• Fantasy Football: Start or Sit?

    Week 4 of the fantasy football season is here and the deadline to set your lineup is quickly approaching. There are always players that are borderline options for your team, so here are two players at each of the three key fantasy positions — quarterback, running back and wide receiver — that you should start and sit.

    Players to Start:

    1. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh — Big Ben has had a very average start to the fantasy football season so far, putting up 16 points a game. In fact, he’s listed as 20th-best fantasy quarterback option. But this week, the Steelers match up against a Houston squad that struggles to defend the pass, so expect big numbers from Roethlisberger.

    2. Tim Hightower, Washington — Hightower did not have a great game against Dallas on Monday night, with only 41 yards on 14 carries. But this week Hightower should bounce back against a weak Rams defense. Expect him to get many goal line carries and at least one touchdown this week to give many owners a nice 15- to 20-point boost.

    3. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City — Bowe was a top-five fantasy receiver last season, but the Chiefs have gotten off to a 0-3 start and Bowe’s numbers have reflected that. So far he’s averaged only 8 points a week thus far. This game should be different though as Kansas City’s top receiving option is going against a weak Minnesota secondary. Expect him to see the ball early and often and to finally have a 100-yard game.

    Players to Sit:

    1. Michael Vick, Philadelphia — Vick has been all over the news this week with his comments about the referees not protecting him the way they do other quarterbacks. But the problem for fantasy owners this year is Vick not protecting them, as he’s failed to live up to his status as a top-10 pick. He has only averaged 17 points a game so far and has been off the field almost as much as he has been in the huddle. With his hand injured now, you just can’t trust him.

    2. Frank Gore, San Francisco — Gore has been unproductive and hurt much of this season. This week he is questionable once again. Even if he does see the field he won’t be very effective as a result of his injury. Owners should sit him this week, and if you need help filling in for him look at his backup Kendal Hunter, who should see the bulk of the carries against a weak Eagles front seven.

    3. Anquan Boldin, Baltimore — Revis Island is not a fun place for wide receivers to be and Boldin will find himself there this week. It would be a smart move for his owners to look elsewhere for wide-out production, as Boldin will most likely be stranded.

    Printed on September 30, 2011 as: Hightower in line for big week, Boldin set to visit Revis Island

  • Stat Guy: Trips to Ames bodes well for Longhorns

    Iowa State celebrates its 44-41 win over rival Iowa on Sept. 10. The Cyclones are 3-0 for the first time since 2005 and appear to be a team on the rise in the Big 12 Conference.
    Iowa State celebrates its 44-41 win over rival Iowa on Sept. 10. The Cyclones are 3-0 for the first time since 2005 and appear to be a team on the rise in the Big 12 Conference.

    Believe it or not, this Saturday will mark just the third time that Texas has traveled to Ames, Iowa this century.

    When the Big 12 actually had 12 teams, north and south division schools played home-and-home games sets against one another every other two years.

    With the new format of the conference however, the two teams will be facing off every year, making the journey to the Hawkeye State a more common occurrence. The Longhorns have always fared well against the Cyclones, home and away: they hold a 7-1 all-time record against Iowa State, with the lone loss coming last season in Austin.

    So just how good has Texas been at ISU’s Jack Trice Stadium? Let’s take a look at — what else? — the stats.

    In the 2003 trip to America’s Heartland, Vince Young passed for 136 yards and rushed for 56 more in his first start in 2003. Colt McCoy showed off his dual-threat ability in 2007, with 298 passing yards, four touchdowns and 50 rushing yards and one touchdown. Things just seem to go the Longhorns’ way in Ames.

    Texas averages 546 yards of total offense there, compared to the Cyclones’ 228. Cedric Benson torched Iowa State with 140 yards and three touchdowns in 2003, a 40-19 Texas win. In that 2007 game, sophomore Jordan Shipley snagged two of McCoy’s four touchdown passes.

    The Longhorns average 321 yards through the air in Ames, amassing six touchdowns in the process. Between McCoy, Young and Chance Mock, the Longhorn quarterbacks have compiled a 75 percent completion rating, overshadowing Iowa State’s 42 percent mark. Between the ’03 and ’07 seasons, 23 different Longhorn skill position players touched the ball, similar to the diversity the 2011 Texas offense boasts.

    All those offensive numbers have accounted to some pretty big blowouts — the Longhorn offense has averaged 48 points in its two trips to Ames in the past decade. But hey, lets not forget about defense.

    When they host Texas, the Cyclones average 99 yards on the ground and 154 yards through the air. The Longhorns have forced three turnovers, both coming in its 56-3 win in 2007. Texas has posted seven sacks in two games, holding Iowa State to a mere 11 points per game.

    This year however, Iowa State isn’t the little brother of the Big 12 anymore. The Cyclones are 3-0, and are on the cusp of breaking into the top 25 in the nation. With NFL prospects in guard Kelechi Osemele and cornerback Leonard Johnson, the Cyclones are more athletic than ever. Running back Shontrelle Johnson is averaging five yards a carry, and quarterback Steele Jantz is passing for about 233 yards a game.

    “They’ve upgraded their speed so much,” said Texas head coach Mack Brown. “You used to be able to beat Iowa State because they couldn’t run with you.”

    This Saturday, two teams vastly improved from last year will meet in Ames, Iowa. If historical statistics paint any picture, expect the Longhorns to score a few points.

    Printed on Thursday, September 29, 2011 as: UT holds advantage in Ames

  • The Stat Guy: Comparing two 3-0 teams: Texas of 2011 vs. Texas of 2010

    Texas began last season 3-0 before losing seven of their last nine games. But this year’s Longhorns group is showing signs of improvement, thanks in part to players like cornerback Adrian Phillips.
    Texas began last season 3-0 before losing seven of their last nine games. But this year’s Longhorns group is showing signs of improvement, thanks in part to players like cornerback Adrian Phillips.

    It’s not an unusual occurrence for Texas to start the year 3-0, even if it is a rebuilding year. Division 1A schools, more often than not, schedule games that are almost guaranteed victories. Every few years you’ll have the occasional Ohio State or Arkansas in the mix, but for the most part, the first few matchups are solid warm-up games.

    Last year, Texas began the year 3-0, with two victories coming on the road, including an early conference game against Texas Tech. While the Longhorns didn’t impress fans statistically in any of their first three appearances, the fact that a victory was earned in Lubbock and that the team had yet to lose gave the fan base positive indications for the rest of the season. Seven losses and just two wins later, we learned the team’s good start was merely an illusion.

    This year, Texas has once again started the year 3-0, but things so far look better than they did last year. Since the second half of the BYU game, Texas has looked like the Texas of old — circa 2009. No game has that been more evident than the Sept. 17 match against UCLA, where the Longhorns racked up 49 points on a veteran defense and picked off three passes in the first quarter.

    Just how does this years squad compare (or differ) to the 2010 Longhorns? Let’s take a look at the stats.

    This time last year, Texas had amassed 457 yards on the ground on 118 rushing attempts. That’s a 3.87 yards-per-carry average. This year, Texas has rushed the ball 141 times for 671 yards, averaging 4.82 yards an attempt. Keep in mind that last year Texas was trying to enforce the run game more than the pass, whereas this year all facets of the offense are being utilized.

    After the third game last year, the Longhorns had converted 58 first downs, compared to this years’ squad picking up 59. That’s remarkably similar.

    As far as defense goes, the Longhorns have seen a significant dip in their pass rushing ability. Last year, Texas had 10 sacks for 91 yards, much better than the two sacks for 12 yards the defense has picked up so far this year.

    In 2010, Texas’ secondary had picked off opposing quarterbacks three times in the first three games last year. This season, Adrian Phillips and company have tallied five interceptions, including three in one quarter. The latter stat ranks Texas 21st in the nation in interceptions.

    It’s no doubt that this year’s team has drawn more excitement. Whenever an entirely new offensive and defensive system is implemented, that’s bound to happen.

    Texas is heading into October undefeated for the first time since 2009, which seems like an eternity to a Longhorn fan. In the next month, the team will face three opponents that beat it last season — Iowa State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. So we’re about to see just how much better the 2011 Longhorns are.

    Printed on September 27, 2011 as: Longhorns 3-0 yet again as they begin Big 12 play

  • The Stat Guy: Why Texas’ running game could lead the team back to the top

    Fozzy Whittaker runs for a touchdown against UCLA on Saturday, in a 49-20 win. Whittaker is apart of a three headed running attack alongside of Malcolm Brown and Cody Johnson. They are a big reason that the Longhorns are averaging 226.33 yards a game on the ground so far.
    Fozzy Whittaker runs for a touchdown against UCLA on Saturday, in a 49-20 win. Whittaker is apart of a three headed running attack alongside of Malcolm Brown and Cody Johnson. They are a big reason that the Longhorns are averaging 226.33 yards a game on the ground so far.

    Don’t look now, but the Longhorns have themselves a running game.

    After years of preseason promises that the Longhorns will put up yards on the ground, followed by the team instead airing it out 40 to 50 times per game, the rushing attack has become prominent once again.

    Following this past weekend in college football, the Longhorns now rank 21st in rushing yards per game, averaging 226.33 yards per contest.

    This time last year the Longhorns were averaging 152.33 yards per game, ranking 76th in the nation. And who said change was bad?

    Malcolm Brown is ranked 46th in the nation in yards per game with 88. A revamped Fozzy Whittaker is showing his inner Ronnie Brown, running the “wild-horn” with a veteran ease. Add the bruising running style of Cody Johnson, and Texas has a legitimate three-headed monster coming out of the backfield.

    A lot of people believe that winning championships means having a stellar passing attack. While being able to throw the ball is key for a team’s success, statistics have shown over the past four years that being able to run the ball is just as important. Last year’s champion, Auburn, ranked third in the nation in rushing with 284.8 yards a game. In 2009, Alabama ranked eighth at the end of the year with 215.1 yards per contest on the ground. Tim Tebow and company ranked seventh in 2008, running Oklahoma out of the national championship game with 241 yards on the ground in the Orange Bowl. LSU ranked 10th in 2007.

    In Texas’ opener versus Rice, the Longhorns rushed for 229 yards. This past weekend, the team rushed for 284 yards, a 24 percent increase from week one. If the Longhorns were to follow this gradual trend, look for a team-rushing total of around 350 yards versus Oklahoma.

    The fact that Texas has three go-to running backs has historically shown to be beneficial. Every national championship team in the past few years has had two or more backs that can rack up yards. Percy Harvin (who split time at wide out and running back) and Tim Tebow at Florida, Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram at Alabama. Cam Newton, Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb at Auburn.

    A lot goes into winning championships in college football, and the running game is just one facet. The last time Texas averaged more than 225 yards per game in a season on the ground was in 2005. The Longhorns rushed for 274 yards a contest, winning the Rose Bowl and Texas’ fourth national championship. The Longhorns have a long road ahead of them, but as long as the running game is alive, the odds of winning many games is, too.

  • Garrett Gilbert undergoes season-ending surgery

    Texas has announced that Garrett Gilbert will miss the remainder of the 2011 football season after undergoing shoulder surgery Tuesday morning.

    Gilbert, who entered the season as the starting quarterback but only lasted a game and a half, injured his shoulder during the Longhorns’ opener against Rice, says UT head athletic trainer for football Kenny Boyd.

    “He had symptoms, but was not affected in practice leading up to BYU,” Boyd said. “After that, it got progressively worse.”

    Gilbert, too, noticed a digression.

    “My shoulder was getting progressively worse and when the doctors did an MRI last week, their recommendation was for me to get it fixed,” he said.

    A junior, Gilbert could apply for a medical hardship at the end of his career and thus have two years of eligibility left. Transferring schools could be an option.