Monday, October 31, 2016

Northwestern's Coffey looks to rewrite the script in the 2016-17 season

                          Photo Credit: Steven Herrera/Northwestern Athletics

Everywhere you look in the previous three seasons for Northwestern women’s basketball, the name Nia Coffey is imprinted into most statistical sheets.

The senior produced 19 20-plus point games in the 2015-16 season and has scored in double figures in the last 50 games (third longest in NU history).

No matter the individual statistics, Coffey wants to put a 4-14 mark in Big Ten conference play, after being ranked as high as No. 12 and a 12-1 record in the non-conference season in the rear view mirror.

“I am definitely excited to have one more chance to turn things around from last season,” Coffey said. “Our team definitely has all the pieces necessary to be successful and it is a matter of putting things together.”

Despite the setbacks, Coffey enjoys creativity off the court. In early October, the Northwestern athletic marketing department took a smooth twist from Ice-T's "Lemonade" ad for Geico and created a campaign centered around "Coffee". 

“I never thought I would have a campaign for myself, so I thought it was really cool,” Coffey said. “I love our marketing people and are really creative with a nice vision.”

In her second go-around as a captain, Coffey, along with fellow senior classmates and captains Ashley Deary and Christen Inman lead the Wildcats into a challenging non-conference slate against 2015-16 NCAA Tournament teams Missouri State, DePaul and Florida.

Enter Sides, exit Green:

After one season as an assistant coach to Joe McKeown, Shauna Green was named as the women's basketball coach at Dayton on Sept. 12.

The Wildcats filled the vacancy on Oct. 6 with Christie Sides tabbed as the replacement for Green. Sides served as an assistant coach for the WNBA's Chicago Sky over the last six seasons and McKeown sarcastically hoped Elena Delle Donne would be a part of the package.

“She was supposed to bring Elena Delle Donne with her and that was the first thing that didn’t go well,” McKeown said in a joking manner.

In the three-plus weeks on the job, Sides' work ethic has stood out for McKeown.

“[Christie] has done a great job so far and brings tremendous energy to our program. Coming out of the WNBA, where training and schedules are different, Sides has a relentless approach to basketball and is a great individual teacher for our players.”

Northwestern projected starting lineup:

G Ashley Deary (5-4, SR)
G Jordan Hankins (5-8, SO)
G Christen Inman (5-10, SR)
Nia Coffey (6-1, SR)
F Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah (6-2, SO)

Northwestern schedule highlights:

Nov. 19 at No. 21 DePaul

Nov. 25 vs No. 24 Florida

Dec. 1 vs Virginia (Big Ten/ACC Challenge)

Jan. 3 vs No. 6 Ohio State

Jan. 5 at No. 5 Maryland

Jan. 17 vs No. 22 Michigan State

Social Media:

Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Penn State-Purdue photo gallery

For those who have followed CSO over the last two-plus seasons, my photo galleries were the norm until I decided to cut back to select games this season.

Well, I am back with some cool photos from yesterday's Penn State-Purdue game.


Social Media:

Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Art of Saquon: The science behind Saturday's balanced performance at Purdue

                                   Photo Credit: Geno Green

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley's balanced effort led the No. 24 Penn State Nittany Lions (6-2, 5-1 Big Ten East) to a convincing 62-24 win at the Purdue Boilermakers (3-5, 1-4 Big Ten West) in West Lafayette, IN on Saturday.

Barkley produced a season-high 207 yards on 18 carries and scored two touchdowns, to go along with a game-high 70 yards on three receptions, highlighted by a career-long 81-yard touchdown run 1:04 into the fourth quarter.

PSU wide receiver Chris Godwin believed in Barkley all game and the long run signified the momentum it could bring into the November stretch run in the Big Ten.

"For [Saquon] to be able to break a long run like that, it could help him moving forward," Godwin said. "He's a humble guy and easy to root for."

The calmness of Barkley was on full display after the game as he deferred to the playcalling from offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Joe Moorhead and blocking from the offensive line for the long score.

"[Moorhead] called the play and told the o-line to block him because he is going to take it from 81 yards out and it was kind of funny after I scored the touchdown," Barkley said. 

"Obviously, we believed in the call, but it is amazing to score an 81-yard touchdown run and the line did an amazing job on that play."

Barkley's instincts to make his teammates around him better rubbed off on quarterback Trace McSorley, as he threw 228 yards and three touchdowns in the win.

"The confidence I have as a quarterback, to be able to give the ball to [Saquon] and get him in space, where he can get a 15-yard run, or one from 81 like today is big," McSorley said. "It's a huge compliment to our offense to have a guy like that and do things anytime with the ball."

The first drive of the game witnessed Barkley's skill set on full display with two catches for 49 yards and three rushes for 13 yards, capped off by a three-yard TD rush up the middle to open the scoring 3:27 in.

Despite the fast start, Barkley and the Nittany Lions offense could not muster much more as they went into the halftime tied at 17 against the underdog Boilermakers, but Godwin believed Barkley could bounce back in the second half.

"If you're not having a great game early on, you want to help your team as much as possible," Godwin said. "All [Saquon] wants to do is contribute to our team's success."

After middle linebacker Brandon Smith's interception on Purdue's first drive, Barkley worked with a short field from the PUR 24 and rushed for 24 yards on three carries, which helped set up a McSorley to Godwin touchdown pass from a yard out to put Penn State back up seven in the early stages of the second half.

Another gift came off a PSU fumble recovery on Purdue's punt return as Barkley's longest rush of the day to that point on a 20-yard run plow, which helped set up a four-yard touchdown run from Andre Robinson to increase its lead to 14.

With Purdue going three and out on its next drive, Barkley went over 100 yards for the third time this season on a 17-yard rush to help set up a 29-yard make from placekicker Tyler Davis to give Penn State its largest lead of the day at 17 with 4:21 left in the third quarter.

Barkley and the Nittany Lions would not look back as they won a true road game for the first time since Nov. 8, 2014 (at Indiana, 13-7).

Similar to last season, Penn State stands at 6-2, but can Barkley carry the load and avoid a late-season meltdown like last year?

Only time will tell.

Social Media:

Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Pick Six: Week 9 CFB Slate

                                  Photo Credit: Geno Green

Welcome to another edition of Pick Six as CSO contributor DaVaughn Lucas, Sports Talk 313's Ryan Larimore and WJR 760 Detroit's Sean Baligian pick five of the top college football games of the weekend, with a sixth game as the wild card.

Baligian went a perfect 6-0, Larimore went 4-2 and Lucas brought up the rear at 3-3 last week.

Here are the season standings as we head into Saturday's games:


Bailgian     36-12        -
Lucas         27-21        9
Larimore   26-22       10

Week 9 Games:

                                                              Baligian             Lucas           Larimore

Miami (FL) at Notre Dame                Miami (FL)       Miami (FL)    Miami (FL)

Texas Tech at TCU                                  TCU                 TCU              TCU

Nebraska at Wisconsin                        Wisconsin         Nebraska       Wisconsin

Clemson at Florida State                      Clemson         Florida St.     Florida St.

Washington State at Oregon State   Washington St. Washington St. Washington St.

Wild Card Game:

Maryland at Indiana                              Indiana         Maryland          Indiana

Social Media:

Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.

No. 21 DePaul eyes another run deep into March as the 2016-17 season approaches

                            Photo Credit: DePaul Athletics

Despite making its second trip to the Sweet 16 in three seasons, the No. 21 DePaul Blue Demons continue to strive to be among the elite.

For that to become a reality, the offensive philosophy will have to take a detour as forward Mart'e Grays' season ended with a torn achilles tendon during fall practice. Coach Doug Bruno knows the focus will change as a result of Grays' absence.

“It was an unfortunate injury because she [Mart’e] was really coming into her own last season,” Bruno said. “It is one of those injuries where no one can answer it and we have some time to figure out whether it will be two guys up front or small ball. Despite what has happened, I expect our team to very good.”

With Grays out, senior forward Jacqui Grant's role could be increased as more than a shooter that can stretch the floor. Grant averaged 8.6 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, to go along with 31.7 percent from three-point range in 31 contests last season.

Should the Blue Demons opt to play a smaller lineup, expect freshmen Deja Cage, Kelly Campbell and Chante Stonewall to compete for playing time off the bench.

The Blue Demons stare a down a daunting non-conference slate which features three of the top four teams in the preseason USA Today Coaches poll with four-time defending national champion and top-ranked Connecticut, No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 4 Baylor.

Playing big games are what the Blue Demons live for and with the graduation of 2015-16 BIG EAST Player of the Year Chanise Jenkins and Megan Podkowa, preseason conference POTY Jessica January and Brooke Schulte are expected to step up for senior leadership.

“They are definitely big shoes to fill, but we are not going to be able to replace [Chanise and Megan],” January said. “Everyone on the team will have to step up and bring the same passion and energy every game and have already done that so far in the practices.”

Schulte learned last season through Bruno's vision to embrace leadership immediately as opposed to waiting for senior year to come around.

“As the season progressed, Bruno went out of his way to say that as freshmen and sophomores, you can lead and as juniors, we started developing into the leadership role,” Schulte said. 

DePaul Blue Demons projected starting lineup:

G Jessica January (5-7, SR)
G Ashton Millender (5-8, JR)
G Brooke Schulte (5-9, SR)
G Tanita Allen (5-10, SO)
F Jacqui Grant (6-3 SR)

DePaul Blue Demons 2016-17 schedule highlights:

Nov. 19 vs Northwestern

Nov. 25-27 No. 4 Baylor/No. 6 Ohio State/No. 13 Syracuse featured in the Gulf Goast Showcase (Estero, FL)

Dec. 1 at No. 1 Connecticut

Dec. 10 vs No. 2 Notre Dame

Jan. 4 vs Creighton

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

No. 24 Penn State's preparation remains even-keeled as Purdue comes calling

                       Photo Credit: The Blueprint Michigan

NOTE: Penn State cornerbacks coach Terry Smith took head coach James Franklin's place on Tuesday's Big Ten teleconference because of a funeral.

For the first time in the James Franklin era, the Penn State Nittany Lions (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten East) are ranked in the AP Poll at No. 24 as a road trip to West Lafayette, IN against the Purdue Boilermakers (3-4, 1-3 Big Ten West) takes place on Saturday (Noon ET, ABC Sports or ESPN2).

Despite scoring 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to upset No. 2 Ohio State, 24-21 on Oct. 22, the game week preparation remains the same as Penn State looks to snap a seven-game road losing streak, dating back to Nov. 22, 2014.

"We are going to approach it as business as usual," Terry Smith said on Tuesday's Big Ten teleconference. 

"We work on the belief that the next game is the most important game, no matter who the opponent is. There is more excitement given our kids are buying into the process all year and after a game like this past weekend, the buy-in becomes even greater. We have not won on the road, so this will be a good test for us to get our first road victory."

Boliermakers interim coach Gerad Parker's debut witnessed a four-point halftime lead fizzle as the then-No. 8 Nebraska Cornhuskers scored 17 unanswered points in a 27-14 loss on Oct. 22.

Even in losing, Parker knows the culture change will not come overnight and used Penn State's win against Ohio State last Saturday as an example.

"We're fighting and trying to change the future and do things like Penn State did to Ohio State last week," Parker said.

Purdue's offense leads the Big Ten in passing yards per game at 306.0 and quarterback David Blough's stats have been gaudy as he is responsible for two of three 400-yard passing games this season in the Big Ten.

Smith knows Penn State's defense could be in for a long day if the Blough can find a groove on Saturday.

"[Blough] can really throw and has some really good receivers on the perimeter who are athletic and create challenges for us," Smith said. "He has thrown for over 300 yards the last two weeks and we have our work cut it and have to figure out a way to keep the pass game to a minimum."

Parker knows its stiffest test could come Saturday as reigning Big Ten Player of the Week Brandon Bell finished with a career-high 18 tackles (seven solo).

"More than anything for us, we want to find out where [Brandon] is going to be and how he gets there and it is not an easy answer, but you have to put your best schemes together to find a way to get him blocked," Parker said. "I think there is a big piece of that in the run game to find ways to get our best players the ball first hand."

Series history:

Penn State leads the overall series at 13-3-1 and rides a seven-game winning streak over Purdue.

In the last meeting on Nov. 16, 2013, running back Zach Zwinak amassed three touchdowns in Penn State's 45-21 route of Purdue at Beaver Stadium.

Social Media:

Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Projecting the New Year's Six for Oct. 25

Welcome to the eighth New Year's six projections of the 2016 college football season.

Like last season, the projections will be based off the CSO Mock CFP Committee rankings from that very week.

Here are the eighth set of projections for this season:

Peach Bowl (CFP Semifinal):

1) Alabama vs 4) Washington

Fiesta Bowl (CFP Semifinal):

2) Michigan vs 3) Clemson

Orange Bowl:

5) Louisville vs 12) Boise State

Cotton Bowl:

7) Ohio State vs 9) West Virginia

Rose Bowl:

6) Nebraska vs 16) Utah

Sugar Bowl:

8) Baylor vs 10) Texas A&M

Social Media:

Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.

Monday, October 24, 2016

CSO Mock College Football Playoff committee Top 25 for Oct. 24

                               Photo Credit: Geno Green

Thanks to my mock selection committee for coming through and making the eighth edition of the rankings possible this season.

Biggest jump: LSU (+4) 20

Biggest fall: Houston (-15) NR

Let the debate begin as the latest rankings are here:

         Team                  Points        Last Week

1) Alabama                  200               1

2) Michigan                  192               3 (+1)

3) Clemson                  180                4 (+1)
4) Washington             179                5 (+1)

5) Louisville                 165                7 (+2)

6) Nebraska                152                9 (+3)

7) Ohio State              150                2 (-5)

8) Baylor                     149                8

9) West Virginia          134               10 (+1)

10) Texas A&M           133                 6 (-4)

11) Wisconsin             116                11

12) Boise State           114                12

13) Florida State          94                 15 (+2)

14) Florida                    93                14

15) Tennessee             77                 18 (+3)

16) Utah                       72                 16

17) Western Michigan  71                 20 (+3)
18) Oklahoma              70                 17 (-1)

19) Auburn                   67                 21 (+2)

20) LSU                       41                  24 (+4)

21) Navy                      37                  22 (+1)

22) North Carolina       31                 23 (+1)

23) Colorado                27                 25 (+2)

24) Washington State   17                NR (+2)

25) Penn State              16               NR

Others receiving votes:

Virginia Tech 11, Troy 6, Houston 3, Oklahoma State 2

Social Media:

Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.