylor as the school’s career leader. Hunt has produced 27 performances with at least 100 rushing yards during his stay at Toledo and has become a dependable receiver as well, catching at least three passes in eight games this season. It’s another reason why he was invited to participate in the Senior Bowl.

Posted in CFB

Las Vegas Bowl Preview

Houston Cougars vs San Diego State Aztecs

The Las Vegas Bowl doesn’t have its traditional Mountain West vs. Pac-12 matchup, but this year’s game features two of the top Group of 5 teams (Play Now). Houston suffered three losses in league play but defeated Louisville and Oklahoma in non-conference action. With Tom Herman taking the job at Texas, defensive coordinator Todd Orlando was promoted to interim coach for this game. Orlando won’t tweak too much, as the Cougars lean heavily on quarterback Greg Ward (349.6 ypg) and a defense limiting opponents to 22.6 points a game.

San Diego State earned its second consecutive Mountain West title with a 27-24 victory over Wyoming. The Aztecs rank No. 7 in the nation in rushing offense, featuring running back Donnel Pumphrey (2,018 yards). Pumphrey needs just over 100 yards (108) to surpass Ron Dayne for the FBS career mark. Houston leads the American Athletic Conference in rush defense (97.9 ypg), so this will be a tough challenge for Pumphrey and the San Diego State offensive line.

ABOUT SAN DIEGO STATE (10-3, 6-2 Mountain West)

San Diego State senior running back Donnel Pumphrey (6,290 yards) sits 108 yards away from surpassing Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne (6,397) as the all-time leading career rusher in FBS history. Moving past Dayne doesn’t come without controversy for Pumphrey as the NCAA didn’t recognize bowl statistics during Dayne’s career from 1996-99, otherwise Dayne’s yardage total is 7,125. Pumphrey rushed for 2,018 yards in the regular season but figures to be tested by the Cougars, who rank third nationally in rushing defense (97.9 yards per game) and allow just 2.9 yards per carry.

The Aztecs have won 11 games three times in their history. This squad is a run-based team that relies on Pumphrey and junior Rashaad Penny (995 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns). Pumphrey rushed for 16 touchdowns while shattering numerous records held by school legend Marshall Faulk. Penny averaged 7.9 yards per carry running the ball as well as averaging 31.9 yards and scoring two touchdowns on kickoff returns. Sophomore quarterback Christian Chapman (19 touchdowns, six interceptions) isn’t asked to do a lot in passing game. San Diego State rides a sturdy defense led by senior cornerback Damontae Kazee (seven interceptions this season, school-record 17 in his career) and senior outside linebacker Calvin Munson (team-best 108 tackles).

ABOUT HOUSTON (9-3, 5-3 American Athletic Conference)

Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. is playing the final game of his spectacular career. He ranks fifth in school history in both passing touchdowns (52) and passing yardage (8,476). Ward accounted for 31 touchdowns (22 passing, nine rushing) this season while throwing for 3,328 yards and rushing for 518. His health is something to watch. Ward has been dealing with shoulder soreness for most of the campaign. Leg soreness could have an effect as well on a player who has 38 career rushing touchdowns.

Ward fuels an attack that averages 38 points per game. Junior receiver Linell Bonner caught 93 passes for 1,076 yards but only found the end zone three times. The Cougars’ best player is freshman defensive tackle Ed Oliver, who posted 19 1/2 tackles for losses (including five sacks). He could be hampered in the Las Vegas bowl game by a balky knee. Sophomore cornerback Howard Wilson intercepted a team-best five passes while senior outside linebacker Steven Taylor had a team-best 72 tackles.

Posted in CFB

New Mexico Bowl Preview

UTSA Roadrunners vs New Mexico Lobos

The first game of the 2016-17 bowl season features two of the nation’s top under-the-radar coaching jobs this year. UTSA is led by first-year coach Frank Wilson. He guided the Roadrunners to six wins and the first bowl appearance in program history. New Mexico is making its second consecutive New Mexico bowl trip and the eight wins recorded in 2016 are the highest for this program since 2007. Coach Bob Davie has helped this program take a step forward recently, increasing the win total in three consecutive seasons. The Lobos rank No. 1 nationally in rushing offense, but UTSA’s rush defense limits opponents to 4.4 yards per carry. When the Roadrunners are on offense, the one-two combination of Jarveon Williams and Jalen Rhodes at running back figures to test a New Mexico defense ranked third in the Mountain West against the run. (Play Now)

ABOUT UTSA (6-6, 5-3 C-USA)

In one of the biggest surprises of the season, the Roadrunners overcame a 1-3 start to earn a bowl ticket for the first time in program’s history. Their offense took them far enough to finish with a .500 record, which included 5 inner-conference victories. Despite getting a quite relatively easy schedule, they’ve managed to beat three bowl bound teams.

ABOUT NEW MEXICO (8-4, 6-2 MWC)

New Mexico’s running game is getting better and better under Davie, finishing first in the nation averaging 361 yards per game and roaring through the back half of the schedule. The offense makes up for a shaky defense, owning third downs, controlling the clock, and doing a great job of closing out drives with scores. The Lobos are on a six wins run during their final seven games. Now it just needs to come up with a few more passing yards.

Posted in CFB

Big Ten Championship Preview

Penn State Nittany Lions vs Wisconsin Badgers

In a game that could be decided by who is not on the field rather than who is, a Big Ten championship title and possible berth in the College Football Playoff is on the line when No. 6 Wisconsin meets seventh-ranked Penn State on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis (Enter Contest). Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook is questionable after suffering a concussion in the first half of last week’s win over Minnesota, while Nittany Lions star runner Saquon Barkley (1,219 yards and 15 touchdowns) sprained his ankle in the second half of last week’s 45-12 rout of Michigan State that secured the Big Ten East.

In order to gain a berth in the College Football Playoff, the winner will likely need a loss or two from No. 4 Washington and No. 3 Clemson in their respective conference title games, although an idle Michigan sits at No. 5 with wins over both Wisconsin and Penn State. After a 49-10 blowout loss at Michigan dropped the Nittany Lions to 2-2, fans weren’t pleased with third-year coach James Franklin. The following week against Minnesota, the game kick-started an eight-game winning streak that featured an offense that averaged 40 points. This stretch included Franklin’s signature 24-21 win over the Ohio State Buckeyes.

ABOUT PENN STATE (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten)

McSorley, who threw for career highs of 376 yards and four TDs last week, has completed 56.3 percent of his passes for 2,976 yards with 21 TDs against five interceptions , with just two of those picks during the winning streak. Junior Curtis Godwin is McSorley’s favorite target with 47 receptions for 762 yards and nine TDs, but Mike Gesicki set a Penn state record for tight ends with 44 catches, and DeAndre Tompkins, DaeSean Hamilton and Saeed Blacknall round out the conference’s best set of receivers. Since linebackers Brandon Bell (18 tackles against the Spartans) and Jason Cabinda returned from early-season injuries, the defense has moved up to 20th in total defense (346.8) and hasn’t yielded a touchdown in the last two games.

Penn State has won four of the last five with the last contest against the Badgers, being a 31-24 Lions victory in 2013. The Nittany Lions rank second in FBS in second-half scoring (22.83) and first in fourth-quarter scoring (13).

ABOUT WISCONSIN (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten)

Hornibrook lost a quarterback competition to Bart Houston in summer camp for the unranked Badgers, became the starter in a Week 4 win over Michigan State and held the job until Houston replaced him last week and rallied the Badgers to a 31-17 victory over Minnesota. Regardless of the quarterback, Wisconsin will try and batter the front seven of the Lions with Corey Clement (1,140 yards, 13 TDs), while the Lions will try and attack deep with quarterback Trace McSorley (Big Ten-best 150.9 passer rating and FBS-best 16.2 yards per completion) against one of the best overall defenses in the FBS.

After rambling for a season-high 164 yards in a 30-23 home loss to Ohio State, Clement ran for 100 yards five times during the Badgers’ season-ending six-game winning streak (657 yards, eight TDs). Hornibrook has completed 58.1 percent of his 179 passes for 1,243 yards with eight TDs and seven interceptions, while Houston is 69-of-108 for 912 yards with five TDs and three interceptions. The defense, spearheaded by outside linebacker T.J. Watt (9.5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss) and safety Sojourn Shelton (16 passes defensed, four interceptions) led the FBS in interceptions (21), ranked third in scoring defense (13.7), rushing yards allowed (100.8), third-down conversion rate (26.6 percent) and seventh in total defense (292 yards per game). Penn State will be a school-record sixth top-10 team that Wisconsin has played this season at the time of the meeting, going 3-2.

Posted in CFB

ACC Championship Preview

Clemson Tigers vs Virginia Tech Hokies

Third-ranked Clemson’s goal of making it to the College Football Playoff for a second consecutive year is within reach. They need to take care of No. 23 Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game in Orlando on Saturday before (Enter Contest). The Tigers are trying to win back-to-back ACC titles for the first time since 1987-88. The Hokies are looking for their first conference crown since 2010 and first 10-win season since 2011.

The Tigers have had a singular focus since a 45-40 loss to Alabama in last year’s national championship game and, despite a 43-42 setback against Pittsburgh three weeks ago, they’ve put themselves in position to earn another shot. First-year coach Justin Fuente quickly has revived Virginia Tech following back-to-back 7-6 seasons. Three of the Hokies’ last four wins have been by three points, but they’re coming off a 52-10 rout of rival Virginia on Saturday.

ABOUT CLEMSON (11-1, 7-1 ACC)

Star quarterback Deshaun Watson got off to a somewhat sluggish start this season. He has returned to form recently and threw six touchdown passes against South Carolina, including three to Mike Williams. Over the last four games, Watson has completed 75.5 percent of his passes for 1,298 yards and 12 touchdowns, setting the ACC record with 580 passing yards in a loss to Pittsburgh and tying the conference mark with his six touchdown tosses against South Carolina. Running back Wayne Gallman also has come to life of late. He racked up 273 yards and three scores over the last two games after failing to reach the 100-yard plateau in his previous four contests. The Tigers’ strong defense thrives on getting into the backfield, ranking second nationally in tackles for loss (8.7) and fourth in sacks (3.5).

ABOUT VIRGINIA TECH (9-3, 6-2 ACC)

The Hokies’ resurgence has been built on a hard-nosed defense. It’s much like the Virginia Tech teams that enjoyed success under long-time coach Frank Beamer. The Hokies are especially tough against the pass and have produced 17 takeaways in their nine wins. The offense is fueled by junior-college transfer quarterback Jerod Evans. He quietly has put up Heisman-like numbers, completing 63.8 percent of his passes for 3,045 yards with 26 touchdowns and five interceptions while adding 713 yards and eight TDs on the ground. Virginia Tech ranks third among Power Five teams in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert just 26.8 percent.

Posted in CFB

SEC Championship Preview

Alabama Crimson Tide vs Florida Gators

Top-ranked Alabama has such a cushion in the College Football Playoff rankings that it will qualify for the four-team national championship competition even if it should lose to No. 16 Florida in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game at Atlanta (Enter Contest). Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban grows irate at such a suggestion and is fully focused on guiding the squad to its third consecutive conference crown.

Alabama, which has won 24 consecutive games, is the only undefeated team from a major conference and is considered a shoo-in to be part of the playoff. But it would still be huge upset if the Gators were to win the game. Coach Jim McElwain was a former Alabama offensive coordinator and a win against them would definitely taste good for him. This is the ninth time Alabama and Florida square off in the SEC title game. Both teams won four of the previous matchups.

ABOUT ALABAMA (12-0, 8-0 SEC)

Senior defensive end Jonathan Allen (seven sacks, two fumble return touchdowns) is the only defensive player among the five Walter Camp Player of the Year finalists and he is leader of a defense that ranks first nationally in scoring defense (11.4 points per game), total defense (246.8 yards per game) and rushing defense (68.7). Sophomore Marlon Humphrey (leg) is ailing but Saban feels he will recover in time to play, and the cornerback is a standout in a secondary that is receiving superb play from sophomore strong safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (team-high four interceptions). Senior outside linebacker’s Ryan Anderson (team-best 16 1/2) and Tim Williams (15) have combined for 31 1/2 tackles for losses. Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts paces the offense by accounting for 32 total touchdowns (20 passing, 12 rushing) while passing for 2,425 yards and rushing for 840.

ABOUT FLORIDA (8-3, 6-2 SEC)

The Gators rank fifth in scoring defense (14.6) and sixth in total defense (291.9) but will be without six starters, including standouts such as senior linebacker Jarrad Davis (ankle), junior linebacker Alex Anzalone (arm), junior defensive end Jordan Sherit (knee) and senior safety Marcus Maye (arm). Sophomore quarterback Luke Del Rio (shoulder) will be available only in an emergency so senior Austin Appleby (964 yards, six touchdowns, two interceptions) will again be under center for an offense averaging just 16.3 points in his last three starts. Sophomore running back Jordan Scarlett has rushed for 778 yards and six touchdowns, while junior cornerback Teez Tabor has a team-best four interceptions. Wideout Antonio Callaway leads the squad with 43 receptions and 603 yards, but the second of his two receiving scores came on September 10th.

Posted in CFB

BEDLAM SERIES

Oklahoma State vs Oklahoma Preview

The Bedlam Series takes on a larger meaning with the Big 12 championship at stake, though both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will need a win and plenty of chaos ahead of them in order to sneak into a College Football Playoff spot. The seventh-ranked Sooners attempt to polish off an undefeated conference slate and add another top-10 win to their resume when they host rival 10th-ranked Oklahoma State on Saturday (Enter Contest).

Oklahoma’s losses in two of the first three games are haunting the team in the rankings. The selection committee isn’t seeing enough from the No. 2 scoring offense (45.3 points) in the country to vault the Sooners over four Big Ten teams, two Pac-12 teams, Alabama and Clemson ahead of them in the standings. The Cowboys’ case for inclusion in the final four includes the hope that the committee will consider that its 30-27 loss at home to Central Michigan in Week 2 should not be counted against their record because the Chippewas never should have been awarded the final play on which they scored the game-winning TD. But both teams know that they won’t have any case for inclusion at all without a win on Saturday. The road team took each of the last three in the series.

ABOUT OKLAHOMA STATE (9-2, 7-1 Big 12)

The Cowboys were bidding for a spot in the Playoff last season before dropping their final two regular season games, including a 58-23 home loss to the Sooners. Quarterback Mason Rudolph was hobbled by a foot injury and only available on a limited basis in last season’s meeting. He’s fully healthy now and enters the weekend second in the Big 12 in passing yards (3,591) and third in TD passes (25). Wide receiver James Washington is second in the conference in receiving yards (1,159) and fourth in receiving TDs (nine).

ABOUT OKLAHOMA (9-2, 8-0 Big 12)

Ahead of Rudolph in TD passes in the Big 12 is Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield, who owns 35 scoring passes along with six rushing TDs. He guides an offense averaging 49 points in conference play. Mayfield ran for a pair of TDs in a 56-28 triumph at West Virginia last week as Oklahoma piled up 316 yards on the ground, with Samaje Perine (160 yards, two TDs) and Joe Mixon (147 yards, one TD) leading the way. Wide receiver Dede Washington leads the Big 12 in receiving yards (1,354) and receiving TDs (15).

Posted in CFB

Dallas Cowboys vs Minnesota Vikings Preview

The Dallas Cowboys have not lost since the season opener but cannot afford to take their foot off the pedal as they prepare to visit the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night (Enter Contest). Riding a 10-game winning streak and leading the New York Giants by two games in the NFC East, Dallas has a chance to clinch a playoff spot with a win over Minnesota and some help. The Cowboys are trying to navigate through their most rugged stretch of the season, with Thursday’s matchup marking their third game in 12 days.

Minnesota also will be playing for the third time in 12 days and will be without head coach Mike Zimmer, who underwent surgery on Wednesday night for a torn retina. The Vikings have dropped five of their last six, including a 16-13 loss at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day to fall one game behind the Lions in the NFC Central.

ABOUT THE COWBOYS (10-1)

Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott is the league’s leading rusher with 1,199 yards and has rushed for 11 touchdowns. The Ohio State alumni has rushed for six touchdowns and 400 yards over the last four games. Elliott has thrust himself into the MVP conversation, and one of his competitors may be fellow rookie Dak Prescott, who has 18 TD passes against only two interceptions and has posted a passer rating of at least 100 in nine of the last 10 games. Dallas ranks 31st in pass defense (280.4 yards) and has made only four interceptions.

ABOUT THE VIKINGS (6-5)

Minnesota cornerback Xavier Rhodes has as many interceptions as the Cowboys and is part of a defense that ranks second in the league with 17.5 points allowed and paces the NFC with a plus-12 turnover differential. With a stagnant running game and an offense that has been limited to 16 points of fewer four times in the last six games, quarterback Sam Bradford is pushing for the coaches to open the playbook and take shots downfield. He split a pair of decisions against the Cowboys last season with Philadelphia, throwing for 295 yards and a TD in the last meeting. Bradford (ankle) has been limited in practice this week but hopes to have the services of leading wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who had 40 receptions over a four-game stretch prior to sitting out last week’s loss against the Lions with a knee injury.

Posted in NFL

AAC Championship

Temple Owls vs Navy Midshipmen

Temple is riding a dominant defensive stretch and 20th-ranked Navy is running roughshod over opposing defenses. This should makes for an intriguing matchup in Saturday’s American Athletic Conference title game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (Enter Contest). The Owls have won six straight games. They held their last four opponents to a total of 23 points. Temple will look to rebound after losing to Houston in last year’s AAC championship.

Temple led the AAC in scoring defense (17.8 points) and total defense (273.4 yards, which is third in the country), while Navy ranked second in the conference in scoring (41.7) behind the nation’s second-ranked rushing attack (342 yards). The Midshipmen revolve around quarterback Will Worth, the nation’s leader with 25 rushing touchdowns, while the Owls ride a balanced offense behind senior quarterback Phillip Walker (2,700 yards, 18 touchdown passes). Walker is questionable with a foot issue but expects to play.

ABOUT TEMPLE (9-3, 7-1 AAC)

With Walker’s status uncertain, the squad must also be prepared to go to battle without the services of sophomore running back Ryquell Armstead. He’s one of two players with more than 800 yards on the ground. The absence of Armstead, who had two TDs in last week’s 37-10 win over East Carolina, will cede more carries to leading rusher Jahad Thomas (856 yards, 12 TDs). Walker’s top target, sophomore Ventell Bryant is expected to be ready despite an arm issue. He averaged 93.3 yards over his final six games. Defensive linesman Haason Reddick led the AAC in tackles-for-loss with 21.5 and ranked second in sacks with 9.5.

ABOUT NAVY (9-2, 7-1 AAC)

Worth needs six rushing TDs to tie former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds’ NCAA record of 31 in a season. He has topped 100 yards on the ground in seven consecutive contests and scored multiple rushing TDs in six straight. This offensive outburst is part of a stretch run that has seen the Midshipmen top the 40-point mark in six of the last seven outings. Navy’s triple-option attack has been rolling along at a historic rate. They have piled up 480 rushing yards against East Carolina two weeks ago and then 496 in last Saturday’s 75-31 drubbing of SMU. It was the 10th-most accumulated rushing yards in program history. The Midshipmen won homefield advantage by virtue of their entry into the College Football Playoff rankings. They will be trying to extend a 15-game home winning streak, tied for the longest in the country.

Posted in CFB

Pac-12 Championship Preview

Colorado Buffalos vs Washington Huskies

Washington battles Colorado for Pac-12 championship (Enter Contest). A victory by fourth-ranked Washington over No. 9 Colorado in the Pac-12 Championship Game might be enough to get the Huskies into the College Football Playoff. But maybe not. The prospect of the Big Ten getting two teams into the four-team playoff could shut out Washington (11-1), even if it defeats the surprising Buffaloes (10-2), who went from worst to first in the Pac-12 South in one season. The teams play in the sixth Pac-12 Championship Game on Friday night at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. The North champ is 5-0 in the league title game. Washington’s poor non-conference strength of schedule (Rutgers, Idaho, Portland State) could come into play when the selection committee makes its decisions, but first there is the matter of finding a way to beat a veteran, balanced Colorado squad.

Colorado Buffalos

The Buffaloes cleared big hurdles in the past two weeks, twice defeating teams ranked No. 22. They followed a 38-24 win over Washington State with a 27-22 win against Utah to clinch the South at 8-1. That marks three more conference victories than Colorado managed over its first five seasons in the Pac-12. Colorado ranks 13th nationally in total defense (323.8 yards per game) and scoring defense (18.8 points). Senior cornerback Chidobe Awuziewas selected the team’s most valuable defensive player; he has 54 tackles, 10 pass break-ups and a nine career sacks, four this season. Safety Tedric Thompson has tied the school record for most interceptions in a season with seven.

The Buffaloes’ offense isn’t as explosive as Washington’s, but the run-pass balance is formidable. Senior quarterback Sefo Liufau has thrown for 2,150 yards, completing 64.6 percent of his 277 passes, with just three interceptions. Liufau also has 483 rushing yards. Running back Phillip Lindsay posted 1,136 rushing yards in the regular season, to go with 44 receptions.

Washington Huskies

Washington is third nationally in scoring at 44.8 points per game. Sophomore quarterback Jake Browning is third in the country in passing touchdowns (40), fourth in passing efficiency (181.6 rating) and ninth in yards per completion (14.78). In last week’s showdown at Washington State for the Pac-12 North title, he completed 21 of 29 passes for 292 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Sophomore running back Myles Gaskin ran for 1,180 yards in the regular season, his second season of at least 1,000 yards. Speedy senior John Ross is second nationally with 16 touchdown catches. Wide receiver Dante Pettis has 14 touchdown receptions. Washington did lose starting linebackers Joe Mathis and Azeem Victorto injuries during the season, but redshirt freshman D.J. Beavers is making the most of his new opportunity. Beavers tallied four tackles with a forced fumble, fumble recovery and interception in last week’s game against Washington State.

Washington and Colorado each lost to USC, with the Buffaloes also dropping a game at Michigan. They were leading that game in the second half before Liufau left with an injury. The Huskies have won six consecutive meetings against Colorado, the last coming in 2014 in Boulder, 38-23.

Posted in CFB

Maryland Terrapins 2016-17 Preview

Melo Trimble could have departed College Park for good and left the Maryland Terrapins without a returning starter for the first time since freshman eligibility was restored in 1972-73. Instead, the point guard opted at the last minute to remain with the Terrapins for his junior season and provide a boost to a program coming off its first Sweet 16 trip since 2003. It’ll take more than just Trimble, though, for Maryland to earn its third straight NCAA Tournament trip (Play College Basketball)

Frontcourt

The Terps relied primarily on Robert Carter Jr. and Diamond Stone in the post last year, and both turned pro with eligibility remaining. Their backups must now fill considerably larger roles, though both have multiple years in coach Mark Turgeon’s system. Senior Damonte Dodd owns 45 career starts and ranks 16th in school history with 90 blocks. Junior Michal Cekovsky shot 53.6 percent from the field over the last two seasons.

Sophomore Ivan Bender, a capable defender, also figures to contribute after dealing with NCAA eligibility issues and an ACL recovery the last two years. Turgeon also landed graduate transfer L.G. Gill, who averaged 10.1 points and 6.5 rebounds at Duquesne last season.

Backcourt

Trimble is the centerpiece of Maryland’s offense. But Turgeon is excited about his entire backcourt, which could be as deep as the guard rotation the Terps deployed two seasons ago. Freshman Anthony Cowan is more of a pass-first point guard than Trimble, and Turgeon will get both players on the floor simultaneously at times. That allows Trimble to move off the ball more frequently than in his first two seasons. Maryland is also hopeful to get sophomore wing Dion Wiley back to full strength after he missed last season with a torn right meniscus.

Jared Nickens never established a rhythm as Trimble, Jake Layman and Rasheed Sulaimon handled most of Maryland’s perimeter minutes last year. Layman and Sulaimon have graduated, and the Terps need more from Nickens, who shot just 26.1 percent from 3-point range in league play last year. Junior guard Jaylen Brantley, Trimble’s backup a year ago, also returns. Freshman Kevin Huerter is an exceptional shooter with a good feel for the game, while Turgeon sees newcomer Justin Jackson as a point forward type with the potential to develop an interior game.

Newcomers

Maryland waded into the graduate transfer pool and added Duquesne forward L.G. Gill. Anthony Cowan should earn time immediately. Wing Kevin Huerter played on the USA Basketball U-18 National Team this summer, and Canadian small forward Justin Jackson was a welcome spring signee. The Terps signed the athletic Micah Thomas and Joshua Tomaic to bolster their frontcourt.

Final Analysis

Few saw Maryland’s breakout 28–7 season coming two years ago. In the spotlight from the start last season, the Terps went 27–9 and showed minimal improvement from November to March. There aren’t the same expectations now, but the hopes are that the Maryland Terrapins will be settling in as a consistent top-25 program once again.

 

Posted in CBB

MAC Championship

Ohio, Western Michigan set for battle in MAC championship game (Enter Contest). The undefeated and 21st-ranked Broncos, who face Ohio for the Mid-American Conference championship at Detroit’s Ford Field on Friday, were 1-11 just three years ago.

Western Michigan Broncos (12-0, 8-0 MAC)

Zach Terrell and Corey Davis are quite a dynamic duo for coach P.J. Fleck offense. The senior quarterback and top wide receiver are among the top offensive pairing in NCAA football this season. They have played magnificently during this dream season for Western Michigan, which will likely emerge from the Group of Five and earn a New Year’s Six bowl berth with a victory. Terrell has completed 71.7 percent of his pass attempts with 30 touchdown passes and just one interception. His favorite target, Davis, has 83 receptions for 1,283 yards and 17 touchdowns. Davis set the FBS career receiving yards record in the Broncos’ 55-35 win over Toledo on Friday, which clinched the MAC West Division title. Davis enters the title game with 5,068 yards.

The Broncos (12-0 overall, 8-0 conference) haven’t been to the MAC championship game since 2000, when they were defeated by Marshall for the second straight season. Speculation is running rampant that Fleck will leave for a bigger program.

Ohio Bobcats (8-4, 6-2 MAC)

The Bobcats are also seeking their first MAC championship victory. They were defeated by Northern Illinois, 23-20, in their last trip to Ford Field in 2011 and are 0-3 overall in the title game. Ohio (8-4, 6-2) won a tiebreaker over Miami (Ohio) to capture the East Division. The Bobcats have won four of their last five, including a 9-3 win over Akron on Nov. 22 to secure their berth. Freshman Quinton Maxwell has taken over at quarterback during the second half of the season, completing 55.9 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and four interceptions. Senior quarterback Greg Windham missed the last three games with a leg injury and his status for Friday’s game is uncertain. Junior Dorian Brown (794 yards, four TDs) and sophomore Maleek Irons(426 yards, five TDs) head the rushing attack.

 

Posted in CFB

Green Bay Packers vs Philadephia Eagles Preview

The early-season hype surrounding rookie Carson Wentz has quieted down, but the whispers are growing louder around two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers’ inability to stop his team’s maddening slump. Both quarterbacks will be trying to keep their teams in the playoff chase when Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles host Rodgers and the sliding Green Bay Packers on Monday night (Enter Contest).

The Eagles have dropped five of seven since No. 2 overall draft pick Wentz led them to a 3-0 start, slipping into last place in the NFC East. Still, the Eagles are right on the heels of division rival Washington (6-4-1) for the final playoff spot in the conference and also own a 4-0 record at home, including victories over Atlanta and Minnesota in their last two at Lincoln Financial Field. The Packers are in the midst of a spectacular four-game slide during which they have allowed a staggering 153 points.

ABOUT THE PACKERS (4-6):

Following narrow losses to Atlanta and Indianapolis by a combined six points, Green Bay’s defense has been carved up for 89 points by Tennessee and Washington in the first two stops of its three-game road trip. The Packers have failed to force a turnover in three of the last four defeats. Green Bay is hopeful that Christine Michael, claimed off waivers from Seattle, will be ready to bolster a sagging running game with a full week of practice. Rodgers continues to put up solid numbers with 15 TD passes and three interceptions in his last five games. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who sat out last season with a knee injury, leads the NFL with nine TD catches. The Packers have won four of the last five meetings, including a 53-20 rout at Philadelphia two years ago.

ABOUT THE EAGLES (5-5):

It’s hardly a surprise that Wentz has been unable to sustain his hot start, given the dearth of playmakers at wide receiver and a spotty running game. Wentz threw seven touchdown passes against one interception in his first four games, but those numbers have changed with four scoring tosses and six picks in the last six contests. Wentz has thrown for more than 238 yards just once in his last seven games, with wideout Jordan Matthews his favorite target with 53 receptions and three touchdowns. Matthews has four TD receptions in his last six home games and recorded 107 yards and a score versus Green Bay in 2014. Ryan Mathews rushed for a season-high 109 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Atlanta on November 13, but he injured his knee in last week’s loss at Seattle and is not expected to play. Philadelphia has surrendered only 38 points in its four home games.

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