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Path: /college-football/lsu-tigers-vs-south-carolina-gamecocks-preview-and-prediction
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Another week, another big showdown in the SEC. This matchup lost some of its appeal when LSU lost to Florida last week, but this game still features two of the nation’s top-10 teams.

South Carolina blasted Georgia last Saturday, dominating from the opening snap and finishing with a 35-7 victory. Although the win over the Bulldogs was huge for positioning in the SEC, the Gamecocks can’t afford to be overconfident, especially with Florida emerging as a top-five team.

Night games in Baton Rouge have provided some memorable moments, and the home crowd should give LSU plenty of momentum after last week’s disappointing road loss. The Tigers have not lost back-to-back games since 2008 and in 19 matchups against South Carolina, LSU has lost just two times.

Storylines to Watch in South Carolina vs. LSU

South Carolina’s defensive line vs. LSU’s offensive line
This was supposed to be a strength versus strength matchup. However, LSU’s offensive line has suffered a few setbacks this year, as starting left tackle Chris Faulk was lost for the year with a torn ACL, and guard Josh Williford left last week’s game against Florida due to injury. Tackle Alex Hurst missed practice time due to personal issues and may not play on Saturday night. The Tigers’ injury and personnel concerns on the line will be magnified this week, especially with South Carolina’s defensive front coming to town. The Gamecocks rank ninth nationally in rush defense and are averaging 4.2 sacks per game. End Jadeveon Clowney is one of the top players in the nation and has plenty of help around him. LSU needs its offensive line to step up after struggling to generate a push against Florida’s defense. If the Gamecocks dominate the line of scrimmage, LSU will once again have a hard time moving the ball on offense.

Can LSU get quarterback Zach Mettenberger on track?
While it wasn’t expected to be overly prolific, LSU’s passing offense was expected to show improvement in 2012. However, the Tigers have sputtered once again, as they rank 12th in the SEC in passing offense and are averaging just 195.7 yards per game. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger has thrown for 1,174 yards and six touchdowns but failed to throw a score against Florida and completed less than 50 percent of his passes. The junior doesn’t need to throw for 300 yards every game, but he has to hit more big plays than LSU has connected on so far. South Carolina’s secondary ranks 28th nationally in pass defense, while its pass rush never allows opposing quarterbacks to get comfortable in the pocket.

Marcus Lattimore vs. LSU’s run defense
As each week passes, South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore looks more and more comfortable in his return from a torn ACL. The junior has three 100-yard games this year and has reached paydirt in all six contests. LSU will be Lattimore’s toughest test this season, as the Tigers rank 14th nationally against the run and have allowed only five rushing touchdowns. The Gamecocks’ offensive line has struggled at times this season and matching up against one of the nation’s best defensive fronts will be a challenge. Lattimore is the glue to South Carolina’s offense, as his success helps take the pressure off of quarterback Connor Shaw. Even if running room is limited early on, the Gamecocks need to give Lattimore 20-25 touches. While LSU has plenty of depth on the defensive line, South Carolina’s rushing attack figures to get stronger as the game progresses.

Final Analysis

This is a crucial game for both teams, but there is more pressure on LSU to win on Saturday night. The Tigers can’t afford to fall two games behind Alabama in the SEC West standings.

For South Carolina, a win in Baton Rouge would keep alive its national title hopes, as well as move the Gamecocks one step closer to booking a trip to Atlanta to play for the SEC title in December.

There’s no question LSU is a desperate team and it has to have this game. Although quarterback Zach Mettenberger has struggled to find his rhythm, the homefield edge and defense should be enough for the Tigers to beat the Gamecocks on Saturday night.

However, with a tight game expected, the team with the better quarterback will find a way to win.

Final Prediction: South Carolina 20, LSU 17
 

by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

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Teaser:
<p> LSU Tigers vs. South Carolina Gamecocks Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Friday, October 12, 2012 - 08:56
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/20-twitter-accounts-every-sec-football-fan-should-follow
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As you would expect from the nation's pre-eminent football conference, the SEC is well-represented in the Twitterverse by people who know the league intimately and aren't afraid to tell you about it. We took a look at the lengthy list of SEC-oriented Twitter accounts and whittled them down to 25 that are definitely worth a follow.

 

@ClayTravisBGID
Love him or hate him, you can't deny that Travis entertains and inflames with his SEC-centric observations. Prepare to get angry, although Travis' affection for those he lampoons takes some of the edge off. Just beware of his new obsession with butt-chugging.

 

@BarrettAJones
Alabama's versatile o-lineman is that rare college athlete who's worth following. No nonsense, no inside jokes, just a smart kid who doesn't take himself too seriously. He's funny, too.

 

@CoachHand
Herb Hand, Vandy's exceptional (and exceptionally nice) o-line coach, beats the drum on Twitter for Vandy, Nashville and the SEC while offering words of wisdom for everyday living. Not your usual coach-speak.

 

@MrSEC
With a name like that, you better deliver the goods. And he does, covering the league's 14 teams from every angle — coaching, recruiting and on-the-field performance. Lots of useful links, too.

 

@AschoffESPN
The worldwide leader doesn't disappoint with its SEC coverage thanks to lead bloggers Chris Low and Edward Aschoff, who scour the corners of the interwebs for nuggets of SEC wisdom and share them with hungry SEC fans everywhere. In addition to @ESPN_SEC, which is links central for fans of the nation's best conference, Aschoff maintains his own Twitter account with tidbits like this.

 

@PBPjasonlieser
The Florida Gators beat writer for the Palm Beach Post, Jason Lieser is a one-stop shop for all things Swamp-related, but he doesn't limit his tweets to the Gators, offering sharp observations on what's happening in all 12 SEC shops.

 

@SethEmerson
Seth's hunkered down in Athens ready to bring you any relevant Dawg news he uncovers. Mark Richt may have lost control, but Seth hasn't.

 

@KyleTucker_CJ
Covering Kentucky football is a thankless task, but Kyle Tucker of the Louisville Courier-Journal handles the chore admirably, giving you everything you need to know as the UK coaches rearrange their deck chairs while the ship goes down.

 

@Dave_Matter
Mizzou's new to the SEC this season, but Matter's a seasoned veteran at providing news you can use out of the other Columbia. As the author of The Mizzou Fan's Survival Guide to the SEC, he knows what his team has gotten itself into.

 

@DarrylSlater
Slater's on the beat with the ol' ball coach, covering the Gamecocks for the hometown paper and sharing insights via Twitter. He has a little fun with it in the process.

 

@jefflockridge
Lockridge is the Vandy man for The Tennessean. If James Franklin says something controversial, Lockridge will let you know.

 

@CecilHurt
Cecil's been covering Bama since the Bear's last season. I'd say that makes him a suitable go-to guy for all things Tide-related.

 

@TomMurphyADG
Tom's had his hands full this season covering the dumpster fire that is Arkansas football in the post-Petrino era so far, but he's handling the transitional season far better than John L. Smith is.

 

@JayGTate
Auburnsports.com bills itself as your No. 1 source for Auburn athletics and recruiting news. Jay's one of the reasons why. The Auburn program's suddenly in tatters, but the coverage is still solid.

 

@RandyRosetta
Randy should be the envy of the SEC. He gets to cover Les Miles on a daily basis, giving him first-hand access to some of the best material in the Twitterverse.

 

@HKellenbergerCL
Hugh Kellenberger covers Ole Miss for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. A couple things become obvious when you visit his page: He loves college football, and he loves Mumford & Sons. Only one of those things is relevant to this discussion.

 

@bradlocke
Brad Locke covers Dan Mullen's Mississippi State Bulldogs. Now that things are rocking over in Scott Field, that's become a pretty plum gig, and Brad handles it well.

 

@BrentZwerneman
Brent brings you all the news from Aggie-land. He's on the front lines of A&M coach Kevin Sumlin's love-hate relationship with the media.

 

@AthlonSteven
All of us here at Athlon Sports — @AthlonMitch, @BradenGall, @DavidFox615, @AthlonDoster — are worth following, but Steven Lassan's our resident college football prodigy. Ask him anything — the backup quarterback situation at UL Lafayette, for example — and he can tell you everything you need to know.

 

@finebaum
The mere mention of his name provokes outrage in some quarters. Paul Finebaum has been stirring the pot in the Yellowhammer State for three decades now and has taken his talents to Twitter, although he spends a lot of Tweets quoting what others have to say. For the Finebaum haters, that's just as well.

 

@wesrucker247
World-wide Wes' specialty is Tennessee Vols football at govols247.com, but he has plenty to say about everything that's remotely relevant in SEC football on his Twitter feed. Also, he uses his avatar to keep us apprised of his beard status (currently negative).

 

@jonsol
Jon Solomon writes about SEC football for the Birmingham News. As you'd expect, he has plenty to say about Bama and Auburn, but he has a special focus on the media biz that separates him from the pack.

 

@MrCFB
Referring to yourself as Mr. College Football may seem a little self-aggrandizing, but after years in the SEC trenches, Tony Barnhart's earned the right to pat himself on the back.

 

@BianchiWrites
Part columnist, part professional internet troll, Orlando's Mike Bianchi is an equal opportunity offender where Florida and Florida State are concerned. That makes him worth following, although he does spend a lot of time plugging his radio gig.

 

@BarrettSallee
Bleacher Report's lead SEC college football writer is a fountain of information on his home site and a premium pot-stirrer on Twitter, weighing in with uncensored opinions on all things SEC. Plenty of useful links, too.

Teaser:
<p> These tweeting 25 will you keep you entertained and educated</p>
Post date: Friday, October 12, 2012 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-countdown-no-1-indiana-preview
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Visit the online store for Indiana 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 have arrived 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. 1 Indiana.

Less than one hour after the 2012 college basketball season ended, Indiana coach Tom Crean discovered the expectations his Hoosier program would face this season: IU was ranked No. 1 in the nation in a hastily released preseason poll.

This is why: Indiana returns four starters from a team that won 27 games, including three against top-5 opponents as well as two in the NCAA Tournament. Two of the returnees — Cody Zeller and Christian Watford — could have departed for the NBA. Add a five-player, top-10 recruiting class to a pair of experienced reserves.

Quite a change for a program that had only won 28 of 94 games the previous three seasons.

“When Coach Crean and I first got here, there’s no way we were even in the talk,” says Jordan Hulls, the team’s senior point guard. “Now it’s pretty special for us to be in that talk, but those polls don’t really mean anything until the end of the year.”

FRONTCOURT
Zeller, the team’s center, was billed as the recruit who made it cool to sign with Indiana again — and he justified the hype from the opening dribble. He led the Hoosiers in scoring and rebounding and tied for the team lead in steals, while giving Indiana its first legitimate low-post presence in four seasons.

Zeller would have been a top-10 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft but said he wasn’t “ready to grow up.” Another summer in the weight room should make him capable of a double-double every night, and Crean wants Zeller to become a perimeter threat.

Watford’s 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat Kentucky was The Shot of the Year in college basketball, but more impressive was the way he finished the season. Watford averaged 16.7 points and 7.7 rebounds over IU’s final seven games, grabbing at least 10 rebounds three times.

Will Sheehey, hard-nosed and relentless, plays small forward. Sheehey needs to expand a solid mid-range game. Derek Elston, another senior, can play all three frontcourt spots, but is trying to improve his rebounding. Three freshmen — Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Jeremy Hollowell and Peter Jurkin — give Crean more depth than he’s ever enjoyed.

Related: Q and A with Indiana's Cody Zeller

BACKCOURT
No player appreciated Indiana’s turnaround more than Hulls, who grew up in Bloomington and suffered through two difficult seasons. His role changed last season as Victor Oladipo became more of a ball-handler who attacked high ball screens set by Zeller and Watford.

Oladipo is the team’s best athlete, capable of getting to the rim on anybody. He is also a ferocious defender.

As Oladipo evolved into a co-point guard, Hulls found ways to park himself on the wing and punish Big Ten opponents. He led the Hoosiers with 72 made 3-point field goals, making 49.3 percent of his attempts.

Crean believes Hulls can do better with the arrival of freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell, a McDonald’s all-American who led Park Tudor High School to back-to-back Indiana Class 2A state titles.

“Jordan stands to gain as much as anybody from having a group of freshmen coming in that can help impact the game athletically, especially with the way Yogi passes the ball,” Crean says. “The key will be, ‘Can the two of them play together defensively.’”

Sophomore Remy Abell looked like Indiana’s most improved player during the summer, but he must prove he can consistently make the 15-footer. Sheehey can play short stretches in the backcourt, too.

FINAL ANALYSIS
After several years of what the Indiana players called “getting punked” by stronger and deeper Big Ten programs, Indiana pushed back last season. This season the Hoosiers should do some of the punking.

Zeller is a National Player of the Year candidate, a big man who never stops running. Watford is a 6-9 forward who made nearly 44 percent of his 3-pointers — and showed the maturity to defend and rebound late in the season. Big Ten coaches will tell you that Oladipo and Sheehey, the team’s two juniors, changed the program’s mindset. Hulls, Mr. Hoosier, knows what a Final Four — or national title — would mean to Bloomington and the state. The freshmen are talented, but playing time won’t be available to rookies the way it has been the last four seasons.

“There’s not a sense that any complacency has crept it,” Crean says. “We don’t have any guys who feel they’ve arrived at any point.”

@AthlonSports

Athlon College Basketball Countdown:
20. Florida

19. Notre Dame

18. Memphis
17. Baylor
16. Missouri

15. San Diego State

14. North Carolina

13. UNLV

12. UCLA
11. NC State

10. Michigan State
9. Duke

8. Ohio State

7. Arizona

6. Michigan

5. Syracuse

4. Kansas

3. Kentucky

2. Louisville

Teaser:
<p> College Basketball Countdown: No. 1 Indiana Preview</p>
Post date: Friday, October 12, 2012 - 06:45
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-start-or-sit-week-6
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Drew Brees won’t be extending his NFL record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass since the Saints aren’t playing in Week 6. The Bears, Panthers and Jaguars are also off, meaning fantasy owners will have to do without the services of Cam Newton, Jay Cutler, Maurice Jones-Drew, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham and others.

These offensive stars aside, the biggest loss felt this week might end up being by those who have the Bears DST on their roster. By far the highest scoring DST in fantasy football, the Monsters of the Midway have scored five defensive touchdowns in the last three weeks. Regardless, unless you want to run the risk of fielding an illegal lineup or are willing to accept getting no points from your DST this week, Bears owners will need to find a fill in, and the same goes for the other aforementioned players.

Athlon Sports is here to help you make all of those important lineup decisions for your Yahoo!, NFL.com or ESPN fantasy football league with our weekly Start and Sit suggestions. Keep in mind these are merely our suggestions as the ultimate decision comes down to you, the owner.

Week 6 Positional Rankings

Week 6 Waiver Wire

Bye week teams: Carolina, Chicago, Jacksonville, New Orleans

Sneaky Start of the Week
Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets vs. Indianapolis
How sneaky is this? Going with a running back that is averaging less than three yards per carry and is coming off of a 26-yard effort on Monday night? Yes, Greene and the Jets as a team have had all sorts of trouble running the ball so far, despite head coach Rex Ryan’s insistence that they would return to their “ground and pound” ways.

The Jets are averaging 83 yards per game on the ground and only 3.2 yards per carry. They have only one rushing touchdown (by Greene), and the longest run from scrimmage is 22 yards and it belongs to backup quarterback Tim Tebow. Put it all together and it’s more like the Jets’ rushing attack has been grounded rather than pounding the opposition.

However, in Greene’s and the Jets’ defense, they have had to play some of the tougher rush defenses in the league. Four of the Jets’ first five opponents – Houston, Miami, Pittsburgh and San Francisco – rank among the top 11 in rush defense. Against these four teams, Greene has rushed for a grand total of 123 yards on 49 carries (2.5 ypc).

The Jets’ other opponent has been Buffalo, who they destroyed 48-28 in Week 1, and against whom Greene rushed for 94 yards on 27 carries (3.5 ypc) and also scored his lone touchdown of the season. Not incredible numbers, granted, but far better than his other games. This week should present another opportunity for Greene to do some damage as Indianapolis is currently ranked 22nd in rush defense, giving up an average of 135.8 yards per game and 4.7 yards per attempt.

Ryan has voiced his support of Greene to the media, but Greene also knows that he needs to start producing or he will begin to cede some carries to backup Bilal Powell and possibly Tebow as well. So between the matchup and increasing pressure on him to perform, the timing just feels right for Greene to make his owners proud, at least those who have stuck with them to this point.

Surprise Sit of the Week
Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington vs. Minnesota
Griffin took a nasty hit last week against Atlanta as Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon undoubtedly made an impression on the rookie quarterback, and I’m not just talking about the stitches RGIII needed after the blow. Griffin suffered a concussion, which immediately put his playing status for this week up in the air.

Griffin has returned to practice, but has yet to be cleared for contact (as of Thursday) and will still have to pass a battery of tests before his playing status is determined. So in some ways this Sit designation is health-related, as there’s a chance he may not be on the field Sunday against Minnesota.

That said, even if he does play against the Vikings, I am still saying it’s probably best to leave him on your bench, and this declaration is more about the Minnesota defense than it is RGIII. The Vikings’ defense has been pretty solid thus far - No. 7 against the run and No. 15 against the pass. They’ve done a good job of pressuring the quarterback (14 sacks) and have allowed only six touchdown passes in five games.

Griffin has been everything advertised to this point, as he’s No. 6 among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring, but a closer look at his numbers reveal something rather telling. Griffin has as many rushing touchdowns as he does passing, four apiece. While his versatility and ability to make plays with his legs are part of the reason he’s so deadly and been so productive, it’s also why he’s recovering from a concussion that could keep him out this week.

Understandably, Griffin, who is just five games into his NFL career, still has much to learn about pocket awareness and decision-making. More importantly, he has a lot to learn when it comes to protecting himself and his body when he does scramble out of the pocket and take off down field.

Should Griffin play, my thinking is that a combination of two things will occur: his coaches order him to not try and be a hero every time he feels the pocket collapsing, and the Vikings won’t let him out of their grasp and make plays with his legs. As talented as RGIII is, he is not an experienced or polished enough passer in the NFL to do a lot of damage with just his arm. Because of the lingering concussion, RGIII is a one-dimensional weapon this week. And as it stands right now, I don’t think he’s good enough using only his arm, to count on for your fantasy team.

Quarterbacks
START

Philip Rivers (SD) vs. Denver (Monday)
Prior to last week’s game in New Orleans, Rivers was averaging less than 225 yards passing per game. Contrast that to the last two seasons in which he averaged nearly 300 yards (291.7) per contest. So needless to say, Rivers owners were happy to see him break out for 354 yards passing in the loss to the Saints. The other good news is that to this point, Rivers has done a much better job of taking care of the ball. He has just six total turnovers (5 INTs, 1 fumble) compared to eight touchdown passes in his first five games. Rivers also is more than familiar with this week’s opponent, Denver, who the Chargers host on Monday night. In 13 career games against his AFC West rivals, he has thrown 20 touchdowns versus just seven interceptions.

Kevin Kolb (ARI) vs. Buffalo
Kolb has yet to really light it up, averaging 243.8 yards passing in four games as Arizona’s starter with six touchdowns and two interceptions. However, this could be his best chance yet as he’s facing a Buffalo defense that has been absolutely shredded – try 1,201 yards and 97 points – in its last two games. What’s more, the Bills are allowing the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. This includes 26.6 points to Mark Sanchez and 23.5 to Matt Cassel, who are currently ranked 31st and 32nd respectively in passer rating. I’m not sure opportunity could knock any louder.

Brandon Weeden (CLE) vs. Cincinnati
Weeden may be the 33rd-ranked passer in the league right now, but he’s also showing signs of progress. He was huge in helping the Browns jump out to an early lead on the road against the defending Super Bowl champs. And even though the Giants came back and won the game fairly easily, Weeden finished with decent stats – 22-of-35, 291 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. This week, Weeden finally gets to face someone for a second time as the Browns and Bengals get together again. The Bengals won the first meeting back in Week 2, but Weeden did his part, as he completed 70 percent of his passes for 322 yards, two scores and no interceptions in the best outing of his rookie season. Considering the improvement of the Browns’ rushing attack behind fellow first-round pick Trent Richardson and that he’ll be playing at home, there’s really no reason to not expect Weeden to post similar, if not better, numbers this time around.

SIT
Matthew Stafford (DET) at Philadelphia

Through the first four games of last season, Stafford had already thrown 11 touchdown passes compared to just three interceptions. This season those numbers have completely reversed, as the Lions’ gunslinger has tossed only three touchdown passes to go with four interceptions. For whatever reason, the Lions’ offense has been out of sync to start the season, but the team was off last week giving the unit plenty of time to work out the kinks, right? Perhaps, but I still wouldn’t expect Stafford and company to go off this week in Philadelphia. The Eagles are allowing only 209 yards passing per game and are giving up an average of 13.2 fantasy points per contest to opposing quarterbacks.

Carson Palmer (OAK) at Atlanta
Like Stafford, Palmer and the Raiders also were off last week. While the break allowed injured players the chance to recover and the team had more practice time to get everyone on the same page with rookie head coach Dennis Allen and his staff, the schedule-makers didn’t really do the Raiders any favor coming out of it. The west coast team has the pleasure of making the cross-country trip to take on an undefeated Atlanta team on its home turf. The Falcons’ defense is No. 9 in the league against the pass, as the unit has surrendered just five touchdown passes, while picking off nine, including three Peyton Manning passes in the first quarter in Week 2.

Brady Quinn (KC) at Tampa Bay
Yes, Tampa Bay is allowing a league-worst 345 yards passing per game, but that’s largely because Eli Manning hung 510 on them in Week 2. Take out that game and the average drops to 303 yards per game. But also let’s not kid ourselves here, Quinn is not anywhere near the quarterback that Manning is, not to mention that he will be making his first start since 2009. There’s absolutely no reason to try and be sneaky or clever here. Just walk away and move on.

Running Backs
START

Trent Richardson (CLE) vs. Cincinnati

Richardson is still in search of his first breakthrough performance in his rookie season, and there’s a chance it could happen this week. Not only will he be playing in front of the home crowd, but he gets the Bengals, who are allowing the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. This also is the same team he posted his first and only 100-yard game against thus far, picking up 109 on just 19 carries (5.7 ypc) in Week 2. Can anyone say repeat?

DeMarco Murray (DAL) at Baltimore
The Cowboys have had plenty of time to digest their disappointing 34-18 Week 4 loss to Chicago. First and foremost on the team’s to do list during the bye was probably how to fix the running game. After posting 131 yards rushing against the Giants in Week 1, Murray has accumulated a total of 106 yards on the ground in the three games since. Besides being well rested, Murray has the benefit of going against Baltimore and its 22nd-ranked rush defense. The Ravens are allowing 118.4 yards per game on the ground and are coming off of Jamaal Charles gouging them for 140 last week. Not saying Murray will get that many, but I do think he will be able to his share of damage, which also will help stabilize Tony Romo and the passing game.  

C.J. Spiller (BUF) at Arizona
After injuring his shoulder in Week 3 against Cleveland, everyone was expecting Spiller to miss at least one game, if not more. Everyone that is, except Spiller himself, who returned to the field that next week and has proceeded to produce a grand total of 62 yards of total offense in the past two games. Some of this has to do with the simultaneous return of opening-week starter Fred Jackson, as well as the Bills match-ups with New England and San Francisco. To put it mildly, the Bills’ defense has been lit up two straight weeks, and the carnage caused by the Patriots’ and 49ers’ offenses did not help the production of the Bills’ offense, even if it resulted in more possessions. That said, I think this week’s game in Arizona will not follow the same script, and I also think that since he appears to be completely recovered from the shoulder injury, Spiller, and not Jackson, will get the majority of the touches. This will allow him to look more like the player that led the NFL in rushing after the first two weeks of the season, compared to the one that’s been out there these past three weeks.

SIT
Alfred Morris (WAS) vs. Minnesota
First, let’s give credit where credit is due. Morris, the Redskins’ sixth-round pick out of Florida Atlantic, is fourth in the NFL in rushing (491 yards), is averaging nearly five yards per carry and is No. 6 in fantasy scoring for his position. Unfortunately, his next opponent, Minnesota, could care less. The Vikings are seventh in the league in rushing defense and have allowed a grand total of one touchdown on the ground. Combine that with the Redskins’ quarterback situation heading into Sunday’s game (see above), and you may want to consider letting Morris sit this one out.

Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG) at San Francisco
There’s no backfield controversy with the Giants, not after Bradshaw ran over and through the Browns for 200 yards last week. But while his starting job may be secure, don’t expect a repeat performance in San Francisco this week. The 49ers have allowed only one running back (Adrian Peterson) to rush for more than 53 yards this season and have yet to allow a rushing touchdown. The Giants relied heavily on Eli Manning and his arm to beat the 49ers in last season’s NFC Championship Game, and I’m expecting a similar game plan this Sunday as well.

Steven Jackson (STL) at Miami
Miami is No. 1 in the NFL in rushing defense, as they have allowed a total of 307 yards rushing in its first five games. That is only 36 yards less than what Jackson himself has accumulated thus far, which is an average of 54.2 yards per game. Considering the Rams completed a total of seven passes last week against Arizona, and are now without the services of their top wide receiver (Danny Amendola), I’m not expecting either of these numbers – what the Dolphins are allowing or what Jackson is getting – to change that much.

Wide Receivers
START

Andre Johnson (HOU) vs. Green Bay
Johnson started out strong with eight catches for 119 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. Since then he’s caught nine passes for 164 yards and one other score. Johnson’s getting good yardage – he’s averaging 16.6 yards per reception – he’s just not catching a bunch of passes. He has been dealing with a groin issue, but it hasn’t kept him from playing and doesn’t appear to be serious. Green Bay is allowing the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers and I have a feeling that AJ may break out this Sunday against the Packers.

Michael Crabtree (SF) vs. New York Giants
With the exception of his Week 4 performance against the Jets, Crabtree has caught at least six passes in every game. Last week against Buffalo he grabbed six for 113 yards and his first touchdown of the season. The Giants are allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, including eight touchdown catches already. The 49ers are showing trust in Alex Smith by letting him throw the ball more, and I think this trend continues Sunday.

Jeremy Kerley (NYJ) vs. Indianapolis
Houston has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, an average of 20 per game. On Monday night, Kerley caught five passes against the Jets for 94 yards or 11.9 points. That’s the second-most yards the Texans have allowed to a receiver (Eric Decker had 136 in Week 3) and it was the fourth-most fantasy points (17.6, also to Decker, is the most). This week the Jets get Indianapolis, who is allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts. I think the Jets’ offense will be able to do a little more this week against the Colts than have been the previous few weeks. And part of the reason will be due to the new Sanchez-to-Kerley connection.

SIT
Brandon Lloyd (NE) at Seattle
Lloyd is more of a deep threat than Wes Welker or any of the other Patriot wide receivers. When Brady is content to attack a team with quick reads, underneath stuff and timing routes, like he did last week against Denver, Lloyd has a tendency to disappear from the game plan. That’s why he had just three catches for 34 yards against the Broncos. It’s not going to get any easier for Brady, Lloyd and the Pats this week in Seattle either, as the Seahawks’ defensive pressure and aggressive secondary will take the deeper routes, and therefore Lloyd, away for a second straight week.

Torrey Smith (BAL) vs. Dallas
As talented and dangerous as Smith is, he’s still learning how to play his position. Case in point, Smith has struggled against press coverage, which is what Kansas City primarily used against him last week. Smith had a hard time getting free, which is part of the reason why he had just three catches for 38 yards. There’s no reason to think Dallas won’t follow the same game plan this Sunday. What’s more, the Cowboys have allowed the fewest catches (38) and yards (515) to opposing wide receivers thus far, along with just two touchdowns.

Brian Hartline (MIA) vs. St. Louis
Hartline is leading the NFL in receiving yards, averaging more than 102 per game. The Rams have allowed just one touchdown catch by a wide receiver and only two receivers have gone for more than 71 yards against their defense. Their names are Calvin Johnson (111) and Larry Fitzgerald (92). Hartline is not Johnson or Fitzgerald and he has a rookie quarterback throwing to him. Any questions?

Tight Ends
START

Kyle Rudolph (MIN) at Washington
Rudolph caught only four passes for 23 yards last week against Tennessee, but one of those resulted in a touchdown, his fourth of the season. Washington is tied with New England for giving up the second-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. I also think that Vikings’ quarterback Christian Ponder, who threw his first two interceptions last week, may look to his sure-handed tight end a little more than usual.

Dustin Keller (NYJ) vs. Indianapolis
Keller hasn’t played since Week 1, sitting out the past four games with a hamstring injury. He is expected to return this week against Indianapolis and, other than Keller, no one is happier than Mark Sanchez. With Santonio Holmes already out for the season with a foot injury, Keller is far and away Sanchez’ favorite and most trusted target. Sanchez needs a productive game passing, and I fully expect him to look to Keller early and often to try and accomplish that. 

SIT
Aaron Hernandez (NE) at Seattle
Hernandez has not played since injuring his ankle in Week 2, but he returned to practice this week and could be back out there Sunday in Seattle. The Patriots haven’t really missed Hernandez in terms of offensive production as Wes Welker, Stevan Ridley and others have picked up the slack. Even though the Patriots are in for a tough test against the Seahawks on their home field, I don’t think they “need” Hernandez. So even if he is able to return to the field, I don’t think he gets enough snaps to make much of an impact this week.

Jermichael Finley (GB) at Houston
Finley has scored just one touchdown, and that came in Week 1. He’s averaged less than four catches since collecting seven in the opener against San Francisco. Last week he had just three catches for 11 yards against Indianapolis and also suffered a minor shoulder injury. He is hoping to play on Sunday in Houston, but considering the Texans’ defense and his recent production, I would not have high expectations for Finley this week.

Defense/Special Teams
START

Miami vs. St. Louis
The Dolphins’ defense is ranked No. 18 overall, but they are No. 1 against the run. While they have been more susceptible to the pass (281.8 yards per game), this week they are facing the Rams, who are averaging the second-fewest yards through the air in the league. The Rams have also had issues protecting the quarterback, which plays into the Dolphins’ hands (15 sacks). Also, don’t forget that the Rams won’t have leading receiver Danny Amendola for this game (and many to follow), and quarterback Sam Bradford completed a total of seven passes last week against Arizona. 

Tampa Bay vs. Kansas City
The Buccaneers have given up a league-worst 345 yards passing per game, but this week’s quarterback won’t be Eli Manning, Cam Newton, Tony Romo or Robert Griffin III. No, it’s Brady Quinn, who last started a game in 2009 and for his career has completed less than 53 percent of his pass attempts. The Bucs will have their hands full trying to contain Jamaal Charles, the league’s leading rusher, but rush defense (73.8 ypg) hasn’t really been an issue so far. With Quinn trying to shake the rust off on the road, I just don’t think the Bucs will have to worry about the pass that much, allowing them to focus on Charles. I don’t have a problem if you want to take a chance with them as your starting DST this week.  

SIT
Dallas at Baltimore
Statistically, the Cowboys’ defense has fared very well, No. 1 in both total and pass defense. However, that has not translated to fantasy success, much like the Steelers last season, as they are not getting many sacks (9) or turnovers (4). In fact, the Cowboys are currently No. 26 among DSTs in fantasy scoring. While the Ravens have given up a fair number of sacks (13), they’ve only turned the ball over six times and have played very well at home. I just don’t see the Cowboys feasting on the Ravens in this one.

Cincinnati at Cleveland
The Bengals are tied for the league lead in sacks with 18, but they also gave up 439 yards of total offense and 27 points to the Browns back in Week 2. Since then the Browns have been fairly competitive in road losses to Baltimore and the Giants. This game is at home, and I think the Browns will finally break into the win column by posting similar, if not better, offensive numbers against their AFC North and in-state rivals.

Kickers
START

Greg Zuerlein (STL) at Miami
The Rams haven’t exactly been the most explosive team on offense this season, but as Zuerlein has already shown, he doesn’t need them to get very far to be in field goal range. The rookie is tied for the league lead in made field goals with 13, and he’s yet to miss one. Nine of his makes have come from 40 yards and beyond, including a franchise-record 60-yarder against Seattle. Unless the Dolphins just completely shut the Rams down, “Greg the Leg” will put some points on the board.

Justin Tucker (BAL) vs. Dallas
Tucker also in his first season as the Ravens’ kicker and has been equally effective, connecting on 11 of his 12 field goal attempts. He’s made two from beyond 50, including a long of 56 yards and has been successful on all of his PATs. The Cowboys’ defense has played very well so far, but I think the Ravens will be able to move the ball enough so that Tucker’s services will be needed a few times.

SIT
Dan Carpenter (MIA) vs. St. Louis
The Redskins parted ways earlier this week with Billy Cundiff, who was successful on only seven of his 12 field goal attempts. With that move, Carpenter takes over the “lead” in the field goal inaccuracy department, as he’s only connected on six of 10 attempts. Job security may not be an issue yet, but you have to think the coaching staff will be leery of letting him try any real long ones this week. Couple that with the Rams’ defense and Carpenter may not see much field time this Sunday.

Rian Lindell (BUF) at Arizona
Lindell has attempted (and made) a total of two field goals so far this season. One of those came last week against the 49ers and it also was the only points the Bills put on the scoreboard. While I am expecting a little more offense from the Bills this Sunday against Arizona, there’s no reason to trust Lindell to be in a position to score a lot of points, for his team or yours.

— By Mark Ross, published on Oct. 12, 2012

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<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 6</p>
Post date: Friday, October 12, 2012 - 06:15
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College football's Week 7 action is highlighted by a huge matchup in the SEC — what else in new? — Stanford's trip to Notre Dame (will the Irish give up a touchdown), and the Red River Shootout in Dallas. 

Our picks for every game in Week 7

Friday

No. 91 Navy at No. 99 Central Michigan
Central Michigan ranks 114th in the nation in stopping the run. Not a good stat with Navy coming to town. This is not a vintage Navy team — it’s not even a good navy team — but the Midshipmen should be able to run the ball enough to win this game.
Central Michigan 33-31

Saturday

No. 1 Alabama at No. 48 Missouri
Missouri picked up 395 yards in a loss at home to Vanderbilt last week, but the Tigers struggled to move the ball after James Franklin was sidelined by a knee injury. Mizzou averaged 9.5 yards per play in the two drives with Franklin in the game and 4.2 yards for the final three-plus quarters after Corbin Berkstresser took over. This week, the Tigers will face an Alabama defense loaded with future pros at every level. Good luck, Mizzou.
Alabama 30-10

No. 3 South Carolina at No. 8 LSU
LSU has struggled to stop the run the last two weeks, giving up 188 yards on 40 carries to Towson and 176 on 58 carries to Florida. That brings us to South Carolina and its star tailback Marcus Lattimore. The junior leads the SEC in conference games in both rushing (106.0 ypg) and rushing touchdowns (seven). The Gamecocks will need Lattimore to be at his best to win in Baton Rouge — something that has happened only once (in 1994) in South Carolina’s 11 trips to Tiger Stadium.
South Carolina 17-13

No. 19 Stanford at No. 4 Notre Dame
It’s kind of strange to say, but this Notre Dame team isn’t getting enough credit. The Fighting Irish are 5–0, with four of the wins coming against AQ conference teams. The defense has been absolutely dominant. Consider the following: Michigan State, Michigan and Miami (Fla.) combined to scored 12 points against the Irish in successive games.
Notre Dame 24-13

No. 5 Florida at No. 57 Vanderbilt
Florida’s trip to Nashville is sandwiched between two of the Gators’ biggest games of the season — last week vs. LSU (a win) and next week’s home date with South Carolina. Will Muschamp’s task this week is simple: Keep his team focused on Vanderbilt. The Gators are clearly the more talented team, but Vanderbilt is good enough to make Florida sweat. Expect the Gators to lean on tailback Mike Gillislee. Vanderbilt ranks 33rd nationally in total defense but has struggled to stop the run against the better teams on its schedule.
Florida 24-14

No. 6 West Virginia at No. 41 Texas Tech
It’s no secret that Geno Smith is having a spectacular season, but have you taken a close look at his numbers? They are simply amazing. He’s completing 81.4 percent of his passes (No. 1 in the nation); he’s averaging 399.2 passing yards per game (No. 1 in the nation); he’s averaging 9.8 yards per attempt (No. 3 in the nation); he’s thrown 24 touchdowns (No. 1 in the nation and six more than anyone else); and he hasn’t thrown an interception (one of four quarterbacks nationally with over 100 attempts and no picks). Bottom line: He’s very good at playing quarterback.
West Virginia 44-24

No. 7 Kansas State at No. 42 Iowa State
It’s a battle of two coaches who have made a habit of doing more with less. Bill Snyder has Kansas State ranked in the top 10 after a 5–0 start that features wins over Miami (Fla.) and Oklahoma. Collin Klein has been sensational at quarterback for the Cats; he ranks ninth in the nation in passing efficiency and is averaging 81.0 yards rushing per game. Iowa State is 4–1 under fourth-year coach Paul Rhoads thanks to a defense that is giving up 15.8 points per game.
Kansas State 27-17

No. 9 Ohio State at No. 97 Indiana
Indiana hasn’t defeated Ohio State since 1988, and the Hoosiers haven’t lost by less than 10 points to Buckeyes since 1993 (23–17 in Columbus). This one won’t be close.
Ohio State 44-17

No. 11 USC at No. 26 Washington
USC’s last trip to Seattle didn’t go too well. Back in 2009, the Trojans were held to a season-low 13 points in a four-point loss in the first and only Pete Carroll vs. Steve Sarkisian matchup. Sarkisian is 1–1 vs. Carroll’s successor, Lane Kiffin, with a win in L.A. in 2010 and a loss in L.A. last fall.
USC 30-23

No. 12 Texas vs. No. 14 Oklahoma (Dallas)
First the good news: Texas is averaging 46.8 points per game and has finally identified a quarterback in sophomore David Ash. Now, the bad news: A Longhorn defense that was expected to be among the best in the nation has given up 115 points in the last three weeks. The most troubling part has been Texas’ inability to stop the run. Last week, West Virginia’s Andrew Buie gashed the Horns for 207 yards on 31 carries. Oklahoma is hoping to be the next team to take advantage of Texas’ cooperative run defense.
Oklahoma 35-31

No. 96 Boston College at No. 13 Florida State
Florida State’s national title received a crippling blow last week at NC State. Now, the Seminoles must regroup and focus on winning their first ACC title since 2005. Boston College figures to put up little resistance after losing last Saturday to an Army team that lost to Stony Brook the previous week.
Florida State 38-13

No. 16 Oregon State at No. 46 BYU
Oregon State received a dose of bad news early this week when starting quarterback Sean Mannion was ruled out indefinitely after hurting his knee in the Beavers’ win over Washington State last week. The next man up is junior Cody Vaz, who hasn’t thrown a pass since his redshirt freshman season in 2010. With the inexperienced Vaz taking snaps, expect to see the Beavers lean on tailbacks Storm Woods and Marcus Agnew.
Oregon State 24-14

No. 17 Louisville at No. 67 Pittsburgh
Louisville is only a field goal favorite over a Pittsburgh team that has lost to Youngstown State by 14 points, Cincinnati by 24 points and Syracuse by one point. That line seems a bit low, but the Cardinals struggled on the road against inferior opponents in their last two games, beating FIU by seven and Southern Miss (in a driving rainstorm) by four points.
Louisville 27-23

No. 66 Syracuse at No. 18 Rutgers
Rutgers is undefeated and nationally ranked thanks to a defense that has given up an average of 10.8 points per game. Syracuse scored a total of 70 points in its first two games vs. FBS foes but has totaled 24 points in its last two. Points will be tough to come by for the Orange on Saturday.
Rutgers 24-10

No. 71 Illinois at No. 20 Michigan
Michigan is no doubt disappointed to “only” be 3–2 at this point of the season, but it’s important to note that the Wolverines’ two losses came to Alabama and Notre Dame, two top-five teams with a combined record of 10–0. This is still a solid Michigan team.
Michigan 38–13

No. 21 Louisiana Tech at No. 24 Texas A&M
Louisiana Tech has made its first-ever appearance in the coaches poll thanks to a 5–0 start that features road wins over Houston, Illinois and Virginia. The Bulldogs are averaging 523.4 yards and 53.2 points per game running Sonny Dykes’ wide-open attack. Tech will need to score plenty of points on Saturday because its defense — which ranks 119th in the nation — will have a tough time slowing down Texas A&M.
Texas A&M 44–37

No. 34 Tennessee at No 22 Mississippi State
It’s not an overstatement to say this is the most important game in Derek Dooley’s tenure at Tennessee. With Alabama and South Carolina looming, the Vols, who have lost nine of their last 10 SEC games, simply cannot afford to lose in Starkville.
Tennessee 30–24

Fordham at No. 23 Cincinnati
We are in the seventh week of the season, and Cincinnati has only played three FBS opponents. The Bearcats have had two byes and are playing an FCS foe for the second time.
Cincinnati 47-7

No. 60 Iowa at No. 27 Michigan State
Michigan State avoided disaster by rallying from deficits of 17–0 and 27–17 (in the fourth quarter) to beat Indiana 31–27. Iowa is back in action after enjoying a week off. The Hawkeyes have found a running game — Mark Weisman is fourth in the Big Ten in rushing with 103.0 yards per game — but quarterback James Vandenberg only has two touchdown passes in 159 attempts. He had 25 in 404 attempts last year.
Michigan State 13-10

No. 28 Nevada at No. 103 UNLV
Nevada has won seven straight in this in-state rivalry — and each of the last four have been by 18 points or more. The Wolf Pack struggled last week with Wyoming, winning by seven in overtime in Reno. That is not a good sign.
Nevada 37-20

No. 55 Utah at No. 30 UCLA
The Bruins have lost two of three after opening the Jim Mora era with three straight wins. UCLA scored a total of 37 points in its losses — vs. Oregon State and at Cal — despite averaging a more-than-respectable 408 yards in those two games. Brett Hundley was picked off four times vs. California. That, obviously, cannot happen.
UCLA 30–17

No. 32 Oklahoma State at No. 95 Kansas
Kansas lost to Rice, which lost to Memphis (yes, Memphis), which lost to Tennessee-Martin. Things aren’t going well in Year 1 of the Charlie Weis era.
Oklahoma State 41-10

No. 70 Fresno State at No 33 Boise State
Boise State might be 4–1 and nationally ranked — though not by Athlon Sports — but this is not a great Bronco team. They struggled with New Mexico two weeks ago before beating up on a Southern Miss team in shambles. Fresno State has the edge at the skill positions. I smell upset.
Fresno State 30, Boise State 23

No. 43 TCU at No. 36 Baylor
TCU lost at home to Iowa State 37–23 in its first game without Casey Pachall. Trevone Boykin stepped in and threw for 270 yards but was picked off three times. The Horned Frogs need to bounce back quickly, because the schedule in the second half of the season is not kind.
Baylor 27–18

No. 110 Akron at No. 37 Ohio
Ohio is still undefeated, but the Bobcats haven’t exactly been playing great football. Here are their last three games vs. FBS opponents: Marshall (27–24), UMass (37–34) and Buffalo (38–31).
Ohio 30-23

No. 39 Northwestern at No. 68 Minnesota
Both of these teams only have one loss on the season, but Northwestern is far more battle-tested. The Wildcats have wins over Syracuse (on the road), Vanderbilt, Indiana and Boston College, while Minnesota’s lone FBS win came against Syracuse. Last week, the Gophers were handled with ease in their Big Ten opener by Iowa, 31–13.
Northwestern 33-30

No. 40 Wisconsin at No. 45 Purdue
Purdue had a chance to make a statement last week but was surprisingly uncompetitive in a 44–13 loss at home to Michigan. Wisconsin is quietly playing much better in recent weeks. Joel Stave has been solid at quarterback.
Wisconsin 23-17

No. 51 North Carolina at No. 44 Miami (Fla.)
Still not sure what to make of either one of these teams. They’ve both looked good at times — Miami scored a total of 86 points in wins over Georgia Tech and NC State; North Carolina pounded Virginia Tech last weekend. And they’ve both looked bad at times — Miami lost to Kansas State and Notre Dame by a combined score of 93–16; Virginia Tech lost to Wake Forest and trailed Louisville at the half 36–7.
Miami (Fla.) 37-33

No. 123 Florida Atlantic at No. 47 ULM
After opening up with three straight games against AQ conference opponents — and doing quite well (1–2 vs. Arkansas, Auburn and Baylor) — ULM beat Tulane and Middle Tennessee (both on the road) by a combined score of 94–27. The Warhawks shouldn’t have any trouble with FAU.
ULM 47, Florida Atlantic 13

No. 50 California at No. 102 Washington State
Cal was in a must-win mode last weekend, and the Golden Bears delivered with a 43–17 victory over UCLA in Berkeley. Zach Maynard was very sharp (25-of-30 for 295 yards), and C.J. Anderson rushed for 151 yards on 21 carries. This team has plenty of talent.
California 37-17

No. 52 Utah State at No. 79 San Jose State
It’s a big battle in the WAC between two of the nation’s most underrated coaches, Utah State’s Gary Andersen and San Jose State’s Mike MacIntyre. Utah State has lost two games, to Wisconsin and BYU by a combined five points; San Jose State has lost one game, to Stanford by three points. These are quality teams.
Utah State 27, San Jose State 24

No. 53 Duke at No 54 Virginia Tech
Duke is 5–1 and one win away from bowl-eligibility, but the Blue Devils still have plenty of doubters. The schedule has been very kind. Virginia Tech has lost three of its last four and has given up 27 points or more in all three defeats. This will be a tough test for the Hokies’ defense.
Virginia Tech 27-17

No. 62 Auburn at No. 58 Ole Miss
Ole Miss is much improved under first-year coach Hugh Freeze, but it’s still alarming that Auburn — a program that won the national title two years ago — is a six-point underdog to the Rebels. The Tigers’ faithful won’t be pleased with Gene Chizik if Auburn loses in Oxford.
Ole Miss 27-20

No. 105 Southern Miss at No. 59 UCF
Southern Miss continues to struggle under first-year coach Ellis Johnson, who is under fire from a program that expects to win. The Golden Eagles rank 114th in the nation in scoring offense and 105th in scoring defense.
UCF 37-17

No. 81 Kentucky at No. 61 Arkansas
The Hogs have a great opportunity to win their second straight game with a wounded (both physically and mentally) Kentucky team visiting Fayetteville. The Wildcats dropped to 1–5 with a 27–14 loss at home to Mississippi State last week. Kentucky’s best two quarterbacks, Maxwell Smith and Patrick Towles, are out with injuries, leaving true freshman Jalen Whitlow and senior Morgan Newton as the only two options for Joker Phillips.
Arkansas 38-17

No. 114 Buffalo at No. 63 Northern Illinois
Jordan Lynch is having a terrific first season as the Huskies’ starting quarterback. The junior is averaging 209.2 yards passing (with nine touchdowns and three INTs) and 131.5 yards rushing (with nine TDs). Denard Robinson is the only quarterback with better rushing numbers nationally.
Northern Illinois 47-17

No. 65 Toledo at No. 117 Eastern Michigan
It’s been a struggle in 2012 for Ron English and Eastern Michigan. After breaking through with six wins in 2011, hopes were high for the Eagles this fall. It hasn’t quite worked out. EMU is 0–5 (with a loss to FCS foe Illinois State) and is ranked near the bottom of the nation in total offense and total defense.
Toledo 44-16

No. 72 Western Michigan at No. 83 Ball State
Ball State has split its last four games, beating two AQ conference opponents (Indiana and South Florida) and losing to two MAC teams (Kent State and Northern Illinois). Western Michigan, which lost to Toledo at home a few weeks ago, cannot afford another loss in league play.
Western Michigan 30-27

No. 75 Temple at No. 73 Connecticut
Connecticut has been one of the most “lopsided” teams in the nation. The Huskies rank sixth in the nation in total defense (248.8 ypg) and 110th in total offense (310.5 ypg). This figures to be a low-scoring affair.
Connecticut 17–10

No. 74 Maryland at No. 78 Virginia
We thought Virginia might take a step back in 2012 after suffering some key personnel losses. But we didn’t expect this: a 2–4 record with a 36-point loss to Georgia Tech and a 25-point loss to Duke. Maryland, on the other hand, is showing signs of being a competitive football program — a positive step after last year’s debacle.
Maryland 17-13

No. 116 Memphis at No. 80 East Carolina
Last week, Memphis won its first C-USA home game since October 2009. The Tigers rallied to beat Rice 14¬-10 in a game that featured only 466 yards of total offense. Memphis’ winning streak will be snapped at one.
East Carolina 37-10

No. 82 Kent State at No. 113 Army
It’s been a strange three-game stretch for Army. The Black Knights scored a total of 71 points in two games vs. AQ conference opponents (37 in a loss to Wake Forest and 34 in a win over Boston College) and three points in loss at home to FCS foe Stony Brook. That doesn’t make much sense.
Kent State 31-17

No. 85 SMU at No. 124 Tulane
In very un-June Jones-like fashion, SMU beat UTEP 17–0 on the road last week. In the last two games, the Mustangs have allowed a total of 431 yards. They gave up 452 yards or more in each of their first three games.
SMU 37-0

No. 98 UAB at No. 86 Houston
This is a bit of a statistical oddity: Houston is ranked ninth in the nation in total offense despite scoring 13 points in two of its five games. The Cougars are piling up the yards but have struggled to score at times due a turnover differential of minus-0.8 per game.
Houston 31-20

No. 87 Middle Tennessee at No. 100 FIU
FIU might be the most disappointing team in the nation. The Golden Panthers, expected to compete for the Sun Belt title, are 1–5 overall (with the one win coming at home in overtime to Akron) and 0–2 in league play.
Middle Tennessee 21-20

No. 121 South Alabama at No. 89 Arkansas State
Maybe my expectations were too high for the Gus Malzahan-Ryan Aplin combo, but it’s a bit of a surprise that Arkansas State hasn’t scored more than 34 points vs. an FBS opponent this year.
Arkansas State 34-13

No. 119 Colorado State at No. 90 San Diego State
Jim McElwain is discovering that it’s far more difficult calling plays with Colorado State’s players than it was at Alabama. The Rams rank 115th in the nation in scoring offense and 106th in total offense.
San Diego State 37-17

No. 92 New Mexico at No. 118 Hawaii
Bob Davie is doing a fine job in his first season at New Mexico. The Lobos, who are running an option attack, have three wins through six games in 2012; they had a total of three wins from 2009-11.
New Mexico 31-23

No. 109 Miami (Ohio) at No. 93 Bowling Green
Ohio is clearly the team to beat, but Bowling Green is good enough to be a factor in the MAC East. Miami is 2–0 in the league, but that record is a product of a soft early slate. Bowling Green is the better team.
Bowing Green 31-20

No. 115 Idaho at No. 104 Texas State
Texas State has struggled a bit since its shocking season-opening win at Houston. The Bobcats are 1–3 since that win, with a four-point victory over Stephen F. Austin and losses to Texas Tech, Nevada and New Mexico.
Texas State 30-27

No. 111 Texas-San Antonio at No. 106 Rice
David Bailiff’s job security took a huge hit last week when Rice lost at Memphis. The Owls have one win on the season — at Kansas.
Texas-San Antonio 28-24

No. 107 Air Force at No. 122 Wyoming
Air Force is one of only two teams nationally (Texas-San Antonio is the other) that has not allowed a sack. It’s worth noting, however, that the Falcons have only attempted 57 passes in five games.
Wyoming 23-21

Last week: 33-19
Season to date: 287-79

@AthlonMitch

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<p>  </p> <p> College football's Week 7 action is highlighted by a huge matchup in the SEC — what else in new? — Stanford's trip to Notre Dame (will the Irish give up a touchdown), and the Red River Shootout in Dallas.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Friday, October 12, 2012 - 06:10
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Week 7 of the college football season doesn't feature a ton of prominent match-ups, but there are a lot of games that will set the table for the rest of the year. West Virginia scored a huge victory over Texas last week but has a potential trap game at Texas Tech this Saturday. In addition to the West Virginia-Texas Tech pairing, the Big 12 also features Texas-Oklahoma and Baylor-TCU. As usual, the SEC isn't short on intrigue, as South Carolina-LSU is one of the must-watch games for Week 7. 

Top Storylines to Watch in Week 7

Elimination Game in the Big 12?
With West Virginia and Kansas State off to 2-0 starts in Big 12 play, Texas and Oklahoma cannot afford to fall two games behind in the standings. The stakes in the Red River Rivalry are always high, but with this year’s meeting essentially an elimination game for the conference title, there’s even more pressure on both teams to win on Saturday. One of the season’s biggest surprises has been the struggles of Texas’ defense, which ranks 74th nationally in yards allowed and 83rd against the run. Although the Longhorns are allowing over 400 yards per game, this defense will cause problems for Oklahoma’s offense, especially in the trenches with Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor – two of the nation’s best defensive ends – lining up on the outside. Texas could also get a boost with the return of linebacker Jordan Hicks, who has missed the last two games due to an injury. Although quarterback Landry Jones has played well in the last two meetings against the Longhorns, the Sooners have to establish balance if they want to win. Considering how well quarterback David Ash has played this season, the Sooners will have their hands full trying to slow down a much-improved Texas offense. Texas-Oklahoma is usually the Big 12’s most-important game of the season. However, West Virginia and Kansas State appear to be the frontrunners for the Big 12 title, which makes this year’s game in Dallas a must-win if either team wants to be a conference champion.

Showdown in Baton Rouge
With LSU’s loss to Florida, Saturday’s match-up between the Tigers and South Carolina lost a bit of its appeal. However, this is still a huge game on the national scene and will have an impact on who wins the SEC East. LSU desperately needs to win, as a loss to the Gamecocks would put the Tigers two games behind Alabama in the SEC West standings. With a win over LSU, South Carolina would set up a huge showdown on Oct. 20 against Florida, which will likely decide the winner of the East Division. Although quarterback play is always important, it’s even more crucial for Saturday’s game. The Tigers struggled to establish their passing attack in last week’s loss to Florida and need to find a spark against the Gamecocks. Considering both defenses rank in the top 10 in scoring defense, whichever team finds a spark on offense first should emerge from this SEC clash with a victory.   

BCS defining game for Notre Dame?
There’s a lot of football left and anything could happen in the second half of the season, but Saturday’s game could be a defining contest for Notre Dame’s BCS bowl hopes. With a schedule that features winnable games against BYU, Pittsburgh, Boston College and Wake Forest, a victory over Stanford would likely lock Notre Dame into 10 wins and a BCS bowl. The Cardinal are anything but a guaranteed victory for the Irish, especially after Stanford’s offense got on track in last week’s win over Arizona. Although the Wildcats aren’t one of the Pac-12’s best defenses, it was a critical performance for quarterback Josh Nunes to build some confidence for the second half of the year. Notre Dame’s secondary has played well despite the new faces, but the key to this match-up will be the battle in the trenches. Stanford wants to pound the ball at opposing defenses, but Notre Dame ranks 17th nationally against the run and is the only team not to allow a rushing touchdown through the first six weeks of action. If Notre Dame controls the line of scrimmage, Nunes will have to show he can play well on the road, something he did not do in the loss to Washington. Notre Dame probably isn’t thinking about the BCS implications of this game, but a win against Stanford will go a long ways towards the Irish earning their first BCS bowl berth since 2007.

Wisconsin vs. Purdue…A Big Game?
Don’t laugh, this is an important game in the Big Ten standings. With Ohio State and Penn State ineligible to win the Leaders Division, Wisconsin and Purdue are the two favorites to play the Legends Division winner in Indianapolis. After a slow start, the Badgers seem to be on the right track. Joel Stave has stabilized the quarterback position, while running back Montee Ball has five touchdowns in his last two games. The Boilermakers are reeling after a 44-13 loss to Michigan and have yet to beat an opponent from a BCS conference this season. Purdue quarterback Robert Marve is dealing with a torn ACL, but played in last week’s game against the Wolverines, completing 5 of 8 passes for 43 yards. Wisconsin has won the last six meetings in this series, including a 62-17 beatdown in Madison last year. The Boilermakers are capable of playing better than they did last week, but the Badgers seem to have found the right answers on offense and still hold the edge in this game.
 

Under the Radar Games

Louisiana Tech vs. Texas A&M (Shreveport)
This game was originally scheduled for the first week of the season, but Hurricane Isaac forced it to be postponed. The Bulldogs are ranked in the Associated Press and USA Today polls and need to keep winning to have a shot at a BCS game. This match-up shouldn’t be hurting for points, as both teams are averaging over 40 points a contest.

North Carolina at Miami
It’s unfortunate that the Tar Heels are ineligible to play for the ACC Championship, as this team might be the best in the Coastal Division. North Carolina beat Virginia Tech 48-34 last week and its offense should have no trouble moving the ball against a Miami defense allowing 510 yards a game.

Auburn at Ole Miss
What a difference a year makes. Last season, the Rebels were the worst team in the SEC West and lost to Auburn 41-23. Could we see that score reversed on Saturday? Ole Miss is a much-improved team under new coach Hugh Freeze, while the Tigers continue to search for answers on both sides of the ball. If Auburn struggles to generate its offense once again, the Rebels should be able to add to the Tigers’ misery this season.

Duke at Virginia Tech
In a bit of a surprise, Duke enters this game with a better ACC record than Virginia Tech. The Blue Devils also need just one more victory to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. The Hokies have lost three out of their last four games and a defense that was expected to be among the nation’s best is allowing nearly 400 yards per game.

TCU at Baylor
These two teams met for a 50-48 shootout game last season and there should be plenty of fireworks once again this Saturday. TCU will be without quarterback Casey Pachall for the rest of the season, but Baylor’s defense ranks dead last (120th out of 120 FBS schools) nationally in yards allowed. The Horned Frogs rank 19th nationally in pass defense but have yet to be tested by a passing attack as potent and produtive as Baylor's.

Utah State at San Jose State
Both teams are looking up at Louisiana Tech in the WAC pecking order, but this is still a huge game. Utah State has a win over Utah this year, along with a two-point loss to Wisconsin and a three-point defeat to BYU. The Spartans are off to a 4-1 start and nearly beat Stanford in the opener. This game also features two of the nation’s rising stars in the coaching ranks – Gary Andersen (Utah State) and Mike MacIntyre (San Jose State).

Oregon State at BYU
The Beavers will be without quarterback Sean Mannion, but don’t write off the Beavers in Provo. The Cougars expect to have quarterback Riley Nelson back under center, but BYU’s offense struggled mightily against Boise State and Utah State. Expect a low-scoring game, with a play or two on defense likely deciding the outcome.

USC at Washington
Although USC has a clear edge in talent, this game may be closer than some expect. The Huskies won the last meeting  played in Seattle, and two out of the last three games in this series have been decided by three points or less. The two coaches in this game (Steve Sarkisian and Lane Kiffin) are certainly familiar with each other, which will help keep this one close into the fourth quarter.

Tennessee at Mississippi State
Could this game decide Derek Dooley’s future at Tennessee? It’s unlikely, but this still is a must-win game for the Volunteers. With match-ups against Alabama and South Carolina coming up the next two weeks, a loss to Mississippi State would more than likely leave the Volunteers with a 3-5 mark heading into the final month of the season. The Bulldogs are 5-0 but have played a soft schedule.
 

Upset Watch

Fresno State (+7) at Boise State
The Broncos have lost only three games at home since 2000, and the Bulldogs have not fared well on the blue turf in recent years. However, Boise State is still trying to find the right answers after losing a handful of key contributors from last season’s team, while Fresno State boasts two of the nation’s most underrated players in quarterback Derek Carr and running back Robbie Rouse.
Prediction: Fresno State 31, Boise State 27

Kansas State at Iowa State (+6.5)
The Cyclones are always good for an upset or two, and the last four meetings in this series have been decided by eight points or less. Kansas State is the better team, but Iowa State’s run defense will be a tough test for Wildcats’ quarterback Collin Klein.
Prediction: Kansas State 31, Iowa State 24

Louisville at Pittsburgh (+3)
The Big East is unpredictable, so nothing in this game would be a surprise. Pittsburgh has won the last four games in this series, including a 21-14 win in Louisville last year. The Cardinals are clearly the better team, but the Panthers are capable of getting hot at the right time.
Prediction: Louisville 27, Pittsburgh 20
 

Letdown Alert?

West Virginia at Texas Tech
After a big win at Texas last Saturday, the Mountaineers should be wary of this week’s trip to Lubbock. Texas Tech is coming off a loss to Oklahoma, but the Red Raiders’ offense will test a shaky West Virginia defense. Back-to-back road games are never easy, especially for a team that has never played in Lubbock.

California at Washington State
The Golden Bears desperately needed a win last week, and they responded with a surprising 43-17 blowout victory over UCLA. The second half schedule features a handful of tough games, including road trips to Oregon State and Utah, along with home contests against Stanford, Washington and Oregon. If California wants to go to a bowl game, it can’t afford a letdown on the road at Washington State.

Florida at Vanderbilt
Coming off a big win against LSU and with a key SEC East showdown against South Carolina next Saturday, the Gators have to be careful not to overlook the Commodores. Even though Vanderbilt is 2-3, the Commodores nearly beat Florida last season (26-21) and have some momentum after beating Missouri 19-15 last week. It’s a longshot, but a road game in the SEC is never easy.
 

Injuries to Watch

James Franklin, QB, Missouri – Franklin suffered a knee injury in last week’s loss to Vanderbilt and is out indefinitely.

MarQueis Gray, QB, Minnesota – Gray has not played since suffering a high ankle sprain against Western Michigan on Sept. 15. However, the senior quarterback is close to 100 percent and is expected to play against Northwestern this Saturday.

Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas - Hicks has missed the last two games with a hip injury but is expected to return for Saturday's game against Oklahoma. The junior's return should help the Longhorns' defense, which struggled against Oklahoma State and West Virginia.

Alex Hurst, OT, LSU – The Tigers’ offensive line has not played up to preseason expectations and could have even bigger issues on Saturday, as Hurst is dealing with personal issues and may not play against South Carolina.

Wes Lunt, QB, Oklahoma State – Lunt is still recovering from a knee injury suffered against Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 15. J.W. Walsh filled in admirably for Lunt against Texas and appears to be in line to get the start once again this week.

Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State – Mannion suffered a knee injury in last week’s win over Washington State and is out indefinitely after surgery. Cody Vaz will get the start under center for Oregon State.

Sean Renfree, QB, Duke - Renfree missed last week's game against Virginia due to an elbow injury but all signs point to the senior returning this Saturday against Virginia Tech.

Dion Sims, TE, Michigan State – Sims suffered an ankle injury against Indiana last week and is out for this Saturday’s game against Iowa.

Patrick Towles, QB, Kentucky – A bad season only got worse for Kentucky last Saturday. Towles, who led the Wildcats on a scoring drive in his first collegiate action, suffered an ankle injury against Mississippi State is out indefinitely.

Josh Williford, OL, LSU – Williford was banged up in last week’s loss to Florida and is questionable to play this week due to a head injury.


Games to Avoid

Alabama at Missouri
With quarterback James Franklin sidelined, Missouri will have a tough time moving the ball against Alabama’s defense. With the Crimson Tide having two weeks to prepare and a well-rested team after an off date, this one should get ugly early.

Boston College at Florida State
Both teams are coming off of disappointing losses, but the situation is more dire for Boston College, especially after slumping to a 1-4 start, including last Saturday's loss to a struggling Army team. Expect an angry Florida State team to handle its business and keep its ACC title hopes alive with an easy win over the Eagles.

Oklahoma State at Kansas
Thanks to two off dates, this will be Oklahoma State’s second game in four weeks. The Jayhawks hung tough for a half against Kansas State but dropped their fourth consecutive game of the year. The Cowboys might be a rusty early on, but it’s hard to see this one being close in the fourth quarter.

Illinois at Michigan
The Tim Beckman era is off to a horrendous start at Illinois. The Fighting Illini are 2-4, with their only wins coming over Western Michigan and Charleston Southern. Illinois has been blown out in all four losses, and Michigan seems to be finding its stride after beating Purdue 44-13 last week.

Fordham vs. Cincinnati
The Bearcats are quietly flying under the radar with a 4-0 start and should remain unbeaten with an easy victory over Fordham.
 

by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

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Teaser:
<p> College Football Week 7 Preview: Match-Ups, Upset Picks and Storylines to Watch</p>
Post date: Friday, October 12, 2012 - 06:05
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-countdown-no-2-louisville-preview
Body:
Visit the online store for Louisville 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 have arrived 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. 2 Louisville.

Last February nobody expected the University of Louisville to crash the Final Four, not after the Cardinals finished seventh in the Big East. Surprise, surprise. The Cardinals made it to New Orleans. Now many expect Rick Pitino’s team to make it back to the season’s final weekend.

A 31-point loss to Providence, a homecourt Senior Night loss to South Florida and a 49-point performance at Syracuse were all forgotten after Louisville won the Big East Tournament and backed it up by winning four NCAA Tournament games, including the West Regional final against Florida.

Most of the prime contributors return, led by Big East Tournament MVP Peyton Siva, the point guard, center Gorgui Dieng and powerful forward Chane Behanan. The Cardinals should also be healthier after losing four guys to injuries for at least 25 games.

FRONTCOURT
Dieng is the center Louisville recruited after Fab Melo shocked Pitino by signing with Syracuse three seasons ago. Dieng returns as the most complete big man in the Big East, a guy on the brink of averaging a double-double (9.1 ppg, 9.1 rpg in ’11-12). He also topped four blocked shots per game.

Behanan is a sophomore who finished last season like a senior, averaging 13.2 points and 8.0 rebounds in five NCAA Tournament games while making 60 percent of his shots. He should team with his best friend, fellow sophomore Wayne Blackshear, to give Pitino the inside-outside blend the coach loves. Blackshear battled through surgery to both shoulders to finish with gusto, scoring nine points in Louisville’s season-ending loss to Kentucky in the national semifinals.

Blackshear and junior Luke Hancock will form a hybrid combo on the wing — both are capable of playing either small forward or shooting guard. Pitino has called Hancock, who sat out last season after transferring from George Mason, the team’s best player. Hancock was named a co-captain in April.

There should be plenty of depth, as long as the Cardinals stay healthy. Pitino expects Zach Price, a sophomore center, to be one of the team’s most improved players. Stephan Van Treese reconsidered his decision to transfer and is back on the team. Freshman Montrezl Harrell, a superb athlete, was a late addition after originally signing with Virginia Tech.

BACKCOURT
For more than three months, Siva battled through a difficult season. He sprained his left ankle in November. It was slow to heal. He lost confidence in his jumper. Opponents started playing him exclusively to drive.

On the eve of the Big East Tournament, Pitino showed Siva video of how Steve Nash played the point guard position, preaching the value of not forcing plays. The message registered. Siva was great in the postseason, improving his shot selection and leadership skills.

Pitino has called Russ Smith, his other starting guard, a player unlike anybody he has coached at any of his four college stops. Smith led Louisville in field goal attempts last season, although he only made 35.6 percent of his shots. That’s usually a losing formula, but Pitino was OK with Smith forcing the action because of the Cards’ erratic offense. Smith needs to remain a creative shot-maker, but keep learning to share the ball.

Kevin Ware should be the first backcourt reserve, but he did not make a 3-point shot last season. Pitino believes sophomore Angel Nunez will become a dependable 3-point threat, but Nunez only played 55 minutes last season.

FINAL ANALYSIS
The Cardinal faithful grumbled louder than they had in years after Louisville lost three of its final four games to finish the regular season 22–9. Eight straight postseason victories silenced the complaints and positioned Pitino to win another Big East championship and plan for another big March.

Siva finally figured out how to play winning point guard. Dieng and Behanan understand the requirements of blue-collar Big East basketball as well as any pair of frontcourt players in the league.

Here are three factors that will decide if Louisville will reach its considerable potential — health (especially of Blackshear), 3-point shooting and the maturation of Smith.

Louisville needs Blackshear to become the guy who can make plays late in the shot clock. Departed seniors Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith made 143 of team’s 233 3-pointers last season. Somebody — Hancock and Blackshear — must fill that void. And Russ Smith can’t keep taking all his crazy shots.

@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

13. UNLV

12. UCLA
11. NC State

10. Michigan State
9. Duke

8. Ohio State

7. Arizona

6. Michigan

5. Syracuse

4. Kansas

3. Kentucky

Teaser:
<p> College Basketball Countdown: No. 2 Louisville Preview</p>
Post date: Friday, October 12, 2012 - 06:04
Path: /college-football/college-football-award-watch-post-week-5-0
Body:

The Heisman Trophy isn’t the only award worth watching on a weekly basis. The Lombardi, Outland, Davey O’Brien and Biletnikoff races are all worth watching and debating as the season goes along.

Throughout the season, we’ll keep an eye on all the prominent position trophies through college football in addition to the Heisman.

If you’re looking for our thoughts on that other trophy, check our weekly Heisman poll.

OFFENSIVE AWARDS
Davey O’Brien (Top quarterback)
Our leader: Geno Smith, West Virginia
The Heisman frontrunner answered his first road test by completing 25 of 35 passes for 268 yards and four touchdowns against Texas. He lost two fumbles but he hasn’t thrown an interception in 260 consecutive pass attempts, dating to the last regular season game of 2011. The next challenge is completing back-to-back road trips to the state of Texas.
Others: USC’s Matt Barkley, Kansas State’s Collin Klein, Alabama’s A.J. McCarron, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller

Doak Walker (Top running back)
Our leader: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
Lattimore has yet to carry South Carolina on his back, as he did at times during his first two seasons. The Gamecocks haven’t needed it. That said, Lattimore has scored a touchdown in every game this season. Against SEC opponents, he’s averaging 106 yards per game with seven touchdowns.
Others: Oregon’s Kenjon Barner, North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard, Florida’s Mike Gillislee, Kansas State’s John Hubert

Biletnikoff Award (Top wide receiver)
Our leader: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
Teammate Tavon Austin, with his production in the return game and run game, is more versatile, but Bailey may be the better pure receiver. He has 49 catches for 710 yards with 13 touchdown catches. No one else in the country has more than eight touchdown catches -- and one of those two is Austin.
Others: West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins, USC’s Marqise Lee, Penn State’s Allen Robinson, Baylor’s Terrance Williams

Mackey Award (Top tight end)
Our leader: Zach Ertz, Stanford
Teammate Levine Toilolo had the more productive game in the shootout with Arizona last week, but Zach Ertz had a touchdown catch early and then came up with a key catch on fourth down and 9 to set up the game-tying touchdown late in regulation.
Others: Arizona State’s Chris Coyle, Oregon’s Colt Lyerla, Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Stanford’s Levine Toilolo

Outland Trophy (Top interior lineman)
Our leader: Barrett Jones, Alabama
The defending Outland Trophy winner returns from an open date to prepare for a unique scheme up front from Missouri. The Tigers are third nationally in tackles for a loss.
Others: North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper, Texas A&M’s Luke Joekel, Rutgers’ Kaleb Johnson, Utah’s Star Lotulelei, Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt, Florida State’s Bjoern Werner

Rimington Trophy (Top center)
Our leader: Alabama’s Jones
Others: Kansas State’s B.J. Finney, Clemson’s Dalton Freeman

 

 


DEFENSIVE AWARDS
Bednarik Award/Nagurski Award (Defensive Player of the Year)
Our leader: Manti Te’o, Notre Dame
Te’o had 10 tackles and one pass breakup against a hot Miami offense to help Notre Dame extend its streak of 12 quarters without a touchdown. With 48 stops, Te’o has 20 more tackles than anyone else on the Irish roster.
Others: South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, Utah's Star Lotulelei, Penn State's Michael Mauti

Lombardi Award (Top lineman or linebacker)
Our leader: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Will there be a player to split the defensive player of the year vote with the frontrunner Te’o? Maybe it will be Clowney, who led a dominant effort up front against Georgia. The sophomore had two tackles for a loss against Georgia, giving up 11.5 for the season. Clowney has had a sack in five of six games this year.
Others: Oregon State’s Scott Chricton, Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, Utah’s Star Lotulelei, Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore, Ohio State’s John Simon, Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt, BYU’s Kyle Van Noy, Florida State’s Bjeorn Werner

Butkus Award (Top linebacker)
Our leader: Te’o, Notre Dame
Others: USC’s Dion Bailey, Kansas State’s Arthur Brown, Rutgers’ Khaseem Greene, Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, Iowa State’s Jake Knott, Penn State’s Michael Mauti, LSU’s Kevin Minter, Alabama’s C.J. Mosely

Thorpe Award (Top defensive back)
Our leader: Jordan Poyer, Oregon State
One of the nation’s most underrated defenders is finally starting to get his due. A lockdown cornerback, Poyer had three interceptions last week against Washington State. With four picks this season, he’s already matched his season total from a year ago.
Others: Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks, Florida’s Matt Elam, Alabama’s Dee Milliner


SPECIAL TEAMS AWARDS
Groza Award (Top kicker)

Our leader: Jeff Budzien, Northwestern
At 11 for 11, Budzien is one of two perfect kickers with 10 or more attempts. The other is Clemson’s Chandler Catanzaro, who is also 11 of 11. Budzien was 5 of 5 in a win over Boston College and 3 for 3 in wins over Vanderbilt and Indiana.
Others: Louisiana-Lafayette’s Brett Baer, Clemson’s Chandler Catanzaro, Iowa’s Mike Meyer, Florida’s Caleb Sturgis

Ray Guy Award (Top punter)
Our leader: Texas A&M’s Ryan Epperson
The Aggies lead the nation in net punting behind Epperson’s 46.1 yards per kick. Epperson has landed nine of his 18 punts inside the 20.
Others: Louisiana Tech’s Ryan Allen, Utah’s Sean Sellwood, LSU’s Brad Wing


OTHER NATIONAL AWARDS
Freshman of the Year
Our leader: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Manziel threw his first two interceptions of the season against Ole Miss. By the fourth quarter he helped vanquish the Aggies’ difficulties in the fourth quarter. Texas A&M trailed by 10, but “Johnny Football” completed 17 of 26 for 191 yards with a touchdown. He also rushed for 129 yards and a score.
Others: Georgia’s Todd Gurley, UCLA’s Brett Hundley, Miami’s Duke Johnson, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon

Coach of the Year
Our leader: Urban Meyer, Ohio State
The Buckeyes may come to regret taking the bowl ban this season rather than skipping a bowl last season -- Ohio State lost to Florida in the Gator Bowl to finish 6-7. The Buckeyes are 6-0 and the highest ranked team in the Big Ten by a long shot. Ineligible for the coaches’ poll, Ohio State is No. 8 in the AP poll, followed by No. 25 Michigan.
Others: Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen, Florida’s Will Muschamp, Penn State’s Bill O’Brien Oregon State’s Mike Riley, Kansas State’s Bill Snyder

by David Fox

@davidfox615

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Teaser:
<p> College Football Award Watch: Post-Week 6</p>
Post date: Friday, October 12, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-betting-against-spread-week-7
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Every Friday for entertainment purposes only, I will bring you my top college football picks against the spread. I do not condone, approve or encourage gambling on sports in any way. But if you are a fan of football — college or pro — and you don't think gambling has played a huge role in the growth and popularity of the sport, then you are simply being ignorant. And behind closed doors, the powers that be understand the impact betting has had on the game of football.

2012 Record Against The Spread: 26-21
Last Week: 4-4

Note: All lines are as of date of publication

Oregon State (+6) at BYU
No, Sean Mannion isn’t going to be playing. But Oregon State still has a talent advantage at every other position on the field — and on the sideline. And with the offensive struggles of BYU, 12 total points scored against Boise State and Utah State, Oregon State’s fully healthy defense should keep this game close. The Beavers rank No. 1 in the Pac-12 in rushing defense (67.3 ypg) and are No. 2 in scoring defense (17.0 ppg). If BYU wins, it will be very low scoring and very close. Prediction: Oregon State +6

Fresno State (+7.5) at Boise State
The Bulldogs, behind great play from quarterback Derek Carr, are 6-0 against the spread this fall. This team is scoring nearly 40 points per game and has great balance on offense — 315.5 pass yards per game, 178.3 rush yards per game. So it is on Boise State to outscore FSU-West and the Broncos are 85th in the nation in offense. I like Fresno State to win outright in a marquee upset for new coach Tim DeRuyter. Prediction: Fresno State +7.5

North Carolina (-8) at Miami
Which Miami team shows up this weekend? The one that got beat by a total of 77 points to Kansas State and Notre Dame? Or the one that dropped more than 40 points on ACC foes Georgia Tech, NC State and BC? At home, I like Al Golden’s bunch to play very well against a Tar Heels team primed for a letdown after the big win over Virginia Tech last weekend. Both backfields should be on full display in what should be a high-scoring affair. North Carolina wins, but not by much. Prediction: Miami +8

Wisconsin (+3) at Purdue
Both teams understand what this game means. A chance at a Big Ten title. This is the de facto Leaders Division championship game and each team enters the weekend on much different notes. The Badgers have rediscovered the ground game and have found a quarterback after a thrashing of Illinois. Purdue still isn’t sure what quarterback to use and is coming off of a home beatdown at the hands of Michigan. Wisconsin has won six straight in the series, Bret Bielema has never lost to Purdue, and UW hasn’t lost in West Lafayette since 1997. And frankly, this game hasn’t been close since a three-point win in 2004 for UW. The Badgers have won the last four by an average of 31 points (and at least 21). Prediction: Wisconsin +3

Utah State (+3) at San Jose State
This one is getting a lot of love in the Athlon Sports offices due to severe man-crushes on both head coaches. The Aggies are 6-0 against the spread this fall and San Jose State is 5-0 so, baring a three-point Spartans win, something has to give, right? Utah State has played the tougher schedule and is road tested (despite tough, close losses). This is going to be a great game and I’ll take Gary Andersen to edge Mike MacIntyre. Prediction: Utah State: +3

Kent State (-2) at Army
The Golden Flashes have quietly started 4-1 this fall with the same mark against the spread. They have won three straight and have scored 86 points in their last two wins. They are leading the MAC in rushing defense, they create turnovers and are solid in the return game. Army does little well (other than run the ball) and won’t be able to stop Kent State. Prediction: Kent State -2

West Virginia (-3.5) at Texas Tech
This line opened with the Mountaineers as a 5.5-point favorite. Somebody somewhere knows something that we don’t know, so the betting public worked this line down two full points by agreeing with shadowing Vegas wise guys. Now that it is down to 3.5, I am back on the 'Eers. Certainly, the letdown factor must be considered after the win over Texas and weird things can happen in Lubbock, but Geno Smith knows full well he can’t take a break. Tech is improved on defense, but they are much closer to the team that allowed 41 points and 380 yards of offense to Oklahoma than the unit that was ranked No. 1 in the nation two weeks ago. As a program, WVU is 172-0 when scoring 40 or more points. Prediction: West Virginia -3.5

Texas A&M (-7.5) at Louisiana Tech
The Bulldogs have built an impressive resume thus far in 2012. Road wins over Big Ten and ACC members validate the 523.4 yards of offense and 53.2 points per game Louisiana Tech is posting this fall. The Aggies, led by star quarterback Johnny Manziel, will score plenty too, but this could be the biggest "home" game — it's being played in the Independence Bowl — to ever take place in program history, so Tech has a chance to win the game outright. Prediction: Louisiana Tech +7.5

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

2012 Trends Against the Spread:

Undefeated ATS: Arizona State (4-0-1), Fresno St (6-0), UL Monroe (5-0), San Jose St (5-0), TX-San Antonio (3-0), Utah St (6-0), Western Kentucky (5-0)

Winless ATS: Virginia (0-5-1)

One Loss ATS One Win ATS
Cincinnati (3-1) Arkansas (1-5)
Duke (5-1) Auburn (1-4)
Florida (4-1) Boston College (1-4)
Kansas St (4-1) Central Michigan (1-4)
Kent St (4-1) Colorado (1-4)
Ole Miss (5-1) Colorado St (1-4)
Northwestern (5-1) Eastern Michigan (1-4)
Notre Dame (4-1) Idaho (1-5)
Oregon St (3-1) Iowa (1-4)
Penn St (5-1) Kentucky (1-5)
South Carolina (5-1) Miami, Ohio (1-5)
Texas Tech (4-1) Michigan St (1-5)
Toledo (5-1) USC (1-4)
Troy (4-1) Southern Miss (1-4)
  Syracuse (1-4)
  Virginia Tech (1-5)

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Teaser:
<p> College Football Betting Against the Spread: Week 7</p>
Post date: Friday, October 12, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-sooners-vs-texas-longhorns-preview-and-prediction
Body:

With Texas and Oklahoma each having one loss in Big 12 play this season, Saturday’s annual matchup in Dallas is essentially an elimination game. The winner keeps its Big 12 title hopes alive, while the loser is not only out of the mix for the conference championship but is also likely out of the picture for an at-large spot in a BCS game.

Oklahoma bounced back after losing to Kansas State on Sept. 22, beating Texas Tech 41-20. The win was huge for the Sooners’ offense, which had four turnovers and never established a rushing attack in the loss to the Wildcats. The Longhorns find themselves in Oklahoma’s position this week, as they hope to rebound from a 48-45 loss to West Virginia.

The Sooners have won the last two matchups in this series and have claimed three out of the last five. Oklahoma’s 55-17 victory last season was Texas’ worst showing in this game since losing 65-13 in 2003.

Not only is this game big for positioning in the conference standings and in the polls, this is a huge matchup for recruiting purposes. While a win on the field isn’t necessarily going to guarantee players landing at a particular school, it doesn’t hurt to have a good showing against a rival school.

Storylines to Watch in Texas vs. Oklahoma

Can Oklahoma lean on Landry Jones to win this game?
In Oklahoma’s last two games against Texas, Jones has been solid, throwing for five touchdowns and 603 yards. However, Jones has been inconsistent at times throughout his career and did not play well in the 24-19 loss to Kansas State. Even though the senior may not be a Heisman Trophy contender or the Big 12’s first-team quarterback, he does have 100 touchdown passes and 13,411 passing yards in his career. In order for Jones to lead Oklahoma to a victory on Saturday, he has to get help from his supporting cast. The Sooners have a young receiving corps but has to be optimistic about its passing attack after watching Texas allow 268 yards and four touchdowns to West Virginia’s Geno Smith. The key battle for Oklahoma to win will be in the trenches and with the rushing attack. Although the Sooners are averaging 190.5 yards per game, they have not rushed for more than 121 yards against a BCS opponent in 2012. While Jones is capable of throwing for 350 yards and four touchdowns against Texas, Oklahoma’s best plan should be balance, especially with the emergence of Damien Williams at running back.

Is Texas’ defense ready to turn things around?
One of the biggest surprises of the 2012 season has to be Texas’ defense. The Longhorns were supposed to have one of the nation’s best, especially with the Big 12’s No. 1 secondary and defensive line returning. However, this unit has not met expectations, allowing 404.2 yards per game, while ranking 83rd nationally against the run. The defense could get one piece of good news this Saturday, as linebacker Jordan Hicks could be ready to return to the lineup. Hicks’ leadership should help the defense correct some of the assignment problems it has experienced over the last few games. All of the pieces are in place for the Longhorns to have their best defensive effort in Big 12 play this year. The defensive line seemed to find its rhythm last week and with Hicks returning, the linebacking corps should be in better shape. If there’s ever a week for Texas to turn its defense around, Saturday’s matchup against Oklahoma would be the one.

Which team will win the battle on the ground?
Although both teams can win this game by throwing 35-40 passes, expect both offenses to strive for balance. Oklahoma’s rushing attack ranks ninth in the Big 12 in conference-only games, while Texas checks in at No. 5. Junior college recruit Damien Williams helped to provide a spark to Oklahoma's rushing attack in the first two games, but he has just 82 yards over the last two contests. The Longhorns may not have Malcolm Brown available for this game, which means Joe Bergeron and true freshman Johnathan Gray will handle the majority of the carries. Texas clearly has the edge in talent at running back, but the Sooners have been slightly tougher against the run, allowing 142.5 yards per game. The matchup favors Texas, but Oklahoma will be geared to stop the Longhorns’ rushing attack and hopes to force David Ash to win this game through the air.

Final Analysis:

The stakes are usually high in the Red River Rivalry but there’s even more pressure on both teams to win on Saturday afternoon. Even with one loss, Texas and Oklahoma still have legitimate Big 12 title hopes but can’t afford to drop another contest.

The Longhorns’ passing attack has improved from a weakness to a strength, especially considering quarterback David Ash has thrown just one interception on 138 attempts this year. The sophomore has a handful of quality weapons at receiver, including Jaxon Shipley, Mike Davis, Marquise Goodwin and Daje Johnson.

This matchup will likely come down to how quickly Texas’ defense can turn things around against a potent Oklahoma offense. Even though Landry Jones has struggled at times during his career, he has a solid group of weapons – led by junior receiver Kenny Stills – and has played well against Texas in his previous two matchups.

The Longhorns are more balanced on offense, and their defensive line should get enough pressure to make things uncomfortable on Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones. Expect a close game, but Texas snaps a two-game losing streak to the Sooners on Saturday afternoon.

Final Prediction: Texas 31, Oklahoma 27


by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven


Related College Football Content

ACC Week 7 Preview and Predictions
Big East Week 7 Preview and Predictions

Big 12 Week 7 Preview and Predictions

Big Ten Week 7 Preview and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 7 Preview and Predictions

SEC Week 7 Preview and Predictions

Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat After Week 6

Teaser:
<p> Oklahoma Sooners vs. Texas Longhorns Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Friday, October 12, 2012 - 05:50
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Nebraska Cornhuskers
Path: /college-football/5-things-watch-nebraskas-second-half
Body:

The Nebraska Cornhuskers are 4-2 at the halfway point of the regular season and stand 1-1 in Big Ten play. Bo Pelini’s club is still reeling from a 63-38 loss to Ohio State, and the Huskers will use a much-needed bye week to work on their goal of winning the Legends Division. The NU offense has the firepower to win the league, while the defense must improve greatly from its performance in the first six games. The division race should be very compelling in October and November, and here are five things to watch for Nebraska during the second half of the 2012 campaign.

1. Defense
The Cornhuskers have struggled mightily on this side of the ball, and the issues range from tackling problems to missed assignments within the scheme to keeping composure during adversity. In two losses, Nebraska gave up an alarming 653 total yards to UCLA and 371 rushing yards against the Buckeyes. The defensive deficiencies must stop if NU wants to win its first conference crown since 1999. The Huskers have been solid against the pass and in pressuring opposing quarterbacks, but that will not matter if the nation’s 92nd-rated rush unit does not improve. In fact, Indiana is the only Big Ten squad to give up more rushing yards per game. Pelini and coordinator John Papuchis must use the bye week to solve the defense’s execution issues.

2. Health
Nebraska received a major scare in the Ohio State game when I-back Rex Burkhead had to leave with a knee injury. The senior runner has already missed the UCLA and Arkansas State games this season, and the Huskers will need their senior leader in league play. Burkhead is expected to return for the October 20 Northwestern game, and his presence along with the emergence of Ameer Abdullah gives Nebraska a formidable rushing tandem that can put up points and dominate the time of possession. The Huskers will also need to manage the carries of quarterback Taylor Martinez, who could wear down if he absorbs too many hits in the second half of this year.

3. Passing Game
The Nebraska passing game has been fairly solid this season, although Martinez’s three interceptions against the Buckeyes is cause for concern. There is not a huge need for tons of yards in the passing attack, but the ability to make first downs and not let opponents key on the run game will be paramount down the stretch. Martinez has been very efficient this season, and he has solid targets in Kenny Bell, Quincy Enunwa and tight end Kyler Reed. The NU offense must continue to carry the team and help keep the defense on the sideline, and continued production in the passing game will assist the Huskers in remaining among the elite scoring offenses in the nation.

4. Schedule
Nebraska is 3-8 in its last 11 games away from Memorial Stadium. And while the Huskers have played many top opponents during that stretch, the road woes must change in order to win the Big Ten. NU’s next three games will be huge in the Legends race, and two of those — Northwestern and Michigan State — are on the road. The home contest sandwiched in between is versus Michigan, who blew out Nebraska by a 45-17 mark last season. Martinez’s play has been subpar in many of the aforementioned road losses, but the entire roster must step up during this critical three-game stretch.

5. Pelini stability
We are not trying to suggest a “hot seat” issue here, but another four-loss season would make some in the passionate Nebraska fan base feel like the program has become fairly stagnant. Most schools would love to have those types of “issues”, but the NU tradition under legends like Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne is among the best in the history of college football. While the overall results are still solid, Pelini has a club in his fifth season that has struggled with penalties, turnover margin and porous run defense. With new athletic director Shawn Eichorst taking over, the NU staff could feel some extra pressure. Pelini’s Huskers have an opportunity to fix some issues during the bye week, and they should compete much better on defense down the stretch.  The second half of the season will definitely be fun to watch, as Nebraska strives for that elusive league crown.

Teaser:
<p> &nbsp;5 Things To Watch in Nebraska's Second Half</p>
Post date: Friday, October 12, 2012 - 05:43
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-countdown-1-1-indianas-cody-zeller
Body:

When Cody Zeller signed with Indiana in November 2010, a string of stories were written about how Zeller’s decision made it cool to play in Bloomington again. Then Zeller began his freshman season, and the Hoosiers returned to the national conversation after a three-season absence. Not only did Indiana win 27 games and advance to the Sweet Sixteen, the Hoosiers also defeated three top-five opponents — Kentucky, Ohio State, Michigan State. Credit Zeller, who averaged 15.6 points and 6.6 rebounds.

He starts the 2013 as a top Player of the Year candidate and is the potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.

Zeller’s Indiana team checked in at No. 1 in our Countdown.


You signed with Indiana when the Hoosiers were coming off two of the worst seasons in school history. Although you grew up in Washington, Ind., you could have gone anywhere in the country. Your older brothers Luke (Notre Dame) and Tyler (North Carolina) did not pick IU. Why Indiana when North Carolina, Butler, Florida and others wanted you?
I had confidence in what Coach (Tom) Crean was doing. The players that were already here seemed to be working hard and heading in the right direction with everything. It just felt like it was the right thing for me. A lot of people asked me why I went here and my brothers didn’t. It was a completely different situation for them, different coaches. I’m definitely happy with my decision. I’d do it all over again.”

Do you have any sense of the impact your decision had on Indiana basketball?
A little bit. I wasn’t too worried about validating all that. You have to make you’re your decision selfishly and whether it’s going to benefit you. That’s kind of what I made my decision on. All the rest of it kind of followed.”

You made another decision last spring to return to Indiana for your sophomore season, even though you figured to be a top-10 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Many freshmen can’t wait to get to the NBA. Why are you still on campus?
My final decision was that I wasn’t ready to grow up yet. Everyone tells me that college is the best years of your life. I’m not ready to pay bills, buy a house and start paying rent and everything else. It was mostly that I wasn’t ready to grow up yet. No reason to leave.”

You’ve earned a 3.6 grade point average in the Kelley School of Business, one of the top 20 business schools in the country. When will you earn your degree?
I should have it in two-and-a-half years. I came here with 16 hours out of high school. I earned six last summer and 12 more this summer.

You’ve always been a good student?
I got one A-minus my freshman year of high school in English. Tyler got an A-minus. Same class. Luke got a 4.0. Tyler and I were 3.99. Luke was the valedictorian. I was the salutatorian.

So Luke is obviously the best student?
No. Luke got that 4.0 before that English teacher got there.

Were you upset you were only salutatorian?
Actually we had co-valedictorians, and I was third, but they still gave me salutatorian. I was only mad because I had to give a speech on graduation. I thought I was getting out of the speech, but apparently not.

Visit the online store for Indiana and other editions of the 2012-13 Athlon Sports College Basketball annual.

You’re pretty active on Twitter. Do you do your own Tweets?
I do. Just random stuff I see around campus.

The word is that when the Arizona Diamondbacks started following your Tweets last winter, you asked if they were going to select you in the next MLB Draft?
I did.

Maybe the next Randy Johnson, a 6-11 pitcher?
I’m a catcher. Our whole family was kind of catchers. I played until seventh or eighth grade, then I had to give it up. I just didn’t have enough time.”

If the walls at the Washington High School gymnasium could talk about the two-on-two games that you, Tyler, Luke and your father (Steve) played, what would they say?
Growing up my Dad was always beating on us, making us go one-on-one. We do go at it pretty good. My Dad still tries to go at it. He’s pretty competitive. We can beat him fairly easy now. Tyler and Luke and I play more one-on-one type stuff now. We’ll do things like set up on the block and say, ‘You have three seconds to make a move.’ We’ll set up different situations like that. Stuff that you would see in a real game, not your traditional one-on-one. We definitely compete and go at each other. Once we step off the court, we’re definitely very tight.

What’s your favorite gym, other than Assembly Hall?
The Hatchet House, my high school gym. It’s unbelievable to play there. It prepared me for playing in Assembly Hall because we had so many fans and it was always so packed. Even for regular season games we might have 5,000 people there. It wasn’t too much of a change or a shock when I got to college, playing in front of 17,000 people.

Who was the toughest player you guarded last season?
John Shurna of Northwestern. Our team loves everything he does because he’s so tough to guard with everything he does. He’s undersized a little bit but he finds a way to make it. Everyone is like, ‘Hey, I can stop him.’ Then you get out there and he puts up 30.

Who was the toughest player defending you?
Tyler. He’s so strong. The bench press doesn’t say so, but he’s stronger than me. He’s faster than me. I usually have one or the other – strength or speed.  But he’s pretty comparable, probably a step better.

Who is the best college coach out there not named Tom Crean?
All the great college coaches that recruited me were extremely nice. I have a lot of respect for Roy Williams (of North Carolina), just because of all stories from Tyler and how well he treated Tyler and the family.

Indiana’s breakthrough moment last season was that 73–72 win against Kentucky on Christian Watford’s three-pointer at the buzzer in Assembly Hall. This season, Indiana isn’t playing Kentucky, at least not in the regular season. Are you disappointed?
I don’t care too much. We’re still going to have a strong schedule. It was a fun game last year, but I don’t think it’s too big of a deal we’re not playing them this year.”

Other than Purdue, who is Indiana’s biggest rival?
Maybe Kentucky this past year, but it kind of changes with how good the teams are. A lot of the rivalries are because they’re two of the best teams. IU-Purdue, you can definitely feel the tension. I’d go with all the teams in the Big Ten because they all seemed to play us tough.

What’s been your primary focus during this offseason?
Strength has definitely been a big part of my summer workouts because you can put on a lot of weight. I’ve been doing a lot of squats and lower body stuff. You can put a lot of weight into your legs and it won’t affect your speed or anything else. Actually my vertical and some of that stuff has gone up, even though I have put on weight. It’s been a big part of my offseason workouts. You can put on weight and it will help all parts of my game, whether it is holding post position, rebounding, banging with the big guys in the Big Ten.

Did you come back to win a national championship?
We’re going to have high goals this year. We’ll see what happens.

@AthlonSports

Athlon College Basketball Countdown:
20. Florida

19. Notre Dame

18. Memphis
17. Baylor
16. Missouri

15. San Diego State

14. North Carolina

13. UNLV

12. UCLA
11. NC State

10. Michigan State
9. Duke

8. Ohio State

7. Arizona

6. Michigan

5. Syracuse

4. Kansas

3. Kentucky

2. Louisville

1. Indiana

Teaser:
<p> College Basketball Countdown: 1 on 1 with Indiana's Cody Zeller</p>
Post date: Friday, October 12, 2012 - 05:18
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-fighting-irish-vs-stanford-cardinal-preview-and-prediction
Body:

As each week passes, the pressure only increases on college football’s top 10 teams. Notre Dame finds itself in that position each week, as this team has a legitimate chance to play for the national title. The Irish rank seventh in the Associated Press and USA Today polls and have opportunities to pickup quality wins with games against USC and Oklahoma later this season. Outside of those two games, Notre Dame figures to be heavily favored in its other matchups, which makes Saturday’s game against Stanford even more important. If the Irish take care of business against BYU, Wake Forest, Pittsburgh and Boston College as expected, this team is only one win short of getting to 10 victories and likely securing a spot in a BCS bowl.

The last three matchups in the Notre Dame-Stanford series have gone in favor of the Cardinal. However, Stanford is still going through growing pains at quarterback without Andrew Luck and lost its only road matchup of the season (Washington 17-13 in Week 5). The Cardinal rebounded after a disappointing showing against the Huskies, edging Arizona 54-48 in overtime. Although Luck and a couple of other key pieces from last season's team are gone, Stanford is still one of the Pac-12's most-talented teams. 

Storylines to Watch in Notre Dame vs. Stanford

Can Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes build off his Week 6 performance?
After struggling in a 17-13 loss to Washington, Nunes was crucial to Stanford’s victory over Arizona. The junior completed 21 of 34 throws for 365 yards and two touchdowns. Nunes has been steady in his first year as the starter but struggled in his only road appearance and playing in South Bend is no easy task. While Stanford’s passing game took off against the Wildcats, Notre Dame’s defense is one of the best in the nation and there won’t be as many open targets for Nunes. The key to getting Stanford’s passing game on track is not only efficient play by the quarterback, but the offensive line also needs to step up its protection. The Irish are averaging 2.8 sacks a game and will try to make Nunes as uncomfortable as possible in the pocket.

Will Stanford establish its rushing attack against Notre Dame?
There’s no secret what Stanford wants to do on offense. Even though quarterback Josh Nunes showed progress in the win over Arizona, the Cardinal want to lean on their ground attack to win games. Running back Stepfan Taylor has rushed for 100 yards in back-to-back contests against the Irish and is averaging 111 yards per game this season. Running against Notre Dame’s defense has been nearly impossible this season, as the Irish rank 17th nationally in rushing yards allowed per game (106.8). Expect Notre Dame to stack the box and force the Cardinal to throw to win. Even though running room will be limited, Stanford still needs to get Taylor – one of the offense’s top playmakers – 25-30 carries.

A breakout game for Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson?
Golson did not start against Miami due to a violation of team rules but finished with 186 yards on 17 completions. Through the first five games of the year, the redshirt freshman is completing 60.4 percent of his throws, while tossing three touchdowns and three picks. Golson has topped 200 passing yards only once this year but that could change against Stanford. The Cardinal ranks 113th in pass defense, allowing 302.4 passing yards per game. The pass defense numbers are slightly skewed for Stanford, especially after Arizona torched the secondary for 506 yards last week. Even though the averages might be slightly off, as the Wildcats showed, the opportunities will be there for Golson to make plays. Considering Stanford ranks sixth nationally against the run, the Irish will need the passing attack to lead the way on offense.

Tyler Eifert vs. Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz
This matchup features three of college football’s top tight ends and each figure to play a key role in deciding the outcome of this game. Eifert has been the subject of a lot of defensive attention so far this year, recording only 11 receptions for 189 yards and one touchdown. Toilolo and Ertz have combined for 34 receptions through five games and will be counted upon even more this Saturday, as Stanford likely won’t have receiver Ty Montgomery due to a knee injury. It’s rare to see three of the NFL Draft’s top tight end prospects in one game and their performance will be crucial to the success of the passing attacks on Saturday afternoon.

Final Analysis

There’s still a lot of football to be played, but Notre Dame has to win out to have any shot at reaching the national championship. Stanford is out of the BCS title mix but has an opportunity for a huge win in South Bend, which would help build confidence for a team that is breaking in a new quarterback and replacing a couple of key offensive linemen.

Stanford’s defense was torched in a loss to Arizona, but Notre Dame is a much better matchup. Expect the Cardinal to pressure Golson and try to force him into mistakes, which should allow the Irish to hit a few big plays in the passing game.

When Stanford has the ball, Notre Dame will load the box and force quarterback Josh Nunes to prove he is ready to win on the road with his arm. If the Irish can shut down Cardinal running back Stepfan Taylor, they should be able to contain a passing attack that lacks playmakers at receiver.

Both defenses will make it difficult for the offenses in the first half, but Notre Dame should take control of this game in the second half. Golson should find his rhythm against Stanford’s secondary, while the rushing attack will make a few plays in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.

Final Prediction: Notre Dame 30, Stanford 20
 

by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 7 Preview and Predictions
Big East Week 7 Preview and Predictions

Big 12 Week 7 Preview and Predictions

Big Ten Week 7 Preview and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 7 Preview and Predictions

SEC Week 7 Preview and Predictions

Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat After Week 6

Teaser:
<p> Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Stanford Cardinal Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 13:49
Path: /nascar/earnhardt-miss-races-concussion
Body:

Hendrick Motorsports announced on Thursday that driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. will sit out the upcoming NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway after suffering a concussion at Talladega on Sunday.

In a release, the company stated that Earnhardt was diagnosed with a concussion Wednesday afternoon in Charlotte and that Regan Smith will serve as the No. 88 team’s substitute driver in his absence.

Earnhardt currently sits 11th in the Chase for the Championship, a distant 51 points behind leader Brad Keselowski. Earnhardt was involved in a final-lap crash in the Oct. 7 Good Sam 500 that also collected 24 other cars.

Earnhardt revealed that he suffered an initial concussion during a wreck on Aug. 29 while conducting a tire test at Kansas Speedway.

“I decided to push through it,” Earnhardt said of the concussion at Kansas. “I’d had concussions before and knew exactly what I was dealing with. I felt pretty good after a week or two and definitely 80 to 90 percent by the time the Chase started (Sept. 23) and by the time we got to Talladega I felt 100 percent.”

Earnhardt said that while the impact at Talladega was roughly half as hard as the Kansas hit, the proximity of the two concussions raised concerns.

“If you have more than one in a small period of time you need to take that quite seriously. The one in Kansas was really bad and to get shaken up so quickly (at Talladega) over something so trivial—that one shook me up and I thought I should take that seriously.

“I knew that I had sort of regressed and had a bit of a setback. You know how your body is and if something is not quite right. I knew as soon as it happened that I had re-injured myself.

“I went a couple days wondering how my body would react and sort of waited for it to process what was happening. I was still having some headaches — that was really the only symptom I was having. So I took it upon myself to contact my sister (Kelley Earnhardt Miller) and we talked about seeing a neurosurgeon and ended up getting steered toward Dr. Petty.”

Dr. Jerry Petty is a Charlotte neurosurgeon that consults for NASCAR as well as the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. Dr. Petty stressed that an MRI on Earnhardt came back normal, meaning no damage was found.

After conducting tests, Earnhardt explained that Petty spent the night thinking about the situation and decided he could not clear the 38-year-old to race.

“His neurological exam was normal. He had no amnesia after either incident, which is very important,” Petty said. “We want to give him four or five days without a headache and then we’ll try to invoke a headache. Then we’ll let him go out and drive a lap or two and see how that goes. If that goes well, we’ll probably clear him to race.”

Earnhardt said that he did not seek medical advice about the concussion he suffered at Kansas and that he regretted not doing so.

“I was stubborn and I’d had concussions before and thought I knew what I was dealing with. I felt like I was capable of doing my job and I had called Steve (Letarte, crew chief) and we talked about how I was feeling, but I really wouldn’t know if I would be able to compete until I got in the car.

“When you have a concussion the symptoms can be really mild and then they’ll typically go away after a couple of days and you feel perfectly normal. But when you get in a car and go around a track at a high rate of speed, you start to understand that some things aren’t quite where they need to be; some reactions just aren’t as sharp.”

He was hesitant to get checked out with his team being in championship contention.

“If I was to volunteer myself to medical attention and be removed from the car, I didn’t know how difficult it’d be to get back in.”

Team owner Rick Hendrick praised Earnhardt for taking action.

“One thing everyone admires about Dale is how honest and up-front he is,” Hendrick said. “When he knew there was something not right, he went to see Dr. Petty. We were so happy yesterday that the MRI was completely normal—that no damage had been done.

“He has a lot of years left to race. And I applaud Dale for getting checked out.”

In 2002, Earnhardt admitted that he had raced for months with a concussion suffered at Auto Club Speedway earlier in the season. Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Operations, addressed the subject of drivers not revealing injury, saying, “You saw a driver (Earnhardt) who is racing for a championship, who is our most popular driver, get up here and ask to go see a doctor and get out of a car. That takes a lot of guts. I think it also shows where our sport has come, and they know that safety is first and foremost.”

He also outlined NASCAR’s procedure in evaluating injuries—specifically concussions:

“First and foremost, a driver is evaluated in the (track’s) infield care center where we've got board certified emergency technicians or doctors. If the driver complains of any symptoms or if the emergency room physician believes there may be symptoms, we refer them to a neurologist—in most cases, it is Dr. Petty.

“At that point he's required to go through the tests, then it's up to our neurologists to make the call on whether or not that driver's going to be back. We (NASCAR) take ourselves out of that, and rely on our doctors to make the call on whether or not the driver could be back.”

In missing the upcoming events, Earnhardt will not only be eliminated from title contention—although his chances were slim as it was—but he will break a streak of 461 consecutive Cup Series starts. The streak was the fifth longest among active drivers.

“I'm really going to feel pretty odd not being in the car,” Earnhardt said. “I'm real anxious just to get back into the car and get back. I think you learn not to take things for granted, and I just hate that this has caused such a fuss.”


by Matt Taliaferro
Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro
 

Teaser:
<p> Hendrick Motorsports announced that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will miss the next two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races after sufferring two concussions since Aug. 29.</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 13:00
Path: /mlb/joe-girardi-pinch-hits-rod
Body:

For two days, Yankees manager Joe Girardi deflected questions about moving third baseman Alex Rodriguez down in the batting order for last night’s Game 3 of the ALDS vs. Baltimore due to A-Rod’s recent struggles.

Girardi explained his decision to keep A-Rod near the top of the lineup by saying trust was a major piece of the Yankees’ success. He reiterated how important it is for him to trust his players and that his players trust him. And after Wednesday night, his players have multiple reasons to trust their skipper.

Two moves the manager made in the Yankees’ 12-inning comeback win over the Orioles give fans, media, and most importantly, his players plenty of reasons to trust the fifth-year manager.

The most notable move was pinch-hitting for Rodriguez with the game on the line in bottom of the ninth inning as the Yankees trailed, 3-2. Girardi called on 40-year-old Raul Ibanez to pinch-hit for Rodriguez. The two players’ history together goes back to Appleton Foxes of the Midwest League in 1994. Ibanez, a 36th-round draft pick of Seattle out of Miami, spent much of his time in the minors behind the plate. His was a slow climb through the minors to the big leagues. Rodriguez, a No. 1 overall selection by Seattle out of Miami in 1993, was on a fast track to the bigs, making his debut in 1994.

But on October 10, 2012, Girardi had more faith in the lefty Ibanez against the Orioles’ premier closer Jim Johnson. And Ibanez rewarded his manager, not once, but twice. His solo home run in the ninth inning sent the game into extra frames. Ibanez, making just $1.1 million this season with no 2013 contract, came up again leading off the 12th inning off tough young lefthander Brian Matusz. Ibanez sent another pitch into the right field seats for a walk-off winner.

The other decision Girardi made? It may be meaningless, but Derek Jeter was not on the field for the final 12 outs. After fouling a pitch off his foot early in the game, Jeter was noticeably limping after singling in the sixth. Girardi called on Jayson Nix to play shortstop in the ninth inning. Last night, the defensive replacement was most likely due to an ailing Jeter. But the door is open for Girardi to replace the future Hall of Famer on defense late in games. Will a healthy Jeter be replaced later this postseason? Maybe not, but Girardi has earned some trust among all his players should he pull the trigger and pull Jeter late in games.

-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

Teaser:
<p> By pinch-hitting for Alex Rodriguez and allowing backup shortstop Jayson Nix finish the game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi may have opened the final chapter for the Old Guard for New York.</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 11:12
Path: /nfl/pittsburgh-steelers-vs-tennessee-titans-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Two AFC teams hungry for a victory will clash in Nashville tonight, when the Tennessee Titans host the Pittsburgh Steelers at 8:20 p.m. EST on the NFL Network. Pittsburgh got back to .500 last week with a hard-fought 16-14 win against the Eagles. Tennessee was blown out on the road for the second consecutive week, dropping to 1-4 on the year after losing a 30-7 decision to the Vikings.

When the Tennessee Titans have the ball:
The Titans have a highly-paid running back in Chris Johnson and two solid tackles, but they rank 30th in the league in rushing with only 65.4 yards per game. The blame has ranged from Chris Palmer’s scheme to weak interior line play to Johnson himself, but Tennessee must find a way to start getting some production on the ground. Matt Hasselbeck started in place of the injured Jake Locker last week in Minnesota, and the veteran signal caller went 26-for-43 for 200 yards and a touchdown in the loss.

The Steelers defense has battled constant injuries this season, and stud safety Troy Polamalu (calf) will miss this game while linebacker LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) is doubtful. Pittsburgh has only allowed 280 yards per game through four games, but Dick LeBeau’s group has been torched in both road losses at Denver and Oakland. The Steelers only have one interception and eight sacks on the year, and they cannot afford to let Hasselbeck get into a rhythm tonight.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers have the ball:
The Pittsburgh offense received a huge boost last week with the return of top running back Rashard Mendenhall, who totaled 81 yards and a touchdown on the ground in the victory over the Eagles. The improved rushing attack will be a big help to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has been solid in compiling 1,111 yards and eight touchdowns against only one pick this season. Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown are big-time threats on the outside, and Heath Miller could play a huge role tonight as the Titans have been repeatedly burned by opposing tight ends this year.

The Tennessee defense has simply been awful in 2012, allowing an NFL-high 36.2 points per game. The Titans have battled injuries as well, and they will need big efforts from banged-up defenders like middle linebacker Colin McCarthy, safety Jordan Babineaux and cornerback Alterraun Verner to beat the Steelers. Jerry Gray’s group must contain Mendenhall and the Pittsburgh run game, while trying to force Roethlisberger into some bad decisions.

Key Factor:
The Titans offense must win the time of possession battle and take advantage of the Steelers defensive injuries and the short week of preparation. If Hasselbeck can get some help from the run game, he can lead the team to first downs and keep Tennessee in the game. If not, the Titans defensive woes will be exposed with too much time on the field. The Titans should play inspired ball at home, but look for the Steelers firepower to take over in the end.

Prediction:
Steelers 27 Titans 20

 

Teaser:
<p> Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Tennessee Titans Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 06:49
Path: /nfl/5-crappy-nfl-teams-who-need-start-over
Body:

Five games into the season is more than enough time to take the pulse of a team, to know if it’s headed anywhere near the right direction. Things can change, of course, and in a league of parity everyone’s still in the race.

Some are just a little more in it than others.
 
Which makes this a good time to look at five teams that just can’t seem to get a grip on success – teams that need to re-evaluate their entire plan and just start over. For some, that will mean firing the coach or the general manager. For others, they just need wholesale changes in personnel.
 
Whatever they need, here are five teams that are just spinning their wheels at best, and should be plotting a course to some sort of change in direction:
 
New York Jets (2-3) – They have become the poster children for a team without a plan, which is so odd considering they looked so focused two years ago. Dominated by Rex Ryan’s defense and led by an emerging young quarterback, they had come off two straight AFC championship games and looked to be on the verge of a new era.
 
Now? It’s hard to tell if they even believe in Mark Sanchez anymore, especially after they saddled themselves with the burden of Tim Tebow. They are a team that relies on gimmick plays and a gimmick change-of-pace quarterback, putting Sanchez in an unenviable position. It’s impossible for a young quarterback to grow if everything the team does screams about a lack of faith.
 
Add in a defense that is a shell of itself and the Jets may just need to blow the whole thing up. If GM Mike Tannenbaum isn’t already on the hot seat for his strange personnel moves, he certainly should be. Ryan is a good coach, but his act has grown cold.
 
Dallas Cowboys (2-2) – It’s hard to imagine anything but a run at the Super Bowl will safe Jason Garrett when he’s working for an owner like Jerry Jones. That’s especially true after they spent money this offseason to improve their secondary – their biggest weakness.
 
But the bigger question with this franchise is this: Is Tony Romo really the quarterback you want to trust to lead you to a championship? He’s a good quarterback. He puts up impressive numbers. But it seems undeniable he can be a liability in big games. His five-interception performance against Chicago was a major red flag.
 
A new quarterback means completely starting over, but it might be something the Cowboys will have to consider soon.
 
Buffalo Bills (2-3) – They stopped acting like a small-market team when they made a big-market-like move for defensive end Mario Williams during the offseason. Adding him to what seemed like a decent defense was supposed to be what put them over the top.
 
Instead the Bills currently have the second-worst defense in the NFL and a shaky quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick who throws too many interceptions. The pieces seem to be there (even the quarterback has showed some promise) but when the production is so dramatically different than what’s expected, the plan comes into question.
 
It’s a good bet that Chan Gailey is already on the hot seat. If he’s not, he should be. The Bills have a window to get into the AFC East race over the next couple of years, but they may need someone else to help them do it.
 
Cleveland Browns (0-5) – This is an obvious team to include on this list because it seems a given that they will be starting over. They have a new owner and that almost always leads to change – especially when the team is 0-5.
 
But where to start? It’s easy to blame coach Pat Shurmer – and he’s almost certain to be one of the fall guys – but where exactly is the plan with this franchise. Start with the quarterback, where they’ve gone from Jake Delhomme to Brady Quinn to Seneca Wallace to Colt McCoy and now to 28-year-old rookie Brandon Weeden in just the last three seasons. How is that any way to build any consistency?
 
And is starting over with a 28-year-old rookie a smart move? By the time Weeden puts it all together he might be 31 or 32 and the Browns will already be looking for his replacement. Yes, they seem to have made a great pick in running back Trent Richardson, but much of the rest of the roster looks bare.
 
That will change, but before it does there’ll be more pain for the city of Cleveland, where the Browns just haven’t been able to get anything right since returning to the NFL in 1999.
 
Kansas City Chiefs (1-4) – There was such hope two years ago when the Chiefs went 10-6 and made the playoffs as a wild-card. There was even more hope last year after they shook off a disastrous 0-3 start by winning four straight games. OK they lost five of their next six, but they did win two of their last three – both against playoff teams – under then interim coach Romeo Crennel, sparking hope again.
 
It’s gone now, of course, despite a powerful rushing attack and the NFL’s 10th-ranked defense. If you want a reason why, look no further than QB Matt Cassel who has five touchdowns and nine interceptions. An NFL team can’t win with a ratio like that – and it’s even more inexcusable considering how well Jamaal Charles is running (551 yards) and that Cassel has a target to throw to like Dwayne Bowe.
 
Crennel is a quality coach who knows how to get the most out of his team, but he may not be able to get much more out of the Chiefs without a more trustworthy quarterback. There’s a chance GM Scott Pioli could be on the hot seat in Kansas City. If he’s not, he may need to put Cassel there instead and spend the offseason trying to find someone else.
 
—By RALPH VACCHIANO
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Post date: Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 06:00
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A huge injury to a player of the year candidate. A marquee top 25 showdown in a historic college town. A Thursday night primetime affair. And the former No. 1 team in the nation going on the road. The weekend of action out West has a little something for everybody, there is no doubt, so let's hope it lives up to the hype. On to Week 7...

Pac-12's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 7:

1. Which quarterback makes the fewest mistakes in South Bend?
Josh Nunes played the best game of his career last week in the win over Arizona but had three horrible games prior to that. Everett Golson has loads of upside and raw talent but still makes freshman mistakes — on and off the field. And now each will have to face one of the great defensive front sevens in the nation. Notre Dame has allowed 12 total points in its last three games, while Stanford is fourth in the nation in tackles for loss and averages almost three sacks per game. There will be plenty of NFL talent on the field for both defenses, so best of luck to both inexperienced signal callers in this one.

2. Therefore, the ground game will be key for both
Both Stanford and Notre Dame have big, powerful offensive lines and the aforementioned quarterback issues. Therefore, Stepfan Taylor will have to be the key cog for the Cardinal against Heisman contender Manti Te'o and that nasty Irish frontline. Cierre Wood had his best game of the season last weekend against Miami (118 yards, 2 TD) as the ND rushing attack continues to be the focal point of Brian Kelly's offense. The magic number on rushing yards should be around that 100-yard mark. If either team can crack the century mark on the ground, they will have a great chance at winning the game. Notre Dame has allowed two teams to top the 100-yard mark, but Navy runs the triple option and Denard Robinson contributes to the ground game in a unique way. Stanford allowed 124 yards rushing total in its first three games, before both Washington and Arizona topped that mark with 136 and 126 respectively. First team to 100 yards on the ground wins?

3. Can Oregon State win without Sean Mannion?
The bad news? Mannion is going to be out for a few weeks after surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. The good news? Mannion's prognosis is generally 2-4 weeks and the Beavers, at 3-0 in league play already, can survive without him for the time being. This weekend's game will be a test, but a win or loss against BYU has no impact on the greater goal of a Pac-12 championship. Utah, who visits Corvallis next weekend, hasn't yet shown it is capable of going on the road and scoring against the mighty Beavers defense. The road trip to Washington will be tricky, but ideally, backup Cody Vaz will be settled in by the time that game rolls around. A road trip to face the Cougars is a great (or brutal) way to break in the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder who hasn't thrown a pass in a game since Dec. 4, 2010.

4. The Huskies defense has to get off the mat one more time
After a tremendous performance on national TV in a win over Stanford, the Huskies defense came plummeting back to earth last weekend. Certainly, the Ducks make most defenses look silly, but Washington cannot hope to upset USC this weekend if it allows another 500 yards of offense and 52 more points this Saturday. Matt Barkley's offense scored 40 points and rushed for 252 yards in the blowout home win over the Huskies last season. If Justin Wilcox and company expect to keep this game close, his front seven must stop the developing USC rushing attack while his talented secondary locks down arguably the top pass-catching tandem in the nation. If not, the Barkley Heisman train will continue to roll along.

5. Brett Hundley can't turn the ball over this week
After a rock-star beginning to his UCLA career, redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley experienced what big-time college football can feel like last weekend. He threw four interceptions, fumbled twice (losing one) and got sacked six times in the ugly blowout loss to Cal. He entered the game averaging 327 yards of total offense per game with 15 total touchdowns before the Golden Bears silenced the Bruins quarterback. Hundley returns home to face a Utah team that has struggled all season. This was a demoralizing 31-6 beatdown in Salt Lake City by the Utes last year and UCLA will be aiming for revenge this time around. Much like last weekend, if Jim Mora's team wants to be taken seriously on the national stage, it has to win these types of games. And it starts with the star signal caller protecting the football against a normally savvy defensive front.

6. Letdown Alert: Cal heads to Washington State
Jeff Tedford posted one of the more surprising box scores last weekend — at just the right time. The embattled coach kept the critics at bay for one more week with the impressive defensive showing against UCLA. But there is no rest for this weary head coach as his team needs to be on full "Letdown Alert" this weekend against Washington State. Mike Leach's tenure has been anything but successful thus far, but one has to believe he will pull an upset somewhere along the way. A touchdown underdog at home against a 2-4 conference opponent who is riding high after an big win the week before feels like the perfect storm for just that.

7. Athlon Sports challenges the Colorado Buffaloes to...
NOT make this Thursday's meeting with Arizona State the worst Thursday night college football game of the season. The Sun Devils are heavily favored and are crushing people on offense while Colorado has been worthless other than one night in Pullman. Please make this one at least watchable Buffs!

Week 7 Pac-12 Predictions:

Week 7 Pac-12 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
Arizona St (-23) at Colorado Arizona St, 31-20 Arizona St, 34-10 Arizona St, 45-17 Arizona St, 45-17
Utah (+8) at UCLA UCLA, 27-20 UCLA, 30-17 UCLA, 31-20 Utah, 21-14
Oregon St (+2.5) at BYU Ore. St, 17-14 Oregon St, 24-14 BYU, 20-17 BYU, 17-7
Stanford (+8) at Notre Dame Notre Dame, 20-7 Notre Dame, 24-13 Notre Dame, 27-27 Notre Dame, 28-10
USC (-11.5) at Washington USC, 34-21 USC, 30-23 USC, 34-24 USC, 35-17
Cal (-7) at Washington St Cal, 31-24 Cal, 37-13 Cal, 31-27 Wazzu, 21-14
Last Week: 4-1 4-1 4-1 3-2
Yearly Totals: 34-15 35-14 35-14 33-16

Bye: Arizona, Oregon

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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Big East Week 7 Previews and Predictions

Big Ten Week 7 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 7 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 7 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 7 Upset Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

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<p> Pac-12 Week 7 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 06:00
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Fans knew the Big Ten Leaders Division race could be lacking in excitement this year due to two power programs not being eligible to play for the championship. So Wisconsin at Purdue in Week 7 leaves a bit to be desired on a national level when it comes to big-time title bouts. But that is what Big Ten fans are getting this weekend.

Otherwise, any outlandish outcomes this weekend will come as major surprises as Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State are all heavy favorites.

Big Ten's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 7:

1. De facto Leaders Division championship game
Wisconsin will visit Purdue this weekend in what will likely decide one half of the 2012 Big Ten championship game. While Penn State and Ohio State are the two best teams in the Leaders Division (possibly the entire league), neither will be allowed to play in Indianapolis. And with Illinois imploding in Champaign, the Boilermakers and Badgers are left to battle for the division crown. Stop the presses. Drop what you are doing. There is a championship on the line in West Lafayette this Saturday.

2. Caleb TerBush and Company vs. Joel Stave
Danny Hope is sticking with TerBush as his starter but Robert Marve is sure to see time. The two combined for 153 yards passing and both threw an interception in the ugly loss to Michigan last weekend. Neither has played all that well, but Hope needs to get production from his quarterback to win this weekend. Meanwhile, Stave missed the end of the Nebraska game and it cost Wisconsin the win. He returned last weekend to throw for 254 yards and two scores in the easy win over Illinois. The redshirt freshman makes his second career road start against the Boilers. Both defenses will have to stop the run in an effort to force these suspect signal callers into passing situations, so whichever passer can complete clutch third-down throws will emerge victorious.

3. Look for Northwestern to go back to the ground
The Wildcats have made a concerted effort to run the football in 2012. And for most of the year, they have been extremely successful. Try 974 yards in the three games prior to visiting Penn State last weekend — where Northwestern totaled 112 yards on 25 attempts. Venric Mark and Kain Colter form a dynamic 1-2 punch that rushes for 168.3 yards per game, and moving the football against Minnesota's defensive line on the ground will be key. The Gophers' defensive front had allowed under 130 yards rushing per game until Iowa gashed them before the bye. Who wins the battle in the trenches will decide who stays with one loss and who becomes a Big Ten after-thought.

4. What type of impact could MarQueis Gray make?
Head coach Jerry Kill is "cautiously optimistic" that his star senior quarterback will play this weekend in a huge game against Northwestern. While Kill is it playing close to the vest, as he should, Pat Fitzgerald knows Gray is a totally different monster to account for than the young back-up Max Shortell. Gray's dual-threat capabilities and veteran presence give the Gophers a dramatically more complicated offensive look. Shortell failed to throw a touchdown against Syracuse and tossed three interceptions against Iowa, so any production Gray can offer will be a huge upgrade this weekend. The Gophers will need to score points against the Cats and No. 5 gives them the best chance to do so.

5. Heavy favorites need to avoid major letdowns this weekend
Michigan State hosts Iowa and is a 10-point favorite. Michigan hosts a reeling Illinois team. And Ohio State visits overmatched Indiana in an effort to pad Braxton Miller's Heisman Trophy statistics. All three, if they expect to compete for the best record in the league, have to hold serve this weekend. Obviously, the Spartans have the toughest test with the Hawkeyes coming off their best performance of the season — a 31-13 win over Minnesota — and resting over the bye week. That said, Sparty has no business losing this type of game at home if it expects to win the Legends Division.

6. Nearly 500 pounds of running back on display
Walk-on fullback Mark Weisman is listed at 6-foot and 230 pounds. He is a load to bring down and has sparked the once-dormant Iowa rushing attack with 507 yards rushing and seven scores in his last three games. Meanwhile, Michigan State counters with the 6-foot-2, 245-pound Le'Veon Bell who has proven to be a workhorse with three games of at least 36 carries this season already. The ground game will be heavily featured in a game with two struggling quarterbacks, so my condolences go out to both Iowa and Michigan State linebackers and safeties charged with tackling these two beasts. It should be fun to watch, however, if you like big hits and truck sticks.

7. Watch Denard Robinson drive a stake into Illini
Robinson got back on track last weekend with a statement road performance against Purdue. He posted his fifth career 200-yard rushing game with 235 yards on 24 carries, and much to Brady Hoke's delight, didn't throw an interception (even though he did fumble). The Wolverines under Shoelace are nearly unbeatable at home, so this weekend should, for all intents and purposes, signal the end of the Illini's 2012 season. Illinois would be 2-5 and 0-3 in the Big Ten with a loss and still have Ohio State, Purdue and Northwestern remaining on its schedule. 

Week 7 Big Ten Predictions:

Week 7 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
Iowa (+10) at Michigan St Mich. St, 20-17 Mich. St, 13-10 Mich. St, 27-17 Mich. St, 38-14
N'Western (-3) at Minnesota N'Western, 30-24 Minnesota, 33-30 N'Western, 31-24 N'Western, 21-14
Wisconsin (+2.5) at Purdue Wisconsin, 27-24 Wisconsin, 23-17 Wisconsin, 27-20 Purdue, 17-14
Illinois (+23.5) at Michigan Michigan, 41-20 Michigan, 38-13 Michigan, 38-13 Michigan, 42-14
Ohio St (-17) at Indiana Ohio St, 45-27 Ohio St, 48-17 Ohio St, 38-17 Ohio St, 56-10
Last Week: 5-0 3-2 5-0 4-1
Yearly Totals: 47-10 44-13 46-9 45-12

Bye Week: Nebraska, Penn State

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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Pac-12 Week 7 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 7 Previews and Predictions

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Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

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With only four games on the Week 7 slate, it's a relatively quiet Saturday of action in the ACC. Florida State looks to bounce back after last week's disappointing loss to NC State, as struggling Boston College visits Tallahassee. The North Carolina-Miami is the ACC's best matchup for Week 7 and should be an entertaining offensive affair with both teams averaging over 30 points a game.

Other Week 7 Previews and Predictions

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

ACC's Top Storylines for Week 7

Can Florida State get back on track?
Last week’s loss against NC State was a crushing defeat for Florida State. Any shot the Seminoles had of competing for a national title is over, and the team must refocus its goals on winning the ACC Championship and finishing in the top five of the BCS at the end of the year. Florida State simply has too much talent to be losing on the road to NC State, but this team still has a lot to play for, starting with this week’s game against Boston College. The Seminoles need some help to win the ACC Atlantic title, but they should be 8-1 heading into a Thursday night matchup against Virginia Tech on Nov. 8. Florida State shouldn’t have to sweat much to beat the Eagles on Saturday, especially after Boston College lost 34-31 to Army last week. In last season’s matchup in Chestnut Hill, the Seminoles crushed the Eagles 38-7. Even if Florida State gets off to a slow start because of last week’s disappointment, this team should pull away for an easy victory in the second half.

Bowl elimination game between Maryland and Virginia?
Even though there’s a lot of football to be played in the second half of the year, Saturday’s game between Maryland and Virginia will be crucial to both team’s bowl hopes. Thanks to a 19-14 win over Wake Forest last week, the Terrapins have already surpassed 2011’s win total and have a manageable upcoming stretch of games. Although the offense has struggled, the defense ranks seventh nationally in yards allowed. Virginia desperately needs to get into the win column, as it has lost four consecutive games and is still searching for its first win in ACC play this season. After this week’s game against the Terrapins, the Cavaliers take on Wake Forest and NC State, so a win on Saturday would help build momentum for a must-win stretch of games. Quarterback play and turnovers will be crucial to the outcome of this contest. Both teams rank at the bottom of the NCAA in turnover margin, while Maryland ranks 117th nationally in offensive yards per game. Virginia tried to jumpstart its offense by inserting Alabama transfer Phillip Sims into the lineup at quarterback and he finished with 268 yards on 21 completions against Duke. While the Cavaliers have been able to throw the ball this year, the rushing attack and offensive line still need work. This isn't a back against the wall game for either team, but it's a crucial one, especially at the midpoint of the 2012 season.

Miami or North Carolina: Which defense can make key stops?
If you like offense, then Saturday’s Miami-North Carolina matchup should be the game of the week in the ACC. The Tar Heels are averaging 44 points per contest, while the Hurricanes have averaged 42.3 points per game in ACC play this season. Both quarterbacks have been stellar at times this season, as North Carolina’s Bryn Renner is completing 62.7 percent of his throws, while Miami’s Stephen Morris leads all ACC quarterbacks with 1,836 yards this year. Not only will the Hurricanes have their hands full trying to slow down Renner, they will need to find an a way to stop running back Giovani Bernard. Miami is allowing 250.7 rushing yards per game and Bernard gashed Virginia Tech for 262 yards last Saturday. With two potent offenses likely to control the tempo of the game, timely stops will be crucial on Saturday afternoon. Miami isn’t generating much pressure on opposing quarterbacks but has forced 12 turnovers. The Tar Heels have allowed at least 28 points in games against BCS conference foes, with matchups against Elon, East Carolina and Idaho slightly skewing their overall numbers. Expect plenty of points between these two teams – Vegas has the over/under set at 68 – but it’s up to the defenses to get a timely stop or turnover to decide the outcome.

Can Duke get bowl eligible?
With six weeks in the books, it’s fair to say Duke's David Cutcliffe is the early leader in the clubhouse for ACC Coach of the Year. The Blue Devils haven’t knocked off a top-25 team but have wins over Virginia and Wake Forest and need just one more victory to get bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. Despite an elbow injury to quarterback Sean Renfree last week, Duke didn’t miss a beat on offense. Backup Anthony Boone completed 18 of 31 passes for 212 yards and four scores and will likely see time this week, even if Renfree returns to the lineup. Although the rushing attack hasn’t been prolific, the Blue Devils have shown signs of life on the ground, while the defense ranks 50th nationally in yards allowed. Duke has never won in Blacksburg and has been outscored 162-37 in its last five road matchups against Virginia Tech. While the odds are against them, the Blue Devils are an improved team and will catch the Hokies at a good time, especially after losses in three out of their last four games.

What’s Wrong at Virginia Tech?
With a 3-3 start and losses in three out of their last four games, the Hokies are one of the nation’s biggest disappointments in the first half of the season. Both sides of the ball share blame, but a defense that returned eight starters and ranked second in the conference in points allowed last season is struggling. Virginia Tech ranks 64th nationally in total defense and is allowing nearly 200 rushing yards per game (196.7). Quarterback Logan Thomas threw for 354 yards in last week’s loss to North Carolina, but as thrown seven interceptions and isn’t getting much help from the rushing attack. With problems on both sides of the ball, there’s no guarantee this is a fix that can happen during the 2012 season. However, there’s still plenty of time to right the ship, but the Hokies’ schedule isn’t easy, as Duke and Florida State visit Blacksburg, while they hit the road for games against Clemson and Miami. Before the season, it would have been almost unthinkable to consider Saturday’s game against Duke a must-win for Virginia Tech. However, if this team wants to claim the ACC Coastal title once again, the Hokies need to beat the Blue Devils and build some momentum for the final five games of the season.

The last games of the Frank Spaziani era at Boston College?
Coming into 2012, Boston College coach Frank Spaziani probably needed to get to a bowl game to save his job. The Eagles still have a chance to play their way into the postseason but a 1-4 start and a difficult upcoming schedule make six wins nearly impossible. The biggest setback to this team was the 34-31 loss to Army last week. Although the Black Knights are a difficult team to prepare for, that’s a game Boston College could not afford to lose if it wants to reach a bowl. Spaziani’s overall record is just 21-23 and will be evaluated by new athletic director Brad Bates at the end of the year. Although he started out with back-to-back bowl games in his first two years, Spaziani’s team is trending in the wrong direction and is just 5-12 in its last 17 games.
 

Week 7 ACC Predictions

Week 7 ACC Games David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light
Duke at Virginia Tech VT 21-14 VT 31-28 VT 31-24 VT 27-17
UNC at Miami Miami 35-31 UNC 30-28 UNC 38-34 Miami 37-33
Maryland at Virginia Maryland 14-10 Virginia 24-23 Virginia 24-20 Maryland 17-13
Boston College at Florida State FSU 41-14 FSU 38-14 FSU 41-10 FSU 38-13
Last Week: 4-3 4-3 3-4 4-3
Season Record: 45-10 44-11 42-13 45-10


by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

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Once a kingmaker in the Big 12, Texas-Oklahoma this week almost seems to be an undercard for other matchups in the league in the coming weeks. While the Red River Rivalry is the top game in the Big 12 this week, Kansas State-West Virginia next week may do more to determine the conference champion.

In Dallas on Saturday, one team will remain in the Big 12 race while the loser will endure its second conference loss. Either Oklahoma or Texas won the Big 12 every season from 2004-10, but neither controls its own destiny as of the second week of October.

Kansas State and West Virginia, though, aren’t assured of getting to next week’s game unscathed. Both teams head on road trips (Iowa State and Texas Tech) against teams who have been known to play the role of spoiler.

Other Week 7 Previews and Predictions

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

Big 12’s Top Storylines to Watch in Week 7:

What are the stakes in the Red River Rivalry?
Oklahoma and Texas started the season ranked first and second, respectively, in Athlon’s Big 12 preseason rankings, but one could be in danger of falling out of the Big 12 race with a loss in Dallas. For now, they’re both chasing West Virginia and Kansas State, who will face each other in Morgantown next week. Without the benefit of a conference championship game, two losses could be devastating. Even the winner of Texas-Oklahoma does not control its own destiny as long as West Virginia and K-State remain undefeated.

Did the Texas defense find something on which to build from last week’s loss?
No Kheeston Randall, Keenan Allen and Emmanuel Acho has made the Texas defense a shell of its former self, but the Longhorns insist there was progress last week against West Virginia. It certainly wasn’t against the run (192 rushing yards allowed) or on fourth down (5 of 5 converted). But Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said the Longhorns missed only seven tackles -- which says something about Texas being in position to make tackles against the Mountaineers. On the other side, Texas sacked Geno Smith five times. But the run defense must be better than the one that has allowed at least 170 yards in the last four games. A big help could be the potential return of starting linebacker Jordan Hicks.

Is the old Landry Jones back?
Oklahoma’s veteran starting quarterback started to look more like the  veteran signal caller we saw up until the Ryan Broyles injury last season. Jones was 25 of 40 for 259 yards with two touchdowns against Texas Tech in the 41-20 rout. Against the Red Raiders, Jones spread the ball around to seven different pass catchers and settled into a groove with shorter and intermediate passes. Jones already has a good track record against the Longhorns (55 of 89, 603 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in the last two wins), and the Texas defense has looked nothing like the dominant unit we saw a year ago.

Will there be another track meet for West Virginia?
This may be the toughest stretch of West Virginia’s season. The Mountaineers answered their first Big 12 road trip to Texas, but will have to make the quick turnaround for another road trip to Lubbock, Texas, against the Red Raiders. Beyond that, a home date with Kansas State -- which could be the de facto Big 12 championship game -- is a week away. Lubbock’s not an easy place to play, even if Texas Tech’s last win as a home underdog was over Oklahoma at the end of 2009. With Seth Doege, a one-time recruit of West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, Texas Tech can put up points, and the Mountaineers have been happy to oblige opposing offenses the last two weeks.

What’s next for TCU and Casey Pachall?
After a driving while intoxicated arrest and a positive drug test in February, TCU quarterback Casey Pachall voluntarily withdrew from school to seek treatment for substance abuse. With Pachall gone, TCU likely will turn to freshman Trevone Boykin, who started last week in the loss to Iowa state. Boykin was 23 of 40 for 270 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions. This week, he’ll be able to prepare as the primary quarterback, but he’s also making his first road start when the Horned Frogs visit Baylor. Sophomore Matt Brown, who backed up Pachall last season, remains in the mix as well.

Why isn’t anyone talking about John Hubert?
Bill Snyder is a great coach, and Collin Klein is a Heisman contender. Both are true, but let’s take a minute to appreciate someone else at Kansas State: Running back John Hubert is having a career year. With four touchdowns last week against Kansas alone, he matched his entire total from last season. In addition to doubling his touchdowns from last season to eight, Hubert has topped 100 yards in four of five games this year after only hitting the triple digits three times last season. This week, he’ll have an opportunity for a key matchup against Iowa State’s standout linebackers Jake Knott and A.J. Klein.

Will Wes Lunt make his return?
It’s been nearly a month since Oklahoma State freshman quarterback Wes Lunt, named the starter in spring practice, was knocked out of the Louisiana-Lafayette game with an injury. His return could come as early as this week against Kansas, but coach Mike Gundy is playing it safe. It doesn’t hurt that backup J.W. Walsh has played well (39 of 57, 648 yards, six touchdowns, one interception, 130 rushing yards) the last two weeks.

Week 7 Big 12 Predictions

Week 7 Big 12 Games David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light
Kansas St. (-7) at Iowa St. Kansas St. 28-14 Kansas St. 42-17 Kansas St. 31-24 Kansas St. 27-17
Texas vs. Oklahoma (-3) Oklahoma 35-28 Oklahoma 45-20 Texas 31-27 Oklahoma 35-31
Oklahoma St. (-24) at Kansas Oklahoma St. 48-14 Oklahoma St. 45-20 Oklahoma St. 52-17 Oklahoma St. 41-10
West Virginia (-4) at Texas Tech West Virginia 35-31 West Virginia 38-24 West Virginia 41-38 West Virginia 44-24
TCU at Baylor (-8) Baylor 28-14 Baylor 31-20 Baylor 41-31 Baylor 27-18
Last week 33-5 2-2 2-2 2-2
Overall 30-4 31-7 31-7 32-6

by David Fox

@davidfox615

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Teaser:
<p> Big 12 Week 7 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 05:59
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News, Big East
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College football's week 7 slate features a handful of games with upset potential. Athlon's editors predict Boise State will fall to Fresno State, while Wisconsin will score a key victory on the road against Purdue. It's never easy predicting which upsets will happen each week, but keep an eye on these games this Saturday:

College Football's Week 7 Upset Picks

Dave Bartoo (@CFBMatrix), CFBMatrix.comOregon State Beavers +6 at BYU
When I picked this game in March in favor of the Beavers I saw this as a very clear pick as they have a significant talent and coaching advantage in the Matrix charts.  In my opinion, the Beavers should be the favorites. For those that want more details keep the following in mind: BYU has not played anyone this year near the OSU talent levels.  BYU is struggling to score against inferior teams.  Their #1 and #2 QBs are hurt or out.  Oregon State is a run first, defensive minded team.  While the loss of their starting QB takes away a dimension, it is my opinion that is the third most important one for Beaver team.  Better coaching, better talent = Week 7 Upset Alert

David Fox (@DavidFox615): Temple (+5.5) over Connecticut
I didn’t think Temple could be all that competitive in the Big East in its first season in its second stint in the league. The win over USF didn’t totally change that outlook, but I still like this matchup with Connecticut. The Huskies’ defense hasn’t been the same in the last three games since defensive end Jesse Joseph was lost for the season. UConn’s run defense has been vulnerable the last two weeks, which creates an interesting matchup against Montel Harris, who had his breakout game of the season last week. And with UConn’s sputtering offense, Temple won’t need much on offense to score the upset.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall): Wisconsin (+3) at Purdue
The de facto Leaders Division championship game will take place in West Lafayette this weekend (Get excited!). And a field goal point spread doesn't exactly scream upset, but Wisconsin feels like the better team. Joel Stave has stabilized the quarterback position and the ground game is starting to show signs of life behind Montee Ball. After the Boilermakers got torched on the ground by Denard Robinson last week (235 yards rushing), Danny Hope's squad faces another physical test this weekend against the thick and burly Badger warriors. I'll take UW to outscore the Steamers with a trip to Indianapolis on the line in Ross-Ade Stadium.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Fresno State (+7) at Boise State
Winning at Boise State has been nearly impossible for the visiting team. The Broncos are 76-3 at home since 2000 and have defeated Fresno State by a combined score of 108-7 in the last two meetings. The Bulldogs’ last victory in Boise came in 1984, but I think that streak ends on Saturday. Boise State had a ton of talent to replace coming into this season and has been unimpressive in wins over New Mexico and BYU. The Broncos demolished Southern Miss last week, but the Golden Eagles are a disaster right now. New coach Tim DeRuyter has brought some much-needed energy to Fresno State, and the defense has shown significant improvement since last season. The Bulldogs have two of the nation’s most underrated offensive players in quarterback Derek Carr and running back Robbie Rouse. Boise State’s defense is allowing 182.4 rushing yards per game and even though it’s a new season, this secondary was vulnerable to big plays last year. The Broncos will get better as the season goes along, but this is a very winnable game for Fresno State. I never doubt Boise State on the blue turf, but the Bulldogs are the better team right now. 

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): Oregon State (+4) at BYU
Oregon State received a dose of bad news early this week when starting quarterback Sean Mannion was ruled out indefinitely after hurting his knee in the Beavers’ win over Washington State last week. The next man up is junior Cody Vaz, who hasn’t thrown a pass since his redshirt freshman season in 2010. With the inexperienced Vaz taking snaps, expect to see the Beavers lean on tailbacks Storm Woods and Marcus Agnew. That sounds like a solid plan … until you realize that BYU is ranked No. 1 in the nation against the run. The schedule hasn’t been too difficult, but the Cougars are only allowing 59.6 yards per game and 1.93 yards per rush through six games. Boise State (116 yards) and Weber State (115 yards) are the only two teams that have rushed for more than 100 yards on Bronco Mendenhall’s team. That won’t be the case after the Beavers take care of business in Provo this weekend. Oregon State 24, BYU 14

Mark Ross: UTSA (+3) over Rice
Pop quiz — what do Ohio State and UTSA (Texas-San Antonio) have in common? The answer is both teams are undefeated and won't be playing in a bowl game this season. Actually, the Roadrunners have a chance, albeit very slim, at going to the postseason, although they will need a lot of help to get there. Regardless, the same can't be said for the banned Buckeyes. However, there's no debate regarding which team is getting more attention, as very few college football observers are paying attention to Larry Coker's squad, which has won its first five games and has out-scored opponents 189-78. Even though they won't be a full-fledged FBS member until 2014, the Roadrunners have already beaten two FBS schools (South Alabama and New Mexico State) and still have four WAC games remaining. Before that, however, is Saturday's trip to Houston to take on Rice, a C-USA school whose only victory so far is a one-point win over a Kansas team that also has only one victory (and that came against a FCS school). The Owls are ranked 117th in the nation in total defense, 114th in scoring defense and they are coming off of a deflating 14-10 loss to Memphis last week. UTSA has done a much better job on defense (allowing less than 270 yards, 16 points per game) and has a balanced offensive attack that's averaging more than 400 yards per game. UTSA may be the new kids on the block in the FBS, but they are going to treat Rice just like Wile E. Coyote from "Looney Tunes." Meep Meep!

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): Iowa State (+6.5) over Kansas State
Bill Snyder’s club has played excellent football this season, with Heisman contender Collin Klein leading the Wildcats to a perfect 5-0 start. However the Cyclones are known for upsets at Jack Trice Stadium, and KSU may be ripe for a surprise with next week’s showdown at West Virginia looming. ISU has played solid defense this season, but the challenge of stopping Klein and the K-State running attack will be a tough one. The Cyclones offense got a lift from quarterback Jared Barnett against TCU, as the sophomore threw three touchdown passes in the 37-23 victory. I’ll take Iowa State to rally around the home crowd and shock the undefeated Wildcats, 27-24.

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 7 Preview and Predictions
Big East Week 7 Preview and Predictions

Big Ten Week 7 Preview and Predictions

Big 12 Week 7 Preview and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 7 Preview and Predictions

SEC Week 7 Preview and Predictions

Teaser:
<p> College Football Week 7 Upset Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 05:58
Path: /college-football/big-east-week-7-preview-and-predictions
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The Big East favorites are well established with Cincinnati, Louisville and Rutgers are vying for the top spot.

The middle of the league is a different story. Syracuse’s 14-13 upset of Pittsburgh last week and Temple’s 37-28 upset of USF shook up the Big East’s second tier. This week may establish more clarity.

Pittsburgh and Syracuse take on two of the league favorites in Louisville and Rutgers, respectively. Meanwhile, Temple, picked to finish last in the preseason, will try to open its conference schedule at 2-0 when it faces struggling Connecticut.

Other Week 7 Previews and Predictions

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

Big East’s top Storylines to Watch in Week 7:

Will Louisville’s struggling pass rush thrive against Pittsburgh

Facing Pittsburgh the last two seasons has proven to be a boon for opposing pass rushers, most recently Syracuse with five sacks last week. The Cardinals have the same amount all season, and no one on Louisville’s defense has multiple sacks. Defensive end Marcus Smith, who led the team with 5.5 sacks last season, has yet to get to the quarterback so far this season. Beyond the pass rush, the Cardinals haven’t been spectacular in the “big play” department. Louisville has intercepted only two passes all season, second-fewest in the Big East. As teams like Rutgers and Cincinnati continue to show improvement, Louisville will look to prove it can keep pace.

Which Pittsburgh will show up against Louisville?
Pittsburgh’s defense held up on its end of the field in the loss to Syracuse last week, shutting out the Orange after the final three quarters. Pitt also held Syracuse to 305 total yards and 4.8 yards per play, both season lows for Pitt against FBS competition. The offense, though, regressed, giving up five sacks and allowing a fumble to be returned to a touchdown. Most mystifying was a lack of production from the run game against Syracuse. In short, Pitt looked nothing like the team that picked up back-to-back wins entering the Syracuse game. Which Panthers team will face Louisville, a team the Panthers have defeated in each of the last four years?

Can Syracuse muster anything against the Rutgers defense?
The Rutgers defense enters its game against Syracuse allowing only 303 rushing yards all season. The Orange rushing game has been nothing special this season, putting more on the shoulders of quarterback Ryan Nassib. That could be problematic against Rutgers. Against the pass, the Scarlet Knights has been just as stifling, with nine interceptions in the last three games. After topping 450 yards in the first three games, Syracuse has had 350 yards or fewer in the last two against Minnesota and Pitt.

How long will Rutgers’ turnover fortune last?
The answer is possibly for quite a while. Rutgers is plus-nine in turnover margin the last three games against USF, Arkansas and Connecticut to lead the Big East in that category. The Scarlet Knights’ 11 takeaways in just the last three weeks is more than six Big East teams all season. This week’s opponent, Syracuse, has forced only five turnovers all year.

Can the hot streak continue for Montel Harris or will the Connecticut run defense reassert itself?
Montel Harris, who was injured for most of the first two games of the season, enjoyed his best game in a Temple uniform last week against USF. The Boston College transfer rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns as Matt Brown was sidelined for part of the game with an injury (he’s still day-to-day). Harris will try to build off that performance against UConn to give Temple a 2-0 start in its return to the Big East. The Huskies started the season as one of the best against the run, but the last two weeks broke a streak of teams rushing for fewer than 100 yards. Buffalo rushed for 141, and Rutgers rushed for 123. For the second consecutive week, the UConn front seven will be in a matchup of strength vs. strength.

Week 7 Big East Predictions:

Week 7 Big East Games David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light
Louisville at Pittsburgh Pitt 24-21 Lousville 30-24 Louisville 27-20 Louisville 27-23
Syracuse at Rutgers Rutgers 27-14 Rutgers 27-13 Rutgers 30-17 Rutgers 24-10
Temple at UConn Temple 14-10 UConn 20-17 UConn 24-20 UConn 17-10
Fordham at Cincinnati Cincinnati 56-10 Cincinnati 41-17 Cincinnati 41-6 Cincinnati 47-7
Last week 3-1 2-2 2-2 2-2
Overall 25-10 24-11 22-13 23-12

by David Fox

@DavidFox615

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Teaser:
<p> Big East Week 7 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 05:58
Path: /college-football/sec-week-7-preview-and-predictions
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The South Carolina-LSU showdown in Baton Rouge might be the biggest game in the SEC in Week 7, but Tennessee's visit to Starkville to battle Mississippi State might be the most intriguing game of the weekend. The Vols desperately need a big win to take heat off of head coach Derek Dooley, while the undefeated Bulldogs are looking to prove themselves against a qaulity opponent. 

Other Week 7 Previews and Predictions

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

Week 7 SEC Storylines and Predictions

1. Can Tennessee take some pressure off its coach and win a big game?
It’s not an overstatement to say this is the most important game in Derek Dooley’s tenure at Tennessee. With Alabama and South Carolina looming, the Vols, who have lost nine of their last 10 SEC games, simply cannot afford to lose in Starkville. Tennessee showed signs of being balanced offensively in its loss at Georgia two weeks ago. The Volunteers rushed for 197 yards vs. Georgia, their best effort in an SEC game since running for 226 yards vs. Kentucky in November 2009. If the Vols can complement their potent passing attack with an adequate running game, they should be in position to win in Starkville. Mississippi State is playing well and deserves its national ranking, but the Bulldogs have not played a difficult schedule. They have faced Jackson State, Troy and South Alabama in non-conference action, and Kentucky and Auburn — two of the worst teams in the SEC — in league play. Tennessee will be by far the best offensive team Mississippi State has faced.

2. Can Texas A&M pass another road test?
The Aggies made a big statement last week by rallying from 10 points down midway through the fourth quarter to beat Ole Miss 30–27. Beating the Rebels, even in Oxford, isn’t necessarily cause for celebration, but Texas A&M showed the type of resolve and mental toughness that this program has lacked in recent years. Redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel bounced back from his first two interceptions of the season to lead A&M on two fourth quarter touchdown drives. Now, the Aggies step out of conference, but the quality of opponent will be better. Louisiana Tech, nationally ranked in both polls after a 5–0 start, has scored 44 points or more in every game and is averaging 523.4 yards. The Bulldogs, however, have struggled on the defensive end. Texas A&M has the weapons to outscore Louisiana Tech. The Aggies also have the leadership both at quarterback and with the head coach — something that wasn’t always the case in recent years. 

3. Can Auburn generate some offense in Oxford?
After scoring a total of 20 points in its first two SEC games — losses to Mississippi State and LSU — Auburn’s offense was hoping to flex its muscles against an Arkansas defense that had given up 34 points or more in each of its last four games. Didn’t happen. The Tigers scored seven points, had 321 total yards and were sacked eight times in a demoralizing 24–7 loss at home. Starting quarterback Kiehl Frazier was benched at halftime in favor of Clint Moselely. Auburn coach Gene Chizik had not named a starter of Wednesday but did say earlier in the week that his team needs to make a concerted effort to run the ball better. In the loss to Arkansas, no Auburn tailback had more than seven carries. This week, the Tigers head to Oxford to face an Ole Miss defense that is vastly improved statistically from a year ago but is still a unit that will give up some yards. In three games vs. AQ conference opponents, the Rebels are allowing 43.0 points and 487.3 yards.

4. Will Missouri hit the 200-yard mark vs. Alabama?
Missouri picked up 395 yards in a loss at home to Vanderbilt last week, but the Tigers struggled to move the ball after James Franklin was sidelined by a knee injury (that will keep him out for at least one more week). Mizzou averaged 9.5 yards per play in the two drives with Franklin in the game and 4.2 yards for the final three-plus quarters after Corbin Berkstresser took over. This week, the Tigers will face an Alabama defense loaded with future pros at every level. The Crimson Tide lead the nation in total defense, only allowing 191.6 yards per game and 3.3 yards per play. Good luck, Mizzou.

5. Is there something that Alabama doesn’t do well?
Alabama is the consensus No. 1 team in the nation, and it’s easy to see why by looking at the stats. The Crimson Tide lead the nation in total defense and scoring defense; they’ve scored 33 points in every game and allowed 14 points or fewer in every game; they lead the nation in turnover margin (plus-2.40 per game); and they’re solid in all special teams categories. Offensively, their yardage numbers don’t jump out initially — they rank 68th in the nation in total offense with 401.0 yards per game — but keep in mind that it’s often difficult to post up big yardage totals when you force so many turnovers (and work with short fields). They rank 79th nationally in passing offense (212.8 ypg), but they don’t have to pass much because they are so often nursing a big lead, and when they do pass, they do so efficiently (fourth in the nation in passing efficiency). This is a team that is clearly capable of winning another national title.

6. Can Florida keep its focus?
Florida’s trip to Nashville is sandwiched between two of the Gators’ biggest games of the season — last week vs. LSU (a win) and next week’s home date with South Carolina. Will Muschamp’s task this week is simple: Keep his team focused on Vanderbilt. The Gators are clearly the more talented team, but Vanderbilt is good enough to make Florida sweat. Last year, the Commodores rallied from 17–0 in the first half to cut the lead to 20–14 (with the ball) in the fourth quarter before losing 26–21 in the Swamp. Expect Florida to lean on tailback Mike Gillislee. Vanderbilt ranks 33rd nationally in total defense but has struggled to stop the run against the better teams on its schedule.

7. Can Ole Miss break through with an SEC victory?
They are still looking for their first SEC win of the season, but the Ole Miss Rebels are clearly an improved team under first-year coach Hugh Freeze. Through six games, Ole Miss ranks 42nd in the nation in total offense and 56th in total defense; last year, through six games, the Rebs ranked 117th and 106th. Rebel fans are no doubt pleased with their team’s statistical improvement, but they also would like to see some SEC wins — or at least one win. It could happen this week with struggling Auburn in town. The Tigers are 1–4 overall with the lone win coming in overtime against ULM. They rank 12th in the SEC in total defense and last in total offense and are last in the nation in turnover ratio at minus-2.20 per game.

8. Can South Carolina run on LSU?
LSU’s defense has been among the finest in the nation statistically through the first half of the 2012 season. The Tigers rank third nationally in total defense (221.0 ypg) and eighth in scoring defense (33.5 ppg). But LSU has struggled to stop the run the last two weeks, giving up 188 yards on 40 carries to Towson and 176 on 58 carries to Florida. That brings us to South Carolina and its star tailback Marcus Lattimore. The junior leads the SEC in conference games in both rushing (106.0 ypg) and rushing touchdowns (seven). The Gamecocks will need Lattimore to be at his best to win in Baton Rouge — something that has happened only once (in 1994) in South Carolina’s 11 trips to Tiger Stadium.

9. Can the LSU offense score more than a touchdown vs. an SEC foe?
Only one team nationally that has played more than one conference game has only scored one TD in league play. That team is LSU. The Tigers have scored a total of 18 points in two SEC games, 12 in a win at Auburn and six in a loss at Florida. Zach Mettenberger was expected to upgrade the passing attack in his first season as the starter, but LSU ranks 98th in the nation in passing offense and has had trouble throwing the ball down the field with consistency. The bigger concern, however, was the Tigers’ struggles in the running game in the loss at Florida. In the past few years, Les Miles could always count on his cadre of tailback to produce, even when his team’s quarterbacks were struggling. But on Saturday, LSU’s three top running backs combined to rush for 51 yards on 17 carries. The Tigers cannot compete for an SEC title with that type of production in the running game.

10. Can Arkansas win two games in a row?
Arkansas finally broke through with its first win vs. an FBS opponent, rolling past Auburn 24–7 with surprising ease. The Arkansas defense, which had been atrocious through its first five games, limited Auburn to 321 total yards and sacked the two Tiger quarterbacks a combined eight times. Now, the Hogs have a great opportunity to win their second straight game with a wounded (both physically and mentally) Kentucky team visiting Fayetteville. The Wildcats dropped to 1–5 with a 27–14 loss at home to Mississippi State last week. Kentucky’s best two quarterbacks, Maxwell Smith and Patrick Towles, are out with injuries, leaving true freshman Jalen Whitlow and senior Morgan Newton as the only two options for Joker Phillips. Arkansas is favored by 17 points — a big number for a team with only two wins — but don’t be surprised if the Hogs cover with ease.
 

  David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light

Auburn (+6) at Ole Miss

Ole Miss 21-17 Ole Miss 31-24

Ole Miss 27-24

Ole Miss 27-20

Alabama (-21.5) at Missouri         

Alabama 48-10 Alabama 34-14 Alabama 45-7 Alabama 30-10

Florida (-8) at Vanderbilt         

Florida 28-10 Florida 27-21 Florida 27-13 Florida 24-14

Kentucky (+16) at Arkansas         

Arkansas 24-14 Arkansas 30-20

Arkansas 41-17

Arkansas 38-17

South Carolina (+2.5) at LSU         

South Carolina 17-14 LSU 20-17

South Carolina 20-17

South Carolina 17-13

Tennessee (+3) at Mississippi St.         

Mississippi State 24-21 Tennessee 30-24

Mississippi State 27-24

Tennessee 30-24

Texas A&M (-8) at Louisiana Tech

Texas A&M 35-28 Texas A&M 38-34

Texas A&M 38-34

Texas A&M 44-37
Last week: 3-3 2-4 2-4 2-4
Season:  46-11 48-9 48-9 27-10

Teaser:
<p> The South Carolina-LSU showdown in Baton Rouge might be the biggest game in the SEC in Week 7, but Tennessee's visit to Starkville to battle Mississippi State might be the most intriguing game of the weekend. The Vols desperately need a big win to take heat off of head coach Derek Dooley, while the Bulldogs are looking to prove themselves against a qaulity opponent.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 05:56
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-positional-rankings-week-6
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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 6 Fantasy Football Rankings

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

Week 6 Start or Sit

Week 6 Waiver Wire

Note: Carolina, Chicago, Jacksonville and New Orleans are all 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 6</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 05:30

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