Articles By All

All taxonomy terms: Charlotte Hornets, Michael Jordan, NBA
Path: /nba/michael-jordan-has-become-good-owner-charlotte-hornets

Michael Jordan’s gotten his fair share of grief as an NBA owner. He hasn’t run his Charlotte squad all that well, and fans and the media have let him hear about it — a series of criticisms dating back to when he was an executive (and player!) with the Washington Wizards. The greatest to ever play the game has been a real stinker at drafting players, using top-ten picks on the likes of Adam Morrison, Raymond Felton, D.J. Augustin and Kwame Brown. And he hasn’t been able to use his clout and legend to pull free agents to North Carolina, either.

It’s been fun for the basketball world to engage in a little schadenfreude, too. Michael’s 2010-11 Bobcats had a winning percentage of .106 — the worst in NBA history — and everyone got to feel a little better about themselves. Nobody’s perfect, and that’s comforting. Jordan’s old golfing buddy Charles Barkley even slathered the ridicule on so thick that . Post-playing perception about MJ has been a downward-trending game.

But Jordan isn’t bad at his job anymore. He’s turned the Bobcats back into the Hornets and made them a respectable basketball team in the process too. Last year’s squad (then still the ‘Cats) finished 43-39, led by the defense-first ethos of coach Steve Clifford and big man Al Jefferson’s hypnotic scoring presence in the paint. They cracked the playoffs for the first time in a long time. 

This summer Jordan added Lance Stephenson to the mix, one of the best young guards in the game. His rebranded young team — the makeover featuring — is potent and fun. He’s a good owner now. If you want to make fun of His Airness these days, you’re going to have to turn to .


— John Wilmes


Post date: Friday, October 24, 2014 - 10:20
Path: /college-football/lsu-tigers-vs-ole-miss-2014-game-preview-and-prediction

There’s plenty at stake on Saturday night when LSU hosts Ole Miss in a critical SEC West game with national title and conference championship implications. The Rebels and Tigers enjoy a heated rivalry, with the winner on Saturday night hoisting the Magnolia Bowl trophy.

When Ole Miss and LSU play, the Tigers are usually the one in the mix to win the national title, but the script has reversed in 2014. The Rebels are ranked as one of the nation’s top teams and have one of the best wins in 2014 of any team (Alabama), while LSU is likely out of the West Division title picture with a 2-2 conference record. An elite defense leads the way for Ole Miss, and quarterback Bo Wallace has been efficient in SEC play.

LSU leads the overall series against Ole Miss by a 56-37-4 margin. The Rebels snapped a three-game losing streak to the Tigers by winning 27-24 in Oxford last year. However, this series has been dominated by LSU in recent years. The Tigers have lost only four games to Ole Miss since 2000.


Ole Miss at LSU


Kickoff: 7:15 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Ole Miss -3.5

Three Things to Watch


1. Ole Miss’ Rush Defense

Why has LSU won two games in a row? Take a look at the rushing attack. The Tigers gashed Kentucky for 303 yards last Saturday and recorded 195 in a 30-27 win over Florida. True freshman Leonard Fournette leads the team with 544 yards and seven scores, but Kenny Hilliard (353 yards), Terrence Magee (344 yards) and Darrel Williams (249 yards) will see carries. With an inconsistent passing attack, combined with youth and inexperience at quarterback and receiver, LSU needs a big day from its running backs. Of course, that’s easier said than done against an Ole Miss defense allowing only 97.1 yards per game. The Rebels hold opponents to just 2.9 yards per carry and have allowed only three rushing scores in seven games. LSU’s offensive line was pegged as one of the best in the SEC this preseason and has played up to that standard against Kentucky and Florida. Can the Tigers replicate that production against one of the toughest defensive fronts in the nation?


2. Improvement by LSU’s Defense?

After allowing at least seven yards per play in its first two SEC games, LSU’s defense held Florida to a 5.4 yards-per-play average and limited Kentucky to 3.4. Is that a sign of things to come? Or a sign of playing mediocre teams from the East Division? The Tigers’ defense is filled with youth, and the transition on the defensive line hasn’t been easy. Running teams like Wisconsin and Mississippi State had no trouble moving the ball on LSU. However, a team with more spread tendencies (Kentucky) was unable to consistently move the ball. With all of the young talent on defense, the Tigers will improve over the course of the season. LSU leads the SEC in pass defense (156.3 ypg), but the front seven is the bigger concern. Ole Miss doesn’t have a traditional ground attack like Wisconsin or Mississippi State, but the Rebels average 6.0 yards per play.

3. The Quarterbacks

Both quarterbacks in this game have received plenty of criticism for their performances over the last two years. LSU sophomore Anthony Jennings led the Tigers to a win over Arkansas in the regular season finale last season but struggled in the bowl win over Iowa. Jennings was locked into a tight battle with Brandon Harris for the starting job in fall practice and is off to a slow start. The sophomore is completing only 50 percent of his throws and has not passed for more than 120 yards in his last four appearances. Considering Ole Miss’ ability to stop the run, Jennings has to have his best game of the year to give LSU a shot at the win. On the other sideline, Bo Wallace has experienced an up-and-down career in Oxford, but he is having a career season. The senior is completing 65.6 percent of his throws, and most importantly, has not tossed a pick in SEC play. With an elite defense, Wallace does not have to win games on his arm. Instead, Wallace can play more conservatively. As a result, the senior is off to a good start. Will that continue in a tough road environment like LSU?


Final Analysis


Winning in Baton Rouge is never easy – especially when it’s a night game. But can LSU’s offense consistently move the ball against the SEC’s best defense? The Rebels match the Tigers strength in the trenches, and the secondary has been active with 15 takeaways. Ole Miss may not post huge numbers on offense, but Wallace does just enough to keep LSU out of reach in this game. The Tigers may keep it close on the scoreboard. However, the Rebels control the overall flow and pace of the game and pull away in the second half to improve to 8-0.


Prediction: Ole Miss 27, LSU 13

LSU Tigers vs. Ole Miss 2014 Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 24, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/auburn-tigers-vs-south-carolina-gamecocks-2014-game-preview-and-prediction

It’s a light slate of college football action this week, but Saturday night features a few intriguing matchups in the SEC, including South Carolina traveling to Auburn for a potential high-scoring affair.


This matchup was pegged in August as a potential showdown of division title contenders or an early preview of the SEC Championship. But eight weeks into the season, this contest has a different feel, as Auburn is looking to rebound following a loss to Mississippi State, while South Carolina is just 4-3 and likely out of the East Division title picture with a 2-3 mark in conference play.


Auburn owns a 9-1-1 series edge over South Carolina. The Tigers have not lost to the Gamecocks with both teams as members of the SEC. South Carolina’s last win over Auburn occurred in 1933.


South Carolina at Auburn


Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: SEC Network

Spread: Auburn -19


Three Things to Watch


1. South Carolina’s Defense

The Gamecocks’ defense has been one of the biggest disappointments in the SEC this year. Through seven games, South Carolina is allowing 6.2 yards per play and 31.4 points per game. That’s a significant increase from last year’s totals, as the Gamecocks ranked No. 2 in the SEC by holding opponents to 20.3 points per game and limited offenses to 5.5 yards per play in conference games. Youth and roster turnover have contributed to South Carolina’s defensive struggles this year, and it’s unlikely this unit will get drastically better until 2015. The Gamecocks have allowed at least 30 points in four out their five SEC games this season. And the problems extend deeper into the stat sheet, as South Carolina is last in the SEC in sacks per game and near the bottom in third down defense. Considering its playmakers on offense, Auburn should have no trouble eclipsing that mark on Saturday. But can the Gamecocks get timely stops to give their offense a chance to keep pace with the Tigers? Whether it’s on the ground or through the air, opposing offenses have provided a lot of headaches for coordinator Lorenzo Ward. Stopping Auburn is a huge challenge for a young South Carolina defense.


2. Mike Davis Against Auburn’s Front Seven

Under the direction of veteran coordinator Ellis Johnson, Auburn’s defense has made strides on the stat sheet this season. The Tigers ranked near the bottom of the SEC in yardage and scoring defense last year but made timely stops on third downs and in the red zone. This year, Auburn is holding opponents to 22 points per game in SEC contests (29.6 in 2013). And after giving up 5.9 yards per play in 2013, the Tigers are limiting opponents to just 4.8 yards per play. Both of those numbers showcase the impact Johnson has made on the defense, along with the development of some of the players within the system. This unit held LSU to seven points and limited Kansas State to 14 on Sept. 18. However, the Tigers allowed 38 in a loss to Mississippi State – the best offense they have played this year – so there will be room for South Carolina to have success. The Gamecocks feature a veteran offensive line and one of the SEC’s top running backs in Mike Davis. Auburn allowed Arkansas and Mississippi State to average over five yards per carry, and Davis could easily eclipse that mark on Saturday night. The junior needs to have success on early downs, allowing quarterback Dylan Thompson to take a few shots downfield. Getting Davis on track is critical, as South Carolina would like to limit Auburn’s overall possessions and keep Gus Malzahn’s offense on the sidelines.


3. Auburn QB Nick Marshall

As we mentioned above, it’s going to be a challenge for South Carolina to completely stop Auburn. Instead, the Gamecocks have to make timely stops and force field goals instead of touchdowns when the Tigers get into the red zone. Achieving that goal starts with finding a way to slow down quarterback Nick Marshall. The senior has passed for 964 yards and 10 touchdowns so far this season and has 492 yards and four scores on the ground. With the arrival of receiver Duke Williams, Marshall now has two legitimate All-SEC threats on the outside. South Carolina’s secondary has been prone to giving up big plays – nine plays allowed of 30 yards or more in seven games. Even though Marshall has more weapons this year, his completion percentage has declined from 59.4 to 55.4. On paper, this should be a good matchup for Auburn’s offense, and Marshall should have a huge outing. However, against Mississippi State, the senior tossed two picks. Even though the Tigers are a heavy favorite, they can’t afford turnovers to help keep South Carolina in this game.


Final Analysis


Auburn is nearly a three-touchdown favorite for Saturday night. That seems a bit much, but the Tigers are loaded with weapons on offense, starting with two potential All-SEC receivers, along with standouts at running back in Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant. Quarterback Nick Marshall played well against LSU but struggled against Mississippi State. The senior needs to play another mistake-free game, and if he does, he should have a huge statistical outing against a struggling South Carolina defense. While the Gamecocks need a perfect effort to win, quarterback Dylan Thompson and running back Mike Davis should be enough to at least keep the pressure on Auburn’s defense deep into the second half. However, Auburn simply has too many weapons and pulls away in the fourth quarter.


Prediction: Auburn 41, South Carolina 27

Auburn Tigers vs. South Carolina Gamecocks 2014 Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 24, 2014 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-college-football-2014-week-9-picks

In a year that Ole Miss, Mississippi State and TCU are ranked in the Top 10, it should come as no surprise that many college football pickers are struggling to gain footing against the number.


After another exactly average week (5-5), I am the poster child for “win some, lose some.”


But that won’t deter me from diving back into the deep end. Here are this week’s top picks against the spread as well as panel picks for every Top 25 game.


Last Week: 5-5

Year-to-Date: 29-28-1


Ole Miss (-3.5) at LSU

The Rebels are surging after convincing wins over Texas A&M and Tennessee following the upset over Alabama. This is normally a tightly played game (hence the number) but LSU isn’t nearly as good as its last two wins and won’t be able to score much against this Ole Miss defense. Take the Rebels and their 6-0-1 record against the number this fall. Prediction: Ole Miss -3.5


Listen to the Week 9 predictions podcast:

Subscribe: |


Mississippi St (-13.5) at Kentucky

If State had a huge showdown with Alabama next week and was coming off a tightly played win, I would like Kentucky. But State is rested after a week off, is facing a very young Wildcats team that struggles to stop the run and hosts lowly Arkansas next week. Mississippi State is 5-1 against the number this season and should roll in Lexington. Prediction: Mississippi State -13.5


Syracuse (+14) at Clemson

The Orange lost four straight by an average of more than two touchdowns before beating Wake Forest last weekend. Clemson’s defense is electric, playing at home and has allowed 10.0 points per game over the last three. Cole Stoudt is more than enough to top the Cuse by two touchdowns. Prediction: Clemson -14


Ohio St (-13.5) at Penn St

The crowd will be wild and PSU’s defense isn’t bad at all but there is nothing about this matchup that gives the Lions a chance at winning. Ohio State is surging on offense and defensively should be able to dominate the pathetic Penn State offensive line. Look for the Buckeyes, who are 5-1 against the spread this year, to roll big in Happy Valley. Prediction: Ohio State -13.5


Lay the 17 points with these favorites...


Alabama (-17) at Tennessee

The Vols' defense has been solid all year — and it still was beaten by 31 points last weekend. Alabama is getting healthy and finding its stride at the right time. The Tide has dominated this rivalry and will dominate the terrible Tennessee offensive line. The Vols may not score a single point after failing to reach the end zone in each of their last two SEC games. Prediction: Alabama -17


Michigan (+17) Michigan St

The Spartans will look to put the final nail in Brady Hoke’s coffin. They are at home and will feast on the pathetic Michigan offensive line (are you seeing a theme with these picks this week?). Look for the Spartans to work out some kinks in impressive fashion before getting two weeks to prepare for Ohio State. Prediction: Michigan State -17


Oregon (-17.5) at Cal

This game has been a total blowout over the last few years and while Cal is improved, the Bears' defense won’t be any match for the Ducks' surging offense. Unless Cal covers late with a backdoor touchdown in a very high-scoring game, Oregon should win going away (again) and cover for a third week in a row since getting healthy. Prediction: Oregon -17.5


Top 25 Picks ATS:


Top 25Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
Miss. St (-13.5) at Kentucky
Ole Miss (-3.5) at LSU
Alabama (-17) at Tennessee
S. Carolina (+19) at Auburn
Oregon (-17.5) at Cal
Michigan (+17) at Michigan St
Texas Tech (+22.5) at TCU
Texas (+10) at Kansas St
Ohio St (-13.5) at Penn St
Arizona St (pk) at Washington
Arizona (-3) at Wazzu
Rutgers (+17.5) at Nebraska
USC (-1.5) at Utah
Syracuse (+14) at Clemson
West Virginia (+1) at Oklahoma St
FAU (-28) at Marshall
UCLA (-16.5) at Colorado
Last Week:8-78-79-610-5
Betting Against the Spread: College Football 2014 Week 9 Picks
Post date: Friday, October 24, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /nascar/nascar-chase-report-previewing-race-no-7-martinsville

The one thing the 2.66-mile behemoth that is Talladega Superspeedway and the half-mile paperclip that is Martinsville Speedway have in common is the reversal of fortunes each potentially delivers. After raising the ire of fans and the garage (Matt Kenseth, in particular) alike two weeks ago in Charlotte, Brad Keselowski faced virtually no other option but to pull a Jake Taylor in Major League and win the whole f___in’ thing at Talladega. Keselowski did just that — which was no small task — in rather dramatic fashion. While darting from lane to lane on the final lap may have appeared a bit manic, Keselowski worked the draft to perfection, stalling out cars and picking up lines as they encroached upon him to take the win. 


The standings once again reset, the series moves onto the Eliminator Round where eight drivers will be whittled to four over the next three weeks. 



Martinsville Contenders

Martinsville and Talladega are equalizers. Short tracks and superspeedways are places where smaller non-Chase contender teams can rise to the occasion and pull one off, and with that brief window of opportunity open, can lead to some collateral damage on the track. Last week I picked Jamie McMurray to win — which was looking pretty good as the No. 1 laid down a Spy Hunter-style oil slick much of the afternoon until a blown tire sent him spinning while leading the outside lane.  


Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano notched wins in the first towo races of the last round, so the pressure was off at Talladega. They’re back on the clock again this weekend, though. Both drivers are decent at Martinsville, with Logano finishing fourth in April while Harvick won in 2011 and has 12 top 10s in 23 Cup starts. His respectable seventh-place effort in April was actually one of the few races this year that the No. 4 team wasn’t a contending factor. Look for that to change this weekend for the No. 4 team.


When Denny Hamlin and the Chase are brought up, it often conjures images of 2010, when fuel stop at Phoenix started a slow meltdown which saw the team hand title No. 5 to Jimmie Johnson. With the new bracket formula in place, things are looking up for the No. 11 bunch. Hamlin has totaled seven wins at the three tracks in the round, Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix; four have come in his home state of Virginia. In fact, Hamlin won three in a row in 2009-10, but finished 19th in the spring after starting on the front row. He won the pole for last year’s race and came home seventh, and given that Goodyear is bringing a tire similar to the one utilized last fall, things bode well for the Joe Gibbs Racing group.



Martinsville Pretenders

“Pretenders” is probably not an apt subhead to refer to the proceeding drivers, since they’ve made it through the first two rounds of elimination and any could legitimately win the title at Homestead a month from now. Think of these drivers as those who have just a little-bit-less-of-a-chance to win at Homestead than their contemporaries outlined.


Last week, Keselowski mirrored the efforts of his Detroit Lions, who also engineered an improbable comeback. The Penske Hail Mary was his third career Cup win at Talladega and sixth of the season. Doubly impressive, Keselowski and teammate Logano have combined to win two-thirds of the Chase races so far — so it’s hard to bet against that. Keselowski finished in the top 10 at Martinsville in 2012 and 2013, but ended up 38th in the spring after getting into it with eventual race winner – and former No. 2 Penske driver – Kurt Busch. After the roller coaster of emotions the last two weeks, a smooth, drama-free top-10 run is what this team needs to focus on the next two tracks that are right in their wheelhouse. 


Of the drivers still alive in the Chase, Ryan Newman registers as the biggest surprise. Winless on the season, his Richard Childress Racing team has been, at best, simply a top-10 car most of the season. A post-race blow up between Newman and Jimmie Johnson, in which the former complained of a horsepower disadvantage had many (myself included) believing that Newman would be a non-factor in the Chase. 


Well color me wrong. Newman and the Luke Lambert-led Caterpillar crew transferred out of the first round with a top 10 at Dover and followed it with runs of eighth, sixth, seventh and third. In position to win at Talladega, Newman exercised discretion to advance and finds himself still in the hunt entering Martinsville. Newman has Cup wins at all three of this round’s stops and, while I don’t see him contending for a win this weekend, it’s not like a victory is actually needed. In fact, another top 5 would do just fine. 


What to do if you’re a lame-duck driver on the verge of leaving both team and manufacturer? Go out and contend for a Cup, I suppose. Such is the case of Carl Edwards who, along with crew chief Jimmy Fennig, have declared they’re going to go for the win at Martinsville. It wasn’t until the August race at Michigan that the Roush Fenway Fords were relevant at downforce tracks, and they won their first race of the year at Bristol, one of only three true short tracks on the schedule along with Martinsville and Richmond. 


The only issue here is Martinsville is not one of Edwards’ best venues. In 20 races, his best finish is a third in 2008, and the No. 99 team hasn’t had a top 10 here since the fall of 2011 during their last championship challenge. The Fastenal Ford was 13th back in April, so don’t expect much out of this group this weekend — but I would expect them to contend at Texas and Phoenix.


Perhaps the biggest news to come out of Talladega was that it was the first race in a week where Matt Kenseth didn’t attack somebody in the garage area. All kidding aside, it’s hard to believe the No. 20 team is still winless this year after notching seven victories a year ago. Irony of ironies was seeing Kenseth pushing Keselowski to the win after trying to judo hip-flip him between the Penske haulers at Charlotte two weeks ago. Kenseth qualified and finished sixth here in the spring; typical Matt Kenseth consistency and likely what you’ll see Sunday.



Chase Hope-Enders

No need to be so fatalistic with the next bracket starting over. Instead, let’s take a look at two drivers eliminated last week who very well could (should?) be in the thick of things this weekend. 


Let’s cut to the chase — pun intended. The one driver who should still be in the title hunt and will likely win it this weekend is out. Jimmie Johnson was in position to challenge for the win at Talladega but tried a hero move and sunk himself. There was a hit of sour grapes from the teamthat Kurt Busch — a quasi-teammate — didn’t go with him (however, if you think back to their fun-filled war of words and wrinkled fenders 2011, why on earth would they really believe that?). While “The King” and “The Intimidator” will still be the only seven-time champions for at least another year, Jimmie and Chad might just take home their ninth Grandfather clock this weekend. If you’re the gambling type, chew on these numbers for minute:


  • — In 25 Martinsville starts, Johnson has eight wins and 22 top 10s. The three that weren’t top 10s: 11th, 12th and a 35th in his first race here in 2002.
  • — Winner of every Martinsville Cup race but one from 2006-09.
  • — Won the fall Martinsville race in 2012 and the spring race in 2013, both from the pole.
  • — Led 296 of 500 laps in the spring before surrendering win to Kurt Busch with 10 laps to go.


If his teammate weren’t gunning for his fifth title and Johnson wasn’t only remaining HMS car in the Chase, I’d say load that clock up in the Lowe’s hauler immediately. 


It was a shock to many that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. wasn’t able to seal the deal at Talladega, a track where his name and that of his late father are synonymous. Martinsville is another track where Junior shines, although he’s never won there. Even during the lean years when he was moping, mumbling and generally running like garbage in one of Lance McGrew’s misguided missiles, he was a threat to win. Earnhardt has finished in the top 10 in over half of his 29 Martinsville starts. And while he led just 25 laps in the spring, he did steer it home a third-place finish helping to build early season momentum.


The title fight for the No. 88 might be over, but the season his legion of fans have been praying for lives on. Earnhardt is committed to trying to win a few more races as icing on a year that saw his rebirth to relevance — and helped bid a fond farewell to crew chief Steve Letarte.



Martinsville Winner: Jeff Gordon

The Drive for Five is once again alive. Check out Gordon’s Martinsville stats: 


— Starts: 43

— Wins: 8

— Top 5s: 27

— Top 10s: 34

— DNF: 0


Those numbers are gaudy in any era, and downright Petty-esque if you ask me. Gordon comes into this race as the defending winner who should have also won here in 2012 (Clint Bowyer had other ideas). The tire will be similar to the one used last fall when Gordon capture his eighth victory here, which certainly plays to his favor. 


With Junior, KK and JJ out of the title hunt, it’s all hands on deck to get the face of the Hendrick Motorsports’ franchise that fifth title that’s been 13 years in the making. While four of Gordon’s wins this year have happened on tracks 1.5-miles and longer, I’m quite confident that with how the 48 faired here back in the spring and knowing that the time is running out for that fifth championship, Alan Gustafson and the entire HMS group will be mounting a 24 offensive. 


To pull it off, I think Gordon will have to go through Johnson, but it will be known well in advance which of the two takes priority this weekend.


Follow on Twitter

Photo by

Pretenders, contenders and potential winners as NASCAR's Chase hits Martinsville
Post date: Friday, October 24, 2014 - 08:02
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/comparing-all-2014-15-preseason-college-basketball-rankings-and-picks

For Athlon Sports, any offseason is one of our favorite times of the year.


Of course, we enjoy the season and March Madness as much as any college basketball fan, but the bread-and-butter for Athlon since 1967 has been helping readers prepare for the season, helping them get to know the teams and players they need to watch.


This is the time of year we get to share our preseason college basketball annuals. Countless hours of study and work from dozens of individuals went into the 2014-15 edition, and we still have room for debate on the outlook for every team.


Of course, Athlon isn’t the only publication out there. And just like anyone we like to compare how everyone evaluates the season ahead. Here’s how the top 25 and conference champions shook out in the various publications.


We’ll continue to update the grid as more rankings are released through the offseason.


2014-15 College Basketball Preseason Top 25
2014-15 Conference Champion Predictions
America East
Atlantic 10
Atlantic Sun
Big 12
Big East
Big Sky
Big South
Big Ten
Big West
Conference USA
Missouri Valley
Mountain West
Ohio Valley
Sun Belt
West Coast


Comparing All 2014-15 Preseason College Basketball Rankings and Picks
Post date: Friday, October 24, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Paul George, NBA
Path: /nba/paul-george-shooting-jumpers-healing-freakishly-fast-video

In case you missed Team USA’s excursion to Spain for the FIBA World Cup of basketball this past summer, there’s just one piece of news you really need to know: Paul George’s leg almost fell off.

No, this is not hyperbole. The rising Indiana Pacers superstar — arguably the very best perimeter defender in the game, and — landed at an awkward angle while contesting a shot in a pre-tournament scrimmage between USA players in Las Vegas this August. His sudden, gruesome, existentially jarring injury made for one of the most disturbing live television sights of recent memory.


George, most assumed, would miss a season or more while he waited, essentially, for his body to reintegrate one of its limbs. But it’s not yet been three months since that horrific accident, and George is somehow already back shooting jumpers in the gym. Look:


He’s even playing some with his doggy, showing some mobility with that leg:






Fortunately for the rest of the league, there’s no shortage of ballers who can stick a man better than Paul’s pup. But it’s clear that the star is back on the rise a lot quicker than we expected. He's recovering rapidly, eager to keep disrupting the power balance of LeBron James’ Eastern Conference.

While injured, George has fully adopted his occasional nickname “PG-13,” changing his jersey number from 24 to 13 — an idea previously floated by ESPN and Grantland’s Bill Simmons. : “The whole thing behind PG-13 is just coming into my own. I feel like I’m at that stage where I’m ready to embrace everything that comes with being one of the young stars in this league. Everyone knows PG-13 is related to television, so the whole thing is being able to enjoy the show and being fun to watch.”


— John Wilmes


Post date: Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 15:20
Path: /college-football/west-virginias-kevin-white-pace-join-elite-group-receivers

West Virginia wide receivers coach Lonnie Galloway was blocked from seeing the play of the day from his new star player on Saturday against Baylor.


Even from his spot in the press box, he missed the replay on the big screen at Milan Puskar Stadium.


After the game, he asked the source, Kevin White, about the 12-yard go-ahead touchdown catch against Baylor in the fourth quarter.


“I asked him if he caught that one-handed,” Galloway said. “He said ‘You know I did.’”


He also made the catch with a Baylor defensive back draped all over him.


For his part, White says he didn’t watch the replay of his potential season-defining catch until he saw it during film study.


Elsewhere, the catch was replayed all through the college football weekend as West Virginia upset Baylor 41-27.


The one-handed grab — and the 132-yard, two-touchdown day against Baylor — brought attention to what West Virginia and Big 12 fans already knew. White has emerged from obscurity to become of the nation’s top receivers.


White has topped six receptions and 100 yards in all seven games this season against a schedule that includes Alabama and Oklahoma. As the nation’s first receiver to 1,000 yards, White is on pace to rival two of the most productive receivers in college football history.


Both played for Dana Holgorsen in some capacity. Both won the Biletnikoff Award twice.


Through seven games, White emerged from being the No. 2 receiver on a 4-8 team to putting his name alongside Michael Crabtree and Justin Blackmon.


At Texas Tech, Crabtree set a Big 12 record with 1,962 yards, and he won the Biletnikoff in 2007 with Holgorsen as receivers coach. Blackmon at Oklahoma State followed with the second-highest total in Big 12 history with 1,782 yards to go with a Biletnikoff Award of his own in 2010. (Both Blackmon and Crabtree won back-to-back Biletnikoff Awards, the second coming the year after Holgorsen left).


White’s pace puts him in between the pair. At his current pace, he’ll finish a 13-game season with 1,894 yards.


If the Baylor game was any indication, opponents will do anything they can to make sure White does not reach those milestones. The Bears were called for pass interference five times while trying to defend White.


“He's just such a big, physical presence and the nature of Baylor's defense was going to put those guys in some one-on-one situations,” Holgorsen said. “Baylor is a physical team. They use their hands. They play hard. They play with good effort. They play reckless at times, too.


“We were going to take shots and we were going to take a bunch early and take them throughout the course of the game. If we hit on some of them or if we didn't hit on some of them, based on some P.I. calls. So he's a dominating player, that's for sure.”


West Virginia saw shades of this kind of season from White but not until the spring. This breakout for White required patience.


White committed to Pittsburgh out of Emmaus (Pa.), but grades forced him to take the junior college route at Lackawanna College. Once there, he had to redshirt a year.


"I don't know (why)," White said. "I guess I wasn't ready."


West Virginia signed White out of JUCO, and his first season in Morgantown was immediately stalled due to a foot injury to start 2013.


Beyond White, the Mountaineers’ offense struggled throughout last season, as quarterback Clint Trickett was in and out of the lineup and battled injuries.


White looked the part of a lost new arrival to the roster with a red zone fumble against Oklahoma in Week 2 of last season.


“It was difficult,” White said. “Coming from JUCO and high school, you didn’t have to put this kind of time into football. You didn’t have to put hours in the film room. You didn’t have to work out this much. Practice is different here. It’s mentally frustrating with different defenses they throw at you, and corners are smarter at this level.


“It was different. I didn’t know how to handle everything all at once.”


He had seven catches for 130 yards in October against Baylor, but Galloway said the game didn’t start to truly click for White in 2013 until the final games of the season.


“The Iowa State game (two catches, 27 yards, one touchdown) was a good one for him, that last stretch where he had made some plays,” Galloway said. “In spring practice, he started showing he could be dominant.”


The meager gains from the end of last season are now coming to full fruition.


West Virginia’s offense has stabilized with a healthy quarterback and a dominant receiver in White.


“He’s done a great job of high pointing the football, attacking the football,” Galloway said. “That’s been good to see. Kevin has put in a lot of hard work. The light’s come on for him and I’m glad it has. The best football is still ahead of him.”

West Virginia's Kevin White on Pace to Join Elite Group of Receivers
Post date: Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 14:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-week-9-predictions


Hosts Braden Gall and Steven Lassan preview the big games of Week 9. A huge slate of games out West in the Pac-12 highlight a great weekend as well as big rivalry games in the Big Ten and SEC.  And does anyone care about the ACC this week? The guys also offer up some locks of the week against the spread.

Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall or @AthlonSteven or email . The podcast can be found on, , and .

Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: Week 9 Predictions
Post date: Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 11:25
All taxonomy terms: New York Knicks, Willis Reed, NBA
Path: /nba/watch-footage-knicks-legend-willis-reed-beating-whole-lakers-team-1966-video

There’s a certain gasp of annoyed disbelief when you go to the movies, and it’s an action film, and just one man is making like Achilles, effortlessly bashing the brains out of the dozens of hulky villains attacking him. It’s fun to watch, but it’s certainly not realistic. Neither is what New York Knicks legend Willis Reed did to the Los Angeles Lakers in an October 1966 game.

ESPN’s latest edition of their “30 for 30” documentary series — — features previously lost footage of Reed maniacally plowing through most of the Lakers roster with a sequence of impressively rageful haymakers. It’s the stuff of cinema, and you won’t believe it unless you see it:


As the scene’s narrator Phil Jackson (once Reed’s teammate, ) tells it, Lakers players Rudy LaRusso and Henry Finkel both sustained broken jaws from Reed’s outburst. The league, apparently, was only able to fine him $50.00 for his breach of the rules. The NBA’s come a long way since then; now, you’d likely go a season without salary for that kind of behavior.

Reed’s most indelible moment, of course, was his heroic performance in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals. Reed made a surprise appearance despite having recently torn a muscle in his right thigh. He delighted Manhattan by limping through the tunnel just moments before the game began, having just received a large dose of cortisone to dull the pain and make one last push toward New York’s first ever pro basketball championship.

He only scored twice, but they were the game’s first two baskets, and his immediate impact electrified the crowd. The Knicks went on to grab an emotional 113-99 victory and the Larry O’Brien trophy. As indelible as that moment is, though, it’ll be hard for anyone to scrub their mind of the image of Reed as a mercilessly punching tornado after watching this clip.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 10:45
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-october-23-2014

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 23:















. Yep, 6-4.





• A headline I think we'll see a lot this season: .


• Watch Kyrie Irving go between the legs to Kevin Love.



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

Post date: Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 10:38
Path: /nfl/ranking-nfls-top-mvp-candidates-so-far

There’s more than half a season still to go, and a lot can obviously change, but the NFL MVP race is shaping up to be an interesting one so far. Peyton Manning is clearly vying for his sixth MVP award and second straight. Meanwhile there’s already a groundswell of support for J.J. Watt to become the first defensive player to win the award in 28 seasons.

Chances are that in the end the award chase will settle out as it always does, with an offensive player taking home the hardware – and likely a quarterback for the seventh time in the last eight seasons. But at the moment, not even two months in, it’s a wide open race.

Here’s an early look at some of the contenders.


Peyton Manning is on an MVP runQB Peyton Manning, Denver

His numbers are ridiculous for everyone, but when you factor in that he’s 38 years old, the neck surgeries, the fact that he’s with his second team, they become other-worldly. He’s thrown for 19 touchdowns already with just three interceptions. That puts him on pace for a second straight 50-touchdown season (last year he threw 55). If he hits that mark, he’ll win this going away.


QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay

His yards are down a little, which is the only thing keeping him behind the leaders in this chase, because he’s also thrown 18 touchdowns and just one interception. It’s a different type of offense than Manning runs, but some scouts say he’s playing his position as well as anyone in the game right now.


QB Philip Rivers, San Diego

His numbers are right up there with Manning and Rodgers, including the 17 touchdowns and three interceptions. Most importantly, he’s the clear driving force behind the revival of a Chargers team that could give the Broncos a run for their money in the AFC West. He’s on pace for a lot of career-best numbers. But his fate might be tied to that of his team, and whether they can upend the Broncos as division champs.


QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis

His interceptions are a little high for this race (seven) but he also throws the ball more than anyone and arguably has the least to work with around him. If the Colts go on a run, he could become the favorite since he’s clearly the most talented player on that roster. A slow start (0-2) didn’t help, but he’s in a weak division and will have a lot of opportunities to pile up points and yards.


DeMarco Murray is on an MVP runRB DeMarco Murray

Why are the Cowboys suddenly good? Because they’ve rediscovered their rushing attack. Much of that is because of their strong offensive line, but don’t ignore the impact of Murray. It will help his cause if he makes a run at the NFL’s rushing record. There’s a long way to go, but he’s currently on pace after becoming the first back in NFL history to open a season with seven straight 100-yard rushing games.


DE J.J. Watt, Houston

He became a fan favorite with what was viewed as a dominant prime-time performance against the Indianapolis Colts a few weeks ago. And he was terrific. But here’s what hurt his candidacy: The Texans lost anyway, and Luck was clearly the best player on the field that night. With three touchdowns and a lot of attention, Watt may be the runaway leader for Defensive Player of the Year. But he'll need better numbers to really hang in the MVP chase. Right now, he has just five sacks – good for 12th in the NFL.


by Ralph Vacchiano

Post date: Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 10:13
Path: /nfl/san-diego-chargers-vs-denver-broncos-preview-and-prediction-2014

Week 8 of the NFL slate kicks off with tonight’s AFC West divisional matchup between the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos on CBS/NFL Network. This game features a pair of MVP-candidate quarterbacks in San Diego’s Philip Rivers (17 TDs, three INTs) and Denver’s Peyton Manning (510 career TD passes).


Last season, the Chargers played the Broncos better than just about any team this side of the Seahawks. All three meetings between the two were one-score margins, with Denver winning on the road 28–20 in Week 10, San Diego winning at Sports Authority Field at Mile High 27–20 in Week 15 and the Broncos earning a 24–17 victory in the Divisional Round of the AFC Playoffs. The Bolts did not fare as well against the Broncos in 2012, losing 35–24 at home in Week 6 and 30–23 in Week 11.


San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos


Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS/NFL Network

Spread: Denver -8


Three Things to Watch


1. Back to Work for Peyton Manning

Manning hasn't had much time to savor his newly minted record for career touchdown passes, but chances are pretty good that he'll add to that record in this game. Manning has thrown touchdowns in each of his 11 meetings with the Chargers, including a total of eight in the three games in which these teams met last season. Manning's Broncos avenged a December loss to the Chargers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High by dispatching San Diego a few weeks later in the playoffs. During his Broncos tenure, Manning is 4-1 against the Chargers, but he knows that the familiarity cuts both ways. "We're playing a great team in the Chargers, a team we're very familiar with, as they are with us," Manning said. "They beat us last year, so we got to get ready on this short week."


2. Freeney vs. Manning

For nine years, Dwight Freeney and Peyton Manning were highly successful teammates in Indianapolis. Finally, Freeney gets a chance to attack the former Colt like he's attacked quarterbacks across the league throughout his career. Freeney leads the team with 14 quarterback hits and 12 pressures, and he's sixth among active players with 110.0 career sacks. "It should be interesting,” Freeney told “But it should be good.  It’s going to be a little bit different for me because I’m used to having him on the same team, but it should be fun.  I’m excited to see what’s going to happen with it.  2011 was the last time I’ve actually seen him.  In practice you go against the guys all the time but you obviously don’t hit them. I’ll tell you what though; I’m not laying up against him!  It’s going to be an experience I’ll never forget."


3. Playing Keep-away

Following Manning's record-setting touchdown pass, a couple of his teammates engaged in a playful (and scripted) game of keep-away with the football in question. The Chargers would love to play a real game of keep-away with the Broncos signal-caller. The formula worked in last December's win in Denver, when Ryan Mathews rushed for 129 yards and the Chargers held the ball for more than 38 minutes. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich wouldn't mind seeing a repeat performance. "We want to be on the field as much as we can,” he said. “We want to play our game. And that is our game. Our game is convert on third down, mix it with the run and pass, be efficient and score touchdowns in the red zone." In Mathews’ absence while he nurses a knee injury, look for Branden Oliver to get plenty of chances. Oliver has rushed for 282 yards on 60 carries the last three weeks. 


Final Analysis


The weekend gets off to a strong start with this matchup of division rivals off to strong starts. Denver is riding high following its best performance of the season, a 42–17 win over San Francisco, while San Diego was lackluster in a loss to Kansas City. In addition, the Broncos' run defense is much improved this season, which could hamper the Chargers’ ball-control ambitions. 

Prediction: Denver 31, San Diego 21
San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/sec-2014-week-9-preview-and-predictions

The Week 9 slate is highlighted by Ole Miss’ trip to Baton Rouge to face an LSU team that has won two straight games. Elsewhere, Kentucky returns home after a sobering loss in Baton Rouge to host the No. 1 team in the nation, Mississippi State; Alabama heads to Tennessee seeking its eighth straight win over the Volunteers; Auburn hosts a South Carolina team that is seeking to get back to .500 in the SEC; and Missouri will look to improve to 3–1 in the league against struggling Vanderbilt.   

Week 9 Previews and Predictions:
|  |  | 


SEC Week 9 Game Power Rankings


1. Ole Miss (-3.5) at LSU (7:15 ET, ESPN)

Ole Miss is set to embark on the toughest two-game stretch of its season, with a trip to resurgent LSU followed up with a home date against Auburn. The Rebels will be in a great position — both in the SEC West and on the national scene — if they manage to win both games. LSU has won two straight to even its SEC record at 2–2 — but it’s a bit early to assume this edition of the Tigers is among the elite teams in the league. LSU’s wins have come against Florida (by three points) and at home against an improved-but-not-quite-ready-for-primetime Kentucky team. The Tigers still have issues at quarterback — Anthony Jennings is only 17-of-35 with 230 yards in the last two weeks — and you cannot be one-dimensional against the Ole Miss defense. The Rebels lead the nation in scoring defense (10.6 ppg, seven touchdowns allowed in seven games) and rank third nationally by allowing only 4.2 yards per play. 


Listen to the Week 9 predictions podcast:

Subscribe: |


2. Mississippi State (-13.5) at Kentucky (3:30 ET, CBS)

This game looked a lot more appealing a few weeks ago — maybe that’s why CBS tabbed it as the No. 1 game in the SEC — but has lost a bit of its intrigue after Kentucky’s 41–3 loss at LSU on Saturday night. Still, it’s a big game in Lexington, where the locals will be eager to see the Wildcats tangle with the No. 1 team in the nation. Kentucky is 5–0 at home against a soft schedule — South Carolina is by far the best team the Cats have played at Commonwealth — and could have a hard time finding that sixth win against a backloaded schedule. Mississippi State has passed every test in what has been a magical season to date. This could be a tricky spot, however; Mississippi State has been surprisingly vulnerable on defense — the Bulldogs rank 10th in the SEC, allowing 5.4 yards per play — and Kentucky has some quality playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. 


3. Alabama (-17) at Tennessee (7:30 ESPN2)

Alabama has dominated this series of late, winning the last seven by an average margin of 26.3 points. Only one of the games — a 12–10 Bama win in 2009 — was decided by fewer than 20 points. The 2014 Crimson Tide are fresh off one of the most impressive performances of the Nick Saban era, a 59–0 victory over Texas A&M. This team has lacked consistency — especially on the offensive side of the ball — but is clearly talented enough to win a national title. Tennessee has talent as well but lacks the depth of teams like Alabama and is painfully young. The Volunteers did some good thing offensively against Georgia (401 yards and 32 points) but has averaged only 245.6 yards and 7.3 points in its three other games against Power 5 conference teams. It’s tough to envision Tennessee scoring more than 14 points in this game. 


4. South Carolina (+17.5) at Auburn (7:30 SEC Network)

It’s been over a month since South Carolina last won an SEC game. And barring a major surprise, the Gamecocks will have to wait at least another week to get back into the win column. South Carolina, which is allowing a league-high 6.2 yards per play, has not shown the ability to slow down quality offenses. And Auburn, of course, possesses one of the top offensive teams in the league. The Tigers do more of their damage on the ground, but they are more than capable of making big plays in the passing game. Auburn is averaging 225.8 passing yards per game, up from 173.0 last season. It will be a challenge for South Carolina to keep the Tigers from scoring at least 30 points. 


5. Vanderbilt (+21) at Missouri (4 ET, SEC Network)

If all goes according to plan, Vanderbilt will start its fourth different quarterback of the season — and this is only the Commodores’ eighth game. Johnny McCrary, a redshirt freshman, is expected to get the nod after he came off the bench and played relatively well in the Dores’ 21–20 win over Charleston Southern two weeks ago. McCrary is more mobile than the only other healthy option — true freshman Wade Freeback — and that could come in handy against a Missouri defense that leads the SEC with 24 sacks. Missouri is 2–1 in the SEC despite only averaging 182.0 yards of offense in those three games. The Tigers are searching for more consistency from quarterback Maty Mauk and better play from the offensive line.


6. UAB (+23.5) at Arkansas (12 ET, SEC Network)

UAB has done some good things under first-year coach Bill Clark, a former high school coach in the Birmingham area who is bringing  stability to the program. This, however, is a tough matchup. The Blazers have struggled to stop the run — they gave up 292 yards to Mississippi State, 184 to Western Kentucky and 229 to Middle Tennessee — which does not bode well for this trip to Arkansas. The Razorbacks are averaging 256.9 rushing yards per game. Expect them to hit the 300 mark this weekend. 


Week 9 SEC Predictions

 David FoxBraden Gall Steven LassanMitch Light
UAB at ArkansasUA 30-10UA 36-14UA 45-24UA 41-17
Miss State at KentuckyMSU 38-10MSU 41-28MSU 38-24MSU 38-30
Vanderbilt at MizzouMU 42-7MU 34-13MU 30-13MU 24-14
Ole Miss at LSUUM 24-21LSU 24-23UM 24-10UM 20-7
S. Carolina at AuburnUA 35-14AU 41-21AU 38-27AU 34-12
Alabama at TenneeseeUA 42-10UA 41-17UA 38-7UA 30-10
Last Week4-24-25-15-1




SEC Week 9 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-2014-week-9-preview-and-predictions

The Big 12 probably needs this type of weekend. Not to take anything away from West Virginia visiting Oklahoma State — which could be a battle for first place — but this entire league needed to catch its breath after last weekend.


Forty percent of the Big 12 is off this weekend including both Baylor and Oklahoma, who will sit at home and lick their wounds. That still leaves the Mountaineers, Cowboys, Wildcats and Horned Frogs to jockey for the top spots in the standings.

Week 9 Previews and Predictions:
|  | 

Big 12 Week 9 Game Power Rankings


1. West Virginia (+1) at Oklahoma St
3:30 p.m., ESPN

It’s conceivable that the winner of this coaching grudge match will be alone in first place in the Big 12. If Texas knocks off Kansas State in Manhattan (stop laughing), the 4-1 winner between the rising Mountaineers and stumbling Pokes would be atop the league. Dana Holgorsen’s defense was fantastic last weekend against Baylor, holding the Bears to 318 total yards and 4.0 yards per play. Against TCU, Oklahoma State’s was not. Glenn Spencer’s young and struggling group gave up 676 yards and 8.2 yards per play in the 31-point loss. West Virginia is much better at home (21.5 ppg allowed) than it is away from Morgantown (34.7 ppg), so Mike Gundy’s offense will have to match Clint Trickett and Kevin White’s production if Oklahoma State wants to get the win at home. White has posted seven consecutive 100-yard games.


Listen to the Week 9 predictions podcast:

Subscribe: |


2. Texas (+10) at Kansas St
Noon, ESPN

This has been a fascinating rivalry in the Big 12 over the years and this edition features some role reversal, as the Wildcats enter as the heavy favorites. Texas is 1-5 all-time in Manhattan but the Longhorns toppled KSU in Austin last year, breaking a five-game losing streak to the Cats. If Charlie Strong wants to make it two in a row, the Big 12’s top defense will have to play near-perfect football. Texas leads the Big 12 with 4.75 yards per play and 364.5 yards per game allowed in conference games. Meanwhile, Tyrone Swoopes, who is coming off back-to-back 300-yard games, will have to be effective against a KSU team that doesn’t beat itself. The Wildcats lead the Big 12 in turnovers lost (6) and penalties (3.7 per game). If Texas isn’t mistake free and physical on both sides of the ball, Jake Waters will simply will his team to victory. Waters has been brilliant this fall and is largely overlooked in the league despite leading all Big 12 QBs in rushing yards (371) and TDs (7) while ranking No. 2 in completion percentage (65.1) and passing efficiency (151.75).


3. Texas Tech (+22.5) at TCU
3:30 p.m., FOX

The Frogs are the highest-ranked team (No. 10) from the Big 12 and are a three-TD favorite to move to 6-1. And they are doing it running an offense that Kliff Kingsbury wishes he had in Lubbock. The wide-open spread attack led by Trevone Boykin — one that is averaging 537.7 yards per game and 6.46 yards per play — makes TCU one of the most balanced teams in the nation. Texas Tech’s 109th-rated defense should be no match for the Horned Frogs' surging offense and will be hard-pressed to match last year’s performance in which the Raiders held TCU to 10 points. Unless Tech tightens up on defense and irons out its undisciplined play — it ranks 127th in penalties (10.1/game) and 122nd in turnover margin (-8) — it should be another banner day for Gary Patterson. Let’s just hope the fans in Fort Worth show up to appreciate what their coach has done.


Off: Baylor, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Kansas


Big 12 Predictions:

 Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
WVU (+1) at OSUWVU, 34-30WVU, 37-30WVU, 28-24WVU, 34-31
Texas (+10) at KSUKSU, 27-17KSU, 24-7KSU, 21-14KSU 30-20
T. Tech (+22.5) at TCUTCU, 45-21TCU, 37-24TCU, 42-21TCU 45-24
Last Week:3-23-24-13-2
Big 12 2014 Week 9 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-2014-week-9-preview-and-predictions

It might not look like a marquee weekend in the Pac-12, as only one game will feature two ranked teams, but Week 9 could be one of the biggest of the season out West.


Contenders Oregon, USC, Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA are all on the road against teams more than capable of pulling an upset. Stanford and Washington are looking for home cooking to rebound after bad losses while Utah is hoping to continue its surge into the postseason.


Buckle up, Pac-12, this weekend is going to be fun.

Week 9 Previews and Predictions
|  |  | 

Pac-12 Week 9 Game Power Rankings


1. USC (-1) at Utah
10 p.m., FS1

Not only is this one of the most important games of the year in the Pac-12 South, it should also be one of the most intriguing matchups. According to , USC’s offense is the 11th most efficient unit in the nation. One look at Cody Kessler’s numbers should help support that argument — he’s second nationally with an 18:1 TD:INT ratio. According to the same opponent-adjusted metric, Utah’s defense also is the 11th most efficient unit in the nation. One look at the Utes’ disruptive plays confirms this as well — Utah ranks No. 1 nationally in sacks (33.0) and No. 3 in tackles for a loss (61.0). But while strength-on-strength is always fun for observers, the outcome could hinge on the Trojans' ability to stop Devontae Booker. After giving up 452 yards rushing in a loss to Boston College, USC’s defense held Oregon State, Arizona State and Arizona to 166 total yards on the ground. Booker has been downright impossible to stop over the last few weeks and his success on the ground will be critical for Utah, a team still using two quarterbacks. Lastly, Utah’s near-perfect special teams could be a deciding factor in a game featuring two evenly matched opponents.


Listen to the Week 9 predictions podcast:

Subscribe: |


2. Arizona St (pk) at Washington
10:45 p.m., ESPN

The offensive-minded Sun Devils are flying high after an unexpected upset over Stanford last weekend. The defensively oriented Huskies limp back home from Eugene after yet another lopsided defeat to Oregon. Chris Petersen’s bunch will face yet another high-powered offense, regardless of who is under center for Todd Graham. Taylor Kelly expects to return to the starting lineup to face one of the more disruptive front sevens in the nation. Part of the reason Washington has lost two of its last three has been the lack of balance on offense. Cyler Miles isn’t asked to post big numbers through the air but has been extremely efficient (66.2%, 10 TD, 1 INT). To beat ASU, however, Miles will need support from his ground game that has been largely non-existent in Pac-12 play, averaging 108.3 yards per game and 2.9 yards per carry in three league contests.


3. Oregon (-17.5) at Cal
Fri., 10 p.m., FS1

The Ducks have won five straight over the Bears, including three consecutive blowouts. But Cal is much improved and the last time Oregon visited Berkeley with a national title on the line, the Bears nearly ended the Ducks' BCS National Championship Game hopes (Oregon eked out a 15-13 win) in 2010. Marcus Mariota has been downright filthy all season and his offensive supporting cast appears to be getting healthy. Sonny Dykes' team is improved but his defense has major issues, giving up more than 600 yards per game in five Pac-12 games. Bears QB Jared Goff has done an excellent job taking care of the football but will need to play the best game of his career to keep his porous defense off the field.


4. Arizona (-3) at Washington St
5 p.m., P12 Net

Mike Leach’s hopes for making a bowl game are fading rapidly and his defense is flat out terrible. However, the Cougars can put up yards and points and three close losses indicate they can play with most anyone on their schedule. Arizona comes to town after two weeks of prep following the painful home loss to USC. Anu Solomon is fourth nationally in passing (356.0 ypg) and should have plenty of space to distribute the football to his talented collection of receivers and backs. If Rich Rodriguez’ 3-3-5 defense — which has been excellent against spread offenses — can get a few stops, Zona should return home with a key road win.


5. Oregon St (+13.5) at Stanford
3:30 p.m., ESPN2

Both teams are coming off losses in which both head coaches were probably stunned. Oregon State lost in double overtime at home and has allowed over 200 yards rushing in two of its last three games. Stanford’s offense has been woeful all year (11th in Pac-12 in yards per game), but the defense struggled for the first time in the road loss to Arizona State, giving up a season-high 26 points. These are the two slowest teams in the Pac-12 on offense (seconds of possession per play, via ESPN) and both teams have struggled to put points on the board. The Cardinal have won four straight in the series and haven’t lost at home to the Beavers since 2006.


6. UCLA (-16.5) at Colorado
2 p.m., P12 Net

The Buffaloes have lost six straight Pac-12 games and 20 of their last 21. UCLA barely avoided a third consecutive loss against Cal last weekend in Berkeley. Both teams can move the ball, can score and have struggled mightily on defense. CU quarterback Sefo Luifau has been solid (290.0 ypg, 21 TD, 9 INT) but likely doesn’t have the supporting cast to knock off the more talented Bruins. As long as Brett Hundley doesn’t turn the ball over, UCLA should win easily.


Pac-12 Predictions:

 Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
USC (-1.5) at UtahUtah, 27-24Utah, 26-22Utah, 21-14USC, 27-24
ASU (pk) at Wash.Wash., 30-28ASU, 31-30ASU, 31-21ASU, 30-27
Oregon (-17.5) at CalOre., 40-21Ore., 41-13Ore., 42-28Ore., 48-27
Zona (-3) at WazzuZona, 40-28Zona, 41-33Zona, 41-28Zona, 40-34
Ore. St (+13.5) at Stan.Stan., 20-14Stan., 24-20Stan., 17-14Stan., 27-17
UCLA (-16.5) at Colo.UCLA, 41-28UCLA, 33-6UCLA, 38-28UCLA, 41-27
Last Week:3-24-13-24-1


Pac-12 2014 Week 9 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2014-week-9-preview-and-predictions

The ninth week of the college football season presents a pair of intriguing coaching matchups — one will be the first matchup in a new coaching rivalry, the other likely is the final meeting.


In State College, two of the most aggressive recruiters in the country will face off in the first meeting between Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Penn State’s James Franklin. The two never crossed paths at their former jobs in the SEC as Meyer left Florida a year before Franklin landed at Vanderbilt.


No doubt, the winning coach will use this game as bragging rights as both schools try to recruit Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland.


The other coach matchup to watch will be in East Lansing. Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio has tried to avoid overt references to the Spartans’ dominance in the series with Michigan, but it’s clear Dantonio’s program relishes the shedding of the little brother tag. That, of course, is why this may be the final Michigan-Michigan State game for Brady Hoke.

Week 9 Previews and Predictions
|  |  | 


Big Ten Week 9 Game Power Rankings

All times Eastern. All games Saturday.


1. Ohio State at Penn State

8 p.m., ABC

In the four games since the loss to Virginia Tech, Ohio State looks every bit the dominant team the Buckeyes were expected to be with Braxton Miller at quarterback. Credit J.T. Barrett and his development. The redshirt freshman has led four consecutive 50-point performances or better, completing 71.7 percent of his passes for 9.75 yards per attempt with 17 touchdowns and an interception during that span. Penn State may be be the toughest test of the season for Barrett so far with the game on the road against an imposing front seven. Penn State is allowing two yards per carry, the best average in the country, so it will be interesting to see how Barrett fares if running back Ezekiel Elliott is not productive. While Barrett vs. the Penn State defense will be a fascinating matchup, the Ohio State defensive line vs. overmatched Penn State’s offensive line may be as big a mismatch as any this week.


Listen to the Week 9 predictions podcast:

Subscribe: |


2. Michigan at Michigan State

3:30 p.m., ABC

Michigan State now has the clear upper hand in this in-state rivalry, and that doesn’t look to change this season. Michigan State has won five of the last six, with four of those wins coming by two touchdowns or more. A year ago, Michigan State sacked Michigan seven times and held the Wolverines to minus-48 rushing yards in Ann Arbor. This game could make a run at being as lopsided as Sparty’s 29-6 win in 2013. Michigan State rolled over Indiana last week for 330 rushing yards and five touchdowns despite the absence of injured starting center Jack Allen, who is . For all of Michigan’s struggles this season, the Wolverines are fifth in the country in yards allowed per carry (2.73 per rush).


3. Maryland at Wisconsin

Noon, Big Ten Network

The game may feature the Big Ten’s offensive player of the year (Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon) and defensive player of the year (Maryland’s William Likely). The pair are putting up wild numbers and will have plenty of chances to flourish. Gordon has rushed for 868 yards and nine touchdowns in his last four games. This week, he’ll be matched up with the No. 13 rush defense in the Big Ten. Likely has four interceptions this season, including his second pick six of the year last week against Iowa. Likely also has three tackles for a loss and a punt return for a touchdown. Like Gordon, Likely has a fortunate matchup. Wisconsin is in Tanner McEvoy and Joel Stave, who have combined to complete 54.9 percent of their passes with six touchdowns and eight interceptions. Maryland’s quarterback situation also will be worth watching as C.J. Brown has been all week as his backup, Caleb Rowe, was lost for the season to a torn ACL.


4. Rutgers at Nebraska

Noon, ESPN2

Welcome to the Big Ten, Rutgers. A week after a 56-17 loss to Ohio State in Columbus, the Scarlet Knights visit Nebraska. After that, Wisconsin visits Piscataway next week. Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah re-asserted his Heisman credentials with 146 yards and four touchdowns last week against Northwestern, but as much as Abdullah’s season deserves attention, don’t overlook the Nebraska D. The Cornhuskers are allowing 4.83 yards per play and 338.6 yards per game, both their best averages since 2010. 


5. Minnesota at Illinois


Minnesota needed a 52-yard field goal in the final five minutes to complete a 39-38 comeback win against Purdue last week. The Gophers are a surprising 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the Big Ten. They have to be taken seriously as Big Ten West contenders, but their schedule will get tougher into November. They may not be able to afford many slip ups against teams like Purdue and Illinois. Prolific running back David Cobb continues to be the centerpiece of the Gophers’ offense, but the passing game has at least proved to be capable in conference games. The Gophers average only 18.7 passes in Big Ten play, but they are second in the league in pass efficiency in conference games.


Big Ten Week 9 Staff Picks


 David FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light

Minnesota (-6 1/2) at Illinois

Minn 28-10Minn 34-27Minn 34-24Min 30-20

Maryland at Wisconsin (-11)

Wisc 31-21Wisc 37-24Wisc 31-27Md 28-24

Rutgers at Nebraska (-17 1/2)

Neb 49-14Neb 41-20Neb 38-20Neb 31-17

Michigan at Michigan State (-17 1/2)

MSU 42-10MSU 41-10MSU 38-10MSU 34-13

Ohio State (-13 1/2) at Penn State

OSU 35-10OSU 31-14OSU 34-14OSU 23-6
Last Week5-04-14-15-0
This Season57-1855-2056-1952-24


Big Ten 2014 Week 9 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/acc-2014-week-9-preview-and-predictions

The ACC owned the spotlight last Saturday night, as the Florida State-Notre Dame matchup was one of the best - and highest viewed - games of the 2014 college football season.

This week, there’s a different flavor of games in the conference. Instead of a national spotlight matchup, Week 9’s games are all about finding clarity in a wide-open Coastal Division.

Virginia Tech hosts Miami on Thursday night, and the Hokies look to rebound after losing to Pittsburgh last week. Is this an elimination game in the Coastal?

Elsewhere, Georgia Tech heads to Pittsburgh after losing at North Carolina last Saturday. The Yellow Jackets have dropped two in a row after opening the year 5-0. Virginia hopes to keep pace with Duke for the No. 1 spot in the Coastal with a home date against North Carolina.

Boston College (against Wake Forest) and Clemson (versus Syracuse) should score easy wins on the Atlantic side this Saturday.

Week 9 Previews and Predictions:



ACC Week 9 Game Power Rankings

1. Miami (-2.5) at Virginia Tech
7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN (Thursday)

At the beginning of the season, this game was tagged as a potential showdown for first place in the Coastal. Fast forward to Week 9, and it’s simply a battle of two teams trying to stay alive in the division. Virginia Tech and Miami are just a combined 8-6 overall and 2-4 in ACC play. The Hokies desperately need a spark on offense, averaging just 4.8 yards per play and 24.7 points per game in ACC contests. Quarterback Michael Brewer has been inconsistent this season, but he hasn’t had much help from a young receiving corps, injured running backs and a struggling offensive line. Miami’s defense could be the good remedy for the Hokies’ offense, as the Hurricanes have struggled on this side of the ball recently and allow 4.5 yards per play. Helping Virginia Tech’s cause on Thursday night will be the return of running back Marshawn Williams, who should help coordinator Scot Loeffler find more overall balance in the gameplan. When Miami has the ball, expect running back Duke Johnson to test the Hokies’ defense. Johnson did not play in last year’s game but recorded 100 yards in 2012. Virginia Tech won’t have standout linebacker Chase Williams for this game, which is a concern for a defense that has allowed 335 rushing yards in its last two contests. Miami freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya ranks second in the ACC with 258 passing yards per game but has tossed six picks in three road games. The Hurricanes should have the edge on offense. But can Miami’s offense (16 turnovers in seven games) limit its mistakes in a tough road environment?

2. Georgia Tech at Pittsburgh (-4)
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU

It sounds like a broken record, but this is a critical game for Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh for positioning with the Coastal Division. The Panthers took a step forward with a win over Virginia Tech last week and a victory over the Yellow Jackets would setup a huge showdown with Duke on Nov. 1. Georgia Tech started 5-0 but has lost two straight games. With a matchup against Clemson remaining, it’s critical the Yellow Jackets get back on track this week. Georgia Tech’s option offense – 306.3 yards per game on the ground – is a difficult matchup on a short week, but Pittsburgh has some extra time to prepare after playing on Thursday last week. The Panthers rank fifth in the ACC against the run but allowed 225 yards to Virginia on Oct. 4. Keep an eye on the ground attack on the other sideline, as Georgia Tech should expect a heavy dose of running back James Conner. The sophomore has not rushed for 100 yards in three games, but he recorded 5.3 yards per carry against the Hokies. He could find plenty of rushing lanes against the Yellow Jackets front seven, which is allowing 187.9 yards per game. Even though both teams want to establish the run, quarterback play is critical. Will it be Georgia Tech’s Justin Thomas or Pittsburgh’s Chad Voytik delivering in the clutch? In a tight game such as this, keep an eye on the turnover battle.


Listen to the Week 9 predictions podcast:

Subscribe: |

3. North Carolina at Virginia (-6.5)

Noon ET, ACC Network

North Carolina snapped a four-game losing streak by defeating Georgia Tech 48-43 in Chapel Hill last Saturday. The Tar Heels – even at 1-2 in the ACC – aren’t out of the Coastal Division title picture. However, every Saturday is essentially a must-win game for coach Larry Fedora’s team. Virginia was picked at the bottom of the Coastal Division by most this preseason, but the Cavaliers are 2-1 in conference play and need to pickup a win on Saturday before a tough upcoming stretch of games: at Georgia Tech, at Florida State, Miami and at Virginia Tech. This matchup could simply come down to offense versus defense. North Carolina leads the ACC by averaging 38.7 points per game, while Virginia has allowed just 20 points per game in conference play. The Cavaliers also rank fourth in the ACC in sacks (22) and lead the conference with 19 takeaways. The Tar Heels need quarterback Marquise Williams to pickup through the air where he left off the last two weeks (693 yards and six scores), while taking advantage of his scrambling ability (4.9 ypc, 4 TDs). When Virginia has the ball, expect the Cavaliers to test a North Carolina defense ranked last in the ACC against the run. Running back Kevin Parks has 244 rushing yards over his last two games and should find plenty of room against the Tar Heels. Matt Johns has started the last three games at quarterback for Virginia, but Greyson Lambert could return this week.

4. Syracuse at Clemson (-14.5)
7 p.m. ET, ESPNU


Saturday is only the third time Syracuse and Clemson have met on the gridiron. And much like last season’s result (49-14), everything suggests another one-sided game is likely. The Orange snapped a four-game losing streak last week, defeating Wake Forest 30-7. But beating Wake Forest and winning on the road at Clemson is a different challenge. Syracuse is expected to turn to true freshman quarterback A.J. Long once again, which is a tough scenario for the first-year player, as Clemson is allowing just 4.4 yards per play and has held four of its seven opponents under 20 points in 2014. The Tigers are averaging under 30 points (29.6) in ACC play for the first time since 2010. Cole Stoudt is back under center with Deshaun Watson nursing a hand injury, and the senior played well in last week’s win over Boston College (29 of 45, 285 yards). Clemson’s defense – led by an aggressive front seven and defensive end Vic Beasley – should be able to keep in check Syracuse’s offense (22.6 ppg), allowing Stoudt to turn in its second solid start and guide the Tigers to an easy win.

5. Boston College (-12) at Wake Forest
3:30 p.m. ET, RSN/ESPN3

Both teams enter Saturday’s matchup looking to rebound after losses in Week 8. Boston College nearly upset Clemson, falling 17-13 after its last drive fell short of the goal line. Wake Forest jumped out to a 7-0 lead against Syracuse, but the Demon Deacons lost quarterback John Wolford to injury and gave up 30 unanswered points in a 30-7 loss. Getting consistent production from the offense has been a challenge for Wake Forest’s first-year coach Dave Clawson. But the strength of this team is on defense, as the Demon Deacons are allowing 4.9 yards per play and has 53 tackles for a loss so far this year. Boston College’s rushing offense presents an interesting challenge for Wake Forest, as quarterback Tyler Murphy leads the team with 766 yards and is a dangerous runner on option reads. And Murphy has plenty of help, as three other players have recorded at least 225 yards this year. Statistically, the Demon Deacons are allowing 175.1 rushing yards per game. However, eliminate the game against Army (341), and the total allowed per game becomes more respectable (3.8 ypc, 147.5 ypg). Wake Forest’s defense can keep it in this game, but Boston College has an edge in the trenches and offensive playmakers. 


ACC Week 9 Predictions

Miami (+2.5) at VTVT 24-14VT 23-21VT 24-23VT 24-20
Ga. Tech (+4) at PittGT 28-21GT 34-33Pitt 34-31Pitt 31-24
UNC (+6.5) at VirginiaUVa 35-28UVa 30-24UVa 31-27UVa 33-27
Cuse (+14.5) at ClemsonCU 41-14CU 30-13CU 40-17CU 41-24
BC (-12) at Wake BC 35-14BC 30-13BC 31-13BC 30-10
Last Week:3-46-15-24-3
Season Record:56-1959-1661-1458-17


ACC Week 9 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /nascar/nascar-rookie-report-ranking-six-remaining-cup-series-roy-candidates

Welcome to the Athlon Rookie Report, where each week David Smith will evaluate the deepest crop of new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series talent since 2006. The Report will include twice-monthly rankings, in-depth analysis, Q&A sessions with the drivers and more.


Today, David attempts to isolate each rookie from his team and equipment and properly rank the driving chops of each member of this year’s rookie class.



With four races remaining in the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, our ongoing ranking of this year’s rookies becomes clearer:


1. Kyle Larson, No. 42 (previous ranking: 1)

Larson does a lot of things well, but his restarts have been polarizing this entire season, especially in specific spurts. In the six Chase races — and mind you, his 6.0-place average finish during that span is the second-best in the series, trailing only Joey Logano’s 4.2 — his veteran-like restarting ability from the preferred groove has been on full display. Across 19 restarts from the more desired of the two grooves within the first seven rows, he retained his position 18 times (a 94.7 percent retention clip) and gained 31 spots. Conversely, his results from the non-preferred groove couldn’t conceivably have been much worse. Across an equal 19 attempts, he kept his spot just seven times (a 36.8 percent retention rate) and lost a total of 27 positions. While it’s clear that Larson is a world-beater once he finds a drivable groove, this six-race snapshot indicates an area of improvement — situations in which he doesn’t get his lane of choice — for the driver most likely to be named this season’s Rookie of the Year.



2. Austin Dillon, No. 3 (previous: 2)

If Larson’s restart tendencies seem in line with what’s expected — drivers restart better in the preferred groove than they do in the non-preferred — then Dillon’s own restart habits are out of whack, at least across the last six races. This snapshot shows us a driver who has been more efficient from the non-preferred groove as of late, out-retaining his preferred-groove attempts by almost 17 percent. Across 14 restarts from the non-preferred groove, he held his position seven times (50 percent), while his preferred-groove efforts netted just three restarts out of nine in which positions were retained (33.3 percent). This doesn’t reflect his yearlong restart efforts, though. For the season, those numbers are somewhat flipped — he holds a 53.9 percent retention rate from the preferred groove, while maintaining his restart position 39.4 percent of the time from the non-preferred.



3. Cole Whitt, No. 26 (previous: 4)

At Talladega, Whitt led the first lap of his Cup Series career and scored a 15th-place finish, displaying the kind of closing kick that he and crew chief Randy Cox have become known for in 2014. Their nine-position gain in the final 10 percent of Sunday’s race was just a drop in the bucket of their season-long closing efforts. Their 93.1 percent position retention in the red zone — the laps spanning a race’s 10 percent-to-go mark until its conclusion — is the best among all series regulars. Whitt and Cox are, through 32 races, the most reliable closers in Cup.



4. Justin Allgaier, No. 51 (previous: 3)

Things were looking up for Allgaier and his HScott Motorsports team, fresh off of their best finish of the 2014 season — a 15th-place result at Charlotte — until qualifying at Talladega provided a hurdle not cleared for them and the team of 2013 Rookie of the Year Ricky Stenhouse. Both failed to qualify, and the blame for that has been incorrectly deflected.


Consider this an aside to the Rookie Report rankings this week: The unique, one-time-only qualifying format last weekend at Talladega was improperly blamed for two series regulars missing the show. One legendary driver and a notable team owner criticized NASCAR for the confusion of the format; however, they did themselves no favors by revealing their cheated feelings to be an effect of never understanding the rules correctly in the first place.


Jeff Gordon, who qualified into the race via a provisional starting spot and led the epically slow qualifying draft that included Stenhouse and Allgaier, admitted via Twitter that he’d “never been so … confused trying to qualify for a race,” while Jack Roush, Stenhouse’s owner, that he “didn’t consider the fact that our position in points would leave us in jeopardy. That was a blind side on my part … It’s just unbelievable that we didn’t get on the racetrack in time to get a lap there.”


It’s true: A number of teams failed to comprehend what the condensed timeframe for qualifying meant, even though the memo NASCAR sent to competitors stating the rule was sent in September, weeks in advance of the race (that’s when the media types like myself also received a copy). Teams, including Gordon’s and Stenhouse’s, bizarrely waited until the clock ticked down before making an initial run instead of getting in as many laps as possible (and note that in final practice, all but one of 21 cars that took time recorded their fastest lap of the session after their second lap; more time on the track would seemingly produce more chances at an optimum lap for an impound event).


As for Roush’s overall ambivalence toward his team’s position in the point standings, let’s just chalk that up to actions unbefitting of a would-be Hall-of-Fame team owner. The top six teams in points — and only those six — being guaranteed starting spots was a rule put into place before this season began. It’s the second mishandling of race entrance in as many weeks for Roush, who didn’t procure points from a fellow Ford team (i.e. It could have borrowed the car number and corresponding points from Wood Brothers Racing or FAS Lane Racing) and, instead, watched Trevor Bayne fail to make the Charlotte race behind the wheel of its No. 6 entry.


For several competitors, failure to fully understand a new rule dictating competition was an embarrassment. For Allgaier, it cost him a race he could have used for his own continued assimilation into NASCAR’s most cutthroat division.



5. Michael Annett, No. 7 (previous: 5)

Annett is a graduate of the ARCA Series, where he claimed victories at Talladega in 2007 and Daytona in 2008. Those wins were easy to remember after his showing on Sunday, which was arguably his best of the season, though the accident during the first green-white-checker attempt derailed his chance of a finish worthy of the effort. It was the first race of his young Cup Series career in which he spent the majority of his completed laps (51 percent) running inside the top 15. He also somehow tallied the third-highest green-flag pass total (635) in a car that lacked the lane-to-lane maneuverability of machines built by Hendrick, Penske or JGR.



6. Alex Bowman, No. 23 (previous: 6)

Bowman and BK Racing could’ve used a good run at Talladega; however, he was one of just 13 drivers to spend less than 10 percent of his laps inside the top 15, his best running position (ninth) was the third-worst among all 43 drivers and his collection in the 10-car accident on lap 104 ended his afternoon, saddling him with a 43rd-place (last place) finish. For all the randomness that restrictor plate races provide, the four point-paying races only sort of bounced Bowman’s way, his best outing being the attrition-filled July race at Daytona wherein he finished a season-best 13th. He averaged a 26.8-place finish on plate tracks this season, a 5.6-position improvement over his season-long 32.4-place average.



David Smith is the founder of and the creator of NASCAR statistics for projection, analysis and scouting. Follow him on Twitter at


Photo by Action Sports, Inc.

David Smith ranks the six-driver field in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' rookie of the year race.
Post date: Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 08:16
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-quarterback-rankings-week-8

Peyton Manning not only laid claim to another record, he also holds the No. 1 spot in Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings for Week 8. With four touchdown passes in Denver’s convincing win over San Francisco, Manning passed Brett Favre’s 508 career touchdown pass total, a number he’s likely to put completely out of reach before he retires. Manning and the Broncos have a short turnaround this week with Philip Rivers and the Chargers on tap for Thursday night. Meanwhile, no quarterback has been hotter recently than Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay has won its past four games by an average of 19.3 points, as Rodgers has looked the part of an MVP candidate: 71 percent completion rate, 977 yards, 13 TDs and no interceptions. Rodgers will look to continue his hot streak when he goes head-to-head against Drew Brees and the Saints in the Superdome on Sunday night.


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 8 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks


Teams on bye: New York Giants, San Francisco


1Peyton ManningDENvs. SD (Thurs.)
2Aaron RodgersGBat NO
3Andrew LuckINDat PIT
4Drew BreesNOvs. GB
5Russell WilsonSEAat CAR
6Philip RiversSDat DEN (Thurs.)
7Tom BradyNEvs. CHI
8Tony RomoDALvs. WAS (Mon.)
9Jay CutlerCHIat NE
10Nick FolesPHIat ARI
11Carson PalmerARIvs. PHI
12Matthew StaffordDETvs. ATL (London)
13Cam NewtonCARvs. SEA
14Ryan TannehillMIAat JAC
15Matt RyanATLvs. DET (London)
16Alex SmithKCvs. STL
17Joe FlaccoBALat CIN
18Ben RoethlisbergerPITvs. IND
19Kyle OrtonBUFat NYJ
20Andy DaltonCINvs. BAL
21Mike GlennonTBvs. MIN
22Austin DavisSTLat KC
23Teddy BridgewaterMINat TB
24Brian HoyerCLEvs. OAK
25Geno SmithNYJvs. BUF
26Ryan FitzpatrickHOUat TEN

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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


Need more fantasy help? Visit .

Fantasy Football 2014 Quarterback Rankings: Week 8
Post date: Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-running-back-rankings-week-8

No surprise that DeMarco Murray continues to lead the way in Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings for Week 8. Not only is Murray leading the NFL in rushing by nearly 300 yards, he also is the first player in history to post seven straight 100-yard games to start the season. Murray faces an interesting test Monday night against a Washington defense that’s been pretty good against the run. Meanwhile, last year’s rushing champion, LeSean McCoy, finally broke through in a big way two weeks ago with 149 yards rushing against the Giants. McCoy should be fresh coming off of a bye, but he must head out West for a showdown against Arizona’s stingy defense. The Cardinals are No. 1 in the league in rushing defense and in terms of fewest fantasy points allowed to opposing RBs. McCoy’s a must-start player, but he barely made our top 10 because of this matchup.


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 8 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Backs


Teams on bye: New York Giants, San Francisco


1DeMarco MurrayDALvs. WAS (Mon.)
2Matt ForteCHIat NE
3Marshawn LynchSEAat CAR
4Arian FosterHOUat TEN
5Jamaal CharlesKCvs. STL
6Le'Veon BellPITvs. IND
7Andre EllingtonARIvs. PHI
8Lamar MillerMIAat JAC
9LeSean McCoyPHIat ARI
10Eddie LacyGBat NO
11Justin ForsettBALat CIN
12Ben TateCLEvs. OAK
13Giovani BernardCINvs. BAL
14Joique BellDETvs. ATL (London)
15Ahmad BradshawINDat PIT
16Branden OliverSDat DEN (Thurs.)
17Shane VereenNEvs. CHI
18Ronnie HillmanDENvs. SD (Thurs.)
19Alfred MorrisWASat DAL (Mon.)
20Jerick McKinnonMINat TB
21Chris IvoryNYJvs. BUF
22Mark IngramNOvs. GB
23Doug MartinTBvs. MIN
24Tre MasonSTLat KC
25Darren McFaddenOAKat CLE
26Reggie BushDETvs. ATL (London)
27Bishop SankeyTENvs. HOU
28Anthony DixonBUFat NYJ
29Denard RobinsonJACvs. MIA
30Trent RichardsonINDat PIT
31Steven JacksonATLvs. DET (London)
32Isaiah CrowellCLEvs. OAK
33Jonathan StewartCARvs. SEA
34Darren SprolesPHIat ARI
35Khiry RobinsonNOvs. GB
36Bernard PierceBALat CIN
37Bobby RaineyTBvs. MIN
38James StarksGBat NO
39Bryce BrownBUFat NYJ
40Benny CunninghamSTLat KC
41Jeremy HillCINvs. BAL
42Chris JohnsonNYJvs. BUF
43Knile DavisKCvs. STL
44Matt AsiataMINat TB
45Travaris CadetNOvs. GB
46Stepfan TaylorARIvs. PHI
47Zac StacySTLat KC
48Alfred BlueHOUat TEN

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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


Need more fantasy help? Visit .

Fantasy Football 2014 Running Back Rankings: Week 8
Post date: Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-wide-receiver-rankings-week-8

Demaryius Thomas isn’t leading his position in fantasy points, but no one has been more productive recently, which is why he leads off Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings for Week 8. Besides helping teammate Peyton Manning make history on Sunday night, Thomas has caught five touchdown passes in the last three games alone while scoring a total of 95.1 fantasy points (Athlon scoring) during that span. In other WR news, the hope is that A.J. Green will be back after missing the past two games with a toe injury. Our No. 9 ranking shows that we share in this optimism, but this is definitely a situation to keep an eye on as the week progresses. The outlook isn’t as promising, however, as it relates to Calvin Johnson. Megatron did return to practice this week, which is a good sign, but with Detroit’s bye on the horizon there’s really no reason to rush him back for Sunday’s game in London against Atlanta. Especially considering how well Golden Tate has played in Johnson’s absence. In the last four games, Tate has put up Megatron-esque numbers (32 rec., 448 yds., 2 TDs), which is why he checks in at No. 7 this week.


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 8 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers


Teams on bye: New York Giants, San Francisco


1Demaryius ThomasDENvs. SD (Thurs.)
2Jordy NelsonGBat NO
3Dez BryantDALvs. WAS (Mon.)
4Antonio BrownPITvs. IND
5Randall CobbGBat NO
6Jeremy MaclinPHIat ARI
7Golden TateDETvs. ATL (London)
8Julio JonesATLvs. DET (London)
9A.J. GreenCINvs. BAL
10T.Y. HiltonINDat PIT
11Mike WallaceMIAat JAC
12Emmanuel SandersDENvs. SD (Thurs.)
13Brandon MarshallCHIat NE
14Julian EdelmanNEvs. CHI
15Alshon JefferyCHIat NE
16Steve SmithBALat CIN
17Andre JohnsonHOUat TEN
18Vincent JacksonTBvs. MIN
19Michael FloydARIvs. PHI
20Kelvin BenjaminCARvs. SEA
21Sammy WatkinsBUFat NYJ
22DeSean JacksonWASat DAL (Mon.)
23Pierre GarconWASat DAL (Mon.)
24Terrance WilliamsDALvs. WAS (Mon.)
25Doug BaldwinSEAat CAR
26Roddy WhiteATLvs. DET (London)
27Marques ColstonNOvs. GB
28DeAndre HopkinsHOUat TEN
29Keenan AllenSDat DEN (Thurs.)
30Larry FitzgeraldARIvs. PHI
31Percy HarvinNYJvs. BUF
32Torrey SmithBALat CIN
33Brandin CooksNOvs. GB
34Eric DeckerNYJvs. BUF
35Kendall WrightTENvs. HOU
36Brian QuickSTLat KC
37Mohamed SanuCINvs. BAL
38Wes WelkerDENvs. SD (Thurs.)
39James JonesOAKat CLE
40Andre HolmesOAKat CLE
41Dwayne BoweKCvs. STL
42Cecil ShortsJACvs. MIA
43Greg JenningsMINat TB
44Mike EvansTBvs. MIN
45Justin HunterTENvs. HOU
46Cordarrelle PattersonMINat TB
47Brandon LaFellNEvs. CHI
48Malcom FloydSDat DEN (Thurs.)

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:                                            

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


Need more fantasy help? Visit 

Fantasy Football 2014 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 8
Post date: Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-tight-end-rankings-week-8

Julius Thomas didn’t catch a touchdown pass for the first game this season, but that’s not enough to knock him from his perch atop Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 8. As good as Thomas has been, however, Greg Olsen currently leads TEs in fantasy points. Thomas’ nine touchdown grabs are still pacing not only his position, but the entire NFL, while perennial fantasy stud Antonio Gates isn’t too far behind with seven. Injuries also continue to be a factor. Jimmy Graham’s sprained shoulder didn’t prevent him from playing last week, but he was nothing more than a decoy (2 targets, 0 catches) in the Saints’ loss to the Lions. Now Graham owners must decide whether to take their chances on starting him this week or look elsewhere.


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 8 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends


Teams on bye: New York Giants, San Francisco


1Julius ThomasDENvs. SD (Thurs.)
2Rob GronkowskiNEvs. CHI
3Greg OlsenCARvs. SEA
4Martellus BennettCHIat NE
5Antonio GatesSDat DEN (Thurs.)
6Jimmy GrahamNOvs. GB
7Delanie WalkerTENvs. HOU
8Jordan ReedWASat DAL (Mon.)
9Travis KelceKCvs. STL
10Dwayne AllenINDat PIT
11Zach ErtzPHIat ARI
12Jordan CameronCLEvs. OAK
13Owen DanielsBALat CIN
14Jason WittenDALvs. WAS (Mon.)
15Charles ClayMIAat JAC
16Heath MillerPITvs. IND
17Coby FleenerINDat PIT
18Jared CookSTLat KC
19Clay HarborJACvs. MIA
20Jace AmaroNYJvs. BUF
21Scott ChandlerBUFat NYJ
22Austin Seferian-JenkinsTBvs. MIN
23Niles PaulWASat DAL (Mon.)
24Jermaine GreshamCINvs. BAL

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points


Need more fantasy help? Visit 

Fantasy Football 2014 Tight End Rankings: Week 8
Post date: Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-8

Sometimes it’s all about matchups and that’s definitely the case here as it relates to Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Defense/Special Teams Rankings for Week 8. For the season, Miami’s DST Is averaging 10.2 fantasy points (Athlon scoring), which places the Dolphins seventh. Jacksonville has allowed the most sacks in the NFL and is giving up 15.1 fantasy points per game to opposing DSTs. Sometimes it really is that simple. If Miami isn’t to your liking or is unavailable in your league perhaps Indianapolis’ DST would interest you? The Colts may have Andrew Luck, but this defense is coming off of a shutout of the Bengals and has posted double-digit fantasy points in each of their past five games. Indy also is one spot ahead of Miami in terms of fantasy points per game (10.9) on the season.


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 8 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams


Teams on bye: New York Giants, San Francisco


1Miami Dolphinsat JAC
2Detroit Lionsvs. ATL (London)
3Buffalo Billsat NYJ
4Houston Texansat TEN
5Dallas Cowboysvs. WAS (Mon.)
6New England Patriotsvs. CHI
7Kansas City Chiefsvs. STL
8Baltimore Ravensat CIN
9Denver Broncosvs. SD (Thurs.)
10Indianapolis Coltsat PIT
11Philadelphia Eaglesat ARI
12Seattle Seahawksat CAR
13Arizona Cardinalsvs. PHI
14Cleveland Brownsvs. OAK
15Cincinnati Bengalsvs. BAL
16Tampa Bay Buccaneersvs. MIN

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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


Need more fantasy help? Visit 

Fantasy Football 2014 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 8
Post date: Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-kicker-rankings-week-8

Stephen Gostkowski continues to lead the way in Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Kicker Rankings for Week 8, but a rookie out West also has made an impact with his leg. Chandler Catanzaro has rewarded the faith Arizona showed in the undrafted rookie from Clemson. The Cardinals cut veteran Jay Feely late in training camp, handing the starting kicking job to Catanzaro and all he’s done is go 11-for-11 on extra points and 15-for-15 on field goals, including six-for-six from 40 yards and out. He’s a top 10 fantasy kicker right now and don’t forget that unlike some of the others ahead of him, Catanzaro has played one less game because of a bye.


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 8 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers


Teams on bye: New York Giants, San Francisco


1Stephen GostkowskiNEvs. CHI
2Dan BaileyDALvs. WAS (Mon.)
3Adam VinatieriINDat PIT
4Chandler CatanzaroARIvs. PHI
5Justin TuckerBALat CIN
6Brandon McManusDENvs. SD (Thurs.)
7Cody ParkeyPHIat ARI
8Steven HauschkaSEAat CAR
9Nick NovakSDat DEN (Thurs.)
10Blair WalshMINat TB
11Mason CrosbyGBat NO
12Dan CarpenterBUFat NYJ
13Shaun SuishamPITvs. IND
14Robbie GouldCHIat NE
15Caleb SturgisMIAat JAC
16Matt BryantATLvs. DET (London)

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Fantasy Football 2014 Kicker Rankings: Week 8
Post date: Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 06:30