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All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-5-matt-forte-trent-richardson-greg-jennings
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There are a few key fantasy contributors that have had a number of injury question marks surrounding their playing status leading up to Week 5 of the 2012 NFL season. Here’s a little bit about these three and what you should consider.

Matt ForteMatt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Matt Forte owners ran the gamut of emotions Monday night as he returned to the lineup quicker than expected, limped off after his first play and then returned to finish the game. Cautious owners, like myself, wish he would have just stayed idle until after next week’s bye but that did not happen. He was not very productive in a 34-18 win over Dallas (13 carries, 52 yards, one catch, minus-three yards). Now he gets a Jacksonville team, on a short week, which has allowed 84.5 yards per game to lead backs — thanks for ruining the average, Donald Brown and your 62 yards. Forte practiced this week. If he’s back, he’s in your lineup.

 

Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns vs. New York Giants
This is just to tell you that Trent Richardson is on the injury report but it is not injury related. He was welcoming in child No. 3 to the family. Richardson has 183 rushing yards and three scores in the last three games and now gets a friendly New York run defense. The Giants are allowing 4.7 yards per carry to running backs. They have surrendered just one score to the position, but the 4.7 is too big to ignore. Richardson has also become more involved in the passing game, catching 14 balls for 117 yards and a score on 18 targets.

 

Greg JenningsGreg Jennings, WR, Green Bay vs. Indianapolis Colts
Greg Jennings (groin) was declared out before Week 5 officially began Thursday night, so this is just a reminder in case you had not heard. Get Greg Jennings out of your lineup(s). Now the fun begins in regards to who will replace him this week vs. a Colts team that is allowing the sixth-most points to fantasy receivers. When Jennings missed the Week 2 game against Chicago it was Jordy Nelson who got the most production (six catches, 84 yards on nine targets). James Jones and Randall Cob combined for seven targets, three catches and 19 yards receiving. No more or less love went to tight end Jermichael Finley as he has received five targets each of the last three weeks after tying a career-high with 11 in the opener against San Francisco. Jones would be the best bet to plug in as he has at least six targets in three of four games — oddly enough his low mark of five coming when Jennings was out — and has averaged 4.6 catches for 64 yards and one score in those three games.

— By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Sunday, October 7, 2012 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /mlb/alds-preview-baltimore-orioles-vs-new-york-yankees
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Of course, New York is quite familiar with this Orioles team that is back in the postseason for the first time since 1997. New York split 18 meetings with Baltimore and battled for a division title with it all through September before finally securing the crown on the final day of the regular season.

New York had been in first place since June 11, but thanks to the pesky Orioles, needed all 162 games to nail down its 12th AL East crown in the last 15 years with a three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox, coupled with Baltimore losing two of three to the Tampa Bay Rays.

It's no secret that New York is driven by its offense, an attack that this year belted a major league-high 245 home runs. Leading the charge is All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano, who may be the hottest hitter in baseball entering the playoffs.

Over his last nine games Cano is hitting .615 with three HRs, 14 RBI and seven doubles. He ended the year hitting .313 with 33 home runs, 94 RBI and 105 runs scored. His torrid stretch may continue, as he is a .338 hitter against the Orioles with 24 home runs and 89 RBI in 135 games.

Cano isn't the only superstar in the Yankees' lineup, as Derek Jeter led the majors with 216 hits, Curtis Granderson belted 43 home runs and Nick Swisher also had a productive season. Not to mention first baseman Mark Teixeira appears healthy after missing most of September with a calf injury.

Ichiro Suzuki has also fit the Yankees' lineup like a glove since being acquired from Seattle on Aug. 3. In 67 games with the Yankees, Ichiro batted .322 - 61 points higher than he hit in 95 games with the Mariners - with five home runs, 27 RBI, 28 runs scored and stole 14 bases.

Then, there is Alex Rodriguez. The three-time AL MVP missed a few months with a broken wrist, but had one the least productive seasons of his career, hitting .272 with 18 home runs and 57 RBI.

Plus he hasn't homered since Sept. 14. And of course, the postseason hasn't been kind to A-Rod, who is just 6-for-39 in his last two series with 10 strikeouts.

CC Sabathia will get the call for the Yankees in Game 1 following a down year by his standards, as Sabathia endured two stints on the disabled list and ended the season 15-6 with a 3.38 ERA.

Lefty Andy Pettitte came out of retirement and was pitching well up until a line drive broke his leg back on June 27. Pettitte returned in September and gave up just three runs in three starts and ended the year 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA.

The playoffs are where Pettitte shines, though, as he owns a major league record 19 postseason wins.

Hiroki Kuroda (16-11, 3.32) enjoyed a terrific first season in the Bronx and will likely get the nod in Game 3, while right-hander Phil Hughes (16-13, 4.23) will go in Game 4 if needed.

Rafael Soriano gave the Yankees everything they could have hoped for in the wake of Mariano Rivera's season-ending ACL injury in May. Soriano saved 42 games and pitched to a 2.26, but has nowhere near the air of invincibility as Rivera, especially come playoff time, where the all-time saves leader was close to automatic.

Righties David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain will serve as the main bridges to Soriano, while Boone Logan and Clay Rapada will be called upon to get lefties out.

As good as the Yankees bullpen is, it pales in comparison to that of Baltimore's, which is spearheaded by closer Jim Johnson, who led the majors with team-record 51 saves. He actually had 10 less strikeouts than he had saves.

Sidewinding Darren O'Day serves as his main setup guy and gives right-handed hitters fits. Lefty Brian Matusz may have found a home in the bullpen after struggling as a starter, as Buck Showalter doesn't hesitate to use him against a lefty in a big spot.

In all, five Orioles pitched in 50 or more games this year, and all five ended with ERAs between 2.28 and 2.64. Baltimore relievers threw 60 innings from the 10th frame on, and allowed five runs, for a 0.75 ERA.

Quite simply the bullpen is the biggest reason the Orioles posted their first winning season in 15 years.

It's the reason they went 29-9 in one-run games, the best record in one-run affairs since 1900. It's the reason they've captured 16 consecutive extra- inning wins, the longest streak since the 1949 Cleveland Indians won 17 in a row. And the reason they were 74-0 when holding a lead after seven innings.

It all added up to a 93-69 finish, the team's first winning record since 1997.

If you can name three Orioles starting pitchers, you are probably in the minority. Chris Tillman emerged as the team's ace down the stretch and went 9-3 with a 2.93 ERA. After a solid first half, Taiwanese product Wei-Yin Chen struggled and closed the year by losing his last four decisions spanning seven starts.

The group could get a lift in this series, though, with the return of right-hander Jason Hammel, who has missed most of the second half with a knee injury. Hammel, though, was the Orioles' top pitcher in the first half of the season and won eight of his first 10 decisions

"I would assume that if you would trust me to start, if I am starting, there wouldn't be a pitch count because it's a 25-man roster and you need those extra guys in the pen so you have to expect a guy to go deep for that important a game," Hammel said."I would think no pitch count until I was told otherwise."

Lefty Joe Saunders could also be a factor after giving up a run and six hits in 5 2/3 innings of the O's wild card win over the Texas Rangers.

Offensively, the young O's are led by burgeoning superstars Adam Jones and Matt Wieters. Jones hit .287 with 32 home runs, 82 RBI and 103 runs scored, while Wieters swatted 23 homers and knocked in 83 runs.

A player to watch in this series could be 20-year-old third baseman Manny Machado, who has drawn comparisons to Rodriguez and really started to come into his own down the stretch.

Chris Davis has also contributed of late and closed the regular season by homering in six of his final seven regular season games.

The Orioles and Yankees are certainly no strangers to one another and in addition to all the regular season meetings, these teams also met in the 1996 ALCS, a series won by New York, but one that was made famous by the Jeffrey Maier catch. New York won that series in six games.

As good as Baltimore's bullpen has been, New York gets the overall edge based on a decided advantage in the starting pitching department. Still, given the way these teams fought tooth and nail down the stretch, this should be a pretty entertaining series.

But, in the end New York's experience should prevail.

PREDICTION: YANKEES in FOUR

Teaser:
The New York Yankees begin their quest for a 28th World Series title on Sunday when they open the American League Division Series against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.
Post date: Saturday, October 6, 2012 - 23:00
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /nascar/kahne-tops-talladega-qualifying
Body:

Talladega, AL (Sports Network) - Kasey Kahne claimed the pole for the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 -- the fourth race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship -- after posting the quickest lap in Saturday's qualifying at Talladega Superspeedway.

Kahne, who is one of the 12 drivers in the Chase field, turned a lap at 191.455 mph for his third pole of the season and the 25th of his Sprint Cup Series career. It will be the first time he starts up front for a race at this 2.66-mile superspeedway.

"It's fun to get my first pole at Talladega," Kahne said. "It's a tough track, and I've never done that. (The car) felt good, and we'll see how it runs tomorrow. It ran great (in practice) yesterday and really well today."

Ryan Newman, who is not in the Chase this year, secured the outside pole with a lap at 191.145 mph.

Title contenders Clint Bowyer, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle and Jeff Gordon qualified third through sixth, respectively. Bowyer has won the last two fall Sprint Cup races at Talladega.

"I thought we were going to qualify poorly, and we didn't," Bowyer said. "We're in the top-five and certainly up front, and we need to try to stay there and stay out of trouble. Certainly going to race up there as much as I can until something crazy happens."

Carl Edwards, Trevor Bayne, Martin Truex Jr., a Chase driver, and Sam Hornish Jr. completed the top-10.

The remaining Chase drivers and their starting positions include: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (12th), Matt Kenseth (15th), Jimmie Johnson (17th), Kevin Harvick (21st), Brad Keselowski (22nd) and Denny Hamlin (23rd).

Keselowski currently holds a five-point lead over Johnson and a 16-point advantage over Hamlin. Bowyer is 25 markers out of the lead, while Stewart and Kahne both trail by 32. Keselowski has won two of the first three Chase races. He also won the spring event at Talladega in May.

"The best strategy is to be the guy who doesn't wreck, but you don't know until after the race," Keselowski said. "Things happen so fast late in the race here that even the best strategy can get thrown out the window. I just want to be there with five laps to go."

All 43 drivers who attempted qualifying made the starting field for Sunday's 500-mile race at Talladega, which is scheduled to start just after 2 p.m. (ET).

Teaser:
Kasey Kahne claimed the pole for the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 -- the fourth race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship -- after posting the quickest lap in Saturday's qualifying at Talladega Superspeedway.
Post date: Saturday, October 6, 2012 - 22:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, News
Path: /news/virginia-techs-dyrell-roberts-finds-pair-scissors-against-north-carolina
Body:

So far, 2012 has not gone according to plan for Virginia Tech. The Hokies have lost three out of their last four games, including Saturday's 48-34 shootout at North Carolina.

While both teams put up some big numbers in Saturday's game, the strangest part of the matchup might have been Virginia Tech wide receiver Dyrell Roberts' discovery of a pair of scissors on the field in the first quarter.

Needless to say, this might be the most bizarre play of the 2012 college football season.

Teaser:
<p> Virginia Tech's Dyrell Roberts Makes An Interesting Discovery Against North Carolina</p>
Post date: Saturday, October 6, 2012 - 15:26
Path: /college-football/west-virginia-mountaineers-vs-texas-longhorns-preview-and-prediction
Body:

West Virginia officially christened its new home in the Big 12 with a 70-63 shootout victory over Baylor last Saturday. While last week was the first conference game of the year, playing at Texas is truly a “Welcome to the Big 12” moment. The Mountaineers last met the Longhorns in 1956 and their last game in the state of Texas came in the 1984 Bluebonnet Bowl.

Just like West Virginia, Texas built some momentum last week, beating Oklahoma State 41-36. The win in Stillwater was huge for the confidence of the Longhorns, especially sophomore quarterback David Ash.

The loser of this game isn’t out of the Big 12 title picture but this matchup will help provide some separation. With both teams ranked among the top 12, a loss would effectively end any hope of contending for a national title.

Storylines to Watch in West Virginia vs. Texas

West Virginia’s offense vs. Texas’ defense
Coming into the season, Texas was pegged as the Big 12’s best defense. So far, the Longhorns have yet to live up to the hype, allowing 390.3 yards per game and ranking 40th nationally in scoring defense. The secondary has been one of the defense’s biggest concerns through four games, as they rank 43rd nationally and have struggled to tackle. Oklahoma State had its way with this secondary last week, which is a concern for Texas against West Virginia. The Mountaineers run a similar offense and have more weapons than the Cowboys do this season. Quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin are three of college football’s top performers and won’t be easy to keep in check for all four quarters. Although the Longhorns can’t completely shut down the Mountaineers’ offense, they need to make them earn every yard and not allow any big plays.

Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor vs. West Virginia’s offensive line
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith hasn’t been stopped by anyone on its schedule this year, but Maryland managed to get some pressure on the senior and “held” him to 338 yards and three touchdowns. The Mountaineers’ offensive line was a concern last season and has yet to be tested by a strong defensive line. Texas will be one of the best defensive fronts West Virginia will play all year, with ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor both ranking as potential first-round picks in the NFL Draft. The key to keeping Smith in check starts up front, as the Longhorns need to pressure the quarterback and not allow him to get comfortable in the pocket. West Virginia needs to counter with quick passes but this offense also wants to take shots downfield, which means the line needs to keep Jeffcoat and Okafor out of the backfield.

Can West Virginia’s defense get stops against Texas?
Although Baylor’s offense is one of the best in the Big 12, West Virginia’s defensive effort left a lot to be desired last week. The Mountaineers aren’t going to completely shut down teams like Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech but tackling and getting into better positions on defense would cure a chunk of the errors. West Virginia’s defense will be under fire once again this Saturday, as Texas is one of the most-improved offenses in the nation. Quarterback David Ash ranks second nationally in passing efficiency, while the backfield is one of the deepest in college football. Despite Malcolm Brown’s ankle injury, the Longhorns can lean on Joe Bergeron and Johnathan Gray to lead the way on the ground. While Baylor’s offense was centered more on the pass, Texas brings more balance and an offensive line that is allowing just one sack per game. Playing a team that doesn’t throw 45 times a game will probably help West Virginia in terms of matchups, but this unit still has a lot of holes and is adapting to new co-coordinators Keith Patterson and Joe DeForest.

Final Analysis

West Virginia’s offense enters Saturday matchup on fire. The Mountaineers lead the nation in passing offense and rank third nationally with an average of 53 points per game. However, Texas’ defense will be the toughest West Virginia has played this year, which will present plenty of challenges for the offense. Can the line keep Jeffcoat and Okafor from pressuring Smith in the pocket? Can the Mountaineers’ receivers get open against a secondary that’s capable of playing better than it has through the first four games?

While Texas is still finding its rhythm on defense, the offense has started to come into its own over the last few weeks. Quarterback David Ash is no longer a question mark, and the rushing attack is pounding opponents for 228 yards per game.

West Virginia will score, and quarterback Geno Smith will top 300 yards once again. However, Texas makes just enough stops on defense to win this game and keeps its national title hopes alive with a close victory over the Mountaineers.

Final Prediction: Texas 34, West Virginia 31
 

by Steven Lassan

 

@athlonsteven

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 6 Preview and Predictions
Big East Week 6 Preview and Predictions

Big 12 Week 6 Preview and Predictions

Big Ten Week 6 Preview and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 6 Preview and Predictions

SEC Week 6 Preview and Predictions

Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat After Week 5

Teaser:
<p> West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Texas Longhorns Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Saturday, October 6, 2012 - 08:59
Path: /college-football/georgia-bulldogs-vs-south-carolina-gamecocks-preview-and-prediction
Body:

It’s only Week 6 of the 2012 college football season, but Saturday’s game between South Carolina and Georgia will go a long way in determining the SEC East champion. In fact, it could be an elimination game in the division, especially since the Gamecocks still have road trips to LSU and Florida. Although the Bulldogs have to play Florida, their schedule is much more manageable.

Georgia dominated this series in the early 2000s, but the Gamecocks have won the last two games. Last season’s matchup was a crazy 45-42 battle, with South Carolina using 22 fourth-quarter points to seal the victory. Both offenses are averaging over 35 points a game this year, so it would not be a surprise to see a shootout once again in 2012.

Storylines to Watch in Georgia vs. South Carolina

Will Georgia’s defense continue to struggle?
Considering the Bulldogs returned nearly everyone from last season’s unit, most expected Georgia would have one of the nation’s best defenses. However, the Bulldogs have underachieved so far, allowing 370 yards and 22 points per game. This unit missed linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety Bacarri Rambo through the first four games, but both players returned against Tennessee and the defense allowed a season-high 44 points. Georgia is capable of playing much better than it has shown through the first five games and Saturday would be a good time to find last season’s form.

Can Georgia’s offensive line protect Aaron Murray?
Murray has been one of the top quarterbacks in college football through the first five weeks, ranking third nationally in passing efficiency and throwing at least two touchdowns in every contest. The Bulldogs rebuilt offensive line has performed well this season, but South Carolina will be the toughest challenge this unit has faced all year. End Jadeveon Clowney has been terrorizing opposing quarterbacks this season, recording 5.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for a loss. If he continues to perform at his current pace, the sophomore should be a first-team All-American at the end of 2012. Clowney isn’t the only threat on South Carolina’s defensive line, as Devin Taylor has 3.5 tackles for a loss and defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles has 2.5 sacks. South Carolina is averaging 4.4 sacks and is allowing just 77.6 rushing yards per game. Georgia’s offensive line has to play well on Saturday to allow Murray time to throw, as well as open up holes for running backs Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley. If the Bulldogs can’t block the Gamecocks’ front four, Georgia will have a hard time moving the ball.

How will Georgia replace Michael Bennett?
The Bulldogs suffered a huge loss in practice this week, as receiver Michael Bennett was lost for the year with a torn ACL. Bennett was the team’s leading receiver through five games with 24 catches for 345 yards and four touchdowns. Although he was a huge part of Georgia’s receiving corps, this team isn’t short on options for quarterback Aaron Murray. Seniors Tavarres King and Marlon Brown will have to step up, while the team expects sophomore Malcolm Mitchell to play more on offense after spending most of the first five games on defense. The Bulldogs have plenty of names and proven options but one needs to step up as the clear No. 1 threat for Murray. 

Which team wins the rushing battle?
Georgia clearly owns the edge on the stat sheet, ranking 11th nationally in rushing offense with 248.8 yards per game. Although South Carolina ranks 56th nationally, running back Marcus Lattimore is the best in the SEC and looks nearly 100 percent in his return from a torn ACL. Lattimore hasn’t been needed to shoulder a heavy workload in the first five games but that could change in Week 6. In two games against the Bulldogs, Lattimore has 358 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Don’t be surprised if Lattimore has 30 carries and pushes for 150 yards. Although Lattimore should shine on Saturday, Georgia’s freshmen duo of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall shouldn’t be overlooked. Both players are averaging over seven yards per carry and can be a factor on passes out of the backfield.

Final Analysis

This matchup should be one of the best games of Week 6. Both teams are still in the national title mix, and a victory on Saturday would give one squad an early edge in the battle to win the SEC East.

An x-factor to watch will be South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw, who is dealing with a shoulder injury and missed one game earlier this season. Playing through the injury isn’t affecting Shaw, but the Gamecocks’ offensive line needs to keep Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones or any other defender from getting any shots on the junior passer.

South Carolina’s home crowd should give the Gamecocks some early momentum. However, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray will hit a few plays in the fourth quarter against a suspect Gamecocks' secondary, which will be the difference in the game.

Final Prediction: Georgia 31, South Carolina 27


by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

 

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Big East Week 6 Preview and Predictions

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Teaser:
<p> Georgia Bulldogs vs. South Carolina Gamecocks Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Saturday, October 6, 2012 - 08:49
Path: /college-football/lsu-tigers-vs-florida-gators-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Every week is a big one in the SEC but there’s a little more intrigue around this league this Saturday. Four of the league’s top five teams meet, as Florida hosts LSU, while Georgia visits South Carolina.

Although LSU is off to a 5-0 start, it has fallen in the polls over the last two weeks. Back-to-back lackluster showings against Auburn and Towson raised question marks about this team, but a win over Florida would certainly show LSU is still one of the top two or three teams in the nation.

Although Florida has scored road wins over Texas A&M and Tennessee, this team is still searching for national respect. The Gators had a bye week last Saturday but blanked Kentucky 38-0 in their last game. Is Florida a threat to win the SEC title? Most think the Gators can, however, beating a team like LSU would erase any doubt and signal Will Muschamp’s team is clearly on the way back to being an annual top 5-10 program.

Storylines to watch in LSU vs. Florida

Jeff Driskel vs. LSU’s secondary
If the Gators are going to knock off LSU, it starts with Driskel’s success against the Tigers’ secondary. LSU has allowed only five passing scores this season and ranks sixth nationally in passing yards allowed per game (134.8). The secondary doesn’t feature a senior in the two-deep, while freshmen Jalen Mills and Jalen Collins hold down the cornerback spot vacated by Tyrann Mathieu. Driskel has shown steady improvement since the season opener, completing 14 of 20 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Tennessee. The sophomore also gives Florida an extra threat on the ground, rushing for 148 yards on 33 attempts this year. While Driskel has been efficient and careful with the football, the Gators don’t have an abundance of playmakers at receiver. Tight end Jordan Reed leads the team with 16 catches for 193 yards and one touchdown, with Quinton Dunbar the top target at receiver with 10 catches. Florida won’t be able to lineup and pound LSU with its rushing attack, which adds an extra emphasis on getting the receiving corps to step up. The Gators don’t need to throw it 50 times to win, but Driskel and his receiving corps has to hit a few big plays against the Tigers.

Can Florida stop LSU’s rushing attack?
Florida’s front seven was supposed to be one of the best in the SEC this year, but this group still has a ways to go to be considered among the nation's elite. The Gators are allowing 119.3 rushing yards per game and rank 98th nationally with an average of 1.3 sacks per contest. The defensive line should get better as the year progresses, especially as end Dominique Easley gets closer to full strength from a torn ACL suffered late last season. The linebacking corps suffered a setback earlier in the year, with Jelani Jenkins suffering a broken hand against Texas A&M. Jenkins is expected to return against LSU, and he figures to be tested immediately on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers have one of the deepest backfields in the nation and rank 18th nationally with an average of 229.6 rushing yards per game. The key to beating LSU starts with stopping the run, and Florida was steamrolled for 238 yards and three touchdowns on the ground in last season’s matchup. Expect the Gators to load the box and force quarterback Zach Mettenberger to win, which brings us to our next storyline…

Time for Zach Mettenberger to step up
The preseason buzz around LSU revolved around Mettenberger and how he was supposed to ignite the passing attack. Five games into the season, the jury is still out on whether or not Mettenberger is ready to carry this team to a victory with his arm. The junior has thrown for six touchdowns and only two interceptions but struggled in LSU’s last two games. The Tigers’ offense feeds off the rushing attack, but opposing defenses will load the box and force Mettenberger to prove he can beat them with his arm. Florida should employ a similar strategy on Saturday afternoon, and it’s up to Mettenberger to hit a few throws and open up rushing lanes for LSU’s talented group of running backs.

The battle in the trenches
The biggest concern for Florida in Saturday’s matchup has to be the battle in the trenches. LSU’s offensive and defensive line are two of the best in the nation and the edge in these two areas could be the deciding factor. The Gators rank 98th nationally with 1.3 sacks generated per game, while the offensive line is allowing three sacks a contest. LSU’s defensive line boasts two potential All-American candidates at end with Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, which figure to be a handful for Florida’s line. Having a mobile quarterback like Driskel will help the Gators’ line, but this group needs to get a push on the ground. Running back Mike Gillislee is averaging 100.5 yards per game but running room could be limited against LSU. Considering LSU’s pass rush, Florida will look to move Driskel around the pocket and create opportunities for him to make plays with his legs.

Final Analysis

Florida has already passed two SEC tests and Saturday’s game against LSU is an even bigger challenge. The Gators have lost their last two games to the Tigers but have won two out of the last three in Gainesville.

Even though LSU has struggled in its last two games, the Tigers have the edge in talent and depth. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger has to step up his game in the Swamp, especially as Florida will look to eliminate the rushing attack.

If the Gators can force Mettenberger into a few mistakes, they should win this matchup. However, the Tigers’ defense will keep Florida’s offense in check, especially as the Gators are struggling to find playmakers on the outside.

Florida is a much-improved team in Will Muschamp’s second season, but the Tigers are the better team in 2012.

Final Prediction: LSU 24-20

 

by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

 

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Teaser:
<p> LSU Tigers vs. Florida Gators Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Saturday, October 6, 2012 - 08:48
Path: /nfl/nfl-picks-against-spread-week-5
Body:

A betting preview of every game (against the spread) on Sunday and Monday in Week 5.


Locks of the Week
When the cream of the crop plays the bottom of the barrel, go with the good team over the bad one.

Bengals (-3.5) vs. Dolphins
Miami brings the 30th ranked pass defense (297.8 ypg) to stop Cincy’s man-child wideout A.J. Green. Like bringing a water pistol to Over the Rhine.

Bears (-5) at Jaguars
Smokin’ Jay Cutler will enjoy an afterglow cig after Blaine Gabbert pulls a Tony Romo.

Ravens (-6) at Chiefs
Jamaal Charles said he ìsuckedî last week. He won’t be alone this week against the Ravens.

Packers (-7) at Colts
Chuck Pagano’s leukemia news had to impact this week’s preparation for the Pack.


Straight Up Upsets
These underdogs don’t look as good as Kate Upton’s Twitter pics, but they look good.

Redskins (+3) vs. Falcons
The pending DeAngelo Hall vs. Mike Smith sideline showdown could put the Birds boss on tilt. Plus, RG3.

Seahawks (+3) at Panthers
Cam Newton will need to watch his back against the ball Hawks from Seattle.


Blowout Bargains
Don’t be afraid of a big number; sometimes those pay out the biggest numbers.

Vikings (-6) vs. Titans
If you had bet against Tennessee every week this season, you’d be 3–1 ATS. Let it ride.

Giants (-9) vs. Browns
Jason Pierre Paul and the Big Blue Wrecking Crew will be back to having fun against Brandon Weeden and the Brown outs.

49ers (-10) vs. Bills
Jim Harbaugh’s blue collar crew will make Buffalo want to move to Toronto.


Sucker Bets
Stay away completely. Just because a game is good doesn’t mean it’s a good bet.

Steelers (-3.5) vs. Eagles
Big Ben vs. Mike Vick is the battle for Walter Payton Man of the Year.

Saints (-4) at Chargers
Feels like a Drew Brees love fest. But Sean Payton has not been a good luck charm lately.

Patriots (-7) vs. Broncos
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are reunited and it feels so good. But don’t bet on it.

Texans (-9) at Jets
Tim-my Te-bow! Tim-my Te-bow!
 

Teaser:
<p> A betting preview of every game on Sunday and Monday in Week 5, including Denver Broncos at New England Patriots, Philadephia Eagles at Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints at San Diego Chargers, Houston Texans at New York Jets, Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears at Jacksonville Jaguars, Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers at Indianapolis Colts, Atlanta Falcons at Washington Redskins and Buffalo Bils at San Francisco 49ers.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 5, 2012 - 16:32
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /nfl/titans-qb-locker-out-sunday
Body:

Nashville, TN (Sports Network) - Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker has been ruled out for Sunday's contest against the Minnesota Vikings with a left shoulder injury.

The club's injury report on Friday confirmed the move, as it revealed Locker did not participate in practice at all this week.

Locker left Sunday's 38-14 loss to the Houston Texans when he was hit by Houston's Glover Quin midway through the first quarter. He stayed on the ground for several minutes before heading back to the locker room with his left arm tucked against his chest. He returned to the sideline in the second quarter in street clothes with his left arm in a sling.

The Titans listed linebackers Patrick Bailey (hand) and Colin McCarthy (ankle), wideout Kenny Britt (ankle), tackle Mike Otto (finger) and defensive end Scott Solomon (hamstring) as questionable.

Tight end Jared Cook was deemed probable after participating fully in practice on Friday after having been limited on Wednesday and Thursday.

Teaser:
<p> Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker has been ruled out for Sunday's contest against the Minnesota Vikings with a left shoulder injury.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 5, 2012 - 16:06
Path: /nfl/top-10-nfl-rookie-seasons-all-time
Body:

It's rare that a first-year player comes into the NFL and has an immediate impact on the game. But it does happen. Athlon Sports looks back at the best rookie players in NFL history, or at least since Gale Sayers took the field in 1965.


1. Eric Dickerson, RB, Los Angeles Rams, 1983

Sure, Dickerson took a pay cut from his days as an SMU Mustang to be a member of the L.A. Rams. But the No. 2 overall pick didn’t let that stop him. Dickerson put on his goggles, put a helmet over his jheri curl — which was the fashion of the day? — and ran 390 carries for 1,808 yards and 18 TDs, while also hauling in 51 catches for 404 yards and two trips to the end zone.

2. Lawrence Taylor, OLB, New York Giants, 1981

Bill Parcells undoubtedly took all of the credit for the athletic genius that was L.T. But the Giants’ first-year defensive coordinator just happened to hit the good-timing lottery with the No. 2 overall pick out of North Carolina. Taylor terrorized the league and began redefining the outside linebacker position en route to winning Defensive Player of the Year honors as a rookie.

3. Randy Moss, WR, Minnesota Vikings, 1998

After falling all the way to No. 21 overall in the 1998 NFL Draft, Moss made his doubters pay — “straight cash, homey?” — with 69 catches for 1,313 yards and 17 TDs as a rookie. The Dallas Cowboys’ tab was the biggest, however. Randy dropped a three-catch, 163-yard, three-TD turkey at Jerry Jones’ old house in Dallas, during a Thanksgiving Day performance even tryptophan couldn’t slow down.

4. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers, 2011

The self-proclaimed “entertainer and icon” lived up to his ego as a rookie. Cammy Cam Juice powered a video-game-gaudy stat line. Newton completed 60 percent of his passes for 4,051 yards and 21 TDs through the air, while scrambling for 706 yards and 14 TDs on the ground for the Cats.

5. Barry Sanders, RB, Detroit Lions, 1989

Barry talked and walked softly, but the decibel level was off the charts whenever he cut, spun and sprinted. A classical composer of highlight-reel footage, Sanders started strong — with 1,470 rush yards and 14 TDs as a rookie — and never missed a beat until his abrupt retirement prior to the 1999 season. In fact, he’s still the Lions’ best option at running back.

6. Gale Sayers, RB-KR-PR, Chicago Bears, 1965

It only took Sayers 14 games to score 22 TDs. The triple-threat runner-receiver-returner hit paydirt with 14 rushing scores, six receiving TDs, one kick return and another punt return. Of the 56 career TDs that Sayers scored, 22 came during his marvelous rookie campaign.

7. Jevon Kearse, DE, Tennessee Titans, 1999

Never was the Freak more freakish than during his 1999 party, when he was a Super Freak capable of stomping on Charlie Murphy’s couch and bringing any girl he wanted home to mama. Or, he was a really disruptive pass rusher. However it’s phrased, Kearse had 14.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles, was runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year and carried the Titans to a runner-up finish in Super Bowl XXXIV.

8. Anquan Boldin, WR, Arizona Cardinals, 2003

Not only did Boldin have one of the greatest first seasons in NFL history, he had one of the best first games of all-time. His 10-catch, 217-yard, two-TD Week 1 explosion nearly detonated the internet, as fantasy football owners worldwide hit the web looking for a smoking hot waiver wire pickup. For those whose dial-up was fast enough, Boldin was a boon, with 101 catches for 1,377 yards and eight TDs.

9. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers, 2004

Before the multiple Super Bowls and rape accusations, Big Ben was just a wide-eyed kid trying to avoid being yelled at (and subsequently spit on) by Bill Cowher’s lispy jaw. And he did a damn fine job, completing 66.4 percent of his passes for a 98.1 passer rating, while going 13–0 as a starter, with six game-winning drives and five fourth-quarter comebacks as a rook.

10. Edgerrin James, RB, Indianapolis Colts, 1999

The Edge may never get the credit he deserves. But prior to mid-prime (sub-prime?) knee injury, James was one of the all-time great runners. Replacing Marshall Faulk should not have been as easy as Edgerrin made it seem, posting 1,553 rush yards, 586 receiving yards and 17 total TDs as the Colts’ top thoroughbred. Turns out, Bill Polian made the right move by drafting James ahead of Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams.

Teaser:
<p> The best first-year players in NFL history, including Eric Dickerson, Lawrence Taylor, Randy Moss, Cam Newton, Barry Sanders, Gale Sayers, Jevon Kearse, Anquan Boldin, Ben Roethlisberger and Edgerrin James.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 5, 2012 - 13:36
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Links, College Basketball, NFL, NBA, MLB
Path: /college-football/athlons-essential-eleven-links-day
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for October 5.

• The SEC has two great matchups on Saturday involving four undefeated, top-10 teams. Bleacher Report’s Barrett Sallee looks at the potential BCS logjam between Florida, Georgia and South Carolina from the East.

• MLB’s wild card games make their debut today, with the Braves hosting the Cardinals and Orioles visiting the Rangers. Is the one-game system fair?

• Check out these wild hotel rooms around the world.

• As Mike Klis of the Denver Post points out, the elite rivalry over the past decade plus has really been Peyton Manning versus Bill Belichick. The Patriots host the Broncos on Sunday afternoon.

• Can Texas slow down Geno Smith and the West Virginia offense?

• The Steelers look to avoid a 1-3 start when they host the Eagles on Sunday.

• At the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland, Paul Casey was lining up an eagle putt when a dog came on the green and took his golf ball. Always have to account for the dogleg Paul.

• Dwight Howard is ready to go in Los Angeles.

• Texas Tech promoted assistant Chris Walker to interim head coach, replacing Billy Gillispie.

• Heralded Missouri freshman receiver Dorial Green-Beckham has been suspended for this Saturday’s Vanderbilt game.

• We all celebrate our teams in different ways, but I’ve never seen victory excitement quite like this Oakland A’s fan. Be careful down there.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


October 4

• Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers finished the job, becoming MLB’s first Triple Crown winner since 1967.

• The Oakland A’s were the other amazing story on baseball’s last day, sweeping the Texas Rangers and clinching the AL West.

• The Red Sox will look for a fresh start after firing manager Bobby Valentine.

• Where is “The Ocho”, along with Cotton and Pepper? We’re still waiting ESPN.

• Suspended Saints coach Sean Payton will be allowed to attend the New Orleans-San Diego game, where quarterback Drew Brees looks to break Johnny Unitas’ NFL record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass.

• Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will be part of an ownership buying the Memphis Grizzlies

• TCU quarterback Casey Pachall has been indefinitely suspended following a DWI arrest.

• Miami athletic director Shawn Eichorst has resigned to take the AD job at Nebraska.

• Is there a formula for slowing down the Oregon offense?

• In a shocker to no one who follows college basketball and John Calipari’s “recruiting”, the highly-touted Harrison twins from Texas committed to Kentucky.

• Clippers star Blake Griffin is known for powerful dunks, but maybe he should try more three-pointers this season.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


October 3

• Just who are these Oakland A’s and what are they doing tied for first in the AL West with one game to go?

• The awful Red Sox blew it in the ninth against the Yankees last night, and the eventual New York victory kept the Orioles a game back in the AL East.

• You have to appreciate an accurate statistic that completely clarifies the situation.

• Yahoo’s Les Carpenter profiles the popular GIF work and art of “LSUFreek.”

• Texas A&M is still adjusting to SEC defenses, and it appears the Aggies need to work on a closer Waffle House as well.

• New York Giants wide receiver Ramses Barden, who has been productive filling in for the injured Hakeem Nicks, has been diagnosed with a concussion.

• How did the upgraded Los Angeles Lakers look in their first practice?

• Georgia has lost its leading receiver, Michael Bennett, to an ACL injury as the Bulldogs prepare for a mammoth SEC East clash at South Carolina.

• The inspiring Adam Greenberg returned to the big leagues last night in Miami.

• Here are some top quotes from athletes and their handlers from last night’s Broke, the latest in ESPN’s 30for30 film series.

• This pro-wrestling wannabe Cowboys fan has become a popular YouTube view as Dallas continues to decline. He does not want to “rant” but still does a pretty good job of it. DEFENSIVE LINE!!

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


October 2

• Tony Romo threw five interceptions in the Cowboys’ 34-18 loss to the Bears on Monday Night Football, but he might not be the problem in Dallas.

• ESPN resumes its “30 for 30” series tonight with Broke, a film directed by Billy Corben on athletes and their handling of big money.

• Awww...look at the cute little animal.

• With Monday night’s 4-for-5 with a home run performance by Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, it looking more and more like the Tigers slugger will win baseball’s first triple crown since 1967.

• It’s a huge weekend for the SEC East, with Georgia traveling to South Carolina and Florida hosting LSU.

• Bleacher Report’s Ian Casselberry looks at Bryce Harper’s chances for the National League Rookie of the Year. The Washington phenom had a very productive September.

• The Steelers will helped by the return of running back Rashard Mendenhall this weekend against the Eagles, and Pittsburgh will look to avoid a catastrophic 1-3 start.

• The Oakland A’s may have one of the youngest, no-name teams in baseball, but they will be heading to the postseason in what is an amazing story.

• College basketball practice will be starting soon, and here’s a look at the best non-conference games that will highlight that start of the season.

• Is a Russell Wilson-Matt Flynn quarterback controversy looming in Seattle?

• Former Penn State and NFL defensive lineman Anthony Adams has a new sporting goal, being a gymnast at the 2016 Olympics. Check out the big man’s hilarious video as he works through the various gymnastics events.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


October 1

• Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star looks at the total lack of defense being played on the college gridiron this season, especially after the West Virginia-Baylor 70-63 flag football contest.

• While most American golf fans are still stinging from the U.S. team’s choke job on the final day of the Ryder Cup, FOX Sports’ Robert Lusetich believes Sunday was one of the greatest day’s ever for the sport.

• I’m surprised this street does not have more traffic.

• The Philadelphia Eagles keep finding a way to win close ball games, and the defense came through in Sunday night’s 19-17 victory over the Giants.

• Did Urban Meyer and Ohio State edit the game film that they were required to send Michigan State? This story surprises no one around college football.

• The Baltimore Orioles have clinched a spot in the postseason for the first time since 1997.

• ESPN Big 12 blogger David Ubben recaps the league’s wild Week 5.

• There is sad NFL news in Indianapolis, where new Colts head coach Chuck Pagano has been diagnosed with a form of leukemia and will miss several games.

• Ray Allen’s signing with the Heat has caused a rift with former Celtics teammate Kevin Garnett.

• Titans offensive lineman Leroy Harris wasn’t that impressed with the Texans J.J. Watt, who leads the NFL in sacks. Delusional much, Leroy?

• Jets coach Rex Ryan gives his “recipe for getting you’re a$$ kicked” after his club was beaten 34-0 at home by the 49ers.



--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Teaser:
<p> The best sports links from the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, NASCAR and the world of entertainment.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 5, 2012 - 12:40
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/10-players-most-likely-be-named-national-league-mvp
Body:

What a fascinating season 2012 proved to be. A Triple Crown, a division champion having spent just one day in first place and 19- and 20-year-olds taking the league by storm. As postseason baseball begins, it’s time to reflect on the season by showing off what would be my ballot for various awards. Today, I reveal the 10 players most deserving of Most Valuable Player (MVP) honors in the National League.

10 MVP Candidates for the National League

1. Buster Posey, San Francisco
With a batting title and more than 100 RBIs, the Giants’ catcher is the unquestioned leader on the NL West champs.
 
2. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee
The Brewers’ left fielder finished in the top three of the three triple crown categories.
 
3. Yadier Molina, St. Louis
He led all catchers with 87 assists, and it takes 30 innings for a successful stolen base to happen, but that’s not surprising. He’s fourth in the NL with a .315 average.
 
4. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh
At some point during the season he appeared to be an easy choice. But as the case with the Pirates’ season, the fleet center fielder’s year went down hill too fast.
 
5. Chase Headley, San Diego
He led the NL in homers and RBIs over the second half, finishing with a league-best 115 RBIs. 
 
6. Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee
A-Ram admirably replaced Prince Fielder in the Brewers’ lineup and tied teammate Braun with 80 extra-base hits to lead the circuit.
 
7. David Wright, New York
The Mets’ second half has been so abysmal, Wright’s solid numbers are overlooked. He scored and drove in more than 90 runs for a bad team.
 
8. Allen Craig, St. Louis
The first baseman/outfielder batted .400 in 125 at-bats with runners in scoring position. He has 92 RBIs in just 119 games.
 
9. Martin Prado, Atlanta
He’s made starts at first, second, third, short and left field. He’s been a solid .300 hitter no matter the position or spot in the batting order. He leads the playoff-bound Braves in batting, hits and doubles.
 
10. Jay Bruce, Cincinnati
The fine defensive right fielder is third in the NL in home runs and ninth in slugging.
Teaser:
<p> A look at baseball's most valuable players</p>
Post date: Friday, October 5, 2012 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /news/10-players-most-likely-be-named-american-league-mvp
Body:

What a fascinating season 2012 proved to be. A Triple Crown, a division champion having spent just one day in first place and 19- and 20-year-olds taking the league by storm. As postseason baseball begins, it’s time to reflect on the season by showing off what would be my ballot for various awards. Today, I reveal the 10 players most deserving of Most Valuable Player (MVP) honors in the American League.

10 MVP Candidates for the American League

1. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
Triple crown or not, Miggy would have been our man. But we certainly can’t deny a triple crown winner.
 
2. Mike Trout, Los Angeles
There have been few sparks like Trout provided the Angels when he was called up in late April. Scoring 129 runs in basically five months is a tremendous accomplishment. But he has 19 fewer extra-base hits than Cabrera.
 
3. Adrian Beltre, Texas
The third baseman has been the most consistent hitter for the Rangers all season. He slugged .661 in August and September. He has been an elite hitter and defender.
 
4. Adam Jones, Baltimore
One reason the Orioles’ record in extra-inning games is so good: Jones’ four homers in the 11th inning or later.
 
5. Josh Hamilton, Texas
The soon-to-be free agent would rank higher if not for the swoon in June and July when he batted just .202.
 
6. Robinson Cano, New York
He’ll win this award one day. He competes defensively and produces runs.
 
7. Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto
The Blue Jays’ DH is all but forgotten in most conversations. But he has 42 dingers, 110 ribbies and a .384 OBP. 
 
8. Prince Fielder, Detroit
The big fella has powered big hits in Motown down the stretch. His .313-30-108 season is overshadowed by Cabrera.
 
9. Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland
With no previous professional experience outside of Cuba, the rookie center fielder has delivered on his promise after signing a four-year deal.
 
10. Derek Jeter, New York
The future Hall of Fame shortstop led the AL with 216 hits and is fifth in the league in batting. 
Teaser:
<p> A look at baseball's most valuable players</p>
Post date: Friday, October 5, 2012 - 12:18
Path: /college-football/college-football-week-6-preview-match-ups-upset-picks-and-storylines-watch
Body:

College football's Week 6 slate is filled with plenty of intriguing games, starting in the SEC with Florida-LSU and Georgia-South Carolina. These two match-ups will play a key role in determining the SEC division winners. Ohio State and Nebraska both won close games last week and meet in Columbus this Saturday. West Virginia won its Big 12 opener against Baylor, but the stakes are even higher against Texas on Saturday night.

Top Storylines to Watch in Week 6

1. SEC East Supremacy
The first weekend of October is a big one in the SEC. Florida may have something to say about the SEC East title race, but Georgia and South Carolina were the preseason favorites and enter Saturday’s game ranked among the top six teams in the nation. Both teams have been impressive this year, but the real test to win the SEC starts this Saturday. Although the SEC is regarded as college football’s top defensive conference, there should be plenty of points between these two teams. The Bulldogs’ defense has been a disappointment, ranking 55th nationally in yards allowed and 46th in points allowed. This unit will be tested by South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, who looks closer to 100 percent (torn ACL) as each week passes. South Carolina has won the last two matchups in this series, including a 45-42 shootout in Athens last season. However, the Gamecocks’ secondary will be under fire from Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, who could vault to a Heisman frontrunner with a victory in Columbia. There’s not much separating these two teams, but Murray’s poise and the emergence of freshmen running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall should be enough for Georgia to edge the Gamecocks and take an early lead for the SEC East title.

2. Which LSU team will show up this week?
Thanks to back-to-back underwhelming performances against Auburn and Towson, LSU has dropped in the polls and there are plenty of question marks about this team heading into a road date against Florida. Are the Tigers the team that demolished their first three opponents or is LSU closer to the squad that struggled to beat Towson last week? It’s still early in the season but some of the same concerns this team had in the preseason continue to show up. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger has been far from spectacular this season, throwing for 169 yards against Auburn, while struggling out of the gates against Towson. Mettenberger and the Tigers can’t afford to get off to a slow start this Saturday, especially against a Florida team that is already battle tested with wins over Texas A&M and Tennessee. For the Gators to knock off LSU, they have to win the battle in the trenches. Florida’s offensive line is allowing three sacks a game – a bad sign against one of the nation’s deepest defensive fronts. The Tigers may not be playing at a dominant level yet, but if Les Miles’ team gets their ground game on track, LSU should find a way to pull out a close victory against Florida.

3. Another Big 12 shootout?
Last week’s West Virginia-Baylor matchup was one of the year’s most entertaining games – if you like offense. Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith is the Heisman frontrunner and against Texas will have the chance to impress a national television audience to build on his early lead. The Longhorns are coming off an impressive 41-36 road win against Oklahoma State and Saturday night’s matchup against West Virginia will be crucial to determining the winner of this conference. Texas’ defense has been a disappointment so far, ranking 63rd nationally in yards allowed and 43rd in pass defense. The key to this match-up should be along the line of scrimmage, especially since the Mountaineers have yet to play a defense with two potential first-round picks at defensive end. Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor need to get pressure on Smith, which in turn will help take some of the pressure off of the secondary and eliminate some of the big plays West Virginia has accumulated this season.

4. Can Miami upset Notre Dame?
With a 42-36 win over Georgia Tech in Week 4 and a 44-37 shootout victory over NC State last week, Miami has been one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the nation. Quarterback Stephen Morris has thrown for 1,002 yards in those two games, while running back Duke Johnson leads the ACC in all-purpose yards per game. Although the Hurricanes have been red hot on offense over the last two weeks, Saturday’s game against Notre Dame will be a different challenge. The Irish are averaging 3.5 sacks a game and rank third nationally in scoring defense. If Miami can protect Morris, there should be opportunities to make plays against the Irish’s secondary. However, Notre Dame’s pass rush will be difficult to slow down, and the edge in the trenches will be enough for the Irish to improve to 5-0.

5. Big Ten Showdown in Columbus
The Big Ten finally had some good news last week. There were no disappointing non-conference losses and most importantly, Ohio State-Michigan State and Nebraska-Wisconsin were two of Week 5’s best games. Nebraska and Ohio State are the top two ranked teams from the Big Ten, so Saturday’s game in Columbus should provide plenty of intrigue. Nebraska has emerged as the early favorite in the Legends Division, while the Buckeyes might be the Big Ten’s best team but won’t be eligible for the postseason due to NCAA penalties. Both teams have been getting tremendous quarterback play this season, as Braxton Miller and Taylor Martinez rank No. 2 and No. 3 in the Big Ten in total offense. The key to this game is all about the supporting cast. Ohio State has leaned heavily on Miller to win games, which is a strategy that may not hold up for a full season. The Cornhuskers have a better supporting cast, but running back Rex Burkhead will have trouble getting on track against a Buckeye defense that ranks 19th nationally against the run. This matchup also marks the return of Bo Pelini to Columbus. Pelini played at Ohio State from 1987-90 and has downplayed his return this week. However, there has to be a little extra motivation to lead his team to a victory against his alma mater.

6. A Breakout Game for Purdue?
With Ohio State and Penn State ineligible to play in the postseason, the battle to win the Leaders Division title is wide open. Purdue has quietly flown under the radar, racking up wins against Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Michigan and Marshall, while suffering a 20-17 loss at Notre Dame on Sept. 8. The Boilermakers have been solid statistically on defense, which figures to be put to the test by Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. The senior is coming off of a horrendous performance against Notre Dame, throwing four interceptions and for only 138 yards. Although Robinson is capable of playing a lot better, the Wolverines have to give him a little help. The defense ranks 88th nationally against the run, and the offensive line is still working out a few kinks. Purdue’s offense is still a work in progress as well but could get quarterback Robert Marve back in the lineup after missing the last two games with a knee injury. If the Boilermakers can win this game, they will take a huge step towards solidifying their spot as a Big Ten title contender, while also gaining some national respect in the process.

7. Is Texas Tech a Big 12 title contender?
It’s still very early in the 2012 season but one of the most impressive stats through the first five weeks has to be Texas Tech’s No. 1 ranking in total defense. The Red Raiders were atrocious on defense last season, but have not allowed more than 14 points in a game this year. Saturday night will be the biggest test for Texas Tech’s rebuilt defense, as Oklahoma visits Lubbock. The Sooners have lost their last three games in Lubbock and struggled in a 24-19 loss to Kansas State in Week 4. Oklahoma’s offense is averaging 491.7 yards per game but looked out of sync against the Wildcats. With a win over the Sooners, the Red Raiders would have to be considered, along with Kansas State, West Virginia and Texas, as one of the favorites to win the Big 12. On the other side, after losing to the Wildcats, Saturday’s game in Lubbock is a must-win situation for Oklahoma. While this game isn’t as big as West Virginia-Texas, this match-up will be crucial for both teams and should provide a gauge of where they stack up in the Big 12.

Under the Radar Match-ups

Georgia Tech at Clemson – After a disappointing loss to MTSU, the Yellow Jackets will be a desperate team on Saturday in Death Valley. Georgia Tech has won seven out of the last nine meetings in this series, but its defense will have a tough time slowing down Clemson’s passing attack, which is averaging 311.2 yards per game. The Yellow Jackets should have success on the ground but they will have a hard time keeping pace with the Tigers’ potent offense.

Virginia at Duke – Don’t look now, but the Blue Devils just might snap their bowl drought and finish 2012 with six victories. Duke moved to 4-1 with a win over Wake Forest last Saturday and host Virginia this week. The Cavaliers have made a change at quarterback, going with Alabama transfer Phillip Sims over Michael Rocco. The Blue Devils’ injury concerns only got worse last week, as quarterback Sean Renfree suffered an elbow injury and is questionable to play Saturday.

Northwestern at Penn State – Are the Wildcats a Big Ten title contender? Although the Nittany Lions aren’t an elite team, this road test in Happy Valley should be a good barometer for where Northwestern stacks up against the rest of the conference.

Virginia Tech at North Carolina – The Hokies have lost two out of their last three games but remain the team to beat in the ACC Coastal. After struggling to stop Cincinnati’s offense last week, Virginia Tech will have its hands full trying to slow down the Tar Heels, who boast two of the ACC’s top playmakers in quarterback Bryn Renner and running back Giovani Bernard.

Arizona at Stanford – How will the Cardinal bounce back after a 17-13 loss to Washington? Quarterback Josh Nunes didn’t have a lot of help from his receiving corps against the Huskies, but he needs to play better if Stanford will have any shot at pushing Oregon for the Pac-12 North title. If the Cardinal struggle to move the ball once again, Arizona could pull off the upset, especially with an offense that is averaging 34.8 points per game.

Navy at Air Force – Anytime the service academies meet, it’s absolutely worth a mention as a must-watch game.
 

Top Five Teams on the Road

Florida State at NC State – The Seminoles avoided a letdown loss against South Florida last week and is heavily favored to beat NC State this Saturday. The Wolfpack will be without three offensive line starters, which is a huge issue against one of college football’s best defensive lines.
Prediction: Florida State 41-20

Washington at Oregon – The Huskies are coming off an upset win over Stanford, while the Ducks took control in the second half and eventually pulled away from Washington State for a 51-26 victory. Although Washington’s improving defense may keep this one close in the first half, Oregon simply has too much firepower to be held in check.
Prediction: Oregon 45-24
 

Five Quarterbacks Under Pressure

Perry Hills, Maryland – Hills has been steady as a true freshman, throwing for 749 yards and six touchdowns. However, if the Terrapins want to knock off Wake Forest on Saturday, Hills needs to pick up where he left off against West Virginia (305 yards, three touchdowns).

Landry Jones, Oklahoma – Jones has been heavily criticized since throwing for 299 yards and one pick against Kansas State on Sept. 22. Although he has struggled on the road at times during his career, it’s unfair to blame Jones for all of Oklahoma’s offensive struggles. A good performance against Texas Tech would go a long way to get Jones back in rhythm before a showdown against Texas next week.

Zach Maynard, California – It’s unfair to pin all of California’s struggles on Maynard, especially with an offensive line that is allowing five sacks a game. However, the senior quarterback has to play better, as he has not thrown for more than 173 yards in each of the last two games.

Josh Nunes, Stanford – Nunes didn’t have a lot of help from his receiving corps last week, but the junior is also capable of playing better. Nunes completed only 18 of 37 passes for 170 yards and one interception against Washington.

Trevor Siemian, Northwestern – The Wildcats will continue to use Siemian and Kain Colter at quarterback, but Siemian seemed to pull slightly ahead in terms of snaps under center against Indiana. Colter will be used as more of an all-purpose threat, which adds even more pressure to Siemian against a solid Penn State defense.
 

Four Teams Desperate for a Victory

Arkansas and Auburn – Whichever team wins this game won’t turn its season around but it will certainly help build some positive momentum after a disappointing start. Auburn is still searching for answers on offense but meets an Arkansas defense that ranks 116th in scoring defense.

California – The pressure on head coach Jeff Tedford is only increasing and Saturday’s game against UCLA is another must-win situation. The Golden Bears are off to a 1-4 start and still have to face Stanford, Washington, Oregon and Oregon State this year.

Virginia – The schedule won’t get any easier for the Cavaliers the rest of the way, and Duke could be without quarterback Sean Renfree. Virginia enters Saturday’s action with three consecutive losses.
 

Upsets to Watch

Utah State (+9) at BYU
Thanks to a victory over Utah in Week 2, the Aggies could claim the Beehive Boot with a win at BYU on Friday night. The Cougars expect quarterback Riley Nelson to return after missing last week with an injury, but running back Michael Alisa is out indefinitely with a broken arm. The Cougars caught a few lucky breaks to win last season’s game, but those bounces go in Utah State’s favor this year.
Prediction: Utah State 27, BYU 24

Boston College at Army (+8)
Preparing for an option team is never an easy task. Boston College’s rush defense has struggled this season, which should allow the Black Knights an opportunity to win this game in the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Boston College 34, Army 31

Virginia Tech (+5.5) at North Carolina
It wouldn’t be that big of an upset if the Hokies win on Saturday, but the point spread has increased from North Carolina a two-point favorite to 5.5 by Thursday. Virginia Tech’s offense has gotten off to a slow start this year, which is a huge concern against a Tar Heel team that is averaging 43.2 points a game.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 27-24

Iowa State (+10) at TCU
With quarterback Casey Pachall suspended, the Horned Frogs will be forced to go with redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin under center. Iowa State’s offense will struggle against TCU’s defense, but the Cyclones have a good chance to score the upset with Pachall out of the lineup.
Prediction: TCU 24, Iowa State 20
 

Injuries/Suspensions to Monitor

Shawne Alston, RB, West Virginia – Alston did not play against Baylor due to a thigh bruise and has been ruled out for Saturday's game against Texas. With Alston out, Andrew Buie will get the nod at running back.

Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas - Brown suffered a sprained ankle in the win over Oklahoma State and whas been ruled out for Saturday's game against West Virginia.

Michael Campanaro, WR, Wake Forest – Campanaro suffered a broken hand in last week’s loss to Duke and won’t play against Virginia this Saturday. With Campanaro sidelined, the Demon Deacons will turn to senior Terence Davis, redshirt freshman Sherman Ragland and sophomore Brandon Terry as the top options for quarterback Tanner Price.

Rob Crisp, OT, NC State – Crisp has not played since the season opener due to a back injury. Crisp won’t play against Florida State, which means NC State will be without three offensive line starters against one of the best defensive lines in college football.

Jordan Hall, RB, Ohio State – Hall suffered a partial tear of his PCL against Michigan State and is unlikely to play against Nebraska. With Hall likely sitting out Saturday’s game, Carlos Hyde and Bri’onte Dunn will help quarterback Braxton Miller shoulder the workload on the ground.

Casey Pachall, QB, TCU – Pachall was arrested for DWI on Thursday morning and has been suspended indefinitely. With Pachall out of the lineup, redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin will get thenod under center.

Maxwell Smith, QB, Kentucky – Smith suffered a knee injury in last week’s loss to California and is out indefinitely. With Smith sidelined, true freshmen Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow will share the quarterback duties for Kentucky.

Sean Renfree, QB, Duke – Renfree suffered an elbow injury against Wake Forest last week and is questionable to play in Saturday’s matchup against Virginia. If the senior can’t start, Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette will share the quarterback duties for Duke.
 

Four Games to Avoid

Kansas at Kansas State
Bill Snyder is 16-4 in his tenure against the Jayhawks and that success should continue this Saturday in Manhattan.

Boise State at Southern Miss
The Broncos haven’t been overly impressive this year, but Southern Miss is off to an 0-4 start and ranks 100th nationally in scoring defense.

Mississippi State at Kentucky
The Bulldogs should have no trouble going to 5-0 with Kentucky starting a true freshman at quarterback (Jalen Whitlow).

Michigan State at Indiana
Kevin Wilson has the Hoosiers pointed in the right direction, but the Spartans defense will keep Indiana from making this one interesting.


by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

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After a rough start to the season, the Big Ten finally had something positive happen last weekend.  There were no disappointing non-conference losses, while Ohio State-Michigan State and Wisconsin-Nebraska were two of the best games from a light slate of action in Week 5.

There’s plenty of intrigue on the field for this matchup, but this game also marks the return of Nebraska coach Bo Pelini to Columbus. Pelini played at Ohio State from 1987-1990 and was born in Youngstown. Although Pelini has downplayed the return to Columbus, there has to be a little extra incentive to win on Saturday night.

Even though Ohio State is ineligible to win the Big Ten crown, this is a huge game for both teams. A win over the Cornhuskers would continue to strengthen the Buckeyes’ case as the best team in the Big Ten. Nebraska scored a key win over Wisconsin last week but this is another tough test for a team that could be the best in the Legends Division.

Storylines to Watch in Nebraska vs. Ohio State

Will Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller have any help?
After watching Miller record 90 rushing attempts through the first five games, Urban Meyer and his offensive staff have to find ways to reduce the workload on their sophomore quarterback. Keeping Miller healthy is the top priority for the Buckeyes, especially if they want to make a run at an unbeaten record. However, Ohio State hasn't been able to find many weapons around him, and that task got a little tougher with running back Jordan Hall suffering a knee injury against Michigan State. Hall will be sidelined for Saturday night’s game, which forces Carlos Hyde and Bri’onte Dunn to shoulder more of the workload in the backfield. Two of Ohio State’s biggest preseason concerns – the offensive line and receiving corps – have played relatively well, so the biggest task for the Buckeyes will be to find more playmakers in the backfield to spell Miller. Although the sophomore is one of the top Heisman contenders, relying on him to have 15-20 carries a game is a lot to ask. Expect Nebraska’s defense to do all it can to keep Miller in check, while forcing Hyde or Dunn to carry the rushing attack.

Taylor Martinez vs. Ohio State’s secondary
There’s no question Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez is one of college football’s most-improved players. The junior is completing 67.8 percent of his throws and has 11 touchdowns on 121 attempts. Ohio State’s secondary has been a disappointment this season, allowing 275.6 yards per game. Martinez should have opportunities to take advantage of the Buckeyes’ pass defense but also needs to make plays with his legs. The junior has 298 yards on the ground through the first five weeks of the season, which is a valuable asset against an Ohio State defense that has two of the best linemen in the nation (end John Simon and tackle Johnathan Hankins) attacking the quarterback. 

Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah vs. Ohio State’s front seven
Although you never want to lose a player due to an injury, Burkhead’s absence against UCLA and Arkansas State allowed Abdullah to show he is capable of taking some of the pressure off of the senior back. The sophomore has 486 yards and five scores this season and will team with Burkhead to form one of the nation’s top running back duos. The Cornhuskers won’t find much running room against Ohio State, as the Buckeyes rank 19th nationally against the run and held Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell to 45 yards on 17 carries last week. Nebraska’s offensive line is playing well but moving Ohio State’s defensive line is no easy task. Taylor Martinez should have an opportunity to move the ball against the Buckeyes' secondary. However, the Cornhuskers can't afford to abandon the run and have Martinez throw over 35 times.

Final Analysis

Last season’s matchup between these two teams featured 61 points and 774 total yards and considering the firepower on both sidelines, we could see similar totals on Saturday.

Nebraska is more balanced on offense than Ohio State, and its defense has played well after struggling in a 36-30 loss to UCLA. The Buckeyes’ secondary is capable of playing better than it has this year, and it’s a group that needs to be challenged by the Cornhuskers. However, Ohio State’s front four is going to be the best that Nebraska has played and establishing Burkhead and Abdullah won’t be easy. 

Ohio State seems to be getting better each week under new coach Urban Meyer. However, the Buckeyes still need to take some of the pressure off of quarterback Braxton Miller. The sophomore simply won’t last all year if he has 20-25 carries a game. When Miller does run, Nebraska has to keep him contained and not allow a big play.

There’s not much that separates these two teams, so one play on special teams or a turnover could decide the outcome. Although Nebraska has more balance on offense, the Buckeyes defense will keep Martinez and Burkhead in check, which should be just enough for Ohio State to edge the Cornhuskers and move to 6-0.

Final Prediction: Ohio State 27, Nebraska 24


by Steven Lassan

 

@athlonsteven

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College football's sixth weekend of action is highlighted by two huge games in the SEC, Miami's trip to Chicago to battle undefeated Notre Dame and the West Virginia-Texas showdown in Austin.

Friday

No. 57 Pittsburgh at No. 73 Syracuse
These two future ACC members have a combined one win vs. FBS opponents — Pitt’s Week 3 win over Virginia Tech. Here’s a note that doesn’t mean much: Syracuse gave up exactly 42 points in its first two games and exactly 10 in its last two.
Pittsburgh 28-26

No. 46 Utah State at No. 52 BYU
Gary Andersen continues his fine work at Utah State. The Aggies are 4–1 overall with the only loss coming by two points at Wisconsin. His team has wins over its top two rivals in the past two years, BYU in 2010 and Utah this season. The next step? Beating BYU in Provo, something that Utah State hasn’t done since 1978.
Utah State 23-20

Saturday

No. 20 Washington at No. 2 Oregon
Washington once dominated this Northwest rivalry, winning 17 of 20 from 1974-1993. The balance of power has shifted to Oregon of late. The Ducks have won eight straight — and all eight have been decided by 17 point or more. The streak will continue.
Oregon 41-20

No. 3 Georgia at No. 7 South Carolina
Steve Spurrier summed it up perfectly on Sunday afternoon: “This is a huge game. We all know it.” The coach is right. They don’t get any bigger at South Carolina, a school that is ranked in the top five in the national polls for the second time ever.
Georgia 30-24

No. 4 Florida State at No. 43 NC State
Florida State heads back into ACC play after improving to 5–0 with a win at South Florida last week. NC State lost its ACC opener last week, falling to Miami 44–37 on a 62-yard pass in the final minute. The Wolfpack have given up a combined 79 points in their two games against teams with a competent offense, Tennessee (35) and Miami (44). That’s a bad omen with FSU coming to town.
Florida State 38, NC State 17

No. 5 LSU at No. 9 Florida
The Gators are 4–0 and are showing signs of once again having an offense capable of scoring points with regularity. This new-look attack will face its stiffest challenge of the season (by far) on Saturday afternoon. For all its (relative) troubles, LSU is still a dominant defensive team that has been equally stingy against the run and the pass. This could be the week we realize that the Gators’ attack hasn’t quite progressed as much as we thought.
LSU 24-17

No. 36 Miami (Fla.) at No. 6 Notre Dame (in Chicago)
For the first time since 1990, Miami and Notre Dame meet in the regular season. The Fighting Irish are 4–0 with wins over three quality Big Ten teams — and yes, there are some quality Big Ten teams. The Notre Dame defense has been dominant, allowing an average of 291.3 yards and 9.0 points per game. The Irish will be challenged by a Miami team that has scored more than 40 points in each of its three ACC games (all wins).
Notre Dame 24-21

No. 12 West Virginia at No. 8 Texas
First the bad news: These two Big 12 powers gave up a combined 99 points last week. Now the good news: Both teams won, thanks to offenses that scored 70 points (West Virginia) and 41 points (Texas). They key on Saturday will be red zone defense. Both teams will move the ball up and down the field; the team that has to settle for field goals will have a difficult time winning.
Texas 44-34

No. 95 Kansas at No. 10 Kansas State
It’s been a rough start for Charlie Weis at Kansas. The Jayhawks are 0–3 vs. FBS opponents, with losses to Rice and TCU at home and Northern Illinois on the road. This in-state battle won’t be close.
Kansas State 30-7

No. 22 Nebraska at No. 11 Ohio State
Nebraska rallied from a 27–10 deficit in the third quarter to beat Wisconsin 30–27 in Lincoln in its Big Ten opener. Taylor Martinez rushed for 100-plus yards for only the second time this season. When he is a threat both through the air and on the ground, this offense can be difficult to stop. Ohio State is only allowing 17.0 points per game, but the Buckeyes have yet to face an offense that can run the ball as well as Nebraska’s.
Nebraska 24-21

No. 14 Oklahoma at No. 41 Texas Tech
This is a important game for Oklahoma in so many ways. After losing two weeks ago at home to Kansas State, the Sooners simply need to win a game. But they also need to play well, something they have yet to do in two games vs. FBS opponents. Landry Jones’ numbers look okay on the surface — he’s completing 63.6 percent and averaging 257.3 yards per game — but he ranks 10th in the Big 12 in passing efficiency in large part because he’s only averaging 7.2 yards per attempt.
Oklahoma 28-21

No. 54 Georgia Tech at No. 15 Clemson
Georgia Tech has dominated this series of late, with a 7–2 record vs. Clemson over the last eight years (the teams met twice in 2009). But things aren’t going so well for the Yellow Jackets in 2012. They dropped to 2–3 overall with a shocking 49–28 loss at home to Middle Tennessee — a team that lost to McNeese State in Week 1. The Blue Raiders rolled up over 500 yards of offense, averaging 7.6 yards per snap.
Clemson 27-24

No. 49 Iowa State at No. 16 TCU
I’m still stunned that TCU managed only 156 total yards of offense in last week’s 24–16 win over SMU. The previous week, Texas A&M rolled up 605 yards vs. the same Mustang defense. Now, TCU must go to battle without quarterback Casey Pachall, who was suspended following an arrest for DUI.
TCU 24-17

No. 104 Washington State at No. 17 Oregon State
The Beavers are already 2–0 in the Pac-12 and both wins have come on the road — vs. UCLA and Arizona. Washington State, on the other hand is 0–2 in the league and both losses have come at home — vs. Colorado and Oregon (in Seattle).
Oregon State 38-17

No. 72 UConn at No. 19 Rutgers
UConn’s last four games have been decided by seven points or less. The Huskies lost to NC State (by three) and Western Michigan (by six) and beat Maryland (by three) and Buffalo (by seven). Not exactly a murderer’s row of opponents.
Rutgers 27-20

No. 21 UCLA at No. 55 California
Jeff Tedford’s job security will be a hot topic the rest of the season. The Golden Bears have played a tough schedule, but 1–4 is still 1–4. This team needs a quality win, but beating UCLA will be a tough task, even in Berkeley.
UCLA 27-21

No. 23 Michigan at No. 39 Purdue
Purdue might be the most undervalued team in the nation through the first one-third of the season. The Boilermakers are 3–1 with their only loss coming by three points at Notre Dame. They did have some trouble with Marshall last weekend, but the final score (51–41) was a bit deceiving. Purdue led 42–14 at the half and 51–35 midway through the fourth quarter.
Purdue 24-20

No. 32 Arizona at No. 24 Stanford
The Wildcats, once 3–0 under new coach Rich Rodriguez, are now 3–2 after losing at Oregon 49–0 and at home to Oregon State 38–35. Quarterback Matt Scott has thrown five interceptions in the two losses after throwing only one in the first three games. He also hasn’t been as much of a threat with his legs; he averaged 63.3 yards rushing in his first three games but only 19.0 in the last two. This is a huge swing game for both programs.
Stanford 30-27

No. 105 UNLV at No. 25 Louisiana Tech
Louisiana Tech isn’t getting enough attention for its 4–0 start. The Bulldogs have scored 44 points or more in all four games and have won consecutive games on the road vs. AQ conference foes by a combined score of 96–62.
Louisiana Tech 55-17

No. 26 Michigan State at No. 102 Indiana
Michigan State has only scored more than 23 points once this season, in a 41–7 win at Central Michigan in Week 2. Indiana has given up a total of 85 points the last two games — losses to Ball State and Northwestern. Michigan State fans should really be concerned if the Spartans struggle to score vs. IU.
Michigan State 30-13

No. 27 Mississippi State at No. 79 Kentucky
Kentucky is struggling on both sides of the ball, but there is certain to be some extra energy at Commonwealth Stadium due to the debut of true freshman quarterback Patrick Towles. Mississippi State is the better team, but the Bulldogs will have to play well to win and preserve their undefeated record.
Mississippi State 30-20

No. 28 Texas A&M at No. 58 Ole Miss
Ole Miss has made tremendous progress on offense under first-year coach Hugh Freeze. One reason: The Rebels are having success on third down, leading the SEC by converting 51.5 percent of their attempts. This week, Ole Miss faces a Texas A&M defense that has been the stingiest in the SEC on third down, allowing a 26.5 percent rate of success. If the Rebels, an 11-point underdog, hope to keep pace with the potent Texas A&M offense, they need to have success on third down.
Texas A&M 38-28

No. 108 Miami (Ohio) at No. 29 Cincinnati
Cincinnati has won six straight in this series — and none of the six has been close. In the last two years, Miami has scored a total of three points.
Cincinnati 41-10

No. 30 Northwestern at No. 53 Penn State
Northwestern is one win away from bowl-eligibility. Penn State, of course, won’t be going to a bowl game this year — or any time soon. But credit Bill O’Brien. The Nittany Lions have won three straight and looked very good in last week’s 35–7 win at Illinois.
Penn State 17-13

No. 112 Wyoming at No. 31 Nevada
Nevada is home to the nation’s leading rusher. Junior Stefphon Jefferson is averaging 175.4 yards per game for Chris Ault’s club. Jefferson has rushed for at least 135 yards in all five games.
Nevada 41-16

No. 70 Vanderbilt at No. 34 Missouri
The first part of the season has been a struggle for the Vanderbilt offense. The Commodores averaged 30.6 points in their final eight games in ’11, but are scoring at a much lower clip this fall. They are averaging 21.8 points in four games, but that number dips down to 9.7 when you remove the 58–0 win over Presbyterian in Week 3.
Missouri 24-20

No. 37 Boise State at No. 101 Southern Miss
The Ellis Johnson era at Southern Miss is not going well. The Golden Eagles are 0–4 and have been alarmingly unproductive on offense. The natives, who are used to winning at a high level, aren’t happy with their first-year head coach.
Boise State 27-7

No. 42 Virginia Tech at No. 56 North Carolina
Looking for a positive spin on Virginia Tech’s season to date? The Hokies are 1–0 in the ACC. Looking for a realistic spin? The Hokies are struggling. They are 0–2 vs. Big East teams and needed overtime to win their only league game, a 20–17 decision over Georgia Tech.
Virginia Tech 27-20

No. 88 Arkansas at No. 44 Auburn
Arkansas’ pass defense has been horrendous in 2012 — and that is being kind. The Razorbacks, who are still searching for a win over an FBS opponent, have allowed 349.4 passing yards per game to rank 121st in the nation. They have given up 14 touchdowns through the air and have intercepted only one pass.
Auburn 27-20

No. 76 Illinois at No. 45 Wisconsin
Wisconsin has been a disappointment in 2012. Illinois has been a train wreck. The Fighting Illini opened with a solid 24–7 win over Western Michigan but have lost three straight against FBS foes. Last week, Illinois was drilled at home by Penn State 35–7. That shouldn’t happen.
Wisconsin 28-21

No. 47 ULM at No. 85 Middle Tennessee
Middle Tennessee threw for 246 yards and rushed for 264 last week in a surprisingly easy 48–28 win at Georgia Tech. ULM, too, has a win over an AQ conference opponent. The Warhawks beat Arkansas in overtime in their opener before losing to Auburn (in overtime) and Baylor (by five). This is a very good team.
ULM 34, Middle Tennessee 24

No. 113 Buffalo at No. 50 Ohio
Ohio’s run at perfection nearly took a catastrophic (relatively speaking) turn last week. The Bobcats had to rally from seven down late in the third quarter to beat FBS newcomer UMass. Was this simply a speed bump, or is Ohio not quite as good as we thought? Go with the former.
Ohio 41, Buffalo 13

No. 66 Virginia at No. 60 Duke
Not many people have noticed, but Duke is 4–1 and needs only two wins to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 1994. The Blue Devils have a great opportunity to pick up No. 5 this Saturday vs. Virginia.
Duke 21–20

No. 61 South Florida at No. 83 Temple
South Florida won two straight to open the season but has since lost three in a row, including two at home. They now hit the road for four of the next six. If the Bulls want to be a factor in the Big East, they cannot afford to lose to Temple.
South Florida 21-20

No. 64 Wake Forest at No. 82 Maryland
It’s not a good sign for Wake Forest that the Demon Deacons are a 5.5-point dog to a Maryland team that hasn’t won a league game since the 2011 opener.
Maryland 13-10

No. 65 Northern Illinois at No. 81 Ball State
Ball State’s last three games have been decided by a total of eight points. The Cardinals beat Indiana by two and South Florida by four before losing at Kent State by two. Northern Illinois has won four straight after opening with a one-point loss to Iowa. These are two solid MAC teams.
Northern Illinois 47-41

No. 67 Tulsa at No. 86 Marshall
Marshall has scored 95 points in its last two games but only has a 1–1 record to show for it. The Herd beat Rice 54–51 in overtime two weeks ago before losing to Purdue 51–41. Tulsa is 2–0 in the league after winning at UAB last week. The Golden Hurricane sacked UAB quarterback Austin Brown seven times for a loss of 68 yards.
Tulsa 44-41

No. 100 Central Michigan at No. 68 Toledo
The good times didn’t last long at Central Michigan. One week after beating Iowa 32–31 on a last-second field goal, the Chips were pounded 55–24 at Northern Illinois.
Toledo 38-14

No. 69 Boston College at No. 122 Army
Army lost at home to Stony Brook 23-3 and allowed someone named Miguel Maysonet to rush for 220 yards. Things aren’t going well for the Black Knights.
Boston College 37-10

No. 120 UMass at No. 71 Western Michigan
UMass climbed from 124 (last) to 120 in the weekly Athlon Sports 124 thanks to its three-point loss at Ohio. That’s progress for a team that had lost its first four games by an average of 34.3 points.
Western Michigan 34-17

No. 124 Tulane at No. 74 UL Lafayette
There’s not other way to say it: Tulane is awful. The Green Wave are 0–4 and rank last in the nation in scoring offense (8.0 ppg) and 118th in scoring defense (42.8 ppg). And three of their four games have been at home. This will be ugly.
UL Lafayette 48-13

No. 75 Fresno State at No. 116 Colorado State
It’s a battle of first-year coaches in the Mountain West — Tim DeRuyter at Fresno State vs. Jim McElwain at Colorado State. DeRuyter, the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M last season, inherited significantly more talent than McElwain, the offensive coordinator at Alabama from 2008-11.
Fresno State 38-10

No. 80 Kent State at No. 114 Eastern Michigan
Kent State is 3–1 for the first time since 1987 when Glen Mason was roaming the sidelines. The Golden Flashes haven’t been 4–1 since ’77 when Dennis Fitzgerald was the boss at Kent State.
Kent State 30-20

No. 97 SMU at No. 89 UTEP
Garrett Gilbert, once considered the nation’s top prep quarterback, had one of the worst games possible for a quarterback last week. The former Texas Longhorn completed 15-of-40 attempts for 190 yards with one touchdown and five interceptions. It’s a minor miracle that SMU only lost 24–16 to TCU.
UTEP 34-31

No. 115 Hawaii at No. 90 San Diego State
San Diego State is scoring a ton of points (34 or more in four straight) but also giving up a ton (38 or more in three straight). Good thing Hawaii is next up. The Warriors have been outscored 165–34 in three games vs. FBS opponents.
San Diego State 41-14

No. 91 Navy at No. 106 Air Force
These proud military schools have fallen on hard times in 2012. Combined, they have one win vs. FBS competition, and that was Air Force’s 42–21 victory over Colorado State last weekend.
Air Force 24-21

No. 92 Texas State at No. 109 New Mexico
New Mexico has made the leap from dumpster fire (during the Mike Locksley) to potentially decent Mountain West team. The Lobos flirted with a huge upset last week before falling to Boise State 32–29 in Albuquerque.
New Mexico 28-20

No. 107 North Texas at No. 93 Houston
Houston, a colossal disappointment through the first three weeks of the season, broke through with its first win last week, a 35–14 victory over Rice. The Cougars should make it two straight with North Texas coming to town. The Mean Green have been solid on defense, but they will struggle to score enough to win this game.
Houston 33-20

No. 94 Rice at No. 123 Memphis
Rice expects quarterback Taylor McHargue to return to action after missing last week’s loss to Houston with a shoulder injury. It might not matter. Memphis is still really bad at football.
Rice 34-13

No. 96 Bowling Green at No. 110 Akron
Akron has only one win — and it came against FCS member Morgan State — but there is no doubt that the Zips have made significant improvements in the first season of the Terry Bowden era.
Akron 24-21

Southeastern Louisiana at No. 98 UAB
UAB is searching for its first win of the Garrick McGee era. It should happen this week against Southeastern Louisiana. The Lions lost to Missouri 62–10 in Week 1 in their only game vs. an FBS opponent.
UAB 34-14

No. 117 New Mexico State at No. 118 Idaho
These two future FBS Independents will meet twice next year, once in Las Cruces and once in Moscow.
Idaho 21-20

Last week: 44–11
Season: 254-60
 

@AthlonMitch

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Visit the online store for Arizona and other editions of the 2012-13 Athlon Sports College Basketball annual.

The first practices of college basketball season begin in mid-October, and Athlon Sports 2012-13 preview annuals have arrived on newsstands all over the country.

To prepare for the start of college basketball season, we will preview one team each weekday, counting down to the first official day of basketball practice on Oct. 15, or for some teams on Oct. 12.

We continue our countdown with a preview of No. 7 Arizona.

Three years after inheriting the debris from Lute Olson’s awkward retirement, Sean Miller has repositioned Arizona as a Final Four contender.

Even though the Wildcats were ahead of schedule, winning the Pac-12 and advancing to the Elite Eight in 2011, this will be the first season in which Miller has all the positive variables at work — size, depth, experience, pedigree and recruiting momentum.

“Don’t let anyone tell you this has been easy,” says Miller, who begins his fourth season at Arizona. “Some of what we put into place didn’t work and we had to try Plan B. In the end, you just hope it balances out.”

Arizona is balanced, if nothing else.

It completed the 2010-11 season a missed 3-point attempt from beating UConn and going to the Final Four. But it completed the 2011-12 season by losing at home to Bucknell in the first round of the NIT.

It signed what some analysts believe is the nations’ top recruiting class. But its image was shaken in ‘11-12 when junior forward Kevin Parrom was shot in a domestic dispute; freshman forward Sidiki Johnson was dismissed from the club for breaking rules; freshman guard Josiah Turner was suspended twice, arrested for extreme DUI and left school; and senior forward Jesse Perry was charged with felony domestic violence.

“I’m not going to walk around and act like everything’s OK when that happens,” says Miller. “But young people do make mistakes, and we’re constantly trying to educate them on the front end and make sure we have guys who know right from wrong.”

FRONTCOURT
Senior Solomon Hill is the unquestioned team leader, an All-Pac-12 player who has volunteered to play out of position, at power forward, during much of his first three seasons. Now he’ll play only at small forward, Miller promises. Hill averaged 12.9 points and 7.7 rebounds, most of it coming on the interior. But in the offseason he lost 20 pounds and spent hundreds of hours working on perimeter shooting. Parrom, who has recovered from his shooting wound to his calf and from a broken foot, projects as one of the league’s top sixth men.

Arizona’s power forward and center slots will be manned entirely by underclassmen. Sophomore Angelo Chol, who has star power, is likely to double his minutes played from 12.1 as a freshman to 25 as a sophomore. He is a shot-blocker who runs the court well and plays with intensity. Chol is more suited for power forward, but where he plays will depend on the emergence of 7-0 freshman center Kaleb Tarczewski, the most highly recruited center at Arizona since Loren Woods in 1999.

Two McDonald’s All-Americans, 6-8 Brandon Ashley and 6-10 Grant Jerrett, will push for immediate time and a starting role under the basket. Both have shooting range to 20 feet and are mobile and athletic.

BACKCOURT
When Turner transferred to SMU, Arizona was left without a point guard — for a few weeks. Then Xavier senior Mark Lyons announced he would leave the Musketeers and play his senior season for Miller, who had recruited him to Xavier four years earlier. Lyons is eligible immediately after earning a degree at Xavier. Lyons’ experience is invaluable; he scored 1,194 points at Xavier and was a part of three Sweet 16 teams.

Sophomore Nick Johnson won’t have to swing to an unfamiliar point guard slot periodically this year. He didn’t shoot well as a freshman starter (.369) but was at times the best player on the court for Arizona. Miller says he expects Johnson to play at a much higher level this season.

Junior combo guard Jordin Mayes, who had a broken foot in the second half of the ‘11-12 season, will swing behind both Johnson and Lyons. Freshman Gabe York could be the club’s top 3-point shooter, vying for minutes behind Johnson.

FINAL ANALYSIS
The basketball environment in Tucson is such that expectations have returned to Olson-era levels. The acquisition of Lyons turned Arizona from a possible top-25 team to one that believes it can win a national championship.

“I’m excited to have his experience,” says Miller. “He’s one of the most competitive kids that I’ve been around, and I look forward to him sharing that senior mantel with Kevin Parrom and Solomon Hill.”

The development of four inside players — Chol, Tarczewski, Ashley and Jerrett — will determine if this team is good enough for the long haul. But they won’t have to be game-changers with Hill and Lyons running the show.

@AthlonSports

Athlon College Basketball Countdown So Far:
20. Florida

19. Notre Dame

18. Memphis
17. Baylor
16. Missouri

15. San Diego State

14. North Carolina

13. UNLV

12. UCLA
11. NC State

10. Michigan State
9. Duke

8. Ohio State

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The SEC is college football's top conference but the Big 12 isn't far behind. The Big 12 could have nine bowl teams this season and the battle to win the conference will be one of the tightest races in the nation. Kansas State fired the first shot in the title picture, winning at Oklahoma on Sept. 22. With Oklahoma taking on Texas Tech and West Virginia visiting Texas this Saturday, the Big 12 will have some separation after Week 6.

West Virginia, Kansas State or Texas: Which Team is the Best in the Big 12?

David Fox (@DavidFox615):  
We need to see more out of every team. Can West Virginia put together a competent defense to make sure Geno Smith doesn’t have to throw eight touchdowns each week? Will Texas’ defense return to last season’s form (and is David Ash for real)? Can Kansas State be this dominant over the course of a full season? When the season ends, I think Texas is going to be standing above the fray. Ash does look like the real deal. Consider the Oklahoma State game: The defense struggled, the run game didn’t do much until the fourth quarter, and Ash still led the way to a win. The Longhorns’ defense and run game should rebound, perhaps as early as this week. If Texas is the most balanced and complete team in the Big 12, they’ll win the league.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall): 
I think Texas is the best all-around football team in the league but since I think West Virginia will go into Austin and win this weekend, I guess I have to go with the Mountaineers. This offense is operating in the stratosphere of college football and Texas' defense has struggled this season to live up to the preseason hype. Kansas State has also played extremely well against the Longhorns of late and could easily knock Burnt Orange nation out of the running as well So Kansas State's visit to Morgantown could decide the league crown and I'll take the Mountaineers to win that one as well. The most likely scenario? A 1-1 round robin for all three teams with one or two random upsets deciding the Big 12 championship.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): 
The battle to win the Big 12 is going to be one of the most competitive races in college football over the final two months of the season. West Virginia, Texas and Kansas State appear to be the frontrunners, but Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech can’t be counted out. However, between the trio mentioned in the question, I like Texas. The Longhorns are capable of playing better defense than they have through the first four games, but the offense has come to life under quarterback David Ash. The sophomore ranks second nationally in passing efficiency, and his emergence will open up rushing lanes for a talented trio of running backs. West Virginia’s offense is one of the best in the nation, but the defense has a lot of question marks, which will cost them a game or two at some point this year. Kansas State is always seems to overachieve under Bill Snyder and hosts Texas in the season finale. Expect a close race, but I think the Longhorns find barely edge the Mountaineers and Wildcats for the top spot.

Mark Ross: 
Geno Smith is far and away the runaway choice for the Heisman Trophy right now as he has the West Virginia offense firing on all cylinders. The Mountaineers enjoyed a triumphant and impressive Big 12 debut, beating Baylor 70-63 and piling up more than 800 yards of offense. However, they still have eight conference games to play, and it's the second number, not the first, in that score that concerns me. Offense is nice and fun to watch, especially when it puts up the video game-esque totals that Smith and Mountaineers are right now, but I don't put much stock into a team's title aspirations when it is ranked near the bottom of the nation in defense. West Virginia is currently 106th out of 120 FBS schools in total defense, giving up 474 yards and 32.5 points (94th) per game. That's just not going to get it done over the long haul in my opinion, in the Big 12 or really any other conference for that matter. Not when you have some teams that are capable of doing a similar amount of damage on offense. And that is what you have in the Big 12 as Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas Tech are ranked among the top 10 nationally, along with West Virginia. Even Texas (23rd) and Kansas State (48th) are among the top 50, and both of these teams' respective defenses have performed considerably better to this point. The Wildcats are currently 45th in total defense, while the Longhorns are 63rd nationally. The Wildcats have already made a statement with its win over Oklahoma in Norman two weeks ago and will get their shot at West Virginia in Morgantown on Oct. 20. However, it's the Longhorns, who welcome the Mountaineers this Saturday to Austin, that I am picking as the conference's top team. Texas has a talented and athletic defense that's capable of slowing down West Virginia provided they execute their schemes and make the Mountaineers have to drive down the field rather than rely on the big plays. The Longhorns also have an offense that's been better than expected thanks to the emergence of quarterback David Ash. This will allow Texas to stay with West Virginia close throughout before wearing down the defense and frustrating the offense and sealing the win in the fourth quarter. 

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman):
This is a tough call, but I would go with the Texas Longhorns at the current time. All three teams have been very productive on offense, but the Horns defense should be the difference in league play. During September, Kansas State’s defense played well while quarterback Collin Klein continued making plays on the ground. However I see the lack of a Wildcats passing game and some deficiencies in pass defense catching up with K-State in a couple of upcoming games. The Mountaineers aerial attack is fun to watch, and Hesiman frontrunner Geno Smith’s 656 yards and eight touchdowns against Baylor topped all of the highlight shows. But I see the porous WVU defense and a limited running game becoming a major liability against a club like Texas this week. The Longhorns have finally found a quarterback in David Ash, and the power running tandem of Johnathan Gray and Joe Bergeron will be able to keep Smith and company off the field. The Horns defense will give up some yardage, but the UT secondary and pass rush is worlds better than the Baylor defense. With the most talented and balanced squad, I’ll take Texas in the Big 12.

 

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Teaser:
<p> West Virginia, Kansas State or Texas: Which Team is the Best in the Big 12?</p>
Post date: Friday, October 5, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-start-or-sit-week-5
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Indianapolis and Pittsburgh are both back in action in Week 5, but Dallas, Detroit, Oakland and Tampa Bay all get a break, which means even more players will be unavailable this week compared to last. Those who have Matthew Stafford or Tony Romo will be looking for a starting quarterback, while owners will also have to find a way to make do without Calvin Johnson, Darren McFadden and others this week.

Byes aside, everyone has to get their teams in order for this weekend’s action, and Athlon Sports is here to help you make those important lineup decisions for your Yahoo!, NFL.com or ESPN fantasy football league with our weekly Start and Sit suggestions. Keep in mind these are merely our suggestions as the ultimate decision comes down to you, the owner.

Week 5 Positional Rankings

Week 5 Waiver Wire

Bye week teams: Dallas, Detroit, Oakland, Tampa Bay

Sneaky Start of the Week
Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego at New Orleans
No doubt, Mathews owners were a little worried if they took a look at the box score from San Diego’s 37-20 victory over Kansas City last week. If they did, they would have seen that Mathews had 14 carries and two receptions, but Jackie Battle had 15 and four, not to mention two touchdowns and 12.9 more fantasy points (22.1 to 9.2).

Some of this discrepancy can be explained in that Chargers head coach Norv Turner apparently benched Mathews at the start of the game due to a Week 3 fumble. While nothing was announced or, more impressively, was leaked regarding this decision prior to kickoff, what’s more telling is that after it came to light both the running back and coach seemed to be on the same page about it. In other words, message delivered, message received, let’s move on.

Unfortunately, further developments, namely the fact that Battle, and not Mathews, is currently listed atop the Chargers’ depth chart, would lead one to assume that this perhaps this matter isn’t over. Last week and depth chart positioning aside, I am fairly confident that it will only be a matter of time before this is behind everyone and that Mathews resumes his rightful place as the Chargers’ No. 1 back.

In fact, I am willing to go so far as to say that regardless of whether he starts or not this Sunday in New Orleans, that Mathews will do more than enough damage to merit starting for your fantasy team. The Saints are dead last in the NFL in both total defense and rushing defense, as they are allowing 186.8 yards on the ground. That’s more than enough for both Battle and Mathews to get theirs, and then some.

New Orleans also is allowing more than 30 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, including 21.6 to Alfred Morris in Week 1 and 37.8 to Jamaal Charles in Week 3. While I don’t anticipate either Mathews or Battle reaching either of those levels, I am expecting them to do something along the lines of what the Carolina duo of Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams did in Week 2. In that game, Williams had more carries and rushing yards than Stewart, but Stewart was more productive as a receiver and ended up with slightly more fantasy points (13.3 to 12.9). Mathews is more versatile and more of a threat out of the backfield as a receiver than Battle, and I am expecting him to do a little more damage that way against the Saints, which will help him to finish with more fantasy points than his teammate.

Surprise Sit of the Week
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville vs. Chicago
I know, I know. You never sit your studs. In general this is a theory I subscribe to, so by naming MJD here, I am not necessarily saying that you MUST sit him. I am merely trying to prepare his owners for what I believe will be a fairly pedestrian day at the office this Sunday.

Jones-Drew is currently seventh in the NFL in rushing with 352 yards and is averaging nearly five yards per carry. Quite an accomplishment considering he missed basically all of the preseason because of a contract holdout. However, a closer look at his numbers reveal that he’s had one fantastic game and three fairly ordinary ones.

In Week 3 against Indianapolis, Jones-Drew rambled for 177 yards on 28 carries (6.3 ypc) and a touchdown. In the three other games he has 175 yards on 54 carries (3.2 ypc) and no scores. Chicago is currently third in the league in rushing defense, allowing just 67.3 yards per game, 3.6 yards per carry, and the Bears have given up just one rushing touchdown.

Fantasy-wise, the Bears are allowing the third-fewest points to opposing running backs, having already shut down DeMarco Murray and Steven Jackson. Cedric Benson’s 81 yards in Week 2 is by far the most rushing yards they have allowed to a single back so far, and that was in a game in which Green Bay intercepted Bears quarterback Jay Cutler four times.

Jones-Drew is the best running back the Bears have faced yet, no argument here. However, the Monsters of the Midway have been up to the task to this point when it comes to defending the run. More importantly, I just don’t see Jaguars second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert faring any better than Tony Romo (5 INTs), Aaron Rodgers (1 TD, 1 INT) or Andrew Luck (1 TD, 3 INTs) did against the Bears’ D, allowing the Monsters of the Midway to focus their attention on stopping MJD. Jones-Drew won’t be shut out, he’s  too talented and tough for that, but he’s going to have to earn every yard he gets this Sunday, and I just don’t think it will be all that many.

Quarterbacks
START

Andrew Luck (IND) vs. GB
Since throwing three interceptions in his pro debut in Chicago, Luck has a 4:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Outside of Jay Cutler, Green Bay has allowed the opposing quarterback to score at least 19 fantasy points, and gave up 35.8 to Drew Brees in last week’s win at home. Luck isn’t Brees, not yet anyways, but he’s more than capable of taking what the defense allows and finding a way to move his team down the field. The Colts have allowed just five sacks in their first three games, which will be key against the Packers. I think they find a way to keep Luck upright, and if anything, the game situation will probably allow Luck plenty of opportunities to air it out in the second half.

Alex Smith (SF) vs. BUF
Smith posted back-to-back solid games to open the season, but has seen his production decline since then. Against Minnesota he saw his franchise record for passes without an interception come to an end. Then last week against the Jets, he didn’t need to throw the ball that much as the 49ers rushed for more than 250 yards and dominated the proceedings from start to finish. That could very well be the case this Sunday against Buffalo, but instead I am saying the coaching staff will let Smith take a few more shots down field against a Bills defense that is allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks.

Christian Ponder (MIN) vs. TEN
The Vikings’ young quarterback is 8th in the league in passer rating and has yet to throw an interception. However, he’s also 25th in the league in passing yards, 22nd in passing attempts and has just four touchdown passes in four games. If there’s ever a week to let the second-year starter air it out it’s this week. Tennessee is allowing opponents to complete more than 75 percent of their passes, 285 yards per game through the air, and has given up 10 touchdown passes compared to just one interception. The Vikings’ offense also finally got Jerome Simpson back from suspension last week, giving Ponder another weapon in the passing game, along with fellow receiver Percy Harvin and tight end Kyle Rudolph.

SIT
Cam Newton (CAR) vs. Seattle

It probably seems like I’m picking on Newton, but actually I’m not. He certainly proved me wrong last week with his three-touchdown, zero-turnover effort against Atlanta. However, Seattle’s defense is fourth in the league in total yards allowed and their pass rush is even more disruptive than Atlanta’s. The difference here, in my opinion, is that the Seahawks will be able to contain Newton in the pocket more and limit his yards if he does escape. I also don’t see Newton finishing this game without turning it over at least once, even if this one is at home.

Michael Vick (PHI) at PIT
Like Newton, Vick is a dual threat who can hurt you with both his arm and his legs. Vick’s biggest issue so far has been turnovers, as he’s already produced nine (6 INTs, 3 fumbles) of them. However, Vick didn’t turn the ball over once in leading his Eagles to a win over the Giants this past Sunday night, and Pittsburgh’s defense has only produced three takeaways of its own. So why is Vick in the Sit section, you ask? 1) I don’t think Vick plays another turnover-free game, he’s been somewhat erratic (56.8 completion rate) when he’s thrown the ball, and hasn’t been all that dangerous (4.8 ypc) when running it. 2) The Steelers welcome back hard-hitters and defensive leaders Troy Polamalu and James Harrison this Sunday, have had an extra week to get healthy and prepare for Vick and the Eagles, and have allowed only 190 yards passing per game so far. Also, while Vick didn’t turn the ball over a single time against the Giants, he still only put up 20.5 fantasy points. I just don’t see him putting together a big game in this one.

Ryan Fitzpatrick (BUF) at SF
Fitzpatrick leads the league in touchdown passes with 12 and is tied for second in interceptions with seven. He had four of each in the Bills’ 52-28 loss to New England last Sunday. This week the Bills are in San Francisco to take on a 49ers defense that’s sixth in the league in passing defense and has already held in check both Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford. Chances are Fitzpatrick will finish Week 5 as a league leader, but my thinking is that it will be for interceptions and not touchdowns. Several solid starting quarterbacks are already missing this week because they are on bye, but I still think there are better options out there than Fitzpatrick for Week 5.

Running Backs
START

Cedric Benson (GB) at IND

After a slow start out of the gates in Week 1 against San Francisco, Benson has averaged 95.3 total yards and 13.5 fantasy points over his last three games. The biggest omission from his production to this point has been the end zone, as in he’s yet to find it. Green Bay’s offense obviously goes through Rodgers and his right arm, but the Packers have put more emphasis on the running game as of late. Here’s saying that continues against Indianapolis, who is giving up 131.3 yards per game rushing.

Alfred Morris (WAS) vs. ATL
Morris has gone from a nice story during training camp to surprise Week 1 starter to, dare I say it, reliable fantasy option. The main reason for this is twofold – Morris is getting the touches (averaging 20.5 carries per game) and the rest of the ‘Skins backfield is either banged up (or worse) or has been ineffective when given an opportunity. The bottom line is this – Morris is the man right now in the backfield and you want to keep rolling with him this week against an Atlanta defense that’s 29th in the league against the run.

Pierre Thomas (NO) vs. SD
Yes, the Saints also have Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram in their backfield, but this recommendation of Thomas is more of a usage thing. Thomas is second to Ingram in carries by only four fewer attempts, but he’s leading the team by far in rushing yards (152). What’s more, Thomas is fifth on the team in both receptions (11) and targets (16), meaning he’s getting his chances as a receiver too. Sproles is the undisputed backfield receiver, but Brees throws enough and spreads it out enough for others, like Thomas, to benefit. This week’s match-up with San Diego looks to be one of those prime opportunities as the Chargers have given up the third-most receptions (32) to opposing running backs. These factors make Thomas an appealing RB3/flex option this week.

SIT
Michael Turner (ATL) at WAS
Turner turned back the clock last week against Carolina, rushing for 103 yards and also taking a pass 60 yards for a touchdown. It was good to see Turner show off some of that speed and breakaway ability that seemed to be missing at the start of the season. Then again, this was against the Panthers, who are allowing the most fantasy points to opposing running backs. This week, I think the going will be a little tougher for Turner against Washington, who is giving up 89 yards on the ground per game. I also expect the Falcons to attack the Redskins’ 31st-ranked pass defense a little more than they will run it, which in turn limits Turner’s opportunities.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis (CIN) vs. MIA
The Law Firm can’t seem to get out of his own way. He’s getting the carries (averaging 20.5 per game), but not the yards (286, 3.5 ypc) or the touchdowns (2 total). He hasn’t been much of a threat out of the backfield (6 rec., 46 yds.) and has already lost two fumbles, which is uncharacteristic of him. Miami is No. 1 in the league in rush defense, as the Dolphins are giving up just 56.8 yards per game and 2.4 yards per carry. This seems like a pretty good week to leave BJGE on your bench.

Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller (BUF) at SF
I’m sure Jackson and Spiller owners alike were happy to see their guys back in action last Sunday against New England. I’m not so sure how they felt after the duo combined for 117 total yards, no scores and two lost fumbles, or a total of 10.2 fantasy points. That’s not enough for a starting running back and this was their combined output. Both seemed to make it through no worse for the wear in coming back from their respective injuries, but this also means they will be sharing the touches from here out. I’m not saying there’s not enough opportunities for each to produce, and I am curious to see how the timeshare plays out (who gets the most carries, what’s the breakdown). Just not this week, in San Francisco against a 49ers defense that’s allowing 3.2 yards per carry, has surrendered one rushing touchdown so far and has yielded less than 10 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. No thank you.

Wide Receivers
START

Domenik Hixon (NYG) vs. CLE
In Week 3 against Carolina, Ramses Barden exploded for nine catches and 138 yards starting in place of an injured Hakeem Nicks AND Hixon, who missed the game due to concussion-related symptoms. Hixon returned last week to catch nine passes for 104 yards and a touchdown, as Nicks missed a second straight game. Nicks isn’t playing again this week against Cleveland, who is allowing the second-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers and is still missing Joe Haden, their best defensive back. Barden isn’t expected to play either as he suffered a concussion in last week’s loss to the Eagles. So who does that leave?

James Jones (GB) at IND
One could make the argument that Jones, who is leading the Packers in touchdown catches with three, is second in yards (191) and fourth in receptions (16), is already a decent WR3/flex option. This argument only gets stronger with the knowledge that Greg Jennings will miss this week’s game (and possibly more) because of a groin injury. Jones may not get the official start opposite Jordy Nelson, but he’ll be out there plenty and should get strong consideration to receive the start from you if you own him or choose to pick him up.

Kendall Wright (TEN) vs. MIN
Wright leads all rookie wide receivers in catches with 18 and while he may not have accumulated lots of yards (148, 8.2 ypc) so far, it’s clear he’s getting plenty of opportunities. Even though he’s the Titans’ No. 3 receiver, he leads the team in targets by 13 over tight end Jared Cook and with fellow wideout Kenny Britt hampered by an ankle injury that could keep him out another week, this trend should continue. Also it’s worth pointing out that Wright’s first career touchdown pass, an 11-yarder in the fourth quarter at Houston last week, came courtesy of Matt Hasselbeck. Why’s that significant you ask? Because it’s Hasselbeck, and not Jake Locker, who will be the Titans’ starting quarterback this Sunday against Minnesota, as Locker is out with a shoulder injury. There appears to be no reason to think that Hasselbeck won’t continue to look Wright’s way in the passing game.

SIT
Dwayne Bowe (KC) vs. BAL
This is more of an indictment of Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel than Bowe. Cassel has thrown twice as many interceptions (four) as touchdowns (two) the past two weeks and has completed less than 60 percent of his attempts in that span. Baltimore has been susceptible to the pass, allowing Brandon Weeden to throw for 320 yards last week. However, they also have only allowed two receiving touchdowns so far and are still capable of forcing a turnover or two. Just not crazy about how this appears to be setting up for Bowe and his mates.

Jeremy Maclin (PHI) at PIT
In his defense, Maclin has been dealing with a couple of different hip ailments, which have limited his practice time and kept him from taking the field in Week 3. The real concern, however, is what he’s done when he has played, which is two catches for 30 yards in his last two games. One of those did go for a touchdown, but Maclin owners are looking for and needing more production from him. Unfortunately, I think the hip is still an issue and the Pittsburgh defense, with Troy Polamalu back in the secondary, will be an even bigger one come Sunday. The Eagles are off in Week 7. Maclin owners may have to be patient and hope for better things starting in Week 8. Right now, I don’t think he’s startable.

Pierre Garcon (WAS) vs. ATL
Similar to Maclin, Garcon also has been hampered significantly by a foot injury. Since breaking out for four receptions, 109 yards and a long TD (80 yards) against New Orleans in Week 1, Garcon has played in one game and caught  a total of, wait for it, one pass for 20 yards. He does finally appear to be getting healthier, as he’s been practicing fully for the first time in weeks, but his absence has allowed others, namely receiver Leonard Hankerson and tight end Fred Davis, to work on chemistry with rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. Until Garcon makes it through an entire game and posts some decent numbers, you may want to stash him away and hope Week 1 doesn’t end up as his lone highlight for this season.

Tight Ends
START

Fred Davis (WAS) vs. ATL
In Washington’s first two games, Davis caught a combined four passes for 52 yards. In the past two, he’s caught 11 for 160. The only bugaboo that remains is he’s still searching for his first touchdown. I think that changes this week against the Falcons, who allowed Carolina’s Greg Olsen to go for 6-89-1 last week.

Joel Dreessen (DEN) at NE
Denver has two reliable tight ends in Jacob Tamme and Dreessen. Tamme is leading his position mate in targets, receptions and yards rather comfortably. However, Dreessen has two touchdowns to Tamme’s one. New England is allowing the second-most fantasy points to tight ends and Peyton Manning is not afraid to throw to either of his. Tamme may be the safer pick here because he gets more opportunities, but I say Dreessen is the one who makes the most of his by finding the end zone this Sunday in Foxboro.

SIT
Heath Miller (PIT) vs. PHI
Miller is tied for second in the league with four touchdown catches and he’s had an extra week to let his ribs heal completely. That’s great for Miller and his owners, but here’s what’s not: the Eagles are allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends and held the Giants’ Martellus Bennett (No. 6 TE in fantasy) to one catch for two yards last week. Miller owners may be better off if they extend his break another week.

Tony Moeaki (KC) vs. BAL
Kevin Boss has been sidelined by injury, which theoretically should open up the door for Moeaki. Remember, Moeaki burst on the scene in 2010 when he caught 47 passes for 556 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been the same since he tore his ACL during the preseason last year and has just nine catches for 76 yards and no touchdowns so far. There’s no telling when, or if, Moeaki will return to his rookie-year form and no reason why he should even be on your radar right now.

Defense/Special Teams
START

Minnesota Vikings vs. Tennessee Titans
The Vikings are fourth among defense/special teams in fantasy scoring. They are capable of getting after the quarterback (12 sacks) and the big kick return (2 TDs). The Titans’ offense has been inconsistent to start the season, is making a switch at quarterback (although Matt Hasselbeck has plenty of starting experience), and  is allowing 27.4 yards (eighth-highest in NFL) on kickoff returns. Seems like a decent match-up to me, no?

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Philadelphia Eagles
This is certainly not a pick based on statistics. Granted the Steelers have only played three games so far, but they still have a total of just five sacks and three turnovers on defense. No, this choice is more circumstance-driven, if you will, as the Steel Curtain happily welcomes back two of its key members – safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker James Harrison. Do I think the addition of two All-Pro playmakers to the Steelers’ defense will make that much of a difference? Yes, yes, I do and we will see why starting this Sunday against the Eagles.

SIT
Green Bay Packers vs. Indianapolis Colts
The Packers are doing a good job of getting to the quarterback (14 sacks, 4th in the NFL), but they aren’t really forcing that many turnovers. The Colts have done a pretty good job of protecting Andrew Luck (5 sacks allowed, tied for 29th) and since throwing three picks against Chicago, he’s had only one interception in his past two games. I think the Colts’ offensive line will give Luck enough time and the rookie will continue to take care of the ball in a game that allows the home team to pile up some yards and put some points on the board against the Packers.

New York Jets vs. Houston (Monday)
As bad as the Jets’ offense has been recently, the defense hasn’t exactly been stellar. They gave up 254 yards on the ground against San Francisco last week and have just five sacks on the season. Enter an undefeated Texans team that loves to run the ball (most rushing attempts in NFL) and has given up a total of three sacks in four games. The Jets’ offense won’t be able to put up much of a fight against a stout Texans’ defense, which allows the Texans to wear down the Jets and pound them into submission with the ground game by the second half.

Kickers
START

Blair Walsh (MIN) vs. Tennessee
Walsh, a rookie, is 9-of-10 so far on field goal attempts, including three makes from 50 yards and out. He’s attempted more field goals than PATs (9). The Titans are allowing 37.8 points per game, the most in the league. What more could you ask for?

Robbie Gould (CHI) at Jacksonville
The always-reliable Gould is a perfect 20-for-20 on all of his kicks (12 PAT, 8 FG) so far. The thinking here is that his kick distribution evens up a little bit this week. The Bears will be able to drive the ball against the Jaguars, but have to settle for three enough times to allow Gould to put up double digits.

SIT
David Akers (SF) vs. Buffalo
Akers will score, as will the 49ers, but the majority of his kicks against the Bills will count for one point, not three.

Nick Folk (NYJ) vs. Houston (Monday)
The Jets scored no points against San Francisco, the No. 5 defense in the NFL. Next up is Houston, who just happens to be the No. 3 defense. It’s kind of hard for a kicker to score if his team doesn’t/can’t move the ball, right?

— By Mark Ross, published on Oct. 5, 2012

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 5</p>
Post date: Friday, October 5, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-betting-against-spread-week-6
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Every Friday for entertainment purposes only, I will bring you my top college football picks against the spread. I do not condone, approve or encourage gambling on sports in any way. But if you are a fan of football — college or pro — and you don't think gambling has played a huge role in the growth and popularity of the sport, then you are simply being ignorant. And behind closed doors, the powers that be understand the impact betting has had on the game of football.

2012 Record Against The Spread: 22-17
Last Week: 5-3

Note: All lines are as of date of publication

Michigan State (-15) at Indiana
The Hoosiers lost 55-3 in East Lansing last season and are currently last in the Big Ten this fall in rushing defense after allowing 394 yards last week to Northwestern. Michigan State, however, will enter this game with a chip on its shoulder after the tough loss to Ohio State last fall. The Spartans will have no trouble at all moving the ball behind that big line and Le’Veon Bell, so expect this one to get out of hand fairly quickly. Prediction: Michigan State -15

Navy (+7.5) at Air Force
The Midshipmen have scored a total of 17 points in three games against FBS competition this fall, including being shutout by San Jose State last week. This isn’t a vintage Navy triple-option attack as it is averaging only 219.3 yards per game rushing. Meanwhile, Air Force’s option is clicking on all cylinders, leading the nation in rushing at 396.3 yards per game. The success of the ground game has helped the Falcons score 37.8 points per game and Navy, who is 1-3 against the number this fall, will have a tough time stopping AFA. Prediction: Air Force -7.5

UCLA (-2.5) at Cal
This is the type of game that the Bruins have to win if they expect to compete in the Pac-12. The Bruins boast the league’s No. 1 offense at 558.4 yards per game after getting back on track last week with 42 points in Boulder. Meanwhile, Cal only has 535 yards of total offense in its last two Pac-12 games combined. Look for Brett Hundley and Johnathan Franklin to attack and expose the worst rushing defense in the league. The Golden Bears haven’t beaten an FBS team all year and are on the verge of total collapse. Jim Mora is happy to push Cal over the cliff’s edge. Cal is 1-4 against the spread this season. Prediction: UCLA -2.5

UL Monroe (-3) at Middle Tennessee
Had MTSU been on a bye last week, the point spread on this game could have been in the double digits. Monroe is unbeaten against the spread this fall and Middle Tennessee is coming off of arguably the biggest non-conference win in program history. Expect the Blue Raiders to hang in there for three quarters, but Kolton Browning and company are way too powerful — try 63 points last week and at least 550 yards of offense in three of four games this fall. Prediction: UL Monroe -3

Mississippi State (-10) at Kentucky
This Bulldogs team leads the nation in turnover margin and that spells trouble for a team that will rotate two freshman quarterbacks. State is allowing only 13.3 points per game and is off to its best start in over a decade, but still have room to improve. Coming off of the bye week, Dan Mullen should have his guys ready to play against the lowly Wildcats. Prediction: Mississippi State -10

North Texas (+12) at Houston
The Cougars are not a good football team, as losses to Texas State, Louisiana Tech and UCLA indicate. And the win over Rice last week came mostly due to the fact that starting QB Taylor McHargue didn’t play. North Texas should be able to run and could win outright, so I will take the 12 points and run all the way to the bank. Prediction: North Texas +12

Arizona (+9) at Stanford
Josh Nunes has struggled mightily of late, completely less than half of his passes in each of the last two games. Arizona has lost two straight but has explosive offensive talent and should be able to score points on the edge. Stanford should be able to control the line of scrimmage but there is no reason Arizona can’t win outright against a team lacking in offensive confidence. Take the Cardinal to win outright but the Cats to keep it real close. Prediction: Arizona +9

Utah State (+6.5) at BYU
The Aggies of Utah State have played a tough schedule and, with the exception of a missed field goal in Madison, should be undefeated. BYU bounced back with a complete performance last week against Hawaii, but Chuckie Keeton and company are a different animal. This could be a low-scoring affair with two underrated defenses taking the field in Provo. Never bet against Gary Andersen, whose team is 5-0 against the spread this fall. Prediction: Utah State +6.5 

Take the big-game dogs:

Georgia (+2) at South Carolina
West Virginia (+7) at Texas
LSU (-3) at Florida
Nebraska (+3.5) at Ohio State

2012 Trends Against the Spread:

Unbeaten ATS One Loss ATS One Win ATS (min. 4 games) Winless ATS
Arizona St (4-0-1) Ball St (4-1) Texas (3-1) Army (1-3) Michigan (1-3) Arkansas (0-5)
Fresno St (5-0) Cincinnati (2-1) Texas St (3-1) Auburn (1-3) Michigan St (1-4) Virginia (0-4-1)
UL Monroe (4-0) Duke (4-1) Toledo (4-1) Boston College (1-3) Navy (1-3)  
Northwestern (5-0) Florida (3-1) Troy (4-1) Cal (1-4) NC State (1-3-1)  
Oregon St (3-0) Kansas St (3-1) UCLA (4-1) C. Michigan (1-3) Oregon (1-4)  
San Jose St (5-0) Kent St (3-1)   Colorado (1-4) USC (1-3)  
Texas Tech (4-0) La. Tech (3-1)   Colorado St (1-4) S. Miss (1-3)  
TX-SA (3-0) UL Lafayette (3-1)   E. Michigan (1-3) Syracuse (1-3)  
Utah St (5-0) MTSU (3-1)   Houston (1-3) Tulane (1-3)  
W. Kentucky (5-0) Ole Miss (4-1)   Idaho (1-4) Utah (1-3)  
  Notre Dame (3-1)   Indiana (1-3) Va. Tech (1-4)  
  Penn St (4-1)   Iowa (1-4) Wazzu (1-4)  
  Purdue (3-1)   Kentucky (1-4) W. Virginia (1-3)  
  S. Carolina (4-1)   Memphis (1-3) Wisconsin (1-4)  
  Texas A&M (3-1)   Miami-OH (1-4)    

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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Teaser:
<p> College Football Betting Against the Spread: Week 6</p>
Post date: Friday, October 5, 2012 - 05:55
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-fighting-irish-vs-miami-hurricanes-preview-and-prediction
Body:

With a combined record of 8-1 and both teams riding a wave of momentum after key wins over the last few weeks, Miami-Notre Dame is one of Week 6’s most intriguing games. These two teams haven’t met in a regular season game since 1990 but there’s plenty of history in this series. The Irish and Hurricanes met 19 times from 1972-90, including the infamous “Catholics vs. Convicts” game in 1988.

With Notre Dame teaming with the ACC for a football scheduling agreement, these two teams will meet more regularly in the future. Games between these two teams are currently scheduled for 2016 and 2017 but that could change as ACC’s alignment with Notre Dame takes shape.

There’s plenty at stake on Saturday, as the Irish need to win to keep their BCS hopes alive, while Miami hopes to add to its three-game winning streak. Notre Dame has not allowed more than 17 points this season, but the Hurricanes have scored at least 38 in each of their last three games.

Storylines to Watch in Notre Dame vs. Miami

Can Miami’s passing attack test Notre Dame’s secondary?
Scoring on the Irish defense has been nearly impossible this year. Notre Dame ranks third nationally in points allowed and is giving up under 300 yards per game (291.3). The success of this defense starts up front, as junior Louis Nix III, sophomore Stephon Tuitt and senior Kapron Lewis-Moore are playing as well as any defensive line in the nation. The Irish are averaging 3.5 sacks a game, and the last three opponents have recorded less than 300 yards of total offense. Linebacker Manti Te’o is off to a terrific start, recording 38 tackles, two forced fumbles and three interceptions through the first four weeks of the season. However, if there’s one weakness of the defense, it’s a secondary that has yet to be tested. Notre Dame has played two quarterbacks in their first year of starting, while Purdue’s Caleb TerBush and Michigan’s Denard Robinson aren’t the best pocket passers. Miami quarterback Stephen Morris has been on fire the last two weeks, throwing for 1,002 yards and seven touchdowns. If Morris has time to throw, he should be able to hit a few big plays to his receivers. However, if Notre Dame’s pass rush gets to Morris, the inexperience in the secondary won’t be a concern.

Everett Golson or Tommy Rees?
Redshirt freshman Everett Golson is going to be a future star in South Bend, but is he the best quarterback to beat Miami? In the win over Michigan, Golson took a back seat to Rees, as the sophomore threw for 115 yards on eight completions. Rees also filled in against Purdue and led the Irish to a game-winning field goal. Golson was expected to take his lumps in 2012 and all things considered, he’s played relatively well considering this is his first year under center. Barring an injury or struggles by Golson, he should be Notre Dame’s starting quarterback against Miami. However, don’t be surprised if Rees is brought in to provide a spark. Considering the Hurricanes are allowing 269 passing yards a game, regardless of who starts at quarterback, the Irish should move the ball through the air with ease.

Duke Johnson…Miami’s X-Factor?
Miami’s roster is littered with youth but there’s also plenty of promise as this team looks to 2013 and 2014. Running back Duke Johnson has been one of the nation’s top true freshmen, leading the ACC with 184 all-purpose yards per game. Johnson will share carries with Mike James, but the freshman is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Johnson has double-digit carries in each of the last three games and will need at least 20 touches on Saturday night. Although the Hurricanes think they can exploit Notre Dame’s secondary, Johnson has to be a key piece in the gameplan.

Will Notre Dame get its rushing game on track?
The Irish can lean on their defense to win games, but the offense needs to pickup its production if this team wants to make a BCS bowl. Notre Dame ranks 84th nationally in rushing offense, averaging 140.3 yards per game and 3.8 yards per rushing attempt. Three players have received a chunk of carries this season, with Theo Riddick leading the way with 242 yards on 63 attempts. As mentioned above with the quarterbacks, Miami’s defense isn’t exactly a shutdown group. The Hurricanes rank 112th nationally in run defense, which should ample opportunities for Notre Dame to establish its running backs. The Irish don’t need to rush for 300 yards, but getting consistent production from Cierre Wood and Riddick would reduce the pressure on Golson.

Final Analysis

With a struggling defense and a surging offense, Miami has been one of the most entertaining teams to watch over the last few weeks. However, the Hurricanes have yet to face a defense of Notre Dame’s caliber, which will be the difference in the game. Although the Irish aren’t a high-scoring offense right now, the opportunities will be there against a Miami defense that is struggling mightily.

The Hurricanes might make this one more interesting than some expect, but Notre Dame’s defense eventually puts the clamps on Morris and his receivers late in the game, while Golson and tight end Tyler Eifert have a big day against Miami’s defense.

Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Miami 24

 

by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

 

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Teaser:
<p> Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Miami Hurricanes Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Friday, October 5, 2012 - 05:43
Path: /college-football/college-football-award-watch-post-week-5
Body:

The Heisman Trophy isn’t the only award worth watching on a weekly basis. The Lombardi, Outland, Davey O’Brien and Biletnikoff races are all worth watching and debating as the season goes along.

Throughout the season, we’ll keep an eye on all the prominent position trophies through college football in addition to the Heisman.

If you’re looking for our thoughts on that other trophy, check our weekly Heisman poll.

OFFENSIVE AWARDS
Davey O’Brien (Top quarterback)
Our leader: Geno Smith, West Virginia
With 656 yards and eight touchdowns against Baylor last week, Smith’s season has gone from being simply prolific to potentially record-breaking. With 20 touchdowns in four games, he’s already on pace to break the single-season touchdown pass record set by Hawaii’s Colt Brennan (58) and the touchdown pass per game record set by Houston’s David Klingler (4.9). He has yet to throw an interception in 169 pass attempts.
Others: Kansas State’s Collin Klein, Florida State’s EJ Manuel, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, Georgia’s Aaron Murray

Doak Walker (Top running back)
Our leader: Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State
UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin and Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell have cooled. Though he’s near-automatic in the red zone, Marcus Lattimore has yet to dominate a game as he has in the past. Instead, let’s look toward Joseph Randle, who would have received more national attention had Oklahoma State upset Texas on Saturday. Randle rushed for 199 yards and two touchdowns on Texas, the most for a running back against the Longhorns defense since the finale of the 2010 season.
Others: Oregon’s Kenjon Barner, Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell, UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin, Nevada’s Stefphon Jefferson, South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore, Fresno State’s Robbie Rouse, Florida State’s Chris Thompson

Biletnikoff Award (Top wide receiver)
Our leader: Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
Bailey or Austin? Austin or Bailey? This week the nod goes to Stedman Bailey over teammate Tavon Austin after Bailey caught 13 passes for 303 yards and five touchdowns against Baylor. It was his second game with at least 13 catches and his third with at least 100 yards.
Others: West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, USC’s Marqise Lee, Oregon State’s Markus Wheaton, Baylor’s Terrance Williams

Mackey Award (Top tight end)
Our leader: Zach Ertz, Stanford
Noticing a trend? It appears the Mackey Award is going to find a home in the Pac-12 this season with contenders at Oregon, Washington and Arizona State. Despite the loss to Washington, Stanford’s Ertz caught six passes for 106 yards. Ertz also had the game-winning 37-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter in the win over USC.
Others: Arizona State’s Chris Coyle, Oregon’s Colt Lyerla, Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Outland Trophy (Top interior lineman)
Our leader: Barrett Jones, Alabama
Jones remains the top lineman in the country, but the Crimson Tide offense has room to improve. Alabama is averaging 4.73 yards per carry, 47th in the nation, and the Tide rank sixth in the SEC in sacks allowed. Alabama has an off week before three road games in four weeks.
Others: Texas A&M’s Luke Joekel, Rutgers’ Kaleb Johnson, Utah’s Star Lotulelei, Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews, Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt, Florida State’s Bjoern Werner

Rimington Trophy (Top center)
Our leader: Alabama’s Jones
Others: Kansas State’s B.J. Finney, Clemson’s Dalton Freeman

 

 


DEFENSIVE AWARDS
Bednarik Award/Nagurski Award (Defensive Player of the Year)
Our leader: Manti Te’o, Notre Dame
Notre Dame had an off week, so there wasn’t a chance for Te’o to build on his 38 tackles and three interceptions last week. Georgia’s Jarvis Jones (eight tackles) had a quiet game -- relatively speaking -- in the 51-44 track meet against Tennessee.
Others: Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks, Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, Utah’s Star Lotulelei, Florida State’s Bjoern Werner

Lombardi Award (Top lineman or linebacker)
Our leader: Te’o, Notre Dame
Others: UCLA’s Datone Jones, Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, Utah’s Star Lotulelei, Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore, Arizona State’s Will Sutton, Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt, BYU’s Kyle Van Noy, Maryland’s Joe Vellano, Florida State’s Bjeorn Werner

Butkus Award (Top linebacker)
Our leader: Te’o, Notre Dame
Others: USC’s Dion Bailey, Kansas State’s Arthur Brown, Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, Iowa State’s Jake Knott, Penn State’s Michael Mauti, Alabama’s C.J. Mosely, Connecticut’s Yawin Smallwood

Thorpe Award (Top defensive back)
Our leader: Dee Milliner, Alabama
With an interception and four pass breakups against Ole Miss, Milliner had his best game since the opener against Michigan. Milliner’s 2.75 pass defended per game (11 total) lead the nation.
Others: Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks, Texas’ Quandre Diggs, Oregon’s Iko Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon State’s Jordan Poyer


SPECIAL TEAMS AWARDS
Groza Award (Top kicker)

Our leader: Jeff Budzien, Northwestern
At 11 for 11, Budzien is the nation’s only perfect kicker among those with at least 10 attempts. Budzien converted attempts of 44, 34 and 29 yards in the win over Indiana last week.
Others: Clemson’s Chandler Catanzaro, Iowa’s Mike Meyer, Florida’s Caleb Sturgis

Ray Guy Award (Top punter)
Our leader: Texas A&M’s Ryan Epperson
Epperson averages 46.7 yards per kick on a team that leads the nation in net punting. The Aggies have faced only four punt returns on 17 kicks.
Others: Louisiana Tech’s Ryan Allen, Utah’s Sean Sellwood, LSU’s Brad Wing


OTHER NATIONAL AWARDS
Freshman of the Year
Our leader: Brett Hundley, UCLA
As running back Johnathan Franklin has cooled since back-to-back 200-yard games to start the season, Hundley has remained consistent in the last two games. He’s passed for 1,470 yards and 11 touchdowns while rushing for 165 yards and four touchdowns. He has a seven touchdown passes and no interceptions in three games against major conference teams (Nebraska, Oregon State, Colorado).
Others: Georgia’s Todd Gurley, Miami’s Duke Johnson, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon

Coach of the Year
Our leader: Mike Riley, Oregon State
No one expected much out of Oregon State to start the season, but the Beavers have arguably the best three wins through September with victories over Wisconsin, UCLA and Arizona.
Others: Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, Arizona State’s Todd Graham, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, UCLA’s Jim L. Mora

by David Fox

@davidfox615

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Teaser:
<p> College Football Award Watch: Post-Week 5</p>
Post date: Friday, October 5, 2012 - 05:16
All taxonomy terms: Boston Red Sox, MLB
Path: /mlb/5-candidates-replace-bobby-valentine-red-sox-manager
Body:

The tumultuous one-year tenure of Bobby Valentine in Boston is over. The Red Sox were awful under the polarizing manager, and the 2012 season was the first time the franchise had lost 90 or more games since 1966. There was constant turmoil between players and Valentine in the Boston clubhouse, as well as bickering between both parties in the media. The 69-93 campaign saw general manager Ben Cherington change the club’s philosophical direction by trading away veterans Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford. So now the focus turns to a new skipper, one who can clean up the current mess and get the Red Sox back to prosperity.

1. John Farrell, Toronto Blue Jays manager
His name has been hot in Boston for a while now, even though Farrell had led Toronto to a 154-170 record and two fourth-place finishes. The Red Sox former pitching coach from 2007-10 is obviously very familiar with the Red Sox staff and is very respected by team management. The big issue here is that Farrell has one year left on his deal with the Blue Jays, and they would have no desire to let him walk to an AL East rival without major compensation.

2. Mike Maddux, Texas Rangers pitching coach
He was not interested in interviewing for Boston job last year, but the dynamic in Texas may be changing after a late-season swoon. Many clubs hesitate to look at pitching coaches for the manager position, but Maddux is considered one of the best in the game. The Rangers have gone to two straight World Series after Maddux built up a quality staff, and he could do the same thing with a Boston group that finished 12th in the American League with a 4.70 ERA

3. Jason Varitek, Boston Red Sox special adviser
He played 15 years with the organization from 1997-2011, and the former catcher was an exemplary leader on both of Boston’s World Series winners in 2004 and 2007. Varitek was given the prestigious honor of being named Captain after the 2004 season, and his presence in the clubhouse would help end some of the internal issues that have plagued the Sox. While Tek has an obvious lack of managerial experience, front offices are finding success with hires like Mike Matheny and Robin Ventura.

4. Brad Ausmus, San Diego Padres special assistant
He would be another candidate much like Varitek, a well-respected former catcher who is looked at as a classic leader among his peers. Ausmus played in five postseasons with the Astros and was a clubhouse favorite during his 18 years in the big leagues. He grew up in Connecticut and went to college in New Hampshire (Dartmouth), so he knows the New England market and its rabid fans.

5. Dave Martinez, Tampa Bay Rays bench coach
He will get a managerial opportunity in the near future, and Boston could hire a quality leader while also hurting a division rival. Martinez was highly respected during his 16 MLB seasons, and working with one of the game’s top managers in Joe Maddon has to help his candidacy as well. His Rays experience could relate well to Boston’s new younger approach to the roster.
 

Teaser:
<p> 5 Candidates to replace Bobby Valentine as Red Sox Manager</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 4, 2012 - 16:50
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/top-6-candidates-baseballs-2012-manager-year
Body:

What a fascinating season 2012 proved to be. A Triple Crown, a division champion having spent just one day in first place and 19- and 20-year-olds taking the league by storm. As postseason baseball begins, it’s time to reflect on the season by showing off what would be my ballot for various awards. Today, I reveal the six skippers most deserving of Manager of the Year honors in the American and National League.

 
American League
Manager of the Year
1. Buck Showalter, Baltimore
Showalter pieced together a pitching staff that included 12 different starting pitchers and a stellar bullpen with no superstars.
 
2. Bob Melvin, Oakland
The A’s were the best team in baseball over the second half and won the AL West with an Opening Day payroll less than $53 million — considerably less than half of both the Rangers and Angels.
 
3. Robin Ventura, Chicago
The White Sox intimated that they expected 2012 to be a rebuilding year. Ventura had other plans.
 
 
 
National League
Manager of the Year
1. Davey Johnson, Washington
Johnson managed the team amid distractions from the front office that included the Stephen Strasburg debacle and has given the city postseason baseball for the first time since 1933.
 
2. Bruce Bochy, San Francisco
The even-keeled Bochy keeps delivering winners to the Bay Area, even though a certain rival committed an extra $300 million while the Giants lost a key cog to suspension.
 
3. Dusty Baker, Cincinnati
With his superstar sidelined and sketchy starting pitching, Baker and the Reds cruised to the NL Central title.
 
Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, October 4, 2012 - 14:52
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/6-players-most-likely-be-named-baseballs-rookie-year
Body:

What a fascinating season 2012 proved to be. A Triple Crown, a division champion having spent just one day in first place and 19- and 20-year-olds taking the league by storm. As postseason baseball begins, it’s time to reflect on the season by showing off what would be my ballot for various awards. Today, I reveal the six players most deserving of Rookie of the Year honors in the American and National League.

American League
Rookie of the Year
1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles
The youngster took the AL by storm and stole 49 bases while getting caught just five times. He scored 129 runs in just 139 games.
 
2. Yu Darvish, Texas
Averaged 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings and just 7.3 hits.
 
3. Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland
He missed 22 games in May, then hit .305 from June 1 on.
 
 
 
 
 
 
National League
Rookie of the Year
1. Bryce Harper, Washington
The young phenom is not a clear choice by any means. However, he has 98 runs and has hit .333 with a .394 OBP and .660 slugging since Aug. 24.
 
2. Norichika Aoki, Milwaukee
Expected to be the fourth outfielder, Aoki made just three starts in April. After he was inserted in the starting lineup on a regular basis May 21, the Brewers were 66-55.
 
3. Wade Miley, Arizona
The lefthander was 14-9 with a 2.85 at the end of August and appeared to have the inside track for Rookie of the Year. He finished 16-11 with a 3.33 ERA.
 
—Charlie Miller
Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, October 4, 2012 - 14:07

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