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Notre Dame’s goal-line stand -- or USC’s blunders, depending on your point of view -- erased any mystery for the BCS standings as far as the national championship is concerned.

Notre Dame defeated USC 22-13 Saturday night, slamming the door on any hopes of a non-SEC champion from reaching the BCS title game, even though Florida and Oregon won decisively on the road in rivalry games.

The undefeated Fighting Irish will face the winner of Alabama-Georgia in the SEC Championship Game for the BCS title.

Even though the top nine remained unchanged this week, the news wasn’t all bad for No. 4 Florida and No. 5 Oregon, as both may have sealed a trip to a BCS game anyway.

Related College Football Content
Bowl Projections
Week 13 Recap: Notre Dame seals No. 1
Who votes in the Harris Poll?

Here are a few more observations from the latest release of the BCS standings:

MOVING UP

BCS Standings
Nov. 25

Coaches' Poll Harris Poll Comp. Avg. Last Wk.
1. Notre Dame 1 1 1 1
2. Alabama 2 2 3 2
3. Georgia 3 3 4 3
4. Florida 4 5 2 4
5. Oregon 4 4 5 5
6. Kansas St. 7 6 T-6 6
7. LSU 6 7 T-8 7
8. Stanford 9 8 T-6 8
9. Texas A&M 8 8 11 9
10. S. Carolina 10 10 T-8 12
11. Oklahoma 11 11 10 13
12. Nebraska 13 13 12 14
13. Florida St. 12 12 19 10
14. Clemson 14 14 14 11
15. Oregon St. 17 15 13 15
16. UCLA 16 16 15 17

Florida and Oregon. The top nine in the BCS standings were unchanged since last week, and the endgame for the national title game was clear since last week as long as Notre Dame and Alabama and Georgia didn’t fall apart against overmatched rivals. The biggest question was how Florida would fare at Florida State, and to a lesser extent, Oregon at Oregon State. Both won comfortably, and now both teams are all but certain for BCS bids despite not playing for conference titles. Once all automatic bids are filled, the No. 3 team, if available, is an automatic bid to the BCS. After that, the No. 4 team is an automatic bid. Whether by automatic bids or not, Florida and Oregon may be assured of spots in BCS games.

MOVING DOWN
The remainder of the SEC. Six SEC teams are among the top 10. That’s great for bragging rights but not for BCS bids. With the SEC champion and Florida likely to fill the two-bid limit, that leaves the SEC runner-up, LSU, Texas A&M and South Carolina playing in non-BCS games. In that case, the real loser in this scenario may be the Big Ten, whose non-champion teams will draw top-10 teams in the Capital One and Outback bowls.

KEY GAMES THIS WEEK
No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Georgia (SEC Championship). An SEC team has claimed six consecutive titles, but the subplot of the SEC Championship Game serving as a play-in game for the national title game has been an added bonus. Such has been the case twice in the last five seasons with Florida defeating Alabama in 2008 and Alabama returning the favor in 2009. As with those Florida-Alabama meetings, the Tide and Georgia did not meet in the regular season this year.

No. 17 Kent State vs. No. 21 Northern Illinois (MAC Championship). Kent State’s appearance at No. 17 was one of the major surprises of the release of this week's BCS standings. A win in the MAC title game would give Kent State the inside track of claiming a BCS bid for a non-automatic qualifying team. Finishing in the top 16 combined with finishing ahead of a champion of an AQ conference clinches a BCS bid. Big East leaders Rutgers and Louisville are outside of the top 25, as are two teams playing for AQ conference championships (Wisconsin and Georgia Tech).

No. 11 Oklahoma at TCU/No. 18 Texas at No. 6 Kansas State. Most of the other conference titles are straightforward: Win title games in the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12, earn a BCS bid. In the Big East, Rutgers-Louisville on Thursday is most likely the game determining a BCS bid for either team. Without a championship game, the Big 12 has a few moving parts to decide its champion. Oklahoma and Kansas State are tied at 7-1. If one wins and the other loses this week, the Week 14 winner plays in the Fiesta Bowl. If both win or both lose, Kansas State goes to the Fiesta Bowl, by virtue of defeating Oklahoma 24-19 on Sept. 22. Ranked 11th, Oklahoma still has a chance at a BCS at-large bid with win over TCU even if Kansas State earns the Big 12’s automatic bid.

OTHER NOTES
Kent State’s rise. After Saturday, the prevailing wisdom was that Boise State stood the most to benefit from Big East leaders Rutgers and Louisville losing to underdogs. However, Kent State (11-1, 8-0 MAC) turned out to be the big winner by moving from No. 23 to No. 17. Although Kent State (19th in the coaches poll and 18th in the Harris) is ranked below Boise State in the human polls, Kent State has a decisive edge in the computer average. Kent State ranks 18th in the computers compared to 30th for Boise State. Credit the Flashes' wins over Rutgers (9-2) and Ohio (8-4). Boise State’s best wins are over Fresno State (9-3) and BYU (7-5). With a conference championship game against No. 21 Northern Illinois, Kent State also has a better chance to boost its ranking. Boise State visits unranked Nevada.

Non-AQs rule bottom half of rankings. A week ago, the teams from non-AQ conferences were an afterthought. Only Boise State and Kent State from those leagues were ranked in the top 25, both outside the top 20. Well, every team ranked from 15 though 21 lost last week -- Oregon State, Texas, UCLA, Rutgers, Michigan, Louisville and Oklahoma State. The non-AQs filled the gap with Kent State and Boise State entering the top 20 and No. 21 Northern Illinois, No. 24 Utah State and No. 25 San Jose State entering the top 25. It may not last, but an intriguing development for sure.

UCLA loses, moves up. UCLA’s ranking may be a moot point since the Bruins will face Stanford in a rematch to go to the Rose Bowl, but the BCS machinations are interesting to say the least. UCLA lost 35-17 at home to Stanford yet moved up from No. 17 to No. 16. In the slots ahead of UCLA, Florida State, Clemson, Oregon State and Texas all lost, so it was a matter of nowhere else to put the Bruins.

Notes on BCS selection:
Automatic BCS bids go to the top two for the title game, the champions of the ACC (Orange Bowl), Big 12 (Fiesta), Big Ten (Rose), Pac-12 (Rose) and SEC (Sugar). The Big East’s automatic bid is not tied to a particular bowl.

Notre Dame receives an automatic bid if it finishes in the top eight.

A champion from a non-automatic qualifying league (Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt, WAC and non-Notre Dame independents) receive an automatic bid if it finishes in the top 12 of the standings or if it finishes in the top 16 and ahead of a champion from a non-AQ conference.

To be eligible for an at-large BCS bid, a team must have nine or more wins and finish in the top 14 of the BCS standings.

Once automatic tie-ins are placed, the selection order for BCS bids goes as follows: 1. The bowl losing the BCS No. 1 team to the championship game, 2. The bowl losing the BCS No. 2 team, 3. The Fiesta Bowl, 4. The Sugar, 5. The Orange.

Teaser:
<p> College Football Post-Week 13 BCS Analysis</p>
Post date: Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 20:45
Path: /college-football/college-football-post-week-13-bowl-projections
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College football's bowl season is inching closer, and it's never too early to take a look at what the matchups might look like. With 13 weeks of results in the books, the bowl picture for nearly every team is starting to clear. 

The post-Week 13 bowl projections are a mixture between how things would look if the season ended today, projection of Week 14, and considering the results so far this year. 

2012-2013 Post-Week 13 College Football Bowl Projections

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


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

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

Bold indicates a team has accepted bowl bid.

by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

(updated Dec. 1, 2012)

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Post date: Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 17:46
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For all the complaints of losing the tradition of rivalry week, the Thanksgiving holiday was a turn back the clocks kind of weekend.

Notre Dame wrapped up a chance to play for its first national title since 1988. And elsewhere, Ohio State and Michigan re-energized their rivalry with a Woody and Bo-type matchup with Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke on the sidelines.

Speaking of Ohio State, even the old tradition of split national titles remains alive with the Buckeyes still in contention for the Associated Press championship.

Although Florida and Oregon stated championship cases in their games of the season, the Notre Dame win ensured either Alabama or Georgia, who meet in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday, will play for the BCS title.

Here's a look at the key developments from a busy weekend of college football.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 13 RECAP: THREE AND OUT

THREE STORYLINES FOR THE BIG PICTURE

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly

Notre Dame’s long wait is over. Remember when Notre Dame couldn’t hire the right coach? Or couldn’t win a bowl game? The Irish are out of those depths after defeating USC 22-13 to cap their first undefeated regular season since 1988. As usual, Notre Dame won’t be without its detractors: A series of coaching blunders from Lane Kiffin aided the Irish late in the win in Los Angeles. The Notre Dame offense ranks 75th in points per game and 48th in yards per game. And the Notre Dame resume includes two signature wins (Oklahoma and Stanford, the latter aided by a disputed goal line call) and two close calls with lackluster BYU and Pittsburgh. But the Irish are playing for a title, a prospect that seemed foreign for most of the last 15 years.

The SEC justified itself to some degree. Notre Dame’s win ended any bid for two SEC teams to play for the national title, so the dissection of SEC schedules won’t be a major topic of discussion. The league still acquitted itself in the final week of the regular season. Before Saturday, SEC teams lacked high-profile non-conference wins, chief among them Alabama over Michigan and Kentucky over Kent State. In the final Saturday of the regular season, four SEC teams swept the ACC on Saturday including two wins over ranked teams on the road (Florida over Florida State 37-26, South Carolina over Clemson 27-17) and two routs (Georgia over Georgia Tech 42-10, Vanderbilt over Wake Forest 55-21). The SEC non-conference schedules may have been lacking this season, but SEC teams at least flexed their muscles in the final week of the season.

Conference championship games are a mixed bag. This is generally the case each season due to a lackluster division here and there. Only one conference championship game will have national title implications (Alabama-Georgia in the SEC) and only one other will be between two teams undefeated in league play (Kent State-Northern Illinois in the MAC). Otherwise, the conference championship games are a dud. The ACC participants lost by a combined score on 79-36 to their SEC rivals. Big Ten Leaders winner Wisconsin (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten) sealed the division and then promptly lost back-to-back games to ineligible Ohio State and Penn State. And the Pac-12 title game will feature two ranked teams, who played just a week earlier with Stanford defeating UCLA 35-17.

MOVING THE CHAINS
Notre Dame on the goal line.
The Irish had two impressive goal line stands in the 22-13 win over USC that preserved the Notre Dame’s bid for the national title. The defense was excellent, but USC coach Lane Kiffin was happy to oblige with questionable play calling. First, USC advanced all the way to the Notre Dame 2 but had to settle for a field goal early in the fourth quarter. The situation was more dire after a 53-yard catch from Marqise Lee set up USC at the. A USC penalty, questionable clock management and four runs in seven plays sealed the Notre Dame win.

Florida’s mental and physical fortitude. Where to start with the Gators’ 37-26 win over Florida State? Florida didn’t hesitate to lean early on quarterback Jeff Driskel, who missed the Gators’ last game due to an ankle injury. Yet running back Mike Gillislee was the rock late in the game, rushing for the 37-yard go-ahead touchdown. He ran for 140 yards until freshman backup Matt Jones stepped in for an injured Gillislee (ribs) late in the fourth quarter.

Ohio State’s defense without John Simon. The absence of the Buckeyes’ best defensive player, tackle John Simon, could have been devastating against Michigan. Without him, though, Ohio State’s defense had one of its best days of the season. The Buckeyes front seven sacked Devin Gardner four times and forced three fumbles. Michigan led by one at halftime, but Ohio State held the Wolverines to 60 total yards and minus-four rushing in the second half.

FALSE STARTS
Florida State’s offense.
The Seminoles did something no one else did all season against Florida by scoring more than 20 points against the Gators. True, Florida State hit that mark by scoring a meaningless touchdown as time expired, but the Noles also scored 20 consecutive points late in the second quarter and into the third. But Florida State still managed to walk away with a bruised ego. The Seminoles’ amassed a season-low 300 yards and turned the ball over five times. EJ Manuel threw three interceptions, lost one fumble and was sacked four times.

Michigan limiting Denard Robinson. Although Michigan quarterback-turned-running back Denard Robinson rushed for 122 yards (whereas the rest of the Wolverines lost 14 yards rushing), Brady Hoke and coordinator Al Borges kept the senior on the sideline for most of the third quarter. Michigan never trailed by more than six points, but Robinson was a no-show for most of the Wolverines’ final three possessions, the final two ending on a fumble and an interception.

Big East leaders. Louisville started the season 9-0, and Rutgers started 7-0. A winner-take-all game between the Cardinals and Scarlet Knights to end the season could have been a banner game for the
beleaguered conference. The final game of the season Thursday may end with the winner heading to a BCS game, but Saturday’s losses diminished the luster on the final key game of the season. Rutgers loafed to 207 total yards in a 27-6 loss to Pittsburgh. Louisville lost 23-20 in triple overtime to Connecticut despite outgaining the Huskies by 160 yards. Both Pitt and UConn started Saturday with one Big East win each. A Rutgers win over Louisville next week would clinch a BCS spot, while a Rutgers loss would set up a tiebreaker with as many as four teams tied for the Big East title.

HEISMAN MOVERS
Manti Te’o, Notre Dame.
Against USC, Te’o finished with five tackles and his seventh interception of the season, and the Trojans rushed for only 95 yards. Though Te’o did not have an interception when the season began, his seven interceptions this season is second nationally.

EJ Manuel, Florida State. Manuel was a fringe contender to start the day, but throwing three interceptions at home all but eliminates him.

Kenjon Barner, Oregon. Oregon State held Wisconsin’s Montee Ball, UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin, Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey and Washington’s Bishop Sankey all below their season averages this year. The Beavers can’t say the same about Barner. After failing to crack 70 yards the last two games, Barner rushed for 198 and two touchdowns despite missing time with an injury in the 48-24 win.

BOWL ELIGIBLE
• Baylor
• Purdue
• Virginia Tech
• West Virginia
BOWL INELIGIBLE
• Marshall
• Missouri
• Troy
• Wake Forest

STAT WATCH
79.
Career touchdowns for Wisconsin’s Montee Ball, setting an NCAA record. It’s been an up-and-down season for Ball, and the final game played out the same way. Ball set the record, but the Badgers lost 24-21 to Penn State in overtime. Ball’s 79 career touchdowns broke Miami (Ohio) running back Travis Prentice’s record for 78 touchdowns from 1996-99.

4,600. Yards of total offense for Johnny Manziel. With 439 total yards in a 59-29 rout of Missouri, the Texas A&M redshirt freshman broke Auburn quarterback Cam Newton’s SEC record for total offense (4,377). Moreover, Manziel broke the record in two fewer games than the Tigers’ Heisman winner. In a late push for the Heisman, Manziel has had 10 total touchdowns in the last two weeks since the win over Alabama. Those 10 touchdowns, however, have come against Sam Houston State and Missouri.


0. First-quarter touchdowns allowed by Notre Dame this season. The Irish allowed nine points in the first quarter this season, all field goals. This comes with an asterisk, though, as USC’s first play of the second quarter was an 11-yard touchdown pass. Max Wittek’s TD capped a 75-yard drive, the longest scoring drive of the season against Notre Dame.

BURIED ON THE DEPTH CHART
Sam Ficken, Penn State. Fairly or unfairly, Penn State replacement kicker Sam Ficken was the goat of the Nittany Lions’ 17-16 loss to Virginia in the second week of the season. Ficken missed four field goals and an extra point in that game, but he became a fan favorite with a 37-yard go-ahead field goal in overtime against Wisconsin. The Badgers failed to score on their possession in overtime for a 24-21 Penn State win. Ficken’s final field goal was his third of three attempts in the game, giving him 10 consecutive made field goals to end the season.

Jerry Kill’s absence. The Gophers coach had his second game day impacted by a seizure and third since he was hired at Minnesota. Against Michigan State, Kill suffered a seizure in the locker room at halftime and did not return to the game, a 26-10 loss to the Spartans. He did not go to the hospital and was reported to be resting comfortably. Kill previously suffered a seizure after the Northwestern game earlier this season and another last year on the field in a game against New Mexico State. Longtime assistant Tracy Claeys led the team in the second half against Michigan State. Claeys had played a similar role during absences by Kill at previous stops.

SMU ends Tulsa’s perfect conference season. In one of the day’s biggest upsets, SMU denied Tulsa’s bid to finish undefeated in conference play with a 35-27 win. SMU, which became bowl eligible, led by as much as 29, but Tulsa scored three unanswered touchdowns. The Mustangs stopped Tulsa’s Jordan James on at the goal line on a disputed play to preserve the win. The Golden Hurricane’s loss left only four teams undefeated in conference games (Kent State, Northern Illinois, Ohio State and Utah State). Tulsa will still play for the Conference USA title Saturday against UCF.

THREE SURREAL SCENES
Tressel’s return. Ohio State honored the 10th anniversary of the Buckeyes’ last national title with a ceremony after the first quarter against Michigan. The celebration included Jim Tressel, who resigned amid the NCAA violations that cost the Buckeyes a chance to play for the Big Ten and BCS titles this season. Former players lifted Tressel on their shoulders as the Ohio Stadium crowd cheered, an odd scene under the circumstances, Without the Tressel mess in 2009-10, Ohio State would be eligible for the postseason -- but then again, if Tressel were not fired, Ohio State would not have hired Urban Meyer. Another note on the reunion: Maurice Clarett, the star freshman running back of the 2002 team, was expected to attend but was nowhere to be found during the ceremony.


ULM's victory formation. Leading by a touchdown, the Warhawks hoped to work the clock by taking a knee in the final minute and a half against FIU, but in a rare miscue in the victory formation, quarterback Kolton Browning fumbled. FIU scored on a 58-yard Hail Mary to send the game to overtime. Lucky for ULM coach Todd Berry, whose players gave him the Gatorade bath prior to the fumble, the Warhawks won 23-17 in overtime.

Tim Beckman trucked by an official. This is the kind of season it’s been for the first-year coach at Illinois. Beckman was called for his second sideline interference penalty of the game when an official knocked over the Illini coach after an interception of quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. Beckman was penalized 16 yards to set up a Northwestern touchdown two plays later. The Wildcats’ 50-14 win was the ninth consecutive loss of the season for Illinois.


THREE DILEMMAS
What will AP voters do with Ohio State? The Buckeyes finished the season as one of only two undefeated teams and could finish the year as the only undefeated team. If Notre Dame loses in the BCS title game, the question is if Ohio State will contend for No. 1 spot in the Associated Press poll. Ohio State defeated both Big Ten title game participants -- Nebraska 63-38 and Wisconsin 21-14 in overtime. But Ohio State’s best non-conference foe was Conference USA East winner UCF. The last undefeated team to face a bowl ban was 1993 Auburn, which finished the season ranked fourth by the AP.

What will Texas do with its quarterbacks? Texas appears it will finish the season where it started, with questions at quarterback. In Thursday’s 20-13 loss to TCU, starter David Ash was 10 of 21 for 104 yards with three turnovers. Backup Case McCoy wasn’t much better, completing 11 of 17 passes for 110 yards and an interception. Neither completed a pass of 20 yards or more. Previously this season against Kansas, Texas replaced Ash mid-game for McCoy but went back to Ash as the starter the following week.

What should Southern Miss do with Ellis Johnson? With a 42-24 loss to Memphis, Southern Miss completed an astounding fall from Conference USA champions at 12-2 to a winless season at 0-12. Johnson is a first-year coach, but where the Golden Eagles go from here will be interesting. Southern Miss did not have a losing season from 1994-2011.

THREE SEC MILESTONES
Vanderbilt’s eight wins. The Commodores’ 55-21 win over Wake Forest clinched an 8-4 season, the best since Vanderbilt had the same record in 1982. The ‘Dores finished the season on a six-game winning streak, its longest since 1955. If Vanderbilt wins its bowl game, the Commodores will have their first nine-win season since 1915.

Alabama’s Iron Bowl rout. With a 49-0 win over Auburn, the Crimson Tide didn’t set the record for the most lopsided Iron Bowl, though it was possible. Alabama took a knee at Auburn’s 5 in the final seconds, ensuring Alabama’s 55-0 win in 1948 remained the record in the series. Auburn wrapped up its first 0-8 SEC season and its first nine-loss season since going 0-10 in 1950.

Ole Miss’ Egg Bowl win. The Rebels won the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State for the first time since 2008, but the short drought wasn’t the most notable number. Ole Miss defeated Mississippi State 41-24 just a year after losing 31-3 to the Bulldogs.

THREE GOOD SEASONS YOU MISSED
East Carolina (8-4, 7-1 C-USA)
Fresno State (9-3, 7-1 MWC)
San Jose State (10-2, 5-1 WAC)
THREE INEXPLICABLE FINAL SCORES
TCU 20, Texas 13
Washington State 31, Washington 28 (OT)
Connecticut 23, Louisville 20 (OT)
BEST GAMES NEXT WEEK
Alabama vs. Georgia
UCLA at Stanford
Oklahoma at TCU

THREE WILD FINISHES IN RIVALRY GAMES
Oklahoma 51, Oklahoma State 48 (OT). The Bedlam rivalry used to be known for how one-sided it was -- Oklahoma went 45-3-1 from 1946-94. Saturday’s game was contested possession by possession. Landry Jones passed for 500 yards for the second consecutive game, but Brennan Clay bounced off defenders for an 18-yard run in overtime to settle the Sooners’ win. Oklahoma hadn’t led for the entire game before the Clay run.


Washington State 31, Washington 28 (OT). Washington State scored the final 21 points, but the biggest play of the game may have been one that didn’t make an impact on a scoreboard. Wazzu ended an eight-game losing streak thanks in part to 277-pound nose tackle Kalafitoni Pole’s interception in overtime. The return to the Washington 5-yard line was all but negated due to overtime rules, but Wazzu responded a 27-yard field goal on the ensuing possession to defeat its rival.

Arizona State 41, Arizona 34. Few coaches have been as criticized as Todd Graham, who snuck out of Pittsburgh after one season to coach Arizona State. The Sun Devils don’t mind, though. Arizona State scored 24 points in the fourth quarter Friday to defeat Arizona 41-34. Both programs are 7-5 overall, but Arizona State finished with a winning record in Pac-12 play.

Teaser:
<p> College Football Week 13 Recap: Notre Dame seals No. 1</p>
Post date: Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 10:24
Path: /fantasy/week-12-injury-updates-beanie-wells-donald-brown-marcel-reece-darren-mcfadden-mike-goodson
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No more bye weeks. It’s all up to health and strategy from here on out to get you to a fantasy football championship. Here are some updates on injured players, their status for the Week 12 games or the outlook for their replacements.

Beanie Wells is backBeanie Wells, RB, Arizona Cardinals vs. St. Louis Rams
Guess who's back? Back, again. Beanie's back, back at running back. But should Beanie Wells come off of the designated injured reserve and into your fantasy lineup? Nope. In the three games he played in before the toe injury, Wells combined for 29 carries for 74 yards and no TDs — in three games. Now he returns with a third-string rookie at QB, the offensive line still as bad as they were when he left and facing a St. Louis defense, that while ranked 22nd against fantasy RBs in PPR, limited the Cardinals to 40 rushing yards from RBs in their Week 5 meeting. Plus, Wells is not expected to carry a full work load in his first game back. It might not get much better to close out the fantasy season for Wells, either. Arizona faces defenses ranked 23rd, 11th, seventh and fourth against fantasy RBs from Weeks 13-16.

 

Donald Brown, RB, Indianapolis Colts vs. Buffalo Bills
The knee injury still has Donald Brown as probable on the injury report. He went full on Wednesday and Friday in practice with the day off on Thursday. The Colts face the 29th-ranked fantasy defense against RBs today, and the Bills have already allowed AFC South backs, Chris Johnson (32.8), Jamie Harper (12.8) and Arian Foster (17.1), to have double-digit days. It is likely another AFC South back will reach double digits, but the chances of it being Brown seem to be getting smaller and smaller. After tying Vick Ballard with touches (14) in Week 10, Brown had six touches to Ballard's 17 in Week 11. Maybe a 59-24 loss to New England had something to do with it. But if I'm going to trust an untrustworthy backfield, I'd rather go across the line of scrimmage and trust C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson than Brown and Ballard.

 

Marcel ReeceMarcel Reece, Darren McFadden, Mike Goodson, RBs, Oakland Raiders vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Marcel Reece, one of the better late-season waiver wire pickups, is listed as probable on the injury report with hamstring and quadriceps, but practiced on Friday and will be the focal point of the Raiders' running game. Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson are still out with high ankle sprains and Taiwan Jones popped up on the injury report with an ankle on Thursday. Reece has been very versatile as a fantasy scorer. When McFadden and Goodson went out in Week 9, Reece added eight catches for 95 yards and a score. He returned in Week 10 with 48 yards on 13 carries, 56 yards on seven catches for a 17.4-point day in PPR, and last week he went 19-for-103 on the ground and 4-for-90 through the air for 23.3 points. The catches are offsetting the lack of TDs, and now Reece draws a Bengals team that has allowed dual-threat backs Jamaal Charles (15.8), Ahmad Bradshaw (10.1) and Andre Brown (20.4) to hit double digits in the last two games.


— By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Week 12 Injury Updates: Beanie Wells, Donald Brown, Marcel Reece, Darren McFadden, Mike Goodson</p>
Post date: Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/week-12-injury-updates-michael-vick-nick-foles-donnie-avery-brandon-marshall
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No more bye weeks. It’s all up to health and strategy from here on out to get you to a fantasy football championship. Here are some updates on injured players, their status for the Week 12 games or the outlook for their replacements.

Michael Vick is dealing with a concussionMichael Vick, Nick Foles, QBs, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Carolina Panthers (Monday night)
Like LeSean McCoy, Michael Vick is dealing with a concussion and has already been ruled out for Monday's game against the Panthers. It looks like once he passes his concussion tests, Vick will return to the lineup. In the meantime, the backfield will consist of rookie Nick Foles at quarterback and Bryce Brown in for McCoy at running back. Foles and the entire Eagles offense were a disappointment in Washington last week, scoring just six points against a pretty bad defense. Philadelphia now plays host to an equally bad Carolina team, a Carolina team, however, that is ranked 12th against fantasy QBs. The Panthers are 12th against QBs while being 23rd against fantasy RBs. Maybe it was because it was Foles' first start and it was on the road and Robert Griffin III was on fire, but it's hard to trust Foles when he bombed in last week's juicy matchup. He might prove us wrong for a week, but then the job could go right back to Vick.

 

Donnie Avery, WR, Indianapolis Colts vs. Buffalo Bills
Donnie Avery suffered a concussion last week but practiced in full this week and should be good to go. The Colts are the fourth-best scoring team amongst fantasy receivers in PPR and Avery has had two double-digit PPR weeks in the last three games. It is hard to trust a Colts receiver not named Reggie Wayne, though. Avery and rookie T.Y. Hilton seem to cut into each other's production. The Bills are ranked 22nd against fantasy receivers, but only one receiver on each team each of the last five games has reached double digits and only three TDs have been allowed to the position in those five games.

 

Brandon Marshall, WR, Chicago Bears vs. Minnesota Vikings
A shoulder landed Brandon Marshall on the injury report. But the scare looks to have progressed from bad to good. The injury kept him out of practice on Wednesday, limited him on Thursday and he was back in full on Friday. The Bears draw a Minnesota team that is 16th against fantasy receivers in PPR scoring but just allowed Calvin Johnson to go 12-207 and a score in Week 10. The Vikings have surrendered 52 catches for 629 yards and seven scores in the last four games. Jay Cutler appears ready to return (concussion) and he will keep looking to Marshall often.


— By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Donnie Avery, and Brandon Marshall updates</p>
Post date: Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 06:20
Path: /fantasy/week-12-injury-updates-willis-mcgahee-ronnie-hillman-dwayne-bowe-percy-harvin
Body:

No more bye weeks. It’s all up to health and strategy from here on out to get you to a fantasy football championship. Here are some updates on injured players, their status for the Week 12 games or the outlook for their replacements.

Willis McGaheeWillis McGahee, Ronnie Hillman, RBs, Denver Broncos vs. Kansas City Chiefs
If you missed out on Trent Richardson, Doug Martin or David Wilson in your August fantasy drafts, Ronnie Hillman or Robert Turbin were likely the next men up. Hillman's path to playing time was not as clear as Richardson, Martin's or Turbin's, had Marshawn Lynch been suspended, and David Wilson fumbled away his opportunity from Week 1. Hillman was the only one set to play behind a 31-year-old running back with injury history in Willis McGahee. And if you were patient with Hillman and his own hamstring issues that stunted his development as a rookie, then it looks like it will start paying off in Week 12 of the NFL season. McGahee is on IR with a torn MCL and leg fracture and Hillman will partially get his shot. He had around 60 percent of the snaps when McGahee went down last week and will likely have to compete with Lance Ball and Knowshon Moreno for touches. But this is John Fox's draft pick and he gets his first start against a Chiefs defense ranked 24th against fantasy RBs in PPR scoring. Denver has the eighth-most rushing attempts in the NFL this season. While I'd normally be conservative about inserting Hillman on his first start, the matchup and Fox's propensity to run the ball have me stepping out of the box on this one. Consider Hillman a mid-level RB2 this week.

 

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos
A neck injury forced an early exit for Dwayne Bowe from last week's game as he provided fantasy owners with a goose egg. He was limited in practice on Wednesday but was there in full on the final two days. He is expected to play in this 1 p.m. start. However, Denver is ranked 10th against fantasy receivers in PPR scoring. The two-touchdown day allowed to Danario Alexander last week was the first multiple-TD game the Broncos allowed to a receiver this season. Bowe has only received double-digit targets once since Week 4, eclipsed 80 yards once since Week 4 and has not scored since Week 4. Bowe is a solid receiver that is a hope-and-a-prayer play now on the league's worst scoring team when it comes to fantasy WRs. I'd rather have a high-upside player like a Danario Alexander in there at this point then have Bowe leave me with zero or be dependent upon Brady Quinn.

 

Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings vs. Chicago Bears
Percy Harvin is still not ready to return from the ankle injury suffered against Seattle on Nov. 4. He missed the Week 10 game against Detroit and even the bye could not get him healthy in time for today's Bears game. Rookie Jarius Wright stepped in and caught three balls for 65 yards and a score on five targets in Week 10. But the Bears, although losers of their last two, have only allowed one TD and no receiver has gone over 60 or caught more than four balls in those two games. If it's not a healthy Harvin or an alive Adrian Peterson, there are no Vikings I'm playing today.
— By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Willis McGahee, Ronnie Hillman, Dwayne Bowe, Percy Harvin Updates</p>
Post date: Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 06:10
Path: /fantasy/week-12-injury-updates-lesean-mccoy-bryce-brown-antonio-brown-jay-cutler
Body:

No more bye weeks. It’s all up to health and strategy from here on out to get you to a fantasy football championship. Here are some updates on injured players, their status for the Week 12 games or the outlook for their replacements.

LeSean McCoyLeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, RBs, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Carolina Panthers (Monday night)
At least fantasy owners don't have to worry about whether LeSean McCoy will or will not play. He has already been declared out for the Monday night game due to the concussion he suffered last week against Washington. McCoy is still reportedly still dealing with headaches and dizziness. If you have not grabbed Bryce Brown off of waivers already, go do it. Go do it if for no other reason than to block the McCoy owner. Then the question becomes: Do you start Brown? In PPR leagues, he's a definite RB2. Even though the Eagles are ranked 22nd in points from fantasy RBs in PPR scoring, they are ranked 15th in receptions from RBs. Nick Foles will remain at QB as Michael Vick is still out with a concussion. Brown can serve as the proverbial check-down man for Foles while also going up against a Carolina defense ranked 28th against fantasy RBs in PPR scoring.

 

Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns
The high-ankle sprain that Antonio Brown has is one he reportedly said he would not normally try and return too quickly from. But the Steelers are not normal right now. They are down to their third quarterback (Charlie Batch) with injuries to Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich. Brown practiced on a limited basis and is making the effort to get back on the field to help the team try and stay alive in the playoff race. He is listed as questionable and will be a game-time decision for the early game against Cleveland. I would avoid Brown; the deck is stacked against him too much this week. With the Steelers down to Batch, the ankle injury not fully healed and outside of Dez Bryant's 12-145-1 day last week, the Browns had not surrendered a score or more than 73 yards to a receiver since Week 6.
UPDATE: Antonio Brown is inactive for today's game. That's a relief to fantasy owners that would like for him to be healthier down the stretch when/if Ben Roethlisberger returns.

 

Jay CutlerJay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears vs. Minnesota Vikings
Jay Cutler appears as if he has passed all of the concussion tests and will return for the Bears' 1 p.m. start against visiting Minnesota. He practiced daily, albeit in a limited capacity, and multiple reports have him starting today. He faces a Vikings team that has surrendered three touchdowns to opposing QBs each of the last three weeks and 17 total TDs to the position this season. Minnesota has just five interceptions this season and only four sacks; the defense recorded 22 sacks in the first seven games. For what it's worth, which is not much, Cutler threw for 267 and two TDs with no interceptions in his only meeting against Minnesota last season (Week 6) and Josh McCown followed with 160 and a score in Week 17.


— By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, Antonio Brown, Jay Cutler Updates</p>
Post date: Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 06:05
Path: /fantasy/week-12-injury-updates-greg-jennings-ahmad-bradshaw-blaine-gabbert-chad-henne
Body:

No more bye weeks. It’s all up to health and strategy from here on out to get you to a fantasy football championship. Here are some updates on injured players, their status for the Week 12 games or the outlook for their replacements.

Greg JenningsGreg Jennings, WR, Green Bay Packers vs. New York Giants (Sunday night)
Greg Jennings (groin/abdomen) practiced on a limited basis this week and will be a game-time decision tonight. There are three red flags right there: return from injury, game-time decision and Sunday night game. Jennings has not played since Week 4, so expecting much from a receiver coming off a two-month layoff would be asking a lot. The Giants have allowed 12 receivers to have double-digit days in PPR scoring since Jennings went out in Week 4. So it's suffice to say the Packers should be fine without Jennings in that department. Green Bay's defensive injuries might mean a shootout is in order and Jennings could be needed, but those are still quite a few scenarios to try and count on a receiver after eight weeks on the sidelines.

 

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants vs. Green Bay Packers (Sunday night)
Ahmad Bradshaw finally saw the practice field on Friday in a limited capacity, but this has become the norm for the Giants' running back. He is still listed as probable with the foot injury. Since missing Week 3, Bradshaw has played in the following seven games and never dipped below 10 carries. He has carried 129 times for 581 yards (4.5 YPC) and scored three times. The touchdowns are not coming, but the carries are and that still makes him a decent play. He's scored in double digits five times in PPR scoring in the last seven games, and coming off a bye he gets a Packers defense that has allowed three touchdowns and 3.8 YPC to RBs over the last five weeks.

 

Blaine GabbertBlaine Gabbert, Chad Henne, QBs, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Tennessee Titans
So Blaine Gabbert gets injured, Chad Henne steps in and throws for 354 yards and four scores on 16-of-33 passing in an overtime loss at Houston last week. The aftermath: Gabbert goes on IR, Henne gets the start and now welcomes a Tennessee team that is ranked 23rd against fantasy QBs. The Titans followed a three-TD, 229-yard performance against Jay Cutler (thanks in large part to the Bears' defense and a short offensive field) by forcing three interceptions, allowing no TDs and surrendering 217 yards to Ryan Tannehill in Miami. Henne is a for-sure play in two-QB leagues, but you'd be hard pressed to start him in standard leagues.


— By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Greg Jennings, Ahmad Bradshaw, Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne Updates</p>
Post date: Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /fantasy/week-12-injury-updates-coby-fleener-danny-amendola-darrius-heyward-bey
Body:

No more bye weeks. It’s all up to health and strategy from here on out to get you to a fantasy football championship. Here are some updates on injured players, their status for the Week 12 games or the outlook for their replacements.

Darrius Heyward-BeyDarrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Oakland Raiders vs. Cincinnati Bengals
A hamstring injury last week in practice landed Darrius Heyward-Bey on the injury report as questionable against the visiting Saints. He ended up playing in the game, drawing five targets for four catches and 69 yards — leading the Raiders' receivers in all three categories. He practiced in full on Friday in preparation for today's game at Cincinnati, and draws a Bengals team that is fifth-best against fantasy WRs. Cincinnati has surrendered just two TDs to receivers in the last five weeks. It could be tough sledding for DHB and his hamstring.

 

Coby Fleener, TE, Indianapolis Colts vs. Buffalo Bills
Andrew Luck's Stanford teammate and fellow rookie, Coby Fleener, has missed the last three games with a shoulder injury but could return today against the Bills. Even if he returns today, fellow rookie, Dwayne Allen, has not done a bad job as the lead tight end. Allen has posted double-digit fantasy days in two of those three games, something Fleener has not done since Week 1. The question is not so much: Will Fleener have a fantasy impact? It is how much of an affect he will have on what Allen has been able to do the last two games. Allen, a top-12 tight end in PPR leagues the last three weeks, will likely see a drop off and neither can be counted on as fantasy starts.

 

Danny AmendolaDanny Amendola, WR, St. Louis Rams vs. Arizona Cardinals
Danny Amendola has been back two games since his clavicle injury and been great, as usual, in PPR leagues. He was targeted 12 times, grabbing 11 for 102 yards in Week 10 and followed with seven catches on 11 targets for 41 yards in Week 11. However, he injured his foot against the Jets last week and did not practice this week. He is doubtful for the Rams' late start against the Cardinals, and you should probably find another option. Brandon Gibson had PPR games of 16.1, 11 and 7.6 in the three games Amendola missed. He might be an option. However, with Amendola in the lineup against the Cardinals in Week 5, only Chris Givens scored in double digits. That was thanks to his only catch — a 51-yard TD. The Cardinals have allowed seven double-digit receivers in the five games since, but it's a tough ask to go with any Rams receiver not named Amendola.

— By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Coby Fleener, Danny Amendola, Darrius Heyward-Bey: Week 12 Injury Updates</p>
Post date: Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 05:51
Path: /fantasy/week-12-injury-updates-fred-jackson-darren-sproles-julio-jones
Body:

No more bye weeks. It’s all up to health and strategy from here on out to get you to a fantasy football championship. Here are some updates on injured players, their status for the Week 12 games or the outlook for their replacements.

Fred JacksonFred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills vs. Indianapolis Colts
Fred Jackson practiced this week and is on pace to return to the lineup from the concussion that kept him out of the Bills' Week 11 game. Jackson carried 16 times for 80 yards and caught four of five targets for 35 yards the last time he played. Coach Chan Gailey said C.J. Spiller will get the start and get the majority of snaps. The Bills, who are third in the NFL in fantasy scoring from their running backs, might be abandoning the committee approach. When Spiller and Jackson played together in Week 10, Jackson had the 20 touches and Spiller had 13. Spiller entered the game with a shoulder injury, though. It's hard to know if Gailey will truly give Spiller a majority of the touches. The Colts allow the eighth-most points to fantasy RBs, so there might be room for both. But the Colts also could jump out to a quick lead and the running game for the Bills could be a complete crapshoot.

 

Darren Sproles, RB, New Orleans Saints vs. San Francisco 49ers
A late scratch in a late game last week in Oakland, Darren Sproles (hand) should be good to go for today's late game against visiting San Francisco. And if he's good to go, then he's good to go in your lineup — particularly in PPR formats. In the seven games Sproles has played this year, he has scored at least 14 points in six of them. He did that in 15 of 19 games last season, including the postseason. That postseason ended with a loss to San Francisco but not before Sproles scored a season-high 33.2 points in PPR. The 49ers are No. 1 against fantasy RBs this season, allowing just four to reach double digits. But that's just the chance you have to take with a back like Sproles.

 

Julio JonesJulio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Julio Jones was a question mark last week after not practicing all week with an injured ankle. He got the start but failed to finish the game. He drew seven targets, catching three for 33 yards. He practiced this week and should be able to start again this week, but we now have to be worried that an early exit is repeated. It stinks on multiple levels because we are making the final playoff push in fantasy and Jones has been the stud on the road while Roddy White's the stud at home. Jones will be a game-time decision in Tampa, but I would play this one conservative and look elsewhere.
— By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Fred Jackson, Darren Sproles, Julio Jones: Week 12 Injury Updates</p>
Post date: Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 05:50
All taxonomy terms: Monthly
Path: /monthly/which-former-athlete-made-most-successful-transition-pop-culture
Body:

Which former athlete made the most successful transition into pop culture? My husband says former Rams defensive lineman Merlin Olsen (“Little House On The Prairie,” etc.), but I vote for Chuck Connors, who played pro basketball and baseball before turning to acting (“The Rifleman,” etc.). What do you think? 

— Rhona Crixdale, The Bronx, N.Y.
 
Interesting question, Rhona. No doubt that many athletes crave attention after their playing days and make the transition into entertainment or other facets of pop culture. The two you mention are prime examples. But if you define the term “athlete” broadly, then there’s an obvious answer: Arnold Schwarzenegger. The four-time Mr. Universe and International Powerlifting Champion from Austria went on to become the greatest action hero of his — or possibly any — generation before becoming governor of the most powerful state in the union. Schwarzenegger’s signature role as the Terminator produced a quote — “I’ll be back” — that has embedded itself in popular culture. 
Teaser:
<p> Which former athlete made the most successful transition into pop culture?&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Saturday, November 24, 2012 - 14:30
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-fighting-irish-vs-usc-trojans-preview-and-prediction
Body:

The mission for Notre Dame on Saturday night is very simple. The Fighting Irish are 60 minutes away from playing for a national championship in early January. With a win, Notre Dame can go ahead and book a trip to Miami. The Irish are virtually locked into a BCS bowl, but there’s no question this team wants to be 12-0 and playing for the national title, rather than 11-1 and making a trip to the Sugar or Fiesta Bowl.

Most expected USC to challenge for the national championship this season, but the Trojans have been one of college football’s biggest disappointments. USC has four losses and won’t represent the Pac-12 South in the conference title game. Although the Trojans are still a dangerous team, quarterback Matt Barkley is out for Saturday’s game due to a shoulder injury suffered against UCLA.

USC has dominated this series recently, winning nine out of the last 10 games. The Trojans won 31-17 in South Bend last season, which helped to spark their 4-1 finish to the end of 2011. Notre Dame’s last win in this series was in 2010, knocking off USC 20-16 in Los Angeles.

When the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have the ball:

Although the Fighting Irish’s defense has led the way this year, the offense has shown steady improvement over the second half of the season. Redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson has thrown seven touchdowns and just two interceptions over the last three games. The redshirt freshman is also a dangerous threat with his legs, rushing for 258 yards and five scores.

The Fighting Irish don’t have a standout No. 1 wide receiver, but tight end Tyler Eifert is one of the nation’s best. Eifert has 40 catches for 555 yards and four scores this year. TJ Jones is the team’s leading wide receiver, nabbing 40 receptions so far this year. Robby Toma, John Goodman and running back Theo Riddick will be Golson’s other key targets on Saturday night.

With Golson in his first year as the starter, it was important for the Fighting Irish to establish their ground game this season. Mission accomplished. Riddick leads the team with 734 yards, while Cierre Wood is a close second with 720. George Atkinson III has also chipped in 346 yards. Combine these three backs with Golson’s mobility, and it’s easy to see why Notre Dame ranks 33rd nationally in rushing offense.

USC’s defense has suffered its fair share of criticism this year, especially after allowing 51 points to Oregon on Nov. 3. The Trojans have struggled to stop spread offenses and will have their hands full with Notre Dame on Saturday night.

The Trojans are averaging 3.8 sacks per game and generating pressure on Golson will be one of the keys pulling off the upset. If USC can force the redshirt freshman into a couple of bad throws, it will be a huge opportunity to give its offense a short field and a chance for easy points. The Trojans also need to limit Notre Dame’s rushing attack on early downs, forcing Golson to beat them on third and long situations.

When the USC Trojans have the ball:

Beating Notre Dame was going to be difficult enough with Barkley under center. And with the preseason Heisman favorite sidelined, the Trojans have to turn to redshirt freshman Max Wittek. He has completed 8 of 9 passes for 95 yards and one touchdown this season, but Saturday night will be his first taste of extended action at USC.

With Wittek making his first start, the Trojans need a strong effort from his supporting cast. Receiver Marqise Lee is one of the best in the nation and needs to have around 15 touches in this game. Wittek’s inexperience probably won’t allow USC to air it out against Notre Dame, but Lee needs to get the ball on short screens and reverses.

In addition to finding ways to get Lee and Robert Woods the ball, running backs Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal should expect to see more carries. McNeal rushed for 161 yards against UCLA last Saturday, while Redd leads the team with 740 yards and nine touchdowns.

Although USC needs to have a big day from its running game, that’s easier said than done against Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish rank fifth nationally against the run and have allowed just two touchdowns on the ground all year.

Wittek has a lot of talent, but he has to be careful not to do too much. If USC can simplify the gameplan and give him some easy throws early on, the Trojans will have a chance to hang around until the fourth quarter.

Final Analysis:

The recent history in this series heavily favors USC, but it’s tough to ask Max Wittek to knock off Notre Dame in his first start. The Trojans will hang around until the fourth quarter and that’s when the Fighting Irish defense will take control. Expect Manti Te’o and the rest of the Notre Dame defense to put the clamps on the USC attack in the second half, which is enough to send the Fighting Irish to the national championship.

Prediction: Notre Dame 27, USC 17


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Pac-12 Week 13 Preview and Predictions
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Teaser:
<p> Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. USC Trojans Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Saturday, November 24, 2012 - 07:02
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-betting-against-spread-week-13
Body:

Every Friday for entertainment purposes only, I will bring you my top college football picks against the spread. I do not condone, approve or encourage gambling on sports in any way. But if you are a fan of football — college or pro — and you don't think gambling has played a huge role in the growth and popularity of the sport, then you are simply being ignorant. And behind closed doors, the powers that be understand the impact betting has had on the game of football.

2012 Record Against The Spread: 52-31
Last Week: 3-2

Note: All lines are as of date of publication

Ball State (-7.5) at Miami, Ohio
The Cardinals have won five straight and are 9-2 against the spread. The Redhawks have lost three straight and are 2-8-1 against the number this fall. This seems like easy money. Prediction: Ball State -7.5

Arizona State (+2.5) at Arizona
The Wildcats offense is on cruise control and appears to be fully healthy. The Sun Devils defense has been on life support for over a month (despite a strong showing against lowly Washington State). Arizona is a far superior team and could roll big. Prediction: Arizona -2.5

Washington (-13.5) at Washington State
Normally, in potentially bad weather on the road in a rivalry, I would recommend betters stay away. But Washington State is horrible and the Huskies are surging. Take Coach Sark and his Woof Gang. Prediction: Washington -13.5

Northwestern (-19) at Illinois
Pat Fitzgerald's team has only lost once this year against the spread and Illinois has done nothing to prove it will hang around in this one. Why shouldn't this one get ugly? Prediction: Northwestern -19

Florida (+7) at Florida State
Call is SEC hubris, but the Gators getting seven points against anyone feels like a smart bet. Yes, Florida State has been strong against Florida over the last two, and I still like the Noles to win, but a blowout feels highly unlikely. Prediction: Florida +7

One to watch for fun:

Idaho (+38) at Utah State
The Aggies are the only unbeaten team in the nation against the spread this year. And Idaho has been terrible in Vegas, going 2-9 against the spread. So why not lay 38 points, right? Prediction: Utah State -38

2012 Trends Against the Spread:

  Best Teams Against the Spread   Worst Teams Against the Spread
1. Utah State (11-0) 1. Virginia (1-8-2)
2t. Fresno State (10-1) 2t. Arkansas (2-9)
2t. Northwestern (10-1) 2t. Colorado (2-9)
4t. Ball State (9-2) 2t. Idaho (2-9)
4t. Kent State (9-2) 2t. Iowa (2-9)
4t. San Jose State (9-2) 2t. Nevada (2-9)
7. Kansas State (8-2-1) 7. Miami, Ohio (2-8-1)
8. Penn State (8-2-1)    

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College Football's Week 13 Upset Predictions
Weekend On Tap: Picking the 10 Best Games of Week 13
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Big Ten Week 13 Previews and Predictions

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Pac-12 Week 13 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 13 Previews and Predictions

Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat Post-Week 12 Rankings

Post-Week 12 Bowl Projections

Teaser:
<p> College Football Betting Against the Spread: Week 13</p>
Post date: Friday, November 23, 2012 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/has-ucla-surpassed-usc-pac-12s-top-team-los-angeles
Body:

Has the torched in the Pac-12 South passed from USC to UCLA? Before the win over the Trojans on Saturday, the Bruins had won only one out of the last 13 matchups in the annual battle for bragging rights in Los Angeles. However, UCLA's victory, combined with the ongoing sanctions at USC could signal a shift in the series. 

Has UCLA Surpassed USC as the Pac-12's Top Team in Los Angeles?

Coach Terry Donahue, former head coach of the UCLA Bruins, and current voting member of the Legends Poll:
First thing, the UCLA quarterback, Brett Hundley, is really a fine player.  He’s very mobile.  He’s a lot like a lot of these quarterbacks that are doing so well around the country.  He’s big, about 6’3”, maybe a little taller, and has really good pocket presence.  He can buy you a second chance against the pass rush.  He’s very mobile, he’s very calm in the pocket and just doesn't make a whole lot of mistakes.  He outplayed Barkley the other day and he is only a freshman. I think he is going to be a difference maker for UCLA as long as he stays healthy.  The other thing I think the sanctions are starting to hurt USC.  Like this recruiting class they've got signed up to come in this next year, a lot of people have them ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the country, but there’s only 15 players. Over the four years of eligibility players can get disenchanted with football, the kids can get hurt, or the players may not make it academically. USC depth is going to be impacted for several years and it looked like that played a part in UCLA winning the game this year.

David Fox (@DavidFox615): 
UCLA is perfectly positioned to take over the top spot in Los Angeles over the coming years. I don’t think we can overestimate the the promise redshirt freshman Brett Hundley has shown all season, essentially outplaying the preseason Heisman favorite in a head-to-head matchup. USC is about to lose Matt Barkley, the scholarship limitations are about to cut into the Trojans depth and now the program has a question of leadership in Lane Kiffin. If UCLA can’t take over in Los Angeles in the next three or four years, then I don’t know when the Bruins will be able to do so. However, this is a program that has underachieved for more than two decades. Just because UCLA has taken the lead in L.A. this season, that doesn’t mean it’s going to continue. For example, UCLA went 10-2 back in 2005, but that evaporated in short order. Considering that, next season might be more telling than anything we’ve seen from UCLA this year.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall):
No. That will never happen until UCLA wins multiple Pac-12 championships in a short span and is competing for National Championships. The Bruins have all the necessary pieces to develop into a college football power, but have a long way to go to accomplish the type of dominance the Trojans claimed for the last decade. And until the powers that be in Westwood put their full financial support to developing the program, UCLA football will always be a basketball school. This weekend's win was a great statement, but to say they UCLA brand has surpassed the USC brand in SoCal and on the recruiting trail is foolish.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): 
Last Saturday’s win over USC could be an important milestone for UCLA’s program for the next five years. With the Trojans still dealing with the effects of NCAA sanctions and reduced scholarships once again in this recruiting class, it’s going to be difficult to have another shot at the national championship in 2013 or 2014. The Bruins aren’t going to be a national title contender next year, but they will be picked ahead of USC and the pieces are in place to win the Pac-12. At least for the next couple of years, I think the torch has been passed to UCLA. New coach Jim Mora is off to a good start and has the Bruins poised to land another solid recruiting class. The Trojans will always be the No. 1 brand in Los Angeles, but scholarship reductions and the loss of Matt Barkley will make it difficult to surpass UCLA in the Pac-12 South next season. In terms of long-term projection, I’d still take USC as the top program in Los Angeles. However, I think UCLA will edge the Trojans for the next few seasons.

Mark Ross: 
UCLA certainly has bragging rights this season after defeating USC 38-28 on Saturday. And it's the Bruins, not the Trojans, who will be playing in the Pac-12 title game for a potential Rose Bowl berth, while Lane Kiffin's team will most likely have to settle for a bowl in mid- to late December at best. Still after just one season, it's hard to anoint UCLA as THE team in L.A., although it appears the Bruins' immediate future is a little more promising. Not only does Jim Mora have redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley to build around next year and beyond, but he will enter 2013 with more job security than his counterpart Kiffin. Who saw that coming entering this season? Kiffin not only has to pick up the pieces from what many thought was going to be a championship season, he will have to do so next season without quarterback Matt Barkley and several other key players who will either graduate or leave early for the NFL Draft. UCLA may not have surpassed USC just yet, but the Bruins are certainly gaining on their Trojan brethren and the gap seems to be narrowing with each passing week.

Related College Football Content

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Post-Week 12 Bowl Projections

Post-Week 12 BCS Analysis

Teaser:
<p> Has UCLA Surpassed USC as the Pac-12's Top Team in Los Angeles?</p>
Post date: Friday, November 23, 2012 - 05:57
All taxonomy terms: NFL, MLB, Monthly, Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/2012-holiday-gift-guide-sports-fans
Body:

Are you looking for the perfect and unusual gift for the sports fan in your life? Welcome. You’ve come to the right place. Here’s a look at some of our favorites.

STOP ROOTING, START OWNING
Thanks to oneshare.com, you can actually give someone a framed share of real stock in a host of different companies. In the sports world, those companies include Churchill Downs, Callaway Golf, Manchester United and more. Talk about rooting…with interest!

Price: About $100
Found at: www.oneshare.com

 

A BIG GIFT: A MINI STADIUM
Bring the house in the house! These mini stadiums (approx. 7” x 6”) from the Danbury Mint are expertly crafted down the very last detail. Available for a host of pro and college stadiums, they’re a wonderful collectible for the fan who wants a game day stadium experience, everyday. Talk about a home field advantage.

Price: $75-$199
Found at: www.danburymint.com

 

FOOTBALL, BY THE YARD
Some people want a tree on their lawn. Others want a defensive lineman. These giant inflatables football players (5-8 feet tall) come in two styles (lineman and TD scorer) and you can choose from NFL teams, many colleges and even college mascots. It’s a great way to show the world who rules in your house. At least on fall weekends.

Price: $90-$130
Found at: amazon.com


THANK YOU FOR THE GIFT OF SPEED
Imagine giving someone the chance to enjoy the thrills and excitement of racing at the Richard Petty Driving experience. Available at 22 different tracks, attendees can choose to ride shotgun for a series of laps, or actually get behind the wheel and show off their skills. They’ll be so excited, they’ll be running in circles. Well, ovals.

Price: Ride-Alongs, $99-$159, Driving: $449-$3,499
Found at: www.drivepetty.com

 

TOAST YOUR TEAM
Talk about getting burned. This 2-slice retro-style toaster from Pangea Brands leaves the mark of your favorite team's emblem on one side of white bread, wheat bread, even waffles. Available for most NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL teams, it's a great way to for someone to show their support. At least until lunch.
 
Price: $39.00
 

 

WEAR YOUR HEART ON YOUR SLEEVE, LITERALLY
These sterling silver cufflinks are made from material salvaged from old baseball stadium seats, classic college basketball courts and more. From Fenway Park to the University of Kentucky to Ebbets Field, this is a one of a kind gift. Well actually, two.

Price: $160-$200
Found at: www.uncommongood.com 

 

NOT EVERY BASEBALL SHOULD BE CRUSHED
This beautiful Steuben glass crystal baseball celebrates the national pastime in style. It’s a very special gift for the baseball fan in your life and would be perfect suited for a desk, or a mantle. Catch in the yard? Not so much.

Price: $600
Found at: www.lbgreen.com

 

THE PERFECT GIFT FOR A HOCKEY FAN, OR JASON
At Masks from the Past, you’ll find exact fiberglass recreations of famous NHL goalie masks. From a replica of JacquePlante’s first ever mask, to Gerry Cheevers’ scarred beauty from the 70s, the hockey fan in your life will love having a remembrance of days gone by. Shoot. Score.

Price: $200-$500
Found at: www.hockeymasks.com

 

GOING, GOING, GONE
Want to give someone a chance to show their allegiance to the bitter end? These MLB decorated caskets are velvet inside and have a half couch design with a matching pillow and throw, too. You can even have ashes placed in a MLB urn and then in a cremation casket. Either way, you’re outta here!

Price: Approx. $1,400-$2800
Found at: www.memorials.com/sport-caskets.php

 

YOU CAN’T SPELL “NICE” WITHOUT “ICE”
Turn the backyard into a winter wonderland with this do-it-yourself ice rink. The Rink-In-A-Box package from NiceRink provides everything anyone needs for a little slice of ice heaven—liner, support brackets, resurfacer, nets--the whole thing. Put it down. Freeze ‘er up. Triple axle here we come!

Price: $350-$800
Found at: www.nicerink.com

 

“AND NOW, ENTERING THE RING: YOU”
It’s the perfect gift for the kid in all of us: pro wrestling title belts. Choose from a variety of shapes, sizes and titles. You can even have a name engraved on the removable plate. So why not give the gift that keeps on giving…body slams, that is. NOTE: folding chair and brass knuckles not included.

Price: $320-$420
Found at: shop.wwe.com
 

 
EARS ARE MADE FOR LISTENING, NOT SWEATING
Here’s a great gift for someone who loves sweatin’ to the oldies (newies, too). The UltraFit 3000 earbuds are not only designed for greater stability, but the unique Moisture shield technology ensures sound remains at its very best. After all, "Bohemian Rhapsody" is not meant to be heard wet.
Price: $99
 
 
 
BE UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL, EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT
For the fan wanting a great view no matter where they’re sitting, the Pentax 62555 might be just the ticket. These high-powered binoculars offer a bright image and reduced reflection and work well in extreme weather conditions. Big game in a December freeze? No problem. Big game in a July downpour? Did we mention they’re waterproof?

Price: $299.00
Found at: www.amazon.com
 
 
A DEVIL OF A GOOD TIME
For you cold-weather tailgating fans, there’s nothing better than the warming effect of a great whiskey. Thankfully Jim Beam has brought forth three new taste sensations—Devil’s Cut Bourbon (a premium 90-proof whiskey packed with a flavorful punch, $23.99); Red Stag Spiced (a sweet, warm whiskey with hints of cinnamon, $17.99); and Knob Creek Rye (an aged, 100-proof whiskey that finishes with a lingering spiciness, $40.99). Game on!

Price: $17.99-$23.99-$40.99
Found at: www.jimbeam.com (Must be 21 or over)

 
 
A STOOL-EN BASE
These unique stools are made from game day bases used by many MLB teams, including the Yankees, Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers and Mets. It’s the perfect gift for the baseball lover in your life, who can slide into memorabilia. And sit on it, too.

Price: $950
Found at: www.uncommongoods.com


THE SPORTS VACATION OF YOUR DREAMS
At Sports Traveler, you can plan a trip to the sporting event of your choice...anywhere in the world. From pro football to international tennis to the Olympics and more, you can give someone a gift card to help them arrange their dream sports trip. Ready, set, go!

Price: Gift cards start at $100
Found at: www.sportstraveler.net
 
 
KICK BACK WITH YOUR FAVORITE TEAM
Nothing says “I love you, team” like an NFL recliner. Made from a sturdy hardwood frame, each chair is decorated in theteam’s main color and features their name and logo. Even better, when they score and the beer and salsa go flying, the microfiber makes it easily cleanable with soap and water.

Price: $649
Found at: www.nflshop.com
 
A SLICE OF GOLF HEAVEN, MINUS THE SLICE
Custom-built irons from SCOR are uniquely designed from shaft to head guaranteeing a better short game. In fact, they’re so sure they’ll help, they promise that if you’re not happy, they’ll buy you a wedge you think you like better. Need more accuracy from fairway to green? Think SCOR? Need more accuracy from tee to green? Maybe they should consider tennis.

Price: Approx. $150 each. Set of 5 for $640
Found at: www.scorgolf.com
 
 
“IT’S A GROUND BALL…OZZIE SMITH TO YOU.”
Wouldn’t it be fun to give someone the chance to play baseball with some of the all-time greats? Baseball fantasy camps offer fans a chance to play the game they love alongside some of the most memorable players on their favorite team. The good news: more than 20 MLB teams offer a fantasy camp (see the link below). The bad news: somebody you know just might get struck out by a 70-year-old.

Price: $4,000-$5,000
Found at: www.baseballfantasycampdirectory.com
 
 
BOBBLE THEIR HEAD
These 7” tall bobbleheads can be personalized for that special someone. Just upload a photo, and rockbobble will create a custom-ordered hoops player. They’ll even send you photos along the way to ensure it’s looking exactly the way you want. Will they like this gift? The head says yes!

Price: $79
Found at: www.rockbobble.com
 
 
DOWN THE HATCH
Four bourbon recipes have been expertly selected by the Master Distiller at the peak of maturation to create a perfectly balanced small batch bourbon that offers a mellow symphony of rich, spicy flavors along with sweet, fruity aromas and hints of sweet oak and caramel. At least that's what Four Roses says about its Small Batch. All we know is that it tastes incredible, goes down sma-oooth and had us cheering even when our team was getting clobbered. 
 
Price: $25.99
Found at: www.fourroses.us (Must be 21 or over)
 
Teaser:
<p> Here's what every sports fan needs under their Christmas tree</p>
Post date: Friday, November 23, 2012 - 05:53
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, NC State Wolfpack, News
Path: /college-football/should-tom-o%E2%80%99brien-return-nc-state-2013
Body:

Despite three bowl appearances in his last four years at NC State, Tom O'Brien sits on the hot seat entering the season finale against Boston College. Although there's plenty of discontent from the fanbase, should the Wolfpack make a coaching change?

Should Tom O'Brien Return to NC State in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615):
My question for NC State is what do the Wolfpack expect to be? History says the program is exactly what O’Brien has delivered. He’s 23-14 overall and 12-11 in the ACC in his last three seasons compared to 16-21 and 9-15 in his first three. Clearly, improvement is there even if this season has been a let down. But let’s face it: NC State football is not NC State basketball. The program has had only one top-15 finish since 1974, and that was when Philip Rivers was on campus. Other than that one year, O’Brien has delivered what NC State has always been -- a program floating between five and nine wins. That said, the ACC is primed for a team to move up. Florida State and Clemson are the only teams playing close to their potential, though Virginia Tech most likely will bounce back. Meanwhile, Miami and North Carolina are dealing with NCAA issues. Tom O’Brien’s going to win games and bring stability, but he’s not the energetic coach likely to pull in prominent recruits to take a program to the next level. 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): 
I certainly understand the frustration from the NC State fanbase, but I think Tom O’Brien should return for 2013. After starting his tenure with a 16-21 record, O’Brien is 23-14 over the last three years. The Wolfpack are guaranteed a bowl appearance in 2012, which gives NC State four postseason trips under O’Brien. While those numbers aren’t impressive as Alabama or Oregon, I think it’s fair to wonder what the expectations are at NC State. Every program wants to challenge for a national title, but is that realistically possible? The other question NC State needs to ask: Who can make this program better and challenge Clemson/Florida State for the ACC title every year? Is there really that candidate out there in 2012? Even though Vanderbilt’s James Franklin has been tossed around Raleigh, he’s not leaving the SEC. Yes, NC State should be finishing consistently higher than fourth or fifth in the division, but if the Wolfpack beat Boston College and win in the bowl game, O’Brien would have three consecutive seasons of at least eight victories. The last time NC State had three straight years of at least eight wins? 1972-74.

Mark Ross:
The Wolfpack are headed to their third straight bowl game under O'Brien, but this measure of success hasn't done anything to tune out the whispers regarding his job security. More was expected this season with a team that had so much experience, starting with quarterback Mike Glennon, but an opening loss to Tennessee in Atlanta sort of set the tone for what has taken place. The season highlight has been a 17-16 win on Oct. 6 over a Florida State team that was ranked No. 3 and undefeated at the time. However, NC State followed that up by losing three of their next five ACC games, including a fourth-quarter collapse against arch-rival North Carolina and an embarrassing 33-6 home loss to Virgina the following week. The Wolfpack can still get to eight wins if they beat Boston College on Saturday and win their bowl game, but there will be many new faces in the starting lineup next season on both sides of the ball. If O'Brien's bosses aren't pleased with where he has the program, then the end of this season would be as good time as any to chart a new direction. I don't think O'Brien, whose contract goes through 2015, hasn't done anything to merit losing his job, but he also hasn't made the strongest case to necessarily keep it.

Related College Football Content

Week 13 ACC Preview and Predictions
College Football's Week 13 Upset Predictions

Post-Week 12 Heisman Contenders

Teaser:
<p> Should Tom O’Brien return to NC State in 2013?</p>
Post date: Friday, November 23, 2012 - 05:52
Path: /college-football/oregon-ducks-vs-oregon-state-beavers-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Despite last week’s loss to Stanford, Oregon still has a chance to play for the Pac-12 Championship. However, the Ducks first have to take care of their business against in-state rival Oregon State. Oregon needs to win on Saturday and hope for a Stanford loss at UCLA later that night to clinch the North title.

Although the Beavers can’t win the North title, they still have a shot to play in a BCS game. With a win over Oregon, Oregon State would be 9-2 and should have an easy victory over Nicholls State next week. And of course, there’s always extra motivation when it comes to keeping your rival out of the Pac-12 title or even national championship. Considering what transpired last week, it’s too early to count Oregon out of the BCS title game. If Oregon State knocks off the Ducks, there’s no chance of Oregon getting back into the national championship picture.

Oregon has dominated this series over the last four years. The Ducks have won four in a row and only one matchup was decided by less than 17 points. Oregon State won back-to-back games in 2006-07 but has struggled against its in-state rival in recent seasons.

When the Oregon Ducks have the ball:

After getting shut down by Stanford, the Ducks’ high-scoring attack looks to get back on track this week. However, that’s easier said than done against Oregon State’s defense. The Beavers rank 14th nationally against the run and are giving up just 18.6 points per game.

In order for Oregon to find its rhythm on offense once again, the rushing game has to get going. Running back Kenjon Barner had only 66 yards against Stanford, while De’Anthony Thomas chipped in 43 yards on seven attempts. The Beavers have held nine out of their 10 opponents in 2012 to under 175 rushing yards, with much of the credit due to an active defensive line. End Scott Crichton is a lock for All-Pac-12 honors and has nine sacks and 15 tackles for a loss. It’s nearly impossible to keep Oregon’s rushing attack in check for 60 minutes, but Oregon State has to win the battle at the line of scrimmage and prevent the Ducks from breaking many big plays.

Even if the Beavers hold Barner and Thomas in check, they still have to contain quarterback Marcus Mariota. The redshirt freshman has thrown for 2,371 yards and 29 touchdowns this year, along with adding 605 yards and three scores on the ground. The Ducks don’t have a clear No. 1 go-to target but there’s plenty of depth in the receiving corps. Tight end Colt Lyerla and receiver Josh Huff has combined for 13 scores this year, while Thomas leads the team with 40 receptions. Although Oregon State’s secondary ranks 61st nationally against the pass, it has allowed just 11 passing scores.

It may seem simple, but Oregon State has to prevent Oregon from hitting on big plays and make the Ducks drive the length of the field.

When the Oregon State Beavers have the ball:

With Cody Vaz suffering an injury against Stanford, Sean Mannion reclaimed Oregon State’s starting quarterback spot. Mannion played well at the beginning of the season but struggled after returning from a knee injury against Washington. The sophomore was sharp in last week’s win over California, throwing for 325 yards and four touchdowns.

With a banged up Oregon secondary coming to town, Mannion’s performance in last week’s win is a good sign for the Beavers. Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton form one of the nation’s top receiving duos for Oregon State, with each catching over 58 passes this year. The Ducks rank 54th nationally against the pass and depth at safety is an issue after losing John Boyett and Avery Patterson for the season due to injuries. Even though Oregon State doesn’t want to get in a 50-47 type of shootout against Oregon, the Beavers have the passing attack to give the Ducks a lot of problems.

Although Oregon’s secondary has taken some hits through injuries, the front seven seems to be getting healthy. Although the Ducks won’t talk about injuries, the defensive line and linebacking corps was running thin on bodies against California. Dion Jordan and Taylor Hart both played in last week’s game against Stanford and their presence will be crucial to slowing down Oregon State.

The Beavers don’t have a dynamic rushing attack, but Terron Ward and Storm Woods are a solid one-two punch. And both backs should have some opportunities to find rushing lanes against a defense that is allowing 151.8 yards per game on the ground. Establishing the run will be crucial for Oregon State, especially as it hopes to wear down Oregon’s defense and keep its offense on the sideline.

Final Analysis:

Expect a motivated Oregon team this Saturday. The Ducks can’t control what happens in the Stanford-UCLA matchup later in the day, but a victory over Oregon State should lock them into a BCS bowl. The Beavers’ defense will hold Oregon’s offense in check early on, but Mariota and Barner make just enough plays in the fourth quarter to keep the Ducks’ Pac-12 title hopes alive.

Prediction: Oregon 38, Oregon State 34

 

 

Related College Football Content

Pac-12 Week 13 Preview and Predictions
College Football Week 13 Upset Predictions

Post-Week 12 Heisman Contenders

Teaser:
<p> Oregon Ducks vs. Oregon State Beavers Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Friday, November 23, 2012 - 05:51
Path: /college-football/clemson-tigers-vs-south-carolina-gamecocks-preview-and-prediction
Body:

With conference play finished for South Carolina and Clemson, it’s all about bragging rights in the Palmetto State this Saturday. And even though the emotions will always keep this as a spirited rivalry, there’s plenty of motivation on both sides, so there’s a little extra spice when these two teams meet on Saturday.

With a 10-1 record, Clemson has a chance to earn an at-large spot in a BCS bowl. However, the Tigers need to get past their in-state rival to remain in consideration. The Gamecocks are still in the mix for a BCS bowl but with Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M, Florida and LSU ahead of them in the BCS standings, it’s unlikely Steve Spurrier’s team will be able to earn an at-large spot.

South Carolina has owned this rivalry in recent years, winning four out of the last six matchups. The Gamecocks won 34-13 in Columbia last season and 29-7 in Clemson in 2010.

When the Clemson Tigers have the ball:

Stopping Clemson is no easy task. Just ask the 11 defenses so far on the Tigers’ schedule. Florida State is the best defense Clemson has faced this year, and the Seminoles allowed 37 points in a victory.

Quarterback Tajh Boyd ranks second nationally in pass efficiency and has thrown 18 touchdowns over his last four games. Although the junior is one of the nation’s top passers, his improved mobility is a big reason why Clemson is averaging 44.6 points a game.

Boyd isn’t alone on offense, as Clemson boasts one of the top receiving corps in college football. DeAndre Hopkins leads the team with 68 catches for 1,171 yards and 15 scores, while Sammy Watkins has 53 receptions for 671 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Brandon Ford has eight touchdown grabs and there’s plenty of depth with Martavis Bryant, Jaron Brown, Adam Humphries and Charone Peak. Running back Andre Ellington is having another solid season, recording 959 yards on 186 attempts.

Stopping Clemson’s offense has to start in the trenches. And South Carolina has the players to give Boyd plenty of problems on Saturday night. End Jadeveon Clowney is one of the nation’s best and is expected to play after missing last week’s game due to a foot injury. The Gamecocks are averaging three sacks a game, which figures to test a Clemson offensive line that has struggled at times this year.

If South Carolina can harass Boyd with just its front four, it will make the job of the secondary much easier as it tries to keep Hopkins and Watkins in check.

When the South Carolina Gamecocks have the ball:

The Gamecocks aren’t going to wow anyone on the stat sheet when it comes to offense. South Carolina ranks 81st nationally in rushing, 74th in passing but is 41st in scoring offense. Although the Gamecocks aren’t getting huge chunks of yardage, they are making the most of their opportunities.

With running back Marcus Lattimore sidelined for the rest of the year with a leg injury, Kenny Miles and Mike Davis have worked as the top two options in the rushing attack. Miles has 313 yards and two scores this year, while Davis has 232 yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries.

There’s no doubt the Gamecocks miss Lattimore, but Miles rushed for 127 yards in the win over Wofford. Additionally, quarterback Connor Shaw will chip in on the ground, as he ranks second on the team with 339 yards. Shaw has been dealing with a foot injury but is expected to play in Saturday’s game.

South Carolina may not be the most dynamic offense in the SEC, but it should find some open opportunities against Clemson’s defense. The Tigers are allowing over 408 yards per game and gave up 48 points in last week’s win over NC State. The Gamecocks need to have a balanced approach in this game, getting Miles 20-25 carries, while Shaw has a chance to hit a few big plays in the passing game.

Considering Clemson’s high-scoring offense can put up points in a hurry, it’s important for South Carolina’s offense to control the clock, as well as not give the Tigers any short-field situations.

Final Analysis:

This game may get overlooked on Saturday, especially with Florida taking on Florida State and the annual battle between Ohio State and Michigan. However, this game could be one of the more entertaining matchups of Week 13. Whichever side can impose its will should have the upper hand. Clemson wants to play quick on offense, but South Carolina’s front four will be a handful to stop. The Gamecocks are more methodical on offense and should be able to grind out the clock against the Tigers’ defense. This one is really a tossup, but a slight edge goes to Clemson, especially with this matchup in Death Valley.

Prediction: Clemson 27-24
 

 

Related College Football Content

SEC Week 13 Preview and Predictions
ACC Week 13 Preview and Predictions

College Football Week 13 Upset Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Clemson Tigers vs. South Carolina Gamecocks Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Friday, November 23, 2012 - 05:49
Path: /college-football/florida-state-seminoles-vs-florida-gators-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Florida and Florida State don’t require much motivation when it comes to the annual meeting for bragging rights in the Sunshine State. However, there’s a little more motivation for both teams in 2012.

Florida ranks No. 4 in the latest BCS standings and with a little help, could make it to the national championship game. The Gators won’t play in Atlanta for the conference title but could climb to No. 2 in the BCS standings with a Georgia loss to Georgia Tech and a Bulldogs victory over Alabama in the SEC Championship.

Florida State needs a lot of help to get into the conversation for the national title. The Seminoles haven’t made much progress in the BCS standings and rank 10th overall going into Week 13. A weak non-conference schedule, as well as a bad year in the ACC is hurting Florida State in the computer rankings. The Seminoles likely need nine teams to lose ahead of them in the BCS, so it’s unlikely they will be able to get into one of the top two spots. However, considering what transpired last week, Florida State still has a chance.

Florida State has won the last two matchups in this series by a combined score of 52-14. Florida won six consecutive from 2004-09 but has been dominated in the last two games.

When the Florida Gators have the ball:

In last season’s matchup, Florida’s offense managed only 184 yards and just 11 first downs. Considering Florida State’s defense is just as strong as it was last year, the Gators have to be concerned. Florida’s offense has been very average for most of the season and scored just 23 points in its last two SEC games.

Quarterback Jeff Driskel suffered an ankle injury against Louisiana-Lafayette and did not play against Jacksonville State. However, the sophomore is expected to be in the lineup for Saturday’s game. Driskel gives Florida the best chance to win, as his mobility is a valuable asset for an offense that is struggled to generate much of a passing attack.

Driskel is completing 64.8 percent of his throws and has tossed only three picks on 193 attempts. However, the Gators have a lack of proven playmakers in the receiving corps. Tight end Jordan Reed is the team’s go-to target, but the top two receivers – Quinton Dunbar and Frankie Hammond – don’t scare many defenses.

If the Gators are going to win on Saturday, they need a big effort on the ground from running back Mike Gillislee. The senior leads the Gators with 964 rushing yards and eight touchdowns and is coming off a 122-yard effort against Jacksonville State. However, there won’t be much room to run against Florida State, as the Seminoles rank first nationally in rush defense. Getting Gillislee going, as well as letting Driskel make plays with his legs is crucial to Florida’s shot at a victory.

Much of the success for Florida State’s defense starts up front. The Seminoles have one of the nation’s most talented lines in college football, which will be a problem for Florida’s offensive line (allowing 2.9 sacks per game). Expect the Seminoles to crowd the box and force Driskel to win this one with his arm.

When the Florida State Seminoles have the ball:

While Florida’s offensive numbers were awful in last season’s game, Florida State’s were even worse. The Seminoles managed only 95 yards on 59 plays and had just seven first downs. Even though the Gators have a solid defense, don’t expect Florida State to repeat those totals this year.

The Seminoles have scored at least 30 points in all but two games this year and rank 14th nationally in total offense. The biggest reasons for Florida State’s improvement on offense this year has been the health of quarterback EJ Manuel and an offensive line that has made significant strides since 2011. Manuel dealt with a shoulder injury for much of last season but has managed to stay healthy this year, throwing for 2,785 yards and 21 scores. Florida State’s offensive line has struggled at times, but this unit has shown big improvement from last season and should hold its own against Florida's active front seven. 

There’s no shortage of weapons around Manuel, starting in the backfield with Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. Losing Chris Thompson to a torn ACL in October was a tough blow for the running game, but Freeman and Wilder have easily picked up the slack over the last few games. The Seminoles have five players with at least 20 catches this year, including Rashad Greene who leads the team with five touchdown tosses.

Although Florida State’s offense has thrived this year, Florida’s defense will be the best it has played all year. The Gators rank fourth nationally in total defense and are allowing just 11.7 points per game. There’s plenty of strength in the front seven, but Florida has allowed just four passing scores this season.

Final Analysis:

Yards and points will be difficult to come by on Saturday afternoon. Florida and Florida State both rank in the top five of total defense and each are generating at least two sacks per game.

While the defenses are even, there’s a clear edge on the offensive side. Florida State is simply the better team on offense and that’s the difference in the game. And with this being the final game for quarterback EJ Manuel in Tallahassee, expect the senior to deliver Florida State’s third straight win over its biggest rival.

Prediction: Florida State 24, Florida 17 
 

Related College Football Content

SEC Week 13 Preview and Predictions
ACC Week 13 Preview and Predictions

College Football Week 13 Upset Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Florida State Seminoles vs. Florida Gators Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Friday, November 23, 2012 - 05:49
Path: /fantasy/week-12-thanksgiving-injury-updates-pierre-garcon-felix-jones
Body:

Happy Thanksgiving. Now go set your lineup for three games in Week 12 that are probably starting way too early to your likeability. There are a few key injuries that are affecting these Thanksgiving games, and hopefully we can help you out to set your lineup and feel comfortable going into Sunday’s full slate.

Pierre GarconPierre Garcon, WR, Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys
Pierre Garcon returned to action last week and was limited as expected. He played in 23 of the team's 58 offensive snaps — nine pass and 14 run plays — and caught three passes for five yards. Josh Morgan led the Redskins' receivers by playing on 40 snaps. He was limited at practice on Tuesday and saw light work in Wednesday's walk-through in advance of today's game against Dallas. Garcon is still not at 100 percent and he might be a player you hold on to, have to sacrifice him blowing up one game and move on from there. But knowing that Robert Griffin III has the free agent weapon the team went out and got at the receiver this position is at least back in the fold in some way, shape or form is good news as a late-season add.

 

Felix Jones, RB, Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins
Felix JonesMan, it is getting uglier and uglier when it comes to the Dallas ground game. DeMarco Murray went down with a foot injury in Week 6 and has yet to return. Felix Jones has stepped in and had six double-digit fantasy weeks in the last seven games thanks to four touchdowns. Jones has been dealing with a knee bruise and is questionable for today's game against Washington. The Cowboys are also likely to be without left tackle, Tyron Smith (ankle). Center Phil Costa (ankle) is out again. Washington, while terrible against the pass — unless you're Nick Foles — has been decent against fantasy running backs because of the pass. The Redskins have allowed just three touchdowns to the position the last five weeks and only three runners have eclipsed 79 yards this season against them. If Jones cannot go then rookie Lance Dunbar would make his first start. He underwent a knee procedure this week but it should not set him back. However, the issues on the line, with the running game itself and the Redskins’ stoutness against fantasy RBs make starting most Cowboys a little scary.

— By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Pierre Garcon, Felix Jones Thanksgiving Day Updates&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 05:30
Path: /fantasy/week-12-thanksgiving-injury-updates-demarco-murray-rob-gronkowski-aaron-hernandez
Body:

Happy Thanksgiving. Now go set your lineup for three games in Week 12 that are probably starting way too early to your likeability. There are a few key injuries that are affecting these Thanksgiving games, and hopefully we can help you out to set your lineup and feel comfortable going into Sunday’s full slate.

DeMarco MurrayDeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins
Last week we heard Murray say it was the best he's felt since suffering his foot injury. His chances of playing against the Cleveland Browns last Sunday was highly doubtful, particularly with the Cowboys playing today. And as has been evident, Dallas badly needs him to return and spark its running game. However, it appears he will miss his sixth straight game. So we have to hope that lucky No. 7 will make for Murray's return against Philadelphia in Week 13. And the running game that is already struggling will likely even more as Murray's back up, Felix Jones (knee) and left tackle, Tyron Smith (ankle), are questionable. It would be up to rookie Lance Dunbar to pick up the slack if Jones is out. Dunbar underwent a knee procedure of his own this week, putting the Cowboys' run game in an even more precarious position.

 

Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, TEs, New England Patriots vs. New York Jets
Rob GronkowskiBy now you’ve heard the news on Rob Gronkowski. If you haven’t, the game’s top tight end broke his left forearm on an extra point play with 3:59 remaining in the Patriots’ 59-24 win against Indianapolis last week, had surgery and is now out 4-6 weeks. In steps an injured Aaron Hernandez to fill the role. That is if he is healthy enough to suit up for the last of the three games on Thanksgiving. He reportedly will play tonight. Hernandez has been battling a severely sprained ankle that has kept him out of seven of the team’s 10 games. He returned too soon a few weeks ago and that reportedly set him back in his recovery. Why don’t coaches realize that us as fantasy owners have waiver wires and can make plans until our stud returns with a clean bill of health? But I digress. Hernandez was close to returning for the Colts’ game but the quick turnaround with the Thanksgiving game made that a tough ask of the still injured tight end. You hate to start a question mark on Thursday and wait around until Monday night to make sure you were right, but if Hernandez is active then you start him, The Jets are just behind the Pats as the fifth-worst fantasy defense against tight ends. Gronkowski had six catches for 78 yards and two scores in their Week 7 matchup and Hernandez added five catches for 54 yards in that game. Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd were question marks going into last week, but combined for 18 targets, 11 catches and 125 yards. There will be plenty to go around for Hernandez, plus the red-zone TD opportunities. In the three full games he has played this season, Hernandez has 23 targets, 17 catches for 143 yards and two scores — or 14.6 points per game in PPR leagues.


— By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> DeMarco Murray, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez Thanksgiving Day Updates</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 05:25
Path: /nfl/houston-texans-vs-detroit-lions-preview-and-prediction
Body:

The Detroit Lions host their traditional Thanksgiving Day game today, as they will take on the Houston Texans at 12:30 p.m. ET on CBS. The opener of the NFL’s turkey day triple-header features a Lions team that’s lost two in a row and is almost in a must-win situation if it wants to keep its playoff hopes alive. On the other side are the Texans, who enter this game with an AFC-best 9-1 mark and a three-game lead over the Colts for first place in the AFC South.

When the Detroit Lions have the ball:
Detroit is second only to New England in total offense, averaging nearly 402 yards per game, but all of this yardage gained has not necessarily translated into points. The Lions are 15th in the league in scoring at 23.6 points per game. Just like last season, Detroit is struggling to run the ball, averaging less than 100 yards per game on the ground. Mikel Leshoure has shown glimpses of why the Lions drafted him in the second round two years ago, but for the season he’s averaging four yards per carry. The biggest drop off offensively, however, has been with quarterback Matthew Stafford. Through 10 games last season, Stafford had thrown 25 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. This season those numbers are 12 and 10. The good news for Stafford is that All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson doesn’t appear to be as hindered with the knee issues he’s been dealing with all season. Johnson is averaging nearly 160 yards receiving over his last three games and has caught a touchdown in each of the past two contests.

Houston is fourth in the league in total defense and second against the run. The Texans are giving up less than 86 yards rushing per game and have yet to surrender a rushing touchdown. They also are seventh against the pass, but are coming off of last week’s overtime win against Jacksonville in which they allowed backup quarterback Chad Henne to throw for 354 yards and four touchdowns. The Texans are among the league leaders in sacks (27) and interceptions (11) thanks in large part to the efforts of Defensive Player of the Year candidate J.J. Watt (11.5 sacks).

When the Houston Texans have the ball:
Houston is known for its ability to run the ball, as the Texans’ rushing attack led by Arian Foster is eighth in the league with 136.7 yards per game. Foster is a workhorse, averaging nearly 25 carries per game and he is fourth in the league with 949 rushing yards while his 10 rushing touchdowns are tops. Despite the Texans’ tendency to run the ball more than pass it, quarterback Matt Schaub is more than capable of producing through the air when called on. Last week against Jacksonville, Schaub set a franchise-record with 43 completions and his 527 yards passing tied for the second-most ever in a regular-season game. Schaub also had five touchdown passes against the Jaguars, including one to his favorite target, Andre Johnson. Johnson, like his Lions’ counterpart Calvin, is an All-Pro-caliber wide receiver and is coming off of his best game of the season, as he hauled in 14 passes for 273 yards and a score against the Jaguars.

Detroit is 10th in total defense and has done a better job against the pass compared to the run. They are ranked eighth in pass defense and 16th in rushing defense. The Lions are 23rd in the league in scoring defense, allowing 23.6 points per game, but have held teams to 24 points or fewer in seven of their last eight contests. They also have struggled to force turnovers, as they have just 11 through 10 games.

Key Factor:
Detroit has not fared well when it has played teams that can run the ball effectively. The Lions have faced four teams — Chicago, Minnesota (twice), San Francisco and Seattle — ranked among the top 10 in rushing offense. In these five games, they have given up an average of 155 yards rushing per contest. The Texans enter this game ranked eighth in rushing offense. Detroit needs this win more than Houston, but we like the Texans’ running attack powered by Foster to allow them to get a leg up, or perhaps two, on the Lions this afternoon.

Prediction:
Texans 34, Lions 23

Teaser:
<p> Houston Texans vs. Detroit Lions Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 05:10
Path: /nfl/new-england-patriots-vs-new-york-jets-preview-and-prediction
Body:

The New England Patriots look to build on their three-game lead in the AFC East as they take on the New York Jets in MetLife Stadium at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC. The Patriots have won four games in a row, a streak that started with a 29-26 overtime victory against the Jets in Foxboro back in Week 7. The Jets snapped a three-game losing streak last week with a 27-13 win in St. Louis. Their record is 4-6 and they can ill afford another loss, especially in divisional play, if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive.

When the New England Patriots have the ball:
To really no one’s surprise, New England is leading the league in both total and scoring offense, as the Patriots are generating nearly 432 yards and 36 points per game. They are fourth in passing offense, but also have been equally successful rushing the ball. The Patriots are fifth in that category, averaging 142.9 yards on the ground per game. Compare that to last season when they finished 20th in the league in rushing. Tom Brady is once again among the league’s passing leaders with 2,976 yards (fifth), 21 touchdowns (tied for fourth) and just three interceptions. Stevan Ridley is leading the charge on the ground with 842 yards and seven rushing touchdowns. Brady has plenty of receiving weapons at his disposal, including Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, but the question will be what happens now that tight end Rob Gronkowski is out for at least the next few games after suffering a broken forearm late in last week’s game. Fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez is capable of stepping in, but he’s missed the past few games with an ankle injury. On top of that, Gronkowski is the team’s second-leading receiver and was responsible for seven touchdowns in the past four games. Two of those came in the Patriots’ Week 6 win over these Jets.

The Jets rank 14th in the league in total defense and have had a hard time stopping the run consistently this season. They are 30th against the run, giving up nearly 142 yards per game on the ground, but are fourth in pass defense (200.1 ypg). The latter is even more impressive when you consider that All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 3. Even though the Jets haven’t been able to generate a lot of pressure (17 sacks), they have forced 18 turnovers. They also are 21st in the league in scoring defense, surrendering an average of 24.1 points per game.

When the New York Jets have the ball:
The Jets have struggled on offense all season. They rank 29th in the NFL in total offense (301.3 ypg) and 23rd in scoring offense at 23.2 points per game. The main culprit has been a passing attack that also is 29th in the league, as Mark Sanchez has completed less than 54 percent of his passes and has only 11 touchdown passes. He is the 29th-rated passer in the NFL right now. The offensive line, which has surrendered 25 sacks, and the running game are not without blame, however. The Jets are 15th in the league in rushing with 108.6 yards per game, but are only averaging 3.7 yards per carry as a team and have scored seven rushing touchdowns. Shonn Greene has matched that 3.7 yards per carry mark and his inconsistency has resulted in more opportunities for Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes was lost for the season (Lisfranc injury) in Week 4 and no one has really stepped up to take his place. The Jets also have been reluctant to utilize Tim Tebow in the offense, but his mere presence and Sanchez’ lack of productivity has resulted in a season-long, media-driven quarterback quandary that has only added to the Jets’ issues. Turnovers have not helped their cause either as the Jets have coughed it up 18 times (8 INTs, 10 fumbles) in 10 games.

New England is 28th in total defense, but is allowing fewer yards (388.7) and points (22.5) per game than the offense is generating. Pass defense has been the biggest issue, as they rank 30th in that category. The offense’s ability to put points on the board and jump out to big leads is a contributing factor to this statistic, but that doesn’t totally excuse the Patriots in this matter. Consider that Sanchez put up 328 passing yards against them in Week 7 and we’ve already documented his struggles. That said, the defense has done a better job against the run (10th, 99 ypg) and, typical of a Bill Belichick unit, has capitalized on turnovers. The Patriots have forced 27 turnovers and have scored three defensive touchdowns. The Patriots’ defense has bent plenty this season, but has rarely broken, one of the reasons why they are 7-3 and in the driver’s seat in the AFC East.

Key Factor:
New England has won four of its last five games against the Jets and has an 18-9 edge in the series overall since 2000. The Patriots won 37-16 in last season’s meeting in MetLife Stadium and a victory tonight could basically wrap up the AFC East for them, while potentially eliminating the Jets from playoff contention. The Jets gave the Patriots all they could handle in Foxboro back in Week 7, but this Patriots team is on a roll offensively. They put up 59 points in the win over Indianapolis last week and are averaging 47 points per game since that overtime win over the Jets. The Jets have scored 47 points once all season and that came in Week 1.

Prediction:
Patriots 38, Jets 23

Teaser:
<p> New England Patriots vs. New York Jets Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 05:03
Path: /nfl/nfl-picks-against-spread-week-12
Body:

A betting preview of every game (against the spread) on Thanksgiving Day, Sunday and Monday in Week 12.



Turkey Leg Locks
The three Thanksgiving Day games should be as good as the tryptophan-filled big bird and grandma’s homemade cornbread dressing.

Texans (-4) at Lions
Barry Sanders, the greatest televised Thanksgiving tradition, had a 7–3 holiday record during his decade of dominance; the Lions are 3–10 since the great No. 20 stopped showing up for dinner.

Redskins (+3) at Cowboys
Tony Romo is 5–0 on Thanksgiving Day. But for some reason, RG3’s 0–0 record on Turkey and Dressing Day smells a little bit better this season.

Jets (+7.5) vs. Patriots
New England won but failed to cover an even bigger number against New York during a 29–26 victory at home in Week 7. In case of a blowout, you can always watch The Godfather or whatever’s on the James Bond marathon.


Sunday Sales Rack
The masses will hit the stores at 4 a.m. or whenever it is they show up on Black Friday, but the real deals might have to wait until Sunday afternoon.

Ravens (-1) at Chargers
This has the feel of a trap game, with Baltimore coming off an emotional win at Pittsburgh and San Diego in do-or-die mode. But it’s pretty much a pick ‘em.

Falcons (-1.5) at Buccaneers
Although Matt Ryan does carry a 6–2 record against the Bucs, he’s just 2–2 on the road in Tampa Bay.

Seahawks (-3) at Dolphins
Miami is a miserable 9-for-34 on third downs over its current three-game losing streak.

Titans (-3) at Jaguars
This would be easier to call if Blaine Gabbert were starting in Jacksonville. But what are the odds Chad Henne puts together back-to-back good games?

Broncos (-10.5) at Chiefs
Kansas City’s disgruntled fanbase will wear all-black again this week — and probably leave at halftime of the wake once again.


Sucker Bets
Steer clear of these games like they were your creepy uncle or the aunt who always gets emotional at family gatherings.

Cardinals (-3) vs. Rams
Arizona’s six-game winless drought started with a 17–3 loss at St. Louis on Thursday in Week 5. This is like roulette; just because a color/number has hit six straight times doesn’t make it less likely there will be a seventh straight.

Colts (-3) vs. Bills
Indianapolis will probably run by Buffalo. But if there is going to be a rookie wall for Andrew Luck, he’ll hit it the week after being destroyed by New England.

Giants (-3) vs. Packers
The last time these two powers met, New York shocked No. 1-seed Green Bay, 37–20, at Lambeau Field in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.

Bengals (-8) vs. Raiders
Cincy has been way too up and down this season to bank on — a 3–1 start, then an 0–4 slump and now a two-game winning streak. Who knows?


Off the Board
The concussed and crippled fraternity of starting quarterbacks has led to uncertainty on the big board in Vegas. As of Wednesday afternoon, these games were up in the air. But let’s bet on what the spread might be, anyway.

Steelers (n/a) at Browns
Charlie Batch puts his 5–2 record as a Steelers starter on the line. Odds are, he’ll improve to 6–2. Take the Steelers (-4.5)?

Vikings (n/a) at Bears
Samantha Steele powers Christian Ponder. Planet Krypton powers Adrian Peterson. Take the Vikings (+2.5)?

49ers (n/a) at Saints
Alex Smith is a game manager, Colin Kaepernick is a playmaker, Jim Harbaugh is a quarterback guru… Take the 49ers (-3)?

Panthers (n/a) at Eagles
What’s Cyber Monday without a little online action? Pick the gift that Nick Foles doesn’t have anything to do with. Take the Panthers (+2.5)?
 

Teaser:
<p> NFL Picks Against the Spread: Week 12, including Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots at New York Jets, Green Bay Packers at New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears, Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, St. Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 16:43
Path: /nascar/backseat-drivers-fan-council-36
Body:

The racing is over. All that remains is for NASCAR to get together in Las Vegas next week, dole out some money and party. Before the banquet arrives, members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council take a look back at the sport’s TV coverage this season and the racing, while looking ahead to 2013. Here is what they had to say:


Grade the TV coverage of NASCAR Sprint Cup races this season by FOX, TNT, Speed and ESPN/ABC

48.1 percent said Good
31.1 percent said Fair
12.6 percent said Poor
8.2 percent said Great

What Fan Council members said:
• ESPN had one of the best with their side-by-side halfway through the races of the Chase. This should be done for all races so we do not miss any action. And this should be in place for the ENTIRE Daytona 500! The most important race should be seen in its entirety. All networks could improve on their pre-race show except for FOX; FOX keeps it short and sweet and that is what it should be.

• This season was the first time that I actually changed the channel during a race or left the house completely. I always used to look forward to the TNT races, but even they dropped the ball this year. I seriously hope the 2013 season is better. The broadcasters need to stop "phoning it in" and actually listen to the fans and fix their coverage.

• Oh don't get me started! FOX might have good camera coverage, but I cannot stand the booth. TNT was just outright awful. SPEED has the most offerings, but they killed “Trackside” and “RaceDay” by making them way too silly. I love their programming, I just think sometimes it looks one step above cable access.

• It's nice to have the three TV crews covering the races because it’s a variety and they all do very good in their own way. I REALLY enjoy SPEED's pre-race and post-race coverage. I sure hope when they re-brand SPEED to FOX Sports they don't take away my NASCAR shows, including “Race Hub.’’

• Still a lot of room for improvement. Side-by-Side coverage = A+

• There's no better team than Bestwick, Jarrett and Petree. There's the gold standard right there. Mike Joy is another gem but the rest of the circus at FOX and SPEED are little more than a traveling carnival show, especially “Trackside,” which is no longer watchable. Oh yeah, TNT does broadcast a few races, but does anyone even recall them? Too little time on the schedule to be noticed or remembered.

• I said “good,” but in my opinion, it was borderline great. FOX is absolutely the best followed by ESPN/ABC. In Chris Myers' book, he explains that NASCAR really did listen to the fans when it came to TV programming. I've been a fan over 20 years, and I love the improvements the TV stations have done: more cameras, better announcers and most importantly the ability to listen to the drivers/crew chiefs/spotters radio communication. Mike Joy and Allen Bestwick are the best in the business! I also love the SpEED Channel and the pre- and post-race shows.

• “Great” for FOX because no matter how long the race goes over, they talk to the competitors. If it is short, then they go that much further to talk to others — not TNT or ESPN/ABC. They can have 15-30 minutes extra time and they'll go to some other stupid program.


Grade the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season

57.9 percent said Good
21.9 percent said Fair
16.8 percent said Great
3.4 percent said Poor

What Fan Council members said:
• This was a great season is so many ways. Having Brad win the championship was refreshing to see. What a great interview he gave on ESPN. He was real. Seeing Dale Jr. finally make it into Victory Lane in the Batmobile was awesome. Being in Victory Lane to celebrate with the No. 88 team was a thrill of a lifetime for me. Watching MWR teams do so well did a lot for the sport, too. Quite surprising to see Carl Edwards and Kyle Bush miss the Chase and Jeff Gordon just squeaking in. It was refreshing to see some emotions between drivers come to light this season. All in all, I enjoyed this season and am looking forward to the 2013 season.

• I have only been a fan since 200, but since then I have watched every race and have gone to at least one race a year. All I have to say is NASCAR has a serious problem on its hands, as this was the most boring season in memory. Do I have a solution to this problem? No. But something must be fixed.

• There were some good moments, but this year just did not seem to have the same buzz as last year. I enjoyed the Nationwide and Truck series races more this year.

• Flashes of brilliance followed by long stretches of zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ...

• Lots of drama, intensity, at times great racing, and there was always something new going on. I’m going to have withdrawals for the next few weeks.

• All in all, I would say this season has been good. I was almost leaning toward a “great,” because we got a new champion, but there were too many snoozer races to say it was great.

• Anyone who says anything less than great, must not remember Daytona, Watkins Glen, ‘Dega, Phoenix, among other great races, this year. Loved it and I hope next year is even better.

• I'm glad to see Keselowski as the champ. I'm glad to see Dale Jr. back in Victory Lane. But when I look back over the season, I don't have as many lasting images as I have from years past. There never seemed to be that "defining moment" of 2012. Maybe it's just me.


Grade Sunday’s Cup race at Homestead

53.1 percent said Good
26.9 percent said Fair
16.0 percent said Great
4.1 percent said Poor

What Fan Council members said:
• Most of the race was enjoyable, but I was disappointed that Jeff Gordon won. After his reckless behavior at Phoenix, I preferred that they take points away rather than suspending him for the benefit of sponsors and fans. However, the way everyone treated the win like it was some kind of vindication for his actions last week made me wish he'd been suspended. The championship race between Jimmie and Brad was great, and Brad's win made up for any other disappointment.

• I have to say great because Brad won. It is great that someone other than Jimmie or Tony won the championship.

• Not really a great race, other than I was thrilled at the ending. Very boring, at least on TV. As much as I loved seeing Brad K. and Jimmie J., it seemed like the whole race was just the two of them. Awful TV coverage.

• It was exciting to watch the 48 and the 2 battle for the championship. If that had not been going on, it would have been another boring race.

• It was typical of all the past races. Not a whole lot of excitement. Anti-climatic.

• The race had it all: Kyle leading but not winning again, Jeff winning at a track he never won at, Matt's last race in the No. 17, Jimmie about ready to make the biggest comeback in championship history and Brad topping the season off with the top prize and a cool 5 million bucks to boot! Not bad for a guy whose family was about ready to lose it all just a few short years ago because of their investment in their son. Wow!


How much faith do you have that the 2013 car will make the Cup racing better?

39.0 percent said Some
30.2 percent said A little
20.3 percent said None
10.5 percent said A lot

What Fan Council members said:
• They've been working on them a long time so hopefully they'll get them right. They have nailed the looks of the cars. They look great and I can tell them apart now. If they race as well as they look, we will have a very exciting 2013 season.

• It's not the cars that are at fault, it's the track configurations and NASCAR rules that hamper competition. Daytona and Talladega are little more than Barnum & Bailey near-death experiences. Nothing will change there until NASCAR kills its next driver.

• NASCAR is a corporation that is trying to promote a product. Sadly, I will have to see it to believe it.

• I don't quite understand why tighter competition is a good thing. If you make the cars the same, they all run around the track together and can't pass. Don't fans already complain about restrictor-plate racing forcing them into packs? Besides, I believe the problem is the TV coverage, and no change to the car will fix that.

• I give them the benefit of the doubt. As much as a few may have issues with NASCAR, they do a way better job at most issues than other sanctioning bodies.

• I had awesome faith for the CoT to be a lot safer for these drivers and we haven't had a death in NASCAR for a long time. Now we need to focus on tight racing cars and hopefully this new car will work. I have faith.

• Little faith but lots of hope. Soooo tired of hearing “track position is key.” I hope to hear that a fast car is key.


The Backseat Drivers Fan Council was founded and is administered by Dustin Long. Fans can join by sending Dustin an email at [email protected]

Please include the following information:
Name, city, state, Twitter name, e-mail address and favorite driver.
 

Teaser:
<p> Dustin Long and the Backseat Drivers Fan Council discuss the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 13:08

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