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All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-2014-week-2-preview

Hosts Braden Gall and Steven Lassan previews all of the big action from Week 2 including Michigan State-Oregon, USC-Stanford, Michigan-Notre Dame, BYU-Texas and so much more. The guys also give their locks of the week against the spread as well. 


Have a question or comment? Contact us at [email protected] or on Twitter at @AthlonSports, @BradenGall and @AthlonSteven

Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: 2014 Week 2 Preview
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 12:05
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-september-4-2014

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for September 4:


• Beyonce turns 33 today. Celebrate with 33 photos of Queen Bey in action.


Yao Ming has turned his attention to saving African elephants and rhinos. In other news, Yao Ming is still freakishly huge.


Here are five ridiculous NFL predictions as the season gets underway.


Melky Cabrera is scared of thunder. Wonder if he still climbs in bed with his parents.


Next, Charlie Strong is going to suspend Bevo and Zombie Darrell Royal.


Geno Auriemma got busted for calling Mo'Ne Davis.


A reasoned assessment of Jeter in twilight.


Arkansas-Little Rock's AD had to resign after getting caught on a hot mic talking about a soccer player's mom in a creepy, pervy way.


Watch Rory McIlroy scare the crap out of his sleeping caddie. He's made his caddie a rich man, so he can do whatever he wants.


Caleb Joseph of the Orioles pursued a foul ball into the camera pit.


Lolo Jones is going on Dancing with the Stars. Please let her win something.


• Australian hurdler Michelle Jenneke did her legendary dance before racing a car.



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

Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 11:06
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-quarterback-rankings-week-1

Week 1 of the 2014 fantasy football season is here and is there any surprise who leads the first installment of Athlon Sports' weekly Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings? Peyton Manning was far and away fantasy's No. 1 scorer last season and as long as he stays healthy, he should post big passing numbers once again in 2014. While seven touchdown passes like he did in the 2013 season-opener against Baltimore will be hard to match, Manning should enjoy plenty of success throwing against an Indianapolis defense that has issues in the secondary and will be without its best pass-rusher.


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


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


2014 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks


1Peyton ManningDENvs. INDHad 7 TDs in Week 1 last season. Encore?
2Drew BreesNOat ATLBrees ready to test Falcons' young CBs.
3Colin KaepernickSFat DALCK could be in for big day in Big D.
4Nick FolesPHIvs. JACReady to pick up where he left off?
5Andrew LuckINDat DENLuck gets first look at retooled Denver D.
6Aaron RodgersGBat SEA (Thurs.)Tough opening assignment for Packers' O.
7Matthew StaffordDETvs. NYG (Mon.)What will Lions' new O look like?
8Jay CutlerCHIvs. BUF 
9Russell WilsonSEAvs. GB (Thurs.) 
10Tom BradyNEat MIABrady ready to silence doubters.
11Tony RomoDALvs. SF49ers' D not at full strength.
12Matt RyanATLvs. NO 
13Cam NewtonCARat TBWill cracked rib be an issue?
14Philip RiversSDat ARICardinals' D missing key pieces.
15Robert Griffin IIIWASat HOURG3 ready to break out in Gruden's O?
16Carson PalmerARIvs. SD (Mon.)Improved O-line should only help Palmer.
17Ben RoethlisbergerPITvs. CLE 
18Alex SmithKCvs. TENNeeds reliable targets to emerge.
19Jake LockerTENat KCLooked sharp in preseason.
20Shaun HillSTLvs. MINIt's his offense for now.
21Ryan TannehillMIAvs. NE 
22Andy DaltonCINat BALCareer 6:11 TD:INT ratio in 6 G vs. BAL.
23Geno SmithNYJvs. OAKNew weapons = more success in Year 2?
24Joe FlaccoBALvs. CINCan Flacco take next step under Kubiak?
25Eli ManningNYGat DETNew O still a work in progress for G-Men.
26Ryan FitzpatrickHOUvs. WAS 
27Josh McCownTBvs. CARPanther pass rush could be an issue for Bucs.
28Matt CasselMINat STLCould thrive under Turner.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Fantasy Football 2014 Quarterback Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-running-back-rankings-week-1

Jamaal Charles may not finish the 2014 season as the top running back, but he starts in that spot in Athlon Sports' Week 1 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings. Charles will have to work with a practically brand-new offensive line and a passing game that doesn't exactly strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenses, but he also has an appealing opening matchup against a Titans' defense that's switching schemes and lacks established playmakers.


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


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


2014 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Backs

1Jamaal CharlesKCvs. TENTEN making switch from 4-3 to 3-4.
2LeSean McCoyPHIvs. JACBruised thumb should not be an issue.
3Adrian PetersonMINat STLRams' D-line among league's best.
4Marshawn LynchSEAvs. GB (Thurs.)Packers struggled vs. run last season.
5Matt ForteCHIvs. BUF 
6Montee BallDENvs. INDHis time to shine?
7Arian FosterHOUvs. WASIf healthy he could have huge year.
8Eddie LacyGBat SEA (Thurs.) 
9Frank GoreSFat DALMay be "old," but he's consistent.
10DeMarco MurrayDALvs. SFGood time to face 49ers' depleted D.
11Alfred MorrisWASat HOUNeeds to make most of carries.
12Zac StacySTLvs. MIN 
13Giovani BernardCINat BALBengals set to unleash Gio?
14Le'Veon BellPITvs. CLEIs Bell the Steelers' bell-cow?
15Andre EllingtonARIvs. SD (Mon.)How many touches will he get?
16Doug MartinTBvs. CARCould get off to slow start vs. tough D.
17Reggie BushDETvs. NYG (Mon.)How will touches be split w/ Bell?
18Ben TateCLEat PIT 
19Toby GerhartJACat PHIIf anything he should get lots of work.
20Ryan MathewsSDat ARI (Mon.) 
21Shane VereenNEat MIAMore appealing in PPR leagues.
22C.J. SpillerBUFat CHIWill Spiller ever break out?
23Rashad JenningsNYGat DET (Mon.) 
24Steven JacksonATLvs. NOReady to put 2013 behind him?
25Joique BellDETvs. NYG (Mon.)Another appealing PPR option.
26Chris JohnsonNYJvs. OAK 
27Pierre ThomasNOat ATLCould lead all RBs in receptions.
28Bernard PierceBALvs. CINGets 2 games to carry the load.
29Fred JacksonBUFat CHI 
30Trent RichardsonINDat DENNeeds to get off to strong start.
31Stevan RidleyNEat MIABall security a must if he wants carries.
32Knowshon MorenoMIAvs. NEKeep eye on workload spilt w/ Miller.
33Maurice Jones-DrewOAKat NYJNew team = new MJD?
34Shonn GreeneTENat KCHow long until Sankey passes him?
35Lamar MillerMIAvs. NEPecking order to be determined?
36Mark IngramNOat ATL 
37Chris IvoryNYJvs. OAKCJ not a workhorse back anymore.
38Darren SprolesPHIvs. JACSimilar role expected w/ new team.
39DeAngelo WilliamsCARat TBComes down to # of carries.
40Danny WoodheadSDat ARI (Mon.)Should be plenty active in passing game.
41Bishop SankeyTENat KCStarts out behind Greene, but for how long?
42Carlos HydeSFat DALHow much work will he get?
43Jeremy HillCINat BALHe's the thunder to Gio's lightning.
44LeGarrette BlountPITvs. CLEDoes he steal goal-line looks from Bell?
45Khiry RobinsonNOat ATL 
46Ahmad BradshawINDat DENHis use depends on T-Rich's production.
47Darren McFaddenOAKat NYJOne injury away from being a starter.
48Jonathan StewartCARat TB 

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Fantasy Football 2014 Running Back Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-wide-receiver-rankings-week-1

Calvin Johnson leads off Athlon Sports' Week 1 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings, but he's not the only dynamic target who could post big numbers in his season opener. Dez Bryant could be a busy Cowboy if for no other reason the likelihood his team will be playing catchup against the visiting 49ers. Demaryius Thomas also could see plenty of targets coming his way, as Denver hosts Indianapolis on Thursday night and Peyton Manning won't have Wes Welker (suspended) or Eric Decker (now with the Jets) to throw to. And Bryant and Thomas may not be the only ones on these two teams to thrive in Week 1 either. Dallas' Terrance Williams and Denver's Emmanuel Sanders also could benefit based on a combination of matchup (or game situation), offensive philosophy, quarterback play and the fact that their teammates are likely to draw plenty of attention from the opposition.


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


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


2014 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers

1Calvin JohnsonDETvs. NYG (Mon.)Megatron thinking Super thoughts this season.
2Demaryius ThomasDENvs. INDNo Decker or Welker? No problem for Thomas.
3Dez BryantDALvs. SFCowboys could be forced to throw a lot.
4Brandon MarshallCHIvs. BUFStill Cutler's favorite target.
5Julio JonesATLvs. NOLooked awfully spry during preseason.
6A.J. GreenCINat BALRavens have held him in check in past.
7Antonio BrownPITvs. CLE 
8Alshon JefferyCHIvs. BUFPlenty of targets for Jeffery and Marshall to thrive.
9Andre JohnsonHOUvs. WASAll comes down to QB play.
10Jordy NelsonGBat SEA (Thurs.)"Legion of Boom" could limit production.
11Randall CobbGBat SEA (Thurs.)Cobb and Harvin on same field should be fun.
12Emmanuel SandersDENvs. INDWes Welker's loss is Sanders' gain.
13Keenan AllenSDat ARI (Mon.)Cardinals have stout secondary.
14Vincent JacksonTBvs. CARJosh McCown likes throwing to tall targets.
15Michael CrabtreeSFat DAL49ers more of a running team under Harbaugh.
16Victor CruzNYGat DET (Mon.)Could get off to slow start in new O.
17Larry FitzgeraldARIvs. SD (Mon.)Don't forget about Fitz just yet.
18Percy HarvinSEAvs. GB (Thurs.)Healthy Harvin ready to explode?
19Cordarrelle PattersonMINat STLHow will Turner use Patterson in new O?
20Pierre GarconWASat HOUHas more experience w/ RG3 than DJax.
21Roddy WhiteATLvs. NOAnother one whose health is paramount to success.
22Marques ColstonNOat ATLSays he as healthy as he's been in some time.
23Michael FloydARIvs. SD (Mon.)is this his year to take over as No. 1 in ARI?
24Torrey SmithBALvs. CINExpecting more versatile role this season.
25Jeremy MaclinPHIvs. JACIf he can stay healthy, he could explode.
26Reggie WayneINDat DENAndrew Luck gets his favorite target back.
27Mike WallaceMIAvs. NEAppears to be a better fit in new O.
28Julian EdelmanNEat MIAGronk may not be much of a factor in Week 1.
29DeSean JacksonWASat HOU 
30Eric DeckerNYJvs. OAKIt's not Denver, but he's still a No. 1 WR.
31Cecil ShortsJACat PHI 
32Kendall WrightTENat KCTitans planning on taking more deep shots.
33T.Y. HiltonINDat DENRole TBD w/ Wayne and Allen both back.
34Golden TateDETvs. NYG (Mon.)DET more of a passing team than SEA ever was.
35Brandin CooksNOat ATLHow soon will rookie make an impact?
36Terrance WilliamsDALvs. SFWill draw less attention in coverage than Bryant.
37Anquan BoldinSFat DAL 
38Riley CooperPHIvs. JAC 
39DeAndre HopkinsHOUvs. WASCan he emerge in his second season?
40Kelvin BenjaminCARat TBRookie could be Cam's go-to target immediately.
41Sammy WatkinsBUFat CHIRib injury hampered him towards end of preseason.
42Greg JenningsMINat STLHas been productive with Cassel at QB.
43Rueben RandleNYGat DET (Mon.) 
44Markus WheatonPITvs. CLEEager to prove himself after injury-plagued '13.
45Danny AmendolaNEat MIACould develop into reliable PPR option.
46James JonesOAKat NYJHis value tied to rookie QB's performance.
47Andrew HawkinsCLEat PITDe facto No. 1 WR w/ Gordon suspended.
48Justin HunterTENat KCEveryone's expecting him to break out in 2014.
49Mike EvansTBvs. CARHow soon will he and McCown click?
50Malcom FloydSDat ARI (Mon.) 
51Kenny BrittSTLvs. MINCan he be a fantasy factor once again?
52Aaron DobsonNEat MIACould emerge as legitimate deep threat for Brady.
53Doug BaldwinSEAvs. GB (Thurs.)Steps in to fill Tate's role as other starting WR.
54Tavon AustinSTLvs. MIN 
55Brian HartlineMIAvs.. NE 
56Hakeem NicksINDat DEN 
57Donnie AveryKCvs. TENAlex Smith won't have Dwayne Bowe vs. Titans.
58Cody LatimerDENvs. INDNo. 3 spot open during Welker's suspension.
59Steve SmithBALvs. CINHow will Rams use him this season?
60Rod StreaterOAKat NYJ 
61Mike WilliamsBUFat CHI 
62Nate WashingtonTENat KC 
63Jarrett BoykinGBat SEA (Thurs.) 
64Mohamed SanuCINat BALMarvin Jones expected to be out until Week 5.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Fantasy Football 2014 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-tight-end-rankings-week-1

Jimmy Graham is unquestionably the top choice at his position in Athlon Sports' Week 1 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings, but chances are the majority of the attention instead will be on a certain Patriot. Rob Gronkowski has already declared himself ready to go Sunday against Miami, but his head coach isn't quite so eager to confirm Gronk's opinion. There's no question that Gronkowski is one of the few tight ends that, when healthy, can match Graham in terms of production and fantasy potential. However, Gronk won't do your team any good if he plays limited snaps. Something to consider before plugging this Patriot into your starting lineup this week.


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


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


2014 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends

1Jimmy GrahamNOat ATLHas 7 TDs in 8 G vs. Falcons.
2Julius ThomasDENvs. INDWent for 7-110-2 in Week 1 last season.
3Jordan CameronCLEat PITNo. 1 target with Gordon suspended.
4Rob GronkowskiNEat MIAHow much will Gronk play?
5Vernon DavisSFat DALMiddle of field could be wide open vs. DAL.
6Greg OlsenCARat TBOnly experienced target Cam has.
7Dennis PittaBALvs. CINKubiak loves using TEs in passing game.
8Zach ErtzPHIvs. JACIf he gets enough targets, he could break out.
9Jason WittenDALvs. SFNo NaVorro Bowman for 49ers' D.
10Jordan ReedWASat HOULike his QB, needs to stay healthy.
11Kyle RudolphMINat STLTurner's been good for TEs in the past.
12Antonio GatesSDat ARI (Mon.)Ahead of Green on depth chart, for now.
13Martellus BennettCHIvs. BUF 
14Charles ClayMIAvs. NEChance his numbers could rise in new O.
15Heath MillerPITvs. CLEBig Ben's most trusted target.
16Delanie WalkerTENat KC 
17Travis KelceKCvs. TENCould emerge as Chiefs' No. 1 target.
18Ladarius GreenSDat ARI (Mon.)Snap count worth watching early.
19Coby FleenerINDat DENDon't forget Dwayne Allen is back.
20Dwayne AllenINDat DENBack from a hip injury.
21Tyler EifertCINat PIT 
22Jared CookSTLvs. MIN 
23Tim WrightNEat MIABigger role dependent on Gronk's health.
24Eric EbronDETvs. NYG (Mon.)Lions have more established targets.
25Austin Seferian-JenkinsTBvs. CARShould see plenty of action right away.
26Levine ToiloloATLvs. NODoesn't need to be Tony Gonzalez to be effective.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Fantasy Football 2014 Tight End Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-1

To the victors go the spoils, which is one reason why Seattle checks in at No. 1 in Athlon Sports' Fantasy Football Defense/Special Teams Rankings? Yes, the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks get a pretty tough opponent in Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense, but Pete Carroll's defense was top dog in the NFL last season, dominated Denver's record-breaking offense in the Super Bowl, and just seems to play at a different level when it's at home in front of the "12th Man."


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


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


2014 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams

1Seattle Seahawksvs. GB (Thurs.)Hawks always tough at home.
2Carolina Panthersat TBBucs' O-line shaky during preseason.
3Cincinnati Bengalsat BALBengals happy to get Geno Atkins back.
4New England Patriotsat MIAPats' D adds Revis + healthy Mayo, Wilfork.
5Kansas City Chiefsvs. TENPass rush should be effective once again.
6New York Jetsvs. OAKGet first look/crack at rookie QB Carr.
7St. Louis Ramsvs. MINRams' front 7 vs. Peterson will be fun.
8Chicago Bearsvs. BUFBears overhauled D-line w/ Allen, Houston.
9Arizona Cardinalsvs. SD (Mon.)Cardinals' D has holes, but not in secondary.
10Denver Broncosvs. INDWare, Talib, Ward ready to make an impact.
11San Francisco 49ersat DAL49ers' D not at full strength to start.
12Detroit Lionsvs. NYG (Mon.)Eli threw 27 INTs last season.
13Philadelphia Eaglesvs. JACOpportunistic D last season.
14Tampa Bay Buccaneersvs. CARSmith ready to unveil Bucs' Tampa 2.
15Pittsburgh Steelersvs. CLEYouth movement ready to pay off?
16Houston Texansvs. WASWatt and Clowney ready to wreak havoc?

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Fantasy Football 2014 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-kicker-rankings-week-1

Stephen Gostkowski tops Athlon Sports' Week 1 Fantasy Football Kicker Rankings, but the bigger news lately concerns who won't be stretching out his leg for a while. Denver's Matt Prater, who was second only to Gostkowski in fantasy points last season, has been suspended the first four games of the season for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Brandon McManus will be filling in for Prater, and while I have no issue with starting him, it shouldn't be too hard in your league to find a more established option. After all, it's not like fantasy owners hoard kickers on their rosters, right?


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


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


2014 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers



1Stephen GostkowskiNEat MIA
2Steven HauschkaSEAvs. GB (Thurs.)
3Justin TuckerBALvs. CIN
4Phil DawsonSFat DAL
5Mason CrosbyGBat SEA (Thurs.)
6Adam VinatieriINDat DEN
7Brandon McManusDENvs. IND
8Nick NovakSDat ARI (Mon.)
9Dan BaileyDALvs. SF
10Robbie GouldCHIvs. BUF
11Blair WalshMINat STL
12Matt BryantATLvs. NO
13Cody ParkeyPHIvs. JAC
14Nick FolkNYJvs. OAK
15Shayne GrahamNOat ATL
16Greg ZuerleinSTLvs. MIN


Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Fantasy Football 2014 Kicker Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/sec-2014-week-2-preview-and-predictions

There’s only one game involving a pair of SEC teams — Ole Miss makes the trip to downtown Nashville to play Vanderbilt at LP Field — but there are a few interesting non-conference games. South Carolina’s defense will be tested by ECU’s impressive passing attack; Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel returns to Toledo for the first time as a visitor; and Tennessee hosts another (potentially) dangerous mid-major opponent.


1. Ole Miss (-20) at Vanderbilt
3:30 ET, SEC Network @ LP Field

This game lost a bit of its intrigue after Vanderbilt dropped a 30-point decision to Temple at home on Thursday night. The Commodores committed seven turnovers, only had one drive that went for more than 40 yards and did not have a snap in the red zone until the fourth quarter. In addition, Vanderbilt only had one play that went for 20 yards or more against a Temple defense that gave up 70 plays of 20-plus yards last season. The three quarterbacks who played — Patton Robinette, Stephen Rivers and Johnny McCrary — combined to complete less than 50 percent of their passes with no touchdowns and three interceptions. Rivers is the likely Game 2 starter, but don’t expect an official announcement. There is no such mystery at Ole Miss, where senior Bo Wallace will be under center for the Rebels. Wallace was intercepted three times in the first half of the Rebs’ win over Boise State, but he ended up with a solid stat line — 25-of-36 for 387 yards and four touchdowns. Ole Miss’ up-tempo attack, which is loaded with weapons, will be a huge challenge for the Dores’ new-look 3-4 defense.


Listen to the Week 2 preview podcast:


2. East Carolina (+16.5) at South Carolina

One week after getting torched by Texas A&M for 511 passing yards, South Carolina hosts one of the nation’s most underrated pass-catch duos in East Carolina’s Shane Carden and Justin Hardy. Last year, Carden struggled in an early season loss to Virginia Tech, throwing for only 158 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions, but he combined to throw for 631 yards with six TDs and one interception in wins over North Carolina and NC State. South Carolina ended up with solid offensive numbers (7.0 yards per play) in the A&M loss, but the Gamecocks were forced to abandon the running game due to the early deficit. Expect that to change this week. South Carolina will look to punish ECU at the line of scrimmage.


3. Missouri (-4.5) at Toledo

It’s a homecoming for Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, who went 73–37–3 during a highly successful 10-year run at Toledo from 1991-2000. These two teams met last year in Columbia. Missouri won the game, 38–33, but had trouble slowing down the Rockets’ attack. Toledo outgained Mizzou 387-to-384 but lost the turnover battle, 3-to-1. The Tigers won their ’14 opener, 38–18 over South Dakota State but didn’t exactly dominate wire to wire. The score was 21–10 at the half, and the Jackrabbits gained a respectable 365 yards for the game. Toledo, with former Alabama quarterback Phillip Ely running the show, will cause some problems for the MU defense.


4. Arkansas State (+16) at Tennessee
12 ET, SEC Network

Tennessee was extremely impressive in its surprisingly easy win over Utah State. With the possible exception of the running game, not much didn’t go well for Butch Jones’ team. Week 2 brings another solid mid-major team to Neyland Stadium. Arkansas State has won outright or shared three straight Sun Belt titles, and has done so under three different head coaches. Junior quarterback Fredi Knighten was recruited to Arkansas State by then-head coach Gus Malzahn to run the Red Wolves’ up-tempo offense. Knighten is a true dual threat who threw for 200-plus and rushed for 100-plus in the Red Wolves’ 37–10 win over Montana State.


5. UAB (+27.5) at Mississippi State

These two teams played very well in their respective debuts on Saturday. Mississippi State took care of business against an overmatched Southern Miss team, outgaining the Golden Eagles 550-to-283 en route to a stress-free 49–0 win. Meanwhile, UAB rolled past Troy 48–10 in Bill Clark’s first game as an FBS coach. This was a significant win for a program that won only two games last year and had lost three straight to Troy. This one could be tricky for Mississippi State.


6. Ohio (+13) at Kentucky
3:30 ET, ESPNU

No SEC team won with more ease in Week 1 than Kentucky, which jumped out to a 35–0 lead over UT Martin at the half. The level of competition was poor, but it was no doubt a good sign to see Patrick Towles so effective at quarterback (377 yards, no INTs) and the running game churn out yards with so much success. This week’s opponent will provide more resistance. Ohio is fresh off a solid 17–14 win at MAC East rival Kent State. The Bobcats lost the turnover battle 4-to-0 yet won the game thanks to a balanced offense that had 262 passing yards and 175 rushing yards. Quarterback Derrius Vick will be making his second career start.


7. Florida Atlantic (+40) at Alabama
12 ET, SEC Network

One week after giving up 784 total yards, including 498 on the ground, in a 55–7 loss at Nebraska, Florida Atlantic will make the trip to Tuscaloosa. This will not go well for the Owls. Alabama is still trying to figure things out at quarterback — Nick Saban says both Blake Sims and Jacob Coker will play — but FAU’s primary problem will be finding a way to slow down Alabama’s devastating group of running backs.


8. San Jose State (+31) at Auburn

Few teams were as impressive on the offensive end as Auburn in Week 1. With a new cast of characters in leading roles, the Tigers ripped through Arkansas with incredible balance — 293 yards passing and 302 yards rushing. Nothing has been announced, but it’s assumed that Nick Marshall will be the starter at Auburn. San Jose State played well in its opener, beating North Dakota 42–10. The guess here is that Auburn has a few more weapons on offense.


9. Eastern Michigan (+37.5) at Florida
4 ET, SEC Network

Florida was scheduled to open the 2014 season against one of the worst FBS teams in the nation. That still will happen, but the opponent is Eastern Michigan, not Idaho. The Eagles won their opener, beating Morgan State 31–28 despite giving up 479 yards of offense. Chris Creighton, EMU’s first-year coach, has won a ton of games at the lower levels of college football. Winning in Ypsilanti is a huge challenge.


10. Nicholls State at Arkansas
4 pm ET, SEC Network

Arkansas' SEC losing streak was extended to 13 games on Saturday, but the Razorbacks did some good things despite losing by 24 points at Auburn. Brandon Allen, who played through injuries last season, looked comfortable at quarterback, completing 18-of-31 attempts for 175 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. And the running game delivered as expected, with Alex Collins, Korliss Marshall and Jonathan Williams combining to average 5.9 yards per carry. Nicholls State gave up 539 yards on the ground in its Week 1 loss at Air Force. Good luck, Colonels.


11. Sam Houston State at LSU
7:30 ET, SEC Network

LSU returns home for its first game in Baton Rouge after surviving a significant scare from Wisconsin in Houston. The Tigers trailed 24–7 midway through the third quarter before scoring the game’s final 21 points on their way to a 28–24 win.  Quarterback Anthony Jennings completed less than 50 percent of his passes but averaged 11.4 yards on his 21 attempts and threw two TDs without an interception. Kenny Hilliard, not freshman Leonard Fournette, was the Tigers’ leading rusher, with 110 yards on 18 carries. There should be plenty of carries to go around this week. Sam Houston is a solid FCS program but should not pose too much of a threat to LSU.


12. Lamar at Texas A&M
7:30 ET, SEC Network

Kenny Hill, one of the breakout stars in Week 1, makes his first start in College Station. The Aggie offense looked unstoppable with the sophomore running the show in the win at South Carolina. Lamar won its opener, 42–27, over Grambling. It’s a safe bet that the Cardinals will be 1–1 after Saturday’s trip to A&M.


SEC Week 2 Predictions

 David FoxBraden GallSteven Lassan Mitch Light
Arkansas St at TennUT 27-17UT 34-17UT 38-17UT 31-14
Missouri at ToledoMU 35-24MU 41-24MU 38-27MU 30-20
FAU at AlabamaUA 42-10UA 41-13UA 45-3UA 51-0
UAB at Miss StateMSU 34-17MSU 38-10MSU 38-13MSU 34-24
Ohio at KentuckyUK 28-14UK 31-21UK 34-20UK 30-17
E. Michigan at FloridaUF 35-7UF 45-7UF 50-7UF 51-7
Nicholls St at ArkansasUA 42-10UA 41-13UA 48-7UA 48-10
Ole Miss at VanderbiltUM 35-14UM 35-21UM 34-20UM 30-17
E. Carolina at S. CarolinaUSC 38-28USC 38-28USC 41-31USC 37-24
San Jose St at AuburnAU 56-7AU 51-10AU 48-17AU 50-10
Lamar at Texas A&MA&M 28-7A&M 51-10A&M 60-10A&M 58-14
Sam Houston St at LSULSU 28-7LSU 37-7LSU 45-13LSU 37-10
Last Week8-39-29-29-2
SEC Week 2 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-2014-week-2-preview-and-predictions

All of college football should be watching the Pac-12 this weekend.


The two biggest games of the Week 2 slate will be played out West and will feature four teams ranked in the top 15 of the AP Poll. One of which will feature two top-10 teams.


In fact, over the last 10 years, only four times has a Pac-12 team ranked in the AP top 10 faced a non-conference foe also ranked in the AP top 10 during the regular season. USC won both legs of a home-and-home with Ohio State in 2008-09 while the Trojans also topped Notre Dame in the famed Bush Push in ‘05. The last such meeting was an Oregon loss to LSU to start the 2011 campaign.


This puts into perspective just how big Michigan State’s visit to Oregon will be this weekend.


1. Michigan St at Oregon
6:30 p.m., FOX

The hyperbole heaped upon this meeting may sound over the top, but it’s not. The loser of this contest could easily be knocked out of national title contention, as both teams could be vying for the same playoff spot at season’s end. Moreover, it’s a philosophical showdown between the fastest of up-tempo offenses and the stingiest of physical defenses. But while the Marcus Mariota-Pat Narduzzi chess match will be fascinating to watch on literally every play, it’s the other side of the ball that could determine the outcome. Connor Cook is developing into one of the best quarterbacks in the nation and the Ducks defense — now led by Don Pellum — will have to stop what has become an extremely balanced MSU attack. I won't bore you with Xs and Os schematic breakdowns (although, there are some great ones out there) but the bottom line is whichever defense stays disciplined and makes the fewest mistakes will be the victor. For what it’s worth, the home team has won all four meetings between these two programs (2-2).


Listen to the Week 2 preview podcast:


2. USC at Stanford
3:30 p.m., ABC

Conference play begins in style with what has developed into one of the best West Coast rivalries in the game today. Both USC head coach Steve Sarkisian and Stanford defensive coordinator Lance Anderson debuted in impressive fashion as the Trojans ran nearly as many plays (105) as the Cardinal allowed yards (115) in their openers last week. A year ago, USC used three Stanford turnovers and a game-winning field goal in the final half-minute to pull off the upset at home. It was the first win in the series for the Men of Troy since 2008 — the last time USC won in Palo Alto. This could be Cody Kessler's toughest test of the year and it comes in Week 2.


3. Arizona at UTSA
Thurs., 8 p.m., FS1

The Wildcats and Roadrunners come into this Week 2 primetime meeting after decidedly different showings in Week 1. Both won but how they won was totally different. Arizona, behind the debut of Anu Solomon at quarterback, rolled up a school-record 787 yards of offense and scored 58 points. UTSA struggled mightily on offense, averaging just 3.55 yards per play, but was stifling on defense. The once-powerful Houston offense was held to just 2.85 yards per play, minus-26 yards rushing and just seven points. This will be much closer than the experts think. Rich Rodriguez is attempting to move his non-conference record at Arizona to 10-0 with a win Thursday evening.


4. E. Washington at Washington
3:05 p.m., Pac-12 Net

Eastern Washington isn’t an average FCS opponent. Just ask Oregon State. Chris Petersen gets Cyler Miles (thankfully) back under center after the Huskies' abysmal showing against Hawaii. And this offense will have to be much better if it expects to beat the No. 2-ranked FCS team in the nation. Especially, one filled with players who likely grew up dreaming of playing in the Purple and Gold.


5. Washington St at Nevada
Fri., 10:30 p.m., ESPN

One Evergreen State school that needs to rebound in Week 2, Washington State must face an always tricky Nevada team in Reno. Both quarterbacks will be on display as Connor Halliday, fresh off a 532-yard performance, will battle with the dynamic Cody Fajardo (303 pass, 68 rush in Week 1). The Wolfpack, whose offense started slowly last week but finished with 547 yards, won’t be scared of the mighty Pac-12, as Nevada has played UCLA, Arizona and Cal in the last two years. The Wolfpack have gone 1-2 in these games, beating Cal and nearly upsetting Arizona. Needless to say, Mike Leach’s bowl hopes may hang in the balance Friday evening.


6. Fresno St at Utah
3 p.m., Pac-12 Net

Fresno State will face its third consecutive Pac-12 foe and is hoping for a better outcome than the first two after getting boat-raced by USC last weekend. Utah used three different quarterbacks, eight different ball-carriers and nine different receivers in an easy Week 1 victory over Idaho State. Look for Travis Wilson to play most of the game, however, after a triumphant return to the field (13-18, 265 yds, 2 total TDs). This is a must-win situation for Kyle Whittingham if he wants to get his Utes back into the postseason.


7. Oregon St at Hawaii
10:30 p.m., CBS Sports

Washington struggled mightily in their trip to the Islands last weekend and Oregon State didn’t exactly dominate Portland State as expected. Did Sean Mannion throw for more than 300 yards? Sure, but Mike Riley is looking for a more complete performance against a bad Hawaii team – although one that has traditionally been tricky to beat in Honolulu.


8. Memphis at UCLA
10 p.m., Pac-12 Net

Jim Mora’s bunch escaped with a win over Virginia but he couldn’t have been happy with the way his offensive line played. Memphis won its opener 63-0 but that was against Austin Peay. Fans should expect some aggression to be enacted upon the poor Tigers after what was likely a rough week of practice in Los Angeles.


9. Arizona St at New Mexico
7 p.m., CBS Sports

The Sun Devils have won three consecutive road games and New Mexico doesn’t figure to be much of a test for Todd Graham’s bunch. Taylor Kelly and D.J. Foster were excellent on offense and the totally reworked defense pitched a shutout deep into the third quarter. The Lobos, coming off a loss to UTEP in Week 1, should be easy fodder for ASU in Week 2.


10. Colorado at UMass
3 p.m., ESPN3

After a fast start last week, the Buffaloes allowed their in-state rival to roll off 24 consecutive points and it resulted in a crushing defeat. Mike MacIntrye’s bunch needs to improve on defense against both the running and passing games if Colorado wants to get into the win column this week against a Minutemen team that posted just seven points, nine first downs and 202 yards of offense against Boston College.


11. Sacramento St at Cal
3 p.m., Pac-12 Net

The Bears might have been the nicest surprise in the league last week when they upset Northwestern on the road. Now, against a totally overmatched Sacramento State squad, Sonny Dykes could improve on his win total from last year in just two games. This should be a fun home opener for the fans in Berkeley. 


Pac-12 Predictions:

GameBraden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
Mich. St (+12) at OregonOre., 31-27Ore., 30-24Ore., 35-28MSU, 31-27
USC (+2.5) at StanfordStan., 24-17USC, 27-24Stan., 27-17 Stan., 27-24
Arizona (-7) at UTSAZona, 38-21Zona, 40-20Zona, 42-14Zona, 34-20
E. Wash. at Wash.Wash., 31-17Wash., 41-20Wash., 24-10Wash., 38-24
Wazzu (-4) at NevadaWSU, 45-28WSU, 34-20 WSU, 41-21WSU, 34-31
Fresno St (+10.5) at UtahUtah, 31-21Utah, 27-17Utah, 28-14Utah, 34-24
Ore. St (-10.5) at HawaiiOSU, 34-13OSU, 28-13OSU, 35-10OSU, 34-20
Ariz. St (-26) at N. MexicoASU, 54-10ASU, 37-10ASU, 49-14ASU, 48-17
Memphis (+24) at UCLAUCLA, 41-13UCLA, 30-13UCLA, 31-10UCLA, 38-13
Colo. (-17) at UMassColo., 30-14Colo., 27-13Colo., 27-10Colo., 40-13
Sacramento St at CalCal, 35-17Cal, 44-17Cal, 35-14Cal, 48-10
Last Week:9-39-310-29-3


Pac-12 2014 Week 2 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-2014-week-2-preview-and-predictions

Most of the Big 12 went about its business in Week 1.


All of the title contenders, with the exception of Texas Tech, won easily and looked good doing it. Unfortunately for Texas, however, their victory was far more costly than the rest of the Big 12 as the Longhorns lost two key offensive weapons.


Now, as most of the league looks to win easy (and possibly boring) games against overmatched competition, it’s those same Horns who have to battle in the biggest game of the weekend.


1. BYU at Texas
7:30 p.m., FS1

The numbers are simple. Texas is 12-4 when David Ash starts and 6-5 when he does not. The Longhorns, who also will be without starting center Dominic Espinosa for the rest of the year, will turn to Tyrone Swoopes (and maybe Jerrod Heard as well) this weekend against a BYU team that was very impressive in Week 1 and torched Texas for 679 yards last year. The Horns defense looked much improved in Week 1 but facing North Texas is totally different than having to slow one of the most dynamic weapons in college football. Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill threw for 308 yards and ran for 97 while scoring all five touchdowns for BYU in the road win over UConn to start the year. If Charlie Strong can’t slow down Hill, it may not matter who is playing quarterback for the Burnt Orange.


Listen to the Week 2 preview podcast:


2. Kansas St at Iowa St
Noon, FS1

What better way to recover from an ugly home loss to an FCS opponent than to face a Bill Snyder-coached team ranked in the top 20? Paul Rhoads has never beaten Kansas State in five tries and Week 1 did little to suggest that he can break through in 2014. Snyder used Tyler Lockett sparingly in Week 1 and instead gave the ball to seven different ball-carriers for 240 yards rushing. “A plus B equals C” is rarely accurate but if Iowa State can’t stop North Dakota State’s running game, why would it be able to stop the much more balanced Wildcats?


3. Texas Tech at UTEP
11 p.m., FS1

The seven-point win over Central Arkansas was a major disappointment despite Davis Webb throwing for 452 yards while completing 75 percent of his passes. Kliff Kingsbury won’t have any issues on offense this year but the questions raised in the preseason about his defense appear to be warranted after allowing 35 points and 406 yards in the opener. Tech will need to slow an offense that rushed for 330 yards — 237 by sophomore Aaron Jones — in the opener against New Mexico. This is the Miners' home opener so expect an inspired effort from the three-touchdown underdog.


4. Oklahoma at Tulsa

The Sooners did all of the things they needed to win easily in Week 1. These two in-state rivals have played 13 times since 1943 and Oklahoma has won all but once (Sooners fans don’t need any reminders of 1996). The Hurricane rolled up 592 yards of offense last week against Tulane but also allowed over 500 yards on defense. Trevor Knight and his stable of running backs should be able to produce big numbers in Week 2.


5. Northwestern St at Baylor
7:30 p.m.

The most watched vertebrae in college football shouldn’t be asked to do much against Northwestern State this weekend. After a dominating performance by the Bears' defense — it doesn’t matter how bad SMU is, holding a June Jones offense to less than 70 yards is absurdly impressive — Art Briles isn’t likely to ask too much of quarterback Bryce Petty. Keep the QB upright, run the ball and play defense and Baylor should start 2-0.


6. Missouri St at Oklahoma St
3:30 p.m.

Both Oklahoma State and West Virginia acquitted themselves admirably against the top two teams in the nation but neither got into the win column. Both should do so this weekend. Mike Gundy’s defense played well, J.W. Walsh was solid and Tyreek Hill announced his presence to college football. Look for a much lighter workload this week for Hill and for the Pokes to lean on Desmond Roland, Rennie Childs and their defense in what should be an easy win. Keep an eye on quarterbacks Daxx Garman and Mason Rudolph to see if Gundy gives either backup a look under center.


7. Towson at West Virginia
7:30 p.m.

Much like Oklahoma State, West Virginia showed an improved defense and found a playmaker on offense in Clint Trickett in a Week 1 loss. And like Ok-State, the Mountaineers should be able to celebrate this week with a victory. Trickett should have no issues topping a team that lost to Central Connecticut State last week in the opener.


8. SE Missouri St at Kansas
7 p.m., ESPN3

The Montell Cozart era begins for Kansas this weekend in a must-win situation for head coach Charlie Weis. Other members of the Big 12 have lost to FCS opponents in season openers the last two years and Weis cannot afford to struggle against SEMO — a team that won its 2014 debut 77-0 last week.


Off: TCU


Big 12 Predictions:

GamesBraden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
BYU (+4) at TexasBYU, 31-28BYU, 24-17BYU, 28-13BYU, 24-20
Kan. St (-12) at Iowa StKSU, 34-20KSU, 30-17KSU, 35-17KSU, 38-20
T. Tech (-20) at UTEPTech, 48-23Tech, 31-27Tech, 42-28Tech, 50-24
Okla. (-25) at TulsaOkla., 49-13Okla., 47-17Okla., 49-10Okla., 45-7
NW St at BaylorBaylor, 45-7Baylor, 47-10Baylor, 63-0Baylor, 61-10
Mizz St at Okla. StOSU, 34-7OSU, 48-17OSU, 42-14OSU, 51-10
Towson at WVUWVU, 44-17WVU, 41-20WVU, 35-10WVU, 41-17
SEMO at KansasKansas, 20-14Kansas, 27-21Kansas, 17-10Kansas, 34-7
Last Week:8-18-19-08-1


Big 12 2014 Week 2 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2014-week-2-preview-and-predictions


Three Big Ten teams will be the center of the college football world in the second week of the season.

The league will hope it’s not the last time that’s the case in 2014.

This could be the week the Big Ten establishes its College Football Playoff credentials and national perception, one way or another.

Michigan State has a chance to continue its status as the Big Ten’s leading program against Oregon. If the Spartans — winners of the Big Ten title and Rose Bowl last season — beat the Ducks in Eugene, it would be tough to argue against Sparty as a Playoff contender.

Meanwhile, Ohio State and Michigan will face their toughest non-conference opponents of the season. Win all three, and the Big Ten is in a place it hasn’t been in several years.

That’s a double-edged sword. Losses in those games will hurt, for sure. At the same time, the Big Ten has four games against the MAC and two against Conference USA that aren’t gimmes.

All games Saturday. All times Eastern.


Week 2 Previews and Predictions:

ACC | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC

1. Michigan State at Oregon
6:30 p.m., Fox

If Michigan State can defeat Oregon in Eugene, will anyone doubt the Spartans’ ability to compete on the national stage? Since the end of last season, Michigan State already has defeated an unbeaten Ohio State and Pac-12 champion Stanford on neutral fields. If Michigan State is going to pull of a win that could vault Sparty into Playoff contender status, the defense will have to contain the no-huddle spread.

Coordinator Pat Narduzzi’s defense has been among the best in the country in recent years, but it has rarely been tested against offense running at a high tempo. Michigan State has allowed opponents to run 75 or more plays only seven times since 2010. Oregon averaged 74.8 plays per game last season.

Meanwhile, Oregon has a little experience against a grinding, run-first offense by playing Stanford every season — it is worth noting Stanford won the last two matchups.

“We see quite a lot of spread offenses over the last four or five years, but just because you’re spread doesn’t mean you do the same things,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “Oregon is certainly cutting edge in terms of offensive philosophy, but think we players not plays.”

Michigan State vs. teams running 75 or more plays

2013MinnesotaW 14-3752493.32
2013Western MichiganW 26-13752042.72
2012NebraskaL 28-24764736.22
2011NorthwesternW 31-17752534.93
2011IowaW 35-27773494.53
2010NorthwesternW 35-27773855.00
2010Notre DameW 34-31 (OT)814615.69
2010Western MichiganW 38-14853233.8

Related: With Foundation Built, Mark Dantonio Can Loosen the Reins

2. Michigan at Notre Dame
7:30 p.m., NBC

Say goodbye to yet another rivalry. As Notre Dame begins its scheduling agreement with the ACC, the Irish are phasing out their Big Ten games. While Michigan State and Purdue games will continue, though not annually, the series with Michigan is on hold indefinitely. That’s a shame as both teams have returned to national relevance. The rivalry has been in Michigan’s favor at 4-1 in the last five meetings, but those games have been decided by an average of six points. Could this game be another shootout? The two teams combined for 1,136 yards of offense in their openers and continue to be limited on defense. Or not. Michigan coach Brady Hoke isn’t revealing much when it comes to star freshman cornerback Jabrill Peppers and veteran linebacker Desmond Morgan.


Listen to the Week 2 preview podcast:

3. Virginia Tech at Ohio State
8 p.m., ESPN

How much of the opener against Navy was an aberration? The Buckeyes certainly hope facing a more conventional defense will show a more true picture of what the Buckeyes can do on that side of the ball. “(Defensive end) Joey Bosa didn't come to Ohio State to squeeze down blocks and keep people off his ankles,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said as an example of the challenges of playing Navy. “That's what he had to do last week. He came to rush a quarterback and penetrate.”

The version of Ohio State Meyer hopes to see in Week 2 is the second half edition of first-year starting quarterback J.T. Barrett, who was 4-for-4 for 130 yards with two touchdowns after the break against Navy. Barrett and the Ohio State passing game will face a Bud Foster-coached defense with four returning starters in the secondary. Not an easy matchup.

4. Ball State at Iowa
3:30 p.m., ESPN2

Iowa needed the fourth quarter to pull away from Northern Iowa for a 31-23 win, so the Hawkeyes need to show signs of improvement against the MAC contenders Ball State. Iowa’s offense in particular needs to recover from a lackluster performance against the Panthers. Quarterback Jake Rudock passed for 250 yards and two touchdowns, but needed 41 attempts to get there (6.1 yards per pass). Meanwhile, Iowa’s top two tailbacks didn’t have a run longer than eight yards. Keep an eye on Ball State coach Pete Lembo, whose destined for a high-major coaching job. Lembo is 3-2 against Power 5 teams as coach at Ball State. The wins have been over Indiana twice and Virginia, the losses to Clemson and Oklahoma. This Iowa team is somewhere in between.

5. Akron at Penn State

Penn State makes a one-week turnaround after playing in Dublin a week ago, but Akron may not be the kind of opponent the Nittany Lions want to see after a nail-biting 26-24 win over UCF. In the midst of a turnaround under Terry Bowden, The Zips has won five of its last six. In addition, Akron returns starting quarterback Kyle Pohl and 10 starters to a team that lost one-score games to Michigan, UL Lafayette and Northern Illinois a year ago. Penn State had trouble running the ball against UCF, entrusting the game in Christian Hackenberg’s arm.

6. Northern Illinois at Northwestern
3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Northwestern’s nightmare 2013 carried into the 2014 opener with a 31-24 loss to a Cal team that went 1-11 last season. Northwestern was disjointed on a number of fronts, including a 23-of-44 with a touchdown and two interception game from Trevor Siemian. The Northwestern defense goes from an uncharacteristically balanced Cal team to an Northern Illinois team that carried 77 times of its 109 plays in its season-opening rout of Presbyterian.

7. Maryland at USF
3:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network

Maryland looked like one of Randy Edsall’s UConn teams in a 52-7 rout of James Madison. Other than the final score, that's not necessarily a great comliment. The run game was prolific (285 yards, five touchdowns) and the defense stifled former Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee. Starting quarterback C.J. Brown, though, went 11-of-24 for 111 yards. Brown called his own performance “unacceptable.”

8. Middle Tennessee at Minnesota
3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

With seven returning starters on defense, Minnesota passed its first defensive test without Ra’Shede Hageman by shutting out Eastern Illinois before the Panthers tacked on three garbage-time touchdowns. The offense may be more of a question as Mitch Leidner, now the unquestioned starter, went 9-of-17 for 144 yards with a touchdown. David Cobb averaged 5.1 yards per carry in a vintage performance from the Minnesota run game.

9. Western Kentucky at Illinois
Noon, Big Ten Network

Tim Beckman is in for a long season — or perhaps short season — if the Youngstown State game is a preview of things to come. Illinois needed two touchdowns in the final 8:50 to beat the Penguins 28-17. Maybe Wes Lunt, an Oklahoma State transfer back in his home state, needed some time to warm up. He finished 24-of-38 for 285 yards with four touchdowns. Illinois’ struggling defense will need to find a way to stop a Western Kentucky pass game that threw for 569 yards and six touchdowns in a rout of MAC favorite Bowling Green last week.

10. Central Michigan at Purdue
Noon, ESPNews

Purdue escaped a dog fight with Western Michigan to win 43-34 last week, and now the Boilermakers must face the best of the directional Michigans. Central Michigan is no great rushing team, but neither was Western Michigan. The Broncos rolled up 213 yards on the ground and 6.7 yards per carry. Not a great start for Purdue.

11. Western Illinois at Wisconsin
Noon, Big Ten Network

This may be just the kind of game Wisconsin needs to recover from the last week. First came the collapse against LSU, then the miscommunication on the injury for star running back Melvin Gordon, then the revelation that the backup and former starting quarterback Joel Stave has a case of the “yips.” Gordon will be back, but a game against an FCS team with three consecutive losing seasons would be a good time for quarterback Tanner McEvoy to find his footing.

12. Howard at Rutgers
Noon, Big Ten Network

Rutgers will get a warm welcome after rallying in the fourth quarter to beat Washington State 41-38 in Seattle. Rutgers has outscored Howard 127-14 in three meetings since 2006. This is a warm up before the Big Ten opener against Penn State.

13. McNeese State at Nebraska

After Nebraska demolished FAU 55-7 last week, what will the Cornhuskers do against McNeese? FAU is a Conference USA team with bowl aspirations, and Nebraska put up 784 yards, including 498 rushing, on the Owls. Nebraska will play without Randy Gregory, the Big Ten’s sack leader in 2013. Gregory had minor knee surgery Sunday and is expected to return for Fresno State next week.

Off: Indiana

Big Ten Week 2 Picks


GameDavid FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light
Western Ky. at Illinois (-6)WKU 35-27Illinois 38-34Illinois 38-31WKU 37-34

McNeese St. at Nebraska

Neb 49-7Neb 45-10Neb 45-13Neb 51-17
Akron at Penn State (-14 1/2)Akron 24-21PSU 37-21PSU 31-24PSU 37-21
Central Mich. at Purdue (-3 1/2)CMU 17-14Pur 37-31Pur 27-24Pur 31-30
Howard at RutgersRut 42-10Rut 31-10Rut 48-13Rut 37-10
Western Ill. at WisconsinWisc 35-14Wisc 45-7Wisc 48-3Wisc 49-7
Northern Ill. at Northwestern (-7)NIU 35-31NW 34-28NW 31-24NW 31-27
Middle Tenn. at Minnesota (-16)Minn 28-17Minn 34-21Minn 31-17Minn 27-13
Ball State at Iowa (-17)Iowa 21-14Iowa 30-14Iowa 31-20BSU 20-17
Maryland (-12 1/2) at USFMd 28-10Md 30-21Md 34-20Md 41-17
Michigan St. at Oregon (-12)Oregon 35-28Oregon 37-28MSU 31-27Oregon 30-24
Michigan at Notre Dame (-3 1/2)Mich 38-31ND 27-21ND 27-24Mich 27-21
Va. Tech at Ohio State (-11)OSU 24-14OSU 24-13OSU 31-17OSU 21-17
Last Week12-212-212-212-2


Big Ten Week 2 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/acc-2014-week-2-preview-and-predictions


It’s another light slate of games in the ACC in Week 2. Virginia Tech-Ohio State is the only game with national appeal, but there’s intrigue in the Friday night matchup between Pittsburgh and Boston College.

Most of the ACC’s top teams should win big in Week 2, as Florida State takes on Citadel, Clemson hosts South Carolina State, Miami plays Florida A&M and Louisville meets Murray State on Saturday.

It’s hard to learn much from lopsided non-conference games, but Week 2 is all about getting better and finetuning some of the mistakes from Week 1 for the top teams in the conference.


Week 2 Previews and Predictions:

Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC


ACC Week 2 Game Power Rankings


1. Virginia Tech at Ohio State (-11)
8 p.m. ET, ESPN

It’s easy to overreact after one game. However, it’s also easy to see why Virginia Tech’s offense could be better in 2014. Quarterback Michael Brewer was steady in his Hokies’ debut (23 of 30, 251 yards and two scores), while freshmen running backs Shai McKenzie and Marshawn Williams and pass-catchers Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges played a key role in the gameplan. Of course, Saturday’s game against Ohio State will provide a much better barometer test for Virginia Tech. The Hokies’ offensive line should have its hands full against the Buckeyes’ defensive line, which is arguably the best in the nation. With both teams breaking in a new starter at quarterback and youth at the skill positions, this one could be a low-scoring affair. When the Buckeyes have the ball, look for Virginia Tech’s defensive line to challenge Ohio State’s offensive line. The Buckeyes struggled up front in Week 1, and the Hokies recorded four sacks in the opener against William & Mary.


Listen to the Week 2 preview podcast:


2. Pittsburgh (-4.5) at Boston College
7 p.m. ET, ESPN

This is the first meeting between these two schools as members of the ACC. Boston College and Pittsburgh are former Big East rivals but have not played since 2004. Both schools picked up victories in Week 1, but considering the opponents (UMass for Boston College and Delaware for Pittsburgh), it’s hard to take too much away from those games. Expect both teams to lean heavily on the ground in this one, as the Panthers gashed Delaware for 409 yards, and the Eagles recorded 338 against UMass. Neither team should find as much running room this week as they did last Saturday, which should put more emphasis which quarterback can make the most plays (and avoid the big mistake). This game is also a good test for both defenses, as Pittsburgh continues to search for the right mix up front without Aaron Donald, and Boston College has five new starters in the front seven.


3. Georgia Tech (-10) at Tulane
4 p.m. ET, ESPNEWS

Three non-conference games to open the season is a good way for Georgia Tech to develop new quarterback Justin Thomas and find a few answers on the defensive line before ACC play starts. The Yellow Jackets averaged a whopping 8.6 yards per play in the opener against Wofford, with Thomas accounting for 353 total yards and two scores. Georgia Tech is a double-digit favorite in this one, but Tulane should be a tougher test than Wofford. The Green Wave is opening a new stadium on Saturday and averaged seven yards per play against Tulsa. The Yellow Jackets could be tested early, but Thomas’ playmaking ability will be too much for Tulane in the second half.


4. San Diego State at North Carolina (-15)
8 p.m. ET, ESPNEWS

The Tar Heels had a sluggish first half against Liberty but scored 35 second-half points to win 56-29. North Carolina will need a better effort on Saturday, as San Diego State is one of the top teams in the Mountain West. Quarterback Marquise Williams will get the start over Mitch Trubisky, and Williams is hoping to bounce back after tossing two picks last week. The Aztecs won their opener 38-7 over Northern Arizona and feature a talented trio on offense, headlined by quarterback Quinn Kaehler and receiver Ezell Ruffin. San Diego State could hang around for a while, but North Carolina’s explosive offense should get on track after averaging only 4.8 yards per play in the opener.


5. Old Dominion at NC State (-16)
6 p.m. ET, ESPN3

The Wolfpack narrowly avoided an upset in Week 1, scoring 21 points in the second half to beat Georgia Southern 24-23. Coach Dave Doeren’s team should be on upset alert once again, as Old Dominion’s passing offense – led by senior Taylor Heinicke – will be a tough matchup. Heinicke has passed for 11,764 yards in his career. The Monarchs allowed 50.4 points per game against FBS teams last season, which should allow the Wolfpack offense to build off their opening week performance (6.2 yards per play). Quarterback Jacoby Brissett completed 28 of 40 passes for 291 yards and three scores last week and faces an Old Dominion secondary that allowed 407 passing yards to Hampton in Week 1.


6. Duke (-19) at Troy
7 p.m. ET, ESPN3

After cruising to an easy 52-13 win over Elon in Week 1, Duke stays out of conference for another favorable matchup in Week 2. The Blue Devils make the nine-hour trek to Alabama to take on Troy – a team that’s reeling a bit after losing 48-10 to UAB last Saturday. The Trojans allowed 6.6 yards per play to the Blazers in Week 1, which should allow Duke’s offense to move the ball with ease on Saturday. Quarterback Anthony Boone was efficient in Week 1, completing 22 of 33 throws for 247 yards and four scores. The Blue Devils need Boone to play at that level to repeat as Coastal Division champions. Considering the injury to standout linebacker Kelby Brown in the preseason, it’s important for Duke’s defense to build confidence before ACC play starts in late September. The Blue Devils shouldn’t have to sweat much in this one, and the focus for coach David Cutcliffe is keeping everyone healthy and likely playing as many players as possible.


7. Richmond at Virginia
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3

Virginia surprised most by hanging around against UCLA in Week 1, and coach Mike London may have found a quarterback in the process. Sophomore Matt Johns completed 13 of 22 passes for 154 yards and two scores against the Bruins and should be the Cavaliers’ starter on Saturday. If Johns plays well once again this week, it would be a huge boost for a program that has struggled to find consistent quarterback play under London. Richmond ranked as the No. 17 team in this week’s FCS poll and is coached by former Virginia assistant Danny Rocco. Quarterback Michael Strauss is a Virginia transfer and threw for 3,808 yards and 26 scores last year.


8. Citadel at Florida State
7:30 p.m. ET, RSN

The Seminoles can basically pick their final score in this one. Citadel went 5-7 last year was pounded 52-6 by Clemson last November. Florida State wasn’t as dominant in the opener as some expected, but this week’s game should give coach Jimbo Fisher an opportunity to work on a few things.


9. South Carolina State at Clemson
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network

The Tigers should be an angry bunch on Saturday. Clemson was unable to contain Georgia’s rushing attack or generate any offense in the second half of last week’s loss in Athens, but Week 2’s matchup against South Carolina State should allow Dabo Swinney’s team to work out the kinks before ACC play begins against Florida State on Sept. 20. Senior Cole Stoudt is expected to start at quarterback, but true freshman Deshaun Watson will see plenty of snaps.


10. Florida A&M at Miami
7 p.m. ET, ESPN3

After stumbling at Louisville on Monday night, Florida A&M is the perfect rebound opponent for Miami. The Rattlers went 3-9 last season and lost their opener to Jackson State. This game should be a good opportunity for freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya to gain experience after an inconsistent debut against the Cardinals. Kaaya completed 17 of 29 throws for 174 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. His development is critical to Miami’s hopes of contending for the Coastal Division title.

11. Murray State at Louisville
7 p.m. ET, ESPN3

It’s a short turnaround for the Cardinals after playing on Monday night, but coach Bobby Petrino’s team shouldn’t have much trouble with the Racers. Quarterback Will Gardner was efficient (20 of 28) in his debut as Louisville’s starter, and the defense held Miami to just 4.4 yards per play. Gardner should have a huge performance against the Racers, and Petrino should be able to empty his bench on Saturday.


12. Gardner-Webb at Wake Forest
6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3

As Thursday night’s loss to ULM showed, it’s going to be a long year for first-year coach Dave Clawson. Wake Forest managed only five first downs and 94 total yards against the Warhawks, with only one drive going more than 20 yards. Gardner-Webb opened its 2014 campaign with a loss to Furman and represents the Demon Deacons’ best shot at a win this year.

Week 2 ACC Predictions

Va. Tech (+11) at Ohio StOSU 24-14OSU 24-13OSU 31-17OSU 21-17
Pitt (-4.5) at Boston CollegePitt 27-17Pitt 33-21Pitt 27-24Pitt 31-17
Ga. Tech (-10) at TulaneGT 35-21GT 34-21GT 34-20GT 34-20
SDSU (+15) at UNCUNC 28-17UNC 41-28UNC 38-24UNC 30-20
ODU (+16) at NC StateState 28-21State 34-21State 41-30State 38-28
Duke (-19) at TroyDuke 42-21Duke 41-21Duke 45-17Duke 37-17
Richmond at VirginiaUVA 24-10UVA 27-10UVA 31-13UVA 21-20
Citadel at FSUFSU 56-7FSU 49-0FSU 55-3FSU 54-0
FAMU at MiamiMiami 28-10Miami 38-10Miami 45-7Miami 38-10
Murray State at LouisvilleLouisville 42-7Louisville 34-7Louisville 48-7Louisville 44-7
SC State at ClemsonClemson 35-14Clemson 48-7Clemson 52-10Clemson 51-4
Gardner-Webb at WakeWake 21-10Wake 24-13Wake 30-13Wake 17-7


ACC Week 2 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Green Bay Packers, NFC, Seattle Seahawks, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/green-bay-packers-vs-seattle-seahawks-game-preview-and-prediction-2014

The Seattle Seahawks open defense of their Super Bowl crown at home against the Green Bay Packers tonight on NBC to kick off the 2014 NFL regular season. All eyes will be on CenturyLink Field, as the Seahawks take the first step in their attempt to become the first repeat Super Bowl champions since New England in 2003-04. The Packers have won the NFC North each of the past three seasons and enter this season with Super Bowl aspirations of their own.


Pete Carroll’s Seahawks have won 19 of their last 20 games at CenturyLink Field, a stretch that goes back to the last time these two teams met. Seattle defeated Green Bay 14-12 back in Week 3 of the 2012 regular season. Fortunately for Aaron Rodgers and company, there will not be a replacement referee anywhere in sight tonight.


Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks


Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Seattle -6


Three Things to Watch


1.  Seattle’s Super Bowl Hangover?

The Seahawks thoroughly dominated the Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII in February and are a legitimate contender to get back to the big game this season. It’s been more than a decade since a team went back-to-back and only seven teams have ever accomplished the feat (Pittsburgh’s done it twice). Besides history, Seattle also will have to deal with the fac that this is not the same team that won the Lombardi Trophy seven months ago. Five starters and a couple of key reserves from the roster that manhandled the Broncos are gone, including the leading receiver and half of the defensive line. There’s still plenty of talent remaining and some “new” faces who should be immediate contributors, but depth, especially on defense, was one of Seattle’s hallmarks last season. With so much roster turnover and the added expectations of being the defending champions, one can’t help but wonder if it will take a game or two for this team to find its stride. Residing in the NFC West, the toughest division in the NFL, a game or two could be the difference between playing a playoff game at home or on the road. So if Seattle wants to increase its chances of playing in front of its “12th Man,” it can ill afford a flat performance out of the gates, especially against a quality opponent like Green Bay.

2. Green Bay’s re-Packaged Defense

While Green Bay’s offense was statistically superior to Seattle’s last season; there was no contest on the other side of the ball. The Seahawks were No. 1 in the NFL in total, scoring and passing defense, as well as interceptions and turnover differential. Everyone knows about the “Legion of Boom” secondary, but Seattle also was just as effective in rushing the passer and stopping the run. Contrast that to the Packers, who were 25th in the league in total yards allowed and rushing defense and not much better when it came to points and passing yards allowed. Green Bay won a third straight NFC North division title despite going just 8-7-1. Aaron Rodgers’ mid-season collarbone injury had a lot to do with this, but it’s no secret that the defense needs to a better job if the Packers want to be legitimate NFC contenders, let alone beat the Seahawks on the road tonight. The team addressed its defensive deficiencies in the offseason, signing free-agent pass-rush specialist Julius Peppers and using four of its seven draft picks on defenders, highlighted by safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, the No. 21 overall pick out of Alabama. Green Bay also is hoping for a full season from linebacker Clay Matthews and bounce-back campaigns from other key personnel. A strong statement from this beleaguered unit tonight would not only help the offense, which figures to have a tough assignment trying to move the ball against the NFL’s No. 1 defense on its own turf, but also help set the tone moving forward.


3. Dueling All-Purpose Wideouts

When healthy, Randall Cobb and Percy Harvin are among the most dangerous players in the NFL. Not only are both reliable targets in the passing game, they are both explosive return specialists capable of scoring any time they touch the ball. The problem is that both missed more games than they played last season. Cobb broke his leg against Baltimore in Week 6 and didn’t return until the final game of the regular season, while Harvin underwent offseason hip surgery and didn’t appear in a game until Week 17. His biggest contribution came in Seattle’s Super Bowl victory, when he led all rushers with 45 yards (on just two carries) and also took the second half kickoff back 87 yards for a touchdown. The impact Harvin had with those three touches underscores his importance to the Seahawks’ offense, especially now that fellow wide receiver Golden Tate, who was Russell Wilson’s favorite target the past two seasons, is now in Detroit. Meanwhile, a healthy Cobb gives Aaron Rodgers another target with which to attack Seattle’s vaunted secondary. With Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin and rookie Davante Adams at wide receiver and running back Eddie Lacy a capable pass-catcher out of the backfield, Rodgers has quality options to throw to, provided his offensive line gives him enough time in the pocket. Whether Cobb or Havin end up returning kickoffs or punts in this game remains to be seen, but the simple fact that they are options in the return game is yet another indicator why both will be a welcome sight on the field tonight for their respective teams.

Final Analysis


Seattle is the defending Super Bowl champions playing at home, where it has been basically unbeatable (17-1, including playoffs) the past two seasons. Green Bay is certainly no slouch of an opponent, having won its division the past three seasons and nearly beating the Seahawks on their home turf the last time these two teams met. While Seattle has a distinct advantage on defense, Aaron Rodgers will show why he’s a perennial MVP candidate by keeping his team in this one. However, Seattle has its own Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback in Russell Wilson, and in the end the young signal-caller will make enough plays to lead the reigning world champions to victory. I expect there to be plenty of penalty calls due to the crackdown on illegal contact and the physical nature of the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom.” But at least we can take comfort in the fact that tonight, the flags will be thrown by “real” referees.

Prediction: Seattle 27, Green Bay 23
Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/nfl-2014-regular-and-postseason-predictions

The NFL is back, as the 2014 regular season kicks off Thursday night when Seattle opens defense of its Super Bowl crown at home against Green Bay. With the journey to Super Bowl XLIX set to begin, Athlon’s editors have made their predictions for how the upcoming season and postseason will play out.


The Seahawks are trying to do something that hasn’t been done in more than 10 years — win back-to-back Super Bowls — and as a whole, Athlon’s NFL’s pundits don’t seem to like their chances. Only two of the five editors polled even picked Seattle to make it back to the Super Bowl and even those two don't have them pullong off the rare repeat. On the other hand, three editors not only like Denver's odds of getting back to the Super Bowl, they also have the Broncos finishing the deal this time.

In addition to the predicted standings for every conference, Athlon’s editors also make their Wild Card (WC) picks as well as the respective conference championship game (CG) matchups and their best guess as to which teams will face off in Glendale, Arizona, on Feb. 1 with the Lombardi Trophy on the line.    


AFC East
 Rob Doster
Braden Gall
Steven Lassan
Mark Ross
Nathan Rush
AFC North
AFC South
AFC West
AFC Playoffs
CGBroncos over
Patriots over
Broncos over
Broncos over
Patriots over


NFC East
 Rob Doster
Braden Gall
Steven Lassan
Mark Ross
Nathan Rush
NFC North
NFC South
NFC West
NFC Playoffs
CGSeahawks over
Saints over
Packers over
49ers over
Seahawks over


Super Bowl XLIX

 Rob Doster
Braden Gall
Steven Lassan
Mark Ross
Nathan Rush






NFL 2014 Regular and Postseason Predictions
Post date: Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - 13:00
Path: /college-football/foundation-built-michigan-state-enjoys-new-and-improved-mark-dantonio

Mark Dantonio didn’t set out to be everyone’s favorite coach in the Big Ten.

Seven seasons after he arrived to fix a broken Michigan State program, there’s a sense he still wants to be seen as a full-time taskmaster.

The image, though, is becoming tougher to maintain. Just as Michigan State has shed it’s image of the second fiddle to Michigan, Dantonio has transformed his demeanor, though it’s been an incremental process.

At the conference media day, the Big Ten Network asked one player from each team for the coach — other than their own — for whom he’d want to play.

The leading contender wasn’t the coach with the national titles and name recognition, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer. It wasn’t the younger, effervescent Pat Fitzgerald or James Franklin. The winner, with five of 14 votes, was Dantonio, one more than Meyer.

At least Dantonio can claim he won a plurality of votes and not the majority, allowing Michigan State to continue to play the underdog card that has worked so well during the last four seasons.

That may change Saturday if Michigan State is able to topple Oregon in Eugene, a game that could allow the Spartans to carry the Big Ten banner for the first College Football Playoff while giving Michigan State wins over national powerhouses in its last four games.

The Dantonio coaching at Autzen Stadium, though, isn’t the same Dantonio who took the job in 2007 after a three-year stint at Cincinnati. For all the changes at Michigan State, including its rise to one of the powers of a changing Big Ten, the biggest transformation may have been Dantonio.

Quarterback Connor Cook is playing for a different coach than the one who signed him. And even more different from the one Dantonio’s first quarterback, Brian Hoyer, knew.

Like Cook, Hoyer played high school football in Cleveland, and the two have remained in contact, including when the now-Cleveland Browns quarterback during spring practice visited East Lansing for the first time since his pro day in 2008.

Much had changed for Hoyer since the last time he was here — including a $24.5 million renovation of the stadium’s north end zone, locker room and recruiting room  — but there was another upgrade Hoyer noticed.

“The main difference wasn’t new facilities,” Cook said. “The main thing was Coach D and how he changed. He’s all business when he’s around the football field and he’s in meetings. When it’s time to have fun, he does have fun. Coach D is human.”

Dantonio brushed off the compliment with the characteristic dry wit.

“Brian’s just older now, but he knows me better,” Dantonio said.

The evidence speaks to itself, though.

Dantonio joined in the now-requisite locker room dancing video after a big win, in this case, a 26-9 win over Michigan.

The song, “Type of Way” by Atlanta rapper Rich Homie Quan, became the unofficial theme song of the season when cornerback Darqueze Dennard made popular among the team. By the time Michigan State won the Rose Bowl, Quan was in Pasadena and in the Spartans’ locker room after the game.

Before the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in 2012, Dantonio rode into practice on a horse — and that was after a 6-6 regular season (7-6 after the bowl).

“He’s way more loose,” Cook said.

Maybe that’s because Michigan State has scaled the Big Ten, winning the school’s first outright league title since 1987 and first Rose Bowl since 1955.

Dantonio certainly couldn’t afford being light when he first took over at Michigan State.

The program had four losing seasons in five years under John L. Smith and Bobby Williams. The Spartans had been known for mystifying in-game collapses, falling apart in the second half season and media histrionics from the head coach in Smith.

“When I came to Michigan State in 2007, the culture needed to be changed,” Dantonio said. “I don’t want to say anything about anyone in the past, but we hadn’t been to a bowl game in a while. We needed to establish who we were and the parameters of our program.”

Re-making Michigan State wasn’t a smooth process. The most visible speed bump came in Dantonio’s second season in 2009 when several of his players were involved in an on-campus fight. Dantonio had given one of the players arrested in the brawl a second chance after a previous altercation.

After that season, Michigan State’s program turned a corner that’s included 10 or more wins in three of the last four years.

“I’m here for our players; I like to mentor them,” Dantonio said. “But I tell them when we have a discipline issue, you don’t want someone soft sitting behind the table. You have to establish discipline. That means treating everyone fairly and consistently.”

That’s the Dantonio that Cook first got to know, first through Hoyer and then through the recruiting process.

“Watching in him in high school when I was junior and sophomore to watch Brian Hoyer, I’d see Coach D on the sideline and there was never a smile. None. Not in an interview. Not on the sideline. When I was being recruited, I thought, Coach D is pretty freakin’ intense.”

While Dantonio says he hopes his freshmen now have the same impressions Cook did originally, odds are they don’t.

Perhaps it’s the Big Ten title that’s lightened his mood. Perhaps a mild heart attack in 2010 — a subject he’s still reluctant to address — has given him a sense of perspective.

Or perhaps by Year 8, the discipline is ingrained enough in the program, as safety Kurtis Drummond said. That leaves Dantonio a little wiggle room to enjoy himself.

“You’ve got to start off strong. You have to lay a foundation,” Drummond said. “The respect is definitely there. He doesn’t need to be as stern anymore because guys understand.”

Foundation Built, Michigan State Enjoys New and Improved Mark Dantonio
Post date: Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - 11:23
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-september-3-2014

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for September 3:


• You're running out of time to choose a clever Fantasy Football team name. Let Athlon help.


• Ever wonder what today's quarterbacks would look like bald? Wonder no more.


Wes Welker is playing the "someone put something in my drink" card.


Bruce Feldman digs for the real Kliff Kingsbury.


Athlon's Braden Gall and David Fox tell us what we should and shouldn't overreact to after Week 1. They should just acknowledge that it's impossible not to overreact.


Nebraska basketball coach Tim Miles to Twitter: I'm not Les Miles.


Longform read on the reinvention of RG3. Let's hope he's salvagable at this point.


The top 25 screencaps of college football's Week 1.


The folks at SBNation bring you another fun edition of Breaking Madden.


SportsCenter took time to explain what Kenny Hill's nickname — "Trill" — means.


Mo'ne Davis threw a perfect two-seam first pitch at Dodger Stadium, and gave Yasiel Puig her autograph, as she continues to excel at life.


• Watch a fleet-footed, plus-sized ball girl snag a plastic bag out of midair at the U.S. Open.



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

Post date: Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - 10:39
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/5-nfl-teams-you-think-will-be-good-will-really-stink

They say that hope springs eternal, but that’s really meant for baseball. In football, hope is false, more often than not. Parity in the NFL has made every team enter every season feeling like a contender, when the truth is that couldn’t be further from the truth.
So more than a few fan bases are in for a big fall – either immediately with a slow start, or slowly with a disappointing finish. There are only a few “power” teams left in the NFL. All the rest could go either way depending on a few factors. Sometimes it’s easier to see the truth from outside the fan base. So for those of you caught up in hope that your mediocre team is truly a contender, here’s a little reality check:
Here are five teams you think will be good, but they almost certainly won’t:


1. Carolina Panthers (12-4)

They had a brilliant, coming out party in 2013 and it looked like they had arrived, finally, as an NFC power and Cam Newton had taken a step toward being an elite quarterback. But now Newton is playing with a cracked rib and behind a shaky offensive line. And remember, they got rid of Steve Smith and pretty much all their wide receivers during the offseason.
Yes, their defense is terrific. They led the NFL with 60 sacks last season. And you can win a lot of games with a pass rush like that. But you can’t be a double-digit win team without scoring points. Also, defensive end Greg Hardy is staring at a suspension at some point, possibly as long as six games.
If he gets suspended for that long, and Newton’s injury lingers it could be a really long season. Even if everything works out, the Panthers could be in for a fall back to mediocrity, at least.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)

Everyone knew Andy Reid would turn around the Chiefs, but did anyone see 11 wins in his first season? Probably not, because it was unrealistic – as improbable, really as their 9-0 start. It’s also impossible, by the way, to ignore that their 9-0 start became a 2-5 finish, which may have been too big of a correction, but is still a sign of things to come.

This year they’re facing a brutal schedule and Reid will have to continue to make magic with quarterback Alex Smith and a surprisingly powerful running game behind an offensive line that lost three starters to free agency. That’s not usually a recipe for success. Also keep in mind that as the Chiefs swooned late, so did their pass rush which was as responsible as anything for their 9-0 start.

In a tough division where a lot of points are scored, it’s hard to imagine Reid can keep up with the roster he has – just like it was tough to imagine they could sustain it when they were undefeated in Week 10 last year.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)

Back to back .500 seasons show they’re deep in mediocrity, but they always feel they have a chance because of the presence of Ben Roethlisberger. And maybe that’s true. But what else do the Steelers have? And shouldn’t everyone be at least a little alarmed by how awful the offense looked this summer?
The hope for more seems to hinge around the running back duo of Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount, assuming they don’t end up serving twin suspensions for their arrest on marijuana charges in August. It won’t help ease the burden that the loss of Jerricho Cotchery has thinned the wide receiver corps.
Unfortunately they’re going to need to score points just to get back to .500 again, because that defense, being rebuilt around youth, took a big step back last year and may be poised to step back again.

4. Chicago Bears (8-8)

Doesn’t it seem like every year the Bears are on the verge of contention and Jay Cutler is on the verge of being an elite quarterback? Yet the Bears haven’t been in the playoffs since 2010 and they’ve actually made it just once in the last seven seasons. So why all the optimism this year?
Jay Cutler is what he is, which is an erratic quarterback capable of elite play followed by mindless mistakes. Yes, they scored a lot of points last year (and Cutler was rewarded with a seven-year, $126 million extension). And they should again with the receiving duo of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey.
But a bad defense last year is now without Julius Peppers and Henry Melton along their defensive line. They brought in Jared Allen to help replace them, though he doesn’t exactly bring young legs. Their secondary isn’t getting any younger either. Yes, if the defense is better and the offense is just as good, this finally could be the year the Bears return to prominence.
But when is the last time everything worked out that well in Chicago? And haven’t we heard all this before?

5. Atlanta Falcons (4-12)

Arguably the biggest disappointment of 2013 was the fall of the Falcons from the best team in the NFC to the worst – a stunning fall for a team that was loaded with weapons (at least on the offensive side of the ball). Now, in 2014, everyone seems to assume that last year’s collapse was an anomaly, that the Falcons are poised to bounce back big.
Granted the return to health of Julio Jones could be big, but take a look at the lines along both sides of the ball. They’re trying to patch things together and hoping it will work, but it doesn’t appear as if they’ll be able to generate a pass rush or stop one. That’s a problem because that’s where games are won and lost.

Maybe they’ll be able to score some points – though it’s important to factor in the retirement (for real this time) of tight end Tony Gonzalez. Yet with a questionable defense – that may be switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 – it’s hard to imagine they’ll be able to score enough to vault them back into contention in the NFC. Mediocrity may be their ceiling, and that would be a disappointment again.


—By Ralph Vacchiano

Post date: Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/expert-poll-week-1-heisman-trophy-voting

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


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


The Panel:


Stewart Mandel, FOX Sports

Dave Revsine, Big Ten Network 

Adam Zucker, CBS Sports

Steven Godfrey, SBNation

Zac Ellis, Sports Illustrated

Bryan Fischer,

Tom Dienhart, Big Ten Network

Barrett Sallee, Bleacher Report

Josh Ward,

Mitch Light, Athlon Sports

David Fox, Athlon Sports

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM


The Results:


1.Todd Gurley60931--
2.Marcus Mariota443611-
3.Jameis Winston3611722
4.Kenny Hill26-324-
5.Ameer Abdullah7--112
6t.Christian Hackenberg6---22
6t.Melvin Gordon6---22
8t.Everett Golson3----3
8t.Brett Hundley3--1--
10.Bryce Petty2---1-
11t.Taysom Hill1----1
11t.Tyreek Hill1----1

Listen to Cover 2 college footbll podcast:


The Top 3:


Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

The Bulldogs' workhorse back was at his best in one of the biggest games of the week. He rushed for 198 yards and returned a kick 100 yards for a touchdown in the 45-21 win over Clemson. He scored from 100 yards, 51 yards, 23 yards and 18 yards, including two fourth quarter runs that sealed the win for UGA. Gurley now has two weeks to rest before heading to Columbia to take on South Carolina. He appeared on all 13 ballots.


Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

The Ducks' signal-caller entered the season as the "front-runner" and did little to hurt his case in a blowout win over South Dakota. He completed 14 of 20 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns while rushing six times for 43 yards and a fourth score. His Heisman campaign takes center stage as Oregon welcomes Michigan State to town in Week 2. He was left off two ballots.


Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

Winston was one of only two players (Gurley) to land on all 13 ballots. This after what might be considered his worst game as a college player. He threw two early interceptions and forced bad throws all night, but eventually his highlight-reel run solidified the Seminoles' win. He finished with 370 yards passing and two total touchdowns over Oklahoma State. He gets The Citadel this weekend.

Media Poll: Week 1 Heisman Trophy Voting
Post date: Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-2014-week-1-recap


Week 1 is in the books and the entire world is overreacting. Hosts David Fox and Braden Gall recap the entire first weekend of action and tell you what they learned about each of the Big 5 conferences. Injuries, upsets, letdowns and analysis highlight this jampacked Week 1 edition of the Cover 2 podcast.


Have a question or comment? Contact us at [email protected] or on Twitter at @AthlonSports, @BradenGall and @DavidFox615

Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: 2014 Week 1 Recap
Post date: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 - 16:42
Path: /nascar/nascar-rookie-report-kyle-larson-inconsistent-%E2%80%94-and-it-doesnt-matter

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


Today, David analyzes a top rookie’s consistency and asks whether it matters.



With a finish deviation of 12.4, Kyle Larson is the most inconsistent rookie this year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. This is something that’s been noted on NASCAR telecasts — “The key to him being in the Chase is he’s gotta be more consistent” — and a weakness about which I wrote in July.


It’s not something that will keep him from winning the Rookie of the Year award, though. The youngster tops all rookies in Production in Equal Equipment Rating (PEER) and ranks in the top 5 among all drivers in adjusted pass efficiency. Larson and his No. 42 team are also the best team with a rookie driver according to their 16th-place average finish, which is ultimately a better barometer for performance than consistency. In terms of consistency, Larson’s poor deviation — a perfect deviation is 0.0 — actually falls in line with some memorable rookie seasons as the chart to the right illustrates. 


Among the aforementioned drivers, all of which had ballyhooed rookie seasons and went on to become household names within the sport, Dale Earnhardt and his Rod Osterlund-owned team were the most consistent with a finish deviation of 9.2. Compared to 2014’s roster of teams, that’d make a unit that captured one win and the fifth-best average finish in 1979 the 12th-most consistent series regular, directly behind Casey Mears, whose 20.8-place average finish holds a 7.7 deviation. Would you rather have a relative lightning rod like Earnhardt, or a “steady hand” like Mears? It’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?


Consistency, especially for rookies, is a bit of a crock.


It’s easy to confuse the definition of consistency and assume that it is exclusively synonymous with the act of being a good race team. Cole Whitt, with a 5.9 finish deviation, and David Ragan (6.0), are drivers for the most consistent teams in the Cup Series; however, their average finishes are 30.4 and 29.4, respectively, meaning that consistent mark equates to being consistently bad. Making room for hits and misses — the three worst deviations in the series belong to Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson — is practically mandatory when evaluating rookies. In baseball, a high strikeout rate can be tolerated if the home runs are abundant. With Larson, a high crash frequency (he averages 0.44 crashes per race) should be excused as long as the team is racking up a hearty helping of top-10 finishes; 44 percent of his results this year were within the top 10 positions. Earnhardt’s top-10 finish rate in that stellar ‘79 season was just under 41 percent. Tony Stewart’s rate in 1999 was 35 percent.


And no, “gotta be more consistent” isn’t, and never was, the key to Larson making the Chase. The key for him earlier this season was to amass as many good finishes as possible. The key now is to win at Richmond. As zany as Race No. 26 has been in recent seasons, the industry would be nonplussed if the rookie did, in fact, break through with a victory.


Consistency isn’t necessarily a sign of strength. Piecing together a race, an admitted early-season foible, helped in Whitt finishing in the bottom half of fields 92 percent of the time this season, creating a brand of consistency from which he’d be happy to escape.


Kyle Larson


Even the most successful rookies and teams have inconsistencies. Jeff Gordon hit the real and metaphorical rookie walls with great aplomb, while the brand-spanking new No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team suffered 11 mechanical DNFs, four of which were directly caused by handling miscues by rookie crew chief Ray Evernham. Out of 21 races, Richard Petty suffered 11 DNFs and all but two were related to mechanical mishaps. Like Larson, Gordon and Petty marveled at various points during their maiden seasons.


Gordon opened 1993 by winning his Daytona 500 qualifying race and proceeded to score clean finishes of fifth, sixth, fourth, eighth, 11th, 11th and second in his first seven races without incident. In the 10 races Petty managed to finish, he scored nine top-10 results. Those flares helped make them Rookies of the Year and identified them as talents to watch in the foreseeable future. It’s safe to say that Larson’s first year in Cup stands on equal footing.


ATLANTA | Kahne grabs Chase bid; Richmond showdown set


Would Larson and his Chris Heroy-led team like to iron out the wrinkles that plague them? Absolutely. But Chase or no Chase, it’s been a fine start to what will likely be a very successful career for the kid that was a full-time Dirt Sprint Car driver just three years ago.


Larson, as a rookie, is a terrific producer, highly efficient passer, efficient finisher and a plus closer. Being “more consistent” is a vague suggestion that isn’t entirely accurate.



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


Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

David Smith analyzes Kyle Larson's NASCAR Sprint Cup season and finds that his inconsistency is in line with other rookies greats such as Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon.
Post date: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 - 15:23
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-september-2-2014

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for September 2:


Coed shows us that August was another good month in sports ladies.


Madden 15 includes a hilarious glitch: a teeny, tiny Titan.


The latest "This is SportsCenter" is another gem.


• Even after a relentless media campaign, 71 percent of Americans think the Redskins should stay the Redskins.


Did ESPN's shower report have a hand in Michael Sam's release?


• All us hackers can take a little sadistic pleasure in Billy Horschel's ill-timed chunk at the Deutsche Bank.


Grantland dissects the tabloid story of the weekend (no, not the celebrity nude photo hack).


Was David Price using a little artificial assistance yesterday?


• "Singer" Iggy Azalea, girlfriend to Laker Nick "Swaggy P" Young, shows that she's got a little game.


Greece's Giannis Antetokounmpo is putting on a show at the FIBA World Cup.


The Phillies tossed a combined no-hitter yesterday and gave the game ball to the team president, who's battling cancer.


• Louisville's Corvin Lamb put an exclamation point on Week 1 in college football with an electrifying kickoff return against Miami.



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

Post date: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 - 11:11
Path: /nfl/5-nfl-teams-could-take-step-back-2014

The Seattle Seahawks may be the defending Super Bowl champions, but parity reigns supreme in the NFL. Don’t believe me? The past five Super Bowls have featured 10 different teams. Last season, 11 teams won 10 or more games, while 12 accomplished this feat in 2012. Only six teams reached the 10-win plateau in both seasons, meaning 17 different teams have posted double-digit victories in the past two years. There’s also this handy graphic from last season.


No matter how you define it, parity appears to be one of the factors that are shaping the league. So in the spirit of the NFL also meaning “Not For Long,” here are five teams that enjoyed success last season that could end up taking a step or two backwards this fall.


Arizona Cardinals

2013 Record: 10-6 (missed playoffs)


Green Bay won the NFC North with an 8-7-1 mark while a 10-6 Arizona team was left out of the playoffs. That’s what happens when you play in the NFC West, the NFL’s toughest division and home to the reigning Super Bowl champions. The Cardinals actually upgraded their offensive line in the offseason, a major need, but it’s what has happened on the other side of the ball that has me concerned about Bruce Arians’ team.


Linebacker Karlos Dansby, the team’s best defender, left as a free agent, while Daryl Washington was suspended for all of 2014 by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for another violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy. John Abraham, another linebacker and the team leader in sacks in 2013, also could end up facing league discipline following another alcohol-related incident over the summer. The biggest blow of all, however, came in the middle of training camp when Pro Bowl defensive end Darnell Dockett tore the ACL in his right knee, ending his season before it started.


Dansby’s loss was going to be hard enough to overcome, but couple that with Dockett’s season-ending injury as well as Washington and Abraham’s off-field woes, and this defense looks considerably different than the one that finished sixth overall in yards allowed last season. Even though the offense may be improved, it doesn’t change the fact that Arizona is working with a short-handed defense, resides in the NFC West and must deal with a schedule that includes crossover games against the AFC West. All of this doesn’t bode well for a team that won 10 games last year and still missed the playoffs.


Related: Arizona Cardinals 2014 Team Preview and Predictions


Carolina Panthers

2013 Record: 12-4 (NFC South champions, lost to San Francisco 23-10 in Divisional Round)


Carolina went from 7-9 in 2012 to 12-4 and NFC South champions last season. The Panthers accomplished this impressive turnaround thanks to the league’s No. 2-ranked defense, an MVP-caliber performance from Cam Newton and an aggressive, risk-taking mindset that started at the top with head coach Ron Rivera. Despite the disappointing home playoff loss to the 49ers to end the season, the Panthers appeared to be a team on the rise. Then the offseason came.


Several key players departed as free agents and stalwart left tackle Jordan Gross retired. Carolina brought in some new faces through both free agency and the draft, but this still remains a team with plenty of question marks. Not a single wide receiver on the roster caught a pass for the Panthers last season, putting a ton of pressure on first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin and the veterans that were added. The offensive line also is in a state of flux and one of the stingiest defenses must replace two starters in the secondary.


There’s still plenty of talent on the roster, starting with Newton and linebacker Luke Kuechly, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, but in many ways this is not the same team that held off New Orleans for the top spot in the division last season. Speaking of the Saints, they should be among the NFC’s top teams yet again, while Atlanta figures to be better if for any other reason expected better health. And don’t forget about Tampa Bay, a team that’s made plenty of changes, starting with new head coach Lovie Smith.


Repeating as division champs was going to be a tough task for Carolina regardless. However, the personnel losses and the likelihood that the NFC South will be much more competitive this season only adds to the challenge that’s facing Rivera’s team. One-year wonder may not be a fair descriptor for the Panthers, but that’s how it could end up looking in the win-loss column.


Related: Carolina Panthers 2014 Team Preview and Predictions


Indianapolis Colts

2013 Record: 11-5 (AFC South champions, lost to New England 43-22 in Divisional Round)


Hear me out. I am not saying that Indianapolis will free-fall to the bottom of its division. Nor am I saying that the Colts won’t win their second straight AFC South crown. What I am saying, however, is that this is not a team without its share of warts and don’t discount the idea that the three other teams in the division won’t all be better this season.


Andrew Luck alone gives Indianapolis an enormous advantage over the rest of the AFC South. He’s proved that he belongs among the elite starting quarterbacks in the NFL and a worthy successor to Peyton Manning’s Colts legacy. Luck (just like Manning) can’t do it alone, however, and even with the healthy return of wide receiver Reggie Wayne and tight end Dwayne Allen, along with the addition of wideout Hakeem Nicks, this offense still has question marks when it comes to running back and the offensive line. Inconsistency has characterized the former position, while injuries have already impacted the latter. Don’t forget Luck was sacked 32 times last season.


Then there’s the defense. The Colts may have won 11 games last season, but the defense gave up 87 points and more than 900 yards in two playoff games. On top of that, Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea is now in San Francisco, All-Pro linebacker Robert Mathis is suspended for the first four games, and little impact should be expected from this year’s defensive draft class.


No one’s mistaking Houston, Jacksonville or Tennessee as Super Bowl contenders this season, but the Colts should expect more resistance from their divisional peers. That combined with a tough schedule that includes crossover games against the AFC North as well as matchups with Denver and New England could translate into a few less wins for Luck and company.


Related: Indianapolis Colts 2014 Team Preview and Predictions


Kansas City Chiefs

2013 Record: (11-5, lost to Indianapolis 45-44 in AFC Wild Card)


All Andy Reid did was take a Kansas City team that went 2-14 in 2012 and turn it into an 11-5 playoff participant that featured dynamic playmakers on both sides of the ball. To that end, All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles signed a contract extension in July and the defense features a Pro Bowler on each level. So what’s not to like about the Chiefs this season?


For starters, the offensive line will be practically new, as three starters left in free agency, including left tackle Branden Albert. Eric Fisher, 2013’s No. 1 overall pick, remains, but injuries impacted his rookie campaign and the jury is still out on how effective he will be as a pro. Two other linemen will miss the first four games of the season due to NFL suspensions. With a lack of playmakers at wide receiver, Kansas City relies heavily on Charles and the running game and at best, the offensive line figures to be a work in progress.


The defense is largely intact, but after dominating the opposition the first half of the season, this unit regressed dramatically the rest of the way. The low point to the decline came in the form of the 45 points and 513 yards surrendered to Indianapolis in the one-point Wild Card loss in which Kansas City coughed up a 38-10 lead in the third quarter. Again, there’s plenty of talent in place, but is this unit the one that wreaked havoc early or gave up nearly 30 points per game over the final eight contests?


And last, but certainly not least, there’s the schedule. Last season, Kansas City feasted on the AFC South and NFC East, two of the weaker divisions. This fall, while the AFC East is still top-heavy with New England leading the way, the NFC West is another story entirely. That’s a big reason why the Chiefs are playing the seventh-toughest slate in the league and another reason why I think Reid’s team will be hard-pressed to get back to double-digit wins.


Related: Kansas City Chiefs 2014 Team Preview and Predictions


San Diego Chargers

2013 Record: 9-7 (Lost to Denver 24-17 in AFC Divisional Round)


Mike McCoy snapped San Diego’s three-year playoff drought in his first season at the helm, a turnaround fueled by an impressive bounce-back season from Philip Rivers. With Rivers re-establishing himself as a franchise quarterback and Chuck Pagano overseeing a young and improving defense, the Chargers have the appearance of a team on the upswing.


However, let’s not forget that San Diego needed a four-game winning streak in December and help from some other teams (and perhaps the officials depending on whom you ask) to sneak into the playoffs in the first place. The Chargers can’t count on the same lucky bounces and breaks, if you will, again this season. The defense also isn’t without its weaknesses, particularly stopping the pass and pressuring the quarterback. Remember, San Diego has to play Denver twice and also will face New England this fall.


And besides the Broncos and the Patriots, the Chiefs also have the 49ers, Cardinals, Rams and Seahawks on tap. So not only does San Diego have the privilege of playing the defending Super Bowl champions and the reigning AFC top dog, it also gets the two other teams that played in their respective conference title games, another that won 10 games last season and a team that should boast one of the NFL’s toughest defenses this season. And that doesn’t include the Chiefs (play twice), Ravens or Jets.


Hopefully McCoy and the Chargers enjoyed their honeymoon season, because Year 2 may not produce as many positive results, at least as far as the win column goes.


Related: San Diego Chargers 2014 Team Preview and Predictions
5 NFL Teams That Could Take A Step Back in 2014
Post date: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/tuesday-talking-points-2014-week-1-noles-bama-struggle-we-overreact

Every Saturday night, Athlon Sports’ Braden Gall hosts The Scoreboard Show on SiriusXM College Sports Nation, Ch. 91. Every Tuesday, Athlon Sports will feature his take on the national conversation from fans to players to coaches. Follow the conversation from College Sports Nation hosts on Twitter using the hashtag #section91.


Everybody is overrated.


Alabama and Florida State looked beatable. Ohio State looked average. UCLA has a nasty defense and a star QB but not much else.


Auburn looked like, well, Auburn. The Tigers were unstoppable on offense no matter who played quarterback but the defense still has some major holes, no matter how many miracles defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson works at halftime this year.


The first weekend of the year is an eye-opening experience for the college football world. True freshmen are thrown into the deep end against grown men and told not only to swim, but to excel. New coaches get their first taste of battle in a new zip code with totally new players. And, most especially, six months of media prognostication is erased with 60 minutes of football, right?


After all that, let's not go crazy after one weekend.


That doesn't mean we didn't learn a few interesting things: Does Wisconsin have major issues at quarterback — and apparently a lack of communication about injuries? Does UCLA need to address the supporting cast for Brett Hundley, the nation's most sacked QB the last two years? And South Carolina? What was that?


But when the final whistle blew on Week 1, what was different? Again, the only real change of expectations is for South Carolina and Texas A&M.


All those teams that, according to the commentary Saturday night and Sunday, you would have believed had lost by more than three touchdowns? They all won. Except South Carolina.


I will be the first to admit I was shocked by the performance of Steve Spurrier — the same Head Ball Coach who was 22-0 in season openers as an SEC coach — at home against a team missing three first-round draft picks, including the most productive player per game in SEC history. Something tells me, however, the Gamecocks are going to bounce back.


Georgia coach Mark Richt made clear after the 45-21 win over Clemson he is preparing for a different South Carolina team in two weeks.


"They are going to hear about all of their flaws and we are going to hear about how good we are for a couple of weeks.” Richt told me on SiriusXM Satellite Radio. “They are going to be mad."


But the Bulldogs were still Athlon Sports predicted winner in the SEC East and were ranked No. 8 in the nation. After one week, I'm not going to lie, we can't help but feel better about that pick.


SiriusXM's Eddie George is a believer now, too.


"Everyone looked beatable,” George said on air. “With the exception of one team: Georgia."


I don't disagree, but the basic assumption that Georgia is the only team that looked unbeatable seems comical since the season is less than six percent over. Although, the Bulldogs appear to have increased the list of SEC title contenders from two to three (Alabama, Auburn).


But other than that, what exactly is different after Week 1? How deep do we want to dig into the standings?


Vanderbilt has major issues. Tennessee looks solid. Oklahoma State might be more of a Big 12 threat than anticipated. Oregon State might be better than Washington. Arizona looks dangerous in the South.


But when it comes to the College Football Playoff, what has changed?


Alabama is still the frontrunner to win the SEC West as it got decent QB play and held West Virginia to 28 yards rushing. Florida State is still the frontrunner in the ACC as Jameis Winston still posted nearly 400 yards of offense.


Ohio State still looks a step behind Michigan State in the Big Ten East but appears to be developing a lot talented playmakers in Dontre Wilson, Curtis Samuel and Ezekiel Elliott. UCLA is still my pick to win the Pac-12 South. And Auburn could be so unstoppable on offense it might be the top rated non-league champ vying for a Playoff spot at the end of the year.


This speaks nothing of conference frontrunners and popular College Football Playoff favorites Oregon, Stanford, Michigan State, Oklahoma and Baylor — all of which dominated like true top 10 teams.


The lesson after Week 1 is don’t overact. Don’t try to project the most unpredictable 60 minutes of college football into grand sweeping philosophical changes about what the 2014 season will look like.


Saturday Conversation


Each week, I get a chance to sit down with some of the day’s biggest names. Here is what our Saturday conversation sounded like this weekend: 


JT Barrett, QB, Ohio State

The Ohio State passer was thrust into the fire and showed his inexperience at times. But he knew his role and that was to get the ball to the playmakers and “not do anything too crazy.”



Mark Richt, Georgia

The Bulldogs outlasted Clemson in impressive fashion on Saturday evening Between the Hedges. Richt attributed that to his team’s excellent conditioning and Jeremy Pruitt’s halftime adjustments.



Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

The star wideout for Bama had a career day, catching 12 passes for 130 yards in the win over West Virginia. But how did he grade quarterback Blake Sims’ debut? “I’d give him an A-plus.”


Kenny Hilliard, RB, LSU

The burly tailback spearheaded a furious second-half comeback against Wisconsin late on Saturday night. He gives his offensive line and Anthony Jennings all of the credit.



Chris Klieman, North Dakota State

One of the more entertaining stories of Week 1 was the Bison’s upset of Iowa State on the road. Klieman, making his coaching debut, understands there is a tradition of winning at North Dakota State that he is trying to continue.


Tuesday Talking Points 2014 Week 1: Noles, Bama Struggle, We Overreact
Post date: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 - 11:00
Path: /nascar/atlanta-kahnes-chase-bid-stewarts-nascar-return-and-danicas-career-night

NASCAR’s new Chase format was designed to make the regular season finale a “can’t miss” on anyone’s calendar. With 16 postseason slots available, chances are at least one would be available at Richmond, and with any driver inside the top 30 Chase eligible under the rules, one upset victory is all it would take to shuffle up the final drivers in the field.


So why, in the moments following Kasey Kahne’s upset victory, did the balloon seem to pop on Sunday night? Kyle Larson said his Chase chances were “pretty much over… unless we win” at Richmond. Only two spots — currently held by Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle — are left available and either one would need a catastrophe, some type of flat tire or mechanical failure, to fall outside the 16-driver field. In fact, only two — Larson and Clint Bowyer — can overtake them on points this Saturday night.


Sure, some driver 24th in the standings can catch lightning in a bottle and win at Richmond. (Larson did take the pole in the spring). But do you really see a Casey Mears, where a top 10 is a good day for his single-car team, suddenly shocking the field? How about a Marcos Ambrose or a Paul Menard, neither of whom have won a short track race in their Cup careers?


Therefore, the best hopes to shake up the field lie with Larson and Bowyer. But Bowyer, on the one-year anniversary of “Spingate,” seems to have had karma come back around, as a broken shifter in Atlanta took him out of the Chase grid on points. So in a surprising turn of events, the field seems set — to the point Richmond could be … shall I say… run-of-the-mill?


It’s a short-term gain for NASCAR that Kahne’s thrilling two-lap dash to the finish at Atlanta raised eyebrows. Just don’t expect the ticket sellers at Richmond to be sending his team any thank you cards.


“Through The Gears,” post-Atlanta, we go … 



FIRST GEAR: Kahne is able at Atlanta

Kasey Kahne has to be breathing easy just one week after his career low with Hendrick Motorsports. Screaming over the radio at Bristol, one of the longest driver-crew chief partnerships on the Cup circuit appeared to be broken to pieces. Handling problems, which doomed his Thunder Valley effort, despite leading a small chunk of the race, eventually put Kahne many laps down; a broken right front wheel sent him behind the wall. Losing valuable points to Clint Bowyer and others, it appeared the Chase was a long shot, at best. How does a team — one with just two top-5 finishes — with the backing of the strongest and deepest organization in the sport explain missing the postseason? 


For Kahne to turn right around, putting together one of his finest performances at Atlanta was a gutsy effort. Crew chief Kenny Francis, with perfect strategy, got the No. 5 car out front at the race’s penultimate caution via fuel-only stop with fresh enough tires where clean air could hold off a dominant Kevin Harvick. Then, the driver had to take center stage, surviving not one but two green-white-checker finishes where one final pit stop left him stuck in traffic.


“I just kept telling myself, ‘Do not spin the tires. Whatever you do, coming up second and third gear, don’t spin the tires, just take your time on the throttle. And if you do that, you’re going to have a great opportunity here.’”


The first restart was fortuitous for Kahne, as Harvick got wrecked while the No. 5 Chevy slid to third in the running order using the inside line on a night where the outer groove was toast. He was able to build momentum from there, sneaking through the middle on a second G-W-C restart and wheeling door-to-door, pedal-to-the-floor, with Matt Kenseth until the No. 20 car finally relented.


“That was a race-winning move,” said owner Rick Hendrick, who now has all four cars in the Chase. “Just glad to see these guys have some good luck. They have had a tough year. … Something about Kasey when the sun goes down on a mile-and-a-half track.”


Whatever it is, the knack for intermediates has Kahne back in the playoffs once again. And while a Final Four slot may be a bit of a stretch, keep in mind his three HMS teammates are all favorites to win the series title. Can Kahne shock us all in November? Probably not. But I’d be shocked if he’s eliminated before the Elite Eight.



SECOND GEAR: Stewart’s roller coaster return

No mention of Atlanta could go by without discussing Tony Stewart’s return to racing. After three weeks off following the tragic death of sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr., Stewart made a prepared statement on Friday, one in which he looked ready to burst into tears before stepping into his Sprint Cup machine. Multiple shows of support ensued, from random crew members hugging it out at the No. 14 hauler to a heartfelt, unrelenting show of written support from Bass Pro Shops owner Johnny Morris.


All those words may mean nothing when the Ontario County, N.Y., investigation concludes, a matter that’s not expected to subside for at least another two-to-three weeks. From that point on, the simple act of explaining himself allowed Stewart to return to racing. He had some special incentive, too, armed with a controversial special exemption from NASCAR that would allow him in the Chase with a victory at Atlanta or Richmond.


Unfortunately for the No. 14 bunch, Atlanta wasn’t the place to cash in, as contact from Kyle Busch was followed by a blown right-front tire which ultimately shelved his evening. Stewart’s quest for redemption must now wait for Richmond, but more than likely he’ll be on the outside looking in on the Chase. 


“It’s really good to have him back,” crew chief Chad Johnston said, despite the 41st-place showing. 


It was a sentiment felt by all.



THIRD GEAR: Danica’s career night  Danica Patrick

For some, a sixth-place effort is just another week. But for a slumping sophomore? It means the world, and then some. NASCAR’s “First Lady” of Sprint Cup navigated beautifully through a series of late wrecks, using track position, tires and a quick pit crew to work her way as high as fourth for the final restart. While missing out on a top-5 finish after sliding back, the run was still one of the most consistent Danica Patrick has put together all year.


“Man, that race felt like it was 700 miles,” she said afterwards. “Sometimes, when you are running well they feel like that because you are hoping it stays there, keeps going well, and you keep improving and don’t lose it.”


The run now gives Patrick two career top-10 Cup finishes on intermediate tracks. That bodes well for upcoming trips to Chicagoland, Charlotte and Kansas — all tracks where this run can translate. Team co-owner Stewart’s return was a boost to the program, along with Tony Gibson’s gentle push on the radio. While Patrick needed two “Lucky Dogs” early, she is developing a habit of being at her best during a race’s final segment. Should Patrick get better — say, within the first 100 laps — there’s a shot she’ll have plenty more finishes like these.



TALIAFERRO | Kahne grabs Chase bid; Richmond showdown set



FOURTH GEAR: Harvick’s troubling take

Kevin Harvick led 195 laps and dominated the race only to see it end in disaster. A late stop left him back in the pack, butchered by the fuel only strategy call that put Kasey Kahne out front. But a series of poor pit stops — compared to Joe Gibbs Racing — also cost the No. 4 car track position at every turn. It’s a phenomenon Harvick couldn’t keep quiet about as the TV booth buzzed (correctly) about the different, in-house manufactured air guns utilized by JGR that are saving its three-car operation up to a second’s worth of time on pit road. 


“Our cars are really fast and doing all the things we need to do but we lost control every time we came to pit road tonight,” Harvick said. “I thought we had that better but we got just absolutely murdered on pit road every time we came down by the 11 (Denny Hamlin) and the 20 (Matt Kenseth). Those guys are obviously doing a good job and we have known that all year and need to fix it.”


Harvick’s momentum, so critical for a first-year team, suffered a major blow instead of a third win. While Richmond is historically one of Harvick’s best tracks (three wins, 11.3-place average finish in 27 Cup starts), is the Bob Knight coaching method necessary from a driver trying to “set his pit crew straight”? I still maintain that the crew itself, if not properly adjusted or set on the same page as Harvick, could rebel against its own driver at some point during the Chase. 



OVERDRIVE  Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch, whose incident with Martin Truex Jr. brought out the caution flag with two laps left, could not have had a worse month of August. In summary: blown engine, wreck, wreck, wreck, wreck. Tumbling to 17th in points, he obviously doesn’t believe in momentum pre-Chase and has made a lot of enemies in just the last few weeks. Truex, who he tangled with at Watkins Glen, leaned in Busch’s window after the race while several drivers who lost positions (and cars) on the green-white-checker ending could indirectly blame Busch. … Ty Dillon should be commended on a respectable Cup debut, running 25th, three laps off the pace. Future races this season have not been announced but owner Richard Childress envisions a limited Cup schedule in 2015. … Atlanta’s attendance appeared up from last year but that boost could be short-lived. NASCAR is moving the race date to its second weekend of the year in 2015, one where it could easily still be snowing in northern Georgia.



Follow Tom Bowles on Twitter: @NASCARBowles

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Post-race reaction from the Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where Kasey Kahne punched his ticket into NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Post date: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 - 10:44