The DiRT Canon Blog

#NFL Week 9 #FanDuel Retrospectacle: Overcoming the Weekly Pitt-Falls

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Look kids, Big Ben, Parliament:

Another week, another set of losses behind the victories. Thankfully, we are playing one-week fantasy football on FanDuel as opposed to agonizing over extended injuries, and at least Ben Roethlisberger posted 334 passing yards and two touchdowns before leaving with a foot injury that will hold him out at least through the Steelers’ Week 11 bye.

With Big Ben under center at full strength, Antonio Brown (17 catches for 284 yards) was a statistical marvel and DeAngelo Williams (27 carries for 150 yards rushing, two catches for 55 yards receiving, two touchdowns and a two-point conversion) helped FanDuel players forget all about Le’Veon Bell (knee) being out for the season.

“(Williams has) delivered for us time and time again,” head coach Mike Tomlin told thePittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Ron Cook.

“He’s 32, but he’s running like he’s 22,” Steelers guard Ramon Foster added.

Now, we have to weigh how those fantasy stars will produce—or lament how they will not—amid Big Ben’s latest absence.

“You can waste a lot of time focusing on the guys who aren’t available to you,” Tomlin told Cook. “We’re just focused on the guys who are and how we can put together the right mix to be successful. Injuries are as much a part of the game of football as blocking and tackling. It’s unfortunate. We don’t like it. But we embrace the challenge that comes with it. We’re not looking for excuses.”

Similarly, we keep moving forward in one-week fantasy football, too.  This is the NFL Week 9 Retrospectacle, where we analyze Sunday’s studs and duds and how they line up for future plays on FanDuel.

Quote of the Week

“I joke around with it. I say, ‘I don’t know who [ticked] off the football gods, but they’re definitely letting us have it this year,” Foster told the paper. “You can lose one or two guys, but this has been off the charts. We could write a book about it.”


Studs

RB DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers (37.5 FanDuel points)

His huge performance, against an Oakland Raiders run defense, which was ranked No. 2 in the NFL coming in, only moved his price to $7,600. Now, he draws the Cleveland Browns as the Steelers’ primary threat with Landry Jones at quarterback.

The Browns are dead last in the NFL against the run and D-Will’s price is squarely in the value range. With a bye to follow, expect Williams to get 30 carries for around 100 yards and a touchdown or two.

WR Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers (37.1)—He is one to fade among the myriad wide receivers for Week 10, even if the Browns matchup is tantalizing. Brown’s $8,700 price is a tough buy with Jones at quarterback. We should expect something closer to 5-50 from Brown, making WR Martavis Bryant ($6,500) the better buy.

QB Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (34.58)—You might not want to roster one of his wide receivers, but Newton is enjoying a career breakthrough in his fifth season. (Few were calling Newton an NFL MVP candidate this season like we were this summer.) As long as Newton is healthy, it doesn’t matter who his targets are. Points flow in on the strength of his arm (297-3 passing) and his legs (9-57-1 rushing).

QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (33.96)—We should pity the poor Detroit Lions in Week 10.AltX.Logo.white Rodgers, coming off his 77 yards passing performance against the Denver Broncos, erupted in the second half Sunday and will get biblical on the Lions back at home. We might advise loading up on him (even at his $9,200 price) and his top targets in lineups.

QB Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans (33.34)—If you weren’t convinced Mariota is a burgeoning fantasy star, you should be now. Sure, it was just the New Orleans Saints secondary, but notice the difference in the Titans offense when Mariota is playing vs. when he is inactive. Mariota is a difference-maker and, at $7,300, a value play among FanDuel quarterbacks.

QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (32.38)—So much for the demise of Brees. Against the Washington Redskins next Sunday you have to consider this Sunday’s 387-3 production a reasonable expectation again.

RB Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins (29.6)—It is becoming more and more apparent Miller is the one thing the Dolphins have going for them right now. At $7,200, there is just too much value to not play Miller in lineups against the Philadelphia Eagles. Even if they have allowed just three rushing TDs this season Miller will be one of the ways the Dolphins get in the end zone in a potential shootout.

WR Cole Beasley, Dallas Cowboys (27.7)—He emerged as a favorite target for a revived Matt Cassel and draws a favorable matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at a mere $5,600.

QB Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders (27.34)—He is on a near 40-touchdown pace and priced at just $7,500. You have to love his ability to carry the Raiders (301-4), particularly with the juice his wide receivers have shown this season. His matchup against the Minnesota Vikings is not great in Week 10, but he is returning home and has 11 touchdown passes in his past three.

TE Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans (27.0)—He gets a healthy set of targets and receptions every AltX.Logo.whiteweek, and the emerging Mariota gets Walker chances to score, too. Walker’s 7-95-2 performance was his best of the season and his price might not remain under $6,000 much longer if Mariota keeps progressing.

WR Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills (26.8)—He looks a lot better health-wise and with Tyrod Taylor back in as the Bills’ quarterback. Watkins (8-168-1) is headed for a lonely trip to Revis Island in Week 10, though.

WR Michael Crabtree, Oakland Raiders (26.3)—His price is finally moving up to $6,400, but we have to stop seeing Crabtree as a “sorry receiver.” After his 7-102-2, he is roughly on pace for a 90-1,200-10 breakthrough. It wasn’t Crabtree’s fault in San Francisco, apparently.

RB DeMarco Murray, Philadelphia Eagles (25.1)—His yards per carry is not where it needs to be, and he has to give up snaps, touches and targets to Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles, but Murray is quietly still the linchpin in Chip Kelly’s running back-friendly system. The best news is a matchup against the Dolphins’ 31st-ranked run defense is up next on the schedule.

New York Jets Defense (14.0)—Can you imagine the motivation of the defensive players against their former coach, Rex Ryan, on Thursday night? That won’t be a game for FanDuel production, unless you’re looking at the defenses, which are both priced at $4,800.

K Greg Zuerlein, St. Louis Rams (17.0)—We are going to choose to ignore the misses, particularly since the kicker formerly known as Greg the Leg is minimum priced at $4,500 and has a favorable matchup looming against the Chicago Bears on a short week. Zuerlein has to be everyone’s kicker play for Week 10, right?


Duds

RB Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers (-1.0)—Your little sister would have been a better start in Week 9. Lacy is running like an overweight grandfather with cement shoes. Five carries for 10 yards and a lost fumble for a minus-1 FanDuel total. Yuck. The good news is the 30th-ranked Lions run defense is next up and Lacy is going to eventually pay us back. Hopefully he is 100 percent at his $6,000 price for Week 10.

RB Ronnie Hillman, Denver Broncos (0.1)—We thought he had taken over as Gary Kubiak’s zone AltX.Logo.whiterunning scheme bell cow. Instead, he was a total cow with seven rushes for one measly yard. C.J. Anderson might be getting his job back.

RB Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3.3)—The Muscle Hamster has done some good things this season, but his 43 total yards and a fumble on Sunday is a low point. Worse news is Charles Sims (8-78) showed some juice.

WR DeSean Jackson, Washington Redskins (3.0)—The ‘Skins were universally bums against the New England Patriots this week. They couldn’t even engineer garbage time points. You have to love the value of D-Jack against the Saints secondary at $6,000 next week, though.

TE Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots (6.7)—He wasn’t shut out, but four catches for 47 yards is not what you need out of the one premium play at tight end. The rolling Pats need someone to challenge them. A potentially wide-open affair at the New York Giants next Sunday should help.

K Mason Crosby, Green Bay Packers (3.0)—A mere three PATs. There are days like this for him since Rodgers is a touchdown machine. You shouldn’t be spending a premium on your kicker in FanDuel games anyway.

St. Louis Rams Defense (3.0)—Neither is this what you expect from a premium play at the defense position. The Rams are still the top price on the FanDuel board at $5,400, but playing them at home against the Chicago Bears makes a lot of sense in Week 10.


Source: NFL Week 9 Retrospectacle: Overcoming the Weekly Pitt-Falls

Getting Smart with #NBA + #NHL News o’Day (11-9-15)

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1. NBA Bounce House

Love flashes his old form in Cavs’ win

Kevin Love scored 22 points and grabbed 19 rebounds in the Cavaliers’ 101-97 win over the Pacers. Although Love fell one rebound short of his first 20/20 game in nearly three years, it was a performance reminiscent of his heyday in Minnesota. Love had 16 games with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds for the Timberwolves, including 11 during the 2010-11 season. No other NBA player has had a season with at least ten 20/20 games (points and rebounds) since Kevin Willis in 1991-92.


nullDurant proves his value to OKC

Kevin Durant led all players with 32 points in the Thunder’s 124-103 victory over the Suns. It was Oklahoma City’s second win by at least 20 points this season. The Thunder had only one such victory in their final 26 games last season, with Durant sidelined. Here’s a broader picture to put Durant’s value in perspective: OKC has won 33 of its last 50 games with Durant, eight by 20 points or more. In its last 50 games without Durant, Oklahoma City is barely above .500 (26-24), with only four wins by at least 20 points.­


nullWhiteside is one of NBA’s top shot blockers

Hassan Whiteside blocked six shots to complement his 20 points and 11 rebounds in Miami’s 96-76 victory over Toronto. Whiteside ranks second in the NBA with 123 blocks since making his first start for the Heat on January 14. Only Rudy Gobert has blocked more shots than Whiteside during that time … and just barely (125).


nullWill Galloway become the Knicks’ go-to shooter in the clutch?

Langston Galloway hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 2:00 to play that proved to be the game-winner, as the Knicks defeated the Lakers, 99-95. Galloway has now made seven of 12 field-goal attempts (2-for-2 this season) in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime and the game within five points.


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2. Ice-Ice Baby

Bergeron leads Bruins to win over Isles

Patrice Bergeron assisted on the first goal and scored the second in the Bruins’ 2-1 win over the Islanders. It was Bergeron’s third multiple-point game this season and in each of those games he recorded at least one goal and one assist. Bergeron played in 81 games for Boston last season but he had only three games in which he tallied both a goal and an assist.


nullKlingberg is top-scoring d-man

John Klingberg took over the points leadership this season among NHL defensemen with a pair of assists in the Stars’ 4-1 win against the Red Wings. Klingberg is the second defenseman in Stars franchise history with 15 points in the team’s first 15 games of a season. The first was Craig Hartsburg, who scored three goals and was credited with 12 assists in the Minnesota North Stars’ first 15 games in 1987-88.


nullPamieri powers Devils’ OT win

Kyle Palmieri scored a power play goal in overtime to earn the Devils a 4-3 win over the Canucks. It was the first time that the Devils won a home game on an overtime PPG since March 4, 2011, when Ilya Kovalchuk scored the winning goal against the Penguins. Palmieri’s overtime goal was the third of his NHL career and first for the Devils, but it wasn’t the first OT goal he scored at Prudential Center. His first overtime goal in the NHL gave the Anaheim Ducks a 3-2 victory over the Devils in Newark on Dec. 20, 2013.


Weekend Update: #NFL Week 9 Edition

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1. It was Supposed To Be Different:

You said this year would be different after starting 2015 the same way you started 2014 – the only thing different is you beat Atlanta and not sure how that happened.  Sure, one particular play or tip did not cost the Saints the game – it’s everything.  Even history is stacked against this team – Does anyone remember the last time the Saints beat a rookie QB?  Tim Couch, first year back for the Browns – hail mary – I remember that one the most because it cost me a 15 team $50 parlay in Vegas, and that was the only way I could have lost!!! I did and so did the Saints.  The Saints lost to RG3 and his 1st game at home.  Lost to Jameis Winston already, at home – and now Marcus Mariota!  How do you still have a job Rob Ryan?  When does it end?  Brandon Browner can you go more than one series without a penalty?  You made Mariota look like he’s ready for Canton and he just lost his coach!!!  I hope we do not play the 49ers, because I’m not sure I could handle losing to Blaine Gabbert.


Mariota stakes his claim to looming NFL stardom

Marcus Mariota passed for 371 yards and four touchdowns, including a 5-yard toss to Anthony Fasano in overtime, to give the Titans a 34-28 win at New Orleans. But the most impressive number on Mariota’s record on Sunday was a zero in the interceptions column. It was the second game this season in which Mariota threw four TDs and no INTs, matching the total of all other rookie quarterbacks since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. The only other rookie QBs with even one such game during that time were Trent Edwards of Buffalo (2007) and Robert Griffin III of Washington (2012).

Incidentally, both of Mariota’s tours de force were accomplished on the road. His first game with four TDs and no interceptions was Tennessee’s season opener at Tampa Bay. The only other rookies to do so in a road game were Ray Buivid of the Bears (1937), Mickey Slaughter of the Broncos (1963), and Greg Cook of the Bengals (1969).


Another signature game for Newton in Panthers’ win

The Panthers improved to 8-0 with a 37-29 victory over the Packers, as Cam Newton ran for one touchdown and passed for three others. It was the fifth time that Newton threw at least three TD passes in the same game in which he himself scored a touchdown. That’s one short of the highest such total in NFL history, a record set by Tobin Rote and matched by Billy Wade, Jack Kemp, and Steve Young.  Can we also stop with the Cam Newton MVP talk – he has the same numbers as Xerxes, look it up – he is not any better than before this year – he’s just on a team that is undefeated.


Packers’ own perfect record succumbs to a pair of other undefeated teams

Green Bay’s record now stands at 6-2 following a pair of losses to undefeated teams: Denver last week and Carolina this week. Only three other teams in NFL history faced consecutive unbeaten and untied opponents with at least six wins each: Detroit in 1934, Pittsburgh in 2004, and Indianapolis this week and last, same as Green Bay.AltX.Logo.white

Against all odds, the Steelers won both of those games, against New England and Philadelphia, and they did it with a rookie quarterback. Those were Ben Roethlisberger’s fifth and sixth starts in the NFL.

The 1934 Lions won their first 10 games by a combined score of 215-27. But Detroit ended the season with three straight three-point losses: 3-0 to the Packers, and then 19-16 and 10-7 to the Bears, who finished the season with a 13-0 record (but lost the title game).


Brown & Williams post gaudy numbers in Steelers’ win

Antonio Brown caught 17 passes for 284 yards-both team-record totals for one game-and DeAngelo Williams gained a total of 225 yards (170 on 27 carries and 55 on two pass receptions) in the Steelers’ 38-35 win over the Raiders. It was only the third game in NFL history in which teammates both gained at least 200 yards from scrimmage. Clem Daniels and Art Powell did it for the Raiders in 1963; Brian Westbrook and Kevin Curtis did it for the Eagles in 2007.


Blount is key to Patriots’ victory

LeGarrette Blount was the star of the Patriots’ 27-10 win over the Redskins, gaining 129 yards on 29 carries. Over the last 10 seasons, only one other New England player rushed the ball that many times in a regular-season game: Jonas Gray, who gained 201 yards on 37 carries against the Colts last November. Of course Blount set a team postseason record with 30 carries in the AFC Championship Game last January, gaining 148 yards and scoring three touchdowns.


Patriots tie NFL record for quarter-by-quarter scoring

By scoring in all four quarters of its victory, New England tied an NFL record of scoring in 31 consecutive quarters. That mark was set by the Colts in 2005 and previously equaled by the Rams, who did it spanning the 1999 and 2000 seasons.


Veterans help Colts spoil Broncos’ perfect record

Peyton Manning still has not won a game and in his return to Indianapolis needed 284 passing yards and one victory to surpass Brett Favre’s all-time record totals in those categories. Manning fell three yards and one win short, as the Colts denied him both marks-at least for the moment-and handed Denver its first loss of the season, 27-24. Some notes on the game:AltX.Logo.white

This was the fifth time that the Colts faced a team that was undefeated and untied with at least seven wins, and it was their first victory in such a game.

Frank Gore carried the ball 28 times, his highest total in one game since 2011. Gore was the oldest player in Colts history with that many carries in one game, and he was the oldest to do so for any team since Ricky Williams in 2009.

Adam Vinatieri kicked a tie-breaking 55-yard field goal with 6:13 to play. At age 42, Vinatieri was by far the oldest NFL player to kick a game-winning FG that long in the fourth quarter or overtime. Matt Bryant previously held that distinction, having kicked a 55-yard game-winner for the Falcons in 2012 at age 37.


Jacksonville extends a very specific losing streak

Blake Bortles fumbled the ball away in the fourth quarter as Jacksonville drove for a potential go-ahead touchdown, and the Jaguars lost to the Jets, 28-23. That was the Jags’ 21st consecutive loss in a road game against a team with a winning record. Dating back to the 2008 season, that is now the second-longest such streak in NFL history. But get this: The Jaguars are only halfway to the record. Over a span of 15 seasons from 1990 to 2004, Cincinnati lost 42 straight road games in which its opponent had a winning record at the time of kickoff.


Bills score from distance in win over Dolphins

The Bills defeated the Dolphins, 33-17, in a game that featured three long touchdowns by Buffalo: a 44-yard pass from Tyrod Taylor to Sammy Watkins and runs of 48 yards by LeSean McCoy and 38 yards by Karlos Williams. It was only the second game in team history in which two different players scored rushing TDs of 30 yards or longer. The first was played 51 years ago, and the touchdowns were scored by Cookie Gilchrist (60 yards) and Bobby Smith (37) in a victory over the Houston Oilers (Nov. 1, 1964). Gilchrist was the AFL rushing champion that season, and that was his only 100-yard game of the year (139 yards).


Gabbert a winner in first start for NinersAltX.Logo.white

Blaine Gabbert started in place of Colin Kaepernick and threw two touchdown passes in the 49ers’ 17-16 win over the Falcons. Gabbert hadn’t started a game since 2013, hadn’t won since 2012, and had lost his last 10 starts for Jacksonville. During the NFL’s expansion era, dating back to 1960, only two other quarterbacks snapped a personal losing streak of 10 or more starts with a victory in their first start for a new club: Steve Bartkowski for the L.A. Rams in 1986, and Charlie Batch for the Steelers in 2005.


Zuerlein kicks a second field goal of 60-plus yards

In a game billed as a matchup of great breakaway runners old and new, Adrian Peterson ran for 125 yards and Todd Gurley for 89 yards as the Vikings defeated the Rams, 21-18, in overtime. But it was a kicker-in fact, the kicker for the losing team-that made headlines, as Greg Zuerlein kicked four field goals, including a 61-yarder.

Zuerlein, who kicked a 60-yard field goal against Seattle three seasons ago, became only the second player in NFL history with two FGs of 60 yards or longer. The other is Sebastian Janikowski.

How Week 10 shattered our 2015 college football assumptions

name of site - hunter thompson styleThink again: Week 10 of the 2015 season shattered our College Football Playoff expectations

PUNT, PASS & PORK

BY ANDY STAPLES

09 NOVEMBER 2015

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Some of the widely held assumptions about this college football season went down Saturday, much like Leonard Fournette getting buried beneath a pile of Alabama tacklers. The result? More clarity in some cases, more questions in others and a much clearer understanding of how it could be possible to go from 10 undefeated teams on Saturday morning to one or none when the College Football Playoff selection committee reveals its final rankings on Dec. 6.

First, let’s run down the list of assumptions that exploded Saturday …

LSU tailback Fournette will run away with the Heisman Trophy.

Not after 31 yards on 19 carries in a 30–16 loss at Alabama that wasn’t really as close as the final score suggests. Fournette might still win the trophy. After all, he is still averaging 172.9 rushing yards a game. But his inability to help his team in its most important regular-season game will stick in a lot of voters’ minds. It certainly didn’t help Fournette’s cause that Alabama running back Derrick Henry carried 38 times for 210 yards with three touchdowns. Henry made a strong case that if any back from the SEC West should be considered for the Heisman, it should be him.

TCU will be undefeated when it meets Baylor on Nov. 27, and if Fournette doesn’t win the Heisman, Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin will.

Oklahoma State hammered the Frogs 49–29 in Stillwater this week. Boykin threw one touchdown pass along with four interceptions. While this outing neither eliminated TCU from the playoff hunt nor Boykin from the Heisman race, it did confirm some early-season fears that Gary Patterson doesn’t have one of his better defenses. With games against Oklahoma and Baylor—both at home—still remaining, the Frogs will have to get better on that side of the ball and cut down on their turnovers. If they don’t, they could find themselves on the business end of two more lopsided scores.

Like Fournette, Boykin could play his way back into the thick of the Heisman race. But that competition is now wide open. So welcome, Derrick Henry, Deshaun Watson, Christian McCaffrey, Keenan Reynolds and everyone else who would like to visit New York in early December.

Oklahoma State was lucky to get to 80, and the best teams from the Big 12 will expose the Cowboys.

Yes, Oklahoma State needed some good fortune to beat Texas and Kansas State, but there was nothing lucky about what the Cowboys did to TCU. Coordinator Glenn Spencer’s defense excels at pressuring the quarterback and creating turnovers, and opposing defenses struggle to deal with an Oklahoma State offense that rotates two quarterbacks with differing skill sets in harmony. The Cowboys get Baylor (Nov. 21) and Oklahoma (Nov. 28) in Stillwater, and it might be time to start looking at them as the favorites to emerge from the Big 12’s November mêlée with the league title. But before the Cowboys worry about the two heavyweights still on their schedule, they face an Admiral Ackbar Special this week at Iowa State.

Oklahoma State, perhaps more than any other program, should understand the danger of a late-season visit to Ames with bigger matchups looming down the line.

Michigan State will be undefeated when it meets Ohio State on Nov. 21.

You can complain about the officiating that allowed a late Nebraska touchdown after receiver Brandon Reilly went out of bounds—he was ruled to have been pushed out—before coming back in and catching the game-winning 30-yard pass. Heck, even Nebraska coach Mike Riley seemed surprised that the touchdown was allowed to stand. But Michigan State made plenty of crushing mistakes in the plays leading up to that call, and the Spartans had lived dangerously for most of the season. Plus, it’s quite possible this was a case of the universe seeking some balance. Nebraska has had some of the worst luck a team can have this fall. Michigan State was the beneficiary of one of the most fortuitous bad snaps in college football history.

Does the Spartans’ 39–38 loss in Lincoln mean Michigan State can’t beat Ohio State in Columbus? Of course not. We’ve all seen the Buckeyes play this season. Nothing feels like a guarantee in the Big Ten anymore. That includes whether Nebraska will reach a bowl. The Cornhuskers started 3–6, which meant they needed wins over Michigan State, Rutgers and Iowa to become bowl eligible. Beating the Hawkeyes on Black Friday still seems like a huge task, but after Nebraska downed Michigan State it’d be unwise to rule out anything. Athletic director Shawn Eichorst fired Bo Pelini and hired Mike Riley so Nebraska could win the big games, and Riley just won a huge one. Now, Riley just has to figure out how to beat the Purdues of the world. The Huskers can start this week by winning a game they should in New Jersey.

Memphis will win the American Athletic Conference, go undefeated and dare the selection committee to leave it out of the playoff.

The Tigers’ playoff hopes took a serious blow just after they kicked off against Navy. Memphis needed Ole Miss—a team it beat 37–24 on Oct. 17—to win the SEC and force the committee into a choice between the SEC champ and the undefeated team that beat the SEC champ. But the Rebels ceded control of their SEC destiny following a wild 53–52 loss to Arkansas. Now they’ll need to win out and hope Mississippi State or Auburn beats Alabama. Not that it matters for Memphis regardless. The Tigers couldn’t stop Navy’s option and fell 45–20 on Saturday.

Memphis isn’t out of the hunt for a big-money bowl slot, but its chances are on life support. It now faces trips to Houston (8–0) and Temple (8–1), and it needs Navy—which somehow managed to land in the American’s West Division despite being one of the conference’s easternmost schools—to stumble down the stretch. (SEC East member Missouri approves of the geographical gymnastics involved here.) Memphis needs to win those tough games and needs Navy to lose (either to SMU, at Tulsa or at Houston) to reach the league championship game. That’s a big ask.

Now that we’ve shed those assumptions, let’s offer something we can safely assume.

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The number of undefeated teams fell from 10 to six (Baylor, Clemson, Houston, Iowa, Ohio State and Oklahoma State) on Saturday. If all of these teams continue to win, the highest possible number that can remain unbeaten at season’s end is four. (Baylor plays Oklahoma State on Nov. 21, and Iowa and Ohio State would meet in the Big Ten championship game.) It’s more likely that most of these teams will lose. Houston has to play Memphis, Navy and potentially Temple in the American’s title game. Ohio State has to play Michigan State and Michigan in consecutive weeks. Even Clemson—which appears to have the cleanest path to an undefeated regular season—is on a collision course with a suddenly ferocious North Carolina, which routed Duke 66–31 this week. It’s easy to see how this year’s playoff could look much like last year’s, with one undefeated team and three one-loss squads.

A lot of people raised on the poll and BCS systems can’t seem to wrap their brains around the possibility that a one-loss team might still be the nation’s best, but it’s entirely feasible. Last year, losing to Virginia Tech in September helped make Ohio State the force it was at the end of the season. The same may prove true for North Carolina (season-opening loss to South Carolina), Stanford (season-opening loss at Northwestern), Alabama (home loss to Ole Miss), Notre Dame (loss at Clemson), Michigan State (loss at Nebraska) or TCU (loss at Oklahoma State). “Sometimes the best time to teach—and I hate to say this—is when things don’t go well,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said Saturday when asked about his team’s lone blemish. “Don’t ask me why, but people seem to respond a lot better when things don’t go well than they do when things are going well. That game taught this team a lot in terms of what they needed to do to develop the kind of consistency and performance that we need to have a good team.”

The committee will likely be forced to decide which one-loss teams learned the most from their defeats. That won’t satisfy the people who would prefer a nice, tidy, undefeated-on-undefeated playoff field, but it might satisfy those who would like to see the best four teams play on Dec. 31.

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Projected College Football Playoff

1. Clemson (9–0)

The Tigers struggled to score on a Florida State defense with budding young stars rapidly rounding into form for most of Saturday’s game. (If you’re looking ahead to 2016, just know that the Seminoles’ defense is going to be naaasty and plan accordingly.) Clemson’s defense carried the day back here in ’15, though, and the Tigers clinched the ACC Atlantic Division title behind a 23–13 win. Clemson has the clearest path of any team to an undefeated season, but the rapid improvement of potential ACC title game foe North Carolina could make things interesting.

2. Oklahoma State (9–0)

I thought about putting Alabama here after the Crimson Tide’s demolition of LSU, but Oklahoma State’s clobbering of TCU might have been just as impressive. Sure, the Cowboys were really lucky to previously beat Texas and Kansas State, but they didn’t actually lose those games. On Sept. 19 Bama committed five turnovers and lost at home to Ole Miss, which now has three losses. This isn’t much of a statement, anyway. I’m ranking Alabama just below the Cowboys, and if the field ends up this way on Dec. 6, they’d get to settle things on the field at Jerry World in the Cotton Bowl.

3. Alabama (8–1)

The Crimson Tide were stunningly impressive in Saturday’s win over LSU. Keeping Fournette bottled up was something that looked impossible for two months, and Alabama made it appear easy. But we also must bear in mind that this is the best Bama has looked. The Tide also have that loss to Ole Miss and a narrow victory over a Tennessee team that is 5–4. Alabama’s average performance is probably somewhere in between the LSU and Ole Miss games, but if it continues trending upward, it may end up closer to the LSU outing than the Ole Miss one. And that would make the Tide the team no one wants to see in the playoff.

4. Notre Dame (8–1)

The Fighting Irish wins over Navy, USC, Pittsburgh and Temple are better than just about anything on Ohio State’s résumé. That is subject to change if the Buckeyes beat Michigan State and Michigan in back-to-back games, but maybe we should wait until that actually happens before placing them in the top four. I’ve given Ohio State and Baylor the benefit of the doubt in recent weeks, but it would probably be fairer to wait until those teams earn it on the field. The good news? Both have chances to do just that in the next few weeks.

A random ranking

I was out of town for work this weekend when the family rented Inside Out. Reviews were overwhelmingly positive, and when I mentioned this to editor Ben Glicksman, he mentioned that a debate has raged in the office these past few weeks about the identity of the best Pixar movie. We’ll leave Inside Out off this list until I can watch it. Otherwise, here is my ranking of all the Pixar films that came before it. Please don’t assume a low ranking means a movie on this list is bad. The only bad movie Pixar ever made is Cars 2.

1. Finding Nemo
2. Toy Story
3. Cars
4. Toy Story 3
5. The Incredibles
6. Up*
7. Monsters Inc.
8. A Bug’s Life
9. Brave
10. Ratatouille
11. WALL-E
12. Toy Story 2
13. Monsters University
14. Cars 2

*The rest of Up doesn’t quite hold up to its masterful first four minutes. As I wrote when I ranked it my favorite opening sequence ever, if you can get through that without choking up, you probably lack a soul.

Big Ugly of the Week

Alabama defensive end A’Shawn Robinson did not know why everyone was so surprised that he hurdled LSU’s entire line to block an extra point. Apparently, we’ve all missed a show on the basketball court. “I’ve been dunking since the seventh grade,” the 6′ 4″, 312-pounder from Forth Worth, Texas, said after Saturday night’s win over LSU. “I haven’t always been this big, but I still can dunk now.”

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Even more impressive than his extra point block or his appearance as an extra blocker on offense was Robinson’s contribution to the shutdown of Fournette. Robinson is that rarest breed of defensive lineman. He is big enough and strong enough to occupy two gaps, but also quick enough to get off blocks and make tackles. He had three tackles Saturday night—two for loss—but he and his linemates spent most of the night clogging gaps so linebackers and safeties could hammer Fournette.

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First-and-10

1. The situation at Missouri is far too complex to examine in this space, but SI will have more in-depth coverage as the week goes on. A group of black football players at the school has pledged to boycott football activities until University of Missouri system president Timothy Wolfe steps down. The players are supporting a campus group called Concerned Student 1950 that believes Wolfe has offered an inadequate response to a recent series of racist incidents on campus. They are also supporting graduate student Jonathan Butler, who has embarked on a hunger strike with the hope of having Wolfe removed.

This will be a fascinating case to watch because Wolfe issued a statement Sunday that offered no indication that he plans to step down. While the student protests—which include an economic boycott of university services—are big news in Columbia, the involvement of the football team has taken the story nationwide. Missouri is scheduled to face BYU next Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. If the boycott continues, that game might not be played. The boycotting players have the support of their teammates and coaches, as demonstrated by the photo Tigers coach Gary Pinkel tweeted on Sunday.

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2. While the Championship Saturday slate remains largely incomplete, two teams booked their tickets to their respective conference title games.

After beating Florida State, Clemson is your ACC Atlantic Division champion. The Tigers must now wait to see who emerges from the Coastal. The odds-on favorite is North Carolina, but Duke, Miami and Pittsburgh remain mathematically alive.

Florida, meanwhile, captured the SEC East with an ugly 9–7 win over Vanderbilt in Gainesville. The Gators haven’t played in the SEC title game since losing to Alabama in 2009. The events of Saturday night made the Crimson Tide the favorite to meet the Gators in Atlanta, but Alabama must first win at Mississippi State and Auburn to clinch the West.

In the Big Ten, Iowa can clinch the West by combining a win over Minnesota with a Wisconsin loss at Maryland. If the Hawkeyes win and the Badgers refuse to lose, Iowa can clinch the West by also beating Purdue on Nov. 21.

Out west, Stanford can clinch the Pac-12 North by beating Oregon on Saturday. The South is another story. Utah, UCLA and USC remain in the hunt with games between the Bruins and Utes and Bruins and Trojans left. Utah has a one-game lead on the two L.A. schools, but USC has a head-to-head win over the Utes.

In the American, Temple can clinch the East Division by winning at USF on Saturday.

3. TCU may have lost more than a game Saturday if the wrist injury that knocked out receiver Josh Doctson keeps Boykin’s favorite target on the shelf through these next few weeks. Doctson spent the second half of TCU’s loss at Oklahoma State icing his left wrist. Hopefully, one of the most exciting players in the country will be able to come back for the stretch run. If he can’t, the Frogs will have to locate another go-to target.

4. Speaking of injured receivers, USC’s JuJu Smith-Schuster had a plate and a screw placed in his hand last Monday and then went out Saturday and caught eight passes for 138 yards with a score in a 38–30 win over Arizona. “I knew he was gonna play when he called me right after surgery,” USC quarterback Cody Kessler told the Orange County Register. “Nobody was gonna talk him out of it.”

5. Notre Dame tailback C.J. Prosise will go through concussion protocols this week after sustaining a head and shoulder injury in the Fighting Irish’s 42–30 victory at Pittsburgh on Saturday. “He landed on his shoulder and kind of whiplashed his neck when he got down to the ground and a player landed on him, so he was better today,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly told reporters Sunday. “He’ll go through a physical conditioning tomorrow, and if he obviously passes that, then we’ll move to the next stage. But we’re hopeful that if he takes the steps necessary that we’ll have him back out on the practice field this week.”

Notre Dame faces Wake Forest and Boston College in its next two games. The Irish can probably win both without Prosise, but they’ll want him back when they play at Stanford on Nov. 28. Still, Notre Dame’s ability to keep producing rushing yards despite adverse circumstances has been amazing. Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant were supposed to carry the ground game this year. Bryant was suspended for the season and withdrew from school. Folston was lost for the fall after tearing his ACL in the opener against Texas. Prosise, a converted defensive back, took over and has rushed for 975 yards. When Prosise when down Saturday, Josh Adams picked up the slack with 20 carries for 147 yards. Notre Dame’s depth continues to astound.

6. Please keep the Joseph family from Pascagoula, Miss., in your thoughts. Mississippi State freshman defensive lineman Keith Joseph Jr. and his father Keith Sr. were killed Friday in a one-car accident. They were driving to a game at Pascagoula High. The younger Joseph was 18. The elder Joseph was 44.

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7. Have you ever wondered how the field goal version of the ending to the Michigan State-Michigan game might look? Wonder no more. Montana beat Idaho State this weekend with such a play.

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8. Washington State coach Mike Leach was one of the more outspoken critics of Arizona State’s attempts to steal opponents’ signals. (I was not, because anything you do in front of more than 60,000 people isn’t secret.) Leach had some fun Saturday after his team’s 38–24 win over the Sun Devils. “The first half we stole a bunch of their signals, and those helped us a bunch the second half,” Leach told ESPN.com.

9. Also, you know you’ve hit a low point when you get trolled with Ace of Base. So, welcome to rock bottom, Arizona State.

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10. Sports. Also, love.

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What’s eating Andy?

WHY ARE YOU AT A NORTHWESTERN FOOTBALL GAME WHEN YOU SHOULD BE FINISHING WRITING THE WINDS OF WINTER?

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What’s Andy eating?

Atlanta is a brunch town, but I’m a breakfast person. So, when I found myself on the ground at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport Friday morning with no particular timetable to get to Birmingham—where I would be staying the night before LSU-Alabama—I knew exactly where to go. I didn’t want a festive take on eggs benedict. I didn’t want salmon-stuffed anything. I wanted breakfast. I drove to The Silver Skillet, which has served a frill-free most important meal of the day since 1956.

I was lucky. Had I come a day earlier, the place would have been closed to accommodate a film crew. On Friday, it was back to business as usual. Within minutes of arriving, I had country ham with red-eye gravy and a chicken biscuit sitting in front of me. The waitress asked if I’d like more biscuits. Of course I wanted more of those perfect, fluffy miracles. I couldn’t dip just my ham in that red-eye gravy.

At some of those fancier places, they’d call red-eye gravy something pretentious, like “country ham jus.” At The Silver Skillet, things are called what they are. There is free parking across the street courtesy of The Moose Lodge. You can listen to the staff tell stories across the bar.

Waitress No. 1: You got a snake in your house?

Waitress No. 2: Yeah, but it was just a little one.

Andy Staples

The country ham might be a little on the salty side, but it’s supposed to be. There is always more coffee and always more biscuits. It’s heaven, and if you do it properly, you won’t need to eat for the rest of the day.

Of course I ate again on Friday. After going old-school in the morning, I decided to go trendy that night. Former SI colleague Stewart Mandel, who now lives in the Bay Area, thought he’d been transported back to Brooklyn when he walked into Ollie Irene in the Birmingham suburb of Mountain Brook. “Everyone here is dressed like they’re in Mumford and Sons,” Mandel said upon arriving. Hipster taint aside, the place made fantastic food. Mandel loved his Korean barbecue ribs, and my catfish sautéed with lemon butter and Cajun ham was outstanding. Next time, though, we’re ordering the truffle butter burgers that aren’t on the menu. We didn’t learn about them until after we’d ordered, and the ones that arrived at the next table over basically guaranteed a return trip the next time work brings me to Birmingham.

Of course, I’d also go back just for the flourless bourbon chocolate cake. Every bite exploded with a brown liquor-tinged, semisweet joy. It was rich enough to spilt but too delicious to share, and it went down smooth with the shot of vanilla milk that made me too happy to be mad that no one had told me about that burger.

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