NFL QB power rankings: The best and worst starters going into Week 15

The Free Press WV

 32. Bryce Petty, New York Jets

Ranking after Week 12: N/A (replacing Josh McCown, No. 21)

Record as starter: N/A

DYAR rank: N/A

QBR rank: N/A

One thing to know: Most fans thought that Petty would eventually get a chance to start this season, but it took an injury to Josh McCown to make it really happen. The Baylor product came in near the end of last week’s game, completing just two out of nine passes for a 39.6 rating. In four games last year, he threw a whopping seven interceptions.


31. T.J. Yates, Houston Texans

Ranking after Week 12: N/A (replacing Tom Savage, No. 31)

Record as starter: N/A

DYAR rank: N/A

QBR rank: N/A

One thing to know: The Texans can’t be feeling good about their chances with Yates under center, but at least he isn’t much of a downgrade from Tom Savage. The UNC product hit under 54% of his targets in Week 14, and despite throwing for two touchdowns and going interception-free, the result was a 26-16 loss. It would be highly optimistic to expect a better performance this week.


30. Trevor Siemian, Denver Broncos

Ranking after Week 12: 28

Record as starter: 4-5

DYAR rank: 31

QBR rank: 31

One thing to know: Siemian didn’t do much for Denver in the first half of the season, and it has been the same old story since his Week 12 return from a month-long stay on the bench. Broncos fans can’t be happy with his performance, but after watching Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch start games, they’re fully aware that he gives them the best chance of anyone in the quarterback room.


29. Blaine Gabbert, Arizona Cardinals

Ranking after Week 12: 24

Record as starter: 2-2

DYAR rank: N/A

QBR rank: N/A

One thing to know: The Cardinals have a history of stashing effective game managers on their bench, and Gabbert has been exactly that since taking over for the injured Carson Palmer, leading them to a .500 record with an 80.8 passer rating. He’s not going to set the league on fire, but Arizona is still reportedly interested in bringing him back next season.


28. DeShone Kizer, Cleveland Browns

Ranking after Week 12: 30

Record as starter: 0-12

DYAR rank: 32

QBR rank: 30

One thing to know: Kizer delivered an up-and-down performance in Week 14. He completed over 71% of his passes and threw for 3 touchdowns, both career highs, but he also lost the game in overtime with a lazy floater that was picked off in Browns territory. It was a good indication of what to expect the rest of the way — there will still be growing pains, but Kizer is now a much better quarterback than the one we saw in the first six weeks of the season.


27. Mitch Trubisky, Chicago Bears

Ranking after Week 12: 29

Record as starter: 3-6

DYAR rank: 26

QBR rank: 32

One thing to know: Trubisky certainly hasn’t been the best rookie quarterback of this season — that title belongs to the injured Deshaun Watson — but he has demonstrated enough talent to inspire hope among Bears fans. With a 97.3 passer rating on third down, he seems to get better as the pressure grows.


26. Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis Colts

Ranking after Week 12: 25

Record as starter: 3-9

DYAR rank: 29

QBR rank: 28

One thing to know: It’s tempting to write off Brissett’s terrible Week 14 performance as a snow-induced aberration, but the reality is that he has been mired in a slump for three weeks now. After a 2-3 start, the Colts have gone just 1-7 in their last eight games. The final month of the season could be a long one, even with their easy schedule.


25. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles

Ranking after Week 12: N/A (replacing Carson Wentz, No. 2)

Record as starter: N/A

DYAR rank: N/A

QBR rank: N/A

One thing to know: Foles was electrifying the last time he took the field as the Eagles’ midseason replacement under center, posting 9.1 yards per attempt and a 118.7 passer rating en route to the 2014 Pro Bowl. No one is expecting that kind of performance this time around, but if he can be even half the quarterback Carson Wentz was, Philadelphia will be in decent shape.


24. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

Ranking after Week 12: 27

Record as starter: 7-6

DYAR rank: 30

QBR rank: 26

One thing to know: The 2012 Super Bowl MVP has been ineffective across the board this year, but believe it or not, the Ravens’ offense has exploded for a combined 82 points over the past two weeks, their best stretch of the season by a wide margin. That dominance could continue against the Browns in Week 15.


23. Eli Manning, New York Giants

Ranking after Week 12: N/A (replacing Geno Smith, No. 32)

Record as starter: 2-10

DYAR rank: 24

QBR rank: 22

One thing to know: Without a competent line to protect him, Manning just doesn’t have what it takes to power an offense — and it certainly doesn’t help that the Giants receiving corps has been ravaged by injuries this year. The Ole Miss product isn’t the worst signal caller out there, but with only tenuous job security, there’s not much reason to give him a bump on this list.


22. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

Ranking after Week 12: 18

Record as starter: 5-8

DYAR rank: 22

QBR rank: 24

One thing to know: Dalton posted a 59.7 passer rating against the Bears in Week 14, leading head coach Marvin Lewis to put in backup A.J. McCarron for the last few snaps. Dalton is clearly good enough to start in the NFL, but whether his skills are worth building an offense around is a much more difficult question. The Bengals will be on the hook for just $2.4 million if they release him after this season, so they may want to come up with an answer soon.


21. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans

Ranking after Week 12: 16

Record as starter: 8-4

DYAR rank: 25

QBR rank: 16

One thing to know: Mariota may be having a disappointing season, but he still ranks among the league leaders when it comes to politeness. After being scolded by his mother, he apologized for his “rude” behavior during a Week 14 press conference, in which the worst thing he said was that he was “###### off.“


20. Jay Cutler, Miami Dolphins

Ranking after Week 12: 26

Record as starter: 6-5

DYAR rank: 21

QBR rank: 25

One thing to know: This Vanderbilt product was far better than Tom Brady on Monday night, throwing for 263 yards and 3 touchdowns en route to a huge 27-20 win over New England. It looks like the Dolphins are going to miss the playoffs, but even if the Cutler experiment goes bust, Week 14 will be remembered as a true highlight.


19. Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills

Ranking after Week 12: 15

Record as starter: 6-5

DYAR rank: 23

QBR rank: 18

One thing to know: At 7-6, the Bills are still alive in the playoff hunt, so it seems more likely than not that Taylor will start on Sunday. If his injured left knee doesn’t improve enough, we’ll see either the backup Nathan Peterman, who remains in concussion protocol, or the third-stringer Joe Webb, who just threw his first pass in a game since the 2011 season.


18. Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers

Ranking after Week 12: 22

Record as starter: 2-0

DYAR rank: N/A

QBR rank: N/A

One thing to know: Four starts into his NFL career, Garoppolo’s winning percentage sits at a shiny 1.000. It seems that he brought some of the Patriot Way with him to the Bay Area, as the 49ers have now taken back-to-back games for the first time since 2014. The late-season success won’t help them in the draft, but it’s hard not to get excited about their young quarterback’s future.


17. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

Ranking after Week 12: 17

Record as starter: 9-4

DYAR rank: 18

QBR rank: 19

One thing to know: Newton has failed to top 200 passing yards on seven occasions this season, a high number even for a quarterback who does his best work on the ground. On the bright side, he has a chance to post his highest rushing total since 2012 — but that doesn’t mean you should expect to see him at the Pro Bowl come January.


16. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ranking after Week 12: 19

Record as starter: 2-8

DYAR rank: 13

QBR rank: 23

One thing to know: Winston hasn’t appeared in a Buccaneers victory since Week 4, but that isn’t entirely his fault — he’s actually been pretty good since returning from a shoulder injury, completing 67.1% of his passes for 555 yards in two games. But with three brutal division matchups ahead, Tampa Bay could easily finish the year at 4-12. They will have a lot to think about this offseason.


15. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars

Ranking after Week 12: 20

Record as starter: 9-4

DYAR rank: 16

QBR rank: 13

One thing to know: Jaguars fans have to be pinching themselves. Just as the league was beginning to wonder how in the world Jacksonville was going to survive in the playoffs without a legitimate quarterback, Bortles led them to back-to-back wins, posting a 70.97 completion rate and a 121.5 passer rating in the process. Perhaps most surprisingly, he did it without throwing a single interception.


14. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders

Ranking after Week 12: 12

Record as starter: 6-6

DYAR rank: 11

QBR rank: 20

One thing to know: Carr was wholly ineffective during last week’s crucial division matchup against the Chiefs, completing just 58.5% of his passes and making terrible decisions under pressure, which led to two interceptions. At least one of his predecessors was alarmed — the former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon described the performance as “terrible.“


13. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins

Ranking after Week 12: 6

Record as starter: 5-8

DYAR rank: 15

QBR rank: 12

One thing to know: Several of the Redskins’ top skill players have underachieved or become injured this season, and while Cousins has done a good job of making the most of his limited arsenal, he doesn’t have much to show for it in the past few weeks. That’s too bad, because his upcoming opponents — the Cardinals, Broncos, and Giants — would have provided a cake walk to the playoffs. At least they’ll give him a final opportunity to show what he can do before Washington makes a decision on his future.


12. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Ranking after Week 12: N/A (replacing Brett Hundley, No. 23)

Record as starter: 4-2

DYAR rank: 17

QBR rank: 6

One thing to know: Rodgers spent much of the fall impressing fans and teammates with his quick recovery from a broken collarbone, and he has finally been cleared to return for Week 15. His sterling reputation aside, we can’t expect too much in his first game back in action, especially against the Panthers’ tough defense. But if nothing else, the Cal product will be among the most intriguing players of the final three weeks of the season.


11. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

Ranking after Week 12: 14

Record as starter: 7-6

DYAR rank: 10

QBR rank: 10

One thing to know: In just 13 games, Smith has already set a new career high in passing yards, and he’s on pace to lead the league in interception rate for the second time in his career. With Patrick Mahomes waiting in the wings, there’s still a good chance he’ll be out of a job after this season, but at least he’s set himself up for a healthy payday.


10. Case Keenum, Minnesota Vikings

Ranking after Week 12: 9

Record as starter: 8-3

DYAR rank: 5

QBR rank: 2

One thing to know: The Vikings can practically taste the NFC North crown, and with 2,983 passing yards and a 96.2 passer rating, Keenum has been a huge part of that success. Per ESPN, he has also posted a 120.6 passer rating from outside the pocket, far ahead of the next signal caller on the list. A free agent at the end of the season, he should be in line for a contract that will set him up for life.


9. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

Ranking after Week 12: 7

Record as starter: 9-4

DYAR rank: 7

QBR rank: 15

One thing to know: In a clash of breakout stars — as well as the top two picks in the 2016 draft — Carson Wentz and the Eagles defeated Goff and the Rams by a score of 43-35, a thrilling outcome for a much-anticipated matchup. We’ll soon see if the big-game atmosphere helped Goff prepare for this Sunday’s showdown with the Seahawks, who trail Los Angeles by a single game in the NFC West.


8. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

Ranking after Week 12: 13

Record as starter: 7-6

DYAR rank: 14

QBR rank: 4

One thing to know: While Prescott struggled in his first few games without Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, he eventually figured things out and has been back to his old self over the past two weeks, going interception-free to post a 118.6 passer rating. Jerry Jones rewarded him with heaps of praise, saying, “We’ve got a better future because he’s gone through this period of time without Zeke.“


7. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Ranking after Week 12: 8

Record as starter: 8-5

DYAR rank: 12

QBR rank: 8

One thing to know: Wilson will very likely receive MVP support, and his case is heavily reliant on his skills as a rusher — his 482 yards on the ground are more than double the next man on Seattle’s roster. As far as advanced stats go, the passing numbers just aren’t quite there, especially when compared to those of Tom Brady.


6. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

Ranking after Week 12: 11

Record as starter: 7-6

DYAR rank: 9

QBR rank: 7

One thing to know: Stafford played with his fingers taped in Week 14, throwing a pair of interceptions, but there isn’t much concern about his status going forward. With Chicago, Cincinnati, and Green Bay on tap, the Lions will face an easy schedule as they make a last-ditch playoff push.


5. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers

Ranking after Week 12: 10

Record as starter: 7-6

DYAR rank: 2

QBR rank: 14

One thing to know: With four straight victories, the Chargers are quietly surging, and Rivers has been nothing less than the architect of that success, squeezing as much as he can out of his weapons. He’s put up an amazing statline over their latest winning stretch: 1,348 passing yards, 8 touchdown passes, a 119.2 passer rating, and not a single interception.


4. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

Ranking after Week 12: 3

Record as starter: 8-5

DYAR rank: 8

QBR rank: 5

One thing to know: Ryan hasn’t been at his best over the past two weeks, completing 55.4% of his passes for three interceptions and just one touchdown. Luckily for the Falcons, he’ll get another week to steady himself before a pair of incredibly important matchups against the Saints and Panthers, which should play a major role in deciding the division.


3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Ranking after Week 12: 4

Record as starter: 9-4

DYAR rank: 3

QBR rank: 11

One thing to know: The Saints suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Falcons in Week 14, but don’t blame Brees. The future Hall of Famer completed nearly three-quarters of his passes for a 103.4 rating, numbers that are completely in line with his season-long standards. He won’t reach 5,000 passing yards, but this could still be New Orleans’ best season in six years.


2. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

Ranking after Week 12: 5

Record as starter: 11-2

DYAR rank: 4

QBR rank: 9

One thing to know: While he hasn’t really elevated his game, Roethlisberger is holding steady as one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. He’s never going to get over his habit of throwing interceptions, but his corps of skill players, one of the best in the league, can pick him up when he stumbles. Roethlisberger threw for 506 yards in Week 14, and he’ll need every bit of that momentum for his showdown with Patriots on Sunday.


1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Ranking after Week 12: 1

Record as starter: 10-3

DYAR rank: 1

QBR rank: 3

One thing to know: Brady has been hindered by a lingering Achilles injury in recent weeks, but back-to-back lackluster games against Buffalo and Miami weren’t nearly enough to dethrone him from the top spot on this list. The Patriots still have the best passing game in the league, and it’s not particularly close. Their veteran signal caller could soon add another MVP award to his trophy case.

NFL Power Rankings – Week 14

The Free Press WV

Each week, national NFL writer Mark Maske ranks the league’s 32 teams.

This week, the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrate yet another dramatic win by climbing over New England to reach No. 1. The Patriots, who saw their eight-game winning streak and 14-game road winning streaks snapped in a “Monday Night Football” defeat in Miami, fall one spot. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Eagles spiral out of the top five thanks to Carson Wentz’s season-ending injury. And the Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons all make big moves up the list on the heels of important home victories.

1. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2) — Last Week’s Rank: 2

Remember when QB Ben Roethlisberger wondered aloud whether he just couldn’t get it done any more? No one was wondering that about Roethlisberger after his 506-yard passing performance in Sunday night’s triumph over the Ravens.

2. New England Patriots (10-3) — Last Week’s Rank: 1

Bill Belichick was outmaneuvered by Adam Gase. Tom Brady was outplayed by Jay Cutler. Nothing was very Patriot-like for the Patriots on Monday night in Miami and they suffered their nearly annual loss there. But it really makes little difference in the big picture. If the Patriots go to Pittsburgh and win Sunday, they will leapfrog the Steelers for the top seed in the AFC playoffs based on the head-to-head victory.

3. Carolina Panthers (9-4) — Last Week’s Rank: 8

The surgically repaired foot of TE Greg Olsen continues to be a concern. There is room to wonder whether the Panthers can be a Super Bowl team without a healthy and productive Olsen. But their win over the Vikings was impressive, especially given the way Carolina churned out yards in the running game.

4. Minnesota Vikings (10-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 3

Case Keenum remains the starter at QB despite throwing two interceptions in the loss at Carolina. Keenum’s performance against the Panthers was an issue. So, too, were the performances of an offensive line that allowed Keenum to be sacked six times, and a defense that permitted the Panthers to run for 216 yards.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-4) — Last Week’s Rank: 12

The crowd’s behavior at the end of Sunday’s game was not acceptable. It’s the Jaguars’ responsibility to ensure that things like that don’t happen in their stadium, and they must keep their fans under control. As for the game, beating Seattle counts as a very good win for a team that looks more promising all the time.

6. Atlanta Falcons (8-5) — Last Week’s Rank: 13

Matt Ryan’s non-MVP-like season continued with his three-interception performance Thursday night against the Saints. But the Falcons still found a way to win a game they had to have. They’re hanging around the NFC South race and they close the regular season with games against the Saints and then the Panthers.

7. New Orleans Saints (9-4) — Last Week’s Rank: 6

The late-game mistakes by QB Drew Brees and Coach Sean Payton on Thursday night in Atlanta were as surprising as they were damaging. Payton needed to worry a lot less about the performance of the officials and a lot more about controlling his own emotions.

8. Philadelphia Eagles (11-2) — Last Week’s Rank: 4

It remains a very good team around the fill-in QB, Nick Foles. But you can’t believe on one hand that Carson Wentz was the NFL’s MVP and then believe on the other hand that his absence due to a torn ACL doesn’t threaten to undo the Eagles’ season. He was the MVP for a reason.

9. Los Angeles Rams (9-4) — Last Week’s Rank:  5

The Rams are 1-2 thus far during their four-game, late-season test against the Vikings, Saints, Eagles and Seahawks (with a victory over a lesser team, the Cardinals, thrown into the mix). That stretch concludes Sunday in Seattle. If the Rams lose to the Seahawks, there will be little choice but to conclude that they aren’t quite ready yet to be on even terms with the NFC’s other top contenders.

10. Los Angeles Chargers (7-6) — Last Week’s Rank: 10

Could there actually be an argument by season’s end about which of L.A.’s two winning NFL teams is better? Few could have seen that coming at the outset of the season.

11. Seattle Seahawks (8-5) — Last Week’s Rank: 7

Seahawks players receive their share of the blame for the chaos at the end of the loss in Jacksonville. The fans should have behaved better. So, too, should have Seattle’s players. The Seahawks’ on-field performance wasn’t so great, either.

12. Baltimore Ravens (7-6) — Last Week’s Rank: 9

The Ravens cannot afford to waste an offensive performance such as the one they got Sunday night in Pittsburgh. Even the passing game was productive. They might find a way to sneak into the playoffs. But if they do, don’t expect anything more.

13. Dallas Cowboys (7-6) — Last Week’s Rank: 16

The Cowboys finally figured out how to play without suspended RB Ezekiel Elliott, winning their past two games. Unfortunately, it took them three losses without Elliott to figure it out. Facing the Redskins and Giants in the two victories didn’t hurt, either.

14. Green Bay Packers (7-6) — Last Week’s Rank: 17

The Packers most likely are not reaching the NFC playoffs, with or without Aaron Rodgers back at QB. The wise move might be to protect Rodgers from himself and keep him safely on the sideline for the remainder of the season. But there will be great pressure to allow Rodgers to play Sunday at Carolina if he’s given medical clearance to return from his broken collarbone.

15. Detroit Lions (7-6) — Last Week’s Rank: 19

It’s fair to question whether Matthew Stafford has played to the level demanded by his monstrous contract. But don’t ever question the QB’s toughness or late-game mettle. Both were on vivid display in Sunday’s gritty victory in Tampa.

16. Kansas City Chiefs (7-6) — Last Week’s Rank: 20

The Chiefs got back into the win column, but they had plenty of help from the Raiders. The competition should be far tougher Saturday night against the Chargers, who are the one team in the division actually playing well.

17. Tennessee Titans (8-5) — Last Week’s Rank: 11

There’s no excuse for the feeble loss in Arizona at a time when the Titans should be making a stretch-drive push for the playoffs.

18. Buffalo Bills (7-6) — Last Week’s Rank: 22

The Bills found the perfect cover for playing rookie QB Nathan Peterman: Have it snow so hard that even if Peterman throws an interception (or five), no one can actually see it.

19. Miami Dolphins (6-7) — Last Week’s Rank: 23

The Dolphins played well and earned their win Monday night over the Patriots. QB Jay Cutler was superb. RB Kenyan Drake was a workhorse. The Miami pass rush bothered Tom Brady and CB Xavien Howard intercepted him twice while shutting down Brandin Cooks.

20. Arizona Cardinals (6-7) — Last Week’s Rank: 24

It will be interesting to see whether Bruce Arians wants to keep coaching in Arizona beyond this season. He has done a pretty good job to keep this Cardinals team near .500. But how wearying is it at this point in his career to struggle so hard just to be mediocre?

21. Oakland Raiders (6-7) — Last Week’s Rank: 14

Did anyone tell the Raiders that they actually were playing for first place Sunday? They looked like they were going through the motions in a playing-out-the-string game. That’s actually what it should be when .500 teams get together this late in a season. But this is the pitiable AFC West.

22. Denver Broncos (4-9) — Last Week’s Rank: 31

Either the Broncos haven’t quite given up, or the Jets are truly awful. Maybe both.

23. New York Jets (5-8) — Last Week’s Rank: 15

Josh McCown’s broken hand forces the Jets to give Bryce Petty another look at QB. Why not get some playing time for Christian Hackenberg as well? There’s little reason to believe that either is the answer. But it certainly can’t hurt to find out a little more.

24. Chicago Bears (4-9) — Last Week’s Rank: 29

Mitchell Trubisky has put up the two most efficient passing games of his rookie season the past two weeks. The prized young QB perhaps could help the Bears attract a respected coach if they decide to fire John Fox.

25. San Francisco 49ers (3-10) — Last Week’s Rank: 28

So does Kyle Shanahan deserve credit for waiting until Jimmy Garoppolo was ready – really ready – to play before putting him in the lineup? Or does he deserve blame because Garoppolo should have been playing sooner? The Niners still have never lost a game started by Garoppolo.

26. Cincinnati Bengals (5-8) — Last Week’s Rank: 18

The physical and emotional toll of last Monday’s loss to the Steelers was evident in Sunday’s listless defeat to the Bears.

27. Washington Redskins (5-8) — Last Week’s Rank: 21

The Redskins’ regression over the past couple weeks undercuts the argument that Coach Jay Gruden has gotten the most out of his injury-depleted team and kept his players competing. Even so, it says here that Gruden should stay as coach and there shouldn’t be too much deliberation about it. He’s not the issue.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9) — Last Week’s Rank: 25

It isn’t looking particularly promising for Coach Dirk Koetter. The team is playing poorly and has been one of the league’s biggest disappointments this season. And now there is talk about Koetter’s relationship with QB Jameis Winston being strained.

29. Houston Texans (4-9) — Last Week’s Rank: 26

Bill O’Brien says he wants and expects to be back as the Texans’ coach. He is probably deserving of that despite this season’s struggles, given his overall performance over four years in Houston.

30. Indianapolis Colts (3-10) — Last Week’s Rank: 27

The NFL’s TV-ratings woes undoubtedly are about to end with a scintillating Colts-Broncos game on tap Thursday night.

31. New York Giants (2-11) — Last Week’s Rank: 30

A dreary season keeps getting drearier. But the guess here is that Steve Spagnuolo, the team’s interim coach, won’t consider benching QB Eli Manning this week.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-13) — Last Week’s Rank: 32

New GM John Dorsey inherits a team with a 1-28 record since the start of last season but also with two first-round picks and three second-rounders in the upcoming draft. The tendency is to say it can only get better. But it’s the Browns. So how about settling for: Even if it does get worse, it can’t get that much worse.

2017 Class AA high school football all-state teams

The Free Press WV

The Class AA all-state football team as selected by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.




QB – Jeremy Dillon, Mingo Central, Sr.

RB – Mookie Collier, Bluefield, Sr. (captain)

RB – Jake Bowen, Bridgeport, Jr.

RB – Ghovan Davidson, Robert C. Byrd, Jr.

OL – Dalton Fields, Mingo Central, Sr.

OL – Grant Dickson, Winfield, Sr.

OL – Zach Frazier, Fairmont Senior, So.

OL – Nathan Pettus, Bluefield, Jr.

OL – Mason Sipes, Berkeley Springs, Sr.

WR – Drew Hatfield, Mingo Central, So.

WR – Tayton Stout, Braxton County, Sr.

UTIL – Andrew Huff, Winfield, Sr.

UTIL – Dylan Smith, Chapmanville, Sr.

UTIL – Dalton Westfall, Liberty-Harrison, Sr.

K – George Triplett, Elkins, Sr.


DL – Dante Stills, Fairmont Senior, Sr. (captain)

DL – Tyler Komorowski, Weir, Jr.

DL – Ryan Burdette, Clay County, Sr.

LB – Hunter Mason, Philip Barbour, Sr.

LB – Mike Bartram, Wayne, Jr.

LB – Truck Edwards, Bluefield, Sr.

LB – Grant Mohler, James Monroe, Sr.

DB – Monroe Mohler, James Monroe, So.

DB – John Merica, Bridgeport, Sr.

DB – Isaac Workman, Clay County, Sr.

DB – Brady Ours, Keyser, Sr.

UTIL – Cason Payne, Point Pleasant, Jr.

UTIL – Bryson Gilbert, Fairmont Senior, Sr.

UTIL – Broderick Lantz, Liberty-Harrison, Sr.

UTIL/P – Reed Reitter, Weir, Jr.




QB – Connor Neal, Fairmont Senior, Jr. (captain)

RB – Dawson Elia, Mingo Central, Sr.

RB – Evan Rose, PikeView, Jr.

RB – Justin Brumfield, Point Pleasant, Sr.

OL – Jimmy Allison, Bridgeport, Sr.

OL – Maven Meadows, Poca, Sr.

OL – Robert Arnold, Robert C. Byrd, Jr.

OL – Deiyantei Powell-Woods, Bluefield, Jr.

OL – Alex Gibbs, Point Pleasant, Sr.

WR – C.J. Ryan, Berkeley Springs, Sr.

WR – Kenneth Stahl, North Marion, Sr.

UTIL – Jacob Hartman, Petersburg, Jr.

UTIL – Will Hackney, Sissonville, Jr.

UTIL – Kobie Carpenter, Lincoln, Sr.

K/P – Koby Kiefer, Bridgeport, Sr.


DL – Zach Payne, Nicholas County, Sr.

DL – Chapin Murphy, Bridgeport, Sr.

DL – Hunter Edgell, North Marion, Sr.

DL – Adam Daniel, Independence, Sr.

LB – Hunter Thomas, Sissonville, Sr. (captain)

LB – Seth Arnold, Braxton County, Sr.

LB – Tucker Mayes, Point Pleasant, Sr.

LB – Doug Morral, Petersburg, Jr.

DB – Grayson Pratt, Wayne, Sr.

DB – Nick Reip, Nitro, Sr.

DB – Connor Moore, James Monroe, Sr.

UTIL – Chase Collier, Philip Barbour, Jr.

UTIL – Josh Wamsley, Point Pleasant, Jr.

UTIL – Justin Stover, Herbert Hoover, Sr.

K/P – Cory Booth, James Monroe, Sr.


Special Honorable Mention

Terymykal Alexander, Shady Spring

Khori Bass, Oak Hill

Erick Bevil, Shady Spring

Caleb Bish, Grafton

Zach Bratton, Winfield

Jake Cannady, Wyoming East

Austin Conaway, North Marion

Andrew Deal, Nicholas County

Bubba Ellis, Lincoln

Chucky Felder, Logan

Brian Fisher, Winfield

Julius Gaddy, Bluefield

Addison Hayes, Oak Hill

Jacob Huff, Winfield

Kaleb Hurley, Mingo Central

Malcom Johnson, Robert C. Byrd

Tre Junkins, Robert C. Byrd

Ben Kee, Herbert Hoover

Jaden Kuroski, East Fairmont

Jonathan Leep, Lincoln

Tyler Mack, Weir

Dalton Malcomb, North Marion

Jaden Marino, Robert C. Byrd

Arnold Martin, Bluefield

Devon Matzdorff, Wayne

Carson McComas, Scott

Jakob McCord, Philip Barbour

Trey Milam, Nicholas County

Jeremiah Milium, Wayne

Hunter Moore, Lincoln

Bradley Mullins, River View

Drake Mullins, Bluefield

Alex Oates, Keyser

Jacob O’Dell, Nicholas County

Josh Osborn, Bridgeport

Antonio Parsons, Fairmont Senior

Ethan Payne, Poca

Kaulin Parris, Bluefield

Ben Price, Westside

Reggie Redman, Keyser

Jeremiah Reed, Liberty Harrison

Josh Reed, Mingo Central

Daniel Romans, Elkins

Jaden Rollyson, Liberty Harrison

Ben Scott, Roane County

Zach Shreve, Elkins

Peyton Sindledecker, Petersburg

Bronson Skeens, Poca

Alec Smith, Point Pleasant

Sebastian Spencer, Weir

John Thomas, Bridgeport

Caleb Walker, Fairmont Senior

Chase Warden, Mingo Central

Jacob White, Lewis County

Caleb Whittington, Sissonville

Tobin Whittington, Berkeley Springs

Evan Willis, Chapmanville


Honorable Mention

Johnny Adkins, Wayne

Nick Albright, Man

Justin Barker, Mingo Central

Timmy Bigley, Chapmanville

Dawson Blankenship, Nicholas County

Jaron Bragg, Shady Spring

Tyler Bragg, Shady Spring

Channing Carr, James Monroe

Ben Clark, Winfield

Heath Cottrill, Braxton County

Trevor Clayton, Grafton

Jay Cook, Poca

Mathias Cook, Oak Glen

Travis Cook, Westside

Chandler Cooper, Bluefield

John Covert, Winfield

Troy Cowart, Logan

Zach Curry, Mingo Central

Cameron Dillon, Liberty Raleigh

Noah Dillon, James Monroe

Noah Drummond, Bridgeport

Grant Elliott, North Marion

Zach Ferrebee, Clay County

Desmond Fluharty, North Marion

Hunter Gainer, Philip Barbour

Conner Gibson, Independence

Jared Griffith, Lewis County

Alex Grose, Clay County

Jordan Gump, Lincoln

Jon Hamilton, Scott

Trad Harman, Petersburg

Jonathan Hatcher, River View

Frank Ty Hudacheck, Weir

Josh Huffman, Roane County

Dylan Kincell, East Fairmont

Cameron Kollo, Philip Barbour

Nate Kowalski, Fairmont Senior

McKeyin Kile, Petersburg

Trey Lester, Mingo Central

Carter Lyles, Scott

Xavier Lopez, Robert C. Byrd

Nick Marley, Frankfort

Brandon May, Roane County

Jonah Mathis, Wayne

Shauntez Matthews, Logan

Eddie Mayes, Point Pleasant

Ryan Metzgar, Lewis County

Owen McClanahan, Poca

Matt McCoy, Philip Barbour

Matt McKinney, Independence

Seth McKinney, Liberty

AJ Milam, Liberty Raleigh

Hunter Mitchelson, PikeView

Brock Muncy, Man

Bryce Nelson, Westside

Ricky Newbrough, North Marion

Nick Nutter, Nicholas County

Christian Olivio, Bridgeport

Seth Osborne, Man

Tanner Owens, Wayne

Trey Pancake, Bridgeport

Dylan Pettit, Grafton

Nick Perry, Wayne

Michael Pinkerton, Sissonville

Jay Poindexter, Nitro

Dalton Pollock, Frankfort

Jared Price, Scott

Mason Rice, Weir

Seth Ross, Wyoming East

Jared Sagraves, Nicholas County

Shane Saylor, Fairmont Senior

Ryan Shoemaker, Keyser

Aiden Slusser, East Fairmont

Garrett Smyton, Elkins

Zach Spencer, Herbert Hoover

Thomas Talkington, Elkins

Ethan Travis, Oak Glen

Nick Vance, Winfield

Jackson VanScoy, Winfield

Garrett Ware, Grafton

Rhett White, Herbert Hoover

Steven White, Keyser

Seth Whitt, Chapmanville

Collin Williams, Oak Glen

Casey Wood, Oak Hill

Don Woodworth, Keyser

NFL Power Rankings – Week 13

The Free Press WV

Each week, national NFL writer Mark Maske will provide his ranking of the league’s 32 teams.

This week, the Patriots celebrate their eight-game winning streak with a return to top spot, immediately followed by the AFC’s other powerhouse, the Steelers, who will host New England in what could be a candidate for the game of the year a week from Sunday. Current NFC No. 1 seed Minnesota finds itself in the top three. Then, the Eagles, who had their nine-game winning streak snapped in Seattle Sunday night, and the Rams, who will host those Eagles this weekend, round out a competitive top five.

1. New England Patriots (10-2) — Last Week’s Rank: 2

The Patriots reclaim the No. 1 spot with their victory in Buffalo and the Eagles’ loss in Seattle. This is where the Patriots were supposed to spend the entire season, out in front with the rest of the NFL chasing them. It didn’t work out that way. But the Patriots have regained their front-runner status, even if they now are facing the prospect of being without TE Rob Gronkowski for a game. His one-game suspension by the NFL was fully justified for a late hit that was both egregious and extremely dangerous.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2) — Last Week’s Rank: 3

Concern over the injury suffered by Ryan Shazier took precedence over the outcome of the game Monday night in Cincinnati, won by the Steelers on a last-second field goal.

3. Minnesota Vikings (10-2) — Last Week’s Rank: 4

Case Keenum is for real. He’s not quite an MVP candidate but he’s not that far away from that. The Vikings are for real. The defense was terrific Sunday in Atlanta. Minnesota is as good as anyone in the NFC. That guarantees nothing come playoff time. But there’s a chance the Vikings could win a Super Bowl while playing all their postseason games at home.

4. Philadelphia Eagles (10-2) — Last Week’s Rank: 1

The Eagles are still a very good team, even after the defeat in Seattle. They still have a chance to secure the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. But they might not be the conference’s Super Bowl favorite any longer. The Vikings have, at the very least, achieved co-favorite status.

5. Los Angeles Rams (9-3) — Last Week’s Rank: 5

Sean McVay had better get plenty of NFL coach of the year votes. The Rams haven’t faded away and get two more games against the NFC’s elite, the Eagles and then the Seahawks, up next on the schedule.

6. New Orleans Saints (9-3) — Last Week’s Rank: 7

The season sweep of the Panthers puts the Saints firmly in control of the NFC South race. But they still must face the Falcons twice, beginning with Thursday night’s game in Atlanta.

7. Seattle Seahawks (8-4) — Last Week’s Rank: 9

The Seahawks still are capable of beating anyone, as the triumph Sunday night over the Eagles demonstrated. Unfortunately for them, they haven’t looked like that consistently enough to believe with much conviction they can make a run through the entire NFC playoffs and reach another Super Bowl.

8. Carolina Panthers (8-4) — Last Week’s Rank: 6

The Panthers probably can forget about overtaking the Saints, but they remain in very good position to secure a wild-card spot. It is crucial that TE Greg Olsen’s surgically repaired foot is sound and that he returns to the lineup to give QB Cam Newton another reliable receiver.

9. Baltimore Ravens (7-5) — Last Week’s Rank: 10

The Ravens are playing much better, with three straight wins, and securing a wild-card spot is a realistic possibility. Their meeting with the Steelers on Sunday night in Pittsburgh will be difficult but the Browns and Colts are up next after that.

10. Los Angeles Chargers (6-6) — Last Week’s Rank: 11

The Chargers have given L.A. two contending NFL teams and they are, at the moment, the best team in the AFC West. Which isn’t saying very much at all.

11. Tennessee Titans (8-4) — Last Week’s Rank: 12

The Titans and Jaguars are stride for stride in the AFC South race as the season’s stretch run arrives. A crucial road trip comes next for the Titans, with games at Arizona and at San Francisco the next two Sundays.

12. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4) — Last Week’s Rank: 13

While the Giants are about to move on to their second coach since Tom Coughlin’s exit - a less-than-voluntary departure, in Coughlin’s telling of it - he is enjoying great success as the front office architect of the Jaguars. If the best revenge is to live well, Coughlin is doing it.

13. Atlanta Falcons (7-5) — Last Week’s Rank: 8

The Falcons have hung tough and are having a pretty good season. But pretty good is not quite good enough in the NFC. The Falcons were exposed Sunday by an excellent Vikings team. Julio Jones disappeared from the offense and no one else stepped forward to be a difference-maker.

14. Oakland Raiders (6-6) — Last Week’s Rank: 18

The Raiders go from playing a team in the Giants that just had benched its starting QB for no good reason, to facing a team in the Chiefs that probably should be benching its starting QB but won’t.

15. New York Jets (5-7) — Last Week’s Rank: 23

The Jets are the very best NFL team in all of East Rutherford, N.J. That’s not exactly high praise at the moment. But it’s more than anyone had a right to expect from them this season.

16. Dallas Cowboys (6-6) — Last Week’s Rank: 24

The Cowboys took care of business Thursday night against the Redskins and get to play the Giants this Sunday. They’ve endured four of the six games of RB Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension. But time is running short and they’re simply too far behind some very good teams in the NFC playoff chase.

17. Green Bay Packers (6-6) — Last Week’s Rank: 25

By the time Aaron Rodgers is ready to play, the Packers probably won’t have realistic playoff hopes. The top-heavy NFC just has too many good teams ahead of them. There might not be any good reason for Rodgers to come back this season.

18. Cincinnati Bengals (5-7) — Last Week’s Rank: 14

The most meaningful issues arising from Monday night’s game in Cincinnati were concerns over the severity of the injury suffered by the Steelers’ Ryan Shazier and the alarm over the brutality of the illegal hits delivered by both teams. The competitive implications of the Bengals’ loss were far less significant, although their playoff chances were damaged.

19. Detroit Lions (6-6) — Last Week’s Rank: 15

The injuries are accumulating for QB Matthew Stafford and the Lions are becoming an afterthought in the NFC playoff chase.

20. Kansas City Chiefs (6-6) — Last Week’s Rank: 16

Was that really this season when the Chiefs were 5-0? It seems like several years ago right about now. Maybe Coach Andy Reid will snap to his senses at some point and figure out that a dramatic change or two must be made. Otherwise, there is no indication whatsoever that the Chiefs are going to find a way to reverse their downward spiral. And it might be too late now, anyway.

21. Washington Redskins (5-7) — Last Week’s Rank: 17

Whatever happens between now and the end of the season has absolutely nothing to do with whether QB Kirk Cousins remains in Washington. The Redskins have had plenty of time to know what they have in Cousins, and Cousins has had plenty of time to figure out what he thinks about the team. It comes down to financial considerations now. The negotiating history between both parties and the numbers involved for Cousins to be franchise-tagged again make it difficult to believe that he will be a Redskin next season.

22. Buffalo Bills (6-6) — Last Week’s Rank: 19

The Bills are on a 1-4 skid and their postseason hopes are slipping away.

23. Miami Dolphins (5-7) — Last Week’s Rank: 28

Being far better than the Broncos doesn’t prove all that much at this point.

24. Arizona Cardinals (5-7) — Last Week’s Rank: 20

Even a .500 season is a long shot now. It feels more and more like major changes could be in store in the offseason.

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8) | Last Week’s Rank: 21

Jameis Winston was sharp in his return to the lineup. It didn’t help. This has been a miserable season for the Buccaneers and it’s time for them to reassess whether they’re on the right path to being a contender.

26. Houston Texans (4-8) — Last Week’s Rank: 22

The Texans have clinched their first nonwinning season in four years with Bill O’Brien as their coach. It will become their first losing season under O’Brien unless they can run the table, and there seemingly is little chance of that.

27. Indianapolis Colts (3-9) — Last Week’s Rank: 26

The Colts are about as irrelevant as it gets. If they didn’t show up for any of their remaining games, would anyone notice?

28. San Francisco 49ers (2-10) — Last Week’s Rank: 31

The Jimmy Garoppolo era got off to a promising start with the win over the Bears. Garoppolo was pretty good even with a pared-down version of Coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense. He should only get better from this point forward.

29. Chicago Bears (3-9) — Last Week’s Rank: 27

Not much that Coach John Fox is doing is working. It would be an upset at this point if he makes it to the end of the season before the Bears dismiss him.

30. New York Giants (2-10) — Last Week’s Rank: 29

Memo to current and future NFL head coaches: Don’t ever use the line, “I’m going to coach this team as long as my key card works.” Ben McAdoo used it, then got fired the next day. Eli Manning presumably gets his starting job back and the Giants presumably avoid what could have been a very ugly scene at this Sunday’s home game against the Cowboys.

31. Denver Broncos (3-9) — Last Week’s Rank: 30

John Elway was being overly kind, as it turned out, when he called the Broncos soft.

32. Cleveland Browns (0-12) — Last Week’s Rank: 32

Josh Gordon looked pretty good in his return. The fact that he immediately became the focal point of the Browns’ offense was another sign of just how terrible this team is.

2017 Class A high school football all-state teams

The Free Press WV

The 2017 Class A all-state football team as selected by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.




QB – Clay Skovron, East Hardy, Sr.

RB – Jaiden Smith, St. Marys, Sr.

RB – Freddy Canary, South Harrison, Sr.

RB – Thomas Ferris, Midland Trail, Sr.

RB – Donavan Kirby, Madonna, Jr.

OL – Nick Rush, South Harrison, Sr.

OL – Blake Neely, Williamstown, Sr.

OL – Timmy McCabe, Wheeling Central, So.

OL – Jeremy Smith, St. Marys, Sr.

OL – Nick Miller, East Hardy, Sr.

WR – Brett Tharp, East Hardy, Sr. (captain)

WR – Brooks Parsons, Magnolia, Sr.

UTIL – Jonathan Blankenship, Tug Valley, Sr.

UTIL – Mark Rucker, Tyler Consolidated, So.

K – Ryan Cunningham, Ravenswood, Sr.


DL – William Howell, Doddridge County, Sr.

DL – Dylan Richmond, Sherman, Sr.

DL – Dylan Gray, St. Marys, Sr.

DL – Vinny Mangino, Wheeling Central, Jr.

DL – Andrew Richmond, Summers County, Sr.

LB – Adam Murray, Wheeling Central, So. (captain)

LB – Luke Jackson, Ravenswood, Jr.

LB – Cam Barnette, South Harrison, Sr.

LB – Mark Jordan, Pocahontas County, Sr.

DB – Tucker Lilly, Summers County, Sr.

DB – Gunner Brummage, Clay-Battelle, Sr.

DB – Ryan LaAsmar, Notre Dame, Sr.

UTIL – Trey Scott, Cameron, Jr.

UTIL – Matt Eichhorn, St. Marys, Sr.

UTIL/P – Colby Brown, Cameron, Sr.




QB – Curtis McGhee, Wheeling Central, So.

QB – Kole Puffenberger, Pendleton County, Jr.

RB – Brady Grant, Van, Sr. (captain)

RB – Jordan Dempsey, Fayetteville, Jr.

RB – Jeremiah Johnston, Richwood, So.

OL – Aaron Peterman, Wirt County, Sr.

OL – Carson May, Tug Valley, Sr.

OL – Tucker Dalrymple, St. Marys, Sr.

OL – Ryan Anderson, South Harrison, Sr.

OL – Tanner Sears, Valley-Fayette, Sr.

WR – Travis Mickey, Cameron, Jr.

WR – Noah Minor, Midland Trail, Sr.

UTIL – Griffin Phillips, Tyler Consolidated, Jr.

UTIL – Travis Dille, Clay-Battelle, Sr.

K – Atikilt Tamiru, Moorefield, Fr.


DL – Ethan Mahan, Ravenswood, Sr.

DL – Jared Barrows, Magnolia, So.

DL – Hunter Darby, Midland Trail, Sr.

LB – Dawson Wear, Wheeling Central, Sr.

LB – Phillip Mullen, East Hardy, Sr.

LB – Shane Peacock, Pocahontas County, Sr.

LB – Elijah Barner, Mount View, Jr.

LB – Curtis James, Doddridge County, Sr.

LB – Luke Hardway, Webster County, Jr. (captain)

DB – Christian Pack, Summers County, Jr.

DB – Ethan Burgess, Buffalo, Sr.

DB – Aden Funkhouser, East Hardy, Jr.

UTIL – Bray Price, Wheeling Central, Jr.

UTIL – Ben Salmon, Sherman, Sr.

P – Tanner Lett, Doddridge County, Jr.


Special Honorable Mention

Hunter America, Doddridge County

Brent Barnette, South Harrison

Jakob Barrows, Magnolia

Tucker Bennett, Summers County

Elijah Benson, Ravenswood

Will Bragg, Richwood

Hayden Burdette, Richwood

Parker Brewer, Tug Valley

James Cava, Notre Dame

Elijah Collier, Mount View

Garrett Cook, Madonna

Max Cook, Doddridge County

Tristan Coots, Fayetteville

Ryan Cross, Paden City

Seth Davis, Doddridge County

Ryan Ekey, Madonna

Levi Hardway, Webster County

Carter Haynes, Williamstown

JT Hensley, Sherman

Antone Herring St. Marys

Critter Hesson, Wahama

Caleb Jantuah, Richwood

Matthew Jenkins, Moorefield

Hunter Jones, Midland Trail

Cordell Lesher, Midland Trail

Landon McFadden, South Harrison

Jeff Mills, East Hardy

Ben Neal, Summers County

Hunter Partridge, Magnolia

Chad Ramsey, Greenbrier West

Cole Rapp, Tucker County

Brett Reall, Tucker County

Caleb Richmond, Meadow Bridge

Andrew Ritchea, Cameron

Anthony Robbins, Wheeling Central

Dakoda Sager, East Hardy

Mike Shreves, Paden City

Levi Streets, Valley Wetzel

Joey Taylor, Tygarts Valley

Christian Thomas, Wahama

Tim Thorne, Pendleton County

Willie Walden, Tygarts Valley

Dakota Waldron, Mount View

Briar Wilfong, Pocahontas County

Wyatt Wingrove, Cameron


Honorable Mention

Nick Adams, Midland Trail

Hunter Amick, Richwood

Evan Amos, Williamstown

Colton Arrington, Wahama

Adam Baker, East Hardy

Johnnie Board, Wahama

Hunter Booth, Pendleton County

Stephen Booth, Buffalo

Hunter Bouldin, Montcalm

Ben Callaway, Tucker County

Layne Daniel, Sherman

John Dickens, Sherman

Colton Dorsey, Greenbrier West

Luke Duplaga, Wheeling Central

Logan Forquer, Clay-Battelle

Logan Frantz, Fayetteville

Daniel Gibson, Van

Logan Gogan, Doddridge County

Jake Greene, Ravenswood

Aaric Gross, Mount View

Gunnar Haley, Gilmer County

Jared Harman, Pendleton County

Jimmy Harper, Valley Fayette

C.W. Harton, Paden City

Will Hensley, Sherman

Max Hilton, Ravenswood

Chance Lemley, Madonna

David Joy, Paden City

Tyler Kocher, Valley Wetzel

Austin Lowe, Valley Wetzel

Noah Lucas, Tug Valley

Harley Martin, Meadow Bridge

Marcus McGuire, Summers County

Park Michaels, Buffalo

Tyler Morlachetta, Buffalo

Brayden Mullenix, Williamstown

Josh Newsome, Tug Valley

Reece Nutter, Webster County

Jarred Parnell, Montcalm

Cordell Parsons, Sherman

Aaron Pendry, Mount View

Garyn Pritt, Valley Fayette

Luke Poling, Tucker County

Owen Poling, Tucker County

Trent Pullens, Fayetteville

Mac Raymond, Madonna

Dakota Richards, Wirt County

Sam Romano, Notre Dame

Dillon Shinaberry, Pocahontas County

Braden Snyder, Richwood

Benji Steele, Clay-Battelle

Kyle Sturgell, Tug Valley

Jake Tackett, Tygarts Valley

Donathan Taylor, Williamstown

Zak Tokash, Madonna

Daniel White, Tygarts Valley

Dustin Williams, Webster County

College Football Playoff is an imperfect response to an unanswerable question

The Free Press WV

Setting aside for a moment the commotion of Sunday, the childish stridency of Mack Brown on ESPN, the runaway nonsense of Randy Edsall on Twitter, and other balderdash, let’s glimpse at how an eight-team 2017 playoff would look today, in bracket order, with comments added:

- No. 1 Clemson (12-1) vs. No. 8 Southern California (11-2): A high-flying doozy of divergent regions, the very kind of bout that jazzes up college football. A masterpiece of scheduling luck.

- No. 4 Alabama (11-1) vs. No. 5 Ohio State (11-2): Large volume.

- No. 3 Georgia (12-1) vs. No. 6 Wisconsin (12-1): Large bruises.

- No. 2 Oklahoma (12-1) vs. No. 7 Auburn (10-3): It wouldn’t be an Auburn home game, so we wouldn’t have to worry about that eagle flying too close to Baker Mayfield.

Now, let’s view what would happen just after those pairings appeared: a certain fury. This fury would emanate from . . . wait . . . checking the map here . . . State College, Pennsylvania. Then this fury from the fans of No. 9 Penn State would widen, in concentric circles, covering at least parts, if not entireties, of all 67 counties in Pennsylvania. Then this fury would go beyond, to those outside Pennsylvania who might have lived or studied in Pennsylvania. It would fill airwaves, email inboxes, chats.

Here’s a fact of life: If Penn State fans suspect you have slighted their team, they do not mind advising you of this viewpoint.

So in this instance, Southern California would have hopped over Penn State, from No. 10 to No. 8, in the final rankings, and we would have a long discussion about how Notre Dame, before it got slaughtered in Miami, went through Southern California like a combine in a field, beating it by the approximate score of 127-0, while Penn State lost two games by four points on the road against top-16 teams, including one farcical weather delay. We might have discussed even whether Penn State’s omission constituted continuing bias from its early-decade scandal.

The eight-team solution might improve things, but it wouldn’t save us from our unsolvable puzzles in an uneven sport, such as the one last weekend between Alabama and Ohio State. Further, it would diminish things if it worked the way some envision it: Five conference champions, three at-large teams. Every once in a while in that scenario, you’d get a five-loss playoff team such as 2012 Big Ten champion Wisconsin (which ended up 8-6), or a four-loss playoff team such as 2008 Atlantic Coast Conference champion Virginia Tech (which ended up 10-4), or a three-loss playoff teams such as 2011 ACC champion Clemson (which ended up 10-4).

A five-loss playoff team would sully the Declaration of Independence.

Of course, everyone still values conference championships. Everyone just values them to different degrees. Some value them to such degree that when a conference champion such as an 11-2 Ohio State finishes behind a conference non-champion such as an 11-1 Alabama, they - and this is hard to believe - opt for shrillness.

Thus did Brown, that former lobbyist for his Texas team in 2008, when it beat Oklahoma but missed the BCS Championship Game because Oklahoma (uh-oh) won the conference, conduct this nutty huff Sunday afternoon, in protest: “Conference championships don’t matter. So let’s stop talking about them.“ This was out-and-out, to borrow a word from the late Molly Ivins, horsepucky.

Here’s some homework: The selection committees have chosen 16 teams in four years for the playoff. Fourteen of those 16 won conference championships. Often, as with Michigan State in 2015 or Washington in 2016, those conference championships mattered heavily when set among the other-team factors of that particular season. (As committee chairman Kirby Hocutt reminded, “I would say there’s no college football seasons that are ever identical.“ Yes.) Everyone still weighs conference championships, among all the factors. Everyone still talks about conference championships. Everyone still prints T-shirts for conference championships, although Alabama might have stopped because its stores have no room left.

On a Sunday bound for a certain dopiness, Brown held the dopiness lead until Edsall, the former Maryland coach nowadays at Connecticut, chimed in on Twitter: “Why do they even recognize conference champions when they can’t even get into a playoff for a National Championship!“

Here’s some homework: The selection committees have chosen 16 teams . . . and 14 of those 16 . . .

Not finished yet when finishing would have helped, Edsall supplied a hashtag with this nugget: #AllAboutTheMoney.

The state of Ohio, the nation’s seventh-most populous, has a population of 11.6 million. The state of Alabama, the nation’s 24th-most populous, has a population of 4.9 million. The program of Ohio State, Ohio’s giant, shares the state with a heap of impressive smaller-tier programs, but hogs all the Power Five adoration. The program of Alabama, one of Alabama’s two giants, shares the state with a heap of impressive smaller-tier programs, but also with a fellow Power Five behemoth, Auburn.

It’s always puzzling when an exercise that’s #AllAboutTheMoney chooses the lesser amount of money.

Could Ohio State’s exclusion from the playoff wind up fueling the drive toward eight, the way the Alabama-LSU Bowl Championship Series game of 2011-12 spurred momentum toward four? It might. For now, let’s hear that most reasonable voice make reasonable suggestions for the reasonable meantime.

“Let’s have everyone have the same number of conference games, the same number of non-conference games, and it would be great to have some continuity about scheduling, which is what a lot of us on the West Coast have been asking for,“ Stanford Coach David Shaw said, after the Cardinal accepted an Alamo Bowl bid. “Because if you’re going to compare us to all these other conferences, let’s play by the same rules.“

At present, the Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference play eight conference games, while the Big Ten, the Big 12 and the Pacific-12 play nine. Let’s try to figure out how to listen to Shaw. After all, he’s the wise man who, despite his name being linked through the years to openings of seemingly half the NFL and the FBS, if not other acronyms, has remained at Stanford. If you have ever set eyes upon Stanford, you understand.

College Football Rankings

The Free Press WV

Associated Press Top 25
1. Clemson
2. Oklahoma
3. Georgia
4. Alabama
5. Ohio State
6. Wisconsin
7. Auburn
8. Southern California
9. Penn State
10. UCF
11. Miami (Fla.)
12. Washington
13. TCU
14. Notre Dame
15. Stanford
16. LSU
17. Oklahoma State
18. Michigan State
19. Memphis
20. Northwestern
21. Washington State
22. Virginia Tech
23. South Florida
24. Mississippi State
25. Boise State

Coaches Poll
1. Clemson
2. Oklahoma
3. Georgia
4. Alabama
5. Ohio State
6. Wisconsin
7. Southern California
8. Auburn
9. Penn State
10. UCF
11. Miami (Fla.)
12. Washington
13. TCU
14. LSU
15. Notre Dame
16. Stanford
17. Oklahoma State
18. Memphis
19. Michigan State
20. Northwestern
21. Washington State
22. Virginia Tech
23. Mississippi State
24. South Florida
25. Boise State

2017: WV High School Football Scoreboard: Super Six Championships

The Gilmer Free Press

Area High School Football Scoreboard
2017: Super Six Championships
#4 Spring Valley (11-3) 16 #4 Fairmont Senior (12-2) 26 #10 Wheeling Central (10-4) 40
#2 Martinsburg (14-0) 44 #2 Bluefield (14-0) 29 #5 St. Marys (11-2) 21

High court betting case pits states against sports leagues

The Free Press WV

With its spacious bar and banks of TVs tuned to all-sports stations, the lounge at New Jersey’s Monmouth Park Racetrack is a sports gamblers’ paradise-in-waiting. All that’s standing in its way: a 25-year-old federal law that bars betting on sports in most states.

An hour before Thursday night’s Washington-Dallas NFL game, only about half a dozen people sat at the bar, most of them workers at the horse-racing track or nearby residents. But a case the Supreme Court will take up Monday could change that, packing the bar and making wagering on sports widely available nationwide.

The high court is weighing whether a federal law that prevents states from authorizing sports betting is constitutional. New Jersey is leading the challenge against that law, with all four major U.S. professional sports leagues and the federal government on the other side.

If the Supreme Court strikes down the law, giving sports betting the go-ahead, dozens of states could quickly make it legal. Monmouth Park is gambling on a win for New Jersey and has already spent $1 million on its sports lounge, ready to turn it into a sports betting parlor in short order. British bookmaking company William Hill would run the operation.

“I don’t think it’s unfair to say if there is a broad ruling, you could be witnessing a reshaping of the global gambling industry around that ruling,” said Chris Grove, managing director of Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, a California-based research firm that believes 32 states would probably offer sports betting within five years if the Supreme Court makes that possible.

Daniel Wallach, a legal expert in sports and gambling, says the case could “transform how sporting events are consumed and watched in this country.”

Monday’s case pits New Jersey and other states against the four big sports leagues and the federal government. The stakes are high. The American Gaming Association estimates that Americans illegally wager about $150 billion on sports each year. In court, the NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball have fought New Jersey, arguing that expanding gambling would hurt the integrity of their games, though leaders of all but the NFL have shown varying degrees of openness to legalized sports gambling. More than a dozen states are supporting New Jersey.

Shawn Fluharty, a West Virginia lawmaker who has sponsored sports gambling legislation, says he believes his state would be one of the first to offer sports betting if the Supreme Court permits it. The Democrat says sports gambling is “a way to raise new revenue without raising taxes.”

New Jersey has spent years and millions of dollars in legal fees trying to legalize sports betting at its casinos and racetracks. In 2012, with voters’ support, state lawmakers passed a law authorizing sports betting there. The state’s action was a direct challenge to a federal law, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.

The 1992 law bars state-authorized sports gambling with exceptions for Nevada, Montana, Oregon and Delaware, states that had some form of sports wagering before the law took effect. Nevada is the only state where a person can bet on a single game, though the law doesn’t cover wagering between friends. In passing the law, Congress gave New Jersey a yearlong window to authorize sports betting at its casinos but the state didn’t act in time.

Two decades later, when New Jersey decided to legalize sports betting, the four major professional sports leagues and the NCAA sued. New Jersey argued that Congress exceeded its authority when it prohibited states from authorizing sports betting, but it lost in court. In 2014, New Jersey tried a different approach, repealing laws prohibiting sports gambling at casinos and racetracks. Again, it lost in court.

Now that the Supreme Court has taken the case, the outcome could be sweeping but doesn’t have to be. If the court strikes down the 1992 law, it would be greenlighting the expansion of sports gambling nationwide. But the court could also rule narrowly, agreeing that the way New Jersey changed its laws to allow sports betting at racetracks and casinos in 2014 was permissible. Few states may be willing to follow that route and have no say in licensing or regulating sports gambling. The court could also uphold the law, keeping the status quo.

And even if the law is struck down, Congress could try to step in again.

Florida State University professor Ryan Rodenberg, in a filing with the court, urged justices not to rule broadly. And, in an interview, the sports law expert said he doesn’t think the justices’ ruling will ultimately be sweeping. The court’s conservatives are generally in favor of states’ rights and would be expected to rule for New Jersey, but they’re also generally against gambling, he said. The policy implications have to be in the back of the minds of the justices, he said.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who pushed his state’s sports betting legislation, says he is “cautiously optimistic” about the outcome.

New Jersey resident Vito Paolantonio, who was at Monmouth Park Racetrack’s bar Thursday, said he’d wager on sports if he could in the state.

“I’m a 52-year-old male who loves sports,” he said. “If we were here and I was watching a game, I would absolutely throw in a few dollars to make it more interesting. I think as a middle-class American, a lot of others would do the same.”

Shake-up Atop College Football Playoff Rankings Has Alabama on Outside Looking in

The Free Press WV

As Clemson leapt from No. 3 to No. 1, the expected turbulence hit the top of the College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday evening, the bulk of it blowing in from the state of Alabama. Auburn’s 26-14 mastery of Alabama on Saturday at Auburn caused the Tigers to vault from No. 6 to No. 2, while the Crimson Tide plunged from No. 1 to No. 5.

Not only did it mark Alabama’s first absence from the coveted top four since Nov. 11, 2014, but it positioned Auburn (10-2) above five teams with fewer losses. Eye test-wise, Auburn’s two thumping victories over teams ranked No. 1 at the time – Georgia on Nov. 11 and Alabama – clearly impressed the 13 sets of eyes on the committee, which ranked teams for the fifth and penultimate time this season.

The final rankings, replete with the four teams that will play off Jan. 1 in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, and the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, will appear at midday Sunday.

Behind Auburn sits No. 3 Oklahoma (11-1) and No. 4 Wisconsin (12-0), both up a notch, then No. 5 Alabama (11-1), No. 6 Georgia (11-1) and No. 7 Miami (10-1), which fell from No. 2 after its jarring 24-14 upset loss at Pitt (5-7).

It marked the first entry into the top four for Wisconsin, which started out at No. 9 on Oct. 28 before inching upward, budging past some losing teams while being overtaken by some winning teams, all while hauling the hard weight of its tepid schedule. In a system that prizes challenging wins, Wisconsin’s nine Power Five victims include only one ranked team (No. 21 Northwestern). Those nine are a combined 50-58 as the schedule offered no opportunity against anybody in the Big Ten East Division top three (Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State).

Clemson’s Power Five victims are 67-39, with Auburn’s at 54-30 and Oklahoma’s at 57-51. Four teams with vague (at best) playoff hopes rested just beyond the top seven. Those were No. 8 Ohio State (10-2), No. 9 Penn State (10-2), No. 10 Southern California (10-2) and No. 11 TCU (10-2). All except Penn State get a chance to burnish their CVs this weekend, with Ohio State playing Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship, Southern California playing Stanford in the Pacific-12 championship, and TCU playing Oklahoma for the Big 12 title.

Kirby Hocutt, the chairman of a committee that includes five men from coaching and five from athletic directing, said the margin between No. 5 Alabama and No. 8 Ohio State remains small, raising the possibility of a royal argument between those two fan bases, should chaos butt in.

Stanford (9-3) held down No. 12, just ahead of Washington (10-2), which Stanford defeated Nov. 10. With the Pac-12 widely presumed the only Power Five conference without a viable chance at the four-team playoff, its three teams in spaces Nos. 10, 12 and 13 still outpaced No. 14 Central Florida, the top team from the second-tier Group of Five. The Knights’ much-lauded 49-42 win over South Florida pushed UCF to 11-0 but pushed it only a notch up the charts, but it does find the privilege of a ranked opponent for its American Athletic Conference Championship Game, and that will be No. 20 Memphis (10-1), which it throttled, 40-13, on Sept. 30.

Notre Dame (9-3) saw its 38-20 loss at Stanford dock it from No. 8 to No. 15.

Among the top 11, four heavy occasions this weekend will help sort out matters, or not so much. Clemson will play Miami in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game in Charlotte, Auburn will play Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship in Atlanta, plus the bouts of Oklahoma and TCU, and Wisconsin and Ohio State.

With Alabama just outside the top four, Clemson’s streak of 17 consecutive rankings within the top four became the nation’s longest run. (The committee does not issue postseason rankings.)

Clemson spent the entire 2015 season at No. 1 in all six rankings, and has not departed the top four since. The No. 1 Tigers (Clemson) and the No. 2 Tigers (Auburn) played each other long ago Sept. 9, with the former Tigers hogging 11 sacks and winning, 14-6. Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn stressed Saturday that he meant no disrespect to Clemson, but his Auburn team differs utterly from that Auburn team from early September.

While both sets of Tigers play this weekend, Alabama will rest and hope for unrest from above.

In so doing, the Crimson Tide will know that only one team so far in the four-season-old playoff era, Ohio State in 2016, has reached the playoff without reaching a conference championship game. Alabama did get a wee boost from the bottom of the rankings, when one of its semi-anonymous September victims, Fresno State (9-3), nudged in at No. 25, having reassembled itself mightily after starting off 1-2 with losses at Alabama (by 41-10) and Washington (by 48-16). Fresno State’s presence gave Alabama, whose stash of wins is less shiny than those of Clemson, Auburn, Oklahoma and even Ohio State, three wins over ranked teams, counting No. 17 LSU (9-3) and No. 23 Mississippi State (8-4).

At the top, Clemson caused itself to lose a ranked victim because it blasted No. 24 South Carolina 34-10 on Saturday and shooed that rival from the rankings, but it gained one when a previous Clemson victim, North Carolina State (8-4), replaced South Carolina at No. 24. Another Clemson victim, Virginia Tech (9-3), went from No. 25 to No. 22, meaning Clemson has beaten teams ranked Nos. 2, 22 and 24, plus four more wins over Power Five teams with winning records. In an unusual boon, none of its nine Power Five victims has gone worse than 5-6.

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