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All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/betting-against-spread-nfl-week-9-picks-and-odds-lines-2016
Body:

Two awful beats and we're back to an 0-3 week in the NFL. Who knew Jacksonville's defense was going to give up on Thursday and that the Eagles would blow a 10-point fourth quarter lead? It just shows the odd nature of the sport in which there are now a ton of injuries and a ton of yellow flags that are making the product worse. This week there aren't too many great matchups, but nowadays it seems like that every week of the season.

 

Record: 8-16 (0-3 last week)

 

Teams on bye: Arizona, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, New England, Washington

 

Note: All times are ET and games on Sunday, Nov. 6 unless otherwise noted.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) at Baltimore Ravens (3-4), 1 p.m.

It's a heated rivalry any time these two teams play. It's also going to be helped out with both teams coming off a bye week. Pittsburgh could get Ben Roethlisberger back, and he could be all the difference for this offense and also how this game goes. His presence makes Le’Veon Bell a lot more viable and Antonio Brown becomes much more dangerous. Baltimore's defense clamps down on the run game, but I think the Ravens’ secondary can be beat. Baltimore’s offense is hard to trust with a poor run game and an inconsistent aerial attack. The Steelers struggle against the pass, but if Steve Smith doesn't play, they'll just have to deal with Mike Wallace and a myriad of tight ends. Baltimore has covered just six of its last 19 home games and 17 of its last 41 overall. This selection is solely based on Roethlisberger. You also can hope he plays and take the value with the road team. SELECTION: Steelers +3

 

Philadelphia Eagles (4-3) at New York Giants (4-3), 1 p.m.

Tough loss for the Eagles last week, but there is no denying that they are one of the best defenses in the league. Philly is holding teams to just 214.1 passing yards per game. They'll attempt to slow down Odell Beckham Jr. and company on Sunday. The problem for the Giants is the complete lack of a run game that is gaining just 70.3 rushing yards per game. New York's defense is better than the numbers indicate and this unit shouldn’t struggle to cover the Eagles’ mediocre receivers. Carson Wentz has come down a bit from his hot start to the season. The Giants have gone under in five of their six NFC games. I think this one will be a low-scoring tilt as well. SELECTION: Under 43

 

Buffalo Bills (4-4) at Seattle Seahawks (4-2), 8:30 p.m. (Monday)

The Bills head west to play Seattle. The Seahawks are struggling for traction, averaging just 18.7 points per game with Russell Wilson banged up and the severe lack of a run game. Buffalo's defense has had problems against the run, but has the corners to things interesting in this matchup. The problem for the Bills has been the health of the offense. LeSean McCoy, Marquise Goodwin, Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and more have all been banged up (or worse) at some point this season. Seattle has given up just 52 points in three home games thus far. Buffalo has gone under in 15 of its last 21 games as an underdog and 12 of its last 19 road contests. SELECTION: Under 43.5

 

Notes:

 

— It's really hard to trust the Dolphins especially on Sunday when they are the better team. Did the bye come at the wrong time for Miami, which had won two straight at home? The Dolphins are in the mist of rare four home games in five weeks stretch and at minimum, should be able to move the ball against the Jets. The funny thing is that the Fins have had no problems disappointing in this situation either. It may not be a bad idea to maybe throw Miami in a teaser.

 

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

Teaser:
One step forward, two steps back
Post date: Thursday, November 3, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-wide-receiver-rankings-week-9
Body:

For the Week 9 fantasy wide receiver rankings, Odell Beckham Jr. returns from his bye week to lead the way in what looks like a dream matchup, at least on paper. Antonio Brown may overtake if ODB if, and it is a big if, Ben Roethlisberger returns to action.

 

Either way the wide receiver position has largely been a roller-coaster ride all season. Julio Jones seemed to tweak something (hamstring? knee? ankle?) in a disappointing showing against a weak Green Bay secondary last week, but has another appealing matchup lined up for him on Thursday. Mike Evans didn’t take advantage of his matchup last week either, while Allen Robinson continued his disappearing act.

 

Alshon Jeffery, however, reappeared with the return of Jay Cutler as the Bears embarrassed the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night. Are bigger things coming for Jeffery? I sure hope so, as do his fantasy owners but that won’t happen until Week 10.

 

This week may in fact be the biggest of the fantasy season for those who are trying to determine if their team is championship-caliber, able to get into the playoffs or needs some work to get there.  New England being one of the six teams on bye will certainly impact many rosters, but not as much at the wide receiver position.

 

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

 

Teams on bye: Arizona, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, New England, Washington

 

 

 

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2016 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 9
Post date: Thursday, November 3, 2016 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-flex-rankings-week-9
Body:

With Week 9 of the fantasy season upon us we have officially reached the halfway point of the regular season. The halfway point of the fantasy season is already in the rear-view mirror, so owners who may be clinging to hopes of a playoff berth may be in a do-or-die situation this week. Thankfully many of the biggest names in fantasy are back this week such as Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. (And maybe even Ben Roethlisberger?)

 

There are of course some other studs on bye (David Johnson, Tom Brady, A.J. Green, Rob Gronkowski, etc.), and Week 9 also offers opportune matchups for some elite players. And hopefully, unlike last week, they will make the most of those this time.

 

But what about your mid-tier guys or bye-week/injury replacements? Will Ty Montgomery return this week for Green Bay and have a big role in the offense? And in Kansas City how will the offense fare with Nick Foles at quarterback? Will this help Jeremy Maclin or is Tyreek Hill the Chiefs’ new No. 1 target? And who is going to be running the ball?

 

And that’s just several questions related to ONE team. There are many more that will need to be answered (Mark Ingram or Tim Hightower for New Orleans?). With so many questions and a limited player pool for different reasons be sure to consult these flex rankings before setting your lineup.  And as usual, these are subject to change (and will), so be sure to check back for the latest updates.

 

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

 

Teams on bye: Arizona, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, New England, Washington

 

 

 

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2016 Flex Rankings: Week 9
Post date: Thursday, November 3, 2016 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-tight-end-rankings-week-9
Body:

The whole tight end position has been a disaster this season for fantasy owners. Other than Rob Gronkowski (and it took him a few weeks to get up to speed), it has been really hard to rely on any specific tight end.

 

Last week Jimmy Graham was supposed to be a stud, and he was a dud. While a previously unknown Texans tight end, C.J. Fiedorowicz, is now a thing. Heading into Week 9, it looks like guys like Gary Barnidge and Travis Kelce could be top-5 starting options, but who rounds out the top 10?

 

One thing is for sure, it won’t be Gronk or Jordan Reed or Tyler Eifert or Zach Miller or Martellus Bennett, or even Fiedorowicz for that matter, as they are all on bye.

 

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

 

Teams on bye: Arizona, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, New England, Washington

 

Rk Player Team Opp
1 Greg Olsen CAR at LA
2 Delanie Walker TEN at SD
3 Travis Kelce KC vs. JAC
4 Jimmy Graham SEA vs. BUF (Mon.)
5 Kyle Rudolph MIN vs. DET
6 Gary Barnidge CLE vs. DAL
7 Coby Fleener NO at SF
8 Cameron Brate TB vs. ATL (Thurs.)
9 Jack Doyle IND at GB
10 Antonio Gates SD vs. TEN
11 Eric Ebron DET at MIN
12 Jason Witten DAL at CLE
13 Dennis Pitta BAL vs. PIT
14 Julius Thomas JAC at KC
15 Hunter Henry SD vs. TEN
16 Austin Hooper ATL at TB (Thurs.)
17 Zach Ertz PHI at NYG
18 Lance Kendricks LA vs. CAR
19 Charles Clay BUF at SEA (Mon.)
20 Virgil Green DEN at OAK
21 Jesse James PIT at BAL
22 Vance McDonald SF vs. NO
23 Richard Rodgers GB vs. IND
24 Dwayne Allen IND at GB
25 Ladarius Green PIT at BAL
26 Will Tye NYG vs. PHI
27 Clive Walford OAK vs. DEN
28 Josh Hill NO at SF
29 Erik Swoope IND at GB
30 Larry Donnell NYG vs. PHI

 

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2016 Tight End Rankings: Week 9
Post date: Thursday, November 3, 2016 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-running-back-rankings-week-9
Body:

Week 8 for fantasy football owners brought more of the same from the running back position – injuries. Jamaal Charles went on injured reserve and Spencer Ware is in the concussion protocol, so it’s your turn Charcandrick West. Also will we see more of Derrick Henry this week? And which New Orleans ball carrier will lead the way – Mark Ingram or Tim Hightower?

 

And while some roles are changing on some teams, the question then becomes where do some of the “new” faces compare to more established starters like Matt Forte or Jonathan Stewart? And don’t forget about six teams being on bye either. For Week 9 that means no David Johnson, Lamar Miller, Jeremy Hill, LeGarrette Blount, Giovani Bernard or Jordan Howard, to name a few.

 

Put it all together and it makes for another week of tough decisions for many a fantasy owner. And this is just running backs!

 

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

 

Teams on bye: Arizona, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, New England, Washington

 

Rk Player Team Opp
1 Ezekiel Elliott DAL at CLE
2 Le'Veon Bell PIT at BAL
3 DeMarco Murray  TEN at SD
4 Devonta Freeman ATL at TB (Thurs.)
5 Melvin Gordon SD vs. TEN
6 Devontae Booker DEN at OAK
7 Matt Forte NYJ at MIA
8 Todd Gurley LA vs. CAR
9 Jay Ajayi MIA vs. NYJ
10 Christine Michael SEA vs. BUF (Mon.)
11 Jonathan Stewart CAR at LA
12 Carlos Hyde SF vs. NO
13 Frank Gore IND at GB
14 Isaiah Crowell CLE vs. DAL
15 Latavius Murray OAK vs. DEN
16 Terrance West BAL vs. PIT
17 Theo Riddick DET at MIN
18 Mark Ingram NO at SF
19 Matt Asiata MIN vs. DET
20 Charcandrick West KC vs. JAC
21 Tim Hightower NO at SF
22 Rashad Jennings NYG vs. PHI
23 Darren Sproles PHI at NYG
24 Duke Johnson CLE vs. DAL
25 Antone Smith TB vs. ATL (Thurs.)
26 Derrick Henry TEN at SD
27 Spencer Ware KC vs. JAC
28 Ryan Mathews PHI at NYG
29 LeSean McCoy BUF at SEA (Mon.)
30 Mike Gillislee BUF at SEA (Mon.)
31 Bilal Powell NYJ at MIA
32 Chris Ivory JAC at KC
33 T.J. Yeldon JAC at KC
34 Peyton Barber TB vs. ATL (Thurs.)
35 C.J. Prosise SEA vs. BUF
36 DeAndre Washington OAK vs. DEN
37 Kenneth Dixon BAL vs. PIT
38 Alfred Morris DAL at CLE
39 Jerick McKinnon MIN vs. DET
40 Jalen Richard OAJ vs. DEN
41 Zach Zenner DET at MIN
42 Terron Ward ATL at TB (Thurs.)
43 Kapri Bibbs DEN at OAK
44 Paul Perkins NYG vs. PHI
45 Shaun Draughn SF vs. NO
46 Don Jackson GB vs. IND
47 Mike Davis SF vs. NO
48 DeAngelo Williams PIT at BAL
49 DuJuan Harris SF vs. NO
50 Bobby Rainey NYG vs. PHI

 

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2016 Running Back Rankings: Week 9
Post date: Thursday, November 3, 2016 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-quarterback-rankings-week-9
Body:

Aaron Rodgers finished Week 8 with the second-most fantasy points among quarterbacks (Derek Carr and his 513 yards, 4 TDs led the way). Rodgers has thrown seven touchdown passes over the past two weeks. This Sunday, he faces Indianapolis, which has allowed two TD passes to every quarterback faced over the past six weeks except for Alex Smith last week. Rodgers should throw for at least two scores in what could end up being a high-scoring game.

 

To that end, Andrew Luck also is near the top of the rankings, checking in at No. 3 behind Drew Brees. Green Bay just gave up 288 yards and three TD passes. Between the matchup and the return of Donte Moncrief, Luck should come through for his fantasy owners this week.

 

Among those quarterbacks that won’t in Week 9 because they are on bye is Tom Brady, Kirk Cousins, Andy Dalton and Carson Palmer. Ben Roethlisberger’s status also is up in the air, although he was getting first-team reps in practice on Wednesday. So pay careful attention to his progress the rest of this week.

 

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

 

Teams on bye: Arizona, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, New England, Washington

 

 

 

 

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2016 Quarterback Rankings: Week 9
Post date: Thursday, November 3, 2016 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-defense-special-teams-rankings-week-9
Body:

After some lackluster fantasy performances from the so-called top defense/special teams (DST) units in the league in Week 8, the Kansas City Chiefs have claimed the top spot for Week 9. The Chiefs have an interception in each of their past three games. Blake Bortles, who the Chiefs face in Week 9, has thrown three interceptions in the past three games? Coincidence? Either way, the Chiefs/Jags game should be low-scoring, and the Jags should provide a few turnovers.

 

The Seattle and Minnesota DSTs were the two top in fantasy points prior to Week 8. That was before the Vikings finished with single-digit points in their stunning loss to Chicago on Monday night. The Seahawks were saved by a defensive touchdown, otherwise they would have finished with fewer than 10 points as well. But that was last week and both DSTs are still in the top 3 in large part due to appealing matchups. But don’t overlook the Chiefs. Also don’t forget that Arizona, Cincinnati, Houston and New England (plus Chicago and Washington) are all on bye in Week 9.

 

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

 

Teams on bye: Arizona, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, New England, Washington

 

 

 

 

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2016 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 9
Post date: Thursday, November 3, 2016 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-kicker-rankings-week-9
Body:

Through eight weeks, Adam Vinatieri is still the No. 1 kicker in terms of fantasy points (depending on league scoring). Facing the Green Bay Packers in Week 9, he should have plenty of opportunities to add to that total. He's made five field goals from 50 yards or beyond, and he has yet to miss a field goal or extra point.

 

Justin Tucker is another kicker yet to miss a field goal or extra point. He has only made nine extra points this year, however, that's more of a function of the Ravens’ offense struggling to score touchdowns than lack of faith in their kicker. Tucker is the No. 4 kicker in the Week 9 rankings. In only seven games played (because of the bye week), he is tied for third in terms of fantasy points (Athlon scoring), and the two ahead of him (Vinatieri and Matt Bryant) have played one more game.

 

Also six teams are on bye, including New England, but no kicker, not even Stephen Gostkowski, is worth hanging on to during their bye week unless you have a really deep roster.

 

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

 

Teams on bye: Arizona, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, New England, Washington

 

 

 

 

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2016 Kicker Rankings: Week 9
Post date: Thursday, November 3, 2016 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News, Magazines
Path: /college-basketball/oklahoma-sooners-2016-17-basketball-team-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Lon Kruger’s club is ready, finally, for a facelift. Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Ryan Spangler started every game over the past three seasons as key cogs for a squad that progressed from simply an NCAA Tournament team into a national championship contender, advancing to the Final Four a year ago. Now, all three are gone. Hield — a National Player of the Year and the face of the program — and Cousins were NBA Draft picks, and Spangler snagged a free agent deal. So that’s significant talent.

 

“It’ll be a new squad, a new identity,” Kruger says. “The guys returning have to be careful not to think that it’s just going to happen again or continue like it has been. They have to establish their own way, take from those old guys last year, the veterans last year, what they can, what they learned. Now they have to develop their own identity and see what they can make of that.”

 

The Sooners should still have a strong identity, fronted by the other player to start every game the past three seasons: guard Jordan Woodard, a versatile senior capable of playing any of the guard spots. Emerging big man Khadeem Lattin also returns as a starter, giving Oklahoma two premium pieces to front a roster still boasting talent stacked from solid recruiting.

 

All Big 12 predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2016-17 Preview Magazine, available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere.

 

At a Glance

 

HEAD COACH: Lon Kruger

2015-16 RECORD (BIG 12): 29–8 (12–6)

2015-16 POSTSEASON: NCAA: Lost to Villanova 95–51 in the Final Four

2016-17 PREDICTION: Sixth in Big 12

KEY LOSSES:

G Buddy Hield (25.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg)

G Isaiah Cousins (12.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.5 apg)

F Ryan Spangler (10.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg)

G Dinjiyl Walker (3.3 ppg)

 

Frontcourt

 

Lattin provided the Sooners with a strong presence during their Final Four run, earning a nod on the Big 12 All-Defensive Team and leading the league with 2.1 blocked shots per game. Entering his junior year, it’s now time for Lattin to bring more offense. The athletic forward is capable, after leading Oklahoma with a 55.7 field goal percentage in averaging 5.6 points. And with so much firepower lost, he needs to look to score more.

 

Dante Buford was the Sooners’ top reserve in minutes played a year ago and figures to seize a starting spot. Freshman Matt Freeman could provide a challenge to Buford, or play alongside him if there’s a move to go bigger. However it shakes out, the Sooners need one — or both — to stretch defenses from the outside in.

 

Center Jamuni McNeace showed flashes of potential as a redshirt freshman and should earn a bigger role off the bench. The Sooners lost one potential key piece when 7-footer Akolda Manyang ran into problems off the court and was dismissed from the squad.

 

Backcourt

 

Much of Oklahoma’s success could revolve around the point, where Woodard seeks to return after trading places with Cousins last year. It’s what the gritty Woodard wants, yet Kruger will demand a more vocal presence out of him at the spot.

 

“I expect to play point guard, but if not I’m going to play any type of guard,” says Woodard, who finished second on the team in scoring (13.0 ppg) and 3-pointers made (80) last season.

 

Christian James surged at the end of last season, putting himself in position to join the starting five. James nearly doubled his regular-season production in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 4.8 points and 3.6 rebounds in five postseason games. He scored 12 points against Texas A&M in one tournament win and pulled down a career-high 10 rebounds against Oregon in the West Region final.

 

If it’s not Woodard at the point, it’ll be Darrion Strong, who averaged 17.7 points and 3.3 assists at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College last season.

 

Rashard Odomes is in position to carve a bigger role off the bench. And there’s room for either of two freshmen — Kameron McGusty or Jordan Shepherd — to make an impact in the rotation.

 

Newcomers

 

Junior college pickup Darrion Strong was a key addition, giving the Sooners needed flexibility and depth at the point. Matt Freeman, a New Zealander who redshirted last season after joining the Sooners in January, will fill a major role and could push to start. Freshman guards Jordan Shepherd and Kameron McGusty are battling to join the rotation. Forward Kristian Doolittle is a four-star prospect who is a redshirt candidate.

 

Final Analysis

 

There’s a bit of a rebuild taking place in Norman. Kruger is even working with an overhauled staff, after longtime assistants Steve Henson and Lew Hill left for head coaching gigs. Still, the Sooners aren’t due for some major drop-off. Kruger has consistently added talent to the program, lending to a sort of next-wave appeal and a sense that it can remain relevant and make an NCAA Tournament run.

 

The point position is worth watching, along with the continued development of Lattin, Buford and James, who must prove they’re ready for premium roles.

 

Woodward has plenty of confidence in his teammates. “I’m disappointed that people don’t realize how many good pieces we’re going to have next year,” he says.

Teaser:
Oklahoma Sooners 2016-17 Basketball Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, November 3, 2016 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News, Magazines
Path: /college-basketball/big-12-basketball-2016-17-preview-predictions-and-all-conference-team
Body:

Around the Big 12, it seems big changes are afoot.

 

Buddy Hield has left Oklahoma. Georges Niang is gone from Iowa State, a year after coach Fred Hoiberg left for the NBA. Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and TCU will have new coaches.

 

Even Perry Ellis, the ageless Kansas forward, will be nowhere to be found.

 

Then again, some things never change in the Big 12 — Kansas is leading the way.

 

The Jayhawks will go for 13 conference titles in a row this season, a streak of league titles that is only matched by John Wooden’s UCLA teams.

 

KU will face its share of turnover — the departure of Ellis, for starters — but the Jayhawks don’t appear to have the challengers they’ve had in recent years. Even the league’s better teams — Iowa State, Texas, Baylor and West Virginia — are in various stages of rebuilding.

 

All Big 12 predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2016-17 Preview Magazine, available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere.

 

 

2016-17 Big 12 Predictions
1

Kansas: The path toward a 13th straight Big 12 title for Bill Self & Co. should feature few roadblocks. The Jayhawks, however, will need some big men to step up to be a national title contender. 

Team Preview
2

Iowa State: Depth will be an issue, but three double-digit scorers return — most notably senior point guard Monte Morris — for Steve Prohm in his second season in Ames.

Team Preview
3

Texas: Five-star newcomers Jarrett Allen and Andrew Jones will need to make an immediate impact for Shaka Smart’s club to be a factor in the Big 12 race.

Team Preview
4

Baylor: Johnathan Motley needs to emerge as a consistent scorer in the frontcourt, but guard Manu Lecomte, a Miami (Fla.) transfer, holds the key to the Bears’ success. 

Team Preview
5

West Virginia: Even without departed stars Jaysean Paige and Devin Williams, West Virginia will be pesky. Don’t be surprised if the Mountaineers surprise once again. 

Team Preview
6

Oklahoma: Life after Buddy Hield (and Isaiah Cousins and Ryan Spangler) begins in Norman, but the Sooners still have enough talent to return to the NCAA Tournament.

Team Preview
7

Texas Tech: The Red Raiders lost Tubby Smith to Memphis but rebounded nicely to lure Chris Beard to Lubbock after a short stay in Las Vegas.

 
8

Kansas State: Embattled coach Bruce Weber needs an NCAA Tournament berth to silence critics in Manhattan. Talented forward Wesley Iwundu will be the key for the Wildcats.

 
9

Oklahoma State: Jawun Evans and Phil Forte form one of the nation’s top backcourts, but the Pokes don’t have much else. It could be a struggle in the first year of the Brad Underwood era.

 
10

TCU: The hiring of Jamie Dixon — a former standout at TCU — made basketball relevant again in Fort Worth, but the former Pitt coach needs to build a roster that can compete in the Big 12.

 

Big 12 Superlatives

 

Player of the Year: Josh Jackson, Kansas

Best Defensive Player: Khadeem Lattin, Oklahoma

Most Underrated Player: Matt Thomas, Iowa State

Newcomer of the Year: Josh Jackson, Kansas

 

First-Team All-Big 12

 

G Monte Morris, Iowa State

G Frank Mason, Kansas

G Josh Jackson, Kansas

G Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State

F Johnathan Motley, Baylor

 

Second-Team All-Big 12

 

G Jordan Woodard, Oklahoma

G Devonte Graham, Kansas

G Jevon Carter, West Virginia

F Wesley Iwundu, Kansas State

F Jarrett Allen, Texas

 

Third-Team All-Big 12

 

G Andrew Jones, Texas

G Phil Forte, Oklahoma State

G Naz Long, Iowa State

G Daxter Miles, West Virginia

F Carlton Bragg Jr., Kansas

 

Recruiting Roundup

From Scout.com

 

1. Texas: The Longhorns could soon become a real contender after signing two five-star and two four-star recruits in Shaka Smart’s first full recruiting cycle.

 

2. Kansas: Kansas has another top-10 class, powered by small forward Josh Jackson, Scout’s No. 1 player overall, and center Udoka Azubuike, the No. 34 player.

 

3. Oklahoma: Kameron McGusty, Scout’s 35th-ranked player, is a versatile, quick shooting guard. Lon Kruger also signed in-state three-star power forward Kristian Doolittle.

 

4. Baylor: Four-star power forward Mark Vital is a dangerous combo forward who joins pick-and-roll nightmare Tyson Jolly.

 

5. Oklahoma State: Four-star shooting guard Lindy Waters and three-star power forward Cameron McGriff are a deadly duo from beyond the arc.

 

6. TCU: The Horned Frogs welcome Jaylen Fisher, the top point guard recruit in Tennessee, who has a high basketball IQ and sound court vision.

 

7. Iowa State: Cameron Lard, an athletic three-star forward, should fit perfectly in Iowa State’s fast-paced system.

 

8. West Virginia: Maciej Bender, a stretch-4, chose the Mountaineers over Ole Miss, Arizona State and others.

 

9. Kansas State: The Wildcats bring in a quality small forward in three-star Xavier Sneed. Guard Brian Patrick can fill it up from the perimeter.

 

10. Texas Tech: Tubby Smith took one of Tech’s top recruits (three-star point guard Keon Clergeot) with him when he left for Memphis.

Teaser:
Big 12 Basketball 2016-17 Preview, Predictions and All-Conference Team
Post date: Thursday, November 3, 2016 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News, Magazines
Path: /college-basketball/baylor-bears-2016-17-basketball-team-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Rarely does a team lose its top scorer, rebounder and assists leader and expect to get better. But Scott Drew is confident it can happen this season at Baylor.

 

“We’ve got some experienced guys returning and some guys ready to step into a bigger role,” Drew says. “More than anything, though, I love our chemistry.”

 

Drew certainly isn’t downplaying the departures of NBA Lottery pick Taurean Prince (15.9 ppg), NFL Draft pick Rico Gathers (9.0 rpg) and starting point guard Lester Medford (6.5 apg). Their numbers will be tough to replace. Still — largely because of the addition of point guard Manu Lecomte, a transfer from Miami (Fla.) — Drew’s confidence is high that Baylor’s talent and depth are good enough to finish in the upper half of the Big 12 for the third straight season.

 

All Big 12 predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2016-17 Preview Magazine, available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere.

 

At a Glance

 

HEAD COACH: Scott Drew

2015-16 RECORD (BIG 12): 22–12 (10–8)

2015-16 POSTSEASON: NCAA: Lost to Yale 79–75 in the first round

2016-17 PREDICTION: Fourth in Big 12

KEY LOSSES:

F Rico Gathers (11.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg)

G Lester Medford (8.9 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 6.5 apg)

F Taurean Prince (15.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg)

 

Frontcourt

 

One of the biggest keys to Baylor’s success is 6'9" junior Johnathan Motley — one of the most gifted players in the Big 12, but also one of the more enigmatic. Motley eclipsed the 20-point barrier seven times last season, but he also had eight games in which he tallied four points or fewer. Motley’s length, athleticism and soft shooting touch have caught the attention of NBA scouts, but he needs to play with more of a killer instinct and become more dependable.

 

Joining Motley in the paint — especially when the Bears play “small ball” — will be Ish Wainright. No player on Baylor’s roster has improved as much over the last few years as the broad-shouldered Wainright, who has developed a reputation as a do-everything guy who pounds the offensive glass, handles the ball in transition and even hits an occasional 3-pointer.

 

Look for T.J. Maston to log significant minutes alongside Motley when Baylor employs its bigger lineup. The nephew of former NBA forward Tony Battie excited coaches with five double-digit outings during Big 12 play, but he fizzled down the stretch.

 

Jo Acuil, who redshirted last season, could play a significant role off the bench. The 7'0" shot swatter from Australia averaged 20.1 points, 11.2 rebounds and 4.7 blocks for Neosho County (Kan.) Community College in 2014-15. Also fighting for minutes in the rotation will be Nuni Omot, who averaged 12.2 points and 5.4 rebounds last season in junior college.

 

Backcourt

 

The strength of Baylor’s team will be its guards. It all starts with Lecomte, a junior who will be a significant upgrade at the point over Medford, who was serviceable but often erratic. Lecomte averaged 7.9 points for Miami during a 2014-15 season that was highlighted by a 23-point effort in a road win at Duke. Lecomte, who made 45.6 percent of his 3-pointers, will be Baylor’s best long-range shooter since Brady Heslip. Lecomte may not match Medford’s assist numbers, but he’ll make up for it with his scoring and leadership.

 

Joining Lecomte in the backcourt will be junior combo guard Al Freeman, Baylor’s leading returning scorer (11.3 ppg). Freeman made 50 3-pointers a year ago, which ranked second on the team. He’s also an aggressive penetrator who takes good care of the ball, averaging just 1.3 turnovers as a sophomore.

 

At the other guard position, Bears coaches are hopeful that King McClure emerges as a breakout player. McClure has the shooting skills to be one of the top long-range threats in the Big 12, but it was difficult for him to get into a rhythm coming off the bench.

 

If he’s not starting, look for sophomore Jake Lindsey to be the first guard off of Baylor’s bench. Lindsey isn’t a big-time scorer, but he’s a dependable ball-handler who can calm things down when the Bears get sped up. Coaches are also excited about the potential of shooting guard Wendell “Chuck” Mitchell, a high-level scorer who redshirted last season.

 

Newcomers

 

Three players (Manu Lecomte, Jo Acuil and Wendell Mitchell) who sat out last season should make an impact. Lecomte, a point guard, may be the best player on the team. Don’t be surprised if he leads the Bears in scoring. Acuil is a junior college transfer who will likely be a part of Baylor’s frontcourt rotation. Mitchell is a scoring guard who will fight for minutes in a crowded backcourt. Tyson Jolly (defensive specialist) and Mark Vital (high-level rebounder) could contribute in spurts.

 

Final Analysis

 

The Bears have averaged 23 wins over the past two seasons but have been upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament both times, falling to No. 14 seed Georgia State in 2015 and No. 12 seed Yale last spring. Drew is confident that the addition of Lecomte, improved consistency from Motley and potential breakouts by players such as McClure and Maston will be enough to alter that trend. Baylor has the pieces to place as high as second in a Big 12 conference that will feature only one elite team (Kansas). But if things don’t come together, the Bears could finish as low as seventh.

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Almost nothing went according to plan in Year 1 of the Shaka Smart era at Texas, from opening last season in China without the athletic director who scheduled the game (and who hired Smart) — Steve Patterson — because he’d been fired in September, right down to an upset loss to Northern Iowa on a buzzer-beating half-court heave in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

 

Combine all that with the loss of six key players from last year — five seniors and junior point guard Isaiah Taylor — and Smart is almost starting over in Year 2.

 

Thanks to the arrival of two five-star freshmen — big man Jarrett Allen and point guard Andrew Jones — Smart and the Longhorns have some talented new pieces on the roster.

 

All Big 12 predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2016-17 Preview Magazine, available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere.

 

At a Glance

 

HEAD COACH: Shaka Smart

2015-16 RECORD (BIG 12): 20–13 (11–7)

2015-16 POSTSEASON: NCAA: Lost to Northern Iowa 75–72 in the first round

2016-17 PREDICTION: Third in Big 12

KEY LOSSES:

G Javan Felix (10.7 ppg, 2.2 apg)

G Demarcus Holland (3.1 ppg, 1.8 rpg)

C Prince Ibeh (4.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg)

F Connor Lammert (7.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg)

C Cameron Ridley (11.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg)

G Isaiah Taylor (15.0 ppg, 5.0 apg)

 

Frontcourt

 

To execute Smart’s frenetic, chaotic style of play, he needs athletic big men who can run. He has found that in a pair of highly recruited 6'10" freshmen.

 

Texas had to wait through the spring signing period and into June before Allen finally signed scholarship papers and enrolled in school.

 

After losing senior big men Cameron Ridley, Prince Ibeh and Connor Lammert, Smart was desperate to sign Allen, a recruit Texas felt good about landing until Houston and Kansas made late pushes. During the spring signing period, when Allen’s recruitment was in doubt, Smart elevated former Longhorns guard Jai Lucas from director of operations to full-time assistant because of Lucas’ ties to Houston, where Allen played AAU ball. Jai’s father — former NBA player and coach John Lucas — is a central figure in Houston’s AAU basketball community. It didn’t hurt Jai’s cause that TCU’s Jamie Dixon tried to hire him as well.

 

Allen is joined in the frontcourt by fellow 6'10" freshman James Banks, a four-star recruit who lives to rebound and block shots but needs to improve a limited offensive game. Allen and Banks did some additional bonding this summer in South America while playing on the USA U-18 National Team that was coached by Smart.

 

Senior Shaq Cleare lacks the athleticism of Allen and Banks, but he adds a physical toughness in the paint at 6'8", 285 pounds that Texas sorely needs.

 

At small forward, Tevin Mack and Mareik Isom, a graduate transfer from Little Rock, can both shoot the 3 and should be excellent in pick-and-pop situations. Mack averaged only 5.1 points as a freshman but showed his potential with 20 points in a loss to UConn and 18 in a loss to Iowa State. Isom averaged 5.9 points while playing 19.0 minutes per game for the Trojans last season.

 

Neither Mack nor Isom is a strong defender, so coaches might be inclined to play one or the other in a rotation, rather than both at the same time.

 

Backcourt

 

Although unproven at point guard, Jones and high-flying sophomore Kerwin Roach Jr. could form one of the more dynamic duos in the Big 12. Both can handle the point, and both can play off the ball, so they can be on the floor together — and probably will be.

 

Roach, whose vertical allows him to touch the top of the backboard, was one of the team’s best players at the end of last season. He showed he could get to the rim seemingly whenever he wanted.

 

Sophomore Eric Davis is a streaky 3-point shooter who needs to become more consistent and a tougher defender. He closed the season with 13 points in the NCAA Tournament loss to Northern Iowa. Freshman point guard Jacob Young, a Houston native, is raw but talented.

 

Senior guard Kendal Yancy, who has started 43 games in three seasons, was the only Longhorn last season to shoot better than 40 percent from 3-point range with at least 25 attempts.

 

Newcomers

 

At 6'4", Andrew Jones gives Texas the kind of size at point guard that the Longhorns have rarely had. Shaka Smart needs big man Jarrett Allen to live up to all the recruiting hype — immediately. Center James Banks brings an intense work ethic and defensive presence in the paint. Small forward Mareik Isom is a liability on defense but a threat from 3 as a pick-and-pop guy. Guard Jacob Young has some work to do.

 

Final Analysis

 

The Longhorns need a lot of new parts to come together quickly. But if Jones and Roach play well together in the backcourt, and if Davis, Mack and/or Isom become 3-point shooting threats, and if Allen and Banks can do all that’s asked of them down low, Texas could become a team no one wants to face in March.

 

If any or all of those things don’t come together, Texas could be a bubble team — or NIT-bound in Year 2 under Smart.

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Many might remember West Virginia’s face-plant vs. Stephen F. Austin in the first round of last season’s NCAA Tournament. But what could be forgotten is the fact that the Mountaineers finished second both in the brutal Big 12 regular season and league tournament to Kansas. Their “Press Virginia” defensive style remains a strong national brand. And now WVU returns four players who started at least 16 games.

 

Double-double machine Devin Williams has departed. Ditto Jon Holton, he of the lethal press wing span. So can WVU keep up the pressure in 2016-17?

 

“We’ve sold too many T-shirts not to,” cracks coach Mountaineer Bob Huggins.

 

Good line. Also, West Virginia has a nice group of guards with juniors Jevon Carter and Dax Miles, as well as senior Tarik Phillip.

 

“Our guards are obviously our strength,” Huggins says. “They’re going to have to play well. They’re going to have to play well on a consistent basis.”

 

WVU did lose leading scorer and sixth man Jaysean Paige to graduation. Inside, however, is where the serious losses occurred. Williams and Holton had 567 rebounds between them. “We’re going to have to have some guys step up, but that’s every year,” Huggins says. “Generally speaking, guys have done that here.”

 

 

All Big 12 predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2016-17 Preview Magazine, available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere.

 

At a Glance

 

HEAD COACH: Bob Huggins

2015-16 RECORD (BIG 12): 26–9 (13–5)

2015-16 POSTSEASON: NCAA: Lost to Stephen F. Austin 70–56 in the First Round

2016-17 PREDICTION: Fifth in the Big 12

KEY LOSSES:

F Jonathan Holton (8.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg)

G Jaysean Paige (13.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg)

F Devin Williams (13.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg)

 

Frontcourt

 

As Huggins will quickly point out, WVU lost two of the school’s all-time rebounders in Williams and Holton. The burden will now fall to a quartet to take over: Elijah Macon, Nate Adrian, Esa Ahmad and Brandon Watkins.

 

Macon (6'9", 240) will have to mimic the physical presence of Williams. Now a junior, Macon was a highly regarded recruit who has flashed both a shooting touch and a penchant for making mistakes.

 

“He’s getting better,” Huggins says. “I’m really happy with Elijah. His attitude has been great. He just has to rebound the ball, but he’s very capable. Big, strong, mobile, bouncier than a lot of people think.”

 

Excessive fouling has been a part of WVU’s press, but now Macon and Adrian specifically will have to be more careful.

 

“Nate shot the ball well, particularly at the end of last year,” Huggins says. “Him being able to stretch the defense and make shots is going to be critical for us. He has to rebound more and better and stay out of foul trouble.”

 

Ahmad is the wild card. The former two-time Ohio Player of the Year started 34 games last season but averaged only 4.9 points and 2.7 rebounds. Watkins, meanwhile, spent time in Huggins’ doghouse coming off injury.

 

Redshirt freshman Lamont West and true freshman Sagaba Konate could also see playing time.

 

Backcourt

 

Huggins isn’t shy when he speaks of his backcourt of Carter, Miles and Phillip. “Those three guys have the potential to be as good [a trio] as any in the country,” he says. “Dax is on the verge of being a three-year starter. Tarik has two years under his belt — and had a heck of a year last year. J.C. got better as the season went along. He hadn’t played point guard and we asked him to — and I think it affected other parts of his game. I think he’s very comfortable there now. All three are terrific defenders. They make the pressure go.”

 

Carter led the team with an impressive 59 steals, while Phillip had 53 and Miles had 46. The question, though, is will the three make shots? The team was 269th nationally in 3-point shooting percentage. 

 

Also, expect significant minutes for senior Teyvon Myers and redshirt freshman point guard James “Beetle” Bolden. Huggins likes to play five guards.

 

Newcomers

 

WVU has three true freshmen, and Bob Huggins will undoubtedly give two — Maciej “Magic” Bender and Sagaba Konate — playing time this season. Bender, a 6'10" member of the Polish U-18 National Team, is the most intriguing. His former prep school coach compared him to ex-Wisconsin star Frank Kaminski. Konate, meanwhile, is “as big and strong and physical of a freshman as there is out there,” according to Huggins. Chase Harler could add shooting.

 

Final Analysis

 

West Virginia returns six significant players from a team that won 26 games. Still, the Mountaineers will be hard-pressed to replicate the effort. The loss of Williams and Holton will leave WVU exposed inside sans a proven big man. WVU, though, does have a fine backcourt that should keep “Press Virginia” alive and effective. If Carter and Miles begin hitting from beyond the 3-point arc, it will be a bonus.

 

Just keep watch on forwards Ahmad and Macon. Both were highly regarded four-star recruits. If they can live up to some of the pre-college hype, rebound and stay in games, West Virginia should again be an NCAA Tournament team.

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After a 4-0 start to the season, Miami was thinking about potentially winning the ACC Coastal Division and playing in Orlando for the conference championship. Now that the team enters the final month of the college football regular season, the Hurricanes (4-4, 1-3 ACC) are fighting to simply become bowl eligible.

 

Miami has lost its last four games and has looked like a much different team since coming up just short in a 20-19 loss to Florida State on Oct. 8. The Hurricanes’ latest defeat came against Notre Dame last week, a 30-27 loss in South Bend. Miami will be looking to get back on track at Hard Rock Stadium this Saturday against Pittsburgh, who also is coming off a loss.

 

The Panthers (5-3, 2-2) fell to Virginia Tech 39-36 in Blacksburg last Thursday night. Having lost to North Carolina earlier, Pittsburgh is not only a game behind both the Tar Heels and the Hokies; it’s also on the wrong end of the head-to-head tiebreaker with each team. All three of Pittsburgh’s losses this season have come by a combined total of 11 points (3.7 points per game).

 

Saturday will be the 36th meeting between the Panthers and Hurricanes. Miami leads the all-time series over Pittsburgh with a mark of 24-10-1. In their meeting last season, the Hurricanes defeated the Panthers 29-24.

 

Pittsburgh at Miami

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 5 at 12:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ACC Network/ESPN3

Spread: Miami -3

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Hurricanes’ Offensive Line
In last week’s loss to Notre Dame, Miami’s offensive line gave up five sacks and quarterback Brad Kaaya was pressured throughout the game. The Hurricanes were also held to a season-low 18 rushing yards after managing just 42 against Virginia Tech the week before that. Miami will face a tough test on Saturday against one of the most productive pass rushes in the FBS. Pittsburgh ranks fifth nationally and second in the ACC in sacks with 3.5 per game.
 

Ejuan Price, who was named as a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award (most outstanding defensive player), has been one of the most disruptive pass rushers in college football this season. Price ranks first in the nation in tackles for a loss per game (2.0), second in sacks per game (1.13) and 15th in forced fumbles (.38).

 

Miami had a hard time with teams like North Carolina and Notre Dame putting pressure on Kaaya, and Pittsburgh comes in with even more impressive statistics in this respect, not to mention the presence of an impact player like Price. If the Hurricanes can’t find a way to provide Kaaya with time to throw and prevent the Panther defenders from making plays behind the line of scrimmage, it could be yet another long day for Miami’s offense.

 

2. James Conner

Conner, Pittsburgh’s top running back, has been one of the better stories in college football this season. Last season, Conner battled cancer and some might have thought the former ACC Player of the Year might not step on the field again.

 

Not only has Conner returned to the field, but he also is once again among the ACC leaders in rushing. Conner is fourth with 672 rushing yards (4.7 ypc), and he’s third in rushing touchdowns with 10.  In the last two games, Miami has given up nearly 200 rushing yards per contest. Containing Conner and the rest of the Panthers’ running game will be a huge priority for the Hurricanes’ defense.

                                                                                                                                                   

3. Turnover Margin
Pittsburgh is one of the nation’s best teams when it comes to turnover margin. The Panthers are plus-3 with 11 takeaways compared to eight turnovers. That ranks third in the ACC and tied for 36th nationally. Miami also doesn’t turn the ball over a lot either, as the Hurricanes enter this game with a plus-2 turnover differential (tied for 4th in ACC, tied for 43rd in the FBS). They have 10 takeaways compared to just eight turnovers.

 

In a game that’s expected to be close throughout, a turnover or two could determine which team comes out on top.

 

Final Analysis

 

Offensively, Pittsburgh is averaging 38.1 points per game, while Miami isn’t too far behind at 32.9. The problem is, the Hurricanes have averaged less than 19 points per contest during their current four-game losing streak. The Panthers are giving up 32.4 points per game on the season, so this matchup could feature plenty of offensive fireworks.

 

Miami’s offensive line continues to be a huge issue for this team, so the Panthers’ defense could force Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya into some mistakes (or to the ground) with their pressure. Miami’s issues up front on offense could likely end up being the difference in another disappointing loss for the Hurricanes.

 

Prediction: Pittsburgh 34, Miami 27

 

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

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North Carolina needs a little help, but the ACC Coastal Division title is still within its grasp.

 

Currently tied in the division lead with Virginia Tech at one loss apiece, the Tar Heels need the Hokies to lose another game to pull in the lead position for a trip to Orlando, as the Heels dropped the head-to-head matchup with the boys from Blacksburg.

 

Related: North Carolina or Virginia Tech - Which Team Wins the ACC Coastal?

 

So whatever happens, the Tar Heels (6-2, 4-1 in the ACC) cannot afford to lose another game, or they would essentially be two games back in their quest to repeat as division champs.

 

In their way this week is a Georgia Tech (5-3, 2-3 in the ACC) team coming off a 38-35 barnburner of a win over Duke.

 

Over the last two seasons, UNC has beaten Georgia Tech, and coming off a bye week, the Tar Heels should be ready to defend head coach Paul Johnson's vaunted option attack, even though that didn't help the previous two times that happened, both Georgia Tech wins.

 

North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora's squad has been playing better defense of late, and if that continues, the Heels should have a good shot of keeping pace with the Hokies. But with the way the Georgia Tech option operated last week, the Heels will have their hands full.

 

While Georgia Tech can play the spoiler here, the Yellow Jackets have their own goals to attend to, like making it back to a bowl after winning just three games a year ago. Putting UNC's division title hopes at high risk with a win would just be a nice bonus along the way.

 

Georgia Tech at North Carolina

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 5 at 12:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ACC Network

Spread: North Carolina -10

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. All lined up
The North Carolina defense has performed much better lately than it did at the beginning of the season when it gave up 30 or more points in four of the first six games. But against Miami and Virginia, respectively, the Heels allowed just 13 and 14 points, the lowest totals of the season for the unit. The reason? The defensive line has started to come together. Six-foot-5, 295-pound defensive tackle Nazir Jones and 6-3, 230-pound defensive end Malik Carney are just two of the players who have made a huge impact on a line that has steadily progressed over the past month. If the entire group can continue to plug gaps and disrupt the Georgia Tech offensive line, a strong showing against the Yellow Jackets' option attack could be in store.

 

2. Trubisky time
Although he didn't start last season, UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky is starting to make a name for himself as one of the top pro prospects for draft-eligible players at the position. The redshirt junior from Mentor, Ohio, has completed 203-of-285 passes, an eye-popping 71.2 completion rate, for 2,378 yards, 18 touchdowns and just two interceptions. That type of production has caught the eye of ESPN evaluator Mel Kiper Jr., who has Trubisky ranked as his No. 1 quarterback on his NFL draft board. That's high praise, especially considering Trubisky was barely on anyone's radar at this time last year. His continued development is something to watch going forward.

 

3. No doubting Thomas

That's not to say Trubisky is the only quarterback worth keeping an eye on for this game, as Georgia Tech signal-caller Justin Thomas is coming off one of his best performances of the season. The senior stalwart has been one of Johnson's best at the position, but last week against Duke he outdid himself. The quarterback completed 10-of-14 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for another 195 yards and two more touchdowns on just 17 carries. For his efforts, Thomas earned Walter Camp National Player of the Week recognition. If the North Carolina defense allows anything close to an encore, the Tar Heels are in big trouble.

 

Final Analysis

 

This game will be worth the watch just for the quarterback play alone, as the two, in their own unique way, can each dominate a game. North Carolina should be able to put up some points, and this game will likely come down to how well the Tar Heels contain Justin Thomas and Georgia Tech’s option attack. They should be able to do that just enough to come out on top and keep their repeat division title hopes alive.

 

Prediction: North Carolina 35, Georgia Tech 24

 

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

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A sudden surge of momentum for Texas and Texas Tech makes Saturday’s matchup in Lubbock very important as both teams attempt to climb up the Big 12 standings and jockey for bowl position.

 

Texas picked up its biggest win of the season last week in upset fashion. The 35-34 last-minute victory over previously undefeated No. 8 Baylor pushed the Longhorns to 4-4 overall and 2-3 in Big 12 play, and perhaps helped to take a tiny bit of heat off of head coach Charlie Strong, who has battled speculation surrounding his job status all season.

 

Texas Tech also improved to 4-4 this season and 2-3 in conference play after picking up its own dramatic victory over rival TCU. The Red Raiders trailed most of the afternoon, but overcame Patrick Mahomes’ least prolific passing performance of the season (24-for-39, 206 yards, 2 TD, INT) to beat the Horned Frogs 27-24 in overtime.

 

Of course, Mahomes is still the nation’s leader with 3,519 passing yards and heads up a Texas Tech offense that has averaged 47.4 points per game, leads the FBS at 603.4 yards per contest, and picks up 6.92 yards per play (10th). Meanwhile, the struggles of the Texas defense have been highly publicized and the Longhorns surrendered 624 total yards to Baylor a week ago.

 

Needless to say, it appears Texas and Texas Tech will find themselves in yet another shootout, perhaps similar to the 48-45 Red Raiders victory last season. 

 

Texas at Texas Tech

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 5 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FS1
Spread: Texas -3.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Texas RB D’Onta Foreman
Texas has produced some of the greatest running backs in college football history, including Heisman Trophy winners Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams. However, the Longhorns had not had a 1,000-yard rusher since Jamaal Charles in 2007 until Foreman surpassed the plateau last week with a career game against Baylor. Foreman gained 259 yards on 32 carries against the Bears – both career highs – and tied his personal best with two touchdowns.

 

A 6-foot-1, 249-pound junior, Foreman enters this game with 1,105 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns and is averaging 6.4 yards per carry. He ranks second in the country with 157.9 rushing yards per contest and has rattled off nine straight 100-yard games, the longest active streak in the nation and just two shy of Campbell’s school record.

 

Foreman’s accomplishments are even more impressive when you consider he sat out the game against UTEP in Week 2 because of a minor groin injury. His 1,015 rushing yards are the fourth-best output for a running back in the first seven games of the season in program history.

 

2. The Line of Scrimmage
Foreman is great, though he has succeeded in large part due to a young, improving Texas offensive line that has opened up holes for him and others to run through. And the Longhorns appear likely to have another big game Saturday against a Texas Tech defense that has surrendered 213.8 rushing yards per game and 5.41 yards per carry this season. The Horns rank second in the Big 12 in rushing offense (226.5 ypg) and average 4.7 yards per attempt.

 

In addition to their struggles stopping the run, Texas Tech has had trouble putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Last week, the Red Raiders failed to record a sack for the fourth consecutive game. Tech ranks last in the Big 12 with just 10 sacks this season – half of which came in the season opener against FCS member Stephen F. Austin.

 

On the other hand, Texas is tied for the Big 12 lead with 31 sacks. The Longhorns have recorded at least one sack in every game this season, have sacked the opposing quarterback at least three times on six different occasions, and got to Baylor’s Seth Russell six times last week. Texas also posted an amazing eight sacks in the 27-6 win over Iowa State last month, a performance that saw the unit hold the Cyclones to just 98 rushing yards (2.3 ypc) and 280 total yards of offense.

 

It’s been a collective effort. No Texas defender ranks among the top six in the Big 12 in sacks, though four players – Breckyn Hager (5.0), Naashon Hughes (4.5), Malik Jefferson (4.0) and Charles Omenihu (3.0) – have recorded at least three this season.

 

Simply, the Texas front seven matches up well against a Texas Tech offensive line that has surrendered 21 sacks. To be fair, the Red Raiders are forced to protect Patrick Mahomes more than any other quarterback in the nation and the unit has allowed sacks on only 4.6 percent of the 456 passes Tech has attempted this season. For comparison’s sake, Texas has surrendered a sack 18 times in 246 pass attempts (7.3 percent). Still, the more Mahomes drops back to pass, the more opportunities the Longhorns will have to get after him.

 

3. Which Defense Will Step Up?
Despite its success rushing the passer, Texas (461.9 ypg) ranks No. 9 in the Big 12 in total defense. The Longhorns have allowed 203.4 rushing yards per game this season, which ranks No. 96 nationally. And, despite showing some signs of improvement against Iowa State, Texas still surrendered an average of 507.2 yards per game and 6.2 yards per play in the month of October.

 

Texas Tech (518.4 ypg) is the worst defense in the conference statistically. Tech also ranks dead last in the league in yards allowed per play (6.67), which is No. 125 nationally, while the Longhorns have allowed 5.91 yards per play (No. 86). Though the Red Raiders came up with a crucial second half interception in last week’s overtime win against TCU, Texas Tech ranks among the nation’s worst when it comes to forcing turnovers. Only one FBS program has created fewer takeaways than the Red Raiders’ six. Therefore, Tech has won the turnover battle just once this season (plus-2 in the season opener against Stephen F. Austin), and has been in the negative in turnover differential in four straight games, three of which were losses.

 

Texas also struggles to force turnovers. The Longhorns have 11 takeaways (No. 79 nationally), and have won the turnover battle twice this season. Nevertheless, the Texas defense forced a key first quarter turnover last week against Baylor that set up a touchdown and also forced a fumble and recorded a safety in the first half against the Bears. The Longhorns will likely need a similar big play again this week.

 

Final Analysis

 

For Texas Tech to win, the Red Raiders must build off of last week’s strong defensive performance. Texas Tech played arguably its best game defensively last week, holding TCU to just 24 points and 418 yards in the overtime victory. While Tech has had better games statistically, the defense had to step up to cover for an uncharacteristically mediocre performance by the offense (27 points, 345 total yards).

 

However, despite last week’s performance, it’s reasonable to expect Texas Tech to struggle to slow down D’Onta Foreman and a talented, young Texas offense. Even if Tech has some success stopping the run, unless the Red Raiders can be more effective in pressuring the quarterback, freshman Shane Buechele should have enough time to find his receivers, including emerging explosive playmaker Devin Duvernay. Even though he had just one catch last week, Duvernay posted touchdowns of 63, 72 and 80 yards the three games prior.

 

And, since the strength of the Texas defense is rushing the passer, Patrick Mahomes is likely to be under duress early and often. Therefore, the Longhorns have a better chance of forcing a key fumble or interception that could be the difference in this game.

 

Prediction: Texas 42, Texas Tech 41

 

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

Teaser:
Texas Longhorns vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2016 - 14:40
Path: /college-football/michigan-state-spartans-vs-illinois-fighting-illini-preview-and-prediction-2016
Body:

Michigan State is still seeking its first win within the Big Ten. The Spartans (2-6, 0-5 Big Ten) have not started conference play so horribly since 1982 when they lost their first five Big Ten contests to finish 2-7 and 2-9 overall. They have not gone so deep into a season without a conference win since 1980 when they did not beat a Big Ten member until Nov. 8 of that year.

 

Illinois (2-6, 1-4) replaced interim head coach Bill Cubit with Lovie Smith after last season. However, that move has not yet produced noticeable results. The Illini are still trying to recover from losing more than twice as many games as they won under Tim Beckman. They need one more win to equal their number of Big Ten victories in 2015.

 

The Spartans lead the overall series against Illinois 26-17-2. Michigan State also holds the advantage in games played in Champaign, 13-9-1. Michigan State has won 12 of the past 13 meetings.

 

Michigan State at Illinois

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 5 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN News
Spread: Michigan State -9.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Do the Spartans settle on a quarterback or continue shuffling the man under center?
A particular tactic can lead to stunning success in one situation. In another, the same tactic can contribute to frustrating failures. In last season's surprising upset at Ohio State, both Tyler O'Connor and Damion Terry took snaps and attempted passes in substituting for Connor Cook. This season, both have shared time as quarterback in three games. In only one of those three did Michigan State emerge with a victory.

 

O'Connor has gained enough experience to lead the team after taking snaps in all but one game this year. He has double-digit passing attempts in every game except for the game at Maryland when he did not play. However, he has exceeded 200 passing yards in only four games.

 

Terry has played in three games this season. However, he has the same number of carries as pass attempts (14 each). He has only attempted passes in two games and all of his completions (he’s 6-of-14 on the season) came in the fourth quarter of the 31-14 home loss to BYU.

 

The Spartans' quarterback carousel has included two others in 2016. Brian Lewerke had attempts and completions in four games. However he will miss the rest of the season with a broken left leg. Wide receiver R.J. Shelton also has got into the act, completing two passes in the Oct. 15 loss to Northwestern.

 

Will Michigan State head Mark Dantonio keep trying to plug in and yank out different quarterbacks in hopes that one can lead them to a win? Is anyone capable of serving as his "go-to" guy?

 

2. Who will play quarterback for Illinois?
The Fighting Illini have also had three different quarterbacks take snaps this season. However, injuries, not ineptitude, have been the cause.

 

Wes Lunt began the season as the starting quarterback. A back injury knocked him out of the game against Purdue and has caused him to miss the past three contests. Chayce Crouch relieved Lunt against the Boilermakers and started and finished the following game against Rutgers despite injuring his shoulder. Crouch missed the past two games and head coach Lovie Smith announced after last week’s contest that the redshirt sophomore underwent shoulder surgery and was done for the season. That led to redshirt freshman Jeff George Jr. starting each of the past two games, lopsided losses to Michigan and Minnesota.

 

Lunt’s status is a bit of a mystery, as the senior was dressed for last week’s game, but did not play. All Smith has revealed about Lunt is that he is “getting better.” If he’s able to play, there’s no dispute that Lunt would be the better starting option compared to a redshirt freshman who started the season third on the depth chart.

 

Assuming Lunt’s health is not an issue, Smith needs to decide what matters more for his team – giving the one with the most experience the starting nod at quarterback or turning the offense over with an eye towards preparing for next season.

 

3. Can the Spartans avoid another second half collapse?
In the last six games, Michigan State has been ahead at halftime twice. The Spartans had the lead going into the fourth quarter in another game. On another occasion, they trailed by only two points at halftime. Nonetheless, they lost all six games.

 

The fourth quarter has undone Michigan State's efforts for the most part. Opponents have outscored the Spartans 106-43 in the final quarter over those six games.

 

The upperclassmen on this team have experienced plenty of close finishes in their careers. They should be capable of handling the stress of pulling out a last-minute win or holding off an opponent trying to do the same. Will they find a way to replicate their successes of the past few years in hopes of finishing strong?

 

Final Analysis

 

Illinois and Michigan State find themselves in the basement of their respective Big Ten divisions. Both need a win to keep any hopes of bowl eligibility and finishing with a losing record alive. But the question is does each team view their current situation the same?

 

Do the Spartans care at all about winning their four games in November just to qualify for a bottom-of-the-barrel bowl game? After all many on this roster played in the College Football Playoff last season and took part in the Cotton and Rose Bowls the two years prior. It appears that they gave their last bit of effort and desire in their attempted rally in the fourth quarter to upset their hated neighbors from Ann Arbor last Saturday. Failing in that, this team may just be going through the motions to end the season.

 

In contrast, if the Illini sweep their four remaining games, they will likely go to a bowl game. With a postseason victory, they would equal their most successful season since 2011. Illinois appears to have more motivation. That and home-field advantage will tip the scales slightly in favor of the Illini.

 

Prediction: Illinois 23, Michigan State 20

 

Written by John La Fleur, a contributor to AthlonSports.com, who focuses on the New Orleans Saints and Michigan State Spartans. He also frequently comments on other teams in the NFL and in NCAA football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur and read his viewpoints at gridironconnoisseur.wordpress.com and at gridiron-connoisseur.blogspot.com.

Teaser:
Michigan State Spartans vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2016 - 14:30
Path: /college-football/wisconsin-badgers-vs-northwestern-wildcats-preview-and-prediction-2016
Body:

We've had no shortage of big games in the Big Ten this season. The nation's oldest conference dominates the top 10 of the polls and has a total of five teams in the initial release of the College Football Playoff rankings.

 

On Saturday, Wisconsin and Northwestern meet in Evanston, Illinois, for yet another key conference battle. With nearly everyone assuming a Nebraska loss to Ohio State, Wisconsin essentially controls the Big Ten West. That said, Pat Fitzgerald's Wildcats are playing with a renewed confidence after last weekend's slugfest with the Buckeyes. They currently have the same conference record as the Badgers and could effectively eliminate Wisconsin from Big Ten title contention by pulling off the upset at home.

 

Needless to say, there is plenty on the line in what looks to be a very physical November matchup in the Big Ten.

 

Wisconsin at Northwestern

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 5 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Wisconsin -7

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Can Wisconsin score some points?
Outside of a beatdown of Akron where they scored 54, the Badgers are averaging less than 20 points per game. Their defense is good — one of the best in the country — but they are tired and hurt. It's unrealistic to ask defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox to design schemes week in and week out contingent on holding opponents to fewer than 20 points in order to seal a win. The Badgers had success running the ball on some change-of-pace plays against Nebraska last weekend — especially in the second half. Wisconsin would be wise to mirror that attack on Saturday, especially if Paul Chryst is going to continue rotating quarterbacks — subsequently throwing off the continuity and timing in the Badger passing game.

 

2. Northwestern's running game
Justin Jackson is having yet another fantastic season toting the rock for Northwestern. The key for Pat Fitzgerald and the Wildcats is to feed him the ball all day. Northwestern is 4-0 this season when Jackson rushes 26 times or more. With Wisconsin's issues on offense, speeding up what will already be a very short, defensive game could be a death knell for the Badgers. Look for Jackson to log more than 30 carries in an effort for Northwestern to stay within striking distance and open up the offense in the fourth quarter.

 

3. The kicking game
This one is likely to be decided by one score either way. Neither team has been stellar in terms of the kicking game this season. Expect the kickers — for better or worse — to be a huge factor in deciding this important divisional contest. Surprisingly for an early November game in Chicagoland, the weather should not play a factor. Any difficulties had by either special teams unit will boil down to execution alone.

 

Final Analysis

 

On the surface, this game does not look like that big of a deal. As you dig deeper, however, you see the importance of this contest on a national scale. Wisconsin might be the only team from the Big Ten West that can knock off either Ohio State or Michigan on a neutral field and subsequently keep the Big Ten out of the College Football Playoff. One loss between now and the Big Ten Championship Game eliminates the possibility of that scenario playing out. The Badgers are battered, beaten and tired — yet they keep showing up and competing. Unfortunately for Paul Chryst's group, I'm not sure their patchwork lineup has what it takes to go on the road and win another physical game. They'll show up and compete like they do every week, but they'll eventually be worn down by an elite running back and an underrated defense. Look for the teams to trade a couple of touchdowns and field goals before Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson makes the play that eventually wins this one for the Wildcats.

 

Prediction: Northwestern 20, Wisconsin 13

 

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

Teaser:
Wisconsin Badgers vs. Northwestern Wildcats Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2016 - 14:20
Path: /college-football/louisville-cardinals-vs-boston-college-eagles-preview-and-prediction-2016
Body:

Phew.

 

That has to be the prevailing sentiment for head coach Bobby Petrino's Louisville team after the Cardinals pulled out a last-minute, 32-25 win over Virginia last weekend. It was the type of game where the team's College Football Playoff chances flashed right before its eyes until quarterback Lamar Jackson found Jaylen Smith on a 29-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds remaining.

 

Simply put, the Cardinals (7-1, 5-1 ACC) were lucky to come away victorious, and they can't avoid another slip-up, as their earlier loss to Clemson has them on the outside looking in.

 

This week, as they travel to face Boston College at Chestnut Hill's Alumni Stadium, the Cardinals will be going up against a team that just earned its first ACC win since 2014, breaking a 12-game conference losing streak with a 21-14 victory at NC State last Saturday.

 

The Eagles, once believed to be bound for the Atlantic Division basement, now have new life, and at 4-4 and 1-4 in the league need two wins to earn bowl eligibility and perhaps save head coach Steve Addazio's job.

 

In other words, these are two teams with still plenty to play for. Louisville has to keep winning and do so in more impressive fashion to keep the attention of the playoff selection committee, while Boston College has to find a way to build on last week's momentum

 

Louisville at Boston College

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 5 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Louisville -24.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Back on the Fields
One of the reasons for Louisville's less-than-dominant showing against Virginia was a lack of a pass rush. The Cardinals had just one sack in that game and only three in the past four contests after putting up 15 in the first four games of the season. That's clearly not the type of production this defensive front needs going forward, but a big factor in that drop-off has been the loss of outside linebacker Devonte Fields to an undisclosed injury. The 6-foot-4, 242-pound Fields left the NC State game in the first quarter and didn't play last weekend against Virginia. Fields has just two sacks on the season but is still considered one of the top pass rushers in the conference and his return would mark a major boost for his team.

 

2. Heisman watch
Right now, Jackson is the leader in the race for the Heisman Trophy and no one else is all that close behind him. Even though the Cardinals didn't dominate the Cavaliers last weekend, Jackson still completed 24-of-41 passes for 361 yards, four touchdowns and an interception while adding 88 rushing yards. Top that off with the game-winning touchdown pass in the waning moments, and there's another Heisman moment for a player who has been simply sensational this season. This week, he will be going up against a defense that has at times struggled against the likes of Clemson and Virginia Tech, but otherwise been strong, particularly against the run. The Eagles come into the game with the seventh-ranked defense in the nation in yards allowed per game and fourth in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game.

 

3. Towles time
Although he won't be confused with Jackson anytime soon, Boston College quarterback Patrick Towles is integral to the Eagles' success in this game. After suffering a hamstring injury against Syracuse the previous weekend, he was basically a game-time decision against the Wolfpack. He played, and even though he didn't exactly light it up, Towles did just enough to put his team in a position to win. For the game, Towles completed 18-of-33 passes for 204 yards and an interception, enough to give the Eagles adequate balance for a rushing attack that produced 168 yards and a touchdown on 44 carries (3.8 average). Towles looks good to go against the Cardinals, and while this will again be one of the more challenging defenses he faces this season, his presence alone gives the offense the best chance to succeed against it.

 

Final Analysis

 

The Eagles finally have a little mojo going in their favor, but it probably won't be enough to overcome what the Cardinals bring to the table, as it is unlikely that Lamar Jackson and Co. have another game come down to the wire. It's possible that the Boston College defense keeps the Eagles in the game early on, but Louisville should pull away for a comfortable victory.

 

Prediction: Louisville 42, Boston College 17

 

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

Teaser:
Louisville Cardinals vs. Boston College Eagles Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2016 - 14:10
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-fighting-irish-vs-navy-midshipmen-preview-and-prediction-2016
Body:

During the long history of their rivalry, Notre Dame and Navy have met up in many different locales. They have played in Baltimore and Philadelphia on several occasions and battled in Cleveland and East Rutherford, N.J., many times as well. They have even gone over to Dublin, Ireland twice. This week, the Fighting Irish and the Midshipmen will square off for the first time at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla., which is just a 12-mile drive from the Jacksonville Naval Air Station.

 

Notre Dame comes in after getting by Miami last week to push its record to 3-5. Navy is now 6-2 as a furious rally against South Florida last Friday night fell just short. Notre Dame leads the all-time series 76-12-1 and carries a five-game winning streak into this week’s contest.

 

Notre Dame vs. Navy (Jacksonville, Fla.)

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 5 at 11:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Notre Dame -6.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Jarron Jones
The Notre Dame defensive tackle had a monster game against the Hurricanes last Saturday. Jones tallied seven tackles, six of which resulted in lost yardage with one of those being a sack. Beyond the numbers, the fifth-year senior from Rochester, N.Y., was in the backfield all game, disrupting one Miami play after another. This weekend his role will be different, but perhaps even more important. The first step to controlling Navy’s triple-option attack is to stop the fullback run. That’s where Jones comes in. If he can handle the middle of the Navy line, it will allow more Notre Dame defenders to roam free and make plays on the outside.

 

2. Will Worth
When Tago Smith was lost for the year with a torn ACL in the season opener, Navy’s quarterback situation seemed to be in dire straits. But Worth stepped in and the Middies have not missed a beat. A senior that, like Smith, bided his time behind Keenan Reynolds for several years, Worth leads Navy in rushing with 618 yards and in touchdowns with 13. He’s also thrown for nearly 1,000 yards and six scores. Notre Dame may be glad that Reynolds is gone, but Worth will be difficult to contain as well.

 

3. Notre Dame Running Game vs. Navy Rush Defense
It would make sense that Notre Dame’s big offensive line should be able to push around Navy’s smaller defensive front, allowing the talented Irish backs to chew up yardage. Over the course of Notre Dame’s recent five-game winning streak against Navy, that has been the case as Notre Dame has averaged more than 200 yards per game on the ground. If the Irish are able to run the ball effectively, Navy will have difficulty defending the whole field and it will make life easier for Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer and his receivers.

 

Final Analysis

 

After losing 10 starters – including record-setting quarterback Keenan Reynolds – from last year’s 11-2, Military Bowl championship team, a rebuilding year was expected at Navy. But head coach Ken Niumatalolo has developed a culture of winning in Annapolis and Navy is well on its way to another successful season. Meanwhile in South Bend, Notre Dame’s struggles have been widely chronicled. It has been a year filled with mistakes and questionable decisions. But through it all, the Fighting Irish are still playing hard. They may not be playing well, but they are playing hard. Their effort, along with possessing more physical talent than Navy, will allow the Irish to overcome their miscues and beat the Midshipmen.

 

Prediction: Notre Dame 41, Navy 31

 

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

Teaser:
Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Navy Midshipmen Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2016 - 14:00
Path: /college-football/ucla-bruins-vs-colorado-buffaloes-preview-and-prediction-2016
Body:

Bowl eligibility never felt so sweet for Colorado.

 

The No. 15 Buffaloes (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12) clinched their first bowl appearance since 2007 with a 10-5 victory over Stanford two weeks ago and have a half-game lead over Utah and USC atop the Pac-12 South. Now Colorado can clinch its first winning season 2005 with a victory over UCLA on Thursday. It represents a radical turn from the Buffaloes' past fortunes since joining the league in 2011.

 

It is a much different story for the Bruins. UCLA (3-5, 1-4) finds itself mired in a three-game losing streak and desperate circumstances. The Bruins must win three of their next four games to avoid missing a bowl game for the first time since 2010.

 

UCLA leads the all-time series 9-2. The Bruins have won five straight games against Colorado, last falling to the Buffaloes 16-14 in 2003. Their last two victories over Colorado have come by a total of seven points.

 

UCLA at Colorado

 

Kickoff: Thursday, Nov. 3 at 9 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FS1
Spread: Colorado -12

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Can UCLA find better offensive balance?
Josh Rosen is not walking through the door for UCLA again this season. The sophomore quarterback will miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. This means that the Bruins will need to take some pressure off of senior Mike Fafaul if they hope to scratch out six wins and reach a bowl game this season.

 

Fafaul has been a capable passer in Rosen's absence. Against Utah, he set multiple single-game passing records. Fafaul threw for 464 yards and five touchdowns on 40-of-70 passing. The senior also threw four costly interceptions that helped the Utes walk away with a 52-45 victory.

 

UCLA's running game has gone into hibernation this season. The Bruins average just 85.5 rushing yards per game, which ranks last among all FBS teams. Utah limited UCLA to just 46 yards on 16 carries two weeks ago. In their last three games, the Bruins have totaled just 88 rushing yards.

 

If UCLA can't find balance, it could prove costly. Colorado ranks first in the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense (97.9 rating) and is second in pass defense (178.7 yards per game).

 

2. Will Phillip Lindsay produce a third straight 100-yard rushing game?
Over the last two games, Lindsay has taken a major leap forward for the Buffaloes. The junior rushed for 219 yards on 26 carries against Arizona State. He followed it up a week later with 131 yards on 12 carries against Stanford.

 

Through eight games, Lindsay has rushed for 745 yards and is averaging 6.3 yards per carry. He totaled just 653 yards over his entire sophomore season. His emergence has brought balance to Colorado's offense and is a catalyst for success. The Buffaloes are 5-0 when Lindsay gains 60 or more yards on the ground this season.

 

Lindsay is on pace to finish as Colorado's first 1,000-yard rusher since Rodney Stewart totaled 1,318 yards during his junior season in 2010. He would be just the fourth running back to hit 1,000 rushing yards for the Buffaloes since Rashaan Salaam's Heisman Trophy-winning season two decades ago.

 

3. Can Sefo Liufau regain his pre-injury form?
Injuries have limited Liufau's time on the field this season. He has appeared in six games and made five starts. When Liufau is on the field, however, the senior has proven to be an efficient and effective playmaker.

 

Liufau is the only current starting quarterback in the Pac-12 who has yet to throw an interception. The senior has totaled 1,179 passing yards while completing 67.4 percent of his passes. Liufau boasts a 157.9 passer rating, trailing only Washington’s Jake Browning and USC’s Sam Darnold in this category.

 

He has struggled a bit since coming back from injury. Liufau passed for only 135 yards and a touchdown on 12-of-25 passing after throwing for at least 200 yards in each of his other four starts this season. If Liufau can eclipse that 200-yard threshold on Thursday, Colorado's offense could surge back to its high-scoring ways again.

 

Final Analysis

 

UCLA finds itself in a desperate situation. The Bruins' one-dimensional offense has turned a promising season sour and they are now on the fringes of bowl eligibility. Colorado offers no real hope of relief from this dilemma. The Buffaloes no longer inhabit the Pac-12 cellar. They are a tough team on both sides of the ball and are in serious contention for a division title. Beating Colorado feels like too tall of an order for UCLA this season.

 

Prediction: Colorado 30, UCLA 23

 

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

Teaser:
UCLA Bruins vs. Colorado Buffaloes Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2016 - 13:50
Path: /college-football/arkansas-state-red-wolves-vs-georgia-state-panthers-preview-and-prediction-2016
Body:

After dropping its first four games of the season, Arkansas State (3-4, 3-0 Sun Belt) currently finds itself in the midst of a three-game winning streak. The Red Wolves most recently dispatched Louisiana-Monroe 51-10 last Saturday. Arkansas State also has wins over South Alabama and Georgia Southern during its recent resurgence.

 

One year after playing in the AutoNation Cure Bowl, Georgia State is enduring a 2-6 season and has just one win (1-3) in Sun Belt play thus far. The Panthers are coming off of a close 13-10 loss to South Alabama last week. Georgia State’s two wins this year have come against FCS member UT Martin and a Texas State team that’s currently sitting in basement of the Sun Belt (0-3).

 

Arkansas State has defeated Georgia State in each of the team’s previous three meetings, including 48-34 at home on Halloween last year.

 

Arkansas State at Georgia State

 

Kickoff: Thursday, Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPNU

Spread: Arkansas State -3

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Run, Red Wolves, Run!
Arkansas State’s ground has been largely effective this season, especially when it comes to facing Sun Belt opponents. The Red Wolves have rushed for 665 yards in their last three contests. Arkansas State produced two 100-yard rushers in its Oct. 5 win over Georgia Southern when Warren Wand dashed for 140 yards and a touchdown and Johnston White ran for 126.

 

Wand is the Red Wolves’ leading rusher with 467 yards and three touchdowns on the season. White checks in at No. 2 with 279 and a rushing TD. On the year, Arkansas State’s running backs have accumulated 998 yards and eight touchdowns.

 

2. Vicious Panthers defense
Although Georgia State has just two wins this year; the lack of victories can hardly be blamed on the defense. In fact, the Panthers rank first in the Sun Belt at just 5.0 yards per play allowed. Like Arkansas State’s ground game, Georgia State’s defense as of late has been exceptional, holding teams to just 4.7 yards per play over the past six games.

 

In addition to not yielding many yards, Georgia State’s secondary is stingy in its own right. The unit leads the Sun Belt with six defensive touchdowns and ranks sixth nationally in that category. The Panthers also check in at No. 8 in the country in pass efficiency defense, which will provide a challenge for Arkansas State’s passing offense, which averages 240.9 yards per game and is second in passer rating (136.5).

 

3. The Woodson-Luster Wall
Arkansas State linebacker Xavier Woodson-Luster has been a tackling machine for the Red Wolves this year, entering this game with 54. Woodson-Luster opened the season with 10 stops against Toledo and added 14 more a week later against Auburn. In Sun Belt play, the senior collected 14 in a one-point win over Georgia Southern. During his Arkansas State career, Woodson-Luster has already recorded 252 tackles, which ranks him 36th among all active players in the FBS.

 

Final Analysis

 

Arkansas State is streaking right now, and it’s going to be difficult for Georgia State to slow the Red Wolves’ momentum. Georgia State’s rushing defense is allowing 216.8 yards, a statistic that favors Arkansas State’s ground game which has churned out 222 yards over the last three games. The Panthers just don’t have the horses to keep up with the Red Wolves this time around. Arkansas State should improve to 4-0 in Sun Belt play on Thursday night.

 

Prediction: Arkansas State 31, Georgia State 17

 

— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A sports reporter for The Meridian Star Newspaper, Hayes also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.

 

(Top photo courtesy of www.astateredwolves.com)

Teaser:
Arkansas State Red Wolves vs. Georgia State Panthers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2016 - 13:40
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-sooners-vs-iowa-state-cyclones-preview-and-prediction-2016
Body:

After a rough start to the season, Oklahoma has cruised to a 5-0 record in Big 12 play. At No. 14 in the first College Football Playoff rankings, the Sooners might represent the conference’s best hope - however slim - to play in the final four.

 

You only have to go back to 2011 to find a case of Iowa State ruining a conference mate’s hopes of playing for a national championship. As heavy underdogs, the Cyclones knocking off the Sooners now would be just as big of an upset as that win over Oklahoma State five years ago.

 

With running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine out of action, OU enters the game playing shorthanded on offense. Does that give ISU enough of an edge to pull out a win?

 

Oklahoma at Iowa State

 

Kickoff: Thursday, Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Oklahoma -21

 

1. OU’s Missing Ball Carriers
Iowa State has an atrocious run defense - the Cyclones are allowing more than five yards per rushing attempt this season. In light of the news about Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine, that means one of two things.

 

On the one hand, it might not matter who’s toting the rock for the Sooners.

 

On the other, ISU might be catching a major break.

 

In fact, the biggest concern for OU might be the ability of newly minted starter Abdul Adams to pick up blitzers when Baker Mayfield drops back to pass.

 

2. Improvement in OU’s Secondary
The Sooners gave up a scant 3.3 yards per pass attempt on defense last week. They also were playing Kansas.

 

The Cyclones have a few more weapons than the Jayhawks to test OU’s beleaguered defensive backs. If the Sooners give up big plays in the passing game to Allen Lazard and his position mates, Bob Stoops should stock up for a long November.

 

3. Shadowing Dede Westbrook
OU’s star wide receiver put together a month for the ages in October. If he continues at his current pace, he’ll likely win the Biletnikoff Award in a landslide.

 

Iowa State struggled to contain the only other wideout of Westbrook’s skill level that it has seen this season. James Washington of Oklahoma State blew through the Cyclone secondary for 152 yards and two touchdowns on eight catches in the Cowboys’ win over ISU last month.

 

Putting the clamps on Westbrook would force Mayfield to find other receiving targets, which hasn’t worked well for the Sooners this season. Mixon’s absence also hurts the aerial attack in that respect.

 

Final Analysis

 

Oklahoma can’t count on its usual offensive output against Iowa State. A well-rounded attack that can burn defenses with either the run or the pass has sparked the Sooners this season. Losing their two backfield studs will severely weaken one side of that equation. It certainly won’t help the other, either.

 

Despite what the win-loss columns say, Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell is wringing just about every drop of productivity out of his team in his first year in Ames. A win like this would make his debut season a success, and a Thursday night game at Jack Trice Stadium is the perfect setting to pull it off.

 

ISU can stay within striking range of OU into the second half. Unfortunately for the ‘Clones, putting a scare into the Sooners will have to do.

 

Prediction: Oklahoma 34, Iowa State 24

 

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

Teaser:
Oklahoma Sooners vs. Iowa State Cyclones Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2016 - 13:30
Path: /college-football/buffalo-bulls-vs-ohio-bobcats-preview-and-prediction-2016
Body:

Frank Solich has Ohio positioned for its fourth MAC Championship Game of the last decade entering the 2016 season's final stretch.

 

But for the Bobcats to return to Detroit — and perhaps win the MAC title game for the first time in program history — they must first fend off a suddenly surging bunch from Buffalo.

 

The Bulls limped to a 1-6 start in head coach Lance Leipold's second season. However, Buffalo comes into Thursday night's divisional matchup having already impacted the MAC East race, last week beating Akron in one of the stranger outcomes of the season.

 

Bulls running back Jordan Johnson gashed the Zips for 282 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the 40-21 upset.

 

Buffalo at Ohio

 

Kickoff: Thursday, Nov. 3, at 6 p.m. ET 

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

Spread: Ohio -19.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Ohio's Run Defense

The ground attack buoyed Buffalo last week against Akron in what could realistically be deemed the biggest win of the Lance Leipold era. Complementing Jordan Johnson's 282 rushing yards, dual-threat quarterback Tyree Jackson added 60 of his own, with another couple of rushing touchdowns.

 

The Bulls' four rushing scores against the Zips equal half the total number of touchdowns Ohio's given up on the ground all year.

 

The Bobcat run defense ranks as one of the nation's best at 20th overall, yielding just 115.9 rushing yards per game and 3.27 yards per carry. Take away the 201 rushing yards Tennessee gained on the Bobcats in Week 3, and that average drops to 105 yards per contest.

 

2. The Multifaceted Bobcat Rushing Attack
Frank Solich's teams have remained true to the option for more than a decade, which he brought to Athens, Ohio, from his time at Nebraska. Ohio typically ranks among the better rushing offenses in the nation as a result, and this year's Bobcats post a respectable 200 yards per game on the ground.

 

The hallmark of most any Solich team is the balance of the run game, and this year, five Bobcats average between 23 and 78 yards per contest, with four ball carriers scoring at least three touchdowns.

 

Buffalo's rush defense comes in ranked not just last in the MAC, but below all but three teams in the FBS at 269 yards per game.

 

3. Two Ends of the Turnover Spectrum
Ohio's plus-7 advantage on the turnover battle has served the Bobcats well with them playing multiple close games. The Bobcats have proven especially adept at forcing turnovers; their 19 takeaways match such ballyhooed defenses at Texas A&M and Washington.

 

Buffalo, meanwhile, is on the wrong end of a season-long minus-3 turnover disparity. The Bulls haven't given up many possessions, but have struggled generating takeaways.

 

Final Analysis

 

Ohio's road to first place in the MAC East and a 6-3 record on the season has been a veritable tight-rope walk. Six of the Bobcats' nine games have been decided by single digits, including all three losses, and each of their last four games.

 

The trend would dictate Ohio's headed to another nail-biter, especially with Buffalo coming in off a much-needed, potentially reinvigorating win over Akron. Conversely, every other trend suggests a lopsided, Bobcat win: Ohio's success stopping the run; the Bobcats' rushing prowess against Buffalo's porous rush defense; a 10-turnover disparity in the season-long margin.

 

Buffalo's two wins came against two of its better opponents, Army and Akron, and making it a third win over a probable bowl team would be a nice foundation for Lance Leipold's rebuilding project. However, the Bulls might be overmatched this time around.

 

Prediction: Ohio 37, Buffalo 20

 

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

 

(Top photo by Sarah Stier/Ohio Athletics, courtesy of www.ohiobobcats.com)

Teaser:
Buffalo Bulls vs. Ohio Bobcats Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2016 - 13:20
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-podcast-week-10-preview
Body:

Athlon Sports' Braden Gall and Mitch Light break down the first Playoff Committee Rankings and preview Week 10 in college football.

 

- Should Texas A&M be ranked ahead of Washington and should "margin of victory" be a factor for the committee?

 

- What did the committee say about the Big 12 and Pac-12? Is there any margin for error for Washington?

 

- Is there a path to the Playoff for Louisville or were the Cardinals the biggest losers in the first rankings release?

 

- Is Penn State overrated? Is West Virginia underrated?

 

The guys also look ahead to Week 10. Alabama heads down to face LSU and Nebraska travels to Columbus to battle Ohio State in the week's top matchups. A host of second-tier games could play a big role in the national landscape however including Wisconsin at Northwestern, Florida at Arkansas, Iowa at Penn State, UCLA at Colorado, Virginia Tech-Duke and more.

 

Each week, we go head-to-head with our top picks against the spread.

 

Picks Against the Spread Standings:

1. Mitch: 22-22-1 (3-2 LW)

2. Braden: 18-26-1 (2-3 LW)

 

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

Teaser:
College Football Podcast: The Week 10 Preview
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2016 - 13:02

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