What You Need To Know To #win: #CollegeGameDay

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Wanna watch the best catch of 2015 so far?!

1. Shades of Prothro

Sure Auburn played Kentucky earlier on Thursday Night and we’ll get to that…but…wow.  What a beat down Stanford dished out to UCLA.  The game was over at halftime and this catch was the highlight of the game in the third quarter, on a trick play from mid-field.  The story is Stanford and Christian McCaffrey – Stanford for reeling off 8 in a row, making a case for a playoff spot and having us all wonder what happened at Northwestern – Christian McCaffrey for gaining 369 total yards and 4 TD’s!  If you watched it live, then you saw one of the best performances of the year by ANY college football player.  It’s just too bad no one really did.

  • RB McCaffrey’s historic night powers Stanford past UCLA, into playoff mix: When Andrew Luck returns to Stanford in the summer, he likes to tease strength coach Shannon Turley about making sure the Cardinal program remains a meritocracy. For those of us who didn’t score high enough on the SAT verbal, Luck essentially means that the essence of the Stanford program is rooted in the belief that opportunities should be earned as opposed to gifted. In short, production trumps hype……(continue reading)

  • Game Recap | Auburn 30, Kentucky 27:  It was right there for Kentucky. Down three at home to Auburn, a little more than a minute to go, first down near midfield after a 23-yard Garrett Johnson catch. But then it was over, a 30-27 Tigers win at Commonwealth Stadium.  Seemingly sitting pretty in those final moments……(continue reading)


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2. Battle of Midway

It’s the middle of the season and big conference matchups dot the landscape of college football.  Several undefeated teams take on huge tasks to stay unbeaten this Saturday and DC*3PO has chosen these games to see if we can do better than last week’s 70% ATS – so Let’s Get It On!         (h/t Matt Brown)

Morning

  • No. 17 Iowa(-2.5) at No. 20 Northwestern – Noon, ABC/ESPN2 – It is possible that nobody has a better path to an undefeated season than Iowa. The Hawkeyes managed to beat rival Iowa State this year, they beat Pitt on a 57-yard field goal and they beat Wisconsin in a 10-6 Big Ten slugfest. They are 6-0, with the remaining schedule featuring Northwestern, Maryland, Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue and Nebraska. This week they get the Wildcats, who just lost 38-0 to Michigan and rank 118th in yards per play on offense. Everything seems to be setting up perfectly for an Iowa team that has been mired in mediocrity for the last five years.  Still scratching my head on Northwestern beat Stanford.
    • Iowa 17.25  –  Northwestern 23.35  –  65.95%

  • West Virginia at No. 2 Baylor(-21) – Noon, Fox – TCU is Baylor’s chief rival now, and beating the other Texas schools is also hugely important to the Bears. But West Virginia has become something of a pseudo-rival since joining the Big 12. In 2012, West Virginia famously beat Baylor 70-63 in a game that featured 1,507 total yards. In 2013, Baylor won 73-42. Last year, West Virginia stunned the No. 4 Bears 41-27, finding a way to limit the prolific Baylor passing offense — something nobody has done this season. West Virginia is the best defense Baylor has faced, by far, and yet the Mountaineers still rank a pedestrian 48th in yards per play allowed, and they’re missing their best player, safety Karl Joseph, who is out for the rest of the season.
    • West Virginia 26.65  –  Baylor 36.55  –  71.75%

  • No. 13 Ole Miss(-10.5) at Memphis – Noon, ABC/ESPN2  Say hello to the biggest home AltX.Logo.whitegame in Memphis history. Then Tigers are a perfect 5-0, they still have coach Justin Fuente before he inevitably ends up taking a bigger job and they have a terrific quarterback in Paxton Lynch. On Saturday afternoon, on national TV, they host a nearby SEC “rival” that they’ve defeated only 10 of 60 times. Memphis last beat Ole Miss in 2004, and now both teams are as good as they’ve been in a while. This was the case last year too, though, when Ole Miss took care of the Tigers 24-3.
    • Ole Miss 34.45  –  Memphis 25.05  –  72.3%

  • Louisville at No. 11 Florida State(-7) – Noon, ESPN  Last year, Louisville — like many other teams — came so close to ending Florida State’s unbeaten run. At home on a Thursday night, Louisville built a 21-0 lead but lost, thanks in part to the play of running back Dalvin Cook. With Jameis Winston gone, Florida State is more reliant on Cook now, and it’s paying off. He just has to stay healthy as he deals with hamstring issues. Cook has rushed for 792 yards on just 88 carries, becoming a big-play machine. The one concern is that Louisville has the best defense that he’s seen thus far, with a sturdy defensive front that can give FSU’s offensive line trouble — and perhaps finally force an interception from the formerly turnover-prone Everett Golson.
    • L’ville 18.35  –  FSU 30.1  –  76.55%

Afternoon

  • No. 7 Michigan State at No. 12 Michigan(-8) – 3:30 p.m., ESPN  The Michigan-Michigan State rivalry has long been a series of streaks. Michigan has dominated the series for the most part, but Michigan State took control in the ’50s and ’60s, and it’s taken control again since Mark Dantonio’s arrival. It’s a new era, however. While Michigan State is undefeated, it has not looked as sharp as its 6-0 record indicates, with close wins over Purdue and Rutgers the last two weeks. So while the Spartans are undefeated and ranked seventh, they are an underdog in the Big House, against a Michigan team that is exceeding all expectations in Jim Harbaugh’s first season.
    • MichiganSt 17.25  –  Michigan 30.4  –  76.3%

  • No. 10 Alabama(-4) at No. 9 Texas A&M – 3:30 p.m., CBS  For two years, Texas A&M harassed Alabama like nobody else with Johnny Manziel at quarterback. The Aggies stunned the Crimson Tide 29-24 in 2012, and they scored six touchdowns in a 49-42 loss in 2013. Then the bottom fell out: Texas A&M’s fast start in 2014 was erased by a three-game midseason losing streak, which ended with a 59-0 humiliation at Alabama. Much of the past year has been spent trying to rebound from the embarrassment, and now the Aggies find themselves unbeaten, 2-0 in the SEC, while Alabama has a loss to Ole Miss on its resume.
    • Alabama 28.95  –  Texas A+M 23.05  –  64%

  • No. 19 Oklahoma(-5) at Kansas State – 3:30 p.m., ABC  In a perfect world, Oklahoma would be able to try to bounce back from its devastating loss to underdog Texas by beating up on, say, Kansas in Norman. Instead it has to travel to Manhattan to face Kansas State, which came so, so close to taking down TCU last week at home. Oklahoma has not lost back-to-back regular-season games since 1999, but Bill Snyder’s teams are always capable of upsets, especially at home. This year’s team appears likely going to pull one off at some point despite entering the season with lowered expectations and then running into quarterback injury problems. The last two weeks, the Wildcats have lost to undefeated Oklahoma State and TCU by a total of 11 points.
    • Oklahoma 28.2  –  KState 28.45  –  53.9%
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  • Virginia Tech at Miami(-6) – 3:30 p.m., ESPNU  Neither team has been impressive this season, but this old Big East matchup still comes with some importance attached: 1) Every game in the ACC Coastal is important because it’s so wide-open, 2) Al Golden is trying to save his job, 3) Frank Beamer is trying to avoid retirement. Virginia Tech may get QB Michael Brewer back after he broke his collarbone against Ohio State in the opener, but the Hokies are still dealing with the absence of star cornerback Kendall Fuller. Both of these teams are a bit unpredictable right now. Virginia Tech took care of N.C. State after back-to-back losses to East Carolina and Pitt; Miami has lost back-to-back games to Cincinnati and Florida State and has had a recent tendency to collapse after getting beat by the Seminoles.
    • VaTech 25.65  –  Miami 27.5  –  54.05%

  • Nebraska at Minnesota(-2) – 3:30 p.m., ESPN2  Melvin Gordon’s 400-yard game probably could not be survived by Bo Pelini, but a game later Minnesota sealed his fate with a 28-24 win in Lincoln. It’s one of many close losses that have plagued the Cornhuskers, regardless of head coach. They lost by four to the Golden Gophers late in the 2014 season under Pelini. They lost by three in the Holiday Bowl to USC under interim coach Barney Cotton. And now, under Mike Riley, they’ve lost four games by 11 points, on a Hail Mary, an overtime interception, a last-minute touchdown after poor clock management and a last-second field goal. A 2-4 start is horrifying for a Nebraska team that has lost exactly four games seven years in a row, and it comes with both positives and negatives.
    • Nebraska 23.15  –  Minnesota 23.75  –  63.95%

Prime Time

  • No. 8 FU at No. 6 LSU(-9.5) – 7 p.m., ESPN – Florida lost its starting quarterback to a one-year suspension, but Will Grier’s absence doesn’t necessarily take the Gators out of the SEC title hunt. They still hold a two-game advantage over Georgia and Tennessee in the East, and they still have one of the nation’s best defenses. In fact, if anybody can finally slow down Leonard Fournette, it’s Florida, with players like end Jonathan Bullard and linebacker Antonio Morrison leading an impressive front.
    • FU 23.55  –  LSU 28.85  –  66.05%

  • Penn State at No. 1 Ohio State(-17) – 8 p.m., ABC  Conventional wisdom would say that Ohio State’s defensive line will dominate this game, and the Buckeyes will win relatively comfortably in a night game at home. Conventional wisdom is probably accurate. Penn State’s offensive line has yet to have a repeat of its meltdown in the Sept. 5 loss to Temple, but it’s still up and down, and quarterback Christian Hackenberg still has issues handling pressure. Given the presence of players like Joey Bosa, Adolphus Washington and Darron Lee, among many others, in Ohio State’s front seven, there’s a good chance that the Buckeyes stifle the Nittany Lions, force mistakes and win going away.
    • Penn St 16.6  –  OhioSt 30.4  –  76.75%

  • USC at No. 14 Notre Dame(-7) – 7:30 p.m., NBC  It’s been a tumultuous week for USC,AltX.Logo.white to say the least. A preseason top-10 team, USC lost at home to Washington 17-12 last Thursday. On Sunday, Steve Sarkisian reportedly showed up for work drunk and was placed on leave. On Monday, he was fired while on his way to check into a treatment facility,according to ESPN. Now, USC is trying to move forward under interim coach Clay Helton, the offensive coordinator. It must do so against its cross-country nemesis, going to South Bend to visit a one-loss Notre Dame team still clinging to playoff hopes. Notre Dame has had its own issues with a bad run of injury luck, but it has held together nicely, staving off Navy’s option attack last week after a heartbreaking loss at Clemson.
    • USC 27.75  –  NotreDame 32.95  –  64.1%

  • Missouri at Georgia(-16) – 7:30 p.m., SEC Network  Florida has built a two-game cushion in the SEC East, and thus Georgia desperately needs to stop the bleeding at home against a struggling Missouri offense. The Bulldogs will have to move on without injured running back Nick Chubb, which is a huge loss, although Sony Michel is a budding star who is averaging 6.7 yards per carry and was a highly regarded recruit. This will be a stiff test, as Missouri continues to play terrific defense, giving up very little on the ground this season.
    • Mizzou 16.3  –  Georgia 29.6  –  79.8%

  • No. 3 TCU(-21) at Iowa State – 7 p.m., ESPN2  There is no reason to expect Iowa State to actually win this game, beyond memories of that one time Iowa State upset a national title contender at home. But there is hope for keeping it close, because TCU’s issues on defense — attrition from last year and several key injuries — have turned both Big 12 road games into shootouts so far. The Horned Frogs beat Texas Tech 55-52, and they beat Kansas State 52-45. Both of those teams are better than Iowa State, of course. The Cyclones just lost to Texas Tech 66-31, and while they may point up a similar point total against TCU, they have little hope of slowing down Trevone Boykin, Josh Doctson and the rest of an explosive offense.
    • TCU 40.75  –  IaState 21.45  –  82.95%

  • Boston College at No. 5 Clemson(-15.5) – 7 p.m., ESPNU  Boston College is going to have to actually score points in an ACC game before we predict the Eagles to do so. After losing quarterback Tyler Murphy and their entire offensive line from last season, Boston College has now lost quarterback Darius Wade and running back Jon Hilliman to injuries. In three conference games against Florida State, Duke and Wake Forest, Boston College has allowed two touchdowns. And yet it’s 0-3, because it has scored only seven points. It has already wrapped up the honor of ugliest game of the season after it failed to score on four red zone trips in a 3-0 home loss to Wake Forest.
    • BC 1.8  –  Clemson 33  –  97%

Late Night

  • Arizona State at No. 4 Utah(-6.5) – 10 p.m., ESPN  Utah has moved up to No. 4 in the AP poll, and you can still frame its resume however you’d like. On one hand, Utah beat Michigan (who is much better than expected), California and Oregon (by 42 in Eugene). On the other hand, Michigan was in its first game under a new coach, Cal committed six turnovers and still had a chance to win on the final drive and Oregon is clearly a shell of its former self. Utah has a resume that makes it look like one of the best teams in the country, but a couple losses still feel inevitable. This is a very good team, but it has an average 247Sports recruiting ranking of 47.2 over the last five years. The defense is physical and forcing mistakes, but there’s also a chance that positive turnover luck will even out.
    • ASU 21.2  –  Utah 31.7  –  73.85%

  • Oregon at Washington(-2.5) – 10:30 p.m., ESPN2  Last year’s national runner-up, Oregon is just 3-3 to open the 2015 season, conjuring memories of the 2010 Texas Longhorns, who went 5-7 after losing the BCS title game to Alabama. Last week, Oregon lost to Washington State for the first time since 2006. This week, Oregon will attempt to avoid losing to rival Washington for the first time since 2003. It appears that the 2015 season may give a chance to several teams to exorcise demons against the Ducks, who have run roughshod over most of the Pac-12 for so long. Washington is coming off its 17-12 road upset of USC, and its defense has played really well. Oregon’s running game is still dangerous behind Royce Freeman, but its ability to win depends on quarterback play and whether its secondary can stop anybody. Washington quarterback Jake Browning has potential, but so far the Huskies offense hasn’t scared anyone. Oregon might be able to run the ball to win and regain some confidence.
    • Oregon 20.75  –  UW 32.15  –  75.85%

 

 

What do I have to do for you to make me a sandwich Wednesday…

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No Larry, it’s now 3x’s

Good coach? Sure.  Only guy to win a NCAA and NBA Title – says so right here on the label.  Yet, it seems to also come with a warning – may be hazardous to your postseason.  He is the king of implosion.  Just ask UCLA and Kansas.  UCLA’s 1980 Final Four was vacated because of the use of ineligible players – at Kansas it was recruiting violations – and now SMU.  Word is the 76ers are also banned from the postseason because of the association with Larry Brown.

Is Larry the only guy? No.  While I am sure he is being taken to task for his latest indescretion, he is not the only one.  Let’s not forget Calipari also has left programs on the sanctions-alter, and UNC seems to have a different scandal every recruiting class.  It appeared to me to be inevitable.  SMU has a history and SMU president R. Gerald Turner pushed hard to hire Larry Brown to make basketball relevant, where they have not before – Irony is Mr.Turner being the co-chair of the Knight Commission on Athletic Reform.

In other words, same ol’story for SMU, Larry Brown and college athletics – maybe we should stop pretending that collegiate sports are not big-business.


For the last #StrikeZone Tuesday of the season, here is the #DraftKings PERFECT LINEUP:

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Going from winless to winning is a thing.  It can happen.  Let me take you back to a time when Lifehouse was “Hanging by a Moment” – Harry Potter was looking for his Sorcerer’s Stone – and the professional football club from our Nation’s Capital was becoming the butt of late-nite jokes.  It was Schottenheimer’s only year in Washington and they had started 0-5 – then they beat the Panthers and rolled off 5 straight, before finishing the season 8-8.

That is mediocre, but let’s also remember the NFC West a few years ago and the NFC South last year – 8-8 could get you into the playoffs.  So, here’s to you – Lions, Ravens and Saints, because we have also seen teams get off to fast starts and blow it down the stretch – so keep your head up and gosh-darn-it you guys aren’t the 49ers, go out and win one!


This is the new Red-Menace and should also be the number 1 team in the country.  Crazy, maybe, but remember that is just a term of Art – Did you watch what Michigan did to BYU Saturday?  These same Utes beat those guys and also did something I have not seen in a long, long, long, time in Eugene – hammering Oregon 62-20!  62! In Oregon!  Show me another team in the country that has two wins that look that good.  I’ll accept the season is early, as long as you accept that pre-season polls are stupid.  The rest of my, would be top 4, if the season ended today for the playoffs are in order: UCLA, OleMiss and Notre dame.

Speaking of Michigan – We all believed that Harbaugh might have a little Miracle-Max in him.  He turned Stanford around.  He made the 49ers contenders.  We just all gave him a pass this year, because the Wolverines were not supposed to be any good, etc…It might be time to stop assuming Michigan will lose to Michigan State and Ohio State. These Wolverines are much, much better than last year’s group. The Wolverines still need to prove they can play at this level consistently – but if they keep improving, they could make things very interesting in the Big Ten East.

You have to admire Charlie Strong and what he is doing at Texas.  You see, Texas has been close to a breakthrough since making redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard the quarterback and Jay Norvell the primary play-caller, but another special teams gaffe cost the Longhorns on Saturday. Against Cal on Sept. 19, a missed extra point that would have forced overtime, resulted in a 45–44 loss. Against Oklahoma State, a dropped punt snap allowed the Cowboys to kick a game-winning field goal and escape Austin with a 30–27 victory.

Longhorns fans can complain about the officials—and yes, we all appreciate the irony of Texas fans complaining about the Longhorns not getting calls—but if they can clean up their special teams, it may not matter which calls Texas gets or doesn’t. At some point, Texas has to break through with a win—doing that this week against TCU would obviously be huge, but will be terribly difficult—but the Longhorns are on the correct path.


We can count all the instances of happenstance
and bad luck and rule that a coach and team ultimately had as good a chance of winning as they did of losing. But eventually we must draw the line somewhere. We have chosen as a society to draw that line at the final score. Bill Parcells certainly understood all of the factors that decide the outcome of a football game, and he still spoke the words that ring true in football and in life. “You are,” Parcells famously said, “what your record says you are.”

tnsad2For Tennessee fan – the answer lies in something Jones said a few minutes after the question about the two-point conversion chart. (Jones said the Volunteers have a standard chart, but if they do use the one made famous by Dick Vermeil, they ignored it at Florida.) Jones was trying to explain how his team would bounce back from the loss when he said this: “It doesn’t define who we are.”

Yeah it does, unfortunately.

Football final scores are the results of thousands of small decisions and the outcomes of those decisions. Sometimes those decisions are out of a coach’s control, and sometimes teams are plain unlucky. Jones didn’t send a 12th player out with the field goal unit Saturday. Somebody just got excited and ran onto the field at the wrong time. If that doesn’t happen, Medley kicks a 50-yarder. Maybe he makes it, and the honeymoon for Jones continues in Knoxville. Jones probably couldn’t have known that two timeouts called before fourth downs Saturday to get the desired personnel on the field would cause Florida counterpart Jim McElwain to rethink kicking and put his offense back in. Both decisions led to Florida first downs, and the second—late in the third quarter—led to a Florida touchdown.  It must be painful for Vols fans to always be looking to next year for their breakout game – to make a statement – maybe they will find a smarter coach…

In honor of all sad fans across the country – may these pictures say a 1,000 words of sadness:

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Weekend Update: #SadFansAreSad

#1 with a Bullet…

 

Oh the humanity…Bert, you got waxed again – remember when you opened your mouth at a Texas football camp and said; if you didnt have a fullback you would get your ass kicked?  Well Pepperidge Farms remembers and apparently so did Kingsbury.  All the offseason hype, all the faux-swagger and next week is Texas A&M – you’ve got Hawg-Town losing their minds.  Bert, you know it’s bad when the people of Hawg-nation are calling for Greg Schiano, Lame Kitten, or just outright cheating.  It’s gotta sting the nostrils a bit.  Sure, fans will get over ranking 118th in 3rd-down conversion-defense, or ranking 84th in penalty yards and even 119th in RedZone efficiency – but having Kliff Kingsbury put you in your place?  These are Dark Days Bert, dark days…


Dark Days ahead for Auburn too.  This is who Auburn is.  They just don’t go quietly into the night, they fall off the cliff.  It’s in their DNA.  Their history proves it, and when a defensive back spouts off about how easy it will be to stop Leonard Fournette…well we all saw what happened.  Fournette had Auburn quitting before halftime, especially Mr. Ford – the mouthee.   But, to me, the issue is Jeremy Johnson.  He had a lot of hype coming in and the expectation was that he would do and be everything we’ve come to expect from the field-general of Auburn’s offense.  He has the talent, just not the heart or more importantly the head to get it done, because it is not translating to the field in real time.  Seriously though, it’s Auburn and it was a great weekend for those who dislike the entire state of Alabama.


More sad fans were found in SoCal.  Beyond Sark’s pre-game holla-ba-looza earlier in the year, the only thing people really had to say about him was – He’s a nice guy.  I’m sure he is a nice guy and that is honorable, but when it is attached to a football coach that is getting treatment for a drinking problem, he says he doesn’t have and then Stanford happens, you get flashbacks.  The kind of flashbacks that take you back to Seattle where Sark was 34-29 and the thought was, “it was hard to breakthrough in Washington, and wait and see what he can do with national-elite talent.”  Well we did. Talent is important, but it’s what you do with it, and so far and far too often, Sarkisian is outmatched by the other guy on the other side-line.  It’s going to get harder for “the Fans of Troy” to believe this is going to work as envisioned, because, as of right now –  it’s not the symbol of victory that fans are giving, it’s the number of losses every year.


But what about Ole Miss and Alabama? The Rebels caused five turnovers Saturday and also benefited from a once-in-a-lifetime—see Auburn in bamasad2013—miracle touchdown in a six-point win in Tuscaloosa.  Alabama is going too have to, again, win out.  But is it the same as last year? Last year, Alabama had a defined starting quarterback. Saturday, Nick Saban went with sophomore Cooper Bateman (who got blown up) before he was replaced by Jake Coker – who had started Alabama’s first two games. Coker almost led Alabama to it’s best come-from-behind victory at Bryant-Denny Stadium since the one Cam Newton led in 2010.  This is a fluke they say, the dynasty is still intact, the emperor’s new clothes are still made from the finest invisible silks…To quote our friend Lee Corso – NOT SO FAST…Alabama is 4-5 against top 15 teams since 2013.  That’s a trend, not a fluke, and what I’m saying is – gone are the days that Alabama beats teams with comparable talent more often than not.  Back in the day, Alabama fans would be upset if you beat someone by 10pts instead of 20 and after they’d come back down to earth, they’d be on to the next week.  Now the freakouts seem longer and that might cause Saban to see the writing on the wall and pack up.

For week 3 we were 72% SU and 64% ATS – that still crushes, but it is not what we are used to around here – our upsets did pretty well, but the ones we thought would be E-Z, hmmm not so much as we’d like.  If you haven’t seen it, take a look at how Memphis tied the game at 41 in the 4th qtr against Bowling Green – yeah a full-on double-reverse-flea flicker!!!

Other thoughts I cannot put anywhere else:

  • Notre Dame has lost a starting defensive tackle, a starting tailback, a starting tight end and a starting quarterback to season-ending injuries. Saturday, it may have lost a starting safety to a chest-bump-celebration
  • TCU lost their cornerback to a knee injury against SMU and also had 5 other defensive players sit out with injuries
  • Doing his best Johnny Manziel impression – OU quarterback Baker Mayfield, accounted for a school-record 572 yards of total offense and six touchdowns in the Sooners’ 52-38 win over Tulsa
  • Al Golden escaped with a much needed victory over Nebraska, but it still does not seem to haved cooled off his seat any.  During the game you could see a plane pulling a banner that read: C’MON #FIREGOLDEN. THESE BANNERS ARE EXPENSIVE – nevermind the Hurricanes were up 17 by halftime.  Maybe he felt vindicated after watching Miami choke away a 23pt lead, yet still won 36-33 in OT
  • For Nebraska, it could have been one of the great comebacks in their history – then Tommy Armstrong threw an interception on the 1st play of OT, and then a player gets flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when he shoved the Miami guy who intercepted it – Miami, short field goal – ball game.  It’s a heart-breaking way to lose a game, and yet it has happened to Nebraska twice in three weeks.

It’s all about the Benjamin

Some headlines will highlight Johnny Manziel‘s role in the Browns’ 28-14 win over the Titans. But the star of the show was Travis Benjamin, who caught touchdown passes of 60 and 50 yards from Manziel and returned a punt 78 yards for a TD. The only other active players to have scored three TDs of 50 yards or longer in one game were Chris Johnson (2009) and Tavon Austin (2013). Benjamin was the first Browns player ever to do so – ever.

Benjamin also caught a 54-yard touchdown pass from Manziel in the Browns’ season opener. The only other player in NFL history with four touchdowns of 50 yards or longer in his team’s first two games of a season was Jim Brown for Cleveland in 1963 – 1963!

Manziel may have completed just 8-of-15 passes, but he was able to limit the turnovers and make plays when the Browns needed him the most.  In reality, there is absolutely no reason for Mike Pettine to go back to a lower-ceiling quarterback in Josh McCown.  As a result of Manziel replacing McCown, Cleveland extended its streak to 14 consecutive seasons in which at least two different players started a game at QB. That tied the longest such streak in the NFL since 1950, set by New England from 1980 to 1993. The Patriots drafted Drew Bledsoe with the first pick in the 1993 NFL Draft, and Bledsoe ended New England’s streak in 1994.


Are the Cardinals early Favorites?

Fresh off a solid win against the New Orleans Saints in Week 1, Bruce Arians and the Cardinals laid the smack down against an inferior Bears team in Chicago. While the game was relatively close about halfway through, anyone watching it knew full well that Arizona was going to end up pulling away.

For Carson Palmer, it was a continuation of what has been a stellar run for a USC quarterback. The veteran has posted a 15-2 record with 34 touchdowns compared to 12 interceptions. His four touchdowns on Sunday – including three to Larry Fitzgerald – represents the first time Palmer has matched that total since he was with the Oakland Raiders back in November of 2012.  That was the first regular-season game of Fitzgerald’s NFL career in which he scored more than two touchdowns; he came into the game with 89 TDs.

Only one player in league history with that many touchdowns never scored three in a game: Charley Taylor (90 TDs) – (Note that Fitzgerald caught three touchdowns in the NFC Championship Game following the 2008 season, but never before in a regular-season game.)


New Rams, same as the old Rams

All the good feelings the St. Louis Rams may have felt following their Week 1 win over the Seattle Seahawks came crashing down in D.C. on Sunday. Never really in control of the game against Washington, St. Louis dropped an ugly game by the score of 24-10. At this point, we have come to expect Fisher-led squads to lay eggs following good performances.

It happened in all three of the Rams big wins last year — against Seattle, San Francisco and Denver. In fact, the Rams lost the following week after beating those favored teams. This is one of the primary reasons I avoided to pick St. Louis on Sunday.

Kirk Cousins completed 23 of 27 passes (85%) and Matt Jones gained 123 yards on 19 carries in the Redskins’ 24-10 win over the Rams. Jones and Alfred Morris, who gained 121 yards on Week 1, are the first Redskins teammates to rush for at least 100 yards in the team’s first and second game of a season (one in each game, that is). The only other running backs to do that in this century were LaDainian Tomlinson and Michael Turner for San Diego in 2006.

For his part, Cousins posted the fourth-highest completion percentage in team history (minimum: 20 passes). The three higher marks were by Mark Brunell, 89 percent against Houston in 2006; Patrick Ramsey (Tulane), 86 percent against the Giants in 2004; and Sammy Baugh, 86 percent against the Steelers in 1945.


New England is putting the league on notice

Tom Brady passed for 466 yards and three touchdowns in the Patriots’ 40-32 win at Buffalo. Brady’s totals after two games-754 yards and 7 TDs without an INT-are rare even for a quarterback of his elite status. This is the second time he has passed for at least 700 yards and seven touchdowns in his first two games of season, the first being 2011. Only four other players did that even once: Jim Kelly (1991), Drew Bledsoe for the Patriots (1994), Peyton Manning (2013), and Aaron Rodgers (2013). Of those players, only Manning and Brady did so without throwing an interception.

Incidentally, Brady set a record for passing yards in one game against the Bills, breaking a mark that was set the same month that Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single-season home-run record. On October 29, 1961, George Blanda of the Houston Oilers passed for 464 yards at War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo, and that mark remained the highest against the Bills until Sunday.

At some point, the Patriots will have to find a run/pass balance on offense – right?. They won’t be able to dominate like this through the air on a consistent basis – can they? The interesting dynamic here is that New England did average nearly four yards per rush. It’s not like the running game was completely ineffective.  Instead, Bill Belichick and Co. decided to make a statement, again, that the big boys of the East don’t reside in Western New York and play under Rex Ryan.  It could be a long year for anyone who gets in their way.


The Eagles are mess

About halfway through three quarters on Sunday against Dallas, the Eagles had racked up more penalty yards than total yards. Heck, the Cowboys domination could be summed up by the fact that they had run more plays (44) – at about the nine-minute mark in the third quarter – than the Eagles had total yards (34). It was that ugly.

The Cowboys defeated the Eagles, 20-10, in a game in which the story was Tony Romo‘s broken collarbone.  But storyline 1-A was the continued ineffectiveness of DeMarco Murray, who netted two yards on 13 carries one week after gaining nine yards on eight carries in Philadelphia’s season opener.  Over the last 30 seasons, there are only four games in which a defending rushing champion gained less than 10 yards on at least five carries. Christian Okoye did it in 1990, Chris Johnson in 2010, and Murray in each of his first two games with the Eagles.

Murray’s net of 2 yards was the third lowest in NFL history by a defending rushing champion in a game of at least 10 carries. Steve Van Buren of the Eagles was held to negative-2 yards on 10 carries by the Browns in 1950; and Clem Daniels, the 1963 AFL rushing leader, carried 14 times for negative-1 yard against the Boston Patriots in the Raiders’ opening game of the 1964 season.  But Murray’s performance on Sunday was extraordinary for any player, not just for a rushing champion. Over the last 37 seasons, only one other player finished a game with at least as many carries and as few rushing yards as Murray. Jonathan Wells of the Texans carried 13 times for 1 yard on Dec. 29, 2002 against the Titans.

It’s this type of offensive performance that will have many questioning Chip Kelly’s scheme moving forward. More than that, it will have skeptics on full alert when it comes to criticizing the team’s off-season moves. And now at 0-2 on the season, Philadelphia finds itself in a must-win situation against the New York Jets next week.


6 straight home losses?!

At 0-2 on the season (2nd straight year), Drew Brees and Co. are in a terrible position. Only 10 percent of teams that have started 0-2 since the 2007 season have earned a playoff spot. And while playing in the NFC South helps New Orleans early in the year, they just lost a home game against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad that won just two games last season.  Costing many people their survivor pool!!!

Jameis Winston led the Buccaneers to a 26-19 win at New Orleans. Winston became the first quarterback chosen first in the NFL Draft to get a September road win in his rookie season since John Elway did so in 1983.  Of course, Elway’s two road wins in September 1983 have a big fat asterisk, since Steve DeBerg was the QB who rallied the Broncos to both of those victories.

Since that time, #1 picks had lost 16 straight September starts in their rookie season, and it’s an impressive list of QBs: two losses each by Troy Aikman, Jeff George, Drew Bledsoe, Peyton Manning, Tim Couch, and David Carr, followed by single losses by Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, and Andrew Luck.

There isn’t much left up for interpretation here. New Orleans appears to be terrible.

Looking well past his prime, Brees was outplayed by Jameis.  Drew completed 24-of-38 passes for 255 yards with one touchdown and one interception. This came on the heels of Tampa Bay’s defense yielding FOUR touchdown passes to Marcus Mariota last week.

If the Saints can’t win a home game against a bottom-feeder, it pretty much tells us what we need to know about this team. Unfortunately for Brees, the twilight of his career is likely going to be spent with fans watching him thru paper-bags.