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Path: /mlb/kansas-city-los-angeles-alds-preview
Game 1 Oct. 29:00Los Angeles
Game 2  Oct. 39:30Los Angeles
Game 3 Oct. 57:30Kansas City
Game 4* Oct. 6TBAKansas City
Game 5*Oct. 8TBALos Angeles

*If necessary



The Kansas City Royals ended the longest current postseason drought in North American Big Four sports, then won a multi-come-from-behind thriller in 12 innings over Oakland to earn the right to play the team with the best record in baseball. Now ace James Shields should be available for only one start in the ALDS. The teams split six games this season, both winning two of three at home.


Angels Advantage

The Angels have the best player in the game in Mike Trout, two former postseason heroes in Albert Pujols and David Freese, a terrific, deep bullpen and a proven manager. So what’s not to like? Only two things could prevent the Angels from advancing: A disappearing act by Trout in his first postseason experience; or sketchy starting pitching beyond Jered Weaver getting exposed.


Royals Advantage

Momentum is on the Royals’ side, if that really means anything. The players have been playing under playoff pressure for more than a month now, so there should be no problem finding that edge. The Angels have been on cruise control for about a month. Can they find that extra gear needed to win in October?


Key Numbers

The Angels outhomered the Royals 10-1 in their six head-to-head meetings this season…The Royals were seven of eight in stolen base attempts against the Angels. The Royals must generate offense with speed and doubles in the gaps…Shortstop Alcides Escobar had four of the Royals’ seven steals…The Angels kept Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler in check this season. The three combined to bat just .217 with two extra-base hits over the six games this season.


Key Players

Mike Trout, arguably the best player in the game, batted .409 with three bombs in the six games against Kansas City this season…Kansas City center fielder Lorenzo Cain was in the middle of much of the offensive excitement for the Royals in their wild card win over Oakland. He batted .370 with 16 total bases in the six games vs. Los Angeles this season…The Royals have been so good closing out wins this season. Closer Greg Holland and setup man Wade Davis combined to throw seven scoreless innings against Los Angeles this season without allowing a hit.


Prediction: Angels in 3

The favored Angels have the best player in the game in Mike Trout, two former postseason heroes in Albert Pujols and David Freese, a terrific, deep bullpen and a proven manager.
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 11:38
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-week-6-preview


Hosts Braden Gall and Steven Lassan previews the big games of Week 6. The SEC West has a massive trio of games while Michigan State hosts Nebraska in the Big Ten. Baylor and Oklahoma also have big road trips in the Big 12 as well. The guys also offer up some locks of the week against the spread.

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

Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: Week 6 Preview
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 11:27
Path: /mlb/baltimore-detroit-alds-preview
Game 1 Oct. 25:30Baltimore
Game 2  Oct. 312:00Baltimore
Game 3 Oct. 53:30Detroit
Game 4* Oct. 6TBADetroit
Game 5*Oct. 8TBABaltimore

*If necessary



There’s a retro feeling (circa early 1970s) in the air in Baltimore. The Orioles won five of the first six AL East titles from 1969-74 with Detroit winning the other. The two long-time AL East rivals — prior to realignment in 1994 — have never met in the playoffs. The Tigers are veterans of the postseason having won 17 postseason games over the past three years and appeared in the last three ALCS, winning in 2012. Baltimore won the wild card game two years ago and lost to the Yankees in the ALDS.


Orioles Advantage

Baltimore can bash and score runs in bunches. Keeping the ball in the park will be a key for Detroit pitching. The Orioles also have a reliable bullpen with Zach Britton collecting 37 saves in his first season as a closer. Setup men Darren O’Day, Tommy Hunter and lefty specialist Andrew Miller can shorten the game and rarely cough up leads.


Tigers Advantage

The Tigers have playoff experience and a huge advantage in one critical area — starting pitching. In the playoffs, it’s crucial that teams be able to run out a starting pitcher with the ability to shut down most any lineup. With the past three AL Cy Young winners starting the first three games, the Tigers can do that. Baltimore will need superhuman efforts from starting pitchers to keep the O’s in games and get to the bullpen. Navigating the Tigers’ lineup begins and ends with Miguel Cabrera. In addition to being one of the top hitters on the planet, he has hit Baltimore pitching especially well over a short sample.


Key Numbers

Baltimore’s Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy have no home runs and only eight RBIs in a combined 127 at-bats off of David Price…No current Tigers players have ever driven in a run off of Baltimore’s Wei-Yin Chen…


Key Players

Nelson Cruz has playoff experience and isn’t afraid of the big stage. In his career, he has hit .333 in 84 at-bats off of Detroit’s big three starters with eight homers and 18 RBIs. That projects to 52 bombs and 118 ribbies over 550 ABs…Baltimore starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez had a clunker of a start at Detroit in his first outing this season. After his second start, his ERA checked in at 2.83. Over the past three months, it has dropped to 2.09…Bud Norris may be a forgotten man in the Orioles’ rotation, but Baltimore has won his last six starts and nine of his last 10. Norris threw seven shutout innings in a 1-0 loss in the start prior to that streak…Joakim Soria has been the Tigers’ most effective reliever, but manager Brad Ausmus continues to use Joba Chamberlain as his setup man and Joe Nathan as the closer.


Prediction: Tigers in 4


With three former Cy Young winners, Detroit's starting pitching will be too much for Baltimore's potent lineup.
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 11:06
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-october-2-2014

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for October 2:


• With Derek Jeter retired, . Somebody has to pay the bills.


. I feel like he's staring right into my soul.




• The best part of last night's snoozefest was .






. Well, except for the huge salary.






• NBA halftime entertainer Red Panda is retiring. .




• Watch Matthew McConaughey fire up his Texas Longhorns, complete with "Wolf of Wall Street" chest-beating.



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

Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 10:40
All taxonomy terms: Peyton Manning, Ty Lawson, NBA
Path: /nba/ty-lawson-brian-shaw-denver-nuggets-plan-visit-peyton-manning

The comparisons to be made between basketball and football are limited. The former is a continuous game of barely-clad bodies, speeding balletically past each other to score over and over. The latter is a gridiron stop-start of bone-crunching brutality between men in veritable armor, where all points are hard-earned.

But an NBA point guard can certainly learn a lot from an NFL quarterback — the most stressful public position in America, just inches behind Commander in Chief. That’s why Denver Nuggets second-year coach Brian Shaw wants to take his team’s speedy young general, Ty Lawson, a few high miles over to Denver Broncos practice, where he can ostensibly learn from the very best in game management: Peyton Manning.

“I want to take him to a Broncos practice so he can see Peyton Manning and how he directs traffic, and how everybody falls in line behind him. But they only do that because they know the work ethic that he has and the time he puts in, and they respect that,” .


Lawson chimed in on the idea, too: “I definitely just want to see how he runs his team. To see whether he's yelling and screaming the whole time, or if he's just talking. What his tone is when he's talking to players. I want to see what his mindset is during practice.”

This isn’t the first time Lawson and football have been mentioned in the same news item. Just weeks ago, Lawson took to social media during a pitiful Dallas Cowboys defensive performance to clown on both the ‘Boys and Western Conference rival .


Here’s Lawson’s unforgettable Instagram joke:


The Nuggets are looking to bounce back in 2014-15, after a rough 36-46 season in which they missed the playoffs. If sense of humor and non-traditional learning are any indication of court savvy, then Denver fans have plenty of cause for hope.


— John Wilmes


(h/t Matt Moore, CBS Sports)

Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /nfl/minnesota-vikings-vs-green-bay-packers-game-preview-and-prediction

Two NFC North teams that are coming off their best performances of the season — and trying to keep up with division-leading Detroit — will meet up at Lambeau Field, as Green Bay is set to host Minnesota tonight on CBS/NFL Network. The Packers (2-2) return home from a 38–17 thrashing of the Bears, while the Vikings (2-2) roll in following a 41–28 home win over the Falcons that represented the franchise's fourth-best offensive performance of all time in terms of total yardage (558).


All signs would seem to point to a shootout, although the health of breakout Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (sprained ankle), who passed for 317 yards in his starting debut, remains a question as the game approaches. The Vikings remain optimistic that their newfound offensive catalyst will be ready to go in a hostile environment, but even if he's not, the Vikes showed against Atlanta that they can move the ball without franchise cornerstone Adrian Peterson.


Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers


Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS/NFL Network

Spread: Green Bay -9


Three Things to Watch


1. Contrast in Styles

The Packers' 38-point explosion in Soldier Field masked an ongoing deficiency: their perplexing inability to run the football. Green Bay was outrushed by the Bears 235-56, and once again, lead back Eddie Lacy failed to crack the 50-yard barrier (he had a season-high 48 yards on 17 rushes). Fortunately, quarterback Aaron Rodgers played a ruthlessly efficient game, passing for 302 yards and four touchdowns, but the Pack needed the cooperation of the Bears through turnovers and penalties to win comfortably. Meanwhile, the Vikings showed uncommon balance against Atlanta in amassing 558 total yards, including 241 on the ground — their highest total without Adrian Peterson since 2011. With Teddy Bridgewater's health uncertain, look for the Vikings to try to pound the Packers' NFL-worst rushing defense (176 ypg) with Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon. Meanwhile, Rodgers will look for holes in a Vikings pass defense that is allowing 241 yards per game.


2. Third Down Woes

Both teams have been plagued this season by an inability to stop their opponents on third down. The Vikings rank 31st in the NFL in third-down defense, surrendering first-down conversions half the time. "It's terrible," says Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. "We've got a lot of work to do. I'm extremely disappointed in that. We'll put a lot more time and effort into it than what we have." Zimmer can take some solace in that the Packers are actually worse on third down (52.6 percent). Whichever team can get its defense off the field should seize the advantage.


3. Home Sweet Home

The Packers have dominated the Vikings at Lambeau Field over the last two decades. Over that span, Green Bay is 15–4–1 at home against Minnesota, including a 3–0–1 record in the last four meetings in cheese country (the tie came when Aaron Rodgers was sidelined with an injury). The teams' playoff meeting in January  2012 was symptomatic of the Pack's home dominance; Green Bay beat the Vikings 24–10 in the Wild Card game to take the season series 2–1, and in the process, the Packers held Adrian Peterson under 100 yards rushing after allowing 210 and 199 to Peterson in the two regular-season meetings. The Vikings have some work to do to crack the Lambeau mystique in the rivalry, and that's asking a lot of a rookie quarterback.


Final Analysis


The Packers don't mind being one-dimensional as long as they move the ball and score points as they did against the Bears. After all, that one dimension — the Aaron Rodgers-led passing game — remains as potent as ever. Despite their futility on the ground, the Packers finished every drive against the Bears with at least a field-goal attempt. The Vikings have been far too inconsistent offensively this season to expect them to win in a stadium where they've enjoyed little recent success. Barring another offensive explosion from rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the Pack should be able to protect the tundra.

Prediction: Green Bay 31, Minnesota 17
Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/oregon-ducks-vs-arizona-wildcats-2014-game-preview-and-prediction

For the second week in a row, the Pac-12 takes center stage on Thursday night with Oregon and Arizona set to meet in a high-scoring showdown in Eugene. The Ducks are the favorite to win the Pac-12 title and have a marquee win over Michigan State on their resume. But Oregon struggled in its last outing, only winning 38-31 at Washington State. Of course, winning on the road in the Pac-12 is never easy, and the Ducks were shorthanded on the offensive line. Arizona swept its non-conference slate with a 3-0 mark and used a last-second Hail Mary touchdown pass to beat California on Sept. 20.

There’s a revenge factor for Oregon in this game, as the Ducks were thoroughly dominated by Arizona 42-16 in late November last year. But prior to last season’s game, Oregon dominated the series over the Wildcats. The Ducks won five straight from 2008-12 and have claimed 12 victories in the last 15 games between these two programs.


Arizona at Oregon


Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Oregon -24


Three Things to Watch


1. Oregon’s Offensive Line

This unit garnered the most attention in Oregon’s 38-31 win over Washington State. Injuries have taken a toll on the starting lineup, and the Ducks allowed seven sacks in the victory against the Cougars on Sept. 20. Quarterback Marcus Mariota’s mobility alleviates some of the concern on the offensive line’s protection issues, but this unit will play a large role in determining how far Oregon can go this year. The Ducks are secretive regarding their injuries, so no one has any idea if tackles Jake Fisher or Andre Yruretagoyena will return for this game – or even at all in 2014. In their place, Oregon has turned to true freshman Tyrell Crosby and walk-on Matt Pierson to start at tackle. Will the line perform better than it did against Washington State? Arizona’s defensive front has forced nine sacks in four games, with most of their pressure coming from the linebackers. This is a key opportunity for the Ducks to work on some of the offensive line concerns, especially with a matchup against UCLA next Saturday.


2. Arizona QB Anu Solomon

Winning in Eugene isn’t easy, but Arizona at least has a shot behind quarterback Anu Solomon and an offense that is averaging 42 points per game in 2014. Solomon, a redshirt freshman, ranks second in the Pac-12 by averaging 363.5 yards per game and has thrown for at least three touchdowns in every contest in 2014. Solomon isn’t just limited to the air, as he is averaging 4.3 yards per carry and has 167 rushing yards this season. The redshirt freshman has yet to play in a hostile environment like Autzen Stadium, so this game is easily the toughest of his young career. How will Solomon respond? The Ducks rank 11th in pass defense in the Pac-12, but that stat can be overrated since it factors just yards allowed. However, opposing quarterbacks are completing 61.6 percent of their passes against Oregon, and the Ducks allowed Washington State to throw for 436 yards on Sept. 20. The opportunities will be there for Solomon to make plays in the passing game.


3. Arizona’s Defense

We mentioned Oregon’s offensive line earlier, but can Arizona’s defense find a way to slow down the Ducks’ high-powered attack? Stopping Oregon starts in the trenches, and the Wildcats have to find a way to get pressure on Mariota. But the Ducks aren’t a one-man show. Three running backs have at least 175 yards, with freshman Royce Freeman (261 yards) leading the way, and the receiving corps has gamebreakers, including freshman Devon Allen (21.4 ypc). Arizona has allowed at least 5.1 yards per play in three out of its four games this season. Will the Wildcats be able to get enough pressure on Mariota to disrupt the offense? Or can Jeff Casteel’s defense force a couple of turnovers to give their offense a short field to work from? Based on the first four games, the Wildcats have some work to do on this side of the ball, and if they can’t get stops, Oregon is going to have no trouble scoring points (as usual) in Eugene.


Final Analysis


Expect plenty of points on Thursday night. Oregon has to be careful to avoid peeking too far ahead to Arizona, but that shouldn’t be a problem for the Ducks. The Wildcats are getting better under coach Rich Rodriguez, and the offense has enough firepower to at least push Oregon into the second half. However, Arizona’s defense won’t have the answers to slow down the Ducks, as Mariota posts another huge effort to bolster his lead in the Heisman race.


Prediction: Oregon 48, Arizona 24

Oregon Ducks vs. Arizona Wildcats 2014 Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, News
Path: /college-football/acc-2014-week-6-preview-and-predictions

It’s all about conference play this week in the ACC. Six league games are scheduled for Week 6, with two intriguing matchups in the Coastal Division leading the must-watch menu.

Virginia Tech-North Carolina and Georgia Tech-Miami should provide some clarity in a tight Coastal Division, while on paper, NC State-Clemson looks like a shootout in Death Valley.

Florida State won’t have much trouble with a struggling Wake Forest offense, as the Seminoles look to avoid another close call after surviving last week’s upset bid against NC State. Louisville travels to Syracuse, and Pittsburgh visits Virginia to round out the ACC slate.

There’s plenty of intrigue this week, as four of the games feature a spread of less than a touchdown.

Week 6 Previews and Predictions
|  |   


ACC Week 6 Game Power Rankings


1. Virginia Tech (-1.5) at North Carolina
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network

Both teams entered 2014 with high expectations, but as the calendar turns to October, the Tar Heels and Hokies are fighting to stay alive in the Coastal Division. Both teams followed a defeat against East Carolina with losses in conference play, so there’s plenty of pressure to win to avoid an 0-2 start in the ACC. Virginia Tech’s offense has showed promise at times under new quarterback Michael Brewer, but the Hokies are also tied for last in the ACC in turnover margin (-3). Brewer and freshman running back Marshawn Williams will have opportunities for big plays against a North Carolina defense that’s giving up 44 points per game and has allowed 29 plays of 20 yards or more. While the defense has struggled, the Tar Heels lead the ACC in scoring offense (40.8 ppg). Quarterback Marquise Williams has been steady (8 TDs, 4 INTs), and true freshman Elijah Hood leads the way on the ground (163 yards). Oddly enough, Virginia Tech’s defense has allowed 32 plays of 20 yards or more (124th nationally) this season, which should open the door for Williams and North Carolina’s skill players to have success. Despite the big plays allowed, the Hokies are limiting opponents to 20.4 points per game. And the Virginia Tech defensive line – even without tackle Luther Maddy – is a tough matchup for a young Tar Heel offensive line.


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2. Miami (-1.5) at Georgia Tech
7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

It’s hard to call any conference contest an elimination game in September, but Miami had to beat Duke last Saturday in order to keep its Coastal Division hopes alive. Georgia Tech already has a win over Virginia Tech, so a win over the Hurricanes would be huge for its division title hopes. The Yellow Jackets are just 1-5 under coach Paul Johnson against Miami. For Georgia Tech to reverse that trend, it has to win the turnover battle and slow down the Hurricanes’ rushing attack. The Yellow Jackets are allowing 194.3 yards per game on the ground, while Miami running back Duke Johnson gashed Duke for 155 yards last Saturday. Expect coordinator James Coley to give Johnson plenty of carries and allow freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya to ease into the game. Georgia Tech’s option offense is tough to prepare for, and quarterback Justin Thomas has been dynamic on the ground (6.8 ypc) and through the air (19.1 yards per completion). Miami’s defensive front has improved since last season, and only one opponent so far has managed more than 3.4 yards per carry (Nebraska). Both teams want to establish the run, but there’s also pressure on Kaaya and Thomas to limit their mistakes in a game with little margin for error.

3. Pittsburgh at Virginia (-6.5)
7:30 p.m. ET, RSN

It’s tough to pinpoint or know if momentum really means anything over the course of a season, but Saturday’s Pittsburgh-Virginia matchup is critical for the outlook of both teams. The Panthers started 3-0 but have lost two consecutive games, including a surprise 21-10 defeat at the hands of Akron last week. The Cavaliers are clearly improved (3-2) after a 2-10 mark last year. Virginia’s offense is a work in progress, but the defense is allowing just 4.8 yards per play and ranks third in the ACC with 18 sacks. Points could be a premium on Saturday, as both teams are experiencing their share of growing pains on offense. Pittsburgh running back James Conner was held under 100 yards for the first time this year in last Saturday’s loss to Akron, and the sophomore could find limited running room against a Virginia defense holding opponents to just 2.6 yards per carry. With the strength of the Cavaliers in the trenches, Pittsburgh needs quarterback Chad Voytik to have success through the air to open up opportunities on the ground. Virginia also leans on its ground attack to help alleviate the pressure on quarterbacks Matt Johns and Greyson Lambert. There’s not much separating these two teams. Which team gets the most out of its quarterbacks and can win the turnover battle is likely to come out on top.

4. NC State at Clemson (-14.5)
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU

With an over/under of 67, Vegas clearly expects plenty of points in Death Valley. And it’s hard to dispute the good folks in Vegas with the emergence of the two quarterbacks in this game. NC State’s Jacoby Brissett nearly guided the Wolfpack to an upset win over Florida State last Saturday, while Watson threw six touchdown passes in a 50-35 win over North Carolina. Clemson’s offense has struggled to establish its ground attack (3.1 ypc), but NC State’s defense is allowing 160 yards per game on the ground and ranks 12th in the ACC in points allowed. Watson may not equal his touchdown total from last week, but all signs point to the freshman having another huge day. Brissett needs another monster performance to help the Wolfpack have a shot at the upset, and the spotlight will be on his offensive line to provide protection against an active Clemson defensive front (13 sacks, 38 TFL). Both teams will have their moments on offense, but the Tigers have an edge on defense, which is more than enough to give Clemson its 10th win over NC State in its last 11 games.

5. Louisville (-2.5) at Syracuse
(Friday) 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

In a scheduling quirk, this will be Louisville’s fourth ACC game, while Friday night’s matchup in the Carrier Dome is Syracuse’s first conference matchup of the year. While the Orange has yet to play an ACC game, Scott Shafer’s team has been tested with non-conference games against Maryland and Notre Dame. Louisville’s defense ranks among the best in the ACC, limiting opponents to just 14 points a game and 3.7 yards per play. The Cardinals also lead the conference against the run, which is the strength of Syracuse’s offense (232.5 ypg). The Orange lean heavily on quarterback Terrel Hunt (299 yards) on the ground, but the junior needs to be more consistent through the air (11.8 YPC, 2 INTs). Quarterback play is also under the microscope for Louisville, as Will Gardner is nursing a knee injury and is questionable to play on Friday night. True freshman Reggie Bonnafon started last week against Wake Forest and completed 16 of 32 passes for 206 yards. Bonnafon will have opportunities to make plays against a Syracuse pass defense that ranks 13th in the ACC and is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 65.1 percent of their passes.

6. Wake Forest at Florida State (-39)
3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2

The Seminoles survived another close call last Saturday, rallying from a 24-7 deficit to beat NC State 56-41. Florida State shouldn’t need a fourth-quarter rally this week against a struggling Wake Forest offense. The Seminoles are a 39-point favorite against the Demon Deacons, which is the largest point spread among Power 5 matchups in Week 6. Wake Forest’s offense is averaging just 18.2 points per game and a paltry 3.6 yards per play. The Demon Deacons also have negative rushing yardage in three out of their five games. Florida State’s young defense struggled in the first half against NC State but performed better over the final two quarters. This game is a good opportunity for the Seminoles to build confidence on defense. Wake Forest’s defense is the strength of this team but will struggle to stop Jameis Winston and a receiving corps that is starting to jell after last week’s win in Raleigh.

ACC Week 6 Predictions

Va. Tech (-1.5) at UNCVT 35-21VT 26-25VT 31-24VT 31-13
Miami (-1.5) at Ga. TechGT 35-14Miami, 24-21Miami 30-27GT 27-20
Pitt (+6.5) at UVaUVa 17-14UVa 27-14UVa 24-20Pitt 20-17
NC State (+14.5) at ClemsonCU 35-31CU 34-20CU 41-31CU 37-30
Louisville (-2.5) at SyracuseSU 21-20UL 27-24UL 27-24UL 24-20
Wake Forest (+39) at FSUFSU 52-10FSU 45-10FSU 52-7FSU 41-0
Last Week6-36-37-26-3
Season Record44-1244-1247-945-11


ACC 2014 Week 6 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/sec-2014-week-6-preview-and-predictions

An epic week in the SEC is highlighted by two huge games in the Magnolia State. Ole Miss hosts Alabama and Texas A&M visits Mississippi State in a pair of crucial matchups that will help shape the SEC West race. Elsewhere, LSU makes the trip to Auburn with a true freshman quarterback making his first start, and Florida and Tennessee get together in Knoxville.

Week 6 Previews and Predictions
|  | 


Week 6 SEC Games Power Rankings


1. Alabama (-6.5) at Ole Miss (3:30 ET, CBS)

It’s the biggest football Saturday in Oxford in decades. Ole Miss, undefeated and ranked in the top 10 nationally, hosts the mighty Crimson Tide of Alabama. That’s the main event. The pregame party, however, will be legendary, with ESPN’s College GameDay setting up shop in the Grove for the first time ever. Assuming the tailgaters can find their way to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, they will have an opportunity to witness the first of what should be many epic showdowns in the next two months between SEC West contenders. Alabama has ascended to the top of a few national polls on the strength of an offense that is averaging just a shade under 600 yards per game. Ole Miss currently leads the SEC in total defense, allowing only 3.7 yards per play and 248.0 yards per game — but the Rebels have played a relatively soft schedule. The bigger concern for Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is his offense; the numbers have been decent, but the Rebs have lacked consistency and have turned the ball over nine times in four games.


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2. Texas A&M (+2.5) at Mississippi State (12 ET, ESPN)

Any other Saturday, this likely would have been the Game of the Week nationally. But the Bulldogs are forced to cede the spotlight to their hated rivals to the (relative) north, the Ole Miss Rebels, who host Alabama. Still, this is a huge game between two undefeated teams with aspirations of winning the SEC West. Texas A&M survived a scare on Saturday, rallying from 14 down in the fourth quarter to beat Arkansas in overtime. The Aggies’ offense is as explosive as ever, but the defense continues to be an issue. A&M has given up more than 400 yards in three of five games, including 484 to Arkansas on Saturday. Mississippi State passed its only test this season — and did so in impressive fashion with a 34–29 win at LSU two weeks ago. The Bulldogs are stout defensively and feature one of the most dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation in junior Dak Prescott.


3. LSU (+7.5) at Auburn (7 ET, ESPN)

True freshman Brandon Harris will be making his first start for an LSU team that is trying to avoid its first 0–2 start in the SEC since 2001 (a year in which the Tigers actually went on to win the conference title). Harris has played very well in relief in recent weeks, but starting a game — especially on the road at night in a hostile environment against a top-10 team — is a completely different challenge. Auburn’s defense appears to be improved in 2014; the Tigers are allowing only 313.3 yards per game and held Arkansas to 328 in Week 1 and Kansas State to 285 two weeks ago. The Tigers would love tailback Leonard Fournette, another true freshman, to break out this week. He had 122 yards on 18 carries against New Mexico State but has a total of 56 yards on 15 carries in two games against Power 5 conference teams. This is a tough spot for LSU.


4. Florida (+2.5) at Tennessee (12 ET, SEC Network)

Once the Game of the Year in the SEC and a fixture on CBS, the annual Florida-Tennessee battle has been relegated to a noon start on the SEC Network. Still, this is a huge game for both programs. It’s almost a must win for Florida coach Will Muschamp, whose team is 1–6 in its last seven SEC games with the lone win coming in overtime at home vs. Kentucky. Tennessee is trending in the right direction, and a win over Florida — something that hasn’t happened for the Vols since 2004 — would be huge step forward for this program. Granted, beating Florida isn’t a huge deal anymore, but this is a game Tennessee simply needs to win.


5. South Carolina (-5) at Kentucky (7:30 ET, SEC Network)

It’s been a strange year for the Gamecocks, who have now lost two home games for the first time since 2008. South Carolina had by far its finest defensive performance of the season on Saturday night — giving up less than 350 yards an fewer than 6.7 yards per snap for the first time — yet still lost to Missouri, 21–20. Anything can happen in the wide-open SEC East, though it’s tough to envision a team with two losses at home winning the division. Kentucky is much-improved in the second season under Mark Stoops. The Cats took Florida to overtime in Gainesville before finally snapping their 17-game SEC losing streak against Vanderbilt last week. Kentucky did, however, have season-lows in points (17), total yards (384) and yards per play (4.8) against the Commodores.


6. Vanderbilt (+33.5) at Georgia (4 ET, SEC Network)

Georgia concludes a three-game homestand against a Vanderbilt team that is struggling to move the ball and score points. The Commodores rank last in the league in both rushing offense and passing offense and are averaging only 254.6 yards per game. They have five offensive touchdowns in five games and have made a total of 11 trips inside the red zone. Georgia has scored at least 35 points in all four games; if you’re Mark Richt, you have to figure 21 points will be more than enough to win this game.


Week 6 SEC Predictions

 David FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light
Florida at TennesseeUT 21-14UT 27-21UT 27-24UT 28-24
Texas A&M at Miss St.MSU 35-31MSU 38-34MSU 38-34MSU 37-33
Alabama at Ole MissUA 31-20UA 30-21UA 27-20UA 27-20
Vanderbilt at GeorgiaUGa 35-14UGa 34-13UGa 38-13UGa 34-14
LSU at AuburnAU 28-13AU 41-28AU 34-24AU 30-17
S. Carolina at KentuckySC 27-14SC 31-24SC 31-27UK 24-20
Last Week6-16-16-16-1


SEC Week 6 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-2014-week-6-preview-and-predictions

The first shot was fired across both the Pac-12 North and Pac-12 South bows last weekend as Stanford and UCLA earned critical division wins over two conference contenders.


But in what could be the best league in football, there is no rest for the weary (well, except Washington) as Stanford, Oregon, USC, Arizona State and UCLA all have critical showdowns in this Week of Doom in college football.

Week 6 Previews and Predictions:
 |  |  |

Pac-12 Week 6 Game Power Rankings

1. Stanford at Notre Dame
3:30 p.m., NBC

There is more than just rivalry bragging rights on the line in this heavyweight bout. A loss for either highly ranked team could knock them out of the College Football Playoff picture. These are two of the most physical teams in the nation and are, statistically, two of the best defenses in the land. Stanford leads the nation in total defense (198.0 ypg), scoring defense (6.5 ppg) and has allowed a nation’s best three trips into the red zone and is totally legit. It will be a great test for a surging and electric Everett Golson. Notre Dame, which is fourth in the nation in scoring defense (11.5 ppg) has forced 10 turnovers in four games, might not be as good as its numbers indicate. Playing Michigan, Syracuse, Rice and Purdue doesn’t exactly create an accurate portrayal. So while Stanford's offense has had its red zone woes, Brian Kelly should find out just how good his defense (and offense) could be in 2014 after hosting the Cardinal.


2. Arizona St at USC
7:30 p.m., FOX

This was considered one of the critical round-robin Pac-12 South matches between the contenders (UCLA being the other). After ASU was smoked at home by the Bruins, Todd Graham’s championship hopes are dangling by a thread as he leads his team into the Coliseum. Backup signal-caller Mike Bercovici was adequate in his first career start as he threw for 488 yards in the loss. But he gave the ball away too much and will have to be much better in that department if he wants to top a Trojans defense that looked healthy, fast and physical against Oregon State last Saturday night. Cody Kessler is playing as well as any QB in the league and isn’t likely to give Arizona State too many chances so the Sun Devils' conference title hopes likely hang on the strong right arm of Bercovici once again.


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3. Arizona at Oregon
Thurs., 10:30 p.m., ESPN

Late last season in the desert with a Pac-12 North title hanging in the balance, a less-than-healthy Marcus Mariota watched his Heisman hopes disappear at the hands of the Wildcats in an ugly 42-16 defeat. Mariota, now healthy and clicking on all cylinders, is likely to exact some revenge on the solid but unequipped Arizona defense. The Ducks quarterback is completing 74percent of his passes, has 1,349 yards of total offense and has scored 16 times without throwing an interception in four games. Unless Oregon’s offensive line issues are worse than excepted following two weeks of rest, Arizona isn’t likely to keep this primetime showdown respectable.


4. Utah at UCLA
10:30 p.m., ESPN

This game lost some luster when the Utes choked away a big lead against Washington State at home last weekend. So topping a UCLA team coming off its most complete performance with a healthy and surging Brett Hundley under center will be a tall order. Utah’s nasty front line — fifth nationally with 18.0 sacks — will have to take advantage of a Bruins offensive line that is one of the worst in the Pac-12 — tied for last with 12.0 sacks allowed — if the Utes want any chance at pulling off the upset. This game featured six Utah turnovers last year in Salt Lake City, so Travis Wilson will have to protect the football as well. A few big plays from Kaelin Clay (and his four return touchdowns) on special teams would certainly help.


5. Cal at Washington St
10:30 p.m., P12 Net

Both the Bears and Cougars escaped Week 5 with critical Pac-12 victories and are looking to build upon momentum. Quarterbacks Jared Goff and Connor Halliday combined for 866 yards and 11 touchdown passes in these wins and should once again be on full display. Needless to say, whichever defense can get stops in the second half and on third down will likely win the game.


6. Oregon St at Colorado
4 p.m., P12 Net

Both teams are looking to get back on track using two of the more productive quarterbacks in the nation. Colorado’s Sefo Liufau is coming off one of the best games of his career (449 yds, 7 TD) while Oregon State’s Sean Mannion is coming off one his worst (123 yds, 0 TD, 2 INT). In fact, the 181 yards of total offense posted against USC was just the second time since 2010 the Beavers failed to reach 250 yards of offense. It appears OSU star wideout Victor Bolden will be out again while Colorado will turn to its own star playmaker. Nelson Spruce will attempt to maintain his hold on the national lead in receptions (56), yards (694) and touchdowns (10). This would be a breakthrough win for Mike MacIntyre. 


Off: Cal, Washington


Pac-12 Predictions:


 Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
Stanford (-1.5) at N. DameStan., 24-23Stan., 24-21ND, 21-14ND, 24-20
Ariz. St (+12) at USCUSC, 38-20USC, 31-17USC, 38-21USC, 34-24
Arizona (+23.5) at OregonOre., 45-30Ore., 44-31Ore., 45-21Ore., 48-24
Utah (+13.5) at UCLAUCLA, 34-24UCLA, 24-17UCLA, 42-14UCLA, 31-20
Cal (+3.5) at WazzuWSU, 38-35WSU, 41-40Cal, 35-31WSU, 45-41
Ore. St (-7) at ColoradoOSU, 31-20OSU, 38-30OSU, 35-24OSU, 34-31
Last Week:3-24-14-14-1
Pac-12 2014 Week 6 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-2014-week-6-preview-and-predictions

After two lackluster weeks filled with off weekends and snoozers, the Big 12 takes center stage nationally on what is being referred to as the Week of Doom in college football.


Oklahoma and Baylor will face nasty road games while contenders TCU, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and West Virginia are in must-win home situations.


Week 6 could be one of the best weekends of action in the Big 12.

Week 6 Previews and Predictions:
 |  |  |

Big 12 Week 6 Game Power Rankings

1. Oklahoma (-5.5) at TCU
3:30 p.m., FOX

The Sooners will have to navigate a few brutal road trips in the Big 12 and this one to Fort Worth should be one of the toughest. Oklahoma’s defense has been salty all season but still allowed 33 points and 376 yards passing in the win over West Virginia. The Stoops brothers' top priority on defense against TCU will be slowing the newly invigorated spread attack led by Trevone Boykin. The TCU signal-caller is averaging 347.0 yards of total offense per game and has accounted for 11 total touchdowns and just one interception. Sony Cumbie and Doug Meacham have clearly worked minor miracles with this unit. On the flip side, the Sooners' backfield is getting deeper and healthier by the week but should be challenged by a defense that has yet to allow 100 yards rushing in any game. TCU leads the nation with 3.1 yards per play allowed.


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2. Baylor (-16.5) at Texas
3:30 p.m., ABC

The Bears come to Austin more than a two-touchdown favorite as one of only two teams in the nation ranked in the top 10 of total offense and defense (Alabama is the other). Bryce Petty and his offensive weaponry are healthier than they’ve been all season and are surging after rolling through Iowa State with ease on the road in their Big Ten opener. Charlie Strong’s squad won easily on the road against Kansas but it didn’t inspire confidence. The bottom line is 329 yards of offense and 4.7 yards per play aren’t the type of numbers that can compete with Art Briles’ offense. Despite being at home, the Longhorns and Tyrone Swoopes will have to play their best game to beat Baylor this Saturday. The Bears rolled Texas last year at home but lost 56-50 the last time they visited Austin.


3. Texas Tech at Kansas St
7 p.m., ESPNU

Until proven otherwise, Texas Tech will struggle to beat quality competition due to sloppy play and self-inflicted mistakes. The Red Raiders are dead last in the nation (127th) in penalties (11.5/game) and are tied for last in the Big 12 in turnover margin (-1.25/game). These are the types of mistakes Bill Snyder and Kansas State normally feast on. Jake Waters got back on track against UTEP while the Wildcats' front seven continues to prove to be one of the most hard-working, disciplined groups in the game today. This was a 49-26 Wildcats win in Lubbock last fall and Kliff Kingsbury doesn’t appear to have fixed any of the issues that plagued his team over the last 10 games.


4. Iowa St at Oklahoma St
Noon, FS1

Mike Gundy has to be pleased with where his team stands entering October. What was supposed to be a rebuilding project has quickly turned into a reloading situation. Daxx Garman still has a lot of kinks to work out of his game but he should only continue to get better. The Cyclones play hard for Paul Rhoads but don’t have the horses to keep up with most teams in this conference — especially one that has beaten it by 52 points in the last two meetings.


5. Kansas (-26) at West Virginia
4 p.m.

Clint Bowen is now running the ship in place of Charlie Weis and his first task is to try to stop the top passing attack in the Big 12. Clint Trickett is managing the No. 3-ranked passing offense in the nation, which is averaging 401.8 yards per game. Bowen, the former defensive coordinator, has little hope of competing in such a difficult environment against a team that is looking for revenge after an ugly defeat in Lawrence a year ago. Look for Kevin White to have a field day in what should be a blowout win. 


Big 12 Predictions:


 Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
Okla. (-5.5) at TCUOU, 34-17OU, 24-13OU, 31-14OU, 30-20
Baylor (-16.5) at TexasBay., 38-20Bay., 37-17Bay., 49-13Bay., 38-17
T. Tech (+13) at KSUKSU, 30-20KSU, 30-20KSU, 27-10KSU, 38-24
Iowa St (+17) at Ok-StateOSU, 37-21OSU, 41-20OSU, 31-20OSU, 41-20
Kansas (-26) at WVUWVU, 41-7WVU, 51-10WVU, 52-21WVU, 45-17
Last Week:5-05-05-05-0


Big 12 2014 Week 6 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2014-week-6-preview-and-predictions

After the Big Ten stepped into the national spotlight for the wrong reasons this week as a coach and athletic director found themselves not just battling their player safety procedures, but their job status.


By Saturday night, that may change as the league has a heavyweight matchup on par with any other game in a week full of key games between ranked teams.


Nebraska and Michigan State will meet in a key game — perhaps one of the last — for the league’s hopes in the College Football Playoff.


In other action, Ohio State will try to continue its progress on offense in a matchup with Maryland while Michigan tries to put a troubling week behind it when the Wolverines visit Rutgers.

Week 6 Previews and Predictions:
|  |  | 


Big Ten Week 6 Game Power Rankings

All games Saturday, all times Eastern


1. Nebraska at Michigan State

8 p.m., ABC

This could be the most important game in the Big Ten this season, at least until the league championship game. Nebraska is the league’s only undefeated team but hardly has the resume to put the Cornhuskers into the College Football Playoff conversation. That changes with a win in East Lansing. Meanwhile, Michigan State will look to atone for the loss at Oregon, one in which quarterback Connor Cook was a week removed from a shot to the knee.


Nebraska is one of the few teams in the country that has moved the ball consistently on Michigan State’s defense in the last four season. Michigan State has allowed six yards per play just four times in the last four years, and Nebraska has done it twice. Nebraska in 2013 is one of three teams to rush for 150 yards and pass for 200 against Michigan State the last four seasons, and the Cornhuskers' 313 rushing yards in 2012 is the most against Sparty in that span. Heisman contender Ameer Abdullah has been a part of both of those games, and now he’s in the middle of a career year. Michigan State will look to limit Abdullah and put the pressure on 54-percent passer Tommy Armstrong to win the game with his arm.


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2. Ohio State at Maryland

Noon, ABC

The problems in the Ohio State pass defense resurfaced last week against Cincinnati as the Bearcats picked up three touchdown passes in excess of 60 yards, including two that enabled Cincy to get back into the game. Maryland has a talented receiver group led by Stefon Diggs, but it’s not clear who will be taking snaps. Starter C.J. Brown, who is also a running threat, was knocked out of last week’s win over Indiana. Caleb Rowe went 12-of-18 for 198 yards with two touchdowns the rest of the way. West Virginia is the only opponent to consistently move the ball through the air against Maryland this season, so Ohio State may need to revisit the balanced offense displayed against Cincinnati. Elliott Ezekiel had the best game of a Buckeyes tailback this season with 182 yards.


3. Michigan at Rutgers

7 p.m., Big Ten Network

Who knows what kind of Michigan team will show up against Rutgers? The Wolverines spent more time talking about concussion procedures than football during the last week. Maybe Michigan rallies for its first win over a Power 5 opponent this season. Maybe Michigan looks as disorganized on offense as it has all year, or worse, a steady defense that’s been overlooked starts to show cracks. Quarterback Devin Gardner, not surprisingly, will return to the starting role this week. Rutgers isn’t a great team, but it can pressure a quarterback. The Scarlet Knights are averaging a Big Ten-best 4.2 sacks per game. 


4. Wisconsin at Northwestern

3:30 p.m., ESPN2

Congratulations to Northwestern, riding a genuine (two-game) winning streak for the first time since starting 4-0 last season. The Wildcats have held the last two opponents to 84 yards and 50 yards, but Wisconsin is a different challenge, to put it lightly. Melvin Gordon has rushed for 434 yards and seven touchdowns in the last two weeks. The question for Wisconsin this week will be how much Joel Stave plays, if at all. Starting quarterback Tanner McEvoy has struggled, and Stave, last year’s starter, says he’s over the “” that made him unable to play so far this season.


5. Purdue at Illinois

Noon, ESPN2

Illinois can match its win total from last season, one that it didn’t hit until Nov. 23 against — yep — Purdue. This is a must-win for Illinois’ slim bowl hopes. Quarterback Wes Lunt is expected to return from a knee sprain that kept him out of last week’s rout against Nebraska. Backup Reilly O’Toole is also hobbled.


6. North Texas at Indiana

2:30, Big Ten Network

Even though running back Tevin Coleman is near-automatic, Indiana will try to work out its passing game. The Hoosiers rank 88th in passing offense after ranking in the top 20 nationally the last two seasons. North Texas ranks 37th nationally in pass efficiency defense.


Big Ten Week 6 Staff Picks

 David FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light

Purdue at Illinois (-11)

Ill. 35-14Ill. 34-17Ill. 34-20Ill. 23-13

Ohio State at Maryland (NL)

OSU 31-17OSU 45-25OSU 38-24OSU 34-27

North Texas at Indiana (-14)

IU 42-21IU 40-20IU 38-20IU 33-13

Wisconsin (-9) at Northwestern

Wisc 41-21Wisc 30-27Wisc 30-20Wisc 31-14

Michigan at Rutgers (-3)

Rut 17-10UM 17-14Rut 24-20Rut 23-17

Nebraska at Michigan State (-8)

MSU 35-24MSU 42-21MSU 27-20MSU 28-17
Last Week7-27-27-27-2


Big Ten 2014 Week 6 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/utah-state-qb-chuckie-keeton-miss-remainder-2014-season

Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton will miss the remainder of the 2014 season due to a knee injury. Keeton suffered a torn ACL in 2013 and returned in time for the 2014 opener but injured his knee again versus Wake Forest on Sept. 13.

With Keeton sidelined, Utah State will turn to sophomore Darell Garretson under center. The sophomore started seven games in 2013 and threw for 1,436 yards and 10 scores.

Keeton’s status for 2015 is uncertain, as there’s a possibility he can get a medical redshirt and return next year. Or Keeton may choose to go to the NFL – assuming he’s 100 percent.

Keeton was one of the nation’s top quarterbacks from outside of the Power 5 conferences and is a huge loss for Utah State. Garretson has experience, but he is not as mobile as Keeton was throughout his career.

Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton to Miss Remainder of 2014 Season
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 08:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2014-15-villanova-wildcats-team-preview

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


No. 12 Villanova is built to win the Big East for a second consecutive season, something the Wildcats haven’t done since 1982-83. But with four starters returning, Villanova will be expected to do more than just win the new Big East, especially after losing in the round of 32 as a No. 2 seed last season.


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


With 15 minutes remaining in their Round of 32 game, Villanova was leading Connecticut and seemed to have some momentum after back-to-back James Bell 3-pointers.


That quickly changed.


UConn outscored the Wildcats by 13 points over the final 15 minutes, beating Villanova en route to the national championship.


“After the game, it was crushing and disappointing,” coach Jay Wright says. “But as you saw them go on, you respected their performance more and became less disappointed in yours.”


With only two players gone from last season — including Bell — it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Villanova making a deep run in this season’s NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats are certainly the Big East favorite.


“If we handle it well, I like it. If we don’t handle it well, I don’t like it,” Wright says of the expectations. “If I was given the choice, I would like to be in that position.”


No. 12 Villanova Wildcats Facts & Figures

Last season: 29-5, 16-2 Big East

Postseason: Round of 32

Consecutive NCAAs: 2

Coach: Jay Wright (285-149 overall at Villanova, 124-79 Big East)

Big East Projection: First

Postseason Projection: NCAA Sweet 16


The loss of Bell will hurt Villanova, as the first-team All-Big East performer was Villanova’s top scorer and brought senior leadership.


Although he’s not expected to do it on his own, sophomore Josh Hart will get the first crack at replacing Bell. He showed flashes, notching eight straight double-figure games in December and January, and scoring 18 points against Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament.


“He had a great freshman year,” Wright says. “He picked things up really quickly. I saw a resiliency from him, and he continued that same way in the offseason. He keeps getting better and better.”


Senior Jayvaughn Pinkston followed that path the past three seasons, and is now expected to be a dominant performer on a more consistent basis. At 6-7, 260 pounds, Pinkston can be a load in the paint.


“I do expect him to be one of the best players in the Big East,” Wright says. “He needs to go to another level this year. Impact a game consistently, night-in, night-out.”


Wright is very excited about the improvement of center Daniel Ochefu. He came on strong down the stretch, blocking shots and rebounding, while also using his passing ability at the other end.


Sophomore Kris Jenkins, who lost 43 pounds last year, and freshman Mikal Bridges will provide depth, along with sophomore Darryl Reynolds.




As always, Villanova will have one of the best backcourts in the country. There’s no physical, attack-minded force like Kyle Lowry, Randy Foye or Corey Fisher, but Ryan Arcidiacono and Darrun Hilliard complement each other well.


Arcidiacono made waves as a freshman two seasons ago, but he also had some issues with turnovers and decision-making. Last season, his scoring numbers were down, but his percentages and assist-to-turnover ratio went up. “He did exactly what we wanted our guards to do,” Wright says. “As a freshman, he came in aggressively and made a lot of mistakes. As a sophomore, he used his aggressiveness to be smarter. He’s getting more and more efficient.”


Hilliard is a leading candidate for Big East Player of the Year. Known mostly as an outside shooter, the lefty has expanded his offensive game. He finished the season on a high note, averaging 17.3 points in March. “I expect him to develop into a great leader on this team,” Wright says. “He’s one of the best guards in the country.”


There’s solid help on the bench. Dylan Ennis, older brother of recent draft pick Tyler Ennis, didn’t adapt as quickly as some thought last season, but he can do a little bit of everything. Freshman Phil Booth brings scoring and ball-handling.


Final Analysis


Villanova’s only two losses in conference play last season were by a combined 49 points to Creighton, and with Doug McDermott gone, the Wildcats are clearly the Big East favorite.


The pieces are there for a deep March run. The Cats have terrific guard play in Arcidiacono and Hilliard; a bruising forward in Pinkston; and solid role players who are getting better in Ochefu and Hart. Replacing Bell — both in terms of production and leadership — will be the key.


If Hart can pick up the slack, though, there aren’t many better starting fives in the country. Throw in improvements from some of the younger players, and we could be talking about last season’s loss to UConn as a stepping stone to a Final Four run.



It wasn’t a big recruiting class, but Jay Wright picked up two quality complementary pieces in Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges. Both players are low-maintenance guys, and will accept a backup role until it’s their turn. Booth can bring scoring and solid point guard play, while Bridges is long and athletic. 

College Basketball 2014-15: Villanova Wildcats Team Preview
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-quarterback-rankings-week-5

With just two teams on bye in Week 5, Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings have returned to “normal” for the most part. While Peyton Manning will be back on the field (at home against Arizona), Drew Brees gets the nod for the top spot since his Saints are at home in must-win mode against a Tampa Bay defense that has had problems stopping the pass. Last week’s top scorer, Eli Manning, will look to stay hot at home against Atlanta while many people will be keeping a close eye on how rookie Teddy Bridgewater (provided his sprained ankle doesn’t keep him from playing) fares at Lambeau Field in the Thursday night spotlight against a Packers defense that gave up nearly 500 yards last week to the Bears.


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 5 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks


Teams on bye: Miami, Oakland


1Drew BreesNOvs. TB
2Peyton ManningDENvs. ARI
3Andrew LuckINDvs. BAL
4Aaron RodgersGBvs. MIN (Thurs.)
5Philip RiversSDvs. NYJ
6Russell WilsonSEAat WAS (Mon.)
7Matthew StaffordDETvs. BUF
8Matt RyanATLat NYG
9Ben RoethlisbergerPITat JAC
10Jay CutlerCHIat CAR
11Eli ManningNYGvs. ATL
12Colin KaepernickSFvs. KC
13Nick FolesPHIvs. STL
14Tony RomoDALvs. HOU
15Cam NewtonCARvs. CHI
16Joe FlaccoBALat IND
17Andy DaltonCINat NE
18Alex SmithKCat SF
19Tom BradyNEvs. CIN
20Kirk CousinsWASvs. SEA (Mon.)
21Mike GlennonTBat NO
22Teddy BridgewaterMINat GB
23Carson PalmerARIat DEN
24Ryan FitzpatrickHOUat DAL
25Blake BortlesJACvs. PIT
26Brian HoyerCLEat TEN

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


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


Need more fantasy help? Visit .

Fantasy Football 2014 Quarterback Rankings: Week 5
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-running-back-rankings-week-5

DeMarco Murray is leading the NFL in rushing by a pretty wide margin, so it makes sense that he sits in the top spot in Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings for Week 5. Murray has reeled off four straight 100-yard rushing games to start this season, and there’s no reason to believe the Cowboys won’t continue to feed him the ball in their in-state matchup with Houston. Last season’s rushing champion, LeSean McCoy, has gotten off to a slow start, but it’s way too early to give up on him. The matchup against St. Louis isn’t ideal, which is why McCoy is near the back end of this week’s top 10, but this is still a legitimate RB1. If someone who has McCoy thinks otherwise, now would be an ideal time to see if he can be had for less than market value in a trade.


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 5 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Backs


Teams on bye: Miami, Oakland


1DeMarco MurrayDALvs. HOU
2Le'Veon BellPITat JAC
3Marshawn LynchSEAat WAS (Mon.)
4Rashad JenningsNYGvs. ATL
5Matt ForteCHIat CAR
6Jamaal CharlesKCat SF
7Giovani BernardCINat NE
8LeSean McCoyPHIvs. STL
9Alfred MorrisWASvs. SEA (Mon.)
10Arian FosterHOUat DAL
11Eddie LacyGBvs. MIN (Thurs.)
12Zac StacySTLat PHI
13Andre EllingtonARIat DEN
14Frank GoreSFvs. KC
15Montee BallDENvs. ARI
16Doug MartinTBat NO
17Matt AsiataMINat GB (Thurs.)
18Chris IvoryNYJat SD
19Reggie BushDETvs. BUF
20C.J. SpillerBUFat DET
21Khiry RobinsonNOvs. TB
22Ahmad BradshawINDvs. BAL
23Fred JacksonBUFat DET
24Steven JacksonATLat NYG
25Justin ForsettBALat IND
26Ben TateCLEat TEN
27Trent RichardsonINDvs. BAL
28Bishop SankeyTENvs. CLE
29Jerick McKinnonMINat GB (Thurs.)
30Jeremy HillCINat NE
31Stevan RidleyNEvs. CIN
32Shane VereenNEvs. CIN
33Chris JohnsonNYJat SD
34Donald BrownSDvs. NYJ
35Darren SprolesPHIvs. STL
36Pierre ThomasNOvs. TB
37Darrin ReavesCARvs. CHI
38Lorenzo TaliaferroBALat IND
39Toby GerhartJACvs. PIT
40Knile DavisKCat SF
41Shonn GreeneTENvs. CLE
42Bernard PierceBALat IND
43Isaiah CrowellCLEat TEN
44Terrance WestCLEat TEN
45Carlos HydeSFvs. KC
46Benny CunninghamSTLat PHI
47Alfred BlueHOUat DAL
48Joique BellDETvs. BUF

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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


Need more fantasy help? Visit .

Fantasy Football 2014 Running Back Rankings: Week 5
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-wide-receiver-rankings-week-5

Even with several top targets returning from bye, they all take a backseat to the leading scorer at the position in Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings for Week 5. Antonio Brown currently leads all his peers, thanks to five touchdown receptions, although to be fair he has played in four games. Elsewhere, the health of a couple of No. 1 wide receivers bears watching, as Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall were both limited last week by ankle injuries. Johnson in particular was no more than an extremely athletic decoy against the Jets after being designated Questionable headed into the game. Johnson is as tough as they come and has been a quick healer, but his No. 4 ranking below speaks to a measure of concern, albeit small, regarding his Week 5 outlook.


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 5 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers


Teams on bye: Miami, Oakland


1Antonio BrownPITat JAC
2Jordy NelsonGBvs. MIN (Thurs.)
3Julio JonesATLat NYG
4Calvin JohnsonDETvs. BUF
5Demaryius ThomasDENvs. ARI
6Dez BryantDALvs. HOU
7A.J. GreenCINat NE
8Alshon JefferyCHIat CAR
9Randall CobbGBvs. MIN (Thurs.)
10Jeremy MaclinPHIvs. STL
11Emmanuel SandersDENvs. ARI
12Brandon MarshallCHIat CAR
13Steve SmithBALat IND
14Keenan AllenSDvs. NYJ
15Michael FloydARIat DEN
16Victor CruzNYGvs. ATL
17Andre JohnsonHOUat DAL
18Vincent JacksonTBat NO
19Kelvin BenjaminCARvs. CHI
20DeAndre HopkinsHOUat DAL
21Percy HarvinSEAat WAS (Mon.)
22Michael CrabtreeSFvs. KC
23Roddy WhiteATLat NYG
24Reggie WayneINDvs. BAL
25Julian EdelmanNEvs. CIN
26Pierre GarconWASvs. SEA (Mon.)
27Brandin CooksNOvs. TB
28Wes WelkerDENvs. ARI
29Marques ColstonNOvs. TB
30Golden TateDETvs. BUF
31Larry FitzgeraldARIat DEN
32Brian QuickSTLat PHI
33T.Y. HiltonINDvs. BAL
34Cordarrelle PattersonMINat GB (Thurs.)
35DeSean JacksonWASvs. SEA (Mon.)
36Eric DeckerNYJat SD
37Terrance WilliamsDALvs. HOU
38Sammy WatkinsBUFat DET
39Markus WheatonPITat JAC
40Anquan BoldinSFvs. KC
41Rueben RandleNYGvs. ATL
42Greg JenningsMINat GB (Thurs.)
43Kendall WrightTENvs. CLE
44Torrey SmithBALat IND
45Dwayne BoweKCat SF
46Andrew HawkinsCLEat TEN
47Allen HurnsJACvs. PIT
48Malcom FloydSDvs. NYJ

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:


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


Need more fantasy help? Visit 

Fantasy Football 2014 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 5
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-tight-end-rankings-week-5

Jimmy Graham continues to lead the way when it comes to Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings for Week 5, but it’s the rest of the top 10 that may open some eyes. Graham, Julius Thomas, Antonio Gates and Greg Olsen are no real surprises, and the same could even be said for Martellus Bennett and Delaine Walker. However, Larry Donnell has come out of nowhere to emerge as a top-five fantasy TE, while Travis Kelce and Niles Paul are doing their best to keep up. Noticeably absent from the top 10 are guys like Rob Gronkowski (just outside), Vernon Davis and Jason Witten along with Zach Ertz and Kyle Rudolph (dealing with a sports hernia), popular breakout candidates entering this season. Needless to say, tight end has been a fluid situation in 2014.


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 5 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends


Teams on bye: Miami, Oakland


1Jimmy GrahamNOvs. TB
2Julius ThomasDENvs. ARI
3Martellus BennettCHIat CAR
4Rob GronkowskiNEvs. CIN
5Larry DonnellNYGvs. ATL
6Delanie WalkerTENvs. CLE
7Greg OlsenCARvs. CHI
8Antonio GatesSDvs. NYJ
9Jordan CameronCLEat TEN
10Travis KelceKCat SF
11Zach ErtzPHIvs. STL
12Heath MillerPITat JAC
13Jason WittenDALvs. HOU
14Vernon DavisSFvs. KC
15Dwayne AllenINDvs. BAL
16Owen DanielsBALat IND
17Austin Seferian-JenkinsTBat NO
18Jared CookSTLat PHI
19Garrett GrahamHOUat DAL
20Coby FleenerINDvs. BAL
21Clay HarborJACvs. PIT
22Eric EbronDETvs. BUF
23Jace AmaroNYJat SD
24Jermaine GreshamCINat NE

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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


Need more fantasy help? Visit 

Fantasy Football 2014 Tight End Rankings: Week 5
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-5

Seattle’s defense has not performed like the No. 1 DST thus far, but the reigning Super Bowl champion’s Week 5 matchup is too tempting to not reinstate them at the top of Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Defense/Special Teams Rankings. The Seahawks may be on the road for their Monday night tilt with Washington, but the Redskins are coming off of a horrendous Week 4 loss to the Giants in which Kirk Cousins alone was responsible for five turnovers. Who are you going to trust more – the “Legion of Boom” or Cousins? That’s what I thought.


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 5 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams


Teams on bye: Miami, Oakland


1Seattle Seahawksat WAS (Mon.)
2San Diego Chargersvs. NYJ
3Cincinnati Bengalsat NE
4Pittsburgh Steelersat JAC
5Detroit Lionsvs. BUF
6San Francisco 49ersvs. KC
7Houston Texansat DAL
8Denver Broncosvs. ARI
9Philadelphia Eaglesvs. STL
10New England Patriotsvs. CIN
11Kansas City Chiefsat SF
12Arizona Cardinalsat DEN
13Buffalo Billsat DET
14New York Giantsvs. ATL
15Cleveland Brownsat TEN
16St. Louis Ramsat PHI

DEFENSIVE SCORINGRankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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


Need more fantasy help? Visit 

Fantasy Football 2014 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 5
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-kicker-rankings-week-5

Nick Novak’s hot leg has helped San Diego win its past three games and also is a big reason why he leads off Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Kicker Rankings for Week 5. The Chargers host the Jets, a team that has struggled to defend the pass and could wear down in the San Diego heat. As good as Novak has been early on, he trails Dallas’ Dan Bailey in fantasy points at the position. Bailey and the surprising 3-1 Cowboys will try and keep things going offensively against Houston in what should be an entertaining battle for Lone Star State bragging rights.


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 5 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers


Teams on bye: Miami, Oakland


1Nick NovakSDvs. NYJ
2Dan BaileyDALvs. HOU
3Adam VinatieriINDvs. BAL
4Cody ParkeyPHIvs. STL
5Justin TuckerBALat IND
6Steven HauschkaSEAat WAS (Mon.)
7Stephen GostkowskiNEvs. CIN
8Greg ZuerleinSTLat PHI
9Shaun SuishamPITat JAC
10Blair WalshMINat GB (Thurs.)
11Phil DawsonSFvs. KC
12Mason CrosbyGBvs. MIN (Thurs.)
13Chandler CatanzaroARIat DEN
14Mike NugentCINat NE
15Robbie GouldCHIat CAR
16Brandon McManusDENvs. ARI

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Fantasy Football 2014 Kicker Rankings: Week 5
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/nascar-chase-report-previewing-race-no-4-kansas

Last weekend’s race at Dover was billed as an event that was going to be completely crazy, mass hysteria, even — but that never materialized. If anything, it was rather tame and uneventful. Typically, Dover produces at least one track-blocker of a wreck or a festival of right-front tires blowing out. The only tire failure of significance was the one on Kevin Harvick’s Budweiser Chevrolet, courtesy of a lug nut jammed in the brake caliper. Those facing elimination didn’t exactly perform spectacularly, and those that were safe pretty much played it close to the vest and didn’t take any unnecessary risks. 


Understandable — no use wiping out a car, disturbing momentum, or risk an injury getting involved in an avoidable accident. With concussion protocols of paramount importance for all competitors in every sport (save for the University of Michigan), and as evidenced by Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s concussion suffered at Talladega in 2012, preserving the driver is every bit as important as keeping the fenders on the car.


As we move to the first intermediate downforce track of the Chase at Kansas Speedway (and the first event in the Challenger round) expect things to get a bit more racy among the contenders, as we’ll get a true sense of how things are going to shape up in the coming weeks as the series heads to similar tracks at Charlotte, Texas and the final championship round at Homestead-Miami Speedway.



If there’s been a common thread to this year’s Chase it has been the following: Penske power, Jeff Gordon’s Hot Tub Time Machine and Kevin Harvick’s dominating performances undone by rotten racing luck.

Brad Keselowski very well could have won last weekend had there been a late-race restart, and Joey Logano has displayed the type of consistency that would have him the odds-on favorite in previous championship formats. 

While Jimmie Johnson took to the airwaves bemoaning cars that are too easy to drive during the pre-race on ESPN Sunday, I firmly believe the 48 team has this new iteration of the Chase already planned out to a tee. They finished ninth at Kansas in the spring and won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in May. These just so happen to be the next two races, and I suspect you’ll see a similar showing there. Sure, Talladega is a crap shoot, but with the win and advance rules, you’ll see the real 48 team emerge the next two weeks. 

Speaking of a team that needs to show its true colors, it’s high-time the No. 88 of Dale Earnhardt Jr. makes haste and gets back to his top-5 ways. Finishes of 11th, 9th and 17th so far were enough to get him to the second round — but more such performances will get him bounced this time around. The driver is justifiably frustrated, but a fifth-place finish in Kansas in April would go a long way to righting whatever has gone wrong the past month.



Kyle Busch has done his best to dodge bullets three races into the Chase. That amazing rally by he and the No. 18 team at Loudon would be a moment that in championship battles past would be singled out as watershed. Unfortunately, Kansas has proven to be Kyle’s Kryptonite in year’s past — to the point that he almost expects some malady to befall. He has just a pair of top 10s in 14 races at Kansas – one of which was eight years and three generations of cars ago. 


Let’s a take a look back at some of Kyle’s greatest hits at Kansas Speedway:


Here he is getting walled by David Reutimann in 2010.


Here’s Joey Logano shoving the engine back into the firewall last year. 


And who could forget last fall’s championship-crushing crash? 


Kyle Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers proved me wrong in the first round — I was sure they’d be sent packing based on the bickering this season, but we’ve seen – and heard – quite the turn-around the last few weeks. Sadly, I think the biscuit wheels fall off the gravy train this weekend, and reality comes crashing down (literally). Not wishing bad ju-ju on anyone, just reading the tea leaves of race’s past. If he does survive Kansas it could be a harbinger of things to come the next few races as the mental and emotional relief will likely result in making it to Round 3.  


Kasey Kahne made it into the Challenger round by “a” point. He finished third here in April and led 22 laps, and finished a close second to Matt Kenseth here in 2013. Through perseverance, divine intervention and Paul Menard’s bumper, his No. 5 team won Atlanta four weeks ago and that speed should carry over to this high-banked, high-downforce, high-horsepower track. They desperately need to get off to a good start in this round to prevent having to make something happen at Talladega. 


Speaking of Kenseth – who won here in April 2013 – I had picked him to win at Dover, where he finished an unassuming fifth (in typical Kenseth fashion). He was the top finishing Toyota, which has finally brought a little more steam … but will it be enough to hang with the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets?


Chew on this stat for a second: Kahne and Ryan Newman have combined for five top-5 finishes this year. Keselowski has that many wins. Detractors of this Chase format will point to this stat when illustrating the fault of this playoff structure, and rightfully so. However, if this stat holds true, it should mean both will be non-factors the next three races and not even in the conversation in four. Talladega is the wild card here, as well as Kahne’s history at Charlotte. Richard Childress Racing’s superspeedway success may be Newman’s saving grace if he has any shot at moving to the third round, but finishes of 15th, 18th and eighth are marginally better than those who got sent packing last week at Dover. 


Finally, Carl Edwards slid through as predicted at Dover, and Kansas is as close to a hometown track as it gets for the Columbia, Mo., native. This will be the telltale track that spells optimism or omission for the No. 99 Roush Fenway team. Teammate Greg Biffle got bounced at Dover, and this team has been equally unimpressive thus far, finishing 20th, 17th and 11th. They were in the thick of things in Atlanta and Michigan leading up to the Chase, so whatever they found a month ago had better hold true this weekend. Otherwise, not even moves like this last ditch “NASCAR Thunder” effort on Jimmie Johnson in 2008 will have any effect. 

Chase Hope Enders

We bid a fond farewell to three Cinderella stories to three drivers last week – and farewell to a car that has been a proverbial pumpkin all season long. 


Despite his heroic rally in the closing laps at Loudon, Aric Almirola and The King’s court on the No. 43 weren’t able to field a competitive car on Sunday. Almirola cited the team’s inconsistency week to week, which given their roles as an assembler of purchased cars and engines from Roush Fenway Racing, is about as much as you could expect. That blown engine late in the going at Chicagoland was ultimately their undoing, and a cruel consequence at that. 


AJ Allmendinger and the No. 47 team are in a similar situation with an equally middle-of-the-road former superpower in the sport. No surprise here, but the JTG Daugherty group has nothing to hang their head about. They went toe-to-toe with the best road racing driver in the business at Watkins Glen and won – and still have a legitimate shot to steal another one at Talladega in a few weeks. Even though they’re out of the playoffs, they still get to compete every weekend. There’s nothing more dangerous than a driver or a team with a chip on their shoulder and nothing left to lose. 


Kurt Busch wasn’t able to put the team on his back doe at Dover. He took responsibility for not advancing, perhaps due to the mid-race contact at Loudon that resulted in a blown right front and parking the car in the Turn 4 wall. Not bad for a team that was hastily assembled at the last minute, a first-year crew chief, a driver who has been rebuilding his brand and reputation for the last three years all the while struggling with the turmoil related to Tony Stewart’s tragic incident. Give this bunch a fist bump. They might not have had the speed their No. 4 car counterparts had this year, but I’d venture to guess next year they’ll be on par with Harvick and Rodney Childers. 


Biffle? There’s really not much to say that hasn’t already been said about this team. They simply haven’t done much of anything since their win at Michigan in June … of 2013. 

Kansas Winner: Kyle Larson

Woah, ho, ho … what’s this? That’s right, going with my gut on this one. Kyle Larson was in position to win at Chicagoland and this place is shaped close enough to it that I think he and Chris Heroy pull one off finally and put the rest of the Sprint Cup establishment on notice for 2015. Honestly, I’d probably pick Harvick to win this one, but with the way that bunch repeatedly finds new and inventive ways to hand out those early Christmas presents, you just can’t trust them. Expect a Chernobyl-quality meltdown if it happens again, but these sorts of shenanigans is what is leading me to pick a rookie to win over a Championship contending team. 


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Post date: Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - 16:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/10-college-football-offseason-moves-worked-2014

In August, we think we have it all figured out. These moves will work, these won’t. This will be a team’s quarterback. This transfer will be the savior.


As usual, college football provided a few surprises through the first month of the season, causing us to look back at some of the offseason moves that made a major difference.


We’re looking at assistant hires, personnel decisions and transfers — what worked and what didn’t through the first month of the season.


These are the gambles or at least the tough decisions that ended up paying major dividends already in 2014.


10 Offseason Moves that Worked in 2014


Lane Kiffin lands at Alabama and starts Blake Sims

Nick Saban’s move to hire the controversial former USC and Tennessee coach to run his offense was greeted with skepticism, but it turned out to be the spark Saban was seeking. Saban says he’s wanted to pass more, and Kiffin has delivered. The Crimson Tide are averaging 10.3 yards per attempt, the best of the Saban era. Meanwhile, an Alabama wide receiver, Amari Cooper, is contending for the Heisman — imagine that thought 10 years ago. Of course, none of this might be possible without the play of the veteran Blake Sims, who never let go of the starting job when Jake Coker arrived from Florida State.


Texas A&M names Jake Spavital playcaller and starts Kenny Hill

A year ago, Kevin Sumlin filled Kliff Kingsbury’s slot on the coaching staff with the youthful Spavital, who shared offensive coordinator duties with Clarence McKinney. Now, Spavital is the sole playcaller in the post-Johnny Manziel era. The Aggies’ offense has shown little drop off. Part of that is Hill winning the quarterback competition over five-star freshman quarterback Kyle Allen. Texas A&M is third in the nation in yards per play at 7.99.


Notre Dame hires Brian VanGorder

Notre Dame is fourth in the nation in scoring defense at 11.5 points allowed per game, and the periphery numbers and the competition suggest the Irish aren’t quite that dominant. Still, this is remarkable given the circumstances. Notre Dame is still without cornerback KeiVarae Russell and defensive end Ishaq Williams, and the Irish transitioned from Bob Diaco’s 3-4 to VanGorder’s 4-3. After all that, Notre Dame hasn’t allowed more than two touchdowns in game this year.


Shaq Thompson playing offense

In an uneven season so far, Washington’s move to have Shaq Thompson play on both sides of the ball as worked without a hitch. He’s carried nine times for 84 yards with a touchdown, a development that hasn’t stopped him from making an impact on defense. Thompson has three defensive touchdowns this season, giving him three more total touchdowns than one school (SMU) has scored as a team.


Arizona starts Anu Solomon

The Wildcats had four quarterbacks competing for the job at one point, and it’s curious why this was such a hotly contested job. Solomon is arguably the nation’s top freshman quarterback so far, completing 63.4 percent of his passes for 1,454 yards with 13 touchdowns and two interceptions.


TCU’s new coordinators, same quarterback

TCU’s offense hadn’t been the same since Justin Fuente took the Memphis job. To compete in the Big 12, the Horned Frogs needed a major upgrade and attempted to do that with Sonny Cumbie from Texas Tech and Doug Meacham from Houston. Lucky for them, they already had an experienced quarterback who could fit in the system in Trevone Boykin, who had been moved to receiver at one point last season. TCU hasn’t played a Big 12 contender yet, but they’ve topped 70 plays in every game this season after averaging 68.5 per game a year ago.


Miami starts Brad Kaaya

The Hurricanes’ quarterback situation appeared to be in dire straits when fifth-year senior Ryan Williams was lost for the season and BYU transfer Jake Heaps failed to make an impression. Instead of falling apart at quarterback, Miami may have found the QB of the future in the freshman Kaaya. After taking his lumps in an ACC opener on the road against Louisville, Kaaya helped put Miami back in the ACC race with an interception-free win over Duke last week.


Gunner Kiel transfers to Cincinnati

Plenty of transfer quarterbacks have made moves that didn’t work out as some have found themselves riding the bench at a second school. Not so with Gunner Kiel, who finally found a home at Cincinnati. The former Notre Dame quarterback (and Indiana and LSU commitment) has completed 65.7 percent of his passes for 1,041 yards with 14 touchdowns and two picks. If Kiel can lead Cincy to an AAC championship, the Bearcats have a good shot at a major bowl game.


Cal hires Art Kaufman

In recent years, Kaufman already led defensive turnarounds at Texas Tech and Cincinnati. Cal needed any answers it could find after firing defensive coordinator Andy Buh after one year. Giving up 105 against Arizona and Colorado isn’t a great look, but the group is better. Cal is allowing 5.27 yards per play after allowing 7.08 a year ago.


Patrick Towles starts at Kentucky

Kentucky could have jumped right into the Drew Barker era but instead opted with its only experienced quarterback in Towles. The result was Kentucky’s first SEC win since Nov. 26, 2011 and a close call with Florida on Sept. 13. Towles’ best game was a 23-for-30 performance against Vanderbilt last week.

10 College Football Offseason Moves that Worked in 2014
Post date: Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - 15:10
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/greatest-derek-jeter-moments

The game of baseball celebrates its heroes and greatest moments unlike any other sport in the world. Our favorite players are immortalized within our ballparks, and in our memories. Their stories are passed down from generation to generation, and their moments have stamped our lives as if they were meant for us specifically.


Our grandparents would tell us of Ted Williams’ last at bat in Boston, a home run to deep right center field in a half-empty Fenway. Our parents told us about Hank Aaron smashing an Al Downing hanging breaker into the left field bullpen on a brisk, April night in Atlanta to become the all-time home run king. Our generation will tell stories of Yankees captain Derek Jeter.


Jeter wasn’t a slugger, hitting mammoth moon shots that left us in awe, and he never hit more than 24 in a season. He was a good shortstop, not a great one, but Jeter had the ability to make the plays that left your jaw dropped. The backhanded stab, running deep into the hole, jump throw against his momentum, on a rope to first, was his trademark. Not too many shortstops could do that, ever.


Derek Jeter’s career has become iconic, not just within baseball, but for all sports. The greatest players in the game all have their signature moments that last forever; Jeter has a catalog. Here are the top five career-defining moments of Derek Jeter’s fantastic career.


THE DIVE - July 1, 2004

The Yankees and Red Sox rivalry is always in full swing, even in the dog days of July. Boston right fielder and left-handed batting Trot Nixon hit a cue shot on a pitch away that shot straight up and towards the shallow left field foul line, behind the third base bag. Jeter, sprinting from his position at shortstop, never took his eyes off the pop fly. Jeter made the catch, running full bore along the foul line, not able to stop his momentum before having to dive into the third row of the Old Stadium, face first. Jeter emerged from the crowd battered and bloodied under his right eye and on his chin, a testament to how Jeter played the game, 100% every day.


THE FLIP - Oct. 13, 2001

The Yankees were on the road and facing elimination down two games to none against the 102-win Oakland As. In the bottom of the 7th, Terrence Long ripped a line drive along the right field line, Yankee outfielder Shane Spencer corralled the ball in the corner and fired it towards home and catcher Jorge Posada, missing two cut-off men. The A's Jeremy Giambi was rounding third, trucking towards home and towards a tie game as the ball appeared to die in-between home and first…then Jeter happened. In what could be the most heady, intelligent baseball play in Postseason history, Jeter sprinted from his short stop position, realizing Spencer’s throw from deep right field wasn’t going to make it home, scooped up the ball and flipped it towards Posada. Giambi, assuming the ball was going to die alone the baseline, didn't slide and was tagged in the leg just before touching home.


Without Jeter’s intuition and guts, Game 3 is tied and the Yankees are more than likely sent home early. Instead, the Bronx Bombers hold onto the 1-run lead and then rally to beat the As in Games 4 and 5, and marched towards another World Series.


FOX broadcaster Thom Brennaman summarized “The Flip” as it happened: “Derek Jeter, with one of the most unbelievable plays you will ever see from a shortstop!” Spot on, Thom.


DJ3K - July 9, 2011

Getting 3,000 hits in a career all but assures a Cooperstown enshrinement. Derek Jeter decided that getting a patented inside out single to right field, like he had done countless times, wasn't going to be good enough for such a milestone.


Instead, the Yankee captain came to the plate in the bottom of the 3rd, with a 1-0 deficit against arguably the best pitcher in baseball, David Price — all while the New York faithful chanted “Der-ek Je-ter” as they had done so many times before — and sent a low-and-in breaking curveball to deep left field.


“See ya! History with an exclamation point!” said Yankee broadcaster Michael Kay, who continued: “Derek Jeter has done it in grand style.”


Typical Jeter.


While Jeter rounded first base, Rays first baseman, Casey Kotchman tipped his cap to the captain, followed by a standing ovation from Yankee fans, and the visiting Rays. Christian Lopez, the man who caught the famed homer, gave the ball back to Jeter, and asked for nothing in return.


Jeter is the first and only member of the 3,000 hit club in the Yankees' illustrious history.


MR. NOVEMBER - Nov. 1, 2001

After the attacks of 9/11, America was in a state of shock and looking for answers. Our way of life was completely thrown off track. The closest thing that we could find to normalcy was postseason baseball.


Sure enough, the Yankees were able to rally past a two-games to-none-deficit at the hands of the Oakland As, and defeat the 116-win Seattle Mariners four-games-to-one in the ALCS.


Just seven weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the Yankees found themselves in a two-games-to-one hole to the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the city of New York found itself torn between grieving and cheering. At that time, the Yankees were much more than a baseball team; they were representing New York City, and really, the nation as a whole. Just across town from old Yankee Stadium, New York’s bravest continued the cleanup and rescue effort at Ground Zero, and families continued to mourn. This was the one World Series where the rest of the country wanted the Yankees to win.


Derek Jeter came to the plate in the bottom of the 10th inning of a three-three game — at midnight on Nov. 1. It was the first time in the history of the game that the Fall Classic had been played during the month of November. The video board in right field even said: “Welcome to November Baseball.” At the time, Jeter was batting just 1-for-15 in the series.


With two outs, Jeter battled back from an 0-2 count and took the 3-2 pitch from Arizona closer Byung-Hyun Kim the other way, a line drive to the right field corner. It barely cleared the short porch Stadium wall.


Mr. November was born…and a city was lifted, even if for one night.


A BRONX GOODBYE - Sept. 25, 2014

For the first time in Jeter’s career, he didn’t want the ball hit to him at his shortstop home. The Captain was showing his emotions all night, often fighting back tears, adjusting his cap in anxiousness. What should have been a 5-2 win in the top of the ninth for the Yankees, quickly turned into a 5-5 tie thanks to home runs from Orioles Adam Jones and Steve Pearce.


With one out in the bottom of the ninth, a runner on second, and Yankee fans standing and chanting their captain’s name, the echo of Bob Sheppard’s introduction rang out one last time: “Now batting for the Yankees, number two, Derek Jeter…number two.”


Jeter, with his signature inside-out swing, took the first pitch to right field to plate the winning run for the Yankees.


The game didn't matter in the standings, as the Orioles had already clinched the AL East and the Yankees were already eliminated from Postseason contention, but that moment will resonate within the game of baseball forever.


This generation’s greatest sports icon was finally walking away from the lights of New York and the National Pastime on his own terms. After being mobbed by his current teammates, and embracing his old ones, Jeter slowly began to walk around the infield of Yankee Stadium, taking it all in, letting the love wash over him.


He walked over to where he has played for the past 20 seasons, between second and third base, where he won his five Gold Gloves, and lowered himself. His final act was done.

— Jake Rose

Post date: Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - 15:01
Path: /nba/cleveland-cavaliers-and-washington-wizards-are-beefing

On NBA Media Day, everybody gets to be number one. All the ideals of the upcoming season are fresh, unspoiled by the slog of reality. Players spout off about MVP candidacy, their new-and-improved shooting form and how much they love all of their teammates — soon-to-be champions, all of them.

Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal was more than bursting with such optimistic energy in D.C. on Monday. The 21-year-old said he and point guard John Wall — a first-time All-Star last season — are “definitely the best backcourt in the league.”


Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving react to Bradley Beal's claim that the Wizards have the league's best backcourt.
Dion Waiters didn’t like that. The mercurial Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard (, reportedly feuding with Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson) replied with “that’s nonsense,” . Following a Tuesday practice, Waiters said that “He’s not messing with me and Ky[rie Irving]. I think me and Ky are the best backcourt, young backcourt. That’s all.”


While it’s an encouraging sign for Cavs chemistry to see Waiters referring to frenemy Irving with a nickname, his defense also begat a war of words. When poked for a rebuke, Wall slighted Waiters. “They haven’t seen a playoff game yet, so when they make one they can start talking. But if you’re going to be the best backcourt, you have to start,” , twisting the knife in Waiters’ wound over often being pushed into a sixth man role. “This is the year he’s probably starting, so let’s see who’s got the best backcourt. You’ve got to be a starting backcourt to be the best backcourt.”

Cleveland and Washington last regularly exchanged tempers when LeBron James was a Cavalier for the first time. Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison were thorns in the King’s side for multiple postseasons of that era. While a returned, wiser James may now be beyond speaking ill of other teams, it seems a younger generation is more than happy to renew the flames of rivalry.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - 14:00
Path: /mlb/who-replaces-derek-jeter-face-baseball

Derek Jeter was the perfect player at the perfect time. Jeter emerged as the Yankee captain at the end of the Steroid Era and perfectly played the role of the “Face of Baseball” ever since.

Jeter played the game “the right way” for 20 seasons, running out ground balls, diving into stands for foul pop-ups, hitting clutch homers, and being an outstanding gentleman of the game, never unruly or ungracious, always polite and obliging. Jeter’s character only enhanced his legend on the field, creating the aura of “The Captain” even when he was reluctant to play the role we all wanted him to. He was always, simply, Derek Jeter.


Thanks to the advance of the digital age, social networks, and regional sports networks, the legend of Jeter was able to flourish for all the right reasons. Fans of the game were looking for a player who could be a white knight on and off the field, who could distance himself from scandal and the Steroid Era. What they got was Derek Jeter.


Now, a new era of baseball is here. New commissioner Rob Manfred will take the helm without The Captain to be the transcendent star who helped keep the game’s national identity intact. What Manfred does have is a stable of young talent across the league that can attempt to do what Jeter did for the next generation of baseball.


Here are the top choices for the Jeter’s replacements as “Faces of Baseball.”



If Ruthian home runs are your thing, Giancarlo has you covered in South Beach. His home runs don’t just leave the ball park, they fly on a Top Gun fighter jet. If Paul Bunyan were a baseball player, he’d have Giancarlo’s two-handed, effortless chop-swing that makes the ball sound like it was shot from a circus cannon.


Stanton lead the National League in long balls (37), total bases (299) and slugging percentage (.555) this season, all accomplished before he got hit in the face with a fastball and was forced to sit out the final few weeks of the year.


In 2014, Stanton was in the top five in all of baseball in OPS (.995), walks (94), and on-base percentage (.394), and in the top ten in RBIs (105).


The California native is just 24 years old and already has 154 homers in his five-year career, which puts him on pace for approximately 340 deep balls after his age 30 season — all while playing in the Grand Canyon of ball parks, Marlins Park.


Stanton will be just 26 years old when his contract expires in 2016. Look for the young slugger to get a major payday in a couple years if an extension with the Marlins can’t be reached.


Imagine putting that swing in the arena of Yankee Stadium. Look out.



What can’t Cutch do? The 2013 NL MVP has been the biggest reason the Pirates have been resurrected after 20 losing seasons and have made it to the postseason the past two years.


While McCutchen might be most recognized for his dreads spilling out from under his Pirates cap, his all-around game is nothing to overlook. Besides his MVP award last year, McCutchen is a four-time All-Star, a two-time Silver Slugger, and a Gold Glove center fielder. Some of his numbers this year are better than his MVP season!


In 2014, he lead all of baseball in on-base percentage (.410), and was top ten in slugging percentage (.542). McCutchen led  the National League in OPS (.952) and OPS+ (168). Adding to those stats, McCutchen hit .314 with 38 doubles, 25 home runs, and 83 RBIs.


McCutchen has all of the qualities that a manager could want from his team leader. Cutch isn't afraid to lay out to make a catch and save a run, or run full-steam into a wall to rob extra bases from a hitter, all for the sake of the team. Cutch will hit a homer in one inning, steal second in another with his lightning speed, and then smack one of his patented doubles in the gap to cap it off.


Andrew McCutchen is the complete weapon, and at just 27 years old, ready to make some more noise in The ‘Burgh for seasons to come.


At just age 27, San Francisco Giants catcher/first basemen Buster Posey has already amassed one heck of an awards mantle, all while looking like he just graduated from high school.


The 2010 Rookie of the Year already has two World Series rings, the 2012 NL MVP award, two All-Star game appearances, and a Silver Slugger Award to put on his resume. Posey is the face of one of the most successful North American sports franchises of the past decade in the Giants.


After a “sub-par” 2013, Posey rebounded in 2014 with a slash-line of .311/.364/.490, an OPS of .854 to go along with 22 home runs, 28 doubles, and 89 RBIs. Catchers don't put up those kinds of numbers, even “offensive” catchers.


If the Giants make another deep run into October in 2014, look for Posey to be the first on the field holding the Commissioner’s Trophy, and on your next box of Wheaties.



Rizzo is the dark horse of the group. The Chicago Cubs first basemen has shown glimpses of what he could become, especially if he gets any protection in the lineup with the organization’s youth movement (Side note: Cubs’ top prospect Kris Bryant very well could be on this list next season).


The days of the Cubs signing and flipping talent for trade deadline deals are over, and the time for the team to take steps towards winning is now. That winning starts with the cornerstone of the organization, 25 year old first basemen Anthony Rizzo.


2014 was Rizzo’s second full season in The Show, and he was lights out for a last-place team. The lefty was in the top five of the National League in on-base percentage (.386), slugging percentage (.527), and OPS (.913). On top of those numbers, Rizzo hit .288 with 32 homers, and 28 doubles, and earned himself his first All-Star selection.


To add to the on-field accolades, Rizzo is a cancer survivor who dedicates so much of his off-time visiting sick children in Chicago hospitals, often times showing up unannounced.


If the Cubs plan unfolds like they hope, Rizzo will be the foundation of NL Central Division and pennant-winning teams for years to come. Any guy that can win with the Cubs is going to garner some national attention.



This season the Baltimore Orioles won the AL East by an unbelievable 12 games over Derek Jeter’s Yankees. This without a true pitching ace, season-ending injuries to All-Stars Manny Machado, and Matt Weiters, and a suspended Chris Davis.


Even with all the disorder in the Os lineup, they were able to lead the league in home runs this season, thanks in large part to Adam Jones. who blasted 29 long balls, and tacked on 30 doubles, all while playing Gold Glove caliber defense, again.


Along with the leadership of Skipper Buck Showalter, one could easily argue that Jones is the key to the Os success the past several seasons in which he won three Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, and went to four All-Star games.


Jones’ game might be the smoothest in all of baseball. His swing is easy, yet fierce. He rules center field in the same manner that Ken Griffey Jr. did, dominating. Fly balls don’t get over the head of Adam Jones; they die in the webbing of his glove.


Off the field Jones excels just as much. Earlier this year, Jones was awarded the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation’s award for community service due to his constant activity within the Baltimore community. After Derek Jeter hit his now-famed walk-off single against the Os in his last at-bat in the Bronx, Jones took to Twitter to sing The Captain’s praises: “Couldn’t have asked for a better role model within the game. Jeter thanks for teaching me that grinding is the way to play.”



The Dodgers southpaw ace is the only pitcher you will find on this list. Really, it's hard to be the “face of the game” when you're only pitching every fifth day, but Kershaw is that dominating that he needs to be on this list.


At age 26, Kershaw has already amassed 98 wins and could be the closest thing we will ever see again to a possible 300-game winner. His career ERA is a slim 2.48 with a win-loss percentage of .667, which is first among active pitchers. The winner of two Cy Young Awards, soon to be three, Kershaw is also the frontrunner for the NL MVP award this year. He has been that dominating.


Kershaw was so dominating this season that in the month of June his ERA was 0.87. That is not a typo. That same month, he struck out twice as many batters (61) than he allowed base-runners (30), and threw his first no-hitter on June 19.


In 2014, Kershaw led baseball in wins (21), WHIP (0.86), ERA (1.77), WAR (8.0), complete games (6), win-loss percentage (.875), ERA+ (197), FIP (1.81), strikeouts per nine innings (10.8), and strikeouts-to-walks ratio (7.71). These numbers are plenty enough to argue that Kershaw assembled one of the greatest seasons a pitcher has ever had.


It's not hard to envision Kershaw as the newest “Face of the Game,” as long as he shaves that awful beard.



Let’s face it, once Derek Jeter announced he was retiring earlier in the year, everyone knew that Mike Trout was going to take over as the primary ambassador for the game of baseball. This is truly fitting since Jeter is Mike Trout’s biggest role model.


Trout carries himself in the same way that Jeter does. Quiet and reluctant to fall into the accolades and hype being showered upon him. Trout plays the game hard, every single day.


Trout’s first three seasons have been nothing short of historic. His first year in the bigs, he was AL Rookie of the Year, an All-Star, a Silver Slugger, and second in MVP voting behind Miguel Cabrera — which has happened twice. Many baseball pundits argue that because of Trout’s stellar play as the Angels’ center fielder, he should have been awarded two MVPs. Surely, this season will be the year Trout overthrow’s Miggy’s reign as AL MVP.


To understand the early greatness of Mike Trout, we can look at his WAR (“wins above replacement,” which analyzes how many wins a player is worth per season). Cooperstown legends Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey, Jr., Al Kaline, Mel Ott, Ted Williams, and Ty Cobb all rank behind Trout in terms of WAR accrued through their age-22 seasons. If that wasn’t enough, according to FanGraphs' measurement of WAR, Mike Trout’s young three-year career is one of the greatest three-year stretches in the history of baseball, just behind the best three-year splits of Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Mickey Mantle, Rogers Hornsby, Willie Mays, and Ted Williams. Wow.


Analytics aside, in his first three years, Mike Trout’s career slash line is a ridiculous .305/.395./.549 with 97 home runs, 102 stolen bases, 307 RBI, 111 doubles, an OPS of .945, and an OPS+ of 167. Those numbers are absurd for any player, but for a 23-year-old, they are mythical.


Trout is the runaway consensus AL MVP this season, and it is by far his worst hitting season since being called up for full-time duty in 2012. Even though the numbers with the lumber aren't as gaudy as the previous two years in terms of average, Trout still leads baseball in runs scored (115), extra base-hits (84), and total bases (338). Trout is also the AL leader in RBIs (111) and WAR (7.9).  Not to be outdone, he is also top five in the game in homers (36), doubles (39), triples (9), walks (88), slugging percentage (.561), OPS (.939), and OPS+ (167).


Whew, proof enough?


If there is anyone in the game today who can transcend the ballpark and reach the national mainstream, it's Mike Trout, and judging by the 23-year-olds career path thus far, we better get used to seeing him around.


With Jeter stepping down, an era and generation of baseball has ended. It's time now for Trout, Stanton, Rizzo, Jones, and McCutchen to take their spot atop the mountain as the players who will lead the game into the next generation.


— Jake Rose

Post date: Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - 13:15