Photo Gallery: The Penn State vs Ohio State Gameday Experience

Ohio State versus Penn State didn’t disappoint. The battle between two top ten teams, and Big Ten rivals, ended with a single point deciding the outcome. It was close enough that a Penn State two point conversion in the fourth quarter could have changed the result entirely, sending it to overtime instead of forcing the Nittany Lions to drive down the field and score on their last possession… Something that they fell short in doing.

The game was, of course, the yearly White Out for Penn State. College Gameday was there, too. As a result, the mood around Happy Valley was completely focused on the game. It was a sensation that lasted from the early hours of the morning all the way to the game itself.

Want to see what the game day was like from the perspective of your average fan?

Check out this exclusive picture album below.

New York Giants Vs New Orleans Saints: A Battle Of The Running Backs

New York Giants, Sterling Shepard, Saquon Barkley

The New York Giants hold star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and running back Saquon Barkley dear, while the New Orleans Saints prioritize Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas on the offensive side of the ball. The duos present two of the league’s most dynamic and effective play-makers, while allowing their teammates to benefit from their distraction.

While the Saints have leaned heavily on Thomas to run their passing attack, the Giants haven’t fully worked Beckham back into his normal, electrifying role. In fact, Beckham himself stated that he’s been a bit worried to unleash his full potential, saying, “when it rains, it pours.”

Thomas has faced off against some solid cornerbacks in Vernon Hargreaves, T.J. Carrie, and Brian Poole. None are in the same realm as Giants’ Janoris Jenkins, and we should expect to see the veteran corner shadow Thomas throughout the game on Sunday.

Being that defensive coordinator James Bettcher will look to lock up Drew Brees’ targets, we should expect to see a healthy dosage of Kamara. There’s no physical way to ‘stop’ the Saints’ bell-cow back, but rather contain him. We should anticipate Bettcher allocating additional resources to stopping Kamara, having Ray-Ray Armstrong, a converted safety to linebacker, spy on him for a majority of passing plays. Kamara is most dangerous in the flat, and ensuring that the defense swarms when he’s targeted is paramount.

How can the Giants truly limit the Saints’ offense?

Saquon Barkley will play a massive role in Sunday’s game. The plan will likely be to keep Brees and his offense off the field as much as possible. This requires the Giants to run the ball consistently to waste time off the clock. Barkley will need to grind out extra yardage to put Eli Manning in a position to succeed on third-down.

With the absence of WR Cody Latimer, the Giants will look towards Russell Shepard to fill in as the third wide-out. His performance in the passing game isn’t as important as his influence as a blocker. Latimer was brought in to provide blocking on the outside, as Barkley likes to bounce the ball toward the boundary to pick up extra yardage.

The bottom line, whichever team can win the time of possession and turnover battle will ultimately come out victorious in this matchup.

 

New York Giants OL Will Hernandez Earns Fantastic Grades

With the New York Giants featuring Justin Pugh as their left guard in 2017, things seemed to be solidified at the position for the most part. Going into a rebuilding year with a new front office, the narrative shifted after Pugh was allowed to sign with the Arizona Cardinals last offseason.

General manager Dave Gettleman elected to address the offensive line with his own breed…hog mollies. Former UTEP standout, Will Hernandez, was taken in the second-round of the draft, and through three weeks, the rookie guard is the highest graded offensive lineman.

A look at how well Giants’ Will Hernandez has performed:

According to PFF, Hernandez is ranked above supposed franchise quality guard Quenton Nelson, and his partner at Notre Dame, Mike McGlinchey.

Head coach Pat Shurmur commented on the influence of the rookie so far:

“Will is going to give us strength in the middle, he’s good in the run game, as well as the pass game,” Shurmur said. “I think it’s very important to anchor the inside of the pocket and the passing game, which he can certainly do. He can do all the things that you need to see from a guard and he’s been very productive.”

Hernandez entered the league with very high marks, especially in regard to his strength and ability to anchor his assignment in place. Despite his tangible abilities, he played on a team that went 0-16 last year, which would attest to him being the 8th lineman picked in the draft.

The Giants managed a steal in the second round, and come to think of it, they hit on nearly all of their 2018 draft picks.

Big Ten Football Preview & Viewing Guide For Week Five

It seems like the season just started, but we’re already five weeks into college football. This week doesn’t have as many marquee matchups, but it does have some games worth watching and Saturday evening will be capped off by one of the biggest games of the year, both in the Big Ten Conference and nationally. All of the Big Ten teams that are playing this week will have their games today, with no early midweek games this time around.

What games can fans check out?

Rutgers vs Indiana, 12:00 PM on BTN

The Big Ten Network is televising one of the first games of the day, with a noon kickoff. This isn’t one that’s going to draw in neutral fans, however, because it’s between Rutgers and Indiana. The Scarlet Knights are looking for a better showing in front of their home fans after MAC contenders Buffalo came into their house and beat them 42-13 last Saturday.

It wasn’t a pretty showing for Rutgers. They gave up two touchdowns to both the top quarterback and top running back for the Bulls, and while UB is 4-0, it’s still not a good loss considering the lower conference that Buffalo plays in. Also, losing 42-13 at home to MAC opponents isn’t a good way to keep fans in the seats for the rest of the season.

Indiana is in a better place and has three wins so far, their only loss to nationally ranked Michigan State. Based on momentum, an Indiana blowout win isn’t out of the question.

#21 Michigan State vs Central Michigan, 12:00 on Fox Sports 1

This one is the first Big Ten game of the day that features a ranked team. That ranked team is Michigan State, which should come out guns blazing and look to bounce back from the decent performance but overall loss against Arizona State, in a game where a good amount of people penciled them in as the winner. The Spartans have had a long break since that game, which was on September 8.

All of that doesn’t help Central Michigan, a team that’s 1-3 and coming off of their sole win… Which was against FCS opponent Maine. They lost all three of their opening games, but to their credit, they did face SEC opposition Kentucky as well as the Big 12’s Kansas. While neither of those schools are powerhouses, they have much more in the way of resources than the Chippewas do.

Their passing defense is actually decent, they haven’t allowed an opposing QB to throw for more than 200 yards this season after all, but they gave up almost 300 yards on the ground to Kentucky and will likely give up a lot to the Michigan State running attack led by L.J. Scott.

You can watch this game on Fox Sports 1 if you want, but don’t put too much faith in CMU to pull an upset here. Not with MSU having extra time to prepare to bounce back after their loss to ASU.

Nebraska vs Purdue, 3:30 PM on BTN

This one is interesting for the wrong reasons. Well, more specifically, it’s interesting because everyone wants to see if Scott Frost is going to pick up another loss in his rookie season as the head coach of the Huskers. It would be hard to imagine things starting this way before the season, but Nebraska’s most recent result was a blowout loss at the Big House where their defense gave up 56 points and looked like it was closer to a FCS level.

Purdue, on the other hand, has had good form in the past couple of games. A win over Boston College, a very close loss to Missouri that featured an important bad call from the referee. They were upset by Eastern Michigan before that, but it was by one point. Purdue has played everyone close this year and should come in as the favorite. Form matters, and Nebraska’s form is historically bad while Purdue has stayed in every game.

This one won’t be televised on Fox Sports, though, and you’ll have to tune into the Big Ten Network if you want to watch it at 3:30.

Northwestern vs #14 Michigan, 4:30 PM on FOX

The first of the two Big Ten games that feature top fifteen teams is Northwestern versus Michigan. The Wolverines have to go on the road for this one, and it shouldn’t be too hard of a task for them. Northwestern is struggling this season and has a couple of bad losses already after winning their season opener and looking decent in it.

Back to back home losses followed that win, against Duke and Akron. This is the last game of that home stand before Northwestern has to head back on the road to face the other major team in Michigan, the Spartans. But it doesn’t seem like they’ll get a win in front of their home crowd.

Michigan rushed for 285 yards against Nebraska while only allowing 39 yards on 30 attempts. Realistically, it’s a good result for Nebraska to make this a competitive game and not fall victim to the same fate as Michigan’s last opponent, a blowout loss where everyone couldn’t wait for it to be over by the time the fourth quarter arrived.

This game is being broadcast nationally on FOX, meaning neutrals will hope for it to be a close result.

#9 Penn State vs #4 Ohio State, 7:30 PM on ABC

It doesn’t take much explaining why this is the best game of the week. The circumstances around the meeting between these two budding rivals means that the division title may be on the line, and in turn, a trip to the Conference Championship Game and potentially a trip to the College Football Playoff. If neither team slips up for the rest of the season, it will mean that this was the game that decided the Big Ten East.

Penn State is ranked lower, but you can through rankings out the window. They’re going to change after this game no matter what the result is, anyway. Penn State can make a large gain by winning, but the loser will almost certainly fall significantly after taking their first loss. Not only that, but two Heisman contenders are battling at the quarterback position in Dwayne Haskins Jr. and Trace McSorley.

The game is a White Out, something that Penn State has mastered. You can be sure that the atmosphere will help, and it makes the result even harder to predict. If you care about the Big Ten at all, or just want excitement, this is the game to watch tonight. With it starting at 7:30, the rest of the Big Ten will have played already by the time this one kicks off.

New York Giants: Consistency Is Key Against The Saints

New York Giants, Sterling Shepard, Saquon Barkley

The New York Giants finally have a win. They started 0-2 but turned things around by defeating the Houston Texans this Sunday on the road, in a result that should be encouraging to the fans. Not only did the offense stand up to pressure this time, putting up 27 points and not having the offensive line dominated like it was in the Jacksonville game, but the defense was able to contain Deshaun Watson and his arsenal of weapons.

Now, it’s time to keep the momentum rolling. The Giants return home in week four, this time facing the New Orleans Saints. There’s some important lessons that they can take from the Houston game, as they head into this one aiming to bring their winning percentage up to 50%.

What are those lessons?

In the first half of the Houston game, the Giants looked good. They went into halftime with a big lead and the offense clicked for the first time this season, with the players that were supposed to make big plays doing their jobs. The passing game in particular looked a bit better than it had in the previous games as Eli Manning was pressured less and would finish with his highest number of yards in any game this season.

In the second half, however, things slowed down and the Texans were able to cut into the two score lead that the Giants had built up. Houston only had three points in the first, second, and third quarters. But in the fourth, they had thirteen points and Deshaun Watson threw for two touchdowns. Granted, one of them was in garbage time and at the very end of the game, but last second touchdowns are still concerning.

After all, it could happen again in a situation that actually means something. Particularly, the secondary needs to step up in the second half, because against Houston, they looked more like the secondary that showed up earlier in the season. One that didn’t stop big plays as much as it should have.

There was definitely improvement between the second game of the season and the third, but it’s not time for that improvement to stop. If the players get complacent after picking up a good win and righting some of the earlier wrongs from the Jacksonville and Dallas games, they won’t achieve the winning streak.

The Giants have enough potential to get the win. They showed that in the first half of the Houston game when they had a 20-6 lead by the end of the second quarter. But if they allow a couple of touchdown drives in the fourth quarter against the Saints, their chances of winning two straight games are much lower.

They can get the win against New Orleans, there’s no doubt about that. They just need to be themselves, and they need to do it during every quarter.

New York Giants: OLB Olivier Vernon, CB Eli Apple Injury Update

With the New York Giants preparing to face off against a high-octane New Orleans Saints offense, several influential defensive players are nursing injuries. Outside linebacker Olivier Vernon has yet to play in a regular season game and Eli Apple missed week 3 with a groin injury.

Vernon has been taking his high ankle-sprain day-by-day, but there has been minimal progress in his eventual return. This week, he was able to practice in limited fashion, partaking in a few individual drills, but not much more. On Thursday, his work load thinned out even more, which would indicate that he may have aggrevated the injury or is just taking a precautionary measure.

When asked about his injury, Vernon stated:

“Honestly you have to ask Coach Shurmur for that one,” Vernon said. “But all I could do is be out there (for practice) and when I’m out there healthy and just go from there.”

How has CB Eli Apple looked?

Apple returned to practice on Thursday, albeit in a limited fashion as well. The main priority here is that he participated, which could indicate that he might be able to give it a go on Sunday against the Saints. If Apple were to start, he would likely match up against Tedd Ginn Jr., the Saints’ speedster receiver. Additionally, he would be a big help for the linebackers and safeties trying to contain RB Alvin Kamra.

Other injury news:

DT Damon Harrison (knee), WR Cody Latimer (knee), RB Jonathan Stewart (foot) all sat out practice. According to Pat Shurmur, the absent players were taking a few days off due to wear and tear.

TE Evan Engram is expected to miss 3-4 weeks with a sprained MCL in his right knee.

 

Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis Shows His Worth Despite Injury

When New York Knicks‘ Kristaps Porzingis went down with a significant knee injury, it was expected that he would be out well into the 2018 season. The drafting of forward Kevin Knox has fueled a resurgence in energy for an organization that has struggled in recent years.

Porzingis isn’t expected to return until after the All-Star Break, and some say he might not play at all, but the fact of the matter is that his influence is much more than just ‘on’ the court.

Center Enes Kanter didn’t anticipate the Knicks’ star play to return with such high energy, especially after months of being a ghost and riding his own wave.

“He’s so engaged, man,’’ Kanter stated in awe, according to the NY Post. “Unbelievable. I talked to him on the sideline. He’s jumping, ‘I’m so pumped. I can’t wait to go [play]'”

Just the pure excitement from Kanter offers a boost of confidence and optimism for the season ahead. The Knicks are finally putting together a solid roster with legitimate depth and youth.

“I’m very excited about him,’’ Kanter said. “That shows how much he loves the team and cares about the team. He’s coming to sidelines and so pumped for us and he’s not even playing. To see an All-Star guy cheering for you, it gives you extra motivation. I think it’s important for him to come to every practice and cheer for us. To see a franchise hurt and just jumping and pumping you up, that gives you extra motivation.’’

The New York Knicks are in good hands:

The Unicorn seems to be taking a different approach to his role on the team while he rehabilitates from a torn ACL. His leadership and authority will be a good tool for the rookies on the team, and his return will be even more significant.

New York Giants: Undrafted Tight End Called Up After Engram Injury

Everything in the New York Giants versus Houston Texans game wasn’t positive. The Giants came away with the win in the end, their first of the season, but they suffered another injury. This one was to tight end Evan Engram, offering a major blow to the passing attack. Who will replace Engram while he’s out with the injury, which turned out to be a sprained MCL and will prevent him from having an immediate return?

While Rhett Ellison is the second tight end on the depth chart, a bit more depth is needed because of the injury. That depth comes in the form of undrafted free agent Garrett Dickerson, who was previously a member of the practice squad. He’ll get his shot with the main roster after a college career at Northwestern, where he had 401 yards during his senior season back in 2017.

Dickerson also had nine total touchdowns during his Northwestern career, with all of them coming in his junior and senior seasons. To make room for the move, the Giants have waived injured return man Kaelin Clay, a journeyman who only joined the Giants fairly recently. Clay, a sixth round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, was claimed by the Giants at the beginning of the month.

Despite Dickerson adding some depth, he won’t be the main player at the tight end position while Engram is out with an MCL sprain. That title belongs to Rhett Ellison, who is in his second season with the Giants after joining them from the Vikings. Through three games already, Ellison has six catches for 60 yards. Those numbers are sure to increase, however, as he spends the next few weeks as the team’s number one man at the position.

How The New York Giants Can Stop Saints’ RB Alvin Kamara

The New York Giants have a tough task ahead as they face off against a high powered New Orleans Saints offense. Featuring star running back Alvin Kamara and wide receiver Michael Thomas, the Giants will have their hands full on the defensive side of the ball.

Kamara has started the 2018 season off just as he finished 2017, on fire. He’s amassed 430 all-purpose yards and has three touchdowns to go along with it. He’s an extreme threat out of the backfield and offers immense value in the passing game. Stopping him will be the Giants’ greatest task to date.

How can the New York Giants contain Kamara in week 4?

Stopping the second-year back is nearly impossible, as he’s simply too dynamic and skillful. Containing him might be more manageable, as the Giants have some solid coverage guys that might be able to match up to some degree.

We can expect defensive coordinator James Bettcher to have a spy on Kamara at all times – safety Landon Collins will be very active in this game. The Saints often like to split Kamara out wide, similar to how Saquon Barkley was utilized last week. His speed and agility combined provide a daunting task for any cornerback or linebacker.

This clip gives an idea of just how dangerous Kamara is in the pass game. You don’t ordinarily see a running back make this type of grab, in stride, headed straight for the sideline. On this play he starts out of the slot, which poses a serious threat in the flat with linebackers in coverage.

One of the more offensive approaches to stopping Kamara will be for the Giants to use the clock to their advantage. The Saints are a very momentum based team who can get into rhythm quickly. The Giants’ offense must keep the ball for as long as possible and utilize the run game to run out the clock and pick up timely first downs. They must also score early to throw the first punch and gain an advantage.

This will be a very tactical game for Shurmur and Bettcher, and they must adapt to the new looks the Saints will throw at them on every drive.

New York Giants Have Unlocked The Best In Saquon Barkley

Some might mention that New York Giants’ rookie running back Saquon Barkley has earned a putrid 2.9 yards on 44 carries, while others would add in his two big runs that gained 92 yards on just two carries. Overall, the young back has amassed 220 total rushing yards on 46 carries, averaging out at healthy 4.7 yards per carry.

Barkley is composed of various different skill-sets, including running the ball with extreme dynamics, blocking with a strong base and upper body, and catching the ball about as well as a professional receiver. Utilizing him to the best of his abilities is tough, why? Because he’s so good at everything and you can’t simply focus on him at all times…or can you?

Over the past three weeks, the Giants have looked Barkley’s way 21 times in the passing game, which is enough to coin him as a top receiver on the team, and maybe in the league (in terms of targets and receptions). While most of them were short dump offs, he proved he can also go up and grab the high passes.

In the fourth quarter with the Giants trying to ice the game, Eli Manning threw up a pass towards the right boundary where Barkley was lined up. About 15 yards off the line of scrimmage the rookie jumped up above the defender and snagged a pass to continue the drive and ultimately get Sterling Shepard into the endzone to bring the Giants to 27 points.

The methods that head coach Pat Shurmur used to make the most of arguably his best player, were nothing next to superb. I mean c’mon, when do you ever see a running back line up as a wide-out and run an actual route that is targeted? Most of the time it’s just a distraction, but this play was focused around Barkley and the mismatches he creates.

In addition to his stellar day receiving, Barkley finished the game with a 17 carries for 82 yards, with one being a 15 yard elusive touchdown run.

What is the most impressive aspect of Saquon Barkley:

We just listed off several impressive items in regard to the powerful back, but my favorite aspect is his ability to create positive yardage from nothing. The Giants’ offensive line hasn’t been very good in the first three games, and Barkley has felt the pressure almost immediately on multiple occasions. This didn’t stop his willingness to fight and grind out the yardage to even get back to the line of scrimmage.

He’s tenacious, exciting, powerful, elusive…you name it. The Giants got a good one in Barkley, and we should continue to see him excel and improve week in and week out.