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At the midpoint of the 2012 season, it's time to take a look at the first half and predict how the second half will turn out in the Big East.

First-Half Awards

Coach of the Year – Kyle Flood, Rutgers
Hired after Greg Schiano unexpectedly left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job and after FIU coach Mario Cristobal turned down the job, Kyle Flood has defied expectations since Day One. The long-time assistant added to the Big East’s best signing class in the days after his Jan. 30 hire and topped that with the Scarlet Knights’ best start since 2006. The quarterback situation and the offensive line are as stable as they’ve been in three seasons, and the defense hasn’t missed Schiano’s touch at all. Now, Flood has Rutgers in contention to do what Schiano couldn’t in 11 seasons — win a Big East title.

Freshman of the Year – Nate D. Smith, LB, Temple
It’s tempting to pick Pittsburgh running back Rushel Shell, but nearly half of his production occurred in a single game (157 yards against Virginia Tech). The brother of Philadelphia Eagles tight end L.J. Smith, Nate D. Smith is making his own mark at Lincoln Financial Field. The Owls starting middle linebacker is third in the Big East in tackles and has come up big in Temple’s 2-0 start in Big East play with 22 tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss against USF and Connecticut.

Newcomer of the Year - R.J. Dill, OT, Rutgers
Again, it’s tempting to opt for a running back. In this case, the nod goes to Dill over Temple’s Montel Harris. A two-year project to repair the Rutgers offensive line has culminated at the halfway point thanks in part to Dill, a transfer from Maryland, locking down the right tackle spot. Rutgers has allowed only three sacks this season after allowing 30 all of last year. The line has also paved the way to Jawan Jamison topping 100 yards in all but one game this season.

Offensive Player of the Year – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The sophomore started the season on a tear by completing 75 of 94 passes for 870 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions in his first three games. After a couple of challenging games, including one in a downpour in Southern Miss, Bridgewater bounced back with a 17-of-27 performance for 304 yards and a TD against Pittsburgh. Rutgers’ Gary Nova and Cincinnati’s Munchie Legaux are off to good starts, but no Big East coach is a confident in his quarterback situation as Charlie Strong is with Bridgewater.

Defensive Player of the Year – Khaseem Greene, LB, Rutgers
The best defensive player in the Big East the last two seasons had the best game of his career against Syracuse with 14 tackles, 1.5 sacks, an interception and three forced fumbles last week. The game added to his tally of 63 tackles (second in the Big East), 5.1 tackles for a loss, two picks, four pass breakups and four forced fumbles.

Midseason Disappointment (Team) – USF
  The Bulls’ fourth quarter misfortune from last season carried over into 2012 with the exception of a comeback win over Nevada, the Bulls’ only win over an FBS foe this season. USF is riding a four-game losing streak, including losses to Ball State and Temple. If the losing streak increases to five in a row, USF will have its longest losing streak in program history. And with a road trip against Louisville coming up, it would be a major upset for the streak to end. The Bulls have a fourth-year starting quarterback and some of the best talent on defense in the league, making the 2-4 start that much more baffling. A 1-8 record in the Big East since last season has put Skip Holtz’s job security in question.

Midseason Disappointment (Player) – USF defense
Quarterback B.J. Daniels hasn’t progressed as much as USF would have liked, but the criticism shouldn’t be all on his shoulders. The title for biggest disappointment has to go to an entire side of the ball. The Bulls defense gave up 28 points in the second half against Temple and 21 in the second half against Ball State, both thanks to long sustained drives. USF is last in the Big East in rush defense and scoring defense and seventh in total defense. Moreover, USF is the only team in the country that hasn’t intercepted a pass. For a team with talented veterans like DeDe Lattimore, Sam Barrington and Kayvon Webster, those numbers are unacceptable.

Midseason Surprise (Team) – Cincinnati
Picked fifth in the Athlon preseason rankings, Cincinnati has ended up among the league’s top three contenders with Louisville and Rutgers. The Bearcats set the tone early with a 34-10 win over PIttsburgh in the season opener and then followed it with a 27-24 win over Virginia Tech three weeks later. The offense has been explosive at times, and the defense has held its own. The next step will be to get into a routine over the final half of the season after an odd first-half schedule that included two off weeks and two FCS opponents.

Midseason Surprise (Player) – Gary Nova, Rutgers
Rutgers’ revolving door at quarterback has been one of the most pressing questions in Piscataway the last four seasons. After splitting starts with Chas Dodd last season, Nova took hold of the job in the preseason and hasn’t let go. He was shaky in the first two games of the season, but since then, he’s completed 63 percent of his passes for 938 yards with eight touchdowns and no interceptions in the last four games. The defense and the run game remain the backbone for Rutgers, but quarterback is no longer a liability thanks to Nova.

What Athlon Sports got right – Louisville atop the conference, for now.
Picking the Cardinals No. 1 in the Big East was near-unanimous among the Athlon staff, though there was a strong contingent for Rutgers as well. The Cardinals are 6-0 and passed their lone Big East test against Pittsburgh last week. They also remain the highest ranked team in the league at No. 16, though that may be more a factor the Cardinals starting higher than Rutgers or Cincinnati. Whether Louisville lives up to its status as preseason favorite remains to be seen, but either way the Cardinals have more company atop the league than Athlon envisioned.

What Athlon Sports got wrong – Temple finishing in last place
The Athlon staff thought USF’s fourth-quarter struggles were a result of bad luck, and that Paul Chryst would bring instant stability to PIttsburgh. Both turned out to be wrong, but Athlon’s pick for Temple in last place may be the biggest misstep. Despite returning only two offensive starters and five on defense, Temple is 2-0 in the Big East in its first season back in the league since 2004. The back-to-back wins over USF and Connecticut are the first consecutive Big East wins in program history.

Second-Half Projections

1. Louisville
2. Rutgers
3. Cincinnati
4. Pittsburgh
5. Syracuse
6. Temple
7. Connecticut
8. USF

Three Things to Watch

Are Louisville and Rutgers aiming for another undefeated matchup? Rutgers’ 28-24 upset of Louisville on a Thursday night in November 2006 remains one of the signature moments in Big East history as both entered the game undefeated. Six seasons later, the two programs could be on a similar collision course, this time in the regular season finale -- again on a Thursday night in November. It would be a spotlight moment for a conference in need of a nationally relevant football game between two ranked teams late in the season. That said, Cincinnati will look to upset that goal for both teams.

Is Munchie Legaux ready to lead Cincinnati to a Big East title? We love the name. We love the hair. We love the talent. But Legaux’s consistency may be they key to Cincinnati’s ability to contend for a conference championship. Legaux is completing fewer than half his pass attempts against FBS competition, though he’s accounted for seven touchdowns and one interception.

Will anyone escape the mess at the bottom of the Big East? Connecticut, USF and Pittsburgh are a combined 0-7 in the Big East. Those three plus Syracuse already have four losses. If the trend continues, the Big East will fail to fill its six bowl slots, not including its agreement with the Liberty Bowl. UConn, USF and Syracuse all have to play two of the Big East’s top three (Cincinnati, Louisville and Rutgers) in the second half of the season. Pitt has only of the top three remaining (Rutgers), but faces Notre Dame on the road.

Three Games to Watch in the Second Half

1. Rutgers at Cincinnati, Nov. 17 - The first in a three-team round robin that may decide the league pits Munchie Legaux and George Winn against the salty Rutgers defense.

2. Cincinnati at Louisville, Nov. 26 - Cincinnati has claimed the last four games for The Keg of Nails.

3. Louisville at Rutgers, Nov. 29 - The stakes could be two 11-0 teams playing the Big East title.

Post-Week 7 Power Rankings

1. Louisville (6-0, 1-0) - The Cardinals started to put Pittsburgh away in the second half, but the Panthers tacked on two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Should Charlie Strong be worried?

2. Rutgers (6-0, 3-0) - Rutgers and Alabama are the only teams in the country that have not allowed an opponent to run for 100 yards in a game this season.

3. Cincinnati (5-0, 1-0) - The Bearcats visit Toledo this week before playing their first Big East game since the opener. The return to Big East play will be interesting: At Louisville on a Friday night.

4. Temple (3-2, 2-0) - The Owls spotted Connecticut a 14-0 lead in the first quarter but crawled back to win 17-14 in overtime.

5. Syracuse (2-4, 1-1) - The Orange have managed four offensive touchdowns in its last three games against Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Rutgers.

6. Pittsburgh (2-4, 0-3) - Pitt is making progress on offense, but the Panthers probably couldn’t afford losses to Youngstown State and Syracuse if it wanted to reach a bowl game.

7. Connecticut (2-4, 0-2) - An inept offense is spoiling the effort of a top-flight defense. The Huskies rank sixth nationally in total defense, 107th in total offense.

8. USF (2-4, 0-2) - Will any soul searching over the off week help the Bulls pull out of their two-year funk? Louisville will be tough next week, but following two games against Syracuse and Connecticut in Tampa are winnable, right?

By David Fox

@DavidFox615

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At the midpoint of the 2012 season, it's time to take a look at the first half and predict how the second half will turn out in the Big Ten.

First-Half Awards

Coach of the Year: Bill O'Brien, Penn State
Urban Meyer would likely win Coach of the Year should Ohio State finish the season undefeated, especially considering the Bucks lost seven games last fall, and his resume would include a win over Bill O'Brien, Michigan and defending league champ Wisconsin. For now, however, O'Brien has done more with less and has done so in the face of the worst football scandal in NCAA history. Matt McGloin looks like a real quarterback and the Nittany Lion offense looks more creative and innovative than it has since Kerry Collins was under center. Coach O'Brien, whose team leads the Big Ten in turnover margin (+1.17/game), has done a remarkable job in Happy Valley.

Freshman of the Year: Joel Stave, QB, Wisconsin
Danny O'Brien was supposed to be a savior for a Badgers offense that watched architect Paul Chryst, leader Russell Wilson and three-fifths of its all-world offensive line move on from Madison. That didn't work. But Stave has been a godsend in place of O'Brien. The redshirt walk-on has energized the Wisconsin passing attack, throwing for 214 yards per game, completing 55.8% of his passes with five touchdowns earning a 3-1 starting record. He has shown the ability to push the ball down the field with his big frame and arm, something O'Brien simply couldn't do.

Newcomer of the Year: Mark Weisman, RB, Iowa
Kirk Ferentz sat back and watched his running back position get thinner and thinner by the week in summer and fall camp. Then his team struggled out of the gate against Northern Illinois and Iowa State. So what is an old school, black and blue type of head coach to do to fix his offense? How about hand the ball to a 230-pound walk-on fullback and tell him to punish defenses. And Weisman has done just that, carrying 98 times for 623 yards and seven rushing touchdowns in four games — including a 2-0 start in league play. If you love the game of football and you don't enjoy watching Weisman pound the rock, there is something wrong with you.

Offensive Player of the Year: Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
While there is literally a dozen quality candidates for Pac-12 Player of the Year, Big Ten POY is one man's to lose. Ohio State clearly has warts on defense, so no player has been more valuable, more productive and more electric than the Buckeyes sophomore signal caller. Miller has accounted for 20 touchdowns, is No. 3 in the league in rushing (162.7 ypg), No. 2 in total offense (311.9 ypg), No. 3 in passing efficiency (145.32) and is the unquestioned leader of the only unbeaten team in the league — one of only two 7-0 teams in the nation (Ohio). This is Miller's honor to lose.

Defensive Player of the Year: Michael Mauti, LB, Penn State
Penn State's senior linebacker deserves much of the credit for holding together an entire program in the face of tremendous adversity. Through six games, Mauti has 57 total tackles, a pair of interceptions, two forced fumbles, 1.5 sacks and is leading a defense allowing a Big Ten second-best 16.0 points per game. His heart and toughness is a huge reason the Nittany Lions could challenge for the best record in the league.

Midseason Disappointment (Team): Michigan State
This award could go to a number of teams as this league struggled so mightily outside of conference play. Illinois, one could argue, has been much more of a disappointment, however, the Illini weren't considered a title contender in 2012. A 1-2 start to Big Ten action isn't what fans where expecting in East Lansing. Quarterback play — and the pass-catchers too for that matter — have been atrocious as the offense continues to be completely one-dimensional. It ranks 11th in the league in scoring offense, 10th in rushing and 11th in passing efficiency. The defense is solid, despite claiming the league's worst pass rush, and there are big wins left to had should Mark Dantonio's bunch turn it around. But for now, this team lacks the killer instinct that made it Legends Division champions a year ago. 

Midseason Disappointment (Player): Danny O’Brien, QB, Wisconsin
O'Brien had some huge shoes to fill when Russell Wilson departed for the NFL. And as a fellow ACC transfer who posted a productive season as a freshman at Maryland two seasons ago, expectations were sky high in Madison. Unfortunately, O'Brien looked completely lost in Matt Canada's new offense system and was pulled in the Utah State game. Wisconsin was dead last in the Big Ten in scoring (16.3 ppg) and total offense (276.0) after three starts by the former Terrapin. Luckily, backup Joel Stave has stepped in and saved the Badgers season. Big Red has averaged 33.3 points per game since Stave entered the picture.

Midseason Surprise (Team): Penn State
This team has dealt with a coaching change of the most tumultuous variety. It dealt with a mass exodus of current players transferring away — most of whom were starters on offense. And it began the year 0-2 after two heart-breaking losses. But after four straight wins, and marked improvement from the offense, Penn State has a chance to make a big statement in the first year under Bill O'Brien. 

Midseason Surprise (Player): Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern
The junior from Tomball, Texas has emerged as one of the most productive players in the league. Mark has rushed for 797 yards on 134 attempts and has scored 11 total touchdowns in three different ways (eight rush, one receiving, two return). He has become Northwestern's all-time kick return leaders in yards and attempts, while also scoring twice on punt returns. His versatility and dependability has opened up the offense and has given Pat Fitzgerald a traditional rushing threat he has been craving for years. He leads the league in all-purpose yards with 184.6 yards per game.

What Athlon Sports got right: Wisconsin's convincing win over Purdue indicates they are clearly the best bowl eligible team in the Leaders Division. Ohio State was ranked No. 6 in the Athlon Sports preseason Top 25 and was picked No. 1 in the league. Nothing has happened this season to indicate that the Buckeyes aren't the best team in the league. It also appears Michigan and Nebraska will play for the Legends Division crown on October 27 as expected. Should the Wolverines win that game, a Michigan win over Wisconsin in the title game would likely come true as believed in the preseason.

What Athlon Sports got wrong: Actually, most teams at this stage are slotted to finish exactly where Athlon Sports projected with a small tweak. Penn State has outperformed all preseason expectation and are only a few plays from being 6-0. Michigan State, on the other hand, could easily finish worst than third (where they were projected). Iowa has struggled mightily, as predicted, but is somehow 2-0 in the league. Iowa and Northwestern could still finish where Athlon predicted, but are much closer to the top of the division than anticipated. 

Second-Half Predictions

Here's how we think the final standings will look before the Big Ten Championship.

Legends Division

1. Michigan
2. Nebraska
3. Michigan State
4. Northwestern
5. Iowa
6. Minnesota

Leaders Division

1. Ohio State
2. Penn State
3. Wisconsin
4. Purdue 
5. Illinois
6. Indiana

Big Ten Championship: Michigan over Wisconsin

Three Things to Watch

How does the Legends round robin play out?
Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska all still have yet to face each other while Iowa and Northwestern have also crept into the picture. All five still have yet to face each other with the only exception of Iowa's road win over Michigan State this weekend. Michigan gets the Spartans, Wildcats and Hawkeyes at home, while having to visit Nebraska. The Cornhuskers' schedule is flipped as it has to face Michigan State, Iowa and Northwestern all on the road while also getting Penn State at home. Michigan State gets Nebraska and Northwestern at home with two nasty road trips to Michigan and Wisconsin looming. Hold on for dear life in this division because the next two months of action should be extremely entertaining. 

Ohio State's unbeaten record and Braxton Miller's Heisman campaign
There are two teams in the nation with 7-0 records and both reside in the state of Ohio. The Bobcats and Buckeyes have, by definition, the best records in the nation. Additionally, Ohio State's quarterback would be sitting in New York if the Heisman voting was taken today. The defense, which is ranked 10th in the Big Ten at 400 yards allowed per game, is a major question mark. But if Urban Meyer can finish the year unbeaten and Miller can stay healthy, there is little doubt that this team would be the heavy favorite to win the 2013 National Championship. 

The Penn State Nittany Lions
The Jerry Sandusky scandal transcended not only Big Ten football but all of college football, bringing Penn State University into living rooms of non-football fans everywhere. And after many players left the program, a coaching change and two tough losses to start the year, the story in the Big Ten in 2012 could be the performance of the Nittany Lions. Crippling NCAA punishments may be easier to overcome than originally believed if Bill O'Brien is as good as his first half coaching job indicates. With games left against Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa, the Nits will most definitely play a huge role in the Big Ten championship — whether they are eligible to win the crown or not.

Three Games to Watch in the Second Half

1. Michigan at Ohio State (Nov. 24)
It's arguably the best rivalry game in college football, and this season, it could feature an undefeated top-10 Ohio State team and a Big Ten favorite Michigan squad. Consider this Brady Hoke-Urban Meyer Chapter 1 in what could be a long storybook feud between two "new" coaching regimes.

2. Michigan at Nebraska (Oct. 27)
The Legends Division race is completely wide open but these two programs look like the odds-on favorites to win the division. The Cornhuskers will be looking for revenge after a 45-17 beatdown in Ann Arbor last fall.

3. Ohio State at Penn State (Oct. 27)
The Ineligible Bowl could feature the best two teams in the league. It also could feature the top two Offensive Players of the Year in quarterbacks Braxton Miller and Matt McGloin. Look for a huge crowd in Beaver Stadium should the Buckeyes show up undefeated.

Post-Week 7 Power Rankings

1. Ohio State (7-0, 3-0)
Still some weaknesses, but this team refuses to lose behind leadership of Braxton Miller. 

2. Michigan (4-2, 2-0)
Denard Robinson is back on track and the schedule sets up nicely for UM after two top-10 losses.

3. Nebraska (4-2, 1-1)
Nothing wrong with the offense in Lincoln, but something needs to be done to the Blackshirts' defense.

4. Penn State (4-2, 2-0)
Matt McGloin has been spectacular, and the defense has been great. Nits could spoil more than one season in the second half.

5. Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1)
Two straight impressive division wins puts Badgers in driver's seat for a trip to Indianapolis.

6. Northwestern (6-1, 2-1)
Pat Fitzgerald got back to the ground game and it led to big road division win over Minnesota.

7. Iowa (4-2, 2-0)
Key road win at Michigan State puts the Hawkeyes squarely in the Legends Division race.

8. Michigan State (4-3, 1-2)
Devastating loss at home in double overtime to Iowa puts Sparty behind the eight ball in the division.

9. Purdue (3-3, 0-2)
Terrible start to conference play and has four of the next five on the road. Things could get ugly for the Boilers.

10. Minnesota (4-2, 0-2)
Great to hear Jerry Kill has been safely released from care after suffering a seizure. Return of MarQueis Gray is also a positive. 

11. Illinois (2-5, 0-3)
The wheels have official come off the Illini train after third straight blowout Big Ten loss.

12. Indiana (2-4, 0-3)
Same old story for the Hoosiers: Pretty solid offense can score. Defense of any kind? Not so much.

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

Three and Out: Week 7 Recap

ACC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big East 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big Ten 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big 12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Pac-12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
SEC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review 

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The first half of the season has been an up and down affair for the ACC. After watching Florida State climb into the top five of the polls, the Seminoles suffered a disappointing loss to NC State, effectively ending any national title hopes. While the ACC is without a national championship contender, this conference still has a lot of intrigue to follow in the second half of the year. The Coastal Division is wide open, while the Seminoles, Clemson and NC State figure to be locked in a tight battle for the Atlantic crown.

Coach of the Year – David Cutcliffe, Duke
Despite the 41-20 loss to Virginia Tech in Week 7, Cutcliffe takes this award at the midpoint of the season. The Blue Devils are in the thick of the Coastal title race with a 2-1 record and need just one victory to get bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. Duke doesn’t have a marquee win, but it also doesn’t have a bad loss. With upcoming games against North Carolina, Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Miami, the Blue Devils won’t have an easy time getting to six victories. However, this is clearly Cutcliffe’s best team at Duke and should be able to find one more win to get bowl eligible.

Freshman of the Year – Duke Johnson, RB, Miami/Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland
There’s not really much separating Johnson and Diggs, so we’ll give them each a share of the award. Johnson leads Miami with 428 rushing yards and five touchdowns, while adding 447 yards on kick returns. He ranks second in the ACC with 151 all-purpose yards per game. Diggs seems to be getting stronger as the year progresses, and he leads the conference with an average of 168.8 all-purpose yards per game.

Newcomer of the Year – Eddie Johnson, LB, Miami
The Hurricanes have struggled all season on defense, but this unit is playing a lot of young players, which will pay dividends for future seasons. Johnson has been a bright spot for this team, ranking second on the team with 39 tackles, along with recording 5.5 tackles for a loss, one sack and three forced fumbles.

Offensive Player of the Year – Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
There’s really not a clear standout for this award through the first seven weeks of the season. Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel and North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard each could stake a claim for the top spot, but Boyd gets a slight nod over his teammates (Andre Ellington and DeAndre Hopkins). The junior quarterback has thrown for 1,748 yards and 14 touchdowns, while adding 224 yards and two scores on the ground. Boyd is an improved runner and is completing an impressive 68.2 percent of his throws.   

Defensive Player of the Year – Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
With Brandon Jenkins sidelined for the year, the Seminoles needed a big season from Werner and fellow end Tank Carradine. Both players have responded with huge seasons, as Florida State’s defense ranks fifth nationally against the run and fourth in scoring defense. Werner ranks second in the ACC with 6.5 sacks and 10 tackles for a loss.

Midseason Disappointment (Team) – Virginia Tech
Even with Saturday’s win over Duke, the Hokies are still 4-3 – a far cry from what most expected in the preseason. With eight starters returning, Virginia Tech expected to have one of the nation’s best defenses. However, the Hokies allowed at least 20 points in each of their last three games and rank 73rd nationally in stopping the run. Quarterback Logan Thomas has accounted for 16 touchdowns but hasn’t had much help from the running backs or offensive line. J.C. Coleman appeared to give the offense a spark against Duke, but the rushing attack has to be more of a factor the rest of the season. Despite the early struggles, Virginia Tech still has a chance to win the Coastal, especially with North Carolina ineligible to win the division title. With a schedule that features games against Clemson, Miami and Florida State, it’s important the Hokies find some answers for the second half of the season.

Midseason Disappointment (Player) – David Amerson, CB, NC State
The overall numbers for Amerson aren’t bad, as he has recorded 24 tackles, three interceptions and three pass breakups. However, the junior cornerback struggled in the opener against Tennessee and gave up a few big plays in the loss to Miami. For a player that had All-American potential in the preseason, Amerson has not lived up to the hype so far.

Midseason Surprise (Team) – Maryland
After a disastrous 2-10 campaign last year, no one could have predicted the Terrapins would be the only unbeaten team in ACC play after the first seven weeks of the season. True freshman quarterback Perry Hills has done just enough to keep the offense moving, while the defense ranks ninth in the nation in yards allowed. Maryland may not eclipse the seven-win mark, but it’s clear Randy Edsall has this team moving in the right direction.  

Midseason Surprise (Player) – Ross Cockrell, CB, Duke
A big reason for Duke’s five victories this season has been the play of its defense. While the Blue Devils don’t have a lockdown defense, this unit has made significant progress over the last couple of years. Cockrell had 23 starts coming into this season but is having his best year. The junior ranks second on the team with 38 tackles but leads all defenders with four picks and 13 passes defended. Cockrell is a strong candidate to earn first-team All-ACC honors at the end of the year.

What Athlon Sports got right: It’s still too early to declare how the Coastal Division will shape out, but we had a pretty good feel for the Atlantic in the preseason. While Maryland is currently at the top of the division, Athlon’s top three teams – Florida State, Clemson and NC State – are still in the mix for the Atlantic crown. As expected, Boston College is ticketed for a sixth-place finish in the division. 

What Athlon Sports got wrong: As mentioned above, the Coastal Division is difficult to sort out after seven weeks. If Miami and Duke continue on its path, we would have clearly missed on both teams in the preseason. We also thought Virginia would build on its promising 2011 season and threaten seven or eight victories in 2012. However, the Cavaliers will struggle just to get bowl eligible in 2012.


Second Half Predictions

Here's how Athlon sees the standings looking at the end of the regular season:

Atlantic

1. Florida State
2. Clemson
3. NC State
4. Maryland
5. Wake Forest
6. Boston College

Coastal

1. North Carolina
2. Virginia Tech
3. Miami
4. Georgia Tech
5. Duke
6. Virginia

ACC Championship Game: Florida State over Virginia Tech
 

Three Things to Watch in the Second Half

The Coastal Division – With North Carolina ineligible to play for the ACC title, can either Virginia Tech or Miami wrestle control of the division? Since the Tar Heels have wins over the Hokies and Hurricanes, they will likely finish with the best record in the division. However, someone has to represent the Coastal in the championship game, which leaves Miami and Virginia Tech as the most likely candidates.

A crucial moment in the Paul Johnson era at Georgia Tech? – Despite recording 19 wins in his first two years at Georgia Tech, Paul Johnson could be sitting on the hot seat at the end of 2012. The Yellow Jackets are just 16-16 in their last 32 games and are no lock to get bowl eligible with BYU, North Carolina, Duke and Georgia remaining on the schedule. Johnson canned defensive coordinator Al Groh and shuffled his defensive staff to find some answers for one of the ACC’s worst units. If Johnson finishes with a 5-7 or 6-6 record, he could be one of the top coaches on the hot seat entering 2013.

Will Florida State win the ACC title? – Even though the Seminoles lost to NC State last week, most still believe this is the best team in the ACC. The schedule isn’t too difficult, but Florida State plays three of its next four games on the road. Although the Seminoles missed out on a chance to remain in the national title hunt, winning the ACC Championship and finishing in the top five of the BCS would be a good season. While Florida State may not be ready to be “back” as a national championship team, there’s still a lot of talent on this team and a subpar finish to the season won’t sit well in Tallahassee.
 

Five Games to Watch in the Second Half

Virginia Tech at Clemson (Oct. 20) – The Tigers smacked the Hokies twice last season. Can Virginia Tech return the favor this year?

NC State at North Carolina (Oct. 27) – Can the Tar Heels snap a five-game losing streak to the Wolfpack?

Virginia Tech at Miami (Nov. 1) – Could this game decide who represents the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship?

Florida State at Virginia Tech (Nov. 8) – The Hokies are struggling, but a Thursday night matchup in Blacksburg won’t be an easy victory for Florida State.

NC State at Clemson (Nov. 17) – If the Wolfpack avoid a loss until Nov. 17, a victory over Clemson could put them in the ACC Championship.
 

Post-Week 7 Power Rankings

1. Florida State (5-1, 2-1 ACC) – The Seminoles bounced back after a disappointing loss to NC State, crushing Boston College 51-17 to move to 5-1 on the season.

2. Clemson (5-1, 2-1 ACC) – The Tigers had a bye week on Saturday and return to action next Saturday against Virginia Tech.

3. NC State (4-2, 1-1 ACC) – The bye week came at a good time for the Wolfpack, as Tom O’Brien’s team had plenty of time to forget about the win over Florida State. NC State takes on Maryland in Week 8.

4. North Carolina (5-2, 2-1 ACC) – With Saturday’s 18-14 win over Miami, the Tar Heels control their destiny to win the Coastal Division. However, there’s just one problem – North Carolina is ineligible to win the division title.

5. Miami (4-3, 3-1 ACC) – The Hurricanes’ defense held North Carolina to just 18 points, but an injury to quarterback Stephen Morris prevented any shot at a comeback victory late in the fourth quarter.

6. Virginia Tech (4-3, 2-1 ACC) – It wasn’t a particularly impressive first half, but the Hokies rallied to get a key 41-20 victory over Duke. The win over the Blue Devils snapped a two-game losing streak.

7. Georgia Tech (2-4, 1-3 ACC) – The Yellow Jackets’ defense is in desperate need of a turnaround, which coach Paul Johnson hopes a change in coordinator will provide a spark.

8. Duke (5-2, 2-1 ACC) – The Blue Devils need one more win to get bowl eligible, which won’t be easy with a schedule that features North Carolina, Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Miami.

9. Maryland (4-2, 2-0 ACC) – With the 27-20 win over Virginia, the Terrapins have doubled their win total from last season (two).

10. Virginia (2-5, 0-3) – The Cavaliers look to snap a five-game losing streak with a home date against Wake Forest this Saturday.

11. Wake Forest (3-3, 1-3 ACC) – The Demon Deacons had a bye in Week 7 and return to action against Virginia this Saturday.

12. Boston College (1-5, 0-3 ACC) – The Eagles’ miserable season continued with a 51-7 loss at Florida State.


by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

Related College Football Content

Week 7 College Football Recap

Big 12 Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions
Big East Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions

Big Ten Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions

Pac-12 Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions

SEC Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions

Teaser:
<p> At the midpoint of the 2012 season, it's time to take a look at the first half and predict how the second half will turn out in the ACC.</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-draft-rankings-tight-ends
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 tight end prospects:

1. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame (6-6, 250, Jr.)
The big Fighting Irish tight end is easily the top prospect at his position for this upcoming draft. But poor quarterback play has limited his statistical production in 2012. He entered his final season as more of a pass-catcher but has gotten stronger at the point of attack as ND looked to pound the football more this fall. He projects as an excellent receiver on the next level and, should he continue to develop as an in-line blocker, he could creep into the first round next spring.

2. Joseph Fauria, UCLA (6-7, 255, Sr.)
From a pure athletic stand point, few players in the nation will match the size and speed combination Fauria brings to the table. He has more upside as a receiver than a blocker but is adequate at both. He needs to polish his overall game and prove his dedication and commitment to being a great player. Developing a killer instinct might be his only weakness.

3. Jordan Reed, Florida (6-3, 245, Jr.)
He will likely function more as an H-Back due to his overall lack of speed, but there are no weaknesses to his overall game. He is strong, physical and solid in a blocking role. He has speed and quickness on the outside in the passing game. And he showed loads of versatility as a runner and quarterback prior to the pro-style switch in 2012. He has dealt with three different coordinators in three seasons in Gainesville, so he is only scratching the surface of his overall potential.

4. Michael Williams, Alabama (6-6, 269, Sr.)
The pros for Williams: A huge frame. A nasty, powerful run-blocker. He played in a pro-style system coached by football czar Nick Saban. His pass-catching skills are limited, particularly down the field, but there is plenty of room in the NFL for a guy with his in-line blocking talents.

5. Zach Ertz, Stanford (6-6, 252, Jr.)
Ertz is a slightly less talented version of Coby Fleener. He isn’t quite as fast, isn’t quite as a powerful and hasn’t been quite as productive. Otherwise, he is a very similar player with similar skills. He has played in a pro-style attack that focuses on NFL skills at the tight end position. Few programs have prepared this position for the next level like Stanford.

6. Dion Sims, Michigan State (6-5, 285, Jr.)
Sims entered his final season with no help at quarterback or wide receiver and will likely finish as the top Sparty pass-catcher. He is a powerful blocker with a big frame and solid athleticism. He won’t wow scouts with his overall speed or quickness, but he has enough talent to stay on an NFL field due to his physicality and overall size. He should be a solid first and second down option with red zone potential.

7. Levine Toilolo, Stanford (6-8, 265, Jr.)
No player at this position will bring a bigger, better frame to the next level than Toilolo. His is massive. He can be used equally as a pass-catcher and in-line blocker, but needs to refine his talents at both. He is a more of a long-term project than some of his peers, but few can match his raw upside. When it comes to working vertically down the seam or in the red zone, few have the potential to be as dangerous as the 6-8 monster from out west.

8. Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn (6-5, 255, Sr.)
Without being elite at any one thing, Lutz is the complete package at tight end. He has suffered through horrendous quarterback play, multiple offensive systems and complete coaching turmoil. Yet, back in 2010 with Cam Newton as his quarterback, he produced in key situations and was a big part of the championship run as only a sophomore. He has middle-round steal written all over him — once he can get out of Auburn.

9. CJ Fiedorowicz, Iowa (6-6, 265, Jr.)
This big fella’s production will never match his overall upside. Iowa will never be a pass-centric offense so his production in the passing game will never give an accurate picture of his talents. He has a huge frame and the ability to contribute equally in both the running and passing games. This is a player who should be a much better pro player than college.

10. Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State (6-5, 245, Sr.)
This Buckeye is a slightly smaller version of Fauria. Electric athletic ability with the ability to stretch the field vertically with ease. Yet, an overall lack of production and in-line blocking potential stand out on the resume as well. His offensive scheme limited his usage and overall numbers at times, so he could blossom on the next level if he lands in the right system.

Other Names to Watch:

Chris Gragg, Arkansas (6-3, 236, Sr.)
DC Jefferson, Rutgers (6-6, 250, Sr.)
Ryan Griffin, UConn (6-6, 245, Sr.)
Ben Cotton, Nebraska (6-6, 255, Sr.)
Mychal Rivera, Tennessee (6-3, 245, Sr.)
Matt Furstenburg, Maryland (6-4, 245, Sr.)
Ryan Otten, San Jose State (6-6, 245, Sr.)
Kyler Reed, Nebraska (6-3, 230, Sr.)
Nick Kasa, Colorado (6-6, 260, Sr.)
Chris Pantale, Boston College (6-6, 255, 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: Tight Ends</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-2012-second-half-predictions-and-midseason-review
Body:

At the midpoint of the 2012 season, it's time to take a look at the first half and predict how the second half will turn out in the Pac-12.

First-Half Awards

Coach of the Year: Mike Riley, Oregon State
Todd Graham has quickly turned around Arizona State. Chip Kelly has the best team in the league. And Lane Kiffin will certainly have a chance to join the fray. But for the time being, no one has done a better job than Mike Riley. His defense has gone from one of the worst in the conference to one of the best in one offseason. Now, he is winning tough road games without his starting quarterback. With one of the best resumes in the nation, Riley isn't just Pac-12 Coach of the Year material, he is squarely in the National COY race as well.

Freshman of the Year: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
UCLA's Brett Hundley deserves a lot of credit for stabilizing the quarterback position in Westwood for the first time in over a decade. But Mariota is leading the league's top team, scoring the most points (52.3 ppg) and is the Pac-12's No. 2 most efficient passer (156.42). He is poised beyond his years and has proven in short order to be a leader on and off the field. He is completing 67.9 percent of his passes for 1,301 yards, 15 touchdowns, five interceptions, 221 yards rushing and another score on the ground. Honorable mention falls to Oregon State stud freshman blocker Isaac Seumalo.

Newcomer of the Year: Xavier Su'a Filo, OL, UCLA
The team's top offensive lineman has been a huge part of the improvement on offense for the Bruins. The big Utah native was a top-100 prospect coming out of high school before taking his two-year LDS mission. He returned this fall and stepped directly into the starting lineup. The Bruins rank No. 2 in the Pac-12 in rushing, No. 3 in total offense and are top 10 nationally in sacks allowed, due in large part to improved offensive line play. Of which, Su'a Filo is the best player. USC's Silas Redd gets a big honorable mention here for the work he has done in the Trojans' backfield.

Offensive Player of the Year: Pick a quarterback, any quarterback!
Matt Barkley is the best player in the league and leads the Pac-12 with 16 touchdown passes. Taylor Kelly is the most efficient passer on a surprise team but has played a weak schedule. Sean Mannion's team is unbeaten against a nasty schedule, but he will miss at least two more games with a knee injury. Marcus Mariota is No. 2 in passing efficiency and leads the league's top offense on the Pac-12's best team. Matt Scott is lapping the field from a statistical standpoint, leading the league in total offense. Brett Hundley has been extremely productive at a position UCLA hasn't been good at in over a decade. The argument is likely between Barkley vs. Kelly with beauty falling to the eye of the beholder. For right or wrong, I lean towards the best player on what could be the best team over slightly better stats on a surprise team against a weak schedule. Don't even get me started on Lee vs. Woods vs. Allen vs. Hill vs. Crooks vs. Wilson. Or Taylor vs. Barner vs. Thomas vs. Franklin vs. Carey. This has to be one of the deepest collections of elite offensive skill talent ever assembled in any league.

Defensive Player of the Year: Jordan Poyer, DB, Oregon State
After his league leading fifth interception of the season — this one he returned for a touchdown to clinch the road win over BYU — the talented Oregon State cover man became the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year honors. This defense could be considered the best in the league and his team is undefeated because of it. He has 15 total tackles, one sack, five interceptions, a forced fumble, and also returns punts for the unbeaten Beavers.

Midseason Disappointment (Team): Utah
The Utes were one win away from playing in the Pac-12 championship game last season when it lost to lowly Colorado in the season finale. Kyle Whittingham's squad is 2-5 in regular season action and hasn't won a conference game since. John White set a school record for rushing yards last season and has only one 100-yard effort on his resume this fall and that came against Northern Colorado. Quarterback play has been downright atrocious after the injury to starter Jordan Wynn. All three of this team's league losses have come within the division.

Midseason Disappointment (Player): Keith Price, QB, Washington
Certainly, Price hasn't gotten much help from his decimated offensive line, but Price has been a shell of his 2011 self. At the halfway point of the season, the Huskies passer has completed 61.3 percent of his passes for 1,080 yards, almost as many interceptions (6) as touchdowns (7) and wasn't able to keep his team very competitive against Oregon or USC. This from a guy who threw for 3,063 yards and accounted for 36 total touchdowns on 66.9 percent passing a year ago.

Midseason Surprise (Team): Oregon State
Arizona State has been the South's version of Oregon State, except the Beavers have played a dramatically tougher schedule. In fact, with wins over Wisconsin, UCLA, Arizona and BYU, it might be the best resume in the country. Mike Riley's defense is arguably the most improved unit in the entire nation and it has led to an undefeated first half of the season — the latest win coming on the road against BYU without starting quarterback Sean Mannion. 

Midseason Surprise (Player): Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
The sophomore signal caller battled with Michael Eubanks all summer long for the right to run Todd Graham's new offense in Tempe — a unit that had to replace its quarterback and top two pass catchers. Kelly, the league's top-rated passer, has made it look easy. He is completing 68.3 percent of his passes for 1,600 yards, 14 touchdowns, only two interceptions with 210 yards rushing on 57 attempts. Most importantly, his team is unbeaten in conference play.

What Athlon Sports got right: Predicting the division champions is the most important part of Athlon's preseason prognostication and both USC and Oregon are the class of the Pac-12. Colorado and Washington State also appear to be right on as the worst two teams in the league. UCLA and Arizona will battle for third in the South as expected while Cal wallows in fifth up North. Stanford could also finish as the North's top challenger to Oregon if it can defeat Oregon State.

What Athlon Sports got wrong: The Utah-Arizona State flip-flop is one of the biggest misses by our staff. Utah, picked second, will likely finish fifth in the South while the Sun Devils, picked to finish fifth, have a good shot at finishing second. Up North, the Oregon State Beavers are the only miss as they are dramatically outperforming preseason expectations. Otherwise, the other nine slots could finish exactly as predicted in the summer.

Second-Half Predictions

Here's how we think the final standings will look before the Pac-12 Championship.

North Division

1. Oregon
2. Stanford
3. Oregon State
4. Washington
5. Cal
6. Washington State

South Division

1. USC
2. Arizona State
3. UCLA
4. Arizona 
5. Utah
6. Colorado

Pac-12 Championship: Oregon over USC

Three Things to Watch

Oregon's four second-half road games 
The Ducks, behind the best defense of Chip Kelly's tenure in Eugene, have made it to the halfway point unbeaten without really breaking a sweat. But things get a lot tougher from here on out. Four road trips dot the perilous second-half slate beginning with a Thursday night primetime showdown with much-improved Arizona State in Week 8 and wrapping up with an in-state Civil War battle in Corvallis. In between are trips to national power USC and Cal — a team that nearly derailed the Ducks' 2010 national title hopes in Berkeley — as well as a home test against Stanford. There is a lot of work left for the high-flying Ducks if they expect to win their fourth straight Pac-12 championship and possibly, the program's first-ever national championship.

The 2012 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year race
This is going to be a crazy race to watch the rest of the season. Matt Barkley looks like he is in the best position to win the award, while power names like Kenjon Barner, Stepfan Taylor, De'Anthony Thomas, Johnathan Franklin, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee have all lived up to the preseason hype. But new faces like Taylor Kelly, Matt Scott, Ka'Deem Carey, Brett Hundley, Sean Mannion and Marcus Mariota have all produced in a fashion that warrants consideration. And I haven't even mentioned Keenan Allen, Marquess Wilson, Markus Wheaton or Austin Hill (or anyone from Washington, for that matter). This league is loaded with elite offensive weapons and should make the second half out West extremely entertaining. 

Who has staying power out West?
Arizona State and Oregon State are two of the biggest surprises in the nation at the midway point of the season. UCLA has also shown that it is much improved. Washington and Stanford have flashed major potential as well. In a league that could be second only to the mighty SEC, can any of these conference upstarts that are looking up at favorites USC and Oregon stay in the race deep into the winter months? Many believe the Sun Devils will come back to earth as the schedule gets tougher, while the Beavers should take some sort of a hit without Mannion under center. And the Bruins' schedule is a nasty five-game stretch following next week's bye. Are these teams simply nice stories worth noting in the grand scheme of the USC-Oregon dominated 2012 Pac-12? Or does one of these unexpected contenders pull off a huge upset, totally shaking up the league and sending ripples throughout the national title picture?

Three Games to Watch in the Second Half

1. Oregon at USC (Nov. 3)
The Ducks and Trojans have been on a collision course since the 2011 season ended last January. It will likely be the first of two meetings between the two, and fans can only hope it is as entertaining as the 38-35 USC win a year ago in Eugene.

2. Oregon at Oregon State (Nov. 24)
The only two teams left unbeaten out West hail from the Beaver State. It is highly unlikely both make it to The Civil War unbeaten, but if by chance it does happen, it could be the single biggest in-state bout between these two adversaries in the 118-year history of the rivalry. The Beavers will likely be the underdog regardless of what happens from here on out, but getting the Ducks at home gives the Beavers as good a chance as anyone to upset Oregon.

3. Notre Dame at USC (Nov. 24)
The Arizona State Sun Devils have the unfortunate luck of facing both Oregon and USC, so their round-robin with the Ducks and Trojans is more important within the Pac-12. But when it comes to national importance, interest and history, there are few games that would be able to match a Notre Dame-USC top 5 match-up. Even if one or both lose a game along the way, a BCS bowl bid and potential top 10 bragging rights should be on the line.

Post-Week 7 Power Rankings

1. Oregon (6-0, 3-0)
Perfect first half gives way to tough second half road slate with visits to USC, Arizona State, Oregon State and Cal. 

2. USC (5-1, 3-1)
It hasn't been pretty at times, but Lane Kiffin still has his team poised for a Pac-12 title. 

3. Stanford (4-2, 2-1)
The most physical team in the league played valiant football in South Bend. An upcoming tilt against Oregon State looms large.

4. Oregon State (5-0, 3-0)
No Sean Mannion, no problem. Even without their star quarterback, the Beavers won on the road to stay unbeaten.

5. Arizona State (5-1, 3-0)
Todd Graham has found himself a quarterback in Taylor Kelly, but ASU faces tough second half.

6. UCLA (5-2, 2-2)
The Bruins bounced back from an ugly loss to Cal to get back to even in the league. This team goes as Brett Hundley goes.

7. Arizona (3-3, 0-3)
A much better team than the 0-3 mark indicates but the defense needs to show up at some point to win games.

8. Washington (3-3, 1-2)
The Huskies' defense is dramatically improved. But can Justin Wilcox and Tosh Lupoi coach the O-Line?

9. Cal (3-4, 2-2)
Got two clutch wins when Jeff Tedford needed them most. But Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford and Washington still left.

10. Utah (2-4, 0-3)
Shocking turn of events in Salt Lake City have led to horrific start to 2012 — with little light at the end of the tunnel. 

11. Washington State (2-5, 0-4)
Home games against Colorado and Cal were best two chances at league wins and Cougs lost both.

12. Colorado (1-5, 1-2)
The Buffaloes have shown little fight all season and might not win another game the rest of the way. 

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

Three and Out: Week 7 Recap

ACC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big East 
2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big Ten 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big 12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Pac-12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
SEC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review 

Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-basketball/2012-13-college-basketball-preview-top-freshmen
Body:
Visit the online store for UCLA and other editions of the 2012-13 Athlon Sports College Basketball annual.

Led by Anthony Davis, Marcus Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague,  Kentucky ended the notion that freshman-laden teams couldn’t win a national championship.

Granted, the group in Kentucky was one of the best rookie classes in college basketball history with David and Kidd-Gilchrist being selected Nos. 1 and 2 in the NBA Draft. There likely won’t be a class that strong in the country this season, but plenty of prominent programs are counting on freshmen to rebuild or reload.

Of course, John Calipari has another star-studded class coming to Kentucky, led by Nerlens Noel. On the other side of the country, UCLA is counting on Shabazz Muhammad and Ryan Anderson to 1.) pass NCAA eligibility standards and 2.) lead the Bruins back to national prominence.

And at Indiana, the addition of Cody Zeller as a freshman last season was only the start. The Athlon preseason No. 1 team added Yogi Ferrell, listed below, to a veteran mix ready to contend for a national title.

Here’s a look at the top 10 freshmen who could shape the national and conference landscapes:

TOP 10 IMPACT FRESHMEN FOR 2012-13
Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
The highest-rated recruit ever to sign with Pittsburgh, Adams will be asked to be a factor on both ends of the court for the Panthers. The native of New Zealand is still relatively new to the game, so there might be some growing pains early in the season, but he has the size (7-0, 210) and athleticism to be a dominant big man in the Big East.

Kyle Anderson, F, UCLA
Anderson will team with guard Shabazz Muhammad to give Ben Howland two of the elite freshmen in the nation. Anderson, who played for legendary prep coach Bob Hurley at St. Anthony (N.J.) High School, is a swingman who boasts a true inside-outside game. Anderson can knock down the perimeter jump shot but is at his best when taking the ball to the basket.

Related: Arrival of Muhammad, Anderson leads makeover at UCLA

Brandon Ashley, F, Arizona
Fellow Arizona freshman big man Kaleb Tarczewski received more hype through the recruiting process, but don’t be surprised if Ashley makes a bigger impact this season for the Wildcats. At 6-8, 230 pounds, Ashley can play both forward spots, though he likely will see most of his minutes at the 3. He should be one of the most productive players in the Pac-12.

Isaiah Austin, C, Baylor
The 7-footer from Arlington, Texas, will be one of the best big men in the Big 12 in ’12-13. His game has few weaknesses, if any. He has the skills to play on the wing but has the size to be a dominant player around the basket — both offensively and defensively. It will be a surprise if he doesn’t average a double-double for a Baylor team that had three frontcourt players taken in the first 38 picks of the 2012 NBA Draft.

Yogi Ferrell, G, Indiana
Ferrell is a true point guard who will be a great facilitator on an Indiana team loaded with weapons. The Indiana native has range out to 3-point line, but don’t expect him to be a high-volume shooter. His job will be to penetrate the defense and find the open man. Big man Cody Zeller will be the biggest beneficiary of Ferrell’s arrival in Bloomington.

Gary Harris, G, Michigan State
Harris is a shooting guard from Indiana who does just about everything well on the court. He isn’t an elite outside shooter, but he is a threat from behind the arc. Harris will thrive on the defensive end for Tom Izzo’s club right away.

Shabazz Muhammad, G, UCLA
UCLA managed to keep Muhammad, the No. 1 player in the class according to some, away from the likes of Kentucky and Duke. The left-handed swingman is adept at getting to the rim and scoring in traffic, and he shines on the defensive end. This was a huge get for Ben Howland, who is trying to return UCLA to elite status on the national scene.

Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
Noel will replace Anthony Davis as the shot-blocking machine on the back end of the Kentucky defense. His offensive game is still a work in progress, but he will get his share of points on dunks and put-backs. His decision to sign with UK over Georgetown instantly made the Wildcats a threat to repeat as national champs.

Marcus Paige, G, North Carolina
Paige will have an opportunity to slide into the starting point guard spot vacated by Kendall Marshall. A 6-1 lefthander, Paige averaged 28.4 points per game as a senior at Linn-Mar (Iowa) High School and played in the McDonald’s All-American Game. He suffered a stress fracture in his left foot in the spring but is expected to be 100 percent by the time practice starts.

Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford signed an elite talent from Texas for the second straight season. Smart will join forward LeBryan Nash, a rising sophomore, to give the Pokes two of the top players in the Big 12. Smart is a combo guard who is regarded as a tremendous leader. Opposing coaches have raved about Smart.

@AthlonSports

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> 2012-13 College Basketball Preview: Top Transfers</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 05:59
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Legends Poll, News
Path: /college-football/legends-poll-top-25-college-football-week-7
Body:

In the seven-year history of the Legends Poll, fifth-ranked Notre Dame had never been ranked in the top 5.

That streak ended this week as the Fighting Irish and Kansas State made their first ever top 5 appearances in the Legends Poll rankings. Both teams improved to 6-0 and benefited from a second straight week of upsets.

“I think Notre Dame’s offense is definitely getting better,” former Indiana coach Bill Mallory said. “But I think their defense is the thing that’s really improved. From what I’ve seen last year to this year, they’ve definitely improved on the defensive side of the ball. Their defensive front is really strong and that linebacker (Manti Teo) is really outstanding.”

Alabama continued its dominance with a commanding victory at Missouri and remained the unanimous No. 1 team. Idle Oregon maintained its spot at No. 2.

No. 3 Florida also moved up two spots this week after a win over Vanderbilt, but the Gators face another tough test next week when their former coach pays a visit to Gainesville with his South Carolina Gamecocks.

The SEC gauntlet caught up with Steve Spurrier and South Carolina, and they failed to stay unbeaten, falling 26-23 at LSU. The Gamecocks fell six spots to No. 9.

With the victory, LSU moved up four spots to No. 6, and jumped seventh-ranked Florida State as the highest ranked one-loss team.

No. 8 Oklahoma moved back into the top 10 after a resounding 63-21 victory over archrival Texas. The lopsided loss catapulted Texas out of the top 25.

No. 11 Oregon State was the biggest mover in the poll this week, jumping five spots following a 42-24 win at BYU.

West Virginia slid 11 spots all the way to No. 15 after it was embarrassed at Texas Tech, 49-14. The loss was a huge blow to quarterback Geno Smith’s Heisman hopes.

Texas Tech moved into the rankings for the first time following their surprise upset, debuting at No. 21. No. 24 Michigan and No. 25 Arizona State joined the Red Raiders as newcomers to the rankings.

Iowa State and Louisiana Tech along with Texas dropped out of the top 25 this week.

To see the individual votes by coach, visit the Legends Poll.

THE LEGENDS POLL TOP 25

RK TEAM RECORD POINTS PV RK
1 AlabamaAlabama (17) 6-0 425 1
2 OregonOregon 6-0 408 2
3 FloridaFlorida 6-0 384 5
4 Kansas StateKansas State 6-0 361 6
5 Notre DameNotre Dame 6-0 352 7
6 LSULSU 6-1 344 10
7 Florida StateFlorida State 6-1 307 8
8 OklahomaOklahoma 4-1 302 11
9 South CarolinaSouth Carolina 6-1 287 3
10 USCUSC 5-1 266 9
11 Oregon StateOregon State 5-0 250 16
12 ClemsonClemson 5-1 230 12
13 GeorgiaGeorgia 5-1 218 14
14 Mississippi StateMississippi State 6-0 193 17
15 West VirginiaWest Virginia 5-1 180 4
16 LouisvilleLouisville 6-0 170 18
17 Texas A&MTexas A&M 5-1 150 19
18 StanfordStanford 4-2 144 13
19 RutgersRutgers 6-0 117 21
20 CincinnatiCincinnati 5-0 108 20
21 Texas TechTexas Tech 5-1 82 -
22 TCUTCU 5-1 74 22
23 Boise StateBoise State 5-1 60 23
24 MichiganMichigan 4-2 53 -
25 Arizona StateArizona State 5-1 18 -
 

Others Receiving Votes: Louisiana Tech 13, Wisconsin 5, Ohio 4, Nebraska 4, Iowa State 4, Northwestern 4, Oklahoma State 4, UCLA 3, Iowa 1

Teams Dropped Out From Last Week's Poll: Texas, Iowa State, Louisiana Tech

* The Legends Poll voting process is exactly what the BCS is trying to create and Athlon will bring it to you as the de facto Selection Committee for fans to follow over the next two seasons, allowing you to see how the Selection Committee will operate from 2014 onward.  You can see the entire Poll at www.legendschannel.com.

Teaser:
<p> As voted on by 17 coaching legends</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 05:55
Path: /news/ball-states-crazy-tip-drill-interception-highlights-win-over-wmu
Body:

The MAC is a conference known for its offensive fireworks, but Ball State used a little creativity on defense to beat Western Michigan on Saturday.

With Western Michigan ready to punch in a score to take a lead, the Cardinals tipped a pass intended for a receiver in the endzone. One tip is usually enough for a pass to be intercepted or caught, but this time, the ball was tipped twice and picked off. Another element to the play was another Ball State defender ripping the ball from a defensive lineman in an attempt to take it back for a score.

Teaser:
<p> Ball State's Crazy Tip Drill Interception Highlights Win over WMU</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 05:17
Path: /news/streaker-interrupts-texas-tech-west-virginia-game
Body:

Saturday's West Virginia-Texas Tech matchup was supposed to be one of the weekend's best games. However, the Red Raiders scored an easy 49-14 win, effectively ending any hopes the Mountaineers had of making the national title game.

Although the game had a few highlights, one of the best moments was when a streaker jumped onto the field in the second half. Although the streaker managed to make his way around the field, he was quickly nabbed before he removed all of his clothing.

The best part of this video? Watching the police in cowboy hats trying to catch and tackle the streaker.

Teaser:
<p> Streaker Interrupts Texas Tech-West Virginia Game</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 05:10
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-post-week-7-waiver-wire-report
Body:

This week's Waiver Wire may be the weakest of the season in regards to past fantasy performance, but the list offers several names with a lot of fantasy potential over the final six weeks of the season.  For those of you jockeying for a playoff spot, do not sleep on anyone listed below because you must assume that your opposition will not.

Trevone Boykin, QB-TCU

Boykin was impressive commanding the offense against Baylor on Saturday and his dual-threat ability adds extra value for owners needing quality depth at the quarterback position.

Taylor Kelly, QB-Arizona St

Kelly has thrown at least three touchdown passes in three consecutive games and has rushed for at least 40 yards in three of his six starts.

James Sims, RB-Kansas

Since his return from suspension, Sims has rushed for 344 yards and four touchdowns in three games and has carried the ball at least 27 times the past two weeks.

Jeff Scott, RB-Ole Miss

Scott has three 100-yard performances to his credit this season and has scored a touchdown in five of the six games in which he has played.

Bronson Hill, RB-Eastern Michigan

When a guy comes out of nowhere and rushes for 283 yards and four touchdowns this late in the season, we’re going to make room on our roster for him, especially when he plays in the MAC

Jeremy Hill, RB-LSU

We know the Tigers are loaded at running back, but don’t leave him on the waiver wire and let someone else have a shot at the talented freshman, especially if you play in a BCS-only league.

Devin Street, WR-Pitt

Street has caught at least ten passes in his last two games and has scored a touchdown in three of his last four.  Even better, the junior receiver should continue his hot streak over the next two weeks as the Panthers play Buffalo and Temple.

Richy Turner, WR-Nevada

Turner has caught at least seven passes in four of Nevada’s previous five games and has found the end zone two weeks in a row.

Jordan Leslie, WR-UTEP

Leslie is averaging five catches and 83 yards per game and has scored in four of seven contests.  UTEP’s six losses have all been by ten points or more, so expect the Miners’ to be playing from behind for most of the remainder of the season.


by Joe DiSalvo

Follow Joe on twitter (@theCFFsite)

Email:  joe@thecffsite.com

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: Post-Week 7 Waiver Wire Report</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 04:22
Path: /college-football/college-football-bcs-analysis-post-week-7
Body:

The first BCS standings for 2012 began where they ended in 2011 -- with an all-SEC title game scenario.

A near-unanimous No. 1 in the coaches’ and Harris polls, Alabama began in the BCS standings in the top spot. But the surprise was at No. 2.

Propelled by a No. 1 average in the computer polls, Florida opened the BCS standings at No. 2 ahead of Oregon. The Ducks were No. 2 in both human polls, but ranked sixth in the computer component.

Florida’s spot at No. 2 was a surprise, but yet another sign of the SEC’s dominance of the BCS rankings. Six SEC teams were in the top six -- Alabama, Florida, No. 6 LSU, No. 7 South Carolina, No. 11 Georgia, No. 12 Mississippi State).

The Gators’ rank was only part of the story in the disparity between the two human polls, which each count as one-third of the BCS formula, and the average of the six computer rankings. With a limited sample size, the computers are expected to digress from the human polls at this stage of the season.

Here are a few observations from the first release of the BCS standings:

BCS Standings: Oct. 14

Coaches Poll Harris Poll

Computer
 Avg.

1. Alabama 1 1 3
2. Florida 4 3 1
3. Oregon 2 2 6
4. Kansas State 3 4 4
5. Notre Dame 5 5 2
6. LSU 6 6 9
7. South Carolina 8 7 7
8. Oregon State 11 10 5
9. Oklahoma 7 9 10
10. USC 9 11 15
11. Georgia 12 12 17
12. Mississippi St 16 14 T-12
13. West Virginia 15 15 T-12
14. Florida State 10 8 28
15. Rutgers 17 17 11
16. Louisville 14 16 19

The computers love Florida. With road wins over Texas A&M, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, plus the win over LSU, the Gators were the No. 1 team in the computer average. Only the Richard Billingsley computer had Florida outside of the top two at No. 5. Florida ranked third in the Harris poll and fourth in the coaches poll. Florida will face three more BCS top-15 teams (South Carolina, Georgia and Florida State) during the regular season.

The computers also love Notre Dame. All six BCS computers had Notre Dame in the top four, resulting in the Irish’s computer rank averaging to No. 2. Notre Dame ranked fifth in both human polls. This sets up a huge game with BCS implications with No. 9 Oklahoma on Oct. 27. A win over Oklahoma may all but clinch a BCS berth for Notre Dame. A win over Notre Dame may be the Sooners back into the title picture.

Seeing a trend? Road wins against big teams matter. Oregon State barely cracked the top 10 in the human polls, but the Beavers are fifth in the computers thanks to road wins over UCLA, Arizona and BYU.

Oregon needs to make up ground... and it can. And the Ducks will have ample opportunity to do so. Despite being No. 2 in both human polls, the Ducks were ranked sixth or lower in five of the six computers. Four home games and none against BCS top 25 teams hammered Oregon in the schedule strength department, but the Ducks face three BCS top-25 teams in November (USC, Stanford, Oregon State).

Alabama has a commanding presence at No. 1. The Crimson Tide have a BCS average of 0.9761 compared to 0.9092 for Florida. The difference between Alabama and Florida is more than the difference between the No. 2 Gators and No. 5 Notre Dame. All 59 voters in the coaches’ poll and 110 of 115 voters in the Harris poll voted Alabama No. 1 on their ballots.

The non-AQ teams picked a bad year to have a down season. The Big Ten is absent from the first BCS standings. Normally, this news would be a boon to BCS busters. A champion of a non-automatic qualifying conference finishing in the top 16 would receive an automatic BCS bid. (Otherwise, a non-AQ champ has to finish in the top 12). Right now, that rule would not be in effect. Ohio is the only remaining undefeated team in the non-AQ conferences, but the Bobcats are absent from the BCS top 25. Instead, this may be better news for one-loss Boise State, ranked 22nd in the BCS. The Broncos would need to move up six slots to capture an automatic bid as long as the Broncos are ranked ahead of the Big Ten (or ACC, or Big East) champion. Ranked seventh the Associated Press poll, Ohio State is ineligible for the BCS standings.


Notes on BCS selection:
Automatic BCS bids go to the top two for the title game, the champions of the ACC (Orange Bowl), Big 12 (Fiesta), Big Ten (Rose), Pac-12 (Rose) and SEC (Sugar). The Big East’s automatic bid is not tied to a particular bowl.

Notre Dame receives an automatic bid if it finishes in the top eight.

A champion from a non-automatic qualifying league (Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt, WAC and non-Notre Dame independents) receive an automatic bid if it finishes in the top 12 of the standings or if it finishes in the top 16 and ahead of a champion from a non-AQ conference.

To be eligible for an at-large BCS bid, a team must have nine or more wins and finish in the top 14 of the BCS standings.

Once automatic tie-ins are placed, the selection order for BCS bids goes as follows: 1. The bowl losing the BCS No. 1 team to the championship game, 2. The bowl losing the BCS No. 2 team, 3. The Fiesta Bowl, 4. The Sugar, 5. The Orange.

By David Fox

@DavidFox615

Related College Football Content
Week 7 Recap: Notre Dame, Texas Tech make defensive statements
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Teaser:
<p> College Football: BCS Analysis Post-Week 7</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 19:51
Path: /mlb/st-louis-cardinals-vs-san-francisco-giants-nlcs-preview
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Neither the Giants nor the Cardinals made anything look easy in the NLDS. After losing the first two games at home, the Giants handed the Reds three losses in a row in Cincinnati, the only time the Reds dropped three straight at home all season. The Cardinals — stop me if you’ve heard this before — were down to their last strike twice, down two runs at Washington. Now the last two world champions will meet in a rematch of the 1987 and 2002 NLCS. The teams split six regular season games. The Giants outhit the Cardinals .281 to .247 but the Cardinals hit for extra bases and outslugged the Giants .428 to .389. San Francisco outscored St. Louis 30-22, but that included a 15-0 blowout. Bruce Bochy’s troops win with excellent pitching and just enough hitting. St. Louis relies on a potent offense, which at times struggles with inconsistency. They scored 2, 12, 8, 1 and 9 runs against the Nationals in the NLDS.

Keys for San Francisco
The Giants hit just .194 in the Reds’ series, getting outhit in two of their wins. They managed just three hits in their 10-inning win in Game 3. San Francisco cannot win games that turn into shootouts, but they love close, low-scoring games.

Keys for St. Louis
The Cardinals seem to manage the staff through the first six innings pretty well. Whether it’s Chris Carpenter shutting down teams, or relievers Joe Kelly et al picking up the slack when Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright couldn’t get through three innings. And closing out games can be an adventure, but when given run support, the Redbirds’ pitchers don’t throw away too many games. So getting the offense going will be the difference.

Giants to Watch
The offense revolves around Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey. However, center fielder Angel Pagan provided a huge spark in August and September and was instrumental in the wins at Cincinnati from his leadoff positon. The Cardinals will try to negotiate around the big hitters in the middle. If Marco Scutaro can be effective as a table-setter and Hunter Pence proves he can drive in big runs, the Giants will be tough to beat. It will be interesting to see whether Bochy goes with Tim Lincecum or Barry Zito in Game 4. The Giants have won 12 straight when Zito starts, but he struggled in Game 4 and was bailed out by Lincecum, who looked more like the Cy Young Lincecum than the out-of-sorts pitcher we’ve seen all season. Lincecum was certainly more effective than Zito, but is more suited to coming out of the pen, where he has proven to be a weapon.

Cardinals to Watch
Leadoff hitter Jon Jay is 11-for-18 against the scheduled starters for the first three games. With Jay on base in front of Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday and Allen Craig, life will be much more difficult for the Giants’ starters. Manager Mike Matheny, who has juggled lineups all season in an effort to keep guys sharp, has stuck with the same batting order in the postseason. But if he needs to change things up, look for Matt Carpenter in the lineup against Matt Cain. He was 4-for-4 this season off the Giants’ ace while David Freese was 0-for-4 with three Ks. However, I don’t see Matheny pulling Freese. Adam Wainwright appears to have hit a wall, not unexpected coming of Tommy John surgery and missing all of 2011. So Lance Lynn must step up and be the No. 3 starter behind Chris Carpenter and Kyle Lohse. Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal and rookie Shelby Miller could be instrumental out of the bullpen as reliever Mitchell Boggs is showing signs of fatigue.

SAN FRANCISCO IN 6

-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

Teaser:
<p> Athlon previews the Cardinals-Giants matchup in the NLCS.</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 13:16
Path: /college-football/college-football-week-7-recap-notre-dame-stops-stanford-aggies-manziel-shines
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The 24 hours before the first BCS standings of 2012 gave voters -- and computers -- plenty to consider.

Teams like Alabama and Oregon may be secure at the top of the polls, but other spots may be a mystery. LSU upended South Carolina’s dominance in another night game win in Baton Rouge. Against Texas, Oklahoma looked like a title contender, despite a loss to Kansas State on its resume. And Notre Dame, despite its juggling act at quarterback, may have the best defense North of Tuscaloosa, perhaps with the help of some beneficial officiating.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 7 RECAP: THREE AND OUT

MOVING THE CHAINS
Texas A&M 59, Louisiana Tech 57.
Good things come to those who stay up until 1 a.m. Eastern to watch college football. The late-night college football crowd watched one of the games of the year so far when Louisiana Tech overcame a 27-0 deficit to come within a fade pass into the end zone to force overtime against Texas A&M. The wild game included a 23-point second half comeback, 40-point fourth quarter, record-breaking heroics by Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel and 21-catch performance from Louisiana Tech receiver Quinton Patton. Louisiana Tech never led but scored two touchdowns in the final two minutes to keep the pressure on Texas A&M. And even in shootout, the little things matter -- Louisiana Tech had an extra point blocked in the second quarter, returned for two points for the Aggies.

Texas Tech’s pass defense. The aura of invincibility around the West Virginia came to a convincing end in Lubbock. After a setback against Oklahoma, the Texas Tech defense kept the pressure on Geno Smith like no defense has so far this season. The West Virginia quarterback was 29 of 55 for a season-low 275 yards with a touchdown. One of the worst pass defenses a year ago, Texas Tech held West Virginia to 5 yards per pass attempt, compared to the Mountaineers’ 9.4 yards per attempt entering the game. New defensive coordinator Art Kaufman, a former North Carolina assistant, has been the best assistant coach hire of the offseason.

Notre Dame in the clutch. A disputed call may have been the difference in the win over Stanford, but the Notre Dame defense again stifled a quality opponent in crunch time in the 20-13 win over Stanford. The Cardinal advanced to first and goal from the four, but Notre Dame held Stepfan Taylor to 3 yards on four consecutive carries, the last of which was ruled a stop before the end zone. Almost as important, Notre Dame clamped down on a Stanford drive to the 5 to force a field goal. On the disputed play, Fox Sports’ officiating guru Mike Pereira Tweeted the following:



FALSE STARTS
Texas’ last two years against Oklahoma
Early in the first quarter, Texas defensive back Quandre Diggs returned Oklahoma’s blocked extra point for two. For most of the Red River Rivalry, that was pretty much all that went right for Texas. In the final minute of the first half, Oklahoma had run more plays (52) as Texas had gained yards (48) in the eventual 63-21 rout. The loss was embarrassing enough for Texas, but the trends may be even worse. Oklahoma has outscored the Longhorns 118-38 the last two seasons. The Sooners’ 118 points against Texas since 2011 is the most against the Longhorns in a two-year span in the series. By allowing 677 yards, Texas has allowed 450 yards in three consecutive games. The pressure is on defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and coach Mack Brown, who is now 5-9 against Bob Stoops.

South Carolina Just a week ago, South Carolina looked like a dominant title contender, and LSU looked like it was stumbling through the SEC season. Both were on hold in Baton Rouge. LSU’s defense held serve until the offense could catch up as South Carolina amassed only 211 yards. Gamecocks running back Marcus Lattimore, who was automatic for about 100 yards and a touchdown in every game this season, rushed for only 34 yards and a touchdown against LSU. The Gamecocks were a paltry 3 of 13 on third down (compared to 11 of 19 for LSU), leaving South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier as exasperated as he’s been all season. The loss may not necessarily knock South Carolina out of the BCS title race, but puts more pressure on the Gamecocks against Florida next week.

Louisiana Tech’s BCS hopes. The thrilling finish for Louisiana Tech against Texas A&M was probably a good thing in exposing Sonny Dykes’ program to the masses, but the loss likely costs Louisiana Tech a trip to the BCS. The Bulldogs already defeated Illinois and Virginia on the road, but needed the win against Texas A&M to secure a spot for BCS inclusion. Despite the bowl picture, going toe to toe with Texas A&M in front of a late-night national crowd gave the program the most exposure it has seen in years. In related news, Ohio remains the only undefeated team in the BCS non-automatic qualifying leagues.

HEISMAN MOVERS
Collin Klein, Kansas State.
In typical fashion, Klein didn’t have the Heisman-capturing deep pass play or long run, but he did what he always does, grinding out yards and picking up third downs. Klein was 16 of 24 for 187 yards and rushed for 105 yards with three touchdowns to set up a key game against West Virginia and Geno Smith next week.

Geno Smith, West Virginia. Whether the windy conditions in Lubbock affected him (as coach Dana Holgorsen said) or not (as Smith contended), the Mountaineers quarterback had his worst game of the season. Smith still finished with a stat line most quarterbacks would love -- 29 of 55 for 275 yards with a touchdown. Smith remained an overwhelming favorite for player of the year entering the week, one bad performance may not derail his ability to win the Heisman. But it cracked open the door for others.

Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M. A freshman on a freshman team in the SEC has the top two single-game totals for total offense with 576 yards against Louisiana Tech and 557 yards against Arkansas, beating out records from Ole Miss’ Archie Manning and LSU’s Rohan Davey. No freshman has ever won the Heisman, but Manziel could make a case for votes -- prolific numbers for a winning team and making key plays (a 72-yard run in the fourth quarter that turned out to be the winning score.). He’s a Heisman moment waiting to happen on every play.

STAT WATCH
72.
With three touchdowns agains Purdue this week and 72 in his career, Wisconsin running back Montee Ball broke Ron Dayne’s Big Ten record of 71 career touchdowns. Ball isn’t going to be a Heisman finalist again, but he has returned to his 2011 form. Ball rushed for a career-high 247 yards in the 38-14 win over the Boilermakers, giving him seven touchdowns in three Big Ten games.

20. With four touchdowns on 11 carries against Texas, Oklahoma backup quarterback Blake Bell has 20 rushing touchdowns on 72 career carries. That gives “The Belldozer” a touchdown every 3.6 plays. By comparison, Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas averages a touchdown every eight plays. Granted, Thomas’s touches aren’t confined to goal line.

2.Through the midway point of the season, only two teams have not allowed an opponent to rush for 100 yards in a game. One is Alabama, which held Missouri to three rushing yards in a 42-10 win Saturday. The other is Rutgers, which limited Syracuse to 62 yards in a 23-15 win. Not surprisingly, both are 6-0.

 

SCORES THAT MAKE YOU GO ‘HUH?’
Oklahoma State 20, Kansas 14
Ohio State 52, Indiana 49
Texas State 38, Idaho 7
THREE SURPRISING 5-1 TEAMS
Arizona State
Kent State
Western Kentucky
THREE SURPRISING TEAMS UNDEFEATED IN CONFERENCE
Iowa (2-0 Big Ten)
Maryland (2-0 ACC)
Temple (2-0 Big East)

BURIED ON THE DEPTH CHART
Giovani Bernard’s hot streak. North Carolina can’t play in a bowl, but running back Giovani Bernard is a worthy candidate for postseason awards. Bernard rushed for 177 yards in an 18-14 win over Miami to give him 439 rushing yards the last two weeks against Virginia Tech and the Hurricanes. North Carolina is 5-0 when he plays and 0-2 when he doesn’t.

No panic at TCU. A week after TCU lost 37-23 to Iowa State days after quarterback Casey Pachall left the team, the Horned Frogs regrouped against Baylor. Redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin was stellar in his second start, finishing 22 of 30 for 261 yards with four touchdowns to go with 56 rushing yards and a score against a struggling Baylor defense. More impressive was an offense that forced six turnovers (four interceptions from four players and two recovered fumbles).

Tulane ends losing streak. The Green Wave ended the nation’s longest losing streak with a 27-26 win over SMU, snapping a 15-loss skid. With Army, Idaho and Memphis all ending eight-game losing streaks last week, the nation’s longest winless streak now belongs to Eastern Michigan. The Eagles put up a fight Saturday, but lost 52-47 to Toledo to extend their losing streak to eight games.

THREE KEY WEST COAST DEVELOPMENTS
USC’s pass game falls flat.
Matt Barkley and his receivers may still be the strength for the Trojans, but they haven’t been overwhelming since this first two weeks of the season. Against Washington, Barkley was 10 of 20 for 167 yards, the third time USC has passed for fewer than 200 yards this year. Silas Redd, who wasn’t even a part of the team until weeks before the season, carried the offense with 155 yards and a touchdown. Not to be ignored: The USC defense recovered four turnovers and the special teams blocked a punt in a 24-14 win over the Huskies.

Oregon State survives without Sean Mannion. Oregon State scored more touchdowns against BYU (five) than the Cougars had allowed all season (four). And the Beavers did it with a backup quarterback making his first start. Cody Vaz was 20 of 32 for 332 yards with three touchdowns in a 42-24 win over BYU, proving he can win on the road just as well as injured starter Sean Mannion.

Boise State gets stronger each week.The Broncos are out of the spotlight thanks to a rebuilding season, but they still manage to impress. Boise State dominated both sides of the run game against a solid Fresno State team. Boise State’s D.J. Harper and and Jay Ajayi combined for 213 rushing yards while the defense held the Bulldogs to 56 yards. Meanwhile, Boise State shut out its opponent in the first half for the fourth consecutive game.

THREE BREAKOUT PERFORMANCES
Jeremy Hill, LSU.
Just what LSU was lacking: Another quality running back. That’s sarcasm, but where had Hill been this season? The freshman had three carries in the last three games, but emerged for 124 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries against South Carolina.

Bo Wallace, Ole Miss. Four touchdowns in an SEC game have been tough to find for the Rebels over their 16-game conference losing skid. Wallace delivered one in style. The Ole Miss quarterback accounted for two touchdown runs, a touchdown pass and a touchdown catch in a 41-20 win over Auburn. It was Ole Miss’ first win over an SEC opponent since Sept. 25, 2010 against Kentucky.

J.C. Coleman, Virginia Tech. Have the Hokies finally found the answer to their stagnant run game? Coleman entered the game against Duke with 136 yards this season but responded with 183 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Duke. Virginia Tech had rushed for 136 yards a touchdown as a team in its two ACC games this season before Coleman’s breakout. The rookie from Chesapeake, Va., had touchdown runs of 45 and 86 yards against Duke.

DANG, THEY’RE GOOD
Alabama
Florida
Oklahoma
DANG THEY’RE BAD
Boston College
Kentucky
Texas
BEST GAMES NEXT WEEK
South Carolina at Florida
LSU at Texas A&M
Kansas State at West Virginia

THREE COMEBACKS
Virginia Tech 41, Duke 20.
For nearly a quarter, Duke looked prepared to make December plans not involving Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils jumped to a 20-0 lead on Virginia Tech in a dominating effort on both sides of the ball, including a interception returned for a touchdown off Logan Thomas. Duke’s long wait for a bowl eligibility will have to wait another week as the Hokies scored 41 unanswered points.

Temple 17, Connecticut 14 (OT). With its limitations in the passing game and an injured Matt Brown, Temple isn’t really built to stage a major comeback -- unless it has help. Connecticut obliged. The Huskies jumped to a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but an inept offense and four missed field goals allowed Temple to crawl back -- and crawl the Owls did. Temple didn’t tie the game until the final 19 seconds and then clinched the 17-14 win with a field goal in overtime.

Nevada 42, UNLV 37. Without starting quarterback Cody Fajardo, Mountain West contender Nevada fell behind 31-14 at halftime to lowly UNLV. Nevada regrouped in the second half with both Stefphon Jefferson and backup quarterback Devin Combs topping 100 rushing yards.

By David Fox

@DavidFox615

Teaser:
<p> College Football Week 7 Recap: Notre Dame stops Stanford, Aggies' Manziel shines</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 11:09
Path: /nfl/green-bay-packers-vs-houston-texans-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Two preseason favorites with drastically different 2012 results will meet on Sunday Night Football when the Houston Texans host the Green Bay Packers at 8:20 pm EST on NBC. The Texans are off to a perfect 5-0 start, besting their opponents by a combined 76 points on the season. Meanwhile, the Packers have languished through two excruciating losses in the last three weeks. A terrible call in Seattle and a blown 21-3 halftime lead in Indianapolis have Green Bay standing at 2-3 and in desperate need of a victory.

When the Houston Texans have the ball:
The Texans offense is tied for third in the NFL in scoring at 29.8 points per game, and they of course are led by Pro Bowl runner Arian Foster. The league’s second-leading rusher has 532 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, and he can be a threat in the passing game as well. Quarterback Matt Schaub has been excellent in spreading the ball around this season, as five Texans have already reached double-digits in receptions. Tight end Owen Daniels and veteran receiver Andre Johnson have been the top pass-catching targets, while fullback James Casey has been a solid dual-threat player with quality blocking and 16 catches on the year.

The Packers defense has been inconsistent against the run this season, and that cannot be the case versus Foster and the Texans. Another concern for Green Bay is the likely absence of defensive tackle B.J. Raji, who is listed as questionable with an ankle injury. If the Packers can limit the Houston run game, then they will have an opportunity to add to their NFL-leading sack total (T-1st with 18) against Schaub. Houston will definitely focus on Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews, who tops the entire league with eight sacks (0.5 ahead of Watt).

When the Green Bay Packers have the ball:
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense have not been able to find the same rhythm as last season, and the reigning MVP will be without several key weapons on Sunday night. Star wide receiver Greg Jennings is still out, and running back Cedric Benson was lost for the year with a foot injury suffered in the Colts loss. Additionally, tight ends Jermichael Finley (shoulder) and D.J. Williams (hamstring) are listed as questionable against Houston. The Green Bay offensive line must play well versus the formidable Texans pass rush, as Rodgers has been sacked 21 times in five games.

The Texans defense has been very stingy this season, ranking No. 3 in the NFL after five weeks. However, Houston suffered a huge blow last Monday night against the Jets when top linebacker Brian Cushing tore a knee ligament on a low block. Without their top tackler, the Texans will need to rally around replacement Tim Dobbins to continue their current momentum. Houston has found a star in second-year end J.J. Watt, who has seven and a half sacks and eight pass deflections on the season.

Key Factor:
The Packers defense must improve on its recent play to stay in this game, as Green Bay has allowed 57 points and over 900 yards in its last two contests. The undefeated Texans will be tough to beat at home in front of an electric crowd, as Houston has proven to be solid on all phases of the game this season. Look for the Packers to play inspired ball as they try to get back to .500, but for the better team to win a close one.

Prediction:
Texans 27 Packers 24


---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

Teaser:
<p> Green Bay Packers vs. Houston Texans Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-6-jerome-simpson-alex-smith-aaron-hernandez
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The injuries are piling up, the bye weeks are in full effect and there are some names in the fantasy world you did not think you would have to rely on so early. Such is life as a fantasy owner as we reach Week 6 of the 2012 NFL season. Here’s a little info about those that are injured or those replacing the injured that can hopefully help lead you to a fantasy victory this week.

 

Alex Smith, injury updateAlex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers vs. New York Giants
Alex Smith (finger on his throwing hand) is coming off of a 303-yard, three-touchdown game against visiting Buffalo and now gets another New York team at Candlestick. The Giants are ranked 22nd in defending fantasy quarterbacks, having allowed all starters to throw for at least 241 yards and all but Cam Newton to throw for at least one touchdown. Smith's three-TD game last week was his third multi-TD game of the season and he has just one interception. San Francisco is a running team and the Giants are 16th against fantasy running backs. Bye weeks for others, home game for Smith, friendly pass defense means he's worth a shot if you're looking.

 

Jerome Simpson, WR, Minnesota Vikings vs. Washington Redskins
A back injury has Jerome Simpson's status in the air for a late game at Washington today; he is listed as questionable. While the Redskins are the worst in the league at defending fantasy receivers, you just cannot take the risk with an iffy receiver in a late game that has done little since the return from his suspension. Simpson has four catches for 50 yards and is a waiver-wire prospect until further notice.

 

Aaron Hernandez, injury updateAaron Hernandez, TE, New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks

It appears Aaron Hernandez (ankle) is ready to make his return this week after being close last week. Seattle is the fourth-best team against fantasy tight ends, but we are talking Todd Heap, Jermichael Finley, Lance Kendricks and Greg Olsen to go along with a drop-happy Jason Witten in Week 2.Of course, you are starting a healthy Hernandez over any of the aforementioned, but therein lies the problem: How healthy is he? The Boston Globe is reporting that while Hernandez made the trip to Seattle and is expected to play it will likely be in a limited stint. The tight end field is deep and there is no need to take a chance on Hernandez against this defense in a late-afternoon game. Consider this one a scouting game; see how Hernandez does and hope for an increased role against the Jets in Week 7.

—   Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Which NFL player is healthy enough to start for your fantasy football team</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 07:55
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-6-brandon-pettigrew-ben-tate-brian-hartline
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Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Detroit LionsThe injuries are piling up, the bye weeks are in full effect and there are some names in the fantasy world you did not think you would have to rely on so early. Such is life as a fantasy owner as we reach Week 6 of the 2012 NFL season. Here’s a little info about those that are injured or those replacing the injured that can hopefully help lead you to a fantasy victory this week.

Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Detroit Lions vs. Philadelphia Eagles
A knee injury limited Brandon Pettigrew in practice this week but he is listed as probable and should start today against Philadelphia. But should you start him against the Eagles and their fifth-best defense against fantasy tight ends? Only Dennis Pitta has had over four catches and only Pitta has had over 41 yards against Philly this season. Pettigrew has eclipsed four and 41 in three of four games this season, in fact he's had at least five and 61 in those three games. But will he have to stay on the line to try and fend off that Eagles pass rush or can he roam free and help move the Lions down the field? He's worth a shot on a team that has attempted at least 32 passes every game and at least 42 in three of four games. Do keep in mind that Bear Pascoe has the only TD scored against the Eagles at the position this season.

 

Ben Tate, RB, Houston TexansBen Tate, RB, Houston Texans vs. Green Bay Packers (Sunday night)
The toe injury that kept Ben Tate out of the Monday night game against the Jets has him as probable on the injury report for this week's Sunday night game. The Houston Chronicle reports that Tate will play, but does he resume his more-than-a-handcuff role behind Arian Foster? The Chronicle goes on to say the team is hopeful he can get 10-12 touches. In the six games last season where Tate got 9-15 touches, he averaged 76.2 yards with two touchdowns. Sounds like Tate could be right back in his flex wheelhouse.

 

Brian Hartline, WR, Miami Dolphins vs. St. Louis Rams
Miami is still the 25th ranked team when it comes to wide receiver production and that is because the Dolphins don't score touchdowns at the position. Hartline has the lone score and that was as a part of his 12-253-1 day. He has never dipped below 50 yards receiving this season and he has the 253 and a 111-yard day. But you have to wonder if he is not going to settle in as a 4-59 guy like he was against a more than gracious fantasy WR defense like Cincinnati last week. Now Hartline gets a Rams team that allowed Larry Fitzgerald to go 8-for-92 on 15 targets last week - the most any receiver has been targeted against St. Louis this season. Outside of his 92-yard, no-TD day, the Rams have allowed four receivers to eclipse a 4-59 day (Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Leonard Hankerson and Brandon Marshall). It is Hankerson who has the lone wide receiver TD against St. Louis this season. Look elsewhere for a receiver this week as there is nothing to say Hartline can get loose against the Rams.

—   Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Which NFL player is healthy enough to start for your fantasy football team</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 07:45
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-6-adrian-peterson-hakeem-nicks-titus-young
Body:

The injuries are piling up, the bye weeks are in full effect and there are some names in the fantasy world you did not think you would have to rely on so early. Such is life as a fantasy owner as we reach Week 6 of the 2012 NFL season. Here’s a little info about those that are injured or those replacing the injured that can hopefully help lead you to a fantasy victory this week.

Adrian PetersonAdrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings vs. Washington Redskins
Whether he is in the clear after the knee surgery is not known, but five double-digit fantasy efforts is good enough for me. He is dealing with an ankle injury this week but was a full participant in practice on Thursday and Friday. Now he gets a Redskins team that is ranked 10th against fantasy running backs, mostly because they are ranked last against fantasy receivers and 30th against quarterbacks. Only three backs have had double-digit carries against Washington and two of them have had double-digit fantasy days. If Peterson is playing he is in your lineup.

 

Titus Young, WR, Detroit Lions vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Titus Young (knee) was limited in practice the last two days after missing Wednesday's practice. He is listed as probable and has a decent flex play matchup playing for a team that has attempted at least 42 passes in three of four games. The Eagles are ranked 14th against fantasy receivers, allowing No. 2 options to catch 21 balls for 347 yards (4.2 catches for 69 yards a game) to average 11.1 fantasy points in a PPR. Just because it's a relatively decent flex play doesn't mean Young should be in there. He has been stuck on three targets in three of the four games and caught one pass apiece in those games. His highlight of the year was the seven-target, six-catch, 75-yard, one-touchdown day against Tennessee - 46 yards and the score coming on a Hail Mary at the end of regulation.

 

Hakeem NicksHakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers
After missing the last three games (foot and knee), Hakeem Nicks made the trip to San Francisco and made it through two limited practices and Saturday's walkthrough. This one has all the makings of a one-play-and-injured again type of game. In addition to his durability is it being a late-afternoon start and the 49ers' fantasy defense against wide receivers. The team has allowed just one TD to receivers this season (Week 1). San Francisco faced Buffalo and the New York Jets the last two weeks - not a hot bed of reliable receivers - and played Minnesota, Detroit and Green Bay the first three weeks. Which group do you think had the better production? It was the first three, and that gives fantasy owners hopes against the 49ers. Percy Harvin had nine catches for 89 yards, Calvin Johnson had eight catches for 94 yards and the Packers' four-headed WR corps combined for 23 catches and 256 yards. It's a tough call with the health and the late start, but if you have Domenik Hixon or Ramses Barden, it might be worth the wait and plug in whoever goes.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Which NFL player is healthy enough to start for your fantasy football team</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 07:39
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-6-percy-harvin-martellus-bennett-malcom-floyd
Body:

The injuries are piling up, the bye weeks are in full effect and there are some names in the fantasy world you did not think you would have to rely on so early. Such is life as a fantasy owner as we reach Week 6 of the 2012 NFL season. Here’s a little info about those that are injured or those replacing the injured that can hopefully help lead you to a fantasy victory this week.

Percy HarvinPercy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings vs. Washington Redskins
Percy Harvin joined the injury report on Thursday with a hamstring but was a full participant in Friday's practice. He is listed as probable and you certainly are not going to sit fantasy's No. 8 receiver. And you won't sit him with such an appetizing matchup as he has today against a Washington Redskins team that allows the most points to fantasy receivers. The 'Skins have surrendered eight touchdowns, 77 catches and 1,234 yards thus far; ten receivers have eclipsed at least 60 yards against Washington. Six of the 10 had double-digit target days and five of them have the highest scoring fantasy days. Now the Redskins face Harvin, again the No. 8 fantasy receiver, who has done his damage with just three double-digit target days so far.

 

Martellus Bennett, TE, New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers
A knee injury hampered Martellus Bennett's day against Cleveland last week. He stayed in the game after suffering the injury in the first quarter and finished with three grabs for 30 yards. That was certainly not the kind of day we wanted to see with Hakeem Nicks out himself. Bennett, after drawing 23 targets for 15 catches, 185 yards and three scores the first three weeks of the season, has just four catches for 32 yards on seven targets the last two weeks. The luster might have worn off a bit, but chances are he will return to fantasy relevance later this season as injuries pile up and knowing that Eli Manning has gone to reliable tight ends in the past in new York. I am not playing Bennett today at the 49ers. The tight end class is deep and there is someone else like a Jermaine Gresham, Jacob Tamme or Owen Daniels that has a better matchup.

 

Malcom Floyd, WR, San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos (Monday night)
A groin injury has Malcom Floyd as questionable on the injury report and he was limited at practice on Friday but returned in full on Saturday. It is a little concerning since he is Philip Rivers' only reliable receiver at this point in the season. When did you think you'd ever read that sentence about Maclom Floyd? It is interesting to note that Floyd has never been targeted more than nine times as the team's No. 1 receiver this season. He has caught 20 of his 34 targets (58.8 percent) for 358 yards and one TD so far. Robert Meachem, the free agent signing, has 19 targets for nine catches and 159 yards and two scores. Antonio Gates has 13 catches for 143 yards and no scores on 25 targets. Monday, Rivers and Floyd get a Broncos team ranked 19th against fantasy receivers with five touchdowns and six receivers having already eclipsed 60 yards. The matchup is there but is the consistency from Floyd going to follow. That would be a tough Monday for me, knowing I had to depend on Floyd to bring home the week for me.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Which NFL player is healthy enough to start for your fantasy football team</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 07:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-6-josh-gordon-dustin-keller-darrius-heyward-bey
Body:

The injuries are piling up, the bye weeks are in full effect and there are some names in the fantasy world you did not think you would have to rely on so early. Such is life as a fantasy owner as we reach Week 6 of the 2012 NFL season. Here’s a little info about those that are injured or those replacing the injured that can hopefully help lead you to a fantasy victory this week.

 

Dustin KellerDustin Keller, TE, New York Jets vs. Indianapolis Colts
Dustin Keller (hamstring) has not played since Week 1 and has aggravated the injury already this season. He expects to play today and the Jets need him in the worse way. If Mark Sanchez is the starter and Keller is playing it's a decent combo. Keller was targeted 115 times last season for 65 catches, 815 yards and five TDs in 16 games. To put it in perspective, conflict between the two or not, No. 1 receiver Santonio Holmes was targeted 101 times in 16 games. The Colts have only allowed 11 catches for 97 yards and one TD to tight ends. You are likely not playing Keller but don't be surprised if he makes some noise in his expected return.

 

Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals
I told you to take a flier on Josh Gordon here last week and he came through with two touchdowns and 82 yards on just two catches from eight targets. The receiving injuries are about the same this week, and now add Jordan Norwood (foot) to the list. Gordon is about all Brandon Weeden has left outside of Greg Little; so Gordon is all Weeden has left. So take that flier again. In Week 2 against these Bengals, Little and Mohamed Massaquoi combined for 10 catches, 147 yards and a score on 14 targets - and that was with Trent Richardson getting 19 carries for 109 yards and a TD on the ground and 4-36-1 through the air. Since the Week 2 game, the Bengals have allowed five receivers to eclipse 60 yards, seven receivers to have at least five catches and have allowed six passing touchdowns. A matchup is a matchup is a matchup.

 

Darrius Heyward-BeyDarrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Oakland Raiders vs. Atlanta Falcons
Last time we saw DHB, he was being laid out in the end zone against Pittsburgh. A bye week and a return to practice later, and Heyward-Bey is listed as probable and slated to be back in the lineup this afternoon against the Falcons. Atlanta has allowed just three touchdowns to receivers this season and Santana Moss' two-catch, 80-yard, one-TD performance was the first time a receiver has had over 60 since Demaryius Thomas in Week 2. Coming off a concussion, the way the Falcons' defense is playing (258 yards allowed to Matt Cassel in Week 1 is a season high) and Oakland being on the road makes for a scary proposition.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Which NFL player is healthy enough to start for your fantasy football team</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 07:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-6-jermichael-finley-ryan-williams-donald-jones
Body:

The injuries are piling up, the bye weeks are in full effect and there are some names in the fantasy world you did not think you would have to rely on so early. Such is life as a fantasy owner as we reach Week 6 of the 2012 NFL season. Here’s a little info about those that are injured or those replacing the injured that can hopefully help lead you to a fantasy victory this week.

Jermichael Finley, Green Bay PackersJermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay Packers vs, Houston (Sunday night)
Jermichael Finley (shoulder) is questionable as of today on the injury report and considered a game-time decision. Bum shoulder or not, Finley has probably already reached droppable status in most leagues. He is ranked 18th at TE in PPR leagues with 22 catches for 198 yards and one TD on 31 targets. With receiver Greg Jennings (groin) already ruled out and Finley questionable, tight end D.J. Williams could possibly be in play, but the Packers are ranked 17th in the league in fantasy TE scoring. It's probably best to avoid all Packers not named Aaron Rodgers or James Jones this week.

 

Ryan Williams (William Powell), RB, Arizona Cardinals vs. Buffalo
Ryan Williams went on season-ending IR last week after the shoulder injury he suffered against St. Louis. With Beanie Wells already on designated-to-return IR and out until Week 12 that left owners salivating at the wire to pick up a gem - a starting RB for an NFL team in Week 6. That doesn't come along too often and when it does it rarely produces. Then there's the Cardinals. They are already ranked 31st in fantasy production from the RB position, so whether you go and grab William Powell or LaRod Stephens-Howling, it's hard to imagine either being productive in the short-term, long term or even against a terrible defense like Buffalo today. The Bills matchup is a juicy one because they are 31st against fantasy running backs, but unless you are in a DEEEEEP league, there is no reason to start a Cardinals running back. 

Donald Jones, Buffalo BillsDonald Jones, WR, Buffalo Bills vs. Arizona Cardinals
Donald Jones is questionable but is likely to play despite being listed on the report with a head injury. But it is Donald Jones. The Bills are terrible all the way around. Ryan Fitzpatrick has the accuracy of most of my articles and the team boasts the 27th-ranked fantasy receivers in the NFL. Outside of Jones' two-catch, 90-yard, one-TD performance against New England in Week 4, no only Steve Johnson in Week 3 has eclipsed 60 yards (7-61-1). Arizona is ranked 20th against fantasy receivers and most of that comes from the Week 4 game against Miami in which it allowed Brian Hartline and Davone Bess to combine for 19 catches, 376 yards and a score. Can you believe you just read that? It probably lends credence to the fact that Jones could be a good play if those two did that to Arizona just two weeks ago.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Which NFL player is healthy enough to start for your fantasy football team</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 07:25
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-6-daniel-thomas-steven-jackson-marshawn-lynch
Body:

The injuries are piling up, the bye weeks are in full effect and there are some names in the fantasy world you did not think you would have to rely on so early. Such is life as a fantasy owner as we reach Week 6 of the 2012 NFL season. Here’s a little info about those that are injured or those replacing the injured that can hopefully help lead you to a fantasy victory this week.

Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis RamsSteven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams vs. Miami Dolphins
While Reggie Bush and Lamar Miller will have a tough road against the Rams' run defense, the same can be said for Steven Jackson. For the first time in a while, Jackson is not on the injury report, however, he is facing the eighth-ranked fantasy run defense. Jackson has faced three top-six fantasy run defenses each of the last three weeks and averaged 15.6 carries for 53.3 yards with no scores. At least he doesn't tease us like Chris Johnson and is consistently a bad fantasy play.

 

Daniel Thomas, RB, Miami Dolphins vs. St. Louis Rams
Daniel Thomas lands on the injury report with a concussion for the second time this season. He is out for today's game against the Rams. Reggie Bush is on the injury report with a knee but. All of this means more touches for rookie Lamar Miller. However, there are two major problems for Miller today. One: He did not see a touch last week. Two: The St. Louis run defense. Miller had 10 carries in Week 2, nine carries in Week 3, four carries in Week 4 and none last week. See a trend? Hard to trust as him as an even a flex when his carries have trended downward to zero. The Rams have allowed four rushing touchdowns and Alfred Morris (89) and Marshawn Lynch (118) are the only two backs to eclipse 65 yards.

 

Marshawn LynchMarshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks vs. New England Patriots
Marshawn Lynch (back) is on the injury report but practiced in full on Friday and Saturday and should be good to go against the Patriots and their ninth-ranked fantasy defense. Lynch is the only Seahawk fantasy option of any consistency this year, but beware he does get a defense that has allowed just one rushing touchdown and one game above 51 yards - Ray Rice had both in Week 3 (20-101-1).

— Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Which NFL player is healthy enough to start for your fantasy football team</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 07:20
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-6-donald-brown-cedric-benson-andre-brown
Body:

The injuries are piling up, the bye weeks are in full effect and there are some names in the fantasy world you did not think you would have to rely on so early. Such is life as a fantasy owner as we reach Week 6 of the 2012 NFL season. Here’s a little info about those that are injured or those replacing the injured that can hopefully help lead you to a fantasy victory this week.

Cedric Benson, RB, Green Bay PackersCedric Benson, RB, Green Bay Packers vs. Houston Texans
Cedric Benson went on the designated to return IR with a Lisfranc injury and will miss the next eight weeks. The Packers' attempt to run the ball was no joke through five weeks. Benson had days of nine, 20, 17 and 18 carries and had seven when he went down in the first quarter last week. Green Bay rushed at least 17 times with one back just once last year (Ryan Grant, 17-92 in Week 3) and never eclipsed 13 afterwards. Alex Green is the "hot hand" for the Packers and should get first crack at keeping a running game alive for Green Bay. He stepped in for Benson last week and went 9-for-55 and one catch for six yards. There are two major downers for Green this week: James Starks is back and the Packers are facing a Texans team that is ranked seventh against fantasy RBs. This is a good week to monitor how the Packers use the two backs and then play the weekly matchups based on your deduction. Sit them this week, however.

 

Donald Brown, RB, Indianapolis Colts vs. New York Jets
Donald Brown had knee surgery on Tuesday and now Vick Ballard gets the start in his place. For fantasy, it is encouraging because the Colts' backfield becomes a little less crowded for a few weeks. Brown is ranked as fantasy's 29th-best RB. The Jets of just a few years ago are long gone. They are 29th against fantasy running backs, having allowed singular days of 169 and 152 yards and a touchdown each to C.J. Spiller and Arian Foster and double-dips from Daniel Thomas and Reggie Bush (130 yards and one TD), Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter (118 yards and two TDs). Ballard was averaging 4.2 carries while Brown was getting 15 carries per game. Now that it is Ballard's backfield, he should be able to have solid production against a team that cannot stop the run.

 

Andre Brown, RB, New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers
Andre Brown, the waiver wire darling from Weeks 2 and 3, suffered a concussion against Cleveland last week and has been ruled out for today's game at San Francisco. He had five carries the week before and was injured during a first-quarter kickoff. Rookie David Wilson re-entered the picture behind Ahmad Bradshaw and scored his first NFL TD (40 yards in the fourth quarter). He finished with just two carries for 44 yards and the score. Bradshaw was the hot hand with 30 carries for 200 yards and a score and four catches for 29 yards. It's hard to determine how this will work. Yes, Bradshaw was hot, but for Wilson to get just two carries is a little concerning. Also concerning is that the Giants are on the road at a 49ers team that is No. 1 against fantasy running backs with just 287 yards and no TDs allowed this season. Like Green vs. the Texans, you might want to use this one as strictly observation on Wilson. But Brown might be back next week and everything is in the air again.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Which NFL player is healthy enough to start for your fantasy football team</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 07:15
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-6-matt-cassel-robert-griffin-iii-christian-ponder
Body:

RG3, Robert Griffin III, Washington RedskinsThere are a few key fantasy contributors that have had a number of injury question marks surrounding their playing status leading up to Week 6 of the 2012 NFL season. Here’s a little bit about these players and what you should consider.

 

Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins vs. Minnesota Vikings
Knocked out of last week's game against Atlanta with a concussion, RGIII has passed all his tests this week and did practice this week. Minnesota is 14th against fantasy quarterbacks and second-best against fantasy running backs through five games. The Vikings have allowed all five opponents to throw for at least 200 yards and at least one touchdown and at least 31 attempts. If Griffin is active, he's active in your lineup. Even getting knocked out in the third quarter of last week's game, RGIII is still fantasy's third-best QB this season.

 

Matt Cassel (Brady Quinn), QB, Kansas City Chiefs  vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Matt Cassel was knocked out of last week's game against Baltimore with a concussion and is out for this week's game against the Buccaneers. Brady Quinn entered last week and was 3-of-3 for 32 yards. Today will be his first start since 2009 and he is a 52.5-percent passer with a QB rating of 67.3 for his career. Yes, this is the bye weeks and you might be hurting. Yes, Tampa Bay is allowing the eighth-most fantasy points to QBs and are ranked 12th against fantasy RBs. Outside of two-QB leagues, look elsewhere.

 

Christian Ponder, QB, Minnesota Vikings vs. Washington Redskins
Christian Ponder (knee inflammation) has to be the favorite bye-week replacement quarterback this week. He has thrown for two touchdowns in three of his first five games season and for at least 245 yards in three of five games. His interceptions on back-to-back series against Tennessee last week were his first two picks of the year. Now Ponder gets a Redskins team today that is ranked 30th against fantasy quarterbacks. Washington has allowed multi-touchdown games in four of five games and 300-plus yard days in those same four games. The lone outlier is Josh Freeman's 299-yard, one-touchdown, one-interception game.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Who's healthy enough to start for your fantasy football team&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 07:10
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-6-miles-austin-demaryius-thomas-jacob-tamme
Body:

The injuries are piling up, the bye weeks are in full effect and there are some names in the fantasy world you did not think you would have to rely on so early. Such is life as a fantasy owner as we reach Week 6 of the 2012 NFL season. Here’s a little info about those that are injured or those replacing the injured that can hopefully help lead you to a fantasy victory this week.

Miles AustinMiles Austin, WR, Dallas Cowboys vs. Baltimore Ravens
A bye week later and Miles Austin is still on the injury report (hamstring), but he's probably always going to be on the injury report. Now he and the Cowboys' struggling offense travel to Baltimore to take on a Ravens team that has been friendly to opposing fantasy receivers. Dwayne Bowe (6-60), Greg Little (4-77), Brandon Lloyd (9-108) and Wes Welker (8-142), DeSean Jackson (7-114) and A.J. Green (5-70) and Andrew Hawkins (8-86) all had double-digit days in PPR leagues against the Ravens. The only thing Baltimore is stingy on is the TD production as just two of them have been surrendered to fantasy receivers this year and they surrendered just eight to the position last year. Austin is one of those that you are starting as long as he is healthy and as long as Dez Bryant continues to consistently play inconsistent.

 

Jacob Tamme, TE, Denver Broncos vs. San Diego Chargers (Monday night)
Every Joel Dreessen touchdown is just a gut-punch to Jacob Tamme owners. Tamme has not had one of those since Week 1. But fantasy owners can take solace in the fact that it is Tamme that helps get Dreessen into position. He has 36 targets to Dreessen's 16 and 21 catches to JD's 11. But it's those three scores that have Dreessen ahead of Tamme in points at the TE position for Denver. A groin injury has Tamme listed as probable on the injury report, and Dreessen TDs or not, you can't bench Tamme. He has 27 of his 36 targets in the last three weeks and could be in a shootout Monday night with San Diego. Enjoy the targets and hope for the occasional bone in the red zone.

 

Demaryius Thomas, Denver BroncosDemaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos vs. San Diego Chargers (Monday night)
A hip injury lands Demaryius Thomas on the report as probable but he did practice in full on Saturday in advance of the Monday night game with San Diego. And what a matchup he has in store for him in prime time. The Chargers just allowed two New Orleans receivers to go over 120 yards and each score TDs. A week earlier Dwayne Bowe went 7-108-1 and even Jonathan Baldwin posted a 4-50 day. A week before that Atlanta's dynamic duo of Julio Jones and Roddy White combined for 10 catches, 122 yards and one score. Thomas has had 11 targets in three of the five games this season and in the two he didn't he had five catches for 110 and 103 yards. Wow.

 

— Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Who's healthy enough to start for your fantasy football team</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 07:05
Path: /mlb/alcs-preview-tigers-over-yankees
Body:

On Sept. 17, the Tigers lost a make-up game to the White Sox that dropped Detroit three games behind Chicago in the American League Central and not even in the wild card discussion. The Tigers finished 11-5 and flipped the standings ending the season with a three-game lead over Chicago. During that time, the Tigers’ starting pitching found a groove. The Yankees, on the other hand, took over first place on June 11 and built a 10-game lead by mid-July before hanging on over Baltimore down the stretch.

The Yankees won six of 10 meetings during the regular season. CC Sabathia struck out 20 in 21.1 innings and allowed 20 hits in his three starts agains the Tigers this season. Sabathia will face Tigers’ ace Justin Verlander in Game 3 and again in Game 7 if the series goes down to the wire. Both pitched complete games in their respective Game 5s in the Division Series.

Keys for Detroit
The Tigers’ offense begins and ends with the two big guys in the middle, triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera, and his protection Prince Fielder. But the Tigers will live and die with starting pitching. Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez combined to go 12-4 with a 2.21 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in September. That level of performance continued in the playoffs. Detroit starters held Oakland hitters to a .176 average in their five-game series. They had 41 strikeouts but allowed just 21 hits and 10 walks. Setup man Joaquin Benoit, and especially Jose Valverde, were horrible in the ALDS. That can’t help Jim Leyland’s confidence in his bullpen, which was so good last season. That will put added pressure on the starters to go deeper in games.

Keys for New York
The Yankees must get their bats going. They hit just .211 in the five games with Baltimore. Manager Joe Girardi was able to push all the right buttons, but the lineup can’t rely on clutch swings off the bench to carry the team through a seven-game series. Girardi, who was dealing with the death of his father, was masterful in the Division Series. Whether it was pinch-hitting twice for Alex Rodriguez with the game on the line or benching his aging star for Game 5, Girardi earned his money with tough decisions. But only Derek Jeter (.364) and Mark Teixeira (.353) hit better than .217 off Baltimore pitching. A-Rod wasn’t the only hitter struggling.

Tigers to Watch
Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister will each get two starts if the series goes six games. Fister won his only start against New York this season, but Sanchez was hit hard, lasting just three innings with seven earned runs in his start. First baseman Fielder didn’t have a good series against Oakland stats-wise, but looking a little deeper into his at-bats reveals that he was hitting the ball well. He was robbed of at least four hits with good defensive plays and backed up Oakland outfielders to the track on more than one occasion. If his line drives begin to find holes, he’ll be tough for New York hurlers to deal with.

Yankees to Watch
Lefthander Clay Rapada will have some opportunities to neutralize Fielder. But he could be used to get more than just lefties out. Players on the Tigers roster are 1-13 off Rapada with the only hit by Quintin Berry. Rodriguez and his fragile psyche will certainly grab media attention whether he is in the lineup and no matter where he is in the batting order. But A-Rod isn’t the only Yankee struggling. Second baseman Robinson Cano, who was so good down the stretch, is just 2-for-22.  

Detroit in 5

-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

Teaser:
<p> Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees ALCS Preview</p>
Post date: Saturday, October 13, 2012 - 15:34

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