NFL PREVIEW: THE STARTING 11 – STELLAR PRIMETIME GAMES BOOKEND WEEK 11 AS PLAYOFF CONTENDERS BEGIN TO EMERGE
NEW YORK : Fantastic finishes are firmly synonymous with the National Football League.
Six teams – ARIZONA, CLEVELAND, DENVER, DETROIT, HOUSTON and SEATTLE – converted walk-off field goals in Week 10, the most game-winning scores with no regulation time remaining in a single week in NFL history.
How could the NFL possibly top that?
Well, how about a Super Bowl rematch? And in this case, PHILADELPHIA (8-1) at KANSAS CITY (7-2) on Monday Night Football (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC) carries a Super Bowl level of storylines. Here’s a sampling:
- Not only do Philadelphia and Kansas City own the best records in their respective conferences this season, they’ve also exerted their dominance over the league for two calendar years. Since Dec. 1, 2021, including the postseason, Philadelphia (26-5, .839) has the NFL’s best record while Kansas City (26-6, .813) ranks second.
- Kansas City head coach ANDY REID faces Philadelphia, where as Eagles head coach he won more games (140 from 1999-2012) than any coach in franchise history. Since joining the Chiefs in 2013, Reid has won a franchise-best 136 games. Among existing NFL clubs, no other individual in history owns the wins record for multiple teams.
- Reid also is the seventh coach in league annals to guide multiple franchises to Super Bowls, joining JOHN FOX, MIKE HOLMGREN, DAN REEVES and Pro Football Hall of Famers DON SHULA, BILL PARCELLS and DICK VERMEIL.
- NICK SIRIANNI, on the opposite sideline Monday, owns the league’s second-best record (33-14, .702) since taking the reins of the Eagles before the 2021 season. Only Reid (38-11, .776) has a better mark in that span.
- Monday’s game marks just the ninth rematch of teams that competed in the previous season’s Super Bowl, the first since New England defeated Atlanta in 2017. Including that Patriots victory, the team that captured the prior Super Bowl has won four straight rematches (also Denver over Carolina in 2016, Seattle over Denver in 2014 and Green Bay over New England in 1997). What’s more, over the last six rematches, six of those teams went on to play in the next Super Bowl: New England returned in 2017, Seattle in 2014, Green Bay in 1997, both Dallas and Buffalo in 1993, and Pittsburgh in 1979.
- Quarterbacks in their primes rarely meet in Super Bowl rematches. This week’s game pairs Texas natives PATRICK MAHOMES and JALEN HURTS in their third overall meeting (Mahomes has won each of the first two, including Super Bowl LVII). Since 1998, Hurts (31-12, .721) is tied for the NFL’s fifth-best record for a quarterback over his first 43 starts. Only Mahomes (35-8, .814), LAMAR JACKSON (35-8, .814), Pro Football Hall of Famer KURT WARNER (35-8, .814) and BEN ROETHLISBERGER (32-11, .744) have better marks in that period.
But long before the lights go on in Kansas City, the NFL will be hard at work. Thanksgiving and Black Friday are just over a week away. The grocery stores and shopping malls can wait. Week 11 kicks off in 48 hours.
The Starting 11 entering Week 11…
1. SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE: The blue-collar AFC North is a legitimate four-team race and all four teams have division games on the Week 11 slate. To date this season, no other division has had all four of its teams playing division foes in the same week (the AFC North also had all four teams involved in division games during Week 2).
- Before 2021, when the NFL expanded the postseason, a maximum of three teams from the same division could mathematically qualify for the playoffs. In 2023, the AFC North could be the first division to earn four entries.
- Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are tied for the NFL lead with plus-10 turnover margins. They’re also among four NFL teams with 18 takeaways, tied for the most in the league. Cincinnati’s defense leads the NFL with a 3.974-percent interception rate (12 interceptions, 302 opponent pass attempts). Baltimore’s defense is allowing 15.7 points per game, fewest in the league. Cleveland’s defense is allowing 242.7 yards per game, also fewest in the NFL.
- Baltimore (15.7), Cleveland (18.9), Pittsburgh (20.2) and Cincinnati (21.3) are each allowing less than 22 points per game this season. The last time four teams from the same NFL division finished a season each allowing 21 points or less per contest was the AFC North in 2011.
2. NUMBER OF THE WEEK – 218: The number of players, including No. 1 overall choice JOE BURROW, selected before Baltimore chose GENO STONE in the 2020 NFL Draft. Stone leads the NFL with six interceptions entering this week’s game between BALTIMORE (7-3) and CINCINNATI (5-4) on Thursday Night Football (8:15 p.m. ET, Prime Video).
- Both the Bengals and Ravens saw four-game winning streaks snapped last week. Quarterback LAMAR JACKSON is 14-3 (.824) as a starter in his career following a Ravens loss, having won his last six following losses. The Bengals, meanwhile, are 9-4 (.692) following a loss since the start of the 2021 season, the NFL’s fourth-best record in that span. Burrow has started each of those games.
3. CEEDEE LEADING DALLAS TO TDs: The DALLAS COWBOYS (6-3) rank second in the NFL with 29.9 points per game entering their matchup with the CAROLINA PANTHERS (1-8) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, FOX). Wide receiver CEEDEE LAMB has helped to set up many of those points. Lamb, who needs 25 receiving yards to reach 1,000 this season, is the first player in NFL history with at least 10 receptions and 150 receiving yards in three consecutive games. In last week’s win, Lamb caught 11 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown.
- Also last week, Dallas quarterback DAK PRESCOTT passed for 404 yards and four touchdowns, his 10th career 400-yard game. Prescott also has 33 career games with at least three touchdown passes, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer BRETT FAVRE (33) for the fourth-most games by a player in his first eight seasons in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Famers DAN MARINO (42) and PEYTON MANNING (37) as well as PATRICK MAHOMES (38, in seventh season) have more.
4. SPOTLIGHT – INDIVIDUAL MATCHUP: Seahawks cornerback DEVON WITHERSPOON leads all rookies and ranks tied for fourth in the NFL with 12 passes defensed. Rams wide receiver PUKA NACUA leads all rookies with 64 receptions and 827 receiving yards. They’ll be on opposite sides when SEATTLE (6-3) visits the LOS ANGELES RAMS (3-6) on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS). Witherspoon was inactive when the two clubs met in Week 1.
- In Week 9, Nacua (64) surpassed SAQUON BARKLEY (62 in 2018) for the most receptions ever by a player in his first nine NFL games. Nacua (827) also is the fourth rookie in the Super Bowl era with 800 receiving yards in his first nine career games, joining MARQUES COLSTON (869 in 2006), JA’MARR CHASE (835 in 2021) and ODELL BECKHAM JR. (829 in 2014).
- This week, Nacua needs eight receptions and 152 receiving yards to establish the respective records for a player in his first 10 career games. Beckham (71) and Barkley (64) had the most receptions ever over their first 10 games, while BILL GROMAN (978), Beckham (972), HARLON HILL (919), ANQUAN BOLDIN (876), Colston (869), Pro Football Hall of Famer MIKE DITKA (869), BILLY HOWTON (869), Chase (867), JUSTIN JEFFERSON (848) and MIKE EVANS (827) had the most receiving yards in their first 10 contests.
5. SPOTLIGHT – TEAM MATCHUP: CHICAGO (3-7) squares off with DETROIT (7-2) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, FOX) in an NFC North battle featuring teams that put a premium on running the ball and stopping the run. Both the Bears and Lions rank in the NFL’s top five in rushing offense and rushing defense.
- Detroit has won six straight division games, dating to 2022, for the first time since 1995. With a win this week, the Lions will extend the streak to seven, something the franchise has not done since the 1970 merger. Detroit’s last NFC North loss was Sept. 25, 2022. Since the beginning of last season, only two other NFL teams own better marks within their divisions than Detroit (6-1, .857): San Francisco (8-0, 1.000) and Kansas City (8-1, .889).
- Last week, Lions wide receiver AMON-RA ST. BROWN recorded eight catches for a career-best 156 yards with one touchdown, becoming the first Detroit player with four consecutive 100-yard games since Pro Football Hall of Famer CALVIN JOHNSON authored an eight-game streak in 2012.
- Also in the win, rookie running back JAHMYR GIBBS posted a career-high two rushing touchdowns. Over his last three games, Gibbs is averaging 142.3 scrimmage yards per game, including 99.0 rushing yards (51 attempts, 297 yards, four touchdowns).
6. STREAK SPEAK: The MINNESOTA VIKINGS (6-4) have emerged from steep adversity this season to enter Week 11 with the league’s longest active winning streak, five. This week, the Vikings meet another team with momentum, the DENVER BRONCOS (4-5), on Sunday Night Football (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC). Denver has won three in a row, including victories over Kansas City and Buffalo. Other than Minnesota and Denver, the only other team with an active winning streak of at least three games is Philadelphia (three).
- Minnesota owns a 4-1 (.800) road record, tied for the second-best mark in the league behind Jacksonville (4-0, 1.000). The Vikings also are 19-8 (.704) overall since the start of 2022. In that span, only Philadelphia (22-4, .846), Kansas City (21-5, .808) and San Francisco (19-7, .731) have better records.
- Vikings tight end T.J. HOCKENSON has 71 receptions, the third most ever by a tight end through his first 10 games of a season, trailing only ZACH ERTZ (77 in 2018) and JASON WITTEN (73 in 2012).
- His quarterback, JOSHUA DOBBS, has compiled a 101.4 passer rating, 110 rushing yards and no interceptions in two games since joining the Vikings. He is the first player in NFL history with 400 passing yards, 100 rushing yards and no interceptions in his first two games with a team. Plus, including his time in Arizona this season, Dobbs leads all qualifying NFL players with 5.9 yards per carry (62 attempts, 368 yards, five touchdowns).
- Vikings linebacker DANIELLE HUNTER is tied with MYLES GARRETT for the NFL lead with 11 sacks.
- Denver quarterback RUSSELL WILSON has thrown just four interceptions this season, tied for the second fewest among qualified passers behind C.J. STROUD (two).
- Since the beginning of Week 6, including two games against Kansas City, Denver is 3-1. During that stretch, the Broncos are tied for the league’s best turnover margin (plus-six) and tied for the NFL’s third-fewest points allowed per game (16.8).
- Since entering the league in 2016, Denver safety JUSTIN SIMMONS leads the NFL with 30 interceptions.
7. DID YOU KNOW?: Regardless of whether he scores touchdowns, the 49ers’ CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY has been one of the NFL’s most consistently productive players since joining San Francisco midway through the 2022 season. His next feat could be leading the NFL from wire-to-wire in rushing yards, something he’s accomplished so far this season. And not only does he lead the league with 747 rushing yards, he also leads all running backs with 339 receiving yards. Since the 1970 league merger, only one running back has led the NFL in both categories over a full season, the Texans’ ARIAN FOSTER in 2010.
- When SAN FRANCISCO (6-3) hosts TAMPA BAY (4-5) on Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, FOX), the 49ers will be tested in the red zone. Inside the 20 this season, the Buccaneers’ defense is the stingiest in the NFL, allowing just nine touchdowns on 29 opponent possessions (32.1 percent).
- BROCK PURDY, who leads the NFL with a 109.9 passer rating, faces a starting quarterback selected No. 1 overall in a prior NFL draft for a third consecutive game. This week, he faces Tampa Bay’s BAKER MAYFIELD (2018), following JOE BURROW and TREVOR LAWRENCE. In last week’s win over Lawrence, Purdy passed for 296 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions (148.9 rating). In the process, he became only the second quarterback in NFL history with three games of three-or-more touchdown passes and a passer rating of 140-or-higher in his first two seasons, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer KURT WARNER. Purdy’s first NFL start came against Tampa Bay in Week 14 last season.
- San Francisco’s GEORGE KITTLE had 116 receiving yards and a touchdown last week. Kittle (559 receiving yards this year) is the fourth tight end in NFL history with 500 receiving yards in each of his first seven seasons, joining ROB GRONKOWSKI (first 11 seasons), Pro Football Hall of Famer OZZIE NEWSOME (first eight) and KEITH JACKSON (first seven).
- The 49ers’ defense leads the NFL with 13 interceptions.
8. UNDER-THE-RADAR STORYLINE: The PITTSBURGH STEELERS (6-3), who bus to CLEVELAND (6-3) this week for another AFC North showdown on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS), own the NFL’s best record in one-score games, 6-0. Over a longer stretch, the Steelers have won nine straight one-score games dating to last year.
- Steelers running back JAYLEN WARREN, who made three stops in college before signing as a non-drafted free agent in 2022, posted a career-high 101 yards on 15 carries with one touchdown in last week’s win. Over his last two games, both Pittsburgh wins, Warren has averaged 7.3 yards per carry (26 attempts, 189 yards).
- Browns running back KAREEM HUNT has a rushing touchdown in five straight games, the NFL’s longest active streak.
- Cleveland defensive end MYLES GARRETT (11 sacks) and Pittsburgh linebacker T.J. WATT (10.5), both drafted in 2017, enter the game ranked tied for first and third, respectively, among league leaders in sacks this season. It’s a familiar perch for each pass-rusher. Since they joined the league in 2017, Watt has an NFL-leading 88 sacks while Garrett has 85.5, second in the league.
- Watt has 88 sacks in 96 career games and surpassed his brother, J.J. WATT (87.5), for the second-most sacks by a player in his first 100 NFL games since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer REGGIE WHITE (105) has more.
- Meanwhile, Garrett has 85.5 sacks in 93 career games and surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer DEMARCUS WARE (85) for the fourth most sacks by a player in his first 100 NFL games since 1982. Garrett is also the fourth player to reach double figures in six of his first seven NFL seasons since 1982, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers REGGIE WHITE (seven seasons) and DEMARCUS WARE (six) as well as VON MILLER (six).
9. TREND TIME: The NFL has a 76.2 passer rating against the defense of the NEW YORK JETS (4-5), fourth-lowest in the league. Only BALTIMORE (70.0), CLEVELAND (72.7) and NEW ORLEANS (75.1) have lower marks. The Jets, who travel to BUFFALO (5-4) this week for a rematch with JOSH ALLEN and the Bills on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS), have also faced DAK PRESCOTT, PATRICK MAHOMES, RUSSELL WILSON, JALEN HURTS and JUSTIN HERBERT this season. The Jets have not allowed a 300-yard passer in 27 straight games.
10. NEXT GEN STAT OF THE WEEK: With six receptions for 86 yards, Las Vegas wide receiver DAVANTE ADAMS accounted for 87.0 percent of the Raiders’ total team air yards in last week’s win. That effort marked the sixth-highest share of air yards in a game since 2016.
- Adams and LAS VEGAS (5-5) head to MIAMI (6-3) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS). The Raiders’ ANTONIO PIERCE could become the franchise’s first head coach to win his first three games with the organization since BILL CALLAHAN opened 4-0 en route to a Super Bowl berth in 2002.
- Miami is one of three NFL teams undefeated at home this year (the Dolphins, Cowboys and Eagles are each 4-0).
- The Dolphins’ TYREEK HILL needs 114 receiving yards to surpass JULIO JONES (1,189 in 2015) and establish the best pace by any NFL player through his team’s first 10 games of a season.
- Miami running back RAHEEM MOSTERT is tied with CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY for the league lead with 13 scrimmage touchdowns. Meanwhile, Dolphins linebacker BRADLEY CHUBB is tied with MYLES GARRETT and TRENT MCDUFFIE for first in the NFL with four forced fumbles.
- Raiders running back JOSH JACOBS and Dolphins quarterback TUA TAGOVAILOA played together at Alabama from 2017-18, helping the Crimson Tide earn berths in consecutive College Football Playoff national championship games.
11. AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST: KYLER MURRAY, the first overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, leads ARIZONA (2-8) into HOUSTON (5-4) to meet C.J. STROUD, the second overall choice in the 2023 NFL Draft, on Sunday at NRG Stadium (1 p.m. ET, CBS).
- While Houston head coach DEMECO RYANS served as San Francisco defensive coordinator from 2021-22, Murray won his only start against the 49ers in that stretch, Oct. 10, 2021.
- In last week’s win, Stroud passed for 356 yards and one touchdown and ran for another score, running back DEVIN SINGLETARY recorded 150 rushing yards and one touchdown, and wide receiver NOAH BROWN registered 172 receiving yards. That trio made Houston the first team with a 350-yard passer, 150-yard rusher and 150-yard receiver in the same game since the INDIANAPOLIS COLTS on Nov. 29, 1998 (Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING – 357 passing yards; Pro Football Hall of Famer MARSHALL FAULK – 192 rushing yards; TORRANCE SMALL – 153 receiving yards).
- Stroud has 2,626 passing yards this season and surpassed CAM NEWTON (2,605 in 2011) for the third-most passing yards by a rookie in his first nine career starts in NFL history. Only JUSTIN HERBERT (2,699 in 2020) and ANDREW LUCK (2,631 in 2012) have more.
- Stroud, who had a single-game rookie record 470 passing yards in Week 9, is the second rookie quarterback ever with 350 passing yards in consecutive games, joining CAM NEWTON (Weeks 1-2, 2011). He’s also the third rookie quarterback in NFL history with three games of 350 passing yards, joining ANDREW LUCK (2012) and Newton (2011).
BROWNS QB DESHAUN WATSON OUT FOR REST OF SEASON WITH SHOULDER FRACTURE; ROOKIE TO START VS. STEELERS
CLEVELAND (AP) — Deshaun Watson’s season is over, once again leaving the Cleveland Browns without a franchise quarterback.
Watson will miss the rest of his second year with Cleveland after sustaining a fracture in his throwing shoulder, an injury that came during his best performance since joining the team following a controversial trade in 2022.
“I’m still in disbelief,” Watson said Wednesday.
Watson will undergo surgery to repair the fracture in his right shoulder, which happened during Sunday’s 33-31 win in Baltimore on an unspecified hit in the second quarter. The team said an MRI revealed a displaced fracture to the glenoid.
The Browns (6-3) must go forward without Watson and coach Kevin Stefanski said rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson will start Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3).
It will be the second start for Thompson-Robinson, a fifth-round pick from UCLA who made an emergency start on Oct. 1 against Baltimore when Watson was ruled out just before kickoff with a shoulder strain.
Thompson-Robinson had a rough pro debut, throwing three interceptions in a 28-3 loss. But now he’ll have more time to get ready, and Stefanski is confident Thompson-Robinson will fare better.
“I want to give him a week where he knows he’s a starter,” Stefanski. “He gets a full week of preparation.”
Stefanski’s other option was P.J. Walker, who started two games and came off the bench in another for Watson. Walker had six turnovers in three games, throwing a late interception that led to a loss in Seattle.
Watson said he has “no idea” when the fracture happened, but knew by the end of the first quarter there was a problem.
“I kind of recognized something was wrong, but during the midst of the game, I was just pushing through whatever I was feeling,” said Watson, who was also in a walking boot. “And then after the game, and Monday and Tuesday we got testing done and that’s when I found out from the doctors that it was something worse than what we thought it was.”
Watson paused for several seconds when asked about his emotions at his season being over.
“It’s very tough,” he said. “But I’m going to make sure I keep my head above water and make sure I stay in touch with all the guys and support them as much as I possibly can and attack this rehab process after surgery and make sure that I’m doing whatever I can to be beneficial for the team while not actually being on the field with them and also prepping for the next year.”
Browns general manage Andrew Berry said the fracture is not related to the strained rotator cuff that Watson sustained earlier this season.
“We are very disappointed and devastated for Deshaun, especially given all that he has battled and gone through medically this season,” Berry said. “We look at this as an incredible challenge and opportunity for our organization.”
Berry credited Watson for staying on the field against the Ravens and leading the Browns to the last-second win despite his shoulder injury and a high left ankle sprain.
“He really didn’t start even really feeling it to the second half of the game and that he didn’t even really raise it until well after the game,” Berry said. “It’s an incredible display of physical toughness for him to play with that and not even notice it given the severity of the injury.”
Watson will go on season-ending injured reserve, a devastating blow to the Browns, who are in the playoff race and invested $230 million into the 28-year-old whose arrival seemed to end their long search for an elite QB.
Now, Watson will have to work his way back from a shoulder injury with just three seasons left on his deal.
It’s the latest setback for the Browns, who have managed to stay in the playoff hunt despite losing star running back Nick Chubb and Pro Bowl right tackle Jack Conklin to season-ending injuries and playing without Watson for several games.
Berry said the team will add a third quarterback, but did not give any details.
The Browns traded three first-round draft picks last year to Houston for Watson, a three-time Pro Bowler who wound up being suspended for 11 games by the NFL after he was accused of sexual assault and harassment by more than two dozen women during massage therapy sessions.
BEARS SAY QB JUSTIN FIELDS HEALTHY ENOUGH TO START AGAINST LIONS
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The Chicago Bears will have Justin Fields back at quarterback Sunday against the Detroit Lions for a stretch of games that could be critical to his future with the team.
Coach Matt Eberflus announced the move following four missed starts by Fields because of a right dislocated thumb.
“Our plan is to start him on Sunday,” Eberflus said. “He continues to progress this week. Returning to practice today is going to be a big part of the evaluation.”
A decision on Fields’ fifth-year contract option is due next spring and the Bears can use this seven-week stretch to help decide if they want to go forward with Fields or possibly use one of their two first-round draft picks on a quarterback.
“I think seven weeks is enough time to show consistency and being the high performer that we expect him to be,” Eberflus said. “I know he’s had some good performances along this year, certainly the last few have been solid.
“We expect consistency out of all our positions.”
Fields threw four touchdown passes in back-to-back starts against the Denver Broncos and Washington Commanders, then was struggling in a 19-13 loss to the Minnesota Vikings when he suffered the thumb injury. He has a career-best passer rating of 91.6 to go with 11 touchdown passes and six interceptions, while completing a career-best 61.7% of passes (100 of 162).
He started the season struggling for three games in losses to Green Bay, Tampa Bay and Kansas City before improving in his starts in a win over the Commanders and loss to the Broncos.
Adding Fields back after undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent had run the team for 4 1/2 games gives the Bears more of a running threat from the QB position.
“I think you have some different options,” Eberflus said. “You have some different options there, different movement passes that you might run that you wouldn’t run with a different quarterback in there certainly opens up your package a bit.”
The Bears are also making offensive line changes with players returning to health. Right guard Nate Davis is back from an ankle injury and replacement Teven Jenkins is moving back to his starting spot at left guard. As a result, long-time starting guard and center Cody Whitehair will be benched. Lucas Patrick will remain at center.
Whitehair has played and started in 117 games since coming to the Bears in the second round of the 2016 draft. He made the Pro Bowl in 2018 at center.
“Those are always hard, when you get back to full strength and Cody has been a true pro,” Eberflus said. “Obviously a captain here for many years, had a great, long career and is still going to continue to help us as we go.
“That’s our starting lineup for this week and you know things can happen like that and he’s back into the mix at center, guard wherever it might be. We’re fortunate that we have the flexibility to do that — to move Teven to both sides; to have Cody play guard or center.
Eberflus also said fullback Khari Blasingame is returning from a concussion.
GIANTS’ DABOLL: DEVITO SHOWING IMPROVEMENT, WILL START VS. COMMANDERS
New York Giants quarterback Tommy DeVito will start in the team’s Week 11 matchup against the Washington Commanders, head coach Brian Daboll confirmed Wednesday.
“I think he’s a good young quarterback to work with. Try to improve him this week from last week. … He’s done a good job improving,” Daboll said, according to Jordan Raanan of ESPN.
Daboll added that DeVito is dealing with a shoulder injury but is healthy enough to start, per Pat Leonard of the NY Daily News.
DeVito made his first career start in the team’s 49-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 10. The young signal-caller struggled to move the ball consistently, completing 14 passes for just 86 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
The 25-year-old has played in three games this year, as he replaced an injured Tyrod Taylor in Week 8 and was forced into action when Daniel Jones suffered a torn ACL in Week 9.
New York’s injury woes could get worse, as wide receiver Jalin Hyatt, cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, and edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux are in concussion protocol, Dabbol said.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWS
WHEN IT COMES TO FOOTBALL COACHES, THE SEC JUST MEANS MORE IMPATIENCE. 2 COACHES FIRED ALREADY
Welcome to life in the Southeastern Conference, where you can coach against each other one day and be fired the next. Or the day after that.
Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher and Mississippi State’s Zach Arnett are the SEC’s first head coaches to lose their jobs this season, but there is no guarantee they will be the last. No matter the cost.
Even Fisher’s guaranteed money was no guarantee. Fisher walks away with more than $75 million as a buyout, a cool $1 million-plus for every game he has coached the Aggies. Arnett gets a fraction of that from his four-year, $12 million deal. Fisher was fired a day after the Aggies’ 51-10 win Saturday over the Bulldogs, and Arnett was ousted on Monday after coaching just 11 games. He took over following the death of Mike Leach last December.
Perhaps in the SEC, it just means more … impatience.
“Since when have college fan bases been patient? That’s what I’d like to know,” Florida coach Billy Napier said. “Everywhere I’ve been, the fan base is impatient in my life.”
Expectations are perpetually high throughout a league that has won the last four national championships. And schools often don’t want to wait until after the season with a December signing period looming for recruits.
Even Mississippi’s Lane Kiffin finds himself surprised by the volatility in major college coaching. And he was once famously fired from USC in the wee hours at an airport following a loss.
“It’s not like it used to be,” Kiffin said. “There used to be time to build things and you had years to build classes and see them develop before people made decisions. That’s obviously not what’s going on. To be let go 10 games into your first season when you get hired late like Zach, I mean, I don’t know how you do that that fast or how the expectation is to judge you that fast about the job that you did.
“Unfortunately, it’s kind of the in thing to fire people fast. To me, it’s a lot of grass is always greener.”
With a couple of regular-season games remaining, plus bowls for most league teams, here’s a look at how green the grass is for the SEC coaches:
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman got his tenure off to a strong start, but his Razorbacks (3-7, 1-6 SEC) have dropped seven of their last eight games and are coming off a 48-10 home loss to Auburn. Pittman said he came to Fayetteville intending for it to be his final job before retirement.
“I’m not close to that year right now, and the plan is to get this program back to where it deserves to be and stay here as long as we possibly can,” said Pittman, who is 22-24 with the Razorbacks. “I’m not worried about my job security at all. I think I’m the guy for the university and I want to stay here a long time.
“I just think it’s a much bigger issue with the media than it is with myself”
He already fired first-year offensive coordinator Dan Enos after a 7-3 loss to Mississippi State.
South Carolina’s Shane Beamer and Florida’s Napier.
The Gamecocks have endured a four-game SEC losing streak that included squandering a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter to lose to Florida 41-39 on Oct. 14. They’ve got to beat Kentucky this week and rival Clemson on Nov. 25 to guarantee the postseason.
Napier is 11-12 at Florida with losses to Vanderbilt and Arkansas, but Napier has a top-five recruiting class in the works that includes highly coveted quarterback DJ Lagway.
Napier was hired to rebuild the program from the ground up, and AD Scott Stricklin has indicated he plans to give him the time and resources to get it done. One could easily argue that Napier could have been included in the next category.
SAFE FOR NOW
Tennessee’s Josh Heupel and Vanderbilt’s Clark Lea.
Heupel has maintained the Volunteers as a Top 25 program despite scholarship reductions. The Commodores have played a home season through stadium construction, and Lea also has quite the building job.
LSU’s Brian Kelly, Mississippi’s Lane Kiffin, Missouri’s Eliah Drinkwitz and Kentucky’s Mark Stoops. Drinkwitz seemed to have a warm-ish seat entering the season but he has his team ranked 11th.
Kelly hasn’t been able to meet the high expectations fostered partly by his terrific debut season, but he has a proven track record — and a 10-year contract. Kiffin has consistently maintained one of the SEC West’s top teams — and leads the league in quips.
If any current coach had one, then it might well be Alabama’s Nick Saban and Georgia’s Kirby Smart. Saban has added six national titles to the Tide’s trophy cases. Smart has led the Bulldogs to back-to-back titles.
JUST GETTING STARTED
Things are looking up at Auburn, where first-year coach Hugh Freeze has the Tigers bowl eligible to start his rebuilding job. For future reference, they’re seldom patient with coaches on the Plains.
Then again, it’s the nature of the beast for coaches making millions. And with programs willing to fork over $75 million for a change.
“Nothing really surprises me relative to what universities are willing and can commit to,” Kelly said. “There’s a large financial piece that’s involved in this and everybody’s all in. So because of that I think everybody can assume that if you’re not getting the results that you want, change can easily happen.”
HISTORY AT STAKE AS NO. 1 GEORGIA VISITS NO. 18 TENNESSEE
No. 1 Georgia will try to make history when it visits No. 18 Tennessee in a Southeastern Conference showdown on Saturday afternoon in Knoxville, Tenn.
Georgia (10-0, 7-0) has won a school-record 27 consecutive games since the end of the 2021 campaign. A win this weekend would move the Bulldogs into a tie for the longest winning streak in SEC history, joining Alabama from 1978-80 and 1991-93.
This week, the Bulldogs also jumped Ohio State for the top spot in the College Football Playoff rankings.
“Rare air,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “Those (Alabama teams) are guys I grew up watching as a little kid growing up in Alabama, with my dad being a high school coach.
“A lot of the credit goes to the people that come to this university and play, the players that made those sacrifices, the players who helped win those games. … It’s just all these guys that made sacrifices to do this and make it special.”
Tennessee (7-3, 3-3) would love to spoil the Bulldogs’ dream run. The Volunteers return home to Neyland Stadium, where they have won 14 consecutive games.
The Volunteers fell five spots in the CFP rankings after losing 36-7 to then-No. 14 Missouri on the road last weekend. Tennessee trailed 13-7 at the break and was outscored 23-0 in the second half.
For Volunteers coach Josh Heupel, this week presents an opportunity to erase the ill taste of the loss.
“A lot to learn from,” Heupel said. “At the same time, you’ve got to wash it. Whether you win or lose and you’ve got to move on to the next one. …
“We understand the quality of the opponent that’s coming to town this week. Our guys understand who they are, what they’re about, the way that they’re going to play. It’s going to be a great test for us.”
It has been a one-sided rivalry in recent years. Georgia has won six straight games against Tennessee, which last knocked off the Bulldogs in 2016 in Athens, Ga.
This year’s Georgia squad is led on offense by quarterback Carson Beck, who has passed for 3,022 yards, 18 touchdowns and five interceptions. Beck’s top target is tight end Brock Bowers, who returned from injury last week and who leads the team with 44 catches for 601 yards and five touchdowns.
On the ground, Daijun Edwards paces Georgia with 691 rushing yards and 10 scores.
Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton III will try to keep pace with Georgia’s high-potent offense. He has passed for 2,283 yards, 16 touchdowns and five interceptions this season.
Volunteers wideout Squirrel White has a team-high 49 catches for 609 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Jaylen Wright has amassed 848 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
On defense, Georgia has the edge.
The Bulldogs have allowed 289.2 yards per game, which ranks ninth in the nation. The Volunteers have given up 340.6 yards per game, which ranks No. 39.
A fast start helped Georgia in the team’s most recent meeting last year. The Bulldogs jumped to a 24-6 lead at halftime and held on for a 27-13 victory in Athens.
NO. 21 KANSAS STATE IN BIG 12 TITLE PURSUIT, DRAWS NO. 25 KANSAS
The football rivalry between Kansas State and Kansas is pretty intense when neither team is any good.
When one of the teams is good, it raises the temperature a little.
But when both teams are good, like they are in 2023, the intensity is palpable.
No. 21 Kansas State, still with a decent chance of playing in the Big 12 Championship Game in Arlington, Texas, on Dec. 2, will meet No. 25 Kansas — which also has a slight chance to reach the title game — on Saturday evening in Lawrence, Kan.
“It’s light years different,” Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman said of Kansas’ improvement since Lance Liepold took over the Jayhawks. “It’s even light years different from Lance’s first year. They keep improving each year.”
Kansas State has won 14 straight in the rivalry, but those 14 games don’t mean a thing this week.
Kansas State (7-3, 5-2 Big 12) is in a four-way tie for second place in the Big 12. If the Wildcats win their last two games, including at Kansas and at home against Iowa State, there’s a strong possibility that they’ll face Texas in Arlington. But the Wildcats can’t look past the Jayhawks.
“They’re really good at a number of different positions,” Klieman said. “They’re a really sound defense. They don’t give up explosive plays; they tackle really well. We’re gonna have to come up with a really good game plan to win, especially on the road.
“They’re also really good and really creative on offense, no matter who’s behind center. They’re always going to be creative with shifts and motions and misdirection, as well as having the ability to give it to the two running backs and just pound it at you.”
Quarterback Will Howard is playing well of late, even in an overtime loss at Texas two games ago. He threw for 327 yards and four touchdowns. Against Baylor last week, he threw three more touchdowns in a convincing win. He’s had at least three touchdowns in five games this season, tying a Kansas State record, and he’s now the school’s all-time leader in touchdown passes.
While the QB position is an area of strength for the Wildcats, it’s a problem right now for Kansas (7-3, 4-3 Big 12). Starter Jalon Daniels has missed six straight games with injuries. Backup Jason Bean had to leave last Saturday’s game against Texas Tech with a head injury.
Liepold was optimistic Monday that Bean could play Saturday.
“I’m not going to get into the nature of injuries in-depth, but he did not practice last night,” he said. “But my latest (stance) is I’m very optimistic that he’ll be playing on Saturday.”
The third stringer, walk-on freshman Cole Ballard, had to step in against Texas Tech. He performed well, almost leading his first career game-winning drive before making his first career start. But Tech kicked a game-winning field goal to win 16-13.
Ballard, the son of Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard, has the football pedigree. But the questions will remain until he proves he can do it in live action.
“I thought he’d do just about what he did — compete his tail off — and he won’t flinch,” Leipold said. “He will give you everything he has. I don’t think he ever had that deer-in-the-headlights look about him, where the moment was too big.
“That locker room really likes Cole Ballard and they have for a long time. It’s his makeup, it’s in his DNA and he’s going to be a fine player here.”
The biggest question is whether that will happen this Saturday.
NO. 5 WASHINGTON AIMS TO STAY HOT VS. NO. 11 OREGON STATE
While No. 5 Washington maintains pursuit of a College Football Playoff spot, keeping coach Kalen DeBoer in Seattle has become a hot topic.
The coach who is 21-2 in less than two seasons with the Huskies will try to lead Washington to its 18th consecutive victory when it faces No. 11 Oregon State in Pac-12 play on Saturday night at Corvallis, Ore.
If Washington (10-0, 7-0 Pac-12) defeats the Beavers (8-2, 5-2), it will clinch at spot in next month’s Pac-12 title game.
As for DeBoer, his name is one of the hottest in college football after the quick revival of the Washington program.
He received a $1 million raise to $4.2 million 12 months ago, but his contract that runs through the 2028 season will need massive reworking to lift him into the upper echelon of coaching salaries.
DeBoer insists he wants to stay put and he also offered that new athletic director Troy Dannen has made overtures about sweetening his deal.
“There’s just a lot of things that I love about this place,” DeBoer said. “This is a championship football program. I’ve said it since Day One. It’s got the bones of championships. I love the way we’ve been accepted into this place. It’s a great place to coach.
“Like I said earlier, (Dannen) is doing everything he can to help myself and the staff continue this journey that we’re on.”
The journey currently has Washington on the outside of the playoffs as it enters the 108th meeting with Oregon State.
The school’s first met in 1897 and there are no guarantees of the series continuing with Washington leaving for the Big Ten next season and the Beavers hung out to dry on the realignment front.
DeBoer also is aware that Saturday’s game decides whether the Beavers continue to harbor long-shot CFP aspirations.
“Oregon State still has an opportunity, if they win out, to get in the way I see it, knowing that they are going to bring everything they got,” DeBoer said. “They are playing at home and they are playing well and they have good momentum and we are realizing we are going to get their best shot.”
Beavers coach Jonathan Smith stopped short of calling it the biggest game in his six seasons as Oregon State coach. But he knows it is huge.
“Kind of where the records are, that makes it big,” Smith said. “That’s a good program. They win a lot of games. We’re playing late, Game 11. You want to play in the biggest games at the end of the year. This is a big one.”
Washington ranks fifth nationally in scoring offense at 41.0 points per game and sixth in total offense at 503.9 yards per contest. Heisman Trophy candidate Michael Penix Jr. has passed for 3,533 yards, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions while running back Dillon Johnson (790 yards, 11 touchdowns on the ground) is thriving after back-to-back efforts of 256 yards against Southern California and 104 in last weekend’s 35-28 win over then-No. 16 Utah.
Oregon State is coming off a 62-17 annihilation of visiting Stanford. Damien Martinez tied the school record of four rushing touchdowns in the first half before calling it a day. He has rushed for 1,024 yards while DJ Uiagalelei has thrown for 2,254 yards, 20 touchdowns and four interceptions.
The Beavers also have developed a rabid atmosphere at remodeled Reser Stadium. Oregon State is 16-1 at home since the start of the 2021 season.
“They a good football team and we’re looking forward to the challenge,” Smith said.
PENDING BIG 12 BEDFELLOWS NO. 17 ARIZONA, NO. 22 UTAH PUSH FOR WIN NO. 8
No. 17 Arizona has been one of the most surprising teams in the country and will be going for its fifth consecutive victory when it plays its home finale against No. 22 Utah on Saturday in Tucson, Ariz.
The Wildcats (7-3, 5-2 Pac-12) still have an outside shot at playing in the Pac-12 championship game, but that involves beating the Utes (7-3, 4-3) and Arizona State to end the regular season.
Oregon, in turn, must lose one of its final two games to create a tie-breaking scenario behind league-leading Washington.
“Our only focus is beating Utah,” Arizona coach Jedd Fisch said. “This is a great team coming in.”
Arizona hasn’t won five consecutive games since starting the 2014 season with a 5-0 record.
Utah has navigated through myriad injuries all season, going 3-3 in its past six games, with each of the losses to ranked teams – at Oregon State, vs. Oregon and, last week, at Washington 35-28.
The Utes responded with resounding victories — 34-14 over Cal and 55-3 at Arizona State — the first game after their previous two losses.
“You’ve got to rebound; you’ve got to respond,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “Our team has been good at that this year, at least the first couple times. We’ve got to do the same thing this time around. …
“We lean on the leadership of the team a lot and we lean on the coaches to set the tempo, set the mindset and move forward.”
Utah has won five in a row in the series. That includes the 45-20 decision last season in Salt Lake City.
The Utes were the more physical team in recent years and remain strong on both lines, ranking 30th nationally in rushing (184.9 yards per game) and fifth in rushing defense (85.6 yards allowed per game).
Defensive end Jonah Ellis is having an All-American season, with 12 sacks among his 16 tackles for loss.
The game should feature strong matchups in the trenches. Arizona has a potential 2024 first-round left tackle in Jordan Morgan, who is helping running back Jonah Coleman average 7.15 yards per carry. The Wildcats’ defense is 13th nationally against the run, yielding 99.4 yards per game.
But most of the buzz around Arizona is on redshirt freshman quarterback Noah Fifita, who has started the past six games. For the season, he is 165 of 224 for 1,735 yards, with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Fifita struggled some in the first half against Colorado last week but led a second-half comeback as Arizona won 34-31 on a last-play field goal.
“He never flinched,” Fisch said. “What Noah was able to do is what good quarterbacks do. It’s one play at a time, one play at a time.”
Utah running back Ja’Quinden Jackson has rushed for 627 yards on 122 carries and has three 100-yard games this season. Bryson Barnes has settled in at quarterback, completing 103 of 176 passes for 1,197 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
The final matchup between these programs as Pac-12 schools was considered a betting pick-em early in the week. Both teams will be joining the Big 12 next season.
BIG 10 FOOTBALL
NO. 16 IOWA IN BIG TEN TITLE GAME IF HAWKEYES BEAT ILLINOIS
For No. 16 Iowa, a win Saturday means a spot in the Big Ten championship game. For Illinois, a win Saturday means a bowl berth. But there’s at least one big question affecting this game that likely won’t be answered until Senior Day kickoff at Iowa: Who’ll start at quarterback for Illinois?
Will it be senior backup John Paddock, who threw for a Memorial Stadium-record 507 yards in his first Illinois start and earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors after leading the Illini (5-5, 3-4) to a 48-45 overtime win over Indiana?
Or will it be usual starter Luke Altmyer, who sat out last week’s game with a concussion but has been cleared to play? It’s not Illinois coach Bret Bielema’s style to penalize a starter for getting hurt.
“I’ve never been a coach that has ever put a player (out of) a position that they’ve lost by injury,” Bielema said Monday. “Obviously, John has played exceptionally well, from the time he entered the game two weeks ago at Minnesota to the way he played last week. I think our guys will know the plan very clear Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and we’ll make a decision as it gets closer. The good news is that we feel we’ve got two guys that we feel can play.”
Perhaps the Paddock/Altmyer debate doesn’t address the biggest question of all: Will Illinois be able to score a touchdown against Iowa (8-2, 5-2) regardless of who’s running the offense?
Over the last four weeks, the Hawkeyes have surrendered just one touchdown. For the year, Iowa has given up 11 touchdowns in 10 games while building the nation’s third-best scoring defense (12.3 points per game) and fourth-best pass-efficiency defense (100.14 rating).
“We’re clearly a better defense than we were 6-8 weeks ago,” said Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz. “But that’s what you hope for with all your guys. You hope they’re all improving. The guys have played well. They work hard in practice. They prepare. They study. And then the other component is, you gain some confidence when you do have success.”
“They’re just so, so consistent,” said Illinois offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. “They make you earn every, every inch that you get. They make you earn it. And they very rarely make mistakes. That’s probably the unique nature of it is they’re just so rigid and systematic and they’re physical and tough. A lot of good qualities I’m describing. All these adjectives I’m saying would be the earmark of a great defense – and that’s what this is.”
Junior defensive back Cooper DeJean serves as the poster boy for Iowa’s defense. DeJean was named a Bednarik Award semifinalist this week – keeping him in the running for National Defensive Player of the Year – to go with his semifinalist status for the Jim Thorpe Award and the LOTT Impact Trophy.
On the flip side, Iowa’s offense hasn’t exactly been prolific. Last week’s 22-point outburst against Rutgers represented the Hawkeyes’ second-biggest Big Ten output this season. To put it a different way: Paddock threw for more yards last week (507) than Iowa quarterback Deacon Hill has thrown for in the last four weeks (441).
Ferentz, though, cares about only one number: The one in the win column. The Hawkeyes need just one win in the next two weeks to clinch their second West Division crown in the last three years.
“One thing you try to explain to the players – and I think they’ve figured this out,” Ferentz said. “There’s really no downside to winning and there’s a lot of downside to losing.”
NO. 2 OHIO STATE VOWS NOT TO LOOK PAST MINNESOTA
Ohio State has one more obstacle before its showdown at Michigan — the No. 2 Buckeyes will host banged up Minnesota on Saturday in Columbus.
The Buckeyes (10-0, 7-0 Big Ten) fell one spot in the College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday after holding the top spot the first two weeks. Georgia is ranked first, Michigan third.
Ohio State will play at Michigan on Nov. 25, with the winner advancing to the Big Ten championship game.
While the Buckeyes know wins in the next two games should secure one of the four playoff spots even if they were to lose in the conference title game, the Golden Gophers (5-5, 3-4) are vying to become bowl eligible by winning at least one of their final two games. Minnesota will finish the season at home against Wisconsin.
The Gophers are coming off a 49-30 loss to Purdue in which Minnesota starting linebacker Cody Lindenberg did not play because of an injury and backup Maverick Baranowski exited after the first series. Also, safety Aidan Gousby was out with an injury.
“Unfortunately, some of our best players are out, and it seems like every week it’s just the inconsistency of who’s actually out there,” Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said Monday. “There’s no excuses. I mean, 100 percent falls on the coaches and what we have to do to get better.”
Ohio State played its most complete game of the season last Saturday, a 38-3 win against Michigan State in which the usually slow-starting Buckeyes scored on five of six drives in the first half.
Ohio State coach Ryan Day said Tuesday he has no concerns that the Buckeyes will look past the Gophers.
“Coming to work every day with these guys, this is a great team to be around,” Day said. “We’re going to do it again this week and keep swinging. … The urgency has to be at an all-time high at this point of the season.
“P.J. does a great job. They’re going to come in here and play hard. We’re going to have to prepare for it like any other game.”
The Buckeyes will look to receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. to lead them again. Against Michigan State, he had a 19-yard run for his first career rushing touchdown and caught seven passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns despite being pulled along with several other starters after the first series of the third quarter.
“The Heisman Trophy goes to the most outstanding player in the country. … I get to see him every day,” Day said. “I think he is the most outstanding player in the country.
“He wants to be great. I know that. You can just tell that, and his actions back that up, and his production speaks for itself on the field.”
Harrison is second nationally with 12 receiving TDs and seventh with 1,063 receiving yards.
Fleck knows the Gophers’ defense will have a task trying to contain Harrison.
“I think he has a great knack and feel for how defenses are going to be played and how they are going to stop him and what the route concept is and what the route calls for,” Fleck said.
NO. 3 MICHIGAN VIES FOR WIN NO. 1,000 IN CLASH VS. MARYLAND
Michigan’s football program is making a serious run for a College Football Playoff berth and America’s favorite soap opera at the same time.
The controversy swirling around coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff has taken many twists and turns. The team’s drive for a national championship, however, remains undeterred.
The Wolverines (10-0, 7-0 Big Ten), ranked No. 3 in the latest poll, will play their penultimate regular-season game against Maryland on Saturday at College Park, Md.
A victory would be the 1,000th in the program’s history.
Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti suspended Harbaugh for the remainder of the regular season amid an NCAA investigation into an alleged signal-stealing scandal. The school tried to secure a court injunction on Saturday to allow Harbaugh to coach against Penn State, but the hearing was delayed until this Friday.
A defiant Harbaugh said he’s looking forward to his day in court.
“Always kind of felt like it would be cool to get up there and thunder away at a jury like Tom Cruise in ‘A Few Good Men.’ Or be a judge like Judge Judy,” he said. “But alas, I did not go to law school. So this will be the first time I’ve ever really been (in) this situation.”
Harbaugh was suspended for the first three games this season for failure to cooperate with a separate NCAA investigation. If Friday’s hearing doesn’t go Michigan’s way, offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore again will fill in for Harbaugh.
A tearful Moore expressed his love for Harbaugh and the program after a 24-15 win last week at Penn State, Michigan’s first close game all season.
The Wolverines relied heavily on their running game in the second half to wear down the Nittany Lions. Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards combined for 36 carries, 197 yards and three touchdowns.
“I’m feeling a galvanized Michigan. … Everybody fighting like the team we’re supposed to be,” Harbaugh said. “That’s going to be tough to beat.”
With a showdown against No. 2 Ohio State looming on Nov. 25, the Wolverines easily could overlook the Terrapins (6-4, 3-4).
Maryland snapped a four-game losing streak and became bowl eligible on Saturday, but it wasn’t pretty. The Terrapins needed a last-second field goal from Jack Howes to edge Nebraska 13-10.
Maryland coach Mike Locksley is looking to pull off a shocker.
“We need to go into this game with confidence. Any time you win, it helps your confidence,” he said. “I think our team is excited about this opportunity. I mean, very few times in your career do you get to have what I call a breakthrough type of game, and you know, what a breakthrough this would be for our program.”
The Terrapins will need a big performance from quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa to pull off an upset. He’s passed for 2,769 yards and 22 touchdowns while getting picked off eight times.
Michigan has limited opponents to an average of 7.5 points per game.
“They are a well-oiled machine, especially on the defensive side of the ball. They play really sound,” Locksley said. “They don’t make a lot of mistakes, meaning you are going to have to execute at a really high level.”
The Terrapins aren’t focusing on Michigan’s off-field issues.
“What’s going on up in Ann Arbor has nothing to do with us,” Locksley said.
OFFENSES UNDER SCRUTINY AS RUTGERS VISITS NO. 12 PENN STATE
Besieged this week by questions about the firing of his offensive coordinator, Penn State coach James Franklin implored reporters to address the No. 12 Nittany Lions’ next opponent.
“At some point during this press conference I’d love to get just a few questions about Rutgers,” he said Monday.
Despite Franklin’s efforts, the visiting Scarlet Knights (6-4, 3-4 Big Ten) received little attention from the press corps ahead of the Saturday clash with the Nittany Lions (8-2, 5-2) in University Park, Pa.
Franklin, who is in his 10th season, has been feeling the heat since the Nittany Lions’ 24-15 home loss to Michigan last week. The defeat exposed a sore subject that has been brewing all season: a conservative offensive approach.
On Sunday, Penn State fired Mike Yurcich, who had been the offensive coordinator since 2021.
Sharing the role will be tight ends coach Ty Howle and running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider. During games, both will remain in their usual roles, with Howle in the booth upstairs and Seider on the sideline, Franklin said.
“They both will have a role in play-calling,” Franklin said.
Additionally, graduate assistant Danny O’Brien, who played quarterback at Maryland when Franklin was the Terrapins’ offensive coordinator, will help oversee the QBs. Yurcich also served as the quarterbacks coach.
Franklin added that he hopes to have a new offensive coordinator in place before Penn State’s bowl game.
The Nittany Lions will try to figure out how to add more punch to an offense that includes two of the Big Ten’s top 10 rushers, Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton.
Drew Allar has thrown for 21 touchdowns with just one interception but averages only 6.3 yards per pass. That figure pales in comparison to Big Ten quarterbacks such as Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy (10.3) and Ohio State’s Kyle McCord (9.3).
In the Michigan game, Penn State’s unwillingness to throw downfield was particularly evident. Allar completed 10 of 22 passes for 70 yards and one touchdown, which came with 1:59 left, when the outcome was essentially decided.
On Monday afternoon at Rutgers, coach Greg Schiano also was peppered with questions about the Scarlet Knights’ conservative approach following a 22-0 loss at Iowa.
“The way we’ve played the game has allowed us to be in every single game this year going into the fourth quarter,” Schiano said. “In the past, that wasn’t the case. To me, that’s incremental improvement.”
Rutgers’ offense was able to generate only 127 total yards and seven first downs. The Scarlet Knights never crossed the Hawkeyes’ 40-yard line as nine of their 11 possessions ended with a punt.
Schiano said he has not considered benching quarterback Gavin Wimsatt, who completed 7 of 18 passes for 93 yards with one interception against the Hawkeyes.
The slate in November is tough with Rutgers having to face the defenses of Penn State, Ohio State and Iowa, which are ranked Nos. 2, 4 and 8, respectively, in yards allowed per game in the FBS.
Penn State is 31-2 all-time against Rutgers, including wins in each of the past 16 meetings. The Nittany Lions beat the Scarlet Knights 55-10 last year in Piscataway, N.J.