Articles By All

Path: /college-football/college-football-week-1-recap-three-and-out-0

The names and faces change, but sometimes the results don’t.

At least that’s what people in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Eugene, Ore., learned after the first weekend of college football. Alabama looked near-invincible in defending its national championship. Dee Milliner, Trey DePriest and T.J. Yeldon stepped into starring roles in the Crimson Tide’s rout of Michigan.

On the West Coast, Oregon’s plug-and-play system of quarterbacks continued with redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota, who was 18-of-22 for 200 yards and three touchdown passes in his debut against Arkansas State. We didn’t even see the full extent of Mariota’s running ability, meaning perhaps Chip Kelly’s quarterback conundrum was easier to figure out than he let on.

Not every team found such easy answers. Oklahoma struggled at UTEP late Saturday night, and four teams lost to FCS foes (Pittsburgh to Youngstown State, Memphis to UT Martin, Middle Tennessee to McNeese State, Idaho to Eastern Washington).

It was a busy first weekend in college football -- and it’s not even over. Here’s our Three and Out recap of the first week so far.


Alabama and Coach Nick Saban appeared ready to defend their BCS championship in the win over Michigan

No let up at Alabama. With a 41-14 win over Michigan, the Crimson Tide dashed any questions it could defend its BCS championship with so many new starters on defense. Alabama keeps replacing NFL draft picks with NFL draft picks. Michigan tested corner Dee Milliner a few too many times as Milliner, a part-time starter last season, finished with an interception and four pass breakups. In place of Heisman finalist running back Trent Richardson, freshman T.J. Yeldon rushed for 111 yards on 11 carries with a touchdown, amassing a good portion of that after the catch. Meanwhile junior battering ram Jalston Folwer rushed for 67 yards on eight carries.

Clemson’s no-Sammy offense. The Tigers were without suspended receiver Sammy Watkins, but Clemson displayed an embarrassment of riches on offense. Andre Ellington rushed for 231 yards for an average of 8.9 yards per carry. DeAndre Hopkins caught 13 passes for 119 yards and a miraculous go-ahead touchdown catch through interference. And though quarterback Tajh Boyd threw a second half interception, Boyd did enough through the air and on the ground to break through the field goal-laden stalemate to win 26-19.

Special season for Ohio? The Bobcats may be eying a signature season after a win at Penn State on Saturday. Weakened by transfers and breaking in a new coach, Penn State was vulnerable, but don’t lose sight of how convincing Ohio’s win was. The Bobcats outscored Penn State 21-0 in the second half, including drives of 82, 70 and 93 yards. Quarterback Tyler Tettleton delivered, completing 31 of 41 passes for 324 yards with two touchdowns. During the regular season, Ohio will play one team that had a winning record in 2011, and that’s at Marshall, a non-conference opponent that went 7-6.

Penn State.
Unfortunately for Penn State, this was probably a sign of things to come. The Nittany Lions rode the emotion of returning to the field to jump to a 14-3 halftime lead on the arm of Matt McGloin. But Penn State couldn’t sustain that level of play. Ohio used demoralizing drives against Penn State’s strongest unit, its defense, in the second half to pull away. If this is the result against the runaway MAC favorite, what’s in store against the Big Ten schedule? Or Virginia on the road next week?

Florida. The Gators showed little indication this season would be any different form last year’s 7-6 effort. Coach Will Muschamp refused to hint at his starting quarterback right up until the first snap when Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett both broke the huddle. Brissett took the first quarterback snap, but Driskel was the quarterback during the fourth quarter and later in crunch time. The quarterback rotation eased no questions as the Gators were tied at 14 until 6:03 remaining in the third quarter. Mike Gillislee saved the day with 148 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the 27-14 win. That might not be enough to defeat Texas A&M and Tennessee on the road the next two weeks.

Oklahoma. Blame the late start (10:30 p.m. Eastern, 8:30 p.m. local time). Blame the odd road trip to El Paso. Either way, the Sooners limped to a 24-7 win over UTEP on Saturday. Before taking a third-quarter lead, Oklahoma was probably lucky to never fall behind the Miners. UTEP missed three field goals through three quarters, Oklahoma had two kicks blocked and UTEP failed on a fake punt attempt in the fourth to set up an Oklahoma touchdown. Miners running back Nathan Jeffery, who gashed the Sooner defense for 177 yards, also left the game in the second half with injury.

Geno Smith, West Virginia.
The Mountaineers’ quarterback passed for 232 yards and four touchdowns against Marshall, which isn’t terribly surprising. What was eye-opening was his efficiency (32 of 36) and his performance in the run game (eight carries, 65 yards with a 28-yard touchdown run). Smith led scoring drives on seven of nine possessions, with one of those non-scoring drives ending on downs at the Marshall 2. Smith completed passes to six different receivers.

Denard Robinson, Michigan. Robinson will have opportunities to recover, but this game will leave a mark. Robinson was a non-factor in the ground game with 27 rushing yards on 10 carries and struggled just the same in the passing game, completing 11 of 26 passes for 200 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Good news for him: He won’t play Alabama every week.

Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State. The 6-2, 244-pound junior had been part of a running back duo with Edwin Baker the last two seasons, but he needed no one to spell him against Boise State. On Friday, Bell carried 44 times -- more than anyone carried in a single game all of last season -- for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Bell also caught six passes for 55 yards.

354. Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez passed for a career-high 354 yards with five touchdown passes in a 49-20 win over Southern Miss. The most notable storyline for the game was who wasn’t on the field for Nebraska and Martinez’s emergence. Running back Rex Burkhead, the cornerstone of the Huskers offense, left with an MCL sprain after only three carries (one of which was a 57-yard TD run).

0. Boise State failed to score an offensive touchdown for the first time since Sept. 27, 1997 when the Broncos were shut out by Washington State. Boise State was a member of the Big West that season and in only its second year in Division I-A. The coach? Houston Nutt.

0. Speaking of Washington State and no touchdowns, the Cougars were limited to a mere two field goals Friday in a 30-6 loss to BYU. It was the first time a Mike Leach-coached team failed to score a touchdown since a 12-3 loss to TCU on Sept. 16, 2006.

Notre Dame and Navy playing in Dublin’s soccer palace Aviva Stadium.
Names on Penn State jerseys.
The new rule requiring players to leave the game for a play if their helmets are removed.
Oklahoma State 84, Savannah State 0
Maryland 7, William & Mary 6
FAU 7, Wagner 3
Washington at LSU
Nebraska at UCLA
Georgia at Missouri

Nevada’s backfield.
The Wolf Pack has long been excited about the potential of quarterback Cody Fajardo. It looks like he’s going to deliver as a sophomore. Fajardo completed 25 of 32 passes for 230 yards and rushed for 99 yards including a 49-yard touchdown in the 31-24 upset at Cal. Not to be upstaged, running back Stefphon Jefferson rushed for 149 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner in the final minute. It had the look of the best Nevada backfield since Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua, who also defeated Cal in September on the way to a 13-1 season in 2010.

Pittsburgh loses to Youngstown State. Paul Chryst did not distinguish himself in his first game as Pitt’s coach. The Panthers lost in convincing fashion, 31-17, to Youngstown State of the FCS. Pitt never led in the game as the Penguins were able to put together long, sustained drives against against the Panthers’ defense. Making matters worse, Todd Graham, who spurned Pitt for Arizona State, led the Sun Devils to a 63-6 win over Northern Arizona on Thursday.

Franchione, Coker are winners. Texas State coach Dennis Franchione (formerly of Alabama and Texas A&M) and UTSA coach Larry Coker (formerly of Miami) were winners in their returns to major college football. Texas State made easy work of Houston (13-1 last season) with a 30-13 win on the road. And Coker’s Roadrunners defeated South Alabama 33-31 in both teams’ first game as FBS members. It was Coker’s first FBS win since 2006 and Franchione’s first since 2007.

Duke Johnson, Miami.
The Hurricanes’ heralded freshman running back rushed for 135 yards on seven carries, including touchdowns of 54 and 56 yards to lead a comeback effort against Boston College.

Everett Golson, Notre Dame. The latest starting quarterback for Brian Kelly was a serviceable 12 of 18 for 144 yards with a touchdown (and a red zone interception) in a 50-10 win over Navy.

Brett Hundley, UCLA. The Bruins’ redshirt freshman quarterback completed 21 of 28 passes for 202 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed for touchdowns of 72 and 78 yards. Could this be the end of UCLA’s quarterback woes?

“The #BigEast will be a better football conference on the field next year than it has ever been!”
-Big East senior associate commissioner Nick Carparelli (via Twitter) following outgoing conference member Pitt’s loss to Youngstown State. Incoming Big
East members Memphis and Houston lost to UT Martin and Texas State, respectively, Saturday.

“They don’t have a bunch of slow dudes like they used to.”
-South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier on Vanderbilt.

“That kid looked pretty good didn’t he? He was drilling them tonight. I remember seeing Darron’s (Thomas) first starts and how happy and excited he was after plays. Marcus was having the time of his life out there tonight and jumping around.”
-Oregon OL Carson York on QB Marcus Mariota.

Da’Rick Rogers, Tennessee.
Junior college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson stepped in for the star receiver to catch a 41-yard touchdown pass and run for a 67-yard score in the 35-21 win over NC State on Thursday. Zach Rogers added a 72-yard touchdown catch. Both victimized the Wolfpack’s cornerback David Amerson, a Thorpe Award finalist last season, in the process.

Isaiah Crowell, Georgia. Bulldogs freshman running back Todd Gurley accounted for three touchdowns (two rushing and one 100-yard kickoff return) in the 45-23 win over Buffalo. Gurley rushed for 100 yards on eight carries, including a 55-yard score in the fourth quarter.

Tyrann Mathieu, LSU. Mathieu’s playmaking ability in the secondary will be missed, but Odell Beckham at least filled the gap on special teams by returning a punt 70 yards for a touchdown in the 41-14 win over North Texas.

The Badgers needed a fourth-and-1 stop in the final minutes to preserve a 26-21 win over Northern Iowa. The Panthers of the FCS scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to put a scare into Wisconsin.

Iowa. The Hawkeyes never led against the defending MAC champion Northern Illinois until Damon Bullock ran for a 22-yard score with 3:35 remaining. Iowa, a team with two new coordinators, dodged not only a MAC loss but also another instance of the Iowa running back curse. Bullock finished with 151 rushing yards.

Minnesota. In the wee hours of the morning Friday, the Gophers defeated UNLV 30-27 in triple overtime. The Rebels went 2-11 last season.

Florida. To wrap up a 14-penalty game against Bowling Green, the Gators were called for an offsides while trying to take a knee to run out the clock.

Boston College. The Eagles needed to call a timeout before their first offensive play against Miami. It must have worked as it resulted in a 41-yard pass play.

Kent State. The Golden Flashes picked up a muffed punt and returned it 58 yards the wrong way. Only one thing stopped Kent State from scoring a touchdown on itself: Opponent Towson tackled Andre Parker before reaching the end zone.

by David Fox


<p> College Football Week 1 Recap: Three and Out</p>
Post date: Sunday, September 2, 2012 - 11:01
All taxonomy terms: Nebraska Cornhuskers, Big Ten, News
Path: /news/nebraskas-rex-burkhead-suffers-knee-injury-against-southern-miss

Nebraska's offense suffered a huge loss during Saturday's game against Southern Miss. Running back Rex Burkhead suffered a sprained MCL in the first half against the Golden Eagles and was ruled out for the remainder of the opener.

During his limited work against Southern Miss, Burkhead rushed for 68 yards and one touchdown on three attempts.

Without Burkhead, Nebraska will have to lean on Ameer Abdullah and Mike Marrow to carry the workload on the ground. 

Burkhead is one of the nation's top running backs after rushing for 1,357 yards and 15 scores last season. He is expected to be one of the Big Ten's top performers in 2012 and his status will be something to watch over the next couple of days.

With a road trip to UCLA coming up in Week 2, Nebraska has to be concerned about Burkhead's health. If he can't go against the Bruins, quarterback Taylor Martinez will have to shoulder more of the load on offense.

And there's the possibility that Burkhead could be out even longer than Week 2 with a knee injury. However, Nebraska's first Big Ten game isn't until Sept. 29, which should give plenty of time for Burkhead to heal if the injury is one that could keep him out a few weeks.

<p> Nebraska's Rex Burkhead Suffers Knee Injury Against Southern Miss</p>
Post date: Saturday, September 1, 2012 - 17:03
Path: /news/ohio-states-devin-smith-makes-ridiculous-catch-against-miami-ohio

It's only Week 1 of the 2012 college football season, but Ohio State's Devin Smith might have made one of the best plays we will see all season. 

Smith grabbed this one-handed catch from quarterback Braxton Miller in the second quarter of Saturday's game against Miami (Ohio). 

One of the biggest questions facing Ohio State's offense was the receiving corps, but Smith should become a bigger weapon if he continues to make catches like this one.

<p> Ohio State's Devin Smith Makes a Ridiculous Catch Against Miami (Ohio)</p>
Post date: Saturday, September 1, 2012 - 13:29
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Links, College Basketball, NFL, NBA, MLB
Path: /college-football/athlon%E2%80%99s-essential-eleven-links-day-14

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for August 31.

• ESPN Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett believes Michigan has almost nothing to lose in the season opener against defending champion Alabama.

• SI’s Andy Staples looks at South Carolina’s close call on the road at Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks pulled out a 17-13 victory.

• The San Francisco Giants have an awesome promotion on Tuesday: it’s Bruce Lee Bobblehead Night.

• The NFL and its locked-out referees will meet today to try and solve their labor issues.

• It’s a huge weekend for ACC football, with Clemson taking on Auburn and NC State battling Tennessee.

• Gotta love this beer commercial from the Chive.

• UCLA beat Rice in Jim Mora’s debut despite having three extra points blocked.

• The NCAA has surprisingly exonerated North Carolina in its academic violations case.

• The Lakers will retire Shaquille O’Neal’s No. 34, as well as Jamaal Wilkes’ No. 52.

• It sounds like Texas Tech basketball players are rebelling against coach Billy Gillispie.

• It was great to finally see some college football last night, and Kent State’s Andre Parker gave us a classic highlight on opening night. He runs the wrong way after picking up a punt, but then for some reason the Towson players tackle him. Holy Moly!

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

August 30

• The college football season is here! Russ Mitchell of CFN believes that Vanderbilt can upset Marcus Lattimore and South Carolina in tonight’s opening contest.

• ESPN Pac-12 blogger Ted Miller has the latest on DirecTV’s rejection of the league’s new network.

• A potential Apple lawsuit?

• Giants defender Mathias Kiwanuka calls out Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, saying the G-men have been “whupping his ass for a long time.”

• Former Notre Dame running back and current Irish radio broadcaster Allen Pinkett apologized today for his controversial comments that “to have a successful team you've got to have a few bad citizens.”

• Former Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett rips the Boston sports culture.

• It’s been an interesting year for NBA big man Kris Humphries. There was his well-publicized marriage and quick divorce from Kim Kardashian, and now he’s being sued by a Los Angeles woman for giving her herpes. Lovely.

• It was quite a night for Nationals rookie Bryce Harper, who hit two home runs and was ejected in Washington’s 8-4 win over the Marlins.

• When will star running back Maurice Jones-Drew end his holdout and report to the Jaguars?

• The Dodgers may have lost starting pitcher Chad Billingsley for the rest of the season due to elbow issues.

• My thoughts during the NFL preseason have been that the replacement refs (after they get acclimated to the pro game) would not be that much worse than the regulars, but calls like this one in the Patriots-Giants game last night do not help.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

August 29

• Brent Zwerneman has the latest on a ton of Texas A&M news. Saturday’s game against Louisiana Tech has been postponed due to Hurricane Isaac, and the Aggies will play Arkansas at Cowboys Stadium each season from 2014-2024.

• Twins All-Star catcher and hometown hero Joe Mauer has been put on waivers by the club.

• We hope Hurricane Isaac does not affect the Kool-Aid crop this year.

• Bleacher Report’s Barrett Sallee looks at Nick Saban’s comparison between Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson and former Auburn star Cam Newton.

• Michael Vick won’t be the first guy to wear Kevlar in Philly, but the Eagles are hoping a new flak jacket will protect the oft-injured quarterback.

• has compiled its “sexiest movie posters ever.”

• Even with their new acquisitions, the Dodgers cannot afford to lose Matt Kemp to another injury.

• Three suspects in the assault of Wisconsin star running back Montee Ball have been arrested.

• Loyola (Md.) will leave the MAAC after this season to join the Patriot League.

• Florida coach Will Muschamp still has not named a starting quarterback for Saturday’s game against Bowling Green, although both Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett will play in the first half.

• Check out Masters champ Bubba Watson pulling a prank on Alex Miceli of the Golf Channel.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

August 28

• Former Oregon quarterback Nate Costa believes the Ducks cheerleaders' physical appearance is in decline. We do not agree.

• Penn State has chosen not to play “Sweet Caroline” at its games this year for obvious reasons. Hopefully other sports entities will ban the song as well, simply for the reason that it’s cheesy and insufferable.

• This was not your average ride on the Gravitron.

• Mark Ennis of Big East Coast Bias looks at ESPN’s picks for the league winner and wonders what Joey Galloway is thinking. We concur.

• Saturday Down South’s Kevin Duffey calls out Rick Neuheisel’s fan-like quip that the SEC is powerful because of ESPN.

• CBS’ Jeff Borzello looks at the slower pace of college basketball’s verbal commitments.

• ESPN stirs up an Adrian Beltre-Hall of Fame debate.

• Sometimes you choose the game; sometimes it chooses you.

• Check out what Baltimore Orioles reliever Luis Ayala is doing with his bullpen time.

• Mike Wallace has finally reported to Steelers camp.

• Yes, the rumors are true. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones does “rap” in this new Papa John’s commercial.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

August 27

• It’s a pretty sad commentary that Dez Bryant of the Cowboys needs a club-mandated set of guidelines for basic behavior, but that is the case in Dallas.

• Bleacher Report’s Ian Casselberry calls the Dodgers-Red Sox blockbuster the biggest trade in MLB history.

• This Fox News anchor really needed the graphics department to spell out "Maine" on President Obama's visit there.

• has an extensive slideshow and grades of college football’s new 2012 uniforms.

• Tropical Storm Isaac has affected the Saints’ week in a big way.

• The downward spiral of Vince Young continues with his release from the Buffalo Bills.

• Carolina Mudcats utility man Justin Toole played all nine positions in a 4-2 win over Salem on Saturday.

• Former NBA tough guy Charles Oakley rips the Orlando Magic and Dwight Howard.

• Jason Sobel of the Golf Channel provides insight into the personality of Nick Watney, who won at The Barclays over the weekend.

• Are the Angels baseball’s most disappointing team?

• Check out this bare-handed grab by Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth. Use two hands, kids.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

<p> The best sports links from the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, NASCAR and the world of entertainment.</p>
Post date: Friday, August 31, 2012 - 12:29
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-predictions-every-game-week-1

College football's first weekend of action features games on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Here's a prediction on every game this weekend.


No. 24 Boise State at No. 18 Michigan State (Fri.)
Much of the focus will be on the first-time starters at quarterback, Joe Southwick for Boise State and Andrew Maxwell for Michigan State, but the key matchups will be on the line of scrimmage. Michigan State will look to attack Boise State’s inexperienced defense — only one full-time starter is back — with a heavy dose of tailback Le’Veon Bell.
Michigan State 28–14

No. 98 San Jose State at No. 21 Stanford (Fri.)
Josh Nunes gets his first start at Stanford after beating out Brett Nottingham for the right to replace Andrew Luck at quarterback. The Cardinal have won four straight and eight of nine vs. San Jose State, including a 57–3 win in last year’s opener.
Stanford 41–14

No. 28 NC State vs. No. 37 Tennessee (in Atlanta) (Friday)
It’s always dangerous to put too much stock in one game, but Tennessee coach Derek Dooley could really use a win to begin his third season in Knoxville. Dooley is 11–14 overall, and only one of the wins (vs. Cincinnati in 2011) came against an FBS team that ended the season with a winning record.
Tennessee 34–27

Villanova at No. 73 Temple (Fri.)
Temple opens up with Villanova for the fourth straight season. The Owls rolled last year, winning 42–7, but struggled in ’10 (won 31–24) and lost in ’09 (lost 27–24). Villanova went 2–9 last year and won only one game in the Colonial.
Temple 41–14

Wagner at No. 120 Florida Atlantic
FAU scored 17 points or less in nine of 12 games en route to a 1–11 season in the final year of Howard Schnellenberger’s legendary career. Carl Pelini, the brother of Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, is now in charge in South Florida.
Florida Atlantic 20–10



No. 108 Hawaii at No. 1 USC
Norm Chow makes his debut as a head coach against the No. 1 team in the land. Chow and current USC coach Lane Kiffin served on the same USC staff from 2001-04, with Chow as the offensive coordinator and Kiffin a the tight ends (’01) and wide receivers (’02-04) coach.
USC 48–16

No. 104 North Texas at No. 2 LSU
When he signed with Georgia as a 4-star recruit in 2009, Zach Mettenberger probably didn’t think it would be four years before he would be starting his first game in the FBS ranks. But that is the reality for the 6-5, 230-pound fourth-year junior who arrived at LSU after a stop at Butler (Kan.) Community College.
LSU 44–14

No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 7 Michigan (at Arlington, Texas)
There is one school of thought that says that it’s best to play Alabama early, especially with so many new starters on the defense. That’s probably true, but the Crimson Tide defense should be more than ready to slow down the Wolverines.
Alabama 27–13

No. 64 Arkansas State at No. 4 Oregon
Two of the top offensive minds in college will meet in Eugene, with Gus Malzahn making his head coaching debut against Chip Kelly and the Ducks. Ryan Aplin leads an Arkansas State offense that should be able to score some points, but the Red Wolves won’t be able to stop the Oregon attack.
Oregon 54–28

No. 5 Oklahoma at No. 105 UTEP
UTEP is 0–9 vs. current power conference teams during the 11-year Mike Price era. That will be 0–10 sometime last Saturday night.
Oklahoma 41–14

No. 99 Miami (Ohio) at No. 6 Ohio State
Don’t expect much production on the ground from Miami on Saturday. Last year, there were 68 players in the nation who had more rushing yards than the entire Miami team. The Redhawks netted only 886 yards on the ground.
Ohio State 41–14

No. 111 Buffalo at No. 8 Georgia
Mark Richt said earlier this week that “Coach (Jeff) Quinn is in his third season. He’s doing an outstanding job there — no doubt about it.” Quinn is 5–19 overall and 3–13 in the MAC. Not sure what is “outstanding” about that.
Georgia 41–10

Murray State at No. 9 Florida State
Murray State averaged 39.9 points in 10 games vs. FCS competition last year but scored only nine in a season-opening loss at Louisville last year.
Florida State 44–10

No. 88 Wyoming at No. 11 Texas
Wyoming could be a sleeper in the Mountain West, but the Cowboys will be outmatched in Austin on Saturday. The Longhorns will run all over a Wyoming defense that ranked 115th in the nation in stopping the run in 2011.
Texas 34–13

No. 83 Marshall at No. 12 West Virginia
Marshall is 0–11 all-time against West Virginia and only twice has the game been decided by less than 10 points — 24–21 in 2010 and 17–15 in 1911. Last year, the Herd held WVU to 291 yards, by far the fewest of the season for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia 38-14

Jacksonville State at No. 13 Arkansas
Jacksonville State coach Jack Crowe was on the losing end the last time Arkansas lost to an FCS (or Division I-AA school). That was in 1992, when the Hogs lost 10–3 to The Citadel in the season-opener. Crowe was fired after the loss.
Arkansas 38–14

No. 82 Southern Miss at No. 14 Nebraska
Southern Miss won 12 games last year but figures to take a step back with quarterback Austin Davis no longer around. New coach Ellis Johnson, formerly the defensive boss at South Carolina, will turn to junior Chris Campbell, who has yet to throw a pass in college.
Nebraska 34–20

No. 15 Clemson vs. No. 30 Auburn
Don’t be surprised if the Auburn defense, now coordinated by Brian VanGorder, is vastly improved in 2012. But also don’t be surprised if the Auburn defense struggles in Week 1, even though Clemson is missing All-America wideout Sammy Watkins. The Tigers still have weapons.
Clemson 30–20

Northern Iowa at No. 17 Wisconsin
Danny O’Brien makes his debut at quarterback for the Badgers, but the Wisconsin offense will still feature heavy doses of tailbacks Montee Ball and James White.
Wisconsin 41–8

Savannah State at No. 19 Oklahoma State
Savannah State is 2–20 over the last two seasons with both wins coming over North Carolina Central. This is a colossal mismatch.
Oklahoma State 51-6

No. 65 Navy vs. No. 20 Notre Dame (Dublin, Ireland)
The storyline for this game — other than the fact that it is being played in Ireland — is the debut of redshirt freshman Everett Golson at quarterback for Notre Dame. Golson is far from a finished product, but he is an outstanding athlete who has taken care of the ball — a huge focus for the Irish this season — in scrimmages.
Notre Dame 34-14

No. 95 San Diego State at No. 25 Washington
Oregon State transfer Ryan Katz will make his debut for San Diego State against a familiar foe. Katz lost his only start vs. UW — he threw for 206 yards but was picked off three times in a 35–34 loss in 2009 — but Oregon State went 2–1 vs. the Huskies in his three seasons in Corvallis.
Washington 33–20

No. 94 Bowling Green at No. 26 Florida
Florida is hoping to find some answers at quarterback this Saturday. Here’s a question: Will Matt Schilz, Bowling Green’s third-year starter, be the best quarterback on the field? My guess is yes.
Florida 31–14

Missouri State at No. 27 Kansas State
K-State struggled in its 2011 opener vs. an FCS team, holding on to beat Eastern Kentucky 10–7. It shouldn’t be so difficult this time around. Missouri State went 2–9 last season and was among the worst defensive teams in the nation.
Kansas State 41–0

Elon at No. 29 North Carolina
North Carolina is the better team, but the best player on the field might be Elon wide receiver Aaron Mellette, who caught 113 passes for 1,639 yards last season, including 11 for 180 in the opener vs. Vanderbilt.
North Carolina 33–14

SE Louisiana at No. 31Missouri
The Lions from Southeastern Louisiana gave up a total of 99 points in two games vs. FBS foes last year — 47 to Tulane and 52 to Southern Miss. Points should be easy to come by for the Tigers.
Missouri 51–6

Chattanooga at No. 34 South Florida
Chattanooga went 5–6 last year with a future NFL Draft pick (B.J. Coleman, seventh round to Green Bay) playing quarterback. The Mocs don’t have a future pro under center this year.
South Florida 44-10

Richmond at No. 36 Virginia
Richmond opened the 2011 season with three straight wins, highlighted by a 23–21 victory at Duke, but then lost its final eight games. That’s not very Spider-like.
Virginia 28–10

No. 54 Nevada at No. 38 California
This is a tricky opener for the Golden Bears. Two years, ago Cal made the short trip to Reno and came home with a 52–31 loss. Zach Maynard must play well for Cal to win.
California 30–23

No. 79 Toledo at No. 43 Arizona
RichRod’s first game at Arizona is against a Toledo team that knows how to put points on the board. The Rockets averaged 42.2 points per game last season and hit the 60-point mark on two occasions.
Arizona 37–24

No. 59 Ohio at No. 44 Penn State
The Bill O’Brien era begins Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium when the Nittany Lions host Ohio, one of the top mid-major programs in the nation. Ohio is fresh off a 10-win season and features one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the nation, junior Tyler Tettleton. A true dual-threat, Tettleton threw for 3,202 yards and 28 touchdowns (with only 10 INTs) and added 658 yards on the ground in 2012.
Penn State 21–13

Youngstown State at No. 45 Pittsburgh
With Ray Graham out with an injury, don’t be surprised if Pitt freshman Rushel Shell has a huge — as in 200-plus yards — game in the coaching debut of Paul Chryst.
Pittsburgh 38–10

No. 46 Rutgers at No. 113 Tulane
Tulane has some solid skill-position players — most notably quarterback Ryan Griffin and tailback Orleans Darkwa — but Rutgers’ defense will be a bit too strong for the Green Wave.
Rutgers 31–17

Jackson State at No. 47 Mississippi State
Jackson Sate went 9–2 in the FCS ranks last season but shouldn’t pose too much of a threat to Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State 41–10

No. 48 Miami (Fla.) at No. 86 Boston College
I realize expectations aren’t high at Miami this fall, but it’s got to be a bit alarming that the Hurricanes are only favored by two points over a Boston College team that is picked by most to finish in last place in the ACC Atlantic — even behind Maryland.
Miami 24–20

No. 49 Northwestern at No. 67 Syracuse
Syracuse is eager to get the 2012 season off on a good note after losing the final five games in 2011. Northwestern opens the season with three straight non-conference games vs. BCS foes. The Wildcats host Vanderbilt and Boston College in the next two weeks.
Northwestern 28–24

No. 50 Iowa vs. No. 85 Northern Illinois (Chicago)
Northern Illinois brings a nine-game winning streak into the 2012 opener, but the Huskies only return three starters on offense. They figure to take a step back in the competitive MAC West.
Iowa 30–17

No. 77 Western Michigan at No. 52 Illinois
Western Michigan went 1–3 outright vs. teams vs. BCS conferences in 2011, with a win at UConn, a lopsided loss at Michigan (34–10) and close losses at Illinois (23–20) and vs. Purdue (37–32) in the Little Caesers Pizza Bowl. This is a team with a senior quarterback (Alex Carder) and a veteran offensive line that will not be intimidated by playing on the road at a Big Ten school.
Western Michigan 30–27

Eastern Kentucky at No. 53 Purdue
It will be an emotional day for Purdue coach Danny Hope. He served as the head coach at Eastern Kentucky, his alma mater, from 2003-07 and guided the Colonials to a 35–22 record in five seasons.
Purdue 41–14

Liberty at No. 57 Wake Forest
Wake Forest ended the 2011 season with five losses in its last six games, with the only win coming at home vs. Maryland. Liberty, a solid FCS team, will not be a pushover.
Wake Forest 31–17

Northwestern State at No. 58 Texas Tech
Northwestern State scored a total of 10 points in two games vs. FBS competition last year — three vs. LSU and seven vs. SMU. Texas Tech should roll in Week 1.
Texas Tech 48–7

No. 74 Tulsa at No. 60 Iowa State
Iowa State is the only AQ conference home team that is an underdog vs. a non-AQ conference opponent. Tulsa is solid, but the Golden Hurricane didn’t play well last year against top competition. I think the wrong team is favored.
Iowa State 33–28

Nicholls State at No. 61 Oregon State
Oregon State was stunned at home in its 2011 opener, losing in overtime, 29–28, to Sacramento State. Don’t expect a repeat. Nicholls State went 1–10 last season, with its only win coming vs. Evangel.
Oregon State 41–0

No. 68 FIU at No. 80 Duke
Duke rallied from 10 down in the fourth quarter to win at FIU, 31–27, last season. The Golden Panthers had little trouble moving the ball, with 392 yards passing and 176 yards rushing. However, two of their top skill players (quarterback Wesley Carroll and wideout T.Y. Hilton) are gone.
Duke 28–22

No. 121 Texas State at No. 70 Houston
Dennis Franchione and Texas State make the short trip to Houston to face Houston and new coach Tony Levine. The Cougars, who won 13 games last year, will send out sophomore David Piland to replace record-setting quarterback Case Keenum. Piland threw for 2,669 yards and 24 touchdowns two years ago while filling in for the injured Keenum.
Houston 48–13

Central Arkansas at No. 71 Ole Miss
After leading Arkansas State to its first-ever Sun Belt title in 2011, Hugh Freeze is now charged with making Ole Miss relevant in the brutal SEC West. Winning this week won’t be a problem. Winning more than four games this year could be.
Ole Miss 30–7

William & Mary at No. 72 Maryland
I can’t even imagine what would happen to Randy Edsall if he opened Year 2 with a loss to an FCS school that went 5–6 last year.
Maryland 28–13

Lamar at No. 76 UL-Lafayette
Mark Hudspeth did a tremendous job in his first season at UL-Lafayette, leading the Ragin’ Cajuns to a 9–4 record capped with a thrilling 32–30 win over San Diego State in the New Orleans bowl. The Cajuns should win with ease in Week 1.
UL-Lafayette 37–10

Appalachian State at No. 78 East Carolina
This won’t be easy for ECU. Appalachian State went 8–4 last year and is ranked No. 8 in the 2012 FCS preseason top 25 by Athlon Sports. The Pirates, though, are set up for a nice season in Conference USA. If Rio Johnson plays well at quarterback, ECU should contend in the East Division.
East Carolina 30–17

South Dakota State at No. 81 Kansas
Charlie Weis makes his debut at KU against a South Dakota State club that went 5–6 last year and lost to Illinois 56–3 in its only game vs. an FBS opponent. Dayne Crist, a former top recruit at Notre Dame, is the starting quarterback at Kansas.
Kansas 37–10

No. 91 Colorado State vs. No. 84 Colorado (Denver)
This rivalry has lost some of its luster in recent years, but it’s still an important game in the Centennial State. Former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, who won two national titles with the Tide, is the man in charge at Colorado State. The Rams will need a big game from underrated tailback Chris Nwoke.
Colorado 17–14

Weber State at No. 87 Fresno State
New Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter has a defensive background, but the Bulldogs will be fun to watch on offense this fall with star power at quarterback in Derek Carr (David’s brother) and tailback Robbie Rouse.
Fresno State 44–14

Indiana State at No. 89 Indiana
The Hoosiers were the only AQ conference team that did not beat an FBS opponent last year. Indiana lost to Ball State in Indianapolis and at North Texas. Indiana State will make Kevin Wilson and the Hoosiers sweat, but IU should prevail.
Indiana 21–17

Idaho State at No. 92 Air Force
Idaho State is bad. Very bad. The Bengals went 2–9 last year and ranked in the 100s in the FCS ranks in both scoring offense and scoring defense. The Air Force option attack could roll up over 400 yards on the ground.
Air Force 44–0

Austin Peay at No. 101 Western Kentucky
Austin Peay lost its two games vs. FBS opponents last season by a combined score of 99–16 — and one of those games was against Memphis. The Governors will be hard-pressed to keep this game close.
Western Kentucky 41–10

No. 109 Troy at No. 106 UAB
Troy rallied from nine down in the fourth quarter to beat UAB 24–23 last fall in a game that featured some questionable officiating down the stretch. “Everybody saw the game — bad calls by some Sun Belt referees,” UAB safety Jamie Bender said after the game. This year, the Blazers will be at home, with Conference USA officials.
UAB 27–24

Tennessee-Martin at No. 115 Memphis
The Larry Porter era mercifully came to an end after two miserable seasons. Now, it’s Justin Feunte’s turn to make Memphis a factor as it gets ready to make the move from Conference USA to the Big East. The first season figures to be a struggle, but the first week should produce a victory.
Memphis 30–14

Southern at No. 117 New Mexico
Bob Davie is back in coaching for the first time since 2001. He inherited a New Mexico program that has been alarmingly uncompetitive in recent years. This is a big rebuilding project.
New Mexico 21–3

No. 124 UTSA at No. 123 South Alabama
It’s classic battle between two of the four new members of the FBS ranks. Since we’ve got South Alabama ranked higher and the Jags are at home, the pick is obvious.
South Alabama 34-30



No. 75 Kentucky at No. 23 Louisville
Establishing a running game is always important, but it takes on extra meaning in this intra-state rivalry. Consider the following: The team that has won the rushing battle has won the last 13 Kentucky-Louisville games.
Louisville 30-20

No. 93 SMU at No. 40 Baylor
Former Texas Longhorn Garrett Gilbert, a one-time Gatorade National Player of the Year, makes his debut as the starting quarterback at SMU. He will be operating behind an offensive line that features five new starters.
Baylor 38–20



No. 35 Georgia Tech at No. 16 Virginia Tech
Georgia Tech is 1–3 against Virginia Tech since Paul Johnson took over in 2008, but the Yellow Jackets have had success moving the ball. They have averaged 378.3 yards in those four games, including 294.0 on the ground.
Virginia Tech 24–17

— by Mitch Light

<p> College Football Predictions: Every Game in Week 1</p>
Post date: Friday, August 31, 2012 - 10:57
All taxonomy terms: Green Bay Packers, NFC, NFC North, NFL
Path: /nfl/green-bay-packers-2012-nfl-team-preview

Athlon Sports is counting down its 2012 NFL preseason Power Rankings with in-depth team previews, schedule analysis and more as the start of the NFL season draws near.

The Green Bay Packers check in at No. 1.

In the end, 15–1 meant zero to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. All it really did was provide motivation for 2012. While the team took an undefeated record into mid-December, the offense put up more points than all but one outfit in NFL history and the quarterback won the NFL MVP after a spectacular season, 2011 was ultimately a disappointment for Rodgers and his team after winning Super Bowl XLV a year earlier.

“After you win the Super Bowl, I think it kind of changes your perspective,” Rodgers says. “You think you’re going to do this every year, get used to this, and you kind of forget just how special a run like that is, and how difficult it is. It gives you a greater respect for what you did when you made that run, but also a greater resolve to try and repeat that feeling.”

In order to repeat that feeling in 2012, the Rodgers-led offense will have to maintain its score-a-minute pace, and the defense will have to improve — significantly.


The Packers are set at quarterback for the next decade or so with Rodgers, who’s just entering his prime at age 28. While he admits that replicating his 2011 numbers will be difficult, the way he plays — brilliant decision-making, pinpoint accuracy and an absolute aversion to interceptions — gives him every chance to do it again. But with the free agent departure of backup Matt Flynn, who flew to Seattle, the team needs Rodgers to stay healthy.

For the pass-first Packers, running back is almost an afterthought. James Starks, a sixth-round pick in 2010 who was vital down the stretch of the team’s Super Bowl run, simply ­hasn’t proven durable. He was hampered during the second half of last season by knee and ankle injuries and must stay healthy for the first time since his junior year of college. Alex Green, a third-round pick in 2011, missed most of his rookie season with a torn ACL, but the coaches expect big things from him this year. The team also signed veteran Cedric Benson after the start of training camp so for now it appears that the Packers will utilize some sort of running back by committee approach.

Meanwhile, the team that carried three fullbacks on the 53-man roster once upon a time kept only John Kuhn last year. He’s a fan favorite who can protect against blitzes and run the ball at the goal line or in an emergency.

The Packers’ wide receiving corps is the deepest in the league. Greg Jennings, who is entering the final year of his contract, is a legitimate star. Jordy Nelson is physical, sneaky fast and coming off one of the greatest breakout seasons in recent memory. James Jones makes the most of limited opportunities. Randall Cobb was a revelation as a rookie, both as a returner and as a fast learner at receiver. And ageless Donald Driver still has something left, even more than he showed on “Dancing With the Stars.” Beyond that core, the team liked practice-squad receivers Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel so much last year that they paid them 53-man roster money to stick around on the practice squad despite offers from other teams. Driver’s future isn’t entirely certain because of his $5 million cap number. He’s offered to take a pay cut.

Few teams in the league value tight ends more than Green Bay, which kept a whopping five last year. Jermichael Finley must reduce the number of dropped passes (11) he had last year to be truly elite. Still, he’s a matchup nightmare. The team was hoping that Andrew Quarless, who sustained a horrific knee injury in December, would be ready for the start of this season, but he will begin 2012 on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, meaning he will miss at minimum the first six games. In place of Quarless, savage blocker Tom Crabtree and second-year pro D.J. Williams appear ready for expanded roles. Also, Ryan Taylor is a favorite of Rodgers and could make a big jump in Year 2.

After letting stalwart center Scott Wells walk, the team is pinning its hopes to 37-year-old center Jeff Saturday, the club’s first significant free agent signing since 2006. Starting left tackle Chad Clifton was cut loose in April, meaning Marshall Newhouse or 2011 first-round pick Derek Sherrod will be protecting Rodgers’ blindside. Newhouse saved the season when Clifton tore his hamstring in Week 5, but he must be more consistent. Sherrod’s horrific December leg injury makes him a question mark. Guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang are tough, stout and nasty. 


If everything starts up front, no wonder the Packers had the NFL’s worst defense last year. After Cullen Jenkins left as a free agent, the guy who was supposed to step up — 2010 second-round pick Mike Neal — was a disaster, suffering a training-camp knee injury and doing nothing once activated. Now, he’s been suspended for the first four games of 2012 for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. The team did sign free agent end Anthony Hargrove, then watched as his role in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal resulted in an eight-game suspension. While draft picks Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels should help, the key player is B.J. Raji, who failed to replicate his impressive 2010 season. He must generate more interior pass rush and stuff the run better.

At linebacker, Clay Matthews, despite registering only six regular-season sacks last season, remains the defense’s brightest star, but he needs help. The club hopes first-round pick Nick Perry, another USC product, is exactly what Matthews needs on the opposite side. Inside, Desmond Bishop suffered a hamstring injury in the Packers' first preseason game and is lost for the entire season. D.J. Smith will take Bishop's place as the starter, which means the team's linebacker depth takes a hit. A.J. Hawk had a down year and must bounce back at the other inside 'backer spot, especially in light of Bishop's loss.

No defense in NFL history gave up as many yards through the air as the 2011 Packers. The release of three-time Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins after last year’s career-threatening neck injury leaves Morgan Burnett as one of the starting safeties. The other is future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson, who once again was a dynamic playmaker last season, but he was a non-factor in some games and isn’t the cover man he used to be. Tramon Williams must regain his 2010 form after a Week 1 shoulder injury caused nerve damage that robbed him of strength. Second-year nickel back Sam Shields regressed significantly, a devastating blow for a team that played nickel or dime nearly 70 percent of the time and. He’ll be pushed by both veteran Jarrett Bush and rookie Casey Hayward


The Packers could not be in better shape when it comes to their specialists. Kicker Mason Crosby and punter Tim Masthay are coming off their best seasons. Long snapper Brett Goode hasn’t had an errant snap since he arrived as a free agent in 2008. And Cobb gives the team the electrifying return man it lacked for so long. His 108-yard team-record kickoff return for a touchdown in the opener last year was just the beginning.

Final Analysis: 1st in the NFC North

If Dom Capers’ defense returns to its top-five form and Rodgers stays upright, the Packers will be the Super Bowl favorites in the NFC. If the defense falters or Rodgers goes down for an extended period, there’s no chance of another title in Titletown.

Related: 2012 Green Bay Packers Schedule Analysis

Outside The Huddle

Happy Haircut
A.J. Hawk had been considering a long-overdue haircut for a while. “I just felt like it was kind of time for me. I was kind of sick of having long hair,” the linebacker said. Now, Hawk is helping sick kids with the hair he no longer wanted. Working in conjunction with Wigs for Kids, a charity that provides wigs for children who lose their hair due to medical treatments and other conditions, Hawk has started Hawk’s Locks for Kids.

No Mario
While some Packers fans hoped free agent Mario Williams might line up opposite Clay Matthews in 2012, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was thrilled when Williams signed with Buffalo. Williams had been rumored to be headed to the NFC North with the Chicago Bears. “Congrats to Mario Williams signing in Buffalo, far away from the NFC North,” Rodgers wrote on Twitter. “Thanks big guy.”

What If
When ex-New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely for his role in the team’s bounty scandal, Packers fans thanked their lucky stars that Mike McCarthy had hired Dom Capers as his defensive coordinator in 2009, when Williams claims he turned down ­McCarthy’s offer. “Like a lot of those questions, that’s a hypothetical,” McCarthy replied when asked what he might have had to deal with if he’d hired Williams. “I didn’t go through the hiring process, the details of it, out of respect for the people involved. Things happen for a reason. We hired Dom Capers, and we’re very happy with the way it’s worked out.”

Confused Coach
McCarthy has juggled so many assistants’ responsibilities that even he got confused at the staff’s first meeting of the offseason. In the past two years, McCarthy shifted running backs coach Edgar Bennett to wide receivers, moved assistant offensive line coach Jerry Fontenot first to running backs and now tight ends, promoted quarterbacks coach Tom Clements to offensive coordinator to replace Joe Philbin, and shifted tight ends coach Ben McAdoo to quarterbacks. “We had a staff meeting and for six years, the O-Line coach went first and talked about his players. And Ben McAdoo is standing next to the O-Line coach and I start talking about the tight ends,” McCarthy says. “He looked at me and I had to remember he was coaching the quarterbacks."

No New Threads
With the NFL switching to Nike as its official uniform supplier, many teams made at least minor alterations to their jerseys. Not the Packers, who refused to even try Nike’s technologically advanced materials. The only change to the Packers’ uniforms this year? The Nike Swoosh replaces the Reebok logo.

Brewers Fan
Rodgers, who is good friends with Milwaukee Brewers outfielder and NL MVP Ryan Braun, filmed five commercials for the team in spring training. The first, entitled “3-Step Drop,” featured Rodgers on the mound with Brewers general manager Doug Melvin and manager Ron Roenicke scouting him from the stands.

2012 Athlon Sports NFL Power Rankings and Team Previews:

No. 32: Jacksonville Jaguars
No. 31: St. Louis Rams
No. 30: Minnesota Vikings
No. 29: Indianapolis Colts
No. 28: Cleveland Browns
No. 27: Miami Dolphins
No. 26: Arizona Cardinals
No. 25: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
No. 24: Kansas City Chiefs
No. 23: Oakland Raiders
No. 22: Washington Redskins
No. 21: Seattle Seahawks
No. 20: Carolina Panthers
No. 19: New York Jets
No. 18: Buffalo Bills
No. 17: Tennessee Titans
No. 16: San Diego Chargers
No. 15: Cincinnati Bengals
No. 14: Philadelphia Eagles
No. 13: New Orleans Saints
No. 12: Dallas Cowboys
No. 11: Denver Broncos
No. 10: Detroit Lions
No. 9: Chicago Bears
No. 8: Atlanta Falcons
No. 7: Baltimore Ravens
No. 6: Pittsburgh Steelers
No. 5: New York Giants
No. 4: New England Patriots
No. 3: Houston Texans
No. 2: San Francisco 49ers
No. 1: Green Bay Packers

Order your 2012 Green Bay Packers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

Related: 2012 Green Bay Packers Schedule Analysis

<p> Green Bay Packers 2012 NFL Team Preview</p>
Post date: Friday, August 31, 2012 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-week-1-preview-match-ups-upset-picks-and-storylines-watch

Week 1 of the college football season features several interesting matchups, storylines and new faces stepping into playing time. Athlon gets you ready for the opening Saturday of action with an in-depth look at Week 1.

Top Storylines to Watch for Week 1

1. Two of the weekend’s most intriguing games take place in Atlanta, starting with NC State-Tennessee on Friday night. The Wolfpack are a popular sleeper pick in the ACC, while the Volunteers look to get back on track after a disappointing 5-7 record last season. Even though receiver Da’Rick Rogers was a head case, his departure will impact Tennessee’s offense. Without Rogers, NC State can shift All-American cornerback David Amerson to Hunter, leaving talented, but unproven junior college recruit Cordarrelle Patterson as the Volunteers’ No. 2 receiver. Tennessee’s Tyler Bray and NC State’s Mike Glennon are two of the top 15 quarterbacks in the nation, but whichever offense can establish the run (and some balance) will likely come out on top. The ACC’s needs marquee non-conference wins, and NC State could give the conference one on Friday night.

2. Even with significant personnel losses, Boise State will be in the mix for a BCS bowl in 2012. However, the Broncos have a huge opening week test at Michigan State. The Spartans will be breaking in a new quarterback (Andrew Maxwell), but the defense could be the best in the Big Ten. Michigan State will test Boise State in the trenches, especially on defense where the Broncos are replacing all four starters from last year. The Broncos have never lost an opener under coach Chris Petersen. However, that record will be put to the test against a talented and deep Michigan State roster. Considering the new faces stepping into playing time, could we see Boise State pull out a few trick plays to keep the Spartans on their toes?

3. Saturday’s matchup between Ohio State and Miami (Ohio) should be a one-sided affair. However, it’s a big day in Columbus, as the Buckeyes open up play under new coach Urban Meyer. A postseason ban has left Ohio State with nothing to play for, but this team should contend for the Big Ten’s best overall record. This game will be the first opportunity to see how the Buckeyes’ new spread offense looks and how much quarterback Braxton Miller has improved over the offseason. In addition to Miller’s improvement, Ohio State has a core of young players expected to see significant snaps, while the offensive line was a question mark after spring practice. It’s a long ways away from thinking about 2013. However, if the Buckeyes improve as expected, this team could be in the top five when next year’s preseason polls are released.

4. The second of the ACC-SEC Week 1 clashes in Atlanta features a Clemson team hoping to rebound after a disappointing end to 2011, while Auburn looks to get back on track after an 8-5 record last year. Both teams will be without key players, as Clemson’s Sammy Watkins is facing a two-game suspension, while starting center Reese Dismukes is suspended for Auburn. Even with Watkins suspended, Clemson has plenty of firepower to win this game. However, the key battle to watch will be in the trenches, as Clemson’s offensive line is a question mark, and Auburn’s defensive line could be one of the best in the SEC. Getting pressure on quarterback Tajh Boyd is Auburn’s best chance to win, but Clemson will counter with a quick-strike passing attack. Just like NC State matching up against Tennessee, this game represents an opportunity for Clemson to earn a key win for the ACC.

5. Speaking of conferences and key victories, the Big Ten has an opportunity to earn a huge non-conference win against the SEC on Saturday night. Michigan faces an uphill battle to beat Alabama, but a win by the Wolverines would help bolster the Big Ten’s reputation and place them squarely in the mix as a national title contender. However, the Crimson Tide’s strengths (offensive and defensive lines) are also where Michigan has question marks. Winning the battle in the trenches will be crucial to the Wolverines’ chances at an upset bid.

6. It’s been a long offseason in Happy Valley, so Saturday’s game against Ohio can’t get here fast enough for Penn State. There’s some momentum with a new coaching staff, but the Nittany Lions need to find weapons on offense, while finding a way to slow down Bobcats’ quarterback Tyler Tettleton. New coach Bill O’Brien will have his work cut out for him over the next couple of years, and if the offense struggles to find its footing, Ohio will have a chance to exit Happy Valley with a victory.

7. With Texas being a heavy favorite against Wyoming, it’s hard to glean much from the Longhorns opener. However, this game will be a good opportunity for quarterback David Ash to show he’s clearly the No. 1 quarterback over Case McCoy. Ash doesn’t need to throw 30-40 times every game, but he has to stretch the field and give Texas some balance. If the sophomore can cut down on his mistakes, the Longhorns will push for the Big 12 title. If Ash struggles on Saturday, the door will be open for McCoy to steal snaps away for Week 2.

8. Quarterbacks Making Their First Start

Brett Hundley, UCLA – Hundley shined in his debut against Rice, recording over 300 yards of total offense and four touchdowns. The Owls weren’t exactly the toughest competition, but Hundley looked poised and in control.

Kiehl Frazier, Auburn – Frazier played in all 13 games last season but was recruited to run Gus Malzahn’s up-tempo offense. How will the sophomore transition to a pro-style offense? His first test won’t be easy, as Auburn takes on Clemson Saturday night in Atlanta.

Everett Golson, Notre Dame – Golson has yet to take a snap on the FBS level, but there’s a lot of confidence in him going into Saturday’s game against Navy. The dual-threat quarterback should thrive in Brian Kelly’s offense.

Wes Lunt, Oklahoma State – Repeating as Big 12 champs won’t be easy, but the Cowboys should be in good hands with Lunt under center.

Marcus Mariota, Oregon – The Hawaii native is a perfect fit for Chip Kelly’s offense and should have a monster debut against Arkansas State.

Andrew Maxwell, Michigan State – Not only was Kirk Cousins one of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks, but he was a valuable leader for this team. Maxwell has very little experience but can lean on a solid rushing attack and offensive line.

Zach Mettenberger, LSU – After watching Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee struggle to stretch the field last season, Mettenberger appears to be the missing piece for LSU’s passing attack.

Josh Nunes, Stanford – Nunes has some of the biggest shoes to fill in college football as he looks to replace Andrew Luck.

Joe Southwick, Boise State – There’s really no way Boise State can replace Kellen Moore in 2012. Southwick will be making his first start this season and drew a tough opener on the road against Michigan State.

David Piland, Houston – Case Keenum is gone, but Houston’s high-powered offense shouldn’t drop too far with Piland at the controls.

Perry Hills, Maryland – With C.J. Brown out for the year due to a torn ACL, Hills (a true freshman) will get the controls to Maryland’s offense. After a disappointing 2-10 season last year, there’s a lot of pressure on the Terrapins to turn things around in 2012.

Bo Wallace, Ole Miss – New Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze coached Wallace at Arkansas State, and the sophomore edged Barry Brunetti for the starting nod this fall.

9. 6 Potential Upsets

Ohio at Penn State
It’s a new era at Penn State, but the Nittany Lions lost a handful of key players after the NCAA sanctions were handed down. An offense that struggled to move the ball last season will have some trouble adjusting to a new scheme, especially with the departure of running back Silas Redd. The Bobcats won 10 games last year and bring back quarterback Tyler Tettleton, who threw for 3,302 yards and 28 scores last year.
My pick: Ohio 24-20

Western Michigan at Illinois
Another Big Ten-MAC matchup ranks high on the list of possible upsets for Week 1. The Broncos are led by senior quarterback Alex Carder, but the Fighting Illini will counter with a defense that led the Big Ten in pass defense last season. Keep a close watch on Illinois’ offense. There’s some talent returning, but a new scheme could provide for some headaches early.
My pick: Illinois 27-24

FIU at Duke
The Blue Devils are dealing with a handful of injuries, including a couple to key contributors on defense. FIU nearly knocked off Duke last season, losing 31-27 in early October. The Golden Panthers return 17 starters and should give the Blue Devils all they can handle.
My pick: Duke 31-28

Indiana State at Indiana
The Sycamores were one of the worst teams in FCS play from 2005-2008, winning just one game during that span. Indiana State has improved under coach Trent Miles and could give its in-state rivals trouble on Saturday. The Hoosiers struggled in their first season under coach Kevin Wilson but should be improved in 2012.
My pick: Indiana 34-20

Toledo at Arizona
Expect a lot of points in this Week 1 battle. The Rockets no longer have Eric Page catching passes, but the offense returns two proven quarterbacks and a breakout player at running back in David Fluellen. The Wildcats may need some time to adjust to their new schemes but should find a way to edge Toledo on Saturday.
My pick: Arizona 37-30

NC State vs. Tennessee (Atlanta)
No one would really be surprised if Tennessee lost this game, but the Volunteers are the favorite. Without Da’Rick Rogers, Tennessee needs a big performance from receiver Justin Hunter, who is coming off a torn ACL.
My pick: NC State 31-27

10. Notable player absences

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson – Watkins is the biggest absence for Week 1. The sophomore is suspended for the first two games of the season due to an offseason arrest, and there’s no question he will be missed. Clemson has depth at receiver, but it won’t be easy replacing an All-American.

Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh? – Graham hasn’t been officially ruled out, but all signs point to him sitting out the opener. The Panthers have capable backups in Isaac Bennett and Rushel Shell.

Tommy Rees, QB, Notre Dame – Rees is suspended for the first game of the year due to an off-the-field incident in early May. Barring a complete collapse by Everett Golson, Rees may not start again for Notre Dame this season.

Cierre Wood, RB, Notre Dame – Wood is suspended for the first two games, which leaves a gaping hole in the Notre Dame backfield. USC transfer Amir Carlisle is not ready to play, leaving Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III as the top two backs.

Fitzgerald Toussaint, RB, Michigan? – Brady Hoke has not decided whether or not Toussaint will sit out Saturday night’s game against Alabama. If Toussaint does not play, look for Thomas Rawls, Vincent Smith and Justice Hayes to carry the Wolverines’ ground attack.

Georgia suspensions – Cornerback Sanders Commings is suspended for the first two games, but the coaching staff has yet to announce any penalties for linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety Bacarri Rambo for offseason incidents.

James Sims, RB, Kansas – Sims is suspended for the opener due to an off-the-field incident. Tony Pierson will fill in as Kansas’ No. 1 back.

Jeff Scott, RB, Ole Miss – One of the few offensive playmakers for the Rebels will miss the season opener against Central Arkansas due to a back injury.

Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami – Henderson has been a bust since coming to Miami and will sit out the opener after missing practices in August.

11. Three Mystery Teams to Watch in Week 1

1. Florida - Is it Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel at quarterback? Also, do the Gators have any playmakers at wide receiver or running back?

2. Iowa – The Hawkeyes have a new offensive coordinator (Greg Davis) and several new faces in the front four on defense.

3. Miami – The Hurricanes have a lot of youth stepping into key roles on both sides of the ball and there’s a NCAA investigation still hanging over the program. It’s not crazy to think the opener against Boston College could decide whether or not Miami gets to a bowl game.

12. First-year coaches who should start off with a bang

1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State (vs. Miami (Ohio)
Buckeyes shouldn’t have much trouble with Miami (Ohio).

2. Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh (vs. Youngstown State)
Look for the Panthers to allow quarterback Tino Sunseri to build some confidence, as he should throw early and often against Youngstown State.

3. Larry Fedora, North Carolina (vs. Elon)
The Tar Heels are ineligible to play for the conference title or in a bowl game, but Fedora’s up-tempo offense should be fun to watch in Chapel Hill in 2012.

4. John L. Smith, Arkansas (vs. Jacksonville State)
After a tumultuous offseason, the Razorbacks will be glad to see the 2012 season begin.

5. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss (vs. Central Arkansas)
Victories will be tough for the Rebels to find this year, but Freeze should get his tenure in Oxford off to a good start with an easy win over Central Arkansas.

13. Familiar faces, new places

Dayne Crist, QB, Kansas (from Colorado) vs. South Dakota State
Crist is a key piece in the rebuilding efforts at Kansas. The senior knows Charlie Weis’ system and should give the Jayhawks a spark on offense. Kansas has lost 10 consecutive games, but that streak will end on Saturday night with Crist under center.

Garrett Gilbert, QB, SMU (from Texas) vs. Baylor
Gilbert returns to the Big 12 with a non-conference matchup against Baylor. The Bears struggled on defense last season, but the Mustangs could struggle to exploit those question marks with a rebuilt offensive line.

Cody Green, QB, Tulsa (from Nebraska) vs. Iowa State
In a bit of a surprise, Tulsa is a slight favorite against Iowa State on Saturday. Green should be a good fit as G.J. Kinne’s replacement under center and certainly won’t be intimated after playing at Nebraska.

Montel Harris, RB, Temple (from Boston College) vs. Villanova
With Bernard Pierce moving onto the NFL, Harris is the perfect complement to Matt Brown in the backfield. Harris has battled knee injuries the last two seasons and will get a chance to show he is 100 percent on Friday night against the Wildcats.

Ryan Katz, QB, San Diego State (from Oregon State) vs. Washington
Katz struggled last year after a promising 2010 season. If he can get back on track, the Aztecs will test Washington’s defense and new coordinator Justin Wilcox.

Danny O’Brien, QB, Wisconsin (from Maryland) vs. Northern Iowa
The Badgers hope another transfer from the ACC is the answer under center. O’Brien won’t match Russell Wilson’s effectiveness, but he should be a solid option for Wisconsin this season. Expect O’Brien to get off to a good start in the opener against Northern Iowa.

Silas Redd, RB, USC (from Penn State) vs. Hawaii
Redd is the highest-profile name on the list and will play a key role in USC’s run at a national title. The Trojans are heavy favorites against Hawaii, so the junior probably won’t see a heavy workload. However, it will be interesting to see how Redd and Curtis McNeal share carries on Saturday.

Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor (from Oregon) vs. SMU
Yes, Robert Griffin will be missed, but the cupboard isn’t bare in Waco. Seastrunk’s big-play ability will help Baylor’s offense overcome the absence of the Heisman Trophy winner. Seastrunk did not play at Oregon but was one of the nation’s top recruits in 2010. SMU’s run defense allowed 118.3 yards per game last season but that will be tested by the Texas native on Sunday.

Jordan Webb, QB, Colorado (from Kansas) vs. Colorado State
Webb edged Texas transfer Connor Wood for the starting job in the fall. In two years as Kansas’ quarterback, he threw for 3,079 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Week 1 Predictions

Alabama 31, Michigan 13
Arizona 37, Toledo 30
Arkansas 52, Jacksonville State 13
Baylor 38, SMU 24
California 31, Nevada 27
Clemson 27, Auburn 24
Colorado 27, Colorado State 20
Duke 31, FIU 28
Florida 37, Bowling Green 17
Florida State 48, Murray State 10
Georgia 49, Buffalo 13
Illinois 27, Western Michigan 24
Indiana 34, Indiana State 20
Iowa 27, Northern Illinois 20
Iowa State 30, Tulsa 27
Kansas 38, South Dakota State 13
Kansas State 45, Missouri State 7
Louisville 27, Kentucky 17
LSU 51, North Texas 10
Maryland 34, William & Mary 14
Miami 24, Boston College 20
Michigan State 27, Boise State 17
Mississippi State 40, Jackson State 10
Missouri 45, SE Louisiana 7
NC State 31, Tennessee 27
Nebraska 38, Southern Miss 13
North Carolina 45, Elon 10
Northwestern 31, Syracuse 27
Ohio 24, Penn State 20
Ohio State 45, Miami (Ohio) 13
Oklahoma 45, UTEP 10
Oklahoma State 55, Savannah State 3
Ole Miss 38, Central Arkansas 10
Oregon 51, Arkansas State 20
Pittsburgh 41, Youngstown State 13
Purdue 41, Eastern Kentucky 10
Rutgers 38, Tulane 13
South Florida 45, Chattanooga 7
Stanford 44, San Jose State 7
Temple 40, Villanova 10
Texas 38, Wyoming 10
Texas Tech 52, Northwestern State 7
USC 55, Hawaii 10
Virginia 38, Richmond 7
Virginia Tech 31, Georgia Tech 24
Wake Forest 38, Liberty 13
Washington 40, San Diego State 17
West Virginia 44, Marshall 20
Wisconsin 45, Northern Iowa 7

by Steven Lassan



Related College Football Content

ACC Week 1 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 1 Previews and Predictions

Big Ten Week 1 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 1 Previews and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 1 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 1 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 1 Upset Picks

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

<p> College Football Week 1 Preview: Match-Ups, Upset Picks and Storylines to Watch</p>
Post date: Friday, August 31, 2012 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/michigan-over-alabama-would-be-big-ten%E2%80%99s-best-win-decade

The Big Ten needs some good news. On the field, Ohio State won the national championship in 2002 and was beaten handily in 2006 and 2007 by SEC teams in the big game. Other than that, the league has not really challenged on college football’s highest level in some time. The B1G has also lost eight of the last nine Rose Bowls in which it played. Meanwhile, the conference that many Big Ten fans loathe — the SEC — has piled up six consecutive national championships by four different schools. Off the field, the recent league landscape has been filled with scandals and coaching changes.

The Michigan Wolverines have a huge opportunity on Saturday night to make a statement that their program and their league are headed back to an elite level. Brady Hoke’s bunch gets a chance to knock off Alabama, an SEC power that has won two of the last three national championships. The Crimson Tide are ranked in the preseason top five despite losing five of the top 35 overall picks in the NFL Draft — Trent Richardson, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw. Nick Saban’s crew also lost nose tackle Josh Chapman and defensive back DeQuan Menzie to the NFL, so electric Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson should be able to make plays against an inexperienced Bama group. Mr. Shoelace has accounted for 68 Wolverines touchdowns over the last two years, and he could be a nightmare matchup for the rebuilt Tide defense.

The Michigan defense will face a fairly predictable Alabama offense, although the Tide may have the best O-line in the country. The Wolverines have a solid back seven, including an excellent secondary, but the key to beating the defending champs will be the play of the defensive front. If they can keep the Tide running game in check, Michigan should be able to keep the game close and look to win it late.

The stakes could not be higher with two top 10 traditional powers meeting at Cowboys Stadium with the entire college football nation watching. This is not just another January bowl game, but instead a chance for a B1G team to take down the cream of the crop in the SEC. Michigan’s task of beating the juggernaut Alabama program will be difficult, as Nick Saban and his staff always have the elite talent on their roster ready to play. The Wolverines will not only be playing for themselves, but also for the pride of a conference looking for positives. A UM victory would be a catalyst for the Big Ten on the field, and it would be the league’s top win since the rival Buckeyes won it all in 2002.

--By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

<p> Michigan Over Alabama Would Be Big Ten’s Best Win in a Decade</p>
Post date: Friday, August 31, 2012 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /news/kent-states-andre-parker-pulls-jim-marshall-fumble-return-against-towson

Kent State linebacker Andre Parker made the news for all of the wrong reasons on Thursday night. In a game Kent State had clear control of, Parker picked up a muffed punt in the first half and returned it the wrong way. 

It's the first week of the season, so mistakes are going to be made. However, it's hard to understand why Parker never realized he was headed the wrong way.

The ball was technically dead after Parker touched it, but the referees did not blow the whistle, which allowed one of the strangest plays we might see all year to occur.

An underrated part of the video is Parker appears to get up after the run and talk trash to the Towson defenders. 

Needless to say, this is a play Parker would probably like to forget.

<p> Kent State's Andre Parker Pulls a Jim Marshall With Fumble Return Against Towson</p>
Post date: Friday, August 31, 2012 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-betting-against-spread-week-1

Every Friday for entertainment purposes only, I will bring you my top college football picks against the spread. I do not condone, approve or encourage gambling on sports in any way. Playing a $50 Texas Hold 'Em cash game with your buddies every Wednesday's is more about the experience than the net revenue. At least, that is the case for me.

But if you are a fan of football — college or pro — and you don't think gambling has played a huge role in the growth and popularity of the sport, then you are simply being ignorant. And behind closed doors, the powers that be understand the impact betting has had on the game of football.

2012 Record Against The Spread: 0-0

Last night I took the Gamecocks over the Dores, the Gophers over the Rebels and the Cougars of Pullman to pull the upset against the Cougars of Provo. Which means, the only two people with a worse start to the '12 season was Rick Stockstill and Robb Akey. 

Note: All lines are as of date of publication

Boise State (+7.5) at Michigan State (Fri.)
Chris Petersen and the Broncos have been great against BCS conference foes in Week 1. But Oregon, Georgia and Virginia Tech weren't true road games and this season opens against one of the best-coached teams in the Big Ten in East Lansing. This is the best offensive line Mark Dantonio has had since taking over MSU and could have the top defense in the Big Ten. Without Kellen Moore, Doug Martin and a host of elite defensive talents, Boise State will be hard-pressed to rebuild with a quarterback who has never started a game. The line of scrimmage will determine this game and Sparty has the clear advantage in the trenches. Prediction: Michigan State (-7.5)

Miami (-2) at Boston College
This game was a 24-17 grind-it-out victory for Boston College in South Florida last year. And likely one out of every three Hurricanes had already mentally checked out. Mass departures through the draft and dismissals have turned the Canes roster over, and it could eventually work out to be a good thing for The U. Meanwhile, the Eagles have major issues on offense and will struggle to move the ball whatsoever (take the under), so the key becomes Al Golden's freshman-laden offense and their ability to move the football. Miami will win a close game on the road, so laying a pair of points for a team that has a distinct talent advantage — both on the field and on the sidelines — seems like a low-risk proposition. Miami is 7-1 in its last eight trips to Chestnutt Hill. Prediction: Miami (-2)

Miami (Ohio) (+23.5) at Ohio State
Urban Meyer has returned to The Buckeye State with trumpets blaring and it has fans boiling over in anticipation. Star quarterback Braxton Miller fits the spread scheme perfectly and fans can bet that Meyer wants to make a big early statement. Look for the Buckeyes to make a concerted effort to develop the offense as questions loom for this team at many positions. This means the starters could be on the field deep into the game in order to give the coaches a clear picture of the O-Line and receivers. This also means the Bucks could post a big, crooked number. Miami was 4-8 last fall and won't be dramatically different this time around as Athlon has them picked 99th in the nation. The OSU defense will push Michigan State as the best unit in the Big Ten and it will stymie the Redhawks attack, so 31-35 points on offense could easily deliver the cover. Prediction: Ohio State (-23.5)

Auburn (+3) vs. Clemson (Atlanta, Ga.)
The Auburn Tigers have not won a non-conference, road/nuetral site regular-season game since 1997. And it lost to Clemson last fall 38-24 on the road. This game shifts to Atlanta and the focus shifts to the Clemson offensive line and how they will hold up against Auburn's new defense. Under Brian VanGorder and there are some intriuging pieces in the front seven for the SEC Tigers, however, Kiehl Frazier will have to score at least 20 points to win this game. Gene Chizik is dealing with major issues off the field at Auburn and will be without Michael Dyer, Reese Dismukes, DeAngelo Benton and Jovon Robinson for a variety of reasons. Tajh Boyd will make just enough plays to get the ACC a key win over the SEC. Predictions: Clemson (-3)

Tulsa (-1) at Iowa State
The Cyclones aren't a great team, but this is a BCS conference team with back-to-back bowl trips under Paul Rhoads. The offense has questions, but the defense will be solid as two of the top linebackers in the nation return in Jake Knott and A.J. Klein. Tulsa was good against bad teams (8 wins) and really, really bad against good teams (5 losses). The Hurricane got hammered by the three BCS teams it played as well as Houston and BYU. This one will be much closer, but ISU should win at home. Prediction: Iowa State +1

SMU (+10) at Baylor
Gone is Robert Griffin III but Art Briles and his ingenious gameplanning has plenty of toys to play with on offense. Nick Florence takes over at quarterback with plenty of starting experience and a host of talented options in the backfield and receiving corps. This team will score early and often against June Jones' bunch. The key will be can the return of Zach Line bolster the 101st ranked rushing offense from last fall. This is the one area SMU should be able to attack Baylor. Briles knows SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert from his time at Texas and that should help the gameplan somewhat. Baylor feels like the much better all-around team and they will win with relative ease in a high-scoring affair. Prediction: Baylor (-10)

Others to watch:

Michigan (+13) at Alabama
Kentucky (+13) at Louisville
Ohio (+6) at Penn State

- by Braden Gall


College Football Week 1 Previews and Predictions:

ACC Week 1 Predictions and Preview
Big 12 Week 1 Predictions and Preview
Big East Week 1 Predictions and Preview
Big Ten Week 1 Predictions and Preview
Pac-12 Week 1 Predictions and Preview
SEC Week 1 Predictions and Preview

<p> College Football Betting Against the Spread: Week 1</p>
Post date: Friday, August 31, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /nascar/pennell%E2%80%99s-picks-fantasy-nascar-trends-atlanta

Coming off another exciting race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads south to Atlanta Motor Speedway for this weekend's AdvoCare 500. Only two races remain before the Chase for the Cup gets underway in Chicago, and if the past few weeks are any indication of things to come, you better hold on a lot tighter than Tony Stewart holds onto one of his helmets.

Since the series hit the summer stretch in June, there have been 11 different winners in 11 races, dating back to Joey Logano's win at the repaved Pocono Raceway. Last week, it was Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin that broke in the new configuration at Bristol and went to Victory Lane.

Just as the battle for wins each week has heated up, so has the battle to secure a spot in the 12-driver Chase field.

Hamlin's victory was his third of the season, making it a four-way tie for the most win on the seasons with Hamlin, Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski. So far, only four drivers have locked themselves into the Chase: Johnson, Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth. This weekend, eight other drivers could mathematically lock themselves into the field.

While the top 10 is settling things amongst themselves, the fight for the two wild card spots are very much up for grabs. Entering this weekend's race, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch hold the coveted position, but anything can change, as Sunday night's race proved. Among those looking to secure a spot in the Chase through via wild card are Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Marcos Ambrose, Joey Logano and Carl Edwards.

In the meantime, we've seen wild races over the course of the last three weeks. Last-lap drama, helmet throwing, finger pointing, accusations of teams testing the boundaries of the rulebook … you name it, it’s happened.

With a 500-mile race under the lights on the fast, high-banks of the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway, the stage is set for yet another dramatic weekend for the Cup Series.

However, look for that streak of 11 different winners to end this week as Jimmie Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus and the entire No. 48 team look to solidify their spot as the top seed heading into the Chase.

This organization has shown it is once again in championship form, with a win at Indianapolis, a second last week at Bristol, a third at Watkins Glen and a 14th at Pocono. Don’t forget, the 27th-place finish at Michigan is very deceiving as Johnson lost a motor leading in the closing laps.

A three-time winner in Atlanta, Johnson enters the weekend as the fantasy favorite. Already locked into the Chase, Johnson and Knaus are now looking solely for wins. While this group has not been to Victory Lane at AMS since it swept the races in 2007, Johnson was second last year and third in the September 2010 event. Look for him to improve that finishing position by one spot Sunday night and emerge as the Chase favorite heading to Richmond.

While questions arose about when last year's Atlanta event would be run after rain washed out the race until Tuesday, there was no question as to who had the best car when the green flag finally flew. Veteran Jeff Gordon dominated the day, leading seven times for a total of 146 laps en route to his fifth Atlanta win.

Marking the 20th anniversary of his historic first start in the Cup Series, the four-time series champion is on the verge of missing out on this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Currently third in the Chase wild card battle, with one win (Pocono), Gordon is 55 points out of the top 10, but only 16 behind fellow wild carder Kyle Busch. If Gordon can score his second win of the season, it would go a long way towards his quest to make the Chase.

The No. 24 team, led by crew chief Alan Gustafson, has been strong of late, but two poor finishes at Watkins Glen and Michigan have made things much more difficult. Expect Gordon to be a contender throughout Sunday night's race and be there in the end, challenging for the win.

Five Favorites: Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne

This year, veteran Mark Martin has proven that you are only as old as you feel. The 53-year-old is running a limited schedule for Michael Waltrip Racing, but each time he climbs behind the wheel, he’s a threat for the win. Making only 15 starts thus far in 2012, Martin leads the series in poles (four) and has two top 5s and five top 10s.

Over the past few seasons, however, Martin has struggled a bit on the high banks of Atlanta. Since finishing second in the spring 2006 race, he has only two other top--10 finishes and seven finishes outside the top 20 (including three DNFs).

Despite his not-so-stellar record in Atlanta of late, Martin appears renewed at MWR and is this week's undervalued pick of the week.

When looking for another undervalued driver for your fantasy lineup, you might want to consider Richard Petty Motorsports' Aric Almirola. While Almirola has only one start in Atlanta, he sat on the pole earlier this year at Charlotte Motor Speedway, another mile-and-a-half track. The No. 43 team has not set the world on fire this season, but with crew chief Mike Ford now calling the shots they have steadily improved.

Do not expect this team to get up there and battle Johnson, Gordon, et al, for the win, but they could score a solid finish and give you the fantasy points you need as the season winds toward its home stretch.

Five Undervalued Picks: Mark Martin, Aric Almirola, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kevin Harvick, Paul Menard

Have you ever seen a kid trying to eat an ice cream cone when it is about 100 degrees outside? Typically it’s a losing battle. That's where Carl Edwards currently finds himself with only two races left before the Chase field is set.

For the past few weeks, Edwards has been our darkhorse pick of the week. Each week, he has proved why. A sixth at Michigan was a solid finish, but not what the team needed to make the Chase. Last weekend at Bristol, Edwards was out front leading, but made a mistake late in the race, bypassing a fuel stop under caution. The resulting 22nd-place finish was the result when the tank ran dry.

With only two top 5s and 11 top 10s, Edwards has rarely been in contention to win races this season. After losing last year's championship battle to Tony Stewart by virtue of a tiebreaker, the driver of the No. 99 has struggled to bounce back.

Admitting there is a "real sense of urgency" at the moment, Edwards also pointed out earlier in the week there are a lot of talented drivers in a similar situation.

"It’s almost hard to put into words how close the competition is and any loss you have, there are gonna be a ton of people who capitalize on it, and any gain you have it’s really hard to have a real positive gain over the field technically or competitive-wise, points-wise," he said. "I don’t think that it could be any more competitive. Misery likes company and right now we’ve got a little bit of company back there, but I don’t know if it makes me feel any better, but it is good to see that it can happen to anybody.”

Once again, though, Edwards heads to a track where he is very capable of winning. The Roush Fenway Racing driver has three wins, eight top 5s and 10 top 10s on the 1.5-mile track, finishing second in the September 2010 race and fifth last season.

Although his last win cam in 2008, if he and crew chief Chad Norris can put together a strong setup under the car, stay out of trouble both on the track and in the pits, as well as play the strategy right, this could be the weekend Edwards finally gets out and does his signature backflip — and then the wild card battle really gets crazy. If not, you can pretty much write off his Chase hopes for 2012.

Five Darkhorse Picks: Carl Edwards, Landon Cassill, Jamie McMurray, Regan Smith, Danica Patrick

Best Average Finish at Atlanta (Wins/Starts)
Jimmie Johnson — 10.0 (3/20)
Tony Stewart — 11.2 (3/25)
Jeff Gordon — 12.2 (5/38)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. — 12.8 (1/24)
Matt Kenseth — 12.9 (0/23)
Carl Edwards — 13.6 (3/14)
Greg Biffle — 16.1 (0/17)
Jeff Burton — 16.6 (0/34)
Juan Pablo Montoya — 16.9 (0/9)
Mark Martin — 17.3 (2/51)

by Jay Pennell
Follow Jay on Twitter: @JayWPennell

<p> Athlon Sports contributor Jay Pennell looks at fantasy NASCAR favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's AdvoCare 500 from Atlanta Motor Speedway.</p>
Post date: Thursday, August 30, 2012 - 19:14
Path: /golf/deutsche-bank-what-theyre-saying

Round One of the FedExCup playoffs is in the books, and now we turn our attention to the PGA Tour's unique Friday-Monday event, the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston, which will wrap up on Labor Day afternoon, weather permitting.

Last week's winner Nick Watney and defending champion Webb Simpson join Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and the usual suspects as players jockey for FedExCup position with an eye on another Cup, the one with the name "Ryder" on it. While the European team is set, U.S. captain Davis Love still has time to make his four at-large selections for the American squad, so Brandt Snedeker, Dustin Johnson and others will be doing their best to impress DL3.

Here's a sample of what players are saying on the eve of the Deutsche Bank:

• Tiger Woods
"It feels good to be back (at TPC Boston). Unfortunately last year I didn't make the Playoffs at all and missed out on four big events. It feels good to at least have played well enough this year to basically secure a spot all the way through to East Lake (site of the Tour Championship). Looking forward to this week.  The golf course is in absolute perfect shape.  I mean, it's awesome right now.  Sure, it'll dry out a little bit come the rest of the week and get a little bit faster and more difficult.

On the perception that he's been inconsistent: "Well, it's just you can't really look at it as real bad going on this year. At the time, most of the year, I was leading the Money List, I was No. 1 in FedExCup points and I won three times, so it's not like it's been that bad.  It's just a couple rounds here and there or it's an up‑and‑down here and there or it's making one putt, which is not good.  So that's a good thing."

On today's longer hitters: "The game has certainly changed.  When I came our here in '96 and '97 I was long, and I averaged 296.  I think there's like 30‑some‑odd guys who are averaging over 300.  So it's a totally different game now.
"You know, the bigger hitters can hit the ball 320 in the air.  I don't really have that.  I can carry it 300, but that's a different gear.  They're taller, they're bigger, and most of the longer guys are 6'3".  When I was coming out here, if you were six foot you were pretty much average height, big height.  Look at Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Watson, they're all short compared to the big guys now, and they were long hitters at the time for their era.  But these guys are just bigger. I certainly can't carry the ball that far, but I'm still one of the longer ones but not the longest by any stretch of the imagination."

• Rory McIlroy
On majors: "I never grew up chasing records or trying to put a certain number on it.  I've got my second major, and there's going to be a lot of people getting sick of this phrase, but I got my second, and I'm looking for my third.  Hopefully it's not too long before I get my third, and then when I get my third, I want to get my fourth.  That's the way I'm approaching it.  I don't want to put any number on it because if I just throw a random number out there and I don't get to it, I don't want me to be disappointed with a career that's actually very good or everyone else to feel like I haven't lived up to expectations.
"I have no set number.  I'm very happy that I've won two majors, and I want to get that third one.  But whenever it comes, it comes."

On the Ryder Cup: "I think the big thing about the Ryder Cup is you have to be a good team member.  You can't be afraid to voice your opinion.  If you really feel strongly about something in the team room, you've got to stand up and speak.  And then it's just being confident, self‑belief, having a good attitude, because that's what the Ryder Cup is all about.  Match play is about having the right attitude going in and being confident."

• Nick Watney
On whether a win this week would secure a Ryder Cup spot: "Well, if I were to win this week, I guess — I've heard (Love) said he's looking for a hot player, and I would have to classify myself as a hot player if I were to win two tournaments in a row.  I could honestly see a scenario where I win this tournament, and Davis says, well, just based on the year, if Brandt or Dustin played well, I'm taking the two or three guys that are really experienced, and Brandt and Dustin have had a better collective season than this guy.
"Part of me wishes that I knew what I had to do, and part of me is glad that I don't.  I'm excited to play the Deutsche Bank.  I feel like I'm in great position as far as the Playoffs go, and if that call comes, like I said, I will be overjoyed, and if it doesn't, then the first five months of the season cost me."

• Jason Dufner
"You know, I can't wait for the Ryder Cup to finally get here.  There's been a lot of talk about it since I made the team, so it's been an anticipation of the event.  I think as a golfer, for me it's probably one of the biggest events, if not the biggest event to participate in.  Pretty select amount of players, you only get 12 from each side every two years.  So pretty tough team to get on, so it's a huge accomplishment for me. Just everything I've heard about the Ryder Cup has been fantastic and just a great experience overall professionally and personally."

On skipping the Barclays: "You know, the main goal for me is to be in that Tour Championship.  If you're in that Tour Championship, you've got a realistic chance of winning the whole FedExCup.  I didn't pay too much attention to it.  I think somebody said I was sixth, so I guess I moved down a couple spots.  But you'd like to be as high as you can obviously going into that Tour Championship.  But I've got two weeks before that starts.  I had a little bit of a nice luxury of playing so well during the season that I could kind of afford to take a week off."

<p> Players Sound Off On FedExCup, Ryder Cup and More</p>
Post date: Thursday, August 30, 2012 - 16:23
Path: /college-football/college-football-predictions-10-key-games-week-1

College football kicks of this weekend with a full slate of games. Here's a look at 10 of the top games on the Week 1 schedule.

10 Biggest Games of Week 1

Alabama (-13.5) vs. Michigan (at Arlington)
Denard Robinson, one of the nation’s most dynamic offensive players, will face his stiffest test of the season in Week 1. The Alabama defense will have a new look — only four starters return — but the Crimson Tide will no doubt still rank among the top defenses in college football. Robinson has struggled throwing the ball against elite defenses — he completed 9-of-24 against Michigan State and 9-of-21 against Virginia Tech last season — and Alabama will make the man called Shoelace prove that can he move the ball by throwing it down field. There is one school of thought that says that it’s best to play Alabama early, especially with so many new starters on the defense. That’s probably true, but the Tide defense should be more than ready to slow down the Wolverines.
Alabama 27, Michigan 13

Boise State (+7) at Michigan State (Fri.)
Boise State has won six straight games vs. BCS conference teams, with its last loss coming at Washington, 24­–10, in Week 2 of the 2007 season. Three of those wins have come on the opening weekend of the season — vs. Oregon in 2009, Virginia Tech in ’10 and Georgia in ’11. This year, the Broncos head to East Lansing to face a Michigan State team that has few weaknesses. Much of the focus will be on the first-time starters at quarterback, Joe Southwick for Boise State and Andrew Maxwell for Michigan State, but the key matchups will be on the line of scrimmage. Michigan State will look to attack Boise State’s inexperienced defense — only one full-time starter is back — with a heavy dose of tailback Le’Veon Bell. The 6-2, 244-pound junior will run behind a veteran offensive line that returns four starters. It could be a tough night for the Broncos’ defense.
Michigan State 28, Boise State 14

South Carolina (-6.5) at Vanderbilt (Thu.)
The college football season kicks off Thursday night in Nashville. South Carolina has had some struggles against Vanderbilt over the past five years. The Gamecocks lost twice in that span, in 2007 and ’08, and have averaged only 15.8 points in the five games. Vanderbilt, though, has only averaged 6.7 points in the past three games and has scored only one offensive touchdown in that span. Last year, the Commodores managed a total of 77 yards in a 21­–3 loss in Columbia. Don’t expect such offensive ineptitude from the 2012 Dores, however. This Vanderbilt club features arguably the best collection of skill players the school has had in the past two decades, with all-conference-caliber talent at running back (Zac Stacy) and wide receiver (Jordan Matthews) and a veteran quarterback who has played well in big spots (Jordan Rodgers). The key for Vanderbilt, though, will be on the other side of the ball. The Commodores must slow down All-America tailback Marcus Lattimore, who is playing in his first game since injuring his knee last October vs. Mississippi State. If Lattimore fails to hit the 100-yard mark, Vanderbilt has a legitimate chance to win this game.
South Carolina 28, Vanderbilt 24

Tennessee (-3) vs. NC State (Fri.)
It’s always dangerous to put too much stock in one game, but Tennessee coach Derek Dooley could really use a win to begin his third season in Knoxville. Dooley is 11–14 overall, and only one of the wins (vs. Cincinnati in 2011) came against an FBS team that ended the season with a winning record. Recently, much has been made about the dismissal of All-SEC wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers, but the focus for Tennessee has to be on the running game. Last season, the Vols ranked last in the SEC in rushing and averaged an anemic 2.3 yards per carry vs. conference foes. That simply has to improve. It’s very difficult to beat good teams if you can’t run the ball — no matter how potent you might be in the passing game. NC State, too, is searching for offensive balance after ranking sixth in the ACC in passing and 11th in rushing in 2012. It’s a good bet that the team that runs the ball better will win this game.
Tennessee 34, NC State 27

Clemson (-3) vs. Auburn
Two new high-profile (and highly paid) defensive coordinators will making their debut at the Georgia Dome Saturday night — Brent Venables at Clemson and Brian VanGorder at Auburn. Venables’ arrival at Clemson received more pub nationally (likely because he was taking over a defense that gave up 70 points in its bowl game), but VanGorder was arguably the most important coordinator hire in the nation. The one-time coordinator at Georgia inherits a unit that ranked 11th in the SEC in both scoring defense and total defense and gave up an average of 41.6 points in its five losses. The Tigers, however, have been accumulating some solid talent on defense, especially along the line. Don’t be surprised if this unit is vastly improved in 2012. But also don’t be surprised if the Auburn defense struggles in Week 1, even though Clemson is missing All-America wideout Sammy Watkins. The Tigers still have weapons.
Clemson 30, Auburn 20

Ohio (+5.5) at Penn State
The Bill O’Brien era begins Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium when the Nittany Lions host Ohio, one of the top mid-major programs in the nation. Ohio is fresh off a 10-win season and features one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the nation, junior Tyler Tettleton. A true dual-threat, Tettleton threw for 3,202 yards and 28 touchdowns (with only 10 INTs) and added 658 yards on the ground in 2012. In his only game vs. a BCS conference team, he completed 23-of-36 for 339 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 38–26 loss at Rutgers. And keep in mind that the Scarlet Knights ranked ninth in the nation in pass defense last season. Tettleton will have to be at his best against Penn State. The Nittany Lions have some concerns in the secondary, but the front seven should be stout. Ohio will have trouble moving the ball on the ground; if the Bobcats aren’t sharp in the passing game, they will struggle to score points.
Penn State 21, Ohio 13

Notre Dame (-16.5) vs. Navy (at Dublin, Ireland)
Notre Dame won 43 straight vs. Navy from 1964 through 2006 but proceeded to lose three of four from ’07 through ’10. The Irish got back on track last fall, rolling past the Midshipmen with ease, 56–14, in South Bend. The storyline this season — other than the fact that the game is being played in Ireland — is the debut of redshirt freshman Everett Golson at quarterback for Notre Dame. Golson is far from a finished product, but he is an outstanding athlete who has taken care of the ball — a huge focus for the Irish this season — in scrimmages. Notre Dame won’t have tailback Cierre Wood (suspended), but the Irish have plenty of capable ball-carriers. Don’t be surprised if George Atkinson III has a huge day.
Notre Dame 34, Navy 14

Miami (Fla.) (-2) at Boston College
I realize expectations aren’t high at Miami this fall, but it’s got to be a bit alarming that the Hurricanes are only favored by two points over a Boston College team that is picked by most to finish in last place in the ACC Atlantic — even behind Maryland. It’s worth noting that BC beat the Canes 24–17 in Miami in the 2011 season-finale. Still, Miami is the better team, even with its issues at quarterback and on the offensive line. Junior Stephen Morris, who played down the stretch as a true freshman in 2010, beat out Ryan Williams for the starting assignment. Boston College will counter with junior Chase Rettig, who has started the last 20 games. Boston College will be without two of its top skill-position players; projected starters at tailback Rolandan Finch (705 yards in 2012) and wide receiver Bobby Swigert (44 catches, 470 yards) are out with injury.
Miami 24, Boston College 20

Kentucky (+14) at Louisville (Sun.)
Establishing a running game is always important, but it takes on extra meaning in this intra-state rivalry. Consider the following: The team that has won the rushing battle has won the last 13 Kentucky-Louisville games. UK ranked 90th in the nation and 11th in the SEC in rushing last season, but the coaching staff believes the 2012 Cats will be much-improved on the ground thanks to the return of veterans CoShik Williams, Raymond Sanders and Jonathan George. Louisville, too, struggled to run the ball in ’11, ranking 93rd in the nation with a 121.5-yard average. The Cardinals have yet to settle on a feature back, so expect as many as four tailbacks to get touches on Sunday afternoon. Louisville is the popular pick for two main reasons — the Cards have a decided edge at quarterback and are playing at home.
Louisville 30, Kentucky 20

Georgia Tech (+7.5) at Virginia Tech (Mon.)
Georgia Tech is 1–3 against Virginia Tech since Paul Johnson took over in 2008, but the Yellow Jackets have had success moving the ball. They have averaged 378.3 yards in those four games, including 294.0 on the ground. Last year, Georgia Tech had no answer for the Hokies’ offense, allowing 208 yards passing (on only seven completions) and 267 yards rushing en route to a 37–26 loss in Atlanta. With David Wilson now in the NFL, Virginia Tech’s running attack figures to be a work in progress early in the season, but quarterback Logan Thomas is a dangerous weapon who is capable of taking over a game. This is a key early season battle in the Coastal. Conventional wisdom suggests that Virginia Tech should have the edge because the Hokies have had ample time to prepare for the option attack.
Virginia Tech 24, Georgia Tech 17

by Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch on Twitter)


Related College Football Content

ACC Week 1 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 1 Previews and Predictions

Big Ten Week 1 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 1 Previews and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 1 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 1 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 1 Upset Picks

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

<p> College Football Predictions: 10 Key Games in Week 1</p>
Post date: Thursday, August 30, 2012 - 09:14
Path: /college-football/big-ten-week-1-preview-and-predictions

It has certainly been a tumultuous offseason for the Big Ten. Jim Delany battled Mike Slive in playoff negotiations that completely restructed the way college football determines a national champion. Ohio State, now with Urban Meyer leading the way, and Michigan appear to be entering a golden age in the Buckeyes-Wolverines rivarly. Illinois has hired its own new head coach. And Penn State football will take the field for the first time since Joe Paterno's passing. Needless to say, the first weekend of Big Ten action will have no shortage of plotlines. 

Big Ten's Top 10 Storylines to Watch in Week 1:

1. Penn State football returns to the field
When Ohio and Penn State take the field on Saturday the entire college football world will be watching. It will be the first time PSU will play since the passing of Joe Paterno or the issuing of NCAA sanctions. It will be the first time Bill O'Brien coaches a game at any level. It will be the first time Nittany Lions everywhere will be unified behind its football team. And it might be the highest-rated first quarter of the entire 2012 season. The atmosphere will be surreal, the national anthem will be bizarre and the first time "We Are" echoes through Happy Valley, there won't be a dry eye in the house.  Most importantly, however, the game could be very competitive. Ohio is a preseason favorite in the MAC and Tyler Tettleton is a dynamic presence at quarterback. Penn State will counter with a stingy defense. Look for emotion to play the pivotal role for the Nittany Lions. 

2. Can Michigan carry the Big Ten torch against the defending champs?
The angst directed southward from the Midwest to the Sun Belt region is palpable. The SEC has won six straight titles, Jim Delany and Mike Slive battle regularly off the field for headlines and revenue and the SEC has crushed the Big Ten in recent title bouts. While the Big Ten plays the SEC fairly even in bowl games as a whole, the B1G hasn't broken through in a big game in quite some time. A win over Alabama would be a huge feather in the league's cap should Michigan pull off the monumental upset in Week 1. The Tide has a reworked defense, Michigan has an electric senior quarterback and the game is being played on a fast track in Jerry's Palace. If there ever was a time for a signature win for the conference and/or Michigan, this Saturday is the time. However, Barrett Jones and the monster Crimson Tide offensive line will likely keep the SEC's foot securely on the Big Ten's neck.

3. How good are Michigan State, Andrew Maxwell?
While Michigan and Alabama do battle Saturday night, the marquee national showdown Friday night between Boise State and the Spartans could be the best Big Ten game of Week 1. Both teams are built on physicality, both have elite leaders at head coach and both have to replace the top quarterback in program history. The Broncos have been stellar in season openers against BCS foes, but unlike wins over Oregon, Georgia or Virginia Tech, this game is a true road trip. And Michigan State's defense is no joke. Mark Dantonio will lean heavily on tailback Le'Veon Bell in an effort to ease Andrew Maxwell into the starting role. From all accounts, he is very similar to Kirk Cousins in style, skillset and demeanor. But until the bright lights of a national television broadcast against a top 25 opponent come on, he is still an unknown. A physical performance over Boise State confirms beliefs that this team is a Big Ten championship team. A loss might slide Sparty back into "rebuilding" mode.

4. Urban Meyer returns to the state of Ohio
Meyer was born in Toledo, Ohio, played defensive back at Cincinnati and got his start in coaching at St. Xavier High School in, you guessed it, the state of Ohio. His first college gig was at Ohio State. Now, he triumphantly returns to The Buckeye State with multiple national championships and expectations that border on absurd. Ohio State fans know Meyer is a proven winner and they know their roster is stacked with talent, so no bowl or Big Ten championship sanctions are going to temper the fervor building in Columbus. Sophomore star Braxton Miller fits the new scheme perfectly so 2012 could simply be a really great tailgate party for the 2013 expected romp through the Big Ten. But it all begins with Miami of Ohio this weekend. The first time the former SEC coach witnesses Script Ohio draped in the Scarlet and Gray will undoubtedly be an emotional moment.

5. Key season in Lincoln begins with C-USA Champs
Bo Pelini has won at least nine games in each of his four seasons as the Huskers head coach and was literally seconds from a Big 12 championship in 2009. But he also lost at least four games every year for a team that expects not just conference titles but national championships. His defense has lost its edge since 2009 and a change at the coordinator position to John Papuchis will hopefully reenergize the Black Shirts. And the first weekend will feature an intriguing test against the reigning C-USA champion Southern Miss Golden Eagles. Even without head coach Larry Fedora or star quarterback Austin Davis, the Eagles should be able to score points this fall. Having said that, this USM team should be outmatched by Taylor Martinez. Any sign of struggle could be a dangerous omen for Pelini.

6. Kain Colter era begins with tricky road test
For a program scrapping for its bowl life each season, non-conference games in which Northwestern is favored are huge games. Especially, against fellow BCS conference teams. Syracuse has a hard-nosed coach and veteran quarterback, so the trip to the Carrier Dome won't be easy. But new Wildcat signal caller Kain Colter could be the most talented, most electrifying player on the field. He can run, throw and catch and now has the starting job all to himself. He also has arguably the deepest and most gifted receiving corps in Northwestern history at his disposal. Pat Fitzgerald knows he has to win most "swing games" to make it to the postseason and this one defines the term.

7. Another ACC transfer starts under center for Wisconsin
Everyone knows the story by now. For the second straight season, the Badgers will hang their conference title hopes on a former ACC quarterback who is eligible to play immediately following a spring transfer. The only difference in the two tales is that Danny O'Brien is not Russell Wilson. Wilson has proven to be a special player already earning a starting spot for the Seattle Seahawks. He also set NCAA records, led the Badgers to a Big Ten title and might be the best player to ever play the position in Madison. While O'Brien is in easily the best offensive situation he has even experienced — great OL, elite RB, solid coaching staff — he has cast some doubt over his tenure by allowing Joel Stave to battle for the starting spot deep into camp. Badgers fans are hoping it was just Bret Bielema's way of pushing the former Maryland Terrapin, because the starting quarterback needs to be ready for the Big Ten opener at Nebraska in Week 5.

8. Upset Alert: Kirk Ferentz should be nervous about Week 1
Former Wisconsin assistant Dave Doeren has a quality program rolling at Northern Illinois and if the Iowa Hawkeyes aren't careful, they will leave Chicago with a loss. The Huskies won their final nine games last season, including the MAC championship and the Bowl. Losing star quarterback Chandler Harnish hurts the offense in a big way, but Jordan Lynch appears capable of leading NIU. This means Kirk Ferentz will have to find a running game to support his star quarterback James Vandenberg. This offensive line couldn't run the ball or protect the quarterback last fall and needs to improve if the Hawkeyes want to start the season with a win. Quickly developing and rebuilding the defensive front under new coordinator Phil Parker would help as well. This could be a make or break season in Iowa City for Ferentz and a season-opening loss to Northern Illinois would be devastating to Hawkeye faithful.

9. Tim Beckman era begins at Illinois
Many believe in Beckman the coach, despite his questionable recruiting tactics with current Penn State players. He did great things at Toledo, leading the Rockets to a 16-2 MAC record over the last two seasons. His teams posted big numbers on offense and contended for conference crowns. He now has a totally different level of athlete at Illinois after following a guy who was known for his ability to attract talent. This team is a large unknown in the Leaders Division and a big showing against a solid Western Michigan team could be a sign of positive things to come in Champaign.

10. Hoosier State battle a must-win for Kevin Wilson
Wilson's first year in Bloomington wasn't pretty. The Hoosiers won a single game over South Carolina State and posted losses to the Sun Belt (North Texas) and the MAC (Ball State). The offense did show signs of life in Big Ten play as Tre Roberson and Stephen Houston sparked the rushing attack. This meeting with FCS member Indiana State might be the best shot at a win all season for Indiana and it probably doesn't help the Hoosiers' conference that some are already calling for the upset. A loss could cripple the IU season before it even gets started.

Week 1 Big Ten Predictions:

Week 1 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
Minnesota (-8.5) at UNLV Minnesota, 24-10 Minnesota, 31-17 Minnesota, 31-10 Minnesota, 35-14
Boise St (+6) at Michigan St Michigan St, 27-17 Michigan St, 28-14 Michigan St, 27-17 Michigan St, 21-17
Northwestern (-1.5) at Syracuse N'Western, 31-24 N'Western, 28-24 N'Western, 31-27 N'Western, 28-21
Ohio (+6) at Penn State Penn St, 21-13 Penn St, 21-13 Ohio, 24-20 Ohio, 14-10
W. Michigan (+10) at Illinois Illinois, 31-14 W. Michigan, 30-27 Illinois, 27-24 Illinois, 28-17
Miami, OH (+23) at Ohio St Ohio St, 37-10 Ohio St, 41-14 Ohio St, 45-13 Ohio St, 38-10
Iowa (-10) at N. Illinois Iowa, 24-17 Iowa, 30-17 Iowa, 27-20 N. Illinois, 17-14
E. Kentucky (off) at Purdue Purdue, 38-10 Purdue, 41-14 Purdue, 41-10 Purdue, 28-7
S. Miss (+20) at Nebraska Nebraska, 34-14 Nebraska, 34-20 Nebraska, 38-13 Nebraska, 35-10
N. Iowa (off) at Wisconsin Wisconsin, 49-17 Wisconsin, 41-8 Wisconsin, 45-7 Wisconsin, 38-7
Indiana St (off) at Indiana Indiana, 24-20 Indiana, 21-17 Indiana, 34-20 Indiana St, 21-14
Michigan (+13) at Alabama Alabama, 31-17 Alabama, 27-13 Alabama, 31-13 Alabama, 28-24

by Braden Gall


Related College Football Content

ACC Week 1 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 1 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 1 Previews and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 1 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 1 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 1 Upset Picks

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

<p> Big Ten Week 1 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, August 30, 2012 - 06:10
Path: /college-football/sec-week-1-preview-and-predictions-2012

The first week of action in the SEC features an interesting slate of games. South Carolina-Vanderbilt open conference play on Thursday night, while Auburn and Alabama have a chance to earn key non-conference victories on Saturday. Tennessee takes on NC State on Friday night, and Kentucky travels to in-state rival Louisville on Sunday. 

SEC's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 1

1. What can Alabama do to slow down Denard Robinson?
Robinson will be the most dangerous offensive player Alabama will face this season. But Michigan’s senior quarterback has struggled throwing the ball against elite defenses — he completed 9-of-24 against Michigan State and 9-of-21 against Virginia Tech last season — and Alabama will make the man called Shoelace prove that can he move the ball by throwing it downfield. I would expect Nick Saban, Kirby Smart & Co. will make it very difficult for Robinson to pick up large chunks of yards on ground. Sure, Robinson will make some plays scrambling out of the pocket, but I’d be surprised if he has much success on designed running plays.

2. Can Tennessee get its ground game going?
Recently, much has been made about the dismissal of All-SEC wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers, but the focus for Tennessee has to be on the running game. Last season, the Vols ranked last in the SEC in rushing and averaged an anemic 2.3 yards per carry vs. conference foes. That simply has to improve. It’s very difficult to beat good teams if you can’t run the ball — no matter how potent you might be in the passing game. There is talent on the offensive line, but the group has underachieved in recent years. New position coach Sam Pittman, formerly of North Carolina, must get his linemen to play with more physicality if the Vols are to show significant improvement in the running game.

3. Kiehl Frazier makes his first start for Auburn
Frazier was hand-picked by former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to run Malzahn’s no-huddle attack. Well, Malzahn is now the head coach at Arkansas State, and Scot Loefler — who runs a pro-style offense — is calling the plays at Auburn. Frazier played in every game last year but was used almost exclusively as a runner. He attempted only five passes (completing two) while running the ball 76 times for 327 yards. It will be interesting to see how much Frazier is asked to do Saturday night vs. Clemson at the Georgia Dome.

4. Florida’s quarterback derby
Will Muschamp announced earlier this week that both quarterbacks — Jacoby Brisett and Jeff Driskel — will play Saturday vs. Bowling Green. One will play the first quarter and the other will play in the second quarter. At the half, Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease will decide who plays the rest of the way. This doesn’t sound promising, but don’t forget that Alabama was in a similar situation last season. AJ McCarron and Philip Sims both played against Kent State in the opener, allowing the staff to get a look at each quarterback in game situations. McCarron was tabbed the starter for Week 2 and went on to enjoy an outstanding season. Could it happen in Gainesville?

5. James Franklin’s right shoulder
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has assured us that Franklin, his standout junior quarterback, will be completely recovered from surgery on his throwing shoulder in the spring. Franklin has looked good in preseason camp and is said to be making all the throws. Still, he needs to prove he can get it done in a real game, so it’s important that Franklin plays well Saturday night against Southeastern Louisiana. Missouri will no doubt win the game and roll up a ton of yards, but keep an eye on Franklin. If he is truly 100 percent, the Tigers will have an opportunity to knock off Georgia in the program’s first-ever SEC game in Week 2.

6. Kentucky’s rushing yards
How important is it for Kentucky to run the ball well vs. Louisville? Well consider the following: The team that has won the rushing battle has won the last 13 Kentucky-Louisville games. Also, the Wildcats are 8–0 under Joker Phillips when rushing for 200-plus yards. UK ranked 90th in the nation and 11th in the SEC in rushing last season, but the coaching staff believes the 2012 Cats will be much-improved on the ground thanks to the return of veterans CoShik Williams, Raymond Sanders and Jonathan George.

7. Zach Mettenberger’s first start
When he signed with Georgia as a 4-star recruit in 2009, Mettenberger probably didn’t think it would be four years before he would be starting his first game in the FBS ranks. But that is the reality for the 6-5, 230-pound fourth-year junior who arrived at LSU after a stop at Butler (Kan.) Community College. The strong-armed Mettenberger could be the missing link on an offense that struggled to throw the ball against quality competition last season. The Tigers boast one of the nation’s top offensive lines, are loaded at tailback, and feature some quality young weapons at wide receiver. If Mettenberger plays well, this offense will be very difficult to stop.  

8. Georgia starting a true freshman at right tackle
The Bulldogs are the popular pick to repeat in the SEC East, but this still a team with some issues heading into the 2012 season. The biggest concern could be on the offensive line, where Georgia must replace three seniors. This weekend, all eyes will be on John Theus, a true freshman who will get the start at right tackle. There will obviously be more difficult tests down the road, but Buffalo features some decent talent on defense, especially on its front seven. It’s a safe bet that UB defensive coordinator Lou Tepper — yes, the former Illinois head coach is still around — will try to confuse Theus and the Dawgs’ offensive line. 

Week 1 SEC Predictions

Week 1 SEC PredictionsDavid FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light
South Carolina (-8) at VanderbiltSouth Carolina 28-14South Carolina 31-21South Carolina 27-24South Carolina 28-24
Tennessee (-3) vs. NC State (Atlanta)NC State 17-14Tennessee 34-31NC State 31-27Tennessee 34-27
Buffalo at Georgia (-38)Georgia 42-7Georgia 49-10Georgia 49-13Georgia 41-10
Bowling Green at Florida (-29)Florida 28-7Florida 24-0Florida 37-17Florida 31-14
SE Louisiana at MissouriMissouri 42-3Missouri 41-13Missouri 45-7Missouri 51-6
Jacksonville State at ArkansasArkansas 35-7Arkansas 45-7Arkansas 52-13Arkansas 38-14
Clemson (-3) vs. Auburn (Atlanta)Clemson 31-24Clemson 31-27Clemson 27-24Clemson 30-20
North Texas at LSU (-43)LSU 42-10LSU 52-7LSU 51-10LSU 44-14
Central Arkansas at Ole MissOle Miss 24-13Ole Miss 24-7Ole Miss 38-10Ole Miss 30-7
Jackson State at Mississippi StateMississippi State 28-10Mississippi State 35-10Mississippi State 40-10Mississippi State 41-10
Michigan vs. Alabama (-13.5) (Arlington)Alabama 28-21Alabama 31-17Alabama 31-13Alabama 27-13
Kentucky at Louisville (-13)Louisville 31-14Louisville 24-13Louisville 27-17Louisville 30-20

by Mitch Light


Related College Football Content

ACC Week 1 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 1 Previews and Predictions
Big Ten Week 1 Previews and Predictions
Big 12 Week 1 Previews and Predictions
Pac-12 Week 1 Previews and Predictions
College Football Week 1 Upset Picks
Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections
Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

<p> SEC Week 1 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, August 30, 2012 - 06:05
Path: /college-football/acc-week-1-preview-and-predictions-2012

Most of the 12 teams in the ACC will be playing easy non-conference openers, but two games stand out as marquee matchups. In Atlanta, NC State plays Tennessee, while Clemson matches up against Auburn on Saturday night. Although neither game means anything for the ACC Championship, it's an opportunity for both teams to earn a huge non-conference victory.

ACC's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 1:

1. R-E-S-P-E-C-T
After finishing 9-16 in games against BCS conference opponents last year, the ACC has a chance to earn some national respect with two huge non-conference games in Atlanta. NC State plays Tennessee on Friday night, while Clemson takes on Auburn on Saturday. Outside of these two games, there’s much in the way of marquee non-conference tests for the ACC in Week 1. Most consider the ACC the No. 5 conference in college football and for it to move up the pecking order, its teams need to win non-conference games such as the ones taking place this weekend in Atlanta.

2. ACC Coastal Championship on the line?
With Miami rebuilding and North Carolina ineligible for the Coastal title, the division is essentially a three-team battle between Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Virginia. Considering the Cavaliers have to play both teams on the road, the Hokies and Yellow Jackets have to be considered the favorites to win the Coastal. The winner of this matchup has went on to play for the ACC Championship every year since the conference split into two divisions. The Hokies have won four out of the last five, including a 37-26 contest in Atlanta last season. Having a full offseason to prepare for Georgia Tech’s option attack should give Virginia Tech an edge in this game.

3. Will Clemson’s offense struggle without Sammy Watkins?
An arrest in early May will force Watkins to miss the first two games of the season. As a freshman last year, Watkins was one of the conference’s top players, recording 82 receptions for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns. The good news for Clemson? Quarterback Tajh Boyd is back, while the receiving corps still has plenty of weapons. Junior DeAndre Hopkins is an All-ACC candidate, and sophomore Charone Peak is capable of a breakout season. The biggest question mark for the Tigers’ offense is a line that must replace three starters, especially against a talented and deep Auburn defensive line. Clemson has plenty of skill players to makeup for the loss of Watkins. However, if Auburn’s defensive line spends most of the night in the backfield, Boyd will struggle to find his rhythm, and Clemson will start the year 0-1.

4. How much has Florida State’s offensive line improved?
The biggest question mark facing the Seminoles is an offensive line that struggled mightily last season. The line barely opened up any holes for the rushing attack, as Florida State rushers averaged only 3.3 yards per carry on 437 attempts. EJ Manuel and Clint Trickett were sacked 41 times last season, which ranked 110th nationally. Youth and injuries played a large role in the struggles, but this unit needs to make major strides for Florida State to contend for a national championship. Although Murray State won’t be the toughest challenge in the trenches, this will be an important game for the Seminoles to evaluate their new starting five. Left tackle Cameron Erving switched from defensive in the spring, while right tackle Menelik Watson has never played a snap on the FBS level. The other three starters (Josue Matias, Bryan Stork and Tre’ Jackson) have a combined 12 starts. With a huge ACC test against Clemson on the horizon, Florida State needs the game action against Murray State and Savannah State to find the right mix up front.

5. The first start for Maryland quarterback Perry Hills
After another spring filled with players leaving the team, things appeared to be headed in the right direction for Maryland. The Terrapins had a relatively quiet fall camp, until quarterback C.J. Brown suffered a torn ACL. Brown was the team’s only experienced quarterback, leaving freshmen Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe to battle for the No. 1 spot. Hills edged Rowe in fall camp and will make his first start on Saturday against William & Mary. The Tribe is coming off a losing season (5-6) but should not be taken lightly, especially with Maryland starting a true freshman. This will also be the Terrapins’ first look at how both sides of the ball will respond with new coordinators (Mike Locksley and Brian Stewart). While there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding the freshmen quarterbacks, Locksley and his offensive staff are ready to unleash freshman receiver Stefon Diggs. With a young signal-caller, expect to see Diggs and the running backs lay a huge role in the offense. After a disappointing 2-10 season, there’s a lot of pressure on coach Randy Edsall to produce in 2012 – which won’t be easy with a true freshman starting at quarterback.

6. What to expect out of Boston College and Miami?
Considering these two teams played each other in the 2011 season finale, there should be plenty of familiarity on Saturday. The Hurricanes and Eagles are coming off disappointing 2011 campaigns, and it’s hard to get a read on both teams going into 2012. Boston College is looking for a spark on offense but has been hit hard by injuries in fall camp. The Hurricanes have some promising young talent, but there’s a NCAA investigation hanging over the program and a lot of inexperience on the depth chart. While it may seem crazy to be thinking about bowl eligibility in Week 1, both teams have a tough schedule this year, which makes this game even more important. It’s also important for both teams to get the year started off with a victory, especially after both teams did not finish above .500 in 2011.

7. Larry Fedora’s debut at North Carolina
With a ban on postseason play and a bowl game, the Tar Heels really have nothing to play for in 2012. It’s fair to wonder how motivated this team will be, but the offense could be one of the best in the ACC. New coach Larry Fedora will bring a new spread, up-tempo attack to Chapel Hill, which should score plenty of points. Quarterback Bryn Renner quietly had a good season last year, throwing for 3,086 yards and 26 scores. He will be joined by All-ACC running back Giovani Bernard and the conference’s best offensive line. Elon finished 5-6 last season, so the Tar Heels should have no trouble winning easily on Saturday night. Even though there’s nothing to play for in 2012, if North Carolina is motivated, this team could push for nine wins.

8. Injuries adding up at Duke - faces key non-conference test against FIU
If the Blue Devils want to end a bowl drought that has lasted 17 seasons, Saturday’s game against FIU is a must-win contest. Duke has a non-conference trip to Stanford in Week 2, while playing Florida State and Clemson in crossover games with the Atlantic Division. The Blue Devils will be without 11 scholarship players on Saturday against the Golden Panthers. Projected defensive starters Jamal Bruce (DT), Jordon Byas (S), and Kelby Brown (LB) are huge losses for a defense that allowed 31.2 points a game last year. Even without T.Y. Hilton at receiver, FIU is still a dangerous Week 1 opponent. It’s a long season, but a loss to the Golden Panthers in the opener would be a huge setback to Duke’s chances at a winning record and bowl appearance.

Week 1 ACC Predictions

Week 1 ACC GamesDavid FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light
Tennessee (-3) vs. NC State (Atlanta)NC State 17-14Tennessee 34-31NC State 31-27Tennessee 34-27
Elon at North CarolinaUNC 35-10UNC 41-13UNC 45-10UNC 33-14
William & Mary at MarylandMaryland 28-10Maryland 24-10Maryland 34-14Maryland 28-13
Richmond at VirginiaVirginia 35-14Virginia 27-13Virginia 38-7Virginia 28-10
Miami (Fla.) (-2) at Boston CollegeMiami 10-7Miami 17-10Miami 24-20Miami 24-20
Murray State at Florida StateFlorida State 42-7Florida State 38-3Florida State 48-10Florida State 44-10
Liberty at Wake ForestWake Forest 35-13Wake Forest 34-10Wake Forest 38-13Wake Forest 31-17
FIU at Duke (-3.5)Duke 28-21Duke 27-24Duke 31-28Duke 28-22
Clemson (-3) vs. Auburn (Atlanta)Clemson 31-24Clemson 31-27Clemson 27-24Clemson 30-20
Ga. Tech at Va. Tech (-7.5)Virginia Tech 28-14Virginia Tech 31-21Virginia Tech 31-24Virginia Tech 24-17

by Steven Lassan


Related College Football Content

Big East Week 1 Previews and Predictions
Big Ten Week 1 Previews and Predictions
Big 12 Week 1 Previews and Predictions
Pac-12 Week 1 Previews and Predictions
SEC Week 1 Previews and Predictions
College Football Week 1 Upset Picks
Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections
Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

<p> ACC Week 1 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, August 30, 2012 - 06:01
Path: /college-football/pac-12-week-1-preview-and-predictions

The Pac-12 is in the best position to challenge the SEC's strangle-hold on college football. Both USC and Oregon are ranked in the top five and have eyes not only on the Pac-12 title, but also the BCS National Championship. The Trojans are the nation's No. 1 team but the Ducks are the three-time defending conference champs. Something has to give. Additionally, this league added four new head coaches that will bring electric new offenses to a conference that already gives defensive coordinators nightmares. While there isn't a marquee showdown in Week 1 like years past, there are still plenty of intriguing match-ups that could be closer than the experts think.

Pac-12's Top 10 Storylines to Watch in Week 1:

1. Lane Kiffin's Quest for a National Championship
The high profile coach has been dealing with maturity questions since leaving Tennessee in unorthodox fashion in 2010. After recruiting and coaching in the face of NCAA sanctions, his 2011 team showed marked improvement after the five-loss debut of two years ago. With Matt Barkley's return to Heritage Hall, Kiffin has all the pieces in place to challenge the SEC's run at national supremacy. A trip to the championship game would begin to validate his brash attitude and coaching style. The Hawaii Warriors and new head coach Norm Chow — who is a former Kiffin co-worker at USC — won't pose much of a threat this weekend, but Barkley's Heisman campaign and Kiffin's quest for a championship begins in primetime on FOX's first-ever network regular-season college football broadcast.

2. The West Coast gets more offensive
The Pac-12 has always been labeled as an offensive-minded conference that fails to play elite defense. While that argument may never have a definitive answer, one thing is certain: The league's four new head coaches will cause plenty of additional headaches for defensive coordinators. Mike Leach, Rich Rodriguez and Todd Graham are widely considered three of the top offensive minds in the game today and all three will begin their tenures this weekend. Leach's air raid, RichRod's zone read option and Graham's spread will do nothing to shift the national perspective that this is an offensive league only. While Jim Mora Jr., may not be thought of on the same level in terms of game-planning as his three new Pac-12 peers, his offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone should do plenty to ignite a recently dormant UCLA offense.

3. What will life be like without Andrew Luck?
The best pro prospect since John Elway has traded in his Cardinal red for Colts blue, leaving David Shaw and Stanford with arguably the biggest void in the nation. Junior Josh Nunes battled with sophomore Brett Nottingham all summer long for the right to fill those big shoes and Shaw named the 6-foot-4, 216-pound Nunes the starter. When he attempts his first throw Friday night against San Jose State it will be his first pass since November 20, 2010, and so some rust should be expected. The Spartans should rollover relatively easily, so it is a perfect chance for Nunes to ease his way into the starting line-up. However, on a team that has gone 23-3 over the last two seasons under Luck's leadership, the pressure to win on The Farm has reached unprecedented levels. Nunes needs to prove quickly that he will be ready for Pac-12 play. USC comes to town in Week 3.

4. Redshirt freshmen set to lead conference contenders
Okay, calling UCLA a conference contender might be a small reach in 2012. Yet, the two teams that met in the inaugural Pac-12 title game will turn their hopes for a return trip over to redshirt freshmen quarterbacks. The Bruins will start Brett Hundley, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound Chandler, Ariz., native, against Rice on the road to open the year. He is charged with stabilizing a position that has been a complete mess for the better part of a decade. Meanwhile, national title hopeful Oregon will unleash Marcus Mariota on the Arkansas State Red Wolves. Mariota is a dynamic 6-foot-4, 195-pound dual-threat who has drawn Dennis Dixon comparisons — and possibly forced Darron Thomas to declare early for the NFL. Both players are highly-touted, upside prospects who enter the starting line-up with loads of expectations. And pressure to win.

5. Fireworks-a-plenty in Provo
Mike Leach, a former BYU undergraduate who learned his craft from famous Cougars LaVell Edwards and Norm Chow, returns to Provo with an offense that could be one of the most dangerous in the nation. Jeff Tuel and a host of talented receivers will give Bronco Mendenhall, who is also the defensive coordinator at BYU, all he can handle. The blue and white Cougars won nine of their final 10 games last fall, but against the top two offenses it faced, Utah and TCU, Mendenhall's defense allowed 92 points in two losses. Washington State will also struggle to stop Riley Nelson and company, but Leach understands this game could decide bowl eligibility at the end of the yeart. Wazzu will keep this one much closer than the two-touchdown spread indicates and just might pull the upset outright.

6. Early barometer for reworked Husky defense
There are a lot of new faces playing for and coaching the Washington defense this fall. Justin Wilcox, Peter Simon and Tosh Lupoi were off-season hires that made national waves for Steve Sarkisian. After allowing 777 total yards of offense and 67 points in the bowl loss to Baylor, Coach Sark knew something had to be done. Six new starters, including uber-recruit Shaq Thompson, will be asked to execute the new staff's scheme in an effort to improve last season's 106th-rated defense. And while San Diego State won't come close to the upset, Wilcox should get a quality gauge of his unit's development against former Pac-12 passer Ryan Katz. The Aztecs are used to being a competitive team and have been strong on offense over the last few years, so Coach Sark should get a solid picture of his defense right out of the gate. A strong showing will lead to optimism heading into a Week 2 trip to LSU. A poor showing against the Oregon State transfer will have Les Miles licking his chops.

7. Is Jeff Tedford's job at stake in Week 1?
The last time Nevada and Cal got together, Colin Kaepernick and the Wolfpack rolled-up 316 yards rushing and 52 points in a home win over the Bears. Two seasons later, Jeff Tedford enters the season needing to win and show improvement to keep the temperature on his coaching seat to a minimum. While Kaepernick is now in the NFL, Chris Ault's pistol system has a new star in quarterback Cody Fajardo – who led the team in rushing and scored 11 touchdowns on the ground last fall as a freshman. Tedford also turned to the ground game down the stretch last fall and Isi Solfele led this team to a bowl after a 3-1 finish to the season. The Golden Bears will once again need the rushing game in order to take pressure off starting quarterback Zach Maynard and a rebuilt, Mychal Kendricks-less defense. 

8. Upset Alert: RichRod's offense better be ready
Rich Rodriguez begins his tenure as the Arizona Wildcats head coach on upset alert against the Toledo Rockets. His offense, led by a senior dual-threat quarterback, five returning starters along the offensive line and a future star in tailback Ka'Deem Carey, will need to be sharp right out of the gate to beat the MAC contender. Toledo averaged over 42 points per game last year on offense, and while wideout Eric Page and coach Tim Beckman are no longer present, the Rockets will still be able to score plenty under new coach Matt Campbell. This should be a high-scoring affair with plenty of big plays, so the Wildcats' Matt Scott will have to play well in the new zone read scheme.

9. Gus Malzahn vs. Chip Kelly, Part II
It wasn't that long ago that Guz Malzahn was standing on the sidelines of the national championship game watching Michael Dyer pirouette his way to a BCS Championship Game MVP award. Chip Kelly was there, too. And there is no chance Kelly has forgotten that night. The Red Wolves of Arkansas State could be in for a long night as Kelly, defensive coordinator Nick Allioti and Kenjon Barner exact their revenge on the former Auburn offensive coordinator. The first half should be entertaining as Mariota and Ryan Aplin go head-to-head, but the second half could be a bloody Red Wolf massacre.

10. Can Utah find a passing game?
The Utes are considered the top challenger to USC in the Pac-12 South this fall. They have one of the league's top defenses and a record-setting tailback in John White. Yet, this team was incredibly one-dimensional last fall once quarterback Jordan Wynn got injured. If Utah and Kyle Whittingham expect to compete with Barkley and Kiffin, a more balanced offense is a must. Wynn won't need to be great against Northern Colorado, but should he play poorly — or as soon as the game gets out of hand — fans should expect a long look at heralded freshman back-up Travis Wilson.

Week 1 Pac-12 Predictions:

Week 1 Pac-12 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
N. Colorado (off) at Utah Utah, 41-7 Utah, 34-10 Utah, 52-3 Utah, 35-10
UCLA (-16) at Rice UCLA, 31-14 UCLA, 37-14 UCLA, 42-17 UCLA, 31-14
Washintgon St (+13) at BYU Wash. St, 31-30 BYU, 31-30 BYU, 38-34 BYU, 24-17
N. Arizona (off) at Arizona St Arizona St, 31-14 Arizona St, 30-14 Arizona St, 45-10 Arizona St, 28-24
San Jose St (+25.5) at Stanford Stanford, 35-7 Stanford, 41-14 Stanford, 44-7 Stanford, 38-10
Nevada (+10.5) at Cal Cal, 30-20 Cal, 30-23 Cal, 31-27 Cal, 28-21
Nicholls St (off) at Oregon St Oregon St, 31-10 Oregon St, 41-14 Oregon St, 41-7 Oregon St, 35-10
Colorado St (+6.5) vs. Colorado* Colorado, 14-13 Colorado, 17-13 Colorado, 27-20 Colorado, 10-7
Hawaii (+38) at USC USC, 49-13 USC, 48-16 USC, 55-10 USC, 56-7
Toledo (+10) at Arizona Arizona, 31-24 Arizona, 37-24 Arizona, 37-30 Toledo, 38-35
San Diego St (+14.5) at Washington Wash., 38-24 Wash., 33-20 Wash., 40-17 Wash., 42-17
Arkansas St (+35.5) at Oregon Oregon, 45-17 Oregon, 54-28 Oregon, 51-20 Oregon, 56-28

* - game played in Denver.

by Braden Gall


Related College Football Content

ACC Week 1 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 1 Previews and Predictions

Big Ten Week 1 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 1 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 1 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 1 Upset Picks

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

<p> Pac-12 Week 1 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, August 30, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-week-1-preview-and-predictions

It's a relatively quiet opening week in the Big 12. Nine teams will play non-conference games, while TCU has a bye for Week 1. Although there are no conference games, there is some intrigue in Ames, where Tulsa is a road favorite against Iowa State, while Texas hopes to find an answer at quarterback against Wyoming.

Big 12's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 1

1. Can Texas find any clarity at quarterback?
Quarterback play has been an issue at Texas for the last two seasons, and the Longhorns enter 2012 with more uncertainty under center. David Ash finished 2011 as the starter but still needs to prove he can consistently beat teams through the air. He finished with eight picks last season, a number the coaching staff would like to see decrease this season. Ash finished fall practice atop the depth chart, but backup Case McCoy will play in Saturday’s game against Wyoming. With the Big 12’s best defense and a talented trio of running backs, the Longhorns won’t need to throw for 300 yards every game. However, Ash needs to show he can make some plays through the air, while eliminating some of the mistakes he made last year. With games against Wyoming, New Mexico and Ole Miss to start the season, it’s important for Ash to get off to a good start and clearly assume the No. 1 spot on the depth chart.

2. Upset alert at Iowa State?
Under Paul Rhoads, the Cyclones have pulled off their share of upsets, but this team should be on upset alert this Saturday. Iowa State hosts Tulsa, a team that returns 13 starters from an 8-5 season in 2011. The Golden Hurricane also has Nebraska transfer Cody Green starting at quarterback, and his experience will be valuable for a team that won’t be an easy out for Iowa State. Considering the Cyclones’ remaining schedule, it’s important to start the season 1-0. With a matchup against rival Iowa next week and a challenging Big 12 slate, it’s not unreasonable to think this game will have major bowl implications. Another factor for Iowa State to watch will be quarterback play. Steele Jantz edged Jared Barnett for the starting job, and it will be important for him to get off to a good start on Saturday. The Cyclones are a home underdog, which should certainly give Rhoads and this team plenty of motivation.

3. How will Wes Lunt perform in his first start at Oklahoma State?
The schedule couldn’t have worked out better for Oklahoma State. With true freshman Wes Lunt making his first start, the Cowboys should have no trouble scoring points against Savannah State. The Tigers were one of the worst FCS teams last season, ranking 120th in total offense and 117th in total defense. Although it’s tough to learn much from this lopsided affair, this matchup is a good opportunity for Lunt to acclimated to FBS play and get comfortable in game action with a trip to Arizona coming on Sept. 8. Expect an impressive debut for the freshman but the best judge of Lunt’s effectiveness will come on Sept. 29 against Texas.

4. Charlie Weis’ debut at Kansas
The Jayhawks enter Saturday night’s game against South Dakota State tied for the nation’s longest losing streak at 10 games. New coach Charlie Weis was one of the offseason’s most curious hires after struggling at Notre Dame, and he has plenty to prove this year. The Jayhawks can only go up after a disastrous 2011 season and should have plenty of help from a group of transfers, led by quarterback Dayne Crist. Kansas still has issues on defense, but the offense should be solid if Crist can stay healthy. Don’t expect a winning year, but the Jayhawks should get the Weis’ era off to a good start with a victory over the Jackrabbits on Saturday night.

5. Life without Robert Griffin at Baylor
There’s no question Robert Griffin will be missed at Baylor. However, the cupboard is far from bare on offense, especially with Nick Florence taking over under center. The senior started seven games for Griffin in 2009 and has thrown for 1,992 yards in his career. While Florence doesn’t have Griffin’s mobility, he should keep this offense among the best in the Big 12. The Bears are loaded at receiver, return three starters on the line and gain the services of Oregon transfer Lache Seastrunk at running back. Baylor takes on SMU, who will be quarterbacked by former Texas passer Garrett Gilbert. The Bears' defense suffered a setback this week when defensive tackle Kaeron Johnson was lost for the year. Look for the Mustangs to exploit Baylor's rush defense with running back Zach Line. The Bears should win this one, but the defense will be tested.

6. Can Kansas State develop balance on offense?
Quarterback Collin Klein carried the Wildcats’ offense last season, accounting for 40 overall scores and 3,059 yards. Although Klein dealt with various injuries throughout the year, he started all 13 games and led Kansas State to a Cotton Bowl appearance. Keeping the senior quarterback healthy is the Wildcats’ best shot at getting to 10 wins once again. Klein doesn’t need to handle 300 carries in 2012, which is why the offense needs to establish balance and develop more weapons. Running back John Hubert returns after rushing for 970 yards last season, and he should threaten 1,000 once again in 2012. The coaching staff would like to see more big plays from the rushing attack, but Hubert is a reliable option. The Wildcats have a solid group of receivers, but this unit needs to be a bigger part of the offense. Sophomore Tyler Lockett’s 2011 season ended early due to injury, but he could be a breakout playmaker. With a matchup against Missouri State this Saturday, it’s a good time for Kansas State to work on the passing game and save some wear and tear on Klein.

7. Is Oklahoma running back Dominique Whaley 100 percent?
Dominique Whaley’s rise from Langston University to the starting running back at Oklahoma was one of the best storylines last season. However, an ankle injury ended his year early, as he was forced to sit out the final five games of 2011. Despite not playing during that stretch, Whaley finished as Oklahoma’s leading rusher with 627 yards. The Sooners’ offense sputtered without Whaley and receiver Ryan Broyles in the lineup over the final weeks of 2011, but Whaley is on track to play in Saturday’s opener against UTEP. The senior is listed on the top spot on the depth chart, but is he 100 percent? Whaley’s ankle injury was a significant one, and the Sooners brought in talented junior college recruit Damien Williams to compete for playing time. Oklahoma should have its way against the Miners, but the offense needs to get a good look at Whaley and see if he can handle 20-25 carries a week.

8. Will Texas Tech’s defense show signs of improvement?
It’s hard to have a dominating defense in the Big 12, but Texas Tech has to be better than it has the last two years. The Red Raiders have finished 114th nationally in total defense in 2010 and 2011 and enter 2012 with their fourth coordinator in four seasons. It will be hard to glean much from the opener against Northwestern State, especially since it averaged only 21.3 points a game last year. However, the opener will be a good test for Texas Tech’s defense, as it looks to work out the kinks in the new scheme. Junior college recruit Will Smith has shined at middle linebacker all offseason, and this will be his first opportunity to showcase his talent on the FBS level. With Texas State and New Mexico coming up, it’s important for the Red Raiders to build some confidence on defense before Big 12 play begins on Sept. 29.

9. West Virginia shouldn’t overlook Marshall
This is the final game in the scheduled Friends of the Coal Bowl series between West Virginia’s two FBS universities. With the Mountaineers moving to the Big 12 and playing nine conference games, these two teams aren’t scheduled to play anytime in the near future, and West Virginia’s non-conference schedule appears to be full until 2017. The Mountaineers have won all 11 meetings, including last season’s weather-shortened 34-13 game. Marshall is headed back in the right direction under coach Doc Holliday, and the Thundering Herd should not be taken lightly. Marshall’s secondary is a question mark, but the offense could have some success against a West Virginia defense that has a new scheme and must replace a handful of key contributors from last year. The Mountaineers should win this one, but the Thundering Herd will give them their best shot.  

Week 1 Big 12 Predictions

Big 12 Week 1 Games David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light
Marshall at West Virginia (-24) West Virginia 42-14 West Virginia 45-17 West Virginia 44-20 West Virginia 38-14
Tulsa (-1) at Iowa State Iowa State 28-21 Iowa State 21-20 Iowa State 30-27 Iowa State 33-28
Savannah State at Oklahoma State Oklahoma State 38-10 Oklahoma State 42-10 Oklahoma State 55-3 Oklahoma State 51-6
South Dakota State at Kansas Kansas 21-14 Kansas 21-14 Kansas 38-13 Kansas 37-10
Northwestern State at Texas Tech Texas Tech 31-17 Texas Tech 38-21 Texas Tech 52-7 Texas Tech 48-7
Missouri State at Kansas State Kansas State 35-10 Kansas State 45-10 Kansas State 45-7 Kansas State 41-0
Wyoming at Texas (-30.5) Texas 35-10 Texas 34-7 Texas 38-10 Texas 34-13
Oklahoma (-31) at UTEP Oklahoma 42-7 Oklahoma 49-14 Oklahoma 45-10 Oklahoma 41-14
SMU at Baylor (-10.5) Baylor 28-21 Baylor 28-21 Baylor 38-24 Baylor 38-20

by Steven Lassan


Related College Football Content

ACC Week 1 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 1 Previews and Predictions

Big Ten Week 1 Previews and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 1 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 1 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 1 Upset Picks

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

<p> Big 12 Week 1 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, August 30, 2012 - 05:55
Path: /college-football/big-east-week-1-preview-and-predictions

West Virginia’s out. Temple’s in.

The Big East’s constant state of transition begins again this season with more changes to come in 2013. Just as this round of Big East realignment begins with a trick, so does the season for the Big East.

Only seven Big East teams are in play this week with Cincinnati delaying its opener until next week. More Big East teams are playing FCS programs (three) than are playing major conference foes (two). Next week will be more exciting with Pittsburgh-Cincinnati on Thursday, plus three Big East vs. power conference teams among the highlights in Week Two.

For now, most the Big East is working to figure out its personnel in the opening week. Here are the key storylines to watch.

Big East's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 1

1. Is Louisville ready to handle expectations?
Coach Charlie Strong complained last season his team had trouble handling success, which isn’t a surprise for such a young team. The Cardinals are still young in 2012 with 25 freshmen and sophomores on the two-deep depth chart, including nine projected starters. They’re a little more seasoned than a year ago, but will it make a difference this season. Handling success will come later. Handling expectations will come now. Since the 31-24 loss to NC State in the bowl game, Louisville has been a near unanimous pick to win the Big East. Louisville is a two-touchdown favorite at home against a Kentucky team that scored five offensive touchdowns away from Lexington last season. If the Cardinals struggle in the opener, the rest of the Big East will look to pounce.

2. How will Syracuse assemble its offense?
Star left tackle Justin Pugh is out. Leading receiver Alec Lemon was hurt for most of preseason camp. And the Orange have a logjam at running back. Quarterback Ryan Nassib ran hot and cold last season, completing 69.7 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and one interception in Syracuse’s five wins. Conversely, he completed 58.1 percent of his passes with eight TDs and eight picks in Syracuse’s seven losses. Northwestern isn’t the easiest opener, but the Wildcats ranked 80th in total defense a year ago. USC this is not -- that comes in Week Two.

3. What does the Kyle Flood era look like at Rutgers?
Rutgers’ trip to Tulane is yet another game a Big East team should win in the opening weekend. This road trip will be of interest merely to see someone other than Greg Schiano coaching the Scarlet Knights. Flood was on Schiano’s staff since 2005, the first season in a run of six bowl games in seven years, so Rutgers won’t change overnight. But how will the defense perform without Schiano calling the shots? New defensive coordinator Robb Smith has been on the staff for three years. On offense, will Flood have as quick a hook as Schiano did if newly named starter Gary Nova struggles. Rutgers may have what it takes to win the Big East, but first-time head coach Flood is a notable question mark.

4. Will Ray Graham play for Pittsburgh? If not, what will we see from Rushel Shell?
Graham’s status for the opener against Youngstown State has been questionable, but he’s been healthier late in camp since recovering from the torn ACL that kept him out of the final five games last season. Presumably, Pitt won’t need Graham to defeat the Penguins. Will Paul Chryst hold Graham to keep him healthy for Cincinnati on Sept. 6 and Virginia Tech on Sept. 15, or will he give Graham a chance to test his knee in game action? If Graham is out, backup Isaac Bennett will be the primary back, but it’s also likely Pitt will play highly touted freshman Rushel Shell.

5. Has the Syracuse defense returned to form?
Doug Marrone shook up his defensive staff after the Orange ranked last in the Big East in in total offense and scoring defense last year. Coordinator Scott Shafer is still in charge, though. Shafer led the defense’s turnaround in 2010, when Syracuse ranked seventh nationally in total defense. Syracuse’s personnel should be improved in 2012 with more experience at linebacker and cornerback and more depth and speed overall. The arrival of junior college defensive end Markus Pierce-Brewster has given Syracuse the flexibility to move returning starter Deon Goggins between end and tackle. On the other side of the ball, Northwestern has a new starting quarterback (Kain Colter), but the Wildcats have been one of the Big Ten’s better offensive teams in recent years. Northwestern ranked second in the league in total offense (420.8 yards per game) last season.

6. Will anyone emerge at running back for the Cardinals?
Strong would prefer to have one running back get into a rhythm for Louisville as workhorse Bilal Powell did two seasons ago. That never occurred last year as Dominique Brown, Vic Anderson and Jeremy Wright all topped at least 70 carries. The Cardinals averaged a lackluster 121.5 rushing yards per game with 13 total touchdowns on the ground as a result. This season, Brown and Wright are back in the mix along with junior Senorise Perry. The Cardinals would prefer to see a feature back emerge against Kentucky.

7. What will the running back rotation look like at Temple?
Temple returns to the Big East for the first time since 2004 with a running back seeing the field for the first time since Oct. 1. At Boston College, Montel Harris rushed for 3,735 yards and 27 career touchdowns. He joins a team that has proven it can win games with two running backs and limited contributions in the passing game, but that was in the MAC. Harris will team Matt Brown (914 yards last season) in the Temple backfield, which also includes mobile quarterback Chris Coyer. The opener against Villanova could give us a glimpse at the best run game in the Big East.

Week 1 Big East Predictions

Week 1 Big East Games David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light
UMass at UConn UConn 27-10 UConn 27-10 UConn 38-10 UConn 34-10
Villanova at Temple Temple 28-14 Temple 21-13 Temple 40-10 Temple 41-14
N’western at Syracuse N’western 28-21 N’western 31-24 N’western 31-27 N’western 28-24
Youngstown St at Pittsburgh Pitt 35-10 Pitt 38-10 Pitt 41-13 Pitt 38-10
Chattanooga at USF USF 42-14 USF 31-10 USF 45-7 USF 44-10
Rutgers at Tulane Rutgers 35-7 Rutgers 28-3 Rutgers 38-13 Rutgers 31-17
Kentucky at Louisville Louisville 31-14 Louisville 27-13 Louisville 27-17 Louisville 30-20

by David Fox


Related College Football Content

ACC Week 1 Previews and Predictions
Big 12 Week 1 Previews and Predictions

Big Ten Week 1 Previews and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 1 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 1 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 1 Upset Picks

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

<p> Big East Week 1 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, August 30, 2012 - 05:43
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big Ten, Independents, MAC, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-week-1-upset-picks

Week 1 of the college football season officially kicks off on Thursday night, headlined by a SEC showdown between South Carolina and Vanderbilt, while BYU and Washington State close out the night with a shootout in Provo. 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, the editors will give an upset pick for the upcoming week of action.

College Football's Week 1 Upset Picks

David Fox (@DavidFox615): Indiana State (off) over Indiana
Indiana State of the Missouri Valley used to be one of the worst teams in Division I football, but the Sycamores have slowly become more competitive -- enough so that they’ve cracked the preseason FCS coaches’ top 25. The Sycamores also return FCS’ leading rusher from last season, Shakir Bell. It seems we see an FCS over a major conference program upset each opening week. This may be it. Indiana improved as last season went along, but the Hoosiers are still in bad shape.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall): Washington State (+13.5) at BYU
The best two (and only two quality) offenses BYU faced last fall, Utah and TCU, dropped a combined 92 points in two easy wins over the Cougars. Mike Leach, who graduated from BYU and studied offense under the great LaVell Edwards, is now leading the way for an offense that boasts all the necessary pieces for his Air Raid attack to instantly succeed. This was the nation's No. 9-rated passing attack last year and Leach could claim the best passing offense in the nation this fall. In primetime on national television in a game that could decide bowl eligibility, Leach will have his Cougs ready to compete against a solid, but not great BYU team. It would likely be the biggest upset of the weekend so it might be a long shot, but don't sleep on Wazzu.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Ohio (+6) at Penn State
2012 begins a new era in Happy Valley, as Bill O’Brien takes over as head coach and the Penn State uniforms will feature the names of the players. While there is some excitement around the new coaching staff and a new look on offense, the Nittany Lions can’t play in a bowl due to NCAA sanctions and lost a handful of players due to transfer. Ohio is a dangerous Week 1 opponent, as it won 10 games and played for the MAC title last season. The Bobcats gave Rutgers all it could handle last year and returns 12 starters from that team, including All-MAC quarterback Tyler Tettleton. Even though the Nittany Lions have a solid defense, there will be some growing pains on offense, which gives Ohio an excellent shot at an upset on Saturday.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): Western Michigan (+9.5) over Illinois
Western Michigan went 1–3 outright vs. teams vs. BCS conferences in 2011, with a win at UConn, a lopsided loss at Michigan (34–10) and close losses at Illinois (23–20) and vs. Purdue (37–32) in the Little Caesers Pizza Bowl. This is a team with a senior quarterback (Alex Carder) and a veteran offensive line that will not be intimidated by playing on the road at a Big Ten school. The big key for Western is finding a way to stop the run; last year, Illinois rolled up 296 yards on the ground in its win over the Broncos. Western Michigan 30, Illinois 27

Mark Ross: NC State (+3) over Tennessee
No one needs an opening win more than embattled Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley, but I just don’t think NC State will oblige him and the Volunteers on Saturday night in the Georgia Dome. On offense, the Vols will lean heavily on the duo of quarterback Tyler Bray and wide receiver Justin Hunter, especially now that All-SEC wideout Da’Rick Rogers is no longer on the roster. However, this strategy plays right into the hands of NC State’s defensive strength. The Wolfpack have one of the best secondaries in the nation led by All-American David Amerson. On offense, NC State has a strong-armed quarterback of its own in senior Mike Glennon, who will lead an attack that’s not near as one-dimensional as UT’s.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): Ohio (+6) over Penn State
This may seem like an anti-Penn State selection because of scandals and roster depletion, but Franks Solich’s Ohio Bobcats are a quality team with a good chance of repeating last season’s 10-win campaign. Despite winning its first bowl game in school history last December, Ohio will still be a hungry team after blowing a 20-point lead in the MAC Championship Game. Quarterback Tyler Tettleton (38 touchdowns accounted for in 2011) is a great fit for the no-huddle attack, and the Bobcats defense should be the best unit Ohio has had during Solich’s tenure. Penn State should still have a quality defense despite the offseason personnel attrition, but I just don’t see where the points are going to be produced. In a surreal setting in Happy Valley, I’ll take the Bobcats over the Nittany Lions, 16-13.


Related College Football Content

ACC Week 1 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 1 Previews and Predictions

Big Ten Week 1 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 1 Previews and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 1 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 1 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 1 Upset Picks

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

<p> College Football Week 1 Upset Picks</p>
Post date: Thursday, August 30, 2012 - 05:33
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC West, San Francisco 49ers, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/san-francisco-49ers-2012-nfl-team-preview

Athlon Sports is counting down its 2012 NFL preseason Power Rankings with in-depth team previews, schedule analysis and more as the start of the NFL season draws near.

The San Francisco 49ers check in at No. 2.

The 49ers blew their cover last season. They’re not going sneak up on anyone this year after making a stunning run to the NFC title game during coach Jim Harbaugh’s rookie season. The 49ers went 13–3 during the regular season, running away with the NFC West crown and establishing themselves as a defensive powerhouse. They opened the playoffs with a 36–32 victory over the Saints, then pushed the Giants to overtime in the NFC title game before falling 20–17.

Not bad considering that Harbaugh took over a 6–10 team and, thanks to the lockout, didn’t get to coach the 49ers until training camp opened.

Harbaugh set the bar ridiculously high, but no one should be stunned if the 49ers make another run deep into the NFC playoffs in his second season. Almost every starter from last year’s team is back, and the 49ers added some offensive weapons. They signed a trio of free agents — wide receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham and running back Brandon Jacobs — then used their top two draft picks on speedy Illinois wideout A.J. Jenkins and explosive Oregon running back LaMichael James.


Quarterback Alex Smith is coming off a career year, but that didn’t stop the 49ers from making a run at Peyton Manning. Smith ultimately signed a new three-year deal with the 49ers, but their pursuit of Manning made it clear Smith has more to prove before he’s considered the long-term answer. The 49ers have options at the position. They traded up in the second round last year to take Colin Kaepernick. This offseason they signed free agent Josh Johnson, a former Buccaneer who played for Harbaugh at the University of San Diego.

Smith had a career-high passer rating of 90.7 with 17 TD passes and a league-low five interceptions last season. But he posted those numbers running an ultra-conservative, run-dominated offense that ranked 29th in passing and struggled in the red zone and on third down.

The 49ers addressed their lack of talent and depth at wide receiver during the offseason, adding Moss, Manningham and Jenkins, who caught 90 passes as a senior. Moss sat out last season and is 35, but he has 954 catches for 14,858 yards and 153 TDs in his career. If he’s even a shadow of his former self, Moss will give Smith a legitimate deep threat. Manningham, who earned a Super Bowl ring last season with the Giants, gives Smith another big, sure-handed target. The new additions should take attention away from Michael Crabtree (72 catches), who does most of his work on short and intermediate routes, and Vernon Davis (67), who has 35 career TD catches, a franchise record for a tight end.

Harbaugh will have more weapons at wide receiver, but his offense will still revolve around Frank Gore and a power running attack. Gore rushed for 1,211 yards last season, and the 49ers’ rushing attack ranked No. 8 in the league. Gore will run behind a powerful offensive line that returns four of five starters — Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley, left guard Mike Iupati, center Jonathan Goodwin and right tackle Anthony Davis. The 49ers lost starting right guard Adam Snyder to Arizona as a free agent. Alex Boone, a backup tackle last year, Daniel Kilgore and rookie Joe Looney will wage a training camp battle for the starting job. The slippery Kendall Hunter rushed for 473 yards as a rookie and will provide a change-of-pace off the bench behind Gore. James and Jacobs give Harbaugh two more options in the backfield.


The 49ers return almost everyone from a defense that ranked fourth in total yards allowed and first against the run. That group includes three All-Pro picks — defensive lineman Justin Smith and linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman — as well as free safety Dashon Goldson and cornerback Carlos Rogers, who were Pro Bowl picks. The only likely change in the starting lineup on defense is outside linebacker Aldon Smith, coming off a remarkable 14-sack rookie season, bumping Parys Haralson to a reserve role.

The 49ers’ 3-4 defense proved almost impossible to run against last season under first-year defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, allowing just 77.3 yards per game, and there’s no reason to believe that should change this year, not with Justin Smith, Willis and Bowman tackling everything that moves. Bowman, in just his second NFL season, led the 49ers with 143 tackles. Willis had 97, and the relentless Smith 58, along with 7.5 sacks.

As they did last season, the 49ers will try to stop the run, make opponents one-dimensional, then feast on interceptions and sacks. Last year they had 23 interceptions and 42 sacks. Rogers and Goldson had six interceptions apiece, while cornerback Tarell Brown had four. The 49ers ranked 16th against the pass, in part because opponents often abandoned the run, but also because the secondary was the weakest link on a shutdown defense. Rogers, Brown, Goldson and strong safety Donte Whitner can expect to be tested often.


One of GM Trent Baalke’s best offseason decisions last year was the signing of free agent kicker David Akers. Akers and punter Andy Lee both set NFL records while earning All-Pro honors, and those two key weapons return for another season. Akers made an NFL single-season record 44 field goals. Lee averaged an NFL single-season record 44.0 net yards per punt. With the 49ers’ offense often struggling to get into the end zone, Akers was called on repeatedly to salvage three points. Lee, meanwhile, helped the 49ers consistently win the field possession battle.

The 49ers re-signed dangerous return man Ted Ginn Jr. Last year he became the first 49er and 12th player in NFL history to return both a kick and a punt for touchdowns in the same game. The 49ers place a huge emphasis on special teams, and the speedy Ginn gives special teams coordinator Brad Seely’s group a chance to score on every punt or kick.

Final Analysis: 1st in the NFC West

San Francisco, the only NFC West team to finish above .500 last year, is the clear favorite to win the division again, but matching or surpassing its 13–3 regular-season record isn’t likely. The 49ers have a brutal schedule that includes road games at New England, Green Bay, New Orleans and the New York Jets, as well as home games against the defending Super Bowl champion Giants and the up-and-coming Lions. The 49ers open the season against the Packers at Lambeau Field and play three of their first four games on the road.

The 49ers lived on the edge last year during their surprising run, coming from behind in the fourth quarter to win five times during the regular season, plus overcoming two fourth quarter deficits to beat the Saints in the playoffs. They also led the league with a remarkable plus-28 turnover margin. It’s unlikely the 49ers will match those numbers.

The defense is already built to win a Super Bowl. If the offense, with its new weapons, makes significant strides, then the 49ers will have a chance to take that final step.

Related: 2012 San Francisco 49ers Schedule Analysis

Outside The Huddle

Construction Zone
The 49ers under coach Jim Harbaugh consider themselves to be a blue-collar team, and they’ll be all but surrounded by blue-collar construction workers for the next few years. The 49ers broke ground in April on their new $1.2 billion stadium in Santa Clara, just across the street from team headquarters. “We’re a football oasis inside a construction zone,” Harbaugh says. “There are times when I can feel the jackhammer right underneath my desk. So I get to see it (being built) and feel it.” The new stadium is scheduled to open for the start of the 2014 season.

Catching On
Wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, a first-round pick from Illinois, caught 167 passes during his college career, putting his huge hands to good use. “In high school they called me E.T.,” Jenkins says. “Long hands, long fingers.” Jenkins says he could palm a basketball by the time he was 12 or 13 years old.

Football Reunion
Convincing free agent quarterback Josh Johnson to sign with the 49ers this year was hardly a tough sell for Harbaugh, who coached Johnson at the University of San Diego — where Johnson set career records for passing yards (9,699), touchdown passes (113), completions (724) and passing attempts (1,065). This is also a homecoming of sorts for Johnson, who went to high school across the bay from San Francisco at Oakland Tech.

Nowhere To Run
The 49ers went the first 14 games last season without allowing a rushing touchdown, the longest single-season streak to start a season in NFL history. They allowed just three rushing TDs all year, the fewest since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978.

An Award-winning Season
Defensive lineman Justin Smith earned All-Pro honors last season, but that tells only part of the story about the impact he made. Smith captured four of the 49ers’ most coveted team honors — the Len Eshmont Award (for “inspirational and courageous play”), the Hazeltine Iron Man Award (for “most courageous and inspirational defensive player”), the Bill Walsh Award (team MVP) and the Perry/Yonamine Unity Award (for “commitment to promoting unity and giving back to the community”).

Pro Bowl Steak
Linebacker Patrick Willis last season became the first player in 49ers history to make the Pro Bowl in each of his first five NFL seasons. He has had at least 128 tackles every season except 2011 when he missed three games with a hamstring injury.

Football Field Of Dreams
Considering his baseball genes, it’s surprising that third-year wide receiver Kyle Williams wound up in the NFL instead of professional baseball. His father, Kenny Williams, is the long-time general manager of the Chicago White Sox and a former Major League outfielder. His older brother, Kenny Jr., and younger brother, Tyler, are both playing minor league baseball. Kyle Williams was drafted by the White Sox out of high school in the 47th round, but he played football at Arizona State before being drafted by the 49ers in the sixth round in 2010. Kyle, though, did have a family connection to football, too. His father played football at Stanford.

2012 Athlon Sports NFL Power Rankings and Team Previews:

No. 32: Jacksonville Jaguars
No. 31: St. Louis Rams
No. 30: Minnesota Vikings
No. 29: Indianapolis Colts
No. 28: Cleveland Browns
No. 27: Miami Dolphins
No. 26: Arizona Cardinals
No. 25: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
No. 24: Kansas City Chiefs
No. 23: Oakland Raiders
No. 22: Washington Redskins
No. 21: Seattle Seahawks
No. 20: Carolina Panthers
No. 19: New York Jets
No. 18: Buffalo Bills
No. 17: Tennessee Titans
No. 16: San Diego Chargers
No. 15: Cincinnati Bengals
No. 14: Philadelphia Eagles
No. 13: New Orleans Saints
No. 12: Dallas Cowboys
No. 11: Denver Broncos
No. 10: Detroit Lions
No. 9: Chicago Bears
No. 8: Atlanta Falcons
No. 7: Baltimore Ravens
No. 6: Pittsburgh Steelers
No. 5: New York Giants
No. 4: New England Patriots
No. 3: Houston Texans
No. 2: San Francisco 49ers
No. 1: Fri., August 31

Order your 2012 San Francisco 49ers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

Related: 2012 San Francisco 49ers Schedule Analysis

<p> San Francisco 49ers 2012 NFL Team Preview</p>
Post date: Thursday, August 30, 2012 - 05:30
Path: /college-football/college-football-betting-against-spread-thursday-night

I do not condone, approve or encourage gambling on sports in any way. Playing a $50 cash game with your buddies every Wednesday's is more about the experience than the net revenue. At least, that is the case for me.

But if you are a fan of football — college or pro — and you don't think gambling has played a huge role in the growth and popularity of the sport, then you are simply being ignorant. It's the giant gorilla in the room that both the NCAA and NFL has wisely chosen to keep at arm's reach. But make no mistake, behind closed doors, the powers that be understand the impact betting has had on the game of football.

As a member of the sports media for nearly a decade, I have always felt it a conflict of interest to gamble on a sport I have to objectively analyize for a living. (Of course, not having any money to spare makes that decision easy.) However, point spreads are extremely interesting statistics. Tracking a line's movement or how experts in Vegas feel about a game can be a great mearsuring tool as to how the masses perceive any given team or match-up. It gives us a standard to compare all upsets and only adds fuel to great rivalries or marquee showdowns.

So for entertainment purposes, every Friday morning, I will bring you my top college football picks against the spread. And since Thursday night is a special college football extravaganza, I thought I would toss you a few early bones for the night. 

2012 Record Against The Spread: 0-0

Note: All lines are as of date of publication

South Carolina (-6.5) at Vanderbilt
The Commodores bring a lot of confidence into this season after a quality bowl year last fall. But they have major holes to plug on defense and will be facing what could be the nation's top running back in Marcus Lattimore. Carolina is 17-4 all-time against Vandy and has won the last three meetings. And much like those games, the Gamecocks defense could be the story this time around. The Dores have scored one offensive touchdown total in those three losses and has scored 10 total points in the last two meetings. Steve Spurrier's bunch has outscored Vanderbilt 42-10 in the last two meetings. Look for Carolina to take control of the line of scrimmage in the second half on both sides of the ball and spoil West End's party on Thursday night. The line has finally dropped below a touchdown and that is all I need to get on board. Prediction: South Carolina (-6.5)

Washington State (+13) at BYU
There are plenty of storylines in this one. Mike Leach is beginning his tenure in Pullman by playing against his former university where he learned most of his gameplan from LaVell Edwards and Norm Chow. The Cougars of Provo were solid on defense statistically, but played few quality offenses a year ago. TCU and Utah were the top two units they faced last fall and BYU allowed 92 points in the two losses. Leach brings an offense that ranked ninth nationally in passing last fall and returns largely intact before he added his mad scientist system to the party. With a veteran quarterback and deep receiving corps, Leach should have no problem scoring points on Thursday night. The Cougars of Washington State could easily win this game outright, so take the points. Even if the betting public has dropped the line a point. Additionally, take the over. Prediction: Washington State (+13)

Minnesota (-8.5) at UNLV
The Gophers showed marked improvement on the field last season as the year went along. In the final month, the Gophers toppled Iowa and Illinois behind the big-play ability of dual-threat quarterback MarQueis Gray. He rushed for 327 yards and three scores in the final two games of the season, giving fans in the Twin Cities some cautious opitmism about the 2012 season. The Rebels are 4-21 under head coach Bobby Hauck, finished 118th in the nation in scoring defense (40.2 ppg) and 113th in scoring offense (17.3 ppg), return only three starters on defense and are picked to finish ninth in the Mountain West. This line seems way out of whack for a Big Ten team that appears to be improving. Minnesota should win easily. Prediction: Minnesota (-8.5)

- by Braden Gall


College Football Week 1 Previews and Predictions:

Weekend on Tap: Picking the Top 10 Games of Week 1

ACC Week 1 Predictions and Preview
Big 12 Week 1 Predictions and Preview
Big East Week 1 Predictions and Preview
Big Ten Week 1 Predictions and Preview
Pac-12 Week 1 Predictions and Preview
SEC Week 1 Predictions and Preview

<p> College Football Betting Against the Spread: Thursday Night</p>
Post date: Thursday, August 30, 2012 - 05:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-week-1-start-or-sit

The 2012 college football season is finally here!  Thanks to those of you who have returned for another season, and welcome to those of you who have finally found us.  If you are playing college fantasy football for the first time, we’re glad to have you in the fraternity.

Start/Bench—Week 1


Everett Golson, QB-Notre Dame vs Navy
Golson gets to start his career with the easiest opponent on the Irish’s schedule this season.

Derek Carr, QB-Fresno State vs Weber State
The Bulldogs will iron out the wrinkles in their new spread attack before travelling to Eugene, Oregon to take on the Ducks in Week 2.

Wes Lunt, QB-Oklahoma State vs. Savannah State
If Lunt is talented enough to win the starting job, then there shouldn’t be any hesitation starting him in his collegiate debut against Savannah State.

Tim Cornett, RB-UNLV vs Minnesota
Running behind an experienced offensive line, Cornett should shoulder the load while the Rebels break in a freshman quarterback.

Shawne Alston, RB-West Virginia vs Marshall
While questions surround Dustin Garrison’s return, Alston is more than capable of carrying the Mountaineers’ ground game.

Akeem Shavers, RB-Purdue vs Eastern Kentucky
Shavers proved in last year’s Little Ceasars Bowl that he is ready to become the Boilermakers’ primary running back.

John Hubert, RB-Kansas State vs Missouri State
Quarterback Collin Klein will get all of the attention, but Hubert will get more than enough touches in this matchup to be a fantasy factor.

Zach Line, RB-SMU at Baylor
Until the Bears’ defense proves they are vastly improved, owners shouldn’t shy away from this C-USA vs. Big XII matchup.

Onterio McCalebb, RB vs Clemson
We know that Clemson’s offense will put points on the board, but have they made enough improvements to a defense that gave up 176 yards rushing per game in 2011?

Stefon Diggs, WR-Maryland vs William & Mary
Diggs spurned offers from Florida and Ohio State.  Now, he gets to be Mr. Everything for a Terps team that needs him on the field as much as possible.

Dorial Green-Beckham, WR-Missouri vs Southeastern Louisiana
After leading the team in receiving yards in two fall scrimmages, Green-Beckham is ready for his coming-out party.



Joe Southwick, QB-Boise State at Michigan State
This matchup will probably be the Broncos’ toughest test of the season.  Consider holding out Southwick until his Week 3 matchup against Miami, Ohio.

Jordan Lynch, QB-Northern Illinois at Iowa
We have heard that Lynch will prove to be a better runner than former Huskies quarterback Chandler Harnish, but we have our doubts against a Big Ten opponent.

Brett Smith, QB-Wyoming at Texas
Smith is one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, but playing on the road against a unit that ranked 11th in the nation in total defense in 2011 is way too risky.

Ryan Aplin, QB-Arkansas St at Oregon
Aplin and the offense should get a lot of possessions, but their inability to put the ball in the end zone makes him a risky fantasy play.

Branden Oliver, RB-Buffalo at Georgia
Fantasy owners will hope and pray that their prized fantasy possession survives this matchup without injury.

Anthon Samuel, RB-Bowling Green at Florida
See Branden Oliver above.

Ray Graham, RB-Pitt vs Youngstown St
It’s never easy to see one of your backs miss out on such a mismatch, but Graham is unlikely to play in what figures to be a tune up for their conference opener next Thursday at Cincinnati.

Fitzgerald Toussaint, RB-Michigan vs Alabama
It doesn’t seem likely that Toussaint will miss any game time following his suspension in July after a DUI arrest, but we’ll sit anyone who plays against the Bama D.

Orleans Darkwa, RB-Tulane vs Rutgers
Darkwa has been nursing an ankle injury and is questionable to play, so owners would be wise to look for a safer option this week.

Nathan Jeffery, RB-UTEP vs Oklahoma
Owners will not get a true gauge of Jeffery’s fantasy potential until the Miners start conference play.

Alec Lemon, WR-Syracuse vs Northwestern
The latest reports have Lemon listed as questionable with a leg injury.  Unless his status is upgraded, owners would be wise to find another option for Week 1.


The College Fantasy Football Site

by Joe DiSalvo

Follow Joe on twitter (@theCFFsite)

<p> College Fantasy Football Week 1 Start or Sit</p>
Post date: Thursday, August 30, 2012 - 04:47
Path: /nascar/backseat-drivers-fan-council-24

The changes to Bristol may not have worked quite how track officials imagined, but most members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council liked what they saw there last weekend. Is it enough to get them back to the track? You might find those responses interesting. Also, Fan Council members updated their selection on who they think will get the wild card spots in the final two races before the Chase.

Grade Saturday’s Cup race at Bristol

49.7 percent called it Great
40.6 percent called it Good
7.0 percent called it Fair
2.7 percent called it Poor

What Fan Council members said:
• I LOVED this race. Passing, crashing, sliding, cussing and even helmet throwing!! What's not to love? To me the best part is seeing so many different drivers up front (Vickers, Ambrose, etc.) as well as a lot of favorites. The fact that they all stay so close and race so close makes it very exciting. Enough yellows to keep them even more bunched up … it was just a really fun race to watch. I know the drivers hated the track, but man it was fun to watch!!

• I was opposed to the recent changes at Bristol, but I have to admit, it made for good racing. They struck a good balance of bumping and banging and racing.

• They fixed Bristol for the fans, ruined it for the drivers. LOVE IT!!!

• I was at the race and it exceeded my expectations!

• Finally! An exciting race at Bristol again. Absolutely loved it. The surprise that the top groove was the one that came in and proved fastest; the beating and banging; the emotion; pit, fuel and tire strategy all coming in to play. Seriously, if you didn't like this why are you even watching racing? It had everything.

• Don't like to watch wreckfests! That was AWFUL!

• If you did not think that Bristol was the best race of the year then perhaps you should switch the channel to ESPN3 and watch bowling for your excitement because clearly NASCAR is not for you.

• I was there and loved every minute of it. Not bad considering I left the same race with 150 to go last year.

• The changes Bruton made did exactly what I had hoped they would do. I was hoping for a hybrid between “Old” Bristol and “New” Bristol. The “New-New” Bristol had the side-by-side, rubbing, beating & banging with some tempers flying without the massive 12-car wrecks. No more conveyor belt! That is what we got! Tony throwing his helmet was just a bonus. I miss helmet (or heat shields if you are Ward Burton) throwing, and pointing to a driver you happen to be displeased with. I paid more attention to this race than any other this season! It's BRISTOL BABY!!!

• Not exactly the Bristol of old but pretty close to it! Good racing, lots of action — just out and out fun. Of course, Tony Stewart bringing back the helmet toss certainly didn't hurt and he wasn't the only one showing some temper. Good racing, good fun.

Did the Bristol race make you want to attend a race there more?

54.4 percent said Yes
45.6 percent said No

What Fan Council members said:
• Been a season ticket holder for eight years, but never have I been more excited about renewing!

• 25-year season ticket holder and will never return!

• I gave up my season tickets two years ago, but after (Saturday) night, I will be getting them back.

• I'm still boycotting Bruton Smith's tracks after the I-71 parking lot.

• I've always wanted to go to Bristol's night race and Saturday night made me want to go even more. I will be working on plans to hopefully go next year!

• No, in fact. I was a season ticket holder and will not be renewing my tickets. I can see a demolition derby anytime I want to at the local fairgrounds.

• Used to attend Bristol until my school district decided to change the starting date. Too early in the year to take time off, but I might have to reconsider next year.

• Hearing about all the gouging of the fans on hotel rates will keep me away from this track.

• Absolutely! From the atmosphere during pre-race on through the race, it seems like an exciting and fun place to be. Lord willing, I WILL be there next year.

• I've made the trip to Bristol twice, once for "original Bristol,” once for progressive-banking Bristol. My personal preference was the progressive banking, and since that's now gone and likely not to return, I doubt I'll pay the airfare and outrageous hotel bills to go watch another race there live.

What was the best race at Bristol last weekend?

84.4 percent said the Cup race
11.7 percent said the Nationwide race
3.9 percent said the Truck race

What Fan Council members said:
• The Truck Race was just awful, and the Nationwide race was pretty boring. So the Cup race wins by default.

• I thought all three races were pretty good — even the Truck race where Peters led every lap. More of the racing from the Cup race sticks out in my mind, so that's why I picked the Cup race as the best race of the weekend.

• The Whelen Modified race was the best race at Bristol last week. It was awesome! The battles, the passing, the surprises. It was virtually non-stop action and kept me on the edge of my seat until the end.

• I watched all three races and hands down the Cup race was the best. It was one of the most entertaining races I have seen in a long time. It had everything. Top entertaining moment has to go to Tony and Matt. Think Tony will be nominated for one of his own Stewie Awards this year for throwing his helmet at Matt's car.

• Usually I have to say the Trucks have the better racing of the three series, but this week I will say the Cup racing was the best. The racing was great all night long and never really had a dull moment. I'm usually always checking Twitter during the Cup races, but this race, I didn't want to stop watching the TV. Was really exciting for a change.

• I picked the Nationwide race because Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick had a long battle for the lead ... and maybe I have lower expectations of the Nationwide drivers so the multitude of cautions in that race didn't bother me so much.

Who will make the Chase via wild card?

89.2 percent said Kasey Kahne
47.6 percent said Kyle Busch
34.8 percent said Jeff Gordon
9.8 percent said Carl Edwards
4.7 percent said Ryan Newman
4.4 percent said Marcos Ambrose
1.7 percent said Joey Logano
0.3 percent said Paul Menard

What Fan Council members said:
• I see Gordon and Kahne getting in just for the fact that they are HMS. Hendrick is bringing everything to the table these next two weeks. Everyone else on this list is a long shot in my opinion.

• I'd love for a surprise driver to grab a wild card spot such as Joey Logano or Marcos Ambrose, but I think Kasey and Kyle will hold on to take the wild card spots.

• Kahne is easy to call. Second driver is harder. I really think Kahne will pass Stewart for 10th and Stewart will be 11th. But you didn't give me that choice. So I'm giving it to you.

• Kasey is not only a lock but may well get into the top 10 (on points). Carl's luck cannot keep being this bad can it? Roush has always run well at Atlanta generally and Carl specifically, so I have a feeling he wins Atlanta and outscores Kyle in points over the last two races for the last spot.

• If the trends continue the way they are now, I think Tony Stewart falls out of the top 10 and Kasey Kahne makes the Chase on points. Stewart and Kyle Busch will be the wild cards for the Chase. Hopefully Stewart can focus on his own championship, and his threats don't come to fruition, which could in turn costs Kenseth a shot at a championship.

• I say Kasey and Kyle. I know that Carl Edwards is capable of doing it if he gets one win, but they really haven't been close to being competitive in any race this year.

• Poor strategies in two races recently have cost Carl. He seems to be missing opportunities to move into the top 10 by bad pit calls.

• I picked Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch as of right now but I really think it’s going to be Tony Stewart and Busch getting the wild cards. Kahne is fast right now and Tony isn’t doing as well. Kasey closed the gap from 33 points to 16 (Saturday) with a wrecked racecar. I say he makes the top 10.

The Backseat Drivers Fan Council was founded and is administered by Dustin Long. Fans can join by sending Dustin an email at

Please include the following information:
Name, city, state, Twitter name, e-mail address and favorite driver.

<p> Dustin Long's Backseat Drivers Fan Council talks all-things Bristol and weighs in on which wild card drives will make the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - 17:49
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /college-football/4-replacement-usc-billboards-ucla-fans-might-be-ok

Poor USC. Their billboard, featuring QB Matt Barkley and the phrase "We Play To Finish," was mysteriously covered over on Tuesday near the UCLA campus. To bring peace to both sides, we put together some replacement USC billboards that the UCLA fans might approve of. 

<p> We think these would do just fine</p>
Post date: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - 16:23