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Path: /college-football/texas-longhorns-vs-oklahoma-state-cowboys-preview-and-prediction-2016

Plenty of sore spots are carrying over from a season ago into this year’s meeting between Oklahoma State and Texas. After benefiting from a series of controversial officiating decisions, the Cowboys absconded from Austin with a win that left Longhorn fans howling.


It was consistent with a strange conference rivalry in which the visiting team has won for the last seven years. OSU is favored to end that streak, but the Cowboys are still smarting from last week’s loss to Baylor, a game the Pokes would surely like back.


Texas had a week off to reset after California’s pass-happy offense went up and down the field on the Longhorn defense. The ‘Horns have to hope that Charlie Strong’s defensive intervention prepared them for a similar test this week from OSU.


Texas at Oklahoma State


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 1 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Oklahoma State -2.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Cal Test
The Golden Bears abused the UT secondary in their 50-43 victory two weeks ago with a panoply of passing routes that blew holes in the Texas D. The tandem of Cal quarterback Davis Webb and wide receiver Chad Hansen kept UT’s defenders on their heels all night, connecting 12 times for nearly 200 yards.


Oklahoma State has a comparable passing pair in QB Mason Rudolph and WR James Washington. Expect them to try to replicate Cal’s success somehow.


2. Protecting Shane Buechele
Buechele has played a big part in Texas’ offensive rejuvenation under offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert. As a freshman, however, his lack of time in the weight room means he’s still on the smaller side. He already suffered a chest injury against Cal that kept him out of action for a noticeable stretch in the game.


OSU defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer will probably send Cowboy rushers after Texas’ freshman signal-caller pretty frequently. UT’s offensive line is facing the additional task of keeping Buechele safe while missing suspended starter Kent Perkins at guard.


3. Stopping Texas on the Ground
UT’s newfound appreciation for the passing game is getting the headlines, but the Longhorns rely on two punishing running backs to help keep the offense on schedule. The combination of Chris Warren and D’Onta Foreman can hammer away between the tackles at stretched out defenses trying to cover Texas’ wideouts. If OSU can’t balance its strategy to slow both part of Texas’ offense, the Cowboys are in for a long afternoon.


Final Analysis


It’s tough to find a good angle between these two well-matched squads. If this were Texas’ first road game of the year, it might put such a young team at a disadvantage. It’s not, though, so there’s no reason to think the Longhorns will be rattled by the hostile environment.


Ultimately, this game will test Strong’s reputation for scheming and teaching on D. By taking a more active role in overseeing the defense for the last two weeks, Strong won’t have any fall guys if the Longhorns can’t keep OSU in check.


The bet here is that Texas’ head coach has made just enough tweaks to force a couple decisive plays when OSU has the ball. Meanwhile, quarterback Shane Buechele could have a big day throwing the ball out wide to his speedy receivers, which would force sound tackling on the part of the Cowboys.


A road win will give Texas a little extra confidence heading into its annual rivalry game with Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.


Prediction: Texas 31, Oklahoma State 27


— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.

Texas Longhorns vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 15:15
Path: /college-football/virginia-cavaliers-vs-duke-blue-devils-preview-and-prediction-2016

Both the Duke and Virginia football teams got off to inauspicious starts this season. After lighting up North Carolina Wesleyan for 49 points in the season opener, the Blue Devils' offense went dry in losses to Wake Forest and Northwestern.


For Virginia, it was even worse. The Cavaliers dropped their first game of the year to Richmond and followed that up with losses to Oregon and UConn. The defeat in Storrs, Connecticut, was especially painful as the Cavs missed a short field goal to tie as time expired.


But week four was much better for both squads. Virginia took down previously unbeaten Central Michigan and Duke went to Notre Dame and stunned the Fighting Irish. Duke head coach David Cutcliffe is 6-2 versus Virginia during his tenure in Durham, but saw his team get upset by the Cavaliers last year in Charlottesville. This will be Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s first time facing Cutcliffe or Duke. Mendenhall was 2-4 against ACC teams when he was at BYU from 2005-15, including 1-1 against the Cavilers.


Virginia at Duke


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 1 at 12:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ACC Network/ESPN Extra

Spread: Duke -4


Three Things to Watch


1. Protecting Daniel Jones

The Duke redshirt freshman quarterback had a big game against Notre Dame and should look forward to matching up against Virginia’s 119th-ranked pass defense, assuming he stays clean. While the Cavaliers have given up a lot of yards through the air, they also have 10 sacks on the season. Jones has proven that he can find T.J. Rahming, Anthony Nash, and Johnathan Lloyd. If he is given time to throw, he will have more success against the Cavs.


2. Kurt Benkert

After throwing for a school record 421 yards against Central Michigan, all eyes will be on the graduate transfer from East Carolina. Specifically, all the eyes of the Duke defense will be on Benkert. The Virginia running game has gotten off to a slow start this year and Benkert has been Virginia’s primary weapon. Duke gave up 387 yards passing to Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer last week and Benkert will be a formidable foe this Saturday.


3. Putting a Helmet on Micah Kiser and Quin Blanding

The Virginia defensive duo combined for 232 tackles last fall and their strong play has continued into 2016. Blanding (above, right) is second on the team in tackles with 39 stops, 12 of which came against CMU. Kiser, a linebacker, leads UVA with 40 tackles and is a versatile player that can pressure the quarterback as well as defend the run. This is not a great Virginia defense, but these two players can force the opposition to make key mistakes.


Final Analysis


If Virginia is going to beat Duke, it will be on the arm of Benkert. The Cavaliers haven’t run the ball well and their defense has been torched, especially by the pass, early this season. Duke established the run against Notre Dame and Jones has gotten better each week. The Duke defense has also had more success than Virginia’s, though Notre Dame is the only real high-powered offense the Devils have faced. Duke has to come off the Notre Dame high, which will not be easy. But they will once again find a way to win.


Prediction: Duke 31, Virginia 28


— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.

Virginia Cavaliers vs. Duke Blue Devils Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 15:00
Path: /college-football/northwestern-wildcats-vs-iowa-hawkeyes-preview-and-prediction-2016

Iowa City will be the site of a critical Big Ten West battle on Saturday, as Northwestern tries to avoid starting conference play 0-2 while defending division champion Iowa looks to move to 2-0.


The Hawkeyes have won three straight against the Wildcats, including back-to-back blowouts in 2014 and ‘15. Iowa's performance over the last two weeks, however, makes it difficult to envision a similar result Saturday. The Hawkeye offense hasn't looked like itself during that two-game stretch, and much of that is due to C.J. Beathard's health. The senior signal caller injured his left shoulder against North Dakota State. Subsequently, both he and the Iowa offense haven't been the same since. To make matters worse, the Hawkeyes just lost their top pass catcher in wide receiver Matt VandeBerg to a foot injury for the season.


Northwestern at Iowa


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 1 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPNU

Spread: Iowa -13


Three Things to Watch


1. Iowa's Ability to Limit the Big Play
The Hawkeyes gave up double-digit chunks of yardage a dozen times against Rutgers last week. One of those plays should have led to a touchdown, but the Iowa defense was able to make a stand near the goal line. Northwestern has the ability to play the same type of game against Iowa that Rutgers did. The Wildcats also have the ability to rip off big plays of their own — both through the pass and on the ground via QB Clayton Thorson or RB Justin Jackson. Forget the spread in this one. With Iowa's offense as banged up as it is, this is likely to be a low-scoring affair with one big play being the difference.


2. Special Teams
In keeping with the "one big play" theme, special teams is a spot were both teams can make that play the seals a win. Desmond King is one of the better return men in the country. Even if he doesn't take one to the house on Saturday, a return good enough to flip field position could be all that is needed. On the other side of the ball, Northwestern is getting into field goal position but struggling mightily to convert attempts into points. Jack Mitchell and Matt Micucci are still competing for the kicking job. The results of that competition could coincide with the end result of this game.


3. The Health of C.J. Beathard and Anthony Walker Jr.
Each team is extremely dependent on their stars — as you might expect — and needs them to function at high levels to come out on top. Beathard is probably going to need to make a play or two to pull this one out — whether it is with his arm or his legs. Any reluctance on his part due to do just that because of his shoulder injury will severely hinder Iowa's offense, especially given the absence of Matt VandeBerg. On the other side of the ball, Northwestern needs both Walker's skills and leadership to stay in this game. The Wildcats’ top linebacker and anchor limped off the field during the latter part of the game against Nebraska. As of right now, his status is up in the air. If he is unable to go or even function at a semi-competitive level, it will be a long day for the visiting team.


Final Analysis


This has the makings of a low-scoring slugfest between two teams fighting through injury and searching for an identity. You'll see the game dominated by both teams' running backs between the 20s. After that, it will be C.J. Beathard and Clayton Thorson's ability to convert red zone trips into points at every opportunity that will be the difference. I give Iowa the advantage on that front, largely due to the receiving ability of its running backs and tight ends, combined with Northwestern's woes in the kicking game. Additionally, I like Iowa's defense to come up with more stops than Northwestern — potentially a game-changing turnover — and secure victory in this classic, blue-collar Big Ten battle.


Prediction: Iowa 23, Northwestern 14


— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on,, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

Northwestern Wildcats vs. Iowa Hawkeyes Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 14:45
Path: /college-football/rutgers-scarlet-knights-vs-ohio-state-buckeyes-preview-and-prediction-2016

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights return to Ohio Stadium, this time with a familiar face at the helm. Former Ohio State co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chris Ash is in his first year as the head coach at Rutgers. Ash has Rutgers at 2-2 entering this game against Ohio State, coming off a close home loss to Iowa, 14-7.


Ohio State begins Big Ten play well rested, coming off a bye week. While Ohio State is basking in a 3-0 start for the 2016 season, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is guarding against any signs of complacency within his young squad. With so many games remaining in the 2016 season, all within the B1G, Meyer cannot allow his team to take any opponent lightly.


Rutgers at Ohio State


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 1 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Big Ten Network

Spread: Ohio State -38


Three Things to Watch


1. Who Will Replace Janarion Grant For Rutgers?
Grant, the Scarlet Knights’ leading wide receiver and arguably their top playmaker, sustained a season-ending ankle injury in the Iowa loss. Prior to the injury, Grant had accounted for about 35 percent of the team’s all-purpose yards, serving as a receiving, running, and return threat. Will Rutgers try to replace Grant through a committee approach, or will someone be able to step up for the Scarlet Knights?  


2. Will Chris Ash Be Able To Effectively Scheme Against Ohio State?
As simple and straightforward as this sounds, Ohio State is in kind of a challenging spot, as Ash was so heavily involved in the development of the Buckeyes’ defensive scheme for the past two seasons. Even Urban Meyer alluded to the difficulty of facing someone who knows Ohio State's personnel so well. In his weekly press conference on Monday, he said, "...we changed most of our defensive signals prior to this and offensively we're being very cautious.” How well Ohio State will be able to disguise defensive fronts and coverages will be worth keeping an eye on.


3. Will Another Wide Receiver Emerge Opposite Noah Brown For Ohio State?
Brown had a game for the ages against Oklahoma, scoring four touchdowns in the 45-24 victory two weeks ago. While Brown has nine receptions to go with his five touchdowns, the other leading receivers are Curtis Samuel (16 rec.) and Dontre Wilson (eight). Both Samuel and Wilson play the H-Back position for Ohio State, a hybrid running back/wide receiver position. Look for players such as Terry McLaurin or Parris Campbell to be targeted frequently by Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett.


Final Analysis


Ohio State has been absolutely dominant against Rutgers the last two years, winning both games by at least 39 points. The odds makers feel very good about the Buckeyes' dominance, as the betting lines have Ohio State as the overwhelming favorite. Urban Meyer will try to keep this one from getting out of hand, but right now, Ohio State has far too much speed and talent for Chris Ash and his Scarlet Knights to keep pace. 


— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. Ohio State Buckeyes Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 14:30
Path: /college-football/miami-hurricanes-vs-georgia-tech-yellow-jackets-preview-and-prediction-2016

So far in the 2016 college football season, the Miami Hurricanes have had a relatively easy time with all three of their opponents (Florida A&M, FAU and Appalachian State). On Saturday, the Hurricanes will face their biggest test of the season when they open ACC play against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.


While Miami had last week off, Georgia Tech played Clemson, one of the best teams in the country, at home. The Tigers led 14-0 after the first quarter and never looked back as Deshaun Watson threw for 304 yards and a pair of touchdowns to defeat the Yellow Jackets 26-7.


In last year’s matchup, Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya threw for 300 yards and a touchdown in a 38-21 home win over Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets hold a slight 11-10 edge in their head-to-head series with the Hurricanes.


Miami at Georgia Tech


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 1 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Miami -7


Three Things to Watch


1. Georgia Tech’s Triple-Option Offense
In previous games in this series, Miami has had problems slowing down Georgia Tech’s triple-option (or flexbone option) offense. The Yellow Jackets’ attack begins with quarterback Justin Thomas.


In four games this season, Thomas has thrown for 364 yards and is second on the team with 144 rushing yards. Miami head coach Mark Richt knows from experience how tough it can be to play a dual-threat signal-caller like Thomas.


“I think the thing you say about him, he’s very tough, mentally and physically,” Richt said. “He can bring a team back from being behind. He did it, really in Game 1 [against Boston College]. He’s done it before in his career. Certainly, he did it one of the years I was at Georgia, a couple years back. He made some beautiful plays and set them up for a field goal and took the game into overtime because of his athleticism and his ability to throw the football.”


Miami also will have to be able to contain Georgia Tech’s stable of running backs, including leading rusher Dedrick Mills. In just three games (suspended and sat out against Mercer), Mills leads the Yellow Jackets with 201 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.


Georgia Tech was able to rush for 289 yards against a very good Vanderbilt defense a couple of weeks ago, but Miami’s defensive line is arguably more talented and deeper.


2. Hurricanes’ Running Back Trio
One of Miami’s deepest positions is running back. The Hurricanes have three ball carriers that already have broken the 100-yard mark in a game this season.


Mark Walton leads with 401 rushing yards in three games this season. In Miami’s last game, Walton gained 130 yards on the ground and scored twice in the convincing road win over Appalachian State.


Joseph Yearby also has been a factor in the running game with 256 yards and four touchdowns thus far. Gus Edwards, who rushed for more than 100 yards in the season opener against Florida A&M, also figures to get some work against Georgia Tech.


Miami offensive coordinator/running backs coach Thomas Brown said the depth at running back was part of the plan entering this season.


“I think coming in here, we always wanted to have three three-down tailbacks,” Brown said. “We want guys, who can do everything. We’ve been blessed to walk into a situation that we have guys that can play on first and second down, run out in-between tackles, catch the ball in space and most importantly protect the quarterback. Hopefully, we’ll see more of that in the future.”


Miami is averaging 272 rushing yards per game, which ranks ninth in the FBS. Georgia Tech’s defense is giving up 165 rushing yards per game, but this will be the unit’s most difficult test yet, even tougher than Clemson (138 yards last week).


3. Georgia Tech Defense
Known more as an offensive team, the Yellow Jackets enter Saturday’s game 14th in the FBS in scoring defense at just 14.3 points per game. This defense is both talented and experienced up front with defensive linemen KeShun Freeman, Patrick Gamble and Rod Rook-Chungong leading the way.


Brad Kaaya and the Miami offense also will need to know where linebacker P.J. Davis is at all times, as he already has racked 24 tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss. Davis led the Georgia Tech in tackles last season with 77.


Final Analysis


Mark Richt was a perfect 8-0 at Bobby Dodd Stadium when he was the head coach at Georgia. While it is difficult to prepare for an offense like Georgia Tech’s, Richt has a lot of experience facing it.


Expect Miami to pound Georgia Tech’s defense with running backs Mark Walton and Joseph Yearby to set up the play-action pass to take some shots downfield. Hurricanes defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has his unit attacking the ball, so it is hard to envision the Yellow Jackets having a lot of success on offense.


Miami should have a fairly easy time in Atlanta with its home date against in-state rival Florida State looming next Saturday.


Prediction: Miami 38, Georgia Tech 17


— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

Miami Hurricanes vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 14:00
Path: /college-football/florida-gators-vs-vanderbilt-commodores-preview-and-prediction-2016

Florida was cruising through the first part of its schedule, starting 3-0 and outscoring opponents 101-14. That all came to a screeching halt for Jim McElwain's team last weekend as the Gators fell to SEC East rival Tennessee 38-28. Despite holding a 21-3 lead at halftime, Florida gave up five unanswered touchdowns in the second half and could only muster one late to keep the score close. Now the Gators are clinging onto a spot in the Top 25.


Vanderbilt was left for dead after a 38-7 drubbing at the hands of Georgia Tech. However, this season is proving to be a roller coaster, and Derek Mason's Commodores rallied to pull out an uncharacteristic overtime victory against Western Kentucky. Shaking off the offensive woes for the second time this season, Ralph Webb and Kyle Shurmur teamed up to put together some late drives including a seven-play, 75-yarder in the final minute to set up a game-tying touchdown by the running back as time expired.


Since Florida and Vanderbilt became annual opponents in 1991 the Commodores have managed to win only one time – 2013. Last year Vanderbilt led all the way until the end of the game when a punt only went 12 yards and left the Gators in perfect position to kick a game-winning field goal. While Florida looks to rebound from a tough loss, the Commodores are hoping to string together wins and shock the world much like they did three years ago in a similar morning game in Nashville against No. 15 Georgia.


Florida at Vanderbilt


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 1 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: SEC Network

Line: Florida -10.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Can a Vanderbilt receiver emerge?
Long gone are the days of Jordan Matthews in black and gold. Since then the Commodores have been searching for a replacement to at least assume some of the responsibility of Vanderbilt’s all-time greatest receiver. In the years since, however, the team has struggled to churn out even one productive receiver. Players such as C.J. Duncan and Trent Sherfield have flashed talent but faded just as quickly. This year, true freshman Kalija Lipscomb leads the team with 11 receptions for 146 yards and two TDs. Duncan comes up second in yards with 110. In order for this offense to hum and compete with the likes of Florida, which puts up 450 yards and 32.3 points per game, Kyle Shurmur will need to find a reliable option in the passing game.

2. Which Florida defense will come to play?
Through the first three games of the season Florida’s defense beat up on weak teams, giving up only 14 points. Until the second half last Saturday defensive coordinator Geoff Collins’ squad looked just as good. The 35-point explosion by Tennessee in the second half, however, raised some concerns about the Gators’ ability to shut down the opposing passing game. Joshua Dobbs completed 9-of-12 passes in the second half for 235 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. While Shurmur is no Joshua Dobbs, he has shown an ability to put up numbers against decent teams and Florida will need to make sure its performance last week does not become the standard.


Getting in the backfield is a good way to do that. Jordan Sherit was the only Gator to make an impact in that regard (sack, TFL) on Saturday. With the Commodores’ offensive line weakened by injuries, Florida should look to jumpstart its defensive line play.


3. The Quarterbacks
Florida starter Luke Del Rio was unable to suit up last weekend and Austin Appleby performed admirably in his absence, tossing for 296 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. A similar performance by him this Saturday would give the Gators an early lead that wouldn’t be quite so easy to give up to the Commodores.


On the other side, Shurmur had quite possibly his best game yet as a collegiate athlete. Against Western Kentucky, he threw for 279 yards, one touchdown and one interception and led the Commodores on two strong drives in the fourth quarter and overtime. It’s becoming time for him to improve from a game manager into a game-changer for Vanderbilt and this would be the perfect game for his coming-out party.


Final Analysis


There’s no doubt about it, this Florida team is better than the Vanderbilt squad the Gators are traveling to Nashville to face this weekend. The Commodores’ offense has been inconsistent at best and the defense lacks the bite it had last season. However, it remains unclear whether last week’s collapse against Tennessee will refocus Florida or lead them on a downward spiral. Vanderbilt, on the other hand, comes into this game with very little pressure and will be playing with the hopes of pulling off a major upset. Look for Florida squad to get off to an early lead and make a stronger push in the second half to keep the pressure on.


Prediction: Florida 35, Vanderbilt 24

Florida Gators vs. Vanderbilt Commodores Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 13:45
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-fighting-irish-vs-syracuse-orange-preview-and-prediction-2016

For the second time in less than two calendar years, Notre Dame has lost five games over a six-game stretch. This time around, the Irish dropped their first four to high-quality competition: Stanford, Ohio State, Texas and Michigan State.


But Saturday’s loss to Duke was much different. The Blue Devils scored more points against Notre Dame than they had in their previous 10 quarters against Northwestern, Wake Forest, and North Carolina Wesleyan. That performance led to the ouster of ND defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.


Now the Irish head to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., to square off against the 2-2 Syracuse Orange. After two blowouts at the hands of Louisville and South Florida, Syracuse held off Connecticut and former Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco.


Notre Dame vs. Syracuse (East Rutherford, N.J.)


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 1 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Notre Dame -11


Three Things to Watch


1. Notre Dame Overcoming Adversity

The Irish actually came out guns blazing versus Duke. But they allowed a Duke kickoff return for a touchdown that cut their lead to 14-7, things fell apart for the Irish. The week before, with the Irish up 7-0, a miscue on a punt return led to a turnover, and Michigan State immediately assumed control of the game. Notre Dame will make mistakes in this game; it’s inevitable. How they respond will be telling.


2. Syracuse Receivers vs. Notre Dame Secondary

The members of the Irish defensive backfield are either young, not playing well, or both. This week, they will have to contend with an elite Syracuse pass-catching group. Amba Etta-Tawo is making the most of his final season after transferring in from Maryland. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder leads the nation with 706 receiving yards, and his 40 catches rank fourth. He is joined by Ervin Philips and his 36 catches. Steve Ishmael was the Cuse's leading returning receiver and is now a reliable third option. The Irish have generated virtually no pass rush this season, and if Orange quarterback Eric Dungey is comfortable in the pocket, it could be a long afternoon for the Notre Dame secondary.


Related: College Football's 12 Best Position Battles to Watch in Week 5


3. Syracuse Defense

It’s not like the Syracuse defense is a Rembrandt, either, as it actually is statistically worse than the Notre Dame defense. UConn, who ranks 102nd in total offense, amassed 425 yards against the Orange D last week. Syracuse would love to slow down a struggling Irish ground game and force Notre Dame to become one dimensional. But DeShone Kizer and the talented ND offense will be a big challenge for the Orange defense.


Final Analysis


The Notre Dame defense under Brian VanGorder had difficulties with teams that played up tempo. So it’s interesting that in their first game following his departure, the Irish face a Dino Babers-coached offense that likes to move quickly. Syracuse has some major weapons on offense, but the Orange defense is not good at all. For the second week in a row, it’s the Irish psyche that is the most important factor in the game. Notre Dame is a much more skilled team than Syracuse, but will the Irish be focused for 60 minutes on both sides of the ball? I have my doubts. The Irish will win, but it will not be easy.


Prediction: Notre Dame 42, Syracuse 35


— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Syracuse Orange Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 13:30
Path: /college-football/toledo-rockets-vs-byu-cougars-preview-and-prediction-2016

A pair of first-year head coaches with completely different starts to their careers highlights the first-ever meeting between Toledo (3-0) and BYU (1-3).


For Toledo, the Rockets have fittingly launched the Jason Candle era off to a perfect start after previous head coach Matt Campbell left for Iowa State.


The first three games haven’t been close for the Rockets. Toledo is averaging 42 points per game, and has only given up a total of 30.


On the opposite sideline, BYU’s first-year head coach Kalani Sitake hasn’t experienced as smooth a start to his head-coaching career.


The Cougars opened up the 2016 season with four consecutive Power Five opponents, which is only the 14th time since 2008 that a team has done that. Sitake’s team was competitive in all four games, and has lost the last three games by a total of seven points.


Come Friday, will Toledo announce its presence on the national scene with a win over a storied program? Or can BYU get back on a winning track against an underrated Rockets squad?


Toledo at BYU


Kickoff: Friday, Sept. 30 at 10:15 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: BYU -3.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Toledo running game vs. BYU’s front seven

The Rockets have four players that have rushed for more than 100 yards through the first three games of the season, highlighted by powerful running back Kareem Hunt (267 yards).


Toledo is a unique team that feels it can match up well with physical football teams, like a BYU, in the trenches because of an offensive line that averages 302.6 pounds per player.


BYU’s front seven is looking to improve its pass rush. Last week against West Virginia, the Mountaineers passed the football around like it was a skelly drill. Cougar defensive end Harvey Langi has been adjusting to life with his hand in the dirt after switching from linebacker. BYU will look to him and its outside linebackers to create havoc for the Rockets backfield.


Related: College Football's 12 Best Position Battles to Watch in Week 5


2. How many touches will BYU’s Jamaal Williams have?

Last week in the loss to West Virginia, Williams had 24 carries for 169 yards in a game where the Cougars scored a season-high 32 points.


BYU wants to find balance in first-year coordinator Ty Detmer’s offense. The key to finding that balance will be to continue focusing on the run and feeding the ball to Williams, who has proven that he is playing at a higher level than ever before in his career.


Expect BYU to give Williams anywhere between 25-30 touches in this game.


3. Toledo seeking signature win

The Rockets received one vote in the most recent AP Top 25 poll. If they can pull off a win in Provo against a good BYU team, the Rockets will have arrived on the national scene and would position them alongside Western Michigan as the favorites in the MAC West.


Toledo has had some big wins in recent seasons. Last year, the Rockets won at Arkansas when they were the Razorbacks were ranked No. 18, and then in 2012 Toledo went to Nippert Stadium and defeated a ranked Cincinnati team.


Traveling two time zones will be a unique challenge but the Rockets had a bye last week to get prepared for the time adjustment, and the huge opportunity in front of them.


Final Analysis


Stacked up on the same night against a top-10 showdown in the Pac-12 between Stanford and Washington, Toledo and BYU is likely considered by most around the country as the “other game” on Friday night. But don’t be surprised if we see this game decided in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. After all, this is a weeknight game featuring a MAC team. We have to expect some #MACtion, am I right?


BYU has a hard-hitting defense and an offense that is feeling confident after significant improvement a week ago. Toledo is looking to make a statement that it is a player on the national scene.


BYU is in desperation mode to get a win. The Cougar fan base has made peace with the growing pains because they’ve faced Power Five teams through the first four games and have been competitive down to the wire in each of those contests. If the Cougars fall to a MAC team at home, the natives in Provo could become restless on the 2016 team.


The Cougars find a way to get their second win of the season, and the first home win for Kalani Sitake as BYU’s headman.


Prediction: BYU 26, Toledo 20


— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is publisher of Rivals' BYU site,, and also is the BYU reporter and insider for 1320 KFAN and co-host of "The Cougar Center" podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.

Toledo Rockets vs. BYU Cougars Preview and Prediction 2016
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 13:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/washington-huskies-vs-stanford-cardinal-preview-and-prediction-2016

Friday night’s matchup between Washington and Stanford was picked as one of the Pac-12’s most anticipated games of 2016, and through the first four weeks of the season, nothing has changed to alter those expectations. The Cardinal and Huskies are ranked as top 10 teams and remain the favorites to win the Pac-12 title.


Behind the strength of its defense and dynamic junior running back Christian McCaffrey, Stanford is off to another good start under coach David Shaw. The Cardinal have defeated three Power 5 opponents, including Pac-12 victories over USC and UCLA. New quarterback Ryan Burns isn’t posting prolific numbers, but he’s also making enough plays within the offense and minimizing the mistakes.


Washington cruised through the first three weeks of the season in matchups against overmatched opponents in Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State. However, the Huskies nearly watched their undefeated season end last Saturday, as Arizona gave Washington all it could handle in Tucson before falling 35-28 in overtime. Conference play is never easy, but it’s also fair to wonder if the Huskies were already peeking ahead to this Friday night clash against Stanford.


The all-time series between Stanford and Washington is tied at 41 victories apiece, with four ties between these two programs. The Cardinal have won three in a row in this series, with the Huskies’ last victory over Stanford coming in 2012. Additionally, Washington only has two victories over Stanford since 2004.


Stanford at Washington


Kickoff: Friday, Sept. 30 at 9 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Washington -3


Three Things to Watch


1. The Quarterbacks

Washington quarterback Jake Browning was projected to have a breakout 2016 campaign after starting 12 games as a true freshman last fall. The competition will get tougher and only four games have been played so far, but it’s safe to say the sophomore is on his way to living up to those preseason expectations. Browning has completed 67 of 95 passes for 904 yards and 14 touchdowns through Washington’s first four matchups this year and has tossed only two picks. Additionally, Browning ranks among the nation’s best with a 70.5 completion percentage and already has three passes of 40 or more yards. Browning missed last year’s matchup against Stanford due to injury, so this will be his first look at the rugged Cardinal defense. The front seven of Stanford’s defense is led by end Solomon Thomas, while linebacker Peter Kalambayi leads the team with 2.5 sacks through three contests. The play of the Cardinal front seven is crucial on Friday night, as starting cornerbacks Alijah Holder and Quenton Meeks are out due to injuries. With Stanford missing its top two corners, can Browning take advantage by attacking downfield and connecting on big plays with receiver John Ross or Chico McClatcher? To do so, Browning is going to need protection from his offensive line, which has surrendered nine sacks through four games.


On the other sideline, Stanford starter Ryan Burns isn’t posting huge totals, but he’s also delivered a handful of plays in the clutch for this offense. Through three games, Burns has thrown for 395 yards and three scores. The junior has yet to top 200 passing yards in a contest but also hasn’t made a lot of mistakes. In last week’s win over UCLA, Burns connected on a couple of key throws in the fourth quarter, including a game-winning touchdown toss to JJ Arcega-Whiteside with less than a minute remaining. Burns scored a solid victory in a tough environment (UCLA) last Saturday but the road environment at Husky Stadium is an even bigger test. And of course, Washington’s defense is arguably the best in the Pac-12. This unit is limiting opponents to 4.3 yards per play and returns a standout secondary, headlined by cornerback Sidney Jones and safety Budda Baker. With the Huskies likely to focus on stopping running back Christian McCaffrey, Burns could be called upon to carry more of the workload on offense than he has through the first three games.


Related: Predictions for Every Game in Week 5


2. Stopping the Run

Containing Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey is no easy assignment. The junior is one of the nation’s top players and has recorded at least 100 rushing yards in each of the first three games. McCaffrey leads all FBS players by averaging 211.7 all-purpose yards per game and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Washington’s rush defense has been stingy in 2016, limiting opponents to 3.4 yards per carry and an average of 145.5 rushing yards per game allowed. The Huskies gave up 308 rushing yards to Arizona last week but a large chunk of that yardage came on a 79-yard run by dual-threat quarterback Brandon Dawkins. In last year’s matchup against Washington, McCaffrey was limited to just 109 yards on 23 attempts. Will the Huskies stack the box and force Stanford to throw to open up running lanes? Or can Stanford’s offensive line set the tone and clear the path for a big night from McCaffrey?


Washington’s ground attack started the season with underwhelming performances against Rutgers and Idaho but averaged at least six yards per carry over the last two weeks. Sophomore Myles Gaskin leads the team with 302 yards and is the No. 1 option for coach Chris Petersen. However, junior Lavon Coleman provided a spark with 181 yards last week and could see a few more carries on Friday night. Regardless of which running back is toting the rock for the Huskies, the front seven of Stanford isn’t going to allow much in the way of rushing lanes. The Cardinal rank second in the Pac-12 in rush defense (95.3 ypg) and have allowed only one score on the ground through three games. Will Washington get any traction or can the Stanford front seven dominate up front?


3. Turnovers and Special Teams

With a close game anticipated on Friday night, a couple of overlooked areas – turnovers and special teams – could decide this one. Washington leads the Pac-12 with a plus-nine turnover margin, while Stanford is even through three matchups. Surprisingly, the Cardinal have not recorded a positive turnover margin in a contest against the Huskies since 2011. That hasn’t mattered too much, as Stanford is 4-1 in this series since 2011. Which team can gain the edge in the turnover battle is likely to win on Friday.


In addition to stopping McCaffrey on the ground, Washington has to deal with the dynamic junior on returns. McCaffrey has returned two punts for 16 yards and three kickoffs for 64 yards in 2016. Don’t let those modest numbers fool you – McCaffrey is one of the nation’s best return men. Can the Huskies keep the ball out of his hands on returns? Additionally, if this game comes down to a field goal, Stanford has the edge here. Conrad Ukropina has connected on all six attempts in 2016, while Washington kicker Cameron Van Winkle is just 3 of 6 and missed two opportunities against Arizona. Stanford punter Jake Bailey is also off to a terrific start (45.3 avg) and has pinned seven kicks inside of the 20.


Final Analysis


This matchup should have major implications on the Pac-12 North title. And there’s also an overall momentum angle in play for both teams. Washington is a program on the rise under coach Chris Petersen and entered the year projected to have a breakout season. All signs suggest the Huskies will live up to the hype, but this is the first opportunity this team has on a big stage and chance to make a statement in 2016. Stanford is already battle tested from playing three Power 5 opponents and has established a program that reloads and contends for Pac-12 championships on an annual basis. Just one victory over Washington wouldn’t validate everything Petersen has built in Seattle. However, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to get that marquee or signature win this Friday night. If there’s a time for the Huskies to score the break out win and announce to the rest of the nation they are for real, Friday night at Husky Stadium should be the perfect opportunity.


Prediction: Washington 24, Stanford 20
Washington Huskies vs. Stanford Cardinal Preview and Prediction 2016
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: syndicated, Overtime
Path: /overtime/40-truly-weirdest-team-nicknames-sports

We're all for tradition, and honoring your region with your team nickname, but some of these are just plain weird. Here they are in no particular order of weirdness. And yes, these are real.


1. Jordan (Utah) Beetdiggers

This nickname inspires fear. If you're a beet. 


2. Conway (Ark.) Wampus Cats

A Wampus cat is a fearsome creature from folklore. Doesn't stop it from sounding stupid.


3. Camas (Wash.) Papermakers
4. Kimberly (Wis.) Papermakers

Maybe they can get Dunder-Mifflin to sponsor their uniforms.


5. Badger (Wis.) Badgers

The Badger Badgers? Too bad Duany Duany, Longar Longar and Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje didn't play there.


6. Newburgh Free Academy (NY) Goldbacks

Anything with "backs" attached to the end seems like a slur.


7. Butte (Idaho) Pirates

No comment.


8. Grafton/St. Thomas (ND) Spoilers

Isn't the nickname "Spoilers" a concession that you suck and can only hope to spoil a good team's season?


9. Mt. Pleasant (RI) Kilties

They've managed to take the word "kilt" and make it even more effeminate.


10. Bellows Free Academy (Vt.) Bobwhites

A bobwhite is a quail that is commonly killed and consumed. Doesn't even have much meat on it.


11. Cairo (Ga.) Syrupmakers

Sweet and sticky are not adjectives I want applied to my football team.


12. Red Bank Catholic (NJ) Caseys

The school took its nickname from a former Monsignor. It makes me think of Casey Anthony. Or Kasey Kasem.


13. Glenville (Ohio) Tarblooders

A tarblooder was apparently a railroad worker who laid ties and cemented them with tar. When you have to explain it, it loses some impact.


14. Austin Westlake (Texas) Chaparrals

They're called the "Chaps" for short. Wonder if they're assless.


15. Dunbar (Md.) Poets

It's a nod to the school's namesake, but Poets? Aren't they the guys the football players should be pummeling?


16. Mt. Clemens (Mich.) Battling Bathers

Not sure you want to combine football and bath time in your nickname.


17. St. Mary's Prep (Mich.) Eaglets
18. Rockhurst (Mo.) Hawklets

Baby birds, even eagles and hawks, don't exactly inspire fear. Hell, they can't even fly.


19. North Little Rock Charging Wildcats

Adding "Charging" seems like overkill. And is a Wildcat really known for charging?


20. Salesianum School (Del.) Sallies

This simply can't be real, can it? Was Nancies already taken?


21. Punahou (Hawaii) Buffanblu

It's not some native Hawaiian bird of prey or anything. Believe it or not, this nickname comes from the school's colors: buff and blue.


22. Shelley (Idaho) Russets

Yes, Idaho is known for potatoes. Doesn't mean you have to incorporate it into your nickname. Would be like calling a Chicago team "the Gang-Related Murders."


23. Watersmeet (Mich.) Nimrods

In the Bible, Nimrod was a mighty hunter. Nobody knows their Bible anymore. Today, a nimrod is merely a moron.


24. Orofino (Idaho) Maniacs

Many think that the team was named for the local mental hospital. Unfortunately, that's not true. It was merely the frenetic style of play the hoops team used to be known for.


25. Teutopolis (Ill.) Wooden Shoes

They're particularly loud on the basketball court. But slow.


26. Chattanooga (Tenn.) Central Purple Pounders

Sounds like a prison team.


27. Mars Area (Pa.) Fighting Planets

Sort of a "War of the Worlds" theme.


28. Beaver (Okla.) Dusters

A Beaver Duster sounds like something you'd order online. On a secure site.


29. Yuma (Ariz.) Criminals

I hope this isn't truth in advertising.


30. Freeburg (Ill.) Midgets

Surprised that the little people lobby hasn’t gotten hold of this one.


31. Webster University Gorloks

The students at Webster came up with this one. Sounds like a Lord of the Rings character.


32. UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs

Big, slimy and disgusting. Kind of like a pregnant Kardashian sister.


33. Columbia College Fighting Koalas

Putting "fighting" in front of an adorable, cuddly creature like a koala doesn't make it any scarier.


34. Presbyterian Blue Hose

I guess it's better than the Presbyterian Depressed Prostitutes.


35. Scottsdale Community College Fighting Artichokes

Ridiculous. Everyone knows artichokes are peaceful vegetables.


36. Rhode Island School of Design Nads

Yes, it's a joke, right down to the anatomically correct mascot and the "Go, Nads!" cheer.


37. Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs

I'd avoid the hot dogs at the ballpark.


38. Savannah Sand Gnats

Annoying sand-based insects are an overlooked genre for mascots.


39. Montgomery Biscuits

Hot, buttery and delicious. Paula Deen's favorite team.


40. Hillhouse (Conn.) Academics

I guess it's one way to flip the saying, "They're known for academics."

40 Weirdest Team Nicknames in Sports
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 12:20
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-week-5-start-or-sit-2016

We are about to start Week 5 of the college fantasy football season and there are some high-profile matchups with three games pitting top 10 teams against one another. It will be fun to watch, absolutely, but is that good for your fantasy squad? That will be determined on Saturday.


Note: Obvious choices will not be given such as Deshaun Watson or Leonard Fournette as those players are typically starters regardless of the matchup.


Also below are the top 10 rankings for each position for the given week.




Start ’Em


David Washington, Old Dominion vs. Charlotte

After a rocky outing against Appalachian State, Washington has bounced back the last two weeks with more than 200 yards passing and two touchdowns against both NC State and UTSA. Originally in a battle for the starting job during the preseason with sophomore Shuler Bentley, Washington’s numbers have been impressive with eight TD passes and just one interception. The senior should continue his streak this weekend against Charlotte, which has allowed the third-most TD passes in the country with 12. Opposing quarterbacks also have thrown for more than 260 yards in each of the first four games against the 49ers.


Sam Darnold, USC vs. Arizona State

Darnold gave the USC offense a spark in his first career start, leading the Trojans to a near upset on the road against Utah. The redshirt freshman completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 253 yards. He also rushed for 41 yards and a touchdown on a Utes defense that ranked in the top third of the country against both the pass and run coming into the week. Now think of the infinite possibilities for Darnold with a start under his belt and getting to face a hapless Arizona State secondary that is giving up more than 400 yards a game through the air. Darnold is a must-start this week given the matchup and his dual-threat ability.


Sit’ Em


Mike White, Western Kentucky vs. Houston Baptist

Since that Week 1 performance against Rice where White threw for 517 yards and three touchdowns, his numbers have been fairly pedestrian. Granted with two SEC defenses on the schedule in Alabama and Vanderbilt that is to be expected, but White did not top 300 yards or thrown for more than two touchdowns in either of those games. Last year’s starter Brandon Doughty did both in all but three games last season. Now reports are coming out that head coach Jeff Brohm is planning on getting backup quarterback Tyler Ferguson some reps this week against Houston Baptist, lending me to think that White’s job could be at stake if Ferguson plays well. So while this looks like the perfect rebound matchup against FCS competition, splitting reps will diminish White’s value for this week.


Taysom Hill, BYU vs. Toledo

We saw glimpses of the Taysom Hill of old last week against West Virginia, as he ran for 105 yards along with 241 passing yards and two touchdowns. But we also saw three costly interceptions that gave the game away, leading to BYU’s third consecutive loss. In that three-week span, Hill has more interceptions (6) than combined touchdowns (5). While the Cougars are at home this week, it will be a stiff test going against a Toledo team that has dominated opponents in the first three games by an average of 33 points per contest. In addition, the Rockets’ pass defense currently ranks fourth in the country with just 392 passing yards combined allowed in their first three games and two touchdowns.


Top 10 Quarterbacks for Week 5:

Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech vs. Kansas

J.T. Barrett, Ohio State vs. Rutgers

Luke Falk, Washington State vs. Oregon

Lamar Jackson, Louisville vs. Clemson

Greg Ward Jr., Houston vs. Connecticut

Davis Webb, Cal vs. Utah

Kenny Hill, TCU vs. Oklahoma

Ryan Higgins, Louisiana Tech vs. UTEP

DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame vs. Syracuse

Brent Stockstill, Middle Tennessee vs. North Texas


Running Backs


Start ’Em


Jalin Moore, Appalachian State vs. Georgia State

If you were able to snag Moore last week with the news that starting running back Marcus Cox was questionable, give yourself a pat on the back. We saw last season what Moore was capable off when filling in for Cox, rushing for 244 yards in his first career start against Idaho. Filling in for Cox in again this past Saturday against Akron, Moore topped that with 257 yards and two touchdowns. Reports came out earlier in the week that head coach Scott Satterfield said he was in no rush to get Cox back on the field, and who could blame him with a backup like Moore waiting in the wings. This week, Moore gets the 128th-ranked rushing defense in Georgia State that is giving up a whopping 325 yards per contest. Moore is in line for another huge performance.


Jon Hilliman, Boston College vs. Buffalo

We noted above that Georgia State has the worst rushing defense in all of college football. Which team is next in line? That would be Buffalo at 290 yards per game and has allowed a 100-yard rusher in all three games. The Bulls haven’t been playing world-beaters either – FCS Albany, Nevada and Army. Now it’s Boston College and Hilliman, who is off to a solid start with four rushing touchdowns in four weeks, including two last week in the win over Wagner. Breaking the century mark and a touchdown is certainly within reach for Hilliman this week considering the matchup.


Sit ’Em


Dedrick Mills, Georgia Tech vs. Miami

Mills was a priority waiver wire selection after his performance against a good Vanderbilt defense in Week 3 with 58 yards on the ground and three touchdowns. The true freshman B-Back followed that up with 75 yards and another score against Clemson last week, giving him a touchdown in each of the three games played this season. For as good as Clemson is at stopping the run, though, Miami has been better this year. The Hurricanes are allowing just 1.6 yards per carry and have given up just a single rushing touchdown.


Robert Martin, Rutgers vs. Ohio State

There is only one team currently in college football that has not allowed a rushing touchdown this year. That would be the Buckeyes, which Rutgers faces off with on Saturday at the Shoe. In the first three games (bye last week), Ohio State is allowing just slightly over three yards per carry and has yet to allow an opposing running back to reach 100 yards. That list includes future NFL backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine from Oklahoma, as well as Tulsa’s D’Angelo Brewer, who is sixth in the country in rushing. With Rutgers star wide receiver Janarion Grant now out for the season with an ankle injury, Ohio State’s defense can pin its ears back and focus on stopping Martin, the Scarlet Knights’ lone offensive threat at this point.


Top 10 Running Backs for Week 5:

Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State vs. South Alabama

Jalin Moore, Appalachian State vs. Georgia State

Jeremy McNichols, Boise State vs. Utah State

Ito Smith, Southern Miss vs. Rice

I’Tavius Mathers, Middle Tennessee vs. North Texas

Elijah McGuire, UL Lafayette vs. New Mexico State

Aaron Jones, UTEP vs. Louisiana Tech

Christian McCaffrey, Stanford vs. Washington

James Butler, Nevada vs. Hawaii

Dalvin Cook, Florida State vs. North Carolina


Wide Receivers


Start ’Em


Jonathan Giles, Texas Tech vs. Kansas

During the offseason, it was a “your guess is as good as mine” scenario as to who would be the leading receiver for the Red Raiders following Jakeem Grant’s graduation. While it is still early, Giles has distanced himself from the pack a bit after three games, as the sophomore is leading the team in receiving yards (346) and touchdowns (5). Two weeks ago against Louisiana Tech, Giles was arguably the best player on the field, catching three touchdown passes and finishing with more than 180 yards. The Jayhawks, meanwhile, actually boast the fifth-ranked passing defense in college football, but let’s be honest… it’s still Kansas. Giles has become a must-start if you have him on your roster and this week is no different.


Michael Gallup, Colorado State vs. Wyoming

Gallup was mentioned earlier this week as a potential waiver wire selection after posting consecutive weeks with touchdown receptions against Northern Colorado and Minnesota. After minimal impact the first two weeks, Gallup’s production has picked up the past two games, seemingly when freshman Collin Hill entered the lineup as the starting quarterback. The former junior college transfer has an enticing matchup this week against Wyoming, which has allowed a receiver to top 100 yards in three out of the first four games. This week should be No. 4.


Sit ‘Em


Allen Lazard, Iowa State vs. Baylor

Typically known for its offense, Baylor has been excellent at defending the pass thus far in 2016, allowing an average of 142 yards per game through four weeks. Last week against Oklahoma State, which boasts one of the top passing attacks in college football, Baylor limited No. 1 wide receiver James Washington to 89 yards just one week after posting 296 against Pittsburgh. Iowa State has nowhere near the same type of weapons as Oklahoma State, and the Cyclones have shown little consistency throwing the football through four games. Lazard has come back down to earth after consecutive 100-yard performances to open the season and should see the same double-coverage from Baylor that was employed last week to corral the Cowboys’ Washington.


Shelton Gibson, West Virginia vs. Kansas State

After a no-show performance in Week 1, Gibson has looked more like the top-20 wide receiver I pegged him as coming into the season with back-to-back 100-yard performances against Youngstown State and BYU. Gibson’s breakaway speed and big-play abilities are what separates himself from most receivers and both were on display in those matchups as he had catches that went for more than 50 yards in each game. But yards won’t be as easy to come by this week for Gibson against the No. 1 pass defense in the country in Kansas State. The Wildcats are giving up just 106 yards per contest through the air and have yet to allow a team to surpass 300 yards of total offense against them.


Top 10 Wide Receivers for Week 5:

Amba Etta-Tawo, Syracuse vs. Notre Dame

Zay Jones, East Carolina vs. Central Florida

Chad Hansen, California vs. Utah

Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech vs. UTEP

Richie James, Middle Tennessee vs. North Texas

Gabe Marks, Washington State vs. Oregon

Corey Davis, Western Michigan vs. Central Michigan

Jerome Lane, Akron vs. Kent State

James Washington, Oklahoma State vs. Texas

Kenny Golladay, Northern Illinois vs. Ball State


— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeBainbridge2.

College Fantasy Football Week 5 Start or Sit
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-12-best-position-battles-watch-week-5-2016

We heard all summer about the greatest opening week ever in college football but Week 5 might be as good, or better, with a whopping three games involving top 10 teams. As good as the matchups between the names on the front of the jerseys are this week though; the one-on-one battles between the names on the back of them might be even juicier.


Whether you’re a college football fan, a coach or an NFL scout, here are 12 of the best position vs. position battles between offensive stars and their defensive counterparts on the other side heading into Week 5:


1. QB Deshaun Watson vs. Louisville QB Lamar Jackson

Ok, sure these two won’t be on the field at the same time but they are certainly going head-to-head on Saturday night. It’s easy to say this is a Heisman Trophy elimination battle and the winner has to be considered the favorite to be the most outstanding player in the country.


2. Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey vs. Washington DB Budda Baker

A Pac-12 title and possibly a College Football Playoff berth are on the line as Friday night lights comes to Montlake, Wash., in a big way this week. McCaffrey remains an all-purpose threat to score every time he touches the ball but he’ll have one of the best athletes in the country trying to stop him in Baker.


3. Toledo RB Kareem Hunt vs. BYU LB Butch Pau’u

Friday night isn’t all about a big Pac-12 game out West as BYU hosts a Toledo team that has designs on a Group of Five bid come December. A big part of that Rockets attack is Hunt, one of the best backs in the country and a load to take down with more than 3,500 career rushing yards. Pau’u has the second-most tackles in a game this season (19) and will have his hands full at home.


4. Wisconsin RB Corey Clement vs. Michigan ATH Jabrill Peppers

Wisconsin has two huge wins under its belt before September is even up but the Badgers are doing it without their normally strong run game (3.9 yards per carry as a team). Clement has started to regain his form from two years ago however and has five touchdowns already against some tough defenses. He’ll be up against one of the best all-around defenders in the country this week though, with Peppers really flying all over the field.


5. Clemson DB Cordrea Tankersley vs. Louisville WR James Quick

Tankersley is one of the best corners in the country and the only member of Clemson’s secondary who didn’t move on to the NFL after last year’s national title run. He has the speed and anticipation to shadow any receiver but will be challenged to stay on Quick no matter what happens with Lamar Jackson’s ability to break out of the pocket and find the receiver down the field.


6. Arizona State RB Kalen Ballage vs. USC LB Cameron Smith

Louisville’s Lamar Jackson is the only player in FBS to have found the end zone more than Ballage so far this season. He makes the most of every touch he receives and is just a load to bring down at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds. Smith is one of the bright spots for the Trojans this year and will need to do everything he can against Ballage to prevent a 1-4 start to the season for USC.


7. Tennessee LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin vs. Georgia RB Nick Chubb

Reeves-Maybin is still nursing a shoulder injury but is expected to play this week in a game that could all but wrap up the division title for the Volunteers. With Darrin Kirkland out though, he’ll have a ton of pressure on him to help slow down Chubb (who is dealing with an ankle injury) and limit the Bulldogs’ star to only modest gains and no big plays.


8. Michigan TE Jake Butt vs. Wisconsin LBs T.J. Watt, Vince Biegel, Jack Cichy, T.J. Edwards

Butt is the go-to target in Michigan’s offense when Wilton Speight drops back to pass and for good reason with his ability to create separation and haul in tough catches. Wisconsin’s linebacker corps is one of the best in all of college football but they’ll have to be aware of the prodigious tight end slipping out more than they are rushing the passer this week.


9. Syracuse WR Amba Etta-Tawo vs. Notre Dame CB Cole Luke

Etta-Tawo is the best receiver in the country nobody is really talking about and is averaging nearly 18 yards a catch. The Maryland transfer is really the beneficiary of Dino Babers’ new offense and he’ll be next in line to test a thin Notre Dame secondary. Luke is about the only experienced hand the Irish have on the back end and won’t be able to take a break on Saturday afternoon.


10. Stanford WR Michael Rector vs. Washington CB Kevin King

It’s a homecoming for Cardinal receiver Rector this week, who grew up in the Seattle area. He was once committed to the Huskies before flipping to Stanford and will be looking to make his last trip home in college a memorable one. King looks to put a stop to that however and the 6-foot-2 corner is going to be a great matchup on Friday night for the speedy Rector.


11. Clemson RB Wayne Gallman vs. Louisville LB Keith Kelsey

Gallman isn’t putting up stats quite as gaudy as he did last season but remains one of the more dangerous ball carriers in the sport with his ability to run between the tackles as well as bust a big gain. Kelsey is one of the most underrated players at his position but a fantastic run-stuffer and will need a big game against Gallman if the Cardinals want to remain undefeated.


12. Oklahoma OT Orlando Brown vs. TCU LB Josh Carraway

Brown is the massive tackle helping protect Baker Mayfield’s blindside, a key thing in a game that could turn into a shootout between a pair of Air Raid offenses. Carraway is an experienced veteran on a very good defensive line that loves to get after the quarterback but he’ll need to get around Brown if the Horned Frogs want to capture a massive Big 12 win on Saturday.


— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.

College Football's 12 Best Position Battles to Watch in Week 5
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/outrageous-college-football-predictions-week-5-2016

College football never fails us. The sport is filled with drama and outrageousness each and every week. Week 4 of the 2016 season saw a couple of high-profile programs cut ties with some high-profile coaches due to some unimpressive starts to the season.


The ramifications of those changes combined with results from around the country have set up a fifth week where, once again, it's anybody's guess what the landscape will look like on Monday. Some would-be contenders hit the road to prove themselves. Some will limp into matchups looking to salvage their season. And like every week, you can expect plenty of outrageous results.


Outrageous College Football Predictions for Week 5


Washington beats Stanford by double digits

The Cardinal were lucky to get out of the Rose Bowl alive last weekend. UCLA gave us yet another piece of the blueprint needed to beat Stanford, and you can bet that Washington head coach Chris Petersen was watching. His Huskies have arrived and are ready to insert themselves squarely into the College Football Playoff conversation. Led by quarterback Jake Browning — arguably college football's most underrated player this season — Washington is scoring more than 45 points per game. The Huskies got their first real test last week at Arizona, and that game prepped them for a top-10 tilt at home. Look for Petersen to scheme around taking Christian McCaffrey out of the game on offense, forcing Stanford to win with other playmakers who have yet to be identified. Washington's athleticism on defense should be enough to secure any lead Browning and the offense build early on. 


Syracuse defeats Notre Dame

I didn't us the word "upset" — and that wasn't an accident. Sure, on paper, the Orange are not expected to win. That said, is anybody confident that the Fighting Irish can win a game on the road right now? When you combine the general disarray of the Notre Dame defense with that fact that Syracuse head coach Dino Babers is one of the better offensive minds in the game, that spells trouble for Brian Kelly's golden domers. Expect the Orange to play with house money, constantly testing the Notre Dame defense and keeping the Irish uncomfortable for four quarters. Expect another big day from Syracuse senior wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo en route to the biggest win of Babers' short tenure in Upstate New York to this point.


Oklahoma steamrolls TCU

The Sooners have had two weeks to sit around and listen to everyone talk about their season being over. They are no longer ranked and all but eliminated from the College Football Playoff. Be that as it may, their only two losses have come to a couple of title contenders, and the Big 12 championship is still very much a realistic goal. Oklahoma is still a more talented team than the Horned Frogs, and I expect "Big Game" Bob Stoops to have the troops ready. Oklahoma may have stumbled through a brutal start to the season, but the Sooners aren't going anywhere, and the nation will find that out on Saturday.


Iowa State upsets Baylor

Baylor hasn't exactly been lighting up the scoreboard like we've become accustomed to the bears doing over the last couple of seasons. In fact, they've looked very vulnerable at times in 2016. Iowa State is a tough team to get hyped for, and Ames is a tough place to play. The Cyclones are known to win a game or two that they probably shouldn't most seasons at home, and this looks like it could be the one this season. Look for Matt Campbell to out-coach Jim Grobe in every facet of the game and take advantage of groggy Baylor squad going through the motions in this early kickoff.


Georgia Tech takes down Miami

I haven't been shy about the fact that I feel like the Hurricanes are the most overrated team in college football right now. They have no Power Five wins and their three opponents this season have a combined winning percentage of .250. On Saturday, they'll be dealing with a coach and a program that knows how to win on the big stage. Georgia Tech is a tough team to prepare for and will be Miami's toughest opponent to date. The Hurricanes have proven to be fairly stout against the run this season, so I wouldn't be shocked to see Yellow Jacket quarterback Justin Thomas taking a deep shot down the field off of play-action early just to keep the defense guessing. After that, look for the Ramblin' Wreck to expose Miami as frauds with that running game we all know about and a sneaky-good defense that tends to keep teams out of the end zone.


— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on,, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

Outrageous College Football Predictions for Week 5
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army West Point Black Knights, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/10-college-football-picks-against-spread-week-5-odds-lines-2016

The Week 5 edition of college football’s picks against the spread features predictions for some of Saturday’s biggest games, including Louisville-Clemson, Washington-Stanford and Michigan-Wisconsin. Additionally, conference matchups such as Tennessee-Georgia, Wake Forest-NC State and Northwestern-Iowa feature lines or odds that caught our attention for Week 5. Here are 10 predictions or picks against the spread for this weekend's action:


10 College Football Picks Against the Spread for Week 5


Louisville (-2) at Clemson

It tells you just how impressive Louisville has been through the first month of the season that the Cards are favored on the road against a team that played in the national title game last year. I’m drinking the Cardinal Kool-Aid.


Duke (-3.5) over Virginia

After averaging 383 yards and 17 points in losses to Wake Forest and Northwestern, Duke erupted for 498 yards and 38 points in its win at Notre Dame. We know the Irish have major issues on defense, but we also believe that Daniel Jones and Blue Devils’ offense is starting to figure things out a bit. 


Related: Predictions for Every Game in Week 5


Wake Forest (+11) over NC State

This line seems way to high. Wake Forest is 4–0 and already has two road wins (Duke, Indiana) on its résumé. There’s serious pressure on NC State, which has yet to beat a quality opponent (that’s nothing new) and lost at East Carolina.


Tennessee (-3.5) over Georgia

This has all the makings of a trap game for Tennessee, fresh off its breakthrough win over Florida. But the Vols are simply the better team.


Missouri (+13) over LSU

LSU figures to be re-energized under interim head coach Ed Orgeron, but there doesn’t appear to be a quick fix for the Tigers’ offense. Missouri will score enough to make this interesting.


Washington (-3) over Stanford

Washington dominated three inferior opponents at home before winning in overtime last week at Arizona. Stanford has been outstanding on defense against a schedule that has featured three games vs. Power 5 opponents. The Cardinal are the more seasoned team, but UW is ready to break through under Chris Petersen.


Michigan (-10.5) over Wisconsin

Wisconsin shocked the college football world with its surprisingly easy win in East Lansing last week. Winning in the state of Michigan once again will be a huge challenge. Here’s my favorite Michigan stat: Opponents are only 6-of-50 on third downs.


Northwestern (+13) over Iowa

Northwestern has been a disappointment in 2016 with a 1–3 record, but this is not a bad team. Iowa has struggled offensively the last two weeks, with 231 yards vs. North Dakota State and 355 vs. Rutgers.


West Virginia (-3.5) over Kansas State

West Virginia is quietly 3–0, with solid wins over Missouri and BYU. Could this team be a contender in the wide-open Big 12? Probably not, but the Mountaineers should win this game at home.


Memphis (+14.5) over Ole Miss

Memphis has won its last two games (over Kansas and Bowling Green) by a combined score of 120–10. The Tigers clearly can score. Can they slow down Ole Miss? The guess here is just enough to cover the 14.5-point spread.


Last week: 6–4

10 College Football Picks Against the Spread for Week 5
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, syndicated
Path: /college-football/fcs-football-best-games-and-predictions-week-5-2016

Now that the FCS is basically done giving the FBS fits, it’s time to get serious about the conference title races.


You don’t want to fall behind in your race — William & Mary, Illinois State, Montana... ahem.


Related: FCS Rankings: Power Poll for Week 5


Apparently, the best way to avoid the upset bug in the FCS is to be on a bye. Fortunately for the fans, most top teams are in action this weekend as the schedule is competitive again.


Here are the FCS games of the week:


Note: All times ET


Friday, Sept. 30


Penn (0-2, 0-0 Ivy) at Dartmouth (2-0, 0-0), 7 p.m.

Both teams have played tough early-season schedules with results that are decidedly different. Penn, which has allowed two opponents to convert 24-of-35 third downs (a gaudy 68.6 percent), has to fix its defensive shortcomings. Dartmouth outside linebacker Folarin Orimolade doesn’t have to fix a thing — he’s making plays everywhere.
Pick: Penn


Saturday, Oct. 1


Delaware (2-1, 0-0 CAA) at No. 7 James Madison (3-1, 1-0), 1:30 p.m.

With their deep backfields, these two CAA Football teams are going to try to run the ball right through the other. Delaware wants to get back to the FCS playoffs. If the Blue Hens want to make a meaningful statement, well...

Pick: James Madison


No. 9 Cal Poly (3-1, 1-0 Big Sky) at North Dakota (2-2, 1-0), 2 p.m.

The Mustangs’ express rolled on against Montana last week with... the passing game? North Dakota has gotten on track with two straight wins and the Fighting Hawks have the kind of run defense to trouble the Mustangs’ sizzling triple option.

Pick: North Dakota


No. 19 Illinois State (2-2, 0-1 Missouri Valley) at No. 1 North Dakota State (3-0, 0-0), 2 p.m.

It’s not quite the showdown it could have been the last two seasons, when they didn’t meet in the regular season and wound up sharing the Missouri Valley Conference title. NDSU has won its last 22 games after an open week. That’s not good for Illinois State when it’s a little banged up.

Pick: North Dakota State


Wofford (3-1, 1-0 Southern) at Samford (2-1, 0-1), 3 p.m.

Wofford didn’t allow East Tennessee State’s offense to reach its side of the field last week. No doubt quarterback Delvin Hodges will take Samford there in this SoCon showdown.

Pick: Wofford


William & Mary (2-2, 0-1 CAA) at New Hampshire (2-2, 1-0), 3:30 p.m.

As successful as UNH has been through the years, something usually goes wrong against the Tribe, which hold a 15-4 series lead, winning 11 of the last 13 matchups. The loser will have a hard time making the FCS playoffs.

Pick: New Hampshire


No. 14 The Citadel (3-0, 2-0 Southern) at Western Carolina (1-2, 0-1), 3:30 p.m.

These SoCon teams want to beat each other so much they both took off last week to have an extra week of preparation. The clutch Bulldogs seem to get better throughout a game.

Pick: The Citadel


No. 4 Sam Houston State (3-0, 2-0 Southland) vs. No. 25 Stephen F. Austin (3-1, 1-0) in Houston, 4 p.m.

“The Battle of the Piney Woods” will push 30,000 strong at NRG Stadium in Houston. Quarterback Hunter Taylor has been a savior off the SFA bench. The talented Bearkats haven’t needed late heroics; they’ve put opponents away by halftime.

Pick: Sam Houston State


Prairie View A&M (3-1, 3-0 SWAC) vs. Grambling State (3-1, 2-0) in Dallas, 4 p.m.

Prairie View was the preseason favorite in the SWAC West Division over Grambling, the defending champ. Both offenses can score in bunches. The difference is Tigers head coach Broderick Fobbs has the better defense for the “State Fair Classic.”

Pick: Grambling State


Southern Utah (2-1, 1-0 Big Sky) at No. 10 Montana (2-1, 0-1), 4:30 p.m.

Southern Utah isn’t ready to give up its Big Sky crown just yet and the host Grizzlies would be in trouble if they don’t win this one. Think it will get loud at Washington-Grizzly Stadium?

Pick: Montana


No. 12 Charleston Southern (2-2) at No. 15 Coastal Carolina (3-1), 6 p.m.

No longer rivals in the Big South, both teams have been through so many injured quarterback that a Wildcat offense must be on standby. Running backs Darius Hammond (CSU) and De’Angelo Henderson (Coastal) always seem to dial long distance.

Pick: Charleston Southern


No. 6 Western Illinois (3-0, 0-0 Missouri Valley) at No. 13 South Dakota State (1-2, 0-0), 7 p.m.

The Leathernecks may be flat emotionally after leaving Northern Illinois with an FBS win. Meanwhile, the Jackrabbits are fired up over their loss at WIU in the regular-season finale last November, which denied them of a top-eight seed in the playoffs and sent them on the road.

Pick: South Dakota State


— Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.


(Top photo by Sam Houston State Athletics)

FCS Football: Best Games and Predictions for Week 5
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: syndicated, NFL
Path: /nfl/betting-against-spread-nfl-week-4-picks-and-odds-lines-2016

It’s Week 4 of the NFL season and believe it or not, bye weeks also play a role when it comes to Vegas odds, lines, spreads and such. This week it’s Green Bay and Philadelphia getting a breather and the chance to relish their latest victories. For the Packers and Eagles, the early bye means next week starts a stretch of 13 straight games.


The best part about the bye weeks getting underway is that they represent very nice opportunities for spot plays. On the surface, not many people probably thought Buffalo was going to beat Arizona last week, but you've got to believe in the situation and it'll come through in the end.


Record: 5-4 (2-1 last week)


Detroit Lions (1-2) at Chicago Bears (0-3)

Sunday, Oct. 2 at 1 p.m. ET

The Bears are one of the worst teams in the league and now they host the Lions, which are playing their third road game in four weeks. Chicago's defense has been ravaged by injuries so this unit is currently made up of a lot of young and inexperienced players. The Bears were gashed on the ground by the Cowboys this past Sunday night, as the secondary was saved merely by the fact that Dallas only attempted 24 passes (completing 19). Detroit will throw it a lot more than that and could have just as much success. I don't mind Chicago’s offense with Jordan Howard at running back and either QB under center. As long as Brian Hoyer or Jay Cutler get Alshon Jeffery involved, they should find some success. The Lions’ secondary has already been torched by the Colts and Packers on the road. I think we see both teams score some points. SELECTION: Over 46


Oakland Raiders (2-1) at Baltimore Ravens (3-0)

Sunday, Oct. 2 at 1 p.m. ET

I tried to fade the Ravens last week and nearly got away with it, if not for the Jaguars being the Jaguars. Baltimore has both stopped the run on defense and failed to run on offense. Despite putting up only 324.3 yards per game, the Ravens enter this game 3-0. This week they get an Oakland team that is making another long trip for an atypical early kickoff. Oakland has won both of its road games at New Orleans and Tennessee, but eventually all that traveling has to get to the Raiders. Their defense put up good numbers last week against the Titans, but Tennessee’s offense is a work in progress. I'm not a believer in the Ravens in the least, but I think they are a good situational play here against a road-weary Raiders team. SELECTION: Baltimore -3


Los Angeles Rams (2-1) at Arizona Cardinals (1-2)

Sunday, Oct. 2 at 4:25 p.m. ET

Most people expected the records to be reversed for this matchup, but the Rams are indeed the team with a winning record after knocking off Tampa Bay last week. Pardon me if I'm not suddenly going to be a believer in the Rams after finding a defense they could score a touchdown on. Los Angeles figures to struggle to score in this one against an ornery Cardinals defense that was gashed by Buffalo on the ground. Arizona had a rough trip to the east coast and should get back to being the team everyone thought entering the season. Carson Palmer is coming off a terrible game and should be able to pick apart this Rams secondary. My only concern is Los Angeles’ pass rush, but if protection holds up and Palmer doesn’t get happy feet, he will put up big numbers. The Cardinals threw for nearly 700 yards in two games against the Rams last year. The Rams have failed to cover in 10 of their last 18 road games. I think this one's a blowout. SELECTION: Cardinals -8




— I came really close to making the under in the Carolina vs. Atlanta game an official pick. You wouldn't think these two have played low-scoring games, but the under has hit in four straight. Atlanta's defense is pretty bad, but Carolina isn't exactly coming in off a high at home against the Vikings. I worry about how he Panthers will cover Julio Jones now that Josh Norman is gone. The under in this game is a hunch for me.


— Money is coming in on the Titans and I'm not quite sure why. I know J.J. Watt's injury is big for the Texans’ defense, but I don't know if Tennessee can take advantage of it. Marcus Mariota has struggled terribly so far this season and doesn't really have the weapons other than Delanie Walker, who missed last week with a hamstring injury. I know that Brock Osweiler has been a wild card for the Texans, but if this number goes down more, I may have to consider the home team.


— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.

Betting Against the Spread: NFL Week 4 Picks and Odds
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 09:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-flex-rankings-week-4

With so many fantasy-relevant players, particularly running backs and wide receivers, getting hurt flex rankings are becoming more and more useful. And now besides dealing with guys who are questionable (or worse), bye weeks enter into the equation with Green Bay and Philadelphia the first teams to get a breather.


With so many things to consider and information to digest, filling final spot or spots on your roster may be tougher than ever when it comes weighing a less-heralded or established player that is producing against a struggling superstar or early-round draft pick (see Golden Tate). These rankings can help you determine who you should take your chances with and who needs to stay on the bench this week.


Stay tuned for updates as the week progresses and let these rankings help you make those tough lineup decisions.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex


Teams on bye: Green Bay, Philadelphia




— Rankings by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.

Fantasy Football 2016 Flex Rankings: Week 4
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-wide-receiver-rankings-week-4

Week 4 of the fantasy football season has arrived and while at first glance it looked like Week 3 didn’t bring any more significant injuries, apparently that is not the case on the wide receiver front. Tuesday alone brought news of a hairline fracture in Dez Bryant’s knee, Eric Decker getting an MRI for his shoulder and some other concerns coming to light.


All of these new developments made doing the rankings even tougher, but remember this is a fluid situation and these will be updated throughout the week leading up to game time. The top five are the usual suspects and you will see that I like Seattle’s wideouts (namely Doug Baldwin) against the Jets even if Russell Wilson is limited. Also don’t forget there is no Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jordan Matthews or any other Packer or Eagle this week because those two teams are on bye.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex

Teams on bye: Green Bay, Philadelphia




— Rankings by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.

Fantasy Football 2016 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 4
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-quarterback-rankings-week-4

Cam Newton struggled in Week 3, but the outlook is promising for a bounce back in Week 4, which is why he is the No. 1 fantasy quarterback option. Minnesota pummeled and harassed Newton all afternoon last week, but on Sunday Newton gets to face an Atlanta defense that just allowed Drew Brees to throw the ball 54 times for 376 yards and three touchdowns.


Philip Rivers, facing a New Orleans defense which was just torched by Matt Ryan on Monday night, checks in at No. 2. If Matt Ryan can throw for a pair of touchdowns on them, so can Rivers. While the Diego Chargers are missing many pieces of their offense, Rivers has been known to make things happen with the weapons he has. He's a solid QB1 this week. Don't forget this is the first bye week, so no Aaron Rodgers or the surprisingly productive Carson Wentz.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex


Teams on bye: Green Bay, Philadelphia




— Rankings by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.

Fantasy Football 2016 Quarterback Rankings: Week 4
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-defense-special-teams-rankings-week-4

The Denver Broncos have not allowed more than 20 points yet this season, which already makes them a good choice for the top fantasy defense/special teams on any given week, let alone Week 4. When you add in that Tampa Bay struggled against a tough Arizona defense, against which James Winston committed five turnovers (4 INTs, fumble), then the reasons why the Broncos are the No. 1 fantasy DST for Week become clear.


Denver’s defense is arguably stronger than the Cardinals, which scored more than 20 fantasy points (depending on scoring) in the 40-7 shellacking of the Buccaneers in Week 2. The Cardinals aren’t a bad option either this week with Los Angeles set to pay a visit. While the Rams’ defense has done its part, the offense is still struggling, ranking last in yards and 29th in points per game.


Also don’t forget that this the first week where byes come into play. No Green Bay or Philadelphia DST available in Week 4.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex


Teams on bye: Green Bay, Philadelphia




— Rankings by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.

Fantasy Football 2016 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 4
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-kicker-rankings-week-4

Week 4 of the fantasy football season is here and a new kicker is ranked No. 1. After nailing a field goal from beyond 50 yards in each of the first three games, Justin Tucker finds himself tied with Dustin Hopkins for the most fantasy points (depending on scoring) at the position this season. Tucker and the Ravens face Oakland this week, which is a decent matchup. Head coach John Harbaugh has plenty of faith in Tucker’s leg, so he’s our No. 1 kicker this week. It can’t be Stephen Gostkowski every week can it?


Dallas’ Dan Bailey, with the third-highest fantasy point total this season, checks in at No. 2 for Week 4. The Cowboys take on San Francisco, and he should be able to put points on the board for them. Also don’t forget, no Mason Crosby or Caleb Sturgis this week because Green Bay and Philadelphia are on bye. Yes, the bye weeks are back!


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex


Teams on bye: Green Bay, Philadelphia




— Rankings by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.

Fantasy Football 2016 Kicker Rankings: Week 4
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-tight-end-rankings-week-4

It’s Week 4 and fantasy owners that drafted Rob Gronkowski in the first round are hoping this might finally be the week the No. 1 tight end finally starts producing like one. His matchup Sunday at home against the Bills is appealing, but who is going to be throwing Gronk the ball? Tom Brady still has one more game to sit.

Either way, Gronk is ranked high once again, but Jordan Reed and/or Greg Olsen could be viewed as safer bets. Also is it time to trust Dennis Pitta, after two-plus seasons lost to injuries, as a no-doubt, every-week TE1 again? The early returns (18 rec., 183 yards) are certainly promising, and he has a nice matchup against Oakland this week. I’m sure Coby Fleener (7-109-1) and Jimmy Graham (6-100-1) owners are smiling a little more this week too. But the question now is can they maintain this type of production?


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex


Teams on bye: Green Bay, Philadelphia


Rk Player Team Opp
1 Jordan Reed WAS vs. CLE
2 Rob Gronkowski NE vs. BUF
3 Dennis Pitta BAL vs. OAK
4 Greg Olsen CAR at ATL
5 Delanie Walker TEN at HOU
6 Coby Fleener NO at SD
7 Travis Kelce KC  at PIT
8 Eric Ebron DET at CHI
9 Julius Thomas JAC vs. IND (London)
10 Kyle Rudolph MIN vs. NYG (Mon.)
11 Jason Witten DAL at SF
12 Zach Miller CHI vs. DET
13 Hunter Henry SD vs. NO
14 Dwayne Allen IND at JAC (London)
15 Jimmy Graham SEA at NYJ
16 Gary Barnidge CLE at WAS
17 Cameron Brate TB vs. DEN
18 Martellus Bennett NE vs. BUF
19 Jack Doyle IND at JAC (London)
20 Jacob Tamme ATL vs. CAR
21 C.J. Uzomah CIN vs. MIA (Thurs.)
22 Clive Walford OAK at BAL
23 Jesse James PIT vs. KC
24 Jordan Cameron MIA at CIN (Thurs.)
25 Charles Clay BUF at NE
26 Vance MacDonald SF vs. DAL
27 Virgil Green DEN at TB
28 Garrett Celek SF vs. DAL
29 Anthony Fasano TEN at BAL
30 Will Tye NYG at MIN (Mon.)

— Rankings by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.

Fantasy Football 2016 Tight End Rankings: Week 4
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-running-back-rankings-week-4

It’s Week 4 of the fantasy football season and it’s time to welcome back a familiar face or two to the running back rankings. Le’Veon Bell’s three-game suspension is done with, so this is the week those who took him with a first- or early second-round pick have been patiently waiting for. In case there was any doubt, plug him into your lineup, sit back and enjoy.


This also could be the week that Jamaal Charles, a No. 1 fantasy RB in the not-so-distant past, makes his season debut. Charles’ situation is entirely different from Bell’s, however, as Spencer Ware still figures to get the bulk of the carries as the Chiefs ease the veteran into the game plan slowly.


Also don’t forget that this is the first bye week, so no Eddie Lacy, Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, James Starks or Wendell Smallwood should any of them be on your roster.


Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex


Teams on bye: Green Bay, Philadelphia


Rk Player Team Opp
1 Melvin Gordon SD vs. NO
2 Le'Veon Bell PIT vs. KC
3 David Johnson ARI vs. LA
4 Lamar Miller HOU vs. TEN
5 Ezekiel Elliot DAL at SF
6 DeMarco Murray TEN at HOU
7 Jeremy Hill CIN at MIA (Thurs.)
8 LeGarrette Blount NE vs. BUF
9 LeSean McCoy BUF at NE
10 Mark Ingram NO at SD
11 Jordan Howard CHI vs. DET
12 Todd Gurley LA at ARI
13 C.J. Anderson DEN at TB
14 Devonta Freeman ATL vs. CAR
15 Carlos Hyde SF vs. DAL
16 Christine Michael SEA at NYJ
17 Frank Gore IND at JAC (London)
18 Spencer Ware KC at PIT
19 Matt Forte NYJ vs. SEA
20 Charles Sims TB vs. DEN
21 Dwayne Washington DET at CHI
22 Latavius Murray OAK at BAL
23 Tevin Coleman ATL vs. CAR
24 Isaiah Crowell CLE at WAS
25 Theo Riddick DET at CHI
26 Jerick McKinnon MIN vs. NYG (Mon.)
27 Chris Ivory JAC vs. IND (London)
28 Giovani Bernard CIN  vs. MIA (Thurs.)
29 Matt Jones WAS vs. CLE
30 Cameron Artis-Payne CAR at ATL
31 DeAngelo Williams PIT vs. KC
32 Duke Johnson CLE at WAS
33 Justin Forsett BAL vs. OAK
34 T.J. Yeldon JAC vs. IND (London)
35 Orleans Darkwa NYG at MIN (Mon.)
36 Jamaal Charles KC at PIT
37 Derrick Henry TEN at HOU
38 Chris Thompson WAS vs. CLE
39 Rashad Jennings NYG at MIN (Mon.)
40 Kenyan Drake MIA at CIN (Thurs.)
41 Alfred Morris DAL at SF
42 DeAndre Washington OAK at BAL
43 Matt Asiata MIN vs. NYG (Mon.)
44 James White NE vs. BUF
45 Jay Ajayi MIA at CIN (Thurs.)
46 Terrance West BAL vs. OAK
47 Fozzy Whittaker CAR at ATL
48 Devontae Booker DEN at TB
49 Bilal Powell NYJ vs. SEA
50 Jalen Richard OAK at BAL

— Rankings by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.

Fantasy Football 2016 Running Back Rankings: Week 4
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /nfl/miami-dolphins-vs-cincinnati-bengals-preview-and-prediction-2016

It hasn’t been a great start to the 2016 season for the Miami Dolphins. After losing their first two games on the road to the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots, the Dolphins barely squeaked out a 30-24 victory over the Cleveland Browns last Sunday. Miami will take aim at its first signature win against the defending AFC North champion Cincinnati on “Thursday Night Football.”


Much like the Dolphins, this season hasn’t gone the way the Bengals had envisioned. After winning their season opener 23-22 over the New York Jets, Cincinnati has lost consecutive games to division rival Pittsburgh and reigning Super Bowl champion at Denver, the latter coming at home.


Thursday will be the first time the Dolphins and Bengals have played each other since Oct. 31, 2013, when Miami won in overtime on a safety by Cameron Wake. Miami holds a 16-5 advantage in head-to-head games with Cincinnati.


Miami at Cincinnati


Kickoff: Thursday, Sept. 29 at 8:25 p.m. ET

TV Channel: NFL Network

Spread: Cincinnati -7.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Dolphin rush defense
Entering Thursday night’s game, the Dolphins are ranked next to last (31st) in the NFL in rushing defense at 147.3 yards per game. Last Sunday against the lowly Browns, Miami surrendered 169 yards on the ground (5.3 ypc).


Expect the Bengals to be committed to the running game on Thursday, much like they were in the first half against the Broncos. Cincinnati has two talented running backs in Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, who both are capable of having big games against the Dolphins’ defense.


Miami defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh knows how talented the Cincinnati backfield is.


“They have some good downhill runners,” Suh said. “They have two solid (running) backs (Hill and Bernard). Both of them can run the ball. One of them is more specialized to get out in the passing and screen game. At the end of the day, we have to be able to contain both of them and shut down the run and put it on the quarterback’s shoulders, who is obviously capable of winning games.


If Miami is going to defeat Cincinnati, the defense will have to force Andy Dalton to carry the Bengals’ offense by throwing the ball. While Dalton has improved in a number of areas, the Dolphins have a better chance of winning if Cincinnati is one-dimensional on offense.


2. Geno Atkins
Miami could be down to its third-string center Kraig Urbik against the Bengals. Starting center Mike Pouncey hasn’t played since the preseason and he will miss his fourth regular season game with a hip injury. Backup center Anthony Steen injured his ankle last week against the Browns and is doubtful to play Thursday night. 


Urbik will have a tough assignment as he will be expected to block one of the NFL’s best in defensive tackle Geno Atkins. During his time in the league, Atkins has dominated some of the best offensive lines in the league. The four-time Pro Bowler could have a huge night working against Urbik and rookie tackle Laremy Tunsil.


3. Byron Maxwell and the Dolphins’ secondary
Miami’s back end, specifically Maxwell, had a tough time containing Cleveland wide receiver Terrelle Pryor. Miami allowed Pryor to catch eight passes for 144 yards, and that’s not counting the plays he made as a ball carrier and passer as well. This week’s assignment for the Dolphins’ secondary gets even more difficult with All-Pro A.J. Green as the primary focus. Through three games, Green is averaging 13.4 yards per catch and has a 54-yard TD reception.


“He has good ball skills,” Maxwell said. “I think that’s the thing that separates him. He comes in and out of his breaks like a little guy. He’s good.”


Maxwell has struggled this season containing the opposition’s top receiver. If that trend continues Thursday night, it will be interesting to see if the coaching staff decides to change things up and put rookie cornerback Xavien Howard on Green.


Final Analysis


On a typical week, it would be a surprise if the Dolphins went on the road to defeat the Bengals. On a short week, it will be an even taller order considering Miami’s injury situation.


The Dolphins could be without their starting and backup center, starting two linebackers (Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi) and starting tight end Jordan Cameron. Miami must establish its running game with the backfield committee of Kenyan Drake, Damien Williams and Jay Ajayi to avoid quick three and outs. If quarterback Ryan Tannehill has to throw the ball a lot, it could be a night full of sacks and turnovers for the Dolphins.


Cincinnati is healthier, more talented and is playing at home, which spells trouble for Miami.


Prediction: Bengals 31, Dolphins 17


— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

Miami Dolphins vs. Cincinnati Bengals Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/kansas-jayhawks-vs-texas-tech-red-raiders-preview-and-prediction-2016

Kansas faces Texas Tech Thursday night in the first Big 12 conference game for both teams. The Jayhawks hope to snap their 12-game losing streak in league play, but must slow down one of the nation’s most potent offenses to do so. A win also would halt a string of 39 consecutive road losses, a streak that dates back to 2009.


Kansas at Texas Tech


Kickoff: Thursday, Sept. 29 at 8:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FS1

Spread: Texas Tech -28


Three Things to Watch


1. Texas Tech’s Explosive Offense
The Red Raiders have scored 61.0 points and tallied 678.7 yards of total offense per game this season, both of which lead the Big 12 and rank second nationally. Tech leads the nation with 547.7 passing yards per contest and ranks third in the country with an explosive average of 8.05 yards per play.


Quarterback Patrick Mahomes leads the country with 497.7 passing yards per game and ranks in the top five nationally in touchdown passes (14), yards per attempt (11.3) and completion percentage (71.2). Mahomes has completed 94 of 132 pass attempts for 1,493 yards with only two interceptions through three games. He has 138 rushing yards and a team-leading four touchdowns.


Simply, Mahomes is off to a historic start. No quarterback in the nation has accounted for more total yardage through the first three games of a season since 2000.


Though he has connected with an astounding 17 different receivers thus far in 2016, Mahomes’ favorite target this year has been Jonathan Giles, who leads the Red Raiders in receptions (19), receiving yards (346) and TD catches (5). Giles had six receptions for 186 yards and three scores in the 59-45 victory over Louisiana Tech last week.


2. Signs of Improvement for Kansas
Kansas entered the season on a 15-game losing streak, but promptly trounced FCS member Rhode Island 55-6 in Week 1. The Jayhawks averaged an impressive 7.8 yards per play and racked up 570 total yards of offense. The Kansas defense held Rhode Island to 219 total yards (3.5 yards per play) and forced three turnovers. Though Kansas fell to 1-2 following a 37-21 loss to the Bobcats and a 43-7 drubbing at the hands of Memphis in Week 3, the Jayhawks still made some positive strides.


Defensively, Kansas has allowed 28.7 points per game this year, which compares favorably to the 46.1 points per game opponents scored last season, including 41.0 in non-conference play. The Kansas defense also recorded five sacks last week against Memphis – the most for the team since registering the same number against Texas Tech in 2015.


Kansas has limited opponents to an average of 4.86 yards per play this season compared to a 6.96 in 2015. The Jayhawks held just one opponent to fewer than 6.0 yards per play last season but has yet to allow that number to any opponent this year.


On offense, Kansas is averaging 5.9 yards per play, which is a nice improvement over last year’s average of 4.4. The squad also has scored 12 touchdowns, which is halfway to the total the Jayhawks posted a season ago. Eight of those scores have come through the air. Last season, Kansas QBs combined to throw just 12 touchdowns.


Kansas should have plenty of opportunities to score given Texas Tech’s struggles on defense. The Red Raiders have allowed 43.3 points per game (which ranks 124th nationally), 6.43 yards per play (No. 115), and 5.0 yards per rush (No. 106) this season.


3. A Quick Start for the Red Raiders
Texas Tech has outscored opponents 56-12 in the first quarter this seaosn. The Red Raiders also have scored at least 35 points in the first half in each of their three games and have averaged 38.0 points per game through the first 30 minutes. There are 68 teams nationally that have averaged fewer than 38.0 points over the course of an entire game in 2016, including Kansas (27.7 ppg).


And, the Red Raiders don’t let halftime stop their momentum. Tech has scored a touchdown on each of its initial second-half series in all three games this season.


Final Analysis


Kansas played one of its best games last season against Texas Tech, holding the Red Raiders to just 30 points – the second fewest Tech scored in a game in 2015. And, through three games, Kansas looks like an improved squad overall, particularly on defense. Still, Texas Tech will score early and often and the Red Raiders are a heavy favorite to pick up an important, opening Big 12 win.


Prediction: Texas Tech 55, Kansas 31


— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasIAllen.

Kansas Jayhawks vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, September 28, 2016 - 14:30