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Path: /nfl/pittsburgh-steelers-vs-baltimore-ravens-game-preview-and-prediction

Baltimore and Pittsburgh, two old rivals that are seemingly in transition, are set to collide at M&T Bank Stadium for a critical AFC North matchup tonight on CBS that also will be simulcast on the NFL Network. The Ravens find themselves in virtual must-win mode after losing their home opener to division foe Cincinnati, but an important week of preparation has spiraled out of control with the nation's laser focus on the Ray Rice debacle and the team's (and head coach's) clumsy handling of the disgraced lead back. The Steelers were able to grab a division win against the Browns but showed plenty of warts in doing so. The loser had better buckle in for a week of doomsday proclamations from a frustrated fan base.


Pittsburgh Steelers at Balitmore Ravens


Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS/NFL Network

Spread: Baltimore -2.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Will Either Defense Show Up?

These two franchises built their reputations on throwing up brick walls at opposing offenses, but those days are seemingly in the past. Neither unit cracked the top 10 in the NFL in total defense last season, and neither proved up to the task in Week 1 of 2014. Baltimore allowed Andy Dalton, a former whipping boy for the Ravens defense, the time and space to do what he wanted, failing to sack him a single time, failing to force a turnover and surrendering 301 yards on a tidy 25-of-38 passing line. Most critically, the defense suffered an unconscionable breakdown on a 77-yard Dalton-to-A.J. Green catch and run for the decisive touchdown in a 23–16 Bengals win. Meanwhile, Dick LeBeau's defense allowed 27 second-half points to the Browns, who used a no-huddle attack that kept the Steelers on their heels. Cleveland pierced the Steel Curtain for 183 yards rushing (100 by unheralded rookie Terrance West) and 6.0 yards per carry, alarming numbers for a proud run defense. This game could produce what would once have been unthinkable for this series: an offensive shootout.


2. A Tale of Two Quarterbacks

Until last season, all Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger did was win a vast majority of their starts. But dueling 8–8 seasons marred by turnovers have dented their armor a bit. Big Ben was fairly impressive against the Browns, completing 23-of-34 passes for 365 yards, but he found the end zone only once and was sacked four times after being dumped 42 times in 2013. Lacking a credible running threat, Flacco was forced to the air at an alarming rate in the Ravens' opener, throwing 62 passes (completing 35) for 345 yards, a touchdown and a critical interception that drew boos from the home crowd. Until Flacco and new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak get better acquainted, look for Big Ben to retain the upper hand in this personal rivalry.


3. Bell Cow Backs

The Steelers have to be thrilled with second-year running back Le'Veon Bell, who picked up right where he left off late last season, rushing for 109 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries (5.2 yards per carry) and adding 88 receiving yards in the win over Cleveland, the best combined yardage performance by a Pittsburgh running back since 2006. History is working against Bell — the Steelers haven't had a back exceed 100 yards against the Ravens in almost a decade — but his combination of vision, speed and toughness could reverse that trend. The Ravens had hoped that Bernard Pierce would fill Rice's shoes, but an early fumble against the Bengals opened the door for Justin Forsett, who responded with 70 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and is enough of a dual threat to earn the lion's share of the snaps. Both teams will try to get their lead backs untracked to take pressure off the quarterbacks.


Final Analysis


Much like last week, the Ravens have to be glad to get back to the field and away from the questions about their disgraced former teammate. But on the field, they face a whole different set of questions about their ability to protect the football, force turnovers and generally live up to the standard of excellence they've set under John Harbaugh. Similarly, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin can ride his impressive record only so far in a what-have-you-done-lately league. It's premature to put either coach on the hot seat, but a loss in this one does turn up the heat. The Steelers seem to have the better running threat, which could give them an edge in this one.


Prediction: Pittsburgh 23, Baltimore 20
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 11, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/acc-2014-week-3-preview-and-predictions

It’s another light slate of games in the ACC for Week 3. For the third consecutive week, only one conference matchup highlights the schedule.

Louisville makes its first road trip as a member of the ACC with a matchup at Virginia on Saturday. The Cardinals are off to a 2-0 start under Bobby Petrino and leads the ACC in scoring by averaging 48.5 points per game. The Cavaliers have one of the ACC’s top defenses and held UCLA in check in the opener.

Outside of Charlottesville, Virginia Tech hopes to avoid a letdown against East Carolina, and Boston College hosts USC in an interesting non-conference matchup.

Florida State, Clemson and North Carolina are on bye in Week 3.

Week 3 Previews and Predictions:
Big 12Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC


ACC Week 3 Game Power Rankings


1. Louisville (-6.5) at Virginia
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network

Louisville’s road trip to Charlottesville is its first as a member of the ACC and only the third time these two teams have met. Both teams have impressed this season, as the Cardinals opened the year with a victory against Miami, while Virginia had a good showing in a loss versus UCLA. The strength of the Cavaliers resides on defense, holding opponents to 20.5 points per game. Virginia’s front seven harassed UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley in Week 1 and has recorded eight sacks in two contests. Louisville’s offensive line needs to play with more consistency after allowing five sacks in two games. The Cardinals should have extra help on Saturday with the return of running back Michael Dyer. The edge on offense is clearly in favor of Louisville. Virginia’s offense has shown brief flashes, but the Cavaliers need a low-scoring, defensive struggle to defeat the Cardinals.


Listen to the Week 3 preview podcast:

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2. East Carolina at Virginia Tech (-11)

A week after a huge win over Ohio State, Virginia Tech has to get refocused for an upset-minded East Carolina team. The Pirates nearly defeated the Hokies last year, losing 15-10 in Greenville. Much of the same core returns in 2014, including quarterback Shane Carden and receiver Justin Hardy. Carden struggled in last season’s game (19 of 31, 3 INTs), and he may not find much success once again. Opposing quarterbacks are completing only 34.6 percent of their throws against the Hokies in 2014. Making East Carolina’s upset bid even tougher is the development of Virginia Tech’s offense this year. New quarterback Michael Brewer has tossed four touchdowns in two games, and freshmen Marshawn Williams and Shai McKenzie lead an improving ground attack.

3. USC (-17) at Boston College
8 p.m. ET, ESPN

After a hard-fought victory at Stanford last week, USC makes the long trek East to play at Boston College for just the second time in program history. The Eagles opened their season with a 30-7 victory over UMass but lost to Pittsburgh 30-20 in Week 2. Second-year coach Steve Addazio is breaking in a handful of new starters on both sides of the ball, and with the new faces still getting acclimated to the lineup, this is a tough matchup for Boston College. The strength of Addazio’s team should be the defense, which has to find ways to slow down the Trojans’ offense (6.1 yards per play). Quarterback Cody Kessler has a dynamic group of receivers at his disposal, along with Buck Allen (6.4 ypc) leading the way at running back. Boston College needs a big game from its quarterback (Tyler Murphy) to keep this one close in the fourth quarter.


4. NC State (-2.5) at USF
3:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network

This game won’t garner much national attention, but there’s some intriguing between two programs in rebuild mode. NC State has played 13 true freshmen, while USF lists 10 freshmen on the two-deep for this week’s contest. Quarterback play will be under the spotlight on Saturday, as Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett is off to a fast start (5 TDs, 1 INT), and USF could be without starter Mike White due to an arm injury. If White is out, Steven Bench will start. Regardless of which quarterback starts for the Bulls, freshman running back Marlon Mack should see a heavy workload against NC State’s struggling rush defense (221 ypg).


5. Syracuse (-6.5) at Central Michigan

Syracuse should be on upset alert this Saturday. The Orange struggled in their opener against Villanova, and Central Michigan easily handled Purdue 38-17 in Week 2. The strength of the Chippewas’ offense is on the ground, led by former Michigan back Thomas Rawls (276 yards, 4.9 ypc), while quarterback Cooper Rush is completing 61.9 percent of his throws this year. Syracuse allowed 190 rushing yards in the opener, so Rawls is a good test for Scott Shafer’s defense. The Orange will have quarterback Terrel Hunt back in the lineup after he was ejected from the opener. Hunt’s dual-threat ability will test a Central Michigan defense allowing just 4.3 yards per play. 


6. Kansas at Duke (-15.5)
3:30 p.m. ET, RSN

On the basketball court, it doesn’t get much better than these two teams. But it’s a different story on the gridiron, as Duke is coming off a Coastal Division title, while Kansas has just five wins since 2012. The Jayhawks struggled in their opener against SEMO, while the Blue Devils have cruised to a 2-0 start. Duke quarterback Anthony Boone is off to a fast start (5 TDs, 0 INTs), and he will test the strength of Kansas’ defense – the secondary. The Jayhawks rushed for 261 yards in the opener, which is a concern for the Blue Devils after the preseason injury to standout linebacker Kelby Brown. Kansas is making small gains under coach Charlie Weis, but unless quarterback Montell Cozart makes a big jump in passing production this week, an upset isn’t in the cards.  


7. Arkansas State at Miami (-16.5)
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU

With a road trip to Nebraska ahead next week, Miami needs to work out the kinks in its offense against Arkansas State. The Red Wolves lost 34-19 to Tennessee last week, but the Hurricanes can’t afford to take this game lightly. Arkansas State’s offense is averaging 5.7 yards per play and is led by dynamic quarterback Fredi Knighten. The Red Wolves will test Miami’s defense – a unit that has shown some improvement after allowing 26.8 points per game in 2013. But the Hurricanes offense will be a handful for Arkansas State, especially with running back Duke Johnson rounding into form, and quarterback Brad Kaaya gaining a better grasp of the offense in his third career start.


8. Georgia Southern at Georgia Tech (-20)
12 p.m. ET, RSN

Georgia Southern fell one point shy of an upset over NC State in Week 1, and the Eagles will have another opportunity at an upset against Georgia Tech. Georgia Southern also runs an option attack, so the forward pass won’t be utilized much in this one. The Eagles need a big performance from running back Matt Breida (8.2 ypc) and quarterback Kevin Ellison (5.6 ypc) to test a Georgia Tech rush defense that is allowing 183.5 rushing yards (yes, it’s only two games) per contest. This game is a critical tune-up for the Yellow Jackets, as conference matchups against Virginia Tech, Miami, Duke and North Carolina are up next. Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson coached at Georgia Southern from 1997-01 and won two FCS national championships.


9. Wake Forest at Utah State (-14.5)
7 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network

The Demon Deacons broke into the win column for the first time under new coach Dave Clawson by defeating Gardner-Webb 23-7 last Saturday. Freshman quarterback John Wolford showed signs of improvement in his second start, completing 30 of 38 throws for 291 yards and two scores. Utah State’s defense was one of the best in the Mountain West last year but lost standout linebacker Kyler Fackrell in the opener and is breaking in four new starters in the secondary. The Aggies have yet to get on track on offense, as quarterback Chuckie Keeton (47.7%, 1 TD) is still trying to shake off the rust from missing a chunk of 2013 with a torn ACL.


10. Pittsburgh (-26) at FIU
Noon ET, Fox Sports 1

This one could get ugly. Pittsburgh is off to a fast start, while FIU lost to FCS opponent Bethune-Cookman in Week 1. The Panthers should use a heavy dose of running back James Conner (366 yards) and receiver Tyler Boyd (3 TDs) against a FIU defense with five new starters in the front seven. The Panthers’ offense is led by two freshmen: Quarterback Alex McGough and running back Alex Gardner.

Week 3 ACC Predictions

Louisville (-6.5) at UVAUL 35-21UL 27-20UL 27-20UL 30-20
ECU (+11) at Va. TechVT 31-10VT 30-17VT 34-17VT 31-22
USC (-17) at BCUSC 35-14USC 41-17USC 38-17USC 30-20
NC State (-2.5) at USFUSF 14-10USF 28-24USF 27-24USF 24-20
Syracuse (+6.5) at CMUSU 17-10SU 31-24SU 31-27CMU 21-20
Kansas (+15.5) at DukeDuke 28-10Duke 43-15Duke 38-17Duke 34-10
Ark. State (+16.5) at MiamiMiami 21-10Miami 31-21Miami 34-20Miami 34-21
Ga. Southern (+20) at Ga. TechGT 35-14GT 34-17GT 38-20GT 37-20
WF (+14.5) at Utah StateUSU 21-17USU 31-28USU 31-17USU 23-21
Pitt (-26) at FIUPitt 49-7Pitt 45-14Pitt 52-7Pitt 41-0
Last Week:11-111-111-111-1


ACC 2014 Week 3 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 11, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-2014-week-3-preview-and-predictions

Many are talking about how weak the Week 3 slate looks nationally. While there’s only one Top 25 matchup in any conference, the Big 12 only has one “bad” game this weekend.


There’s an intense in-state rivalry. There are clashes of style with the SEC. There’s a top 10 team coming to The Lone Star State. There are three bouts with the Big Ten. And there’s Baylor. Even Kansas has an intriguing game this weekend.

Week 3 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Big 12 Week 3 Game Power Rankings


1. UCLA (-8) vs Texas
8 p.m., FOX, Arlington

While UCLA is looking for a complete performance from both sides of the ball (in the same game), Texas is looking for answers all over the roster. The Bruins are a known commodity with a proven playmaker at quarterback and several stars on defense. Longhorns quarterback Tyrone Swoopes wasn’t terrible in his debut against BYU but Texas still has glaring questions under center — and most every other position on the offense. The defense, supposed to be a strength, needs to play like it did in Week 1 (94 yds allowed) rather than how it did last weekend (41 pts). Both offensive lines are a concern and both defensive lines have future NFL players, so whichever team protects the quarterback better will leave Arlington a winner.


Listen to the Week 3 preview podcast:

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2. Arkansas (+2) at Texas Tech
3:30 p.m., ABC

This is an awesome battle of tempo and style that should be exciting all the way to the wire. Arkansas will bring in one of the most powerful rushing attacks in the country at 324.0 yards per game after two weeks. Meanwhile, David Webb is sixth nationally with 730 yards passing in two games for Texas Tech. Kliff Kingsbury needs a more disciplined performance from his team as Tech’s 25 penalties rank 126th nationally and are last in the Big 12 in turnover margin (-3). If Tech doesn’t play a cleaner game and doesn’t get freshman running back Justin Stockton (12.4 ypc) the ball, the Hogs will physically dominate the trenches and leave Lubbock with a win. This is a critical test for a Red Raiders team that appears to have the same issues it did to end last season.


3. Tennessee (+20.5) at Oklahoma
8 p.m., ABC

The Volunteers have two wins but have yet to get any push up front on offense, ranking 91st in the nation in rushing. The Sooners have been excellent against the run and are playing elite defense, ranking 13th nationally in stopping the ground game. Trevor Knight obviously needs to play well against a much improved defense that has been excellent on third down (7-of-31), but the line of scrimmage figures to be the biggest factor and Oklahoma appears to have a major advantage in this department on both sides of the ball. Bob Stoops has been railing on the SEC because he knows his team should get a relatively easy win against one of the conference's lower-tier teams that still could wind up in a bowl game by season’s end. There is a reason the Vols are a three-touchdown underdog.


4. West Virginia (+3.5) at Maryland
Noon, BTN

This game has gotten dramatically more interesting after two weeks of play. The Terps, who will be wearing these uniforms, won this contest 37-0 a year ago and are coming off a hard-fought win over USF on the road. West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett has been a different player this year, throwing for 713 yards and no interceptions in two games thus far. Fans on both sides are expecting a much closer battle this time around. In order to keep it close, the Mountaineers must be focused on stopping a host of talented Maryland playmakers, including quarterback C.J. Brown (6 total TD), receiver Stefon Diggs (12 receptions) and running backs Wes Brown and Brandon Ross.


5. Iowa State (+10) at Iowa
3:30 p.m., ESPN

One of the more underrated in-state rivalries in college football began back in 1894 and has been played 61 times. Paul Rhoads is 2-3 against Kirk Ferentz but won the last trip into Iowa City in ugly fashion 9-6. Both teams have struggled in the early going this fall, as Iowa has needed late heroics to reach 2-0. Iowa State played much better football against Kansas State than it did in Week 1 but still couldn’t score in the fourth quarter. This is a classic rivalry that could go either way depending on quarterback play and third-down defense — two areas where Iowa appears to have a significant advantage. Even the campus Police Departments are getting into fray.


6. Minnesota (+14.5) at TCU
4 p.m., FS1

The Gophers are one of the few Big Ten teams that have looked solid in both outings this fall, as the running game has averaged 233.0 yards per game. Normally, the defense gets the headlines for Gary Patterson but the TCU coach is drawing attention for his QB depth chart instead. Trevone Boykin — who threw for over 300 yards in the season opener — is a co-starter with Matt Joeckel. It appears this battle is far from over and whoever plays better against a well-coached but potentially overmatched Minnesota squad this weekend could take control of the job. Stopping UM tailback David Cobb is the key for TCU on Saturday.


7. UTSA (off) at Oklahoma State
7 p.m.

Daxx Garman played well (over 15 yards per completion) in backup duty last weekend and appears to have a better skill set for Mike Gundy’s offense than J.W. Walsh. Texas-San Antonio has played excellent defense, due in large part to a stout defensive line, against Arizona and Houston as the Roadrunners figure to be a much better test for Garman (or whomever plays QB) than Southwest Missouri State. Many are suggesting Garman should be the unquestioned starter but the fact remains he needs to prove himself against more legitimate competition before he’s handed the keys to Gundy’s Air Raid attack. UTSA is a solid step up for OSU but shouldn’t pose a threat for the Pokes in Stillwater.


8. Baylor (-34) at Buffalo
Fri., 8 p.m., ESPN

Bryce Petty’s vertebrae are the only real story in what should be a very lopsided Bears win. Petty will start after missing all of last week’s game and the offense didn’t miss a beat. Art Briles' top concern this weekend should be keeping his QB upright and returning home healthy.


9. Kansas (+15) at Duke
3:30 p.m., ESPN3

Charlie Weis and David Cutcliffe know each other quite well. The Kansas coach hired the Duke coach while at Notre Dame but the two never coached together due to health complications for Cutcliffe. This time, Cutt appears to be the boss, as his Duke team is surging after two easy wins. Stopping Anthony Boone will be a tall order for the Jayhawks on the road.


Off: Kansas State


Big 12 Predictions:


 Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
UCLA (-8) vs. TexasUCLA, 31-17UCLA, 24-10UCLA, 35-10UCLA, 27-13
Ark. (+2) at T. TechArk., 30-27Ark., 34-30Ark., 42-38Ark., 38-34
Tenn. (+20.5) at Okla.Okla., 38-17Okla., 33-13Okla., 35-14Okla., 38-13
W. Virginia (+3.5) at Mary.Mary., 34-31Mary., 27-24WVU, 35-24WVU, 34-31
Iowa St (+10) at IowaIowa, 31-21Iowa, 21-10Iowa, 21-17Iowa, 27-17
Minn. (+14.5) at TCUTCU, 27-20Minn., 24-21TCU, 17-10TCU 30-20
UTSA (off) at Okla. StOSU, 31-17OSU, 30-17OSU, 35-28OSU 38-24
Baylor (-34) at BuffaloBaylor, 49-10Baylor, 41-0Baylor, 56-10Baylor 52-20
Kansas (+15) at DukeDuke, 43-15Duke, 34-10Duke, 28-10Duke, 38-17
Last Week:8-08-08-08-0


Big 12 2014 Week 3 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 11, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-2014-week-3-preview-and-predictions

Washington State and Colorado notwithstanding, the Pac-12 has had a very successful first two weeks of the season.


Oregon looks like a national title team, all of the other contenders have survived and stayed unblemished in the non-conference (UCLA, Oregon State, Washington) and the rest of the league (Arizona State, Arizona, Cal, Utah) has looked better than anticipated.


This weekend should feature much of the same as some teams look to survive key road non-conference games and contenders aim to hold serve at home against overmatched opponents.

Week 3 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | SEC

Pac-12 Week 3 Game Power Rankings


1. UCLA (-8) vs Texas
8 p.m., FOX, Arlington

While UCLA is looking for a complete performance from both sides of the ball (in the same game), Texas is looking for answers all over the roster. The Bruins are a known commodity with a proven playmaker at quarterback and several stars on defense. Longhorns quarterback Tyrone Swoopes wasn’t terrible in his debut against BYU but Texas still has glaring questions under center — and most every other position on offense. The defense, supposed to be a strength, needs to play like it did in Week 1 (94 yds allowed) rather than how it did last weekend (41 pts). Both offensive lines are a concern and both defensive lines have future NFL players, so whichever team protects the quarterback better will leave Arlington a winner.


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2. Nevada (+14.5) at Arizona
11 p.m., P12 Net

These two have only played once since World War II, but the 2012 New Mexico Bowl was one for the ages. The 49-48 showdown was an epic, back-and-forth affair between two great offenses and that figures to be the case once again this weekend. Arizona won a hard-fought game against UTSA in San Antonio last Saturday and has had extra time to prepare for a Wolf Pack defense that was excellent against Washington State in Week 2. Anu Solomon (358.5 ypg) and Cody Fajardo (290.5 ypg) are two of the most entertaining quarterbacks in the nation and both should deliver fireworks late night on Saturday. Look for Rich Rodriguez’ defense to get key stops in the second half, pushing his non-conference record in Tucson to a perfect 11-0.


3. USC (-17) at Boston College
8 p.m., ESPN

Anytime the Trojans play on the East Coast, it’s must-see TV. That said, the Eagles' defensive front better be ready for a heavy dose of Buck Allen and Justin Davis. Boston College allowed 302 yards rushing — 213 to James Conner — against Pittsburgh last weekend and show no signs of being able to stop USC's powerful rushing attack. Allen has been excellent on the ground, averaging 6.4 yards per carry and 143.5 yards per game in the early going. This says nothing of the elite collection of wideouts Cody Kessler has at his disposal. The late kickoff should help USC stave off any remaining jet lag from the cross-country journey.


4. Illinois (+13) at Washington
4 p.m., FOX

The Huskies defense will be without star cornerback Marcus Peters this weekend against what is developing into one of the Big Ten’s better passing attack. Neither team has looked good against inferior competition but both quarterbacks exploded last week with big numbers. Wes Lunt threw for 456 yards in a narrow win over Western Kentucky while Cyler Miles scored four times and led his team to 59 points in his season debut. The biggest difference between these two should be the play of UW’s front seven on defense. If this group is effective, Washington should win easily.


5. Arizona St (-15.5) at Colorado
10 p.m., ESPNU

The conference opener for both should be closer than the first two meetings between Todd Graham and the Buffaloes. Taylor Kelly and Graham have scored over 50 points and rolled up more than 530 yards in each of their two games against Colorado. Tailback D.J. Foster has given Kelly a tremendous counterpart, as the star tailback is averaging an absurd 10.7 yards per carry on 34 attempts (363 yds, 4 TD). Meanwhile, the Buffs haven’t looked good in either game despite adequate play from sophomore quarterback Sefo Luifau (559 yds, 5 TD, INT). Look for Luifau to target that reworked ASU secondary with talented peripheral weapons Nelson Spruce (17 rec., 249 yds, 4 TD) and Shay Fields. Mike MacIntrye has to hope to outscore Arizona State — which is much easier said than done.


6. Army (+28.5) at Stanford
5 p.m., P12 Net

The story coming out of Palo Alto last weekend wasn’t that Stanford lost, it was how they lost. In 2014, the Cardinal has made 11 trips into the red zone that have resulted in a total of three touchdowns. That has to change against Army this Saturday. The good news is the Stanford defense is picking up right where it left off by allowing just one total touchdown in 25 defensive possessions. The long trip out West for the Knights doesn’t help their chances either.


7. Wyoming (+43) at Oregon
2 p.m., P12 Net

The only thing the Cowboys can hope for here is a complete and total letdown of focus for the Ducks after their huge win over Michigan State. Wyoming is unbeaten but topped Montana by just five points and needed 10 fourth quarter points to beat Air Force by four last week. Oregon scored almost as many points in the final 19 minutes against Sparty (28) as the Cowboys have scored in two games (34). This will be ugly.


8. Portland St at Washington St
8 p.m., P12 Net

After two weeks, there are few teams in the nation more disappointing than the Cougars. The defense was atrocious in Week 1 and the offense was ineffective in Week 2. With eight (maybe nine) potential bowl teams left on the schedule, this is the last “guaranteed” win on Wazzu's schedule.


Off: Oregon State, Utah


Pac-12 Predictions:


 Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
UCLA (-8) at TexasUCLA, 31-17UCLA, 24-10UCLA, 35-10UCLA, 27-13
Nevada (+14.5) at ArizonaZona, 34-20Zona, 41-24Zona, 41-14Zona 41-30
USC (-17) at B. CollegeUSC, 41-17USC, 30-20USC, 35-14USC, 34-17
Illinois (+13) at Wash.Wash., 44-24Wash., 33-27Wash., 42-28Wash., 45-31
Ariz. St (-15.5) at Colo.ASU, 45-21ASU, 37-17ASU, 42-10ASU, 45-17
Army (+28.5) at Stan.Stan., 33-7Stan., 31-10Stan., 28-14Stan., 34-17
Wyo. (+43) at OregonOregon, 51-7Oregon, 41-7Oregon, 56-10Oregon, 55-7
Port. St at WazzuWSU, 34-14WSU, 41-17WSU, 35-7WSU, 48-13
Last Week:9-210-19-28-3


Pac-12 2014 Week 3 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 11, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/sec-2014-week-3-preview-and-predictions

There’s a huge a battle in the SEC East as Georgia, a decisive and impressive Week 1 winner over Clemson, heads to South Carolina. The Bulldogs will be looking for their first win in Columbia. Elsewhere, Arkansas makes the trip to Lubbock to play Texas Tech for the first time in over two decades; Tennessee visits Oklahoma in what figures to be a tough matchup for the young Vols; and Kentucky and Florida meet in the Swamp in an intriguing early SEC matchup.

Week 3 Previews and Predictions
ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12

SEC Week 3 Game Power Rankings


1. Georgia (-6) at South Carolina
3:30 ET, CBS

They’ve only played one game, but the Georgia Bulldogs have been one of the most impressive teams in the nation thus far. Led by arguably the deepest backfield in college football and a talented front seven on defense, Georgia has the look of a team that can compete for a spot in the College Football Playoff. The impending trip to South Carolina doesn’t look as treacherous as it did in the preseason — thanks to the Gamecocks’ rough start to 2014 — but playing in Williams-Brice Stadium has been a nightmare in recent seasons for Mark Richt’s club. Georgia has lost two straight in Columbia, including a 35–7 debacle two years ago when the Dawgs were 5–0 and ranked No. 5 in the nation. Todd Gurley, then a freshman, was held to 39 yards on 13 carries on that night. Don’t expect that to happen again.


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2. Arkansas (+2.5) at Texas Tech
3:30 ET, ABC

These two old Southwest Conference rivals meet for the first time since 1991, Arkansas’ final season in the league before bolting for the SEC. Texas Tech is a very shaky 2–0 after alarmingly close wins over Central Arkansas (42–35) and at UTEP (30–26). The Red Raiders have struggled to stop the run, allowing an average of 53 rushing attempts (fourth-worst in the nation) and 224.5 rushing yards per game. That’s not good news with Arkansas looming. The Hogs feature a loaded backfield and a big offensive line that specializes in run-blocking. This could be a touch matchup for the Red Raiders.


3. Tennessee (+20.5) at Oklahoma

After taking care of business against two solid mid-major programs (Utah State and Arkansas State), Tennessee begins a treacherous stretch with a trip to play Oklahoma. The Sooners are one of the most talented teams in the nation — and they have a ton of experience in key spots. Tennessee, too, has a lot of talent, but the vast majority is painfully inexperienced. The obvious problem for the Vols — in this matchup and going forward — is on the offensive line, by far the team’s weakest unit. Quarterback Justin Worley and the talented skill players will have precious little time to operate against the Sooners’ defensive front.      


4. Kentucky (+18) at Florida
7:30 ET, SEC Network

The competition has been weak, but the early reports are promising for both Kentucky and Florida, the two worst offensive teams — by total yards and points scored — in the SEC last season. Kentucky has found the right quarterback to operate Neal Brown’s “Air Raid” attack in sophomore Patrick Towles. Florida has had the right quarterback, but Jeff Driskel has not been able to stay healthy. The Gators are the heavy favorite for a reason, but there is belief around the SEC that Kentucky is vastly improved in Mark Stoops’ second season. Don’t expect the Cats to win this game, but it would be a surprise if they got blown out.


5. UCF (+9.5) at Missouri
12 ET, SEC Network

This game would have more meaning had Penn State not connected on a last-second field goal to beat UCF in Week 1. Still, the Knights are a solid team that should be even better in its second game now that they have settled on a quarterback. Pete DiNovo won the job in the preseason but was ineffective against Penn State. Justin Holman came off the bench and threw for 204 yards and a TD on only 14 attempts. UCF, however, will need to get its running game going after struggling mightily in Week 1. Missouri very quietly posted a dominating 49–24 win on the road against a dangerous Toledo team. Maty Mauk, an Ohio native, threw for 325 yards and five touchdowns to lead an offense that piled up over 500 yards. I’m not sold on the Tigers defensively yet, but the offense has the weapons to thrive in 2014.


6. Mississippi State (+14.5) at South Alabama
4 ET, ESPNews

After struggling a bit with UAB last weekend, Mississippi State heads to Mobile to play South Alabama in what figures to be the biggest game in the five-plus years of Jaguar football. Joey Jones has done a tremendous job making this program relevant in such a short time. The Jags went 6–6 overall and 4–3 in the Sun Belt in 2013 and are projected to be one of the better teams in the league in ’14. They opened their season with a solid 10-point win at Kent State last weekend. Mississippi State escaped last week with a 47–34 win over UAB despite giving up 548 total yards, including 435 through the air. South Alabama has the personnel to do some damage on offense. This might not be easy for MSU.


7. Louisiana-Lafayette (+27) at Ole Miss
4 ET, SEC Network

It flew under the national radar, but one of the most surprising scores through the first two weeks of the season was Louisiana-Lafayette’s 48–20 loss at home to Louisiana Tech. The Ragin’ Cajuns must regroup in a hurry with a trip to Oxford on the horizon. Ole Miss wasn’t sharp in the first half of its win against Boise State but has been outstanding since, pulling away from Boise for a 35–13 win and dominating Vanderbilt in a 41–3 victory in Nashville. If quarterback Bo Wallace limits the turnovers, the Ole Miss offense will be one of the SEC’s best in 2014.


8. ULM (+31) at LSU

ULM is 2–0 with seven-point wins over Wake Forest (possibly the worst major-conference team in the nation) and Idaho (one of the worst FBS teams in the nation). Now, the Warhawks make the short trip to Baton Rouge to face a very young but very talented LSU team. True freshman tailback Leonard Fournette stole the headlines in the preseason, but sophomore wide receiver Travin Dural has been the best player on the LSU offense through two games. Dural is averaging a staggering 48.5 yards on his six receptions and has already scored four touchdowns.


9. Rice (+31) at Texas A&M

Rice has a brutal two-game stretch to open the season. The Owls lost at Notre Dame, 48–17, in Week 1 and now head to Texas A&M. The Aggies have been perhaps the most impressive offensive team in the nation in the early going. With an outstanding offensive line, a group of quality running backs and wide receivers, all that was needed was someone to emerge at quarterback. Clearly, that has happened in the form of sophomore Kenny Hill. This will not be close.


10. Southern Miss (+48) at Alabama

It’s difficult to envision a scenario in which Southern Miss’ offense scores more than a touchdown in this game. The Golden Eagles were held to 283 yards and zero points by a Mississippi State defense that allowed 548 points and 34 points the ensuing week to UAB. Alabama’s cadre of elite tailbacks will post some gaudy stats in Tuscaloosa this weekend.


11. UMass (+16.5) at Vanderbilt
12 ET, ESPN3

Vanderbilt has scored a total of 10 points in two games yet is favored by 16.5 points over UMass. Seems a bit strange, but the boys in Vegas usually know what they are doing. The Commodores’ search for a quarterback continues — true freshman Wade Freebeck entered the competition this week — but Vanderbilt has found its answer at tailback. Ralph Webb has 165 yards (37 percent of the team’s offense) in two games and has emerged as a team leader as a redshirt freshman.


Week 3 SEC Predictions

 David FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light
UMass at VanderbiltVU, 21-17VU, 15-11VU, 31-20VU, 27-14
UCF at MissouriMU, 35-24MU, 31-21MU, 34-24MU, 34-20
Arkansas at Texas TechUA, 42-38UA, 30-27UA, 38-34UA, 34-30
Georgia at S. CarolinaUGa, 35-21UGa, 31-30UGa, 31-24UGa, 33-22
Miss St. at S. AlabamaMSU, 35-14MSU, 44-24MSU, 38-20MSU, 30-17
UL Lafayette at Ole MissUM, 42-24UM, 34-14UM, 45-20UM, 47-17
So. Miss at AlabamaUA, 52-7UA, 45-7UA, 55-7UA, 47-0
ULM at LSULSU 35-10LSU, 31-7LSU, 45-10LSU, 41-13
Kentucky at FloridaUF, 28-10UF, 30-20UF, 31-13UF, 28-17
Tennessee at OklahomaOU, 35-14OU, 38-17OU, 38-13OU, 33-13
Rice at Texas A&MA&M, 42-28A&M, 52-17A&M 55-17A&M, 51-17
Last Week12-012-012-012-0


SEC Week 3 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 11, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Big Ten, News
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2014-week-3-preview-and-predictions


After two weeks, the top of the Big Ten has lost to Oregon, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and LSU. At the same time, the bottom of the league has lost to Central Michigan and Northern Illinois.

Seven teams are 2-0, but only one was in the AP preseason top 25 (Nebraska). This is a league grasping for solutions before third week of the season. Simply put, many of the coaches are at a loss.

“Keep recruiting,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “There’s no easy answer.”

The Big Ten won’t be able to repair all the damage to its Playoff hopes in one week, but it can save face. Even without a game against an Oregon, Notre Dame or LSU this week, Big Ten teams have key non-conference games that may be must-win territory just to avoid complete embarrassment.

Conference newcomer Maryland draws a West Virginia team that put pressure on Alabama in the passing game. After narrow wins over Northern Iowa and Ball State, Iowa faces its in-state rival. And Minnesota takes its stout running game to Fort Worth to face a formidable TCU defense.

At the same time, one Big Ten program has reason for optimism after Penn State learned the NCAA and Big Ten lifted postseason restrictions just in time for its league opener against Rutgers.

Week 3 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big 12 | Pac-12 SEC

Week 3 Big Ten Game Power Rankings
All games Saturday. All times Eastern


1. West Virginia at Maryland
Noon, Big Ten Network

With a group of healthy playmakers, Maryland hoped its offense would be the most dynamic of the Randy Edsall era. That hasn’t happened quite yet. Edsall says quarterback C.J. Brown last is trying to be perfect and wide receiver Stefon Diggs is navigating “unfair expectations,” as Edsall says. Brown turned the ball over three times against USF last week, and Diggs is averaging just 8.6 yards per catch. Maryland probably can’t afford another six-turnover game as the Terrapins had against USF last week. West Virginia will test a veteran Maryland defense that has allowed 3.6 yards per play against overmatched competition.


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2. Penn State at Rutgers
8 p.m., Big Ten Network

Few games have become more intriguing thanks to the last two weeks — Penn State now has the possibility of a bowl game and conference championship game this season, and Rutgers proved it has a pulse with a win over Washington State in Seattle in Week 1. In a wild turn of events, Penn State may have the best Playoff profile of any team in the Big Ten with wins over UCF and Akron. The Nittany Lions, though, have yet to put together a complete game on offense, averaging 2.8 yards per carry this season. This could be an important series in the Big Ten as Penn State aims to recruit New Jersey with regularity, but the two programs haven’t faced each other since 1995. Penn State is 22-2 all time agains the Scarlet Knights.

3. Iowa State at Iowa
3:30 p.m., ESPN

After two weeks, Kirk Ferentz probably didn’t envision quarterback Jake Rudock leading his team in rushing (53 yards) and needing 93 pass attempts to beat Northern Iowa and Ball State. The Hawkeyes offense is a major concern against rival Iowa State, especially with uncertainty surrounding star offensive tackle Brandon Scherff. Asked directly if Scherff had knee surgery as reported by KCRG in Cedar Rapids, Ferentz did not offer a definitive answer. Scherff returned to play and spoke during postgame interviews. Defensive end Drew Ott, who had 13 tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss against Ball State, was involved in a scooter accident but is expected to play against the 0-2 Cyclones.

4. Minnesota at TCU
4 p.m., Fox Sports 1

Who would have thought the odd Minnesota-TCU game would have storylines besides the namesake of two individual postseason awards (Bronko Nagurski of Minnesota vs. Davey O’Brien of TCU)? Minnesota coach Jerry Kill was TCU coach Gary Patterson’s best man, and Gophers defensive coaches routinely visit with the Horned Frogs during the offseason. “I didn’t want to play it.” Kill said. “No question about that and I think he had the same feeling. ... But I’m not the boss. I’m the football coach.” From an on-field standpoint, this will be an intriguing matchup of running back David Cobb (291 rushing yards in two games) against a traditionally stout TCU defense.
5. Nebraska at Fresno State
10:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network

Nebraska heads West after a close call with McNeese State in which the Cornhuskers needed a wild catch-and-run by Ameer Abdullah to seal the win. Where to start? Nebraska’s defense gave up two fourth-quarter touchdowns on a pair of extended drives. The Cornhuskers need defensive end Randy Gregory to return from a knee injury to improve a pass rush that has recorded two sacks this season. Nebraska will try to get its other star player, Abdullah, more involved. Before his game-winning TD, Abdullah had accounted for 92 yards from scrimmage on 19 touches. Fresno State might not be a vintage Bulldogs squad — they’ve been outscored 111-40 in two games this season.

6. Indiana at Bowling Green

Is this a new era for the Indiana defense or the product of a weak opponent in Week 1? Probably the latter, but the Hoosiers have to be encouraged by holding Indiana State to 3.0 yards per play and recording four sacks. Indiana also attempted only 18 passes, the fewest of the Kevin Wilson era, while rushing for 455 yards. Meanwhile, preseason MAC favorite Bowling Green is playing without starting quarterback Matt Johnson, who is out for the season.

7. Illinois at Washington
4 p.m., Fox

For the third week in a row, a Big Ten team goes to the Pacific Northwest where Rutgers defeated Washington State and Michigan State lost to Oregon. The seasons for Illinois and Washington have played out in similar fashion, each with a close win over an FCS and a non-Power 5 opponent. That probably says more about Washington, a team picked third in the Pac-12 North, compared to Illinois, picked near the bottom of the Big 12. Illinois will hope for a shootout, putting in the game in the hands of Wes Lunt. The Oklahoma State transfer has passed for 741 yards and seven touchdowns while completing 67 percent of his passes. Washington’s may be happy to oblige after giving up 52 points in a win over Eastern Washington last week.

8. Kent State at Ohio State

Ohio State’s start against Kent State will be worth watching after the Buckeyes have come up empty on opening drives in the first two games of the season. Ohio State went four-and-out against Navy and three-and-out against Virginia Tech, contributing to a 28-13 combined deficit at halftime this season. “Maybe it’s the way we practice,” Meyer said. “I’m looking at everything. Maybe it’s the play calling. Maybe I’ve conservative with who we have in there right now, but we’re beyond that now.” Ohio State also expects Noah Spence back after he was suspended for three games dating back to the Orange Bowl due to a positive drug test.

9. Miami (Ohio) at Michigan
3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Miami (Ohio) may be just the opponent Michigan needs to see for a confidence boost after a 31-0 loss to Notre Dame. The RedHawks have lost 18 in a row, the longest active losing streak in the country. Michigan’s roster is in flux. Raymon Taylor left the Notre Dame loss with injuries, so did star receiver Devin Funchess, who tried to re-enter the game for a series after a leg injury. Five-star freshman cornerback Jabrill Peppers was on the sideline in uniform but did not play. Michigan also is working tight end Jake Butt back into the lineup after a torn ACL ended his 2013 season. He should be a boost to an offense that didn’t reach the red zone against the Irish. Starting linebacker Desmond Morgan has also been sidelined.

10. Purdue at Notre Dame
7:30 p.m., NBC

Purdue coach Darell Hazell re-opened the quarterback competition after Danny Etling went 17-of-32 for 126 yards with two interceptions in a 38-17 loss to Central Michigan. Sophomore Austin Appleby could get an extended look, but it might not make a major difference against a Notre Dame team that has won eight of the last nine meetings.

Off: Michigan State, Northwestern, Wisconsin

Week 3 Big Ten Staff Picks

 David FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light
West Va. at Maryland (-4)WVU 35-24Md 34-31WVU 34-31

Md 30-23

Indiana (-7) at Bowling GreenIU 35-17IU 38-31IU 48-24IU 41-33
Kent State at Ohio State (-32)OSU 28-10OSU 38-17OSU 45-7OSU 30-10
Miami U at Michigan (-31)Mich 35-7Mich 41-10Mich 41-13Mich 34-10
Iowa State at Iowa (-10)Iowa 21-17Iowa 31-21Iowa 27-17Iowa 21-10
Minnesota at TCU (-15)TCU 17-10TCU 27-20TCU 30-20Minn 24-21

Illinois at Washington (-12)

Wash 42-28Wash 44-24Wash 45-31Wash 33-27
Purdue at Notre Dame (-29)ND 42-7ND 44-13ND 45-10ND 34-13
Penn State at Rutgers (-4)PSU 28-17PSU 34-31PSU 27-24PSU 23-20
Nebraska at Fresno State (-11)Neb 31-10Neb 44-24Neb 45-20Neb 44-20
Last Week9-49-49-47-6
This Season21-621-621-619-8


Big Ten 2014 Week 3 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 11, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-quarterback-rankings-week-2

There’s no change atop Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings for Week 2, but for once, Peyton Manning isn’t the leading scorer. That honor goes to Matt Ryan, who dissected the Saints to the tune of a franchise-record 448 yards passing and three touchdowns. Matthew Stafford wasn’t too far behind Ryan, throwing for 346 yards and two scores and adding a rushing touchdown in the Lions’ Monday night win over the Giants. However, don’t be surprised if Manning ends up atop the leaderboard after this week since his Broncos are home against a Chiefs defense that lost All-Pro linebacker Derrick Johnson and starting defensive lineman Mike DeVito to season-ending Achilles injuries. It could be a long Sunday afternoon for Kansas City’s defense at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.


Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.


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


2014 NFL Week 2 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks


1Peyton ManningDENvs. KCCould carve up decimated Chiefs' D.
2Drew BreesNOat CLEBrowns gave up 365 yards passing.
3Andrew LuckINDvs. PHI (Mon.)MNF matchup w/ PHI could be shootout.
4Aaron RodgersGBvs. NYJEvery QB struggles against Seahawks at home.
5Matt RyanATLat CINNo. 1 scorer after franchise-record 448 yards.
6Matthew StaffordDETat CARImpressive (346-2-0, rush TD) debut in new O.
7Nick FolesPHIat IND (Mon.)Bounced back after horrible first half.
8Russell WilsonSEAat SD 
9Colin KaepernickSFvs. CHIDidn't need to do much (201-2-0) vs. DAL.
10Cam NewtonCARvs. DETExpected to return after missing opener (rib).
11Tom BradyNEat MINDolphins' pass rush roughed up Brady.
12Carson PalmerARIat NYGGot it done with his arm (304 yds.) and legs (29).
13Tony RomoDALat TENThree INTs did his team, fantasy owners no good.
14Ben RoethlisbergerPITat BAL (Thurs.)Threw for 365 yards, but just 1 TD last week.
15Jake LockerTENvs. DALSo far so good in Whisenhunt's system.
16Andy DaltonCINvs. ATL 
17Jay CutlerCHIat SFNeeds to minimize mistakes (2 INTs) vs. 49ers.
18Robert Griffin IIIWASvs. JACTexans' D harassed RG3 all day.
19Philip RiversSDvs. SEACan't afford any mistakes vs. Seahawks.
20Ryan TannehillMIAat BUFRunning game did most of work vs. NE.
21Joe FlaccoBALvs. PIT (Thurs.)Threw for 345 yards, but needed 62 PA.
22Alex SmithKCat DENGets Dwayne Bowe back this week.
23Chad HenneJACat WASQuietly put up decent numbers (266-2-0, FL).
24Geno SmithNYJat GBAccurate (23-of-28) against Raiders, but 2 TOs.
25Eli ManningNYGvs. ARINew O is a work in progress.
26Brian HoyerCLEvs. NO 
27Ryan FitzpatrickHOUat OAK 
28Matt CasselMINvs. NEVikings looked like completely different team vs. STL.


​Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points


Need more fantasy help? Visit

Fantasy Football 2014 Quarterback Rankings: Week 2
Post date: Thursday, September 11, 2014 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-wide-receiver-rankings-week-2

The brilliance that is Calvin Johnson, who checks in at No. 1 on Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings for Week 2, was on full display this past Monday night. All Johnson did was catch seven passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns in the Lions’ win over the Giants and there’s little doubt he would have done more damage had be been targeted more. Megatron wasn’t the only wide receiver to post big numbers in Week 1 either as A.J. Green, Antonio Brown, Cordarrelle Patterson, Steve Smith and undrafted rookie Allen Hurns all finished with at least 21.3 fantasy points (Athlon scoring). Hurns did most of his damage in the first quarter (3 rec., 101 yards, 3 TDs) while Patterson had three carries for 102 yards rushing, including a highlight-reel 67-yard TD dash. 


Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.


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


2014 NFL Week 2 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers


1Calvin JohnsonDETat CARUnstoppable (7-164-2) on MNF vs. Giants.
2Demaryius ThomasDENvs. KCQuiet opener (4-48) for Thomas.
3A.J. GreenCINvs. ATLQuiet game until highlight-reel 77-yard GW-TD.
4Julio JonesATLat CINFoot wasn't an issue (7-116) vs. Saints.
5Jordy NelsonGBvs. NYJFairly effective (9-83) vs. Legion of Boom.
6Dez BryantDALat TENDez out of shape to start the season?
7Antonio BrownPITat BAL (Thurs.)Explosive (23.2 ypc, TD) vs. Browns.
8Brandon MarshallCHIat SFCutler's favorite target found end zone vs. Bills.
9Andre JohnsonHOUat OAKClicked w/ Fitzpatrick, but no red zone looks.
10Randall CobbGBvs. NYJ 
11Emmanuel SandersDENvs. KCTargeted nine times (6-77) in Broncos' debut.
12Alshon JefferyCHIat SFHopefully hamstring won't be a long-term issue.
13Percy HarvinSEAat SDSeahawks will find a way to get ball in Harvin's hands.
14Michael FloydARIat NYGPalmer's favorite target (5-119) on MNF vs. SD.
15Vincent JacksonTBvs. STLBucs' passing game sluggish out of the gates.
16Cordarrelle PattersonMINvs. NEPut up 100 rushing yards on just 3 carries.
17Roddy WhiteATLat CINCaught TD pass, but also banged up his knee vs. NO.
18Pierre GarconWASvs. JACRedskins' new O still a work in progress.
19Jeremy MaclinPHIat IND (Mon.)Just 4 catches, but went for 97 yards and a TD.
20Julian EdelmanNEat MIN 
21Reggie WayneINDvs. PHI (Mon.) 
22Mike WallaceMIAat BUFSolid start (7-81-1) in new offense.
23Marques ColstonNOat CLEBrandin Cooks real threat to Colston's targets.
24Larry FitzgeraldARIat NYGSaw just 4 targets (1-22) vs. Chargers.
25Kendall WrightTENvs. DALTD catch in Week 1 very good sign.
26DeSean JacksonWASvs. JACHow he's used in passing game worth watching.
27Victor CruzNYGvs. ARIHe and Eli didn't click Monday night in new O.
28Keenan AllenSDvs. SEASEA secondary could limit looks.
29Brandin CooksNOat CLERookie offered instant impact (7-77-1) vs. Falcons.
30Eric DeckerNYJat GBRooting against Broncos, but probably misses Peyton.
31Torrey SmithBALvs. PIT (Thurs.)Other Smith and Pitta targeted more than Torrey.
32Michael CrabtreeSFvs. CHIPlayed while nursing calf injury, but didn't do much.
33T.Y. HiltonINDvs. PHI (Mon.)Role unclear with Wayne and TE Allen back.
34DeAndre HopkinsHOUat OAKJohnson had more yards, but Hopkins got the TD.
35Kelvin BenjaminCARvs. DETScores TD in first game and w/o Cam at QB.
36Justin HunterTENvs. DALAveraged 21 yards per catch, but just 3 rec.
37Golden TateDETat CARRespectable (6-93) debut with Lions.
38Markus WheatonPITat BAL (Thurs.)Big Ben's new deep threat (6-97 vs. CLE)?
39Terrance WilliamsDALat TEN 
40Anquan BoldinSFvs. CHILed 49er wideouts w/ Crabtree hobbled by calf.
41Dwayne BoweKCat DENBack after one-game suspension.
42Greg JenningsMINvs. NEHooks up with Cassel yet again for a TD.
43Malcom FloydSDat NYGTriumphant return to the field w/ 4 rec. and TD.
44Steve SmithBALvs. PIT (Thurs.)80-yard TD highlighted huge (7-118) Ravens' debut.
45Andrew HawkinsCLEvs. NONo. 1 WR for Hoyer as long as Gordon is suspended.
46Cecil ShortsJACat WASDid not play (hamstring) in Week 1. Watch status.
47Allen HurnsJACat WASBig 1st Q (3-101-2), but quiet afterwards vs. PHI.
48Brian QuickSTLat TBRams' top target (7-99) in Week 1.
49Mike EvansTBvs. STL 
50Riley CooperPHIat IND (Mon.) 
51Marqise LeeJACat WASRookie led way with 10 targets (6-62) last week.
52Sammy WatkinsBUFvs. MIAVery quiet (3-31) debut for rookie.
53Jarrett BoykinGBvs. NYJDrew the Richard Sherman card last week.
54Kenbrell ThompkinsNEat MIN 
55Rod StreaterOAKvs. HOU 
56James JonesOAKvs. HOU 
57Donnie AveryKCat DEN 
58Rueben RandleNYGvs. ARIDreadful (2 targets, 1 catch) opening effort.
59Tavon AustinSTLat TBHad as many carries as catches (3 each).
60Danny AmendolaNEat MIN 
61Doug BaldwinSEAat SD 
62Hakeem NicksINDvs. PHI (Mon.)Already more TDs (1) than all of last season.
63Brian HartlineMIAat BUF 
64Andre CaldwellDENvs. KCApparently ahead of rookie Latimer on depth chart.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:


All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points


Need more fantasy help? Visit

Fantasy Football 2014 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 2
Post date: Thursday, September 11, 2014 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-tight-end-rankings-week-2

Jimmy Graham is still king of the mountain as it relates to Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings for Week 2, but last week belonged to Julius Thomas. Denver’s tight end caught three touchdown passes in the second quarter, finishing his night’s work with seven catches and 104 yards. A total of 13 tight ends scored in Week 1, but Thomas and San Francisco’s Vernon Davis (2 vs. Dallas) were the only ones who found the end zone more than once. New England’s Rob Gronkowski was one of those to find paydirt, but that was the only highlight in an otherwise dull effort (4 rec., 44 yds.) as Gronk played limited snaps. Will that change this week against Minnesota? We shall see. 


Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.


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


2014 NFL Week 2 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends


1Jimmy GrahamNOat CLENo TD, but 10 targets, 8 catches vs. Falcons.
2Julius ThomasDENvs. KCAnother monster (7-104-3) opener.
3Rob GronkowskiNEat MINSaw limited snaps, but made most of them.
4Greg OlsenCARvs. DETDidn't miss a beat (8-83-1) w/ Anderson at QB.
5Vernon DavisSFvs. CHIHalf of his catches (4) went for TDs.
6Dennis PittaBALvs. PIT (Thurs.)Tied S. Smith w/ 15 targets (10-83) vs. CLE.
7Zach ErtzPHIat IND (Mon.)Only 3 grabs, but went for 77 yards and TD.
8Jordan CameronCLEvs. NOMay not play (shoulder). Watch closely.
9Jason WittenDALat TENOnly caught two passes for 14 yards vs. SF.
10Martellus BennettCHIat SFSaw more looks after WRs got hurt.
11Kyle RudolphMINvs. NEOne game in already has first TD.
12Delanie WalkerTENvs. DALCaught one of Locker's 2 TD passes.
13Heath MillerPITat BAL (Thurs.) 
14Charles ClayMIAat BUFWhat is his role in Fins' new offense?
15Antonio GatesSDvs. SEAStill a favorite target of Rivers.
16Travis KelceKCat DENBig-play ability, but depends on snaps.
17Dwayne AllenINDvs. PHI (Mon.)Returns to field and produces 41-yard TD.
18Jermaine GreshamCINvs. ATLEifert (elbow) placed on short-term IR.
19Ladarius GreenSDvs. SEA 
20Coby FleenerINDvs. PHI (Mon.) 
21Jared CookSTLat TB 
22Levine ToiloloATLat CINRyan's new TE scores TD in first game.
23Marcedes LewisJACat WAS 
24Tim WrightNEat MIN 
25Larry DonnellNYGvs. ARIFormer UDFA dominates snaps, catches TD.
26Niles PaulWASvs. JACJ. Reed (hamstring) out for Week 2.


Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points


Need more fantasy help? Visit

Fantasy Football 2014 Tight End Rankings: Week 2
Post date: Thursday, September 11, 2014 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-2

Seattle still reigns atop Athlon Sports’ Week 2 Fantasy Football Defense/Special Teams Rankings, but watch out for Houston. Led by recently minted $100 million man J.J. Watt, the Texans dominated the Redskins in all facets of the game. Watt alone had a sack, a fumble recovery, a pass deflection and blocked an extra point in the 17-6 victory. As a team, Houston forced two fumbles, had three sacks and blocked two kicks, including a punt that resulted in a touchdown. Next up for the Texans? A date with Oakland and rookie quarterback Derek Carr. Good luck, rook.


Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.


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


2014 NFL Week 2 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams


1Seattle Seahawksat SDChamps tough In opening win over Packers.
2Houston Texansat OAKAfter roughing up RG3, Watt and co. get rookie QB Carr.
3Arizona Cardinalsat NYGShorthanded Cards' D got job done on MNF.
4Carolina Panthersvs. DETPanthers' D gets Lions' high-powered O.
5St. Louis Ramsat TBRams' D-line could give Bucs fits.
6Denver Broncosvs. KCNew Bronco defenders making presence felt.
7Cincinnati Bengalsvs. ATLRyan had Falcons' O rolling against Saints.
8San Francisco 49ersvs. CHIBears' offense could be interesting test.
9Tampa Bay Buccaneersvs. STLBucs' Tampa 2 still a work in progress.
10New England Patriotsat MINPatriots got run over by Dolphins.
11Baltimore Ravensvs. PIT (Thurs.)This rivalry matchup is usually tight, low-scoring.
12Green Bay Packersvs. NYJGeno Smith has 19 TOs in 17 career games.
13Tennessee Titansvs. DALTitans off Alex Smith three times in Week 1.
14Miami Dolphinsat BUFDolphins' pass rush roughed up Brady.
15New Orleans Saintsat CLESaints' D looking to rebound vs. Browns.
16Buffalo Billsvs. MIABills held Bears' O in check on road last week.


Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points


Need more fantasy help? Visit

Fantasy Football 2014 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 2
Post date: Thursday, September 11, 2014 - 08:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-kicker-rankings-week-2

Matt Bryant may not lead Athlon Sports’ Week 2 Fantasy Football Kicker Rankings, but he clearly put his best foot forward last week. Bryant nailed two field goals of more than 50 yards last week in the most critical of situations. The first, a 51-yard boot, sent Atlanta’s home opener against New Orleans into overtime. The second, a 52-yarder, gave the Falcons a big win over their NFC South rivals. Bryant will take his big leg on the road this week to Cleveland.


Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.


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


2014 NFL Week 2 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers


1Steven HauschkaSEAat SD
2Justin TuckerBALvs. PIT (Thurs.)
3Mason CrosbyGBvs. NYJ
4Matt BryantATLat CIN
5Stephen GostkowskiNEat MIN
6Adam VinatieriINDvs. PHI (Mon.)
7Phil DawsonSFvs. CHI
8Brandon McManusDENvs. KC
9Shayne GrahamNOat CLE
10Mike NugentCINvs. ATL
11Nick NovakSDvs. SEA
12Robbie GouldCHIat SF
13Shaun SuishamPITat BAL (Thurs.)
14Dan BaileyDALat TEN
15Cody ParkeyPHIat IND (Mon.)
16Blair WalshMINvs. NE


Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Fantasy Football 2014 Kicker Rankings: Week 2
Post date: Thursday, September 11, 2014 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/west-virginia-hopes-pieces-are-place-qb-clint-trickett

Clint Trickett is a new quarterback, his West Virginia teammates say.

The redshirt senior doesn’t necessarily agree. Instead, he says they’re just seeing someone who is finally of sound mind and body.

Just as Trickett ascended to the starting quarterback job last season after his transfer from Florida State, he sustained a shoulder injury in his first start of the season.

That start, a 30-21 win over a ranked Oklahoma State team, was memorable, but the injury ensured West Virginia would never see a complete picture of Trickett. West Virginia won the game thanks to two late scoring drives by Trickett, but he also completed only 24-of-50 passes and threw two interceptions.

He left the game with a lead and a shoulder injury.

As the season went on, Trickett learned how to run West Virginia’s up-tempo Air Raid, but the lingering shoulder injury meant his arm couldn’t catch up to his knowledge of the offense.

“The only healthy guy these guys saw last year was a guy who had no clue what he was doing in the offense,” Trickett said. “Now they see a guy who is healthy and has a good understanding of what’s going on.”

If West Virginia is going to be more competitive in the Big 12 than it has been the last two seasons, the Mountaineers need Trickett’s shoulder and knowledge of the offense to close the gap.

West Virginia challenged Alabama in a 33-23 loss in the opener in Atlanta, and the Mountaineers will get another barometer of where they stand against Maryland in College Park on Saturday.

West Virginia moved the ball consistently against Alabama for three quarters as Trickett finished 29-of-45 for 356 yards with a touchdown. Was the game the product of lapses by the Alabama defense? The Crimson Tide had trouble communicating on defense with linebacker Trey DePriest out, and a spring injury to starter Eddie Jackson left Alabama exposed at cornerback.

Or is the West Virginia offense ready to bounce back after a forgettable 2013?

“We left some plays out there on the field,” Trickett said. “The outsider view of it was these guys showed they could compete, but we kind of knew that. We had a sense that we have something going right here. We were able to prove that we can compete with those guys. Now we have to be able to show we can beat those guys. That’s the next challenge.”

Beating a team like Alabama may be a long way off. Avenging a 31-0 loss to Maryland from last season, though, might be more attainable thanks to the improvement by Trickett.

“He continued to learn what we wanted to do,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He’s communicating well and understands what to do with the ball. He’s running the offense the way we want him to run the offense.”

Squeezed out of the Florida State quarterback position by eventual Heisman winner Jameis Winston and Jacob Coker, Trickett transferred to West Virginia, where his father was formerly the offensive line coach, before the 2013 season.

Trickett graduated from Florida State in three years and took a redshirt, making him eligible immediately at West Virginia for two seasons. Now a fifth-year senior, Trickett realizes that sitting out a year would have had its benefits.

“It’s tough pick up an offense just in the summer,” Trickett said. “It’s damn near impossible.”

A year ago, Trickett had trouble getting signals from the sideline, forcing coach Dana Holgorsen to call in plays verbally or calling timeouts on mixups. Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson has praised Trickett’s mental makeup, but also referred to working with the new quarterback as “programming.”

Spread offenses have become very common at the high school and college levels, but Trickett spent the last three years in the pro-style attack under Jimbo Fisher in Tallahassee.

Trickett said he didn’t understand the “whys” of the offense early on. By the time he started to figure it out, his balky shoulder wasn’t his only issue. He was knocked out of the Texas game Nov. 9 after a possible head injury. He missed the Kansas game a week later before returning for the season-ending loss to Iowa State.

The spring was a chance to reset everything. He had surgery to repair his shoulder in January. The recovery kept him out of spring, allowing him to catch up mentally.

“The spring I was able to find out why (Holgorsen) wanted certain things, certain plays and certain looks, why he wanted to push tempo,” Trickett said. “It kind of got down to why, and that’s a very big part of it.  You can understand what he wants, but then (understanding) the why is when you get the whole grasp of it.”

The offense, though, has been more than just Trickett through two games. Wide receiver Kevin White, who had a disappointing season after his transfer from junior college, is already more than halfway to his catch total from 2013.

A solidified offensive line may help Trickett achieve one of his other directives from Holgorsen: Stay healthy. Trickett has proven willing to take contact. Offensive line protection or not, the quarterback needs to keep himself from suffering another injury that may derail his and West Virginia’s season.

“He has to make sure he doesn’t put his body in harm’s way,” Holgorsen said. “He’s got to continue to get the ball out of his hands and to the skill guys around him. That’s part of what his job is.”

Perhaps by the end of the season, part of Trickett’s job will be to help West Virginia achieve its first winning record in Big 12 play. The Mountaineers are 6-12 in the league, first due to a struggling defense in 2012 and then to an offense that sputtered almost all season in 2013.

“It’s his first opportunity and his last opportunity in the same breath,” Holgorsen said. “He didn’t get in until game (five) last year and got hurt in the same game he started in. His sense of urgency has been big.”

West Virginia Hopes Pieces are in Place for QB Clint Trickett
Post date: Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 16:46
All taxonomy terms: Washington Redskins, NFL
Path: /nfl/should-redskins-change-their-nickname

It's one of the most contentious issues in sports: Should the Washington Redskins change an outdated and offensive nickname? Here, Athlon editors take opposing viewpoints.



Washington (insert racist nickname) owner Daniel Snyder needs a lesson in both United States history and sports history. I’ll save the junior high school history lesson (see: Trail of Tears, Indian Removal Act of 1830) and cut right to the sports history.


Jim Plunkett won the Heisman Trophy as quarterback of the Stanford Indians. In 1972, however, one of America’s finest research institutions had the wisdom to change its nickname. Eight years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (okay, some U.S. history), Stanford made a proactive decision on the nickname Indians, which is much less offensive than the “R-word” slur currently used in Washington. These days, the Indians are a distant memory and Stanford boasts greats such as John Elway and Andrew Luck, who both played for the Stanford Cardinal.


But it’s not just “West Coast hippy liberals” who have common sense and decency. Hardened New Yorkers have dealt with the same issue with similar success.


Chris Mullen led the 1985 NCAA Tournament in scoring en route to leading the St. John’s Redmen to the Final Four. Fans cheered on, wearing a logo that depicted a cartoonish Native American dribbling a basketball in full headdress.


Despite a “tradition” of bigotry — however ham-handed and unintentional it may have been — the Redmen became the Red Storm in 1994. That was 20 years ago. Recent high school graduates never lived in a world where Redmen was an acceptable nickname in New York, a city not known for its political correctness.


But what about the nation’s capital? Oh, that’s right… the Washington Bullets became known as the Washington Wizards in 1997 due to the name’s tangential relationship to violent crime. And when baseball returned to Washington in 2005, the team didn’t return to its 60-year-old “roots” as the Washington Senators, it settled on Washington Nationals. The NBA and MLB teams in D.C. have already changed names. The NFL is next.


“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.” Point being, Snyder can (and will) run this team into the ground no matter what their nickname is.



Clearly, if Washington were an expansion franchise beginning play in 2014, they wouldn’t choose “Redskins” as their nickname. The moniker is no doubt anachronistic. I’ll even stipulate that it’s offensive to some people. But that doesn’t mean it should change.


And it might surprise you to know that Americans agree with me in overwhelming numbers.


That’s right: Despite a non-stop media onslaught in TV, print and social media over the necessity of discarding this ongoing affront to decency, only 23 percent of respondents in a recent ESPN poll think the name should be changed. That’s up from eight percent only a few years ago, but it’s hardly a mandate. I mean, 45 percent of Americans believe in ghosts, and 26 percent either believe Obama is the Antichrist or aren’t sure. In other words, you can find 23 percent of Americans who believe just about anything. It’s a statistically insignificant number in a democratic society where 50 percent minus one is a losing posture.


Admittedly, owner Daniel Snyder’s stubborn insistence on keeping the name and his clumsy efforts at justifying it have combined to have the opposite effect on public opinion, but his general ineptitude as an owner and a human being shouldn’t sway this debate.


As outdated as the nickname may be, I believe that it’s dangerous to succumb to self-righteous Tweeters and media poseurs trying to impose their version of political correctness on one of the most storied franchises in sports, a franchise that has long carried its nickname as a point of pride, not of bigotry.


I’ll give the last word to Mitchell Hicks, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians: “(The team nickname) has been around a long time, and I know that are certain aspects of the name redskins that historically was rather derogatory to natives, but in the way the (Washington) Redskins use the name, my personal stance is they haven’t shown me anything that is directly offensive.” Good enough for me.


Should the Redskins Change Their Nickname? Athlon Editors Debate
Post date: Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 12:47
All taxonomy terms: J.J. Watt, NFL
Path: /nfl/jj-watt-100-million-monster

Mo’ money, mo’ problems — for NFL quarterbacks. Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt signed a six-year,$100-million contract with $51.876 million in guaranteed money this offseason. And instead of resting on his laurels, the 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year has taken his game up a notch.


“Like I said all along, the goal is to always be great,” said Watt. “I don’t want to be that guy that people say got money and shut down. I want to work hard every day — whether it is workouts, practice, games — and improve.”


Improvement is a scary thought for the towering 6'5", 289-pound 25-year-old, who terrorized Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins during a 17–6 win that snapped the Texans’ 14-game losing streak and gave the franchise its first victory since an overtime win over the Tennessee Titans on Sept. 15, 2013.


Watt notched one sack, along with five knock-downs of RG3 (one of which resulted in an intentional grounding penalty), one fumble recovery as well as his signature “J.J. Swatt” on both a blocked extra-point attempt and pass deflection.


“I guess the only thing he didn’t do was intercept a pass and run it back,” said Texans owner Bob McNair. “J.J. was unbelievable.”


Watt’s performance in Week 1 was just the first step in proving he is worth every penny of his new deal. But, in many ways, it was also just business as usual for a defensive force who is on a Hall of Fame trajectory.


In 49 games, Watt has 37.5 sacks — including a league-leading 20.5 in 2012 — along with 28 pass deflections and eight forced fumbles. If those numbers aren’t impressive enough, take a look at Watt’s playoff stats. In four career postseason games, he’s notched five sacks, three pass deflections and an INT returned 29 yards for a touchdown.


“Watt is obviously a hell of a football player,” said Texans first-year coach Bill O’Brien. “There’s no other way to put it. He’s just a great player.”


Watt helped O’Brien win his NFL head coaching debut and ruined the first game of Washington boss Jay Gruden’s NFL head coaching career. But those who have been around the league weren’t at all surprised.


“He’s the man. He just got the hundred mil. He got it for a reason, you can see that,” said Texans safety D.J.


Swearinger, who has given Watt a new nickname. “J.J. is ‘The Hundred Mil,’ so he’s supposed to do that.”


Watt has worked hard to become the $100-million man. Rated a two-star prospect by recruiting websites Rivals and Scout, the Pewaukee (Wis.) High School product took official recruiting visits to Central Michigan, Colorado and Minnesota before signing with the Chippewas.


Watt played one season as a tight end at Central Michigan, catching eight passes for 77 yards in 2007. Unhappy with CMU, Watt decided to transfer to the University of Wisconsin.


During the time between attending CMU and UW, Watt worked as a pizza delivery man. A tall tale has grown from his days ringing doorbells and passing out pies. Legend has it that Watt was recognized by a kid inside the house on one of his delivery stops. Afterwards, an emotional Watt returned to his car and cried, vowing to get back on the field and back on track.


Although that’s a heartwarming rags-to-riches story, it’s not exactly 100 percent accurate.


“I never cried,” Watt told the Houston Chronicle. “What was going through my mind was, this kid once saw me as the greatest, someone he looked up to. When I saw the look on his face, that for that split second he didn’t see me as that anymore, that hurt. … It re-instilled the drive in me to become great again, to become that kid’s role model again.”


Watt bounced back with two solid seasons as a defensive end at Wisconsin before becoming the No. 11 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. After an award-winning start to his pro career in Houston, Watt doesn’t have to deliver pizzas anymore — unless it’s part of a national ad campaign for NFL sponsor Papa John’s.


But don’t think for a second that the change in tax bracket has changed Watt, who seems to be struggling to adjust to his unreal riches.


“I Googled, ‘What do rich people buy?’ because I don’t feel like a rich person, and I don’t really try to act like a rich person, so I don’t know what they buy,” Watt said in a postgame interview with FOX reporter Laura Okmin.


“I didn’t really like the stuff I saw, so I’m gonna stick with my humble lifestyle and just keep working out.”


It’s been said that money makes a man more of what he already was. If that’s the case, Watt is about to cement his status as the most dangerous defensive player in the game today.


Quarterbacks beware.

J.J. Watt is the NFL's newest $100 million man
Post date: Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 12:29
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/40-truly-weirdest-team-nicknames-sports

We're all for tradition, and honoring your region with your team nickname, but some of these are just plain weird. Here they are in no particular order of weirdness. And yes, these are real.


1. Jordan (Utah) Beetdiggers

This nickname inspires fear. If you're a beet. 


2. Conway (Ark.) Wampus Cats

A Wampus cat is a fearsome creature from folklore. Doesn't stop it from sounding stupid.


3. Camas (Wash.) Papermakers
4. Kimberly (Wis.) Papermakers

Maybe they can get Dunder-Mifflin to sponsor their uniforms.


5. Badger (Wis.) Badgers

The Badger Badgers? Too bad Duany Duany, Longar Longar and Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje didn't play there.


6. Newburgh Free Academy (NY) Goldbacks

Anything with "backs" attached to the end seems like a slur.


7. Butte (Idaho) Pirates

No comment.


8. Grafton/St. Thomas (ND) Spoilers

Isn't the nickname "Spoilers" a concession that you suck and can only hope to spoil a good team's season?


9. Mt. Pleasant (RI) Kilties

They've managed to take the word "kilt" and make it even more effeminate.


10. Bellows Free Academy (Vt.) Bobwhites

A bobwhite is a quail that is commonly killed and consumed. Doesn't even have much meat on it.


11. Cairo (Ga.) Syrupmakers

Sweet and sticky are not adjectives I want applied to my football team.


12. Red Bank Catholic (NJ) Caseys

The school took its nickname from a former Monsignor. It makes me think of Casey Anthony. Or Kasey Kasem.


13. Glenville (Ohio) Tarblooders

A tarblooder was apparently a railroad worker who laid ties and cemented them with tar. When you have to explain it, it loses some impact.


14. Austin Westlake (Texas) Chaparrals

They're called the "Chaps" for short. Wonder if they're assless.


15. Dunbar (Md.) Poets

It's a nod to the school's namesake, but Poets? Aren't they the guys the football players should be pummeling?


16. Mt. Clemens (Mich.) Battling Bathers

Not sure you want to combine football and bath time in your nickname.


17. St. Mary's Prep (Mich.) Eaglets
18. Rockhurst (Mo.) Hawklets

Baby birds, even eagles and hawks, don't exactly inspire fear. Hell, they can't even fly.


19. North Little Rock Charging Wildcats

Adding "Charging" seems like overkill. And is a Wildcat really known for charging?


20. Salesianum School (Del.) Sallies

This simply can't be real, can it? Was Nancies already taken?


21. Punahou (Hawaii) Buffanblu

It's not some native Hawaiian bird of prey or anything. Believe it or not, this nickname comes from the school's colors: buff and blue.


22. Shelley (Idaho) Russets

Yes, Idaho is known for potatoes. Doesn't mean you have to incorporate it into your nickname. Would be like calling a Chicago team "the Gang-Related Murders."


23. Watersmeet (Mich.) Nimrods

In the Bible, Nimrod was a mighty hunter. Nobody knows their Bible anymore. Today, a nimrod is merely a moron.


24. Orofino (Idaho) Maniacs

Many think that the team was named for the local mental hospital. Unfortunately, that's not true. It was merely the frenetic style of play the hoops team used to be known for.


25. Teutopolis (Ill.) Wooden Shoes

They're particularly loud on the basketball court. But slow.


26. Chattanooga (Tenn.) Central Purple Pounders

Sounds like a prison team.


27. Mars Area (Pa.) Fighting Planets

Sort of a "War of the Worlds" theme.


28. Beaver (Okla.) Dusters

A Beaver Duster sounds like something you'd order online. On a secure site.


29. Yuma (Ariz.) Criminals

I hope this isn't truth in advertising.


30. Freeburg (Ill.) Midgets

Surprised that the little people lobby hasn’t gotten hold of this one.


31. Webster University Gorloks

The students at Webster came up with this one. Sounds like a Lord of the Rings character.


32. UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs

Big, slimy and disgusting. Kind of like a pregnant Kardashian sister.


33. Columbia College Fighting Koalas

Putting "fighting" in front of an adorable, cuddly creature like a koala doesn't make it any scarier.


34. Presbyterian Blue Hose

I guess it's better than the Presbyterian Depressed Prostitutes.


35. Scottsdale Community College Fighting Artichokes

Ridiculous. Everyone knows artichokes are peaceful vegetables.


36. Rhode Island School of Design Nads

Yes, it's a joke, right down to the anatomically correct mascot and the "Go, Nads!" cheer.


37. Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs

I'd avoid the hot dogs at the ballpark.


38. Savannah Sand Gnats

Annoying sand-based insects are an overlooked genre for mascots.


39. Montgomery Biscuits

Hot, buttery and delicious. Paula Deen's favorite team.


40. Hillhouse (Conn.) Academics

I guess it's one way to flip the saying, "They're known for academics."

40 Weirdest Team Nicknames in Sports
Post date: Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 12:20
Path: /nascar/nascar-chase-previewing-race-no-1-chicagoland-speedway

Predicting how the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase will pan out has always been a shot in the dark with one in the cylinder and no night sights. This year things get even more muddled with a new elimination format among the (Sweet) 16 teams that make up the 2014 Chase grid. 


Round 1 of the Chase — deemed the “Challenger Round” — begins on Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway. Dates at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway follow. After the those three, drivers with a win automatically advance to the second of three rounds while the bottom four drivers are eliminated and points reset. And the cycle continues. Races seven through nine chop the remaining eight participants down to a final four, with those drivers entering Homestead with a clean slate of points and a shot at the championship.


A little hokey? Contrived? Gimmicky? Eh, maybe. But so is instant replay, interleague play and wild card playoff teams. That said, let’s take a look at who will prosper and who will suffer in Race No. 1 in the Chase.



Chicagoland Speedway

Not exactly the most awe-inspiring track on the circuit from an action standpoint, but Chicagoland Speedway is just outside of a major media market and the Bears are in San Francisco this Sunday, so there’s little else in town competing (aside from television sets tuning in to said game). Anyway, kielbasa cooks up just as good in a racetrack’s infield as it does in a parking lot filled with shattered glass on Lakeshore Drive. 




Well let’s just be brief here: anything with a Hendrick engine or anything built by Penske and — this may come as a shock — the Roush Fenway Fords of Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards. (Yes, those latter two I feel could actually be sleeper picks for the weekend.) 


Talk about peaking at just the right time — OK, talk about figuring out what’s been wrong with the cars for the last eight months at just the right time. Either by Edsel’s decree or the engineering equivalent of wrestling Excalibur from the stone, a test session at Michigan may have opened the eyes of those at Roush Fenway, revealing what their Penske counterparts have known all year. Suddenly, Biffle and Edwards are showing a spark on the intermediate tracks, of which Chicago is one. 


Make no mistake, they are still a step or two behind their corporate cousins, but they are in a position now to legitimately challenge for wins at these types of tracks. I don’t believe they will actually win — yet. However, by the time the series hits Kansas in a month, I think RFR will be on par with Penske once again.  


In the meantime, the usual Hendrick-supported suspects — the Nos. 5, 24, 48 and 88 — will be strong, as well as Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 4 entry of Kevin Harvick (a Hendrick quasi-team). Tony Stewart won a title three years ago using these HMS loaners, and Harvick’s crew chief, Rodney Childers, has proven to have a little something cooked up in the lab that is every bit as potent as what Chad Knaus, Alan Gustafson and Steve Letarte have mustered.




The guys who slid in over the last two months are clearly most vulnerable here. I’m looking at you, AJ Allmendinger and Aric Almirola. The two feel-good stories of the summer are about to experience a big-time reality check. Chicagoland is a high-downforce track that places a premium on engineering and, God bless ’em, these two got into the Chase with wins on road courses (Allmendinger) and a plate track (Almirola). Sure, they could squeak through and delay their sentencing should some of the prominent contenders stumble early, but these underdogs are using rentals from teams that haven’t exactly been lighting the world on fire.


Describing Ryan Newman as a “pretender” may be a bit harsh, but don’t expect his Richard Childress Racing team to do anything remarkable this weekend. RCR has not been on par with the other Chevrolets power-wise as evidenced by Newman’s heated discussion with Jimmie Johnson at Michigan when he confessed, “If I had your engine, I wouldn’t have to drive like that!” 


Newman’s Chicago record is nothing to sneeze at: he’s averaged a finish of 9.8 with top 10s in every race since 2007, save for one. A win is unlikely, but emerging unscathed is really his goal this Sunday. All the No. 31 team needs to do is not crash, blow up, speed on pit road or do any major self-inflicted damage. Easy enough, right? 


A top 15 in Joliet will do nicely before the series rolls into Loudon, N.H., where Newman’s past performances — three wins, seven top 5s, 16 top 10s and seven poles — bodes well.



Chase Hope-Enders  Kyle Busch

It’s no secret that Kyle Busch and his No. 18 team have fallen on hard times. Perpetual bickering with crew chief Dave Rogers, calling out TRD engines (as he has since 2010 before being forced to toe the company line) and general recklessness have seen him average a 31.1-place finish in the six races since a runner-up showing at Indianapolis.


Busch’s assertion that the performance issue lies “between the frame rails” won’t help at a horsepower honker like Chicago, though it should prove less of a problem at Dover and Loudon. I think this is one team that falls out early.


I fear Kurt Busch may also stumble. A new team and a crew chief with no Chase experience might prove dangerous if the car isn’t up to snuff. The elder Busch still has a tendency to try to carry the car when it isn’t quite capable — no doubt the result of driving Phoenix Racing and Furniture Row Racing rides the last two seasons. This one could get ugly for Busch if the car isn’t right early — but maybe being so close to his spiritual home of Wrigley Field might do him some good. 


Wait, the Cubs are terrible. Nevermind.



Chicagoland Winner: Kevin Harvick  Kevin Harvick

With the news that Harvick will inherit Tony Stewart’s 2011 championship-winning over-the-wall gang, it’s suddenly hard to bet against the car that has shown the most pure speed weekly since February. It’s no secret that the downfall of the No. 4 has been the pit crew — and Harvick has never been known to suffer through poor pit performance. If not for pit miscues, could this team have won six races by now? That’s a popular statement making the rounds these days, but who knows for sure. 


The Chase gets off on the good foot for SHR, an organization that has certainly had its mettle tested in recent weeks, as Harvick, Childers and a title-worthy pit crew make a statement and punch their ticket to Round 2.



Follow Vito Pugliese on Twitter: @VitoPugliese

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Contenders, pretenders and predicted winners for the first race of NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup, the 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Post date: Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 11:53
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-september-10-2014

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for September 10:


The Texans cheerleaders lead the league in fun.


It was Bark at the Park Night at U.S. Cellular.


A day in the life of Josh Gordon, car salesman.


• It seems pretty clear that the NFL did see the Ray Rice video it says it didn't see. Here, LBS assesses the instances where the Commish bumped into the truth during his CBS interview.


Get to know the new owner of the Buffalo Bills.


Handicapping the real races in MLB: the mascot races.


Jeremy Lin pretended to be a wax figure and scared the crap out of people.


Noted woman-beater thinks the NFL was too hard on Ray Rice.


FiveThirtyEight set out to find America's best burrito.


U.S. Open tennis champ Marin Cilic read Letterman's Top 10 List last night.


• Watch Miggy-to-Megatron at Comerica Park.

--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Post date: Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 10:46
Path: /college-football/expert-poll-week-2-heisman-trophy-voting

Athlon Sports has formed a Heisman Trophy committee. Each week, we will ask 13 members of the national college football media to rank their top candidates for the Heisman Trophy.


Each voter will rank their top five candidates, with each first-place vote getting five points and each last-place vote getting one point.


The Panel:


Stewart Mandel, FOX Sports

Dave Revsine, Big Ten Network 

Adam Zucker, CBS Sports

Steven Godfrey, SBNation

Zac Ellis, Sports Illustrated

Bryan Fischer,

Tom Dienhart, Big Ten Network

Barrett Sallee, Bleacher Report, B/R Radio

Josh Ward,

Mitch Light, Athlon Sports

David Fox, Athlon Sports

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports, SiriusXM


The Results:


1.Marcus Mariota62103---
2.Todd Gurley53382--
3.Kenny Hill22-1341
4.Jameis Winston21-1324
5.Everett Golson13--15-
6t.Taysom Hill7--1-4
6t.Amari Cooper7--2-1
8.Ameer Abdullah6--1-3
9.Bryce Petty4---2-

Dropped out: Christian Hackenberg, Melvin Gordon, Brett Hundley, Tyreek Hill


Listen to the Week 2 recap podcast:


The Top 3:


1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Saturday’s game against Michigan State cannot be understated. The Ducks' quarterback turned in arguably his most brilliant performance of his career, whirling in and around Spartan defenders for 318 yards passing, 42 yards rushing and three total touchdowns. He is only the second quarterback (Dayne Crist, 2010) since 2010 to throw for over 300 yards against a Pat Narduzzi-coached team. Mariota put his team on his back, surrounded by freshmen, and carried Oregon to the biggest win of the non-conference season.


2. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

The Dawgs were off in Week 2 but will play in arguably the biggest game of the Week 3 slate. Look for Gurley to post another big statline in a critical SEC East showdown against South Carolina in Columbia. In two games against the Gamecocks, Gurley has been dominant (30 att., 132 yds, TD) in a win and stymied (13 att., 39 yds) in an ugly 35-7 loss.


3. Kenny Hill, QB, Texas A&M

Hill has one of the biggest wins of the season under his belt when he set records in front of a national audience against South Carolina. After 511 yards in 60 attempts in a real game, Hill attempted just 26 passes (completing 17) for 283 yards and four touchdowns against Lamar in Week 2. That’s 794 yards, seven TDs and no interceptions on 70.9 percent passing in two starts for Hill. 

Expert Poll: Week 2 Heisman Trophy Voting
Post date: Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/examining-byus-remaining-path-unbeaten-season-2014

BYU crossed a major hurdle in its quest for an unbeaten record by defeating Texas 41-7 in Week 2. The Cougars handled the Longhorns with ease, scoring 28 points in the third quarter to pull away after a 6-0 halftime lead over Charlie Strong’s team. Running back Jamaal Williams returned from a one-game suspension to record 89 yards on 19 carries, but quarterback Taysom Hill carried the offense with 280 total yards and three scores.

Hill has launched himself into Heisman discussion after throwing for 489 yards and three scores (73% completion percentage) and rushing for 196 yards and five touchdowns.

But Hill isn’t a one-man show. Williams is a 1,000-yard rusher, and the defense is allowing just 4.2 yards per play this year.

Going into the season, the road trip to Texas was considered one of the toughest games on BYU’s 2014 slate. After the Cougars victory in Austin, the schedule suddenly becomes more favorable to an unbeaten record. And with an unbeaten record comes the discussion about BYU’s spot in the playoff mix.

As with any college football opinion in September, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s early and a lot is going to change over the next few weeks.

But looking at BYU’s schedule – assuming quarterback Taysom Hill stays healthy – where are the losses going to come from?

Let’s rank the Cougars’ 10 remaining games, with No. 1 the most likely loss to No. 10 being the least likely. Will BYU be favored to win all 10 remaining games?

Ranking BYU’s Toughest Remaining Games for 2014

1. at Boise State (Friday, Oct. 24)
This year’s matchup will be the third consecutive season these two teams have played. Boise State won 7-6 in 2012, but the Cougars got revenge by winning 37-20 in Provo last year. The Broncos are always tough to beat at home, and running back Jay Ajayi will challenge a BYU defense that held Texas to 82 yards on 35 attempts in Week 2. Quarterback Grant Hedrick bounced back from a rough opener against Ole Miss to throw for 352 yards and two scores against Colorado State. Boise State’s defense will also improve as the season progresses, especially with a veteran secondary and solid pass rush (four sacks in two games). It’s a close call for this spot, but winning in Boise is never easy, and this game takes place at the end of a challenging October for Bronco Mendenhall’s team.

2. at California (Saturday, Nov. 29)
The Golden Bears have made strides in coach Sonny Dykes’ second season, winning on the road at Northwestern to open the year, followed by an easy win over Sacramento State in Week 2. California is the regular season finale, so there could be a lot on the line for BYU. The Golden Bears are a work in progress on defense, but the offense is explosive (five plays of 40 or more yards in two games).

3. at UCF (Thursday, Oct. 9)
These two teams have met only once, with BYU scoring a 24-17 victory over UCF in 2011. The Knights started slow in the opener against Penn State, but the offense rallied when Justin Holman was inserted into the lineup in the second half. Depending on how Holman plays this Saturday against Missouri, UCF could rank higher on this list. The Knights return eight starters from a defense that allowed 21.3 points per game last season.

4. Virginia (Saturday, Sept. 20)
The Cavaliers knocked off BYU in a rain-soaked opener last year (19-16). Virginia’s personnel hasn’t changed much with 15 returning starters, but the offense still has uncertainty at quarterback and a questionable offensive line.

5. Nevada (Saturday, Oct. 18)

The Wolf Pack appears to be on the right track in coach Brian Polian’s second year. A healthy Cody Fajardo at quarterback certainly helps, but the defense – allowed 505.3 yards per game in 2013 – held Washington State to 13 points in Week 2. Nevada also catches BYU after a road trip to UCF.

6. Utah State (Friday, Oct. 3)
Is Chuckie Keeton back to full strength by Oct. 3? If he is, the senior quarterback is enough to give Utah State a shot at an upset. A bigger problem for the Aggies is an offensive line that lost four starters is still trying to find the right mix after two weeks. The defense also lost standout linebacker Kyler Fackrell for the season.

7. at MTSU (Saturday, Nov. 1)
The Cougars won last season’s matchup 37-10 in Provo, and the Blue Raiders return only three starters on offense from 2013. However, MTSU has a bye before playing BYU, and the defense has held opponents to a respectable 4.6 yards per play through two games.

8. Houston (Thursday, Sept. 11)
BYU and Houston played an entertaining 47-46 shootout last season, so this is no guaranteed victory. However, it’s a short week for both teams, and Houston struggled in its Week 1 loss to UTSA. Houston quarterback John O’Korn tossed four picks in the opener against the Roadrunners.

9. UNLV (Saturday, Nov. 15)
Rebels took a step forward under coach Bobby Hauck last year, making a bowl for the first time since 2000. However, the Rebels lost 58-13 to Arizona in Week 1 and barely defeated FCS opponent Northern Colorado (13-12) in Week 2.

10. Savannah State (Saturday, Nov. 22)
BYU shouldn’t have much trouble with the Tigers. Savannah State lost 61-7 to MTSU in Week 1 and was outscored by a combined score of 143-10 by Miami and Troy in 2013.

Examining BYU's Remaining Path to an Unbeaten Season
Post date: Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/outrageous-college-football-predictions-2014-week-3

The original reality TV show is sports. No contrived setting where seven strangers living in a house or one bachelor searching for love can match the excitement the Iron Bowl delivered last fall.


The beauty of college football lies in its complete unpredictability and drama. Here are some outrageous predictions for Week 3.


Note: The point of this column is to have some fun and make some outlandish predictions. Please react accordingly.


Todd Gurley will rush for less than 40 yards

The Georgia running back is a freak of nature and ran all over the Gamecocks last year (132 yds). But he was held to just 39 yards on 13 carries in a 35-7 loss the last time UGA visited South Carolina. Look for Steve Spurrier to focus on Gurley, forcing Hutson Mason to make plays (and the Dawgs will still win).


Only one Top 25 team will lose

And the only reason one Top 25 team will lose is because both Georgia and South Carolina are ranked. This week’s slate is extremely lacking in anything juicy as Florida State, Auburn, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Kansas State and Clemson are off and only one game features two ranked teams. Only UCLA (Texas), Virginia Tech (ECU) and Mizzou (UCF) should even be worried in the slightest in what should be a weekend full of blowouts.


Tennessee won’t gain positive rushing yards

The Vols rank 91st in the nation in rushing (139.0 ypg) and are 11th in the SEC. However, Tennessee has struggled mightily to get any push against Utah State and Arkansas State and will be without its starting left tackle. Against an Oklahoma Sooners defense that has allowed 148 yards on 63 carries (2.4 ypg) and no touchdowns in two games, there is a chance the Vols have a negative rushing total in Week 3.


Twitter will break when Maryland takes the field

Whether you like or hate the new wave of alternate uniforms, I am willing to bet you will have something to say when Maryland takes the field against West Virginia this weekend. Not only has it turned into an interesting game, but Maryland also will be dressed like this:


Outrageous College Football Predictions 2014: Week 3
Post date: Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /nascar/nascar-rookie-report-considering-yeah-factor-each-cup-rookie

Welcome to the Athlon Rookie Report, where each week David Smith will evaluate the deepest crop of new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series talent since 2006. The Report will include twice-monthly rankings, in-depth analysis, Q&A sessions with the drivers and more.


Today, David attempts to isolate each rookie from his team and equipment and properly rank the driving chops of each member of this year’s rookie class.



It takes no talent to poke holes in a young driver’s maturation process. It’s something I’m guilty of doing, and while I’m sure it’s alienated fans of the driver in question, discussing weak spots can be a proactive exercise, especially if any and all proposed changes are made.


It’s also easy to harp on things that might be true and fail to draw out the entire story. In many cases, when a weakness or black-mark stat pertaining to a driver appears, there’s a “Yeah, but” item that should also be considered. In this week’s edition of the Rookie Report rankings, I delve into the “Yeah, buts” for each driver in this year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie crop.



1. Kyle Larson, No. 42 (previous ranking: 1)Kyle Larson

The crash and the consequential last-place finish at Michigan was the deathblow to Larson’s Chase hopes. With the Michigan race omitted, his average finish in the seven races prior to the Chase was eighth, which was also the exact spot he finished at Michigan in the spring. So say he finished eighth — it’d guarantee him 36 points, 35 more than what he earned with his last-place finish, and place him in the 16th and final Chase spot earned by Greg Biffle.


Yeah, but … Larson finished 38th in his first Daytona 500 (after crashing three times), 27th in his first time ever competing at Martinsville, 28th at Sonoma, 40th at Kentucky and 36th in the July Daytona race. 


Biffle had just three finishes of 28th or worse compared to Larson’s six. Ryan Newman, one of two other drivers to qualify for the Chase on points, had just one finish under those parameters. Since Larson couldn’t contend with the frantic top-5 finish pace of Matt Kenseth, who had five finishes of 28th or worse, but doubled Larson’s top-5 finish frequency (10, compared to five), the only way for Larson to crack the playoffs was to not defeat himself as much as his counterparts. Larson’s failure was a cumulative result, not due to one last-place showing, and the teams of Biffle and Newman made less race-killing mistakes than Ganassi’s No. 42 bunch.



2. Austin Dillon, No. 3 (previous: 2)  Austin Dillon

Dillon failed to make the Chase driving for a team that finished third in points three times in the last four years.


Yeah, but … Dillon began the season as a relatively raw Cup Series driver and is now demonstrating discernible improvement. In fact, he’s bucking a rookie trend by performing better in second runs at tracks that he visited previously this season with his current team. For the exception of Bristol — he finished 28th in the August race after finishing 11th in the spring — he improved at every facility. He finished fifth at Daytona in July (he finished ninth in the 500), 15th at Pocono (17th previously), 22nd at Michigan (30th previously) and 20th at Richmond (27th previously). It amounts to a 0.8-position improvement from first visits to second visits



Justin Allgaier3. Justin Allgaier, No. 51 (previous: 3)

Allgaier is averaging a 26.4-place finish this year.


Yeah, but … let’s omit his series-worst five races in which he earned a crashed-caused DNF. Then, let’s split up all the races in the season’s first half (the first 18 races) and second half (all races following the July race in Daytona). His average result in the races he finished was 25.7 through the first half. Thus far through the second half, his DNF-omitted average is 21.8, almost four full positions better. The improvement depicts a driver and a team growing as one. Allgaier heads to his home track of Chicagoland Speedway, where he won a NASCAR Nationwide Series race in 2011, this Sunday.



4. Cole Whitt, No. 26 (previous: 4)  Cole Whitt

Whitt is averaging a 31.3-place running position this season.


Yeah, but … that number is tops among the trio of BK Racing drivers. He was the best-running BK driver in four of the last six races. Even though that effort netted just one finish inside the top half of fields, in a world predicated by getting everything possible out of given equipment, Whitt is better at it than any other current BK driver (both of the normal and start-and-park flavor of the week variety). Too bad NASCAR isn’t Formula One. If it were, he’d be a media darling.



Michael Annett5. Michael Annett, No. 7 (previous: 5)

Annett has a minus-0.44 percent surplus passing value at normal tracks — tracks that aren’t plate tracks or road courses — this season.


Yeah, but … beginning with Memorial Day weekend’s Coca-Cola 600, Annett has scored positive single-race surplus passing values (SPVs) in nine of 12 starts on normal tracks, averaging a plus-0.89 percent SPV during the span. This means that after a particularly brutal start to the season that saw him earn negative SPVs — which measures passing efficiency relative to a running position’s expected efficiency — in seven of his first nine normal-track starts, Annett has acclimated well to running against competitors near his average whereabouts, which hovers around 29th place.



Alex Bowman6. Alex Bowman, No. 23 (previous: 6)

Bowman is averaging a 33.4-place running position this season.


Yeah, but … he is averaging a finish of 31.8, primarily due to his No. 23 team being such a strong-closing unit. Granted, when cars are off of the lead lap, and Bowman has just three lead-lap finishes this season, it’s easier to retain position late in a race. Still, a 95.45 percent red zone retention rate is worthy of applause and, more often than not, he is moving in a forward direction, evident by his 1.3-position-per-race gain in the final 10 percent of races.



7. Ryan Truex, No. 83 (previous: 7)  Ryan Truex

Truex and crew chief Joe Williams drop 1.7 positions, on average, in the final 10 percent of races.


Yeah, but … that movement down the grid only comes when Truex is in the garage, evident by a 100 percent base retention in races the No. 83 car was running at the finish. Truex and Williams have made serious efforts in improving track position. Just as Truex has improved on his pass efficiency, Williams is beginning to ensure that positions aren’t being lost on pit road. Across green-flag pit cycles in the last four races, Williams earned Truex six extra positions.



David Smith is the founder of Motorsports Analytics LLC and the creator of NASCAR statistics for projection, analysis and scouting. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidSmithMA. 


Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

David Smith analyzes the seven-driver Rookie of the Year field in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Post date: Tuesday, September 9, 2014 - 14:35
Path: /college-football/how-big-ten-will-make-college-football-playoff

The Big Ten already has losses to the Pac-12 (twice), SEC, ACC and Notre Dame — not to mention two losses to the MAC.


Many, including myself, are writing the Big Ten off as a playoff contender. It’s not that there won’t be some good teams in the league but more that so many things would have to fall into place for a Big Ten team to get into the four-team tournament.


Here is what would have to happen for the Big Ten to reach the postseason:


1. Either Nebraska goes unbeaten or a one-loss Michigan State or Ohio State wins the Big Ten. First and foremost, this has to happen above all else. It’s possible an unbeaten Penn State or Maryland could face an unbeaten Iowa but those schedules and rosters aren’t good enough to earn a playoff spot. No, the Big Ten champ would have to be a 13-0 Cornhuskers team with wins over Michigan State, Miami, Wisconsin and Iowa or a 12-1 East Division squad with two wins over an otherwise unbeaten Nebraska as well as Ohio State/Michigan State, Penn State and Maryland.


2. Notre Dame and BYU need to lose somewhere along the way. The margin for error in the Big Ten is minuscule and a perfect Irish (definitely) or Cougars (maybe) squad might get the nod over a one-loss Big Ten champ.


3. Jameis Winston gets suspended by Florida State due to a Title IX investigation. The Noles — two years too late — have finally opened a Title IX investigation into the Winston sexual assault investigation.  Should any complications arise, Winston could easily find himself suspended and standing on the sidelines. That would give Clemson, Louisville, Notre Dame, Florida or the ACC Coastal Division champion a shot at knocking FSU from the ranks of the unbeatens. Winston would have to miss significant time because Florida State would have to lose twice.


4. A multiple-loss team from the state of Mississippi has to win the SEC. Should Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M, Mizzou or South Carolina win the SEC with two losses, that champion is still going to get the nod into the playoffs over a one-loss Big Ten champ. But a two- or three-loss champion that isn’t a traditional power — Ole Miss, Mississippi State — might not have the same clout as a one-loss Big Ten champ. A two-loss Rebels team would likely still earn a bid over the Big Ten but since the Bulldogs don’t play anyone in the non-conference and crossover play is with Vanderbilt and Kentucky, the B1G needs Hail State to win the SEC.


5. Stanford beats Oregon, Arizona State and UCLA. UCLA beats USC and Oregon. Arizona State beats UCLA and Stanford. Arizona beats Arizona State. Most importantly out West, however, Oregon has to lose three times. So in addition to losing to UCLA and Stanford, Oregon would also have to lose again — likely at Oregon State. The schedules in the Pac-12 are nasty but a two-loss champ is a must for the Big Ten to get into the playoff. Unless that champ is Oregon, in which case, it likely has to lose three times.


6. Bryce Petty never returns to the field and Trevor Knight misses significant time with an injury. Petty didn’t play in Week 2 and Knight was constantly banged up a year ago. Baylor and Oklahoma are the clear-cut title contenders in the Big 12 and the only way one of those two doesn’t win the crown with one or fewer losses will be the loss of a star QB for an extended period of time.


By this point, the words running through your head right now should be “yeah, right.” That is the point of this exercise. The Big Ten is a solid league with some great coaches and solid teams but a lot of unlikely things have to happen for its champion to earn a spot in the playoff. 


All hope is not lost, however. The Big Ten has a better shot at the playoff than the best team from the American Athletic Conference. So there's that.

How the Big Ten Will Make the College Football Playoff
Post date: Tuesday, September 9, 2014 - 13:30
Path: /college-football/10-amazing-college-football-stats-week-2-sec

There was only one game involving two SEC teams in Week 2, but there were still plenty of noteworthy — good and bad — accomplishments. A certain receiver at Alabama is off to a great start; Florida's offense (finally) produced some big plays; Missouri continued its winning ways on the road; and much more.


10 Amazing College Football Stats from Week 2 in the SEC



Receptions for Amari Cooper through two games, more than Alabama’s leading receiver had for the season in all but one of the Crimson Tide’s national title teams from 1961-92. The leading receivers for those teams are as follows: 1961, Tommy Booker (12); 1964, Tommy Tolleson (22); 1965, Tommy Tolleson (32); 1973, Wayne Wheeler (19); 1978, Keith Pugh (20); 1979, Keith Pugh (25); 1992, David Palmer (24).



Pass plays by the Florida offense that went for at least 60 yards in the Gators’ win over Eastern Michigan. Florida had only one pass play of 60-plus yards in 12 games in 2013. 



Punts by Ole Miss in its 41–3 win over Vanderbilt. The Rebels scored four touchdowns, kicked three field goals, had one drive end on downs at the Vanderbilt 30-yard line, had one drive end after one play on a lost fumble, had one drive end due to the end of the first half and another end due to the end of the game.



Yards per play averaged by Vanderbilt in its loss to Ole Miss on Saturday. The Commodores averaged fewer yards per play in a single game twice in the last two seasons and won both games — 3.27 vs. Florida in 2013 (won 34–17) and 3.31 vs. NC State in the 2012 Music City Bowl (won 38–24).



Consecutive wins on the road by Missouri, all by at least 14 points, dating back to the beginning of the 2013 season. The Tigers rolled past Toledo, 49–24, last weekend and picked up wins at Ole Miss, Kentucky, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Indiana in ’13.



Completion percentage allowed by the South Carolina defense, the highest in the nation. The Gamecocks have allowed 76 completions, tied with Bowling Green for the most in the nation, and opponents have attempted 106 passes against South Carolina, second-most in the nation.



Consecutive games of at least 500 yards by the Mississippi State offense, the first time this has happened in school history. The Bulldogs had 516 in Saturday’s win vs. UAB, 550 in the opener against Southern Miss and 533 against Rice in the Liberty Bowl last season.



Offensive plays per game averaged by Tennessee through two games, up from an average of 67 per game in 2013, Butch Jones’ first season at Tennessee. The Vols had 79 plays vs. Utah State and 83 vs. Arkansas State; their highest total last year was 77 in the win vs. South Carolina.



Average yards per passing attempt for Jeremy Johnson in his two years at Auburn. (As a reference point, Jameison Winston led the nation with a 10.6 yards-per-attempt average in 2013). Johnson, in spot duty, has thrown for a total of 699 yards on 61 attempts and has eight touchdowns and two interceptions.



Touchdowns scored by Texas A&M in 2014, the most in the nation. 

10 Amazing College Football Stats from Week 2 in the SEC
Post date: Tuesday, September 9, 2014 - 12:45
Path: /college-football/maryland-goes-patriotic-week-3-matchup-against-west-virginia

Maryland is going patriotic for Saturday’s matchup against West Virginia. The Terrapins unveiled on Tuesday a new patriotic uniform, which features the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner on the shoulder pads and helmet.

Check out the Terrapins new uniforms for Week 3:



Maryland Goes Patriotic for Week 3 Matchup Against West Virginia
Post date: Tuesday, September 9, 2014 - 10:52
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-september-9-2014

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for September 9:


Summer's not over until the girls of Instagram say it's over.


Maryland's unis will feature the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner to honor the 200th anniversary of its writing. Both stylish and educational, although the star on the helmet looks like a ninja star.


Manningface was in midseason form last night.


A day with the Oregon Duck, the current king of college mascots.


• As Clayton Kershaw continues to out-Koufax Sandy Koufax, it might be time for pitcher MVPs in both leagues.


• So apparently Roger Goodell was the See No Evil monkey with his hands over his eyes in the Ray Rice situation.


Sadly, Janay Rice is mad at everyone but her husband.


Interesting analysis of MLB replay overturns.


LeSean McCoy blames his 20-cent tip on bad service. Today's reminder that the way we pay waiters is stupid.


The Cowboys' inept start has already produced some amusing memes.


Thousands of Penn State students celebrated the lifting of the Lions' postseason ban by chanting for the return of Joe Pa's statue.


• Watch the Dodgers support Clayton Kershaw's efforts with three throwing errors.



--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Post date: Tuesday, September 9, 2014 - 10:44