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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and similar to the NFL, several college football teams have added pink to their uniform. That will continue on Saturday, as Oregon plans to wear a pink helmet against Washington State. 

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Oregon to Wear Pink Helmets Against Washington State
Post date: Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 10:32
Path: /college-football/top-college-football-player-matchups-watch-week-8
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Each week, Athlon Sports will highlight some of the best one-on-one matchups to watch in college football. Here are the most important games within the game to watch this weekend:

Brett Hundley, QB vs. Shayne Skov, LB (UCLA at Stanford)
There may be no more important player in the nation this weekend than Hundley. He struggled against the Cardinal in his first meeting last year but learned from the experience and played well in the Pac-12 title game. With a developing supporting cast and electric dual-threat ability, he has the talent to take over a game at any point (ask Bo Pelini). Shayne Skov is the quarterback and leader of one of the best front sevens in the nation. He is the leading tackler and posted 14.0 tackles and 2.0 TFL in two wins over the Bruins last year.

Week 8 Previews and Predictions: ACCBig 12 Big Ten Pac-12 SEC

Cameron Erving, OT vs. Vic Beasley, DE (Florida State at Clemson)
The Seminoles 6-foot-6 junior is on the radar for NFL scouts, but Erving has been inconsistent at times. Saturday night should be a good showcase game as he will be matched up against Clemson ends Corey Crawford and Vic Beasley. That duo has combined for 18 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks this year. If Erving keeps Beasley and Crawford away from quarterback Jameis Winston, Florida State is going to have its way with the Tigers’ secondary.

Lamarcus Joyner, CB vs. Sammy Watkins, WR (Florida State at Clemson)
Two five-star recruits turned ACC stars will go head-to-head this weekend in Death Valley. Watkins is one of the nation’s most versatile and explosive wide receivers and is leading the Tigers with 36 catches, 582 yards and three straight games with a touchdown. Joyner, who is the Noles No. 2 tackles, helped to hold Watkins to just 24 yards on six receptions in the FSU win last year in Tallahassee. This will be a huge showdown between two future NFL players.

Melvin Gordon, RB vs. Jonathan Brown, LB (Wisconsin at Illinois)
On defense for Illinois, Brown, the Big Ten’s top tackler (60 total, 12.0 per game) will be faced with one of the most difficult tasks a linebacker in this league can face. Wisconsin’s offense is No. 1 in the league because of its traditionally powerful and deep running game. Wisconsin boasts the league’s No. 1 (Melvin Gordon), No. 4 (James White) and No. 10 (Corey Clement) rushers. Brown may have 20 tackles in this game but if they are all six yards down the field, it will be a long day for Illinois.

Jasson Verrett, CB vs. Josh Stewart, WR (TCU at Oklahoma State)
Stewart has one game under his belt after sustaining a concussion against West Virginia, but he had only two receptions against Kansas State. The Cowboys’ top receiver will need to be at his best in his matchup against Thorpe Award contender Jason Verrett, one of the top cover corners in the country. Stewart caught six passes for 120 yards against TCU a year ago. 

Teaser:
Top College Football Player Matchups to Watch in Week 8
Post date: Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 10:31
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-week-8-upset-predictions
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Athlon’s experts are back with another week of upset predictions. West Virginia, Utah, Indiana, UCLA and Vanderbilt are popular picks for Week 8. The Mountaineers are coming off a bye week, which came at an opportune time, especially with their injuries at the quarterback position. The Utes are a slight underdog against Arizona, but Utah will have to avoid a letdown after beating Stanford last Saturday. UCLA takes on Stanford this week, a team it lost twice to last season. Indiana’s offense has been on fire this year, but the defense has struggled. Can the Hoosiers contain Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner?
The favorites can't win every game each week, so it's no surprise one of the most popular discussion points every Saturday is upset picks. Each week on AthlonSports.com, the editors will give an upset pick for the upcoming week of action.

Week 8 Previews and Predictions: ACC |Big 12 | Big Ten Pac-12 | SEC

College Football Week 8 Upset Predictions

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): West Virginia (+6) over Texas Tech
Considering how things have gone through the first seven weeks of the season, everything is setting up for a wild ending to the Big 12 season. Texas Tech, Texas and Baylor are the only unbeaten teams in conference play, while Kansas State is 0-3 and West Virginia and TCU have combined for a 2-4 start. The Red Raiders have been sharp under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury, but the overall record of their six opponents is just 12-21. West Virginia has been steamrolled twice this year (Maryland and Baylor), but held its own on the road against Oklahoma and beat Oklahoma State at home. The Mountaineers had a bye last Saturday, which should allow quarterbacks Ford Childress and Clint Trickett time to heal after injuries in the previous weeks. There’s plenty of familiarity between these two coaching staffs, as Kingsbury coached under Dana Holgorsen at Houston. And motivation shouldn’t be an issue for West Virginia after the Red Raiders embarrassed them with a 49-14 win in Lubbock last year. The stat sheet says to go with Texas Tech, but the hunch here says West Virginia delivers an upset.  


Braden Gall (@BradenGall): Vanderbilt (+8) over Georgia
The Commodores have been terrible on defense and have shown little life in conference play in 2013. That said, Georgia is decimated by injuries and has struggled, at times, in Nashville. The Bulldogs won by five the last time they visited and needed a late field goal to beat the Dores in 2007. Vanderbilt has beaten Georgia just once since 1995 (2006) and should be well rested coming off the bye week. Look for UGA to struggle again without it's offensive weaponary. In it's current form without five of top six playmakers on offense, Georgia is an average team that can be beat on any weekend. And fans can bet James Franklin's bunch is starving for some good news on West End.


David Fox (@DavidFox615): Indiana (+7.5) over Michigan
Indiana’s schedule has gone win, loss, win, loss, win, loss. The Hoosiers are due. In seriousness, it’s tough to put much trust in Michigan. The Wolverines offense essentially consists of one quarterback who is exceptionally turnover prone. Devin Funchess emerged last week, but Devin Gardner still accounts for nearly 1,300 more yards of total offense than anyone else on the team. Indiana lost by two touchdowns to Michigan State, but that may be more of an indication of the Spartans’ defense. The Michigan State game was the first in which Indiana failed to gain six yards per play. It’s a crazy upset, but there’s enough volatility in Ann Arbor to give IU a chance.


Mark Ross: Utah (+4) over Arizona
Utah is coming off of a historic upset of Stanford at home and now must venture into Tuscon to face an Arizona team that almost pulled off an impressive comeback victory of its own last week at USC. While the ingredients - emotional letdown following huge win, playing on the road - are there for Utah to lay an egg in this one, I'm going to take my chances on Kyle Whittingham's team to do what it has done all season, hang tough and compete. The Utes' two losses this season have come by a total of 10 points. The first was in overtime at home against Oregon State, while the other was a seven-point loss to then No.12-ranked UCLA on the road. Arizona has dropped its first two Pac-12 games, but the Wildcats are still a threat to pile up the yards and points on offense, and their defense has played fairly well too. I think the difference in this one will be quarterback play, as Utah's Travis Wilson has performed better under center than Arizona's B.J. Denker. I also think the Utes' defense is a little bit more physical and up to the challenge of stopping a talented Wildcat running attack. This Utah team rose to the occasion at home last week, and I think it will do the same out in the desert.


Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler): UCLA (+6) over Stanford
Stanford beat UCLA two weeks in a row last year to take the Pac-12 crown. However, this is an improved Bruins squad in 2013. The Cardinal haven’t lost back-to-back games since 2009. Led by Heisman candidates on both sides, UCLA is strong on offense and on defense. Sophomore quarterback Brett Hundley has been sensational this year, leading the Bruins to 45.8 points per game, good for 7th in the nation. Linebacker Anthony Barr has the pro scouts raving as many are calling him the nation’s top defensive player, vaulting over preseason draft favorite Jadeveon Clowney. Stanford coach David Shaw compared Barr to former All-Pro Jevon Kearse. They certainly have reason to make such claims as Barr has racked up four sacks, 10 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles in just five games. A key stat to keep your eye on is the Bruins success on 3rd downs. UCLA ranks second in the nation in third-down conversion defense (24 percent), and fifth in the nation in third-down conversion percentage (56 percent).

Teaser:
2013 College Football Week 8 Upset Predictions
Post date: Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 10:27
Path: /nfl/seattle-seahawks-vs-arizona-cardinals-game-preview-and-prediction
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The Seattle Seahawks will look to increase their lead in the NFC West division tonight when they take on the Arizona Cardinals at 8:25 p.m. ET on the NFL Network. The Seahawks recovered nicely from their Week 5 loss to the Colts by beating the Titans 20-13 at home this past Sunday. The Cardinals, after a dominant performance against Carolina two weeks ago, got smacked around by San Francisco on the road. Arizona did keep the game close for longer than expected and had some success through the air via Larry Fitzgerald's 75-yard catch and run for a touchdown.

The Cardinals are aiming for their first division win in an attempt to remain in the NFC West race. Surprisingly, the Cardinals sit at a respectable 3-3 this year, two games behind the 5-1 Seahawks. Seattle could use some separation from the 4-2 49ers, who inch ever closer to first place.

3 Keys to the Game

Arizona Rushing Defense vs. Seattle Rushing Offense
Something has got to give. The Cardinals, led by linebackers Daryl Washington and Karlos Dansby, have registered 16 sacks and rank fifth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game. They gave the versatile Cam Newton fits two weeks ago. Newton was sacked seven times and threw three interceptions, while only rushing for 25 yards. In order to keep him from running, the Cardinals sent five or more rushers at Newton 60 percent of the time. They will likely duplicate that strategy against the similarly-skilled Russell Wilson. The combination of Wilson and RB Marshawn Lynch has allowed the Seahawks to average better than 150 yards per game on the ground, giving them the league's second-ranked rushing attack. Lynch ranks second in the NFC with 487 rushing yards. If the Seahawks can establish the run, it should open up the pass against the Cardinals' 19th-ranked pass defense. Despite this ranking, Russell Wilson will need to be mindful of Patrick Peterson, who is quickly becoming a true shutdown corner and premier playmaker. The Seahawks are 9-1 when quarterback Russell Wilson has thrown the ball 24 times or fewer in a game. When he tosses it 25-plus times, the team record is 7-5. The key to stopping the Seahawks is to stop the ground game.

Can Carson Palmer avoid turnovers?
Palmer, a quarterback that only Eli Manning could make look good when it comes to ball security, has thrown 11 interceptions already this season. That ties him for the second-most in franchise history through six weeks. Palmer has thrown multiple interceptions in four games, and has done it in every game since Week 3. Nine interceptions in the course of a four-week period is not the type of football the Cardinals want to play against the takeaway-minded Seahawks.

Cardinals Passing Attack vs. Seahawks Secondary
The Cardinals rank 26th in the league in total offense and 25th in points per game. However, their passing game has shown signs at life at different points of the season. The Cardinals will need to be able to stretch the field against the Seahawks as they will likely find themselves in several third-and-long situations due to their matador-like offensive line. Palmer has two big, 6-3 targets in Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, but the Seahawks also boast plenty of size in their secondary. Richard Sherman (6-3) and Brandon Browner (6-4) should be able to match the physicality of the Cardinals' pass-catchers. The matchup to watch will be Sherman on Fitzgerald. Sherman is one's of the NFL's best at his position and he leads the team with three interceptions. Fitzgerald has proven himself time and time again as a reliable big-play weapon, however he has lacked consistent quarterback play over the last four seasons. Fitzgerald does lead the Cardinals with four touchdowns, so regardless of the coverage expect Palmer to look his way quite often.

Key Player for Arizona: Patrick Peterson, CB
Being the underdog means you need big plays to win. Good thing the Cardinals have Peterson, perhaps the league's most dynamic athlete. Peterson will need to make a big interception or have a key punt return for the Cardinals to turn the tide against the division leaders.

Key Player for Seattle: Earl Thomas, S
Thomas is all over the field for the Seahawks. A force in the passing game and running game, Thomas leads the team with 43 tackles, has two forced fumbles and has three interceptions on the year. The Texas product is quickly turning into the NFL's best safety.

Final Analysis

Arizona's defense is absolutely good enough to play with Seattle's tough offense; however, the Cardinals' offense is going to struggle mightily to put up points on the Seahawks. The Cardinals have had trouble before with Seattle's big corners and it should be no different this time. Without a strong running game to keep them honest, look for the Seahawks' pass-rushers to pin their ears back and get after Carson Palmer. Eventually, a mistake will come and the Seattle secondary is likely to take advantage.

Seattle 24, Arizona 10

Teaser:
Seattle Seahawks vs. Arizona Cardinals Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Video, videos, Overtime
Path: /overtime/ole-miss-coed-really-enjoying-pregame-festivities
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The fine folks at TexAgs took a video camera to The Grove at Ole Miss on Saturday prior to the Aggies’ 41-38 win over the Rebels. 
 
By far the star of the video is an Ole Miss fan at the 38-second mark. Prepare for awesomeness.
 
Some of our favorite lines that have ever been spoken in the history of mankind: “Ole Miss is the most fun school you’ll ever go to. And when you go to a college, you’re gonna make the grades blah blah blah, as long as you get a two-oh….Ole Miss, we may all be…have lower IQs…I have a higher IQ than most these people, but…well no that’s a lie but…we have fun, and we don’t ever miss a party.”
 
 
Teaser:
Ole Miss Coed REALLY Enjoying Pregame Festivities
Post date: Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 08:42
Path: /college-football/2013-big-ten-week-8-preview-and-predictions
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Wisconsin made a big statement last weekend while both Michigan and Northwestern lost key crossover games. The door in the Legends Division is wide open for any and all of the teams in the division. In fact, the round-robin in that half of the Big Ten should be one of the most dramatic races in college football.

Just don’t expect any excitement in Week 8. Not one game in the Big Ten features a single-digit point-spread and all but one favorite is at home. So holding serve will be the theme in the Big Ten this weekend.

Penn State and Nebraska are off.

Week 8 Previews and Predictions: ACC | Big 12Pac-12 | SEC

Big Ten Week 8 Game Power Rankings:

1. Wisconsin (-11.5) at Illinois (8 p.m. ET, BTN)
The all-time series between these two is tied at 36-36-7 but the Badgers have owned this rivalry of late. Wisconsin has won seven of the last eight but the games always seem to be closer than anticipated, as four of the last five have been decided by 10 points or less. The only “blowout” was a 31-14 UW win last year in Madison. The Illini are 11th in the Big Ten in total defense and will find it difficult to slow down the powerful and surprisingly balanced Badgers offense. Therefore it falls to veteran quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase (259.4 ypg, 12 TD, 4 INT) to keep his team in the mix on offense. This one should be closer than the experts think.

2. Indiana (+10) at Michigan (3:30 p.m., BTN)
Michigan is the far superior team when it comes to recruiting and overall talent, but the Wolverines are playing below average football. The Hoosiers had the top-rated offense in the league before visiting Michigan State last weekend, as they dropped to No. 2 after their worst output of the season (351 yards). Michigan and turnover-prone quarterback Devin Gardner (10 INT, 3 FL) is a much different team at home than it is on the road. In the Big House, Michigan is averaging 42.5 points and 424 yards per game. Indiana fans should expect another week of quality first-half football followed by a second-half blitzkrieg from a team in Michigan.

3. Iowa (+16.5) at Ohio State (3:30 p.m., ESPN2)
Urban Meyer’s quest for 25-0 continues this weekend as the nation’s longest winning streak goes back on the line. That said, the Buckeyes are well rested after the off weekend and haven’t lost to Iowa at home since 1991. In fact, Ohio State has dominated this matchup, winning 12 of the last 13 meetings. The Hawkeyes, who are also rested after the bye, were completely stymied by Michigan State two weeks ago and will be facing a similar task in the Horseshoe. Look for Braxton Miller and the running game to run right at the talented Iowa linebackers.

4. Minnesota (+12.5) at Northwestern (Noon, ESPN2)
The Wildcats are beaten up and are in desperate need of their first Big Ten win after falling to Ohio State and Wisconsin. Minnesota is coming off a bye weekend after two of its own conference losses and is missing its head coach. So for two struggling teams, getting back to basics should be expected for both — and that means the running game. Northwestern has proven to be extremely vulnerable against the run after allowing 248 yards to the Buckeyes and 286 to Wisconsin while struggling to move the pile on offense (138 yards combined in the last two games). The Gophers are in an identical situation after rushing for 282.3 yards per game in their four wins to start the year and just 166 total rushing yards in their two losses. With injuries continuing to hinder Venric Mark and Kain Colter, Trevor Siemian needs to step into a bigger role.

5. Purdue (+26) at Michigan State (Noon, BTN)
The odds of the 121st offense in the nation moving the football and putting up enough points to win against the nation’s No. 1 total defense on the road is virtually none. But that is what Purdue is facing this weekend in East Lansing. The Spartans have won four straight in the series and haven’t lost to the Boilermakers since 2006. Look for a complete effort from Michigan State.

Big Ten Week 8 Pivotal Players


Listen to Athlon Sports writers Braden Gall and David Fox break down the big questions for each conference for the second half of the season in this week's Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast.
1. Nathan Scheelhaase, QB, Illinois
The Illini quarterback has saved his best season for last as he struggled mightily in 2011 and '12. That said, the last time Scheelhaase was on the field he looked a lot more like the Scheelhaase of old. Against Nebraska, he completed just 50 percent of his passes for 135 yards and no touchdowns with one interception. He wasn’t great through the air last year against Wisconsin (178 yards, TD, INT) but was dynamic on the ground, rushing for 84 yards and a score. Look for more of a dual-threat game plan against UW this week, as efficient play from Illinois’ quarterback is the only chance for an upset.

2. Jonathan Brown, LB, Illinois
On defense for Illinois, the Big Ten’s top tackler (60 total, 12.0 per game) will be faced with one of the most difficult tasks a linebacker in this league can face. Wisconsin’s offense is No. 1 in the league because of its traditionally powerful and deep running game. Wisconsin boasts the league’s No. 1 (Melvin Gordon), No. 4 (James White) and No. 10 (Corey Clement) rushers. Brown may have 20 tackles in this game but if they are all six yards down the field, it will be a long day for Illinois.

3. Nate Sudfeld, QB, Indiana
The sophomore quarterback is No. 2 in the Big Ten in passing (267.3 ypg) but has been inconsistent in conference play. He torched Penn State for 321 yards and two scores but was completely shut down by Michigan State (137 yards, 0 TD). On the road against Michigan, Sudfeld will be called upon to carry the offense in the second half — especially, if the ground game continues to struggle (98 yards against Mizzou, 92 yards against Michigan State).

4. Trevor Siemian, QB, Northwestern
With Kain Colter and Venric Mark day-to-day with ankle injuries, Siemian may be called upon to handle more of the offense for Pat Fitzgerald. And simply put, he has to be better throwing the football than he was last weekend against Wisconsin. Completing 38.2 percent (13-of-34) of your passes won’t win too many games in any league. Look for the Northwestern offense to bounce back at home against Minnesota because a third straight loss to start conference play would be crippling.

5. Fitzgerald Toussaint, RB, Michigan
The best way to help a turnover-prone quarterback is to run the football and that responsibility to falls mostly to Toussaint. He rushed for 397 yards and seven touchdowns in the first five games but was completely ineffective against Penn State. He rushed for 1.0 yards per carry on 27 attempts, and the ground game should be the focus against an Indiana team that has allowed 238 yards rushing to Michigan State, 280 yards to Missouri and 444 yards to Navy.

Big Ten Week 8 Prediction Grid:

GameBraden GallMitch LightSteven LassanDavid Fox
Wisconsin (-11.5) at IllinoisWisconsin, 31-27Wisconsin, 31-10Wisconsin, 38-20Wisconsin, 42-21
Indiana (+10) at MichiganMichigan, 34-21Michigan, 34-30Michigan, 38-27Indiana, 35-31
Iowa (+16.5) at Ohio StOhio St, 42-20Ohio St, 27-17Ohio St, 38-17Ohio St, 41-14
Minnesota (+12.5) at NorthwesternN'Western, 31-17N'Western, 33-14N'Western, 34-17N'Western, 31-24
Purdue (+26) at Michigan StMich. St, 31-7Mich. St, 34-0Mich. St, 41-10Mich. St, 28-3
Last Week:4-03-13-13-1
Year-to-date:50-951-852-749-10

 

Teaser:
2013 Big Ten Week 8 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 07:16
Path: /college-football/2013-pac-12-week-8-preview-and-predictions
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Things are starting to fall into place out West. Washington was humbled the last two weeks but has no chance to rest. Stanford found out first-hand how deep the South Division might be, but also has to regroup quickly. And Sean Mannion continues his assault on the record books.

Week 8 is a deep and intriguing weekend of action for the Pac-12. A rematch of last season's Pac-12 Championship game, a historic rivalry, a critical crossover elimination game and a big South Division showdown highlight what will be yet another exciting weekend of action West of the Rockies.

Week 8 Previews and Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | SEC

Pac-12 Week 8 Game Power Rankings

1. UCLA (+4.5) at Stanford (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
The unbeaten Bruins get the unenviable task of facing Stanford for the third time in less than a year. The Cardinal topped UCLA 35-17 in the season finale last year before beating them again a week later in the Pac-12 title game 27-24. The Bruins have lost five straight in the series and Stanford hasn’t lost at home in 12 straight or in back-to-back weeks since October 2009. Utah toppled Stanford last week in Salt Lake City and that should have David Shaw’s bunch fired up and focused. And they will need to be to stop Brett Hundley, who threw for a career-high 410 yards last week, the third-highest total in UCLA history. Hundley’s worst career game came in the first loss to Stanford last year (177 yards, INT) but he showed marked improvement the next weekend (329 yards, 3 TD). With a young and banged-up offensive line on the road against a nasty front seven, Jim Mora’s bunch will only stay unbeaten if Hundley has a special afternoon.

2. Washington (+3) at Arizona State (6 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
The Sun Devils have owned this series and the Huskies are teetering in Pac-12 play. Arizona State has won seven straight over Washington and U of W is coming off emotional and physical losses to Stanford and Oregon. The Sun Devils played their most complete game last week against Colorado by scoring 54 points, rolling up 532 yards and holding Colorado to just 268 yards. Despite out-gaining Stanford by a significant margin, Keith Price’s Huskies moved to 3-9 in true road games over the last three seasons when they lost their only true road game of the year thus far two weeks ago in Palo Alto. This showdown will feature the nation’s leading rusher in Bishop Sankey (149.8 ypg) and the nation’s leading scorer in Marion Grice (15.0 ppg). It falls to the bruised Huskies defense to stop quarterback Taylor Kelly (327.5 ypg) on the road.

3. USC (+3) at Notre Dame (7:30 p.m., NBC)
One of college football’s most heated and historic rivalries will be on display in South Bend for the 85th time in history. After USC won eight straight from 2002-09, Notre Dame has won two of the last three. Both teams enter this game surging to some degree after Ed Orgeron won his coaching debut against Arizona last week and the Irish topped Arizona State in Dallas in impressive fashion. Both teams will have extra rest after neither played on Saturday last weekend and that is good news for two inconsistent quarterbacks. Tommy Rees and Cody Kessler have both turned the ball over too much, but both have shown signs of life in the last few weeks. Kessler has set career highs in yards in each of his last two games with four touchdowns while Rees tossed three touchdowns against ASU. Whichever quarterback plays the best against two very stingy defenses will likely win the the historic rivalry game — one that is taking place nearly eight years to the day from the famed “Bush Push” (Oct. 15, 2005).

4. Utah (+5) at Arizona (10 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
The first couple of seasons in the Pac-12 were rough for Utah, going 7-11 in the league. And while the Utes already have two losses, they are clearly improved and heading in the right direction, culminating in a huge upset over Stanford last weekend. Arizona never really challenged USC last Thursday night despite 508 yards of offense and a flurry of late scoring. Dual-threat quarterbacks will be on display as Travis Wilson (283 yards, 5 TD) and B.J. Denker (273 yards, 6 TD) are the league’s No. 2 and No. 3 most productive rushing quarterbacks. Both teams have eyes on a bowl game and whoever losses will leave Week 8 with three Pac-12 losses. The road team has won both Pac-12 meetings between these two.

5. Oregon State (-10.5) at Cal (10:30 p.m., ESPN2)
Any game with Sean Mannion and Sonny Dykes should be extremely entertaining. The football won’t be handed off too much in this one as Cal is No. 3 nationally with 318 pass attempts and Oregon State is No. 4 with 301 attempts. The Beavers have won 11 of the last 14 meetings, including a 62-14 drubbing in Corvallis last season. Mannion threw for 325 yards and four scores in that game as he returned to the lineup after a major knee injury. Look for him to air it out again against a Golden Bears defense that is 123rd nationally at 518 yards allowed per game. In fact, don’t be surprised if the Oregon State quarterback sets the Pac-12 single-game passing record.

6. Washington State (+38) at Oregon (10 p.m., FS1)
The Cougars are much improved and have a chance to pull a few upsets this year in the Pac-12 — like, say, against USC. But defeating Oregon in Eugene won’t be one of them. The Ducks are favored by more than five touchdowns for a reason. Quarterback Marcus Mariota might be the best player in the nation and Wazzu hasn’t allowed fewer than 43 points to Oregon since 2006.

7. Charleston Southern at Colorado (2 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
The Buffaloes don’t have too many more chances at wins this season so a win against a FCS opponent is a must. However, the Buccaneers are 7-0 and are looking for an opportunity to make a statement. This game wasn’t scheduled until Sept. 30 and Southern was the only team willing to come to Boulder on this weekend. Colorado’s game against Fresno State was canceled last month due to weather-related circumstances. The once high-flying CU offense needs to get on track after struggling mightily in Pac-12 play this year.

Pac-12 Week 8 Pivotal Players:


Listen to Athlon Sports writers Braden Gall and David Fox break down the big questions for each conference for the second half of the season in this week's Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast.
1. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
There may be no more important player in the nation this weekend than Hundley. He struggled against the Cardinal in his first meeting last year but learned from the experience and played well in the Pac-12 title game. With a developing supporting cast and electric dual-threat ability, he has the talent to take over a game at any point (ask Bo Pelini). Against a Stanford front seven that is among the nation's best, he will have to play with great toughness to pull the upset.

2. Osahon Irabor, CB, Arizona State
The senior defensive back is no ordinary cornerback. Certainly, he is excellent in coverage as his two interceptions and return touchdown have shown. But he also plays well around the line of scrimmage and is disruptive in the backfield as his 4.5 tackles for a loss and one sack indicate. Against the Huskies' balanced and talented backfield duo, Irabor's ability to wreak havoc in the box on defense could be huge for Arizona State.

3. Cody Kessler, QB, USC
The USC quarterback might be finally rounding into form after setting a career high in passing yards each of the last two games. He threw for 297 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the big Thursday night win over Arizona but completed only 50 percent of his passes. On the road against a developing Irish defense, Kessler needs to be efficient and distribute the ball to his deep supporting cast.

4. Arizona's linebackers
This is a critical game for Rich Rodriguez and he has to be concerned with the trend in his defensive statistics. His team defense has allowed more yards every week than the week before for five straight games, culminating in 546 yards allowed to USC. Veterans Marquis Flowers and Jake Fischer as well as freshman Scooby Wright will be under pressure to contain Utah star dual-threat Travis Wilson and his 6-foot-6, 245-pound frame.

5. Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State
He may deserve mention every week for the rest of the year as long as his assault on the Pac-12 record books continues. Cal has been downright atrocious on defense this year and the Beavers quarterback is lapping the field nationally in terms of passing production, while also leading the nation in yards and touchdowns by wide margins. There is a chance, after throwing for 493 yards last week, that he could threaten Andrew Walter's Pac-12 single-game passing record of 536 yards from 2002 this weekend.

Pac-12 Week 8 Predictions:

GameBraden GallMitch LightSteven LassanDavid Fox
UCLA (+4.5) at StanfordStanford, 24-20UCLA, 28-24Stanford, 31-27UCLA, 28-27
Washington (+3) at Arizona StAriz. St, 38-35Wash., 31-30 Ariz. St, 38-34Ariz. St, 28-24
USC (+3) at Notre DameN. Dame, 24-21USC, 20-17N. Dame, 27-24 N. Dame, 27-21
Utah (+5) at ArizonaArizona, 30-27Arizona, 30-20Arizona, 30-27Utah, 31-14
Oregon St (-10.5) at CalOre. St, 49-28Ore. St, 41-14Ore. St, 51-24Ore. St, 49-28 
Washington St (+38) at OregonOregon, 51-13Oregon, 51-14Oregon, 58-20Oregon, 56-10
Charleston So. at ColoradoColo., 38-31Colo., 34-10Colo., 45-17Colo., 31-27
Last Week: 3-35-15-15-1
Year-to-date:46-1248-1049-946-12

 

Teaser:
2013 Pac-12 Week 8 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 07:16
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After spending most of the year out of the spotlight with few marquee matchups, the national focus in college football for Week 8 is in the ACC.

Clemson-Florida State is a matchup of two top-five teams, with the winner of this game staying alive in the national title picture. The Tigers have won five in a row at home over the Seminoles, but under coach Jimbo Fisher, the talent level is on the rise in Tallahassee, and Florida State won 49-37 over Clemson last season.

Outside of the huge matchup in Death Valley, Miami-North Carolina on Thursday night is an intriguing matchup. The Tar Heels won at Miami last season but are off to a 1-4 start this year.

Syracuse-Georgia Tech and Duke-Virginia are huge for bowl positioning, while Maryland looks to snap a three-game losing streak at Wake Forest. Pittsburgh steps out of conference for a matchup against Old Dominion.

Week 8 Previews and Predictions: Big 12 | Big Ten Pac-12 | SEC

ACC Week 8 Game Power Rankings

1. Florida State (-3) at Clemson (8 ET, ABC)
This showdown in Death Valley is arguably the biggest game in ACC history. Clemson and Florida State are ranked in the top five of the Associated Press poll, have Heisman Trophy contenders (Jameis Winston and Tajh Boyd), and both programs are squarely in the national title picture. The winner of this game stays alive for the BCS Championship, while the loser is (most likely) eliminated. The Tigers have won five in a row in Death Valley over the Seminoles, but Florida State won 49-37 last season and has claimed three out of the last five meetings. The gap between these two programs is very narrow this year. Clemson could be slightly more battle-tested, especially with a win over Georgia in the season opener. But Florida State has been just as impressive, beating Pittsburgh 41-13 on the road in the opener and beating a solid Maryland 63-0 on Oct. 5. There’s no question Winston and Boyd will make plays in this game, so it’s up to the other units to decide this game. Will another receiver outside of Sammy Watkins step up for Clemson? Will Florida State’s offensive line block the Tigers’ defensive front? Clemson has been slightly better in the turnover department (+1.5), but Florida State isn’t far behind (0.80). The Tigers are aggressive on defense, recording 61 tackles for a loss in six games. However, Clemson’s defense has struggled against the run (64th nationally, and Florida State’s rushing attack is averaging 6.0 yards per carry. Homefield advantage is a huge boost for the Tigers. But in terms of personnel and matchups, a slight edge goes to the Seminoles.

2. Miami (-8.5) at North Carolina (Thursday, 7:45 ET, ESPN)
After a disappointing 1-4 start, the bye week and a Thursday night matchup against Miami couldn’t have come at a better time for North Carolina. The Tar Heels have played a tough schedule, but coach Larry Fedora’s team hasn’t emerged as the Coastal Division title contender some expected. Both sides of the ball share blame, especially a defense that ranks last in the ACC in yards allowed (435.8). With running back Giovani Bernard in the NFL, the rushing attack has been sluggish for North Carolina, but true freshman T.J. Logan could provide a spark after rushing for 25 yards on five attempts in his first collegiate appearance (Virginia Tech). And quarterback Bryn Renner is expected to return to the lineup after missing the game against the Hokies with an ankle injury. Backup Marquise Williams played well in relief and could see time in this matchup. Miami is a balanced offense (274.8 passing, 213.8 rushing) and averages 7.8 yards per play this season. The bye week should allow quarterback Stephen Morris to get healthy after struggling with an ankle injury against Georgia Tech. Unless North Carolina’s defense made significant progress over the bye week, the Hurricanes should be able to move the ball with ease on Thursday night.

3. Syracuse (+7) at Georgia Tech (12:30 ET, ACC Network)
Is Saturday’s meeting in Atlanta a case of teams headed in opposite directions? Syracuse has won three out of its last four games, including a 24-10 victory at NC State last Saturday. The Orange seems to be finding an identity on offense, recording 300 rushing yards in back-to-back games. But the passing attack is clearly a work in progress. Quarterback Terrel Hunt has thrown for just 126 yards and five interceptions in his last two games. Georgia Tech has lost three consecutive games but all to quality opponents. As expected, the Yellow Jackets lead the ACC in rushing (290.3 ypg), but like Syracuse, have struggled with the forward pass. Quarterback Vad Lee started the year 22 of 39 for 418 yards and seven scores. However, the sophomore is just 19 of 57 for 340 yards and four interceptions in his last three games. Lee has also struggled to execute the option at times and has lost three fumbles in 2013. Considering how both teams have struggled through the air, whichever team wins the battle up front and the turnover battle should emerge with the victory. In conference play, Syracuse ranks seventh in the ACC against the run, while Georgia Tech is sixth. Points could be at a premium with this battle of run-first teams.

4. Duke (+2.5) at Virginia (3:30 ET, RSN)
This matchup won’t draw much national attention, but within the ACC, this is a key game for both Duke and Virginia. The Blue Devils swept their non-conference schedule and need two wins to go bowling for the second consecutive season. The Cavaliers are reeling with three consecutive losses and need a win to keep their fading bowl hopes alive. Duke has won four out of the last five in this series, including a 42-17 victory in Durham last year. The Blue Devils got a spark on offense last week, as quarterback Anthony Boone returned from a collarbone injury and threw for 295 yards and three scores against Navy. But Boone’s return wasn’t the only storyline, as the Blue Devils’ defense held the Midshipmen to just seven points. Virginia’s offense has struggled through its first six games, but even after its performance against Navy last week, Duke ranks 11th in the ACC in yards allowed. The Blue Devils have been susceptible to the run, which should allow Cavaliers’ running back Kevin Parks to have a shot at his third straight 100-yard game. Considering there’s not much separation between these two teams, the turnover battle will be crucial. Virginia ranks last in the ACC with 14 lost turnovers, while Duke is even in the turnover margin in 2013.

5. Maryland (-6.5) at Wake Forest (3:30 ET, ESPNU)
Maryland’s farewell tour through the ACC continues in Winston-Salem this Saturday, a place where the Terrapins have struggled in recent years. Maryland is 0-3 in its last three trips to Wake Forest and has won only one ACC road game under coach Randy Edsall. The Demon Deacons found a spark on offense in its win over NC State on Oct. 5, as quarterback Tanner Price threw for 268 yards and three scores and added 82 yards and one touchdown on the ground. With a struggling offensive line and rushing attack, Price and receiver Michael Campanaro have to deliver big performances. Campanaro will test a Maryland secondary without its two starting cornerbacks from the preseason, and the pass rush took a hit this week, as linebacker Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil was lost for the year. Even with Cudjoe-Virgil gone, the Terrapins plan to blitz Price and test an offensive line that has allowed 12 sacks this season. Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown is expected to start after missing last week’s game against Virginia with a concussion. And receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long will test a Wake Forest secondary allowing 262.3 yards per game in conference play.

6. Old Dominion at Pittsburgh (7 ET, RSN)
In a slight scheduling quirk, Pittsburgh steps out of conference for its next two games. Saturday’s matchup against Old Dominion will be the first meeting between these two programs, and this contest is a chance for the Panthers to rebound after a 19-9 loss against Virginia Tech. Pittsburgh’s offensive line was dominated last week, as quarterback Tom Savage was sacked eight times. If you remove Savage’s -29 rushing yards against the Hokies, the Panthers averaged just 2.0 yards per carry. The training room was busy this week in Pittsburgh, with running back James Conner and receiver Devin Street nursing shoulder injuries from last week’s game. The status of both players is uncertain for Saturday’s contest, but this is a game the Panthers could afford to allow Street and Conner to sit if necessary. The Monarchs led all FCS teams in total offense last season, averaging 548.3 yards per game. Quarterback Taylor Heinicke suffered a concussion on Oct. 5 against Liberty but is expected to return to the lineup on Saturday. Pittsburgh’s defense has struggled this season (367.6 ypg), so the Monarchs could have some success moving the ball. However, Old Dominion’s offensive line will have its hands full trying to block defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who has been one of the ACC’s top defenders in the first half of the season. After a physical game against Virginia Tech last Saturday, the Panthers may start slow but should pull away after halftime. 

ACC Week 8 Pivotal Players

Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson


Check out Athlon's first-half awards, along with second-half predictions for every ACC team.
There’s no doubt teammate Sammy Watkins is one of the best receivers in the nation. But if Clemson is going to win on Saturday night, Bryant could hold the keys to the offense. The talented, but inconsistent receiver has 17 catches for 316 yards and three scores this year. Florida State’s secondary is loaded with talent and is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete just 53.5 percent of their throws, while holding offenses to 10.8 yards per completion. The Seminoles could devote some extra attention to stopping Watkins, so it’s up to Bryant to give Clemson a solid No. 2 option.

Cameron Erving, OT, Florida State
The 6-foot-6 junior is on the radar for NFL scouts, but Erving has been inconsistent at times. Saturday night should be a good showcase game for Erving, as he will be matched up against Clemson ends Corey Crawford and Vic Beasley. That duo has combined for 18 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks this year. If Erving keeps Beasley and Crawford away from quarterback Jameis Winston, Florida State is going to have its way with the Tigers’ secondary.

Adam Gotsis, DT, Georgia Tech
Gotsis is coming off a solid performance against BYU, recording five tackles (four for a loss) and two sacks. The sophomore played in all 12 games last season but recorded only five tackles and one sack. The Australian has developed into a solid interior option for the Yellow Jackets, and his emergence will be crucial on Saturday against Syracuse. The Orange has recorded at least 300 rushing yards in back-to-back games. Slowing down Jerome Smith, Prince Tyson-Gulley and quarterback Terrel Hunt starts up front, and Georgia Tech needs a big performance from Gotsis.

Kevin Parks, RB, Virginia
What’s the best medicine for a struggling quarterback? A good running game. The Cavaliers have lost four out of their last five games, but the offense has showed signs of life in the last two contests, scoring at least 26 points in those games. Quarterback David Watford needs to play better, but Virginia’s offense can lean on Parks against Duke this week. The junior has back-to-back 100-yard games and is on pace to set a career high in overall yardage this year. Duke ranks 13th in conference-only games against the run.

Tanner Price, QB, Wake Forest
Quarterback play is always under the microscope or pivotal for each team on Saturday. However, with a struggling offensive line and rushing attack, Price is even more valuable to his offense. The senior is coming off his most complete performance of the year, throwing for 268 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 82 yards and one score on 18 attempts. The Demon Deacons need a similar effort on Saturday, if they want to win their fourth game in a row against Maryland in Winston-Salem.

ACC Week 8 Predictions

GameDavid FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light
Miami (-8.5) at UNCMiami 35-21Miami 34-21Miami 38-27Miami 31-17
Syracuse (+7) at Ga. TechGa. Tech 24-14Ga. Tech 31-20Ga. Tech 27-20Ga. Tech 34-24
Duke (+2.5) at UVADuke 38-21Duke 34-31Duke 27-24Duke 21-20
Maryland (-6.5) at WakeMaryland 27-17Maryland 31-24Maryland 27-20Maryland 30-20
Old Dominion (NL) at PittsburghPitt 42-21Pitt 45-17Pitt 45-20Pitt 48-17
FSU (-3) at ClemsonClemson 35-31Clemson 35-31Clemson 38-34FSU 38-24
Final Record50-1251-1151-1152-10

 

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2013 ACC Week 8 Preview and Predictions
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A few questions in the Big 12 were answered last week as Baylor answered the call in its first road test and Texas reentered the conversation for top team in the conference.

This week, Texas Tech is up in the spotlight.

The Red Raiders are 6-0 and 3-0 in the league, but they haven’t garnered the same attention as Baylor, Oklahoma or Texas. There's good reason. The schedule has been light, for certain, and Texas Tech hasn’t left the state other than to face Kansas.

This week, Kliff Kingsbury’s team will take the longest road trip in the Big 12 when Tech visits West Virginia, where the Mountaineers defeated preseason favorite Oklahoma State 30-21 in September. The last time we saw West Virginia, the Mountaineers were drilled by Baylor, but after an off week and at home, West Virginia promises to be a different team.

In other action around the league, Oklahoma State will seek any sign it can remain a league contender against TCU. Meanwhile, the Pokes’ Bedlam rival will try to correct their issues from the Texas game by facing Kansas.

Week 8 Previews and Predictions: ACC | Big Ten | Pac-12SEC

Big 12 Week 8 Game Power Rankings
All times Saturday. All times Eastern.


1. Texas Tech at West Virginia (noon, Fox Sports 1)
Among the 3-0 teams in Big 12 play, Texas Tech is the X-factor. The Red Raiders have played the two worst teams in the league (Kansas and Iowa State) and had questionable officiating in its win over a mid-level team (TCU). The Mountaineers aren’t contending for the Big 12 title, but Texas Tech making the long road trip to Morgantown, where West Virginia defeated Oklahoma State, could be telling. West Virginia is averaging 467 yards per game at home compared to 318.7 yards away from Morgantown. Texas Tech quarterback Baker Mayfield returned to practice this week, but it’s not clear if he will be able to start against West Virginia. In his place, freshman Davis Webb passed for 415 yards with three touchdowns and an interception against Iowa State.

2. TCU at Oklahoma State (noon, Fox)
Oklahoma State was off last week as Texas turned around the Big 12 race by defeating Oklahoma. This will be a chance for the Cowboys, the preseason favorite, to show they’re still a contender. The loss to West Virginia on Sept. 28 ago, though, means there’s little margin for error in Stillwater. At fewer than six yards per play, Oklahoma State’s offense hasn’t been as productive as Mike Gundy is used to seeing as the Pokes prepare for a team that leads the Big 12 in interceptions (10) and tackles for a loss (52). TCU needs any sign its luck is turning. TCU is averaging 5.4 points in the first half against FBS teams, a number that needs to turn if the Frogs are going to win a major conference road game.

3. Iowa State at Baylor (7 p.m., ESPNU)
Even in a loss, Kansas State had a typical Kansas State performance against Baylor, controlling the ball and capitalizing on two Baylor mistakes with a turnover and blocked punt. Iowa State must follow that script to have any chance in Waco. The Cyclones offense, however, went dormant last week at Texas Tech, rushing for 143 yards and completing 15 of 39 passes. If there’s any consolation for the Iowa State defense, the Cyclones have allowed five passing plays of 30 yards or more, the fewest in the Big 12.

4. Oklahoma at Kansas (3:30 p.m., ESPN)
Oklahoma played its worst all-around game of the season last week, but the Sooners get the most welcome sight in the Big 12 in these situations — a game against Kansas. Bob Stoops says there aren’t any plans to make a chance at quarterback after Blake Bell’s struggles against the Longhorns, but if another QB makes an appearance against Kansas, it wouldn’t be the first time Stoops this season has been coy about his offense. Any improvement from Bell will be key in Lawrence as Bell struggled with decision-making against the Longhorns and holding onto the ball too long, contributing to four sacks.

Off: Kansas State, Texas

Big 12 Week 8 Pivotal Players


Listen to Athlon Sports writers Braden Gall and David Fox break down the big questions for each conference for the second half of the season in this week's Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast.
Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State
Stewart has one game under his belt after sustaining a concussion against West Virginia, but he had only two receptions against Kansas State. The Cowboys’ top receiver will need to be at his best in his matchup against Thorpe Award contender Jason Verrett, one of the top cover corners in the country. Stewart caught six passes for 120 yards against TCU a year ago.

Brandon Carter, TCU
After Carter caught six touchdown passes and averaged 16.4 yards per catch in 2012, he appeared to be heading for a breakout season as a junior. Instead, he’s regressed. Carter has muffed punts, picked up personal foul penalties and landed in Gary Patterson’s doghouse. If the Horned Frogs are going to compete in the Big 12, Carter must return to form to help a lackluster offense.

Nick Kwiatkoski, West Virginia
The Mountaineers could get one of their top linebackers back in time to face Texas Tech. Kwiatkoski had 29 tackles in the first four games, including 2.5 tackles for a loss. The Mountaineers’ defense looked like one of the most improved units in the conference before facing Baylor two weeks ago. Texas Tech’s foundation on offense in the passing game, but the Red Raiders have proven they can run the ball, especially around the goal line. A healthy inside linebacker Kwiatkoski could put more pressure on a freshman quarterback to make plays on the road.

Jeremiah George, Iowa State
The Cyclones’ top defensive player will be tasked with stopping Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk, who has his eye on starting a new streak of 100-yard rushing games. Seastrunk rushed for 54 yards on 12 carries against Kansas State, and Glasco Martin was marginally more effective (14 carries, 70 yards). Even if Bryce Petty still got his long touchdown passes, the Baylor offense stalled more than it has all season with the run game having its worst day of the year at less than three yards per carry.

Dominique Alexander, Oklahoma
Alexander had 19 tackles against Texas, 10 more than he had in the previous five games combined. The Sooners are looking for a spark among the line and linebackers after defensive tackle Jordan Phillips and linebacker Corey Nelson were lost for the season. The freshman has had the lapses coaches would expect from a rookie, but with the injury situation, he’ll have to grow up quickly.

Big 12 Week 8 Predictions

GamesDavid FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light
TCU (+7) at Oklahoma StOSU 35-14OSU 27-21OSU 31-20OSU 27-24
Texas Tech (-6) at West Va.WVU 28-24Tech 31-20WVU 30-27WVU 31-30
Oklahoma (-23) at KansasOU 42-14OU 45-17OU 48-10OU 41-10
Iowa State (+34) at BaylorBaylor 56-17Baylor 45-21Baylor 51-20Baylor 51-23
Last Week2-23-13-13-1
This Season35-736-636-636-6

 

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Big 12 Week 8 Preview and Predictions
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The BCS was implemented in 1998 and has worked to near perfection for 15 seasons.

Wait, what?

That’s right, the BCS worked to near perfection. Prior to the construction of the Bowl Championship Series, fans and experts alike were left to argue about multiple unbeatens who played irrelevant bowl games against grandfathered-in bowl opponents.

How quickly we forget that there were three split National Championships between 1990-97 and another year Penn State fans won't ever let anyone forget (1994). How absurd is the idea of a split national title? The BCS featured one such split title since going into effect in ’98 (2003) and has worked to near perfection.

The goal of the BCS was to pit the top two teams in the nation in a winner-take-all championship showdown. And it worked brilliantly when compared to the previous championship structure. Only twice in 15 seasons has a “BCS” conference (or automatic qualifying or Big 6 or power conference or whatever else you want to call it) team gone undefeated and not played for the national championship.

Those two teams were Auburn in 2004 and Cincinnati in '09. And since the Bearcats don’t really apply to this discussion, the '04 Tigers are really the only team with a legitimate gripe about being left out of the title game. Are there plenty of other teams who feel like they deserved a shot? Georgia in 2007? Ohio State in 1998? Texas in 2008? Yes, but had each of those teams not lost certain games, they too, would have played for the national title.

The final debut of the BCS standings is set to take place this weekend following monumental showdowns in Death Valley and Palo Alto. There will be upsets, shockers, butt-whippings and plenty of movement up and down the rankings between now and the final BCS standings in history — which are set to be released Sunday, Dec. 8.

So as the BCS is set to end, here are some historical facts to consider. Who has been ranked the least and the most during the BCS Era? Who has had the longest BCS droughts? And who could break through in the final season of BCS football?

There are some concerning and seriously long BCS droughts currently ongoing. Only three power conference teams have never made an appearance in the BCS at any point during the 15-year run: Vanderbilt, Indiana and Duke. However, other than those three, there are some once proud programs yearning for BCS recognition. 

Syracuse has the longest ongoing BCS drought in the automatic qualifying leagues. It hasn’t been ranked since Nov. 12, 2001. Syracuse has a long and storied tradition, as its 699 wins entering this season were the most among current ACC teams and 15th all-time (per NCAA), but it’s been over a decade since the Orange were relevant in college football.

Purdue is No. 2 on the BCS waiting list but hasn’t waited nearly as long. The Boilermakers last made an appearance on Oct. 25, 2004. From 1997-2004, Purdue went to eight straight bowl games. But since its last appearance in the BCS, it has been to just four bowls in nine seasons and is on its third head coach.

Boston College hasn’t been ranked since Nov. 22, 2004. The Eagles have consistently overachieved during the BCS era, however, having gone to a bowl game every year from 1999-2010. But this once proud program has fallen on hard times of late, going 9-21 since — although, Steve Addazio may be the answer.

A pair of Pac-12 programs in Colorado (Nov. 7, 2005) and Washington State (Oct. 29, 2006) round out the top five longest BCS droughts in college football’s major conferences. The Buffaloes won a share of the national championship less than 25 years ago but haven't had a winning season since 2005. Wazzu went to two Rose Bowls between 1997-2002 but haven’t had a winning season since '03. Both have found excellent coaches and both could break through in the near future.

Kentucky (Nov. 11, 2007) has only been ranked four times in the BCS and all four came from the memorable 2007 squad that pulled off the Bluegrass Miracle. The Wildcats have the sixth longest absence.

Virginia and Tennessee are tied, having last appeared in the BCS standings on Dec. 2, 2007. Both programs won at a high level in the '90s but have struggled to win games of late. In particular, the Vols’ absence is notable having won a national championship during the BCS era and ranking eighth all-time with 799 wins (prior to this season). Big Orange Nation is yearning for competitive football.

Minnesota and UConn round out of the top 10 BCS droughts having last appeared on Oct. 26, 2008. The other BCS deficiencies that likely won't come to an end in the system's final season come from North Carolina (14th-longest, Nov. 22, 2009), Cal (16th, Nov. 29, 2009), Pitt (17th, Dec. 6, 2009) and Iowa (21st, Nov. 21, 2010).

Who has a chance to end their drought this season? Maryland owns the 12th longest drought (Nov. 16, 2008) and could break through in the BCS’ final year. Ole Miss is 15th (Nov. 22, 2009) and has an outside chance to land in the rankings at some point this year. BYU is tied with Pitt at 17th (Dec. 6, 2009) and could land in the rankings if Taysom Hill continues to develop.

Miami is the lone top 20 BCS drought that will end on Sunday when the first BCS rankings of the 2013 season come out.

Fewest BCS Appearances* Most BCS Appearances* 
 TeamTotalLast  TeamTotalNo. 1's 
1.Vanderbilt0-|1.Texas1023 
1.Duke0-|2t.Florida927 
1.Indiana0-|2t.Oklahoma9220 
4.Iowa State1Oct. 24, 2012|4t.LSU8110 
5.Kentucky4Nov. 11, 2007|4t.Virginia Tech81- 
6.North Carolina5Nov. 22, 2009|6.Oregon774 
7.NC State5Nov. 21, 2010|7.Ohio State7615 
8.Syracuse5Nov. 12, 2001|8.Michigan75- 
9.Baylor7Dec. 4, 2011|9.Florida State727 
10.UConn7Oct. 26, 2008|10.USC7015 
11.Wake Forest8Nov. 9, 2008|11.Georgia69- 
12.Ole Miss9Nov. 22, 2009|12.Wisconsin65- 
13.South Florida10Nov. 8, 2009|13.Boise State64- 
14.Kansas10Oct. 18, 2009|14.Nebraska625 
15.Illinois11Oct. 16, 2011|15.Miami607 
16.Colorado13Nov. 7, 2005|16.Alabama5810 
17.Maryland13Nov. 16, 2008|17.Tennessee525 
18.Rutgers13Nov. 18, 2012|18t.Oklahoma State51- 
19.Northwestern13Dec. 2, 2012|18t.Penn State51- 
20.Purdue14Oct. 24, 2004|20.TCU50- 
21.Minnesota14Oct. 26, 2008|21.Kansas State491 
22.Washington17Nov. 18, 2012|22.Notre Dame483 
23.Arizona State18Oct. 30, 2011|23.West Virginia46- 
24.Mississippi State19Nov. 4, 2012|24.Auburn453 
25.Pitt20Dec. 6, 2009|25t.Texas A&M38- 
26.Cincinnati20Oct. 14, 2012|25t.Georgia Tech38- 

* - Does not include Temple, Memphis, SMU, Houston, UCF

Most Appearances By "Mid-Majors"
 TeamTimesLast
1.Boise State64Dec. 2, 2012
2.BYU29Dec. 6, 2009
3.Hawaii10Dec. 5, 2010
4.Bowling Green9Nov. 22, 2004
5.Southern Miss8Dec. 4, 2011
6.Ball State8Dec. 7, 2008
7.Northern Illinois7Dec. 2, 2012
8.Nevada7Dec. 5, 2010
9.Miami, Ohio7Dec. 7, 2003
10.Tulane7Dec. 6, 1998

 

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Week 8 in the SEC features two matchups with ranked teams, including the suddenly important Florida-Missouri showdown in the East Division. The Tigers defeated Georgia last week, but the victory came at a price. Quarterback James Franklin is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury, leaving inexperienced backup Maty Mauk as the No. 1 option.

Auburn is clearly improved in coach Gus Malzahn’s first season. But do the Tigers have the firepower to keep up with Texas A&M? The Aggies continue to struggle on defense, but the offense is one of the best in the nation.

Elsewhere this Saturday in the SEC, ranked teams in Georgia, South Carolina and LSU are all on the road against conference foes. Alabama hosts Arkansas in what is one of the biggest mismatches of Week 8.

Week 8 Previews and Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten Pac-12 

SEC Week 8 Game Power Rankings

1. Auburn (+14) at Texas A&M (3:30 ET, CBS)
Gus Malzahn’s Tigers are one of the most improved teams in college football this season and could build some momentum as they approach a tough season-ending two-fer with rivals Georgia and Alabama. Quarterback Nick Marshall will have to make plays with both his arm and his legs if the Tigers are to keep pace with Johnny Manziel and company at Kyle Field. Marshall missed last week’s game against Western Carolina due to injury, but the junior is expected to start on Saturday. Manziel is stating a credible case for back-to-back Heismans, and he's coming off one of the most dynamic performances of his career, overcoming a couple of costly turnovers to throw for 346 yards and rush for 124 and two touchdowns in a 41–38 win at Ole Miss, marking his fourth career 300 pass/100 rush game. The Aggies are riding Manziel's arm and legs to 47.8 points per game, a number that ranks fourth in the nation, and 586.5 yards per contest (third). Both numbers lead the SEC. Auburn's defense is improved, but the Tigers will rely on their offense, which is averaging 474.2 yards per game, to keep them in this one. Texas A&M is vulnerable on defense, surrendering 32 points and 474 yards per game. Expect a shootout, much like the Aggies' visit to Oxford last week.

2. Florida (-3) at Missouri (12:21 ET, ESPN 3)
Just when Missouri appears to have turned a significant corner with a 41–26 upset of Georgia in Athens — possibly the biggest win of the Gary Pinkel era — the hard-luck Tigers must welcome their SEC East rivals without their key playmaker and leader, quarterback James Franklin, who injured his shoulder against the Bulldogs. After dire early reports that had Franklin missing the remainder the season, Pinkel asserted that he could return for the season-ending games with Ole Miss and Texas A&M. But that doesn't help this week, when the Tigers face the SEC's leading defense. Pressure falls to redshirt freshman Maty Mauk to step into the breach, and it will be a trial by fire against the Gators as Mizzou looks to maintain its grip on the SEC East lead. Mauk lacks Franklin's size and physical skills and will be asked to manage the offense, limit turnovers and let the Tigers' three-headed running attack — Russell Hansbrough, Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy — handle the load. Even with Franklin's injury, this is a team with national aspirations. "There is no question that one of the goals for this team is to get back to Missouri’s winning ways," Pinkel said. "It is a big deal to them. ... They want to get back to competing for championships."

3. LSU (-9.5) at Ole Miss (7:00 ET, ESPN 2)
The renewal of this storied rivalry always harkens back to the most famous encounter between the two teams — the 1959 Halloween classic won by the Tigers 7–3 on Billy Cannon's punt return. This one lacks that level of national significance, but it's a critical game for both teams, and LSU still holds championship aspirations. The two teams are trending in opposite directions; LSU surges into Oxford fresh off a 17–6 win over Florida, while Ole Miss' 3–0 start has disintegrated into an 0–3 stretch that culminated with a heartbreaking 41–38 loss to Texas A&M on Saturday night. Even with a mediocre statistical outing against the Gators, LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger leads the SEC in passing efficiency and has tossed only two interceptions on the season (compared to 15 touchdowns). The Rebels will need to force the Tigers into some mistakes while protecting the football themselves to have a shot at the upset. It would also help if Hugh Freeze's offense could muster some production on the ground and generate some long drives.

4. South Carolina (-7) at Tennessee (12:00 ET, ESPN)
The Vols are a popular upset pick in some quarters based on their strong showing against Georgia, but let's not get crazy. South Carolina is coming off its most complete performance of the season, a dominating 52–7 win at Arkansas. Still, this is a Gamecocks team that struggled to beat Kentucky and UCF and almost squandered a big lead against Vanderbilt. In other words, if the Vols can hang around into the fourth quarter, they are capable of pulling the upset. Butch Jones' offense will have to maintain the balance they showed against Georgia. Rajion Neal gashed the Dawgs for 148 yards, and Justin Worley threw for 215 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Worley will have to display a similar level of ball security against a defense that forced three turnovers against Arkansas. The biggest task facing the Vols defense will be stopping Mike Davis, who has emerged as arguably the best back in the SEC and is averaging 123.7 yards per game.

5. Georgia (-9.5) at Vanderbilt (12:00 ET, CBS)
Georgia arrives in Nashville decimated by injuries and discouraged by a home loss to Missouri that would seem to eliminate the Dawgs from SEC East title contention. With the Dawgs' backs against the wall, look for elite running back Todd Gurley to make his return from a sprained ankle. A productive running game would open things up downfield for Aaron Murray and the passing game, although Murray's wealth of targets has diminished considerably due to injury. The Commodores have struggled at times to establish the run, and it will be up to running back Jerron Seymour and an experienced offensive line to chew up some clock and move the chains. It will also be incumbent upon receiver Jordan Matthews to make plays in the passing game, but Matthews has been the most reliably consistent player in the SEC this season.

6. Arkansas (+28) at Alabama (7:00 ET, ESPN)
Given Arkansas' utter failure to show up for its own homecoming game against South Carolina, and Bama's utter dominance this season of any team that lacks Johnny Manziel at quarterback, this one appears to be a colossal mismatch — and appearances in this case are not deceiving. The Hogs have lost four straight, the last two by a combined score of 82–17, as a once-promising offense has sputtered to a halt. That's not an encouraging thought when you're heading to Tuscaloosa to face a Tide defense that has allowed 26 points total in the five games in which it wasn't facing Johnny Football. Expect the Tide to grind out another workmanlike double-digit win, much like the 48–7 win over Kentucky last week that included a couple of uncharacteristic turnovers but revealed superior manpower at every position.

SEC Week 8 Pivotal Players

Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn
Marshall injured his knee against Ole Miss but appears to be back at full strength for the Tigers' trip to Kyle Field. Gus Malzahn needs his junior signal-caller to be at his absolute best on Saturday against a weak A&M defense if, as anticipated, a track meet breaks out. Marshall made plays with his legs against the Rebels, rushing for 140 yards, and Malzahn will likely be looking for more of the same in an attempt to keep the ball away from Johnny Manziel for as long as possible.

Missouri's offensive line
This group has paved the way for a balanced and productive offensive attack — 239.3 yards per game rushing, 276.3 passing — but without dynamic quarterback James Franklin and a likely reluctance to put the game in the hands of a redshirt freshman quarterback (Maty Mauk), the onus will be on the line to open holes for the running game against a stout Florida front. The Gators are allowing only 83.3 rushing yards per game, so the Tigers' big uglies have their work cut out.

Andre Hal, CB, Vanderbilt
Hal, thought to have all-star potential at cornerback, has yet to intercept a pass this season for a Commodore defense that has been disappointing. Georgia limps into this matchup hobbled on offense, but you can bet that quarterback Aaron Murray will look to make plays down the field against the Commodore secondary in an effort to end this one early. If Hal is up to the challenge, he could find the ball in his hands at some point.

Justin Worley, QB, Tennessee
Worley seemed to take a major step against Georgia, leading the Vols to a near-upset with solid, mistake-free play down the stretch. But the South Carolina defense presents a significantly tougher challenge. The Gamecocks are coming off a frighteningly thorough domination of Arkansas in which the Hogs could muster only 30 yards passing. Worley will have to have some success in the passing game if the Vols are to pull the upset — and his receivers will have to help him out by making plays when they're available.

I'Tavius Mathers, RB, Ole Miss
After a blazing start to the season — 302 yards rushing combined against Vanderbilt and Texas — Rebel runner Jeff Scott saw his touches and his production diminish, and an injury against Texas A&M could rule him out against LSU. Hugh Freeze needs a running dimension against an athletic LSU defense, and the pressure could fall on Mathers to help provide it and take some of the burden off quarterbacks Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti. The sophomore is averaging 6.2 yards per carry on limited opportunities. Those opportunities could increase this week.

SEC Week 8 Predictions

GameDavid FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light
UGA (+7.5) at VandyGeorgia 28-21Georgia 34-31Georgia 34-27Georgia 34-21
S. Carolina (-7.5) at TennesseeS. Carolina 35-13S. Carolina 38-17SC 34-20S. Carolina 31-17
Florida (-3) at MissouriFlorida 17-10Florida 24-17Florida 27-20Florida 20-14
Auburn (+13.5) at Texas A&MTAMU 42-31TAMU 45-34TAMU 45-30TAMU 41-20
Arkansas (+28) at AlabamaAlabama 42-10Alabama 49-10Alabama 45-10Alabama 38-10
LSU (-8) at Ole MissLSU 38-17LSU 42-31LSU 34-30LSU 37-28
Final Record57-755-956-854-10

 

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With the first half of the 2013 season finished, it’s time to take a peek at what the second half of the college football season has in store.

There’s no shortage of second-half storylines, as the coaching carousel will continue to spin and upsets are bound to happen, which will alter the national title picture.

The SEC has eight ranked teams in this week’s Associated Press poll. Will that continue? Alabama is a heavy favorite to win the national championship, but South Carolina, Georgia, Florida or Missouri would be a worthy challenger in the SEC title game.

Outside of the SEC, Ohio State and Oregon hope to finish unbeaten for a shot at the national championship. Both teams have already passed a huge test, while the Ducks have a showdown with Stanford coming up on Nov. 7.

Anything can happen in the next seven weeks, but here are 10 predictions for the second half of the season, as well as predicted champions for each conference.

Midseason Awards and Second-Half Predictions: ACC Big 12 |Big Ten | Pac-12 SEC Overall

10 Predictions for the Second Half of College Football’s 2013 Season

1. The SEC will win another title
It’s not exactly a ground-breaking revelation, but the odds are in favor of the SEC closing out the BCS era with an eighth consecutive national title. Alabama, while maybe not as dominant as last season, is still the best team in the nation. Not too far behind the Crimson Tide is LSU, Texas A&M and a four-team race in the SEC East. With a favorable schedule, South Carolina has to be the favorite in the East, but don’t count out Florida, Georgia or Missouri. The depth of the SEC could hurt its national title prospects if the East champion has one loss and beats Alabama or LSU in the SEC Championship – assuming there are two unbeaten teams from BCS conferences. Oregon or Ohio State would be an intriguing matchup against Alabama, but the odds favor the Crimson Tide to make it eight in a row for the SEC.

2. Louisville will finish the regular season unbeaten
You can complain about the Cardinals’ strength of schedule, but let’s not lose sight of the fact this is one of the top 10-12 teams in the nation. Louisville has cruised to a 6-0 start and should finish the regular season with a perfect 12-0 record. Games against UCF and Cincinnati won’t be easy, but behind quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and a defense allowing just 7.3 points a game, the Cardinals finish 12-0.

3. Miami will play for the ACC Championship
Finally. After joining the league in 2004, Miami will represent the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship this season. Despite a cloud of NCAA uncertainty, the Hurricanes have made steady progress under coach Al Golden. Miami is 5-0 heading into a Thursday night matchup against North Carolina, with two huge showdowns remaining against Florida State and Virginia Tech. A season-ending matchup against Pittsburgh in late November could be tough, but Miami’s schedule sets up for a 10 or 11-win season. Barring an upset loss or a defeat to Virginia Tech, the Hurricanes should represent the Coastal Division in Charlotte in early December.

4. No BCS bowl for Notre Dame
A year after playing for the national championship, Notre Dame will miss out on a BCS bowl. The Fighting Irish already have two losses, leaving no margin for error the rest of the year to get to 10-2 and back into BCS consideration. The upcoming schedule isn’t overwhelmingly difficult, but Notre Dame still has to play USC, Stanford, BYU and Pittsburgh. It’s unlikely the Fighting Irish escape those four games with a 4-0 mark. Although Notre Dame doesn’t have a direct bowl tie-in this year, it should have no trouble finding a landing spot, especially if (as projected by most) some of the BCS conferences fail to fill all of their allotted spots.

5. Mack Brown won’t return to Texas for 2014
Regardless of how Texas finishes this year, the Longhorns will have a new coach on the sidelines in 2014. After last week’s win against Oklahoma, Texas is in the driver’s seat to win the Big 12 title. But the Longhorns still have to play TCU, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor. After losing to Ole Miss and BYU, along with barely escaping at Iowa State, it’s hard to bank on Texas playing the rest of the Big 12 slate with the same effort we saw against Oklahoma. With good friend and athletic director DeLoss Dodds stepping aside, it seems unlikely Brown would want to work for someone else and will call it quits at the end of 2013. 

6. Oregon QB Marcus Mariota will win the Heisman
Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd and Florida State’s Jameis Winston will make a run at Mariota, but the sophomore will claim the first Heisman in Oregon’s program history. Through six games, Mariota is completing 60.6 percent of his throws, has 17 touchdown tosses with no interceptions and is averaging 287.3 passing yards a game. The sophomore also has 426 yards and eight scores on the ground. As long as Mariota keeps up his current pace and Oregon wins out, it’s hard to see another candidate passing him for the No. 1 spot this December.

7. Florida State’s Jameis Winston will get invited to New York for the Heisman
For the second year in a row, a freshman will get invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel made it last season, and Florida State’s Jameis Winston is on track to fly to the Big Apple in December. Even if the Seminoles finish 10-2 or 11-1, it’s hard to find a flaw in Winston’s resume. The freshman is already one of the top quarterbacks in the nation and can take Florida State from being a top-10 team to a national title contender in 2013 and in 2014.

8. There will be more than two unbeatens from BCS conferences
If you like chaos, then buckle up. There’s a good chance Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State all finish unbeaten this year, creating BCS chaos in December. But there’s more. The winner of Clemson/Florida State also has a chance to finish unbeaten, and Louisville is likely to finish 12-0. Alabama still has to play LSU and assuming they win the West Division, the champion from the East in the SEC title game. Ohio State’s schedule is very favorable, but the Buckeyes still need to get past rival Michigan (in Ann Arbor) in the season finale. Oregon passed one hurdle with a win at Washington and the trip to Stanford on Nov. 7 looms large in the national title picture. Upsets and injuries will happen, so it’s tough to predict what might happen in the next seven weeks. However, the guess here is Alabama, Oregon and Ohio State all finish unbeaten, creating a three-team discussion for the two spots in the national championship.

9. A team from a non-BCS conference will make a BCS Bowl
Whether it’s Fresno State or Northern Illinois, the odds of a team from a non-BCS conference making a BCS bowl are high. In a projected BCS standing after Week 7, both Fresno State and Northern Illinois were in the top 20. The Bulldogs will have a slight edge in overall resume, especially if they have a rematch with Boise State in the Mountain West title game. The Huskies have a favorable path until November, but a home date against Ball State and a road trip to Toledo won’t be easy. If both finish unbeaten, the edge should go to Fresno State.

10. One SEC head coach job will be open in December
Maybe this is a bit crazy, but we will guess one SEC job will open this offseason. A few SEC coaches will be in demand (perhaps James Franklin for Texas or USC?) for other jobs, and the NFL will have interest in Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin. Who knows, every coaching cycle seems to produce one surprise. Let the speculation begin…

Bonus: No team finishes with an unbeaten record in Big 12 games
Texas Tech, Texas and Baylor are the only three unbeaten teams in Big 12 play after Week 7. Considering how difficult this conference was to project in the preseason, it’s hard to envision any team finishing Big 12 without a loss (or two) in league play. Don’t be surprised if a 7-2 record in Big 12 action wins the league.

Projected Champions

ACC Coastal: Miami
ACC Atlantic: Clemson
ACC Champion: Clemson

American: Louisville

Big 12: Baylor

Big Ten Leaders: Ohio State
Big Ten Legends: Nebraska
Big Ten Champion: Ohio State

C-USA East: Marshall
C-USA West: Rice
Conference USA Champion: Marshall

MAC East: Bowling Green
MAC West: Northern Illinois
MAC Champion: Northern Illinois

MW Mountain: Boise State
MW West: Fresno State
Mountain West Champion: Fresno State

Pac-12 North: Oregon
Pac-12 South: UCLA
Pac-12 Champion: Oregon

SEC East: South Carolina
SEC West: Alabama
SEC Champion: Alabama

Sun Belt: UL Lafayette

BCS Championship: Alabama over Oregon
 

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Russ Smith has a perception problem.

The Louisville guard has the reputation of a player who takes risks, plays recklessly and takes shots without conscience. All of those statements are true. He’s also awfully good. He led the national championship Cardinals in scoring, and his pressure spearheaded one of the best defensive teams in the country.

The “Russdiculous” label coach Rick Pitino gave him two seasons ago was out of love, but also frustration. Last season, the tag came more out of admiration. Still, Louisville’s most dynamic player on both sides of the court garnered only third-team All-America honors.

He’s also the kind of player you’d expect to be hammered by the statheads.

 
This story appears in the 2013-14 Athlon Sports College basketball annual. This year’s edition previews every team in the country and includes everything you need to now to prepare for the upcoming season. The annual is available online and on newsstands near you.

College basketball’s most prominent stathead, though, will have no part of the traditional evaluations. Ken Pomeroy and his numbers saw what the national discussion missed.

Pomeroy, whose tempo-free statistics and advanced analytics have become indispensable to coaching staffs across the country, named Smith his National Player of the Year when most other services picked Michigan’s Trey Burke.

The reason Pomeroy diverged from popular opinion had to do with a word not often thrown around with Russ Smith: Efficiency.

The basics of Pomeroy’s metrics are not complicated: Every possession in a basketball game can either end well (a made shot or free throw) or poorly (a missed shot or a turnover). But the number of possessions in a game is not fixed, based on the tempo of the teams involved. His statistics attempt to evaluate, simply put, the rate of possessions that end up with a positive result.

Smith ranked 22nd nationally in Pomeroy’s offensive rating metric, and just as important, Smith had a usage rate of 32 percent. So what does that mean? Let’s start with usage: Smith was responsible for the way 32 percent of Louisville offensive possessions ended, either in a shot from the field, a free throw or turnover. Only 10 players nationally ranked higher. The offensive rating determined Smith accounted for 109 points for every 100 possessions he ended.

For detractors, Smith can say the statistics know what kind of player he is even if they don’t.

“The numbers say you don’t know what you’re talking about if you’re saying I’m inefficient,” Smith says.

And as for Smith’s reputation, Pomeroy writes on his blog, making rational decisions is perhaps an overrated character trait.

More kindly, the traditional metrics of points per game, rebounds per game and field goal percentage are a nice snapshot, but they’re not entirely accurate.

In the last 5-10 years, college coaching staffs have adapted to this way of thinking. Tempo-free statistics have become one piece in the scouting puzzle for assistants across the country. And outside the film room, increased media exposure has made the tempo-free approach and other advanced metrics mainstream among hardcore basketball fans.

Following the lead of Major League Baseball and the NBA, college basketball has immersed itself in advanced statistics and tempo-free analytics.

“(Tempo) can have a profound effect on the stats that are out there,” says Pomeroy, who began publishing his statistics on the internet in 2004. “Scoring stats per game is profoundly effected by how many possessions you have in a game. The tempo-free approach takes out that factor and compares teams on an even playing field.”

Pomeroy owns some debt to Dean Oliver and his Four Factors, which have become one of the foundations of modern statistical analysis on the basketball court. Oliver, ESPN’s director of production analytics and former director of quantitative analysis for the Denver Nuggets, named four distinct statistics which are now essential to determining efficiency:

1. Effective field goal percentage (which puts added weight on 3-point baskets)
2. Turnover percentage (turnovers per possession)
3. Offensive rebounding percentage (percentage of rebounds claimed by the offense)
4. Free-throw rate

Related: The Keys to Becoming a Smarter Fan

Oliver, a former Division III basketball player at Caltech, began charting statistics for his team in 1989 before venturing into graduate school at North Carolina and conducting advance scouting for the Lakers. Oliver wrote for a handful of analytical publications before landing on they payroll of NBA teams as a consultant and then a full-time employee.

“I don’t think it’s underground anymore,” Oliver said. “Some of the stats are part of coaching lingo, where they weren’t 25 years ago.”

The NBA has been several years ahead of the college game in statistical analysis beyond tempo-free, but the most high-profile coaching hire in the pro ranks had an analytical angle to it when the Boston Celtics hired Butler’s Brad Stevens.

Stevens already was considered one of the top minds in college basketball after leading Butler to back-to-back national championship games, but he also was a full-fledged devotee of advanced analytics from an early stage. Last season, Stevens took things further than Pomeroy’s kenpom.com rankings. The Bulldogs coach hired Drew Cannon, a Duke graduate in statistics and Butler MBA student, to conduct statistical research and scouting. When the Celtics hired Stevens, he brought the 23-year-old Cannon with him.

While Cannon was a high-profile statistics expert on a basketball staff, he wasn’t the first to bring advanced analytics to the bench.

In 2010, Mike Lepore was a singular sight in college basketball. Sitting between players and assistants on the Wake Forest bench, Lepore kept his eyes on his laptop. Then the assistant director of basketball operations under Dino Gaudio, Lepore tracked many of the same things Cannon eventually would as well: plus-minus ratings on specific lineups, success rates on offensive sets, key stats on defense. Lepore brought a printer with him on the road to give Gaudio all the data he needed at halftime. However, Lepore eventually gave up the laptop when he learned having it on the bench could result in a technical foul (Cannon kept notes with pen and paper on Butler’s bench).

“I was probably the only person in the country with a computer on the bench,” says Lepore, who is now the director of basketball operations at Saint Louis. “It was really good, detailed information. That’s great information.”

With live, in-game analysis limited, these statistics are most valuable in scouting and evaluation.

On the way to winning the ACC regular-season and tournament titles, Miami, like most schools, made checking kenpom.com a critical part of its preparation. It was one of the first things assistant Chris Caputo read as he evaluated an opponent.

“We try to get a little bit of their DNA statistically,” Caputo says.

“I don’t think it’s underground anymore. Some of the stats are part of coaching lingo, where they weren’t 25 years ago.”
-Dean Oliver
As in any league, the ACC featured an array of styles of play last season. North Carolina was one of the fastest teams in the country at 71.8 possessions per game. Virginia was one of the slowest at 61.5. Nationally, the amount of possessions per game ranged from 58.7 (Western Illinois) to 75 (Central Arkansas).

With that kind of variance, it’s easy to see why points per possession is a more valuable number to a coach than points per game.

Consider this: Team A likes to get up and down the court and score in transition. Team B prefers a more methodical approach, walking the ball up the court and milking the shot clock.

Points per game says Team A has a better offense, but tempo-free statistics tell us Team B is far more effective at running its offense. (And in fairness, the numbers will tend to say Team B, with fewer possessions in its games and thus fewer points, has the more effective defense. Team B might not.)

And then consider two teams from last season: North Carolina ranked 16th nationally in scoring at 76.7 points per game, and they ranked in the top five in shot attempts and made field goals per game.

But were the Tar Heels any good offensively? Not especially. North Carolina averaged 107 points per 100 possessions, ranking 56th in the country. North Carolina was Team A, a team that ran more plays but wasn’t necessarily efficient. The Tar Heels made only 46.3 percent of their two-point baskets, a figure that ranked 224th nationally, according to teamrankings.com.

On the other hand, Florida averaged 71.4 points per game, a figure that ranked 75th nationally. The Gators, though, ranked seventh in Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive efficiency rating and eighth in points per possession. The reason for the discrepancy: Florida took its time. The Gators averaged 62.9 offensive possessions per game, ranking 311th nationally. But Florida was more efficient, ranking in the top 30 in shooting percentage from both 2-point and 3-point range.

Virginia assistant Ritchie McKay, who became enamored with tempo-free stats while the head coach at New Mexico from 2002-07, now uses the numbers to dispel inaccuracies about the Cavaliers’ offense. Under head coach Tony Bennett, Virginia is one of the most deliberate teams in the country.

The Cavs ranked 11th in the ACC in points per game at 64.2, but take tempo out of the mix, and the Cavaliers don’t look so inept. Virginia ranked sixth in the league at 1.04 points per possession.

“If I told you we average 66 points per game or 63 you’d think, ugh,” McKay says. “But if you look at our numbers and the product we’re putting out on the floor offensively, our percentages, we’re decent in terms of national rank.”

None of this is new. Legendary North Carolina coach Frank McGuire noted points per possession in the 1950s. Dean Smith was also a per-possession analysis adopter.

While tempo-free concepts have been around for decades, what has changed is access.

Pomeroy was a meteorologist (the kind that works for the National Weather Service, not the kind that works on television) when he started running basketball box scores and play-by-play data through computer code, first for sports-ratings.com then his personal site.

By 2005, media mentions in Sports Illustrated and elsewhere brought new eyes to his efficiency numbers. In the subscription-based portion of his site, Pomeroy presents further in-depth game-by-game statistics to the coaches who pay. And pay they do.

“When I first start getting ready for a team, I’m using that to give me a road map or a broad picture of strengths and weaknesses relative to all the other teams in the country,” says Kevin Kuwik, an assistant at Dayton and former video coordinator at Ohio State. “That’s one piece of it. I’m using that to pick out some tendencies on how that team might play.”

Kuwik will watch film on opponents’ recent games like any scout. But through kenpom.com, he’s looking at statistics for tempo, indicating how much of a factor transition defense might be. Or he’ll look at assist-to-field goal rate, which may indicate whether a team likes to go one-on-one or prefers to pass. Pomeroy’s statistics also may indicate games in which the opponent struggle in offensive or defensive efficiency earlier in the season.

Then it’s on to the video where Kuwik, like many scouts, turns to Synergy Sports. A video service with archives of college and NBA games, Synergy allows scouts to break down film by player or by situation to isolate habits or tendencies.

Over the course of the season and into the NCAA Tournament, those little edges can make a big difference.

Related: How to use Advanced Stats like an expert

Iowa State has been one of college basketball’s best overachievers in the last two seasons, which have included two NCAA Tournament appearances and two top-four finishes in the Big 12 standings. A major reason is fourth-year coach Fred Hoiberg, who is well-versed in advanced analytics due to his time as Vice President of Basketball Operations with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Hoiberg’s main focus has been shot selection on both sides of the floor. Naturally, it makes sense to attempt high-percentage shots while forcing an opponent to take low-percentage shots, but Hoiberg and his staff throw some statistical weight behind it. The most valuable shots in basketball are around the rim and 3-point shots. The least valuable is a mid-range 2-pointer — it’s a tough 2-pointer to make and it lacks the reward of a 3-pointer to make it worthwhile.

While NBA teams are installing cameras in arenas in order to analyze the data of how efficient individual players are from certain areas from the court, Hoiberg is adapting the same concepts, albeit at a lower budget.

“We chart what the highest true percentage shot is,” Hoiberg says. “In the NBA it’s the corner three. You want to create as many corner threes as possible because that’s the shortest 3-point shot on the floor. In college it’s not the corner three, but if you can get an uncontested catch-and-shoot three or a shot at the rim, you know you’re accomplishing what your offense is supposed to get you.”

Still, there’s a human element. Hoiberg is reluctant to declare certain areas of the floor off-limits, but charting shots helps him tailor practices and workouts.

“Some guys go strictly by the stats,” Hoiberg says. “If you shoot a low-percentage in the mid-range, they just flat out say you can’t shoot that shot. I don’t go that far with it because I don’t want to take a player’s confidence away.”

Coaches also use advanced stats to play on another human trait: Motivation.

Once Caputo assembles his own data and scouting report for Miami coach Jim Larranaga, he’ll condense a few key points for the players.

“There’s nothing stronger than showing them not only that number, but where that number ranks in the country,” Caputo says. “That’s key. When you can say they’re No. 3 in offensive rebounding percentage, you’re not just telling them they’re a great offensive rebounding team, you’re telling them that they’re one of the best in the country, which means hopefully your guys will be more aware that the emphasis needs to be on blocking out or whatever your game plan is.”

The integrated approach has been perhaps one of the reasons basketball — both pro and college — hasn’t had the protracted battle between stats and scouts as Major League Baseball did during the Moneyball era.

Not only has advanced analysis been in use in MLB and the NBA for several years, in college there’s not a rift between the people doing the scouting and the people emphasizing statistics. It’s more a product of function than culture.

“First and foremost, the assistants are the ones who have to do the deep dive and call out every significant little nugget,” Kuwik says. ”As it’s become more prevalent, the assistants were the ones who used it the most. You have some younger head coaches who are a little more aligned to when that started happening in the last couple of years. You’re going to see more and more head coaches be attuned to it.”

That’s the certainly the case for Kuwik and other Ohio State colleagues. Thad Matta’s staffs are an example: Stevens worked under Matta at Butler. Kuwik’s boss at Dayton, Archie Miller, coached under Matta at Ohio State. Illinois’ John Groce, another former Ohio State assistant, is a believer. So is the new Butler coach, Brandon Miller, who worked for both Stevens and Matta over the years.

The use of statistics has spread so much that Pomeroy left his day job to concentrate on analysis full-time.

One the one hand he has his subscription-based site, but he’s also consulted for a handful of college teams including Iowa State and Baylor, plus the Houston Rockets.

“Three or four years ago, it became mainstream enough to see it on graphics in an ESPN broadcast where they don’t have to explain those numbers and exactly what they mean,” Pomeroy says. “That’s when the corner got turned.”

The emphasis is there and it’s spreading. But the prospect of Drew Cannons at every school is a long way off.

“In college you don’t have a front office,” Hoiberg says. “It’s the coaching staff. That’s a pretty big difference.”

The budget to hire a statistical expert on the staff may be the least of the barriers to advanced stats in college basketball. Data collection and play-by-play and shot-tracking data, especially for mid- to low-major programs is not as consistent as that in the NBA. The sample size of 82 games each year in the NBA versus 30 or so games in college gives the pro ranks a reliable sample size.

Another Drew Cannon may be the most accessible part of the equation.

“You’re going to see more and more schools doing it — I’m positive you are,” Oliver says. “Frankly, students are not very expensive. You have colleges with computer science departments, stat departments, math departments, kids who love basketball and they want to contribute.”

For now, knowledge of the numbers and analytics is a skill for a coach, not all that different from drawing up a play or recruiting.

“You can find that one advantage that’s going to help you to win close games you wouldn’t win otherwise,” Hoiberg says. “Is it the ultimate factor? No. But it certainly is a piece of the puzzle when you’re putting everything together.”

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This story appears in the 2013-14 Athlon Sports College basketball annual. This year’s edition previews every team in the country and includes everything you need to now to prepare for the upcoming season. The annual is available online and on newsstands near you.

Some stats lie. Just as on-base percentage, OPS and WAR have become chic among baseball fans, basketball fans have a chance to impress their friends with statistics. Here’s a quick guide:

Replace points per game with...
Points per possession (a.k.a. offensive and defensive efficiency).
Different teams have different styles of play. A faster offense will yield more possessions on both sides of the court, a more deliberate offense will yield fewer possessions. Points per game does not accurately reflect how effectively a team plays offense or defense. A possession ends on a made field goal attempt, a missed shot rebounded by the defense, free throws or a turnover, thus points per possession more accurately measures how often a team gets a favorable result when it runs its offense. The median college team scored 1.01 points per possession last season (or 101 points per 100 possession, as it is sometimes noted).

Related: Tempo-free stats make their way out of the underground

Replace rebound margin with...
Offensive and defensive rebounds and rebound percentages.
“One of the interesting things we found when we people started doing analytics on basketball is that on a team level, offensive rebounding and defensive rebounding are really a separate skills and they’re not really related,” Ken Pomeroy says. Minnesota, for example, led the Big Ten in offensive rebounds, but was 10th in defensive rebounds last season. Team rebound margin combines the two, creating a misleading stat. The more accurate stat separates the two and determines the rates at which the defense or offense claims a missed shot. Team A’s offensive rebound percentage equals Team A’s offensive rebounds divided by (Team A offensive rebounds plus Team B defensive rebounds). The same principle applies to defensive rebounding percentages, or the rate of available missed shots rebounded by the defense.

Replace field goal percentage with...
Two-point percentage and three-point percentage or effective field goal percentage.
A similar concept to the rebounding rule above. Three-point shooting rate is often used as a stand-alone statistic in college basketball, but the poor 2-pointer doesn’t get the same luxury. Shooting at a lower percentage, but making more threes isn’t necessarily inefficient. “If you’re a guy or a team that takes a lot 3-pointers, your field goal percentage is not going to look as good as it should,” Pomeroy says. “But if you’re making those shots, you’re making three points, obviously.” Effective field goal percentage gives the added weight to a 3-pointer, as it is worth 50 percent more. The formula is: (0.5 x made 3-pointers + total made field goals) divided by total field goals attempted.

Teaser:
Tempo-Free and Advanced College Basketball Stats: A Guide
Post date: Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-positional-rankings-week-7
Body:

So through the first five weeks of the fantasy football season, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham had pretty much been setting the pace. So what happened in Week 6? Manning was held in check by the Jaguars, Brees had an average game against the Patriots while Graham has held without a catch for the first time this season. And while Cam Newton led all scorers, other top performers at quarterback included Eagles backup Nick Foles, Tampa Bay rookie Mike Glennon, and Thad Lewis, a guy who started the season on the Bills' practice squad. At tight end it was a pair of undrafted rookie tight ends — the Lions' Joseph Fauria and Buccaneers' Timothy Wright. Welcome to the weekly roller coaster that is fantasy football.

So what's in store for this week? Well, with New Orleans and Oakland on bye, owners will have to make do without Brees and Graham, as well as Darren Sproles, Marques Colston, Terrelle Pryor, Denarius Moore, etc. The schedule finds Denver in Indianapolis as Manning faces his former team for the first time. Dallas will get its shot at Philadelphia's porous defense, which could translate into decent games for Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, as well as the Eagles' main playmakers, including Foles. There also are other divisional matchups that bear watching, and not just because of the fantasy implications. Most notable of these is New England going to New York to face the Jets for a second time and the renewal of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry in the Steel City.

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

2013 NFL Week 7 Fantasy Football Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Week 7 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

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

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Positional Rankings: Week 7
Post date: Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-quarterback-rankings-week-7
Body:

Peyton Manning may have had more turnovers than touchdowns last week, but that's not nearly enough to remove him from the top spot on Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 7 quarterback rankings. For one, even with the slight hiccup against the Jaguars, he's still the leading fantasy scorer this season by a wide margin. And while he may not come out and say it, don't you think he will be more than ready for Sunday's game in Indianapolis? If anything, the Broncos' lackadaisical effort last week may have just stoked Manning's fire more. Or was it Jim Irsay's comments?

Elsewhere, a couple of top fantasy quarterback options will have to get the job done with injury-wracked wide receiving corps. No one has been stung more in this department than Matt Ryan. Atlanta was on bye last week, but yet it felt like the team still lost. Julio Jones was placed on injured reserve because of a foot injury and Roddy White added a hamstring issue to the high ankle sprain that has turned him into a shell of his former WR1 self this season. White may not even play this week against Tampa Bay, so Ryan and the 1-4 Falcons will have to get the job done in the passing game with tight end Tony Gonzalez, Harry Douglas and a player to be named later.

Aaron Rodgers is also feeling Ryan's pain, as the Packers saw not one, but two of their top wide receivers leave last week's game early because of injury. James Jones was the first to go down with a shin/leg injury, which could keep him out this week at home against Cleveland. Next was Randall Cobb who took a hit from Matt Elam's helmet on his leg. Following the game, the injury was revealed to be a fractured fibula and the Packers placed their most dynamic weapon on the injured reserve/designated for return list. Cobb will miss a minimum of eight weeks, meaning the earliest he will be able to return to the field is Week 15. For now, Rodgers will turn to Jordy Nelson to carry the load, at least until Jones is back to 100 percent, along with an assist from tight end Jermichael Finley. Jarret Boykin figures to get the first shot at significant playing time opposite Nelson or in the three-wide sets, but if he can't get the job done, the Packers will probably try someone else.

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

2013 NFL Week 7 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks
Teams on bye: New Orleans, Oakland

RkPlayerTeamOPPNotes
1Peyton ManningDENat INDJags first team to hold No. 18 in check (2 TDs, 3 TOs).
2Cam NewtonCARvs. STLThe return of Superman? 4 total TDs last week.
3Tony RomoDALat PHIAnother big game coming? Eagles last vs. pass.
4Aaron RodgersGBvs. CLEInjuries taking bite out of Rodgers' receiving corps.
5Andrew LuckINDvs. DENColts' WRs didn't give Luck much help on MNF (4 drops).
6Philip RiversSDat JACJags did respectable job vs. Peyton, Broncos last week.
7Matthew StaffordDETvs. CINHad 4 TDs last week despite a hobbled Megatron.
8Robert Griffin IIIWASvs. CHICan RG3 take advantage of struggling Bears D?
9Jay CutlerCHIat WASHas at least 21 fantasy points in all but 1 game so far.
10Matt RyanATLvs. TBWho will step up w/ Jones out and White hurting?
11Tom BradyNEat NYJBrady at his best in game-winning drive vs. Saints.
12Russell WilsonSEAat ARI (Thurs.) 
13Nick FolesPHIvs. DALSolid in first start - 296-3-0 and a rushing TD.
14Eli ManningNYGvs. MIN (Mon.)Up to 15 INTs after three (incl. pick-six) vs. Bears.
15Colin KaepernickSFat TENStill has more turnovers (9) than total TDs (8).
16Ryan TannehillMIAvs. BUF 
17Ben RoethlisbergerPITvs. BAL 
18Andy DaltonCINat DETHad best numbers yet (337-3-1) vs. Bills last week.
19Alex SmithKCvs. HOUTexans No. 1 vs. pass, Smith had 128 yards last week.
20Sam BradfordSTLat CARPanthers third in total defense, 2nd in scoring.
21Chad HenneJACvs. SDHad the yards (303) last week, but 0 TDs and 2 INTs.
22Josh FreemanMINat NYG (Mon.)Former Buc to make Vikings debut on MNF.
23Joe FlaccoBALat PITSixth in yards (1,702), but 7 TDs and 8 INTs.
24Mike GlennonTBat ATLRookie gets shot at Falcons' porous pass D.
25Carson PalmerARIvs. SEA (Thurs.)Seahawks will pounce if Palmer not on his game.
26Brandon WeedenCLEat GB 
27Geno SmithNYJvs. NEThrew 3 INTs in Week 2 loss to Patriots.
28Ryan FitzpatrickTENvs. SFTough stretch for Titans O - vs. KC, at SEA, now SF.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 7 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Week 7 Waiver Wire

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Quarterback Rankings: Week 7
Post date: Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-running-back-rankings-week-7
Body:

While the top of Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 7 running back rankings includes the usual suspects, there's one guy who has definitely exceeded preseason expectations. Knowshon Moreno, somewhat of an afterthought after Denver drafted Montee Ball in the second round, has not only emerged as the Broncos' No. 1 back, he's become an every-week fantasy starter.

Moreno not only leads the NFL with seven rushing touchdowns, he's fourth among his positional peers in fantasy scoring. While Peyton Manning has been doing a bunch of damage through the air, the Broncos' offense is so good that there's room for everyone to consistently produce, and that's just what Moreno has done through six weeks. Last week, Moreno led all running backs and was fifth overall in scoring after rushing for three touchdowns against Jacksonville. On the season, Moreno has 562 total yards, the seven rushing scores and he has yet to lose a fumble in 100 total touches. All eyes will be on Manning as he makes his return to Indianapolis on Sunday, but don't forget about Moreno.

Adrian Peterson played with a heavy heart last week, which was totally understandable given the unspeakable tragedy he and his family are dealing with. Not only do I think the reigning MVP will bounce back this week on "Monday Night Football" against the Giants, I am fairly sure pretty much everyone will be rooting for him to do so.

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

2013 NFL Week 7 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Back
Teams on bye: New Orleans, Oakland

RkPlayerTeamOPPNotes
1Adrian PetersonMINat NYG (Mon.)Understandably not at his best last week.
2LeSean McCoyPHIvs. DALLeague's leading rusher will test Cowboys w/o Ware.
3Jamaal CharlesKCvs. HOUBlisters haven't slowed him down, can Texans?
4Matt ForteCHIat WASAveraging 22 touches per game.
5Marshawn LynchSEAat ARI (Thurs.)Scored 2 TDs, also had 78 yards receiving last week.
6Arian FosterHOUat KCSeason-high 141 yards last week against Rams.
7Knowshon MorenoDENat INDNo. 4 RB in fantasy, leads NFL w/ 7 rushing TDs.
8Alfred MorrisWASvs. CHIBears got run over by Jacobs/Giants last week.
9Reggie BushDETvs. CINPut up 133 total yards, rec. TD vs. Browns.
10Frank GoreSFat TENPosted second 100-yard game of season last week.
11Eddie LacyGBvs. CLEHas 219 yards rushing since return from concussion.
12Doug MartinTBat ATLFalcons have done a good job against run.
13Ray RiceBALat PITHas 36 yards rushing or fewer in all but one game.
14DeAngelo WilliamsCARvs. STLRams giving up 130 yards rushing per game.
15Giovani BernardCINat DET100-yard effort incl. highlight-reel TD catch-and-run.
16Trent RichardsonINDvs. DENBroncos giving up 69.8 yards rushing per game.
17Stevan RidleyNEat NYJIs he back? 96 yards, 2 TDs vs. Saints a good start.
18Chris JohnsonTENvs. SFHas just one run of 20+ yards this season.
19Fred JacksonBUFat MIABasically splitting carries evenly with Spiller.
20Lamar MillerMIAvs. BUF 
21C.J. SpillerBUFat MIAAveraged 5.5 ypc on just 10 attempts last week.
22Maurice Jones-DrewJACvs. SDChargers allowing second-fewest fantasy pts. to RBs.
23Ryan MathewsSDat JACHis 102 yards on MNF, first such effort since Dec. 2011.
24Joseph RandleDALat PHIBig opportunity for rookie w/ Murray (knee) out.
25Zac StacySTLat CARMay have secured starting job for rest of season.
26Bilal PowellNYJvs. NEOne less mouth to feed w/ Goodson (ACL) on IR.
27Brandon JacobsNYGvs. MIN (Mon.)Turned back the clock (106, 2) last week vs. Bears.
28Le'Veon BellPITvs. BALGets first taste of Ravens-Steelers rivalry.
29Andre EllingtonARIvs. SEA (Thurs.)Led the way w/ 91 total yards and TD last week.
30BenJarvus Green-EllisCINat DETStill getting more carries than Gio.
31Danny WoodheadSDat JACPosted 73 yards on 14 touches vs. Colts.
32Jacquizz RodgersATLvs. TBFalcons still waiting on Steven Jackson to get back.
33Willis McGaheeCLEat GB 
34Rashard MendenhallARIvs. SEA (Thurs.)Matter of time before Ellington takes over?
35Joique BellDETvs. CIN 
36Ben TateHOUat KCLate TD salvaged pedestrian effort (10 att., 12 yds).
37Jason SnellingATLvs. TB 
38Mike TolbertCARvs. STLScored second rushing TD last week.
39Chris IvoryNYJvs. NE 
40Donald BrownINDvs. DEN 
41Ronnie HillmanDENat IND 
42Bernard PierceBALat PIT 
43Chris OgbonnayaCLEat GBGot team-high 12 targets last week.
44Kendall HunterSFat TEN 
45Roy HeluWASvs. CHI 
46Daniel ThomasMIAvs. BUF 
47LeGarrette BlountNEat NYJRidley's resurgence could be bad news for Blount.
48Bryce BrownPHIvs. DAL 

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 7 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Week 7 Waiver Wire

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Running Back Rankings: Week 7
Post date: Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-wide-receiver-rankings-week-7
Body:

Wide receiver injuries have been a big storyline in recent weeks, and their impact can clearly be seen by looking at Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 7 rankings. Randall Cobb will miss at least eight weeks after sustaining a fractured fibula in last week's win in Baltimore. Cobb has been placed on injured reserve, but is eligible to return in time to play in Week 15.

The same cannot be said for Atlanta's Julio Jones, who went on injured reserve and is done for the season after injuring his foot in the Falcons' Week 6 loss. That's two teams that will be without their No. 1 wide receivers for a while, and those aren't the only injuries they are dealing with. The Packers' James Jones sustained a shin/leg injury last week that could prevent him from playing this Sunday. The Falcons' Roddy White is in even worse shape, as he as been hampered all season by a high ankle sprain before sustaining a hamstring injury in his last game.

The Packers have Jordy Nelson to pick up the slack, but need production from Jarret Boykin to help offset the loss of Cobb and a hurting Jones. The Falcons are looking to Harry Douglas to step up and take some of the burden off of tight end Tony Gonzalez. This also means there is potential fantasy opportunity for Boykin and Douglas, and maybe even a surprise name or two, in the weeks ahead.

The good news is that there are still some No. 1 wide receivers who are healthy. This list is headed up by Dez Bryant, Athlon's No. 1 wideout this week, as the Cowboys will get their first crack against the Eagles fantasy-friendly defense. There's also Brandon Marshall, who reclaimed his position as Jay Cutler's top target last week and has another appealing matchup on Sunday against Washington's leaky secondary. The Bengals-Lions game in Detroit will feature two of the league's top pass-catchers in A.J. Green and Calvin Johnson, although Megatron is not functioning at optimum capacity right now because of a sore knee.

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

2013 NFL Week 7 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers
Teams on bye: New Orleans, Oakland

RkPlayerTeamOPPNotes
1Dez BryantDALat PHIEagles allowing most fantasy points to WRs.
2Brandon MarshallCHIat WASReasserted himself as Bears' No. 1 (9-87-2) vs. Giants.
3A.J. GreenCINat DETWent over 100 yards for first time since Week 1.
4Victor CruzNYGvs. MIN (Mon.)Vikings are 29th against the pass.
5Wes WelkerDENat INDLeads NFL with 8 TD receptions.
6DeSean JacksonPHIvs. DALOnly 64 yards, but 2 TDs last week vs. Bucs.
7Demaryius ThomasDENat INDNo TD catches in his last two games.
8Calvin JohnsonDETvs. CINSore knee + Joe Haden = 3 catches for 25 yards.
9Vincent JacksonTBat ATLWeek's No. 1 WR following 9-114-2 effort vs. Eagles.
10Jordy NelsonGBvs. CLEBecomes Rodgers' No. 1 target w/ Cobb out.
11Antonio BrownPITvs. BAL 
12Pierre GarconWASvs. CHICaught 6 of 15 targets last week vs. Cowboys.
13Josh GordonCLEat GBProduction hasn't slipped with Weeden back at QB.
14Reggie WayneINDvs. DENPassed 1,000-catch milestone on MNF.
15Justin BlackmonJACvs. SDStole the show (14-190) in Denver last week.
16Andre JohnsonHOUat KCLeads league with 44 catches, but 0 TDs.
17Hakeem NicksNYGvs. MIN (Mon.)Has 212 yards in last 2 games, still no TDs.
18Torrey SmithBALat PITPackers' "cloud coverage" rained on Smith's day.
19Eric DeckerDENat IND 
20Steve SmithCARvs. STL 
21Larry FitzgeraldARIvs. SEA (Thurs.)First left, now right hamstring injured.
22Mike WallaceMIAvs. BUFDid he and Tannehill work on chemistry during bye?
23T.Y. HiltonINDvs. DENBroncos giving up a lot of yards through the air.
24Alshon JefferyCHIat WASHe and Cutler not clicking (1 rec., 27 yds.) last week.
25Keenan AllenSDat JACTwo straight 100-yard, TD efforts for rookie.
26James JonesGBvs. CLEWill he able to play through shin/leg injury?
27Julian EdelmanNEat NYJCame up big in final drive for Brady, Pats.
28Terrance WilliamsDALat PHIJust two catches, but one went for a TD.
29Greg JenningsMINat NYG (Mon.)Can he and Freeman make it work on MNF?
30Anquan BoldinSFat TENVernon Davis been CK's top target lately.
31Harry DouglasATLvs. TBNeeds to step up with Jones out, White hurting.
32Kenbrell ThompkinsNEat NYJCaught Brady's game-winner vs. Saints.
33Stevie JohnsonBUFat MIADNP (hamstring) last week.
34Mike WilliamsTBat ATLLate scratch last week b/c of hamstring.
35Dwayne BoweKCvs. HOUSeason-high is 58 yards, just one TD catch.
36Brian HartlineMIAvs. BUF 
37Rueben RandleNYGvs. MIN (Mon.)Has 3 TDs in last two games.
38Emmanuel SandersPITvs. BALHooked up w/ Big Ben on 55-yard TD last week.
39Michael FloydARIvs. SEA (Thurs.)Could be in line for more targets depending on Fitz.
40Vincent BrownSDat JAC 
41Golden TateSEAat ARI (Thurs.) 
42Aaron DobsonNEat NYJ 
43Cecil ShortsJACvs. SDShoulder injury, will he play?
44Miles AustinDALat PHINo catches (4 targets) in first game back (hamstring).
45Kris DurhamDETvs. CINLions' most productive receiver over last 2 games.
46Jarret BoykinGBvs. CLEGolden opportunity with Cobb out, Jones hurting.
47Kendall WrightTENvs. SF 
48Stephen HillNYJvs. NE 
49Brandon LaFellCARvs. STLHis 100-yard game last week was Panthers' first of '13.
50Austin PettisSTLat CARPanthers are No. 7 against pass.
51Jeremy KerleyNYJvs. NE 
52Robert WoodsBUFat MIAHe and Thad Lewis not on same page last week.
53DeAndre HopkinsHOUat KCBeen relatively quiet over last three games.
54Chris GivensSTLat CAR 
55Tavon AustinSTLat CARRookie still looking for breakout game.
56Leonard HankersonWASvs. CHI 
57Jerome SimpsonMINat NYG (Mon.)Can Josh Freeman jump-start Vikings passing' attack?
58Roddy WhiteATLvs. TBFirst it was his ankle, now hamstring.
59Marlon BrownBALat PITLed Ravens in targets w/ 7 (3-71) last week.
60Eddie RoyalSDat JACNo catches, or targets on MNF.
61Nate WashingtonTENvs. SF 
62Donnie AveryKCvs. HOU 
63Sidney RiceSEAat ARI (Thurs.) 
64Jacoby JonesBALat PITCaught TD pass in first game back since Week 1.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 7 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Week 7 Waiver Wire

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 7
Post date: Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-tight-end-rankings-week-7
Body:

New Orleans is on bye in Week 7, so that means no Jimmy Graham atop Athlon Sports' fantasy football tight end rankings, probably the only week he will not be at No. 1. Instead, Tony Gonzalez, the future Hall of Famer, gets our vote. While Gonzalez' numbers don't compare to Graham's through six games, he's been his usual productive self and could post some Graham-esque totals in the weeks ahead. With Julio Jones out for the season and Roddy White dealing with injuries, Gonzalez becomes Matt Ryan's clear-cut No. 1 target.

Another tight end who is quickly establishing himself as his quarterback's top weapon is San Francisco's Vernon Davis. Since missing Week 3's home loss to Indianapolis because of a hamstring injury, Davis has returned to the field with a vengeance. He has caught four touchdown passes in his last three games and last week against Arizona, he put up the following numbers — 7 rec., 171 yards, 2 TDs — in the first half. There's no reason to not expect Colin Kaepernick, who has struggled with accuracy and turnovers to start this season, to keep feeding the ball to his athletic tight end.

And as far as Rob Gronkowski goes, your guess is as good as mine as to if this is finally the week he gets on the field. Personally speaking, I have had my fill of "Gronk Watch," and I don't even have him on my roster.

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

2013 NFL Week 7 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends
Teams on bye: New Orleans, Oakland

RkPlayerTeamOPPNotes
1Tony GonzalezATLvs. TBRyan's No. 1 target now w/ Jones out, White hurting.
2Vernon DavisSFat TENWent 7-171-2 in first half last week vs. Cardinals.
3Antonio GatesSDat JACFour-catch, 28-yard effort on MNF worst of season.
4Julius ThomasDENat INDHas caught a TD pass in all but one game so far.
5Jason WittenDALat PHICareer vs. PHI: 19 G, 109 rec. , 1,233 yds., 7 TDs.
6Jordan CameronCLEat GBTotal of 10 catches, 100 yards and no TDs in last 2 G.
7Jermichael FinleyGBvs. CLEBigger role coming b/c of WR injuries?
8Martellus BennettCHIat WASNo TD catches since Week 2.
9Greg OlsenCARvs. STLWas his foot injury a factor last week (2 rec., 19 yds.)?
10Heath MillerPITvs. BALRavens have had issues defending TEs.
11Rob GronkowskiNEat NYJIs anyone else tired of waiting for him to play?
12Kyle RudolphMINat NYG (Mon.)Lone bright spot (9-97-1) last week vs. CAR.
13Charles ClayMIAvs. BUFBills giving up second-fewest fantasy pts. to TEs.
14Coby FleenerINDvs. DENJust five catches for 31 yards in last 2 games.
15Garrett GrahamHOUat KCFirst game as Texans' starter didn't go well (2-25).
16Jared CookSTLat CARLance Kendricks stealing targets, TDs from Cook.
17Jordan ReedWASvs. CHIActive (4-58) in first game back from injury.
18Scott ChandlerBUFat MIACaught his second TD pass last week.
19Brent CelekPHIvs. DALTE just not a huge part of Eagles' passing game.
20Jeff CumberlandNYJvs. NE 
21Brandon MyersNYGvs. MIN (Mon.)Has seen 0 targets in 2 of last 3 games.
22Timothy WrightTBat ATLHas 12 catches for 132 yards in last 2 games.
23Jermaine GreshamCINat DETHard to trust either Bengal TE right now.
24Brandon PettigrewDETvs. CINMore involved past 3 games, but still no TDs.
25Sean McGrathKCvs. HOU 
26Dallas ClarkBALat PITHad 81 yards, first TD last week vs. Packers.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 7 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Week 7 Waiver Wire

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Tight End Rankings: Week 7
Post date: Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-kicker-rankings-week-7
Body:

Matt Prater is No. 1 on Athlon Sports' Fantasy Football 2013 Kicker Rankings for Week 7, but no one has made more field goals this season than Stephen Gostkowski. This duo is not only 1-2 in our rankings, but also in fantasy points this season. The interesting thing is that they have done this in different ways. Prater leads all kickers thanks to his league-high 34 PATs kicking for the Broncos' prolific offense. Gostkowski, on the other hand, is 16-of-17 on field goal attempts, as the Patriots haven't scored as many touchdowns this season compared to last. Regardless, you can't go wrong with either of these as your fantasy kicker on a week in, week out basis.

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

2013 NFL Week 7 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers
Teams on bye this week: New Orleans, Oakland

RkPlayerTeamOPPONENT
1Matt PraterDENat IND
2Stephen GostkowskiNEat NYJ
3Blair WalshMINat NYG (Mon.)
4Mason CrosbyGBvs. CLE
5Justin TuckerBALat PIT
6Steven HauschkaSEAat ARI (Thurs.)
7Nick NovakSDat JAC
8Alex HeneryPHIvs. DAL
9Dan BaileyDALat PHI
10Matt BryantATLvs. TB
11Phil DawsonSFat TEN
12Caleb SturgisMIAvs. BUF
13Adam VinatieriINDvs. DEN
14David AkersDETvs. CIN
15Ryan SuccopKCvs. HOU
16Robbie GouldCHIat WAS

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 7 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams


Week 7 Waiver Wire

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Kicker Rankings: Week 7
Post date: Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-defspecial-teams-rankings-week-7
Body:

St. Louis just missed making Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 7 defense/special teams rankings, but that doesn't mean we can't applaud the Rams for their performance last week. The Rams added to the Texans' woes after racking up five quarterback sacks and holding them to just 13 points. The 38-13 convincing win also featured a total of four takeaways and two defensive scores, including a record 98-yard interception return by St. Louis rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree. The main reason the Rams did not make our rankings this week is that they have been inconsistent as a fantasy DST, although they do have a total of 48 points in their last two games. Maybe the unit will play more up to preseason expectations from here out?

Instead, the No. 1 team in our rankings this week is Kansas City, who will host the aforementioned Texans this Sunday. The Chiefs padded their lead as the top-scoring fantasy DST by racking up an eye-opening 10 sacks in a win over the Raiders. If that wasn't enough, KC added three INTs and a defensive score. Now the Chiefs get a reeling Texans offense that is allowing the most fantasy points to opposing DSTs. Talk about good timing, or bad if you are going up against the KC DST this week.

Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 6

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

2013 NFL Week 7 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams
Teams on bye this week: New Orleans, Oakland

RkTeamOPPNotes
1Kansas City Chiefsvs. HOUChiefs racked up 10 sacks and three INTs last week.
2Seattle Seahawksat ARI (Thurs.)Carson Palmer has at least 2 INTs in each of last 4 games.
3San Francisco 49ersat TEN49ers have forced 10 turnovers in last four games.
4Carolina Panthersvs. STLPanthers are third in yards allowed, second in points.
5Baltimore Ravensat PITBig Ben vs. BAL: 56.7% passing, 18 TDs, 15 INTs in 12 G.
6Chicago Bearsat WASBears' DL has been decimated by injuries.
7New England Patriotsat NYJPats' D now w/o Mayo and Wilfork, Talib also hurting.
8Cincinnati Bengalsat DETBengals sacked Thad Lewis five times last week.
9Green Bay Packersvs. CLEPackers' D up to task last week w/o Matthews.
10San Diego Chargersat JACChargers held Luck, Colts to 3 FGs on MNF.
11Minnesota Vikingsat NYG (Mon.)Giants have 23 turnovers and have given up 5 DST TDs.
12Houston Texansat KCTexans' offensive woes taking toll on defense too.
13Miami Dolphinsvs. BUFIf Thad Lewis (foot) can't go, 'Fins get Matt Flynn.
14Denver Broncosat INDBroncos got Champ Bailey back last week, now Von Miller.
15Pittsburgh Steelersvs. BALSteelers' D gets in Geno Smith's head, get first 2 INTs.
16New York Jetsvs. NEJets held Pats to 232 yards, 13 points in Week 2 road loss.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 7 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends

Kickers

Week 7 Waiver Wire

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 7
Post date: Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/5-reasons-kansas-city-chiefs-could-win-it-all
Body:
Tom Brady made the NFL and the world stand up and take notice (again) of the New England Patriots on Sunday with his remarkable, come-from-behind, last-second win over the New Orleans Saints. The Denver Broncos, of course, have been making people take notice all season with their remarkable, high-scoring, 6-0 start.
 
Those two are widely considered the teams to beat in the conference, with some eyes watching closely the teams in Indianapolis and Cincinnati, too.
 
But why is it that so many are ignoring or dismissing what’s happening in Kansas City, where the revived Chiefs are an impressive 6-0? Maybe it’s time everyone stood up and took notice of them, too.
 
The Chiefs may not have played the Broncos yet – they still have to face them twice – but there is nothing phony about their undefeated start to the Andy Reid Era. They look like a team that has some staying power and should be a factor all season long. So while you’re pondering who’ll represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLVIII, here are five reasons why you should also consider that the Chiefs are for real …
 
1. Andy Reid is a great coach — There’s a reason he lasted 14 years in Philadelphia, where he won nearly 60 percent of his games. He’s one of the finest coaches in the entire NFL and he doesn’t just stubbornly force players into his systems, he tailors what he does to suit the players he has.
 
No, he didn’t win a Super Bowl with the Eagles and that will forever keep him a notch below the — for lack of a better word — “elite” coaches in NFL history. But he got the Eagles to five NFC championship games in his tenure, which still makes him one of the elite of this generation. Hiring Reid was one of the smartest decisions the Chiefs organization had made in years.
 
2. Alex Smith is a winning quarterback — Smith was once the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft (2005) which is hard to remember given how erratic (and sometimes bad) he was during his first five NFL seasons and because he lost his job to Colin Kaepernick last year.
 
But behind that smog is the fact that the 49ers were a mess for most of Smith’s tenure and he was lost in an environment that changed offensive coordinators and offensive systems seemingly every year. The Chiefs picked him off the scrap heap, basically, after the 49ers cast him aside. But they were wise enough to see this truth: Once Jim Harbaugh took over the 49ers and the environment around Smith settled down, he was 20-6-1 as a starter, including an overtime loss in the 2011 NFC championship game.
 
Smith has talent. He’s smart and efficient and knows how to run a West Coast offense, which requires quick passes and quick decisions. He’s capable of carrying a team if necessary, but more importantly he knows how to manage a game and avoid costly turnovers, which might be the most important thing a quarterback can do nowadays.
 
Oh, and he’s also now 26-6-1 in his last 33 starts.
 
3. Dwayne Bowe is a true No. 1 receiver  The Chiefs’ best receiver could’ve been one of the big winners on the free-agent market last spring, but he never got there thanks to a five-year, $56 million contract he got on the eve of free agency. So far through six games he has only 20 catches for 229 yards and two touchdowns, but the numbers almost don’t matter. His 6-2, 221-pounds presence has opened up a ton of other things for the Kansas City offense and that’s an enormous help for a quarterback in his first year with a new team. Had the Chiefs let him go, they would’ve had to overpay to replace him – if they even could. Instead, ownership made the necessarily financial commitment.
 
4. The Chiefs defense can play and rush the passer — In this era of wide open passing attacks, absolutely nothing counteracts that better than a strong, fierce pass rush. It is the ultimate weapon to disrupt the timing of even the best quarterbacks in the NFL. The Chiefs, it turns out, can rush the passer. They had 27 sacks last season, but already have 31 in 2013 after a 10-sack performance against the Oakland Raiders. And a defense that ranked 25th in the NFL last season is now fifth in the NFL under former Jets defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and they’re giving up a league-low 10.8 points per game. In their 3-4 defense — and a tip of the hat to Reid for sticking with the 3-4 instead of his favored 4-3 — linebackers Justin Houston (9 ½ sacks) and Tamba Hali (7 ½) have already combined for 17 sacks this season and nose tackle Dontari Poe has 4 ½. They have a very effective inside-outside punch.
 
5. The players are happier — Don’t underestimate that fact. Several NFL agents insist there was a lot of mistrust and misery under the previous regime, though it’s possible that had a lot to do with the losing and not necessarily former GM Scott Pioli and his head coaches. Whatever the reason, the atmosphere in Kansas City had soured and a fresh start was necessary. New GM John Dorsey seems to be popular and there was an immediate respect among everyone for Reid. Of course, the 6-0 start has helped, too.
 
— By Ralph Vacchiano, @RVacchianoNYDN
Teaser:
5 Reasons the Kansas City Chiefs Could Win It All
Post date: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 - 15:00
Path: /mlb/alcs-game-4-preview-boston-detroit
Body:

American League Championship Series – Game 4
Boston at Detroit
8:07 ET Fox
Jake Peavy (12-5, 4.17) vs. Doug Fister (14-9, 3.67)


With a win yesterday, the Red Sox have assured themselves that in order for the Tigers to advance to the World Series, they must take this series back to Boston. The Tigers must feel as if both Games 4 and 5 in Detroit are must-wins. Pitching has certainly ruled the day in this series, and with Doug Fister and Jake Peavy toeing the rubber tonight, that won’t likely change.

Keys for Detroit
Fister must go at least six innings in order to keep the pressure off the bullpen. The Tigers won three of his final five starts, while getting shut out in one loss and scoring just two runs in the other. Run support has been scarce against the Red Sox, so Fister can’t expect much help. For the Tigers, tonight would be a terrific time for Prince Fielder to find his groove. The big first baseman, sandwiched between Miguel Cabrera and the Victor Martinez-Jhonny Peralta combo, may hold the key to Detroit’s offense exploding.

Keys for Boston
Can Boston continue to win with a termite-infested bat rack? At some point, the Red Sox have to start hitting in order to win the series. Peavy must stick with the pitching game plan that has been so successful to this point. Manager John Farrell is confident going to his pen early, so Peavy can attack with his complete arsenal early in the game.

Tigers to Watch
Fister will try to continue the Tigers’ dominance over Boston hitters, and he has had mixed results this season. In a June start at home, the righthander couldn’t get out of the fourth inning before giving up 11 hits and six runs in a loss. Then in September at Fenway Park, he tossed seven shutout innings in a win. Cabrera has three home runs among his 13 hits in 45 at-bats off of Peavy.

Red Sox to Watch
Peavy hasn’t faced the Tigers since he was dealt to Boston, but his final start as a member of the White Sox came against Detroit. He threw seven strong innings allowing just four hits and two walks, but he surrendered four runs all coming off the three home runs he gave up. Cabrera was not in the lineup that day. Jacoby Ellsbury has had good success reaching base off Fister (.545 OBP). Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is 5-for-11 (.455) off of Fister with two doubles and a homer. In an even smaller sample, Shane Victorino is 4-for-5 with a home run, and an HBP, of course.

Key Stats
In the 2000s, the Red Sox are now 16-15 in ALCS games. The Tigers are now 11-6…The Red Sox have yet to score in the first five innings…There have been 35 hits and 68 strikeouts in this series…The Red Sox have 12 hits, 10 walks and 43 punchouts…Detroit’s Peralta and Martinez are batting a combined .391…Their teammates are hitting .177…The Tigers have lost two of Justin Verlander’s three starts this postseason, despite his 0.565 WHIP and 0.39 ERA over 23 innings.

Teaser:
Both Boston and Detroit are looking to get their offense going in ALCS.
Post date: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 - 14:13
Path: /nascar/fantasy-nascar-picks-talladega
Body:

To help guide you through the 2013 Fantasy NASCAR season, Athlon Sports contributor Geoffrey Miller will be offering his best predictions for each race. And because Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game is arguably the most popular, he’ll break down the picks according to its Sprint Cup Series driver classes — A-List, B-List, C-List. The main picks are designed to make optimal use of Yahoo!’s nine-start maximum rule over the course of the season. The “also consider” section ranks unmentioned drivers strictly by expected result without consideration of start limitations.


Next: Camping World RV Sales 500 (Talladega Superspeedway)
Race: 500 miles, 188 laps (2.66-mile Tri-oval)
May 2013 Winner: David Ragan


A-List (Pick two, start one)
Matt Kenseth

Ah, Talladega Superspeedway, the home of the much-anticipated unofficial wild card round destined to shuffle the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup. That's what most fans are hoping for after the sterling start to the Chase by Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson, right?

While the shake up could most certainly happen thanks to the very nature of restrictor plate racing, know this: in 2013's three previous restrictor plate races, Kenseth and Johnson have combined to lead 65 percent of the laps. Things look particularly good for Kenseth as the points leader. He boasts the best average Talladega running position (14.1) and highest percentage of laps in the top 15 (65.2) of A-List drivers.

Brad Keselowski  Brad Keselowski
Brad Keselowski has just over half the starts of most A-List drivers in NASCAR's loop data era (stretching 17 races to 2005), so his results are slightly more skewed to the positive. There's no getting around the fact, however, that Keselowski is a two-time Talladega winner and has been in the right position to finish worse than 15th only once since his 2009 walk-off debut.

Keselowski is also one of just three A-List drivers to finish every lap of restrictor plate racing in 2013 (553 laps), earning him the third-best average finish among the group. Only June winner David Ragan has a better career lead lap finish average (.846) at Talladega than Keselowski (.778).

Also consider: Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer


B-List (Pick four, start two)
Martin Truex Jr.  Martin Truex Jr. and Marcos Ambrose

Martin Truex Jr. has finished less than half of his last 17 starts at Talladega. He's led in the same amount. Why, then, would Truex might have an edge in Sunday's four-hour festival of race-car gambling? Easy: No other driver in the B-List has raced more laps inside the top 15 in 2013. That's important because of how the current rules package tends to boost the importance of track position.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
If this were 2004 or so, the fantasy preview of Talladega would simply have Dale Earnhardt Jr. listed repeatedly. In that period, you just knew Earnhardt was going to fare well. But now, Earnhardt is in his ninth year of a Talladega win drought (his last one came in Oct. 2004) and not the threat he once was on restrictor plate tracks. The good news for Earnhardt as he tries to snap that streak is the fact that he's just behind Truex in total top-15 laps in 2013 (66.9 percent) and boasts an average restrictor plate finish this season of ninth. Only teammate Johnson has been better at the checkered flag — but that's no surprise, right?

Greg Biffle
The Biff has never won at Talladega and scored the only restrictor plate win of his career during a finish based on fuel mileage at Daytona in 2003. Biffle, though, might be a worthy start based on recent Talladega consistency. While he did finish 36th in the May race, the poor run snapped Biffle's run of nine races with a finish of 19th or better — including five top-10 finishes. He's also the B-List leader in average finish of the last 11 races.

Marcos Ambrose
Undoubtedly, Talladega will serve as a wasted start for someone in the B-List. Crashes happen, engines blow and unrecoverable losses of position in the final laps of a race can destroy even the best days. Knowing that, riding in to Sunday with Marcos Ambrose as a starter could prove beneficial. He's one of just eight drivers to finish every restrictor plate lap this season and had a car capable of winning at Daytona in July before he was sideswiped and crashed by Jimmie Johnson. At the best, you'll score an expectedly good finish. At the worst, you'll expend a start on a driver you don't need for the final races of 2013.

Also consider: Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton


C-List (Pick two, start one)
Michael Waltrip

Embattled Sprint Cup team owner Michael Waltrip returns to the seat in Sunday's race in the No. 55 Toyota that he's already had moderate success driving in the first three restrictor plate races in 2013. Waltrip is one of three C-List drivers (with Bobby Labonte and Scott Speed) to finish every lap in those races this year, and he's certainly fared the best. Waltrip was 22nd in the Daytona 500, fourth at Talladega in May and fifth in the summer Daytona race. Sunday's race will be his 106th start on restrictor plate tracks and there's little question that he'll be in play to record his 32nd top-10 finish at Daytona and Talladega — just as long as he doesn't notch his 25th career DNF.

David Ragan
Thanks to a late dash to the lead after restarting near 10th in the spring, Ragan shocked the NASCAR world by winning in his Front Row Racing No. 38 Ford after leading just four laps. Unexpectedly, it marked the third consecutive top-10 finish for Ragan and the FRR team at Talladega. Credit some luck for the finish, sure, but also credit Ragan's ability to finish on the lead lap at the track. In 13 starts, he's done so 11 times. Finishing consistency like that at an unpredictable track can lead to positive results. For Ragan, it did.

Also consider: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Danica Patrick


Follow Geoffrey Miller on Twitter: @GeoffreyMiller
Photos by Action Sports, Inc.
 

Teaser:
Geoffrey Miller breaks down the best Fantasy NASCAR picks for the Camping World RV Sales 500 in Talladega.
Post date: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 - 12:16
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-october-16
Body:

Counting down the days until Clemson-Florida State.

Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)

College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Wednesday, October 16th

Maryland linebacker Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil is out for the rest of the season.

The Sporting News takes a look at the 10 best moments of the BCS era. And a look at the unbeatens so far this year.

Saturday Down South takes a look back at what happened in the SEC during Week 7.

Check out this Alabama Volkswagen Beetle...is it street legal? 

Oklahoma receiver Trey Metoyer has been suspended indefinitely after being charged with two felony counts.

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson has the support of his athletic director.

The Tennessee-Virginia Tech game at Bristol Motor Speedway could equal a lot of cash for both teams.

Will Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota enter the NFL Draft this spring? He won't talk about it until after the season.

Is former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith a candidate at USC?

Arkansas defensive tackle Robert Thomas is out for the rest of the year with a leg injury.

Lost Lettermen has a good read on Michigan and whether the Wolverines are truly "back."

When will Missouri quarterback James Franklin return to the lineup?

A good story on the ACL rehab of Virginia Tech cornerback Antone Exum.

Who is the favorite in the Big Ten Legends Division?

Oklahoma defensive tackle Jordan Phillips is out for the rest of the year with a back injury.

TCU quarterback Casey Pachall is getting closer to a return to action after suffering a broken arm earlier this year.


Rutgers cornerback Ian Thomas (a starter) has quit the team to play baseball. 

Michigan is considering more changes for its struggling offensive line.

A film review of Florida State QB Jameis Winston's passing plays this season.

How did Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and his staff grade in evaluations? 

New Mexico is dealing with some injuries at quarterback.

Boston College running back Andre Williams was highlighted for his performance against Army.

Texas A&M and Arizona State are in discussions to play a game in Houston in 2015.

Teaser:
College Football's Link Roundup: October 16
Post date: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 - 11:51

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