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Tennessee scored a huge upset victory over South Carolina on Saturday, and freshman receiver Marquez North made a couple of crazy catches to help the offense keep the chains moving throughout the game.

North delivered with his most important catch of the day with just under three minutes remaining, as Tennessee needed to convert a third and 10 with the game on the line. Despite a heavy pass rush, quarterback Justin Worley tossed a perfect pass to North on the sideline, which the freshman reeled in with a nifty one-handed grab.

Teaser:
Tennessee WR MarQuez North Makes Clutch One-Handed Catch Against South Carolina
Post date: Saturday, October 19, 2013 - 17:07
Path: /college-football/florida-state-seminoles-vs-clemson-tigers-2013-game-preview-and-prediction
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The ACC is home to college football’s premier matchup for Week 8, as Florida State travels to Clemson for a huge conference showdown with national title implications. With both teams ranked inside of the top five in the latest Associated Press poll, this matchup could be the biggest in the history of the ACC. Prior to Saturday’s game, only three times have two ACC teams met when they were ranked among the top five nationally in the Associated Press poll.

Last season’s meeting between these two schools decided the Atlantic Division champion, and the winner of this game should decide who represents the division in Charlotte this December. But the stakes on Saturday night aren’t limited to just team goals. Quarterbacks Tajh Boyd (Clemson) and Jameis Winston (Florida State) are squarely in the Heisman mix, and both players can inch closer to Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel for the No. 1 spot in the early straw polls.

Most of the pregame hype will focus on this year’s matchup, but there’s an underlying theme of program trajectory at work. With a senior quarterback (Boyd), a receiver likely to leave for the NFL (Watkins), and an offensive coordinator (Chad Morris) expected to be in the mix for head coach jobs this offseason, this is Clemson’s best shot to play for the national title, at least for the next couple of seasons. For Florida State, one could argue the program is slightly ahead of schedule. The Seminoles had quite a bit of roster turnover in the offseason, so most expected 2013 would be a rebuilding year, with an eye on 2014. However, Florida State hasn’t suffered a setback this season and is clearly one of the top-10 teams in the nation.  

This annual Atlantic Division matchup has blossomed into one of the ACC’s best rivalries. Florida State has won three out of the last five, but Clemson has claimed five in a row in Death Valley. The last time the Seminoles won at Clemson was 2001. Florida State won last year’s contest 49-37, but two out of the last three meetings in this series have been decided by five points or less.

Florida State at Clemson

Kickoff: 8 ET
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Florida State -3

Three Things to Watch

Florida State’s Offensive Line vs. Clemson’s Defensive Line
A classic battle in the trenches is shaping up on Saturday night. Florida State’s offensive line returned four starters this season and has allowed just nine sacks through six games. Clemson’s defensive front is aggressive, as evidenced by its 61 tackles for a loss, which ranks No. 1 nationally. The Tigers rank second nationally in sacks, recording 24 through six contests. End Vic Beasley is the headliner, recording 12 tackles for a loss and nine sacks, as well as a touchdown on a fumble recovery. But Clemson’s defensive line isn’t just limited to Beasley. Tackle Grady Jarrett is an underrated player, and there’s depth at end with junior Corey Crawford and freshman Shaq Lawson. There’s no easy way to slow down Florida State’s offense with Jameis Winston at the helm. However, getting pressure on Winston is crucial, as he is capable of scrambling and hitting big plays downfield when things break down in the pocket. If the Tigers don’t get to Winston, he will hit big plays in the passing game. Coordinator Brent Venables and coach Dabo Swinney have to be concerned about their secondary, especially after Garry Peters was ruled out for this week's game with a foot injury.

Clemson’s Other Playmakers
It’s no secret Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins is one of the best in the nation. But what about Clemson’s No. 2 and No. 3 options? Florida State’s pass defense has allowed only four passing plays of 30 yards or more, which is tied for third nationally. The Seminoles have allowed only six passing scores, and opposing quarterbacks are completing just 53.5 percent of their throws against this defense. Even with the departure of cornerback Xavier Rhodes to the NFL, this unit hasn’t missed a beat. Senior Lamarcus Joyner is the headliner, and freshman Jalen Ramsey is having a standout season, but sophomore P.J. Williams and senior safety Terrence Brooks also deserve plenty of credit for the performance of the secondary. Considering Florida State will devote some extra attention on Watkins, Clemson needs big performances from receivers Adam Humphries and Martavis Bryant. Humphries ranks second on the team in receptions (24), and while Bryant has been inconsistent at times, he’s a big play waiting to happen (18.6 ypc). Watkins will have his opportunities to make plays, but will Bryant and Humphries deliver? 

The Quarterback Duel
It’s a little obvious, but we’d be remiss if we don’t highlight the duel between Clemson’s Tajh Boyd and Florida State’s Jameis Winston. If you were to make a list of the top 10-20 players in the nation so far, both Boyd and Winston should be on it. Winston doesn’t have an All-American at receiver, but the freshman might have a deeper overall group than Boyd. Kenny Shaw, Rashad Greene and Kelvin Benjamin are averaging at least 17 yards per catch, while tight end Nick O’Leary has five touchdown grabs. Boyd is completing 66.5 percent of his throws and has tossed only two picks in 185 attempts. The senior was sharp against Georgia, completing 18 of 30 passes for 270 yards and three scores. An underrated part of Boyd’s game is his mobility, especially in short-yardage situations. Through six games, Boyd has five touchdowns and 187 yards on 66 attempts. As with any big game, mistakes will be magnified. Which quarterback will blink? Or will both players play a mistake-free game? Either way, the stage is set for one of the best quarterback duels in college football for 2013.

Key Players: Roderick McDowell, RB, Clemson/Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State
We usually focus on one player in this section, but this week, let’s highlight the running backs for both teams. Clemson’s Roderick McDowell has only one 100-yard effort (Georgia) but averages 4.9 yards per attempt. Freeman leads Florida State with 54 attempts and 385 yards, but Karlos Williams and James Wilder Jr. will contribute. Freeman is an underrated pass blocker, and Wilder Jr. should be ready for a bigger role after dealing with a shoulder injury earlier this year. Both teams have been susceptible to the run at times. Can McDowell or Freeman get on track on Saturday night? If they can, it could be the difference in the game.

Final Analysis

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: This game should live up to the hype. Clemson and Florida State are two of the nation’s top-10 teams, and there’s very little separation between these two programs right now. And despite the small gap between these two teams, the loser of this game is likely done in terms of national title aspirations.

Both offenses will have their share of highlights, with quarterbacks Tajh Boyd and Jameis Winston making a handful of huge plays. But which defense will make the play that turns the game? Clemson’s pass rush has been better, and the Tigers have forced more turnovers than Florida State (15 to 7).

On paper, Florida State is the better team. However, homefield advantage and the aggressive front four on defense is the difference for Clemson.

Prediction: Clemson 38, Florida State 34

Teaser:
Florida State Seminoles vs. Clemson Tigers 2013 Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Saturday, October 19, 2013 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-fighting-irish-vs-usc-trojans-2013-game-preview-and-prediction
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The Notre Dame Fighting Irish and USC Trojans renew their rivalry amidst disappointing seasons for both programs. Both teams are 4-2, yet expectations were bigger for two teams full of talented players. They will face off on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend on NBC.

The Trojans appeared rejuvenated last week under interim head coach Ed Orgeron, earning a 38-31 victory over Arizona. It's the 85th meeting in the series, with the Irish holding a 44-35-5 edge, including wins in two of the past three games. Last season, the Irish completed a perfect regular season with a 22-13 victory against the Matt Barkley-less Trojans in the Coliseum.

Three Things to Watch

Tre Madden & Company vs. McDaniel-Atkinson III

Both teams like to run the football and both do it well. The Trojans boast a four-headed monster of Madden, Justin Davis, Javorius Allen and Silas Redd. Madden leads the team with 611 yards, while Davis has six touchdowns and Allen averages 5.8 yards per carry. The four backs average a staggering 5.6 yards per carry. Notre Dame's running backs are no slouches either. Atkinson has been a home run threat for the Irish. He has a game-breaking 80-yard touchdown against Oklahoma, a game in which he rushed for 148 yards on 14 carries. Cam McDaniel is the Irish's tough, inside runner. He piled up 82 rushing yards against Arizona State, picking up key first downs all along the way. Whatever rushing attack can dictate tempo and keep pressure of their inconsistent quarterbacks will likely see their team come out victorious.

Health of Marqise Lee and Morgan Breslin

USC was without its best offensive and defensive player last week, as Lee missed due to a knee injury and Breslin sat out due to a hip problem. Both remain questionable for this week, but if they can play, it would be a huge boost for the Trojans. Lee will be able to give Cody Kessler an option opposite Nelson Agholor against a questionable Irish secondary. Breslin is the Trojans' best pass rusher and a key presence to get consistent pressure versus a tough Irish offensive line.

Kessler or Rees?

Both quarterbacks weren't the first option for these programs in the offseason; however, both have been forced into significant action this season. Kessler finally edged out Max Wittek a few weeks into the season, while Rees is playing because of the suspension of Everett Golson. Both quarterbacks have had their troubles with turnovers; however, each has played well at times. Kessler threw for a season-high 297 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. USC will try to lean on its strong running game, which averages five yards a rush, but could struggle against Notre Dame's stingy front seven. This is a major reason that opposing teams throw the ball 57 percent of plays against Notre Dame. If this is the case, Kessler could be asked to make more plays than usual. Rees has been the definition of inconsistent as he has three games with a combined six interceptions and three games without any. He must protect the ball for Notre Dame to stay in control of this game.

Key Players: TJ Jones and Davaris Daniels, WR, Notre Dame

With all the talk about USC's wide receivers, many forgot the talented corps that Notre Dame has. Jones has 33 catches for 481 yards and four touchdowns, while Daniels has 25 catches for 385 yards and four touchdowns. Both are big play threats as Jones averages 14.6 yards per catch and Daniels averages 15.4 yards per reception. Jones is coming off an eight-catch 135-yard game against Arizona State in which he caught an eight-yard touchdown.

Final Analysis:

Even though USC looked much more loose under Ed Orgeron, they aren't as complete a team as the fighting Irish. The Irish have all the skill players the Trojans do, but Notre Dame also has a talented front seven on defense led by Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix. I think Notre Dame stuffs the USC running game and forces Kessler to beat them, which is bad news for Trojans fans.

Prediction: Notre Dame 24, USC 17

Teaser:
Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. USC Trojans Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Saturday, October 19, 2013 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/texas-am-aggies-vs-auburn-tigers-game-preview-and-prediction
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Coming off a last-second 41-38 victory at Ole Miss, the Aggies return to College Station for a four-game home stand. Surprisingly, Auburn has the same record (5-1, 2-1 SEC) as Texas A&M, as the Tigers' program has been reborn under first-year coach Gus Malzahn. The Tigers lost to No. 6 LSU but picked up SEC West wins against Ole Miss and Mississippi State. The teams will be fighting for third place in the West, behind Alabama and LSU.

Three Things to Watch

Return of Auburn QB Nick Marshall

The junior quarterback sat out Auburn's 62-3 blowout of Western Carolina last Saturday due to a knee injury suffered a week earlier against Ole Miss. Marshall struggled with consistency and turnovers in his first four games; however, he played his best against Ole Miss. Marshall finished that day with two rushing touchdowns, 238 yards of offense on his own and avoided any turnovers. Marshall has been the x-factor for Auburn's renaissance season, and his dual-threat abilities will keep the Aggies' defense off guard.

Texas A&M receivers

This is one of the deepest and most physically talented receiving corps in the nation. It all starts with 6'5" Mike Evans, a matchup nightmare for every defensive back in the country. He has five touchdowns and 737 yards and averages an SEC-best 23 yards per reception. He is joined by Malcome Kennedy, Derel Walker and Sabian Holmes. Kennedy ranks second among A&M wide receivers in both touchdowns (four) and receptions (30) and third in receiving yards (331). Auburn's defense has been rather suspect, allowing 445.8 passing yards per game.

Auburn's three-headed rushing attack

This is the nation's seventh-ranked rushing offense, averaging 287 yards per game on the ground. Three running backs see time, and quarterback Nick Marshall also adds a running dimension. Auburn ran for 511 yards on 43 carries and had 30 first downs last week against Western Carolina. The Tigers also run the ball well against top competition, averaging 210 rushing yards per game in SEC contests. Tre Mason is the Tigers' lead back, rushing for 515 yards and seven touchdowns. The change-of-pace backs are Cameron Artis-Payne, who has 389 yards and three touchdowns, and Corey Grant, who averages 10 yards per carry and has three touchdowns. All of these backs are quick and explosive, all having rushes of over fifty yards on the season.

Key Player: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

Is this really a surprise? The reigning Heisman winner hasn't slowed down in his redshirt sophomore campaign. He has combined for over 2,200 all-purpose yards and 19 touchdowns, completing an impressive 73 percent of his passes while averaging 6.5 yards per rush. Manziel broke out in the ground game last week, rushing for 124 yards and two touchdowns against the Rebels. If Auburn wants to win, it has to stop one of the nation's best players.

Final Analysis:

This will be an absolute track meet. Expect a shootout for two of the most explosive offenses in the nation. Auburn has a chance in this game solely from their outstanding rushing game. If the TIgers control the clock and keep Manziel off the field, Auburn could pull an upset. Texas A&M's defense struggled mightily against the Ole Miss offense giving up 38 points and stopping the run has been an issue all season. If the Aggies had problems with the Rebels, they will likely find the Tigers, who defeated Ole Miss earlier this year, to be a tough opponent as well. Ultimately, I'll stick with the team that has the best player on the field.

Prediction: Texas A&M 38, Auburn, 27

Teaser:
Texas A&M Aggies vs. Auburn Tigers Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Saturday, October 19, 2013 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/florida-gators-vs-missouri-tigers-game-preview-and-prediction
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Seven weeks into the season, the road to Atlanta runs through Columbia, Missouri. The Tigers are off to a 6-0 start with impressive conference wins on the road against Vanderbilt and Georgia. But Missouri's SEC title hopes were dealt a serious blow last week when quarterback James Franklin separated his shoulder. Franklin, having a career year for the Tigers, will be out three to five weeks. Gary Pinkel needs a big game from backup quarterback Maty Mauk, while Florida looks to put themselves back at the top of the SEC East despite dealing with a handful of season ending injuries. Just this year, the Gators have lost Jeff Driskel, Dominique Easley, Matt Jones, Andre Debose and Chaz Green for the season. This conference matchup pits two of the nation's most productive defenses against a pair of unknown signal callers.

3 Things to Watch

Inexperienced Quarterbacks

Redshirt freshman Maty Mauk gets the call for the undefeated Tigers. Mauk was a Parade All-American in high school where he broke national prep records in passing yards, touchdown passes, completions and total offense. Last week, he led two touchdown drives to hold off the Bulldogs’ comeback bid and win 41-26. Mauk will try to keep things going for an offense that averages 45.7 points and 515.7 yards per game. The freshman certainly has plenty of weapons surrounding him with the trio of L'Damian Washington, Marcus Lucas and Dorial Green-Beckham catching passes and Henry Josey running the ball. The Gators know how Missouri felt as they also lost their starting quarterback earlier this year. Jeff Driskel was lost for the season against Tennessee, and junior Tyler Murphy has started the last three games for Florida. Murphy looked good in his starts against Kentucky and Arkansas, completing 78 percent of his passes for 396 yards and four touchdowns. However, he struggled against LSU. He was sacked four times and threw for just 115 yards. Florida has called 274 rushing plays and only 143 pass attempts this year. They will look to build upon their NCAA-leading time of possession at over 37 minutes per game. 

Florida’s rushing offense vs. Missouri’s run defense

The big news out of Gainesville this week was the loss of their second leading rusher, as halfback Matt Jones has been ruled out for the season after suffering a knee injury against LSU. The Gators ground-and-pound mentality will not change; however, as the Tigers can expect a large dose of junior Mack Brown and freshman Kelvin Taylor (son of former Gator Fred Taylor). Missouri may be up for the challenge, as the Tigers rank third in the SEC against the run, allowing fewer than 130 yards per game. Florida's game plan will be to take the pressure off of Murphy by relying on their running game and extremely strong defense. The Gators will try to make this game a slugfest.

Turnovers

One would think that Florida, with its collection of ball hawks in the secondary, would be near the top of interception rankings; however, Missouri actually leads the country with 13 interceptions. In fact, Missouri has created at least one turnover in 36 consecutive games. The Gators are no slouches either, with eight interceptions thus far. Cornerbacks Loucheiz Purifoy and Vernon Hargreaves III form one of the best duos in the entire country and will look to feast off the mistakes of an unproven quarterback. Florida's defense is perhaps the best in the entire country, allowing just 13 points per game. The Gators still have not allowed a passing touchdown in 2013. Florida hasn’t given up more than 24 points in a Southeastern Conference matchup in more than two years, a span of 16 games. In fact, only three opponents have even reached 20 points, and none since Tennessee on Sept. 15, 2012. Look for a big turnover in the second half to swing momentum and ultimately decide the outcome of this game.

Key Player: Michael Sam, DE, Missouri

A big reason for Missouri's high turnover rate is the play of Sam. The senior leads the SEC in sacks with six and tackles for loss. For his stellar play, Sam has earned back-to-back SEC Defensive Line Player of the Week awards.

Final Analysis:

This game will be a sloppy affair. Don't expect any high-flying offensive numbers to be showcased in this one. Florida's offense is struggling and its defense is spectacular. Missouri, on the other hand, has a good offense, but will be handcuffed with the loss of Franklin. I think Florida eeks out an ugly win in this defense struggle.

Prediction: Florida 15, Missouri 13

Teaser:
Florida Gators vs. Missouri Tigers Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Saturday, October 19, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /nascar/treacherous-talladega-awaits-drivers-nascar-chase-leaders
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1. Is riding at the back really Talladega’s key to success?  Jeff Gordon
Jeff Gordon won the fall 2007 race at Talladega Superspeedway in a way that has seemed to permanently skew impressions of restrictor plate racing. Leading just one lap, Gordon stormed from the back in the final laps — he averaged a running position of 28th throughout the day — to score the win.

The idea of riding at the back and charging at the end of a race at Daytona or Talladega wasn’t new then, but the fact that Gordon worked the system to such success lent even more credence that a successful strategy involves racing at half-throttle for 450 miles to stay out of the inherently dangerous lead pack.

Statistics don’t bear that assumption to fact at Talladega.

Since Gordon’s 2007 win — it was his most recent at the track — just one of the 11 race winners have averaged a running position lower than 20th. Only three of have led less than 10 laps.

In fact, the average winner in those 11 races has led 16 laps while averaging an on-track position of 13th. What’s that mean? Talladega seems to produce winners who race up front for periods and are otherwise struggling to get a footing right squarely in the middle of the pack. Expect more of the same Sunday.


2. David Ragan, other underdogs have last best shot of 2013
David Ragan was an outlier in the recent trend of Talladega race winners. He ran around 20th most of the day in the spring race and led just four laps before taking the surprising win.

It was the perfect outcome for his Front Row Racing team as teammate David Gilliland finished right behind him in one of the four races each year where just about anyone with a decent car can snatch a win. You can bet underdog drivers just like Ragan and Gilliland have circled Sunday’s race as their chance to shine.

Using 2013 as a barometer, Marcos Ambrose may just be in contention for an unexpected win. In July at Daytona, Ambrose was racing side-by-side for the lead with Jimmie Johnson before contact on the backstretch sent the No. 9 spinning with three laps left.

Others include Michael Waltrip, rounding out his four-race restrictor plate schedule this year, who has two top-5 finishes at Daytona and Talladega this season and was battling for the lead when he was blocked by Tony Stewart on the last lap a year ago. Jamie McMurray hasn’t won since 2010 but has three career restrictor plate wins to his credit. Even Casey Mears, boosted by a top 10 at Daytona in July, may have a chance.


3. Chase shake-up not such a given  Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson
Sunday’s race has been penciled as the last great hope for fans with drivers desperately trying to catch Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. They’ve been simply too consistent on NASCAR’s “normal” tracks to think the Homestead-Miami Speedway finale will be anything but a Matt and Jimmie winner-take-all cagematch.

But what’s the reality of those two either suffering trouble or getting soundly beat at Talladega? Not much, judging by their performance on restrictor plate tracks this season.

Together, Kenseth and Johnson have combined to lead more than 65 percent of the 553 laps turned at Daytona and Talladega this year. Johnson has led more laps and has two wins (both at Daytona), but Kenseth led 142 laps in the spring Talladega race and would have been a player at the finish of the Daytona 500 until he blew an engine after leading 86 of the first 149 laps.

Of course, it only takes one bad move or one unavoidable crash to toss the Chase into chaos. But without that turn of events, Kenseth and Johnson should be factors at the finish.


4. Todd Parrott substance abuse suspension leaves questions about Kvapil discipline
NASCAR suspended Todd Parrott, the longtime NASCAR crew chief now working with Aric Almirola’s No. 43 Ford, for an indefinite period Thursday after he failed a recent drug test. The cause of his suspension wasn’t detailed and it’s safe to assume he’ll be back to the Richard Petty Motorsports operation after a long period that will include an abuse and counseling program.

But just a week after the sport let a Sprint Cup driver stay in the seat after an arrest for domestic violence, the penalty structure seems awkward.

NASCAR has rightfully enacted a zero tolerance policy on substance abuse. Just last year, it snared AJ Allmendinger and cost him a job at Penske Racing thanks to what he claims was a one-time use of an unprescribed prescription drug. Other more grievous offenses — like former driver Jeremy Mayfield testing positive for methamphetamine — have also been revealed by the program.

Yet Kvapil, still facing charges and still yet to issue a denial in a case that alleges he struck his wife, will be in the cockpit again Sunday for BK Racing at Talladega.

The cases aren’t perfectly symmetrical and Kvapil hasn’t been officially convicted of his accused crimes. Still, it feels like NASCAR has a questionable gulf of distance between what offenses are immediately punishable and what isn’t immediately punishable.



5. Single-file racing may dominate parts of Sunday’s raceThe fall event at Talladega comes at a time when the sport’s frontrunners mostly wish it wouldn’t: the central point of the championship race. It’s a chess match of “hoping to avoid trouble” and “be there at the end in the name of scoring points” that are only available when the checkered flag falls.

The result, as the fall race at Talladega has shown a few times in recent seasons, is that drivers can get very content with racing in a single-file manner through the race’s middle portions and until the final pit stop. The result can be frustrating for fans to watch and frustrating for drivers who want to move up.

The physics of Talladega and a high-level of grip in the inside lane can make outside passing tough to pull off.

“When you get single-file at the bottom, sometimes it’s hard to get a lane on the outside with enough good cars to get something going,” said Kyle Busch. “It can be frustrating, at times, because of that.”

For drivers keeping that calm, however, it makes the race a little less hectic.

“If you can be a contender and stay in line on the bottom, you can make it a pretty easy and safe race, “ Busch said. “Normally, guys are not content doing that, so that’s when it starts to get crazy.”

Of course, a late restart — like the one in the spring race — can toss those ideas of easy and safe out the window, too.


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

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Geoffrey Miller highlights the five storylines to watch as the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit visits Talladega Superspeedway for the Camping World RV Sales 500.
Post date: Friday, October 18, 2013 - 13:41
Path: /mlb/nlcs-game-6-preview-series-moves-back-st-louis
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In a rematch of Game 2 pitchers, Michael Wacha of St. Louis and Clayton Kershaw of Los Angeles, it’s difficult to foresee anything more than a good old-fashioned pitchers’ duel. In Game 2, Kershaw pitched around a leadoff triple in the first inning, and Wacha avoided a big inning in the sixth when he struck out Yasiel Puig and Juan Uribe with the bases loaded, preserving the shutout. There will be few scoring opportunities, and the team that capitalizes with a run or two will likely win.

Keys for Los Angeles
Maintaining a one-game-at-a-time approach. There is no tomorrow without a win tonight. Patience at the plate could be key. They must force Wacha to make multiple pitches and not miss what few mistakes he might make.

Keys for St. Louis
Getting back to St. Louis should be a lift for the Redbirds, but having to win just one of two could cause them to lose a sense of urgency, something the Dodgers will have no trouble finding. The Cardinals must also forget losing three straight to San Francisco last season. Again, playing at home this year should give St. Louis an edge it didn’t have in 2012.

Dodgers to Watch
Second baseman Mark Ellis has been under the radar all series. In addition to playing solid defense, he has been gritty at the plate. He singled in the first inning off of Wacha in Game 2 after a seven-pitch at-bat. He saw 15 pitches from the Cardinals’ young righthander in his first three plate appearances, and seems to be locked in on Wacha.

Cardinals to Watch
In the next two games, the Cardinals could really use some production from Matt Adams. The big lefty-swinging first baseman is 2-for-14 off lefthanders in the postseason with no extra-base hits. Lefthanders Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu (if the series goes seven games) will not hesitate to pitch around righthanders in order to make Adams beat them.

Key Stats
There were a scant seven hits total and just one run (unearned) in the entire game when these two pitchers opposed one another in Game 2…In that game, the teams combined to use eight pitchers…The Cardinals were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position, the Dodgers 0-for-6…After going 5-for-10 in the Game 5 loss, the Cardinals now sit at .310 with runners in scoring position in this series…The Dodgers are batting .216 in those situations…In 17 at-bats each in this series, Yadier Molina, David Freese and Andre Ethier have no RBIs.

 

National League Championship Series – Game 6
Los Angeles at St. Louis
8:07 ET TBS
Clayton Kershaw (16-9, 1.83) vs. Michael Wacha (4-1, 2.78)

Teaser:
In a rematch of Game 2 starters, the Cardinals and Dodgers likely will stage another pitchers' duel.
Post date: Friday, October 18, 2013 - 13:02
Path: /nfl/new-england-patriots-vs-new-york-jets-preview-and-prediction-2013
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For the second time in a little more than a month, AFC East rivals will meet when the New England Patriots match up against the New York Jets at 1 p.m. ET Sunday on CBS. The Patriots (5-1) are in first place in the division and riding high following last week’s dramatic win over the Saints, but also are dealing with several key injuries. The Jets (3-3) are hanging tough at .500, but need to rebound after managing just six points in last week’s home to loss to the Steelers.

The Patriots beat the Jets 13-10 in Foxboro back in Week 2 despite Tom Brady throwing for just 185 yards and the offense scoring one touchdown and picking up nine first downs. New York rookie quarterback Geno Smith had three interceptions in that game, all of them coming in the fourth quarter, which spoiled an otherwise impressive performance by the Jets defense.

4 Things to Watch

What Has Geno Learned Since Week 2?
Geno Smith looked and played the part of inexperienced NFL quarterback in his first game against New England back in Week 2. Making just his second career start, Smith completed 15 of 35 passes for 214 yards and tossed three costly interceptions. All of his picks came in the fourth quarter with the Jets trailing by just a field goal. Since then, Smith has gone through the expected highs and lows of being a rookie starting quarterback. He had his first 300-yard game in a win over Buffalo in Week 3, followed by a four-turnover disaster on the road against Tennessee. Smith bounced back in a big way the following week, as he completed all but four of his attempts (16-of-20) and tossed a career-best three touchdowns, as the Jets knocked off the Falcons in their own building on “Monday Night Football.” Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to build on this game, as the Steelers picked the rookie off twice in last week’s 19-6 defeat at home. The Jets not only hung with the Patriots on the road in their first meeting, they may have been able to leave Gillette Stadium with a victory if not for Smith’s late miscues. He has to show that he has learned from these mistakes and play more like he did against the Bills and Falcons if he wants to give his team a chance to win on Sunday.

The Return of Ridley?
Stevan Ridley had a breakthrough 2012 season, finishing seventh in the NFL with 1,263 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns. He got off to a brutal start this season, picking up a total of 174 yards on 47 carries (3.7 ypc) and no touchdowns through the first four games. Ridley missed the Patriots’ Week 5 loss to the Bengals with a knee injury, but returned with a vengeance last week. He was instrumental in the Patriots’ comeback victory against the Saints, finishing the game with 96 yards and two scores on a season-high 20 carries (4.8 ypc). Due to his early-season struggles, Ridley had been ceding carries to LeGarrette Blount. After some early success Blount too has struggled, which kept the door open for Ridley to re-establish himself as the Patriots’ top ball-carrier. With the injuries New England is dealing with to its receiving corps and the uncertainty and confusion surrounding Rob Gronkowski’s playing status, the Patriots need to be able to run the ball to help open things up for Tom Brady. Ridley was the man for the job last season, and if last week’s performance was any indication, he’s ready to handle the load once again.

Patriots Digging Deep on Defense
New England’s defensive depth chart has undergone significant changes in just the past three weeks alone. The first blow came in Week 4 when All-Pro defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, the anchor of the Patriots’ line, was lost for the season after tearing his Achilles. Then last week, came the double-shot of linebacker Jerod Mayo tearing his pectoral muscle and cornerback Aqib Talib injuring his hip in the win over New Orleans. Mayo, the team’s leading tackler and one of the defensive captains, is done for the season, while Talib may not be play on Sunday because of his hip flexor injury. The Patriots have already lost two of their defensive stalwarts and leaders and could be down a third, meaning others on the roster will have to step up. Wilfork, Mayo and Talib rarely left the field, so several Patriot defenders will see increased playing time this week and moving forward, but with that comes additional responsibilities. New England has allowed 341 or more yards of offense in each of its last three games, and it will need sizable contributions from largely untested players if it hopes to reverse that trend.

Quarterbacks Can’t Do It All
Brady truly was “Tom Terrific” in the game-winning drive against New Orleans last week, however, even he knows that he can’t do it all by himself. He needed clutch catches from Julian Edelman to get into the red zone and then one from Kenbrell Thompkins to finish the drive. With Amendola likely to miss this game because of a concussion, and no one knowing what Gronkowski’s status is, the other Patriot pass-catchers will need to do their part. In the first game against the Jets, Brady was 19-of-39 for 185 yards and a touchdown. Edelman led the way with 13 catches for 78 yards, while the rest of the team combined for six grabs (on 21 targets) for 107 yards and a touchdown, a 39-yard hookup with Aaron Dobson. For the Jets, Smith also needs his weapons to make plays for him, especially with Santonio Holmes (hamstring) and Kellen Winslow (suspension) not available. Stephen Hill leads the team with 18 receptions for 300 yards and a touchdown. Fellow wideout Jeremy Kerley has 16 catches and a score and tight end Jeff Cumberland is tied for the team lead with two touchdown receptions. The Patriots’ pass defense may be a little more vulnerable on Sunday with Mayo out and Talib dealing with a hip injury. It’s just a matter of Smith making a good throw and whichever Jet it is on the other end finishing the play.

New England Key Player: Dont’a Hightower, LB
Linebacker and defensive captain Jerod Mayo is done for the season after tearing his pectoral muscle in last week’s win against New Orleans. Hightower, the 25th overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, is expected to take Mayo’s spot on the field and the second-year pro also will wear the communication device in his helmet. A consensus All-American in 2011 as a junior at Alabama, Hightower’s talent is obvious but he has yet to have much of an impact in the NFL. Now, not only will Hightower get more playing time, he also will attempt to fill Mayo’s leadership role in the defensive huddle. The Patriots know what they had in Mayo, a tackle machine whose impact on the field went beyond his statistics. It’s Hightower who now has the opportunity to show why he was a first-round pick two drafts ago.

New York Key Player: Bilal Powell, RB
Since rushing for a season-high 149 yards against Buffalo in Week 3, Powell has gained a total of 134 yards on the ground over his last three games. The Jets are 1-2 in that span, and need more from their leading rusher if they want to beat the Patriots. In the first meeting with New England back in Week 2, Powell had 48 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, while Chris Ivory led the way with 52 yards on 12 attempts. All told, the Jets had 129 yards rushing compared to the Patriots’ 54. Ivory injured his hamstring in Week 3, which caused him to miss one game and allowed Powell the chance to seize the lead back role. Since his return, Ivory has gotten four carries in each of the past two games, which is why Powell needs to lead the way against a Patriots rush defense that is without a pair of Pro Bowlers in defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and linebacker Jerod Mayo.

Final Analysis

The hope for Jets fans is that Geno Smith is not the same quarterback who threw three fourth-quarter interceptions in his first game against the Patriots. One thing that could help Smith in this respect is that he will be facing a short-handed New England defense that could be without its three top players.

However, the Patriots still have a healthy Tom Brady and even though he has yet to play a game with all of his weapons, he has continued to find ways to win. Brady is 18-4 in his career in the regular season against the Jets, with the last loss coming in Sept. 2010. To put it another way, the last time Brady lost to the Jets during the regular season Smith had yet to turn 20 years old and he was in his first season as the starting quarterback at West Virginia.

The Patriots are really hurting, and the Jets’ defense is pretty solid, but there’s a reason Brady has 141 victories in the regular season and three Super Bowl rings. Chalk up another W for the “old” veteran, as Smith’s roller coaster rookie season continues with a few more bumps in the road.

New England 23, New York 17

Teaser:
New England Patriots vs. New York Jets Preview and Prediction 2013
Post date: Friday, October 18, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /nfl/dallas-cowboys-vs-philadelphia-eagles-preview-and-prediction
Body:

The Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles will get together on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on FOX with first place in the NFC East on the line. While their records may be a bit disappointing, the Cowboys and Eagles sit atop their division at 3-3. With the rest of the division struggling mightily, both teams have a huge opportunity to gain a major leg up in the division race. Thus far, the Eagles appear much improved under Chip Kelly as their offense is one of the league's best. They rank second in the NFL in net yards per attempt and first in yards per carry. On the other side, the Cowboys are getting a career year from Tony Romo and Dez Bryant continues to emerge as one of the NFL's most dangerous weapons.

3 Things to Watch

Cowboys Weapons vs. Eagles Secondary
Romo is having perhaps his best season of his career, completing 70.2 percent of his passes for 1,693 yards, 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions. His 108.6 quarterback rating ranks third in the NFL behind only Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers. The Cowboys offense ranks second in the league in points per game (30.5), 11th in passing yards per game (265.0) and 14th in total yards per game (349.8). The Eagles secondary, which ranks 31st in the league in passing yards allowed per game (314.5), will struggle. Cary Williams, Brandon Boykin and Bradley Fletcher haven't been consistent this year, while their safeties are a question mark after Patrick Chung re-injured his shoulder last week. Nate Allen and Earl Wolff will likely start. The combination of Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Terrance Williams should tear up the Eagles. Bryant ranks 14th in the league in receiving yards, with 459, but is tied for third in touchdowns, with six.

No Michael Vick
Many feared that Chip Kelly's offensive system wouldn't work without the versatile Vick. After injuring his hamstring two weeks ago against the Giants, Nick Foles took over and so far, he has shined. Foles was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week after completing 22 of 31 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns, plus rushing for a score in Philadelphia's 31-20 victory at Tampa Bay last Sunday. That followed the second-year quarterback's strong second-half performance after Vick got hurt in Week 5 against the Giants. Foles has done a great job of spreading the ball around, hitting eight different receivers last week. DeSean Jackson has seen a reemergence this year as he is second in the NFL in receiving yards with 589 and has five touchdowns. Since assuming the starting job, Foles has compiled a 127.9 passer rating, while Vick's sits at 90.6. A win over division foe Dallas could signal the start of Foles supplanting Vick as the Eagles' quarterback.

LeSean McCoy versus Dallas front seven
McCoy has already made some defenders look absolutely ridiculous this year with his juking abilities. McCoy leads the NFL in rushing thus far, with 630 yards at a 5.1 yard per carry clip. Dallas gave up 216 yards rushing against the Redskins last week. The Cowboys’ defensive line is extremely thin heading into this contest. Jay Ratliff was just cut, while DeMarcus Ware is likely out with a quadriceps strain. Jason Hatcher and George Selvie have been limited in practice all week and, if they play, will not be at 100 percent. The Eagles will look to exploit a Dallas defense that gives up 4.4 rushing yards per attempt, which ranks them 25th in the league in that category.

Key Players for Philadelphia: Brandon Graham and Trent Cole, DEs
The only way the Eagles are going to stop an onslaught from Tony Romo is if these guys can get to him. Connor Barwin does have three sacks on the season, but the Eagles need another pass rusher to emerge.

Key Player for Dallas: Dez Bryant, WR
Running back DeMarco Murray suffered a sprained MCL Sunday night against Washington and is unlikely to play against the Eagles. His absence hurts a Cowboys rushing attack that already ranks 25th in the NFL at just 84.8 yards per game. Dallas will turn to rookie Joseph Randle, who had 11 carries for 17 yards against the Redskins, and third-year pro Phillip Tanner against a solid Philadelphia run defense. The same can't be said for the Eagles' pass defense, however. The Cowboys' No. 1 wide receiver leads the team in targets (54), catches (34), yards (459) and touchdowns (six). He is averaging 13.5 yards per reception and has 188 yards after the catch (YAC). Bryant has produced all season and Philadelphia has struggled to stop the pass. Sounds like a recipe for success for the Cowboys, provided Bryant does his part.

Final Analysis

The Eagles need to run the ball to win this game, while the Cowboys will certainly be passing. Philadelphia's tempo won't play to a strategy of keeping the opposing offense off the field, so Dallas will have its chances. I don't expect there to be much defense in this game; however, the Cowboys' have a stronger unit. I think an interception by Nick Foles will swing the momentum in this game.

Dallas 34, Philadelphia 24

Teaser:
Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 18, 2013 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-october-18-2013
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Oct. 18.

 

• Halloween's still almost two weeks away, but NFL cheerleaders are already in the spirit of the season.

 

Mike Napoli, Russell Wilson, Nolan Ryan and more from last night.

 

• Leave it to the good people of NASCAR: a milkshake made from beer and bacon courtesy of the Texas Motor Speedway. Combining the best stuff on earth.

 

• Steve Spurrier is a master troller of his rivals, but he saves some of his best work for Tennessee.

 

Cool story about a high school soccer player who lost an arm as a child in war-torn Sierra Leone.

 

Ten people who have been banned from Saturday Night Live for life. You wouldn't like Lorne Michaels when he's angry.

 

• Fire up the Mack truck: Gaping plot holes in sports movies. I'd forgotten about the palm trees in "Teen Wolf", which is set in Nebraska. Takes you right out of an otherwise realistic story.

 

• When most NFL offensive linemen retire, they rapidly exceed 400 pounds and become fused to the couch. Matt Birk is a different story.

 

• Late to this, but Ole Miss coed Shelby Herring was the week's Internet breakout star.

 

• By the numbers: The SEC's best skill players by position at the season's halfway point.

 

• Robert Griffin III thinks he could play Olympic-level ping-pong.  Some youth ping-pong players want RG3 to put his money where his mouth is.

 

• Watch Jason Kidd get his jersey retired by the Nets. Well deserved.

 

 

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, October 18, 2013 - 10:59
Path: /college-football/michigan-nebraska-or-michigan-state-who-wins-legends-division-2013
Body:

At the midpoint of the 2013 college football season, the Big Ten’s Legends Division is still one of the toughest leagues to predict.

Michigan, Nebraska and Michigan State are considered the frontrunners, with Northwestern slightly off the radar with an 0-2 start in conference play.

Nebraska has experienced a roller-coaster ride this season, losing to UCLA 41-21 in early September, which created a firestorm of criticism on coach Bo Pelini. However, an easy schedule has helped the Cornhuskers get back on track, as Nebraska is 5-1 and is back on track to have a top-25 finish in the final polls.

Michigan and Michigan State have also experienced their share of struggles. Michigan barely beat Akron and UConn and lost to Penn State last Saturday. Michigan State’s offense struggled mightily early in the year but has found a spark behind quarterback Connor Cook.

With the first half of the season in the books, let’s turn the page to the second half of 2013. Athlon’s editors debate: Who will win the Legends Division?

Michigan, Nebraska or Michigan State: Who Wins the Legends Division?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
After seven weeks, there’s not much clarity to the Legends Division. Michigan was my preseason pick, but after losing to Penn State, I think the Wolverines will finish out of the top spot. There’s not much separation between Nebraska and Michigan State right now, as both teams suffered a non-conference loss in September and are 2-0 in Big Ten action. Deciding between these two teams is essentially a coin flip, but I give a slight edge to the Cornhuskers. Nebraska has one more tune up (at Minnesota) before its brutal November schedule. All five games in November will be tough for the Cornhuskers, but three – Northwestern, Michigan State and Iowa are all at home. Trips to Michigan and Penn State are winnable. However, playing on the road in the Big Ten is never easy. Even if Nebraska loses two games in conference play and beats Michigan State, that should be enough – provided the Spartans lose once (Michigan or at Northwestern). After a rough showing against UCLA and talk of coach Bo Pelini being on the hot seat, what a turnaround it would be for Nebraska to play for the Big Ten title.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I had Nebraska winning the division in the preseason so I will stick with the Cornhuskers. They avoid Wisconsin and Ohio State altogether this season and get both Northwestern and Michigan State at home. The road trip to Ann Arbor to face Michigan will be brutal, but with the Wolverines already having a conference loss and have remaining games at Michigan State, at Northwestern and Ohio State at home still. So even a loss to Michigan likely won't hurt the Huskers too much. Nebraska's defense has shown marked improvement since entering Big Ten play and Taylor Martinez' turf toe should be close to 100-percent by the time November rolls around and Nebraska is faced with its first tough conference game (Northwestern, Nov. 2). This is one of the quietest one-loss teams in the nation.

Coach Bill Mallory, former head coach of Miami (Ohio), Colorado, Northern Illinois, Indiana and current voting member of the Legends Poll:
Out of those three teams, the one that surprised me recently, was Michigan State.  They have been playing really good defense but struggling on offense.  Against Indiana this past weekend, their young quarterback, Connor Cook, came into his own. I would not count them out of the race to win their division. They played an impressive game and look to be headed towards being the team to beat.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
This is going to be a wild finish, but I’d tend to favor the two teams that are already 2-0 in the division, Nebraska and Michigan State. The Cornhuskers took plenty of criticism for their bad defense early in the season, but Nebraska allowed fewer yards to Illinois and Purdue combined as it did to Wyoming. Purdue’s offense is awful, but Illinois’ is not. Let’s give a little bit of credit here. The Huskers have their injury concerns with Taylor Martinez’s toe and the season-ending injury for offensive lineman Spencer Long. But Ameer Abdullah has proven capable of carrying the Nebraska offense for the time being. Nebraska also has the most beneficial schedule of the four big contenders, facing only Minnesota and Michigan on the road.

Mark Ross
I was a big Northwestern supporter before the season started, but the Wildcats already have two conference losses and a rough November ahead of them. That leaves the Michigan schools and Nebraska. The Wolverines lost last week to Penn State in four overtimes and their season finale with Ohio State puts them at a disadvantage in my opinion. That brings us to the Spartans and Cornhuskers. One team has offensive issues, the other has defensive flaws. Too bad we can't combine them into one squad. That said, as hard as it may be to believe, it looks like Bo Pelini's team is sitting in the catbird's seat here. While the Cornhuskers still have to go to Ann Arbor, they get the Spartans (and the Wildcats) at home. Take care of business in Lincoln and then in University Park, Pa., against Penn State the following week, and Pelini will have plenty to say to all those who were calling for his head earlier this season. Then again, the Spartans could muster up enough offense to win the division, or the Wolverines could put it all together at the right time. Even Northwestern, despite its 0-2 conference mark, isn't completely out of it yet, not with three games in a row in November against the aforementioned trio. The Big Ten may have lost some of its luster this season, but the last month of conference play is shaping up to be, well, legendary.

Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), CollegeFootballTalk.com and Crystal Ball Run
As we reach mid-October the Big Ten Legends Division looks fairly wide open to me, and I do not feel overly confident about any of the options to choose from in this one. With Northwestern having already dug a hole in the division, I don't like their chances with games against Nebraska, Michigan and Michigan State still to come. I think Iowa keeps things interesting but ultimately I expect them to fall back at some point in the race. For me it is a three-team race between Nebraska, Michigan and Michigan State. I have no faith in Michigan State's offense but do believe they have the best defense. Michigan has failed to impress me even before that loss to Penn State. I'm going with my preseason pick in the division, Nebraska, even though I may like their schedule the least.

Road games at Michigan and Penn State could go either way, but I think a split for the Huskers is all they will need out of those two games. Getting Northwestern, Michigan State and Iowa at home will turn out to be pivotal for the Huskers this season and help them maneuver their way to the top of the Big Ten Legends Division.

Teaser:
Nebraska, Michigan or Michigan State: Who Wins the Legends Division?
Post date: Friday, October 18, 2013 - 07:17
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-college-football-week-8-picks
Body:

Like it or not, Las Vegas rarely gets it wrong, so tracking betting lines should always be a big part of each football weekend — even if there are no bets on the line. Whether you condone gambling or not, think of it as becoming a more informed fan.

After a shocking week of action, most gamblers are probably anxious to get back on the field this weekend. Conference play is in full swing and that means less predictability on the whole. So stay away from sucker lines (Baylor -33.5 against Iowa State), reactionary spreads (Arizona State -3 against Washington) and normally unpredictable rivalries (Wisconsin at Illinois).

2013 Record Against the Spread: 22-16-1 (3-2 last week)

Week 8 Picks of the Week:

Florida State (-3) at Clemson
It's too big of a game to avoid. These are two evenly matched teams with even levels of talent, even coaching and equally impressive stars under center. One has a senior quarterback playing at home while the other has a freshman coming into one of the toughest environments in college football. Look for the crowd and Death Valley to play a big role and the Tigers' defensive line to make just enough plays for the Tigers to win outright. The home team has won the last six games between these two so take the points and run. Prediction: Clemson +3

Iowa (+17) at Ohio State
The Hawkeyes and Buckeyes both had an extra week to prepare for this one. Iowa hasn’t won in the Horseshoe since 1991 and has only won one of the last 13 meetings overall. Ohio State is 4-1-1 against the spread this year and should improve that total against a team that will be dramatically outmatched on both sides of the ball. Prediction: Ohio State -17

Georgia (-7.5) at Vanderbilt
Both defenses have been atrocious this fall and both offenses can score points. The Dores have played well at home against Georgia in recent years and are well rested after the bye week. The Bulldogs are 1-4-1 against the spread this year and James Franklin’s bunch is desperate to get an SEC win and avoid an 0-4 SEC start. Look for a potential outright upset. Prediction: Vanderbilt +7.5

Oregon State (-10.5) at Cal
The Bears are 0-5-1 against the spread and Oregon State is coming off an impressive fourth-quarter showing against Washington State. Sean Mannion is the nation’s top passer and should have no issues with a Cal defense that is allowing more than 500 yards per game. The Beavers are undervalued after winning five straight and should easily make it six here. Prediction: Oregon State -10.5

BYU (-9.5) at Houston
The Cougars are unbeaten and have taken care of the ball all season. But Houston has yet to play a team like BYU. This is a physical, powerful team on both sides of the ball and quarterback Taysom Hill is finding his stride of late. These two teams aren't in the same category of talent, coaching or physicality. Take the Cougs on the road. Prediction: BYU -9.5

Auburn (+13) at Texas A&M
Auburn won't win the game as long as No. 2 is playing quarterback for the Aggies, but Guz Malzahn has this Tigers team pointed in the right direction and is poised to make some noise in the SEC West. Texas A&M can't stop anybody on defense and Nick Marshall is back under center for Auburn. Take the over and the Tigers to keep it close all night long — at least, before Johnny Manziel dances around for some sort of game-winning touchdown. Prediction: Auburn +13

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

Top 25 Picks Against the Spread:

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

Top 25 GamesMitch LightBraden GallSteven LassanDavid Fox
Arkansas (+28) at No. 1 Alabama
Wazzu (+39) at No. 2 Oregon
No. 5 Florida St (-3) at No. 3 Clemson
Iowa (+17) at No. 4 Ohio St 
No. 6 LSU (-9) at Ole Miss
No. 24 Auburn (+13) at No. 7 Texas A&M
UCF (+12.5) at No. 7 Louisville
No. 9 UCLA (+6) at No. 13 Stanford
No. 11 South Carolina (-7.5) at Tennessee
Iowa St (+33.5) at No. 12 Baylor
No. 22 Florida (-3) at No. 14 Mizzou
No. 15 Georgia (-7.5) at Vanderbilt
No. 16 Texas Tech (-6) at West Virginia
UNLV (+24.5) at No. 17 Fresno St
No. 18 Oklahoma (-23) at Kansas
No. 20 Washington (+3) at Arizona St
TCU (+8) at No. 21 Oklahoma St
No. 23 N. Illinois (-16) at C. Michigan
No. 25 Wisconsin (-13.5) at Illinois
Last Week:3-137-93-136-10
Year-To-Date:57-52-353-56-350-59-362-47-3

 

Teaser:
Betting Against the Spread: College Football Week 8 Picks
Post date: Friday, October 18, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-post-week-7-award-watch-2013
Body:

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

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



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



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


Davey O’Brien (Top quarterback)
Our leader: Oregon’s Marcus Mariota

Mariota had his Heisman moment in a demolition of the Washington defense last week. Mariota completed a season-high 77.4 percent of his passes and threw for 366 yards and three touchdowns against the Huskies. He has 25 total touchdowns and no turnovers this season
Others: Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Oregon State’s Sean Mannion, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Georgi’a Aaron Murray, Baylor’s Bryce Petty

Doak Walker (Top running back)

Our leader: Washington’s Bishop Sankey
Sankey rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns in a losing effort against Oregon. He leads the nation in 149.8 rushing yards per game.
Others: Western Kentucky’s Antonio Andrews, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk

Biletnikoff (Top wide receiver)

Our leader: Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks
The other end of Sean Mannion’s bid for a Pac-12 passing record, Cooks is tied for the national lead in receptions (63) and leads in receiving yards (944) and touchdown catches (11).

Others: Texas A&M’s Mike Evans, Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews, Colorado’s Paul Richardson, Penn State’s Allen Robinson

Mackey (Top tight end)

Our leader: Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro

Amaro is tied for seventh nationally with 47 receptions this season for 606 yards. He’s a big target, but he only has one touchdown catch this season. Still, no other tight end has more than 28 catches.
Others: North Carolina’s Eric Ebron

Outland (Top interior lineman)

Our leader: Baylor’s Cyril Richardson
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said he’d never seen a team establish the line of scrimmage like Baylor did on the way to scoring 73 points two weeks ago. Richardson is a mauler who could be another high draft pick off the Baylor offensive line.
Others: Oregon’s Hroniss Grasu, Oklahoma’s Gabe Ikard, Michigan’s Taylor Lewan, Georgia Tech’s Shaq Mason, Stanford’s David Yankey

Nagurski/Bednarik (Defensive player of the year)

Our leader: Clemson’s Vic Beasley

Beasley has saved Clemson in a pair of close games this season against Boston College and NC State. With 12 tackles for a loss and nine sacks, Beasley is having the kind of season many envisioned for the defensive end at the other South Carolina school.
Others: UCLA’s Anthony Barr, Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier, Stanford’s Shayne Skov, BYU’s Kyle Van Noy


Lombardi Award (Top lineman or linebacker)

Our leader: Beasley

Others: UCLA’s Vic Beasley, Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun, Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald, Missouri’s Michael Sam, Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier, BYU’s Kyle Van Noy, USC’s Leonard Williams


Butkus (Top linebacker)

Our leader: UCLA’s Anthony Barr
Barr has recorded 10 tackles for a loss, four sacks and four forced fumbles in four games this season. Up next: A two-game road stretch against Stanford and Oregon.
Others: Wisconsin’s Chris Borland, Stanford’s Trent Murphy, Boston College’s Kevin Pierre-Louis, Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier, Stanford’s Shayne Skov


Thorpe (Top defensive back)

Our leader: Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller

Fuller picked up his second interception of the season against North Carolina two weeks ago and continued to be a lockdown corner in the back end of the Hokies’ defense. Fuller helped hold Pittsburgh quarterback Tom Savage to 44.8 percent passing and 187 yards last week.
Others: Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard, Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner, TCU’s Jason Verrett



Lou Groza (Top kicker)

Our leader: Oklahoma’s Michael Hunnicutt
The Sooners’ offense hasn’t been overwhelming, but Hunnicutt has been there to pick up field goals, converting 14 of 15 this season. Hunnicutt has made all nine attempts in the last three games.
Others: Texas Tech’s Ryan Bustin, Maryland’s Brad Craddock, NC State’s Niklas Sade



Ray Guy (Top punter)

Our leader: Miami (Ohio)’s Zac Murphy
Murphy leads the nation at 47.7 yards per kick on 7.3 punts per game.

Others: Ole Miss’ Tyler Campbell, Memphis’ Tom Hornsey, Alabama’s Cody Mandell



Freshman of the year

Our leader: Florida State’s Jameis Winston

Winston is making a legitimate bid for the Heisman after leading a 63-0 rout of Maryland two weeks ago. The redshirt freshman set season highs in yards (393) and touchdown passes (five) on 23-of-32 passing against the Terrapins. The season-defining moment may be this week’s matchup with Clemson.
Others: Pittsburgh’s Tyler Boyd, Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg, Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves III

Coach of the year
Our leader: Missouri’s Gary Pinkel

No one gave Missouri much of a chance this season in the SEC East, but the Tigers upset an injury-ravaged Georgia team to move to 6-0 overall and 2-0 in the league. The Tigers will attempt to navigate the loaded back end of the schedule without quarterback James Franklin for a few weeks.
Others: Baylor’s Art Briles, Northern Illinois’ Rod Carey, Fresno State’s Tim DeRuyter, Tulane’s Curtis Johnson, Washington’s Steve Sarkisian, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, Utah’s Kyle Whittingham



Broyles Award (Top assistant)

Our leader: LSU’s Cam Cameron
Zach Mettenberger didn’t have his best game of the season against Florida, but the LSU quarterback still leads the SEC in pass efficiency and yards per attempt.
Others: Baylor’s Phil Bennett, Utah’s Dennis Erickson, Maryland’s Mike Locksley, Clemson’s Chad Morris, Michigan State’s Pat Narduzzi, Texas’ Greg Robinson, Oklahoma’s Mike Stoops
 

Teaser:
College Football Post-Week 7 Award Watch 2013
Post date: Friday, October 18, 2013 - 07:14
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-arizona-state-preview
Body:


This preview and more on Arizona State and the Pac-12 are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

Arizona State Facts & Figures
Last season: 22-13 (9-9 Pac-12)
Postseason: NIT second round
Coach: Herb Sendek (120-109 at Nebraska)
Pac-12 projection: Fifth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 64
Arizona State has made the NCAA Tournament once in seven years under Herb Sendek. That should change this season.

The Sun Devils have one of the nation’s best players in point guard Jahii Carson, an emerging if inconsistent big man in center Jordan Bachynski and a big-time transfer in shooting guard Jermaine Marshall. ASU also has improved its traditionally weak home non-conference schedule, so the NCAA Tournament selection committee won’t scoff at its RPI.

At this point, Sendek may need an NCAA berth to save his job. Carson is expected to turn pro after this season, leaving a huge void in the program. Simply put, it’s now or not anytime soon for both the Sun Devils and Sendek.

Frontcourt

The Sun Devils desperately need the 7-2 Bachynski to shed his reputation as an enigma and become a potential double-double every time he steps on the floor. There are times when Bachynski is a dominant player; he had a Pac-12-record 120 blocks last season. But there are also times when he disappears; he had only two points and three rebounds against California last year. ASU doesn’t need Bachynski to be a big scorer; Carson will take care of that. But he has to stay on the floor for 30 minutes — which means staying out of foul trouble — and contribute, say, 12 points, seven or eight rebounds and three blocked shots every night.

Junior Jonathan Gilling hit a team-high 84 3-point shots last season, but like Bachynski he also had too many off nights. Given the attention Carson demands from the defense, Gilling should get enough open looks to be a 40 percent shooter from 3-point range rather than the 36.7 percent shooter he was last season. To his credit, Gilling has become a much better rebounder — averaging 6.1 per game — and defender.

The loss of Carrick Felix to the NBA is huge. He was ASU’s best defensive player, its second-leading scorer and in many ways, its leader. The Sun Devils don’t have a ready-made replacement. Michigan State transfer Brandan Kearney is the most likely choice, but he won’t be eligible until the Pac-12 season.

Backcourt

ASU should have one of the strongest backcourts in the Pac-12. Carson, obviously, is the catalyst. He was nothing short of brilliant his freshman year, ranking second in the conference in scoring while racking up 177 assists, the sixth-most for a freshman in Pac-12 history.

Carson, however, does has room to improve. He needs to be more consistent with his 3-point shot — although he has an uncanny knack of making them when they most count — which will prevent defenses from sagging off him as they did at times last year. Also, he almost exclusively goes to his right. If he can go left even on occasion, defenders will have to play him more honestly.

But those are nitpicks. Carson is a legitimate All-America candidate, a potential first-round NBA Draft choice and the reason Sendek will employ a hurry-up offense this season. The coach wants his team to shoot the ball in the first 12 seconds of the shot clock as often as possible.

ASU faced a huge hole at off guard when Evan Gordon unexpectedly transferred but then upgraded the position with the transfer in of Marshall, who averaged 15.3 points per game at Penn State last season. Marshall can shoot the three and get to the basket. He should be the perfect complement to Carson.

There’s not a lot of depth or talent behind Carson and Marshall, so it’s imperative they stay healthy. Shaquielle McKissic, a junior college import, could provide some athleticism in a reserve role, and redshirt freshman Calaen Robinson has a chance to earn some playing time, although Carson likely will play at least 35 minutes per game.

Newcomers

The Sun Devils will have eight new players, including five transfers. Jermaine Marshall is the big get; he’ll start at shooting guard and should be the perfect complement to Carson. Transfers Sai Tummala and Brandan Kearney will vie to replace the departed Carrick Felix at small forward. Kearney won’t be eligible until the Pac-12 season but his defense could give him the edge.

Final analysis
Factoid: 20. It had been 20 years since a Pac-12 freshman averaged at least 18.5 points and 5.1 assists per game. Jahii Carson put up those numbers last season.
Believe it or not, the key isn’t Carson. He’ll undoubtedly be one of the country’s top players and arguably the best player in the Pac-12. But the Sun Devils don’t have a lot of size, making it imperative that Bachynski steps up. If he’s more consistent, and ASU can identity a wing player who can defend, ASU should be one of the top four or five teams in the conference and a strong bet to reach the NCAA Tournament.

Teaser:
College Basketball: 2013-14 Arizona State Preview
Post date: Friday, October 18, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-colorado-preview
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This preview and more on Colorado and the Pac-12 are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

Colorado Facts & Figures
Last season: 21-12 (10-8 Pac-12)
Postseason: NCAA Round of 64
Coach: Tad Boyle (69-38 at Colorado)
Pac-12 projection: Third
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 64
Tad Boyle made history at Colorado the past three years, winning at least 21 games in each of those seasons and taking the Buffs to the postseason three straight times. None of that had been accomplished in the history of the program.

Now, on to the next challenge — keeping all the momentum going. “I think the key is our players,” Boyle says. “They expect to win. They expect to be successful. They expect to go to the postseason. I think our coaches do, and I know our fans are enjoying getting used to it as well.”

Had forward Andre Roberson returned for his senior season instead of jumping to the NBA, the 2013-14 Buffaloes would have been, arguably, the most talented team in school history. Losing Roberson scales back those grand proclamations just a bit, but with another projected NBA first-rounder at point guard in junior Spencer Dinwiddie, a solid nucleus of returning players and another talented recruiting class, this still looks like one of the best CU teams in recent memory.

The Buffs will have an opportunity to prove themselves against a very difficult non-conference schedule. CU will play three top teams from the Big 12 (Kansas at home and Oklahoma State and Baylor in neutral court games) as well as Harvard, Colorado State, Georgia, Wyoming, Air Force and UCSB.

“I love our team coming back,” Boyle says. “We basically have four starters coming back. We lose a pretty key component with Andre, the rebounding and the experience factor, but we have a lot of capable young guys coming in and a couple that were sitting out.”

Frontcourt

Roberson’s 11 points per game won’t be hard to replace, but rebounding is expected to be much more of a collective effort now. Boyle will lean on four players in the paint, with sophomores Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson carrying the biggest expectations into the season.

They might be the second and third best players on the roster behind Dinwiddie. Both enjoyed success as true freshmen and should be able to build on it. Johnson is versatile and will sometimes play more like a guard offensively. Scott has a nice game in the paint and runs the floor well for a big.

Wesley Gordon, a 6-8 redshirt freshman, practiced against Roberson every day last season, and Boyle hopes he learned from the experience. Gordon might be the wild card on the roster because he’s being asked to fill Roberson’s shoes. Freshman Dustin Thomas, a 6-7 forward, will also get minutes.

Backcourt

Dinwiddie is the backbone of this team, and he affects the game in many ways. He led the Buffs in scoring last season at 15.3 points a game and assists with 3.0. He shot 240 free throws and is probably the team’s best defender. Dinwiddie, however, must become a more consistent outside shooter.

“I think he can have a breakout year for us,” Boyle says. “I think he can be one of the premier players in our conference and one of the best guards in the country.”

Fellow junior Askia Booker is fearless. He can get hot and score in bunches, but when his shots aren’t falling, he often becomes a liability. Boyle would like to see improved consistency, shot selection and defense from Booker.

Sophomores Xavier Talton and Eli Stalzer each played a little less than 10 minutes per game last season and will have to fight off freshmen to remain in the rotation.

Redshirt freshman Chris Jenkins, a 6-7 product of the Detroit area, brings length and athleticism off the bench and has a nice shooter’s touch. He could be a starter at some point in the season and send Booker back to the sixth man role in which he excelled two years ago. True freshman Jaron Hopkins will likely serve as Dinwiddie’s backup.

Newcomers

Colorado needs Dustin Thomas to contribute in the frontcourt. Small forward Tre’Shaun Fletcher might have the most scoring ability of the group. Jaron Hopkins will play minutes off the bench at the point.  George King was a late addition to the recruiting class in the spring following Andre Roberson’s departure and is probably the most likely to redshirt.

Final analysis
Factoid: 3. Colorado has had three straight non-losing conference records (one in Big 12, two in Pac-12), its longest such streak since the early 1960s.

The Buffs have the talent, experience and depth — as well as the coaching — to compete with Arizona, UCLA and Oregon for the conference title. Anything short of another NCAA Tournament appearance would be a disappointment at a school that is finally falling in love with its basketball program.

Teaser:
College Basketball: 2013-14 Colorado Preview
Post date: Friday, October 18, 2013 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-post-week-7-award-watch
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The Heisman is but one award, and one award isn’t enough to contain the best of college football.

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



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



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


Davey O’Brien (Top quarterback)
Our leader: Oregon’s Marcus Mariota

Mariota had his Heisman moment in a demolition of the Washington defense last week. Mariota completed a season-high 77.4 percent of his passes and threw for 366 yards and three touchdowns against the Huskies. He has 25 total touchdowns and no turnovers this season
Others: Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Oregon State’s Sean Mannion, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Georgi’a Aaron Murray, Baylor’s Bryce Petty

Doak Walker (Top running back)

Our leader: Washington’s Bishop Sankey
Sankey rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns in a losing effort against Oregon. He leads the nation in 149.8 rushing yards per game.
Others: Western Kentucky’s Antonio Andrews, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk

Biletnikoff (Top wide receiver)

Our leader: Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks
The other end of Sean Mannion’s bid for a Pac-12 passing record, Cooks is tied for the national lead in receptions (63) and leads in receiving yards (944) and touchdown catches (11).

Others: Texas A&M’s Mike Evans, Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews, Colorado’s Paul Richardson, Penn State’s Allen Robinson

Mackey (Top tight end)

Our leader: Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro

Amaro is tied for seventh nationally with 47 receptions this season for 606 yards. He’s a big target, but he only has one touchdown catch this season. Still, no other tight end has more than 28 catches.
Others: North Carolina’s Eric Ebron

Outland (Top interior lineman)

Our leader: Baylor’s Cyril Richardson
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said he’d never seen a team establish the line of scrimmage like Baylor did on the way to scoring 73 points two weeks ago. Richardson is a mauler who could be another high draft pick off the Baylor offensive line.
Others: Oregon’s Hroniss Grasu, Oklahoma’s Gabe Ikard, Michigan’s Taylor Lewan, Georgia Tech’s Shaq Mason, Stanford’s David Yankey

Nagurski/Bednarik (Defensive player of the year)

Our leader: Clemson’s Vic Beasley

Beasley has saved Clemson in a pair of close games this season against Boston College and NC State. With 12 tackles for a loss and nine sacks, Beasley is having the kind of season many envisioned for the defensive end at the other South Carolina school
Others: UCLA’s Anthony Barr, Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier, Stanford’s Shayne Skov, BYU’s Kyle Van Noy


Lombardi Award (Top lineman or linebacker)

Our leader: Beasley

Others: UCLA’s Vic Beasley, Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun, Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald, Missouri’s Michael Sam, Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier, BYU’s Kyle Van Noy, USC’s Leonard Williams


Butkus (Top linebacker)

Our leader: UCLA’s Anthony Barr

Barr has recorded 10 tackles for a loss, four sacks and four forced fumbles in four games this season. Up next: A two-game road stretch against Stanford and Oregon.
Others: Wisconsin’s Chris Borland, Stanford’s Trent Murphy, Boston College’s Kevin Pierre-Louis, Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier, Stanford’s Shayne Skov


Thorpe (Top defensive back)

Our leader: Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller

Fuller picked up his second interception of the season against North Carolina two weeks ago and continued to be a lockdown corner in the back end of the Hokies’ defense. Fuller helped hold Pittsburgh quarterback Tom Savage to 44.8 percent passing and 187 yards last week.
Others: Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard, Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner, TCU’s Jason Verrett



Lou Groza (Top kicker)

Our leader: Oklahoma’s Michael Hunnicutt
The Sooners’ offense hasn’t been overwhelming, but Hunnicutt has been there to pick up field goals, converting 14 of 15 this season. Hunnicutt has made all nine attempts in the last three games.
Others: Texas Tech’s Ryan Bustin, Maryland’s Brad Craddock, NC State’s Niklas Sade



Ray Guy (Top punter)

Our leader: Miami (Ohio)’s Zac Murphy
Murphy leads the nation at 47.7 yards per kick on 7.3 punts per game.

Others: Ole Miss’ Tyler Campbell, Memphis’ Tom Hornsey, Alabama’s Cody Mandell



Freshman of the year

Our leader: Florida State’s Jameis Winston

Winston is making a legitimate bid for the Heisman after leading a 63-0 rout of Maryland two weeks ago. The redshirt freshman set season highs in yards (393) and touchdown passes (five) on 23-of-32 passing against the Terrapins. The season-defining moment may be this week’s matchup with Clemson.
Others: Pittsburgh’s Tyler Boyd, Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg, Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves III

Coach of the year
Our leader: Missouri’s Gary Pinkel

No one gave Missouri much of a chance this season in the SEC East, but the Tigers upset an injury-ravaged Georgia team to move to 6-0 overall and 2-0 in the league. The Tigers will attempt to navigate the loaded back end of the schedule without quarterback James Franklin for a few weeks.
Others: Baylor’s Art Briles, Northern Illinois’ Rod Carey, Fresno State’s Tim DeRuyter, Tulane’s Curtis Johnson, Washington’s Steve Sarkisian, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, Utah’s Kyle Whittingham



Broyles Award (Top assistant)

Our leader: LSU’s Cam Cameron
Zach Mettenberger didn’t have his best game of the season against Florida, but the LSU quarterback still leads the SEC in pass efficiency and yards per attempt.
Others: Baylor’s Phil Bennett, Utah’s Dennis Erickson, Maryland’s Mike Locksley, Clemson’s Chad Morris, Michigan State’s Pat Narduzzi, Texas’ Greg Robinson, Oklahoma’s Mike Stoops
 

Teaser:
College Football Post-Week 7 Award Watch
Post date: Friday, October 18, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-pac-12-preview
Body:

The two new Los Angeles coaches may be the most interesting offseason storyline for the Pac-12, but don't be surprised if schools outside the Golden State make the most news in the Pac-12.

Thanks a core of juniors and sophomores and the league’s best signing class, Arizona may be the Pac-12’s best Final Four threat since the last time time the Wildcats reached the Elite Eight three years ago.

Elsewhere, a major storyline is the rise of Oregon and Colorado as Pac-12 title contenders. Dana Altman’s hire in Eugene was met with shrugs, but he’s led the Ducks to steady improvement, ending last season with a hard-fought loss to national champion Louisville in the Sweet 16. Tad Boyle, meanwhile, has taken the Buffaloes to an unprecedented three consecutive postseasons.

That’s not to say the Los Angeles schools can be overlooked. Steve Alford takes over at one of basketball’s most storied programs at UCLA. He has a roster that can contend for the league crown.

USC is a bigger challenge for new coach Andy Enfield, who knows a thing or two about doing the impossible by taking Florida Gulf Coast to the Sweet 16.

Pac-12 Predicted Order of Finish

ALL-PAC-12 FIRST TEAM
G Jahii Carson, Arizona State
G Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado
G Jordan Adams, UCLA
G C.J. Wilcox, Washington
F Dwight Powell, Stanford

ALL-PAC-12 SECOND TEAM
G Justin Cobbs, California
G/F Kyle Anderson, UCLA
F Aaron Gordon, Arizona
F Josh Huestis, Stanford
F Mike Moser, Oregon

ALL-PAC-12 THIRD TEAM
G Jabari Bird, California
G Damyeon Dotson, Oregon
G Nick Johnson, Arizona
F Josh Scott, Colorado
F Travis Wear, UCLA
1. ARIZONA (team preview)
Postseason projection:
NCAA Elite Eight
Sean Miller lost some key pieces, but the Wildcats always have plenty of firepower. Freshman Aaron Gordon is a stud.

2. UCLA (team preview)
Postseason projection:
NCAA Round of 32
Steve Alford has championship talent to work with, a rarity for an incoming coach.

3. COLORADO (team preview)
Postseason projection:
NCAA Round of 64
The Buffaloes will try to go 3-for-3 in NCAA Tournament appearances since joining the Pac-12.

4. OREGON (team preview)
Postseason projection:
NCAA Round of 64
Dana Altman has once again pieced together a roster that will compete in the Pac-12.

5. ARIZONA STATE (team preview)
Postseason projection:
NCAA Round of 64
Jahii Carson and the Sun Devils have the talent to give Herb Sendek a much-needed NCAA bid.

6. CAL
Postseason projection:
NIT
The roster isn’t overflowing with talent, but Mike Montgomery rarely misses the NCAA Tournament.

7. STANFORD
Postseason projection:
NIT
Johnny Dawkins has a veteran lineup that needs to produce. The Cardinal haven’t played in the NCAAs since the Trent Johnson era.

8. OREGON STATE
Postseason projection:
NIT
The Beavers have size, scorers and experience, so why aren’t they more feared?

9. WASHINGTON
Postseason projection:
NIT
Long-range bomber C.J.Wilcox can’t do it alone, but he might have to on a roster that lacks elite talent.

10. USC
New coach Andy Enfield and his model wife were meant for Los Angeles. The Trojans’ talent is far more questionable.

11. WASHINGTON STATE
Ken Bone will be coaching his last season in Pullman unless the Cougars exceed expectations.

12. UTAH
The other Coach K, now in Year 3, will be given lots of latitude to rebuild an undermanned program.

Pac-12 Awards

Player of the Year: Jahii Carson, Arizona State
Carson ranked second in the league at 18.5 points per game last season, adding 5.9 assists per game to the mix. He’s a lightning quick guard who could carry the Sun Devils to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009.

Defensive Player of the Year: Josh Huestis, Stanford
The 6-7 senior may be undersized, but he’s a relentlessly aggressive defender. Huestes averaged 10.5 points and 9.0 rebounds last season.

Most Underrated: Askia Booker, Colorado
Andre Roberson was a draft pick, and Spencer Dinwiddie may follow him this season. But let’s give some credit to Booker, who can heat up as a scorer in a hurry. He averaged 12.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists.

Newcomer of the Year: Aaron Gordon, Arizona (full list of key newcomers in the Pac-12)
The jewel of Arizona’s incoming class and the top recruit Sean Miller has landed with the Wildcats, Gordon could be the piece that helps Arizona reach the Final Four. He’s a versatile forward who could play wing or closer to the basket.

Top coach: Sean Miller, Arizona (top 50 coaches for 2013-14)

Coach on the hot seat: Ken Bone, Washington State (full list of hot seat coaches)

Teaser:
College Basketball: 2013-14 Pac-12 Preview
Post date: Friday, October 18, 2013 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Oregon Ducks, Pac-12, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2013-14-oregon-preview
Body:


This preview and more on Oregon and the Pac-12 are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.

Oregon Facts & Figures
Last season: 28-9 (12-6 Pac-12)
Postseason: NCAA Sweet 16
Coach: Dana Altman (73-37 at Oregon)
Pac-12 projection: Fourth
Postseason projection: NCAA Round of 64
For all the success Oregon enjoyed in 2013, the Ducks still entered the offseason with a bad taste in their mouths. Louisville might have gone on to win the national championship, but that didn’t make Oregon’s loss to the Cardinals in the Sweet 16 any easier to swallow.

“I felt like that wasn’t the way it was supposed to be,” UO guard Johnathan Loyd says. “We want to fix that this year.”

As usual, the Ducks will attempt a quick rebuilding effort. For the third straight year, they’ve added a high-profile transfer with one season of eligibility remaining, in this case Mike Moser from UNLV. Meanwhile, replacing last season’s one-year wonder, Arsalan Kazemi, could be this team’s biggest question mark.

Oregon boasts a couple of emerging stars in sophomore Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson. They’ll look to senior junior college transfer Richard Amardi, who was able to practice with the team over the summer, and Moser to help fill the gaps created by the loss of eight lettermen.

Frontcourt

Kazemi was a player who “got every rebound,” according to Dotson, who says the second-round NBA Draft pick will be Oregon’s toughest player to replace. Ben Carter, who averaged 10 minutes per game as Kazemi’s backup, will have an opportunity to take on a more prominent role. He’s a tough, athletic forward who showed flashes in the rare chances he got to spell Kazemi.

Amardi is a native of Ontario, Canada, a transfer who originally signed a Letter-of-Intent with Iowa State before joining the Ducks. At 6-9, he joins 6-11 senior Waverly Austin as the biggest players on the roster. Austin will look to find some consistency after playing sparingly behind Tony Woods last year, while Amardi provides some needed athleticism given the loss of dunk-artist Carlos Emory. “I’ll have somebody to throw more lobs to,” Loyd predicts.

If Kazemi wasn’t Oregon’s biggest loss, then it was do-everything wing E.J. Singler, who played just about every position on the floor at one time or another. The Ducks will look to Moser — the one-time UCLA Bruin who later transferred to UNLV — for similar versatility. Moser’s production dipped last season, but he averaged 14.0 points and 10.5 rebounds for UNVL two yearse ago.

Backcourt

Singler, Emory, Kazemi and Woods were four of Oregon’s top five scorers in 2012-13. The lone returner from the top five is Dotson, a wing who showed the potential to be one of the most explosive scorers in the conference both from the perimeter and attacking the basket.

“I’m more comfortable now, but every game you’ve got to work,” Dotson says. “Scoring isn’t going to come easy. You’ve got to take good shots, you can’t force them.”

Among the areas of his game Dotson tried to address over the offseason was the consistency of his defensive effort.
A foot injury cost point guard Artis nine games of his freshman season, during which the Ducks went 5–4. Hopes are high for the San Francisco native in ’13-14. “I expect him to be one of the best point guards in the country, start to finish,” Loyd says.

With Artis out, Loyd was among those who helped fill the void at the point. He was most effective as a spark off the bench — being named Most Outstanding Player of the Pac-12 Tournament — rather than when Artis was sidelined.

“I could tell my conditioning wasn’t where it was supposed to be,” says Loyd, who made 16 starts as a junior. “This year, hopefully being in a bigger role, I’ll be ready from the start.”

Oregon’s depth in the backcourt took a hit when Willie Moore and Fred Richardson III elected to transfer. Thus the Ducks will need some production from junior college transfer Jalil Abdul-Bassit and perhaps in-state recruit A.J. Lapray, who impressed teammates with his shooting ability over the summer.

Newcomers

Junior college transfer Richard Armardi ads size to frontcourt which lost some big bodies. Jordan Bell is an athletic freshman who can block shots. Mike Moser was considered one of the best players in the country two years ago at UNLV. Guard Joseph Young averaged 18 points per game at Houston last season. He is appealing for immediate eligibility. Freshman Christiano Felicio from Brazil also has eligibility concerns.


Final Analysis
Factoid: 1. Only once in the past 17 years has a Dana Altman-coached team failed to win at least 10 conference games. Altman’s first Oregon team, in 2010-11, went 7–11.


How long can Dana Altman keep working his rebuilding magic? He’s had major makeovers in each of his four seasons as Oregon’s coach and made significant postseason runs in each of the past three years. He faces another big chemistry test in 2013-14, and by now players have every confidence in Altman’s ability to construct a contender.

“I think we’re going to do a lot of winning,” Loyd says.

Teaser:
College Basketball: 2013-14 Oregon Preview
Post date: Friday, October 18, 2013 - 07:00
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Locks of the Week
Smart money bets against these two quarterbacks with a combined six career NFL starts.

Chiefs (-6) vs. Texans
Houston Cougar legend Case Keenum makes his first NFL start for the Houston Texans on the road at Arrowhead against K.C.’s undefeated top-ranked defense.

Patriots (-3.5) at Jets
Three-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady vs. roller-coaster rookie Geno Smith. The Pats have won six straight against the Jets and are 18–5 with Brady in the series.

Blowout Bargains
Poorly coached teams with marginal talent and backup quarterbacks on the road? Check. Mate.

Packers (-10) vs. Browns
The last time these two teams played, Aaron Rodgers threw three TDs in a 31–3 win.

Falcons (-7) vs. Buccaneers
Atlanta has lost four games by a total of 15 points to teams with a combined 16–7 record.

Backdoor Covers
All year long, I’ve been saying bet on the Broncos and against the Jaguars. Not this week.

Jaguars (+7.5) vs. Chargers
The split stats are actually in Jacksonville’s favor — playing a West Coast team at 1 p.m. Eastern after that team played on Monday night.

Colts (+6.5) vs. Broncos
Peyton Manning should win in the House He Built, but Andrew Luck will keep it close.

Sucker Bets
Stay away from these games unless you’re a degenerate or a hometown homer.

Dolphins (-7.5) vs. Bills
Duke record-breaker turned scout team wunderkind turned Buffalo starter Thad Lewis heads back to his hometown of Miami.

Panthers (-6) vs. Rams
Cam Newton has scored eight of his 11 total TDs in wins and committed five of his six turnovers in losses.

49ers (-4) at Titans
Three straight games against Kansas City, Seattle and San Francisco is not what Tennessee backup Ryan Fitzpatrick was hoping for.

Giants (-3) vs. Vikings
In this chapter of The Book of Manning, Eli earns his first win of the 2013 season but also throws his 16th (or worse) INT of the year.

Lions (-3) vs. Bengals
Athletic freaks Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green should do some sort of skills competition before this contest.

Eagles (-3) vs. Cowboys
Dallas swept the season series last year; Philly swept the season series in 2011. This is just one of those rivalries…

Steelers (-1.5) vs. Ravens
At least the line isn’t three on the number. Eight of the last 10 Pittsburgh-Baltimore games have been decided by exactly three points.

Redskins (-1) vs. Bears
RG3 is not a superhero? Jay Cutler is not a villain? What kind of bizarro season is this?
 

Teaser:
A betting preview of every game (against the spread) on Sunday and Monday in Week 7.
Post date: Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 18:12
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-october-17th
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Week 8 starts with an ACC matchup between North Carolina and Miami tonight. Should be the start of an interesting weekend...

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 Thursday, October 17th

West Virginia quarterback Ford Childress will miss the rest of the seasond due to injury.

Ole Miss defensive end C.J. Johnson is also out for the rest of the season and will apply for a medical redshirt for 2013.

Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews gets highlighted for his Week 7 performance against Ole Miss.

Virginia will be without two key defensive players for Saturday's game against Duke.

Lost Lettermen takes a look at the improvement on defense at Auburn and Texas Tech.

USC could regain the services of cornerback Anthony Brown this weekend.

Pittsburgh needs a healthy James Conner at running back.

TCU quarterback Casey Pachall is getting close, but isn't ready to return to action this Saturday.

Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt says he will return to the team next year and not enter the NFL Draft.

Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel provides some insight into the Sooners' offensive struggles against Texas.

Saturday Down South takes a look at the top freshmen from around the SEC at the midpoint of the season.

Northern Illinois running back Keith Harris is out for the remainder of the season due to injury.

Increasing the offensive tempo helped Mississippi State against Bowling Green last Saturday.

Teaser:
College Football's Link Roundup: October 17th
Post date: Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 13:54
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/should-colts-have-kept-peyton-manning
Body:

Colts owner Jim Irsay started a mini-firestorm this week on the eve of Peyton Manning's return to Indianapolis, taking a couple of not-so-veiled shots at Manning's lack of postseason success in Indy. "We've changed our model a little bit, because we wanted more than one of these," Irsay said of his single Super Bowl ring. With the debate currently raging, we posed the question to a couple of our editors: Should the Colts have kept Peyton?

 

YesShould the Colts Have Kept Peyton Manning?
Of course the Indianapolis Colts should have kept Peyton Manning. Owner Jim Irsay — who inherited the franchise from his father, Robert — must regret the decision to cut Manning on a daily basis. It was a tough call. But the wrong decision was made. And that has been painfully obvious this season, which is Manning’s finest to date.

“I can tell you it wasn’t a no-brainer,” former Colts coach Tony Dungy recently told the Denver Post. “Jim (Irsay) was a young boy when his dad traded Johnny Unitas. So he knew the ramifications of this type of decision. And he also knew how much Peyton had done for the city of Indianapolis and for that franchise. …

“I can almost guarantee you that if (Irsay) knew (Manning) was going to be healthy like this and playing this kind of football, in hindsight I don’t think he would have done it.”

No team in its right mind would trade the best quarterback in football — which Manning clearly is this season — even if its braintrust was replacing him with the “next” best quarterback in football — which Andrew Luck appears to be.

What if Indianapolis had kept Manning and traded away the No. 1 overall pick? These hypothetical situations are usually based in fiction. But the 2012 NFL Draft witnessed a blockbuster trade involving the No. 2 overall pick linked to Robert Griffin III. The Redskins traded the Nos. 6 and 39 overall picks in 2012 and first-rounders in both 2013 (No. 22 overall) and 2014 to trade up to take RG3. And Luck was worth more.

Had the Colts kept the best quarterback on the planet — a man whose trophy case includes four league MVPs and a Super Bowl XLI MVP — and surrounded him with a surplus of first-round picks, then Indy would be the favorite to win Super Bowl XLVIII. By letting Manning leave, Irsay ensured he’ll only have “one” Super Bowl win for at least another year. And he might have to watch Manning raise another Lombardi Trophy.
– Nathan Rush


No
It’s easy for the Monday morning quarterbacks to look at Peyton Manning’s staggering numbers in Denver and say that the Colts made a mistake in cutting him loose. But it’s important to remember: The Manning we’re seeing today is a far cry from the Manning who left Indy after the 2011 season. Yes, the change of scenery from the dingy interior of a dome to a breathtaking mountain vista has utterly revitalized Manning, but I would contend that the move has been of considerable benefit for both parties. And at the time, it was the sensible move for the Colts franchise.

As you remember, Manning missed the entire 2011 season, a 2–14 disaster, with a career-endangering neck condition that had required multiple surgeries. The prior season, in retrospect his final campaign in Colts blue, was a 10–6 disappointment with a one-game playoff flameout. Manning’s 2010 passer rating of 91.9 was his lowest in almost a decade; his interception total of 17 was his highest since 2002. The Manning era in Indy had clearly reached a point of diminishing returns. In reality, his last stand as Colts QB had come the previous season, when he led Indy on one last Super Bowl run that ended with a pick-six and a two-touchdown loss to New Orleans — a sadly fitting denouement for a quarterback with a postseason record of 9–11.

So the Colts were entirely justified in closing the door on the Manning era and bidding farewell to their aging legend. But the fact that a clear successor was available made the decision a no-brainer. Andrew Luck is Manning 2.0 — a young, healthy version of the talented and cerebral quarterback who directed the Colts offense for 13 mostly glorious seasons. Luck’s tenure thus far — an 11–5 season in 2012 and a solid 4-2 start to the 2013 campaign — proves that Indy has nothing to apologize for.
– Rob Doster

Teaser:
Should the Colts Have Kept Peyton Manning?
Post date: Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 12:45
Path: /mlb/alcs-game-5-preview-red-sox-tigers
Body:

American League Championship Series – Game 5
Boston at Detroit
8:07 ET Fox
Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75) vs. Anibal Sanchez (14-8, 2.57)


Manager Jim Leyland’s lineup shift paid dividends for Detroit in Game 4, evening the series at 2-2. The veteran manager moved leadoff hitter Austin Jackson down to No. 8 and the Red Sox couldn’t get him out. With 12 hits, Boston showed signs of emerging from its own offensive funk. Jacoby Ellsbury led the way with four hits, a home run shy of a cycle. The remaining three games should feature the same pitching matchups as the first three games, which were dominated by starting pitchers on both sides. Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez was seen leaving the mound after six no-hit innings in Game 1. Boston’s Jon Lester was fairly sharp as well, allowing only one run after a walk, hit-by-pitch and soft single.

Keys for Detroit
In some ways, this game is much more critical for the Tigers than for the Red Sox. Going back to Boston down a game versus up a game could be huge for Detroit. The lineup must continue to produce like last night, but the difference between last night and Game 2 was that the Detroit relievers were able to hold on to a big lead. The Tigers can’t afford another bullpen meltdown.

Keys for Boston
After much was made over David Ortiz’s grand slam in Game 2 and how clutch he seems to be in the postseason, that game-turning home run remains his lone hit in this series. Without him contributing, it’s extremely difficult for the Sox to win. The bottom of the order needs to perk up as well. Starters in the 7-8-9 spots are 6-for-35 (.171) in this series with two walks and 14 strikeouts.

Tigers to Watch
Jackson struggled through the first three games, reaching base only twice in 14 plate appearances and striking out five times, not numbers you want from a leadoff hitter. He drew a four-pitch walk with the bases loaded in his first time up, then chased starter Jake Peavy with a single in his next at-bat. Another single and an eight-pitch walk followed to cap his perfect night.

Red Sox to Watch
With Ellsbury getting on base consistently, it’s time for Dustin Pedroia and Ortiz to step up their games. Boston expects more run production from the middle of the order, but Pedroia and Ortiz have combined for just four hits and five RBIs, with four of those coming on one swing from Big Papi.

Key Stats
With essentially every player moving up a spot in the order, last night’s game was the first in the leadoff position for Torii Hunter since his days with the Twins in 1999…Miguel Cabrera batted second for only the third time in his career, and first since 2004 when he was a member of the Florida Marlins…Jackson now has a better OBP (.231) in this postseason than Hunter (.225), who will bat leadoff again tonight for the Tigers…With nine this postseason, Ellsbury has scored 25 percent of Boston’s runs…Since Detroit acquired Sanchez from Miami midway through 2012, the Tigers are 13-7 when he starts at home, including 10-4 this season…The Red Sox lost 12 of Lester’s 20 road starts this season.

Teaser:
In pivotal Game 5 of the ALCS, the Tigers can't afford to go back to Boston down a game.
Post date: Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 11:44
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-october-17-2013
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Oct. 17.

 

• The NFL's thinking pink this month, right down to the cheerleaders. Enjoy this Breast Cancer Awareness Month-themed gallery.

 

Joe Buck and Tim McCarver engaged in an awkward high-five last night. Do I detect a subtle eye-roll from Buck?

 

Whoa, the Daily News went for the jugular in the Redskins debate.

 

• Also from the Daily News: a wrap-up of the latest A-Rod tell-all. Apparently he was making hookers two at a time, Fredo-style.

 

• You just thought Peyton Manning was meticulous and obsessive. You don't know the half of it.

 

• Some computer whiz went in and fattened up every NFL logo. The results are highly amusing. The Patriots guy has really been hitting the chowdah.

 

• South Park has always walked a production tightrope. This week, they finally fell off.

 

Second-half predictions for the SEC.

 

Mike Riley's using Twitter to recruit in a pretty clever way.

 

• Halloween's coming, and if you're looking for last-minute costume ideas for your kids, avoid these at all costs. Although, do you really need to be told not to dress your kid up as Hitler?

 

• Royce White's crippling fear of flying almost ended his NBA career, but he's making progress. He tweeted a photo from an airplane window.

 

• Syracuse center Baye Moussa Keita does a pretty passable impression of coach Jim Boeheim. See what you think.

 

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 10:41
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregon-wear-pink-helmets-against-washington-state
Body:

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. 

Teaser:
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
Body:

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

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

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