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With only four games involving Big 12 teams, this is a light week in the schedule. But what the Big 12 lacks in quantity, it may make up for it in early signpost games for conference contenders.

A week after Kansas State’s upset of Oklahoma in Norman reset the picture at the top of the conference, teams like Texas, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Baylor will have key games setting the tone for October.

Other Week 5 Previews and Predictions

ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Big 12 Week 5 Preview and Predictions:

Which defense will make the most important big play in Morgantown?
West Virginia’s first Big 12 opponent isn’t Texas or Oklahoma, but this matchup with Baylor in Morgantown could be one of the week’s best thanks to two top-10 pass offenses. We know West Virginia can throw the ball. Geno Smith passed for 338 yards and three touchdowns against Maryland last week. His completion percentage of 69.8 percent was great, but it was his lowest of the season by nearly 20 points. Nick Florence isn’t Robert Griffin III, but he’s topped 300 passing yards in each game this season with 11 total touchdowns. This game may come down to a defensive play or two with both teams ranking eighth or lower in the Big 12 in total defense. Which defense makes that play, though, is anyone’s guess. Baylor second in the Big 12 in takeaways (West Virginia is sixth) while West Virginia leads the league in sacks and tackles for a loss (Baylor is seventh and sixth in those categories, respectively).

Is David Ash a Big 12 title-winning quarterback?
With the Longhorns’ defense and run game, Texas doesn’t need quarterback David Ash to be Colt McCoy or Vince Young. He just can’t be the David Ash of last season. So far, Ash has been much improved from 2011, and Texas’ offense is humming along at seventh in scoring and 16th in yards per game. Ash, who threw an interception every 21.6 attempts last season, has yet to throw a pick in 72 attempts in 2012. He’s already passed for 703 yards and seven touchdowns and notched a road win. But the schedule hasn’t been overly challenging, and the road win was over Ole Miss. Ash went 22 of 40 with 139 yards and two interceptions against Oklahoma State in Austin last season.

Where has Oklahoma State’s ballhawking defense gone?
Oklahoma State isn’t sure if Wes Lunt or J.W. Walsh will play quarterback Saturday, but either way, the Cowboys will be going with a freshman. A bigger question might be on the Oklahoma State defense. A year after leading the nation in takeaways -- and being among the Big 12 leaders each season under defensive coordinator Bill Young -- the Cowboys have forced only three turnovers this season. Two of those came against a woefully overmatched Savannah State team in the opener. Oklahoma State forced three turnovers or more in nine individual games last season. No matter the quarterback, Oklahoma State might need a key play on defense to overcome Texas.

Is Texas Tech’s defense for real?
Even Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville conceded the Red Raiders’ defense is probably more in between where it was last season on defense (114th of 120) and where it is now (first in total defense and pass efficiency defense). Where on that scale this defense falls might be answered against Iowa State. The Cyclones aren’t in the mold of an up-and-down offensive team like many in the Big 12, but Iowa State is a tougher opponent than any of Texas Tech’s foes so far, Northwestern State, Texas State and New Mexico. Iowa State will present a test for the Texas Tech defense against a balanced offense on the road.

Can Iowa State’s defense limit Texas Tech’s Seth Doege?
The Cyclones rank second in the nation in pass efficiency defense through their first three games, frustrating above-average quarterbacks in the process. Both Tulsa quarterback Cody Green and Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg completed fewer than half their passes against Iowa State while throwing two interceptions apiece. Now here comes Texas Tech’s Seth Doege. The senior is 52 of 67 for 659 yards with 11 interceptions in his last two games.

How much stat-padding can Casey Pachall do against SMU?
Statistically, SMU is one of the nation’s worst defensive teams -- despite a shutout and 10 takeaways against Stephen F. Austin. Allowing 59 points to Baylor and 48 to Texas A&M will do such things. Despite TCU’s inauspicious start in the red zone (9 of 16 with only six touchdowns), Pachall leads the nation in pass efficiency. SMU should provide the Horned Frogs opportunities to build confidence after a few shaking outings in scoring range against Kansas and Virginia.

Week 5 Big 12 Predictions:

Week 5 Big 12 games David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light
Baylor (+12.5) at West Virginia West Virginia 42-28 West Virginia 37-31 West Virginia 41-31 West Virginia 44-34
Texas Tech at Iowa State (+2.5) Iowa State 31-24 Iowa State 21-17 Texas Tech 31-30 Iowa State 27-23
TCU at SMU (+16) TCU 28-10 TCU 31-17 TCU 38-17 TCU 38-13
Texas at Oklahoma State (+3) Texas 35-21 Texas 30-21 Texas 31-27 Texas 31-17
Last week 4-1 4-1 3-2 4-1
Overall 27-3 26-4 25-5 27-3

By David Fox

@DavidFox615

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 5 Previews and Predictions
Big Ten Week 5 Previews and Predictions

Big East Week 5 Preview and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 5 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 5 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 5 Upset Picks

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

Teaser:
<p> Big 12 Week 5 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 05:48
Path: /college-football/pac-12-week-5-preview-and-predictions
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The 2012 season is turning into one of the best fans have seen out West in years and it has a chance to get even better. Oregon State and Arizona State made huge statements last week, but both have huge road tests this weekend that will prove if they belong in conference contention. Otherwise, all eyes across the college football world should be on the Pac-12 this Thursday evening.

Pac-12's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 5:

1. Who wants to challenge Oregon?
Stanford and Washington square-off Thursday evening in a game that will likely decide the No. 2 slot in the Pac-12 North. Both teams have had two weeks to prepare for this one and the winner will be the top challenger to the Oregon Ducks in the North. The Huskies, who have been outscored 106-21 in the last two meetings with the Cardinal, begin a four-week stretch that will determine their entire season. After Stanford, Washington visits Oregon, hosts USC and visits Arizona. Meanwhile, Stanford's run isn't much easier with a home game against 'Zona and a road trip to Notre Dame coming up. As if there wasn't enough already riding on this primetime national TV game. 

2. Oregon State defense vs. Arizona offense
The 2-0 Beavers are likely asking, what about us in the North? Mike Riley's bunch boasts the No. 2 rushing defense in the nation and have allowed a total of 27 points thus far in 2012. Despite what fans saw last week from Arizona, the Matt Scott/Ka'Deem Cary-led Wildcats offense is still one of the nation's best. Scott is still leading the league in total offense and Carey has more than one big play up his sleeve for this weekend. If Oregon State wants to be taken seriously in the North, it will have to come up with its second straight road upset (Arizona is a three-point favorite). This is a classic Letdown Alert situation as the Beavers are coming off of an emotional road upset while 'Zona returns home after being shutout 49-0 against Oregon.

3. Arizona State to face first starting quarterback
Assuming nothing tragic happens to Cal starting quarterback Zach Maynard between now and Saturday afternoon, the Sun Devils will actually have to play against someone else's first-string quarterback. Jordan Wynn was the starting quarterback at Utah but has retired from the game, giving way to Jon Hays. Missouri's James Franklin sat out two weeks ago against Arizona State. Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase didn't play in Week 2 against ASU. And in Week 1, Todd Graham's guys knocked out Lumberjack starter Cary Grossart early in the game. As a result, the Sun Devils have surrendered more than 150 passing yards only once and have yet to allow a 200-yard passer. Opposing quarterbacks are averaging 139.8 yards per game with eight INTs and only three TD passes. Maynard and his talented trio of pass-catchers — Keenan Allen, Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs — will easily present the toughest test to date for the Sun Devils' secondary.

4. Cal's 1-3 record is very deceiving
All that may matter to Cal boosters and administrators is the win-loss record, but the 1-3 mark in Berkeley likely has no effect on Arizona State head coach Todd Graham. Cal lost in a nail-bitter at home to a very good Nevada team and has losses to USC and Ohio State on the road. This team is much better than its record indicates and brings a host of elite play-makers on offense into a must-win situation at home. And Graham knows his team will have to click on all cylinders to win a tough road test over the Bears. 

5. How will injuries affect Arizona-Oregon State?
Matt Scott is dealing with a hip injury he sustained on the first drive against Oregon. He is starting for sure, but how will the bum hip impact his ability to run the zone-read option? The talented Oregon State backfield of Sean Mannion, Storm Woods and Malcolm Agnew all missed practice on Monday. Mannion was back on the field after dealing with a sore throwing arm. Woods (ankle) and Agnew (calf) both returned to work on Tuesday as well. Will any of these key players experience any lingering effects? Only time will tell.

6. I wouldn't want to be a Buffalo this weekend
UCLA was flying high when the Oregon State Beavers grounded their 3-0 start last weekend in Los Angeles. Johnathan Franklin rushed for 431 yards in the Bruins first two games but has mustered only 155 yards on 37 carries in the last two. The inability to run the ball cost UCLA the win last week, but didn't slow down star quarterback Brett Hundley. The redshirt freshman has three 300-yard efforts in his first four career games and should have this offense back on track this weekend against the lowly Buffs. The three-touchdown underdog will have to get a huge game once again from Jordan Webb (345 yards passing, four total TD last week) to even have a chance to stay with the angry Bruins.

7. What can we learn from the Ducks visit to Seattle?
There is likely to be a heavy Duck contingent in the semi-road game against Washington State in Seattle this weekend. After Wazzu lost to Colorado at home in heart-breaking fashion, it's hard to see the Cougars keeping pace with Oregon. So what can we learn about the Ducks? Chip Kelly flashed a few wrinkles on offense last week against Arizona, namely a tight end turned power back named Colt Lyerla. He fills the only void on an already explosive unit as a short yardage and goal-line specialist. As usual, fans never know what they will see from the Oregon offense.

8. Athlon's Weekly Player of the Year Watch
One POY awards list this week had De'Anthony Thomas listed as the front-runner with Johnathan Franklin, Taylor Kelly and Matt Barkley listed as the top challengers. While those names are all deserving, others like Matt Scott, Ka'Deem Carey, Marcus Mariota, Kenjon Barner, Stepfan Taylor, Brett Hundley, Keith Price, Marqise Lee, Keenan Allen, Robert Woods, Marquess Wilson, Sean Mannion, Brandin Cooks and even Silas Redd aren't too far behind. The point being, it is impossible to narrow this POY race to three names and the depth of offensive play-making skill in the Pac-12 is second to none (not even the SEC).

Week 5 Pac-12 Predictions:

Week 5 Pac-12 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
Stanford (-7) at Washington Stanford, 27-21 Stanford, 28-23 Stanford, 27-24 Stanford, 35-24
Arizona St (+2.5) at Cal Cal, 28-24 Cal, 27-24 Arizona St, 31-27 Arizona St, 28-21
UCLA (-20.5) at Colorado UCLA, 38-20 UCLA, 35-21 UCLA, 45-17 UCLA, 38-14
Oregon St (+3) at Arizona Arizona, 30-24 Oregon St, 23-17 Arizona, 31-28 Oregon St, 35-28
Oregon (-29) at Washington St Oregon, 49-21 Oregon, 51-10 Oregon, 55-17 Oregon, 56-10
Last Week: 2-3 3-2 3-2 3-2
Yearly Totals: 28-11 28-11 28-11 26-13

Bye: USC, Utah

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 5 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 5 Previews and Predictions

Big Ten Week 5 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 5 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 5 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 5 Upset Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 Week 5 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 05:48
Path: /college-football/acc-week-5-preview-and-predictions
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The ACC was in the spotlight last week, as Florida State and Clemson squared off in Tallahassee for a meeting of top-10 teams. Week 5 doesn't have many marquee matchups in the ACC, but there are enough games to provide some intrigue. Miami hosts NC State in a critical conference game for both teams, while Virginia hopes to hold off an upset bid by Louisiana Tech, and Florida State travels to Tampa to take on South Florida. 

Other Week 5 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

ACC's Top Storylines for Week 5

Which defense will make enough plays to win: NC State or Miami?
In two ACC games this year, Miami has scored a combined 83 points. NC State scored 21 in the opener against Tennessee and 10 against Connecticut in Week 2 but has recorded at least 31 points in each of its last two games. Both teams have momentum on their side this week, especially as both sport a 3-1 record after last Saturday’s action. The Hurricanes seem to be hitting on all cylinders on offense, as quarterback Stephen Morris threw for a career-high 436 yards against Georgia Tech, while freshman Duke Johnson is averaging eight yards per carry. NC State’s offense isn’t as flashy, but quarterback Mike Glennon is one of the best in the nation, and the rushing attack got a boost with freshman Shadrach Thornton rushing for 145 yards in the win over Citadel. With both offenses capable of scoring over 30 points, this game will be decided by a few stops on defense. The Hurricanes need to get pressure on Glennon, and the Wolfpack’s offensive line is allowing 3.5 sacks per game. If Miami is able to get to Glennon, NC State will have a hard time winning this game. When the Hurricanes have the ball, keep an eye on the matchup of Morris versus the Wolfpack’s secondary. NC State cornerback David Amerson is one of the best in the nation, and Morris has thrown one pick in three out of Miami’s four games this year.

Can Virginia Tech get its rushing game on track?
Throw out games against Austin Peay and Bowling Green, and the Hokies are averaging just 77.5 rushing yards per game and has yet to score a touchdown on the ground. Contributing to the struggles is a reworked offensive line and the lack of a standout running back. In last week’s game against Bowling Green, the running back rotation had a shakeup, with Tony Gregory leading the way with 11 carries. Redshirt freshman Michael Holmes was expected to be the team’s No. 1 back, but he has just 151 yards on 35 attempts so far this season. Saturday’s matchup against Cincinnati will be the final tune-up for Virginia Tech, as the schedule the rest of the way features just ACC matchups. Cincinnati’s defense is allowing 123.5 rushing yards per game but is averaging four sacks a contest. Even though the Bearcats had some key personnel depart from the line, this group isn’t a pushover. Virginia Tech can win this game without a big day from the running backs, but it’s crucial this group develops a pecking order among the running backs and finds some consistency from the offensive line with the rest of the ACC schedule approaching.

Will Florida State avoid a letdown against South Florida?
On paper, everything points to a blowout win by Florida State on Saturday night. The Seminoles clearly showed they are one of the best teams in the nation in last week’s win over Clemson, but there’s that pesky letdown word that always seems to circulate after a big victory. The Seminoles lost to South Florida in their only meeting, dropping a 17-7 game in Tallahassee in 2009. There’s no question the talent level has increased for Florida State since then, while the Bulls enter Saturday’s game with nine losses in their last 12 games. In his first career start, South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels totaled 341 yards and two touchdowns against Florida State, but he’s also failed to fully develop into one of the nation’s top 25 quarterbacks. Another problem for South Florida has been its defense, which is allowing 384.5 yards a game. Florida State is clicking on all cylinders on both sides of the ball right now, and unless the Seminoles turn in an uninspired, flat performance, the Bulls won’t pull off another upset over their in-state foe.

Does Boston College have any answer for Clemson’s offense?
After a 1-2 start and road games against Army, Florida State and Georgia Tech upcoming, Saturday’s game against Clemson is a big one for Boston College. The Eagles still have slim bowl hopes, but a loss to the Tigers would put them at 1-3 with five road games remaining and a late season home date against Notre Dame in mid-November. Boston College’s offense has shown improvement under coordinator Doug Martin, averaging 26.3 points and 412.7 yards per game. Quarterback Chase Rettig has not thrown an interception the last two weeks and ranks first in the ACC in total offense per game. But is that enough to beat Clemson? Probably not. The Tigers scored 37 points on one of the nation’s best defenses last week and face a Boston College defense allowing nearly 400 yards per game. The Eagles should be able to move the ball, but their defense will have a hard time slowing down Clemson’s Tajh Boyd (QB), Andre Ellington (RB) and DeAndre Hopkins (WR). The Tigers suffered a blow to their receiving corps on Thursday night, as receiver Sammy Watkins won't play due to abdominal virus.

Is it time for Virginia to switch quarterbacks?
Throw out the Cavaliers’ performance against FCS opponent Richmond and the statistics for Virginia’s offense are rather pedestrian. The Cavaliers rushed for just 32 yards against Penn State and have thrown just as many interceptions (4) as touchdowns (4) in their last two games. Quarterback Michael Rocco is completing 60.2 percent of his passes but has struggled in back-to-back games. Backup Phillip Sims has played in every game this year, throwing for 174 yards and three touchdowns on 18 completions. Although Rocco has struggled, the offensive line has failed to open rushing lanes for the running backs, and the Cavaliers rank 97th in rushing offense going into Week 5. Rocco will start this Saturday, but Mike London could have a quick hook if the offense is stuck in neutral early in the game. With a high-scoring Louisiana Tech team coming to Charlottesville, the Cavaliers can’t afford to fall behind 20-0 once again.

Can Duke move closer to bowl eligibility?
The Blue Devils are off to a 3-1 start for the first time since 2008 and making a bowl game isn’t too far out of reach. Duke needs to catch a few breaks the rest of the way, beginning this Saturday against Wake Forest. The Blue Devils have not defeated the Demon Deacons since 1999, but there have been close calls along the way, including last year’s 24-23 loss in Durham. Although the rushing attack still needs work, Duke’s defense is showing signs of improvement, ranking 19th nationally with three sacks per game and allowing 106.5 rushing yards per game. Quarterback Sean Renfree is also off to a good start, throwing for nine touchdowns and 1,078 yards. However, the biggest concern for the Blue Devils has to be a secondary that ranks 74th nationally and has yet to face a quarterback/receiver combination like Wake Forest’s Tanner Price and Michael Campanaro. This is David Cutcliffe’s best team in his tenure at Duke, and the pieces are in place to get six wins. However, if the Blue Devils want to go bowling, they have to snap a 12-game losing streak to the Demon Deacons, especially with the schedule only getting tougher the rest of the year.

Easy Wins for North Carolina, Georgia Tech
After back-to-back losses against Wake Forest and Louisville, North Carolina got back into the win column with a solid 27-6 victory over East Carolina. Even more important for the Tar Heels was the return of running back Giovani Bernard, who rushed for 50 yards and chipped in 52 yards on six receptions. North Carolina should have no trouble moving to 3-2 this Saturday, as 0-4 Idaho visits Chapel Hill. The Vandals are coming off a three-point loss to Wyoming in overtime but were handled 63-14 by LSU on Sept. 15. After blowing a 36-19 lead against Miami, MTSU should be the perfect Week 5 opponent for Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets should be able to take out their frustrations against the Blue Raiders, while figuring out a few answers on defense. Georgia Tech allowed Miami to throw for 436 yards, while adding 173 on the ground last week. 

Week 5 ACC Predictions

Week 5 ACC Games David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light
MTSU at Georgia Tech GT 42-10 GT 37-17 GT 45-13 GT 48-10
NC State at Miami Miami 21-17 NC State 24-21 NC State 27-24 Miami 27-10
Duke at Wake Forest Duke 28-21 Wake 34-31 Wake 30-27 Duke 21-20
Idaho at North Carolina UNC 35-7 UNC 37-14 UNC 48-13 UNC 41-3
Louisiana Tech at Virginia La. Tech 28-14 La. Tech 31-28 La. Tech 38-31 La. Tech 41-23
Clemson at Boston College Clemson 42-21 Clemson 42-20 Clemson 38-17 Clemson 31-14
Virginia Tech vs. Cincy (Landover) VT 28-21 VT 31-21 VT 30-20 VT 27-24
Florida State at South Florida FSU 38-14 FSU 34-14 FSU 38-13 FSU 31-13
Last Week: 8-1 8-1 8-1 8-1
Season Record: 35-5 36-4 35-5 35-5


by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

Teaser:
<p> ACC Week 5 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 05:46
Path: /college-football/big-ten-week-5-preview-and-predictions
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The Big Ten is having a rough year. Possibly its worst of the BCS era. But that doesn't mean there isn't great football still left on the schedule. Conference play begins this weekend with a trio of unbeaten teams and at least four juicy match-ups (sorry, Purdue and Indiana). With the entire nation fixed on East Lansing this weekend, the Big Ten needs a showcase performance from the league's top two coaches and what could be the top two players (Braxton Miller, Le'Veon Bell).

Big Ten's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 5:

1. Bring on conference play...please!
The struggles for the Big Ten have been well documented, but a dramatic conference season could make the first four weeks a distant memory. And Week 5 gets Big Ten play kick-started in style. Ohio State and Michigan State could be the best two teams in the league and has the Mark Dantonio, who won a national title at Ohio State, backstory. The corn-fed Big Red will host the dairy-fed Big Red in what should be a fashionable showdown of tailbacks, unique uniforms and revenge. A rivalry trophy is on the line in Iowa City. And two new coaches who don't like each other do battle in Illinois. Let the games begin.

2. Quarterback differential will decide the big game
Braxton Miller has been not only the Big Ten Player of the Year through four weeks but could be considered the top challenger to Geno Smith for the Heisman Trophy (if voting took place today, of course). His ability to complete clutch throws and pick up key first downs with tough runs makes him the best player on the field this weekend in East Lansing. His counterpart is Andrew Maxwell, who ranks 12th in the league in passer efficiency (that's last). Let's compare the numbers:

Miller: 754 yards, 61.2% passing, 14 total TD, 2 INT, 441 yards rushing
Maxwell: 869 yards, 56.6% passing, 3 total TD, 3 INT, minus-18 yards rushing

3. Sparty has to win the battle in the trenches
If it comes down to quarterback play, Ohio State will win. But the Spartans can win if it controls the line of scrimmage. Le'Veon Bell is the Big Ten's top rusher and has single-handedly carried MSU to wins over Boise State and Eastern Michigan. If John Simon and the rest of the Buckeyes' front line of defense can stop Bell, few believe Maxwell can win the game with his arm. Meanwhile, Ohio State's traditional rushing attack has been questionable at best, but it should have its full complement of players for the first time this fall. Jordan Hall, Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith all expect to see action. William Gholston, who has been underwhelming thus far in 2012, might be the most important player on the field. He has to play better to stop Miller and Company.

4. Recruiting-gate: Bill O'Brien vs. Tim Beckman
During the summer months following the announcement of the Penn State sanctions, Tim Beckman openly and actively recruited current Penn State players to come to Illinois. The result of the questionable tactics? One reserve offensive lineman Ryan Nowicki defected from Happy Valley to Champaign. And one frosty relationship developed between the new Leaders Division coaches. And Penn State players haven't forgotten either — Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year candidate Mike Mauti in particular. Beckman was simply trying to improve his team within the framework of the rules, but in the process, he gave O'Brien and the Lions plenty of extra motivation for this weekend's showdown.

5. Floyd of Rosedale Trophy
From 2001 to 2009, the Golden Gophers defeated the Iowa Hawkeyes just once, claiming the famous pork trophy only in 2006. However, the Gophers have won two straight, including a one-point win last Halloween that seems to have jump-started the Jerry Kill era in the Twin Cities. Minnesota enters this weekend undefeated (4-0) while Iowa has struggled mightily through four games. Quarterback MarQueis Gray won't play according to Kill, so a wounded Hawkeye team is very dangerous — especially, considering Minnesota hasn't won in Iowa City since 1999. The wise guys in Vegas know that the records don't count in this one as Iowa is a touchdown favorite.

6. Keep an eye on that first quarter
Ohio State has been a notorious slow starter this season, trailing and being shutout by Miami (Ohio) and UAB after one quarter. Wisconsin has scored a total of five points (no, and it wasn't even a safety) in the first quarter this season and was shutout by both Utah State and Oregon State. Iowa trailed after one against Northern Iowa and Iowa State while trailing at halftime to all three FBS opponents. Illinois was outscored 35-7 in the first by Louisiana Tech and Arizona State. And Michigan State has been shut out in its last two first quarters. Seemingly bucking the trend, however, is the Nittany Lions. They have outscored four teams 35-0 in the first quarter and 55-9 in the first half. 

7. Revenge a dish best served Big Red
It was a night game in Madison on Oct. 1, 2011. That was the first time Nebraska played a Big Ten football game. And it wasn't pretty. Wisconsin rushed for 231 yards and scored seven offensive touchdowns while Taylor Martinez threw three interceptions in the 48-17 destruction of the Cornhuskers. Welcome to the Big Ten, right? Well, the tables have turned rather quickly. Martinez is the league's best quarterback currently, the offense is the best in the league and a struggling, injured Badgers team limps into one of the most hostile environments in the nation. This one could get ugly quickly — and should make soon-to-be retired Nebraska legend Tom Osbourne smile. 

8. College GameDay comes to Big Ten country
The last time ESPN brought its flagship Saturday morning program to the Big Ten, Michigan State defeated Wisconsin on a Hail Mary in arguably the best game played anywhere last fall. This is the sixth time Gameday has been in East Lansing and Sparty is 2-3 in those games. Each of the last four has been a one-score game with an average margin of 4.3 points. This bodes well for fans of both teams, fans of the Big Ten and the national TV audience that will likely be tuned in.

9. Northwestern could be only team left unbeaten
The Wildcats are a double-digit favorite over Indiana and are at home. So assuming Northwestern begins the year 5-0 with a win, there is a very good chance they are the lone team left unblemished in a down Big Ten. If Iowa and Michigan State can win at home, Pat Fitzgerald's bunch will be the only team in the league left without a loss with road trips to Penn State and Minnesota looming.

10. Unsung tailbacks could turn into heroes
Mark Weisman has rushed for six touchdowns and 334 yards on 51 carries in his last two games. If Iowa wants to hurt the improving Minnesota defense, the walk-on fullback will have to be effective again. Venric Mark has been on a tear for Northwestern and should be heavily involved in Northwestern's quest for 5-0. Giving Mark the ball will keep the league's No. 1 passing attack (yes, that's Indiana) off the field. Rod Smith has been worked back into the Ohio State rotation of late and could be a big factor against the Spartans front seven. In Lincoln, fans can expect five or six running backs to get the ball with third-string names like Melvin Gordon and Imani Cross potentially playing big roles. And Bill Belton could be back for Penn State this weekend.

Week 5 Big Ten Predictions:

Week 5 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
Indiana (+10.5) at Northwestern N'Western, 31-20 N'Western, 28-7 N'Western, 34-17 N'Western, 28-7
Penn State (+2) at Illinois Penn St, 20-14 Penn St, 21-10 Illinois, 24-20 Penn St, 21-10
Minnesota (+7.5) at Iowa Iowa, 24-21 Minnesota, 28-21 Iowa, 27-24 Minnesota, 28-21
Marshall (+17) at Purdue Purdue, 27-14 Purdue, 35-14 Purdue, 31-27 Purdue, 35-14
Ohio St (+3) at Michigan St Ohio St, 24-17 Ohio St, 24-21 Ohio St, 23-20 Ohio St, 24-21
Wisconsin (+12.5) at Nebraska Nebraska, 34-21 Nebraska, 35-17 Nebraska, 27-20 Nebraska, 35-17
Last Week: 6-4 8-2 7-3 8-2
Yearly Totals: 46-12 45-13 49-9 47-11

Bye Week: Michigan

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 5 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 5 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 5 Previews and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 5 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 5 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 5 Upset Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

Teaser:
<p> Big Ten Week 5 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 05:46
Path: /college-football/big-east-week-5-preview-and-predictions
Body:

Four weeks into the season, and it’s tough to figure what to make of the Big East in 2012. Last week was not good. That much is clear: Big East teams lost to two MAC programs. Syracuse dropped a winnable game against Minnesota and a backup quarterback. Temple’s best chance to upset Penn State in quite a while fizzled with a 24-13 loss.

Yet at the same time, Rutgers defeated Arkansas on the road. Despite the struggles in Fayetteville, this should remain a bragging point for the Scarlet Knights. And just a week ago, Big East teams were 3-0 against ACC programs.

This week, Cincinnati will get its crack at Virginia Tech, which is two weeks removed from a loss to Pittsburgh. That may be the league’s best chance at a statement game this week as USF may be overmatched with Florida State. Louisville and Connecticut will face teams that are a combined 1-5 this season.

Other Week 5 Previews and Predictions

ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC


Big East Top Storylines to Watch in Week 5:

Can Walter Stewart disrupt Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas as much as he disrupted Pitt’s Tino Sunseri?
Defensive end Walter Stewart led a defensive effort against Pittsburgh in Week 2 that included 10 tackles for a loss and six sacks for the Bearcats. Stewart himself accounted for 3.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks and a forced fumble. Although Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri has been excellent the last two weeks, Cincinnati may have a different test against Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas. The Hokies quarterback can escape a pass rush (588 running yards since last season). He’s tough to bring down at 6-foot-6. And he has a NFL arm strength. Thomas bounced back from his three-interception day against Pitt with 144 passing yards, 65 rushing yards and three total touchdowns against Bowling Green (albeit on 11-of-26 passing with an interception). Even if Thomas is struggling, Cincinnati must answer the call against an above average quarterback.

Which Cincinnati offense will show against Virginia Tech?
In the season debut for Cincinnati quarterback Munchie Legaux and running back George Winn against Pitt, the Bearcats looked like a big-play offense. In the second game, Cincinnati’s offense looked more problematic with six turnovers, including four from Legaux. The question is which offense will show up after an open date against Virginia Tech, which is traditionally one of the nation’s stronger defenses.

How will Louisville respond to the last six quarters of football?
For a Big East favorite and a top-25 program, Louisville hasn’t been at its best over the last game and a half. North Carolina outscored Louisville 27-3 in the fourth quarter two weeks ago, and Louisville played close with FIU last week in a 28-21 win on the road. Teddy Bridgewater didn’t have his best game against FIU, and the defense has had its lapses. In another road game (the Cards' second in a span of three consecutive away dates), Louisville should have success against Southern Miss. Although the Eagles went 12-2 and won the Conference USA title last season, Southern Miss is struggling mightily in an 0-3 start in 2012. The Eagles’ closest loss was by 10 at home against East Carolina. Louisville should make easy work of Southern Miss. If not, then Rutgers maybe the clear team to beat in the Big East.

Is there any magic left in the bottle for USF against Florida State?
The only game between Florida State and USF was a 17-7 loss for the Seminoles in B.J. Daniels’ first career start for the Bulls. Since then, USF hasn’t been the program on the rise many predicted it would become. Instead, the Bulls have gone 19-19 since one of the program’s signature wins. The Bulls' inconsistency has continued this season through last week’s 31-27 loss to Ball State. USF’s defense was ineffective against the Cardinals, so what hope is there against a team that has amassed at least 600 yards in three games this season, including 667 against Clemson last week? USF will try to catch Florida State napping again this season, but this probably isn’t the 7-6 FSU team the Bulls beat in 2009.

Hey, UConn, you want to stop the Big East’s losing streak against the MAC?
Big East teams lost twice to MAC programs last week, both on the road (UConn to Western Michigan, USF to Ball State). For a league that has battled a credibility program for several years, that’s not a positive development, to say the least. The Huskies should be able to stop the bleeding against Buffalo, a 1-2 team that has lost by 16 to Kent State and by 22 to Georgia. UConn’s offense has showed some signs of life with 333 passing yards and 92 rushing yards against Western Michigan. Alas, the defense let up, particularly against the pass, in a 30-24 Huskies loss.

Week 5 Big East Predictions:

Week 5 Big East games David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light
Buffalo (+16) at Connecticut UConn 21-7 UConn 20-7 UConn 34-7 UConn 30-3
Cincinnati (+6.5) vs. Virginia Tech Va. Tech 28-21 Va. Tech 31-21 Va. Tech 30-20 Va. Tech 27-24
Florida State at USF (+17) FSU 38-14 FSU 34-14 FSU 38-13 FSU 31-13
Louisville at Southern Miss (+10) Louisville 35-14 Louisville 34-21 Louisville 34-10 Louisville 28-7
Last week 4-3 3-4 3-4 4-3
Overall 19-8 19-8 17-10 18-9

By David Fox

@DavidFox615

Related College Football Content

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Pac-12 Week 5 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 5 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 5 Upset Picks

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

Teaser:
<p> Big East Week 5 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 05:44
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-countdown-no-13-unlv-preview
Body:
Visit the online store for UNLV and other editions of the 2012-13 Athlon Sports College Basketball annual.

The first practices of college basketball season begin in mid-October, and Athlon Sports 2012-13 preview annuals are starting to arrive on newsstands all over the country.

To prepare for the start of college basketball season, we will preview one team each weekday, counting down to the first official day of basketball practice on Oct. 15, or for some teams on Oct. 12.

We continue our countdown with a preview of No. 13 UNLV.

Back in the 1980s and early ‘90s, when Jerry Tarkanian was chomping towels and a great white shark hung from the rafters at the Thomas & Mack Center, there was no hotter ticket in Las Vegas than for UNLV basketball. No, not even Wayne Newton, Engelbert Humperdinck or the Chairman himself, Frank Sinatra, could match the drawing power of the Runnin’ Rebels, who went to three Final Fours over a five-year span and won the 1990 national championship.

That excitement began to dwindle, however, after the popular Tarkanian was forced out following the 1991-92 season after a lengthy and at times ugly NCAA investigation. The Rebels, once one of the premier programs in college hoops, haven’t even won a conference title since sharing the Mountain West championship in 2000.

But entering the 2012-13 campaign under second-year coach Dave Rice, a reserve on Tarkanian’s NCAA title-winning team, it appears that the buzz is finally back for Runnin’ Rebels basketball in Glitter Gulch.

Part of the reason for enthusiasm is the entertaining, run-and-gun dunk-filled play — welcome to “Lob” Vegas — that Rice incorporated during a 26-win debut season that included a 90–80 upset of then-No. 1 North Carolina. Another reason is a highly decorated group of transfers and a recruiting class ranked in the top 10 in the nation by ESPN and No. 12 by Scout.

When some of the newcomers showed up to take part in a summer league game at a local junior high school on a record-breaking 116-degree July afternoon, over 3,000 fans crammed into the gym. And the games were streamed live by a team fan site for those who couldn’t make it.

Yep, you could say the fever is back for Runnin’ Rebel basketball.

FRONTCOURT
On paper this has the makings of the school’s best front line since the Larry Johnson-Stacey Augmon-David Butler era. The big news is that forward Mike Moser, the Mountain West Newcomer of the Year and the school’s first honorable mention AP All-American since Marcus Banks in 2003, decided to return for his junior season after going through the NBA evaluation process. The versatile 6-8 forward had 15 double-doubles while leading the team in scoring (14.0 ppg) and rebounding (10.5 rpg) and also leading the MWC in steals (1.9 spg).

Starting center Brice Massamba and third-team All-MWC forward Chace Stanback, a three-year starter, must be replaced. But Rice has more than his share of options, including a pair of former McDonald’s All-Americans — 6-9 sophomore Khem Birch, a transfer from Pittsburgh who becomes eligible in December, and 6-8 freshman Anthony Bennett from nearby Findlay Prep. Bennett is projected as a first-round pick in some 2013 mock NBA Drafts.

There’s more. Both senior Quintrell Thomas, who began his career at Kansas, and 6-11 junior Carlos Lopez return. After the NCAA denied Connecticut transfer Roscoe Smith’s request to play immediately, the Rebels turn to a pair of highly touted freshman — Savon Goodman and 6-9 shot-blocker Demetris Morant— for depth.

BACKCOURT
Although steady point guard Oscar Bellfield, a four-year starter, departs, the Rebels have good depth and experience at the position. Athletic senior Anthony Marshall, a second-team All-MWC pick and also a member of the league’s all-defensive squad, returns after finishing third on the team in scoring (12.2 ppg) and steals (1.5 spg) and second in rebounding (5.1 rpg) and assists (4.5 apg). Marshall, a local product nicknamed “The Mayor,” is a fan favorite for his acrobatic highlight-reel dunks. Senior Justin Hawkins, arguably the league’s top lockdown defender and sixth man, also returns.

Three newcomers are expected to expected to make major impacts — sophomore Bryce Dejean-Jones, a transfer from USC who starred in practice while redshirting, and true freshmen Katin Reinhardt and Daquan Cook. Reinhardt, the Los Angeles Times’ 2012 Player of the Year, has been compared by Rice, a former BYU assistant, to ex-Cougars’ star Jimmer Fredette for his long-range shooting and playmaking abilities.

FINAL ANALYSIS
There is little doubt that big things are on the horizon for the Runnin’ Rebels under Rice, who guided UNLV to the NCAA Tournament in his first year and followed that up with one of the nation’s top recruiting classes. The big question will be how long it takes for all the new faces to jell. The rebuilt Rebels figure to battle a veteran and talented San Diego State squad for the Mountain West title.

@AthlonSports

Athlon College Basketball Countdown So Far:
20. Florida

19. Notre Dame

18. Memphis
17. Baylor
16. Missouri

15. San Diego State

14. North Carolina

Teaser:
<p> College Basketball Countdown: No. 13 UNLV Preview</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 05:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-positional-rankings-week-4
Body:

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 website can give you.

2012 NFL Week 4 Fantasy Football Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Week 4 Start or Sit

Note: Indianapolis and Pittsburgh are on bye this week.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
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

DEFENSIVE SCORING
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

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

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Positional Rankings: Week 4</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 05:25
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-wide-receiver-rankings-week-4
Body:

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.

Indianapolis and Pittsburgh are on bye.

2012 NFL Week 4 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers

Rk Player Team OPPONENT Notes
1 Calvin Johnson DET vs. MIN  
2 A.J. Green CIN at JAC Victimized 'Skins (183 yards) last week.
3 Julio Jones ATL vs. CAR  
4 Larry Fitzgerald ARI vs. MIA Is last week (9-114-1) a sign of things to come?
5 Andre Johnson HOU vs. TEN  
6 Percy Harvin MIN at DET  
7 Roddy White ATL vs. CAR  
8 Greg Jennings GB vs. NO Big target could be taking Lambeau Leap against Saints.
9 Victor Cruz NYG at PHI  
10 Hakeem Nicks NYG at PHI Should be back after missing Week 3 (foot).
11 Vincent Jackson TB vs. WAS Skins giving up most fantasy points to WRs.
12 Steve Smith CAR at ATL Called out Cam, will it affect chemistry?
13 Brandon Lloyd NE at BUF Carving out role in Patriots' aerial attack.
14 Brandon Marshall CHI at DAL (Mon.)  
15 Demaryius Thomas DEN vs. OAK Could have big day against Raiders' thin secondary.
16 Miles Austin DAL vs. CHI (Mon.)  
17 Stevie Johnson BUF vs. NE  
18 Wes Welker NE at BUF Big part of offensive game plan last week vs. Ravens.
19 Dwayne Bowe KC vs. SD  
20 Jordy Nelson GB vs. NO Put up big numbers in home games last season.
21 DeSean Jackson PHI vs. NYG  
22 Eric Decker DEN vs. OAK Had 136 yards in loss to Texans.
23 Torrey Smith BAL vs. CLE (Thurs.)  
24 Dez Bryant DAL vs. CHI (Mon.) Austin has out-performed Bryant to this point.
25 Marques Colston NO at GB Been slowed by foot injury.
26 Malcom Floyd SD at KC Clearly Rivers' top WR target.
27 Jeremy Maclin PHI vs. NYG Back at practice after missing last week (hip).
28 Santonio Holmes NYJ vs. SF  
29 Denarius Moore OAK at DEN  
30 Michael Crabtree SF at NYJ First to try and take advantage of Revis-less Jets.
31 Kenny Britt TEN at HOU  
32 Lance Moore NO at GB  
33 Pierre Garcon WAS at TB Foot issue has Garcon questionable for another week.
34 Nate Washington TEN at HOU  
35 Danny Amendola STL vs. SEA Hawks secondary will be tough test.
36 Nate Burleson DET vs. MIN Continuing to produce as Lions' No. 2.
37 Anquan Boldin BAL vs. CLE (Thurs.) No longer Ravens' No. 1 option.
38 Brandon LaFell CAR at ATL  
39 Randall Cobb GB vs. NO Returned KO for TD in pro debut in '11 vs. Saints.
40 Mike Williams TB vs. WAS  
41 Andrew Hawkins CIN at JAC Showing a knack for the big play.
42 Titus Young DET vs. MIN Did not practice Wednesday (knee).
43 Brian Hartline MIA at ARI  
44 Sidney Rice SEA at STL  
45 Robert Meachem SD at KC  
46 Golden Tate SEA at STL Looking to build off of 2-TD effort on MNF.
47 Laurent Robinson JAC vs. CIN Passed concussion tests, should play Sunday.
48 Mario Manningham SF at NYJ  
49 Greg Little CLE at BAL (Thurs.) Little having big problems bringing in passes.
50 Randy Moss SF at NYJ  
51 Jerome Simpson MIN at DET Makes season debut after three-game suspension.
52 Kevin Ogletree DAL vs. CHI (Mon.) Hasn't done much since Week 1 coming out party.
53 Andre Roberts ARI vs. MIA  
54 Davone Bess MIA at ARI  
55 Kevin Walter HOU vs. TEN  
56 Kendall Wright TEN at HOU Rookie getting plenty of looks from Locker.
57 Santana Moss WAS at TB  
58 Jon Baldwin KC vs. SD  
59 Donald Jones BUF vs. NE  
60 Cecil Shorts JAC vs. CIN Caught 80-yarder to beat Colts last week.
61 Ramses Barden NYG at PHI Could still produce even as Giants' No. 3.
62 Brandon Gibson STL vs. SEA  
63 Justin Blackmon JAC vs. CIN Rookie yet to have much of an impact.
64 Jeremy Kerley NYJ vs. SF Been productive with limited opportunities he's gotten.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
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

Additional Week 4 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Week 4 Start or Sit

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 4</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 05:23
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-quarterback-rankings-week-4
Body:

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.

Indianapolis and Pittsburgh on are bye this week.

2012 NFL Week 4 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks

Rk Player Team OPPONENT Notes
1 Aaron Rodgers GB vs. NO Motivated QB + Saints porous D = Fantasy Bonanza
2 Tom Brady NE at BUF Career 46:17 TD:INT ratio in career vs. Bills.
3 Drew Brees NO at GB  
4 Robert Griffin III WAS at TB No. 1 fantasy scorer at his position.
5 Matt Ryan ATL vs. CAR No. 2 behind Griffin, 8 TD, 1 INT thus far.
6 Eli Manning NYG at PHI  
7 Peyton Manning DEN vs. OAK Raiders gave up 384 yards, 4 TD to Big Ben last week.
8 Matthew Stafford DET vs. MIN Left last week's game, Shaun Hill will go if he can't.
9 Michael Vick PHI vs. NYG Twice as many INT (6) as TD (3).
10 Cam Newton CAR at ATL  
11 Philip Rivers SD at KC Looking to bounce back after rough Week 3.
12 Joe Flacco BAL vs. CLE (Thurs.)  
13 Tony Romo DAL vs. CHI (Mon.) Bears allowing fewest fantasy points to QBs.
14 Matt Schaub HOU vs. TEN May not be called on to pass b/c of running game.
15 Josh Freeman TB vs. WAS Skins giving up most fantasy points to QBs.
16 Alex Smith SF at NYJ  
17 Andy Dalton CIN at JAC Has had back-to-back 300-yd/3-TD games.
18 Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF vs. NE Has 17 TD vs. 6 INT in last 7 September games.
19 Carson Palmer OAK at DEN  
20 Jay Cutler CHI at DAL (Mon.) Has 1 TD, 5 INT in last two games.
21 Christian Ponder MIN at DET  
22 Kevin Kolb ARI vs. MIA So far, so good - 4 TD, 0 INT in 3 games.
23 Matt Cassel KC vs. SD  
24 Russell Wilson SEA at STL Will MNF finish carry over against Rams?
25 Sam Bradford STL vs. SEA Rams second only to Packers in sacks allowed.
26 Jake Locker TEN at HOU Nice game against Lions, Texans much tougher test.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
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

Additional Week 4 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Week 4 Start or Sit

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings: Week 4</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 05:20
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-tight-end-rankings-week-4
Body:

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.

Indianapolis and Pittsburgh are on bye.

2012 NFL Week 4 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends

Rk Player Team OPPONENT Notes
1 Jimmy Graham NO at GB  
2 Rob Gronkowski NE at BUF Still in the Top 10, despite slow(er) start.
3 Tony Gonzalez ATL vs. CAR "Old" man is No. 1 at his position.
4 Vernon Davis SF at NYJ His 4 TDs are tops (tied, Heath Miller) among TEs.
5 Martellus Bennett NYG at PHI Pretty much a must-start option now.
6 Antonio Gates SD at KC Hoping to shake slow start (7-65-0).
7 Jermichael Finley GB vs. NO  
8 Dennis Pitta BAL vs. CLE (Thurs.) Quickly becoming a favorite target of Flacco's.
9 Brandon Pettigrew DET vs. MIN  
10 Kyle Rudolph MIN at DET Young TE and QB developing chemistry.
11 Brent Celek PHI vs. NYG Leads all TEs in yards.
12 Owen Daniels HOU vs. TEN  
13 Fred Davis WAS at TB Finally showed some signs (7-90) last week.
14 Jason Witten DAL vs. CHI (Mon.) Getting the looks, not catching the ball.
15 Greg Olsen CAR at ATL Caught seven passes last week.
16 Jared Cook TEN at HOU Hurt shoulder late last week, monitor status.
17 Jermaine Gresham CIN at JAC Posted best numbers yet (5-64-1) last week.
18 Jacob Tamme DEN vs. OAK Suffered ankle injury last week, could be limited.
19 Scott Chandler BUF vs. NE  
20 Anthony Fasano MIA at ARI  
21 Marcedes Lewis JAC vs. CIN  
22 Brandon Myers OAK at DEN Suffered concussion last week, check status.
23 Joel Dreessen DEN vs. OAK Starting to take away targets from Tamme.
24 Dallas Clark TB vs. WAS  
25 Rob Housler ARI vs. MIA  
26 Ed Dickson BAL vs. CLE (Thurs.)

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
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

Additional Week 4 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Week 4 Start or Sit

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings: Week 4</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 05:16
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-running-back-rankings-week-4
Body:

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.

Indianapolis and Pittsburgh are on bye.

2012 NFL Week 4 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Backs

Rk Player Team OPPONENT Notes
1 Arian Foster HOU vs. TEN Titans 29th in rushing defense.
2 Ray Rice BAL vs. CLE (Thurs.)  
3 Maurice Jones-Drew JAC vs. CIN MJD already back in top 5 among RBs.
4 LeSean McCoy PHI vs. NYG Hoping to back up trash talk against G-Men.
5 Marshawn Lynch SEA at STL Beast mode could be in full effect vs. Rams.
6 Adrian Peterson MIN at DET  
7 Jamaal Charles KC vs. SD Back in charge after 233-yard effort.
8 Darren McFadden OAK at DEN  
9 Ryan Mathews SD at KC Should see even more touches against Chiefs.
10 Frank Gore SF at NYJ Jets allowing 150 yards rushing per game.
11 Doug Martin TB vs. WAS  
12 BenJarvus Green-Ellis CIN at JAC BJGE should have success vs. Jags.
13 DeMarco Murray DAL vs. CHI (Mon.) Bears will be tough test.
14 Trent Richardson CLE at BAL (Thurs.) Rookie could be in for long night.
15 Michael Bush CHI at DAL (Mon.) Forte's status for this week uknown.
16 Stevan Ridley NE at BUF Hope Week 3 (13 att) is exception, not rule.
17 Reggie Bush MIA at ARI Knee checked out OK, but watch status closely.
18 Michael Turner ATL vs. CAR  
19 Darren Sproles NO at GB  
20 Cedric Benson GB vs. NO Saints giving up most fantasy points to RBs.
21 Alfred Morris WAS at TB Looks to be entrenched as No. 1 back.
22 Mikel Leshoure DET vs. MIN Can he top 100-yard debut?
23 Steven Jackson STL vs. SEA  
24 Andre Brown NYG at PHI No longer the starter, but has earned a role.
25 Ahmad Bradshaw NYG at PHI Named the starter, but will share with Brown.
26 Chris Johnson TEN vs. HOU Texans not what struggling CJ needs.
27 Ryan Williams ARI vs. MIA Now the starter with Beanie Wells on IR.
28 Tashard Choice BUF vs. NE Less appealing if injured Bills return.
29 Jonathan Stewart CAR at ATL Hoping toe/ankle issues are over with.
30 DeAngelo Williams CAR at ATL  
31 Ben Tate HOU vs. TEN Solid flex option vs. Titans.
32 Shonn Greene NYJ vs. SF Powell breathing down his neck.
33 Willis McGahee DEN vs. OAK Rib injury could limit/sideline him.
34 Daniel Thomas MIA at ARI If Reggie sits, Thomas gets the start.
35 Jacquizz Rodgers ATL vs. CAR  
36 Pierre Thomas NO at GB  
37 Mark Ingram NO at GB  
38 Fred Jackson BUF vs. NE Even if he plays, expect limited impact.
39 Lance Ball DEN vs. OAK Should start if McGahee doesn't play.
40 Bilal Powell NYJ vs. SF Time to shine with Greene struggling.
41 Shaun Draughn KC vs. SD Peyton Hillis (ankle) questionable.
42 Danny Woodhead NE at BUF  
43 Daryl Richardson STL vs. SEA  
44 Lamar Miller MIA at ARI  
45 Kendall Hunter SF at NYJ  
46 Toby Gerhart MIN at DET  
47 Jackie Battle SD at KC Chargers' goal-line back?
48 Kevin Smith DET vs. MIN  

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
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

Additional Week 4 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Week 4 Start or Sit

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings: Week 4</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 05:15
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-4
Body:

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.

Indianapolis and Pittsburgh are on bye.

2012 NFL Week 4 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams

Rk Player OPPONENT Notes
1 Houston Texans vs. TEN  
2 Seattle Seahawks at STL Had 8 sacks on MNF, Rams have allowed second-most (12).
3 Baltimore Ravens vs. CLE (Thurs.) Short turnaround, but facing rookie QB/RB in their house.
4 Arizona Cardinals vs. MIA Cards 2nd in points allowed at 13.3 per game.
5 San Francisco 49ers at NYJ Don't look for Jets to get Ground N Pound going this week.
6 Chicago Bears at DAL (Mon.) Ranked 6th in both rushing and passing yards allowed.
7 Dallas Cowboys vs. CHI (Mon.) Giving up league-low 250 yards per game.
8 Green Bay Packers vs. NO Winless Saints get Pack at worst time possible.
9 Atlanta Falcons vs. CAR Dirty Birds hoping to continue Cam's frustrations.
10 Philadelphia Eagles vs. NYG Eagles' secondary looks to slow down G-Men's aerial attack.
11 New York Jets vs. SF  
12 New York Giants at PHI Giants planning to force more mistakes from Vick, Eagles.
13 Denver Broncos vs. OAK  
14 New England Patriots at BUF  
15 Miami Dolphins at ARI  
16 Detroit Lions vs. MIN

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

DEFENSIVE SCORING
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

 

Additional Week 4 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers

Week 4 Start or Sit

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 4</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 05:14
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-kicker-rankings-week-4
Body:

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.

Indianapolis and Pittsburgh are on bye.

2012 NFL Week 4 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 David Akers SF at NYJ
2 Justin Tucker BAL vs. CLE (Thurs.)
3 Mason Crosby GB vs. NO
4 Stephen Gostkowski NE at BUF
5 Matt Bryant ATL vs. CAR
6 Jason Hanson DET vs. MIN
7 Sebastian Janikowski OAK at DEN
8 Nate Kaeding SD at KC
9 Garrett Hartley NO at GB
10 Blair Walsh MIN at DET
11 Shayne Graham HOU vs. TEN
12 Matt Prater DEN vs. OAK
13 Greg Zuerlein STL vs. SEA
14 Lawrence Tynes NYG at PHI
15 Robbie Gould CHI at DAL (Mon.)
16 Dan Bailey DAL vs. CHI (Mon.)

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 4 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Week 4 Start or Sit

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Kicker Rankings: Week 4</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 05:09
Path: /college-football/college-football-week-5-upset-predictions
Body:

College football's Week 5 schedule is relatively quiet in terms of top 25 matchups. Although there are few marquee games to watch this Saturday, it's weekends like this one that can spring a few upsets. Athlon's panel of editors is back, along with a guest contributor to give you the top upset predictions for Week 5. 

College Football's Week 5 Upset Picks

Dave Bartoo (@CFBMatrix), CFBMatrix.com, Missouri (+3) over Central Florida
This was the pick in my pre-season selections in March and there is no reason to change it (not that I ever do).  I about fell out of my chair when I saw Mizzou getting +3 to open the week.  In the last 6 years, the Tiger, when the Matrix picks them to win in on the road have just 2 losses.  Conversely, UCF under O’Leary is an underachieving train wreck.  Everything I see points to Mizzou.  They have a coaching advantage and a huge talent gap advantage.  Don’t let the last 2 weeks set a Gambler Fallacy into your mind.  Missouri was supposed to lose those two games against elite teams.  In essence, those are two losses they cashed in exchange for the SEC payday.  While I prefer the home dog, the Tigers roll into UCF and roll over the Knights.

David Fox (@DavidFox615): Iowa State (+2.5) over Texas Tech 
So we’re really making Iowa State and Paul Rhoads underdogs at home against Texas Tech. OK. If you insist. Texas Tech is second in the nation in total offense and first in total defense. No doubt, the Red Raiders are improved, but they’ve played Northwestern State, Texas State and New Mexico. Iowa State will be much tougher. The Cyclones’ most impressive win might not even be the 95 victory at Iowa. Maybe it’s 38-23 over Tulsa, which is a much closer gauge of what Iowa State will see against Texas Tech. In that game, Iowa State held Tulsa quarterback to 23-of-49 passing with two interceptions. Seth Doege is a veteran quarterback with better receivers, but I’ll put my trust in the Iowa State defense.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall): Ohio State (+3) at Michigan State
These two teams are very well coached, are very physical along the line of scrimmage and have arguably the top two defenses ni the Big Ten. But the Buckeyes have one major advantage and you can bet Urban Meyer will take advantage of it. Braxton Miller will be the best player on the field and when the play breaks down, he has been brilliant. Meanwhile, Andrew Maxwell has yet to prove he can win a game with his arm. Expect Meyer to stack the box against Le'Veon Bell in an effort to force Maxwell into key third-down situations. Give me the Bucks to win a close one on the road.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): NC State (+3) at Miami
Is it time to buy into Miami? Only time will tell but last week’s win over Georgia Tech was impressive. The Hurricanes’ defense struggled to get stops, but the offense scored a season-high 42 points and recorded 609 yards. NC State has flown under the radar since losing to Tennessee in the season opener. The Wolfpack have picked up wins over Connecticut, South Alabama and Citadel the last three weeks, and cornerback David Amerson seems to have his confidence back after a disappointing performance in the opener. Although the Hurricanes have scored 38 or more points three times this season, the Wolfpack will present a tougher challenge on defense, especially in the trenches where they are averaging 3 sacks per game. Miami’s secondary has yet to face a quarterback of Mike Glennon’s caliber, which should test a unit that is allowing 226.3 yards per game. Expect a close matchup, but NC State’s edge on defense should be the difference.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): Rice (+5) over Houston
Houston has arguably been the most disappointing team in the nation. Yes, record-setting quarterback Case Keenum is gone, but the Cougars welcomed back 12 starters (including seven on defense) from a team that won 13 games last season. But the 2012 season, under the direction of first-year coach Tony Levine, has been a disaster. Houston has lost all three games, most notably a 30–13 decision at home in Week 1 to FBS upstart Texas State. Rice, meanwhile, has played relatively well. The Owls are 1–4 with a win at Kansas and losses to UCLA, Louisiana Tech and Marshall (in double-overtime). As expected, Rice has been horrible on defense, but the offense has been solid; the Owls have scored at least 24 points in all four games and are averaging over 220 yards rushing and passing. Houston has the more talented roster, but Rice might be the better team. Rice 41, Houston 37

Mark Ross: Rice (+5) over Houston
This Conference USA battle of in-state rivals features two of the worst defenses in the nation, statistically anyways, so expect lots of offense. Rice is second-to-last among the 120 FBS teams in total defense (546.8 ypg), while Houston is just one spot ahead of them at No. 118 (536.3 ypg). The Owls are dead last in scoring defense with the Cougars coming in at No. 117, as both teams are giving up more than 40 points per game. The difference here is with the offenses, which is surprising since Houston has more of a reputation on that side of the ball. Make no mistake, however, this is not the same Cougars' offense that we've seen in recent years, as they and the Owls are basically even when it comes to total offense numbers. The Owls' offense, which is scoring nearly 12 more points per game than the Cougars, is led by dual-threat quarterback Taylor McHargue, who is currently 13th in the nation in total offense (321 ypg). Cougars quarterback David Piland is fourth in the nation in this category, as he's averaging nearly 350 yards passing per game, but the offense has had all sorts of issues with ball security (No. 105 in turnover margin). In the end, Rice's more-balanced offense, led by McHargue, will out-gain and out-score Piland and the Cougars in what figures to be a high-scoring affair. In other words, I wouldn't hesitate to start any Owls or Cougars I have on my fantasy roster and may even have to check to see if any are available to pick up.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): Ohio State (+3) at Michigan State
This will be the Buckeyes first road contest under Urban Meyer, but I believe OSU’s quarterback advantage will be able to overcome the raucous atmosphere in East Lansing. Obviously these are two physical teams built around running the ball and solid defense, so expect a tight, low-scoring affair. The Ohio State defense has had some issues against the pass (104th in the nation) this season, but I do not see Spartans signal caller Andrew Maxwell being able to consistently move the ball through the air. The difference in this one will be Buckeyes dual-threat quarterback Braxton Miller, who is electric in the open field and can make big plays at any time. Special teams will also play a critical role in a close game, and I’ll take Ohio State to prevail on the road and go to 5-0 on the season.

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 5 Preview and Predictions
Big East Week 5 Preview and Predictions

Big Ten Week 5 Preview and Predictions

Big 12 Week 5 Preview and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 5 Preview and Predictions

SEC Week 5 Preview and Predictions

 

Teaser:
<p> College Football Week 5 Upset Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 05:07
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-week-5-start-or-sit
Body:

Many readers have asked if we can expand our weekly rankings.  We could, but what we strive to do is use our Start/Bench and Emergency Starters lists to expand our ranking in a creative way.  What makes theCFFsite unique is that in articles such as the one you are about to read, we will never include the obvious selections.  Simply put, you will rarely see players ranked in our top ten listed on a Start/Bench or Emergency Starters list.  We want to help you make the tough decisions of deciding on a RB#2, WR#3, or FLEX.  You guys, the readers, have helped make pieces like this one and the Emergency Starters list extremely well received.  Your feedback has been tremendously helpful in growing theCFFsite.  Our goal is to be the most interactive college fantasy football resource.  Please, keep the emails and twitter interactions coming.                 

Start

Colby Cameron, QB-Louisiana Tech at Virginia

Cameron leads a Bulldogs attack that is third in the nation in scoring at 54.7 points per game.  In three games this season, the senior quarterback has thrown eleven touchdowns without an interception.

Charles Sims, RB-Houston at Rice

Now that Sims is back and participating at full speed, he should find plenty of running room against a Rice defense giving up over 300 yards rushing per game.

Todd Gurley, RB-Georgia vsTennessee

Gurley may not be getting more than 20 touches per game, but the freshman has topped the century mark three times and has scored in every game.

Mark Weisman, RB-Iowa vs Minnesota

Fellow running back Damon Bullock will most likely miss this week’s game against the Gophers, so expect the bruising sophomore to carry the ball another 20-25 times.

Alex Amidon, WR-Boston College vs Clemson

Amidon has at least six catches and 99 yards receiving in every game this season and should get a lot of opportunities this week, as the Eagles will try to keep pace with the Clemson offense.

Mike Evans, WR-Texas A&M vs Arkansas

We’re expecting the 6-5 freshman to have one of his biggest games of the season against an Arkansas defense giving up over 312 passing yards per game.

Josh Stewart, WR-Oklahoma St vs Texas

After back-to-back nine-catch games, Stewart is starting to become the most consistent receiving threat the Cowboys have.

Michael Edwards, WR-UTEP at East Carolina

Running back Nathan Jeffery received a lot of attention after his big game against Oklahoma to open the season, but receiver Michael Edwards is starting to become a legitimate fantasy factor.  This week, the Miners face an East Carolina defense giving up 312 yards passing per game.


Bench

Kain Colter, QB-Northwestern vs Indiana

Colter injured his wrist last game, but is expected to start this week against Indiana.  However, he has not thrown a touchdown pass since the first week of the season and the Wildcats’ offense goes through running back Venric Mark.

Taylor Martinez, QB-Nebraska vs Wisconsin

Even though Martinez has thrown for nine touchdowns and has improved his accuracy as a passer, we expect the Huskers to give Wisconsin a heavy dose of Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah.

Knile Davis, RB-Arkansas at Texas A&M

Davis’ best rushing performance this season was in Week One when he ran for 70 yards against Jacksonville State.  This week, Davis and the Razorbacks hit the road to face the nation’s 18th ranked rushing defense.

Jordan Hall, RB-Ohio St at Michigan St

We expect Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller to do most of his damage outside of the pocket, but the Spartans’ 11th ranked rushing defense should keep Hall bottled up between the tackles.

Cameron Marshall, RB-Arizona St at Cal

If Marshall wasn’t scoring touchdowns, he’d be dropped in almost every league format.  Expect freshman running back D.J. Foster to lead the Sun Devils in rushing at the end of the season.

Bishop Sankey, RB-Washington vs Stanford

Sankey had an impressive showing two weeks ago against Portland State when he ran for 103 yards and two touchdowns, but this week he faces the nation’s No. 1 rushing defense.

Michael Holmes, RB-Virginia Tech vs Cincinnati

Holmes has been named the starter for this week’s game against the Bearcats, but Tony Gregory led the Hokies in rushing last weekend and may be on the field more than any other back this Saturday.

Devin Smith, WR-Ohio St at Michigan St

If quarterback Braxton Miller can create some opportunities outside the pocket, Smith could be in line for some big plays.  However, we expect those opportunities to be limited in East Lansing against the nation’s 13th ranked pass defense.

Alex Neutz, WR-Buffalo at Connecticut

Last week, Neutz only caught two passes against Kent State and one reception was a Hail Mary pass that went for a touchdown in the closing seconds of the first half.  This Saturday, the Bulls will be without running back Branden Oliver, which means the nation’s 11th ranked pass defense will zero in on the Bulls’ next-best playmaker. 

 

by Joe DiSalvo, thecffsite.com

For Start/Bench advice from Joe DiSalvo, send an email to:  joe@thecffsite.com

Follow Joe on twitter (@theCFFsite)

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: Week 5 Start or Sit</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 03:56
All taxonomy terms: Nebraska Cornhuskers, Big Ten, News
Path: /college-football/tom-osbourne-his-5-greatest-moments-nebraska
Body:

When he succeeded Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne didn’t imagine he would spend 25 years as Nebraska’s head coach. He figured the best-case scenario was maybe five years.

“Bob always had a built-in grace factor because he turned the program around,” Osborne has said. “I wasn’t going to have that opportunity because I was more of a caretaker.” 

Osborne was a native son, a Nebraskan who had been a multi-sport athlete at both Hastings (Neb.) High and Hastings College. He hadn’t planned to pursue coaching. Rather, it was going to be a means to an end. After a brief professional football career, he sought a job on Devaney’s first staff at Nebraska while working on a post-graduate degree. Devaney offered room and board, and he accepted.

After earning a doctorate in educational psychology, however, Osborne chose coaching over the classroom, a choice that produced remarkable results. Every one of his teams won at least nine games and played in bowl games. The 25 consecutive bowl trips made by his teams are an NCAA record for a coach; Bear Bryant is second with 24. And Osborne coached the Cornhuskers to three national championships in his final four seasons, compiling a record of 60–3 in his final five seasons, all with 11 or more victories.

His teams won or shared 13 conference titles, and his winning percentage of .836 (255–49–3) was the nation’s best among active coaches before he retired. His percentage ranked fifth all-time in Division I.

Osborne emphasized the journey rather than the destination, and his philosophy was expressed in the title of an autobiographical book he wrote, More Than Winning. He stepped aside after the third national championship — becoming the first coach ever to retire after winning a national title — for health and personal reasons. The field at Memorial Stadium is named in his honor. And he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998, after the Hall’s three-year waiting period was waived.

Five years ago he was named the school's athletic director, and yesterday the 75-year-old Osborne announced he would be retiring on Jan. 1, 2013. 

In recognition of his career at Nebraska, we look back at five great moments that helped define Osborne's legacy.
 

Osborne Finally Beats OU
Nebraska 17, Oklahoma 14
Nov. 11, 1978

Senior monster back Jim Pillen recovered a Billy Sims fumble at the Nebraska 3-yard line with 3:27 remaining to preserve Osborne’s first victory against Oklahoma. The Sooners, undefeated, untied and ranked No. 1, fumbled nine times, losing six. Sims, the Heisman Trophy winner that season, lost two of the fumbles in the fourth quarter, as top-ranked Oklahoma tried in vain to overcome a 24-yard Billy Todd field goal with 11:51 remaining. Sims, who had rushed for 200 or more yards in three consecutive games, scored both of the Sooner touchdowns, on runs of 44 and 30 yards. Nebraska countered with touchdown runs by Rick Berns and I.M. Hipp, in the second and third quarters. The victory put the Cornhuskers in position to play Penn State in the Orange Bowl for the national championship. But a week later, Missouri upset Nebraska, also in Lincoln, leading to an Orange Bowl rematch with Oklahoma.

No Guts, No Glory
Miami 31, Nebraska 30
Jan. 2, 1984

Osborne almost certainly could have had his first national championship had he been willing to settle for a tie. That was the consensus, anyway. The Cornhuskers, ranked No. 1 throughout the season, would have remained undefeated with a Scott Livingston extra-point kick. But Osborne opted for a 2-point conversion attempt that would have meant victory. Miami’s Ken Calhoun deflected Turner Gill’s pass enough that it glanced off I-back Jeff Smith incomplete. Nebraska rallied from a 31–17 fourth-quarter deficit, with Smith, who was playing for an injured Mike Rozier, scoring two touchdowns in the final 6:55, the second with 48 seconds remaining. Miami had built a 17–0 first-quarter lead, but the Cornhuskers battled back to tie less than two minutes into the second half. Their first touchdown came when guard Dean Steinkuhler picked up an intentional fumble and ran 19 yards. Nebraska didn’t leave the Orange Bowl with a national title, but Osborne and his team left with national respect for playing to win. Said Miami coach Howard Schnellenberger: “This was a championship game, and (Osborne) went after it like a champion.”

Osborne Gets His National Title
Nebraska 24, Miami 17
Jan. 1, 1995

At halftime of the Orange Bowl game, Osborne reminded the Cornhuskers that if they kept “hammering” away, Miami’s defense would wear down. And so it did, though there were some anxious moments among Nebraska fans when the Hurricanes increased their lead to 17–7 less than two minutes into the second half. They wouldn’t score again, however. The Cornhuskers got two of the points back quickly, when rush end Dwayne Harris tackled Miami quarterback Frank Costa for a safety. But the offensive persistence didn’t begin to pay off until midway through the fourth quarter, when fullback Cory Schlesinger scored two touchdowns in a span of 4 minutes and 52 seconds to give Osborne his first national championship. Tommie Frazier, who had been sidelined by blood clots throughout Big Eight play, returned to start at quarterback. But Brook Berringer got Nebraska on the scoreboard with 19-yard pass to tight end Mark Gilman in the second quarter, after Miami had jumped out to a 10–0 lead on their home field.

Frazier Frustrates Florida
Nebraska 62, Florida 24
Jan. 2, 1996

The play didn’t appear all that special at first. On second-and-5 from his own 25-yard line late in the third quarter of the Fiesta Bowl game against No. 2-ranked Florida, quarterback Tommie Frazier faked a handoff to fullback Brian Schuster and for a split-second appeared to consider a pitch to I-back Clinton Childs. He kept the ball, however, and ran 75 yards for the touchdown that defined his Cornhusker career. He broke seven or eight tackles during the first 20 yards, after which he was untouched by a Gator defender. “They kept contacting me, but I kept my legs going,” Frazier explained following the 62–24 victory that gave Nebraska a second consecutive national championship and established the 1995 Huskers as perhaps the greatest team in college football history.
 

Missouri Miracle
Nebraska 45, Missouri 38 (OT)
Nov. 8, 1997

Everyone remembers the final play in regulation, Matt Davison’s touchdown catch of a ball thrown by Scott Frost that deflected off the foot of Shevin Wiggins. But what preceded the catch at Missouri’s Faurot Field was dramatic as well. With 1:02 remaining, Nebraska took over at its own 33-yard line. Nine plays later, without benefit of timeouts, Frost had directed the Cornhuskers to the Missouri 12-yard line. Only seven seconds remained. The tying touchdown came on third down.
Nebraska lost the coin toss and had the ball first in overtime, scoring in three plays, the third a 12-yard run by Frost for his fourth touchdown. He finished with a career-high 141 rushing yards, and I-back Ahman Green rushed for 189 as the Cornhuskers rolled up 528 total yards. Missouri gained 386 yards, with quarterback Corby Jones accounting for 293 passing and rushing. The Tigers went ahead 38–31 with 4:39 remaining.
Spurred by the Missouri Miracle, the Huskers sent Osborne out with a share of a third national title, completing an unbeaten season with a 42-17 Orange Bowl win over Tennessee.

Teaser:
<p> Tom Osborne: His 5 Greatest Moments at Nebraska</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 18:02
Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-picks-every-game-week-4
Body:

NFL Week 4 previews and predictions for every game on the schedule:

Browns (0-3) at Ravens (2-1)
The expansion Courtney Browns take on the original Jim Browns in the Art Modell Bowl on Thursday night. This one could get ugly.
Ravens by 11

Patriots (1-2) at Bills (2-1)
Tom Brady has an 18–2 record against the Bills. But one of those losses came last season — in a 34–31 Week 3 defeat on the road in Buffalo.
Patriots by 8

49ers (2-1) at Jets (2-1)
Rather than flying back to the Bay, the Niners will spend the week in Ohio before going to Jersey.
49ers by 4

Seahawks (2-1) at Rams (1-2)
Seattle’s “Beast Mode” back Marshawn Lynch rushed for a combined 203 yards and two TDs in two wins over St. Louis last season.
Seahawks by 1

Panthers (1-2) at Falcons (3-0)
Cam Newton returns to his hometown of Atlanta, where he will look to earn his first win over the Falcons — after losing 31–17 on the road in Week 6 and 31–23 in Week 14 last season.
Falcons by 8

Vikings (2-1) at Lions (1-2)
All eyes will be on oft-injured franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was replaced by Shaun Hill late in last week’s loss at Tennessee.
Lions by 6

Chargers (2-1) at Chiefs (1-2)
Philip Rivers needs 27 passing yards to become the 63rd quarterback in NFL history to throw for 25,000 career yards.
Chargers by 3

Titans (1-2) at Texans (3-0)
The Titans became the first team in history to score five TDs of longer than 60 yards during their wild overtime win against the Lions.
Texans by 10

Bengals (2-1) at Jaguars (1-2)
Andy Dalton and Blaine Gabbert duel in a battle of second-year signal-callers.
Bengals by 4

Raiders (1-2) at Broncos (2-1)
Denver will be without linebacker Joe Mays, who was suspended one game and fined $50,000 for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Matt Schaub.
Broncos by 4

Dolphins (1-2) at Cardinals (3-0)
Arizona has allowed just two TDs and leads the NFL with 13.3 points against per game.
Cardinals by 6

Redskins (1-2) at Buccaneers (1-2)
The “Victory Formation” has been banned in Tampa but “Griffining” is legal — for now.
Buccaneers by 1

Saints (0-3) at Packers (2-1)
Two of the last three Super Bowl champions are also arguably the two most emotionally drained teams in the NFL heading into Week 4 — with New Orleans still winless and Green Bay fresh off one of the most painful losses in history.
Packers by 7

Giants (2-1) at Eagles (2-1)
Michael Vick is under the heat lamp just in time for a Sunday night fight against the defending Super Bowl champs and NFC East rival Giants.
Giants by 2

Bears (2-1) at Cowboys (2-1)
Two of the most popular teams in America — led by two of the least popular QBs in the NFL — clash at Jerry’s House on Monday night.
Bears by 1
 

Teaser:
<p> Previews and predictions for every game on the schedule, including Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 15:05
All taxonomy terms: NFL, NBA, MLB, Overtime
Path: /nfl/30-greatest-athletes-movies-0
Body:

While most athletes are content to enjoy the limelight on the field of competitive sports, many have tried to bask in the bright lights of Hollywood. Here are 30 athletes who made their mark in the movies; some as classic characters in blockbusters and others in forgettable box office disasters.



1. Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Terminator (1984)
The four-time Mr. Universe and International Powerlifting Champion from Austria went on to become the greatest action hero of his — or any — generation. Schwarzenegger’s signature role was the Terminator sent back in time to assassinate Sarah Connor, the mother of unborn revolutionary leader John Connor. Although he speaks only 18 lines in the James Cameron classic, Arnold utters his most memorable quote — “I’ll be back.”
Other notable films: Conan the Barbarian (1982), Predator (1987), Total Recall (1990), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), True Lies (1994)

2. Johnny Weissmuller, Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)
A five-time gold medalist swimmer and bronze medalist water polo player, Weissmuller starred in 12 Tarzan films from 1932-48. Although he was the sixth actor to portray the Edgar Rice Burrough character, Weissmuller added arguably the most important element to Tarzan — the ape-man’s ululating yell.

3. Jim Brown, 100 Rifles (1969)
Arguably the greatest running back (and lacrosse player) in history, Brown retired from the NFL during the prime of his career to become a movie star.

“To leave at 29 years old, MVP, having won the championship in ’64 and played for it in ’65,” Brown told Esquire in 2008. “To go into the movies and break the color barrier and be in a sex scene with Raquel Welch. To get to be in The Dirty Dozen with some great actors. To make more money in one year than you damn near made in nine years of football. Everything about it was ingenious.”
Other notable films: The Dirty Dozen (1967), The Running Man (1987), Mars Attacks! (1996), Any Given Sunday (1999)


4. O.J. Simpson, The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991)
The Juice was a Heisman Trophy winner at USC and the only running back in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in only 14 games. But he was also the bumbling klutz Detective Nordberg in The Naked Gun franchise.

Nordberg: “All right, listen up everyone! I want you to calmly file towards the exits. That’s it, that’s it! Nobody runs, just walk. Single file. That’s it. Now if we just stay calm, no one’s gonna be harmed by the huge bomb that’s gonna explode any minute.”

But O.J.’s best acting scene came during his 1994-95 trial for double-homicide — when he was given black gloves and the stage in one of the greatest legal dramas ever.
Other notable films: The Towering Inferno (1974), The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988), The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994)

5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Airplane! (1980)
From sky hook to fly boy, Kareem was co-pilot Roger Murdock — flying alongside a very Jerry Sandusky pilot played by Peter Graves — in the comedy classic Airplane! He also fought Bruce Lee during his film debut in Game of Death.

Roger Murdock: “Listen Kid! I’ve been hearing that crap ever since I was at UCLA. I’m out there busting my buns every night. Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes.”
Other notable films: Game of Death (1972), Fletch (1985)

6. Carl Weathers, Rocky (1976)
Before he was iconic heavyweight champion Apollo Creed in the Best Picture Academy Award-winning Rocky, Weathers played football at San Diego State, then four seasons with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders and the CFL’s B.C. Lions.

Apollo Creed: “Southpaw nothing. I’ll drop him in three. Apollo Creed meets the Italian Stallion. Now that sounds like a damn monster movie.”
Other notable films: Rocky II (1979), Rocky III (1982), Rocky IV (1985), Predator (1987), Happy Gilmore (1996)


 

7. Mike Tyson, The Hangover (2009)
The youngest fighter (20 years, 4 months, 22 days) to unify the heavyweight title belt (WBC, WBA and IBF), Iron Mike was a terror in the ring — going 37–0 before losing to Buster Douglas in Tokyo, in one of the greatest upsets in sports history.

A surreal caricature of a man, Tyson infamously did hard time, bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear, got a face tattoo and speaks with an effeminate voice that contradicts his baddest man alive persona. Already bordering on a fictional existence, Tyson took his act to the big screen, singing Phil Collins’ classic “In the Air Tonight” in the bachelor party flick Hangover.

Tyson: “By the way man, where you get that cop car from?”
Stu Price: “We, uh, stole it from these dumbass cops.”
Tyson: “Nice! High five there! That’s nice!”

Other notable films: Rocky Balboa (2006), The Hangover Part II (2011)

 

8. Bob Uecker, Major League (1989)
One of Uecker’s 14 career home runs in MLB was off of the legendary lefty Sandy Koufax. But the backup catcher was known more for his play-by-play commentary — both in real life as the five-time Wisconsin Sportscaster of the Year with the Milwaukee Brewers and in film as the hard-drinking Harry Doyle with the Cleveland Indians in the Major League trilogy.

Harry Doyle: “So, here is Rick Vaughn, the one they call the ‘Wild Thing.’ So, he sets and deals. (Vaughn throws a wild pitch) Just a bit outside, he tried for the corner and missed. (Vaughn throws another wild pitch) Ball 4. (Vaughn throws another wild pitch) Ball 8. (Vaughn throws another wild pitch) Low, and he walks the bases loaded on 12 straight pitches. How can these guys lay off pitches that close?”
Other notable films: Major League II (1994), Homeward Bound 2: Lost in San Francisco (1996), Major League: Back to the Minors (1998)



9. Alex Karras, Blazing Saddles (1974)


An Outland Award winning defensive tackle at Iowa and a four-time Pro Bowl selection in the NFL, Karras was the perfect fit for the horse-punching Mongo in the Mel Brooks wild Western satire Blazing Saddles.

Mongo: “Mongo only pawn … in game of life.”
Other notable films: Porky’s (1982), Victor Victoria (1982), Against All Odds (1984)

10. Andre the Giant, The Princess Bride (1987)
The 7’4”, 530-pound Frenchman was one of the greatest acts in WWF history before playing the lovable strongman running mate of Inigo Montoya in the rom-com fairy tale The Princess Bride.

Fezzik: “It’s not my fault being the biggest and the strongest. I don’t even exercise.”
Other notable films: Conan the Destroyer (1984), Micki + Maude (1984)



11. Bubba Smith, Police Academy (1984)
“Kill, Bubba, Kill” was chanted by fans at Michigan State before Smith became the No. 1 overall pick of the 1967 NFL Draft. The 6’7” Smith was a two-time Pro Bowl defensive end with the Baltimore Colts and a member of the Super Bowl V champions and Super Bowl III runners-up. But to many, he was Lt. Moses Hightower of the Police Academy series.

Hightower: “I was a florist.”
Mahoney: “A florist?”
Hightower: “Yeah, you know, flowers and shit.”
Other notable films: Police Academy 2-6 (1985-89)


12. Vinnie Jones, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)


A real deal hooligan, Jones was a footballer who captained the Welsh national team before becoming a typecast movie tough guy.
Other notable films: Snatch (2000), Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000), Swordfish (2001), X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)


13. John Matuszak, The Goonies (1985)
“Tooz” was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1973 NFL Draft and a two-time Super Bowl champion (Super Bowls XI and XV) before playing the deformed “Sloth” in The Goonies.
Other notable films: North Dallas Forty (1979), Caveman (1981)


14. Jason Lee, Almost Famous (2000)


The former professional skateboarder has carved his way to becoming one of the top goofy-foot grinders in the acting game, turning a wicked 360 flip into mainstream big (and small) screen success.
Other notable films: Mallrats (1995), Chasing Amy (1997), Vanilla Sky (2001), Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007)

 

15. Cam Neely, Dumb and Dumber (1994)
“Kick his ass, Sea Bass!” has made its way into the vernacular thanks to the Hockey Hall of Famer who hockey-ed a loogie on Jim Carey’s hamburger in the cult classic.

Sea Bass: “What the hell? Who’s the dead man that hit me with the salt shaker?”
Other notable films: D2: The Mighty Ducks (1994), Me, Myself & Irene (2000), What’s the Worst That Could Happen (2001)



16. Roger Clemens, Kingpin (1996)


Clemens, like Neely, is an athlete-actor in Farrelly Brothers comedies. Another intimidator, Clemens plays the role of Skidmark, who doesn’t like it when he finds Amish bowler Ishmael dancing with his girl.

Ishmael: “Hi Mr. Skidmark.”
Other notable films: Cobb (1994), Anger Management (2003)

17. Ray Allen, He Got Game (1998)
Ray plays Jesus Shuttlesworth — Denzel Washington’s son, based loosely on the life of Stephon Marbury — in the Spike Lee joint He Got Game. The perky perks of college basketball recruiting, as well as its financially and politically charged shady side, are in the spotlight.
Other notable film: Harvard Man (2001)


18. Ray Nitschke, The Longest Yard (1974)
The iconic two-time Super Bowl (I and II) champion Green Bay Packers middle linebacker makes this Burt Reynolds original where the prison inmates play against the guards.
Other notable film: Head (1968)



19. Lawrence Taylor, Any Given Sunday (1999)

Another of the NFL’s all-time great linebackers stretches his acting chops by playing football in a film. Coached by Al Pacino, L.T. is a veteran risking his life to play another Sunday for the Miami Sharks.

Other notable films: The Waterboy (1998), The Comebacks (2007), When in Rome (2010)

20. Mike Ditka, Kicking and Screaming (2005)
One of two men to win Super Bowls as a player, assistant coach and head coach, Ditka may have been able to beat a Hurricane — according to Bill Swerski’s Superfans on Saturday Night Live — but he was no match for Will Ferrell.


21. Wilt Chamberlain, Conan the Destroyer (1984)


After scoring a record 100 points in a single NBA game, Wilt the Stilt teamed up with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Look out, ladies.

22. Jesse Ventura, Predator (1987)


Another Arnold Schwarzenegger castmate, “The Body” was hunting and hunted by a Predator monster in the jungles of Central America. The duo would go on to become governors, with Ventura taking over Minnesota and Arnold becoming the “Governator” of Call-ee-forn-ee-a.
Other notable films: The Running Man (1987), Demolition Man (1993), Batman & Robin (1997)

23. Terry Bradshaw, Failure to Launch (2006)


The four-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback plays the husband of Kathy Bates and father of Matthew McConaughey, a 35-year-old still living with his parents. Spoiler alert: Bradshaw bares all.

24. Brett Favre, There's Something About Mary (1998)
Cameron Diaz is a Niners fan, but Brett and Warren are friends.

Favre: “Hi, Mary!”
Mary: “Brett?”
Pat Healy: “What the hell is Brett Favre doing here?”
Favre: “I’m in town to play the Dolphins, you dumb ass.”

25. Dan Marino, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)


Ray Finkle blames Marino — “Laces out!” — for losing Super Bowl XVII and ruining his career. The Jim Carey vehicle is funnier than Isotoner commercials, which is saying something.

26. Lance Armstrong, Dodgeball (2004)
After convincing Ben Still to Live Strong, Lance has since taken his ball and gone home.

Armstrong: “I’ve been watching the dodgeball tournament on the Ocho, ESPN 8. I just can’t get enough of it. But, good luck in the tournament. I’m really pulling for you against those jerks from Globo Gym. I think you better hurry up or you’re gonna be late.”
Peter La Fleur: “Uh, actually I decided to quit, Lance.”
Armstrong: “Quit? You know, once I was thinking about quitting when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer, all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and I won the Tour de France five times in a row. But I’m sure you have a good reason to quit. So what are you dying from that’s keeping you from the finals?”

27. Derek Jeter, The Other Guys (2010)
He’s a biracial angel.



28. Gheorghe Muresan, My Giant (1998)
The 7’7” Romanian sensation wasn’t just Billy Crystal’s giant, he was everyone’s giant.

29. Michael Jordan, Space Jam (1996)


Bugs Bunny owes us all an apology. You too, Michael.

30. Shaquille O'Neal, Kazaam (1996)
Shaq would probably spend all three of his wishes to wipe out this boombox genie flop.

Teaser:
<p> These are 30 athletes who also starred in movies, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, O.J. Simpson and Mike Tyson.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 12:53
Path: /nascar/backseat-drivers-fan-council-28
Body:

Even with replacement referees, the NFL is drawing large TV audiences. With NASCAR’s title Chase under way, members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council were asked what they’re watching more of — NASCAR or NFL. The answer, from a group of NASCAR fans, might surprise you. That’s just among the questions Fan Council members debated this week.


Which did you watch more of Sunday — NASCAR or NFL?

61.5 percent said NASCAR
16.9 percent said NFL
15.8 percent said both about the same
5.8 percent said neither

What Fan Council members said:
• I dislike football. I only watch NASCAR. My husband used to force me to watch football so I divorced him. ;)

• Usually NASCAR would NEVER get changed to watch football in our house, but the race was so boring on Sunday we wanted to watch some kind of action.

• I actually watched the race more than the NFL game, but since the race was VERY boring again, I'm thinking of recording the race and watching the games next week.

• I don't watch the NFL.

• I watched the NASCAR race. Why? Because no matter how bad a race might be, I stay loyal to the sport and remember that the racing can only get BETTER with time.

• Normally I watch NASCAR, and football during commercial, but if the next few races are like Chicagoland and Loudon, I may just watch all of the football game and monitor the race during commercials and on Twitter.

• Watched more HGTV than the race.

• The easiest choice I make every week is what to watch on Sunday afternoon. NASCAR is king in my house!

• DirecTV offered “The Sunday Ticket” at a reduced price this year, so I bought it and have been watching more football instead of boring races at NHMS.

• I'm a NASCAR fan first and my first choice every Sunday will be the race until the season is over, then I'll start watching football.


After scoring his fifth win of the season Sunday, how many wins will Denny Hamlin finish with this year?

36.3 percent said six wins
30.1 percent said five wins
30.1 percent said seven wins
3.5 percent said eight or more wins

What Fan Council members said:
• I think Denny is done. The team’s inconsistency will kick in, but kudos to Darian Grubb for an excellent season. Darian can certainly thumb his nose at Tony.

• I am shocked that he has won this many. Usually by now he has choked himself into a hole too deep to come out. Who knows!? Maybe this could be the year!

• I think he’s going to get his championship. I think they are building great cars. I think Denny is a good driver. And Darian Grubb has the experience.

• Think he gets Martinsville, Charlotte and Phoenix. Possibly Homestead.

• He'll win at Martinsville. I guarantee it ... but not really. But if he does, I'll say I guaranteed it.

• He's a legitimate threat at all the rest of the tracks except for Dover.

• He's on his way to fulfilling his promise to Joe Gibbs! Like they say, you got to lose a championship before you can win one, so he's ready.

• For some reason my gut doesn't take Denny seriously as a contender this season. I know he's the hot tamale right now, but my gut says Matt Kenseth is going to come back and come back strong. I was surprised Denny won Sunday's race. For some reason he just doesn't strike me as the best driver from the best team of 2012.


Grade Sunday’s Cup race at New Hampshire:

46.9 percent called it Fair
34.1 percent called it Good
15.9 percent called it Poor
3.1 percent called it Great

What Fan Council members said:
• Didn't really like the race much. One person dominating the race combined with three cautions for what seemed to be fake debris didn't please me much. Never have rated any race “Poor” all season, but this one gets the honor.

• I’m putting good, because I was there. And a bad day of racing is better than a good day of work. Or something like that. It was kind of boring watching someone run away with it. In person, there was some passing and some bumping. Thank God they threw some cautions.

• Completely un-entertaining. Why this is a “Chase” race that is supposed to attract viewers away from the NFL is completely beyond my comprehension.

• I did not think the race was boring. I was entertained. NHMS is one of my favorite tracks.

• Denny’s run from the back to the front before the race reached 100 laps was exhilarating. After that, I didn't see a whole lot of excitement.

• From the stands it was awful. First time I have left early. Left at lap 240. Denny dominated. No passing. No close racing. I damn near dozed off in the stands.

• Wow, it was downright painful to watch. The most boring race of this year.

• Just one of those races that, through no fault of its own, is extremely boring. No real challenges to win it, no excitement.


The Backseat Drivers Fan Council was founded and is administered by Dustin Long. Fans can join by sending Dustin an email at dustinlong002@gmail.com.

Please include the following information:
Name, city, state, Twitter name, e-mail address and favorite driver.
 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long's Backseat Drivers Fan Council discusses NASCAR vs. NFL, Denny Hamlin's winning ways and the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 11:44
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-power-rankings-going-week-4
Body:

Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst football teams in the NFL. Here's our NFL Power Rankings following Week 3 of the season.



1. Falcons (3-0) Mike Smith now carries 6–0 record on West Coast.

2. Texans (3-0) Defeat Peyton Manning; 3–16 all-time vs. No. 18.

3. Ravens (2-1) Torrey Smith scores two TDs in emotional win.

4. Giants (2-1) No comeback needed for G-Men on Thursday night.

5. 49ers (2-1) Alex Smith’s no-INT streak ends at 249 passes.

6. Cardinals (3-0) One of only three undefeated teams still standing.

7. Patriots (1-2) Bill Belichick outraged, grabs referee leaving field.

8. Packers (1-2) Aaron Rodgers sacked eight times in strange loss.

9. Broncos (1-2) Bloody Matt Schaub but can’t take down Texans.

10. Steelers (1-2) Defense struggling without injured Troy Polamalu.

11. Seahawks (2-1) Hail Mary answered by simultaneous possession.

12. Eagles (2-1) Lose to Philly’s Week 1 starter in 2010, Kevin Kolb.

13. Cowboys (2-1) Commit 13 penalties for 105 lost yards in victory.

14. Bears (2-1) Major Wright pick-six highlights defensive effort.

15. Bengals (2-1) A.J. Green explodes for career-high 183 yards.

16. Chargers (2-1) Held to lowest point total (3) since Nov. 24, 2002.

17. Jets (2-1) Darrelle Revis heads to IR island after ACL injury.

18. Bills (2-1) C.J. Spiller likely out, but Fred Jackson may return.

19. Vikings (2-1) Christian Ponder good as gold in upset of 49ers.

20. Titans (1-2) Revive ìMusic City Miracleî in thriller vs. Lions.

21. Lions (1-2) Shaun Hill leads two TD drives in just 18 seconds.

22. Raiders (1-2) Dennis Allen earns first career win over Steelers.

23. Buccaneers (1-2) Gain only 166 total yards in ugly loss to Cowboys.

24. Panthers (1-2) Cam Newton crushed by Big Blue Wrecking Crew.

25. Redskins (1-2) Defense confused by creative Cincy play-calling.

26. Chiefs (1-2) Ryan Succop hits six FGs, including game-winner.

27. Saints (0-3) Drew Brees goes 0-for-6 in fourth quarter and OT.

28. Dolphins (1-2) No "structural damage" to Reggie Bush’s knee.

29. Rams (1-2) Sam Bradford beat up by physical Bears defense.

30. Jaguars (1-2) Beat Colts on 80-yard TD with 45 seconds to play.

31. Colts (1-2) Heading into bye week with bitter taste of defeat.

32. Browns (0-3) Have lost nine consecutive games since last year.
 

Teaser:
<p> 2012 NFL Power Rankings Going Into Week 4</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 11:09
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /golf/2012-ryder-cup-medinah-hole-hole
Body:

Medinah Country Club is no stranger to big-time golf. It hosted the PGA Championship won by Tiger Woods in 1999 in a final-round duel with Sergio Garcia, and it was the site for U.S. Opens in 1949 (won by Cary Middlecoff), 1975 (Lou Graham) and 1990 (Hale Irwin).

Michael J. Scully, PGA Director of Golf, takes us on a hole by hole tour of Medinah, site of the 2012 Ryder Cup matches. For more on the Cup, visit rydercup.com.

No. 1
433 yards, Par 4

In 2012, the first change the players of the 39th Ryder Cup Matches will notice on Course No. 3 at Medinah Country Club will be on the first tee. The addition of a new back tee has lengthened the hole, and hitting a hybrid or 3-wood off the tee will mean a flatter lie in the landing area. The attempt to hit a driver may result in a hanging lie in the fairway. It might be wiser the leave the "big dog" in the bag. The green has a slight pitch, from back-to-front, with a Rees Jones collection area, back-left that needs to be avoided. The toughest hole placement is back-right, with only 18 feet of green behind the front-right bunker. It's an easy opening hole, compared to the rest of the course, and can give a player a false sense of security.

No. 2
192 yards, Par 3

Many players say that the difficulty of Course No. 3 begins on the second tee box. This very challenging par-3 has a forced carry, with no bailout on the left side. A missed shot left leads to a walk of shame to the drop area. The traditional winds from the southwest will blow in and across the face of the players and makes this hole a difficult par-3.

No. 3
412 yards, Par 4

From the tee, the players will see the Rees Jones bunkers down the right side that should be the target to work the ball right-to-left. They will have to try to stay to the right side to avoid the overhanging Medinah trees. Leveling of the fairway took away what used to be a blind second shot, and made this a viable birdie hole. The green slopes from back-to-front and is guarded by bunkers on both sides.

No. 4
463 yards, Par 4

Favor the right side of this pitched fairway, as any balls hit down the left side will likely find the rough. Approach shots to the green always play a club longer because of the severe elevation change from fairway-to-green. The green is slightly sloped from back-to-front, but has a way of disguising one of the fastest putts at Medinah. The key here is to keep the ball below the hole.

No. 5
536 yards, Par 5

The shortest par-5 on the course makes this is the perfect risk/reward par-5. The premium location with a driver is right-center, leaving most players with a 3- or 4-iron to an elevated green. The green isn't easy to hit in two, because it is elevated. However, the hole makes most players want to gamble. We may see a hybrid/hybrid club combination as the two-shot plan, with a putt at eagle that could swing a match!

No. 6
509 yards, Par 4

One of Medinah's truly great par-4's! With the addition of a new back tee, the length requires a driver shaping from left-to-right off the three fairway bunkers. Do not make the mistake of missing the fairway to the right, or you are staring bogey right in the face. Left side of the fairway will still leave most a mid- to long-iron into a sloped and well-bunkered green. This is a hole where the tee shot will definitely dictate the score.

No. 7
617 yards, Par 5

Another Medinah Classic, the seventh is the longest par-5 on the course, as well as the member's No. 1 handicap hole. Rees Jones added another tee box that calls for the ideal tee shot down the left side, which will set up a lay-up shot focused on being 120 yards out. Anything closer brings a left side fairway bunker into play. Do not miss the green or fall into the steep greenside bunkers. The green is elevated and has a several subtle breaks that make it difficult to read and putt.

No. 8
201 yards, Par 3

A couple of major championships ago, this was a blind tee shot. However, the leveling of the fairway has given the players a great view of a heavily guarded green that breaks hard from left to right. The key here is to locate the halfway house, as most putts will break to the building.

No. 9
432 yards, Par 4

A great dogleg left that presents somewhat of a blind shot off the tee, and in today's game will require a 3-wood, or hybrid. Hugging the right side here will leave you an uphill look at a well-bunkered green that breaks fast from right-to-left. Take your par here, and run to the 10th tee.

No. 10
578 yards, Par 5

A thinking man's par-5 that can be reached in two, but demands that both be great shots! The drive should be played toward the right bunkers, shaping from right-to-left. Club choice might include 3-wood to take the bunkers out of play, and then hitting a hybrid or long iron to a conservative lay-up will make the third shot a little easier. The tenth green has the greatest slope from back-to-front as any on the golf course. The dilemma here is whether to be aggressive or conservative.

No. 11
440 yards, Par 4

The eleventh hole has the smallest green on the golf course, and the addition of the Rees Jones fairway bunker has put a premium on driving accuracy and club choice. The play is 3-wood or hybrid that will leave the player with short iron into a small, newly undulated green. The hole looks easy, but it could swing the momentum in a match!

No. 12
476 yards, Par 4

This gem just may be the best par-4 on the property. A generous driving area benefits the player staying to the right side for a better angle to approach the green. A big oak guards the green on the left side that the membership has hit 95,345 times over the years. The second shot should be mid-iron into a green that slopes hard from left-to-right, but doesn't look as severe because of the sharp drop-off on the right side of the green to the pond. Four will go a long way here in any match!

No. 13
245 yards, Par 3

Known over the years as Medinah's signature hole, the green on thirteen is now guarded by three bunkers, and slopes from right-to-left. The club choice will be the challenge as players contend with the winds off Lake Kadijah. Being the longest par-3 on the course, and with the challenge of the wind, this may be where the matches turn on Sunday.

No. 14
609 yards, Par 5

The longer players have the advantage here if they can get the ball to the top of the hill. From there they will have a long iron or fairway metal into a green that is well guarded by bunkers and slopes significantly from back-to-front. It is hard to get the ball close on the third shot because of the slope in the green. The challenge here will be to contend with the overhanging Medinah trees.

No. 15
391 yards, Par 4

This was the most significant change that Rees Jones made during his last update to Course #3. What was the easiest par-4 on the course has been turned into a short and potentially exciting par-4 with water adjoining the landing area and green. This hole could lead to more fireworks during the 39th Ryder Cup. If the tees are moved forward, then for many players, it will be it will be driver, 3-wood or hybrid for the long hitters! The green complex is where the challenge will begin as it is well bunkered in the front and has the Rees Jones collection area back-right. This small shallow green should produce a lot of memorable shots in Ryder Cup history!

No. 16
482 yards, Par 4

The sixteenth hole is where all the fireworks began in '99, with Sergio Garcia's miraculous shot from behind an oak tree on the right side of the fairway. The new Rees Jones tee box has brought driver back in to the hands of many players to leave approximately 200 yards into an elevated green that may require an extra club. Once greenside, there is no bargain dealing with a sloped green from right-to-left that is heavily guarded with bunkers. Par may be the premium here during the matches.

No. 17
193 yards, Par 3

The key here will be the wind off Lake Kadijah, and the nerves of trying to win a match to win the 39th Ryder Cup. Hitting this relatively flat green will be the key with being long or left, making up and down quite difficult.

No. 18
449 yards, Par 4

This finishing hole was no easy bargain during the 2006 PGA Championship. Off the tee, Rees Jones added a group of bunkers to work the ball from right-to-left. On the approach, the green has been raised in the air almost one story high, and is flanked by some steep bunkers. The green, itself, is pitched from back-to-front, with a collection area in the back-right, with up and down to a back-right hole location almost impossible. The 18th could produce a dramatic finish to another storied event at Medinah.
 

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/west-virginia-gears-first-big-12-game
Body:
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen

West Virginia’s backyard no longer includes rival Pittsburgh, but rather a vast expanse of the Central Time Zone.

When West Virginia plays Baylor as its first Big 12 opponent of the season Saturday, the conference change might be the third- or fourth-most exciting thing happening in Morgantown in 2012.

The Mountaineers’ transition from the Big East to Big 12 coincides with one of the most interesting seasons in school history. This year features a Heisman-contending senior quarterback, the best receiving corps East of Los Angeles, and a coach who runs one of the most dynamic offenses in the country.

“This is kind of our year,” former West Virginia coach Don Nehlen said in a phone interview last week.

Although the move to a stable Big 12 from the crumbling and less nationally competitive Big East adds energy to the program, the conference change also brings its share of questions for West Virginia this season and beyond.

For the time being, the question is Baylor, a 3-0 team that still ranks in the top five in scoring and passing without Heisman-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III.

After defeating Marshall, James Madison and Maryland, West Virginia will face its toughest opponent of the season Saturday. Combined with a top-10 ranking and all the fanfare around the Big 12, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen expects the intensity to be turned up a notch.

“I thought the energy and excitement level of last week (against Maryland) was very average, not only from a player standpoint, but from a coaches standpoint and a from an atmosphere standpoint,” Holgorsen said. “That’s something I expect to be totally different this week.”

Different is a key word in West Virginia’s first season in a new conference, both in what’s different and what is not.

All of West Virginia’s players will see new faces on the other side of the ball. No one was on the roster the last time the Mountaineers faced a Big 12 team in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma. West Virginia hasn’t even played in a stadium belonging to a current Big 12 team since 1982.

On the other hand, West Virginia at least fits in the Big 12 in terms of scheme and coaching staff. West Virginia’s no-huddle, pass-oriented spread offense was one-of-a-kind in the Big East last season, but it’s one of a handful in the Big 12.

That’s not a surprise, though. West Virginia imported its coach from Big 12 country. Holgorsen spent nine seasons in the Big 12 as an assistant at Texas Tech from 2000-07 and offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State in 2010.

Former West Virginia coach Don Nehlen

On Holgorsen’ staff, defensive coordinator Joe DeForest and running backs coach Robert Gillespie were assistants in Stillwater. Offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh was on Mike Leach’s staff at Texas Tech with Holgorsen. And quarterback coach Jake Spavital was a graduate assistant with the Oklahoma State as well.

Altogether, the West Virginia staff has a combined 29 seasons of Big 12 coaching experience in the Big 12 since 2000. That experience shouldn’t be overlooked in a league where the top teams -- Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, for example -- have enjoyed coaching continuity.

“It certainly can’t hurt,” Holgorsen said. “We know (Baylor) very well. There’s a lot of guys on our staff that’s coached against them or coached with them. All that stuff can’t hurt. With that said, they’ll know about the schemes we do on all three sides of the ball.”

Coaching familiarity might ease the transition, but getting used to the road trips will be a different story.

Nehlen, who coached West Virginia when the program joined the Big East in 1991. Road trips to Miami, Nehlen said, were often difficult, not just because of the distance but also the heat and humidity.

In the Big 12, most of the road trips will be longer than the trip from Morgantown to Coral Gables. West Virginia’s closes conference opponent is Iowa State, 870 miles away. Six Big 12 opponent are 1,200 miles away.

Most taxing this season could be back-to-back road trips to Texas on Oct. 6 and Texas Tech on Oct. 13.

“After the game, you get on plane and go all the way back to Morgantown and turn around Friday and go back again,” said Nehlen,
who won 149 games as West Virginia’s coach from 1980-2000. “That has a tendency to wear on you.”

Being this geographically isolated from the rest of the conference could have other drawbacks.

West Virginia’s traditional recruiting footprint has been in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland and more recently Florida. With Pittsburgh off the schedule at least temporarily, West Virginia’s series with Maryland and East Carolina will fill the void of road or neutral site games within the Mountaineers’ recruiting territory.

Moreover, recruiting the rich talent base in Texas may be a tough sell for similar reasons, even with the staff’s Big 12 connections. A recruit’s family from Dallas or Houston, for example, would have quick drives to most of the Big 12 schools other than West Virginia.

WVU vs. the Big 12    
OPPONENT RECORD LAST MEETING
Baylor 0-0 N/A
Iowa State 0-0 N/A
Kansas 1-0 1994
Kansas State 1-1 1931
Oklahoma 2-2 2007*
Oklahoma State 2-1 1987*
TCU 1-0 1984*
Texas 1-0 1956
Texas Tech 1-0 1937*
OVERALL 9-4 *denotes bowl game

“I’d say that’s one of the disadvantages,” Nehlen said. “In the Big East, if you’re recruiting a kid from Ohio or Pennsylvania, we’d play Pitt and Syracuse and Rutgers and Cincinnati and their family could drive to those games.”

Never mind the fans. A quick road trip between former Big East rivals Virginia Tech and West Virginia has been gone for several years. And for the time being, the Backyard Brawl is on hold, too.

“That makes me sad,” Nehlen said. “Of all the things with expansion, that’s the one thing that’s hurt college football. When I grew up, there were a few football games that I couldn’t wait to see. One was Nebraska-Oklahoma, and now that’s gone. West Virginia is 70 miles from Pitt’s campus, our players know their players, vice versa. (The end of the series is) crime in my opinion.”

But as has been demonstrated through conference expansion, the traditional rivalries aren’t at the forefront of the mind’s of decision-makers.

It’s the ability to compete for national championships and big bowl games.

And the lucrative television contracts. If West Virginia fans and families of players can’t drive to a road game, at least there’s little worry the game will be on television or online.

That first Big 12 road trip is still a week away, but for now the crowd in Morgantown will get their first look at the Big 12 -- up close.

“There will be a lot of eyes on us, but we’ve had that situation before,” Holgorsen said. “We have a lot of experienced kids. We’ve got a program that’s used to winning and used to being in the national spotlight, so I don’t think it will take away from any of our preparation.”

By David Fox

@DavidFox615

Teaser:
<p> West Virginia gears up for first Big 12 game</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 06:21
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-countdown-no-14-north-carolina-preview
Body:
Visit the online store for North Carolina and other editions of the 2012-13 Athlon Sports College Basketball annual.

The first practices of college basketball season begin in mid-October, and Athlon Sports 2012-13 preview annuals are starting to arrive on newsstands all over the country.

To prepare for the start of college basketball season, we will preview one team each weekday, counting down to the first official day of basketball practice on Oct. 15, or for some teams on Oct. 12.

We continue our countdown with a preview of No. 14 North Caroilna.

Through the course of the offseason, North Carolina had more on its mind than building or rebuilding, national championships and NITs. In the end, coach Roy Williams received some good news when a tumor removed from his right kidney in September was found to be non-cancerous. Further tests need to be done, but the Tar Heels coach may feel a little more at ease.

When Williams receives a clean bill of health, he’ll get back to the task of working with his new-look basketball team. A year after losing four of the top six vote-getters for the All-ACC team, the Tar Heels head into 2012-13 short on proven talent. It’s an unusual — although not unprecedented — scenario for one of the nation’s most consistently successful programs.

Gone are stalwarts Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller, who were selected in the first 17 picks of the NBA Draft. The Tar Heels faced a similar situation after their 2005 NCAA championship, when they produced four of the first 14 NBA draft picks, and finished the next season ranked in the top 10.

The rebuilding effort after North Carolina’s NCAA title in 2009 didn’t go so well, with the Tar Heels landing in the NIT after losing three first-round selections. That failure is fresh in the minds of guards Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald, the lone remaining members of the last North Carolina team to miss the NCAA Tournament.

“I feel like we’re going to be an underdog just a little bit,” Strickland says. “I think we have something to prove.”

The Tar Heels will face the challenge with an inexperienced roster. Only three players on the entire team — Strickland, swingman Reggie Bullock and forward James Michael McAdoo — have started a game at North Carolina. Strickland has 59 of those 80 starts.

“You only get experience by experiencing it,” Williams says. “I’m sure Mark Twain probably said that at one time.”

FRONTCOURT
The Tar Heels must replace their three leading scorers from each of the last two years in Barnes, Henson and Zeller. Much of the burden will fall on McAdoo, who has first-round potential himself. McAdoo blossomed late during his freshman year after a tentative start, showing promise that could make him a consistent double-double threat in 2012-13.

“James Michael really played well the last 10 games of the season,” Williams says. “If you take his number off and do some things to hide who it was and watch him those last 10 games, there’s nobody in the world who would say it’s the same kid.”

McAdoo will get help up front from freshmen Joel James and Brice Johnson. James is a big, bulky post player with physicality, while Johnson has the lean, athletic frame associated with North Carolina’s fast-paced style. The Tar Heels are hoping for development from Desmond Hubert, who is limited offensively but can contribute rebounding and shot blocking.

BACKCOURT
The Tar Heels have experience on the perimeter, but they face two key questions. Can they adequately replace Marshall, who set an ACC record with 351 assists a year ago, at the point? And can McDonald and Strickland regain their form after ACL surgeries sidelined them last season?

Strickland, a defensive stopper who has served as North Carolina’s starting shooting guard the last two years, will get more time at point guard than in the past. He could open the season as the starter at the point, but the job figures to go to freshman Marcus Paige eventually. Paige is left-handed and wears No. 5 — just like Marshall — but he has more of a scoring mentality than his predecessor.

The Tar Heels are loaded with shooters on the wing, but they need those shot-takers to become shot-makers. Bullock, McDonald and P.J. Hairston love to hoist 3-pointers; as a group, 60 percent of their career field goal attempts have come from 3-point range. Freshman J.P. Tokoto, a superior athlete who is working on adding range to his jumper, also will be in the mix on the wing.

FINAL ANALYSIS
The ACC isn’t as strong at the top — or from top to bottom — as it used to be. So this North Carolina team, even with the talent it lost, can contend for the conference championship. A trip to the Final Four, where no player on the current roster has been before, seems less likely.

But if the Tar Heels get strong play at point guard, improve their outside shooting and avoid the serious injuries that have short-circuited recent seasons, they’ll find themselves in the mix just as the 2005-06 North Carolina team did. If they come up short in those areas, they could produce a result closer to what the 2009-10 team did.

“Everybody is thinking that we won’t be as talented and we won’t be able to accomplish the same goals that we accomplished last season,” Strickland says. “I think that just gives everybody more motivation to do even better.”

@AthlonSports

Athlon College Basketball Countdown So Far:
20. Florida

19. Notre Dame

18. Memphis
17. Baylor
16. Missouri
15. San Diego State

Teaser:
<p> College Basketball Countdown: No. 14 North Carolina Preview</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 06:18
Path: /college-football/louisville-or-rutgers-which-team-best-big-east
Body:

Through the first four weeks of the season, it seems clear Louisville and Rutgers are the top two teams in the Big East. The Cardinals were picked by many to win the league in the preseason, but have opinions changed after watching Rutgers this year?

Louisville or Rutgers: Which team is the best in the Big East?

Coach Dick MacPherson, former head coach of the Syracuse Orange, and current voting member of the Legends Poll:
Rutgers is a big surprise. They had their coach leave for the NFL and brought in a new coaching staff there this year. They are playing really well and had a big win at Arkansas this past weekend. This is the best looking Rutgers team in a long time. That being said, I would still pick Louisville to be the team to win the Big East. I have the Cardinals ranked No. 16 in our Legends Poll. I really like Coach Strong and the staff he has put together.  They have a young kid at quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, who is playing outstanding football for them. They are the most complete football team in the Big East.

Mark Ennis, Manager of Big East Coast Bias (@Mengus22)
It's funny that this has even become a question after a month of the season, but it has, and for good reason. Louisville looked sharp in blowing out rival Kentucky, Missouri State, and in the first half against North Carolina. After that, six quarters of pretty unenthusiastic football (though they keep winning). Rutgers looked thoroughly bored in its opener at Tulane and home against Howard before going on the road to beat South Florida and Arkansas. At this point I still think Louisville is the better team because it has had its fair share of at least halves of football where it looked absolutely dominant. Louisville owned Kentucky from the opening kickoff and the 32-14 score could've been much worse had they not taken Teddy Bridgewater out midway through the third quarter. And yes, the team that nearly blew a 36-7 second half lead is still the team that also ran up a 36-7 halftime lead as well. Rutgers, is closing the gap, but, like some of Louisville's early wins, we still don't know how meaningful Rutgers' wins over USF and Arkansas are considering Arkansas already lost to Louisiana-Monroe and South Florida followed its loss to Rutgers up by losing at Ball State. Rutgers is improving weekly, Louisville is inconsistent, but has shown more of its upside through four games and for that reason is still the best team in the Big East.

David Fox (@DavidFox615): 
Rutgers had two major questions coming into the season, at least for its on-the-field personnel: quarterback play and its offensive line. After four games, the Scarlet Knights have proven those two positions are no longer glaring weakness. Gary Nova has been a third-down whiz and he’s proven he can win on the road. Sophomore Kaleb Johnson has locked down the left tackle spot, and sophomore Betim Bujari has secured the problematic center spot. That’s led to four 100-yard games for Jawan Jamison and only two sacks allowed in four games. Even without Greg Schiano, the defense remains solid. I’m a little suspicious of Louisville as well. Teddy Bridgewater is the best offensive player in the league, but I’m concerned about the Cardinals’ defense. It’s been un-Charlie Strong like in the last two games. Ranking 91st in pass efficiency defense? Four sacks all season? That’s might be tough to overcome for a Big East title.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall): 
I have been talking up the Scarlet Knights all summer long as the top Big East contender to Louisville. Rutgers had the best defense in the league last year and has shown vast improvement at quarterback and on offense as a whole. A balanced offense offense, stellar group of talented freshman (possibly the best in school history) and an easy early schedule makes the Knights a dangerous team. This squad could easily begin the season 9-0 before a nasty final three games will determine the Big East's BCS bowl bid: at Cincinnati, at Pitt and Louisville at home. It appears the league will crown a champ when the Cardinals visit Piscataway on the final Thursday night of the season. It this is how the league plays out, I will take the Knights to win on November 29 and clinch the program's first BCS bowl appearance.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): 
The biggest question mark surrounding Rutgers going into this year was how well it would handle the coaching transition from Greg Schiano to Kyle Flood. So far, the results have been positive, as the Scarlet Knights are 4-0 and have solid road victories against South Florida and Arkansas. Considering the upcoming schedule, it’s not crazy to think Rutgers could be 9-0 going into a Nov. 17 road date at Cincinnati. Despite how well the Scarlet Knights have performed, I have to stick with my preseason favorite: Louisville. The Cardinals had a sluggish performance against FIU in Week 4 but have the Big East’s best quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater), and the defense is capable of playing much better than it has performed so far this year. Louisville’s schedule is just as favorable as Rutgers, so it’s not crazy to think both teams could be unbeaten for their Nov. 29 meeting.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): 
Tough call. Right now, I’d still give the slight edge to Louisville. Rutgers, the only team in the nation with three road wins, is more battle-tested, but that doesn’t mean the Scarlet Knights are the better team. Through the first two-plus games of the season, Louisville looked like a top-10 team. The Cards, at that time, had convincing wins over Kentucky and Missouri State and led North Carolina 36–7 at the half. Since, however, the Cards haven’t been the same team. They almost blew that 29-point halftime lead vs. UNC and struggled to beat a disappointing FIU team this past Saturday night. Teddy Bridgewater, who was nearly flawless through three games, was not as sharp vs. FIU, completing 19-of-36 for 194 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Cards need him to be the best quarterback in the Big East. Rutgers was surprisingly offensive in its big win at Arkansas last weekend, with Gary Nova leading the way with nearly 400 yards passing and five touchdowns. If Nova continues to play well, Rutgers will remain in the Big East race all season long. And the Big East race might not be decided until Nov. 29, when Louisville visits Rutgers in the season-finale. We might need to wait until that Thursday night to answer this question.

Mark Ross: 
For now, I'll take Louisville mainly because of the emergence of Cardinals quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The sophomore signal caller has to be considered the early frontrunner for Big East Offensive Player of the Year as he's entered himself into the Heisman Trophy discussion in some circles. Bridgewater has been efficient (23rd in the nation in passing efficiency) and productive (43rd in total offense) in leading the Cardinals to a 4-0 start and Top 20 national ranking. Both teams have been impressive on defense so far, but I give Louisville the edge over Rutgers on offense because of Bridgewater. The good news is, the Cardinals and Scarlet Knights will get the chance to size one another up on the field. The bad news is that everyone has to wait until the final game of the regular season as that's when Louisville makes the trip to Piscataway, N.J., for a game that could likely decide both the Big East conference race and a BCS bid.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): 
I’ll stick with preseason favorite Louisville for now, although Rutgers has the more impressive September resume with wins at USF and Arkansas. We knew that Khaseem Greene and the Scarlet Knights would play solid defense, but new coach Kyle Flood has also found an answer at quarterback in Gary Nova. The sophomore signal caller had a stellar 397-yard, five-touchdown performance versus the Razorbacks last week, and his play combined with runner Jawan Jamison (four 100-yard games) has Rutgers fans thinking about a league title. Meanwhile, Louisville is also undefeated but has looked sluggish in doing it. I’ll give the Cards a pass on almost blowing a 36-7 halftime lead against North Carolina, but the close decision at FIU last week was too close for Cardinal comfort. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and a solid backfield tandem should give the UL offense enough punch, but Charlie Strong and staff must repair a talented but inconsistent defense to win the conference. The Cardinals have too much talent on the defensive unit to be giving up so many yards and third-down conversions. I see Louisville getting by Southern Miss this week, and then getting the defense repaired during the bye before league play begins. The good news for the Big East is that it has two ranked schools that could both win double-digit games this season.

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Teaser:
<p> Louisville or Rutgers: Which team is the best in the Big East?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-big-ten-facing-worst-season-bcs-era
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The Big Ten has two non-conference games remaining on the schedule: Marshall will visit Purdue this weekend, and Indiana will visit Navy on Oct. 20. Otherwise, Big Ten may breathe a sigh of relief with conference play beginning this weekend.

The non-conference performance by the great Midwestern football league has been nightmarish so far and the case could be made this is the worst edition of Big Ten football during the BCS era.

Here's why:

Big Ten vs. the big boys

The Big Ten went 0-3 against Notre Dame as the Irish steamrolled through conference and divisional contenders Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue by a combined score of 53-26. This includes nine total points allowed to the pair of Big Ten title hopefuls from the state of Michigan. To add insult to injury, the Irish opted out of its rivalry game with Michigan beginning in 2014. It is the end of an era as Notre Dame begins its football agreement with the ACC, with the series with Michigan as an apparent casualty.

Against other BCS automatic-qualifying conferences, the resume is just as bad. The league went 6-9 against AQ programs (ACC, Big 12, Big East, Pac-12, SEC and Notre Dame) with a 1-3 mark against Rose Bowl rival Pac-12. The best win of the bunch is Ohio State’s home victory over 1-3 Cal. And that one went down to the wire.

The Big Ten’s non-conference BCS wins include Temple, Boston College, Vanderbilt and Syracuse twice. Those six AQ wins for the Big Ten have come against teams with a combined record of 6-16.

Additionally, the league lost three home games to the MAC — Ohio over Penn State, Central Michigan over Iowa, Ball State over Indiana — and Illinois got crushed at home by Louisiana Tech.

Yes, the mighty SEC only has four AQ wins in 2012, however, those victories came over Michigan, Washington, Arizona State and NC State. The Big 12 is 5-1 against AQ leagues with wins over Iowa, Miami, Maryland, Virginia and Ole Miss. Even the Big East has marquee AQ wins over Arkansas (Rutgers), Virginia Tech (Pitt), Maryland (UConn), North Carolina and Kentucky (Louisville).

In short, the Big Ten has failed miserably against the nation’s top competition.

Big Ten in the Associated Press rankings

No. 14 Ohio State, No. 20 Michigan State and No. 22 Nebraska are the only ranked Big Ten teams after four weeks of play. If Boise State, which will join the Big East next year, counts as a Big East team, only the ACC’s two (Florida State and Clemson) are worse than the Big Ten’s trio. And the Seminoles are poised to make a run at a national championship with their No. 4 ranking. With Ohio State facing a postseason ban (and thus ineligible for the coaches' poll and BCS rankings), technically only two eligible top 25 teams reside in the Big Ten.

By comparison, the SEC has four of the top six, five of the top 11 and six overall in the AP top 25. The Big 12 claims five of the top 16 and six overall, which does not include defending conference champion Oklahoma State. The Pac-12 has three of the top 13 and four teams overall with UCLA and Arizona falling out of the poll last weekend.

Michigan State’s season-opening 17-13 home win over Boise State is the league’s best win to date — and its only win over an AP top 25 team.

Already eliminated from the national title hunt?

Only four weeks into the season, the Big Ten appears to be eliminated from the national championship race. Ohio State, Minnesota and Northwestern are the only teams left unbeaten as conference contenders Nebraska, Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin have a combined five losses already.

The Buckeyes could finish 12-0 and it wouldn’t matter as far as the BCS is concerned. And with all due respect to great coaching jobs by Pat Fitzgerald and Jerry Kill thus far, the Gophers or Wildcats going undefeated appears to be a long shot. Northwestern at Minnesota on Oct. 13 for a trip to Miami Gardens? Not likely.

Could Nebraska or Michigan State work their ways back into national title contention with unblemished Big Ten conference records? Possibly. But to jump one-loss teams like USC, the loser of Alabama-LSU or any conference champ from the Big 12 appears virtually impossible. The winner of the Louisville-Rutgers season finale may be higher in the polls than a one-loss Big Ten champ. And Notre Dame already has proven it might be the best team in Big Ten country already.

On the Heisman front, Montee Ball and Denard Robinson have been unofficially eliminated from contention as well. Ball lost his first fumble of the season this weekend and has been a shell of his 2011 self. Robinson has two terrible performances in losses to national contenders, including a five-turnover loss to Notre Dame in what was his worst game as a starter last weekend.

The numbers rarely lie

Last year, the Big Ten’s potent rushing attacks featured three of the top-15 ground games nationally. This year, only one Big Ten team (Nebraska) is ranked in the top 23. In 2011, three of the top 19 individual rushers hailed from the Big Ten. In 2012, only one running back, Le’Veon Bell, is ranked in the top 25 in rushing.

Last year, Wisconsin led the league in scoring (No. 6 nationally) and Michigan State was No. 3. Both averaged more than 31 points per game, and the duo matched-up in the Big Ten title game. Both could show up in Indianapolis again this fall, but the game could be a considerably lower scoring game. Both are  ranked outside of the top 100 in scoring. Additionally, Iowa and Penn State are ranked 97th or worse in scoring offense as well.

Nebraska and Indiana are the only two teams ranked in the top 25 nationally in total offense while only the Hoosiers claim a passing attack ranked in the top 45 nationally. Penn State wideout Allen Robinson is the only receiver in the Big Ten ranked in the top 60 nationally in receiving yards per game.

Defensively, six Big Ten teams finished in the top 20 nationally in total defense last season. This year, only three Big Ten teams are ranked in the top 25 (Michigan State, Purdue and Minnesota) with only the Spartans, at No. 6, residing in the top 15 nationally. Last fall, seven of the top 18 pass defenses played football in the Big Ten. This year, only two of the top 20 passing defenses are from the Big Ten.

History isn’t on the Big Ten’s side

The Big Ten won its first four BCS bowl appearances from 1998 to 1999 and then claimed the national championship in 2002. However, since that win, the big bowl games have been a blood bath for the Big Ten.

The league is 7-11 in BCS bowls since the league’s last national title in 2002 with a 1-7 mark in the Rose Bowl and 0-2 record in the BCS National Championship Game. Two of those seven wins have since been vacated — Penn State in 2006 and Ohio State in 2010 — and the Buckeyes are the only Big Ten team with a winning record in BCS bowl games all-time (6-3).

Can the Big Ten work its way back into national relevance with a stellar conference slate? Of course. But with two major powers ineligible to complete for bowl games or conference titles and traditionally strong programs like Wisconsin and Michigan State having major quarterback issues, the Big Ten could be facing its worst year of play since the advent of the BCS.

Bring on the playoff.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> College Football: Big Ten Facing Worst Season of BCS Era</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 06:00

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