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After 25 races, the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season will roll into Richmond International Raceway for the final event before the 12-driver Chase field is set. While the top 10 is essentially a lock, the race for the wild card positions is all about wins, with eight drivers still eligible for the two spots.

Although the points will reset for the Chase drivers after the checkered flag falls on Saturday night, the fantasy NASCAR season will roll on. What you will need to pay close attention to is what each driver in Saturday night's field has at stake.

With a host of differing agendas, many look at this race as a “no-holds-barred,” anything-goes contest. There is a ton of risk for those trying grab the two wild card spots, yet no risk at all for many others.

While Kasey Kahne leads the wild card contenders with two victories, the drivers to watch Saturday night are Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon. The two with the most on the line this weekend, both have stellar records at Richmond and will be doing all they can to put their cars in Victory Lane.

For Busch, there could be no better track than the .75-mile Richmond International Raceway. His lone win this season came here in April, he has the best average finish among active drivers (4.7), and has four wins in the last seven races — winning every other race dating back to May 2009.

However, this season has been anything but ordinary for Busch and his Dave Rogers-led team. Inconsistency, poor luck, wrecks and engine failures have led to his most difficult campaign since his sophomore season in 2007. Given the struggles, Busch says he feels “OK” about his chances of making the Chase, but knows there are no guarantees going into Saturday night’s race.

“I’m not saying I’m for sure going to be in at all,” he admits. “Anything can happen. Jeff is no slouch at Richmond, either. He will be fine. I feel like he’s the guy we’re racing — the 24 car. We’ll just have to see how it all plays out. Jeff could give us a run for our money.”

Truer words have never been spoken by young Busch. If he wants to make the Chase he must beat a four-time series champion in Gordon to do so.

Since the summer stretch kicked off, Gordon and his Alan Gustafson-led team have been in contention to win nearly every week. In the 11 races since Michigan in June, Gordon has scored one win, five top 5s and eight top 10s, with a 21st-place finish at Watkins Glen due to a late-race spin in oil. In the last five races alone, Gordon has one win, a second and a third.

However, for one of NASCAR’s most decorated drivers, those numbers have not been enough to secure a Chase bid. He knows in order to celebrate his 20th season in the Cup Series with a shot at title No. 5, he has to win on Saturday night.

Taking a different approach than Busch, Gordon’s attention will be on his race — not the competitions’.

“Our focus won’t be on what ‘this team’ is doing or what ‘this driver’ is doing,” he says. “We’re just going to focus on our own program like we always do. We’ll focus on tuning the car, communicating and working the setup the best we possibly can to try to have the fastest racecar. I’m not going into the race thinking that we’ve got to finish 12 positions ahead of Kyle. I’m thinking we have to win.”

Unless Busch and Gordon suffer the poor luck that has put them in this situation in the first place, both should run and finish up front, capable of solid fantasy points.

That said, Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Denny Hamlin, heads to Richmond fresh off consecutive wins, giving him four on the season. Carrying momentum, confidence and the support of the hometown crowd behind him, the driver of the No. 11 Toyota will be hard to beat.

In 13 Cup starts at Richmond, Hamlin has only one finish outside the top 20, three finishes outside the top 10, six finishes of third or better and two wins. With 12 bonus points on his side heading into the Chase, the Virginia native has the opportunity to score another three bonus points with a win Saturday night. For fantasy players, Hamlin is about as sure of a bet as you will find in the field.

For the past few weeks, Carl Edwards has been our fantasy darkhorse pick. Nearly every week he has lived up to that title — while carrying the risk associated with a darkhorse — mixing strong runs with, ultimately, poor finishes.

Down and out after an engine failure ended his Atlanta race (and Chase hopes) early, Edwards struggled to come to terms with his situation after nearly winning the title last season. When the series last raced in Richmond, though, Edwards had the strongest car in the field. Leading 206 of the 400 laps, he was hit with a late-race penalty for beating the leader to the line on a restart and was penalized, forced to swallow a bitter 10th-place finish.

Feeling as if NASCAR stole a win out from under them, Edwards and his No. 99 team are heading to RIR looking for redemption, a little luck and a win. While he has yet to win at Richmond, the Roush Fenway Racing driver has three top 5s and five top 10s in his last five starts. The series runner-up in 2011 is likely to miss the Chase this season, but expect him to go out swinging, scoring strong fantasy points for your team.

Five Favorites: Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

<p> Athlon Sports contributor Jay Pennell looks at fantasy NASCAR favorites and darkhorses for Saturday's Federated Auto Parts 400 from Richmond International Raceway.</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 10:58
Path: /key-games-week-2

College football’s second week of action features the debut of the two newest members of the SEC and a huge road trip for Nebraska.

10 Biggest Games of Week 2

Georgia (-3.5) at Missouri
Missouri’s journey into the SEC begins Saturday in Columbia, Mo., when the Tigers host Georgia, the defending champs of the East. Both teams won their respective openers with ease, though Georgia couldn’t have been thrilled about allowing 347 total yards (199 on the ground) in its 45–23 win over Buffalo. On a positive note, it doesn’t appear the Bulldogs will miss Isaiah Crowell too much; true freshman Todd Gurley, a 6-1, 218-pound North Carolina native, ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns on only eight carries. Missouri quarterback James Franklin, who underwent major shoulder surgery in the spring, was relatively sharp in the Tigers’ 62–10 win over Southeastern Louisiana. He completed 13-of-21 for 131 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Franklin, one of the top playmakers in the SEC when healthy, will have to be at his best on Saturday.
Georgia 27, Missouri 21

Florida (+2.5) at Texas A&M

The other new SEC member, Texas A&M, also plays its first league game this weekend. It will also be the first game of the season for the Aggies, who had their opener vs. Louisiana Tech in Shreveport postponed due to Hurricane Isaac. Now, quarterback Johnny Manziel will make his first career appearance against an outstanding Florida defense that gave up fewer than 300 yards per game in 2011. Speaking of quarterbacks, Florida’s search for a competent signal-caller continues. Jeff Driskel received the majority of the snaps in the Gators’ tougher-than-expected 27–14 win over Bowling Green. His numbers weren’t bad (10-of-16 for 114 yards and one TD), but Florida only had one pass play that went for longer than 18 yards. This offense must be more balanced if the Gators plan on being a factor in the SEC East.
Texas A&M 17, Florida 14

Miami (Fla.)(+7) at Kansas State

Beating Boston College, even on the road, is no reason to get overly excited, but Miami has to feel good about its offense after a 41–32 win in Chestnut Hill. Junior quarterback Stephen Morris was sharp (28-of-45 for 207 yards), but the big story for the Canes was true freshman tailback Duke Johnson, who ran for 135 yards and two scores on only seven rushes. The Miami defense, however, was not quite as impressive. Boston College, which ranked 112th in the nation in both total offense and scoring offense last season, rolled up 542 total yards — 441 through the air and 101 on the ground. Kansas State struggled early against FCS foe Missouri State before pulling away in the fourth quarter in a 51–9 win. The Wildcats are looking for quarterback Collin Klein to be more of a threat throwing the ball this season. He should have a big game, both with his arm and legs, against the suspect Miami defense.
Kansas State 34, Miami (Fla.) 28

Nebraska (-5) at UCLA

It was no great surprise Nebraska beat Southern Miss with such ease — the final was 49–20. Nor that the Cornhuskers had 632 yards of offense. But what was surprising was the play of quarterback Taylor Martinez. The junior, who is known more for his running exploits, completed 26-of-34 passes for 354 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. The Nebraska staff would be thrilled to get that type of production from Martinez on a consistent basis. There was some bad news in Lincoln, however. Tailback Rex Burkhead went down with a sprained MCL in his left knee in the first half and isn’t expected to play this weekend. UCLA pounded Rice in Houston in coach Jim L. Mora’s debut with the Bruins. Tailback Johnathan Franklin ran for 214 yards and three scores on 15 carries, and quarterback Brett Hundley, playing in his first career game, threw for 202 yards and two touchdowns. This is one of the most intriguing games of the weekend. Nebraska has the edge in the trenches, so go with the Huskers.
Nebraska 27, UCLA 21

Washington (+23.5) at LSU

Washington is embarking on a stretch that will feature three of its next five against teams currently ranked among the top four in the nation. In addition to this trip to the Bayou, UW travels to Oregon on Oct. 13 and hosts USC on Oct. 20. The Huskies are making strides under third-year coach Steve Sarkisian, but the program isn’t yet in position to seriously threaten any of the three looming superpowers. Washington features some high-quality offensive players — most notably quarterback Keith Price — but its defense will have a tough time against quality competition. LSU will be tested for the first time after disposing of North Texas in predictable fashion (41–14) in Week 1. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger, in his first start at LSU, completed 19-of-26 for 192 yards and a touchdown. If he plays well — and gives the Tigers’ offense balance — this team will very difficult to beat.
LSU 30, Washington 17

Purdue (+14.5) at Notre Dame
Notre Dame returns to the mainland after an impressive 50–10 win over Navy in Dublin, Ireland. Redshirt freshman Everett Golson was solid in his first career start, but the Irish got it done with their rushing attack. With starter Cierre Wood back in South Bend while serving a two-game suspension, Notre Dame turned to Theo Riddick (19 carries, 107 yards) and George Atkinson III (nine for 99) to power a ground game that averaged 6.4 yards per attempt. Purdue had no trouble with Eastern Kentucky, the alma mater of Boilermakers coach Danny Hope. Starting quarterback Caleb TerBush was suspended for the opener, leaving Robert Marve and Rob Henry, who have played significantly at Pudue, to handle the snaps. On Monday, Hope announced that TerBush will get the start for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame 28, Purdue 17

Vanderbilt (-3.5) at Northwestern

Vanderbilt struggled to move the ball with consistency in a 17¬–13 loss to South Carolina last Thursday. The Dores picked up 276 total yards, but 28.7 percent of the yards came on one play, a 78-yard touchdown from Jordan Rodgers to Jordan Matthews. This week, they will face a Northwestern defense that gave up 596 yards to Syracuse in a thrilling 42¬–41 win at the Carrier Dome. Rodgers and Matthews figure to test the Wildcats’ shaky secondary with frequency. Northwestern, too, will present some problems on offense for Vanderbilt. The Wildcats are likely to play two quarterback; Kain Colter, the starter (if healthy), is a runner who is developing as a passer, while Trevor Siemian is a polished passer who came off the bench to lead NU’s game-winning drive at Syracuse. This is an important game for two programs who are hoping to find six wins to reach bowl-eligibility.
Vanderbilt 34, Northwestern 24

Iowa State (+4) at Iowa
Iowa State scored a total of 15 points en route to losing three straight to Iowa from 2008-10. Last year, however, the Cyclones erupted for 44 points in a three-point win in Ames. The ’12 season got off to good start offensively for Paul Rhoads’ club. The Clones, a surprising home underdog to Tulsa, rolled up 441 yards in a 38–23 win over the Golden Hurricane. Yards will be tougher to come by in Iowa City this weekend. Iowa gave up only 201 total yards (73 on one play) in an 18–17 win over Northern Illinois in Chicago. Take out that one big play — a run by NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch — and the Iowa defense gave up an average of 2.4 yards per play. Offensively, Iowa had to be thrilled to get a big game from tailback Damon Bullock. A sophomore who rushed for a total of 20 yards last season, Bullock carried the ball 30 times for 150 yards. Now, Iowa just needs to keep him healthy. This rivalry game often doesn’t go as expected. This is just a hunch, but I like the Clones on the road.
Iowa State 21, Iowa 20

Auburn (-3) at Mississippi State
This a huge early season showdown between two teams that will be jockeying for position in the middle of the SEC West. Auburn remains a work in progress on defense under first-year coordinator Brian VanGorder. The Tigers, who gave up an average of 421.1 yards in 10 games vs. AQ conference opponents in 2011, struggled to stop Clemson despite giving up only 26 points. Mississippi State, however, doesn’t have offensive weapons like Tajh Boyd and Andre Ellington at Clemson. Mississippi State barely broke a sweat in a win over in-state “rival” Jackson State. The Bulldogs’ offense showed nice balance, with 202 yards rushing and 193 yards passing. They have some playmakers at the wide receiver position; it will be up to quarterback Tyler Russell to get them the ball.
Auburn 24, Mississippi State 21

Pittsburgh (+4) at Cincinnati (Thu)
Paul Chryst appears to be the ideal fit at Pittsburgh, but his tenure as the Panthers’ head coach got off to a miserable start — a 31–17 loss to FCS foe Youngstown State. The most alarming part of the loss? It wasn’t a fluke. The Penguins were the better team. Youngstown State outgained Pitt (381 to 369), converted 11-of-16 on third down and did not commit a turnover. Tino Sunseri, who struggled in Todd Graham’s system, completed 19-of-30 for 239 yards but missed on some key throws. He will need to play better to give this team a chance to be successful. Despite their poor showing, the Panthers are only a four-point underdog on the road to a Cincinnati team that has won or shared three of the past four Big East titles. The Bearcats, however, must replace several significant contributors on both sides of the ball, most notably tailback Isaiah Pead, quarterback Zach Collaros and defensive tackle Derek Wolfe. We’ll find out early this season if the 2012 Bearcats are rebuilding or if they have reloaded for another Big East title run.
Cincinnati 24, Pittsburgh 17

Last week: 9–1 overall (7–3 against the spread)

<p> SEC Newcomers Mizzou and Texas A&amp;M take center stage in Week 2 action of college football</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 09:49
Path: /college-football/sec-week-2-preview-and-predictions

It's a big week in the SEC, as Missouri and Texas A&M open conference play with huge matchups. The Tigers begin their debut season in the SEC with a key showdown against Georgia, while the Aggies host Florida. Washington travels to LSU for an interesting non-conference matchup, while Auburn and Mississippi State square off in an important SEC West showdown.

Other Week 2 conference storylines

ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 

SEC's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 2

1. Texas A&M starts a sophomore and a redshirt freshman at cornerback: Can Florida take advantage?
Some have maintained that Florida played it close to the vest offensively in its Week 1 win over Bowling Green. That may be true, but we still saw nothing from this team that would suggest its offensive problems from a year ago have been solved. Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett combined to connect on 13-of-21 for 145 yards, with only one completion going for more than 18 yards. To have success this weekend in College Station, Florida will have to take advantage of a suspect A&M secondary that is especially green at the corners. It’s time for guys like Quinton Dunbar and Franklie Hammond Jr., or even true freshman Latroy Pittman, to emerge as playmakers.

2. LSU’s defense vs. the tight end
The plan for LSU this week is simple: Contain tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Washington’s 6-6, 266-pound sophomore is among the best players at his position in the nation. He caught nine passes for 82 yards in the Huskies’ 21–9 win over San Diego State and is one of few proven playmakers on the UW offense. Washington figures to have a tough time running the ball against the LSU front seven — especially now that junior Jesse Callier is out with a torn ACL — so the Huskies will lean heavily on the passing attack. Sophomore receiver Kasen Williams is a potential All-Pac-12 talent, but Seferian-Jenkins is emerging as Keith Price’s favorite target. If the Tigers can shut him down, the UW offense will struggle to move the ball with consistency.

3. Georgia is road tested
It’s one of the most highly anticipated games in the history of Missouri football. The crowd at Faurot Field will be at a fever pitch on Saturday afternoon when the Tigers play their first-ever SEC game. But don’t expect Georgia to be spooked by the atmosphere. This is a program that has made a habit of winning in the most difficult environments in the nation under Mark Richt. The numbers are staggering: Georgia is 30–8 in true SEC road games (doesn’t include the Florida games in Jacksonville) the past 11 years, and three of those losses came in one season (2010). “I like away games,” Richt said earlier this week. “I enjoy the travel with the team, and I enjoy the single purpose of the mission. There really aren’t a lot of distractions on the road — at least when it comes to travel, and the night before, and the time before the game. Now when the game kicks off, there is distraction with the crowd noise, but other than that I enjoy away games.”

4. David Yost vs. Todd Grantham
It is, as the saying goes, about the jimmy’s and joe’s, but the X’s and O’s also matter, especially in college football. And we have an intriguing matchup this week of David Yost’s spread offense at Missouri vs. Georgia’s 3-4 defense coordinated by Todd Grantham. “It’s fun to game-plan against good defenses,” Yost said in Wednesday’s Columbia (Mo.) Tribune. “It's fun to game-plan against good defensive coordinators that you know are going to keep bringing stuff at you. You know what you see on the first drive isn’t what you’re going to see all game. They’re going to keep pulling stuff out, so you’ve got to constantly be on your toes.” Georgia ranked fourth nationally in total defense last season — Grantham’s second at the school — and was equally stout against the run and the pass. The Dawgs feature playmakers at all three levels of the defense, highlighted by All-America outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. Missouri will counter with a dual-threat quarterback in James Franklin, who threw for 2,865 yards and rushed for 981 in 2011, his first season as the starter.

5. Vanderbilt’s offense vs. Northwestern’s defense
One week after struggling to move the ball with consistency against South Carolina, Vanderbilt hopes to flex its muscles against a Northwestern defense that gave up 596 yards in a win at Syracuse. The Wildcats allowed 23 plays of 10 yards or more, seven of 20 yards or more and four of 30 yards or more. The NU defensive backs struggled to play the ball and were whistled three times for pass interference and once for defensive holding. Look for Vanderbilt to take advantage of some favorable matchups on the outside with big receivers Chris Boyd (6-5) and Jordan Matthews (6-4). And if the Commodores have success in the passing game, tailback Zac Stacy should be productive running the ball. It could be a big night for the Vanderbilt offense.

6. Can Auburn stop the run in Starkville?
Auburn gave up 320 yards rushing in its 26–19 loss to Clemson in Atlanta in Week 1. The Tigers allowed nine runs of at least 10 yards, including two of at least 40 yards. Gene Chizik and his staff were disappointed with the play of the defensive tackles (failed to get much push) and the safeties (missed too many tackles). Mississippi State isn’t as talented offensively as Clemson, but the Bulldogs have been a very good running team under Dan Mullen, ranking fifth, second and first in the SEC in rushing the last three seasons. Auburn is staring at an 0–2 start if it doesn’t make some significant improvements against the run.

7. Can South Carolina beat East Carolina without Connor Shaw?
Shaw is questionable for Saturday’s home opener after suffering a bruise to his left (non-throwing) shoulder against Vanderbilt. If Shaw can’t go, sophomore Dylan Thompson would be the next man up. The South Carolina offense sputtered with Thompson in the game last Thursday. He went 0-of-3 (and didn’t come close) and was sacked twice. “We’re trying to get his confidence up,” coach Steve Spurrier said on Tuesday. “It’s a struggle. He works at it. He works hard. Sometimes too hard. We have to loosen him up a bit.” That doesn’t sound like a coach who has much confidence in his backup quarterback. If Thompson is forced to start, expect to see a heavy dose of tailback Marcus Lattimore, who looked good in his first game back from a serious knee injury. Despite being favored by more than three touchdowns, the Gamecocks could be in for a serious fight on Saturday if Shaw is not in the lineup.

8. Can Ole Miss avoid an upset?
Ole Miss won in Hugh Freeze’s debut as the head coach, but there were some anxious moments in Oxford. Central Arkansas led 20–14 until midway through the third quarter before the Rebels seized control by scoring twice in a three-minute period. This week, Ole Miss hosts a UTEP team that went toe-to-toe with Oklahoma into the fourth quarter before losing 24–7. The key to avoiding the upset for Ole Miss will be slowing down tailback Nathan Jeffery, who rushed for 177 yards on 21 carries vs. Oklahoma. Last season, Ole Miss allowed at least one 100-yard rusher in 10 of 12 games (and that doesn’t include the LSU game in which five Tigers rushed for at least 50 yards).

9. How many Alabama tailbacks will run for 100 yards vs. Western Kentucky?
Alabama’s tailback rotation, for now, goes four deep, and all four figure to get plenty of carries this week against Western Kentucky. True freshman T.J. Yeldon, the most physically gifted of the group, rushed for 111 yards on 11 carries in the opener against Michigan. Jalston Fowler, Eddie Lacy and Dee Hart all received at least eight carries vs. the Wolverines. Don’t be surprised if three of the four run for at least 100 yards against the Hilltoppers.

10. Can Maxwell Smith continue to shine?
Lost in Kentucky’s disappointing loss at Louisville on Sunday was an outstanding performance by sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith. The California native completed 35-of-50 passes for 280 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Obviously, the UK staff doesn’t want to have its quarterback throw the ball 50 times, but offensive coordinator Randy Sanders would love to have Smith keep his completion percentage up in the 60 percent range and not turn the ball over. Kent State clearly won’t present the type of resistance Smith will face once the Cats enter SEC play, but the Golden Flashes are one of the better defensive teams in the MAC. It would be another positive sign if Smith played well once again this weekend.

Week 2 SEC Predictions

SEC David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light
Auburn at Miss. State (-3) Auburn 14-10 Miss. State 24-20 Miss. State 24-20 Auburn 24-21
E. Carolina at S. Carolina (-22.5) South Carolina 38-6 South Carolina 34-13 South Carolina 34-10 South Carolina 28-10
Florida at Texas A&M TAMU 21-17 TAMU 20-17 Florida 24-20 TAMU 17-14
W. Kentucky at Alabama (-40) Alabama 52-10 Alabama 42-6 Alabama 45-10 Alabama 44-10
Georgia State at Tennessee Tennessee 42-7 Tennessee 38-10 Tennessee 51-7 Tennessee 51-0
UTEP at Ole Miss (-7.5) UTEP 17-13 Ole Miss 28-20 Ole Miss 31-20 Ole Miss 17-14
Washington at LSU (-23.5) LSU 28-14 LSU 38-20 LSU 34-13 LSU 30-17
UL Monroe at Arkansas (-30.5) Arkansas 38-10 Arkansas 42-14 Arkansas 45-17 Arkansas 38-14
Kent State at Kentucky (-7) Kentucky 17-14 Kentucky 30-23 Kentucky 31-17 Kentucky 24-14
Georgia (-2.5) at Missouri Georgia 31-28 Georgia 27-14 Georgia 27-24 Georgia 27-21
Vanderbilt(-3) at Northwestern Vanderbilt 38-35 Vanderbilt 41-38 Vanderbilt 34-27 Vanderbilt 34-24
Season Record 11-1 12-0 11-1 12-0

by Mitch Light


<p> SEC Week 2 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 05:55
Path: /college-football/pac-12-week-2-preview-and-predictions

The story in the Pac-12, at least until Nov. 3, will be attempting to compare Oregon and USC. These were arguably two of the best looking teams in the nation last weekend and, if anything, fans in Eugene should actually be more confident in their quarterback situation. While Chip Kelly and Lane Kiffin are seemingly on a collision course, four new head coaches attempted to kickstart their new tenures. Arizona State and UCLA obliged with force while Arizona slipped past Toledo in overtime, only further muddling the mix of teams behind the Men of Troy in the South. Meanwhile, Wazzu fans weren't so lucky. 

Pac-12's Top 10 Storylines to Watch in Week 2:

1. New Huskies defense heads to the Bayou
It was only one game, but the totally reworked Washington defense played well in Week 1. A totally new coaching staff — along with some talented newcomers — held a normally potent offense to 12 points and 327 total yards while providing three turnovers and four sacks. LSU will be a slightly different beast than the Aztecs, as the Huskies enter Death Valley as a three-touchdown underdog. One of the most powerful offensive lines and deepest running back corps in the nation will put the new U of W defense to the test early and often. There are no such thing as moral victories, but if Washington can keep it close into the fourth quarter, fans will have to be happy about the potential for success against physical Pac-12 offenses like Oregon, USC and Stanford — all of which Washington will face before Oct. 13.

2. Week 1 duds look for critical rebounds in Week 2
I will be the first to stand up and be counted. I felt strongly that Washington State was going to give BYU a tough run for their money last weekend. That certainly wasn't the case as Wazzu completely wet the bed in Provo. The Cougars weren't the only team to disappoint out West, however, as Colorado and Cal were upset by Colorado State and Nevada respectively. All three head coaches desperately need to win in Week 2 and all three face FCS opponents. These three should go 3-0 this weekend, but Eastern Washington — who beat Idaho on the road last week — won't be an easy out for Washington State.

3. Is Brett Hundley, UCLA ready for a marquee upset?
Nebraska comes to town Saturday night in what might be the best match-up of the weekend in the Pac-12. UCLA looked great under Hundley's leadership as the Bruins offense showed toughness and balance. Nebraska gained as much confidence as any team in the nation last weekend and heads to Pasadena with Big Ten title aspirations. That said, if superstar tailback Rex Burkhead is ready to go, the Huskers have the clear advantage and an upset is less likely. However, Burkhead is currently listed as questionable and his ability to contribute this weekend seems doubtful. If the very talented, but at times underachieving, front seven of UCLA can stack the box and force Taylor Martinez to make tough throws on the road, Jim Mora Jr., could begin his tenure 2-0. If the Huskers walk into L.A. and roll on offense, fans will know the road back to respectability for UCLA is a long and winding one.

4. New offenses set to duel in the Desert
While Nebraska-UCLA is likely the most marquee and competitive game of the weekend, Arizona and Oklahoma State could be the most entertaining. True freshman Wes Lunt led the Cowboys to an 84-0 win over Savannah State last weekend while first-year starter Matt Scott executed Rich Rodriguez' zone-read to near perfection in Week 1. The Cats signal caller's 461 yards of total offense are second nationally and, more importantly, Arizona held on to beat a tough Toledo team. The Pokes are heavily favored but fans should not be shocked to see this one finish much closer than expected as two of the best offensive minds in the game go head-to-head in Tucson. This should be an extremely fast-paced game with lots of points and a high enjoyment factor. Well, for everyone but the defensive coordinators.

5. Primetime Battle of the Brothers
Washington and Stanford were picked by many to be the top challengers to Oregon and USC in the race for the Pac-12 crown. However, Utah might actually be the No. 3 team in the league. Jordan Wynn returned to the line-up last week and was effective enough to create balance on offense while the power running game and stingy defense performed as expected. Against in-state rival Utah State on the road in primetime, however, Kyle Whittingham better have his team ready to compete. Gary Andersen has an explosive offense led by a three-headed rushing attack and dynamic sophomore quarterback Chuckie Keeton. The Aggies won 34-3 with 569 yards of offense over Southern Utah in Week 1 and most of the USU roster likely grew up wanting a scholarship from the Utes. Guys in Vegas know it will be close, as Utah is only a 7.5-point favorite.

6. How long is Josh Nunes' leash?
Nunes and Brett Nottingham battled throughout the spring and summer for the right to replace Andrew Luck. Nunes won the job but poor play across the board nearly cost Stanford its opener against lowly San Jose State. The senior didn't look particularly comfortable in the 20-17 nail-bitter, completing 16-of-26 passes for 125 yards and one very ugly touchdown throw. While the ground game should still be effective — especially against Duke this weekend — one has to wonder how long David Shaw will allow his quarterback to struggle. He has options waiting in the wings, so Nunes needs to prove he deserves to the be starter. 

7. The Big Ten comes to town
LSU provides a huge opportunity for Washington and Utah has an intriguing battle with Utah State, but the trio of Big Ten/Pac-12 match-ups offer some interesting bragging rights. Illinois visits Arizona State, Nebraska visits Westwood and Wisconsin will head to Corvallis to face Oregon State in three key intersection contests. UCLA is looking for vindication, Arizona State wants to prove Week 1's 63-point outburst was no fluke and Oregon State is making no bones about what this game will mean to Reser Stadium...

8. Reser Stadium hosts biggest non-conference game ever?
Mike Riley began his press conference this week by explaining he believed this weekend's visit from Wisconsin is the biggest non-conference home game in program history. While not too many ranked non-conference foes visit Corvallis, the Oregon State Beavers are making sure everyone involved understands what a win would mean. The Badgers struggled against Northern Iowa last week and will be facing a team making its season debut after last week's opener was postponed. This game wasn't close last year in Madison, but OSU is expected to be improved and UW is clearly not the same team without star quarterback Russell Wilson, offensive coordinator Paul Chryst and three first-team All-Big Ten blockers.

9. Oregon defense gets a second test
The Ducks looked like the well-oiled machine fans have come to expect from Chip Kelly teams. Redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota (MAR-e-o-TAH) was as difficult to stop as his name is to pronounce. The Ducks were up 50-3 with seven minutes to go in the second quarter. While Fresno State isn't going to stop Oregon anytime soon, Derek Carr and the new uptempo Tim DeRuyter offense could provide another interesting test for Nick Allioti and company. Carr completed 20-of-25 passes for 298 yards and two scores in the blowout win over Weber State and will test a group that allowed 34 points and 341 yards of offense to Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin.

10. USC travels 2,700 miles to New York
The Matt Barkley Heisman campaign won't be this close to Radio City Music Hall until December as USC heads across the country to face Syracuse. The game shouldn't be close as the Cuse defense has major issues, but as the clear preseason favorite for the stiff-armed trophy, every snap of every game will be under heavy scrutiny. Anything but a blowout with big numbers will be disappointing for the Trojans.

Week 2 Pac-12 Predictions:

Week 2 Pac-12 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
Utah (-7.5) at Utah St Utah, 31-14 Utah, 28-20 Utah, 27-24 Utah, 31-17
Southern Utah at Cal Cal, 31-10 Cal, 38-6 Cal, 48-7 Cal, 35-7
Sacramento St at Colorado Colorado, 27-10 Colorado, 37-13 Colorado, 45-10 Colorado, 28-10
E. Washington at Washington St Wash. St, 34-20 Wash. St, 27-10 Wash. St, 45-20 Wash. St, 27-14
USC (-26) at Syracuse USC, 55-17 USC, 41-14 USC, 48-20 USC, 42-14
Wisconsin (-8) at Oregon St Wisconsin, 27-17 Wisconsin, 28-17 Wisconsin, 34-24 Wisconsin, 21-14
Fresno St (+34.5) at Oregon Oregon, 51-21 Oregon, 44-17 Oregon, 55-24 Oregon, 49-21
Washington (+23.5) at LSU LSU, 38-20 LSU, 30-17 LSU, 34-13 LSU, 28-14
Nebraska (-5.5) at UCLA UCLA, 24-21 Nebraska, 27-21 Nerbraska, 31-27 Nebraska, 35-28
Illinois (+3.5) at Arizona St Arizona St, 24-21 Arizona St, 30-24 Arizona St, 30-27 Illinois, 28-14
Duke (+15) at Stanford Stanford, 28-14 Stanford, 27-17 Stanford, 31-20 Stanford, 27-10
Oklahoma St (-11) at Arizona Okla. St, 34-31 Okla. St, 34-20 Okla. St, 38-31 Okla. St, 35-14
Yearly Totals: 9-3 10-2 10-2 9-3

by Braden Gall


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ACC Week 2 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 2 Previews and Predictions

Big Ten Week 2 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 2 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 2 Previews and Predictions

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<p> Pac-12 Week 2 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 05:50
Path: /college-football/big-ten-week-2-preview-and-predictions

Things didn't exactly play out the way most expected in Week 1 of the Big Ten season. Penn State's emotional roller coaster continued and doesn't look to be slowing anytime soon. Wisconsin, Iowa, Northwestern, Indiana and Minnesota escaped upset bids. And Michigan was thoroughly man-handled by the defending champions. More importantly, however, some key injuries could shape the Big Ten landscape for weeks to come.

Big Ten's Top 10 Storylines to Watch in Week 2:

1. Will Rex Burkhead play and will it cost the Huskers a win?
Other than possibly Ohio State, no team in the Big Ten gained more confidence about its 2012 championship hopes than Nebraska. Taylor Martinez was excellent and the defense did just enough to breeze past reigning C-USA champ Southern Miss while Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa struggled. However, some key injuries could impact the Big Red's Week 2 outlook. Star tailback Rex Burkhead left the game with a knee issue and is listed as questionable for the UCLA game as of Thursday morning. UCLA looked outstanding under new coach Jim Mora Jr. and new quarterback Brett Hundley provided a much-needed spark on offense. The Bruins have had a long week to prepare for Nebraska and stand a much better chance of winning at home than previously expected. If Burkhead plays, Nebraska should win a close one. If the heart and soul of the Big Red offense does not play, all bets are off.

2. How will the bruised Michigan run defense handle the option?
More than just the Maize and Blue egos got bruised last weekend in Dallas. Taylor Lewan left the game with a knee injury (but should be back) and starting corner Blake Countess is out for the season. Michigan's defensive line was the major concern heading into this season and Alabama's 232-yard performance on the ground only highlighted those issues. Now, Greg Mattison's defense is charged with stopping Air Force's triple-option offense that rolled-up 484 yards rushing last week. Idaho State certainly isn't Michigan, but the option always causes trouble to those who are unaccustomed to facing it. The Wolverines should win fairly easily as Denard Robinson should get back on track, but keep a close eye on how the front seven plays this Saturday.

3. The battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy
Week 2 in the Big Ten features many intriguing interconference match-ups, but none will carry as much emotion as the Iowa State-Iowa showdown in Iowa City. The Cyclones haven't won on the road in this series since 2002 but this Saturday will provide their best chance in years. Iowa's offense was rather inept last week against Northern Illinois while ISU scoffed at Vegas' odd-makers who pinned Tulsa as a 1.5-point favorite last week (Iowa State won 38-23). This game was a thrilling 3-OT victory by State in Ames last season and this season's meeting could feature another tight finish. 

4. No rest for the weary Nittany Lions
It was a tough weekend for Penn State fans. Their embattled football program took a 14-3 halftime lead and Matt McGloin looked like a real quarterback. But then starting tailback Bill Belton got hurt and Ohio signal caller Tyler Tettleton went to work. Unfortunately, there is no rest for Bill O'Brien in Week 2 as a trip to Charlottesville looms large. Virginia has been markedly improved over the past few seasons and the Cavaliers defeated Richmond 43-19 in their opener last weekend. The two-headed backfield monster of Kevin Parks and Perry Jones helped UVa pile up 545 yards of offense, so PSU will have to be even better on offense this week than it was in the loss to Ohio. A tall order against a well-coached team that, as shocking as this sounds, simply has more talent.

5. Will Nathan Scheelhaase play against the Sun Devils?
The second major injury to keep track of this week will be that of Illinois' starting quarterback. He looked sharp in the early going last Saturday but left the game in the third quarter and the Illini offense came to a screeching halt. Tim Beckman said his QB needed to practice by Wednesday in order to play, but as of Wednesday evening, Scheelhaase's status was still up in the air. Meanwhile, Arizona State dropped 63 points and 554 yards of offense under new head coach Todd Graham and new quarterback Taylor Kelly. The Xs and Os match-up of the nation's No. 1 rushing defense that held Western Michigan to minus-6 yards and the Sun Devils' three-headed ground attack should be fun to watch. Keep an eye on ASU freshman DJ Foster, who touched the ball 12 times for 99 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in his first college game. That said, coaching may not matter if Beckman is forced to go to battle with Riley O'Toole under center.

6. Notre Dame begins Big Ten schedule with Boilermakers
The Fighting Irish looked as good as they have in six years in their 50-10 win over Navy in Dublin, Ireland last weekend. However, the schedule gets much tougher for ND as it begins a three-week Big Ten slate this weekend against Purdue. A quarterback controversy could be brewing in West Lafayette as Caleb TerBush returns from suspension this week after watching Robert Marve carve up the Eastern Kentucky defense in Week 1. Settling on a signal caller has to be a top priority for Danny Hope if he expects to pull the upset. Keep an close eye on how these two QBs play this week against a nasty ND front seven. On defense, the Boilers struggled to stop the Irish rushing attack in the 38-10 loss last year as they allowed 287 yards on the ground to Brian Kelly's bunch. Eastern managed only 190 yards of total offense last weekend against Purdue, giving the Boilermakers the top total defense in the Big Ten after one week. But while Purdue is improved on defense, there is a reason Notre Dame is a two-touchdown favorite. 

7. SAT Bowl eligibility
Northwestern and Vanderbilt are two of the most prestigious academic institutions in this great country. But, of late, these two programs are achieving on the football field at unprecedented levels. So as two rising programs scrap and claw for bowl eligibility each year, a win this weekend over the other could be the difference between playing in the postseason or sitting at home during Christmas. Vandy endured a tough home SEC loss to South Carolina in the rain last Thursday while the Wildcats overcame an atrocious second-half collapse to beat Syracuse on the road. Both offenses have big-time play-makers, so offense should be plentiful in this key swing contest.

8. Big Ten heads out to the West Coast
Notre Dame and Virginia offer some interesting East Coast non-conference tests for Big Ten teams, but most fans will be watching the Western seaboard this Saturday. Illinois heads to Arizona State, Nebraska heads to UCLA and Wisconsin heads to Oregon State in a trio of Pac-12/Big Ten showdowns. All three games could be toss-ups and one league could exit Week 2 with a decided head-to-head advantage. The Huskers and Badgers have Big Ten title hopes and have to show well in these type of road tests if they expect to be in Indianapolis at season's end.

9. Look for improved play from Andrew Maxwell
Le'Veon Bell was a workhorse. The defense was stout. Now, Mark Dantonio needs the final piece of the puzzle to fall into place. New quarterback Andrew Maxwell threw three interceptions and no touchdowns in 38 pass attempts in his first game as the Spartans starter. Certainly, Dantonio doesn't want his first-year starter throwing the ball that much, but when he does, Maxwell needs to be more efficient. Against a Central Michigan team that allowed 27 points against Southeast Missouri State last week, he should be able to find more windows to throw. It could be a long day for the Chippewas.

10. Minnesota, Indiana should start 2-0
The Golden Gophers and Hoosiers combined for four total wins last season. After two weeks of action, these two could easily match that total. With a win over UMass, Kevin Wilson would double his win total from last year while New Hampshire should pose little threat to Minnesota. These four wins wouldn't mean postseason play is in sight this fall, but it would be a sign of progress for both.

Week 2 Big Ten Predictions:

Week 2 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
New Hampshire at Minnesota Minnesota, 31-17 Minnesota, 34-20 Minnesota, 34-24 Minnesota, 28-17
Penn St (+10) at Virginia Virginia, 28-13 Virginia, 27-14 Virginia, 27-17 Virginia, 27-10
UCF (+18) at Ohio St Ohio St, 41-17 Ohio St, 31-14 Ohio St, 38-13 Ohio St, 35-10
Indiana (-14) at UMass Indiana, 24-17 Indiana, 28-7 Indiana, 38-10 Indiana, 21-7
Iowa St (+5) at Iowa Iowa, 27-21 Iowa St, 21-20 Iowa, 27-24 Iowa St, 21-17
Purdue (+14) at Notre Dame Notre Dame, 35-24 Notre Dame, 28-17 Notre Dame, 31-20 Notre Dame, 24-21
Air Force (+21) at Michigan Michigan, 38-20 Michigan, 37-17 Michigan, 40-17 Michigan, 28-13
Michigan St (-22) at C. Michigan Mich. St, 35-3 Mich. St, 38-10 Mich. St, 38-10 Mich. St, 42-10
Wisconsin (-8) at Oregon St Wisconsin, 27-17 Wisconsin, 28-17 Wisconsin, 34-24 Wisconsin, 21-14
Nebraska (-5.5) at UCLA UCLA, 24-21 Nebraska, 27-21 Nebraska, 31-27 Nebraska, 35-28
Vanderbilt (-3.5) at Northwestern Vanderbilt, 41-38 Vanderbilt, 34-24 Vanderbilt, 34-27 Vanderbilt, 38-35
Illinois (+3.5) at Arizona St Arizona St, 24-21 Arizona St, 30-24 Arizona St, 30-27 Illinois, 28-14
Yearly Totals: 11-1 10-2 12-0 10-2

by Braden Gall


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Big East Week 2 Previews and Predictions

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Pac-12 Week 2 Previews and Predictions

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<p> Big Ten Week 2 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 05:50
Path: /college-football/acc-week-2-preview-and-predictions

The ACC didn’t quite capitalize on its opportunity to earn national respect last week, but the conference did pickup a key victory with Clemson knocking off Auburn. Florida State easily handled Murray State, while Virginia Tech took an early lead in the race to win the Coastal Division with an overtime victory over Georgia Tech. Week 2 in the ACC features only one conference game, but some intriguing non-conference matchups, including Miami-Kansas State and NC State-Connecticut.

Other Week 2 conference storylines

Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

1. Will NC State bounce back?
There’s no shame in losing to Tennessee, but the Wolfpack did not play their best game on Friday night. Quarterback Mike Glennon tossed a career-high four interceptions, while cornerback David Amerson had an uncharacteristic performance, giving up two long touchdowns to Tennessee receivers. NC State doesn’t have much time to dwell on the loss, especially with a trip to Storrs to take on Connecticut this Saturday. The Huskies suffocated UMass’ offense in Week 1, allowing only 59 yards and pitching a shutout. Moving the ball against Connecticut’s defense will be tough, so it’s important for NC State to eliminate the turnovers that plagued the offense last week. When the Huskies have the ball, the Wolfpack needs to stop the run and force quarterback Chandler Whitmer to win this one through the air. Whitmer was solid in his first start (15 of 25, 219 yards) but this will be his first test against a BCS defense. 

2. Can Maryland slow down Temple’s rushing attack?
With a true freshman starting at quarterback, it’s going to take Maryland’s offense a few games to find its rhythm. Perry Hills threw for only 145 yards in the win over William & Mary but also tossed three picks. The Terrapins have little margin for error once again in Week 2, as they travel to Philadelphia to take on Temple. The Owls recorded 47 rushing attempts in their opener against Villanova, while quarterback Chris Coyer attempted only 11 passes. Even with Montel Harris dealing with a hamstring injury, Temple has capable backs in Matt Brown and Kenny Harper, along with quarterback Chris Coyer to test the Maryland rush defense. With the Terrapins limited on offense, it’s important for the defense to limit Temple’s rushing attack, while creating a few turnovers to put Hills in a situation to get points. If Maryland’s defense can’t slow down Brown and Coyer on the ground, the Terrapins will need a big day from their young quarterback.

3. How will Florida State replace Brandon Jenkins?
Replacing a player of Jenkins’ caliber is never easy. However, thanks to some strong recruiting by Jimbo Fisher and his staff, Florida State has depth on the defensive line and should be able to maintain one of the nation’s top pass rushes without Jenkins. Bjoern Werner registered 37 tackles and seven sacks last season and recorded four sacks against Murray State in Week 1. He should be set on one side of the line, while senior Tank Carradine holds down the other spot. Werner and Carradine should be a solid duo, but the real question for Florida State will be depth. Redshirt freshman Giorgio Newberry and true freshmen Mario Edwards Jr. and Chris Casher will have to play significant snaps the rest of the year and could be forced to start if Werner or Carradine suffers an injury. Although Savannah State won’t provide much of a test, this is a good opportunity for Florida State to get some of the young linemen reps.

4. Can Virginia keep its momentum?
Mike London has Virginia rolling in the right direction and Saturday’s game against Penn State is an opportunity to score a solid non-conference victory. While the Nittany Lions are trending down, the Cavaliers best win outside of ACC play last season was against Indiana. Quarterback Michael Rocco was solid in Week 1, completing 25 of 37 passes for 311 yards and one touchdown. Rocco needs to continue playing mistake-free ball, while developing a rapport with his improving receiving corps. Penn State could be short handed on offense due to an injury to running back Bill Belton. The Nittany Lions still have a solid defense, but if the Cavaliers don’t give Penn State’s offense any help with turnovers, Virginia should win by at least a touchdown.

5. Can Miami upset Kansas State?
With a handful of young and inexperienced players stepping into playing time, Miami was a hard team to peg in the preseason. The Hurricanes showcased some of their promising talent in the first game, including freshman running back Duke Johnson. The victory against Boston College should give Miami some confidence this Saturday for its road trip to Kansas State. The Wildcats upset the Hurricanes last season, so there’s a revenge factor going for Al Golden's team. Kansas State’s pass defense is a question mark, which should allow quarterback Stephen Morris and the receivers to make some plays downfield. Although Miami should be able to score some points, it needs to find a way to slow down Wildcats’ quarterback Collin Klein. The Hurricanes had no answer for Klein last season, as he recorded 226 total yards and three touchdowns. It will take a perfect effort, but it's not out of the question for Miami can exit Manhattan with a 2-0 record.

6. Tuneups for Clemson, Florida State and Virginia Tech
The ACC’s top three contenders – Clemson, Florida State and Virginia Tech – should all have an easy outing in Week 2. Clemson hosts Ball State, Virginia Tech welcomes Austin Peay to Blacksburg, while Florida State takes on Savannah State. The Tigers have the toughest opponent out of that trio, but none of these teams should have to sweat much to win on Saturday. While there’s not a ton the coaching staffs at Virginia Tech and Florida State can take from one-sided non-conference games, it’s an opportunity to get reps for some of the younger players. The Hokies and Seminoles need their offensive lines to jell, while Clemson needs to develop depth on the defensive line. Although all three teams should win easily, the most important aspect for all of the coaching staffs will be to make it through without any injuries.

7. Battle for bragging rights in North Carolina
Larry Fedora had an impressive debut in Chapel Hill, as the Tar Heels easily handled Elon 62-0. Things get a little tougher for North Carolina this Saturday with a road trip to Wake Forest on the schedule. Running back Giovani Bernard left last week’s game with a knee injury but all signs point to a full workload for him in Week 2. The Demon Deacons struggled to beat Liberty in Week 1, but were they saving something for this matchup? The Tar Heels have the edge on offense and if they can jump out to an early lead, it will put extra pressure on Wake Forest’s young offense. North Carolina won’t be able to play in a bowl this year, but it looks like Fedora should have this team ready to play and motivated to make a run at nine victories.

8. Georgia Tech’s passing attack against Presbyterian
Even though the Yellow Jackets don’t throw it a ton, entering the year with a cast of unproven receivers was a concern for coach Paul Johnson. No Georgia Tech receiver on the roster has a career reception and all 10 catches against Virginia Tech went to running backs. The Yellow Jackets should have no trouble beating Presbyterian this Saturday, but expect the coaching staff to allow quarterback Tevin Washington to throw a little more than usual, especially as the offense looks to work in the receivers. Georgia Tech has some ground to make up in the Coastal Division and it’s important to develop a go-to receiver before playing Virginia next week.

9. Can Duke upset Stanford?
Despite having a handful of players out due to injuries, Duke easily handled FIU (46-26) last Saturday. The win was huge for the Blue Devils’ bowl hopes, but the competition only gets tougher in Week 2 with a long trip to Stanford. The Cardinal was unimpressive in a Week 1 victory against San Jose State and is still dealing with the transition from Andrew Luck to Josh Nunes at quarterback. The Blue Devils gave up 165 rushing yards last Saturday and will be challenged even more by Stanford’s physical offensive line. Duke was crushed by the Cardinal 44-14 last season, but this matchup should be much closer in 2012. An upset over Stanford would be a huge boost to the Blue Devils’ bowl hopes this year. 

Week 2 ACC Predictions

Games David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light
NC State (-5) at Connecticut NC State 21-10 NC State 31-20 NC State 27-20 UConn 27-24
Penn State at Virginia (-10) Virginia 27-10 Virginia 28-13 Virginia 27-17 Virginia 27-14
Maryland at Temple (-10) Temple 14-7 Maryland 14-10 Temple 24-20 Temple 17-14
Miami (Fla.) at Kansas State (-7) K-State 35-14 K-State 31-24 K-State 34-27 K-State 34-28
Ball State at Clemson (-27) Clemson 56-14 Clemson 41-10 Clemson 45-17 Clemson 51-24
Maine at Boston College BC 38-17 BC 27-10 BC 41-10 BC 34-10
Austin Peay at Virginia Tech Va Tech 42-10 Va Tech 34-3 Va Tech 62-3 Va Tech 61-0
UNC (-10) at Wake Forest UNC 21-17 UNC 30-13 UNC 31-23 UNC 34-21
Savannah State at Florida State FSU 70-3 FSU 56-7 FSU 70-0 FSU 58-0
Presbyterian at Georgia Tech Ga Tech 35-7 Ga Tech 34-7 Ga Tech 55-3 Ga Tech 50-10
Duke at Stanford (-15) Stanford 27-10 Stanford 28-14 Stanford 31-20 Stanford 27-17
Season Record 9-1 10-0 9-1 10-0

by Steven Lassan


<p> ACC Week 2 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 05:47
Path: /college-football/big-12-week-2-preview-and-predictions

The competition wasn't particularly impressive, but Big 12 teams finished Week 1 with a 9-0 record. Eight Big 12 teams are in action this Saturday, with Baylor and West Virginia on a bye week. Non-conference play continues in Week 2, but Iowa State, Kansas State and Oklahoma State have key tests against BCS foes.

Other Week 2 Previews and Predictions

ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Big 12's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 2

1. Will Iowa State make it two in a row over Iowa?
The last time the Cyclones won back-to-back games against in-state rival Iowa was 2001-02. After last year’s 44-41 win in Ames and a solid opening week victory against Tulsa, Iowa State is in position to make it two in a row over the Hawkeyes. Even though it may seem simple, winning the turnover battle will be crucial to the Cyclones’ victory hopes on Saturday. Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz struggled with interceptions last year but played well in the opener (281 yards, two touchdowns), but he will have a tough matchup against Iowa’s secondary. The Hawkeyes struggled to get their offense on track last week, but running back Damon Bullock will test an Iowa State rush defense that allowed 160 yards to Tulsa last week. Iowa has outscored the Cyclones 52-12 in the last two matchups in Iowa City. However, considering Iowa State had a solid performance in Week 1, look for Saturday’s game to be a lot closer than the recent matchups at Iowa.

2. How will Wes Lunt fare in his first road start?
So far, so good for Wes Lunt as Oklahoma State’s starting quarterback. Of course, the competition in Week 1 was pretty weak, so Saturday’s road test at Arizona will give everyone a better glimpse of Lunt’s ability. Against Savannah State last Saturday, he threw for 129 yards and completed all 11 passes. Although the coaching staff needs to get Lunt some work – especially before Big 12 play arrives – the Cowboys don’t have to lean on the true freshman to win this game. Expect a heavy dose of running back Joseph Randle, while Oklahoma State’s defense will look to continue its opportunistic ways from last season. The Cowboys defense has a tough challenge ahead as it tries to slow down Arizona quarterback Matt Scott (387 yards, two touchdowns against Toledo). Lunt doesn’t need to have a huge game for Oklahoma State to win, but this is his first big test as the starting quarterback.

3. Will Kansas State’s defense struggle to stop Miami?
Coming into the season, Miami was one of the biggest mystery teams in the nation. The Hurricanes returned only nine starters and featured a depth chart littered with youth and inexperience. Miami’s defense struggled to stop Boston College last week, but its offense recorded 415 yards and 41 points – a bad sign for a Kansas State defense that allowed 418 yards to FCS foe Missouri State. The Wildcats’ secondary was a question mark coming into the season and gave up 323 yards last week. Although Miami isn’t one of the nation’s best passing teams, it has a capable quarterback (Stephen Morris) and some receivers capable of making plays on the outside. Expect Kansas State’s defense to get a little help from its offense and quarterback Collin Klein, as the Wildcats should be able to move the ball on Miami’s defense. Kansas State should win this one but concerns about the defense may keep this one close deep into the fourth quarter.

4. Can Texas Tech continue to make progress on defense?
Even though the competition wasn’t the best last Saturday, it was a good sign for Texas Tech that its defense allowed only 84 yards and six points to Northwestern State. The Red Raiders were active around the line of scrimmage, recording nine tackles for a loss and registering one forced fumble. This unit will have another opportunity on Saturday against Texas State to show just how far it has come since last season. The Bobcats will present a tougher challenge, especially after rushing for 248 yards and two touchdowns against Houston last week. If Texas Tech’s defense turns in another stellar effort, it should give the coaching staff confidence they found the right answers in the offseason. The Red Raiders have plenty of firepower on offense but fixing the defense is crucial to get back to a bowl game.

5. Another tuneup for Oklahoma, Texas in Week 2
It’s still another month before Oklahoma and Texas matchup in Dallas, and both teams have a lot of work to do before the Red River Rivalry. The Sooners looked sluggish in the opener against UTEP, while Wyoming gave Texas all it could handle in the first quarter, but the Longhorns eventually pulled away for a 37-17 win. Oklahoma’s passing attack is under the microscope after looking out of rhythm against the Miners. Florida A&M should provide little resistance to the Sooners’ offense, which should allow this group to work out some of the kinks before Big 12 play arrives on Sept. 22. For Texas, this Saturday is all about building more confidence for quarterback David Ash, as well as developing a pecking order at running back. Expect freshman Johnathan Gray to see a bigger role this Saturday, but Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown will likely tote the bulk of the workload. New Mexico thrashed Southern last week but remains one of the worst FBS teams, so Texas should be able to cruise to a 2-0 start.

6. TCU finally kicks off its 2012 season
It’s been an interesting offseason in Fort Worth, from the drug arrests to the move to the Big 12 and a major stadium renovation. After a long offseason and a bye in Week 1, TCU finally kicks off its 2012 season with a matchup against Grambling this Saturday. The Horned Frogs shouldn’t run into much trouble against the Tigers, and this will be a good opportunity to get a look at a revamped offensive line and linebacking corps. TCU’s secondary was a concern last season, but it won’t be tested against a Grambling offense that threw for just 66 yards last week against Alcorn State. The Horned Frogs should cruise to an easy victory, but with Kansas coming up in Week 2, it’s important for some of the inexperienced players to get as many reps as possible.

7. Can Kansas win two games in a row?
Charlie Weis’ debut in Lawrence wasn’t overly impressive, but the Jayhawks snapped a 10-game losing streak by beating South Dakota State 31-17. Running backs Tony Pierson and Taylor Cox each rushed for over 100 yards, while quarterback Dayne Crist had a so-so debut by completing 17 of 36 passes for 169 yards and one score. A bigger issue is the defense, which allowed 411 total yards last week. Saturday’s game against Rice is no cupcake, as the Owls recorded 358 yards and 24 points against UCLA in Week 1. However, Rice’s defense was invisible against the Bruins, allowing a whopping 646 yards and 49 points. The Jayhawks should be able to move the ball at will against the Owls. However, can Kansas’ defense make enough key stops to allow Charlie Weis to begin his tenure in Lawrence at 2-0? 

Week 2 Big 12 Predictions

Big 12 Games David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light
Miami (Fla.) at K-State (-7) K-State 35-14 K-State 31-24 K-State 34-27 K-State 34-28
Rice at Kansas (-10) Kansas 28-10 Kansas 27-17 Kansas 41-24 Kansas 41-10
Iowa State at Iowa (-5) Iowa State 21-17 Iowa 27-21 Iowa 27-24 Iowa State 21-20
Tex Tech (-18) at Texas State Tex. Tech 31-24 Tex. Tech 38-10 Tex. Tech 38-17 Tex. Tech 31-17
Florida A&M at Oklahoma Oklahoma 56-10 Oklahoma 49-7 Oklahoma 59-7 Oklahoma 48-13
Grambling at TCU TCU 42-7 TCU 41-10 TCU 52-3 TCU 48-0
New Mexico at Texas (-38) Texas 31-10 Texas 37-7 Texas 48-3 Texas 41-3
Okla. State (-10.5) at Arizona Okla State 35-14 Okla State 34-31 Okla State 38-31 Okla State 34-20
Season Record 9-0 9-0 9-0 9-0


by Steven Lassan


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<p> Big 12 Week 2 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 05:40
Path: /college-football/big-easts-top-storylines-watch-week-2

The first week of the season was probably more eventful than Big East teams would have liked. Pittsburgh lost convincingly to Youngstown State. Syracuse squandered a four-touchdown comeback at home against Northwestern. And Rutgers took its time to put away Tulane.

The second week of the season brings more high-profile matchups, including the first conference game of the season on Thursday. The question is if the Big East is up to the challenge.

Connecticut and Temple won their openers by a combined score of 72-10, but those were against UMass and Villanova. They’ll take on ACC programs this week. USF was uneven on offense against Chattanooga. The Bulls will need to be on the top of their games in a road trip against Nevada. And Syracuse will look for any way possible to stay competitive with USC.

Other Week 2 conference previews and predictions

ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Big East's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 2

What will we see from the new-look Cincinnati backfield?
The Bearcats didn’t play in the first week of the season, so Cincinnati will show off its new starting backfield for the first time. Senior George Winn is stepping in for Isaiah Pead, who averaged better than six yards per carry in his career. No one is expecting Cincinnati’s running back position to be as explosive as it was a year ago. Instead, Winn will lead a trio of runners, including Jameel Poteat and Ralph David Abernathy IV, who was a standout on special teams a year ago. After two season of Zach Collaros at quarterback, Cincinnati will turn to Munchie Legaux, who completed only 45.9 percent of his passes after taking over for Collaros in the West Virginia game last season. The backfield has been the strength for Cincinnati in most seasons under Butch Jones and predecessor Brian Kelly. For the first time since 2008, Cincinnati is all but starting over.

What signs of optimism can we find at Pittsburgh?
After losing by two touchdowns at home to Youngstown State, Pitt has some major work to do if its going to be a Big East contender -- or even a bowl team.  The Panthers could start 0-3 with a road trip to Cincinnati this week and then Virginia Tech a week later. But it’s worth noting the Pittsburgh defense started four sophomores and two freshmen against Youngstown State. That unit may get better with experience (thought not necessarily after only five days rest against Cincinnati). On offense, the passing game misfired at times, but quarterback Tino Sunseri completed 69.3 percent of his passes and wasn’t sacked. Paul Chryst was pleased with the improvement there, but the most troubling part of the loss was the run game. Youngstown State crowded the line and limited Pitt -- and a healthy Ray Graham -- to 130 rushing yards. Pitt will need more than that to rebound in short order.

Where will USF find answers its ground game?
The Bulls head into a road trip to Nevada with more questions than answers at one of their weakest positions on offense. USF rushed for merely 85 yards and 2.7 yards per carry in the opener against Chattanooga. Moreover, the Bulls left the game with an injury to backup running back Marcus Shaw, who was one of the biggest risers during the preseason. Shaw’s emergence was the impetus behind redshirting Lindsey Lamar, a special teams whiz two years ago who was an odd man out in the running back competition. Lamar is back in the mix with Shaw out with an ankle injury, but Lamar was rusty at the position during the preseason. Demetris Murray, the returning rushing leader, ran for 55 yards against Chattanooga. Meanwhile, Nevada held Cal to 110 rushing yards in its road upset of the Bears last week.

Is Connecticut’s defense really this dominant?
With Yawin Smallwood, Sio Moore, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Trevardo Williams, there’s a lot to like about the Connecticut defense last season, though the numbers didn’t show it, especially against the pass. The Huskies were the nation’s top team on defense last week, albeit against hapless UMass. The Minutemen never advanced the ball beyond their own 38-yard line. Although Connecticut tends to win with a run game and solid defense, the Huskies haven’t finished higher than sixth in the Big East in total defense since 2008. Could this be the group to change that statistic? We’ll get a better idea when Connecticut faces a much tougher challenge against NC State and quarterback Mike Glennon.

What hope does Syracuse have to keep its game against USC competitive?
The Orange is riding a six-game losing streak, the last win a 49-23 upset of West Virginia on Oct. 21. After losing 38-17 to USC last season, Syracuse likely will need to play a near-perfect game to stay competitive with Athlon’s preseason No. 1 team. Syracuse didn’t get that against Northwestern. The Orange allowed Venric Mark to take back two punts for long returns, one for a touchdown. The offense confused a lateral for an incomplete forward pass, allowing an easy defensive touchdown (one of two on the day) for Northwestern. That said, Ryan Nassib ran the new no-huddle offense well, despite absences from left tackle Justin Pugh and wide receiver Alec Lemon. Nassib passed for 470 yards with a touchdown and was sacked only once on 65 pass attempts. Trouble is, he won’t be the top quarterback on the field Saturday.

What does Rutgers need to accomplish in its freebie with Howard?
Considering what happened last week with Youngstown State and Pitt (not to mention Rutgers’ too-close-for-comfort win over Tulane), maybe no game is a freebie. That said, Rutgers clearly has some fine-tuning to do this week against Howard before back-to-back road trips against USF and Arkansas. The Scarlet Knights escaped with a 24-12 win, but the game was 10-6 in the fourth quarter before Brandon James’ pick six. The most glaring issue was Gary Nova’s numbers (11 for 20, 158 yards, one touchdown, one interception) against a Conference USA defense. Kyle Flood praised his play other than a poor decision on the turnover. Rutgers also committed nine penalties and allowed Tulane to convert 8 of 16 third downs. Numbers like that may produce a loss to USF in a week.

Will Montel Harris play for Temple? Does Temple need him to beat Maryland?
Montel Harris, who battled injuries throughout his time at Boston College, is facing them again at Temple. The running back is day-to-day after leaving the opener against Villanova with a hamstring injury. Temple did fine without him. Matt Brown rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown, and quarterback Chris Coyer rushed for 80 yards and a score. If Harris doesn’t play this week, can Temple defeat Maryland without him? The Terrapins needed a touchdown in the final 9:52 to defeat William & Mary 7-6 last week for the Terrapins’ first win since Oct. 1, 2011. Temple defeated Maryland 38-7 last season with 285 rushing yards and five touchdowns.

How high is Teddy Bridgewater’s ceiling?
With Missouri State on the schedule this week, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will have a chance to put up big numbers again. The game probably won’t be in doubt, but the Cardinals’ opener against Kentucky, in which Bridgewater completed 19 of 21 passes for 232 yards, made us wonder what the quarterback can accomplish this season. For this current group of Big East teams, quarterback development has been incremental at best (see: Daniels, B.J., and Sunseri, Tino). If Bridgewater continues to develop, he could be a jolt of energy for the conference.

by David Fox


Games David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light
Pittsburgh (-4.5) at Cincinnati Cincinnati 28-14 Cincinnati 28-24 Pitt 24-20 Cincinnati 24-17
NC State (+5) at UConn NC State 21-10 NC State 31-20 NC State 27-20 UConn 27-24
Maryland (-10) at Temple Temple 14-7 Maryland 14-10 Temple 24-20 Temple 17-14
Howard (off) at Rutgers Rutgers 31-7 Rutgers 31-3 Rutgers 45-3 Rutgers 41-3
USC (+26) vs. Syracuse (N.J.) USC 42-14 USC 55-17 USC 48-20 USC 41-14
Missouri State (off) at Louisville Louisville 56-7 Louisville 28-10 Louisville 48-7 Louisville 44-14
USF (-1) at Nevada Nevada 24-17 Nevada 24-20 Nevada 31-28 Nevada 30-21
Year to date: 6-1 6-1 6-1 6-1

Related College Football Content:

ACC Week 2 Previews and Predictions

Big Ten Week 2 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 2 Previews and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 2 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 2 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 2 Upset Picks

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

<p> Big East's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 2</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 05:31
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News, Big East
Path: /college-football/college-football-week-2-upset-predictions

Week 2 of the 2012 college football season doesn’t feature many marquee matchups and with a handful of BCS teams heavily favored, there are few opportunities for upset picks. Athlon’s editors hit on Ohio’s win over Penn State last week but missed on Western Michigan beating Illinois and Indiana State knocking off Indiana.

College Football's Week 2 Upset Picks

Braden Gall (@BradenGall): Nebraska (-5.5) at UCLA
If Florida (+1.5) beats Texas A&M or South Florida (+1.5) defeats Nevada, no one will be shocked, but most would be startled if UCLA starts the year 2-0 with an upset win over Nebraska. Jim Mora Jr., has instilled some toughness along both lines of scrimmage and quarterback Brett Hundley has added some much-needed balance to the Bruins offense. Yes, it was Rice, but it was on the road and UCLA's offense looked fantastic. If the Bruins can hold their ground at the point of attack, they have a great chance to pull the upset at home. Especially, if the Cornhuskers are without their offensive heart and soul in star tailback Rex Burkhead. He is questionable with a sprained MCL.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Florida (+1.5) at Texas A&M
With a spread of 1.5 points, this game is essentially a pick’em. Florida did not have a great showing in its Week 1 opener against Bowling Green, while Texas A&M’s game was canceled due to Hurricane Isaac. Although the Gators looked sluggish against the Falcons, their defense should create some problems for Aggies’ quarterback Johnny Manziel in his first start. If Florida can run the ball and keep quarterback Jeff Driskel out of third-and-long situations, I like the Gators to sneak out of College Station with a victory. Considering this is Texas A&M’s first SEC game, there should be a great crowd and a lot of momentum on the Aggies’ sideline. However, I think Florida finds a way to edge out Texas A&M for a 24-20 victory.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): Iowa State (+4.5) at Iowa
Iowa State scored a total of 15 points en route to losing three straight to Iowa from 2008-10. Last year, however, the Cyclones erupted for 44 points in a three-point win in Ames. The ’12 season got off to good start offensively for Paul Rhoads’ club. The Clones, a surprising home underdog to Tulsa, rolled up 441 yards in a 38–23 win over the Golden Hurricane. Yards will be tougher to come by in Iowa City this weekend. Iowa gave up only 201 total yards (73 on one play) in an 18–17 win over Northern Illinois in Chicago. Take out that one big play — a run by NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch — and the Iowa defense gave up an average of 2.4 yards per play. Iowa State, however, has a few more weapons than Northern Illinois, which returned only three starters. Steel Jantz played well in the opener, and the Clones have some talented options at tailback.This rivalry game often doesn’t go as expected. This is just a hunch, but I like the Clones on the road. Iowa State 21, Iowa 20

Mark Ross: Louisiana-Lafayette (+3) over Troy
Both teams enter this Sun Belt clash 1-0 as Troy defeated C-USA representative UAB 39-29 on the road, while UL Lafayette shut out FCS member Lamar 40-0 at home last week. Even though the Trojans produced more total offense against seemingly tougher competition in its opener and will be the home team for this conference tilt, I think the Ragin' Cajuns are the more balanced team, which will be the difference in the end. Last season the Cajuns defeated the Trojans 31-17 even though Troy out-gained ULL in terms of total offense. This season's ULL offensive attack is even more potent with senior Blaine Gautier under center and it will be too much for Troy's defense to slow down.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): Iowa State (+4.5) over Iowa
The Hawkeyes are coming off a fortuitous 18-17 win over Northern Illinois in Week 1, while the Cyclones had a solid 38-23 victory against Tulsa. ISU quarterback Steele Jantz threw for 281 yards and two touchdowns in the opener, while running back Shontrelle Johnson rushed for 120 yards on just 18 carries. They will face a much tougher defense this week versus Iowa, but I like the offensive balance the Paul Rhoads’ club showed against Tulsa. The Hawkeyes will look for another solid performance from tailback Damon Bullock, who totaled 150 yards and a touchdown versus NIU. The key to winning his year’s Cy-Hawk Trophy will be taking advantage of red-zone opportunities. The Cyclones have shown a penchant for winning as an underdog under Rhoads, and I’ll take Iowa State to make it two in a row over the Hawkeyes by the score of 24-23.

David Fox (@DavidFox615): Auburn (+3.5) at Mississippi State
This upset pick was too tantalizing given the recent history of the SEC West rivals: Auburn has won 10 of the last 11 meetings. Although Mississippi State has been within a touchdown or less in four of the last five seasons, Auburn hasn’t lost in Starkville since 2000. Auburn’s game last week wasn’t always pretty -- 528 yards allowed, two turnovers, 11 of 27 passing from Kiehl Frazier -- but Auburn led Clemson by a field goal in the fourth quarter. If Auburn can limit a Clemson offense to field goals for three quarters in a neutral site game, I can get on board with a road upset over Mississippi State. I realize Clemson was without Sammy Watkins, but do the Bulldogs have anyone to match Tajh Boyd or Andre Ellington? I doubt it.

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 2 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 2 Previews and Predictions

Big Ten Week 2 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 2 Previews and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 2 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 2 Previews and Predictions

Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat Post-Week 1 Rankings

Post-Week 1 Bowl Projections

<p> College Football Week 2 Upset Picks</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 05:05
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-using-vegas-odds-determine-best-week-2-plays

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 2

Best Fantasy Matchups(Games with the most fantasy potential)

Fresno State at Oregon

Line:  Oregon -34(O/U-73.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Oregon 54-20

Best plays:

Fresno State (QB-Derek Carr, RB-Robbie Rouse, WRs-Davante Adams, Isaiah Burse)

Oregon (QB-Marcus Mariota, RBs-Kenjon Barner, DeAnthony Thomas)

Also consider:

Fresno St (WR-Rashad Evans)

Oregon (WR-Josh Huff, TE-Colt Lyerla)

theCFFsite projects:  Oregon 52-28


Oklahoma State at Arizona

Line:  Oklahoma St -13.5(O/U-70)

Projected score based on point spread:  Oklahoma St 42-28

Best plays:

Oklahoma St (QB-Wes Lunt, RB-Joseph Randle, WRs-Tracy Moore, Charlie Moore, K-Quinn Sharp)

Arizona (QB-Matt Scott, RB-KaDeem Carey, WRs-Dan Buckner, Austin Hill)

Also consider:

Oklahoma St (RB-Jeremy Smith, WRs-Isaiah Anderson, Josh Stewart)

Arizona (WRs-Terrence Miller, Richard Morrison)

theCFFsite projects:  Oklahoma St 48-24


Louisiana at Troy

Line:  Troy -3(O/U-64.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Troy 34-31

Best plays:

Louisiana (QB-Blaine Gautier, RB-Alonzo Harris, WR-Javone Lawson)

Troy (QB-Corey Robinson, RB-Shawn Southward, WR-Chip Reeves)

Also consider:

Louisiana (WR-Harry Peoples, TE-Jacob Maxwell, K-Brett Baer)

Troy (WR-Eric Thomas)

theCFFsite projects:  Louisiana 31-30

Toledo at Wyoming

Line:  Toledo -3.5(O/U-55.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Toledo 30-26

Best plays:

Toledo (RB-David Fluellen, WR-Bernard Reedy)

Wyoming (QB-Brett Smith, RB-Brandon Miller, WR-Robert Herron)

Also consider:

Toledo (RB-Cassius McDowell, WR-Alonzo Russell)

Wyoming (WR-Dominic Rufran)

theCFFsite projects:  Toledo 31-28

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

Western Kentucky at Alabama

Line:  Alabama -40(O/U-53.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Alabama 47-7

Stay away from:

Western Kentucky (RB-Antonio Andrews)

theCFFsite projects:  Alabama 48-10

LA-Monroe at Arkansas

Line:  Arkansas -30.5(O/U-57)

Projected score based on point spread:  Arkansas 44-14

Stay away from:

LA-Monroe (RB-Jyruss Edwards)

theCFFsite projects:  Arkansas 52-17


New Mexico at Texas

Line:  Texas -37.5(O/U-53.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Texas 46-8

Stay away from:

New Mexico (RB-Demarcus Rogers)

theCFFsite projects:  Texas 45-7


Michigan State at Central Michigan

Line:  Michigan State -23.5(O/U-48)

Projected score based on point spread:  Michigan State 36-12

Stay away from:

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

theCFFsite projects:  Michigan State 30-10


Must Watch Games(The games with the biggest headlines)

Georgia at Missouri

Line:  Georgia -3.5(O/U-55)

Projected score based on point spread:  Georgia 29-26

Outlook:  After last week’s performance against Buffalo, we’re not sure that the Bulldogs are ready to visit a team looking to prove they belong in the SEC.     

theCFFsite projects:  Missouri 30-27


Florida at Texas A&M

Line:  Texas A&M -2.5(O/U-53)

Projected score based on point spread:  Texas A&M 28-25

Outlook:  Florida’s advantage is that they have a game under their belt, but the fact that Bowling Green gave the Gators all they could handle makes this decision easy.

theCFFsite projects:  Texas A&M 37-24


theCFFsite in Must Watch games:

2012 Season:  Straight Up (4-0)  ATS: (3-1)

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



The College Fantasy Football Site

By:  Joe DiSalvo

Follow Joe on twitter (@theCFFsite)

<p> College Fantasy Football: Using Vegas Odds to Determine Best Week 2 Plays</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 04:07
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-week-2-sit-or-start

Fantasy owners got burned last week when they decided to bench guys like Ryan Aplin, Jordan Lynch, Nathan Jeffery, and Branden Oliver.  Others got disappointing fantasy performances from preseason favorites like Cobi Hamilton, Cody Hoffman, Jeff Tuel, and David Piland.  Here’s your redemption:  Week 2. 

Week 2 College Fantasy Football Sit or Start


Colby Cameron, QB-LA Tech at Houston

Now that Boise State lost last week at Michigan State, the Bulldogs may have the best chance to bust the BCS, and Cameron has some weapons on the outside.

Derek Carr, QB-Fresno State at Oregon
If the Ducks race out to an early lead, expect Carr to put the ball in the air all night long.

Zac Dysert, QB-Miami, OH vs. Southern Illinois
Dysert put the ball in the air 53 times at Ohio St last week, but only threw for one score.  Expect fewer attempts this week, but the senior quarterback should account for at least two-to-three touchdowns.

Taylor McHargue, QB-Rice at Kansas
South Dakota State ran up 411 yards against Kansas’ defense last week, so we’re confident McHargue will at least duplicate his numbers from a week ago against UCLA.

Matt Brown, RB-Temple vs Maryland
As long as Montel Harris remains on the sideline with a hamstring injury, Brown is a solid fantasy performer.

Brandin Byrd, RB-North Texas vs Texas Southern
Byrd led all Mean Green running backs in rush attempts at LSU and will have a much easier time this week against Texas Southern.

Shawn Southward, RB-Troy vs Louisiana
Southward topped the 200-yard mark last week with 28 carries against UAB.  The Trojans will most likely call upon the junior running back to shoulder the load in what figures to be the biggest Sun Belt Conference matchup of the season.

Johnathan Franklin, RB-UCLA vs Nebraska
Franklin may not run for 200 yards again, but he should find some running room at home against the Huskers.

Ameer Abdullah, RB-Nebraska at UCLA
It is almost certain that Rex Burkhead will sit this one out, so look for the versatile sophomore to fill the void.

Tim Cornett, RB UNLV vs Northern Arizona
We have never recommended starting a UNLV running back in consecutive weeks, but Cornett should top the 100-yard mark again.

Tony Jones, RB-Colorado vs Sacramento State
The Buffaloes struggled to run the ball last week against Colorado State, but don’t give up on Jones just yet.

Nathan Jeffery, RB-UTEP at Ole Miss
After rushing for 177 yards against the Sooners last week, Jeffery could top 1,500 yards rushing this season if he stays healthy.

Noel Grigsby, WR-San Jose State vs UC-Davis
Grigsby’s inability to find the end zone last year kept him off of many fantasy rosters, so it was nice to see him score in Week 1 at Stanford.  We suggest rolling with the junior receiver in Week 2 vs UC-Davis.

Charlie Moore, WR-Oklahoma State @ Arizona
We did not learn anything about the Cowboys last week against Savannah State, but we still like Moore to emerge as a legitimate fantasy factor.

LaRod King, WR-Kentucky vs Kent State
King had 77 yards receiving on 8 catches against a solid Louisville defense in Week 1, so we’re looking for more against the Golden Flashes.


David Piland, QB-Houston vs LA Tech
The Cougars’ loss to Texas State was a shocker and we can promise things will not get any easier against Tech.

Kerwynn Williams, RB-Utah State vs Utah
Williams wasn’t even the leading rusher for the Aggies last week and they will face a stiff test when they host Utah Friday night.

Zurlon Tipton, RB-Central Michigan vs Michigan State
Tipton opened some eyes last week after running for 180 yards and three touchdowns against Southeast Missouri State, but the Chippewas step up in competition this week when they host Michigan State.

Storm Woods, RB-Oregon State vs Wisconsin
Woods may have been named the starter, but we should still see a lot of Malcolm Agnew against the Badgers.

Dominique Whaley, RB-Oklahoma vs Florida A&M
Whaley looked healthy last week, but Damien Williams was the more impressive Sooners running back and could steal more carries from the senior.  Plus, Whaley could exit early if the game gets out of hand against the Rattlers from Florida A&M.

Bishop Sankey, RB-Washington at LSU
Sankey assumed the role as full-time starter when fellow running back Jesse Callier was lost for the season with a torn ACL.  However, running room will be hard to find Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.

Cameron Marshall, RB-Arizona State vs Illinois
We’re not quite sure Marshall is 100% and he’ll go against an Illinois defense that held Western Michigan to negative-6 yards rushing last week.

Rashad Greene vs Savannah State
We learned from the Oklahoma State-Savannah State game last week that Greene will be on the sidelines by halftime.  Can he generate a score or two before an early exit?


Joe DiSalvo

The College Fantasy Football Site

Follow Joe on twitter (@theCFFsite)

<p> College Fantasy Football: Week 2 Sit or Start</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 04:05
Path: /golf/bmw-quoteboard

It's Round 3 of the battle for the FedExCup. Fresh off scorching the TPC Boston layout this past weekend, the best players in the world converge on Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind., for the BMW Championship. Here are the top 5 in FedExCup points through the Deutsche Bank Championship:

Player                            Points Behind
1. Rory McIlroy                     --
2. Nick Watney                   1,331
3. Tiger Woods                   1,382
4. Brandt Snedeker             1,605
5. Louis Oosthuizen            1,890

What They're Saying on the eve of the BMW:

Rory McIlroy
On being paired with Tiger Woods at the Deutsche Bank: "I think it definitely creates some more interest for the fans and for golf in general.  I don't see any challenge in it.  I mean, I think it's just good fun.  It's good fun to be out there and have such an atmosphere and such a buzz around a grouping like that, and it's just nice to be a part of."

On being in "the zone": "I think the most important thing when that does happen, you have to realize it's happening and just get out of your own way and just completely just play one shot at a time.  Obviously you're hitting the ball well, you're just trying to hit it in the fairway, hit it on the green, hole the putt, go to the next hole, do it all over again.  That's what you're trying to do.
"There's some weeks where golf does seem as simple as that, and when you're on like that, it's obviously a great feeling.  It's very difficult to play like that all the time, and that's why it's the great players, they learn to win when they're not playing their best.  That's something, I've said this before, that I still feel like I'm learning to do.  I think I sort of did that for a little bit of last week.  I struggled to close out the tournament, but a couple of crucial up‑and‑downs on the way in, which helped, and that's what the great players do; they find a way."

Tiger Woods
On facing personal and professional challenges: "I think it's put a different perspective on things.  Losing a parent and having the birth of two kids put things in better perspective for me.  The wins are fantastic, but the losses aren't what they used to be, because I get to talk to my kids at night.  It makes things‑‑ it puts things in a proper perspective, for sure."

On being golf's first $100 million man: "Well, it just means that I've come along at the right time.  We've had purse increases.  We've had a lot of things go our way.  I've won some tournaments, yes, but as I said last week, Sam Snead won more tournaments than I did, and obviously he didn't make the money that I did, just because it was a different era.  I happened to come along at the right time when TV was booming and our commissioner did some fantastic deals with TV, and our purses just leapt by a lot. I think that all that said, I'm not opposed to it; put it that way."

On the state of his game: "I'm certainly hitting it further and straighter.  I don't curve the ball as much as I used to.  Granted, it's a function of the golf ball just not moving as much, but also I think where I'm coming from, I just don't arc it, I don't come as far from the inside like I used to.  With that being said, my shot pattern is much tighter now.
"And the only thing I really struggle with is my aim, is aiming closer to the middle of the fairway or closer to flags because I'm used to shaping it so much either way.  That's something that's taken me a little while to get accustomed to because I've done it for so long.  It's just an adjustment that I've had to make gradually over time."

Phil Mickelson
On the state of his game: "I think the last three or four months where my game has just been a little south, I was just kind of searching for something different.  I've been trying to piece my game back together.  Finally my irons came back first.  I started hitting a lot of good iron shots.  My driver has now come around where I'm hitting it really well off the tee.  And the last thing was putting, and I feel really good with it.  I feel like the touch is there and it's a very stress‑free way to putt because the ball is starting on line."

On whether Tiger Woods will win more majors: "Oh, yeah, unfortunately. His game looks tremendous."

Defending Champion Justin Rose
"I think low scores for sure.  Any time you give us soft greens, which they are obviously due to the weather, I think when you have soft greens certainly the first couple rounds, and the way things go in a tournament, how long, how difficult a golf course, if it's soft, guys tend to go low."



<br />
Post date: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 16:24
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-positional-rankings-week-1

It's been seven long months, but fantasy football and our fantasy football positional rankings are back! 

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

2012 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Week 1 Start or Sit

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

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

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

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Positional Rankings: Week 1</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 14:07
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-quarterback-rankings-week-1

It's been seven long months, but fantasy football and our fantasy football positional rankings are back!

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

As you will see below, Aaron Rodgers, the reigning NFL MVP and last season's top fantasy scorer, is not our No. 1 quarterback option in Week 1. The reason why is because Rodgers and the Packers have a tough opening assignment as the San Franciso 49ers, who were the NFC's No. 1 defense in 2011, pay a visit to Lambeau Field. We're not saying you shouldn't start Rodgers, we just like Matthew Stafford at home against St. Louis and Drew Brees in the dome against Washington a little better.

2012 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Matthew Stafford DET vs. STL
2 Drew Brees NO vs. WAS
3 Aaron Rodgers GB vs. SF
4 Tom Brady NE at TEN
5 Cam Newton CAR at TB
6 Michael Vick PHI at CLE
7 Eli Manning NYG vs. DAL (Wed.)
8 Ben Roethlisberger PIT at DEN
9 Matt Ryan ATL at KC
10 Jay Cutler CHI vs. IND
11 Philip Rivers SD at OAK (Mon.)
12 Peyton Manning DEN vs. PIT
13 Tony Romo DAL at NYG (Wed.)
14 Robert Griffin III WAS at NO
15 Matt Schaub HOU vs. MIA
16 Carson Palmer OAK vs. SD (Mon.)
17 Josh Freeman TB vs. CAR
18 Sam Bradford STL at DET
19 Andrew Luck IND at CHI
20 Russell Wilson SEA at ARI
21 Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF at NYJ
22 Alex Smith SF at GB
23 Jake Locker TEN vs. NE
24 Andy Dalton CIN at BAL (Mon.)
25 Joe Flacco BAL vs. CIN (Mon.)
26 Christian Ponder MIN vs. JAC

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 1 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Week 1 Start or Sit

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings: Week 1</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 14:06
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-running-back-rankings-week-1

It's been seven long months, but fantasy football and our fantasy football positional rankings are back!

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

Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy and Ray Rice were among the top four running backs in fantasy points in last season and all three should pick up where they left off in Week 1.

The other member of this quartet, Maurice Jones-Drew, is nowhere near a must-start even with a seemingly favorable match up in Minnesota. The NFL's leading rusher last season, MJD held out the entire preseason because of a contract dispute resulting in new Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey declaring Rashad Jennings the Week 1 starter. Because of the time missed and his late arrival to Jaguars' camp, there's no guarantee MJD will even get on the field on Sunday.

Plenty of people will be watching the Vikings' sideline as well as Adrian Peterson could make his return from the torn ACL he suffered late last season, or he could watch teammate Toby Gerhart get all the carries. The team has said it won't make a decision on the All-Pro's status until game time on Sunday. Other injury returns to keep an eye on in Week 1 include Matt Forte (sprained MCL), Jamaal Charles (ACL),  Fred Jackson, and rookie Trent Richardson (knee surgery) who may or may not make his NFL debut against Philadelphia.

2012 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Backs

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Arian Foster HOU vs. MIA
2 LeSean McCoy PHI at CLE
3 Matt Forte CHI vs. IND
4 Ray Rice BAL vs. CIN (Mon.)
5 Darren McFadden OAK vs. SD (Mon.)
6 Chris Johnson TEN vs. NE
7 Marshawn Lynch SEA at ARI
8 Jamaal Charles KC vs. ATL
9 DeMarco Murray DAL at NYG (Wed.)
10 Steven Jackson STL at DET
11 Ahmad Bradshaw NYG vs. DAL (Wed.)
12 Michael Turner ATL at KC
13 Fred Jackson BUF at NYJ
14 Darren Sproles NO vs. WAS
15 Doug Martin TB vs. CAR
16 Frank Gore SF at GB
17 DeAngelo Williams CAR at TB
18 Reggie Bush MIA at HOU
19 Trent Richardson CLE vs. PHI
20 Toby Gerhart MIN vs. JAC
21 Stevan Ridley NE at TEN
22 Kevin Smith DET vs. STL
23 Rashad Jennings JAC at MIN
24 BenJarvus Green-Ellis CIN at BAL (Mon.)
25 Shonn Greene NYJ vs. BUF
26 Willis McGahee DEN vs. PIT
27 Donald Brown IND at CHI
28 Peyton Hillis KC vs. ATL
29 Ronnie Brown SD at OAK (Mon.)
30 Cedric Benson GB vs. SF
31 Isaac Redman PIT at DEN
32 Beanie Wells ARI vs. SEA
33 Michael Bush CHI vs. IND
34 Maurice Jones-Drew JAC at MIN
35 Ben Tate HOU vs. MIA
36 C.J. Spiller BUF at NYJ
37 Mark Ingram NO vs. WAS
38 Jonathan Stewart CAR at TB
39 Evan Royster WAS at NO
40 David Wilson NYG vs. DAL (Wed.)
41 Jonathan Dwyer PIT at DEN
42 Adrian Peterson MIN vs. JAC
43 Pierre Thomas NO vs. WAS
44 Robert Turbin SEA at ARI
45 Ryan Williams ARI vs. SEA
46 Montario Hardesty CLE vs. PHI
47 Jacquizz Rodgers ATL at KC
48 Roy Helu WAS at NO

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 1 Positional Rankings

Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Week 1 Start or Sit

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings: Week 1</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 14:05
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-wide-receiver-rankings-week-1

It's been seven long months, but fantasy football and our fantasy football positional rankings are back!

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

The good news for fantasy owners was that Hakeem Nicks, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, each of whom dealt with different injuries during the preseason, all played on Wednesday night. The bad news, unfortunately, is that all three of them were out-performed by Kevin Ogletree, who didn't even make our wide receiver rankings (below).

With the Cowboys-Giants opener now in the rear-view mirror, the focus shifts to Sunday's and Monday's games. To that end, Calvin Johnson, who led the league in receiving yards and finished third in touchdowns last season, should get off to another strong start in Week 1 as his Lions host St. Louis. Will other top pass-catchers like Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Julio Jones, Brandon Marshall, Roddy White, Wes Welker, Greg Jennings and others follow suit, or will another "unknown" like Ogletree steal the spotlight?

2012 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Calvin Johnson DET vs. STL
2 Andre Johnson HOU vs. MIA
3 Larry Fitzgerald ARI vs. SEA
4 Julio Jones ATL at KC
5 Brandon Marshall CHI vs. IND
6 Victor Cruz NYG vs. DAL (Wed.)
7 Roddy White ATL at KC
8 Wes Welker NE at TEN
9 Greg Jennings GB vs. SF
10 Dez Bryant DAL at NYG (Wed.)
11 A.J. Green CIN at BAL (Mon.)
12 Percy Harvin MIN vs. JAC
13 Antonio Brown PIT at DEN
14 Steve Smith CAR at TB
15 Marques Colston NO vs. WAS
16 Hakeem Nicks NYG vs. DAL (Wed.)
17 Jordy Nelson GB vs. SF
18 Vincent Jackson TB vs. CAR
19 Jeremy Maclin PHI at CLE
20 Dwayne Bowe KC vs. ATL
21 Stevie Johnson BUF at NYJ
22 Torrey Smith BAL vs. CIN (Mon.)
23 Miles Austin DAL at NYG (Wed.)
24 Pierre Garcon WAS at NO
25 Mike Wallace PIT at DEN
26 Eric Decker DEN vs. PIT
27 Reggie Wayne IND at CHI
28 Nate Washington TEN vs. NE
29 Demaryius Thomas DEN vs. PIT
30 DeSean Jackson PHI at CLE
31 Brandon Lloyd NE at TEN
32 Malcom Floyd SD at OAK (Mon.)
33 Santonio Holmes NYJ vs. BUF
34 Robert Meachem SD at OAK (Mon.)
35 Lance Moore NO vs. WAS
36 Michael Crabtree SF at GB
37 Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK vs. SD (Mon.)
38 Justin Blackmon JAC at MIN
39 Titus Young DET vs. STL
40 Danny Amendola STL at DET
41 Denarius Moore OAK vs. SD (Mon.)
42 Kendall Wright TEN vs. NE
43 Sidney Rice SEA at ARI
44 Anquan Boldin BAL vs. CIN (Mon.)
45 Brandon LaFell CAR at TB
46 Greg Little CLE vs. PHI
47 Doug Baldwin SEA at ARI
48 Mike Williams TB vs. CAR
49 Randy Moss SF at GB
50 Laurent Robinson JAC at MIN
51 Randall Cobb GB vs. SF
52 Mario Manningham SF at GB
53 Davone Bess MIA at HOU
54 Jon Baldwin KC vs. ATL
55 Leonard Hankerson WAS at NO
56 Nate Burleson DET vs. STL
57 Rueben Randle NYG vs. DAL (Wed.)
58 Austin Collie IND at CHI
59 Eddie Royal SD at OAK (Mon.)
60 Kevin Walter HOU vs. MIA
61 David Nelson BUF at NYJ
62 Andre Roberts ARI vs. SEA
63 Santana Moss WAS at NO
64 Braylon Edwards SEA at ARI

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 1 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Week 1 Start or Sit

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 1</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 14:03
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-tight-end-rankings-week-1

It's been seven long months, but fantasy football and our fantasy football positional rankings are back!

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

Surprisingly, Jason Witten did in fact not only suit up, but he played in the Cowboys' opener against the Giants on Wednesday night. Not surprising, however, is that he was for the most part ineffective (2 rec., 10 yards), at least as far as statistics go. Witten's worth and value to the Cowboys' offense and team as a whole, cannot be measured solely with his production on the field.

Similar to Witten, Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski are two tight ends who are vital to their respective teams' offensive attacks, and along those lines they were the two most dominant tight ends in fantasy football last season. More of the same is expected from the duo in 2012 starting in Week 1 as both have appealing match ups. Gronkowski's teammate Aaron Hernandez, a completely healthy Antonio Gates and Fred Davis, who could become one of Robert Griffn III's favorite tagerts, are just a few other names to keep an eye on over the weekend. 

2012 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Jimmy Graham NO vs. WAS
2 Rob Gronkowski NE at TEN
3 Antonio Gates SD at OAK (Mon.)
4 Vernon Davis SF at GB
5 Fred Davis WAS at NO
6 Aaron Hernandez NE at TEN
7 Jermichael Finley GB vs. SF
8 Brandon Pettigrew DET vs. STL
9 Tony Gonzalez ATL at KC
10 Jared Cook TEN vs. NE
11 Brent Celek PHI at CLE
12 Greg Olsen CAR at TB
13 Jacob Tamme DEN vs. PIT
14 Dustin Keller NYJ vs. BUF
15 Coby Fleener IND at CHI
16 Kyle Rudolph MIN vs. JAC
17 Owen Daniels HOU vs. MIA
18 Jermaine Gresham CIN at BAL (Mon.)
19 Martellus Bennett NYG vs. DAL (Wed.)
20 Scott Chandler BUF at NYJ
21 Heath Miller PIT at DEN
22 Dallas Clark TB vs. CAR
23 Marcedes Lewis JAC at MIN
24 Ed Dickson BAL vs. CIN (Mon.)
25 Anthony Fasano MIA at HOU
26 Tony Moeaki KC vs. ATL

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 1 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Defense/Special Teams

Week 1 Start or Sit

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings: Week 1</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 14:02
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-kicker-rankings-week-1

It's been seven long months, but fantasy football and our fantasy football positional rankings are back!

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

2012 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Stephen Gostkowski NE at TEN
2 Garrett Hartley NO vs. WAS
3 David Akers SF at GB
4 Mason Crosby GB vs. SF
5 Dan Bailey DAL at NYG (Wed.)
6 Sebastian Janikowski OAK vs. SD (Mon.)
7 Alex Henery PHI at CLE
8 Nate Kaeding SD at OAK (Mon.)
9 Jason Hanson DET vs. STL
10 Robbie Gould CHI vs. IND
11 Matt Bryant ATL at KC
12 Matt Prater DEN vs. PIT
13 Justin Tucker BAL vs. CIN (Mon.)
14 Rob Bironas TEN vs. NE
15 Mike Nugent CIN at BAL (Mon.)
16 Billy Cundiff WAS at NO

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 1 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Week 1 Start or Sit

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Kicker Rankings: Week 1</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 14:01
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-1

It's been seven long months, but fantasy football and our fantasy football positional rankings are back!

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

2012 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams

1 Houston Texans vs. MIA
2 Philadelphia Eagles at CLE
3 Seattle Seahawks at ARI
4 Chicago Bears vs. IND
5 Baltimore Ravens vs. CIN (Mon.)
6 New York Jets vs. BUF
7 Buffalo Bills at NYJ
8 Detroit Lions vs. STL
9 Pittsburgh Steelers at DEN
10 San Francisco 49ers at GB
11 Atlanta Falcons at KC
12 Green Bay Packers vs. SF
13 Cincinnati Bengals at BAL (Mon.)
14 New York Giants vs. DAL (Wed.)
15 Minnesota Vikings vs. JAC
16 Arizona Cardinals vs. SEA

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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


Additional Week 1 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends

Week 1 Start or Sit

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 1</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 14:00
Path: /nascar/backseat-drivers-fan-council-25

Trust and belief are core issues the Backseat Drivers Fan Council delves into this week. Members state how much they trust NASCAR in regards to debris cautions. Belief centers on what Fan Council members think about the title chances of Denny Hamlin, who has a series-high four wins, including the last two races. Belief also centers on what they think of Tony Stewart’s various comments last week toward Matt Kenseth and if Stewart will seek revenge. Here’s what members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council had to say on those topics and more.

Do you trust NASCAR on calling debris cautions?

55.9 percent said only part of the time
33.0 percent said yes, all of the time
11.1 percent said no, never

What Fan Council members said:
• I have to be honest here and say that sometimes I think NASCAR throws a caution for no apparent reason to change the outcome of the race ... plain and simple!

• If you can't trust NASCAR then why are you watching?

• How many times does this need to be talked about?! Seriously, I am tired of it! Face it, NASCAR is a dictatorship; they are judge, jury and executioner. They are in business to make money, and what makes money in racing? Excitement! What doesn't make money in racing? Boring-ass, single-file, follow-the-leader (who is eight seconds ahead) racing. So if NASCAR wants to toss out a phantom yellow once in a while to create some action — which creates profits — I am all for it.

• I'm sorry, but I just don't buy the conspiracy theories. There is just too much at stake, financially, for the powers-that-be at NASCAR to go around manipulating results. It's a legitimate sport, not wrestling.

• The lack of consistency has always irked me. If brushing the wall brings out a caution on lap 10, it should bring out a caution on lap 110.

• I do believe that NASCAR does, at times, consider what will make a good TV finish and may be inclined to abuse the caution flag to create that situation. That's my honest opinion, and I hope somebody can argue the other point and change my mind.

• I believe they make mistakes but I also believe that NASCAR has to err on the side of safety and there may be cautions called that are not necessary. However, by and large, they make the right calls most of the time.

• NASCAR is definitely not infallible when it comes to their calls, so they're not going to get it right all the time. But this is racing. You're never going to get it right all the time. And you're never going to please all the fans with the calls — it just can't be done, especially when you consider the coverage that most of us are stuck with. I'm tired of this whole debate.

After scoring two consecutive wins, is Denny Hamlin the championship favorite?

75.1 percent said No
24.9 percent said Yes

What Fan Council members said:
• Denny is too mentally weak. He'll snap and disappoint the team again.

• Hamlin choked the 2010 title away in the final two races after being one of the winningest drivers of that season. Just because he has won two in a row, he looks like the flavor of the month. Remember what happened with Smoke last year? The only favorite is the 48, period.

• That team has not shown the consistency to win the championship so far, but with Darian Grubb as crew chief, who knows?

• With Darian Grubb, a crew chief who did a great job last year with Tony Stewart, on top of the pit box and having momentum heading into the Chase, they could be dangerous.

• I believe this might be Denny's year, he and Darian are really clicking and look very good to win the Championship!

• Serious challenger, but still think JJ is the man to win.

• He hasn't shown the consistency to be the favorite. Betting against Jimmie Johnson in the Chase is the ultimate sucker bet. It’s about time to start singing the praises of Darian Grubb, though — what a 12 months of racing for him!

• Hate to say it, but Dale Jr. is the guy to beat. Top 5s week in and week out.

<p> Dustin Long's Backseat Drivers Fan Council talks about NASCAR debris cautions, Denny Hamlin's Chase expectations, the Tony Stewart/Matt Kenseth beef and racing in Atlanta.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 11:33
Path: /nfl/nfl-preseason-awards

The 2012 NFL season kicks off with a Wednesday night showdown between the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants and their NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys — in the first of 256 regular season games that span from Sept. 4 until Dec. 30.

Before a snap has been taken, Athlon Sports looks into our crystal ball in an attempt to predict who will be award-worthy after the dust settles this season.

Most Valuable Player
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers

A-Rodg will look to defend his league MVP award — although he would almost certainly prefer to add another piece of Super Bowl MVP hardware to his trophy case. Last season, Rodgers had career bests across the board — completing 68.3 percent of his passes for 4,643 yards, 45 TDs and six INTs for a 122.5 passer rating in 15 games. He also rushed for 257 yards and three trips to the end zone on the ground. Since taking over for Brett Favre in 2008, Rodgers has averaged 4,259 yards, 33 TDs and nine INTs, while scrambling for another 284 yards and four scores. Those are title belt (and MVP) stats.

Offensive Player of the Year
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions

Megatron has become a big play machine, tallying 96 catches for 1,681 yards (17.5 ypc) and 16 TDs last season. The 6'5", 236-pounder will turn 27 years old on Sept. 29, so his best days should be ahead of him — a terrifying thought for NFC North defensive backs.

Defensive Player of the Year
Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, Giants

JPP’s jump from his rookie year to his sophomore season had to be seen to be believed, as he vaulted from a 4.5-sack, 30-tackle situational end to a 16.5-sack, 86-tackle force to be reckoned with. If the third year is a charm for Pierre-Paul, he will be the best in the business.

Offensive Rookie of the Year
Trent Richardson, RB, Browns

Offseason minor knee surgery is reason for minor concern. But T-Rich was back at practice and expected to play in the Browns’ season opener. A healthy Richardson has the power, vision, balance and speed — not to mention a solid O-line to run behind — to take the league by storm.

Defensive Rookie of the Year
Mark Barron, S, Buccaneers

The rookie safety out of Alabama was selected No. 6 overall thanks to his combination of hard hitting, ball-hawking and Nick Saban-approved football IQ. The young Buc got off to a good start, intercepting Tom Brady and returning the pick for a TD during the preseason.

Comeback Player of the Year
Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos

The four-time MVP missed the 2011 season due to (at least) four neck surgeries. And after 14 seasons as an Indianapolis Colt — which included 54,828 yards, 399 TDs and a Super Bowl XLIV victory and MVP — Manning is changing horses in mid-stream. The 36-year-old is now a Denver Bronco, following in the footsteps of two-time Super Bowl champion John Elway — Manning’s new boss and inspiration. Elway won his two Vince Lombardi Trophies at age 37 and 38, respectively.

Coach of the Year
John Fox, Broncos

After deftly dealing with the “Mania” of Tim Tebow’s tenure as well as Peyton Manning’s arrival, Fox deserves to be rewarded if the Broncos are able to put together a repeat playoff run this year.

Executive of the Year
Phil Emery, Bears

In his first offseason as the GM in Chicago, Emery acquired Pro Bowl-caliber receiver Brandon Marshall (who was Jay Cutler’s favorite target when the two were teammates in Denver), re-signed running back Matt Forté and added quality depth through free agency and the draft.

<p> The preseason favorites for MVP, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 10:46
All taxonomy terms: NFL, NFL
Path: /nfl/10-greatest-quarterback-seasons-nfl-history

The word "great" is thrown around the sports arena entirely too liberally. Too many coaches, players, games or teams are considered great. Instead, the word should be reserved for the truly remarkable. Therefore, defining greatness becomes the key, and since there are infinite ways to describe the best, beauty lies solely in the eye of the beholder. Any of the memorable season's produced by the quarterbacks listed below could make a legitimate case to be No. 1.

Heart, toughness, statistical production, winning championships, clutch performances, leadership and overall physical ability are just a few of the ways to quantify greatness. It is using a combination of all these factors — NFL records, team records, wins and losses, championships and personal awards — that Athlon ranks the greatest complete NFL seasons a quarterback has ever had—from Week 1 through Super Sunday.

1. Steve Young, San Francisco, 1994
There hasn't been a more complete NFL season than the year Young and offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan put together in 1994. The 49ers finished the regular season with the best record in the league at 13-3 while Young set an NFL single-season record for efficiency with a 112.8 QB rating, breaking the previous record set by former mentor Joe Montana. He also came 0.3 percentage points from breaking Ken Anderson's NFL mark for completion percent at 70.6 percent (Young's 70.3 percent still sits at No. 4 all-time). He started all 16 games, finished with 3,969 yards and an NFL-best 35 touchdowns against only 10 interceptions. Additionally, Young led the team in rushing touchdowns with seven as he compiled 293 yards on 58 carries. For all of this he earned the NFL MVP, but what made the '94 campaign special is what took place following the regular season. The Niners steam-rolled the Bears, Cowboys and Chargers en route to Young's first Super Bowl — a win commemorated by a record six touchdown passes, 325 yards passing, the MVP trophy and Gary Plummer's famous monkey exorcism. Oh, and No. 8 was the game's leading rusher as well. Young posted 623 yards passing, 128 yards rushing, 11 total touchdowns and nary an interception in San Francisco's three playoff games. It was the finest season a quarterback has ever seen.

2. Kurt Warner, St. Louis, 1999
Part of what makes Warner's '99 campaign so memorable is how the Northern Iowa signal caller ended up a Super Bowl champion and NFL MVP. The undrafted rookie finally broke into the league four years after graduating from UNI and led the inept Rams to the best record in the NFC (13-3) as a first-year starter. The 28-year-old led the NFL in touchdown passes (41), completion rate (65.1 percent), yards per attempt (8.7) and QB rating (109.2) while finishing with a franchise-record 4,353 yards passing. He then proceeded to complete over 81 percent of his passes for 391 yards and five touchdowns in his first career playoff start — a 49-37 win over Minnesota. By the end of Super Bowl XXXIV, Warner had thrown for 414 yards and two touchdowns to earn his second MVP trophy of the season. The huge numbers, the sheer improbability and ultimate victory combined to produce what was nearly the greatest season in history. 

3. Tom Brady, New England, 2007
Today's sports culture values the championship and quarterbacks rarely disagree. So had Brady finished his magical romp through the NFL in 2007, he would be sitting at No. 1 on this list. He is only one of two QBs to ever finish a regular season 16-0 and eventually worked the record to 18-0 before the show-stopping loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII . Brady threw for a franchise record 4,806 yards, good for third all-time in NFL history at the time. His QB rating of 117.2 was second all-time in NFL history and he became the first and only player to ever throw 50 touchdown passes in one season. He threw only eight interceptions and led the league in 11 passing categories. In the postseason, Brady and the Pats took care of business against Jacksonville in the Divisional Round, but the Michigan grad struggled in his final two games of the year. He threw three interceptions and had his second-worst yardage day of the year (209 yards) in the AFC title game win over San Diego. He capped his MVP season with an underwhelming performance against the extraordinary Giants defensive line, costing him his fourth Super Bowl ring and the unbeaten immortality of 19-0.

4. Dan Marino, Miami, 1984
Marino was well ahead of his time back in only his second year in the league. He set an NFL record for passing yards (5,084) that would stand for nearly 30 years and an NFL record for touchdowns (48) that would stand for 20 years. He led the Dolphins to the best record in the AFC at 14-2, claimed the MVP trophy and returned Miami to the Super Bowl where they fell just short of defeating the 18-1 Joe Montana-led 49ers. The Pitt Panther threw for 1,001 yards and eight scores in three postseason games. The 23-year-old with a lightning quick release led the NFL in completions, attempts, QB rating and yards per attempt in a season that totally changed the way the game of football was played. He paved the way for what we see today on Sunday and came up 22 points short of a championship.

5. Joe Montana, San Francisco, 1989
The Golden Domer wasn't ever the most talented or fastest or strongest quarterback on the field, but his 13 regular-season games — and subsequent playoff run — during the 1989 season were as brilliant as most's 16-game seasons. Montana completed 70.2 percent of his passes, led the NFL at 270.8 yards per game and finished with a then-NFL record 112.4 QB rating. His completion rate was second all-time to only Ken Anderson and is still one of only five seasons with a completion rate of better than 70 percent in history. The 49ers finished 11-2 in his 13 starts and 14-2 overall and Montana was the MVP of the league. Montana threw for 3,521 yards, 26 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. He also added 227 yards rushing and three more scores on the ground. However, what made No. 16's '89 campaign one of the greatest in history was his thorough destruction of the NFC and Denver Broncos in the postseason. He completed 65 of his 83 passes (78.3 percent) for 800 yards, 11 touchdowns and zero picks, finishing his historic season with arguably the most dominant Super Bowl performance to date by crushing John Elway and company 55-10. Three more games puts Montana over 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns and moves him ahead of Marino and Brady on this list.

6. Drew Brees, New Orleans, 2009
One could argue Brees' 2011 season was better, but I am guessing if you ask him which year was better, he would take 2009 everyday and twice on Sunday. He led the NFL in completion rate (70.6 percent), breaking the aforementioned Anderson's NFL single-season record. He also topped the charts in touchdown passes (34) and QB rating (109.6) en route to a 13-3 final record. He finished with 4,388 yards and only 11 interceptions. He then capped the magical New Orleans resurrection with 732 yards passing, eight touchdowns and no interceptions in three playoff wins. His performance in the Super Bowl XLIV win over the Colts and Peyton Manning gave the Saints franchise their first championship. Brees completed 82.1 percent of his passes and claimed the game's MVP honors.

7. Drew Brees, New Orleans, 2011
It is hard to argue that from a statistical perspective, no quarterback has ever had a better regular season than Brees last fall. He set NFL records for completions (468), passing yards (5,476) and completion rate (71.2 percent) while leading the Saints to a 13-3 record. He then proceeded to throw for 928 yards and seven touchdowns in two playoff games. His defense let him down in the postseason and he contributed two of the team's costly five turnovers in the loss to the 49ers.

8. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis, 2006
Much like Brees, Manning has had many elite seasons, but two stand above the rest. One in which he broke an NFL record and played at unprecedented levels (see 2004 below) and the other ended with a Super Bowl championship. Much like Brees, the ring gives Manning's '06 campaign the slight edge. He threw for 4,397 yards on 65.0 percent passing and a league-leading 31 touchdown passes. It was also the only year in which No. 18 threw fewer than 10 interceptions (9). His 101.0 QB rating also led the NFL that season and he added four rushing scores for good measure. Manning led his Colts to four postseason wins that year (16-4 overall) and the 29-17 Super Bowl XLI win over Chicago in which he claimed the game's MVP trophy.

9. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay, 2011
In a season in which three passers topped 5,000 yards and numerous NFL records were broken, Rodgers' season can get lost in the shuffle. Yet, the Packers passer set every major franchise passing record and led a team that finished 15-1 in the regular season. The year ended with a whimper with Rodgers sitting out the season finale and then losing to the Giants in the first playoff game. But his 4,643 yards, 10.5 yards per attempt and absurd 45:6 TD:INT ratio gave No. 12 the most efficient season in NFL history (122.5 QB rating) — and it earned him the league's MVP trophy. Had he posted Matt Flynn's (480 yards passing, 6 TDs) numbers in the final week of the regular season, he would have hit 50 TDs and topped 5,000 yards. That said, Packers fans will always look at '11 with "what-if" memories.

10. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis, 2004
Many believe this season was Manning's best. Statistically speaking it was as he finished the regular season with an NFL-record 49 touchdown passes and 121.1 QB rating to go with 4,557 yards and a 67.6 percent completion rate. The league's MVP was 12-4 and appeared to be headed to his first Super Bowl title until New England completely dominated the Colts in the AFC Divisional round 20-3. Manning's remarkable season ended with only 238 yards passing, no touchdowns and an interception in the disheartening loss to the Patriots.

Others to consider:

Dan Fouts, San Diego, 1981 (10-6, Postseason: 1-1)
Stats: 4,802 yds (NFL record), 33 TD, 17 INT, 90.6 QB rating

Warren Moon, Houston, 1990 (8-7, Postseason: None)
Stats: 4,689 yds, 33 TD, 13 INT, 96.8 QB rating, 215 rush yds, 2 TD

Randall Cunningham, Philadelphia, 1990 (10-6, Postseason: 0-1)
Stats: 3,466 yds, 30 TD, 13 INT, 91.6 QB rating, 118 att., 942 yds, 5 TD

Brett Favre, Green Bay, 1996 (13-3, Postseason: 3-0) MVP, Super Bowl
Stats: 3,899 yds, 39 TD, 13 INT, 95.8 QB rating, 136 rush yds, 2 TD

Michael Vick, Atlanta, 2004 (11-4, Postseason: 1-1)
Stats: 2,313 yds, 14 TD, 12 INT, 78.1 QB rating, 120 att., 902 yds, 3 TD

Michael Vick, Atlanta, 2006 (7-9, Postseason: None)
Stats: 2,474 yds, 20 TD, 13 INT, 75.7 QB rating, 123 att., 1,039 yds, 2 TD

Brett Favre, Minnesota, 2009 (12-4, Postseason: 1-1)
Stats: 4,202 yds, 33 TD, 7 INT, 107.2 QB rating

Michael Vick, Philadelphia, 2010 (8-3, Postseason: 0-1)
Stats: 3,018 yds, 21 TD, 6 INT, 100.2 QB rating, 100 att., 675 yds, 9 TD 

Eli Manning, NY Giants, 2011 (9-7, Postseason: 4-0) Super Bowl
Stats: 4,933 yds, 29 TD, 16 INT, 92.9 QB rating

Tom Brady, New England, 2011 (13-3, Postseason: 2-1)
Stats: 5,235 yds, 39 TD, 12 INT, 105.6 QB rating, 109 rush yds, 3 TD

Cam Newton, Carolina, 2011 (6-10, Postseason: None)
Stats: 4,051 yds, 21 TD, 17 INT, 84.5 QB rating, 126 att., 706 yds, 14 TD

- by Braden Gall


Related 2012 NFL Content:

Athlon Sports NFL Kickoff Power Rankings: Pre-Week 1
Rankings the NFL's Starting Quarterbacks From Best to Worst
Athlon Debate: Which rookie starting QB will win the most games in 2012?
The NFL's Five Biggest Busts of Training Camp
Tim Tebow or Mark Sanchez: Who should start for the Jets? 
The NFL Hot Seat: Which Coaches Need to Win Now?
Athlon Debate: Did being on Hard Knocks help or hurt the Dolphins?

<p> The 10 Greatest Quarterback Seasons in NFL History</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 10:00
Path: /nfl/new-york-giants-and-dallas-cowboys-kick-nfl-season

The NFL season is finally here, and the 2012 campaign will begin in grand fashion tonight (8:30 p.m. ET) with the Super Bowl champion New York Giants hosting the Dallas Cowboys. The G-men have won five out of the last six meetings over their NFC East rivals, and last year’s December win against Dallas launched a 6-6 team toward the postseason that magically ended with the Lombardi Trophy. The Cowboys have missed the playoffs the last two seasons, and they have only won one postseason game over the last 15 years. Owner Jerry Jones feels the pressure to win now in Big D, and his team will face a New York bunch that has claimed two of the last five Super Bowl titles.

When New York has the ball:
The Giants were all about the passing game last year, with Eli Manning throwing for over 4,900 yards and 29 touchdowns. Receiver Victor Cruz was a breakout sensation in 2011, and Hakeem Nicks is also a force on the outside. New York’s running game ranked last in the NFL a year ago, which led to the first-round selection of tailback David Wilson in the draft. If he and Ahmad Bradshaw can generate a solid rushing attack, the Giants offense will be scary.

The Cowboys were decent on defense last season, but Manning torched them through the air in two losses. Dallas has the ability to get to opposing quarterbacks (42 sacks in 2011), but the play in the secondary must improve. Jones signed free agent cornerback Brandon Carr this offseason and also traded up to draft top college corner Morris Claiborne of LSU. The two new defensive backs will have their work cut out trying to match up with the elusive Cruz and Nicks.

When Dallas has the ball:
Quarterback Tony Romo has the playmaking ability to lead Dallas to the postseason, but the players around him must stay healthy. Running back DeMarco Murray showed flashes of stardom in his rookie season, totaling 135 rushing yards or more in three games. If he can play 16 games this year, the Cowboys should have a formidable attack. Receiver Miles Austin and tight end Jason Witten provide solid pass-catching options but are currently battling injuries, while Dallas hopes this is the season that talented but inconsistent wideout Dez Bryant fulfills his potential.

The Giants struggled on defense for much of the 2011 season but were able to put it together late on their way to a championship. New York is known for its ferocious pass rush, and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (16.5 sacks last year) has become a star. He will team with Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka to try and wreak havoc on the Cowboys passing game. If the reworked Dallas offense line can contain the NYG pass rush, Romo should have success down the field against a depleted Giants secondary.

Key Factor:
There are plenty of top players on the injury report for the opener, and each team’s depth will be critical in this game. Dallas will be without key defensive tackle Jay Ratliff, and Witten is doubtful. New York’s defense will miss corner Prince Amukamara, while offensive tackle Will Beatty and Nicks are listed as questionable. The team that can handle its personnel attrition and get contributions from its new players will have a major advantage in this heated NFC East battle.

Giants 27 Cowboys 20

by Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

Related NFL Content

NFL Preseason Power Rankings
5 Reasons Why the Giants Will Repeat as Super Bowl Champions

Which rookie quarterback will win the most games in 2012?

<p> New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys Kick Off the NFL Season</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 08:47
All taxonomy terms: Eli Manning, New York Giants, NFL
Path: /nfl/5-reasons-new-york-giants-will-win-another-super-bowl

Twice in the last five seasons the New York Giants have won the Super Bowl championship, coming virtually out of nowhere with miraculous late-season runs. Each time they left the NFL saying “How the heck did they do that?” Each time they heard cries that they were nothing but a fluke.

But a funny thing happened to the Giants after that first “fluky” championship, when they beat the previously undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. The next season they were the best team in the NFL, by far, for the first 12 games of the season. They were 11-1 before they were derailed with the mother of all distractions, when Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg.
What happened that year is that a talented team had found itself at the end of the 2007 season and grew confident that they could beat anybody in the world. They carried that confidence over into the following season.
And this year, there’s no reason why they can’t do it again.
Assuming no receiver shoots himself in the leg – or the Giants don’t find other ways to shoot themselves in the foot – the truth is they are likely to be among the best teams in football in the 2012 season. They are often dismissed as a team that was 9-7 in 2011, as if their final six games – all wins – somehow don’t count. Their chances are sometimes blown off because things change wildly from year to year in the NFL, ignoring the fact that 19 of their 22 starters were starters for them last year, too.
So can the Giants repeat? Absolutely. Whether they will or not can’t be determined until we all see how healthy they are in December. But here are five big reasons why the Giants’ chances at a back-to-back championship – which would be the crowning achievement of their dynasty – simply can not be dismissed:
1. Eli Manning – I find it hard to believe there’s even a debate anymore about whether Manning is an “elite” quarterback or a Top 5 quarterback or however you want to define him. But even if you disagree with those labels you’d have to be blind not to see how he carried the Giants last year. He had his finest season despite a shaky defense and the NFL’s worst rushing attack. He’s not getting worse at this stage of his career and he’s still got the weapons. And when you have an elite quarterback in the NFL the simple truth is you have a chance to win every game. With Manning the Giants have that chance. And if you need more proof, just go back and look at how terrific he was in the playoffs.
2. The pass rush – As the NFL has transformed into a passing league it’s become about exactly what former Giants GM said it was all about when he first traded for Manning in 2004 – “quarterbacks and pass rushers.” If you have a guy that can throw and you can disrupt the guy throwing on the other side, you’ve got what it takes to win a championship. The Giants have the best 1-2-3 pass rushing punch in the NFL in Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, and it could be dangerous if Pierre-Paul approaches the 20 sacks he seems capable of getting. And oh, by the way, linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka often lines up as the fourth defensive end – his old position – making this pass rush impossible to stop.
3. The running game – They finished dead last in rushing in 2011, but that’s not really a fair stat because they jumped about 20 yards per game down the stretch and into the playoffs. That’s because they got healthier along the offensive line and Ahmad Bradshaw got healthy too, which made all the difference in the world. Now they’ve got an even healthier line – minus starting left tackle Will Beatty (back) – and as long as Bradshaw can shake off a minor hand injury he should be ready to go. More importantly, the lumbering and aging Brandon Jacobs has been replaced by rookie David Wilson, the Giants’ first-round draft pick that GM Jerry Reese calls “a world class athlete.” The Giants have raved about him all summer and Manning thinks he’s the fastest running back they’ve ever had. That’s something, considering fourth-stringer Da’Rel Scott was the fastest running back in the entire 2011 draft class. And if Manning is right, Wilson could help return the rushing game to prominence, like it was in 2008 when the Giants produced two 1,000-yard backs.
4. Martellus Bennett – The people in Dallas may laugh at a player they think was a bust, and his skeptics laugh at his colorful quotes, comedy routine, and the fact that he’s nicknamed himself “The Bearded Ghost” and “The Black Unicorn.” But even he admitted “the funny (stuff) is cool, but it's not what I’m here for. I’m here to make big plays.” Can he? The Giants seem more convinced of that than they’ve been since they had Jeremy Shockey in his prime. Manning said Bennett is “probably more athletic than some of the tight ends we’ve had” – definitely moreso than the overachieving Jake Ballard and the limited Kevin Boss. He might be the first legitimate red-zone threat the Giants have had in years. He’s also a powerful blocker and the first tight end they’ve had with the moves to get open on his own since Shockey was around. Not only does that add a new and welcomed dimension to the Giants’ attack, but it helps make up for the loss of Mario Manningham, whose departure to San Francisco thinned the receiving corps.
5. The chips – They still reside squarely on the champs’ shoulder. If there’s one thing this team has been masterful at in the Tom Coughlin Era it’s been that feeling of “Us against the World.” When it’s there, they use it. When it’s not there, they invent it. They love proving people wrong. Well, right on cue they spent another championship summer hearing how they were a fluke, seeing everyone pick against them, listening to Packers linebacker Clay Matthews and coach Mike McCarthy say they gave the Giants a divisional playoff victory and San Francisco safety Donte Whitner say the Niners did the same in the NFC championship game. Then Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gets into the act vowing to “beat the New York Giants’ ass.” This team was already motivated to try and become a dynasty by winning its third Super Bowl in six seasons, but now it’s got the same chip they had at the end of last season. Nobody believes in these Giants.
And that’s always when they’re at their most dangerous and best.
<p> Why the champs will get another championship ring</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 06:45
Path: /college-football/college-football-post-week-1-bowl-projections

College football's bowl season is still a few months away, but it's never too early to take a look at what the matchups might look like. With only one week of results in the books, it's hard to make long-term projections about teams. A team like Houston was expected to win Conference USA's West Division in the preseason but stumbled in the opener against Texas State. For now, the Cougars remain in our projections but that could change after Week 2.

With very little data to work with, the post-Week 1 bowl projections are a mixture between preseason projections and a small dose of the results so far this year. Expect more changes over the next few weeks, especially as we see how teams like Houston, UTEP, Miami (Fla.) and Texas Tech perform.

2012-2013 Post-Week 1 College Football Bowl Projections

Bowl Date Tie-In Projected Matchup
New Mexico Dec. 15 MWC vs. Pac-12 Arizona vs. Colorado State
Famous Idaho Potato Dec. 15 MAC vs. WAC Louisiana Tech vs. W. Michigan
Poinsettia Dec. 20 BYU vs. MWC BYU vs. Nevada
Beef 'O'Brady's Dec. 21 Big East vs. C-USA East Carolina vs. Cincinnati
New Orleans Dec. 22 Sun Belt vs. C-USA UL Lafayette vs. Southern Miss
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 Purdue vs. Northern Illinois
Military Dec. 27 ACC vs. Army Marshall* vs. Mississippi State*
Belk Dec. 27 ACC vs. Big East Virginia vs. Pittsburgh
Holiday Dec. 27 Big 12 vs. Pac-12 Stanford vs. Baylor
Independence Dec. 28 ACC vs. SEC Miami vs. Texas A&M
Russell Athletic Dec. 28 ACC vs. Big East South Florida vs. Clemson
Meineke Car Care Dec. 28 Big Ten vs. Big 12 TCU vs. Northwestern
Armed Forces Dec. 29 C-USA vs. MWC Houston vs. Wyoming
Kraft Fight Hunger Dec. 29 Pac-12 vs. Navy Navy vs. California
Pinstripe Dec. 29 Big East vs. Big 12 Rutgers vs. Notre Dame
Alamo Dec. 29 Big 12 vs. Pac-12 Utah vs. Oklahoma State
Buffalo Wild Wings Dec. 29 Big Ten vs. Big 12 Kansas State vs. Illinois
Music City Dec. 31 SEC vs. ACC Auburn vs. Georgia Tech
Sun Dec. 31 ACC vs. Pac-12 NC State vs. Washington
Liberty Dec. 31 SEC vs. C-USA Tulsa vs. Missouri
Chick-fil-A Dec. 31 ACC vs. SEC Virginia Tech vs. Florida
TicketCity Jan. 1 Big Ten vs. C-USA Texas Tech* vs. UTEP Gator Jan. 1 SEC vs. Big Ten Tennessee vs. Iowa
Capital One Jan. 1 SEC vs. Big Ten Georgia vs. Wisconsin
Outback Jan. 1 SEC vs. Big Ten South Carolina vs. Michigan State
Cotton Jan. 4 Big 12 vs. SEC West Virginia vs. Arkansas
BBVA Compass Jan. 5 SEC vs. Big East Vanderbilt vs. Connecticut Jan. 6 MAC vs. Sun Belt Arkansas State vs. Ohio
BCS Bowls      
Rose Jan. 1 BCS vs. BCS Michigan vs. Oregon
Orange Jan. 1 BCS vs. BCS Florida State vs. Louisville
Sugar Jan. 2 BCS vs. BCS LSU vs. Texas
Fiesta Jan. 3 BCS vs. BCS Oklahoma vs. Nebraska
National Title Jan. 7 BCS vs. BCS USC vs. Alabama

by Steven Lassan


Related College Football Content

College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat Post-Week 1 Edition
ACC Post-Week 1 Power Rankings

Big 12 Post-Week 1 Power Rankings

Big East Post-Week 1 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 1 Power Rankings
Pac-12 Post-Week 1 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 1 Power Rankings
@athlonsteven</a></strong></span></p>" target="_blank">College Football Week 1 Recap

<p> College Football Post-Week 1 Bowl Projections for 2012</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - 06:35