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College basketball season is creeping up fast, and Athlon Sports is counting down to Midnight Madness and the start of practice on Oct. 17. 

 

No. 21 Stanford enters 2014-15 after its first NCAA Tournament appearance in six years seasons, a run that resulted in an upset of Kansas and a trip to the Sweet 16. The Cardinal follows that with a veteran core and standout signing class that could keep Stanford in the NCAA conversation.

 

The Stanford edition is one of dozens available in our  and on newsstands everywhere this week.

 

The pressure is off coach Johnny Dawkins and his Cardinal, but the bar is now set higher. Dawkins’ future with Stanford was in question throughout his sixth season until a late run gave the program its first NCAA Tournament bid during his tenure. An upset victory over Kansas advanced the Cardinal into the Sweet 16 and gave fans a reason to expect an encore performance.

 

“It benefits us going forward because we’re returning three guys who were part of a really good run at the end of the year, guys who have accomplished things,” Dawkins says. “That’s a big part of us going forward.” 

 

Stanford returns three starters, including senior guard Chasson Randle, but must find replacements at forward for NBA Draft picks Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis, who combined for 43 percent of the team’s rebounding total.

 

Even before being given a contract extension, Dawkins had landed a recruiting class that ranks among the nation’s top 20. That group will merge with the returnees to create a roster that should compete for a return trip to the NCAAs.

 


 

No. 21 Stanford Facts & Figures

Last season: 23-13, 10-8 Pac-12

Postseason: NCAA Sweet 16

Consecutive NCAAs: 1

Coach: Johnny Dawkins (117-87 at Stanford, 49-59 Pac-12)

Pac-12 Projection: Third

Postseason Projection: NCAA round of 32

 


Frontcourt

 

Senior center Stefan Nastic returns after an unexpected late-season surge in which he averaged 11.7 points in three NCAA games and shot a stunning 87.1 percent (27-for-31) from the field over the team’s final seven outings. “He really had a presence for us, playing with passion and intensity,” Dawkins says. “He needs to keep developing offensively and stay out of foul trouble.” Nastic fouled out nine times last season.

 

Sophomore Rosco Allen, who played one game last season before being shelved by a stress fracture in his foot, will get the chance to win the job at small forward. “We missed his versatility,” Dawkins says. “He has a good feel for the game, the ability to pass the ball. He thinks the game very well.”

 

A key is freshman power forward Reid Travis, who had a minor arthroscopic procedure on his knee in July but is expected to be fully recovered well before practice begins. “He’s got a heck of a motor,” Dawkins says.

 

Backcourt

 

Randle and Anthony Brown give the Cardinal the Pac-12’s most experienced backcourt tandem. Randle has been a starter his entire career and last season produced 16 games of 20 or more points. Dawkins believes he “will be in the conversation” for Pac-12 Player of the Year.

 

Stanford again figures to at least start the season without a true point guard, using Randle to bring the ball up court and then shifting him to the wing. “Chasson is a scorer by nature,” Dawkins says. “We don’t want to take that away from him. We’re going to tweak what we do based on our personnel.”

 

While Powell was Stanford’s top assist man last season, Dawkins is eager to see what he gets from freshman point Robert Cartwright. “We think he can come in and contribute,” the coach says. “He has the mindset for it.”

 

Brown, who rebounded nicely last season after missing the 2012-13 campaign with a hip injury, gives Stanford defensive length and a perimeter scoring threat from the wing. He averaged just 6.5 points over the final four games, but Dawkins likes his upside. “He’s had moments where he’s as good as any player at his position in the country,” Dawkins says. “His growth will be in realizing how good he can be and be that player every game.”

 

Sophomore Marcus Allen (twin of teammate Malcolm but unrelated to Rosco Allen), had a solid freshman campaign as a combo guard and should play an elevated role.

 

Final Analysis

 

Dawkins has much to replace with the departures of Powell and Huestis, but he has a nice returning nucleus, led by Randle, whose confidence should be at a peak entering the season. Stanford’s strong recruiting class will have to contribute immediately, but there is reason for optimism.

 

“I think we’re a team that can develop and learn the things we have to do,” says Dawkins, alluding to defense and rebounding in particular. “If we can shore those areas up, I think we can be a tournament-caliber team.”

 

Returning to the NCAA Tournament is not a make-or-break proposition for Dawkins and his team. But it’s now the expectation, and the Cardinal have enough parts to make a legitimate run at an upper-division Pac-12 finish and another NCAA bid.

 

Newcomers

 

Power forward Reid Travis, a McDonald’s All-American, is physically mature enough at 6-8, 240 pounds to immediately step into the lineup. Johnny Dawkins says Travis’ offensive game is more developed at the same stage than former Cardinal star Mark Madsen. Robert Cartwright, the team’s only true point guard, will get the chance to play early. Forward Michael Humphrey needs to add strength to his length.

Teaser:
College Basketball 2014-15: Stanford Cardinal Team Preview
Post date: Friday, September 19, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /free-hugs-angry-tweets-and-kicker-swag-week-kicking
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In just another example of the madness of a college football season, much of the most dramatic swings come down to players who weren’t recruited and may or may not be on scholarship.

 

As we learned this week, the coach might not even speak to such a pivotal piece of the puzzle.

 

The last week proved again how college kickers can surprise and infuriate — and also why they go through a different experience than the rest of college football players.

 

“No one really knows what a specialist goes through unless you’re another specialist at this level,” said Kentucky’s Austin MacGinnis, whose 51-yard attempt in the fourth quarter tied a game with Florida. “It’s such a different sport within itself.”

 

Let’s give that a try in a look back at what life’s like for a college kicker.

 

***

 

Adam Butler’s teammates saw the moment happen in real time. His coach, Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason, didn’t see it until he started breaking down film. His aunt saw it on TV.

 

Millions of others saw the moment on TV or on social media.

 

Pretty much everyone Adam Butler knows had one question after Vanderbilt escaped with a 34-31 win over UMass on Saturday:

 

Why did the Vanderbilt defensive lineman hug that kicker?

“I didn’t realize that we had two seconds left,” Butler told Athlon Sports. “I thought the game was over. I thought he was the first person I’d say ‘Good game’ to. I said good game and get us next time.”

 

It was also a sweet moment. The UMass kicker, Blake Lucas, had just missed a 22-yard chip shot that would have tied the game with two seconds to go. UMass had led the game by 11 in the second half and had a real chance to put together a signature win for the program.

 

Understandably, Lucas didn’t take the gesture the same way.

 

“He said ‘get off me,’” Butler told Athlon Sports. “That’s normal, though. He might have taken it as me being a jerk.

 

“It was our first win. I was excited. I didn’t know what I was doing in the moment. I felt for the guy.”

 

***

 

For the second time in two seasons, South Carolina kicker Elliott Fry was on the other side of an opponents’ missed kick that led to vitriol on Twitter.

 

A year ago, South Carolina defeated Missouri 27-24 in double overtime. The Tigers still won the SEC East but the loss at the time seemed to be a major blow.

 

And who was to blame? According to some Missouri fans, Andrew Baggett, who missed a 46-yarder in the fourth quarter and a 22-yarder in overtime. Some Missouri fans filled Baggett’s mentions with angry, profane tweets.

 

Proving that no one is immune from such reaction, Georgia’s Marshall Morgan took the brunt of frothing fans on social media. Never mind that Morgan set an SEC record with 20 consecutive made field goals thanks to two makes in the first half against South Carolina.

 

A missed 28-yarder that would have tied the game in the fourth, though, was enough to make a vocal segment of fans forget the 20 consecutive field goals.

 

Georgia lost 38-35, and Morgan’s Twitter mentions were filled with taunts of “You had one job” and blame for the Bulldogs’ defeat.

 

By now, most of Morgan’s mentions are those of support, starting with the kicker on the other sideline.

 

 

Fry doesn’t know Morgan that well personally, but they’ve attended the same kicking camps and are part of an unofficial fraternity of specialists.

 

“Those situations, they can be tough,” Fry told Athlon Sports. “After that happens, a late field missed in a game, I’ve seen the tweets people say terrible things, talking about killing the guy.”

 

As Morgan may learn, fans can be fickle with kickers. Fry, for example, missed early field goals in games against Missouri and Florida only for South Carolina to win the game later in part due to Fry’s field goals.

 

“You look at your phone after and you can see how quickly fans change on you. You open twitter and it’s fun . You see ‘Fry sucks’ and other worse things. You see it go from complete hatred to praise.”

 

***

 

Then again, maybe it’s just nice to be acknowledged.

 

West Virginia picked up a key win with a 40-37 win over Maryland. And what did Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen say to Josh Lambert before his game-winning 47-yard kick on the road?

 

Nothing. Not then, not ever, apparently.

 

“I haven’t talked to Josh Lambert since he got on campus, and we’re going to keep in that way,” Holgorsen .

 

“He’s a guy we have complete confidence in when it comes to make that shot. I know his name and who he is, but other than that, I’d doing the hands-off approach.”

 

Lambert is a redshirt sophomore and has been West Virginia’s primary kicker for two years.

 

***

 

Kentucky fans might not have too much trouble remembering the name Austin MacGinnis after last week.

 

MacGinnis got both the highs and lows of the kicking experience in only his third game at Kentucky.

 

A redshirt freshman, MacGinnis kicked a 51-yard field goal with 3:26 remaining to tie the Gators at 20. Kentucky hasn't defeated Florida since 1986 and not at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium since 1979.

 

In other words, quite the pressure situation for a kid whose last field goal came two years ago in high school in Wedowee, Ala.

 

“It was loud there for sure, but you try to block it out as a soothing noise rather than a bad noise,” MacGinnis said.

 

MacGinnis missed a 41-yard attempt in the third OT, but even a make may not have stopped the Gators — they scored a touchdown on their possession to win 36-30.

 

MacGinnis said he didn’t any grief on Twitter for his overtime miss — not that it would have mattered given the final score — but he did see Fry backing up Morgan on Twitter from earlier in the evening.

 

The SEC kicking fraternity has one more member, and another one with a sense of humor at that.

 

MacGinnis’ bio for Kentucky says he picked No. 99 because — and this is not a lie — “.”

 

“I don’t know really why I put that down, but everyone thinks of a kicker as the last number you can have, like the last guy on the team,” MacGinnis said. “Kickers always look like the little kid that doesn’t belong, so the number kind of matches.”

 

***

 

When a kick goes wrong, a fellow kicker may be the only ones with a sense of empathy — even moreso than defensive linemen offering free hugs after a shanked kick.

 

When UMass’ Lucas missed his 22-yarder, former Vanderbilt kicker Carey Spear watched from the sideline and winced.

 

He wanted his former team to win, for sure, but not like this. Not at the expense of another kicker.

 

The missed field goal was salt in the wound for Spear, who missed a 27-yard attempt in 2011 that would have tied a game against a top-10 Arkansas team. Spear didn’t attempt another field goal the rest of the season.

 

Spear returned for the next two seasons to go 35-of-43 on field goals the rest of his career.

 

“I definitely felt more for him,” Spear said. “I think it will make him a better kicker if he learns how to handle it. It’s a defining moment in some guys’ careers.”

Teaser:
Free hugs, angry tweets and that kicker swag: A week in kicking
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 16:20
Path: /college-football/texas-tech-fires-co-defensive-coordinator-matt-wallerstedt
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It’s unusual to see changes in the coordinator ranks just three weeks into the season, but Texas Tech has decided to fire co-defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt.
 

Wallerstedt was fired one week after the Red Raiders’ defense was gashed for 438 rushing yards in the 49-28 loss to Arkansas.

However, according to reports, Wallerstedt’s firing isn’t related to Texas Tech’s on-field performance.

that Wallerstedt was fired after being under the influence of an unknown substance in the school’s football building.


Wallerstedt shared the defensive play-calling with Mike Smith, and Smith is going to call the plays for the remainder of the 2014 season.

Most of Smith’s experience as a coach is in the NFL ranks, including three years with the Jets.

Smith played linebacker at Texas Tech from 2001-04 and recorded 104 tackles during the 2012 season.

With only three returning starters, Texas Tech’s defense was expected to be a work in progress in 2014. And so far, the Red Raiders have struggled on that side of the ball.

The Red Raiders are allowing 5.2 yards per play and ranked last in the Big 12 by giving up 36.7 points per contest.

An infusion of junior college recruits was slated to help the defensive line, but Texas Tech has just three sacks in three games and was dominated by Arkansas last Saturday – a week after struggling against UTEP.


Smith will have three tough opponents to open his tenure as the defensive coordinator, starting with the Sept. 25 date at Oklahoma State, followed by games against Kansas State and West Virginia.

Teaser:
Texas Tech Fires Co-Defensive Coordinator Matt Wallerstedt
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 15:04
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-september-18-2014
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This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for September 18:

 

• With the new schedule gearing up, enjoy , including the still-enticing Tea Leoni.

 

. Of course, Hansel's not as hot as he once was.

 

.

 

, who has all but disappeared.

 

• Artifact of the day: . So where do you see yourself in five years, Mr. Brady?

 

• Inspirational story of the day: .

 

.

 

.

 

for him, funny for the rest of us.

 

• Ever wonder how NFL ref Ed Hochuli maintains those guns of his? .

 

.

 

• Watch Brandon McCarthy's immaculate inning — nine pitches, nine strikes, three outs.

 

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 10:44
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/nfls-0-2-teams-ranking-their-chances-making-playoffs
Body:

The reality in the NFL is that teams generally can’t afford slow starts. Unlike in other sports, there just aren’t enough games to absorb an early stumble. The percentage of teams that lose their opener and go on to make the playoffs is low. It’s exponentially lower for 0-2 teams, and the odds are virtually non-existent at 0-3.

So there are seven teams, all 0-2, on the dangerous hot seat as they head into a “must-win” Week 3 showdown against somebody. Most of them probably already have no shot at making the playoffs. Anyone that loses next week definitely won’t.

So of the seven two-time losers, who has the best shot at pulling off a stunning turnaround and salvaging their season? Here’s a look at their chances in order of most likely to save their season all the way down to most likely to already be done:

 

Playoff bound

New Orleans Saints (Next up: vs. Minnesota Vikings) – They were victimized by two surprising collapses and some shockingly bad performances by their once-respected defense. But it’s important to remember that both their first two losses were on the road (at Atlanta, at Cleveland). They still have the ability to score in bunches (they are 2nd in the NFL with 29 points per game and 3rd with 434.5 yards) and they still have all-pro quarterback Drew Brees and an assortment of weapons. Their return to the Superdome to face a Vikings team reeling from the Adrian Peterson mess should be one of the easiest bets of the year, and don’t be surprised if the Saints take off from there.

Indianapolis Colts (Next up: at Jacksonville Jaguars) – Whom did the Colts anger in the NFL office that they drew an opening game at Denver and a Week 2 game against the Philadelphia Eagles? That immediately put their thin defense, their powerful offense, and their come-from-behind abilities to the test. They nearly did pull things out in Denver, falling by a touchdown, and their defense coughed up the game against the Eagles. The Jaguars, Ravens and Texans are next, which should give Andrew Luck and his team a chance to get right back on track.


Outside shot

New York Giants (Next up: vs. Houston Texans) – They have looked absolutely terrible in the first two games, on offense and on defense. But here’s the thing: They spent $116 million in the offseason to improve the roster and they brought in a whole new offensive coaching staff. They are destined to be better than they were last year, but putting all the pieces together will take time. They don’t have that, of course, but they’ll buy themselves some if they can beat the Texans at home on Sunday. Eli Manning and the offense showed signs of life in a loss to Arizona, and in theory it will only get better from there. 


Forget it

Kansas City Chiefs (Next up: at Miami Dolphins) – Their offensive line has been terrible and their already shaky offense has paid the price, and that was before the loss of running back Jamaal Charles. And really, this was coming last season when the Chiefs faded as bad as anyone down the stretch. The problem now is the schedule does them no favors. The Dolphins look pretty good, they play the Patriots, then at San Francisco, then at San Diego. They may be the best of the remaining 0-2 teams, but forget about them turning this around during a stretch like that.
 
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Next up: at Atlanta Falcons) – You were expecting more out of a Josh McCown led offense on a team where Jonathan Martin gets just nine carries in two games. Lovie Smith took over a rebuilding project in Tampa and it’s obviously going to take some time. Last week’s game against St. Louis was his best opportunity to get an early win. Now the Bucs hit the road for a three-game trip against the Falcons, Steelers and Saints? They just don’t have the horses on either side of the ball to keep up.
 
Oakland Raiders (Next up: at New England Patriots) – They had to know there were always going to be growing pains the moment they made a late switch to rookie quarterback Derek Carr. At that moment, the Raiders season ceased being about this year and started focusing on 2015. And back-to-back losses to two beatable opponents – the Jets and Texans – only cemented that fact. It won’t get any easier in future weeks with the Patriots, Dolphins, Chargers and Cardinals up next in order. And don’t forget they still have a home-and-away looming with the Denver Broncos, too.
 
Jacksonville Jaguars (Next up: vs. Indianapolis Colts) - There was a moment in their opener, when they led 17-0 at halftime against the Philadelphia Eagles, where it looked like everyone was wrong about the Jaguars and they had finally turned their fortunes around. In the six quarters since then, though, they were outscored by the Eagles and Washington Redskins 75-10. They stink on defense. They stink on offense. And they were blown out by two teams in a division (the NFC East) that might end up stinking too. Their 0-2 start could turn into 0-6 or worse in a blink of an eye. They should think about turning the show over to rookie quarterback Blake Bortles so they can focus on their future, because at this point it sure looks like they’ll be a contender again for the No. 1 pick in the draft.

 

—By Ralph Vacchiano

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /nfl/tampa-bay-buccaneers-vs-atlanta-falcons-game-preview-and-prediction
Body:

A stoppable force encounters a movable object, as the offense-challenged Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to the Georgia Dome to face the virtually defenseless Atlanta Falcons in the second installment of “Thursday Night Football” on CBS. New Bucs coach Lovie Smith is still seeking his first win in his new job, but it's far too soon for Bucs fans to panic — Smith was 5–11 in his first season in Chicago before winning back-to-back NFC North titles. Tampa Bay likely faces a similarly challenging season given its 0–2 start, but good times could be ahead. 

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons

 

Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS/NFL Network

Spread: Atlanta -6.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Time for a Return on the Josh McCown Investment

Josh McCown's spectacular performance for the 2013 Bears in relief of Jay Cutler — McCown bested his higher-profile counterpart in virtually every downfield passing stat in posting a 109.0 passer rating — earned the journeyman quarterback a big payday in Tampa Bay, but the investment has yet to yield dividends for the Bucs. In two games, the Tampa offense has produced only 31 points, and while McCown is completing a high percentage of his throws (67.9 percent), he's only 24th in the NFL in yards per attempt and has thrown only two TD passes to three interceptions. He has a pair of inviting downfield targets in Vincent Jackson and rookie Mike Evans, both of whom stand 6-5, so look for McCown to test the suspect Falcons pass defense with some longer throws. Through two games, the Falcons are next-to-last in the NFL against the pass, surrendering 317.5 yards per game. 

 

2. The Matt Ryan Roller Coaster

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan followed the best game of his career with one of the worst. Ryan was spectacular in the opener against the Saints, completing 31-of-43 for 448 yards and three touchdowns, but away from the confines of the Georgia Dome, he suffered an untimely reversal against the Bengals, completing 24-of-44 passes for 231 yards and one touchdown against three interceptions. His lone TD came in the fourth quarter with the Falcons trailing 24–3 — garbage time, in other words. This follows a career-long home/road pattern for Ryan, who has a 97.7 career rating and 29 interceptions at home, compared to an 84.7 rating and 51 picks on the road. Fortunately for Ryan and the Falcons, he's back in the Dome and should have opportunities to get his numbers back on the right side of the curve.

 

3. Next Man Up

Injuries are an unfortunate fact of life in the NFL, but the Bucs have been simply devastated by the injury bug. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Mason Foster were hurt in the loss to the Rams, joining running back Doug Martin, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, defensive ends Michael Johnson and Adrian Clayborn and cornerback Michael Jenkins on a crowded, cluttered shelf. In all, five defensive starters were missing for the stretch run of the Rams loss. Running back Bobby Rainey took advantage of his opportunity in relief of Martin, rushing for 144 yards on 22 carries and catching three passes for 30 yards. Now, it's up to other subs to step into the void. "There's no excuse. Whoever's out there we believe in wholeheartedly," said cornerback Alterraun Verner. "Obviously, Gerald going down was a big blow, and some of the other guys from previous weeks. I mean, that's the game. Everybody knows that this game is going to have injuries and people going down. People have to step up."

 

Final Analysis

 

There's not a lot of pressure on the Bucs, who aren't burdened by expectations under a new regime that is still finding its footing amid an 0–2 start that already has fans thinking about the 2015 draft. The Falcons, on the other hand, have a sense of urgency. The Mike Smith/Matt Ryan duo can't afford another 4–12 debacle, putting a home game against a struggling opponent into the must-win category. Look for the Falcons to hold serve against the injury-depleted visitors.  

 

Prediction: Atlanta 28, Tampa Bay 17
Teaser:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-2014-week-4-preview
Body:

 

Hosts Braden Gall and Steven Lassan previews the big games in the SEC, Oklahoma's visit to West Virginia, the ACC's turn to crush the Big Ten and much more. The guys also give their locks of the week against the spread in this Week 4 college football preview.


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

 

 

Teaser:
Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: 2014 Week 4 Preview
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 09:58
Path: /college-football/kansas-state-wildcats-vs-auburn-tigers-game-preview-and-prediction
Body:

The college football world is focused squarely on the Little Apple on Thursday night, as Auburn visits Kansas State in a high-profile non-conference matchup and one of the top games of Week 4. Tough non-conference matchups usually aren’t the norm under coach Bill Snyder, and the Tigers are the highest ranked non-league opponent to visit Manhattan since Penn State (ranked No. 2) played there in 1969.

 

The Wildcats are 2-0 after defeating Stephen F. Austin and Iowa in the first two weeks of the season. As expected, K-State easily defeated SFA 55-16. However, the Wildcats struggled in a 32-28 win over Iowa State – a week after the Cyclones lost to FCS opponent North Dakota State.

On the other sideline, Auburn has picked up where it left off last season. The Tigers offense is predicated on tempo and speed, and Gus Malzahn’s attack is averaging 52 points a game so far in 2014.

Auburn leads the all-time series against Kansas State at 3-0. The last meeting between these two teams occurred in 2007, with the Tigers winning 23-13 in Auburn.

 

Auburn at Kansas State

 

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Thursday night)

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Auburn -9

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. K-State’s Rush Defense Against Auburn’s Offense

This battle is where the game could be won or lost for Kansas State. Auburn’s offensive line was one of the best in the nation last year, but the Tigers lost standout left tackle Greg Robinson to the NFL, and guard Alex Kozan suffered a back injury in the offseason and won’t play in 2014. Auburn’s revamped line has performed well through two games, allowing just one sack and paving the way for rushers to average 6.7 yards per carry. But the Wildcats’ defensive line is the best unit the Tigers will see until the LSU matchup on Oct. 4. Kansas State’s line is led by senior end Ryan Mueller and tackle Travis Britz, and both players need to win the one-on-one matchups at the point of attack. If Mueller and Britz can disrupt the Auburn rushing attack and prevent the Tigers from getting out in space, the Wildcats can limit the damage on the ground and force quarterback Nick Marshall to win this one through the air. When Marshall doesn’t run or looks to hand it off, expect senior Cameron Artis-Payne (289 yards, 6.9 ypc) and Corey Grant (8.8 ypc) to shoulder most of the load.


2. Auburn’s Defense vs. K-State’s Offense

Much of the preseason hype for this game should revolve around how Kansas State will handle Auburn’s pace on offense. While stopping the Tigers’ up-tempo attack is a huge task for the Wildcats, let’s also not forget about the Auburn defense against Kansas State’s offense. The Wildcats average 6.3 yards per play this year and scored 33.2 points per game in 2013. There’s no question Kansas State can put up enough points to keep pace with Auburn, but it’s how the Wildcats plan to attack the Tigers that is worth monitoring. Time of possession can be overrated when judging teams or using to predict the outcome of a game. However, Kansas State leads the Big 12 in time of possession in 2014 and ranked first or second in the Big 12 from 2011-13. Ball control against Auburn is critical, as limiting the possessions of Malzahn’s offense is a good (and simple) way of slowing the Tigers down. Quarterback Jake Waters isn’t flashy, but he’s quietly off to a good start this year (462 yards, 61.4%) and is an effective runner (193 yards in two games in 2014). Waters leads the team in rushing attempts, but Charles Jones and DeMarcus Robinson will anchor the carries from the running back spot. Auburn’s defense gave up its share of yards and points last year but was at its best on third downs and in the red zone. Can Kansas State control the tempo or will the Tigers control the line of scrimmage?


3. K-State WR Tyler Lockett

Even though Tyler Lockett received a mention on several preseason All-America teams, it’s still possible the senior might be one of the nation’s most underrated players. Lockett is an explosive athlete with the ability to score anytime he touches the ball. On offense, the Oklahoma native averages 15.6 yards per reception and has 19 career touchdown catches. Lockett is also a dangerous weapon on special teams, averaging 31.1 yards per kickoff return and has four career scores. Auburn’s secondary allowed 257.7 yards per game last year and gave up 19 touchdown tosses in 14 games. The Tigers have played two suspect passing teams this season, so it’s hard to gauge whether or not this unit has improved. But late Wednesday night, reports indicated safety Jermaine Whitehead – 41 career games – won’t play on Thursday night. Whitehead’s absence is critical against Lockett and a K-State passing attack that ranked third in the Big 12 last season by hitting on 13 passing plays of at least 40 yards. Expect the Wildcats to take a few deep shots against Auburn’s suspect secondary.
 

Final Analysis

 

This should be one of the better Thursday night games of the season. Kansas State’s offense has just enough firepower to hang with Auburn’s high-powered attack. And as long as Bill Snyder roams the sidelines in Manhattan, the Wildcats will have a chance to win a game like this one.

 

Expect plenty of points, and both teams could hit on their share of big plays. Auburn’s defense struggles to stop Jake Waters and Tyler Lockett, but the Tigers have too many playmakers and too much firepower to lose.

 

Prediction: Auburn 38, Kansas State 30

Teaser:
Kansas State Wildcats vs. Auburn Tigers Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/acc-2014-week-4-preview-and-predictions
Body:

After a week of surprises in non-conference action, the focus in the ACC shifts slightly to league play. Clemson-Florida State and Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech headline a solid slate of games for Week 4. And in non-conference matchups, East Carolina looks to knock off another ACC opponent with a home date against North Carolina, and Miami visits Nebraska.

Due to suspension, Florida State won’t have quarterback Jameis Winston available for the first half of Saturday’s game against Clemson. But the Seminoles are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, which should allow Jimbo Fisher’s team to hold their own in the first half.

Elsewhere in the ACC, Virginia travels to BYU and Pittsburgh hosts Iowa in other top games around the league for Week 4.

Week 4 Previews and Predictions:
 

 

ACC Week 4 Game Power Rankings

 

1. Clemson at Florida State (-20)
8 p.m. ET, ABC

The outlook for this game has changed drastically since last week. On Wednesday, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was suspended for a half due to inappropriate comments made on campus. Winston’s absence leaves inexperienced Sean Maguire as the Seminoles’ No. 1 quarterback. While Winston will return to action in the third quarter, Florida State’s task of beating the Tigers is tougher without the Heisman Trophy winner under center. Clemson’s defensive line is among the nation’s best and has registered 19 tackles for a loss in two games. If the Tigers can get pressure on Maguire and force the sophomore into a mistake or two, Florida State’s margin of error gets smaller. Can Clemson take advantage of a Winston-less offense in the first half? Or can Maguire keep the Seminoles’ offense moving, while the defense contains the Tigers’ attack?

 

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2. Miami at Nebraska (-7)
8 p.m. ET, ESPN2

In terms of name value, it doesn’t get much better than this. Two of college football’s iconic programs square off for the first time since the 2001 Rose Bowl on Saturday night. And for both teams, this game is a good opportunity to build momentum before the bulk of conference play starts. Nebraska pounded FAU and Fresno State by a combined score of 110-26 but needed a last-minute miracle to beat McNeese State 31-24. Miami lost its opener to Louisville and rebounded by beating Florida A&M and Arkansas State. Considering the light non-conference schedules for both teams, it’s hard to gauge where both programs are entering Week 4. Running backs Duke Johnson (Miami) and Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska) are two of the best in the nation and will test the opposing defensive lines. But while the spotlight is on Abdullah and Johnson, it’s likely the battle between young quarterbacks Tommy Armstrong (Nebraska) and Brad Kaaya (Miami) will determine which team emerges victorious. 

 

3. Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech (-8)
Noon ET, ESPN

Considering how tight the Coastal race is expected to be, this is a critical showdown for positioning within the division. Virginia Tech has won six out of the last seven matchups against Georgia Tech, and the Yellow Jackets have lost three consecutive games in Blacksburg. As expected, Georgia Tech’s rushing offense (306 ypg) ranks as one of the best in the ACC. But in addition to his role in the ground game, quarterback Justin Thomas has added a big-play (19.4 yards per completion) component to the passing attack. Thomas and Georgia Tech’s rushing attack will test Virginia Tech’s defensive line, as tackles Luther Maddy and Corey Marshall are dealing with injuries. On offense, the Hokies need to limit their turnovers (seven in three games), but they should have the upper hand against Georgia Tech’s defense – a unit allowed 6.6 yards per play. Expect Virginia Tech’s offense to use a lot of freshmen backs Shai McKenzie and Marshawn Williams against the Yellow Jackets’ rush defense, which ranks as the worst in the ACC.

 

4. North Carolina at East Carolina (-2)
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU

Can East Carolina go 2-0 against the ACC? The Pirates knocked off Virginia Tech last weekend 28-21 and are a slight favorite against the Tar Heels after winning in Chapel Hill last year. With that in mind, North Carolina won’t take East Carolina lightly, but the Tar Heels will have to overcome a few matchup problems. North Carolina’s secondary is allowing 265 yards per game, and the pass rush has struggled (two sacks in two games). That’s bad news against a Pirates’ offense that is led by quarterback Shane Carden (343.7 ypg) and a dynamic group of playmakers, headlined by receiver Justin Hardy and running back Breon Allen. Considering the Tar Heels’ concerns on defense, they may need to score over 30 points to win this one. Quarterback Marquise Williams is off to a solid start (67.2%), and coach Larry Fedora has recruited well at the skill positions. North Carolina’s offensive line is a concern without guard Landon Turner, especially against an active defensive front from ECU. If you like offense, this should be the highest-scoring game in the ACC this week.

 

5. Iowa at Pittsburgh (-6.5)
Noon ET, ESPNU

There are some similarities between the Iowa and Pittsburgh programs, but heading into Saturday’s game, it seems the two teams are headed in opposite directions. The Panthers have looked impressive in a 3-0 start, including a 30-20 road win at Boston College. Iowa is 2-1, but the Hawkeyes won by eight against Northern Iowa and by four to Ball State and lost 20-17 to Iowa State last week. Despite a veteran core returning, Iowa’s offense is averaging only 21.7 points per game. The Hawkeyes have also struggled to establish their ground attack (3.6 ypc). Turning those numbers around this week will be tough, as Pittsburgh is allowing just 15 points per game and ranks second in the ACC against the run. Stopping the run has been a strength of Iowa’s defense (2.3 ypc), which is a good barometer test for the running back James Conner (181 ypg). Quarterback Chad Voytik hasn’t been asked to do much this year, but he’s been efficient (58%) and has tossed just two picks on 50 attempts. The Hawkeyes’ defense is good enough to pull off an upset. However, can Iowa’s offense get anything going on Pittsburgh’s defense?

 

6. Virginia at BYU (-14)
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Can Virginia pull off another upset? The Cavaliers knocked off Louisville 23-21 last Saturday, and a win in Provo, combined with a victory over Kent State on Sept. 27 would allow Virginia to be 4-1 heading into the heart of ACC play. Saturday’s game is a matchup of strength (BYU’s offense) versus strength (Virginia’s defense). The Cavaliers are allowing just 4.8 yards per play and holding opponents to 20.7 points per contest. BYU will test those numbers behind dynamic quarterback Taysom Hill (348.3 ypg) and running back Jamaal Williams. Even if Virginia’s defense finds a way to contain Hill, can the Cavaliers get something going on offense? BYU is allowing just 14 points per game, while Virginia is averaging just 21.5 points per contest against FBS opponents this year.

 

7. Maryland at Syracuse (-1.5)
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network

For the second consecutive season, Maryland and Syracuse meet on the gridiron – only these two teams meet as non-conference foes in 2014. The Terrapins and Orange played last year as ACC members, with Syracuse winning 20-3 in College Park. It’s tough to read too much into that game, as Maryland was without top receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. The Terrapins have both back in the lineup this year, and quarterback C.J. Brown threw for a season-high 241 yards in last week’s loss to West Virginia. Syracuse looked sharp in last Saturday’s 40-3 win over Central Michigan, a clear improvement after struggling against Villanova in the opener. Expect the Orange to challenge the Terrapins’ defensive front, which has allowed 142.3 rushing yards per game. Linebacker play is a unit to watch for Maryland, especially with injuries limiting Cole Farrand, Matt Robinson and Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil this year.

 

8. Tulane at Duke (-17)
12:30 p.m. ET, RSN

The Blue Devils look to continue their hot start to the season with a win over Tulane. With a victory over the Green Wave, Duke will have its first 4-0 start since 1994. Tulane’s defense allowed 38 points in back-to-back games to open the year and gave up 20 in a win against SE Louisiana last Saturday. This unit will be tested once again, especially with the emergence of running back Shaun Wilson (245 yards last week) and steady play of quarterback Anthony Boone. The Green Wave’s offense is led by talented freshmen Tanner Lee (QB) and Sherman Badie (RB), but a young line (six sacks) will be tested by a Duke defense that leads the ACC in fewest points per game allowed in 2014 (11.0).   

 

9. Army (-2.5) at Wake Forest
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3

Brighter days and better years are ahead for Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson and Army’s Jeff Monken, but both first-year coaches have a tough job in 2014. The Demon Deacons are starting four freshmen in 2014, including quarterback John Wolford. Army went 8-28 in Rich Ellerson’s final three years and is 1-1 through Monken’s first two games. Wake Forest’s rush defense has allowed only two scores and is allowing just 2.7 yards per carry. But that will be tested against the Black Knights’ option offense, averaging 269.5 yards per game. With a tight game expected, keep an eye on the turnover margin. The Demon Deacons are -2 through three games, while Army is even through two contests.

 

10. Louisville (-27) at FIU
3:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1

Pittsburgh started slow last week but eventually had no trouble putting FIU (42-25) away in the second half. Louisville dominated the Panthers 72-0 in the infamous running clock game last season. The Cardinals shouldn’t have much trouble with FIU once again, and this game is a good opportunity for this team to work out the kinks after a 23-21 loss to Virginia last week. Quarterback play is under the spotlight after Louisville’s loss last Saturday, but freshman Reggie Bonnafon won’t make the trip due to a death in his family. Coach Bobby Petrino should be able to build Will Gardner some confidence in an easy win for the Cardinals.

 

11. Maine at Boston College
1 p.m. ET, ESPN3

After last week’s 37-31 victory over USC, Boston College could be in for a small letdown in Week 4. Of course, the Eagles are big favorites over Maine, so even a sluggish start shouldn’t be a concern. With a punishing ground attack, quarterback Tyler Murphy hasn’t been asked to make too many plays through the air. The senior ranks second in the ACC with 133.7 rushing yards per game. However, in his last two games, Murphy has completed only 15 of 41 throws. This week’s matchup against Maine should allow the Eagles a chance to work on their passing game, along with getting some of the younger players valuable reps.

 

12. Presbyterian at NC State
6 p.m. ET, ESPN3

The Wolfpack close out non-conference play as huge favorites in Saturday’s game against Presbyterian. With a win over the Blue Hose, NC State would surpass its win total from 2013 and take another step towards bowl eligibility. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett is off to a fast start for the Wolfpack, completing 70.4 percent of his throws and seven touchdowns to just one interception. Presbyterian lost 55-3 to Northern Illinois in its opener in 2014 and lost to Wake Forest 31-7 last year. This should be a one-sided matchup in favor of NC State.
 

Week 4 ACC Predictions

 David
Fox
Braden
Gall
Steven
Lassan
Mitch
Light
Ga. Tech (+8) at Va. TechVT 24-14VT 27-20VT 30-20VT 28-24
Iowa (+6.5) at PittsburghPitt 27-10Pitt 27-20Pitt 27-20Pitt 27-17
Maryland (+1.5) at SyracuseCuse 17-14Cuse 34-30MD 27-24MD 24-20
Tulane (+17) at DukeDuke 35-10Duke 40-17Duke 41-17Duke 34-16
Maine at Boston CollegeBC 42-7BC 34-10BC 41-7BC 37-10
UNC (+2) at ECUECU 31-24UNC 31-27ECU 38-34ECU 34-30
Virginia (+14) at BYUBYU 42-28BYU 27-24BYU 30-20BYU 28-20
Army (-2.5) at WakeArmy 28-10Wake 21-20Wake 24-20Wake 20-13
Louisville (-27) at FIUUL 35-14UL 38-13UL 52-7UL 31-0
Presbyterian at NC StateNC State 42-14NC State 45-7NC State 48-3NC State 34-10
Clemson (+20) at FSUFSU 35-21FSU 45-20FSU 38-24FSU 34-13
Miami (+7) at NebraskaNebraska 38-14Nebraska 41-31Nebraska 31-24Nebraska 27-21
Last Week6-46-46-45-5
Season Record30-530-530-529-6

 

Teaser:
ACC 2014 Week 4 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-2014-week-4-preview-and-predictions
Body:

Most of the contenders are resting up this weekend out West. Last place (that’s right) Stanford is on a bye. USC is licking its wounds. And Arizona State and UCLA are tending to injured stars under center.

 

That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to watch in the Pac-12. Oregon, Washington State, Arizona and Cal will open up conference play while Utah, Oregon State, Washington and Colorado will wrap up non-conference play.

Week 4 Previews and Predictions:
|  | 


Pac-12 Week 4 Game Power Rankings

 

1. Oregon (-24) at Washington St
10:30 p.m., ESPN

It might not be the closest game in the Pac-12 this week but it should be the most entertaining. These two combined for 1,278 total yards of offense, 100 points scored, 67 first downs and eight turnovers while Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday set an NCAA record with 89 pass attempts (much to Nick Aliotti’s chagrin) in last year’s meeting in Eugene. With Halliday and Marcus Mariota both back and humming on offense right now — the duo averages a combined 792.4 yards per game — fans on both sides should expect big-time fireworks. Even if the game gets out of hand in the second frame.

 

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2. Utah (+5) at Michigan
3:30 p.m., ABC

No one in Ann Arbor or Salt Lake City will forget what happened in The Big House in 2008 when Utah came to town. Brian Johnson and the Utes knocked off Michigan 25-23 behind a defensive effort that held the Wolverines to just 203 yards of offense. The Utes never lost that year while Michigan posted its worst season in program history (3-9). While Utah isn’t as talented or deep as it was then, Travis Wilson has led a resurgent Utes offense that is churning out 7.0 yards per play and 557.5 yards per game. Michigan bounced back last week with 34 points and 460 yards (against Miami-OHIO) after being totally embarrassed by Notre Dame. Expect something in between this week from the Wolverines' offense-in-progress.

 

3. Cal (+9) at Arizona
10 p.m., P12 Net

After another perfect non-conference record for Rich Rodriguez — he’s 11-0 since arriving in Tucson — and a very positive start for Cal that has provided more wins in two games than it did in all of 2013, the Bears and Wildcats will get Pac-12 play started. In what should be an entertaining offensive affair, quarterbacks Anu Solomon and Jared Goff look to match statistics on Saturday night. Solomon is second in the Pac-12 with 351.7 yards of total offense per game in just first three career games while Goff has completed 67.9 percent of his passes with only one interception in two wins for Cal. Both defenses rank in the top half of the Pac-12 but that is due in large part to the level of competition each has faced. This should be the first real defensive test for both.

 

4. San Diego St (+10) at Oregon St
10:30 p.m., FS1

The Aztecs have had two weeks to think about how they choked away a win at North Carolina. So this team is clearly capable of competing with Big 5 teams and that should have Oregon State on edge (who also has had two weeks to prepare). Especially, considering how the Beavers struggled to put away Portland State and Hawaii thus far in 2014. Sean Mannion was over 300 yards passing in each game and should be able to take advantage of a San Diego State defense that gave up plenty of big plays to the Tar Heels in the second half two weeks ago. Offensive balance will be key as is the case for all of Mike Riley’s good teams. Terron Ward and Storm Woods have each posted a 100-yard game on the ground and if both can get rolling along with Mannion, the Beavers should stay unbeaten.

 

5. Hawaii (+7.5) at Colorado
2 p.m., P12 Net

The Warriors will be happy to say goodbye to the Pac-12 as they will be facing their third such opponent in four weeks. Narrow losses on the Islands to Washington and Oregon State by a combined nine points should have Colorado focused, but this will be Hawaii’s first trip to the Mainland. Despite losing in its first game at Folsom Field last week to Arizona State, Colorado has increased its offensive production — both in yards per game and per play — in each of its first three games. The Warriors would be a sneaky outright upset pick if this game was in Honolulu but since this game is coming at home, Mike MacIntyre knows this is a must-win situation.

 

6. Georgia St (+35) at Washington
6 p.m., P12 Net

The Huskies played easily their most complete game last weekend in the blowout win over Illinois. Shaq Thompson is starting to get Heisman buzz and the offense has churned out 1,000 yards in two games with Cyler Miles under center. Georgia State should merely serve as a tune-up for a visit from Stanford in Week 5.

 

Off: Stanford, UCLA, Arizona State, USC

 

Pac-12 Predictions:

 

 Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
Oregon (-24) at WazzuOre., 51-27Ore., 44-20Ore., 56-27Ore., 55-28
Utah (+5) at MichiganMich., 28-27Utah, 30-27Utah, 27-21Mich., 27-24
Cal (+9) at ArizonaZona, 41-31Zona, 37-33Zona, 38-21Zona, 38-30
S. Diego St (+10) at Ore. StOSU, 34-27OSU, 33-24OSU, 35-31OSU, 34-24
Hawaii (+7.5) at Colo.Colo., 31-21Colo., 27-17Colo., 28-10Colo., 38-20
Ga. St (+35) at Wash.Wash., 38-7Wash., 41-3Wash., 51-17Wash., 55-17
Last Week:7-17-17-17-1
Year-to-Date:25-626-526-524-7

 

Teaser:
Pac-12 2014 Week 4 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-2014-week-4-preview-and-predictions
Body:

Six of the 10 teams in this league are taking a break this weekend but that doesn’t mean that the Big 12 will be boring in Week 4.

 

No, it’s quite the opposite in fact, as two marquee matchups dot a very limited schedule.

 

Heck, even the Jayhawks have a shot at a win in what could be a competitive game with the MAC.

Week 4 Previews and Predictions
|  |  | 


Big 12 Week 4 Game Power Rankings

 

1. Auburn (+8.5) at Kansas St
Thurs., 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Bill Snyder has never lost at home to a Big 5 non-conference opponent (4-0) but this Thursday night primetime showdown with the defending national runner-up figures to be his toughest test. The Tigers have won three straight true road games and 11 of the last 12 games overall. Snyder’s bunch — a group with an astounding 58 former or current walk-ons according to Dennis Dodd — will be faced with stopping a rushing attack that has topped 300 yards in five of the last seven games and has scored nine rushing touchdowns in two games in 2014. While the overmatched KSU defense should have issues with Nick Marshall and Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn’s defense should have issues with Jake Waters as well. The Wildcats quarterback is a tremendous leader and is averaging 327.5 yards of total offense per game. Look for both quarterbacks to make things happen on the ground and whichever defense can get stops on third down will win.

 

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2. Oklahoma (-8) at W. Virginia
7:30 p.m., FOX

Some pointed to this game as a potential trap for Oklahoma in the preseason but after the Mountaineers' performance in the first three weeks, this game has become a critical, must-win situation for the Sooners. According to ESPN’s Dane Beavers, Bob Stoops started out his career 9-0 in road night games but is an even 8-8 since, and Milan Puskar Stadium figures to be rocking on Saturday night. West Virginia will likely struggle to stop Trevor Knight and company on defense so the real battle will be waged when Clint Trickett is on the field. Oklahoma’s secondary is extremely talented (third nationally with six interceptions) and the front seven has been dominant (21st in sacks with 9.0). If Trickett has no time to get the ball to Kevin White and Mario Alford, it may not matter if they are open or not. If the WVU O-line can hold its own against the Eric Striker-led defensive front, fans could be in for a shootout in Morgantown.

 

3. C. Michigan (+4.5) at Kansas
3:30 p.m.

This could be a battle of offensive ineptitude — and that could make it quite entertaining. Charlie Weis needs a win badly after the horrendous showing last week against Duke when his offense mustered just 95 passing yards and went 4-of-17 on third downs in the 41-3 blowout. The passing yards have been a disturbing trend for Weis, as his offense has averaged less than 150 yards passing since he took over in Lawrence. Central Michigan, which ranks 119th nationally in total offense, has already knocked off one Big 5 school this year when it smoked Purdue two weeks ago. If Weis and the Jayhawks are not ready, the embarrassment at Kansas could continue this weekend.

 

Off: Baylor, Iowa St, Oklahoma St, Texas, TCU, Texas Tech

 

Big 12 Predictions:

 

 Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
Auburn (-8.5) at KSUAub., 38-27Aub., 34-21Aub., 31-30Aub., 38-30
Okla. (-8) at W. VirginiaOkla., 38-27Okla., 30-23Okla., 42-31Okla., 38-24
C. Michigan (+4.5) at KansasKan., 18-17Kan., 17-14CMU, 24-17Kan., 24-20
Last Week:7-26-38-18-1
Year-to-Date:23-322-425-124-2

 

Teaser:
Big 12 2014 Week 4 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/sec-2014-week-4-preview-and-predictions
Body:

We dive into the heart of the SEC season with three games involving two league teams. Florida’s new-look offense, which showed some signs of life last week against Kentucky, will face a stiff test against Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium; Mississippi State heads to LSU seeking a program-changing win; and South Carolina visits Vanderbilt hoping to continue its momentum after beating Georgia last week.

Week 4 Previews and Predictions:
| 


SEC Week 4 Game Power Rankings
 

1. Florida (+14.5) at Alabama

3:30 ET, CBS

First the good: Florida beat Kentucky and in the process identified a playmaker at running back (Matt Jones, 156 yards) and wide receiver (Demarcus Robinson, 216 yards). Now the bad: The Gators only scored 20 points in regulation  — and did so despite making seven trips inside the Kentucky 40-yard line — in the first test under new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. This week, the task is far more difficult as Florida makes its first visit to Alabama since 2010. The Gators lost that game 31–6 and have not scored more than 17 points in Tuscaloosa in any of their last nine trips dating back to 1963. The Crimson Tide defense showed some signs of vulnerability in the opener against West Virginia — giving up 393 total yards (365 through the air) — before shutting down Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss in lopsided wins. Florida will need a productive (and efficient) game from quarterback Jeff Driskel to have a shot at knocking off the Tide.

 

2. Mississippi State (+9.5) at LSU

7 ET, ESPN

The strength of the SEC West is at an all-time high. Five of the seven teams are ranked in the top 10 in the latest AP poll, and the other two teams (Mississippi State and Arkansas) are both receiving votes. Mississippi State struggled a bit in a Week 2 win over UAB but rebounded with a dominating 35–3 victory at South Alabama — a solid Sun Belt team — on Saturday. This might be the best team of the Dan Mullen era, but it’s time for this program to make a statement with a big win over an SEC West power. And LSU could be ripe for an upset. The Tigers have talent — that’s never an issue in Baton Rouge — but they are still very young at the skill positions and have sputtered offensively in the first half of their two games against FBS opponents. The Bulldogs will need to be at their best, but they are good enough to win this game. Mississippi State by 1

 

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3. Auburn (-8.5) at Kansas State

Thursday, 7:30 ET, ESPN

Auburn, ranked No. 5 in several major polls, will be the highest-ranked non-conference opponent to play at Kansas State since No. 2 Penn State made the trip to Manhattan in 1969. The Tigers have cruised to easy wins over Arkansas and San Jose State and look to be even better on offense in Gus Malzahn’s second season as head coach. They are averaging 7.6 yards per play and have seven touchdown-scoring drives of 60 yards or more in only two games. Kansas State has been solid defensively — giving up an average of 306.5 yards — but the competition has been weak (Stephen F. Austin and Iowa State). The Wildcats have seen some up-tempo attacks in recent years, but none that operate with the type of speed and skill they will see from Auburn.

 

4. South Carolina (+22) at Vanderbilt

7:30 ET, SEC Network

There is obviously a long way to go, but the Gamecocks are back in SEC East race thanks to last week’s win over Georgia. Tailbacks Brandon Wilds and Mike Davis played key roles, but quarterback Dylan Thompson was the offensive star in the 38­–35 season-saving victory. Now, the Gamecocks hit the road for the first time to play a Vanderbilt team that is off to a troubling 1–2 start. The Commodores finally showed some life on offense but still only had 310 total yards against a UMass team that gave up 511 to Boston College and 474 to Colorado. Patton Robinette will get the start at quarterback, but true freshman Wade Freebeck is also expected to play.

 

5. Northern Illinois (+14) at Arkansas

7 ET, ESPNU

Arkansas is fresh off one of the most impressive rushing performances — against a worthy opponent — we have seen in recent years. The Razorbacks bludgeoned Texas Tech with 438 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdown. That is a blueprint that Bret Bielema would love to follow as he rebuilds the Arkansas program. This week’s opponent, Northern Illinois, has been outstanding against the run en route to a 3–0 start. The competition hasn’t been great, but the Huskies do have road wins over Northwestern and UNLV on their resume. They have given up a total of 243 rushing yards and only 2.4 yards per attempt in three games.

 

6. Indiana at Missouri

4 ET, SEC Network

Missouri is a very quiet 3–0 with impressive wins at Toledo and vs. UCF. The Tigers are getting solid play from quarterback Maty Mauk — in his first full season as the starter — and are better than they get credit for on both lines of scrimmage. Indiana’s hopes of reaching a bowl game for the first time since 2007 took a hit with a 45–42 loss to Bowling Green — a team that lost to Western Kentucky by 28 points in Week 1. The Hoosiers, as usual, can score, but their defense has yet to prove it can slow down a decent offense.

 

7. Texas A&M (+33.5) at SMU

3:30 ET, ABC

Tom Mason’s first game as the interim head coach will not go well. The Mustangs have scored a total of six points in two games, losses to Baylor (45–0) and North Texas (43–6). They will be playing a team that specializes in scoring points. Texas A&M, off to a 3–0 start, is tied for first nationally with 22 touchdowns and is averaging 54.3 points per game. This is a colossal mismatch.

 

8. Troy (+41) at Georgia

12 ET, SEC Network

Larry Blakeney has won a bunch of games — 175 to be exact — and done great things at Troy, but the program has fallen on hard times in 2014. The Trojans are 0–3, including a 38-point loss to UAB and a three-point loss at home last week to Abilene Christian. Georgia must rebound from a painful loss at South Carolina, but the Bulldogs shouldn’t have to expend much energy to beat Troy.

 

Week 4 SEC Predictions

 David FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light
Auburn at K-StateAU 31-30AU 38-27AU 38-30AU 34-21
Troy at GeorgiaUGa 45-7UGa 41-13UGa 55-7UGa 51-0
Texas A&M at SMUA&M 63-7A&M 45-10A&M 62-10A&M 58-7
Florida at AlabamaUA 35-14UA 27-21UA 34-20UA 33-17
Indiana at MissouriMU 42-28MU 42-17MU 45-24MU 40-17
Miss. State at LSULSU 27-14LSU 31-28LSU 27-20MSU 24-20
No. Illinois at ArkansasUA 49-21UA 44-28UA 45-24UA 27-20
Vanderbilt at S. CarolinaSC 38-10SC 43-7SC 34-13SC 30-17
Last week10-110-110-110-1
Season30-431-331-331-3
Teaser:
SEC Week 4 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2014-week-4-preview-and-predictions
Body:

Turn back the clock to the the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s. In fact, Nebraska and Miami might prefer that you do.

 

Nebraska and Miami will play the rare in-season matchup, but the two teams played in five bowl games that helped define the era. The Cornhuskers and Hurricanes met in six bowl games from 1983-2001 with four of those meetings resulting in a national championship.

 

The Cornhuskers, despite the Big Ten’s struggles, still have all of their goals in play this season, but not if they can’t defeat Miami.

 

As non-conference play starts to wind down, here’s a look at the week ahead in the Big Ten.

Week 4 Previews and Predictions
 |  |  |

 

Big Ten Week 4 Game Power Rankings

All games Saturday, all times Eastern.

 

1. Miami at Nebraska

8 p.m., ESPN2

Hard to believe, but these two storied programs haven’t met since Miami’s 37-14 rout of an Eric Crouch-led Nebraska team for the 2001 national title. Moreover, this pair of teams that met in four classic Orange Bowl matchups hasn’t played during the regular season since 1976. This meeting will lack the luster of any of those bowl games, with Miami already 0-1 in the ACC and Nebraska carrying the flag for an otherwise embarrassed Big Ten. The Cornhuskers have defeated FBS opponents 110-26 this season with a 31-24 escape against McNeese State of the FCS the only real cause for concern for Nebraska’s outlook.

 

Nebraska’s defense is at full strength with the return of end Randy Gregory this week, who leads a rejuvenated Huskers pass rush (four sacks vs. Fresno State last week). Still, all eyes should be on running back Ameer Abdullah. This may be his opportunity to vault into the Heisman race. He has the numbers (second in the Big Ten in all-purpose and rushing yards, both to Indiana’s Tevin Coleman), he has the and he has . All he needs is a big game against a major opponent on a national stage.

 

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2. Utah at Michigan

3:30, ABC/ESPN2

Michigan’s tour of past embarrassing losses continues. After dispatching of Appalachian State 52-14 in a rematch of the 2007 loss, Michigan faces Utah. The Utes handed the Wolverines a 25-23 loss in Ann Arbor in the debut for Rich Rodriguez in 2008. Michigan, however, has more recent losses for which to atone — the 31-0 defeat to Notre Dame two weeks ago, for example. Michigan’s 34-10 win over Miami (Ohio) was a nice rebound from the Notre Dame loss, especially with the return of cornerback Jabrill Peppers and tight end Jake Butt. But Michigan is still a team with clear flaws. The Wolverines have recorded one takeaway and four sacks on defense and remains capable of turnovers in bunches on offense.

 

3. Iowa at Pittsburgh

Noon, ESPNU

Northern Iowa and Ball State couldn’t make Iowa pay for playing a subpar game.  Iowa State finally did. Now, the Hawkeyes play their toughest opponent of the season in Pittsburgh. If there’s any consolation in this matchup, Iowa has yet to allow 100 yards rushing in a game this season. Iowa is one of eight teams not to allow a rushing touchdown this season and ranks eighth at 2.26 yards allowed per carry. The run game — specifically national rushing leader James Conner — is the cornerstone of the Pittsburgh offense. Iowa’s offense has no such identity after averaging a season-low 4.04 yards per play against Iowa State.

 

4. Maryland at Syracuse

12:30, ACC Network

Maryland continues its start to the Big Ten era with its third consecutive game against the old Big East (USF, West Virginia at Syracuse). The Terrapins will need to recover from allowing more yards against West Virginia (694) than they did in its first two games combined (559). Syracuse doesn’t run the Air Raid like WVU, but quarterback Terrel Hunt will be tough to contain. Meanwhile, Maryland’s offense continues its identity crisis. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs finally had his breakout game of the season in the shootout against West Virginia, but the tailbacks were virtually non-existent. Quarterback C.J. Brown ran the ball 18 times on a . No one else on the Maryland offense had more than four carries.

 

5. Indiana at Missouri

4 p.m., SEC Network

A game with two high-powered spread offenses from the Big 12 school of thinking always has shootout potential. Perhaps Indiana will have the key player to neutralize Missouri’s once-again formidable pass rush led by ends Markus Golden and Shane Ray. Indiana running back Tevin Coleman has rushed for a touchdown in 11 consecutive games he’s played for 17 total. Coleman leads the nation with 437 rushing yards this year.

 

6. Bowling Green at Wisconsin

Noon, ESPN2

Wisconsin will find out if its off week came at a good time, especially Melvin Gordon. The bread-and-butter of the Wisconsin offense has been hobbled with a hip injury since the second half of the opener against LSU, contributing to 38 rushing yards on 17 carries against Western Illinois two weeks ago. Wisconsin’s defense also will be tested against a team that ran 113 plays in a 45-42 win over Indiana despite being down to a second-string quarterback.

 

7. Rutgers at Navy

3:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network

A road trip against Navy doesn’t set up well for a team that just suffered a 13-10 home loss to Penn State. Navy’s option already has proved plenty effective against one Big Ten team (370 yards, two touchdowns against Ohio State). Rutgers’ athletic defensive line will be on the spot.

 

8. UMass at Penn State

4 p.m., Big Ten Network

UMass may be the weakest opponent Penn State has faced so far, but even the 0-3 Minutemen might not be a pushover. UMass took both Colorado and Vanderbilt to the wire in losses by a combined a field goal each. Perhaps overlooked in Penn State’s season — which has included the debut of James Franklin, the lifting of NCAA sanctions and heroics from Christian Hackenberg and Sam Ficken — has been the play of the front seven. Penn State has picked up seven tackles for a loss in each game this season, led by defensive tackle Anthony Zettel’s seven.

 

9. San Jose State at Minnesota

4 p.m., Big Ten Network

with quarterback Mitch Leidner playing through turf toe. Left tackle Zac Epping and running back David Cobb are also battling ankle injuries. All of it — plus Minnesota’s limitations in the passing game — caught up with the Gophers in a 30-7 loss at TCU last week. Minnesota should be able to run the ball on a San Jose State team that has allowed 5.8 yards per carry and seven touchdowns in two games. What that means for Big Ten play is up for discussion.

 

10. Texas State at Illinois

4 p.m., ESPNews

Illinois got a wake-up call when it lost 44-19 to Washington, a score that’s not too surprising. Illinois will need to bounce back against Texas State, a program three years removed from FCS status, if the Illini are to have any shot at a bowl game.

 

11. Eastern Michigan at Michigan State

Noon, Big Ten Network

Michigan State is 21-3 all-time against the directional Michigans, with all three losses coming to Central Michigan. No reason for that trend to change.

 

12. Western Illinois at Northwestern

Noon, ESPNews

This would be a good time for Northwestern to end its 1-9 skid. Northwestern’s next seven games are: at Penn State, Wisconsin, at Minnesota, Nebraska, at Iowa, Michigan and at Notre Dame.

 

13. Southern Illinois at Purdue

Noon, Big Ten Network

Purdue played well in a 30-14 loss to Notre Dame, leading the game until the final 13 seconds of the first half. The Boilermakers can’t let that encouraging moment slip away against an FCS opponent.

 

Week 4 Big Ten Staff Picks

 David FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light

Iowa at Pitt (-7)

Pitt 27-10Pitt 27-20Pitt 27-20Pitt 27-17

Eastern Mich. at Michigan State (-45)

MSU 52-7MSU 45-0MSU 48-3MSU 41-0

Western Ill. at Northwestern

NW 35-21NW 30-13NW 40-10NW 33-10

Southern Ill. at Purdue

Pur 28-10Pur 34-17Pur 34-20Pur 27-7

Bowling Green at Wisconsin (-27)

Wisc 42-24Wisc 42-24Wisc 41-20Wisc 44-20

Maryland at Syracuse (-1)

Cuse 27-24Cuse 34-30Md 27-24Md 24-20

Utah at Michigan (-5)

Utah 27-21Mich 28-27Mich 27-24Utah 30-27

Rutgers at Navy (-6)

Navy 31-28Navy 34-30Navy 31-27Navy 27-20

UMass at Penn State (-27)

PSU 31-13PSU 34-13PSU 38-10PSU 34-14

San Jose St. at Minnesota (-9)

Minn 35-17Minn 35-27Minn 31-20Minn 28-14

Texas State at Illinois (-14)

Illinois 38-14Illinois 38-30Illinois 38-20Illinois 34-10

Indiana at Missouri (-14)

Mizzou 48-28Mizzou 42-17Mizzou 35-24Mizzou 40-17

Miami at Nebraska (-8)

Neb 38-14Neb 41-31Neb 31-24Neb 27-21
Last Week8-27-38-26-4
This Season29-828-929-825-12

 

Teaser:
Big Ten 2014 Week 4 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Syracuse Orange, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2014-15-syracuse-orange-team-preview
Body:

College basketball season is creeping up fast, and Athlon Sports is counting down to Midnight Madness and the start of practice on Oct. 17. 

 

No. 22 Syracuse moves into 2014-15 with a freshman point guard and a handful of role players expected to take starring roles. Jim Boeheim has major personnel challenges, but he’s rebuilt a roster in short order before.

 

The Syracuse edition is one of dozens available in our  and on newsstands everywhere this week.

 

Jim Boeheim has been through this before. Of course, a coach who’s been around for 38 years has probably experienced just about all there is in college basketball.

 

Boeheim is used to players leaving his program early. And over the years, the veteran coach has done a remarkable job of guiding his teams to successful seasons following the loss of a star player. The year after Pearl Washington left, Syracuse went to the NCAA championship game. Following Billy Owens’ departure, Syracuse won 22 games and went back to the NCAA Tournament. After Carmelo Anthony led Syracuse to the 2003 NCAA championship, Syracuse went to the Sweet 16 the next season.

 

In recent years, Boeheim has seen Donté Greene, Jonny Flynn, Dion Waiters, Fab Melo and Michael Carter-Williams leave school early for the NBA. In the next season, Syracuse has never failed to reach the NCAA Tournament.

 

So here are Syracuse and Boeheim again. In this case, Boeheim is having to deal with the loss of three starters from last year’s team that went 28–6 overall after winning its first 25 games. The loss of C.J. Fair, who led the Orange in scoring as a senior, was expected. Then Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant decided to cut their college careers short, leaving Boeheim with yet another rebuilding job.

 


No. 22 Syracuse Facts & Figures

Last season: 28-6, 14-4 ACC

Postseason: NCAA round of 32

Consecutive NCAAs: 6

Coach: Jim Boeheim (948-319 at Syracuse, 14-4 ACC)

ACC Projection: Fifth

Postseason Projection: NCAA round of 32

 


 

Frontcourt

 

Syracuse struggled to score in 2013-14. The Orange averaged just 68 points per game, their lowest output since the 1962-63 season. And Syracuse’s most consistent scoring came from a frontcourt that’s now depleted. 

 

Fair averaged a team-high 16.5 points per game. Grant chipped in with 12.1 points. The only returning starter is senior center Rakeem Christmas, who posted 5.8 points and 5.1 rebounds. 

 

“Rak’s getting better,” Boeheim says. “He’s a late-developing big guy. I think he’s figured it out. He’ll have a good year.”

 

DaJuan Coleman, who started 12 games last year, is coming off his second knee surgery in as many seasons, and Boeheim doesn’t expect him to return to the court until October at the earliest.

 

That leaves Boeheim with a frontcourt that’s both young and thin. He’ll look to sophomores Tyler Roberson and B.J. Johnson along with incoming freshman Chris McCullough. Chino Obokoh, a 6-10 center, redshirted last season and could provide some depth this year. 

 

Don’t be surprised if Michael Gbinije, a 6-7 combo guard, sees some time at small forward due to the Orange’s lack of depth up front.

 

Backcourt

 

Syracuse’s backcourt situation is a little steadier than its frontcourt, but there is still one gaping hole to fill. Ennis played superbly as a freshman last year. He proved to be the ultimate playmaker, doling out 5.5 assists per game against just 1.7 turnovers. Kaleb Joseph, a 6-2 freshman, will be the fourth starting point guard in as many years for Syracuse. He’s a terrific athlete, but will he have the poise and maturity that enabled Ennis to handle the position as a freshman?

 

Trevor Cooney, a 6-4 junior, is coming off an up-and-down season, which was his first as a starter. Through SU’s first 22 games, Cooney was making 44 percent of his 3-point attempts, but he slumped in the final third of the season. He finished the year at 37.5 percent from the arc. Gbinije, a former top-40 national recruit, played both guard positions last year and will again in 2014-15. After shaking off the rust of the redshirt year taken after his transfer from Duke, Gbinije should provide more consistent contributions as a junior. 

 

Ron Patterson, a 6-2 guard, didn’t see any meaningful minutes as a freshman. This could be a make or break year for the Indiana native.

 

Final Analysis

 

This could be one of Boeheim’s biggest challenges in years. When previously facing major personnel losses, Boeheim has had a young player like Sherman Douglas, Wes Johnson, Carter-Williams or Fair waiting in the wings. 

 

For this year’s Orange to earn an NCAA Tournament berth for the 32nd time in Boeheim’s 39 years, Christmas must emerge as a scoring option down low, Roberson will have to take a big jump as a sophomore, and McCullough and Joseph — the two true freshmen — will have to play like upperclassmen.

 

Newcomers

 

Syracuse brings in just two freshmen, but in all likelihood, both will start for the Orange this season. Kaleb Joseph figures to step into the starting point guard role. Chris McCullough is the prototypical Syracuse forward. He’s long and lean. McCullough averaged 22 points and 9.0 rebounds per game at IMG Academy last year.

Teaser:
College Basketball 2014-15: Syracuse Orange Team Preview
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-quarterback-rankings-week-3
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A Super Bowl rematch has led to some shuffling at the top of Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings for Week 3. Denver and Seattle will go head-to-head once again, but this time the game will take place in the Pacific Northwest, not the Big Apple. Regardless of the venue, the Broncos’ matchup with a Seahawks defense that held them to one touchdown and forced three turnovers back in February is enough reason to drop Peyton Manning out of his usual No. 1 spot. Instead, top billing for this week goes to Drew Brees. The Saints’ offense has struggled some out of the gates, but it’s usually pretty reliable, not to mention productive, at home in the comfy Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Another intriguing matchup to keep an eye on is Green Bay vs. Detroit at Ford Field. This has all the makings of a high-scoring affair.

 

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

 

Positional Rankings: I I I I I

 

2014 NFL Week 3 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks

 

RankPlayerTeamOppComments
1Drew BreesNOvs. MINHoping for some home cooking vs. MIN.
2Aaron RodgersGBat DETEarly fumble only miscue (336-3-0) vs. Jets.
3Andrew LuckINDat JAC3 TDs on MNF vs. Eagles, but costly INT.
4Matthew StaffordDETvs. GBYards (291) there, but little else vs. CAR.
5Peyton ManningDENat SEAMust-see rematch vs. Seahawks D.
6Matt RyanATLvs. TB (Thurs.)Picked off 3 times in sloppy effort vs. CIN.
7Jay CutlerCHIat NYJ (Mon.)Only 176 yards, but 4 TDs, 0 INTs in huge W.
8Nick FolesPHIvs. WASDid enough (331-1-1) to get the MNF W.
9Cam NewtonCARvs. PITWelcome back Cam! Solid (281-1-0) vs. DET.
10Russell WilsonSEAvs. DENMore success against Denver coming?
11Tom BradyNEvs. OAKBrady throws for just 149 yds., TD in win.
12Philip RiversSDat BUFMade it look easy (284-3-0) vs. champs.
13Colin KaepernickSFat ARI"Terrible" (4 TOs) vs. Bears.
14Kirk CousinsWASat PHIIt's his show now w/ RG3 (ankle) out.
15Tony RomoDALat STLSo-so numbers (176-1-0), but Cowboys won.
16Andy DaltonCINvs. TENAlready missing Eifert, may be w/o Green.
17Ryan TannehillMIAvs. KC 
18Joe FlaccoBALat CLE 
19EJ ManuelBUFvs. SD 
20Ben RoethlisbergerPITat CARNeeds to be wary of Panthers' pass rush.
21Alex SmithKCat MIA 
22Geno SmithNYJvs. CHI (Mon.)Bears had 3 INTs vs. SF last week.
23Josh McCownTBat ATL (Thurs.) 
24Jake LockerTENat CINStruggled (18-34, 2 INTs) vs. Dallas D.
25Ryan FitzpatrickHOUat NYG 
26Chad HenneJACvs. INDSacked 10 times by Redskins.
27Eli ManningNYGvs. HOUTurnovers (4 INTs) still an issue for Eli.
28Brian HoyerCLEvs. BAL 

​Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:
OFFENSIVE SCORING

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

 

Need more fantasy help? Visit 

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2014 Quarterback Rankings: Week 3
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-running-back-rankings-week-3
Body:

Injuries and off-field matters have certainly left their mark on the NFL season thus far, as Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings for Week 3 can attest. When Adrian Peterson will return (if he returns) is anyone’s guess, while , Doug Martin, Ryan Mathews, Ben Tate, Knowshon Moreno, Maurice Jones-Drew, Mark Ingram and DeAngelo Williams all either got hurt last week or missed last week because of injury. With so many backfields already impacted, it’s good to know there are still some constants to lean on. Such as LeSean McCoy, last year’s rushing champion who has produced back-to-back games of at least 95 total yards. Shady should be in for another productive afternoon when the Eagles host the Redskins on Sunday.

 

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

 

Positional Rankings: I I I I I

 

2014 NFL Week 3 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Backs

 

RankPlayerTeamOppComments
1LeSean McCoyPHIvs. WASPicked up 102 total yards, TD vs. Colts.
2DeMarco MurrayDALat STLNo. 1 fantasy RB ran wild (167 yds.) vs. Titans.
3Arian FosterHOUat NYGTwo straight 100-yard games for Foster.
4Marshawn LynchSEAvs. DENJust six carries (plus 4 rec., TD) vs. Chargers.
5Giovani BernardCINvs. TENGio's talents (90 rush, 79 rec.) on display vs. ATL.
6Alfred MorrisWASat PHIWho needs catches if you score 2 TDs?
7Matt ForteCHIat NYJ (Mon.)Bottled up (36 total yds.) vs. 49ers.
8Le'Veon BellPITat CAR107 total yards in loss to Ravens.
9Eddie LacyGBat DETHeld to just 43 yards rushing vs. Jets.
10Knile DavisKCat MIAStepped up (79 yds., 2 TDs) after Charles injury.
11Montee BallDENat SEASlow start could be prolonged vs. Seahawks.
12C.J. SpillerBUFvs. SD5.8 ypc + 102-yard KOR for TD vs. MIA.
13Rashad JenningsNYGvs. HOU109 total yards vs. Cardinals.
14Zac StacySTLvs. DAL 
15Joique BellDETvs. GBTwice as many touches (16 to 8) as Bush.
16Andre EllingtonARIvs. SFAveraging 5.1 ypc despite foot issue.
17Stevan RidleyNEvs. OAKThe 25 carries are certainly encouraging.
18Darren SprolesPHIvs. WASLittle man came up HUGE (152 rec. yds.) on MNF.
19Lamar MillerMIAvs. KCShould see bulk of the carries w/ Moreno out.
20Reggie BushDETvs. GBHopefully better matchups ahead for Bush.
21Frank GoreSFat ARIBig TD run vs. Bears wiped out by penalty.
22Doug MartinTBat ATL (Thurs.)Late scratch (ankle) last week. Watch closely.
23Bernard PierceBALat CLEGot the work (22 att.) and yards (96).
24Pierre ThomasNOvs. MINMore work coming w/ Ingram (hand) out?
25Toby GerhartJACvs. IND8 yards on 7 carries not getting it done.
26Chris JohnsonNYJvs. CHI (Mon.)Averaging just 3.6 yards per carry thus far.
27Ahmad BradshawINDat JAC70 yds. rushing and 2 rec. TDs.
28Terrance WestCLEvs. BALRookie did his job (68, TD) vs. Saints.
29Shane VereenNEvs. OAKOut-touched (25 to 7), upstaged by Ridley.
30Matt AsiataMINat NOHis job for now w/ Peterson on exempt list.
31Bobby RaineyTBat ATL (Thurs.)Exploded for 144 yds. In Martin's absence.
32Chris IvoryNYJvs. CHI (Mon.)Just 43 yards, but was still better than CJ.
33Khiry RobinsonNOvs. MINFigures to benefit from Ingram's (hand) injury.
34Donald BrownSDat BUFShould see more work w/ Mathews out.
35Trent RichardsonINDat JACLooked great against Eagles until fumble.
36Fred JacksonBUFvs. SDSpiller more effective against Dolphins.
37Steven JacksonATLvs. TB (Thus.)Yet to be much of factor.
38Danny WoodheadSDat BUFWill his role change w/ Mathews (MCL) out?
39Shonn GreeneTENat CIN 
40Darren McFaddenOAKat NEOut-rushed by QB (37 to 58) w/ MJD out.
41Jeremy HillCINvs. TEN15 carries and first career TD vs. Falcons.
42Jonathan StewartCARvs. PITStruggled as starter w/ DeAngelo (thigh) out.
43DeAngelo WilliamsCARvs. PITDid not play last week b/c of thigh injury.
44Justin ForsettBALat CLE8 carries vs. BAL compared to 22 for Pierce.
45Isaiah CrowellCLEvs. BAL11 carries a good sign for him moving forward.
46Carlos HydeSFat ARI 
47Bishop SankeyTENat CINGets two carries in loss to Cowboys.
48Jerick McKinnonMINat NORookie could get more opportunities w/ Peterson out.

 

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

 

Need more fantasy help? Visit 

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2014 Running Back Rankings: Week 3
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-wide-receiver-rankings-week-3
Body:

It’s only fitting that the top two wide receivers in fantasy football right now occupy the same space in Athlon Sports’ Week 3 rankings at the position. Calvin Johnson and Jordy Nelson are set to share the same field when Detroit hosts Green Bay in what should be an entertaining and likely high-scoring affair Sunday afternoon. Megatron checks in at No. 1 in our rankings, but it’s actually Nelson who’s the top scorer at WR, after exploding for 209 yards against the Jets last week. Other matchups this week to watch include Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” secondary against the Broncos’ stable of Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Wes Welker, who was reinstated this week according to the stipulations of the NFL's new drug policy. Chicago’s Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery each gutted through injuries last week, and on Monday night they will try and take advantage of the same Jets’ passing defense that Nelson and his Packer teammates torched in Week 2.

 

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

 

Positional Rankings: I I I I I

 

2014 NFL Week 3 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers

 

RankPlayerTeamOppComments
1Calvin JohnsonDETvs. GBPanthers held Megatron in check (6-83, 13 targets).
2Jordy NelsonGBat DET80-yard TD highlights huge (9-209-1) game.
3Brandon MarshallCHIat NYJ (Mon.)3 TDs vs. SF. What ankle injury?
4Julio JonesATLvs. TB (Thurs.)His usual productive self (7-88-1) vs. Bengals.
5Dez BryantDALat STLSomewhat quietly posted 100-yard game vs. TEN.
6Demaryius ThomasDENat SEATweaked his knee, but played through it and scored.
7Antonio BrownPITat CARAvoided injury scare, paced Steelers (7-90).
8Randall CobbGBat DETNelson got the yards, but Cobb gets 2 TD grabs.
9Andre JohnsonHOUat NYG 
10Julian EdelmanNEvs. OAKClearly Brady's No. 1 target right now.
11Alshon JefferyCHIat NYJ (Mon.)Played through sore hamstring.
12Vincent JacksonTBat ATL (Thurs.)He and McCown struggling to get on same page.
13Mike WallaceMIAvs. KCTwo games, two TDs in new O. Progress.
14Percy HarvinSEAvs. DENRushing TD nice, but need more than 1 catch.
15Keenan AllenSDat BUFNot that impressed with Richard Sherman.
16Roddy WhiteATLvs. TB (Thurs.)Dealing with hamstring injury, but should play.
17Cordarrelle PattersonMINat NOFour catches and no rush attempts vs. Pats.
18Jeremy MaclinPHIvs. WASJust four catches, but one went for TD vs. Colts.
19Pierre GarconWASat PHIWill he and Cousins click?
20Reggie WayneINDat JACQuiet (3-28) vs. Eagles on MNF.
21Emmanuel SandersDENat SEAMaking himself right at home with new team.
22Michael FloydARIvs. SFSix targets, but only one catch (19 yds.) vs. Giants.
23Michael CrabtreeSFat ARIMost productive 49er target (7-82-1) vs. Bears.
24Sammy WatkinsBUFvs. SDHello breakout. 8-117-1 vs. Dolphins.
25DeSean JacksonWASat PHILeft last week w/ shoulder injury. Watch status.
26Larry FitzgeraldARIvs. SFTargeted 10 times (6-51) by backup Stanton.
27Marques ColstonNOvs. MIN0 targets vs. Browns? Not good.
28Wes WelkerDENat SEAWelcome back Wes! Hello Legion of Boom!
29Eric DeckerNYJvs. CHI (Mon.)Hooks up with Smith for first TD as Jet.
30Golden TateDETvs. GB 
31Steve SmithBALat CLELeading receiver after two games w/ new team.
32T.Y. HiltonINDat JACLed the way with 6 rec., 65 yds. vs. Eagles.
33Kendall WrightTENat CINOvershadowed by Bryant, Walker vs. DAL.
34Victor CruzNYGvs. HOUStill looking for fit in new offense.
35DeAndre HopkinsHOUat NYGJust three catches, but one was for a TD.
36Kelvin BenjaminCARvs. PIT 
37Brandin CooksNOvs. MINSecond-most targets (6) behind Graham (13) vs. CLE.
38A.J. GreenCINvs. TENToe injury could sideline him. Watch closely.
39Brian QuickSTLvs. DALMost effective Ram WR (14-173) thus far.
40Torrey SmithBALat CLETorrey been non-existent Smith so far for Ravens.
41Anquan BoldinSFat ARI 
42Mohamed SanuCINvs. TENBengals' No. 1 WR with Green, Jones sidelined.
43James JonesOAKat NEHas been Derek Carr's favorite target thus far.
44Justin HunterTENat CINGetting the snaps, still waiting on the breakout.
45Markus WheatonPITat CAR 
46Andrew HawkinsCLEvs. BALBrowns' No. 1 WR until further notice.
47Greg JenningsMINat NO 
48Terrance WilliamsDALat STL 
49Dwayne BoweKCat MIAHauls in three passes in his season debut.
50Riley CooperPHIvs. WAS 
51Cecil ShortsJACvs. INDHas yet to play due to hamstring issue.
52Rueben RandleNYGvs. HOUTD catch hopefully sign of things to come.
53Mike EvansTBat ATL (Thurs.) 
54Miles AustinCLEvs. BALHooked up with Hoyer for TD pass last week.
55Allen HurnsJACvs. INDJust 2 rec. and sprained his ankle.
56Marqise LeeJACvs. INDOne of many Jags who struggled vs. Redskins.
57Danny AmendolaNEvs. OAKDisappearing Danny? 0 targets vs. Vikings.
58Donnie AveryKCat MIA 
59Malcom FloydSDat BUF 
60Harry DouglasATLvs. TB (Thurs.)Role could expand if White (hamstring) is limited.
61Davante AdamsGBat DETRookie appears to have replaced Boykin as No. 3.
62Hakeem NicksINDat JAC 
63Robert WoodsBUFvs. SD 
64Aaron DobsonNEvs. OAK 

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING

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

 

Need more fantasy help? Visit 

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2014 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 3
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-tight-end-rankings-week-3
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Jimmy Graham’s two touchdown catches against Cleveland was more than enough for him to maintain his hold on the top spot in Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings for Week 3. However, for the second straight week, Graham didn’t post the best numbers for his position. Instead that honor in Week 2 belongs to Antonio Gates, who victimized Seattle’s vaunted defense for three touchdowns as the Chargers overwhelmed the defending Super Bowl champions 30-21. Even though this game took place in San Diego and the Seahawks return home to CenturyLink Field for a Super Bowl rematch with the Broncos, one can’t help but wonder if Julius Thomas will enjoy similar success Sunday afternoon. After all, despite Graham’s and Gates’ big days, it’s Thomas who is tied for the NFL lead with four touchdown grabs after two games.

 

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

 

Positional Rankings: I I I I I

 

2014 NFL Week 3 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends

 

RankPlayerTeam Comments
1Jimmy GrahamNOvs. MINGets first 2 TDs vs. Browns.
2Julius ThomasDENat SEATied for NFL lead w/ 4 TD catches.
3Rob GronkowskiNEvs. OAKPlaying time becoming an issue.
4Greg OlsenCARvs. PIT 
5Antonio GatesSDat BUFWho's old now? 3 TDs vs. Seahawks.
6Dennis PittaBALat CLEUpstaged by Daniels in win vs. Steelers.
7Zach ErtzPHIvs. WASAlready has seven catches of 20+ yards.
8Martellus BennettCHIat NYJ (Mon.)Two games, two TD catches.
9Kyle RudolphMINat NO 
10Vernon DavisSFat ARILeft loss to CHI early w/ ankle injury. Watch status.
11Jason WittenDALat STLSlow target for reliable target.
12Delanie WalkerTENat CINEnjoys career day (10-142-1) vs. Cowboys.
13Jordan CameronCLEvs. BALDNP (shoulder) Week 2. Watch very carefully.
14Travis KelceKCat MIAYoung buck made some nice plays vs. DEN.
15Niles PaulWASat PHISteps in for injured Reed, excels (8-99-1).
16Larry DonnellNYGvs. HOUQuickly making name for himself.
17Charles ClayMIAvs. KCFantasy impact has been minimal to this point.
18Heath MillerPITat CAR 
19Jared CookSTLvs. DAL 
20Coby FleenerINDat JACReserve Jack Doyle had more rec., TD.
21Dwayne AllenINDat JACFollowed up solid Week 1 w/ dud (0 rec.).
22Jermaine GreshamCINvs. TEN 
23Owen DanielsBALat CLETwo TDs among five receptions vs. Ravens.
24Garrett GrahamHOUat NYGMade season debut (back) last week.
25Levine ToiloloATLvs. TB (Thurs.) 
26Eric EbronDETvs. GBPosts first three career catches.


Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
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

 

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Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2014 Tight End Rankings: Week 3
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-3
Body:

Seattle’s coming off of a loss and gets Denver at home in a Super Bowl rematch, so, for at least one week, there’s a new team leading off Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Defense/Special Teams Rankings for Week 3. After struggling with Miami’s running game in Week 1, New England’s defense rebounded in a big way on the road against Minnesota. The Patriots collected six sacks, picked off Matt Cassel four times and scored as many points as the Vikings’ offense (six) thanks to a blocked field goal that Chandler Jones returned 58 yards for a touchdown. The good times should continue this week with 0-2 Oakland and rookie quarterback Derek Carr set to visit Gillette Stadium.

 

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

 

Positional Rankings: I I I I I

 

2014 NFL Week 3 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams

 

RankPlayerOppComments
1New England Patriotsvs. OAKPats rack up 6 sacks, 4 INTs and block FG for TD.
2Carolina Panthersvs. PITPanthers' D has been stout thus far.
3Cincinnati Bengalsvs. TENBengals picked off Ryan 3 times last week.
4Houston Texansat NYGAfter feasting on Raiders, TO-prone G-Men next.
5San Francisco 49ersat ARI49ers struggled to stop Bears after 1st Q.
6Seattle Seahawksvs. DENChamps struggled vs. SD, get Manning and co. next.
7Arizona Cardinalsvs. SFCards' D getting job done early.
8Baltimore Ravensat CLERavens' D manhandled Steelers last week.
9Denver Broncosat SEABarometer game for Broncos' new-look D.
10Buffalo Billsvs. SD6 sacks, 5 takeaways in 2 games.
11St. Louis Ramsvs. DALRams gave up 144 rushing yards to Rainey.
12New Orleans Saintsvs. MINSaints' D usually tougher at home.
13Chicago Bearsat NYJ (Mon.)Revamped D came up big (4 sacks, 4 TAs) vs. SF.
14Cleveland Brownsvs. BALPick-six helps fuel Browns' W over Saints.
15Kansas City Chiefsat MIAShorthanded D kept Broncos in check.
16Tennessee Titansat CINTitans got run over by Murray last week.

 

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

DEFENSIVE SCORING
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

 

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Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2014 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 3
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-kicker-rankings-week-3
Body:

Stephen Gostkowski checks in at No. 1 on Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Kicker Rankings for Week 3, but he’s yet to show off his powerful leg. Matt Bryant leads all kickers with two field goals of 50 yards or longer, while 10 other kickers have already connected from that distance as well. Dallas’ Dan Bailey is one of those, as he was good on four attempts from 40 yards and beyond, including a 51-yarder, in the Cowboys’ easy 26-10 road win over the Titans. Dallas travels to St. Louis this week, a game that features two kickers with big legs in Bailey and the Rams’ Greg Zuerlein (career long of 60 yards).

 

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

 

Positional Rankings: I I I I I

 

2014 NFL Week 3 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers

 

RankPlayerTeamOpp
1Stephen GostkowskiNEvs. OAK
2Steven HauschkaSEAvs. DEN
3Justin TuckerBALat CLE
4Matt BryantATLvs. TB (Thurs.)
5Nick NovakSDat BUF
6Dan BaileyDALat STL
7Mason CrosbyGBat DET
8Cody ParkeyPHIvs. WAS
9Adam VinatieriINDat JAC
10Phil DawsonSFat ARI
11Shayne GrahamNOvs. MIN
12Dan CarpenterBUFvs. SD
13Mike NugentCINvs. TEN
14Robbie GouldCHIat NYJ (Mon.)
15Greg ZuerleinSTLvs. DAL
16Brandon McManusDENat SEA

 

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2014 Kicker Rankings: Week 3
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /nascar/nascar-chase-report-previewing-race-no-2-new-hampshire
Body:

New Hampshire Motor Speedway

New Hampshire Motor Speedway hosted the opening race in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup until 2011, when it was replaced by Chicagoland Speedway. That’s a shame, since the 1.058-mile track in Loudon has turned in some of the best racing and most memorable Chase moments over the last 10 years. The weather looks beautiful this weekend, the Red Sox are out of playoff contention and the Patriots are sure to destroy the Raiders, so there are no excuses for the Chowds to miss this one. If you say you have something better to do than hit the track, that’s a load of GAH-BAGE.

 

 

Contenders

The obvious answer here: Morgan Shepherd … or is that too soon?  Brad Keselowski

 

In all seriousness, if the July edition at NHMS was any indication the Team Penske twins are going to be a hard to handle (and that’s without even factoring their performance last week at Chicagoland). Brad Keselowski dominated the action two months in Loudon, leading 138 of 300 laps, while Joey Logano tangled with the aforementioned Shepherd while running second, sending him into the wall. The duo has conspired to win three of the last four Cup races on the schedule, with Keselowski already locked into the playoff’s second round and Logano showing signs of Chase blessings as his engine blew coming to the finish line on Sunday.

 

Elsewhere, Jeff Gordon was running third at NHMS in July before his car ran out of gas as the yellow came out, forcing him to stop for fuel after having led 19 laps. He and teammate Jimmie Johnson have enviable records here with three wins apiece. Also in the Hendrick camp, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne were 10th and 11th, respectively, in July. 

 

Additionally, all four were at the track two months ago trying to figure out how to speed up the No. 5, so they have test notes galore from which to work.

 

Last week I said all Ryan Newman needed to do was ride things out and aim for a top 15 in Joliet, as his bread ‘n’ butter track was next on the docket. So what’d he do? He finished 15th and is headed to the site of first career win — and arguably his best track on the circuit. He has three wins, seven top 5s, and 16 top 10s at NHMS and finished fifth in July. Anything less than a top 5 should be viewed as a disappointment for a team that needs to make a splash.

 

Don’t count out the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas of Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, either. While I was ready to throw dirt on the latter going into Chicago, what with the way they bumbled and stumbled through the end of the regular season, Busch managed a respectable seventh-place showing. Hamlin was one better, slotting in sixth. 

 

Busch was second at NHMS in July, leading 62 laps, with Hamlin eighth after leading 20 circuits. Busch seems legitimately pleased with the new power TRD brought to the track at Chicago, but can the Toyotas pull the Hendrick and Roush-Yates engines off of Loudon’s slow sweeping corners? It’s all about getting off to a decent start and avoiding any points disasters; this is a comparatively short race, too, so early mishaps can spell disaster. I’m still a little leery of the No. 18’s performance — particularly with Kansas looming as the first race in Round 2.  Kyle Larson

 

The sleeper pick for the weekend? Kyle Larson — though at this point he may not qualify in that category. The rookie finished third last weekend after a spirited battle for the win against some savvy vets, and was third at Loudon in July. Crew chief Chris Heroy won here in 2009 as car chief for Mark Martin, so he obviously knows how to set up a car to win. Mark it down: Larson wins a race before the season is over. 

 

 

Pretenders

After the measured improvement the Roush Fenway cars showed the past month with increasingly strong runs at Michigan and Atlanta, it was a forgone conclusion that they’d be contenders at Chicagoland, right? Eurrggh, wrong answer, Hans! 

 

What an absolute disaster that first race was for a team that appeared to have found some answers. How bad were things? Carl Edwards: 20th, Greg Biffle 23rd (worst among Chase drivers who finished), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — the highest finishing RFR car — 17th (and that was with the right side smashed in from tangling with his girlfriend for the umpteenth time). If I didn’t know any better, it looked like they brought whatever cars they ran at Michigan in June and didn’t change anything on them. Edwards and Biffle came home 13th and 15th at NHMS in July, but replicating those showings won’t do much good following last weekend’s momentum-killer.  Carl Edwards

 

So whatever good vibes RFR had are suddenly DOA — The Cat in the Hat needs to send The Captain a gift basket, post-haste and garner whatever intel he can. Heck, even The King’s car was a top-5 contender until the engine blew. Something is amiss here once again, and at the worst possible time.

 

 

Chase Hope-Enders

Aric Almirola, running Roush Fenway garage sale specials, was running sixth in Joliet before his engine expired with just handful of laps remaining. Almirola isn’t out of this Chase yet, but it’s not looking good. The Chicago disappointment spells trouble in that the team, which finished 12th at Dover in June, could have hobbled its way through a so-so finish at Loudon with the hope of a second top-15 run in two of the first three Chase events. 

 

That’s not happening now.

 

That said, Almirola and the Roush Fewnay duo best do something of substance this weekend, otherwise Ford is in danger of losing three-fifths of its Chase contingent in Round 1. 

 

The other hapless fellow here: AJ Allmendinger. No offense to the ‘Dinger or the No. 47 JTG-Daugherty team, but they’re just not ready for prime time. Allmendinger finished 18th here in July and after a 22nd-place run at Chicagoland, the reality check I predicted last week is coming to pass. If only NASCAR had a road course or a plate track in the first elimination round for teams like these. Hey, don’t look at me — the sanctioning body is the one that’s trying to manufacture drama …

 

 

New Hampshire Winner: Joey Logano  Joey Logano

Last week I picked Kevin Harvick to win in Joliet and, after leading 77 laps, it looked like he was going to hold off Kyle Larson — right until Brad Keselowski shot that Chevy gap and road off into the sunset.

 

With that image burned onto my retinas and until someone proves to me they have something for the Penske Fords, I say ride those two horses as long as they’ll gallop. Keselowski dominated here in June, but his teammate was just as fast prior to tangling with a lapped car. This is Logano’s home turf (he hails from Middletown, Conn.) as well as the site of his first career Cup win. Could Keselowski run the table in Lob-stah Land? Absolutely, and he has nothing to lose if a roll of the dice comes into play. But then again, ensuring the second Penske team car makes it into Round 2 may be of greater importance this week.

 

 

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Teaser:
Contenders, pretenders and predicted winners for the second race of NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup, the Sylvania 300 at New hampshire Motor Speedway.
Post date: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 15:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/5-running-backs-replace-jamaal-charles
Body:

Kansas City All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles will miss an extended period of time after suffering an ankle injury in the Chiefs’ Week 2 loss. Charles, last year’s leading fantasy scorer (Athlon scoring) at running back, didn’t make it through the team’s first series before leaving after rushing the ball twice for four yards and catching one pass for eight.

 

The good news is that Charles’ MRI came back “clean,” showing no fracture or significant structural damage. The bad news is that head coach Andy Reid has already thrown out the dreaded phrases “high ankle sprain” and “out indefinitely.” So fantasy owners are faced with a dilemma similar to the Adrian Peterson situation last week. How does one replace one of the best scoring options at his position?


In fact, this dilemma also could apply to an owner who drafted Ryan Mathews (out 4-5 weeks with a sprained MCL) or Doug Martin (did not play last week because of an ankle injury) or Ben Tate (sprained knee, return unknown). Injuries have not been kind to the running back ranks early on with Knowshon Moreno (dislocated elbow), Mark Ingram (broken hand), Maurice Jones-Drew (hand injury) and DeAngelo Williams (thigh) also hurting.

 

And after some initial optimism, Peterson owners find themselves in a different boat now that he's been placed on the exempt/commissioner's permission list. Any initial hopes of getting the No. 1 overall pick in many leagues have now been dashed. The only difference is that Peterson is not technically suspended, so no on one knows when he will be back this season, if at all. Depending on how your league (referring to redraft leagues, not keeper/dynasty) is structured, an owner may have no other choice but to simply "sit" on Peterson unless they want to risk the chance of dropping him and someone else stashing him in hopes of an eventual return this season.

 

Here are five running backs that could help a Charles or similarly beleaguered owner weather the storm.

 

Knile Davis, Kansas City Chiefs

The no-brainer for Charles owners, who hopefully were wise enough to grab him with a late draft pick. Now the starter for the Chiefs, Davis has top-10 fantasy potential given his familiarity with the offense and how Reid uses his backs. Case in point, Davis posted 79 yards rushing on 22 carries, caught six passes for 26 yards and scored both of Kansas City’s touchdowns in the 24-17 loss to Denver. A back that is likely to see 20-30 touches each game? Yes please.

 

Bobby Rainey, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Doug Martin was a late scratch last week, opening the door for Rainey. And all the diminutive (5-8) back did was explode for 144 yards on 22 carries against St. Louis. Rainey has excelled as the starter before, rushing for a total of 290 yards in games against Atlanta and Buffalo last season, so this isn’t exactly out of the blue. Add to this that his latest 100-yard effort came against a pretty good St. Louis defense and the fact the Bucs have a short week ahead of them, it’s highly likely Rainey will get another crack at those aforementioned Falcons on Thursday.

 

Khiry Robinson, New Orleans Saints

Ingram was off to a great start (6.0 ypc, 3 TDs) before breaking his hand against the Browns. New Orleans still has Pierre Thomas, but his role doesn’t figure to change that much moving forward. If anyone can benefit from Ingram’s injury, it’s Robinson who should see more rushing attempts, especially as the short-yardage and goal-line back. To this point, Robinson has more carries (14) than Thomas (10) and he’s been fairly effective (4.2 ypc, TD) when he’s gotten the ball. Robinson also could be attractive because unlike Davis and maybe even Rainey, he’s more likely to fly under the radar.

 

Ahmad Bradshaw, Indianapolis Colts

Trent Richardson is still getting his chances, but even when he’s been able do something positive (79 yards on 21 carries on Monday night), he does something else to cancel it out (2 fumbles, 1 lost). Regardless, Bradshaw is not going away, as the veteran is certainly a factor in the passing game. Look no further than his two touchdown catches against the Eagles, while also chipping in 70 yards on the ground. He may be No. 2 on the depth chart, but he’s currently seventh in fantasy points at his position.

 

Donald Brown, San Diego Chargers

Similar to Pierre Thomas in New Orleans, San Diego has Danny Woodhead, a versatile back who is more of a factor in the passing game. So it looks like that Brown will be the one given the opportunity to fill Mathews’ role as the primary ball-carrier. While Brown’s early impact with his new team has been minimal (9 att., 3 rec., 23 total yards), this is a guy who’s been successful before. He was Indianapolis’ leading rusher last season, averaging 5.3 yards per carry with six touchdowns. He’s also a capable receiver out of the backfield, which should only help his fantasy potential with Mathews out of the picture for at least a month. It may be time to find out what this Brown can do you for your fantasy team.

Teaser:
5 Running Backs to Replace Jamaal Charles
Post date: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 13:00
Path: /college-football/florida-state-suspends-qb-jameis-winston-first-half-against-clemson
Body:

Florida State has suspended quarterback Jameis Winston for the first half of Saturday’s game against Clemson due to inappropriate comments made on Tuesday on campus.

In a , Florida State also indicated Winston will undergo internal discipline.

 

With Winston missing the first two quarters, the Seminoles will turn to backup Sean Maguire.

Maguire completed 13 of 21 passes for 116 yards and two scores last season and has attempted just five throws in 2014.

Maguire has not started a game during his Florida State career and was rated as a three-star prospect in the 2012 signing class.

Prior to Winston’s suspension, Florida State was considered at least a 20-point favorite on Saturday.

While the Seminoles are still likely to be picked to win by most, the margin for error for Jimbo Fisher’s team has narrowed.

Maguire has experience but none against a first-team defense. Clemson’s defensive line is one of the best in the nation and features All-American end Vic Beasley.

Expect a limited gameplan for Maguire, and Fisher will likely place the bulk of the offense on the shoulders of running backs Mario Pender and Karlos Williams.

Also, Florida State’s defense can help its offense by creating a few turnovers. The Tigers’ offense struggled in the second half against Georgia and is a work in progress with new quarterback Cole Stoudt. 

Teaser:
Florida State Suspends QB Jameis Winston for First Half Against Clemson
Post date: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 12:23
All taxonomy terms: Graeme McDowell, Golf
Path: /golf/ryder-cup-2014-4-questions-graeme-mcdowell
Body:

After a miracle comeback at the Ryder Cup Matches at Medinah in 2012, Europe is the prohibitive favorite to retain the Cup on home turf, as Tom Watson takes a shorthanded American team to Scotland for the most pressure-packed event in golf. Can a U.S. team led by crafty veteran Phil Mickelson and young gun Rickie Fowler upset a European powerhouse led by four-time major champion Rory McIlroy and Ryder Cup maestro Sergio Garcia?

 

Athlon caught up with Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, a Ryder cup veteran with a match record of 5-5-2 in three Cups, to get his perspective.

 

How is the pressure of the Ryder Cup compared to a major championship?

It’s very different. One’s individual pressure. Obviously, I had a chance to experience both things in the space of three or four months of each other (in 2010). Back nine of the U.S. Open and then coming down the stretch against Hunter (Mahan at the Ryder Cup). I can safely say it was ten-fold the pressure at the Ryder Cup. No doubt about it. You’re only letting yourself down by not taking care of it at a major championship. But you feel the fates of all your teammates and everything that goes into the Ryder Cup. And especially how passionate Europe is about the Ryder Cup. We’re certainly very, very into it.

 

Describe the experience of playing in a Ryder Cup.

I feel like I’ve experienced everything I can experience at the Ryder Cup. I’ve lost. I’ve won. I hit the last shot, I hit the first shot, I’ve played both sides of the Atlantic. At Gleneagles, I’ve made a promise to myself that I’m going to go and enjoy it. Try to shrug the pressure off a little bit. Play with my eyes open and take it all in and really embrace and enjoy as opposed to getting all tense and feeling like it’s pretty painful at times.

 

What about Gleneagles as a venue?

I think it will be a good venue. Weather is something we can’t control, and I’m sure it’ll be a talking point. But I think from a crowd’s point of view, Scottish fans are very educated and they love their golf and they will be absolutely fired up. First Ryder Cup (in Scotland) for many, many years. I’m expecting it to be pretty amazing. From a match play standpoint, the course is kind of irrelevant. Take Dove Mountain (former home of the WGC-Match Play Championship). That’s a golf course where you couldn’t play a stroke-play event. It would just be impossible. But it works for match play. The golf course can be irrelevant from a match play standpoint. It’s just ball against ball. Doesn’t matter if there is lots of rough or no rough. Long, short. Doesn’t really matter. Beautiful, not beautiful. Match play, the golf course is less relevant than it is at a major championship. I’m all for the Ryder Cup being at iconic venues. But it’s more about the people and the atmosphere and the experience and the matches.

 

You’ve played on two winning teams and one losing team. How do you view this one?

It’s something I’m very much looking forward to. A huge honor. I paced myself well this season, coming off good form in the summer, and I think I can be an instrumental part of the team. I’m getting to the veteran stage and I feel like I can definitely be a decent sort of leader for the young guys on the team.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 11:46
All taxonomy terms: Rickie Fowler, Golf
Path: /golf/ryder-cup-2014-4-questions-rickie-fowler
Body:

After a miracle comeback at the Ryder Cup Matches at Medinah in 2012, Europe is the prohibitive favorite to retain the Cup on home turf, as Tom Watson takes a shorthanded American team to Scotland for the most pressure-packed event in golf. Can a U.S. team led by crafty veteran Phil Mickelson and young gun Rickie Fowler upset a European powerhouse led by four-time major champion Rory McIlroy and Ryder Cup maestro Sergio Garcia?

 

One of the keys to the U.S. effort, Rickie Fowler will be participating in his second Cup after a record of 0-1-2 in 2010 — but with four top-5 finishes in this year's majors under his stylish white belt. Athlon talked to Fowler for his perspective as the teams head to Gleneagles.

 

How is the pressure of a Ryder Cup different than a major?

It is different. I think the biggest ones for me, that kind of set me up for The Ryder Cup, it wasn't any of the professional events I played.  It was the Walker Cup experience, being in the team atmosphere. I think coming off and playing right out of college helped me, as well in 2010. So I'll still definitely be feeling the nerves this year as well, but I'm looking forward to it and pulling from the past experiences in 2010 and the two Walker Cups I have played.  It's a bit different when you are playing for a few other guys on the team, captain and wearing the red, white and blue.

 

Although you were not on the 2012 team, you sense any extra motivation to win it this year after what happened at Medinah?

You always want to go into those wanting to win, but with the way the last couple have gone, being on the losing side in '10 and then watching the guys come up short on the final day there at Medinah, yeah, it gives us a little fire to get it all together this year. I think the biggest thing is kind of get the team together, get everyone kind of on the same page. I know everyone's going to want to win, but bringing the team together is always big. I know Europe's always very strong at team camaraderie. Not that the U.S. doesn't get along, but I feel like we can work on getting the team together a little bit better and see if we can all pull together as a team and bring the cup home.

 

How tough was it not to be on the team the last time?

It was a struggle for me through that summer because my main goal that year was to make the Ryder Cup team. I was in position and was playing decent, and then I didn't make it well known, but after the fact, a lot of people knew that I was playing injured with my back that was giving me trouble. So it was a struggle just because I knew I could play well and I wanted to play well, and I wasn't able to because of the pain that my back was giving me and wasn't able to put myself in a position to make good swings. I'm definitely pleased with what I've done fitness-wise, and I've put myself in a position now where I'm locked up for the Ryder Cup team and I can go ahead and play.

 

What impact do you expect captain Tom Watson to have on the U.S. team?

I've gotten to know him a little bit. He's a living legend of the game. It will be cool to have him as a captain and it will be a lot cooler if we're able to bring the Cup back for him.

 

Teaser:
Ryder Cup 2014: Athlon Talks to Rickie Fowler
Post date: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 11:20

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