Capitals

Top 25 Preview Capsules

Top 25 Preview Capsules

No. 19 Rutgers (6-0, 3-0 Big East) at Temple (3-2, 2-0), noon (SNY)

Line: Rutgers by 5 1/2.

Series Record: Rutgers leads 19-15.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

With a win, Rutgers would improve to 7-0 for the third time since 1976 and just the second time since joining the Big East in 1991. Kyle Flood would become the first coach in the Scarlet Knights' 143-year history of college football to start 7-0. Temple looks to remain unbeaten in the Big East and establish itself as a contender against the elite team in a conference it rejoined this season.

KEY MATCHUP

Temple's defensive line vs. Rutgers' offensive line. The Owls are ranked 10th in the nation in sacks (3.2). But the Scarlet Knights have allowed just three sacks all season.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Rutgers: RB Jawan Jamison leads the conference with 665 yards rushing and 158 carries. Jamison hopes to get back on track against a Temple defense that's poor against the run after his string of 100-yard games ended at six last week when he had 64 yards on 28 rushes against Syracuse.

Temple: QB Chris Coyer has a 124.2 passer rating. He's 54 of 101 for 662 yards and six touchdowns while rushing for 302 yards and two TDs.

FACTS & FIGURES

It's the first meeting between the schools since 2004. ... The Owls are second in the conference with 176.8 yards rushing per game. ... RB Montel Harris has 275 yards rushing and three TDs in the last two games. ... Rutgers ranks second in the nation in rushing defense, yielding an average of 60.8 yards and hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 10 games. ... Scarlet Knights QB Gary Nova has 11 TD passes, including eight without an interception in the last five games. ... Rutgers leads the nation in turnover margin at plus-2.17, while Temple is 12th at plus-1.2.

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No. 21 Cincinnati (5-0) at Toledo (6-1), 7 p.m.

Line: Cincinnati by 7 1/2.

Series record: Cincinnati leads 4-2.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Bearcats face a deceptively tough road test to stay unbeaten before rivalry game at Louisville. Cincinnati has won eight consecutive games going back to last season while Toledo has won six straight since opening with an overtime loss at Arizona.

KEY MATCHUP

Toledo QB Terrance Owens vs. DEs Walter Stewart and Dan Giordano. Owens has thrown for 300 yards or more in three games this season and has deep threats in WRs Bernard Reedy and Alonzo Russell, but he must figure out how to get enough time to throw against an experienced line led by Stewart, who has seven tackles for a loss this year.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Toledo: RB David Fluellen rushed for 188 yards and two scores last week and a season-high 213 yards against Western Michigan. Getting him going is a key to key to Toledo's passing game, which is averaging 285 yards per game.

Cincinnati: RB George Winn gets overshadowed by multitalented QB Munchie Legaux, but he's making a name for himself too. Winn is averaging 104 yards per game on the ground, second best in the Big East. He's averaging just over six yards per carry.

FACTS & FIGURES

Cincinnati's eight-game winning streak is four shy of the school mark of 12 set in 2009. ... The Bearcats lead the all-time series with Toledo 4-2, but the Rockets have won the last two. Toledo most recently beat Cincinnati in the 2001 Motor City Bowl. ... The last time Toledo began a season at 6-1 was 2005 when it won nine games, including the GMAC Bowl.

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No. 22 Stanford (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12) at California (3-4, 2-2), 3 p.m. (Fox)

Line: Stanford by 2 1/2.

Series Record: Stanford leads 57-46-11.

WHAT'S AT STAKE:

Besides bragging rights and the coveted Stanford Axe in one of the country's oldest rivalries, Stanford is looking to keep pace with Oregon and Oregon State and stay in contention in the Pac-12 North. California, which has won two straight for the first time this season, is looking to stop a two-game losing streak to Stanford in the first Big Game at the remodeled Memorial Stadium.

KEY MATCHUP

Stanford QB Josh Nunes against the California defense. The Cardinal have yet to score an offense touchdown in two road games - both losses - this season, including last week's 20-13 defeat at Notre Dame in overtime. The redshirt junior played shaky in both losses. His receivers, who dropped four balls against the Fighting Irish, also have done little to alleviate the stress on Andrew Luck's successor.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Stanford: TE Zach Ertz. One of the nation's top tight ends, Ertz sat out last season's Big Game because of a right knee injury. He has a team-leading 25 catches for 371 yards and two touchdowns this year.

California: RB Brendan Bigelow. The speedy, change-of-pace back is listed third on the depth chart but has the kind of athleticism and big-play ability that gives Stanford fits. Bigelow has 23 carries for 277 yards and two touchdowns. He also has three catches for 37 yards and one touchdown.

FACTS & FIGURES

This is the 115th meeting between the Bay Area schools. ... Since the first Big Game on March 9, 1892, the schools have never played before November. ... Only 52 points separates the teams throughout the years. Stanford has outscored Cal 1,878-1,826. ... The game will mark the 30th anniversary of ``The Play,'' when Cal scored on a five-lateral, 57-yard kickoff return while the Stanford band ran on the field to win 25-20. ... Stanford held off a late surge to beat Cal 31-28 last season.

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Michigan State (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten) at No. 23 Michigan (4-2, 2-0), 3:30 p.m. (BTN)

Line: Michigan by 10.

Series Record: Michigan leads 67-32-5.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

With a win, the Wolverines can avoid a school-record, five-game losing streak against the Spartans and stay at least tied for first in the Big Ten's Legends Division. The Spartans are playing for pride in what has been a disappointing season and can boast that they made program history against college football's winningest team if they pull off an upset.

KEY MATCHUP

Michigan State QB Andrew Maxwell vs the Wolverines' D. Michigan will set up its defense to slow down RB Le'Veon Bell, who has ran for 900-plus yards and eight TDs, and force Michigan State's first-year starting QB to make plays through the air.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

MICHIGAN: QB Denard Robinson. The speedy senior has accounted for 10,000 yards of total offense in his career, but has been shut down in two straight starts by Michigan State.

MICHIGAN STATE: DE William Gholston. The senior who twisted Robinson's face mask last year and was suspended for a game for punching a Michigan lineman, will be one of the key players assigned to keep Robinson in the pocket.

FACTS & FIGURES

Michigan is a win away from being the first college football program with 900 wins. ... The Wolverines have not beaten Michigan State since 2007, when former RB Mike Hart famously referred to the Spartans as a little brother. ... The team that has more yards rushing has won 39 of the last 42 matchups. ... The winner gets - or can keep - the Paul Bunyan Trophy, a 4-foot high wooden statue that was donated by former Governor G. Mennen Williams in 1953 to celebrate Michigan State's entry into the Big Ten.

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UNLV (1-6, 1-1 Mountain West) at No. 24 Boise State (5-1, 2-0), 3:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)

Line: Boise State by 28 points.

Series Record: Boise State leads 4-3

WHAT'S AT STAKE

UNLV is trying to find a way to bounce back after a tough loss against Nevada and look for a positive start to the season's second half. The Rebels were leading by 17 at the half last week, but couldn't hold back Nevada and lost their third straight game. If Boise State is serious about winning the league title before splitting for the Big East, dispatching teams such as UNLV is paramount.

KEY MATCHUP

UNLV RB Tim Cornett vs. Boise State's front seven. Cornett is the leader of a balanced attack and comes into the game averaging 106.7 yards per game, with five games of 100-plus yards. Boise State's opponents have learned it's possible to find running lanes in the defense. The Broncos are allowing more than 161 yards per contest this year, but the front seven has shown it can close holes fast inside the red zone.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

UNLV: WR Marcus Sullivan is fourth in the conference in receiving yards with an average of 72 yards. The redshirt sophomore is quick and speedy and also a threat on kick returns. Sullivan has four touchdown catches this season and has become a favorite target of freshman QB Nick Sherry.

Boise State: LB J.C Percy is a tackling machine. The senior linebacker is third in the conference in tackles, grabs an average of 9.3 per game and is coming off a game-high 14 stops against Fresno State last week. If the Rebels hope to run the ball, they'll need to find a way to get blockers on Percy.

FACTS & FIGURES

Boise State has held opponents scoreless in the first half in each of the last four games, and in six games the defense has allowed 19 points total in the first two quarters. ... The Broncos have not trailed an opponent since taking a 15-9 lead over Miami (Ohio) with 1:43 to go in the second quarter, a span of more than 271 minutes. ... Black Out in Boise. The Broncos will be wearing all black uniforms for the first time Saturday. ... UNLV is 0-3 against the Broncos in games played in Boise. ... Sherry is already second in UNLV history for most TDs thrown in a season by a freshman with 11. ... Sherry is also leading a passing offense that ranks third in the Mountain West in yards, averaging 253 yards per game.

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Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: Are the stars aligning for another Capitals Cup run?

Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: Are the stars aligning for another Capitals Cup run?

Let’s get one thing straight: There are no easy roads to a Stanley Cup. Capitals fans know that better than most after seeing their team dominate the regular season just to get upset in the first or second round of the playoffs for several years. Having said that, seeing Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Calgary and Winnipeg all lose in the first round, it seems like things are setting up very nicely for Washington.

The Caps should have one thing and one thing only on their minds on Monday and that is the Carolina Hurricanes. Washington still needs one more win to advance and they should not catch themselves looking ahead to possible future matchups.

But we can look ahead.

The top seeds in both conferences have been eliminated in the first round for the first time. Long-time nemesis Pittsburgh is out. Either Boston or Toronto will soon be joining them plus there is a possibility that both Nashville and San Jose could still lose as well.

This is not meant to discount any of the teams the Caps could still play. Barry Trotz and the New York Islanders swept the Penguins and earned a spot in the second round. He has proven his worth as a coach and his team is going to be incredibly tough for anyone to score on, let alone beat. The Columbus Blue Jackets jumped out to a 2-0 series lead on Washington last season and got better this year as they showed Tampa Bay with a four-game sweep. Whoever comes out of the West no doubt will be a great team as well.

But if you were to draw up the best-case scenario for the Caps through the first round, having Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Calgary and Winnipeg all lose would likely be part of that scenario.

The Cup is truly up for grabs. This is true every year in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it is especially true this year. If the Hurricanes find a way to win Game 6 and shock the Caps in Game 7, we are going to look back at this season as a missed opportunity considering the number of contenders ousted in the first round.

SEE THIS WEEK’S STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF POWER RANKINGS HERE

Here are a few recent observations and thoughts on the Caps.

  • The Caps are, at their core, a physical team. That is how they ultimately find success and they went away from that earlier in the series, especially in Games 3 and 4. When they reestablished it in Game 5, they blew the Hurricanes away. Any team can play well for one game. Any team can respond after losing a really good player for one game. The real test is to see how they play in Raleigh where they were beaten so thoroughly and the offense was held to only a single power play goal and zero 5-on-5 production.
  • If you want to know why physical play still matters in today’s NHL, watch Brett Connolly’s Game 5 goal again. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton is in a footrace with Alex Ovechkin to get the puck behind Carolina’s net and he completely gives up on the play. He does not go into the boards and put himself in a position to get checked by Ovechkin. It looked like he thought the play would be called icing, but if you’re not 100-percent sure you need to get to that puck even if it means taking a hit. Hamilton looked like he wanted no part of that which allowed Ovechkin to get the puck and set up a goal.
  • The Caps may finally have settled on defensive pairings. The defense has been a work in progress ever since Michal Kempny’s injury, but Todd Reirden may have finally found three pairs he can stick with. After making his playoff debut in Game 4, Jonas Siegenthaler played on the top defensive pair with John Carlson on Saturday. We have seen Reirden mix and match his defensive pairs throughout games, but things stuck in Game 5 as Siegenthaler and Carlson played 11:19 together at 5-on-5. The most Carlson played with any other defenseman at 5-on-5 during the game was 51 seconds. I asked Reirden afterward if he felt he had found his top defensive pair and he remained non-committal saying he still would mix and match as needed depending on the situation, but the numbers speak for themselves. Siegenthaler is a defensively responsible player, he has not looked rattled at all by the forecheck and, perhaps most importantly, he’s a left-handed shot allowing Carlson to play on his natural right side. I like the look of this pair a lot.
  • Nick Jensen has had a rough series. In fact, it looks like it has been a rough transition from Detroit to Washington since he was acquired. That’s OK. Sometimes players take time to adjust to a new team and a new system, but because of that, it benefits the Caps more to have him play on the third pair than the top, especially if moving him up means playing with Carlson on the left. That’s a lot to ask. With Siegenthaler up top, Jensen moved back down to the third pair on Saturday and it was easily his best game of the series. Pairing him with Brooks Orpik allows Jensen to step more into the offense, an area of the game in which his skills are greatly underrated. Jensen looked good on both ends of the ice in Game 5 and was particularly strong on the penalty kill. He can be a top-four defenseman, but I am not sure he is ready for that type of role in Washington yet. He is a definite asset on the third pair, however, and he showed that on Saturday.

The Caps are one win away from advancing to the second round. Here is where they stand among the other playoff teams in this week’s Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings.

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: 20 prospects linked to Baltimore at No. 22

Baltimore Ravens Roundup: 20 prospects linked to Baltimore at No. 22

We've made in to NFL draft week. Here's the latest Baltimore Ravens news.

Player/Team Notes: 

1. The 2019 NFL Draft is Thursday night in Nashville, Tn. While the chances of pundits predicting each team's first-round pick accurately is about the same as picking the Powerball numbers, we can't seem to stop ourselves from looking at them. Here's a look at 20 prospects mocked to the Ravens at No. 22, courtesy of the Ravens' website.  


2. One of the many exciting parts of the NFL draft is waiting to hear which organizations trade forward or backwards to acquire a pick. Just last year, the Ravens traded back from their No. 16 pick several times to select Hayden Hurst at No. 25, before trading back into the first-round to pick Lamar Jackson at No. 32. But which trade in Ravens history was the most impactful? ESPN's Jamison Hensley selected the Ravens' trade for running back Jamal Lewis.


"In 1999, the Ravens traded their second-round pick (No. 43) for Atlanta's first-round pick in 2000, which they used to land running back Jamal Lewis," Hensley wrote. "The Falcons selected tight end Reggie Kelly, and the Ravens got what turned into the No. 5 overall pick in the 2000 draft. Baltimore drafted Lewis, who carried the offense during the team's 2000 Super Bowl championship season and recorded the NFL's fifth 2,000-yard season in 2003."


3. As Marlon Humphrey enters his third year in the league, the cornerback will not only be expected to take on a leadership role within the Ravens' new look defense, but top his impressive sophomore season. In 2018, Humphrey contested 35% of targets thrown into his coverage marking the second-best rate in all the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. 


Looking Ahead:

April 25-27: 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville, Tn.

May 3-6 or May 10-13: Potential three-day rookie mini camp

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get long-term deal done with designated franchise tag player

The 2019 NFL schedule is set!  See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

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