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All taxonomy terms: College Football, Big 12
Path: /college-football/big-12-week-5-recap-and-awards

An interesting dynamic played out during the Big 12’s limited slate of games Saturday.

On one hand, Oklahoma grabbed the most impressive win for a Big 12 season even if Notre Dame slid out of the top 25. On the other hand, West Virginia showed why the teams at the top of the league may be in for an eventful season.

The Sooners grabbed an early lead in South Bend and never let go, but Bedlam rival Oklahoma State gave West Virginia, a team that was shut out by Maryland a week earlier, every opportunity to score an upset. The Mountaineers followed suit by defeating the Big 12 preseason favorite thanks to a surprising defense.

Elsewhere, TCU used a monster second half to defeat SMU, earning the Horned Frogs as spot in the weekly Big 12 honor roll.

Big 12 Week 5 Recap and Awards

Offensive player of the week: Blake Bell, Oklahoma
The Sooners defense set the tone with two early interceptions against Notre Dame, but Bell was key in preserving the 35-21 win. Bell was stuffed on a couple of “Belldozer” short yardage situations, but he still finished 22-of-30 for 232 yards and two touchdowns in his first career road start. He also rushed for 59 yards on 12 carries.

Defensive player of the week: Sam Carter, TCU
The safety Carter was all over the field in an impressive defensive effort against SMU despite the absence of star defensive end Devonte Fields. Carter finished with five tackles, two interceptions and forced fumble and a sack in a 48-17 win.

Team of the week: Oklahoma
Who knows how a win at Notre Dame will look at the end of the season, but for now, it’s the best the Big 12 has. Oklahoma’s win in South Bend was the Big 12’s first over a ranked opponent, though the Irish won’t be ranked after the loss. The Sooners picked up the best non-conference win for the league in a game that was rarely in doubt. OU had three first-half interceptions and then protected the lead with 212 rushing yards

Freshman of the week: Ty Slanina, TCU
In a quiet week for Big 12 rookies, Slanina stands out. The freshman from East Bernard, Texas, caught three passes for 63 yards against SMU, including the 20-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to take a lead.

Coordinator of the week: Keith Patterson, West Virginia
The West Virginia offense is a work in progress to put it kindly, but the defense is vastly improved since last season. Oklahoma State amassed 433 yards against the Mountaineers, but West Virginia forced three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble), returning one pick for a touchdown in the 30-21 win. West Virginia held Oklahoma State to 6 of 20 on third down and turned in a successful goal-line stand in the fourth quarter against a team that converted all 15 of its red zone opportunities to touchdowns.

Fifth Down

• Oklahoma beat Notre Dame for the first time in eight tries. The Sooners last beat Notre Dame in 1956.

• West Virginia started its third quarterback of the season in Clint Trickett. The Florida State transfer completed 24 of 49 passes for 310 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions but still looked like the best Mountaineers quarterback this year.

• In a special teams disaster, kickers in the West Virginia-Oklahoma State game went a combined 3 of 7, including misses for 23 and 34 yards and a blocked attempt. West Virginia’s special teams were particularly bad, losing five yards on three punt returns and amassing an average of 9.7 yards on three kickoff returns.

• TCU had four interceptions against SMU, giving the Horned Frogs nine interceptions in two seasons against the Mustangs and nine picks in the last three games of 2013.

• TCU’s 31 points in the fourth quarter against SMU was the most in a fourth quarter by any FBS team this season.

• In Friday’s 38-21 win over Tulsa, Iowa State finally found a threat in the run game in back Aaron Wimberly. The junior college transfer carried 19 times for 137 yards, the most for a Cyclones tailback since Sept. 1, 2012.

• Iowa State was in the right place at the right time by recovering three fumbles, including two by sophomore defensive end Nick Kron.

Post date: Sunday, September 29, 2013 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Big Ten
Path: /college-football/big-ten-week-5-recap-and-awards

It was bizarre weekend in the Big Ten. Five of the top seven teams in this league were on bye in Week 5 as well as Indiana. So all of the focus was on the Leaders Division showdown in Columbus where Braxton Miller made his triumphant return to the starting lineup. Overshadowed by the big win for Buckeyes was a critical performance by Iowa on the road against key division foe Minnesota. The only other two teams in action, Purdue and Illinois, had two very different outcomes.

Here are the Big Ten's Week 5 Superlatives:

Big Ten Week 5 Recap and Awards

Offensive Player of the Week: Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State 

Welcome back, Braxton. Urban Meyer benched his red-hot back quarterback in favor of his preseason Heisman candidate and it was clearly the right move. Miller zipped passes around and over the Badgers secondary from the first drive while still showing his tremendous allusiveness on the ground. He finished the conference's biggest game to date 17-of-25 for 198 yards and 4 touchdowns through the air with a team-high 85 yards rushing on 17 carries — all of this against a team that hadn't allowed a single passing touchdown all season long.

Defensive Player of the Week: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State

The hard-hitting star linebacker was all over the field for the Buckeyes Saturday night. Facing one of the most powerful running games in the nation, Shazier led an impressive showing from the Ohio State front seven by holding Wisconsin to just 104 yards rushing. He finished with 9.0 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and one key forced fumble. There is a reason he is an All-American candidate.

Team of the Week: Ohio State

The Buckeyes extended the nation's longest winning streak (17) with a huge win over division rival Wisconsin. Miller was extraordinary in his return to the lineup and the defense played extremely well against the Badgers powerful three-headed running back monster — Wisconsin gained just 104 yards on 27 carries (3.9 yards per carry. The win puts Ohio State squarely in the driver's seat in the Leaders Division.

Coordinator of the Week: Phil Parker, Iowa

The Hawkeyes defense was downright nasty this weekend. Led by an elite linebacker corps, Parker's unit totally shutdown the Golden Gophers on the road in their Big Ten opener. Minnesota ran for just 27 yards on 1.1 yards per carry average and totaled just 165 total yards of offense while being held to 4-of-13 on third downs. Iowa registered four sacks and forced two turnovers while committing just one penalty all game.

Freshman of the Week: Danny Etling, QB, Purdue

This was a weak week for freshman in the Big Ten. Dontre Wilson had 108 all-purpose yards but touched the ball just three times on offense. But the future might have been on display for Purdue in a bad home loss to Northern Illinois. Quarterback Danny Etling replaced an ineffective Rob Henry just before halftime and the freshman was able to move the ball. He threw for 241 yards and two touchdowns. The Purdue offense posted season highs in every major offensive category: rushing yards, passing yards, yards per play and points scored. Most of Etling's production came through fellow freshman wide receiver DeAngelo Yancey, who caught seven passes for 117 yards. 

Fifth Down

• Illinois' quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase had five touchdown passes in the first half against Miami-Ohio. He had four total touchdown passes all season long in 2012 and now has 12 on the season.

• Melvin Gordon hadn't rushed for fewer than 140 yards in any game this season and has scored at least once in all four contests. He was held to 74 yards and no TDs on 15 carries against Ohio State.

• Illini linebacker Jonathan Brown is still leading the Big Ten in tackles and is 8th nationally with 11.8 stops per game.

• Braxton Miller's four touchdown passes tied a personal best and were the first four touchdown passes allowed all season by the Badgers defense.

• Jared Abbrederis was virtually uncoverable against All-American corner Bradley Roby. Wisconsin's wideout had 10 receptions for 207 yards and a touchdown.

• Mark Weisman carried 24 times for 147 yards in the big road win over Minnesota. No one in the nation has carried the ball more in 2013 than the Iowa running back (119 att.). 

• After defeating both Iowa and Purdue on the road, Nothern Illinois is actually leading the Big Ten with a 2-0 record against the conference.

• A plus B does not equal C. But it needs to be pointed out that UConn got crushed this weekend by a 1-2 Buffalo team 41-12. You know, the same Husky team that nearly beat Michigan two weekends ago?

• Ohio State was dealt a big blow to the defense when starting safety and leader Christian Bryant was lost for the season with serious ankle injury.

Post date: Sunday, September 29, 2013 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, USC Trojans
Path: /college-football/usc-fires-lane-kiffin

After Saturday night’s loss at Arizona State, USC decided to fire coach Lane Kiffin.

In his fourth season at USC, Kiffin had a record of 28-15, including a 10-2 mark in 2011. However, the 10-2 year was flanked by a disappointing 8-5 record in 2010 and a 7-6 mark in 2012.

USC is one of the premier jobs in college football, but the job may not be as attractive this coaching cycle, as sanctions have limited the Trojans on scholarships.

However, firing Kiffin now allows USC to get a head start on its coaching search. And there should be plenty of high-profile names interested in the job.

USC is on bye until Oct. 10, when it will host Arizona.

Athlon Sports will have more about potential Kiffin replacements in the coming days.

Post date: Sunday, September 29, 2013 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Georgia Bulldogs
Path: /college-football/georgia-rb-todd-gurley-injures-ankle-against-lsu

Georgia running back Todd Gurley gashed LSU for 73 yards on eight carries in the first half, but the sophomore running back left the game early due to an ankle injury.

Gurley is not expected to return against the Tigers.

Backup Keith Marshall is one of the SEC’s best running backs, but the loss of Gurley is huge for Georgia. The sophomore brings more of a physical presence on the ground and is one of the best running backs in the nation.

It’s uncertain how long Gurley will be out, but reports during the CBS broadcast indicated the injury did not appear to be a long-term issue.

Post date: Saturday, September 28, 2013 - 19:00
Path: /college-football/florida-state-qb-jameis-winston-throws-hail-mary-td-against-boston-college

It seems every week Florida State freshman quarterback Jameis Winston makes a play worthy of highlight reel status on Saturday night.

This week was no different, as Winston connected with receiver Kenny Shaw on a 55-yard touchdown to end the first half. Shaw’s catch was solid, but Winston’s escape of the Boston College pass rush was quite an effort.

Check out Winston’s Hail Mary touchdown pass:


Post date: Saturday, September 28, 2013 - 19:00
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-state-unveils-new-helmets-against-west-virginia

Oklahoma State opened Big 12 play on the road at West Virginia this Saturday, and the Cowboys unveiled a brand new helmet in Morgantown.

Oklahoma State used an orange helmet with Pistol Pete last year, but the Cowboys unveiled a white variation this Saturday.

Count us in as liking this look for the Cowboys:

Post date: Saturday, September 28, 2013 - 13:00
Path: /college-football/south-carolina-qb-connor-shaw-injures-shoulder-against-ucf

South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw suffered a sprained shoulder in the first half of Saturday’s game against UCF and won’t return to action.

Prior to his injury, Shaw completed 1 of 2 passes for four yards, while rushing for 30 yards on four carries.

Shaw will be missed, but South Carolina has a capable backup in Dylan Thompson.

After the game, coach Steve Spurrier indicated Shaw would be out at least two or three weeks due to the shoudler injury. South Carolina host Kentucky next Saturday and plays at Arkansas on Oct. 12.

Post date: Saturday, September 28, 2013 - 13:00
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-fighting-irish-vs-oklahoma-sooners-game-preview-and-prediction

Notre Dame and Oklahoma are two of college football's premier programs and meet on Saturday in a huge measuring stick game for both teams. The Fighting Irish have had the Sooners' number.

In 10 all-time matchups, Oklahoma is just 1-9 with an average score of 16 points. The Sooners haven't defeated Notre Dame since 1956, when Oklahoma grabbed its lone victory in the series in a 40-0 blowout win, en route to a national championship. In fact, it was the Fighting Irish that ended Oklahoma’s record 47-game winning streak in 1957. The Sooners have a staggering .733 win percentage against all other opponents in their program history but sit at just a .100 win percentage against the Irish.

Historically, Oklahoma has stacked up exceptionally well against college football's preeminent programs. Oklahoma owns more wins than losses against Texas since the 1940s; Oklahoma owns a 45-38-3 edge against Nebraska; and holds a winning or even mark against the likes of Alabama, Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State and Tennessee. After a 30-13 loss in Norman last season, which saw the Sooners held to a mere 15 yards rushing, Bob Stoops is eager to turn the tables on Brian Kelly and the Irish.

Notre Dame and Oklahoma appear to be two teams moving in opposite directions. The Irish, fresh off their perfect regular season a year ago, have limped to unimpressive victories the last two weeks. The Sooners appear to be on the right track, off to a 3-0 start and allowing the fifth-fewest points in the nation. If there's a time for Oklahoma to change the momentum of the series, this may be the year.

3 Things to Watch

Sooners' Rushing Attack

We are used to seeing Oklahoma, under Landry Jones and Sam Bradford, pass upwards of 50 times a game. That isn't the identity of this Sooners squad. The team averages 50.3 rush attempts compared to just 30.3 pass attempts per game. The Sooners boast the No. 16 rushing attack in the nation, averaging 271.7 yards per game behind the two-headed monster of Brennan Clay and Damien Williams. Look for Blake Bell to be a factor in the red-zone as the "Belldozer" has 24 rushing touchdowns on just 118 career carries.

Can Tommy Rees bounce back?

Since Everett Golson left the team in the summer, Notre Dame fans have been fearing the inconsistent play of senior Tommy Rees. Rees has thrown for over 300 yards in every game but last week's uninspiring performance against Michigan State, where he completed just 14 of 34 passes for 142 yards. His decision making has been in question at times, with his two costly interceptions against Michigan. Give Rees credit, however, as he led the Irish back against Purdue and avoided any big mistakes against Michigan State. Rees will need some help for the running game as the Irish haven't topped the 100-yard rushing mark since their opener against Temple.

Oklahoma defense

The Sooners defense looks much improved from a year ago. Currently, Oklahoma ranks No. 5 in scoring defense, allowing just nine points per game, and No. 20 in total defense, allowing 291 yards per game. The defense already has four interceptions through three games. It is worth noting that the Sooners defense hasn't been truly tested and could be exposed against a quality Irish team.

Key Player: Blake Bell, QB, Oklahoma

Initially passed up for the starting QB job, Bell replaced an injured Trevor Knight two weeks ago against West Virginia. After a stellar performance against Tulsa, Bell will start against Notre Dame. The junior set a school record for passing yards by a quarterback in his first start with 413. He also threw for four touchdowns, but it's his skills with his legs that could be key to this game. Notre Dame feasted on a stationary Landry Jones last season, holding the Sooners to just 13 points. Bell, a more dynamic athlete, will cause the Irish to respect his scrambling abilities and could open more holes in the secondary.

Final Analysis:

I like the Sooners to get a big win against the Irish. I think Blake Bell's mobility and ability to move the pocket will prove troublesome for Bob Diaco's defense. I will be interested in watching the battle between the Sooners offensive line, which seems much improved from a year ago, and Notre Dame's defensive line. If Louis Nix can keep Oklahoma from establishing a running game, then I think the Irish will be able to expose some of Bell's deficiencies throwing the football. Ultimately, I don't like the stagnant nature that Irish offense displays at times and I believe they will struggle against the speed of Oklahoma's defense.

Prediction: Oklahoma 24, Notre Dame 7

Post date: Saturday, September 28, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/usc-trojans-vs-arizona-state-sun-devils-game-preview-and-prediction

It's only Week 5 of the 2013 college football season, but the late-night matchup between USC-Arizona State could be a crucial game for both teams. The Trojans and Sun Devils expected to compete for the Pac-12 South title, are looking to notch their first conference win this season. USC was embarrassed at home by the Washington State a few weeks ago, while ASU is stinging after a 42-28 throttling at the hands of Stanford.

USC leads the series all-time 18-10, riding an 11-game win streak that stretched from Paul Hackett's final season at USC in 2000 to 2011. However, of those 10 Arizona State wins in the series, six of them have come in Tempe. USC coach Lane Kiffin has a career 2-1 record against the Sun Devils, with both wins coming at home, and the 2010 victory coming by just one point.

Last year, USC defeated ASU 38-17 in a sloppy affair that saw nine total turnovers. From that game, the Sun Devils return six offensive starters, including quarterback Taylor Kelly, and eight defensive starters, namely All-America defensive tackle Will Sutton. Things should be electric in Tempe as 1980's rock band Journey will be performing the Star-Spangled Banner.

3 Things to Watch

Quarterback Play

Taylor Kelly was a nice surprise for the Sun Devils in 2012. Slotted as the third-string quarterback during spring ball, Kelly won the starting job by opening day. He exceeded expectations as a sophomore by throwing for 3,039 yards, 29 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. Unfortunately, three of those interceptions came in the loss to USC. So far this year, Kelly has picked up where he left off, throwing for 1,019 yards, eight touchdowns and just three interceptions. The last two games, against Wisconsin and Arizona State, Kelly has attempted a combined 106 passes and thrown for over 350 yards in each game. Kelly is behind only Oregon's Marcus Mariota and UCLA's Brett Hundley as the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12. While the Sun Devils have a clear starting quarterback, things are much foggier in Los Angeles. After going back-and-forth on his starting quarterback, Kiffin eventually landed on Cody Kessler. Kessler hasn't been very impressive thus far, as the USC offense often looks stagnant. Kessler completed just 48 percent of his passes against Utah State, averaging just six yards a completion. Kessler needs to be much better against a Sun Devils defense that boasts a couple NFL prospects. To emerge victorious, Kelly needs to avoid the big mistake against a tough USC defense, while Kessler needs to start making big plays in a tough road atmosphere.

USC defense

The Trojans are 3-1 while ranking 98th in the country in scoring and 108th in passing offense. How is this possible? It's because of the defensive clinic that USC has showcased for the first three weeks. New coordinator Clancy Pendergast has done a terrific job molding this unit to fit his 5-2 scheme, which takes full advantage of the Trojans deep and talented defensive line. USC is ranked 11th in the nation in points allowed, giving up an average of just 11 points per contest. The Trojans are third in the country in rush defense as opponents average around 59 rushing yards per game. The USC pass defense has been just as strong, forcing six interceptions, while giving up no more than 215 passing yards in a single contest.

Arizona State rushing defense

Lane Kiffin doesn't have faith in his passing game; therefore, he will try to keep the ball on the ground this week. The Sun Devils have not been stellar against the run this year, yielding 210 rushing yards to Wisconsin and 240 to Stanford. Opponents have keyed on ASU's weak rushing defense as they have passed 68 times this year, compared to 87 rushing attempts. The Sun Devils definitely have the talent to turn things around, but 2012 consensus All-American Will Sutton, who had 13 sacks a season ago, has been relatively quiet on the stat sheet so far. The reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year has just nine tackles in 2013. ASU will look to junior linebacker Carl Bradford to pick up the slack. If these leaders don't step up for the Sun Devils, the Trojans could find themselves nearing the 225 rushing yards they put up against Arizona State a season ago. 

Key Player: Tre Madden, RB, USC

The sky appeared to be falling when it was announced Silas Redd would miss the season opener due to a knee injury. However, he's yet to play a snap this season and the Trojans rushing attack hasn't missed a beat. Tre Madden has filled in quite admirably for a back that scored 10 touchdowns a season ago. Madden has gone for over 100 yards in each of the first three games to open the season. The last USC tailback to do that was Marcus Allen in his 1981 Heisman-winning season. Kiffin will go to Madden early and often on Saturday as he tries to take the pressure off of quarterback Cody Kessler.

Final Analysis:

The game features a dynamic Arizona State offense versus a stingy USC defense. Both should perform well, but what I expect to decide the game is whether USC can run the football effectively and whether the Sun Devils can stop them. If USC is able to take the air out of the ball and dictate the pace, they are at a huge advantage. If Arizona State can close down the rushing lanes and force Kessler to beat them with his arm, then I believe the fans in Tempe will be going home happy. If this game stays under 21 points then I'd take USC, but anything over than and I don't think the Trojans offense can match it. I think this is the game USC's defense gets exposed a bit, as Taylor Kelly is the best quarterback the Trojans have seen all year. Don't underestimate Kelly's scrambling ability as the junior rushed for 516 yards last year. Keep an eye on how Kessler (bruised hand) and Marqise Lee (ankle) handle their respective injuries in this potentially season-defining game for the Pac-12 North.

Prediction: Arizona State 27, USC 16

Post date: Saturday, September 28, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/alabama-crimson-tide-vs-ole-miss-rebels-game-preview-and-prediction

Alabama has won three out of the last five SEC West titles and back-to-back national championships. Ole Miss is still searching for its first West Division title, but the Rebels are making gains on Alabama and LSU under second-year coach Hugh Freeze.

This game isn’t necessarily an indictment of where things stand in the SEC West, but it’s clear Ole Miss is improving, and the road to the SEC Championship still runs through Tuscaloosa.

If Ole Miss wants to muscle its way to the top of the West, beating Alabama is a must. The Rebels defeated only two FBS teams with a winning record from 2010-12 but started 2013 with victories over Vanderbilt and Texas – two likely bowl teams in 2013.

Alabama already has a huge conference victory against Texas A&M and defeated Virginia Tech in a neutral site matchup to open the year. However, the Crimson Tide has looked more vulnerable in 2013 than they did in 2011 or 2012.

Alabama has dominated the overall series, recording a 49-9-2 record against Ole Miss. The Rebels last victory against the Crimson Tide came in 2003. Ole Miss has struggled in Tuscaloosa, with its last and only victory coming on the road in this series in 1988. 

Ole Miss at Alabama

Kickoff: 6:30 ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Alabama -14.5

Three Things to Watch

Alabama’s Offensive Line
With the loss of three All-American starters, Alabama’s offensive line was expected to take a step back in 2013. So far, those predictions have come to fruition, but the Crimson Tide’s front five has struggled more than some may have expected. Against a solid Virginia Tech defensive line, Alabama’s rushing attack managed just 96 yards. After gashing Texas A&M for 234 yards on Sept. 14, the Crimson Tide recorded only 66 yards against Colorado State – with 38 coming on one play. So which Alabama offensive line will show up this Saturday? The Crimson Tide should perform at a higher level than they did against the Rams, but Ole Miss’ defensive line is among the best in the SEC. Freshman Robert Nkemdiche has 10 tackles – four going for a loss – in three games, while linemen Channing Ward, Carlos Thompson and Issac Gross combined for three sacks. The Rebels are holding opponents to 3.8 yards per carry, but Alabama’s offense will be the best unit they will have faced in 2013. The Crimson Tide’s offensive line was criticized after their performance against Virginia Tech and responded with a standout effort against Texas A&M. Will we see that same storyline play out on Saturday?

Ole Miss Wide Receivers vs. Alabama’s Secondary
Earlier this week, Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace set the bar high for his offense on Saturday. “I think we have better receivers than A&M,” Wallace said. The junior isn’t necessarily wrong with his statement either, as Donte Moncrief is an All-SEC performer, and freshman Laquon Treadwell is already on his way to having a standout freshman season. Tight end Evan Engram has 11 receptions through three weeks, and Vince Sanders (39 catches in 2012) is back in the lineup after suffering a collarbone injury in fall camp. While Ole Miss doesn’t have a 6-foot-5 target like Mike Evans, the Rebels are loaded with plenty of capable options at receiver. Alabama’s secondary led the SEC in pass defense from 2011-12, but this unit has taken a step back in 2013, ranking 11th in the SEC through three games. The Crimson Tide’s numbers on defense are skewed slightly by the Texas A&M game, but Nick Saban’s defense isn’t quite as dominant in the secondary this year. Senior Deion Belue is the team’s top cornerback, but the other spot is up for grabs. Senior John Fulton was torched against Texas A&M, and the coaching staff could look to sophomores Geno Smith, Cyrus Jones or Bradley Sylve or freshman Maurice Smith to claim the spot opposite of Belue. One factor that could help Alabama’s secondary: A pass rush. It has been virtually non-existent for the Crimson Tide so far, as they have just three sacks in 2013.

Alabama QB AJ McCarron vs. Ole Miss’ Secondary
Although Ole Miss is solid on the defensive line and at linebacker, the secondary has been a concern in 2013. The Rebels ranked 11th in the SEC against the pass last year, and so far, the results haven’t been much different. Ole Miss ranks 12th in the SEC in pass efficiency defense and opposing quarterbacks are completing 63.5 percent of their passes against this secondary. McCarron has been steady through the first three games, completing 64.1 percent of his throws and six touchdowns on 78 attempts. The senior also has the best receiving corps of his Alabama tenure, with Amari Cooper, Christion Jones, DeAndrew White and tight end O.J. Howard all capable options. McCarron has been sacked six times this year and did not have a clean pocket for most of the game against Virginia Tech. To protect its secondary, Ole Miss needs help from Nkemdiche and fellow end C.J. Johnson in getting pressure on McCarron.

Key Player: Denzel Nkemdiche, LB, Ole Miss
Nkemdiche recorded five tackles in the opener against Vanderbilt but has not played in Ole Miss’ last two games due to injury. The Georgia native earned several freshman All-American awards last season and recorded 82 stops in 13 games. Nkemdiche is expected to return to the lineup – along with receiver Vince Sanders – which will give Ole Miss a boost on both sides of the ball. The sophomore linebacker’s return should help the Rebels’ stop Alabama’s rushing attack, while helping in pass coverage over the middle of the field.

Final Analysis

Ole Miss gave Alabama a battle last season, losing 33-14 in Tuscaloosa. The Rebels trailed only 27-14 going into the fourth quarter and held the Crimson Tide to just 305 yards on 64 plays.

This year’s Ole Miss team is improved, the depth and talent are on the rise, and quarterback Bo Wallace has another year of experience under his belt.

However, Alabama still has the edge in talent. Quarterback AJ McCarron will deliver with a solid performance, while running back T.J. Yeldon will find just enough room on the ground to run out the clock in the fourth quarter.

Ole Miss should be able to hit a few big plays in the passing game, but the Crimson Tide is a better team and finds a way to pull away late in the fourth quarter.

Prediction: Alabama 34, Ole Miss 24

Post date: Saturday, September 28, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-buckeyes-vs-wisconsin-badgers-preview-and-prediction-2013

Ohio State and Wisconsin have won or shared the last eight Big Ten titles. And the winner of Saturday’s matchup will take a huge step to playing for the conference championship in December, as the Buckeyes and Badgers are clearly the class of the Leaders Division. Both teams have a favorable schedule the rest of the way, which makes this game even more important for positioning within the division.

Feasting off an easy schedule, Ohio State has opened 4-0. All four of the Buckeyes’ wins have been by at least 18 points, including a 76-0 blowout win over Florida A&M. Under second-year coach Urban Meyer, Ohio State is 16-0.

Wisconsin is 3-1, but the Badgers record should come with an asterisk due to the ending against Arizona State. New coach Gary Andersen was expected by most to be a perfect fit Madison, and so far, Wisconsin hasn’t a missed a beat. In their three victories this year, the Badgers have outscored their opponents 134-10.

Ohio State has dominated this series recently, winning five out of the last six matchups. The Buckeyes have won three in a row against the Badgers in Columbus, while Wisconsin’s last victory in this series came in 2010. The last two meetings between these two teams were decided by a touchdown or less.

Wisconsin at Ohio State

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Ohio State -7

Three Things to Watch

Ohio State’s defensive line vs. Wisconsin’s rushing attack
The Buckeyes had to revamp their defensive line this offseason, as all four starters from 2012 had to be replaced. So far, the new starting group has played well. Ohio State ranks fourth in the Big Ten in rush defense, holding opponents to just 2.6 yards per carry. However, the Buckeyes haven’t played a rushing offense like Wisconsin, so this will be a major challenge for coach Urban Meyer’s defense. The Badgers rank third nationally in rush offense this season, averaging eight yards per carry and 348.8 yards per game. Junior Melvin Gordon and senior James White have combined for 4,356 yards in their career and stopping both backs will be a huge test for Ohio State. Considering Wisconsin doesn’t have a plethora of options at receiver, the Buckeyes could commit extra defenders to the box to stop White and Gordon. Ohio State will have some additional help in the trenches this Saturday, as end Adolphus Washington is back after missing two games with a groin injury.

Braxton Miller
After a two-game absence, all signs point to Miller returning to the starting lineup on Saturday. Before his knee injury, Miller completed 17 of 24 passes for 208 yards and two scores and rushed for 82 yards on 18 attempts. Although the junior is back under center, he hasn’t played since Sept. 7, and rust could be an issue. Also, is Miller 100 percent and capable of using his mobility to escape Wisconsin’s pass rush? There’s no doubt Miller is one of college football’s best quarterbacks, and assuming he is 100 percent, he will have an opportunity to take advantage of a Wisconsin secondary that features a true freshman at cornerback and two sophomores in key roles.

Wisconsin’s passing attack
The Badgers don’t hide their intentions on offense. With a big offensive line and one of the nation’s top backfields, Wisconsin loves to run the ball. However, the passing attack is a work in progress, averaging just 198 yards per game. Quarterback Joel Stave is efficient, completing 60.7 percent of his passes in his career and throwing 12 touchdowns on 130 completions. Receiver Jared Abbrederis is one of the Big Ten’s best, and tight end Jacob Pedersen is another steady option, but the Badgers lack depth and big-play threats in the receiving corps. Ohio State’s secondary is one of the best in the nation, and cornerback Bradley Roby was a preseason All-American. If Abbrederis is contained by the Buckeyes’ secondary, will Jordan Fredrick or Alex Erickson give Stave another target? Pedersen is a threat over the middle, but he is nursing a knee injury and could be less than 100 percent.  

Key Player: Joel Stave, QB, Wisconsin
Ohio State’s rush defense has held up well through the first four weeks, but the line will be challenged by Wisconsin’s backfield. The Badgers want to control the tempo and eat up the clock, but even if the ground attack has success, Stave will need to hit a few big plays. The sophomore completed 15 of 30 passes for 187 yards and one score in the 32-30 loss to Arizona State. Wisconsin may need Stave to throw at least 35 passes on Saturday.

Final Analysis

There’s plenty of familiarity between Meyer and Andersen, which has added another layer of intrigue to one of the Big Ten’s top games for 2013. Wisconsin will have success on the ground early, which is essential to slowing down Ohio State’s offense. However, the Buckeyes simply have too much firepower. Miller won’t have to win this game on his own, especially with a deep backfield – led by Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde – and emerging options at receiver. Considering Wisconsin’s offense is limited with the passing game, if Ohio State gets ahead, it could be a long night for the Badgers.

Prediction: Ohio State 34, Wisconsin 27

Post date: Saturday, September 28, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Washington Huskies
Path: /college-football/washington-unveils-metallic-gold-helmets-against-arizona
Post date: Saturday, September 28, 2013 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/lsu-tigers-vs-georgia-bulldogs-game-preview-and-prediction

The epicenter of college football’s Week 5 schedule is once again in the SEC, as Georgia hosts LSU in a battle of two top-10 teams. With a loss to Clemson in Week 1, the Bulldogs have to win this game to stay alive in the national title conversation. The Tigers could still play for the BCS Championship with one loss, but Les Miles’ team has a tough remaining schedule, including games at Ole Miss and Alabama.

The Bulldogs already scored a huge victory in SEC play, defeating South Carolina 41-30 in Week 2. With a win over LSU, Georgia can take a commanding lead in the East Division, especially with a favorable schedule the rest of the way.

LSU won its only SEC contest this year, defeating Auburn 35-21 last Saturday. The Tigers also scored a solid non-conference victory by beating TCU in Arlington, Texas in Week 1.

This is the first regular season meeting between these two teams since 2009, but the Bulldogs and Tigers have met in the SEC title game three times since 2003.

LSU has owned a slight advantage over Georgia recently, winning the last two matchups, including a 20-13 thriller in 2009. Although the 2009 matchup was decided by a touchdown, it’s the only game between these two teams decided by seven points or less in the last six meetings.

LSU vs. Georgia

Kickoff: 3:30 ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Georgia -3

Three Things to Watch

Georgia’s rush defense vs. Jeremy Hill
With only three returning starters from last year, Georgia’s defense is a work in progress. The Bulldogs are allowing 143.3 rushing yards per game and 4.0 yards per attempt, and Clemson (197 yards) and South Carolina (226 yards) had plenty of success against this defense. LSU is averaging 5.4 yards per carry, and running back Jeremy Hill is coming off a career-best performance, rushing for 184 yards and three scores against Auburn. With the emergence of quarterback Zach Mettenberger, the Tigers offense has more balance than it had in recent years. However, there’s no doubt LSU wants to establish its ground attack. Georgia has struggled to stop the run against BCS opponents this year and will have its hands full against Hill, along with a Tigers’ offensive line that averages 314.8 pounds among its starting five.

Can Georgia protect quarterback Aaron Murray?
Even with five returning starters, Georgia’s offensive line entered 2013 under heavy scrutiny. This unit was average last year, allowing 27 sacks in 14 games. The Bulldogs have solid depth in the trenches and plan to rotate eight or nine players into the game to keep the starters fresh for the fourth quarter. LSU’s defensive line lost a handful of key players from last season’s unit, including ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, along with tackles Bennie Logan and Josh Downs. Although four new starters stepped into the lineup, this group might be more athletic and explosive than last year’s front four. Ends Jermauria Rasco and Jordan Allen have combined for 3.5 sacks in 2013, while tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson are a big reason why opponents are managing just 4.7 yards per play. After Georgia’s offensive line struggled in its first two games of the year, LSU’s defensive line will be another tough matchup for quarterback Aaron Murray.

Will Zach Mettenberger continue his hot start to the season?
The arrival of Cam Cameron as LSU’s offensive coordinator has transformed Mettenberger into one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC this year. In four games, Mettenberger has thrown for 1,026 yards and 10 scores and just one interception. In 13 contests last year, Mettenberger threw just 12 touchdowns and completed 58.8 percent of his throws. Georgia’s defense is talented, but the Bulldogs also have a handful of young players contributing significant snaps. In the opener against Clemson, Georgia’s secondary allowed quarterback Tajh Boyd to throw for 270 yards and three touchdowns. Boyd was sacked only one time, which Georgia has to reverse in order to beat LSU. Mettenberger is completing 64.8 percent of his throws, but the Bulldogs need to pressure him and not allow the senior to get comfortable in the pocket. If Georgia’s front seven can generate pressure, it will help the cornerbacks match up against receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, who have combined to catch 44 of the Tigers’ 60 completions in 2013.

Key Player: Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Gurley has delivered in both of Georgia’s big games this season. The sophomore rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns against Clemson and gashed South Carolina for 132 yards and one score. LSU’s rush defense ranks seventh in the SEC but is allowing just 3.6 yards per carry. The Tigers have yet to be tested by a running back of Gurley’s caliber, so this will be a good barometer test for both teams. Gurley is among the top-10 Heisman contenders after four weeks and a good showing against LSU will only increase his stock.

Final Analysis

On paper, it seems LSU has the advantage. The Tigers have the edge in the trenches, and quarterback Zach Mettenberger has added some much-needed balance to the offense.

However, Georgia is already battle-tested with wins over Clemson and South Carolina, and has won 14 in a row at home.

The Bulldogs’ defense is a huge concern, but with two top-10 contests under their belt, this unit should be ready to turn a corner.

Despite eight new starters, LSU’s defense is already one of the best in the SEC. But the Tigers will be tested by Georgia’s balance, especially if the pass rush is unable to get to Aaron Murray. LSU has not played an offense of the Bulldogs' caliber, with Auburn and TCU combining for 48 points against the Tigers this season.

Expect this game to be one of the most entertaining games of the weekend. LSU and Georgia will trade the lead a couple of times in the fourth quarter, but the homefield advantage pays off for the Bulldogs. 

Prediction: Georgia 34, LSU 30

Post date: Saturday, September 28, 2013 - 09:00
Path: /nascar/will-dover-throw-curve-nascars-chase-favorites

1. Jimmie Johnson has to be the early favorite
There were two surprising events for Jimmie Johnson during the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Dover International Speedway in June. But it was the second one that bit harder.

First, Johnson turned in his worst qualifying performance at Dover since 2007 when his lap of 155.206 mph left him nearly a half-second off of Denny Hamlin’s pole-winning pace and starting the 400-mile race in 24th. It ultimately didn’t matter; Johnson took the lead just after the race’s halfway point.

What really cost Johnson at Dover in June wasn’t a poor pit stop or bad handling as the race wore on. Instead, Johnson left a win on the table when he was ruled to have jumped a late restart. Forced to pit for the penalty, Johnson finished a lap down in 17th. He vehemently disagreed with the penalty but his opposition didn’t sway NASCAR officials.

Despite the miss, Johnson still led 143 laps in June and looked ready to add win No. 8 at Dover to his ever-growing list of NASCAR achievements. Should he win Sunday, Johnson will take the title as winningest driver in Dover history, breaking a tie with Bobby Allison and Richard Petty.

Oh, and one other thing: the last two times Johnson won the fall race at Dover (2009 and 2010), he went on to win the championship.

2. Three straight wins for Kenseth not out of the question  Matt Kenseth
Considering Matt Kenseth a solid contender for Sunday’s race isn’t a surprise, either. He has, after all, won two straight to start this edition of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. It’s been a commanding performance.

But don’t think about Kenseth’s Dover chances solely in the mode of sustained momentum.

Kenseth had a fruitful streak at Dover during his time with Roush-Fenway Racing. He scored two wins, 13 top-5 and 18 top-10 finishes in 28 starts with the Ford team. That Kenseth has been good at Dover in the past is a bad omen for teams hoping his strong start will cool off, as Kenseth has seemingly picked up his game enough that even his poor tracks (like New Hampshire Motor Speedway) aren’t too poor anymore.

Making matters worse for those hoping to catch him in the point standings is knowing that Kenseth was leading the race at Dover in June when his engine blew. A mediocre run for the No. 20 Sunday would be the bigger surprise.

3. The steep fall of Denny Hamlin
While Kenseth and teammate Kyle Busch have been the sport’s high-flying duo at the most critical of times in the season, it has been plenty strange to see the third driver in the Joe Gibbs Racing camp conspicuously absent from the front of the field.  Denny Hamlin

Denny Hamlin, a Chase participant a year ago that had his season standings position dashed when he was forced to sit out several races due to injury in the spring, hasn’t had a top-10 finish since the calendar said June. What in the world is going on?

Judging by his lack of good finishes, it’s hard to tell if Hamlin even knows. He’s even struggled at tried-and-true tracks for the No. 11 like Richmond and New Hamsphire. You can bet the sleepless nights for crew chief Darian Grubb have been plentiful.

Maybe it turns around Sunday for Hamlin. Dover started well for him in June. He sat on the pole and led 41 laps.

But just like the rest of his 2013 season, it didn’t pan out. Hamlin crashed and didn’t finish.

4. Who can we count out?NASCAR’s point system hates mulligans. It hates drivers who have a single bad race. And it hates drivers trying to make a comeback.

That’s why it took five wins from Tony Stewart in 2011 to score the championship despite the fact his worst finish was 25th during the 10-race Chase. And that’s why after just two races there are already several drivers who have basically been eliminated from contention with finishes no worse than mediocre.

Who is on that list? Start from the bottom. Kasey Kahne is 71 points out after his New Hampshire crash and doesn’t have a fighting chance to make up nearly two races worth of points in the final eight events. Joey Logano (-69) knew when his engine blew at Chicagoland that his title hopes were going to be brief. Dale Earnhardt Jr. talked this week about being close to a win (he’s winless in 2013) but even that wouldn’t do much for his 62-point deficit.

Next we get to those drivers on the edge of competition and in desperate need of a three-car crash at Dover taking out Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Johnson. Those include Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer, and based on the recurring bad luck we’ve seen from Jeff Gordon all year, he’s on the list, too.

Counting Kurt Busch out makes sense because that team seems too unreliable for a title shot, and doing the same for Greg Biffle seems plausible because he’s run in top 5 with little regularity all season.

That leaves us with Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards as the main contenders to Johnson, Busch and Kenseth. Things may change, sure, but this is a five-man championship battle — optimistically — right now.

5. Fuel mileage race repeat at Dover?Brad Keselowski fired the first shot of the 2012 Chase with his unexpected win at Chicagoland Speedway in the opener. He turned his battle serious by scoring the win in the third race of last season’s title fight at Dover.

But Keselowski was hardly dominant at Dover last fall. That title fell to Kyle Busch, as the No. 18 lead a whopping 302 laps of the 400-lap race and looked like he was going to cruise to victory. But the race, like so many last season, played out in a fashion befitting fuel mileage gamblers.

That’s how Jeff Gordon finished second and Mark Martin third. Busch wound up seventh, one lap down.

Guessing how Sunday’s race will play out is never possible, but there’s a pretty decent chance it will end on a longer green flag run. The last 12 events at Dover have averaged the final caution flag waving with 62 laps to go.

A late-race shakeup like last season could be just what some of the outside-looking-in drivers need to boost their title hopes. Don’t be surprised if a few gamble in hopes of that happening.

Follow Geoffrey Miller on Twitter: @GeoffreyMiller

Post date: Friday, September 27, 2013 - 16:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Ford Childress
Path: /college-football/ford-childress-injured-clint-trickett-will-start-qb-west-virginia

West Virginia will start its third quarterback of 2013 on Saturday, as Ford Childress is out due to injury, and Florida State transfer Clint Trickett will take the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. Childress is out indefinitely with a torn pectoral muscle.

Trickett has played in only one game this season and is 0-2 in passing attempts.

Paul Millard will serve as the backup, and he started the first two games of the year, throwing 455 yards and one touchdown on 40 completions.

This is not the same West Virginia offense that was lighting up scoreboards in the first half of last season. The Mountaineers have too many new pieces on offense this year, especially with receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey and quarterback Geno Smith now playing in the NFL.

With the newcomers in the receiving corps and a solid corps of running backs, West Virginia should lean on its rushing attack more against Oklahoma State. Charles Sims, Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood are each averaging over five yards per carry this year.

If Trickett struggles, coach Dana Holgorsen does have an experienced option in Millard waiting in the wings.

However, whether it’s Trickett, Millard or Childress, West Virginia needs more from its quarterback position in the next few weeks.

Post date: Friday, September 27, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/5-reasons-notre-dame-will-beat-oklahoma

The No. 14-ranked Oklahoma Sooners ride into South Bend for a Saturday afternoon showdown (NBC, 3:30 p.m. ET) with the No. 22-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium. After last season’s 30–13 Notre Dame upset of Oklahoma in Norman, this rematch has been circled on the calendar as OU looks to circle the wagons for a redemption win on the road.

While the Sooners are favored by 3-to-3.5 points, depending on the betting line, the Fighting Irish are far from the longshot 10-point underdogs they were in last year’s matchup. In fact, the Golden Domers have more than a few edges over Boomer Sooner. Here are five reasons Notre Dame will beat Oklahoma — again.

1. Fighting Fat Boys
Notre Dame’s defense is once again anchored by its pair of NFL-caliber monsters in the middle, senior nose tackle Louis Nix III and junior defensive end Stephon Tuitt. No team in the country boasts a more intimidating duo down low in the trenches. Nix, a.k.a. “Irish Chocolate,” weighs in at 6’2.5” and 342 pounds. Tuitt is a towering 6’6.5” and a svelte 312 pounds. But Nix and Tuitt aren’t just big; they’re athletic, efficient and play nasty with a mean streak.

“Defensively, (Notre Dame) is still very good and physical up front. Structurally sound and disciplined with how they play,” said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.

Last season, Nix, Tuitt and Co. engulfed the Sooners running game. Oklahoma ended with just 15 rushing yards on 24 carries, averaging an embarrassing 0.6 yards per carry in defeat. OU enters this year’s contest with the nation’s 16th-best running game, averaging 271.7 yards per game on the ground in wins over ULM (34–0), West Virginia (16–7) and Tulsa (51–20).

The Sooners O-line, led by All-America candidate center Gabe Ikard, must move Irish immovable mountains Nix and Tuitt in order to avoid last year’s disastrous results.

2. Wake Up the Echoes

Notre Dame vs OklahomaWho: Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma


Where: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Indiana


When: Saturday, Sept. 28, 2:30 PM (CT)

Notre Dame’s series history against Oklahoma is golden. The Fighting Irish have a 9–1 all-time record against the Sooners, including a victory in 1957 that ended OU’s 57-game winning streak.

The Irish have also won 10 consecutive games at Notre Dame Stadium with Touchdown Jesus watching over. This week, the faithful will be wearing the four-leaf clover green in a “Green Out” of the stadium.

“We will not be wearing green jerseys, but the Leprechaun Legion and the Kelly Cares Foundation will be giving out upwards of 40,000 pompoms,” said Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. “It’s a ‘Green Out’ officially this weekend for Oklahoma.”

3. The Tommy Rees Experience
Sure, Fighting Irish fans were deflated when Everett Golson was suspended for the season. But senior quarterback Tommy Rees is a low-risk leader who provides the type of stability under center that Notre Dame will need to beat Oklahoma. He’s no Rick Mirer or Brady Quinn, but who is?

This season, Rees has thrown for 1,111 yards, eight TDs and two INTs, with both of his picks coming in the Irish’s only loss, at Michigan (41–30). He combined to throw six TDs and zero INTs in Notre Dame’s three wins — Temple (28–6), at Purdue (31–24) and Michigan State (17–13).

Rees is 17–5 as a starter at ND, with wins over USC, Miami, Utah, Navy, Pittsburgh, Maryland, Boston College and Purdue under his belt. His counterpart, Oklahoma’s Blake Bell, was Bob Stoops’ second choice after losing a quarterback competition to Trevor Knight. Injury has thrown the goal line gimmick known as the “Belldozer” into the fire. Bell is 1–0 as a starter at OU and has never made a start on the road.

Who ya got? The veteran resumé or the road rookie?

4. Mike Stoops’ 3-3-5 Defense
Bob’s little brother Mike is back at helm of the Sooners stop-unit, in his second year of his second stint with the program. And the former Arizona head coach has gone all mad scientist this season, switching the OU base defense from a 4-3 to a 3-3-5.

“They’ve gone to a 3-3-5 defensive structure, whereas they were a four down (lineman) team last year. You’d have to ask them why,” said Kelly. “If I was to guess, it’s to probably handle a lot of the spread offenses in the Big 12.”

That is a logical assumption, since Oklahoma allowed an average of 43 points per game against speedy spreads Baylor, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M last year. But Notre Dame does not want to spread the field. Kelly’s philosophy is predicated on ground-and-pound, protect the football and then win a close call in the end. The Irish are 10–1 in their last 11 games decided by a touchdown or less.

Bob Stoops5. Big Game Bob
Bob Stoops has been rumored for the Notre Dame job before. As a Midwestern Catholic BCS national champion, he checks all the boxes. But he’s only coached one game at Notre Dame, a 34–30 loss to the Irish in 1999. In his fourth game as the coach at OU, Stoops’ Sooners let a 16-point lead slip away, allowing 20 unanswered points in the first defeat of his head-coaching career.

Stoops has come a long way since then, with eight Big 12 titles and raising BCS crystal over 14 seasons. But he has lost his spark in big games. Over the past four seasons, the Sooners are 13–9 against ranked opponents, with four other upset losses against unranked teams. Take Texas out of the equation and OU’s senior class carries a mediocre 10–9 record vs. Top 25 teams.

Oklahoma may be the favorite at Notre Dame, but winning on the road in a hostile environment with an inexperienced quarterback, limited running game and completely new defensive scheme won’t be easy.

“How could going to Notre Dame be easy?” said Stoops. “At the end of the day, that’s ridiculous. They’re an incredibly great, physical football team. Great quarterback play. Tough and good. It’ll be a huge challenge.”

Post date: Friday, September 27, 2013 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-quarterback-transfers-put-coaches-bind

Ohio State will open conference play against Wisconsin with an “OR” in fine print on the depth chart between the two quarterbacks. Urban Meyer doesn’t  seem to mind.

His Heisman-contending starter at quarterback, Braxton Miller, hasn’t played since the first quarter of the second game, but Meyer has reason for confidence in backup Kenny Guiton. The senior has played about as well as could be expected even for the standard Miller set during a 12-0 season.

Meyer is one of the lucky ones. Miller is undoubtedly his starter when healthy. Having Guiton on the roster is more a luxury than any kind of dilemma.

“It’s a blessing to have it,” Meyer said. “We just have to manage it the right way.”

Keeping a quality backup quarterback like Guiton on the roster is as difficult as it’s ever been. Multiple teams have needed to go to the second-string option before the calendar has turned to October only to find their quarterback situation is not as luxurious as the one in Columbus.

Includes only quarterbacks who began careers at FBS programs
Previous school in parentheses

Drew Allen, Syracuse (Oklahoma)*
Ronnie Bell, Georgia State (Ohio)
Steven Bench, USF (Penn State)
Allan Bridgford, Southern Miss (Cal)
Terrance Broadway, UL Lafayette (Houston)
Austyn Carta-Samuels, Vanderbilt (Wyoming)
David Fales, San Jose State (Nevada)
Taylor Graham, Hawaii (Ohio State)
Cody Green, Tulsa (Nebraska)
Garrett Gilbert, SMU (Texas)
Jake Heaps, Kansas (BYU)
Adam Kennedy, Arkansas State (Utah State)
Nick Marshall, Auburn (Georgia)^
Ross Metheny, South Alabama (Virginia)
Zach Mettenberger, LSU (Georgia)
Tom Savage, Pittsburgh (Arizona, Rutgers)
Jameill Showers, UTEP (Texas A&M)
Pete Thomas, NC State (Colorado State)
Connor Wood, Colorado (Texas)
Scotty Young, Louisiana Tech (Texas Tech)*
*Began season as starter, now a backup
^Began career as cornerback

Nearly every major program in the country has been impacted by a quarterback transfer, either coming or going. Roughly 20 starting quarterbacks at the FBS level started their careers at another FBS school only to transfer. And that doesn’t include dozens of backups.

College players are more familiar than ever with the roster landscape. Depth charts and commitment lists have been readily available for years, allowing quarterbacks to survey the field of new destinations where they may fit. A quick Google search can determine if an offensive coach might be a schematic fit.

“All the resources out there have instigated young people transferring,” said Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, who had one of his three starting quarterbacks from 2012 transfer before the season. “If things don’t go well or if they don’t look like they’re the future, they’ll transfer.

“If you have two quarterbacks, you’re fortunate.”

One of the latest to feel the transfer sting was Florida when two-year starter Jeff Driskel suffered a broken leg against Tennessee. Tyler Murphy performed admirably in relief, going 8 of 14 for 134 yards and a touchdown in the 31-17 win over the Volunteers. He also rushed for 84 yards and a score.

Murphy, a two-star recruit from Connecticut, was not intended to be the top quarterback off the bench when Will Muschamp and predecessor Meyer were drawing up recruiting classes. Jacoby Brissett, a top-100 prospect, competed with Driskel to start last season. After being relegated to the bench, he transferred to NC State, where he’ll sit in 2013 before being eligible next year.

“There’s only one ball,” Muschamp said. “If a guy’s not playing, greener pastures are somewhere else. That’s part of the deal, and that’s why I want to sign a quarterback every year.”

Texas has gone to backup quarterback Case McCoy after two head injuries to David Ash. Freshman Tyrone Swoopes may be an option down the line, but the Longhorns have also watched three quarterbacks who would have been eligible this season transfer — Garrett Gilbert (SMU) and Connor Wood (Colorado) who are starters elsewhere plus Connor Brewer, who is redshirting at Arizona.

Notre Dame was fortunate to have an experienced backup in Tommy Rees when Everett Golson was suspended due to academic issues, but depth at the position could have been greater had highly touted freshman Gunner Kiel stayed on campus. Kiel transferred to Cincinnati two months before Golson was declared ineligible.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly spoke in approval of Kiel’s move, and the Irish have another highly regarded freshman on campus in Malik Zaire. Quarterbacks like Kiel have good reason to want to test the transfer waters, moreso than other positions.

Even Muschamp, with his depleted quarterback depth, can agree with that.

“When you play defensive end, you can be involved in special teams and you can be in different packages, you’re not going to play the entire time,” Muschamp said. “When you look at our situation Saturday (against Tennessee), Ronald Powell, Dante Fowler and Jon Bullard are played 42 snaps in the game ... that’s why it’s not as prevalent at other positions.”

Muschamp may have told Brissett he was one play away from being the starter, but that’s tough on a young quarterback’s ego, especially one who has had designs on starting at a big-time program since high school.

Tom Savage heard the same at Rutgers. He started 11 games as a freshman in 2009, being named the MVP of a team that finished 9-4. The next season, Savage struggled early when he was benched for Chas Dodd four games into the season.

His pride damaged, Savage transferred to Arizona to play for then-coach Mike Stoops.

“I was a young, kind of bitter kid,” Savage said. “I was pissed off that I wasn’t playing.”

(Dodd, incidentally, was benched in 2011 for Gary Nova. Dodd remained on the roster as the backup).

After leaving when he was passed on the depth chart, Savage again found himself in the other common position where a quarterback will transfer — a new coach and a new system. Arizona hired Rich Rodriguez, a spread option coach. Savage is a classic drop-back passer. Savage, who played high school football near Philadelphia, also hoped to move closer East to be closer his ailing godmother. Though he moved again, Savage said he approached the second move with a little more maturity.

Finding a place that would spend two years worth of scholarship space for a quarterback who could only play for a year (plus a player who had already transferred twice) was difficult. Pitt coach Paul Chryst, who coached Savage’s brother Bryan at Wisconsin, allowed Savage to walk on before putting him on scholarship and naming him the starter this season.

Savage’s move paid off as he’s passed for 861 yards and nine touchdowns in three games, but he’s plenty familiar with the risk/reward proposition of transferring.

His brother transferred from Wisconsin to junior college to Hofstra, where he started for a year before a back injury ended his senior season. After watching his brother’s experience, he promised his father he wouldn’t repeat the ordeal.

“When he transferred and he went through it, I told my dad that if I ever get recruited, I’m never going to transfer,” Savage said. “You don’t hear too many kids transfer twice, but I ended up being pretty lucky. It was tough to even find an opportunity to play because a guy transferring twice is kind of a red flag.”

Connor Brewer, Arizona (Texas)
Jacoby Brissett, NC State (Florida)
Phillip Ely, Alabama (Toledo)
Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati (Notre Dame)
Wes Lunt, Illinois (Oklahoma State)
T.J. Millweard, Kansas (UCLA)

Like Savage, some quarterbacks and coaches end up lucky.

There was little reason for Guiton to look at greener pastures despite little hope of beating out Miller for the starting job entering the season. Although Guiton led Ohio State late in a win over Purdue last season, Meyer had no assurances Guiton would play at this kind of level before this season.

“It's not because the (previous) staff was screwing him over,” Meyer told reporters after Saturday’s rout of Florida A&M. “He wasn't very good in a lot of areas. (Since then) he pushed himself academically. He's an exceptional guy, and he didn't do things exceptionally. He was an underachiever, and to an underachiever, that's fighting words.”

A similar backup quarterback dynamic played out in Stillwater where perhaps Gundy didn’t know what he had.

Oklahoma State opened the 2012 season with freshman Wes Lunt starting at quarterback. Lunt was impressive enough to be named the starter during the spring, despite veterans Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh on the roster.

Lunt sustained an injury early in the season, opening the door for Walsh and then Chelf. When the 2013 season started, Chelf opened as the starter, but Walsh took over midway through the win over Mississippi State.

Lunt, once the precocious freshman, has transferred to Illinois.

Gundy may grumble that his quarterback depth has taken a hit with the youngest prospect leaving town, but he acknowledges it’s a fact of life in today’s game. (Gundy, it’s worth noting, initially blocked Lunt from transferring to a handful of high-profile schools, whether or not they were on Oklahoma State’s upcoming schedule).

“I can see both sides,” Gundy said. “I’ve never been a big fan of transferring. It’s just difficult. In some cases, players have had success, but over history there will be more cases of players who haven’t had success when they’ve transferred. But I do understand.”

Post date: Friday, September 27, 2013 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-college-football-week-5-picks

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

I tried to tell folks to stay away from their bookies last weekend, so I'm taking my 5-3 mark and sprinting to the bank. Maryland once again delivered and it's only a matter of time before the boys in Vegas pick up on the fact that the Terps have crushed the point spread this season. We can hold off until next weekend to deal with Randy Edsall as his squad is off this weekend. 

With a massive weekend of action of ahead of us, bettors need to be aware of a few trends. Most believe in staying away from road favorites, but with 12 of the 19 Top 25 teams in action playing on the road, it may be hard to avoid the road favorite.

2013 Record Against the Spread: 15-8-1 (5-3 last week)

Week 5 Picks of the Week:

Texas A&M (-7) at Arkansas
The Aggies' run defense is atrocious and the Razorbacks have an excellent 1-2 combo with running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. But there is no way Arkansas can stop Johnny Manziel from posting big numbers. This was an ugly 58-10 game in College Station last year and while Arkansas is improved, the Hogs haven’t closed the 48-point gap. Especially, if starting quarterback Brandon Allen can’t go. Prediction: Texas A&M -7

Fresno State (-17.5) at Hawaii
The Bulldogs thoroughly dominated the Warriors 45-10 at home last year as Derek Carr needed just 15 completions to reach 304 yards and score four times. And while all games seem to be tighter on the Big Island, Fresno State is actually better this year than last. Carr is averaging over 370 yards per game this year and Hawaii recently allowed 451 yards to Sean Mannion and Oregon State. Prediction: Fresno State -17.5

South Alabama (+19) at Tennessee
The USA defensive line is dramatically out-matched and out-weighed by the Tennessee offensive line and shouldn’t be able to stop the Vols' running game. The Jaguars defeated Western Kentucky last week but the win was fluky (a late turnover was returned for a touchdown) and the defense allowed 427 yards on nearly six yards per play. Look for the Vols to pound the football for four quarters and easily win their final non-conference game of the season. Prediction: Tennessee -19

Arizona (+9.5) at Washington
The Huskies are one of the most improved teams in the nation with impressive wins over Boise State and Illinois already. Arizona is still unbeaten but hasn’t played a tough game and their new quarterback, B.J. Denker, has never started in a hostile environment yet in his career. Husky Stadium will be rocking Saturday night and Washington’s elite balance on both sides of the ball will be too much for an Arizona team that is average at best. This line feels skewed due to the drubbing 'Zona put on U of W last year in the desert. Prediction: Washington -9.5

A few more road favorites I like:

Florida State (-21.5) at Boston College
The 'Noles won by 41 last year at home and might be even better this year. 

Stanford (-10) at Washington State
The Cardinal sacked Wazzu 10 times and held it to minus-18 yards rushing last year.

South Carolina (-7) at UCF
UCF's win over Penn State has inflated their value. Take the Gamecocks.

Take the Over:

LSU at Georgia: 61.5
Wisconsin at Ohio State: 54.5
South Carolina at UCF: 52.5

Week 5 Previews and Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Top 25 Picks Against the Spread:

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

Top 25 GamesMitch LightBraden GallSteven LassanDavid Fox
No. 21 Ole Miss (+15) at No. 1 Alabama
Cal (+36.5) at No. 2 Oregon
Wake Forest (+28.5) at No. 3 Clemson
No. 23 Wisconsin (+7) at No. 4 Ohio St 
No. 5 Stanford (-10) at Washington St
No. 6 LSU (+3) at No. 9 Georgia
No. 8 Florida St (-21.5) at Boston College
No. 10 Texas A&M (-7) at Arkansas
No. 11 Oklahoma St (-18) at West Virginia
No. 12 South Carolina (-7) at UCF
No. 14 Oklahoma (-3.5) at No. 22 Notre Dame
No. 15 Miami (-18.5) at USF
Arizona (+10) at No. 16 Washington
No. 20 Florida (-12.5) at Kentucky
No. 25 Fresno St (-17.5) at Hawaii
Last Week:8-56-76-75-8


Post date: Friday, September 27, 2013 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/texas-tech-maryland-or-minnesota-which-4-0-team-should-we-buy

Maryland, Texas Tech and Minnesota are three of the biggest surprises after four weeks of the 2013 college football season.

The Terrapins dominated West Virginia last week, crushing the Mountaineers 37-0 in Baltimore. After struggling with quarterback injuries last season, Maryland clearly as a No. 1 option in C.J. Brown. The Terrapins won six games in coach Randy Edsall’s first two years in College Park, and Maryland could easily surpass that total in 2013.

The Red Raiders are coming off a 33-7 victory over Texas State, and both sides of the ball have displayed promise in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s first season. Baker Mayfield and Davis Webb have experienced their ups and downs as true freshmen quarterbacks, but the defense is holding opponents to just 13.3 points a game.

Minnesota has played a relatively soft schedule prior to Week 4, but the win over a solid San Jose State team was impressive. The Golden Gophers are leaning heavily on their ground attack, averaging 282.3 yards per game. This week’s game against Iowa should give the rest of the Big Ten a good idea of where Minnesota stacks up in the conference title picture.

Texas Tech, Maryland or Minnesota: Which 4-0 team should we buy into?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I’ll take Maryland. We took some preseason heat for having the Terrapins finishing with seven victories in 2013, but after four weeks, that projection might be too low. Outside of games at Florida State, Virginia Tech and a home date against Clemson, Maryland should be favored in the rest of its schedule. A big reason for the Terrapins’ turnaround in 2013 has been quarterback C.J. Brown. The junior leads the ACC with an average of 331.5 total yards per game, and has a talented duo of receivers at his disposal in Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. Despite losing a couple of key players, Maryland’s defense is holding opponents to just 4.0 yards per play and leads the ACC with 17 sacks generated. The Terrapins have the best balance on offense and the best defense out of this trio of teams. Maryland is clearly the No. 3 team in the Atlantic Division behind Florida State and Clemson, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this team finish in the top 25 of the final rankings in January. 

Mark Ross
Of these three, I'll take Maryland because I think the Terrapins have the best shot at a top-three finish in their division/conference. The reality is that other than Texas Tech's win over a ranked TCU none of these teams have really faced any quality competition. Even though this will change (although not this Saturday), I believe Maryland has a clear edge when it comes to each team's remaining schedule. Randy Edsall's team still has to play Clemson and Florida State, but the rest of the Terps' schedule is very manageable. On the other hand, Texas Tech has to navigate the rest of its Big 12 slate, including the gauntlet of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor in a four-week stretch, while Minnesota has Michigan, Northwestern and Nebraska in a row and also gets Wisconsin and Michigan State back-to-back to end the season. So if anything, it looks like Maryland is well-positioned to benefit from playing in the "weaker" ACC, for at least one more season anyways.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Maryland. The Terps have the most talented roster, the most established coach, play in the ACC and have the best defense of the group. The Terps defense has been extremely salty this season, allowing just 4.0 yards per play and 266.0 yards per game. I like both Kilff Kingsbury and Jerry Kill, but Edsall has been doing this head coaching thing for much longer and his quarterback appears to be healthy. While both Texas Tech and Minnesota have dealt with injuries at QB, the Terrapins have an emerging superstar in C.J. Brown (331.5 total yards per game). Packaged with developing star power on offense, Edsall has himself as complete a football team as Maryland has had in years. The Terps also miss Miami and Georgia Tech in crossover play to top it all off.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I think I’m buying Maryland’s 4-0 more than the others, though Minnesota is an interesting case. Maryland probably would have been a bowl team last season if not for an incredible run of quarterback injuries. Randy Edsall’s a pretty good coach, but he’s not the kind of guy who turns things on a dime. Now that his system is in place, and his team isn’t facing injuries and transfers left and right,  the Terrapins are proving to be a solid team on both sides of the ball. Are the Terps better than Florida State and Clemson? Probably not, but the Terps are just as good as any team in the ACC Coastal. Like Maryland, Minnesota’s emergence has been a few years in the making. The Gophers might not win eight or nine games, but they play defense and they’ll stay competitive in the Big Ten.

Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler)
Give me the Terps and those beautiful Maryland Pride 2.0 uniforms. Maryland’s defense forced six turnovers of the Mountaineers en route to a 37-0 romp over West Virginia. The Terps actually lead the country in turnovers with 13 through just four games. Brian Stewart’s unit has been exceptional this year, allowing just 10.3 points per game, ninth fewest in the nation. The offense has performed near perfectly as well. Quarterback C.J. Brown has completed 67 percent of his passes for 1,043 yards for seven touchdowns and just one interception. In addition, Brown is averaging 6.3 yards per rush and has scored six touchdowns on the ground. Stefon Diggs has proven himself worthy of his No. 2 wide receiver ranking in last year’s recruiting class, as the 2012 ACC Freshman of the Year runner-up recorded 387 yards and three touchdown in his first three games of the season. Coach Randy Edsall appears to have taken himself off of the hot seat, as Maryland has already matched its win total from all of last year, but I predict the Terrapins will double their wins from last year. Maryland is simply a more complete team than either Texas A&M (no rushing game) or Minnesota (no passing game).

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 5 Preview and Predictions
Big 12 Week 5 Preview and Predictions
Big Ten Week 5 Preview and Predictions
Pac-12 Week 5 Preview and Predictions
SEC Week 5 Preview and Predictions
College Football's Post-Week 4 Bowl Projections
College Football's Coach on the Hot Seat Rankings

Post date: Friday, September 27, 2013 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-week-5-upset-predictions-2013

The final weekend of college football action in September once again features several non-conference matchups, but more competitive games are coming soon.

Conference play for nearly all 10 leagues is starting to pop up more on the schedule each Saturday, with the SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 featuring a handful of key games in Week 5.

Wisconsin-Ohio State, Ole Miss-Alabama, LSU-Georgia, Notre Dame-Oklahoma and Arizona State-USC are just a few of the key games on the schedule this Saturday. This weekend’s slate is a huge improvement over Week 4’s schedule, which was very light in terms of quality games.

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

Week 5 Previews and Predictions: ACC Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12SEC

College Football Week 5 Upset Predictions

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Buffalo (+1) over Connecticut
I realize this isn’t much of an upset, but I’m also not seeing many games the underdog will win on Saturday. Connecticut played Michigan tough last week, but the Huskies gained only 206 yards, and quarterback Chandler Whitmer was sacked four times. Buffalo’s defense features one of the nation’s most underrated players in linebacker Khalil Mack, and six other starters from a unit that held opponents to 363.7 yards per game last year. The Bulls’ rank last in the MAC in total defense this season, but the competition played so far – Ohio State and Baylor – have a lot to do with that number. Connecticut coach Paul Pasqualoni desperately needs a win to cool some of the hot seat talk in Storrs. However, Buffalo’s defense, and running back Branden Oliver prevent the Huskies from getting a much-needed victory.

David Fox (@DavidFox615): Colorado (-11) over Oregon State
The Buffaloes are a much improved team. I don’t expect them to go to a bowl, but this team went from absolutely dreadful to 2-0. In this game, Oregon State’s defense will give the Buffs a chance. Oregon State needed late surges to beat San Diego State and Utah. I wonder how much the Beavers will be able to hold up. Colorado can move the ball thanks to Connor Wood completing passes to the nation’s most underrated receiver Paul Richardson (though the Beavers’ Brandin Cooks is in the same class). With the way Oregon State’s D has been playing, it’s tough to envision the Beavers as an 11-point favorite over anyone.

Mark Ross: Western Kentucky (+3) over Navy
Navy is leading the nation in rushing at nearly 400 yards per game and already has a win over a Big Ten team (Indiana) on its resume. However, Western Kentucky can match up with the Midshipmen when it comes to running the ball, as the Hilltoppers are gaining nearly 230 yards on the ground per contest themselves. New WKU coach Bobby Petrino has this offense clicking, and I think the combination of all-purpose threat Antonio Andrews (222.2 total yards per game) and the passing ability of Brandon Doughty will be too much for the Mids to overcome in Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Ky. Don't be surprised if this game features close to 600 yards rushing and more than 80 points combined.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall): USC (+7) at Arizona State
This is a huge game for both teams as the loser will be sitting at 0-2 in the Pac-12 after just one month of play. USC's defense is the real deal, and Arizona State has struggled in a big way along the line of scrimmage against Stanford. Historically, the Trojans have owned the Sun Devils, winning 12 of the last 13 meetings. Lane Kiffin will take the air out of the football by running Tre Madden and playing great defense. Don't be surprised if the desperate Men of Troy return to Los Angeles with a big leg up in the South Division.

Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler): Virginia (+5) over Pittsburgh
Mike London knows the key to taking down the Panthers is limiting the big play. Last week, 17 of Pittsburgh's plays accounted for 423 yards of their 598 total yards. The Panthers do an excellent job of running the ball to open up their play action passing game, in order to take advantage of their two top-notch receivers Devin Street and Tyler Boyd. Despite this, I like Virginia’s new aggressive approach under defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta. While they struggled against Oregon (who doesn’t?), the Cavaliers defense looked dominant in wins over BYU and VMI. In fact, Virginia registered six sacks, 12.5 tackles for a loss and five turnovers in the two games. They have held all three of their opponents under their season scoring average. I like what the Cavaliers rushing attacks will be able to do against a Panthers defense that allows an average of 443 yards and 41 points per game, ranking 120th in the FBS. The Panthers have allowed their last two opponents, New Mexico and Duke, to each rush for 213 yards. Look for a big game from Cavaliers RB Kevin Parks, who rushed for a career-high 135 yards last week. I like the Cavaliers defense and running game over the high-flying Pittsburgh offense in this one.

Post date: Thursday, September 26, 2013 - 16:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-september-26

Week 5 starts tonight...

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

College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Thursday, September 26th

The selection committee for college football's 2014-15 playoff could be decided by the end of the regular season.

All signs point to quarterback Braxton Miller returning to the starting lineup this Saturday for Ohio State.

Lost Lettermen takes a look at the most successful former high school coaches in college football.

The Sporting News' Matt Hayes spent a Saturday watching games with SEC commissioner Mike Slive.  

Is Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo the best quarterback you never heard of?

Duke quarterback Anthony Boone is making progress in his return from a broken collarbone.

Alabama has canceled a future series with Michigan State. 

SMU could have running back Traylon Shead back against TCU.

Air Force will be down to its third starting quarterback this season, as Jaleel Awini is suspended indefinitely from the team.

How can Oklahoma's offense exploit Notre Dame's defense?

Rutgers running back Paul James is nursing a leg injury but expects to return later this season.

Playmakers have helped to key Iowa's offensive improvement.

Post date: Thursday, September 26, 2013 - 15:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/top-college-football-player-matchups-watch-week-5

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

QB Zach Mettenberger vs. FS Tray Matthews (LSU at Georgia)
Mettenberger’s ties to Georgia run deep. He grew up in nearby Watkinsville. His mother, Tammy, is an administrative assistant in the Georgia football offense. And he spent the first two years of his career as a Georgia Bulldog. This is not just another game for Mettenberger, who is in his second season as the starter at LSU. So far, he has thrived under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, but this will be his toughest test — in a very difficult environment — of his senior season. With two elite wide receivers and a solid offensive line, it falls to Mettenberger to accurately attack the Bulldogs' young, but talented secondary. Matthews, a true freshman, will be responsible for handling the top of the defense against two great vertical threats in Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.

RB Melvin Gordon vs. LB Ryan Shazier (Wisconsin at Ohio State)
The hard-hitting Ohio State linebacker was all over the field for the Buckeyes last year against Wisconsin. He registered 12 tackles, 3.0 tackles for a loss and forced a fumble in last year’s win over the Badgers. He’s right back at it again this season, topping the team in tackles (30). It will fall to the explosive junior to stop the three-headed monster in Wisconsin's backfield, led by Heisman candidate Melvin Gordon. The Badgers' star tailback is leading the nation in rushing (156.0 ypg) with an absurd 11.8 yards per carry average and seven rushing touchdowns. 

WR LaQuon Treadwell vs. CB Deion Belue (Ole Miss at Alabama)
Treadwell was a difference-maker in the Rebels’ win over Vanderbilt in Week 1, catching nine passes for 82 yards in addition to a key 2-point conversion in the third quarter. He has teamed with Donte Moncrief to give Ole Miss two big-time targets in the passing game. Alabama’s secondary is talented, but it’s difficult for any team to take away two elite wide receivers. Treadwell, a 5-star recruit from Illinois, could have an opportunity to play a key role in the Rebels' attack against one area of the Alabama defense that can be exploited. Belue (toe) and Jarrick Williams (eye) both missed last week’s game with Colorado State but have returned to the practice field and are expected to play a big role in this weekend’s contest.

C Gabe Ikard vs. DT Louis Nix III (Oklahoma at Notre Dame)
The Sooners’ star center will match up once again with Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix III, who got the better of Ikard last season. Ikard may be one of the Big 12’s best linemen, but the OU veteran called Nix one of the best in the country in controlling the line of scrimmage. The Sooners rushed for only 15 yards on 23 carries in last season’s game. The Sooners trail only Baylor in the Big 12 in rushing and sit at 16th nationally with over 270 yards rushing per game in three games thus far.

RB Tre Madden vs. DT Will Sutton (USC at Arizona State)
The best way to help out a struggling passing attack is with a quality running game. And Madden has been just that for Lane Kiffin over the first four weeks. He has topped 100 yards in all but one game and has scored in each of the last two contests. His 90 carries are second only to Iowa’s Mark Weisman nationally and his 455 yards are eighth in the nation. Cody Kessler needs No. 23 to come up big on the road. Sutton has been fairly quiet this season so far, registering just 9.0 tackles and no big plays yet. The All-American defensive lineman needs to play well this weekend to avoid an 0-2 start to the Pac-12 season.

LB Chris Borland vs. QB Braxton Miller or QB Kenny Guiton (Wisconsin at Ohio State)
Wisconsin’s All-American linebacker has been making big plays for the Badgers for years but stopping the Buckeyes' versatile offensive attack might be his tallest order — no matter who plays quarterback. Borland constantly disrupts opposing backfields and makes big special teams plays — he even completed a 23-yard pass on a fake punt against Arizona State — but has missed two of the last three meetings with Ohio State. That said, he went head-to-head with Miller in 2011, posting 10 tackles in the historic Hail Mary game. Keeping Miller or Guiton contained within the pocket will go a long way to giving UW a chance at the win.

LB Lamin Barrow vs. RB Todd Gurley (LSU at Georgia)
Few teams in the country are as balanced offensively as Georgia, which has the personnel to throw for over 400 yards or run for 300 on any given Saturday. Barrow, one of the leaders of this new-look LSU defense, will have to be at his best from his weak-side linebacker position on Saturday. When Georgia gets its play-action attack going, the Bulldogs are very difficult to slow down. Gurley, who is averaging 125.7 yards per game, is arguably the nation's most talented running back and will be asked to pound the very physical Tigers front seven.

RB Ka'Deem Carey vs. LB Shaq Thompson (Arizona at Washington)
Stopping one of the nation’s best running backs in one of the nation’s most explosive offensive schemes falls to Thompson and his running mates John Timu and Princeton Fuimaono. The top three tacklers on the Huskies' squad must contain Carey (149.5 yards per game) and Daniel Jenkins (80.7 yards per game) at home. This will force Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker to throw the ball — something he hasn’t proven he can do in a hostile environment yet. 

Post date: Thursday, September 26, 2013 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/ron-howard-gives-us-inside-scoop-his-racing-movie-rush

Oscar-winning filmmaker Ron Howard grew up in our living rooms, first as lovable Opie Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show” and then as Richie Cunningham on the equally iconic sitcom “Happy Days.” But Howard’s true calling was behind the camera, and with his latest movie, he’s returned to his roots as a director by putting his audience behind the wheel. 

Howard cut his filmmaking teeth with 1977’s “Grand Theft Auto,” a low-budget, high-octane action comedy that featured more crashes than a season on the Sprint Cup circuit. Fast forward 36 years, and Howard’s latest big-budget epic features cars of a sleeker, faster but equally dangerous variety. 

“Rush,” which hits theaters this week, chronicles the 1976 Formula 1 season, including Austrian driver Niki Lauda’s near-fatal crash and subsequent comeback. Howard deftly captures an era of fast cars and European playboys who set the standard for high-level racing from Monaco to the Orient, along with the danger, speed and precision of open-wheel competition. But at its heart, the story’s focus is the rivalry between the confident Lauda and flashy British driver James Hunt, and how their on-track clashes came to define a go-for-broke sport. 

Athlon Sports caught up Howard and had no trouble persuading the entertainment icon to share his infectious passion for his latest film. 

What attracted you to this story?

Ron Howard: It’s the fact that in one movie there are all these elements, so to me, as a director, that means a lot. That means that different audience members can glean different things from it and enjoy it for different reasons. I love working with actors on interesting characters and emotional scenes. You know, there’s a lot of that in this story. But I also love trying to create something for the audience that’s a ride, that’s visceral, that’s intense, and kind of an experience. So I thought, “Here’s a movie that combines both those things.” And it’s all too rare that you can make a movie that has a chance to be a big-screen experience, but it’s not a fantasy. You know, there are no superheroes. They’re real people. It’s a real story. And yet it’s kind of cinematic and intense in that big movie way.

Your first movie as a director was “Grand Theft Auto.” Did you think your next “car” movie would be 36 years later?

I learned a lot about cars during “Grand Theft Auto.” Most of what I learned I couldn’t apply to this (“Rush”) because we ­couldn’t afford to crash these cars, and when we did we had to do it very, very carefully. “Grand Theft Auto” was all about them T-bones, and it was fun. And nobody got hurt, thankfully.

What’s the fastest you’ve ever driven?

When I was preparing for “Rush,” I drove a Formula 1 training car and probably got up around 100 (mph). The straightaway was short enough that it wouldn’t allow you to get much quicker than that. But it was a great experience. I also spun out. Thank God nobody was too close behind me when that happened. One person described it as though you’re trying to ride a thoroughbred race horse. An F1 car sort of feels like it has a mind of its own.

Did the actors do any of the driving?

The actors did some of the driving. Nothing harrowing. We ­didn’t put them into close proximity to other cars going over 100 miles an hour or anything like that, but they did drive over 100 miles an hour. And we put cameras on them and did a lot of laps with them that we could build into the movie. But we also did old-fashioned green screen stuff to put them into the right tracks at the right moment. More important than driving fast on the track, they also had to be good enough that they could speed into the pits, because that was my chance to have a steady-cam move in, see them lift the visor and just, in a subliminal way, convince the audience that they’re driving — they can drive a car. And then also, go through the whole pit change, lower the visor and speed off, and that’s with a lot of people around. So that was a safety factor that they had to really, really train for. The first day that we really tested the guys in the cars, (Niki Lauda actor) Daniel Brühl’s front tire came off his Ferrari and bounded off, and he went into a spin. So right away on Day 1, we realized that we could never relax around these cars.

Rush Movie PosterYou chose not to use original footage of Niki Lauda’s crash. What was your method for determining when to use original footage and when not to?

In many places in the movie, we discovered we could sort of do a “Forrest Gump” kind of trick. Only instead of putting Tom Hanks next to Richard Nixon, we could put Lauda’s car or Hunt’s car into a particularly good, say, aerial helicopter shot from Monaco or someplace and make that shot, which was great, tell the story we needed to tell. So it was 99 percent the archival footage, but somehow by changing the cars around a little bit, we could make it our story. We did a good deal of that. With the crash, I wanted to break it down for the audience on a little bit more of a micro level. And so the archival shot that exists is 8 millimeter — very, very grainy — and it’s a single shot that a 12-year-old kid took. In fact, I sort of … I do a cutaway to a kid shooting the accident. We actually do use that footage later on television just out of respect to the original footage.

In “Rush,” Niki Lauda exhibits extreme attention to detail. Did you encounter that facet working with him?

He sanctioned the project. He had no editorial controls; he trusted Peter Morgan, the writer. He trusted me as the director, and he made himself available for any questions. And he was very meticulous and very, very helpful. And especially to Daniel Brühl, who was playing him in the movie. He literally had him on speed dial and could call him up at any moment and could ask him about the particulars of racing or his behavior. But he’s a powerful guy, a brilliant guy, a great businessman. He’s back in Formula 1 in a competitive way as one of the principal owners of the Mercedes race team. They’re having an unexpectedly good year in his first year back. I can see that he enjoys that competition, but with Niki, mostly it’s all about productivity. For him, every waking hour is supposed to be directed towards something. He’s making things happen that matter all that time, and that’s what’s important to him. I think he keeps score that way.

A rival can be a great source of motivation. Have you ever had that situation in your own life?

I don’t feel that kind of personal rivalry. I have a lot of respect for people. But it’s not that kind of competition where somebody can literally beat you. There are times when different directors and producers are vying for the same project and you’re trying to get the rights. That’s the closest thing to a competition like that, I suppose. But I think filmmaking is a little more … you sort of have to be in competition with yourself and with what the possibilities of the project are. And I think that you’re not really fueled by rivals, although you can see movies that you respect and they can fuel you.

Post date: Thursday, September 26, 2013 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/florida-dt-dominique-easley-tears-acl-out-season

Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley suffered a torn ACL in practice this week and will be out for the remainder of the season.

Easley’s torn ACL is the second major injury suffered by Florida in the last few days, as quarterback Jeff Driskel is also out for the year after a leg injury against Tennessee.

In three games this year, Easley had five tackles (two for a loss) and four quarterback hurries.

Although his stat line wasn’t overwhelming, Easley is one of the top defensive tackles in the nation, and his presence on the interior helps to open up opportunities for Dante Fowler, Ronald Powell and Jonathan Bullard off the edge.  

The Gators will miss Easley's presence on the interior, but juniors Darious Cummings and Leon Orr, along with senior Damien Jacobs should be able to keep the rush defense performing at a high level.

This is the second ACL tear in Easley’s career, and the senior is eligible for a medical redshirt. However, considering he was a potential first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Easley may decide to pass on a redshirt and start his career at the next level.

Post date: Thursday, September 26, 2013 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-2013-week-5-start-or-sit-report

Bye weeks litter the college landscape this week, so expect league scoring averages to drop drastically.  Second-guessing a couple of guys on your roster this week?  Hopefully, this week’s Start/Bench helps in your decision-making process.

College Fantasy Football: Week 5 Start or Sit Report

Connor Wood, QB-Colorado at Oregon State
Wood should find receiver Paul Richardson early and often as the Buffaloes face an Oregon State defense that is allowing over 287 passing yards per game.

Keith Wenning, QB-Ball State vs Toledo
Wenning is averaging over 330 yards passing and may top that number this week when the Cardinals host Toledo.

Keenan Reynolds, QB-Navy at Western Kentucky
Through two games, Navy leads the nation in rushing at 398 yards per game and Reynolds has topped 100 yards on the ground in both contests.

Storm Johnson, RB-Central Florida vs South Carolina
We’re not expecting Johnson to run wild against the South Carolina defense, but the junior running back should post respectable numbers for fantasy owners that play in deep leagues.

Rajion Neal, RB-Tennessee vs South Alabama
Neal should bounce back after two tough outings against Oregon and Florida in back-to-back weeks.

Shaun Wick, RB-Wyoming at Texas State
Wick is only averaging about 15 carries per game, but he has either scored multiple touchdowns or topped 100 yards in every game this season.

Jay Ajayi and Aaron Baltazar, RBs-Boise State vs Southern Mississippi
Ajayi’s fumbling woes may lead to more playing time for the freshman Baltazar, and there is a good chance that both backs top the century mark at home against USM.

Josh Huff, WR-Oregon vs California
After watching the Buckeyes torch the Bears’ secondary two weeks ago, we feel that Huff has to be good for a couple of big receptions Saturday night.

Chandler Jones, WR-San Jose State vs Utah State
Last week at Minnesota, Jones picked up the slack in the passing game with the loss of teammate Noel Grigsby.  Expect more of the same this week when the Spartans host Utah State.


Connor Halliday, Washington State vs Stanford
We expected Halliday to light up the scoreboard against Idaho, but Stanford is an entirely different beast.  Just ask the Sun Devils.

Darrin Reaves, RB-UAB @ Vanderbilt
Reaves has the potential for a big play, but we see far too many 2- to 3-yard carries against the Commodores.

Charles Sims, RB-West Virginia vs Oklahoma State
The only thing we were able to take away from the Mountaineers’ game against Maryland last week was that the West Virginia offense does not have a safe fantasy play on its roster.

David Oku, RB-Arkansas State at Missouri
Oku’s rushing stats at home:  37-198-4  Oku’s rushing stats on the road:  28-93-0 
This is the toughest part of the schedule for owners of Oku because after Missouri the Red Wolves have a bye in two of the next three weeks. 

Jeff Scott, RB-Ole Miss at Alabama
Remember our formula:  Opposing player (excluding anyone named Johnny Manziel) + Alabama defense = Bench

Jordan Parker, RB-Middle Tennessee at BYU
Junior running back Reggie Whatley may be cutting into Parker’s carries, but the biggest obstacle for fantasy owners this week is the BYU defense.

Quinshad Davis, WR-North Carolina vs East Carolina
We are not patient enough to have a guy on our roster that only has eight receptions through three games, but if are not ready to throw in the towel, keep Davis on the bench until he proves himself on the field.

Titus Davis, WR-Central Michigan at North Carolina State
Believe it or not, but the Wolfpack are one of the better defensive plays in Week 5.

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Post date: Thursday, September 26, 2013 - 11:00