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All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/top-5-quarterback-replacements-concerned-andrew-luck-fantasy-owners

When the news broke on Wednesday that Andrew Luck wasn’t throwing in practice, fantasy owners got a little nervous, but the reports out of Indianapolis were that the Colts weren’t that concerned about the injury. He didn’t throw in Thursday’s practice, and the early reports from Friday’s practice are not promising. Add in that the Colts just signed Josh Johnson as a backup quarterback, and fantasy owners should start getting nervous. It appears that Luck will earn a questionable tag and be a game-time decision for the Week 4 game against Jacksonville.


So what is a fantasy owner to do? For starters, be sure you have a backup quarterback. After the Ben Roethlisberger owners picked over the waiver wire, be sure you are prepared. We looked at five quarterback replacements for Roethlisberger owners earlier this week. If you missed out on those guys, below is a list of five replacement options that may be available at short notice for Sunday.


Also, please note that Luck not playing is a huge downgrade to T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief. Frank Gore’s value (RB2) stays about the same if not increases, as the Colts are going to try to beat Jacksonville on the ground. If you have Hilton or Moncrief, look for better options if possible.


And now for five quarterbacks to try to save your Sunday.


Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders (49.3 percent owned in leagues)

The Raiders play the Bears on Sunday, which is a great matchup. I did recommend Carr after Ben Roethlisberger went down, and if he is still available, grab him not just for this week but for future weeks as well. Sure, he’ll struggle, but over the past two weeks, he’s put up two 300-yard games and five touchdowns, with just one interception. Chicago is sending off its players (see: Jared Allen) and while the stats show that their rush defense is worse than its pass defense, this is primarily the result of other teams getting the lead and then killing the clock. Trust Carr this week.

Related: Why You Must Start Derek Carr And Other Start/Sit Fantasy QB/DST Advice for Week 4


Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City (24.9 percent owned)

Yes, Smith is a game manager, but he's a game manager who throws short passes to Jamaal Charles, which count as fantasy points. He did score his points in Week 3 in garbage time, but garbage time counts too. The bottom line with Smith is that he's not a great start, but he's not going to get you a zero. He'll throw for about 200 yards and probably a touchdown and maybe an interception. He's not going to win your week, but he's not going to lose it for you either (assuming you're desperate).


Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, New York Jets (12.2 percent owned)

The problem with Fitzpatrick this week isn’t the matchup (he should be fine against Miami), but the time. The Jets play the Dolphins in London, but the game time is 9:30 a.m. ET. If Luck truly is a game-time decision, you would have to decide on Fitzpatrick before knowing if Luck is out. Fitzpatrick has two touchdowns in each of the three games so far this season (and five interceptions). He was without Eric Decker last week, who may or may not play this week. He's not a great start, but he'll put up solid QB2 numbers if you want to gamble on Luck being out.


Brandon Weeden, QB, Dallas Cowboys (4.4 percent owned)

For fantasy owners looking for a one-week fill-in for Luck, Weeden has a great matchup against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night. The Saints are one of only three defenses that have not had an interception this season. They've allowed six passing touchdowns through three games and are in the bottom third of the league in terms of passing yards allowed. While Weeden isn't going to light up the stat sheet, he will continue to be the check-down king, finding Jason Witten and Lance Dunbar on short passes. Look for Terrance Williams to become more involved this week as well. While Weeden is just managing the Cowboys' offense, he has proven that he is capable of leading the team while Romo is out. If he can fill in for the Cowboys, he can fill in for Luck if needed.


Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Indianapolis Colts (0.1 percent owned)

Hasselbeck is an option for the truly desperate. This is the backup for Luck, and the safest option if you are in a two-quarterback league or your waiver wire is truly picked over. He's not going to be Luck, far from it, and he's going to do a lot of handing off to Frank Gore. But he will throw the ball, and he will be the starting quarterback for the Colts assuming Luck is out. If that's all you are looking for, Hasselbeck is your guy.


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

Top 5 Quarterback Replacements For Concerned Andrew Luck Fantasy Owners
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 20:00
All taxonomy terms: AFC, Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chiefs, NFL
Path: /nfl/kansas-city-chiefs-vs-cincinnati-bengals-preview-and-prediction-2015

The 3-0 Cincinnati Bengals host the 1-2 Kansas City Chiefs Sunday in an interesting AFC clash that could have an effect on the playoff seedings come January. The Chiefs are coming off two tough losses — one where five turnovers did them in against divisional rival Denver, and another where they were thoroughly outplayed by the Green Bay Packers. The Chiefs have a lot of talent on their roster, but they have yet to put it all together in 2015.


Meanwhile the Bengals are off to another hot start, including last week's thrilling divisional victory in Baltimore that featured 31 total points scored in the fourth quarter. After leaning on tight end Tyler Eifert the first two games, A.J. Green reminded everyone of his superstar status against the Ravens, putting up 227 yards and two touchdowns, including an electric 80-yard touchdown late in the game.


The Bengals are looking to cement their status as an AFC contender while the Chiefs are looking to climb back into consideration and turn their season around before it's too late.


Kansas City at Cincinnati


Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

Line: Bengals -3


Three Things to Watch For


1. Can Jamaal Charles Get Going? 

Jamaal Charles has 231 yards rushing on the season with four touchdowns, but once again he's been tasked with carrying the Chiefs' offense far too often. Any good offense is balanced between the run and pass, but even with Charles' strong start, ranking the Chiefs 13th in rushing yards-per-game, it has had limited effect on helping Alex Smith in the passing game. The Bengals have had a stingy run defense thus far, giving up a fifth-best 75 yards per game. If the Chiefs can't get Charles going it could be a long afternoon.


2. Stopping A.J. Green 

The Chiefs were torched on "Monday Night Football" by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense for 448 yards. Andy Dalton isn't Rodgers, but the combination of A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert is potent, and one or the other has come up big in each of the first three games this season. Can Kansas City come up with a way to slow down the Bengals' passing offense, which currently ranks sixth in the league? Rookie cornerback Marcus Peters already has two interceptions and is off to an impressive start, but the challenge of facing one of the league's best receivers in Green will be his toughest yet.


3. Can the Bengals Send a Message?

The Bengals got off to a hot 3-0 start in 2014 as well before getting their doors blown off by the Patriots and descending into a 10-5-1 season that saw a first round playoff exit at the hands of the Colts. This season, with the door seemingly wide open in the AFC due to the decline of Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger's injury and slow starts by perennial contenders the Colts and Ravens, the Bengals have a chance to take a significant step forward. Defeating a talented but flawed team like the Chiefs is what good teams need to do at home. A 4-0 start would put Cincinnati into the conversation of the best teams in the AFC, if not the entire league.


Final Analysis


The Bengals have stuck with Dalton and it's starting to pay off, but he can no longer fall back on any excuses. He has weapons around him and a defense behind him. The time to win is now. The Chiefs meanwhile are at a crossroads, still struggling with the inconsistent play that has haunted them since the Andy Reid/Alex Smith era began. A win over the surging Bengals could right the ship for the Chiefs, but it won't be handed to them and they'll have to hit a level of performance we have yet to see out of them. The Bengals looked primed to make a statement.


Prediction: Bengals 28, Chiefs 14


— Written by Mike Dussault, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and writer/editor of (@PatsPropaganda), a comprehensive blog covering the New England Patriots.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cincinnati Bengals Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 14:00
Path: /nfl/carolina-panthers-vs-tampa-bay-buccaneers-preview-and-prediction-2015

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will host the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon in a Week 4 match up that could provide an early season shake up in the NFC South. The Panthers enter the game at a perfect 3-0, while the Bucs currently sit at 1-2. Both teams are 1-0 in the NFC South, sharing a common victory over division rival New Orleans.


Tampa Bay comes into this match up trying to break a ten game home losing streak. Currently, the longest home losing streak in the NFL. The Bucs have not won a game at Raymond James Stadium since 2013. More importantly, Tampa Bay has not defeated Carolina since 2012, losing four straight to the defending NFC South champion Panthers.


Carolina at Tampa Bay


Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Carolina -3


Three Things to Watch


1. Tampa Bay on 3rd Down

If the Buccaneers stand any chance of winning against the Panthers, they must improve on third down on both sides of the football this week. Through 3 weeks, Tampa has converted third downs into first downs on just nine of 40 attempts, which is a pathetic 22 percent conversion rate. Opposing defenses have provided plenty of pressure on third down for Jameis Winston so far this season forcing the Bucs’ rookie quarterback into poor throws and poor decision-making in general. You can fully anticipate that Carolina will attempt to continue the trend in week 4.


Conversely, the Tampa Bay defense has allowed Tennessee, New Orleans, and Houston to collectively convert on 46 percent of their third down plays. Only five other NFL defenses have been worse on third down. And let’s face it, the Bucs haven’t exactly faced a who’s who of NFL offenses to this point. Cam Newton and the Panthers' offense is arguably their biggest test to date.


The Panthers rank mid-pack in the NFL in converting and stopping third down conversions, so Tampa has a reasonable shot at getting on track, especially on the offensive side of the ball going against a banged-up Panthers defense.


2. The Carolina Rushing Attack vs. The Tampa Bay Rush Defense

Both teams have faced fairly weak competition to this point, but considering that they already share two common opponents in Houston and New Orleans through the first three games, the statistics heading into this matchup are quite relevant.


Those statistics provide insight that bear one fairly obvious conclusion. The Buccaneers will struggle to stop the Carolina run game. The Panthers currently rank sixth in the NFL in rushing at 132 yards per game. The Buccaneers rank 30th in the NFL in stopping the run, allowing 138 rushing yards per game. The Tampa defense is coming off of a loss to Houston in which they allowed the Texans to dominate the time of possession with the run game en route to giving up 186 rushing yards and that was without Arian Foster. Even Titans running back Bishop Sankey averaged 6.2 yards per carry against the Bucs' porous defense.


The bottom line is that if Tampa Bay cannot not slow down Blue and Sankey, how are they going to slow down Newton and Jonathan Stewart? The answer is simple, the Bucs will not. The challenge becomes even more daunting when you take into account that Tampa Bay’s All-Pro DT Gerald McCoy is currently nursing a shoulder injury.


3. Carolina’s Pass Rush?

At this point, there are more questions than answers regarding Carolina’s pass rush coming into this game, but it is definitely worth paying attention to. The Panthers’ addition of the NFL’s all-time sack leader, DE Jared Allen, will likely be the most heavily scrutinized aspect of the day.


It’s no secret that Panthers head coach Ron Rivera likes to employ an aggressive pass defense, and it’s even less of a secret that Rivera will try to bring as much pressure as possible against the Buccaneers' rookie signal-caller on Sunday.


The question is, how well will Winston and the Tampa Bay offensive line respond? So far, they have not fared very well against opposing pass rushes, which can be documented by the aforementioned difficulty to move the chains on third down. The Bucs have also allowed seven sacks in the first three games, which isn’t terrible, but it isn’t exactly good either.


There are also no guarantees that Carolina will be effective with its pass rush. The addition of Allen to replace the injured Charles Johnson could help, but Allen is not exactly in the prime of his career. It may be even more of a challenge if the Panthers' star linebackers, Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, are unable to play on Sunday. Kuechly is still battling concussion systems and is a long shot to play this week, while Davis remains questionable with a pectoral injury.


If Carolina is unable to get a healthy pass rush going against the Buccaneers, Winston and the Tampa offense should be in for a successful day. Given time, Winston could have a field day with deep threats Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. On the contrary, If Carolina is able to bring the pressure, look for yet another underwhelming performance by the rookie quarterback and the Tampa Bay offense.


Final Analysis


There has been a fairly simple formula in how to defend the Buccaneer offense. You stack the box on first and second downs to slow down running back Doug Martin. You then follow up by bringing pressure and varying your coverages on third down to force young Winston into a mistake or short throw. So far, this has worked like a charm for opposing defenses, an inferior Saints unit being the lone exception. If the Panthers can successfully employ this strategy on Sunday, they will win the game. However, that may be easier said than done with key injuries, and an aging Allen applying the heat.


The key for the Buccaneers is limiting mistakes, limiting pressure on their young quarterback, and converting third downs. They must also limit penalties which have killed them so far this season. Tampa Bay has already accrued 33 penalties in three games, the most in the NFL. You are not going to win many games averaging over 10 penalties per game.


The Bucs also have a tall order in stopping Newton and the Carolina offense. This is likely the deciding factor in the game. Even if Tampa Bay manages to play well on offense, which is questionable at best, it is difficult to see them slowing down Newton enough to come out on top. Thus, bringing the Tampa Bay home losing streak to 11.


Prediction: Panthers 27, Buccaneers 21


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

Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 13:45
All taxonomy terms: Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans, NFL
Path: /nfl/houston-texans-vs-atlanta-falcons-preview-and-prediction-2015

The Houston Texans are showing signs of life. After the first two weeks of the season, the Texans were already on life support. Last week’s 19-9 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave the Texans a jolt to the heart and has at least put them in stable condition — for the time being. 


This week the Texans travel to Atlanta to face the revamped Falcons, fresh off their third straight come-from-behind win in as many weeks. Matt Ryan is starting to look like Matty Ice again after a couple of so-so seasons. Ryan has established a rapport with wide receiver Julio Jones that looks unstoppable. Jones leads the league in receiving yards and catches after his 12-reception, 164-yard and two-touchdown performance against the Cowboys last week, while Ryan is second in the league in both passing yards and yards per game behind the super-human Tom Brady. 


The Falcons are hitting on all cylinders heading into their Week 4 matchup against the Texans who are attempting to piece together an offensive identity. Houston may have won their matchup last week against the Bucs, but it wasn't pretty — far from it. If Bill O’Brien and company are looking to stay afloat in the meager AFC South, a road win in Atlanta would be a great momentum boost before facing division rivals Jacksonville and Indianapolis the next two weeks.


Houston at Atlanta


Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Atlanta -6.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Ryan Mallett’s Third Straight Start

Texans head coach Bill O’Brien liked what he saw out of Mallett last week, “I think he understood how we wanted to manage the game better today,” said O’Brien. And that is all O’Brien can really ask out of Mallett — manage the game. Don’t do too much, just manage the game, Ryan. 


Last week, Mallett did improve and definitely looked more poised in the pocket, throwing for 228 yards on 24-of-39 passes with one touchdown and one pick against the Bucs. Mallett did a better job of spreading the ball around as well, as four different receivers had at least four catches. But Tampa Bay really, really helped Mallett and the Texans out by missing three field goals and an extra point in the second half, points that would have put pressure on Mallett to make throws with the game on the line — especially on third down. 


The Texans converted on just eight of their 18 third down attempts last week, a stat that would have been more glaring had Tampa’s kicker not suffered from the yips. 


Much like his quarterback counterpart, Ryan, Mallett has realized he has a special wide receiver to target. DeAndre Hopkins has emerged as a game changer, averaging 11.5 yards per catch to go along with three touchdowns this season. While Mallett did a better job of spreading the ball around last week, getting the ball to Hopkins, especially on third down, will be vital for Mallett and the Texan’s success. 


2. Which Defense Shows Up?

Neither the Texans' or the Falcons' defensive units have been the model of consistency so far this season. JJ Watt is still the only Texan to record a full sack through three weeks of football. The Texans simply aren't getting enough pressure on the quarterback, and that spells disaster against Ryan and a Falcons offense that has been playing better than in previous seasons. Ryan has been outstanding, but the ability to run the ball last week against Dallas was what won the game for Atlanta. Running back Devonta Freeman filled in for injured rookie Tevin Coleman and absolutely exploded, scoring three times on 30 carries and 141 yards rushing. Meanwhile, the Texans held the Bucs to just 57 yards on the ground last week after giving up almost 270 yards against the Chiefs and Panthers.


The Falcons' defense has been improved thanks to new, defensive-minded, head coach Dan Quinn. But last week Atlanta looked sorry against the Brandon Weeden-led Cowboys, surrendering four touchdowns and 295 yards of offense in the first half. In the second half, the Falcons' defense adapted and shutout the Dallas offense, giving up just 52 total yards. The halftime coaching adjustment of Quinn and defensive coordinator Richard Smith was fantastic and exactly what Atlanta was missing under former head coach Mike Smith’s regime. 


The Falcons need to come out with the right defensive mindset early and shut down Houston running back Alfred Blue and not allow another first-half performance like the one last week. The Texans don't have a defensive back that can matchup with Jones on the edge. If the Texans have any chance of winning on Sunday, putting pressure on Ryan is going to be priority number one. 


3. Arian Foster, Game-time Decision

Nothing could impact this game more than the decision of whether Texans star running back Arian Foster will play or not. Foster has been out since the beginning of training camp after undergoing groin surgery. 


Foster’s replacement Blue was hot last week when he rushed for 139 yards on 31 carries and a touchdown. But before last week’s win against Tampa, Blue was almost non-existent, rushing for only 48 yards on 14 carries in losing efforts against the Chiefs and Panthers. 


If Foster can go, he is an obvious upgrade over Blue and gives Bill O’Brien a reliable weapon for an offense starving for an absolution. 


Final Analysis


A lot has to go right for the Texans to pull the road upset against the high flying Falcons. Having Foster would be a plus, but even without him the Texans are going to have to establish a reliable ground game with Blue, limiting the number of throws Mallett has to make. If Mallett has to drop back over 35 times again, I don't like the Texans’ chances, especially for an unreliable and beat up offensive line. 


The Falcons are looking to build on last week’s 39-point performance in Dallas, and the way Ryan is finding Jones in space mixed with the Texans’ lack of pass rush, another high-scoring effort isn't out of the question. 


Prediction: Falcons 28, Texans 17


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

Houston Texans vs. Atlanta Falcons Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 13:30
Path: /nfl/jacksonville-jaguars-vs-indianapolis-colts-preview-and-prediction-2015

All is not well in Indianapolis. Rumors of turmoil between the Colts’ front office and head coach Chuck Pagano have become commonplace in the early weeks of the season, presumably about the offensive line’s complete inability to protect franchise quarterback Andrew Luck. 


Luck was limited in practice on Thursday and didn't practice on Wednesday to rest a sore throwing shoulder, a product of the continual beating he's taken since his rookie year. Luck’s first three weeks to the 2015 campaign have been the worst three game stretch of his career, highlighted by a league-leading seven interceptions and league-low QBR of 65.1. 


The Colts finally righted the ship in dramatic fashion last week in Nashville, coming from behind to beat the Titans 35-33. The Colts have a great opportunity to prove once again that they run the AFC South with their next two games being against division opponents, starting Sunday when the Jacksonville Jaguars come to the Circle City.


The Jaguars are still very much the Jaguars that you know and don’t watch. After a Week 2 win against what now looks like a shoddy Dolphins team, the Jags allowed a franchise high in points when they were absolutely rolled by the Patriots last week, 51-17. 


Blake Bortles is still learning to find his groove as an NFL quarterback while the defense that has been near the worst in the league the past several seasons is... still near the worst in the league. Against the Pats, the Jags D surrendered 473 yards of total offense and 35 first downs.


With a banged-up Luck and two bad defenses, this game has all the makings of being a very, very ugly matchup as the Colts look to extend their AFC South win streak to 15 games. 


Jacksonville at Indianapolis


Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Indianapolis -9


Three Things To Watch


1. Can Either Team Run the Ball?

Last week was the first time in Andrew Luck’s career that he’s had a running back on his team average over six yards per carry in a game. Free agent signee Frank Gore looked like the running back the Colts have missed since the Edgerrin James days, as Gore ran for 86 yards and two scores on 14 carries against the Titans. The big question is, will Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton force feed Gore, who only had 23 carries the first two games, with an ailing Luck? 


One early positive note for the Jags defense (aside from last week) is their ability to stop the run. Jacksonville ranks second in the NFL by only allowing 3.3 yards per carry. But if the Jags want to snap the Colts' five game win streak against them, they are going to have to solidify their own running game offensively. 


Rookie running back T.J. Yeldon was rendered useless against the Pats (11 att., 33 yds.) due to such a deficit and the Jags being forced to throw. The Colts' defense is nowhere near as stout as New England’s, as Indianapolis gives up an average of 112 yards per game on the ground. If Jacksonville can get Yeldon going on the ground early and often and keep the Colts' offense off the field, the Jags have a shot.


2. Andrew Luck

The sore shoulder and bad offensive line aside, Andrew Luck just doesn’t look like the same QB that we’ve seen the past couple of seasons. Too many times Luck is making just really, really bonehead plays. Last week he was being chased from the pocket to the sideline, but before stepping out of bounds or simply throwing the ball away, he chucked the ball in the air off his back foot like it was a recess pick up game, just sort of hoping that 5-foot-9 T.Y. Hilton comes down with it in a crowd. The ball was picked off, the second straight possession Luck threw a pick that lead to Titans points. 


Luck has always played a little close to the vest in terms his throws, but many of his throws this season are almost like he is trying too hard to make big plays instead of making the smart play. Instead of checking down, Luck is locking on, and often times under throwing his primary receivers downfield. 


This week against the Jags would be a great opportunity to get his tight ends involved and keep drives going instead of the persistent three-and-outs that are exhausting the Colts defense. Coby Fleener was ignored in the first two games, with just one reception against the Bills and Jets before adding four catches last week. Dwayne Allen has been banged up, but should be recovered from an ankle injury and ready to go Sunday, giving Luck another reliable target over the middle. 


There is little doubt that Luck will turn things around and make better decisions going forward, and this week will be a great opportunity for him to smooth out where his game has gone rough in the first three weeks.


3. Jaguars' Wide Receivers vs. Colts' Vulnerable Secondary

The Jaguars' receiving core of Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson aren’t household NFL names but they each are going to have the opportunity to be heard this week against a susceptible Colts secondary. Hurns, Robinson, and tight end Marcedes Lewis could have a field day on underneath routes, where Indy’s secondary has been exploited early this season.


Colts defensive backs Greg Toler and Darius Butler are questionable for the game on Sunday. Toler hasn’t played a single snap all season and Butler hasn't played since Week 1 — both are going to be rusty. To compound matters, All-Pro cornerback Vontae Davis has been getting beat this year rather noticeably. Normally one of the league’s shutdown corners, Davis has been caught many times on defensive holding calls and has been the target of many opposing quarterbacks in red-zone situations. While Davis’ setback could simply be the sum of a struggling secondary, its worth keeping an eye on.  


Final Analysis


The Jaguars have a great opportunity to walk into Lucas Oil Stadium and steal a victory against the Colts on Sunday. Bortles is going to have to find his young and talented receivers quickly and get running back Yeldon off and running early to give the Jaguars a fighting chance. The last thing Jacksonville wants to do is give Luck the chance to find his rhythm by giving him extra possessions. Converting on third down is going to be paramount for the Jaguars as they only move the chains 36.8 percent of the time. 


A hurting Luck might not sound like the ideal situation, but his aching shoulder could be the reason the Colts change their offensive scheme for the better. Instead of taking shots down field and risking quick possessions, the Colts should give Gore upwards of 25 to 30 carries this week in hopes of extending drives and protecting Luck.


Prediction: Colts 31, Jaguars 17


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

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Indianapolis Colts Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 13:15
All taxonomy terms: Buffalo Bills, New York Giants, NFL
Path: /nfl/new-york-giants-vs-buffalo-bills-preview-and-prediction-2015

Rex Ryan is at it again. Ryan has come into Buffalo, and inspired the Buffalo Bills (2-1) to fight and compete and this Sunday afternoon will be no different, despite the team's challenges with injuries. After being admittedly embarrassed by the New England Patriots in a 40-32 game that wasn't as close as the score indicated, the Bills took out their frustrations on the Miami Dolphins and trounced them in their own building 41-14. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw for 277 yards and three TDs in the victory, but the Bills will be without both RB LeSean McCoy (hamstring) and WR Sammy Watkins (calf) for this game. Instead, the offense will lean on rookie RB Karlos Williams and WR Percy Harvin as they try to continue putting up big numbers.


The New York Giants (1-2) finally finished a game and got their first victory of the year, with an impressive win over their divisional rival, the Washington Redskins. The Giants receiving core of Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle combined for 195 yards and two TDs including two late bombs of 30 and 41 yards to both receivers. Quarterback Eli Manning is quietly having the most efficient season start of his career, with zero interceptions through three games. However, it was the Giants' defense that seems to be playing better, stifling a Redskins rushing attack that had dominated the week before. 


Both Buffalo and New York are battling injuries to key players. The Bills, in addition to the absence of McCoy and Watkins, could also be without safety Aaron Williams, who suffered a neck injury on Sunday and is listed as questionable for this week. The Giants were hoping to get Victor Cruz back this week, but a strain of his already injured calf will keep him out of the lineup one more week. This game will most certainly come down to whose defense can slow down the other's offense, as both teams are averaging around 350 yards per game on offense, while giving up 400 yards on defense. 


New York at Buffalo


Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: New York  -5


Three Things to Watch


1. Ruben Randle vs. Percy Harvin

Both wide receivers are coming off monster games. Both wide receivers looked incredibly impressive in their Week 3 matchups. And both wide receivers also have a tendency to disappear as quickly as they arrived. The challenge will be even greater for Harvin, since it looks as though the Bills will be without Watkins and McCoy, which means Harvin will probably be in double-teams all day long, unless Williams can get the run game going, which no team has done against the Giants yet. The Giants are only giving up 74 yards a game to opponents, so unless that trend changes this week, expect Harvin to struggle to get open. Meanwhile, Randle has been the beneficiary of the double teams on Beckham, and as a result he put up monster numbers against the Redskins - seven catches for 116 yards and a TD. He should be open again this week. Look for Randle to have another big game.


2. Is Tyrod Taylor The Real Thing?

The Giants' defense has given up an average of 335.7 yards in the passing game. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor is averaging 74 percent passing over three games. 


Seems like a recipe for disaster right? Maybe. Maybe not.


Taylor has thrown the ball 30 percent of the time to either McCoy or Watkins, who probably won't be on the field. So this week, Taylor will be forced to find new targets, especially if Harvin finds the double-team that should be expected this week. It will be very interesting to see if this young starting QB can spread the ball around to new receivers, especially under the pressure he will most certainly see from the Giants' front seven. The Giants were able to force Kirk Cousins into three INTs, giving them a total of four for the season. Taylor will probably see some of the same aggressive fronts that Cousins witnessed, and will be forced to get the ball out quick to Harvin, TE Charles Clay or WR Robert Woods.


3. The Mind of Rex Ryan

Rex is still steaming about the beat down he took at home to the New England Patriots in Week 2. He felt New England tried to "embarrass his team" by running up the score on his Bills. Rex will be determined not to let another quarterback come into Buffalo and do that again. Eli Manning will probably be under major pressure all afternoon with the front seven of DE Mario Williams and defensive player of the week LB Preston Brown. However, if the Giants' offensive line can hold them off, and Bills safety Aaron Williams is not 100 percent, then the secondary of the Bills may be in a lot trouble trying to contain Beckham and Randle.


Final Analysis


The Giants seem to be clicking offensively, and this week should not slow them down. The Bills have also found an offensive rhythm, but that flow could be disturbed greatly without McCoy and Watkins. The challenge of losing both offensive weapons may be too much for a young quarterback to overcome. The Giants will make enough plays on Taylor to keep him flustered long enough to steal a win in Buffalo. 


Prediction: Giants 31, Bills 21 


— Written by Lloyd H. Spence, Jr., who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Spence also has written for the Dallas Morning News, Yahoo!'s, and ESPN Louisville. He can be heard on the radio of "Talkin NOIZ" and "The Football Show of Collin County." Follow him on Twitter @TalkinNOIZ.


(Rex Ryan photo courtesy of Getty Images)

New York Giants vs. Buffalo Bills Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 13:00
Path: /nfl/philadelphia-eagles-vs-washington-redskins-preview-and-prediction-2015

Thanks to injuries and some just plain poor play, the NFC East is threatening to imitate last year’s overall poor performance of its South conference mate. Dallas and Philadelphia, the presumed division favorites, have been waylaid by QB woes (Tony Romo’s injury in Big D) and shaky play (the Eagles’ 0-2 start), turning the championship race into an unpredictable mess.


Fortunately, there are still some givens in life, such as 1-2 Washington’s struggles, which just about everybody expected. Philadelphia earned its first win of the season last week, and while an uninspiring, 24-17 triumph over the Jets isn’t exactly reason for wild celebration, it prevented an 0-3 beginning to the season and a two-percent shot (historically, at least) at the post-season. Washington owns a win over St. Louis but has little else on its resume and is struggling with familiar problems on offense, beginning with the quarterback position. Still, a win Sunday would put it in a good position in what has become an exceedingly unpredictable NFC East.


Philadelphia at Washington


Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV Channel: FOX

Point Spread: Philadelphia -3


Three Things to Watch


1. Sam-I’m-Not?

The Eagles made much of their acquisition of Sam Bradford during the offseason, and coach Chip Kelly felt the oft-injured former Ram had the quick release and good decision-making skills to run his rapid-fire offense. Through three games, Bradford has been inconsistent and even timid. He has completed 62.4 percent of his throws but is averaging a mere 5.8 yards/attempt and has thrown just three touchdowns, against four picks. Granted, he hasn’t received much help from his wideouts, who lack deep-pass potential and have dropped several passes, but Bradford has not been what the Eagles hoped he would become in this offense.


Perhaps part of it is the lingering effect of the torn ACL he suffered last year, although the team isn’t too interested in hearing that. “Part of being a pro is you have to deal with being hurt and certainly you’ve got to deal with injury,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said.


2. One Fatal Flaw

A look at the Washington statistics would indicate the team should be better than its 1-2 record. It has outgained rivals by a total of 283 yards in the three games, matched opponents’ six TDs with a half-dozen trips to the end zone and is only a field goal behind in total points. Washington is averaging 5.4 yards/play to other teams’ 5.1 and has a 44.4-30.6 advantage on third downs.


So, what’s the problem? Turnovers. Washington has a minus-five margin in that key category, with interceptions a key culprit. Kirk Cousins has thrown four, while the Washington D has yet to pick off an enemy aerial. “As far as quarterbacks throwing picks, that’s going through your progressions and getting the ball out, making accurate throws and good decisions,” head coach Jay Gruden said last Friday. “It’s easier said than done, but we’re going to demand it.”


3. Return Engagement

One of the things that jump-started the Eagles last week in the Meadowlands was Darren Sproles’ electrifying, 89-yard punt return in the second quarter. The Eagles were sputtering offensively to that point, but Sproles took some pressure off the beleaguered unit with his big play, the sixth time in his career he has taken a punt to the end zone. Two weeks after containing St. Louis’s dangerous Tavon Austin, Washington must make sure Sproles doesn’t provide a similar boost this week.


Final Analysis


The Eagles have not been that impressive, to be sure, and injuries to linebacker Kiko Alonso and defensive end Cedric Thornton, along with the loss for the season of kicker Cody Parkey, haven’t helped. But the win over New York last week saved the season — for now — and gave the team hope in the mediocre NFC East. A win over Washington would re-establish the Eagles as a force in the division, especially since it hardly seems to be filled with juggernauts.


The same goes for Washington. If it can cut back on turnovers — and finally force a few — it can overcome the problems it has had early in the season and make some progress in the division, too. It’s hard to determine the true personalities of these two teams. But this is an important early benchmark for each and for the division.


Prediction: Philadelphia 27, Washington 17


— Written by Michael Bradley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bradley is a writer and broadcaster based in suburban Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @DailyHombre.


(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Washington Redskins Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 12:45
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC East, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, NFL
Path: /nfl/new-york-jets-vs-miami-dolphins-preview-and-prediction-2015

Traveling to London in Week 4 came at the perfect time for the Miami Dolphins. Head coach Joe Philbin and the Dolphins are taking a lot of heat for their 41-14 loss at home to the Buffalo Bills last weekend. This week, the Dolphins will play a designated home game in London's Wembley Stadium against one of their biggest rivals, the New York Jets.


In Week 3, the Jets suffered their first loss of the season as they fell to the Philadelphia Eagles 24-17 at MetLife Stadium.


New York holds a 51-47-1 (including postseason) advantage over Miami in the series. The last time the two teams met was in the 2014 season finale when the Jets defeated the Dolphins 37-24 at Sun Life Stadium.


New York at Miami (London)


Kickoff: 9:30 a.m. ET (Sunday)

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Jets -1.5


Three Things to Watch For


1. Dolphins' defense

After three games, the Dolphins' defense ranks among the worst in the NFL. Miami is currently 26th in total defense and 31st against the run. Rookie Jordan Phillips has the team’s lone sack on the season. Ndamukong Suh, who the Dolphins gave a $60 million signing bonus to last offseason, has been a huge disappointment so far. 


Suh, who was supposed to improve Miami’s defense, has seven tackles and zero sacks on the young season. The defensive tackle says opposing offensive lines aren’t playing him any differently than they have in previous seasons.


“People have different concepts and different things that they want to do,” said Suh. “I said before, people don’t sign a contract and do exactly what they say they are doing on film and show what they do on film. Each and every time you go out there, you’re going to expect something different, but also want to look for tendencies or things that they like to do. At the end of the day, you just go with what you’re given.”


Jets head coach Todd Bowles expects running back Chris Ivory to play in Week 4. If New York can establish a running game of some kind, that will take pressure off of Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets offense. Miami has given up an average of 145 rushing yards per game this year, so New York should be able to have success running the ball.


2. Ryan Fitzpatrick

Against the Eagles last week, Fitzpatrick finished 35-of-58 for 283 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions and with a 26.8 total quarterback rating. According to Pro Football Focus, the quarterback has completed just three of 20 pass attempts on passes of at least 20 yards in the air.


Miami has one of the best cornerbacks in the league in Brent Grimes patrolling one side of the field, but Brice McCain is the team’s other starting corner. Last week, Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw at McCain 10 times while completing six passes for 100 yards.


Expect Fitzpatrick and the Jets to take some shots down the field with receivers Brandon Marshall and Devin Smith.


3. Miami's offensive line

The Dolphins offense has gone against two excellent defensive lines the last two weeks in Jacksonville and Buffalo. It won’t get any easier this week as the Dolphins offensive line will have to find a way to block the stout Jets defensive line.


The past three seasons, the Dolphins offensive line has been the team's major issue and it remains an issue in 2015. Branden Albert has been dealing with a hamstring injury for a better part of this season. Guards Dallas Thomas and Jamil Douglas have been mediocre at best.


Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been sacked seven times in six games and he has been pressured nearly every time he is in the pocket. Not only has the Dolphins passing game been suffering from the poor play of the offensive line, but so has their running game.


Miami is averaging 72.7 rushing yards per game, which is the 27th best in the NFL. The Jets rank fourth in overall defense through three games, so the Dolphins offensive line could have a tough day against on Sunday.


Final Analysis


Miami could easily be 0-3 to start the season. They needed a punt return by Jarvis Landry to beat the Redskins in Week 1 and have lost back-to-back games to the Jaguars and Bills. Last year, when the team was facing similar criticism from the media, they went to London to play the Oakland Raiders and won the game 38-14. This year’s Jets team is superior to that Raiders team the Dolphins played last year.


If Ivory can play Sunday, he could have a similar performance that he did in Week 1 when the Jets defeated the Cleveland Browns 31-10. He ran for 91 yards and two touchdowns in the win. No matter if it is Ivory or backup Bilal Powell, the Jets will need to establish the run.


New York defensive line should have a field day against a weak Dolphins offensive line. The Dolphins line will have problems keeping defensive linemen Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams in front of them.


The Jets’ pressure should force Tannehill to throw the ball before he wants to and that will create more interception opportunities for cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie. Look for New York’s secondary to pick off Tannehill multiple times and maybe force a fumble as well.


Prediction: Jets 31, Dolphins 17


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

New York Jets vs. Miami Dolphins Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-five-up-five-down-melvin-gordon-up-brandin-cooks-down-week-4

Each week, we post fantasy rankings for each position here at Athlon. And each week, we look at five players that have gone up in the rankings for the week and five players that have dropped. This is the result of their current week matchup and their performance over the past week. Sometimes this is also the result of events out of their control (injury to their quarterback, for example).


This is not a Start/Sit column, rather a look at how the value (or rank) of certain players fluctuates each week. Without further ado, here is Five Up, Five Down for Week 4.


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


Five Up


Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders

Many teams are going to be quarterback desperate this week, but for those that already have Carr on their roster, be happy. There is nothing like a matchup against the winless Chicago Bears to boost a quarterback's stats and ego. The Raiders have actually looked decent this season, and Carr, in the past two games, has completed 50 passes for 665 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. The Bears just got rid of arguably their best pass rusher in Jared Allen in an apparent fire sale and are just looking to get through the season while getting the best draft picks for next year. Carr cracks the top 10 in our quarterback ranks for Week 4.


Related: Why You Must Start Derek Carr And Other Start/Sit Fantasy QB/DST Advice for Week 4


Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers

Fantasy owners of Gordon have been waiting for him to have a breakout game this season. His opportunity should come in Week 4. The Cleveland Browns' run defense is the worst in the league. They've allowed the most rushing yards (475) and the longest run (54) through the first three weeks of the season. Gordon has been consistent, rushing for over 50 yards in each game so far. He's poised to break out, and based on that potential alone, he is a RB2 with high upside for Week 4.


Related: Bold Fantasy Predictions for Week 4 in the NFL


Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

We know. Owning Hill has been rough. He's ranked as a RB2 this week, so it isn't like we're saying he's going to go crazy, but the Bengals are still putting their trust in him. The Bengals face Kansas City in Week 4, and it isn't an easy matchup, but it isn't difficult either. The team has said if they are behind, Giovani Bernard will be the running back, but Hill will start the game. It seems that he needs to get his mental game back, and this should be the week for him to do so.


Percy Harvin, WR, Buffalo Bills

Harvin gets a boost this week simply because of the injury to Sammy Watkins. It is highly unlikely that Watkins (calf injury) plays in Week 4, so Harvin will step up to take his place. The Giants' secondary is easily beatable, and this will be Harvin's chance to shine. Harvin has put up WR3 numbers so far this season, and he has the chance to put up WR2 numbers this week. He's likely available in a lot of leagues (owned in less than 60 percent of leagues, per, so drop any dead weight and see what Harvin can do in Week 3.


Martellus Bennett, TE, Chicago Bears

This one is pretty straightforward. Start your tight ends against Oakland. The Raiders have given up 297 yards and five touchdowns to tight ends over the past three weeks. While Jimmy Clausen will still likely be making the start, he can find his tight end. Bennett was targeted six times in Week 3 with Clausen, but the matchup against Seattle is significantly worse than the one against Oakland will be. At some point, the Raiders will defend tight ends better, but this isn't going to be that week. Bennett is the No. 3 tight end in our ranks this week.


Five Down


Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants

Manning faces Buffalo in Week 4. The Bills have a tough defense, as only Tom Brady was really able to pick them apart. And Manning isn't exactly the caliber of Brady. Manning won't have Victor Cruz back, so he has to still work with Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. He certainly has the weapons to succeed, but he hasn't put together an amazing game yet this year (four total touchdowns on the season). This will likely be a 15-point effort from Manning. Not terrible, but not amazing. He's a QB2 this week.


Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins

Morris had a solid Week 1, and has since dropped down the ranks and is losing work to Matt Jones. As someone fantasy owners likely drafted as a RB1, he has been a huge disappointment. Facing the Eagles this week is going to be tough, and the weather conditions are going to be terrible. (Note: there is a chance this game gets moved to either Monday night in a different city or canceled altogether and played Week 8 with the Eagles and Redskins getting a bye in Week 4). Morris had issues fumbling the ball, and playing in the rain isn't going to help that. Morris is the 27th-ranked running back this week (Matt Jones is 29th).


Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami Dolphins

Originally Landry was added to the Five Down section of this list because the thought was that the Jets would use Darrelle Revis to cover him. However, the reports are that Revis will not be on Landry after all. Whether that is true or not, we will see, but Landry is only a WR2 this week. Ryan Tannehill has struggled, and the Jets are a tough opponent. This game is played in London, and both teams are traveling late in the week. This alters fantasy outlooks as many of the London games have been low-scoring and not very fantasy friendly. Landry is the No. 20 WR in our ranks this week.


Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints

Cooks' value is dependent on his quarterback. He is usually a solid WR2, but with an ankle injury and questions at quarterback, he drops to a WR3 this week. He did have seven receptions for 71 yards with Luke McCown in Week 3, but if Drew Brees is back in Week 4, this may not benefit Cooks. The issue with Brees is arm strength, due to a shoulder injury. Cooks needs Brees to be able to throw the ball deep. If he plays, Cooks' value actually takes a hit. He does have slightly higher value in PPR leagues with McCown throwing to him.


Allen Hurns, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

Hurns found the end zone for the first time all season in Week 3, and suddenly appeared on the fantasy radar. Don't be fooled. He's a low WR3 this week in a tough matchup with Indianapolis. Keep in mind Hurns only had two receptions in Week 3 on four targets. Blake Bortles is going to look for Allen Robinson, not Hurns. While it may be tempting to start him because Vontae Davis will likely be covering Robinson, Hurns isn't a solid enough player to trust in most leagues. If you start three WRs, he's worth considering, but don't run out to grab him off waivers.


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

Fantasy Football Five Up, Five Down: Melvin Gordon Up, Brandin Cooks Down For Week 4
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/six-major-college-football-programs-have-never-played-notre-dame

This week’s Notre Dame vs. Clemson matchup will be the third in a series that has seen two dramatic comebacks. The first in 1977 saw Joe Montana lead the Irish on a fourth-quarter resurgence en route to a national title. In the second in 1979, Clemson roared back from a 10-0 halftime deficit to win 16-10. Those two games are just part of a storied Notre Dame history that touches every major program in college football. Well, almost every program.


Since fielding it first team in 1887, the Irish have operated as an Independent, scheduling series with an unprecedented range of programs. Between the regular season and bowl games, Notre Dame has played nearly every big-time program in college football. Here are six that the Irish have never played.



Sports Illustrated noted that a booster told then head coach Frank Broyles in the early 1960s that if Arkansas was “tryin' to win a lot of ball games, it would be nice to have several Northwest Louisianas on [its] schedule." Broyles yelled, "Brother, you're so right." It’s doubtful this tongue-in-cheek exchange impacted Broyles scheduling decisions as coach and then athletic director, but the Irish and Razorbacks have never played.



If Auburn had not been on probation in 1993, there is always the possibility that its undefeated season could have culminated in a Sugar Bowl matchup with Notre Dame. That’s about the closest these two teams have ever come to playing each other.


Boise State

To give you a little perspective here, Knute Rockne had already passed away before Boise State University was even formed. The Broncos’ success since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) in 1995 has been consistently stronger than the Irish during the same period. Thus, a matchup pitting college football’s biggest upstart program against its most storied would garner a lot of hype.


Kansas State

The first FBS program to lose 500 games had very little success before the arrival of head coach Bill Snyder. Since then, the Wildcats have consistently won and generally scheduled one tough non-conference opponent a year. That foe has never been Notre Dame.


Oklahoma State

Of the three major programs in Oklahoma, Notre Dame has lost to two of them, Oklahoma and Tulsa. It has never even taken the field against Oklahoma State.


Virginia Tech

The two schools have agreed to meet in Blacksburg in 2018. Until then, the Hokies are part of this list.


— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.

Six Major College Football Programs That Have Never Played Notre Dame
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/iowa-hawkeyes-vs-wisconsin-badgers-preview-and-prediction-2015

The Iowa Hawkeyes head into Madison, Wisconsin, on Saturday in an attempt to end their three-game losing streak against the Badgers for the Heartland Trophy.


The Badgers are on a roll, having won three in a row in dominating fashion after losing their season-opener to Alabama. Unfortunately for Wisconsin, its quest to appear in a third straight Big Ten Championship Game took an unexpected turn with the announcement lead tailback Corey Clement will be out for at least another month with a sports hernia injury. 


College Football Podcast: Week 5 Preview with Andy Staples

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


Iowa at Wisconsin


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Big Ten Network 

Odds: Wisconsin -9.5


Three Things to Watch For


1. Badgers RB Taiwan Deal

Deal is coming off an impressive performance against Hawaii last week, rushing for 146 yards on 26 carries, scoring twice. Deal will surely be asked to carry a heavier workload now that it’s known Clement will be sidelined much longer than anticipated.


With a young and still relatively inexperienced offensive line, Deal's performance will be a key to Wisconsin's success offensively. If the inexperience along the offensive line shows early against Iowa, Both Deal and the Badgers could be in for a long day on the ground.


2. Hawkeyes QB C.J. Beathard

Beathard, while he won't set the world on fire as a passer, was very efficient in last week's win over North Texas, completing his first 15 passes of the game.


Wisconsin has a very talented secondary, but if Beathard can remain accurate and efficient early in the contest, he could have Iowa in prime position to take a surprising early lead on the road.


3. Wisconsin’s Offensive Line

Big Ten play is going to be a true test for this young and inexperienced Badgers offensive line. If Iowa’s defense is able to stifle Deal and the running game, it could force a heavier workload onto quarterback Joel Stave. Either way, Wisconsin’s front five will be key to the Badgers’ effectiveness on offense.


Final Analysis


Wisconsin is primed for a big year in 2015, and its defense is performing at a high level. The extended loss of Clement is a tough one to overcome, but the Badgers appear to have enough quality depth at key positions and should be able to survive capably until they get their top ball carrier back. This Big Ten West divisional clash with undefeated Iowa will serve as a good test of Wisconsin’s overall depth.


Prediction: Wisconsin 30, Iowa 14


— Written by Chris Dougherty, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Dougherty also serves as a National Recruiting Analyst for and has written for other sites, including and Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @warontheweekend.

Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Wisconsin Badgers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 11:15
Path: /college-football/oregon-ducks-vs-colorado-buffaloes-preview-and-prediction-2015

Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, Colorado has lost to Oregon four times by a combined 174 points. The Buffaloes never scored more than 16 points in that stretch, and the Ducks never fewer than 44.


One must look back to the now-defunct Aloha Bowl for the Buffs’ last defeat of Oregon. Mike Moschetti outgunned Akili Smith in a 51-43 shootout on Christmas Day 1998.


Saturday looks like Colorado’s best hope of snapping its five-game skid against Oregon, which includes the 2002 Fiesta Bowl.


“We’ve got more depth. We’ve got more experience. We’re bigger. We’re stronger,” Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “Our second year’s team was 20 points better than our first year’s team, and this year’s team is 20 points better than last year’s team.”


Conversely, Oregon has not looked as vulnerable at any time in the last several years as it does Saturday. The Ducks are 2-2, out of the Top 25 for the first time since 2009 and fresh off a 42-point home loss to Utah.


Saturday’s matchup at Folsom Field is a potentially pivotal moment in the trajectory of both programs.


Oregon at Colorado


Kickoff: 11 p.m. ET (Saturday)


Spread: Colorado +7.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Sefo Liufau vs. the Oregon Secondary

Oregon’s young secondary has been roasted in varying capacities by each of the four quarterbacks it faced in the first four weeks.


Eastern Washington’s Jordan West and Reilly Hennessey combined for 438 yards and five touchdowns. Georgia State’s Nick Arbuckle finished with 318 yards and three touchdowns. Last week, Travis Wilson had arguably the best game of his career with four passing touchdowns.


Michigan State’s Connor Cook had the most modest numbers of any quarterback yet to face the Ducks — 20-of-32 for 192 yards and two touchdowns — but he delivered a few deep passes that exploited the Oregon secondary.


Third-year Colorado starter Sefo Liufau’s statistical output is down from a year ago, but he’s proven in his time quarterbacking the Buffs are capable of attacking through the air.


2. Can Ralphie Keep Running?

Colorado boasts the nation’s No. 13-ranked rushing offense through four games. That’s a rather remarkable turnaround in MacIntyre’s third season, and one that’s reflective of the program’s progress as a whole. Colorado ranked No. 109 with the run in 2013 and No. 77 a year ago.


The Buffs’ multifaceted attack has produced three running backs over 212 yards: Christian Powell, Phillip Lindsay and Michael Adkins. Wide receiver Donovan Lee is also over 100 yards on the season. The effectiveness of the run has taken some of the onus off Liufau throwing, and the quarterback has helped his own cause with 143 rushing yards.


Establishing an effective run early would force Oregon defensive coordinator Don Pellum to load up on the box, leaving an already vulnerable Duck secondary further exposed to haymakers.


3. How Does Oregon Respond?

After its early-season loss last season to Arizona, Oregon rallied to win the next nine games by an average of 27.4 points per game, claiming the Pac-12 Conference championship and winning the Rose Bowl in the process.


It didn’t hurt that the Ducks had a once-in-a-generation quarterback, Marcus Mariota. But the 2014 Ducks also had to overcome a bevy of injuries to finish its historic season.


The 2015 campaign is far from lost, but Saturday will prove pivotal in the course of Oregon’s season to come. 


Despite its improvements, Colorado remains on paper one of the lesser challenges Oregon will face in the remaining Pac-12 slate. Struggling with the Buffs is a poor barometer of things to come; a loss could send Oregon’s season completely off the rails.


Final Analysis


Colorado rallied nicely from its Week 1 loss at Hawaii, beating up on teams it should beat up on (Massachusetts and Nicholls State) and finally getting over the hump in a close decision against a quality opponent (Colorado State).


A three-game winning streak, coupled with Oregon’s struggles a week ago, should give the Buffs a nice jolt early. The problem against Oregon is that beating the Ducks with their style of play requires sustained excellence over 60 minutes.


Oregon is not as bad as last week’s score indicates. Utah met that 60-minute mark, while the Ducks suffered an uncharacteristic lapse.


The Buffs won’t take the kind of beating they’ve sustained against Oregon in recent years, but the Ducks should rally for their first Pac-12 win.


Prediction: Oregon 41, Colorado 30


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

Oregon Ducks vs. Colorado Buffaloes Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 11:10
Path: /college-football/arizona-wildcats-vs-stanford-cardinal-preview-and-prediction-2015

Stanford cruises into this game on the crest of two victories in Pac-12, both by double digits on the road. Arizona received a reality check after three wins against two teams from Group of 5 conferences then an FCS foe. UCLA applied a 26-point spanking on the Wildcats in Tucson.


These two programs first met on the gridiron in 1979, Arizona's second year in what was then the Pac-10. The all-time series is tied at 14 wins apiece.  Arizona leads the series in Palo Alto, 7-6. 


College Football Podcast: Week 5 Preview with Andy Staples

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


Arizona at Stanford


Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: Pac-12 Networks

Spread: Stanford -14


Three Things to Watch


1. Cardinal battering ram bludgeons Wildcats' run defense?

The Cardinal struggled to run the ball at Northwestern, managing only 85 yards. They have steadily increased their rushing yards per game by 45, 65 and 130 in successive games. The number of rushing TDs per game also increased over the course of September, from zero to one to three to four. The average number of yards per rushing attempt has risen from 3.1 to 3.2 to 4.0 to 6.8. The Cardinal juggernaut is gaining momentum to run over and grind opponents into the turf as they are engineered to do.


The Wildcats have allowed their three FBS opponents to gain 191.3 rushing yards on average. Additionally, they have allowed eight touchdowns on the ground in those games. Can Jeff Casteel find a way to transform his players into a reincarnation of "Desert Swarm" or, at least, not be trampled in a rout?


2.  Status of one Arizona's QBs and the potential of another one

Anu Solomon sustained a concussion against UCLA. His replacement, Jarrard Randall, actually has had more rushing attempts (22) than passes thrown (19) during the season. His number of touchdowns and interceptions are the same: one apiece. His total number of passing yards for this season equals 58 with a 31.6 completion percentage. 


While this might appear as a cause for dread for the Wildcats, it is not necessarily a guarantee of offensive struggles. Randall has averaged 15.3 yards per carry. He is the second-leading rusher for Arizona in terms of yards gained (337) and touchdowns scored (4). Replacing Solomon due to serious injury is not how Rich Rodriguez would have chosen to increase the involvement this running threat. However, his skill will preclude Stanford from inundating a green quarterback with a multitude of blitzes without fear of his burning the defense with long scrambles or planned quarterback keepers.


3.  Confidence vs. Desperation

Stanford leads the Pac-12North by one half of a game over that other university in the Bay Area.  Their offensive outputs have improved by more than 230 yards per game since the debacle in Evanston. Can the Cardinal stay on this upward track while not looking past Arizona and with UCLA on the horizon?


Arizona is tied with their in-state rivals for last place in the Pac-12 South. The Wildcats cannot afford to start 0-2 in conference play if they have any hope of repeating as divisional champions. Has the loss of their starting quarterback while being steam rolled at home crushed their confidence?


Final Analysis


Stanford has steadily improved over the course of September. The Cardinal has been able to follow their blueprint of the way that they want to play: pound the ball to wear out opponents while mixing in some passes to keep the defenses off balance. The Cardinal defense will be able to hold down the Wildcats' one-dimensional offense enough with a comfortable cushion of points en route to victory.


Prediction: Stanford 41, Arizona 27


— Written by John La Fleur, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network. A graduate of Michigan State and LSU, La Fleur also has been a Saints fan since he was old enough to understand football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.

Arizona Wildcats vs. Stanford Cardinal Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 11:05
Path: /college-football/arizona-state-sun-devils-vs-ucla-bruins-preview-and-prediction-2015

Coming off a 42-14 Week 4 loss to USC, Arizona State can take some solace from its recent history.


The Sun Devils dropped early-season Pac-12 contests to Stanford in 2013 by a 42-28 count that was much more lopsided than the final score indicates, and a 62-27 decision to UCLA a season ago. They rallied from both to win 10 games.


Arizona State is more against the wall now than any either of the last two campaigns, however. A loss Saturday in the Rose Bowl to UCLA drops the Sun Devils below .500 at 2-3, and a close-to-insurmountable 0-2 hole against Pac-12 South competition.


While Arizona State is trying to avoid falling behind 0-2, UCLA seeks a strong, 2-0 start and second season sweep of the Grand Canyon State.


The Bruins clicked in almost every phase of last week's 56-30 rout at Arizona, jumping to a big lead early and never relenting. The UCLA that showed up in Tucson looks like a front-runner not only in the South, but potentially the entire Pac-12 title race.


College Football Podcast: Week 5 Preview with Andy Staples

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


Arizona State at UCLA


Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV: Fox

Spread: UCLA -14


Three Things to Watch


1. Defending the Rose Bowl

For UCLA to go on the road into a hostile environment and take command so forcefully a week ago was certainly impressive. But then, road games gave the Bruins no trouble a season ago; they were unbeaten away from the Rose Bowl.


All three of UCLA's losses in 2014 came at home. That's a stat sure to linger over this year's Bruins until they emphatically defend their home turf.


UCLA's last time at home ended in dramatic fashion, with Nate Starks scoring a late touchdown and Myles Jack, since lost for the season to a knee injury, making a game-saving interception.


Exorcising the Sun Devils authoritatively should help exorcise some of the Rose Bowl demons that have plagued recent UCLA seasons.


2. UCLA's Run Defense

The one perhaps shaky facet of UCLA's otherwise thoroughly dominant showing in Arizona was its defense of the run. The Wildcats ran for 353 yards against a Bruin front seven missing Jack and defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes.


Whether that was defensive coordinator Tom Bradley's concession for limiting Arizona to 115 yards through the air, or a byproduct of a larger problem with UCLA's injuries should be readily apparent early Saturday.


The Arizona State offense typically thrives with a balance of run and pass. However, offensive coordinator Mike Norvell has had challenges establishing a consistent ground attack, the result of running back Kalen Ballage missing time due to illness and quarterback Mike Bercovici lacking the ball-carrying ability of predecessor Taylor Kelly.


Norvell has attempted using explosive back Demario Richard on swing passes more frequently as a way to reinvigorate the run. Containing such plays for UCLA was often the responsibility of Jack.


3. Fight or Flight for Arizona State

From the moment head coach Todd Graham arrived at Arizona State, he preached mental toughness. The prelude to his arrival was a 2011 Sun Devil team, considered a contender for the Pac-12 championship, imploding down the stretch after a series of tough losses.


Facing an 0-2 Pac-12 and 2-3 overall start promises to check the mental toughness of this year's Sun Devils. As mentioned, past Arizona State squads under Graham rallied from seemingly crushing defeats. Winning at the Rose Bowl with UCLA rolling may be too tall a task as the Sun Devils continue fleshing out their identity, but they need keep it close out.


Another blowout could send Arizona State toward a disastrous finish.


Final Analysis


Arizona State couldn't draw UCLA at a worse time. The Bruins are playing with confidence and continuously adding new elements to their already dangerous look.


Heisman-contending running back Paul Perkins having the duo of Soso Jamabo and Starks share carries with him gives UCLA arguably the most dangerous backfield in the Pac-12. Quarterback Josh Rosen's been up-and-down, as one would expect of a true freshman.


But when he's on, as he was at Arizona, there are few in the conference better.


The energy with which Arizona State comes out early will indicate how this game — if not the Sun Devils' entire remainder of 2015 — is destined to go.


Prediction: UCLA 35, Arizona State 17


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

Arizona State Sun Devils vs. UCLA Bruins Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /washington-state-cougars-vs-california-golden-bears-preview-and-prediction-2015

What do you get when you match two of the Pac-12's most explosive offenses? Tons of points filling up the scoreboard.


That's been the story when Washington State and California have met each of the last two seasons and it should be no different this week when the Cougars travel to play the No. 24 Bears on Saturday. Last year, California edged Washington State in a 60-59 shootout behind 527 yards and five touchdowns from Bears quarterback Jared Goff. Two years ago, the Cougars prevailed in a 44-22 win after former quarterback Connor Halliday threw for 521 yards and three touchdowns.


California leads the all-time series with Washington State 45-26-5. The Bears have had the upper hand in the series in recent seasons, winning nine of the last ten games between the two teams.


College Football Podcast: Week 5 Preview with Andy Staples

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Washington State at California


Kickoff: 4 p.m ET (Saturday)

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Spread: California -13.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Quarterback duel

Just like last season, California and Washington State each boast a quarterback that ranks high nationally in several passing categories. Cougars quarterback Luke Falk leads the Pac-12 in passing yards (356.7 ypg) and total offense (361.7 ypg). Bears quarterback Jared Goff ranks third in the Pac-12 in both passing yards (310.0 ypg) and total offense (306.2 ypg). Goff is also second in the league in pass efficiency (170.3). California's offense has done a better job turning QB production into points. The Bears are second in the Pac-12 in total offense (542.5 ypg) and third in scoring offense (45.8 ppg).


2. Sack masters

Stronger defensive play could help Washington State keep California's potent offense on the sidelines for longer stretches this time around. The Cougars have done an excellent job in getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Through its first three games, WSU led the Pac-12 with nine total sacks and ranked 11th nationally with 25 tackles-for-loss. Ivan McLennan and Kache Palacio are the individual Pac-12 co-leaders with three sacks apiece. The Cougars will need to guard against similar pressure. California currently leads the Pac-12 after four weeks with 12 sacks. Kyle Kragen leads the way for the Bears with three.


3. Making a run

When California generates momentum on offense, it lasts as long a fully charged battery. Each of the Bears' four victories have featured prolonged scoring runs. California ripped off 66 unanswered points against Grambling State, 35 unanswered points against San Diego State, 27 unanswered points against Texas and 24 unanswered points against Washington. Defense is a big reason for these runs. California leads the nation in turnovers gained, with 14 in four games — nine interceptions and five fumbles.


Final Analysis


California is looking for its first 5-0 start since the 2007 season. The Bears are in a good position to make it happen. They have one of the nation's best quarterbacks directing an explosive offense and a defense that knows how to force turnovers and set up short fields. It won't be easy against Washington State. The Cougars can score enough points to keep up with many teams and should give California plenty of nervous moments. Still, nervous moments likely won't translate into an upset win.


Prediction: California 49, Washington State 38


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.

Washington State Cougars vs. California Golden Bears Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 10:55
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-week-5-value-plays

The college fantasy football season is in full swing and Athlon has teamed up with college fantasy veterans to help you dominate in 2015!


Whether you play daily or season-long college fantasy football, (@CFFGeek) prepares you to win with the best advice, tools and customer service in the industry — they've been doing it since 2008. Click here to learn how you can subscribe to CFG for FREE.


DraftKings has released their Daily Fantasy college football salaries for the week, and the experts at have hunkered down and scoured all of the data to find the best Value Plays on the docket. These are the guys poised to out-produce their DraftKings salaries this week.


Below, you will find contributor and CFG writer Todd DeVries' top picks for Saturday. To see the full in-depth article, be sure to check out






Skyler Howard, West Virginia QB ($6500) vs. Oklahoma

Howard threw four touchdown passes last week against Maryland and is averaging 27.8 DK points this season. He seems to be getting better by the week and could post a big stat line against a soft Sooners defense. Expect plenty of fantasy fireworks in this contest and Howard could be a huge part of all the fun. Expect Howard to easily go over 300 yards passing and add a few touchdown tosses in this potentially high-scoring game. This Mountaineer could easily put up numbers of a 10K QB this week.



Matt Dayes, NC State RB ($5300) vs. Louisville

Dayes has almost 600 total yards and nine rushing touchdowns in the first four games of 2015 and appears to be absurdly underpriced this week against Louisville. Dayes had been sharing the rock with Shadrach Thornton, who has now been dismissed from the team. The Louisville defense has really struggled this season and it won’t get any easier against a guy like Dayes. He looks like an awesome option this week.

DeAndre Washington, Texas Tech RB ($5500) vs. Baylor

Washington ran for 188 yards and four touchdowns last week against TCU. He could have another monster outing against a bad Baylor defense that struggles to stop opposing offenses. Expect a ton of points to be scored in this contest and Washington could run wild and make for a great play this week. He appears to be considerably underpriced with the matchup and opponent. Ride this Red Raider often this week.




Joshua Atkinson, Tulsa WR ($4400) vs. Houston

Atkinson has gone over 100 yards receiving and a score in the last two games and could make it three in a row versus Houston. He goes largely unnoticed as DFS players focus on Keevan Lucas and Keyarris Garrett. This contest has a ridiculous over/under of 81.5 points and his price is very juicy with all the yards and points expected to be produced. Look for Atkinson to carry a low ownership percentage in GPPs this week and likely pay big dividends for DFS players savvy enough to roster him.


Jaylen Samuels, NC State WR ($4400) vs. Louisville

Samuels is listed as a TE, but is used all over the field including in the backfield. He has a whopping eight total touchdowns in the first four games for the Wolfpack and could add a couple more against Louisville. The Cardinals' defense is not as strong as it usually is and could allow Samuels to post another big stat line. Look for this talented sophomore to be a great punt play that could easily hit double value this week.


Shelton Gibson, WR West Virginia ($4600) vs. Oklahoma

Gibson is averaging 25 DK points per game this season and has scored in all three games. He could have a big afternoon against a Sooners defense that yielded 427 yards passing and four scores in their last game. Look for Gibson to find the end zone once again and see a ton of targets in what could be a very high-scoring affair. Gibson is a rising star and could make a statement this week on the national scene. He appears to be a terrific point per dollar play this week.






Brett Rypien, Boise State QB ($6600) vs. Hawaii

Rypien got his first start last week against Virginia and responded nicely with 321 yards passing and three touchdown tosses. He has a solid receiving corps at his disposal and could find more fantasy success this week against Hawaii. Look for Rypien to have an encore performance and light up Hawaii. Another 300-yard effort could be in store for this freshman.




Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt RB ($6000) vs. MTSU

Webb is the lead back for Vanderbilt and has scored four total touchdowns in the last two games and appears to be getting in a nice groove. He could be called upon often against Middle Tennessee this week and could easily top the 100-yard mark. Expect Webb to find pay dirt again this week and easily reach value. Webb could be an excellent value play this week against the Blue Raiders.


Derrius Guice, LSU RB ($4000) vs. Eastern Michigan

We all know that LSU is the Lenny Fournette show this year, but this could be the game that this talented freshman shows out. He had the second-most carries last week against Syracuse and could see even more this week in a potential blowout game with Eastern Michigan. The Eagles have the worst rush defense in all of college football and are allowing an astronomical 373 yards per game on the ground. Guice could easily find his way into the end zone once or twice on Saturday. This Tiger could easily reach value on only a handful of carries.




Drew Morgan, Arkansas WR ($4700) vs. Tennessee

The wide receiver position at Arkansas is a mash unit with multiple starters out with injuries. Morgan had 155 yards receiving and a score against Texas A&M last week and could have another big outing versus Tennessee. The Volunteers' pass defense is ranked 88th in the country and could struggle this week to contain Morgan. It would not be a big surprise to see Morgan find the end zone this week and easily reach value. Look for Morgan to be an excellent under-the-radar play this week.


Jamire Jordan, Fresno State WR ($4200) vs. San Diego State

Jordan has scored three total touchdowns the last two games and is averaging 15.2 DK points per game this season. He has a juicy matchup against an Aztec pass defense that is ranked 94th in the nation this year. While the QB situation for Fresno is not great, Jordan still holds value this week at this price and could be a solid punt play. Take a shot with this Bulldog in what could be a typical wild game in the MWC.


— Written by Todd DeVries, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A pioneer of online college fantasy football strategy and advice, DeVries is the founder of and founder and Director of Writer Development for Football Nation. Follow him on Twitter @CFFGeek.

College Fantasy Football Week 5 Value Plays
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 10:50
Path: /college-football/vanderbilt-commodores-vs-middle-tennessee-blue-raiders-preview-and-prediction-2015

Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee first met on the gridiron in 1915, a game in which the Commodores won, 51-0. The teams have met periodically throughout the past 100 years, but interestingly, did not play each other from 1956-2001. In fact, the Commodores last win in the series came in '56. Dwight D. Eisenhower was president then, for what it's worth.


The Blue Raiders come into this game averaging 71.5 points per game in contests they've won. Middle Tennessee fell to SEC power Alabama in Week Two, 37-10, and narrowly missed out on an opportunity to knock off Illinois last week in Champaign, losing 27-25. Quarterback Brent Stockstill was superb last week, throwing for 330 yards and three touchdowns. 


Head coach Derek Mason's decision to start handling the defense is going to pay off big for Vanderbilt. Progress is already showing. The Commodores held two of the SEC's offensive juggernauts, Georgia and Ole Miss, to 31 and 27 points, respectively, though they lost both games. Vandy also virtually shut down a powerful Western Kentucky offense in week one, but still lost, 14-12. Their lone win so far is a 47-7 victory over Austin Peay.  


Vanderbilt won the first 12 meetings against Middle Tennessee. However, the Blue Raiders have since won the last three, all in the 2000s and all in Nashville. Saturday marks the teams' first meeting since 2005 and the first meeting in Murfreesboro since 1920. 


Vanderbilt at Middle Tennessee


Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

Spread: Even


Three Things to Watch


1. Quarterbacks

The biggest thing to keep an eye on in this game, without a doubt, is quarterback play. Vandy's Johnny McCrary is currently third in the SEC in total passing yards, behind only Ole Miss's Chad Kelly and Arkansas's Brandon Allen. McCrary has thrown for 1,074 yards and five touchdowns. However, he has also thrown as many interceptions. The Blue Raiders' gunslinger, Stockstill, has thrown for 1,221 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is on pace for a phenomenal year and has better numbers than McCrary at this point, but both are playing extremely well. Whichever quarterback gets going first will give his team a leg up in the flow of the game.  


2. Can Ralph Webb make an impact?

As mentioned, Middle Tennessee has an outstanding passer, but the Blue Raiders are also pretty good at running the football. If this game is going to be decided in the trenches, the Commodores' offensive line needs to step up its run blocking and create space for Webb. In four games, the talented rusher, Webb, has only 282 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. And both of those scores came against Austin Peay. Webb has yet to show his full potential in a game that matters. Saturday's showdown against Middle Tennessee could be a perfect time to showcase his abilities. 


3. Could this game eliminate Vandy from bowl contention?

Coming into the season, a bowl game looked like a long shot possibility for Vanderbilt. Most had (and still have) the Commodores ranked last in the SEC, and with an early loss in a key game against Western Kentucky, it doesn't seem probable that Vandy will get to the postseason. However, there is reason to hope for Commodore fans in looking at how the team has competed in the last three weeks. They are evidently better this year. And with Missouri and South Carolina looking terrible and Tennessee and Kentucky looking beatable, it's not impossible for Vandy to reach six wins. But it all starts against Middle Tennessee. This is a must-win. 


Final Analysis


Middle Tennessee is solid on the offensive end. At times, they have looked elite in comparison to their competition. However, this game against Vanderbilt will likely be their most difficult matchup of the season outside of the road trip to Alabama in Week Two. If they want to stay around until the fourth quarter, Stockstill will need to be at his best against a talented Vanderbilt defense. For the Commodores, it all starts with being able to dictate the pace of the game. They have to stay balanced and avoid costly mistakes. If the Commodores play a clean game, they will emerge with a victory. 


Prediction: Vanderbilt 28, Middle Tennessee 24


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

Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 10:45
Path: /college-football/arkansas-razorbacks-vs-tennessee-volunteers-preview-and-prediction-2015

The Tennessee Volunteers (2-2, 0-1 SEC) will welcome the Arkansas Razorbacks (1-3, 0-1 SEC) to Neyland Stadium on Saturday night for what was billed in the preseason as a “must see” game between two potentially undefeated SEC teams on the rise. Presently, you find two teams trying to salvage what is left of their respective seasons following multiple late game collapses and heart breaking defeats. Never the less, the matchup between the Vols and the Hogs still offers plenty of intrigue, and a critical opportunity for one of these teams to get their season heading in a positive direction.


This will be the 18th meeting between Tennessee and Arkansas. The Vols lead the all-time series against the Razorbacks with a 13-4 record. The two teams last met in 2011 with Arkansas dominating Tennessee 49-7 in Fayetteville.


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Arkansas at Tennessee


Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Tennessee -6.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Red Zone Scoring

The biggest issue facing the Razorbacks all season has been their red zone offense. Despite ranking 32nd in total offense nationally with a solid 472 yards per game, Arkansas has struggled mightily to score in the red zone so far this season. The Hogs rank a dismal 119th in the country in red zone offense, failing to put up any points in roughly 33 percent of their visits. On the contrary, Tennessee ranks 12th nationally in red zone efficiency, scoring on 95 percent of its trips inside the 20-yard line.


The good news for Arkansas is that the Tennessee defense has allowed opposing offenses to score on 13 of 15 trips to the red zone thus far. The bad news for Arkansas is that they haven’t fared any better, allowing opposing offenses to score on 12 of 14 trips inside the 20. The Razorbacks must find a way to finish drives and convert them into points inside the red zone if they have any chance of winning.


2. Rushing Attack

It seems fairly obvious that both teams are going to lean heavily on the run game in this match-up and with good reason. Arkansas features a monstrous offensive line, and an All-SEC caliber running back in Alex Collins who has already rushed for 502 yards through four games, ranking him third in the SEC behind Leonard Fournette and Nick Chubb. The preseason loss of stud RB Jonathan Williams for the season has undeniably put a dent in the Razorback run game, but it is still the primary strength of their offense, and they will lean heavily on Collins in this matchup. The return of junior FB Kody Walker from injury should help the cause.


You can also expect a heavy dose of the run game from the Vols on Saturday night. Tennessee ranks 18th nationally with 248 rushing yards per game, running the football on 67 percent of their total plays so far this season. The Volunteers utilize a multi-dimensional attack which primarily features sophomore RB Jalen Hurd who ranks sixth in the SEC with 402 rushing yards and 2nd in the SEC with seven rushing TDs. Expect QB Joshua Dobbs to also be heavily involved in the Vols’ rushing attack. Dobbs leads all SEC QBs in rushing with 243 yards. Tennessee also likes to mix in do-it-all change of pace running back Alvin Kamara, in addition to throwing in the occasional sweep by a wide receiver in order to keep defenses off balance.


Tennessee holds a slight advantage in the running game, but Arkansas is much more balanced on offense. Thus, QB Brandon Allen and the Hogs have an edge in the passing game.


3. Coaching

Coaching has been a major topic of discussion for both teams so far this season. Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema and Tennessee head coach Butch Jones have both taken a well-deserved bashing from the media, and fans alike, for their “play not to lose” mentality and poor decision making, that ultimately led to late game melt downs. Butch Jones, who made several questionable decisions and failed to adjust accordingly en route to epic fourth-quarter collapses against both Oklahoma and Florida, has been especially scrutinized of late.


Without a doubt, the game management decisions and strategies employed by each coach will be under a microscope on Saturday night. It is highly probable that coaching, or a lack thereof, will play a role in the outcome of this game.


Final Analysis


Both teams should find success in the running game, however, the Volunteers must open up their passing game for this offense to live up to its full potential. Tennessee needs to find a way to get the ball to their highly touted receivers, who have vastly underperformed to date. It is likely that they will take some shots through the air against an Arkansas pass defense that ranks dead last in the SEC, and it is paramount that they find success in doing so.


For Arkansas, they must find a way to score in the red zone. They have proven that they can move the ball on offense, they simply haven’t been able to consistently finish drives that should easily result in points. There may not be a better team in the nation to “finish” against right now than Tennessee.


All in all, this should be a physical battle between two programs desperately trying to make their way back to prominence in the SEC. To this point, both teams have failed to meet their lofty preseason expectations. That being said, both schools are better than their current records would indicate, and Tennessee is literally a couple of plays away from being undefeated.


Prediction: Tennessee 31, Arkansas 28


— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McVey is a diehard Tennessee Volunteers' fan who loves singing "Rocky Top" every opportunity he gets. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.

Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Tennessee Volunteers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 10:40
Path: /college-football/eastern-michigan-eagles-vs-lsu-tigers-preview-and-prediction-2015

The game preview for Eastern Michigan (1-3) versus No. 9 LSU (3-0) could stop at one statistic for each team but in fairness of a FBS David vs. Goliath showdown on Saturday a breakdown of the two teams is deserving.


Despite the Eagles having won one game already this season, the disparity in talent between the two teams feels more like Eastern Michigan being one of the six D-I teams without a win going into Week 5 of the season. Eagles second-year head coach Chris Creighton has a balanced offense but will rely heavily on running back Darius Jackson, quarterback Brogan Roback, and wide receiver Eddie Daugherty to make plays and help move the chains. The defensive side of the ball is where the Eagles are struggling, making LSU a tough matchup.


For LSU, it is all about the run game and the entire nation is all about sophomore running back Leonard Fournette. The 6-foot-1, 230-pound back is coming off a career-high 244 yards against Syracuse. The stat line could have been 87 yards better with three touchdowns instead of two had one of his amazing runs not been called back due to a penalty. As is, Fournette is the nation’s third-leading rusher with 631 yards and tied for second in FBS with eight scores on the ground.


College Football Podcast: Week 5 Preview with Andy Staples

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Eastern Michigan at LSU


Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET

Coverage: ESPNU

Line: LSU -44.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Eagles' pass offense vs. LSU pass defense

LSU’s “DBU” label has slipped a little bit thus far in 2015 as compared to last season when they had the nation’s No. 3 pass defense. The Tigers are allowing 196 yards a game in the air, 32 more per game than allowed in 2014 without getting into the heart of their SEC schedule. If Eastern Michigan hopes to score one of the biggest upsets of the season attacking LSU’s pass defense might be the way to do it.


The Eagles have a fairly balanced offense with the No. 58 rushing offense at 187 yards a game and the No. 50 passing offense at 249 yards per game. Roback is averaging 219 yards passing per game but has not faced an elite defense like LSU so far this season. When Roback drops back he has four receivers with double-digit receptions to pick from: Daugherty, Dustin Creel, Darius Jackson, and Kris Strange.


The idea is for passing lanes to be opened up with the running attack. Jackson leads the team with 407 yards on the ground and seven touchdowns scored. Shaq Vann has done a great job spelling Jackson rushing for 245 yards and three scores on 39 touches.


2. LSU vs. LSU

The matchup against Eastern Michigan should be a good time for LSU to fine tune a few things like the passing game and cleaning up the penalty problems. So far the running game and defense have been good enough to carry the team but the passing offense has been horrible. LSU has the nation’s No. 123 passing offense, out of 127 teams, picking up an average of 100.7 yards per game. Saturday would be a good day to get starting quarterback Brandon Harris familiar with his wide receivers again.


Hard to believe Malachi Dupre, Travin Dural, and John Diarse have not hit the double-digit reception mark yet.


Fournette was a beast against Syracuse on the road and luckily he is a once in a generation type of talent or LSU would be in serious trouble. The passing offense is anemic at best and the team’s sloppy play on both sides of the ball moved the ball back 14 times for 120 yards against the Orange. The Tigers are good enough against EMU to get past another sloppy game but come November LSU has to be much improved at playing clean to win the SEC West.


3. Leonard Fournette vs. Eastern Michigan’s defense

The two stats that could have completed the preview in the opening paragraph without further explanation as to how the game should shape up are: LSU has the nation’s No. 5 rushing offense at 315 yards per game and EMU has the nation’s worst run defense allowing 373.3 yards per game.


The big question is how long will Fournette stay in the game?


If Harris (117 yards) comes out of the EMU game still listed as the team’s second leading rusher over Darrel Williams (94 yards) and Derrius Guice (68 yards), LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron might deserve a pink slip before the last crazed Tigers fan has left Death Valley.


The EMU game should allow Harris to set his feet in the pocket not scrambling for yards and give valuable confidence time to Guice and Williams with both padding their stat lines along the way.


Related: College Football's Top 10 Running Backs for September


Final Analysis


Army snapped a 21-game road losing streak dating back to 2010 last week against Eastern Michigan and the Eagles have not had a winning program since 1987. Another fun fact that does bode well for the Eagles, their lone win against Wyoming came against one of the six D-I teams entering Week 5 without a win this season.


Fournette shredded Syracuse’s defense behind his big offensive line. The Orange came into the Week 4 contest sporting the nation’s No. 3 run defense, now at No. 19.


Prediction: LSU 56, Eastern Michigan 10


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

Eastern Michigan Eagles vs. LSU Tigers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 10:35
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Miami Hurricanes
Path: /college-football/miami-unveils-305-ice-uniforms-cincinnati-adidas-white

adidas is certainly making the most of their final season with Miami.


The two have paired to create "305 Ice" uniforms to be worn for the game against Cincinnati on October 1. The warmup features the Miami skyline which one can never really go wrong with. The sleek white look is a nice look for the Canes and paired with silver throughout, no one would be upset if we saw more of this uniform.


View post on


College Football Podcast: Week 5 Preview with Andy Staples

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Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/mississippi-state-bulldogs-vs-texas-am-aggies-preview-and-prediction-2015

The SEC Week 5 matchup between No. 21 Mississippi State (3-1) and No. 14 Texas A&M (4-0) should have serious West Division title implications for the winner, making the showdown in College Station one of the top games of the week. The game pits offensive minded coaches Dan Mullen and Kevin Sumlin against one another that has proven to be a barnburner over the last couple of years.


Talk about the College Football Playoffs begins and ends with the SEC and Texas A&M is building momentum to be in the national conversation. The Aggies are 4-0 coming off another thrilling overtime win against Arkansas in Arlington and are now ready to take on another offensive challenge that might be a better fit for their defensive scheme in MSU.


Even though Mississippi State has one conference loss, it was a 21-19 defeat to another national title contender LSU. If the Bulldogs can get a statement win on the road against Texas A&M their SEC West title hopes are still alive. 


College Football Podcast: Week 5 Preview with Andy Staples

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Mississippi State at Texas A&M


Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET

Coverage: SEC Network

Line: Texas A&M -6.5


Three Things to Watch


1. ​Dak Prescott vs. Texas A&M’s defense

Without slighting players on Mississippi State’s offense, the Bulldogs' primary threat is starting quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott has had an outstanding senior season to date completing 67 percent of his passes coming up with 1,069 yards with seven scores without throwing a pick.


The good and the bad is Prescott leads MSU in rushing yards gained with 161 but is in third after accounting for net yards with lost yards on sacks. When Prescott drops back he has two primary weapons in Fred Ross and De’Runnya Wilson and five other targets that can help move the chains in Gus Walley, Ashton Shumpert, Gabe Myles, Donald Gray, and Fred Brown. Ross leads the Bulldogs with 22 receptions and 219 yards but has not found the end zone yet. Wilson has 16 receptions for 201 yards with a team tying two scores.


Tight end Gus Walley has helped stretch linebackers getting mismatches in zones picking up 109 yards on 15 receptions with one touchdown. Running back Ashton Shumpert has emerged as an all-purpose option for Mullen rushing for 128 yards on 32 carries with a score and pulling in 11 passes for 96 yards.


Can A&M slow down Prescott? If so, MSU will be in trouble with the No. 98 rushing attack in the nation collecting 145 yards a game.


2. Texas A&M’s passing offense vs. MSU’s pass defense

The Aggies offensive engine starts with the play under center from starting sophomore quarterback Kyle Allen. Allen has done a great job of spreading the ball around to his playmakers without putting the Aggies in bad situations. Allen has 952 passing yards with 11 scores against two interceptions.


Mississippi State’s pass defense has been good on paper with the nation’s No. 26 unit allowing 170 yards per game but those stats are against Southern Miss, LSU, Northwestern State, and a surprisingly dysfunctional Auburn offense.


The Bulldogs will have to account for up to six pass receiving options throughout the game with true freshman Christian Kirk being at the top of the list. Kirk has not played like a freshman in 2015 but more like an All-American. He has 24 receptions for 442 yards with four scores. Keeping the secondary from double-teaming Kirk are Josh Reynolds, Ricky Seals-Jones, Damion Ratley, and Speedy Noil with Tra Carson being a very viable option out of the backfield.


3. Mississippi State’s defense vs. Texas A&M’s defense

Both squads will give up yards to the opposition but so far Mississippi State has done a good job under first-year defensive coordinator Manny Diaz at adopting the bend but don’t break mindset. The Bulldogs are only allowing an average of 14.8 points per game with the caveat that the toughest team they have played was a one-dimensional offense in LSU.


Texas A&M on the other hand is allowing 22 points per contest with marquee games against Arizona State and Arkansas. Mississippi State has been clutch on third down defense only allowing the opposition to continue with a fresh set of downs 23 percent of the time. A&M is close behind at 28 percent.


The team that can get stops in this offensive affair and keep true to their nature coming into the game gets the win.  


Final Analysis


Texas A&M gets after the quarterback as well as any team in the nation, in fact they are the No. 2 team in the nation with 17 quarterback drops. Dak Prescott is a true dual-threat that can make ends Myles Garrett and Julien Obioha pay if they come too far up field. Prescott is also skilled enough to keep looking down field with pressure around him with the arm strength to get the ball down field to keep drives alive.


If the Aggies had an All-SEC type of back to complement what very well could be the best receiving unit in the nation, A&M would be unstoppable. Kyle Allen showed he was clutch against Arkansas hitting 21-of-28 pass attempts for a career-high 358 yard with two scores that included the game winner in overtime.


Mississippi State is better than believed but the Aggies are picking up momentum and have too many options on offense. MSU might have an unknown at play entering the game. Could this be a trap game for the Aggies with Alabama on Oct. 17 after a bye?


Prediction: Texas A&M 38, Mississippi State 21


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

Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Texas A&M Aggies Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/kansas-state-wildcats-vs-oklahoma-state-cowboys-preview-and-prediction-2015

Oklahoma State welcomes Kansas State to Stillwater Saturday, where both teams will meet with unblemished records. The Wildcats, the last time out, survived a triple-overtime scare against Louisiana Tech before ultimately winning 39-33 on Sept. 19. The ‘Cats were idle last week and are 7-3 in games following bye weeks since 2009.


Last week, the Cowboys narrowly escaped an upset against a struggling Texas program after punter Michael Dickson turned the ball over late in the game, allowing OSU kicker Ben Grogan to hit the game-winning 40-yard field goal with six seconds remaining in regulation to break a 27-27 tie and give the Cowboys a 30-27 win.


In 2014, Kansas State’s offense exploded for 421 total yards, which was complimented by a three-turnover performance from its defense, to send the Wildcats to a 48-14 victory over the Cowboys in the Little Apple. Both teams have gone 2-2 in the series since 2011, and OSU holds a 37-24 series lead.


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Kansas State at Oklahoma State


Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET (Saturday)

Television: Fox Sports 1

Spread: Oklahoma State -7.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Kansas State’s Stout Defense

Heading into the season, many expected KSU’s defense to be the strength of this year’s team. So far, the unit has likely surpassed expectations as it didn't yield an offensive touchdown until week three against Louisiana Tech, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished since 1945. KSU’s defense will be tasked with slowing OSU head coach Mike Gundy’s air-raid offense that averages 321 passing yards per game. OSU’s offense ranks eighth in the nation in plays resulting in 20 yards or more, with 28 on the season. KSU’s defense has allowed 237 passing yards per game and could see looks from OSU quarterbacks Mason Rudolph (sophomore) and J.W. Walsh (redshirt senior). Three Rudolph turnovers, two of which were returned for Longhorn touchdowns, prompted Gundy to alternate between the two quarterbacks last week. Expect Gundy to do the same against KSU if his young quarterback struggles to move the ball early. KSU’s secondary has yet to record an interception this season, but it’s a talented position group that has the potential to spell trouble for OSU’s passing game.


2. Oklahoma State Quarterback Mason Rudolph

Rudolph, a freshman in 2014, became a household name in the state of Oklahoma last November when he guided OSU’s offense to a come-from-behind, overtime win over in-state rival Oklahoma. He threw for 273 passing yards and two touchdowns, one of which came late in the fourth quarter to bring the Cowboys within seven points. Rudolph capped his freshman season with a Cactus Bowl win over Washington where he threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Rudolph has posted a 6-1 record as a starter and is still growing into his new role, as is evident from last week’s shaky performance, but he’s a talented thrower who should progressively become even better.  


3. Kansas State Running Back Justin Silmon

Silmon, a redshirt freshman, has been one of head coach Bill Snyder’s most productive players this point in the season. In KSU’s most recent win, Silmon carried 24 times for 119 yards. And while he failed to reach the end zone, his 100-yard effort on the ground snapped a drought where KSU rushers failed to produce a 100-yard game since November 2013. OSU’s rush defense ranks 40th in the nation, allowing 129.3 yards per game this season.


Final Analysis 


OSU is 20-9 against the 'Cats in Stillwater, and unlike last year, should offer more of a challenge this go round. One thing to watch is the health of Rudolph’s hand, which he injured against Texas. He is reported to have felt some numbness in the region, but should be ready to go Saturday afternoon. Kansas State’s defense is good, and its early season rushing attack is the best it’s been in a couple of seasons, but Oklahoma State is a more complete team and should win a hard-fought game to advance to its first 5-0 start since 2011.


Prediction: Oklahoma State 31, Kansas State 24


— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A Washington, D.C.-based sports writer, Hayes is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and he also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.

Kansas State Wildcats vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 10:25
Path: /college-football/san-jose-state-spartans-vs-auburn-tigers-preview-and-prediction-2015

It's been a tumultuous season for Auburn (2-2, 0-2). In the preseason, the Tigers were picked by many to contend for the College Football Playoff.


But after barely surviving a potential upset by Jacksonville State, Auburn has dropped consecutive games to LSU and Mississippi State. But fear not, Tigers fans, your team enters Saturday's game favored by 20 points!


San Jose State 2-2 (1-1) is coming off a 49-23 win against Fresno State in Week 4 and ranks as the nation's No. 42 overall offense and No. 36 defense. Surely head coach Gus Malzahn and Auburn won't find itself facing another upset against a Group of 5 team, right?


San Jose State at Auburn


Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: SEC Network
Spread: Auburn -20


Three Things to Watch


1. Sean White as Auburn's starter

White made his first start as Auburn's quarterback last week against Mississippi State. He threw for 188 yards and an interception on 20-of-28 passing.


Saturday's game should provide a confidence boost for the freshman who was thrown into SEC play. He will face a Mountain West Conference defense that has far less talent than Mississippi State, which should help his transition moving forward.


2. Will D'Haquille Williams finally see a breakout performance?

Whether it's been White or Jeremy Johnson under center neither quarterback has helped D'Haquille Williams live up to the preseason expectations of being a potential first-round NFL Draft pick. Williams has 130 yards and one touchdown on 11 catches.


Sure, that's a great performance for one game, but that's over a span of his first four. Williams could finally see the breakout performance many expected him to consistently have in 2015, despite San Jose State coming into this game as the nation's second-ranked passing defense (94.5 ypg).


3. Will Auburn's defense finally improve?

Let's be honest, the Will Muschamp hiring hasn't lived up to expectations thus far. Auburn ranks last among SEC teams in total defense and has allowed an average of 413.5 yards per game.


But the Tigers finally held a team to under 400 yards in last week's loss. Perhaps its a sign that Muschamp's new scheme is finally working?


Final Analysis


It's almost to the point where you can't trust Auburn enough in any matchup. Sure, the line is minus-20 in the Tigers' favor, but that's not nearly as wide of a margin as it was in Week 2, which resulted in an overtime win.


Auburn needs to win this game handedly to gain momentum in a tough SEC West. The team already has two losses and hasn't even played Alabama or Ole Miss yet. This is definitely a game Auburn should win by a comfortable margin.


Prediction: Auburn 28, San Diego State 14


— Written by Jason Hall, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and works for Fox Sports Florida. Follow him on Twitter@jasonhallFSN.

San Jose State Spartans vs. Auburn Tigers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 10:20
Path: /college-football/nebraska-cornhuskers-vs-illinois-fighting-illini-preview-and-prediction-2015

With a 2-2 non-conference effort in their wake, the Nebraska Cornhuskers begin their journey towards what will hopefully be the regular season goal: winning the Big Ten West division. First up is a pack of Illini that feature a quarterback that’ll test their mettle and the Blackshirt pass rush at the same time.


Nebraska at Illinois


Kickoff: 4:02 p.m. ET (Saturday)
Network: Big Ten Network
Spread: Nebraska -6.5


Three Things to Watch For


1. The Return of De’Mornay Pierson-El

DPE has been leaking tweets all week regarding a return and has been practicing sparingly. While it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing Pierson-El in his usual role of “the guy that does everything,” look for some decoy work, the occasional fly sweep and perhaps a few receptions.


Related: Nebraska’s De’Mornay Pierson-El Priming "Million Dollar Moves" for Return


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2. Wes Lunt vs. the Nebraska Secondary

If the return of No. 15 isn’t a big story for Husker fans, this is 1B. Nebraska has the worst pass defense in all of FBS. No seriously, I checked, out of 128 teams. Lunt is an Oklahoma State transfer that’s no stranger to flinging the pigskin around and has a major target in wide receiver Geronimo Allison (great name, no?).


Don’t expect Nebraska to turn into a Legion of Boom overnight, but Lunt is excellent practice for other quarterbacks the Big Red will face down the line.


3. The Work of Freedom Akinmoladun

The converted tight end earned himself a Blackshirt and has become a blessing for both defensive line coach Hank Hughes and the defense as a whole. His pass-rushing ability is something Nebraska has been sorely lacking. He can also be moved around with other ends to provide both rest and different looks against the Illinois offense.


Final Analysis


Illinois is going to get yardage through the air. I think we can all agree on that. One thing Nebraska has going for it is that it currently has the No. 7 rushing defense in the country and it’ll be hard for the Illini to make a dent in that mark.


I see Nebraska winning, but how they do so depends on the same things that determined the outcome of its last game against Southern Mississippi. Third-down conversion rate, red-zone defense and turnover margin will play the biggest roles.


If the Huskers start converting third and shorts, this could be a pretty convincing win. If not, things may get dicey down until the end again.


Prediction: Nebraska 45, Illinois 27


— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow Brandon on Twitter @eightlaces and Periscope (eightlaces), and like his Facebook page.

Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 10:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Florida Gators, SEC
Path: /college-football/5-keys-florida-gators-defeat-ole-miss-rebels

After their 13-point comeback victory over the Tennessee Volunteers last weekend, the Florida Gators are ranked for the first time since the 2013 season. Now if the Gators want to stay in the Top 25, they will have to defeat the No. 4 Ole Miss Rebels, who are considered one of the favorites to advance to the SEC Championship Game. 


Related: Ole Miss Rebels vs. Florida Gators Preview and Prediction


A couple of weeks ago, Ole Miss shocked the world by beating Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The Rebels looked sluggish in their win against Vanderbilt last weekend. It appears Ole Miss didn’t take the Commodores very seriously. 


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Not many analyst are picking the Gators to win on Saturday. So what are the five keys for Florida to pull off the upset? 


1. Slow down the Rebels during the first quarter

The one thing Ole Miss has done this season is gotten off to great starts. The Rebels have averaged 16.25 points in their four games during the first quarter. 


Florida has had one of the best defenses in the first quarter this season as they are only allowing an average of 4.25 points per game in the opening stanza. If the Gators can continue to force early three and outs during the first quarter, that will give their defense more energy for the second half. 


2. Convert third downs

Last week against Tennessee, Florida was 3-15 on third down conversions. While they were also 5-5 on fourth downs, they can’t rely on being perfect on fourth downs against Ole Miss. 


So far this season, the Rebels’ third-down defense is 76th in the country as they have given up a first-down 37.8 percent of the time. Florida needs to make sure they can get into third and short situations, so that they have a better chance to convert on third downs. 

3. Watch out for Nkemdiche

Florida has one of the youngest offensive lines in the country. While they have done a solid job protecting Grier this season, their line will be across the line from the most talented group they’ve faced this year. 


Ole Miss has arguably the best defensive lineman in college football in Robert Nkemdiche. The defensive tackle is at the top of ESPN’s football analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s big board. 


"Power, explosion, where he's supposed to be in gap control and not trying to make things up,” said Florida head coach Jim McElwain in his Monday afternoon press conference. “It's not as much he's a great pass rusher, but how disruptive he is in the run game.”


Nkemdiche 2015 stats won’t wow you, but his impact on the game can’t be measured by numbers. Florida will have to be aware of where Nkemdiche is at all times. 


4. Kelvin Taylor

Against Tennessee, running back Kelvin Taylor rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. The junior will likely be called on again this weekend because Ole Miss doesn’t have a great run defense. 


The Rebels' rushing defense ranks 60th in the nation as they give up an average of 155.5 rushing yards per game. While the Gators mostly used Taylor in their running game last week, the team could also look to use Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite in spot situations during the game. 


5. Get pressure on Chad Kelly

Ole Miss’s quarterback Chad Kelly has been one of the hottest quarterbacks in the country this season. The transfer from East Mississippi Community College has thrown for 1,219 yards, 10 touchdowns against only three interceptions. 


Florida is ninth in the FBS in sacks per game with 3.5. If the Gators are to slow down his production, they will have to get pressure on him with their front four. Jonathan Bullard, Alex McCalister, Brian Cox Jr., and Joey Irie will need to get to know Kelly up close and personal on Saturday.


— 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, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

5 Keys for the Florida Gators to Defeat the Ole Miss Rebels
Post date: Friday, October 2, 2015 - 10:10