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Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-defense-special-teams-rankings-week-1
Body:

When looking at a defense/special teams to round out your fantasy football lineup, the biggest key is pick a defense from the team that should win the game. Typically home teams fare better than the visiting teams, but that's not always the case.

 

For example, Carolina is basically matchup-proof, which is why Luke Kuechly and the Panthers come in at No. 2 this week even though they are playing in Denver, while the visiting Rams are appealing because of their opponent (49ers).

 

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

 

For Week 1, the DST rankings are based on last year's performance and how they have looked in the preseason. It's hard to tell what will happen in a new season, but here are the Week 1 DST rankings:

 

 

 

— 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 2016 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 8, 2016 - 09:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-kicker-rankings-week-1
Body:

Following in last year's footsteps, Stephen Gostkowski is the top-ranked kicker for Week 1 of the fantasy football season. Even though the Patriots are going to be in a tough matchup Sunday night against Arizona, and the offense will be led by Jimmy Garoppolo instead of Tom Brady, Gostkowski has proven that he can be a reliable fantasy kicker, regardless of matchup.

 

Picking kickers is tough, but going with guys that are fixtures on their team and haven't let fantasy owners down in the past is key.

 

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

 

Here are the Week 1 kicker rankings:

 

 

 

— 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 2016 Kicker Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 8, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, syndicated, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-quarterback-rankings-week-1
Body:

Fantasy football season is finally upon us, and Week 1 lineups need to be set. Quarterback is the backbone of professional football teams, and quarterback should be the backbone of fantasy teams as well.

 

For Week 1, there aren't many surprises in the top 10, as it's hard to predict what teams and defenses will look like in 2016, so these rankings are largely based on past track record and preseason performances.

 

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

 

Here is a look at the fantasy quarterback rankings for Week 1:

 

 

 

— 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 2016 Quarterback Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 8, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: syndicated, NFL
Path: /nfl/carolina-panthers-vs-denver-broncos-preview-and-prediction-2016
Body:

The 2016 NFL season will pick up right where it left off with a highly anticipated Week 1 rematch of Super Bowl 50, the first of its kind since 1970. Sports Authority Field at Mile High will serve as the backdrop for the Thursday night season opener as the Denver Broncos play host to the Carolina Panthers.

 

The Broncos were able to bring Carolina’s dream season to an end with a stellar defensive performance that led to an emphatic win in Super Bowl 50. Denver would like nothing more than to validate that victory by beating the Panthers once again to kick off the new season.

 

For the Panthers, it is all about redemption. Carolina head coach Ron Rivera has downplayed the revenge factor for this matchup, as have the players, but it is difficult to believe that payback is not at the forefront of their minds.

 

The stakes may not be as high this time around, but there is plenty on the line in tonight’s big season opener. Despite the fact that these two teams have a relatively brief history against one another, with just five prior meetings dating back to 1997, this game certainly has a rivalry feel to it.

 

Carolina at Denver

 

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

TV: NBC

Spread: Carolina -3

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Trevor Siemian

It took an odd twist of events for Siemian to ultimately end up as the Broncos' Week 1 starter at quarterback, but low and behold here we are. Other than a so-so college career at Northwestern and a few preseason NFL snaps, very little is known about the former seventh-round draft pick. While no one can replace the experience and leadership of a Peyton Manning, Siemian does possess some physical tools that Manning lacked at the end of his career. He also appears to have earned the confidence of head coach Gary Kubiak and general manager John Elway, which speaks volumes.

 

In spite of the Broncos' confidence in their new signal-caller, Siemian probably won’t be asked to do too much in his first career start. And while he will be tested by a stingy Carolina front seven on defense, it bodes well that the Panthers may have two rookie cornerbacks making their first NFL starts as well. Regardless, Siemian will have his work cut out for him.

 

2. The Panthers' Offensive Line

The Panthers' offensive line, led by Pro Bowlers Ryan Kalil and Trai Turner, proved to be one of the biggest reasons for Carolina’s overwhelming success most of last season. Unfortunately, that was not the case in Super Bowl 50. The Broncos' defense managed to exploit the Carolina front in every way possible, leading to seven sacks for 68 yards and four critical turnovers.

 

The same starting five up front from Super Bowl 50 will be on the field tonight. That includes RT Mike Remmers, who couldn’t stop Super Bowl MVP Von Miller to save his life in the last meeting. This has to be a legitimate concern for Carolina. While Denver may have some new faces on defense, Miller and DeMarcus Ware, who combined for 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in Super Bowl 50, are still in Bronco uniforms.

 

The Panthers'  offensive line is by no means void of talent, but it will require a much better effort, combined with a much better game plan, to slow down the Denver pass rush. If those two things fail to materialize, Miller and company will wreak havoc on this group once again.

 

3. Plenty of New Faces

While this game has been billed as a rematch of Super Bowl 50, the personnel on the field will look quite a bit different this time around. Many of the key players are still around, but there also will be plenty of new faces to keep an eye on. There also will be some pretty big shoes to fill.

 

Siemian replacing a future Hall of Famer at quarterback is the most glaring, but the Broncos' overhauled offensive line is quite notable as well, new starting tackles Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson in particular. Additionally, Virgil Green replacing Owen Daniels at tight end is worth keeping an eye on. On defense, DL Jared Crick and ILB Todd Davis will attempt to fill the shoes of two key difference-makers in DL Malik Jackson and ILB Danny Trevathan.

 

The Panthers have plenty of continuity on offense, returning their entire starting 11 from Super Bowl 50. Star wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin also is back after missing all of last season with a torn ACL, which should pay huge dividends for Cam Newton and the passing game. Carolina also returns most of its key players in the front seven on defense. However, the same cannot be said about the secondary, which took a huge hit with the loss of lockdown, All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman. The Panthers' new-look secondary will feature three new starters, including a pair of rookie cornerbacks in James Bradberry and Daryl Worley.

 

Final Analysis

 

Look for the Denver Broncos to employ a very similar strategy to the one that helped them win Super Bowl 50: a game plan that relies heavily on running the football and playing stellar defense. Running backs C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker will need to come up big to take the heat off of the passing game. The Broncos' revamped offensive line will need to play a huge role in that regard as well. New starting quarterback Trevor Siemian cannot be counted on to try to win this game on his own, but he must avoid critical mistakes that will lose the game.

 

The key for the Panthers starts up front with their offensive line. They cannot afford to have a repeat performance of Super Bowl 50. Cam Newton doesn’t require much time to work his magic, but the line cannot turn into Swiss cheese again if the passing game is to gain traction. While the Panthers probably won’t keep the Broncos out of the backfield for the entire game, they should have a better scheme in place to minimize mistakes and blown assignments this time around. Defensively, the Panthers will likely try to attack the run first and foremost, but they will definitely do their best to rattle Siemian early and often as well.

 

While the Broncos have proven that they can win games with little help from their offense, there are just too many question marks with so many new faces on that side of the ball. Siemian as an unproven, first-time starter at quarterback alone provides a substantial advantage for a star-studded Carolina defense. This game also will come down to effort and which team wants it more. In that case, the edge has to go to the Panthers as well. They have had this date circled on their calendar for a long time, and I expect a much better performance from their offense this time around. The Broncos' defense will keep it close, but the Panthers will be poised to get their revenge.

 

Prediction: Panthers 24, Broncos 17

 

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

Teaser:
Carolina Panthers vs. Denver Broncos Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 8, 2016 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-podcast-week-2-preview
Body:

Week 2 doesn't look like a great weekend of college football but the guys break down all of the intigue.

 

- Why did college football schedule all of the best games this week in the same time slot? Dammit!

 

- Penn State and Pitt highlight the early slate so why is James Franklin downplaying the game so much?

 

- There are some interesting conference games in the SEC and ACC for coaches who need wins badly.

 

- How huge is Arkansas' trip to TCU for both programs and coaching staffs?

 

- The Battle at Bristol takes center stage at night.

 

- And late night Pac-12 action should keep fans up as Washington State, Oregon and Cal all play interesting games.

 

- PICKS AGAINST THE SPREAD: Braden and Mitch will go head-to-head all season long.

 

Standings:

1. Mitch: 4-1 (4-1 LW)

2. Braden: 0-5 (0-5 LW)

 

 

 

Check out the Athlon Sports 2016 College Football Rankings No. 1 to 128.

 

You can order your preseason Athlon Sports college football magazines here with Amazon.com.

 

Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall @AthlonMitch or @DavidFox615 or email [email protected]. The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com/podcastiTunesStitcher and our podcast RSS feed.

Teaser:
College Football Podcast: The Week 2 Preview
Post date: Thursday, September 8, 2016 - 08:17
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl-monday-night-football-schedule-2016-tv-kickoff-times
Body:

Before power rankings can be set, before fantasy football scores are final, there is Monday Night Football. ESPN closes out the NFL schedule each week with a primetime game (or two) to give you one reason to be excited about Mondays. Check the schedule below to find out who will be taking the field each week and when to tune in.

 

(All times ET)

 

Week 1

September 12, 7:10 PM, Steelers @ Redskins [ESPN]

September 12, 10:20 PM, Rams @ 49ers [ESPN]

 

Week 2

September 19, 8:30 PM, Eagles @ Bears [ESPN]

 

Week 3

September 26, 8:30 PM, Falcons @ Saints [ESPN]

 

Week 4

October 3, 8:30 PM, Giants @ Vikings [ESPN]

 

Week 5

October 10, 8:30 PM, Buccaneers @ Panthers [ESPN]

 

Week 6

October 17, 8:30 PM, Jets @ Cardinals [ESPN]

 

Week 7

October 24, 8:30 PM, Texans @ Broncos [ESPN]

 

Week 8

October 31, 8:30 PM, Vikings @ Bears [ESPN]

 

Week 9

November 7, 8:30 PM, Bills @ Seahawks [ESPN]

 

Week 10

November 14, 8:30 PM, Bengals @ Giants [ESPN]

 

Week 11

November 21, 8:30 PM, Texans @ Raiders [ESPN]

 

Week 12

November 28, 8:30 PM, Packers @ Eagles [ESPN]

 

Week 13

December 5, 8:30 PM, Colts @ Jets [ESPN]

 

Week 14

December 12, 8:30 PM, Ravens @ Patriots [ESPN]

 

Week 15

December 19, 8:30 PM, Panthers @ Redskins [ESPN]

 

Week 16

December 26, 8:30 PM, Lions @ Cowboys [ESPN]

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, September 7, 2016 - 16:02
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl-sunday-night-football-schedule-2016-kickoff-tv-times
Body:

On any given fall Sunday there are a dozen NFL games going on throughout the afternoon, with fans in different regions tuning in to watch their favorite team. At night, however, the country comes together to watch one game every week on NBC. Check below to see the full lineup of Sunday Night Football games and how to watch them.

 

(All times ET)

 

Week 1

September 11, 8:30 PM, Patriots @ Cardinals [NBC]

 

Week 2

September 18, 8:30 PM, Packers @ Vikings [NBC]

 

Week 3

September 25, 8:30 PM, Bears @ Cowboys [NBC]

 

Week 4

October 2, 8:30 PM, Chiefs @ Steelers [NBC]

 

Week 5

October 9, 8:30 PM, Giants @ Packers [NBC]

 

Week 6

October 16, 8:30 PM, Colts @ Texans [NBC]

 

Week 7

October 23, 8:30 PM, Seahawks @ Cardinals [NBC]

 

Week 8

October 30, 8:30 PM, Eagles @ Cowboys [NBC]

 

Week 9

November 6, 8:30 PM, Broncos @ Raiders [NBC]

 

Week 10

November 13, 8:30 PM, Seahawks @ Patriots [NBC]

 

Week 11

November 20, 8:30 PM, Packers @ Redskins [NBC]

 

Week 12

November 27, 8:30 PM, Patriots @ Jets [NBC]

 

Week 13

December 4, 8:30 PM, Panthers @ Seahawks [NBC]

 

Week 14

December 11, 8:30 PM, Cowboys @ Giants [NBC]

 

Week 15

December 18, 8:30 PM, Steelers @ Bengals [NBC]

 

Week 16

December 25, 8:30 PM, Broncos @ Chiefs [NBC]

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, September 7, 2016 - 15:55
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl-thursday-night-football-schedule-kickoff-tv-times-2016
Body:

For years, fans were tired of waiting until Sunday each week to get a taste of pro football action. The NFL has responded in recent years by creating a full slate of Thursday Night Football games. These games will be aired on CBS, NBC and NFL Network over the next 16 weeks. In addition, this season Twitter will be streaming 10 games live on Thursday nights, free for fans worldwide. Check the list below to see when your favorite team is playing and how you can watch the game.

 

(All time ET)

Week 1

September 8, 8:30 PM, Panthers @ Broncos [NBC]

 

Week 2

September 15, 8:25 PM, Jets @ Bills [CBS/NFL Network/Twitter]

 

Week 3

September 22, 8:25 PM, Texans @ Patriots [CBS/NFL Network/Twitter]

 

Week 4

September 29, 8:25 PM, Dolphins @ Bengals [NFL Network]

 

Week 5

October 6, 8:25 PM, Cardinals @ 49ers [CBS/NFL Network/Twitter]

 

Week 6

October 13, 8:25 PM, Broncos @ Chargers [CBS/NFL Network/Twitter]

 

Week 7

October 20, 8:25 PM, Bears @ Packers [CBS/NFL Network/Twitter]

 

Week 8

October 27, 8:25 PM, Jaguars @ Titans [NFL Network]

 

Week 9

November 3, 8:25 PM, Falcons @ Buccaneers [NFL Network]

 

Week 10

November 10, 8:25 PM, Browns @ Ravens [NFL Network]

 

Week 11

November 17, 8:25 PM, Saints @ Panthers [NBC/NFL Network/Twitter]

 

Week 12

November 24, 8:30 PM, Steelers @ Colts [NBC]

 

Week 13

December 1, 8:25 PM, Cowboys @ Vikings [NBC/NFL Network/Twitter]

 

Week 14

December 8, 8:25 PM, Raiders @ Chiefs [NBC/NFL Network/Twitter]

 

Week 15

December 15, 8:25 PM, Rams @ Seahawks [NBC/NFL Network/Twitter]

 

Week 16

December 22, 8:25 PM, Giants @ Eagles [NBC/NFL Network/Twitter]

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, September 7, 2016 - 15:43
All taxonomy terms: BYU Cougars, College Football, Utah Utes, Pac 12
Path: /college-football/holy-war-interesting-facts-about-byu-vs-utah-college-football-rivalry
Body:

Pure entertainment and off-the-charts intensity is what you can expect when BYU and Utah face off on a football field. The Holy War has grown into one of the nation's fiercest rivalries because of a series of memorable plays and dramatic finishes over the years.

 

Related: Top 5 College Football Games in BYU vs. Utah Rivalry History

 

The Cougars and the Utes will renew their rivalry in Salt Lake City this weekend after taking a regular season hiatus over the past two seasons. Both teams capped off the 2015 season by meeting in the Las Vegas Bowl — a contest that ended in a 35-28 victory for Utah after the Utes capitalized on five first quarter turnovers to jump out to a 35-0 lead.

 

Incredible records, fantastic individual performances and unique lore are tied up in the history of one of the nation's most underrated college football rivalries.

 

False Start?

Counting wins and losses in the Holy War can differ based on your allegiance. BYU and Utah can't agree on the actual overall record of the series. The Utes claim a 58-34-4 lead in the all-time series. The Cougars, on the other hand, claim the series record is 55-31-4 in favor of Utah.

 

A reason for the discrepancy? Utah counts six games it played against Brigham Young Academy — BYU's original name from 1875-03 — from 1896-98. BYU, on the other hand, only counts games played starting from 1922 — the year the school officially counts as its inaugural football season.

 

Record-Setting Offensive Performances

In a two-year span, BYU and Utah each set team scoring records in the series. It started in 1988 when the Utes broke a nine-year losing streak in the series by demolishing the Cougars 57-28. Utah forced eight turnovers in the game and set a series record for points scored against BYU. It also was the most lopsided victory over the Cougars at the time, dating back to a 47-13 rout in 1964.

 

BYU exacted revenge the next season, drubbing Utah 70-31 in 1989. Behind sophomore quarterback Ty Detmer, BYU scored eight touchdowns on its first eight drives and rolled up 750 yards of total offense. The 70 points scored by the Cougars remains the most points a Utah defense has ever given up in a single game.

 

Ending BYU's Scoring Streak

Under long-time head coach LaVell Edwards, BYU built its college football identity around a prolific offense that scored in bunches. The Cougars set a then NCAA record scoring streak of 361 games that extended from 1975 to 2003. Ironically, the streak came to end against Utah.

 

Utah, in Urban Meyer's first season as head coach, locked down BYU completely in a 3-0 victory. It marked the 18th time the Utes had shut out the Cougars in series history. BYU generated only 153 yards of total offense. The game's lone score came when Bryan Borreson converted a 41-yard field goal with 4:13 left in the second quarter.

 

Early Domination

Before Edwards made football relevant at BYU, wins over Utah were a rare phenomenon for the Cougars. From 1896 to 1971, Utah amassed a 41–8–4 (.811) record against BYU. The Utes strung together a 21-game unbeaten streak stretching from 1898 to 1941, shutting out BYU 12 times and allowing just 71 total points. Utah, on the other hand, averaged 25.2 points per contest.

 

Just being competitive soon became a big deal for the Cougars. In 1953, BYU faced Utah in one of the first college football games broadcast nationwide on television. The Utes held off a late fourth quarter rally to win 33-32. Several BYU players celebrated the close loss by carrying head coach Chick Atkinson off the field after the game.

 

Wilson's NCAA Record

BYU produced a string of quarterbacks under Edwards that routinely rewrote the NCAA record book during their playing careers. One record, in particular, came at the expense of Utah. Sophomore quarterback Marc Wilson broke a single-game NCAA record (since broken) when he threw for 571 yards in a 38-8 victory over the Utes in 1977.

 

The only problem? BYU coaches put Wilson back into the game in the final minutes with the game well in hand so he could get the record. He completed three passes, including an eight-yard touchdown pass to John VanDerWouden, to set the record. This move drew the ire of Utah head coach Wayne Howard after the game. The Utes exacted revenge a year later, upsetting BYU 23-22 after rallying from a 16-point halftime deficit.

 

Final Play Fireworks

One thing that has made the Holy War one of the nation's best rivalries is the sheer amount of the games that have gone down to the wire in recent seasons. Twelve of the last 15 games between BYU and Utah have been decided by a touchdown or less. Incredibly, the game has been decided on the final play four different times in that stretch.

 

BYU won 33-31 in 2006 when John Beck hit Jonny Harline with an 11-yard TD pass on the final play. The Cougars also won 26-23 in 2009 when Max Hall connected with Andrew George on a 25-yard score in overtime. Utah won 17-16 in 2010 when Brandon Burton blocked a field goal as time expired and the Utes prevailed by a 24-21 score in 2012 when a 36-yard field goal from Riley Stephenson bounced off the upright on the final play.

 

34-31

BYU won 19 of 21 games over Utah from 1972-92. This two-decade domination came to a halt when Utah head coach Ron McBride broke through with three straight wins in the series (1993-95).The first two victories came by identical 34-31 scores.

 

Utah notched a 34-31 victory in 1993 when kicker Chris Yergensen drilled a 55-yard field goal with 25 seconds left. Yergensen missed two other field goals from 35 and 37 yards earlier before hitting the game winner. The Utes won 34-31 again a year later after a 67-yard kickoff return by Cal Beck set up a game-winning, 20-yard TD pass from current San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy to receiver Charlie Brown.

 

— 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.

 

(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Teaser:
The Holy War: Interesting Facts About the BYU vs. Utah College Football Rivalry
Post date: Wednesday, September 7, 2016 - 15:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, syndicated, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/nfl-best-lineups-fanduel-and-draftkings-week-1-2016
Body:

The NFL has returned and with it so has fantasy football and daily fantasy football. Perhaps you played daily fantasy football (DFS) on FanDuel or DraftKings or on some other site regularly last year, or dabbled in it every now and again. Maybe you won a few weeks in a row, got cocky and decided to roll more money out each week. Only you will know if you won or lost, and unless you lost a lot of money the odds are that you enjoyed playing DFS.

 

No matter which type of DFS player you were last year, or if you didn’t play at all, I am here to offer my assistance. What I will be doing in this space is sharing my top plays for the week, a few value plays, and most importantly a lineup or two. I will likely be focusing on cash games (50/50 and Double Up) and not GPP (tournaments, multi-player) contests. My Week 1 lineups should work in both formats.

 

I personally love DFS, but do not invest much time or money in tournaments solely because they are riskier, they tend to lose more, and as much as I love building lineups I found I didn’t have adequate time to invest in the necessary research to routinely win. Nor did I have the money, which is kind of important. Cash games it is for me with a few random tourneys for novelty sake. Many of my lineups will have risk, and that could work well in tournaments as well.

 

Week 1 Top Plays

 

This will be my top plays of the week. These are players who I will try to have in as many lineups of mine as possible. If I can I will use all three in one lineup. A reminder that for cash games going with an elite quarterback is typically recommended. This week I am opting not to do this.

 

QB: Derek Carr, Oakland at New Orleans ($7,700 FanDuel/$7,300 DraftKings)

Carr fell off towards the end of last season, but he has the weapons to do some real damage against the uninspiring Saints defense this week. He comes relatively cheap too for those who won’t spend on Aaron Rodgers or Cam Newton.

 

RB: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota at Tennessee ($8,200 FanDuel/$7,600 DraftKings)

Peterson remains elite, he is healthy and with a new quarterback you can expect a heavy workload from the All-Pro this week. He will produce and should meet value in Week 1

 

WR: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh at Washington ($9,300 FanDuel/$9,800 DraftKings) (Monday Night Game)

Honestly if you are looking for a reason to not play Brown ever you are wasting your time. Week One and no Le’Veon Bell smells like 10-plus receptions and 100 yards easily. Toss in a TD too, why not?

 

WR: DeAndre Hopkins, Houston vs. Chicago ($8,400 FanDuel/$8,800 DraftKings)

Hopkins is another high-end option who can be plugged in to main slate contests. His matchup against an injury-plagued Bears secondary should lead to good numbers.

 

TE: Coby Fleener, New Orleans vs. Oakland ($5,400 FanDuel/$4,900 DraftKings)

Fleener is with a new team and a productive quarterback who loves throwing to his tight end. Fleener may not be the second coming of Jimmy Graham in his prime, BUT he is capable of coming close and Week 1 we should see heavy usage.

 

The Lineup(s)

 

FanDuel (Cash or GPP)

FanDuel NFL Perfect Lineup Picks

 

DraftKings (GPP)

DraftKings NFL Perfect Lineup Picks

 

DraftKings (Cash)

 

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

Teaser:
NFL Best Lineups for FanDuel and DraftKings (Week 1)
Post date: Wednesday, September 7, 2016 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: syndicated, NFL
Path: /nfl/predictions-every-nfl-game-week-1-2016
Body:

As entertaining as the first week of the college football was, it’s time for the big men on campus to step aside for the professionals – the NFL is back! After a seven-month hiatus, the 2016 regular season kicks off Thursday night with a Super Bowl rematch between Carolina and Denver.

 

Related: NFL 2016 Regular and Postseason Predictions

 

And speaking of the Broncos, starter Trevor Siemian isn’t the only quarterback making his debut, whether it’s for a new team or as a pro. Former Bronco Brock Osweiler makes his first appearance for the Texans against the Bears, while Robert Griffin III will lead Cleveland against No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz and Philadelphia. Elsewhere, the Eagles’ former starter, Sam Bradford, and/or Shaun Hill will look to fill Teddy Bridgewater’s shoes as Minnesota opens on the road against Tennessee. And in Dallas, Dak Prescott gets his first shot as Tony Romo’s injury replacement against the division rival Giants. And let’s not forget about the Jimmy Garoppolo-led Patriots out in the desert against Arizona on Sunday night.

 

So which teams will come out on top in every NFL game to open the 2016 season? Athlon's own Rob Doster (AthlonDoster), John Gworek (JohnGworek), Steven Lassan (AthlonSteven), and Mark Ross (AthlonMarkR), along with AthlonSports.com contributor Bryan Fischer (BryanDFischer), predict the winners for every game this week:

 

NFL Week 1 Predictions

 

 

Rob

Doster

Bryan
Fischer

John

Gworek

Steven

Lassan

Mark

Ross

Carolina at

Denver (Thurs.)

Green Bay at

Jacksonville

Buffalo at

Baltimore

Chicago at

Houston

Cleveland at

Philadelphia

Tampa Bay at

Atlanta

Minnesota at

Tennessee

Cincinnati at

NY Jets

Oakland at

New Orleans

San Diego at

Kansas City

Miami at

Seattle

Detroit at

Indianapolis

NY Giants

at Dallas

New England at

Arizona

Pittsburgh at

Washington (Mon.)

Los Angeles at
San Francisco (Mon.)

Teaser:
Predictions for Every NFL Game in Week 1
Post date: Wednesday, September 7, 2016 - 13:30
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College football’s Week 2 slate doesn’t have the marquee matchups that covered the schedule in Week 1, but there are several intriguing games to watch this Saturday. The Week 2 action kicks off on Friday night with two games, as Maryland travels to FIU and Louisville meets Syracuse to open ACC play for both teams. Saturday’s slate is headlined by Virginia Tech and Tennessee meeting at Bristol Motor Speedway, Arkansas visiting TCU, Penn State and Pitt renewing their in-state rivalry, the Holy War rivalry between Utah and BYU, along with an interesting clash of offenses between Boise State and Washington State.  

 

Which teams will come out on top in every FBS game for Week 2? Bryan Fischer and Jim Weber join Athlon Sports' Steven Lassan and Mitch Light to provide weekly predictions for every contest:

 

College Football Week 2 Predictions
 

Steven

Lassan

Mitch

Light

Bryan

Fischer

Jim

Weber

Maryland at

FIU

Louisville at

Syracuse

Rice at

Army

NC State at

East Carolina

Nicholls at

Georgia

Boston College at

UMass

UCF at

Michigan

Penn State at

Pitt

Cincinnati at

Purdue

Howard at

Rutgers

Lamar at

Houston

Indiana State at

Minnesota

Wyoming at

Nebraska

C. Michigan at

Oklahoma State

Prairie View at

Texas A&M

Troy at 

Clemson

C. Southern at

Florida State

Stony Brook at

Temple

Youngstown St. at

West Virginia

Utah State at

USC

Georgia State at

Air Force

Ohio at

Kansas

Mercer at

Georgia Tech

Old Dominion at

Appalachian State

North Dakota at

Bowling Green

Wake Forest at

Duke

Kentucky at

Florida

Eastern Illinois at

Miami, Ohio

Nevada at 

Notre Dame

Tulsa at

Ohio State

WKU at

Alabama

SMU at

Baylor

Illinois State at

Northwestern

Akron at

Wisconsin

UConn at

Navy

Ball State at

Indiana

Wofford at

Ole Miss

MTSU at

Vanderbilt

UTSA at

Colorado State

Portland State at

SJSU

Idaho at

Washington

Idaho State at

Colorado

Elon at

Charlotte

N. Carolina A&T at

Kent State

FAU at

Miami

Morgan State at

Marshall

Northern Illinois at

USF

Maine at

Toledo

S.C. State at

La. Tech

McNeese State at

UL Lafayette

South Carolina at

Mississippi State

ULM at

Oklahoma

Arkansas at

TCU

UTEP at

Texas

N.C. Central at

W. Michigan

B. Cookman at

North Texas

Savannah State at

Southern Miss

Ga. Southern at

South Alabama

Arkansas State at

Auburn

North Carolina at

Illinois

Iowa State at

Iowa

Jacksonville St. at

LSU

E. Michigan at

Missouri

BYU at

Utah

Va. Tech vs.

Tennessee

(Bristol)

UNLV at

UCLA

Southern at

Tulane

New Mexico at

NMSU

Texas Tech at

Arizona State

Sacramento St. at

Fresno State

Washington St. at

Boise State

Virginia at

Oregon

California at

San Diego State

Grambling at

Arizona

UT Martin at

Hawaii

 

Teaser:
Predicting Which Team Will Win Every Game Week 2 in College Football
Post date: Wednesday, September 7, 2016 - 13:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, syndicated
Path: /college-football/5-biggest-spectacles-college-football-history
Body:

There is no argument that Saturday’s matchup between Tennessee and Virginia Tech is a crucial game for both teams. But the big story is that they will be playing in front of 160,000 fans — the largest crowd to ever see college football game by about 50,000 — at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn.

 

In a sport whose traditions seem as deeply rooted as the rules of the Catholic Church, it is exciting and somewhat refreshing to see a P.T. Barnum-esque event in college football. Major spectacles in college football are few and far between, but they do happen. Here is a list of the top five that includes Saturday’s event.

 

5. Games inside baseball stadiums 2000 to present

College football games were frequently played in baseball stadiums until the late 1960s. Army and Notre Dame actually met 22 times in old Yankee Stadium between 1925-69. Then in the ‘70s, cities began building stadiums for both their football and baseball teams and this tradition fell by the wayside. Then about 15 years ago, college football began to return to the ballpark. The first to bring it back was Chase Field, which hosted the Insight Enterprise Bowl (now the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl) after it moved from Tucson to Phoenix in 2000. Since then, eight MLB ball parks have hosted college football games, with the biggest being the annual Pinstripe Bowl hosted by new Yankee Stadium. Fenway Park also got into the act last year, as Notre Dame and Boston College played each other with the Green Monster in the background.

 

4. Grambling State defeats Morgan State in the Land of the Rising Sun

Grambling State 42, Morgan State (Sept. 24, 1976 — Tokyo, Japan)

The growing popularity of football and a tour of Japan by the Grambling State University Marching Band led to the first college football game played outside the Western Hemisphere. To coincide with the band’s tour, a game between Grambling and Morgan State was held at Tokyo’s Korakuen Stadium to a packed crowd of 50,000 fans.  Morgan State head coach Hank Lattimore said the Japanese attendees’ enthusiasm made him believe “they could become wonderful fans if given the same exposure to football that they have to baseball.” His prediction proved true. For the next 16 years, a regular season college football game and an all-star game were played in Tokyo.

 

3. Battle at Bristol set to break all-time attendance record

(Sept. 10, 2016 — Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, Tenn.)

It doesn’t get much grander than 160,000 fans watching a game staged inside a half-mile racetrack at the Bristol Motor Speedway, the only NASCAR venue with the capacity to pull this off. Unless Neyland Stadium or The Big House figure out how to add 50,000 extra seats, this game between Virginia Tech and Tennessee will never be eclipsed, at least in terms of attendace.

 

2. Pro football makes a statement

New York Giants 22, Notre Dame All-Stars (Dec. 14, 1930 — New York)

Professional football was a fledgling industry in the 1920s and the general consensus throughout the country was that the college game was better. To settle the matter, a charity game to benefit New York’s Great Depression victims was held at the Polo Grounds between the New York Giants, the second-best team in the NFL, and a team of Notre Dame stars coached by Knute Rockne. In assembling the team, Rockne used his best players of the past decade, including the Four Horsemen, to no avail. The Giants jumped out to a 15-0 lead and played its reserves in the second half en route to a 22-0 win. After the game Rockne, told his players, “That was the greatest football machine I ever saw. I am glad none of you got hurt.” Sadly, Rockne died in a plane crash three months later and this was the last game he ever coached. In 1934, the Chicago College All-Star Game was established and pitted the NFL champion against college football’s all-stars. The college all-stars actually won this exhibition game nine times before it was dissolved in 1976, but pro football had already established its superiority thanks to a Giant effort nearly 50 years prior.

 

1. The first-ever game on the gridiron

Rutgers 6, Princeton 4 (Nov. 6, 1869 — New Brunswick, N.J.)

The first American football game was meant as an outlet for the intense rivalry between Rutgers and Princeton (then the College of New Jersey) with shenanigans that included the constant theft of a Revolutionary War cannon. The game obviously did not resemble what it is today and only 100 people watched. However, the fact that these two schools played it and then got more schools to do so in the years that followed puts this event at the top of the list. Arnold Friberg’s painting commemorating it may be the only college football work of art that could be displayed outside of a “man cave.”

 
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.
 
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)
Teaser:
5 Biggest Spectacles in College Football History
Post date: Wednesday, September 7, 2016 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: syndicated, NFL
Path: /nfl/nfl-power-rankings-week-1-2016
Body:

The NFL preseason is over and the march toward Super Bowl LI begins for all 32 teams on Thursday as Carolina travels to Denver in a rematch of the final game of last season. While it seems like it has been forever since those two teams met at Levi’s Stadium, the official kickoff event of the NFL means football is finally back in our lives and that has everybody roaring to go.

 

Related: NFL 2016 Regular and Postseason Predictions

 

With that in mind, it’s time to sort out the contenders from the pretenders heading into the 2016 season. Factoring in everything from overall roster strength, to quarterback play, to the head coach’s track record, here is the first edition of NFL power rankings to begin the season. Over time these will start to reflect how the teams are playing on the field and whatever key injuries they suffer but here is where every team stacks up from 1 to 32.

 

Week 1 NFL Power Rankings

 

1. Arizona Cardinals

A trendy pick to make it to the Super Bowl this year, it’s understandable to have high expectations in the desert given what Bruce Arians returns in 2016. The secondary might be the best in the game, special teams is dangerous on every snap and the offense is loaded if quarterback Carson Palmer can pick up where he left off in the regular season last year. Don’t be surprised to see the defense take a leap with the pass-rushing additions of Chandler Jones and Robert Nkemdiche either.

 

2. Green Bay Packers

The offense should once again be among the league’s best and able to win a shootout with any team. The return of Jordy Nelson will provide another reliable option for Aaron Rodgers and Jared Cook could become the dependable No. 3 pass catcher after looking good in the preseason. There are a few question marks on defense but the secondary has a chance to grow into one of the best in the game with more seasoning. Things change but this looks to be the most well-rounded team heading into the season.

 

3. Carolina Panthers

While they check in at No. 3 to begin the year, it would surprise nobody if the Panthers once again earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC given the amount of talent on the roster and their schedule. A repeat of last year’s record might be a little too much to ask but Cam Newton has a chance to defend his MVP award with the return of Kelvin Benjamin to the receiving corps. The secondary remains a giant question mark but luckily the front seven is fantastic.

 

4. Seattle Seahawks

Pete Carroll’s squad has the best track record of success of just about any team in the NFC over the past few years and a large part of that is because of the deep and talented roster he’s helped assemble. The defense will again rank highly in just about every statistical category and the offense has Russell Wilson and some dangerous skill position players. Seattle may have been No. 1 to start the year had the team upgraded the dreadful offensive line at all.

 

5. New England Patriots

The coaching staff should make Jimmy Garoppolo comfortable to start the year but the Patriots won’t truly be judged until Tom Brady returns from his four-game suspension. The offensive line is a little shaky but always seems to be a unit that comes together down the stretch with some out-of-left field contributions. On the flip side, the defense could be sneaky good and among the most versatile Bill Belichick has coached in the past few years.

 

6. Houston Texans

The question on everybody’s mind is what kind of boost Brock Osweiler can provide the offense but the bottom line is him just being consistently decent will help the team out tremendously after the last several years of struggles at the position. The offense has a lot more speed than in the past and, combined with Osweiler’s arm, will help avoid loaded fronts in the future. Bill O’Brien’s squad will continue to run the ball and play great defense so this could be the AFC’s breakout team in 2016 if all falls into place.

 

7. Cincinnati Bengals

The “what might have been” scenarios surrounding the Bengals last year will probably haunt the team for several more years but a shot at redemption (and finally getting a playoff victory) remains given what Cincinnati takes into the upcoming season. Expect more consistency out of Andy Dalton as the offense continues to progress and don’t be surprised if rookie Tyler Boyd turns into a star opposite A.J. Green. The defense needs to improve, as does the offensive line, but this will once again be a team fighting to win the division and get a bye in the AFC.

 

8. Pittsburgh Steelers

Nobody wanted to play the Steelers late last season and that trend probably continues to begin the 2016 campaign as well. The offensive is flat loaded and Ben Roethlisberger is primed to have his best year yet. The offseason was a little rough for the team or else it would start off the year a few spots higher than this but it’s still a pretty good group. If the defense progresses at all, especially on the back end, this is a team that can go all the way.

 

9. Minnesota Vikings

You can understand the urgency to win now for the Vikings and paying such a high price for Sam Bradford when you look at the team’s overall roster. Adrian Peterson has a chance to lead the league in rushing and rookie wide receiver Laquon Treadwell should soon become Bradford’s best friend with the way he makes plays. The defense is loaded and, if healthy, has a chance to be the best in the division — if not the conference. The loss of Teddy Bridgewater is a blow no doubt, but the team itself is still pretty good and certainly capable of heading into the playoffs with momentum.

 

10. Denver Broncos

The retirement of Peyton Manning isn’t as big of a blow to the defending Super Bowl champions if you consider his late-season form but the fact that the team is turning to Trevor Siemian says plenty about the state of the offense. The offense did enough to capture the Lombardi at the end of the year but this unit remains in flux with new faces and players in new places. Luckily the defense is so good with Von Miller and company that the champs will have a chance in every game but the Broncos at the end of the year figure to be a much different team than the one at the beginning.

 

11. Kansas City Chiefs

The talent level in Kansas City and last season’s strong finish bodes well for the upcoming year. The team would find themselves much higher in the power rankings if not for question marks surrounding Jamaal Charles’ return from an ACL injury and the issues on defense with Justin Houston starting the year on the PUP list. The team still has Marcus Peters, Derrick Johnson and Jeremy Maclin, and added a good piece in free agent Mitchell Schwartz to bolster the offensive line so the Chiefs are still one of the better teams in what is a wide-open division.

 

12. Oakland Raiders

This is quickly becoming one of the trendy picks to make a big jump in 2016 out of the AFC and it’s not hard to figure out why. The offensive line is one of the better ones in football and the Derek Carr-to-Amari Cooper combination is quickly becoming one of the better pairings in the league. Jack Del Rio’s defense is where the team really shines though, with Khalil Mack possibly vying to dethrone J.J. Watt as defensive player of the year.

 

13. Baltimore Ravens

Few teams have been hit with the injury bug quite like the Ravens have in the past few years since winning the Super Bowl. But if they can get lucky on that front, there’s no reason to see why they can’t challenge for a playoff spot or even the division. The offensive line figures to take a step up and that side of the ball as a whole should be much more consistent from week to week. The addition of safety Eric Weddle addresses a huge need on defense and might be one of the best moves of free agency when all is said and done.

 

14. New York Giants

It’s been an offseason full of change in New York, starting at the top with a new head coach and continuing on with some big-name free agents like Oliver Vernon, Damon Harrison and Janoris Jenkins. Despite those additions and the presence of veterans like Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants’ season will likely come down to how much growth they’ll be able to get out of the young players on their roster. If Landon Collins on defense or Sterling Shepard at wide receiver turn into key role players, a division title is certainly within reach.

 

15. Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys are going full steam ahead on the Dak (Prescott) Attack at the moment but it says plenty that the team is keeping injured quarterback Tony Romo on the active roster with hopes of an early return. Prescott should be ok under center with the league’s best offensive line, some quality weapons like Jason Witten and a productive run game built around fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott. The giant question mark is on defense and but don’t be surprised if the unit progressed to being solid by midseason.

 

16. Jacksonville Jaguars

People have been raving about the Jaguars’ drafts the past several years and the young core of talent that is on the roster but it’s finally time for all that potential to turn into actual production. Blake Bortles has shown flashes of a breakout season and as he progresses, so will Jacksonville. The receiving corps is strong and the run game figures to be very good with a pair of home-run hitters. The defense is where the team is expected to take a big jump however and all you have to do is look at the depth chart to figure out why.

 

17. Washington Redskins

Kirk Cousins is the guy in D.C. now and figures to eliminate some of the costly mistakes that marred his first full season as a starter last year. Luckily he has one of the better receiving groups in the league with rookie Josh Doctson being added to veterans like DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. The defense has undergone an overhaul by signing Josh Norman and bringing in rookies such as Su’a Cravens and Kendall Fuller. Whether that’s enough to repeat in the NFC East remains to be seen but Washington shouldn’t yo-yo from a good season to a bad one like the ‘Skins have in the past.

 

18. Indianapolis Colts

The return of Andrew Luck is undoubtedly the biggest news for the Colts to start the year but rookie center Ryan Kelly might be the biggest boost to an offensive line that has struggled for years. Frank Gore needs a renaissance year for the offense to truly be scary however. Defensively, the back end looks really thin and this group needs to make some big progress if the team is to unseat the Texans in the AFC South.

 

19. New York Jets

Todd Bowles nearly got the team to the playoffs in his debut season but getting back to that level will be considerably harder heading into this season. The return of Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t give a boost to the offense at all but does keep it from sliding backwards significantly, with free agent signee Matt Forte possibly making the unit a little more dangerous than a year ago. The front four has a chance to be one of the better units in the league but it won’t mean much if guys the behind them don’t step up.

 

20. Buffalo Bills

Is this finally the year the Bills get over the playoff hump? A tumultuous offseason may put that to the test in what is likely a make-or-break season for Rex Ryan. Tyrod Taylor is the guy under center going forward and there should be some optimism that he develops even more chemistry with Sammy Watkins after a strong close to 2015. The run game will once again be strong and the secondary is in the upper tier of the league for sure. Still, that front seven has question marks all over it.

 

21. New Orleans Saints

This will once again remain a team that gets into plenty of shootouts and has a good chance to win a lot of them thanks to quarterback Drew Brees and the potential of a healthy Mark Ingram. The receiving corps has several new faces that could explode onto the scene but the bottom line is the Saints will only go as far as their defense takes them.

 

22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The elevation of Dirk Koetter to head coach suggests that the team will continue to build around its budding offense and it’s easy to see why with Jameis Winston heading into his second season surrounded by an all-star cast at tailback and receiver. The key to the season and getting out of the bottom of the division lies with the offensive line and improvement on the secondary, which needs plenty of help.

 

23. Miami Dolphins

Adam Gase is a well-respected, offensive mind around the league and he will have several pieces to work with in Miami. The offensive line has been quickly re-tooled and the extra time should allow Ryan Tannehill to bounce back after an up-and-down 2015. The front four has some big names but they’re all getting older and that could spell trouble defensively with a secondary that needs to make a big step up given the Dolphins reside in the AFC East.

 

24. Atlanta Falcons

The offensive line for Atlanta has been an issue in the past but should be instantly boosted by the addition of center Alex Mack into one of the better units in the division. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones will be the beneficiaries, but the Falcons’ success depends mostly on if the defense can come together at all. The team will be extremely young on that side of the ball and head coach Dan Quinn has to hope the front four can take some pressure off of a thin secondary.

 

25. Los Angeles Rams

It seems like the Rams have dominated the offseason storylines between moving to Los Angeles, selecting Jared Goff with the No. 1 overall pick and having their ins and outs documented by the Hard Knocks crew. The strength of the team remains centered on the defensive line, with tackle Aaron Donald among the brightest stars in the game. Goff figures to be the guy down the road but Case Keenum will start out leading an offense that is Todd Gurley and whole lot of question marks.

 

26. Chicago Bears

A massive overhaul in Chicago is nearly complete under general manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox that has surprisingly made quarterback Jay Cutler the longest-tenured Bears player around. The team will again lean on the ground game but don’t be surprised if they are a little more successful through the air with Alshon Jeffrey aiming to stay healthy all season and former first-rounder Kevin White adding a new element on that side of the ball. The defense should win most battles at the line of scrimmage, which should help the back four even more than last year.

 

27. Detroit Lions

Matthew Stafford will have to shoulder the load with the departure of Calvin Johnson and that just might be too much to ask if he plays anywhere like he did to begin 2015. The offensive line figures to improve and a solid ground game behind Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick gives the team a lot of options. Whether the rest of the defense can catch up to the front four remains a mystery heading into the season though.

 

28. San Diego Chargers

Perhaps no team is looking forward to putting the excessive drama of the offseason (and preseason) to bed and taking the field than the Chargers. Philip Rivers is the headliner of an aging offense that is slowly turning over to younger players and badly needs the linemen up front to improve rapidly if this team wants to make any leap forward. The defense will need rookie Joey Bosa to play early and up to his potential because there are not a ton of superstar players on that side of the ball for San Diego.

 

29. Philadelphia Eagles

The Carson Wentz show in Philly is apparently getting underway a bit sooner than anybody expected and that probably isn’t the best news short term even if things work out down the road. The tight end group will help until a young receiver group can take the next step but nobody stood out a year ago. The pass rush and safety group are nice building blocks but the defense could take some lumps given how thin this unit is elsewhere.

 

30. Tennessee Titans

The identity of this team was made quite clear this offseason: run the ball, run the ball, let Marcus Mariota do his thing. Pass protection is probably the only thing keeping Derrick Henry from overtaking DeMarco Murray on the depth chart but both figure to be used heavily each week. The skill position talent around the backs is still really thin though so getting to third and short is paramount. The front four on defense should again be a strength but after that things might be a little interesting.

 

31. Cleveland Browns

Hope springs eternal in Cleveland with yet another overhaul of the front office and coaching staff. The addition of Robert Griffin III should upgrade the quarterback position and the receiving corps has a chance to really surprise people. The roster is being completely turned over however and that’s really apparent on defense, which goes from a one-time strength to a massive liability.

 

32. San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers hope another ex-college coach can turn the franchise around but Chip Kelly won’t have an easy first year given what the roster looks like heading into Week 1. Quarterback controversies aside, Kelly’s up-tempo offense may cover up some weaknesses but there are just too many issues for a dramatic turnaround from last year. The defense has some pieces (including ex-Ducks Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner on the line) but really needs All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman to have another otherworldly campaign for the team to be competitive.

 

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

Teaser:
NFL Power Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Wednesday, September 7, 2016 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-poll-watch-alabama-not-unanimously-no-1-wisconsin-shoots-no-10
Body:

Week 1 of the 2016 college football season is in the books! We saw a lot go down over the Labor Day weekend and there were a couple of things that really stuck out.

 

Related: College Football Top 25 Rankings

 

For starters — and relevant to what you are reading right now — we saw three teams that began the year inside the top 10 of the season's first AP Top 25 poll get bounced in their openers. A fourth (Tennessee) needed overtime to beat Appalachian State at home.

 

That only strengthens the argument that preseason polls are meaningless and perhaps should not exist in any official capacity. The problem with that is the human element. The College Football Playoff committee — for better or worse — is made up entirely of human beings. When they measure a quality win or the strength of a specific team’s schedule, what do you think they are measuring it against? That's right — the polls. Every quality win from here on out is going to be based on the results of games played between or against teams with little numbers next to their names on the scoreboard. As we saw this past weekend, those numbers aren’t exactly accurate nor do they always really mean anything.

 

The second AP Top 25 Poll of the season came out on Tuesday afternoon. Here are some things that caught my eye and hopefully inspire you to dig deeper when the polls come out each week.

 

Alabama is not the unanimous No. 1 team in the nation

I watched a lot of football this past weekend. I watched so much, that when I closed my eyes in bed, I still saw images of jerseys and helmets burned into the back of my eyelids. My DVR is sputtering thanks to the games I recorded, watched and watched again. If there was one thing I learned from watching all of that football, it was that Alabama — right now, today, in the present — is the very best college football team in the country. I'm not sure how any sane person could realistically make a case otherwise. The Crimson Tide throttled a team that many of us thought might be the most talented in the country at the skill positions. Suffice to say, they passed my eye test with flying colors and were one of the biggest stories of the weekend.

 

Be that as it may, seven AP voters sat through a weekend of games and still came away thinking Alabama was not the best team in the country. Those voters are Scott Wolf, Ross Delanger, Pete Diprimio, Ed Daigneault, Jerry DiPaola, Joey Knight and Matt McCoy. You can click their names to see their ballots.

 

Wisconsin goes from unranked to top 10

The Badgers shocked the nation with their win over LSU at Lambeau Field on Saturday. It was, however, basically a home game for them — and a close one at that. Since the clock hit zero in that game, the national media has talked endlessly about just how unimpressive LSU looked in the matchup. That leaves me asking one question: If LSU was bad enough in that game for the AP voters to drop them to No. 21, how was Wisconsin's win over the Tigers good enough to vault the Badgers into the top 10? Furthermore, how was it good enough for Wisconsin to jump over 11 other teams in the Top 25 that also won? I'm not sure any team has ever

gotten more love for a two-point win in its home state. 

 

The voters loved Miami's win over Florida A&M

Miami was not ranked last weekend. And then the whole nation played football. And then the AP voters collectively decided that a 70-3 home romp over an FCS opponent that won a single game a season ago was enough to lift the Hurricanes into the Top 25. They got the nod over a Boise State team that took down UL Lafayette 45-10 and a BYU club that beat Arizona on a "neutral field" in Arizona.

 

Be on the look out

There are a couple of teams that could be crashing the AP Top 25 in the coming weeks with an impressive win here or there. Nebraska is among "others receiving votes," but a big win over Wyoming on Saturday could be enough to squeeze the Cornhuskers into the Top 25 the following week. Additionally, Colorado turned some heads by blowing out Colorado State. If the Buffaloes steamroll Idaho State as expected with no issues, Michigan could be facing a Top 25 opponent a little sooner than expected.

 

Come back next week for another deeper look inside the polls.

 

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

Teaser:
College Football Poll Watch: Alabama Not Unanimous No. 1, Wisconsin Shoots to No. 10
Post date: Wednesday, September 7, 2016 - 10:00
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Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-20-quarterback-debuts-2016
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Quarterback play is always under the spotlight for all 128 college football teams. Some programs – Clemson (Deshaun Watson) and Ohio State (J.T. Barrett) – entered 2016 with no uncertainty under center. However, there was no shortage of teams opening the year with question marks or the possibility of the quarterback battle extending into the season. Week 1 was the first opportunity for the new signal-callers or quarterbacks to make an impression. Which new starters impressed in Week 1?

 

With the influx of new starters across the nation, Athlon set out to rank the debuts for the quarterbacks. An important note: We only considered freshmen in their first game, transfers or quarterbacks that had yet to make a start at their current school for this ranking. Quarterbacks like Kentucky’s Drew Barker, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Toledo’s Logan Woodside already had previous starts and were not considered for this ranking.

 

College Football's Top 20 QB Debuts of 2016

 

1. Deondre Francois, Florida State

With Ole Miss loading the box to stop Dalvin Cook and a 28-6 deficit just before halftime, Florida State’s victory hopes resided on Francois and the passing attack. The redshirt freshman was under pressure from the Rebel defensive line all night but remained calm in the pocket and delivered strikes against the secondary to guide the Seminoles to a second-half rally and a 45-34 victory. Francois completed 33 of 52 passes for 419 yards and two scores and also added 59 yards on nine carries to cap the best performance by a freshman in Week 1.

 

Related: College Football's Post-Week 1 Top 25

 

2. Shane Buechele, Texas

Charlie Strong found the right mix this offseason to spark Texas’ offense. The first part of the equation was hiring Sterlin Gilbert as the program’s new coordinator, with the second piece coming at quarterback. While Tyrone Swoopes remains a part of the offense in the 18-wheeler package, Buechele’s ability to stretch the field and quickly get the ball to the Longhorns’ playmakers is the perfect match for Gilbert’s offense. Buechele was impressive (16 of 26 for 280 yards and two touchdowns and 33 rushing yards and one score) in the upset win over Notre Dame.

 

3. Jalen Hurts, Alabama

For most of the offseason, most of the signs out of Tuscaloosa seemed to indicate Blake Barnett or Cooper Bateman would emerge as the starter. However, Hurts remained in the mix throughout spring and fall workouts and was the second quarterback in the game for the Crimson Tide offense on Saturday night against USC. The true freshman was impressive and provided a much-needed spark for the Alabama offense, as he threw for 118 yards and two scores and rushed for 32 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries. There’s no quarterback controversy in Tuscaloosa now. This is clearly Hurts’ job to lose. 

 

4. Davis Webb, California

Jared Goff was one of the nation’s top quarterbacks last year, but California’s offense is in great shape with Webb at the controls. The graduate transfer from Texas Tech guided the Golden Bears to a 51-31 victory over Hawaii on Aug. 26 by completing 38 of 54 throws for 441 yards and four scores.

 

5. Mike White, WKU

Brandon Doughty left big shoes to fill, but White is certainly capable of keeping WKU’s offense among the best in the nation. White torched Rice for 517 yards and three scores in a 46-14 victory on Thursday night.

 

Related: College Football's Week 1 Awards

 

6. Jacob Eason, Georgia

Eason didn’t start, but he was impressive in limited action. It’s only a matter of time before Eason supplants Greyson Lambert as the full-time starter after completing 8 of 12 passes for 131 yards and one score against the Tar Heels.

 

7. Ryan Burns, Stanford

Burns edged Keller Chryst for the starting nod in fall practice and proceeded to deliver a steady performance in the opener against Kansas State. Burns completed 14 of 18 passes for 156 yards and one score in Friday night’s win.

 

8. Kenny Hill, TCU

TCU was tested more than most anticipated against South Dakota State, but Hill was one of the team’s bright spots in the 59-41 victory. The Texas A&M transfer threw for 439 yards and two scores and recorded 45 rushing yards and three touchdowns on seven carries. Hill was the first player at the FBS level since 2013 to throw for 400 yards and two touchdowns and record three rushing scores in a single contest.

 

9. Dallas Davis, South Alabama

Davis only had 23 career pass attempts entering 2016, but the sophomore wasn’t fazed going into a tough environment at Mississippi State in Week 1. Davis guided South Alabama to the upset victory, completing 24 of 34 passes for 285 yards and two scores and adding 23 yards on the ground.

 

10. Jerod Evans, Virginia Tech

The Hokies had a successful debut under new coach Justin Fuente with a 36-13 victory over Liberty on Saturday. Evans was one of the nation’s top junior college recruits in the 2016 signing class and was picked by Athlon Sports as a breakout candidate this fall. So far, so good. Evans was solid in his debut, throwing for 221 yards and four scores on 20 completions and rushing for 46 yards on seven carries.

 

Related: Seven-Step Drop: Truth and Lies from Week 1

 

11. Dakota Prukop, Oregon

The Ducks’ high-powered offense didn’t miss a beat with a new play-caller (Matt Lubick) and Prukop at the controls for the opener against UC Davis. Prukop completed 21 of 30 throws for 271 yards and three scores. Additionally, Prukop rushed for 36 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries.

 

12. Trevor Knight, Texas A&M

Knight is a good fit for new coordinator Noel Mazzone’s offense, and the Oklahoma graduate transfer was solid in Texas A&M’s overtime win over UCLA. Knight completed 22 of 42 passes for 239 yards and one score, while adding 31 yards and two touchdowns on nine rushing attempts.

 

13. Troy Williams, Utah

The competition level will get tougher, but Utah’s passing game should stretch the field more with Williams at the controls. He completed 20 of 35 throws for 272 yards and two scores and also connected on two passes of 40 yards or more in the 24-0 win over Southern Utah.

 

14. Philip Nelson, East Carolina

Nelson saw his first game action since the 2013 season in Saturday’s 52-7 rout over Western Carolina. Nelson spent the first two years (2012-13) of his career as Minnesota’s starter and also had a short stop at Rutgers before landing at East Carolina. Rust wasn’t a problem for Nelson in the opener, completing 28 of 32 passes for 398 yards and five scores.

 

Related: College Football's Week 1 Awards

 

15. Greg Windham, Ohio

Saturday’s Ohio-Texas State game was one of Week 1’s most entertaining games. The two teams combined for 110 points, 54 first downs and 1,176 overall yards. Windham nearly carried Ohio to a victory in double overtime, throwing for 380 yards and four touchdowns on 27 completions. He also rushed for 37 yards on eight carries.

 

16. Luke Del Rio, Florida

Florida’s passing attack struggled mightily over the second half of 2015. However, the addition of Del Rio should provide some punch and stability to the passing game for 2016, as he completed 29 of 44 throws for 256 yards and two scores in the opener against UMass.

 

17. Ryan Finley, NC State

With Brett Rypien entrenched as Boise State’s starter, Finley transferred to NC State to play under former Bronco assistant (and new NC State play-caller) Eliah Drinkwitz. Finley edged Jalan McClendon for the starting nod and completed 17 of 21 throws for 174 yards and two touchdowns in Thursday night’s win over William & Mary.

 

Related: College Football's Post-Week 1 Top 25

 

18. Daniel Jones, Duke

Jones came to Duke as a walk-on quarterback but has emerged as a rising star for coach David Cutcliffe. He was sharp in his debut, completing 10 of 15 passes for 189 yards and two scores and rushing for 28 yards and two touchdowns in the win over North Carolina Central.

 

19. Johnny Stanton, UNLV

Stanton was a huge pickup on the recruiting trail for second-year coach Tony Sanchez. The former Nebraska signal-caller transferred to UNLV after a season at Saddleback Community College and threw for 217 yards and three scores on 10 completions in the opener against Jackson State. 

 

20. Trace McSorley, Penn State

Improvement is needed for Penn State’s offense after ranking near the bottom of the Big Ten in scoring in each of the last two seasons. It’s only one game, but there are positive signs for new coordinator Joe Moorhead to build on for Week 2 and beyond. McSorley threw for 209 yards and two scores and rushed for 47 yards in Penn State’s 33-13 victory over Kent State.

 

Other Notable Debuts

 

Austin Allen, Arkansas: 20 of 29 for 191 yards and 2 TDs

Kurt Benkert, Virginia: 26 of 34 for 264 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT

Jason Driskel, FAU: 23 of 31 for 287 yards, 2 TDs and 41 rush yards and 1 TD

Riley Ferguson, Memphis: 26 of 40 for 295 yards, 3 TDs and 2 INTs

Darell Garretson, Oregon State: 25 of 40, 228 yards and 3 TDs

Zack Greenlee, UTEP: 15 of 27 for 229 yards and 3 TDs

Bart Houston, Wisconsin: 19 of 31 for 205 yards and 2 INTs

Tyler O’Connor, Michigan State: 13 of 18 for 190 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT

J’Mar Smith, Louisiana Tech: 19 of 31 for 212 yards, 10 rushing yards and 1 TD

Wilton Speight, Michigan: 10 of 13 for 145 yards and 3 TDs

Manny Wilkins, Arizona State: 20 of 27 for 180 yards and 89 rushing yards

Teaser:
College Football's Top 20 Quarterback Debuts of 2016
Post date: Wednesday, September 7, 2016 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, syndicated, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-most-underrated-performances-week-1
Body:

Week 1 of the 2016 college football season produced several big-time performances. Freshmen quarterbacks Deondre Francois (Florida State), Shane Buechele (Texas) and Jalen Hurts (Alabama) lived up to the hype in their first game. But some of college football’s returning stars like Georgia running back Nick Chubb, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson and Washington State quarterback Luke Falk also delivered huge statistical performances in their opener. Chubb was Athlon Sports' pick for Offensive Player of the Week, while Florida State end DeMarcus Walker took home player of the week honors on defense.

 

With 86 games in the books from Week 1, it’s easy to overlook some of the performances outside of the usual stars. To wrap up the first week of action, Athlon Sports takes a look at some underrated performances:

 

CFB's Most Underrated Performances from Week 1

 

Micah Abernathy, DB, Tennessee

Abernathy quietly turned in a solid performance for the Volunteers on Thursday night. He ranked second on the team with eight stops and recorded a crucial pass breakup on the final play of the game to preserve a Tennessee win.

 

Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

The Wyoming-Northern Illinois game on Saturday night was one of the weekend’s most entertaining games. Allen completed 19 of 29 throws for 245 yards and two scores, while rushing for 73 yards and the game-winning score in the second overtime.

 

Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama

Allen dominated USC’s offensive line on Saturday night with two sacks and two tackles for a loss.

 

Related: Post-Week 1 Top 25 Rankings

 

Chidobe Awuzie, DB, Colorado

Awuzie is one of the nation’s most underrated players and delivered a strong performance (eight tackles, one interception and one pass breakup) in the win over Colorado State.

 

James Conner, RB, Pitt

Conner’s return to gridiron was one of the best stories in Week 1. He recorded 53 yards and one score on 17 carries and caught three passes for 16 yards and one touchdown.

 

Marcus Cox, RB, Appalachian State

Appalachian State’s upset bid fell short, but Cox rushed for 115 and caught four passes for 34 yards and one score against a good Tennessee defense.

 

Justin Crawford, RB, West Virginia

Junior college recruit led the way for West Virginia’s offense on Saturday, recording 101 yards and one score on 21 attempts.

 

Related: Week 1 College Football Awards

 

Andy Davidson, FB, Army

Converted linebacker led the way for Army’s ground attack against Temple with 121 yards and two scores on 22 carries.

 

Dallas Davis, QB, South Alabama

Davis completed 24 of 34 passes for 285 yards and two scores and rushed for 23 yards in South Alabama’s upset win over Mississippi State.

 

Tai’yon Devers, DE, Minnesota

Devers made an impact in his first game on campus, recording two sacks, two tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles in Minnesota’s win over Oregon State.

 

D’Cota Dixon, DB, Wisconsin

Dixon clinched Wisconsin’s victory over LSU by grabbing an interception with less than a minute remaining.

 

Steven Dunbar, WR, Houston

Dunbar was quarterback Greg Ward’s favorite target on Saturday, as he torched Oklahoma’s secondary for 125 yards on seven catches.

 

Troy Dye, LB, Oregon

Dye – a true freshman – is a promising piece for new coordinator Brady Hoke. He led the Ducks with 11 stops and recorded one sack and 4.5 tackles for a loss in Saturday’s win over UC Davis.

 

Related: Seven-Step Drop: Truth and Lies About Week 1

 

Ross Dzuris, DL, Nebraska

Nebraska’s defensive line entered 2016 with major question marks, but it looks like Dzuris is part of the solution. He recorded three tackles for a loss and two sacks against Fresno State.

 

Amba Etta-Tawo/Ervin Phillips, WR, Syracuse

Dino Babers’ high-powered attack is already starting to take shape. These two receivers combined for 26 catches for 297 yards and two scores against Colgate.

 

Chris Evans, RB, Michigan

Evans (a true freshman) led Michigan with 112 rushing yards and two touchdowns in Saturday’s win over Hawaii.

 

Justin Evans, DB, Texas A&M

Evans ranked second on the defense with eight stops and recorded two picks off UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen.

 

Related: College Football Post-Week 1 Top 25

 

Gerald Everett, TE, South Alabama

Everett is quietly one of the nation’s best tight ends and grabbed eight passes for 95 yards and the game-winning score to beat Mississippi State.

 

Elliott Fry, K, South Carolina

Fry had plenty of distance and accuracy on a 55-yard bomb with less than a minute remaining to give South Carolina a 13-10 victory over Vanderbilt on Thursday night.

 

Troy Fumagalli, TE, Wisconsin

Fumagalli was the preferred target for quarterback Bart Houston, catching seven passes for 100 yards in the win over LSU.

 

James Gilbert, RB, Ball State

Ball State’s ground attack carried new coach Mike Neu to a victory on Friday night, with Gilbert recording 160 yards and two scores on 29 carries.

 

Teriyon Gipson, RB, New Mexico

Gipson averaged a whopping 22.6 yards per rush and recorded 181 yards and two scores in New Mexico’s 48-21 victory over South Dakota.

 

Related: Week 1 of the College Football Season Reminded Everyone of Three Things

 

Chad Hansen, WR, California

Hansen looks like the go-to receiver for quarterback Davis Webb after grabbing 14 receptions for 160 yards and two scores in the opener against Hawaii.

 

Kenny Hill, QB, TCU

Hill’s first start for TCU was a huge success. He completed 33 of 49 throws for 439 yards and two scores and rushed for 45 yards and three touchdowns.

 

Zach Hoffpauir, S, Stanford

Hoffpauir returned to Stanford for his senior year after playing baseball in 2015. He led the Cardinal defense with nine tackles against Kansas State.

 

Nate Holley, S, Kent State

Holley is one of the MAC’s top defenders and was everywhere in Kent State’s game against Penn State. Holley led the defense with 17 tackles (one for a loss).

 

Demetrius Jackson, DL, Miami

Jackson recorded five tackles (three for a loss) and two sacks in the win over Florida A&M.

 

Julian Jackson, DE, Wake Forest

Jackson recorded five tackles (two for a loss), two sacks and one forced fumble against Tulane.

 

Related: Post-Week 1 College Football Awards

 

A.J. Jefferson, DL, Mississippi State

Jefferson dominated the line of scrimmage on Saturday, recording seven tackles (four for a loss) and two sacks against South Alabama.

 

Aaron Jones, RB, UTEP

Jones gashed New Mexico State’s defense for 249 yards and two touchdowns on 31 attempts.

 

Daniel Jones, QB, Duke

David Cutcliffe’s next star quarterback? Jones was impressive in his first start for the Blue Devils, throwing for 189 yards and two touchdowns in an easy win over North Carolina Central.

 

Tyler Jones, QB, Texas State

Jones guided Texas State to a road upset win over Ohio after throwing for 418 yards and four scores.

 

Micah Kiser, LB, Virginia

Kiser was one of the bright spots in Virginia’s loss to Richmond. He recorded 14 stops, one sack and two forced fumbles.

 

Justin Lawler, DL, SMU

Lawler recorded eight tackles (four for a loss) and 3.5 sacks in SMU's win over North Texas.

 

Ira Lewis, DL, Baylor

Lewis looks like a key cog for coordinator Phil Bennett on a rebuilt defensive line. He recorded three tackles for a loss in Friday’s win over Northwestern State.

 

Sefo Liufau, QB, Colorado

Liufau was sharp in Colorado’s impressive win over Colorado State. He completed 23 of 33 throws for 318 yards and one score, while ranking second on the team with 66 rush yards.

 

Related: College Football's Twitter Guide for the 2016 Season

 

Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech

Mahomes torched Stephen F. Austin for 483 passing yards and four scores and also led the Red Raiders with 57 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

 

Devante Mays, RB, Utah State

Mays rumbled through Weber State’s defense for 208 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries.

 

Erik McCoy, C, Texas A&M

Redshirt freshman anchored the line for Texas A&M in Saturday’s win over UCLA.

 

Nick Mullens, QB, Southern Miss

Mullens helped Southern Miss engineer a huge comeback against Kentucky, as he threw for 258 yards and two scores and added two more touchdowns on the ground.
 

Anthony Nelson, DE, Iowa

Nelson was impressive in his first game for the Hawkeyes. He led all Iowa defenders with 2.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for a loss, while recording two forced fumbles against Miami (Ohio).

 

Philip Nelson, QB, East Carolina

In his first appearance in a FBS game since 2013, Nelson threw for 398 yards and five scores and rushed for one touchdown.

 

Jake Oldroyd, K, BYU

Oldroyd nailed a 33-yard kick on his first career attempt to give BYU an 18-16 win over Arizona.

 

Devine Ozigbo, RB, Nebraska

Nebraska pounded the rock (51 attempts) against Fresno State, with Ozigbo leading the team with 103 yards and two scores on 17 carries.

 

Related: Seven-Step Drop: Truth and Lies About Week 1

 

Marcus Ripley, K, Texas State

In his first collegiate appearance, Ripley connected on both of his field goal attempts, including a 27-yard field goal to send the game into overtime.

 

Isaac Rochell, DL, Notre Dame

Rochell had a strong performance against Texas. He recorded nine stops (2.5 for a loss).

 

John Ross, WR, Washington

Ross showed no rust from a season-ending knee injury suffered last year. He recorded five catches for 90 yards and two scores and added a 92-yard kickoff return against Rutgers.

 

Curtis Samuel, H-Back, Ohio State

Samuel accumulated 261 total yards and three touchdowns in Ohio State’s 77-10 rout over Bowling Green.

 

Tanzel Smart, DL, Tulane

Smart is a force on the interior for coach Willie Fritz and helped the Green Wave limit Wake Forest to 3.2 yards per play.

 

Maurice Smith, DB, Georgia

Smith’s decision to transfer to Georgia paid big dividends for Kirby Smart’s defense in Week 1. He broke up two passes and recorded five tackles against the Tar Heels.

 

Greg Stroman, DB, Virginia Tech

Stroman picked off two passes in Virginia Tech’s win over Liberty on Saturday.

 

Tyrone Swoopes, QB, Texas

Texas successfully used the 18-wheeler package to perfection in the win over Notre Dame. Swoopes rushed for 53 yards and three scores on 13 attempts.

 

Matthew Thomas, LB, Florida State

Thomas was ineligible to play last season but delivered a standout performance in his first game back with the Seminoles. He recorded seven tackles (one for a loss) against Ole Miss.

 

Justin Thomas, QB, Georgia Tech

Thomas connected on two crucial passes for 48 yards on Georgia Tech’s game-winning drive to beat Boston College in Ireland

 

Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU

In his first action with BYU since Nov. 1, 2014, Williams recorded 162 yards on 29 attempts.

 

Rawleigh Williams, RB, Arkansas

Williams missed the final six games of 2015 due to a neck injury but showed no ill-effects in the opener against Louisiana Tech. He rushed for 96 yards and one score on 24 attempts.

 

Troy Williams, QB, Utah

Former Washington quarterback was sharp in his debut for the Utes. Williams completed 20 of 35 throws for 272 yards and two scores.

 

Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

Williams announced his return from a neck injury in a big way. He caught nine passes for 174 yards against Auburn.

 

Eric Wilson, LB, Cincinnati

Wilson recorded 15 stops (three for a loss) and two sacks as Cincinnati limited Tennessee-Martin to seven points on Thursday night.

 

A.J. Wolf, DL, Duke

Wolf dominated the line of scrimmage against North Carolina Central and recorded three sacks and four tackles.

 

Thomas Woodson, QB, Akron

Woodson threw for 407 yards and six scores in a 47-24 win over VMI.

Teaser:
College Football's Most Underrated Performances from Week 1
Post date: Wednesday, September 7, 2016 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/seven-step-drop-truths-and-lies-college-football-after-week-1-2016
Body:

Week 1 of the 2016 college football season was billed as the best ever and, while there were some disappointing aspects of the schedule, it ended up delivering considering the number of quality games, close calls and historic upsets that occurred.

 

It can be easy to overreact to some of the results around the country, but our first taste of real football in seven months is going to alter our preseason perception of many teams no matter what. For some teams, that’s a good thing. For others... not so much. It’s a long year so plenty can change and it’s important to keep in mind the perspective of the past two national champions, which both suffered losses in September.

 

That said, here are three truths we told ourselves before the season that still ring true and three lies that don’t hold up now that everybody has kicked off.

 

Truth: Alabama reloads and it doesn’t matter who the quarterback is. The kings of college football will reign until toppled and a dynasty will roll on.

 

Ponder, for a second, how Nick Saban reached deep into his arsenal of facial expressions and pulled out that infamous scowl following his team’s 52-6 evisceration of USC and remarked that his team could have played better. That is the level the Crimson Tide are operating at and it’s hard not to step back and admire just what a machine the team is each week. The defense looks as good as ever judging by the opener and the thought of three-plus years of Jalen Hurts has to be a scary thought for anybody on the schedule.

 

Capturing back-to-back titles is hard. Running through the week-in and week-out gauntlet of the SEC is hard. But no team looks as capable of winning it all as Alabama does (again). Even if the team were to suffer a loss, it could be safe to pencil in the Tide for the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Eve.

 

Lie: Brandon Harris is going to improve and LSU’s offense will be much more than Leonard Fournette off tackle.

 

Raise your hand if you were among the throngs of people who naively believed that LSU would magically be better on offense this year. Raise your hand if you thought that Harris would make the leap simply by being a year older. Raise your hand if you thought that, despite three years of sub-par offenses, Cam Cameron would magically live up to his lofty salary as the Tigers’ coordinator.

 

Ok, you can all put your hands down. Perhaps we should have been tipped off that the message coming out of spring practice was that Harris was pushed by a quarterback transfer from Purdue. Les Miles addressed things on defense by bringing in Dave Aranda but it defies logic as to why he hasn’t done the same to try and fix LSU’s Achilles heel since he arrived in Baton Rouge. This team can still regroup and make it to the College Football Playoff if things break right but that scenario seems light years away based on the state of the Tigers’ offense against Wisconsin.

 

Truth: The Pac-12 has a bunch of good teams, but no elite one.

 

The season always evolves and nowhere do teams seem to grow and improve more than in the Pac-12. But in searching for an elite team that could put all that “left out of the Playoff talk” to bed for the second year in a row, it wasn’t exactly a big start for the league out West. UCLA faltered in a big perception game at Texas A&M, Stanford never seemed to completely put away Kansas State and USC was blown off the field by Alabama. Mix in Arizona’s loss to BYU, Oregon and Utah not looking too sharp against lower-level teams and Washington State losing to an FCS foe, and it wasn’t a banner week for Larry Scott’s league that is already battling a negative narrative.

 

Yes, Washington looked good but how much are we really going to learn from the Huskies blowing out Rutgers? The league looked about what we expected it to look like — not a great thing for a conference everybody picked to be left out of the final four.

 

Lie: The hype is deserved for Tennessee.

 

Appalachian State is very good team so don’t throw the Volunteers under the bus just yet after a narrow escape in the opener. Yes, the offensive execution needs vast improvement if the team is going to win the division and the defense was surprisingly lackluster for as many NFL Draft picks there are on that side of the ball. The real test will come against Virginia Tech this Saturday and we’ll see if the team can respond but the brakes can be pumped a little on the hype train given how tight Tennessee played.

 

The real revelation of the week came from the Georgia Dome however. Nick Chubb looked fantastic in his return from a knee injury and true freshman Jacob Eason looked like the budding star we were led to believe. Just as impressive was the defense that limited North Carolina to just 156 yards passing. Remember, the Vols host Florida and then go to Georgia in consecutive weeks. It sure seems like this is the same old SEC East we’ve become used to and that tends to result in a bungled mess at the top.

 

Truth: Houston has a real shot at the College Football Playoff.

 

It’s still going to take a perfect storm for a Group of Five team to crack the College Football Playoff but the first thing Houston needed happened on Saturday when the team beat Oklahoma in all three phases of the game. We won’t know how the committee really views the Cougars’ candidacy until much later in the year but it’s apparent that the opportunity is real coming out of Week 1. The potential for two-loss champions out of the Big 12 and Pac-12 really would help a ton. Louisville, which visits later in the season, is primed to be a top-15 team this year too.

 

It’s a long road to the final four and surviving a college football schedule unscathed is extremely tough. Still, Houston has a way better shot at making it than Boise State or TCU ever did in the BCS era and the Cougars will receive way more media attention on the subject than those two ever had.

 

Lie: Charlie Strong changing offenses is just delaying the inevitable.

 

On just about every list of head coaches on the hot seat, Texas’ Strong could be found near the top. The fans in Austin have been restless for half a decade and beyond frustrated with the team’s offense ever since Colt McCoy left campus. Strong opted to try a third different offensive system in as many years and the saga of landing Sterlin Gilbert from Tulsa was enough to fill a “30 for 30” documentary. Many expected the offense to improve — nowhere to go but up, after all — but wondered if importing the Baylor system would result in the wins necessary to keep Strong around for another season.

 

Well as it turns out, everything is just fine on the 40 acres after Sunday night. The opening act was impressive against a Notre Dame defense that has plenty of talent and it does indeed appear the Longhorns have a quarterback in true freshman Shane Buechele. Just as big for Strong’s hot seat, Texas looks like it will be fun to watch on offense and that’s something UT fans haven’t been able to say in years.

 

Stat of the week

 

By the time you read this, Hawaii is finally back in Honolulu and recovering from the monster of all road trips. Factoring in both of their “Week 1” games against California (in Sydney, Australia) and at Michigan, the Rainbow Warriors flew a remarkable 19,112 miles for their first two games. The circumference of the earth is 24,901 miles so that means UH flew three-quarters of the way around the planet for the first “week” of the college football season.

 

If one were to add up all the non-conference road trips that Power Five teams will take, Hawaii’s 19,112-mile trek is more than:

 

- All 14 SEC teams will travel this season for all of their non-conference games (12,940 mi.)

- All 14 Big Ten teams will travel this season for all of their non-conference games (12,590 mi.)

- All 10 Big 12 teams will travel this season for all of their non-conference games (9,455 mi.)

 

So yes, in a span of two actual weeks and one game week, Hawaii traveled more than three Power Five conferences will the entire season for non-conference games. The Rainbow Warriors will travel a total of 46,568 miles in the air and 766 miles by bus this season according to the school.

 

Good thing Hawaii football players can earn frequent flyer miles.

 

Also notable: Hawaii kicked off against Michigan at 6 a.m. in Honolulu. The Rainbow Warriors kick off against UT-Martin on Saturday at 6 p.m. local time, a difference of 12 hours on game day that make Stanford’s “body clock” issues of last season look silly by comparison.

 

Tweet of the week

 

Superlatives of the week

 

Best player: Lamar Jackson, Louisville (17-of-23, 286 yards, six touchdowns, 119 yards rushing, two touchdowns)

Heisman five: 1. Nick Chubb (Georgia), 2. Greg Ward Jr. (Houston), 3. J.T. Barrett (Ohio State), 4. Christian McCaffrey (Stanford), 5. DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame)

Team of the week: Texas

Goat of the week: Mark Stoops, Kentucky

Quote of the week: “It’s hard to take positives out of a butt-whooping like that.” - Bowling Green coach Mike Jinks after Ohio State recorded a school-record 776 yards of total offense in a 77-10 win over the Falcons.

 

Play of the week

 

Lots of options this week (Houston’s Kick-Six, Jabril Peppers’ hurdle, Penn State’s kicker bringing the wood) but Nebraska honoring punter Sam Foltz is my pick.

 

 

Super 16

 

I’m a voter in the FWAA/National Football Foundation Super 16 Poll and will be releasing my ballot here every week. Here’s my ballot heading into Week 2.

 

1. Alabama

2. Florida State

3. Houston

4. Ohio State

5. Clemson

6. Michigan

7. Louisville

8. Texas

9. Washington

10. Wisconsin

11. Texas A&M

12. Stanford

13. Ole Miss

14. Notre Dame

15. Georgia

16. Iowa

 

Just missed the cut: Oklahoma, Tennessee, Boise State, TCU, UCLA, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Toledo, Florida

 

Pre-Snap Reads

 

Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee (Bristol, Tenn.)

This game will likely set an attendance record at a college football game so it’s worth tuning in for the atmosphere alone. Virginia Tech had a solid start to the Justin Fuente era in its opener while Tennessee failed to impressive against a very good Appalachian State team. The Volunteers should come out on top in this one but expect a close game given the defenses involved.

 

Arkansas at TCU

Both teams didn’t exactly come out of the gates and light the world on fire in their openers, with Arkansas avoiding an upset by Louisiana Tech and TCU giving up a remarkable 41 points to an FCS team. Perhaps both were trying to be extra conservative knowing this clash was awaiting but it makes this much more of a toss-up than previously thought. The Horned Frogs have the better offense and are at home, so they’ll be the pick however.

 

BYU at Utah

The Holy War is one of the nastiest rivalries in the country despite the image both schools give off and this year’s version is probably extra testy given that BYU has a new head coach in former Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake and the fact that the two played a fun Las Vegas Bowl just a few months ago. Neither team looked super sharp to begin the season but the edge lies with the Utes in what should be a great rivalry game.

 

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

Teaser:
Seven-Step Drop: The Truths and Lies of College Football After Week 1
Post date: Tuesday, September 6, 2016 - 17:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-podcast-week-1-recap
Body:

Week 1 of the college football season is in the books and the guys break down the historic weekend. Braden Gall, Mitch Light and David Fox recap:

 

- So, I guess it really was the greatest weekend in college football history. Houston was the biggest surprise and the biggest winner in Week 1. But how does it change the way we view Oklahoma?

 

- Was the SEC's 7-7 record really the end of the SEC's dominance? Or does scheduling have a lot more to do with it than anyone seems to think? Alabama, Georgia and Texas A&M all posted big wins for the SEC while LSU's Les Miles continues to show he's unfit to lead the Tigers program.

 

- Notre Dame vs. Texas. That's all.

 

- Freshmen quarterbacks were a huge hit in Week 1. Alabama, Florida State, Georgia and Texas all seemed to have found their signal caller of the future.

 

- Did the Pac-12 actually have the worst weekend in college football?

 

 

Check out the Athlon Sports 2016 College Football Rankings No. 1 to 128.

 

You can order your preseason Athlon Sports college football magazines here with Amazon.com.

 

Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall @AthlonMitch or @DavidFox615 or email [email protected]. The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com/podcastiTunesStitcher and our podcast RSS feed.

Teaser:
College Football Podcast: The Week 1 Recap
Post date: Tuesday, September 6, 2016 - 13:16
All taxonomy terms: syndicated, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/nfl-2016-regular-and-postseason-predictions
Body:

The NFL is finally ready to return to the field after more than seven months, and appropriately enough, it all starts with a rematch of the game that ended last season. Denver looks considerably different than the team that defeated Carolina 24-10 back on Feb. 7 to win Super Bowl 50.

 

The personnel changes for the Broncos go well beyond who is playing quarterback, but it’s probably what's going to get the most attention. But Denver isn’t the only team entering the season with questions or uncertainty at arguably the most important position on the field. New England will have Jimmy Garoppolo and not Tom Brady leading the offense for the first four games. Dallas is turning to rookie Dak Prescott with Tony Romo sidelined by a broken bone in his back, while Minnesota traded for Sam Bradford after Teddy Bridgewater dislocated his knee and tore his ACL in a non-contact injury during practice on Aug. 30.

 

On the other hand, the Panthers don’t have to worry about their quarterback, as Cam Newton is the reigning NFL MVP. Newton and his team have one goal in mind for this season, and it’s the same for the other 31 teams - get to the Super Bowl.

 

So can the Broncos mount a strong defense of their title or is this Newton and the Panthers’ year to win it all? The answer to both of those questions is no based on how a panel of Athlon editors and NFL contributors see the 2016 season playing out. In addition to the predicted standings for every conference, our esteemed panelists present their Wild Card (WC) picks as well as the respective conference championship game (CG) matchups and offer their best guess as to which teams will face off at NRG Stadium in Houston on 5, 2017 to determine the recipient of the Lombardi Trophy.

 

AFC

AFC East
  Rob Doster
@AthlonDoster
Bryan Fischer
@BryanDFischer
John Gworek
@JohnGworek

Steven Lassan
@AthlonSteven

Mark Ross
@AthlonMarkR
1
2
3
4
AFC North
1
2
3
4
AFC South
1
2
3
4
AFC West
1
2
3
4
AFC Playoffs
WC
WC
CG Patriots over
Steelers

Steelers over

Patriots

Steelers over
Chiefs
Patriots over
Steelers

Steelers over

Patriots

NFC

NFC East
  Rob Doster
@AthlonDoster
Bryan Fischer
@BryanDFischer
John Gworek
@JohnGworek
Steven Lassan
@AthlonSteven
Mark Ross
@AthlonMarkR
1
2
3
4
NFC North
1
2
3
4
NFC South
1
2
3
4
NFC West
1
2
3
4
NFC Playoffs
WC
WC
CG Cardinals over
Packers
Packers over
Seahawks
Cardinals over
Packers
Packers over
Seahawks
Cardinals over
Panthers

 

Super Bowl LI

  Rob Doster
@AthlonDoster
Bryan Fischer
@BryanDFischer
John Gworek
@JohnGworek

Steven Lassan
@AthlonSteven

Mark Ross
@AthlonMarkR

 
       over

   over

     over
  

        over
     

     over
  

 

Teaser:
NFL 2016 Regular and Postseason Predictions
Post date: Tuesday, September 6, 2016 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-top-waiver-wire-pickups-week-2-2016
Body:

Week 1 of college football is in the books, and the season has already produced some unlikely, fantasy-relevant performances from players that likely were not on rosters to begin the season.

 

A successful college fantasy football season hinges on a keeping a close eye on the waiver wire and AthlonSports.com will be the place each week during the year to find the top pickups for your roster.

 

Below are the top waiver wire selections following Week 1.

 

Jalen Hurts (QB, Alabama)

Oh Nick Saban, you sneaky, sneaky man. During the week prior to Alabama’s opening matchup against USC, Saban had announced to reporters that Cooper Bateman and Blake Barnett had separated themselves from the pack, and were the two quarterbacks the staff was getting ready to play in Week 1. Well, it certainly didn’t work out that way as Hurts received the majority of the snaps and made the most of his opportunity – combining for four touchdowns in the convincing win. Hurts looks to be the guy moving forward and his dual-threat abilities (plus his absurdly talented receiving corps) makes him a must-add this week.

 

Aaron Duckworth (RB, Idaho)

It was imperative for the Vandals to find a replacement for departed starting running back Elijhaa Penny, who accounted for a combined 22 rushing touchdowns the previous two seasons. One may have appeared this past weekend in Duckworth as the junior rushed for 108 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Montana State. It’s too early to say Duckworth can match Penny’s production from the previous two seasons, but this was certainly a promising start for the first-year starter.

 

Justin Crawford (RB, West Virginia)

Crawford was the forgotten man during fantasy draft season as it seemed true freshman Kennedy McKoy was making moves towards the No. 2 spot behind starter Rushel Shell. But it was the former highly-touted JUCO recruit who had himself a game against a tough Missouri front seven, as Crawford ran for 101 yards and a touchdown while filling in for an injured Shell (leg cramps). Head coach Dana Holgorsen stated after the game that Shell would be fine for next week, but Crawford looks to have sealed up the backup job and should receive his fair share of carries in the coming weeks.

 

Anthony Scott (RB, East Carolina)

New Pirates head coach Scottie Montgomery was known for using multiple backs during his days as the offensive coordinator at Duke, but he may have found his full-time starter in Week 1 with the emergence of Scott. On just 11 carries, the junior Scott rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown while also adding in nine catches for 90 yards and two more scores. That kind of versatility in the passing game makes Scott a must-add in PPR leagues.

 

Devin Gray (WR, Cincinnati)

Cincinnati had to replace its top six wide receivers from a season ago, leading to some uncertainty at the position entering 2016. While the Bearcats did have their struggles offensively against UT-Martin, Gray made a big impact with five receptions for 111 yards to lead the team. A No. 1 wide receiver in a potential top-20 passing offense is a valuable player to have in fantasy football, so Gray should be snatched up immediately.

 

Amba Etta-Tawo/Ervin Phillips (WR, Syracuse)

All the hype amongst the Syracuse receiving corps this offseason was centered on starters Steve Ishmael and Brisly Estime, yet it was Etta-Tawo and Phillips who led the way for the Orange against Colgate. Phillips, who spent time at running back last season, started in the slot and led the team with 14 receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown. Etta-Tawo, a graduate transfer from Maryland, now leads all of college football in receiving after Week 1 after his 210-yard performance. Head coach Dino Babers’ offense produced plenty of fantasy standouts during his tenure with Bowling Green and it already looks like that will be the case at Syracuse as well.

 

Taj Williams (WR, TCU)

TCU was another team that provided college fantasy players with a conundrum during draft season as the Horned Frogs had around 10 possible starters amongst their wide receiver corps. We all knew about sophomore KaVontae Turpin, but other than that, it was a guessing game as to who would emerge as the No. 2 option with so many others vying for the role. That question may have been answered in the form of Williams, the highly-touted junior college transfer. In his TCU debut, Williams caught 11 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown against South Dakota State. It’s early, but the similarly built (6-3, 180) Williams looks more than capable of filling the hole left by Josh Doctson. And with the way TCU throws the football, that means Williams should see plenty of targets in the coming weeks.

 

— 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:
College Fantasy Football Top Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 2
Post date: Tuesday, September 6, 2016 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/week-1-2016-college-football-season-reminded-us-only-three-certainties-life-death
Body:

After the first week of college football’s 2016 season, we are stuck asking the same question we ask at some point every fall:

 

Why are college kickers so bad?

 

We’ve grown so accustomed to college football’s otherwise insanely high level of play we aren’t even surprised anymore when someone like Todd Gurley takes the NFL by storm as a rookie.

 

But the gap between college kickers and those in the NFL remains as big as their difference in pay.

 

Whereas NFL kickers made a 20-yard extra point so automatic (99.3 percent made in 2014) that the league decided to move the attempt back 13 yards starting last season, a week doesn’t go by in college football without a missed extra point or other chip shot impacting the outcome of a game.

 

This past Thursday, a missed extra point by Appalachian State kicker Michael Rubino ended up costing the Mountaineers a victory over No. 9 Tennessee in a 20-13 overtime loss; Rubino also missed a 42-yard field goal with 5:24 left in the game that would have won it.

 

Granted, it’s the Sun Belt Conference, where schools don’t get the top high school kickers in the country.

 

But this is a problem that has plagued the entire sport, including none other than mighty Alabama, “the NFL’s 33rd team” that has won four national titles in the last seven seasons.

 

Four missed kicks (three by Cade Foster, one by Jeremy Shelley) in 2011 cost the Crimson Tide “The Game of the Century” vs. LSU. Three more missed field goals (Foster, again) lost them the 2013 Iron Bowl against Auburn, better known as the “Kick Six” contest.

 

And since then, things haven’t gotten much better. Alabama’s current kicker, senior Adam Griffith, has so far converted a woeful 67 percent of kicks in his career with the Crimson Tide.

 

On Saturday, it was SEC counterpart Mississippi State that was done in by an epic college kicker miss, as Westin Graves botched a 28-yarder with six seconds left to cost the Bulldogs the game against South Alabama.

 

 

And on Sunday, Texas nearly blew a program-defining win over Notre Dame because of a blocked extra point returned for two points. The block was clearly the fault of kicker Trent Dominigue, who had almost zero lift on the attempt and had it swatted away despite minimal penetration by Notre Dame’s defensive line.

 

 

And yes, this is the same Texas team that lost to Cal last September because of — you guessed it — a missed extra point.

 

 

It boggles the mind how this continues to be such a problem, year after year.

 

Obviously we don’t expect college kickers to be nearly as good as their NFL brethren.

 

It’s simple math: There are 128 FBS teams compared to 32 NFL squads and the turnover is minimal because kickers can play in the league for two decades. So as much as they may not seem like it after a miss under pressure, NFL kickers are truly extraordinary at their jobs.

 

But we aren’t asking college kickers to make 60-yard bombs to win games. We’re just asking them to consistently hit the ones under 30 yards.

 

That doesn’t seem like too much to ask and yet, somehow, it is.

 

Hell, the hashtag #CollegeKickers has become entirely dedicated to the art of missed extra points and field goals on fall Saturdays.

 

So what’s the reason for this ineptitude?

 

The best explanation I’ve seen came from former UCLA and Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe for Deadspin in 2014:

 

“Want to know why your team has a sh*tty kicker? Because your team has a sh*tty coach who doesn't know the first thing about the basic fundamentals of kicking and punting, but figures that a soccer castoff will do just fine so long as he gets screamed at loudly enough.

 

In my five years of college ball, and eight years in the NFL, I did not have a single special teams coach or head coach who had the faintest idea how it is that I did my job, and that is how it is EVERYWHERE.”

 

 

Case in point: Alabama’s special teams coach is Burton Burns, a former Nebraska fullback and career running backs coach who just had special teams added on to his normal job this past offseason more casually than coleslaw is tacked on to every meal at a bad diner.

 

This is because FBS teams are limited to just nine on-field position coaches, so the special teams coach often pulls double duty despite no previous experience coaching the unit even for the country’s best teams.

 

So until that changes and coaches finally treat kicking like the difference between winning and losing like the position often is, enjoy sweating bullets every time your kicker trots onto the field.

 

 

— Rankings by Jim Weber, a veteran college sports journalist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. Weber has written for CBS Sports Network, NBCSports.com, ESPN the Magazine and the college sports website he founded and sold, LostLettermen.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JimMWeber.

 

(Photos courtesy of Getty Images)

Teaser:
Week 1 of the 2016 College Football Season Reminded Us of Only Three Certainties in Life: Death, Taxes & Crappy College Kickers
Post date: Tuesday, September 6, 2016 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/five-thoughts-notre-dame-after-week-one-2016
Body:

The good news following Notre Dame’s 50-47 double overtime loss to Texas is that it was just week one. The Fighting Irish have 11 more games and if they were going to lose, early is better than late. But that is about where the positivity ends. Notre Dame came in as a team with College Football Playoff hopes and though those are not completely gone, the chances are substantially dimmer after the loss.

 

While some of Notre Dame’s preseason concerns showed up, there were also expected strengths that let the Irish down at times. And in a lot of ways, this game looked similar to a few other recent Notre Dame contests.

 

Here are five thoughts on Notre Dame following the loss at Texas.

 

DeShone Kizer is the Quarterback

Brian Kelly said on ESPN after the game that no decision has been made on the quarterback position. But come on. Kizer was much better than Malik Zaire on Sunday night and it could be argued that if he had played more, Notre Dame would have scored enough to beat Texas. Zaire’s three possessions resulted in no points; Kizer produced six touchdowns on his own. Case closed.

 

Stopping a Fast-Paced Offense

Here we go again. On Oct. 11, 2014 Notre Dame went to 6-0 by beating North Carolina 50-43. But the Heels exposed a flaw in defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder’s system. They played at a fast pace and Notre Dame couldn’t keep up. Fast-forward almost two years and defending an up-tempo offense is still a problem. Texas came out breakneck speed and Notre Dame looked confused much of the time. On several occasions, Irish players were not in position when Texas snapped the ball and the result was positive Longhorn yardage. So the question needs to be asked — is this something Notre Dame can fix?

 

While There are Questions About the Defensive Scheme...

There is a talent issue as well. Notre Dame started a free safety that is really a strong safety and for various reasons was not a starter during his four years at California. The strong safety is really a hybrid linebacker and he is coming off two ACL tears. The cornerbacks seem far from elite. There is no pure pass rusher. Tackling is a big problem. Van Gorder may not be the best fit, but the talent and depth on his side of the ball is suspect as well.

 

Stopping the Run

With Jarron Jones, Daniel Cage and Jerry Tillery in the middle of the defensive line, with Isaac Rochell at one end, with an emerging Nyles Morgan at middle linebacker, and with two bigger safeties, Notre Dame should have a strong rush defense. But Texas ran the ball very effectively. They didn’t get big chunk plays — their longest rush was for 19 yards – but the Longhorns’ ball carriers constantly beat up the Notre Dame defense with four- and five-yard gains. Tempo was a factor, but so was the physicality of the Texas running attack. With teams like Michigan State and Stanford coming up, Notre Dame will struggle mightily if it can’t stop the run.

 

Lack of Finish

This was another game during the Kelly era where Notre Dame was in position to win a game on the road against a good team and could not get it done. It happened twice last year, at Clemson and at Stanford. In 2014, it was Florida State. Going back further there was the debacle at Michigan in 2011 and the disappointment of the Michigan State fake field goal in ‘10. Notre Dame had several chances to put Texas away late in the game and once again the Irish came up short.

 

— 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:
Five Thoughts on Notre Dame After Week One
Post date: Tuesday, September 6, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/five-thoughts-clemson-after-week-one
Body:

For Clemson, getting to 1-0 was considerably more difficult than most thought it would be. A double-digit favorite heading to the Plains, Clemson had to knock down two Auburn Hail Mary attempts to preserve a 19-13 victory on Saturday night.

 

While getting a win on the road against an SEC team is always a good thing, there is plenty that Clemson has to clean up. Here are five thoughts now that Clemson is 1-0.

 

Mike Williams is Back

Any doubts as to whether or not Clemson’s star wide receiver is fully healthy following last year’s season-ending neck injury suffered in the opening game are gone. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder from Vance, S.C., caught nine passes for 174 yards. Quarterback Deshaun Watson targeted Williams early and often, renewing a connection that has been missing for nearly two years. The next step will be to keep Williams rolling while incorporating the other talented receivers who combined for just 10 catches and 74 yards on the night.

 

Yards Were Hard to Come By

Watson threw for 248 yards and Wayne Gallman ran for 123 more. But none of those came easy thanks to a rugged Auburn defense. Last year Clemson was second in the nation with 100 plays of 20 or more yards, an average of nearly seven per game. Against Auburn, Clemson had just three of those big chunk plays and the longest play from scrimmage was a 34-yard pass to Williams. The Tigers will have an opportunity to reignite their explosiveness as they play Troy and South Carolina State in the next two weeks.

 

Red Zone Defense

The Clemson defense also was very stingy, allowing just 262 total yards. But Clemson really clamped down on Auburn in the red zone. Late in the third quarter, Clemson stopped Auburn short on a fourth-and-one inside the five-yard line on a play where Christian Wilkins recovered a Jeremy Johnson fumble. In the fourth quarter, Clemson held Auburn to a field goal on one red zone possession and linebacker Ben Boulware intercepted a Sean White pass at the goal line on another. While Auburn did punch in a touchdown to make it a one score game with 3:22 left, the Clemson red zone defense came up huge in the victory.

 

The Dexter Lawrence Hype Was Real

Head coach Dabo Swinney has raved about Lawrence ever since the Wake Forest, N.C., product enrolled in January. There were flashes in the spring, but it’s hard to know exactly what a true freshman can do until the real games begin. Lawrence showed on Saturday night that he will be a force immediately. His stat line of seven total tackles (five solo) along with one tackle for lost yardage doesn’t begin to tell his impact on the game. The 6-foot-5, 340-pounder was disruptive the whole night and will be a focus of every opponent going forward.

 

Mental Mistakes

It was the first game, so some issues are expected. What was not expected were two mental errors by Tiger veterans late in the game that allowed Auburn to hang around. On the late Auburn touchdown drive that cut the lead to six points, Clemson forced an incompletion on third and 10. But Boulware, a senior, hit the quarterback late, giving the other Tigers a first down. Auburn scored on the next play. Moments later, instead of going down in bounds to allow the clock to run, Gallman got close enough to the sidelines where he was forced out, stopping the clock. Because Auburn was out of timeouts, this mistake probably cost 30 seconds and gave Auburn a chance to get the ball back and move into Hail Mary territory. It was just the first game, but these are the types of mistakes that need to be cleaned up before facing Georgia Tech in the ACC opener on Sept. 22.

 

— 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:
Five Thoughts on Clemson After Week One
Post date: Tuesday, September 6, 2016 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army West Point Black Knights, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, syndicated, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-week-1-awards-2016
Body:

College football’s Week 1 slate for 2016 was billed as the best opening weekend in the history of the sport. Needless to say, the games didn’t disappoint. Florida State-Ole Miss, Texas-Notre Dame, North Carolina-Georgia and Auburn-Clemson were just a few of the standout games from the opening weekend of action.

 

With the first weekend of games in the books, it’s time to take a look at the best of the best and honor some of the top performances. Here’s a look at Athlon Sports’ picks for the offensive, defensive, coordinator, team, freshman and unsung hero from Week 1:

 

College Football Week 1 Awards

 

Offensive Player of the Week: Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia

Chubb showed no rust from the knee injury that ended his 2015 season. In Georgia’s 33-24 win over North Carolina on Saturday, Chubb gashed the Tar Heels’ defense for 222 yards and two scores. Additionally, Chubb’s 32 carries were the third-highest mark in his career.

 

Defensive Player of the Week: DeMarcus Walker, DE, Florida State

Walker led the charge for Florida State’s defense in the second half in Monday night's win over Ole Miss and was a big reason why the Rebels were limited to six points over the final two quarters. The senior end recorded six tackles (4.5 for a loss), one forced fumble and 4.5 sacks.

 

Freshman of the Week (Offense): Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State

With Ole Miss aiming to stop Dalvin Cook, all of the pressure on Florida State’s offense was placed on Francois’ shoulders. However, the redshirt freshman delivered in a big way on Monday night, torching the Rebels defense for 419 yards and two scores. He also rushed for 59 yards on nine carries. Most importantly, Francois never panicked under pressure and protected the ball (zero turnovers).

 

Co-Freshmen of the Week (Defense): Ed Oliver, Houston/Dexter Lawrence, Clemson

There were a couple of other standout performances by freshmen on defense this week, but Oliver and Lawrence earn a share of this award. Playing in the trenches as a true freshman isn’t easy, but Lawrence and Oliver certainly showed they were up to the task in Week 1. Oliver recorded seven tackles (two for a loss) and two sacks against Oklahoma, while Lawrence picked up 10 tackles (one for a loss), one sack and one pass breakup in the win over Auburn.

 

Coordinator of the Week: Lane Kiffin, Offensive Coordinator, Alabama

For the third year in a row, Alabama entered an offseason with a question mark at quarterback. And once again, a new quarterback isn’t going to be an issue for the Crimson Tide offense. Lane Kiffin’s play-calling and scheme is a big reason why, and Alabama’s offense got off to a good start in Week 1 by gashing USC for 465 yards (7.4 per play) in a 52-6 blowout on Saturday night. Kiffin’s work with quarterbacks is already showing, as true freshman Jalen Hurts was sharp (6 of 11 for 118 yards and two scores) in his first action with the Crimson Tide.

 

Team of the Week: Houston

Quarterback Greg Ward’s clutch throws and a standout performance by Houston’s defense guided the Cougars to a 33-23 victory over Oklahoma on Saturday. Under coach Tom Herman’s watch, Houston is 4-0 against Power 5 opponents. The season is only one week old, but the win over the Sooners was huge for Houston’s playoff hopes in 2016.

 

Unsung Hero of the Week: Brandon Wilson, CB, Houston

Wilson is one of Houston’s most versatile players and is the leader for a rebuilt secondary this season. The senior was instrumental in the 33-23 win over Oklahoma on Saturday, as he recorded 10 stops (one for a loss), one pass breakup and a crucial play on special teams in the second half. With the Cougars leading by two in the third quarter, the Sooners lined up for a 53-yard field goal to take the lead. However, Austin Seibert’s kick was short, allowing Wilson to weave his way through the Oklahoma field goal unit and return the missed kick for a touchdown. Wilson’s play was a huge turning point in Saturday’s game and easily one of the highlights from a crowded Week 1 slate.   

Teaser:
College Football Week 1 Awards 2016
Post date: Tuesday, September 6, 2016 - 09:00

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