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The Bengals are officially the worst

Published: Tuesday, November 07, 2017 @ 9:33 AM


            Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) calls a play in the huddle during the first half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) calls a play in the huddle during the first half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

The Cincinnati Bengals offense has plummeted to the bottom of the NFL after Sunday’s 23-7 loss at Jacksonville.

The Bengals are ranked 32nd in total offense at 269.8 yards per game and 32nd in rushing offense (72.3). And they are barrelling toward a trifecta of terrible with the pass offense ranked 28th (197.5).

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They also are tied for 28th in scoring offense at 16.1 points per game.

The last time the Bengals finished last in total offense was 2008, when they averaged 245.4 yards per game en route to a 4-11-1 record.

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The only time the Bengals finished last in pass offense was 2000 (121.6).

The Bengals have never finished last in rushing offense, with the worst ranking being 29th in 2008 (95.0).

Ohio State-Michigan football: 3 keys, game picks, score predictions

Published: Friday, November 24, 2017 @ 9:19 AM

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Can Ohio State football cover the spread against Michigan on Saturday?

The Buckeyes are favored by 12 points in Ann Arbor after hammering Illinois last weekend. Here are three keys for the Ohio State-Michigan game, followed by predictions from our three Land of 10 Ohio State writers.

1. Harnessing emotion

Playing with emotion in this rivalry is a must, but it has to be done right. The second it goes from controlled to uncontrolled, things can go sideways. Take 2013, for instance. A bad Michigan team nearly beat an undefeated Ohio State squad, and it happened in part because the Wolverines baited Ohio State into a fight early in the second quarter by surrounding freshman Dontre Wilson after a punt return. Wilson and right guard Marcus Hall were ejected, and Michigan ended up hanging with the Buckeyes the entire game. Obviously there were other factors in that near-upset, but that didn’t help.

The Buckeyes will need to play with fire, but they need to make sure it doesn’t burn so bright that it becomes detrimental. Aside from 2013 they’ve been pretty good at that in the Urban Meyer era, so there shouldn’t be too much to worry about there.

2. Quarterback carousel

Any one of three quarterbacks could end up playing for Michigan. Brandon Peters exited Michigan’s game last week against Wisconsin with a head injury and is unlikely to play, but he’s still a possibility. Former starter Wilton Speight sustained an injury against Purdue that has kept him out since then and is even less likely to be called back into duty. That makes John O’Korn the odds-on favorite to start, which should be good news for the Buckeyes since he’s not great at football. He hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in the last five games he’s played, and he’s completed barely 50 percent of his passes. However, the Buckeyes are expecting a run-heavy approach no matter who’s behind center.

“They do what they do,” Buckeyes defensive end Sam Hubbard said. “They run the ball downhill, get in a lot of tight end and running back sets. They try and out-tough you — that’s what they do. That’s their MO. They’re not going to change anything. They’re a great program like we are, and we don’t change for other people. There are subtle differences and we’re preparing for those, but they’re not going to get away from what they do, which is power football.”

3. Strength vs. strength

Ohio State has an advantage when the Wolverines have the ball. Michigan is ranked No. 102 nationally in scoring offense, while the Buckeyes are No. 8 in total defense and No. 3 in scoring defense. It’s not looking good for Michigan’s chances of putting up points. But for the Buckeyes to win comfortably, they’ll have to solve the Wolverines’ equally stellar defense. The difference, of course, is that the Buckeyes have a high-powered offense to match. Ohio State is No. 4 in total offense, while Michigan is No. 3 in total defense. If the Buckeyes can string together some drives and hit on a few big plays, it shouldn’t really be all that close.

Ohio State-Michigan picks: score predictions

Point spread: Ohio State -12

Over/under: 50.5 points

The Buckeyes are 5-6 against the spread this season, and they will have to win comfortably to cover the spread this week. Eight of the Buckeyes’ 11 games have gone over the point total, which is set at 50.5 points on Saturday. The three Land of 10 Ohio State beat writers are split as to whether the Buckeyes will cover the point spread, but all three have them winning by double digits.

Jeremy Birmingham: Ohio State 23, Michigan 13

Ryan Ginn: Ohio State 35, Michigan 10

Austin Ward: Ohio State 34, Michigan 17

Ohio State-Michigan football: 3 keys, game picks, score predictions

Published: Friday, November 24, 2017 @ 9:13 AM

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Can Ohio State football cover the spread against Michigan on Saturday?

The Buckeyes are favored by 12 points in Ann Arbor after hammering Illinois last weekend. Here are three keys for the Ohio State-Michigan game, followed by predictions from our three Land of 10 Ohio State writers.

1. Harnessing emotion

Playing with emotion in this rivalry is a must, but it has to be done right. The second it goes from controlled to uncontrolled, things can go sideways. Take 2013, for instance. A bad Michigan team nearly beat an undefeated Ohio State squad, and it happened in part because the Wolverines baited Ohio State into a fight early in the second quarter by surrounding freshman Dontre Wilson after a punt return. Wilson and right guard Marcus Hall were ejected, and Michigan ended up hanging with the Buckeyes the entire game. Obviously there were other factors in that near-upset, but that didn’t help.

The Buckeyes will need to play with fire, but they need to make sure it doesn’t burn so bright that it becomes detrimental. Aside from 2013 they’ve been pretty good at that in the Urban Meyer era, so there shouldn’t be too much to worry about there.

2. Quarterback carousel

Any one of three quarterbacks could end up playing for Michigan. Brandon Peters exited Michigan’s game last week against Wisconsin with a head injury and is unlikely to play, but he’s still a possibility. Former starter Wilton Speight sustained an injury against Purdue that has kept him out since then and is even less likely to be called back into duty. That makes John O’Korn the odds-on favorite to start, which should be good news for the Buckeyes since he’s not great at football. He hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in the last five games he’s played, and he’s completed barely 50 percent of his passes. However, the Buckeyes are expecting a run-heavy approach no matter who’s behind center.

“They do what they do,” Buckeyes defensive end Sam Hubbard said. “They run the ball downhill, get in a lot of tight end and running back sets. They try and out-tough you — that’s what they do. That’s their MO. They’re not going to change anything. They’re a great program like we are, and we don’t change for other people. There are subtle differences and we’re preparing for those, but they’re not going to get away from what they do, which is power football.”

3. Strength vs. strength

Ohio State has an advantage when the Wolverines have the ball. Michigan is ranked No. 102 nationally in scoring offense, while the Buckeyes are No. 8 in total defense and No. 3 in scoring defense. It’s not looking good for Michigan’s chances of putting up points. But for the Buckeyes to win comfortably, they’ll have to solve the Wolverines’ equally stellar defense. The difference, of course, is that the Buckeyes have a high-powered offense to match. Ohio State is No. 4 in total offense, while Michigan is No. 3 in total defense. If the Buckeyes can string together some drives and hit on a few big plays, it shouldn’t really be all that close.

Ohio State-Michigan picks: score predictions

Point spread: Ohio State -12

Over/under: 50.5 points

The Buckeyes are 5-6 against the spread this season, and they will have to win comfortably to cover the spread this week. Eight of the Buckeyes’ 11 games have gone over the point total, which is set at 50.5 points on Saturday. The three Land of 10 Ohio State beat writers are split as to whether the Buckeyes will cover the point spread, but all three have them winning by double digits.

Jeremy Birmingham: Ohio State 23, Michigan 13

Ryan Ginn: Ohio State 35, Michigan 10

Austin Ward: Ohio State 34, Michigan 17

LOOK: One heartbreaking photo of Jason Witten sums up Dak Prescott’s struggles

Published: Friday, November 24, 2017 @ 9:11 AM

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott just does not look like the same guy who won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award last season. The Cowboys are just 5-6, and he’s thrown 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. That’s more than double the interceptions he threw in 2016, when he had 4, and the season has over a month to go.

Most tellingly, he’s fallen apart since running back Ezekiel Elliott was suspended. In the last three games, all losses, he has thrown zero touchdowns and 5 interceptions.

Against the Los Angeles Chargers on Thanksgiving Day, one of those interceptions went all the way back for a pick-six. It was brutal at the time, as the Cowboys were blown out 28-6. The Chargers are also 5-6 on the year but looked far superior.

The pick-six gets worse when you look at the tape, though. Check out this picture of tight end Jason Witten:

https://twitter.com/NFLonFOX/status/933848545261641729

Witten appears to be alone, but Prescott doesn’t see him. Not only is that a pick and points for the Chargers, but it’s six points taken off the board for the Cowboys in a game where they desperately needed them.

The Cowboys just don’t have the answers right now.

“I don’t know,” running back Alfred Morris said, per Matthew Martinez of the Star Telegram, when asked what the problem was. “I can’t figure out what it is, honestly, so try to go back to the drawing board.”

“Honestly, right now I’m not sure what the issues are,” center Travis Frederick said.

What about Witten, the guy standing in the end zone all by himself?

“I wish it was as simple as one answer,” Witten said. “Collectively, our offense hasn’t gotten going. We’re just behind the chains too much and not making plays.”

Predicting where Alabama’s and Auburn’s top targets will sign on National Signing Day

Published: Friday, November 24, 2017 @ 9:11 AM

Welcome to  SEC Country’s daily Roll Tide-ings , a rundown of everything happening in Alabama Crimson Tide recruiting with Chris Kirschner. Today, we talk the latest with Alabama’s and Auburn’s top targets in the 2018 class.


Where will Alabama’s and Auburn’s top targets commit to come signing day?

Alabama and Auburn always fight over a handful of recruits each recruiting cycle, and the 2018 class is no different.

SEC Country’s Auburn recruiting reporter Benjamin Wolk and I give our prediction on where some of the teams’ top targets will sign come National Signing Day in February.

Luke Ford, 4-star TE, Carterville (Ill.) 

Kirschner: Luke Ford will take an official visit to Auburn this weekend for the Iron Bowl, but I don’t think the Tigers have much of a chance to land his commitment. I think this is an Alabama-Georgia race. The Crimson Tide are likely going to sign their top target at the position, which is 4-star junior college tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson, so by default my prediction is Georgia.

Wolk: Ford has only been to Auburn once so far, but on that trip he received a personal tour from head coach Gus Malzahn. That stood out to Ford, as did Auburn’s offer to Ford’s brother, Noah, as a preferred walk-on. Other programs have followed Auburn’s lead with that move. The Tigers will make a final sales pitch to Ford this weekend when he officially visits for the Iron Bowl. Still, I see Auburn as the outsider to an Alabama-Georgia battle that ends with the Bulldogs on top.

Andres Fox, 3-star DE, Mobile (Ala.) Christian 

Kirschner: Andres Fox is down to four schools: Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Stanford. I think this is an Iron Bowl battle, though. Fox grew up a Crimson Tide fan, and he has previously told SEC Country that his parents want him to choose Alabama. The Tide have a serious need for defensive linemen this class and the team has made him a giant priority. I think he chooses Alabama.

Wolk: Fox’s decision will come down to one of the in-state schools — Auburn or Alabama. There seems to be a sense of confidence from both sides of the Iron Bowl with this one. The Tigers feel good about landing Fox, but the numbers game comes into play here, as well. Auburn already has three defensive linemen committed with another likely to join in December. Fox might not be able to wait until National Signing Day like he wants to secure his spot, but maybe that’s what the “silent commitment” is for. In the end, however, I do expect Fox chooses Auburn over Alabama.

Emory Jones, 4-star QB, Heard County (Franklin, Ga.) — committed to Ohio State

Kirschner: Emory Jones is committed to Ohio State, but he has kept his recruitment open. He has taken visits to Alabama and Auburn this fall and is expected to be on the sidelines this weekend at the Iron Bowl. But I don’t think Auburn is much of a factor at this time with Jones. Those close to the Alabama program remain confident that Jones will flip to the Tide, and that’s what I think, too.

Wolk: Auburn has fallen to a place where Jones might be its only elite quarterback target remaining. Justin Fields chose Georgia. Jarren Williams backed out of an official visit for the Iron Bowl. If the Tigers want to take two quarterbacks in this class, Jones might be the final recognizable option. But if anyone can flip him from Ohio State, I think it’s Alabama (which is what I think happens).

Asa Martin, 4-star RB, Austin (Decatur, Ala.) — committed to Auburn 

Kirschner: Asa Martin committed to Auburn over Alabama. It was a blow to the Tide because he was the team’s top running back target at the time. The only way I see Martin flipping to Alabama is if Gus Malzahn leaves for another job.

Wolk: Auburn has had a few major splashes in the 2018 class, but the biggest might’ve been beating out Alabama for Martin. He’s the top running back in Alabama, and both schools wanted him badly at the time of his commitment. The Crimson Tide are still hosting him on visits in case Martin has a change of heart, but don’t anticipate that happening. He’s become the vocal centerpiece for Auburn’s 2018 class.

Coynis  Miller, 4-star DT, Jackson-Olin (Birmingham, Ala.) — committed to Auburn

Kirschner: Even if Malzahn leaves for another job, I think Coynis Miller is 100-percent locked in with the Tigers. Alabama is still trying to flip him away from Auburn, anyway.

Wolk: Miller joined Martin as back-to-back Auburn commitments who chose the Tigers over the Crimson Tide. Their decisions gave Auburn some recruiting life when there wasn’t much excitement around the program. But Miller saw the defensive line culture that was brewing at Auburn under Rodney Garner and wanted to be a part of it. As long as Garner’s a part of the coaching staff when Miller signs in February, Alabama — as hard as it tries — won’t be able to flip Miller from Auburn.

JJ Peterson, 4-star LB, Colquitt County (Moultrie, Ga.) 

Kirschner: If JJ Peterson doesn’t commit to Alabama at some point, it would be a big shock. The Tide have been his leader for more than a year, and his head coach, Rush Propst, told SEC Country that teams have started to back off recruiting him because they think he’s a near lock to Alabama.

Wolk: This was one Auburn hung around for at the beginning, mainly because of Peterson’s strong relationship with linebackers coach Travis Williams. But Alabama wasn’t going to be beaten for this one. As Kirschner wrote last week, Auburn and other programs have begun to back off of Peterson with the understanding he’s Alabama bound.

Justyn Ross, 4-star WR, Central (Phenix City, Ala.)

Kirschner: There’s a good chance the state of Alabama’s No. 1 prospect in the 2018 class doesn’t choose Alabama or Auburn; right now, that’s what I think happens. Clemson is my pick, but both in-state teams are going to make it tough on the defending national champs.

Wolk: The No. 1 player in Alabama rarely leaves the state. In fact, it’s only happened twice since 2000 with Chad Jackson in 2003 and Jameis Winston in 2012. Ross looks like he’s on his way to being No. 3 on that list. He has visited Clemson regularly and always raves about those trips. Ross took his official visit there last weekend. Auburn, at least, will make a push for him down the stretch, but it’s likely Clemson all the way.

Saivion Smith, 4-star CB, Mississippi Gulf Coast CC (Perkinston, Miss.) 

Kirschner:  Saivion Smith has been a major target for Alabama since he was offered in August. With the Tide needing a cornerback who could step in immediately and start next season, I think the former LSU cornerback is Alabama’s to lose.

Wolk: Auburn has a gaping hole coming up at cornerback, and it’s something the Tigers want filled immediately in the Class of 2018. A junior college option makes the most sense to accomplish that. Smith is priority No. 1, but as Kirschner noted, he’s seemed an Alabama lock this entire fall. Auburn will host him for an official visit this weekend for the Iron Bowl and the pitch will be made clear. Still, I see the Crimson Tide pulling this one out.

Quay Walker, 4-star LB, Crisp County (Cordele, Ga.) — committed to Alabama

Kirschner: I’ve gone back and forth on what I think Quay Walker is going to do. For several months, I had Walker pegged to flip to Auburn. Now, I have him sticking with Alabama. This recruitment could definitely go either way. The Tigers were always going to make this interesting with his good friend Markaviest Bryant playing for Auburn.

Wolk: There was a point this fall when I would’ve said Auburn for Walker. He was visiting a lot and hinting at a potential flip and his relationship with Williams, Garner and Bryant helped justify it. But the Tigers are starting to weigh all of their linebacker options a little bit more, and that has to do with less confidence Walker will flip. It’s not over yet by any means, but for now, I still peg him to Tuscaloosa.

Miss a previous edition? Find every post of SEC Country’s daily Roll Tide-ings recruiting notebook  right here .