Sixers wanted ‘easier’ Knicks as backup center Paul Reed tosses first barb of NBA playoffs

The Philadelphia 76ers survived a scare against the Miami Heat in their play-in game Wednesday night, escaping with a 105-104 win, setting up a first-round matchup against the No. 2-seeded New York Knicks. It took overcoming a 14-point deficit and Nicolas Batum catching fire off the bench for 20 points on 6 of 10 from deep for the Sixers to get past Miami. And yet, as close of a call as that win was, Philadelphia is already trash talking ahead of its meeting with the Knicks.

Backup center Paul Reed didn’t shy away when talking about the upcoming matchup with New York, and said that the Sixers wanted to play the Knicks.

“We ain’t ducking no smoke, but yeah, we wanted the Knicks matchup, of course,” Reed said on Run It Back. “That’s the easier team I guess, but you know it’s going to be fun, we match up pretty well. They got a great guard, we got a great guard, we also got Joel, MVP, so like you said earlier, he’s one of the most unstoppable guys in the league right now. They’re gonna have to send triple teams, and he’s gonna get everybody else involved.”

This is both A: confirming that the Sixers are relieved not to have to play the Celtics in the first round and B: that they do not fear the Knicks. Surely, no team in the East would want to play the Celtics in the first round, given how dominant they’ve been all season, and yes, New York is the inferior team when holding them up to Boston. But this feels like one of those situations where you don’t want to poke the bear.

Despite all the injuries the Knicks have had, they managed to finish the season strong, and Jalen Brunson played himself into the fringes of the MVP conversation as well as the All-NBA First Team chatter as well. The Knicks have also had the fifth-best net rating in the league since the All-Star break, so throwing verbal jabs after just beating a Heat team that was playing with a hobbled Jimmy Butler doesn’t seem like a great strategy.

The Knicks may not be the Celtics, but going against them isn’t going to be a walk in the park for Philadelphia. We just saw in that Heat game how unreliable Tobias Harris can be in must-win situations, and Kelly Oubre Jr. wasn’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard, finishing the game with 11 points on a poor 3 of 9 from the floor. If it weren’t for Batum coming to life in the second half the Sixers could very well be preparing for another play-in game against the Bulls instead of a postseason series with New York.

This isn’t to say that the Sixers aren’t right in being confident entering this series. As Reed said, Embiid is difficult to gameplan for, and he was on track to win MVP for the second consecutive year had he not gone down with a meniscus injury. Prior to that injury, the Sixers were humming along and looked like the team that could meet the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals. But this feels like one of those “be careful what you wished for” situations, and against a Knicks team that has been playing incredibly well as of late, it doesn’t seem wise to give them more motivation before you head into Madison Square Garden to try and beat them.

Peyton Watson, Isaiah Joe set to make a name for themselves

Bruce Brown’s stock dropped so low by the 2022 free agency that his former team, the Brooklyn Nets, didn’t even make a significant attempt to re-sign him. Why would they? They already had a questionable shooter who could handle the ball and defend multiple positions. His name… and I promise I’m not kidding… was Ben Simmons. So Brown hit the open market. The best he could do was a two-year, $13 million tax-payer mid-level contract with the Nuggets.

Well, that turned out to be one of the best decisions of his career. Brown’s shot improved just enough for the rest of his versatile skill set to flourish in the right setting. His high basketball IQ made him an immediate fit within Denver’s cerebral offense, and his positional versatility made him an essential defensive cog on their way to a championship. Brown closed some games for Denver during that title run. Even when he didn’t, he was by far their most reserved.

Fast forward to the 2023 offseason, and Brown is suddenly a household name. He immediately inks a two-year, $45 million deal with the Indiana Pacers after sparking a bidding war that seemingly included every contender in the NBA. It’s amazing what a difference one strong playoff run can make for a player. It’s even more amazing what it can do for a team. The Nuggets, in part because of Brown, won their first championship in franchise history.

Every NBA postseason includes a player or two like Brown, someone that the wider NBA fan base doesn’t quite know in April but has fallen in love with by June. So with the playoffs now at hand, we’re going to try to identify who those players might be during the 2024 postseason.

  1. Peyton Watson
    We’re beginning with Brown’s immediate replacement. That title comes directly from Denver’s general manager, who didn’t just expect Peyton Watson to fill in for Brown, but to surpass them. “Some of these teams were trying to get Bruce, trying to make it worth it; it’s like, just be careful what you wish for,” Booth told The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor after Brown left for Indiana. “Peyton’s bigger. He’s longer. He’s more athletic. He guards better. He passes better.”

I’m going to set the bar higher. Watson isn’t just a better defender than Brown. Watson is the best defender on the Denver Nuggets roster. Yes, that includes All-Defense candidates Aaron Gordon and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Watson doesn’t play their minutes yet, so such accolades are still beyond his grasp. But the metrics favor the second-year forward. Watson had the best Defensive Estimated Plus-Minus on the Team this season. He trailed only Nikola Jokic in terms of Defensive Box Plus-Minus within Denver’s rotation, and on a per-minute basis, the same was true for Defensive Win Shares. I may have just bored you with the analytics. I promise, I’m not going to bore you with the clips. Because dear god, how did he do this?

Peyton Watson jumped over Nikola Jokic as he tried to block Jaylen Brown 😅

— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) March 8, 2024
Or this…

INCREDIBLE block from Peyton Watson in transition but what I love is that he stays in the play to contest CJ McCollum’s layup after the offensive rebound.

— Matt Brooks (@MattBrooksNBA) January 13, 2024
We’d be here all day if I shared every incredible Peyton Watson block, yet he doesn’t really chase them. It’s just the natural result of his combination of length, reflexes and closing speed. It turns out those are traits that translate to basically every tenet of defense. Kevin Durant shot 6-of-20 when matched up against Watson this season. Paul George shot 4-of-13. LeBron James shot 4-of-11. Again, we could go on, but we just don’t have the time.

Watson’s weakness is his shooting. Most teams would struggle to compensate for a 29.6% 3-point shooter from deep playing any position other than center. Playing with Nikola Jokic has its advantages. He’s not nearly as adept a cutter as Gordon is yet, but he can capably fill in for him as Jokic’s alley-oop muse for stretches. When Jokic goes to the bench in the playoffs, Gordon will move to center and Watson will fill in at power forward. Not great spacing. Utterly absurd athleticism for an offense that’s used to moving and passing more than most.

If Denver wins the championship again this season, Watson will be to them what Brown was a year ago: not quite as important as the core starters, but utterly essential nonetheless. The key difference? He’s not going anywhere with two years left on his rookie deal. My condolences to the rest of the Western Conference.

  1. Jonathan Isaac
    Oh, we’re talking about under-the-radar defenders now? Might as well cover the best of them all. Jonathan Isaac only played 15.8 minutes per game this season. Within those minutes, he was the best defensive player in basketball. Better than Victor Wembanyama. Better than Rudy Gobert. Better than anyone. I’ve covered him in more depth here. In the meantime, enjoy my favorite screenshot of the season.

Jonathan Isaac blocked this dunk attempt.

Look at where he is. Look at where KAT is. Look at where the ball is. Just a breathtaking piece of defense by the best per-minute defender in the NBA.

— Sam Quinn (@SamQuinnCBS) February 3, 2024
The Nuggets can get a player on this list playing bench minutes because, well, they might win the championship. It would be much harder to justify 15 minutes of Isaac as a breakout candidate. That’s where this gets interesting.

Orlando limited Isaac’s minutes for medical reasons. They slowly ramped him up down the stretch. And then, in the season finale, he was in the starting lineup and played 26 minutes. That’s meaningful for a variety of reasons. The biggest is that it means more minutes playing alongside Jalen Suggs, which the rotation rarely allowed during the regular season. During the 183 minutes they did play together across Orlando’s first 82 games, that pairing held opponents to 98.1 points per 100 possessions. Do you know how long it’s been since an NBA team had a defensive rating that low over a full season? I’ll give you a hint: every player on that roster is now retired except for Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson.

If Orlando starts the Isaac-Suggs pairing and plays them together for a meaningful number of minutes, the Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t going to be able to score in the first round. Think about the longer-term implications of such an outcome. There is a reasonable chance that two weeks from now, the Donovan Mitchell era in Cleveland will have ended in a storm of Isaac blocks. The Magic aren’t quite ready for championship contention, but they’re certainly ready to break up the Cavaliers.

  1. Deuce McBride
    Denver gets away with a bit more questionable shooting than most teams because of Jokic. The Knicks are a bit more conventional and, at times, old fashioned. They like to play non-shooting big men. That makes their non-shooting wings a tougher sell. Josh Hart is the prime example here. He does too many important things for the Knicks to adequately list in a single sentence, but when it came down to it against Miami last season, his shooting was problematic. The Heat never guarded him. He shot 3-of-13 from 3-point range. The Knicks scored only 106.3 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and lost the series largely on offense.

In a perfect world, Hart makes his 3’s and this isn’t an issue. But the playoffs are messy, and Hart shot just 32.3% on wide-open 3’s during the regular season. Series are won or lost based on what sort of pivots a coach is willing to make when these things happen. If defenses won’t defend Hart, McBride is Thibodeau’s pivot.

His playing time has been… erratic. In the span of a single week in March, he had one game in which he played under 12 minutes and another in which he played all 48. Availability contributed to that disparity but so did Thibodeau’s propensity for shorter rotations. When you’re in with him, you’re in. When someone he likes better returns, you might lose 30 minutes through no fault of your own.

McBride isn’t quite as “jack of all trades” as Hart. He certainly doesn’t rebound like him, for instance, and until this season, he fell into the shaky shooter bucket as well. But in the calendar year of 2024, he’s averaged five 3-point attempts per game and made just under 41% of them. He’s not going to be left open, but he’s not a defense-for-offense sacrifice like, say, Bojan Bogdanovic is. He can’t defend quite as high on the positional spectrum as Hart, but he brings similar traits against most perimeter players. Against guards, he’s a shade better, a useful card to play when OG Anunoby has a higher-priority assignment.

McBride won’t and shouldn’t replace Hart outright. There’s a reason Thibodeau trusts Hart so much, after all. But there will be a game or two in which Hart’s shot isn’t falling, and the outcome is going to hinge on the shots McBride makes in his place. His role will continue to be erratic, but he’s at the top of the list of “unheralded role players likeliest to swing an important playoff game.”

  1. Isaiah Joe
    Enough with these tough, gritty defenders. Let’s talk fireworks. Joe attempts over 11 3-pointers per 100 possessions and makes 41.6% of them. Among players with consistent rotation roles, the only other players to do that this season were Luke Kennard, CJ McCollum and Sam Hauser.

Kennard is a worthwhile starting point for this conversation because we saw how wildly he could swing a playoff series last season when Taylor Jenkins slowly realized that putting him on the floor was the only way Memphis was going to consistently score against the Lakers. This isn’t a typo: the Grizzlies were 28.6 points per 100 possessions better offensively against the Lakers with Kennard on the floor. There were rumblings that he might replace Dillon Brooks in the starting lineup for Game 6. Instead he got hurt, and the Lakers blew the Grizzlies out by 40 in the series clincher.

That’s an extreme example, but it shows just how much a single, elite shooter can complicate life for an opposing defense in a playoff series when the rest of that offense can generate rim pressure. Any team that faces Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in a playoff series is going to focus the entirety of its game plan on keeping him away from the basket. Having Josh Giddey on the floor creates a convenient help spot for defenses. Whenever those defenses seem to realize that, Mark Daigneault dials the difficulty meter up to 11 and says, “OK, try to stop Shai now that our real spacer is on the floor.”

This tends to be Daigneault’s “we’re not messing around anymore” adjustment in big games. When the Thunder faced the Clippers in a critical seeding matchup right after the All-Star break, for instance, they led by only two at halftime after starting Giddey. When they emerged for the second half, Joe had replaced Giddey in the starting lineup. The Thunder won by 22.

We’re going to see this adjustment quickly in the playoffs. Giddey will almost certainly remain a starter throughout the postseason, but he’s going to cede more and more high-leverage minutes to Joe as defenses get more and more aggressive in ignoring him. This has suited the Thunder just fine all season. Joe has the best offensive rating on the team. They are so stout and so creative everywhere else defensively that they can endure his presence there. It’s worth it when he swings a game with four 3’s in a quarter.

  1. Daniel Gafford
    You could realistically list essentially the entire Dallas supporting cast as breakout candidates. P.J. Washington, in typical “rescued from a bad team” fashion, has gone from a toolsy but inconsistent defender in Charlotte to an essential part of what has been the NBA’s best defense for the past month in Dallas. Dante Exum returned from Barcelona as a stellar defender and a passable jump-shooter. Dereck Lively emerged from Duke as a teenager somehow more polished at center than most 30-year-olds. All of them will play essential parts in any extended Mavericks run.

None are quite as interesting as Daniel Gafford, who is steadily emerging Luka Doncic’s basketball soulmate. Gafford has made 145 total shots as a Maverick. Exactly 40% of them, 58, have been assisted by Doncic. That number might not seem huge, but remember, every other Maverick combined has assisted Gafford 59 times. Doncic is matching his entire team when it comes to passing to this single player. Doncic actually has outpaced his entire roster when it comes to assisting Lively, and their relevant offensive numbers are somewhat similar. Both are shooting above 74% from the floor on all of the easy looks Doncic creates. Both are scoring at least 1.36 points per possession as pick-and-roll finishers, again, largely with Doncic as their table-setter.

But where Gafford stands out here is defensively. Lively has all of the tools to be a defensive star, and he flashes them frequently. But rookies tend to be vulnerable defensively in the playoffs, and the lineup data suggests that Lively still has plenty to work on as a defender. Gafford, for basically his entire NBA career, seemingly did as well. And then he got to Dallas and turned into Rudy Gobert. The Mavericks are allowing only 108.2 points per 100 possessions during his minutes this season, a hair below Minnesota’s full-season number. He’s blocking more than three shots per 100 possessions. Since Gafford’s acquisition, no team has allowed a lower field goal percentage in the restricted area than Dallas at 62.7%. The pre-Gafford Mavericks ranked 29th at 70.2%.

The sample is way too small to jump to conclusions, and there are other extenuating factors at play here. But for the price of a single first-round pick, the Mavericks have thus far stumbled into what is essentially the perfect Doncic center: an unstoppable rim-runner that protects the basket at the other end. Lively is going to be that player, too, someday. For now, it’s the Gafford show, and if he keeps this up throughout the postseason, there’s a real chance that the Mavericks are going to the Finals.

Patriots must get offensive

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🏀 🏒 🏈 Good morning to everyone but especially to …

No one, and I mean no one, is having a better morning than diehard sports fans. Arguably the one of the best part of the sports calendar begins tonight, and the next two months will feature playoff action in the NBA and NHL virtually every single night.

On Friday, the NBA playoff first-round matchups will be solidified with the final two Play-In Tournament games. The Heat and Bulls will battle in Miami for the East’s No. 8 seed, while the Pelicans will host the Kings to see who captures the final playoff spot in the West.

After that the first round begins in earnest on Saturday afternoon, and it’ll roll through Sunday night.


Game 1: Magic at Cavaliers, 1 p.m. on ESPN
Game 1: Suns at Timberwolves, 3:30 p.m. on ESPN
Game 1: 76ers at Knicks, 6 p.m. on ESPN
Game 1: Lakers at Nuggets, 8:30 p.m. on ABC

Game 1: Heat or Bulls at Celtics, 1 p.m. on ABC
Game 1: Mavericks at Clippers, 3:30 p.m. on ABC
Game 1: Pacers at Bucks, 7 p.m. on TNT
Game 1: Pelicans or Kings at Thunder, 9:30 p.m. on TNT
Before the first round tips off, be sure to get caught up on our expert picks at CBS Sports. Our NBA analysts reveal their brackets and make their Finals predictions.

The NBA isn’t the only league that begins its postseason this weekend. The NHL playoffs will also fire up its 16 teams chasing down the Stanley Cup, with 12 of them taking the ice this weekend. (Stars-Golden Knights and Kings-Oilers will open their series on Monday night.)


Game 1: Islanders at Hurricanes, 5 p.m. on TBS
Game 1: Maple Leafs at Bruins, 8 p.m. on TBS

Game 1: Lightning at Panthers, 12:30 p.m. on ESPN
Game 1: Capitals vs. Rangers, 3 p.m. on ESPN
Game 1: Avalanche at Jets, 7 p.m. on ESPN2
Game 1: Predators at Canucks, 10 p.m. on ESPN
Those schedules are a beautiful sight, but — wait — there’s still more.

In addition to the frenzy of 14 NBA and NHL playoff series starting in a 36-hour span, the 2024 NFL Draft is less than a week away. As the first round draws ever closer, keep it locked on CBS Sports’ coverage, which includes a slew of mock drafts and the latest information on what teams will do when the clock starts ticking.

👍 Honorable mentions
Rangers pitching prospect Jack Leiter struck out the first batter he faced in his MLB debut.
Former 5-star CB Cormani McClain is getting his shot at redemption with Colorado.
The Lions unveiled new uniforms for the 2024 season, including alternate black jerseys.
Kentucky star Reed Sheppard, the Freshman of the Year, has declared for the 2024 NBA Draft.
😩 And not such a good morning for…
Getty Images

The Heat will host the Bulls tonight with the East’s No. 8 seed on the line. If the Heat are going to earn a shot at the NBA’s best, the top-seeded Celtics, they will have to do so without Jimmy Butler.

On Tuesday, Butler exited during the first quarter of Miami’s loss to the 76ers with a knee injury, but he was able to return. Unfortunately for the Heat, Butler suffered a sprained MCL that will keep him out of Friday’s do-or-die game, the team announced on Thursday. Heat Culture aside, expect Miami to have an uphill battle all night as the offense certainly doesn’t get better with Butler on the bench, as our own Colin Ward-Henninger points out.

Ward-Henninger: “What Butler brings on both ends of the court — not to mention his leadership — simply cannot be replaced by anyone on the Heat roster. Miami’s offense landed in the bottom-10 during the regular season and dropped significantly with Butler off the floor. In his minutes, the Heat averaged 116 points per 100 possessions, compared to 109 when he was on the bench.”
In Butler’s 60 regular season games, he averaged 20.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. And the loss of that production puts Miami’s run of four straight playoff appearances in jeopardy. On the other side, all eyes will be on Chicago’s Coby White, who exploded for 42 points in Wednesday’s win over the Hawks.

👎 Not so honorable mentions
Leiter also surrendered eight hits and seven earned runs in 3.2 innings of work.
The Red Sox placed OF Tyler O’Neill on the concussion list amidst a hot start to the 2024 season.
Both the Eagles and the Packers may be prevented from wearing green when they play in Brazil next season.
😲 76ers’ Reed delivers bulletin board material to the Knicks
Getty Images
This time of year, NBA teams are scouring news clippings in hopes of finding bulletin board material for the playoffs. Luckily for the Knicks, 76ers center Paul Reed delivered some to their front door, free of charge.

After the Sixers edged the Heat to secure the No. 7 seed and a first-round series with the Knicks, Reed said the quiet part out loud when asked about that matchup on “Run It Back.”

Reed: “We ain’t ducking no smoke, but, yeah, we wanted the Knicks matchup, of course. That’s the easier team I guess, but you know it’s going to be fun, we match up pretty well. They got a great guard, we got a great guard, we also got Joel, MVP, so like you said earlier, he’s one of the most unstoppable guys in the league right now. They’re gonna have to send triple teams, and he’s gonna get everybody else involved.”
That textbook example of oversharing may come back to bite Reed and the 76ers. The Knicks may not be the Celtics, but they won 50 games, got the 2 seed and beat Philly 3-1 head-to-head this season. Reed will get the chance to back up his words starting Saturday when the series tips off at Madison Square Garden.

🚚 Coyotes bid farewell to Arizona in advance of move to Utah
Getty Images
Over the last week, the worst-kept secret in the NHL was the news that the Coyotes would be moving to Utah. On Thursday, the NHL Board of Governors officially approved the Coyotes’ relocation to Salt Lake City.

Ryan Smith, who also owns the NBA’s Jazz, purchased the Coyotes’ players and assets from former owner Alex Meruelo. The team will make the move this summer, and the NHL will make its Utah debut this fall.

This marks the first time the NHL has relocated a franchise since the Thrashers moved from Atlanta to Winnipeg and became the Jets in 2011, but the “Coyotes” aren’t necessarily dead. Meruelo will have the opportunity to reactivate the franchise in the next five years, as long as he meets certain requirements.

One of those requirements will probably be finding a permanent home for the team. The lack of an arena was one of the major reasons why the Coyotes are now packing up for the Beehive State. The team spent the last two seasons in Mullett Arena, a 5,000-seat venue it shared with Arizona State. A plan to build an arena and entertainment district in Tempe faced a lot of opposition and was rejected by voters.

The Coyotes also failed to put a respectable product on the ice. With one playoff berth in the last 12 seasons, the postseason was about as common as finding ice in the desert. Alas, the Coyotes did go out with a 5-2 win over the Oilers on Wednesday. Defenseman Sean Durzi scored the last goal, and fans were emotional as they bid farewell to the Yotes, at least, for now.

🏈 Patriots revamp offense in Josh Edwards’ mock draft
Getty Images
The NFL Draft will give the Patriots the chance to rejuvenate what has become a stale offense. In his latest seven-round mock draft for CBS Sports, Josh Edwards laid out his plan for New England to do just that.

Watching the Patriots’ offense over the last two years has been akin to watching grass grow, only less fun. Last season, they were tied with the Panthers for dead last in scoring offense. With the No. 3 overall pick on Thursday night, New England can start to address that problem under new head coach Jerod Mayo.

In his new mock draft, Edwards has the Patriots selecting LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels. The Mac Jones experiment is over, and so the Pats must find a long-term solution under center in the post-Brady, post-Belichick era.

Edwards: “There’s simply no way in my mind the Patriots move out of this spot and/or don’t take a quarterback. The way the offseason has gone — and the way the last three years have gone — they have to.”
The Pats’ offensive-minded approach doesn’t end there in the mock draft. Edwards also has them adding three more offensive pieces throughout the weekend.

Round 2: Ladd McConkey | WR | Georgia
Round 3: Roger Rosengarten | OT | Washington
Round 5: Brenden Rice | WR | USC
📺 What we’re watching this weekend

🏀 Play-In: Bulls at Heat, 7 p.m. on ESPN
⚾ Rangers at Braves, 7:20 p.m. on Apple TV+
🏀 Play-In: Kings at Pelicans, 9:30 p.m. on TNT


🏀 Game 1: Magic at Cavaliers, 1 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Game 1: Suns at Timberwolves, 3:30 p.m. on ESPN
⚾ Mets at Dodgers, 4:05 p.m. on FS1
🏒 Game 1: Islanders at Hurricanes, 5 p.m. on TBS
🏀 Game 1: 76ers at Knicks, 6 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Game 1: Maple Leafs at Bruins, 8 p.m. on TBS
🏀 Game 1: Lakers at Nuggets, 8:30 p.m. on ABC


🏒 Game 1: Lightning at Panthers, 12:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏒 Game 1: Capitals at Rangers, 3 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Game 1: Mavericks at Clippers, 3:30 p.m. on ABC
🏀 Game 1: Pacers at Bucks, 7 p.m. on TNT
⚾ Rangers at Braves, 7:10 p.m. on ESPN

Bulldogs tap Oklahoma offensive coordinator to lead program

Mississippi State has hired Oklahoma offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby as its next football coach, the school announced on Sunday. Lebby oversaw the Big 12’s top-ranked offense during the 2023 regular season, his second in Norman, as the Sooners posted a 10-2 record under second-year coach Brent Venables. Lebby is being hired on a five-year deal, according to ESPN.

Lebby, 39, replaces Zach Arnett, who was fired Nov. 13 amid a 4-6 start in his first season guiding the program. Arnett was promoted from defensive coordinator in December 2022 following the death of Mike Leach, who served as Mississippi State’s coach since the 2020 campaign. The Bulldogs were 1-6 in SEC play under Arnett.

“As we continue to invest in excellence at Mississippi State, the future of our football program is incredibly bright with the addition of Jeff Lebby at the helm,” Mississippi State athletic director Zac Selmon said in a statement. “I am confident that Jeff is the perfect leader for the next exciting chapter of Mississippi State football. He will bring an exciting brand of football, elite student-athlete development, and a winning culture to Starkville, all while doing so with high integrity. He is a dynamic recruiter who will attract an elite coaching staff and the nation’s top talent. There is no doubt in my mind that Jeff’s leadership, vision, and resilient work ethic will take this program to incredible heights. We could not be more excited to welcome Jeff, his wife Staley, and their children Kora and Kane to the Mississippi State family. It is a great time to be a Bulldog and only going to get better.”

This will be Lebby’s first head coaching job. He has previous SEC experience as the offensive coordinator at Ole Miss, a role he held under coach Lane Kiffin from 2020-21. The Rebels won 10 regular-season games and reached the Sugar Bowl during Lebby’s second and final year on staff in Oxford in 2021. Other assistant stops for Lebby include UCF (2018-19) and Baylor (2008-16), where he coached under his father-in-law, Art Briles.

Lebby’s departure comes as Oklahoma prepares to join the SEC in 2024 along with Texas. The Sooners played their final Big 12 conference game Friday in a 69-45 home win against TCU and were officially eliminated from Big 12 title contention Saturday. with Oklahoma State’s win over BYU.

Lebby’s track record of offensive success
It’s not surprising that Mississippi State has settled on an offensive-minded coach like Lebby to replace Arnett after the Bulldogs faltered on that side of the ball in 2023. Mississippi State finished last in the SEC in scoring, averaging 21.8 points per game as the Bulldogs stumbled to a 4-6 finish. They were held to 10 points or less four times in their final six games of the season.

Lebby is no stranger to working with high-powered offenses that haven’t been afraid to move the ball through the air. At Oklahoma, Lebby has worked hands on with quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who just wrapped up his second-consecutive 3,000-yard passing campaign in Lebby’s system after the two also overlapped for a year at UCF in 2019. Bolstered by Gabriel’s success, the Sooners owned the Big 12’s top-ranked offense during the 2023 regular season, averaging 502.4 yards and 43.2 points per contest.

Prior to Oklahoma, Lebby oversaw success at Ole Miss with quarterback Matt Corral, who passed for more than 3,000 yards in both 2020 and 2021 under Lebby’s guidance before becoming a third-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Lebby’s first of two seasons at UCF in 2018 featured success with quarterback McKenzie Milton, and his lengthy run at Baylor saw a number of prolific quarterbacks come through the program — most notably, Heisman-winner Robert Griffin III — as the Bears regular boasted high-powered offenses. Lebby began as an offensive quality control coach at Baylor before coaching running backs and later becoming the Bears’ passing-game coordinator.

Lebby’s association with Baylor, particularly his familial relationship with Briles, has made for a rocky road at times. Lebby was on staff in Waco, Texas, when Briles was dismissed in May 2016 amid the sexual assault scandal that rocked the program. Earlier this year, Lebby was forced to apologize after he was spotted hosting Briles on the field at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium — Briles was wearing a Sooners-branded shirt — following Oklahoma’s Week 2 victory against SMU.

Vegas expert reveals picks

Championship Week has arrived in college football with 10 conference title games set to unfold. Conference USA and the Pac-12 kick it off Friday night with the other eight games coming on Saturday. Every Power 5 conference title game could potentially impact the final College Football Playoff field. The latest SportsLine consensus Championship Week odds list No. 5 Oregon at -9.5 against No. 3 Washington in the Pac-12 title game on Friday.

On Saturday, No. 7 Texas is -14 against No. 19 Oklahoma State in the Big 12 title game, No. 1 Georgia is -5 against No. 8 Alabama in the SEC title game (4 p.m. ET, CBS), No. 4 Florida State is -3.5 against No. 15 Louisville in the ACC title game and No. 2 Michigan is -23 against No. 18 Iowa in the Big Ten title game. Before locking in any Championship Week college football picks, be sure to see the college football betting guide from legendary Vegas handicapper Bruce Marshall.

For years Vegas-based Marshall was synonymous with The Gold Sheet, the famed sports betting newsletter. With a background in play-by-play work and sports information while in college, Marshall joined TGS in 1981 when hired by the legendary Mort Olshan and served as executive editor for many years. He now supplies his unique and colorful brand of football and basketball analysis to SportsLine members.

An in-demand guest on numerous sports talk radio and TV shows across the country, Bruce’s vast array of editorial work has been featured in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the New York Post and many other outlets. He has won various handicapping titles and also is working on several book projects.

Now, using his Tech Corner technique, Marshall has turned his attention to the latest college football odds for Week 14 and evaluated each matchup. Head here to see every pick.

Top college football predictions for Championship Week
One of the top college football picks Marshall is recommending for Week 14: He is backing No. 2 Michigan to cover the 23-point spread against No. 18 Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. He also likes the Under (35) in that matchup.

Michigan failed to cover in its first four games of the season, but has gone 6-2 against the spread since that point. The Wolverines tacked on a late field goal in The Game against Ohio State last week to win by six and cover the 3-point spread in that one. And while these teams didn’t meet in 2023, Michigan covered a 10.5-point spread when they played in 2022. Iowa is also on a seven-game Under streak, making that the value play on the total.

“The Wolverines are 11-3-1 vs. line in Big Ten play since early 2022, and 17-5-2 vs. points in Big Ten play since late 2021,” Marshall told SportsLine. See which other picks to make here.

How to make college football picks for Championship Week
Marshall has evaluated every other matchup and he’s backing a team on a 17-7 roll against the spread. Get betting analysis for each matchup at SportsLine.

 Aggies bring back former defensive boss after successful run leading Duke

Texas A&M has hired Duke’s Mike Elko as its next football coach, the school announced on Monday. The former Aggies defensive coordinator emerged as the top choice, sources told CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd, one day after a pending deal between Texas A&M and Kentucky coach Mark Stoops reportedly fell apart.

“Coach Mike Elko is one of the best leaders and coaches in college football and has had high-level success at each stop of his career,” Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said. “He is known amongst coaching circles as one of the best defensive minds in the country and has shown his ability to lead and turn around a program as a Power 5 head coach.”

Elko, 46, quickly became a favorite among Texas A&M faithful after a highly successful run with the Aggies as defensive coordinator under former coach Jimbo Fisher. He came to Texas A&M after successful stints at Wake Forest and Notre Dame as part of Fisher’s initial staff in 2018. Under his watch, the Aggies defense ranked among the best units in the country, especially against the run.

During his tenure as defensive coordinator, Texas A&M went 34-14, capped by a 9-1 Orange Bowl campaign in 2020. The Aggies also began their run recruiting at an elite level, during which they were especially effective when it came to locking down standout prospects on the defensive side of the ball.

The longtime defensive coordinator left to take over at Duke in 2022. In his first season, Elko led the Blue Devils to an impressive 9-4 campaign, its best mark since 2014. He followed it up with a 7-5 record in 2023 despite dealing with major issues at the quarterback position.

After Elko left Texas A&M, the Aggies went just 12-12 over the next two seasons. Fisher was fired just 10 games into his sixth season earlier this month. Elko is now tasked with guiding Texas A&M back to SEC contention as the league prepares to add Texas and Oklahoma in the 2024 season.

Texas A&M interim coach Elijah Robinson, who was hired away from Baylor as part of Elko’s first defensive staff with the Aggies, is expected to stay on Elko’s staff. Several players had publicly expressed support for Robinson to receive the full-time job.

Maintaining the roster
Texas A&M recruited at an elite level over the past several years, reaching No. 4 in the 247Sports Team Talent Composite. Hiring Elko and retaining Robinson is a direct attempt to try and keep together one of the most talented rosters in Texas A&M history.

Star wide receiver Evan Stewart, a former five-star recruit, did not travel with the team to play against LSU. Fellow wide receiver Raymond Cottrell officially entered the portal and is rated the No. 3 overall player. More players could be on their way to the portal if things aren’t handled right. Elko is the safest option to salvage this talent and field a strong team in 2024 as he begins his quest of guiding the Aggies to prominence in an expanded SEC.

Leaning on substance
Texas A&M was linked with numerous high-profile candidates over the course of the search but ultimately decided to lean with familiarity over flash. The good news? Texas A&M has found success in the past with a similar plan.

After Jackie Sherrill resigned in 1988, the Aggies promoted legendary defensive coordinator R.C. Slocum to the top position. He went on to become the most successful coach in modern program history. His 72.2% winning percentage ranks as the best since Dana X. Bible in 1928 as Slocum won four conference championships in 14 years. The Aggies have not won a conference crown since.

Key assistants
One of the greatest stumbling blocks for a defensive coordinator becoming a head coach is overlooking the offense. Elko quickly dismissed that concern, hiring well-regarded offensive coordinator Kevin Johns from Memphis to run his offense at Duke. Despite playing a backup quarterback for half the season, the Blue Devils averaged nearly 28 points per game.

Elko will have an open checkbook to put together his staff, especially considering that he should come at a relative bargain. According to tax documents, Elko made just $3.5 million after signing a contract extension through 2029 at Duke. The Aggies can double his salary and still identify the top choices on the market.

A handful of former Texas A&M assistants followed Elko to Duke, including defensive coordinator Tyler Santucci and cornerbacks coach Ishmael Aristide. Elko will have to weigh bringing the band back together vs. looking forward with proven SEC pros on his first staff.

Proven model likes Florida State, Iowa

Top-ranked Georgia will try to finalize its spot in the College Football Playoff when it faces No. 8 Alabama in the SEC Championship game on Saturday afternoon (4 p.m. ET, CBS). The Bulldogs capped off their third straight undefeated regular season with a 31-23 win over Georgia Tech last week, despite missing three of their top five receivers and a starting offensive lineman. They are 5-point favorites against Alabama in the latest Championship Week college football odds from SportsLine consensus. Which team should you back with your Championship Week college football bets?

There are eight other conference title games on Saturday during the Championship Week college football schedule, along with a pair of Week 14 games on Friday night. No. 6 Oregon (-9.5) needs a win over No. 4 Washington in Friday’s Pac-12 title game to keep its CFP hopes alive. Before locking in any Championship Week college football picks on those games or others, be sure to see the latest college football predictions from SportsLine’s proven model.

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every FBS college football game 10,000 times. Since its inception, it has generated a strong profit of well over $2,000 for $100 players on its top-rated college football picks against the spread. It finished the 2023 regular season a profitable 13-9 on top-rated spread picks. Anyone who has followed it has seen huge returns.

Now, it has turned its attention to the latest college football odds for Championship Week and locked in picks for every FBS matchup. Head here to see every pick.

Top college football predictions for Championship Week
One of the college football picks the model is high on during Championship Week: No. 5 Florida State (-3) remains unbeaten with a convincing win over No. 10 Louisville in the ACC Championship on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET). The Seminoles are without star quarterback Jordan Travis (leg) for the rest of the season, but they overcame his absence in a 24-15 win at Florida last week. They trailed the Gators 12-0 in the second quarter before going on a 14-0 run to get back in the game.

Backup quarterback Tate Rodemaker did not post flashy numbers, but junior running back Trey Benson stepped up with 95 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The Seminoles have not allowed more than 20 points in a game since September, so that will be a huge hurdle for Louisville to overcome. The Cardinals are coming off their second loss of the season, and SportsLine’s model has Florida State covering in well over 50% of simulations.

Another prediction: No. 17 Iowa (+23) easily stays within the spread against No. 3 Michigan in the Big Ten title game on Saturday in an 8 p.m. ET kickoff. The Hawkeyes have won seven of their last eight games, with the lone loss coming by just two points against Minnesota in October. They extended their winning streak to four games with a 13-10 win at Nebraska last Friday, giving them an extra day to rest before the conference championship.

Meanwhile, Michigan is coming off a battle against then-No. 2 Ohio State in an emotional rivalry game, needing to withstand a late rally from the Buckeyes. The Wolverines have not scored more than 31 points in three straight games, and they are facing one of the premier defenses in college football on Saturday. The model expects this to a result in a low-scoring game that features Iowa covering the spread well over 60% of the time. See which other teams the model likes here.

How to make college football picks for Championship Week
The model has also made the call on who wins and covers in every other FBS matchup in Week 14, and it’s calling for several teams to win by double digits. You can only get every pick for every game at SportsLine.

So what college football picks can you make with confidence, and which teams win by double digits? Check out the latest college football odds below, then visit SportsLine to see which teams win and cover the spread, all from a proven computer model that has returned well over $2,000 in profit since its inception, and find out.

College football odds for Championship Week
See full Championship Week college football picks, odds, predictions here.

Friday, Dec. 1

2023 Conference USA Championship Game: New Mexico State at Liberty (-10.5, 54)

2023 Pac-12 Championship Game: Oregon vs. Washington (+9.5, 67)

Saturday, Dec 2

2023 MAC Championship Game: Miami (OH) vs. Toledo (-8, 46)

2023 Big 12 Championship Game: Oklahoma State vs. Texas (-14, 55)

2023 Mountain West Championship Game: Boise State at UNLV (+3, 58.5)

2023 SEC Championship Game: Georgia vs. Alabama (+5, 55.5)

2023 AAC Championship Game: SMU at Tulane (-4, 50.5)

2023 Sun Belt Championship Game: Appalachian State at Troy (-6.5, 51.5)

2023 ACC Championship Game: Louisville vs. Florida State (-3.5, 51)

2023 Big Ten Championship Game: Michigan vs. Iowa (+23, 35.5)

Washington up to No. 3, Ohio State falls from top five in CBS Sports 133

The regular season is in the books, and while there are crucial games remaining in the College Football Playoff race, most of the work has been done when it comes to ranking all 133 FBS programs for the 2023 season.

With a full data set of 12 games, the experts from CBS Sports and 247Sports who vote in the CBS Sports 133 have mostly settled on their order by the time we get into Week 13. Unexpected upsets and important results that can decide some tiebreakers up and down a ballot always occur in the final week of the regular season, but when chalk holds, so too will a majority of spots in the rankings.

So it comes as no surprise that the top 14 teams from last week’s CBS Sports 133 are still in the top 14, with just two notable adjustments.

Ohio State dropped from No. 3 to No. 7 after a 30-24 loss at Michigan, which held its spot at No. 2 behind Georgia at No. 1 after the win. The Buckeyes landed one spot ahead of Alabama, which is notable for playoff debates, but are the third one-loss team in the rankings behind Oregon and Texas.

Washington moved up for the second week in a row thanks to the opening, taking over the No. 3 spot after bumping Florida State from No. 4 one week ago. The Seminoles, which survived a hard-fought win at Florida in its first game without Jordan Travis at starting quarterback this season, are also up one spot in a return to No. 4.

Louisville’s fall from No. 9 to No. 14 after losing at home to Kentucky had a similar impact on the rankings; the teams that were No. 10 to No. 14 in last week’s rankings all moved up one spot without a change in the order. That shake-up means, among other things, a return to to the top 10 for Oklahoma, which finished the year on a three-game winning streak after taking a tumble in the rankings in early November following back-to-back losses to Kansas and Oklahoma State.

The biggest week-to-week change for teams that were ranked in the top 30 last week was a seven-spot drop for Kansas State after losing a snow-covered shootout at home to Iowa State. For more on the Wildcats and other notable ranking adjustments following Week 13 action, check out the Mover’s Report below the top 25 table.

College football experts from CBS Sports and 247Sports contribute ballots each week, which are averaged together for our rankings. You can see the top 25 below and 26-133 on our rankings page.

Dan Mullen shoots down Syracuse coaching rumors as ex-SEC coach removes self from consideration

Well, it’s safe to scratch one name off Syracuse’s head coaching search list — and it’s one of the biggest that has been making the rounds. Despite his status as a potential candidate and some smoke that there was serious interest between the two sides, Dan Mullen took to social media to nip any rumors in the bud. Mullen had initially sent out a post defending Ohio State coach Ryan Day after his loss to Michigan. One user responded with a GIF featuring Syracuse players dancing, and Mullen saw that as an opportunity to officially withdraw from the running.

“Love the cuse. But will not be the next head coach.” Mullen wrote.

Mullen, who currently serves as a college football television analyst, has been a hot name to return to coaching since his tenure with Florida ended in 2021. He has a buyout from UF that will net him at least $1 million each year through 2027.

Mullen got off to an outstanding start with the Gators, though the program suffered a sharp decline in his final year. He was hired in 2018 and won at least 10 games in each of his first two seasons, claiming a pair of New Year’s Six bowl victories (Peach and Orange) and guiding the Gators to back-to-back top-10 finishes in the AP Top 25 poll.

Florida won the SEC East in 2020 and came just six points short of beating Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. The Gators looked like they had a strong chance to keep things rolling in 2021 amid a 3-1 start to the year, but a series of upset losses to unranked opponents and a record that dropped to 5-6 led to Mullen’s firing on Nov. 21, 2021.

Prior to his time at Florida, Mullen enjoyed a successful stint at Mississippi State. Taking the job in 2009, he inherited a team that had just one winning season since the turn of the century. He led State to a 9-4 finish in his second year. In 2014, he guided the Bulldogs to their first 10-win season in 15 years. He finished his time at Mississippi State with a 69-46 overall record with a 5-2 showing in bowl games. He is 103-61 in his career as a head coach.

As the heat is turned up on Ohio State’s Ryan Day, don’t blame him if he looks for a way out

There are three goals at Ohio State: win national titles, win the Big Ten and beat Michigan. If you accomplish all three, you become a legend. If you only accomplish two of them, you’re beloved. If you only accomplish one of them, it better be beating Michigan.

Ryan Day hasn’t accomplished any of those goals for three years running. That’s why a coach who has gone 56-7 as coach of The Ohio State Buckeyes and 40-3 in conference play finds himself on the receiving end of a lot of anger and frustration from the Ohio State fanbase. And none of this should come as a surprise.

I said this would be the case last year. The night of last season’s 45-23 loss to Michigan, I said on The Cover 3 Podcast reaction show that if Ryan Day and Ohio State failed to beat Michigan for the third straight time and didn’t win the Big Ten, he’d be in trouble. The pitchforks, which were already being polished, would finally come out.

I also said none of it would make sense, but things making sense and the sport of college football don’t find themselves in the vicinity of one another too often. While the SEC has developed a reputation of fan derangement (commonly referred to as “passion”), it is not the sole possessor of delusion amongst its constituency.

A sane person looks at the situation and points out Ryan Day has lost seven games. Those losses have come to Clemson (2019 CFP semifinal), Alabama (2020 title game), Oregon (2021 regular season), Georgia (2022 CFP semifinal) and the three losses to Michigan. Oregon is the “worst” loss of the bunch, and the Ducks reached the Pac-12 Championship Game that season. That sane person says three playoff appearances and a Rose Bowl in your first four years as coach are incredible accomplishments and points out the Buckeyes were a missed 50-yard field goal away from likely winning a national title last season. A sane person says these things. A college football fan says, “Yeah, but they’ve lost to Michigan three times in a row, stupid.”

Neither one is wrong.

Day certainly realizes this. It’s evident by everything that the Buckeyes have done in 2023. Following last season’s loss, Day initially planned to give up play-calling duties to Brian Hartline. It was short-lived, but while Day continued to call plays, there was a noticeable difference in Ohio State’s offense this season, and not only because C.J. Stroud was gone.

Plenty of detractors felt Ohio State’s problem with Michigan was a result of Michigan being the “tougher” team. Ohio State was “soft.” Given that Ohio State suddenly played a style of football that looked a lot more like the Michigan teams that have beaten it lately (goodbye style points, hello mashing teams into the dirt), and that Day’s reaction to pulling off a great win at Notre Dame earlier this year was to yell at Lou Holtz for questioning his team’s toughness, it’s clear the talk got to him. It’s also a testament to Day’s leadership that, despite all of his success, he still felt there were things he had to improve.

But it doesn’t matter because Ohio State lost to Michigan. Again. The good — or sane — news is that, while the pitchforks are out, I don’t see Ohio State firing Ryan Day any time soon. Both because the people in charge aren’t as insane as the fans and because athletic director Gene Smith is retiring next summer. I’m not sure Smith wants firing Ryan Day and conducting a coaching search to be the coda to what’s been an incredibly successful run in Columbus, Ohio..

That doesn’t mean Day will be back next year, though. The rumors that he’d leave Ohio State for Texas A&M (because there’s no better way to escape the pressure of unrealistic expectations than by taking the Texas A&M job!) or any other school is silly, but if news breaks that Day has accepted an NFL head coaching job this offseason, it won’t be much of a surprise. Ohio State is one of the best jobs on the planet for a football coach, but it’s also one of the most difficult.

Leaving it could be the sanest decision of all.

Bad Process, Good Result of the Week
Speaking of delusional fan bases, Texas A&M has a new coach. It’s Duke’s Mike Elko. It’s a great hire for Texas A&M, and I have no idea how it will work out. It was nearly a disaster, however.

News broke Saturday night that A&M was on the verge of naming Kentucky’s Mark Stoops its new head coach, but it was short-lived. Whether it was backlash from the fan base, Mark Stoops changing his mind, or both, the deal went south quickly. Whatever happened, I was worried that Texas A&M was about to make the same mistake it’d made before. When powerful boosters are involved, schools often worry about showing off with their coaching hire rather than making a sensible move (again, sanity and college football do not run in the same circle) and trying to win the press conference when they need to be trying to win games.

Initial fan (and possibly booster) revolt against Stoops was an indication this could be happening in College Station, where the Kentucky coach might not have been good enough for the Aggies despite the fact he’s had more 10-win seasons in the SEC at a tougher place to win than A&M has. But then the Aggies went and redeemed themselves.

Mike Elko is precisely the kind of coach the program needs. It’s the kind of hire that says you have high expectations, but you also know you have plenty of work to do to achieve them, and the work isn’t simply “have a high-ranked recruiting class.” Elko is familiar with College Station, having spent time there as a defensive coordinator, and he won a lot of games in a short time at Duke and likely would’ve won a few more had his star quarterback Riley Leonard not gone down with an injury at the end of a loss to Notre Dame.

UPS Driver of the Week
The UPS man dropped off a package and saw The Crimson Tide deliver a miracle. #RollTide #

— Chris Roberts (@MassComm101) November 26, 2023
I know I’ve spent a lot of time calling college football fans insane in this column, but I remind you that I am a college football fan myself. I speak from experience. I also know that college football fans know how to treat other college football fans, so when you’re home trying to watch the Iron Bowl, and the UPS driver is ringing your doorbell, you ask them if they want to come in and watch Alabama pull off a miracle.

As I watched the Iron Bowl, I spent the entire time thinking Alabama would win the game. It had beaten itself more than Auburn was beating it, and I figured the universe would sort itself out before the clock expired. But then Alabama kept beating itself in the final minutes, and when that snap near the goal line went flying past Jalen Milroe I finally thought Alabama was going to lose to Auburn a week after Auburn had lost to New Mexico State.

But then fourth-and-31 happened. While Alabama has had plenty of things go its way over the years, it must’ve felt nice to be on the winning end of an Iron Bowl miracle for once.

Saddest Photo of the Week
‘till next time

— The Duck (@TheOregonDuck) November 25, 2023
I never thought a photo of two mascots would stir such emotion in me, but I fully admit to getting teary-eyed when I saw this tweet. Rivalry week is always an excellent reminder of what the foundation of this wonderful sport is, and I remain concerned that we continue to chip away at that foundation with each passing season.

Don’t worry; I won’t yell at clouds this week. Instead, I’ll say that on Friday night, watching Oregon dismantle Oregon State to clinch a spot in the Pac-12 Championship, I briefly wondered if the Ducks weren’t playing like the second-best team in the country at the moment. After watching Michigan beat Ohio State, I’ll bump them down to third.

Still, the point is, while it isn’t perfect, this is an Oregon team I wouldn’t want to see in the College Football Playoff. They’ll never admit it publicly, but I guarantee you there are coaches on staffs at CFP contenders who will be rooting for Washington on Friday night.

Close Call of the Week
Following yesterday’s Apple Cup win, Washington improved to 6-0 in one-score games this season. The Huskies are the only team in the country with more than four one-score wins and no one-score losses (Mizzou, Tulane and Ole Miss are all 4-0).

— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) November 26, 2023
Speaking of Washington, the Huskies did it again. They improved to 12-0 with a walk-off field goal to beat Washington State in the Apple Cup 24-21. It’s nothing new for the Huskies, who won their first four games of the season by an average of 32.8 points per game and have won the last eight by an average of 6.1.

All wins count the same in the standings, no matter the final score, but this season has to have taken at least 10 years off the lives of Washington fans. I’m sure they’ll gladly pay the price if it ends with at least a Pac-12 title.

Social Media Graphic of the Week

— Rice Football (@RiceFootball) November 25, 2023
Looks delicious.

Market Inefficiency of the Week

I saw the future of college football while watching Florida State outlast Florida in an ugly 24-15 game Saturday night. It was a battle of two teams down to their backup quarterbacks, though the stakes were much higher for Florida State.

It got me thinking about something we may see programs like Florida State and others with national title hopes start to do. There are a lot of quarterbacks in the transfer portal every year, and for the most part, they’re all there in search of playing time elsewhere.

But in this age of NIL, will we see the powerhouse programs search for backup QB options and lure them with paydays? I see a guy like Mississippi State’s Will Rogers enter the portal and think that’d be a great guy to have as a backup at Georgia, Ohio State, Florida State, or wherever. Rogers is good enough to start elsewhere, but he’s already put plenty on tape during his career. If he wants to play in the NFL one day, teams know who he is, and I’m not entirely sure how much he’ll improve his draft stock starting somewhere else in 2024.

He could improve his bank account quite a bit, though.

I use Rogers as an example, but it could be an experienced QB from anywhere. It’s the most valuable position in the sport, and considering college football doesn’t have a salary cap, it would make sense to invest in the entire depth chart, not just your starter. Sure, it would make recruiting and keeping kids out of high school more difficult, but it’s already nearly impossible to keep a kid in your program at the position if he doesn’t have a direct path to playing time. The possible reward is greater than the risk.

Box Score of the Week
Final: Iowa State 42, Kansas State 35

Look at this damn box score.

Total plays: 102-35!!!

— Max Olson (@max_olson) November 26, 2023
So how does a team go about scoring 42 points and gaining 488 yards on only 35 plays? Easy! It scores on a 71-yard touchdown run, a 77-yard touchdown run, a 60-yard touchdown run, a 79-yard touchdown pass, an 82-yard touchdown pass, and a 33-yard touchdown pass.

Yep, Iowa State’s six touchdowns in the game averaged 67 yards. None of its touchdown drives lasted longer than four plays, as running back Abu Sama finished with 276 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 16 carries, while Jaylin Noel caught 3 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns. How did Kansas State allow so many big plays?

Well, it snowed, and Iowa State wore white. It’s possible Kansas State couldn’t see them.