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Path: /college-football/nebraska-cornhuskers-vs-penn-state-nittany-lions-2013-game-preview-and-prediction
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Penn State and Nebraska are in the midst of semi-disappointing seasons, so it’s appropriate both teams meet in late November looking to get back on track.

The Cornhuskers lost 41-28 to Michigan State last week, which essentially clinched the Legends Division for the Spartans. In the loss, Nebraska outgained Michigan State 392 to 361 but committed five turnovers.

The Nittany Lions lost 24-10 to Minnesota in Week 11 but rebounded by beating Purdue 45-21. Penn State went 8-4 in Bill O’Brien’s first season and could finish with that mark once again, provided the Nittany Lions beat Nebraska and win at Wisconsin on Nov. 30. While finishing 8-4 once again is a difficult assignment, Penn State had to replace a handful of key players from its 2012 squad, and true freshman Christian Hackenberg is still learning the ropes at quarterback.

Nebraska owns an 8-7 edge in the overall series against Penn State. The Cornhuskers have claimed the last three games against the Nittany Lions, including a 17-14 victory in Happy Valley in 2011. Nebraska won 32-23 in Lincoln last year.

Penn State vs. Nebraska

Kickoff: 3:30 ET
TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Spread: Penn State -2

Penn State’s Key to Victory: Mistake-free game from QB Christian Hackenberg
In last week’s loss against Michigan State, Nebraska committed five turnovers and lost 41-28. But that’s not the biggest concern for coach Bo Pelini. The Cornhuskers have lost the turnover margin in each of their last five games, which was also a significant factor in a loss to Minnesota. In Penn State’s last two losses (Minnesota, Ohio State), Bill O’Brien’s team had a negative turnover margin. In their last two wins, the Nittany Lions were a +1 in turnover margin. Both teams have a freshman quarterback, and both plan to give a heavy dose of the rushing attack on offense. But it’s no secret there’s not much separating these teams. With that in mind, a turnover or two could swing this game in favor of one side.

Nebraska’s Key to Victory: Establish Ameer Abdullah
Penn State had to replace four starters in its front seven this preseason, and at times, this unit has struggled to stop the run. After six Big Ten games, Penn State ranks seventh in the conference in run defense, allowing 172.2 yards per game. Due to allowing 408 rushing yards against Ohio State, the Nittany Lions’ defensive numbers are slightly skewed, but the front seven was gashed by UCF for 219 yards, 150 against Indiana and 195 versus Minnesota. Michigan State’s front seven is arguably the best in the Big Ten, and Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah managed 123 yards on 22 attempts. With freshman Tommy Armstrong starting once again this Saturday, Abdullah needs to carry the offense. If the junior has a strong performance, it will help relieve some of the pressure on Nebraska’s young quarterback.

Key Player: Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong
As a freshman, it’s no surprise Armstrong has experienced his share of ups and downs. Through seven games, he is completing 53 percent of his passes, while tossing seven picks and seven scores. Armstrong struggled in last week’s loss to Michigan State (9 of 21), but the Cornhuskers won’t have to rely solely on his arm to win, especially with Abdullah performing at a high level. Keep an eye on Armstrong’s mobility this Saturday. The freshman rushed for 69 yards in a win over Northwestern, and after Penn State allowed Minnesota’s Philip Nelson to run for 40 yards and Ohio State’s Braxton Miller to run for 68, Armstrong should have opportunities to make plays with his legs.  

Final Analysis

Expect a close one between these two teams on Saturday afternoon. Nebraska’s offense is limited with quarterback Tommy Armstrong still learning on the job, and Penn State’s defense ranks ninth in Big Ten-only games. Whichever team can get its rushing game on track, while limiting turnovers will have a slight edge. The Nittany Lions are 3-0 at home in Big Ten play this year, but an improving Cornhusker defense is just enough to give Bo Pelini’s team a slight edge.

Prediction: Nebraska 27, Penn State 24

Teaser:
Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Penn State Nittany Lions 2013 Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 22, 2013 - 07:16
Path: /college-football/west-virginia-or-tcu-which-programs-decline-2013-has-been-more-surprising
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West Virginia and TCU are arguably the biggest disappointments in the Big 12 this year.

Losing to Kansas will prevent West Virginia from playing in a bowl for the first time since 2001, and the Mountaineers need to beat Iowa State in the season finale to avoid a 4-8 mark.

TCU was picked by most to finish in the top half of the Big 12.

However, the Horned Frogs are 4-7 headed into their season finale against Baylor next week.

Both programs have a difficult transition to the Big 12, so it will take time to recruit and build the program to compete consistently for conference titles.

West Virginia or TCU: Which programs decline in 2013 has been more surprising?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I’ve been more surprised with TCU’s decline this season. This was expected to be a rebuilding year for West Virginia, and that’s exactly what has played out in Morgantown. Dana Holgorsen is feeling a lot of pressure, but I think it’s too early to put the third-year coach on the hot seat. The Mountaineers had to move to a tougher conference, and only 11 starters are back from last season. West Virginia has lost three conference games by 10 points or less and most of this team returns in 2014, so there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic in Morgantown. TCU was picked by most to finish in the top half of the Big 12. But the Horned Frogs have dropped four out of their last five games, with Iowa State and Kansas representing the only conference wins for Gary Patterson’s team. Much like West Virginia, TCU has been dealing with a handful of injuries and much of this team’s core returns for 2014. Maybe the preseason expectations were too high for the Horned Frogs, but it seems this team has too much talent to be finishing 4-8. I expect both teams to rebound next year. However, it will be a long offseason for both coaches and programs.

Mark Ross
To me it's TCU. I didn't have high expectations for West Virginia to begin with because this was a team that lost a ton of offensive talent to the NFL and needed every bit of it last season just to finish 7-6. TCU, on the other hand, was returning most of its starting defense, a unit that finished among the top 30 teams in the nation in 2012 in three (total, scoring, rushing) of the four major categories. I thought the Horned Frogs were a darkhorse Big 12 contender this fall, but Gary Patterson's team just hasn't been able to put it all together. TCU isn't a bad team by any stretch, with just three double-digit losses and none by more than 14 points. But four losses in its last five games, two of them by a combined five points, means no bowl for the Horned Frogs for the first time in nine seasons. Patterson knew things would be tougher for his team when TCU joined the Big 12 last season. I just don't think even he expected this season to play out like this, not with all of the experience that was returning. There's enough talent on the roster for TCU to rebound in 2014. But while Horned Frogs fans are hoping that the third time around the Big 12 is the charm for their team, it's no stretch to say that the challenge that awaits for Patterson and his coaching staff is something entirely new.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Both team's seasons are surprising, though both have dealt with plenty of roster tumult. TCU has had Casey Pachall in and out of the lineup, defensive end Devonte Fields essentially has been a nonfactor, and linebacker Joel Hasley left the team before the season. West Virginia has dealt with similar injuries all season, particularly to veterans on the defense. If this makes sense, I’d say TCU’s 2013 season is the bigger surprise, but the trajectory for West Virginia is the bigger disappointment. TCU was bound to stumble moving into the Big 12, though I thought the offense would do just enough to keep the Horned Frogs competitive. It’s certainly better with Pachall back, but 4-7 is an awfully big fall. Pachall returned and the Horned Frogs offense put 27 on West Virginia, 21 on Iowa State and 31 on Kansas State. That’s enough to prove that had everyone stayed healthy, TCU’s probably looking at seven or eight wins. But West Virginia’s fall has been more dramatic. This was once one of the most consistent programs in the country, but the Mountaineers have gone 6-13 since Oct. 13, 2012. The program needed to flee the Big East, but it was clearly ill-equipped for the Big 12. This decline in 2013, though, makes me wonder if West Virginia will ever get back to where it was under Rich Rodriguez. Momentum is gone. The team has no identity. And recruiting is going to have some major hurdles. West Virginia is too far from Texas and doesn’t play in the Southeast, particularly Florida where the Mountaineers have had success. Rebuilding is going to be tough.

Teaser:
West Virginia or TCU: Which programs decline in 2013 has been more surprising?
Post date: Friday, November 22, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-college-football-week-13-picks
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Like it or not, Las Vegas rarely gets it wrong, so tracking betting lines should always be a big part of each football weekend — even if there are no bets on the line. Vanderbilt and Baylor both scored late last week to give me two back door covers and it salvaged my weekend. The games I felt the best about — Kansas State and South Carolina — disappointed in a big way. For the season, however, I am still in the black.

2013 Record Against the Spread: 35-28-1 (2-3 last week)

Week 13 Picks of the Week:

Baylor (-9.5) at Oklahoma State
The Bears are clicking on all cylinders on offense. But so is Oklahoma State. These are the top two scoring offenses in the Big 12 and these two combined for nearly 1,200 yards of offense in last season's meeting. Baylor hasn’t won in Stillwater since 1939 and the Pokes are playing the best football of the season. Oklahoma State may not win outright but nearly 10 points at home for a Mike Gundy offense seems like way too much to me. Prediction: Oklahoma State +9.5

Utah (+1.5) at Washington State
The Utes are without star quarterback and offensive force Travis Wilson this weekend and likely for the rest of the season. Washington State is poised to make a bowl game for the first time in a decade in Mike Leach’s second season. Utah has lost four straight and has been competitive at home but has lost three Pac-12 road games by an average of 16 points. Take the Cougars’ underrated defense to cover this spread fairly easily. Prediction: Washington State -1.5

Michigan State (-7) at Northwestern
Northwestern is on the verge of utter and complete collapse and Michigan State is staring at a Big Ten Legends Division championship. Should the Spartans win, they would clinch the division and nothing about Northwestern’s struggling offense indicates it can score on the nation’s best defense. The tall grasses of Ryan Field actually help Sparty’s physical style of play and it means the Wildcats have no chance to win. Prediction: Michigan State -7

Hawaii (+5.5) at Wyoming
The Warriors haven’t won a game this season and this weekend won’t be the first. Hawaii is scoring 19.6 points per game on the road and giving up 38.4 on the road. The Cowboys have been crushed the last two weeks but that came against the best two teams in the Mountain West (Boise State and Fresno State) and that seems to have skewed the line. It will be cold in Laramie and Norm Chow’s bunch won’t be competitive. Prediction: Wyoming -5.5

Week 13 Previews and Predictions: ACC | Big 12 Big Ten Pac-12 SEC

Top 25 Picks Against the Spread:

Note: games with FCS opponents won't be included each week

Top 25 GamesMitch LightBraden GallSteven LassanDavid Fox
Idaho (+57) at No. 2 Florida St
Indiana (+34.5) at No. 3 Ohio St
No. 4 Baylor (-9.5) at No. 10 Oklahoma St
No. 5 Oregon at Arizona
No. 8 Missouri (-3) at No. 24 Ole Miss
Cal (+31.5) at No. 9 Stanford
No. 12 Texas A&M (+4.5) at No. 22 LSU
No. 13 Michigan St (-7.5) at Northwestern
No. 17 Arizona St (-1.5) at No. 14 UCLA
New Mexico (-31.5) at No. 15 Fresno St
No. 19 Wisconsin (-16.5) at No. 25 Minnesota
No. 20 Oklahoma (+4.5) at Kansas St
Memphis (+24.5) at No. 21 Louisville
No. 23 USC (-22.5) at Colorado
Last Week:8-8-17-9-17-9-110-6-1
Year-To-Date:99-92-495-96-494-97-4101-90-4

 

Teaser:
Betting Against the Spread: College Football Week 13 Picks
Post date: Friday, November 22, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-freshman-power-rankings-nov-22
Body:

In the last week, Duke all but wrapped up the No. 1 signing class for 2014 by adding Justise Winslow (the No. 11 recruit in the nation) to a class that already included center Jahlil Okafor (No. 1) and point guard Tyus Jones (No. 5).

Duke fans, no doubt, are excited for the 2014 freshman class, but the 2013 class is already plenty of fun. Namely Jabari Parker.

Parker took the top spot this week in the freshman power rankings by continuing his all-around effort and highlight reel play through Duke’s first five games. He may stay here for a while. Or next week may bring a new No. 1. Such is the nature of this year’s freshman class.

Athlon Sports is keeping an eye on the year of the freshmen with a weekly power ranking of the top rookies around the country. Keep in mind, these power rankings are not meant as a reflection of how these guys are going to fall in the NBA Draft, nor is it meant to be an All-America team of sorts.

The weekly freshman power rankings is more of a ranking of who has the momentum and buzz in recent games.

Did we miss anyone? Think we got this wrong? Tweet us at @AthlonSports.

2013-14 Freshman Power Rankings: Nov. 22

1. Jabari Parker, Duke
Last week: 2
We knew when the season began Parker would be one of the nation’s top freshmen and a player of the year contender. Seeing this happen is a little different. If he was only scoring — Parker is the first player under Mike Krzyzewski at Duke to top 20 points in his first five carer games — he’d still be an All-American. But Parker is also averaging 8.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists while shooting 65 percent from the field. Against East Carolina on Tuesday, Parker came out of nowhere to block six shots and throw in this coast-to-coast dunk for good measure.
 

2. Julius Randle, Kentucky
Last week: 1
Randle has had a double-double in all five games this season, averaging 20.8 points and 13.4 rebounds. Kentucky is still figuring out how to play as a team, but Randle is looking just about automatic. With games against Michigan State’s and Baylor’s frontcourts in the first month of the season, Randle will have earned all his accolades.

3. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Last week: 3
Wiggins has played fewer games than the Parker or Randle, but he’s been no less impressive. He scored 13 points with seven rebounds, three assists and two steals on Tuesday against Iona, Kansas’ only game since the Champions Classic win over Duke.

4. Noah Vonleh, Indiana
Last week: 7
Vonleh had double-doubles in each of his first four games going into Thursday’s matchup with Washington. Vonleh missed extending that streak by one rebound, finishing with 18 points and nine rebounds. Vonleh was 13 of 21 from the field last week.

5. Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Last week: 6
Gordon hasn’t had the showcase of the other top freshmen this season, but he’s often mentioned in the same breath. In his marquee game — on the road against San Diego State — Gordon displayed his all-around game with 16 points, eight rebounds, three steals, two blocks and two assists.

6. James Young, Kentucky
Last week: 5
Young shot 35.5 percent from the field and 25 percent from 3-point range through the first four games of the season, but he responded from John Calipari’s criticism with 26 points against UT Arlington on Tuesday. Young was 8 of 14 from the field and 5 of 10 from beyond the arc against the Mavericks.

7. Joel Embiid, Kansas
Last week: NR
Embiid was quiet through the first two games of the season, though he had seven rebounds and five assists against Duke. The seven-foot freshman had his breakout Tuesday with 16 points on 7-of-7 shooting and 13 rebounds against Iona.

8. Ben Emelogu, Virginia Tech
Last week: 8
Elomogu proved his 22-point outburst against West Virginia was no fluke with 16 points against Western Carolina and 19 against VMI. A Friday matchup against Michigan State will be a key sign if the guard has the potential to stay on this list all season.

9. Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington
Last week: NR
Williams-Goss had a frustrating game in his first major matchup of his career against Indiana. The Huskies lost 102-84 as Williams-Goss finished with 13 points and four assists. Williams-Goss is averaging 13.5 points and five assists per game.

10. Amida Brimah, Connecticut
Last week: NR
The seven-footer has proven to be a shot-blocking menace in limited duty for the Huskies with 18 blocked shots in 74 minutes.

Teaser:
College Basketball Freshman Power Rankings: Nov. 22
Post date: Friday, November 22, 2013 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-greatest-villains
Body:

Every rivalry has its heroes and villains, but some villains transcend the mano-a-mano nature of rivalry week.

The best villains can irk fans from the SEC to the Big Ten to the Pac-12. Miami during its heyday managed to infuriate everyone. Steve Spurrier didn’t have to beat your team by five touchdowns and brag about it later to rub people the wrong way. And thanks to coaching moves, Lane Kiffin and Urban Meyer have managed to annoy fans East and West, North and South.

As a sport, college football has its share of bad apples through the years, but part of being a college football villain is rarely doing anything actually wrong in a legal sense.

College football villainy is more based on style, on and off the field. And let’s face it. College football villains are targeted, above all, because they’re good.

Villains make sports fun. For some — mainly their schools’ fanbase — villains even likable.

College Football's Top 15 Villains

1. 1980s Miami
More than 20 years after the 1991 national championship, the University of Miami has tried to distance itself from its image under coaches Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson. Back then, however, Miami cultivated a take-no-prisoners attitude, complete with lopsided final scores and personal foul penalties. Miami, which arrived at the Fiesta Bowl in 1986 wearing combat fatigues, set up a counter-narrative to the Penn State and Notre Dame powers of the day — all while winning four national championships in eight seasons.



2. Brian Bosworth
The headbands, the blonde mohawks, infuriating opponents and the nickname: The Boz became the focal point of Oklahoma’s renegade team in the 1980s under Barry Switzer. He was a villain even to the NCAA, which he coined the “National Communists Against Athletes.” The act eventually wore out its welcome when Bosworth tested positive for steroids before the 1987 Orange Bowl ... after twice winning the Butkus Award.

3. Barry Switzer
Switzer left Oklahoma as the school’s all-time wins leader, but his tenured ended in controversy. The FBI charged Oklahoma’s starting quarterback with selling cocaine, the NCAA levied sanctions as players received cash and cars, and police charged three Oklahoma players for sexual assault. Even before all that, Switzer had been under fire for years for being unrepentant for his lack of boundaries within the program.

4. Craig James
Before meddling in Texas Tech’s coaching situation, James was a college football villain thanks to being an ESPN blowhard. Then, he led the charge in building a case for Texas Tech to jettison coach Mike Leach. Not coincidentally, James’ son, Adam, had trouble gaining playing time on Leach’s team. James waited until his failed bid for the Republican nomination for a Senate seat in Texas to admit he took illegal benefits while at SMU.

5. Steve Spurrier
The South Carolina version of Steve Spurrier is just as good a coach as the one at Florida, but he’s become more of a revered national treasure in his latest act in college football. But at Florida in the 1990s, Spurrier shook up the SEC with a high-flying passing game that wasn’t afraid to run up scores and brag about it later. “Free Shoes University” and “You can’t spell Citrus without U-T” only touches the surface of Spurrier gems.

6. Johnny Manziel
It’s actually been a quiet season for Johnny Manziel villain-wise, at least since the brief offseason autograph scandal and taunting Rice players with autograph-signing gestures in his first game of the season. The money gestures and dodging serious NCAA action aren’t anything new, but the first freshman Heisman winner also put himself further into the spotlight by living the good life during the offseason and posting it on Twitter.

7. Urban Meyer
There’s certainly a bit of schadenfraude among fans watching Urban Meyer plead Ohio State’s case for a spot in the BCS championship picture. Bragging to boosters about taking the “top one percent of one percent” and then watching a portion of that one percent run into legal troubles at Florida made Meyer less and less likable. But Meyer is most villainous on the recruiting trail. Whether a recruit is committed matters little to Meyer until Signing Day.

8. Tim Tebow
Perhaps this selection should read “media coverage of Tim Tebow” more than Tebow himself. From Thom Brenneman’s proclamation that “If you're fortunate enough to spend five minutes or 20 minutes with Tim Tebow, your life is better for it” to “The Promise” to Clay Travis asking Tebow at SEC Media Day if the quarterback was, indeed, a virgin, the fawning and hyperbole led to Tebow exhaustion. It only got worse during his short-lived NFL career.

9. Nick Saban
He’s not tall, he’s a control freak, he’s perpetually annoyed. And he’s leading the football dynasty of the time. His biggest offense, other than winning a ton of games, is saying this — "I guess I have to say it. I'm not going to be the Alabama coach” — weeks before becoming the Alabama coach.

10. Jackie Sherrill
Sherrill often ran afoul of the NCAA, but one of his biggest crimes was leaving Pittsburgh in 1982 to coach at Texas A&M for a sum of money that made higher education advocates shake their heads in disgust. He was paid $287,000. Sherrill also had a bull castrated on the practice field to motivate his Mississippi State team in 1992.

11. Lane Kiffin
When things were going well for Kiffin — which wasn’t all that often — he was described as having an edge or a swagger. When things didn’t go well, he was petulant. Kiffin racked up NCAA secondary violations at Tennessee, accused Urban Meyer of recruiting improprieties as a laugh line for boosters and then bolted after one season for USC. He appeared to have reformed his image after a 10-2 season in 2011 before imploding in a season and a half. From the Raiders to Tennessee to USC, Kiffin not only infuriated opponents, but also alienated his own team's fanbase.

12. Tony Mandarich
The rumors of Mandarich’s performance-enhancing drug use at Michigan State weren’t tough to track down, but he was still the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft in 1989. He denied it and never tested positive while in college, a career in which he once punched an Ohio State lineman during the coin toss. Long after Mandarich became one of the Draft’s biggest busts, Mandarich admitted steroid use.

13. John Jenkins
Jenkins was the offensive coordinator under Jack Pardee at Houston as the Cougars became an offensive powerhouse running the run-and-shoot. Jenkins, who was eventually elevated to head coach, made sure everyone knew about the offense by running up scores into the 60s, 70s and 80s and ensuring quarterbacks like David Klingler would passing records.

14. Phillip Fulmer
Fulmer once conducted his SEC media day interviews in front of hundreds of reporters ... via a speakerphone. The Tennessee coach avoided entering Alabama state lines for fear of being subpoenaed in a libel suit against the NCAA by Alabama assistants. Fulmer, who had turned in the Tide to the NCAA for recruiting violations, was served a subpoena four years later in a different case involving an Alabama booster.

15. Cam Newton
The SEC, the slimy side of recruiting, a one-day NCAA suspension and Cammy Cam Juice combined to make Newton a lightning rod through the 2010 season.

Teaser:
College Football's Greatest Villains
Post date: Friday, November 22, 2013 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-post-week-12-award-watch-2013
Body:

The Heisman is but one award, and one award isn’t enough to contain the best of college football.

 While we love prognosticating who will win college football’s most coveted individual trophy, we also love the glut of postseason awards that go to each position, each with a nod to the game’s history from Davey O’Brien and Doak Walker to Bronko Nagurski and Jim Thorpe to Ray Guy and Lou Groza.



Everyone tracks the progress in the Heisman race, but Athlon Sports will try to keep an eye on who will take home college football’s positional awards.



Here’s our look at the “other” trophies through the 12th week of the season.


Davey O’Brien (Top quarterback)
Our leader: Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel
The allegations against Jameis Winston are too much of a cloud over his season at this point. Manziel’s interception numbers are high (11 picks) for a national award winner, particularly against a field that includes Marcus Mariota and Bryce Petty. But Manziel is third in the nation with 31 touchdown passes.
Others: Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch, Alabama's AJ McCarron, Oregon's Marcus Mariota, Baylor’s Bryce Petty, Florida State’s Jameis Winston

Doak Walker (Top running back)

Our leader: Boston College’s Andre Williams
Williams set an ACC record with 339 rushing yards against NC State last week. The Boston College running back leads the nation in yards (1,810) and yards per game (181).
Others: Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah, Western Kentucky’s Antonio Andrews, Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey, South Carolina’s Mike Davis

Biletnikoff (Top wide receiver)

Our leader: Texas A&M’s Mike Evans
Evans is third in the nation with 1,263 yards to go with 12 touchdowns. The Aggies sophomore is one of two receivers with fewer than 60 catches and 1,000 yards.
Others: Fresno State’s Davante Adams, Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, Baylor’s Antwan Goodley, Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews, Penn State’s Allen Robinson

Mackey (Top tight end)

Our leader: Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro

Amaro finally received attention from the Mackey Award when he was selected as a semifinalist this week. Amaro is second in the nation with 92 receptions in 11 games. No other tight end has more than 49 receptions.
Others: North Carolina’s Eric Ebron

Outland (Top interior lineman)

Our leader: Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio
Kouandjio leads an Alabama offensive line that has improve as the season has progressed. The Crimson Tide rank ninth in yards per carry.
Others: Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald, Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews, Baylor’s Cyril Richardson, Florida State’s Byron Stork, Stanford’s David Yankey

Nagurski/Bednarik (Defensive player of the year)

Our leader: Alabama’s C.J. Mosley

The leader of Alabama’s defense has come on strong of late with 12 tackles against LSU and 10 against Mississippi State. The linebacker had three quarterback hurries in 20-7 win over Mississippi State.
Others: UCLA’s Anthony Barr, Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald, Missouri’s Michael Sam, Stanford’s Shayne Skov, BYU’s Kyle Van Noy

Lombardi Award (Top lineman or linebacker)

Our leader: Mosley

Others: UCLA’s Anthony Barr, Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald, Stanford’s Trent Murphy, Baylor’s Cyril Richardson, Missouri’s Michael Sam, BYU’s Kyle Van Noy, Stanford’s David Yankey


Butkus (Top linebacker)

Our leader: Mosley
Others: UCLA’s Anthony Barr, Wisconsin’s Chris Borland, Stanford’s Trent Murphy, Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier, Stanford’s Shayne Skov, BYU’s Kyle Van Noy


Thorpe (Top defensive back)

Our leader: Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard

Dennard had an interception and a forced fumble in Michigan State’s dominant defensive performance against Michigan.
Others: Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller, Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner



Lou Groza (Top kicker)

Our leader: Texas’ Anthony Fera
The Longhorns’ kicker has converted 17 of 18 kicks this season, tied for the highest percentage for anyone with more than 14 attempts.
Others: Florida State’s Robert Aguayo, Texas Tech’s Ryan Bustin, Maryland’s Brad Craddock, Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez, Oklahoma’s Michael Hunnicutt, NC State’s Niklas Sade



Ray Guy (Top punter)

Our leader: Tennessee’s Michael Palardy
Palardy averages 44.6 yards per punt as the Volunteers rank 18th in net punting.

Others: Ole Miss’ Tyler Campbell, Texas A&M’s Drew Kaser, Alabama’s Cody Mandell



Freshman of the year

Our leader: Florida State’s Jameis Winston

Winston is second in the nation at 11.3 yards per attempt and second in passing efficiency, both behind Baylor’s Bryce Petty.
Others: Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg, UCLA's Myles Jack

Coach of the year
Our leader: Baylor’s Art Briles

Baylor overcame an early deficit to defeat Texas Tech and now faces the biggest game in decades for the Bears. Baylor could finish the week at No. 3 in the BCS standings.

Others: Duke’s David Cutcliffe, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Missouri’s Gary Pinkel



Broyles Award (Top assistant)

Our leader: Michigan State’s Pat Narduzzi
Narduzzi may have one of the best defenses of the BCS era. Michigan State ranks first in the nation in total defense and second in pass efficiency defense
Others: Baylor’s Phil Bennett, LSU’s Cam Cameron, Florida State’s Jeremy Pruitt, Alabama’s Kirby Smart
 

 

Teaser:
College Football Post-Week 12 Award Watch
Post date: Friday, November 22, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /mlb/ranking-boston-red-sox-40-man-roster
Body:

Between the end of the World Series and Opening Day every winter, fans are inundated with lists. Rankings of the best shortstop, the best left-handed relievers, the best leadoff men in getting on base, the best second basemen in runs saved, the best right-handed pinch-hitter in road games in July and more. So, while life can be rather boring without 15 baseball games every night, over the next few weeks I’ll rank players on every 40-man roster.

This is more than merely a ranking though, it is a breakdown of contract status, future prospects and the general direction of each franchise. Enjoy.

The Red Sox have as much talent in the upper levels of the minors as any organization. In addition to continuing to produce major league ready players, the club also finds itself with some attractive trade chips. But there’s no question that this is a veteran-led team and because of that will be a serious contender for the next few seasons. Replacing David Ortiz’s presence in the heart of the lineup and clubhouse will be a major task over the next year or so. Also, keeping starting pitcher Jon Lester in the fold will prevent the rotation from taking any steps backward.

1. Dustin Pedroia
Opening Day Age:  30
Contract:

2014: 12,500,000
2015: 12,500,000
2016: 13,000,000
2017: 15,000,000
2018: 16,000,000
2019: 15,000,000
2020: 13,000,000
2021: 12,000,000
Last summer, Pedroia was determined to strike a deal that would keep him in a Red Sox uniform the remainder of his career, and the club was happy to oblige. The team leader on and off the field is a dream for any manager. After turning age 34, the declining salary makes this a particularly attractive contract for Boston.

2. David Ortiz , DH    
Opening Day Age:  38
Contract:
2014
: 15,000,000
Sure, his career is winding down, but his postseason performance showed there’s still quite a few hits left in Big Papi’s tank. His value to this team transcends his work in the batter’s box.

3. Jon Lester, SP
Opening Day Age:  30
Contract:
2014
: 13,000,000
The World Series star should be priority No. 1 for the Red Sox front office. With more security than just the one season, Lester would move up to No. 2 ahead of Ortiz. The Red Sox can’t afford to allow him to leave next winter.

4. Clay Buchholz, SP
Opening Day Age:  29
Contract:
2014
: 7,700,000
2015: 12,000,000
2016: 13,000,000 club option, $245,000 buyout
The 12-1 record and 1.74 ERA sure look nice, but the Sox need more than 16 starts from a guy who could be their ace. He has yet to post back-to-back full seasons, but he’ll need to remain healthy in order to earn his keep in 2015-16.

5. John Lackey , SP
Opening Day Age:  35
Contract:

2014: 15,250,000
2015: (ML minimum) club option
Boston has a unique opportunity to recoup Lackey’s 2012 season, lost to Tommy John surgery. The Red Sox have a club option that could pay Lackey just $500,000 in 2015. A healthy Lackey is clearly worth $16 million over the next two seasons.

6. Xander Bogaerts, SS
Opening Day Age:  21
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
His rapid development made Jose Iglesias expendable and allays fears of Stephen Drew not re-signing.  The rising star could be the center piece of the Sox in the near future.

7. Felix Doubront, SP
Opening Day Age:  26
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: 1st Year Arbitration
2016: 2nd Year Arbitration
2017: 3rd Year Arbitration
2018: First possible free agency
The lefthander is quickly moving up the list in Boston. He had a 16-start stretch in the middle of the season in which he was 5-4, but had a 2.73 ERA and held opponents to a .232 average.

8. Shane Victorino, RF
Opening Day Age:  33
Contract:

2014: 13,000,000
2015: 13,000,000
Clearly, Victorino has proven that he’s a winner and makes those around him better.
6
9. Koji Uehara, CL
Opening Day Age:  38
Contract:
2014
: 4,250,000
Few closers have had a run like Uehara did last season over the last five months. He’s near the end of his career, but his low price tag gives the Red Sox some flexibility and time to find the 2015 closer.

10. Daniel Nava, OF
Opening Day Age:  31
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: 1st Year Arbitration
2016: 2nd Year Arbitration
2017: 3rd Year Arbitration
2018: First possible free agency
The switch-hitter carried a .385 OBP last season that jumped to .411 vs. right-handed pitching. The Sox could certainly do a lot worse than having Nava and Shane Victorino as the daily double atop the lineup. While the Nava/Jonny Gomes platoon worked well in 2013, expect Nava to get the lion’s share of at-bats in 2014.

11. Jackie Bradley, OF
Opening Day Age:  23
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
For whatever reason, the prized prospect didn’t appear to be ready for a regular job in the big leagues last season. But he’s young, talented, and he did bat .273 in 10 September starts.

12. Brandon Workman, P
Opening Day Age:  25
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
Workman improved his stock during the postseason, and his future should be as a starter. That may mean spending a season at Pawtucket, but his future is bright.

13. Allen Webster, SP
Opening Day Age:  24
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
Acquired from the Dodgers along with Rubby de la Rosa in the mega deal of 2012 that sent Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez west, Webster has generally been considered a Top 100 prospect. He has a future in the Boston rotation.

14. Rubby de la Rosa, P
Opening Day Age:  25
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: 1st Year Arbitration
2016: 2nd Year Arbitration
2017: 3rd Year Arbitration
2018: 4th Year Arbitration
2019: First possible free agency
The Red Sox have as much starting pitching depth right now as any time in recent memory. With the usual injury or two, and maybe an unexpected struggle by a veteran, de la Rosa could find himself in the rotation out of spring training.

15. Junichi Tazawa, RP
Opening Day Age:  27
Contract:
2014
: 1st Year Arbitration
2015: 2nd Year Arbitration
2016: 3rd Year Arbitration
2017: First possible free agency
The durable setup man had more strikeouts than hits allowed, usually a pretty good sign that he has effective stuff. He’s probably not a potential closer, but will be a huge part of Boston’s bullpen for several years.

16. Christian Vazquez, C
Opening Day Age:  23
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Possible Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
Vazquez handles the bat well, but has very little pop. He throws extremely well and will be given a long look in the spring and could share the job with David Ross. But he’s played just one game above Double-A, and there’s no need to rush him in 2014.

17. Jake Peavy, SP
Opening Day Age:  32
Contract:
2014
: 14,500,000
2015: 15,000,000 player option based on 2013-14 innings pitched
Peavy is a reliable veteran, but he’s no longer a top-of-the-rotation guy. He needs 255.1 innings in 2014 to trigger his 2015 option. Uh, not likely.

18. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
Opening Day Age:  25
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: 1st Year Arbitration
2017: 2nd Year Arbitration
2018: 3rd Year Arbitration
2019: First possible free agency
The Red Sox expect to see more of the 2012 version of Middlebrooks (.288-14-54 in 267 at-bats) rather than the 2013 injury-plagued version (.227-17-49 in 348 at-bats).

19. Craig Breslow, RP
Opening Day Age:  33
Contract:
2014
: 3,825,000
2015: 4,000,000 club option, $100,000 buyout
He’s a reliable reliever, but not particularly cost-effective.

20. David Ross, C
Opening Day Age:  37
Contract:
2014
: 3,100,000
Considered one of the best teammates in the game, Ross commands respect from pitchers. He can hit a little bit, but really isn’t an everyday catcher.

21. Jonny Gomes, OF
Opening Day Age:  33
Contract:
2014
: 5,000,000
Contrary to popular perception, Gomes hit 22 points higher vs. right-handed pitching last season. Much of his value comes from intangibles. He had four pinch-hit homers last season.

22. Anthony Ranaudo, SP  
Opening Day Age:  24
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Possible Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
The righthander has battled shoulder fatigue, a groin injury and elbow trouble dating to his days at LSU. But healthy in 2013, he made 24 starts across Double-A and Triple-A with a sub-3.00 ERA.

23. Mike Carp, 1B
Opening Day Age:  27
Contract:
2014
: 1st Year Arbitration
2015: 2nd Year Arbitration
2016: 3rd Year Arbitration
2017: First possible free agency
Carp has value in Boston. He slugged better than .500 in spot duty last season and batted .337 vs. the AL East, and just .266 against every other team.

24. Ryan Dempster, SP
Opening Day Age:  36
Contract:
2014
: 13,250,000
To say that 2013 was a disappointment for Dempster would be an understatement. His greatest value may come from the club convincing another team that he can thrive outside of Fenway Park.

25. Franklin Morales, RP
Opening Day Age:  28
Contract:
2014
: 3rd Year Arbitration
2015: First possible free agency
The lefty was once considered a top prospect in Colorado as a starter. Since finding his way to Boston, he’s proven to be more suited as a lefty specialist out of the pen.

26. Garin Cecchini, 3B  
Opening Day Age:  22
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Possible Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
Cecchini stole 51 bases for Single-A Greenville in 2012, and drew 94 in 129 games across two levels in 2013. He hits for average with gap power, but is probably a year away from competing for an everyday job.

27. Bryce Brentz, OF
Opening Day Age:  25
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Possible Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
Brentz is a budding power hitter and corner outfielder. He hit 30 bombs across two leagues his first full season in the minors and followed that with 30 doubles at Double-A in 2012.

28. Brock Holt, IF
Opening Day Age:  25
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
The infielder was part of the Joel Hanrahan trade with the Pirates last winter. He’s shown he can hit for average in the minors. Primarily a shortstop in the Bucs’ system, he’d love to have a shot at the third base job.

29. Andrew Bailey, RP
Opening Day Age:  29
Contract:
2014
: 3rd Year Arbitration
2015: First possible free agency
The former Oakland closer made $3.9 million and $4.1 million the past two seasons, which makes him a likely candidate to be non-tendered in December.

30. Ryan Lavarnway, C
Opening Day Age:  26
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: 1st Year Arbitration
2017: 2nd Year Arbitration
2018: 3rd Year Arbitration
2019: First possible free agency
The Red Sox have been patiently waiting for the catcher to blossom. Bobby Valentine gave him ample opportunities down the stretch in 2012, but he scuffled mightily. He hit .375 over his final eight starts in 2013, but the organization’s lack of faith in him has the Red Sox seriously investigating the catcher free agent market.

31. Andrew Miller, P
Opening Day Age:  28
Contract:
2014
: 3rd Year Arbitration
2015: First possible free agency
A foot injury ended his season in early July, but the tall lefthander should be ready to complete for a spot in the bullpen during spring training.

32. Brayan Villareal, P
Opening Day Age:  26
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: 1st Year Arbitration
2017: 2nd Year Arbitration
2018: 3rd Year Arbitration
2019: First possible free agency
He was acquired from the Tigers in the same deal this past summer that brought Jake Peavy from the White Sox. Villareal broke camp as part of the Tigers’ bullpen, but a 20.77 ERA after seven appearances had him back on the Toledo bus.

33. Alex Wilson, P
Opening Day Age:  30
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: 1st Year Arbitration
2017: 2nd Year Arbitration
2018: 3rd Year Arbitration
2019: 4th Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
The second-round pick in 2009 has struggled as a starter in the minors and is trying to find his way as a reliever.

34. Dan Butler, C
Opening Day Age:  27
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Possible Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
He’s played 363 games behind the plate in the minor leagues and no other position. The 27-year-old’s lot in life is, at best, to be a temporary injury replacement midseason.

35. Alex Castellanos, OF
Opening Day Age:  27
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
Recently acquired from the Dodgers, Castellanos is on the verge of no longer being considered a prospect.

36. Drake Britton, P
Opening Day Age:  24
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
Over the past three seasons, the sparkle has worn off of what was at one time a pretty bright star.

37. Alex Hassan, OF
Opening Day Age:  25
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Possible Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
He’s been on the 40-man roster all season, but yet to get the call to the big leagues. He hit .306 in the low minors and just .285 in Double-A and Triple-A.

38. Steven Wright, P
Opening Day Age:  29
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
He logged 12.1 innings over three relief appearances, and just one inning in his lone start.

39. Ryan Kalish, OF
Opening Day Age:  26
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: 1st Year Arbitration
2016: 2nd Year Arbitration
2017: 3rd Year Arbitration
2018: First possible free agency
The former promising prospect underwent cervical fusion surgery in August. He’s still young, but his body may not allow him to return to major league levels.

Teaser:
Replacing David Ortiz’s presence in the heart of the lineup and clubhouse will be a major task over the next year or so. Also, keeping starting pitcher Jon Lester in the fold will prevent the rotation from taking any steps backward.
Post date: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 16:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-2013-week-13-upset-predictions
Body:

With just two weeks of regular season action left, the 2013 college football season is quickly coming to a close. There’s plenty of marquee games remaining, but it’s crunch time for teams to get bowl eligible, along with ones chasing a conference title.

Week 13 has plenty of intrigue, starting in the Big 12 with Baylor-Oklahoma State and continuing in the SEC with Texas A&M-Missouri and LSU-Texas A&M.

In the Pac-12, USC hopes to continue to bolster the case of Ed Orgeron for the full-time job, while Arizona State-UCLA should decide the South Division title.

Athlon’s editors are back with another edition of the upset picks, and there are plenty of teams on alert this week.

The favorites can't win every game each week, so it's no surprise one of the most popular discussion points every Saturday is upset picks. Each week on AthlonSports.com, the editors will give an upset pick for the upcoming week of action.

Week 13 Previews and Predictions: ACC Big 12 | Big Ten Pac-12 | SEC

College Football Week 13 Upset Predictions

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Ole Miss (+2.5) over Missouri
Missouri needs to win its final two games to reach the SEC Championship, but the Tigers have a tough remaining schedule, with a road trip to Ole Miss this Saturday, followed by a home game against Texas A&M on Nov. 30. Missouri is getting quarterback James Franklin back after missing four starts due to injury. But even with Franklin back in the lineup, I think this is a tough matchup for the Tigers. Ole Miss’ passing attack ranks second in SEC games (averaging 314.7 yards per game), with a plethora of weapons at the disposal of quarterback Bo Wallace. Missouri’s defensive line should have an edge against the Rebels’ offensive front, but Ole Miss can counter with quick passes against a secondary that ranks last in the SEC against the pass. The Rebels have won four in a row and lost by eight points to Auburn and three to Texas A&M. Hugh Freeze’s team had to deal with a handful of injuries on both sides of the ball earlier in the year, but Ole Miss is getting healthy and will upset Missouri on Saturday night.

Mark Ross: Oklahoma (+3.5) over Kansas State
Bob Stoops and Bill Snyder know each other very well, with Stoops having played for and coached under Snyder for more than 15 years. Now, as head coaches in the Big 12, this represents the 10th head-to-head meeting between the two, with Stoops holding a 7-2 edge. Kansas State won last season's meeting, snapping a five-game losing streak to Oklahoma in the process. Now the Wildcats are looking to end a four-game skid against the Sooners in Manhattan, a streak that goes back to 1996. The home team is favored, but Oklahoma is ranked and rebounded nicely from its disappointing showing against undefeated Baylor. These teams are similar in many ways, not surprising considering the coaching ties, but I think the Sooners are just a little bit better on the defensive end and that will be enough to allow the pupil to claim victory over his mentor.


Braden Gall (@BradenGall): Oklahoma State (+9.5) over Baylor
If there is a team and a situation that will give Baylor issues it is this season it is Oklahoma State in Stillwater. With potentially bad weather coming late Friday night, this game could be played more in the trenches than the Bears may want. Baylor isn't a finesse team by any stretch as both lines of scrimmage are strong at the point of attack. But a sloppy, slow, grind-it-out pace is the only chance anyone has at stopping Art Briles' explosive offense. With a power running game, maturing quarterback and solid defense, the Pokes have a real shot at slowing the tempo and throwing enough body blows to win. Yes, that's right, Mike Gundy may be looking to slow the game down this weekend. If the projected snow sticks Friday night (unlikely), all the better for Okie State.


David Fox (@DavidFox615): Purdue (+7) over Illinois
I picked one of the other worst teams in a major conference to get its first league win with the Kansas upset of West Virginia. I’m going to go to the dregs of the Big Ten to pick Purdue to pick up Darrell Hazel’s first league win. Illinois’ offense is dangerous, but this is a team with little left to play for. Narrowing the gap against Ohio State on multiple occasions still ended with a 60-35 loss an infighting on the coaching staff on the sideline. Purdue is awful, too, but the offense is slowly getting better. Freshman quarterback Danny Etling completed a season-high 63.6 percent of his passes for 223 yards on the road at Penn State last week. The Boilermakers haven’t rushed for 100 yards since Sept. 28, but Illinois’ defense isn’t holding anyone back.

Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler): Oklahoma State (+10) over Baylor
The Bears average an NCAA-best 61 points and 685 yards per game, boasting the nation's third-best passing offense and the ninth-ranked rushing offense. Bryce Petty averages 19 yards per completion, as he leads the country in passing efficiency with 24 touchdowns to just one interception. Given those stats, how could anyone pick against Baylor? Let's remember that this game is at the hostile venue of Boone Pickens Stadium, where the Bears are 0-9 since joining the Big 12. In fact, Baylor hasn't won in Stillwater in 70 years. I believe this streak will continue thanks to Oklahoma State's strength on both sides of the ball. The Cowboys pair an offense that averages 40 points per game with a defense that leads the country with 19 interceptions. In addition to their talents at creating turnovers, Mike Gundy's defense is adept on third downs and in the red zone. Their defense in 12th in the nation on third-downs, allowing conversions only 32 percent of the time. They are ninth in the NCAA in red-zone defense, giving up just 15 touchdowns in 34 red zone drives. While Baylor has converted 52.4 percent of third downs this year, they have converted just 41 percent the last two games against Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Injuries will really hamper the Bears in this game. They are without WR Tevin Reese and starting LT Spencer Drango, while running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin are questionable after missing last week against Texas Tech. Over the last two weeks, Bryce Petty has posted his two worst completion percentages of the season. Things won't get any easier for the 4th-ranked Bears under the lights in Stillwater.

Teaser:
College Football 2013 Week 13 Upset Predictions
Post date: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 11:15
Path: /mlb/st-louis-cardinals-40-man-roster
Body:

Between the end of the World Series and Opening Day every winter, fans are inundated with lists. Rankings of the best shortstop, the best left-handed relievers, the best leadoff men, the best second basemen in runs saved, the best right-handed pinch-hitter in road games in July and more. So, while life can be rather boring without 15 baseball games every night, over the next few weeks I’ll rank players on every 40-man roster.

This is more than merely a ranking though, it is a breakdown of contract status, future prospects and the general direction of each franchise. Generally, the ranking is based on the value of each player to the franchise, with an emphasis on the immediate effect on winning. Enjoy.

The St. Louis Cardinals have become a model organization by just about any criteria. The club has played in — and won — more postseason games this century than any other franchise. The Redbirds have appeared in the last three NLCS, winning two of them, and have positioned themselves to continue this current run of success well into this decade. Of the 10 position players, four starting pitchers and closer the Cardinals used during the World Series, only two — Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran — were not homegrown. St. Louis’ current roster is stocked with veterans that are both still in their prime and affordable for the next few years. The next wave of stars has already arrived and there are more on the way.


1. Yadier Molina, C
Open Day Age:  31
Contract:
2014:
15,000,000
2015: 15,000,000
2016: 14,000,000
2017: 14,000,000
2018: 15,000,000 mutual option, $2 million buyout
Molina is the unquestioned leader of this team, and young players respect him, especially the slew of rising stars on the pitching staff. One of the best defensive catchers and throwers to ever play the game, Molina has developed as a hitter to the point that he has become the most indispensable player in the game.

2. Adam Wainwright, SP
Open Day Age:  32
Contract:
2014
: 19,500,000
2015: 19,500,000
2016: 19,500,000
2017: 19,500,000
2018: 19,500,000
The big righthander remains the Cardinals’ ace regardless of how well Michael Wacha looked in the postseason. Waino is locked up for another five seasons at a relatively small price as far as aces go. He’s a horse, who not only eats innings, but will be a serious Cy Young contender in at least three of the next five seasons.

3. Matt Holliday, LF
Open Day Age:  34
Contract:

2014: 17,000,000
2015: 17,000,000
2016: 17,000,000
2017: 17,000,000 club option, $1 million buyout
St. Louis stepped outside of its typical modus operandi a few years ago when the team signed Holliday to what was at that time quite a rich deal. His $17 million salary is relatively modest by superstar standards and he produces. Yeah, he occasionally misses a game or two from a back injury in the weight room or a moth flying in his ear, but he’s well-respected in this clubhouse and leads by example with hard work.

4. Allen Craig, 1B
Open Day Age:  29
Contract:
2014
: 2,750,000
2015: 5,500,000
2016: 9,000,000
2017: 11,000,000
2018: 13,000,000 club option, $1 million buyout
The Cardinals clearly missed the RBI machine’s bat in the middle of the lineup during the postseason. He’ll make somewhere around $70 million less than Albert Pujols, whom he replaced at first base. Craig is just versatile enough to play the outfield and gives the Cardinals some lineup flexibility with rising slugger Matt Adams.

5. Michael Wacha, SP
Open Day Age:  22
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
It is possible that the Cardinals started Wacha’s clock ticking a bit too soon this season making him eligible for arbitration as a Super 2 player in 2016. But either way, the Cardinals have a future ace with the stuff, durability and makeup to be at the top of St. Louis’ rotation for a long time.

6. Trevor Rosenthal, CL
Open Day Age:  23
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: 1st Year Arbitration
2017: 2nd Year Arbitration
2018: 3rd Year Arbitration
2019: First possible free agency
Most scouts believe that Rosenthal is better suited to be a starter than closer, but rotation depth and Edward Mujica hitting a wall in September landed Rosey the closer’s gig — for now. He’ll hold down the role until Jason Motte proves he’s healthy enough for the day-to-day rigors of closing. At that point, the Cardinals will have a decision as to Rosenthal’s future role. At any rate, he appears to be on track to be a valuable piece for the next five seasons.

7. Matt Carpenter, 2B-3B
Open Day Age:  28
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: 1st Year Arbitration
2016: 2nd Year Arbitration
2017: 3rd Year Arbitration
2018: First possible free agency
With an uncanny work ethic and steady routine, Carpenter has made himself into an above-average second baseman, and a top-notch leadoff man. When he’s hitting well, this offense is potent. When he’s scuffling, the lineup struggles to score.

 

8. Jhonny Peralta
Opening Day Age: 31
Contract:
2014
: 15,500,000
2015: 15,000,000
2016: 12,500,000
2017: 10,000,000
This contract does two good things for the Cardinals and one really good thing for baseball. For the club, it plugs a hole at shortstop where the Cardinals were in dire need of offense, and with declining salaries, the potential of hamstringing the team later on is diminished. For baseball, this deal will most certainly accelerate the players’ union to enact harsher penalties for cheaters.

9. Joe Kelly, SP
Open Day Age:  25
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: 1st Year Arbitration
2017: 2nd Year Arbitration
2018: 3rd Year Arbitration
2019: First possible free agency
For the past two seasons, Kelly has been the odd man out early in the season. He wasn’t called up until later in 2012, then missed out on a rotation spot coming out of spring training in 2013. And at key times during both seasons, Kelly has bailed out the Cardinals’ rotation. He’s athletic, throws hard, has guts and is profoundly entertaining in the clubhouse.

10. Lance Lynn, SP
Open Day Age:  26
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: 1st Year Arbitration
2016: 2nd Year Arbitration
2017: 3rd Year Arbitration
2018: First possible free agency
Lynn apparently has missed the cutoff to be arbitration eligible this winter by less than five days’ worth of service time. Tough break for him, huge cost savings for the Redbirds.

11. Carlos Martinez, P
Open Day Age:  22
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
Mike Matheny and pitching coach Derek Lilliquist believe they have a third ace in Martinez to pitch alongside Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha. He enjoyed success as a setup man late in the year showing the poise and maturity the Cardinals expect from their starters.

12. Shelby Miller, SP
Open Day Age:  23
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: 1st Year Arbitration
2017: 2nd Year Arbitration
2018: 3rd Year Arbitration
2019: First possible free agency
Whether it’s as a member of a deep and talented rotation in 2014, or as a trade chip over the winter, Miller brings tremendous value to the organization coming off of a superb rookie season with 15 wins.

13. Oscar Taveras, OF
Open Day Age:  21
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Possible Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First Possible Free Agency
Widely considered the best prospect in baseball, Taveras dealt with injuries last season that delayed his development. When the Cardinals signed Carlos Beltran to a two-year deal prior to 2012, the thinking was that Taveras would be ready to take over in 2014. But he probably needs some significant injury-free time at Triple-A to prevent throwing him to the wolves prematurely. His health and development will be closely monitored in spring training.

14. Kevin Siegrist, RP
Open Day Age:  24
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
After his debut in early June, the Cardinals were judicious in picking spots for the young lefthander. As the season progressed he was used more often in increasingly high-leverage situations. And he responded with 50 strikeouts and only 17 hits and 18 walks to show for his 39.2 innings.

15. Jaime Garcia, SP
Open Day Age:  27
Contract:

2014: 7,750,000
2015: 9,250,000
2016: 11,500,000 club option, $500,000 buyout
2017: 12,000,000 club option, $500,000 buyout
The feisty lefty has had Tommy John surgery and more recently major shoulder surgery that ended his 2013 season after just nine starts. His 1.328 career WHIP isn’t overpowering by any means, but he consistently keeps his team in the game, especially at home where his ERA is about a run-and-a-half better than on the road.

 

16. Peter Bourjos, CF
2014
: 1st Year Arbitration
2015: 2nd Year Arbitration
2016: 3rd Year Arbitration
2017: First Possible Free Agency
The Cardinals acquired one of the best defensive center fielders in the game in Bourjos. It would be a bit optimistic to expect him to produce 49 extra-base hits like he did in 2011, which included an AL-best 11 triples.

17. Jason Motte, RP
Open Day Age:  31
Contract:

2014: 7,000,000
The closer lost 2013 to Tommy John surgery, and it will be interesting to see how the Cardinals approach re-signing him beyond this season. Considering the depth in the pitching staff, the likelihood of him being offered a significant deal to stay in St. Louis is not high. But he can be a valuable member of the bullpen in 2014.

18. Seth Maness, RP
Open Day Age:  25
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: 1st Year Arbitration
2017: 2nd Year Arbitration
2018: 3rd Year Arbitration
2019: 4th Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
For some reason, Maness became a master at producing double plays last season. He induced 16 twin killings and faced just 249 batters.

19. Matt Adams, 1B
Open Day Age:  25
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: 1st Year Arbitration
2017: 2nd Year Arbitration
2018: 3rd Year Arbitration
2019: First possible free agency
The Cardinals are happy with the development of Big City, but need him to hit lefties more consistently and shorten his stroke enough to avoid prolonged slumps. His continued improvement gives St. Louis some options and may force some big personnel decisions.

20. Kolten Wong, 2B
Open Day Age:  23
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
Forget about that baserunning gaffe in Game 4 of the World Series, Wong is a budding star. He didn’t prove himself big-league ready this season, but it won’t be much longer.

 

21. Randy Choate, RP
Open Day Age:  38
Contract:

2014: 3,000,000
2015: 3,000,000
The lefty specialist is a necessary component of the bullpen, and he held lefties to a .176 average with no homers in 85 ABs last season.

22. Daniel Descalso, IF
Open Day Age:  27
Contract:

2014: 1st Year Arbitration
2015: 2nd Year Arbitration
2016: 3rd Year Arbitration
2017: First possible free agency
St. Louis fans think of him as Jose Oquendo Light.

 

23. Jon Jay, CF
Open Day Age:  29
Contract:

2014: 1st Year Arbitration
2015: 2nd Year Arbitration
2016: 3rd Year Arbitration
2017: First possible free agency
A year ago, the Cardinals thought they a had a budding Gold Glover in center field, but he seemed to take a few steps backward this season. He doesn’t run or hit well enough — especially against lefthanders — to keep an everyday job in center as an average defender. His future is probably as a fourth outfielder, albeit a very good one.

 

24. Tony Cruz, C
Open Day Age:  27
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: 1st Year Arbitration
2016: 2nd Year Arbitration
2017: 3rd Year Arbitration
2018: First possible free agency
There are worse jobs in baseball than Yadier Molina’s caddie.

25. Shane Robinson, OF
Open Day Age:  29
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: 1st Year Arbitration
2016: 2nd Year Arbitration
2017: 3rd Year Arbitration
2018: First possible free agency
The diminutive Robinson is perfectly suited to be a fourth outfielder.

 

26. Randal Grichuk, OF
Open Day Age:  22
Contract:
2014
: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Possible Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First Possible Free Agency
The first-round pick of the Angels in 2009, Grichuk has battled injuries and had just two fully healthy seasons. He is a budding power hitter who has put together back-to-back seasons of 57 extra-base hits. The Cardinals will work to refine his approach against breaking pitches and plate discipline.

27. Pete Kozma, SS
Open Day Age:  25
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: 1st Year Arbitration
2017: 2nd Year Arbitration
2018: 3rd Year Arbitration
2019: First possible free agency
The former first-round pick brings solid character and a steady glove to the ballpark everyday with a genuine desire to improve. But the Cardinals would prefer a little offense mixed in as well.

28. Mike O’Neill
Open Day Age:  26
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Possible Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First Possible Free Agency
The small lefty-swinging outfielder has hit for average at every minor league level with no pop. He probably translates to a corner outfielder and must use speed to his advantage to get on base.

29. Sam Freeman, RP
Open Day Age:  26
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
He may be the slightest built Cardinal since Dal Maxvill.

30. Tyler Lyons, P
Open Day Age:  26
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
The Cardinals were 3-5 in his eight fill-in starts this season; 3-1 when the lineup gave him three runs of support.

31. Greg Garcia, IF
Open Day Age:  24
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Possible Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First Possible Free Agency
Garcia is the “does all the little things” kind of player. He is similar to Daniel Descalso, with a little better bat overall, especially against lefthanders.

32. Keith Butler, P
Open Day Age:  25
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
He doesn’t wow you with overpowering stuff like many of the Cardinals’ youngsters, but the club believes he can be a complete pitcher.

33. Joey Butler, OF
Open Day Age:  28
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
Stuck at Triple-A in the Rangers’ system since 2011, it’s possible a change scenery and situation could be a positive jolt to his career.

34. Audry Perez, C
Open Day Age:  25
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
Yadier Molina was a .274 hitter in the minor leagues. So, is there stardom in the future for this defensive-minded backstop, who has hit .266 over six seasons? Uh, probably not.

35. Jorge Rondon, RP
Open Day Age:  26
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
Through age 25, he’s appeared in 258 minor league games.

36. Eric Fornataro, P
Open Day Age:  26
Contract:

2014: Team control
2015: Team control
2016: Team control
2017: 1st Year Arbitration
2018: 2nd Year Arbitration
2019: 3rd Year Arbitration
2020: First possible free agency
The sixth-round pick in 2008 didn’t exactly set the world on fire when given a chance at Triple-A in 2013.

 

Non-Roster Prospects

Significant prospects not currently on the 40-man roster
Tyrell Jenkins, SP
Stephen Piscotty, OF
James Ramsey, OF

 

Teaser:
While life can be rather boring without 15 baseball games every night, over the next few weeks Athlon Sports Baseball Editor Charlie Miller will rank players on every 40-man roster.
Post date: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 11:04
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-november-21-2013
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Nov. 21.

 

• Bar Rafaeli is definitely on the Mt. Rushmore of swimsuit models. This slideshow provides compelling evidence.

 

There was some spooky foreshadowing three years ago of the Ian Kinsler-Prince Fielder trade, courtesy of ESPN.

 

Some scientists have concluded that Gronk could have caught that ball at the end of the Monday Night game. Sorry, Pats fans.

 

Coaches at a Tennessee high school tried the old Jeff Spicoli trick to fire up their team. It backfired.

 

• This might be the Bleacher-iest of all Bleacher lists: The most WTF stuff in sports.

 

Those British have some weird food products, but this is the worst.

 

• Ever wondered what other celebs would look like with Owen Wilson's nose? Wonder no more. Actually, Sarah Jessica Parker looks about the same.

 

Jose Canseco got pulled over with goats in his car. That guy will do anything to stay in the news.

 

• The perils of live television: a Minneapolis reporter faceplanted on ice during a live remote broadcast.

 

The New York Daily News is having fun with the A-Rod saga, as only the Daily News can.

 

So are Auburn and Missouri still in the national championship picture?

 

• This is pretty awesome: Flames goalie Reto Berra made a bicycle kick save against the Blue Jackets.

 

 

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 10:53
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/top-college-football-player-matchups-watch-week-13
Body:

Each week, Athlon Sports will highlight some of the best one-on-one matchups to watch in college football. Here are the most important games within the game to watch this weekend:

Johnny Manziel, QB vs. Lamin Barrow, LB
Texas A&M at LSU


One of the game’s most explosive and entertaining players will make his debut in one of the game’s best venues. LSU’s defense, led by leading tackler Barrow, plays much better at home (283.8 ypg) than it does on the road (423.6 ypg). Manziel played the worst game of his short career in the loss to LSU at home last season, throwing for 276 yards and three interceptions on 29-of-56 passing while rushing for just 27 yards on 17 carries. It is the only career game in which he's failed to reach the end zone in some capacity. Barrow is averaging 7.5 tackles per game and is one of two SEC Butkus Award finalists. He registered 8.0 tackles and 1.0 for a loss in the win over the Aggies last season. This will be an electric showdown between two proud players, teams and coaches.

Marion Grice, RB vs. Anthony Barr, LB
Arizona State at UCLA


Arguably the top defensive prospect in the nation, Barr has quickly become the second-most popular Bruins linebacker. Myles Jack is getting all of the headlines (rightly so) for his play on both sides of the ball, however, Barr will be charged with stopping Taylor Kelly, Marion Grice and D.J. Foster. Last season, the Sun Devils' trio combined for 164 yards rushing and were responsible for all five ASU touchdowns (Kelly had four TD passes) in the 45-43 loss to the Bruins. Barr posted five total tackles and a sack in the win. Grice and Foster combine for 238.7 all-purpose yards per game in 2013 and it falls to the talented Bruins backer to make big plays in both the running and passing game.

Levi Norwood, WR vs. Justin Gilbert, CB
Baylor at Oklahoma State


The Cowboys' cornerback is making a bid for All-America consideration with six interceptions this season. His two picks against Texas last week, including an interception for a touchdown, essentially sealed the game for Oklahoma State. On Saturday, he’ll be facing Bryce Petty, one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the country, plus a dynamic set of receivers. Norwood, a No. 3 receiver two weeks ago, caught seven passes for 156 yards for two touchdowns against Texas Tech last Saturday.

Michael Sam, DE vs. Laremy Tunsil, OT
Missouri at Ole Miss


Ole Miss has played Texas, Alabama and LSU, but Missouri might have the best defensive line the Rebels will see this season. The Tigers, led by senior end Michael Sam, lead the league in sacks with 34 and rank second in rushing defense (111.9 ypg). The Rebs’ offensive line will need to protect quarterback Bo Wallace, who has done a great job this season limiting his mistakes. Last season — his first as a starter — Wallace threw 17 interceptions in 13 games; this year, he has five in 10 games.

Week 13 Previews and Predictions: ACC | Big 12 Big Ten Pac-12 SEC

Will Sutton, DL vs. Myles Jack, LB
Arizona State at UCLA


Wait, how could a defensive lineman and a linebacker be going head-to-head? UCLA has been using Jack on offense as a running back, in particular around the goal line and in short yardage situations. Jack is a physical freak of an athlete as his five rushing touchdowns in two games can attest. It falls to Sutton, the leader of the Sun Devils' defensive line, to gear up to stop a bruising linebacker-turned-power runner if Arizona State wants to win the Pac-12 South.

Chris Borland, LB vs. David Cobb, RB
Wisconsin at Minnesota


A quiet hero of the Golden Gophers' storybook second half has been the junior from Killeen, Texas. Cobb has turned into a workhorse during the current four-game winning streak, carrying 26.8 times for 142 yards rushing per game. He has been over 100 yards in four straight games and has scored in back-to-back contests. To keep the Badgers off of the field, Cobb needs to give Philip Nelson and the offense some protection on the ground against a defense giving up just 98.8 yards rushing per game.

Ameer Abdullah, RB vs. Glenn Carson, LB
Nebraska at Penn State


Abdullah has posted seven straight 100-yard efforts and is in a battle with Wiconsin's Melvin Gordon for the Big Ten rushing championship. He was the first player to top 100 yards against Michigan State all season last weekend and will face another strong front this Saturday. Linebacker U has two excellent, experienced tacklers in Glenn Carson and Mike Hull. These two lead the team in tackles with 75 and 62 tackles respectively on the season. Against Nebraska’s star running back, Penn State’s linebackers will need to be disciplined and physical.

Jerron Seymour, RB vs. Daniel McCullers, DT
Vanderbilt at Tennessee


McCullers is a huge — as in 351 pounds — defensive tackle who is capable of being a difference-maker on a Tennessee defense that ranks last in the SEC in stopping the run. Vanderbilt has struggled at times against big run-stuffing tackles. Last week, Kentucky’s Donte Rumph had 10 tackles and was a big reason the Commodores’  two tailbacks (Seymour and Brian Kimbrow) only averaged 3.4 yards per carry. If McCullers can help slow down the rushing attack and make quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels uncomfortable in the pocket, Tennessee will have a great chance to win the game.

Teaser:
Top College Football Player Matchups to Watch in Week 13
Post date: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 10:07
Path: /nfl/new-orleans-saints-vs-atlanta-falcons-game-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Drew Brees and the 8-2 New Orleans Saints travel to the Georgia Dome to take on their NFC South division rival in Matt Ryan and the 2-8 Atlanta Falcons on the NFL Network's "Thursday Night Football" at 8:25 p.m. ET. Just two wins in 10 tries is not what Falcons fans expected this year. A play away from a Super Bowl appearance a season ago, the Falcons looked prepared for another run at a Lombardi Trophy.

 

However, injuries and inconsistent play has all but eliminated Atlanta from the playoffs. It's not a familiar feeling, as New England is the only team that was won more regular season games over the last five seasons than the Falcons. Prior to this season, Ryan had lost just five games in the Georgia Dome in five NFL seasons. However, in 2013 he's has already dropped three home games.

 

The Saints had a unusual down year last season thanks in large part to the absence of head coach Sean Payton. With their genius offensive play-caller back in the mix, New Orleans looks like the Saints of old as they have rolled to the second-best record (behind Seattle's 10-1) in the NFC behind the league's second-best passing offense.

 

Under Mike Smith, the Falcons have lost eight of their last 11 meetings against the Saints. Overall, the Saints are 12-3 in their last 15 games against Atlanta. The Falcons still maintain the overall edge in regular season games with a a 46-42 record.

 

3 Things to Watch

Terrific Tight Ends

This game is intriguing because it features Tony Gonzalez, one of the best to ever play tight end, and Jimmy Graham, who is at the forefront of the evolution of the position. Gonzalez, like Graham, is a former college basketball player who paved the way for athletic freaks of nature like Graham to get a chance. Gonzalez is the NFL's all-time leader among tight ends with 1,295 career catches, 14,824 yards and 107 touchdowns. Graham has a long way to go to reach these historic numbers, yet he's been extremely impressive in his four NFL seasons. Graham is on pace for his third straight season of 80 or more receptions, his second 1,000-yard campaign and a career high in touchdown catches. In five of the 10 games he's played this season, Graham has gone over 100 yards receiving, and has caught two touchdowns on four different occasions. Both tight ends were held in check in the season opener, yet each was still a factor in the red zone with a touchdown apiece.

 

Can the Falcons stop Brees?

Drew Brees is averaging 321.9 passing yards per game and has 26 touchdown passes, both of which are good for second in the NFL behind Peyton Manning. Brees is on pace for his third consecutive season and fourth campaign overall with more than 5,000 yards passing. The former Purdue Boilermaker has thrown for over 300 yards in all but two games this season. He is not afraid to push the ball down the field, ranking fifth in the NFL in yards per attempt at 8.3. In the season opener against Atlanta, Brees went 26 of 35 for 357 yards and two touchdowns, spreading the ball around to seven different receivers. The Falcons don't boast a very strong pass defense, as they've allowed seven touchdown passes during their current four-game losing streak. The Falcons' defense currently ranks 28th in the league in red zone defense, allowing opponents to convert 63.9 percent of the time. However, they did hold the Saints to one touchdown in three red zone trips back in Week 1. Brees will surely pile up yardage, so a bend but don't break strategy looks to be the Falcons' best chance to slow down the high-powered Saints.

 

Falcons' Running Game vs. Rob Ryan's Defense

Matt Ryan hasn't received much help from his backfield mates this year as Atlanta ranks dead last in the NFL in rushing, averaging just 73.1 yards per contest. Steven Jackson has been banged up all year long, leaving the workload to a committee made up of scat-back Jacquizz Rodgers and career backup Jason Snelling. Jackson has been back for four games now, but has yet to best a 13-carry, 57-yard performance against Carolina. His strength and agility in and out of holes, which made him a bell cow for nearly a decade in St. Louis, looks markedly diminished and he isn't getting great blocking up front. Snelling's recent arrest for marijuana possession further complicates matters for Atlanta. Ryan will likely have to do much of the work against the NFL's most improved defense. Just a season ago, the Saints turned in the worst statistical single-season performance of any defensive unit in NFL history. With the introduction of Rob Ryan at defensive coordinator, all of that has changed. New Orleans claims the NFL's third-best pass defense, allowing just 191.4 yards per game. Ryan is not at all afraid to send anyone and everyone he has on blitzes. As a result, New Orleans is sixth in the leagues with 32 sacks, already more than the 30 sacks the Saints collected in 2012.

 

Key Player for New Orleans: Corey White, CB

White will be asked to step in for veteran Jabari Greer, who went down last week with a brutal season-ending ACL injury. At the time of his injury, Greer led the team in passes defended with 12 and had one interception. White, a second-year player out of Samford, has yet to start a game this season; however, he does have five passes defended as well as an interception. Keenan Lewis should be shadowing wide receiver Roddy White all game, which means Ryan may look to his other options, like Harry Douglas, to get the ball moving.

 

Key Player for Atlanta: Roddy White, WR

This was a pretty easy selection. Matt Ryan needs weapons. Sure, he has Tony Gonzalez down the middle of the field. However, teams have begun to shift their coverage inside due to the lack of a true threat on the outside with dangerous vertical threat Julio Jones on injured reserve. Last week, White was blanketed all day by Tampa Bay cornerback Darrelle Revis, who held him to just three catches for 36 yards and a late fourth-quarter touchdown. If the Falcons are going to keep up with the explosive Saints, White needs to have his best game of the season.

 

Final Analysis

The free-fall Atlanta has been on this year is astounding. Perhaps it's a testament to the ever-changing, parity-prone world of the NFL. Or perhaps it's simply speaks to the importance of a team's luck with injuries. Either way, the Falcons are drowning and the Saints will not be offering them any free breaths. Look for New Orleans to improve its playoff positioning, while the Falcons get some experience for younger guys as they improve their draft positioning.

 

New Orleans 35, Atlanta 17

Teaser:
New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-positional-rankings-week-12
Body:

There may be six weeks remaining in the NFL regular season, but with the fantasy playoffs right around the corner, the clock is ticking for those teams looking to make a late move. Week 12 also signals the end of the bye weeks, as Buffalo, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Seattle are the last four teams to get a breather.

At this point, however, chances are no team is at full strength, as not only have bye weeks tested roster depth and an owner’s ability to work the waiver wire, but there’s also been no lack of injuries to key, if not crucial, players. Take quarterback for example. Not only are Nick Foles and Russell Wilson not available this week, owners are still waiting on Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler to return. And that’s not even the whole story at this one position.

As good as the likes of Peyton Manning, Jamaal Charles, Calvin Johnson and Jimmy Graham have been this season, there’s been no shortage of those who have emerged from obscurity to post some pretty impressive numbers of their own. Last week that was Tampa Bay running back Bobby Rainey, who finished second only to Ben Roethlisberger in fantasy points (Athlon scoring), after rushing for 163 yards and scoring three total touchdowns against Atlanta.

I’m going to guess that Rainey wasn’t even on that many rosters, let alone starting for many teams last week. While I have no doubt the former has certainly changed, the focus shifts to the latter. If you have Rainey are you starting him this week against Detroit in hopes that he can do it two games in a row? The game is not until Sunday, so you still have some time. Just remember though, the clock is ticking.

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

2013 NFL Week 12 Fantasy Football Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Week 12 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

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

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Positional Rankings: Week 12
Post date: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 07:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-quarterback-rankings-week-12
Body:

Once again, matchup has a hand in determining how the top two spots on Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 12 quarterback rankings shake out. Both Drew Brees and Peyton Manning are on the road this week, but Brees' matchup with Atlanta's shaky defense is more than enough to give him the nod over Manning, who will go head-to-head with Tom Brady for the 14th time Sunday night at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.

While Manning and Brady are first and second in fantasy points at their position, who is No. 3 may surprise some. With a healthy assist from Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford is somewhat quietly putting together a Pro Bowl-caliber season. The Lions' signal-caller is third in the NFL in both yards passing (3,198) and touchdown passes (21) and has thrown just eight interceptions. He's also scored twice on the ground. In 2012, Stafford finished with a total of 20 touchdown passes (and four rushing) and threw 17 picks. He could be in for another solid outing this week at home against a Tampa Bay defense that is ranked 18th against the pass and has given up 19 touchdowns through the air.

Another quarterback that has been hot lately is Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben was Week 11's top overall scorer, thanks to his 367 yards passing and four touchdowns in a come-from-behind win at home against Stafford's Lions. It was Roethlisberger's second game with at least 360 yards passing and four touchdowns in the last three weeks. The Steelers have won four in a row and will look to continue their turnaround Sunday against a Cleveland defense that's fourth in the league in passing yards allowed.

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

2013 NFL Week 12 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks

RkPlayerTeamOPPNotes
1Drew BreesNOat ATL (Thurs.)Falcons giving up fourth-most fantasy points to QBs.
2Peyton ManningDENat NEBroncos' O-line didn't give up a sack to Chiefs last week.
3Matthew StaffordDETvs. TBStafford has 8:4 TD:INT ratio in 4 home games.
4Cam NewtonCARat MIACam looked sharp (3 TDs, 0 INTs) vs. Patriots on MNF.
5Tom BradyNEvs. DENBroncos' D has allowed 191.3 passing ypg over last 4.
6Tony RomoDALat NYGThis is different Giants' D than one he faced in Week 1.
7Andrew LuckINDat ARIHas thrown 1 TD, 3 INTs in last 2 games.
8Colin KaepernickSFat WAS (Mon.)Redskins giving up fifth-most fantasy points to QBs.
9Robert Griffin IIIWASvs. SF (Mon.)49ers' D has done well against dual-threat QBs.
10Ben RoethlisbergerPITat CLEBig Ben has 9 TD passes, 3 INTs over last 3 games.
11Mike GlennonTBat DETLions are 30th in the NFL in passing defense (283.8 ypg).
12Eli ManningNYGvs. DALCowboys dead last in passing yards allowed (313.0 ypg).
13Philip RiversSDat KCChiefs still 9th in pass D after facing Peyton/Broncos.
14Alex SmithKCvs. SDHas just 4 INTs on season, Chargers' D has 5.
15Case KeenumHOUvs. JACStill the starter despite getting benched vs. Raiders.
16Carson PalmerARIvs. INDTorched the Jags (419-2-0) last week.
17Matt RyanATLvs. NO (Thurs.)Over last 4 G: 237.3 ypg, 5 TDs, 9 INTs.
18Ryan FitzpatrickTENat OAKRaiders have given up 19 TD passes w/ just 7 INTs.
19Joe FlaccoBALvs. NYJHasn't thrown for more than 250 yards in each of last 4 G.
20Josh McCownCHIat STL2-0 as the starter, has yet to throw an INT (5 TDs) in 4 G.
21Scott TolzienGBvs. MINThrew for 339 yards, but 0 TDs, 3 INTs in first start.
22Jason CampbellCLEvs. PITSteelers' pass D stiffened in second half vs. Lions last week.
23Ryan TannehillMIAvs. CARPanthers giving up fewest fantasy points to QBs.
24Kellen ClemensSTLvs. CHIHasn't thrown an interception over his last 2 games.
25Matt McGloinOAKvs. TENHeck of a debut: 3 TDs, 0 INTs in first career start.
26Geno SmithNYJat BALHas he hit the wall? 1 TD pass, 8 INTs in last 5 games.
27Chad HenneJACat HOUTexans lead the NFL in passing yards allowed (167.5 ypg).
28Christian PonderMINat GBHe may start, but no guarantee he will finish game.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 12 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Week 12 Waiver Wire

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Quarterback Rankings: Week 12
Post date: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 07:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-running-back-rankings-week-12
Body:

Two elite options are on bye this week, so Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 12 running back rankings may look a little different. LeSean McCoy and Marshawn Lynch both get a breather, but there are still plenty of appealing, as well as some intriguing, options out there.

Jamaal Charles, who leads all running backs in fantasy scoring and is second only to McCoy in yards from scrimmage gets the slight edge over Adrian Peterson for the top spot. Peterson is dealing with a slight groin injury and also faces a tougher matchup, at least on paper, this week in Green Bay while Charles and the Chiefs host San Diego.

Rankings aside, the running back that many will be watching could be the same one who came out of nowhere to lead the position in scoring last week. Tampa Bay's Bobby Rainey went for 163 yards rushing and scored three total touchdowns against Atlanta, placing him second only to Ben Roethlisberger in fantasy points in Week 11.

Rainey, a second-year pro from Western Kentucky who went undrafted in 2012, didn't even start this season with the Buccaneers. After spending 2012 and most of '13 training camp with Baltimore, Rainey was released prior to the start of the season and picked up by Cleveland. Rainey played six games for the Browns, rushing 13 times for 34 yards before getting released after Week 7. Following season-ending injuries to Doug Martin and Mike James, Tampa Bay signed Rainey and he made his Buccaneers debut two weeks ago on "Monday Night Football" against Miami, rushing for 45 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. That was just a warm up to his ground assault on the Falcons at home last week and now everyone wants to see what he has in store for an encore Sunday on the road against Detroit's fifth-ranked rushing defense. As impressive as Rainey was last week, keep one thing in mind: he got 30 carries against the Falcons, a number that he likely won't repeat any week, let alone this Sunday against the Lions' tough run defense.

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

2013 NFL Week 12 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Back
Teams on bye: Buffalo, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Seattle

RkPlayerTeamOPPNotes
1Jamaal CharlesKCvs. SDCharles has highest ypc average (5.5) in NFL history.
2Adrian PetersonMINat GBPackers giving up 141 rushing ypg over last 4.
3Matt ForteCHIat STLRams allowing fourth-most fantasy pts. to RBs.
4Eddie LacyGBvs. MINHas 4 TDs in last 5 games, but just 27 yards last week.
5Frank GoreSFat WAS (Mon.)Redskins giving up second-most fantasy pts. to RBs.
6Zac StacySTLvs. CHIBears are second to last in rushing D (133.9 ypg).
7Reggie BushDETvs. TBBenched part of 2nd half vs. PIT, just 54 total yards.
8Knowshon MorenoDENat NELed in carries, yards vs. Chiefs, but Ball had 2 TDs.
9Alfred MorrisWASvs. SF (Mon.)Has 22 or more carries in each of last 3 games.
10Andre BrownNYGvs. DALCowboys giving up most fantasy points to RBs.
11Chris JohnsonTENat OAKAll four of his rushing TDs have come in past 3 G.
12Rashad JenningsOAKvs. TENAveraging 113.3 rushing ypg over last 3 games.
13Ben TateHOUvs. JACJaguars last in rush defense, have allowed 15 TDs.
14Le'Veon BellPITat CLEEffective (4.9 ypc, 19 att.) vs. Ravens last week.
15DeMarco MurrayDALat NYGHad 86 yards on 20 carries vs. Giants in Week 1.
16Stevan RidleyNEvs. DENFumble cost him carries vs. CAR, but he did score.
17Pierre ThomasNOat ATL (Thurs.)Has 11 or more carries in five of last six games.
18Chris IvoryNYJat BALRavens have given up just 1 rushing TD.
19Maurice Jones-DrewJACat HOUHas scored a TD in back-to-back games.
20Ryan MathewsSDat KCChiefs' rush D bends (117.1 ypg), but doesn't break (4 TDs).
21Bobby RaineyTBat DETGashed Falcons for 163 yards rushing, 3 total TDs.
22Ray RiceBALvs. NYJPosted first 100-yard game (131, TD) last week.
23Shane VereenNEvs. DENOne carry, but seven receptions in first game back.
24Darren SprolesNOat ATL (Thurs.)Tweaked his ankle vs. SF, should play on Thurs.
25Danny WoodheadSDat KCLeads all RBs with 55 receptions.
26Andre EllingtonARIvs. INDJust 3 yards rushing and lost some hair last week.
27Donald BrownINDat ARIMay have replaced T-Rich as Colts' lead back.
28Steven JacksonATLvs. NO (Thurs.)Season high of 77 yards came vs. Saints in Week 1.
29DeAngelo WilliamsCARat MIADolphins giving up 122.6 yards rushing per game.
30Chris OgbonnayaCLEvs. PITLed team in carries (8) and yards (69) last week.
31Rashard MendenhallARIvs. INDHolding onto starting job, 2 TDs in last 3 games.
32Lamar MillerMIAvs. CARPanthers third in the NFL against the run (84.5 ypg).
33Jonathan StewartCARat MIANot very involved (4 att., 10 yds.) on MNF vs. Pats.
34Joique BellDETvs. TBTook over for Bush after fumble, but left w/ injury.
35Trent RichardsonINDat ARICarries continuing to decline, Cards tough vs. run.
36Montee BallDENat NERookie had 2 TDs vs. Chiefs, 3 in last 3 games.
37Daniel ThomasMIAvs. CARPosted a 5.7 ypc average and a TD last week.
38Mike TolbertCARat MIATied with DeAngelo for most RB carries (6) on MNF.
39Mark IngramNOat ATL (Thurs.)Just 25 yards vs. 49ers after 145 against Cowboys.
40Jacquizz RodgersATLvs. NO (Thurs.)Saints yielding 4.9 yards per carry.
41Bilal PowellNYJat BALIvory getting the lion's share of carries.
42Shonn GreeneTENat OAKRaiders have allowed just 7 rushing touchdowns.
43Brian LeonardTBat DETTwo carries last week compared to Rainey's 30.
44Willis McGaheeCLEvs. PITMay be running out of opportunities w/ Browns.
45Bernard PierceBALvs. NYJJets No. 1 in NFL In rushing yards allowed (73.2 ypg).
46Roy HeluWASvs. SF (Mon.)Six or fewer touches in each of last four games.
47Toby GerhartMINat GBPeterson's groin was an issue last week.
48Antone SmithATLvs. NO (Thurs.)Gained 88 yards on just two carries last week.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 12 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Week 12 Waiver Wire

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Running Back Rankings: Week 12
Post date: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 07:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-wide-receiver-rankings-week-12
Body:

Calvin Johnson came up huge again last week, solidifying his grip on the top spot on Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 12 wide receiver rankings, but he wasn’t the only one who posted some gaudy numbers. In Johnson’s case, he posted his third 150-yard effort in his last four games, and needed just one half to accomplish this.

Johnson was unstoppable against Pittsburgh in the first half, catching six passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns. The Steelers did a much better job on him in the final two quarters, holding him without a reception. But the damage had already been done from a fantasy perspective, as Megatron led his peers in fantasy points in Week 11.

That Lions-Steelers game also produced the No. 2 scoring wide receiver last week, as Antonio Brown hauled in seven passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns. The most yards in Week 11 belonged to Arizona’s Michael Floyd. Despite being listed as questionable with a shoulder injury entering the game, Floyd exploded for 193 yards against Jacksonville on just six catches, highlighted by a 91-yard touchdown.

The Cardinals’ No. 1 target is All-Pro Larry Fitzgerald, but if quarterback Carson Palmer can continue his recent stretch of solid play (419 yards, 2 TDs vs. Jacksonville) there should be enough passes to keep both Fitzgerald and Floyd fantasy relevant.

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

2013 NFL Week 12 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers
Teams on bye: Buffalo, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Seattle

RkPlayerTeamOPPNotes
1Calvin JohnsonDETvs. TBHuge first half (6-179-2) vs. Steelers, nothing in 2nd.
2Andre JohnsonHOUvs. JACExploded for 14-273-1 in last game (2012) vs. Jags.
3Vincent JacksonTBat DETLions giving up second-most fantasy pts. to WRs.
4Demaryius ThomasDENat NEHad 121 yards vs. Chiefs on just five catches (24.2 ypr).
5Dez BryantDALat NYGHad just four catches for 22 yards in Week 1 vs. Giants.
6Brandon MarshallCHIat STLImpacted by the weather last week vs. Ravens.
7Jordy NelsonGBvs. MINVikings have surrendered NFL-worst 23 TD passes.
8Victor CruzNYGvs. DALCowboys last in passing defense (313.0 ypg).
9Josh GordonCLEvs. PITMegatron gave Steelers plenty of problems last week.
10Wes WelkerDENat NESustained concussion last week, watch status.
11Larry FitzgeraldARIvs. INDFloyd had the yards last week, but Fitz caught a TD too.
12Pierre GarconWASvs. SF (Mon.)Sustained some sort of ankle injury last week.
13Torrey SmithBALvs. NYJHas a TD catch in back-to-back games.
14T.Y. HiltonINDat ARITough matchup looming with Cards CB Peterson.
15Eric DeckerDENat NEHis role could expand if Welker (concussion) can't go.
16Marques ColstonNOat ATL (Thurs.)Colston now owns all Saints' franchise receiving records.
17Alshon JefferyCHIat STLHad 100 total yds. (83 receiving, 17 rush) vs. Ravens.
18Antonio BrownPITat CLEBig game last week, but gets CB Joe Haden on Sunday.
19Danny AmendolaNEvs. DENSix grabs vs. Panthers, but just 45 yards.
20Harry DouglasATLvs. NO (Thurs.)Posted 134 yards, TD despite playing with knee injury.
21Cecil ShortsJACat HOUJust five targets, two catches last week vs. Cardinals.
22Anquan BoldinSFat WAS (Mon.)TD vs. Saints was first since Week 4.
23Kendall WrightTENat OAKHas seen 9 or more targets in four of last five games.
24Steve SmithCARat MIADolphins have given up just 1 TD catch to a WR.
25Jarrett BoykinGBvs. MINHas recorded 14 catches for 203 yards over last 2 G.
26Keenan AllenSDat KCSustained knee injury late vs. MIA, expected to play.
27Hakeem NicksNYGvs. DALStill looking for first TD catch of the season.
28Dwayne BoweKCvs. SDTD catch vs. Broncos was first since Week 4.
29James JonesGBvs. MINHas yet to record a TD catch since Week 9 return.
30Michael FloydARIvs. IND91-yard TD highlighted huge (6-193-1) game vs. Jags.
31Rueben RandleNYGvs. DALLeads Giants with six TD receptions.
32Terrance WilliamsDALat NYGHas a TD grab in five of his last six games.
33Roddy WhiteATLvs. NO (Thurs.)Caught first TD pass of season last week vs. Bucs.
34Aaron DobsonNEvs. DENBroncos giving up 14.5 yards per catch to WRs.
35Mike WallaceMIAvs. CARPanthers' D has been tough on passing games.
36Denarius MooreOAKvs. TENTitans yielding fewest points to fantasy WRs.
37Kenny StillsNOat ATL (Thurs.)Could break a big play against porous Falcons secondary.
38Tavon AustinSTLvs. CHIHuge game (314 total yds., 3 TDs) last time on field.
39Santonio HolmesNYJat BALRecorded two catches for 71 yards in return from injury.
40Emmanuel SandersPITat CLESustained a foot injury last week, watch status.
41Jerricho CotcheryPITat CLERole could expand if Sanders (foot) can't play.
42Brian HartlineMIAvs. CAR13 targets (5-65) last week most since Week 1.
43DeAndre HopkinsHOUvs. JAC 
44Nate BurlesonDETvs. TBWill this be the week he returns to the field?
45Chris GivensSTLvs. CHI 
46Rod StreaterOAKvs. TENLed Raiders with 6 rec., 84 yds. and TD last week.
47Lance MooreNOat ATL (Thurs.)Saints should do some damage vs. Falcons' pass D.
48Brandon LaFellCARat MIAHauled in fourth TD catch of season on MNF vs. Pats.
49Miles AustinDALat NYGExpected to play for first time since Week 7.
50Greg JenningsMINat GBSomewhat surprising DNP (Achilles) last week.
51Dexter McClusterKCvs. SDChargers have given up second-most rec. to WRs.
52Rishard MatthewsMIAvs. CARHas 20 targets (15-172-2) in last two games.
53Nate WashingtonTENat OAKHauled in 42-yard catch last week vs. Colts.
54Kris DurhamDETvs. TBShould remain a factor until Burleson returns.
55Jarius WrightMINat GBThree catches, 2 TDs in place of injured Jennings.
56Cordarrelle PattersonMINat GB 
57Stephen HillNYJvs. NYJGeno Smith's issues impacting Jets WR production.
58Julian EdelmanNEvs. DEN 
59Darrius Heyward-BeyINDat ARINot taking advantage of starting role.
60Eddie RoyalSDat KCIt's pretty much all about TDs with him.
61Andre RobertsARIvs. IND 
62Marlon BrownBALvs. NYJ 
63Mario ManninghamSFat WAS (Mon.) 
64Michael CrabtreeSFat WAS (Mon.)May make season debut (Achilles) on MNF vs. Redskins.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 12 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Week 12 Waiver Wire

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 12
Post date: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 07:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-tight-end-rankings-week-12
Body:

The usual suspects head up Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 12 tight end rankings, but this season hasn’t lacked for surprises when it comes to the position either. Take Miami’s Charles Clay for example. Not really on the radar entering this season, a serious leg injury suffered by Dustin Keller, provided Clay an opportunity for more playing time, and the hybrid fullback/tight end has made the most of it.

Clay has 42 catches for 474 yards and four touchdowns, along with one rushing score, which places him eighth in fantasy points among tight ends. He faces a pretty tough matchup this week with Carolina’s defense, but his versatility and obvious presence in the Dolphins’ offense makes it hard to bench him.

This doesn’t mean that Jimmy Graham won’t continue his domination at the position or that Rob Gronkowski or Julius Thomas won’t both put up big numbers when their teams face off on Sunday night. What it does mean is that Graham, Gronk, Thomas, along with the likes of Vernon Davis, Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten aren’t the only tight ends you have to own to make some noise at the position. After all, who would have guessed that Jordan Reed would emerge as a top-10 option in 2013 or that Garrett Graham or Delanie Walker would enter Week 12 with more fantasy points than Gronk, Jermichael Finley, Heath Miller, Jared Cook or Kyle Rudolph?

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

2013 NFL Week 12 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends
Teams on bye: Buffalo, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Seattle

RkPlayerTeamOPPNotes
1Jimmy GrahamNOat ATL (Thurs.)No TDs in last 2 G, still No. 1 fantasy TE by wide margin.
2Rob GronkowskiNEvs. DENNo debate on the one TD he caught vs. CAR on MNF.
3Julius ThomasDENat NETied Graham with 10th TD grab, dealing w/ knee strain.
4Vernon DavisSFat WAS (Mon.)Shook off concussion, caught 8th TD pass.
5Jason WittenDALat NYGHad 8 catches for 70 yards and 2 TD vs. Giants in Week 1.
6Antonio GatesSDat KCOnly 3 TD catches, but still a top 5 fantasy TE.
7Coby FleenerINDat ARICardinals have surrendered 10 TD catches to TEs.
8Jordan CameronCLEvs. PITJust 1 TD catch in his last six games.
9Greg OlsenCARat MIAHas a TD catch in three of last four games.
10Tony GonzalezATLvs. NO (Thurs.)Played through toe injury, caught 7 passes for 63 yds.
11Jordan ReedWASvs. SF (Mon.)Held to just 1 catch for 12 yards last week by PHI.
12Delanie WalkerTENat OAKQuietly putting together solid (39-403-5) season.
13Charles ClayMIAvs. CARRecorded 4th TD catch last week, top 10 fantasy TE.
14John CarlsonMINat GBSolid (12-167-1) production in 2 G w/o Rudolph.
15Martellus BennettCHIat STLRams giving up second-fewest fantasy pts. to TEs.
16Garrett GrahamHOUvs. JACBroke out (7-136-1) last week vs. Raiders.
17Timothy WrightTBat DETHas totaled 3 catches for 32 yards in last 2 games.
18Rob HouslerARIvs. INDHas 10 catches for 127 yards and a TD in last 2 games.
19Heath MillerPITat CLESeason-high 8 catches (67 yards) last week.
20Jared CookSTLvs. CHIBears have yielded just 2 TD receptions by TEs.
21Brandon PettigrewDETvs. TBOne TD reception this season.
22Dallas ClarkBALvs. NYJJets have had some problems defending TEs.
23Jeff CumberlandNYJat BALOne of few bright spots on offense last week for Jets.
24Brandon MyersNYGvs. DAL 
25Anthony FasanoKCvs. SDFasano's presence in the passing game growing.
26Andrew QuarlessGBvs. MIN 

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 12 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Week 12 Waiver Wire

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Tight End Rankings: Week 12
Post date: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 07:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-defspecial-teams-rankings-week-12
Body:

Still riding high following its victory over New England at home on “Monday Night Football,” Carolina has ascended to the top of Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 12 defense/special teams rankings. The Panthers are third in fantasy points among DSTs, behind only Kansas City and Seattle, and will take on Miami this Sunday. Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has had his problems with turnovers (16 total) this season, and he’s also been sacked an NFL-worst 41 times.

Houston, led by reigning Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, was among the league leaders in sacks last season, but 2013 has been a struggle for the Texans DST. Near the bottom in fantasy points, Houston’s DST could be a replacement/bye week fill-in option this week, as the Texans host Jacksonville. The Jaguars are not only last in both total and scoring offense; they are giving up the second-most fantasy points to DSTs.

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

2013 NFL Week 12 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams
Teams on bye this week: Buffalo, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Seattle

RkTeamOPPNotes
1Carolina Panthersat MIAKeep rising to the occasion - late INT to seal MNF win vs. NE.
2Kansas City Chiefsvs. SDDidn't record a single sack vs. Peyton Manning last week.
3San Francisco 49ersat WAS (Mon.)49ers' D still seething over what happened in New Orleans.
4Baltimore Ravensvs. NYJCan the Ravens take advantage of Geno Smith's growing pains?
5New Orleans Saintsat ATL (Thurs.)This is not the same Falcons team Saints beat in Week 1.
6Houston Texansvs. JACGave up 3 TD passes to Raiders, but just 176 passing yards.
7Arizona Cardinalsvs. INDCardinals' D has been pretty tough out in the desert.
8St. Louis Ramsvs. CHICan the Rams get to McCown? Slow down Forte?
9New York Giantsvs. DAL11.8 ppg, 253.3 ypg, 11 takeaways during 4-game winning streak.
10Green Bay Packersvs. MINPeterson (groin) wasn’t at full strength last week vs. Seattle.
11Pittsburgh Steelersat CLEHorrendous first half, solid second half last week vs. Lions.
12Chicago Bearsat STLBears have picked off at least one pass in 5 straight games.
13Tennessee Titansat OAKTitans' rushing defense could be tested by Raiders.
14Cleveland Brownsvs. PITBrowns gave up 224 yards (118 passing) last week to Bengals.
15Oakland Raidersvs. TENRaiders' D has been pretty solid in the Black Hole.
16Dallas Cowboysat NYGCowboys come off of bye for critical NFC East showdown.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 12 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends

Kickers

Week 12 Waiver Wire

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 12
Post date: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 07:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-kicker-rankings-week-12
Body:

Seattle’s Steven Hauschka, the top scorer at his position, is on bye so it’s only fitting that Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 12 kicker rankings is headlined by two who will share the same field on Sunday night. New England’s Stephen Gostkowski may trail Hauschka in fantasy points, but he’s No. 1 in this week’s rankings with Denver’s Matt Prater right behind him. The Patriots host the Broncos Sunday night and expect both kickers to play a role in determining the winner of this matchup of AFC division leaders.

New Orleans also is in first place in its division (NFC South), and the Saints have an opportunity to extend that lead Thursday night against Atlanta. After a few rocky outings, Garrett Hartley has seemingly righted the ship, which makes the Saints offense that much more dangerous. Hartley entered last week’s big game against San Francisco connecting on just two of his past six field goal attempts. It got so bad that the team actually brought in some kickers to try out, although the decision was made to stick with Hartley.

Hartley rewarded the coaching staff’s loyalty by knocking through all three of his attempts against the 49ers, including a long of 42 yards that tied the game at 20 with a little more than two minutes left. The most important one, however, was the 31-yarder he made as time expired to give the Saints a hard-fought 23-20 victory over the defending NFC champions. Hartley is a clear-cut, top-10 option this week against a Falcons defense that’s allowing the most fantasy points to kickers.

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

2013 NFL Week 12 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers
Teams on bye this week: Buffalo, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Seattle

RkPlayerTeamOPPONENT
1Stephen GostkowskiNEvs. DEN
2Matt PraterDENat NE
3Dan BaileyDALat NYG
4Nick FolkNYJat BAL
5Justin TuckerBALvs. NYJ
6Garrett HartleyNOat ATL (Thurs.)
7Adam VinatieriINDat ARI
8Mason CrosbyGBvs. MIN
9Robbie GouldCHIat STL
10Ryan SuccopKCvs. SD
11Shaun SuishamPITat CLE
12Nick NovakSDat KC
13Phil DawsonSFat WAS (Mon.)
14Josh BrownNYGvs. DAL
15Graham GanoCARat MIA
16Blair WalshMINat GB

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 12 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Week 12 Waiver Wire

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Kicker Rankings: Week 12
Post date: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 07:30
Path: /college-football/2013-big-ten-week-13-preview-and-predictions
Body:

There isn’t a marquee showdown in the Big Ten this weekend but there are a host of interesting games. Michigan State can clinch the Legends Division, two NCAA blue bloods get together in Happy Valley, two coaching staffs fight for their lives in Iowa City, someone has to win in West Lafayette and the most-played rivalry in college football will feature two ranked teams.

Week 13 Previews and Predictions: ACC | Big 12Pac-12 | SEC

Big Ten Week 13 Game Power Rankings:

1. Wisconsin (-16) at Minnesota (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
The oldest rivalry in college football history began back in 1890 and Minnesota holds a slight edge in the all-time series, which stands at 58-56-8. However, this Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe has been extremely one-sided of late. Wisconsin has won nine straight, 16 of the last 18 meetings and hasn’t won by less than 18 points since 2009. Despite head coach Jerry Kill remaining in the press box for the game, this appears to be the Gophers' best shot at ending the streak in some time. Minnesota’s running game has been nearly as potent as the Badgers', ranking 20th nationally with 218.5 yards per game. The key, however, won’t be stopping the Wisconsin running game (because no one can truly “stop” it), it will be moving the ball on the nation’s No. 6-rated total defense (287.8 ypg) and scoring points on the nation’s fifth-rated scoring defense (14.0 ppg). Philip Nelson will have to play a perfect football game under center and tailback David Cobb will have to continue to be the workhorse he’s developed into over the last month.

2. Michigan State (-7.5) at Northwestern (Noon, ESPN)
Connor Cook, Jeremy Langford and the nation’s No. 1 defense did something last week no MSU team has ever done — it beat Nebraska. Now, the Spartans can clinch the Legends Division title and secure a date with Ohio State in the Big Ten title game with a road win at Northwestern. The Wildcats simply need something positive to happen after losing six straight. A loss would knock Pat Fitzgerald out of the postseason for the first time since his second season in Evanston in 2007. In fact, Ryan Field has been a safe haven for the Spartans ever since Fitzgerald got to town. The Wildcats are 0-4 against Michigan State at home under Coach Fitz. With some of the most heart-breaking losses in the nation this year, it’s hard to tell if the ball should finally bounce the Cats way or if they are destined for a winless Big Ten campaign.

3. Nebraska (+2) at Penn State (3:30 p.m., BTN)
The visual contrast between Nebraska’s Big Red and the Nittany Lions’ navy blue is a sight to behold — even if the teams have combined for seven losses this year. The Huskers have won both Big Ten meetings between the two and have won four out of five dating back to 1983. Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg is coming off his best game (152.64 rating) since a Week 3 loss to UCF (165.38) and has shown he is a much more efficient player at home. Nebraska lost for the first time without Taylor Martinez under center last week to Michigan State and Bo Pelini will need to rebuild the confidence of both Tommy Armstrong (9-of-21) and Ron Kellogg III (67 yards total offense) quickly to top Penn State in Happy Valley. Ameer Abdullah is locked in a heated battle with Melvin Gordon for the Big Ten rushing championship after topping 100 yards for the seventh straight game last week — the first back to top the century mark against the Spartans all season.

4. Michigan (+6) at Iowa (Noon, BTN)
Wolverines offensive coordinator Al Borges is feeling the heat after yet another lackluster offensive performance against Northwestern last week. Kirk Ferentz could end all hot seat discussions with two wins to end the season over rivals Michigan and Nebraska. Devin Gardner posted the best passing game of his career (until Indiana this year) in the blowout win over Iowa last fall but comes in struggling to move the ball. The Hawkeyes, meanwhile, have had two weeks to prepare after crushing Purdue on both sides of the ball. Both coaching staffs desperately need a win as the final two weeks will shape offseason perceptions of both programs dramatically. Nine wins looks totally different than seven in Ann Arbor while eight is a big jump from six in Iowa City.

5. Indiana (+34.5) at Ohio State (3:30 p.m., ABC)
This was an exciting 52-49 road win for the Buckeyes last season. And while it’s easy to root for Kevin Wilson and the upstart Hoosiers offense, there is just no way they will be as competitive this time around. Indiana allowed 554 yards on 11.1 yards per carry and six touchdowns on the ground to Wisconsin last week while Urban Meyer continues to ride his own power rushing attack. The only team better at running the ball than the Badgers in the Big Ten is Ohio State. The Bucks are fourth nationally with 315.1 yards rushing per game. Best of luck, Indiana. 

6. Illinois (-7) at Purdue (Noon, BTN)
Someone has to win, right? Neither team has registered a Big Ten win in 2013 and both are nearing monumental lows in production. Illinois has lost 20 consecutive Big Ten games, including two close losses to the Boilermakers the last two seasons. Purdue meanwhile might be the worst power conference team in the nation, failing to come within one score of the opposition in eight of their nine losses (Notre Dame, 31-24). Nathan Scheelhaase, who leads the Big Ten in total offense at 290.5 yards per game, might be the only competent offensive weapon on the field this Saturday.

Big Ten Week 13 Pivotal Players


Listen to Athlon Sports writers Braden Gall and David Fox discuss Ohio State's BCS title hopes and preview Week 13 in this edition of Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast.
 1. Minnesota’s defensive line
The Badgers' offensive attack isn’t some secret mystery. They are going to run the football… a lot. Minnesota star defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman can’t do all the work alone, however, as he will need support from those around him to stop the powerful Wisconsin ground game. The Gophers defeated Nebraska, Indiana and Penn State despite giving up 202.0 yards rushing per game on 5.9 yards per carry over their last three. If Minnesota gives up six yards per rush to Wisconsin, this won’t be a close game.

2. David Cobb, RB, Minnesota
A quiet hero of the Golden Gophers' storybook second half has been the junior from Killeen, Texas. Cobb has turned into a workhorse during the four-game winning streak, carrying 26.8 times per game for 142 yards rushing per contest. He has been over 100 yards in four straight and has scored in back-to-back games. To keep the Badgers off of the field, Cobb needs to give Philip Nelson and the offense some protection on the ground against a defense giving up just 98.8 yards rushing per game.

3. Penn State’s linebackers
Linebacker U has two excellent upperclassmen tacklers in Glenn Carson and Mike Hull. These two lead the team in tackles with 75 and 62 respectively on the season. Against Nebraska star running back Ameer Abdullah, Penn State’s linebackers will need to be disciplined and physical. 

4. Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan
Before throwing for 504 yards against Indiana this year, Gardner’s top passing effort came in the 42-17 drubbing of Iowa in the Big House last season (314 yards, 3 TD). And more than just bragging rights or bowl pecking order is on the line, Gardner’s legacy hangs in the balance. He has failed to live up to expectations for much of the season and how he plays over the final two weeks will mold how Michigan is thought of heading into his senior season in 2014. He has finally eliminated the turnovers from his game but Iowa’s defense is opportunistic and will be looking to make plays at home.

5. Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
Calhoun is in a heated battle with Chris Borland, Randy Gregory and Ryan Shazier (among others) for Defensive Player of the Year honors in the Big Ten. Against a Northwestern team that is 117th in the nation in sacks allowed (3.4 per game) and with a chance to clinch the division, Calhoun has a chance to put together a season-defining performance on the road in Evanston.

Big Ten Week 13 Prediction Grid:

GameBraden GallMitch LightSteven LassanDavid Fox
Wisconsin (-16) at MinnesotaWisconsin, 41-24Wisconsin, 38-15Wisconsin, 34-24Wisconsin, 35-24
Michigan St (-7.5) at N'WesternMich. St, 31-13Mich. St, 20-7Mich. St, 27-10Mich. St, 28-7
Nebraska (+2) at Penn StPenn St, 27-24Nebraska, 27-13 Nebraska, 27-24Penn St, 28-24 
Michigan (+6) at IowaIowa, 21-20Iowa, 17-10Iowa, 24-20Iowa, 21-17
Indiana (+34.5) at Ohio StOhio St, 51-31Ohio St, 55-21Ohio St, 54-27Ohio St, 49-21
Illinois (-7) at PurdueIllinois, 34-20Illinois, 34-21Illinois, 34-20Illinois, 38-24
Last Week:4-15-05-05-0
Year-to-date:71-1374-1074-1071-13

 

Teaser:
2013 Big Ten Week 13 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 07:16
Path: /college-football/2013-acc-week-13-preview-and-predictions
Body:

The ACC features only four matchups with teams in conference play this Saturday, while Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson and North Carolina step out of the ACC for a non-conference affair.

With the Atlantic Division title settled, the focus of the next two Saturdays in the ACC turns to the Coastal. Duke holds the edge over Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Miami, but the Blue Devils still have two tough games remaining. Duke travels to Wake Forest this Saturday, followed by a game against rival North Carolina next week.

Pittsburgh and Syracuse square off on Saturday, with the winner earning bowl eligibility. Miami hopes to snap a three-game losing streak with Virginia visiting Sun Life Stadium, and Boston College travels to Maryland.

It’s a light slate of action, but the ACC should have a little more clarity to its conference title and bowl picture by Sunday.

Week 13 Previews and Predictions: Big 12 | Big Ten Pac-12 | SEC


ACC Week 13 Game Power Rankings

1. Pittsburgh (-1) at Syracuse (12:30 ET, ACC Network)
It’s odd the game of the week features two 5-5 teams. But this game has plenty at stake for both programs, as the winner of this one will get bowl eligible. Pittsburgh has won seven out of the last eight matchups with Syracuse. However, the Orange won 14-13 at home last year. This season’s meeting could be another low-scoring affair, with both teams ranked near the bottom of the ACC in scoring offense. Pittsburgh is averaging 21.8 points a game in conference play, while Syracuse is last at 12.3. Protecting quarterback Tom Savage is the top priority for the Panthers, especially against a Syracuse defense that has generated 30 sacks this year. If Savage has time to throw, big plays should be there for receivers Tyler Boyd and Devin Street. The Orange are averaging only 174.9 passing yards a game this year, and it’s critical for the rushing attack to get on track. In Syracuse’s five wins, it is averaging 245.6 rushing yards a contest. Pittsburgh ranks ninth in the ACC against the run, but tackle Aaron Donald is one of the league’s best and will be a tough matchup for the Orange’s offensive line. 

2. Duke (-5.5) at Wake Forest (Noon ET, ESPN2)
Duke is just two wins away from playing in its first ACC Championship. But the Blue Devils won’t have an easy path to a Coastal Division title, as rival North Carolina awaits next Saturday, while Winston-Salem has been a challenging place for this program in recent years. Wake Forest has won 12 out of the last 13 meetings against Duke, but the Blue Devils won 34-27 in Winston-Salem last year. The Demon Deacons are still without receiver Michael Campanaro, who suffered a collarbone injury in the loss against Syracuse. Without Campanaro, Wake Forest scored only three points in a 59-3 loss to Florida State. Duke’s defense isn’t as dominant as the Seminoles, but this unit has stepped up in the second half of games, holding Miami to just seven points last week and 10 to NC State in a 38-20 victory on Nov. 9. The Blue Devils would like to get quarterback Anthony Boone back on track this Saturday, as the junior has seven interceptions and zero touchdowns over his last three games.

3. Boston College (+1) at Maryland (3:30 ET, RSN)
Both teams picked up the all-important sixth win last week, and with the ACC likely to have more bowl-eligible teams than available spots, the last two games of the year for Boston College and Maryland are all about improving their bowl position. The Eagles have won three in a row, largely due to the play of running back Andre Williams. The senior gashed NC State for 339 yards and two touchdowns and has at least 166 yards in each of his last four games. Maryland ranks ninth in ACC-only games against the run, and two out of their last three opponents have rushed for at least 242 yards. The Terrapins snapped a three-game losing streak last week, defeating Virginia Tech 27-24 in Blacksburg. Quarterback C.J. Brown carried the offense for Maryland last Saturday, recording 257 of the team’s 319 yards. Boston College ranks last in the ACC against the pass, so there will be opportunities for Brown to make plays through the air. With both teams limited on offense, the turnover battle will be crucial. The Terrapins rank last in the ACC in turnover margin (-2.0 per game), while the Eagles are +4 this season.

4. Virginia (+20) at Miami (Noon ET, ESPNU)
After a 7-0 start, Miami has been trending in the wrong direction with three consecutive losses. The Hurricanes are likely out of the Coastal Division title picture, but winning their last two games can help improve their bowl position. Virginia also enters this matchup looking for something positive, as the Cavaliers have dropped seven consecutive games. Miami’s defense has allowed 40 points in three-straight contests, but Virginia’s offense is averaging just 16.7 points a game. The strength of the Cavaliers’ offense resides with running back Kevin Parks (4.3 ypc, 10 TDs), while quarterback David Watford has to pickup his play to have any shot at the upset. Miami quarterback Stephen Morris has thrown for 300 yards in back-to-back games, and even with receiver Phillip Dorsett once again this week, the senior passer could reach that mark against a Virginia secondary ranked 10th in the ACC. Although Miami is a 20-point favorite this week, the Cavaliers have won three in a row in this series, including a 41-40 shootout in Charlottesville last season.

5. Old Dominion (+17.5) at North Carolina (Noon ET, RSN)
The Tar Heels hope to continue their late-season surge against a dangerous non-conference matchup in Old Dominion. The Monarchs are transitioning to the FBS and lost 35-24 at Pittsburgh earlier this year. Old Dominion’s offense is led by junior quarterback Taylor Heinicke – who has thrown for 3,892 yards and 32 touchdowns this season – and four players with at least 40 receptions. North Carolina’s secondary ranks fourth in ACC games against the pass, holding three of its last four opponents under 205 passing yards. Getting pressure on Heinicke will be critical, and senior end Kareem Martin is coming off one of the best defensive performances of his career (8 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 FF). Even if the Tar Heels struggle to keep Heinicke in check for all four quarters, the offense should have no trouble moving the ball on Old Dominion. The Monarchs are allowing 427.7 yards per game this season, and five opponents have scored at least 30 points. With a win over ODU, North Carolina will earn bowl eligibility, along with its first five-game winning streak since 2001.

6. East Carolina (-6.5) at NC State (12:30 ET, ACC Network)
The Wolfpack step out of conference play this Saturday, hoping to break a six-game losing streak with a matchup against in-state foe East Carolina. Under first-year coach Dave Doeren, NC State has struggled at times on both sides of the ball, and the defense is reeling after allowing 420 rushing yards to Boston College last Saturday. The Pirates will present a different challenge, as quarterback Shane Carden will test a Wolfpack secondary ranked third in the ACC against the pass. Carden has 29 touchdown tosses this year and is completing 72.5 percent of his throws. The senior is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, including receiver Justin Hardy (87 catches) and running back Vintavious Cooper (754 yards). If East Carolina can jump out to an early lead, it could spell trouble for NC State. The Wolfpack has struggled to get consistent quarterback play, and the Pirates are limiting opponents to three yards per carry. With Brandon Mitchell questionable to play once again, Pete Thomas is expected to start under center. However, NC State will likely focus its offensive attack around running back Shadrach Thornton (606 yards, four touchdowns), while mobile quarterback Bryant Shirreffs should also see time under center. East Carolina already knocked off one ACC team (North Carolina) and lost by five against Virginia Tech. Can the Pirates go 2-1 against the ACC this year?

7. Idaho (+57) at Florida State (3:30 ET, ESPNU)
The Seminoles have three remaining obstacles to play for the national championship, and Jimbo Fisher’s team shouldn’t have little trouble with Idaho this Saturday. The Vandals were left without a conference home in 2013, forcing a brutal schedule as an Independent. Idaho’s only victory was a two-point win over Temple and lost its two games against BCS opponents this season by a combined score of 101-14. The Vandals also have seven losses by at least 20 points. Florida State’s priorities this week should be pretty simple: Get out of this game healthy and get the backups – especially Sean Maguire at quarterback – valuable reps.

8. The Citadel (+40) vs. Clemson (12:00 ET, ESPN3)
This is the first meeting between The Citadel and Clemson since 2008, but this matchup will turn out like most of the previous games in this series – a Clemson blowout. The Tigers have outscored the Bulldogs 83-17 in their last two meetings, and The Citadel is 0-16 against ranked FBS teams. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd injured his collarbone against Georgia Tech last week, but the senior is expected to play on Saturday. This will be Boyd’s final home game, and the senior has helped to lead this program to 30 wins over the last three years. Receiver Sammy Watkins still has one more year of eligibility left, but he is expected to enter the NFL Draft. Boyd and Watkins won’t play too long, while both players should put up big numbers in their final Death Valley appearance.

9. Alabama A&M (+51.5) at Georgia Tech (1:30 ET, ESPN3)
Georgia Tech is smarting just a bit after a 55-31 loss to Clemson, but the Yellow Jackets should easily rebound with Alabama A&M coming to Atlanta on Saturday. With a win over the Bulldogs, Georgia Tech will earn its fifth season of at least seven victories under coach Paul Johnson. And while this game means nothing to the ACC title picture, there could be some scoreboard watching on Saturday, as the Yellow Jackets need Wake Forest to beat Duke to stay alive for the Coastal title. Alabama A&M is 4-7 this year, and its last matchup against a FBS team was in 2012, losing 51-7 at Auburn.

ACC Week 13 Pivotal Players


Listen to Athlon Sports writers Braden Gall and David Fox  preview Week 13 in this edition of Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast.
Anthony Boone, QB, Duke
Duke is on the doorstep of its first Coastal Division title. The Blue Devils need to win their last two games to reach Charlotte, which certainly won’t be easy with matchups against Wake Forest and North Carolina up next. Even though Duke has won six in a row, its passing attack has struggled recently. Boone has tossed seven picks in his last three games and has not topped 139 passing yards in each contest during that span. Backup Brandon Connette has accounted for five touchdowns in his last two games, and the junior will share snaps on Saturday. Boone is the better passer between the two quarterbacks, and it’s important for the junior to get back on track after a subpar three-game stretch. Wake Forest’s secondary is holding opponents to 214.8 yards per game but has allowed 16 passing touchdowns.

Cole Farrand, LB, Maryland
Maryland’s defense has allowed two out of its last three opponents to rush for at least 242 yards. And there’s an even bigger threat on the ground looming this Saturday, as Boston College running back Andre Williams visits College Park off a 339-yard performance against NC State. Farrand and nose tackle Darius Kilgo have to win the battle at the point of attack if the Terrapins want to slow down the Eagles’ ground game. Farrand leads the team with 75 tackles, while Kilgo has five tackles for a loss and two sacks this year. If Maryland’s front seven struggles, Williams is in for another huge day on the ground.

Macky MacPherson, C, Syracuse
MacPherson and guards Rob Trudo and Nick Robinson have a tough assignment this Saturday. Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald has been one of the ACC’s top defenders this season, and the senior has dominated opposing offensive lines for 42 tackles (22.5 for a loss) and 10 sacks. Donald also has four forced fumbles in 2013. MacPherson is one of the ACC’s top centers, with 35 starts under his belt the last three years. Syracuse’s offense is dependent on getting its rushing game on track, which requires MacPherson to keep Donald under wraps.

Kevin Parks, RB, Virginia
Can the Cavaliers stop a seven-game losing streak this Saturday? It’s unlikely Virginia can win at Miami, but recent series history favors the Cavaliers in this matchup. The Hurricanes allowed 358 rushing yards in last week’s loss to Duke, while giving up 13 scores on the ground in their last three games. With the Cavaliers struggling to establish a consistent passing attack, it’s critical for Parks to have a huge performance. The junior rushed for 100 yards in a 45-14 loss to North Carolina and is averaging 4.3 yards per carry this season.

Jack Tocho, CB, NC State
If NC State is going to stop a six-game losing streak, it has to find a way to slow down East Carolina’s passing attack. The Pirates have thrown for 30 touchdowns this year and average 341.2 yards per game through the air. Shane Carden is one of the top non-BCS passers in college football, and receiver Justin Hardy is a handful for opposing defensive backs (87 catches). Tocho has started the last five games and has 22 tackles and two interceptions this season. The true freshman needs to hold his own on Saturday, as he will picked on by Carden and the East Carolina receivers.

ACC Week 13 Predictions

Game David FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light
Citadel (+40) at Clemson Clemson 56-7Clemson 45-10Clemson 55-7Clemson 51-3
Old Dominion (+17.5) at UNC UNC 28-17UNC 38-17UNC 45-20UNC 38-24
Duke (-5.5) at Wake Forest Duke 35-14Duke 34-21Duke 27-20Duke 28-20
Virginia (+20) at Miami Miami 28-7Miami 31-20Miami 38-17Miami 38-17
Pittsburgh (-1) at Syracuse Pitt 28-24Syracuse 30-28Pitt 27-24Pitt 31-24
East Carolina (-6.5) at NC State ECU 35-28ECU 35-21ECU 34-27ECU 34-21
Alabama A&M (+51.5) at Ga. Tech Ga. Tech 56-10Ga. Tech 42-10Ga. Tech 58-7Ga. Tech 56-0
Boston College (+1) at Maryland BC 28-24BC 27-24BC 24-20Maryland 21-17
Idaho (+57) at Florida State FSU 63-10FSU 34-3FSU 65-3FSU 51-0
Season Record 73-2173-2171-2373-19

 

Teaser:
2013 ACC Week 13 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/sec-week-13-preview-and-predictions-2013
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There are three key games in the SEC this Saturday. In Oxford, Missouri hopes to keep its SEC East title hopes alive with a win over Ole Miss; in Baton Rouge, Johnny Manziel will have an opportunity to impress Heisman voters on a national stage; and in Knoxville, Vanderbilt will be seeking its first two-game winning streak against Tennessee since the 1920s.

Week 13 Previews and Predictions: ACC Big 12 | Big Ten Pac-12 

SEC Week 13 Game Power Rankings

1. Missouri (-2.5) at Ole Miss (7:45 ET, ESPN)
With South Carolina in the clubhouse with a 6–2 SEC record, Missouri (5–1) needs to beat both Ole Miss and Texas A&M to reach the SEC Championship Game. The Tigers expect senior James Franklin back at quarterback after missing four games with a shoulder injury. Backup Maty Mauk played well in relief, but the Mizzou offense is at its best with Franklin running the show. The Tigers, even with Franklin out for much of the SEC schedule, are averaging a solid 6.6 yards per play in league games — almost a full yard more than Ole Miss (5.8). The two teams have similar passing stats, but Missouri has been far more efficient running the ball against SEC teams — 5.4 yards per carry to 3.7 for the Rebs. The defensive numbers also favor the Tigers, but keep in mind that Ole Miss has played a far more difficult SEC schedule to date.

2. Texas A&M (+4.5) at LSU (3:30 ET, CBS)
It’s a bit of a surprise that these two teams are a combined 7–5 in the SEC at this point of the season. Texas A&M continues to put up gaudy numbers, but the defense has let this team down against quality competition. The Aggies scored 42 points against Alabama and 41 against Auburn — yet lost both games. That’s why LSU is in a good spot on Saturday. The Tigers are only 3–3 in their last six games, but their offense is capable of putting up a huge number against a suspect defense. Led by strong-armed quarterback Zach Mettenberger, LSU leads the league with an average of 10.7 yards per passing attempt. One key could be turnovers: Texas A&M has committed 12 in its last four SEC games.

3. Vanderbilt (+3) at Tennessee (7:00 ET, ESPN2)
The stakes are high for this intrastate showdown. Tennessee needs to beat Vanderbilt and Kentucky to reach bowl-eligibility for the first time since 2010. Vanderbilt, which picked up win No. 6 last weekend, is looking for its first two-game winning streak against Tennessee since 1925-26. The Commodores have not been putting up gaudy numbers on offense, but they have done two things very well in the past month: force turnovers (16 in the last four games) and convert in the red zone (17 of 18 in last four games; SEC-best 88.6 percent for the season). Tennessee has lost three straight games in convincing fashion, but the Vols’ schedule has been brutal. This weekend will break a streak of five straight games against teams ranked in the top 12 at the time of the game. 

4. Mississippi State (-1.5) at Arkansas (in Little Rock) (12:21 ET, SEC TV)
These two teams are battling to stay out of last place in the SEC West, but the numbers suggest that Mississippi State is the much better team. In league games, the Bulldogs are only being outgained by 17.7 yards per game — a very low number for a team with a 1–5 record. Arkansas, on the other hand, is being outgained by an average of 142.0 yards per game and has lost all six of its SEC games by at least 10 points. Simply put: Mississippi State has been competitive this season; Arkansas has not. The Bulldogs, however, are battling a potentially serious injury situation at quarterback. Both Tyler Russell (shoulder) and Dak Prescott (elbow) are questionable for Saturday. If neither is able to play, the Bulldogs likely will turn to true freshman Damian Williams, who went 0-of-5 passing in limited duty against Alabama last week.

5. Kentucky (+23.5) at Georgia (7:00 ET, ESPNU)
Georgia must regroup after suffering one of the most excruciating losses in recent memory — and that is not an exaggeration. The Bulldogs were on the verge of completing an epic fourth-quarter comeback … until Auburn completed the unlikeliest of 73-yard touchdown passes. Now, the Dawgs return home to face a Kentucky team searching for its first SEC win since the end of the 2011 season. The Wildcats played relatively well last week in Nashville, but dropped to 2–8 with a 22–6 loss. The offense continues to be the biggest problem; UK is last in the SEC in total offense in league play (266.7 ypg) and has not scored more than 24 points in its last 17 SEC games. Georgia, as long it has mentally recovered from last week’s game, should have little difficulty.

6. Georgia Southern (+27.5) at Florida (2 ET, PPV)
In almost every other season, the thought of an FCS school like Georgia Southern posing any kind of threat to Florida would seem a bit of a stretch. But this isn’t like most seasons. Florida has lost five straight games due in large part to an offense that has not scored more than 20 points in any game since early October. Georgia Southern, which is transitioning to the FBS ranks, is 6–4 under fourth-year coach Jeff Monken. The Eagles run an option attack that is averaging 453.7 yards per game, including 353.5 yards on the ground. Florida’s front seven will be charged with slowing down Georgia Southern’s running game and forcing the Eagles out of their comfort zone.

7. Coastal Carolina (+34.5) at South Carolina (1 ET, PPV)
South Carolina concludes its 2013 regular season with a pair of non-conference games against in-state foes that currently only have one loss — Coastal Carolina and Clemson. The Chanticleers have done their damage against an FCS schedule, but this is still a decent team. They rank third in the FCS in both rushing offense (283.9 ypg) and scoring offense (45.5 ppg). South Carolina will have a distinct talent advantage at almost every spot on the field, but the Gamecocks — who are dealing with some key injuries — could be tested for a bit on Saturday.

8. Chattanooga (+49) at Alabama (2 ET, PPV)
Alabama steps out of league (and FBS) play for a tune-up with Chattanooga before one of the most anticipated Iron Bowls ever. Chattanooga is 8–3 overall and has secured a share of the Southern Conference title with a 6–2 record. The Mocs excel in the run game (223.3 ypg) and at stopping the pass (148.6 ypg). They will have trouble in every facet on Saturday afternoon.

SEC Week 13 Pivotal Players


Listen to Athlon Sports writers Braden Gall and David Fox discuss Auburn's win and preview Week 13 in this edition of Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast.
James Franklin, QB, Missouri
Franklin returns to action for the first time since injuring his shoulder in the second half of the Tigers’ win at Georgia on Oct. 12. The fifth-year senior was completing 66.7 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and three interceptions while also averaging close to 50 yards rushing per game. With Franklin healthy — complemented by an elite set of wide receivers and a solid group of running backs — Missouri’s offense is among the most potent in the nation.

Ole Miss’ offensive line
Ole Miss has played Texas, Alabama and LSU, but Missouri might have the best defensive line the Rebels will see this season. The Tigers, led by senior end Michael Sam, lead the league in sacks with 34 and rank second in rushing defense (111.9 ypg). The Rebs’ offensive line will need to protect quarterback Bo Wallace, who has done a great job this season limiting his mistakes. Last season — his first as a starter — Wallace threw 17 interceptions in 13 games; this year, he has five in 10 games.

Texas A&M cornerbacks
Texas A&M’s struggles on defense are well-documented, but the Aggies do feature a pair of talented cornerbacks in Deshazor Everett and De’Vante Harris. They will be matched up with the most talented wide receiving duo in the league, LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. The Aggies might need a few big plays from their secondary — a pick-6 would certainly help — to win this game in Baton Rouge.

Daniel McCullers, DT, Tennessee
McCullers is a huge — as in 351 pounds — defensive tackle who is capable of being a difference-maker on a Tennessee defense that ranks last in the SEC in stopping the run. Vanderbilt has struggled at times against big run-stuffing tackles; last week, Kentucky’s Donte Rumph had 10 tackles and was a big reason the Commodores’  two tailbacks (Jerron Seymour and Brian Kimbrow) only averaged 3.4 yards per carry. If McCullers can help slow down the rushing attack and make quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels uncomfortable in the pocket, Tennessee will have a great chance to win the game.

Jonathan Krause, WR, Vanderbilt
The Commodores hope to get Krause, who has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, back into the lineup. The senior wideout has 32 receptions for 608 yards, and his 19.0 yards-per-catch average ranks fourth in the SEC. While he was out of the lineup, Vanderbilt only dressed four wide receivers — Jordan Matthews, seldom-used junior Trent Pruitt, true freshman Jordan Cunningham and walk-on Trey Wilkin. Krause’s return would be a huge boost for the Dores, who only averaged 248 yards in the two games he missed. 

 David FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light

Miss. State (-1.5) at Arkansas 

Miss. State 31-13Miss. State 34-30Arkansas 27-24Miss. State 24-20

C. Caro. (+34.5) at S. Carolina

S. Carolina 35-7

S. Carolina 38-7S. Carolina 48-13S. Carolina 41-10

Chattanooga (+49) at Alabama 

Alabama 56-3

Alabama 45-7Alabama 52-7Alabama 58-0

Ga. Southern (+27.5) at Florida 

Florida 21-17

Florida 27-3Florida 38-10Florida 30-10

Texas A&M (+4.5) at LSU

LSU 35-28

LSU 45-41LSU 38-34LSU 49-45

Kentucky (+23.5) at Georgia 

Georgia 28-14

Georgia 38-17Georgia 38-17Georgia 34-13

Vanderbilt (+3) at Tennessee

Tennessee 21-17

Tennessee 23-21Tennessee 27-24Vanderbilt 24-20

Missouri (-2.5) at Ole Miss

Missouri 28-24

Missouri 34-27Ole Miss 34-30Ole Miss 38-31
Last Week5-04-15-05-0
Season81-1479-1681-1478-17

 

Teaser:
SEC Week 13 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/2013-pac-12-week-13-preview-and-predictions
Body:

USC is still very much in the Pac-12 South race after the upset of Stanford last weekend, but for all intents and purposes, Arizona State visiting UCLA will determine the division champion this weekend. But the Rose Bowl isn’t the only point of interest out West as Washington State tries to get bowl eligible, the North's bowl pecking order will be sorted out in Corvallis and both Oregon and USC try to avoid critical upsets.

Week 13 Previews and Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | SEC

Pac-12 Week 13 Game Power Rankings

1. Arizona State (-2) at UCLA (7 p.m. ET, FOX)
The Pac-12 South Championship and a date with (likely) Oregon hangs in the balance in the Rose Bowl Saturday night. And it has all the makings of an instant classic: two great quarterbacks, a history of close games, two quality coaches and defensive star power. The last two meetings have been decided by a total of three points and the loser has averaged 35.0 points per game over the last three. Taylor Kelly (315 yards, 4 TD) and Brett Hundley (274 yards, 4 TD) were fantastic in this meeting last season in the Bruins' 45-43 win in Tempe. Arizona State has the significant edge on the defensive side of the ball as it leads the Pac-12 in total defense (338.4 ypg) and has allowed just 58.4 yards rushing during the five-game winning streak. Contrast that to UCLA, which has given up 442.4 yards per game over its last five. The X-factor will be two-way star freshman Myles Jack and his ability to pick up tough yards on the ground as a running back.

2. Oregon (-20.5) at Arizona (3:30 p.m., ABC)
The last time Oregon lost to Arizona was in November 2007 when it brought a Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback with a bum knee to the desert. The Ducks left Tuscon on the losing end of a 34-24 game and Oregon fans are praying an ugly re-injury like they saw with Dennis Dixon six years ago doesn’t happen again to their star signal-caller. Otherwise, the Ducks have rolled up big numbers in this series since that last loss to the Wildcats, scoring 50.4 points per game during the five-game winning streak. Marcus Mariota didn’t run much last week but proved he can win with his right arm, throwing for 288 yards and three touchdowns against Utah. The only chance Arizona has at another upset is to lean heavily on Ka’Deem Carey, who puts his 13-game, 100-yard rushing streak on the line. The Ducks held him to 79 yards on 21 carries in the 49-0 drubbing in Eugene last season.

3. Washington (+7) at Oregon State (10:30 p.m., ESPN2)
In the preseason, the “other” debate in the Pac-12 North was which team was the third-best in the division. This game will decide it once and for all, as both teams enter with 6-4 records. Bowl pecking order and pride is all that is on the line for these two programs and that should be enough for a great showing. Oregon State has lost three straight games and Sean Mannion hasn’t taken care of the football — seven interceptions in the last two games. Meanwhile, Keith Price’s status is uncertain after missing most of the UCLA game last Friday due to an injured throwing shoulder. If Price can’t go, expect highly touted redshirt freshman Cyler Miles to get the nod. Miles was solid in spot duty, throwing for two touchdowns and 149 yards against UCLA. The home team has won each of the last four meetings but the series has been dominated by the Beavers since 2003 with Oregon State winning seven of the last nine overall.

4. Utah (+1.5) at Washington State (3:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
The second straight trip on the road against a North Division team for Utah has quickly become a critical game for both coaching staffs. Both programs have eyes on the postseason as Utah needs to win each of its remaining games to reach a bowl and Washington State is just one victory away from a postseason trip. The Utes have lost four straight games and six overall in the league but have been competitive in all but one (Oregon). Kyle Whittingham will be without quarterback Travis Wilson and sophomore Adam Schulz is listed atop the depth chart. All of Wazzu’s Pac-12 wins have come away from home and its only home wins have come over Southern Utah and Idaho this season. Utah has won two straight in Pullman and the Cougars' last win at home over the Utes came in 1984.

5. USC (-22.5) at Colorado (9:30 p.m., CBS Sports)
The letdown factor is certainly in full effect for the surging Trojans and cult hero head man Ed Orgeron. After topping Stanford at home in a physical heavyweight bout, USC must go into the Rockies and stay focused with the Pac-12 South title still within reach. Mike MacIntrye has the Buffs showing signs of life with freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau playing well. However, Colorado is going up against history as the Buffaloes have never beaten USC in seven tries. In fact, USC has outscored CU 190-47 all-time and has won the two conference meetings 92-23 since the Buffs joined the league.

6. Cal (+31.5) at Stanford (4 p.m., FS1)
It is a testament to the depth and quality of the Pac-12 that The Big Game is the least appealing contest in the league this weekend. It’s also an indictment of the current state of the Golden Bears' program. Sonny Dykes is a well-respected coaching mind but this rebuilding project is much worse than he anticipated. The Cardinal still have much to play for should Oregon slip up so don’t expect David Shaw’s bunch to take it easy on their cross-town rival.

Pac-12 Week 13 Pivotal Players:


Listen to Athlon Sports writers Braden Gall and David Fox preview discuss Coach O's job status and preview ASU-UCLA on this week's Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast.
1. Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Arguably the top defensive prospect in the nation, Barr has quickly become the second-most popular Bruins linebacker. Myles Jack is getting all of the headlines (rightly so) for his play on both sides of the ball, however, Barr will be charged with stopping Arizona State's Taylor Kelly, Marion Grice and D.J. Foster. Last season, the Sun Devils' trio combined for 164 yards rushing and were responsible for all five ASU touchdowns (Kelly had four TD passes) in the 45-43 loss to the Bruins. Barr posted five total tackles and a sack in the win. Grice and Foster combine for 238.7 all-purpose yards per game in 2013 and it falls to the talented Bruins backer to make big plays in both the running and passing game.

2. Arizona State’s linebackers
Just as UCLA’s backers will be key for the Bruins, so too will the Sun Devils' corps. Senior Chris Young leads ASU in tackles (7.1 pg) and has posted 23 stops in the last two games. Freshman Salamo Fiso is third on the team in tackles and is coming off a career-best eight-tackle performance against Oregon State. Stopping a versatile quarterback like Brett Hundley and a physical specimen like Myles Jack falls to Todd Graham’s linebackers.

3. Oregon’s running backs
The best way to keep Marcus Mariota healthy is to get the ball out of his hands quickly. This means De’Anthony Thomas and Byron Marshall will need to shoulder the offensive load in Tucson. These two only carried a total of 15 times last weekend for 77 yards and will need to be a bigger part of the offense this weekend if Oregon wants to escape a tricky upset situation. Thomas Tyner, Ayele Forde and Lane Roseberry should also get carries as well to help take pressure off Mariota. Should this group be successful, the Ducks will maintain their position atop the Pac-12 North.

4. Connor Halliday, QB, Washington
Mike Leach and the Cougars are trying to get bowl eligible for the first time since 2006. Should Halliday play like he did last week against Arizona, Washington State will be celebrating on Saturday night. Halliday was the Offensive Player of the Week in the Pac-12 after throwing for 319 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the road upset of the Wildcats. He only threw nine passes last year in the 49-6 loss to the Utes in Salt Lake City, but it's a safe bet that number will increase dramatically this time around.

5. Washington’s quarterbacks
If Keith Price starts, he won’t be fully healthy after leaving last week’s game with a injured throwing shoulder. If he can't play, redshirt freshman Cyler Miles will make his first career start in a hostile environment against a team that leads the Pac-12 in interceptions with 17. Price and/or Miles will have to play efficient football to top Oregon State on the road. In two career bouts against the Beavers, Price is 1-1 with 270 yards passing, one TD and two INTs.

Pac-12 Week 13 Predictions:

GameBraden GallMitch LightSteven LassanDavid Fox
Arizona St (-2) at UCLAUCLA, 38-31UCLA, 34-30Arizona St, 38-34UCLA, 28-17 
Oregon (-20.5) at ArizonaOregon, 42-21 Oregon, 44-17Oregon, 45-24Oregon, 38-21
Washington (+7) at Oregon StWash., 34-31Wash., 34-23Ore. St, 34-31Ore. St, 31-27
Utah (+1.5) at Washington StWazzu, 33-24 Wazzu, 27-24 Wazzu, 31-24Wazzu, 35-21
USC (-22.5) at ColoradoUSC, 31-17 USC, 38-6USC, 34-13USC, 38-14
Cal (+31.5) at StanfordStanford, 38-3 Stanford, 34-6Stanford, 45-13 Stanford, 42-10
Last Week: 4-24-24-24-2
Year-to-date:65-1463-1667-1261-18

 

Teaser:
2013 Pac-12 Week 13 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/big-12-week-13-preview-and-predictions-2013
Body:

My, how times change.

When the Big 12 began, Oklahoma State reeled off nine consecutive wins over Baylor. And for the most part, these weren’t good Oklahoma State teams.

On Saturday, the Big 12 may come down to Oklahoma State and Baylor. The former has become one of the top programs in the Big 12 in recent years, and the latter has become an offensive juggernaut with national championship implications.

It’s not often the conference title runs through Waco and Stillwater, so soak it up in Week 13.

Week 13 Previews and Predictions: ACC | Big TenPac-12 | SEC

Big 12 Week 13 Game Power Rankings
All games Saturday. All times Eastern.

1. Baylor at Oklahoma State (8 p.m., ABC)
This game could end up the de facto Big 12 championship game and a referendum on Baylor’s spot in the national picture. A win likely moves Baylor ahead of Ohio State in the BCS standings and cements Bryce Petty among the top Heisman contenders. To achieve that, Petty and a wounded Baylor offense will need to overcome a ball-hawking Oklahoma State defense. The Cowboys have forced a turnover in 18 consecutive games, including three interceptions against Texas last week. Petty has thrown one interception all season and none since Oct. 5. The quarterback has been the constant for the Baylor offense which has lost Lache Seastrunk (groin), Glasco Martin (knee) and Tevin Reese (wrist) to injury. Only Reese has been ruled out for this game. The Bears haven’t missed a step despite the injuries. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State has found a lineup that works in recent weeks with Clint Chelf at quarterback and Desmond Roland at running back. Baylor leads the Big 12 in yards per game in November while Oklahoma State is fourth.

2. Oklahoma at Kansas State (noon, Fox Sports 1)
Oklahoma’s season is an interesting spot to say the least. The Sooners finish up with road trips against Kansas State and Oklahoma State. Meanwhile, OU’s offense is in a state of flux. Trevor Knight will replace Blake Bell as starting quarterback, the Oklahoman reported. Knight began the season as the starter but has seen more playing time in the last two games against Baylor and Iowa State. A concussion for Bell has handed the job to Knight against the Wildcats. Knight rushed for 123 yards on 10 carries against Iowa State while completing 8 of 14 passes for 61 yards. Running back Damien Williams and Lacoltan Bester are also expected to miss the Kansas State games with suspensions. Kansas State remains one of the hottest teams in the Big 12 — outside of Baylor and Oklahoma State — with four consecutive wins.

3. Kansas at Iowa State (8 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
Could Kansas be on the verge of its first Big 12 win streak since 2008? Kansas didn’t just scrape by West Virginia last week. The Jayhawks grabbed a lead and led comfortably thanks to 211 yards form James Sims. Iowa State has been more competitive at home, including a 31-30 loss to Texas and 21-17 loss to TCU.

Big 12 Week 13 Pivotal Players


Listen to Athlon Sports writers Braden Gall and David Fox discuss Baylor-Oklahoma State and preview Week 13 in this edition of Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast.
Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
The Cowboys cornerback is making a bid for All-America consideration with six interceptions this season. His two picks against Texas, including an interception for a touchdown, essentially sealed the game for Oklahoma State. On Saturday, he’ll be facing one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the country, plus a dynamic set of receivers. Levi Norwood, a No. 3 receiver two weeks ago, caught seven passes for 156 yards for two touchdowns against Texas Tech.

Pat Colbert, Baylor
Not all of Baylor’s injury issues on offense have been limited to the skill positions. Starting left tackle Spencer Drango will under surgery for a ruptured disk in his back, leaving the position to first-time starter Colbert. Oklahoma State’s starting defensive ends, Tyler Johnson and Jimmy Bean, have combined for 6.5 sacks this season.

Clint Chelf, Oklahoma State
Baylor has had mixed results in defending the quarterback run game, which has become a key once Chelf has taken over. Kansas State’s Daniel Sams rushed for 199 yards against Baylor while the Oklahoma duo of Trevor Knight and Blake Bell combined for 22 yards. Chelf has been solid as a passer, with or without top receiver Josh Stewart. Stewart did not play against Texas, and Mike Gundy has declined to give injury updates on his top downfield threat.

Brennan Clay, Oklahoma
A new quarterback and no Damien Williams may put more on the shoulders of Brennan Clay against Kansas State. Clay has worked in committee at running back this season, but he’s shown plenty of ability to break the big run. He’s averaged better than 12 yards per carry against TCU and Iowa State this season.  Kansas State allows a Big 12-low 122.1 rushing yards in conference games.

Dylan Schellenberg, Kansas State
The Wildcats have allowed both of its last two opponents to pass for at least 70 percent. One was Texas Tech (understandable). The other was TCU (less understandable). Four-year starting safety Ty Zimmerman spent the end of last week’s game against the Horned Frogs on crutches with a right leg injury. Oklahoma’s passing game is suspect, but it’s hard to imagine the Sooners not testing an unknown at safety in Schellenberg.

Big 12 Week 13 Picks
 

 David FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light
Oklahoma (+4) at Kansas StKSU 24-17KSU 34-30KSU 31-27KSU 24-20
Kansas (+5.5) at Iowa StKU 28-24ISU 27-20ISU 27-24ISU 20-13
Baylor (-9) at Oklahoma StBaylor 42-35Baylor 41-38Baylor 38-34Baylor 48-38
Last Week4-14-14-13-2
This Season54-1156-954-1153-12

 

Teaser:
Big 12 Week 13 Preview and Predictions 2013
Post date: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: monthly, NFL, Monthly
Path: /nfl/crazy-stories-behind-athletes-and-numbers
Body:

Much like tattoos or passwords, jersey numbers can be a highly personal affair for their owners. The significance behind a jersey number can sometimes offer a little glimpse into an athlete’s psyche, his past, or his hopes for the future. Other times, the number reflects a team’s plans for the player wearing it. Here’s a sampling from the surprisingly rich world of jersey numbers.

Peyton and Archie Manning

18—Archie Manning wore No. 18 during his college days at Ole Miss, where he scrambled his way into the hearts of Dixie and married the Homecoming Queen, Olivia. After Archie left Oxford, the campus posted speed limits of 18 MPH in his honor. Archie’s middle son, Peyton, wears No. 18 in the NFL — not only in homage to his father, but also as a tribute to Cooper, the oldest of the three Manning boys. Cooper wore No. 18 in high school but was forced to give up football when he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis as a true freshman at Ole Miss.

33—Former major league outfielder Larry Walker wasn’t the greatest 33 ever — good morning, Kareem and Larry — but Walker was, without a doubt, the most superstitious athlete ever to wear the number. Walker had a thing about 3s. To wit: He routinely set his alarm for 8:03 in the morning. His parking stall in the players’ lot was 3. He routinely would take three practice swings and dig his foot into the ground three times in the on-deck circle, then take three check swings before heading to the plate. Walker wore 33 in an attempt to derive twice as much luck out of his favorite number. He also got married on Nov. 3 at 3:33 p.m.

Said Walker, when asked back in the day about his thing for threes: “I’d wear 333 if they’d let me.”

17Former Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner was operating on a shoestring budget in the mid-1970s when he signed pitcher Andy Messersmith to one of baseball’s first megabucks free-agent contracts. Turner’s UHF station in Atlanta, WTCG, was struggling to attract viewers, so Turner decided to turn Messersmith into a human billboard. Messersmith wore 17 on the back of his jersey. Above it was the word Channel.
24—Former Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis anted up $50,000 to new Bucs teammate Mark Barron for No. 24, believed to be the highest price ever paid for a number.
10 and 17—Former Giants punter Jeff Feagles sold 10 to Eli Manning for a week-long Florida vacation, then sold his new number, 17, to Plaxico Burress for an outdoor kitchen in his Phoenix home.
28—While today’s players pay thousands for numbers, it wasn’t always that way. Former Phillies lefty Mitch Williams received 28 from John Kruk for the princely sum of two cases of beer.

12—Nine consecutive Super Bowls (VI through XIV) were won by quarterbacks wearing No. 12. 

44—Syracuse football jersey number worn by Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and Floyd Little, among others. The university zip code was changed from 13210 to 13244 in honor of the number, which was retired on Nov. 12, 2005.

72—Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk wore 27 during his days with the Red Sox. After joining the White Sox, he wanted to put his days at Fenway Park behind him, so he switched to 72. The number, he said, represented a turnaround in his career. 

50Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino wore No. 50 for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic to honor his native Hawaii. Honoring the 50th State is a tradition among Hawaiian players launched by former Mets lefty Sid Fernandez.

76—What, you thought 76 was a football number? Think again. Shawn Bradley was 7-foot-6 and was drafted by the 76ers. Any guesses as to which number he was issued?

72—For whatever reason, 72 inspires nicknames. It was worn by Carlton “Pudge” Fisk, William “The Refrigerator” Perry, Ed “Too Tall” Jones and John “Tooz” Matuszak.

38—Ole Miss football jersey given annually to the player who receives the Chucky Mullins Memorial Courage Award, named after the former player who was paralyzed during the Rebels’ Homecoming game in 1989.

68Future Hockey Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr wears 68 to commemorate the Soviet invasion of his native Czechoslovakia in 1968.

088586—Rockies manager Walt Weiss wears 22 in honor of boyhood hero Mercury Morris, who, incidentally, wore No. 088586 during his stretch in a Florida prison for drug trafficking.

 

Notable Retired Numbers

40—Fallen soldier and former safety Pat Tillman’s number, which was retired by the Arizona Cardinals in 2004.

12—The Seattle Seahawks have retired the number of the “12th Man” — their fans.

42—Jackie Robinson’s number, which was retired across MLB in 1997. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera  was the last player to wear No. 42.

48—Former President Gerald Ford had his No. 48 retired by the University of Michigan.

99Wayne Gretzky’s number, which was retired across the NHL, fittingly, in 1999. 

Teaser:
Much like tattoos or passwords, jersey numbers can be a highly personal affair for their owners. The significance behind a jersey number can sometimes offer a little glimpse into an athlete’s psyche, his past, or his hopes for the future. Other times, the number reflects a team’s plans for the player wearing it. Here’s a sampling from the surprisingly rich world of jersey numbers.
Post date: Wednesday, November 20, 2013 - 17:00

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