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Week 2 of the 2012 NFL season is here, which means it's time to get those fantasy lineups in order for this weekend’s action. Just like the 16 NFL teams that lost in Week 1, there’s still plenty of time to right the ship if your fantasy team is 0-1, especially if you can get into the win column this week.
Athlon Sports is to help you make those important decisions each week with our Start and Sit suggestions. Keep in mind these are merely our suggestions as the ultimate decision comes down to you, the owner.
Sneaky Start of the Week
Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco vs. Detroit
San Francisco had the third most rushing attempts in the NFL last season, compared to the second-fewest pass attempts. During the offseason, the 49ers added wide receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham through free agency and drafted A.J. Jenkins in the first round, looking to give Alex Smith more weapons. If the early results are to be believed, it looks like the team is in fact serious about airing it out more in 2012.
Against Green Bay in Week 1, Smith had just six fewer pass attempts (26) compared to rushes (32) by the team, completing 20 passes for 211 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He connected with six different receivers, including four times each with Moss and Manningham. This week Smith and the 49ers open up at home against Detroit and a secondary that’s still dealing with several injuries. If Smith plays like he did against the Packers, I think he’s in for an even bigger week, as he’s also capable of making plays with his legs.
Surprise Sit of the Week
Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore vs. Philadelphia
Fewer quarterbacks had a better opening week than Flacco, who threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-29 passing against Cincinnati on Monday night. Uncharacteristically, the Ravens threw more times (32) than they ran the ball (23), as Ray Rice had just 10 carries on the night.
Those who are expecting similar numbers from Flacco this week against Philadelphia are going to be in for rude awakening, I’m afraid. For one, the Eagles defense figures to be a little more difficult to post big numbers against compared to the Bengals. Last week, the Eagles hurried and harassed Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden all game as the rookie struggled mightily in his NFL debut, connecting on just 12 of 35 pass attempts for only 118 yards. He also threw four picks and was sacked twice. Besides the Eagles’ pass rush and secondary, I also think Flacco will be held in check by the Ravens’ own game plan, which I believe will feature a much heavier dose of Rice and the running game.
Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) vs. New York Jets
Big Ben was solid in Week 1 against Denver, but his pass protection broke down late and he threw a costly pick-six in the fourth quarter. Even though it’s the Jets this week, the game is at home, where Roethlisberger always plays well, and the visitors will more than likely be missing their best defensive player. Cornerback Darrelle Revis suffered a concussion in last week’s win against Buffalo and as of Thursday had not yet been cleared to practice. No Revis completely changes the complexion of the Jets’ secondary and defense as a whole, which increases Big Ben’s fantasy appeal.
Christian Ponder (MIN) at Indianapolis
Ponder was very solid (20-27, 270 yards) in the Vikings' win against Jacksonville. He didn’t throw any touchdown passes, but that should change, especially with Adrian Peterson appearing to be close to his usual form after his first game back since tearing his ACL late last season. This week, Ponder and the Vikings will get their shot at a Colts’ defense that gave up more than 400 yards of total offense, including 333 through the air, to the Bears in Week 1.
Kevin Kolb (ARI) at New England
This is a tentative endorsement as you should have better options than Kolb on your roster, but I am curious to see how Kolb does against New England. The high-priced backup entered last week’s game against Seattle in the fourth quarter after starter John Skelton went down with an ankle injury. Kolb completed six of the eight passes he threw, including the game-winning score. Skelton will more than likely be unable to go this Sunday against the Patriots, giving Kolb another shot to show everyone why the Cardinals traded for him in the first place. New England gave up 264 yards passing to the Titans in Week 1, and you have to figure Kolb will get his chances to air it out as the Cardinals will be trying to keep up with the Patriots on the scoreboard.
Michael Vick (PHI) at Baltimore
The Eagles won, but Vick (completed just 52 percent of passes, 4 INTs) didn’t play all that well even though he finished with more than 300 yards passing. That was against Cleveland. This week it’s Baltimore and the Ravens defense that limited Andy Dalton to 211 yards passing with no touchdowns, sacked him four times and forced two turnovers. It also doesn't help that both of Vick's top wide receivers, DeSean Jackson (hamstring) and Jeremy Maclin (hip), missed practice on Thursday and their status is uncertain headed into Sunday's game.
Carson Palmer (OAK) at Miami
Palmer completed 32 passes on Monday night against San Diego, with 13 of those going to his running back, Darren McFadden. The Raiders’ wide receivers situation is a mess right now because of injuries and I don’t think it will get markedly better this week as the Silver and Black make the cross-country trip to take on Miami.
Mark Sanchez (NYJ) at Pittsburgh
Sanchez was near spectacular (266 yards, 3 TDs, INT) against Buffalo in Week 1 as Tim Tebow was basically relegated to mop-up duty. This week the Jets go to Pittsburgh to take on a Steelers defense that’s still smarting from the loss in Denver and gets starting free safety Ryan Clark and linebacker James Harrison back. I expect the going for the Jets’ offense to be much tougher this Sunday and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Tebow sees significantly more snaps as the Jets will turn to their version of the Wildcat to keep the Steel Curtain off balance.
Doug Martin (TB) at New York Giants
Martin dominated the carries for the Buccaneers in Week 1, getting 24 of the team’s 36, and also caught four passes out of the backfield. The Giants gave up 131 yards on the ground to DeMarco Murray in their opener, and I think Martin will get more than enough touches in this game to be a factor.
Jonathan Stewart (CAR) vs. New Orleans
Barring a late setback, Stewart should make his season debut against the Saints after missing Week 1 because of an ankle injury. The good news for Stewart is twofold: 1) The Panthers rushed for a grand total of 13 yards on 10 carries without him last week against Tampa Bay and 2) He’s going up against a rush defense that gave up 153 yards to the Redskins in Week 1. Stewart also is a legitimate threat as a receiver out of the backfield, further increasing his value.
Jonathan Dwyer (PIT) vs. New York Jets
Isaac Redman got the start and more carries (11 to 9) against Denver, but it was Dwyer who did more damage, finishing with a team-high 43 yards rushing. His solid production was enough to earn him a bigger role for this Sunday’s game against the Jets. Remember, the Jets gave up 169 yards on the ground to C.J. Spiller, who like Dwyer was initially Buffalo’s backup running back, last week. Depending on your other options, Dwyer may be worth taking a flyer on as a RB3 or flex option this week.
Michael Turner (ATL) vs. Denver (Monday)
Going into the season, the expectation was that the Falcons would cut down on Turner’s workload. That came to fruition last week as he got only 11 carries against Kansas City, finishing with a mere 32 yards. The Falcons seem very comfortable with a more pass-oriented offense and between that and the presence of Jacquizz Rodgers, who got seven carries and is a bigger threat out of the backfield as a receiver, I expect we will see more of the same on Monday night against Denver.
Aflred Morris (WAS) at St. Louis
Yes, Alfred Morris got more than 65 percent of the Redskins’ carries in Week 1, turning those opportunities into 96 yards and two touchdowns. However, that doesn’t mean that this week it won’t be Roy Helu or Evan Royster or even Robert Griffin III with that distinction. Plus, the Redskins will be going up against a St. Louis defense that surrendered a total of 83 yards on the ground to Detroit in Week 1. If you want to jump on the Morris bandwagon, you go right on ahead. I’m just not quite ready to join you.
Kevin Smith (DET) at San Francisco
The good: Smith scored two touchdowns last week against St. Louis, one rushing, one receiving. The bad: He only had 81 total yards (62 rushing, 29 receiving) in that game. The ugly: That came against St. Louis, this week the Lions take on San Francisco, who gave up only 45 yards rushing to Green Bay in Week 1.
Wes Welker (NE) vs. Arizona
Including Welker here says his three-catch, 14-yard effort against Tennessee last week is the exception and not the norm. I expect Tom Brady will look to get Welker involved early and often this Sunday against Arizona.
Antonio Brown (PIT) vs. New York Jets
Brown’s numbers (4 rec., team-high 74 yards) weren’t bad in Week 1 against Denver; they just don’t jump out at you either. It wouldn’t surprise me to see that change this Sunday as the Jets will more than likely be without All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis. No Revis thins out the Jets’ secondary from the start, and I think Brown is the Steeler receiver who will benefit most from his absence.
Andre Roberts (ARI) at New England
Larry Fitzgerald is the main man in Arizona, there’s no doubt about that, but there’s plenty of room for a No. 2 and right now that appears to be Roberts, and not first-round pick Michael Floyd. Roberts finished second to Fitzgerald in targets in Week 1, turning nine of them into a team-high five receptions. One of those was the game-winning touchdown pass from Kevin Kolb in the fourth quarter. Kolb is expected to start this Sunday’s game in New England.
Sidney Rice (SEA) vs. Dallas
The Cowboys upgraded their secondary during the offseason through both free agency (Brandon Carr) and the draft (Morris Claiborne) and it held up very well against Eli Manning and the Giants’ pass attack in Week 1. Russell Wilson looked every bit the rookie in his first NFL start last week against Arizona. Don’t expect drastic improvement from the Seahawks’ passing game this Sunday either.
Kevin Ogletree (DAL) at Seattle
Ogletree stole the show a week ago when he starred in the NFL’s season opener, grabbing a game-high eight passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Seattle’s secondary will be a much tougher test for Ogletree and the entire Cowboys’ passing game this week compared to the Giants’ injury-depleted corps they faced in Week 1. Ogletree may be productive again, but expectations should be limited to that of a possible WR3, and not along the lines of what he did in Week 1.
Titus Young (DET) at San Francisco
Young caught just one pass in Week 1 as he committed a personal foul penalty that earned him a seat on the bench for much of the game. Young is oozing with fantasy upside, especially if he grabs hold of the No. 2 wide receiver job for the Lions, but just hasn’t been able to get out of his own way. Until he can prove that he can maintain his composure on the field, including practicing with his own teammates, it’s probably best to leave him on your bench.
Jared Cook (TEN) at San Diego
Cook led all Titans receivers with 64 yards on four catches last week and his workload should only increase as the season goes on. The Titans could have wide receiver Kenny Britt back on the field this week, which should help Cook more than hurt him as Britt’s presence, especially as a deep threat, helps open the middle of the field even more for the athletic tight end.
Kyle Rudolph (MIN) at Indianapolis
It's Coby Fleener’s home debut, but don’t be surprised if Rudolph is the young tight end that finishes with better numbers in this game. The Colts’ linebacking corps is missing its leader as Pat Angerer is still sidelined by a broken foot. Rudolph, who caught five passes for 67 yards last week, should be able to find plenty of room to roam in the middle of the field this Sunday.
Martellus Bennett (NYG) vs. Tampa Bay
Eli Manning found Bennett in the end zone in Week 1 against Dallas and will look for his tight end again this week against Tampa Bay. Bennett’s size is a weapon in the red zone, and Manning has never been afraid to throw to his tight ends.
Fred Davis (WAS) at St. Louis
Surprisingly, Davis and Robert Griffin III only connected twice during the rookie’s impressive debut against New Orleans. While that could change any given week or as the season progresses, I would consider benching Davis until Griffin starts looking his way more consistently.
Jason Witten (DAL) at Seattle
Let’s give credit where credit is due. I was stunned when Witten played last week against the Giants in the first place. However, it shouldn’t be ignored that he caught just two passes and was only targeted three times. It’s completely understandable that Witten may not be back to 100 percent health for several more weeks. This is also the reason why I would bench the All-Pro, at least until his production is more along the lines of what we have come to expect.
Brent Celek (PHI) vs. Baltimore
Michael Vick did look Celek’s way eight times in Week 1 against Cleveland, but what’s more concerning to me is that Clay Harbor, and not Celek, appeared to get the looks when the Eagles were in the red zone. That coupled with Ray Lewis and co. on the docket this Sunday is more than enough reason for me to bypass Celek this week.
New England vs. Arizona
Arizona should be able to get some yards and points against the Patriots, but their run defense was awfully stout against Tennessee last week and I expect the opportunistic unit to get a score via a turnover or on special teams.
Cincinnati vs. Cleveland
What better way to let your defense get healthy and gain some confidence than to face an offense with a rookie quarterback that did next-to-nothing in Week 1, right?
Oakland at Miami
See above and add to it the fact that the Raiders gave up just one touchdown to the Chargers in five red zone attempts on Monday night. It’s entirely possible that the Dolphins end up with fewer this Sunday.
New York Giants vs. Tampa Bay
The Giants’ defense yielded both a 100-yard rusher and 300-yard passer in their opener. While the Cowboys’ offense and the Buccaneers’ offense are two entirely different animals, I think Tampa has enough weapons and will get enough opportunities to make the Giants’ defense a fantasy non-factor once again.
Detroit Lions at San Francisco
The Lions’ defense more than held its own against St. Louis in Week 1, but will face something completely different this Sunday in San Francisco. The 49ers attacked Green Bay in Week 1 with both the run and the pass, and I’m expecting more of the same this Sunday in their home opener. The Lions' D relies heavily on big plays and turnovers, but the 49ers have a reputation for protecting the ball.
Nate Kaeding (SD) vs. Tennessee
The Chargers had all sorts of trouble punching it into the end zone against Oakland, which resulted in Kaeding kicking five field goals. Given their issues along the offensive line and with the running game, I don’t expect much to change this Sunday against the Titans.
Justin Tucker (BAL) at Philadelphia
Baltimore should be able to move the ball and put several drives together against the Eagles, but I think they will have trouble getting into the end zone. This should leave Tucker with plenty of chances to put three points on the board.
Dan Carpenter (MIA) vs. Oakland
Carpenter’s chances to kick will be limited as long as Ryan Tannehill struggles under center.
Phil Dawson (CLE) at Cincinnati
Dawson and Carpenter will probably remain linked throughout the season as both kickers are relying on struggling offenses led by rookie quarterbacks to provide them with scoring opportunities.
— By Mark Ross, published on Sept. 14, 2012
College football's Week 3 slate is full of interesting action. Arkansas had a surprising defeat to Louisiana-Monroe last week but has a chance to knock off No. 1 Alabama this Saturday. The Razorbacks are heavy underdogs and could be without starting quarterback Tyler Wilson. The action in the SEC isn't limited to Arkansas-Alabama, as Florida-Tennessee meet in Knoxville for a crucial East Division showdown. Notre Dame-Michigan State, USC-Stanford, BYU-Utah and North Carolina-Louisville are some of the other top games to monitor this weekend.
Top Storylines to Watch in Week 3
1. Will Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson play against Alabama?
With or without Tyler Wilson, Arkansas has an uphill battle to beat Alabama on Saturday. The Razorbacks have lost their last five games against the Crimson Tide, including a 38-14 matchup last season. In addition to preparing for college football’s No. 1 team, Arkansas is still reeling from last week’s loss to Louisiana-Monroe. If Wilson can’t go, redshirt freshman Brandon Allen or junior Brandon Mitchell will get the start. The offense isn’t the only side of the ball dealing with question marks, as the Razorbacks have to play better on defense to beat Alabama. Even if Wilson plays, this matchup has all of the makings of an Alabama blowout.
2. SEC East Showdown
The Tennessee-Florida rivalry isn’t quite ready to become nationally relevant once again, but it’s getting closer. Both teams are off to 2-0 starts, and the winner of this game could challenge Georgia or South Carolina in the East. The Volunteers’ passing attack (353.5 yards per game) will be challenged by a Florida secondary that has yet to allow a passing touchdown this season. While Tennessee should be able to move the ball on the Gators’ secondary, it needs to establish the ground game and bring some balance to the offense. When Florida has the ball, all eyes will be on Jeff Driskel. The sophomore finished with 162 passing yards against Texas A&M but didn’t throw an interception. For the Gators to win, Driskel needs to be efficient, while running back Mike Gillislee needs to get to at least 100 yards.
3. Can Matt Barkley finally beat Stanford?
The only Pac-12 team Matt Barkley hasn’t defeated during his illustrious USC career is Stanford. The Cardinal have won the last three games in this series and had a convincing 50-13 win over Duke last week. While Stanford has had success against the Trojans in recent years, Barkley should be able to win his final matchup against the Cardinal. Stanford’s secondary is allowing 290 yards a game and has yet to play a passing attack as skilled and talented as the Trojans'. The Cardinal’s rushing attack will test USC’s defense, but the Trojans simply have too much firepower on offense.
4. Can Michigan State remain unbeaten?
With Michigan and Nebraska losing in the first two weeks of the season, Michigan State is the Big Ten’s best shot at reaching the national title. The Spartans had a sluggish showing in the opener against Boise State but as expected, had a convincing win over Central Michigan last week. Michigan State takes on Notre Dame this Saturday, a team it has defeated two times in a row in East Lansing. The Irish handled the Spartans 31-13 in South Bend last year. Quarterbacks will be in the spotlight in this game, as Michigan State wants to see progress from Andrew Maxwell, while this will be Everett Golson’s toughest challenge as Notre Dame’s quarterback. Golson did not finish last Saturday’s game against Purdue but has thrown for 433 yards and two touchdowns on 49 attempts thus far. With two young quarterbacks still finding their rhythm, look for a low-scoring, defensive game. Turnovers will play a large role in determining the outcome of this matchup, while it’s also important for both quarterbacks to get on track early in the game.
5. The Holy War
The Holy War is one of the nation’s top rivalry games and Saturday’s game will be an important one for both BYU and Utah. The Cougars lost 54-10 to the Utes last season and need to go unbeaten to have any shot at a BCS game. Utah is reeling a bit, as it lost to in-state foe Utah State last Friday and lost quarterback Jordan Wynn for the season with a shoulder injury. The stakes are always high when these two teams meet, but there’s an extra sense of urgency. The Utes need a good showing to erase last week’s disappointing effort, especially with Pac-12 play beginning on Sept. 22 at Arizona State. For the Cougars, it’s all about revenge and keeping BCS hopes alive. With both teams ranked in the top 20 in total defense, points could be at a premium on Saturday.
6. Intriguing Off-the-Radar Games
Wake Forest at Florida State – This is the first real test for Florida State. Games against Murray State and Savannah State didn’t give much insight into the Seminoles, who are expected to challenge for the national title. The Demon Deacons are a big underdog but are 2-2 in their last four games against Florida State. One area to watch for the Seminoles on Saturday will be a revamped offensive line.
Virginia at Georgia Tech – It’s only Week 3, but this is a crucial game for the Yellow Jackets. With an opening week loss to Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech needs to win to keep its ACC Coastal title hopes alive. With a win over the Yellow Jackets, Virginia would be positioned to be the top challenger to the Hokies.
Arkansas State at Nebraska – After allowing 36 points to UCLA last Saturday, the Red Wolves won’t be an easy out for Nebraska. Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin ranks eighth nationally in total offense, while Tennessee transfer David Oku is averaging 96 yards a game on the ground. The Red Wolves may not win, but will give Nebraska all it can handle.
Connecticut at Maryland – Otherwise known as the Randy Edsall Bowl. Edsall had a messy departure from Connecticut and hasn’t won over all Maryland fans after a 4-10 start to his tenure in College Park. While Edsall facing his old team will be intriguing, the real matchup to watch is the Huskies’ defense against the Terrapins’ offense. Connecticut’s defense has allowed 10 points through the first two games of this year and could make life difficult on Maryland true freshman quarterback Perry Hills.
North Carolina at Louisville – The Tar Heels struggled to stop Wake Forest last week, allowing 327 passing yards to quarterback Tanner Price. North Carolina’s secondary will be under fire once again, as it looks to slow down Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater.
Arizona State at Missouri – These two teams met for a 37-30 shootout last season, and there should be no shortage of points this Saturday. The Sun Devils are off to a fast start under new coach Todd Graham, while Missouri dropped its SEC opener to Georgia last week.
TCU at Kansas – The Jayhawks are reeling, especially after losing to Rice last week. The Horned Frogs easily took care of Grambling last Saturday, but this will be their first Big 12 game in school history. TCU should win without much trouble, but this is a historic moment in the program’s history.
Washington State at UNLV – The Rebels shouldn’t pose much of a threat to the Cougars, especially after losing to Northern Arizona last week. However, it will be interesting to watch Washington State’s offense. Surprisingly, the Cougars have yet to get on track, and will likely have a new quarterback under center (Connor Halliday).
7. Five Players to Watch
Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State – Thanks to two strong performances, Miller has thrown his name into the Heisman mix. The sophomore has back-to-back 100-yard rushing efforts, while throwing for 362 yards and three scores. Miller should shine once again against California, but Urban Meyer would like to reduce his carries this Saturday.
David Ash, QB, Texas – Saturday’s game at Ole Miss will be Ash’s second start on the road. Although the competition hasn’t been great, the sophomore has thrown for 377 yards and three touchdowns in two games and has yet to throw an interception. If Ash has another solid performance in Oxford, it would help ease the concerns about the offense going into Big 12 play.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson – After sitting out the first two games of the year due to a suspension, Watkins will be back in the lineup against Furman. The Tigers shouldn’t need Watkins to win, but it’s a crucial time to have the sophomore back in the lineup. With Florida State up next, Clemson needs Watkins and quarterback Tajh Boyd to be on the same page.
Kiehl Frazier, QB, Auburn – Auburn’s offense ranks among the worst in the SEC and it may not get much better if Frazier doesn’t improve along the way. The sophomore has thrown for 319 yards in the first two games but has also tossed four picks. It’s important that Frazier gain some measure of confidence before the Tigers play LSU on Sept. 22.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M – Manziel was solid in his college debut, throwing for 173 yards, while rushing for 60 yards and a touchdown. He should get better with more experience and should have a huge day against a SMU defense allowing 532.5 yards per game.
8. Desperate for a Win
Auburn (0-2) – With a schedule that features LSU, Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M in the upcoming SEC slate, Saturday’s game against Louisiana-Monroe is a must-win game for Auburn. The Tigers are struggling to find the right mix on offense, but the defense has to tackle better and stop opposing team’s rushing attacks.
Colorado (0-2) – Coach Jon Embree inherited a tough situation at Colorado, but he has done little to show the Buffaloes are on the right track. After losing to Colorado State and Sacramento State, Colorado desperately needs to beat Fresno State this Saturday.
Penn State (0-2) – The Nittany Lions nearly broke into the win column against Virginia last week but missed a last-second field goal for the victory. Penn State gets a Navy team that’s always difficult to prepare for, but the Nittany Lions’ defense should be up to the task.
Pittsburgh (0-2) – The Panthers were a popular sleeper pick in the preseason, but they are off to a disappointing 0-2 start, which includes a 31-17 loss at the hands of Youngstown State. Getting into the win column for Pittsburgh won't be easy, especially with a tough matchup against Virginia Tech this Saturday.
Wisconsin (1-1) – The Badgers have not looked like a Big Ten title contender through the first two weeks of the season, barely beating Northern Iowa in Week 1 and losing to Oregon State in Week 2. Wisconsin faces a dangerous Utah State team on Saturday, and it will be interesting to watch how the Badgers' offensive line plays, especially after line coach Mike Markuson was fired after last week’s game.
9. Injuries to Monitor
Nathan Scheelhaase, QB, Illinois – Scheelhaase did not play in the loss to Arizona State but is expected to play against Charleston Southern this Saturday.
Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina – Shaw missed last week’s game against East Carolina due to a shoulder injury, but backup Dylan Thompson threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns in his absence. Shaw is getting closer to a return, but the Gamecocks may hold him out until next week’s SEC game against Missouri.
Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State – Tuel suffered a knee injury against Eastern Washington and is unlikely to play in Friday’s game against UNLV.
Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas – Wilson suffered a concussion in last week’s loss to Louisiana-Monroe and is questionable to play on Saturday. Even if Wilson plays, it will be tough for Arkansas to beat Alabama.
Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina – Bernard missed last week’s game against Wake Forest due to a knee injury but is back at practice and is expected to play on Saturday.
Rex Burkhead, RB, Nebraska – Burkhead missed last week’s game against UCLA due to a sprained MCL and may not play once again this week. The Cornhuskers should be able to establish their ground attack against Arkansas State without Burkhead, so they can afford to allow him another week of rest.
Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida – Gillislee has been a key factor in Florida’s 2-0 start this season, rushing for 231 yards and four touchdowns so far. He suffered a groin injury against Texas A&M, but it is not expected to sideline him against Tennessee this Saturday.
Nick Harwell, WR, Miami (Ohio) – Harwell is battling a knee injury, which is a concern for the RedHawks’ passing attack with Boise State on tap for this Saturday.
Khaled Holmes, C, USC – Holmes left last Saturday’s game against Syracuse with a leg injury, and his status for this week’s game against Stanford is uncertain. The senior is one of the nation’s best centers, so if he is forced to miss any time, it will be a huge blow to USC’s offense.
10. Upset Picks to Watch
Ball State at Indiana (-2.5)
The Hoosiers are off to a 2-0 start, but their schedule has been very soft. Quarterback Tre Roberson was lost for the year due to a leg injury against UMass, which means junior college recruit Cameron Coffman will step into the starting role. Ball State upset Indiana last season, so a victory this Saturday wouldn’t be much of a surprise.
Pick: Ball State 31-27
Louisiana-Monroe at Auburn (-16.5)
Thanks to their upset win against Arkansas last Saturday, the Warhawks have been in the spotlight all week. Can they make it two in a row? Auburn’s defense is capable of playing better than it has so far this year, which will make life tough for ULM quarterback Kolton Browning. If the Tigers struggle on offense once again, the Warhawks will have a shot at the upset.
Pick: Auburn 30-24
Utah State at Wisconsin (-13)
The Badgers have not impressed through the first two weeks of the season, and coach Bret Bielema isn’t waiting long to make changes. Line coach Mike Markuson was fired, which is yet another change to a coaching staff that went through many personnel changes following the 2011 season. Utah State is coming off an upset over Utah last week and if it doesn’t suffer much of a hangover from beating the Utes, it could pull off another one this Saturday.
Pick: Wisconsin 34-27
Western Kentucky at Kentucky (-7)
Kentucky coach Joker Phillips desperately needs to win this Saturday. The Wildcats were handled by in-state rival Louisville in the season opener and can’t afford to lose to the Hilltoppers this week. Western Kentucky doesn’t have an explosive offense, but its defense picked up six sacks against Alabama last week.
Pick: Western Kentucky 24, Kentucky 20
11. Five Games to Avoid
James Madison at West Virginia
This game should be an opportunity for West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith to pad his stats for a run at the Heisman.
Pick: West Virginia 58-7
UMass at Michigan
Even though the Wolverines are allowing 33 points a game, UMass’ offense should pose little threat after scoring six points through the first two contests.
Pick: Michigan 52-7
Idaho at LSU
After losing to Eastern Washington in the season opener, the Vandals played better in Week 2 against Bowling Green. However, Idaho is simply overmatched against LSU.
Pick: LSU 52-3
FAU at Georgia
The Owls barely squeaked by FCS opponent Wagner in the season opener and lost to MTSU in Week 2. The Bulldogs might have a bit of a letdown after winning at Missouri last week, but they will still pull away for one-sided victory on Saturday.
Pick: Georgia 50-7
Tennessee Tech at Oregon
The Ducks haven’t had to sweat much through the first two weeks of the season and should have another breather against Tennessee Tech. The only intrigue surrounding this matchup will be former Tennessee receiver Da’Rick Rogers (now at Tennessee Tech) taking on the Ducks’ secondary.
Pick: Oregon 62-10
by Steven Lassan
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Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun retired Thursday, leaving behind a Hall of Fame legacy. In the 19 seasons before Calhoun was hired in 1986, Connecticut reached the NCAA Tournament twice under three coaches.
His resume included 873 wins, three national championships and 18 first-round draft picks. Here’s a look back at the highlights of his career.
CALHOUN’S BEST TEAMS
2003-04: National champions (33-6, 12-4 Big East)
Led by National Player of the Year Emeka Okafor, Connecticut won its second national title under Calhoun in 2004 by defeating Georgia Tech 82-73 in the final. The most impressive Tourney win that year may have been in the Final Four over a Duke team that featured J.J. Redick, Shelden Williams, Chris Duhon and Luol Deng. UConn countered with the NBA’s No. 2 draft pick (Okafor) and No. 3 pick (Ben Gordon) plus Josh Boone and Hilton Armstrong as role players.
1998-99: National champions (34-2, 16-2 Big East)
UConn winning a national title was unthinkable when Calhoun took over in 1986, but after several near misses to reach the Final Four, Calhoun put his name with the greats with a title in his first trip to the national semifinals. The Huskies won the Big East regular season and tournament titles that season before Richard Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin led UConn to a victory over Duke in the final.
1997-98: Elite Eight (32-5, 15-3 Big East)
With almost the same cast of characters that would win the national championship a year later, UConn reached the regional final before being vanquished by a North Carolina team led by Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison.
2005-06: Elite Eight (30-4, 14-2 Big East)
The Huskies had four NBA draft picks who would be drafted after the season in Rudy Gay, Hilton Armstrong, Marcus Williams and Josh Boone. UConn spent the entire season ranked in the top three of the polls, but their feats would be overshadowed, though, by an 86-84 overtime loss to George Mason in the regional final.
1995-96: Sweet 16 (30-2, 17-1 Big East)
Led by Ray Allen’s 23.4 points per game, UConn had its best Big East season, record-wise. The Huskies were a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament before being upset by fifth-seeded Mississippi State in the Sweet 16. UConn’s only regular season losses that year were to Iowa in overtime at at Georgetown, a loss avenged with a 75-74 win in the Big East tournament final.
CALHOUN’S BEST PLAYERS
Ray Allen (1993-96)
A one-time teammate of new coach Kevin Ollie, Allen is fourth all-time in scoring in UConn at 1,922 points, averaging 19 points per game. Allen was the Huskies’ first two-time All-American
Richard Hamilton (1996-99)
Hamilton scored 27 points in the title-game win over Duke to win Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors. He finished his career averaging 19.8 points per game
Emeka Okafor (2001-04)
One of the best defensive players in school history, Okafor was a co-national player of the year with St. Joseph’s guard Jameer Nelson. Okafor finished his season with a national title, the second of Calhoun’s career.
Ben Gordon (2002-04)
As Okafor’s running mate, Gordon averaged 19.5 points per game as a sophomore and 18.4 points as a junior. Although Okafor took home more postseason hardware, Gordon set a Big East tournament record with 81 points in the ’04 tourney.
Kemba Walker (2008-11)
Walker almost single-handedly led Connecticut to its third national title in 2011, averaging 23.5 points per game that season. The Huskies were a No. 9 seed in the Tourney that season. Walker led UConn to a 14-0 record in tournaments in 2010-11 with titles in the Maui Invitational and Big East and NCAA tournaments.
Related: Potential long-term replacements
CALHOUN’S MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT
Tate George’s shot.
Connecticut was still a lovable underdog in 1990 when Tate George hit a 15-foot buzzer beater to defeat Clemson 71-70 in the Sweet 16. UConn lost a 19-point lead in that game, but George redeemed himself from an earlier miss with 4 seconds remaining to win the game.
CALHOUN’S NOT SO MEMORABLE MOMENTS
UConn won’t be eligible to play in the NCAA Tournament due to a poor performance in the Academic Progress Report. And in his final season, Calhoun was suspended for three games due to recruiting violations involving Nate Miles, though the program did not suffer sever sanctions. Earlier, UConn vacated the NCAA Tournament appearance from 1996 when it was found two players accepted plane tickets from an agent.
Reporters always knew where they stood with Calhoun. He could be quick-tempered and ornery, especially if the questions were, um, subpar. We’re including a response to a question about the state’s budget shortfall, but if you want to see Calhoun at his finest, look up his response to why he didn’t sign Ryan Gomes, who went on to a standout career at Providence. Just make sure sensitive ears are not around.
Every Friday for entertainment purposes only, I will bring you my top college football picks against the spread. I do not condone, approve or encourage gambling on sports in any way. But if you are a fan of football — college or pro — and you don't think gambling has played a huge role in the growth and popularity of the sport, then you are simply being ignorant. And behind closed doors, the powers that be understand the impact betting has had on the game of football.
2012 Record Against The Spread: 10-7
Last Week: 3-5
Let's just say, Week 2 was not my finest hour. Games that I decided not to include in the final minutes? Western Kentucky +40, Maryland +10, UCLA +5.5, Mississippi State -3 and Florida +2.5. Clearly, I made some bad decisions, but there is no rest for the weary and Week 3 features plenty of chances to bounce back.
Note: All lines are as of date of publication
Virginia Tech (-10) at Pitt
No, Pitt isn't as bad as its 0-2 record suggests. But the reason the Panthers have played so poorly is due to lack of locker room cohesion and commitment. With four different coaches in three seasons, the players clearly lack identity. The Hokies, on the flip side, are a team built on 26 years of Frank Beamer's identity. And Logan Thomas has Va. Tech off to a hot start — something that Beamer and company rarely seem to enjoy at the start of the season. Defensively, the Panthers will find sledding extremely tough as some believe this could be the best Bud Foster unit ever. This one should get ugly very quickly and the line seems considerably off-base. Prediction: Virginia Tech (-10)
Western Michigan (+2.5) at Minnesota
Jerry Kill knows all about Western Michigan when he beat them twice while at Northern Illinois. Now he has a balanced Big Ten attack that rushes for 224.5 yards per game and passes for 220.5 yards per game. The Gophers are 2-0 behind key plays at key times from senior leader Marqueis Gray. He is fourth in the Big Ten in total offense at 273.0 yards per game and is leading the league in passing efficiency. The Broncos played better in Week 2 against Eastern Illinois after rushing for minus-6 yards against Illinois in the season opener. Kill has the Gophers playing better than they have in years, and while Alex Carder could keep WMU in the game, Gray and company should pull away in the fourth. Prediction: Minnesota (-2.5)
Houston (+16) at UCLA
The Bruins are one of the best stories in college football thus far and have been equally effective against the number (2-0). Houston beat UCLA last fall and revenge will absolutely be on the mind of Johnathan Franklin and company. Quarterback Brett Hundley has been near perfect in two career games, Franklin is leading the nation in rushing and this unit is playing with a toughness on defense fans haven't seen in Westwood in years. The Cougars, on the other hand, are 0-2, have allowed 86 total points and give up 521 yards of offense per game. If UCLA could toss 653 yards up on the Black Shirts of Nebraska, imagine what they could do this weekend? Predictions: UCLA (-16)
Texas A&M (-12) at SMU
The Mustangs allowed Baylor to roll-up 613 yards of total offense and 59 points two weeks ago in the opener, 220 of that came on the ground. Texas A&M might boast the best running game SMU will face all season and the TAMU offensive line should have its way with the over-matched Mustang front seven. The Aggies and new head coach Kevin Sumlin lost a gritty battle with Florida and this game should feel like practice after having to block the Gators defenders for sixty minutes. In search of his first win, Sumlin will allow his offense to make a statement. Prediction: Texas A&M (-12)
Boston College (+3.5) at Northwestern
The defensive performance by the Wildcats last week against Vanderbilt was one of the more surprising performances of the entire Week 2 slate. After getting destroyed on that side of the ball by Syracuse in Week 1, Pat Fitzgerald's bunch held the Dores completely in check. It also made Northwestern the only team in the nation with two BCS conference wins thus far. The purple Cats are 2-0 against the number as well and Boston College isn't in a position to challenge for the win on the road. Northwestern has played two totally different games thus far and this one should be somewhere in the middle. Prediction: Northwestern (-3.5)
Texas (-9) at Ole Miss
Had this game been played in Week 1, the Longhorns could have been a three touchdown favorite. Two relatively easy wins over bad competition for Ole Miss has brought this number down under 10. The issue, however, is that Texas has been better than anticipated as well. David Ash isn't turning the ball over, the defense is downright salty (shutting out New Mexico last week) and a host of elite play-makers on offense has Mack Brown's squad thinking Big 12 title. Keep a keen eye locked on freshman No. 27 Daje Johnson. In his first game of his college career, he touched the ball four times for 70 yards and a score. He will be used in a variety of ways and has special big-play talent. Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace has played well to start his Rebel career, but has never seen anything like this Texas defensive front. Prediction: Texas (-9)
USC (-8) at Stanford
The Cardinal have won three straight and four out of five, but Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck are both gone. But Matt Barkley nearly upset the Luck-led Stanford team last fall and there isn't a defensive back on the team who can cover Robert Woods or Marqise Lee. Josh Nunes played better and Shayne Skov's returns is a big boost to the defense. But one team is a national title contender and the other may struggle to win eight games this year. This was a bizarre cover last year for Stanford with a two-point conversion in overtime giving the Cardinal the win outright and against the number. It shouldn't be that close this time around. Prediction: USC (-8)
Mississippi State (-16) at Troy
The Trojans of Alabama have had an impossible time getting stops on defense. Against UAB and UL Lafayette, Troy has allowed at least 29 points and 424.0 yards of offense per game. The Bulldogs have been extremely impressive in two easy wins, one of which came against Auburn last weekend. Tyler Russell is playing well, the defense is fundamentally sound and this team sees and opportunity to move up in the SEC West with Arkansas, Auburn and Texas A&M stumbling out of the gate. Hail State will roll big. Prediction: Mississippi State (-16)
- by Braden Gall
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The end of the week is upon us and you just don’t have the warm fuzzies about your Week Three starters. We’ve teamed up with Steven Lassan of Athlon Sports and scoured the schedule looking for some one-week wonders.
Emergency Starters—Week 3
Jordan Rodgers-Vanderbilt vs Presbyterian
Mike Glennon, NC St vs South Alabama
Cody Green-Tulsa vs Nicholls St
Dalton Williams-Akron vs Morgan St
Munchie Legaux-Cincinnati vs Delaware St
Adam Muema-San Diego St vs North Dakota
Shontrelle Johnson-Iowa St vs Western Illinois
Jawon Chisholm-Akron vs Morgan St
Leighton Settle-Northern Illinois at Army
Josh Ferguson-Illinois vs Charleston Southern
Rolandan Finch-Boston College at Northwestern
Mustafa Greene-NC St vs South Alabama
Antavian Edison-Purdue vs Eastern Michigan
Marquelo Suel-Akron vs Morgan St
Myles White-Louisiana Tech vs Rice
Chris Coyle-Arizona St at Missouri
Steele Jantz-Iowa St vs Western Illinois
Ryan Katz-San Diego St vs North Dakota
Andrew Manley, New Mexico St vs UTEP
Dalton Williams-Akron vs Morgan St
DeLeon Eskridge-San Jose St vs Colorado
LaDarius Perkins-Mississippi St at Troy
Jerrell Rhodes-Memphis vs MTSU
Bishop Sankey, Washington vs Portland St
Alex Amidon-Boston College at Northwestern
Jamison Crowder-Duke vs NC Central
Aaron Horne-Iowa St vs Western Illinois
Marquelo Suel-Akron vs Morgan St
Kenbrell Thompkins-Cincinnati vs Delaware St
Follow Joe on twitter (@theCFFsite)
During the Rutgers - South Florida game, the Scarlet Knights' holder, J.T. Tartacoff, dislocated (and probably broke) the pinky on his right hand while trying to set up the ball for a field goal attempt. Warning, it's not for the squeamish.
Back in 1913, a boy named Paul Bryant was born in the small town of Fordyce, Ark., and about a decade later he picked up the nickname Bear. The football team in his native state wasn’t that great, so Bryant ended up choosing to play at Alabama, where he would later become a championship coach and legend.
For years that was the only connection between the two programs, whose first meeting didn’t come until the 1962 Sugar Bowl. That year, Alabama entered No. 1 and Arkansas was No. 9. The Crimson Tide had a great defense, but the Razorbacks had star halfback Lance Alworth. The Tide won 10-3, with that Razorback field goal being the first points scored on Alabama since October, but Alworth being held to 15 rushing yards. Bryant had enough respect for Arkansas that he said he had “nine heart attacks out there,” according to the book “Sugar Bowl Classic: A History,” by Marty Mule. But Broyles summed up the game by saying that “we were in it on the scoreboard, but never in it on the field.”
That classic didn’t ignite any desire by Bryant to keep facing the team from his native state. They wouldn’t meet again until 1980, also in the Sugar Bowl, and also with Alabama harboring national title hopes. This time the Crimson Tide were No. 2, while the Razorbacks were No. 6. Bryant was still coaching the Tide, while Lou Holtz had replaced Broyles, who had moved up to athletics director.
This one featured a bit more offense, as Alabama used its double wing offense – just installed – to jump out to a 14-3 lead. The Tide won 24-9, and won the AP national title when No. 1 Ohio State lost to Southern California.
Finally, Arkansas joined the SEC and the teams met in the regular season for the first time, on Sept. 12, 1992. The game was in Little Rock, but once again Alabama won, 38-9, on its way to yet another national championship.
Yes, a quirk of this rivalry is the first three times they met, Alabama went on to win the national championship.
As Alabama began its backslide, the rivalry became more even-matched: Arkansas beat the Tide for the first time in 1995, in Tuscaloosa, and they won in Bryant-Denny a couple more times over the next decade.
There have been some classic finishes: Twice the games have been decided in double-overtime.
Then Arkansas began a rise to national prominence under Bobby Petrino, adding more spice to the rivalry. When Alabama visited Fayetteville in 2010, it was nationally-televised and full of hype. Both were unbeaten. The Razorbacks led 20-7 late in the third quarter, but the Crimson Tide scored the game’s final 17 points, punctuated by a Mark Ingram 1-yard run with 3:18 left.
Last year, Alabama left the drama for another time, winning in a 38-14 rout – on the way to yet another national championship for the program.
There was one year that they never met and were rivals: Both teams were unbeaten after the 1964 season, but Alabama was voted the national champion by the AP and coaches poll. Back then there was no BCS, so they didn’t face each other in a bowl. Alabama lost in the Orange Bowl, and Arkansas won the Cotton Bowl, but there were no further bowls so Alabama still claimed the major national titles – but Arkansas was recognized as the national champion by the Football Writers Association of America.
The split championship led the AP to change its policy and pick its national champion after the bowl season.
The following article was published on Oct. 12, 2007, during NASCAR’s Charlotte race weekend shortly after a press conference introducing Rob Kauffman as the newest investor in Michael Waltrip Racing was held.
At the time, Waltrip’s Toyota team was floundering in its, and the manufacturer’s, first season in the Cup Series. He would later admit to being nearly broke just months after the three-car operation debuted at Daytona. Enter Kauffman, at the time the latest in a long line of “investor-types” to buy into Cup teams desparate for additional funding. Many observers were apprehensive, and with good reason: A number of the same investment firms that bought in soon bailed when its shareholders saw the year-end ledger.
Credit Kauffman for being different. Turns out, he really is “a car guy,” as Waltrip told us that day — although I have to admit that at the time, I wasn’t necessarily buying it. With Kauffman’s aid, Waltrip’s passion and Toyota’s loyalty, MWR has defied the odds and five years later is a force in the most elite form of motorsports in North America.
The column you’re about to read (and its subject) drew more than it’s share of criticism and belligerence from readers when published — certainly more than this humble and somewhat dumbstruck author thought it deserved. That said, I’ve pulled it out of the electronic mothballs (something I’ve never done) as MWR prepares to take its maiden voyage into the Chase to highlight what Waltrip and his determined band of racers were fighting through early in the development of the company.
Passion Fuels Waltrip’s Past, Present and Future
by Matt Taliaferro
published October 12, 2007
The year was 2001. It was my 26th birthday. My father was receiving the Mayor’s Award of Excellence for community service in our hometown of Owensboro, Ky. Darrell Waltrip was there too, accepting the award for excellence in sports. Each recipient stood and spoke, and while I was very proud of my father and felt him to be deserving it was Darrell’s speech that spoke directly to me.
“Find your passion,” he told us that night. Whether that’s ballet or racing, teaching or writing, the path to being happy and successful is to zero in on what you do well and follow it.
The speech has never left me and I was reminded of it once again today — as I am on most — as I sat and watched Darrell’s younger brother map out the future of his racing organization in a press conference from Lowe’s Motor Speedway. I couldn’t help but watch Darrell who sat, nodding approvingly, from the front row as Michael spoke of passion; passion for what he and wife Buffy had created at MWR; passion for a job he feels lucky to do; passion for the community he is blessed to be a part of; passion for the garage area, which he knows is in his DNA.
Perhaps the best moniker for Tennessee-Florida would be the Sound Bite Bowl.
No other rivalry in recent SEC history has produced more quips and memorable quotes, especially between coaches. Those who have coached each of these teams have enjoyed getting under each other’s skin.
It started in the 1990s with Florida’s Steve Spurrier and Tennessee’s Phillip Fulmer. The pair privately had a lot of respect for each other. But publicly, both of their programs were on the rise, and ended up dominating the SEC East Division.
But when Florida had the advantage over Tennessee one year, Spurrier made his famous joke that “you can’t spell Citrus (bowl) without UT.” But the next year it was Florida playing in the Citrus Bowl. A Tennessee fan paid for a plane to fly overhead with a sign saying: “How was the Citrus Bowl, Spurrier?”
In the 2000s, it was Lane Kiffin vs. Urban Meyer, despite the fact Kiffin was only at Tennessee for one year. He directed several barbs at Florida and Meyer, and at one point went over the line, alleging that Meyer had “cheated” in recruiting. In fact Meyer had not, and the SEC office reprimanded Kiffin.
When Kiffin left for Southern Cal, an ESPN camera caught Meyer when the news broke. A sly grin crossed Meyer’s lips.
All of this helped fuel a rivalry that wasn’t that heated – or even played very often – prior to the 1990s.
Tennessee and Florida first met in 1916, but only played intermittently over the next 70 years. There were gaps of eight and 14 years between match-ups. It was only when the SEC expanded to 12 and formed into divisions that the Volunteers and Gators moved to playing every season.
And that coincided with each team’s rise to increased prominence. The first 10 East Division titles were won by either Florida or Tennessee.
“If you had asked Tennessee fans after expansion, they would tell you Florida (was the main rival),” former Tennessee sports information director Bud Ford said. “Based on the fact it became an early-season game. … Normally the team that won the game had a chance to win the division.”
Current Volunteer player Ja’Wuan James put it another way: “The younger fans always talk about Florida.”
Lately, it’s been the Gators with the most right to talk. They have won seven in a row, mostly due to Meyer’s six-year run in Gainesville. That included that one very sweet win over Kiffin’s team. (Although the expectation had been that Florida would trounce Tennessee and run it up, but the Volunteers hung in there and only lost 23-13 in Gainesville.)
Whether this rivalry remains fierce going into the future might be open to question. There will never be another period like the 1990s, when the two dominated the division, thanks to the presence of Georgia, and the resurgence of South Carolina – or even the addition of Missouri.
But it’s also unknown how each program will fare under their correct coaches. Derek Dooley is entering his third year at Tennessee with a 11-14 record. Florida’s Will Muschamp was 7-6 in his first year as Meyer’s replacement.
But Florida has too much of a recruiting base to be down for long. If Tennessee can turn it around, perhaps the bulletin-board material will return.
UConn named Kevin Ollie to replace Jim Calhoun as the Huskies’ head coach. But Ollie was only given a one-year contract. If the school opts to go in another direction after the 2012-13 season, here are some likely candidates.
Shaka Smart, head coach, VCU
Smart is one of the most respected young coaches in the game. He has an overall record of 84–28 and a 38–16 mark in the Colonial in three seasons at VCU. He is best known for taking the ’10-12 Rams to the Final Four, but his most impressive accomplishment has to be guiding last year’s team, which had to replace four key seniors, to a 15–3 record in the CAA.
Brad Stevens, head coach, Butler
He’s considered by many college basketball observers to be among the top five coaches in the game. Stevens led Butler the National Championship game in two consecutive seasons and has an overall record of 139–40 in five years. Butler is making the move from the Horizon League to the Atlantic 10 in 2012-13, but the program is well-equipped to remain competitive in its new league with Stevens running the show.
Dan Hurley, head coach, Rhode Island
Hurley lacks experience — he’s only been a collegiate head coach for two seasons — but he could be a top candidate if he enjoys some degree of success in his first year at Rhode Island. He inherited a Wagner program that went 5–26 in ’09-10 and two years later led the Seahawks to a school-record 25 wins and a second-place finish in the Northeast Conference. He is a New Jersey native who spent 10 successful years as a high school coach.
Buzz Williams, head coach, Marquette
Williams has been a consistent winner at Marquette, with an overall record of 96–44 and a 46–26 record in the Big East. He has led all four of his Golden Eagle teams to the NCAA Tournament, including back-to-back trips to the Sweet 16. He has rebuffed overtures from other high-major programs in recent seasons.
Steve Prohm, head coach, Murray State
Prohm is entering his second season as the head coach at Murray State. He guided the Racers to a 27–1 regular-season record and then added three more wins in the OVC Tournament. Murray, a No. 6 seed, beat Colorado State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to Marquette in the Round of 32.
Frank Martin, head coach, South Carolina
Martin recently made the move from Kansas State — which he guided to the NCAA Tournament four times in five seasons — to South Carolina, where he faces a significant rebuilding project. He might be an attractive candidate to UConn if he does well in his first season in Columbia.
Anthony Grant, head coach, Alabama
Grant has a decent record in three seasons at Alabama — he is 63–39 overall and 27–21 in the SEC — but has only been to the NCAA Tournament once with the Tide. He did take VCU to the NCAAs twice in his three years with the Rams and had a 45–9 record in the Colonial. He is an outstanding recruiter.
Keep an eye on …
Neither Ralph Willard at Seton Hall or Mike Rice at Rutgers has done enough at their current jobs to warrant much interest from UConn, but either coach could emerge as a viable candidate with a breakthrough season. Both enjoyed success at previous stops — Willard at Iona and Rice at Robert Morris.
— By Mitch Light
Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun announced his retirement Thursday after winning 873 games with the Huskies and Northwestern. Before Calhoun took over in Storrs, UConn never had produced a first-round NBA draft pick or a consensus All-American. The Huskies had reached the NCAA regional semifinals just three times before Calhoun was hired in 1986.
Calhoun leaves behind a powerhouse program that has won three national championships. He also leaves behind a complicated legacy of NCAA sanctions, a depleted roster and a program in the hands of a first-time head coach, Kevin Ollie.
So what do the next five seasons look like for UConn without Calhoun? Our panel answers.
What’s in store for UConn in the next five seasons?
Kevin Ollie will stick around and succeed.
UConn basketball is in good hands with Kevin Ollie. The 39-year-old starred for the Huskies from 1991-95, despite being under-recruited out of Crenshaw (Calif.) High School. Ollie then worked his way from the CBA to the NBA, where he played 13 seasons — highlighted by a trip to the 2001 NBA Finals as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. During his NBA career, Ollie was known for his defense and dependability. He learned from championship coaches like Larry Brown and Chuck Daly, and played alongside Hall of Fame talents like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Allen Iverson and Reggie Miller. Calhoun called Ollie back to Storrs in 2010. And after two years on the bench, Ollie is sliding over to the big chair as the heir to a three-time NCAA champion. Although Ollie has no prior head coaching experience and his ability to manage late-game situations is still unknown, all signs point to this being a home run hire for UConn. Ollie is a renowned leader who was rumored to be coveted for the "coaching fast track" by Thunder GM Sam Presti — a guy known for his eye for young talent — after retiring from the NBA. And Ollie's work ethic cannot be questioned; he made millions of dollars as an NBA grinder working on a series of one-year deals. The Huskies' hire is a young, energetic UConn alum who has done nothing but overachieve his entire life. The Huskies' proud basketball tradition will continue under Kevin Ollie.
David Fox (@DavidFox615):
Ollie is a transitional figure, but UConn’s long-term future is safe.
I view Connecticut’s long-term future similar to that of Arizona. Before Lute Olson, the Wildcats never did much of anything on the basketball landscape before Olson turned Arizona into a NBA player factory and the premier program out West after UCLA. Like UConn, Arizona had a handful of off-court issues and an awkward coaching handoff to Kevin O’Neill and Russ Pennell. All Arizona needed to do was hire the right coach, Sean Miller, to bring Arizona back to prominence. UConn should be an attractive enough job to make a home run hire when Ollie’s one-year contract is up. I’m thinking about Brad Stevens or Shaka Smart, maybe Dan Hurley from Wagner, or even a established major-program coach like Matt Painter or Buzz Williams. Bottom line, UConn should be able to weather this storm and in five seasons be back among the Big East elite.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch):
UConn is not guaranteed a spot atop of the college basketball world.
We have learned in recent years that very few college basketball programs are immune to a bad season — or seasons. Kentucky played in the NIT in 2009, one year after sneaking into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 11 seed. North Carolina played in the NIT in 2010 after winning only five games in the ACC. UCLA has missed the NCAAs in two of the past three seasons. And Indiana just recently snapped a three-year NCAA Tournament draught. The point? Success is not guaranteed in college basketball — even for the so-called elite programs. UConn can’t afford to get this wrong. If Kevin Ollie struggles in his one guaranteed season as the head coach, the school likely will look to make a big splash and lure Brad Stevens from Butler, Shaka Smart from VCU or another big-name coach. That, however, might be very difficult. UConn is a great program that has enjoyed tremendous success, but it has only been great under one man — Jim Calhoun. It’s difficult to consider a program elite if it hasn’t won championships under more than one regime. Big-time coaches who are in comfortable situations might not perceive UConn to be a destination job. It’s been proven you can win at the school, but it’s a not a given. Any competent coach can win to some degree at places like UCLA, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, etc. UConn, however, is a notch below those blue-blood programs. Don’t be surprised if the Huskies slip a few notches down the college basketball food chain in the next decade.
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The 2012 regular season may have been put in the books last weekend in dramatic fashion at Richmond International Raceway, and the Chase for the Sprint Cup may get underway at Chicagoland Speedway, but for NASCAR fantasy players the season simply rolls on to the sweeping 1.5-mile track in Joliet, Ill.
While most fantasy leagues will continue without any change in format, the mindset of the 12 drivers battling for the title and the 31 “other” drivers in the field will certainly change.
Although most are reluctant to admit it – you often hear them say, “We’ll keep doing the same thing we have all year,” – there is no doubt that those in the Chase will be gunning for wins and maximum points each and every weekend.
While the Chase drivers will steal the majority of the spotlight the next 10 races, there are a number of those on the outside looking in that can shake up the finishing order week-to-week. Some are looking for redemption for missing this year’s Chase, others are working on setups and plans for the 2013 season, while still others will be out there proving their worth to potential rides and sponsorship dollars.
In essence, the next 10 weeks will be a mixed-bag of agendas with high-intensity racing. It will be tough to top last year’s epic battle to the final laps, but if any Chase class could do it, I bet this one can.
However, before we get too wrapped up Chase talk, it’s time to look at this weekend’s race at Chicagoland Speedway.
After 10 years of hosting NASCAR Sprint Cup races, the 2011 trip to Chicagoland Speedway marked the first time it opened the Chase. Defending series champion Tony Stewart turned his season around then and there by saving enough fuel to score his first of five Chase wins.
Much like last season, Stewart enters the Chase struggling to keep pace with the competition. Since his third win of the season came in July at Daytona, the former champion has just two top 5s and three top 10s – not exactly the type of momentum you want heading into the Chase.
However, if last year proved anything, it’s that Stewart has the opportunity to come out swinging in Chicago. The defending champ leads all drivers in victories at the 1.5-mile tri-oval (three) and at 8.7, has the best average finish among active drivers.
If he and crew chief Steve Addington are able to put the struggles of the summer months behind them, bring a solid setup to the track and play the strategy correctly, it will be hard to bet against Stewart.
That said, once the Chase gets underway it is also nearly impossible to bet against the five-time series champion, Jimmie Johnson. The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet leads the series in Chase wins (20) and has an average finish of 9.0 in the playoffs. With the third-best average finish (10.0) at Chicagoland Speedway — and bringing the car that dominated at both Dover and Indianapolis — Johnson should also be among the favorites this weekend.
With all four Hendrick Motorsports cars in the Chase, perhaps the driver you want to watch out for this weekend is veteran Jeff Gordon. The four-time champion earned the final wild card spot in dramatic fashion on Saturday in Richmond by out-racing Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch when it mattered most.
The 2012 season has been one of up and downs for the No. 24 team, but throughout the struggles and poor luck, crew chief Alan Gustafson and the team have provided fast racecars. Gordon enters the first race of the Chase with his sights set on a fifth title, and with a win and a 10th-place average finish at Chicagoland, he will be tough to beat.
Five Favorites: Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon
As my colleague Charlie Miller has continued to unveil his elite quartets for each major league baseball franchise, it got me to thinking: Who is on golf’s Mount Rushmore?
Arnold Palmer received the Congressional Gold Medal this week as that body's "highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions." Arnie is clearly one member of this elite foursome, as is Jack Nicklaus, who was also on hand for the ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda.
In completing my list, I used two primary criteria: achievement and impact. Who won important golf tournaments, and who transcended the game while doing so?
Here, then, is my ultimate foursome — the four men who have had the greatest, most lasting impact on the game of golf. Feel free to tell me where I’m wrong.
Rather than recite Tiger’s resume, I’d rather revisit the one moment that made Woods’ spot on golf’s Mount Rushmore an inevitability. In April 1997, Woods so dominated the most storied and tradition-steeped tournament in golf that the sport was changed forever.
We all remember the Masters-record 18-under par total that Woods shot in his first Masters as a pro. We remember his incredible 12-shot margin of victory. (Runner-up Tom Kite’s 282 total would have been good enough to win 17 previous Masters, but it only got him within 12 shots of Tiger.) We remember the way his mammoth drives turned the par-5s into pitch-and-putts. What many people don’t remember about the 1997 Masters is how badly Tiger started the tournament. On the front nine on Thursday, Woods went out in 40, leaving him 4-over par. That, apparently, is when the stars aligned and the golf gods smiled. Over the next 63 holes, Woods swept through Augusta National like a tornado, toying with the course and demoralizing the greatest players in the world.
Tiger’s runaway, far from putting a crimp into the television ratings, instead gave golf its greatest ratings winner to date. In 1996, before Woods turned pro, the ratings were 9.2 on Sunday. In 1997, when Woods won, the number jumped to 14.1.
The rest, as they say, is history — 14 major championships, 74 PGA Tour wins, the lowest career scoring average in PGA Tour history, 10 Player of the Year awards, and, yes, scandal and disgrace. But the impact and the level of achievement are undeniable and unprecedented.
Nicklaus brought out greatness in his opponents — Palmer, Player, Watson, Trevino. But more importantly, he made golf a greater game through his physical skill and strength, his mental toughness, his sustained level of excellence and his genius for strategically dismantling golf courses around the world.
You know the litany of accomplishments. 18 major championships, more than Hogan and Palmer combined. A mind-boggling 37 top twos in majors.
And lest we think the Tour of the 21st Century outshines the Tour in Jack’s prime, consider this: Nicklaus fought many of the game’s greatest at their very peak and beat them all. And when he didn’t beat them, he coaxed their very best out of them.
As if to prove the point, at age 46, Nicklaus was able to muster enough of his old-time wizardry to outduel names like Ballesteros, Kite, Norman — all of them at the peak of their powers — to win his sixth Masters in 1986 in one of the greatest sports moments of all time.
In his golden years, the Golden Bear has continued to shape the game with his prolific golf course design company.
There have been better players with prettier swings. But there has never been a more important golfer than the King, Arnold Palmer. He quadrupled purses, brought golf away from the country clubs and into our living rooms, and assembled an Army of devoted followers. He won — and lost — with more flair than any other athlete.
From 1958 to 1968, Palmer reigned amid the azaleas and pines of Augusta National, where Arnie’s Army first mustered. With the lone exception of 1963, he was in contention at every Masters during that epic stretch, winning four times, finishing second twice, third once and fourth twice.
Although he made his reputation at The Masters — and made the tournament what it is today — it was the 1960 U.S. Open that truly captured the King at the peak of his powers. The leaderboard on that final day included a chubby 20-year-old amateur named Jack Nicklaus. It included a legend — the Hawk, Ben Hogan. The third member of this historic trio lit a cigarette, stalked to the tee of the 318-yard, par-4 first hole at Cherry Hills and drove the green on his way to a historic final-round 65, erasing a seven-stroke deficit for the greatest comeback in Open history.
If winning is the standard for determining excellence, there is no greater player in golf history than Sam Snead.
Using a smooth, syrupy swing that looked as natural and effortless as breathing, Slammin’ Sammy won more golf tournaments than any other player — a staggering total of 81 PGA Tour titles, and anywhere from 135 to 165 victories worldwide, depending on whom you ask. He posted wins in four different decades, from the 1936 West Virginia Closed Pro to the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open (his eighth title in that event), when he was 52 years old.
Snead won three Masters, including a 1954 playoff triumph over friend and rival Ben Hogan. He won three PGA Championships and a British Open.
There is one hole in the Slammer’s résumé that prevents him from staking a legitimate claim to being the greatest player in history. Somehow, Snead never won the one tournament that seemingly should have been his by birthright. He never won a U.S. Open. But his near-tragic failures at the Open do not diminish his accomplishments.
His swing was such an efficient device that it served him well into his golden years and remains the gold standard for golf swings. In 1979, he offered golf fans one final glimpse of his greatness, as he became the first player to score below his age, shooting 67 and 66 in the Quad Cities Open at the age of 67. By then, and for the rest of his life, Snead was a beloved ambassador and advocate for the game.
Ben Hogan is widely considered the greatest ball-striker in the game’s history, and he changed golf instruction forever with his Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf. Along with Nicklaus, Woods, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen, he’s one of five players to own a career Grand Slam. His courage in coming back from a near-fatal car crash added to his legend. His tough-to-love, prickly personality kept him distant from fans and keeps him off Mount Rushmore. Barely.
Gary Player was golf’s first global ambassador, winning tournaments all over the world, including nine major championships.
Seve Ballesteros was Europe’s version of Arnold Palmer, putting a sport on his back and selling it to an entire continent. Almost singlehandedly, he transformed the Ryder Cup into one of the greatest spectacles in sports.
Bobby Jones was the game’s breakthrough superstar who pulled off one of golf’s signature achievements with his 1930 Grand Slam — winning the U.S. and British Opens and U.S. and British Amateurs in one season. Oh, and he founded The Masters.
Byron Nelson was golf’s greatest gentleman and the author of its greatest individual achievement — 11 wins in a row in 1945, a season in which he won 18 tournaments in all.
Tom Watson won eight majors and dominated golf’s oldest tournament, the British Open, like no one else, winning five times in a nine-year span and coming close to a historic sixth win in 2009 at age 59.
Green Bay wide receiver Greg Jennings is officially listed as Doubtful for Thursday night’s game against Chicago. The Packer, who is dealing with a groin injury, is said to have a “50-50” chance of playing in this NFC North clash against the Bears.
Play it safe and keep Jennings on your bench this week, especially if you have other, healthier options or room to pick up someone off of the waiver wire.
Jennings sustained the groin injury late in the Week 1 loss to San Francisco and hasn’t practiced all week. The short turnaround for the Thursday game hurts him even more, not to mention that groin injuries are very easy to re-aggravate. Even if Jennings does make it on the field, there's no guarantee of how many snaps he will get or if he will even be able to make it through the entire game.
This early in the season, even though they could very well be 0-2 by the end of tonight’s game, the Packers will more than likely err on the side of caution when it comes to Jennings and if you have him on your roster, I think you should too.
Fret not Aaron Rodgers owners, Jennings’ absence does nothing to change his fantasy value as he ranked as Athlon Sports’ No. 1 quarterback for Week 2. As evidenced last week when the Packers managed a measly 45 yards on the ground, win or lose, Rodgers is going to throw the ball plenty.
There’s no reason to not expect him to put up 250-300 yards passing and two-three touchdown passes each week, if not more considering he went for more than 300 (2 TDs, 1 INT) against the 49ers, the NFC’s No. 1 defense last season.
No, the one who’s impacted most by Jennings not playing would be the other receivers, namely Randall Cobb and James Jones. Fellow wide receiver Jordy Nelson is already a borderline top-10 wide receiver option, while tight end Jermichael Finley may even see an increase in targets his way. Donald Driver also could see an increase in playing time, but I wouldn’t count on getting much production from the 37-year-old veteran. Not with the other options ahead of him on the depth chart.
Speaking of Cobb and Jones, either one or both could put up starter-worthy numbers on Thursday night, if anything because of the increase in opportunities with Jennings on the sideline. Jones is listed second on the depth chart behind Jennings, so presumably he will get the start opposite Nelson if Jennings can’t go.
Jones led all Packers receivers with 81 yards receiving against San Francisco in Week 1, hauling in a total of four passes, including a 10-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Jones also had a 28-yard completion earlier in the game wiped out by an offensive pass interference penalty called on him.
Although Jones should get the start if Jennings doesn’t play, Cobb would be my choice for the one to have a bigger impact fantasy-wise. The dynamic wide receiver/returner was second on the team to Finley in targets in Week 1 with nine. He converted all of those targets into receptions, finishing with 77 yards receiving and also returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The Packers lined Cobb all over the field — in the slot, on the outside, in the backfield — in an effort to get him the ball in space and I expect to see the same against the Bears. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he didn’t get a carry or two either as a running back or on some sort of reverse/trick play as the Packers look to jumpstart an ineffective running game.
Early games are always the toughest when it comes to game-time decisions, but an injury classification of Doubtful is much closer to Out/Inactive than it is Questionable. Rodgers and the Packers have plenty of other options to not risk Jennings injuring himself even more. I recommend you do the same if you have him on your roster.
— By Mark Ross, published on Sept. 13, 2012
NFL Week 2 previews and predictions for every game on the schedule:
Bears (1-0) at Packers (0-1)
Titletown was stunned by the 49ers in the opener. The Packers must regroup in a hurry, with the Bears coming to town for a Thursday night showdown in the NFL’s oldest rivalry. The 185th meeting of a series that dates back to 1921 won’t lack for drama. Green Bay is riding a four-game winning streak over Chicago, but Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are out to take Aaron Rodgers’ NFC North title belt.
Packers by 4
Buccaneers (1-0) at Giants (0-1)
Former Rutgers boss Greg Schiano heads back to his old recruiting ground to face the G-Men, who will have had 10 days to boil over after being upset by the Cowboys.
Giants by 6
Raiders (0-1) at Dolphins (0-1)
The replacement referees will have their hands full in this race to the bottom between two once-proud AFL franchises.
Raiders by 1
Texans (1-0) at Jaguars (0-1)
Jacksonville is on a three-game slide against AFC South rival Houston and there is no reason to think that will change. But expectations are low; if there are Jags fans in the stands wearing fake mustaches, it will be a “win.”
Texans by 10
Browns (0-1) at Bengals (0-1)
As a 28-year-old rookie, Brandon Weeden was expected to bring an NFL-ready maturity to the struggling Browns. Instead, Weeden posted one of the worst debuts in history — completing 12-of-35 passes (34.3 percent) for 118 yards, zero TDs and four INTs for a 5.1 passer rating during a winnable 17–16 loss to the Eagles. Bengals sophomore signal-caller Andy Dalton is undefeated in the Buckeye State Bowl — winning 27–17 at Cleveland in Week 1 and 23–20 at home in Week 12 last season.
Bengals by 7
Chiefs (0-1) at Bills (0-1)
Kansas City and Buffalo allowed a combined 88 points in Week 1. Set your fantasy lineups — but probably not your DVR.
Bills by 1
Ravens (1-0) at Eagles (1-0)
If Michael Vick plays like he did in the opener, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata will have Philly shock jocks calling for Trent Edwards.
Ravens by 1
Saints (0-1) at Panthers (0-1)
After being stunned by phenom du jour Robert Griffin III in the opener, New Orleans will take on last year’s wunderkind Cam Newton — who was 0–2 against the Saints last season.
Saints by 5
Cardinals (1-0) at Patriots (1-0)
New England party animal Rob Gronkowski struggled with his touchdown celebration spike in the opener. Expect the Gronk to shake off the rust in the end zone at least once vs. the Cards.
Patriots by 15
Vikings (1-0) at Colts (0-1)
The No. 1 overall pick, Andrew Luck, makes his home debut in Indy after a forgettable Week 1 losing effort at Chicago. After being abused by the Monsters of the Midway, Luck will need to watch his back against Jared Allen and Co.
Colts by 1
Redskins (1-0) at Rams (0-1)
RG3 must have worn his Heisman Trophy-winning Superman socks in Week 1, because he leapt over the Saints in a single bound.
Redskins by 5
Cowboys (1-0) at Seahawks (0-1)
Tony Romo returns to the scene of arguably his lowest moment as a Cowboy — when he botched the hold on a 19-yard potential game-winning field goal that would have given Dallas its first playoff win since 1996.
Cowboys by 5
Jets (1-0) at Steelers (0-1)
The Steelers hope to have more luck against Tim Tebow’s new team than they did against his old team — or Tebow in the playoffs.
Steelers by 6
Titans (0-1) at Chargers (1-0)
San Diego rushed for only 32 yards, while holding Oakland to 45 yards on the ground in the nightcap of the Monday double-header. Enter Chris Johnson, who mustered just four yards on 11 carries in the Titans’ loss to the Patriots.
Chargers by 5
Lions (1-0) at 49ers (1-0)
Postgame handshakes and back slaps will be in the spotlight when Detroit’s Jim Schwartz and San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh square off on Sunday night for the first time since the duo’s infamous Week 6 run-in last season — after the Niners beat the Lions, 25–19.
49ers by 7
Broncos (1-0) at Falcons (1-0)
Peyton Manning plays his second prime time contest in as many weeks, hitting Atlanta on Monday night after taking down Pittsburgh last Sunday night. The four-time MVP will look to become just the fourth quarterback to defeat Atlanta’s Matt Ryan at the Georgia Dome — where “Matty Ice” holds a 26–4 record.
Falcons by 3
Season: 10–6 // Last week: 10–6
Florida(+3) at Tennessee
A few months ago, when CBS was selecting its early season schedule, the network passed on the Tennessee-Florida game (for the first time since 1995) in favor of Alabama’s trip to Arkansas. Now, however, after Tennessee’s hot start, Florida’s win at Texas A&M and Arkansas’ shocking loss to UL Monroe, the Vols vs. Gators showdown in the marquee game of the day in the nation’s premier conference. Tennessee has looked sharp in both games — a win over NC State in Atlanta and a lopsided victory over hapless Georgia State — but Florida is the more battle-tested of the two teams. The Gators’ offense is still an issue, but there were signs of progress in the 20–17 win at Texas A&M on Saturday. The story of the game, though, was the Florida defense. After giving up three drives of more than 70 yards in the first half, UF limited A&M to a total of 65 yards in the second half. Tennessee’s Tyler Bray might be the most physically gifted quarterback in the nation, but he has yet to lead his team to a victory against a quality opponent with an elite defense.
Florida 24, Tennessee 21
Alabama (-21) at Arkansas
Arkansas’ loss to UL Monroe last week was a blow to the Razorbacks’ ego, but it’s important to remember that it was not a conference game. However, it’s very difficult to envision a scenario in which a team that lost a 28–7 lead at home (in Little Rock) to UL Monroe is good enough to challenge Alabama and LSU in the SEC West. To make matters worse, All-SEC quarterback Tyler Wilson might not play due to an injury suffered in the Monroe game. Alabama, meanwhile, is rolling right along. The Crimson Tide improved to 2–0 with a 35–0 win over Western Kentucky and looks like the best team in the country after two weeks. This trip to Fayetteville will be Bama’s first true road game, so don’t be surprised if the Tide struggles a bit — even if Wilson doesn’t play for Arkansas. In the end, though, Alabama will prevail.
Alabama 31, Arkansas 17
Notre Dame (+4) at Michigan State
For the first time since 2005, both Notre Dame and Michigan State are undefeated for their annual early season showdown. Michigan State moved to 2–0 with a 41–7 win in its first-ever visit to Central Michigan. Le’Veon Bell was “held” to 70 yards on 18 carries after exploding for 210 against Boise State. Notre Dame gutted out a 20–17 win over an underrated Purdue club that features an outstanding defensive front. The Irish had trouble running the ball, but Everett Golson and Tommy Rees combined to throw for 324 yards and one touchdown. The key for Notre Dame, however, will be on defense and its ability to slow down Bell and the Michigan State rushing attack. Andrew Maxwell is a talented quarterback, but the first-year starter made some key mistakes in the win over Boise State. Notre Dame must force Maxwell to make plays down field.
Michigan State 27, Notre Dame 21
USC (-9) at Stanford
Matt Barkley has been nearly flawless through two games. The senior quarterback has completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 559 yards with an amazing 10 touchdowns — four more than any other player in the nation. It helps when Marqise Lee and Robert Woods are your primary targets, but Barkley is clearly playing the position at the highest level. USC’s defense, however, was a bit of a disappointment last week. The Trojans surrendered 455 yards to Syracuse in a 42–29 win over the Orange at the Meadowlands. We knew this wasn’t going to be one of the premier defenses in the nation, but those numbers are a bit alarming. Stanford bounced back from a lethargic Week 1 win over San Jose State by dominating Duke 50–13 in Palo Alto. The Cardinal have won three straight in this series. They won’t get to No. 4.
USC 38, Stanford 24
Arizona State (+7) at Missouri
Todd Graham might not be the most well-liked coach in America, but he’s done a terrific job early in his first season at Arizona State. The Sun Devils are 2–0 with wins over Northern Arizona (63–6) and Illinois (45–14). Now, Graham and the Devils take their show on the road to face a Missouri team that must bounce back — both physically and emotionally — from a 41–20 loss at home to Georgia in the school’s first-ever SEC game. Missouri played well for much of the game but was overwhelmed by the Bulldogs’ front seven on defense in the fourth quarter. The Tigers won’t face the same type of defensive pressure this week, which is good news for the banged up Mizzou offensive line. If quarterback James Franklin has ample time to operate, the Tigers should get back in the win column this weekend.
Missouri 30, Arizona State 24
Wake Forest (+25) at Florida State
This line seems a bit high considering that Wake Forest beat Florida State last season and played well last week in a 28–27 win over a well-regarded North Carolina team. The Deacons had trouble running the ball vs. UNC, but Tanner Price completed 27-of-38 for 327 yards to lead the passing attack. Florida State has won its two games by a combined score of 124–3, but the two wins came against FCS opponents. We think this is a very good FSU team, but we won’t know for sure until the Noles play a few schools that hand out more than 65 scholarships. After Wake, Florida State hosts Clemson and then travels to South Florida and NC State. It’s a crucial stretch for the preseason ACC favorites.
Florida State 30, Wake Forest 17
Connecticut (-2.5) at Maryland
It’s the highly anticipated Randy Edsall bowl. The not-so-popular head coach went 74–70 in 12 years at Connecticut before bolting for his “dream job” at Maryland. Things haven’t gone so well in College Park, where Edsall has a 4–10 record through the second week of the 2012 season. The Terps are 2–0 in ’12, but the wins have come against William & Mary (by one) and Temple (by nine). There is some quality young talent on the roster — and the Terps are starting a true freshman quarterback (Perry Hills) — but the program has a long way to go to be relevant in the ACC. UConn has split its first two games, dominating UMass 37–0 in Week 1 before dropping a 10–7 decision to NC State at home last weekend. The sample size is small (and the first opponent was dreadful), but the Huskies have been stout on defense so far in 2012. That, combined with Maryland’s struggles on offense, gives UConn the advantage in this classic Big East vs. ACC showdown.
UConn 13, Maryland 10
BYU (-4) at Utah
Utah’s season hasn’t exactly planned. First, the Utes had a 12-game winning streak vs. in-state rival Utah State snapped. Then starting quarterback Jordan Wynn announced that he was retiring from football after suffering another shoulder injury. That leaves senior Jon Hays (12-of-26 vs. Utah State) as the starter with true freshman Travis Wilson being used as a change-of-pace option. BYU, on the other hand, has looked very good in wins at home vs. Washington State (30–6) and Weber State (45–13). The Cougars will be out for some revenge after getting pounded at home, 54–10, last season by their hated rivals from Salt Lake City.
BYU 24, Utah 14
North Carolina (+3.5) at Louisville
North Carolina’s hopes of contending in the ACC Coastal took a big hit with a surprising loss at Wake Forest on Saturday. The Tar Heels are ineligible to play in the league’s title game, but there was a belief among many — including Athlon Sports — that they could challenge Virginia Tech in the division. That, however, will be difficult after Saturday’s loss. Louisville remains the favorite in the Big East. The Cardinals are 2–0 after beating Kentucky and Missouri State at home. Sophomore Teddy Bridgewater has been terrific in both games. He’s completed 49-of-60 (81.7 percent) for 576 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Nobody expects him to continue to operate with that type of efficiency, but Bridgewater is emerging as one of the top young quarterbacks in the game.
Louisville 24, North Carolina 20
Rutgers (+9) at South Florida (Thu.)
Once again, South Florida is off to a strong start. The Bulls improved to 2–0 with an impressive come-from-behind win over a solid Nevada team in Reno. Now, the Bulls need to sustain this strong play throughout the course of the season — something they haven’t been able to do in recent years. Rutgers is 2–0, but the Scarlet Knights haven’t been overly impressive in wins over Tulane (a bad FBS team) and Howard (a mediocre FCS team). The Scarlet Knights are only averaging 315 yards per game (ranks 100th in the nation), an alarmingly low number given the level of competition. Jawan Jamison has looked good running the ball (222 yards on 28 carries), but nothing else has really stood out about the RU attack.
South Florida 24, Rutgers 16
Last week: 6–4 overall (4–6 against the spread)
Season: 15–5 overall (11–9 against the spread)
— by Mitch Light
The Thursday night game will feature the NFL’s oldest rivalry, with the Green Bay Packers hosting the Chicago Bears at 8:20 p.m. EST on the NFL Network. These two NFC North foes had very different experiences in their openers, as the Bears easily handled the Colts while the Packers ran into the juggernaut defense of the 49ers — losing 30-22 at home. After going 15-1 last season, it would be almost unfathomable for Green Bay to start the 2012 campaign with two Lambeau Field losses. Chicago will bring an improved offense to Wisconsin, and Lovie Smith’s club will be looking for revenge after losing to the Packers twice last season
When the Green Bay Packers have the ball:
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers still ended up with 303 passing yards and two touchdowns against the tough 49ers defense, but he was sacked three times and threw a costly interception. To get back to last year’s incredible offensive rhythm, the Packers must protect Rodgers and improve greatly in the run game. Green Bay managed only 45 yards rushing against the Niners, with Rodgers accounting for 27 of that meager total. Another concern is the health of top receiver Greg Jennings, who is battling a groin injury. Green Bay should still be explosive, however, with weapons like Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Jermichael Finley and Randall Cobb.
The Bears intercepted rookie quarterback Andrew Luck three times in the opener, but they will obviously face a much greater challenge against the NFL’s reigning MVP. Rodgers lit up the Chicago defense for five touchdown passes last December, so the Bears must find a way to get into the Green Bay backfield. Linebacker Brian Urlacher was able to start against Indianapolis after offseason knee surgery, and he will need a big game in Lambeau. Cornerback Charles Tillman is listed as questionable for this contest after suffering a leg injury in the first quarter of the Colts victory.
When the Chicago Bears have the ball:
After a slow start last week, quarterback Jay Cutler finished with 333 passing yards and two touchdowns. Receiver Brandon Marshall thrived in his first game back with his former signal caller, catching nine balls for 119 yards and a score. Additionally, the Bears got 122 yards and three touchdowns from the rushing tandem of Matt Forte and Michael Bush. Chicago has to be fired up about its offensive potential this season, and protecting Cutler plus avoiding turnovers will be the key on Thursday night.
The Packers were gashed for 186 rushing yards last week by San Francisco, and they caused zero turnovers after tying for the league lead in takeaways last season. The Green Bay defense has been able to force Cutler into throwing interceptions in the recent past, and that trend will need to continue for the Packers to get back on track. In addition to stopping the Chicago run game, Green Bay will face a tough new challenge in having to cover the physical Marshall.
I think this game will be decided on how well the Packers offensive line plays. The Green Bay running game does not have to be a catalyst, but it needs to be effective enough to back off Julius Peppers and the Bears pass rush. If Rodgers is protected, he can carry the team and mask over some defensive deficiencies. While the Bears looked strong in Week 1, I’ll take the Packers to rebound at home and avoid an 0-2 start to the season.
Green Bay 30 Chicago 24
---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
It's another big week in the SEC, as Arkansas hosts Alabama and Florida travels to Knoxville in a crucial East Division matchup. The Razorbacks could be without quarterback Tyler Wilson and are reeling after a disappointing loss to ULM. The Crimson Tide didn't have a flawless effort against Western Kentucky but should be ready for Arkansas' offense on Saturday. Two games to keep an eye on: Western Kentucky at Kentucky and ULM at Auburn. Both games are trendy upset picks this week, especially after ULM beat Arkansas in Little Rock last Saturday.
Other Week 3 Previews and Predictions
SEC's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 3
1. Can Tennessee run the ball against a quality opponent?
The Vols are averaging 187.5 yards rushing through two games — a major improvement from last season, when they ranked 12th in the league and 116th in the nation with 90.1 yards per game. But the sample size is still very small, and one of their opponents, Georgia State, is among the worst FCS programs in the nation. The first significant test will come this weekend when Florida visits Neyland Stadium. The Gators have some injury issues in the front seven, but this is still a formidable group. Last week, Florida held Christine Michael of Texas A&M to 33 yards on 13 carries and limited the Aggies as a team to a modest 3.5 yards on their 38 rushing attempts. Tennessee boasts one of the nation’s most explosive passing attacks, but the Vols must get something going on the ground this week to beat Florida.
2. Can Jeff Driskel continue to play mistake-free football?
There a lot of things that Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease had to like about Driskel’s performance in the Gators’ 20–17 win at Texas A&M. The sophomore quarterback improved his efficiency, completing 81.3 percent and averaging 10.1 yards per attempt in Week 2 after completing 62.5 percent and averaging 7.1 per attempt against Bowling Green. He also did some damage on the ground, running for 56 positive yards (though he lost 48 while taking eight sacks). But the biggest positive? He didn’t throw an interception — and hasn’t done so in 32 pass attempts this season. Pease would no doubt like to see his quarterback take fewer sacks and have more success throwing the ball down the field, but if Driskel can continue to protect the football and the Gators continue to get solid production from tailback Mike Gillislee, this team will win a lot of games in 2012.
3. Kiehl Frazier vs. Kolton Browning
The UL Monroe vs. Auburn game Saturday features one of the nation’s hottest quarterbacks (Browning) vs. one of the most maligned (Frazier). Browning, a former 3-star recruit (Scout) who had no BCS offers, threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 69 more and one score in the Warhawks’ thrilling overtime win at Arkansas last weekend. Meanwhile, Frazier, a consensus top-100 national recruit two years ago, is struggling mightily in his first season as the starter. The Arkansas native has completed less than 50 percent of his passes and has one touchdown and four interceptions in the Tigers’ losses to Clemson and Mississippi State. To be fair, Frazier has faced arguably the most difficult schedule in the nation to date, but there is no denying that his performance has been a disappointment. Auburn has little depth at the quarterback position and pretty much has all of its eggs in the Frazier basket. The Tigers desperately need him to emerge as a competent quarterback — for this season and the future of the program.
4. Can Arkansas stop Alabama?
When you think Arkansas vs. Alabama, the first matchup that comes to mind is the Razorbacks’ potent offense (if Tyler Wilson is healthy) vs. the Tide’s stout defense. But the key to Arkansas being competitive with the No. 1 team in the nation will be the Hogs’ ability to slow down the Bama offensive attack. After two games, Arkansas ranks 86th in the nation in total defense and 85th in scoring defense — and that is after playing Jacksonville State from the FCS ranks and UL Monroe of the Sun Belt. The Hogs have been especially bad defending the pass, allowing their two opponents to throw for an average of 319.5 yards and a combined five touchdowns. Alabama, meanwhile, has been the most efficient passing team in the SEC to date. This doesn’t look like a good matchup for Arkansas — on many fronts.
5. Missouri’s banged-up offensive line
Missouri boasts one of the SEC’s most dynamic quarterbacks in junior James Franklin and a nice collection of skill players. But the Tigers will struggle to win games unless they can shore up their offensive line. The Tigers lost two projected starters in the preseason when left guard Travis Ruth suffered a torn triceps (out for the season) and right guard Jack Meiners injured his left knee (out indefinitely). Then, in the second quarter of Saturday’s loss to Georgia, sixth-year senior Elvis Fisher went down with an MCL injury in his right knee. This week against Arizona State, MU will start a true freshman at left guard (Evan Boehm), a redshirt freshman at center (Brad McNulty) and a former walk-on at right guard (Max Copelan).
7. Who will give up more points — if any — this week, Georgia (vs. Florida Atlantic) or LSU (vs. Idaho)?
The two participants of the 2011 SEC Championship Game take on two of the worst FBS teams in the nation this weekend. Florida Atlantic is 1–1 with a 7–3 win over Wagner and a 31–17 loss to Middle Tennessee (which lost to McNeese State the week before). Idaho is 0–2 with a 20–3 loss at home to Eastern Washington and a 21–13 loss at Bowling Green. The Vandals have scored one touchdown in eight quarters. Both Georgia and LSU could sit their starters for the entire game and still win with ease.
8. Can Bo keep it going?
Ole Miss sophomore Bo Wallace has been a pleasant surprise at quarterback for first-year coach Huge Freeze. The junior college transfer has completed 76.1 percent of his passes for 438 yards with five touchdowns and one interception and has also rushed for 135 yards and two scores. Those stats, however, were accumulated against Central Arkansas and UTEP. Now, the Tennessee native will test his mettle against a ferocious Texas defense that has allowed a total of 17 points in two games. Ole Miss, which hasn’t defeated a team from an AQ conference since October 2010 (Kentucky), is a 10.5-point underdog at home. Wallace will have to play extremely well to give the Rebels a chance to win.
9. Can Kentucky avoid the unthinkable — a loss to Western Kentucky?
After losing its first two games in the series by an average of 36.5 points (in ’08 and ’10), Western Kentucky made the boys from Big State U sweat in last season’s opener played in Nashville. The final score was 14–3, but Kentucky didn’t put the game away until the final minutes of the fourth quarter. WKU outgained the Cats 234 to 190 and controlled the time of possession, 34:00 to 26:00. Can the Hilltoppers break through and upset Kentucky — and deliver a crippling blow to Joker Phillips in the process? It could happen, especially if Kentucky continues to struggle on defense. The Cats beat Kent State 47–14 last weekend but gave up 409 yards to a team that only picked 267 the week before vs. Towson State. It was only the second time in the past 15 games that Kent State topped the 400-yard mark. Western Kentucky scored 49 points in a Week 1 win over FCS foe Austin Peay and then was shut out 35–0 at Alabama. The Toppers did, however, have modest success in the air vs. the Tide as Kawaun Jakes completed 20-of-31 for 178 yards. Jakes is good enough to do some damage against the suspect Kentucky defense.
10. Can Mississippi State handle prosperity?
The Bulldogs are fresh off one of their most impressive wins in years, a 28–10 beatdown of SEC West rival Auburn. The Bulldogs are only 2–0, but the majority of their fans are all but certain that MSU will be 5–0 when Tennessee visits on Oct. 13. That is why this week’s trip to Troy is a bit dangerous. The Bulldogs have struggled in recent years with some teams from so-called lesser conferences. They beat Louisiana Tech last season and UAB in 2010 by an average of 5.5 points and lost to Houston 31–24 in ’09 and Louisiana Tech 22–14 in ’08. Dan Mullen is well aware of what his team can accomplish this season and will do everything in his power to be sure the Bulldogs are mentally ready to take care of business at the venue formerly known as Movie Gallery Stadium.
SEC Week 3 Predictions
|SEC Games||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|ULM (+16.5) at Auburn||Auburn 28-24||Auburn 38-31||Auburn 30-24||Auburn 30-17|
|Presbyterian at Vandy||Vandy 35-10||Vandy 27-7||Vandy 45-3||Vandy 41-0|
|Texas A&M at SMU (+12.5)||TAMU 38-14||TAMU 34-3||TAMU 41-20||TAMU 38-20|
|Alabama at Arkansas (+21)||Alabama 38-10||Alabama 38-14||Alabama 34-10||Alabama 31-17|
|Florida (+3) at Tennessee||Tennessee 21-17||Tennessee 27-21||Tennessee 24-20||Florida 24-21|
|Miss. State at Troy (+16)||Miss. State 35-14||Miss. State 31-13||Miss. State 38-14||Miss. State 33-14|
|Arizona State (+6.5) at Mizzou||Mizzou 31-17||Mizzou 34-24||Mizzou 34-27||Mizzou 32-24|
|WKU (+7) at Kentucky||WKU 14-10||WKU 21-17||WKU 24-20||Kentucky 20-10|
|UAB (+33) at S. Carolina||S. Carolina 42-7||S. Carolina 34-13||S. Carolina 41-13||S. Carolina 38-0|
|FAU (+42.5) at Georgia||Georgia 56-3||Georgia 41-10||Georgia 50-7||Georgia 38-3|
|Idaho (+43) at LSU||LSU 63-3||LSU 48-3||LSU 52-3||LSU 48-3|
|Texas at Ole Miss (+9.5)||Texas 31-7||Texas 38-17||Texas 38-10||Texas 20-10|
by Mitch Light
Related College Football Content
Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any website can give you.
2012 NFL Week 2 Fantasy Football Rankings
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
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
PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points
Week 2 wasn't any better than Week 1 for Big Ten fans. In fact, it was much worse. As stated in the weekly Big Ten recap, the league is 2-7 against BCS conference teams and Notre Dame. Those two wins are Northwestern's victories over Syracuse and Vanderbilt.
The bruised Midwestern egos are hanging in the balance this Saturday, and for many, redemption is a must. Wisconsin, Penn State and Iowa all lost and all face tricky tests this weekend against teams they should beat. Don't be surprised if one trips up again.
The best medicine for the Big Ten, though, would be a great showing from Michigan State against Notre Dame...
Big Ten's Top 10 Storylines to Watch in Week 3:
1. Which Andrew Maxwell shows up this weekend?
If Michigan State is going to pull the upset over Notre Dame, its junior quarterback is going to have to play efficient and consistent football. That means the player who threw for 275 yards, two scores and no interceptions in Week 2 needs to be under center. Not the guy who threw three interceptions and no touchdowns in Week 1. Certainly, Boise State had something to do with his struggles, but Mark Dantonio is going to have to get big plays - and not turnovers - from Maxwell in order to beat a Notre Dame team that has allowed three touchdowns all season. Don't forget that Notre Dame handled the Spartans with relative ease last season, winning 31-13. This game features two of the best front-sevens in football and which first-year starter under center plays the most mistake-free football will likely win.
2. Bret Bielema and staff need to look in the mirror
Everyone knew losing offensive coordinator Paul Chryst was going to be extremely difficult for Wisconsin to overcome. But many glossed over the fact that Bielema had to completely rebuild his coaching staff this offseason as a total of six assistants left for jobs elsewhere. The UW staff didn't waste much time evaluating the new hires either. After the pathetic showing against Oregon State last weekend, Bielema replaced offensive line coach Mike Markuson. While two games doesn't feel like the right amount of time to accurately judge his staff, one thing is certain, offensive coordinator Matt Canada has been overmatched. His gameplans have lacked creativity and the numbers have been startling. Try 207 total yards from the Big Ten's most potent offense a year ago against Oregon State. However, it's not just one guy's fault. The offensive line needs to play better, Montee Ball has looked uninspired and Danny O'Brien looks nothing like the player he was as a freshman at Maryland. There is no need to panic (Oregon State is a much improved team this year and UW was closer to an 8-4 team anyway), but the schedule is only getting tougher and a visit from upstart 2-0 Utah State isn't what the doctor ordered. Two non-conference wins before heading to Nebraska to begin Big Ten play is essential for the once-powerful Big Red of Madison.
3. Kirk Ferentz is coaching for his job every weekend
One could make the case Iowa should be 0-2 heading into its Week 3 showdown with Northern Iowa. Wait, a game against an FCS opponent and a Big Ten power is a "showdown?" With the way the Hawkeyes offense has played in two games — 24 total points, 112th in total offense (286.0 ypg) and six sacks allowed — the answer is most assuredly yes. James Vandenberg is a shell of his 2011 self, the offensive line isn't blocking and the skill players aren't making plays. And no one will forget how Northern Iowa nearly beat Wisconsin in Week 1 — or the last time these two met. In 2009, Iowa barely defeated its upstart in-state competition 17-16. Do not overlook the fact that a majority of the Northern Iowa roster likely grew up wishing for a chance to play for the Hawkeyes. Ferentz' job security seems tenuous and every week is important. A loss this Saturday could be nearly impossible to overcome.
4. Weekly Rex Burkhead injury update
The star tailback's injured knee will be one of the biggest storylines of the year if he cannot return soon. This week, he won't be needed against Arkansas State, but he was certainly missed in last week's upset loss to UCLA. Ameer Abdullah has been playing well enough that the Huskers should roll over the Red Wolves this weekend, but head coach Bo Pelini has been hush-hush about his stud running back. He is day-to-day and even if he does return, the plan should be to ease him back into action. Upcoming conference games with Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State are all vastly more important than Saturday's contest versus Arkansas State. Look for Pelini to do the right thing here and make sure No. 22 is fully healthy before bringing him back onto the field. He can claim all he wants that Burkhead's absence didn't cost Nebraska the UCLA game, but it is hard to believe the All-American running back isn't worth at least six points.
5. Bill O'Brien still looking for first win of his career
Penn State played well last weekend against a well-coached Virginia team. The Nittany Lions were/are shorthanded and they played well above their heads in the heart-breaking loss. If O'Brien wants to galvanize the fan base and notch a few wins this fall, he needs to do some damage over the next month, starting with Navy at home on Saturday. The betting public has its reservations, however, as the line opened at 8.5 in favor of PSU over the Midshipmen, but has since dropped to 5.5. With Temple coming up next weekend, the Lions have a chance to equal their record at 2-2, but a win over Navy is imperative for the psyche of this program.
6. Big Ten bounces back in a big way
Okay, so "big" might be pushing it. However, anytime six teams in a 12-team league lose non-conference games like the league did last week, any victory is big. Purdue lost a heart-breaker and one of its quarterbacks to Notre Dame. Wisconsin, Nebraska and Illinois all return home from the West Coast with their tails between their legs and mid-major programs coming to town. Penn State's chances of winning this weekend have been documented above and Iowa is in complete disarray at the moment. All 12 Big Ten teams are at home this weekend and all 12 are favored to win. A 12-0 week would be just what Jim Delany needs to cure his heartburn.
7. 3-0 against BCS competition
Northwestern faces Boston College at home this weekend. The Wildcats are the only Big Ten team with two wins over BCS conference competition thus far and would obviously be the only team with three such wins if Pat Fitzgerald's bunch can topple the Eagles. No, none of the wins are marquee victories over top 25 competition, but beating an SEC bowl team, an ACC team and Big East team to start the season for a team of Northwestern's stature is nothing to overlook. The defense showed massive improvement from Week 1 to Week 2 and Coach Fitz' squad should be able to handle BC at home.
8. How will Ohio State's secondary play against Cal's passing attack
The cross-country trip to Columbus has Cal more than a two-touchdown underdog to Ohio State. But if there is one area of concern for Urban Meyer this Saturday, it will come on the arm of Zach Maynard and the Golden Bears' passing attack. Through two games, the Buckeyes are ranked 96th nationally against the pass (281.0 ypg). Some of that can be attributed to the two teams trailing in both games, but UCF and Miami (Ohio) aren't exactly world beaters. Cal has a trio of pass-catchers that will stretch the field vertically as Keenan Allen, Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper are talented and over-looked in a league loaded with receiving talent. This might be Cal's only hope to pull off a miraculous upset over Ohio State. Because that Braxton Miller guy could easily run for another 150-plus yards and score four more times.
9. Could it be? Minnesota and Indiana a combined 6-0?
The Gophers and Hoosiers won a combined four games last fall, and through two weeks, they have already matched that total. And there are no signs that anything will change this weekend as Minnesota hosts Western Michigan and Indiana hosts Ball State. However, both of these MAC teams are more than capable of competing, so if both coaches expect to prove to the rest of the league that their starts are less fluke and more sustained growth, these are two games they have to win. This will be much tougher for IU now that starting quarterback Tre Roberson is expected to miss most, if not all, of the season after breaking his leg last weekend. The injury could not have come at a worst time and the Hoosiers must move forward with Cameron Coffman as their starter.
10. Michigan's Achilles Heel is pretty obvious
It won't mean much this weekend against the dramatically overmatched UMass Minutemen, but the yardage being surrendered by the Wolverines' front seven is concerning. Alabama and Air Force took whatever they wanted in the first two weeks and it nearly resulted in an 0-2 start for predicted Big Ten frontrunner Michigan. Certainly, the triple-option will skew stats but 261.0 yards rushing allowed per game is atrocious. Again, it won't play a role in what should be a blowout win over UMass, but this is easily the storyline to track for Brady Hoke's bunch in Week 3.
Week 3 Big Ten Predictions:
|Week 3 Games||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||Steven Lassan||David Fox|
|W. Michigan (+2.5) at Minnesota||Minnesota, 31-20||Minnesota, 28-20||Minnesota 31-27||Minnesota, 21-17|
|Arkansas St (+24.5) at Nebraska||Nebraska, 41-24||Nebraska, 37-20||Nebraska 40-24||Nebraska, 35-28|
|Cal (+17) at Ohio St||Ohio St, 45-24||Ohio St, 28-14||Ohio St 34-20||Ohio St, 28-14|
|E. Michigan (+24) at Purdue||Purdue, 31-10||Purdue, 37-15||Purdue 38-13||Purdue, 21-10|
|Charl. Southern at Illinois||Illinois, 34-10||Illinois, 41-10||Illinois 45-7||Illinois, 31-14|
|Navy (+5.5) at Penn St||Penn St, 17-14||Penn St, 17-13||Penn State 27-20||Penn St, 28-14|
|UMass (+46.5) at Michigan||Michigan, 45-10||Michigan, 51-0||Michigan 52-7||Michigan, 42-7|
|N. Iowa at Iowa||Iowa, 21-17||Iowa, 20-17||Iowa 27-20||Iowa, 21-14|
|BC (+3.5) at Northwestern||N'Western, 30-20||N'Western, 30-21||N'Western 31-24||N'Western, 31-17|
|Ball St (+2.5) at Indiana||Indiana, 24-20||Indiana, 21-20||Ball State 31-27||Indiana, 24-17|
|Utah St (+14) at Wisconsin||Wisconsin, 30-21||Utah St, 24-23||Wisconsin 34-27||Wisconsin, 35-21|
|Notre Dame (+6) at Michigan State||Mich. St, 21-14||Mich. St, 23-21||Mich. St 24-20||Mich. St, 28-21|
by Braden Gall
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ACC Week 3 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 3 Previews and Predictions
Big 12 Week 3 Previews and Predictions
Pac-12 Week 3 Previews and Predictions
SEC Week 3 Previews and Predictions
College Football Week 3 Upset Picks
Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections
Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124
With most of the teams in the ACC playing non-conference games, it was a relatively quiet Week 2 slate. The top three teams in the ACC - Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech - all won handily, while Virginia and NC State beat BCS competition. The stakes are on the rise in conference play this Saturday, as Florida State hosts Wake Forest and Virginia takes on Georgia Tech. The ACC also has a chance to earn a few solid non-conference wins, with North Carolina playing at Louisville and Maryland hosting Connecticut.
Other Week 3 Previews and Predictions
ACC's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 3
1. Can Wake Forest upset Florida State?
Considering Florida State has beat Murray State and Savannah State through the first two weeks of the season, the Seminoles are still somewhat of a mystery. Wake Forest struggled in Week 1 against Liberty but upset North Carolina last Saturday. The Demon Deacons are dealing with a couple of injuries that could affect this week’s matchup, including nose guard Nikita Whitlock. Whitlock was ruled out for Saturday's game on Thursday night, which is a huge setback for Wake Forest’s defensive line, especially against an unproven and young Florida State offensive line. The Demon Deacons will need a big game from quarterback Tanner Price and receiver Michael Campanaro, who will look to challenge unproven sophomore Nick Waisome at cornerback. However, just like Wake Forest will look to exploit Florida State’s offensive line, the Demon Deacons are largely untested up front, which is bad news against one of the nation’s top defensive lines. Wake Forest may hang around early, but Florida State shouldn’t be too concerned about an upset.
2. The return of Sammy Watkins
Clemson won’t need Sammy Watkins to beat Furman, but the Tigers are getting the sophomore back in the lineup at a crucial time. With Florida State up next, Clemson needs to get Watkins back into the flow of the offense and allow him to knock some of the rust off from the offseason. The Paladins are allowing 254 passing yards per game, so quarterback Tajh Boyd should have plenty of opportunities to hit Watkins for big plays. Don’t expect Watkins to play a ton of snaps in Week 3, but his return only adds another playmaker to the ACC’s No. 1 ranked offense after two games (527 yards).
3. Can Virginia Tech stop Pittsburgh’s Ray Graham?
It’s early in the season, but it’s a surprise to see Virginia Tech ranked 80th nationally against the run. Allowing 192 yards rushing to Georgia Tech in the opener wasn’t a surprise, but FCS opponent Austin Peay recorded 159 yards on the ground on 41 attempts last week. Although Pittsburgh is off to an 0-2 start, this is a team Virginia Tech should not take lightly. The Panthers have the Big East’s best stable of running backs, led by senior Ray Graham and freshman Rushel Shell. Graham isn’t fully recovered from a torn ACL he suffered last season, but he has 174 yards through two games. Shell was impressive in limited snaps last week, earning 31 yards on eight carries. The Hokies should be able to pull away in the second half, but if they struggle to stop Pittsburgh’s rushing attack, this game could be close in the fourth quarter.
4. Can North Carolina slow down Louisville’s passing attack?
With only two starters back and inexperienced players stepping into key roles, the Tar Heels had question marks about the secondary coming into the season. North Carolina allowed only 128 yards to Elon in the opener but was torched for 362 yards by Wake Forest last week. This unit will be under pressure once again on Saturday, as Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has completed 49 of 60 passes for 576 yards and two touchdowns through the first two weeks of 2012. The Cardinals also have a solid group of receivers, led by sophomores DeVante Parker and Eli Rogers. Although North Carolina’s offense should be able to move the ball on Louisville, if its secondary can’t stop Bridgewater, the Tar Heels will suffer back-to-back losses.
5. Will Giovani Bernard play for North Carolina?
One of the biggest surprises from last week’s games was the absence of North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard. The sophomore wasn’t believed to be seriously injured in the win over Elon, but he did not play against Wake Forest. The Tar Heels managed 157 yards on the ground with Bernard on the sidelines, but there’s no doubt he was missed. The sophomore is participating in practice, and all signs seem to point to a return to the field on Saturday. Louisville will be tough to beat at home, and the Tar Heels need Bernard at full strength to win.
6. Key game in the ACC Coastal: Virginia vs. Georgia Tech
It’s only the second ACC game of the season for Georgia Tech, but it could have an impact on the Coastal Division race. With a loss to Virginia Tech in the opener, the Yellow Jackets can’t afford to drop to 0-2. The Cavaliers have yet to play an ACC game but with a win, can become the clear No. 1 challenger to the Hokies. These two teams have split the last four games, with Virginia winning 24-21 last season in Charlottesville. The key matchup to watch will be how well the Cavaliers can slow down Georgia Tech’s option attack. The Yellow Jackets are averaging 330.5 yards per game on the ground, but Virginia is giving up only 74.5 yards rushing per game. Georgia Tech won’t pass much but will try to hit a few big plays to keep the defense honest. With no go-to receiver for quarterback Tevin Washington, the Cavaliers should be able to focus their attention on stopping the option. Considering both teams are relatively even, don’t be surprised if a late turnover decides this game.
7. Must-win for Boston College?
For Frank Spaziani to return in 2013, the Eagles need to make a bowl game and finish with at least six victories. If Boston College wants to return to the postseason after missing out last year, the Eagles need to win on Saturday at Northwestern. With an upcoming schedule that features games against Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Maryland in October, Boston College doesn’t have much room for error. The Eagles will have their hands full against the Wildcats, especially as they try to stop an offense that is averaging 32.5 points a game.
8. Can Maryland’s offense move the ball against Connecticut?
While it hasn’t been pretty, Maryland is 2-0 and seems to be building confidence after beating Temple 36-27 last weekend. Much of the discussion for this week’s game between Maryland and Connecticut will center on Randy Edsall, who left Storrs to take over the Terrapins at the end of the 2010 season. While Edsall’s messy departure from Connecticut will be discussed, the real battle to focus on will be the Huskies defense against Maryland’s offense. Connecticut’s defense has allowed only 10 points through the first two weeks of the season and is averaging four sacks a game. The Terrapins are averaging only 285 yards per game, while freshman quarterback Perry Hills will be tested against a stingy Connecticut secondary. Allowing Hills the opportunity to make plays through the air is critical, but the Terrapins have to win the turnover battle. Considering both teams have struggled to move the ball on offense this year, look for a low-scoring game that could be decided on a last-minute field goal.
9. Miami and NC State get easy non-conference victories
Non-conference games against Bethune-Cookman and South Alabama are coming at the right time for Miami and NC State. The Hurricanes were thoroughly dominated in a 52-13 loss to Kansas State, while NC State is coming off a 10-7 win over Connecticut. Although the Wolfpack won last week, this team has a few areas to address, including an offensive line that is allowing 3.5 sacks per game. The Hurricanes have been awful on defense so far, and the opportunity to play against a FCS team should help build some confidence before ACC play starts again. Similar to Miami, NC State can use this week’s game and next (Citadel) to build some confidence and find a few answers on both sides of the ball.
10. Can Duke find a running game?
Developing a consistent rushing attack has been an issue for years at Duke. The Blue Devils' last 1,000-yard rusher was Chris Douglas in 2003, and the ground game isn’t off to a good start in 2012. Josh Snead leads the team with 52 yards on 11 attempts, while Juwan Thompson ranks second with 45 yards. In order for Duke to make a bowl game this year, the offense has to have better balance. Saturday’s opponent (NC Central) should allow the Blue Devils to work on the ground game, especially with ACC play opening up on Sept. 29 against Wake Forest.
ACC Week 3 Predictions
|Week 3 ACC Games||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Wake Forest at Florida State||FSU 28-21||FSU 38-17||FSU 34-13||FSU 30-17|
|Bethune-Cookman at Miami||Miami 38-21||Miami 31-10||Miami 45-13||Miami 38-10|
|Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh||VT 42-21||VT 38-17||VT 34-13||VT 27-17|
|Connecticut at Maryland||UConn 13-10||Maryland 17-10||UConn 20-17||UConn 13-10|
|Furman at Clemson||Clemson 56-10||Clemson 45-13||Clemson 52-10||Clemson 44-7|
|Boston College at N'Western||N'Western 31-17||N'Western 27-14||N'Western 31-24||N'Western 30-21|
|Virginia at Georgia Tech||GT 21-14||GT 27-21||GT 27-24||GT 28-21|
|North Carolina at Louisville||Louisville 27-13||Louisville 27-21||Louisville 31-27||Louisville 24-20|
|South Alabama at NC State||NC State 35-7||NC State 31-7||NC State 44-13||NC State 41-10|
|NC Central at Duke||Duke 28-10||Duke 31-10||Duke 41-7||Duke 37-13|
by Steven Lassan
The Big East’s first Thursday night primetime game was a dud. Or, rather, a dud for everyone but Cincinnati. This week could present more compelling television with two of the league’s top contenders facing each other in Tampa.
Rutgers has won five of seven meetings since both have been in the Big East, but USF arguably has been the more impressive team this season. The Bulls defeated Mountain West contender Nevada in Reno last week while Rutgers has limped at times against Tulane and Howard. In any event, the winner will have a leg up in challenging Louisville (and perhaps Cincinnati?) for the Big East title.
Big East’s Top Storylines to Watch in Week 3
What does the win at Nevada mean for USF’s fourth-quarter woes?
In USF’s last five Big East losses quarter, the Bulls led in the fourth quarter -- a streak that doesn’t include being tied 3-3 in the fourth quarter in a loss to Miami. Could USF’s fourth-quarter heroics be the turning point USF needed to contend in for a Big East title? Plenty had to go right for USF on Saturday. First, the Bulls needed to overcome a 21-6 first-quarter deficit, then the injuries to cornerback Kayvon Webster (who’s hopeful to return this week) and wide receiver Sterling Griffin (who’s out for the season). USF forced a fumble for a turnover and later held Nevada to a field goal despite the Wolf Pack advancing to the 9. Then, the Bulls used two 50-yard touchdown passes in the final three minutes to win. USF will find out soon enough if the late win was a fluke or a sign of things to come.
When will we see the best out of Gary Nova?
Nova’s performance against USF last season (11 of 24, 110 yards) and the seven interceptions in the preceding three games briefly ended his tenure as Rutgers’ starting quarterback. The Scarlet Knights have not shown any indication Nova will be pulled after he won a close competition with Chas Dodd during the offseason, but the Scarlet Knights have to wonder if he’ll break out. Nova is 26 of 47 this season for 288 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions against Tulane and Howard. The receiving corps is still finding its way without Mohamed Sanu, but improved consistency will help.
How will USF’s Andre Davis take on the Rutgers’ secondary and cornerback Logan Ryan?
With Sterling Griffin shut down for the remainder of the season, USF is looking for a new No. 1 target. Quarterback B.J. Daniels had little trouble finding him against Nevada as Andre Davis caught 12 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns. No other USF receiver caught more than two passes in Reno. Davis scored the game-winning 56-yard touchdown through pass interference on a deep pass play. And earlier, Davis broke a tackle on a short pass to score at 51-yard touchdown. This week, he’ll take on the best secondary in the Big East. Logan Ryan anchored a defensive backfield that finished fifth nationally in pass efficiency defense last season. Meanwhile, fellow cornerback Brandon Jones has emerged early this season, providing a pick six against Tulane in the opener. Davis, a virtual unknown this time a week ago, has a major challenge ahead of him.
How is Ray Graham’s knee holding up?
Pittsburgh has a handful off issues on both sides of the ball as evidenced by losing to Youngstown State and Pittsburgh by a combined score of 65-27. One key question is the health of Graham’s knee. He rushed for 103 yards on 19 carries and caught four passes for 51 yards against Cincinnati. Moreover, he appeared to grow more confident on his rebuilt knee as the game went on. He may need time to return to the All-America-type running back he was through the first half of 2011, but Pittsburgh will take any sign of optimism. Virginia Tech is allowing opponents to rush for 3.7 yards per carry.
How will Pitt’s defenseget pressure on Logan Thomas and the Virginia Tech offensive line?
The Panthers have only one sack (on 52 pass attempts) and seven tackles for a loss this season, both ranking Pitt among the bottom 15 in the country. For a team that has been in the top three of the Big East in sacks in each of the last four seasons -- and has a premier defensive lineman in Aaron Donald -- the paltry numbers have been a surprise.
How will the Louisville defense handle a faster and more talented no-huddle offense?
North Carolina wants to run its offense at a high pace, as Southern Miss did under Larry Fedora. The Tar Heels aren’t quite there, but they ran 74 plays against Elon and 82 last week against Wake Forest. The Cardinals’ first two opponents ran 70 plays (Kentucky) and 52 (Southeast Missouri State). Beyond the no-huddle approach, North Carolina will have the best personnel on offense Louisville has faced this season, especially if quarterback Bryn Renner and running back Giovani Bernard are at their best.
Will Connecticut find a combination that works on the offensive line?
The Huskies’ offense can’t get out of its own way, literally, at times. Twice against NC State, an offensive lineman stepped on the foot of quarterback Chandler Whitmer, coach Paul Pasqualoni said. Add to that two false starts on first down and 1.1 yards per carry, and the offensive miscues quickly overshadow the standout play of the UConn defense. The Huskies have tried different combinations on the line and may continue to do so against Maryland.
How is morale at Syracuse?
The Orange battled back from a three-touchdown deficit against Northwestern only to lose in the final minute. A week later, Syracuse remained competitive with USC for the first three quarters. In other words, it’s been a hard fought 0-2 start. Syracuse faces an FCS program Saturday, though it’s 2-0 Stony Brook. This season in particular has shown FBS vs. FCS aren’t automatic wins, but Syracuse should win unless something goes terribly wrong. Only a year ago, Syracuse responded to back-to-back overtime games (a win over Toledo and a loss to Rutgers) with a subpar effort at Tulane. Time to see if Syracuse has the mental fortitude to take care of business against an overmatched opponent.
Have we seen only the beginning from and Munchie Legaux and Ralph David Abernathy IV?
Pittsburgh’s defense is struggling now, but Cincinnati easily pounced on the vulnerable Panthers. The question is if Legaux and Abernathy will continue their breakout performances across the Big East season. Legaux was 14 of 28 for 205 yards with two touchdowns against Pitt in addition to rushing for 117 yards on six carries. After serving as a kick returner, Abernathy has the look of a multi-faceted offensive threat. A warmup against Delaware State could give them both more chances to shine before facing Virginia Tech on Sept. 29.
|Games||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|Rutgers (-7.5) at USF||USF 21-12||Rutgers 21-10||USF 24-13||USF 24-16|
|Va. Tech (+10) at Pitt||Va. Tech 42-21||Va. Tech 42-21||Va. Tech 42-21||Va. Tech 27-14|
|Connecticut (+3) at Maryland||UConn 13-10||Maryland 17-10||UConn 20-17||UConn 13-10|
|N. Carolina (-3) at Louisville||Louisville 27-13||Louisville 27-24||Louisville 31-27||Louisville 24-20|
|Stony Brook (off) at Syracuse||Syracuse 38-14||Syracuse 41-10||Syracuse 41-10||Syracuse 37-21|
|Delaware St. (off) at Cincinnati||Cincinnati 42-10||Cincinnati 49-13||Cincinnati 48-10||Cincinnati 44-10|
|Year To Date||11-3||12-2||10-4||10-4|
By David Fox
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Week 3 is not the most glamorous slate of action in the Big 12. TCU-Kansas is the only conference game, while Texas-Ole Miss is the only other matchup featuring two BCS teams. Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas Tech play teams from non-AQ conferences, while West Virginia, Baylor and Iowa State have games against FCS foes. It's a light week of action, but there are still plenty of storylines and matchups to watch this Saturday.
Other Week 3 Previews and Predictions
1. Will Oklahoma State bounce back after last week’s loss?
It’s tough enough to win on the road against a good team, but it’s nearly impossible to win when you commit 15 penalties and four turnovers. That’s the obstacle Oklahoma State had to overcome last Saturday against Arizona. The Cowboys jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but Arizona followed that up with 30 unanswered points and eventually claimed a 59-38 victory. While the Cowboys are disappointed with the loss, the good news was true freshman quarterback Wes Lunt wasn’t intimidated. He completed 37 of 60 throws for 436 yards and four touchdowns. Louisiana-Lafayette visits Stillwater this Saturday, a team Oklahoma State defeated by 26 points in 2010 and 27 in 2011. However, the Ragin’ Cajuns won’t be an easy out, as they are off to a 2-0 start and return 12 starters from last season’s team that won nine games. Barring another game filled with turnovers and penalties, the Cowboys should comfortably win this one and with Texas coming up next (Sept. 29), it’s an important game to get Lunt and any of the new starters ready for Big 12 play.
2. How will David Ash fare on the road against Ole Miss?
So far, so good for Texas’ David Ash. The sophomore quarterback has completed 36 of 49 passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns in the first two games of the year. While the competition hasn’t been elite, Ash has made good decisions and is completing a high percentage of throws. The competition steps up this Saturday, as Texas travels to Oxford to take on Ole Miss. The Rebels are improved under new coach Hugh Freeze, but the defense allowed 27 points to FCS opponent Central Arkansas in the opener and is giving up 260.5 passing yards per game. Ash has made only one road start in his career, throwing for 158 yards and one interception in a 17-5 loss to Missouri. With the Longhorns owning one of college football’s top defenses and a deep stable of running backs, Ash doesn’t need to have a monster performance for Texas to win on the ground. However, this is a key test for the Longhorns, especially with Big 12 play beginning on Sept. 29 at Oklahoma State.
3. TCU plays first Big 12 game
The Horned Frogs were impressive in a 56-0 rout over Grambling last Saturday. However, the competition steps up a notch this week, as TCU heads to Lawrence to open Big 12 play. It’s another historic moment for the school, especially after opening a renovated and impressive Amon G. Carter Stadium last week. The Horned Frogs are big favorites against Kansas, who was upset by Rice in Week 2. While it’s a new environment for TCU, it should have no trouble beating the Jayhawks, as they are allowing over 407 yards a game. The Horned Frogs’ offense should be able to move the ball at will against Kansas, but the key battle to watch will be on defense. TCU has only four returning starters back from last season, which should be put to the test with the Jayhawks averaging 229 rushing yards per game. Life in the Big 12 will be tougher than it was in the Mountain West, but expect TCU to open play in its new conference with a convincing win.
4. Will Dayne Crist get on track for Kansas?
Outside of last week’s loss to Rice, the biggest surprise at Kansas has been the play of quarterback Dayne Crist. Through two weeks, he has completed 33 of 64 throws for 313 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Although Crist wasn’t expected to challenge for All-America honors, his familiarity with Charlie Weis’ offense should have sparked the Kansas’ passing attack. Instead, the Jayhawks rank as the Big 12’s worst passing team through the first two weeks of the season and now face a TCU defense that allowed 26 passing yards to Grambling in the season opener. Crist doesn’t have a ton of playmakers at receiver, but he needs to play better for Kansas to have a chance to win this Saturday against the Horned Frogs.
5. Time for Geno Smith to pad the Heisman resume
West Virginia’s much-anticipated Big 12 opener isn’t until Sept. 29 against Baylor, so Geno Smith will have two more opportunities to shine in non-conference play, starting this Saturday against James Madison. Smith threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns against Marshall and checks in No. 2 in Athlon’s Heisman voting after the second week of the season. He should have no trouble matching those numbers against the Dukes, a team that allowed 277 passing yards to North Carolina’s Bryn Renner in the season opener last year. While James Madison is off to a 2-0 start, West Virginia’s offense has too much firepower and should pull away for an easy win. The most important aspect for the Mountaineers this week? Avoid injuries and continue to get comfortable with the new 3-4 scheme on defense.
6. What will Nick Florence do for an encore?
Baylor quarterback Nick Florence was nearly flawless in his debut, completing 21 of 30 throws for 341 yards and four touchdowns against SMU. The Bears have another non-conference game this Saturday, taking on FCS opponent Sam Houston State. The Bearkats are one of the better FCS teams but will have their hands full trying to slow down Florence and Baylor’s receivers. Florence won’t match Robert Griffin’s rushing stats at the end of the year, but he’s plenty capable of keeping the Bears in the mix for a finish in the top half of the Big 12. Expect the senior to have another big statistical showing on Saturday, while Baylor should cruise to its third consecutive 2-0 start under Art Briles.
7. One more non-conference game for Iowa State, Kansas State and Texas Tech
Iowa State, Kansas State and Texas Tech each look to close out their non-conference schedule with a perfect 3-0 slate. The Cyclones host FCS opponent Western Illinois, the Red Raiders take on New Mexico, while the Wildcats match up against North Texas. All three teams should win comfortably, but these matchups are all about staying healthy and getting as many snaps as possible for some of the new starters. Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz is off to a good start, but this game is a solid confidence-builder before taking on Texas Tech on Sept. 29. The Red Raiders seem to be improved on defense, but the competition has been soft. While the Lobos were shutout in a loss to Texas last week, this is another opportunity for Texas Tech to work out some of the kinks on defense before Big 12 play begins. Kansas State was impressive in a 52-13 blowout win over Miami (Fla.) last week and would like to keep the workload light on Saturday for quarterback Collin Klein. With Kansas State playing at Oklahoma next week, Klein needs to be 100 percent if the Wildcats want to have any shot at winning in Norman.
Week 3 Big 12 Predictions
|Big 12 Games||David Fox||Braden Gall||Steven Lassan||Mitch Light|
|UL Lafayette (+22) at Okla. State||Ok State 31-21||Ok State 41-21||Ok State 45-24||Ok State 44-28|
|TCU at Kansas (+21)||TCU 35-10||TCU 35-17||TCU 38-13||TCU 34-13|
|James Madison vs. WVU||WVU 63-7||WVU 51-10||WVU 58-7||WVU 44-17|
|North Texas (+28.5) at K-State||K-State 31-10||K-State 49-10||K-State 38-10||K-State 31-10|
|New Mexico (+33.5) at Tex. Tech||TTU 35-24||TTU 31-10||TTU 48-17||TTU 41-14|
|Sam Houston St. at Baylor||Baylor 56-14||Baylor 41-13||Baylor 52-17||Baylor 48-10|
|Western Illinois at Iowa State||ISU 31-7||ISU 34-10||ISU 45-3||ISU 37-7|
|Texas at Ole Miss (+10)||Texas 31-7||Texas 38-17||Texas 38-10||Texas 20-10|
by Steven Lassan
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After two weeks of action, it has become clear that the Pac-12 is much better than originally believed. Week 2 featured landmark victories over major powers from the Big Ten (Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois) and Big 12 (Oklahoma State) as well as victories over the ACC (Duke) and Big East (Syracuse). However, the same couldn't be said for Pac-12 contender wanna-be's Washington and Utah — both of whom now need to pick themselves off the mat after crushing defeats.
Pac-12's Top 10 Storylines to Watch in Week 3:
1. Can USC clear first real hurdle?
Stanford, under Jim Harbaugh, was a thorn in the side of USC. The Cardinal have won three straight over the Trojans and four of the last five. Harbaugh is now coaching what might be the best football team on the planet across the bay and Andrew Luck is a Colt. Lane Kiffin's group made a long trip East to New Jersey last week and were sluggish at times in the win over Syracuse. Meanwhile, Stanford welcomed back defensive leader Shayne Skov and showed marked improvement from Week 1. But can Josh Nunes play turnover-free, efficient enough football to hang with the SoCal powerhouse? Can the offensive line open up holes for Stepfan Taylor therefore keeping Matt Barkley on the sideline? Can Skov, and the secondary in particular, slow down the dynamic duo of Robert Woods and Marqise Lee — a tandem who scored five touchdowns last week? The Farm needs to be a factor as well if Stanford expects to pull the upset at home over the nation's preseason No. 1.
2. The Holy War's extra implications
It might be the best-named rivalry game in all of college football and, unfortunately, fans will be without an annual BYU-Utah tilt for the near future. The longtime in-state rivals are scheduled to play in 2013 in Provo, but after that they are not slated to not meet again until 2016. Beyond that, the future of this intense battle is completely up in the air. Will BYU join a conference and how would that impact scheduling? Does the nine-game conference slate of the Pac-12 spoil what is one of the nation's top rivalries? To top it all off, Utah is reeling and needs a win bad while the Cougars have looked very impressive on both sides of the ball in two wins. What is worse, Utah will be without its starting quarterback for the rest of the season.
3. Familiar quarterback concerns at Utah, Washington State
The Utes will battle with BYU this weekend in desperate need of a win and will be doing so without Jordan Wynn. The oft-injured passer who created balance in Week 1 for the Utes announced his retirement from the game after a serious injury to his left shoulder. Jon Hays, who was rather ineffective as a passer but went 6-3 in place of Wynn last season, will likely battle with rising star Travis Wilson for the right to quarterback this team. Hays brings experience and a veteran resume while Wilson has outstanding raw athletic ability and obvious upside. Kyle Whittingham will likely play both, but Wilson is clearly the future of this team. Up in Pullman, another familiar story dotted the boxscore last week: Jeff Tuel left the game with an injury. Tuel had a brace on his knee while watching practice this week and it appears he won't be ready to go for the UNLV game. Expect Connor Halliday — who threw for almost 800 yards in two starts last season — to get the nod in the Cougars' final non-conference tilt of the season.
4. Is Arizona State for real?
A win is a win. But Arizona State's 2-0 record and 108 total points scored will be brought into focus this weekend when the Sun Devils head to Missouri. The 45-14 win over Illinois was impressive, but the Illini were without starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and ASU took advantage. The backfield for Todd Graham has been stellar with two quarterbacks and three runners all playing well to this point. But Mizzou will easily be the toughest test of the year for Arizona State and fans will have a much clearer picture of what this team really is after this weekend. If Graham can lead his team into Columbia and pull off the upset, all bets are off on this team's potential. If the Tigers, who are coming off one of their worst fourth quarters in recent memory against Georgia, roll up another 501 yards of offense and 30 points like they did against ASU last year, the Devils will return to the desert with their first loss of the year.
5. Is this Colorado's last chance for a win in 2012?
The Buffs have gotten off to one of the worst starts in program history and arguably the worst start of any BCS conference team in the nation. A loss to the Mountain West and FCS doesn't bode well for Jon Embree's chances at improvement this fall. Now, Colorado is a two-touchdown underdog to Fresno State — and it might be the best chance it has to get a win in 2012. That's right, CU faces nine Pac-12 opponents the rest of the way and won't be close to being favored in any of them. A road trip to Washington State next week is the only game fans can point to with any confidence at all. The Buffaloes will host UCLA, Arizona State, Stanford, Washington and Utah while visiting USC, Oregon and Arizona. An 0-12 season is a definite possibility.
6. Can Cal's passing attack take advantage of Ohio State's secondary?
The cross-country trip to Columbus has Cal more than a touchdown underdog to Ohio State. But if there is one chance for the Golden Bears to keep the game within reach, it will come on the arm of Zach Maynard. Through two games, the Buckeyes are ranked 96th nationally against the pass (281.0 ypg). Some of that can be attributed to teams trailing in both games, but Maynard has a trio of pass-catchers that will stretch the field vertically. Keenan Allen, Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper are talented and over-looked in a league loaded with receiving talent and they might be Cal's only hope to pull off a miraculous upset over Ohio State.
7. Surging Bruins are looking for revenge
Houston compiled 469 total yards of offense in the 38-34 win over UCLA last fall. Gone is Kevin Sumlin, gone is Case Keenum and gone is the Cougars' competitive edge. This team is 0-2 with ugly losses to Texas State and Louisiana Tech thus far while UCLA has been one of the more improved teams in the nation through two weeks. And even though Jim Mora Jr., his coaching staff and quarterback Brett Hundley weren't a part of last year's season-opening defeat to UH, fans can bet that Johnathan Franklin, the nation's leading rusher at 215.5 yards per game, hasn't forgotten. Look for the Bruins to roll up a big number against the Cougs and continue their early season success.
8. Cupcake City comes at right time
Playing Tennessee Tech really serves no purpose for Chip Kelly and Oregon whatsoever, but Washington and Arizona need the "break" this week. The Huskies returned from Baton Rouge to lick their wounds after LSU dominated the Dawgs 41-3. Keith Price was beaten up and had little time to do anything. Portland State should offer no such trouble and will give Price and company a chance to get right. Meanwhile, Arizona is coming off a big upset over Oklahoma State and is in prime let-down alert position. However, Arizona should have no such issues with South Carolina State this weekend.
9. The Beavers get rare unlucky bye week
After having their first game against Nicholls State postponed until the final week of the regular season, Oregon State won a massive game over a top-15 team in Wisconsin in Week 2. So with an open date this week, Mike Riley's team will enter Week 4 having played one game. It will be interesting to see if it helps or hurts OSU's momentum heading into back-to-back road games against UCLA and Arizona.
10. Heisman Trophy Tracker off the charts in Pac-12
USC has three legitimate Heisman candidates in Barkley, Lee and Woods. Oregon has three legit contenders in Kenjon Barner, De'Anthony Thomas and Marcus Mariota. UCLA has the best new quarterback in the nation in Hundley and the country's top rusher in Franklin. The explosive offensive talent in this league is extraordinary and Heisman voters need to make sure they are staying up late on Saturdays. And I didn't even mention Keith Price, John White, Keenan Allen, Marquess Wilson or Stepfan Taylor. There is a reason five of the top 20 scoring teams in the nation through two weeks hail from the Pac-12.
Week 3 Pac-12 Predictions:
|Week 3 Pac-12 Games||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||Steven Lassan||David Fox|
|Washington St (-8.5) at UNLV||Wazzu, 24-17||Wazzu, 27-13||Wazzu 38-13||Wazzu, 28-14|
|Cal (+17) at Ohio St||Ohio St, 45-24||Ohio St, 28-14||Ohio St 34-20||Ohio St, 28-14|
|Tennessee Tech at Oregon||Oregon, 56-10||Oregon, 54-10||Oregon 62-10||Oregon, 70-7|
|Portland St at Washington||Wash., 45-7||Wash., 41-10||Wash. 45-10||Wash., 42-17|
|Arizona St (+6.5) at Missouri||Mizzou, 34-24||Mizzou, 32-24||Mizzou 34-27||Mizzou, 31-17|
|USC (-7.5) at Stanford||USC, 35-21||USC, 38-24||USC 38-20||USC, 35-21|
|Colorado (+14) at Fresno St||Fresno, 31-20||Fresno, 30-17||Fresno 34-17||Fresno, 21-14|
|BYU (-4) at Utah||Utah, 21-20||BYU, 24-14||BYU 30-17||BYU, 35-21|
|South Carolina St at Arizona||Arizona, 45-13||Arizona, 44-10||Arizona 55-7||Arizona, 56-10|
|Houston (+17) at UCLA||UCLA, 41-17||UCLA, 38-24||UCLA 48-27||UCLA, 38-21|
by Braden Gall
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There were few upset picks that jumped out on the Vegas lines early last week, but there's a handful of intriguing college football upset possibilities for Week 3. Utah State upset Utah last Friday night and should give Wisconsin all it can handle. Ball State, Notre Dame and Memphis are popular picks with Athlon's editors for this week, while Western Kentucky against Kentucky is another matchup to watch.
College Football's Week 3 Upset Picks
David Fox (@DavidFox615): BYU (+4) at Utah
Utah is adapting to a career-ending shoulder injury to quarterback Jordan Wynn, the second time in two seasons the Utes have turned to backup Jon Hays. Perhaps I’m a little over optimistic, but I have trouble seeing Utah fall to third in the state after losing to Utah State a week ago Last season, Jon Hays was uneven in stepping in for Wynn, but he mistakes were fewer as the season went on and Utah was a realistic threat to represent the South in the Pac-12 title game. Wynn threw six interceptions in his first two conference starts (against Washington and Cal), but he threw only one more pick the rest of the season as Utah took the burden off his shoulder sand put it on John White’s. Travis Wilson, a 6-7 highly regarded freshman, could also be a nice change of pace at quarterback. I’m also not totally bought into BYU, whose best days last season came against some weak competition. The same could be said for BYU’s season-opening win over Washington State I’m sticking with the home underdog here.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Ball State (+2.5) at Indiana
I’m tempted to take Western Kentucky to beat Kentucky, but I think Ball State picks off Indiana for the second year in a row. The Cardinals knocked off the Hoosiers 27-20 in the season opener last season and are just under a three-point underdog. Ball State won its opener against Eastern Michigan but fell in Week 2 to Clemson. Indiana is improving under second-year coach Kevin Wilson, but the Hoosiers suffered a setback with the loss of quarterback Tre Roberson for the season in the win over UMass last week. Expect a lot of points between these two teams, but I have to give an edge to Ball State, especially with the uncertainty surrounding Indiana's quarterback situation.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): Utah State (+14) over Wisconsin
One team is fresh off one of its best wins in school history. The other must regroup after a surprising loss on the road. Utah State snapped a 12-game losing streak to hated rival Utah, knocking off the Utes, 27–20, in overtime Friday night. Meanwhile, Wisconsin managed a total of 207 yards of total offense — including a shocking 35 on the ground — in a 10–7 loss at Oregon State. Danny O’Brien hasn’t been very Russell Wilson-like at quarterback, and Monte Ball, the nation’s leading rusher last season, has netted only 181 yards and one touchdown on 47 carries. Last week, Utah State did a solid job against John White, limiting the Utes’ senior tailback to 96 yards on 27 carries (3.6 per). If the Aggies can keep Ball from going crazy — which he hasn’t done yet this year — they’ve got a decent chance to escape Madison with a win. Utah State 24, Wisconsin 23
Mark Ross: Memphis (+3.5) over Middle Tennessee State
Yes, MTSU has made it into the win column, something Memphis has yet to do this season, but I think that changes on Saturday night at home in the Liberty Bowl as these two in-state mid-majors meet. Both teams lost their season openers to FCS teams at home and even though MTSU beat FAU last Saturday, I would make the argument that Memphis showed more improvement in its loss to Arkansas State. The Red Wolves are the favorites to repeat as champions of the Sun Belt, which is also MTSU's conference, and they needed a late touchdown to hold off the Tigers, 33-28, in Jonesboro, Ark. MTSU is nowhere near as explosive on offense as Arkansas State is, so I think Memphis will be able to hang with the Blue Raiders throughout the game. The Tigers will then make the big play or two that matters most in the fourth quarter, earning Tigers head coach Justin Fuente his first career victory.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): Notre Dame (+6) over Michigan State
Road dogs Ohio and Iowa State were winners in the first two weeks, and I’m going for another one in Week 3 with Notre Dame to upset Michigan State in East Lansing. Purdue stacked the box against the Irish and dared quarterback Everett Golson to throw, and he responded with 289 passing yards while accounting for two touchdowns. On defense, Notre Dame’s strength — the front seven — should match up well with Michigan State power running game. The Irish won the rushing battle in last year’s 31-13 win, and the Spartans do not have Kirk Cousins to sling it around this season. This game should be close late, but I’ll take the big play ability of the Irish to surprise the Spartans, 24-23.
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