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Coaching in the SEC is no easy task. Even though Derek Dooley is entering the halfway point of his third season in Knoxville, he is squarely on the hot seat and needs a strong finish to 2012 to save his job. The Volunteers weren't in great shape when Dooley came to Knoxville but has the team improved under his watch?

Should Derek Dooley Return to Tennessee in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615): 
I’ll be the first to say that Derek Dooley inherited a mess of a situation at Tennessee, one that requires time to clean up. But by Year Three, Tennessee should be looking for signs of real progress. One SEC win -- in overtime over Vanderbilt, no less -- in the last 11 games is not it. This team is better under Dooley than it was a year ago, and it would be fair to give him one more season and one class of his seniors to see it through. But the wins are what counts, and Dooley is running out of time to pick up those wins. Unless the Volunteers can defeat Alabama or South Carolina, what is his chance for a tenure-defining win? Missouri? Vanderbilt? Kentucky? That said, all Tennessee has to do is to win two of those games (plus Troy) to reach a bowl. That won’t make Tennessee fans happy, but we’re looking at a team that could reasonably finish with seven or eight wins. I still think that’s the threshold for Dooley sticking around.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall): 
Derek Dooley's tenure in Knoxville is quickly becoming one of the most bizarre and complex to evaluate in the history of college football. He took over a complete dumpster fire and has obviously improved the program as a whole. He also is 0-13 against ranked opponents and is 1-10 in his last 11 SEC games. Even over the last month and a half of the season, fans will be on a rollar coaster of emotion. If things fall the way they should, Tennessee will lose to Alabama and South Carolina over the next two weeks bringing the Vols record to 3-5. And the fans will burn down talk show phone lines. Then the Vols will win four straight to end the year 7-5 on a roll with a bid to a solid bowl game. And the fans will want to give their coach an extension. Is Dooley the long-term answer in Knoxville? That remains to be seen, but a upset win in the next two — or bad losses in the last four — could seal his fate either way. For now, I think he finished 7-5 (two games better than last year) and keeps his job.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): 
This will be an interesting debate for Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart. The Volunteers will likely be 3-5 at the end of October but play Troy, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Kentucky in November. Barring an unlikely loss, Tennessee should finish 7-5, which would be the best mark of Dooley’s career with the Volunteers. While 7-5 isn’t awful, the standards are higher in Knoxville. Dooley didn’t inherit a full cupboard when he took over for Lane Kiffin, but Tennessee is just 1-10 in its last 11 SEC games. Even if coaching in Knoxville isn’t as good of a job as some may believe, that record simply won’t get it done. Even if Dooley returns for 2013, Tennessee could have a rebuilding project on its hands, as quarterback Tyler Bray and receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson could all leave for the NFL. If Hart decides to make a change, this is a hire he needs to get right and one that can add some much-needed long-term stability to the program. Even though the Volunteers may not finish the season ranked in the top 25, going through a coaching change is not what this program needs right now. I think Dooley survives at least one more season in Knoxville. 

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): 
My guess is that Derek Dooley will not be back at Tennessee for a fourth season. The numbers simply don’t add up: Heading into this week’s game vs. Alabama, Dooley is 14–17 overall and 4–15 in the SEC in his two-plus seasons as the boss in Knoxville. The Vols have lost 10 of their last 11 league games, with the only win coming in overtime at home vs. Vanderbilt. Barring a significant upset this week vs. Alabama or the following week at South Carolina, Dooley will be a combined 0–12 vs. Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Florida. Not good.

Mark Ross: 
Barring a complete and total collapse, I think Dooley will be back for at least one more season in Knoxville. An upset win over either Alabama or South Carolina, Tennessee's next two opponents, certainly wouldn't hurt his case, but I think Dooley's focus needs to be on the Volunteers' final four games - home against Troy, Missouri and Kentucky and on the road against Vanderbilt. At 3-3 right now, going 4-0 to close the season will give the Vols seven wins, which would be the most in three seasons under Dooley, and more importantly, guarantee a bowl bid. If Dooley doesn't get this team bowl eligible this season, I think it will be very hard for him to convince athletic director Dave Hart, who didn't hire Dooley in the first place, to give him another one on Rocky Top.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): 
This is a very difficult call, and it is a more complex decision for athletic director Dave Hart than many football fans believe. Constant change and attrition can kill a program once it’s down, and a new boss in Knoxville would equal four Tennessee head coaches in six seasons. Derek Dooley inherited a severely damaged roster and culture, and the likeable head coach has improved the talent level of the Vols. The on-field evaluation in Dooley’s third season is tough, because his club has competed fairly well against three ranked SEC opponents but has lost all three. That trend should continue against Alabama and South Carolina the next two weeks, but close defeats will still leave Tennessee at 0-5 in conference play. While the rushing game has improved greatly, the defense under new coordinator Sal Sunseri has been awful. The Vols can score points but still seem to make too many critical errors at exactly the wrong times when trying to rally in big games.

I believe Hart wants to give Dooley another season to fix the program, along with saving millions of dollars in buyouts and coaching-search costs for a budget that has been squeezed in recent years. If November becomes a disaster (like losing multiple games or too many empty seats), Hart may have no choice but to make a change. Vols fans have every right to demand a better win-loss record, but I think Dooley may survive unless the Vols finish .500 or worse.

 

Related College Football Content

College Football 2012 Midseason Recap and First Half Awards
College Football's Post-Week 7 Bowl Projections

College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat After Week 7

Teaser:
<p> Should Derek Dooley Return to Tennessee in 2013?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 06:58
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-midseason-bcs-championship-predictions
Body:

With the first half of the season in the books, it's time to evaluate the preseason picks and make a few changes. Athlon's predicted a LSU-USC showdown in August but things have changed over the last seven weeks. 

2012 Midseason Predictions: Who Plays for the National Title?

Coach Gene Stallings, former head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, and current voting member of the Legends Poll:
I would say it would be Alabama and Oregon to play in the Championship game.  I think Alabama is the best team in the country.  They can run the football. Alabama has three or four good running backs. The quarterback is getting better and better. Defensively, they play very sound and don't miss tackles. Their kicking game all around is good.  They've got lots of depth. I don't see any weaknesses.

Coach Dick MacPherson, former head coach of the Syracuse Orange, and current voting member of the Legends Poll:
Alabama and who ... that is my answer.  Who is that other team going to be ... probably Oregon. Oregon has a great scheme and do a really good coaching but I would give the edge to Alabama because of Coach Saban.  He can solve problems other teams can't.  Plus, I think talent-wise Alabama has more than Oregon. 

David Fox (@DavidFox615): Oregon vs. Alabama
I started with Oregon and South Carolina in the beginning of the season, and, boy, did that look good after the Gamecocks’ win over Georgia. I still think South Carolina’s going to win the SEC East, but I’m going to switch out South Carolina for Alabama in the title game. The Tide have more than answered questions about the new starters on defense. This program is on a similar run of invincibility we saw out of USC this decade. Oregon will benefit this season from not playing a challenging nonconference game and will have plenty of time to make up ground in the BCS standings. The Pac-12 is deeper than we thought at the start of the season -- Arizona State, Oregon State and Stanford will be tougher outs than perhaps we thought -- but the top challenger, USC, doesn’t look like a title contender at this point.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall): Oregon vs. Alabama
I had Alabama over Oregon in the preseason and I have seen nothing over the first seven weeks to change my mind. In fact, those are the best two teams I have seen thus far, only upping my confidence in the Crimson Tide-Ducks championship bout in Miami Gardens. The Ducks offense is well-known but the defense is the best Chip Kelly has had in Eugene and it has been making big plays of its own. Meanwhile, Alabama has abused any and all takers in demoralizing fashion. I don't give Oregon too much of a chance to beat Alabama in a national title setting but it would be fun to see the high-flying Ducks attack go up against a spread-loathing Nick Saban with a chance at immortality.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Oregon vs. Alabama
My preseason pick was Alabama-USC, but I’m going to make a slight change at the midpoint of the season. I still like Alabama to finish unbeaten and play for the national championship, but I will switch USC for Oregon. I think the Ducks could lose their Nov. 3 matchup to the Trojans but still play for the BCS title, especially if these two teams rematch in the Pac-12 title game. Even though Oregon had to replace its starting quarterback, the offense continues to fire on all cylinders, especially with Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas headlining one of the nation’s top running back corps. Although the defense doesn’t statistically rank near Alabama, the Ducks are registering 2.8 sacks per game and have forced 17 turnovers. Also, Oregon is allowing only 4.6 yards per play, which would place it fifth in the SEC. If these two teams met in Miami for the national title, I’d pick the Crimson Tide to win, but I’d like to see what Oregon’s offense can do against Nick Saban’s defense.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): Oregon vs. Alabama
I’m not really going on a limb here, but I’ll take Alabama and Oregon to meet in the BCS Championship Game. The Crimson Tide have been dominant on defense and more than good enough on offense through the first half of the season. Assuming AJ McCarron’s knee doesn’t become an issue, I just don’t see this team losing a game. The trip to LSU will be difficult, and the opponent in the SEC title game will be formidable, but Bama will be the better team in each contest. Oregon has more hurdles to climb — including road trips to Arizona State, USC, Cal and Oregon State — but I believe the Ducks are the most complete team in the Pac-12. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Oregon stub its toe once in the regular season and still reach the BCS title game (assuming Notre Dame doesn’t get in the way.

Mark Ross: Oregon vs. Oklahoma
I am sure this is probably going to surprise some people, including my own colleagues, since Oklahoma came in at No. 9 in the initial BCS standings and has already lost a game. But hear me out. In my opinion, Oregon has the clearest path to the BCS Championship Game as the Ducks are undefeated, No. 3 in the BCS standings and in control of their own destiny. Provided they take care of business against USC, most likely twice, and can defeat a surprising Oregon State team in The Civil War, Oregon will be in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Jan. 7. I would even go so far to say that even if the Trojans were to beat the Ducks in the regular season, as long as Chip Kelly's team returned the favor in the Pac-12 title game, they will still get their chance at a national title. As far as Oregon's opponent goes, I'm leaning towards Oklahoma because I think, at least for this season, not having a conference championship game will help the Sooners. They still have several tough games remaining on their schedule, most notably an Oct. 27 visit from Notre Dame and a trip to Morgantown to play West Virginia on Nov. 17, but I think Bob Stoops has his team peaking at the right time and they will navigate the rest of their schedule undefeated. I also think the SEC is going to continue to beat itself up, leaving you with a situation where the eventual conference champion will have at least one loss, if not more. Under this scenario, I think there will be enough changes in the polls, computer rankings, etc. that in the end the BCS standings will have Oregon at No. 1 and Oklahoma at No. 2. Once these two get to south Florida and play each other in January, I like Kelly and the Ducks to do what they weren't able to two years ago - take the crystal football back to Eugene. BCS Champion: Oregon 31, Oklahoma 24

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): Oregon vs. Alabama
I think you have to project Alabama and Oregon at this point, although USC and LSU still have a good shot to get to the title game. It is difficult for me to project anyone from the Big 12, even though Kansas State would be a popular choice for many voters. Notre Dame still has tough road contests against Oklahoma and USC, and unbeaten SEC clubs will knock each other off as the season progresses. Mark it down fans: November 3. That’s when the Crimson Tide travels to Baton Rouge, and when the Ducks head south to face USC. Alabama has been so dominant in 2012, but some forget that Les Miles’ bunch did win the SEC last year. Chip Kelly’s crew was derailed by the Trojans last season but appears to be the better team with its usual high-octane offense and an underrated defense. While the Tide and Ducks could slip, they are definitely the top two candidates at the midseason point to play in Miami in January.

 

Related College Football Content

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College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat After Week 7

Teaser:
<p> College Football's Midseason BCS Championship Predictions</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 06:08
Path: /college-football/will-notre-dame-play-national-title-2012
Body:

Thanks to a goal-line stand in overtime against Stanford, Notre Dame is 6-0 and off to its best start since opening 8-0 in 2002. The Irish have a favorable schedule the rest of the way, which features winnable games against BYU, Pittsburgh, Boston College and Wake Forest. However, matchups against USC and Oklahoma will decide how high this team can climb in the BCS standings.

Will Notre Dame Play for the National Title in 2012?

David Fox (@DavidFox615):
I do love that Notre Dame defense. Allowing one touchdown since playing Purdue is remarkable, considering that includes Michigan, Miami and Stanford. I’m confident Notre Dame can give Oklahoma and USC trouble later this season, which are the only real tests remaining for the Irish. Although it’s worked so far, I’m having trouble putting my faith in starter Everett Golson and closer Tommy Rees at quarterback. I’m a little leery of a football coach needing to go to the bullpen for his quarterback. That’s going to bite Notre Dame, and I think we’ve seen enough out of Oklahoma, if not USC, to make the Irish vulnerable. 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall): 
Notre Dame will not play for the national championship in 2012 because of quarterback play and a pair of nasty games with top ten national powers. Two late-season road trips to Norman to face Oklahoma and out West to play USC will be brutal road tests that Everett Golson— and/or Tommy Rees — will be forced to score points likely means at least one loss for the Irish. This is a truly great defense and with a 10 or 11 win season, Notre Dame can be deemed officially "back" on the national landscape. But to play for the BCS national championship, Brian Kelly's bunch will likely have to go unbeaten. And the odds don't appear to be in the Golden Domers favor.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): 
There’s no doubt Brian Kelly has Notre Dame going in the right direction. However, I think it’s too early to predict the Irish will make the BCS Championship in 2012. The biggest obstacle Notre Dame has to overcome is a schedule that features road games at Oklahoma and USC. The Irish are just 1-9 in their last 10 matchups against the Trojans, and the Sooners have not lost a non-conference home game since 2005. Although Notre Dame’s defense is one of the nation’s best, the offense has struggled at times, and redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson is going through a few growing pains. Even though the Irish will fall short of reaching the national championship, a 10-2 season with an appearance in a BCS bowl is nothing to be ashamed of. 

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch):
Notre Dame has been one of the nation’s biggest surprises in 2012. The defense has been amazing, holding four straight AQ conference teams (Michigan State, Michigan, Miami and Stanford) without an offensive touchdown. But I don’t believe the Irish will be in position to play for the BCS National Championship this season. Notre Dame has two very difficult games remaining — at Oklahoma in two weeks and at USC to end the season. It’s unlikely that the Irish will win both of those games; if they win one, which is possible, they could end the season with an 11–1 record. That would put them in the discussion, but my best guess is that Alabama and Oregon will both be undefeated and leave Notre Dame on the outside looking in. 

Mark Ross: 
Notre Dame is undefeated and came in at No. 5 in the initial release of this season's BCS standings. In some ways, the Fighting Irish control their own destiny because if they can win out and finish their slate without a defeat, they will have to be in the conversation for a spot in the national title game. That said, Notre Dame still has two tough hurdles remaining towards that goal and both of these games are on the road. Notre Dame travels to Norman on Oct. 27 to play a rejuvenated Oklahoma team and ends its regular season with a trip to Los Angeles to play long-time rival USC in the Rose Bowl. As good as Notre Dame has been this season, I just don't think they have enough offense to win both of these games and will end its regular season with at least one loss. Without the benefit of a conference championship game to help their resume, I think Brian Kelly will get the Irish back to a BCS bowl, it just won't be the national title game.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman):
It is difficult for me to project Notre Dame in the title game with tough road contests left against Oklahoma and USC, but Brian Kelly’s bunch has the defense to beat anyone on its schedule. The Fighting Irish have been absolutely stingy on defense, led by All-America linebacker Manti Te’o and emerging star end Stephon Tuitt. ND has only given up 25 total points in its last four wins (Michigan State, Michigan, Miami and Stanford) and is the only team in the nation to not allow a rushing touchdown this season. Another huge reason for the Irish perfect start is a plus-8 turnover margin. In last year’s opening losses to South Florida and Michigan, ND turned the ball over 10 times. This season, the offense has only seven giveaways in six games. Quarterbacks Tommy Rees and Everett Golson will struggle if it becomes a high-scoring contest with the Sooners or Trojans, so I’ll say that the Irish will lose once and not play for it all. However, ND has the defense to run the table and will be a tough out in the BCS. 



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Teaser:
<p> Will Notre Dame Play for the National Title in 2012?&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, Big East
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-25-games-watch-second-half
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The first half of the college football season is over. Athlon Sports awarded midseason honors to those players and teams who surprised, disappointed and achieved the remarkable. But the heart of the college football season still lies ahead. Here are 25 games you won't want to miss in the second half.

1. Alabama at LSU (Nov. 3)
The top game in the preseason hasn’t lost any luster as these two SEC West powers continue their collision course. Alabama has been the No. 1 team in the nation since Week 1 and has a pair of Heisman candidates on offense to go with the nation's No. 1-rated defense. LSU has slipped up only once — at No. 2 Florida two weeks ago — but got back on track with a dominating defensive showing against South Carolina. It will be the third time these two will get together in the past 367 days. Buckle your chinstrap and get the ice packs ready for this SEC war.

2. Oregon at USC (Nov. 3)
The other Game of the Century this season is right on schedule as well. Much like LSU, USC has slipped up once already on the road against a quality opponent, but gets the No. 3-ranked Ducks at home. Unlike the SEC bout, however, these two will likely meet again in the Pac-12 title game as they are clearly the best two teams in the Pac-12. The offensive firepower on both sides is remarkable and this final score should be much like the 38-35 nail-bitter that took place in Eugene a year ago.

3. South Carolina at Florida (Oct. 20)
The Gamecocks offense looked rather average against LSU in Week 7 and will get just as tough a test in Week 8. Except this time, the SEC East championship could be on the line. Quarterback Jeff Driskel didn’t play in the five-point South Carolina win last season that featured a combined total of 203 passing yards. For Carolina, Marcus Lattimore didn’t suit up either. Both will be the focal points of their respective offenses in this SEC showdown.

4. Notre Dame at USC (Nov. 24)
Could a trip to the national championship game be on the line when these two historic rivals meet up in Los Angeles? It’s not that far-fetched if the Trojans can win the aforementioned showdown with Oregon. Southern Cal has won nine out of ten in this storied rivalry but that lone win for Notre Dame came under Brian Kelly the last time the Irish visited the Coliseum. Rich history, elite offense versus elite defense and a potential trip to the BCS title game on the line? Yes, please.

5. Notre Dame at Oklahoma (Oct. 27)
Believe it not, but these two college football powers have met a total of nine times, and only one of those games (1999) has taken place since since 1968. Notre Dame has won eight of the nine meetings, and the Fighting Irish are a perfect 4-0 in Norman, Okla. The Irish have their eyes on a national title for the first time in 25 years, but will have to clear two major hurdles to have any hopes of getting there. The first of which is this visit to play Bob Stoops on his own turf. Consider this: the OU head coach lost his first-ever home game to a ranked opponent back in Week 4.

6. Florida vs. Georgia (Oct. 27)
The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party was a back and forth affair that ended with a Richard Samuel game-winning touchdown run with just over two minutes left last year. Mark Richt used fourth down gambles and a rushing defense that held Florida to minus-19 yards on the ground to earn only his third win over the Gators. Florida is 18-4 since 1990 in this game and should the Gators defeat South Carolina, it too could be a de facto SEC East championship game.

7. Michigan at Ohio State (Nov. 24)
The top rivalry in college football is back to being nationally relevant. Brady Hoke and Urban Meyer will make this battle one of the nation’s best every year. Ohio State could be 11-0 entering this game and Michigan could need a win to clinch the Legends Division. Denard Robinson got the Wolverines off the schneid last season with Michigan’s first win over that team from Ohio since 2003. Braxton Miller got baptized into this ongoing war last fall and he nearly pulled off the road upset. Fans can again expect greatness from two of the most electric quarterbacks in the nation.

8. Florida at Florida State (Nov. 24)
Florida-Tennessee had a 1990s feel to it back in Week 3 and this rivalry could feel the same way at season’s end. These two Sunshine powers could have a combined record of 21-1 when they get together, and a bid to the national title game could be on the line too. As far as the series itself, the Noles have dominated the last two meetings, winning by a combined score of 52-14, which put an end to the Gators' six-game winning streak from 2004-09. Will Muschamp hasn’t forgotten what took place the last time these two got together.

9. Oregon at Oregon State (Nov. 24)
This could be the best edition of The Civil War in the 118-year history of the Beaver State rivalry. Both teams have major tests before the final week of the regular season, but the Ducks might need a win on the road over Mike Riley’s much-improved defense to stay in the national title hunt. The Ducks have won four straight with relative ease in the series, but the Beavers are 5-2 in the last seven in Corvallis. Should the Beavers keep winning, however, more than just bragging rights could be hanging in the balance — like a Pac-12 North Division championship.

10. Kansas State at West Virginia (Oct. 20)
The luster has been dimmed slightly after the Mountaineers lost in Lubbock in Week 7. But make no mistake, the winner of the Big 12 championship will likely emerge from this contest with a victory. These two have only met twice, splitting a home-and-home series back in 1930 and 1931 — both of which took place in Morgantown. The Big 12 Coach of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year award are likely to be decided in this game as two of the top three current Heisman Trophy finalists will be on the field together.

11. Oklahoma at West Virginia (No. 17)
Sooners' first-ever trip to Morgantown could be a de facto Big 12 title game. 

12. Louisville at Rutgers (Nov. 29)
Both could enter final week of the season unbeaten with a BCS bowl hanging in the balance.

13. LSU at Texas A&M (Oct. 20)
Johnny Football will face nasty Bayou Bengal defensive front after record-setting first half.

14. Michigan at Nebraska (Oct. 27)
Classic showdown could determine who heads to Pasadena this New Year's.

15. Ohio State at Penn State (Oct. 27)
The Ineligible Bowl could feature the best two teams in the league.

16. Florida State at Virginia Tech (Nov. 8)
Likely the biggest game left in the ACC features nearly 13 feet and 500 pounds of quarterback.

17. West Virginia at Oklahoma State (Nov. 10)
Dana Holgorsen returns to his former employer with a big offense leading the way.

18. South Carolina at Clemson (Nov. 24)
Bitter rivalry has seen Gamecocks take control with three straight blowouts.

19. Florida State at Miami (Oct. 20)
This could be the best edition of this rivalry in three years.

20. Boise State at Nevada (Dec. 1)
Will likely determine the Mountain West Conference championship.

21. Ohio State at Wisconsin (Nov. 17)
A win gives Badgers' division crown much more weight. OSU is shooting for 12-0.

22. Virginia Tech at Miami (Nov. 1)
Does the winner of this game win the Coastal Division and play in the ACC title game?

23. Texas at Kansas State (Dec. 1)
The 'Cats have owned the 'Horns of late and Mack Brown could be fighting for his job.

24. Rutgers at Cincinnati (Nov. 17)
Rutgers' toughest road test in the Big East title round robin (with Louisville).

25. Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (Nov. 24)
Bedlam Series has revenge factor as game heads back to Norman.

Best of the Rest:

Oregon at Arizona State (Oct. 18)
Virginia Tech at Clemson (Oct. 20)
Cincinnati at Louisville (Oct. 26)
Mississippi State at Alabama (Oct. 27)
Arizona State at USC (Nov. 10)
Texas A&M at Alabama (Nov. 10)
Mississippi State at LSU (Nov. 10)
Oregon State at Stanford (Nov. 10)
Utah State at Louisiana Tech (Nov. 17)
Stanford at Oregon (Nov. 17)
NC State at Clemson (Nov. 17)
Ohio at Kent State (Nov. 23)

Rivalries with Extra Juice this Year:

Stanford at Cal (Oct. 20)
Alabama at Tennessee (Oct. 20)
NC State at North Carolina (Oct. 27)
USC at UCLA (Nov. 17)
Iowa at Michigan (Nov. 17)
Tennessee at Vanderbilt (Nov. 17)
Arizona State at Arizona (Nov. 23)
Mississippi State at Ole Miss (Nov. 24)
Auburn at Alabama (Nov. 24) 

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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Pac-12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review

SEC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review

Teaser:
<p> College Football's Top 25 Games to Watch of the Second Half</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/urban-meyer-or-bill-obrien-who-big-tens-midseason-coach-year
Body:

Ohio State's Urban Meyer and Penn State's Bill O'Brien are two of the top candidates for college football's midseason coach of the year award. Meyer has the Buckeyes off to a 7-0 start, while O'Brien has guided Penn State through a difficult offseason to a 4-2 record so far.

Is Bill O'Brien or Urban Meyer the Big Ten's Midseason Coach of the Year?

Kevin McGuire, No2MinuteWarning.com, (@KevinonCFB)
One of the key factors I like to look at when determining who should be coach of the year is what do they have to work with. At Ohio State Urban Meyer inherited a pretty solid program form top to bottom with a Braxton Miller sitting there waiting to be groomed. At Penn State Bill O'Brien took over a program ripped of its heart and soul and destined for some of the heaviest sanctions the college sports world has seen in a long time, which would lead the team's star running back, leading receiver and best kicker create their own exit plans in addition to a handful of others to hurt some depth. Both coaches have dealt with some adversity on the football field as well, with Meyer's defense being shredded by Indiana most recently and with O'Brien's team dropping the first two games of the season. Credit to Meyer for coming away with wins each week so far but also credit to O'Brien for not losing his team when they started off 0-2. The season could have been lost right out of the gate for O'Brien but he and his team have rattled off four straight wins heading in to their bye week. If you take a closer look at both teams, you will also see that Penn State has shown signs of improvement on a weekly basis overall despite depth and injury issues at times. Both coaches are doing fine jobs, but after half a season, O'Brien is the clear leader for coach of the year in the Big Ten, and perhaps the nation.

Coach Dick MacPherson, former head coach of the Syracuse Orange, and current voting member of the Legends Poll:
Urban Meyer would be my pick at this point.  He has come to a team loaded with talent.  Coach Meyer has done a nice job with the team but he definitely has an advantage because Coach Tressel did not leave the cupboard bare.

David Fox (@DavidFox615): 
This is certainly Bill O’Brien, by every measure. No college football team since SMU returned from the death penalty had this much adversity. To think Penn State is three wins away from a winning record is shocking. After the Ohio loss, I was skeptical if Penn State would be Temple or Indiana. Now, seven wins or more seems like a given. Let’s forget about the transfers, the probation and the stain left on the program. Let’s just talk about improvement. A year ago, this paltry offense was nothing more than Silas Redd, who bolted for USC. Now, we’re looking at a team that is third in the league in scoring offense in conference games and fifth in total offense in conference games. Matt McGloin has long since eclipsed his touchdown total from last season and will pass his yardage mark in his next game. And Allen Robinson, who caught three passes last season, is the Big Ten’s best receiver. The coach who landed at Ohio State with Braxton Miller waiting for him has nothing on what O’Brien has done.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall):
My answer at the end of the year will likely be different than it is today. If Ohio State finishes unbeaten with a Heisman finalist in Braxton Miller, Urban Meyer would easily be my vote for Big Ten Coach of the Year. But right now, Bill O'Brien is the pick with what he has accomplished in the face of the ugliest NCAA scandal in history and a mass exodus of players in the preseason. He is a few plays away from being unbeaten at 6-0 after rattling off four straight wins. He has turned Matt McGloin into a conference player of the year contender and the Nittany Lion offense is more innovative and a creative than it has been in years. Coach BoB's team leads the Big Ten in turnover margin, is No. 2 in the Big Ten in passing offense and is No. 2 in scoring defense at just 16.0 points allowed per game. 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): 
Urban Meyer deserves a lot of credit for leading Ohio State to a 7-0 record, but I have to give the edge to Bill O’Brien at the midpoint of the season. I was skeptical of how well this hire would work out, but the Nittany Lions are 4-2 and enter Week 8 riding a four-game wining streak. Under O’Brien’s leadership, Penn State’s offense is a much-improved group, averaging 27 points and 390.2 yards per game. Quarterback Matt McGloin has thrived under O’Brien’s playcalling, and a team that was lacking proven playmakers at the start of the year has scored at least 30 points in three straight games. As usual, the defense is solid, and linebacker Michael Mauti is one of the frontrunners for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors. The schedule gets considerably tougher in the second half for the Nittany Lions, as they have games against Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin. Even though the strength of schedule will increase, O’Brien should be able to guide this team to at eight wins, which would exceed nearly everyone’s preseason expectations. With the scholarship reductions and bowl ban, O’Brien has his work cut out for him in the next five seasons. However, after the first six games of the year, he should be the Big Ten’s Coach of the Year. 

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): 
I’d go with Bill O’Brien as the midseason Big Ten Coach of the Year. Not only did O’Brien walk into the worst scandal in the history of collegiate athletics, he also inherited a mediocre roster that was stripped of its two best skill position players (tailback Silas Redd and wide receiver Justin Brown). Yet, the Nittany Lions are a vastly improved offensive team in 2012. They are averaging 390.1 yards and 27.0 points per game, up from 342.4 and 19.3 last season. Penn State has won four straight after losing its first two games, and each of its four wins have come by 11 points or more. O’Brien has done a tremendous job in a very difficult spot.

Mark Ross: 
Not to take anything away from Meyer, who is doing a fantastic job in his first season at Ohio State, but how can you not give this one to O'Brien? Granted the Buckeyes are undefeated and will more than likely finish with a better record and higher in the polls than Penn State, but the situation Meyer was inheriting in Columbus was leaps and bounds better than the mess O'Brien took over in State College. Both schools are dealing with NCAA sanctions and penalties that include postseason bans this year, but that's where the similarities begin and end. Simply put, no school or football program has ever experienced what Penn State has had to go through, and that includes SMU, the only school to ever receive the death penalty from the NCAA. Besides having to deal with everything associated with the Jerry Sandusky scandal, which is far from being completely over, O'Brien had to focus on keeping his recruiting class together and then dealt with a mass exodus of current players. Once the focus finally returned to the field, O'Brien had to keep this team united and positive while enduring two emotionally draining losses to open the season. Since starting 0-2, Penn State has reeled off four straight victories, and now has a legitimate shot at finishing the season with eight or more wins. That is quite a remarkable accomplishment for O'Brien, his staff and the players that stuck around after all they have had to deal with.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): 
While Bill O'Brien has done a quality job in getting Penn State to a 4-2 after two opening losses, I would have to go with Urban Meyer at this point. It has not always been pretty for Ohio State this season, but 7-0 is 7-0. Meyer does have solid talent on the Buckeyes roster, but this is an OSU team that went 6-7 a year ago. Whether it was a 17-16 defensive battle with Michigan State or a 52-49 shootout with Indiana, Meyer's squad has found a way to prevail every week. The Nittany Lions could lose four or five more games, while I believe Ohio State will go 11-1 with a solid shot at an undefeated season. As controversial as he may be, Meyer projects as the hyphenated Big Ten Coach of the Year.

Related College Football Content

College Football 2012 Midseason Recap and First Half Awards
College Football's Post-Week 7 Bowl Projections

College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat After Week 7

Teaser:
<p> Urban Meyer or Bill O'Brien: Who Is The Big Ten's Midseason Coach of the Year?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 05:59
Path: /college-football/2012-heisman-trophy-contenders-post-week-7
Body:

Each week, the Athlon editors and others who closely follow college football vote on the most prestigious award in the sport. A 13-man conglomerate of college football gurus from Athlon Sports and other publications cast their votes this week for their top Heisman Trophy candidates. The votes will be tallied and the results will be posted as the Athlon Sports Heisman Watch List every week of the regular season.

Voting: Each first-place vote receives 10 points. A second-place vote receives nine points. So on and so forth with a 10th-place vote receiving one point. Here are Athlon's guest voters:

Barrett Sallee: Bleacher Report SEC Lead Writer (@BarrettSallee)
Jim Young: ACCSports.com (@ACCSports)
Blair Kerkhoff: Kansas City Star (@BlairKerkhoff)
Chris Level: RedRaiderSports.com (@ChrisLevel)

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia (7 first-place votes)
Season Stats: 
195-259, 2,271 yards, 25 TD, 0 INT, 28 att., 71 yards, TD
His strangle hold on the Heisman Trophy took a major hit this weekend in the blowout loss to Texas Tech. Did he need to go unbeaten to win the award? No. But he opened the Heisman door for other names to close the gap after 275 yards and one touchdown against the Red Raiders. He still has yet to throw an interception and is leading the nation in passing efficiency (180.8) Next game: Kansas State

  Last Name Pos. Team Tot. Pts 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Ballots
1. (1) Geno Smith QB W. Virginia 120/130 7 4 1 - 1 13/13
2. (2) Braxton Miller QB Ohio St 115/130 5 3 4 - 1 13/13
3. (3) Collin Klein QB Kansas St 103/130 - 5 5 2 - 13/13
4. (4) Manti Te'o LB Notre Dame 83/130 1 1 1 4 3 12/13
5. (16) Johnny Manziel QB Texas A&M 60/130 - - - 1 5 13/13
6. (7) Matt Barkley QB USC 35/130 - - - 1 1 7/13
7. (6) De'Anthony Thomas AP Oregon 34/130 - - 1 3 - 6/13
8. (9) Kenjon Barner RB Oregon 26/130 - - - - 1 7/13
9. (8) A.J. McCarron QB Alabama 24/130 - - - - 1 6/13
10. (18) Barrett Jones OL Alabama 23/130 - - 1 1 - 4/13
11. (5) Marcus Lattimore RB S. Carolina 17/130 - - - - - 5/13
12. (10) Mike Gillislee RB Florida 15/130 - - - - - 5/13
13. (17) DeAndre Hopkins WR Clemson 13/130 - - - 1 - 3/13
14. (11) E.J. Manuel QB Florida St 10/130 - - - - - 4/13
15. (23) Denard Robinson QB Michigan 8/130 - - - - - 2/13
16. (12) Stedman Bailey WR W. Virginia 6/130 - - - - - 2/13
17. (ur) Giovanni Bernard RB N. Carolina 3/130 - - - - - 2/13
18. (13) Marqise Lee WR USC 3/130 - - - - - 1/13
19. (ur) Montee Ball RB Wisconsin 3/130 - - - - - 2/13
20. (24) Venric Mark RB N'Western 2/130 - - - - - 1/13
21. (16) Jadeveon Clowney DE S. Carolina 2/130 - - - - - 2/13
22. (ur) Nick Florence QB Baylor 2/130 - - - - - 1/13
23. (14) Tavon Austin WR W. Virginia 2/130 - - - - - 1/13
24. (ur) Seth Doege QB Texas Tech 1/130 - - - - - 1/13
25. (ur) Johnathan Franklin RB UCLA 1/130 - - - - - 1/13
26. (21) Aaron Murray QB Georgia 1/130 - - - - - 1/13
27. (22) Jarvis Jones LB Georgia 1/130 - - - - - 1/13

2. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State (5 first place votes)
Season Stats: 
96-159, 1,271 yards, 11 TD, 4 INT, 129 att., 912 yards, 9 TD
Miller continues to will his team to victory on a weekly basis. The sophomore rushed for 149 yards and a touchdown to go with 212 yards passing and two more scores in the air. He has accounted for 20 total touchdowns, is third in the Big Ten in rushing, second in total offense, third in passing efficiency and is the leader of one of two 7-0 teams in the nation (Ohio). Next Game: Purdue

3. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
Season Stats:
 79-118, 1,074 yards, 7 TD, 2 INT, 98 att., 510 yards, 10 TD
Klein led his team to another clutch hard-fought road conference win by rushing for 105 yards and three touchdowns in the 27-21 victory over Iowa State. He is fourth in the Big Ten in rushing and has 37 rushing touchdowns in the last season and a half. He is the epitome of toughness, heart and leadership. Next Game: at West Virginia

4. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
Season Stats: 59 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 3 INT, FR, 3 PBU
The Fighting Irish defense has not allowed a touchdown since Week 2 against Purdue and is No. 2 in the nation in scoring defense (8.7 ppg). Te'o posted 11 total tackles in the physical showdown win over Stanford and was an integral part of the four-down goal-line stand to win the game. He leads the Irish in tackles at 9.83 per game. Next Game: BYU

5. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Season Stats: 128-190, 1,680 yards, 14 TD, 3 INT, 91 att., 676 yards, 10 TD
Johnny Football set an SEC single-game total offense record against Louisiana Tech with 577 total yards (395 passing, 181 rushing) and six total touchdowns in the wild win. He is now leading the SEC in rushing (112.7 ypg) and total offense (392.7 ypg) and has accounted for 24 touchdowns. He is the most exciting player in the league, but he has another big test coming this weekend against the Bayou Bengals. Next Week: LSU

6. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Season Stats: 121-193, 1,475 yards, 16 TD, 6 INT, 15 att., minus-65 yards
Next game: Colorado

7. De’Anthony Thomas, AP, Oregon
Season Stats: 41 att., 377 yds, 6 TD, 20 rec., 205 yds, 3 TD, 10 PR, 150 PR yds, 6 KR, 88 yds
Next Game: at Arizona State

8. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
Season Stats: 116 att., 727 yards, 9 TD, 11 rec., 111 yards, TD
Next Game: at Arizona State

9. A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
Season Stats: 89-132, 1,170 yards, 12 TD, 0 INT, 23 att., minus- yards
Next Game: at Tennessee

10. Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama
Season Stats: 217.2 rush yards per game, 423.0 total yards per game, 40.5 points per game
Next Game: at Tennessee

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

Three and Out: Week 7 Recap
ACC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big East 
2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big Ten 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big 12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Pac-12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
SEC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review 

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Heisman Trophy Contenders: Post-Week 7</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 05:58
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-using-vegas-odds-determine-best-week-8-plays
Body:

In the world of fantasy football, some team owners are relentless in their search for information that will give them a competitive edge over their competition.  Others just simply rely on projections from so-called experts, who try to convince everyone they have devised a computer program that accurately projects player stats by using a scientific formula so complicated that it makes the Drake equation seem elementary.  Eventually, those computer-driven computations prove no more accurate than an old-fashioned gut feeling.  However, in a quest to find a formula for fantasy success, one should just ask the question, “What are the odds?”

Quite simply, Vegas odds could give you all of the necessary insight to make smart roster decisions on a week-to-week basis.  In this weekly article, theCFFsite considers the point spreads and totals(over/under) in order to give our readers a unique perspective into some of the week’s most interesting fantasy matchups.

Week 8

Best Fantasy Matchups(Games with the most fantasy potential)

Ball St at Central Michigan

Line:  Ball St -3(O/U-64.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Ball St 34-31

Best plays:

Ball St (QB-Keith Wenning, RB-Jahwan Edwards, WRs-Willie Snead, Jamill Smith

Central Michigan (RB-Zurlon Tipton, WR-Titas Davis)

Also consider:

Ball St (K-Steven Schott)

Central Michigan (QB-Ryan Radcliff, WR-Cody Wilson)

theCFFsite projects:  Ball St 38-28

 

San Diego St at Nevada

Line:  Nevada -7(O/U-66.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Nevada 37-30

Best plays:

San Diego St (QB-Ryan Katz, RB-Adam Muema)

Nevada (QB-Cody Fajardo, RB-Stefphon Jefferson, TE-Zach Sudfield)

Also consider:

San Diego St (RB-Walter Kazee, TE-Gavin Escobar)

Nevada (WRs-Brandon Wimberly, Richy Turner)

theCFFsite projects:  Nevada 38-35

 

Baylor at Texas

Line:  Texas -10(O/U-80.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Texas 45-35

Best plays:

Baylor (QB-Nick Florence, WR-Terrance Williams)

Texas (QB-David Ash, RB-Joe Bergeron)

Also consider:

Baylor(RB-Jared Salubi, WRs-Tevin Reese, Lanear Sampson)

Texas (RB-Johnathan Gray, WRs-Jaxon Shipley, Mike Davis)

theCFFsite projects:  Baylor 38-31

 

One-Sided Matchups (Using the odds to find a dominating ‘D’)

New Mexico St at Utah St

Line:  Utah St -30(O/U-56)

Projected score based on point spread:  Utah St 43-13

Stay away from:

New Mexico St (QB-Andrew Manley)

theCFFsite projects:  Utah St 42-14

 

UNLV at Boise State

Line:  Boise St -28(O/U-53.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Boise St 41-13

Stay away from:

UNLV (RB-Tim Cornett)

theCFFsite projects:  Boise St 31-10

 

Kansas at Oklahoma

Line:  Oklahoma -35(O/U-57.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Oklahoma 46-11

Stay away from:

Kansas (RB-James Sims)

theCFFsite projects:  Oklahoma 45-17

 

Colorado at USC

Line:  USC – 41(O/U-57.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  USC 49-8

Stay away from:

Colorado (RB-Tony Jones)

theCFFsite projects:  USC 45-14

 

Must Watch Games(The games with the biggest headlines)

Oregon at Arizona St

Line:  Oregon -9(O/U-68.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Oregon 39-30

Outlook:  Since Arizona State’s 24-20 loss at Missouri four weeks ago, the Sun Devils have gone 3-0 in PAC-12 games and have outscored their opponents 115-41.  Interestingly enough, the Ducks have not been held to less than 42 points in any game this season and they should continue their scoring ways in Sun Devil Stadium this Thursday night.

theCFFsite projects:  Oregon 41-30

 

Kansas St at West Virginia

Line:  West Virginia -3(O/U-71.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  West Virginia 37-34

Outlook:  Two weeks ago, we thought the Mountaineers gained their first signature win since joining the Big 12 when they defeated Texas on the road.  However, Oklahoma’s dismantling of the Longhorns last week made the West Virginia victory over Texas seem rather ordinary.  We’re expecting the Mountaineers to regroup and take down the nation’s No. 4 ranked team in a prime-time showdown.

theCFFsite projects:  West Virginia 38-34

 

South Carolina at Florida

Line:  Florida -3(O/U-42.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Florida 23-20

Outlook:  Last week, we underestimated the atmosphere in Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night and picked the Gamecocks over the Tigers.  While it is extremely difficult to pick against the Gators in The Swamp, the Gamecocks will be playing out of desperation to stay alive in the SEC East race.

theCFFsite projects:  South Carolina 21-20

 

theCFFsite in Must Watch games:

2012 Season:  Straight Up (14-9)  ATS: (11-12)

2011 Season:  Straight Up (40-9) ATS: (35-14)
 


by Joe DiSalvo

Find us on facebook

Follow us on twitter (@theCFFsite)

Email us:   theCFFsite@thecollegefantasyfootballsite.com

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: Using Vegas Odds to Determine Best Week 8 Plays</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 04:05
Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-picks-every-game-week-7
Body:

NFL Week 7 previews and predictions for every game on the schedule:

Seahawks (4-2) at 49ers (4-2)
Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh are old Pac-12 rivals from their days at USC and Stanford, respectively. Carroll famously asked Harbaugh, “What’s your deal?” in a postgame handshake that could be viewed as foreshadowing to the Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz debacle. Now NFC West rivals, Harbaugh owns a 2–0 edge over Carroll, with the 49ers defeating the Seahawks twice last season — a 33–17 win in Week 1 and a 19–17 nailbiter in Week 16.
49ers by 5

Cardinals (4-2) at Vikings (4-2)
The Arizona quarterback conundrum continues. Kevin Kolb is expected to miss several weeks after suffering a serious rib and chest injury.
Vikings by 4

Cowboys (2-3) at Panthers (1-4)
Both the Boys and the Cats enter this contest in full blown panic mode. Tony Romo and Cam Newton are under the gun following slow starts to seasons with high expectations. The loser will have a press conference to remember.
Cowboys by 3

Saints (1-4) at Buccaneers (2-3)
Flip a coin with this NFC South matchup. The Saints and Bucs have split the season series since 2008, with each team going 4–4.
Saints by 1

Packers (3-3) at Rams (3-3)
These teams share a .500 record, but that’s where the similarities end. Green Bay still has Super Bowl aspirations, while St. Louis wants its first winning season since 2003.
Packers by 6

Redskins (3-3) at Giants (4-2)
One week after suffering a concussion, RG3 had the fifth-highest rushing total for a quarterback in history. His 138 yards on the ground were more than any signal-caller not named Mike Vick or Tobin Rote. RG3’s 76-yard TD sprint was the longest since Kordell “Slash” Stewart scored from 80 yards out in 1996. This week, however, the hotshot rookie runs into the defending Super Bowl champion Giants, who are fresh off dismantling the 49ers by the Bay. There will be no awe inspired by RG3, whom Osi Umenyiora has given the nickname “Bob.”
Giants by 7

Ravens (5-1) at Texans (5-1)
The tone of this contest changed considerably following the season-ending injuries suffered by middle linebacker Ray Lewis (right triceps) and cornerback Lardarius Webb (left knee ACL). But this is still a rematch of the Divisional Round of last year’s playoffs, when the Ravens beat the Texans, 20–13, in Baltimore. In that game, however, Houston third-string rookie quarterback T.J. Yates threw three INTs in defeat. Starter Matt Schaub has only thrown four INTs through six games this season.
Texans by 4

Titans (2-4) at Bills (3-3)
There is still plenty of bad blood between Tennessee and Buffalo, which is understandable considering the way the Bills lost to the Titans on the “Music City Miracle” in the playoffs after the 1999 season. The fact that Tennessee fell one yard short to St. Louis in Super Bowl XXXIV was no consolation to the bitter Buffalo fans.
Titans by 1

Browns (1-5) at Colts (2-3)
This is a Fiesta Bowl rematch between former Oklahoma State signal-caller Brandon Weeden and Stanford alum Andrew Luck. Although the No. 1 overall pick of the Colts was beaten by the recently turned 29-year-old Browns QB when the two played back in January, Luck has a better kicker on his side this time around. Freshman kicker Jordan Williamson missed three clutch FGs in a 41–38 Cardinal loss. Now, four-time Super Bowl champion pressure kicker Adam Vinatieri is on Luck’s side in Indy.
Colts by 3

Jets (3-3) at Patriots (3-3)
Remember when this was a potential preview of the AFC title game? Now Rex Ryan just sounds delusional if he talks too much trash.
Patriots by 9

Jaguars (1-4) at Raiders (1-4)
It’s early, but this contest looks like it will have more impact on the NFL Draft standings than the AFC Playoff seedings.
Raiders by 6

Steelers (2-3) at Bengals (3-3)
Pittsburgh will have had 10 days to regroup after losing on a last-second FG at Tennessee last Thursday night. Cincinnati is still eager to prove itself as an AFC North contender. Even though the Bengals made the playoffs last year, they still were 0–2 against the Steelers — losing 24–17 at home in Week 10 and getting blown out 35–7 at Pittsburgh in Week 13.
Steelers by 4

Lions (2-3) at Bears (4-1)
This Monday night party pits two NFC North rivals against one another. Last season, home turf was defended in both meetings — with the Lions winning 24–13 in Detroit in Week 5 and the Bears taking a 37–13 contest in Chicago in Week 10. In 2010, the Bears swept the series, winning a controversial 19–14 decision in Week 1 and taking a 24–20 win in Week 13.
Bears by 3
 

Teaser:
<p> NFL Week 7 previews and predictions for every game on the schedule, including Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins at New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens at Houston Texans, New York Jets at New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals and Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - 19:35
All taxonomy terms: Baltimore Ravens, Ray Lewis, NFL
Path: /nfl/ray-lewis-out-season-will-he-retire
Body:

Not with a bang but a whimper. Is this the way Ray Lewis’ Hall of Fame career will end?

“Ray has a triceps tear,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, during his Monday press conference. “A complete tear. So he’ll be out for the season.”

The 37-year-old Lewis tore his right triceps during an injury-riddled 31–29 victory over the Cowboys — a game that also saw the Ravens lose star cornerback Lardarius Webb to a season-ending torn ACL and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata leave the contest with minor MCL damage.

Prior to the injury, there had been speculation that Lewis’ 17th season would be his last. In fact, many believed he might walk away from the game after last year’s painful 23–20 loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game — which ended in a dropped touchdown pass and shanked potential game-tying field goal. But the fiery Lewis quickly shot down those notions after falling just short of his second Super Bowl appearance.

“For us to be here now, I’m hungry again and I’m thirsty again,” Lewis said in late January. “Every time you go through something like this, it has to drive you. I truly believe that’s the only thing that makes people great.”

No one doubts Lewis’ greatness. But this latest obstacle comes at a point in his professional career and a time in his personal life that may result in No. 52 retiring from the NFL earlier than he may have planned.

“I’m not going to make any comment on that,” said Harbaugh. “That’s for Ray to speak on. I admire Ray Lewis. I’ve said that many times. … I look forward to seeing what he says about that.”

The ultimate face of the franchise, Lewis was the No. 26 overall pick of the Ravens in the team’s first draft after relocating from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1996. The Miami (Fla.) product was the second Raven picked — behind left tackle Jonathan Ogden — and the fourth linebacker selected, behind Kevin Hardy, John Mobley and Reggie Brown. Lewis, however, went on to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of his draft class and arguably the greatest middle linebacker in history.

With a Super Bowl XXXV MVP, two Defensive Player of the Year awards and 13 Pro Bowls to his credit, there is little left for Lewis to accomplish in the NFL. And with his son, Ray Lewis III, heading off to his alma mater in Coral Gables to play for the Hurricanes next season, Lewis’ motivational speeches may be better served elsewhere. Only time will tell.

“He said some things that I’ll never forget,” said Harbaugh, of Lewis. “When you look at his situation and what he’s accomplished and what he was hoping to accomplish this year, he’s going to have to accomplish those things in different ways because that’s the way it’s gone.”
 

Teaser:
<p> After suffering a torn right triceps, Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis is out for the season. Now the question is, will the future Hall of Famer retire after 17 seasons, 13 Pro Bowls, two Defensive Player of the Year awards and Super Bowl XXXV MVP honors.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - 19:12
Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-power-rankings-going-week-7
Body:

Athlon Sports weekly rankings of the best and worst teams in the NFL starts at the top with the lone remaining undefeated team, the Atlanta Falcons, and goes all the way to the bottom with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Here are our NFL Power Rankings following Week 6 of the season:



1. Falcons (6-0) Bryant’s late 55-yard FG preserves unbeaten record.

2. Giants (4-2) Stomp 49ers in 23-point blowout in NFC title rematch.

3. Packers (3-3) Rodgers ties Matt Flynn’s team record with six TDs.

4. Texans (5-1) Watt mocks Rodgers’ dance, Packers get last laugh.

5. 49ers (4-2) Harbaugh suffers worst loss as coach in San Fran.

6. Ravens (5-1) Own best current home win streak, with 14 straight.

7. Bears (4-1) Return from bye week to face rival Lions on MNF.

8. Seahawks (4-2) Sherman tweets to Brady, “U Mad Bro?” after win.

9. Patriots (3-3) Top-ranked offense beaten by Hawks’ No. 1 defense.

10. Broncos (3-3) Manning leads 24-point comeback to beat Bolts.

11. Eagles (3-3) Fire DC Juan Castillo, promote DB coach Todd Bowles.

12. Chargers (3-3) Rivers’ four INTs, two fumbles lead to epic meltdown.

13. Bengals (3-3) A.J. Green leading league with 628 receiving yards.

14. Steelers (2-3) Lose at Titans for fifth loss in last six road games.



15. Cowboys (2-3) Recover onside kick, but miss 51-yard FG in defeat.

16. Redskins (3-3) RG3 shows off QB-record 4.41 time in 40-yard dash.

17. Vikings (4-2) Defense allows RG3 to run for fifth-most yards by QB.

18. Cardinals (4-2) Eight-game home win streak ends in OT vs. Buffalo.

19. Jets (3-3) Green rushes for career-high 161 yards in victory.

20. Saints (1-4) Vilma cleared to play, prepares to come off PUP list.

21. Titans (2-4) Win in prime time day after Nashville debuts on ABC.

22. Lions (2-3) Score 17 points in last 10 minutes to force OT in win.

23. Bills (3-3) Byrd INT sets up game-winning FG by Lindell in OT.

24. Dolphins (3-3) Beat Rams despite being outgained 461-to-209.

25. Rams (3-3) Zuerlein misses desperation 66-yard FG in defeat.

26. Buccaneers (2-3) Barber records 45th career INT, scores 14th TD.

27. Colts (2-3) Unable to recreate second-half comeback magic.

28. Browns (1-5) End 11-game losing streak on Weeden’s 29th B-day.

29. Panthers (1-4) All eyes on Newton following much-needed bye.

30. Raiders (1-4) Leave Falcons too much time after late touchdown.

31. Chiefs (1-5) Quinn now 3–10 as a starter after loss at Tampa.

32. Jaguars (1-4) Headed from blackout city to Black Hole after bye.

 

Teaser:
<p> 2012 NFL Power Rankings going into Week 7, including the Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles, San Diego Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - 18:55
Path: /nascar/nascar-news-notes-week-8
Body:

Don’t be fooled by the court jester routine Clint Bowyer seems to play in press conferences. For all the joking he does, he’s serious about winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

With five races left in the Chase, Bowyer is fourth in the standings for car owner Michael Waltrip’s team, 28 points behind series leader Brad Keselowski.

“Who would have thought in a million years after making this switch and coming over to a new family and everything that was new that we would be in Victory Lane three times and (there are) still—how many races, five races left?” said Bowyer, who joined Michael Waltrip Racing after having spent the previous six seasons at Richard Childress Racing.

“Five races left, and we're still in contention for a championship. Our first year together, just to be able to do that with a brand-new sponsor, a brand-new manufacturer, I'm telling you the truth: I was almost uncomfortable going to the shop at the beginning of the year because I didn't know one face there. I knew Ty Norris (executive vice president) and (crew chief) Brian Pattie and Michael ... and if I could catch him when he was there I could talk, but other than that I didn't know anybody there.”

Bowyer’s press conference with Waltirp and Pattie after winning Saturday night’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway mirrored a comedy routine with references to the pre-race show that featured a tight-rope walker, “Days of Thunder” and other such moments.

For all the fun Bowyer has had this year, he’s played a role with teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Mark Martin in raising Michael Waltrip Racing’s profile. Bowyer already has topped his career bests with three wins, eight top-five and 19 top-10 finishes.

He’s looking for more this weekend at Kansas Speedway, his home track.

“That's probably the biggest thing is to come off this win, going into your hometown, the family and friends, everybody that goes there, it's just so important to be able to roll in on a positive note,” Bowyer said. “And to be able to win there some day, we've gotten close, if we could possibly pull this off again in Kansas, it would be … that's my … do you dare say Daytona 500, but it truly is. That's the biggest race you can possibly win is in front of your hometown.”


2013 CHANGES  NASCAR announced several competition changes for next season, including the end of the top 35 rule in the Sprint Cup Series.

Among the rule changes is that the Nationwide fields will be reduced from 43 to 40 cars next year. The Cup Series will continue to have 43-car fields and the Camping World Truck Series will again have 36-truck fields.

The top 35 rule—which guaranteed a starting spot to the top 35 in car owner points regardless of their speed in qualifying—ends after this season. NASCAR will return to the format it had before the top 35 rule was enacted in 2005.

Starting next year, the fastest 36 in Cup qualifying make the race with the final seven spots based on provisionals—one of those seven available to a former champion if they are entered, if not then it becomes a seventh provisional. The provisionals are based on car owner points, thus the six (or seven if there isn’t a former champion needing a provisional) highest cars in the car owner points that aren’t among the 36 fastest will make the race. Provisionals are unlimited.

Another change is that the qualifying order for Cup will be determined by a blind draw instead of based on speeds in the first practice session. If qualifying is canceled due to rain, the starting lineup will be determined by practice speeds.

Provisionals in the Cup, Nationwide and Truck series will be based upon the previous year’s car owner points for only the first three races of a season. Previously, it was for the first five races in Cup and Nationwide and the first four races in the Truck Series.

For the first time since 2008, teams will be able to test at tracks that host NASCAR events. NASCAR issued the ban in 2009 to help teams save money but with so many teams testing at tracks that didn’t host a NASCAR event, it made sense to allow teams to test on tracks they’ll race.

Cup organizations will be allowed four tests at tracks that host a NASCAR race. Thus, Hendrick Motorsports can have all four of its teams at a test and that counts as one test. Even if only one driver shows up for Hendrick to test at a track that hosts a NASCAR race, it will count as one of the four tests allowed per organization.

Organizations in the Nationwide and Truck series will be allowed two tests at tracks that host a NASCAR race. Nationwide and Truck organizations can receive an additional test if they have a driver who is an official Rookie of the Year candidate.


NEW STREAK  With Dale Earnhardt Jr. sitting out because of his concussion and Scott Riggs failing to qualify, last weekend’s Charlotte race marked the first Cup event since 1961 without a driver from the state of North Carolina. With Earnhardt still out and Riggs’ team withdrawing from Kansas, there won’t be a North Carolina driver in Sunday’s race, either.


BACK AT IT  AJ Allmendinger is entered for Phoenix Racing for this weekend’s race at Kansas. Allmendinger finished 24th last weekend at Charlotte for the team in his first race since returning from a suspension for failing a drug test in late June. Allmendinger won the pole at Kansas in April when he was with Penske Racing.


TESTING  Cup teams are scheduled to test Wednesday at Thursday at Kansas Speedway since the track has been repaved. Teams will be allowed to test their 2013 car if they choose.

The test is one of the reasons Stewart-Haas Racing chose this race as one of the 10 Cup events Danica Patrick will drive this season. This allows her to gain additional experience in the car and with the track.


PIT STOPS  The last three winners at Kansas (Denny Hamlin in April, Jimmie Johnson in Oct. 2011 and Brad Keselowski in June 2011) rank in the top three in points. ... Jimmie Johnson has seven consecutive top-10 finishes at Kansas. ... Kyle Busch has led more laps than any other driver during the first five races of the Chase at 356 with 302 of those coming at Dover. ... Richard Childress Racing is winless in its last 35 races, dating back to Clint Bowyer’s win at Talladega in October 2011.


by Dustin Long
Follow Dustin on Twitter:
@DustinLong
 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long has a lot of NASCAR ground to cover this week. From Clint Bowyer's big win and Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s absence to AJ Allmendinger's return and new rules procedures, it's all in Athlon's NASCAR News &amp; Notes of the Week.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - 14:55
Path: /nfl/top-10-highest-paid-nfl-players-2012
Body:

The top 10 highest paid NFL players in 2012 prove just how valuable the quarterback position is in today’s pass-happy league. The entire top 10 has some direct contection to the quarterback position. Four actually take snaps at quarterback, four are paid to apply pass rush on the quarterback, one protects his quarterback’s blindside and one catches passes from whoever happens to be playing quarterback that day.

The following list uses salary information from Forbes.com and is representative of the 2012 season — not long-term contracts, endorsement deals, career earnings, etc.

(Player, Pos., Team – 2012 Salary)

1. Dwight Freeney, OLB, Colts – $19 million
Indy’s top speed rusher since 2002, Freeney has posted 10 or more sacks in seven of his 10 NFL seasons heading into 2012. In his 11th (and highest paid) year in the league, the undersized 6’1”, 268-pound sack artist ranks No. 24 on the all-time sacks list but No. 1 in 2012 NFL player paychecks.


2. Elvis Dumervil, OLB, Broncos – $18.9 million
Although Elvis broke Dwight Freeney’s Big East sack record, he still fell to the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft. Since then, Dumervil has been an example of production over projection, recording 55.5 sacks in his first 80 NFL games — and earning the second-highest payday in the league this season.


3. Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos – $18 million
Despite undergoing as many neck surgeries as he has MVP awards, Manning was able to ink a five-year, $96 million deal with the Broncos this past offseason. The 36-year-old played 14 seasons before missing the entire 2011 campaign due to injury. But he bounced back in a big way in 2012 — at least financially.


4. Sam Bradford, QB, Rams – $15.6 million
The last No. 1 overall pick before the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Bradford slid in under the wire and signed with the Rams to the tune of six years and $78 million — compared to the four years and $22 million the Panthers gave Cam Newton the following year. It pays to have good timing.


5. Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers – $15.3 million
Say what you will about Rivers’ on-field demeanor, but he is one of the most reliable players in the game today. Since Rivers took over for Drew Brees as the starter in San Diego in 2006, he has never missed a start, is 30 games over .500 and has nearly 90 more TDs than INTs. That type of dependability is expensive.


6. Jared Allen, DE, Vikings – $15.2 million
The tone setter for the Vikes, Allen is a wild man and live wire off the edge. The No. 2 active sack leader (and No. 18 all-time) is nearly unblockable when he’s on top of his game. In 131 career contests, Allen has 109 sacks, 43 passes defended and 27 forced fumbles, making him easily one of the most valuable players in the league.


7. Tamba Hali, OLB, Chiefs – $14.5 million
The pass rushing heir to Jared Allen in Kansas City, Hali signed a five-year, $60 million contract following a 14.5-sack season in 2010. The high motor hybrid end-linebacker has the versatility to thrive in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme and has proven to be worth the money invested by the Chiefs.


8. Michael Vick, QB, Eagles – $13.9 million
Capping his redemption story, Vick inked a $100 million deal in 2011. But the roller coaster ride that is the Mike Vick Experience has hit a low point, with 13 turnovers and just nine scores through the first six games of 2012. Due to make $16 million in 2013, Vick may be cut loose if he can’t lead Philly to the playoffs this year.


9. Trent Williams, LT, Redskins – $13.4 million
The young dancing bear has failed multiple drug tests and missed time due to a variety of injuries, so this contract reeks of being a bad deal. But as Robert Griffin III’s blindside bodyguard, Williams is charged with protecting the face of the franchise inside the pocket and whoever is doing that will make plenty of coin.


10. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals – $13.25 million
While it has been argued that Fitzgerald’s career is suffering from a lack of quality QB play — from anyone other than Kurt Warner, that is — the numbers don’t back that up. Fitzgerald joined Randy Moss as only the second receiver in history to top 10,000 yards before turning 30. And he’s a top-10 paid player in 2012. Who needs a QB?

Teaser:
<p> The top 10 highest paid players in the NFL in 2012, including Dwight Freeney, Elvis Dumervil, Peyton Manning, Sam Bradford, Philip Rivers, Jared Allen, Tamba Hali, Michael Vick, Trent Williams and Larry Fitzgerald.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-waiver-wire-week-7
Body:

With a total of six teams on bye in Week 7, this figures to be a busy week on the waiver wire. Besides owners who may be looking for a fill-in quarterback with no Matt Ryan, Peyton Manning, Michael Vick or Philip Rivers available, as well as other position players, there are also those who may be looking to replace an injured or nonproductive player.

Even though Atlanta, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Philadelphia and San Diego all get this week off, your fantasy team doesn’t. Here are some names worth considering as you look to fill out your roster for this week and beyond.

Bye week teams: Atlanta, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Philadelphia, San Diego

Quarterbacks
Week 6 Recap: Robert Griffin III not only played, but he showed no ill effects from last week’s concussion and instead he gave Minnesota’s defense headaches on Sunday. Griffin’s production and ability to stay on the field rendered Kirk Cousins a mere spectator, albeit one with perhaps the best view of his teammate's spectacular performance. Josh Freeman also starred on Sunday, passing for 328 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Kansas City. Freeman remains a viable options in the weeks ahead thanks to a schedule that includes New Orleans, Oakland and Carolina in the next five weeks. The Jets got back on track with a convincing win over Indianapolis and although his statistics weren’t all that great, Mark Sanchez (more on him below) did more than enough to reassert his hold on the starting job over backup Tim Tebow. Brady Quinn may find himself holding the clipboard once more when the Chiefs return to the field in Week 8. Quinn (22-of-38, 180 yds., 0 TDs, 2 INTs) and the entire Chiefs’ offense struggled against the Buccaneers, and the team could go back to initial starter Matt Cassel, who missed the game because of a concussion, after the bye, provided he’s cleared to play.

Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders
Palmer’s numbers (1,434 yds., 6 TDs, 3 INTs) may not jump out, but he’s 10th in the league in passing yards per game at 287. The Raiders have not been shy to throw the ball this season, as Palmer is averaging 39 attempts per game. The touchdowns are low, but the Raiders’ wide receiving corps has been banged up all season long. Still with match-ups against Jacksonville, Tampa Bay and Kansas City on tap the next three weeks, Palmer is definitely worth a look if you’re in need of a temporary signal caller.

Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
Look who’s back? OK, “back” may be a little too strong considering the Sanchize threw for a grand total of 82 yards against Indianapolis, but don’t lose sight of his two touchdown passes, and, more importantly, no turnovers. As bad as the Jets’ offense may have looked the past few weeks, it was certainly clicking on all cylinders, especially the running game, this past Sunday. Next up for Sanchez and the revived ground-and-pound rushing attack is New England, who just gave up 368 yards of offense (283 through the air) in a disappointing loss at Seattle.

John Skelton, Arizona Cardinals
Skelton beat out Kevin Kolb for the starting job in the preseason, only to leave Arizona’s opening game with an ankle injury and watch Kolb lead the team to a come-from-behind victory. Kolb then proceeded to win the next three games as the starter before the Cardinals lost in Week 5 in St. Louis. On Sunday against Buffalo, it was Skelton’s turn, as he took over in the fourth quarter after Kolb suffered a rib and chest injury. Trailing the Bills by three late, Skelton first moved the team into position for the game-tying field goal (a franchise-record 61-yarder by Jay Feely with 1:09 left), and then did it again to set up a game-winning attempt. Unfortunately, Kolb and the Cardinals were unable to finish the deal, as the attempted game-winner was partially deflected and Skelton’s interception in overtime set up the Bills’ own game-winning field goal. X-rays on Kolb's ribs and sternum came back negative, but he underwent an MRI on Monday to make sure there are no fractures or serious damage. Kolb's health will undoubtedly play a huge role in determining who starts this Sunday at Minnesota, but remember Skelton was No. 1 before he got hurt.

Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Wilson was at his best on Sunday against New England, as his 293 yards passing and three touchdowns were both career highs. Wilson also is a threat to make plays with his legs, although he’s really yet to post huge rushing numbers. That said, Wilson is just a rookie who is six games into his NFL career. So while there will more than likely be other games this season that look like what he did against the Patriots, there also will be a number that will finish with a stat line of something along these lines: 17-of-25, 160 yards, no touchdowns, three inteceptions, which is what he did in a Week 4 loss to St. Louis. If you’re thinking about starting Wilson this week, keep in mind the Seahawks play San Francisco on the road. It’s probably best to place your expectations somewhere between how he fared against the Patriots at home and the Rams on the road.

Running Backs
Week 6 Recap: Both Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman got hurt in Thursday’s loss to Tennessee, which brings a new name (see below) into the picture for the Steelers, while the Titans were content to let Chris Johnson handle the load, making Darius Reynaud a special teams player only. Alex Green and LaRod Stephens-Howling both got the starts for their respective teams, but Green was the only one who produced as Stephens-Howling was upstaged by his teammate (see below). Meanwhile, David Wilson put together a second straight solid performance, contributing to the Giants’ convincing win in San Francisco as both a returner and rusher.

Baron Batch, Pittsburgh Steelers
With both Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) and Isaac Redman (ankle) suffering injuries against Tennessee, the Steelers turned to Batch to carry the load. He finished with just 22 yards rushing against the Titans, but that led the team and he also had a one-yard touchdown run. Batch was the Steelers’ seventh-round pick in 2011, but missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in training camp. Mendenhall and Redman are clearly ahead of him on the depth chart, but if one or both can’t go this week in Cincinnati, Batch appears to be the most likely candidate to fill in.

LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Perhaps the rumors of Blount’s fantasy demise were greatly exaggerated, no? Doug Martin is the clear-cut starter in Tampa Bay, but Blount ‘s workload has increased in each of the past three games. Sunday against Kansas City, he had 58 yards on seven carries and scored his second touchdown in as many weeks. If Blount can continue to produce with the opportunities he’s given, the Buccaneers may have to find ways to give him even more touches.

Montario Hardesty, Cleveland Browns
Trent Richardson left Sunday’s game against Cincinnati with a rib issue and Hardesty stepped in, helping to lead the Browns’ fourth-quarter charge and earn their first win of the season. Hardesty finished with 56 yards on 15 carries (3.7 ypc) and it was his touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter that put the Browns ahead of the Bengals to stay. Richardson said after the game he would definitely play against Indianapolis this Sunday, and on Monday head coach Pat Shurmur said the rookie is considered day-to-day. If Richardson is unable to play this Sunday, it appears Hardesty would get the start in his place. Don’t forget the Colts gave up 252 yards rushing to the Jets this past Sunday.

Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys
Dallas ran wild on Sunday, gashing Baltimore for 227 yards rushing, the most ever given up by the Ravens franchise. DeMarco Murray got things started with 93 yards on 14 carries (6.6 ypc), but he suffered a foot injury before halftime, setting the stage for Jones. The former first-round pick made the most of his first significant playing time this season, scoring on a 22-yard run in the first quarter and finishing the game with 92 yards on 15 carries (5.1 ypc). Murray said he wanted to go back in and it was the coaching staff that held him out, but an MRI on Monday revealed he sustained some ligament damage and it appears that Murray will miss at least one week, if not more. Jones would more than likely get the start in Murray’s stead, beginning this week as Dallas travels to Carolina.

William Powell, Arizona Cardinals
LaRod Stephens-Howling got the start, but it was Powell who did the most damage for the Cardinals. The second-year pro, who was a pleasant surprise during the preseason, led the team in carries (13) and rushing yards (70) in the overtime loss to Buffalo. Powell out-gained Stephens-Howling, who has 22 yards on the ground, and also enjoyed more success (5.4 ypc) when he got the handoff. The Cardinals' offensive line still has its share of issues, but any starting running back in the NFL has some value when it comes to fantasy, even if it’s only as a flex option. When it comes to the Cardinals, it looks like Powell is the one to own/target moving forward and not Stephens-Howling.

Wide Receivers
Week 6 Recap: Mike Williams was the only one to score, courtesy of a 62-yard hookup with Josh Freeman, but Brandon Gibson, Kendall Wright and Mario Manningham each finished with more catches than the Buccaneer on Sunday. Gibson stepped up in Danny Amendola’s absence, leading the Rams in targets, receptions and yards in the loss to Miami. Gibson’s production also appears to be helping another teammate (see below) emerge. Manningham enjoyed a strong game (5 rec., 72 yds.) against his former Giant teammates, albeit in a loss, while Wright once again led the Titans in receiving.

Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks
After leading Seattle in all receiving categories as a rookie last season, Baldwin has been virtually invisible this season. Whether he was dealing with injuries or trying to acclimate himself to rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, the second-year pro from Stanford entered Sunday’s game with just seven catches for 70 yards. Against New England he doubled his season yardage total on just two catches, as he finished with 74 and his first touchdown of the campaign against the Patriots. The targets are still an issue, as he had a total of three against the Patriots, but perhaps this past Sunday is the first step to Baldwin and Wilson establishing better chemistry.

Chris Givens, St. Louis Rams
Second-round pick Brian Quick was expected to be the Rams’ rookie deep threat this season, but instead it’s fourth-rounder Givens who has made the impact on the field. Givens has averaged nearly 63 yards receiving over the past three games, and for the season is averaging 28.1 yards per catch. Consistency is still an issue for the first-year wideout (22 targets, but only seven receptions), but so is his big-play potential. His lone touchdown of the season came on a 51-yard catch and he has two other receptions longer than that.

Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
Gordon also is another wide receiver who has recently shown a knack for making the big play. The Browns’ supplemental draft pick is averaging 22.8 yards per reception and has three touchdowns in his past two games. He has led the team in receiving these past two games and with a wide receiving corps that’s been hampered by injuries, inconsistency and drops, the opportunity is clearly there for Gordon to establish himself as quarterback Brandon Weeden’s favorite target.

Denarius Moore, Oakland Raiders
To be honest, I’m surprised Moore is owned in only 70 percent of Yahoo! leagues. He may not be a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver, but in my book he’s a bona fide No. 2 and at worst an indisputable WR3. Moore missed the first game because of injury, but has posted a total of nine receptions for 175 yards (19.4 ypc) and a score in the past two games alone. Carson Palmer is averaging nearly 40 pass attempts per game and despite mssing one game already, Moore is still leading the team in targets with 14 more than any other Raiders wideout. Run, don’t walk, to your waiver wire to grab this steal of a deal if he’s still available.

Tight Ends
Week 6 Recap: Jermaine Gresham posted another solid game (7 rec., 68 yds., TD) for the Bengals, while Rob Housler managed a total of two catches for 12 yards. In Housler’s defense, no Cardinal not named Larry Fitzgerald did much offensively against Buffalo.

Jared Cook, Tennessee Titans
Even though he’s the No. 11 tight end in fantasy, Cook is owned in only half of Yahoo! leagues. I’m not sure what’s not to like, considering he’s ninth in receiving yards (291) at his position, second on the Titans in receptions and has already caught two touchdowns. The team also has said that it plans on getting the ball to him even more moving forward, which only increases his potential value. It’s not often you can acquire a top-10 fantasy producer at his position in Week 7.

Anthony Fasano, Miami Dolphins
Very quietly, Fasano is putting together another solid season and becoming one of rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s favorite targets in the process. Fasano is third on the Dolphins in targets and receptions, but leads in touchdown catches with two. Since missing the Dolphins’ opener, he has caught at least two passes in every game and is averaging better than four catches and 39 yards receiving over his past four contests.

Defense/Special Teams
Week 6 Recap: Miami picked up three sacks and recovered a fumble in its win over St. Louis, but the Dolphins also gave up a season-high 162 yards rushing. Minnesota was victimized by Robert Griffin III's arms and legs as Washington's rookie quarterback shook off any lingering effects from the concussion he suffered last week to put up 310 total yards of offense and three touchdowns (2 rush, 1 pass) in the Redskins' win over the Vikings. The Vikes gave up a season-worst 38 points and managed only a sack and an interception.

Cleveland Browns
With the Atlanta, Miami, Philadelphia and San Diego DSTs all on bye this week, Cleveland could be a sneaky pick this week. The Browns have fared pretty well fantasy-wise, with 15 sacks and 14 turnovers (10 INTs, 4 fumbles) fueling their scoring. This week the Browns will face Indianapolis, a team that’s dealing with injuries in their backfield and asking rookie quarterback Andrew Luck to throw the ball a lot. Luck has more than held his own in his first season, but he’s also thrown seven interceptions and has been sacked 13 times, two areas where the Browns’ D has thrived so far.

Scoring is based on Athlon Sports default scoring which is 6 points for all TDs, .5 points per reception and 1 point per 25 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving and 40 return yards.

— By Mark Ross, published on Oct. 16, 2012

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Waiver Wire: Week 7</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-post-week-7-bowl-projections
Body:

College football's bowl season is inching closer, but it's never too early to take a look at what the matchups might look like. With seven weeks of results in the books, it's still too early to make long-term projections about teams, especially with some teams just getting into conference play. 

The post-Week 7 bowl projections are a mixture between preseason projections, how things would look if the season ended today, and a dose of the results so far this year. Expect more changes over the next few weeks, especially as we see how teams perform in conference games. 

2012-2013 Post-Week 7 College Football Bowl Projections

Bowl Date Tie-In Projected Matchup
New Mexico Dec. 15 MWC vs. Pac-12 Arizona vs. Nevada
Famous Idaho Potato Dec. 15 MAC vs. WAC Utah State vs. N. Illinois
Poinsettia Dec. 20 BYU vs. MWC BYU vs. San Diego State
Beef 'O'Brady's Dec. 21 Big East vs. C-USA East Carolina vs. Kent State*
New Orleans Dec. 22 Sun Belt vs. C-USA UL Lafayette vs. Tulsa
Las Vegas Dec. 22 MWC vs. Pac-12 UCLA vs. Boise State
Hawaii Dec. 24 C-USA vs. MWC Fresno State vs. SMU
Little Caesars Dec. 26 Big Ten vs. MAC Minnesota vs. Toledo
Military Dec. 27 ACC vs. Army Maryland vs. Marshall*
Belk Dec. 27 ACC vs. Big East NC State vs. Cincinnati
Holiday Dec. 27 Big 12 vs. Pac-12 Stanford vs. TCU
Independence Dec. 28 ACC vs. SEC Duke vs. La. Tech*
Russell Athletic Dec. 28 ACC vs. Big East Virginia Tech vs. Rutgers
Meineke Car Care Dec. 28 Big Ten vs. Big 12 Iowa vs. Baylor
Armed Forces Dec. 29 C-USA vs. MWC Houston vs. Air Force
Kraft Fight Hunger Dec. 29 Pac-12 vs. Navy Navy vs. Washington
Pinstripe Dec. 29 Big East vs. Big 12 Pittsburgh vs. Okla. State
Alamo Dec. 29 Big 12 vs. Pac-12 Oregon State vs. Texas Tech
Buffalo Wild Wings Dec. 29 Big Ten vs. Big 12 Michigan State vs. Texas 
Music City Dec. 31 SEC vs. ACC Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech
Sun Dec. 31 ACC vs. Pac-12 Arizona State vs. Miami
Liberty Dec. 31 SEC vs. C-USA Arkansas vs. UCF**
Chick-fil-A Dec. 31 ACC vs. SEC Clemson vs. Miss. State
Heart of Dallas Jan. 1 Big Ten vs. Big 12 Purdue vs. Iowa State
TaxSlayer.com Gator Jan. 1 SEC vs. Big Ten Texas A&M vs. N'Western
Capital One Jan. 1 SEC vs. Big Ten Wisconsin vs. South Carolina
Outback Jan. 1 SEC vs. Big Ten Nebraska vs. Georgia
Cotton Jan. 4 Big 12 vs. SEC West Virginia vs. LSU
BBVA Compass Jan. 5 SEC vs. Big East Vanderbilt vs. UL Monroe*
GoDaddy.com Jan. 6 MAC vs. Sun Belt W. Kentucky vs. Ohio
       
BCS Bowls      
Rose Jan. 1 BCS vs. BCS Michigan vs. USC
Orange Jan. 1 BCS vs. BCS Florida State vs. Louisville
Sugar Jan. 2 BCS vs. BCS Florida vs. Oklahoma
Fiesta Jan. 3 BCS vs. BCS Kansas State vs. Notre Dame
National Title Jan. 7 BCS vs. BCS Oregon vs. Alabama


* Indicates an at-large team due to a conference unable to fill bowl slots according to Athlon's projections.

** UCF is appealing a postseason ban and for now, is eligible to compete in the 2012 postseason.

by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

(published Oct. 16, 2012)

Related College Football Content

ACC Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

Big East Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

Big Ten Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

Big 12 Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

Pac-12 Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

SEC Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

College Football Week 7 Recap

Teaser:
<p> College Football Post-Week 7 Bowl Projections</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - 05:59
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-20-coaches-hot-seat-post-week-7-rankings
Body:

Week 7 of the 2012 college football season is in the books and plenty of coaches saw the temperature on their seat increase by a few degrees. Kentucky's Joker Phillips and Boston College's Frank Spaziani continue to hold down the top two spots in the rankings. SEC coaches own three of the top five spots, as Auburn's Gene Chizik and Tennessee's Derek Dooley both joined Phillips in the top tier of this list following their latest losses.

College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat: Post-Week 7 Rankings

1. Joker Phillips, Kentucky
Last Week’s Rank:
1
Record at Kentucky: 12-20 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 1-6
Another week, another big loss for Kentucky. The Wildcats were hammered 49-7 by Arkansas, falling to 1-6 on the season. Phillips’ overall record has slipped to 12-20, and Kentucky has lost eight out of its last 10 games. Although several young players are seeing significant snaps, it probably won’t be enough for Phillips to return in 2013. The Wildcats take on Georgia this Saturday, before hitting the road to play Missouri in Week 9.

2. Frank Spaziani, Boston College
Last Week’s Rank:
2
Record at Boston College: 21-24 (4th season)
2012 Record: 1-5
With a new athletic director coming aboard for 2013, Spaziani is likely coaching out the final six games in his tenure at Boston College. The Eagles were thumped 51-7 against Florida State, dropping their fourth consecutive game of the season. Boston College’s only win of 2012 came against FCS opponent Maine and it lost a disappointing 34-31 game at Army last week. The Eagles need to win five out of their final six games to have a shot to play in a bowl, which seems unlikely with Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and NC State on the schedule.

3. Gene Chizik, Auburn
Last Week’s Rank:
6
Record at Auburn: 31-15 (4th season)
2012 Record: 1-5
A miserable season for Chizik only got worse on Saturday, as Auburn lost 41-20 to Ole Miss to drop to 1-5 this year. Although the Rebels are a much-improved team under new coach Hugh Freeze, this team went 2-10 and was winless in SEC play last season. The Tigers have shown little progress on both sides of the ball this season, and could be 1-7 after playing Vanderbilt and Texas A&M in the next two weeks. Considering how Auburn has played this year, a bowl game seems out of the question. Now the question becomes: Does Chizik deserve another year or should the Tigers move on?

4. Derek Dooley, Tennessee
Last Week’s Rank:
10
Record at Tennessee: 14-17 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 3-3
The orange pants that Dooley wears on the sidelines might as well include flames this week. Tennessee fell to 0-3 in the SEC with a 41-31 loss to Mississippi State on Saturday night. The Volunteers are now 1-10 in their last 11 SEC games, with the only victory coming in overtime against Vanderbilt. The road is only going to get more difficult for Tennessee, as Alabama and South Carolina are the next two opponents. The schedule is considerably more favorable in November, as the Volunteers could go 4-0. However, will that be enough to save Dooley’s job?

5. Dan Enos, Central Michigan
Last Week’s Rank:
5
Record at Central Michigan: 8-22 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 2-4
Instead of building momentum after a 32-31 win over Iowa on Sept. 22, the Chippewas are sliding in the wrong direction. Central Michigan has lost three games in a row, including a 31-13 defeat to Navy on national television last week. The only good news for Enos? The schedule is very manageable in the second half of the season, which includes home games against Ball State, Akron and Western Michigan, along with road dates against Eastern Michigan and UMass.

6. Jeff Quinn, Buffalo
Last Week’s Rank: 4
Record at Buffalo: 6-24 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 1-5
Quinn falls two spots in the rankings, which is more of a reflection of other coaches finding their seats getting hotter after Week 7, than Buffalo’s performance on Saturday. The Bulls were dominated 45-3 by Northern Illinois in Week 7 and the schedule isn’t getting any easier with Pittsburgh, Toledo, Miami (Ohio) and Western Michigan coming up. Needless to say, Quinn needs to find a couple of victories in the second half of the season to save his job.

7. DeWayne Walker, New Mexico State
Last Week’s Rank: 7
Record at New Mexico State: 10-34 (4th season)
2012 Record: 1-5
The Aggies had an off date in Week 7 and return to action against Utah State this Saturday. New Mexico State enters Week 8 riding a five-game losing streak and its next two match-ups are against the best teams in the WAC (Utah State, Louisiana Tech), while a visit to Auburn awaits on Nov. 3. With an uncertain conference future, New Mexico State is one of the toughest jobs in college football and finding a new coach (if Walker is fired) won’t be an easy task.

8. Robb Akey, Idaho
Last Week’s Rank: 8
Record at Idaho: 20-49 (6th season)
2012 Record: 1-6
A week after building some momentum with a 26-18 win over New Mexico State, the Vandals were pounded 38-7 by Texas State on Saturday. While the Bobcats beat Houston and gave Nevada a game earlier this year, this is still a program in its first year of playing on the FBS level. With Louisiana Tech, BYU, San Jose State and Utah State remaining on the schedule, a Nov. 17 date against UTSA might be Idaho’s only other shot at getting a victory this year.

9. David Bailiff, Rice
Last Week’s Rank: 3
Record at Rice: 25-43 (6th season)
2012 Record: 2-5
The Owls scored a solid victory over UTSA in Week 7, snapping a four-game losing streak with a 34-14 win over the Roadrunners. The victory over UTSA came one week after an inexplicable loss at Memphis. Bailiff’s future is still up in the air at Rice, but the schedule isn’t particularly difficult in the second half of the season. Rice hosts SMU and Southern Miss, while playing Tulane, Tulsa and UTEP on the road. Outside of the Tulsa game, the Owls have a shot to win the other four contests. 

10. Bobby Hauck, UNLV
Last Week’s Rank:
11
Record at UNLV: 5-27 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 1-6
As the hot seat watch has maintained throughout this season, the Rebels are getting better. However, the losses are starting to pile up for Hauck, as UNLV dropped a 42-37 game to in-state rival Nevada in Week 7. The Rebels’ only win of 2012 came against Air Force, and there are few chances for a victory the rest of the way, especially with New Mexico one of the most improved teams in the conference. Hauck has recruited several promising young players, so he should get another year to prove he can turn this program around.

11. Mike Price, UTEP
Last Week’s Rank:
15
Record at UTEP: 46-58 (8 years)
2012 Record: 1-6
After starting the season with close losses to Oklahoma and Ole Miss and a victory over New Mexico State, the Miners have been trending in the wrong direction. UTEP has lost four consecutive games and was handled 33-11 by Tulsa on Thursday night. If the Miners want to make a bowl game, they will need to win out, which includes dates against UCF and Houston. Price is 66 years old, so it’s not out of the question he retires at the end of the year.

12. Ellis Johnson, Southern Miss
Last Week’s Rank:
13
Record at Southern Miss: 0-6 (1st season)
2012 Record: 0-6
Johnson moves up a spot in the hot seat rankings, but let’s give a little credit to Southern Miss’ coaching staff for nearly pulling off a win at UCF in Week 7. The Golden Eagles have two promising freshmen on offense in quarterback Anthony Alford and running back Jalen Richard, but the defense is allowing 35.6 points a game and has struggled to stop the run. Southern Miss is still looking for its first win, and the schedule doesn’t get any easier with Marshall coming to Hattiesburg on Saturday.

13. Mack Brown, Texas
Last Week’s Rank:
Not Ranked
Record at Texas: 145-41 (15th season)
2012 Record: 4-2
Barring a complete collapse in the second half of the season, Brown’s job is safe for 2013. However, losses like the one the Longhorns endured in Week 7 won’t be tolerated for long in Austin. Texas was dominated 63-21 by Oklahoma and has lost the last two match-ups against the Sooners by a combined score of 118-38. The Longhorns could still finish 10-2 but games at Texas Tech and Kansas State aren’t guaranteed victories. Is the program headed in the right direction? That’s the question Brown will have to answer in the second half of the year.

14. Skip Holtz, South Florida
Last Week’s Rank:
14
Record at South Florida: 15-16 (3rd season)
2012 Record: 2-4
The Bulls had an off date in Week 7 and return to action at Louisville this Saturday. However, the news wasn’t all positive for Holtz, as one South Florida trustee John Ramil sent an angry e-mail to USF president Judy Genshaft, calling the football program “disgusting and unacceptable.” Considering Holtz’s success at East Carolina, the struggles at South Florida have been surprising. Holtz received a huge contract extension in the offseason but the last six games of the season could very well decide his fate.

15. Jeff Tedford, California
Last Week’s Rank: 9
Record at California: 82-52 (11th season)
2012 Record: 3-4
Thanks to back-to-back wins, Tedford has slid from the top five in the hot seat watch to No. 15 overall. However, the good vibes coming out of Berkeley may not last long, as California takes on Stanford this week and closes the year with a difficult three-game stretch: Washington, Oregon and at Oregon State. Beating the Cardinal this week would go a long ways to helping Tedford’s resume, along with bolstering California’s bowl hopes. However, a loss will raise even more questions about whether or not Tedford will be back for 2013.

16. Jon Embree, Colorado
Last Week’s Rank: 16
Record at Colorado: 4-15 (2nd season)
2012 Record: 1-5
The Buffaloes put up a fight in the first half of Thursday’s game against Arizona State but it wasn’t enough. Colorado was outscored 31-0 in the second half and lost 51-17 to a fast-improving Sun Devils’ team. Credit Embree and his staff for giving the Buffaloes a chance in the first half, but Colorado simply does not have the talent or depth to push the top teams in the Pac-12 right now. Barring a complete disaster the rest of the way, Embree should be back in Boulder in 2013. However, he has a lot of work to do if he wants to be Colorado’s coach for 2014 and beyond.

17. Doug Marrone, Syracuse
Last Week’s Rank:
19
Record at Syracuse: 19-24 (4th season)
2012 Record: 2-4
A week after building some positive momentum with a 14-13 win over Pittsburgh, Syracuse lost 23-15 at Rutgers to drop its record to 2-4. The Orange have a difficult stretch the rest of the year, playing four out of their final six games on the road and catching Big East frontrunner Louisville at home in mid-November. Although Marrone is a Syracuse alum, another losing season won’t sit well in upstate New York.

18. Bill Cubit, Western Michigan
Last Week’s Rank: 18
Record at Western Michigan: 50-43 (8th season)
2012 Record: 3-4
The Broncos came up short against one of the MAC West’s top teams on Saturday, losing 30-24 to Ball State in overtime. Western Michigan has been without starting quarterback Alex Carder for the last three games due to a hand injury, which has jeopardized this team’s bowl hopes. The Broncos face Kent State and Northern Illinois – a combined record of 11-2 – in the next two weeks and finish the year with Central Michigan, Buffalo and Eastern Michigan. Cubit’s teams have been criticized for underachieving in the past and barring an upset or two, it seems Western Michigan will finish with a disappointing 6-6 record.

19. Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut
Last Week’s Rank: Not ranked
Record at Connecticut: 8-11 (2nd season)
2012 Record: 3-4
Pasqualoni could easily be higher in the rankings but this is only his second year at Connecticut. However, it’s hard to ignore a disappointing 17-14 loss to Temple on Saturday, as well as a 30-24 road defeat to Western Michigan in late September. Despite having one of the Big East’s top running backs in Lyle McCombs, the Huskies have been awful on offense the last two years and rank 109th nationally in scoring this season. Pasqualoni was a strange pick to succeed Randy Edsall, and a new athletic director has been hired at Connecticut since his arrival. If the Huskies miss out on a bowl game, Pasqualoni will be one of the top coaches on the hot seat in 2013.

20. June Jones, SMU
Last Week’s Rank:
Not ranked
Record at SMU: 26-32 (5th season)
2012 Record: 2-4
Although Jones has helped to lead SMU to three consecutive bowl games, it’s fair to wonder if the school should part ways with him after this year. Jones nearly had the Arizona State job, so it’s clear he isn’t interested in sticking around at SMU. The Mustangs have won just two games this season (UTEP, Stephen F. Austin) and are coming off of a disappointing loss to previously winless Tulane in Week 7. Even though Jones is a solid coach, both the coach and the school might be better off with a fresh start. 


by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven


Related College Football Content

ACC Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

Big East Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

Big Ten Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

Big 12 Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

Pac-12 Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

SEC Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

College Football Week 7 Recap

Teaser:
<p> College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat: Post-Week 7 Rankings</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - 05:55
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-preview-impact-transfers-2012-13
Body:
The full list of the top 40 transfers can be found in the Athlon Sports 2012-13 College Basketball annual available in the online store.

College basketball transfers are flying through the sport at an unprecedented pace these days. Hundreds of players have changed schools in the last two seasons to become eligible in 2012-13.

The landscape could be a boon both for teams looking to fill a void on their rosters as well as players looking to find the best fit.

The group of players transferring from one program to another is indeed diverse -- McDonald's All-Americans, top-100 recruits, part-timers ready for bigger roles, small conference stars testing their mettle in major conferences.

Whittling down the pool of transfers eligible for the upcoming season to those that will make the most impact on 2012-13 is quite the undertaking.

From the players transferring from one power team to another, the teams depending on two or more transfers, and the rare players transferring form a low-major program to a power conference, here's our look at the transfer scene in college basketball.

Related content: Top 10 Freshmen for 2012-13

10 KEY TRANSFERS
Rotnei Clarke, G, Arkansas to Butler

One of the elite shooters in college basketball during his time at Arkansas, Clarke take on a leading role with the Bulldogs. He averaged 15.2 points while shooting 43.8 percent from the arc two years ago. Butler’s biggest deficiency last season was the outside shot as the Bulldogs shot only 28 percent from beyond the arc.

Larry Drew II, G, North Carolina to UCLA
Drew left North Carolina 21 games into his junior season when Kendall Marshall took over as the primary point guard. He was oft-criticized by Tar Heels fans, but Drew averaged 8.5 points and 5.9 assists in his last full season at North Carolina. Freshman Ryan Anderson may be the Bruins primary ball-handler, but he and Drew could share time on the court.

Luke Hancock, F, George Mason to Louisville
Hancock gives the talented Cardinals another weapon on the wing. The Virginia native averaged 10.9 points and 4.3 assists for George Mason in ’10-11 and scored 18 points in the Colonials win over Villanova in the Rounds of 68 of the NCAA Tournament.

Colton Iverson, C, Minnesota to Colorado State
Iverson didn’t score a lot during his three years at Minnesota — he averaged 5.4, 5.0 and 5.4 points per game — but he is a decent rebounder and has a high basketball IQ. Iverson joins core of four returning starters with hopes of returning to the NCAA Tournament in the first season under Larry Eustachy.

Sidiki Johnson, F, Arizona to Providence
A top-100 in the Class of 2011, Johnson left Arizona after one semester. He is a 6-9 power forward who will give Providence an active body on the frontline. Providence needs Johnson to contribute right away, but the Friars will have to wait until December for the sophomore to be eligible.

Wally Judge, F, Kansas State to Rutgers
The one-time McDonald’s All-American will start immediately, and his 6-9, 250-pound frame will help offset the loss of Gilvydas Biruta, who transferred to Rhode Island. Judge averaged 5.5 points and 3.8 rebounds as a sophomore at Kansas State.

Keala King, G, Arizona State to Long Beach State
King, a former top-50 national recruit, bolted Arizona State 13 games into his sophomore season. The 6-4 point guard as averaged 13.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists at the time. He will be eligible at the end of the first semester for a Long Beach State club expected to repeat in the Big West.

Trent Lockett, G, Arizona State to Marquette
Lockett is a graduate transfer who will be a big part of the Golden Eagles’ attack from Day One. He averaged 13.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last season at Arizona State while hitting 41.2 percent from 3-point range. The Golden Eagles have high hopes Lockett will fill some of the scoring void left by Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom.

Mark Lyons, G, Xavier to Arizona
Lyons, a senior, will step in and take over at the point for the talented but young Wildcats. He averaged 15.1 points and shot 39.2 percent as a running mate to Tu Holloway at Xavier last season. On a team expecting freshmen to be major contributors, Lyons’ experience on three Sweet 16 teams will be invaluable. Current Arizona coach Sean Miller recruited Lyons to Xavier.

Amath M’Baye, F, Wyoming to Oklahoma
The Sooners’ best player last season may have been on the practice squad. M’Baye, a native of France, averaged 12.0 points and 5.7 rebounds as a sophomore at Wyoming in 2010-11. He is expected to be a big part of the Sooners’ attack this season.

SIX TEAMS DEPENDING ON TRANSFERS
Some teams hope to benefit more from incoming transfers than others. For these six teams, two more transfers will play a major role in their bids for the NCAA Tournament or more.

IOWA STATE
G/F Will Clyburn (from Michigan State), G Korie Lucious (from Utah)

Clyburn, a former junior college transfer, averaged 17.1 points and 7.8 boards while shooting 40.3 percent from 3-point range in his only season at Utah. He will be asked to take on big role for an Iowa State team that must replace Royce White. Lucious never scored a lot while playing on some talented Michigan State teams, but he is a true point guard who will be expected to start in his only season in Iowa City.

MISSOURI
G Keion Bell (from Pepperdine), G Jabari Brown (from Oregon), F Alex Oriakhi (from Connecticut), G Earnest Ross (from Auburn)

A high-volume shooter, Bell averaged 18.9 points as a junior for Pepperdine two years ago. He is a shooting guard who could find a significant role as a sixth man for a Missouri team that should contend for an SEC title. A former 5-star recruit, Brown left Oregon after only two games last season. He is a 6-4 shooting guard who can shoot from 3-point range and take the ball to the basket. Oriakhi was key contributor (9.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg) on the Huskies’ 2011 national title team, but his role diminished last season as a junior. Oriakhi will team with Laurence Bowers (who is back from injury) to give the Tigers a solid presence in the paint. A shooting guard with good size (6-5, 222), Ross led Auburn in scoring (13.1 ppg) and rebounding (6.6 rpg) two years ago. He shot under 40 percent overall and 33.3 percent from 3 with the Tigers, but he can be more selective now playing on a more talented team.

NORTHWESTERN
F Nikola Cerina (from TCU), F Jared Swopshire (from Louisville)

Cerina and Swopshire will be asked to contribute on a Northwestern front line that must replace All-Big Ten performer John Shurna. Cerina, a 6-9, 245-pound forward, averaged 5.4 points and 4.1 rebounds for TCU in ’10-11. Swopshire averaged 3.3 points for Louisville last season while slowed by injuries. In his last healthy season, Swopshire averaged 7.5 points and 6.1 rebounds in 2009-10 while averaging 25 minutes per game.

SAN DIEGO STATE
F James Johnson (Virginia), F JJ O’Brien (from Utah), F Dwayne Polee II (from St. John’s)

O’Brien and Polee will bolster the Aztecs’ frontcourt. O’Brien started 21 games two years ago as a freshman at Utah and averaged 6.4 points and 5.5 rebounds. Polee averaged 4.4 points and 2.5 boards for the Red Storm. The addition of the 6-9, 248 pound James Johnson from Virginia will further bolster San Diego State’s size in the frontcourt.

SETON HALL
G/F Brian Oliver (from Georgia Tech), G Kyle Smith (from Iona), C Gene Teague (from Southern Illinois)

Oliver was billed as a top-level shooter, but he shot a disappointing 33.9 percent from 3 in two seasons at Georgia Tech. Two years ago, as a sophomore, he averaged 10.5 points per game. He likely will start for Seton Hall. The 6-9, 290-pound Teague is a space-eater in the paint who averaged 8.6 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 60.6 percent from the field as a sophomore at Southern Illinois. Smith is a 3-point is a 3-point shooting specialist from Iona.

UNLV
F Khem Birch (from Pittsburgh), G Bryce Dejean-Jones (from UCLA)

A top-10 national recruit, Birch lasted only one semester at Pittsburgh. He didn’t contribute much during his stay with the Panthers (4.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg), but he is an elite talent who will be a factor for the Runnin’ Rebels. A 6-5 shooting guard from Southern California, Dejean-Jones will have an opportunity to play a major role on a loaded UNLV team. Dejean-Jones averaged 7.6 points with the Trojans as a freshman in 2010-11. His arrival, however, will be delayed  by broken hand sustained earlier this month.

WEST VIRGINIA
G Matt Humphrey (from Boston College), C Aaric Murray (from La Salle), G Juwan Staten (from Dayton)

Both Murray and Staten were considered recruiting coups for the Atlantic 10 team that signed them. Alas, neither led their respective teams to the NCAA Tournament and instead transferred to West Virginia. Murray is a seasoned big man who averaged 15.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks as a sophomore at La Salle. He has the size (6-10, 240) to be major factor in the paint but can also step out and knock down jump shots. Ranked among the top-40 recruits in the Class of 2011, Staten lasted only one season at Dayton, where he averaged 8.5 points and 5.4 assists. He will start at the point for West Virginia. Humphrey will conclude his career in the Big 12 after spending two seasons in the Pac-10 (Oregon) and one in the ACC (Boston College). He averaged 10.3 points per game last season for the Eagles.

SEVEN LOW-MAJOR TO HIGH-MAJOR TRANSFERS
Most transfers occur with players moving from a high-major to a mid-major or low-major. A handful of players are expected to make an impact despite moving from a lower level to a major conference.

Glen Dean, G, Eastern Washington to Utah
The Big Sky Freshman of the Year in 2009-10, Dean twice led Eastern Washington in scoring and assists and also shot over 40 percent from the 3-point arc in both seasons. He will start at the point and could team with another Seattle native — Aaron Dotson from LSU — in all-transfer backcourt.

R.J. Evans, G, Holy Cross to Connecticut
A graduate transfer who will have one season of eligibility, Evans will give a UConn team in transition some veteran leadership. He averaged 11.5 points as a junior for Holy Cross.

Evan Gordon, G, Liberty to Arizona State
The younger brother of standout NBA guard Eric Gordon will bring some much-needed offensive punch to an Arizona State team that is need of some scorers. Gordon averaged 14.4 points as a sophomore at Liberty but shot only 38.8 percent from the field.

Julius Mays, G, Wright State to Kentucky
The well-traveled Mays will end his career at Kentucky after stops at NC State and Wright State. He averaged 14.1 points last season while shooting over 40 percent from 3. He’s a combo guard who likely will see minutes both at the point and at shooting guard.  

Isaiah Philmore, F, Towson to Xavier
Philmore didn’t win a lot of games at Towson — the Tigers went 4–26 in ’10-11 — but the 6-8, 230-pound forward put up solid numbers (15.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg). He will battle for a starting spot on a front line that must replace Kenny Frease and Andre Walker.

Eric Wise, F, UC Irvine to USC
A small forward with good size (6-6, 240), Wise averaged 16.3 points and 8.1 rebounds in his final season at UC Irvine. He will contend for a starting spot on a much-improved Trojan team.

Trey Zeigler, G, Central Michigan to Pittsburgh
A former top-75 national recruit, Zeigler signed with Central Michigan to play for his father, Ernie Zeigler. Dad got fired, so the son bolted for the greener pastures of Pittsburgh, where he will be eligible immediately. The shooting guard averaged 15.6 points and 6.7 boards for the Chippewas last season.

@AthlonSports

Athlon College Basketball Countdown:
1. Indiana
2. Louisville

3. Kentucky

4. Kansas
5. Syracuse
6. Michigan
7. Arizona
8. Ohio State
9. Duke
10. Michigan State
11. NC State
12. UCLA
13. UNLV
14. North Carolina
15. San Diego State
16. Missouri
17. Baylor
18. Memphis
19. Notre Dame
20. Florida

Teaser:
<p> College Basketball Preview: Impact transfers for 2012-13</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - 05:53
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-draft-rankings-safeties
Body:

It is never too early to begin looking ahead to next year’s NFL Draft. Each year a unique set of prospects enters the professional ranks with a chance to make an immediate impact on the country’s most powerful sport. The 2013 NFL Draft won’t be any different.

Today, we rank college football's best safeties prospects:

1. Eric Reid, LSU (6-2, 208, Jr.)
Reid posted a huge sophomore year that included an unbeaten regular season as key member on a defense ranked second to only Alabama. Among his statisical contributions were 76 tackles and two interceptions, including the game-changer against the Tide in Tuscaloosa. Reid should finish his junior season as the top safety on NFL Draft boards. He has a rare blend of size and speed, physicality and finesse, leadership and toughness. He can play a deep-high point coverage scheme and can be used off the blitz to create havoc in the opposing backfield. He may not be as complete a safety as Mark Barron, but he’s close. There are no weaknesses in his game.

2. TJ McDonald, USC (6-3, 205, Sr.)
The NFL pedigree for the USC Trojans' defensive captain is well documented. His father, Tim, was an All-American at USC before playing 13 seasons in the NFL, six of which resulted in Pro Bowl invitations. The younger McDonald is a heady player who uses tremendous intangibles and physical play to make his presence felt on defense. After three great years in SoCal, he is leading the team in tackles and is poised for his best statistical season in 2012. He has a big frame and plays an NFL brand of football.

3. Matt Elam, Florida (5-10, 206, Jr.)*
There aren’t many players who perform on the field with more intensity and physicality than Elam. He is a huge hitter who could easily be the most talented player at his position nationally if his hot temper didn’t set his team back from time to time. He is fast, strong and a fiery leader for a Gators defense that ranks among the best in the land.

4. Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma (5-10, 198, Jr.)
There aren’t many players who are as versatile and athletic at the back end than Jefferson. He has previously played a hybrid safety-linebacker role, has lined up in the slot in man-to-man coverage, and is now leading his team in tackles playing a more traditional safety position this season. He also plays in a league that claims arguably the most complex and successful passing attacks, so his knowledge of coverage schemes should be advanced. He isn’t one of the bigger safety prospects, but he could be the most athletic and versatile of the bunch.

5. Shawn Williams, Georgia (6-1, 217, Sr.)*
His teammate got most of the headlines last fall — and this summer — but Williams is the most consistent performer in the Georgia Bulldogs' secondary. He has a big frame and has played against the most physical offensive lines in the game over the last few seasons in the SEC. He plays a physical brand of football after learning under former NFL coordinator Todd Grantham. He has shown the ability to excel against both the pass and the run.

6. Kenny Vaccaro, Texas (6-1, 218, Sr.)*
The Longhorns' defense has struggled mightily in 2012 and it will likely hurt Vaccaro’s draft stock as the leader of that unit. He is excellent in the box against the run using his physical style to make big plays. Against some of the pass-happy Big 12 offenses, however, his skills in open space have been exposed somewhat. He is still a tremendous prospect, but may be limited against the high-flying NFL attacks that populate the next level.

7. Robert Lester, Alabama (6-2, 210, Sr.)*
The Bama defense, ranked No. 1 again this fall in scoring and total defense, hasn’t needed big plays from its back end this fall. But Lester has been the clear leader of the totally reworked Crimson Tide secondary. He has great size, has posted big numbers in the past (8 INT in 2010), has been coached by DB guru Nick Saban, and has two national championship rings. He isn’t Mark Barron, but he should be a solid NFL player.

8. Hakeem Smith, Louisville (6-1, 185, Jr.)
There is a lot to like about the junior from Louisville. He has been coached at an elite level by defensive specialist Charlie Strong on a team that could win the Big East championship with an unblemished record. He has speed, versatility and a frame that can handle more weight. Smith is a guy who could fly up draft boards once the meat market begins in February.

9. Bacarri Rambo, Georgia (6-0, 210, Sr.)
Rambo’s track record is loaded with highlight-reel hits, 13 career interceptions entering his final season, an SEC East title and multiple off-the-field incidents. Some of his issues are blown out of proportion but a track record of poor decisions will negatively affect his draft stock. He isn’t as fluid and versatile in open space, but he has an NFL frame and delivers NFL hits.

10. Brian Blechen, Utah (6-2, 218, Jr.)
Blechen has been a leader for the Utes for four years. As a freshman All-American and four-year starter, Blechen has experience in essentially every situation — battling for a Pac-12 South Division title, playing on a 10-win team and overcoming the shortcomings of a struggling offense. He may not have the elite physical tools of another versatile Utah safety (Eric Weddle), but he has great size and the ability to be dropped into the box. He is an intriguing middle-round prospect.  

Other Names to Watch:

11. Duke Williams, Nevada (6-1, 200, Sr.)
12. Bradley McDougald, Kansas (6-1, 210, Sr.)
13. Jamoris Slaughter, Notre Dame (6-0, 200, Sr.)*
14. CJ Barnett, Ohio State (6-0, 202, Jr.)
15. Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse (5-10, 210, Sr.)
16. Jarred Holley, Pitt (5-10, 190, Sr.)
17. John Boyett, Oregon (5-10, 205, Sr.)
18. DJ Swearinger, South Carolina (6-0, 210, Sr.)
19. Daimion Stafford, Nebraska (6-1, 205, Sr.)
20. Zeke Motta, Notre Dame (6-2, 215, Sr.)*
21. Jawanza Starling, USC (6-1, 200, Sr.)*
22. Rashad Hall, Clemson (6-1, 210, Sr.)
23. Micah Hyde, Iowa (6-1, 190, Sr.)
24. Jordan Kovacs, Michigan (6-0, 202, Sr.)* 
25. Drew Frey, Cincinnati (6-3, 212, Sr.)*

* - strong safety

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related NFL Draft Rankings By Position:

2013 NFL Draft: Running Backs

2013 NFL Draft: Tight Ends
2013 NFL Draft: Safeties

2013 NFL Draft: Defensive Tackles

2013 NFL Draft: Wide Receivers

2013 NFL Draft: Offensive Tackles

2013 NFL Draft: Inside Linebackers

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Safeties</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - 05:50
Path: /nascar/clint-bowyer-wins-charlotte
Body:

After four races, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin had seemingly separated themselves in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Not so fast, says Clint Bowyer.

As the sport’s version of a playoff completed the “first half” in its 10-race run, Bowyer and his No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing team used strategy to outsmart the trio of favorites, winning the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway with superior fuel mileage.

Bowyer’s third win of the season moved his team to within 28 points of Keselowski in the championship standings.

“I looked at it last week and going into this week, I still thought if one of those guys (Keselowski, Johnson, Hamlin) were to stub a toe, it would really open the door for about eight of us to get right back into the championship hunt,” Bowyer said. “With a win here, it definitely gave us new life and new hope.”

Crew chief Brian Pattie echoed the sentiment, saying that, “Twenty-eight points is achievable over the next five weeks. It’s a lot better than 40, how we started the weekend.

“There’s three guys you’ve got to pass, not only the points. We’ll go to Kansas on Wednesday and test like hell and try to pick up our program even more than we have now because we weren’t the fastest car tonight, we just had (a winning) strategy. It would be nice to win one of these things and actually drive to Victory Lane.”

Keselowski, Johnson and Hamlin flexed their muscles throughout a tame event— leading a total of 228 of 334 laps—that witnessed five cautions, two of which were for debris.

But on lap 275, Keselowski’s No. 2 Penske Racing team did something it had largely avoided the previous four weeks: It made a mistake.

While attempting to stretch a tank of fuel, the championship leader—who led the most laps in the event (139)—ran out of gas while leading and coasted into the pits.

That opened the door for Bowyer, Johnson and Hamlin. With Keselowski mired in traffic, they went into fuel conservation mode, reasoning that, with one more full green-flag cycle left, everyone would be running on fumes as the race reached its conclusion.

And they were right. The twist, though, was that Bowyer was a forgotten soul, as the teams of Johnson and Hamlin calculated that they were the only two that would have enough in reserve to stretch one final cycle.

“We outfoxed him,” Bowyer said of Johnson’s crew chief, Chad Knaus. “Any time you outfox him you know you’ve done a good job, especially at this racetrack.”

The miscalculations were not especially harmful to Johnson and Hamlin, though, as the latter finished second and the former third.

Even Keselowski, who managed an 11th-place showing, did not appear to be distraught. He explained that aggressiveness was what got his team here, and one shouldn’t expect them to back off from that stance:

“We’re not going to put the prevent defense out there. We’re going to go at you and try to sack the quarterback every time. Sometimes you’re going to miss, and they’re going to get a big payoff.

“We have hit them a lot, that’s why we’re in the points lead, and we’re going to keep after it.”

Fair enough. And the next stop for NASCAR’s traveling circus is the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway, Bowyer’s home track. And a place that has seen Keselowski, Johnson and Hamlin each score a win in the series’ last three visits.

For those still alive with five races remaining, hope springs eternal.


by Matt Taliaferro
Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro

 

Teaser:
<p> Clint Bowyer worked his way back into title talk with his win in NASCAR's Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 14:04
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/college-footballs-top-25-rankings-week-8
Body:

College Football Top 25 Rankings, AlabamaEach week Athlon Sports ranks the Top 25 college football teams in the nation. Alabama and Oregon remain No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, with Notre Dame moving into the no. 3 slot. The biggest movers this week include the Texas Tech Red Raiders, up 27 spots, to No. 14; and Wisconsin coming in at No. 25 after shooting up 15 spots. 

To see our rankings for all 124 teams, visit Athlon's 124.

 

ATHLON SPORTS' TOP 25 COLLEGE FOOTBALL POLL

Rank Team Last Week
#1 Alabama Crimson Tide #1 (-)
#2 Oregon Ducks #2 (-)
#3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish #4 (+1)
#4 Florida Gators #5 (+1)
#5 Kansas State Wildcats #7 (+2)
#6 Ohio State Buckeyes #9 (+3)
#7 LSU Tigers #8 (+1)
#8 Oklahoma Sooners #14 (+6)
#9 South Carolina Gamecocks #3 (-6)
#10 Georgia Bulldogs #10 (-)
#11 USC Trojans #11 (-)
#12 Florida State Seminoles #13 (+1)
#13 Clemson Tigers #15 (+2)
#14 Texas Tech Red Raiders #41 (+27)
#15 West Virginia Mountaineers #6 (-9)
#16 Oregon State Beavers #16 (-)
#17 Louisville Cardinals #17 (-)
#18 Rutgers Scarlet Knights #18 (-)
#19 Michigan Wolverines #20 (+1)
#20 Mississippi State Bulldogs #22 (+2)
#21 Stanford Cardinal #19 (-2)
#22 Cincinnati Bearcats #23 (+1)
#23 Texas A&M Aggies #24 (+1)
#24 Arizona State Sun Devils #25 (+1)
#25 Wisconsin Badgers #40 (+15)

Teaser:
<p> Each week Athlon Sports ranks the Top 25 college football teams&nbsp;in the nation.</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 11:55
Path: /college-football/college-football-2012-midseason-awards-and-recap
Body:

With the completion of Week 7, the first half of the 2012 college football season is officially in the books. As expected, there have been plenty of surprises from the first two months of action and no shortage of preseason picks gone awry. With West Virginia's loss on Saturday, the race to win the Heisman Trophy is wide open, with Ohio State's Braxton Miller taking a slight lead over Geno Smith. Alabama and Oregon are the favorites to play for the national championship, but both teams still have plenty of hurdles left to clear the rest of the way. While a lot will happen over the second half of the year, it's time to step back and take a look at some of the top performers and disappointments for 2012. 

College Football's Midseason Awards for 2012

Heisman frontrunner: Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Geno Smith’s Heisman hopes didn’t completely disappear in Lubbock, but they certainly took a hit, especially considering West Virginia lost by 35 points to an unranked team. Due to Smith’s setback, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller takes a slight edge as the new Heisman frontrunner. The sophomore has thrown for 1,271 yards and 11 scores, while adding 912 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. Miller ranks 17th nationally with 311.9 total yards per game and also places third nationally in rushing yards by a quarterback. Most importantly, the sophomore has delivered in the clutch this season. With Ohio State still searching for playmakers around him, Miller has produced big plays late in games against California, Michigan State and Nebraska to lead his team to victory. The Ohio State coaching staff would like to reduce Miller’s workload to keep him fresh for the final five games of the year, but the sophomore is simply too valuable and too much of a playmaker to take away his touches.

The Next Four Candidates:

2. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
3. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
4. Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
5. De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
 

Offensive Player of the Year – Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Since Braxton Miller is listed as our Heisman favorite, we thought we would spread the wealth and give Smith the nod as our offensive player of the year for the first half of the season. Despite the disappointing showing at Texas Tech, the senior has thrown for 2,271 yards and 25 scores this year. Smith is completing 75.3 percent of his passes and has yet to toss an interception through the first six games. With match-ups against Kansas State and Oklahoma in the second half of the year, the senior will have a chance to climb back into the Heisman mix, along with pushing West Virginia into contention for a BCS bowl.

Honorable Mention:

Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
 

Defensive Player of the Year: Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
Te’o has been simply outstanding this year, as he is the heart and soul for one of the nation’s best defenses through the first seven weeks of the season. The senior leads Notre Dame with 59 stops, has recorded two tackles for a loss, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Te’o’s impact goes beyond the box score, especially in terms of leadership and was a key cog in Notre Dame’s goal-line stand over Stanford in Week 7. It’s not often a defensive player is a serious Heisman contender, but if Te’o continues to perform at this level, he should be one of the five finalists for college football’s most prestigious award.

Honorable Mention:

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
 

Coach of the Year: Mike Riley, Oregon State
After finishing 2011 with a 3-9 record, the expectations were low in Corvallis. Even though Mike Riley had resurrected the program from one of the worst in the nation to respectability, some wondered if he should be on the hot seat if Oregon State got off to a slow start this season. Fast forward to October, and the Beavers are in the thick of the Pac-12 title hunt. Oregon State is one of 12 unbeaten teams and quietly has one of the best resumes in the nation with victories over Wisconsin, UCLA, Arizona, Washington State and BYU. The Beavers are a much-improved team in the stat box, ranking fourth nationally against the run and are averaging 83.9 yards more per game on offense. Oregon State has a shot to be unbeaten when it plays Oregon on Nov. 24, but the biggest takeaway through the first seven weeks is Riley remains one of the Pac-12’s best coaches.

Honorable Mention:

Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Will Muschamp, Florida
Bill Snyder, Kansas State
 

Best Coaching Hire: Urban Meyer, Ohio State
As expected, Meyer and Ohio State have been a perfect combination. The Buckeyes had plenty of talent last season, but the uncertainty surrounding the coaching staff and inexperience of quarterback Braxton Miller contributed to a disappointing 6-7 record. Meyer’s spread attack has ignited an offense that was conservative under former coach Jim Tressel, while turning Miller into a Heisman frontrunner. Ohio State’s defense still needs some work but help is on the way from another impressive recruiting class. Even though the Buckeyes are banned from postseason play, Meyer has this team poised to claim a top-five finish at the end of the year.

Honorable Mention:

Bill O’Brien, Penn State
Kyle Flood, Rutgers
Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
 

Biggest surprise: Notre Dame
It’s a tossup between Oregon State and Notre Dame for this honor, but since we gave Mike Riley the coach of the year spot, let’s give some credit to the Irish. Notre Dame is off to its best start since beginning 8-0 in 2012. High expectations surrounded the Irish last season, but Brian Kelly’s team didn’t quite meet those goals, finishing 8-5 with a loss to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl. However, the Irish are on track to finish with at least 10 victories and make a BCS bowl appearances. Kelly developed an impressive resume at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan and Cincinnati with high-scoring offenses, but it has been the defense leading the way for Notre Dame in 2012. The Irish rank second nationally in scoring defense and are allowing just 287 yards per game. The offense needs to show improvement if Notre Dame wants to challenge for a national title, but a 10-2 season and a BCS bowl would go a long way towards making the Irish a yearly top-10 team once again.

Honorable Mention:

Duke
Florida
Oregon State
Penn State
Rutgers
 

Biggest disappointment: Auburn
No one anticipated Auburn would compete for the national title in 2012, but the Tigers weren’t expected to be this bad either. Auburn is off to its worst start since 1998, opening the year 1-5 with a narrow 31-28 win over Louisiana-Monroe as its only bright spot of the season. Both sides of the ball are to blame, as the Tigers rank 115th nationally in scoring offense and 78th nationally in total defense. Auburn’s quarterback play has been a disaster, and there’s too much talent on this defense to be ranked 12th in the SEC in yards allowed after six games. The Tigers have recruited as well as anyone in the SEC but the results on the field aren’t matching up. With only two winnable games remaining on the schedule, Auburn will likely miss out on a bowl game for the first time since 2008. Even though Gene Chizik won a national title in 2010, he may not be back for 2013.

Honorable Mention:

Arkansas
Michigan State
South Florida
Virginia Tech
 

Breakout player: Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida
Although Florida’s defense has been stingy this year, the real reason for the Gators’ turnaround has been the offense. Gillislee had 920 career rushing yards coming into the season but has been a workhorse through the first six games. The senior has 615 yards and seven rushing scores on 120 attempts, while catching four passes for 26 yards. Gillislee’s best performance came in the win over LSU, rushing for 146 yards and two touchdowns on 34 attempts. The senior’s performance is a key reason why Florida is second in the BCS standings and is one of college football’s top national title contenders.

Honorable Mention:

Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern
 

Top Freshman: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Life in the SEC was supposed to be tough for Texas A&M. However, the emergence of Johnny Manziel has quickly turned the Aggies from a likely .500 finish into a solid top-25 team. The redshirt freshman has thrown for 1,680 yards and 14 touchdowns, while adding 676 yards and 10 scores on the ground. Manziel has tossed only three picks and is completing 69.3 percent of his throws. In addition to his stats, Johnny Football has produced several highlight-reel plays and will be a handful for the rest of the SEC over the next three-plus seasons.

Honorable Mention:

Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Devonte Fields, DE, TCU
 

Coach on the Hot Seat: Joker Phillips, Kentucky
Phillips has experienced some bad luck this season, as the offense has lost two quarterbacks (Maxwell Smith and Patrick Towles), while several young players have been forced to step into significant playing time on both sides of the ball. However, the Wildcats haven’t been competitive in SEC competition and suffered a crushing 32-31 defeat to Western Kentucky in Week 3. Although Phillips led Kentucky to a bowl game in his first season, he is just 6-13 since 2010 and the program has fallen behind Vanderbilt in the new 14-team SEC.

Honorable Mention:

Gene Chizik, Auburn
Derek Dooley, Tennessee
Frank Spaziani, Boston College
Jeff Tedford, California
 

Worst Coaching Hire: Ellis Johnson, Southern Miss
Johnson seemed like a strange fit at Southern Miss when he was hired and so far, the results have matched those initial feelings. The Golden Eagles have played a difficult schedule but are off to a miserable 0-6 start. Southern Miss has struggled to be competitive most of the year, before taking UCF to two overtimes in Week 7. Johnson’s career record as a head coach is 17-34, with previous stints at Gardner-Webb and The Citadel resulting in four .500 or worse seasons. It’s unlikely Johnson will be fired after one year; however, he may not last past 2013 if Southern Miss has another losing season.

Honorable Mention:

Tim Beckman, Illinois
Norm Chow, Hawaii
Carl Pelini, FAU
Charlie Weis, Kansas
 

From Hot Seat to Low Pressure:  Randy Edsall, Maryland
Edsall had a disastrous start to his tenure at Maryland, as the Terrapins went 2-10 last season and 25 players have left the team since his arrival. However, Maryland appears to be one of the most-improved teams in the ACC, doubling its win total from last season with a 4-2 record through six games. With starting quarterback C.J. Brown sidelined for the year with a torn ACL, the Terrapins have been forced to start true freshman Perry Hills at quarterback, but the young passer has held his own and continues to get better with each snap. Even if Edsall doesn’t lead Maryland to a bowl game this season, it’s clear the program is headed back in the right direction.

Honorable Mention:

Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech
 

National Title frontrunners: Alabama vs. Oregon
There’s a lot of football left, but Alabama and Oregon hit the halfway point of the season as the favorites to meet in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Jan. 7. The Crimson Tide’s schedule is very favorable, with a road trip to LSU on Nov. 3 the toughest game the rest of the year. The Ducks have a few more landmines on their schedule, starting with a Thursday night game at Arizona State this week. Oregon also travels to USC, California and Oregon State in the regular season. If both teams manage to navigate the rest of the schedule unbeaten, each will have to survive a conference title game. Alabama has avoided the top teams from the East Division this year, but a match-up against Florida or South Carolina is no cupcake. If Oregon makes it to the Pac-12 title game, a rematch against USC appears likely. If this is the national title match-up, these two teams have never met and it will be Oregon’s second championship appearance against an SEC squad.
 

Newcomer (JUCO) – Morgan Breslin, DE, USC
The defensive line was one of USC’s top concerns in the preseason, but Breslin has emerged as a force in his first season out of the junior college ranks. The Diablo Valley (Calif.) transfer has 26 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss and seven sacks through the first six games. Breslin has been one of the Pac-12’s top defenders through the first half and his play will be especially critical down the stretch, as USC takes on Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA and Notre Dame in November.

Honorable Mention:

Bo Wallace, QB, Ole Miss
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Will Smith, LB, Texas Tech
Deion Belue, CB, Alabama
 

Coach on the Rise: Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky
When the coaching carousel begins later this year, expect Taggart’s name to be floated for many of the top vacancies. The Hilltoppers have won 12 out of their last 14 games, with the only losses coming to Alabama and LSU. In the two seasons prior to Taggart’s arrival, Western Kentucky was 2-22. The Hilltoppers are in good position to make their first bowl appearance since moving to the FBS level in 2008, but keeping Taggart will be a challenge with a couple of marquee jobs likely to be open at the end of the year. 

Honorable Mention:

Gary Andersen, Utah State
Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech
Darrell Hazell, Kent State
Mike MacIntyre, San Jose State


by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven


Related College Football Content

ACC Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

Big East Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

Big Ten Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

Big 12 Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

Pac-12 Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

SEC Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

College Football Week 7 Recap

Teaser:
<p> College Football 2012 Midseason Awards and Recap</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 11:50
Path: /college-football/bcs-standings-2012-statistical-breakdown-championships
Body:

With the first release of the 2012 BCS Standings, Athlon Sports wants to make sure fans are aware of some stats, trends and rankings when sifting through the debut of the rankings that will eventually determine who will play for the national championship.

No. 1 has a 50% chance to play in the BCS National Championship Game
The No. 1 team in the initial BCS release has gone on to play in the national championship game seven of the 14 total releases. LSU was No. 1 in the first poll last season, but the Bayou Bengals were the first team since Ohio State in 2007 to debut at No. 1 and still play in the title game. But there is bad news coming for the Alabama Crimson Tide...

However, No. 1 doesn’t win the national title
Yes, seven of the 14 BCS title games featured a team ranked No. 1 in the debut release of the standings. But the last four — and five of seven — No. 1s have lost in the national championship game. LSU (2011), Ohio State (2007, '06) and USC (2005) all debuted in the BCS at No. 1, made it to the title game and lost. Florida State in 1999 and USC in 2004 are the only teams to win the national title after debuting at No. 1. Oklahoma in 2003 also began the BCS at No. 1 only to lose in the championship game to LSU.

You better be ranked in the top six
Of the 28 teams that have played in BCS title game, only two of those got there after being ranked outside of the top six in the initial release. In 2003, LSU debuted at No. 12 in the initial BCS standings and is by far the lowest ranked eventual national champion. Florida in 2008 was ranked No. 10 in the first poll and is the only other team to get to the title game after being ranked outside of the top six in the first BCS standings. Here is a breakdown of how the top 12 have fared in the title game:

Ranking in Initial Release Played in Title Game Won Championship
1st 7 2-5
2nd 7 4-3
3rd 4 1-3
4th 4 3-1
5th 1 0-1
6th 3 2-1
7th, 8th, 9th 0 0-0
10th 1 1-0
11th 0 0-0
12th 1 1-0

Projected Championship Game Match-up: Alabama (1) vs. Florida (2)
The odds of this happening are slim. Only twice in 14 years have the top two teams in the first BCS release go on to play in the championship game. In 2005, USC (1) and Texas (2) were clearly the best two teams in the nation and they eventually met in what many consider the greatest college football game ever played. Last year, LSU (1) and Alabama (2) become only the second such meeting. Both times No. 2 went on to win the title.

How should the Florida Gators feel?
Based on the 14-year history of the BCS, the Florida Gators should feel the best about their current title hopes. The No. 2 team in the first release has made it to the championship game about the same number of times as the No. 1 team (7). But while No. 1 is 2-5 in title game performances, No. 2 has won more titles than any other slot in the first release (4-3). This means the Gators have the best statistical chance of winning the national championship. 

Sneaky Pick: Kansas State Wildcats
While No. 1 and No. 2 make it to the title game the most, the No. 4 team in the first BCS standings has the best record in the national championship game. Fourth place is 3-1 in national title games as Miami (2001), LSU (2007) and Auburn (2010) went from fourth to national champ.

Some comfort for LSU
Being in the top six is huge as I previously pointed out, so LSU has to feel good about landing there. Additionally, the sixth place team in the first BCS standings is 2-1 in national title games. Ohio State (2002) and Florida (2006) both went from No. 6 to champions. So don’t count the Tigers out just yet.

Bad News for South Carolina, Oregon State and Oklahoma
No team ranked No. 7, 8 or 9 in the debut of the BCS standings has ever gone on to play in the national championship game. The No. 11 team has never made it either. This is also bad news for the Georgia Bulldogs. Alas, it also means we won't get the highly anticipated Beavers-Gamecocks match-up fans have been clamoring about for years.

New faces or traditional powers?
No team has ever played for the national title coming from outside of the top 12. But fans could expect to see a totally new look to the championship game this fall. Of the top 12, six have never made an appearance in the BCS championship game. However, of the other six teams, five have won the BCS national championship. Only Oregon has played in the title game and not claimed at least one crystal football.

How many Top 10 teams stay in contention?
On average, 6.4 teams per season ranked in the top 10 of the first release will stay in the top 10 for the final release. This means that 3-4 teams ranked in the top 10 right now will fade from relevance. Who are the most likely candidates? Oregon State? South Carolina? Oklahoma?

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

Three and Out: Week 7 Recap

ACC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big East 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big Ten 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big 12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Pac-12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
SEC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review 

Teaser:
<p> BCS Standings 2012: A Statistical Breakdown of Championships</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 11:22
Path: /nfl/denver-broncos-vs-san-diego-chargers-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Two divisional foes coming off painful road losses will clash on Monday Night Football, when the San Diego Chargers host the Denver Broncos at 8:30 p.m. EST on ESPN. The Lightning Bolts appeared to be on their way to a 4-1 start with a 24-14 lead over the Saints late in the third quarter last week, but New Orleans would rally with 17 unanswered points to win 31-24 and send San Diego home with a 3-2 mark. The Denver defense was gashed in New England eight days ago, as the Patriots piled up 251 rushing yards in a 31-21 defeat of the Broncos.

When the San Diego Chargers have the ball:
The Chargers offense entered the weekend ranked 23rd in the NFL in yards per game (334.8) but 13th in scoring (24.8 ppg), so Philip Rivers and company have done a good job of capitalizing on their opportunities. The veteran quarterback has spread the ball around this season, as five San Diego pass catchers have double-digit receptions. And that does not include offseason signee Robert Meachem, who had two touchdowns versus New Orleans. The Chargers will look for a big game from running back Ryan Mathews, who had 139 total yards and a score last week and has torched the Broncos defense in the past.

The Denver defense has been very inconsistent under new coordinator Jack Del Rio, digging early holes against top opponents. In their three losses to Atlanta, Houston and New England, the Broncos have allowed a combined 58 first-half points. That must stop if Denver is going to compete with the Chargers in the AFC West. The Broncos must also start generating turnovers, as they have totaled only four takeaways in five games. Denver will look to limit Mathews while pressuring Rivers, who has been sacked 14 times this season.

When the Denver Broncos have the ball:
The Broncos have started to adjust to new quarterback Peyton Manning, but turnovers, offensive line injuries and an average running game have hurt the offense. The four-time MVP has thrown for 975 yards and eight touchdowns against no interceptions over the last three games, but Denver has lost two of those contests. The Broncos have a potential star in receiver Demaryius Thomas, but he has lost a fumble in three straight games. Denver needs to get more out of veteran runner Willis McGahee, but the early deficits have hurt his opportunities.

The Chargers defense has been solid against the run this season, ranking fifth in the NFL. McGahee has had past success versus San Diego, so he will be a focal point as the Chargers look to make the Broncos one-dimensional. Manning struggled against San Diego during his days with the Colts, and John Pagano’s unit will try to continue that trend by adding to its 10 takeaways on the season.

Key Factor:
The Broncos defense must simply solve its first-half issues and not keep putting the team into uphill battles in key games. The team that can establish a running attack will have a huge advantage in this Monday night battle. The early AFC West lead is at stake in San Diego, and we’ll take the home team to prevail with Rivers and Mathews leading the way.

Prediction:
Chargers 27 Broncos 23


---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Teaser:
<p> Denver Broncos vs. San Diego Chargers Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 07:19
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/eight-amazing-stats-nfl-sunday-week-6
Body:

NFL football is the greatest reality TV program of all time. The Giants and Colts made sure of that back in 1958. Each NFL fall weekend is a completely new and original experience for every player, fan and coach alike. New stories, new personalities, new winners and new losers. And new statistics.

Here are the most important, most intriguing and most bizarre statistics from Week 6 of NFL play:

12-for-12: Redskins have scored in all 12 goal-to-go situations
After going a perfect 3-for-3 in the come-from-behind win over Minnesota, the Redskins are now a perfect 12-for-12 in goal-to-go situation in 2012. More importantly, Robert Griffin III has led his team to 11 touchdowns in those 12 first-and-goals and just one field goal. This indicates that the offensive line is finishing drives and RG3 is protecting the football deep in the opponent's red zone. The talented first-year QB finished with 138 yards rushing, including an electric game-clinching 76-yard touchdown run. The 138 yards are the most since Michael Vick rushed for 166 in 2006 and the TD run was the longest by an NFL quarterback since Kordell Stewart broke off an 80-yard scoring run back in 1996.

5-of-7: NFC teams with a winning record who lost on Sunday
Since the 4-1 Chicago Bears were on a bye this weekend, there were only seven NFC teams with winning records playing on Week 6. Five of those seven lost. Four of the five came against teams with a losing record and three of those five came at home. The NFC is clearly the dominant conference, claiming all three divisions with a winning record: NFC West (15-9), NFC North (12-9) and NFC East (12-11). Wins from teams like Detroit and Washington this weekend only further indicate just how deep and complicated the NFC is in 2012. Add to it a Green Bay win over Houston in impressive fashion and the NFC claims the last unbeaten in 6-0 Atlanta.

16-0: Packers record when Jordy Nelson has at least 75 receiving yards
The Green Bay Packers are unbeaten when star wideout Jordy Nelson catches at least 75 receiving yards, including a 2-0 postseason mark. Aaron Rodgers was downright ruthless Sunday night and No. 87 abused the Texans secondary to the tune of nine receptions, 122 yards and three touchdowns. The Pack also moves to 15-3 in the regular season when the Kansas State wide receiver catches at least one touchdown (29-20 when he does not). This was a statement win for the reeling Packers and Rodgers' aerial assault in Houston has Green Bay right back into the heart of the NFC race. And for good measure, after two touchdown receptions Sunday night against the Texans, James Jones now leads the NFL in receiving touchdowns with seven.

10:30: Time left in the fourth quarter and the Eagles leading 16-6
The Lions scored a touchdown with 10:30 left in the game trailing 16-6. The Matt Stafford one-yard touchdown run was the first of four different scoring drives, including the last three of the game, resulting in 20 points to cap the game for the Lions — a 26-23 road overtime win. This game was virtually dead even other than one major statistic. Detroit ran 73 plays and got 25 first downs while Philly ran 78 plays for 24 first downs. Stafford threw 45 passes while Michael Vick attempted 46. The Lions ran the ball 28 times while the Eagles ran it 29 times. Both teams had 14 total possessions and 15 passing first downs. And after 60 minutes, both teams had 23 points. But the only stat that matters? The big reason the Lions went on a 20-7 run while the City of not-so-Brotherly Love watched its team collapse? Michael Vick's 13th turnover (8 INT, 5 FL). After three more giveaways, he is on pace for 37 turnovers this year.

10-0: Giants record when Ahmad Bradshaw rushes for 100 yards
Ahmad Bradshaw carried the ball 27 times for 116 yards and a touchdown in the dominating road win over the 49ers. It took Bradshaw until his 43rd career game before he got at least 20 carries, but the Giants are now 7-1 when the former Marshall running back gets 20+ rushing attempts — 10-0 when he tops the century mark. His 27 carries were his second-most carries in a game, trailing only the 30 he got last week against Cleveland. The 49ers offense, on the other hand, were held to roughly half (314 yards) of its franchise record output set last week against the Bills (621 yards). Alex Smith has now been sacked nine times in the last two meetings with the Giants — including last year's NFC Championship game.

108 and 13: A.J. Green's NFL record catches and TDs in first 21 career games
No wide receiver has had a better start to a career than Cincinnati's second-year superstar. He has 108 receptions, 1,685 yards and 13 touchdown catches — two of which are the best in the history of the sport for anyone in their first 21 games. Green is leading the NFL in receiving yards (628), is second in receiving touchdowns (6) and is third behind only Percy Harvin (49) and Wes Welker (48) in receptions. His current rate of production would put him on pace for 115 receptions, 1,675 yards and 16 touchdowns, all three of which would have ranked No. 2 in the NFL last year. He has quickly become one of the most uncoverable players in the league and has obviously developed an excellent rapport with fellow youngster Andy Dalton.

67.8: Yards rushing per game for Dallas prior to Week 6
If the Cowboys are going to make a push for a playoff spot, improving their 30th ranked rushing attack at 67.8 yards per game was a must. Despite coming up just short on the road on Sunday to fall to 2-3, Jason Garrett can take comfort in how his ground game performed. The Boys rushed 42 times for 227 yards — a franchise record for rushing yards allowed by a Baltimore Ravens defense — at a hearty 5.4 yards per carry clip. The injury-prone DeMarco Murray rushed for 93 yards before leaving with a foot injury in the second half, but Felix Jones picked up the slack with 92 yards and a touchdown of his own. With many of the NFC contenders losing in Week 6, Dallas is clearly right in the thick of the playoff hunt. And if Garrett's bunch can run the rock like it did against Baltimore, they will be in the mix until all season long. It also makes Tony Romo's job dramatically easier.

252: Jets total rushing yards
The Jets' 252 yards rushing on Sunday was the most productive game for the New York franchise since Week 17 of 2010. It was more than the three previous games combined (207 yards) and was 169 yards more than the season average of 83.0 yards per game. Shonn Greene was a monster in the easy win over the Colts, rushing for a career-high 161 yards, or 38 more than his previous four games combined, and three touchdowns. It was his fifth career 100-yard effort. As a side note, Tim Tebow had seven yards on four carries.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 06:55
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At the midpoint of the 2012 season, it’s time to take a look at the first half and predict how the second half will turn out in the SEC.

First-Half Awards

Coach of the Year — Will Muschamp, Florida
After struggling through a difficult first season — the Gators’ 3–5 record in the SEC in 2011 was the school’s worst since 1986 — Muschamp has the Gators in the thick of the SEC East race in Year 2. Florida improved to 6–0 overall and 5–0 in the league with a 31–17 win at Vanderbilt on Saturday. The Gators are winning with defense and power-running game — a formula that has served Muschamp’s former boss, Nick Saban, quite well over the years. Senior tailback Mike Gillislee ranks second in the SEC in rushing with 102.5 yards per game and is on pace to be Florida’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2004. The defense has been dominant, ranking 13th in the nation in total yards and sixth in points allowed.

Freshman of the Year — Todd Gurley, Georgia
Johnny Manziel is the midseason Offense Player of the Year, so we will tab Gurley as the SEC’s top freshman. The 6-1, 218-pound native of North Carolina ranks fourth in the SEC in rushing with 95.8 yards per game on a healthy 7.1-yard average. He has topped the 100-yard mark in four of six games and had back-to-back 130-yard efforts in wins over Vanderbilt and Tennessee. Fellow freshman tailback Keith Marshall is averaging 77.5 yards per game and 7.3 yards per carry.

Newcomer of the Year — Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
Patterson has lived up to the hype in his first season out of junior college. The 6-3, 205-pound wide receiver is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Through six games, Patterson has 23 catches for 315 yards and three touchdowns and has carried the ball 11 times for 214 yards (19.5 per rush) and two scores. He teams with junior Justin Hunter to form one of the nation’s most dangerous wide receiver tandems.

Offensive Player of the Year — Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Manziel, a one-time Oregon commitment, has been spectacular for Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies in their first season in the SEC. A true dual-threat quarterback, Manziel is one of three quarterbacks in the nation with over 1,500 yards passing and 500 yards rushing. He has been efficient throwing the ball, completing 67.4 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Most important, he’s winning: The Aggies are 5–1 overall and 2–1 in the SEC, with the only loss coming by three points to Florida in their season-opener. Manziel was at his best in A&M’s 59–57 win at Louisiana Tech on Saturday night. He broke is own SEC record for total yards in a game (576) by throwing for 395 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 181 and three scores.

Defensive Player of the Year — Jadaveon Clowney, South Carolina
Georgia’s Jarvis Jones received a lot of buzz early in the season, but Clowney has been the most dominant defender in the first half of 2012. A freakishly athletic 6-6, 256-pound defensive end, Clowney spearheads a defense that has limited all seven opponents — including five in conference play — to 17 points or fewer. Clowney, the likely No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, has recorded 31 tackles, including 12.0 for a loss (with 6.5 sacks).

Midseason Disappointment (Team) — Auburn
Just two years removed from winning the national championship, Auburn is now the worst the team in the SEC West. The Tigers secured that dubious honor by losing on Saturday at Ole Miss, which had not won an SEC game since October 2010. Auburn is 1–5 overall and 0–4 in the SEC and ranks last in the league in total offense and 12th in total defense. The Tigers head to Nashville this week to play Vanderbilt in a game Gene Chizik cannot afford to lose.

Midseason Disappointment (Player) — Knile Davis, Arkansas
Maybe he’s not 100 percent healthy after missing last season with an ankle injury, but Davis has yet to show the skills that made him one of the elite offensive players in the nation in the final two-thirds of the 2010 season. Through seven games, Davis has a total of 337 yards on 98 carries for an alarmingly low 3.4 yards-per-carry average — almost three yards less than his career average heading into the ’12 season.

Midseason Surprise (Team) — Florida
Mississippi State deserves a ton of credit for its 6–0 start, but Florida gets the nod thanks to its top-5 ranking and the quality of its wins. The Gators, a fringe-top-25 team in the preseason, already have three SEC road wins and have a victory over LSU at home. There are still more hurdles to climb — the Gators play South Carolina and Georgia in the next two weeks — but right now Florida looks like the best team in the much-improved SEC East.

Midseason Surprise (Player) — Jeff Driskel, Florida
The quarterback position was a huge concern for Florida heading into the 2012 season. Now it’s a strength. Driskel has emerged as a weapon in the Gators’ run-first offense and has also shown the ability to hurt defense’s in the passing game. He has completed 74-of-111 passes for 836 yards with four touchdowns and only one interception. He had moderate success running the ball in Florida’s first five games but then busted out with 181 yards (a record for a Gator quarterback) and three touchdowns in a 31–17 win at Vanderbilt Saturday night.

What Athlon Sports got right — We weren’t exactly going out on a limb, but Kentucky was the preseason pick to finish last in the SEC East. We also projected a three-way tie for fourth place in the East between Missouri, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, and it looks like all three teams will be jockeying for position in the middle of the division throughout the conference season.

What Athlon Sports got wrong — We undervalued South Carolina and Florida, projecting both to finish 5–3 and in a tie for second place in the East behind Georgia. We thought LSU would finish ahead of Alabama in the West, but it looks as though the Crimson Tide will represent the division in the SEC title game. And we also didn’t envision that Auburn would be quite so bad. We picked the Tigers to finish with a .500 mark in the SEC and in fourth place in the West.

Second-Half Predictions

Here’s how we think things will look at the conclusion of the 2012 season.

SEC East
1. Florida
2. South Carolina
3. Georgia
4. Tennessee
5. Vanderbilt
6. Missouri
7. Kentucky

SEC West
1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. Mississippi State
4. Texas A&M
5. Arkansas
6. Ole Miss
7. Auburn


Three Things to Watch

Coaches on the Hot Seat — Joker Phillips is almost assuredly gone at Kentucky, and the John L. Smith experiment will come to an end some time in December, but what about the other coaches on the hot seat? Can Derek Dooley do enough in the second half of the season to save his job? Conventional wisdom suggest that Dooley must win at least eight games, but would an 8–4 record that doesn’t include a quality win in SEC play be enough to give him another year? What about Gene Chizik? Would the Auburn administration pull the plug only two years after he won a national title. Here’s some advice for Chizik: Don’t lose to Vanderbilt next week in Nashville.

LSU’s offense — The Tigers, as usual, are fielding a championship defense. The offense, however, isn’t quite doing its part. Through six games, LSU ranks 73rd in the nation in total offense (395.7) and 49th in scoring offense (32.0 ppg). In three SEC games, wins over Auburn and South Carolina and a loss at Florida, the Tigers have scored a total of 41 points. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who was expected to upgrade the passing attack, ranks 10th in the SEC in passing efficiency and has only six touchdown passes in seven games. Despite the disappointing showing in Gainesville two weeks ago, LSU is still very much alive in the national title race. The offense, however, must improve significantly for this team to live up to its preseason expectations.

Auburn’s question to win a game — Take a look at Auburn’s schedule. If the Tigers don’t win this weekend at Vanderbilt — and they opened as an 8-point underdog — it’s quite possible they will end the 2012 SEC season with an 0–8 record. After Saturday’s trip to Nashville, Auburn hosts Texas A&M (Oct. 27) and Georgia (Nov. 10) and plays at Alabama (Nov. 24) — games that range from difficult to very difficult to sure death. The Tigers have gone winless in the SEC five times, most recently in 1980 when Doug Barfield’s final team went 0–6.


Three Games to Watch in the Second Half

1. South Carolina at Florida, Oct. 20 — The winner of next week’s showdown at the Swamp will emerge as a strong favorite to represent the East in the SEC Championship Game. Two years ago, South Carolina clinched its first-ever SEC East title with an impressive 36–14 win over the Gators in Gainesville. This Florida team, however, is much tougher — both physically and mentally. It should be a great game.

2. Alabama at LSU, Nov. 3 — The hype won’t be quite as outrageous as last year, but this is still the game of the year in the SEC. Alabama is the consensus No. 1 team in the country, and LSU proved last week in its win over South Carolina that it’s still very capable of beating any team in the nation.

3. Florida vs. Georgia, Oct. 27 — Georgia’s ego took a big hit with its humbling 35–7 loss at South Carolina a few weeks ago, but this still a very good team that can still have a special season. The Dawgs need some help, but don’t rule out a return to Atlanta for the SEC title game. Beating Florida in Jacksonville, however, is a must.

Post-Week 7 Power Rankings

1. Alabama — Crimson Tide overpower Missouri to remain unbeaten.

2. Florida — It wasn't easy, but Gators survive in Nashville thanks to Jeff Driskel.

3. LSU — Tigers' defense shuts down Gamecocks attack.

4. South Carolina — Did Carolina's title hope die in Death Valley?

5. Georgia — Dawgs still very much alive in SEC East race.

6. Mississippi State — Russell was the better Tyler as State stays perfect.

7. Texas A&M — Johnny Manziel runs and throws Aggies past Louisiana Tech.

8. Tennessee — Vols doomed by slow start in Starkville.

9. Arkansas — Hogs dominate Kentucky with ease.

10. Vanderbilt — Special teams was the difference in loss vs. Florida.

11. Ole Miss — Rebels pick up first SEC win in two years.

12. Missouri — Shorthanded Tigers no match for powerful Alabama.

13. Auburn — Tigers show signs of life on offense but lose in Oxford.

14. Kentucky — Wildcats whipped in every phase in Fayetteville. 

@AthlonMitch

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ACC Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions

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Big 12 Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions

Teaser:
<p> At the midpoint of the 2012 season, it’s time to take a look at the first half and predict how the second half will turn out in the SEC.</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 06:45
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Body:

The first half of the Big 12 season is in the books. It’s been a strong first seven weeks for the conference, as four teams are ranked in the Associated Press poll and only one team is out of bowl contention (Kansas). The Big 12 still has a legitimate national title contender, along with two players who could get into the Heisman mix (Geno Smith and Collin Klein). It’s still a wide-open battle to win the conference, but Kansas State, West Virginia and Oklahoma appear to be the frontrunners. However, Texas Tech cannot be ignored after last week’s win over the Mountaineers.

Coach of the Year – Bill Snyder, Kansas State
Underrate the Wildcats at your own risk. Kansas State was picked by most to finish outside of the top four in the preseason, yet hit the midpoint of the year as the No. 1 team in the conference. Once again, Snyder’s team isn’t overwhelming or overly impressive on paper but always finds ways to win games. Kansas State simply isn’t beating itself, as the Wildcats are averaging just three penalties per game and rank seventh nationally in turnover margin. Quarterback Collin Klein has carried this offense, averaging 264 yards per game, but running back John Hubert is quietly averaging 101 yards per contest. Kansas State is 3-0 in Big 12 play after seven weeks and has a huge test at West Virginia next Saturday. Snyder isn’t flashy and will never have the nation’s most prolific offense. However, the Wildcats are a national title contender and can take a commanding lead in the Big 12 standings with a win in Morgantown.

Freshman of the Year – Devonte Fields, DE, TCU
Fields was one of TCU’s top recruits and has lived up to the hype through the first six weeks of the season. The true freshman leads the Big 12 with 6.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for a loss. In the 42-21 win over Baylor, Fields recorded five tackles, one sack and one forced fumble. With Stansly Maponga on the other side, TCU has one of the nation’s most dangerous end combinations.

Newcomer of the Year – Damien Williams, RB, Oklahoma
Williams came to Oklahoma via the junior college ranks and has helped to spark a rushing attack that ranked seventh in the Big 12 last year. The junior had back-to-back 100-yard efforts to open the season and gashed Texas for 167 yards and one score on 22 attempts last Saturday. The Sooners have one of the Big 12’s top passing attacks but needed to establish more balance this year. If Williams continues to average 7.7 yards per carry, he should be a lock for first-team All-Big 12 honors, and Oklahoma’s rushing offense should be in great shape the rest of the year.

Offensive Player of the Year – Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Even though Smith didn’t have a standout performance against Texas Tech, he still gets the edge for the top spot in this category. Smith has thrown 25 touchdowns and 2,291 yards, while tossing no interceptions through the first six games. Although the win over Texas looks worse with its loss to Oklahoma, Smith threw for 268 yards and four touchdowns in a key road victory against the Longhorns. Although West Virginia is out of the national title picture, there’s still plenty (Big 12 title and BCS bowl) for Smith and his team to play for in the second half of the year.

Defensive Player of the Year – Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
This is a tough award to hand out after the first half of the season. The Big 12 has produced a handful of solid defensive performances so far but none that standout as the clear No. 1 pick. However, let’s give a slight nod to Brown, who has 47 stops, four tackles for a loss, one sack and three passes broken up this year. While Brown’s stats aren’t eye-popping, his presence has been a big reason why Kansas State ranks 15th nationally against the run and no opponent has scored more than 21 points this year. In addition to Brown, Iowa State linebackers Jake Knott and A.J. Klein, Texas defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor, Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin, and TCU end Devonte Fields all deserve consideration for this spot.

Midseason Disappointment (Team) – Texas
With 12 returning starters and a three-win improvement from 2010 to 2011, most expected the Longhorns would return to a spot among the top 10 teams in college football. That’s still possible but would seem like a longshot for Texas at this point of the year. The Longhorns have allowed 111 points in the last two games, which is a shock considering this unit was hailed as one of the nation’s best in the preseason. Although quarterback David Ash has played better this year, he was off against Oklahoma and the rushing attack has been average the last two weeks. If Texas continues to struggle the rest of the year, it’s fair to wonder if coach Mack Brown will be back on the sidelines next season.

Midseason Disappointment (Player) – Dayne Crist, QB, Kansas
No one expected Crist to lead Kansas to the Big 12 title but most expected he would be an upgrade over last year’s quarterbacks. However, Crist has been awful so far, throwing for 1,088 yards and three touchdowns, while tossing seven interceptions. Redshirt freshman Michael Cummings replaced Crist against Oklahoma State and may see more playing time the rest of the year. 

Midseason Surprise (Team) – Texas Tech
After the disastrous finish to last season, Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville was on the hot seat and the Red Raiders were picked by many to finish in the bottom three spots in the Big 12. A soft non-conference schedule allowed Texas Tech to build some early confidence, but it’s clear this team is no fluke. The Red Raiders owned one of the nation’s worst defenses last year but held West Virginia to 14 points and have allowed only one opponent to manage more than 20 points this season. New defensive coordinator Art Kaufman has been one of the best assistant hires in college football and has finally brought some stability to that side of the ball. As usual, the offense is deadly, but the defense has been a key point of the turnaround. Texas Tech still has games remaining against TCU, Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma State, but getting to eight wins and a solid bowl game is a good sign for Tuberville and his staff.

Midseason Surprise (Player) – David Ash, QB, Texas
Anytime a true freshman plays the way Fields has through the first six weeks, it’s certainly notable and worth a mention in this space. However, since Fields earned the freshman of the year award, let’s spread the wealth a little bit and give Ash a mention. Sure, his performance against Oklahoma was forgettable and he may be out with an injured wrist this week, but Ash has thrown for 1,389 yards and 11 touchdowns through the first six games. The sophomore’s emergence gave Texas’ offense more balance than it had last year, but Ash still needs to play better than he did against the Sooners (113 yards, two picks) if the Longhorns want to get back to a BCS bowl.

What Athlon Sports got right: With so much uncertainty still surrounding the Big 12 standings, it’s hard to call much right or wrong at this point of the year. However, Athlon predicted Oklahoma would finish as the conference champ, which is still possible after its win over Texas. And it should be no surprise Kansas was picked to finish last in the conference and is clearly on its way to end up in 10th this year.

What Athlon Sports got wrong: As we mentioned with the other section, the Big 12 still has a lot to sort out in the second half of the year. However, it’s clear we missed on Kansas State, who we picked to finish sixth in the final standings. The Wildcats are the only Big 12 team without a loss in conference play and appear to be the favorite to win the conference crown in 2012. Also, picking Texas Tech to finish eighth seems low after the Red Raiders knocked off West Virginia in Week 7.

Second Half Predictions

Here's how Athlon predicts the standings will look at the end of the regular season.

1. Kansas State
2. West Virginia
3. Oklahoma
4. Texas
5. Oklahoma State
6. Texas Tech
7. TCU
8. Baylor
9. Iowa State
10. Kansas


Three Things to Watch in the Second Half

Who Wins the Big 12? – Through seven weeks, there isn’t a ton of clarity in the battle to win the Big 12. Kansas State is the conference’s only unbeaten team, but it has a showdown against West Virginia next Saturday. Thanks to a blowout win over Texas, Oklahoma cannot be counted out of the title picture. Don’t be surprised if the top contenders in this league each has at least one conference loss, which could make it difficult for the Big 12 to have a representative in the national title game.

Heisman Winner? – Even though West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith had an off day against Texas Tech, the senior still has to be considered one of the frontrunners to win the Heisman. Smith has 25 touchdown passes and has yet to throw an interception through the first six games. Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein continues to inch his way into the Heisman discussion, recording 292 overall yards and three scores against Iowa State. If Smith and Klein continue to perform like they have, it’s possible the Big 12 has two players in New York City for the trophy presentation.

Where does Texas go? – After a 4-0 start, it looked like Texas was back on track. However, after the last two weeks, there’s plenty of unrest starting to creep back into Austin. The Longhorns have allowed 111 points in their last two games and there’s simply no excuse for losing to Oklahoma 63-21. If Mack Brown and his staff can’t find some answers in the second half of the year, is it possible a coaching change could be coming?
 

Five Games to Watch in the Second Half

Kansas State at West Virginia (Oct. 20) – This matchup has lost some of its appeal after the Mountaineers’ loss in Week 7. However, with a win, West Virginia can climb back into Big 12 title contention.

Notre Dame at Oklahoma (Oct. 27) – Barring an unexpected loss, the Irish should be 7-0 when they visit Norman.

West Virginia at Oklahoma State (Nov. 10) – Dana Holgorsen returns to Stillwater, which comes one week before West Virginia’s matchup against Oklahoma.

Oklahoma at West Virginia (Nov. 17) – If the Mountaineers beat Kansas State this Saturday, this game figures to be an elimination game in the Big 12 standings.

Texas at Kansas State (Dec. 1) – The Wildcats have won the last four matchups against Texas.
 

Post-Week 7 Power Rankings

1. Kansas State (6-0, 2-0 Big 12) – It’s not pretty, but the Wildcats always find a way to win. Kansas State’s victory over Iowa State sets up a huge showdown against West Virginia next Saturday.

2. Oklahoma (4-1, 2-1) – The Sooners have thrashed Texas by a combined score of 118-38 in their last two meetings. Not only was it a huge victory to beat their rival, Oklahoma stays alive for the Big 12 title.

3. West Virginia (5-1, 2-1) – The Mountaineers were due for a letdown after beating Texas last Saturday and having to make back-to-back long road trips. However, losing 49-14 is certainly worse than most expected and knocks West Virginia out of the national title picture.

4. Texas Tech (5-1, 2-1) – New coordinator Art Kaufman has made a huge difference in Lubbock, as Texas Tech’s defense shut down West Virginia and propelled the Red Raiders to an upset 49-14 victory.

5. TCU (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) – After losing to Iowa State, the Horned Frogs appeared to be in a lot of trouble, especially with quarterback Casey Pachall sidelined for the rest of the year. Not so fast. TCU rebounded with an impressive 49-21 victory over Baylor to move to 5-1 on the year.

6. Texas (4-2, 1-2 Big 12) – There’s still a long way to go in the 2012 season, but it’s fair to wonder if this program is any better than it was from last year. The Longhorns are out of the Big 12 title mix and now have to set their sights on getting to 10 wins and a BCS bowl.

7. Oklahoma State (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) – A weather delay certainly didn’t help, but Saturday’s victory over Kansas was an overall sluggish performance for the Cowboys.

8. Iowa State (4-2, 1-2 Big 12) – The Cyclones had a chance to knock off Kansas State, but the offense just couldn’t make enough plays late in the fourth quarter to get into scoring position.

9. Baylor (3-2, 0-2 Big 12) – After winning their first three games to start the year, the Bears have lost two in a row, including a surprise defeat to TCU in Week 7.

10. Kansas (1-5, 0-3 Big 12) – The Jayhawks gave Oklahoma State all it could handle but are winless in Big 12 play since beating Colorado on Nov. 6, 2010. 
 

by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

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Teaser:
<p> Big 12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 06:21

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