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Path: /college-football/colorado-buffaloes-vs-oregon-ducks-preview-and-prediction-2016
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Colorado and Oregon meet Saturday at Autzen Stadium with remarkably similar resumes, as both sport 2-1 records and a Week 3 loss in Big Ten country.

 

However, the trajectory of each program feels quite different. Oregon's 35-32 loss at Nebraska was a missed opportunity, with the Ducks eschewing a game-tying total of points by opting to go for two-point conversions instead of PAT kicks. Colorado let a two-score lead slip at Michigan, but the Buffaloes' fight against the nation's No. 4-ranked team showed that head coach Mike MacIntyre just might have a dark-horse contender in the Pac-12 South.

 

The Buffs looked especially dangerous before quarterback Sefo Liufau came out of the game with an ankle injury. His status is one of several key storylines around player availability, and among the primary plots that will dictate this Pac-12 showdown.

 

Colorado at Oregon

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 5:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Pac-12 Networks
Spread: Oregon -10.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Injuries, Injuries, Injuries

The injuries are plentiful and high-profile heading into this matchup enough so that Colorado's gag depth chart from Michigan week might need some call-ups just for Oregon to fill out its roster.

 

Ok, so maybe the Hanson Bros. of Slapshot fame won't line up in the Duck backfield. However, preseason Heisman Trophy candidate Royce Freeman might not. Freeman came out of the Nebraska loss early, leaving Kani Benoit to shoulder much of the rushing load.

 

Freeman's a maybe Saturday, but offensive tackle Tyrell Crosby and wide receiver Devon Allen are scratches for the season. Those are two substantial blows to the Oregon offense.

 

Colorado's injury list isn't as staggering in number, but perhaps just as impacting if Sefo Liufau is still out. Mike MacIntyre said the quarterback's day-to-day, despite rejoining practice. Colorado was unable to mount an offensive attack after Liufau come out Saturday, with Steven Montez feeling the heat of Michigan's pass rush.

 

Speaking of pass rush, Colorado's takes a hit with Derek McCartney sidelined by an ACL tear. Nebraska's ability to pressure Dakota Prukop stifled Oregon in Week 3.

 

2. A Game of Runs

Colorado has introduced more tempo to its offense this season, most evident in the Week 1 rout of Colorado State. The pressure applied through an up-tempo offense has overwhelmed the Buffs in the past, including in losses to Oregon, so MacIntyre going to a similar look is no surprise.

 

The problem with operating quickly, however, is it in can get a team into trouble as quickly as it builds a lead. Colorado's been undone by big runs in some recent losses, including last Saturday's, when Michigan scored 17 points in a little more than eight minutes, and in the Buffs' 2015 meeting with Oregon.

 

Colorado gave the Ducks fits last year in Boulder, but a 14-point third quarter gave Oregon the breathing room it needed. Recent history has proven the way to beating Oregon, typically, is avoiding a deluge — usually in the second quarter — and keeping it close. Of the Ducks' 10 losses since 2012, eight were by one score.

 

In contrast, Oregon has won just five games over that same time-frame by a similar margin.

 

3. Oregon's Big-Play Defense

Oregon's pass defense ranked among the nation's worst in 2015. Through three games in 2016, the Ducks have made some strides — last week, for example, they held Nebraska to 200 yards and a completion rate just under 50 percent.

 

Still, the Ducks are vulnerable to giving up big plays, ranking No. 87 nationally in pass plays of at least 10 yards, and No. 112 for yielding rushing plays of 10-plus.

 

Colorado's primary wide receiving option, Devin Ross, isn't a big-play target, more a reliable possession target. With four scores on the season, however, he's plenty capable of breaking off a big score, particularly in the red zone. Establishing Phillip Lindsay as a threat may be the most critical aspect for Colorado, especially early. With Oregon struggling against the run, defensive coordinator Brady Hoke having to leave holes in the secondary could leave the Ducks susceptible to huge gains through the air.

 

Final Analysis

 

Colorado has looked far and away the best it has since joining the Pac-12 over these last three games. That should extend into conference play. The Buffaloes will score a major upset at some point this season, but Saturday may not be that day.

 

Despite the Ducks' ongoing defensive woes, there's too much firepower to keep Oregon contained. Colorado isn't as stout defensively as its one-time Big Eight/12 rival Nebraska, so holding Oregon to just 32 points seems unlikely.

 

While the Buffs might have a very real chance with Sefo Liufau at 100 percent, his uncertainty casts doubt on Colorado's ability to keep pace with an Oregon team that cannot afford to open conference play in an 0-1 hole.

 

Prediction: Oregon 45, Colorado 34 

 

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of CFBHuddle.com. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.

Teaser:
Colorado Buffaloes vs. Oregon Ducks Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 23, 2016 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/vanderbilt-commodores-vs-western-kentucky-hilltoppers-preview-and-prediction-2016
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Vanderbilt keeps taking one step forward and two steps back. A week after an offensive explosion which resulted in a 47-24 victory over in-state opponent MTSU, the Commodores were stomped out by Georgia Tech, scoring a touchdown on its first drive but getting nothing better than a punt on the rest of its offensive possessions. At 1-2 and already halfway through their non-conference schedule, the Commodores are on the ropes in terms of keeping their bowl game hopes alive.

 

Western Kentucky, on the other hand, is 2-1 with its only loss coming at the hands of No. 1 Alabama. In fact, Western Kentucky played the Crimson Tide to a closer score (38-10) than USC did in the season opener (52-6). The Hilltoppers look to win another Conference USA championship and finish in the Top 25 for the second straight season, and a win over an (albeit weak) Power Five team couldn’t hurt.

 

The two teams met last season in the opener, with Western Kentucky coming into Nashville and escaping with a 14-12 victory.

 

Vanderbilt at Western Kentucky

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 4:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBSSN

Spread: Western Kentucky -7.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Mike White vs. the Vanderbilt secondary
WKU fans were worried that regression might be in store for the team after star quarterback Brandon Doughty finished his college career and moved onto the NFL. Fortunately for them, South Florida transfer Mike White has been more than adequate as a replacement, averaging 306.6 yards per game through the air. Both of his top receivers, Nicholas Norris and Taywan Taylor, are averaging more than 100 receiving yards per contest and should have little problem continuing that trend Saturday.

 

Vanderbilt’s passing defense has plummeted from 43rd in the FBS last season to 107th through the first three weeks of the 2016 season. After losing a few safeties to graduation, the Commodores have looked lost in the back end, giving up big plays in crucial situations. Last week, against a run-first Georgia Tech team, Vanderbilt gave up 158 yards and two TDs on two passes alone. White should be able to connect on a few big plays and put his team up early.

 

2. Thunder and Lightning
The only aspect of Vanderbilt’s team worthy of a nickname, the running back tandem of Ralph Webb and Khari Blasingame has been effective despite being the main target of opposing defensive game plans. Webb has averaged 5.6 yards per carry this year, largely thanks to a 211-yard, two-TD performance against MTSU. Blasingame has brought the thunder with 98 yards and three touchdowns in goal-line situations. If Vanderbilt is to put up more than one offensive touchdown, something the Commodores have only done once so far, the running game will play a big role.

 

3. Kyle Shurmur
Western Kentucky’s pass defense has been even less effective than Vanderbilt’s, surrendering 292 yards per game. The difference is that Shurmur, has completed a little more than half of his passes and is averaging barely over 100 yards per game. While the running game will be important for Vanderbilt to stay competitive, it is hard to envision the Commodores winning this game or any others this season without improved performance from their quarterback. A big game on Saturday would do wonders for Vanderbilt’s offense moving forward.

 

Final Analysis

 

Vanderbilt seems to have taken a step backward defensively and hasn’t shown the offensive improvement to back it up. Western Kentucky has stayed strong despite losing a campus legend and head coach Jeff Brohm’s squad is looking to improve its record against SEC teams to 1-1. Rumblings are starting up about Derek Mason’s job security after starting yet another season with disappointment. If Vanderbilt loses this game by more than one score, look for those rumblings to erupt into full-on turmoil ahead of a matchup with Florida.

 

Prediction: Western Kentucky 24, Vanderbilt 14

Teaser:
Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 23, 2016 - 10:50
Path: /college-football/boise-state-broncos-oregon-state-beavers-preview-and-prediction-2016
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Boise State is occupying an unfamiliar position in the shadows. Houston is making the biggest splash nationally among the Group of Five teams in September and generating College Football Playoff talk after cracking into the top 10 with a big win over Oklahoma in its season opener. The Broncos aren't quietly going away, however.

 

A 31-28 victory over Washington State two weeks ago gives Boise State a chance to make a run at a New Year's Six bowl should Houston falter along the way. The Broncos look to take another step forward on that path when they visit Oregon State on Saturday.

 

Corvallis hasn't been kind to Boise State in the past. The Broncos are 0-3 all-time at Oregon State and trail the series 3-5 overall. Then again, this isn't the same type of Beavers team as the ones that flourished under Dennis Erickson and Mike Riley. Oregon State is still trying to rebuild under second-year head coach Gary Andersen after finishing without a Pac-12 victory a year ago.

 

Boise State at Oregon State

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 3:30 pm ET

TV Channel: FS1

Spread: Boise State -13

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Red zone efficiency
Oregon State's ability to make plays inside the 20 on both sides of the ball will be tested by Boise State. The Broncos are one of only six FBS teams that rank in the top 20 nationally in both red zone offense and red zone defense.

 

Boise State is 7-for-7 in red zone scoring opportunities through its first two games and is tied for first among FBS teams in that category. Defensively, the Broncos have allowed points in the red zone on just 4-of-6 opponent possessions — tied for 14th nationally.

 

This has made it easier for Boise State to jump on teams out of the gate and stay in front. The Broncos are just one of eight FBS teams that have not trailed in a game this season.

 

2. What will Bolden do?
If Oregon State can spring an upset, it could hinge on what Victor Bolden is able to do against Boise State's defense. Bolden is a dynamic playmaker who can be a threat to swing momentum in a hurry whenever he touches the ball.

 

Bolden leads the team in rushing (111), receiving (88), and all-purpose yardage (228). His biggest play of the season came on a 92-yard scoring run on a jet sweep during the third quarter of the Beavers' 37-7 win over Idaho State last week.

 

Bolden led Oregon State in receptions each of the last two seasons. He's also a big threat to do damage on special teams. Last year, Bolden became the first Oregon State player in school history to return both a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown in the same season. Bolden scored on a 78-yard punt return against Oregon and on a 100-yard kickoff return against Washington State.

 

3. Can Sperbeck be stopped?
Boise State is averaging 38.0 points and 502.0 total yards per game — ranking in the top three in the Mountain West Conference in both categories. One reason the Broncos are once again so potent on that side of the ball is the play of wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck.

 

Two games into the season, Sperbeck is threatening to rewrite the Boise State record book. He is sixth all-time with 2,592 receiving yards and needs just 471 more yards to pass all-time career leader Titus Young. The senior also notched his 10th 100-yard receiving game after totaling 133 yards and a touchdown on seven catches against Washington State. He needs just four more 100-yard games to pass career leader Ryan Ikebe.

 

Currently, Sperbeck is the top target for Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien. He leads the Mountain West with 263 receiving yards. Sperbeck also led the league in that category last season, setting Boise State single-season records with 1,412 receiving yards on 88 catches.

 

Final Analysis

 

Oregon State has shown improvement on both sides of the ball from a year ago, but the Beavers still have a long way to go before they can expect to go toe-to-toe with teams like Boise State on a consistent basis. The Broncos have won three straight against Pac-12 teams and are 9-3 against schools from the league since 2006. Given the amount of firepower Boise State has on offense and how tough it has been on defense, Oregon State faces a major challenge in springing an upset.

 

Prediction: Boise State 38, Oregon State 24

 

— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.

Teaser:
Boise State Broncos vs. Oregon State Beavers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 23, 2016 - 10:40
Path: /college-football/wake-forest-demon-deacons-vs-indiana-hoosiers-preview-and-prediction-2016
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Few probably expected this matchup between ACC and Big Ten programs to be one with two undefeated teams at the start of the season, but Wake Forest has done its part to arrive in Bloomington this weekend with a 3-0 record. Three games in and Dave Clawson’s program has already matched its 2015 and '14 win totals. A win on the road against an offensively-talented Indiana would do well in terms of setting Wake Forest up for a potential bowl trip at the end of the season.

 

Wake Forest at Indiana

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Big Ten Network

Spread: Indiana -6.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. QB John Wolford returns to starting role

Wolford had previously been Wake Forest's starting quarterback before being replaced by Kendall Hinton. Wolford returns to the starting role this week following a knee sprain injury to Hinton last week against Delaware. With Hinton out for the next two to four games, Wolford will be tasked with keeping the momentum going during a key stretch for the Demon Deacons.

 

Wolford stepped in last week to complete 13 of 24 pass attempts for 155 yards and a touchdown with one interception against the Blue Hens.

 

2. Can Wake Forest's rushing defense slow down Devine Redding?

Through three games this season, Wake Forest has done well against the run. Wake Forest has allowed just 79.67 rushing yards per game, with opponents rushing for an average of 2.41 yards per attempt. Those numbers will be put to the test against Indiana and Redding. Redding has rushed for 245 yards and an average of 5.1 yards per attempt. He and Indiana’s running game will be key for the Hoosiers against Wake Forest, and this should be the Demon Deacons' toughest test on the ground yet.

 

As good as Indiana’s running game appears to be, it has just one rushing touchdown in its first two games. Look to see if that changes in this one.

 

3. Which Indiana offense shows up first?

Will it be the Hoosiers who started off well two weeks ago at home against Ball State, building a 20-0 lead at halftime? Or will we see an Indiana offense that looked confused and off the mark in the season opener on the road against FIU before coming on strong at the end of the game to pull away for the win? Indiana is coming off a bye week, so whether the Hoosiers benefit from that or lose any momentum in the early going remains in question. Will they have things cleaned up and ready to execute to perfection once they get back on the field, or will the early bye week lead to a bit of an adjustment once facing an opponent again? Bank on the Hoosiers getting off on the right foot.

 

Final Analysis

 

If there is one thing you can tend to trust with Indiana since hiring Kevin Wilson as head coach, it is that the offense will be ready to go. Devine Redding brings a solid running game to the field and quarterback Richard Lagow appears to be settling in as Indiana’s starting quarterback. Lagow tossed three touchdowns two weeks ago against Ball State. The downer for Indiana has typically been the defense. That has not been the case in the first two games, with three turnovers forced two weeks ago and limiting FIU to just 13 points. Look to see Indiana jump to a quick lead and have the defense do just enough to keep Wake Forest at an arm’s length the rest of the way.

 

Prediction: Indiana 29, Wake Forest 23

 

— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook

Teaser:
Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. Indiana Hoosiers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 23, 2016 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/penn-state-nittany-lions-vs-michigan-wolverines-preview-and-prediction-2016
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The Michigan Wolverines (3-0) were tested for the first time this season last week against Colorado, falling behind by two touchdowns in the second quarter before storming back in the second half to win 45-28.

 

Penn State (2-1) avenged its 2015 loss to in-state rival Temple with a 34-27 win over the Owls. Sophomore running back Saquon Barkley made a dramatic return in the second half after leaving the game following the first play from scrimmage due to a leg injury and was able to close the game out with a 55-yard run to seal the win for the Nittany Lions.

 

Both teams enter Saturday looking to kick off their Big Ten slate with a victory to continue the momentum from big wins last weekend.  

 

Penn State at Michigan


Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Michigan -16.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Getting Push in the Trenches
The performance of both offensive lines have been underwhelming to start 2016. Despite four returning starters, the Wolverines have struggled to run the ball between the tackles consistently in their first three games, getting a handful of the rushing yards on outside tosses and jet sweeps by the wide receivers. Penn State has run into similar issues despite having one of the better backs in all of college football in Saquon Barkley. The Nittany Lions are averaging just 3.1 yards per carry through three weeks and are middle of the road in terms of pass protection, allowing five sacks. Like with most Big Ten battles, whichever team has the most success in the trenches is likely to come out on top.

 

2. No Linebacker-U
The Nittany Lions will likely head into this week’s matchup without all three of its starting linebackers, as it was announced earlier in the week that fifth-year senior Nyeem Wartman-White will miss the remainder of the season after tearing his ACL against Temple. Penn State is already without fellow starters Brandon Bell and Jason Cabinda who, while they have not been announced as out, appear to be unlikely to play against Michigan after missing last week. While the rushing attack for the Wolverines has been uneven the first three games, you can be assured Jim Harbaugh will make a concerted effort to attack the middle of the defense with the running game and even quick, short passes over the middle to tight end Jake Butt.

 

3. Special Special Teams

The Michigan defense was the most touted group on the team heading into the 2016 season, but it has been the third phase that has made the most impact so far. The Wolverines are currently tied with Texas for the most blocked kicks through three weeks. After blocking two punts and a field goal attempt against UCF, the Wolverines special teams were at it again the following week against Colorado, blocking another field goal attempt and returning it for a touchdown. That would end up being the first of two special teams’ touchdowns for Michigan that day as Jabrill Peppers would tack on a punt 54 yards for a score late in the second half. Penn State better have their special teams units ready for Saturday because these can be momentum-swinging plays that the Nittany Lions cannot afford to have go against them when attempting to pull the upset. 
 

Final Analysis

 

Did last week’s brief scare from Colorado put a little pep in Michigan’s step? It sure looked like it did during the second half when the Wolverines eventually put the hammer down. If so, that would be bad news for a Penn State team that is severely overmatched in terms of talent and coaching. The Nittany Lions always have a chance no matter who they play because of Saquon Barkley, but Michigan is too good in the front seven of their defense to let him take over the game. Similar to last week, the Wolverines extend the lead late in the second half for a comfortable win. 

 

Prediction: Michigan 34, Penn State 19

 

— 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.

Teaser:
Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Michigan Wolverines Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 23, 2016 - 10:20
Path: /college-football/duke-blue-devils-vs-notre-dame-fighting-irish-preview-and-prediction-2016
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Notre Dame fans waited nine months for the football season to start. In 13 days, the hopes and dreams of the Fighting Irish faithful were essentially gone.

 

The College Football Playoff is no longer a possibility and at 1-2 Notre Dame will have to be perfect the rest of the way to qualify for a New Year’s Six bowl. And the only way to be perfect is to win this week when Duke comes to town.

 

The Blue Devils have their own set of problems. They also are 1-2 and have struggled offensively in their last two games. Head coach David Cutcliffe is an outstanding offensive mind and will do all he can to turn things around. But when quarterback Thomas Sirk went down with his third Achilles tear, the challenge to create a competent offense became very difficult.

 

The Irish have won three of the four meetings with the Blue Devils with the only Duke win coming in 1961.

 

Duke at Notre Dame

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: NBC

Spread: Notre Dame -21

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. The Much-Maligned Notre Dame Defense

The statistics tell the story of the Irish defense — 99th against the run, 84th against the pass, 102nd in total defense, one of only two FBS programs without a sack. The ND defense was on the field a lot in the middle of Saturday's game due to the ineptitude of the offense. But when the offense was at its worst, so was the defense and that combination led to Michigan State scoring 35 points in 20 minutes of game action. Duke is not a productive offensive team, so if the Notre Dame defense is going to gain some positive momentum, this would be the week.

 

2. Duke Turnovers

Giving the ball back to the other team has been a big problem for the Blue Devil offense. They’ve not only turned it over; they’ve turned it over in big spots. Down 7-0 late in the first quarter to Northwestern, quarterback Daniel Jones threw an interception in Wildcat territory. Even worse, with the score tied in the third, Jones fumbled at the Northwestern 17-yard line. Duke’s 10 giveaways rank 123rd in the country. Duke is 57th nationally in total offense, yet they are 95th in scoring offense and that is despite scoring 49 points on North Carolina Wesleyan in the season opener. If Duke gives the Notre Dame offense extra opportunities, this game will not be close.

 

3. Notre Dame Offensive Line

The Irish front did not play well against Michigan State. While Duke may not be as physical in the front seven as the Spartans, this is a group that has been pretty good so far. The Blue Devils have controlled the run this year and their 14 sacks ranks third nationally. Getting the running game going is important for Notre Dame, but so is protecting quarterback DeShone Kizer. The Irish want to achieve offensive balance and it is up to the offensive line to do their job in both aspects.

 

Final Analysis

 

Notre Dame is far more talented than Duke. The primary issue for the Fighting Irish going into this game is motivation. Will they be ready to play or are they stuck in woe-is-me mode like many of their fans? If ND comes out fired up and focused, this will be an Irish blowout. There are mismatches everywhere, the greatest being the comparison of the two quarterbacks. But if the Irish are not determined and continue to make mistakes and miss assignments, Duke has just enough talent — especially defensively — to hang around for a while. I do think the players will come out with good effort, but it won’t necessarily sustain and there won't be an enormous amount of energy in the building to spur them on. Notre Dame will win, and probably comfortably, but it won’t be a truly dominating performance.

 

Prediction: Notre Dame 34, Duke 17

 

— 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.

Teaser:
Duke Blue Devils vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 23, 2016 - 10:10
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, syndicated, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-five-up-five-down-ryan-tannehill-frank-gore-ben-roethlisberger-aj-green-week-3-2016
Body:

With two weeks in the books, fantasy owners can start looking at trends to see how players fare against opposing defenses. Fantasy rosters are going to be a little different this week due to the amount of injuries that occurred in Week 2, so it’s hard to gauge how some of the replacement players are going to fare and how offenses are going to look without some of their leading players.

 

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

 

With that in mind, here are five players that should exceed their current rank, and five that may disappoint. This is not a start/sit column, but rather analyzing players in terms of their rankings.

 

Five Up

 

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins vs. Cleveland Browns

Tannehill started the season with a tough matchup against Seattle. In Week 2 against the New England Patriots, he had 387 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. However, the Patriots’ defense is tougher than the Cleveland Browns, a team that may not win a game all season. Under hew head coach Adam Gase, Tannehill is given more opportunity to take control of the offense. This should be the week fantasy owners see this. He’s connected with DeVante Parker, and without Arian Foster, look for the passing game to be the focal point of the Dolphins’ offense. He’s the 12th-ranked quarterback this week, but should finish higher than that.

 

Frank Gore, RB, Indianapolis Colts vs. San Diego Chargers

Torched by Spencer Ware in Week 1, the Chargers’ run defense is burnable. Gore is seemingly ageless, and he is given the opportunity week after week. In Week 2, he looked great when he scored a touchdown, having the awareness to judge the sideline and tip-toe in bounds to get the score. He’s going to lose work to Robert Turbin, but it will only help him stay as fresh as possible. In a week where running backs are hard to find, Gore is healthy and has a great matchup. He is ranked 24th, but he has solid RB2 value.

 

Tevin Coleman/Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints (Mon.)

The Saints’ defense is beatable, despite what happened against the Giants in Week 2. Keep in mind the Giants also don’t have a great running game. With the Falcons’ pass catchers banged up, look for Coleman and Freeman (ranked 17th and 19th respectively) to have big games on Monday night. Both backs are solid RB2s. In two games, Coleman has eight targets; Freeman has four. Coleman should be more involved in the passing game, giving him even more value in PPR leagues.

 

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Kansas City Chiefs vs. New York Jets

The New York Jets’ secondary is not the formidable back end of the past. Through two games, they have allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. A.J. Green had 180 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, and while Maclin isn’t quite the caliber as Green, he’s poised to have a good game. Alex Smith struggled in Week 2 (which hurt Maclin), but he should bounce back this week as well. The Chiefs are home, where they typically play better, and Maclin should exceed his No. 24 WR ranking.

 

Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys vs. Chicago Bears

In Week 1, Witten had 14 targets and looked to be a favorite of Dak Prescott. However, in Week 2, he had just four targets, as Dez Bryant was more involved in the offense. The Bears are struggling defensively, and Witten should be more involved this week as the Cowboys figure out the offense. He doesn’t always get the red zone looks, but he’s usually good for a 5/50 stat line, or 10 points in a PPR league. Witten is ranked as the No. 11 tight end, but may finish higher than that.

 

Five Down

 

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers at Philadelphia Eagles

While Roethlisberger is still a QB1 (ranked No. 7 in the QB rankings), fantasy owners should remember that he typically does not play as well on the road as he does at home. In 2015, he played six games at home and six games on the road. He threw for 238 more yards at home, had nine more touchdowns and two fewer interceptions. Currently, Philadelphia is giving up the fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. However, the Eagles have faced Jay Cutler and Robert Griffin III. This will be a good test for the Eagles’ defense, but Roethlisberger likely won’t put up top-5 fantasy numbers in Week 3.

 

Latavius Murray, RB, Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans

Murray has a touchdown in each of the past two games, which is the only thing that has salvaged his fantasy value. He has yet to exceed 60 rushing yards and he has a combined seven receptions for 57 yards in two games. He’s losing touches to DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard and the Raiders appear comfortable with this running back by committee approach. In Week 3, Murray faces the Titans, the defense that is currently allowing the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. They held Adrian Peterson to 31 yards in Week 1. Murray is ranked 11th this week, but he is a low RB2.

 

A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Denver Broncos

Green struggled in Week 2 after his monster Week 1 performance, and things aren’t looking much better for this Sunday either. Denver has given up the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, and the Broncos have faced Kelvin Benjamin and T.Y. Hilton. Green is ranked as the No. 12 WR for Week 3, but he is truly a WR2 this week. He had eight targets in Week 2, but he only could haul in two of them for 38 yards. It will get better, but Week 3 may be rough for Green owners.

 

Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers

After helping Sam Bradford look good in Week 2, Diggs is going to have a tougher time in Week 3. The Carolina defense has given up the third fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. The Panthers held Demaryius Thomas to 48 yards in Week 1. Diggs is going to be the focal point of the Vikings’ offense following the loss of Adrian Peterson, but he’s a low WR2 this week. He is ranked 21st, but he may finish lower than that.

 

Gary Barnidge, TE, Cleveland Browns at Miami Dolphins

Fantasy owners that drafted Barnidge have to be disappointed in the season so far. After his Week 1 goose egg, all signs pointed up for Barnidge. Josh McCown was in at quarterback, with whom Barnidge had success last year. However, Barnidge could only muster four receptions for 37 yards in Week 2, and now McCown is out for an extended period. On top of that, No. 1 WR Corey Coleman also is out and rookie Cody Kessler will be making his first NFL start. Kessler may turn to Barnidge as a safety blanket, but it’s hard to trust anyone on the Browns’ offense at this point. Barnidge is the No. 17-ranked tight end. Fantasy owners can find better options.

 

Week 2 Results

For Week 2, here are the Five Up/Five Down selections and how they fared (standard scoring):

 

Five Up

Matthew Stafford: Ranked 6th, Finished 18th

C.J. Anderson: Ranked 2nd, Finished 11th

Rashad Jennings: Ranked 6th, Finished 48th

Vincent Jackson: Ranked 41st, Finished 66th

Gary Barnidge: Ranked 4th, Finished 25th

 

Five Down

Russell Wilson: Ranked 13th, Finished 27th

Devonta Freeman: Ranked 23rd, Finished 20th

Melvin Gordon: Ranked 32nd, Finished 4th

Dez Bryant: Ranked 9th, Finished 26th

Jacob Tamme: Ranked 19th, Finished 5th

 

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football Five Up, Five Down: Ryan Tannehill, Frank Gore Up; Ben Roethlisberger, A.J. Green Down for Week 3
Post date: Friday, September 23, 2016 - 10:05
Path: /college-football/pittsburgh-panthers-vs-north-carolina-tar-heels-preview-and-prediction-2016
Body:

The full slate of ACC matchups doesn’t begin until next Saturday, but one of the season’s most important Coastal Division games will be played this week. Pittsburgh heads to Chapel Hill on Saturday and the result of the contest will go a long way in determining one of the participants in the conference title game.

 

The Panthers suffered their first loss on Saturday, a nail-biting 45-38 defeat to Oklahoma State in Stillwater. It was a tough spot for Pitt, coming off of an emotional reunion win against Penn State then going halfway across the country to face an angry Oklahoma State team that had lost in controversial fashion to Central Michigan the week before.

 

Meanwhile, North Carolina was at home playing what most thought would be a tune-up game with James Madison. But the Dukes hung around for much of the first half — even holding a lead after the first quarter — before the Tar Heels opened things up for a 56-28 win.

 

This is the 11th game in a series where North Carolina holds a 7-3 advantage.

 

Pittsburgh at North Carolina

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPNU

Spread: North Carolina -7

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Pittsburgh quarterback Nathan Peterman

Peterman had a solid 2015 season, throwing for 2,287 yards with 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. But the senior from Jacksonville, Fla., has been inconsistent so far this season. He did not have his finest game against the Cowboys last Saturday, completing less than half of his passes. The wide receiver position is a weak spot in the Pittsburgh offense, so it is more than just Peterman that is responsible for a struggling passing attack, but the Panthers need to improve in this area and it starts with the guy throwing the ball.

 

2. The Pittsburgh Running Game vs. the North Carolina Run Defense

Peterman doesn’t have to put up Deshaun Watson-esque numbers to be effective for Pittsburgh. That’s because the Panthers have a stellar running game led by the amazing James Conner. The 2014 ACC Player of the Year may not be all the way back, but with 281 yards rushing in three games it appears that he is close. Conner will be going against a UNC defense that is having trouble stopping the run once again. James Madison gained more than 200 yards on the ground last week, one of the reasons why the Tar Heels enter this game ranked 106th in the FBS in rushing defense.

 

3. Mitch Trubisky and His Receivers

Pittsburgh is currently 10th in the FBS in rushing defense, but 124th against the pass. As a result, North Carolina will probably look to put the ball in the air a little more often this week. Trubisky is starting to come into his own and had another big game against James Madison. He was distributing the ball very well as Ryan Switzer led the team with just five catches but seven players had multiple receptions. Pittsburgh can pressure the passer, especially star defensive end Ejuan Price. But if Trubisky is given time, he will be able make plays for the Heels.

 

Final Analysis

 

Both North Carolina and Pittsburgh have offensive strengths that can exploit defensive weaknesses on the other side. The Tar Heels haven’t been able to control opposing rushing attacks and Pitt has James Conner getting back into high gear. On the other hand, Penn State threw for 332 yards and Oklahoma State passed for 540 against the Panthers' defense and UNC has a developing quarterback with several good targets. But North Carolina, with Elijah Hood and T.J. Logan, are a threat running the ball while the Pittsburgh passing game has shown little life this year. That balance, coupled with being at home, gives North Carolina the victory.

 

Prediction: North Carolina 35, Pittsburgh 27

 

— 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.

Teaser:
Pittsburgh Panthers vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 23, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/mississippi-state-bulldogs-vs-umass-minutemen-preview-and-prediction-2016
Body:

As Mississippi State heads up to Foxboro's Gillette Stadum to play UMass in a non-league tilt, the Bulldogs will be looking for both a win and some semblance of continuity at the quarterback position.

 

So, too, will their independent opponents from the Northeast.

 

In last week's 23-20 loss at LSU, Mississippi State rallied behind backup Damian Williams after a hit-and-miss effort from starter Nick Fitzgerald.

 

Meanwhile, UMass saw some nice moments under center at the beginning of the season out of Ross Comis, but he injured his shoulder, which allowed Andrew Ford to come in and lead the Minutemen to a 21-13 win over FIU, the team's first of the year.

 

Both teams aren't quite where they want to be, as Mississippi State also owns a season-opening loss to South Alabama while UMass had to hold on late against FIU to get into the win column. However, the Bulldogs may be able to take some momentum from their second-half rally against LSU as something to build on going forward.

 

Mississippi State at UMass (at Gillette Stadium)

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

Spread: Mississippi State -24.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. On the run
This week, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen said Nick Fitzgerald is still the starter despite the fact that he pulled him for Damian Williams late in Death Valley. One has to wonder what exactly Fitzgerald's confidence level is like with the mixed messages he's getting from his coach, but he should still be able to handle the job well this week. Although he missed some open receivers against LSU, Fitzgerald has some impressive speed when he takes off and runs, as seen in the Week 2 win over South Carolina where he rushed for 195 yards, including a 74-yard gain, on just 17 carries. If Williams comes in, he's not exactly immobile either, so whoever is behind center this week for the Bulldogs, UMass will need to account for the player's legs just as much as him arm.

 

2. Sack attack
One of the more disappointing aspects of the Bulldogs' loss to LSU is that despite some injuries to the Tigers' offensive line, Mississippi State didn't register a single sack and the overall pass rush was underwhelming. On a team that has one of the better edge rushers in the SEC in A.J. Jefferson, that production needs to come back against the Minutemen. Jefferson still had a solid outing with five tackles and combined on a tackle for loss, but the Bulldogs didn't even register a single quarterback hurry. Even with the injuries LSU suffered that game up front, UMass doesn't have the same type of talent on the offensive line, so this will be a good opportunity for the Bulldogs to get back to the type of pass rush that they're capable of, as seen in their win over South Carolina that saw them rack up 4.5 sacks in the 27-14 win.

 

3. Ford tough
Yes, the Minutemen were playing their least talented opponent of the season in FIU after starting with Florida and Boston College, but the fact of the matter is that the offense showed real life for the first time this fall with Andrew Ford at the helm. He completed 28 of 42 passes for 278 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Could Ross Comis have done the same thing against FIU? Maybe, but for now, it appears that Whipple should ride the hot hand and go with Ford, who connected with Andy Isabella, Adam Breneman and Jalen Williams for touchdowns in the win while distributing the ball to nine different pass catchers overall. That's the type of performance UMass will need to have any chance of pulling off the upset, even though the FIU will not be confused with the Bulldogs anytime soon.

 

Final Analysis

 

In one of the side notes to this matchup, the Bulldogs will come out wearing alternate uniforms patterned in the New England Patriots' style as a way of paying homage to the NFL powerhouse's home stadium. One can look at Mississippi State’s loss to South Alabama and UMass’ ability to hang with Florida for most of the game in the Swamp to open the season as reasons for optimism on the Minutemen side. Ford may give the home team the shot in the arm the offense needs, but don't expect it to result in an upset as the visiting Bulldogs likely pull away in the second half.

 

Prediction: Mississippi State 31, UMass 10

 

— Written by Adam Kurkjian, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a reporter for the Boston Herald. He has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Marathon and Little League World Series, among other events from the high school, college and pro ranks. Follow him on Twitter @AdamKurkjian.

Teaser:
Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. UMass Minutemen Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 23, 2016 - 09:40
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-college-football-week-4-picks-and-odds-lines-2016
Body:

Already, we are entering week four of the college football season and pretty much no one is a fan of the officials. There have been several high-profile missed calls that have made an impact across the landscape of the sport. We also are approaching some big-time conference matchups, which means there are gorgeous spot plays that you will see in this article. There's a method to the madness folks.

 

Record: 6-10 (3-3 last week)

 

USC (1-2) at Utah (3-0)

Friday, Sept. 23 at 9 p.m. ET

It's been an interesting season so far for USC, which has already made a quarterback change to redshirt freshman Sam Darnold. There is no denying the talent level on the Trojans’ offense although I'd like to see Adoree’ Jackson used as more than a decoy. Utah's defense is allowing just 263.7 yards per game. The Utes are relying on quarterback Troy Williams, who has been efficient as a passer. They are running the ball well, which presents a problem for the Trojans (197.7 rushing ypg allowed). It's a little bit of a shorter week for USC, which played at Stanford on Saturday and lost 27-10. USC has covered in just 14 of its last 30 games and two of its last nine as an underdog. I don't think Utah is a good place to figure things out on Friday night. SELECTION: Utah -3

 

Syracuse (1-2) at UConn (2-1)

Saturday, Sept. 24 at 1 p.m. ET

This line seems to be way off in both directions. Syracuse hits the road as an underdog after getting thrashed at home by Louisville and South Florida. Now the Orange take on the unimpressive offense that is UConn (331 ypg). The good thing for the Huskies is that their defense is very stout and has done the job when needed to against Maine and Virginia. UConn has not seen a total this high, especially at home, since at least 1992. The Huskies have gone under in 17 of their last 28 games and have covered just seven over that same span. I know things look bad for the Orange although they kept things closer against Louisville than Florida State did. SELECTION: Syracuse +5 and Under 57

 

Wake Forest (3-0) at Indiana (2-0)

Saturday, Sept. 24 at 3:30 p.m. ET

Wake Forest is undefeated despite fielding a less-than-spectacular offense. The Demon Deacons are passing for just 141 yards per game. They are without signal-caller Kendall Hinton and running back Cade Carney, two key pieces to this offense. Luckily for them, they have faced three equally underwhelming offensive squads in Tulane, Duke and Delaware. You cannot say the same thing about Indiana, which has shown good balance in wins over FIU and Ball State. The Hoosiers have just one turnover while forcing six themselves. Yes, they have Michigan State next week, but the fact that they are coming off a bye week means that focus shouldn't be an issue. Last year IU won in Winston Salem 31-24 as a four-point favorite. With two weeks to prepare, I think they deal the Deacs their first loss. SELECTION: Indiana -7.5

 

Appalachian State (1-2) at Akron (2-1)

Saturday, Sept. 24 at 3 p.m. ET

What's the mindset of Appalachian State going to be as the Mountaineers hit the road to play Akron? The Mountaineers had nationally ranked Miami at home and they laid a giant egg in a 45-10 loss to the Canes. Even worse, their best RB Marcus Cox is now hurt and his status is in very much in question for Saturday. Now they head to Akron with the Zips flying high after a 65-38 win at Marshall. This is an up-tempo offense that has worked outside of one game at Wisconsin. Quarterback Thomas Woodson is making things happen. I think this is a great spot to play the underdog home team. SELECTION: Akron +5.5

 

Western Illinois (2-0) at Northern Illinois (0-3)

Saturday, Sept. 24 at 3:30 p.m. ET

It's unusual to see a zero in the win column for Northern Illinois this late into the season. But the Huskies lost quarterback Drew Hare and that has hurt their offensive productivity. The bigger issue is a defense that has allowed 17 touchdowns and 516.7 yards per game. The Leathernecks are coming off an early bye week and are ranked 10th in Athlon Sports’ current FCS Power Poll. They are led by Steve McShane on the ground and Sean McGuire under center. This team has a very good defense that should be able to corral Northern Illinois quarterback Ryan Graham. SELECTION: Western Illinois +8.5

 

UL Lafayette (2-1) at Tulane (1-2)

Saturday, Sept. 24 at 8 p.m. ET

New head coach Willie Fritz is trying to do big things with Tulane although it will take some time. The Green Wave can run it, but they are not really putting any pressure on defenses through the air. This is a team that has scored a total of 17 points against FBS opponents and is facing a ULL defense that has held two straight opponents to 100 yards or fewer on the ground. The good thing for the Wave is that their defense is playing strong, forcing six turnovers in their last two games. That should help against Elijah McGuire and the Ragin’ Cajun attack. ULL’s offense has been able to get things done through the air, but this will be the toughest defense the Cajuns have faced yet. Tulane has gone under in eight of its last 14 home games. I think that trend continues. SELECTION: Under 47

 

Notes:

 

— I came really close to playing Vanderbilt. The Commodores are at Western Kentucky on Saturday and are more than a touchdown underdog. The Hilltoppers are a banged-up bunch in certain key areas, but it's not often they get an SEC team at home. Vandy's defense has played poorly, but this unit can shut down WKU’s passing game. The question as always lies with the Commodores’, offense which is Ralph Webb and a whole lot of nothing. WKU lost at Alabama 38-10 and barely knocked off MAC member Miami (Ohio) on the road last week.

 

— There has been a switch in favorites as money has swung to Kentucky in its SEC East matchup with South Carolina. I'd love to take the Wildcats in this one, as South Carolina is flying high after being dominated yards-wise by ECU. The Gamecocks’ offense doesn't scare a lot of people, but their defense is pretty good. Can the Wildcats play for head coach Mark Stoops and win a game that they are now favored in? They've been a home favorite of three points or fewer just twice in the last three seasons.

 

— 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.

Teaser:
Betting Against the Spread: College Football Week 4 Picks and Odds
Post date: Friday, September 23, 2016 - 09:25
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, syndicated, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-must-start-jarvis-landry-and-other-wr-te-start-sit-fantasy-advice-week-3-2016
Body:

Before we turn our focus to the fantasy wide receiver and tight end landscape in Week 3, let’s take a quick look to see how my start/sit advice for Week turned out.

 

Good Calls...

Start Travis Benjamin (23.4 fantasy points) – Hopefully you picked up Benjamin off the waiver wire last week because he is going to produce moving forward.

 

Sit T.Y. Hilton (4.10 FP) – The entire Colts offense couldn’t really get anything going against the vaunted Broncos defense.

 

I said it might be worth the risk to start Sterling Shepard (11.7 FP) and he had his first career 100-yard game in the NFL.

 

Bad Calls...

Start Desean Jackson (4 FP) – It looks like it is going to be hard to trust any receiver on the Redskins right now.

 

Start Coby Fleener (2.9 FP) – Drew Brees needs to stop wasting targets on Fleener.

 

Sit Martellus Bennett (17.4 FP) – Bennett had his biggest game in two years last week, but can he keep it up when Rob Gronkowski returns?

 

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

 

Wide Receivers

 

START THESE WRs...

 

Stefon Diggs, MIN (at CAR)

Diggs is the real deal and what he did in Week 2 against the Packers (10-182-1) shouldn't be considered a fluke. Don’t forget he had seven catches for 103 yards on nine targets in Week 1 at Tennessee. He should continue to see a hefty number of targets, especially with Adrian Peterson sidelined indefinitely, and Diggs showed an instant rapport with new quarterback Sam Bradford. The Panthers’ revamped secondary has yet to be tested, as neither Trevor Siemian nor Blaine Gabbert is considered an elite QB, but Diggs should be able to make plays on this defense, even on the road. He's a breakout star on the rise and a solid WR2 this week.

 

Marvin Jones, DET (at GB)

Jones has been as good as advertised so far this season and the only thing missing is a touchdown. Jones had four catches for 85 yards on 10 targets in Week 1 at Indianapolis, and he followed that up with eight catches for 118 yards on 11 targets against Tennessee. The Packers just got lit up by Stefon Diggs as Sam Shields (concussion) was clearly missed. Jones likewise would benefit should Shields miss another game. But with the way Matthew Stafford is targeting Jones he should continue to have quality production, and he's a solid WR2 in the majority of leagues.

 

Jarvis Landry, MIA (vs. CLE)

Landry is a target monster coming off of a monster game (10 rec., 137 yards) last week against the Patriots. He should continue to rack up the targets against the Browns, which have allowed an average of almost 30 fantasy points per game to WRs through the first two weeks.

 

MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...

 

Mike Wallace, BAL (at JAC)

Wallace appears to have become one of Joe Flacco's favorite targets after just two weeks. A speedster who can stretch defenses, the veteran is a perfect fit for offensive coordinator Marc Trestman's system. Wallace is a nice option this week against a Jaguars defense that has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to WRs.

 

SIT THESE WRs...

 

Randall Cobb, GB (vs. DET)

So far this season it looks like we are going to see the disappointing 2015 version of Cobb instead of the productive Cobb of ‘14. He produced a minuscule 4.3 fantasy points last week in a loss to the Vikings. Next on the schedule is a date with the Lions, which have held Cobb to fewer than 60 receiving yards in five of eight career meetings. Cobb also has scored touchdowns (three total) in just two of those eight games.

 

Golden Tate, DET (at GB)

I’m not sure what’s going on with Tate. I don’t know if anyone knows what’s going on with Tate, including his offensive coordinator, Jim Bob Cooter. Tate saw nine targets against the Titans on Sunday, but only hauled in two for 13 yards. He’s being used around the line of scrimmage and the whole situation kind of sucks. He looks like Percy Harvin in Seattle (after the injury). Maybe the ankle is still bothering Tate, but he’s currently YAC-less and that’s what he needs to be great. He has a real chance of falling not only farther behind Marvin Jones in targets, but Eric Ebron as well.

 

Sammy Watkins, BUF (vs. ARI)

This kind of goes without saying, but I feel like it’s a good reminder to just sit Watkins for now, even if you’re seeing Buffalo putting up 30 points on the Jets. Watkins saw five targets last week while playing with a sore foot. The volume (16.7 percent of team targets) is still there, but not the production, as he would up with just two catches for 20 yards in the loss. It’s clear he’s not right and it doesn’t help that this week the Bills host the Cardinals, which have one of the best defenses in the league.

 

YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...

 

A.J. Green, CIN (vs. DEN)

You’re probably not going to sit Green, even against the best defense in the NFL, but you should consider it. Nobody knows the extent of Andy Dalton’s mystery injury (he was limping after last week’s game) and the Broncos know that all they need to do is double-cover Green. The Steelers did that last week, limiting him to just two catches for 38 yards. Things will get better for Green as the season progresses, but another game of fewer than 10 fantasy points is highly probable.

 

Tight Ends

 

START THESE TEs...

 

Dennis Pitta, BAL (at JAC)

For the first time in more than two years, Pitta looks healthy as does his stat line – 12 targets, nine catches, 102 yards. And that was just last week against Cleveland. It sure looks as if Pitta is back after dealing with all those hip injuries that wiped out the past two seasons. And if that’s the case, Joe Flacco is going to lean heavily on his favorite tight end. Even though his playing time is still somewhat limited (46 of 75 snaps vs. Browns) he was the only tight end that got more than 10 targets in Week 2.


Jacob Tamme, ATL (at NO, Mon.)

This might sound crazy, but I swear it’s true. Somehow, despite being in an offense with Julio Jones and the suddenly relevant Mohamed Sanu, Tamme leads the Falcons in targets. It’s time we all pay attention to Tamme as he’s averaged eight targets in each of his first two games and this week the Falcons are going to be in a shootout down in New Orleans on “Monday Night Football.” Look for Tamme to once again be a focal point of the offense and score another touchdown.

 

Delanie Walker, TEN (vs. OAK)

Another week, another tight end that must be started against the Raiders and this week it’s one of the better ones in the game. Walker rebounded from a mediocre Week 1 to finish with 83 yards, a touchdown and 14.3 fantasy points in a win over the Lions. He should put up a similar stat line against Oakland, which has surrendered the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends so far this season. Walker is a must-start in all formats.

 

MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...

 

Eric Ebron, DET (at GB)

Ebron should have scored a touchdown last week against the Titans, which would have given him two weeks in a row with a score, but it was called back due to a penalty. Even without the touchdown it's good to see that the Lions are leaning on Ebron – 12 targets, nine receptions, 99 yards, and a TD in two games.  The Packers have allowed a tight end to score in each game this season (Julius Thomas, Kyle Rudolph), and both finished with at least nine fantasy points (standard league). Ebron should continue to be a vital part of Detroit’s passing game, and he is a clear-cut TE1 this week.

 

SIT THESE TEs...

 

Gary Barnidge, CLE (at MIA)

Barnidge came out of nowhere last year to be one of the best tight ends in fantasy football, but that sure seems like a long time ago. His targets have been down in the first two weeks, and his production has left a lot for fantasy fans to be desired. Couple that with the fact that rookie QB Cody Kessler is starting and Barnidge becomes a big-time gamble.

 

Jimmy Graham, SEA (vs. SF)

Graham is looking healthier (played 54 snaps up last week, up from 17 in Week 1), but quarterback Russell Wilson's poor decision-making near the goal line suggests the terrific red zone threat will once again be underused Sunday against a 49ers team that gave up 122 yards and a touchdown to the Panthers’ Greg Olsen last week.

 

Vance MacDonald, SF (at SEA)

Disregard the big plays and the high efficiency ratings, you want nothing to do with a Blaine Gabbert offense. Last week, McDonald had one catch for 75 yards and a touchdown. In Week 1, he had two catches for 14 yards and a score. This atypical penchant for touchdowns cannot continue.

 

YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...

 

Travis Kelce, KC (vs. NYJ)

Kelce has always had the potential to be one of the best tight ends in fantasy, but he continues to disappoint most weeks, which has become frustrating. He had seven fantasy points in a standard league in Week 1 against San Diego and just three points at Houston in Week 2. He’s now posted seven fantasy points or fewer in 11 of his past 15 games. This week he has a really tough matchup against the Jets. IN the past 18 games, only two tight ends have scored against the J-E-T-S. Kelce can easily hit seven fantasy points this week, but he isn't likely to have a big game given his track record and the matchup.

 

— Written 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.

Teaser:
Why You Must Start Jarvis Landry and Other WR/TE Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 3
Post date: Friday, September 23, 2016 - 09:20
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, syndicated, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-should-start-demarco-murray-and-other-rb-start-sit-fantasy-advice-week-3-2016
Body:

Week 2 was a rough one for running backs, both from a fantasy perspective and health-wise. So how did my start or sit advice fare in hindsight?

 

Related: Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin, Arian Foster, Jonathan Stewart Injured - Which Running Back to Pick Up to Replace Them on Your Fantasy Team

 

Good Calls...

Start LeGarrette Blount (18.3 fantasy points) – The Patriots relied heavily on their ground game against the Dolphins.

 

Sit Jeremy Hill (5.9 FP) – Hill was non-existent against the Steelers and hasn’t looked very good to start the year.

 

I warned you against starting Todd Gurley and all he did was manage seven fantasy points.

 

Bad Calls...

Start Rashad Jennings (4 FP) – It’s a RBBC approach in the Giants’ backfield and Shane Vereen is looking like the better option.

 

I also said it might be worth the risk to start Jeremy Langford (7.4 FP) Monday night against the Eagles but the Bears got behind fast and are still searching for consistency in the running game.

 

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

 

START THESE RBs...

 

Melvin Gordon, SD (at IND)

There’s no question that Gordon is the man now in San Diego and so far, this year, he’s looked the part of a first-round running back. Last week after Danny Woodhead went down with a knee injury, Gordon carried the rock 24 times for 102 yards and a touchdown against Jacksonville. He’s an easy start this week against the Colts, which have given up more fantasy points to running backs (34.5 PPG) than any other team in the league.

 

Matt Forte, NYJ (at KC)

You know what makes for great fantasy football stats? Volume, volume and more volume. And that is exactly what Forte is getting. For whatever reason, the Jets don’t want Bilal Powell to touch the ball. Powell had one carry for one yard and a single reception for one yard against Buffalo. Forte had 30 carries for 100 yards and three touchdowns, adding two catches for nine yards. That’s a 16-to-1 touch ratio in favor of Forte in case you didn’t want to do the math. Forte’s YPC might not be very good, but he’s the red zone back and getting plenty of work in a pretty sweet offense. Ride this wave for as long as you can, because it has to end at some point.

 

DeMarco Murray, TEN (vs. OAK)

Murray is proving that his excellent preseason wasn’t a fluke, as he has been one of the top fantasy RBs  through the first two games. And most of his production has come as a receiver out of the backfield (21.1 points), which you’ve got to love in PPR leagues. Fantasy owners should deploy him against the Raiders, which have surrendered an average of 20 fantasy points per game to opposing RBs thus far.

 

MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...

 

Theo Riddick, DET (at GB)

If the game script goes the way it should, the Lions should be throwing a lot in this matchup while playing from behind, which obviously benefits Riddick. His role should be expanded now with Ameer Abdullah on injured reserve, and he's already had 18 carries this season after just 43 all of last year. Dwayne Washington will likely serve as the short-yardage and goal-line back in Abdullah’s absence, but Riddick is a must-start in all PPR leagues. He has nine catches for 91 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets for the season, and he has 13 catches for 86 yards and a touchdown in his past three meetings with the Packers.

 

SIT THESE RBs...

 

Eddie Lacy, GB (vs. DET)

It’s time to stop pretending Fat Eddie/Skinny Eddie/Young Eddie/Jordy Nelson Eddie/Dairy-Free Eddie is going to be 2013 Eddie. Lacy is going to average a little more than 13 carries per game (he’ll have big games here and there), gain a little more than four yards per attempt, catch a couple of passes at best, and maybe score here and there. But he’s just not going to be someone you can depend on as a top-24 or even top-30 fantasy RB at this point. He has 111 yards, a catch, and no touchdowns through two games. His matchup against the Lions is enticing this week, but you really probably have a better starting option like Christine Michael or Charles Sims.

 

Carlos Hyde, SF (at SEA)

After a huge game in Week 1 against the Rams (23.3 fantasy points), Hyde was a major disappointment last week in Carolina, and the schedule doesn’t ease up with a visit to Seattle on tap for Sunday. Most No. 1 RBs have not fared well in the Pacific Northwest dating back to the start of last season, as just three have scored a rushing touchdown in that span. So far this season the Seahawks have given up the third-fewest fantasy points to running backs, so this is a good week to keep Hyde on the bench.

 

Jeremy Hill, CIN (vs. DEN)

Hopefully you didn’t draft Hill too early this year hoping that he would return to his 2014 rookie form because it looks like, at least for now, he’s going to be a regular member of the sit ‘em club. Over his first two games Hill has only 53 rushing yards and last week in Pittsburgh, Giovani Bernard got more snaps (47) than Hill (29) and appeared to be the better back. Next on the schedule is a difficult home game against the Broncos, which means it will be more of a Bernard game than a Hill game.

 

YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...

 

Jerick McKinnon, MIN (at CAR)

This one might be hard because everyone will want to play their shiny new toy, especially if you paid a hefty chunk of your FAAB budget to get McKinnon. But while McKinnon is uber-talented, he will still share the workload with Matt Asiata in some fashion. At minimum, Asiata will serve as the goal-line back, which limits McKinnon’s scoring potential and possibly his touches in the red zone. To make matters worse, the Vikings are in Carolina this week, which usually means tough sledding for the visiting team.

 

— Written 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.

Teaser:
Why You Should Start DeMarco Murray and Other RB Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 3
Post date: Friday, September 23, 2016 - 09:20
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, syndicated, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-should-start-matt-ryan-and-other-qb-dst-start-sit-fantasy-advice-week-3-2016
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Before we dive into Week 3’s start or sit fantasy advice for quarterback and defense/special teams (DST), let’s see how Week 2’s tips panned out.

 

Good Calls..

Start Derek Carr (24.96 fantasy points) – Carr is going to be airing it out a lot if the Raiders’ defense continues to give up so many yards and points.

 

Sit Russell Wilson (11.56 FP) – Wilson and the whole Seahawks' offense looks out of sorts and have only scored one touchdown in two games

 

I also warned you against starting Andrew Luck (10.08 FP) against the Broncos and he was eaten alive by the best defense in football

 

Bad Calls...

Sit Matt Ryan (27.84 FP) – What was I thinking telling you to sit a QB against the Raiders?

 

Start Eli Manning (12.32 FP) – Eli didn’t throw for a single touchdown against the Saints at home last week despite throwing for 368 yards.

 

I said it might be worth it to start Jameis Winston (4.62 FP). Oops! Five turnovers later…

 

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

 

Quarterbacks

 

START THESE QBS...

 

Matt Ryan, ATL (at NO, Mon.)

Ryan is playing his best football in years. Julio Jones may be dealing with a calf sprain, but Jacob Tamme is catching everything and Mohamed Sanu seems to be keeping defenses far more honest than post-2012 Roddy White or Harry Douglas ever could. This week the Falcons travel to New Orleans to face a Saints defense that allows secondary receivers to put up good numbers against them. Just look at Michael Crabtree in Week 1 and Sterling Shepard last week. The fact is that this game very well could be a shootout, and you want a piece of that. Ryan also leads the NFL in passer rating with 121.4 and is second in both passing yards (730) and touchdowns (five).

 

Phillip Rivers, SD (at IND)

If you started Rivers last week, you were quite pleased with his four touchdowns and 23.8 fantasy points in a win over the Jaguars. More importantly, he did it without Keenan Allen and (for a time) Danny Woodhead. This week he's facing a questionable Colts pass defense that hardly has any healthy cornerbacks and has allowed an average of 18.7 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. Rivers is in for another big game.

 

Marcus Mariota, TEN (vs. OAK)

Just like last year, it’s smart to start as many offensive players against the Raiders as you can and this week the Titans are the lucky team that gets to welcome the Raiders to town. The Raiders have allowed the most passing yards (808) and touchdown passes (seven) through two games. Even if they suddenly right the ship, there’s no reason to think Mariota won’t at least put up a decent game for the Tom Brady owner or the one who is streaming QBs. Mariota is averaging a completely serviceable 250-2-1 line as a passer alone, and he should easily do better than that this week.

 

MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...

 

Ryan Tannehill, MIA (vs. CLE)

Sure, most of Tannehill’s 26 fantasy points (standard scoring) last week came in garbage time against the Patriots, but for fantasy purposes, we finally got a glimpse of what the Dolphins' passing attack could be like with a healthy DeVante Parker. Now Tannehill gets a juicy matchup at home against the Browns, which have allowed at least 275 passing yards and two touchdowns in both of their games so far. Tannehill should be able to join Carson Wentz and Joe Flacco in that club, giving him an excellent chance at another 20-plus fantasy point performance this week.

 

SIT THESE QBs...

 

Derek Carr, OAK (at TEN)

Carr has been better than advertised to start the season, scoring 23.36 fantasy points in Week 1 and 27.96 fantasy points in Week 2. Those numbers look great but are a little inflated because in both games the Raiders' defense has been so bad the games turned into shootouts. Carr should have a quieter performance this week on the road against a Titans defense that has allowed just 20 points per game and has given up the eighth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks so far this season.

 

Andy Dalton, CIN (vs. DEN)

Dalton was better than expected last week against the Steelers, throwing for 366 yards and a touchdown to give him 19.3 fantasy points. But Dalton was limping badly after the game and this week, he gets Denver. Denver is eating QBs for lunch and leaving them worse for the wear by the time the game is over. Just last week the Broncos held Andrew Luck to 197 passing yards while sacking him five times and forcing him to turn it over twice. Chances are Dalton isn’t going to fare much better.

 

Jameis Winston, TB (vs. LA)

Winston has had quite the polar opposite starts to his season. He had four touchdown passes in Week 1... and four interceptions in Week 2. Next up is a date with the Rams, which held Russell Wilson to a modest 11.56 fantasy points in a win over the Seahawks last week. Winston also has thrown one or fewer touchdown passes in five of his eight career games at Raymond James Stadium.

 

YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...

 

Russell Wilson, SEA (vs. SF)

Wilson can easily play his way out of his two-game funk to start the season, and the 49ers just gave up a monster performance to Cam Newton (353 yards, 4 TD passes) on the road. This also is the second of back-to-back road games for San Francisco, and Wilson had his way with the NFC West rivals at home last year (260 yards, 3 TD passes). But that’s the only game against the 49ers with multiple touchdowns in his past five meetings and his only performance with more than 250 passing yards over that span. It's not so much the defense this week as Wilson looking off, and his ankle injury from Week 1 could be a problem. Factor in the offensive line struggling and Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett both dealing with their own injuries, and it could be another tough game for Wilson.

 

Defense/Special Teams (DSTs)

 

START THESE DSTs...

 

Miami Dolphins (vs. CLE)

The Dolphins should be the most added defense off the waiver wire this week and a matchup against the Browns is the reason. Opposing defenses have scored an average of 10.5 fantasy points in two games against Cleveland, and now rookie quarterback Cody Kessler is being thrown into the fire. Miami should fish out a huge performance.

 

New York Giants (vs. WAS)

The Giants' defense looks pretty darn solid so far this season, and it showed in last week's 12-point performance against the Saints. Next up is a date with the Redskins and Kirk Cousins, who has three touchdown passes and 10 giveaways in four career games vs. Big Blue. The G-Men are still available in a lot of leagues.

 

SIT THESE DSTs...

 

Buffalo Bills (vs. ARI)

Whether it's Rex or Rob, the Ryans haven't been able to turn the Bills’ defense into a viable option on the field or in fantasy. That isn't going to change this week against the Cardinals, wich figure to pepper this unit with a performance that will scorch the scoreboard at New Era Field. Sit the Bills.

 

Philadelphia Eagles (vs. PIT)

The Eagles' defense has produced a combined 21 fantasy points over the first two weeks of the season, which ranks seventh at the position. Still, starting this unit against Ben Roethlisberger, DeAngelo Williams, Antonio Brown and an explosive Steelers’ offense is not something fantasy owners should be doing this week.

 

— Written 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.

Teaser:
Why You Should Start Matt Ryan and Other QB/DST Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 3
Post date: Friday, September 23, 2016 - 09:20
Path: /college-football/tennessee-volunteers-vs-florida-gators-preview-and-prediction-2016
Body:

Florida will be looking for its 12th win in a row over Tennessee this Saturday, as the Gators and Volunteers meet in Knoxville for a critical SEC East showdown. Question marks surround the East Division’s top contenders after the first three weeks of the season, but Saturday’s matchup should provide some clarity and insight into how these two teams factor in the conference’s overall pecking order.

 

While Florida has won the last 11 games in this series, Tennessee has been on the doorstep of winning the last two matchups. The Volunteers lost 10-9 in 2014 and couldn’t stop the Gators on 4th and 14 with just over one minute remaining, as former quarterback Will Grier connected with Antonio Callaway on a 63-yard catch and run for a score last fall.

 

Tennessee has made progress under coach Butch Jones, but the Volunteers have not looked like the team most expected to see in 2016. After a nine-win campaign last year, Tennessee was projected as the East Division favorite and a contender for the College Football Playoff. The Volunteers needed overtime to knock off a good Appalachian State team in Week 1 and struggled in last Saturday’s win over Ohio. Needless to say, Tennessee has to play better if it wants to beat Florida on Saturday and win the East this year.

 

On the Florida sideline, Jim McElwain seems to be pushing all of the right buttons in his second year at the helm. The Gators won the East Division last season and are off to a 3-0 start. The level of competition hasn’t been as tough as Tennessee’s, but Florida easily defeated Kentucky 45-7 in Week 2 and has allowed only 14 points through three contests. Even though the Gators have been impressive, this week’s matchup is a better barometer test of where this team stands. Of course, gauging where Florida is got a little tougher after the injury to quarterback Luke Del Rio in last week’s win over North Texas.

 

In addition to an 11-game winning streak over the Volunteers, Florida owns a 26-19 series edge. The Gators have not lost in Knoxville since 2004.

 

Florida at Tennessee

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Tennessee -6.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Quarterback Play

For different reasons, the play of both quarterbacks in this game is going to be under the microscope. Tennessee senior quarterback Joshua Dobbs was supposed to take a step forward in his development this year. However, the jury is still out on whether or not Dobbs has improved. On the positive side of things, Dobbs is 45 of 75 for 486 yards and six touchdowns and has rushed for 161 yards and three scores. Additionally, the senior is completing 60 percent of his throws. But a deeper look at those numbers highlights a few concerns. Dobbs is averaging 6.5 yards per attempt and has just two completions of 30 yards or more. It’s no secret Dobbs is not going to be a prototypical pocket passer. However, improvement in this department was expected. Adding to the challenge of finding a spark for Tennessee’s passing game is a Florida secondary that ranks among the nation’s best. Despite the concerns about the passing attack, Dobbs is still a threat to move the ball on the ground (along with running backs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara) and his mobility needs to be utilized against a strong Florida front seven. Can the Volunteers (and Dobbs) find some success through the air this Saturday?

 

On the other sideline, Florida thought it found its answer at quarterback in Luke Del Rio. The Oregon State transfer was solid in the first three weeks, completing 62 of 101 throws for 762 yards and six touchdowns. Del Rio wasn’t much of a threat to stretch defenses downfield, as he had only had two completions of 30 yards or more. However, the outlook on Florida’s quarterback situation changed dramatically late in the game against North Texas. Del Rio suffered a knee injury and is expected to miss Saturday’s game. With Del Rio sidelined, Purdue transfer Austin Appleby is slated to start. In three years with the Boilermakers, Appleby threw for 2,709 yards and 19 scores and also rushed for 290 yards. The Gators won’t need a huge effort out of Appleby, as coach Jim McElwain’s team can lean on a strong defense to carry this team on Saturday. However, Appleby can’t make the big mistake or put his team in an early deficit.

 

Related: Predictions for Every Week 4 College Football Game

 

2. Line of Scrimmage

Similar to Tennessee’s quarterback play, the offensive line was a unit expected to show progress in 2016. The Volunteers returned four starters and the overall depth and talent level has improved under coach Butch Jones. However, Tennessee’s offensive line has struggled mightily this year. The Volunteers are averaging just 4.3 yards per carry and have surrendered seven sacks through three games. This unit has been tested by Appalachian State, Ohio and Virginia Tech, but Florida’s defensive line is on a different level. The Gators possess one of the nation’s best defensive fronts and lead the SEC with 16 sacks generated through three contests. Florida also ranks first in the SEC by limiting opponents to just 42.3 rushing yards per game. Can the Volunteers generate a push in the ground game and provide Dobbs with enough time to throw?

 

Similar to Tennessee, Florida’s offensive line entered 2016 looking to improve after an uneven 2015 campaign. So far, the early returns are good for coach Jim McElwain. The Gators have allowed only one sack and average 4.97 yards per carry – up from 3.5 last season. While this group seems to be improved, Tennessee’s defensive line represents the toughest challenge it has faced in 2016. End Derek Barnett is one of the SEC’s best defenders and has registered three tackles for a loss through three games. Opponents have been able to generate a push against the Volunteers’ front seven this year, as the defense is giving up 152.7 yards per game on the ground. With Appleby making his first start, the Gators need to take some pressure off the quarterback by establishing a ground game. Four running backs have accumulated at least 17 carries so far, including Jordan Scarlett (5.3 ypc) and promising freshman Lamical Perine (5.5 ypc). Will Florida’s line establish the point of attack and clear the way for the ground game to keep the offense out of third-and-long situations? Expect Volunteers to stack the box and force Appleby to win this one through the air.

 

3. Turnovers

With a tight game expected in Knoxville, turnovers could play a huge role in determining the winner of this critical SEC East showdown. Both teams have been in the positive side of the turnover margin so far, as Florida has a plus-three margin and Tennessee checks in at plus-two. However, the Volunteers have been incredibly fortunate in this area. Tennessee has recovered five of seven fumbles by its opponents this year, which is a lucky 71 percent recovery rate. Additionally, the Volunteers have lost only one fumble so far. The fortunate bounces won’t last all season, so there will be some regression here for Tennessee. In every matchup against the Gators since 2008, the Volunteers have either recorded a negative or even turnover mark. That has to change on Saturday if Tennessee wants to end its losing streak. And on the Florida sideline, the Gators will be looking for a couple of takeaways to protect new quarterback Austin Appleby.

 

Final Analysis

 

This is a tough game to get a read on. Tennessee’s play through the first three weeks has left a lot to be desired, there’s major concerns on the offensive line and with the passing attack. However, Florida is starting a new quarterback (Austin Appleby) that struggled during his stint as a starter at Purdue. Appleby doesn’t have to be a difference maker on Saturday. However, he just doesn’t need to lose the game or make critical mistakes. Appleby will have some additional support as receiver Antonio Callaway is expected to play after sitting out last week due to injury. Tennessee’s injury concerns and the loss of cornerback Cam Sutton and linebacker Darrin Kirkland add even more mystery to this matchup. If Del Rio was healthy and under center, we would pick Florida. The guess here is Tennessee ends the 11-game losing streak to the Gators with a last-second field goal.

 

Prediction: Tennessee 23, Florida 20
Teaser:
Tennessee Volunteers vs. Florida Gators Preview and Prediction 2016
Post date: Friday, September 23, 2016 - 09:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/arkansas-razorbacks-vs-texas-am-aggies-preview-and-prediction-2016
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Arkansas and Texas A&M meet for the third consecutive season in Arlington, Texas for a neutral site matchup of two teams on the rise and plenty at stake in the SEC. The recent contests between the Aggies and Razorbacks have provided plenty of entertainment. Each of the last two matchups were decided by seven points in overtime, with Texas A&M winning both games. The Aggies also have a four-game winning streak over the Razorbacks and the winner of Saturday night’s contest should have a strong case as the No. 2 team in the SEC.

 

Arkansas opened its 2016 season with a one-point victory over Louisiana Tech but scored an impressive victory at TCU in Week 2. The Razorbacks soundly defeated Texas State last Saturday and is off to a 3-0 start for the second time under coach Bret Bielema’s direction. Bielema has this Arkansas program on solid footing after inheriting a mess in 2013 and poised to push for his best overall record at the helm of the Razorbacks.

 

While Arkansas was on the rise entering 2016, question marks surrounded Texas A&M and the future of coach Kevin Sumlin. After a 20-6 start to Sumlin’s tenure, the Aggies slipped to back-to-back 8-5 records and the pressure was building on this coaching staff to show progress in 2016. So far, so good. Texas A&M earned a solid non-conference victory over UCLA in Week 1 and defeated Auburn on the road last Saturday. The Aggies aren’t in the same category as Alabama, but Sumlin’s coordinator hires (John Chavis and Noel Mazzone) have helped this program take a step in the right direction this year.

 

Arkansas holds a 41-28-3 series edge over Texas A&M. These two teams were previously conference foes in the Southwest Conference and did not play after the Razorbacks left for the SEC in 1992. No matchups were played between Arkansas and Texas A&M from 1992-2008, but a non-conference series was renewed for 2009-11 and is now an annual event with these two teams in the SEC West. The Aggies have defeated the Razorbacks in all four meetings as SEC members.

 

Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (Arlington, Texas)

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 9 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Texas A&M -5.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Battle in the Trenches

The battle up front is going to play a huge role in deciding which team wins on Saturday night. The Aggies and Razorbacks are strong on the defensive line, while both teams enter this game with some uncertainty up front. Texas A&M’s defensive line ranks second in the SEC with 12 sacks through three games. Ends Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall headline this unit and are a nightmare matchup off the edges. But the Aggies are developing a solid interior, which was critical after giving up 213.7 rushing yards per game last fall. Texas A&M is seventh in the SEC against the run after three weeks, but Arkansas’ massive offensive line and ground attack is probably the best test this unit has faced so far in 2016. Left tackle Dan Skipper is the anchor for coach Bret Bielema, but right guard Frank Ragnow (recently moved from center) is another emerging standout. The Razorbacks have shuffled this group over the last two weeks and seem to be finding the right mix. However, Arkansas has yet to face a defensive front with the overall athleticism and speed like the Aggies can bring on Saturday night. Will the Razorbacks provide enough protection for quarterback Austin Allen? And can this group clear enough rushing lanes against Texas A&M’s defensive front?

 

While not as heralded as Texas A&M’s defensive line, Arkansas also brings a stout front four to Arlington. Deatrich Wise is one of the SEC’s top ends, while tackle Jeremiah Ledbetter (2.5 sacks so far) is off to a fast start. Hall and Ledbetter have been instrumental in the performance of Arkansas’ defensive line, as the Razorbacks have generated 10 sacks and rank third in the SEC against the run. Texas A&M’s offensive line has passed its first two tests in matchups against Auburn and UCLA. The return of line coach Jim Turner has helped this unit progress, which features two freshmen – Colton Prater and Erik McCoy – in the starting lineup. The Aggies have allowed only three sacks in three games and average 6.1 yards per carry. Will this unit have the same amount of success against an active and stout Arkansas defensive line? Can Wise get to quarterback Trevor Knight? Getting pressure on Knight is critical, as the Aggies have a deep set of playmakers and depth is an issue for Arkansas’ secondary.

 

Related: Predictions for Every Week 4 College Football Game

 

2. Trevor Knight vs. Austin Allen

Quarterback play was a mystery for most of the SEC entering the 2016 season. However, a few preseason question marks have emerged as strengths. Texas A&M and Arkansas both have found the right answers under center, with Oklahoma graduate transfer Trevor Knight leading the Aggies, and Austin Allen guiding the Razorback attack. Knight can be streaky as a passer (52.9%), but he can create plays with his legs and has connected on five passing plays of 40 yards or more in 2016. Allen leads all SEC quarterbacks by completing 67.1 percent of his throws and has passed for 655 yards and seven scores. The junior already has a huge road win (at TCU) under his belt and seems to get more comfortable in his role as the starter with each snap. Both of these quarterbacks will have their hands full on Saturday night against tough defenses. Allen should test a Texas A&M secondary that had to replace both cornerbacks entering the season, while Knight and his receiving corps is a tough matchup for an improving Arkansas secondary. Which quarterback will step up with a close game in store on Saturday?

 

3. The Playmakers

As we mentioned above, this game is likely going to come down to which team wins the battle up front and how the two quarterbacks perform. However, both offenses possess their share of skill talent and rising stars to watch on Saturday night. Texas A&M’s ground attack has improved under new coordinator Noel Mazzone, with big-play threat and freshman Trayveon Williams (8.4 ypc) and Oklahoma transfer Keith Ford (4.8 ypc) leading the way. The Aggies also have a deep group of playmakers, which should test an Arkansas secondary short on depth. Christian Kirk (18 catches) is Knight’s favorite receiver, but big targets like Josh Reynolds (17.6 ypc) and Ricky Seals-Jones (14.2 ypc) and playmaker Speedy Noil are a tough matchup. On the other sideline, Arkansas needs its ground game to deliver to keep the potent Texas A&M offense on the sidelines. Time of possession isn’t an important stat to track in most games, but the Razorbacks need to win it on Saturday night. Sophomore Rawleigh Williams has recorded back-to-back 100-yard efforts and has help from Kody Walker and talented freshman Devwah Whaley. Additionally, the Razorbacks might have the nation’s most underrated group of receivers. Keon Hatcher (18.5 ypc) and Drew Morgan (15 catches) are the top options for quarterback Austin Allen, but keep an eye on tight end Jeremy Sprinkle. The senior could be a tough matchup over the middle of the field for Texas A&M’s linebackers. Additionally, the Razorbacks need to find ways to get the ball in the hands of Dominique Reed (19.1 ypc in 2015).

 

Final Analysis

 

This one is about as even as it gets. And as evidenced by the last two matchups, another close game – perhaps another overtime contest? – is in store. Both teams are strong on defense in the trenches, but a slight edge goes to Texas A&M. However, the Aggies will face their toughest passing attack so far with a matchup against quarterback Austin Allen and a deep group of Arkansas receivers. On the other side, Texas A&M’s offense leads the SEC in total yards per game and has found the right mix of balance and big-play potential behind coordinator Noel Mazzone. One area to watch: Turnovers. The Razorbacks were minus-two in last season’s meeting and minus-two in the 2013 game. A slight edge to the Aggies on Saturday in another Arlington thriller.

 

Prediction: Texas A&M 31, Arkansas 27
Teaser:
Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Texas A&M Aggies Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 23, 2016 - 09:00
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Path: /college-football/10-college-football-picks-against-spread-week-4-odds-lines-2016
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The Week 4 edition of college football’s picks against the spread features predictions for some of Saturday’s biggest games, including Michigan State-Wisconsin, Florida-Tennessee and Texas A&M-Arkansas. Additionally, conference matchups such as LSU-Auburn, Ole Miss-Georgia and Colorado-Oregon feature lines or odds that caught our attention for Week 4. Here are 10 predictions or picks against the spread for this weekend's action:

 

10 CFB Picks Against the Spread for Week 4

 

Michigan State (-5) over Wisconsin

Louisville and Ohio State stole the headlines with their big wins last week, but Michigan State also made a huge statement with a 36–28 victory at Notre Dame (as an 8-point dog). This is a tough spot for Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook, making his first career start.

 

Texas A&M (-5.5) over Arkansas

Texas A&M is quietly off to a great start in 2016, with an overtime win over UCLA at home and a workman-like 29–16 victory at Auburn. The Aggies are getting it done in very un-Sumlin-like fashion — running the ball and playing great defense.

 

Florida (+6.5) over Tennessee

Tennessee is extremely banged up on defense, which could make life a bit easier for Florida quarterback Austin Appleby. The key matchup in the game, however, is Tennessee’s offensive line vs. Florida’s defensive front. Huge advantage to the Gators.

 

LSU (-3.5) over Auburn

LSU dominated Mississippi State for three-plus quarters before allowing the Bulldogs to make things interesting late. Expect heavy doses of Leonard Fournette mixed in with some timely play action from Danny Etling & Co.

 

Ole Miss (-7) over Georgia

The Rebels will have to show some mental toughness after losing a 21-point lead for the second time in three games. Hugh Freeze has proven he can keep a team together; last year, the Rebels bounced back from a loss to Memphis by beating Texas A&M and Auburn, and then responded from the heartbreaker vs. Arkansas by closing the season with wins over LSU, Mississippi State and Oklahoma State.

 

Wake Forest (+7.5) over Indiana

The Demon Deacons are a bit banged up, but this program has taken a big step forward in 2016. Wake ranks third in the ACC in total defense and has allowed a total of 17 points in two games vs. FBS foes.

 

Colorado (+10.5) over Oregon

I’d feel a lot better about this pick if Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau was 100 percent after injuring his ankle against Michigan. The Buffs, at full strength, have been very, very good on offense this season. Oregon is dealing some significant injuries and is coming off a difficult loss at Nebraska.

 

Kentucky (-2.5) over South Carolina

Kentucky quarterback Drew Barker is out with a back injury. But that’s necessarily a bad thing. Stephen Johnson, a first-year junior college transfer, came off the bench and threw for 210 yards and threw scores vs. New Mexico State.

 

Stanford (-3) over UCLA

Stanford has been very business-like in its first two games, beating Kansas State and USC with a strong running game and efficient passing attack. Expect more of the same Saturday against a UCLA team that has yet to click offensively.

 

Washington (-11) at Arizona

Washington takes its show on the road after three lopsided win over inferior opponents in Seattle. The Huskies are clearly the better team and should have little trouble with Arizona — even in Tucson.  

Teaser:
10 College Football Predictions Against the Spread for Week 4
Post date: Friday, September 23, 2016 - 08:50
All taxonomy terms: Funny, Overtime
Path: /100-funny-clever-bowling-team-names-league
Body:

League bowling has long been one of America’s favorite leisure sports. It brings together a sense of community, nostalgia and competitiveness that goes unmatched by most other American pastimes. The one thing that separates league bowling from other competitive leisure sports is its unique sense of humor, as well as its broad range of personalities. Something that is often reflected in many of the team names. So, with that in mind, we decided to scour the internet for the top 100 funny, clever, crazy, outrageous, and unique bowling league team names. If you are in search of a name for your bowling team, there is a good chance that you will find it on this list. Enjoy!

 

2 Blonde 2 Bowl

 

4 Guys 12 Balls

 

3 Balls and a Split

 

7-10 Crack Kills

 

300 Club

 

All 3 Holes

 

All Balls No Glory

 

Ball Burners

 

Ball Busters

 

Balls of Fury

 

Balls to the Wall

 

Barack Obowlers

 

Bi-Polar Rollers

 

Body by Bowling

 

Bowl Movements

 

Bowl You Over

 

Bowling Stones

 

Bowls Deep

 

Dead Wood

 

Dolls with Balls

 

Dry Bumpers

 

Delivery Boys

 

E-Bowla

Funny Bowling Team Names

 

Foul Language

 

Generation XXX

 

Got Balls?

 

Gutt-er-done

 

Gutter Dusters

 

Gutter Gang

 

Gutter Girls

 

Gutter Humiliation

 

Gutterly Ridiculous

 

Gutter Trash

 

Head Bangers

 

Here 4 Da Beer

 

High Rollers

 

Holy Rollers

 

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Gutter!

 

Irritable Bowl Syndrome

 

King Pins

 

Knocking Down Pin(t)s

 

Knuckles Deep

 

Let’s Roll

 

Lickity Splits

 

Livin’ on a Spare

 

Lucky Strikes

 

Mark it Zero!

 

Minds in the Gutter

 

Mourning Wood

 

My Drinking Team has a Bowling Problem

 

No “F” in Strikes

 

Nutter Gutters

Funny Bowling Team Names

 

Oddballs

 

Oily Balls

 

Pickup Artists

 

Pin Bangers

 

Pin Heads

 

Pin Pals

 

Pins Up Balls Down

 

Pocket Pounders

 

Roll Drink Repeat

 

Rollin’ Wit Da Homies

 

Scared Splitless

 

Shock ‘n’ Awe

 

Shut Up and Roll

 

Snakes on a Lane

 

Spare Time

 

Spare Us

 

Split Ends

 

Split Happens

 

Split Lickers

 

Split Personalities

 

Splitting Headaches

 

Splits for Brains

 

Splits-n-Giggles

 

Strikes R Us

 

Strokers

 

That’s How We Roll

 

The Ballbarians

 

The Bowl Jobs

 

The Combowlers

 

The Glory Bowls

 

The Incredibowls

 

The Lane Changers

 

The Mis-Splits

 

The Pin Pricks

 

The Three-Holed Wonders

 

These Ain’t My Shoes

 

Tidy Bowlers

Funny Bowling Team Names

 

Time to Spare

 

Triple X Club

 

Tuckin’ Fenpin!

 

Turkey Buzzards

 

Two Left Thumbs

 

Unbowlievable

 

We Don’t Give a Split

 

We’ve Got Balls

 

Who Gives a Split?

 

Will Bowl for Alcohol

 

X Men

 

— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, September 22, 2016 - 17:52
Path: /college-football/east-carolina-pirates-vs-virginia-tech-hokies-preview-and-prediction-2016
Body:

When Justin Fuente was hired to replace Frank Beamer as Virginia Tech's head coach, some wondered what type of identity the Hokies would develop. Would Virginia Tech be the offensive juggernaut that Memphis was under Fuente? Or would the Hokies remain a stout defensive unit led by longtime coordinator Bud Foster?

 

On Saturday against Boston College, they were both. The offense piled up 476 total yards and the defense held the Eagles to just six first downs in a 49-0 whitewash. This week the Hokies host an East Carolina squad that has beaten Virginia Tech two years in a row.

 

This will be the Pirates' third straight game against a Power Five team after defeating NC State 33-30 in week two and then falling to South Carolina 20-15 last Saturday.

 

East Carolina at Virginia Tech

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 12:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ACC Network/WatchESPN

Spread: Virginia Tech -11

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Virginia Tech turnovers

In the first two games of the season against Liberty and Tennessee, Virginia Tech fumbled 10 times, losing nine. Against Boston College, the Hokies did not fumble at all. It’s no coincidence that Virginia Tech had its best offensive performance of the year. Tech did have an interception, but at the time of the pick the score was 35-0 and the game was well in hand. If the Hokies hold onto the ball they should have success against the Pirates.

 

2.  Jerod Evans

Quarterback has been a problematic position for Virginia Tech in recent years, but those issues seem to have been resolved. Evans, a prized junior college recruit, completed 16 of 23 passes for 253 yards and five touchdowns – along with the aforementioned interception – against a very stingy Boston College defense. When called upon, he also made plays with his legs, picking up 48 yards on nine carries. An East Carolina defense that has allowed 218 yards passing per game will face a stern test in Evans and his receiving corps.

 

3. Philip Nelson vs. Virginia Tech's pass defense

The East Carolina signal-caller, who came to Greenville from Minnesota by way of Rutgers, has gotten off to a fast start. Through three games, Nelson has completed 79 percent of his passes with seven scores and three picks. But when he looks across the line of scrimmage on Saturday, he will see the nation’s top-ranked pass defense. Granted the Hokies have yet to face a really good passing offense, so this will be a challenge for them as well. But Virginia Tech has Ken Ekanem up front creating pressure and a very good secondary led by Chuck Clark and Brandon Facyson.

 

Final Analysis

 

After a slow start to a season that began with a tight win over Liberty and a loss to Tennessee, Virginia Tech came to life in flattening Boston College. Even though East Carolina is not a member of a Power Five conference, the Pirates are probably a better team than the Eagles. And after two consecutive victories over the Hokies, the Pirates come in with the belief that they can win this game. However, Virginia Tech is getting more comfortable in its new offense each week. At home in Lane Stadium, Jerod Evans guides the offense and the Hokies' defense takes control early, making it a fun afternoon in Blacksburg.

 

Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, East Carolina 13

 

— 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.

Teaser:
East Carolina Pirates vs. Virginia Tech Hokies Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 22, 2016 - 15:00
Path: /syracuse-orange-vs-connecticut-huskies-preview-and-prediction-2016
Body:

Style-wise, you couldn't come up with two more polar opposite philosophies than these two Northeast programs.

 

Bob Diaco, now in his third year at UConn, prides his teams on strong defense and a pro-style offense that still has the quarterback going under center the majority of the time.

 

Meanwhile, in his first season at Syracuse, head coach Dino Babers has installed an up-tempo, shotgun-heavy attack and wants to run as many plays as possible.

 

They've both found success over their careers, as Diaco's Huskies (2-1 this fall with a 28-24 loss to Navy as the only blemish) have improved their record each year under him and are the last team to beat a Houston program that is as hot as any in the nation right now.

 

Babers led impressive turnarounds both at Eastern Illinois (FCS program) and Bowling Green out of the MAC, and while his Orange are just 1-2 with the lone victory over FCS Colgate, the losses are to a Louisville team that just eviscerated Florida State and a South Florida squad that was a heavy road favorite.

 

Syracuse at UConn

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 1 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBSSN

Spread: UConn -3.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Staying power

Not to belabor an obvious point, but the common critique of the offense Syracuse’s Dino Babers likes to employ is that it's all well and good when the points and first downs are plentiful, but a turnover or three-and-out can lead to a snowball effect on defenses that end up not getting enough time to catch their breath. Although the Orange enjoyed a time of possession advantage over South Florida, they blew a 17-0 first quarter lead after the Bulls went on a 28-point second quarter rampage, and Louisville rang up 28- and 20-point quarters, as well. The Louisville example can be tossed aside because the Cardinals are doing that to everyone right now, but with the style Babers wants to play, the Orange need to be more mistake-free on offense to establish greater overall consistency.

 

2. "New" playmaker

A local product out of Ansonia, Conn., UConn junior running back Arkeel Newsome was one of the nation's most underrated weapons last year, as he was 24th in the country in all-purpose yards per game and first in the AAC with 129.9. Newsome doesn't have ideal size (5-7, 185), but he has the speed to break off the type of big plays that this offense typically lacks. Opponents have mostly held him in check so far this year, but he had his best game of the season last weekend against Virginia, where he rushed for 77 yards - including a long of 38 - on 13 carries. If Newsome can give the Huskies the type of production he did over the course of last year, especially the latter half of the schedule where he rushed for 100 yards or more four times, then they can keep pace with Syracuse if the Orange get out to the type fast start they did a week ago.

 

3. Secondary options

As advertised when Bob Diaco came over after a four-year stint as Notre Dame's defensive coordinator, his program's footprint is firmly planted as one that, for the most part, can come up with a stop when it needs one. A big reason for optimism heading into Saturday's game is UConn's underrated secondary of safeties Anthony Watkins and Obi Melifonwu and cornerbacks Jhavon Williams and Jamar Summers. The fact that this unit helped hold Houston to 17 points last year with largely the same core should tell you something about its prowess. But Syracuse brings the most diversified passing attack UConn will face to date this season, as quarterback Eric Dungey and wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo have already hooked up 28 times for 436 yards and three touchdowns. There's no question Etta-Tawo, the big-play transfer from Maryland, will have the defensive backfield's full attention.

 

Final Analysis

 

UConn's three games have been decided by three, four and three points against FCS Maine, Navy and Virginia, respectively, so this is probably a close game regardless of which team gets off to the stronger start. The steady progress Bob Diaco has made so far has given the team some confidence that it can win those types of contests even if that means doing so in a bit of an old-school and, at times, ugly fashion. But the difference here is that UConn's identity is more established and should win out in the end.

 

Prediction: UConn 27, Syracuse 24

 

— Written by Adam Kurkjian, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a reporter for the Boston Herald. He has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Marathon and Little League World Series, among other events from the high school, college and pro ranks. Follow him on Twitter @AdamKurkjian.

 

(Arkeel Newsome photo by Steve Slade/UConn Athletics)

Teaser:
Syracuse Orange vs. Connecticut Huskies Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 22, 2016 - 14:45
Path: /college-football/central-michigan-chippewas-vs-virginia-cavaliers-preview-and-prediction-2016
Body:

After three games, the Virginia Cavaliers are still searching for their first win under new head coach Bronco Mendenhall. On Saturday, the Cavaliers will once again attempt to get into the win column as they will host the Central Michigan Chippewas from the MAC.

 

Last weekend, the Cavaliers lost a heartbreaker to the UConn Huskies 13-10. Virginia walk-on kicker Alex Furbank missed a 20-yard field goal attempt that would have forced overtime as time expired.

 

On the others side, Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush threw six touchdown passes as the Chippewas defeated the UNLV Rebels 44-21. Rush finished the day 20-of-33 for 352 yards and his six scoring strikes were a Kelly/Short Stadium record.

 

Saturday will be only the second time the Cavaliers and Chippewas have played one another. The other meeting took place back in 1996 as Virginia defeated Central Michigan 55-21 in Scott Stadium.

 

Central Michigan at Virginia

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 12:30 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN3/ACC Network

Spread: Central Michigan -3.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Virginia’s Offense

In their first three games of the season, the Cavaliers’ have been pedestrian on offense, to say the least. Virginia has averaged fewer than 19 points per game, which puts them second to last in the ACC and 113th (out of 128 teams) in the FBS.

 

Transfer quarterback Kurt Benkert has thrown for 698 yards and five touchdowns, but he also has four interceptions, including one last week against UConn.

 

Virginia’s running game also has mediocre, currently sitting at 109th in the FBS at 123.7 yards per game.

 

Against a high-powered offense like Central Michigan, it will be important for the Cavaliers to run the ball or at least extend some drives to keep the Cavaliers’ defense off the field.

 

2. Central Michigan’s Offense

Cooper Rush is the leader of the Chippewas’ offense, which is averaging 470 yards (37th in the FBS) and 41 points (tied for 29th) per game. On the season, Rush has thrown for 957 yards, 11 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

 

Central Michigan also is averaging 150 rushing yards per game. Virginia has given up an average of 31 points per game, so Cavaliers head coach Bronco Mendenhall will need to come up with a way to slow down the Chippewas’ high-scoring offense.

 

3. Andrew Brown

Last week against UConn, Virginia defensive lineman Andrew Brown recorded six total tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss and a sack. Mendenhall and his coaching staff are hoping Brown continues to make an impact up front, especially with the offense struggling to find any sort of consistency.

 

This season, Brown has 14 tackles and a fumble recovery, and he will need to make some big plays to help the Cavaliers’ defense limit Central Michigan’s offense.

 

Final Analysis

 

Getting former BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall to leave Provo, Utah, for Charlottesville was a home-run hire for Virginia. The problem is, his predecessor, Mike London, didn’t exactly leave the cupboard stocked with talent.

 

Virginia should hang around in this game if for no other reasons the Cavaliers are well coached and it’s at home. However, Central Michigan’s offense should be able to win the time of possession battle and move the ball down the field with ease in the second half.

 

Expect Cooper Rush and the Chippewas’ balanced attack to be the difference on the road as CMU scores its second victory over a Power Five team this season.

 

Prediction: Central Michigan 41, Virginia 24

 

— 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.

Teaser:
Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Virginia Cavaliers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 22, 2016 - 14:30
Path: /college-football/colorado-state-rams-vs-minnesota-golden-gophers-preview-and-prediction-2016
Body:

Colorado State and Minnesota, a pair of bowl teams that met in a 23-20 overtime thriller in 2015, will face off once again on Saturday in Minneapolis in a final tune-up for both squads before beginning conference play. The Rams have won two in a row following a blowout loss to rival Colorado in the season opener. The Golden Gophers are 2-0 and well rested following an off week.

 

Colorado State at Minnesota

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPNU

Spread: Minnesota -16

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. The Quarterbacks
Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner will make his 32nd career start Saturday and comes into the game in fifth place on the school’s all-time list with 5,543 passing yards. Leidner ranks seventh with 32 career touchdown passes and leads all Minnesota QBs with 25 career TD runs. The senior has completed 33 of 56 pass attempts for 425 yards and four touchdown passes without an interception thus far in 2016 and has gained 85 yards with two more touchdowns on the ground.

 

Colorado State will start true freshman Collin Hill, who will be the third Ram to start at quarterback already this season. Hill made his first career start last week and led CSU to a 47-21 win over Northern Colorado. He completed 27 of 31 pass attempts for 351 yards and four touchdowns and added a 51-yard TD run.

 

Though on opposite ends of the spectrum in experience, both quarterbacks could have success on  Saturday. Colorado State has surrendered an average of 290.7 passing yards per game (114th in the FBS) and has allowed an average of 5.56 yards per play this season (81st). Minnesota ranks 77th in pass defense (237.5 ypg) and has yet to force an interception. However, the Gophers have limited opponents to 4.67 yards per play, which ranks 27th, thanks to a solid rush defense.

 

2. The Line of Scrimmage
Minnesota and Colorado State both enter the game with solid offensive lines that have opened holes for strong rushing attacks in 2016. Colorado State has gained 206.0 rushing yards per game on 5.02 yards per carry. Three Rams – Dalyn Dawkins, Marvin Kinsey, Jr., and Izzy Matthews – have run for more than 100 yards this season. Minnesota has averaged 4.86 yards per carry and 221.0 rushing yards per contest. Rodney Smith (199 yards, 3 TD) and Kobe McCrary (180, 2) are the leading ground gainers.

 

In addition to opening holes for the running game, the Gophers’ offensive line has yet to allow a sack. Inversely, Minnesota defenders have gotten to the quarterback six times in just two games. Tai’yon Devers leads the squad with two sacks. Also, the Gophers have limited opponents to just 99.0 rushing yards per contest.

 

The Colorado State O-line has allowed four sacks, but the Rams have averaged three sacks per game on defense. Kevin Davis leads the way with three sacks followed by Jakob Buys’ 2.5. Colorado State also has held opponents to 117.3 rushing yards per game.

 

3. Special Teams
Often overlooked when running smoothly, special teams are a big part of every college football game. Colorado State has one of the best kicker-punter tandems in the country. All-American punter Hayden Hunt was a Ray Guy Award finalist last season and has averaged 45.6 yards per punt this year. Hunt has placed eight of his last 10 punts inside the 20.

 

Kicker Wyatt Bryan has converted all five field goal attempts this season, including a career best 53-yarder last week. Bryan has made 17 of his last 19 field goal attempts, including eight straight. Bryan hit two field goals last year against Minnesota, including a 37-yard attempt as time expired to send the game to overtime.

 

Minnesota’s Emmit Carpenter is a perfect 4-for-4 on field goal attempts this season, all of which have come from at least 40 yards out. Carpenter set a school record with three field goals of 40-plus yards against Indiana State in Week 2. Ryan Santoso has averaged 41.9 yards on seven punts to date while dropping five punts inside the 20.

 

Final Analysis

 

Both Minnesota and Colorado State can run the football, both are capable of stopping the run, and both squads have been solid on special teams. Of course, the Big Ten Gophers are a more talented team overall, and have the benefit of playing at home following a bye. Also, while the Rams are likely to rely heavily on the running game to take pressure off a true freshman quarterback making his first road start, Minnesota can exploit a young Colorado State secondary with its veteran quarterback.

 

It’s reasonable to expect a low-scoring affair early as the two teams fight for field position, but look for Leidner and the Golden Gophers to pull away in the second half.

 

Prediction: Minnesota 35, Colorado State 21

 

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

 

(Kevin Davis photo courtesy of Dan Byers/Colorado State Athletics)

Teaser:
Colorado State Rams vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 22, 2016 - 14:15
Path: /college-football/georgia-bulldogs-vs-ole-miss-rebels-preview-and-prediction-2016
Body:

We are already four weeks into the college football season. It’s hard to believe but soon enough we’ll be at the halfway point. Teams are starting to figure things out and learn more about themselves and we are starting to learn more about them. So far, we have learned that Ole Miss needs to figure out how to hang on to a lead. We also have learned that Georgia doesn’t play very well against inferior opponents.

 

The Rebels led both Florida State and Alabama by three touchdowns but couldn’t finish the job. Now it’s gut check time. The “streak” against the Crimson Tide is over and Ole Miss is looking to play better down the stretch. Can Hugh Freeze’s team rebound against a solid Bulldogs team after blowing leads against premier opponents it had on the ropes?

 

Georgia has looked pretty good on defense for the most part this year but the ‘Dawgs face their biggest challenge thus far this weekend in Oxford. They struggled to put away Nicholls State and also had trouble with a not-so-great (though improved) Missouri team. For Georgia to beat Ole Miss, it will have to play much better than it has the past two weeks.

 

These teams have quite a bit of history but haven’t met since they played consecutive games in 2011 and ‘12. The Bulldogs dominated in both of those games but that was at a time before the resurgence of Ole Miss under Freeze. Georgia leads the all-time series 32-12-1 and has won 10 straight games against the Rebels, a streak that goes back to 1997.

 

Georgia at Ole Miss

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Ole Miss -7

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Chad Kelly vs. Georgia’s Secondary
This could be the most important matchup of the game. Georgia’s secondary, as it appeared coming into the season, was pretty stout. The Bulldogs finished first in the SEC in pass defense last season, allowing 156.5 yards per game. That unit was solid in the first two weeks of 2016 as well, but last week... not so much. Missouri’s Drew Lock, a sophomore, torched Georgia for 376 yards and three touchdowns. Still, the ‘Dawgs were able to pick off three of his passes — a crucial difference in the game. Georgia is facing an even tougher challenge this week against Kelly. He has been prolific for Ole Miss, just as expected. In last week’s loss to Alabama, Kelly threw for a whopping 421 yards and three touchdowns. The ‘Dawgs secondary could have its work cut out.

 

2. Nick Chubb
Luckily for Georgia, Ole Miss lost a ton of talent to the NFL over the offseason and it isn’t quite as strong in the front seven as it has been in recent memory. It will be nice for Georgia’s offensive line to not have to worry about blocking anybody with the last name Nkemdiche. But the Bulldogs need a big performance from Chubb to win this game. Since running over North Carolina for 222 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the opener, Chubb hasn’t looked great. He ran for 80 yards against Nicholls State and then last week Mizzou’s defense held him to only 63 yards and kept him out of the end zone. Georgia will certainly be hoping for a bounce-back performance from its star running back against the Rebels.

 

3. Ole Miss’ Competitive Spirit
There is one major determining factor for whether Ole Miss will win this week’s game and it is… Ole Miss. What that means is that it’s all on the Rebels. If these teams line up against each other and both play well, Ole Miss will win by two touchdowns. Basically, Georgia can’t win this game. Ole Miss has to lose it. But it’s going to be really interesting to see how Ole Miss comes out of the locker room this week. That “competitive spirit” the Rebels showed early against Florida State and Alabama made them look like one of the best teams in the country. But this team must learn how to finish. Under Hugh Freeze, they haven’t been able to maintain their focus or intensity over the course of a full season. And this year, that has translated to individual games. Which side of the Rebels will we see against Georgia?

 

Final Analysis

 

Georgia is still fairly one-dimensional even with freshman quarterback Jacob Eason. The ‘Dawgs rely on their running game and right now that running game is underperforming. So is the secondary — a unit that is talented, but obviously susceptible to getting lit up. That’s a bad formula against Ole Miss. However, the Rebels just can’t seem to put a full game together. Could this be the week Ole Miss changes that? I think so. The Rebels will be inspired to play well for four quarters after suffering through the reality of thinking about what could have been. And Chad Kelly is one of the most reliable quarterbacks in college football. He almost always puts on a show. That Georgia secondary is in big trouble this week.

 

Prediction: Ole Miss 38, Georgia 17

 

— Written by Cody McClure, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a radio host and lead SEC Writer for Three Point Stance Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @CodyMcClureCFB.

Teaser:
Georgia Bulldogs vs. Ole Miss Rebels Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 22, 2016 - 14:00
Path: /college-football/kent-state-golden-flashes-vs-alabama-crimson-tide-preview-and-prediction-2016
Body:

The Mid-American Conference will be looking for another Central Michigan over Oklahoma State miracle finish when Kent State visits SEC juggernaut Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Saturday.

 

The Chippewas unlikely, and wrongly officiated, 30-27 road win over Oklahoma State in Week 2 and Western Michigan’s 22-21 defeat of Northwestern in Week 1 may have Kent State dreaming. The Golden Flashes are coming off a 3-9 record in 2015 where they showed some scrappiness against other FBS teams. Kent State took Minnesota to the wire before falling 10-7 and gave Marshall a bigger scare before giving way 29-26 in double overtime but also got walloped by Illinois 52-3.

 

Kent State touches down in Tuscaloosa coming off a 27-7 win over FCS member Monmouth, its first of the season after losses to Penn State (33-13) and North Carolina A&T (39-36 4OT). The Flashes should be a salty bunch with 17 starters back but have not played the likes of an Alabama since losing 66-0 to Ohio State in 2014.

 

The Crimson Tide return home from a 48-43 come-from-behind win in Oxford against Ole Miss. Alabama benefited from two defensive touchdowns and an 85-yard punt return in the victory against the Rebels, something that cannot be counted on as the Tide inch closer to a tough five-game conference stretch that starts with Arkansas (Oct. 8), ends with Mississippi State (Nov. 12), and is dotted by an angry LSU squad (Nov. 5).

 

The Tide’s offense essentially has two more games to find its rhythm or could be in trouble in the heart of its SEC schedule. Expect head coach Nick Saban to hand out some more “ass chewing(s)” to offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and staff if Alabama enters and leaves the Kent State game flat.

 

Kent State at Alabama

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: SEC Network

Spread: Alabama -43.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Kent State’s Mylik Mitchell Managing the Offense vs. Alabama’s Defense

Mitchell, a redshirt freshman, has been solid in the early portion of the season. Hitting 60 percent of his passes, the dual-threat quarterback has five touchdowns tossed against one pick. If a play breaks down, expect Mitchell to run. He is second on the team behind Justin Rankin (178) in yards on the ground with 113 net.

 

Nick Holley is Mitchell’s favorite target. Holley caught two touchdown passes against Monmouth but has a modest 110 yards off 12 receptions for the season.

 

Can Mitchell maintain his exposure and make the most out of running opportunities when available?

 

2. Jalen Hurts in the Pocket

Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin knows that Hurts is a playmaker, but can he push the young quarterback’s development as a passer? Hurts hit 19 of 31 pass attempts for 158 yards against Ole Miss. The saving grace was Hurts’ team-high 146 yards on the ground on 18 carries. A scrimmage against live Kent State bodies could go a long way towards Hurts developing a needed connection with his talented targets like Calvin Ridley, Gehrig Dieter and O.J. Howard.

 

The running game will set the tone but the passing game needs as much time in as possible against Kent State.

 

3. Get the First String Off the Field... Fast

In a breather-money game, about the worst thing that can happen for players on either side is an injury. Kent State has everything in the world to gain from a win or just a strong showing against Bama. But Alabama has everything to lose if a top player falls due to injury. If the Crimson Tide can force an early lopsided score, making Kent State one-dimensional by passing every down to get back into the game, Alabama is golden. With any luck for the Tide, the first string will be on the sidelines midway through the third quarter.

 

Final Analysis

 

Kent State does not have the luxury of being viewed as a trap game with Kentucky up next; that is something the Wildcats get with a road trip to Arkansas looming for Bama.

 

The Golden Flashes have an opportunity to lay it all out on the line with the hopes of catching a disinterested gridiron beast. Alabama will look to put the MAC team away quickly, but can Kent State withstand the early brute force of the rolling Tide to make it a game?

 

When the game clock hits triple-zeroes, the score may be closer than the USC final of 52-6 if Nick Saban goes easy on his alma mater.

 

Prediction: Alabama 49, Kent State 7

 

— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManInLA.

Teaser:
Kent State Golden Flashes vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 22, 2016 - 13:45
Path: /college-football/wisconsin-badgers-vs-michigan-state-spartans-preview-and-prediction-2016
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It seems Wisconsin and Michigan State always makes for an entertaining Big Ten contest whenever the two take the same field. The two programs have sure had their share of recent history since the Big Ten expanded to 12 teams, lumping the two in opposite divisions and then swapping places in the realigned division format once the Big Ten expanded to 14. Regardless of division placement, the Badgers and Spartans bring the heat when the stakes are high. The same will be true this Saturday afternoon when the two ranked opponents square off at Spartan Stadium for an early kickoff.

 

Wisconsin took a while to wake up last week, but a game against Michigan State should prevent them Badgers from hitting the snooze button Saturday.

 

Wisconsin at Michigan State

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Big Ten Network

Spread: Michigan State -6

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Wisconsin looks to shake off sluggish performance
You would think a team that started the season with a hard-fought victory over LSU and a blowout win over Akron would be hitting its stride in Week 3, but the Badgers looked like they were sleep-walking their way through a game last weekend against Georgia State. The Badgers’ offense was nowhere to be found against the Panthers and was held to a pair of field goals in the first half by the visiting Sun Belt squad. It was nothing too inspiring. Wisconsin even dug a hole in the second half and trailed 17-13 before coming up with some key plays to avoid a complete meltdown.

 

The Badgers cannot afford to be so sloppy against Michigan State on the road. The Spartans are showing they will not make it easy for you if you miss on taking advantage of any opportunities you may have against them.

 

2. Where is the pressure from Michigan State’s defensive line?
When they needed big plays to be made against Notre Dame, the Spartans came through up front. But the pressure from Michigan State’s defensive front has been oddly missing through the first three games of the season. Three games in, the Spartans have just three sacks, which is tied with Indiana for the second-fewest in the Big Ten (Purdue is at the bottom with one). Michigan State also is lacking in tackles for a loss with a mere 10.0 through three games. For the sake of comparison, Michigan State had the second most TFL among Big Ten teams last season with 95.0, and was third in the Big Ten with 37.0 sacks.

 

Given Michigan State’s reputation, we can probably expect the Spartans will pick up the slack as the line continues to gel, but that may not come easily against Wisconsin.

 

3. Wisconsin has lost four straight games in East Lansing
The last time Wisconsin made the trip to Spartan Stadium and left with a win was in 2002. The Badgers have left with a loss in each of their four most recent trips to East Lansing, but only one of those games was a blowout loss. The last time Wisconsin made the trip resulted in Kirk Cousins unloading a Hail Mary for Michigan State win in the closing seconds, setting the stage for an epic rematch in the Big Ten Championship Game later that season.

 

The last time Wisconsin won at Michigan State, Barry Alvarez was the head coach, Brooks Bollinger was the quarterback and Anthony Davis was running the football. It’s been a while.

 

Final Analysis

 

Neither team has jumped out to a real great start to the season, but both Michigan State and Wisconsin have scored wins away from home against top 10 opponents. Wisconsin opened the year nearby in Green Bay to take down LSU and Michigan State is coming off a nice road win at Notre Dame. As a result, both teams have ascended in the rankings, but should we trust either one to be a true Big Ten (or College Football Playoff?) contender? That begins to be answered this week as Big Ten play opens up. Michigan State looks to have things running a little bit better each week and now that conference play is here should hit the ground running (with LJ Scott) against the Badgers. But Wisconsin’s defense is not to be overlooked. Of course, neither is Michigan State’s.

 

Prediction: Michigan State 26, Wisconsin 20

 

— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook

Teaser:
Wisconsin Badgers vs. Michigan State Spartans Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 22, 2016 - 13:30
Path: /college-football/florida-state-seminoles-vs-south-florida-bulls-preview-and-prediction-2016
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Can Florida State get up off the mat or will South Florida head coach Willie Taggart notch a marquee victory? That’s the question that will be answered Saturday as the Seminoles and Bulls square off for just the fourth time at Raymond James Stadium.

 

FSU is coming off of one of its worst losses in school history and the worst under head coach Jimbo Fisher as the Seminoles gave up a school-record 63 points in a 63-20 throttling at the hand of Louisville. No. 13 Florida State will face another potent offense with a mobile quarterback this week in South Florida. The Bulls are off to a 3-0 start while averaging nearly 50 points per game. Last week USF went to the Carrier Dome and handled Syracuse, 45-20.

 

Florida State defeated South Florida last year in Tallahassee 34-14 and leads the all-time series 2-1. The Seminoles won 30-17 in their only previous trip to Raymond James in 2012. Under Fisher, the Seminoles are also 14-1 against in-state opponents. FSU would be the highest-ranked team knocked off by South Florida since the Bulls upset then-No. 13 Kansas in 2008.

 

Florida State at South Florida

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Florida State -7

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. How the FSU Defense Responds
Not much went right for Florida State last week against Louisville, but the unit that seemed to get banged around most was the defense. Not only did the Seminoles allow 63 points to quarterback Lamar Jackson and Louisville, they also gave up more than 500 yards of offense and allowed two 100-yard rushers as well as a 100-yard receiver.

 

Unfortunately for FSU, South Florida isn’t all that different from Louisville in scheme. Quinton Flowers is a dual-threat quarterback who, like Jackson, is not afraid to throw the ball downfield. The Bulls have very good players at the skill positions, most notably running back Marlon Mack and receiver Rodney Adams.

 

Related: College Football's 10 Best Position Battles to Watch in Week 4

 

Louisville running back Brandon Radcliff rushed for more than 100 yards against the Seminoles last week while James Quick had more than 100 yards receiving. Mack and Adams may actually be a better 1-2 punch. With star safety Derwin James still out with a knee injury, the Seminoles will need to play disciplined in the secondary, which they haven’t so far. Big games from defensive end DeMarcus Walker and linebacker Matthew Thomas would go a long way in FSU's efforts to get back on track.

 

2. Dalvin Cook
Once thought to be a Heisman Trophy candidate, the junior running back has had a rough go of it to start the 2016 season. Through three games, Cook has just 228 yards rushing and is averaging just 4.6 yards per carry as opposed to 7.4 last season. Cook has tremendous burst, good upper-body strength and great vision, but hasn’t gotten many creases to run through this season.

 

The good news for Cook, however, is that this week he’ll be facing a defense he had a great day against last year. In last season’s 34-14 FSU victory Cook finished with a career-high 266 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

 

So far this year the Bulls rank just 82nd (tied) against the run, but much of that has come with the game already decided. USF also has a very underrated corps of linebackers, led by leading tackler Auggie Sanchez and Nigel Harris, the team’s leader in tackles for loss and interceptions.

 

3. The Return Game
One week after returning its first punt for a touchdown in nearly four years, Florida State had the favor returned against it last week. Louisville’s Jaire Alexander had two punt returns of more than 60 yards last week against FSU, including a 69-yard return for a score.

 

When it comes to returning punts this season, South Florida’s D’Ernest Johnson has already taken one 83 yards to the house. Adams also is averaging a solid 30 yards per kickoff return for the Bulls. Jesus Wilson had an 89-yard return for a score for Florida State against Charleston Southern, but South Florida punter Jonathan Hernandez, an FSU transfer, has only allowed one return on 15 punts this season.

 

Final Analysis

 

Though South Florida might not have as much talent as Florida State, the Bulls make do with what they have and the style of offensive attack they run should have the Seminoles worried. Whether they can bounce back or not this week will say a lot about the character of Jimbo Fisher’s team after virtually everything went wrong last week. If the Seminoles can avoid mental errors and breakdowns in the secondary and find a way to protect quarterback Deondre Francois, they should win this one. After watching FSU get manhandled by Louisville, those are big ifs.

 

Prediction: South Florida 35, Florida State 33

 

— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the editor of The Daily Nole. Like The Daily Nole on Facebook and follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

Teaser:
Florida State Seminoles vs. South Florida Bulls Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 22, 2016 - 13:15

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