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All taxonomy terms: Overtime, Life
Path: /skip-bayless-10-things-you-didnt-know

Skip Bayless is known around the world for his piping hot takes and brash tone, both on TV (formerly of ESPN and now FS1) and on Twitter. However, there is a lot more than meets the eye with the First Take and Undisputed media personality. Here are 10 things that you (probably) didn’t know about Skip Bayless.


Skip Bayless1. He was born John Edward Bayless II, but his parents began calling him Skip at an early age. Eventually, he had his name legally changed to Skip.


2. Skip was born in Oklahoma City and grew up there. His parents owned a barbecue restaurant in the city called “Hickory House”.


3. At his high school, Northwest Classen, Bayless was the salutatorian and became a sports columnist for the school paper during his junior and senior years.


4. Upon graduation he was awarded the Grantland Rice scholarship (named after the legendary sportswriter) to attend Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.


5. At Vanderbilt, Bayless served as the sports editor for the Vanderbilt Hustler, the school’s publication. He was also a member of Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity, spending two years as the organization’s sports director.


6. After graduating cum laude from Vanderbilt in 1974, Skip worked for several newspapers in major cities including the Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times, Dallas Morning News, Dallas Times Herald and the Chicago Tribune.


7. Bayless won the Texas Sportswriter of the Year award, voted on by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, three separate times.


8. His first full-time TV gig was alongside Woody Paige in the “1st and 10” segment of the show Cold Pizza on ESPN2. Cold Pizza was later succeeded by First Take.


9. Skip is 65 years old, born Dec. 4, 1951, to be exact.


10. Bayless has a cameo in “Rocky Balboa”, the film released in 2006. In it, he calls Balboa “completely overrated” on a 1st and 10 segment with Woody Paige and Jay Crawford.

Post date: Tuesday, December 6, 2016 - 10:15
Path: /college-football/nebraska-cornhuskers-2016-team-awards

Although the 2016 regular season campaign did not end the way many in Husker Nation would have liked it to, the Nebraska Cornhuskers showed significant progress -- both in terms of adapting to head coach Mike Riley's culture and system as well as in the win column.


The progress was driven by the individual performances and overall improvements of several Nebraska players, combined with some memorable moments throughout the season.


Offensive MVP: Tommy Armstrong, QB

This was not about stats -- it was about reality and the eye test. Nebraska was a different team when Armstrong was out of the game or not at 100 percent. His skill set and leadership were on full display against Oregon and Minnesota. He willed his team to victories in those games.


Defensive MVP: Nate Gerry, DB

Gerry evolved into one of the best safeties in college football over the last two years. He became an enforcer and intimidating presence in the secondary as well as a key asset in defending the run. He had some very timely interceptions and was perhaps the surest tackler on the Blackshirt defense.


Best Freshman: Tre Bryant, RB

Bryant rose from the bottom of the depth chart to essentially become the No. 2 option at running back before season's end. He showed flashes of elite playmaking ability both out of the backfield and on special teams.


Best Play of the Season: Armstrong's Game-Winning Run Against Oregon

The senior quarterback put the Nebraska team on his back and carried them 34 yards to victory in a game that felt like it was always going to set the tone for the season.


Best Performance: Armstrong vs. Minnesota

The Huskers quite simply don't win the game without Armstrong. Statistically, he had better games in 2016. That said, his 70 percent completion rate and 6.8 yards per carry were the difference for Nebraska in a one-score game.

Best Game: Nebraska 24, Northwestern 13

The Huskers soundly defeated what eventually proved to be a solid Northwestern squad. It was a total team effort on both sides of the ball, as Nebraska topped 300 yards rushing on offense and were in Northwestern's backfield the entire night on defense.


Defining Moment: Armstrong carried off the field against Minnesota

Having just scrambled for what was essentially the game-winning touchdown, Armstrong came up hobbling. His offensive line quickly came to his aid and carried him to the sideline. If it wasn't clear before, Armstrong had become the face of Nebraska football and his team felt obligated to finally carry him when he needed help -- as opposed to the other way around.


Biggest Surprise: The Play of the Defensive Line

New defensive line coach John Parrella seemed to light a fire under a unit that was feared by many (including myself) to be the team's biggest weakness before the season started. By midseason, it was apparent that the unit was in fact one of the team's strengths.


Biggest Disappointment: Devine Ozigbo, RB

Late last season and early in the 2016 campaign, Ozigbo looked as if he was about to rise up and become Nebraska's next great workhorse at running back. Injuries and some unexplained absences in games prevented that from happening.

Senior That Will Be Missed the Most Next Season: Tommy Armstrong, QB

No brainer. The system wasn't designed for his skill set, but his leadership and playmaking ability allowed Nebraska to thrive offensively when he was on the field. Armstrong was the right man at the right time during a significant transition in Husker history.

Player to Watch in 2017: Chris Jones, DB

Jones will return for his senior season and will be the most talented and seasoned players in the Nebraska secondary. His play during the first half of 2016 was a little better than in the second, but that may very well have been part of what motivated him to return. He's a prototypical lockdown corner with the size and speed to match up with any skill position player. His ability to play on an island will give Nebraska's defense much more freedom schematically.

Biggest Offseason Question Mark: Improving Aggressiveness in the Trenches

Two of Nebraska's three losses were a result of being outmuscled at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Personnel-wise, not much is going to change on either line for Nebraska heading into 2017. Defensively, it's just a matter of changing attitude. On offense, however, Mike Riley must now give serious thought about transitioning away from the current balanced attack that catered to Tommy Armstrong's skills to a more pass-heavy scheme. Constantly having your offensive line in pass-protection mode is not the way to set the tone and control the line of scrimmage -- especially in the Big Ten. Given that, it's tough to tell how Riley is going to adapt his offense to fit his future signal-callers while simultaneously conforming to life in a blue-collar conference.


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

Nebraska Cornhuskers 2016 Team Awards
Post date: Tuesday, December 6, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-playoff-schedule-analysis-wr-te-dst

In looking ahead to the next three weeks, fantasy owners need to make the best decisions possible when it comes to setting up their lineup. It's always hard because nothing is a sure thing when it comes to fantasy football. However, in looking at history so far this season, we can attempt to predict the outcomes of the games in Weeks 14-16.


In order to be sure your fantasy team can win three more games, here is some analysis of the upcoming schedules for the wide receiver, tight end and defense/special teams (DST) positions.

Related: Fantasy Football 2016: Playoff Schedule Analysis for QB, RB


Wide Receivers


Good: Washington, Los Angeles, Atlanta, San Diego

No team has a "best" schedule, but four teams have pretty good ones, meaning they have at least two matchups with teams in the top 10 in terms of most fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers. The Rams get Seattle in Week 15, but that game is bookended by matchups with Atlanta and San Francisco, both among the top five most generous teams for opposing wide receivers. It's hard to trust any Los Angeles offensive player (including Todd Gurley), but Tavon Austin may have some value in the playoffs, provided he’s healthy.


It's no secret fantasy owners are starting Julio Jones, but any other Falcons WR is too hard to trust. For the Redskins, DeSean Jackson and Jamison Crowder face Carolina and Chicago in Weeks 15 and 16, both of which are good matchups. Both are still available in at least 15 percent of leagues, so if they are available in yours, pick them up.


For the Chargers, Travis Benjamin is available in more than 40 percent of fantasy leagues and Tyrell Williams is available in more than 20 percent. They face Carolina and Oakland in the first two weeks of the fantasy playoffs. Williams has been the top receiver while Benjamin was out with a knee injury, but the former is dealing with a shoulder injury of his own. Both may have WR2 value throughout the fantasy playoffs.


Bad: Baltimore, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville

The good news for the Colts and Jaguars is that even though they have two tough matchups in the first two weeks of the playoffs, the outlook is more appealing in Week 16. However, T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Allen Robinson owners do have to get through those two tough weeks first. Both teams play Houston and Minnesota in the first two weeks, a pair of defenses that have made life very difficult on opposing wide receivers.


DeAndre Hopkins and the Texans face Jacksonville and then Cincinnati in Weeks 15 and 16. Hopkins has struggled all year, and at this point, if fantasy owners got to the playoffs in spite of him, they have a tough road ahead. He has still put up points against tough defenses and is understandably tough to bench, but in non-PPR leagues he has been a disappointment.


Baltimore faces New England and Pittsburgh in Weeks 14 and 16. Fantasy owners may choose to employ Steve Smith Sr. or Mike Wallace as WR3 or flex options, and they should be ok in those games. The Ravens have struggled offensively all year (save for Week 13), but those two matchups aren't terrible. When Wallace last played Pittsburgh in Week 9, he had four receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown. The matchups aren't great, but Smith and Wallace should at least be serviceable.


Ugly: Cincinnati

This may comfort those A.J. Green owners who lost their WR1 to injury, as he’s not expected back for the fantasy playoffs. It’s also bad news of any owners who have or recently added Brandon LaFell or Tyler Boyd to their teams. These two have the worst playoff schedule for wide receivers. They face Pittsburgh and Houston in Weeks 15 and 16, both of which are in the top five in terms of fewest fantasy points allowed to the position. Fantasy owners likely didn't count on either of them to get to the playoffs, and it may be best to simply drop them and add someone with more upside.


Tight Ends


Best: Chicago, San Diego

Unfortunately for fantasy owners, Chicago doesn't exactly have a tight end to use with Zach Miller (broken foot) done for the season. However, Antonio Gates – and even Hunter Henry owners – should be happy because the Chargers have games against Carolina, Oakland and Cleveland on tap for Weeks 14-16. These teams are among the top 10 in terms of most fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends. However, neither tight end took advantage of another similar appealing matchup (at Atlanta in Week 7), so that’s something to keep in mind.


Good: Greg Olsen, Carolina; C.J. Fiedorowicz, Houston

In Week 13, Fiedorowicz led the Texans in targets. Although it was Ryan Griffin that caught the touchdown, Fiedorowicz has had at least four receptions in each of the last three games. In the fantasy playoffs, he faces Indianapolis in Week 14 and Cincinnati in Week 16, both of which are in the top 10 for fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends. The last time Fiedorowicz faced Indianapolis (Week 6) he posted six receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown. He's available in 60 percent of leagues and should be picked up for owners that need a fill-in tight end.


Olsen owners should be happy to see that he faces Washington and Atlanta. The last time he faced Atlanta (Week 4), he had six receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown. When he faces Atlanta again in Week 16, fantasy owners can hope for a similar stat line to lead them to a championship.


Bad: Jimmy Graham, Seattle; Jared Cook, Green Bay

Cook had one good game, and that's been it. He has a bad playoff schedule, and that should be enough for fantasy owners to either drop him for a better option or leave him on the waiver wire. Graham owners, however, should be a little nervous. The Seahawks face the Packers, Rams and Cardinals in the playoffs. The matchup in Green Bay is a good one, but the Rams are in the bottom 10 teams for fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends, while the Cardinals have given up the fewest to the position. Graham had five receptions for 53 yards against Arizona in Week 7. That is the best game a tight end has had against the Cardinals, as they have yet to surrender a touchdown to a TE this season.


Ugly: Delanie Walker, Tennessee; Martellus Bennett, New England

The Titans face Denver in Week 14 followed by Kansas City. Both of these defenses are among the league’s best overall and have limited the damage done by opposing tight ends. Walker has struggled in tough matchups for his position this year (just two catches for 34 yards against Houston, for example). While this isn't a reason to bench Walker, it may be enough to consider picking up the aforementioned C.J. Fiedorowicz, who has a great playoff schedule (or Vance McDonald for Week 15 vs. Atlanta).


Bennett owners have been disappointed by his performance recently, as Rob Gronkowski is no longer a factor when it comes to targets. The Patriots face Baltimore and Denver in the first two weeks of the playoffs, and this should be enough reason to bench Bennett and find a better option. He's been dealing with an ankle injury, and obviously it is limiting him on the field.


Defense/Special Teams (DSTs)


Best: Atlanta, Seattle

For fantasy owners looking to grab a DST to stick with through the fantasy playoffs, Atlanta is the way to go. Seattle is already widely owned, but faces teams in Weeks 15 and 16 (Los Angeles and Arizona) who are in the top five in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing DSTs. The Falcons have three such matchups – Rams, 49ers and Panthers. Atlanta hasn’t been an amazing or all that productive DST this season, but that could change during the fantasy playoffs.

For fantasy owners that have been sticking with a solid DST but are looking at bad matchups (Kansas City, Week 14 vs. Oakland for example), some options include Miami for Weeks 14 and 15, Cincinnati for Week 14, Buffalo for Week 15, and New England for Week 16.


Worst: New York Giants, Baltimore

Most fantasy owners likely aren't using the Giants DST, but if they are, the schedule is not fantasy-friendly. The G-Men face Dallas, Detroit and Philadelphia in the fantasy playoffs, all three of which are in the top ten for fewest fantasy points allowed to DSTs. Some fantasy owners may own the Ravens, however. They face the Patriots, Eagles and Steelers in Weeks 14-16. Like Philadelphia, New England and Pittsburgh have not been cooperative to allowing DSTs to rack up the fantasy points. Those who have relied on Baltimore to get them to the playoffs may want to look for another option.


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

Fantasy Football 2016: Playoff Schedule Analysis for WR, TE, DST
Post date: Tuesday, December 6, 2016 - 09:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-waiver-wire-week-14

Fantasy owners are either looking at the last week of the regular season or the first week of the playoffs as we enter Week 14 of the NFL season. By this point, the squad that got you to the playoffs should lead you through. However, for some fantasy owners, they are facing tough matchups and are looking to the waiver wire for fill-ins.

Related: Fantasy Playoff Schedule Analysis for QB, RB


The most important pickup is still running back handcuffs. Be sure your star is handcuffed, and if you have an extra roster spot, grab another fallback option. You just never know.


Matt Barkley, QB, Chicago Bears (3 percent owned)

It's a tough sell, but Barkley faces the Detroit Lions, who do allow fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Drew Brees’ owners are going to scoff at that notion, but Brees did have 326 passing yards and three interceptions. The Lions have been tougher against opposing quarterbacks recently and it's not like Barkley lit up the 49ers, but he is an option in two-QB leagues for Week 14. Chicago faces Green Bay in Week 15, which is another good matchup, for those who may be interested.


Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions (10 percent owned)

This is simply a flyer for those that either have an available IR spot or an empty spot at the end of their roster. The best running back pickups are handcuffs. Abdullah may return at some point this season, but it won't be Week 14. Fantasy owners may not even feel comfortable starting him in their potential fantasy championship, but if you have the roster spot, take a chance on Abdullah.


Malcolm Mitchell, WR, New England Patriots (29 percent owned)

Fantasy owners chasing the two-touchdown performance in Week 12 were rewarded with eight receptions for 82 yards in Week 13. With Rob Gronkowski out, someone had to step up. Martellus Bennett has been struggling, so Mitchell has become Tom Brady’s new target. With Danny Amendola out, Mitchell has a role in a pass-happy, high-scoring offense. He's a solid WR3 for the rest of the season.


Ladarius Green, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers (23 percent owned)

Green has slowly gotten more involved in the Steelers’ offense since returning to the field in Week 10. He had six receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown in Week 13, and he saw 11 targets, the most on the team. Pittsburgh faces Buffalo in Week 14, followed by Cincinnati. The Bengals are among the top five teams in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends. Delanie Walker owners should take note, as Walker has a very tough playoff schedule.


Cincinnati Bengals (31 percent owned) DST and Atlanta Falcons (15 percent owned) DST

The Bengals face the Browns in Week 14, and that’s all that needs to be said. It should come as no surprise that Cleveland has been generous to opposing DSTs this season. It is possible Robert Griffin III makes his return in Week 14, although it's not clear if that is a plus or a minus as it relates to a DST’s outlook.


The Falcons have one of the best playoff schedules for a DST. While Atlanta does not have an imposing defense, the Falcons have been putting up points and they face the Rams, 49ers and Panthers in the playoffs. All three of those teams are among the top 10 in most fantasy points allowed to opposing DSTs. Fantasy owners streaming DSTs could do worse than the Falcons for the playoffs.


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


(Malcolm Mitchell photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Fantasy Football 2016 Waiver Wire: Week 14
Post date: Tuesday, December 6, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-bowl-yahoo-pickem-team-and-group-names-espn-bowl-mania

So you've been asked by your buddies to set up or join a Yahoo College Bowl Pick'em game or ESPN's Bowl Mania. But you have no clue what to name your team, group, or what a witty slogan might be. Don't worry, we've got you covered. 


Here's a quick rundown of some of our favorite funny, clever, and stupid names that will hopefully inspire you to great college bowl-picking success.


The Glory Bowl


Making Bowls Great Again! 

I Came In Like a Wrecking Bowl


Harbaugh's Dad PantsHarbaugh's Dad Pants


Bowlin', Bowlin', Bowlin'


Lamar, Mr. Jackson if You're Nasty


I Shaved My Bowls for This?


Championship of Life Bowl

Bowl Cloggers

Bowl Busters


Bowl Sack


The Bowling Stones

Kicked in the Bowls

Jingle Bowls

Power Bowl


Bowlapalooza 2016

Bowls Deep


Magic 8-Bowls


Blue Bowls


We've Got a Nick Chubb-y


Muschamp's Temper Tantrums


Keeping Up with the Cardale Joneses


Bowl Cut


Kingsbury Skinny Jeans


Alabama's hottest fanShow Me Your TDs


Notre Shame


Toilet Bowl Bound


Smoke a Fat Bowl


Sumlin's Gotta Give


SEC Bowling Team


Any variation of Deez Nutz

Post date: Monday, December 5, 2016 - 15:33
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-podcast-final-weekend-review

Athlon Sports recaps Championship Week and breaks down the final Playoff rankings. Don't forget to subscribe here and rate us if you like (or don't like) what you hear!


- Alabama is boring and Clemson is really good. In fact, the Tigers might be the best team in the nation not named Alabama.


- Does Ohio State belong in the Playoff despite not winning the Big Ten? Did the Committee set a scheduling precedent by rewarding Washington? Is Michigan the fourth-best team in the nation?


- Is there really a "brand" or "TV ratings" bias on the Committee?


- What other bowl matchups are we looking forward to (I can give you one I do want to watch).


- Coaching Turnover: Is there a solution to the timing with which coaches take new jobs? The coaches and the players are blameless, so whose fault is it? And can it be fixed?



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

College Football Podcast: Final Weekend Review
Post date: Monday, December 5, 2016 - 12:38
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-playoff-schedule-analysis-qb-rb

Fantasy owners that have made the playoffs are now looking ahead to the main prize –the fantasy championship. At this point, the season consists of three wins. That's it. Teams likely need at least eight wins in order to make the playoffs in their respective league, so what's three more? Everything!


In order to be sure your fantasy team can win three more games, here is some position-by-position analysis of the upcoming Week 14, 15 and 16 schedules. Below you can find the breakdown on quarterbacks and running backs.

Related: Fantasy Football 2016: Playoff Schedule Analysis for WR, TE, DST




Best: Philip Rivers, San Diego

The Chargers will face Carolina, Oakland and Cleveland in Weeks 14-16. All three of those defenses are in the top 10 in terms of most fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. While two of those games are road games (Carolina and Cleveland) and require a west coast team to travel east, the matchups are great for Rivers. Currently, Rivers is in the top 15 in scoring at his position. He is a great backup option for Tom Brady (who faces Denver in Week 15) or Aaron Rodgers owners (see below). Admittedly, the chances of Rivers being available at this point are probably slim to none.


Good: Matt Barkley, Chicago; Brock Osweiler, Houston; Sam Bradford, Minnesota

Unfortunately for fantasy owners, the quarterbacks that have good fantasy matchups in the playoffs are the ones that no one wants to start. Barkley plays Detroit and Green Bay, both of whom are among the most generous defenses in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Osweiler faces Indianapolis in Week 14, which is a great matchup. Bradford plays Indianapolis in Week 15 and Green Bay in Week 16. It's going to be hard to trust any of them, but if fantasy owners are desperate – or willing to take a gamble, they're out there.


Bad: Ryan Tannehill, Miami; Blake Bortles, Jacksonville

Most fantasy owners didn't get to the playoffs because of Tannehill or Bortles, however, if they did, they should be on the lookout for better options to finish the deal. Tannehill faces Arizona, the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills in Weeks 14-16. The Cardinals are in the top five and the Bills are in the top 10 in terms of fewest fantasy points given up to QBs. In tough matchups in the past, Tannehill has struggled (186 yards, no touchdowns against Seattle; 204 yards, one touchdown against Buffalo earlier this year).


Bortles faces the Vikings, who have shut down quarterbacks, in Week 14, followed by the Texans in Week 15. While Bortles does excel in getting fantasy points in garbage time, he's going to be hard to trust, especially in Week 14. Fantasy owners that have used Bortles to get into the playoffs should be thankful, but look for another quarterback to take over.


Ugly: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay

Unfortunately for Rodgers owners, the Packers have the worst playoff schedule. Rodgers draws Seattle in Week 14 and Minnesota in Week 16, two of the stingiest teams in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Both of those games are in Green Bay, which is a plus for Rodgers, but fantasy owners should be a little nervous, especially if the weather becomes a factor and his hamstring injury lingers. The last time he played Minnesota (Week 2), he threw for 213 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Rodgers is second in fantasy points among all players, but his owners should be a little wary heading into the playoffs.


Running Back


Best: Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati

The Bengals play Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Houston in the fantasy playoffs. All three are in the top ten in terms of most fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs. The Browns and the Steelers are among the top five most generous, depending on league scoring. Hill has been maddeningly inconsistent, but those who have stuck with him and are in the playoffs may have their patience rewarded.


Good: Jonathan Stewart, Carolina; Todd Gurley, Los Angeles; Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland

Good matchups are music to fantasy owners’ ears, especially those who have suffered through Gurley's struggles. The Rams, as well as the Panthers and Browns have good fantasy matchups over the next three weeks.


In Stewart’s case, Carolina will face San Diego and Atlanta in Weeks 14 and 16. Both teams are in the top 10 in terms of fantasy points given up to opposing running backs. Stewart hasn't had a 100-yard rushing game yet, but he’s shown somewhat of a knack for getting into the end zone and should continue to see plenty of opportunities.


A consensus first-round pick, Gurley has been a gigantic disappointment this season. But if his owners were able to get into the fantasy playoffs in spite of him, the investment may finally pay off. Los Angeles has games against Atlanta and San Francisco on top in Weeks 14 and 16. Both of those defenses have struggled against the run and are among the top five in most fantasy points allowed to running backs.


As for Cleveland, it's not clear that Crowell will be the lead back moving forward. Duke Johnson may have a bigger role as the Browns are at the end of a lost season. Those who own Crowell or are looking for some depth at RB may want to consider picking up Johnson. The bottom line is that whoever gets the touches will be in a good position to do some damage, especially in Week 16 when Cleveland faces San Diego. Will a Brown lead your team to a fantasy championship? Probably not, but someone like Crowell or possibly Johnson may be able to contribute to that goal.


Bad: Rob Kelley, Washington; Rashad Jennings, New York Giants

Both of these backs are probably not starting running backs for playoff teams, but if they are, their schedules are tough. Kelley had a three-game stretch of great games, but that is likely probably it for the season. He has struggled since and still has games against Carolina and Chicago on tap for Weeks 15 and 16. While both of those matchups may not appear daunting on paper, both defenses have among the 10 teams that have given up the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.


Jennings has been disappointing for fantasy owners all year with injuries one of the reasons, and the playoffs should be no exception. The Giants face Dallas in Week 14, which is a tough matchup. They then face Detroit in Week 15, which isn't much better. If Jennings is on a playoff roster, he probably should stay on the bench.


Ugly: Theo Riddick, Detroit; Thomas Rawls, Seattle

Riddick isn’t exactly a top-flight fantasy RB to begin with, although he’s more valuable in PPR leagues, and his production may take a dip over these next few weeks. The Lions will play both Chicago and Dallas, both of which have been among the stingiest defenses for running backs this season. And while Rawls is coming off of a monster game (106 rushing yards, 2 TDs) that his owners have been waiting all season for, the upcoming schedule didn’t do him any favors either. The Seahawks will face NFC West foes Los Angeles and Arizona in Weeks 15 and 16, two brutal matchups. The last time Rawls faced the Rams was in Week 2 when he rushed for negative seven (-7) yards. That’s not the type of production you can afford in the fantasy playoffs if you hope to win a championship.


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

Fantasy Football 2016: Playoff Schedule Analysis for QB, RB
Post date: Monday, December 5, 2016 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-playoff-what-would-16-team-bracket-look-2016

Well, that was fun.


We're down to four teams to decide which one will be the champion of the wacky 2016 college football season. It's pretty cut and dry, right?




As always in college football, controversy reigns supreme this time of year – especially when it comes to the four-team College Football Playoff. And as always, the teams that will compete for the sport's national championship have been decided by opinion. That doesn't sit well with me, and it shouldn't sit well with you.


Because of that, I annually author and edit my plan for a 16-team College Football Playoff and demonstrate what it would look like during the current year. My plan gives every FBS team in the nation a clear road to qualify for the playoffs and win a national title while also leaving room for the personal opinions of a dozen or so people in a hotel in Dallas.


As great as the College Football Playoff is, the players, coaches and fans deserve better. My plan is simply better.


First and foremost, I'm tired of hearing about one of the main arguments against a 16-team playoff. It has to do with academics and finals and the worry about how to not let those things fall by the wayside. The problem is, the lower divisions make it work and somehow maintain their academic integrity. To help make my plan work – and in the interest of player safety – you eliminate one non-conference game and play an 11-game regular season. Teams would play nine conference opponents and two non-conference opponents. You could go eight and three as well. That part really doesn't matter.


My plan also allows Notre Dame and anyone else that wishes to do so to remain independent. Rest easy, Irish fans. You still get to act like you're better than us.


The plan for a 16-team playoff is fairly simple. You start by giving all 10 FBS conference champions an automatic bid. You then look to the same College Football Playoff committee rankings you have in place now to determine the six at-large teams. They are simply the top six teams in the rankings that did not win their conference.


You then seed them according to the final rankings. This season, 13 of your 16 participants are in the top 25. Naturally, those teams would get the top 13 seeds. The 14th through 16th seeds would go to the remaining four Group of 5 champions, who would be seeded according to the committee. Too easy. For this exercise, I am the committee.


Once the teams are seeded, the Round of 16 will be played on the home field of the higher-seeded team — just like the lower levels of college football. The quarterfinal games would be played as four of the six New Year's Six Bowls, which leaves two bowls open to the top four teams that did not qualify for the playoff. The semifinal and championship rounds would rotate every year to different neutral sites.


Here is what a 16-team bracket would look like in 2016:


No. 16. Appalachian State (Sun Belt) vs. No. 1 Alabama (SEC)


No. 9 USC (At-large) vs. No. 8 Wisconsin (At-large)


No. 12 Western Michigan (MAC) vs. No. 5 Penn State (Big Ten)


No. 13 Temple (AAC) vs. No. 4 Washington (Pac-12)


No. 14 San Diego State (MW) vs. No. 3 Ohio State (At-large)


No. 11 Florida State (At-large) vs. No. 6 Michigan (At-large)


No. 10 Colorado (At-large) vs. No. 7 Oklahoma (Big 12)


No. 15 Western Kentucky (C-USA) vs. No. 2 Clemson (ACC)


Look at that! A beautiful, 16-team tournament full of every champion in the land and six other quality football teams! And look at some of those matchups, not only in the first round, but potential ones right through the quarterfinals and semis.


Not only that, but you'd still have some potential fantastic matchups in the two New Year's Six Bowls that weren't part of the playoff. Those two bowls would have any combination of these four teams: Oklahoma State, Auburn, Louisville and West Virginia.


It's easy. It works. It would be a success. But right now, it's a pipe dream. Right now, we don't care about much in college football outside of impressing the playoff committee members. Right now, a team that didn't even win its division – much less its conference – is playing for a national title while its conference champion watches from home (or Pasadena).


In the meantime, every other level of college football has a better way of deciding a champion.


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


(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)

College Football Playoff: What Would a 16-team Bracket Look Like in 2016?
Post date: Monday, December 5, 2016 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, LSU Tigers, syndicated, SEC
Path: /college-football/lsu-tigers-2016-team-awards

The 2016 season was supposed to be one to remember for the LSU Tigers with 18 starters returning after finishing 9-3 a season ago. LSU was not only a preseason national title contender but thought of as perhaps the only team that could take down perennial college football juggernaut Alabama. Once the dust settled on the field, the Tigers ended the year 7-4 ranked No. 19 in the AP poll, a far cry from their preseason No. 5 ranking.


A 2-2 start with losses against Wisconsin (16-14) and Auburn (18-13) signaled the end of an era in Baton Rouge. After the road loss to the SEC West’s other Tigers, Les Miles was dismissed and replaced by interim head coach Ed Orgeron. Orgeron rallied the team to a 5-2 finish, holding No. 1 Alabama to 10 points before falling while beating Missouri, then-No. 23 Ole Miss, Arkansas, and No. 22 Texas A&M. The stunner was a 16-10 home loss to No. 21 Florida, a game initially scheduled to be played on Oct. 8 in The Swamp but was postponed and relocated due to Hurricane Matthew.


Through the good and the bad, LSU remained LSU with a top-20 rushing attack and a top-15 defense, and at times looked the part of a team no one wanted to face. Orgeron proved his worth and had the interim label removed despite rumors circulating of the Tigers’ interest in former Houston head coach Tom Herman, who was eventually hired by Texas.


Offensive MVP: Derrius Guice, RB

Before the season began, Leonard Fournette was a shoo-in to make it to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. After a nagging ankle injury limited Fournette, Guice emerged as LSU’s best player. The sophomore led the team and finished second in the SEC with 1,249 rushing and was tied for the conference lead with 14 touchdowns on the ground. Meanwhile, Fournette ran for 843 yards and eight touchdowns in seven games.


Defensive MVP: Kendell Beckwith, LB

Beckwith is an absolute beast. The senior linebacker followed up his 84-tackle 2015 campaign with a team-high 91 stops. He also was among the leaders in tackles for a loss (six), as the Tigers finished 13th in the FBS in total defense (323 ypg).


Best Freshman: Devin White, LB

With a senior-laden team complemented by a talented junior class, playing time for freshmen was hard to come by this season. But that didn’t prevent White from making an impact. White played in all 11 games (LSU lost one when it had to reschedule the Florida game), finishing with 25 tackles, two tackles for a loss, a forced fumble, and he also blocked a kick.


Best Newcomer: Danny Etling, QB

Etling, a Purdue transfer, may not have set the world on fire in the pocket but he helped jump start a passing offense that failed to materialize under Miles and 2015 starter Brandon Harris. Etling replaced Harris two games in and finished the season with 1,906 passing yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions. Etling almost was responsible for pulling off a comeback against Auburn, but his potential game-winning touchdown pass was overturned on replay when it was determined the game clock had expired before the ball was snapped.


Best Play of the Season: Derrius Guice’s 96-yard TD run vs. Arkansas

One week after a disappointing 10-0 loss to Alabama, LSU needed to bounce back on the road against the Razorbacks. Guice turned in the second-best single-game performance in school history, rushing for 252 yards on 21 carries (12.0 ypc) in the convincing 38-10 victory. The big blow was his 96-yard touchdown scamper in the fourth quarter, which set a new school record for longest play from scrimmage.


Best Performance: Derrius Guice vs. Texas A&M

Guice topped his outstanding game against Arkansas with a school-record 285 rushing yards against the Aggies in the regular season finale. Guice was a workhorse, toting the ball a school-record 37 times, while scoring four touchdowns (45 yards, 45, 6, 1) in the big 54-39 victory in College Station.


Best Game: 42-7 win against Missouri

Beating Missouri in 2016 was not a difficult task for most teams, but LSU needed this win, badly. Coming off a heartbreaking 18-13 loss to Auburn and with a new head coach on the sidelines, the players, coaches, and fans needed reason to believe everything would be okay. The result was a 42-7 home win against Missouri. The Tigers rushed for a season-high 418 yards with another season-high six rushing touchdowns in the rout.


Defining Moment: 16-14 loss to Wisconsin

It came right out of the gates. The loss to the Badgers at Lambeau Field put the Tigers on the defensive from the get-go as the weight of preseason expectations came crashing down at once. The loss also set the events in motion that eventually led to Les Miles’ dismissal. But the silver lining in all of this is the positive momentum that Ed Orgeron has produced, as he helped re-energize the fan base and clearly won the complete support and loyalty of his players even before he was named the permanent head coach.


Biggest Surprise: 38-10 win over Arkansas

In each of the past two season, following tough losses to Alabama, LSU went on to fall to the Razorbacks as well. While this season’s loss to the Crimson Tide put an end to the Tigers’ SEC title aspirations, they didn’t let the disappointment carry over. Instead, LSU invaded Fayetteville and promptly ran over and through Arkansas on the way to one of its most impressive victories of the season.


Biggest Disappointment: 16-10 loss to Florida

But the one step forward the Tigers took on the road against Arkansas was followed up by three steps backward at home in losing to the Gators. Even though LSU was the beneficiary of the game being rescheduled and relocated, it was Florida who made the necessary plays on offense and came up with the big goal-line stop at the end to steal a win in Death Valley. Not only did the victory clinch the SEC East for the Gators, the stunning loss temporarily put the skids on all the optimism surrounding the Tigers since Ed Orgeron took over as interim head coach.


Senior That Will Be Missed the Most Next Season: Kendall Beckwith, LB

Once again, there are a lot of talented LSU players who will hear their names called next spring in the 2017 NFL Draft. And Beckwith will most likely be one of the first. He is as talented as any other linebacker in the nation. LSU recruits as well as any other team, so someone will fill his position, but Beckwith was the heart and soul of the Tigers in 2016.


Player to Watch in 2017: Derrius Guice, RB

Leonard Fournette’s collegiate career is most likely coming to an end. LSU will not lack for talent next year with underclassmen like defensive end Arden Key and offensive linemen Will Clapp and Maea Teuhema in line to become the next standouts. But Guice has already shown what he’s capable of and next year he will be the undisputed No. 1 in the back field. The 5-foot-11, 212-pound sophomore finished 77 yards behind Arkansas’ Rawleigh Williams for the most rushing yards in the SEC and Guice played in one less game. With LSU likely to be among the top 25 teams entering next season, it’s entirely possible that he could also replace Fournette as the Tigers’ next Heisman Trophy candidate.


Biggest Offseason Question Mark: Quarterback Play

Les Miles built LSU into one of the top programs in the nation off recruiting. Year after year the Tigers excel on defense, special teams, and with their rushing attack. Until LSU brings in an offensive coordinator that can add a consistent passing game while developing a quarterback, this part of LSU’s game will always be in question. Danny Etling returns in 2016, but is he the guy that can take LSU to the College Football Playoff?


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

LSU Tigers 2016 Team Awards
Post date: Monday, December 5, 2016 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/dr-pepper-tuition-giveaway-throw-has-become-traveshamockery

The Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway — in which students compete against each other by throwing footballs through giant, inflatable Dr. Pepper cans — has provided some of the greatest moments of championship weekend over the years, such as Ivon “Dr. Pepper is the seriously the best thing to ever happen to me!” Padilla-Rodriguez in 2011.



But recently contestants have realized they can be much more accurate and efficient if they chest-pass footballs into the cans since they stand just five yards apart. At first, I tipped my cap to the ingenuity of the contestants, like how Takeru Kobayashi changed the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest forever by gobbling the meat and buns separately and dunking the latter in water to save room in his stomach.


But there’s a key difference in what Kobayashi did and what has happened to the Dr. Pepper challenge: Kobayashi’s revolutionary competitive eating tactic has enhanced the “sport” because competitors are now able to eat an ungodly amount of hot dogs in the span of 10 minutes.


The Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway, on the other hand, has been bastardized by this gimmick that has turned it into a basketball skills competition. We saw it all weekend at the championship games for the Pac-12, Big Ten, ACC and SEC: Students chest-passing footballs into giant Dr. Pepper cans while those on Twitter lambasted the practice:









The “winner” of the ACC Championship Game’s giveaway even had the stones to throw the football underhanded as if he was competing in horseshoes.



That’s why I’m calling for an amendment to the Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway to limit throws to an overhand motion or — gasp! — move the can 10 yards away from competitors.


And I vow to not drink a single Dr. Pepper until this change is implemented.


[Full disclosure: I don’t drink any soft drinks because of a bad kidney stone problem since high school, which makes this boycott quite convenient.]


Because at a turbulent time in this country when we are desperate to find issues we can all agree on, requiring a football passing competition to involve actually passing the football is a good place to start.


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

Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway “Throw-off” Has Become a Traveshamockery
Post date: Monday, December 5, 2016 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/seven-step-drop-nothing-controversial-about-years-college-football-playoff

Contrary to all the tweets, all the talking heads on television and all of the columns written, there was no drama in this year’s College Football Playoff selection process. There were zero surprises either.


The New Year’s Six on Monday was exactly as it was the prior Thursday night (aside from a few folks flipping Penn State and Wisconsin’s spots). Nothing changed with the matchups in the playoff either. In a season that lacked relative drama from start to finish, we should not have woken up on Sunday and feigned any disbelief about the outcome when the final rankings were released.


Alabama was an undisputed No. 1 seed and perhaps the most overwhelming favorite for a title in recent memory. Ohio State and Clemson’s resumes stood alone. Washington was the next best team. Whatever movement there was to include the Nittany Lions was heavily influenced by the recency bias of their win in Indianapolis later on Saturday night.


“The committee discussed why each team could be ranked No. 4. Washington had one loss, Penn State has two. Washington is a conference champion. So is Penn State. Washington's one loss is to top-10 Southern California. Penn State's losses are against an 8-4 team (Pitt), and they were non-competitive in their other loss (at Michigan),” committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said. “As you know, we pick the best teams. After considerable conversation about whether Washington or Penn State was better, the committee concluded that Washington is the better team.”


There was no drama. In the end the committee did what it was tasked to do — sort through the Power Five conference champions and other elite squads — and pick the four best teams. It was never about being deserving or head-to-head results or overall résumé. It was about the four best. They followed those guidelines just as they’ve done all season long.


Think back to the first set of rankings back at the start of November. The Crimson Tide went wire-to-wire as No. 1 and Clemson found themselves in the same spot at No. 2. Alabama beat the then-fourth ranked team to clear the path for the fifth-ranked Huskies. Old No. 6 Ohio State flipped places with then-No. 3 Michigan by beating the Wolverines straight up to take their place. Everything simply played itself out.


Penn State fans may be slightly ticked at being left out but they shouldn’t. A month into the season, many wanted to run James Franklin out of State College. Now they’re in the Rose Bowl, wearing the crown of the best league in the country and — maybe most importantly — get to avoid a Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl situation at the hands of Alabama.


And if they were to beat USC on Jan. 2, the Nittany Lions have a very realistic chance to finish in the top four in all of the final polls — if not higher. This is still a young team that is built to defend its league title next season with Ohio State and Michigan likely suffering key personnel losses.


“I would tell you that Penn State significantly elevated themselves in our conversation after their performance last night,” Houcutt added. “Having a chance to watch, with the other members of the Selection Committee, that second half performance, incredibly impressed and significantly elevated them into our conversations.”


Now attention can turn to the task at hand for the final four. Each has a quarterback who can put up points in a hurry — in vastly different ways. Each has a great front seven and these are certainly four of the best secondaries in the country no matter which way you slice things. All four should make for an exciting pair of games that certainly have the potential to be much closer than last season’s semifinals.


All of which makes for a delightful evolution of the College Football Playoff. There don’t need to be any great think-pieces or takeaways from this year’s decisions. The committee picked the four best teams and there’s no drama about any of the four.


That wasn’t the case in 2014, where Ohio State’s surprise inclusion instead of the Big 12’s conundrum of TCU and Baylor proved prescient as the Buckeyes ultimately won the national title. Things improved in 2015, with only minor questions about seeding and much bigger gripes about the dates of the semifinal games.


But there were none of those concerns in 2016. The committee, despite all the handwringing in November, got it right. They picked the four best teams to compete for the national title.


Now all that’s left is to see what unfolds in Atlanta, Glendale and Tampa.


Stat of the Week


Tweet of the Week


Superlatives of the Week

Best player: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

Team of the week: Temple

Honorary Les Miles Goat of the week: Jim McElwain, Florida

Quote of the week: Washington coach Chris Petersen on ‘We Want Bama’ signs: “Sometimes you’ve got to be careful what you wish for. I didn’t hold that sign up.”


Play of the Week


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 the postseason.


1. Alabama

2. Washington

3. Ohio State

4. Clemson

5. Michigan

6. Penn State

7. Oklahoma

8. USC

9. Wisconsin

10. Colorado

11. Louisville

12. Florida State

13. Western Michigan

14. Oklahoma State

15. West Virginia

16. Virginia Tech


Best of the rest: LSU, Stanford, Auburn, Temple, Pitt, South Florida, Houston, Miami, Air Force


Pre-snap Reads


Alabama vs. Washington (Peach Bowl)

At this point in the year, few give the Huskies a chance to topple the Goliath that is Alabama. The Tide are one of only two undefeated teams left in the country and have superior talent at just about every position on either side of the ball. Still, don’t discount Washington and head coach Chris Petersen from having four weeks to prepare. The secondary is very good and there are questions about whether Nick Saban’s team has been properly tested this year in a weak SEC. We’ll still pick Bama but this one should be much closer than folks expect.


Clemson vs. Ohio State (Fiesta Bowl)

This is a matchup NFL scouts have to be drooling over. Deshaun Watson vs. J.T. Barrett. A terrific Tigers front seven going against a host of Buckeyes skill position players. A loaded OSU secondary against some of the best pass catchers in the country. Plus you have the experience of two teams who have been down this road (in both the semifinals and national title game) before. It’s tempting to go with the ACC champions but we’ll lean toward Urban Meyer’s team until proven otherwise.


Penn State vs. USC (Rose Bowl)

This has to be one of the best non-playoff matchups out there and pits two of the hottest teams in the country against each other. The Trojans have the edge in skill position talent with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ronald Jones II and Adoree’ Jackson all getting an opportunity to showcase what they can do for the rest of the country. The Nittany Lions are no slouches though and Trace McSorley and company could have a big outing. We’ll lean toward the quasi-home team in this one but make no mistake, the winner should begin 2017 in the top three of all the polls next year.


— 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.


(Top photo courtesy of @CFBPlayoff)

Seven-Step Drop: Nothing Controversial About This Year’s College Football Playoff
Post date: Monday, December 5, 2016 - 10:00
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, 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 (OH) RedHawks, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Troy University, 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/ranking-all-40-college-football-bowls-2016-must-see-must-miss

College football’s regular season is over and the matchups for the 2016-17 bowl season are set. The bowl slate features 40 matchups and the national championship game to be played on Jan. 9 in Tampa, Fla. The postseason action starts on Dec. 17 with five matchups, including the New Mexico Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl and New Orleans Bowl. Additionally, there are eight bowl contests before Christmas, with several big games slated for Dec., 29, Dec. 30, Dec. 31, Jan. 1 and Jan. 2. The third College Football Playoff begins in Atlanta with the Peach Bowl between Washington and Alabama on Dec. 31, with Clemson and Ohio State meeting in the Fiesta Bowl later that night. 


Watching all 40 bowl games isn’t impossible, but it can be difficult prioritizing which matchups are must-see television around the holidays. 


Athlon ranks and previews all of the matchups from the must-see to the ones you can avoid. From No. 40 to No. 1, here’s a look at the bowl matchups in terms of watchability and quality of game.

Ranking All 40 Bowl Games: Must-Watch to Must-Miss


40. Heart of Dallas Bowl - Army (6-5) vs. North Texas (5-7)

Dec. 27 – Noon ET, ESPN


The Heart of Dallas Bowl pairing between Army and North Texas is the only rematch of the bowl season. Helped by seven turnovers from the Black Knights, the Mean Green won 35-18 on Oct. 22. After a 1-11 record last year, North Texas took a big step forward with five wins under new coach Seth Littrell. Running back Jeffery Wilson needs just under 150 yards (145) to reach 1,000 yards and gashed Army’s defense for 160 yards in the first meeting. Similar to North Texas, the Black Knights are a program headed in the right direction. Army is making its first bowl trip since 2010 and won as many games (six) as it did from 2014-15. As expected, the Black Knights lean on the ground game, with Andy Davidson (818 yards) and quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw (646) the top options. If Army holds onto the ball, a North Texas rush defense that surrenders 219.5 yards per game is vulnerable to the option.

Early Prediction: Army


39. Arizona Bowl - Air Force (9-3) vs. South Alabama (6-6)

Dec. 30 – 5:30 p.m. ET, Campus Insiders


Davis-Monthan Air Force base is less than 15 miles away from Arizona Stadium, so the Falcons should have plenty of support on Dec. 30. This is just the second Arizona Bowl, as last year’s matchup featured two Mountain West teams (Nevada and Colorado State). South Alabama is making its second bowl appearance in program history, but the Jaguars will have their hands full on defense. The Falcons rank fourth nationally in rushing offense (322.8 ypg), and four players have eclipsed the 600-yard mark. Quarterback Arion Worthman has provided a spark for Air Force’s offense since taking over late in the season. South Alabama ranks 98th nationally against the run and held only one opponent to less than 150 yards on the ground. When the Jaguars are on offense, keep an eye on running back Xavier Johnson (787 yards) and tight end Gerald Everett (49 catches).

Early Prediction: Air Force


38. Quick Lane Bowl - Boston College (6-6) vs. Maryland (6-6)

Dec. 26 – 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN


Former ACC Atlantic foes Boston College and Maryland meet for the first time since 2013 in Detroit. Both teams experienced a three-game improvement in the win column after disappointing 3-9 campaigns last fall. New coach D.J. Durkin was a big reason why Maryland finished 6-6, and the bowl appearance is the first building block in helping the program take a step forward in the rugged Big Ten East. After struggling mightily with turnovers (-18 margin), the Terrapins improved that total to minus-five in 2016. The ground game is the strength of Maryland’s offense, with sophomore Ty Johnson (845 yards) leading the way. Boston College ranks last in the ACC in scoring (19.1 ppg), but coach Steve Addazio’s team is strong on defense once again. The Eagles allow only 5.1 yards per play and 24.6 points per contest. End Harold Landry (15 sacks) is an underrated star for the Eagles.

Early Prediction: Boston College


37. New Orleans Bowl - Southern Miss (6-6) vs. Louisiana (6-6)

Dec. 17 – 9 p.m. ET, ESPN


After a one-year absence, the Ragin’ Cajuns are back in the New Orleans Bowl. Under coach Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana has made four trips to the Superdome  for this postseason matchup and won all four games. The Ragin’ Cajuns rank fourth in the Sun Belt in rushing (180.8 ypg), with running back Elijah McGuire (1,028 yards) and quarterback Anthony Jennings (322) carrying the offense. Southern Miss has been solid against the run, limiting opponents to 149.3 yards per game and ranking fourth in Conference USA in fewest points allowed (30.3) per game. First-year coach Jay Hopson had an up-and-down debut, as the Golden Eagles lost five out of six games after starting 4-1. However, the return of quarterback Nick Mullens from injury sparked Southern Miss to a 39-24 victory over Louisiana Tech in the regular season finale. Running back Ito Smith (1,774 yards) is another standout to watch.

Early Prediction: Southern Miss


36. Military Bowl - Temple (10-3) vs. Wake Forest (6-6)

Dec. 27 – 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN


Less than a month after defeating Navy for the American Athletic Conference title, Temple will return to Annapolis to take on Wake Forest in the Military Bowl. Coach Matt Rhule has Temple trending up with 20 wins over the last two years, and both sides of the ball will be a handful for the Demon Deacons. Quarterback Phillip Walker threw for 20 touchdowns in 2016, and the Owls have two running backs – Jahad Thomas and Ryquell Armstead – that reached 918 yards. Despite losing a couple of key defenders from last year’s group, Temple’s defense remains one of the best in the Group of 5 ranks. The Owls limit opponents to just 17.2 points per game and 4.6 yards a play. Wake Forest took a big step forward in coach Dave Clawson’s third year, reaching 6-6 after back-to-back 3-9 campaigns. Clawson is a program builder and had a young roster through his first two seasons. However, the Demon Deacons turned a corner in 2016 and can lean on a defense that limits opponents to 21.8 points a game.

Early Prediction: Temple


35. New Mexico Bowl - UTSA (6-6) vs. New Mexico (8-4)

Dec. 17 – 2 p.m. ET, ESPN


The first game of the 2016-17 bowl season features two of the nation’s top under-the-radar coaching jobs this year. UTSA is led by first-year coach Frank Wilson, who guided the Roadrunners to six wins and the first bowl appearance in program history. New Mexico is making its second consecutive bowl trip and the eight wins recorded in 2016 are the highest for this program since 2007. Coach Bob Davie has helped this program take a step forward recently, increasing the win total in three consecutive seasons. The Lobos rank No. 1 nationally in rushing offense, but UTSA’s rush defense limits opponents to 4.4 yards per carry. When the Roadrunners are on offense, the one-two combination of Jarveon Williams and Jalen Rhodes at running back figures to test a New Mexico defense ranked third in the Mountain West against the run.

Early Prediction: New Mexico


34. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl - Idaho (8-4) vs. Colorado State (7-5)

Dec. 22 – 7 p.m. ET, ESPN


Thanks to some swapping of tie-ins, Idaho stays close to home for the postseason instead of making a trip to Tucson for the Arizona Bowl. The Vandals are moving to the FCS level in 2018 but that hasn’t slowed the progress of this program under coach Paul Petrino. After winning just two games from 2013-14, Idaho went 4-8 in 2015 and finished 8-4 this year – the program’s highest win total since 2009. Quarterback Matt Linehan has quietly produced a steady 2016 campaign (15 TDs, 2,803 yards), and the Vandals have been opportunistic (+8) to help win four games decided by one score or less. After a 3-4 start, Colorado State finished the season as one of the hottest teams in the Mountain West. The Rams won four out of their last five games, including a 63-31 blowout over San Diego State. Quarterback Nick Stevens returned to the starting lineup after an injury to Collin Hill and finished the year with 14 touchdowns and 1,491 yards. Receiver Michael Gallup emerged as one of the top targets in the Mountain West, catching 70 passes for 1,164 yards and 11 scores this fall.

Early Prediction: Colorado State


33. Hawaii Bowl - Hawaii (6-7) vs. MTSU (8-4)

Dec. 24 – 8 p.m. ET, ESPN


The Hawaii Bowl is the only college game on Dec. 24, so this is your best excuse if you need a trip away from the in-laws on Christmas Eve. Under the direction of first-year coach Nick Rolovich, Hawaii is back in the postseason for the first time since 2010. Rolovich – a former Hawaii quarterback – helped the Rainbow Warriors earn a three-game improvement in the win column this season. Hawaii’s offense won’t bring back memories of the June Jones era just yet, but this group improved its per-game average by nearly 10 points. The Rainbow Warriors will have their hands full on defense against MTSU’s high-powered attack. Of course, there’s an asterisk by the Blue Raiders’ offense. Quarterback Brent Stockstill suffered a collarbone injury in early November and missed the rest of the 2016 campaign. Stockstill’s status for this game is uncertain. If Stockstill can’t go, freshman John Urzua will start, with the MTSU offense leaning heavily on running back I’Tavius Mathers (2,093 total yards) and receiver Richie James (160.8 total yards per game). In terms of bowl selections, MTSU has the market cornered on the best destinations over the last two seasons. After playing in the Bahamas Bowl in 2015, the Blue Raiders are headed to Honolulu this year.

Early Prediction: MTSU


32. Cactus Bowl - Baylor (6-6) vs. Boise State (10-2) 

Dec. 27 – 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN


Boise State is no stranger to postseason trips to Arizona, as the Broncos have played in the Fiesta Bowl three times since 2006. This is Baylor’s seventh consecutive bowl appearance, but the Bears ended the year with six consecutive losses and lost starting quarterback Seth Russell to a season-ending leg injury. Freshman Zach Smith is a promising passer for Baylor and the late-season starts will ease his transition into the full-time role in 2017. Smith has a talented group of skill players at his disposal, including KD Cannon (73 catches) and running backs Terence Williams (945 yards) and Shock Linwood (751 yards). The Broncos have struggled to stop ground attacks (179.8 ypg allowed), so Linwood and Williams could have plenty of room to run. When Boise State has the ball, Baylor is going to have its hands full trying to slow down quarterback Brett Rypien and running back Jeremy McNichols. Expect plenty of fireworks on offense between these two teams. However, the Broncos should be a heavy favorite after the Bears finished the season with six consecutive losses.

Early Prediction: Boise State 


31. Bahamas Bowl - Old Dominion (9-3) vs. Eastern Michigan (7-5)

Dec. 23 – 1 p.m. ET, ESPN


The two previous matchups in the Bahamas Bowl produced plenty of points and entertaining games. In 2014, WKU held off Central Michigan in a 49-48 shootout, while Western Michigan won 45-31 over MTSU last year. This season’s matchup features an Old Dominion team making its first bowl trip in program history, and an Eastern Michigan program earning its first bowl appearance since 1987. The Monarchs have a dynamic offense, averaging 36 points a game behind quarterback David Washington and running back Ray Lawry. Coach Chris Creighton has brought marked improvement to Eastern Michigan in just three years, taking the Eagles from 1-11 last season to 7-5 in 2016. Quarterback Brogan Roback leads an EMU attack that ranks second in the MAC in passing offense.

Early Prediction: Old Dominion


30. St. Petersburg Bowl - Mississippi State (5-7) vs. Miami Ohio (6-6)

Dec. 26 – 11 a.m. ET, ESPN


The St. Petersburg Bowl may not rank too high on this list, but there’s some intrigue between the two teams meeting in the home of the Tampa Bay Rays (Tropicana Field). Thanks to a high APR, Mississippi State makes the postseason with a 5-7 record, and Miami (Ohio) started 0-6 and finished the year with six consecutive victories. The Bulldogs feature a rising star in quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, who recorded at least 365 total yards in four out of the team’s final five contests. A similar storyline took place on the RedHawks’ sideline, as Gus Ragland returned from a knee injury to throw for 15 touchdowns and zero interceptions during the six-game winning streak. Ragland and receivers should be able to find room to make plays, as Mississippi State has surrendered 31 passing scores this year. Miami (Ohio) ranks third in the MAC in scoring defense, but this unit’s ability to stop the run will be tested against Fitzgerald and running back Aeris Williams.

Early Prediction: Mississippi State


29. Dollar General Bowl - Ohio (8-5) vs. Troy (9-3)

Dec. 23 – 8 p.m. ET, ESPN


Troy was quietly one of the nation’s most-improved teams this year. After a 4-8 debut under coach Neal Brown in 2015, the Trojans finished 9-3 and just missed on claiming a share of the Sun Belt title. At 36 years old, Brown is one of the youngest head coaches at the FBS level and is a rising star to watch over the next couple of years. Troy’s offense led the Sun Belt by averaging 34.2 points per game, with quarterback Brandon Silvers (22 TDs) and running back Jordan Chunn (1,232 yards) leading the way. Silvers and Chunn face a tough Ohio defense, a group that ranks second in the MAC by holding opponents to 22.2 points per game. The Bobcats ranked near the bottom of the MAC (eighth) in offense, and there’s some uncertainty at quarterback after Greg Windham replaced Quinton Maxwell against Western Michigan in the conference title game. Ohio must lean on its defense to knock off the Trojans.

Early Prediction: Troy


28. AutoNation Cure Bowl - UCF (6-6) vs. Arkansas State (7-5)

Dec. 17 – 5:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network


The second edition of the AutoNation Cure Bowl is a home game for UCF. The Knights were one of the nation’s most-improved teams this fall, as new coach Scott Frost sparked a six-game improvement in the win column after an 0-12 record in 2015. Frost is known for his background on offense, but UCF is still working out some of the kinks on that side of the ball. Freshman quarterback McKenzie Milton (9 TDs) is promising and leads an attack averaging 30.1 points per game. However, the strength of this team is a defense limiting opponents to 24.1 points a contest. Arkansas State started 0-4 but rebounded to win seven out of the last eight games to claim a share of the Sun Belt title. The Red Wolves aren’t as explosive on offense as in recent years, but coach Blake Anderson’s team is led by a solid defense. Arkansas State ranks third in the Sun Belt in scoring defense (22.2 ppg) and holds offenses to 5.2 yards per play. Defensive lineman Ja’Von Rolland-Jones is one of the nation’s most underrated players, recording 18 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks in 2016.

Early Prediction: Arkansas State


27. Foster Farms Bowl - Utah (8-4) vs. Indiana (6-6)

Dec. 28 – 8:30 p.m. ET, FOX


Considering what transpired in early December, Indiana might be one of the most intriguing teams to watch during bowl season. Kevin Wilson resigned as the program’s head coach, and defensive coordinator Tom Allen was promoted to take his spot. Allen made a big difference on Indiana’s defense this year but this is his first opportunity to be a head coach. What tweaks will Allen implement with a month to prepare? In addition to the coaching turnover, the Hoosiers are going to have their hands full with Utah. The Utes have posted three consecutive winning records in Pac-12 play and were in the mix to win the South Division late into November. Running back Joe Williams returned from an early-season retirement to rush for 1,185 yards, and quarterback Troy Williams has provided more of a big-play element for the passing game. Utah is also strong on the line of scrimmage, with left tackle Garett Bolles clearing the way on offense, and end Hunter Dimick and tackle Lowell Lotulelei headlining the defensive front.

Early Prediction: Utah


26. Independence Bowl - Vanderbilt (6-6) vs. NC State (6-6)

Dec. 26 – 5 p.m. ET, ESPN


Vanderbilt and NC State visit Shreveport, La. with momentum on their side. Both programs scored huge victories over their in-state rival in Week 13, which earned the all-important sixth victory and clinched bowl eligibility. The Commodores have showed steady improvement in coach Derek Mason’s three seasons in Nashville. Mason’s decision to take over the play-calling duties on defense in 2015 paid big dividends, and the offense showed signs of life at the end of the 2016 campaign thanks to the emergence of quarterback Kyle Shurmur. The sophomore’s development has helped to ease some of the pressure on running back Ralph Webb (1,172 yards). The junior could find limited running room against a standout Wolfpack line, which ranked first in the ACC against the run. When NC State has the ball, the Wolfpack will have to keep tabs on Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham. The junior is one of – if not the best – defender in the SEC. Cunningham will be tasked with containing running back Matt Dayes (1,119 yards) and versatile tight end Jaylen Samuels (704 total yards).

Early Prediction: NC State


25. Birmingham Bowl - South Florida (10-2) vs. South Carolina (6-6)

Dec. 29 – 2 p.m. ET, ESPN


South Carolina’s hire of Will Muschamp was met with plenty of skepticism, but the former Florida head coach deserves plenty of praise for his coaching job this year. The Gamecocks finished 6-6, showed improvement on defense and developed some promising playmakers for 2017 and beyond for the offense. Freshman quarterback Jake Bentley took over the starting job midway through the season and finished with 1,030 yards and six scores. He should benefit from the extra practices for bowl preparation, as South Carolina will need to score some points to keep up with South Florida’s dynamic offense. Willie Taggart is one of the rising stars in the coaching ranks and guided the Bulls to an average of 43.6 points per game. However, Taggart left to take the coaching job at Oregon, leaving T.J. Weist to work as the program's interim coach. Quarterback Quinton Flowers is a dynamic dual-threat option, while running back Marlon Mack has posted three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.

Early Prediction: South Florida


24. Liberty Bowl - Georgia (7-5) vs. TCU (6-6)

Dec. 30 – Noon ET, ESPN


Considering the preseason expectations for both teams, it’s a bit of a surprise Georgia and TCU enter this matchup with a combined 13-11 record. New coach Kirby Smart inherited a roster in need of more repair than some may have realized over the offseason and handed the keys to the offense to true freshman quarterback Jacob Eason. The future looks bright for the Bulldogs with Eason’s development, and this team lost three of its five games by three points or less. TCU’s win total (six) is probably the bigger surprise considering the Horned Frogs were pegged by some as a dark horse to win the Big 12. What went wrong this season? The offense struggled to replace quarterback Trevone Boykin, as Foster Sawyer and Kenny Hill combined to throw 16 touchdowns to 14 interceptions. The offense also struggled to produce big plays and surrendered 26 sacks after giving up only 18 in 2015. Additionally, TCU’s defense didn’t take a step forward as most expected with seven returning starters. Neither team will salvage its season with a win in Memphis, but a victory would ease some of the disappointment.

Early Prediction: Georgia


23. Poinsettia Bowl - BYU (8-4) vs. Wyoming (8-5)

Dec. 21 – 9 p.m. ET, ESPN


Two old WAC and Mountain West foes meet for the first time since 2010 in San Diego on Dec. 21. This is also BYU’s 12 consecutive bowl trip, while Wyoming is making its first bowl trip since 2011. The Cougars won’t have quarterback Taysom Hill for this game, as the senior suffered a season-ending arm injury in the finale against Utah State. Although Hill is a big loss, backup Tanner Mangum is a proven option, throwing for 3,377 yards and 23 scores in 2015. Running back Jamaal Williams capped a standout career in Provo with 1,165 rushing yards this season and is a tough matchup for a Wyoming rush defense allowing just over 200 yards per game.  After a 6-18 start to his tenure in Laramie, Craig Bohl guided Wyoming to an 8-5 record and a Mountain Division title this fall. Brian Hill is one of the top running backs in the Group of 5 ranks, and quarterback Josh Allen has delivered a breakout year (26 TDs) in his first season as the starter.

Early Prediction: BYU


22. TaxSlayer Bowl - Georgia Tech (8-4) vs. Kentucky (7-5)

Dec. 31 – 11 a.m. ET, ESPN


Big victories against in-state rivals probably helped Georgia Tech and Kentucky move up in their conference bowl pecking order to land in Jacksonville. The Yellow Jackets knocked off Georgia 28-27 in Athens, while the Wildcats stunned Louisville 41-38 with a last-second field goal. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops appeared to be squarely on the hot seat after a 2-3 start, but the Wildcats finished the year by winning five out of their last seven games. Starting quarterback Drew Barker was lost for the season due to a back injury in September, yet the offense didn’t miss a beat with Stephen Johnson at the controls and a dynamic ground attack leading the way. Freshman Benny Snell was a breakout player for Stoops, rushing for 1,057 yards and 13 scores on just 179 carries. He’s joined by dynamic junior Boom Williams (7.1 ypc) in a backfield that ranked third in the SEC in rushing. Rushing and ground attacks are synonymous with Georgia Tech under coach Paul Johnson. The Yellow Jackets’ option scheme is tough to prepare for, with quarterback Justin Thomas the catalyst for an offense that averaged 257.4 rushing yards per game. Georgia Tech’s defense has struggled to stop the run (10th in the ACC) and will have its hands full against Snell and Williams. This is Kentucky’s first bowl trip since 2010 and the extra time to prepare could be enough to earn a slight advantage over Georgia Tech.

Early Prediction: Georgia Tech


21. Pinstripe Bowl - Pitt (8-4) vs. Northwestern (6-6)

Dec. 28 – 2 p.m. ET, ESPN


The last two Pinstripe Bowl matchups went into overtime and another close game wouldn’t be a surprise on Dec. 28. Under the watch of new coordinator Matt Canada, Pitt quietly averaged 42.3 points a contest in 2016. Canada did a good job of mixing up the run with James Conner (1,060 yards) and utilizing a passing game with quarterback Nathan Peterman (26 TDs) with few proven weapons at receiver. Northwestern got off to a rough start, opening 1-3 with losses to Illinois State, Western Michigan and Nebraska. The Wildcats showed steady improvement in the second half of the season, largely due to the development of quarterback Clayton Thorson. Running back Justin Jackson has posted three consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns and will test a Pitt run defense ranked third in the ACC. While the Panthers have been stout against the run, stopping the pass has been a huge issue this year. Can Thorson connect with receiver Austin Carr for a couple of big plays?

Early Prediction: Pitt


20. Miami Beach Bowl - Tulsa (9-3) vs. Central Michigan (6-6)

Dec. 19 – 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN


If you like offense, there’s a good chance you will enjoy this showdown in Marlins Park on Dec. 19. The first Miami Beach Bowl in 2014 featured a combined 103 points between Memphis and BYU, while WKU and USF went back-and-forth in a 45-35 victory by the Hilltoppers last season. Tulsa features one of the nation’s most-balanced attacks on offense, averaging 260.8 yards per game through the air and 261.8 on the ground. Quarterback Dane Evans has passed for 27 scores, while running backs James Flanders (1,529 yards) and D’Angelo Brewer (1,330) each eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark. Central Michigan is led by senior quarterback Cooper Rush (23 TDs), but the Chippewas have struggled in pass protection and ranked last in the MAC in rushing offense. However, Central Michigan is still averaging nearly 30 points a game (27.7). The Golden Hurricane ranks near the bottom of the American Athletic Conference in scoring defense (31.5), so this one shouldn’t be short on fireworks.

Early Prediction: Tulsa


19. Holiday Bowl - Washington State (8-4) vs. Minnesota (8-4)

Dec. 27 – 7 p.m. ET, ESPN


An interesting contrast of styles is set to meet in San Diego on Dec. 27. Washington State ranks third in the nation in passing attempts, with quarterback Luke Falk and receiver Gabe Marks connecting as one of the top pass-catch combinations in the nation. The Cougars aren’t just an aerial show, as coach Mike Leach’s team has three capable running backs and a big offensive line to provide protection. Minnesota doesn’t possess the high-powered attack that Washington State will bring to San Diego, but the Golden Gophers can lean on a ball-control offense to keep the Cougars on the sidelines. Rodney Smith (1,084 yards) leads the team in rushing, with Shannon Brooks (599) and quarterback Mitch Leidner (340) chipping in. Which team will dictate its style of play?

Early Prediction: Washington State


18. Armed Forces Bowl - Louisiana Tech (8-5) vs. Navy (9-3)

Dec. 23 – 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN


The Armed Forces Bowl was originally slated to be Navy versus a Big 12 programs, but the conference fell short of eligible teams, opening the door for an at-large appearance by Louisiana Tech. Both the Midshipmen and Bulldogs lost their conference championship game, but there shouldn’t be much of a hangover effect when these two teams meet on Dec. 23. Despite a stark contrast in styles, these two teams rank among the top 20 in scoring offense. Navy’s option attack averages 39.1 points per game, while Louisiana Tech averages 44 per contest. The Bulldogs feature a prolific passing attack, headlined by quarterback Ryan Higgins (37 TDs) and two standout receivers (Trent Taylor and Carlos Henderson). The Midshipmen counter with one of the nation’s top ground attacks (327.5 ypg), but quarterback Will Worth was lost for the season due to an injury suffered against Temple in the American Athletic Conference title game. With Worth out for the year, sophomore Zach Abey will step into the starting role. Expect a lot of points between these two teams on Dec. 23.

Early Prediction: Louisiana Tech


17. Belk Bowl - Virginia Tech (9-4) vs. Arkansas (7-5)

Dec. 29 – 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN


This is the first time the Hokies and Razorbacks have met on the gridiron, and this matchup in the Belk Bowl could feature plenty of fireworks. Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen was arguably the SEC’s best player on offense through the first half of the season. However, the junior suffered a knee injury suffered against Auburn and tossed six interceptions over his final five games. With a month to get healthy, Allen should be near full strength, which is good news for an Arkansas attack that also features running back Rawleigh Williams and talented tight end Jeremy Sprinkle. The Razorbacks need a big game from Allen and Williams to win this one, especially considering the problems on defense stopping mobile quarterbacks in 2016. Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans passed for 3,309 yards and 27 scores in his first year on campus and also led the team with 759 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. Arkansas ranks 10th in the SEC in scoring defense and is giving up just over 200 yards (209.3) on the ground per game. The Hokies - led by first-year coach Justin Fuente - are a tough matchup for the Razorbacks.

Early Prediction: Virginia Tech


16. Camellia Bowl - Appalachian State (9-3) vs. Toledo (9-3)

Dec. 17 – 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN


Two of the nation’s rising stars in the Group of 5 head coaching ranks meet in Montgomery, Ala. on the first Saturday of bowl action. Jason Candle was promoted to head coach after Matt Campbell left to take the head-coaching job at Iowa State. The Rockets didn’t miss a beat with Candle at the controls, finishing 9-3 and averaging 38.8 points a game with an explosive offense. Running back Kareem Hunt rushed for 1,355 yards behind a standout line, while quarterback Logan Woodside threw for 43 touchdowns and 3,882 yards in his first full season as the starter. There’s no shortage of targets for Woodside in the passing game, as the Rockets have four receivers with at least 38 catches. On the other sideline, Appalachian State is back in Montgomery for the second consecutive year after finishing 9-3 behind coach Scott Satterfield. The former Appalachian State quarterback has helped this program through a quick transition to the FBS level and claimed 20 wins over the last two years. Junior Taylor Lamb (2,162 yards) is a steady leader at quarterback, while the one-two punch of Jalin Moore and Marcus Cox will test a Toledo defense that has allowed 165.7 rushing yards per game in 2016. Appalachian State has a big edge on defense, ranking first in the Sun Belt in scoring (17 ppg) and yards per play (4.86 ypp).

Early Prediction: Toledo


15. Las Vegas Bowl - Houston (9-3) vs. San Diego State (10-3)

Dec. 17 – 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC


The Las Vegas Bowl doesn’t have its traditional Mountain West vs. Pac-12 matchup, but this year’s game features two of the top Group of 5 teams. Houston suffered three losses in league play but defeated Louisville and Oklahoma in non-conference action. With Tom Herman taking the job at Texas, defensive coordinator Todd Orlando was promoted to interim coach for this game. Orlando won’t tweak too much, as the Cougars lean heavily on quarterback Greg Ward (349.6 ypg) and a defense limiting opponents to 22.6 points a game. San Diego State earned its second consecutive Mountain West title with a 27-24 victory over Wyoming. The Aztecs rank No. 7 in the nation in rushing offense, featuring running back Donnel Pumphrey (2,018 yards). Pumphrey needs just over 100 yards (108) to surpass Ron Dayne for the FBS career mark. Houston leads the American Athletic Conference in rush defense (97.9 ypg), so this will be a tough challenge for Pumphrey and the San Diego State offensive line.

Early Prediction: Houston


14. Boca Raton Bowl - WKU (10-3) vs. Memphis (8-4)

Dec. 20 – 7 p.m. ET, ESPN


Like offense? Be sure to check out this matchup in Boca Raton. WKU averages 45.3 points a game, while Memphis isn’t far behind at 39.5 This matchup was slated to feature Jeff Brohm (WKU) and Mike Norvell (Memphis) – two rising stars in the head coaching ranks. However, Brohm accepted the head coaching position at Purdue and defensive coordinator Nick Holt will lead the Hilltoppers in this game. WKU closed the season on a seven-game winning streak and scored at least 44 points in every contest during that run. Quarterback Mike White successfully replaced Brandon Doughty this year, throwing for 4,027 yards and 34 scores. He’s supported by standout running back Anthony Wales and two dynamic receivers (Taywan Taylor and Nicholas Norris). Quarterback Riley Ferguson (3,326 yards and 28 TDs) frequently targets Anthony Miller (84 catches), and the Tigers have three players with at least 460 rushing yards. This is the first meeting between these two programs.

Early Prediction: WKU


13. Texas Bowl - Texas A&M (8-4) vs. Kansas State (8-4)

Dec. 28 – 9 p.m. ET, ESPN


This will be the first meeting between these two teams since Texas A&M departed for the SEC after the 2011 season. The matchup between the Wildcats and Aggies should be an intriguing one for the Texas Bowl, which has witnessed back-to-back blowouts by the SEC team (Arkansas and LSU) over a Big 12 opponent (Texas and Texas Tech). Kansas State isn’t flashy on offense, but coach Bill Snyder’s team averages 232.9 rushing yards per game and will test a Texas A&M defense that struggled to stop the run and tackle in the second half of the season. Quarterback Trevor Knight returned from a shoulder injury and played in the Aggies’ Thanksgiving night loss to LSU. Knight should be at full strength for this game, and the time off should also benefit end Myles Garrett, who was also banged up throughout the 2016 season. The Wildcats led the Big 12 in scoring defense but were vulnerable to the pass. Will Texas A&M’s offense control the tempo and jump out to an early lead? Or will K-State dictate the pace of the game by a strong ground attack, which controls the line of scrimmage and keeps the Aggies on the sidelines.

Early Prediction: Texas A&M


12. Outback Bowl - Florida (8-4) vs. Iowa (8-4)

Jan. 2 – 1 p.m. ET, ABC


Points could be at a premium in Tampa on Jan. 2. Both teams have experienced their share of issues on offense this season, as Florida ranks 110th in scoring and Iowa checks in at No. 77. However, while both teams are limited on offense, these are two of the top defenses in the nation. The Gators and Hawkeyes are tied for 10th nationally in scoring defense, limiting opponents to just 17.9 points a contest. Florida was hit hard by injuries on defense late in the year and the time off could help this group get closer to full strength. Quarterback play is also under the microscope for coach Jim McElwain. Could freshman Feleipe Franks have his redshirt removed in time for this game? These two teams have played three previous times, including two matchups in the Outback Bowl (2004 and 2006). Expect a low-scoring, defensive affair in the Outback Bowl.

Early Prediction: Florida


11. Music City Bowl - Nebraska (9-3) vs. Tennessee (8-4)

Dec. 30 – 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN


In terms of name value and brands in college football, it doesn’t get much better than this matchup in Nashville. Nebraska and Tennessee meet on Dec. 30 for the first time since the 2000 Fiesta Bowl, and both teams are looking to close the year out on a high note after suffering disappointing losses in November. The Cornhuskers improved their win total by three after a 6-7 record in Mike Riley’s first year in 2015. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong did a better job of minimizing the turnovers this season, which helped Nebraska win three games by seven points or less after struggling to win close games in 2015. Armstrong was suffering from a hamstring injury late in the 2016 campaign and the time off should allow the senior to utilize his legs more in the bowl. Tennessee was a heavy favorite to win the SEC East, but coach Butch Jones’ team fell short. Injuries ravaged the defense, which slumped to ninth in the SEC in points allowed (29.3 ppg). While the defense struggled in 2016, the Volunteers possessed one of the SEC’s top offenses. Quarterback Joshua Dobbs and running back Alvin Kamara guided the offense to an average of 36.3 points a contest. Don’t be surprised if this one is a shootout.

Early Prediction: Tennessee


10. Russell Athletic Bowl - West Virginia (10-2) vs. Miami (8-4)

Dec. 28 – 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN


An old Big East rivalry will resume on Dec. 28 with West Virginia and Miami meeting in Orlando. These two teams have not played since 2003, and the Mountaineers have lost six in a row in their all-time series against the Hurricanes. West Virginia heavily recruits the state of Florida, so an appearance in this game against Miami is a good showcase for coach Dana Holgorsen’s program. The Mountaineers are coming off their best win total (10) since joining the Big 12, and Holgorsen was inked to a long-term contract following the regular season finale against Baylor. Quarterback Skyler Howard (26 TDs) took a step forward in his development, but the Mountaineers also have a solid collection of running backs – led by Justin Crawford (1,168 yards) and a standout offensive line. Mark Richt’s return to his alma mater was a much-needed stabilizing force for Miami and better days are ahead for this program. Quarterback Brad Kaaya and running back Mark Walton will test a West Virginia defense that limits opponents to 5.6 yards per play. Keep an eye on the turnover battle. In two losses this year, the Mountaineers were minus-six in margin. Miami was plus-eight for the season and finished the year with positive or even turnover margins in five straight games.

Early Prediction: West Virginia


9. Sun Bowl - North Carolina (8-4) vs. Stanford (9-3)

Dec. 30 – 2 p.m. ET, CBS


The Sun Bowl took an interesting turn in mid-December, as Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey announced he would pursue NFL Draft training instead of participating in this game. And on the other sideline, North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky is rising on draft boards as a potential first-round pick after a standout 2016 season. Trubisky has completed 68.9 percent of his passes for 3,468 yards and 28 scores and added 270 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. The junior has plenty of help in the supporting cast, as he’s joined by standout running back Elijah Hood (858 yards) and dynamic receiver Ryan Switzer (91 catches). Stanford’s hopes of earning another Pac-12 title were derailed after three losses in the middle of the season, but coach David Shaw’s team rebounded by winning its last five games. The Cardinal didn’t beat a team with a winning record during that stretch. However, quarterback Keller Chryst played well (837 yards and 9 TDs) in his first extended action, and the defense finished second in the Pac-12 by holding opponents to 20.2 points a game. While Chryst’s progress is worth monitoring, it’s no secret the offense performs at its best with a strong ground game, and sophomore Bryce Love should be a tough matchup for a North Carolina defense surrendering 235.5 rushing yards per contest.

Early Prediction: Stanford


8. Alamo Bowl - Colorado (10-3) vs. Oklahoma State (9-3)

Dec. 29 – 9 p.m. ET, ESPN


The Buffaloes and Cowboys are former Big 12 rivals, but due to divisions in the old 12-team format, these two programs have not played since 2009. The Alamo Bowl landed an intriguing matchup with Colorado and Oklahoma State meeting in San Antonio, as both teams were on the doorstep of playing in a New Year’s Six bowl. The Buffaloes are one of the best stories from the 2016 college football season. After winning just 10 games from 2013-15, coach Mike MacIntyre elevated Colorado to a 10-win season and a Pac-12 South title. The Buffaloes are led by a stingy defense, especially in the secondary with underrated cornerback Chidobe Awuzie. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has made plenty of headlines due to his hairstyle choices this year, but the former quarterback is on the verge of his third 10-win season over the last four years. The pass-catch combination of Mason Rudolph and receiver James Washington is a good test for Colorado’s secondary, while freshman Justice Hill and senior Chris Carson provide some punch on the ground. Expect a close (and entertaining game) in the Alamodome on Dec. 29.

Early Prediction: Colorado


7. Cotton Bowl - Western Michigan (13-0) vs. Wisconsin (10-3)

Jan. 2 – 1 p.m. ET, ESPN


Behind coach P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan will row the boat from Kalamazoo to the biggest bowl game in program history. The Broncos capped a perfect regular season with a 29-23 victory over Ohio to secure the program’s first conference championship since 1988. A balanced attack leads the way for Western Michigan’s offense, as quarterback Zach Terrell is one of the nation’s most efficient passers (70.8% and 32 TDs) and running backs Jarvion Franklin and Jamauri Bogan combined for 2,165 yards on the ground. Receiver Corey Davis (91 catches) should be an All-American and is on the radar as a high pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. And here’s a stat that has to give Western Michigan some confidence: Group of 5 teams are 2-0 in New Year’s Six bowl games. However, the Broncos’ offense will have their hands full against Wisconsin’s defense, which is holding opponents to 15.5 points a game. The Badgers feature an active front seven around the line of scrimmage and a secondary that has allowed only 12 passing scores in 2016. As usual for a Wisconsin team, coach Paul Chryst’s offense is led by its ground attack. Running back Corey Clement will test a Western Michigan defense allowing 151.2 rushing yards a game.

Early Prediction: Wisconsin


6. Sugar Bowl - Auburn (8-4) vs. Oklahoma (10-2)

Jan. 2 – 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN


Auburn could be the team that benefits the most from the time off from the regular season finale until Jan. 2. The Tigers offense was hit hard by injuries in November, as quarterback Sean White and running back Kamryn Pettway were less than 100 percent over the last couple of games. With a month to heal, White and Pettway should be closer to full strength, helping an offense that scored at least 38 points in four consecutive games in October return to form. Assuming Pettway is 100 percent, he’s a nightmare matchup for an Oklahoma defense giving up 160.8 rushing yards per game. Stopping the run is essential for the Sooners, but coach Bob Stoops’ team can also take Auburn out of its element by forcing it to play from behind. Oklahoma’s offense averages 44.7 points per game behind quarterback Baker Mayfield, running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon and receiver Dede Westbrook. Getting ahead and forcing Auburn to throw will help alleviate some of the concerns about the Sooners’ defense.

Early Prediction: Auburn


5. Citrus Bowl - Louisville (9-3) vs. LSU (7-4)

Dec. 31 – 11 a.m. ET, ABC


It doesn’t get much better than Lamar Jackson taking on one of the nation’s best defenses in Orlando. Although Louisville fell out of the playoff picture with losses to Houston and Kentucky, Jackson is still the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy after a prolific 2016 campaign. The sophomore showed marked improvement as a passer, accounted for 410.7 total yards per game and reached the end zone 51 times. Jackson has rarely been contained in 2016, so a LSU defense limiting opponents to just 16.4 points a game will present a tough challenge. Coordinator Dave Aranda coordinates a standout attack, which is headlined by a strong front seven and a secondary that has allowed only nine passing scores. New coach Ed Orgeron promised to spice up the offense when he replaced Les Miles in late September. Interim play-caller Steve Ensminger has guided the offense to at least 38 points in five out of the last seven games. Running back Leonard Fournette (843 yards) won't play due to injury, but LSU's ground attack is in good shape with sophomore Derrius Guice (1,249 yards).

Early Prediction: LSU


4. Capital One Orange Bowl - Michigan (10-2) vs. Florida State (9-3)

Dec. 30 – 8 p.m. ET, ESPN


Florida State running back Dalvin Cook versus Michigan’s defense is one of the top one-on-one matchups of the bowl season. Cook finished 2016 as the school’s all-time leading rusher, recording 1,620 yards and 18 touchdowns (6.04 ypc). However, the junior faces a Wolverines’ defense limiting opponents to just 3.1 yards per carry. In addition to stopping the run, Michigan’s front seven is one of the best in the nation at getting to the quarterback, recording 44 sacks through 12 games. The Wolverines’ front seven should be a huge test for Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois and an offensive line that has surrendered 34 sacks in 2016. On the other side of the ball, the Seminoles could get a key reinforcement if safety Derwin James returns after missing most of the 2016 season due to a knee injury. The month to prepare should help Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight, who was dealing with a shoulder injury at the end of the regular season. The Wolverines will also have their hands full in the trenches against a Florida State defense ranked No. 1 in the nation in sacks (47).

Early Prediction: Michigan


3. Rose Bowl - Penn State (11-2) vs. USC (9-3)

Jan. 2 – 5 p.m. ET, ESPN


Penn State and USC were two of the nation’s hottest teams at the end of the regular season, so it’s appropriate they meet in Pasadena on Jan. 2 for the Rose Bowl. The Nittany Lions finished No. 5 in the CFB Playoff selection committee top 25 rankings after winning nine consecutive games to end the season. The biggest reason for Penn State’s improvement? Offense. Quarterback Trace McSorley thrived under new coordinator Joe Moorhead, and running back Saquon Barkley finished second among Big Ten rushers with 1,302 yards. Similar to the Nittany Lions, USC started slow with a 1-3 record through its first four games. However, the Trojans won eight in a row, largely due to the emergence of redshirt freshman Sam Darnold at quarterback. In addition to Darnold’s play, USC’s defense – a concern in the preseason – limited opponents to just 22.2 points a game. These two teams have played just once since 2001, with the only matchup taking place in the 2009 Rose Bowl.

Early Prediction: USC


2. Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (National Semifinal) - Alabama (13-0) vs. Washington (12-1)

Dec. 31 – 3 p.m. ET, ESPN


The Peach Bowl kicks off the third College Football Playoff, and there’s an interesting contrast in the two teams traveling to Atlanta. Alabama hopes to win its fifth national title in eight seasons, while Washington is making its first playoff appearance. Under coach Chris Petersen’s direction, the Huskies have experienced a quick rise back into national prominence. The Huskies feature a dynamic offense, headlined by quarterback Jake Browning and receiver John Ross, while running back Myles Gaskin eclipsed 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season. Washington’s defense is also one of the best in the nation and is headlined by a standout secondary. While the Huskies are a team on the rise, Petersen’s team is going to have its hands full. Alabama features the nation’s best collection of talent, No. 1 defense and a dynamic freshman quarterback in Jalen Hurts.

Early Prediction: Alabama


5 Reasons Why: AlabamaClemsonOhio StateWashington | Will Win the CFB Playoff


1. Fiesta Bowl (National Semifinal) - Clemson (12-1) vs. Ohio State (11-1)

Dec. 31 – 7 p.m. ET, ESPN


This is by far the most intriguing matchup of the bowl season. There’s no guarantee Alabama beats Washington, but the Crimson Tide are a heavy favorite over the Huskies. So which team – Ohio State or Clemson – gives Alabama the toughest matchup? Clemson fell short in its national title hopes last season, but coach Dabo Swinney’s team is just 60 minutes away from a potential rematch against Alabama in the CFB Playoff title game. The Tigers are once again loaded with firepower on offense, starting with quarterback Deshaun Watson. The junior accounted for 341.8 total yards per game this season and guided the Clemson offense to an average of 40.2 points a contest. Clemson’s defense suffered a handful of key personnel losses in the offseason but quickly reloaded behind coordinator Brent Venables. Ohio State returns to the Fiesta Bowl for the second year in a row. However, the stakes are much higher this season. The Buckeyes returned only six starters in 2016, but as expected under coach Urban Meyer, this team quickly reloaded. The passing offense behind quarterback J.T. Barrett is a work in progress, but playmakers Curtis Samuel (WR) and running back Mike Weber will provide a tough test for a Clemson defense ranked first in the ACC in fewest points allowed (18.4 ppg). The biggest question in this matchup: Which team wins the battle in the trenches? First impression: There’s a slight edge to Clemson in that department.

Early Prediction: Clemson

Ranking All 40 College Football Bowls for 2016: From Must-See to Must-Miss
Post date: Monday, December 5, 2016 - 09:30
Path: /nfl/indianapolis-colts-vs-new-york-jets-preview-and-prediction-2016

As football fate would have it, the Green Bay Packers keep on helping the Indianapolis Colts. It was exactly one month ago the Colts crept within a win of .500 with a 31-26 victory over the Packers at Lambeau Field. On Sunday, Green Bay continued its crusade for its fellow Midwestern football cousins, knocking off the Houston Texans, 21-13, ensuring that if the Colts win on “Monday Night Football” against the New York Jets, there would be three-way tie record-wise for first place in the AFC South with Indianapolis, Houston and Tennessee all sitting at 6-6. (Texans would still lead by virtue of a better divisional record.)


While the Colts are fighting for a playoff spot, the Jets are drowning. Two different three-game losing streaks have all but buried New York’s playoff chances in what has turned out to be a devastating disappointment of a season.


Indianapolis at New York


Kickoff: Monday, Dec. 5 at 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Indianapolis -2


Three Things to Watch


1. The Return of Andrew Luck
Last week, the Colts proved that they’re only as good as their franchise quarterback is. Luck (concussion) didn't play against the Steelers on Thanksgiving night, and the Indianapolis offense was lost without him. With backup Scott Tolzien at the helm making his first start in three years, the Colts totaled 310 yards of offense, averaged less than five yards per play, and managed just seven points in Pittsburgh’s 28-7 victory.


Luck was back to practicing in full by the end of this week and on Saturday he was cleared from the NFL’s concussion protocol, so he will get the start tonight. As previously mentioned, this game against the Jets carries heavy implications for Indy. A win at MetLife Stadium would ensure a showdown for first place in the AFC South on Sunday with the Colts set to host Houston. But first Indianapolis needs to take care of business tonight. At least the Colts will have Luck back, but will he be in top form?


2. Jets’ Defensive Line Wreaking Havoc
On paper, New York may not be the popular pick on Monday night, but one area where the Jets have a clear advantage against the Colts is their defensive line. Indianapolis’ offensive line woes have been a common theme over the past several seasons and it’s no different in 2016. With rookie center Ryan Kelly and guard Denzelle Good battling injuries, the Jets’ front could have a field day.


A season ago, New York was among the league’s best, especially at forcing turnovers (30). But this year, that signature Todd Bowles aggressiveness hasn’t been as fruitful in the turnover department, as the Jets have just eight takeaways on the season. Tonight could be the perfect opportunity for Gang Green to simply pin their ears back and go full bore against a wobbly Colts offensive line.


3. Betting on a Brandon Marshall Breakout
It’s no secret that Indianapolis’ secondary is vulnerable, especially if you tuned in on Thanksgiving night and watched Antonio Brown torch a hobbled Vontae Davis for three touchdowns on five catches. Davis was eventually pulled because of a tweaked groin.


This week, it doesn't get much easier for the Colts’ defensive backs. The back end will be shorthanded once again as starting safety Clayton Geathers and cornerback Patrick Robinson have been ruled out, leaving an ailing Davis to deal with New York’s Brandon Marshall largely on his own.


Marshall leads the Jets in receptions (49) and receiving yards (668) this season, but his production is down to what he did in 2015. He has just three touchdowns, but tonight could result in a breakout performance for New York’s top target.


Final Analysis


The Jets aren’t playing for much of anything for the rest of this season, while the Colts have everything to lose on Monday night. So what is the greater force? A team with nothing to lose or a team fighting to stay alive? Indianapolis clearly has more on the line and gets Andrew Luck back. As long as Luck can make it through the game, the Colts should be able to get past the Jets and create a three-way tie in the AFC South with just four games remaining.


Prediction: Colts 28, Jets 24


— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.

Indianapolis Colts vs. New York Jets Preview and Prediction
Post date: Monday, December 5, 2016 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/5-reasons-why-washington-will-win-college-football-playoff-2016

A commanding, 41-10 rout over Colorado in the Pac-12 Championship Game concluded a 12-1 run and league title for the Washington Huskies. The Dawgs now will play for their first national championship in 25 years.


Qualities of this year's Washington football team are very much reminiscent of the last championship-winning team on Montlake – tenacious and physical defense, competent quarterback play, game-breakers in the backfield and an outstanding head coach overseeing it all.


As Washington readies for its national semifinal, Husky faithful have plenty of reasons to prepare to celebrate like it's 1991.


Playoff Teams: No. 1 Alabama I No. 2 Clemson I No. 3 Ohio State I No. 4 Washington


5 Reasons Why Washington Will Win the 2016 College Football Playoff


1. Turnover-Hungry Huskies

Washington came into Friday’s Pac-12 Championship Game against Colorado leading college football in takeaways with 30. The hungry Huskies feasted on another three turnovers in the win over the Buffaloes.


Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski’s strategy of tenacious pressure without calling blitzes throws a net over the field. Quarterbacks pass at their own peril against a fully manned, ball-hawking Washington secondary.


Colorado's Sefo Liufau did so. The result was game-changing, with Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year Taylor Rapp picking off the senior signal-caller twice – once of which he returned for a touchdown – en route to game MVP honors.


The first-year phenom Rapp is just one of several dynamic playmakers able to generate takeaways on any play for the Huskies. Budda Baker excels in every facet of the game, whether it be run support, bringing a rare blitz, pass coverage and, of course, turnover-creation.


2. A Well-Rounded Passing Attack

Quarterback Jake Browning has garnered the lion’s share of individual attention throughout Washington’s run to a playoff berth, and the 2016 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year earned every one of his plaudits.


Browning finished with 42 touchdowns against just seven interceptions on the campaign.


But without the dynamic receiving duo of John Ross and Dante Pettis, there are no awards and kudos piling up for Browning.


Ross and Pettis combined for a remarkable 31 touchdown catches. Ross' 17 rank behind only Western Michigan's Corey Davis for the most in college football.


Covering one presents a defense with a real pick-the-poison scenario, as they bring similar qualities that can prove game-changing.


Were that not enough, Darrell Daniels functions as one of the nation's most dangerous pass-catching tight ends in college football – a sturdy short-to-mid-range option to balance the big-play threat Ross and Pettis pose.


3. Double-Trouble in the Backfield

When head coach Chris Petersen seeks a change-of-pace in his running game, the production level doesn’t dip. Myles Gaskin serves as Washington’s primary ball carrier, and does so effectively. His 1,1810 rushing yards led the Pac-12 in the regular season, and he tacked on another 159 against Colorado.


But when Lavon Coleman’s number is called, the Huskies lose nothing, as he is averaging an impressive 7.8 yards per carry.


The duo has combined for 17 touchdowns. That total would be more were the Washington offense not so balanced, but that balance is precisely why the Huskies have the opportunity to play for a national championship.


4. Offensive Line Play

Browning's impressive individual numbers and the one-two combination of Coleman and Gaskin would not be possible without the performance of an outstanding offensive line. And, indeed, Washington's was the best in the Pac-12 this season.


First Team All-Pac-12 honorees Trey Adams and Jake Eldrenkamp, along with Second Team selection Coleman Shelton, establish the tone for Washington's physical brand of football.


The Husky front five blows would-be tacklers off the ball to open holes. Rarely does a Washington run fail to reach the second level. The credit starts with the players up front.


5. Chris Petersen

Petersen's never had the opportunity to coach for a national championship, but he's no stranger to college football's big stages.


He made his name nationally at Boise State with victories over heavyweights and lopsided favorites, going on a run from 2006-11 that included Fiesta Bowl wins over Oklahoma and TCU; a dominating defeat of Chip Kelly's first conference championship team at Oregon; and wins in virtual road games over Virginia Tech and Georgia.


In a season preceded with monumental hype, Petersen's even-tempered approach reflected in the approach of his roster. Gaskin credit Petersen specifically for keeping the Huskies focused on the task at hand – and through a conference championship and playoff berth, that style has paid dividends.


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

5 Reasons Why Washington Will Win the College Football Playoff
Post date: Sunday, December 4, 2016 - 15:30
Path: /college-football/5-reasons-why-ohio-state-will-win-college-football-playoff-2016

Despite not winning the Big Ten East Division, Ohio State was able to ride a five-game winning streak into the 2016 College Football Playoff. Ohio State last lost at Penn State, 24-21, on Oct. 22 in a raucous night game on a blocked field goal at Beaver Stadium. This loss enabled Penn State to claim the B1G East Division due to the head-to-head tiebreaker, but Ohio State secured a playoff spot, based upon not only the one loss on the Buckeyes' schedule, but also their strength of schedule. Wins at Oklahoma, at Wisconsin and over Michigan gave the Buckeyes three wins against top-10 teams.


Ohio State entered into the 2016 season with the majority of its roster made up of either freshmen or redshirt freshmen.  While expected to be competitive, most college football analysts and fans believed the Buckeyes were a year away from being able to compete for a national title, having lost so much talent to the NFL. As the Buckeyes demonstrated throughout the 2016 season, youth was not only served, but also eager to prove itself.


Playoff Teams: No. 1 Alabama I No. 2 Clemson I No. 3 Ohio State I No. 4 Washington


5 Reasons Why Ohio State Will Win the 2016 College Football Playoff


1. Ohio State's Defensive Depth

As stated earlier, the Buckeyes lost a wealth of talent to the NFL in the spring. Losing Joey Bosa, Eli Apple, Darron Lee, Vonn Bell, Adolphus Washington, Joshua Perry, and Tyvis Powell alone from the starting defensive lineup was going to mean the Buckeyes would be weak on that side of the ball, right? Wrong. Yes, those players were outstanding, but the Buckeyes were able to reload with younger guys who are just as fast, if not faster, and probably even more opportunistic. Redshirt sophomore safety Malik Hooker has emerged as one of the best ball-hawking defensive backs in the entire country, as evidenced by his six interceptions, three of which he has returned for touchdowns. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson is continually substituting guys up front, keeping everyone fresh. At linebacker, sophomore Jerome Baker also has emerged, coming up with big plays at key moments.


2. Curtis Samuel

When Urban Meyer began coaching the Buckeyes in 2012, Ohio State fans were often told that the coaching staff was always on the lookout for the next Percy Harvin-type player who could make the offense difficult to defend. It is entirely possible that instead of talking about Harvin, college football fans may be talking about being on the lookout for the next Curtis Samuel. A true hybrid offensive threat, Samuel has been used as a running back, wide receiver and punt returner. He has 704 yards rushing, averaging more than seven yards per carry, and eight touchdowns on the ground. He also is the team’s leading receiver with 65 catches while averaging nearly 13 yards per reception and seven more scores. Difficult to defend with a linebacker or a safety, teams often will spy on Samuel with a cornerback, which has opened up opportunities for others such as…


3. Noah Brown

At 6-foot-2 and 218 pounds, Browns serves as another physical mismatch for opposing defenses to try and handle. Brown, a redshirt sophomore, is not a burner, but he is a terrific possession-type of receiver who can outmuscle defensive backs, especially in the end zone. Oklahoma found this out the hard way back in September. Brown has just 30 catches thus far, but he’s tied with Samuel for the team lead in touchdown receptions with seven.


4. J.T. Barrett

The redshirt junior quarterback is the heart and soul of the Ohio State team. A threat with his legs, Barrett has already run for more than 800 yards with nine touchdowns. Barrett’s mobility makes it hard for defenses to put the Buckeyes in second- or third-and-long situations. Barrett also has been efficient when he throws the ball, utilizing weapons like Curtis Samuel and Noah Brown. Barrett has 24 touchdown passes and just five interceptions. And when the game becomes tight, it seems as though Barrett is at his best, displaying a poise and command that steadies the entire team.


5. Urban Meyer

A master motivator, Meyer always relishes the underdog mentality whenever the media doubts the capabilities of his teams. Even being in the playoff will not deter Meyer from an "us against the world" mindset, as he will look for any and every possible angle to blister his players' pride and have the Buckeyes ready to seize the moment in the national spotlight.


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

5 Reasons Why Ohio State Will Win the College Football Playoff
Post date: Sunday, December 4, 2016 - 15:20
Path: /college-football/5-reasons-why-clemson-will-win-college-football-playoff-2016

It wasn’t the smooth ride that many Clemson fans had hoped for in 2016. There was an unexpected stumble against Pittsburgh and a few other close calls, including one last night in the ACC Championship Game against Virginia Tech.


But still, Dabo Swinney's Tigers are back in the College Football Playoff thanks to a 12-1 record that featured big wins over Auburn, Louisville and Florida State. Plus, they may be playing their best football of the season, giving Clemson fans hope that perhaps this year will wind up being one game better than last season.


Playoff Teams: No. 1 Alabama I No. 2 Clemson I No. 3 Ohio State I No. 4 Washington


5 Reasons Why Clemson Will Win the 2016 College Football Playoff


1. The Quarterback

It’s not just the talent of Deshaun Watson, though that helps. It’s also where he has been. The Gainesville, Ga., star knows the terrain of this College Football Playoff landscape and has seen success performing at this time of year. He, like the rest of the Tigers, is coming in on a bit of a roll. It’s hard to argue that Watson isn’t the best quarterback still standing. He’s also the most experienced in true high-leverage situations. That is a good starting point for Clemson going into the playoff.


2. The Re-Emergence of the Rushing Attack

If the first two playoffs have shown us anything, it’s that a running game is vital at this time of the year. Ohio State and Alabama were the first two playoff era champions and those teams rode the running of Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry to their titles. This fall, Clemson’s ground game has been up and down, but in the last three weeks it has come around, averaging 229 rushing yards per game. The offensive line has improved in run blocking, Wayne Gallman has rediscovered his 2015-like tenacity, and the Clemson staff is running Watson quarterback more often. The Tigers’ passing game becomes even more dangerous when the running game is effective.


3. Offensive Options

One defensive theory when going against good offenses is to take away the most dangerous threat. That’s hard to do versus Clemson because the Tigers have so many guys that make big plays. As mentioned, Gallman has come on and is now over 1,000 rushing yards on the year. Mike Williams leads the team in all the receiving categories. But Artavis Scott, Ray-Ray McCloud, Deon Cain, Jordan Leggett and Hunter Renfrow all have at least 29 catches on the season. Watson has faith in all of his targets and his ability to spread the wealth around is a huge asset. Plus, when everything else breaks down, No. 4 will run for what he can get. For those reasons, this offense has the highest ceiling of the four playoff teams.


4. The Defensive Front

Each of the four remaining teams plays very good defense and it starts with the guys closest to the line of scrimmage. When it comes to sheer talent, Clemson doesn’t have to take a back seat to anyone… except perhaps the guys from Tuscaloosa. But then again, Carlos Watkins, Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence are physical specimens that would star for any program in America. They have that kind of physical ability and Ben Boulware, Kendall Joseph and Dorian O’Daniel have been more than solid on the second level. Winning the line of scrimmage is imperative at this time of year and Clemson has NFL bodies in it defensive front.


5. Not Scared of Alabama

To become champions, Clemson has to win two games and the odds are pretty good that Alabama will be there waiting on Jan. 9 just like last year. If a rematch of last season’s national title game occurs, Clemson will believe that it can play with the Crimson Tide because of what happened this past January. Had it not been for a couple of big Alabama special teams plays, the big trophy may have been headed to South Carolina. The two teams are different in 2016 and Clemson has not been as consistent as last fall. But the Tigers believe that it is more about the way they play rather than how their opponent plays, even if that opponent is Alabama.


— 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.

5 Reasons Why Clemson Will Win the College Football Playoff
Post date: Sunday, December 4, 2016 - 15:10
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/5-reasons-why-alabama-will-win-college-football-playoff-2016

Alabama heads into the 2016 College Football Playoff as the favorite to win it all once again. The Crimson Tide are looking to go back-to-back as national champs, matching their 2011-12 teams under coach Nick Saban. Alabama has been a model of consistency at a high level under Saban. The Crimson Tide have won four national titles over the last seven seasons and have not won fewer than 10 games since 2007.


After a 54-16 victory over Florida in the SEC Championship, Alabama enters the College Football Playoff with a 25-game winning streak. The Crimson Tide have been dominant in 2016, winning 11 of their 13 games by at least 18 points. The only close calls for this team took place on the road, as Alabama won by five against Ole Miss and by 10 versus LSU.


Playoff Teams: No. 1 Alabama I No. 2 Clemson I No. 3 Ohio State I No. 4 Washington


Can Alabama win its second national title in a row? Here are five reasons why the Crimson Tide will finish the year 15-0 and claim another national championship:


5 Reasons Why Alabama Will Win the 2016 College Football Playoff


1. The Nation’s No. 1 Defense

Nick Saban has developed some of college football’s top defenses in recent memory, but the 2016 unit could be the best of the bunch. The Crimson Tide rank first nationally in scoring defense, limiting opponents to just 11.8 points per game. This unit did not allow a touchdown in the month of November and just two offenses managed more than 20 points in 2016. Alabama also ranks first in fewest yards per play allowed (3.94) and is No. 1 in the nation in rush defense. Just how dominant is the front seven against the run for Saban and coordinator Jeremy Pruitt? The Crimson Tide limit opponents to 63.4 rushing yards per game. The No. 2 team? Wisconsin at 96.9 yards per contest. This group ranks seventh nationally in pass efficiency defense, fifth in third-down defense and has allowed only four plays of 50 or more yards.


In order to counter the spread offenses Alabama faces every year, Saban tweaked his defense a bit over the last couple of seasons. The Crimson Tide still have a massive defensive line, but this group is more athletic and can play sideline-to-sideline with the added range. The success of this group starts up front with end Jonathan Allen. The senior should be an All-American after generating 8.5 sacks in 2016. Allen is joined by 319-pound nose guard Da’Ron Payne and underrated Dalvin Tomlinson up front. Senior Reuben Foster anchors the linebacking corps, with Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson creating havoc off the edge as pass rushers. The loss of safety Eddie Jackson was a significant blow for Alabama’s secondary, but this unit is still in great shape with Minkah Fitzpatrick, Marlon Humphrey and Ronnie Harrison leading the way.


2. Turnovers, Sacks and Defensive Touchdowns 

As if containing opponents to a paltry 3.94 yards per play wasn’t enough, Alabama’s defense is one of the nation’s best at creating game-changing or havoc plays on defense. The Crimson Tide rank third nationally in sacks generated (45) and rank fifth in tackles for a loss (105). The defense also ranks 20th nationally with forced 24 takeaways. The damage on takeaways isn’t just a turnover for opposing offenses. Instead, the bigger concern is Alabama converting takeaways directly into points. The Crimson Tide have scored 14 non-offensive touchdowns, with 10 of those coming on defense. Six different players have scored defensive touchdowns, including two from safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and two from end Jonathan Allen. In order to beat Alabama, opposing teams will have to play a mistake-free game. And if an offense makes a mistake, it’s only going to be magnified against a defense that’s capable of converting a fumble or interception into a touchdown.


3. Development of QB Jalen Hurts

Starting as a true freshman quarterback – especially at a program like Alabama – is never easy. However, Hurts finished 2016 as one of the SEC’s top quarterbacks, and the freshman should only get better with nearly a month to prepare until the Peach Bowl. Hurts threw for 2,592 yards and 22 scores and added 841 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. Hurts is still developing as a pocket passer, but his ability to get to the edge and make plays on the ground or extend the defense is tough to contain. Alabama’s offenses in previous years have been more of a pro-style approach. However, with coordinator Lane Kiffin at the controls, and Hurts continuing to improve with each snap, the Crimson Tide attack makes opposing defenses defend the entire field.


4. Skill Talent and Offensive Line

Alabama’s offense doesn’t have a lead back like Derrick Henry pounding away on the ground this year, but this unit isn’t hurting for playmakers. In fact, this could be one of the deepest groups of playmakers Nick Saban has assembled since coming to Tuscaloosa. Damien Harris has emerged as the team’s go-to back, rushing for 983 yards and two scores on 132 attempts this season. Sophomore Bo Scarbrough is a 228-pound bruiser out of the backfield and seems to be getting stronger over the course of the season. True freshman Joshua Jacobs has also displayed play-making ability (6.64 ypc) in limited action (83 carries).


At receiver, ArDarius Stewart leads the team with 852 yards and eight touchdown catches, while Calvin Ridley followed up an impressive freshman season with 66 grabs in 2016. Both players are capable of stretching the field vertically but also play a big role in Alabama’s short passing game at the line of scrimmage, which allows the offense to spread the defense and attack the edges. Gehrig Dieter, Cam Sims, Robert Foster and Trevon Diggs round out the key contributors at wide receiver. At tight end, O.J. Howard is another valuable weapon in the Crimson Tide passing game. The senior had a huge performance in last year’s national title win over Clemson and caught 37 passes for 445 yards and two scores in 2016.


5. Talent + Nick Saban

The pairing of the nation’s best roster and college football’s No. 1 coach is almost unfair. Alabama has reeled in six consecutive No. 1 recruiting classes in the nation and stockpiled a wealth of blue-chip talent on both sides of the ball. Recruiting talent is only half of the battle in terms of coaching. The other part? Development. That’s where Nick Saban and this staff excels. The Crimson Tide not only bring in elite talent, but Saban knows how to develop it and put the players in the best position to succeed. After a 7-6 debut in Tuscaloosa in 2007, Alabama has not lost more than three games in a season. Additionally, the Crimson Tide have won at least 10 games in every year since 2007 and claimed four out of the last seven national championships. Saban is also one of the best in terms of X’s and O’s and finding the weaknesses to attack for opposing teams. As long as Saban is roaming the sideline, Alabama is going to be tough to keep away from the national championship trophy. 

5 Reasons Why Alabama Will Win the College Football Playoff 2016
Post date: Sunday, December 4, 2016 - 15:00
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Path: /college-football/college-football-playoff-2016-matchups-schedule

The teams and matchups for college football’s 2016-17 playoff are set. With no upsets or surprises on Championship Saturday, the top four teams were easy picks for the College Football Playoff selection committee. Alabama claimed the No. 1 overall seed after a perfect 13-0 regular season, with Clemson at No. 2, Ohio State at No. 3 and Washington at No. 4.


As the No. 1 seed, Alabama gets favorable seeding for travel and will play in the Peach Bowl against Washington. The No. 2 and No. 3 teams – Clemson and Ohio State – meet in the Fiesta Bowl also on Dec. 31. The winner of these two games is set to meet in Tampa, Fla. on Jan. 9 to decide the national championship.


Alabama is only team to earn an appearance in all three years of the College Football Playoff. The Crimson Tide are a heavy favorite to repeat after a dominant 2016 campaign. And with two more wins this season, Alabama will repeat as national champs – matching the 2011-12 teams under Nick Saban.


This is Washington’s first trip to the College Football Playoff, while Clemson and Ohio State have earned their way into the four-team system for the second time.


Here’s a look at the full College Football Playoff schedule for 2016-17


College Football Playoff 2016-17 Matchups and Schedule
Game Matchup Date Time/TV Series



 Alabama (13-0) vs.

Washington (12-1) 

Dec. 31

3 p.m. ET


Alabama leads 4-0

1986 last meeting



 Ohio State (11-1) vs.

Clemson (13-0) 

Dec. 31

7 p.m. ET


Clemson leads 2-0

2014 last meeting

National Championship set for Dec. 9 in Tampa, Fla. featuring winner of Peach Bowl vs. Fiesta Bowl.


College Football 2016 Playoff Matchups
Post date: Sunday, December 4, 2016 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football-top-25-rankings-2016

Weekly rankings are a big part of every college football season, and Athlon Sports will update its top 25 following the games each weekend. The final weekend of the 2016 regular season produced a couple of interesting conference championship matchups. Clemson held off Virginia Tech in the fourth quarter to claim its second consecutive ACC title. Penn State rallied from a 28-7 deficit to beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, while Washington dominated Colorado 41-10 on Friday night to win the Pac-12 Championship. With only a handful of games in Week 14, there are only a few changes to the top 25. Temple joins the rankings after beating Navy, while the Midshipmen drop out of the top 25.


College Football Post-Week 14 Top 25 Rankings

1. Alabama (13-0)

Week 14 Result: Beat Florida 54-16

Last Week: 1


Crimson Tide extend winning streak to 25 with dominant 54-16 victory over Florida in SEC Championship.


2. Ohio State (11-1)

Week 14 Result: Regular Season Over

Last Week: 2


Regular season completed in Week 13.


3. Clemson (12-1)

Week 14 Result: 3

Last Week: 3


Virginia Tech made it interesting late, but thanks to another big performance from quarterback Deshaun Watson, Clemson earned its second ACC title in a row and booked a trip to the CFB Playoff.


4. Washington (12-1)

Week 14 Result: Beat Colorado 41-10

Last Week: 4


Ground game and defense carries Huskies to 41-10 victory over Colorado in Pac-12 Championship Game.


5. Michigan (10-2)

Week 14 Result: Regular Season Over

Last Week: 5


Regular season completed in Week 13.


6. Penn State (11-2)

Week 14 Result: Beat Wisconsin 38-31

Last Week: 9


Nittany Lions claim first Big Ten title since 2008 with 38-31 thriller over Wisconsin in Indianapolis.


7. Oklahoma (10-2)

Week 14 Result: Beat Oklahoma State 38-20

Last Week: 7


Sooners claim 10th Big 12 title under Bob Stoops.


8. Wisconsin (10-3)

Week 14 Result: Lost to Penn State 38-31

Last Week: 6


Badgers fall short of Big Ten title after being unable to contain Penn State’s offense in the second half.


9. USC (9-3)

Week 14 Result: Regular Season Over

Last Week: 8


Regular season completed in Week 13.


10. Colorado (10-3)

Week 14 Result: Lost to Washington 41-10

Last Week: 10


Buffaloes handled by Washington in Pac-12 title game, but 2016 still a special season for coach Mike MacIntyre’s team.


11. Florida State (9-3)

Week 14 Result: Regular Season Over

Last Week: 11


Regular season completed in Week 13.


12. Oklahoma State (9-3)

Week 14 Result: Lost to Oklahoma 38-20

Last Week: 12


With a bowl win, Oklahoma State would earn its third season of 10 victories over the last four years.


13. West Virginia (10-2)

Week 14 Result: Beat Baylor 24-21

Last Week: 13


Mountaineers win 10 games for the first time since 2011.


14. Louisville (9-3)

Week 14 Result: Regular Season Over

Last Week: 14


Regular season completed in Week 13.


15. Western Michigan (13-0)

Week 14 Result: Beat Ohio 29-23

Last Week: 15


Ohio gave Western Michigan all it could handle, but Broncos hold on for 29-23 win and complete 13-0 regular season.


16. Auburn (8-4)

Week 14 Result: Regular Season Over

Last Week: 16


Regular season completed in Week 13.


17. Florida (8-4)

Week 14 Result: Lost to Alabama 54-16

Last Week: 17


Gators simply overmatched and undermanned in SEC Championship loss to Alabama.


18. LSU (7-4)

Week 14 Result: Regular Season Over

Last Week: 18


Regular season completed in Week 13.


19. Virginia Tech (9-4)

Week 14 Result: Lost to Clemson 42-35

Last Week: 19


Hokies fell short in ACC Championship, but future of program is bright under coach Justin Fuente’s watch.


20. Iowa (8-4)

Week 14 Result: Regular Season Over

Last Week: 20


Regular season completed in Week 13.


21. Nebraska (9-3)

Week 14 Result: Regular Season Over

Last Week: 21


Regular season completed in Week 13.


22. Stanford (9-3)

Week 14 Result: Regular Season Over

Last Week: 22


Regular season completed in Week 13.


23. Temple (10-3)

Week 14 Result: Beat Navy

Last Week: NR


Matt Rhule has guided Temple to back-to-back 10-win seasons and claimed the school’s first conference title since 1967 with Saturday’s win over Navy.


24. USF (10-2)

Week 14 Result: Regular Season Over

Last Week: 23


Regular season completed in Week 13.


25. Pitt (8-4)

Week 14 Result: Regular Season Over

Last Week: 25


Regular season completed in Week 13. 


College Football Post-Week 13 Top 25 Rankings

1. Alabama (12-0)

Week 13 Result: Beat Auburn 30-12

Last Week: 1

Week 14 Opponent: SEC Championship vs. Florida


Crimson Tide defense did not allow a touchdown in November.


2. Ohio State (11-1)

Week 13 Result: Beat Michigan 30-27

Last Week: 2

Week 14 Opponent: Regular Season Over


The Game certainly lived up to the hype, as the Buckeyes steal a win over the Wolverines in overtime.


3. Clemson (11-1)

Week 13 Result: Beat South Carolina 56-7

Last Week: 3

Week 14 Opponent: ACC Championship vs. Virginia Tech


Deshaun Watson tosses six touchdown passes in dominant win over rival South Carolina.


4. Washington (11-1)

Week 13 Result: Beat Washington State 45-17

Last Week: 6

Week 14 Opponent: Pac-12 Championship vs. Colorado


Huskies claim Apple Cup thanks to strong performances by quarterback Jake Browning and the defense.


5. Michigan (10-2)

Week 13 Result: Lost to Ohio State 30-27

Last Week: 4

Week 14 Opponent: Regular Season Over


Missed opportunities will haunt Wolverines in double overtime loss at Ohio State.


6. Wisconsin (10-2)

Week 13 Result: Beat Minnesota 31-17

Last Week: 5

Week 14 Opponent: Big Ten Championship vs. Penn State


Badgers use big second half to continue domination of Minnesota.


7. Oklahoma (9-2)

Week 13 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 7

Week 14 Opponent: Oklahoma State


Bye week allows Sooners to prep for showdown against Oklahoma State to decide Big 12 title.


8. USC (9-3)

Week 13 Result: Beat Notre Dame 45-27

Last Week: 9

Week 14 Opponent: Regular Season Over


Adoree’ Jackson delivers one of the best all-around performances of 2016 in USC’s 45-27 win over Notre Dame.


9. Penn State (10-2)

Week 13 Result: Beat Michigan State 45-12

Last Week: 9

Week 14 Opponent: Big Ten Championship vs. Wisconsin


Saquon Barkley’s health will be a storyline to watch after Penn State clinches East Division with win over Michigan State and books trip to Indianapolis for Big Ten title game.


10. Colorado (10-2)

Week 13 Result: Beat Utah 27-22

Last Week: 10

Week 14 Opponent: Pac-12 Championship vs. Washington


Buffaloes clinch Pac-12 South with win over Utah – and Mike MacIntyre should be the national coach of the year.


11. Florida State (9-3)

Week 13 Result: Beat Florida 31-13

Last Week: 12

Week 14 Opponent: Regular Season Over


Seminoles’ senior class finishes 8-0 against Florida and Miami.


12. Oklahoma State (9-2)

Week 13 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 13

Week 14 Opponent: at Oklahoma


Cowboys have won only two out of the last 13 matchups against rival Oklahoma.


13. West Virginia (9-2)

Week 13 Result: Beat Iowa State 49-19

Last Week: 14

Week 14 Opponent: Baylor


Freshman running back Martell Pettaway gives injured backfield a boost, while quarterback Skyler Howard tosses five touchdowns in 49-19 win over Iowa State.


14. Louisville (9-3)

Week 13 Result: Lost to Kentucky 41-38

Last Week: 11

Week 14 Opponent: Regular Season


Late-season losses hurt Lamar Jackson’s Heisman candidacy, but the sophomore is still the favorite with one week of games left.


15. Western Michigan (12-0)

Week 13 Result: Beat Toledo 55-35

Last Week: 17

Week 14 Opponent: MAC Championship vs. Ohio


Broncos likely one win away from claiming the Group of 5 spot in a New Year’s Six Bowl.


16. Auburn (8-4)

Week 13 Result: Lost to Alabama 30-12

Last Week: 16

Week 14 Opponent: Regular Season Over


Despite Auburn’s November defeats against Alabama and Georgia, losses by Tennessee and Florida in Week 13 could help Auburn reach the Sugar Bowl.


17. Florida (8-3)

Week 13 Result: Lost to Florida State 31-13

Last Week: 18

Week 14 Opponent: SEC Championship vs. Florida


Gators have to find some offense to have any shot against Alabama.


18. LSU (7-4)

Week 13 Result: Beat Texas A&M 54-39

Last Week: 20

Week 14 Opponent: Regular Season Over


Derrius Guice sets a new LSU single-game record with 285 rushing yards in 54-39 win over Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night.


19. Virginia Tech (9-3)

Week 13 Result: Beat Virginia 52-10

Last Week: 22

Week 14 Opponent: ACC Championship vs. Clemson


Hokies continue successful first year under coach Justin Fuente with division title and a blowout win over rival Virginia.


20. Iowa (8-4)

Week 13 Result: Beat Nebraska 40-10

Last Week: NR

Week 14 Opponent: Regular Season Over


Hawkeyes continue late-season surge with 30-point win over Cornhuskers.  


21. Nebraska (9-3)

Week 13 Result: Lost to Iowa 40-10

Last Week: 15

Week 14 Opponent: Regular Season Over


Huskers thoroughly dominated at Iowa.


22. Stanford (9-3)

Week 13 Result: Beat Rice 41-17

Last Week: NR

Week 14 Opponent: Regular Season Over


Cardinal finish regular season by winning five in a row.


23. USF (10-2)

Week 13 Result: Beat UCF 48-31

Last Week: NR

Week 14 Opponent: Regular Season Over


Quarterback Quinton Flowers is quietly having an outstanding season.


24. Navy (9-2)

Week 13 Result: Beat SMU 75-31

Last Week: NR

Week 14 Opponent: AAC Championship vs. Temple


Midshipmen have scored at least 66 points in each of their last two games.


25. Pitt (8-4)

Week 13 Result: Beat Syracuse 76-61

Last Week: NR

Week 14 Opponent: Regular Season Over


Panthers gave up 61 points in win over Syracuse, but coach Pat Narduzzi’s team scored 76. That’s the highest combined total from two teams in a FBS game. 


College Football Post-Week 12 Top 25 Rankings


1. Alabama (11-0)

Week 12 Result: Beat Chattanooga 31-3

Last Week: 1

Week 13 Opponent: Auburn


Sluggish effort, but Crimson Tide still coast to 28-point win over Chattanooga.


2. Ohio State (10-1)

Week 12 Result: Beat Michigan State 17-16

Last Week: 2

Week 13 Opponent: Michigan


Buckeyes barely survive trip to East Lansing. However, playoff hopes remain intact as Michigan visits Columbus next Saturday.


3. Clemson (10-1)

Week 12 Result: Beat Wake Forest 35-13

Last Week: 3

Week 13 Opponent: South Carolina


Tigers dominate Wake Forest to clinch ACC Atlantic title.


4. Michigan (10-1)

Week 12 Result: Beat Indiana 20-10

Last Week: 4

Week 13 Opponent: Beat Indiana 20-10


Wolverines didn’t get much from quarterback John O’Korn in his first start, but coach Jim Harbaugh’s team used a strong effort by the defense and running back De’Veon Smith (158 yards) to end Indiana’s upset bid.


5. Wisconsin (9-2)

Week 12 Result: Beat Purdue 49-20

Last Week: 6

Week 13 Opponent: Minnesota


Badgers use 35-point second quarter to crush Boilermakers and move within one victory of clinching the Big Ten West Division title.


6. Washington (10-1)

Week 12 Result: Beat Arizona State 44-18

Last Week: 7

Week 13 Opponent: at Washington State


Huskies rebound from last week’s loss to USC and set the stage for a huge showdown against rival Washington State to decide the Pac-12 North title.


7. Oklahoma (9-2)

Week 12 Result: Beat West Virginia 56-28

Last Week: 8

Week 13 Opponent: Oklahoma State


Mayfield, Perine and Mixon come up big in 56-28 victory over West Virginia. For the second consecutive year, the Bedlam rivalry will decide the winner of the Big 12 title.


8. USC (8-3)

Week 12 Result: Beat UCLA 36-14

Last Week: 14

Week 13 Opponent: Notre Dame


Trojans hold bragging rights over crosstown rival UCLA for another year after 36-14 victory on Saturday night.


9. Penn State (9-2)

Week 12 Result: Beat Rutgers 39-0

Last Week: 9

Week 13 Opponent: Michigan State


Penn State is one win away from claiming the Big Ten East. However, as Michigan State showed against Ohio State, the Spartans won’t be a pushover next Saturday.


10. Colorado (9-2)

Week 12 Result: Beat Washington State 38-24

Last Week: 12

Week 13 Opponent: Utah


Quarterback Sefo Liufau and the defense lead Colorado to 38-24 win over Washington State. Buffaloes will clinch Pac-12 South next week with a win over Utah.


11. Louisville (9-2)

Week 12 Result: Lost to Houston 36-10

Last Week: 5

Week 13 Opponent: Kentucky


Penalties, turnovers and shaky offensive line play doom Cardinals’ playoff hopes in Thursday night defeat at Houston.


12. Florida State (8-3)

Week 12 Result: Beat Syracuse 45-14

Last Week: 11

Week 13 Opponent: Florida


Dalvin Cook rushes for 225 yards and four touchdowns and sets new school career rushing record in Florida State’s 45-14 win over Syracuse.


13. Oklahoma State (9-2)

Week 12 Result: Beat TCU 31-6

Last Week: 20

Week 13 Opponent: Bye Week


Mike Gundy’s team isn’t getting much national attention, but the Cowboys have quietly won seven in a row. The annual Bedlam matchup against Oklahoma will decide the Big 12 title in two weeks.


14. West Virginia (8-2)

Week 12 Result: Lost to Oklahoma 56-28

Last Week: 10

Week 13 Opponent: at Iowa State


Second-half rally helped make final score more respectable, but Mountaineers dug too big of an early hole against Oklahoma with turnovers and mistakes.


15. Nebraska (9-2)

Week 12 Result: Beat Maryland 28-7

Last Week: 15

Week 13 Opponent: at Iowa


No Tommy Armstrong? No problem for Nebraska. Ryker Fyfe completes 23 of 37 throws for 220 yards and one score in relief of an injured Armstrong in victory over Maryland.


16. Auburn (8-3)

Week 12 Result: Beat Alabama A&M 55-0

Last Week: 16

Week 13 Opponent: at Alabama


Matchup against Alabama A&M allows Tigers to rest a couple of key players with Iron Bowl looming next Saturday.


17. Western Michigan (11-0)

Week 12 Result: Beat Buffalo 38-0

Last Week: 18

Week 13 Opponent: Toledo


Wyoming’s win over San Diego State helps Western Michigan in its quest to be the top Group of 5 team for a New Year’s Six bowl bid.


18. Florida (8-2)

Week 12 Result: Beat LSU 16-10

Last Week: 22

Week 13 Opponent: at Florida State


Goal-line stand and timely offense help Gators stun LSU in Baton Rouge. Florida is headed to the SEC Championship for the second year in a row.


19. Utah (8-3)

Week 12 Result: Lost to Oregon 30-28

Last Week: 13

Week 13 Opponent: at Colorado


Surprising loss against Oregon ends Utah’s Pac-12 South title hopes.


20. LSU (6-4)

Week 12 Result: Lost to Florida 16-10

Last Week: 17

Week 13 Opponent: at Texas A&M


Ed Orgeron’s hopes (and LSU’s Sugar Bowl chances) of keeping the full-time job likely ended after LSU’s loss to Florida.


21. Texas A&M (8-3)

Week 12 Result: Beat UTSA 23-10

Last Week: 21

Week 13 Opponent: LSU


A healthy Myles Garrett on defense makes a big difference for the Aggies. Texas A&M’s two-game losing streak ends with 23-10 win over UTSA.


22. Virginia Tech (8-3)

Week 12 Result: Beat Notre Dame 34-31

Last Week: 23

Week 13 Opponent: Virginia


Hokies had to overcome two 17-point deficits in 34-31 win over Notre Dame in South Bend. Next week’s game against Virginia will decide whether or not Virginia Tech or North Carolina represents the Coastal in the ACC Championship.


23. Washington State (8-3)

Week 12 Result: Lost to Colorado 38-24

Last Week: 19

Week 13 Opponent: Washington


Eight-game winning streak ends in Boulder, but all is not lost for coach Mike Leach’s team. The Cougars can win the North Division with a victory over Washington next week.


24. Houston (9-2)

Week 12 Result: Beat Louisville 36-10

Last Week: NR

Week 13 Opponent: at Memphis


Cougars rejoin the top 25 after impressive win over Louisville on Thursday night.


25. Boise State (10-1)

Week 12 Result: Beat UNLV 42-25

Last Week: 25

Week 13 Opponent: at Air Force


Big night from running back Jeremy McNichols (206 yards) is more than enough in 42-25 win over UNLV.


College Football Post-Week 11 Top 25 Rankings

1. Alabama (10-0)

Week 11 Result: Beat Mississippi State 51-3

Last Week: 1

Week 12 Opponent: Chattanooga


No post-LSU hangover for Alabama in 51-3 victory over Mississippi State.


2. Ohio State (9-1)

Week 11 Result: Beat Maryland 62-3

Last Week: 5

Week 12 Opponent: at Michigan State


Buckeyes win 62-3 for the second week in a row and climb to No. 2 in the rankings after losses by Clemson, Michigan and Washington.


3. Clemson (9-1)

Week 11 Result: Lost to Pitt 43-42

Last Week: 2

Week 12 Opponent: at Wake Forest


Loss against Pitt is a setback, but Tigers still in good shape to make the CFB Playoff by winning out.


4. Michigan (9-1)

Week 11 Result: Lost to Iowa 14-13

Last Week: 3

Week 12 Opponent: Indiana


Offense struggles to get on track in stunning loss at Iowa.


5. Louisville (9-1)

Week 11 Result: Beat Wake Forest 44-12

Last Week: 5

Week 12 Opponent: at Houston


Louisville’s offense comes alive for 34 points in fourth quarter to pull away from Wake Forest.


6. Wisconsin (8-2)

Week 11 Result: Beat Illinois 48-3

Last Week: 7

Week 12 Opponent: at Purdue


Losses by three top-five teams on Saturday should help boost Wisconsin’s playoff chances – if it can beat Penn State, Ohio State or Michigan in the Big Ten title game.


7. Washington (9-1)

Week 11 Result: Lost to USC 26-13

Last Week: 4

Week 12 Opponent: Arizona State


Ground game and quarterback Jake Browning struggle mightily in loss to USC. However, Huskies aren’t out of the playoff picture.


8. Oklahoma (8-2)

Week 11 Result: Beat Baylor 45-24

Last Week: 9

Week 12 Opponent: at West Virginia


Sooners quietly moving back into the playoff discussion and have two opportunities to impress with games against ranked opponents (West Virginia and Oklahoma State).


9. Penn State (8-2)

Week 11 Result: Beat Indiana 45-31

Last Week: 11

Week 12 Opponent: at Rutgers


Thanks to Iowa’s win over Michigan, the Nittany Lions are now a legitimate playoff contender.


10. West Virginia (8-1)

Week 11 Result: Beat Texas 24-20

Last Week: 15

Week 12 Opponent: Oklahoma


Last-minute defensive stand preserves victory over the Longhorns. Mountaineers have a huge opportunity to take control of the Big 12 with a matchup against Oklahoma next Saturday.


11. Florida State (7-3)

Week 11 Result: Beat Boston College 45-7

Last Week: 13

Week 12 Opponent: at Syracuse


Seminoles’ defense limits Boston College to just eight first downs and 146 total yards in dominant 45-7 win on Friday night.


12. Colorado (8-2)

Week 11 Result: Beat Arizona 49-24

Last Week: 16

Week 12 Opponent: Washington State


Win over Arizona ensures Colorado will at least double last week’s year’s win total (four). Is next week’s game against Washington State a preview of the Pac-12 Championship Game?


13. Utah (8-2)

Week 11 Result: Beat Arizona State 49-26

Last Week: 17

Week 12 Opponent: Oregon


Utes turn in dominant effort on the line of scrimmage (22 tackles for a loss) in 49-26 win over Arizona State on Thursday night.


14. USC (7-3)

Week 11 Result: Beat Washington 26-13

Last Week: 23

Week 12 Opponent: at UCLA


Defense leads the way in USC’s 26-13 upset over Washington.


15. Nebraska (8-2)

Week 11 Result: Beat Minnesota 24-17

Last Week: 18

Week 12 Opponent: Maryland


Tommy Armstrong’s three touchdowns and a late interception by the defense helps Cornhuskers secure win over Minnesota.


16. Auburn (7-3)

Week 11 Result: Lost to Georgia 13-7

Last Week: 8

Week 12 Opponent: Alabama A&M


Absence of running back Kamryn Pettway and quarterback Sean White’s injured shoulder hinder offense in 13-7 loss at Georgia.


17. LSU (6-3)

Week 11 Result: Beat Arkansas 38-10

Last Week: 21

Week 12 Opponent: Florida


Tigers didn’t let Alabama beat them twice, as Derrius Guice and Leonard Fournette help LSU reclaim the Golden Boot trophy.


18. Western Michigan (10-0)

Week 11 Result: Beat Kent State 37-21

Last Week: 19

Week 12 Opponent: Buffalo


Broncos overcome slow start to defeat Kent State and remain the top team from the Group of 5 ranks.


19. Washington State (8-2)

Week 11 Result: Beat California 56-21

Last Week: 20

Week 12 Opponent: at Colorado


Cougars win eighth game in a row after beating California 56-24. A tough two-game stretch awaits coach Mike Leach’s team to close out the regular season: at Colorado and Washington.


20. Oklahoma State (8-2)

Week 11 Result: Beat Texas Tech 45-44

Last Week: 22

Week 12 Opponent: at TCU


The Mason Rudolph to James Washington connection and a missed extra point by Texas Tech was just enough for Oklahoma State to win 45-44.


21. Texas A&M (7-3)

Week 11 Result: Lost to Ole Miss 29-28

Last Week: 10

Week 12 Opponent: UTSA


The Aggies missed quarterback Trevor Knight, but the real storyline in Saturday’s loss was the defensive performance against Ole Miss freshman quarterback Shea Patterson.


22. Florida (7-2)

Week 11 Result: Beat South Carolina 20-7

Last Week: 25

Week 12 Opponent: at LSU


Quarterback Austin Appleby and running back Jordan Scarlett help the offense find a spark against South Carolina. However, the Gators’ defense suffered another big setback with the loss of safety Marcus Maye to an arm injury.


23. Virginia Tech (7-3)

Week 11 Result: Lost to Georgia Tech 30-20

Last Week: 14

Week 12 Opponent: at Notre Dame


Hokies struggled to contain Georgia Tech’s option attack, but coach Justin Fuente’s team can win Coastal Division with a win over Virginia on Nov. 26.


24. North Carolina (7-3)

Week 11 Result: Lost to Duke 28-27

Last Week: 12

Week 12 Opponent: The Citadel


Loss to Duke damaged division title hopes, but Tar Heels remain alive for Coastal crown after Georgia Tech upset Virginia Tech.


25. Boise State (9-1)

Week 11 Result: Beat Hawaii 52-16

Last Week: NR

Week 12 Opponent: UNLV


Broncos aren’t out of the New Year’s Six bowl contention – especially after UNLV knocked off Wyoming and opened the door for the Broncos in the division once again.


College Football Post-Week 10 Top 25 Rankings

1. Alabama (9-0)

Week 10 Result: Beat LSU 10-0

Last Week: 1

Week 11 Opponent: Mississippi State


Defense and timely plays by quarterback Jalen Hurts helps Alabama dominate LSU in Baton Rouge.


2. Clemson (9-0)

Week 10 Result: Beat Syracuse 54-0

Last Week: 2

Week 11 Opponent: Pitt


No letdown for Tigers a week after victory over Florida State in easy win over Syracuse. Quarterback Deshaun Watson’s shoulder injury isn’t serious.


3. Michigan (9-0)

Week 10 Result: Beat Maryland 59-3

Last Week: 3

Week 11 Opponent: at Iowa


Wolverines continue to cruise to late November showdown against Ohio State. Only one team (Michigan State) has scored more than 10 points against Michigan’s defense over the last six games.


4. Washington (9-0)

Week 10 Result: Beat California 66-27

Last Week: 4

Week 11 Opponent: USC


As long as Washington keeps winning, the CFB Playoff rankings will get sorted out in its favor at the end of the year.


5. Ohio State (8-1)

Week 10 Result: Beat Nebraska 62-3

Last Week: 6

Week 11 Opponent: at Maryland


J.T. Barrett’s 290 passing yards against a good Nebraska secondary should ease some of the concerns about the passing game.


6. Louisville (8-1)

Week 10 Result: Beat Boston College 52-7

Last Week: 5

Week 11 Opponent: Wake Forest


Lamar Jackson’s big day (seven touchdowns) leads Louisville to easy win over Boston College.


7. Wisconsin (7-2)

Week 10 Result: Beat Northwestern 21-7

Last Week: 7

Week 11 Opponent: Illinois


Badgers regain control of Big Ten West thanks to win at Northwestern, along with a Nebraska loss at Ohio State.


8. Auburn (7-2)

Week 10 Result: Beat Vanderbilt 23-16

Last Week: 9

Week 11 Opponent: at Georgia


Quarterback Sean White wasn’t 100 percent healthy, but his return in the second half helped spark Auburn to a closer-than-expected win over Vanderbilt.


9. Oklahoma (7-2)

Week 10 Result: Beat Iowa State 34-24

Last Week: 10

Week 11 Opponent: Baylor


Sooners overcome tricky road environment and injuries to beat Iowa State 34-24.


10. Texas A&M (7-2)

Week 10 Result: Lost to Mississippi State 35-28

Last Week: 8

Week 11 Opponent: Ole Miss


Loss in Starkville was costly in many ways for the Aggies.


11. Penn State (7-2)

Week 10 Result: Beat Iowa 41-14

Last Week: 22

Week 11 Opponent: at Indiana


Is Penn State the nation’s most-improved team from Week 1 to Week 10? 


12. North Carolina (7-2)

Week 10 Result: Beat Georgia Tech 48-20

Last Week: 14

Week 11 Opponent: at Duke


Tar Heels use big performances from Mitch Trubisky and Elijah Hood to keep the pressure on Virginia Tech in the Coastal Division.


13. Florida State (6-3)

Week 10 Result: Beat NC State 24-20

Last Week: 15

Week 11 Opponent: Boston College


Late touchdown pass by quarterback Deondre Francois helps Florida State survive another tough trip to Raleigh.


14. Virginia Tech (7-2)

Week 10 Result: Beat Duke 24-21

Last Week: 17

Week 11 Opponent: Georgia Tech


Special teams and defense help Virginia Tech hold off Duke’s upset bid.


15. West Virginia (7-1)

Week 10 Result: Beat Kansas 48-21

Last Week: 18

Week 11 Opponent: at Texas

As expected, West Virginia has little trouble in easy win over Kansas.


16. Colorado (7-2)

Week 10 Result: Beat UCLA 20-10

Last Week: 20

Week 11 Opponent: at Arizona


Victory over UCLA wasn’t pretty, but Buffaloes find a way to win and stay in front of the Pac-12 South standings.


17. Utah (7-2)

Week 10 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 21

Week 11 Opponent: at Arizona State


Two of Utah’s final three games take place on the road, including a Nov. 26 showdown against Colorado.


18. Nebraska (7-2)

Week 10 Result: Lost to Ohio State 62-3

Last Week: 12

Week 11 Opponent: Minnesota


Cornhuskers dominated in Columbus, but the best sight of the evening was Tommy Armstrong’s return to the stadium after a scary injury in the first half.


19. Western Michigan (9-0)

Week 10 Result: Beat Ball State 52-20

Last Week: 19

Week 11 Opponent: at Kent State


Broncos in the driver’s seat to be the top Group of 5 team and earn a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl.


20. Washington State (7-2)

Week 10 Result: Beat Arizona 69-7

Last Week: 23

Week 11 Opponent: California


Washington State’s 69 points are the most scored in school history against a Pac-12 opponent.


21. LSU (5-3)

Week 10 Result: Lost to Alabama 10-0

Last Week: 16

Week 11 Opponent: at Arkansas


Offense falls short once again in loss to Alabama.


22. Oklahoma State (7-2)

Week 10 Result: Beat Kansas State 43-37

Last Week: 24

Week 11 Opponent: Texas Tech


Quarterback Mason Rudolph (457 yards) shines, while last-second defensive stand preserves victory for Cowboys.


23. USC (6-3)

Week 10 Result: Beat Oregon 45-20

Last Week: 25

Week 11 Opponent: at Washington


Trojans continue to click behind quarterback Sam Darnold.


24. Arkansas (6-3)

Week 10 Result: Beat Florida 31-10

Last Week: NR

Week 11 Opponent: LSU


Razorbacks rebound with dominant win over Florida after disappointing showing at Auburn in Week 8.


25. Florida (6-2)

Week 10 Result: Lost to Arkansas 31-10

Last Week: 11

Week 11 Opponent: South Carolina


Offensive woes beginning to catch up with Gators in tougher portion of the schedule.



College Football Post-Week 9 Top 25 Rankings

1. Alabama (8-0)

Week 9 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 1

Week 10 Opponent: at LSU


Crimson Tide defense against Leonard Fournette will be a must-see matchup next Saturday.


2. Clemson (8-0)

Week 9 Result: Beat Florida State

Last Week: 2

Week 10 Opponent: Syracuse


Deshaun Watson and standout defensive line deliver clutch plays late in the fourth to propel Clemson to first win in Tallahassee for the first time since 2006.

3. Michigan (8-0)

Week 9 Result: Beat Michigan State 32-23

Last Week: 3

Week 10 Opponent: Maryland


Wolverines get revenge for last year’s last-second loss to Michigan State. However, the Spartans made coach Jim Harbaugh’s team work more than most anticipated.


4. Washington (8-0)

Week 9 Result: Beat Utah 31-24

Last Week: 5

Week 10 Opponent: at California


Washington’s win over Utah moves the Huskies to 8-0 for the first time since 1992.


5. Louisville (7-1)

Week 9 Result: Beat Virginia 32-25

Last Week: 4

Week 10 Opponent: at Boston College


Lamar Jackson’s four touchdowns help Louisville dodge Virginia’s upset bid in final minute.


6. Ohio State (7-1)

Week 9 Result: Beat Northwestern 24-20

Last Week: 6

Week 10 Opponent: Nebraska


Win over Northwestern wasn’t pretty, but Buckeyes needed a rebound victory after last week’s loss at Penn State. In a surprise, the Wildcats generated 406 total yards against Ohio State’s defense. Is the defense showing a few chinks in the armor?


7. Wisconsin (6-2)

Week 9 Result: Beat Nebraska 23-17

Last Week: 7

Week 10 Opponent: at Northwestern


Turnovers, a sluggish passing game and special teams issues nearly cost Wisconsin win over Nebraska. However, coach Paul Chryst’s defense steps up once again to hold on in overtime.


8. Texas A&M (7-1)

Week 9 Result: Beat NMSU 52-10

Last Week: 8

Week 10 Opponent: at Mississippi State


Easy win over New Mexico State allowed coach Kevin Sumlin to rest a couple of key players dealing with injuries.


9. Auburn (6-2)

Week 9 Result: Beat Ole Miss 40-29

Last Week: 13

Week 10 Opponent: Vanderbilt


Tigers use another huge performance from Kamryn Pettway to win at Ole Miss and earn fifth victory in a row.


10. Oklahoma (6-2)

Week 9 Result: Beat Kansas 56-3

Last Week: 14

Week 10 Opponent: at Iowa State (Thursday)


Another week, another Saturday of big plays from quarterback Baker Mayfield and receiver Dede Westbrook.


11. Florida (6-1)

Week 9 Result: Beat Georgia 24-10

Last Week: 15

Week 10 Opponent: at Arkansas


Gators in firm control of SEC East after win over Georgia and Tennessee’s loss to South Carolina.


12. Nebraska (7-1)

Week 9 Result: Lost to Wisconsin 23-17

Last Week: 10

Week 10 Opponent: at Ohio State


Cornhuskers knocked from ranks of unbeaten in overtime loss at Wisconsin. Things won’t get any easier for Nebraska with a trip to Ohio State up next.


13. Baylor (6-1)

Week 9 Result: Lost to Texas 35-34

Last Week: 9

Week 10 Opponent: TCU


Seth Russell’s huge day not enough for Baylor to overcome struggles against the run and in pass protection in 35-34 defeat at Texas.


14. North Carolina (6-2)

Week 9 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 16

Week 10 Opponent: Georgia Tech


Three out of North Carolina’s four remaining games take place in Chapel Hill.


15. Florida State (5-3)

Week 9 Result: Lost to Clemson 37-34

Last Week: 17

Week 10 Opponent: at NC State


Upset bid falls just short for Florida State after Deshaun Watson’s fourth-quarter heroics keep Clemson unbeaten and in control of ACC Atlantic.


16. LSU (5-2)

Week 9 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 20

Week 10 Opponent: Alabama


Ed Orgeron looks for statement win as LSU’s interim coach next Saturday against Alabama.


17. Virginia Tech (6-2)

Week 9 Result: Beat Pitt 39-36

Last Week: 23

Week 10 Opponent: at Duke


Big night from quarterback Jerod Evans (406 yards) helps Virginia Tech edge Pitt 39-36 on Thursday night.


18. West Virginia (6-1)

Week 9 Result: Lost to Oklahoma State 37-20

Last Week: 12

Week 10 Opponent: Kansas


Three turnovers converted into 17 points for Oklahoma State prove costly for West Virginia.


19. Western Michigan (8-0)

Week 9 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 21

Week 10 Opponent: at Ball State (Tuesday)


Broncos hit the midweek portion of their schedule with a Tuesday night matchup at Ball State this week.


20. Colorado (6-2)

Week 9 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 22

Week 10 Opponent: UCLA


Path to win Pac-12’s South Division goes through Boulder with Colorado playing three of its final four games at home.


21. Utah (7-2)

Week 9 Result: Lost to Washington 31-24

Last Week: 19

Week 10 Opponent: Bye Week


Utah’s upset bid falls short against Washington, but Utes could get another shot at Huskies in Pac-12 title game.


22. Penn State (6-2)

Week 9 Result: Beat Purdue 62-24

Last Week: 25

Week 10 Opponent: Iowa


No letdown for the Nittany Lions after last week’s win over Ohio State. Running back Saquon Barkley totaled 277 total yards and two scores in the 62-24 victory over Purdue.


23. Washington State (6-2)

Week 9 Result: Beat Oregon State 35-31

Last Week: NR

Week 10 Opponent: Arizona


Trip to Corvallis provided a tougher matchup than most anticipated. However, coach Mike Leach’s team overcame the early deficit to match Washington’s 5-0 start in Pac-12 play.


24. Oklahoma State (6-2)

Week 9 Result: Beat West Virginia 37-20

Last Week: NR

Week 10 Opponent: at Kansas State


Win over West Virginia helps Oklahoma State climb back into the Big 12 title picture, but Cowboys play three out of last four games away from Stillwater.


25. USC (5-3)

Week 9 Result: Beat California 45-24

Last Week: NR

Week 10 Opponent: Oregon


Trojans continue to roll behind quarterback Sam Darnold with victory over California on Thursday night.



College Football Post-Week 8 Top 25 Rankings

1. Alabama (8-0)

Week 8 Result: Beat Texas A&M 33-14

Last Week: 1

Week 9 Opponent: Bye Week


Alabama turns in another dominant performance against a ranked team in 33-14 victory over Texas A&M. Trip to LSU on Nov. 5 will be interesting for coach Nick Saban’s team.


2. Clemson (7-0)

Week 8 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 3

Week 9 Opponent: at Florida State


Tigers looking for first win at Florida State since 2006 next Saturday night.


3. Michigan (7-0)

Week 8 Result: Beat Illinois 41-8

Last Week: 4

Week 9 Opponent: at Michigan State


Wolverines cruise to easy win over Illinois and benefit from Ohio State’s loss at Penn State.


4. Louisville (6-1)

Week 8 Result: Beat NC State 54-13

Last Week: 5

Week 9 Opponent: at Virginia


Lamar Jackson posts 431 overall yards and four total scores in Louisville’s easy 54-13 victory over NC State.


5. Washington (7-0)

Week 8 Result: Beat Oregon State 41-17

Last Week: 6

Week 9 Opponent: at Utah


Next Saturday’s showdown at Utah could be a preview of the Pac-12 Championship.


6. Ohio State (6-1)

Week 8 Result: Lost to Penn State 24-21

Last Week: 2

Week 9 Opponent: Northwestern


Errors on special teams and inconsistent passing attack doom Buckeyes in Happy Valley. However, Ohio State still controls its own destiny for a spot in the College Football Playoff.


7. Wisconsin (5-2)

Week 8 Result: Beat Iowa 17-9

Last Week: 8

Week 9 Opponent: Nebraska


Win over Hawkeyes is huge for West Division title hopes, but coach Paul Chryst’s team faces another tough opponent with Nebraska visiting Madison next week.


8. Texas A&M (6-1)

Week 8 Result: Lost to Alabama 33-14

Last Week: 7

Week 9 Opponent: New Mexico State


Alabama’s defense and ground attack simply too much for Texas A&M to overcome in Tuscaloosa. However, the season is far from over for the Aggies, as an 11-1 record and a New Year’s Six Bowl berth is within reach.


9. Baylor (6-0)

Week 8 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 9

Week 9 Opponent: at Texas


Bears have cruised to 6-0 record, but the schedule will get tougher over the next six games, starting with a trip to Austin against Texas in Week 9, followed by matchups against TCU and Oklahoma.


10. Nebraska (7-0)

Week 8 Result: Beat Purdue 27-14

Last Week: 10

Week 9 Opponent: at Wisconsin


Cornhuskers pull away from pesky Purdue in second half, setting up a huge showdown in Madison against Wisconsin next Saturday night.


11. Tennessee (5-2)

Week 8 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 11

Week 9 Opponent: Bye Week


Bye week was a needed break for a Tennessee team dealing with significant injuries on both sides of the ball.


12. West Virginia (6-0)

Week 8 Result: Beat TCU 34-10

Last Week: 17

Week 9 Opponent: at Oklahoma State


Dana Holgorsen’s team continues to impress with easy 34-10 victory over TCU.


13. Auburn (5-2)

Week 8 Result: Beat Arkansas 56-3

Last Week: 23

Week 9 Opponent: at Ole Miss


Tigers have made marked improvement over the last few weeks and dominated Arkansas 56-3 on Saturday night.


14. Oklahoma (5-2)

Week 8 Result: Beat Texas Tech 66-59

Last Week: 13

Week 9 Opponent: Kansas


Sooners survive crazy shootout in Lubbock thanks to big performances from quarterback Baker Mayfield, running back Joe Mixon and receiver Dede Westbrook.


15. Florida (5-1)

Week 8 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 14

Week 9 Opponent: Georgia (Jacksonville)


Gators control their own destiny in SEC East, but the schedule features road trips to LSU and Arkansas, as well as the neutral site battle with Georgia next Saturday.


16. North Carolina (6-2)

Week 8 Result: Beat Virginia 35-14

Last Week: 15

Week 9 Opponent: Bye Week


Quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s big day leads Tar Heels to 35-14 win over Virginia.


17. Florida State (5-2)

Week 8 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 16

Week 9 Opponent: Clemson


Seminoles look to play spoiler with Clemson visiting Tallahassee next Saturday night.


18. Boise State (7-0)

Week 8 Result: Beat BYU 28-27

Last Week: 18

Week 9 Opponent: at Wyoming


Broncos overcome turnovers and last-second Hail Mary attempt to earn one-point win over BYU.


19. Utah (7-1)

Week 8 Result: Beat UCLA 52-45

Last Week: 22

Week 9 Opponent: Washington


Return of running back Joe Williams from retirement has been a huge boost for Utah’s offense.


20. LSU (5-2)

Week 8 Result: Beat Ole Miss 38-21

Last Week: NR

Week 9 Opponent: Bye Week


Leonard Fournette’s huge night and a standout effort on defense helps Tigers overwhelm Rebels in Death Valley.


21. Western Michigan (8-0)

Week 8 Result: Beat Eastern Michigan 45-31

Last Week: 21

Week 9 Opponent: Bye Week


Broncos should be 11-0 headed into Nov. 25 showdown against Toledo.


22. Colorado (6-2)

Week 8 Result: Beat Stanford 10-5

Last Week: 25

Week 9 Opponent: Bye Week


Buffaloes are headed to a bowl for the first time since 2007.


23. Virginia Tech (5-2)

Week 8 Result: Beat Miami 37-16

Last Week: NR

Week 9 Opponent: at Pitt


Jerod Evans and Bud Foster’s defense lead Hokies to convincing 37-16 win over Miami.


24. Navy (6-1)

Week 8 Result: Beat Memphis 42-28

Last Week: NR

Week 9 Opponent: at South Florida


Midshipmen increase lead in American Athletic West Division with victory over Memphis and Houston’s loss to SMU.


25. Penn State (5-2)

Week 8 Result: Beat Ohio State 24-21

Last Week: NR

Week 9 Opponent: Purdue


Nittany Lions score biggest win of James Franklin’s tenure with upset over Ohio State.



College Football Post-Week 7 Top 25 Rankings

1. Alabama (7-0)

Week 7 Result: Beat Tennessee 49-10

Last Week: 1

Week 8 Opponent: Texas A&M


Another week, another dominant performance from the Crimson Tide. Alabama now has a 10-game winning streak over the Volunteers.


2. Ohio State (6-0)

Week 7 Result: Beat Wisconsin 30-23

Last Week: 2

Week 8 Opponent: at Penn State


Goal-line stand in overtime preserves Ohio State’s unbeaten record and place as the Big Ten’s frontrunner at the midway point of the season.


3. Clemson (7-0)

Week 7 Result: Beat NC State 24-17

Last Week: 3

Week 8 Opponent: Bye Week


Tigers barely survive NC State’s upset bid to remain unbeaten. Will the bye week help this offense get back on track?


4. Michigan (6-0)

Week 7 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 4

Week 8 Opponent: Illinois


Wolverines have one more contest (Illinois) before a game against rival Michigan State.


5. Louisville (5-1)

Week 7 Result: Beat Duke 24-14

Last Week: 5

Week 8 Opponent: NC State


Cardinals overcome sluggish performance and utilize a late penalty against Duke to seal the 24-14 victory over the Blue Devils.


6. Washington (6-0)

Week 7 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 6

Week 8 Opponent: Oregon State


Huskies hope to keep their momentum rolling against Oregon State in Week 8, while a tough road trip to Utah looms in Week 9.


7. Texas A&M (6-0)

Week 7 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 7

Week 8 Opponent: at Alabama


Timely bye week should help Aggies return to full strength after key injuries hit this team over its last two games.


8. Wisconsin (4-2)

Week 7 Result: Lost to Ohio State 30-23

Last Week: 8

Week 8 Opponent: at Iowa


No shame in an overtime loss against Ohio State.


9. Baylor (6-0)

Week 7 Result: Beat Kansas 49-7

Last Week: 11

Week 8 Opponent: Bye Week


As expected, Baylor has no trouble in Saturday’s easy win over Kansas.


10. Nebraska (6-0)

Week 7 Result: Beat Indiana 27-22

Last Week: 12

Week 8 Opponent: Purdue


It wasn’t pretty, but the Cornhuskers are 6-0 for the first time since 2001.


11. Tennessee (5-2)

Week 7 Result: Lost to Alabama 49-10

Last Week: 9

Week 8 Opponent: Bye Week


No second-half rally was in the cards for Tennessee this week, as Alabama dominated from the opening snap and never took its foot off the pedal.


12. Houston (6-1)

Week 7 Result: Beat Tulsa 38-31

Last Week: 13

Week 8 Opponent: at SMU


Goal-line stand on final play against Tulsa saves Houston’s New Year’s Six bowl hopes.


13. Oklahoma (4-2)

Week 7 Result: Beat Kansas State 38-17

Last Week: 14

Week 8 Opponent: at Texas Tech


The Baker Mayfield to Dede Westbrook connection stays hot in 38-17 win over Kansas State.


14. Florida (5-1)

Week 7 Result: Beat Missouri 40-14

Last Week: 15

Week 8 Opponent: Bye Week


Gators averaged 6.8 yards per play against Missouri, but quarterback Luke Del Rio wasn’t sharp (three interceptions and 18 of 38) in his return to the starting lineup.


15. North Carolina (5-2)
Week 7 Result: Beat Miami 20-13

Last Week: 17

Week 8 Opponent: at Virginia


Tar Heels quickly erase last week’s disappointment with a crucial win at Miami.


16. Florida State (5-2)

Week 7 Result: Beat Wake Forest 17-6

Last Week: 18

Week 8 Opponent: Bye Week


Demon Deacons gave Florida State all it could handle, but Seminoles hold on to keep slim ACC Atlantic title hopes alive. Next up? A bye week before a date against Clemson on Oct. 29.


17. West Virginia (5-0)

Week 7 Result: Beat Texas Tech 48-17

Last Week: 21

Week 8 Opponent: TCU


The Mountaineers held Texas Tech’s high-powered offense to just 17 points in an easy 48-17 victory in Lubbock.


18. Boise State (6-0)

Week 7 Result: Beat Colorado State 28-23

Last Week: 19

Week 8 Opponent: BYU (Thursday night)


Broncos hold off late rally by Colorado State to improve to 6-0 overall. Boise State faces a short week and a tough opponent (BYU) for Week 8.


19. Arkansas (5-2)

Week 7 Result: Beat Ole Miss 34-30

Last Week: NR

Week 8 Opponent: at Auburn


Quarterback Austin Allen and a few timely stops on defense help Hogs rebound from 49-30 loss to Alabama.


20. Ole Miss (3-3)

Week 7 Result: Lost to Arkansas 34-30

Last Week: 10

Week 8 Opponent: at LSU


Rebels fall in heartbreaker at Arkansas. All three of Ole Miss’ losses came by seven points or less this season.


21. Western Michigan (7-0)

Week 7 Result: Beat Akron 41-0

Last Week: 22

Week 8 Opponent: Eastern Michigan


The Broncos have scored at least 41 points in each of their last four games. With games remaining against Eastern Michigan, Ball State, Kent State, Buffalo and Toledo, Western Michigan is on track for a perfect regular season record (12-0) before the MAC title game.


22. Utah (6-1)

Week 7 Result: Beat Oregon State 19-14

Last Week: 23

Week 8 Opponent: at UCLA


Weather conditions and injuries took a toll on Utah in Saturday’s 19-14 win over Oregon State.


23. Auburn (4-2)

Week 7 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 24

Week 8 Opponent: Arkansas


Tough two-game stretch – Arkansas and at Ole Miss – coming up for the Tigers.


24. USF (6-1)

Week 7 Result: Beat UConn 42-27

Last Week: 25

Week 8 Opponent: at Temple (Friday)


Strong performance from quarterback Quinton Flowers (5 overall TDs) helps Bulls pull away from UConn 42-27. Win over Temple on Friday night would give coach Willie Taggart’s team a commanding lead in the American Athletic Conference’s East Division.


25. Colorado (5-2)

Week 7 Result: Beat Arizona State 40-16

Last Week: NR

Week 8 Opponent: at Stanford


Buffaloes already have three Pac-12 victories after having just one from 2014-15.


College Football Post-Week 6 Top 25 Rankings


1. Alabama (6-0)

Week 6 Result: Beat Arkansas 49-30

Last Week: 1

Week 7 Opponent: at Tennessee


The Crimson Tide quickly ended any hopes Arkansas had of an upset win in Fayetteville.


2. Ohio State (5-0)

Week 6 Result: Beat Indiana 38-17

Last Week: 2

Week 7 Opponent: at Wisconsin


Indiana’s defense contained the Buckeye passing attack, but J.T. Barrett, Curtis Samuel and Mike Weber were too tough to stop on the ground.


3. Clemson (6-0)

Week 6 Result: Beat Boston College 56-10

Last Week: 3

Week 7 Opponent: NC State


No letdown for coach Dabo Swinney’s team after last week’s win at Louisville, as Clemson cruised to easy 56-10 win over Boston College on Friday night.


4. Michigan (6-0)

Week 6 Result: Beat Rutgers 78-0

Last Week: 4

Week 7 Opponent: Bye Week


Michigan’s statistical domination against Rutgers is one of the most staggering box scores to read in recent memory.


5. Louisville (4-1)

Week 6 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 6

Week 7 Opponent: Duke


Lamar Jackson’s Heisman campaign resumes with a Friday night matchup against Duke.


6. Washington (6-0)

Week 6 Result: Beat Oregon 70-21

Last Week: 7

Week 7 Opponent: Bye Week


A changing of the guard is underway in the Pac-12 North. The Huskies dominated Oregon to end a 12-game losing streak in this rivalry.


7. Texas A&M (6-0)

Week 6 Result: Beat Tennessee 45-38

Last Week: 8
Week 7 Opponent: Bye Week


Win over Tennessee sets up huge showdown against Alabama in two weeks. And the upcoming bye week is good news for coach Kevin Sumlin’s team after a physical battle against the Volunteers, as well as to heal injuries to a couple of key players.


8. Wisconsin (4-1)

Week 6 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 10

Week 7 Opponent: Ohio State


Wisconsin’s brutal schedule resumes after week off with No. 2 Ohio State visiting Madison.


9. Tennessee (5-1)

Week 6 Result: Lost to Texas A&M 45-38

Last Week: 9

Week 7 Opponent: Alabama


Volunteers nearly pulled off another second-half rally but ran out of magic in overtime against Texas A&M. 


10. Ole Miss (3-2)

Week 6 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 13

Week 7 Opponent: at Arkansas


Rebels return from bye week looking to end two-game losing streak to Arkansas.


11. Baylor (5-0)

Week 6 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 14

Week 7 Opponent: Kansas


The Bears have one more tune up (Kansas) before hitting the toughest portion of their 2016 slate.


12. Nebraska (5-0)

Week 6 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 15

Week 6 Opponent: at Indiana


The Week 6 bye came at a good time for the Cornhuskers. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong, tight end Cethan Carter and receiver Jordan Westerkamp are just a few key Cornhuskers nursing injuries from the first month of the season.


13. Houston (5-1)

Week 6 Result: Lost to Navy 46-40

Last Week: 5

Week 7 Opponent: Tulsa


Houston’s playoff hopes sink after loss to Navy. Coach Tom Herman’s team now needs a little help to win the American Athletic Conference’s West Division.


14. Oklahoma (3-2)

Week 6 Result: Beat Texas 45-40

Last Week: 21

Week 7 Opponent: Kansas State


Sooners use big performances by quarterback Baker Mayfield (390 passing yards), running back Samaje Perine (214 yards) and receiver Dede Westbrook (232 receiving yards) to hold off Texas 45-40 in the Red River Rivalry.


15. Florida (4-1)

Week 6 Result: Game Against LSU Postponed

Last Week: 20

Week 7 Opponent: Missouri


After Saturday’s game against LSU was postponed, Florida turns its attention to Missouri and an upcoming showdown against Georgia on Oct. 29. The additional time to heal should help quarterback Luke Del Rio and a couple of key defenders return to full strength for coach Jim McElwain.


16. Virginia Tech (4-1)

Week 6 Result: Beat North Carolina 34-3

Last Week: NR

Week 7 Opponent: at Syracuse


New coach Justin Fuente clearly has the Hokies trending in the right direction.


17. North Carolina (4-2)

Week 6 Result: Lost to Virginia Tech 34-3

Last Week: 17

Week 7 Opponent: at Miami


Loss to Virginia Tech hurts in Coastal race, but Tar Heels can quickly rebound with a trip to Miami ahead next Saturday.


18. Florida State (4-2)

Week 6 Result: Beat Miami 20-19

Last Week: 24

Week 7 Opponent: Wake Forest


Seminoles use blocked extra point to extend winning streak over Miami to seven.


19. Boise State (5-0)

Week 6 Result: Beat New Mexico 49-21

Last Week: 22

Week 7 Opponent: Colorado State


Quarterback Brett Rypien’s five first-half touchdown passes were more than enough for Boise State in Friday night’s 49-21 win over New Mexico.


20. Miami (4-1)

Week 6 Result: Lost to Florida State 20-19

Last Week: 11

Week 7 Opponent: North Carolina


Hurricanes lose in heartbreaking fashion to Florida State but need to quickly refocus with North Carolina visiting in Week 7.


21. West Virginia (4-0)

Week 6 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 23

Week 7 Opponent: at Texas Tech


Mountaineers use bye week to prepare for tough upcoming stretch: at Texas Tech, TCU and at Oklahoma State


22. Western Michigan (6-0)

Week 6 Result: Beat Northern Illinois 45-30

Last Week: 25

Week 7 Opponent: at Akron


Loss by Houston certainly helps Western Michigan’s case to be the top Group of 5 program this year.


23. Utah (5-1)

Week 6 Result: Beat Arizona 36-23

Last Week: NR

Week 7 Opponent: at Oregon State


Utes knock off Arizona, but injuries taking a toll on coach Kyle Whittingham’s offense.


24. Auburn (4-2)

Week 6 Result: Beat Mississippi State 38-14

Last Week: NR

Week 7 Opponent: Bye Week


Tigers quietly on the right track after 1-2 start.


25. USF (5-1)

Week 6 Result: Beat East Carolina 38-22

Last Week: NR

Week 7 Opponent: UConn


Bulls have scored at least 35 points in every game this season.


College Football Post-Week 5 Top 25 Rankings

1. Alabama (5-0)

Week 5 Result: Beat Kentucky 34-6

Last Week: 1

Week 6 Opponent: at Arkansas


Crimson Tide started slow but easily pulled away from Kentucky after the first quarter. Tough back-to-back road trips (Arkansas and Tennessee) are up next.


2. Ohio State (4-0)

Week 5 Result: Beat Rutgers 58-0

Last Week: 2

Week 6 Opponent: Indiana


Quarterback J.T. Barrett throws four touchdowns for the second week in a row, as Ohio State easily defeats Rutgers 58-0.


3. Clemson (5-0)

Week 5 Result: Beat Louisville 42-36

Last Week: 6

Week 6 Opponent: at Boston College


Tigers edge Louisville to emerge as the top team from the ACC in one of the best games so far in the 2016 college football season.


4. Michigan (5-0)

Week 5 Result: Beat Wisconsin 14-7

Last Week: 4

Week 6 Opponent: at Rutgers


Cornerback Jourdan Lewis’ nifty one-handed interception was just one highlight from a standout defensive effort in Saturday’s 14-7 win over Wisconsin.


5. Houston (5-0)

Week 5 Result: Beat UConn 42-14

Last Week: 5

Week 6 Opponent: at Navy


Big night from quarterback Greg Ward helps Houston cruise to easy win and get revenge against UConn from last season’s loss.


6. Louisville (4-1)

Week 5 Result: Lost to Clemson 42-36

Last Week: 3

Week 6 Opponent: Bye Week


Another huge effort from Lamar Jackson, but Cardinals fall short of win at Clemson. Despite the loss, Louisville is still one of the nation’s top teams and a threat to make the College Football Playoff (if the Cardinals win out).


7. Washington (5-0)

Week 5 Result: Beat Stanford 44-6

Last Week: 9

Week 6 Opponent: at Oregon


Convincing victory over Stanford should end any doubts on whether or not the Huskies were worthy of their preseason hype.


8. Texas A&M (5-0)

Week 5 Result: Beat South Carolina 24-13

Last Week: 10

Week 6 Opponent: Tennessee


Aggies were missing three key players but avoided post-Arkansas hangover with 24-13 win over South Carolina.


9. Tennessee (5-0)

Week 5 Result: Beat Georgia 34-31

Last Week: 11

Week 6 Opponent: at Texas A&M


More second-half heroics from quarterback Joshua Dobbs (this time on a Hail Mary completion as time expired) gives Tennessee a commanding lead in the SEC East.


10. Wisconsin (4-1)

Week 5 Result: Lost to Michigan 14-7

Last Week: 8

Week 6 Opponent: Bye Week


No shame in Wisconsin’s defensive effort against Michigan in Saturday’s 14-7 loss. Schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Badgers with Ohio State visiting Madison on Oct. 15.


11. Miami (4-0)

Week 5 Result: Beat Georgia Tech 35-21

Last Week: 17

Week 6 Opponent: Florida State


Steady play of quarterback Brad Kaaya and an opportunistic defense (three turnovers) led guided the Hurricanes to a 35-21 win over Georgia Tech. Miami will be looking to snap a six-game losing streak to Florida State in Week 6.


12. Stanford (3-1)

Week 5 Result: Lost to Washington 44-6

Last Week: 7

Week 6 Opponent: Washington State


Cardinal simply overwhelmed in Friday night loss at Washington.


13. Ole Miss (3-2)

Week 5 Result: Beat Memphis 48-28

Last Week: 14

Week 6 Opponent: Bye Week


Rebels head into bye week with momentum after getting revenge from last year’s loss against Memphis.


14. Baylor (5-0)

Week 5 Result: Beat Iowa State 45-42

Last Week: 15

Week 6 Opponent: Kansas


Bears pound away for 469 yards on the ground to escape Ames with a 45-42 victory over Iowa State. 


15. Nebraska (5-0)

Week 5 Result: Beat Illinois 31-16

Last Week: 16

Week 6 Opponent: Bye Week


Cornhuskers are the lone remaining unbeaten in the Big Ten’s West Division.


16. Colorado (4-1)

Week 5 Result: Beat Oregon State 47-6

Last Week: 21

Week 6 Opponent: at USC


Buffaloes get another strong start from redshirt freshman quarterback Steven Montez in relief of an injured Sefo Liufau in Saturday’s 47-6 win over Oregon State.


17. North Carolina (4-1)

Week 5 Result: Beat Florida State 37-35

Last Week: NR

Week 6 Opponent: Virginia Tech


Tar Heels rejoin Athlon’s top 25 rankings after last-second win over Florida State.


18. UCLA (3-2)

Week 5 Result: Beat Arizona 45-24

Last Week: 18

Week 6 Opponent: at Arizona State


Bruins showed no hangover effect from last week’s crushing loss to Stanford. Quarterback Josh Rosen threw for 350 yards and three scores in Saturday night’s 45-24 over Arizona.


19. Arkansas (4-1)

Week 5 Result: Beat Alcorn State

Last Week: Beat Alcorn State 52-10

Week 6 Opponent: Alabama


Razorbacks able to empty the bench and rest starters in easy win over Alcorn State. Next up? A home date against Alabama.


20. Florida (4-1)

Week 5 Result: Beat Vanderbilt 13-6

Last Week: 20

Week 6 Opponent: LSU


Win over Vanderbilt wasn’t pretty, but Gators leave Nashville with a victory. Will quarterback Luke Del Rio be healthy enough to return to the lineup for next week’s game against LSU?


21. Oklahoma (2-2)

Week 5 Result: Beat TCU 52-46

Last Week: NR

Week 6 Opponent: Texas


Sooners use 28-point second quarter and late stop on defense to defeat TCU 52-46 in Fort Worth. Despite early losses to Houston and Ohio State, Oklahoma is still alive in the Big 12 title picture.


22. Boise State (4-0)

Week 5 Result: Beat Utah State 21-10

Last Week: 24

Week 6 Opponent: at New Mexico


San Diego State’s loss to South Alabama moves Boise State into the No. 2 spot behind Houston for the top Group of 5 team in 2016.  


23. West Virginia (4-0)

Week 5 Result: Beat Kansas State 17-16

Last Week: 25

Week 6 Opponent: Bye Week


Narrow victory (17-16) over Kansas State in Week 5 was West Virginia’s first win over the Wildcats since joining the Big 12.


24. Florida State (3-2)

Week 5 Result: Lost to North Carolina 37-35

Last Week: 12

Week 6 Opponent: at Miami


Late pass interference penalty and three missed field goals loom large in Florida State’s two-point loss to North Carolina. The Seminoles were a popular pick to play for the national title this preseason.


25. Western Michigan (5-0)

Week 5 Result: Beat Central Michigan 49-10

Last Week: NR

Week 6 Opponent: Northern Illinois


Broncos crush rival Central Michigan  49-10 to join top 25 rankings for first time this year.


College Football Post-Week 4 Top 25 Rankings

1. Alabama (4-0)

Week 4 Result: Beat Kent State 48-0

Last Week: 1

Week 5 Opponent: Kentucky


As expected, Crimson Tide posted a dominant 48-0 victory over Kent State. Injuries to receiver Calvin Ridley, running back Damien Harris and cornerback Marlon Humphrey from the win over Kent State don’t appear to be serious.


2. Ohio State (3-0)

Week 4 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 2

Week 5 Opponent: Rutgers


Buckeyes will be heavy favorites in their next two games (Rutgers and Indiana). The Oct. 15 road date at Wisconsin looks a lot tougher than it did in the preseason.


3. Louisville (4-0)

Week 4 Result: Beat Marshall 59-28

Last Week: 3

Week 5 Opponent: at Clemson


Another huge performance from Lamar Jackson leads the Cardinals to easy road win over Marshall. Next up? A showdown against Clemson.


4. Michigan (4-0)

Week 4 Result: Beat Penn State 49-10

Last Week: 4

Week 5 Opponent: Wisconsin


Wolverines dominated the line of scrimmage (and the scoreboard) in Saturday’s 49-10 victory over Penn State.


5. Houston (4-0)

Week 4 Result: Beat Houston 64-3

Last Week: 5

Week 5 Opponent: UConn (Thursday)


Revenge is on Houston’s mind with UConn – the only team to beat the Cougars last year – visiting TDECU Stadium on Thursday night.


6. Clemson (4-0)

Week 4 Result: Beat Georgia Tech 26-7

Last Week: 6

Week 5 Opponent: Louisville


Clemson’s defense dominated the line of scrimmage and never allowed Georgia Tech’s option offense to get on track.


7. Stanford (3-0)

Week 4 Result: Beat UCLA 22-13

Last Week: 7

Week 5 Opponent: at Washington (Friday)


Last-minute heroics by quarterback Ryan Burns and receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside lift Stanford to its ninth consecutive win over UCLA.


8. Wisconsin (4-0)

Week 4 Result: Beat Michigan State 30-6

Last Week: 11

Week 5 Opponent: at Michigan


Badgers score another impressive win after a dominant 30-6 victory in East Lansing over Michigan State. However, the schedule doesn’t get any easier with a trip to Michigan next Saturday.


9. Washington (4-0)

Week 4 Result: Beat Arizona 35-28

Last Week: 8

Week 5 Opponent: Stanford (Friday)


Were the Huskies caught looking ahead to Stanford? Washington needed overtime to knock off Arizona on Saturday night.


10. Texas A&M (4-0)

Week 4 Result: Beat Arkansas 45-24

Last Week: 14

Week 5 Opponent: at South Carolina


Aggies had a complete team performance in the 45-24 win over Arkansas. End Myles Garrett and safety Armani Watts led the effort on defense, while quarterback Trevor Knight guided the offense to an average of 10 yards per play.


11. Tennessee (4-0)

Week 4 Result: Beat Florida 38-28

Last Week: 11

Week 5 Opponent: at Georgia


The streak is over. Tennessee uses strong second-half performance to end 11-game losing streak to Florida.


12. Florida State (3-1)

Week 4 Result: Beat USF 55-35

Last Week: 10

Week 5 Opponent: North Carolina


Dalvin Cook finally looked like the player we expected to see in 2016. However, Florida State still has a lot of question marks to address on defense.


13. Michigan State (2-1)

Week 4 Result: Loss to Wisconsin 30-6

Last Week: 9

Week 5 Opponent: at Indiana


Turnovers and a sputtering offense too much for Michigan State to overcome in 30-6 loss against Wisconsin.


14. Ole Miss (2-2)

Week 4 Result: Beat Georgia 45-14

Last Week: 18

Week 5 Opponent: Memphis


Dominant. That’s the easiest way to describe Ole Miss’ 45-14 victory on Saturday.


15. Baylor (4-0)

Week 4 Result: Beat Oklahoma State 35-24

Last Week: NR

Week 5 Opponent: at Iowa State


Quarterback Seth Russell throws for 387 yards and four scores to lead 35-24 win over Oklahoma State in Baylor’s Big 12 opener.


16. Nebraska (4-0)

Week 4 Result: Beat Northwestern

Last Week: NR

Week 5 Opponent: Illinois


After tossing 16 interceptions last season, quarterback Tommy Armstrong has only one interception through the first four games of 2016.


17. Miami (3-0)

Week 4 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 24

Week 5 Opponent: at Georgia Tech


Timely bye week helps Miami prepare for Georgia Tech’s option attack.


18. UCLA (2-2)

Week 4 Result: Lost to Stanford 22-13

Last Week: 16

Week 5 Opponent: Arizona


Bruins couldn’t hold onto late lead in 22-13 loss to Stanford. However, there’s no shame in losses to Stanford and Texas A&M.


19. Arkansas (3-1)

Week 4 Result: Lost to Texas A&M 45-24

Last Week: 15

Week 5 Opponent: Alcorn State


Missed opportunities in the red zone and turnovers marred Arkansas’ loss to Texas A&M.


20. Florida (3-1)

Week 4 Result: Loss to Tennessee 38-28

Last Week: 17

Week 5 Opponent: at Vanderbilt


The second half wasn’t kind to Florida in the 38-28 loss to Tennessee. The Gators couldn’t get anything going on offense, while the defense allowed the Volunteers to score touchdowns on five of the first seven drives in the final two quarters.


21. Colorado (3-1)

Week 4 Result: Beat Oregon 41-38

Last Week: NR

Week 5 Opponent: Oregon State


If there was any doubt regarding Mike MacIntyre’s coaching ability, Colorado’s start to the 2016 season should put those to rest.


22. San Diego State (3-0)

Week 4 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 20

Week 5 Opponent: at South Alabama


Aztecs have one more non-conference trip remaining before opening Mountain West play on Oct. 8 against UNLV.


23. Utah (4-0)

Week 4 Result: Beat USC 31-27

Last Week: NR

Week 5 Opponent: at California


Quarterback Troy Williams delivered in the clutch in Friday night’s win over USC.


24. Boise State (3-0)

Week 4 Result: Beat Oregon State 38-24

Last Week: 25

Week 5 Opponent: Utah State


Broncos go 2-0 against Pac-12 teams after 38-24 win over Oregon State.


25. West Virginia (3-0)

Week 4 Result: Beat BYU 35-32

Last Week: NR

Week 5 Opponent: Kansas State


Mountaineers quietly off to a solid 3-0 start after beating BYU at FedEx Field in Week 4.


College Football Post-Week 3 Top 25 Rankings

1. Alabama (3-0)

Week 3 Result: Beat Ole Miss 48-43

Last Week: 1

Week 4 Opponent: Kent State


Crimson Tide rushing attack comes alive, while defense scores twice to avoid a third consecutive loss to Ole Miss.


2. Ohio State (3-0)

Week 3 Result: Beat Oklahoma 45-24

Last Week: 4

Week 4 Opponent: Bye Week


The Buckeyes returned only six starters this season. However, after Saturday night’s dominant 45-24 victory over Oklahoma, Urban Meyer’s team looks better team than the one that went 12-1 last season.


3. Louisville (3-0)

Week 3 Result: Beat Florida State 63-20

Last Week: 13

Week 4 Opponent: at Marshall


Quarterback Lamar Jackson was terrific once again, but the Louisville defense was also instrumental in the blowout victory over Florida State.


4. Michigan (3-0)

Week 3 Result: Beat Colorado 45-28

Last Week: 5

Week 4 Opponent: Penn State


Michigan’s defense held Colorado to just 18 total yards over the last seven drives in Saturday’s 45-28 victory.


5. Houston (3-0)

Week 3 Result: Beat Cincinnati 40-16

Last Week: 5

Week 4 Opponent: at Texas State


Two interceptions returned for touchdowns and timely plays by quarterback Greg Ward propelled Houston to a big fourth quarter and a 40-16 victory over Cincinnati on Thursday night.


6. Clemson (3-0)

Week 3 Result: Beat South Carolina State 59-0

Last Week: 6

Week 4 Opponent: at Georgia Tech (Thursday)


Tigers cruised to an easy win over South Carolina State and may have worked out some of the kinks on offense (7.1 ypp).


7. Stanford (2-0)

Week 3 Result: Beat USC 27-10

Last Week: 8

Week 4 Opponent: at UCLA


Running back Christian McCaffrey delivers another big performance against USC to lead the Cardinal to their third win in a row over the Trojans.


8. Washington (3-0)

Week 3 Result: Beat Portland State 41-3

Last Week: 7

Week 4 Opponent: at Arizona


As expected, the Huskies dominated their non-conference slate. There’s a looming showdown against Stanford on Sept. 30.


9. Michigan State (2-0)

Week 3 Result: Beat Notre Dame 36-28

Last Week: 12

Week 4 Opponent: Wisconsin


Spartans take advantage of three Notre Dame turnovers and use 21-point effort in third quarter to earn a 36-28 victory over the Fighting Irish.


10. Florida State (2-1)

Week 3 Result: Lost to Louisville 63-20

Last Week: 2

Week 4 Opponent: at USF


The Seminoles have a lot of issues to address, but coach Jimbo Fisher’s team has plenty of time to play their way back into the playoff picture.


11. Wisconsin (3-0)

Week 3 Result: Beat Georgia State 23-17

Last Week: 10

Week 4 Opponent at Michigan State


It wasn’t pretty, but the Badgers held off upset-minded Georgia State on Saturday. The focus shifts to conference play with a trip to Michigan State next week, but who takes the majority of snaps at quarterback after Alex Hornibrook replaced Bart Houston late in the win on Saturday?


12. Tennessee (3-0)

Week 3 Result: Beat Ohio 28-19

Last Week: 14

Week 4 Opponent: Florida


Once again, the Volunteers weren’t impressive in a victory. However, the Volunteers are 3-0 and still in good shape to win the SEC East.


13. Georgia (3-0)

Week 3 Result: Beat Missouri 28-27

Last Week: 15

Week 4 Opponent: at Ole Miss


Jacob Eason’s clutch touchdown toss to Isaiah McKenzie with less than two minutes remaining propels Georgia to win over Missouri. Bulldogs have won last two games by a combined three points.


14. Texas A&M (3-0)

Week 3 Result: Beat Auburn 29-16

Last Week: 17

Week 4 Opponent: Arkansas (Arlington)


Balanced attack on offense (247 passing yards to 231 rushing) and stingy defense (4.5 yards per play allowed) guides Texas A&M to road win at Auburn.


15. Arkansas (3-0)

Week 3 Result: Beat Texas State 42-3

Last Week: 20

Week 4 Opponent: Texas A&M (Arlington)


Hogs cruised to easy win over Texas State to move to 3-0, but the focus shifts to SEC play and the neutral site matchup against Texas A&M next Saturday. Arkansas has lost by seven points in each of the last two years against the Aggies. 


16. UCLA (2-1)

Week 3 Result: Beat BYU 17-14

Last Week: 21

Week 4 Opponent: Stanford


Bruins will be looking to end eight-game losing streak against Stanford in Week 4.


17. Florida (3-0)

Week 3 Result: Beat North Texas 32-0

Last Week: 22

Week 4 Opponent: at Tennessee


Injury to quarterback Luke Del Rio puts a damper on Florida’s win over North Texas (and 3-0 start).


18. Ole Miss (1-2)

Week 3 Result: Lost to Alabama 48-43

Last Week: 16

Week 4 Opponent: Georgia


Rebels gave No. 1 Alabama all it could handle (and nearly made it three in a row over the Crimson Tide).


19. LSU (2-1)

Week 3 Result: Beat Mississippi State 23-20

Last Week: 23

Week 4 Opponent: at Auburn


Mississippi State made it interesting late, but quarterback Danny Etling (19 of 30 for 215 yards) was solid in his first start and running back Leonard Fournette (147 yards) was in midseason form.


20. San Diego State (3-0)

Week 3 Result: Beat NIU 42-28

Last Week: NR

Week 4 Opponent: Bye Week


Aztecs make their first appearance of the season in Athlon’s top 25.


21. California (2-1)

Week 3 Result: Beat Texas 50-43

Last Week: NR

Week 4 Opponent: at Arizona State


Davis Webb to Chad Hansen is becoming one of the nation’s top pass-catch combinations for 2016.


22. Texas (2-1)

Week 3 Result: Lost to California 50-43

Last Week: 9

Week 4 Opponent: Bye Week


Longhorns unable to contain California’s offense in a 50-43 loss at Berkeley.


23. Notre Dame (1-2)

Week 3 Result: Lost to Michigan State 36-28

Last Week: 11

Week 4 Opponent: Duke


Defense woes showed up once again in loss to Michigan State.  


24. Miami (3-0)

Week 3 Result: Beat Appalachian State 45-10

Last Week: NR

Week 4 Opponent: Bye Week


Hurricanes easily avoided Appalachian State’s upset bid with 45-10 victory in Boone.


25. Boise State (2-0)

Week 3 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 25

Week 4 Opponent: at Oregon State


Broncos look to go 2-0 against Pac-12 teams with a matchup against Oregon State this Saturday.



College Football Post-Week 2 Top 25 Rankings

1. Alabama (2-0)

Week 2 Result: Beat WKU 38-10

Last Week: 1

Week 3 Opponent: at Ole Miss


Nick Saban may not be happy, but the Crimson Tide still looks like the best team in the nation.


2. Florida State (2-0)

Week 2 Result: Beat Charleston Southern 52-8

Last Week: 2

Week 3 Opponent: at Louisville


Injury to safety Derwin James is something to monitor with huge matchup at Louisville ahead in Week 3.


3. Ohio State (2-0)

Week 2 Result: Beat Tulsa 48-3

Last Week: 4

Week 3 Opponent: at Oklahoma


The Buckeyes’ defense has yet to allow a touchdown through the first two games of the season. A better test awaits this unit on Saturday at Oklahoma.


4. Michigan (2-0)

Week 2 Result: Beat UCF 51-14

Last Week: 5

Week 3 Opponent: Colorado


Wolverines have dominated on defense through the first two games of 2016, but the pieces are also starting to fall into place on offense.


5. Houston (2-0)

Week 2 Result: Beat Lamar 42-0

Last Week: 6

Week 3 Opponent: at Cincinnati


No Greg Ward? No problem against Lamar. All signs point to Ward returning for Week 3.


6. Clemson (2-0)

Week 2 Result: Beat Troy 30-24

Last Week: 3

Week 3 Opponent: South Carolina State


The Tigers have not looked sharp through the first two games. Will Dabo Swinney’s team get on track against South Carolina State next week?


7. Washington (2-0)

Week 2 Result: Beat Idaho 59-14

Last Week: 7

Week 3 Opponent: Portland State


Huskies have one more tune-up opportunity in Week 3 (Portland State) before Pac-12 play opens on Sept. 24 at Arizona.


8. Stanford (1-0)

Week 2 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 8

Week 3 Opponent: USC


The Cardinal opens Pac-12 play next week with USC coming to town, with road dates also looming against UCLA (Sept. 24) and Washington (Sept. 30).


9. Texas (2-0)

Week 2 Result: Beat UTEP 41-7

Last Week: 9

Week 3 Opponent: at California


Are the Longhorns the Big 12’s best team and hope for a playoff contender?


10. Wisconsin (2-0)

Week 2 Result: Beat Akron 54-10

Last Week: 10

Week 3 Opponent: Georgia State


There was no hangover from the upset win over LSU for the Badgers in an easy win against Akron on Saturday. 


11. Notre Dame (1-1)

Week 2 Result: Beat Nevada 39-10

Last Week: 11

Week 3 Opponent: Michigan State


Fighting Irish cruised in win over Nevada but need a win over Michigan State to keep playoff hopes alive next week.


12. Michigan State (1-0)

Week 2 Result: Bye Week

Last Week: 13

Week 3 Opponent: at Notre Dame


Spartans use bye week to prep for road trip to Notre Dame.


13. Louisville (2-0)

Week 2 Result: Beat Syracuse 62-28

Last Week: 16

Week 3 Opponent: Florida State


Cardinals are averaging 66 points a game through the first two weeks of the season. Can that hold in Week 3 against Florida State?


14. Tennessee (2-0)

Week 2 Result: Beat Virginia Tech 45-24

Last Week: 14

Week 3 Opponent: Ohio


The Battle of Bristol was close for a half, but the Volunteers eventually played like a team that was picked as the SEC East favorite in 2016.


15. Georgia (2-0)

Week 2 Result: Beat Nicholls 26-24

Last Week: 14

Week 3 Opponent: at Missouri


Bulldogs were not impressive against Nicholls in Kirby Smart’s home opener.


16. Ole Miss (1-1)

Week 2 Result: Beat Wofford 38-13

Last Week: 15

Week 3 Opponent: Alabama


Can the Rebels make it three in a row over the Crimson Tide?


17. Texas A&M (2-0)

Week 2 Result: Beat Prairie View 67-0

Last Week: 17

Week 3 Opponent: at Auburn


No trouble in Week 2 for the Aggies with easy win over Prairie View.


18. Oklahoma (1-1)

Week 2 Result: Beat ULM 59-17

Last Week: 18

Week 3 Opponent: Ohio State


Next week’s matchup against Ohio State will make-or-break Oklahoma’s playoff hopes.


19. Iowa (2-0)

Week 2 Result: Beat Iowa State 42-3

Last Week: 19

Week 3 Opponent: North Dakota State


Hawkeyes’ 39-point win over in-state rival Iowa State is biggest over Cyclones since 1997.


20. Arkansas (2-0)

Week 2 Result: Beat TCU 41-38

Last Week: NR

Week 3 Opponent: Texas State


New quarterback Austin Allen and senior linebacker Brooks Ellis delivered clutch plays to beat TCU.


21. UCLA (1-1)

Week 2 Result: Beat UNLV 42-21

Last Week: 21

Week 3 Opponent: at BYU


UCLA’s defense is banged up headed into Week 3 showdown against BYU.


22. Florida (2-0)

Week 2 Result: Beat Kentucky 45-7

Last Week: 23

Week 3 Opponent: North Texas


Domination over Kentucky continued with 45-7 dismantling over Wildcats in Week 2.


23. LSU (1-1)

Week 2 Result: Beat Jacksonville State 34-13

Last Week: 20

Week 3 Opponent: Mississippi State


Is Danny Etling the spark LSU needs at quarterback?


24. Oregon (2-0)

Week 2 Result: Beat Virginia 44-26

Last Week: 25

Week 3 Opponent: at Nebraska


Dakota Prukop (21 of 31 for 331 yards and three scores) was impressive in win over Virginia.


25. Boise State (2-0)

Week 2 Result: Beat Washington State 31-28

Last Week: NR

Week 3 Opponent: at Oregon State (Sept. 24)


Broncos should be 2-0 over Pac-12 opponents after a Sept. 24 trip to Oregon State.



College Football Post-Week 1 Top 25 Rankings


1. Alabama (1-0)

Week 1 Result: Beat USC 52-6

Last Week: 1

Week 2 Opponent: WKU


The Crimson Tide dominated USC and found their quarterback in freshman Jalen Hurts.


2. Florida State (1-0)

Week 1 Result: Beat Ole Miss 45-34

Last Week: 2

Week 2 Opponent: Charleston Southern


Redshirt freshman quarterback Deondre Francois and senior defensive end DeMarcus Walker were instrumental in the second-half rally to beat the Rebels.


3. Ohio State (1-0)

Week 1 Result: Beat Bowling Green 77-10

Last Week: 3

Week 2 Opponent: Tulsa


The Buckeyes have a wealth of promising playmakers, and J.T. Barrett looks a lot like the quarterback that accounted for 45 touchdowns in 2014.


4. Clemson (1-0)

Week 1 Result: Beat Auburn 19-13

Last Week: 4

Week 2 Opponent: Troy


Auburn’s defense gave Clemson’s offense all it could handle. Tigers’ offense should bounce back against Troy this Saturday.


5. Michigan (1-0)

Week 1 Result: Beat Hawaii 63-3

Last Week: 5

Week 2 Opponent: UCF


Easy win over Hawaii showcased Michigan’s dominant defense, while quarterback Wilton Speight (10 of 13) was steady in his debut.


6. Houston (1-0)

Week 1 Result: Beat Oklahoma 33-23

Last Week: 15

Week 2 Opponent: Lamar


It’s a long ways off, but Houston’s win over Oklahoma certainly helps the playoff hopes of Tom Herman’s team.


7. Washington (1-0)

Week 1 Result: Beat Rutgers 48-13

Last Week: 11

Week 2 Opponent: Idaho


Washington needed more from its passing game to win the Pac-12 this year. After one game, quarterback Jake Browning (287 yards against Rutgers) looks ready for a breakout year.


8. Stanford (1-0)

Week 1 Result: Beat Kansas State 26-13

Last Week: 12

Week 2 Opponent: Bye Week


Christian McCaffrey was impressive once again, and quarterback Ryan Burns was steady in his first start in Friday’s win over Kansas State.


9. Texas (1-0)

Week 1 Result: Beat Notre Dame 50-47

Last Week: 43

Week 2 Opponent: UTEP


New coordinator Sterlin Gilbert – along with the combination of Shane Buechele and Tyrone Swoopes at quarterback – is the right mix for Texas’ offense.


10. Wisconsin (1-0)

Week 1 Result: Beat LSU 16-14

Last Week: 33

Week 2 Opponent: Akron


Wisconsin’s win over LSU was one of Week 1’s biggest surprises.


11. Notre Dame (0-1)

Week 1 Result: Lost to Texas 50-47

Last Week: 8

Week 2 Opponent: Nevada


Loss at Texas hurts, but Fighting Irish can still climb into playoff contention with an 11-1 record.


12. Georgia (1-0)

Week 1 Result: Beat North Carolina 33-24

Last Week: 16

Week 2 Opponent: Nicholls


The Bulldogs looked like the SEC East’s best team in Week 1 in win over North Carolina.


13. Michigan State (1-0)

Week 1 Result: Beat Furman 28-13

Last Week: 13

Week 2 Opponent: Bye Week


Spartans sluggish in win over Furman, but a bigger test for coach Mark Dantonio’s team awaits on Sept. 17 at Notre Dame.


14. Tennessee (1-0)

Week 1 Result: Beat Appalachian State 20-13

Last Week: 7

Week 2 Opponent: Virginia Tech (Bristol)


Volunteers escaped on Thursday night with an overtime victory over Appalachian State. Butch Jones’ team has to play better to beat Virginia Tech.


15. Ole Miss (0-1)

Week 1 Result: Lost to Florida State 45-34

Last Week: 10

Week 2 Opponent: Wofford


Rebels were impressive for a half but were unable to hold on against Florida State. Monday night’s game showed this team still has plenty of returning talent to absorb the offseason losses at receiver and on the defensive line.


16. Louisville (1-0)

Week 1 Result: Beat Charlotte 70-14

Last Week: 18

Week 2 Opponent: at Syracuse (Friday)


Cardinals and quarterback Lamar Jackson were impressive in rout over Charlotte. The schedule gets a little tougher with a trip to Syracuse this Friday.


17. Texas A&M (1-0)

Week 1 Result: Beat UCLA 31-24

Last Week: 28

Week 2 Opponent: Prairie View


Aggies’ defense continues to improve under coordinator John Chavis, while the offense has the right fit at quarterback in Trevor Knight.


18. Oklahoma (0-1)

Week 1 Result: Lost to Houston 33-23

Last Week: 6

Week 2 Opponent: ULM


Week 2 opponent (ULM) allows the Sooners to sort out the issues on both sides of the ball before the showdown against Ohio State on Sept. 17.


19. Iowa (1-0)

Week 1 Result: Beat Miami, Ohio 45-21

Last Week: 19

Week 2 Opponent: Iowa State


Hawkeyes averaged 7.3 yards per rush in easy win over Miami (Ohio) on Saturday.


20. LSU (0-1)

Week 1 Result: Lost to Wisconsin 16-14

Last Week: 9

Week 2 Opponent: Jacksonville State


Offseason tweaks and improvement on offense? Still waiting.


21. UCLA (0-1)

Week 1 Result: Lost to Texas A&M 31-24

Last Week: 14

Week 2 Opponent: UNLV


Late rally came up short for the Bruins in College Station. Jim Mora’s team is still Athlon’s pick to win the South Division.


22. TCU (1-0)

Week 1 Result: Beat South Dakota State 59-41

Last Week: 17

Week 2 Opponent: Arkansas


Horned Frogs will have to play a lot better than they did against South Dakota State to beat Arkansas this Saturday.


23. Florida (1-0)

Week 1 Result: Beat UMass 24-7

Last Week: 20

Week 2 Opponent: Kentucky


New quarterback Luke Del Rio was steady, but Gators still have some issues to iron out on offense.


24. Oklahoma State (1-0)

Week 1 Result: Beat Southeastern Louisiana 61-7

Last Week: 24

Week 2 Opponent: Central Michigan


Cowboys cruised over Southeastern Louisiana, but the jury is out on whether or not the ground attack (3.8 yards per rush) is improved.


25. Oregon (1-0)

Week 1 Result: Beat UC Davis 53-28

Last Week: 23

Week 2 Opponent: Virginia


Dakota Prukop (21 of 30 for 271 yards and three scores) was steady in his first start for the Ducks.

College Football Top 25 Rankings
Post date: Sunday, December 4, 2016 - 10:35
Path: /fantasy/week-13-2016-fantasy-football-injury-updates-jordan-matthews-devante-parker-julian-edelman-marvin-jones

Fantasy owners know that Week 13 is crunch time. Wins are more important now than ever, and owners need to be make sure, first and foremost, that every player in their lineup is active. With so many wide receivers banged up, it's hard to find starters that are 100 percent healthy. Wide receivers that have already been ruled out include A.J. Green, Jeremy Maclin, Allen Hurns, Robert Woods, Percy Harvin and Darrius Heyward-Bey. On top of these, Tavon Austin is listed as doubtful and likely won’t play.


There are so many wide receivers on the injury report that once again it’s split into two parts. Those playing at 1 p.m. ET are listed below, while you can find the later game round up here. Be sure to check out the latest on the QB/TE and RB fronts too.


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


Teams on bye: Cleveland, Tennessee


Note: All games are on Sunday, Dec. 4 and times are ET.


DeVante Parker (back), WR, Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m.

Parker is listed as questionable, but the reports from Miami lean more toward the doubtful side. He's missed practice all week and it is highly unlikely he suits up this afternoon. With Jarvis Landry no longer listed on the injury report, Parker is not a fantasy option for Week 13. Hold on to him as it doesn't appear this injury will result in an extended absence, but leave Parker on the bench this week.


Jordan Matthews (ankle), WR, Philadelphia Eagles at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.


After injuring his ankle in the first half of the Monday night game, Matthews tried to play through it, but obviously was limited. He missed practice on Wednesday, but returned on Thursday only to sit out on Friday. The Eagles have said that he'll be a game-time decision, which is to be expected after the missed Friday practice. The game is at 1 p.m. ET, so at least fantasy owners will know early if he's playing. If Matthews does suit up, he's a WR2, but be sure to check his status before the game.


Julian Edelman (foot), WR, New England Patriots vs. Los Angeles Rams, 1 p.m.

Another week, another sighting of Edelman’s name on the injury report. But as has been the case this season, he'll play and he'll be fine. In the past three weeks, he's averaged 86 receiving yards per game. He's had seven, eight and eight receptions in those three games with a touchdown. He has stepped up in Rob Gronkowski's absence, and now with Gronk done for the season, Edelman is a solid WR1 in PPR leagues and is nearing WR1 status in standard leagues. Tom Brady (who also is questionable with a knee injury but is expected to play) trusts Edelman and will rely on his No. 1 WR even more with Gronk out and Martellus Bennett banged up.


Marvin Jones (thigh), WR, Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m.


With limited practices all week, Jones is likely a game-time decision for today. His fantasy production has come to a halt with the emergence of Golden Tate. Jones has averaged two receptions for about 25 yards over the last three games. He's hardly worth starting in fantasy leagues, especially with a thigh issue. Leave Jones on the bench, despite the tempting matchup with the Saints in what should be a high-scoring affair.


Eddie Royal (toe), WR, Chicago Bears vs. San Francisco 49ers, 1 p.m.


If fantasy owners want a receiver who managed one reception for negative six yards in Week 12 and hasn't practiced all week, look no further. Royal is unlikely to play in Week 13, but even if he is active, he should be left on fantasy benches. The Bears’ offense is a mess with Alshon Jeffery, Jay Cutler and Zach Miller all out. Marquess Wilson was the top pass catcher in Week 12, and while that may not continue, don't look for Royal to put up big numbers.


Chris Hogan (back), WR, New England Patriots vs. Los Angeles Rams, 1 p.m.

After missing a week, Hogan returned in Week 12 and had four receptions for 70 yards. He fell behind rookie Malcolm Mitchell in the pecking order last week, and that should continue this afternoon and possibly the rest of the season. Even with the injuries to the Patriots, Hogan is only a desperation fantasy option. He may put up another 4-70-0 stat line, but he just as easily could have a 1-9-0. Leave him on the bench or waiver wire.


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


(Jordan Matthews photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Week 13 Fantasy Football Injury Updates: Jordan Matthews, DeVante Parker, Julian Edelman, Marvin Jones
Post date: Sunday, December 4, 2016 - 10:30
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Path: /college-football/college-football-week-14-awards-2016

Week 14 of the 2016 college football season produced several big performances and memorable moments. The final regular season weekend produced some entertaining conference championship games, as Penn State rallied from a 28-7 deficit to beat Wisconsin, Clemson held off a tough Virginia Tech team, and San Diego State knocked off Wyoming 27-24 in the Mountain West title game. Additionally, Alabama handled Florida to remain unbeaten, and Western Michigan secured the Group of 5 bowl spot in a New Year's Six bowl with a 29-23 win over Ohio.


With the last week of regular season action 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 14:


College Football Week 14 Awards


Offensive Player of the Week: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

It’s a close call between Watson and Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley for player of the week honors on offense. Watson gets the slight nod over McSorley, as the junior guided Clemson to its second ACC title in a row with a 42-35 win over Virginia Tech. Watson completed 23 of 34 passes for 288 yards and three scores and rushed for 85 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.


Defensive Player of the Week: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

Foster was all over the field in Alabama’s dominant 54-16 victory over Florida. The senior recorded 11 tackles (2.5 for a loss) and two sacks and helped to hold the Gators to zero rushing yards.


Coordinator of the Week (Offense): Joe Moorhead, Penn State

James Franklin’s decision to hire Moorhead as offensive coordinator is a big reason why Penn State claimed the Big Ten title. Wisconsin entered Saturday with the Big Ten’s No. 2 ranked scoring defense, but the Nittany Lions posted 38 points, 435 yards, averaged 7.2 yards per play and connected on a handful big passing plays. After scoring on just one of its first five drives against the Badgers, Penn State finished the game by scoring on five consecutive drives.


Coordinator of the Week (Defense): Phil Snow, Temple

Containing Navy’s offense is no easy task, but Temple’s defense held the Midshipmen to just 306 total yards, forced three turnovers and recorded seven tackles for a loss. The Owls executed Snow’s defensive gameplan to perfection, as Navy’s 168 rushing yards were the second-lowest total posted by this offense in 2016.


Freshman of the Week (Offense): Joshua Jacobs, RB, Alabama

Jacobs made an impact on offense and on special teams during Alabama’s dominant 54-16 victory over Florida. The freshman rushed for 35 yards and one touchdown on six attempts and returned a blocked punt in the first quarter for a 27-yard touchdown.


Freshman of the Week (Defense): Taylor Rapp, DB, Washington

Washington’s defense dominated Colorado's offense in Friday night’s 41-10 Pac-12 Championship. Rapp led a stingy effort by the Huskies’ secondary, as the freshman recorded three tackles and two interceptions. Rapp returned his first interception for a score, giving Washington a 21-7 lead in the third quarter.


Team of the Week: Penn State

The Nittany Lions claimed their first Big Ten title since 2008, rallying from a 28-7 deficit to beat Wisconsin 38-31 on Saturday night in Indianapolis. Quarterback Trace McSorley tossed four touchdowns against one of the nation’s top defenses, including an 18-yard score to running back Saquon Barkley to put the team ahead for good early in the fourth quarter. The defense also stepped up, as this unit held Wisconsin to just three points on its final seven drives and stuffed running back Corey Clement on a fourth-and-one with just a minute remaining to secure the victory. After a 2-2 start, Penn State finished the season on a nine-game winning streak.


Unsung Hero of the Week (Offense): Anthony Wales, RB, WKU

Wales pounded Louisiana Tech’s defense for 209 yards and four touchdowns on 36 carries, as WKU repeated as Conference USA champs with a 58-44 victory on Saturday.


Unsung Hero of the Week (Defense): Damontae Kazee, CB, San Diego State

Kazee helped San Diego State secure its second consecutive Mountain West title with a couple of big plays in the 27-24 win over Wyoming. Kazee recorded six tackles, two pass breakups and two interceptions against the Cowboys.

College Football Week 14 Awards 2016
Post date: Sunday, December 4, 2016 - 10:14
Path: /nfl/carolina-panthers-vs-seattle-seahawks-preview-and-prediction-2016

Plenty of drama will await football fans nationwide on Sunday night as the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks get together at CenturyLink Field. The last time these two teams met was in the NFC Divisional Playoff Round in January in Charlotte as the Panthers held on to win to 31-24 after sprinting out to a 31-0 lead at halftime.


For Seattle this game is very critical if the Seahawks wants to maintain their position as the No. 2 seed in the NFC Playoff chase. Pete Carroll’s team also would like to erase the taste of last week’s horrendous offensive display from last week’s 14-5 loss to Tampa Bay. The offensive line was a nonstop turnstile allowing six sacks as quarterback Russell Wilson was under duress all afternoon long.


For Carolina, it’s pretty much do or die, as the defending NFC champions need to win out to have any hopes of even getting back to the playoffs. The Panthers are three games behind NFC South-leading Atlanta following last week’s 35-32 loss in Oakland. Carolina rallied from a 24-7 deficit, but made too many mistakes to finish off the comeback, a common theme this season. Cam Newton threw for 246 yards and two touchdowns, but he also was the victim of a pick-six, courtesy of the Raiders’ Khalil Mack. The Panthers’ defense continued to have issues in stopping the pass, as Derek Carr finished with 315 yards and two scores despite playing a good part of the game with an injured right pinky.


Carolina at Seattle


Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 4 at 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC

Spread: Seahawks -7


Three Things to Watch


1. Seahawks’ offensive line vs. Carolina defense

Justin Britt’s return this week is going to be very important to the success of the Seattle offensive line, a group that needs to prove that last Sunday’s performance in Tampa Bay was an aberration. The Panthers still do an excellent job of getting to the quarterback (31 sacks) and are second in the NFL in rushing defense (79.5 ypg). Thus, communication is going to be very important at the line of scrimmage for the Seahawks’ offensive line in order to avoid negative plays that will allow the Carolina defense to tee off on Russell Wilson.


2. Carolina’s offensive balance vs. Seahawks’ defense

In order for the Panthers to leave CenturyLink Field with a victory, they need to be able to put together a balanced attack on offense. Jonathan Stewart ran for 96 yards on 17 carries and had two touchdowns to lead the ground attack last Sunday in Oakland. It will be a huge plus if Carolina can control the clock well enough to get Stewart around 25 carries. In addition, Cam Newton needs to be more accurate, as completing fewer than half your pass attempts will not cut it against a healthier Seattle secondary, as the Legion of Boom should get both Earl Thomas and DeShawn Shead back after missing last week’s game.


3. Seahawks’ mindset and ability to start fast

After a rough trip to Tampa Bay last Sunday where Seattle fell behind 14-0 very quickly against the Buccaneers it will be intriguing to see how Pete Carroll’s team responds back at home. With the 12s always at full throat and the national spotlight focused on CenturyLink Field, the Seahawks won’t have any excuses to not be ready or motivated for this game. However, Seattle still needs to get off to a fast start, and that’s especially the case on offense. In particular, coordinator Darrell Bevell needs to find ways for Russell Wilson to exploit Carolina’s inexperienced cornerbacks. Don’t be surprised to see Wilson air it out early, looking to connect with Doug Baldwin or Jimmy Graham or Tyler Lockett for a big play.


Final Analysis


These two teams are going to battle each other down to the wire on Sunday night as both have way too much pride to let the other one blow them out. Turnovers are going to be a critical factor as the Seahawks are plus-5 on the season in turnover differential, while the Panthers enter at minus-8. If Seattle wins the turnover battle, Pete Carroll’s team should be able to put last week’s debacle in Tampa Bay behind and head into next week’s trip to Green Bay with some much-needed momentum. Now, if the Seahawks get careless with the ball and cannot protect Russell Wilson then all bets are off and Carolina will be in a great position to pull off the upset and kept its fading playoff hopes alive. In the end, look for another classic late drive from Wilson to put this one away.


Prediction: Seahawks 24, Panthers 21


— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and also writes for College Sports Madness, covering college football, basketball, softball and baseball. Follow Scott on Twitter @ScottWhittum.

Carolina Panthers vs. Seattle Seahawks Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, December 4, 2016 - 09:00
Path: /nfl/tampa-bay-buccaneers-vs-san-diego-chargers-preview-and-prediction-2016

The San Diego Chargers (5-6) may be in last place in a potent AFC West division, but it’s fair to say that that they are the best 5-6 team in the league. If just a handful of plays had gone their way, the Chargers would be at or near the top of their division, and possibly in the discussion for being one of the top teams in the NFL. Case in point: the Bolts scored their third win of the season over a division-leading team last week by knocking off the Texans in Houston by a score of 21-13. It was San Diego’s fourth win in its last six contests. The Chargers return home to face a red-hot Tampa Bay team. While San Diego’s chances of winning the AFC West are pretty slim to none at this point, the Chargers can potentially vie for a wild card berth, especially if they win this afternoon


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) have been one of the strongest teams in the NFL over the last three weeks, scoring improbable wins over two of the best teams the league has to offer. Last week’s 14-5 home victory over NFC West leader Seattle was impressive. But there aren’t many teams that can go into Arrowhead Stadium and come out with a win. The Bucs did just that with a 19-17 victory over the Chiefs in Week 11.


Dirk Koetter’s team will look to make it four in a row this week despite having to make the cross-country trek to San Diego. Tampa Bay trails Atlanta by just one game in the NFC South and sits just a half game behind Washington in the wild card race. An all-important victory today would keep the Buccaneers in the thick of the playoff hunt, while a loss would put a halt to their recent momentum.


Tampa Bay at San Diego


Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 4 at 4:25 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: San Diego -3.5


Three Things to Watch


1. A Red-Hot Tampa Bay Defense vs. Potent San Diego Offense

An injury-plagued Tampa Bay defense has certainly taken it lumps this season, but things have really taken a turn for the better in recent weeks as this group has gotten much healthier. During the current three-game winning streak, the Buccaneers have allowed just three touchdowns and have collected 10 sacks. It’s just three games, but during this stretch Tampa Bay leads the NFL in scoring defense (10.7 ppg), takeaways (nine) and third-down defense (23 percent conversion rate).


Those impressive stats aside, the Bucs will have their hands full this afternoon against a Chargers’ offense that rankings among the league’s most productive. San Diego is third in the league scoring (28.5 ppg), fifth in passing (271.5 ypg), and eight in total (371.2 ypg) offense. It will be interesting to see if Tampa Bay’s defense can continue its strong play against Philip Rivers and company on the Chargers’ own turf.


2. Mike Evans vs. Casey Hayward

Perhaps the game’s most intriguing one-on-one matchup will be between Tampa Bay’s top wide receiver and San Diego’s emerging cornerback. Evans’ 10 touchdown receptions are tied for the most in the NFL, while he’s second in both catches (73) and receiving yards (1,020). Evans surpassed the 1,000-yard mark last week for the third straight season, becoming just the fourth wide receiver in NFL history to do so in each of his first three years in the league.


Evans’ worthy adversary today will be Hayward, who has kept the Chargers’ secondary together despite being decimated by injuries. A free agent addition this offseason, Hayward’s six interceptions are the most in the league. He’s also first in passes defended with 16.


Hayward won’t be tasked with shadowing Evans for the entire game, but he will be assigned to the elite receiver more often than not. Hayward should benefit from safety help over the top. That being said, Evans is a half a foot taller than Hayward (6-5 vs. 5-11) and is a nightmare matchup for any and all defensive backs San Diego may put in his path. It will be a challenge to say the least.


3. Turnovers

The Chargers have turned the ball over 23 times this season, making them the most generous team in the NFL in that regard. Philip Rivers’ 12 interceptions are the second most of any quarterback. A stingy Tampa Bay defense, that has generated a league-best nine takeaways over its last three games, will attempt to take full advantage. Only three teams in the NFL have more takeaways (20) than the Buccaneers on the season.


Tampa Bay has had its own issues with ball security, committing 18 turnovers thus far. An opportunistic San Diego defense, which has generated the second-most takeaways (23), will look to exploit that weakness, especially when Jameis Winston drops back to throw the ball. The Chargers lead the league with 14 interceptions, while Winston has thrown 11. One way or another, there is a very good chance that turnovers will play a vital role in the outcome of today’s game.


Final Analysis


Tampa Bay enters this game as one of the hottest teams in the NFL, winners of its last three games and 4-1 on the road this season. The Buccaneers need to maintain their momentum, as they have drawn to just a game behind Atlanta for first place in the NFC South.


Regardless, I’m not sure that Tampa Bay has enough on offense to match up with the San Diego. And while the Bucs’ defense has been on a tear of late, it will be a tall order for them to slow down a potent Chargers passing game. Tampa Bay has struggled mightily this season against really good passing teams, and San Diego certainly falls into that category. If Tampa Bay can win the turnover battle, the Bucs have a good shot at winning the game. Otherwise, they will have a tough time outscoring a resilient Chargers team playing at home.


Prediction: Chargers 27, Buccaneers 24


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

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. San Diego Chargers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, December 4, 2016 - 08:45
Path: /nfl/washington-redskins-vs-arizona-cardinals-preview-and-prediction-2016

The loser of last year’s NFC Championship Game, Arizona ended last season just one more win from making it to the Super Bowl.


Now? The Cardinals are just one more loss from playoff elimination.


Sitting at 4-6-1, one of the NFC’s big disappointments must win at home this afternoon to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive. Their opponent, the Washington Redskins, currently sit in the second wild card spot at 6-4-1. A loss by the Cardinals drops them the equivalent of four games back with four to play, and on the wrong side of the head-to-head tiebreaker. It also puts Arizona at least three games behind Seattle in the NFC West. A late run to catch the Seahawks is already a long shot; lose Sunday and it’s virtually impossible.


This matchup centers around two quarterbacks heading in opposite directions. Kirk Cousins is on the rise, utilizing a variety of weapons in fighting back from an awful start to his season. Carson Palmer has been hurt, inaccurate and forced to rely on the running game to help salvage what’s been a disappointing offensive effort all around.


Series History: Washington leads 74-45-2 and has won eight of the last nine meetings.


Washington at Arizona


Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 4 at 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Cardinals -2.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Palmer’s Mistakes vs. Cousins’ Perfection

Carson Palmer’s play has puzzled observers one year after an MVP-type season where he hit career highs in touchdowns (35), passing yards (4,671) and QB rating (104.6). Palmer, despite being hurt and missing time this season, has as many interceptions (11) to this point as he did for all of 2015. Five of those picks have come after the Cardinals’ bye week, a time where he was supposed to get healthy but instead has struggled mightily against teams like the lowly San Francisco 49ers (1-10).


Compare that to Kirk Cousins, peaking at the right time after a sloppy start. The last three games have been arguably the best stretch of his career – 1,086 passing yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions. His performance in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day kept Washington in that game. He’s also been more aware in the pocket (sacked just six times in last seven games) as he’s spread the ball around to unexpected targets like wide receiver Jamison Crowder and tight end Vernon Davis.


If both men keep heading in the same direction, this game could turn into a blowout, and not for the home team. The pressure is on Palmer, at age 36, to prove he’s not in the twilight of his career – a frightening prospect considering Arizona signed him in August to a one-year extension that takes his contract through 2018.


2. David Johnson vs. Washington Rushing Defense

If the Cardinals have a bright spot on offense, it’s Johnson. Second in the NFL in yards from scrimmage and tied for the lead in touchdowns, Johnson remains a dynamic weapon in a year where the team’s wide receivers (yep, even Larry Fitzgerald) have been wildly inconsistent. When the offensive line struggles, Palmer has turned to Johnson as his safety valve and the dynamic back has responded – 206 receiving yards and three touchdowns in the last three games.


On the ground, though is where Johnson will try and pound through the Redskins’ 25th-ranked rushing defense. Ezekiel Elliott’s 97 rushing yards and two touchdowns were keys to Dallas’ win on Thanksgiving, but Washington still has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher since Week 4. A strong start by Johnson could not only possibly put an end to that streak, it also could also help Palmer and the receivers discover their rhythm in the passing game.


3. Who Replaces Jordan Reed?

Reed put forth a gritty performance on Thanksgiving Day, recording a season-high 10 passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns despite a shoulder injury. Unfortunately, the grade 3 AC joint separation that he suffered in his left shoulder will keep him out of this game, if not more.


So who steps up in Reed’s place? The aforementioned Davis is the obvious answer and he chipped in 68 yards last week. But a more promising sign for Washington was the performance of DeSean Jackson, who has been dealing with his own injuries. He finished with a season-high 118 receiving yards, including a 67-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Jackson has had 10 days to recover from that game and hopefully get back closer to full strength. With Reed’s injury, Jackson’s re-emergence as a big-play threat will be critical for the Redskins’ playoff aspirations.


Final Analysis


The Redskins are just 2-2-1 on the road but that record is better than it appears. The two losses were to Detroit, courtesy of a vintage two-minute drill orchestrated by Matthew Stafford, and in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day where Washington gave the Cowboys all they could handle. The Redskins should make easy work of a Cardinals team that’s in need of a reboot.


Prediction: Redskins 27, Cardinals 14


— Written by Tom Bowles, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @NASCARBowles.

Washington Redskins vs. Arizona Cardinals Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, December 4, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /nfl/new-york-giants-vs-pittsburgh-steelers-preview-and-prediction-2016

The New York Giants put their six-game winning streak on the line as they travel to the Pittsburgh Steelers in a game that could feature two of the most intriguing teams in the NFL when it comes to making noise in the postseason this year.


The Giants in particular are hoping to keep pace with their division rival Dallas Cowboys this week and enter with the second-best record in all of the NFC. While they did struggle a tad before pulling away against Cleveland last week, this Sunday’s game represents an opportunity to show folks that they’re a Super Bowl contender in head coach Ben McAdoo’s rookie season. The offense gets all the attention with Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr., but it’s the defensive resurgence that has put New York in position to keep things rolling.


Looking to get back into the playoff picture is a dangerous Pittsburgh team that has been improving steadily since getting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back from knee surgery. The team throttled Indianapolis on Thanksgiving night as Antonio Brown caught three touchdown passes in a game that wasn’t as close as the 28-7 final score indicated. Brown enters the week leading the league in receptions and is tied for first with 10 touchdown catches — numbers sure to cause a bit of heartburn for the Giants’ defensive staff.


New York leads the overall series between the two historically successful franchises 44-29-3 but the Steelers have won two of last three meetings. Pittsburgh has uncharacteristically struggled a bit at home and haven’t won in the Steel City since early October against New York’s other team in the Jets. The Giants, however, suffered two of their three losses away from home making Sunday’s matchup a fantastic one.


New York at Pittsburgh


Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 4 at 4:25 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Steelers -6


Three Things to Watch


1. Potent Pass Rush

Pittsburgh’s offensive line has given Ben Roethlisberger time to throw this season and has allowed only 14 sacks coming into the week but will be tested by a fearsome front from New York. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is the ringleader and having a great season, hitting the seven-sack mark on the year after collecting a career-high three last week that also included a scoop and score off a fumble. He’s not the only one to be aware of however, as free-agent acquisitions Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison are providing plenty of push as well. How well the Steelers’ line — especially left tackle Alejandro Villanueva — handles the front seven on third down will go a long ways toward determining the eventual winner.


2. Taking Advantage of Turnovers

As good as New York’s season has been, the one area where they are surprisingly behind in is the turnover department at minus-5 on the year to rank in the bottom third of the league with the likes of San Francisco and Carolina. A lot of that has to do with the offense — and Eli Manning’s 10 picks in particular — turning the ball over a whopping 19 times already. That negates all the good the team’s defense has done in allowing just 10 scores in 2016 and racking up 10 interceptions. Pittsburgh is on the opposite end of the turnover spectrum at plus-4 despite some struggles when Roethlisberger was out of the lineup. The Steelers have split their takeaways evenly between picks and fumble recoveries at seven apiece and have held onto the ball extremely well with Big Ben in the lineup. Whichever team wins the turnover battle on Sunday will definitely have a leg up given the prolific units involved on either side of the ball.


3. Quarterback Shootout

The 2004 NFL Draft will go down for one of the best in recent memory given the number of future Hall of Famers it produced, including the two quarterbacks who went early in the first round that play for these two teams. Manning, of course, went first overall in a draft day trade and has brought two Lombardi Trophies to the city that never sleeps. Roethlisberger has two of his own rings with the Steelers and has proven himself to be in the same company. Both have been playing really well as of late, with Manning throwing for five touchdowns the past two weeks (and no picks) while Roethlisberger has six scores in mistake-free play over Pittsburgh’s last three. Both have fantastic receiving corps with a wideout that can lay claim to being the best in the league while their ground games are really picking up after good outings in November. Now we get to see both of these quarterbacks square off once again and see which one can put up the biggest numbers in a win.


Final Analysis


In a week full of interesting but not overwhelmingly fascinating NFL games, New York’s trip to Pittsburgh stands out for the sheer number of storylines it presents. There is of course the fact that both teams are fighting hard to remain in their division races while looking for a decent seed in the playoffs. There’s the Eli Manning vs. Ben Roethlisberger quarterback angle too. And you can’t forget about the showmanship that is surely coming between Odell Beckham Jr. and Antonio Brown. With both franchises known for their defenses, don’t overlook the rebuilt units on each side of this game either.


It should make for a fascinating matchup in the late afternoon window on Sunday for a contest that should be rocking with the Terrible Towels as part of a fun atmosphere at Heinz Stadium. The Steelers need a win in this one far more than the Giants and you can bet that Roethlisberger, Brown and tailback Le’Veon Bell are all excited at the prospect of getting back on track and announcing they’re still dangerous in the wide-open AFC. Linebacker James Harrison and company might have a little to say on the subject as well.


New York is no pushover though and easily represents one of the toughest games on the slate for Pittsburgh this season. The Giants’ defense has been getting after quarterbacks with one of the better pass rushes in the league, while the secondary led by Landon Collins and Janoris Jenkins also has turned into something best to be avoided. The offense has responded as of late with Beckham providing seven touchdown catches during this six-game winning streak.


More than that, this team has completely flipped the script from last season and started to win close games instead of blowing leads late. While things haven’t been pretty at times, Manning and his squad have still come out on top against several playoff contenders the past few weeks and are looking to add another win to their collection. This one figures to turn into a bit of a shootout, but Ben McAdoo’s Giants will wind up escaping with a victory in a close one in Pittsburgh.


Prediction: Giants 31, Steelers 30


— 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.

New York Giants vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, December 4, 2016 - 08:15