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Path: /college-football/college-football-post-week-7-award-watch
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The Heisman Trophy isn’t the only award worth watching on a weekly basis. The Lombardi, Outland, Davey O’Brien and Biletnikoff races are all worth watching and debating as the season goes along.

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

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

Week 8 Previews and Predictions

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

OFFENSIVE AWARDS
Davey O’Brien (Top quarterback)
Our leader: Geno Smith, West Virginia
Smith had his worst game of the season against Texas Tech, going 29 of 55 for 275 yards and a touchdown in a 49-14 loss. His overall resume, though, remains the best of any quarterback in the country. Smith has thrown 314 consecutive passes and 31 touchdowns since his last interception, including 259 attempts and 25 TDs this season.
Others: Kansas State’s Collin Klein, Alabama’s A.J. McCarron, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller

Doak Walker (Top running back)
Our leader: Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State
Bell rebounded from a lackluster performance against Ohio State to rush for 261 yards and three touchdowns in his last two games against Indiana and Iowa. Bell also has two 200-yard games under his belt this season.
Others: Oregon’s Kenjon Barner, North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard, UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin, Florida’s Mike Gillislee, Kansas State’s John Hubert, Nevada’s Stefphon Jefferson, South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore, Northwestern’s Venric Mark

Biletnikoff Award (Top wide receiver)
Our leader: Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech
Odds are, one or both of the West Virginia receivers is going to be a finalist for the award. This week, we should recognize of the best games by a receiver this season when Patton had 21 catches for 233 yards and four touchdowns against Texas A&M. Patton has 765 receiving yards and nine touchdowns on 55 receptions this year.
Others: Cal’s Keenan Allen, West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, West Virginia’s Stedman Bailey, Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins, USC’s Marqise Lee, Penn State’s Allen Robinson, Baylor’s Terrance Williams

Mackey Award (Top tight end)
Our leader: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
Seferian-Jenkins caught five passes for a season-high 83 yards with a touchdown against USC last week, giving him 29 receptions for 337 yards with two touchdowns this season.
Others: Arizona State’s Chris Coyle, Stanford’s Zach Ertz, Stanford’s Levine Toilolo

Outland Trophy (Top interior lineman)
Our leader: Barrett Jones, Alabama
Alabama dominated the ground game in a rainy 42-10 win over Missouri last week. Jones helped pave the way for 362 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns in the rout of the Tigers.
Others: North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper, Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel, Utah’s Star Lotulelei, Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt, Florida State’s Bjoern Werner

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

 

 


DEFENSIVE AWARDS
Bednarik Award/Nagurski Award (Defensive Player of the Year)
Our leader: Manti Te’o, Notre Dame
Te’o had 11 tackles in the 20-13 win over Stanford last week and continues to be the face of a defense that has allowed three offensive touchdowns (all passing) this season. Opponents have scored touchdowns on only 2 of 16 trips into the red zone against Notre Dame this season. Generally, the team leading the nation in that stat allows opponents to score touchdowns on approximately 35 to 40 percent of red zone chances.
Others: South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, Rutgers’ Khaseem Greene, Utah's Star Lotulelei, Penn State's Michael Mauti

Lombardi Award (Top lineman or linebacker)
Our leader: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
In a 23-21 loss to LSU, Clowney failed to record a sack for the first time since the second game of the season, but he did finish with six tackles and two pass breakups. Coming up this week: A critical matchup against the Florida offensive line and the slippery Jeff Driskel.
Others: Oregon State’s Scott Chricton, Rutgers’ Khaseem Greene, Utah’s Star Lotulelei, Penn State’s Michael Mauti, Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore, Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt, Florida State’s Bjeorn Werner

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

Thorpe Award (Top defensive back)
Our leader: Jordan Poyer, Oregon State
Poyer’s pick six against BYU last week gave the Beavers cornerback his fifth interception in his last three games. Oregon State is third in the Pac-12 and 24th nationally in pass efficiency defense.
Others: Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks, Florida’s Matt Elam, Alabama’s Dee Milliner


SPECIAL TEAMS AWARDS
Groza Award (Top kicker)

Our leader: Mike Meyer, Iowa
Meyer was 4 for 4 on field goal attempts against Michigan State, including a 42-yard game-winner in the second overtime. Meyer is 14 of 15 on field goals this season, converting 13 in a row since the opener.
Others: Louisiana-Lafayette’s Brett Baer, Northwestern’s Jeff Budzien, Clemson’s Chandler Catanzaro, Florida’s Caleb Sturgis

Ray Guy Award (Top punter)
Our leader: Florida’s Kyle Christy
Florida is a field position and defensive team this season, making Christy’s role critical. He’s delivered by averaging 46.4 yards on 29 kicks for a team that ranks fourth nationally in net punting.
Others: Louisiana Tech’s Ryan Allen, Texas A&M’s Ryan Epperson, Utah’s Sean Sellwood, Oklahoma State’s Quinn Sharp


OTHER NATIONAL AWARDS
Freshman of the Year
Our leader: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
“Johnny Football” now holds the top two SEC single-game records for total offense with 576 total yards against Louisiana Tech and 557 against against Arkansas. That broke the record of 540 yards held by Ole Miss’ Archie Manning and LSU’s Rohan Davey.
Others: Georgia’s Todd Gurley, UCLA’s Brett Hundley, Miami’s Duke Johnson, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota

Coach of the Year
Our leader: Bill O’Brien, Penn State
No team faced more adversity this season than Penn State, which watched a handful of key players bolt via transfers after the NCAA announced crippling sanctions. Despite no postseason in the future and a dwindling of numbers, Penn State is much improved on offense. The Nittany Lions have scored at least 24 points in four consecutive games, a benchmark they reached only three times all of last season.
Others: Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, Rutgers’ Kyle Flood, West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, Florida’s Will Muschamp, Oregon State’s Mike Riley, Kansas State’s Bill Snyder

Broyles Award (top assistant)
Our leader: Art Kaufman, Texas Tech
The idea of holding a team like West Virginia to two touchdowns would have been foreign to the Texas Tech defense a year ago when the Red Raiders ranked 113th in pass efficiency defense and 120th in run defense. Under the first-year defensive coordinator, Texas Tech ranks seventh in pass efficiency defense and 12th in run defense.
Others: Oregon State’s Mark Banker, Notre Dame’s Bob Diaco, Alabama’s Kirby Smart, Washington’s Justin Wilcox

by David Fox

@davidfox615

Related College Football Links

Week 7 Upset Predictions
10 key games in Week 8

Teaser:
<p> College Football Post-Week 7 Award Watch</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 09:11
Path: /nfl/20-scariest-players-physical-freaks-and-real-life-monsters-nfl
Body:

We watch the NFL for fantasy numbers, civic pride, the strategy and maybe for a few friendly wagers.

Oh, and we watch the NFL for freakish displays of athleticism. Athlon Sports has assembled a list of real-life NFL “monsters.” By simply stepping on the field, these players put fear into opponents for one reason or another.


TOP 10 SCARIEST PLAYERS IN THE NFL


1. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
Watt crawled from the primordial abyss — as a tight end at Central Michigan before being a walk-on at Wisconsin — to become the gnarliest, scariest player in the most frightening league on the planet. The 6'5", 295-pound 3-4 defensive end has an 82.5-inch wingspan and plays with a physicality and nastiness that makes him a menace to anyone in his path. Whether he’s stuffing the run, rushing the passer or swatting down passes from the line of scrimmage like he played for the Knicks (which Rex Ryan would prefer), Watt is a terror on the field. Through six games this season, Watt already has 9.5 sacks and eight pass deflections.

2. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, New York Giants
JPP is the second-coming of the original "Freak" Jevon Kearse. His out-of-this-world athleticism has manifested itself in YoutTube sensational backflip competitions as well as a 16.5-sack second season in the league last year. The 6'5", 278-pounder has the ability to transcend the traditional job description of a defensive end, using his 81-inch wingspan, massive hands, quick-twitch speed and trampoline vertical leap to not only wrap up quarterbacks but also chase down running backs from behind and cover tight ends on zone blitzes.

3. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
An opposing defender called Gronkowski “a new kind of monster.” The Gronk is a 6'6", 265-pound ball of uncontrollable energy who is just as likely to dance in the end zone in the afternoon as he is shirtless at the club later that night. Always the life of the party (on and off the field), Gronk cannot be stopped, he can only hope to be contained.

 

4. Haloti Ngata, DT, Baltimore Ravens
Ray Lewis and Ed Reed may not be the Ravens’ most invaluable defensive players — or the scariest. That honor belongs to Ngata, the 6'4", 340-pound D-tackle. Ngata turns the table on inevitable double-teams, engulfing his blockers and pushing them aside or towards the playmaker they are attempting to protect. Even more frightening, Ngata was once a beast of a rugby player. Come to think of it, the Ravens should use Ngata more at the goal line.

5. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
"Megatron" is a machine more than monster, as a 6'5", 236-pound athlete with the power to play defensive end, but the speed, hands and coordination to be arguably the best wide receiver alive. The laws of physics are defied by Johnson's sheer existence and his status as a human being (as opposed to futuristic cyborg) is up for debate.

6. Patrick Willis, MLB, San Francisco 49ers
P-Willie is slang for Mississippi sledgehammer. The 6'4", 240-pound Willis is the obvious heir to the Ray Lewis throne as the best middle linebacker in the game. Over the last three years, he’s the second most efficient tackler in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. More than that, Willis punishes ball-carriers with violent legal hits that reverberate in an opponent's memory bank, resulting in alligator arms over the middle and second-guessing which way to cut downfield. How scary is he? The New York Giants' Victor Cruz knows. "I've been hit by him too many times," says Cruz. "Too many. Way too many."

 

7. DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Dallas Cowboys
Ware is simply a 6'4", 254-pound Elephant pass rusher capable of stampeding backfields and goring opposing quarterbacks. Only Jared Allen has more sacks than Ware since the start of the 2009 season.

8. Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
When this 5'9", 230-pound bowling ball coming screaming at defenders, they make a business decision to get out of the way or get knocked down like pin-heads. Six games into his rookie season, T-Rich from T-Town has 526 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns.

9. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions
So dirty he will stomp you in front of everyone's grandmother on Thanksgiving Day, this man named Suh will shoot the gap and body slam a man just to watch him writhe. The Motor City's meanest man is also apparently a road-rager with bad intentions behind the wheel, as evidenced by his multiple car wrecks off the field and on the mean streets.

10. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Green rarely sees the fear in opposing defensive backs eyes because all he knows is wide open field in front of him. The 6'4", 207-pound wideout from Georgia already has 43 receptions for 628 yards and six touchdowns, numbers which will easily top his prolific production from his rookie season.

THE NEXT 10...

MONSTERS ON THE MEND

Desmond Bishop, MLB, Green Bay Packers - Lambeau’s fearsome linebacker is out for the season.

James Harrison, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers - The linebacker is still hobbled, but he might be back to paying NFL-levied fines in no time.

Ray Lewis, MLB, Baltimore Ravens - The scariest player of his era may have played his last snap.

Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh Steelers - The Steelers are awaiting the return of their soft-spoken big hitter.

Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets - Quarterbacks can finally test the whole field agains the Jets with Revis out.

Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings - The veteran pass rusher last season fell a half sack short of matching Michael Strahan’s record of 22.5 sacks in a season.

Brandon Browner, CB, Seattle Seahawks - Emerged from the Canadian Football League to become one of the NFL’s biggest hitters, and at 6-4 he has unusual size for a cornerback.

Richie Incognito, G, Miami Dolphins - The former Saints lineman is repeatedly accused for dirty play. He doesn’t seem to mind.

LaRon Landry, S, New York Jets - The safety plays with reckless abandon thanks to thundering head-first hits.

Jake Long, LT, Miami Dolphins - A 6-foot-7, 319-pound offensive tackle who was one of the best in the league since his rookie season.

Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers - The sophomore campaign has yet to live up to the rookie effort, but he’s still a 6-5, 245-pound quarterback with ridiculous athleticism.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks - Have to give a shout out to a running back who refers to himself as being in “Beast Mode.”

Clay Matthews, OLB, Green Bay Packers - Quarterbacks in his wake must also deal with the humiliation of being sacked by a defensive end with blonde flowing locks.

Julius Peppers, DE, Chicago Bears - The defensive end who also played a little college basketball for the Tar Heels had 11 sacks in his ninth NFL season.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers - His size makes it a monster task to bring him down in the backfield.

@AthlonSports

Teaser:
<p> 20 scariest players, physical freaks and real-life monsters in the NFL</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 08:40
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/20-twitter-accounts-every-pac-12-football-fan-should-follow
Body:

It's time for everyone to shed their east-coast bias once and for all and admit that they play good football out on the left coast (even if some of the games don't even start until after your bedtime). With its emphasis on offense, the Pac-12 might even be the most action-packed league in the land. Heck, Oregon might just be the most influential team in college football over the last five years — from their fast-break offense to their godawful uniform choices.

Anyone who wants a front-row seat for the happenings out west needs to follow these 20 Pac-12 insiders.

 

@wilnerhotline
A blogger for the Mercury News, Jon Wilner covers the Pac-12 with a special emphasis on the Bay Area teams, which means that his Super Bowl is this week.

 

 

@LyaWodraska
Lya's on the Ute beat for the Salt Lake Tribune. Her bio says she also covers gymnastics and is a health and fitness writer and trainer and avid mountain biker. In other words, she could probably kick your ass, so if you criticize her coverage, do it anonymously.

 

 

@cfosterlatimes
Chris Foster is the LA Times' UCLA beat writer and dispenses nuggets from Bruin-land. As you would expect from a school with 11 national titles, he leans basketball in his tweet count.

 

 

@KyleRingo
Kyle has the sad task of covering the dying days of the Jon Embree regime at Colorado, but at least he's doing it in the beautiful environs of Boulder. It'll be getting cold soon, though.

 

 

@DougHaller
Doug covers Arizona State for azcentral sports. Things are looking up in the Valley of the Sun, and Doug's on the front lines.

 

 

@ryan_finley
Ryan says he covers Arizona football "sideline to sideline and goal-line to goal-line." That's pretty comprehensive coverage. He backs it up with links, retweets and observations from RichRod Central.

 

 

@Pnbuker
Paul Buker bills himself as a 35-year veteran at The Oregonian, meaning that he's lived through the lowest of lows and appreciates the highs in the Pacific Northwest. Funny guy, too.

 

 

@ChristianCaple
Christian covers the Washington State Cougars for the Spokesman-Review, meaning that he's got one of the best jobs in college sports: chronicling the eccentricities and outbursts of Coogs coach Mike Leach.

 

 

@KyleBonagura
Kyle is a 49ers beat writer for CBSSports.com but also covers Stanford for @stanfordrivals.com. He handles both chores on one feed, with plenty of general sports chat and current events thrown in.

 

 

@LindsayRae19
Lindsay Schnell covers Oregon State, and while she's a hoops gal at heart, she's still a key source for happenings in Beaver Nation.

 

 

@DuckFootball
Rob Moseley covers Oregon football for the Eugene Register-Guard, and he tweets pithy observations from the front lines of Chip Kelly's offensive juggernaut. Also not afraid of lively interactions with fellow tweeters.

 

 

@DanGreenspan
Dan's the publisher of CalSportsDigest.com, meaning that he's uniquely qualified to offer unvarnished insights on Bears football. Especially interesting this year, as Jeff Tedford coaches for his professional life.

 

 

@USC_Athletics
All the news straight from Traveler's mouth. The Trojans may not win a national title this year, but they're always relevant and always interesting.


 

 

@UCLACoachMora
Jim Mora has wasted no time jockeying for attention in ADHD-afflicted Southern California. He hasn't really extended his pot-stirring to Twitter yet, but there's always hope.

 

 

@UCLAFootball
It's the official Twitter account for Bruins football, so take it with a grain of true blue and gold salt — it's doubtful that anything not Jim Mora-approved is getting through. Still worth a follow for fans of a program on an upward trajectory.

 

 

@pac12
The mother ship for all things Pac-12. Not exactly a no-spin zone, but plenty of useful information and links provided. It's far from football-only, though; prepare for plenty of soccer and women's volleyball.

 

 

@oregonliveducks
The Oregonian and OregonLive.com keep their Twitter feed quacking with all things Ducks. Fans of offense and hideous color schemes welcome.

 

 

@InsideUSC
Scott Wolf is a staff writer for the LA Daily News, meaning he has a front-row seat for the ongoing circus that is the Lane Kiffin era in LA.

 

 

@ESPN_Pac12blog
The worldwide leader has its finger on the pulse of the Pac-12 thanks to Ted Miller and Kevin Gemmell. Their feed is mostly links and retweets, but it's all good stuff, and you get occasional gems like this one:

 

 

@bcondotta
Bob Condotta covers the Washington Huskies for the Seattle Times in an informative, no-nonsense way. Condotta's gotta be as hungry as any Husky fan for the U-Dub to rejoin the elite; he was there for the dark days of 0-12.

Teaser:
<p> These tweeting 20 will you keep you entertained and educated about Pac-12 football</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 06:20
Path: /college-football/lsu-tigers-vs-texas-am-aggies-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Texas A&M and LSU have played 50 times, but the 2012 meeting will be the first as SEC foes. These two campuses are separated by less than 400 miles, and this is a crucial game in the fertile recruiting area of Texas and Louisiana.

So far, Texas A&M’s debut season in the SEC has been a success. The Aggies suffered a three-point loss to Florida in the opener but have won their last two conference games. Texas A&M rallied to beat Ole Miss on Oct. 6 and destroyed Arkansas 58-10 on Sept. 29.

LSU suffered a 14-6 loss to Florida two weeks ago but rebounded with a 23-21 victory over South Carolina last Saturday. Not only was the win over the Gamecocks a huge confidence boost, but also the Tigers were able to keep pace with Alabama in the SEC West standings.

Storylines to Watch in LSU vs. Texas A&M

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel vs. LSU’s defense
It’s not often a redshirt freshman quarterback comes into the SEC and makes a run at the Heisman Trophy but that’s exactly what Manziel has done through the first seven weeks of the season. Johnny Football leads the SEC with 676 rushing yards and is tied with South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore for the No. 1 spot in rushing touchdowns with 10. Manziel is completing 67.4 percent of his throws and ranks third in the conference with an average of 280 passing yards a game. Although the redshirt freshman has been one of this season’s breakout players and one of the top-10 candidates to win the Heisman after seven weeks, Saturday’s matchup against LSU is easily his toughest assignment. The Tigers are the fastest defense Texas A&M has played since the season opener against Florida and rank second nationally in pass defense and total yards allowed per game. Manziel is certainly a special player and will have his moments against the Tigers’ defense. However, expect LSU to counter with several different looks to confuse Manziel, as well as keeping him in the pocket to not allow him to get to the edge to make plays with his feet. Helping Manziel’s cause on offense is two NFL tackles in Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews. These two linemen will be in charge of keeping two of the best pass-rush ends (Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo) away from Manziel.

Can LSU get its passing game on track?
It’s no secret the Tigers build their offense on a punishing ground attack and rely on timely plays from their passing game to keep the chains moving. After watching Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee struggle last season, most LSU fans expected Zach Mettenberger to be an upgrade at quarterback. However, that hasn’t been the case, as the junior college recruit ranks 10th in the conference in SEC-only games with 158.3 yards per game and ranks 12th in passing efficiency. Although LSU doesn’t want to throw it 40 times a game, as Louisiana Tech showed against Texas A&M last week, there are holes in the Aggies’ secondary. Texas A&M ranks 107th nationally against the pass, but its defensive line has helped to make up for some of the struggles by registering 3.2 sacks a game. Mettenberger may not top 200 passing yards in this game, but he needs to be efficient and play mistake-free ball to give LSU a chance to win.

Texas A&M’s defensive line vs. LSU’s offensive line
LSU’s offensive line was a huge concern going into last week’s game against South Carolina, but the unit responded with one of its best showings of the season. With Alex Hurst and Chris Faulk out – two potential All-American tackles – the Tigers gashed the Gamecocks for 258 yards and two scores. This unit will be under pressure once again, as it will be greeted by a hostile environment in College Station, along with one of the nation’s most underrated defensive ends in Damontre Moore. The junior has 8.5 sacks and 15 tackles for a loss through the first six weeks and will be a tough assignment for LSU left tackle Josh Dworaczyk. Texas A&M is allowing 147.7 rushing yards per game in SEC play, which is one area the Tigers will look to exploit. LSU has one of the deepest backfields in college football and received a boost from true freshman Jeremy Hill in the win over South Carolina last week. The Aggies aren’t bad against the run, but this is one area LSU should be able to take advantage of on Saturday afternoon.

Final Analysis

With a raucous home crowd for Texas A&M, LSU needs to weather the early storm and avoid any big mistakes in the first quarter. The Aggies need quarterback Johnny Manziel to be a playmaker but also need a big day from running backs Ben Malena and Christine Michael. If the Tigers control the line of scrimmage and keep Manziel contained in the pocket, the Aggies will struggle to get their offense on track.

When LSU has the ball, look for the Aggies to load the line of scrimmage and force Mettenberger to win this game through the air. The Tigers will have opportunities to make plays in the passing game but need to contain Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore.

Expect a tight game into the fourth quarter, but LSU’s edge in depth will show, as it will take control of the trenches in the second half and wear down the Aggies.

Final Prediction: LSU 27, Texas A&M 20 


by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

 

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 8 Preview and Predictions
Big East Week 8 Preview and Predictions

Big Ten Week 8 Preview and Predictions

Big 12 Week 8 Preview and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 8 Preview and Predictions

SEC Week 8 Preview and Predictions

Teaser:
<p> LSU Tigers vs. Texas A&amp;M Aggies Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 06:08
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-start-or-sit-week-7
Body:

Welcome to Week 7 of the NFL season, also known as the lightest slate of action before the playoffs get started. Six teams are on bye this week, which to the fans means there are only 13 games on tap. To the fantasy owners, however, this means a lot of players aren’t available and quite a few teams will be going deep into their bench to put together a starting lineup.

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

Week 7 Positional Rankings

Week 7 Waiver Wire

Bye week teams: Atlanta, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Philadelphia, San Diego

Sneaky Start of the Week
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Tennessee at Buffalo
Hasselbeck will make his third, and probably final, start this week in Buffalo in place of Jake Locker. Locker has been sidelined the past three weeks with a shoulder injury, but he returned to practice this week and Titans head coach Mike Munchak has already said the second-year player will get his job back from the veteran Hasselbeck once he’s healthy.

So if this is in fact Hasselbeck’s last start (provided Locker stays healthy), what better way for him to go out than to get the NFL’s worst defense, no? Prior to last week, Buffalo had given up more than 1,200 yards and 97 points in a span of two games.

While the Bills’ D looked much better in the overtime win in Arizona, this unit still has its share of issues. In fact, this game features two of the bottom three defenses in the entire league, so chances are this affair will feature plenty of offensive fireworks.

I like Hasselbeck to go back to the bench swinging, if you will, as the Bills are allowing the most fantasy points to quarterbacks. If Chris Johnson can take advantage of the Bills’ rush defense (worst in the league), that should open up things even more for Hasselbeck, who has multiple weapons in the passing game in receivers Kenny Britt, Nate Washington and Kendall Wright, as well as tight end Jared Cook. The Titans may not win, but if you decide to start Hasselbeck, I think you will at least like that outcome.

Surprise Sit of the Week
Steve Smith, WR, Carolina vs. Dallas
Even though Smith is not currently leading the Panthers in receptions (tight end Greg Olsen is with 22), he’s still Cam Newton’s top target. The problem with this lies in the fact that the Panthers are 27th in the league in passing offense and Newton hasn’t been near as productive this season as he was at the start of his record-setting 2011 campaign.

Smith has a total of 21 receptions in the Panthers’ first five games. He’s still getting it done in terms of yardage (18.5 ypc), but he has yet to find the end zone. Since opening the season with consecutive 100-yard efforts, Smith has averaged less than four catches and 60 yards receiving over the past three games.

Dallas is No. 1 in both total and passing defense and has allowed the fewest receptions and yards to opposing wide receivers. Outside of Brandon Marshall (138 yards) and Anquan Boldin (98) no wide receiver has gone for more than 58 yards receiving against the Cowboys.

The Panthers’ offensive line is in a state of flux without All-Pro center Ryan Kalil, so don’t be surprised if Newton has no choice but to get rid of the ball quickly and for the Panthers to try and do some damage with short, underneath routes, which is not necessarily Smith’s bread and butter. Neither the match-up nor the likely offensive game plan, otherwise known as chuck and duck or tuck and run, bodes well for the dynamic, diminutive wideout.

Quarterbacks
START

Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) at Cincinnati
Somewhat quietly, Big Ben is putting together yet another solid, productive season. He’s fourth in passer rating and tenth among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring, and eight of those in front of him have the benefit of one more game played. He has thrown 10 touchdown passes compared to only two interceptions (and has yet to lose a fumble), which is even more impressive considering the injuries and upheaval that the Steelers’ offensive line has already gone through. Roethlisberger is 12-4 in his career against Cincinnati, this week’s opponent, and he has accounted for a total of 23 touchdowns (20 pass, 3 rush) in those 16 games. Provided his patchwork o-line gives him enough time to throw the ball, it should be another productive day at the office for No. 7.

Andrew Luck (IND) vs. CLE
Luck is averaging 300 yards per game and has thrown six touchdowns and just two interceptions at Lucas Oil Stadium. Cleveland is 30th in the league in pass defense (294.2 ypg) and has allowed 15 passing touchdowns in six games. Care to guess where and against whom the Colts are playing this Sunday?

Ryan Fitzpatrick (BUF) vs. TEN
Matt Hasselbeck may have gotten the “Surprise Start” nod above, but that’s not to take anything away from Fitzpatrick or rather his match-up against Tennessee’s defense. As was stated previously, this game features two of the league’s bottom three defenses, not to mention that the Titans are 29th against the pass. Fitzpatrick’s biggest issue this season has been interceptions as he has eight already, but the Titans have only picked off four passes, while surrendering 13 scoring strikes. This Buffalo-Tennessee tilt is what I would call a “Green Light Fantasy Special,” meaning I wouldn’t hesitate to start any of your Bills or Titans here, other than the defenses of course.

SIT
Matt Schaub (HOU) vs. BAL
This is not a knock on Schaub, who is a capable passer (12th in passer rating) and does a good job of protecting the ball (4 total turnovers). It’s just that Houston loves to run the ball, as the Texans are sixth in rushing yards and second in attempts. Plus there’s the matter of this week’s opponent, Baltimore, who have gave up a franchise-worst 227 yards on the ground to the Cowboys last week. The Texans strangely went away from the run early in last week's game against the Packers, which contributed to their offense sputtering, resulting in them falling behind early and eventually losing big. I don’t think the coaching staff makes that same mistake twice, especially against a Ray Lewis-less Ravens defense.

Christian Ponder (MIN) vs. ARI
Ponder was flawless in his first four games, throwing no picks and contributing five total touchdowns. In the past two games he has thrown four touchdown passes, but also four interceptions. Arizona is allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and has picked off more passes compared to aerial scores allowed. This seems like a good week for the Vikings to put more of the offensive burden on running back Adrian Peterson rather than their second-year quarterback.

Sam Bradford (STL) vs. GB
Bradford is coming off of a season-high 315-yard effort, in which he didn’t throw a touchdown pass and also got sacked three times. Oh and the Rams lost too. This week the Rams host the Packers, a team that leads the NFL in sacks (21) and just handled a previously undefeated Houston team rather easily. While he should get plenty of opportunities to throw the ball, I’m just not so sure he will have enough time to pull the trigger.

Running Backs
START

Trent Richardson (CLE) at IND
So it appears I was a week early in including Richardson here, as a rib injury and a fairly stingy Cincinnati defense held the rookie to just 37 yards on 14 carries. The important thing is Cleveland won, right? Oh yeah, there’s also the little matter that the Browns get the Colts this week. Richardson has insisted all along that he won’t let the rib/cartilage issue prevent him from playing this week. Then again I think pretty much every running back in the league would say the same thing if they had a date with Indianapolis awaiting them. Don’t forget the Colts put up little resistance to the Jets’ ground and pound attack last week, including 161 yards and three touchdowns to Shonn Greene alone. Flak jacket? Check. Momentum after last week’s win? Check. Really bad rush defense on tap? Double check. Talented, bruising young back ready to roll? Oh yeah.

Felix Jones (DAL) at CAR
Thanks to a foot injury suffered by DeMarco Murray, Jones saw his first significant action in some time and made the most of it. He started things off early with a 22-yard scoring run and finished the day with 92 yards on 18 carries. Murray’s sidelined at least this week after the Cowboys discovered he sustained some ligament damage in his left foot, which means Jones will get the start against Carolina. Jones has disappointed many a fantasy owner in the past with his untapped potential and injury-prone nature, but I think this time it will be different. He looked pretty good against the Ravens last week and should find some running room against the Panthers on Sunday. Carolina is allowing the third-most fantasy points to running backs and is giving up an average of 127.4 yards on the ground per game.

Darren Sproles (NO) at TB
Outside of Drew Brees, I could make an argument that the other Saint who has been most impacted by the season-long suspension of Sean Payton has been Sproles. A significant part of the offense throughout last season, Sproles’ usage to start this campaign has left many an owner scratching their head. Through the first five games of 2011, Sproles had already accumulated 57 touches (26 rushes, 31 receptions) on offense alone. So far this season, he’s had 45 (17 rushes, 28 receptions), but it goes beyond just the number of opportunities. He didn’t get a single rushing attempt in the first two games, while he didn’t catch a single pass in the Saints’ third game. Whatever the reason, I think Sproles returns to his more prominent role in the offense beginning this week against Tampa Bay, a team that he had a total of 161 yards of offense (not including returns) against in two games last season.

SIT
Shonn Greene (NYJ) at NE
Greene, who was my Sneaky Start for Week 6, exploded last week for a career-high 161 yards rushing and three touchdowns against Indianapolis. Prior to his career performance, Greene had rushed for 217 yards and one touchdown in his first five games. In other words, he nearly quadrupled his per-game average over five games in only four quarters of play. As valuable as Greene was to those owners who stuck by him, I wouldn’t expect anywhere near similar results this week. New England is eighth in the NFL in rushing defense, compared to Indianapolis, who is No. 26. The Patriots are allowing 3.4 yards per carry and have surrendered only two rushing touchdowns. In two games last year against his AFC East rivals, Greene had 144 yards rushing and one touchdown. It may be hard to bench last week’s top-scoring running back, but I just don’t see Greene putting up big numbers this week.

Mikel Leshoure (DET) at CHI (Monday)
Since rushing for 100 yards in his NFL debut in Week 3, Leshoure has collected 96 yards in his last two games combined. Detroit as a team has been inconsistent in running the ball, averaging less than 100 yards on the ground per contest, and this doesn’t figure to get any easier on Monday night in Chicago. The Bears are tops in the league in rushing defense, not to mention scoring defense and second in total defense, and are allowing less than 66 yards rushing per game. They have surrendered just one rushing touchdown and are coming off of a bye headed into this NFC North clash. Leshoure is anything but a sure thing when it comes to his fantasy outlook this week.

William Powell (ARI) at MIN
Even though he didn’t start, Powell was the most productive Cardinal running back last week against Buffalo. Powell finished with 70 yards rushing on 13 carries (5.4 ypc) and also caught a pass. However, I wouldn’t get too excited over Powell’s fantasy value because of two factors. One, unless the Cardinals decide to change it up, it appears that Powell will continue to share the workload with LaRod Stephens-Howling and possibly Alfonso Smith. The bigger reason is Arizona’s opponent this week. Minnesota’s defense has given up just one rushing touchdown so far and the only back to rush for more than 63 yards against this unit has been Maurice Jones-Drew. Powell may be a nice story and could prove valuable down the road, but MJD he isn’t. This simply isn’t the week to expect much from him in terms of fantasy points.

Wide Receivers
START

Dez Bryant (DAL) at CAR
Twenty-eight, 21, 200 and two. What do these numbers mean? They are the total number of targets, receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns Dez Bryant has in his last two games. To put it simply, Bryant is going too hot to bench right now, especially against a Carolina secondary that doesn’t have anyone as tall or big as the 6’2, 220-pound target.

Stevie Johnson (BUF) vs. TEN
Johnson is off to a decent, but not spectacular, start to the season with 27 catches for 316 yards and three touchdowns. Don’t be surprised to see these numbers go up quite a bit this Sunday as Johnson and the Bills welcome Tennessee and its 30th-ranked pass defense to Orchard Park. Calvin Johnson, Malcom Floyd and Percy Harvin have already hung 100-yard games on the Titans, and I expect Johnson to follow suit this week.  

Josh Gordon (CLE) at IND
Gordon is quickly establishing himself as not only a legitimate deep threat, but as quarterback Brandon Weeden’s favorite target. Gordon has three touchdowns in his last two games, and two of these scoring strikes were plays of more than 60 yards. For the season he is averaging 22.8 yards per catch and is starting to get more opportunities thrown his way. He has a total of 12 targets in his last two games, after seeing 14 in the first four combined. Indianapolis has done a decent job of limiting the amount of damage done by opposing wide receivers in terms of yardage, but the Colts’ secondary has been burned several times on the long ball. If you’re looking for someone to take a flyer on this week, and beyond for that matter, Gordon is certainly a worthy candidate.

SIT
James Jones (GB) at STL
Jones has definitely made his presence felt for both his team and those owners who were fortunate enough to get a hold of him. Jones posted his third straight two-touchdown game last week against Houston, and he is second only to Arian Foster in the entire NFL in touchdowns with seven. On the other hand, St. Louis is seventh in the league against the pass and the Rams’ defense has only given up two touchdowns to opposing wide receivers. By no means, am I saying the Rams are going to shut Aaron Rodgers and the Packers completely down, but I wouldn’t be surprised to not only see Jones’ two-TD streak come to an end, but see him shut out, at least when it comes to the end zone.

Anquan Boldin (BAL) at HOU
After a slow start to the season, Boldin has reemerged as a key part of Baltimore’s passing attack. He has 28 catches for 311 yards in his last three games combined and now leads the Ravens in both targets and receptions. The problem I see this week, however, is who will be on the others side, Houston. One, the Texans are still smarting from the whipping Green Bay handed them on their home turf last week. Two, the Texans’ secondary is having the most trouble with the deep passes and wideouts who are vertical threats. That’s why players like Jordy Nelson, Eric Decker, Randall Cobb and Jeremy Kerley have had the most success against their defensive backs. Boldin is not the Ravens’ deep threat; Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones fill that role. So I expect Joe Flacco, who loves to throw the ball downfield, especially when using play-action, to try and follow the same script this week, which makes Boldin a somewhat risky option.

Nate Burleson (DET) at CHI (Monday)
Burleson has settled in nicely as the Lions’ No. 2 wide receiver, as he’s tied with tight end Brandon Pettigrew (more on him below) for second place on the team in receptions (26). He also leads the way with two touchdown catches so far. That’s all well and good, but Chicago’s defense has given up just three receiving touchdowns, and no team’s No. 2 wide receiver has caught more than four passes or had more than 43 yards receiving against it. Undoubtedly the Bears will be focused on slowing down Calvin Johnson, but this doesn’t mean Burleson’s going to be the beneficiary of such attention. You never sit your studs, which applies here to Johnson and Matthew Stafford (unless you have a better option available), but I think discretion is warranted this week when it comes to Burleson.

Tight Ends
START

Heath Miller (PIT) at CIN
Ben Roethlisberger and Miller have been teammates since 2005 and it’s apparent the quarterback trusts his tight end. Miller is second on the Steelers with 25 catches and his four touchdowns tie him for the team lead with wide receiver Mike Wallace. Big Ben inexplicably trusts Miller to get open and catch the ball (25 receptions on 34 targets) when it’s thrown his way. Cincinnati is allowing the eighth-most fantasy points to tight ends, so there’s little doubt in my mind that Roethlisberger will be looking for his long-time teammate over the middle early and often this Sunday night.  

Brandon Pettigrew (DET) at CHI (Monday)
As good as Chicago’s defense has been (and it has been VERY good, especially in terms of fantasy scoring as a DST), its one weak spot appears to be defending tight ends. The Monsters of the Midway are allowing the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, while the 35 receptions by them are the fourth-most. Enter Pettigrew, who is second only to All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson in targets for the Lions. He has 26 receptions, which ties him with wideout Nate Burleson for second, along with 261 yards and a touchdown. Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford is certainly keeping Pettigrew heavily involved as the 6-5, 265-pounder has seven or more targets in all but one of the team’s five games. In two games against the Bears last season, Pettigrew had a total of 14 catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. As good a job as the Bears have done pressuring the quarterback (18 sacks) and shutting down opposing wide receivers (3 TD catches), Stafford may have no choice but to look Pettigrew’s way early and often come Monday night.

SIT
Benjamin Watson (CLE) at IND
Watson has caught a touchdown pass this season, but he’s also ceding more and more targets to fellow tight end Jordan Cameron with each passing week it seems. Cleveland plays Indianapolis this week and considering the Colts have allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends, it’s probably best to just stay from either Brown tight end.

Dallas Clark (TB) vs. NO
Remember when Clark caught 100 passes? Yeah me too, it was back in 2009 when he was still in Indianapolis. Clark’s now in Tampa Bay and the only way he’s catching that many passes this season is if it gets expanded to 56 games. He has nine receptions in five games. Case closed.

Defense/Special Teams
START
Minnesota vs. Arizona

Arizona has given up 27 sacks already. Minnesota has collected 15 sacks and has surrendered a total of 20 points in its last two home games. The Cardinals are down to their No. 3 running back as their starter and quarterback John Skelton is getting his first start since Week 1. Any other questions?

Oakland vs. Jacksonville
The Raiders are last among DSTs in fantasy scoring as they have collected a total of four sacks and six turnovers in five games. Fortunately for them, their first game off of the bye is against a Jacksonville team (also coming off of its bye) that has scored one touchdown in its last two games. If there was ever a time to employ the Silver and Black attack in your lineup, it’s this week.

SIT
Baltimore at Houston

I don’t need to tell you that this is a Ravens defense that will be playing its first game without Ray Lewis, a future Hall of Famer who’s the unquestionable leader and heart and soul of this team, and Lardarius Webb, one of the best cover corners in the entire NFL, do I? Or that the Ravens will be playing a Texans team that’s champing at the bit to put last week’s disappointing showing, at home and in primetime no less, against Green Bay behind it, right? Or that the Ravens gave up a franchise-worst 227 yards rushing last week and will face Arian Foster and the Texans’ vaunted ground attack on Sunday? Just checking.

Tampa Bay vs. New Orleans
The Buccaneers’ DST put up 18 fantasy points on the board last week against a Chiefs team that had Brady Quinn at quarterback. This week Tampa Bay’s D gets a rested New Orleans team that has record-setting quarterback Drew Brees at the helm. Yes the Bucs have been very good against the run, but tell me again when was the last time the Saints beat a team by running the ball?

Kickers
START
Dan Bailey (DAL) at Carolina

Carolina is allowing the most fantasy points to opposing kickers. Dallas’ ground game is coming off of its best effort yet and Dez Bryant and Jason Witten have both picked it up after slow starts. As long as Tony Romo can take care of the ball, Bailey should get a fair number of chances to score some points of his own.

Kai Forbath (WAS) at New York Giants
Forbath won the tryout to be the new Redskin kicker after Billy Cundiff was let go. He then promptly endeared himself to his new teammates by connecting from 50 yards out in the win over Minnesota last week. I think the Giants will bend but not break in the red zone more times than not, giving Forbath more three-point tries rather than solo shots.

SIT
Greg Zuerlein (STL) vs. Green Bay

The rookie known as Legatron hit his first bump in the road last week as he missed three field goal attempts. To be fair these are the first misses of his brief career and two of them were from beyond 50 yards (66 and 52 to be exact). Still, a miss is a miss and this first-year kicker has had all of this week to dwell on the fact that he has missed his last three field goal tries. I can’t help but wonder if Rams coach Jeff Fisher may think twice before sending Zuerlein out there for a long one this week against Green Bay. You may want to do the same thing for your lineup.

Jay Feely (ARI) at Minnesota
Feely was almost the hero last week against Buffalo as his franchise-record 61-yard field goal with 1:09 left tied the game at 16. He had a chance to win it at the end of regulation, but his 38-yard attempt was tipped at the line and hit the upright as time expired. To be clear, that “miss” isn’t why I’m not high on Feely this week. I just don’t see him getting as many chances against a Minnesota defense that’s tied for ninth in the league in points allowed (19.5 ppg), especially given the Cardinals’ own offensive issues.

— By Mark Ross, published on Oct. 19, 2012

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 7</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 06:05
Path: /college-football/south-carolina-gamecocks-vs-florida-gators-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Even with South Carolina’s loss to LSU last week, Saturday’s game between Florida and South Carolina is one of the marquee games for Week 8. The Gamecocks still have national and SEC title aspirations but another loss would eliminate those possibilities. Florida ranked No. 2 in the first release of the BCS standings and needs a victory over South Carolina to strengthen its grip on the No. 1 spot in the SEC East. The Gators take on Georgia next Saturday, so wins over the Gamecocks and Bulldogs would likely assure Will Muschamp’s team a spot in Atlanta in early December.  

Florida dominated South Carolina in the 1990s and early 2000s, but the Gamecocks have won the last two matchups. The Gators fell 17-12 in Columbia last season, while South Carolina won 36-14 in Gainesville in 2010.

While much of the focus for this matchup will be on the field, let’s not forget about the old ball coach’s return to the Swamp. Gainesville is certainly a special place for South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, but there’s no doubt he wants to go into the Swamp and exit with a victory. Spurrier is 3-4 in seven career games against Florida and is 1-2 in games played in Gainesville.

Storylines to Watch in South Carolina vs. Florida

Will South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore play?
In last week’s loss to LSU, South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore ran for a season-low of 35 yards on 13 attempts. However, that wasn’t the only bad news, as the junior back suffered a hip injury and may not be able to play in this Saturday’s game against Florida. If Lattimore cannot go, it would be a huge setback for the Gamecocks’ offense. Of course, there’s always the thought coach Steve Spurrier is playing mind games with the Gators, and the junior back will play in Saturday’s game. Freshman Mike Davis and senior Kenny Miles  - a combined 217 yards this season - will carry the workload if Lattimore cannot play. Quarterback Connor Shaw ranks second on the team with 280 rushing yards and will figure more into the rushing attack if Davis and Miles are forced into action. Florida ranks 20th nationally against the run, so it’s unlikely South Carolina would be able to have a huge day on the ground. However, Lattimore’s presence would be a huge boost to the Gamecocks’ offense and is a significant setback if he is unable to play.

Will South Carolina’s defense hold Florida’s Mike Gillislee in check?
There’s really no secret what Florida wants to do on offense. The Gators are averaging 233.3 rushing yards per game and rank 114th nationally in passing offense. Running back Mike Gillislee has been one of the nation’s best running backs through the first half of the season, recording 615 yards and seven touchdowns on 120 attempts. Gillislee rushed for 146 yards in the victory against LSU and seemed to get stronger as the game progressed. South Carolina has been stout against the run this year but allowed LSU to record 258 yards and two scores last week. In addition to trying to shore up last Saturday’s problems, the Gamecocks could be shorthanded this week. Defensive tackles Byron Jerideau and J.T. Surratt are nursing ankle injuries, while Kelcy Quarles may not play due to a shoulder problem. Additionally, South Carolina's top pass rusher (Jadeveon Clowney) is also questionable with a foot injury. At full strength, the Gamecocks’ defensive line should be able to hold their own against Gillislee and the Gators’ offensive line. However, the injuries are adding up, and Florida should own an edge in the trenches.

Which quarterback will make the most plays: Connor Shaw or Jeff Driskel?
With two of the SEC’s best defenses and running backs squaring off, it’s not crucial for either quarterback to have a huge game throwing the ball. However, it’s about timely plays and not making big mistakes. South Carolina’s Connor Shaw ranks 14th nationally in passing efficiency and has thrown only two interceptions in four SEC games. Florida’s Jeff Driskel has not thrown for more than 100 yards in each of his last two contests, but the sophomore is making big plays on the ground, including a 70-yard scamper against Vanderbilt. Neither quarterback will throw for 300 yards in this game but converting third downs and keeping drives alive with their legs will be two areas both quarterbacks can make an impact. Shaw has the edge in playmakers at receiver, which will be crucial with this matchup expected to be undecided deep into the fourth quarter.

Special teams…the x-factor
As with every big game, keep a close eye on the special teams. South Carolina punt returner Ace Sanders is averaging 17.4 yards per punt return and took one for a touchdown against Missouri. The Gators don’t have a standout on returns this season but have the edge on field goals and punts. Florida kicker Caleb Sturgis has converted 11 of 13 attempts, while punter Kyle Christy is averaging 46.4 yards per kick.

Can Florida’s defensive line take advantage of South Carolina’s offensive line?
Even though the Gamecocks are 6-1 and clobbered Georgia 35-7 two weeks ago, the offensive line is a significant question mark for this team. Line coach Shawn Elliott has shuffled some players around, but the front five is allowing 2.6 sacks a game. Florida’s defensive line seems to be getting stronger as the year goes on and it has allowed just one rushing touchdown in the last two games. With concerns on the offensive line, expect South Carolina to move quarterback Connor Shaw around the pocket. However, the Gamecocks have to be able to move Florida’s defensive front in short-yardage situations, as well as paving the way for Lattimore, Davis and Miles to gain ground on first and second downs.

Final Analysis

Considering both teams are allowing less than 20 points a game, expect a low-scoring defensive struggle on Saturday afternoon. Injuries will play a key role in deciding the outcome of this matchup, especially with South Carolina potentially missing running back Marcus Lattimore, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and a couple of defensive tackles. The Gamecocks have the edge at quarterback, but Florida’s defense has allowed only six points in two SEC home games. Expect the Gators to once again establish their rushing attack in the second half, which will be just enough for Florida to edge South Carolina and setup a huge showdown against Georgia next week that could decide the SEC East title.

Final Prediction: Florida 20, South Carolina 17
 

by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

 

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 8 Preview and Predictions
Big East Week 8 Preview and Predictions

Big Ten Week 8 Preview and Predictions

Big 12 Week 8 Preview and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 8 Preview and Predictions

SEC Week 8 Preview and Predictions

Teaser:
<p> South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Florida Gators Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-betting-against-spread-week-8
Body:

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: 32-23
Last Week: 6-2

Note: All lines are as of date of publication

Western Michigan (+3.5) at Kent State
Darrell Hazell has done an excellent job in one and a half seasons with the Flashes. The only loss of the year came on the road against an SEC opponent and, against the spread, his team is equally strong at 5-1. The Flashes have won their last two games by a combined 72-31 behind 604 yards rushing. Western Michigan will be without starter Alex Carder at quarterback and has lost two out of the three games. Look for the Golden Flashes to continue down its winning path, both in the standings and against the number. Prediction: Kent State -3.5

Indiana (+3) at Navy
The Midshipmen are always strong at running the football, but its 233.3 per game average is well-below what Navy has grown accustomed too over the last decade. The Hoosiers, meanwhile, boast the Big Ten's top passing attack under the guidance of second-year coach Kevin Wilson. A win over Navy would triple Indiana's win total from a year ago and give the fans in Bloomington a lot to be excited about it. Navy has no chance of stopping a team that scores over 35 points per game and just dropped 49 on Ohio State. Prediction: Indiana +3

San Diego State (+6.5) at Nevada
The Wolfpack gets star quarterback Cody Fajardo back after missing last weekend's contest. He leads the Mountain West in total offense and the Aztecs defense, which ranks 67th nationally in scoring (95th in pass efficiency defense) and has allowed 72 points in its only two road games, will have a tough time stopping the Nevada rushing attack. The nation's leading rusher, Stefphon Jefferson at 162.9 yards per game, is happy to have his backfield mate back in action. Take the Pack to win its sixth straight fairly comfortably. Prediction: Nevada -6.5

Penn State (+3.5) at Iowa
A battle of two Big Ten unbeatens should be defensively minded in Iowa City. Walk-on turned superstar bowling ball tailback Mark Weisman has an injured ankle and is doubtful for the Hawkeyes, leaving the depleted backfield in the questionable hands of James Vandenberg. On the other side, Matt McGloin has played superbly in a new offensive scheme that is as balanced as any in the nation the last month. The Nittany Lions are 5-1 against the spread this season and are a few plays from being unbeaten. They are simply the better team. Prediction: Penn State +3.5

USF (+6.5) at Louisville
The South Florida Bulls are one of the least trustworthy teams in the nation these days. And better may point to three straight close wins for the Cards by a combined 21 points over inferior teams. However, all three were on the road. The three best offensive yardage totals of the season have come at home for Charlie Strong's bunch and USF has done little to prove it belongs on the same field as the 6-0 Big East frontrunners. The Bulls have lost four straight by an average of 11.6 points per game and lost this bout by 10 at home last fall. Prediction: Louisville

Other games to investigate:

Stanford (-2) at Cal
The Cardinal are a superior team that crushed the Bears the last time they visited Berkeley. But it's a rivalry game.

Texas Tech (-1.5) at TCU
Tech hasn't won back-to-back Big 12 games since Nov. 2009. The Toads defense is slightly different than West Virginia.

Kansas State (+3) at West Virginia
I wouldn't bet against Bill Snyder and Collin Klein.

Northern Illinois (-16.5) at Akron
The Huskies are the far superior team behind do-everything dynamo Jordan Lynch.

Colorado (+41) at USC
Isn't this entirely too many points? Even for the Buffaloes?

Iowa State (+14) at Oklahoma State
The Cyclones play these types of games close behind solid defense.

Minnesota (+17) at Wisconsin
Badgers have won eight straight in this series and the Gophers haven't won in Madison since 1994.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

2012 Trends Against the Spread:

Undefeated ATS: Arizona State (5-0-1), Utah St (7-0), Western Kentucky (6-0)

Winless ATS: Virginia (0-6-1)

One Loss Against the Spread One Win Against the Spread
Fresno State (6-1) Auburn (1-5)
Kansas State (4-1-1) Boston College (1-5)
Kent State (5-1) Central Michigan (1-5)
UL Monroe (5-1) Colorado (1-5)
Ole Miss (6-1) Colorado St (1-6)
Northwestern (6-1) Idaho (1-6)
Oregon State (4-1) Kentucky (1-6)
Penn State (5-1) Miami-OH (1-6)
San Jose State (5-1) Michigan State (1-6)
South Carolina (6-1) USC (1-5)
Texas Tech (5-1) Syracuse (1-5)
TX-San Antonio (3-1)  

Other Noteables: Ball State (5-2), Duke (5-2), LSU (2-5), New Mexico (5-2), Northern Illinois (5-2), Toledo (5-2), UNLV (5-2)

Related College Football Content

College Football's Week 8 Upset Predictions
Weekend On Tap: Picking the 10 Best Games of Week 8
ACC Week 8 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 8 Previews and Predictions

Big Ten Week 8 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 8 Previews and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 8 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 8 Previews and Predictions

Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat Post-Week 7 Rankings

Post-Week 7 Bowl Projections

Teaser:
<p> College Football Betting Against the Spread: Week 8</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-draft-rankings-defensive-tackles
Body:

It is never too early to begin looking ahead to next year's NFL Draft. Each year a unique set of prospects enters the professional ranks with a chance to make an immediate impact on the country's most powerful sport. The 2013 NFL Draft won’t be any different.

Today, we rank college football's best defensive tackles prospects:

1. Jonathan Hankins, Ohio State (6-3, 320, Jr.)
The big Buckeye lineman has just a touch more upside than Star Lotulelei but has a similar skillset. He has a massive frame that is excellent at clogging space in order to stop the run. But he is a three-down tackle who can get penetration and disrupt the passer from the interior. In what should be a very deep and talented defensive tackle class, Hankins could be the best. There are potentially five first round defensive tackles in the 2013 class.

2. Star Lotulelei, Utah (6-3, 320, Sr.)
The big fella from Utah was voted as the best defensive lineman in the Pac-12 by his peers last season. If the offensive lineman who try to block him each Saturday say he is the best defensive lineman in the league, I believe them. He, too, is a three-down tackle who can be used against the pass and run equally — which is a rare commodity highly coveted by the NFL. He has great size, has been extremely productive and will likely be a top ten pick. He may be viewed as safer than Hankins but likely has slightly less upside.

3. Kawann Short, Purdue (6-3, 315, Sr.)
Purdue's heart and soul on defense has tons of ability. He is roughly the same size as all the best tackle prospects in this class with the rare of exception of John Jenkins (who is massive and bigger than everyone else). He has proven his abilities to play in opposing backfields with four years of consistent play in the middle of a defense that rarely gave him the help he deserved. He is a Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year candidate this fall. 

4. John Jenkins, Georgia (6-3, 358, Sr.)
Few players will go to the combine bigger than Jenkins. While he will need to prove his stamina, flexibility and commitment to physical conditioning, he doesn't have to prove much in the form of on-field production. He has experience in a professional 3-4 defense that has been one of the best in the vaunted SEC. He has the skills and size to develop into the best player at his position in this class, but has to refine his fitness, size and consistency.

5. Sylvester Williams, North Carolina (6-3, 320, Sr.)
The big Tar Heel has been a fast riser throughout the fall. He has the needed size and power to play at the next level but needed to prove himself one more season. He was surrounded by elite talent and was a junior college transfer, yet has continued to improve and has held his own without names like Coples, Martin, Powell there to help him this fall. He is more upside than most in the top ten at this point.

6. Jesse Williams, Alabama (6-3, 320, Sr.)
There may not be anything flashy or freakish about this young Australian, but he absolutely gets the job done with tremendous strength and technique. He has been coached by the best, been extremely productive against the best and should be viewed as one of the best. He won't wow scouts with any one talent, but should be a major contributor on the next level for years to come.

7. Sharrif Floyd, Florida (6-3, 303, Jr.)
The Gators active lineman is much lighter than his elite level counterparts and is generously listed at 6-foot-3. But he is extremely active, disruptive and will make plenty of plays on the next level. This nose tackle was an elite recruit back in 2010 and made an immediate impact as a freshman in Gainesville. Look for him to continue to improve and could easily raise his stock into the first round with a great end to his Gators career. 

8. Bennie Logan, LSU (6-3, 290, Jr.)
Only one player on the Tigers roster gets to wear No. 18 each season as the unquestioned leader of the program and Logan got that distinguished honor in 2012. Like Floyd, he won't tip the scales with his smaller frame, but he is as tough a leader as there is at the position. He is a dependable performer that will give scouts exactly what they expect. Logan has limited upside but extremely low downside. 

9. Sheldon Richardson, Missouri (6-3, 295, Jr.)
Despite his wordy taunts, Richardson is one of the most talented tackles in the nation. Every SEC coach to have scouted the Tigers point to the defensive line as the area to focus on, and most of that is due to the play this big guy. He has had some injury issues in the past (shoulder) and will need to prove himself at the combine, but the upside is obvious for the one of the highest-rated recruits to ever sign with Mizzou.

10. Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota (6-6, 300, Jr.)
This massive prospect has been a late mover on draft boards. He has a huge frame with plenty of room to add bulk and power. He also hasn't played a ton of football so his better days are well of ahead of him. He has quickly proven to be a productive member of an improving defense. He has extremely intriguing upside and could be a value pick in the early middle rounds.

Other names to watch:

11. Akeem Spence, Illinois (6-1, 305, Jr.)
12. Josh Boyd, Mississippi State (6-3, 300, Sr.)
13. Everett Dawkins, Florida State (6-2, 304, Sr.)
14. Abry Jones, Georgia (6-3, 308, Sr.)
15. Dominique Easley, Florida (6-2, 280, Jr.)
16. Joe Vellano, Maryland (6-2, 285, Sr.)
17. Jordan Hill, Penn State (6-1, 294, Sr.)
18. Cory Grissom, USF (6-2, 316, Sr.)
19. Anthony Rashad White, Michigan State (6-2, 330, Sr.)
20. Baker Steinkuhler, Nebraska (6-6, 290, Sr.)

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related NFL Draft Rankings By Position:

2013 NFL Draft: Running Backs

2013 NFL Draft: Tight Ends
2013 NFL Draft: Safeties

2013 NFL Draft: Defensive Tackles

2013 NFL Draft: Wide Receivers

2013 NFL Draft: Offensive Tackles

2013 NFL Draft: Inside Linebackers

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Defensive Tackles</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/nebraska-cornhuskers-vs-northwestern-wildcats-preview-and-prediction
Body:

The Big Ten is having a rough 2012 campaign, and the news only got worse with the first release of the BCS standings. The conference failed to have a team inside of the top 25 and only one squad is ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. While the Big Ten has seemingly dealt with only bad news this year, the battle to win the conference title should be one of the nation’s most intriguing races. The Legends Division is a wide-open battle, with Michigan and Iowa undefeated at 2-0. Northwestern and Nebraska each have one loss, while Michigan State isn’t out of the mix at 1-2.

Considering how tight the battle is at the top of the Big Ten, Saturday’s matchup between Nebraska and Northwestern should be a crucial game to sort out the pecking order in the division. The Cornhuskers are coming off a bye week but lost 63-38 to Ohio State in its last appearance. Northwestern won 21-13 at Minnesota last week and is 10-2 in its last 12 regular season games.

These two teams have met only five times and once as Big Ten foes. Northwestern upset Nebraska 28-25 in Lincoln last year, which was its first victory over the Cornhuskers since 1931. The Cornhuskers claimed an easy victory in the 2000 Alamo Bowl against Northwestern and won the only matchup in Evanston (1931) between these two teams.

Storylines to watch in Nebraska vs. Northwestern

Can Nebraska stop Northwestern’s rushing attack?
Stopping the run has been a huge issue for the Cornhuskers this season. The off week should have allowed Bo Pelini and his defensive staff a chance to examine his team’s performance in the first half of the season and find a few answers. Will it make a difference? Nebraska’s defense is uncharacteristically ranked 91st nationally against the run and is giving up 27.7 points a game. Northwestern’s rushing attack ranks 18th nationally and has found a spark behind Venric Mark and quarterback Kain Colter. Mark has 797 yards and eight scores through seven games, while Colter ranks second on the team with 421 yards. Considering Northwestern rushed for 207 yards last season, an improved Wildcats’ ground attack is a bad sign for Nebraska’s defense.

Can Trevor Siemian get back on track for Northwestern?
Siemian and Kain Colter form a dangerous one-two combination for the Wildcats at quarterback, and both will be expected to see significant snaps on Saturday. Northwestern’s offense seems to be at its best when Colter is used in an all-purpose role, while Siemian starts at quarterback. In last week’s win over Minnesota, Siemian completed only 1 of 7 throws for four yards. Although it’s just a one-game struggle, the sophomore is a key piece in the Northwestern attack and needs to be sharp on Saturday. However, Nebraska ranks 15th nationally against the pass and won’t give the Wildcats many easy opportunities through the air. The Cornhuskers are generating 3.5 sacks a game, so Northwestern’s quarterbacks (Siemian or Colter) needs to get rid of the ball quickly and on target.

Which Taylor Martinez will show up for Nebraska this weekend?
There’s no question Martinez is a much-improved passer. The junior is on pace to set a career-high in passing yards and is just two touchdown passes away breaking his total from last season (13). Despite his improvement, Martinez has struggled in Nebraska’s two losses. He tossed one interception and threw for 179 yards against UCLA, while throwing three picks on 25 attempts against Ohio State. Martinez is completing 72.2 percent of his throws at home but only 57.1 percent on the road. The Cornhuskers don’t need 300 passing yards from their junior quarterback, but he needs to be more efficient than he has in his career on the road. Northwestern’s secondary is allowing 270.9 yards per game, so the opportunities for big plays will be there. As Martinez goes, so goes Nebraska. Hitting some easy throws and allowing Martinez to make plays with his legs early on should help the junior ease into the game and erase some of the road demons.

Is Rex Burkhead 100 percent?
Rex Burkhead’s senior year hasn’t gone according to plan, as he suffered a knee injury in the opener and missed the next two contests. Burkhead reinjured his knee against Ohio State but is expected to play against Northwestern. However, it’s fair to wonder if Burkhead is at full strength or if he can handle 25-30 carries. Against the Buckeyes, the senior averaged 8.5 yards per carry and appeared to be close to 100 percent. Even if Burkhead isn’t at full strength, Nebraska has depth in the backfield. Ameer Abdullah leads the team with 514 yards and seven rushing scores, while averaging six yards per carry. Imani Cross and Braylon Heard are also capable of contributing, while quarterback Taylor Martinez is averaging five yards per carry this season. Even though Burkhead is ready to assume 20 carries, don’t be surprised if Abdullah gets a share of the touches.

Final Analysis

This is a crucial game for positioning in the Big Ten Legends Division and there should be no shortage of points with two of the conference’s top offenses. Nebraska is also out for revenge after Northwestern won in Lincoln last season, but there’s also plenty of focus to get things pointed in the right direction after losing at Ohio State on Oct. 6

Both offenses should be able to move the ball, with a turnover or late defensive stop likely deciding this game.

Nebraska should be motivated after losing to Ohio State, and the Cornhuskers make a late defensive stand to win and remain alive for the Big Ten Legends Division title.

Final Prediction: Nebraska 34, Northwestern 31

 

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 8 Preview and Predictions
Big East Week 8 Preview and Predictions

Big Ten Week 8 Preview and Predictions

Big 12 Week 8 Preview and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 8 Preview and Predictions

SEC Week 8 Preview and Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Northwestern Wildcats Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 05:54
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketballs-top-international-players-2012-13
Body:

Stars like Syracuse’s Fab Melo (Brazil), St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson (Canada) and Vanderbilt’s Jeffrey Taylor (Sweden) and Festus Ezeli (Nigeria) may have left the college ranks for the NBA in June, but that doesn’t mean the college game isn’t still flush with international talent.

If we were to assemble a NCAA international dream team for the upcoming season, here are the 10 players who would make our rotation.

Related content:
Top 10 Freshmen for 2012-13

Impact Transfers for 2012-13
Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2012-13
10 Players Returning from Injury

2012-13 INTERNATIONAL DREAM TEAM
STARTERS

G Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s
Country:
Australia
The perfect leader for our international dream team is Matthew Dellavedova. Before even starting his senior season, the 6-foot-4 do-it-all guard has already made an indelible mark on the Gaels’ record book — first in career assists, second in career 3-pointers, eighth in career steals, ninth in career scoring. The reigning West Coast Conference Player of the Year, Dellavedova bolstered his résumé by representing his native land in the Summer Olympics.

G Myck Kabongo, Texas
Country:
Canada
Rick Barnes has a thing for Canadian point guards — two years ago he had Cory Joseph, then when Joseph bolted for the NBA after one season, he was seamlessly replaced with Myck Kabongo. The slender 6-1 floor general, on of the top recruits in the Class of 2011, led the Longhorns in assists last season, averaging 5.2 per game. Kabongo brings to our team a reliable ball-handler and expert distributor.

F Brock Motum, Washington State
Country:
Australia
Providing the inside scoring for our international team is last season’s leading scorer in the Pac-12, Brock Motum. The 6-10 Aussie averaged 18.0 points and 6.4 rebounds for the Cougars last season. Motum made a dramatic improvement from his sophomore season (7.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg), so don’t be surprised if he is even more productive in his final season in Pullman.

F Elias Harris, Gonzaga
Country:
Germany
Elias Harris has long been on NBA scouts’ radar, but luckily for the Zags he stuck around for four years in Spokane. The 6-7 combo forward led the squad in rebounding (8.4 rpg) last season, earning All-WCC honors. He also has international experience playing for the German National Team. His inside/outside versatility brings a unique dimension to our international squad.  

C Gorgui Dieng, Louisville
Country:
Senegal
Dieng was one of the most improved players in the nation last season for a Louisville team that reached the Final Four. The big man from Senegal has always been effective on the defensive end, but he emerged as a threat on offense as a sophomore. Overall, he averaged 9.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game. He gives our International team some size and shot-blocking.

THE BENCH
G Brady Heslip, Baylor
Country:
Canada
Every team needs a 3-point sharpshooter, and our international squad has one of the best in the nation, Baylor’s Brady Heslip. In his first season on the court for the Bears (after transferring from Boston College), Heslip knocked down 100 3s at a 45.5 percent clip, including a memorable 9-of-12 performance against Colorado in the Round of the 32 of the NCAA Tournament.

G Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga
Country:
Canada
Our second Canadian guard off the bench is Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos. The Bulldogs have always had a strong recruiting pipeline to Canada, and they imported another key player from the Great White North last season. Despite playing on a roster full of veterans, Pangos surprisingly led the team in scoring (13.6 ppg), as well as assists, steals and 3-pointers made. Pangos can penetrate and kick it out to Heslip behind the arc.

F Ryan Broekhoff, Valparaiso
Country:
Australia
Providing veteran leadership off the bench for our team is Valpo’s Ryan Broekhoff. The reigning Horizon League Player of the Year, Broekhoff, a 6-7 senior, can play forward or guard, and no doubt is on a confidence high training with the Australian National Team this past offseason.

F Arsalan Kazemi, Oregon
Country:
Iran
The first Iranaian to play Division I basketball, Kazemi is a versatile scorer who has averaged a double-double for Rice in each of the last two seasons while shooting over 50 percent from the field. Kazemi transferred from Rice to Oregon in September and is seeking a hardship waiver to play this season.

C Steven Adams, Pittsburgh
Country:
New Zealand
New Zealand isn’t exactly a hotbed of hoops talent, but don’t tell that to Steven Adams. Despite being orphaned and living on the streets as a teen, the 7-foot “Kiwi Phenom” blossomed into one of the top-ranked incoming freshmen to the NCAA this fall. Adams is an explosive, athletic big man who gives Jamie Dixon perhaps his most ballyhooed recruit since taking over the reins of the Panthers.

@AthlonSports

More previews for the 2012-13 season can be found in the Athlon Sports College Basketball annual available in the online store

Athlon College Basketball Countdown:
1. Indiana
2. Louisville

3. Kentucky

4. Kansas
5. Syracuse
6. Michigan
7. Arizona
8. Ohio State
9. Duke
10. Michigan State
11. NC State
12. UCLA
13. UNLV
14. North Carolina
15. San Diego State
16. Missouri
17. Baylor
18. Memphis
19. Notre Dame
20. Florida

Teaser:
<p> College Basketball's Top International Players for 2012-13</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 05:29
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /nfl/report-andy-reids-son-died-heroin-overdose
Body:

Easton, PA (Sports Network) - Garrett Reid, the son of Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid, died in August of an accidental heroin overdose.

Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli held a news conference Thursday to release details of the investigation and coroner Zachary Lysek confirmed the cause of death was "acute opiate 'heroin' toxicity."

Garrett Reid died Aug. 5 at the age of 29. He was found dead in a dorm room at Lehigh University, site of the Eagles' training camp.

The younger Reid had battled substance abuse for a few years, spending time in jail as a result, and Andy Reid had mentioned the drug problems in the immediate aftermath of Garrett's death, saying in a statement his son had "lost the battle that has been ongoing for the last eight years."

Teaser:
Garrett Reid, the son of Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid, died in August of an accidental heroin overdose.
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 19:00
All taxonomy terms: crossword, Monthly
Path: /monthly/october-2012-crossword-solution
Body:

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 16:31
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-fighting-irish-vs-byu-cougars-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Last week’s goal-line stand against Stanford moved Notre Dame to 6-0 and one step closer to getting the Irish back to a BCS bowl. With six contests remaining, Notre Dame has four games it should be heavy favorites in, while tough road matchups await the Irish against USC and Oklahoma.

With a tough road trip to Oklahoma next week, Notre Dame has to be careful not to overlook this week’s opponent: BYU. The Cougars are 4-3 but have lost to Oregon State and Boise State - a combined 10-1 record – along with rival Utah.

These two teams are the nation’s top Independent squads but have played only six games. Notre Dame holds a 4-2 edge on BYU, with the last matchup coming in 2005. The Cougars claimed victories in 1994 and 2004, but their four losses to the Irish have come by 19 points or more.  

Storylines to Watch in Notre Dame vs. BYU

Winning the turnover battle
Turnovers were a big problem for Notre Dame’s offense last season, but the Irish rank 10th nationally in turnover margin and have lost only four fumbles. The Cougars have been quite generous with turnovers this year, tossing 10 interceptions and losing four fumbles through the first seven games. Quarterback Riley Nelson has been slowed by a back injury the last few contests and has tossed six picks over his last two games. If BYU continues to give the ball away, it will have no shot to leave South Bend with a victory. The weather certainly was a factor last week, but Notre Dame lost three fumbles against Stanford, which has to be a focus for Brian Kelly and his staff this week. Although the Irish are a big favorite, losing the turnover battle is a good way to allow an underdog to hang around until the fourth quarter.

Will BYU be able to run the ball on Notre Dame’s defense?
Establishing the ground attack against Notre Dame has been nearly impossible for opposing offenses this season. The Irish rank 25th nationally in rush defense, allowing only 113.5 yards per game. Also, only three opponents have managed more than 100 yards in a game, and Notre Dame has yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season. BYU ranks 52nd nationally in rushing offense, and starting running back Michael Alisa is out indefinitely due to a broken arm suffered against Utah State. With Alisa and backup dual-threat quarterback Taysom Hill out, the Cougars have struggled to find a spark on the ground. True freshman Jamaal Williams has big-play potential but was held in check by Oregon State’s defense last week (36 yards). Establishing balance will be critical to BYU's upset hopes, but considering Notre Dame’s rush defense is a strength, that’s easier said than done.

Everett Golson or Tommy Rees?
Notre Dame’s quarterback carousel continued to spin last week, as Everett Golson was forced to leave the game due to a concussion. However, the redshirt freshman was cleared to practice on Wednesday and if he doesn’t suffer any setbacks, should be the starting quarterback on Saturday afternoon. Golson hasn’t posted eye-popping numbers, but he hasn’t made any huge mistakes to cost his team a chance to win and is completing 58.5 percent of his throws. Tommy Rees has been effective as a change of pace option and shined in relief duty against Stanford, completing all four of his passes for 43 yards and one touchdown. Regardless of who starts or finishes this week, it’s crucial for Notre Dame to build some confidence in Golson, especially with a trip to Oklahoma next week. BYU’s defense ranks 24th nationally against the pass but was torched by Oregon State’s backup quarterback for 332 yards last week. The Irish will have plenty of opportunities to make plays through the air, but it’s up to Golson or Rees to deliver.

Can Riley Nelson attack the Notre Dame secondary?
A back injury slowed Nelson in late September and had an underwhelming performance in his return to the lineup. Against Oregon State, Nelson threw for 305 yards but tossed three picks and completed only 28 of 51 passes. The Cougars have some weapons in the receiving corps, led by receiver Cody Hoffman and tight end Kaneakua Friel. However, Nelson won’t have an opportunity to deliver the ball downfield to his receivers if the offensive line continues to struggle. BYU’s offensive line is allowing 2.6 sacks per game, which is a bad sign against Notre Dame’s defensive front. Even though the Irish have some inexperienced players stepping into key roles at cornerback, the secondary is allowing only 173.5 yards per game. If Nelson has time to throw, Hoffman and Friel will have opportunities to make plays downfield. However, Notre Dame’s defense will certainly have other plans, as it looks to copy Oregon State's gameplan last week and force Nelson into a few mistakes to give its offense a short field and easy points. 

Final Analysis

As each week passes, the stakes get a little higher for Notre Dame. The Irish are squarely in the national title mix and next Saturday’s game against Oklahoma will be a huge measuring stick and opportunity. However, the Irish have to focus on BYU this Saturday, a team that is dangerous despite its 4-3 record.

The Cougars should be able to hang around early, especially with a defense that ranks fifth nationally in yards allowed and seventh in scoring defense. However, expect a strong performance from Notre Dame’s defense, while the offense will find its rhythm in the second half. Considering next week's opponent (Oklahoma) will be the Irish's toughest challenge of the season, this is an important game for the offense to get on track and most importantly, build some confidence for quarterback Everett Golson.

Final Prediction: Notre Dame 31, BYU 13

 

by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

 


Related College Football Content

ACC Week 8 Preview and Predictions
Big East Week 8 Preview and Predictions

Big Ten Week 8 Preview and Predictions

Big 12 Week 8 Preview and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 8 Preview and Predictions

SEC Week 8 Preview and Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. BYU Cougars Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 13:48
Path: /college-football/10-statistical-highlights-lsu-vs-texas-am-games
Body:

LSU and Texas A&M will meet for the 51st time on Saturday, when the Tigers travel to Kyle Field for the first time since 1995 to battle the Aggies. These two proud schools may be new SEC rivals, but obviously LSU and Texas A&M are very familiar historically and on the recruiting trail.

The Tigers lead the all-time series 27-20-3, with the first game being played in 1899 and the last meeting in the Cotton Bowl at the conclusion of the 2010 season. Here are 10 statistical highlights focusing on the history between two teams with elite fan bases and tradition.


1 – Common head coach between the schools, the legendary Dana X. Bible. Many Texas A&M fans know his name well, but College Football Hall of Famer coached at LSU for three games in 1916, going 1-0-2. Bible would leave for College Station the next year and would compile a 72-19-9 record in 100 games at the A&M helm. He also coached basketball and baseball at the school, and Bible would go on to lead the Nebraska and Texas programs as well.

446 – Total yards for LSU in the 2011 Cotton Bowl, a 41-24 win over Texas A&M in the last meeting between these programs. Running backs Stevan Ridley and Spencer Ware both topped the 100-yard mark for the Tigers, while Jordan Jefferson tossed three touchdown passes. Many college football pundits predicted this would be LSU coach Les Miles last game as head coach because of the Michigan vacancy, but the Mad Hatter stayed in Baton Rouge and led the Tigers to an SEC championship last year.

33 – Games in this series played in Baton Rouge. LSU holds the advantage in those contests, 22-10-1. Only nine of the 51 games have been played in College Station, with the Aggies going 7-1-1 at home. The Tigers lead in eight neutral-site games by a 4-3-1 mark.

63 – Points scored by Texas A&M in the 1914 game, a 63-9 win in Dallas. That is the highest scoring mark in this series. The Aggies own the four top point totals (63 in 1914, 52 in 1899, 46 in 1922 and 45 in 1991) over the Tigers, with LSU’s largest total coming in the 42-17 victory in 1972.

18 – Number of used cars that LSU needed to get back to Baton Rouge after its 19-14 victory over Texas A&M in the 1944 Orange Bowl. According to schools officials, most of them ran out of fuel stamps before returning to campus.

39 – FBS teams with less total yards than current Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. “Johnny Football” has amassed 1.680 yards and 14 touchdowns through the air, while also running for 676 yards and 10 scores.

9 – Wins for LSU in this series during the 1960s. The 10th game in that decade was a 7-7 tie in 1966. Paul Dietzel led the Tigers in 1960-61, and the legendary Charlie McClendon took over in 1962 and would lead the LSU program until 1979.

5 – The longest winning streak for Texas A&M in this series, and it happens to be the last five regular-season meetings. The R.C. Slocum-led Aggies beat the Tigers every season from 1991-95

1 – Heisman Trophy winner for each school, and the two winners were just two years apart. Texas A&M halfback John David Crow won the award in 1957, while LSU legend Billy Cannon would take home the trophy in 1959. Unfortunately, the two Hall of Famers just missed playing against each other in this series.

5 – Times that LSU’s Les Miles has faced the Aggies, compiling a 3-2 record. He went 2-2 versus Texas A&M as the Oklahoma State head coach, and Miles led the Tigers to the aforementioned Cotton Bowl victory to conclude the 2010 campaign.

Teaser:
<p> 10 Statistical Highlights from LSU vs. Texas A&amp;M Games</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 12:24
Path: /nascar/backseat-drivers-fan-council-31
Body:

With Dale Earnhardt Jr. missing last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway because of a concussion, members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council had much to discuss from what should NASCAR do about concussions to if Fan Council members would still watch a race if their favorite driver was injured and not competing. Here’s what members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council said:


What do you think NASCAR should do about concussions?
After news that Dale Earnhardt Jr. would miss two consecutive races because of a concussion, Jeff Gordon said that if he were battling for a championship and thought he had a concussion, he would conceal it. Mark Martin stated that, "I hate the day when somebody like a doctor tells you whether you can or you can't (compete).” Fan Council members were asked what NASCAR should do:

61.4 percent said more stringent guidelines for examining a driver after a wreck and follow-up if necessary
21.5 percent said nothing, drivers know their bodies and know if they have a serious problem
11.6 percent said change the points structure where a driver could afford to miss a race because of injury
5.6 percent said "Other"

What Fan Council members said:
• If NASCAR insists on random drug testing under the premise that possible impairment from drugs is a safety threat to other drivers, how can they not consider potential brain injuries as an equally important safety threat?

• I don't know how to answer this, so I'll put it this way: Common sense tells you that if you are hurt, you shouldn't be out there. The right call is to stay home until you are healed up and come back stronger than ever. I'm not a race driver, but I can tell you this: If I was (hurt) and I had the chance to win the title (which I don't think Junior had anymore, by the way), there is no way in hell anybody would get me out of that car until after Homestead. I would look into the eyes of anyone who asked me how I was feeling and lie through my teeth.

• I understand how competitive the drivers are, but when football and hockey players who have played with concussions and other injuries start dying, you have to evaluate if it's really worth it. Way too many suicides, heart attack and early deaths. Junior did the right thing.

• I'm sorry to hear the position some drivers and others have taken on concussions. I applaud Dale for stepping up and speaking out. I am involved in the game of football, and have had extensive training in concussions, signs and symptoms, as well as their short- and long-term effects, which are scary to say the least. Concussions themselves are bad, but what compounds the problems are what happens to the brain if an athlete comes back too soon and suffers another blow to the head.

• NASCAR implements various safety measures because they are well aware of the risks the drivers would willingly take with their health and safety in order to win a race. The concussion issue is another instance in which NASCAR needs to accept responsibility for drivers' safety. The drivers fought against the HANS device. NASCAR mandated it for their safety. Many drivers—Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin included—applaud NASCAR for their aggressive approach to driver safety. In our society we have a responsibility to protect those who are unable (or unwilling) to do so. In NASCAR society, the sanctioning body has the same responsibility.

• They are independent contractors, right? Their decision.

• The point system is so stringent that a driver cannot miss a single race and still compete for the championship. This should be changed. If not, the drivers will continue to hide their injuries and keep driving while hurt.

• If you change the points structure so a driver could miss a race, you run the chance that a driver will “claim injury” for a track he just doesn't run well at.

• The letter Fred Lorenzen’s daughter wrote to Dale Jr. in care of Jim Utter should be required reading for all NASCAR drivers, owners and crew chiefs. A macho man isn't worth a darn when they have dementia or one of the other incapacitating illnesses.


Would you watch a NASCAR race if your favorite driver was injured and not competing?

94.0 percent said Yes
6.0 percent said No

What Fan Council members said:
• I'll be honest, if you consider yourself to be a REAL NASCAR fan, you should watch the race if you had planned to before, no matter what driver is in it. I consider myself to be a real NASCAR fan and I would watch any race, even if Jeff Gordon (my favorite) wasn't in it.

• I answered yes, but I only watched five percent of Saturday night’s race. If Junior had been racing I would have stayed home to watch, but without him I wouldn't clear my schedule just for the race. If I had no other plans then I would watch regardless.

• That's exactly what happened this weekend: I sat in those cold stands and watched every single lap even though it wasn't my driver behind the wheel of the 88. I'm a race fan. It's what I do.

• My favorite driver was NOT competing Saturday night and while it broke my heart, I would rather have him around for years to come than to risk it for a few races right now. I DID watch the race, granted not with as much enthusiasm, but pulled for Regan to do well in (Earnhardt’s) car. After all, it was still Dale's TEAM that was competing and wanted the best for all those guys who have worked so hard this year.

• I was shocked to hear that people were leaving because Junior wasn't racing. They paid all that money, took time off of work, etc., and left the track? They aren't true NASCAR fans. Then again, maybe this is why I personally have several favorite drivers/teams that I follow.

• Won't watch a race until Junior is back in the car. Some people think it's wrong to be like that but I tried to watch it (Saturday) and couldn't. I love racing and NASCAR, but I need someone to follow, someone to be my driver. I felt the same way in 1993 after Davey Allison passed. I had no one to follow and didn't consistently watch NASCAR races again until 1998 when I happened to catch a Busch race from the Glen and saw Junior racing. I was impressed at how well he did on a road course and found a new reason to watch consistently again. I've watched every week since then—until (Saturday).

• Love me some Tony Stewart, but I also enjoy the overall competition and have secondary drivers to follow. I enjoy the pageantry and tradition to each race beyond just the competition on the track.

• I am a huge Dale Jr. fan and still watched the race. It was strange, but I was rooting for my other drivers, as well.
 

Teaser:
<p> This week, Dustin Long and the Backseat Drivers Fan Council discuss the tricky topic of concussions and whether Dale Earnhardt Jr. made the right decision to step out of his car. Fan Council members also voice their opininons on what NASCAR should do about drivers that suffer from concussions and grade the Bank of America 500 from Charlotte Motor Speedway.</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 10:41
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-second-half-predictions
Body:

The first half of the college football season provided plenty of twists and turns, but the second half is really when the national championship and the conference title races will be decided. With most teams finished with their non-conference games, the focus shifts to conference play, which is arguably the best stretch of the season. And the best news for college football fans? None of the six BCS conferences is decided, which means there are plenty of big games in the second half of the year.

If you can’t watch any more games the rest of the season, don’t worry: We have predicted how the conference and national title races will play out, along with a few random predictions to monitor over the next seven weeks.

ACC Second-Half Preview and Prediction

Barring a lot of chaos, the ACC won’t have a team play for the national title this season. However, the conference title race could be one of the nation’s most intriguing battles. North Carolina has the inside track on the Coastal Division but is ineligible to play for the conference championship. Miami and Virginia Tech would be next in line, but neither team has seized the No. 1 spot. Until a surprising 17-16 loss at NC State, Florida State was in the mix for the national championship. The Seminoles are the favorites to win the Atlantic title but need NC State to lose at least once. Surprisingly, the only undefeated team in ACC play is Maryland. After a disastrous first season, Randy Edsall has the Terrapins moving in the right direction.

Predicted Atlantic Division Winner: Florida State

Predicted Coastal Division Winner: Virginia Tech (North Carolina ineligible)

Predicted ACC Championship: Florida State over Virginia Tech


Key Conference Games to Watch:

Virginia Tech at Clemson (Oct. 20)
Florida State at Miami (Oct. 20)
Virginia Tech at Miami (Nov. 1)
Florida State at Virginia Tech (Nov. 8)
NC State at Clemson (Nov. 17)

Big East Second-Half Preview and Predictions

The Big East has unfairly been a national punching bag for the last two seasons, but this season the conference has three teams ranked inside of the top 25 in the BCS standings. Louisville was the preseason favorite, but Rutgers and Cincinnati are a combined 11-0 through the first seven weeks. The middle of the conference is jumbled, but newcomer Temple is a surprising 2-0, and Pittsburgh has shown flashes of promise. The Bearcats have quietly flown under the radar, thanks to a relatively soft schedule. However Cincinnati's Oct. 26 date at Louisville will provide a better assessment of where this team stands. If Rutgers and Louisville continue on their current respective courses, these two teams should be unbeaten for a Nov. 29 showdown in New Jersey, which should decide the champion of the Big East.

Predicted Champion: Louisville
 

Key Conference Games to Watch:

Cincinnati at Louisville (Oct. 26)
Rutgers at Cincinnati (Nov. 17)
Rutgers at Pittsburgh (Nov. 24)
Louisville at Rutgers (Nov. 29)

Big Ten Second-Half Preview and Predictions

With NCAA sanctions banning Ohio State and Penn State from postseason play, the Big Ten is without a team in the top 25 of the BCS standings. The conference also struggled to earn respect in the non-conference portion of the schedule, which makes bowl season even more important for this league. After Wisconsin’s win over Purdue last Saturday, the Badgers are the clear frontrunner in the Leaders Division. The Legends Division race should be one of the most intriguing battles the rest of the way, with Michigan, Iowa, Northwestern, Michigan State and Nebraska all harboring division title hopes. Michigan is getting better on defense, while its offense remains deadly with Denard Robinson at quarterback. The Big Ten has taken some hits this year but expect at least two teams to finish in the top 25 of the BCS standings.

Predicted Leaders Division Champion: Wisconsin (Ohio State ineligible)

Predicted Legends Division Champion: Michigan

Predicted Big Ten Championship: Michigan over Wisconsin

 

Key Conference Games to Watch:

Nebraska at Northwestern (Oct. 20)
Michigan State at Michigan (Oct. 20)
Michigan at Nebraska (Oct. 27)
Ohio State at Penn State (Oct. 27)
Nebraska at Michigan State (Nov. 3)
Ohio State at Wisconsin (Nov. 17)
Michigan at Ohio State (Nov. 24)


Big 12 Second-Half Preview and Predictions

With nine teams likely to get bowl eligible, the Big 12 isn’t far behind the SEC in terms of overall depth. Kansas State is the conference’s only unbeaten team, but five teams have just one conference loss, including West Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. The Mountaineers host the Wildcats this Saturday and can jump back into the Big 12 title picture with a victory. Oklahoma’s win over Texas last week clearly shows the Sooners will be a factor in the second half of the season, while Texas Tech is a much-improved team, especially on defense where it ranks fourth nationally in yards allowed. With six one-loss teams still in the mix for the conference title, this race will likely go down to the final week of the season. Kansas State’s match-up with West Virginia this Saturday will be huge, but the Oklahoma-West Virginia and Texas Tech-Kansas State games also will be critical to the title picture. Considering how tight this conference is, it’s unlikely the champion will make it through with just one loss.

Predicted Big 12 Champion: Kansas State
 

Key Conference Games to Watch:

Kansas State at West Virginia (Oct. 20)
Texas Tech at Kansas State (Oct. 27)
TCU at West Virginia (Nov. 3)
West Virginia at Oklahoma State (Nov. 10)
Oklahoma at West Virginia (Nov. 17)
Texas at Kansas State (Dec. 1)
 

Pac-12 Second-Half Preview and Predictions

The Pac-12 was widely believed to be a two-team race in the preseason, but there’s more depth than expected, especially with Oregon State’s rise into the top 10 of the polls and Arizona State’s 5-1 start. USC suffered an early setback against Stanford, but the Trojans have won three in a row and should be 7-1 heading into a Nov. 3 showdown against Oregon. The Ducks have cruised to a 6-0 start, but the schedule gets considerably tougher in the second half of the season, as they have to hit the road to play Arizona State, USC, California and Oregon State. If the Trojans want to get back in the national title discussion, they have to beat Oregon on Nov. 3. However, if the Ducks can knock off USC in the regular season and in the Pac-12 title game, they will have a strong resume and a likely spot in the BCS Championship.

Predicted Pac-12 North Champion: Oregon

Predicted Pac-12 South Champion: USC

Predicted Pac-12 Championship: Oregon over USC
 

Key Conference Games to Watch:

Oregon at Arizona State (Oct. 18)
UCLA at Arizona State (Oct. 27)
Oregon at USC (Nov. 3)
Oregon State at Stanford (Nov. 10)
Arizona State at USC (Nov. 10)
Stanford at Oregon (Nov. 17)
USC at UCLA (Nov. 17)
Oregon at Oregon State (Nov. 24)

SEC Second-Half Preview and Predictions

The toughest conference in college football features seven ranked teams, including four among the top 10 in the BCS standings. The East Division appeared to be a two-team race between Georgia and South Carolina in the preseason, but at this point Florida looks like the team to beat. The Gators have already knocked off LSU and Texas A&M but must play South Carolina and Georgia in the next two weeks. The Gamecocks have a chance to stake their claim for the division title in Gainesville this week and already own a tiebreaker over the Bulldogs. Alabama and Mississippi State are the only unbeaten teams in the West, but the Crimson Tide are an overwhelming favorite to win the division title.

Predicted East Division Winner: Florida

Predicted West Division Winner: Alabama

SEC Championship Prediction: Alabama over Florida

 

Key Conference Games to Watch:

LSU at Texas A&M (Oct. 20)
South Carolina at Florida (Oct. 20)
Florida at Georgia (Oct. 27)
Mississippi State at Alabama (Oct. 27)
Texas A&M at Mississippi State (Nov. 3)
Alabama at LSU (Nov. 3)
Texas A&M at Alabama (Nov. 10)


10 Random Predictions for the Second Half of the 2012 Season

National Championship will be...Alabama vs. Oregon
The SEC’s streak of national champions will continue for one more season. The Crimson Tide will survive a road date at LSU and the SEC title game to finish 13-0 and should be heavily favored in the national championship. Oregon will have to beat USC twice, but the Ducks should find a way to make their second BCS title appearance under coach Chip Kelly.
Predicted National Champion: Alabama

BCS Bowl Predictions:

Rose: USC vs. Michigan
Fiesta: Notre Dame vs. Kansas State
Sugar: Florida vs. Oklahoma
Orange: Florida State vs. Louisville

The Heisman winner will be...Geno Smith
Sure, Smith had an off day in Saturday’s loss to Texas Tech, but every candidate gets a mulligan. The senior will have a couple of opportunities to regain the lead, especially in match-ups against Kansas State, TCU and Oklahoma. Smith’s first-half resume is rock solid, as he has yet to throw an interception and leads the nation in passing efficiency. Expecting the senior to not throw an interception the rest of the way is nearly impossible, but as long as West Virginia keeps winning, Smith should be the No. 1 candidate to hoist the Heisman in early December.

Ohio State will finish unbeaten
The Buckeyes are far from a perfect team, but the schedule sets up favorably for a 12-0 record. Home games against Purdue and Illinois should be easy wins, while road trips to Wisconsin and Penn State will be swing games, along with the finale against rival Michigan. Winning in Madison and Happy Valley won’t be easy, but the Buckeyes should emerge victorious, and there’s plenty of incentive to avenge last season’s loss to Michigan. If Ohio State finishes 12-0, the decision not to take a bowl ban after a disappointing 6-6 regular season in 2011 will be a colossal failure by the athletic department.

Notre Dame will finish 10-2 and play in a BCS bowl
With wins over Michigan State, Michigan, Miami and Stanford, the Irish have to be considered a legitimate national title contender. The defense is one of the nation’s best and has not allowed an opponent to score more than 17 points in a game this year. Although the defense is capable of winning a BCS title, the offense has been inconsistent, and redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson is still developing as a passer. With a schedule that features BYU, Pittsburgh, Boston College and Wake Forest, the Irish should easily reach 10 victories but losses against Oklahoma and USC will end any hope of playing for the national championship.

Oregon State’s Mike Riley will win coach of the year honors
The Beavers were picked by many to finish last in the Pac-12 North this season, but Riley and his staff have developed Oregon State into one of the most-improved teams in the nation. The Beavers are off to a 5-0 start, which includes a victory at BYU with their backup quarterback. The schedule sets up nicely for a run at 10 wins, especially with only two road games remaining the rest of the year. Even if Oregon State finishes 9-3 or 8-4, Riley will be a clear favorite to take home coach of the year honors. 

Derek Dooley and Gene Chizik will return for 2013
Dooley and Chizik rank near the top of the hot seat watch after seven games and how well their respective teams perform in the second half of the season will be crucial for their long-term future. Dooley is just 14-17 through his third season, while Chizik is 31-15 in his fourth year. Although Chizik has a winning record, take out the 14-0 national title season in 2010 and his record stands at a mediocre 17-15. Dooley didn’t inherit a great situation at Tennessee, but the Volunteers are 1-10 in their last 11 SEC games. Even though both coaches will fail to meet preseason expectations, a coaching change at either school would be a surprise. The Volunteers really can’t afford to have their fourth head coach in six seasons, while Chizik’s national title probably buys him another year. Assuming both coaches survive for 2013, they will have to win early to save their job for 2014.

No BCS Buster in 2012
Boise State was the only team outside of one of the big six conferences to crack the first release of the BCS standings. The Broncos should climb in the rankings, especially with four out of their next five opponents having only one win this year. The biggest obstacle will be a road date at Nevada in the season finale, which could decide whether or not Boise State will climb high enough in the standings to make a BCS bowl. However, the Broncos lost their last meeting in Reno and struggled on the road against New Mexico and Michigan State this season. If Boise State doesn’t qualify, Louisiana Tech and Ohio are the only other candidates who could potentially crash the BCS. Losing to Texas A&M likely ended any hopes the Bulldogs had, while Ohio’s narrow victories against MAC bottom-feeders UMass, Buffalo and Akron won’t be enough to push it high enough in the polls. Boise State is the non-AQs best shot at a BCS bowl, but the Broncos may not escape Reno with a victory.

Boston College’s Frank Spaziani will be the first BCS coach fired
Spaziani was already in serious trouble with Boston College’s 1-5 start, but the school recently hired a new athletic director and all signs point to a coaching change at the end of the year. Spaziani is 21-24 through four seasons, and the program’s win total has declined every year since 2009. Boston College isn’t an easy job, but the Eagles made a bowl game every season from 1999-2010.

There will be an unexpected BCS job become available this offseason
Even though all signs point to a relatively quiet coaching carousel this offseason, there’s always a job that becomes unexpectedly available. No one expected Todd Graham to leave Pittsburgh after one season and of course, Bobby Petrino’s motorcycle incident in April. Who knows, maybe Chip Kelly decides to revisit the NFL again? Maybe Steve Spurrier decides to retire at South Carolina? Expect one surprise BCS job to be open at the end of the season. 

Conference realignment is over…for now
The days of crazy realignment rumors should be over at least for the next few months. The Big 12 is committed to 10 teams, and the ACC isn’t likely to add any other members unless Notre Dame wants to join for football. The Big East wants to add another team for football, but the conference isn’t in any rush since Navy doesn’t join until 2015. College football’s landscape will have more changes but at least for the rest of this season, conference realignment will stay in the background. 
 

by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven


Related College Football Content

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Post-Week 7 Bowl Projections

Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat

Heisman Contenders After Week 7

Teaser:
<p> College Football's Second-Half Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 08:07
Path: /fantasy/don%E2%80%99t-start-jermichael-finley-shonn-greene-brandon-lloyd-russell-wilson-week-7
Body:

Who should you sit in Week 7? Well, with six teams on bye this week, every fantasy owner’s roster depth is sure to be tested. With players like Matt Ryan, Peyton Manning, Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and many others not available, chances are you might be starting some unfamiliar faces. That said, here are a few names we would advise you to sit in Week 7, if at all possible.

Jermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay at St. Louis
In Finley’s defense, he is dealing with a shoulder injury, which has cut down on his playing time. This also obviously has an adverse effect on his production. Injury issues aside, the truth is the big target just hasn’t been that effective or productive period this season. He has 24 receptions for only 210 yards (8.8 ypc) and one lone touchdown, which came in Week 1. Since that opening game against San Francisco, where he caught seven balls for 47 yards and that score, his number of receptions has gone down each successive week. Last week in a game in which the Packers put up 427 yards of total offense and Aaron Rodgers threw six touchdown passes, Finley caught a grand total of two passes for 12 yards. What’s more, this week’s opponent, St. Louis, has allowed only one touchdown reception to tight ends so far. Between the injuries, the lack of production and the match-up, you can take your pick as to the reason why you should leave Finley on the bench this week, and probably until further notice.  

Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets at New England
Greene, who was our Sneaky Start for Week 6, exploded last week for a career-high 161 yards rushing and three touchdowns against Indianapolis. Of course it certainly helped that he was facing one of the worst rushing defenses in the league, no? Prior to his career performance, Greene had rushed for 217 yards and one touchdown in his first five games. In other words, he nearly quadrupled his per-game average over five games in only four quarters of play. As valuable as Greene was to those owners who stuck by him, don’t expect anywhere near similar results this week. New England is eighth in the NFL in rushing defense, compared to Indianapolis, who is No. 26. The Patriots are allowing 3.4 yards per carry and have surrendered only two rushing touchdowns. In two games last year against his AFC East rivals, Greene had 144 yards rushing and one touchdown. It may be hard to bench last week’s top-scoring running back, but I just don’t see Greene putting up big numbers this week.

Brandon Lloyd, WR, New England vs. New York Jets
Lloyd is the Patriots’ second-leading receiver in both receptions and yards, and actually has more targets than even Wes Welker. However, Lloyd has caught just one touchdown pass so far, as Tom Brady has spread out his 15 scoring strikes to six different receivers. Speaking of all those weapons, Brady got another one back last week with the return of Aaron Hernandez, who promptly caught one of Brady’s two touchdown passes in the loss to Seattle. When the season started it appeared that Welker was the one being hurt the most by the presence of Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, two athletic, pass-catching tight ends. However, once Hernandez went down with an ankle injury, it was Welker, and not Lloyd, who made the most of the opportunity. Lloyd also hurt his shoulder late in last week’s game, and while he says he is fine, you know how mysterious (dare I say frustrating?) the Patriots are when it comes to injury disclosures. While I expect him to play, I just don’t think he’s a huge part of the aerial attack right now. Also, the Jets, even without All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, have done a pretty good job defending wide receivers. They have only given up three touchdown receptions to opposing wideouts and are allowing the fewest fantasy points to the position as a whole.

Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle at San Francisco (Thursday)
For at least one week, the rookie upstaged the veteran as Wilson out-performed Tom Brady in the Seahawks’ come-from-behind victory over the Patriots. The third-round pick out of Wisconsin set career highs in both passing yards (293) and touchdowns (3), and didn’t turn the ball over as he moved his career record to 3-0 against the likes of Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo. Of course, it didn’t hurt Wilson that all three of these games were at home, and he has the support of one of the league’s best defenses behind him. Speaking of defenses, Wilson’s next test is against the No. 5 San Francisco defense, a unit that is still smarting from the whipping the Giants gave it last week. Oh and did I also mention the game is in San Francisco? In home games so far Wilson has a sparkling 6:0 touchdown-to-interception ratio. On the road, it’s 2:6. Let’s see, Thursday night game, on the road, against a fired up 49ers defense in a pivotal NFC West match-up? Good luck rook.

- By Mark Ross, published on Oct. 18, 2012

Teaser:
<p> Don’t Start Jermichael Finley, Shonn Greene, Brandon Lloyd, Russell Wilson in Week 7</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 06:41
Path: /fantasy/start-josh-gordon-matt-hasselbeck-felix-jones-brandon-pettigrew-week-7
Body:

Atlanta, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Philadelphia and San Diego are all on bye in Week 7. That’s a lot of fantasy firepower owners won’t be able to call on. But this is why you put so much preparation into your draft and you watch your league’s waiver wire like a hawk, right? So if you can’t use a Peyton Manning, Jamaal Charles, Brian Hartline or Tony Gonzalez, who can you turn to? Here are a few options that may be able to pick up the slack in Week 7.

Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland at Indianapolis
Gordon was taken by Cleveland in the second round of the supplemental draft, so chances are he has been flying under the radar, if you were even aware of him, this season. That may soon change, however, as he is quickly establishing himself as not only a legitimate deep threat, but as quarterback Brandon Weeden’s favorite target. Gordon has three touchdowns in his last two games, and two of these scoring strikes were plays of more than 60 yards. For the season he is averaging 22.8 yards per catch and is starting to get more opportunities thrown his way. He has a total of 12 targets in his last two games, after seeing 14 in the first four combined. Indianapolis has done a decent job of limiting the amount of damage done by opposing wide receivers in terms of yardage, but they have been burned several times on the long ball. Everyone knows about the Browns’ two first-round draft picks, Weeden and running back Trent Richardson, but if Gordon continues what he’s done recently, the team may have just hit the trifecta when it comes to impact offensive players it can build around.

Matt HasselbeckMatt Hasselbeck, QB, Tennessee at Buffalo
Hasselbeck will make his third, and probably final, start this week in Buffalo in place of Jake Locker. Locker has been sidelined the past three weeks with a shoulder injury, but he returned to practice this week and Titans head coach Mike Munchak has already said the second-year player will get his job back from the veteran Hasselbeck when he’s healthy. So if this will be Hasselbeck’s last start (provided Locker stays healthy), what better way for him to go out than to get the NFL’s worst defense, no? Prior to last week, Buffalo had given up more than 1,200 yards and 97 points in a span of two games. While the Bills’ D looked much better in the overtime win in Arizona, this unit still has its share of issues. In fact, this game features two of the bottom three defenses in the entire league, so chances are this game will feature plenty of offensive fireworks. I like Hasselbeck to go back to the bench swinging, if you will, as the Bills are allowing the most fantasy points to quarterbacks. If Chris Johnson can take advantage of the Bills’ rush defense (worst in the league), that should open up things even more for Hasselbeck, who has multiple weapons in the passing game in receivers Kenny Britt, Nate Washington and Kendall Wright as well as tight end Jared Cook. The Titans may not win, but if you decide to start Hasselbeck, I think you will at least like that outcome.  

Felix Jones, RB, Dallas at Carolina
The Cowboys had little trouble running on the Ravens last week, as DeMarco Murray got things started with 72 yards in the first quarter alone. Murray would finish with a total of 93 yards on the ground, but he wasn’t able to finish the game. He suffered a foot injury before halftime and only carried the ball one more time in the third quarter before leaving for good. Enter Jones, who scored on a 22-yard run in the first quarter, and finished his day with 92 yards on 18 carries. After the game, the team learned that Murray suffered some ligament damage in his left foot, which will sideline him for at least a week. With Murray out, Jones will get his first real start since Week 15 of last season. In that game, Jones rushed for 108 yards and he will be looking for similar results on Sunday against Carolina. Jones has disappointed many a fantasy owner in the past with his untapped potential and injury-prone nature, but I think this time it will be different. He looked pretty good against the Ravens last week and should find some running room against the Panthers this week. Carolina is allowing the third-most fantasy points to running backs and is giving up an average of 127.4 yards on the ground per game. In many ways, it’s now or never for the former first-round pick, as he will be a free agent at the end of the season. If he’s still a free agent in your league, I recommend picking him up and getting him into your lineup this week.

Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Detroit at Chicago (Monday)
Chicago’s defense is No. 2 in the league overall, first in both rushing and scoring defense and fifth against the pass. So why am I picking a Lion as a “Start” option, you ask? As good as the Bears’ defense has been (and it has been VERY good, especially in terms of fantasy scoring as a DST), its one weak spot to this point has been defending the tight ends. The Monsters of the Midway are allowing the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, while the 35 receptions by them are the fourth-most. Enter Pettigrew, who is second only to All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson in terms of targets for the Lions. He has 26 receptions, which ties him with wideout Nate Burleson for second, along with 261 yards and a touchdown. Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford is certainly keeping Pettigrew heavily involved as the 6-5, 265-pounder has seven or more targets in all but one of the team’s five games. In two games against the Bears last season, Pettigrew had a total of 14 catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. As good a job as the Bears have done pressuring the quarterback (18 sacks) and shutting down opposing wide receivers (3 TD catches), Stafford may have no choice but to look Pettigrew’s way early and often come Monday night.

Teaser:
<p> Start Josh Gordon, Matt Hasselbeck, Felix Jones, Brandon Pettigrew in Week 7</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 06:35
Path: /nfl/seattle-seahawks-vs-san-francisco-49ers-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Two divisional foes coming off drastically different  Week 6 contests will meet on Thursday Night Football, when the San Francisco 49ers host the Seattle Seahawks at 8:20 p.m. EST on the NFL Network. The 49ers were surprisingly “out-physicaled” against the Giants last week, losing the NFC Championship Game rematch 26-3 at home. Meanwhile, the Seahawks overcame a 23-10 fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Patriots 24-23 in dramatic fashion.

When the Seattle Seahawks have the ball:
Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson had been fairly inconsistent through five weeks, but he had his best game by far in the Patriots win on Sunday. Wilson threw for 293 yards and three scores, including the game-winning 46-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Rice with less than two minutes to go. The young signal caller will need Marshawn Lynch and the running game to get going after two subpar weeks, as playing one-dimensional football against the stingy 49ers is not a formula for success.

San Francisco ranks No. 1 in the league after six weeks, allowing only 275.8 yards per game. However, Patrick Willis and company are company off a performance where they allowed 149 rushing yards to the Giants and did not cause any turnovers or sacks. The 49ers’ focus tonight will be on Lynch, who rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown when these teams met last Christmas Eve. If the Niners can limit Seattle’s run game, they should be able to force the youthful Wilson into mistakes.

When the San Francisco 49ers have the ball:
The San Francisco offense is known for its power running attack, but the Giants held Frank Gore to 36 yards on eight carries. Additionally, Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley is expected to miss this game with a concussion. The 49ers will need Gore and Kendall Hunter to grind out tough yards against an elite Seattle run defense. After throwing for eight touchdown passes and just one interception in the first five games of the season, quarterback Alex Smith tossed an uncharacteristic three picks in the loss to New York. He must get back to protecting the ball and completing a high percentage of his passes tonight.

The Seattle defense has been excellent against the run in 2012, ranking No. 2 in the NFL by allowing only 70 yards per game on the ground. The most rushing yards by an opposing running back against the Seahawks this year was 55 by the Rams’ Steven Jackson, and they will look for more of the same versus Gore and the 49ers. The physical Seattle secondary has intimidated opponents all season with its solid run support and punishing hits on pass catchers.

Key Factor:
This NFC West battle should be an old-fashioned slobberknocker, with yards very difficult to come by. The quarterback who can make some first downs through the air and not turn the ball over should lead his team to a huge divisional victory. We’ll take San Francisco to bounce back from its worst loss under coach Jim Harbaugh and win a close one at home.

Prediction:
49ers 20, Seahawks 16


By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

Teaser:
<p> Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 06:25
Path: /college-football/pac-12-week-8-preview-and-predictions
Body:

The desert will be a busy place this weekend out West as both Arizona and Arizona State host huge showdowns. The Wildcats welcome Washington to Tucson in what should be a tremendous Xs and Os contest, while fans all over the nation will finally learn if Todd Graham's Sun Devils are a legit contender in the Pac-12 on national TV against Oregon on Thursday night.

Meanwhile, USC should roll, Oregon State has to hold serve and The Big Game takes over the Bay Area.

Pac-12's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 8:

1. Will Arizona State get exposed or make a statement on national televsion?
The schedule for both the unbeaten Oregon Ducks and surprise Arizona State Sun Devils gets nasty in the second half. Oregon plays four tough road games, starting with a nationally televised visit to Tempe on Thursday night. The Sun Devils, led by Taylor Kelly, the league's top rated passer, is looking to make a major statement to the nation. Yet, ASU's record is inflated after facing backup quarterbacks (Mizzou, Illinois, Utah) and three of the four easiest conference opponents in the league. This game should feature a boatload of elite skill players on both sides, but it will come down to Todd Graham's No. 1-rated Pac-12 defense staying strong for all four quarters. Otherwise, the Ducks will roll right through town en route to another dominating league win. 

2. Justin Wilcox vs. Rich Rodriguez
The most intriguing game this weekend out West will likely take place in Tucson when Washington visits Arizona. Rich Rodriguez has his offense, led by Matt Scott and Ka'Deem Carey, clicking on all cylinders. It leads the league in total offense at over 550 yards per game and in passing offense at nearly 370 yards per game. Meanwhile, Justin Wilcox has completely reinvented the Huskies defense. Washington is 12th in the nation in passing defense and just held Matt Barkley to 167 yards and 24 total points. Look for these two Xs and Os gurus to get creative in the desert Saturday night.

3. Keith Price vs. Jake Fischer
On the other side of things, Washington quarterback Keith Price has been a shell of his former self. He was lighting up defenses and throwing touchdowns in droves last fall and simply hasn't gotten going this fall. Certainly, his offensive line has been crushed by injuries and that has led to many of the issues in Seattle on offense. But Arizona hasn't been much better on defense. Jake Fischer's squad is 11th in the Pac-12 in total defense and scoring defense, but has allowed 49, 38 and 54 points during its 0-3 conference start. In the battle of ineptitude, someone has to make a play, right?

4. Matt Barkley's Heisman train gets back on track in a big way
Barkley has a chance to quiet many of his Heisman detractors with a huge game this weekend against lowly Colorado. His numbers haven't been great — 187 yards against Syracuse, 192 against Cal and 167 against Washington — but he still leads the league in touchdown passes and has his team poised to face Oregon for the Pac-12 title. Defenses have been backloading their secondaries to contain the talented big-play wide receivers, so Barkley has turned to the ground game and Silas Redd (who has been excellent). Look for all aspects of the offense to roll this weekend and for Barkley to return to many Heisman ballots.

5. The Big Game features two bruised football teams
Jeff Tedford and Cal were reeling a couple of weeks ago but has since won two straight league games to reach 3-4. This team is in must-win mode every week from here on out and needs a quality showing against crosstown rival Stanford. Cal has allowed 79 points in two straight losses to the Cardinal. Meanwhile, Stanford likely spent a lot of time in the training room after that physical battle in South Bend. Stanford is the better team, but has to regroup after the tough, nail-biting loss to the Irish. There is plenty on the line in this edition of The Big Game.

6. Can Oregon State continue to win without Sean Mannion?
One of the most impressive showings nationally last week was the Beavers' road win over BYU. Backup quarterback Cody Vaz picked-up where Sean Mannion left off, throwing for 332 yards and three touchdowns while leading Oregon State to 42 points and an unbeaten 5-0 record. While a win over the Cougars is nice, it doesn't help Mike Riley's bunch in the Pac-12 standings. This weekend will be the first league game without Mannion and Riley needs another quality showing from Vaz to stay in the Pac-12 North race. Against Utah, that shouldn't be an issue.

Week 8 Pac-12 Predictions:

Week 8 Pac-12 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
Oregon (-8) at Arizona St Oregon, 41-24 Oregon, 42-28 Oregon, 45-30 Oregon, 42-27
Stanford (-2) at Cal Stanford, 27-20 Stanford, 24-21 Stanford, 27-24 Stanford, 35-31
Colorado (-40.5) at USC USC, 42-14 USC, 47-13 USC, 48-10 USC, 56-7
Washington (+7.5) at Arizona Arizona, 30-27 Arizona, 27-21 Washington, 34-31 Arizona, 35-21
Utah (+10.5) at Oregon St Oregon St, 27-13 Oregon St, 30-13 Oregon St, 34-20 Oregon St, 27-10
Last Week: 6-0 6-0 5-1 3-3
Yearly Totals: 40-15 41-14 40-15 36-19

Bye: Washington State, UCLA

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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Big 12 Week 8 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 8 Previews and Predictions

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Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 Week 8 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 06:07
Path: /college-football/big-ten-week-8-preview-and-predictions
Body:

The round robin in the Legends Division got started with Iowa's win over Michigan State last weekend. Otherwise, none of the top five teams in that division have faced each other yet. That will all change this weekend as two huge puzzle pieces will fall into place in Evanston and Ann Arbor. Otherwise, a barometer game in Iowa City and a battle for a six-foot long wood chopper highlight the Week 8 slate in Big Ten country.

Big Ten's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 8:

1. Has The Wolverine State battle lost its luster?
Michigan State has owned this in-state battle of late. Try four straight wins for the Spartans, the last two coming in dominating fashion. After two debilitating losses at home to Ohio State and then Iowa, the Spartans are on the Big Ten title ropes. Meanwhile, the Wolverines have bounced back from losses to two top-five teams early in the year to crush its first two Big Ten opponents, Purdue and Illinois, by a total of 89-13. The ground game is back. The defense has played its best. Brady Hoke has his team poised to not only remove the Spartan monkey from their Maize and Blue backs, but place their name atop the Legends Division standings. And it all starts with one guy...

2. Denard Robinson is back — and will end his losing streak to Spartans
The explosive quarterback has yet to defeat the cross-state rivals from East Lansing but is poised to have his best shot. Shoelace has completed 15-of-27 passes for 264 yards, three touchdowns, and most importantly, no interceptions. He has been up to his old tricks on the ground, rushing for 363 yards and two touchdowns in the Wolverines' 2-0 start in the Big Ten. Against Michigan State, Robinson has been less than electric, however, completing only 9-of-24 passes a year ago and throwing four interceptions in his last two meetings with Sparty. Additionally, he rushed for just 119 yards in three games against MSU and has been contained by Mark Dantonio's powerful front line. Look for Robinson and Michigan to make a big statement this weekend at home against one of its top rivals. 

3. Cornhuskers looking for revenge in Evanston
Northwestern do-everything athlete Kain Colter burst onto the national scene last season in Lincoln when the Wildcats defeated the Cornhuskers 28-25. Colter was unstoppable, throwing for 115 yards and one score to go with 57 yards rushing and two touchdowns on the ground. Both programs are poised to compete for the Big Ten Legends Division crown and their respective title pushes start with this game. After a crushing final two quarters in Columbus, Bo Pelini had a week off to prepare his maligned defense for the versatile Northwestern offense. The importance of this game cannot be overstated for both teams and Nebraska will bring an intense memory of Colter into this game up in Chicago. Nebraska feels like the top challenger to Michigan in the Legends Division race, but a loss to Northwestern would flip the entire championship race on its head.

4. Will Northwestern's rushing attack take advantage of Black Shirts defense?
So where will the game be won? Nebraska's porous rushing defense that is ranked No. 10 in the Big Ten will have to stop one of the nation's top rushing attacks. Venric Mark is leading the Big Ten in all-purpose yards and Colter brings tremendous athleticism to the quarterback position. Mark has topped the 100-yard mark in four of his last six games and has been equally dynamic on special teams — and it has earned him some Heisman Trophy recognition. Meanwhile, the Black Shirts are coming off of a defensive performance in which they allowed 371 yards and six touchdowns on the ground to Ohio State. This is a huge test for both defenses — Nebraska is tops in the league in rushing, total and scoring offense — and the outcome will undoubtedly hinge on the Wildcats' ability to run the football.

5. Can Iowa's D maintain momentum against potential POY candidate Matt McGloin?
This is a sneaky good game between two teams that are unbeaten in Big Ten play. Iowa is trying to keep pace with their Legends Division brethren after two excellent defensive performances. The Hawkeyes have allowed 29 total points, less than 330 yards of total offense and picked off four passes in the last two games. And it has Kirk Ferentz back in the good graces of the fans and Iowa in the heart of the Big Ten race. Stopping potential Offensive Player of the Year Matt McGloin, however, will be a different beast than Max Shortell and Andrew Maxwell. McGloin has been exceptional and Bill O'Brien has this offense rolling along at levels unseen in Happy Valley since Michael Robinson was under center. The Nits signal caller has accounted for six touchdowns and no turnovers in two Big Ten wins, and should he play well, Penn State will win its fifth straight game.

6. Paul Bunyan's Axe up for grabs
The most-played rivalry in all of college football is the Battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe between the Badgers and the Golden Gophers. Minnesota leads the all-time series 59-54-8 as these two prepare to meet for the 122nd time. The Badgers, however, have dominated their rivals from the Twin Cities with eight straight wins in the series, many of which have not even been competitive. The Gophers haven't had much luck in Madison either with their last win in Camp Randall Stadium coming way back in 1994. Wisconsin has gotten Montee Ball rolling of late — eight touchdowns in the last three games — and should have little trouble scoring on the Gophers. Look for Bret Bielema to continue to improve his team with another key win over its long-time rival.

7. Braxton Miller must to hold serve at home
Two weeks ago, Herbie was touting the Boilermakers as the team to beat in the Leaders Division on College Gameday. After two crushing and embarrassing losses to Michigan and Wisconsin, Purdue has become an afterthought in the race for the Big Ten title. With a trip to Ohio State this weekend, Danny Hope's team is in danger of becoming completely irrelevant. And that is precisely what Braxton Miller wants to do. The Buckeyes have a chance to become the only 8-0 team in the nation this weekend as Miller's Heisman candidacy continues to close on Geno Smith. Ohio State will lean on its running game and star quarterback to keep Purdue at arm's reach, stay unbeaten, exact some revenge and keep Miller on pace to land in New York at season's end.

8. Big Ten's final non-conference game provides opportunity
Indiana will play the league's final non-conference game on the road against Navy this weekend. The struggles of the Big Ten out of conference have been well documented and the Hoosiers have an opportunity to not only triple their win total from 2011 but end the league's difficult non-conference slate on a high note. The defense will have a tough time stopping Navy's triple-option attack but the Midshipmen won't be able to stop the league's No. 1 passing attack (313.0 ypg).

Week 8 Big Ten Predictions:

Week 8 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
Purdue (+18) at Ohio St Ohio St, 42-28 Ohio St, 41-20 Ohio St, 38-17 Ohio St, 48-28
Minnesota (+18) at Wisconsin Wisconsin, 30-14 Wisconsin, 31-10 Wisconsin, 38-20 Wisconsin, 21-14
Nebraska (-6) at Northwestern Nebraska, 34-30 Nebraska, 27-21 Nebraska, 31-27 N'Western, 35-28
Michigan St (+10) at Michigan Michigan, 38-14 Michigan, 30-14 Michigan, 27-20 Michigan, 42-14
Indiana (+2.5) at Navy Indiana, 31-21 Indiana, 34-24 Indiana, 36-30 Indiana, 35-10
Penn St (+3) at Iowa Penn St, 20-17 Penn St, 21-20 Penn St, 24-20 Penn St, 24-14
Last Week: 4-1 3-2 4-1 3-2
Yearly Totals: 51-11 47-15 52-10 48-14

Bye Week: Illinois

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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In a handful of ways, last week turned the Big 12 race on its head.

West Virginia’s defensive shortcomings finally burned the Mountaineers in their first loss of the season. That it happened in the first place wasn’t as much of a surprise as Texas Tech being the one to deliver the resounding upset. The 49-14 win further proved Texas Tech’s defensive turnaround is no fluke as the Red Raiders are the only Big 12 ranked in the top 10 nationally in both total offense and total defense.

West Virginia’s loss left Kansas State, who escaped a trap game scenario against Iowa State, as the only undefeated team in conference play, a perfect record that will be tested this week at West Virginia.

And then there was the Red River Rivalry. After a 63-21 beatdown to Oklahoma, Texas looks no better than second-tier in the league, if that. And the Sooners looked more like the team picked to win the Big 12 in the preseason. They’ll be rooting for West Virginia on Saturday.

Other Week 8 Previews and Predictions

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Big 12’s Top Storylines to Watch in Week 8:

Is Kansas State-West Virginia a Heisman eliminator?
A week ago, West Virginia’s Geno Smith was just about everyone’s Heisman frontrunner. His performance against Texas Tech (29 of 55, 275 yards, one touchdown) may have cut into his lead a bit with Kansas State’s Collin Klein among those who could benefit. For those following the Heisman race as closely as the Big 12 championship race, this will be a critical game where Smith can either boost his case or Klein can further close the gap with the remainder of the field.

How does West Virginia’s no-show defense handle Kansas State’s smash mouth offense?
West Virginia’s struggles on defense are well-established as the Mountaineers have allowed 593 yards per game against three Big 12 opponents. Kansas State’s grinding, physical style brings a different challenge than Baylor or Texas Tech or even Texas. The Wildcats are the rare Big 12 team that still uses a huddle and tries to shorten the game with the run. Moreover, Kansas State doesn’t make a whole lot of mistakes: The Wildcats are averaging a Big 12-low three penalties a game and have turned the ball over only four times all season. West Virginia is built for the Big 12, but Kansas State is not the typical Big 12 team.

Can Kansas State continue to stifle big plays?
Only Texas Tech has allowed fewer plays of 20 yards or more (eight) than Kansas State’s 16 -- and we saw how Texas Tech handled the West Virginia offense. Only one of those 20-yards or more plays, a 30-yard pass last week from Iowa State, resulted in a touchdown. West Virginia may have to tweak its receivers against Kansas State with Stedman Bailey hobbled since the second half against Texas Tech and at least one freshman entering the starting lineup (Coach Dana Holgorsen burned the redshirt for Travares Coleman, and considered playing another true freshman). With the way West Virginia started the season, it’s tough to imagine the Mountaineers struggling two weeks in a row on offense, but Kansas State may be able to give West Virginia fits.

How hot can it get for Mack Brown?
Losing 63-21 to Oklahoma is bad enough, but the scene down in Austin could get even worse this week if Texas loses for the third consecutive time to Baylor, a team that has never defeated the Longhorns three times in a row. On paper, this matchup does not bode well for Texas, despite Baylor’s 0-2 Big 12 record. Baylor is averaging 7.4 yards per play -- better than both Oklahoma and West Virginia -- and leads the nation in pass efficiency. Making matters worse for Texas, defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, one of the few players performing at a high level for the Longhorns defense, is out for the remainder of the season. The questions are now extending to the offensive side of the ball as well, as quarterback David Ash is trying to recover from a wrist injury.

How does Seth Doege fare in Round Three against a good defense?
Seth Doege passed for career-highs with 499 yards and six touchdowns against West Virginia. Doege’s a good quarterback, but it may be too much to expect that much out of him each week, especially when he faces another above-average defense. Already this season, Doege threw five total interceptions against Iowa State and Oklahoma. Now the senior will line up against the TCU defense, which has intercepted a pass in every game this season for a total of 14 picks in 2012.

Is Trevone Boykin ready to face the Texas Tech defense?
With a full week to prepare as TCU’s starting quarterback, Boykin rebounded from his three-interception performance against Iowa State with a win over Baylor. The redshirt freshman was 22 of 30 for 261 yards with four touchdowns to go with 56 rushing yards and a score against the Bears. That’s an encouraging sign for a TCU team that just lost its second-year starting quarterback. Then again, Boykin’s performance was against Baylor's struggling defense. This week's opponent, Texas Tech, ranks seventh in the nation in pass efficiency defense and just made Geno Smith look pedestrian a week ago. That’s a tall order for a freshman in his third career start.

Does Oklahoma State have real concerns on offense?
Oklahoma State leads the nation in total offense, but the Cowboys didn’t look that team against Kansas last week. The 20 points Oklahoma State scored were the fewest since the 21-7 Cotton Bowl loss to Ole Miss at the end of the 2010 season. Against the Jayhawks, Joseph Randle averaged only 2.8 yards per carry, and quarterback J.W. Walsh was 18 of 29 for 255 yards. Granted, the conditions last week were not great as both teams played in a driving rain. A bounce-back game against Iowa State, who defeated the Cowboys 34-31 last season, will be worth watching this week. Freshman quarterback Wes Lunt, who began the season as a starter, would have been available in an emergency against Kansas, but Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has been tight-lipped about his availability this week.

What does a two-quarterback plan mean for Kansas’ future?
The youth movement is already under way in Kansas with Charlie Weis spending more time on underclassmen than seniors in practice recently. Now, he’s starting to look at redshirt freshman Michael Cummings at quarterback. Weis said earlier this week Cummings will play this week along with Dayne Crist, the transfer who also signed with Weis at Notre Dame. Odds are, the move won’t make too much difference against Oklahoma, but it could be a glimpse into the future for the Jayhawks.

Week 8 Big 12 Predictions

Week 8 Big 12 Games David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light
Iowa St. at Oklahoma St. (-14) Okla. St. 35-21 Okla. St. 34-24 Okla St. 38-24 Okla. St. 31-27
Texas Tech (-2) at TCU TCU 28-21 TCU 30-24 TCU 31-27 Texas Tech 28-27
Kansas at Oklahoma (-35) Oklahoma 41-10 Oklahoma 42-14 Oklahoma 45-17 Oklahoma 37-7
Kansas St. at West Virginia (-2.5) Kansas State 35-28 West Virginia 31-30 West Virginia 38-34 West Virginia 34-30
Baylor at Texas (-11) Baylor 35-31 Texas 42-35 Texas 38-34 Texas 38-30
Last week 3-2 3-2 2-3 3-2
Overall 36-7 34-9 34-10 35-8

by David Fox

@davidfox615

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There's a full slate of games in the ACC this week, as all 12 teams are in action on Saturday afternoon. Although there are no marquee top-25 games, there are some crucial conference matchups, including Florida State-Miami and Virginia Tech-Clemson. Duke hopes to get bowl eligible against North Carolina, while Virginia looks to end a five-game losing streak with a win over Wake Forest.

Other Week 8 Previews and Predictions

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ACC's Top Storylines for Week 8

Is this the week Duke gets bowl eligible?
The Blue Devils need just one more win to get bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. However, the schedule is considerably tougher over the second half of the season, and the team is reeling just a bit from the 41-20 loss to Virginia Tech last Saturday. Injuries have plagued this team this year, but coach David Cutcliffe continues to find the right answers. If the Blue Devils want to their sixth win on Saturday night, the defense will have to have one of their best efforts of the season. North Carolina has defeated Duke eight consecutive times and brings to Durham an offense averaging 40.3 points a game. The Blue Devils appear to be a much-improved team on defense, but the Tar Heels will be the best offense they have faced in 2012. Duke should be able to move the ball on North Carolina’s defense, but if it cannot slow down the Tar Heels’ combination of quarterback Bryn Renner and running back Giovani Bernard, the Blue Devils will have to wait another week to get bowl eligible.

Is Maryland a trap game for NC State?
The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for NC State coach Tom O’Brien. With a huge win over Florida State on Oct. 6, the Wolfpack could enjoy that upset a little longer and not have to worry about a letdown last Saturday. With that victory clearly in the rearview mirror, NC State has to refocus and prep for a much-improved Maryland team. The Terrapins have already doubled their win total from last season and are the only unbeaten team remaining in the ACC. Winning in College Park has been a challenge for NC State in recent years, as the Wolfpack have lost three in a row at Maryland. Although the Terrapins are an improved team, they are still limited offensively. If NC State quarterback Mike Glennon can get on track against a Maryland secondary ranked 18th nationally against the pass, the Wolfpack should snap their losing streak in College Park. However, if Maryland controls the tempo and keeps this a low-scoring game, the Terrapins will pull off the upset.

Does Miami have any shot to beat Florida State?
The Hurricanes dominated the series with Florida State in the early 2000s, but Florida State has won five out of the last seven matchups. The Seminoles are clearly the better team but with this being a huge rivalry game, Miami will have extra motivation. Any upset bid for the Hurricanes has to hinge on the health of quarterback Stephen Morris and a defense that has been among the nation’s worst. Morris suffered an ankle injury in last week’s loss against North Carolina and is questionable to play on Saturday night. If he cannot go, Memphis transfer Ryan Williams will make his first start at Miami. Even though the quarterback play is a huge concern, the Hurricanes’ porous defense is a bigger issue. Miami ranks 117th nationally in total defense and has allowed at least 30 points in three out of four ACC games. In Florida State’s loss to NC State, coach Jimbo Fisher took a lot criticism for being too conservative on offense. The Seminoles rebounded with 649 yards and 51 points against Boston College and need to be aggressive once again. If Miami doesn’t fix its defense issues, Florida State will score at will on Saturday night. Expect the Hurricanes to try to control the clock to keep their defense off the field, but the Seminoles rank fifth nationally against the run. Never rule out an upset in a rivalry game such as this one, but Miami’s path to a victory is very, very steep.

Can Virginia Tech’s defense slow down Clemson?
The Hokies’ defense was gashed in two meetings against Clemson last season, allowing 61 combined points and surrendering 451 yards in the 38-10 loss in the ACC Championship. Virginia Tech’s defense was touted as one of the nation’s best in the preseason but has failed to live up to the hype so far. The Hokies are allowing 381.3 yards and 22 points per game and are averaging just 1.9 sacks per contest. The Tigers have been strong on offense all year, scoring at least 37 points in each of their last five games, while leading the conference in passing yards per contest. Cornerbacks Antone Exum and Kyle Fuller figure to have their hands full, especially as they try to cover receivers Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. It’s unlikely Virginia Tech will be able to completely shut down the Tigers, but they need to get pressure on quarterback Tajh Boyd to throw off the timing of this offense and not allow any big plays.

Is this the week Virginia Tech’s offense gets on track?
Statistically, the numbers for Virginia Tech’s offense aren’t awful. The Hokies rank 54th nationally in scoring and are averaging nearly 400 yards per game (398). However, a deeper look into the statistics shows Virginia Tech ranks just seventh in ACC in total offense in conference-only games. The Hokies have picked it up on offense the last two weeks, scoring 34 points against North Carolina and 41 versus Duke last Saturday. The rushing attack has sputtered this season, but freshman J.C. Coleman ignited the ground game last week, rushing for 183 yards and two touchdowns. Although Virginia Tech may have found its answer on the ground, the offensive line has been hit hard by injuries and will be without center Andrew Miller for the rest of the year. Clemson’s defense hasn’t slowed many teams this season and has allowed at least 31 points in each of its three ACC contests. Stopping quarterback Logan Thomas will be a challenge for the Tigers defense, but if the Hokies want to win in Death Valley, they need the offensive line to step up a notch this weekend.

Which defense will step up: Boston College or Georgia Tech?
There should be no shortage of points when Boston College and Georgia Tech meet this Saturday. These two teams rank near the bottom of the ACC in total, rushing and scoring defense. This will be the Yellow Jackets’ first game after the firing of defensive coordinator Al Groh, and coach Paul Johnson promoted assistant Charles Kelly to call the plays for the rest of the year. Boston College has allowed at least 40 or more points in three of its games this season, while ranking 117th nationally against the run. Considering Georgia Tech ranks third nationally against the run, and the Eagles struggled to stop another option team earlier this year (Army), Boston College will need their best effort of the season to contain the Yellow Jackets’ rushing attack. When Boston College has the ball, it should be able to exploit Georgia Tech’s secondary (267.7 ypg). This is a critical matchup for both team’s bowl hopes and whichever defense can turn things around will help score a key victory for their team.

Can Virginia find a spark on offense against Wake Forest?
Saturday’s Wake Forest-Virginia matchup is crucial for both team’s bowl hopes. The Cavaliers have a five-game losing streak entering Saturday’s game, while the Demon Deacons have a 3-3 record and still have to play Clemson, NC State and Notre Dame. Needless to say, the loser of this game probably won’t make a bowl. Virginia’s offensive production has been puzzling this season, as the Cavaliers are averaging 423.1 yards per game but rank 10th in the ACC in scoring offense. Turnovers have been a big problem for Mike London’s team, and the rushing attack has been stuck in neutral most of the year. Alabama transfer Phillip Sims has started the last two games but has just one touchdown pass, while tossing three picks and completing less than 50 percent of his throws. Considering how Sims has played over the last two games, Virginia will likely give former starter Michael Rocco a chance to play in a relief role this week. The Demon Deacons haven’t been the toughest defense in the ACC this year but have played some quality offensive teams, including Florida State, North Carolina and a difficult team to prepare for in Army. Wake Forest ranks 10th in the ACC against the run, which should be a good sign for Virginia’s struggling ground attack. The Demon Deacons don’t usually beat themselves, which adds even more pressure for the Cavaliers to win the turnover battle this week. 

ACC Week 8 Predictions

Week 8 ACC Games David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light
Virginia Tech at Clemson Clemson 38-28 Clemson 34-30 Clemson 34-24 Clemson 33-20
Wake Forest at Virginia Wake 21-14 Virginia 24-21 Virginia 28-24 Wake 27-23
Boston College at Ga. Tech Ga. Tech 28-10 Ga. Tech 30-20 Ga. Tech 38-27 Ga. Tech 34-20
NC State at Maryland Maryland 17-10 NC State 31-24 NC State 27-20 NC State 24-17
North Carolina at Duke UNC 35-28 UNC 48-31 UNC 34-24 UNC 24-20
Florida State at Miami FSU 41-21 FSU 30-17 FSU 38-17 FSU 41-24
Last Week: 3-1 3-1 3-1 4-0
Season Record: 48-11 47-12 45-14 49-10


by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven


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The Week 8 shedule in the SEC his highlighted by South Carolina's trip to Gainesville to battle Florida, but the Texas A&M-LSU showdown in College Station will be fun to watch as well. Can the Tigers' defense slow down Johnny Manziel? Stay tuned.

Other Week 8 Previews and Predictions

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

SEC Top Storylines to Watch in Week 8

1. Can Johnny Manziel make plays against the LSU defense?
Texas A&M leads the league in both total offense (543.7 ypg) and scoring offense (47.0 ppg) and is led by redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, one of the most exciting players in college football. Consider this stat: Texas A&M has played in one less game than LSU, yet Manziel has almost twice at many total yards (2,356 to 1,220) as Tiger quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Manziel, however, has yet to see a defense as formidable as LSU. In the opener against Florida, the only other top-flight defense A&M has faced, the Aggies were held to 17 points, and Manziel had a season-low 233 total yards. This should be a fascinating battle between two vastly different styles of play.

2. Can the LSU offensive line hold up?
An LSU offensive front that was expected to be among the nation’s finest struggled early in the season. Sure, injuries played a part — left tackle Chris Faulk was lost for the season after one game — but there is no denying that this unit underperformed at key times. That, however, was not the case Saturday night. The line played arguably its best game of the season, especially when you factor in the quality of the competition. South Carolina entered the night ranked ninth in the nation in rushing defense and had not given up more than 120 yards on the ground in any game. Led by freshman Jeremy Hill, LSU powered its way to 258 yards and two scores on 53 attempts. And that was with Alex Hurst, a preseason All-American, and Josh Williford out with injuries, and center P.J. Longergan slowed by a back injury. Only one player, left guard, La’El Collins, has played in the same spot in every game this season. We often to point to depth as what separates programs like Alabama and LSU from the rest of the league — and country, at times. LSU needs its depth on the offensive line to shine in the second half of the season if it hopes to remain relevant in the national title chase.

3. Who will play quarterback for Auburn?
Auburn has yet to announce a starter for its game Saturday at Vanderbilt, and it’s possible that all three scholarship quarterbacks will see action. Clint Moseley, making his first start of the 2012 season, received the majority of the snaps in last week’s loss at Ole Miss. The junior started strong, completing 8-of-8 for 80 yards in the first half but he went 3-of-10 for 32 yards the rest of the way. True freshman Jonathan Wallace did not attempt a pass but had six carries for 14 yards out of the Wildcat formation. Sophomore Kiehl Frazier, the starter in the first five games, did not play — due in part to injury and in part to his early season struggles. As a team, Auburn was held to 213 total yards against an Ole Miss defense that had been allowing an average of 379.8 yards per game.

4. Can Vanderbilt handle the role of the favorite?
Vanderbilt finds itself as a 7-point favorite over Auburn this Saturday. It’s only the seventh time in the past 10-plus years the Commodores have been favored by at least a touchdown against an opponent from an AQ conference. They are 3¬–3 straight up in those previous six games, with wins vs. Kentucky (-13) in 2011, Duke (-8) in 2006 and Mississippi State (-12.5) in 2003 and losses to Mississippi State (-9) in 2009, Duke (-9.5) in 2008 and Kentucky (-8) in 2006. Overall, Vanderbilt is 6–11 straight up as the favorite vs. AQ conference opponents in the past 10-plus years, including a 2–2 record under James Franklin.

5. Can South Carolina win if it’s forced to pass?
Connor Shaw has proven himself to be one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC. But it’s clear that South Carolina is a better team when Shaw is asked to do less in the passing game. It’s no knock on him as a player — it’s just the way this team is constructed. I realize the sample size isn’t huge, but consider the Gamecocks’ last two games: Shaw attempted 10 passes in a 35–7 win over Georgia; he attempted 34 in a 23¬–21 loss at LSU. Against Georgia, South Carolina jumped out to an early lead and leaned on tailback Marcus Lattimore, who rushed for 110 yards on 24 carries. In the loss in Baton Rouge, Lattimore and Shaw both struggled to run the ball, which forced South Carolina to rely on its passing attack. The results weren’t favorable. Shaw completed a season-low 55.9 percent of his passes and was intercepted twice. Obviously, a lot of teams are going to struggle against LSU, but it will be interesting going forward — starting with this weekend against Florida — to see if South Carolina can beat an elite opponent by throwing the ball.

6. Can Florida hold Marcus Lattimore to under 100 yards (if he plays)?
Name the last player to top the 100-yard mark against Florida. If you said Jerodis Williams (133 yards in Week 11 last season) from Furman, you’d be correct. The Gators have now gone eight straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. That streak will be tested this weekend when Marcus Lattimore and South Carolina visit Gainesville, provided Lattimore overcomes a hip injury to play against the Gators. Lattimore is coming off his worst game of the season (35 yards on 13 carries against LSU), but he is still one of the elite backs in college football. He missed the Florida game last season with an injury, but had one of his finest moments of his career two years ago against the Gators when he ran for 212 yards and three touchdowns on 40 carries in a 36–14 Carolina victory. Florida currently ranks 20th in the nation in rush defense, allowing 107.5 yards per game. The Gators did a great job against LSU two weeks ago, but had some trouble at times stopping Vanderbilt’s power rushing attack last week in Nashville. The Commodores’ two primary tailbacks combined to run for 152 yards on 34 carries.

7. Is AJ McCarron hurt? If so, can Alabama still win at Neyland Stadium?
The short answers: Who knows, and yes. McCarron has been one of the more underrated quarterbacks nationally in the last year-and-a-half. He’s done a masterful job doing what needs to be done as the leader of the Alabama attack — complete a high percentage of his passes (66.5 for his career) and not make mistakes (five interceptions in 338 career attempts). There have been reports this week that McCarron is dealing with a knee injury. He is still expected to play against Tennessee, but Alabama is built as well as any team in the nation to succeed with a backup quarterback. Sure, it would be nice to have a completely healthy McCarron this Saturday night in Knoxville, but the Tide will be fine if they are forced to turn to Blake Sims.

8. Will Tennessee find new ways to get Cordarrelle Patterson the ball?
Justin Hunter might be the Tennessee’s most polished offensive player, but Patterson has emerged as the Volunteers’ most dynamic playmaker. Last week against Mississippi State, Patterson caught three passes for 57 yards and a touchdown, carried the ball three times for 57 yards and had a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. For the season, Patterson, a junior college transfer, is averaging 15.5 yards on his 34 offensive touches. The task for Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney is to get the ball in Patterson’s hands — either on direct snaps out of the Wildcat, conventional handoffs from the quarterback or quick-hitting passes. He is simply too good not to get at least 10 offensive touches per game.

9. Can Mississippi State avoid the letdown?
One of the biggest wins in the Dan Mullen era, a 41–31 victory over Tennessee, has set up one of the biggest games in the history of the program … if Mississippi State beats Middle Tennessee on Saturday. An MSU win over the Blue Raiders coupled with an Alabama win over Tennessee sets up a showdown of 7–0 teams in Tuscaloosa in two weeks. Before that dream matchup becomes a reality, the Bulldogs must focus on a Middle Tennessee team that has a 49–28 win at Georgia Tech on its 2012 résumé. The Blue Raiders, however, will make the trip to Starkville without running back Bennie Cunningham, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in last week’s 34–30 win at FIU. Cunningham had two 200-yard games this season, including 217 and five touchdowns in the win over Georgia Tech.

10. Can Kentucky hit the elusive 250-yard mark against Georgia?
Kentucky’s offense has been beyond bad over the last month. Forced to play with either a true freshman (Jalen Whitlow) or a senior who was buried on the depth chart at the beginning of the season (Morgan Newton) at quarterback, the Wildcats have failed to gain more than 250 yards in any of their four SEC games. In fact, UK ranks last in the nation in total offense in league games, averaging 215.0 yards in SEC play. This week, Whitlow will get the start against a Georgia team that is eager to get back on the field after having a bye last week. The Bulldogs have a ton of talent on defense but gave up a total of 79 points in their last two games — a win vs. Tennessee and a loss at South Carolina. Yards figure to be very difficult to come by for the Wildcats.

@AthlonMitch

Week 8 SEC Predictions

Week 8 SEC Games David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light

LSU (-3.5) at Texas A&M

Texas A&M 28-24 LSU 24-21

LSU 27-20

LSU 27-20
Auburn (+7) at Vanderbilt Vanderbilt 17-7 Vanderbilt 34-24

Vanderbilt 24-20

Vanderbilt 27-20

South Carolina (+3) at Florida

South Carolina 24-17 Florida 20-17

Florida 20-17

Florida 21-20

Alabama (-18) at Tennessee

Alabama 38-14 Alabama 38-14

Alabama 38-13

Alabama 33-17

Georgia (-27.5) at Kentucky

Georgia 41-10 Georgia 45-17

Georgia 45-10

Georgia 41-7

Middle Tennessee (+19) at Mississippi State

Miss. State 35-7 Miss. State 30-20

Miss. State 38-14

Miss. State 34-20
Last week 6-1 6-1 6-1 5-2
Season 52-12 54-10 54-10 52-12


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Teaser:
<p> The Week 8 shedule in the SEC his highlighted by South Carolina's trip to Gainesville to battle Florida, but the Texas A&amp;M-LSU showdown in College Station will be fun to watch as well. Can the Tigers' defense slow down Johnny Manzeil? Stay tuned.</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 06:03
Path: /college-football/big-east-week-8-preview-and-predictions
Body:

Here’s the good news for the Big East for the second half of the season: The league has three nationally ranked, undefeated teams in Louisville, Rutgers and Cincinnati who will all face each other in the final month. For a conference struggling for national relevance, this round robin will be a breath of fresh air.

Here’s the bad news: With apologies to Temple, those three are about all there is in this top-heavy league. Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and USF all have losing records and are facing must-win situations in the coming weeks if any are going to reach the postseason.

Other Week 8 Previews and Predictions

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

Big East’s top Storylines to Watch in Week 8:

How will Cincinnati’s defense handle the Toledo passing game?

Butch Jones wasn’t completely pleased with his defense after the 49-17 win over Fordham. That’s probably because he knew of the test coming up against Toledo, which may have the best passing game Cincinnati has seen so far this season. Since a season-opening loss at Arizona, the Rockets have completed at least 60 percent of their passes in each game while totaling 1,802 yards in the last six games. Cincinnati gets veteran safety Drew Frey back from injury, so that should boost a unit looking to gain momentum before a critical matchup against Louisville and Teddy Bridgewater in two weeks.

Will Charlie Strong’s fire-and-brimstone pep talk last into another week?
The Louisville coach lit into his team at halftime last week against Pittsburgh, leading to a 21-0 explosion in the third quarter. The Cardinals still allowed Pittsburgh to tack on two fourth-quarter touchdowns for a 45-35 final score, but Strong knew his team needed a kick in the pants. Louisville hasn’t had a beginning-to-end consistent effort since a win over Missouri State in the second week of the season. With Rutgers and Cincinnati challenging for the Big East title, that needs to change in a hurry. Will the intensity level carry over against struggling USF?

Will Temple be the first team to crack the Rutgers run defense?
Rutgers is second only to Alabama in run defense, allowing 60.8 yards per game on the ground. Temple is as good a candidate as any to test the Scarlet Knights’ front seven. The Owls have rushed for 418 yards and five touchdowns in their 2-0 start in the Big East. Montel Harris ran for 142 yards and a touchdown against Connecticut, the league’s No. 2 run defense. Adding to the test for Rutgers’ defense could be the return of Temple’s 1B running back Matt Brown, who is day-to-day with an ankle injury.

Is it time to start considering Khaseem Greene for national awards?
Any Big East player is going to fight an uphill battle to pry national defensive awards away from Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o or a handful of players from the SEC, but Greene is making a case to be a finalist for the Nagurski, Bednarik and Lombardi awards. A week ago, Greene had a singular defensive performance last week with 14 tackles, 1.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception against Syracuse. He’ll have another chance to shine against the Temple run game.

Who comes up with a victory in a must-win game in the Pasqualoni Bowl?
Paul Pasqualoni will coach his first game in the Carrier Dome since he was ushered out of the Syracuse job in 2004. Those were better days for both Syracuse and Pasqauloni, who won 107 games with the Orange from 1991-2004. Any nostalgia will need to be pushed aside of either Syracuse (2-4) or Connecticut (3-4) are going to save their seasons. The two teams have opposite problems -- Syracuse with its Big East-leading pass game but struggling run game and defense and UConn with its stifling run defense and and offense that’s as bad as it’s been since the Huskies moved up to FBS. Of the league’s bottom four teams, Pittsburgh’s second-half schedule is the most friendly to a bowl trip. If the Panthers defeat Buffalo this week, then Temple, Connecticut and USF, they’ll be at six wins without needing an upset over Notre Dame or Rutgers.

How will Paul Chryst juggle his running backs?
With a backfield of Ray Graham and Rushel Shell, it seems a crime for Pittsburgh to be 85th in the nation in rushing. But Pitt is finally getting the two of them healthy at the same time. Buffalo this week could give Pitt a chance to give both plenty of work. Chryst has worked with productive running back tandems over his time at Wisconsin, but it remains interesting how he’s going to rotate the veteran Graham with the freshman Shell over the second half of the season.

Does USF have anything in the tank for Louisville?
Things are looking bleak for USF after a four-game losing streak, which has included losses to Ball State and Temple. The Bulls rank no better than third in the Big East in any major category and rank last in scoring defense and rush defense. The struggles on both sides of the ball prompted Skip Holtz to shuffle his depth chart during the off week, but it remains to be seen if it will have ay major impact one the road against Louisville. After this week, USF has home games against Syracuse and Connecticut. Holtz may need to start picking up wins or see the coaching staff shuffled.

Week 8 Big East Predictions:

Week 8 Big East Games David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light
Connecticut at Syracuse (-4.5) Syracuse 21-14 Syracuse 17-14 Syracuse 24-20 Syracuse 23-20
Rutgers (-5.5) at Temple Rutgers 27-13 Rutgers 24-14 Rutgers 27-13 Rutgers 21-14
USF at Louisville (-6.5) Louisville 38-17 Louisville 31-20 Louisville 31-20 Louisville 30-20
Pittsburgh (-11) at Buffalo Pittsburgh 21-10 Pittsburgh 31-20 Pittsburgh 34-13 Pittsburgh 31-7
Cincinnati (-6.5) at Toledo Cincinnati 42-38 Cincinnati 34-27 Cincinnati 34-31 Cincinnati 41-20
Last week 3-1 3-1 3-1 3-1
Overall 28-11 27-12 25-14 26-13

by David Fox

@DavidFox615

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Teaser:
<p> Big East Week 8 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 06:01

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