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Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-wide-receiver-rankings-week-6

When it comes to Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings for Week 6, the most important name may be one that’s not listed. Calvin Johnson has been a shell of his normal self the past two games, totaling just three catches for 19 yards. Johnson re-aggravated his ankle injury last week and has already said it will take a “lot of treatment” for him to play on Sunday. As hard as it is to bench a weapon like Johnson, the Lions may end up doing just that, which is why we did not rank Megatron this week. You have been warned. Unfortunately, Johnson’s not the only WR-related injury situation worth monitoring. A.J. Green reportedly re-aggravated a toe injury early in practice on Wednesday, resulting in him leaving the field on a cart. It’s still early when it comes to his game-day designation, but Green’s No. 10 ranking below is clearly a best-case scenario.


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 6 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers


Teams on bye: Kansas City, New Orleans


1Julio JonesATLvs. CHI
2Demaryius ThomasDENat NYJ
3Jordy NelsonGBat MIA
4Antonio BrownPITat CLE
5Jeremy MaclinPHIvs. NYG
6Alshon JefferyCHIat ATL
7Emmanuel SandersDENat NYJ
8Dez BryantDALat SEA
9Brandon MarshallCHIat ATL
10A.J. GreenCINvs. CAR
11Randall CobbGBat MIA
12Steve SmithBALat TB
13Vincent JacksonTBvs. BAL
14Golden TateDETat MIN
15Victor CruzNYGat PHI
16Pierre GarconWASat ARI
17Mike WallaceMIAvs. GB
18Roddy WhiteATLvs. CHI
19Michael FloydARIvs. WAS
20Percy HarvinSEAvs. DAL
21Reggie WayneINDat HOU (Thurs.)
22DeAndre HopkinsHOUvs. IND (Thurs.)
23DeSean JacksonWASat ARI
24Andre JohnsonHOUvs. IND (Thurs.)
25T.Y. HiltonINDat HOU (Thurs.)
26Julian EdelmanNEat BUF
27Keenan AllenSDat OAK
28Kelvin BenjaminCARat CIN
29Brian QuickSTLvs. SF (Mon.)
30Wes WelkerDENat NYJ
31Larry FitzgeraldARIvs. WAS
32Kendall WrightTENvs. JAC
33Michael CrabtreeSFat STL (Mon.)
34Terrance WilliamsDALat SEA
35Sammy WatkinsBUFvs. NE
36Justin HunterTENvs. JAC
37Rueben RandleNYGat PHI
38James JonesOAKvs. SD
39Cordarrelle PattersonMINvs. DET
40Eric DeckerNYJvs. DEN
41Anquan BoldinSFat STL (Mon.)
42Mohamed SanuCINvs. CAR
43Torrey SmithBALat TB
44Andrew HawkinsCLEvs. PIT
45Greg JenningsMINvs. DET
46Allen HurnsJACat TEN
47Markus WheatonPITat CLE
48Odell Beckham Jr.NYGat PHI

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points


Need more fantasy help? Visit 

Fantasy Football 2014 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 6
Post date: Thursday, October 9, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-tight-end-rankings-week-6

Jimmy Graham, the best tight end in the NFL, is on bye in Week 6, but it’s the player that held the title previously that’s making the most waves in Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings. After somewhat of a slow start in his return from a serious knee injury, Rob Gronkowski has caught a touchdown pass in each of the past three games and is coming off of his best game (6-100-1) yet.  As well as Gronk has played recently; we’re still not quite ready to put him at No. 1. Not with Graham on bye (hopefully giving him enough time to recover from a shoulder injury that knocked him out of last week’s game early) and Julius Thomas leading the league in touchdown catches (seven). Graham and Thomas also share co-billing as fantasy’s No. 1 TE (Athlon scoring), although Gronk (eighth) is slowly climbing his way up the standings.


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 6 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends


Teams on bye: Kansas City, New Orleans


1Julius ThomasDENat NYJ
2Rob GronkowskiNEat BUF
3Greg OlsenCARat CIN
4Delanie WalkerTENvs. JAC
5Martellus BennettCHIat ATL
6Antonio GatesSDat OAK
7Larry DonnellNYGat PHI
8Jason WittenDALat SEA
9Vernon DavisSFat STL (Mon.)
10Owen DanielsBALat TB
11Jordan CameronCLEvs. PIT
12Dwayne AllenINDat HOU (Thurs.)
13Zach ErtzPHIvs. NYG
14Heath MillerPITat CLE
15Jared CookSTLvs. SF (Mon.)
16Austin Seferian-JenkinsTBvs. BAL
17Tim WrightNEat BUF
18Charles ClayMIAvs. GB
19Garrett GrahamHOUvs. IND (Thurs.)
20Coby FleenerINDat HOU (Thurs.)
21Jordan ReedWASat ARI
22Niles PaulWASat ARI
23Eric EbronDETat MIN
24Clay HarborJACat TEN

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points


Need more fantasy help? Visit 

Fantasy Football 2014 Tight End Rankings: Week 6
Post date: Thursday, October 9, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-6

San Diego was not the top-scoring fantasy DST last week, but it’s the combination of the Chargers’ most recent game and their next opponent that has this unit ranked No. 1 in Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Defense/Special Teams Rankings for Week 6. The Chargers shut out the Jets last week and have scored 11 or more fantasy points (Athlon scoring) in all but one game. On top of this consistency, San Diego will take on Oakland, which has already fired its head coach, has questions at quarterback and is yielding the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing DSTs. How can you not get Charged up about San Diego’s DST this week?


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 6 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams


Teams on bye: Kansas City, New Orleans


1San Diego Chargersat OAK
2Cincinnati Bengalsvs. CAR
3San Francisco 49ersat STL (Mon.)
4Detroit Lionsat MIN
5Seattle Seahawksvs. DAL
6Denver Broncosat NYJ
7Baltimore Ravensat TB
8Arizona Cardinalsvs. WAS
9Tennessee Titansvs. JAC
10Philadelphia Eaglesvs. NYG
11New England Patriotsat BUF
12Buffalo Billsvs. NE
13Carolina Panthersat CIN
14St. Louis Ramsvs. SF (Mon.)
15Houston Texansvs. IND (Thurs.)
16Pittsburgh Steelersat CLE

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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


Need more fantasy help? Visit 

Fantasy Football 2014 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 6
Post date: Thursday, October 9, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-kicker-rankings-week-6

It’s been somewhat of a slow start, but Stephen Gostkowski finally looked the part of fantasy’s No. 1 kicker last week, resulting in a bump in Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Kicker Rankings for Week 6. Gostkowski, who tied for the league lead with 38 made field goals last season and led all kickers in fantasy points (Athlon scoring), really came through for his owners this past week. In New England’s 43-17 rout of Cincinnati, Gostkowski nailed all five of his field goal attempts and 4 PATs for season-high 21 fantasy points. With that performance he ascended into the top spot at his position in fantasy points. The only kicker ranked higher than Gostkowski this week is San Diego’s Nick Novak. And that’s mainly because the Chargers take on the lowly Raiders. Matchups count when it comes to kickers too.


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 6 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers


Teams on bye: Kansas City, New Orleans


1Nick NovakSDat OAK
2Stephen GostkowskiNEat BUF
3Dan BaileyDALat SEA
4Adam VinatieriINDat HOU (Thurs.)
5Cody ParkeyPHIvs. NYG
6Justin TuckerBALat TB
7Phil DawsonSFat STL (Mon.)
8Brandon McManusDENat NYJ
9Chandler CatanzaroARIvs. WAS
10Steven HauschkaSEAvs. DAL
11Dan CarpenterBUFvs. NE
12Matt BryantATLvs. CHI
13Shaun SuishamPITat CLE
14Mason CrosbyGBat MIA
15Robbie GouldCHIat ATL
16Randy BullockHOUvs. IND (Thurs.)

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Fantasy Football 2014 Kicker Rankings: Week 6
Post date: Thursday, October 9, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /nba/houston-rockets-dallas-mavericks-renew-rivalry-preseason

Paul Pierce set a hell of a tone for the NBA preseason when he poked the Chicago Bulls’ Joakim Noah in the forehead. “We’re going to be the instigators,” he said of . After more unusually physical play throughout the game, Wizards big man Dejuan Blair went on to compare the team’s deep, bulky frontcourt to that of the brash, roundly hated Detroit Pistons “Bad Boys” teams of a quarter century ago.

Animosity and antagonism continued in the next day of the preseason — this time in Dallas, where the Mavericks hosted their unsavory state rival, the Houston Rockets. Geography has always made the teams natural rivals, but in recent years their tension has grown to soap opera proportions.


Rockets GM Daryl Morey heated the bad blood between the two sides by , in 2013. Cuban wasn’t amused by the breach of etiquette, and he didn’t forget. This past July, the Mavs owner roped Chandler Parsons away from Houston by offering the restricted free agent a contract the Rockets had to refuse. The deal was designed as a poison pill to the Rockets’ salary cap — it was plus-sized and loaded with unwieldy clauses — and Morey didn't match it, letting his prized forward walk to Houston's in-state adversary.

Parsons is now the Helen of Texas — a figure who’s come to symbolize the volcano of hate between these teams. His friend and ex-teammate James Harden said, shortly after Parsons’ departure, that Later that week, Parsons had this to say:


The game between the two teams Tuesday night was a continuation of their long quarrel. A lot of body-checking and flaring tempers led to a ludicrous 81 combined fouls on Houston and Dallas. Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley could be seen knocking Parsons to the hardwood. Things came to a nervy ending when Rockets rookie Kostas Panikolaou made some big free throws to seal a narrow 111-108 Rockets road victory. 


— John Wilmes


Post date: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 14:00
Path: /college-football/how-could-each-college-footballs-final-10-undefeated-teams-slip

If we learned anything from a wild Week 6, it’s that every team is vulnerable end every team is flawed.


Only 10 teams remain undefeated entering the second Saturday in October. Last week was only a reminder at how fragile those unbeaten records are.


The final 10 undefeated teams all have enough issues that could lead to their first losses of the season, perhaps as soon as this week.


Here are the issues and games that could trip up each of the final unbeaten teams.




Fatal Flaw: Luck

Arizona is 5-0 thanks to four consecutive one-score wins. A win at Autzen can’t be understated, but the Wildcats beat UTSA by 3, Nevada by 7 and Cal by 4 on a Hail Mary. Arizona also played Oregon with its offensive line in shambles. Not that Arizona won’t be a factor in the Pac-12 race, but the Wildcats may be a team playing above its heads for now.


When will Arizona lose its first game?

Staff PicksDavid FoxBraden GallSteven Lassan
First Lossat UCLAat UCLAat UCLA
DateNov. 1Nov. 1Nov. 1



Fatal flaw: Dropped passes

Auburn is an improved passing team from last season already, which should be a scary thought for the rest of the SEC West since dropped passes from receivers wiped at least one touchdown off the board against Kansas State. Misfires in the passing game have contributed to Nick Marshall completing 57.9 percent of his passes this season.


When will Auburn lose its first game?

Staff PicksDavid FoxBraden GallSteven Lassan
First Lossat Alabamaat Mississippi Stateat Georgia
DateNov. 29Oct. 11Nov. 15




Fatal flaw: Kicking

Baylor has been automatic on extra points, but Chris Callahan has missed five consecutive field goals since connecting on his first attempt this season for 23 yards. Three of his five misses have been less than 40 yards, including a blocked 37-yarder against SMU.


Also worth watching: Baylor is among the most penalized teams in the country, losing 80 yards per game to flags. Baylor has picked up at least 10 penalties in four of five games this season. Will it matter? Baylor was the most penalized team in the country in 2013 and still finished 11-2. In those loses Baylor was penalized three times (Oklahoma State) and 17 times (Baylor).


When will Baylor lose its first game?

Staff PicksDavid FoxBraden GallSteven Lassan
First Lossat Oklahomaat West Virginiaat Oklahoma
DateNov. 8Oct. 18Nov. 8


Florida State


Fatal flaw: Field position

Florida State has given up more short fields than any other undefeated team. The Seminoles rank 50th nationally in field position advantage, . No other undefeated team ranks lower than 34th. In non-garbage time possessions against Florida State, opponents are getting the ball on average at their own 32. Only nine teams have given up more short-field possessions. Florida State ranks 96th nationally in net punting as Cason Beatty averages 38.8 yards per kick. This should be a concern for a team that gave Auburn two short fields in last season’s title game.


When will Florida State lose its first game?

Staff PicksDavid FoxBraden GallSteven Lassan
First LossNotre DamePlayoffPlayoff
DateOct. 18----


Georgia Tech


Fatal flaw: Run defense

Only seven defenses have been on the field less than Georgia Tech this year. That’s good news for any team, but especially for the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech is last in the ACC in yards allowed per play (6.6). The Yellow Jackets need their offense to sustain long drives because its defense can’t stop the run.


When will Georgia Tech lose its first game?

Staff PicksDavid FoxBraden GallSteven Lassan
First Lossat Pittsburghat Pittsburghat Pittsburgh
DateOct. 25Oct. 25Oct. 25




Fatal flaw: Turnovers

Marshall leads Conference USA in a handful of categories, so its pedestrian turnover margin (plus-1) stands out. Marshall turned the ball over three times against Rhode Island and Old Dominion, two teams not capable of capitalizing.


When will Marshall lose its first game?

Staff PicksDavid FoxBraden GallSteven Lassan
First LossCUSA champ gameNoneNone
DateDec. 6----


Ole Miss


Fatal flaw: Interceptions

Only two SEC teams have thrown more interceptions this season than Ole Miss’ six picks. Granted, the Rebels are interception-free in two SEC wins over Alabama and Vanderbilt. Has Bo Wallace turned a corner or will the turnover problems resurface for a quarterback who threw 27 total interceptions in 2012-13?


When will Ole Miss lose its first game?

Staff PicksDavid FoxBraden GallSteven Lassan
First LossAuburnat Texas A&MAuburn
DateNov. 1Oct. 11Nov. 1


Mississippi State


Fatal flaw: Big pass plays

Mississippi State has give up 23 passing plays longer than 20 yards, tied with Georgia for the most in the league and in one fewer game. In Mississippi State’s closest game to date, UAB scored on touchdown passes for 88, 81 and 75 yards.


When will Mississippi State lose its first game?

Staff PicksDavid FoxBraden GallSteven Lassan
First LossAuburnat AlabamaAuburn
DateOct. 11Nov. 15Oct. 11

Notre Dame


Fatal flaw: Run game

If Notre Dame can beat Stanford despite a lackluster run game, maybe this isn’t a major concern. Still, Notre Dame is averaging only 4.2 per carry and has only two rushing touchdowns coming from tailbacks (the other four are from quarterback Everett Golson). Throw out the season opener against Rice, and Notre Dame is averaging 3.4 yards per carry in its last four games.


When will Notre Dame lose its first game?

Staff PicksDavid FoxBraden GallSteven Lassan
First Lossat Arizona Stateat Florida Stateat Florida State
DateNov. 8Oct. 18Oct. 18



Fatal flaw: Pass defense

TCU has played one team with the ability to stretch the ball downfield, and Oklahoma took advantage. TCU gave up three pass plays of 40 yards or more against the Sooners, not a great sign for a team about to visit Baylor.


When will TCU lose its first game?

Staff PicksDavid FoxBraden GallSteven Lassan
First Lossat Baylorat Baylorat Baylor
DateOct. 11Oct. 11Oct. 11
How Could Each of College Football's Final 10 Undefeated Teams Slip Up
Post date: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 13:49
Path: /nfl/8-nfl-teams-desperate-need-great-quarterback
As good as the Seattle Seahawks defense was last season, they don’t win the Super Bowl without Russell Wilson, who only now is beginning to get the recognition he deserves. And look how Peyton Manning transformed the Denver Broncos, or what Andrew Luck is doing in Indianapolis.
Having a top quarterback, a franchise quarterback, is everything for an NFL team. And if you don’t believe that, just look at the teams that don’t have one. Either they have no realistic shot at competing for a championship, or worse – they’re just a mess.
At the moment there are at least eight teams in a somewhat desperate need for a quarterback, either now or in the future. Here’s a look at those eight and their current quarterback condition. The good news is many of them will be in contention for a Top 5 draft pick where Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or maybe Florida State’s Jameis Winston could be the answer to their prayers:

Buffalo Bills

The benching of E.J. Manuel in his second NFL season in favor of well-travelled vet Kyle Orton is a huge indictment of the former first-round pick. His decidedly mediocre numbers and poor decision making didn’t bode well for a coach (Doug Marrone) who may have to answer soon to a new owner. Manuel wasn’t exactly thought of as a once-in-a-generation QB when he was taken, so nobody would be surprised if the Bills look elsewhere again next season if they can.

New York Jets

Owner Woody Johnson just expressed his faith in Geno Smith as a franchise quarterback, but then he went out and missed a team meeting (inexcusable for someone in his position) and played so poorly in San Diego he got benched for Michael Vick. He makes terrible decisions on the field, can’t seem to handle the pressure or the responsibility off it, and is now a huge target of the New York media. A new coach is surely on his way next season. May as well let him rebuild with someone else running his offense.

Houston Texans

They are 3-2 behind the 31-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick and they have two young, somewhat promising quarterbacks sitting behind him in Ryan Mallet and Tom Savage. But both have plenty of question marks and may not be the long-term answer.  The Texans are not winning because of Fitzpatrick who has more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (five). If they had a real quality quarterback they’d probably be 4-1 at least. At some point, coach Bill O’Brien will have to start over with his own guy.

Tennessee Titans

If Jake Locker could only stay healthy, maybe he’d look like a franchise quarterback. Then again, maybe not. In his fourth season already he’s put together numbers that would add up to a good, but not exactly great season. Maybe the ability is there, but a franchise can’t be led by a quarterback on the sidelines. Time for the Titans to move on.

Washington Redskins

They have maybe the most interesting quarterback situation in the league, with the dangerous and explosive Robert Griffin III constantly getting hurt and Kirk Cousins showing flashes of brilliance, followed by flashes of inconsistency. They’ll obviously have to make a choice between the two, but what about choosing none of them? They could probably trade both for picks and start over with someone that fits Jay Gruden’s system better than either of them do.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

To everyone outside the organization, Mike Glennon looks like the future. But inside he sure didn’t seem to win any friends in Lovie Smith’s regime early. Finally they reversed their crazy decision to start Josh McCown at the beginning of the season and Glennon has shown promise. But if the coach doesn’t fully believe in him, can he really succeed?

Arizona Cardinals

They’re not desperate for a quarterback there, but obviously Bruce Arians has built a solid team and one that could be well set up for the future. The problem? Carson Palmer will turn 35 in December and Drew Stanton, a limited backup, is 30. Maybe they can squeeze another couple of years out of Palmer, but at some point they need to start planning for future years. They’re probably too good to get a high draft pick, but if they have a chance and have a conviction on a first-rounder, they should pounce.

St. Louis Rams

Maybe no franchise quarterback has had worse injury luck than Sam Bradford, who has now suffered back to back ACL tears. Behind him on the depth chart is vet Shaun Hill and undrafted Austin Davis. Though Davis has shown some ability, the Rams are going to get a high pick this year and they’d be wise to take advantage and move on.
—By Ralph Vacchiano
Post date: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 12:37
Path: /nfl/cleveland-comeback-makes-history

Johnny Football couldn’t help but laugh on the sideline when the Browns fell behind 28–3 on the road at Tennessee following a 75-yard touchdown strike from Charlie Whitehurst to Justin Hunter late in the second quarter.

“Down 28–3,” said first-year Cleveland coach Mike Pettine, “I think you could term how we were playing ‘laughable.’ But I don’t know the context of (Manziel’s reaction).”

Even in a baseball cap on the sideline, the cameras are always on Johnny Manziel, the Heisman Trophy-winning TMZ star rookie out of Texas A&M. But rarely has the spotlight shined on the Cleveland Browns since the team re-emerged as an expansion franchise in 1999.

And rarely have these Browns been on the right side of recent history, with a 77–163 record (.321 winning percentage) and only one playoff appearance over the 15 seasons from 1999-2013, not to mention seven different head coaches — including last season’s one-and-done hire Rob Chudzinski — prior to Pettine taking over this year.

But everyone associated with the Browns had reason to laugh, smile and dance — which the Dawg Pound locker room certainly did in a video that has since gone viral — following an unbelievable 29–28 come-from-behind win at Tennessee.

“I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I knew we were going to come back and win the game,” said Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer, who has a 5–2 record as a starter. “But I knew we would fight until the clock said zero.”

The Browns’ 25-point comeback is the largest deficit ever overcome by a road team. And for the Oilers-Titans franchise, the meltdown in Music City brings back memories of the 1993 collapse of the Houston Oilers, who infamously lost a 35–3 lead to the Buffalo Bills.

“It brings you together even closer,” said Hoyer. “And just knowing that 53 guys fought their butts off to accomplish something that’s never been done in NFL history. I think it’s definitely something special.”

Hoyer completed 21-of-37 passes for 292 yards and three touchdowns — highlighted by a go-ahead six-yard scoring strike to wideout Travis Benjamin with 1:09 remaining — en route to leading the Browns to their first road win since Sept. 22, 2013, at Minnesota.

Understandably, Titans first-year coach Ken Whisenhunt has taken heat following the unprecedented defeat. Specifically, critics have questioned the coach’s decision to go for it on fourth down from Tennessee’s own 42-yard-line with a 28–22 lead and 3:03 to play. Whisenhunt called for a quarterback sneak from Charlie Whitehurst, who was stuffed by Cleveland’s defense.

“Had we blocked it correctly, we would have made it,” said Whisenhunt. “We didn’t come off the ball correctly. We weren’t ready. We didn’t have a sense of urgency there.”

Instead, the Browns improved to 2–2 this year, while Hoyer posted his third two-minute game-winning drive, something even Johnny Football can’t scoff at.

But Hoyer’s postgame dance-party celebration? Now that’s funny.

“I want to go out and have fun,” said Hoyer. “You never know when it’s going to be taken away from you. To celebrate a victory with my teammates, I don’t care how goofy I look.”

Post date: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 11:22
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-october-8-2014

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 8:


. We approve.






• Clayton Kershaw has not exactly enhanced his legend this postseason, . One theory holds that .


In his defense, Pinterest really is a chick thing, isn't it?


• Whoa — Has Phyllis from Mulga heard about this?










• See if this pregame speech from the Georgia Tech chaplain doesn't make you want to run through a brick wall.



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

Post date: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 10:58
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-20-breakout-players-after-week-6-2014-season

Each college football season, a handful of new players become household names. Most of the breakout players start the year as unknowns or as hyped recruits by a fanbase, but by the end of a year, those players are on the radar for college football fans across the nation.

Athlon tries to project the breakout players every offseason, but each person has a different take on how to define or categorize breakout players.


With six weeks in the books, it’s time to evaluate the breakout players as the second half of 2014 approaches.

Whether it’s quarterbacks like NC State’s Jacoby Brissett, Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett or Pittsburgh running back James Conner, there are handful of players emerging as superstars as the season hits the halfway point.

Here are 20 names to know, along with a handful of others so far in 2014:


20 College Football Breakout Players After Week 6


Devon Allen, WR, Oregon

Despite a lot of turnover in the receiving corps this offseason, Oregon’s high-powered offense hasn’t missed a beat. Allen emerged as quarterback Marcus Mariota’s go-to receiver, catching 19 passes for 377 yards (19.8 ypc) and six scores. The redshirt freshman’s elite speed is valuable for the Ducks to stretch the field, and Allen has two receptions of at least 70 yards in 2014.


J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State

Losing Braxton Miller was a huge early-season setback for Ohio State’s offense, but the Buckeyes are starting to fire on all cylinders at the right time. Over the last three games, Ohio State’s offense is averaging 623.7 yards per game and has scored at least 50 points in each contest during that span. Barrett’s play has been critical to the development of the Buckeyes’ offense, as he has 14 touchdowns over the last three games and has tossed only one pick on his last 67 passes. And in another positive sign of Barrett’s development: He’s completed at least 72 percent of his throws in three straight games.


Trevone Boykin, QB, TCU

As long as Gary Patterson is on the sidelines in Fort Worth, it’s safe to assume TCU is going to have one of the Big 12’s best defenses. However, the Horned Frogs struggled to find consistency on offense in recent years and lost four games by three points in 2013. Needing to inject a quick fix for the offense, Patterson turned to Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie as his new coordinators. And the Meacham/Cumbie hires are proving to be huge for the Horned Frogs, as TCU ranks second in the Big 12 by averaging 42.8 points per game. Boykin wasn’t guaranteed the starting job this offseason, but the junior has been nearly flawless through four games. Boykin has completed 61.5 percent of his throws and has 1,176 passing yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014. Boykin is clearly one of the nation’s most-improved passers this year.


Jacoby Brissett, QB, NC State

Brissett nearly guided NC State to an upset over Florida State, but the Florida transfer is off to a fast start in his Wolfpack debut. The junior ranks third among ACC quarterbacks with 1,399 yards and is tied with Miami freshman Brad Kaaya for the conference lead (13) in touchdown passes. Brissett completed over 66 percent of his passes through his first four games and has just one interception on 185 attempts.


James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh

Conner finished 2013 on a tear, rushing for 229 yards on 26 attempts in the bowl victory over Bowling Green. The sophomore carried that momentum into 2014, gashing his first four opponents for at least 153 yards in each contest. Opposing defenses in the last two games has slowed Conner and the Pittsburgh rushing attack, as the sophomore has not topped 100 yards in either outing. However, Conner’s 873 yards ranks second in the nation, while his nine rushing scores are tied for third nationally.


Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

Garrett was one of the top incoming recruits for the 2014 signing class and hasn’t disappointed for Texas A&M. The true freshman is physically ready for the challenge of playing in the trenches in the SEC, recording 30 tackles (eight for a loss) and 6.5 sacks. By recording two sacks over the next six games, Garrett will set a SEC record for the most sacks by a true freshman.


Jared Goff, QB, California

Injuries and coaching transition equaled a disappointing 1-11 start to Sonny Dykes’ tenure at California last year. But the Golden Bears have showed marked improvement in 2014, as they lead the Pac-12 North with a 2-1 mark in conference play after six weeks. In addition to better luck with injuries, combined with improvement on defense, California’s offense is a big reason why this team could be the nation’s biggest surprise in 2014. Goff has thrown for 1,875 yards and 22 scores through five games, and his 375 yards per game mark ranks second in the Pac-12.


Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State

Goldman started 13 games in 2013, but the junior is playing at an even higher level in 2014. Through five games, the defensive tackle has 15 stops (3.5 for a loss) and two sacks. Goldman also forced a fumble with less than two minutes to go against Clemson, preventing the Tigers from getting into scoring range and winning in Tallahassee earlier this year. Goldman won’t post huge numbers, but he’s ready to live up to the hype as a five-star high school recruit.

Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma

“Optimus Perime” has emerged as Oklahoma’s No. 1 back this year. A leg injury sidelined Keith Ford after the third game, and Perine has rushed for 329 yards and seven scores over the last two contests. The true freshman will likely relinquish some carries when Ford returns, but at 243 pounds, Perine is tough to keep off the field when Oklahoma wants to establish its ground attack.


Shane Ray, DE, Missouri

Replacing standouts on the defensive line is nothing new for coordinator Dave Steckel and line coach Craig Kuligowski. And despite losing Michael Sam and Kony Ealy to the NFL, Missouri’s defensive line is just as effective as it was in 2013. The Tigers rank third in the SEC with 17 sacks and are tied for fourth with 35 tackles for a loss. Ray has a sack in four consecutive games, including two in Missouri’s road win at South Carolina.


Josh Robinson, RB, Mississippi State

We could list quarterback Dak Prescott here, but Robinson fits our “breakout” criteria better since he never rushed for at least 500 yards in a season – until 2014. The junior has emerged as a perfect complement to Prescott this year, averaging 7.5 yards per carry on 79 attempts. Robinson has three 100-yard efforts in his last five games, including 197 in a huge road win at LSU.


Dan Skipper, OT, Arkansas

The improved play in the trenches is a big reason why the Razorbacks are showing progress in coach Bret Bielema’s second year. Skipper worked his way into the starting lineup as a true freshman last season, starting the final eight games of 2013. The sophomore anchors the left tackle spot in 2014 and is a big reason why Arkansas leads the SEC with five runs of 50 yards or more and ranks seventh nationally by recording 316.6 rushing yards per game.


Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame

Notre Dame’s defense hasn’t played a gauntlet of elite offenses so far in 2014, but the Fighting Irish are holding opponents to just 12 points a game and just 4.7 yards per play. Despite personnel losses up front, new coordinator Brian VanGorder has managed to keep the Fighting Irish’s defense among the nation’s best. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a standout linebacker like Smith. The sophomore leads Notre Dame with 45 tackles (6.5 for a loss) and has two sacks through five games. Smith could be an All-American by the end of 2014.


Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona

Arizona began spring practice with seven quarterbacks vying for the starting job. After an extended battle into the fall, Solomon emerged as the No. 1 quarterback. So far, the redshirt freshman has not disappointed. The Wildcats are 5-0 and the only undefeated team in the Pac-12 South. Solomon has passed for 1,741 yards and 14 scores and has tossed only four picks on 206 attempts. He also has 167 rushing yards on 51 attempts. Solomon has completed at least 64 percent of his throws in three consecutive starts.


Nelson Spruce, WR, Colorado

No Paul Richardson? No problem. Spruce has emerged as a capable replacement for Richardson and is the favorite target for Colorado’s rising star quarterback Sefo Liufau. Spruce leads the nation with 62 receptions and ranks third with 732 receiving yards. The junior also leads the nation with 10 touchdown receptions and has caught at least 10 passes in three games this season. Coming into 2014, Spruce had just seven career touchdown catches.


Justin Thomas, QB, Georgia Tech

At 5-0, Georgia Tech is probably the biggest surprise from the nation’s 10 remaining unbeatens. The Yellow Jackets’ option attack has operated smoothly with Thomas at the helm, as the sophomore has rushed for 470 yards and three rushing scores. Thomas also has seven passing scores and averages 18.4 yards per completion. As long as Thomas executes the necessary reads to run the option, and utilizes his legs to make plays on the ground, the sophomore should have Georgia Tech squarely in the mix to win the Coastal this year.


Kemoko Turay, DL, Rutgers

Turay is a key cog in Rutgers’ defensive line, as the redshirt freshman leads the team with 5.5 sacks and ranks second with 5.5 tackles for a loss. Turay also leads the nation with three blocked kicks (including one to preserve the win over Michigan) and has 12 tackles through the first six games.


More Breakout Players from 2014


Budda Baker, S, Washington

Promising true freshman is a future star in Seattle. Baker has 26 stops and three pass breakups through Washington’s first five games.


Quin Blanding, S, Virginia

Blanding has lived up to the hype as a five-star recruit early in his career. The true freshman leads Virginia with 61 tackles and has recorded four pass breakups and one interception.


Devontae Booker, RB, Utah

Booker has provided a spark for Utah’s ground attack, averaging 5.8 yards per carry on 88 attempts this year. The junior college recruit has 513 yards (No. 5 in Pac-12) and four rushing scores.


KD Cannon, WR, Baylor

Standout true freshman averages 21.9 yards per reception. Leads Baylor with five touchdown tosses through five games.

Senquez Golson, CB, Ole Miss
Golson made 10 starts last year, but the senior is off to arguably the best start in his career. Through five games, he has 17 stops and four interceptions, including the game-winning pick to beat Alabama in Week 6.


DaeSean Hamilton, WR, Penn State

Hamilton – a redshirt freshman – leads the team with 36 receptions for 502 yards in 2014.


Tyreek Hill, RB/WR, Oklahoma State
Hill is the definition of a true all-purpose threat. The junior college recruit has 196 rushing yards, 131 receiving yards on 14 catches, 15 punt returns and averages 23.4 yards per kickoff return.


Xavien Howard, CB, Baylor

Howard headlines Baylor’s revamped secondary, as the sophomore has recorded 16 tackles, two interceptions and 10 passes defended through five games.

Jojo Kemp/Braylon Heard, RB, Kentucky

Heard and Kemp are two of Kentucky’s rising stars at the skill positions, and both players have energized a rushing attack that ranked near the bottom of the SEC in 2013. Heard averages 8.1 yards per carry, while Kemp boasts a 5.7 mark on 50 carries.


Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern

True freshman has emerged as a capable replacement for Venric Mark. Leads the team with 396 yards on 89 attempts.


Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami

The talent is there – the true freshman just needs more snaps. Has tossed at least two picks in four out of Miami’s six games in 2014.


Peter Kalambayi, LB, Stanford

Stanford’s defense hasn’t missed a beat under new coordinator Lance Anderson, and Kalambayi (16 tackles, 5 TFL, 4 sacks) has been a key cog in the pass rush.


William Likely, CB, Maryland

Likely has been one of Maryland’s top defenders through its first six games, helping the Terrapins to hold their first two Big Ten opponents to just four passing scores on 61 attempts. The sophomore has recorded 42 stops, one sack and three interceptions. Likely also has one forced fumble and averages 22 yards per punt return.


Cam Serigne, TE, Wake Forest

Serigne has been one of the few bright spots from Wake Forest’s offense this year. The freshman has 29 catches for 282 yards and one score.


Vincent Valentine, DT, Nebraska

Valentine helps to anchor Nebraska’s rush defense, which is holding opponents to 3.8 yards per carry. The sophomore has 16 tackles (four for a loss) and two sacks through five games.


D’haquille Williams, WR, Auburn

Williams was considered one of the top junior college recruits in the nation and hasn’t disappointed through five games. The junior has 25 receptions for 385 yards and three scores so far this year.


Shaun Wilson, RB, Duke

Only has 36 attempts but has made the most of his opportunities (12.1 ypc).

College Football's Top 20 Breakout Players After Week 6 2014 Season
Post date: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/expert-poll-week-6-heisman-trophy-voting

Athlon Sports has formed a Heisman Trophy committee. Each week, we will ask 13 members of the national college football media to rank their top candidates for the Heisman Trophy.


Each voter will rank their top five candidates, with each first-place vote getting five points and each last-place vote getting one point.


The Panel:


, FOX Sports

, Big Ten Network 

, CBS Sports

, SBNation

, Sports Illustrated


, Big Ten Network

, Bleacher Report, B/R Radio


, Athlon Sports

Athlon Sports

, Athlon Sports

, Athlon Sports, SiriusXM


The Results:


1.Todd Gurley59841--
2.Dak Prescott55562--
3.Marcus Mariota31-2451
4.Everett Golson13-1122
5.Nick Marshall12--222
6.Melvin Gordon11--213
7.Amari Cooper10--131
8t.Ameer Abdullah1----1
8t.Shaq Thompson1----1
8t.Shane Carden1----1
8t.Jared Goff1----1

Dropped out: Kenny Hill, Taysom Hill, Brett Hundley, Bryce Petty


Listen to the Week 6 recap podcast:

Subscribe: |

The Top 3:

1. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

Against an overmatched opponent (Vanderbilt), Gurley rushed for 163 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns. He caught two passes for 24 yards and added a 50-yard completion from the Wildcat formation for good measure. After six weeks, Gurley leads the SEC in rushing (773 yds), yards per game (154.6 ypg), and rushing touchdowns (8), and he is second in yards per carry (8.2). A revenge game against a tough Missouri defensive front in Columbia is key for Gurley’s Heisman chances and Georgia’s SEC East hopes.


2. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State

The biggest mover in the Heisman conversation is Mississippi State’s star quarterback. Prescott completed 20-of-26 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns to go with 23 carries for 77 yards and three scores on the ground in the Bulldogs' convincing 48-31 victory over then-No. 6 Texas A&M. In two wins over top 10 teams in the last two games, Prescott has 527 yards passing, 182 yards rushing and eight total touchdowns. He gets another top 10 team at home this weekend in No. 2 Auburn. He’s leading the SEC in passing efficiency (180.69) and is leading all SEC QBs with 455 yards rushing and six touchdowns.


3. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Mariota still leads the nation in passing efficiency at an absurd clip (202.35) but his loss on Thursday night to Arizona at home was crippling to his Heisman chances. He threw for 276 yards and two touchdowns, but had just one yard rushing on nine carries. For the season, he’s got 1,411 yards passing and 15 touchdowns with no interceptions while rushing for 215 yards and three more scores. His numbers are still spectacular but Oregon likely needs to run the table and win the Pac-12 to get Mariota to New York.

Expert Poll: Week 6 Heisman Trophy Voting
Post date: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 09:15
Path: /nba/paul-pierce-teaching-washington-wizards-how-talk-trash

The Washington Wizards broke out of prolonged mediocrity in 2013-14, surprising many with their first-round playoff dismissal of the Chicago Bulls, and subsequent hard-fought loss to the Indiana Pacers. Over the summer, they lost integral wingman Trevor Ariza, but replaced him with a legend: Paul Pierce.


The former Boston Celtics star and future Hall of Famer is having an immediate influence on Wizards culture. Asked about his arrival, 21-year-old , “I think I trash talk a little bit more than I used to. He’s that swagger type of guy that we need.”


Fans who watched Pierce’s preseason debut against the Bulls monday night () should hardly be surprised by this rhetoric. Pierce delivered a questionable open-court foul against Jimmy Butler in the game’s early stages, then got into a scuffle with reigning Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah. Pierce ended up poking the wily center in the face:


This sort of behavior is, as you may have suspected, not exactly common in exhibition games. But Pierce is an elder statesman now, and he appears not to be wasting any time bringing a new, harsher edge to this Wizards squad, a team he thinks can reach the NBA Finals. :


“They have one of the best backcourts in basketball. They’re lacking experience, a guy in the locker room and on the court that can help end games. I was like, I probably can fit in. After LeBron said he was going back to Cleveland, the dynamics of the Eastern Conference, with Indiana, I was like, this is a team that could be in the Eastern Conference finals, or possibly the Finals, based on what’s here. And adding me to some of the other veterans they added, I was like, why not?”


— John Wilmes


Post date: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/outrageous-college-football-predictions-2014-week-7

The original reality TV show is sports. No contrived setting where seven strangers living in a house or one bachelor searching for love can match the excitement the Iron Bowl delivered last fall.


The beauty of college football lies in its complete unpredictability and drama. Here are some outrageous predictions for Week 7.


Note: The point of this column is to have some fun and make some outlandish predictions. Please react accordingly.

Anyone who beat a top 10 team last week will lose


Arizona beat No. 2 Oregon, Ole Miss beat No. 3 Alabama, TCU beat No. 4 Oklahoma and Mississippi State beat No. 6 Texas A&M. (Technically, Utah beat No. 8 UCLA but is on bye this week and therefore cannot lose). But all four teams that won massive games over top 10 opponents will lose this weekend. Ole Miss visits Texas A&M and TCU heads to Baylor. Both Arizona and Mississippi State are at home but both are underdogs to USC and Auburn respectively.


Listen to the Week 6 recap podcast:

Subscribe: |


Notre Dame will score 60 points


The Irish haven't scored 60 points since Nov. 23, 1996 in a 62-0 win over Rutgers. But against North Carolina, fans should expect a huge number from Everett Golson and the Irish offense. The Tar Heels have given up 154 points in the last three games — all losses. North Carolina gave up 70 to East Carolina, 50 to Clemson and 34 to Virginia Tech. Watch out, UNC.


Brett Hundley and Marcus Mariota will be sacked 20 times


The best two quarterbacks with the two worst offensive lines will face off against each other in Pasadena Saturday afternoon. Brett Hundley is the most-sacked QB in college football the last two seasons and UCLA is ranked 124th in sacks allowed (22.0) after yielding 10 in the loss to Utah. Oregon is ranked 108th in the nation in the same category (15.0). Whichever QB’s jersey is cleaner when the game is over will be the victor.


Florida and LSU will combine for more interceptions than completions


Jeff Driskel is benched. Treon Harris is suspended indefinitely. Skyler Mornhinweg is getting into fights with a teammate outside The Swamp. And that’s just Florida. For LSU, Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings have been completely inept. The LSU duo completed 8-of-24 passes for 142 yards and no touchdowns in the loss to Auburn last week. Driskel was 11-of-23 passing for 53 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions in the near-loss to Tennessee. The quarterback play in this game may cause momentary blindness.


Connor Halliday will be held to less than 200 yards passing


The Washington State quarterback is averaging over 500 yards passing per game and is already over 3,000 yards for the season. He set a single-game record with 734 yards passing last weekend (in a loss to Cal). Halliday failed to reach 300 yards passing just four times last season and the only team to keep him under 200 yards was Stanford. The nation’s top defense held the WSU QB to just 184 yards and no touchdowns on 36 attempts in a 55-17 loss.

Outrageous College Football Predictions: 2014 Week 7
Post date: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2014-15-florida-gators-team-preview

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


No. 8 Florida has every reason to believe it can pick up where it left off after reaching the Final Four a year ago and three Elite Eights in the three seasons before that. The core of Scottie Wilbekin, Patric Young and Casey Prather are gone, but Billy Donovan has a several players ready to step into starring roles.


The Florida edition is one of dozens available in our  and on newsstands everywhere now.


Coach Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators reached the Final Four in 2013-14 by winning the old-fashioned way. In a time when one-and-done phenoms command center stage, the Gators won a school-record 30 straight games led by four seniors with a combined 547 games played at UF.


Donovan now looks to replace the reigning SEC Player of the Year (point guard Scottie Wilbekin) and SEC Defensive Player of the Year (center Patric Young), along with All-SEC small forward Casey Prather. That trio, plus forward Will Yeguete, accounted for more than half the team’s points, but more important, they anchored a defense that allowed just 57.8 points per game.


Still, the future remains bright in Gainesville. 


The 2014-15 Gators will be more athletic and explosive than the team that lost to eventual champion UConn in the national semifinals. UF returns one of the nation’s best 3–point shooters, guard Michael Frazier II, ultra-versatile forward Dorian Finney-Smith and two sophomores, point guard Kasey Hill and power forward Chris Walker, who were 2013 McDonald’s All-Americans.


With Donovan’s penchant to develop winners, the Gators should challenge for their third straight SEC crown despite the senior losses.


No. 8 Florida Gators Facts & Figures

Last season: 36-3, 18-0 SEC

Postseason: NCAA Final Four

Consecutive NCAAs: 5

Coach: Billy Donovan (451-169 at Florida, 195-100 SEC)

SEC Projection: Second

Postseason Projection: NCAA Elite Eight




The 6-10, 250-pound Young was three-year starter and a fixture under the basket. But he was prone to lapses of inconsistency and finished his career with just 11 double-doubles in 150 games. The 6-8 Finney-Smith actually led UF in rebounding (6.7 per game) last season coming off the bench. If the 6-10 Walker develops as expected, he will provide a superior shot-blocking presence to Young. Still, Young’s post defense was as good any player in the nation, while his hustle will be impossible to replace.


Yeguete was a hard-nosed defender, strong rebounder and garbage man on offense. Michigan transfer Jon Horford, the 6-10 younger brother of Gators legend Al Horford, will look to fill Yeguete’s role.


Prather led the team in scoring (13.8 ppg) and the SEC in field goal percentage (.603) with his slashing style. Duke transfer Alex Murphy, who will sit out the first semester unless granted an NCAA waiver, will provide scoring punch as a stretch-4 similar to his brother Erik, an All-SEC player at UF in 2012-13. Freshman Devin Robinson can fill it up, too.


The key to the Gators’ inside game will be Walker. A top-10 recruit in the Class of ‘13, Walker initially failed to qualify academically and then served a 12-game NCAA suspension for receiving improper benefits during his AAU career. Walker lacked strength at 212 pounds and a feel for the college game. He averaged 1.9 points, 1.3 rebounds and 4.8 minutes, but he has added 15 pounds this offseason and will be expected to man the middle.




Wilbekin was playing as well as anyone in the nation until he ran into UConn All-American Shabazz Napier during the Final Four. Wilbekin’s on-the-ball defense, clutch shooting and leadership will be missed.


Hill plays a different game, using his blinding speed to create seams on drives to the basket and open shots for teammates. But Hill’s outside shooting and defense have a long way to go. Dynamic freshman Chris Chiozza is undersized but explosive. He is expected to back up Hill.


Frazier set a school record with 118 3-pointers but struggles to create his own shot. He vastly improved his defense as a sophomore and likes to mix it up on the glass. Frazier averaged 3.5 rebounds. Gifted freshman Brandone Francis should provide additional scoring once he learns the college game.


The Gators’ backcourt will get a major boost if guard Eli Carter returns from a lingering leg injury. Carter averaged 14.3 points during two seasons at Rutgers, but broke his leg late in his sophomore season and sat out last year at UF.


Final Analysis


It is a credit to Donovan’s coaching and recruiting that the Gators should contend for another SEC title. The losses are huge, but the talent is there for UF to make another deep NCAA Tournament run, too. While last year’s team leaned on its defense, clutch scoring and competitive fire, the ’14-15 Gators should be an up-tempo team that will be entertaining to watch. Whether it can win close games will be the key to the season. Florida was 15–2 last season during games decided by fewer than 10 points.




Jon Horford, a transfer from Michigan, should provide a physical presence off the bench, while Alex Murphy, a transfer from Duke, will offer scoring punch from the perimeter. Devin Robinson was rated a five-star recruit by some services and will be in the rotation. Brandone Francis is a physical specimen, but remains a bit raw. Chris Chiozza is a playmaker who will spell Kasey Hill.

College Basketball 2014-15: Florida Gators Team Preview
Post date: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/nascar-rookie-report-whos-really-got-driving-chops

Welcome to the Athlon Rookie Report, where each week David Smith will evaluate the deepest crop of new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series talent since 2006. The Report will include twice-monthly rankings, in-depth analysis, Q&A sessions with the drivers and more.


Today, David attempts to isolate each rookie from his team and equipment and properly rank the driving chops of each member of this year’s rookie class.


The final nighttime race of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season is on tap this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It can’t come soon enough for this year’s rookie crop, some of which have flourished on intermediate tracks and all of which are looking to remedy foibles in their season-long stat lines.


This week’s Athlon Rookie Report ranking lacks movement, but with six races remaining, there is still plenty of time for competitive gains to be made:


1. Kyle Larson, No. 42 (previous ranking: 1)

What’s sort of amazing about Larson’s year — one filled with a plethora of fan-friendly, rim-riding aggression — is that he isn’t an aggressor for the majority of a race. In fact, he has finished inside the top 15 over 11 percent more often than he’s run in the top 15, which ranks as the third-highest positive discrepancy in the series (Casey Mears ranks first at plus-19.7 percent). It’s been evident in his best races, his three times finishing second at Fontana, New Hampshire and Kansas, when he did so without leading a single lap. He ranks 19th this season in mileage as the leader (he’s paced the field for just under 79 total miles), below the likes of AJ Allmendinger, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer.


His team’s closing efficiency helps. Larson and crew chief Chris Heroy are averaging a one-position gain in the red zone (the final 10 percent of each race), amounting for the fourth-best position retention difference at finish among series regulars (plus-7 percent).


Stepping into the win column would obviously mean ridding himself of the goose egg that typically adorns his laps led tally after a race. Granted, he only needs to lead one specific lap in order to win a race, but to date his highest percentage of laps led in a single race is 7.5 percent, coming four weeks ago at Chicagoland.


2. Austin Dillon, No. 3 (previous: 2)

Fun fact: Dillon has more top-20 finishes than Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne. His eighth-place finish at Kansas was only his fourth top-10 finish, though, and came as he simultaneously broke an eight-race streak of races in which he scored a negative adjusted pass differential.


It’s easy to dissect what needs to happen in order to turn those top-20 finishes into top-10 finishes. Dillon isn’t a terrific passer (he has a 47.9 percent adjusted pass efficiency for the season), his is the only Richard Childress Racing team to rank outside the top 20 in average green-flag speed, he hasn’t restarted well (63 percent retention from the preferred groove, 28 percent from the non-preferred) and his crew chief isn’t exactly aiding his effort (Gil Martin cost Dillon 14 positions during green-flag pit cycles at normal tracks this season, compared to a 16-position gain for Kevin Harvick last season). All of those corrections are ones that can naturally occur with more time in the Cup Series. Dillon needs repetitions. In the coming years, one or more of those problems will disappear.


3. Justin Allgaier, No. 51 (previous: 3)

Allgaier is one of 12 drivers to have crashed at least 10 times this season. Perhaps it’s just bad luck that six of his 10 accidents, a series high, were terminal, ending his races with a DNF on the results sheets. One such incident occurred last weekend at Kansas as he was caught in the Jimmie Johnson-Greg Biffle deck-shuffler on lap 86. Prior to the accident, his afternoon at Kansas was going well — he secured a positive adjusted pass efficiency (51.28 percent, his first positive efficiency in the last five races) and ran in the range of 19th to 24th.


4. Cole Whitt, No. 26 (previous: 4)

Good news: Whitt’s passing efficiency has seen an uptick during the first four races of the Chase. After amassing a 48.5 percent adjusted efficiency during the 26-race regular season, Whitt recorded a 51.5 percent efficiency in the span of races from Chicagoland to Kansas. Better news: Whitt’s passing hits a high note at the quad-oval intermediates, such as Charlotte. In the four races on the Bruton Smith signature quad-oval tracks (Las Vegas, Charlotte, Texas and Atlanta) this season, Whitt holds a 50.13 percent adjusted pass efficiency, up 1.36 percent over his season-long efficiency (48.77).


5. Michael Annett, No. 7 (previous: 5)

Annett’s 25th-place finish last Sunday at Kansas was his 10th top-25 finish of the 2014 season. Every single one of them came at tracks 1.5 miles or longer. It’s a good thing, then, that another 1.5-miler is next on the schedule. It’s likely that he’ll have to utilize all 500 miles of Saturday night’s race in order to pull off a finish in that range, because the Tommy Baldwin Racing duo of Annett (34.3) and Reed Sorenson (35.7) rank second to last and last, respectively, in average starting position among series regulars. , but with 500 miles, pit stops and restarts — both elements that draw fields closer — can be abundant. He’ll at least have numerous chances to climb through the field, regardless of his qualifying result.


6. Alex Bowman, No. 23 (previous: 6)

Saturday night’s Cup Series race won’t be the focal point of Bowman’s weekend. On Friday night, he’ll climb into the No. 5 car for JR Motorsports, which is essentially the NASCAR Nationwide Series wing of Hendrick Motorsports, in what amounts to a showcase race for the youngest driver in the Cup Series. The ride will ostensibly be the best equipment he’s ever driven. No pressure for Bowman, but in each of his 14 starts for this Ernie Cope-led team, Kevin Harvick finished inside the top 10. He won four times. One shouldn’t expect Bowman to score an easy victory, but his best career Nationwide Series finish — third at Daytona in 2013 — will be in his gun sight. That No. 5, with Harvick behind the wheel, has led over 813 miles of competition this season, the second most in the series.


David Smith is the founder of and the creator of NASCAR statistics for projection, analysis and scouting. Follow him on Twitter at .

Post date: Tuesday, October 7, 2014 - 17:46
All taxonomy terms: Kenneth Faried, College Basketball, NBA
Path: /nba/kenneth-faried-denver-nuggets-reach-60-million-deal

Fresh off an oustanding summer spent as part of Team USA’s dominant run through the FIBA World Cup in Spain, Kenneth Faried has just gotten paid — big time. The relentless power forward, who started next to Anthony Davis for the Americans all summer, .


The move can be seen not just as a result of Faried’s terrific FIBA performance, but also as a reaction to . If Faried wasn’t worth all those simoleons as soon as a week ago, he probably is now. The $24 billion arrangement between the league, ESPN and Turner (which almost triples the previous one in place) is likely to make the salary cap jump upwards within a few years. By the time Faried’s contract is winding down, his pay rate will be far more equitable to his team.

Known for his long dreadlocks and bouncing, energetic style, Faried is dubbed by affectionate followers as “The Manimal.” His instinctive attack of the glass for rebounds and putbacks has electrified Nuggets fans since his rookie season in 2011-12. This kind of action — Faried putting back a Team USA teammate’s miss (Kyrie Irving’s) — has become quite the familiar basketball sight amidst the Rockies:


. It is, in so many words, simply too good of a value for Denver. But what’s clear is that they’re willing to pay their forward, and that he wants to stay put for a while. Whether the deal is bumped down to four years or not, Faried appears to be staying with his team.


The Nuggets went through a difficult transition year in 2013-14, going 36-46 under new coach Brian Shaw as they lost valuable pieces like Andre Iguodala, Kosta Koufos, Corey Brewer, Andre Miller, Danilo Galinari and Javale McGee through free agency, trades and injuries. They’ll have a hard time making waves in the vaunted Western Conference going forward, but locking down the valuable Manimal is sure to help.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Tuesday, October 7, 2014 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Legends Poll
Path: /college-football/legends-poll-top-8-college-football-rankings-week-6

For the first time in the Legends Poll’s short history, two teams from the state of Mississippi are in the top 5.


No. 3 Mississippi State catapulted into the top 5 after a dominating performance over Texas A&M in Starkville Saturday, and the Bulldogs received their first ever first-place vote from Auburn legend Pat Dye. Dye is so high on Mississippi State, he picked them to upset his former team — and now No. 1 in the Legends Poll Top 8 — Auburn this coming weekend.


No. 4 Ole Miss also made its first top 5 appearance in the rankings this week after knocking off former No. 1 Alabama 23-17 at home this past Saturday. The Rebels don’t have much time to relax, though, as they travel to Texas A&M this week.


Top-ranked Auburn received seven first place votes and the other six went to Florida State, which moved back up a spot to No. 2 in the rankings.


Unbeaten Baylor rounded out the top 5, followed by Alabama, Notre Dame and Michigan State.


To see the individual votes by coach, visit .


1AuburnAuburn (7)5-01045
2Florida StateFlorida State (6)5-0953
3Mississippi StateMississippi State (1)5-083-
4Ole MissOle Miss5-067-
7Notre DameNotre Dame5-028-
8Michigan StateMichigan State4-1208
Post date: Tuesday, October 7, 2014 - 13:40
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-october-7-2014

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 7:










• A little Tuesday heartstring-tugging: .


• Cardinals fans encountered some Ferguson protestors..




• This is cool: .


• Pierre Garcon yanked on Richard Sherman's dreads. .






• You've probably seen this, but I don't care because it's awesome: Brandt Snedeker shooting skeet with a 4-iron.



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

Post date: Tuesday, October 7, 2014 - 11:20
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, waiver wire, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-waiver-wire-week-6

Sunday was a rough one for injuries, which figures to put the Week 6 availability of several key fantasy players in doubt, at best. Calvin Johnson, Jimmy Graham, Rashad Jennings, Montee Ball, Reggie Bush and Jake Locker are the biggest names that got hurt, but Kansas City and New Orleans are both on bye. While this may be good news for Graham owners (gives him time to heal), it means no Jamaal Charles, Drew Brees, Brandin Cooks, Knile Davis, Travis Kelce or any other Saint or Chief. It’s shaping up to be yet another busy week on the waiver wire.


And that’s where Athlon Sports is here to help you sort through some of the potential free agent options. The players listed in our weekly fantasy football waiver wire may be one-week adds, some may be worth holding on to all season long and some are of the “sleeper” variety that you may simply want to keep an eye on.


Teams on bye: Kansas City, New Orleans




Week 5 Recap: Mike Glennon also made it two wins in two starts, but Tampa Bay yielded an 11-point fourth-quarter lead on the road and eventually lost 37-31 in overtime to New Orleans. Glennon did his part, throwing for 249 yards and two touchdowns with just one interception. Teddy Bridgewater also missed out on an opportunity to go two-for-two, as his injured ankle prevented him from facing Green Bay on Thursday. Bridgewater is expected to start against Detroit on Sunday.


Brian Hoyer, Cleveland Browns

Johnny who? Perhaps it’s time to stop wondering when Johnny Manziel will take over the Browns’ offense and instead give some credit to Hoyer. Trailing 28-3 with a little more than two minutes to go in the first half in Tennessee, Hoyer orchestrated the biggest comeback by a road team in NFL history. Behind his 292 yards and three touchdowns, Cleveland scored 26 unanswered points over the 30:12 of play to shock the Titans 29-28. Branded a “game manager,” Hoyer showed what he can do when called upon to make plays, as he doubled his season touchdown total in a little more than two quarters. Hoyer has just one interception on the season and it looks like offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is now starting to open up the playbook some. Hoyer faces a pretty tough test next week at home against Pittsburgh, but after that is very appealing – at Jacksonville and home vs. Oakland. If he puts together another solid showing Sunday it may be time to see what this Brown can do you for fantasy team.


Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

Tannehill was on bye last week, but this may be the ideal time to invest in this Dolphin. His numbers don’t jump out (902-6-3), but after seemingly being put on notice by his head coach, the third-year starter responded with his best game of the season two weeks ago. In London against Oakland, Tannehill completed 23-of-31 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns. He did have one interception, but the yardage and completion rate (74.2) were both season highs and he finished with a sparkling 109.3 QB rating. The Dolphins have shown signs of being a potent offensive team in first-year coordinator Bill Lazor’s system. As long as Tannehill continues in his progression as a passer and takes care of the football, he could develop into a reliable fantasy starting option.


Running Backs


Week 5 Recap: Khiry Robinson helped save the day for the Saints, rushing for 89 yards on 21 carries, including the game-winning 18-yard touchdown in overtime. Robinson and the Saints get Week 6 off though. Antone Smith was at it again on Sunday too, catching a 74-yard touchdown pass against the Giants. That catch was just one of his four total touches, so Smith’s workload is something to keep an eye on moving forward. Neither Jerrick McKinnon (7 att., 24 yds. and 3 rec., 22 yds.) nor Bishop Sankey (8 att., 27 yds.) were much of a factor in Week 5.


Benny Cunningham, St. Louis Rams

Zac Stacy suffered an apparent calf injury after fumbling in the third quarter, opening the door for Cunningham to see more touches. He capitalized on those opportunities, scoring on a 14-yard touchdown run and also catching three passes for 24 yards. The Rams’ comeback attempt came up short, but Cunningham finished the game with 47 yards rushing on seven carries (6.7 ypc) to go with that score and the 24 yards receiving. If Stacy’s injury is bad enough that he will miss time, Cunningham figures to get the starter’s reps. One thing to keep in mind regarding St. Louis’ schedule, however. The Rams just came off of their bye and will host San Francisco Monday night followed by Seattle in Week 7.


Ronnie Hillman, Denver Broncos

Continuing the injury theme, Montee Ball left in the third quarter against Arizona with a groin injury. He departed with a grand total of 18 yards on eight touches and was spotted using crutches after the game. Broncos head coach John Fox said on Monday that , so this opens up an opportunity for Hillman to step in and produce. Against the Cardinals, Hillman rushed for a game-high 64 yards on 15 carries (4.3 ypc). Hillman has had his chances to emerge before, but he’s also no stranger to this offense, which should help his chances of securing the starting role. Even if Hillman doesn’t do his best Knowshon Moreno impression (circa 2013), any player who is a safe bet to get a decent number of touches in Denver’s offense is worth consideration.



Branden Oliver, San Diego Chargers

Ryan Mathews is out with a MCL injury, Danny Woodhead is on IR with a broken leg and Donald Brown left on Sunday after sustaining a concussion. Oliver was next man up for the Chargers and the undrafted rookie took full advantage of the opportunity, showing both the athleticism and all-around ability that helped him compile more than 4,700 yards from scrimmage at Buffalo. Against the Jets and their No. 1-ranked rushing defense, Oliver ran for 114 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries (6.0 ypc). He also added a touchdown catch (4 rec., 68 yds.) and had two plays that went for more than 50 yards. Even if Brown passes the league-mandated concussion protocols and is cleared to play this week, Oliver figures to remain a part of the game plan too.


Andre Williams, New York Giants

Rashad Jennings left with a knee injury in the third quarter and his team trailing at home to Atlanta. Williams, the Giants’ fourth-round pick, took over and picked up 65 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown that helped fuel 20 unanswered points that led to an eventual 30-20 victory. An MRI on Monday confirmed that Jennings has a sprained MCL and while surgery won't be necessary, he is expected to miss a few weeks. Keep in mind that Cleveland’s Ben Tate suffered a similar injury in the Browns’ season opener and he didn’t get back on the field until Week 5. With Jennings sidelined for the time being, Williams should get his first NFL start this week in primetime in Philadelphia. And a strong showing against the Eagles will only help him secure his role in the Giants' offense, even after Jennings returns to action.


Wide Receivers


Week 5 Recap: Brian Quick came out of a bye and continued his steady, productive play, catching two touchdown passes in St. Louis 34-28 loss in Philadelphia. Quick sure looks like the Rams’ No. 1 target. Minnesota’s offense struggled as a whole against Green Bay, as injury replacement quarterback Christian Ponder made few plays in the passing game. As a result, no Viking pass-catcher put up big numbers against the Packers, including Jarius Wright (3 rec., 27 yds.). Marvin Jones appeared set to make his season debut after breaking a bone in his foot in August, but an ankle injury sustained earlier last week prevented him from getting on the field Sunday night against the Patriots.


Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants

It took five games, but the Giants finally got to see their first-round pick in action and he didn’t disappoint. Beckham hauled in four of his five targets in his first career NFL game, finishing with 44 yards and what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown, a 15-yarder early in the fourth quarter. Beckham’s five targets against the Falcons placed him third, a good sign considering all of the time the rookie had missed. Eli Manning and the Giants’ offense has really been clicking during their three-game winning streak and it appears that Beckham will be a part of the game plan moving forward.


Justin Hunter, Tennessee Titans

The Titans lost a heartbreaker at home to the Browns, but at least there was a Hunter sighting. A popular breakout candidate entering this season, Hunter’s owners were disappointed with his meager production (9 rec., 138 yds.) through the first four games. That changed late in the second quarter, however, when Charlie Whitehurst and Hunter connected for a 75-yard touchdown. That big-play ability is what had everyone excited about Hunter this season and hopefully this is a sign of things to come. The other potential positive about that touchdown catch is that it came courtesy of Whitehurst, Jake Locker’s backup. Locker injured his hand against the Browns, so maybe a QB change will be the catalyst to finally get Hunter going.


Louis Murphy Jr., Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mike Evans, the Bucs’ first-round pick, is expected to miss about a month after injuring his groin last week. Murphy stepped in for Evans last week, finishing with six catches (on 11 targets) for 99 yards to help Tampa Bay come from behind and win in Pittsburgh. Then on Sunday, Murphy was making plays again, catching a 20-yard touchdown pass in the overtime loss in New Orleans. The Buccaneers’ passing game has gotten a jolt since Mike Glennon took over for an injured Josh McCown. Vincent Jackson may be the primary beneficiary of this change, but the opportunity is there for Murphy to produce as the team’s No. 2 wideout.


Tight Ends


Week 5 Recap: Atlanta surrendered a 10-point third-quarter lead to the Giants, but the Falcons’ defense made sure Larry Donnell wouldn’t be the one to beat it. Coming off a three-touchdown game, Donnell saw just one target and didn’t record a single catch against the Falcons. Donnell still appears to be a relatively safe TE1 moving forward, but it’s also possible that he has already peaked.


Tim Wright, New England Patriots

This may be chasing fool’s gold, but it’s worth noting that Wright and fellow TE Rob Gronkowski both had big games in the Patriots’ rout of the Bengals on Sunday night. Gronk paced the team with six catches for 100 yards and a touchdown, but Wright was right there with five grabs for 85 and a score of his own. Wright’s five targets also placed him third on the team behind only Gronkowski (11) and leading wide receiver Julian Edelman (8). It has taken some time, but perhaps the former Buccaneer is starting to settle into his role with his new team. If that’s the case, Wright could be able to provide similar production to when Gronkowski had Aaron Hernandez as his running mate during the 2011 and ’12 seasons.

Defense/Special Teams


Week 5 Recap: Pittsburgh did what DSTs are supposed to be when facing Jacksonville – pile up some fantasy points. The Steelers held the Jaguars to three field goals, while also collecting a sack and picking off two passes, the last of which was returned 22 yards for a touchdown. Pittsburgh will be in Cleveland for a key AFC North matchup Sunday before going on bye.


Philadelphia Eagles

It’s hard to not notice what the Eagles’ DST has accomplished this past two games. Two weeks ago, this DST racked up four sacks and accounted for three touchdowns – blocked punt, INT return and punt return. On Sunday, this collective unit was at it again, registering four more sacks and two more scores (blocked punt and fumble return). Put it together and that’s 51 fantasy points (Athlon scoring) over the last two weeks. Philadelphia is the No. 1 DST in fantasy right now and as well as the Giants’ offense has performed recently, the Eagles have shown it can be productive even when it gives up a bunch of points (54 PA the past two games).


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

Fantasy Football 2014 Waiver Wire: Week 6
Post date: Tuesday, October 7, 2014 - 10:15
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-post-week-6-bowl-projections-2014

With six weeks in the books, college football’s bowl and national title picture is surrounded in uncertainty.


The new playoff format has added a new layer of intrigue, as four teams – instead of two – will have a shot at the national championship once the bowl pairings are announced in early December.


While only six weeks are in the books, it’s never too early to start looking at what the bowl picture might hold for each conference and team this year. The post-Week 6 bowl projections are a mixture between picks for the next few weeks, how things would look if the season ended today, and the results from the first five weeks of action. Expect several changes over the next few weeks, especially as the heart of conference play arrives in October.

Teams just missing the projections: California, Maryland, Oregon State, Wyoming, Texas State, ULM, USF, Western Kentucky. Remember: It’s only Week 6. Several changes are coming, and it’s impossible to project all of the wins and losses the rest of the way considering how much changes week-to-week in college football.


College Football's Post-Week 6 Bowl Projections

New OrleansDec. 20Sun Belt vs.
Mountain West
 UL Lafayette vs.
Utah State 
New MexicoDec. 20C-USA vs.
Mountain West
 North Texas vs.
Air Force 
Las VegasDec. 20Mountain West vs.
 Boise State vs.
Famous Idaho PotatoDec. 20MAC vs.
Mountain West
 Bowling Green vs.
CamelliaDec. 20MAC vs.
Sun Belt
 Ohio vs.
Arkansas State 
Miami BeachDec. 22American vs.
Cincinnati vs.
Boca RatonDec. 23C-USA vs.
 Marshall vs.
Northern Illinois 
PoinsettiaDec. 23Mountain West vs.
 Colorado State vs.
BahamasDec. 24C-USA vs. 

 MTSU vs.

HawaiiDec. 24C-USA vs.
Mountain West
Rice vs.
Fresno State 
Heart of DallasDec. 26Big Ten vs. 
 Rutgers vs.
Louisiana Tech 
Quick LaneDec. 26ACC vs.
Big Ten
 Boston College vs.
Bitcoin St. PetersburgDec. 26ACC vs.
 Pittsburgh vs.
MilitaryDec. 27ACC vs. 
 Duke vs.
SunDec. 27ACC vs. 
 Virginia vs.
Arizona State 
IndependenceDec. 27ACC vs.
 NC State vs.
PinstripeDec. 27ACC vs.
Big Ten
 Miami vs.
Penn State 
HolidayDec. 27Big Ten vs.
 Wisconsin vs.
LibertyDec. 29SEC vs.
Big 12
 Tennessee vs.
Oklahoma State 
Russell AthleticDec. 29ACC vs.
Big 12
 Georgia Tech vs.
Kansas State 
TexasDec. 29Big 12 vs.
 West Virginia vs.
Music CityDec. 30ACC/Big Ten vs.
 Iowa vs.
South Carolina 
BelkDec. 30ACC vs.
 Virginia Tech vs.
San FranciscoDec. 30Big Ten vs. 
 Northwestern vs.
OutbackJan. 1Big Ten vs.
 Nebraska vs.
Texas A&M 
CitrusJan. 1Big Ten/ACC vs.
 Ohio State vs.
Armed ForcesJan. 2American/Army vs.
Big 12
Houston vs.
TaxslayerJan. 2ACC/Big Ten vs.
 Louisville vs.
AlamoJan. 2Big 12 vs.
 TCU vs.
CactusJan. 2Big 12 vs.
 Texas vs.
BirminghamJan. 3American vs.
 Memphis vs.
GoDaddyJan. 4MAC vs.
Sun Belt
 Toledo vs.
South Alabama 
New Year's Bowls 
PeachDec. 31At-large vs.
 East Carolina vs.
FiestaDec. 31At-large vs.
 Baylor vs.
Capital One
Dec. 31At-large vs.
 Clemson vs.
Notre Dame 
CottonJan. 1At-large vs.
 Michigan State vs.
RoseJan. 1Playoff
 Florida State vs. 
Ole Miss 
SugarJan. 1Playoff
 Auburn vs.
Mississippi State 
National TitleJan. 12Semifinal Winner vs.
Semifinal Winner
 Auburn vs.
Florida State 

* Indicates conference not projected to have enough bowl-eligible teams.

College Football's Post-Week 6 Bowl Projections 2014
Post date: Tuesday, October 7, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-post-week-6-playoff-projection-2014

The new college football playoff format has added even more intrigue to the 2014 season. Instead of figuring out the top two teams in early December, the focus has shifted to finding four teams to play in the first FBS postseason playoff format.


To help select the four playoff teams, a 13-person committee was picked, which includes names like Barry Alvarez, Oliver Luck, Pat Haden and Jeff Long, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former coach Tyrone Willingham.


Each week, Athlon Sports hopes to replicate the playoff committee’s work by asking some of college football’s top media members to vote on their top eight teams. The official playoff committee will release its rankings starting on Oct. 28, but this poll will attempt to project how the playoff picture stacks up after each week until the end of the year.


Expert Panel


Bobby Bowden (),
Gene Stallings, (),
Don Nehlen (),
Steven Lassan (), 
Braden Gall (), 
Zac Ellis (),
David Fox (),
Mark Ennis (),
Teddy Mitrosilis (),

Matt Brown (),
Rich Cirminiello (),
Brad Crawford (),
Allen Kenney (),
Chris Anderson (),
Kyle Kensing (),
Adam Powell (),
Mitch Light ()
Josh Ward (),
Kevin McGuire (),
Mark Ross (),


Post-Week 6 Playoff Projection

1Auburn 127100000151
2Florida State 77510000140
3Mississippi State 15761000119
4Ole Miss 0149510099
5Baylor 0032633269
6Notre Dame 0000575253
7Alabama 0000146533
8Michigan State 0001122423
9TCU 0001122322
10Arizona 000001116
11Oklahoma 000000113
12TOhio State 000000011
12TGeorgia Tech 000000011

Takeaways from Expert Poll Results

* Auburn received 12 of the first-place votes. Florida State received seven, and Mississippi State claimed one first-place vote.

* According to the voting panel, Auburn, Florida State and Mississippi State clearly rank as the top three teams in the playoff projection. The Tigers did not receive a vote lower than third. The Seminoles did not receive a vote lower than fourth.

* Alabama ranks as the highest one-loss team from the voting panel. The Crimson Tide’s position is critical, as Nick Saban’s team still has to play two teams ranked higher in this week’s results (Mississippi State and Auburn).

* Looking ahead from this week’s results, more clarity in the top 10 should come after Saturday’s games. Auburn plays Mississippi State and Baylor hosts TCU.

* The Pac-12 is arguably college football’s No. 2 power conference behind the SEC. But the Pac-12’s first team in the rankings checks in at No. 10 Arizona. Yes, that’s right: Arizona. The Wildcats make their first appearance in the poll after beating Oregon, and no other Pac-12 team received consideration in this week’s vote. Is the Pac-12 setup to have too many good teams with not enough wins to be in the conversation for a spot in the playoffs?


Group of 5 Rankings


(One team from the Group of 5 conferences - American Athletic, C-USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt - will play in one of college football's premier (New Year's Bowls) each season.


1. East Carolina
Record: 4-1

After games against South Carolina, Virginia Tech and North Carolina, it’s easy to see why East Carolina had a sluggish effort against SMU on Saturday. The Pirates won 45-24 but retain the top spot in the Group of 5 rankings. East Carolina travels to USF in Week 7, with back-to-back road trips against Temple and Cincinnati coming in early November.

2. Marshall
Record: 5-0

The Thundering Herd’s quest for an unbeaten season continued with an easy 56-14 victory over Old Dominion in Week 6. Marshall has won every game by at least 15 points this year. With a soft schedule, the Thundering Herd needs to win impressively to pass East Carolina for the Group of 5 spot.

3. Memphis
Record: 3-2

The Tigers replace Cincinnati as East Carolina’s biggest threat from the American Athletic Conference this week. Memphis has two quality losses (Ole Miss and UCLA) and defeated Cincinnati 41-14 in Week 6.

4.  Boise State
Record: 4-2

A week after a surprising loss to Air Force, Boise State rebounded with a key road win at Nevada. The remaining schedule for Bryan Harsin’s team is favorable, as the Broncos play four games at home in the final two months, including key showdowns against Utah State, BYU and Fresno State.

5. Colorado State

Record: 4-1

Jim McElwain’s team cruised to an easy win over Tulsa in Week 6 (42-17), which comes a week after a solid road victory at Boston College. The Rams play at Nevada this Saturday and host Utah State in Week 8. Colorado State needs a little help to jump Boise State in this ranking after losing to the Broncos in Week 2.


Key Games With Playoff Implications in Week 7


Texas vs. Oklahoma (Dallas)
Noon ET, ABC

Sooners look to get back on track against rival Texas in a neutral site affair in Dallas.

Georgia at Missouri
Noon ET, CBS

Winner of this game should take control of the SEC East.

Auburn at Mississippi State
3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

Another SEC West showdown with national title and Heisman implications.

TCU at Baylor
3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2

Can the Horned Frogs take control of the Big 12 with an upset win in Waco?

Oregon at UCLA
3:30 p.m. ET, FOX

Both teams need a win after losing last Saturday. And this one could be a preview of the Pac-12 Championship game.

Alabama at Arkansas
6 p.m. ET, ESPN

Expect an angry Crimson Tide team in Fayetteville this Saturday.

Penn State at Michigan
7 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Brady Hoke needs a win to quiet the hot seat talk.

LSU at Florida
7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network

Points could be at a premium with two teams struggling to generate offense.

Ole Miss at Texas A&M
9 p.m. ET, ESPN

Can Ole Miss avoid a letdown after beating Alabama? Aggies need a win to stay in the SEC West race.

USC at Arizona
10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

After allowing 510 passing yards to Arizona State last week, can the Trojans stop Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon?

College Football's Post-Week 6 Playoff Projection
Post date: Tuesday, October 7, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/4-things-we-learned-kansas-logano-rises-hendricks-quartet-unravels

Kansas is becoming known as the “cookie-cutter wild card.” Bizarre stuff has happened here during the 11 years it’s been a part of the Chase, from Greg Biffle winning a race in 2007 despite not crossing the checkered flag first to Jimmie Johnson surviving a banzai effort from Carl Edwards the following year (where the No. 99 car ran so hard into turn 3, on the final lap it slammed the outside wall and still almost beat the No. 48 back to the line). Entering Sunday, the last two seasons had seen the fall race won by two “lame duck” drivers competing for the title knowing their teams were splitting up the following year: Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick.


Many people feel like this track is earning a reputation for mixing up the championship, a theory that grew Sunday with three top contenders finishing 36th or worse. But there’s an interesting sidebar to that, one Joey Logano will need to overcome in order to win a Cup title. The last 10 years, only one Kansas winner (Johnson in 2008) has gone on to win it all. Instead, the eventual champion has tended to lurk somewhere just behind, flexing consistency. Take a quick look at their finishes below:


2004: Kurt Busch (6th)

2005: Tony Stewart (4th)

2006: Jimmie Johnson (14th)

2007: Jimmie Johnson (3rd)

2008: Jimmie Johnson (WON)

2009: Jimmie Johnson (9th)

2010: Jimmie Johnson (2nd)

2011: Tony Stewart (15th)

2012: Brad Keselowski (8th)

2013: Jimmie Johnson (6th)

Average Finish Of Chase Champion: 6.8


That puts the titlist somewhere around fifth to seventh place, while no champ has finished outside the top 15 (ominous news for the trio of Brad Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Johnson). So who was sitting in those spots Sunday, seemingly in position to advance forward with solid runs? Edwards, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin, drivers most had crossed out of their Chase grid once the field shrinks from 12 to eight after Talladega. Each would cause a minor uproar if he wound up as Cup champion, for different reasons. (Edwards – “lame duck” who’s lacked consistent speed all season, Newman – got here by top-10ing people to death instead of running up front, Hamlin – missed a race and wouldn’t have gotten here without Talladega win).


Sounds farfetched at the moment, right? But not if Kansas history repeats itself. So in terms of this race mixing up the title fight, we may not have seen anything yet.


Through the Gears we go…


FIRST GEAR: Sliced Bread slicing through the competition

On a day where top contenders suffered through tire problems, Joey Logano took control of his own destiny. Leading a race-high 122 laps, the No. 22 Ford was the class of the field when others fell out, challenged only by young Kyle Larson and the pit strategy of Ryan Newman. With a career-high five victories, Logano is having a breakthrough season; advancing to the final eight around the same age Jeff Gordon was when he won the first of his four championships at 23.


“I have to thank J.D. and Joe [Gibbs] for giving him the time, kind of getting it ready for us,” joked owner Roger Penske Sunday. “Probably have to send him a check.”


Logano, recently signed to a long-term extension, is in the best position of his career. Now, the question is whether he can handle the pressure of being in a serious title fight. The next two weeks (just like teammate Brad Keselowski did at Chicagoland Speedway about a month ago) this Penske driver can tune up for the biggest challenge to come: clearing the last hurdle and making it to Homestead. With an average finish of 3.0 at Martinsville, Texas, and Phoenix in the spring (including a win in the Lone Star State) it would be a massive disappointment now if Logano didn’t move forward. At this point, the sky is the limit and if teammate Keselowski somehow falters, expect the entire organization to put its full weight behind getting the youngster his first title. Along those lines, with Keselowski finishing 36th at Kansas after a tire failure, it’s now a tall order for the No. 2 team to move forward. So this organizational shift, one that could only help Logano, is a very real possibility.


SECOND GEAR: Hendrick’s horrifying afternoon

No one suffered more Sunday than title favorite Hendrick Motorsports, whose teams unraveled as quickly as their Goodyear tires. Jimmie Johnson, despite the worst weekend of all, may actually be in the best shape of the trio. Despite running 40th at Kansas, primarily due to Johnson being a victim of his own self-inflicted wounds (qualifying spin) before Greg Biffle finished him off, Saturday night provides a saving grace for the six-time champion in Charlotte. It’s one of the team’s best tracks, where Johnson won the Coca-Cola 600 in the spring and a victory there is now a “must have” for the No. 48 to have any shot at moving on to the round of eight.


“We’ve got to be on our game at Charlotte and Talladega,” he said. “There is still a lot of racing left. Stuff can happen. We’ll see how the other Chasers fare. If I can get taken out today, somebody else can at Charlotte. We’ll do our best to get on track and then certainly need W’s, I would assume, going forward.”


The veteran experience of Johnson should help, while Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Kasey Kahne may be in more difficult situations. Earnhardt, in his last season with crew chief Steve Letarte had a fast car for the first time in this Chase and was leading the pack at Kansas, but he was ultimately undone by a flat tire. The resulting damage left him 39th, meaning the No. 88 must also run up front the next two events. Earnhardt has never won a points-paying race at Charlotte, and despite a history of success at Talladega hasn’t won there since 2004. Even two top-5 finishes the next two races, as an alternative to victory might not be enough to erase a 25-point deficit to get to eighth place.


Kahne, meanwhile had a top-5 car ruined by late contact with the outside wall. The worst-performing of the Hendrick bunch all season, he now needs luck at both Charlotte and Talladega, something that’s been in short supply. Even Jeff Gordon had a difficult day, making contact with the outside wall after a tap from Jamie McMurray within the first 150 miles of the race. Gordon was “off” the rest of the day, running 14th and is tied for the final transfer spot with Matt Kenseth.


So could all four Hendrick drivers wind up eliminated, in this round? Highly unlikely. But the fact it’s a possibility, right now showcases the unpredictability of NASCAR’s new format, how big a player bad luck now is (see: Aric Almirola, Chicagoland) and the need to be on top of your game every race.


THIRD GEAR: Sunday’s surprise winners: Joe Gibbs Racing

Where Hendrick Motorsports faltered, Joe Gibbs Racing launched forward by following one of racing’s simplest philosophies: in order to finish first, you must first finish. JGR Toyotas avoided tire trouble, and when they did have issues, in the case of Matt Kenseth, they were diagnosed before a trip to the outside wall. While the No. 20 car was damaged slightly, its championship driver still brought it home 13th, remaining inside the top 8 in points while Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin were third and seventh, respectively.


No one got more of a boost from Kansas than Busch, who’s been cursed at this track throughout his career. Sunday was his first top-5 finish there in 15 starts, an impressive performance especially considering JGR’s lack of speed on 1.5-mile ovals all year – and a speeding penalty that at one point set him back in the pack.


“I set my mind to it that there is no reason why we can’t run good here,” he said. “We did that here today and it felt good.”


Both Busch and Hamlin, who each successfully fought a dashboard fire by turning off switches inside their cars, are almost certainly in the final six races with their current crew chiefs. Just don’t underestimate them; Hamlin’s head wrench, Darian Grubb won a title with Tony Stewart knowing he’d be replaced the following year. In this format, three top 10s is going to be all it takes to move on and JGR, with the even-keeled Kenseth as its leader, is masking its lack of speed with that consistency. Perhaps the most unlikely year for JGR to win a championship is the one where the team may finally break through, ending a nine-year drought.


FOURTH GEAR: Teams building for 2015

Despite an expanded field of 16 playoff contenders, this Chase has seen a surprising amount of strong performances from those outside the title hunt. Kyle Larson continues to impress, running second Sunday and knocking on the door of a victory with Chip Ganassi Racing. He’s the only rookie to run inside the top 3 in 2014, and looked like a veteran in chasing down Logano late. Further back, teammate Jamie McMurray, while enduring both a speeding penalty and a tire problem, didn’t get the finish his No. 1 car the way he deserved. Both drivers could easily get a win over the final six races, and Charlotte is a good track for CGR: McMurray has won there in the past, including the All-Star event in May.


Martin Truex, Jr., meanwhile is finally flexing some muscle with a team in Furniture Row Racing that made the Chase last year. He earned a season-best fourth Sunday, inside the top 5 all afternoon to go with a seventh at Dover last week. And Brian Vickers, after a season of inconsistency, now has five top-15 finishes in his last six starts with Michael Waltrip Racing. Even Danica Patrick, with five top-20 results in her last six events, is showing marked improvement. There’s still a far-too-large gap between the “haves” and “have nots” in this sport, but among the two dozen or so drivers that have adequate funding, they’re showcasing parity down the stretch.



Don’t count out Ryan Newman. The most unlikely potential champion out of the 12 Chasers remaining (as he has never really threatened to win all season),  Newman led laps Sunday and wound up sixth. With the No. 31 team owning an outstanding history at Talladega, they’ve put themselves in position to advance to the round of eight… On a day where most small teams ran several laps off the pace, Landon Cassill brought his No. 40, single-car Hillman Racing team home 21st, on the lead lap. A finish that good, with a team that has 10 percent of the funding top organizations have? (Snap Fitness did sponsor them at Kansas). It’s incredible Cassill isn’t mentioned for higher-end openings, like the No. 9 Ford ride seemingly destined for David Ragan or Sam Hornish, Jr. … For a track that’s weathered its share of criticism, Kansas Speedway produced 25 lead changes Sunday. That’s the most for a Cup race since Michigan in June and more than the last two Chase races combined, a promising sign for a racetrack whose pavement is two years old and gradually aging… Austin Dillon was a quiet eighth, his best unrestricted performance of the season. The driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet is a solid second for Rookie of the Year, gradually improving, but rival Kyle Larson has overshadowed him. Winning just nine of the 30 rookie awards this season, Dillon would need a miracle victory, combined with a Larson collapse over the final six races just to have a shot at snagging top freshman honors.



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4 Things We Learned at Kansas: Logano Rises, Hendrick’s Quartet Unravels
Post date: Tuesday, October 7, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: LeBron James, NBA
Path: /nba/lebron-james-calls-out-nba-owners-again

is going to make everyone involved with the league a lot of money. It’s worth a reported $24 billion, after all. But, at least in the short term, it’s also dragging out some old grudges. Namely, it reminds us all of the tension between team owners and players during the 2011 NBA lockout, which led to the season starting late, on Christmas day.


"We gave a lot," , looking back at 2011’s collective bargaining agreement that got the players back on the hardwood, but also put a hard cap on team spending and greatly reduced player salaries. “The whole thing that went on with the last negotiation process was the owners are losing money. There's no way they can sit in front of us and tell us that right now.”


$24 billion — this huge number is only the latest signal that owners dishonestly portrayed their earnings in 2011. The $2 billion price tag of the Los Angeles Clippers was a sure sign that basketball’s profits are going through the roof, as was that the Milwaukee Bucks (one of the least lucrative franchises in the league) recently sold for, to hedge fund gurus Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry of New York.


LeBron James showed this summer just how much clout he carries in the NBA. The league was at a standstill waiting for his decision to return to Cleveland, which set off an eventful chain of free agency events. He then recruited friends and respected peers Kevin Love, Mike Miller, Shawn Marion and James Jones to his new team effectively acting as the Cavs' general manager.

The deal James signed this summer only keeps him in Cleveland for two seasons at the most, and he can dangle his ever-precious abilities over NBA executives in Ohio and beyond as soon as next summer, if he’s to opt out of his second year. So when he speaks his mind about the league’s business, you better believe that the brass above is listening.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Tuesday, October 7, 2014 - 09:00
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College basketball season is creeping up fast, and Athlon Sports is counting down to Midnight Madness and the start of practice on Oct. 17. 


No. 9 Louisville will play under its fourth different conference banner under Rick Pitino when the Cardinals, formerly of Conference USA, the Big East and American, join the ACC. Pitino has his team ready to contend in yet another league thanks in part to the return of forward Montrezl Harrell, who spurned the NBA draft for a shot at a national title.


The Louisville edition is one of dozens available in our  and on newsstands everywhere now.


Rick Pitino says that his frontcourt will not take a backseat to any team’s this season. He feels the same way about his backcourt. Pitino is a Hall of Famer who has won conference titles in five different leagues, so even though the Cardinals are making their debut in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Louisville won’t have issues being outcoached.


Pitino talks like a coach who expects another top-10 season with a team he believes can play on the brightest national stages, even though the Cards have only one starter left from their 2013 NCAA championship team. Despite Pitino’s confidence in his first five, the coach understands that his bench is unproven. The reserves are talented, but their growth and improvement will determine if Louisville can handle elite teams.


No. 9 Louisville Cardinals Facts & Figures

Last season: 31-6, 15-3 American

Postseason: NCAA Sweet 16

Consecutive NCAAs: 8

Coach: Rick Pitino (335-116 at Louisville, 148-62 CUSA/Big East/AAC)

ACC Projection: Third

Postseason Projection: NCAA Sweet 16




For two hours last April, Pitino was convinced that Montrezl Harrell was bound for the NBA. He would have been a first-round selection. But two hours after telling Pitino he was leaving, Harrell did a U-turn, saying he was determined to play his way into recognition as one of the top-10 players in the country. Harrell has the force, determination and skills. He must improve his 46 percent free throw stroke and prove he can make the 12-foot jumper. 


Wayne Blackshear is the sole remaining starter from the 2013 champs, and Blackshear played off the bench at times last season. Pitino has questioned Blackshear’s commitment to the game. He has also become a player who’s too willing to defer to teammates and settle for perimeter shots.


Mangok Mathiang is following the Gorgui Dieng growth pattern. He averaged 3.6 points and 3.6 rebounds in less than 15 minutes per game, but Pitino loves his ability to block shots and protect the rim. Mathiang needs to make the improvement that Dieng made, playing at the top of the key and passing the ball.


Pitino says that he expects Akoy Agau, a sophomore power forward, to be the team’s most improved player, but Agau will have to out-perform four talented freshmen.


Chinanu Onuaku, whose older brother, Arinze, played at Syracuse, is the most physically ready to play. Jaylen Johnson, who is 6-9, is considered the most skilled. A pair of 7-footers with foreign backgrounds, Matz Stockman (Norway) and Anas Osama Mahmoud (Egypt), fill out the frontcourt.




Russ Smith was one of the best players in college basketball the last two seasons, but even Smith says the Cardinals will not have major issues replacing him. Sophomore Terry Rozier was terrific off the bench last season, averaging 7.0 points and less than one turnover in 19 minutes per game. He’s dynamic off the dribble and protects the ball.


Pitino does not run a point guard/shooting guard offense, but he is demanding more leadership from Chris Jones, his senior. The coach has asked Jones to lose some weight because he believes that would give Jones the quickness to get into the lane against any defender.


Anton Gill, a sophomore, showed a solid shooting stroke in limited minutes, but his push for more playing time won’t be any easier even with the departures of Smith and sharp-shooting Luke Hancock. Quentin Snider was the best high school player in Kentucky last season. He is a combo guard known for his poised decision-making.


Pitino is also high on Shaquan Aaron, who follows Peyton Siva and Terrence Williams from Seattle to Louisville. Pitino is already comparing Aaron to former Cardinal Francisco Garcia.


Final Analysis


Replacing Smith, Hancock and Stephan Van Treese (who started 21 games at center) would seem to be a daunting task, considering all the big shots that Smith and Hancock made the last two seasons.


But Pitino is convinced that this will be one of his better teams by the end of the season if Mathiang can make a normal progression and if he can develop at least one of his freshmen. 


Pitino might be right about his team. Harrell has the tenacity and ability to play inside with anybody. Blackshear has plenty of big-game experience. Rozier and Jones are capable of averaging more than 20 points per game. A maiden trip through the ACC will only make the season more interesting.




Shaqquan Aaron is a dynamic scorer and playmaker from the wing. Quentin Snider understands the value of taking good shots but can still make highlight plays. Chinanu Onuaku brings a blue-collar approach to collecting rebounds and defending the paint. Jaylen Johnson needs to add 15 pounds but plays well above the rim. Expect either Matz Stockman or Anas Osama Mahmoud to redshirt. Both will need time.

College Basketball 2014-15: Louisville Cardinals Team Preview
Post date: Tuesday, October 7, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-week-6-recap
Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: Week 6 Recap
Post date: Monday, October 6, 2014 - 17:05