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All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-running-back-rankings-week-8

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.

Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati and Houston are all on bye.

2012 NFL Week 8 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Backs

Rk Player Team OPPONENT Notes
1 LeSean McCoy PHI vs. ATL Falcons allowing 143.8 rushing yards per game.
2 Jamaal Charles KC vs. OAK Had just 40 yards rushing vs. Bucs in last game.
3 Matt Forte CHI vs. CAR Has 203 yards rushing in past two games combined.
4 Ryan Mathews SD at CLE Browns are 27th against run.
5 Adrian Peterson MIN vs. TB (Thurs.) Bucs have allowed only one 100-yard rusher so far.
6 Marshawn Lynch SEA at DET Ran for 103 on the road vs. 49ers last week.
7 Darren McFadden OAK at KC Has only one game with more than 70 yards rushing.
8 Chris Johnson TEN vs. IND After slow start, CJ averaging 112.8 ypg over last four.
9 Willis McGahee DEN vs. NO Saints allowing most fantasy points to RBs.
10 Frank Gore SF at ARI (Mon.) Ran roughshod (131 yds.) vs. Seahawks, ribs OK?
11 Alfred Morris WAS at PIT No. 2 rusher vs. No. 5 rush defense.
12 Reggie Bush MIA at NYJ Only had 61 yds. last game vs. Jets (injured knee).
13 Ahmad Bradshaw NYG at DAL Producing on Sundays, but foot remains an issue.
14 Doug Martin TB at MIN (Thurs.) Averaging 125+ total yards over last two games.
15 Michael Turner ATL at PHI Eagles have allowed only 2 rushing TDs.
16 Stevan Ridley NE vs. STL (London) Still lead back, but getting fewer carries.
17 Darren Sproles NO at DEN Still looking for first rushing TD of season.
18 Rashad Jennings JAC at GB His time to shine with MJD sidelined (sprained foot).
19 Steven Jackson STL vs. NE (London) Patriots are ninth against the run.
20 Trent Richardson CLE vs. SD Rib injury clearly worse than he let on, timeshare coming?
21 Shonn Greene NYJ vs. MIA Held to just 40 yards vs. Dolphins in Week 3.
22 Vick Ballard IND at TEN Titans are 28th against run.
23 Mikel Leshoure DET vs. SEA Last week Bears (No. 2 vs. run), this week 'Hawks (No. 7).
24 Felix Jones DAL vs. NYG Expected to start despite bruised knee.
25 Jonathan Dwyer PIT vs. WAS May keep starting job even after others are healthy.
26 Alex Green GB vs. JAC Packers just not running the ball a lot right now.
27 Jonathan Stewart CAR at CHI Reports are he could become Panthers' lead back.
28 LaRod Stephens-Howling ARI vs. SF (Mon.) Busted out (159 total yds.) last week, but 49ers on tap.
29 Pierre Thomas NO at DEN  
30 Montario Hardesty CLE vs. SD Keep eye on Richardson's status/rib injury.
31 Michael Bush CHI vs. CAR Not getting as many opportunities with Forte back.
32 Daryl Richardson STL vs. NE (London) Averaging nearly 10 carries per over last three games.
33 Rashard Mendenhall PIT vs. WAS Has chance (Achilles) to play this week.
34 Kendall Hunter SF at ARI (Mon.)  
35 Danny Woodhead NE vs. STL (London)  
36 Jacquizz Rodgers ATL at PHI Hasn't seen many opportunities last two games.
37 Phillip Tanner DAL vs. NYG Should get his carries even with Jones expected to start.
38 Andre Brown NYG at DAL Resumed backup role to Bradshaw in first game back.
39 Shane Vereen NE vs. STL (London) Got start last week vs. Jets, Patriots like to use all RBs.
40 DeAngelo Williams CAR at CHI Only eight carries in last two games combined.
41 Jamie Harper TEN vs. IND Been used in goal-line situations recently.
42 Mark Ingram NO at DEN  
43 William Powell ARI vs. SF (Mon.) LSH appears to have taken control of Cards' No. 1 job.
44 Joique Bell DET vs. SEA  
45 Ronnie Hillman DEN vs. NO  
46 Daniel Thomas MIA at NYJ  
47 LeGarrette Blount TB at MIN (Thurs.)  
48 Isaac Redman PIT vs. WAS Chance he (ankle) could play. Monitor status.

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

Additional Week 8 Positional Rankings

Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Week 8 Waiver Wire

Week 8 Start or Sit

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings: Week 8</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 05:48
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-wide-receiver-rankings-week-8

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.

Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati and Houston are all on bye.

2012 NFL Week 8 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers

Rk Player Team OPPONENT Notes
1 Calvin Johnson DET vs. SEA From one physical secondary (CHI) to another (SEA).
2 Percy Harvin MIN vs. TB (Thurs.) Vikings getting ball to Harvin any way they can.
3 Brandon Marshall CHI vs. CAR Has seen 27 targets (16 rec.) in last 2 games combined.
4 Victor Cruz NYG at DAL Leads all wide receivers in fantasy scoring.
5 Demaryius Thomas DEN vs. NO Big target could be big problem for Saints' secondary.
6 Jordy Nelson GB vs. JAC Has 17 catches, 243 yards and 4 TDs in last two games.
7 Marques Colston NO at DEN Has five touchdowns in past three games.
8 Reggie Wayne IND at TEN Career vs. Titans: 90 rec., 1,208 yds. 8 TDs (20 games).
9 Mike Wallace PIT vs. WAS Redskins allowing most fantasy points to WRs.
10 Roddy White ATL at PHI Sixth in league in with 92.2 ypg.
11 Vincent Jackson TB at MIN (Thurs.) Posted 7-216-1 in loss to Saints last week.
12 Julio Jones ATL at PHI Tied for team lead with 4 TD catches.
13 Wes Welker NE vs. STL (London) Averaging 11.5 targets per game since Week 1.
14 Larry Fitzgerald ARI vs. SF (Mon.) Poor pass protection hampering Cards' aerial production.
15 Miles Austin DAL vs. NYG His 4 career TDs vs. Giants are most against any team.
16 Eric Decker DEN vs. NO Saints allowing third-most fantasy points to WRs.
17 Randall Cobb GB vs. JAC Averaging 91 ypg and has 3 TDs over last three games.
18 Antonio Brown PIT vs. WAS Leads Steelers in targets (57) and receptions (36).
19 Hakeem Nicks NYG at DAL Just six catches for 28 yards in Week 1 loss to Cowboys.
20 Dez Bryant DAL vs. NYG Groin injury seemed to hinder him against Panthers.
21 DeSean Jackson PHI vs. ATL Just one TD catch and six receptions of 20+ yards so far.
22 Dwayne Bowe KC vs. OAK Can he and new starter Quinn get on the same page?
23 Jeremy Maclin PHI vs. ATL Says he is completely over hip pointer injury.
24 Steve Smith CAR at CHI Bears' secondary figures to be tough task.
25 Denarius Moore OAK at KC Just one game with more than 71 yards receiving.
26 James Jones GB vs. JAC Held out of end zone for first time in four games last week.
27 Malcom Floyd SD at CLE Browns allowing second-most fantasy points to WRs.
28 Brandon Lloyd NE vs. STL (London) Pats' recent game plans not been kind to Lloyd.
29 Kenny Britt TEN vs. IND Appears to be healthy, breakout coming?
30 Lance Moore NO at DEN Had season-high nine catches, 121 yards last week.
31 Josh Gordon CLE vs. SD Weeden's top target for the time being.
32 Jeremy Kerley NYJ vs. MIA Establishing himself as viable deep threat.
33 Mike Williams TB at MIN (Thurs.) Saw streak of 100-yard games end at two last week.
34 Michael Crabtree SF at ARI (Mon.) Only 57 yards receiving combined last two games.
35 Brandon Gibson STL vs. NE (London) Patriots have allowed 10 TD passes to WRs.
36 Nate Washington TEN vs. IND Caught game-winning TD vs. Bills last week.
37 Santana Moss WAS at PIT Had first 2-TD game since Dec. 2010 last week.
38 Brian Hartline MIA at NYJ Didn't catch a single pass in last game vs. Rams.
39 Titus Young DET vs. SEA Huge opportunity with Burleson (leg) done for year.
40 Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK at KC Seems to be getting back into the flow.
41 Andre Roberts ARI vs. SF (Mon.) Caught fifth TD pass last week.
42 Chris Givens STL vs. NE (London) Vertical threat could be a factor against Patriots.
43 Donnie Avery IND at TEN Titans are 30th against the pass.
44 Sidney Rice SEA at DET  
45 Stephen Hill NYJ vs. MIA Three touchdowns in as many games played.
46 Kendall Wright TEN vs. IND  
47 Cecil Shorts JAC at GB Probably better option with Gabbert rather than Henne.
48 Brandon LaFell CAR at CHI  
49 Greg Little CLE vs. SD Plagued by drops, but has caught last nine thrown to him.
50 Leonard Hankerson WAS at PIT Led team in receptions (6 for 70 yds.) last week.
51 Robert Meachem SD at CLE  
52 Davone Bess MIA at NYJ  
53 Devery Henderson NO at DEN Has 11 receptions, 198 yards, TD in last two games.
54 Mario Manningham SF at ARI (Mon.)  
55 T.Y. Hilton IND at TEN  
56 Brandon Stokley DEN vs. NO Crafty vet has three TDs in last four games.
57 Devin Hester CHI vs. JAC  
58 Justin Blackmon JAC at CHI Jags still looking for first-round pick to make an impact.
59 Emmanuel Sanders PIT vs. WAS  
60 Randy Moss SF at ARI (Mon.) Has a total of four catches in last four games.
61 Kevin Ogletree DAL vs. NYG Could be in danger of losing No. 3 job to Dwayne Harris.
62 Michael Jenkins MIN vs. TB (Thurs.)  
63 Ryan Broyles DET vs. SEA Should see more playing time w/ Burleson sidelined.
64 Jon Baldwin KC vs. OAK

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

Additional Week 8 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Week 8 Waiver Wire

Week 8 Start or Sit

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 8</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 05:37
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-tight-end-rankings-week-8

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.

Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati and Houston all are on bye.

2012 NFL Week 8 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends

Rk Player Team OPPONENT Notes
1 Rob Gronkowski NE vs. STL (London) Hauled in two TDs vs. Jets last week.
2 Tony Gonzalez ATL at PHI Still leads all TEs in receptions with 43.
3 Jimmy Graham NO at DEN Surprise scratch last week, back this week?
4 Aaron Hernandez NE vs. STL (London)  
5 Antonio Gates SD at CLE Caught 2 TD passes in last game (Week 6).
6 Vernon Davis SF at ARI (Mon.) First game with no catches since 2008.
7 Jason Witten DAL vs. NYG Had 3 rec. for 10 yds. in Week 1 vs. Giants.
8 Heath Miller PIT vs. WAS No. 4 in fantasy scoring among TEs.
9 Martellus Bennett NYG at DAL Put up 6-40-1 vs. Cowboys in Week 1.
10 Kyle Rudolph MIN vs. TB (Thurs.) Four targets, 0 receptions last week.
11 Brent Celek PHI vs. ATL  
12 Dustin Keller NYJ vs. MIA Had best game (7-93-1) last week.
13 Greg Olsen CAR at CHI  
14 Brandon Pettigrew DET vs. SEA  
15 Jared Cook TEN vs. IND Colts allowing fewest fantasy pts. to TEs.
16 Brandon Myers OAK at KC Led Raiders in receptions with 7 last week.
17 Jacob Tamme DEN vs. NO  
18 Jermichael Finley GB vs. JAC Shoulder continues to hamper production.
19 Coby Fleener IND at TEN Titans allowing most fantasy pts. to TEs.
20 Joel Dreessen DEN vs. NO  
21 Dwayne Allen IND at TEN  
22 Anthony Fasano MIA at NYJ  
23 Marcedes Lewis JAC at GB  
24 Dallas Clark TB at MIN (Thurs.) Put up 5-51-1 last week vs. Saints.
25 Logan Paulsen WAS at PIT Takes Fred Davis' (Achilles - IR) starting spot.
26 Lance Kendricks STL vs. NE (London)

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

Additional Week 8 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Defense/Special Teams

Week 8 Waiver Wire

Week 8 Start or Sit

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings: Week 8</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 05:36
Path: /college-basketball/2012-13-college-basketball-countdown-colonial-athletic-association-preview

Athlon Sports continues its countdown to the start of the 2012-13 basketball season, which begins with the first games on Nov. 9, with a countdown of the nation’s top conferences. We will release one conference preview each day, counting down to the top conference. For profiles of every team in each conference, check out the 2012-13 Athlon Sports College Basketball annual available in the online store.

With the Colonial Athletic Association in flux, new blood could represent the league in the NCAA Tournament.

This year, with VCU having departed for the Atlantic 10 and Old Dominion ineligible for the CAA title as it prepares to leave for Conference USA, the door is open for some redemption for Drexel.

Drexel set a school record for wins last season, hit the 20-victory plateau for the second straight year and won the CAA’s regular-season title. But the Dragons didn’t win the conference tournament and missed the NCAA Tournament for the 16th consecutive season.

The path is as clear as its been for Drexel, which has contended for a Tournament slot for several seasons, but it’s not automatic. Delaware has its own Tourney drought (since 1999) it hopes to end thanks to one of the highest-scoring duos in the conference.

Traditional CAA contenders George Mason and Old Dominion, which is still eligible for an NCAA at-large spot, are rebuilding to various degrees, but they can’t be counted out.

G Frantz Massenat, Drexel* 2011-12 regular season champion: Drexel
G Devon Saddler, Delaware 2012 NCAA Tournament teams: VCU#
F Keith Rendleman, UNC Wilmington New coaches: None
F Jamelle Hagins, Delaware Realignment: Lost VCU to the Atlantic 10
C DeShawn Painter, Old Dominion  
*preseason player of the year #conference tournament champion





1. Drexel (29-8, 16-2)
Drexel enters the 2012-13 basketball season as the overwhelming favorite in the Colonial Athletic Association. The Dragons lost only Sammie Givens from last year’s 29–7 squad and return four starters including point guard Frantz Massenat and ’11-12 CAA Rookie of the Year Damion Lee. The Dragons, as usual, got it done on the defensive end last year, leading the CAA in allowing just 56.1 points per game. Offensively, Drexel averaged a modest 65.3 points per game, eighth best total in the league. That’s the most a Flint-coached team has scored in six years, since the 2006-07 version averaged 66.5 points per outing. The jump in offense came, largely, from the continued development of Massenat, who shot well from outside. Forwards Daryl McCoy and Dartaye Ruffin return to give Drexel the size and muscle in the paint. The Dragons can rely on Chris Fouch, one of four players who averaged double-digits in scoring last season, coming off the bench again.

Postseason prediction: NCAA Tournament One & Done

2. Delaware (18-14, 12-6)
Coach Monte Ross posted his best record since taking over Delaware’s basketball program before the 2006-07 season. It was also the best mark for any Blue Hens team since winning 20 games in 2000-01, the year before they joined the CAA. Delaware should take the next step by challenging for a league title. The Hens’ talented backcourt of Devon Saddler and Jarvis Threatt is a big part of the reason why. Saddler, a second-team All-CAA pick last year, was second in the league in scoring, putting up 18.8 points per game. Threatt came on strong as his freshman year went on, added 10.7 points per game. Add to that, Jamelle Hagins, also a second-team all-conference pick, has steadily become more and more of an offensive threat for the Hens. In addition to leading the CAA in rebounding (11.1 rpg) and finishing second in blocked shots (3.0 bpg), Hagins has become a primary scoring option for Delaware in the post.
Postseason prediction: NIT

3. George Mason (24–9, 14–4)
The coaching change from Jim Larranaga to Paul Hewitt didn’t throw the Patriots off track. George Mason won 20 games for the fourth time in the last five years. Now the Patriots are dealing with the loss of three key players — Andre Cornelius, Mike Morrison and Ryan Pearson. That group helped Mason lead the CAA in offense, averaging 70.4 points per game. The return of the athletic and talented Johnny Williams and the addition of Seton Hall transfer Anali Okoloji should help. Williams could be an all-conference player a year after missing the season due to shoulder surgery.
4. Old Dominion (22–14, 13–5)
The Monarchs lose their top three scorers from last season in Kent Bazemore, Chris Cooper and Trian Illiadis. That trio combined for 34.4 points per game. But if there is one thing that has been a trademark of Blaine Taylor’s program, it’s been consistency. ODU reached 20 wins for the seventh time in the last nine seasons. Expect Nick Wright to help continue that trend. Last year, as always, the Monarchs were one of the CAA’s top teams in the paint. They led the league with 40.2 rebounds per game, beating opponents on the glass by 6.1 boards per night. The addition of DeShawn Painter, a transfer from NC State, should keep ODU near the top of the charts when it comes to rebounding. The Monarchs, however, will not be eligible for the CAA title due to their impending move to Conference USA (’13-14).
5. Northeastern (14–7, 9–9)
The Huskies’ lineup boasts a trio of players with all-league talent in Jonathan Lee, Joel Smith and Quincy Ford. That group combined to average nearly 40 points per game. They did lose Kauri Black, Alwayne Bigby and Ryan Pierson, all players who started multiple games last year but transferred in the offseason. Still, with their top four scorers back from last season, Bill Coen’s team should improve on its offensive production. Last season, the Huskies were 10th in the CAA averaging just 62.6 points per game. If Coen can integrate his five newcomers with the returning core, Northeastern could be a contender.
6. Hofstra (10–22, 3–15)
No CAA team is harder to get a handle on this offseason than Hofstra. The Pride lost its top players in Mike Moore and Nathaniel Lester and solid contributors in Dwan McMillan and Shamiye McLendon. Moore led the league in scoring, putting up 19.9 points per game. Lester was eighth in the CAA at 14.6 points per game. But Hofstra adds a ton of transfer talent, including UConn’s Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, Penn State’s Taran Buie and Fresno State’s Daquan Brown, all of whom sat out last year. If Hawaii’s Shaquille Stokes is ruled eligible for this season, Mo Cassara’s team might have the pieces to challenge the CAA’s upper-echelon squads.
7.  James Madison (12–20, 5–13)
This could be Matt Brady’s last chance to turnaround the Dukes’ basketball program. He’ll make a run at it with his most veteran, experienced lineup during his time at JMU, a group led by point guard Devon Moore and athletic wing A.J. Davis. Forward Rayshawn Goins is back from injury and in the best shape of his college career, checking in at under 270 pounds for the first time in his JMU tenure. The Dukes need Enoch Hood to develop into a presence in the post. Brady has high hopes for freshman Ron Curry to contribute this year. Of course, the Dukes will need to avoid the injuries that have plagued the program since Brady took over.
8. Georgia State (22–12, 11–7)
The Panthers lose four starters and two of their top bench players. And they get to rebuild with an early-season trip to Duke. Devonta White, who averaged 12.9 points per game, returns. And Georgia State has loaded up on transfers, including Virginia Tech’s Manny Atkins and USC’s Curtis Washington. In all, the Panthers are adding four transfers and five incoming freshmen to rebuild. Georgia State had the second-best scoring defense in the CAA last year, giving up 58.9 points per game. It led the league in blocked shots, ranked second in steals and was stout on the perimeter. Opponents shot just 31.5 percent from 3-point range, third lowest mark in the league.

9. William & Mary (6–26, 4–14)
Guard Marcus Thornton had a strong rookie year. The Tribe will need him to avoid a sophomore slump this season as they try to replace the production of Quinn McDowell. Getting Kyle Gaillard back should help. Gaillard missed all of last season redshirting with an injury. Those two combined with Tim Rusthoven, Brandon Britt and Matt Rum give the Tribe an experienced core that knows how to play in coach Tony Shaver’s system.

10. Towson (1–31, 1–17)
Pat Skerry’s revival effort continues. He’s got a way to go. This season, the Tigers are not eligible for the postseason because of their lack of performance in the APR. And they lost three starters. Leading scorer Robert Nwankwo graduated, Deon Jones transferred, and Erique Gumbs won’t play due to a medical condition. So Skerry and Towson will turn to a trio of Big East transfers (Georgetown’s Jerrelle Benimon, South Florida’s Mike Burwell and Providence’s Bilal Dixon) to try to be competitive while the young coach reshapes his program. Marcus Damas returns after matching Nwankwo’s production of 12.5 points per game last year. Kris Walden will need to take a step forward.
11. UNC Wilmington (10–21, 5–13)
The Seahawks are again in a state of flux. They lost three players who transferred out, three of their top four scorers from last season. The defections included promising young scorer Adam Smith (Virginia Tech), who scored 13.7 points per game as a rookie, second on the team. They add a Big East transfer in Rutgers’ Tyree Graham. The biggest news might be that top player Keith Rendleman will play this season. With UNC-W not eligible for the CAA Tournament because of a poor showing under the NCAA’s APR metric, Rendleman had considered redshirting this year. But the all-conference forward told coach Buzz Peterson in June he would play.


More previews for the 2012-13 season can be found in the Athlon Sports College Basketball annual available in the online store

Athlon Conference Previews and Power Rankings
13. Sun Belt
14. MAC
15. Horizon

Athlon College Basketball Countdown:
1. Indiana
2. Louisville

3. Kentucky
4. Kansas
5. Syracuse
6. Michigan
7. Arizona
8. Ohio State
9. Duke
10. Michigan State
11. NC State
12. UCLA
13. UNLV
14. North Carolina
15. San Diego State
16. Missouri
17. Baylor
18. Memphis
19. Notre Dame

20. Florida

More from the 2012-13 College Basketball Preview:
Top 10 Freshmen for 2012-13

Impact Transfers for 2012-13
Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2012-13
10 Players Returning from Injury

Gonzaga leads International Dream Team

<p> 2012-13 College Basketball Countdown: Colonial Athletic Association Preview</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 05:35
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-kicker-rankings-week-8

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.

Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati and Houston are all on bye.

2012 NFL Week 8 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Stephen Gostkowski NE vs. STL (London)
2 David Akers SF at ARI (Mon.)
3 Blair Walsh MIN vs. TB (Thurs.)
4 Matt Bryant ATL at PHI
5 Lawrence Tynes NYG at DAL
6 Greg Zuerlein STL vs. NE (London)
7 Sebastian Janikowski OAK at KC
8 Jason Hanson DET vs. SEA
9 Robbie Gould CHI vs. CAR
10 Mason Crosby GB vs. JAC
11 Matt Prater DEN vs. NO
12 Phil Dawson CLE vs. SD
13 Garrett Hartley NO at DEN
14 Dan Bailey DAL vs. NYG
15 Alex Henery PHI vs. ATL
16 Rob Bironas TEN vs. IND

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

Additional Week 8 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Week 8 Waiver Wire

Week 8 Start or Sit

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Kicker Rankings: Week 8</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 05:35
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-8

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.

Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati and Houston are all on bye.

2012 NFL Week 8 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams

Rk Player OPPONENT Notes
1 Chicago Bears vs. CAR Bears looking to add to Panthers' woes.
2 San Francisco 49ers at ARI (Mon.) 49ers could seize control of NFC West with W.
3 Green Bay Packers vs. JAC Jaguars will be w/o MJD, possibly Gabbert too.
4 Seattle Seahawks at DET Hawks allowing 16 ppg on road.
5 Minnesota Vikings vs. TB (Thurs.) Vikings hoping to slow down Freeman/passing game.
6 Arizona Cardinals vs. SF (Mon.) Cardinals gave up 153 yards to Peterson, Gore up next.
7 New England Patriots vs. STL (London) Patriots gave up 403 total yards vs. Jets last week.
8 Atlanta Falcons at PHI Falcons hoping to capitalize on turnover-prone Eagles.
9 Detroit Lions vs. SEA Defense played well in 13-7 loss to Chicago on MNF.
10 Miami Dolphins at NYJ Dolphins held Jets to 93 yds. rushing in Week 3 loss.
11 San Diego Chargers at CLE Facing Weeden welcome sight after getting Brees/Peyton.
12 New York Giants at DAL Gave up 433 total yards to Cowboys in Week 1 loss.
13 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. WAS Steelers No. 1 in total defense, No. 2 against pass.
14 New York Jets vs. MIA Have allowed only 172 yards rushing last two games.
15 Cleveland Browns vs. SD Chargers' Rivers turned ball over six times in last game.
16 Dallas Cowboys vs. NYG Held Giants to 269 yards of offense in Week 1 win.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 8 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends

Week 8 Waiver Wire

Week 8 Start or Sit

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 8</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 05:34
Path: /college-football/start-vick-ballard-randall-cobb-rashad-jennings-philip-rivers-week-8

Only four teams are on bye in Week 8, compared to six last week. While owners will welcome some familiar faces back to their lineups, others will be faced with some difficult decisions. That’s especially the case at running back as Arian Foster, Ray Rice, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are all unavailable this week. Here are two ball carriers that may be able to fill in along with two other names worth starting in Week 8.

Vick Ballard, RB, Indianapolis vs. Tennessee
Ballard was handed the Colts’ starting job after Donald Brown was sidelined because of knee surgery. Brown’s closer to returning, but if Ballard can build on his performance from last week, the Colts' backfield will be that much deeper. Ballard’s first career start against the Jets was entirely forgettable (8 att., 25 yds.), but he bounced back nicely last week against Cleveland. The rookie out of Mississippi State had 84 yards rushing on 20 carries (4.2 ypc), including a long of 26. He will have the opportunity to take the next step this week against Tennessee. The Titans are 28th in the league in rush defense (134.7 ypg) and are allowing the third-most fantasy points to opposing running backs.

Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay vs. Jacksonville
When Greg Jennings initially went down with a groin injury, James Jones was the early beneficiary as he capitalized on his additional playing time and put together a streak of three straight two-touchdown games. However, he’s not the only Packer receiver to emerge while Jennings has been sidelined. Over the past three games, Cobb is averaging 91 yards receiving per contest and caught two scoring strikes last week against the Rams. Considering the Packers have thrown the ball 41 more times compared to rush attempts in their last four games combined, there’s little reason to think Cobb won’t continue to get his chances, even when Jennings finally returns. Not to mention that the Packers, who are on a nice little roll offensively, welcome the lowly Jaguars to Lambeau Field this Sunday.

Rashad Jennings, RB, Jacksonville at Green Bay
Speaking of the Jaguars, Maurice Jones-Drew will likely miss several games with a sprained foot. His injury opens the door for backup Jennings, who himself missed two games earlier this season with a knee injury. The Jags also could be without starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who tore the labrum in his non-throwing shoulder last week, leaving Chad Henne under center against Green Bay. Either way, Jennings should get his chance to carry the load and the Packers have been somewhat susceptible to the run (109.9 ypg, 17th overall). This also is a guy who averaged 5.4 yards per carry in 2009-10 combined. May as well find out what he can do, right?

Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego at Cleveland
I am fully aware that Rivers turned the ball over six times (4 INTs, 2 fumbles) the last time he played. That final turnover cost me a victory in the league I own him, so believe me I felt your pain too. That said, I still believe in Rivers and think the bye came at the best time for him and the Chargers. Norv Turner said he was going to simplify the playbook to try and help his embattled field general, and I think we will see the fruits of this decision starting this Sunday. The Browns are allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and only two starters have scored fewer than 24.6 points against them. In fact, Michael Vick put up 19.9 points against the Browns in Week 1 despite throwing four interceptions. The turnovers are certainly frustrating and something that will hopefully be corrected, but if the Browns’ track record is any indication, Rivers should be able to bounce back this week.

Week 8 Positional Rankings

Week 8 Waiver Wire

— By Mark Ross, published on Oct. 25, 2012

<p> Start Vick Ballard, Randall Cobb, Rashad Jennings, Philip Rivers in Week 8</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 04:47
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-week-9-start-or-sit-report

Whether you are stuck at .500 or trying to stay atop your league standings, the next two weeks will likely determine your playoff fate.  We’ve tried to identify as many on-the-fence players as we could to help with some of the tougher roster decisions.  As always, if you have any start/bench questions or need additional insight on roster decisions, please reach out to us via email or twitter.


Taylor McHargue, QB-Rice at Southern Miss

McHargue can be hit or miss, but this week he faces a defense giving up 39 points per game and over 200 yards per game on the ground.

Ameer Abdullah, RB-Nebraska vs Michigan

Rex Burkhead is not expected to play this weekend against Michigan, so expect Abdullah to receive 20-plus carries and carry the load on the ground for the Cornhuskers.

Dennis Johnson, RB-Arkansas vs Ole Miss

Since taking over as the lead back in Arkansas two games ago, Johnson has rushed for 158 yards and scored five touchdowns.

Chris Nwoke, RB-Colorado St vs Hawaii

Nwoke has been a fantasy bust in 2012, but we’re expecting him to run for a season-high this week against a Hawaii defense giving up 233.7 rushing yards per game.

Jahwan Edwards, RB-Ball St at Army

Army is giving up 235.3 rushing yards per game, so look for Edwards to be the fantasy stud this week for Ball State instead of receivers Willie Snead and Jamill Smith.

Charlie Moore, WR-Oklahoma St vs TCU

Moore is on a roll over the past two games, catching 13 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns.  Plus, TCU’s defense is allowing over 31 points and 220 passing yards per game, so the potential is there for another solid fantasy outing.

Terence Davis, WR-Wake Forest vs Clemson

Davis was a fantasy dud last week catching only one pass in Wake Forest’s 16-10 win at Virginia.  If the Demon Deacons are to have any chance against Clemson this week, Davis will have to be a factor in the passing game.

Allen Robinson, WR-Penn St vs Ohio St

Robinson has only failed to reach the end zone twice in seven games this season and this week he faces an Ohio State defense giving up over 271 passing yards per game.


Tevin Washington, QB-Georgia Tech vs BYU

Washington has been splitting time with freshman Vad Lee and this week the Yellow Jackets face a BYU defense giving up less than 95 rushing yards per game.

Aaron Murray, QB-Georgia vs Florida

After leaving Murray out of our Top 30 quarterback rankings last week, he proved us wrong by having his best game of the season.  We’re not getting sucked in this week when the Bulldogs take on the Gators in Jacksonville.

Brett Smith, QB-Wyoming vs Boise St

Smith may be able to conjure up some yards against the Boise State defense, but he will be challenged to find the end zone against a defense giving up only 13.6 points per game.

Todd Gurley, RB-Georgia vs Florida

Three weeks ago Gurley was a must-start, but fantasy owners that are in dire need of a win may want to steer away from starting the freshman against the Florida defense.

LaDarius Perkins, RB-Mississippi St at Alabama

Perkins has found the end zone in every game this season, but we’re projecting that he will fail to either score or reach the 100-yard mark on the road against the Crimson Tide this weekend.

Dri Archer and Trayion Durham, RBs-Kent St at Rutgers

It’s difficult to suggest sitting two guys that have accounted for 18 of their team’s 25 touchdowns, but facing Rutgers’ defense on the road makes each of them an iffy play.

Justin Hunter, WR-Tennessee at South Carolina

We’re benching Hunter for the second consecutive week and holding out on starting him until the Vols face Troy next week at home.

Conner Vernon, WR-Duke at Florida St

Vernon is a little banged up and we don’t want owners to take a chance starting Duke’s leading receiver against the nation’s 7th-ranked pass defense.

by Joe DiSalvo,

For Start/Bench advice from Joe DiSalvo, send an email to:  [email protected]

Follow Joe on twitter (@theCFFsite)

<p> College Fantasy Football Week 9 Start or Sit Report</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 04:13
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-week-9-emergency-starters

This list was originally designed to assist fantasy owners with injury-riddled rosters, bye-week dilemmas, and unfavorable matchups, but the Emergency Starters has evolved into our Waiver Wire 2.0.  Over the past six weeks, many players listed in our Emergency Starters earned spots in our Waiver Wire report the following week, so don’t underestimate their long-term value. 


Joe DiSalvo (@theCFFsite)


Mike Glennon, North Carolina St at North Carolina

Garrett Gilbert, SMU vs Memphis

Keenan Reynolds, Navy at ECU

Austin Brown, UAB at Tulane

Andrew Manley, New Mexico St vs LA Tech


Running Backs

Devonta Freeman, Florida St vs Duke

James Wilder, Florida St vs Duke

Darrin Reaves, UAB at Tulane

Germi Morrison, New Mexico St vs LA Tech

Shontrelle Johnson, Iowa St vs Baylor



Aaron Horne, WR Iowa St vs Baylor

Eric Monette, Western Michigan vs Northern Illinois

Ryan Grant, Tulane vs UAB

Bryan Underwood, North Carolina St at North Carolina

Kenny Bell, Nebraska vs Michigan


For Start/Bench advice from Joe DiSalvo, send an email to[email protected]


Steven Lassan(@AthlonSteven)



David Ash, Texas at Kansas

Trevone Boykin, TCU at Oklahoma State

David Fales, San Jose State vs. Texas State

Ryan Radcliff, Central Michigan vs. Akron

Running Backs

Dennis Johnson, Arkansas vs. Ole Miss

Brian Kimbrow, Vanderbilt vs. UMass

Latavius Murray, UCF at Marshall

Wide Receivers

Mike Davis, Texas at Kansas

Mike Evans, Texas A&M at Auburn

Jordan Leslie, UTEP at Houston

<p> College Fantasy Football: Week 9 Emergency Starters</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 01:26
All taxonomy terms: Jon Gruden, Overtime, News
Path: /college-football/wikipedia-has-jon-gruden-tennessee-volunteers-head-coach

Current Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley is definitely on the hot seat in Knoxville, as the Vols have lost 11 of their last 12 SEC games. Rumors are rampant every year about former Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden returning to a college or NFL sideline, and the fact the his wife went to Tennessee has some fans thinking he could be the next coach of the Vols. It turns out that Wikipedia already has Gruden listed as the Tennessee boss, even though there is not a current opening. We're sure some fact-checking do-gooder will fix the error shortly, so we grabbed this screen shot below. 

<p> Wikipedia has Jon Gruden as the Tennessee Volunteers Head Coach</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - 17:58
Path: /nascar/backseat-drivers-fan-council-32

Is it time for NASCAR to look in a different direction to run a race? Maybe something old school. You know, some place dirt-y? Of all that happened last weekend in Sunday’s Cup race at Kansas, what was the most impressive feat? Members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council debated those and other questions this week. Here’s what they said:

Should the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on a dirt track?
Tony Stewart admits he'd be “ecstatic” if NASCAR ever ran a truck race on his dirt track, the half-mile Eldora Speedway. Fan Council members were asked if they thought it would be a good idea for NASCAR to run the truck series at that track or another dirt track?

80.4 percent said Yes
19.6 percent said No

What Fan Council members said:
• I would absolutely LOVE to see a truck race at Eldora!!!!! Truck racing is just about the best racing there is in NASCAR now and to put them on dirt would be unbelievable!!!

• It would be AMAZING … A breath of fresh air that this sport desperately needs.

• The fan in me is screaming “YES!” but the realist in me thinks it would be too difficult, too problematic, to stage. There would be no pit stops, special rules and other stuff that would hurt the credibility of the series. Also, it seems a little gimmicky. Love to see it, but I give it less than a two percent chance of happening.

• Absolutely! The Truck Series ran mostly short tracks and are set up for those tracks. If ARCA can run dirt, why can't NASCAR? The trucks shouldn't have a majority of 1.5-mile tracks scheduled in the first place and neither should Nationwide. Run them in a doubleheader at Eldora and they would draw better than most races all year.

• Any time we can add a new track, let alone a short track, to a schedule would be AWESOME!!!! Short track racing always produces that best racing and drivers love it, as do the fans! I say send the Trucks and Nationwide to Eldora (to start with).

• I would really like to see the Truck and Nationwide series return to their roots. Rockingham, South Boston, Myrtle Beach, Hickory, Orange County, the Nashville Fairgrounds … those are the tracks I'd like to see. Eldora would be very cool, too. I think the old complaint of these old tracks not having enough seating is out the window now. When they run at the big Cup speedways, the seats are 80 percent empty anyway. If they are going to run Eldora, they should also run a few other dirt tracks to go along with it.

• Bring it on!! NASCAR bills them as the "Worlds Greatest Drivers” … make them prove it by showcasing them in all disciplines. ARCA cars run on dirt, why not the NASCAR series?

• I'd watch it out of curiosity, but trucks on a dirt track are a mismatched idea. It will not bring down the cost of racing trucks. I think this idea may have been conceived in a bar.

• Tony is just looking at the $$$ aspect. That would be going backwards. Don't do it!

• You can always go home. Go back to your roots, NASCAR. You might be surprised how many people find that impressive.

Grade Sunday’s Cup race at Kansas:

58.4 percent called it Good
25.1 percent called it Great
13.7 percent called it Fair
2.7 percent called it Poor

What Fan Council members said:
• This had to be the best race of the year. There was constant action on the track, there was retaliation, retaliation gone wrong, super-fast cars, lots of great restarts. I wish all races were like Sunday's race!

• I don't care what people say. In the era of follow-the-leader racing, multiple cautions are awesome. That was the only thing that made it possible for teams to make the huge comebacks they did.

• Prior to halfway, I thought the fans in attendance had already gotten their money’s worth. However, the rest of the race was INSANE! Finally we got some excitement from a 1.5-mile track. Drivers slippin' and slidin', drivers mad at one another, and side-by-side racing was back. I enjoyed every second of it.

• There was NO side-by-side racing other than when there was a caution. And if that’s the way you have to have side-by-side racing, well then I would check this track off the list of tracks I want to see a race at.

• The race had drama. That is all I ask.

• I truly didn't expect it to be very interesting but I was glued to the TV the whole race. It was full of surprises, racing side-by-side and strategies. Loved it!

There were too many wrecks and barely any passes for the lead. Only the varying pit strategies made it interesting.

• I don't know how people can say there is “too much green flag racing” when this seems like the alternative. The middle part of this race was fairly unwatchable. At least nobody got hurt that we know.

What was the most impressive performance in Sunday’s Cup race?

53.7 percent said Jimmie Johnson finishing 9th after crashing
23.5 percent said Regan Smith finishing 7th in the 88 car
11.0 percent said Matt Kenseth winning
6.7 percent said Martin Truex Jr. finishing 2nd and giving MWR its fourth top-4 finish in the last five races
5.1 percent said “other”

What Fan Council members said:
• All of the above, really. But for the 48 to fix THAT much damage without losing a lap and finishing top 10?!?! Part horseshoe (nothing major broken), part “The Genius of Chad and the team.”

• I thought when JJ hit the wall it was a 30th-place finish. However, the team had enough caution laps to work on the car and fix the damage and turned the day into something positive. I hate to say it, but that is a championship run.

• Tony Stewart keeping his car off the inside wall after his spin was the best save I've ever seen. Period.

• The 48 CREW deserves an award for the way they fixed that car. Don’t know about it being Jimmie Johnson’s performance. Definitely the over the wall gang.

• Some lame duck, huh? I'm so happy that Matt has been able to get some wins after mechanical issues gave him a bad start to the Chase, and both he and his team were impressive at Kansas. Having run so many races with just his manufacturer's sponsorship, it was nice to have the beautiful Zest car in Victory Lane.

• Without a doubt, it was the performance of Regan Smith in that 88 car. It goes to show that the kid CAN drive a racecar and that leaving Furniture Row Racing and getting this opportunity in the 88 is showcasing what he can truly do for a top-notch team if given the shot.

• Tough choices there—all good performances. Not to mention AJ’s and Almirola's temporary, but otherwise strong, showings.

• Matt winning. Any win is impressive. I'm sick of everyone being obsessive over Jimmie coming back. IT WAS EXPECTED. They are five-time champions. It was also expected for Regan to run good in good equipment.

Did Kansas change your opinion about 1.5-mile tracks?
Sunday's Cup race featured a season-high 14 cautions. Saturday's Nationwide race saw a driver come back from two laps down to win on the last lap. Fan Council members were asked if their opinion of 1.5-mile tracks changed after this weekend:

71.7 percent said no
16.7 percent said they look at them slightly more favorably
11.6 percent said they look at them more favorably

What Fan Council members said:
• It was the exception to the rule. It will continue to go back to the follow-the-leader who has a 4.5-second lead on second place ... Hopefully next season, with the return of testing, the cars won't be so equal and impossible to pass on the cookie-cutter tracks.

• No, the repave was the main cause of this. Fuel mileage races seem to occur more at 1.5-mile tracks, but all of the cautions were primarily from track conditions and teams that either went too far on camber (causing the right front blown tires) or the driver making a mistake on the new asphalt.

• I was very impressed by Ricky's win. I'm not a big fan of 14 cautions in a race. But then again, I never liked road courses until recently ... I just like to watch racing, doesn't matter to me what track they are on. I have season tickets to Daytona and sometimes those races are incredibly boring until the end. But to me, I'm watching NASCAR—that makes me happy enough!

• The ONLY reason these two races were so “exciting” is because of Goodyear bringing an incredibly hard tire with no grip to try to cope with high speeds on a new surface. 1.5-mile racing will continue to be horrid unless the cars are slowed down about 15-20 mph and Goodyear can bring a softer tire that actually wears out.

• Certainly does wonders when a track gets repaved. Wish they all would get repaved so the racing would be so entertaining!

• The only thing wrong with 1.5 mile tracks is... There are too many of them! NASCAR need more short tracks.

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

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

<p> Dustin Long's Backseat Drivers Fan Council voice their opinions on what a NASCAR Truck Series race at Eldora would be like and talk about Sunday's race at Kansas Speedway.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - 13:37
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/2012-world-series-broadcast-schedule

The 2012 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers begins tonight. Here's a look at the dates, times and TV schedule for the 108th World Series between the American League Champions and the National League Champions. FOX Sports will again provide national coverage of the Fall Classic. ESPN Radio will provide complete coverage of all World Series games. MLB International, MLB Network, and SiriusXM also will provide comprehensive World Series coverage.

2012 World Series Schedule
World Series ScheduleGame 1
Wednesday, 10/24
Tigers @ Giants
AT&T Park, San Francisco
8 p.m. EST on FOX
Game 2
Thursday, 10/25
Tigers @ Giants
AT&T Park, San Francisco
8:00 p.m. EST on FOX
Game 3
Saturday, Oct. 27
Giants @ Tigers
Comerica Park, Detroit
8:00 p.m. EST on FOX
Game 4
Sunday, Oct. 28
Giants @ Tigers
Comerica Park, Detroit
8:00 p.m. EST on FOX
Game 5*
Monday, Oct. 29
Giants @ Tigers
Comerica Park, Detroit
8:00 pm. EST on FOX
Game 6*
Wednesday, Oct. 31
Tigers @ Giants
AT&T Park, San Francisco
8:00 p.m. EST on FOX
Game 7*
Thursday, Nov. 1
Tigers @ Giants
AT&T Park, San Francisco
8:00 p.m. EST on FOX
*If Needed
<p> 2012 World Series Schedule</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - 10:09
Path: /mlb/2012-world-series-preview-pitching-pitching-pitching

The San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers—both of these franchises have been in business for more than 100 years, but the two tradition-laden clubs have never met in the World Series. Detroit has won 11 American League pennants, winning the World Series four times. The Tigers last won the Series in 1984 and lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006. Since 1900, the Giants have 19 pennants, appearing the World Series 18 times, winning six, the most recent coming just two years ago when they defeated the Texas Rangers in 2010.

2012 World SeriesThis matchup features two of the best pitching staffs in baseball, especially when it comes to starting pitching. The two ballparks play well for pitchers as does cooler weather. So don’t expect any shootouts in this series.

Having said that, the two players expected to take their respective Most Valuable Player awards — Miguel Cabrera and Buster Posey — lead their offenses, but pitching will rule the day.

In 2006, the Tigers swept the ALCS and then had a six-day layoff, which could have played a role in the Detroit offense coming out flat against St. Louis. Manager Jim Leyland tried to keep his troops sharp and their timing down by playing a couple of intrasquad games on Sunday and Monday. If the Detroit hitters come out slow this fall, at least the Tigers’ pitchers are well-rested. Ace Justin Verlander is set to pitch Game 1 followed by Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer.

San Francisco has no time to rest having finished off three pressure-packed games. That could work in the Giants’ favor in terms of keeping the hitters locked in. But the starting pitching doesn’t line up exactly how Bruce Bochy would like. Having to use Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain in Games 3 and 4 is not optimal, but Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum should be up to the task. Having Cain available for just one game is not what the Giants had in mind.

The Detroit bullpen has struggled of late, and the Tigers’ defense could let the pitchers down. San Francisco loves close, low-scoring games, and these games should play out just like Giants manager Bochy relishes.

Prediction: San Francisco in 7

Trivia Corner
There are 16 players on the Tigers and Giants World Series rosters who have played for winning teams in a previous World Series. Can you name the only player in this year’s Classic to have played for two World Series champs? (Answer below)

Buster PoseySan Francisco Giants
During the regular season, the Giants relied on Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey to carry the offense. However, in the postseason it’s been table-setters Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro who have established the tone. The Cardinals held Posey and fifth-place hitter Hunter Pence in check, but the damage was done at the top. Lest you think that Scutaro has been some kind of postseason wonder, think again. After the Giants acquired him in July, he hit .362 in 61 games, sparking the most potent offense in the league during the second half. Brandon Belt, Gregor Blanco and Brandon Crawford were solid at the bottom of the order in the NLCS.

The Giants’ rotation matches up well with any team in baseball. It starts with Matt Cain — a strong Cy Young candidate — and Ryan Vogelsong. Cain pitched the Giants into the World Series with 5.2 scoreless innings in Game 7 of the NLCS. Vogelsong allowed fewer than one baserunner per inning in his three starts with a 1.42 ERA. Former Cy Young winners Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito earned starts after struggling at times during the season.

Even though the Giants lost eccentric and effective closer Brian Wilson to injury very early in the season, San Francisco has a collection of relievers that manager Bruce Bochy mixes and matches to gain advantages. Sergio Romo gets most of the save opportunities, but Santiago Casilla is called on to get tough outs from the right side. Detroit first baseman Prince Fielder will see lots of lefties Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez. The four combined for 12.2 scoreless innings against St. Louis.

The Giants have Gold Glove caliber defense all over the field. Crawford and Scutaro are smooth up the middle, while Posey behind the plate and Belt at first base are stellar. These guys will not beat themselves and will take pressure off the pitching staff. Third baseman Sandoval is the only sub-par defender on the field.

Path to the World Series
The Giants added Scutaro just prior to the trade deadline. Their NL West rival Los Angeles Dodgers added Josh Beckett, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and the injured Carl Crawford. After that point, the Giants led the NL in scoring while the Dodgers finished at the bottom of the league. Once in the playoffs, San Francisco seemed to thrive with their backs to the wall. Facing elimination three times against the Reds in Cincinnati, then three more times against St. Louis, the Giants were 6-0 in those games.

Miguel CabreraDetroit Tigers
The Prince Fielder-Miguel Cabrera duo provides the Tigers a 1-2 punch among the best in baseball. While Cabrera, who at least one hit in all LCS games he appeared in his career, became the first triple crown winner since 1967, this lineup is much deeper than the two sluggers in the middle. Leadoff hitter Austin Jackson leads the club with five extra-base hits in the postseason. Jhonny Peralta is batting .343 in the playoffs, and ALCS MVP Delmon Young drove in as many runs as the entire Yankees team in the series.

Justin Verlander is pitching as well right now as anytime in his career, including a 132-pitch gem in Game 3 of the ALCS. The ace has won all three of his postseason starts this year. Combined, the four starters — Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister — have a 1.02 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in 62 innings against the A’s and Yankees.

Closer Jose Valverde, who was perfect in 49 save situations in 2011, has been anything but perfect in the postseason. In only 2.1 innings this postseason, Valverde has given up seven of the 16 earned runs allowed by the Tigers. Phil Coke, who saved Games 2 and 3 of the ALCS, may be called upon to close games in the World Series. Coke was effective as the closer, but that leaves Drew Smyly, who was a starter all season, as the only other lefthander. Octavio Dotel, who was so good last season during the Cardinals’ magical run, will play a pivotal role, especially against the right-handed Buster Posey and Hunter Pence.

Detroit doesn’t make too many errors, but they don’t do the pitching staff any favors by taking away base hits, especially in the infield. The Tigers’ pitchers are much more effective when they are missing bats because too many balls put in play tend to find holes.

Path to the World Series
Detroit won just 88 games — the seventh-best record in the AL — and took over first place in the AL Central from the White Sox with seven days left in the season. Although they were pushed to a fifth game by Oakland in the ALDS, the Tigers made it look pretty easy in the AL playoffs. The Yankees were a pushover in the ALCS. Detroit outscored New York 19-6 as the Tigers’ pitchers held the Yankees to a .157 batting average. Detroit held the A’s to a .194 average in the ALDS.

Trivia Answer
San Francisco reliever Javier Lopez faced two batters, giving up two hits, for the Boston Red Sox in 2007. He also faced two batters in 2010 for the Giants, retiring both.

-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

<p> Expect low-scoring, close games from Giants and Tigers</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - 09:40
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketballs-worst-coaching-tenures-1984-85

Sometimes a coach inherits a bad team or steps into a program where the university simply does not invest in basketball. In some cases, through recruiting, Xs and Os and inspiration, that coach can turn a bad team into a good or even great one.

The guys on this list are not those coaches. Here are the 20 worst coaching tenures in the six major conference since the NCAA Tournament expanded in 1985.

1. Dave Bliss, Baylor
Years: 1999-2003
Record: 61-57, 19-45 Big 12
Before his undoing at Baylor, Bliss took three teams to the NCAA Tournament (Oklahoma, SMU and New Mexico), but his downfall at Baylor remains one of college athletics biggest disgraces. One player, Carlton Dotson, pleaded guilty to murdering teammate Patrick Dennehy in 2003, and Bliss' actions in the aftermath did not help an already tragic situation. Bliss was found to have paid part of Dennehy’s tuition and that of another player (both NCAA violations), and then asked an assistant and players to lie to investigators about the payment, saying Dennehy had been dealing drugs. That, among other NCAA and recruiting violations put Baylor under harsh sanctions through 2010. On the court, Baylor had one winning season and never finished better than 6-10 in the Big 12.

2. Bob Wade, Maryland
Years: 1986-89
Record: 36-50, 7-35 ACC
Wade took over after the drug-related death of All-American Len Bias, who had just been drafted second overall by the Boston Celtics. With an academic scandal at the end of coach Lefty Driesell’s tenure as well, Wade did not take over in College Park under ideal circumstance when he was hired from the high school ranks from Baltimore Dunbar. After three seasons, including two where Maryland went 0-16 and 1-14 in the ACC, Wade resigned amid his own allegations of NCAA violations. He was replaced by Gary Williams, who resuscitated the program and won 461 games with the Terps.

3. Bob Staak, Wake Forest
Years: 1985-89
Record: 45-69, 8-48 ACC
Staak took over for Paul Tacy, who had reached the postseason in five consecutive years (three pre-expansion NCAAs, two NITs) before Staak arrived. The former Xavier coach and Connecticut player went 8-21 and winless in the ACC in his first season and never won more than three conference games during his four years at Wake. He resigned amid an NCAA inquiry into recruiting violations and was replaced by Dave Odom, who would lead the Demon Deacons to their most successful era in the 1990s and early 2000s.

4. Bill Foster, Northwestern
Years: 1986-93
Record: 54-141, 13-113 Big Ten
The only program from a major conference not to have reached the NCAA Tournament, Northwestern has had its share of futile coaching tenures. Foster’s, though, was the worst. The Wildcats finished in last place in six of his seven seasons, went 2-16 in the Big Ten five times and winless once. His successor, the late Ricky Byrdsong, reached the NIT in his first season with Northwestern. And interesting footnote: Foster also preceded Mike Krzyzewski at Duke.

5. Paul Graham, Washington State
Years: 1999-2003
Record: 31-79, 9-63 Pac-10
The Cougars aren’t known for their basketball success, but before Graham, Washington State built a solid program under Kelvin Sampson and reached the NIT under Kevin Eastman. After Graham, Dick Bennett and son Tony Bennett built Washington State into an NCAA Tournament team. A rash of play departures also didn’t help Graham’s short-lived tenure at Wazzu.

6. Jeff Bzdelik, Wake Forest
Years: 2010-present
Record: 34-60, 11-39 ACC
Bzdelik has coached in the NBA and took Air Force to the NCAA Tournament in 2006, so it’s a mystery why Bzdelik has had such meager results at a program that has been a consistent power in the ACC. The Demon Deacons have had their share of player departures, due to transfers and off-court issues, so those are possible reasons. That said, Bzdelik had more ACC wins in his third season (six) than he did in his first two combined (five).

7. Sidney Lowe, NC State
Years: 2006-11
Record: 86-78, 25-55 ACC
Hopes were high that Lowe, a former NC State player and longtime NBA assistant, would help the Wolfpack take the next step after an unspectacular run under Herb Sendek. As NC State learned, things weren’t so bad under Sendek, who reached the NCAA Tournament in each of his last five seasons in Raleigh. Lowe recruited well, but the results didn’t come on the court as NC State never won more than six ACC games in a season and finished ninth or lower each year. Successor Mark Gottfried, however, took advantage of the influx of talent under Lowe with a Sweet 16 appearance in his first season.

8. Melvin Watkins, Texas A&M
Years: 1998-2004
Record: 60-112, 21-75 Big 12
Watkins’ predecessor, Tony Barone, also was a candidate for this list, which says something about the Aggies’ basketball program in the ‘90s. Watkins, though, capped his tenure in College Station with a winless Big 12 season and a 7-21 overall record. The Aggies won 10 or fewer games three times in his six seasons. If there was a silver lining, Watkins did bring Acie Law and Antoine Wright to Texas A&M. Under Law and Gillispie, Texas A&M reached the NIT in 2005 and the Sweet 16 in 2007.

9. Brian Mahoney, St. John’s
Years: 1992-96
Record: 56-58, 29-43 Big East
After the departure of the program’s most successful coach, St. John’s promoted assistant Brian Mahoney to replace Lou Carnesecca, but Mahoney turned out to be the first coach in a line of four who weren’t able to restore St. John’s to the glory days. Mahoney reached the NCAA Tournament in his first season, but  reached only one NIT in the three seasons thereafter. Mahoney went 17-37 in the Big East.

10. Matt Doherty, North Carolina
Years: 2000-03
Record: 53-43, 23-25 ACC
Doherty played for Dean Smith at North Carolina and was a teammate of Michael Jordan’s. Those were better days for the Tar Heels. Doherty went 26-7 and 13-3 in the ACC in his first season taking over for Bill Guthridge, but he went 27-36 and 10-22 in conference the following two seasons. During his short-lived tenure, Doherty clashed with Guthridge and Smith by replacing longtime assistants and ran off players with his abrasive style. In North Carolina’s second attempt to pursue Roy Williams, the Tar Heels landed him to replace Doherty in 2003. With some of Doherty’s recruits, Williams won a national title in 2005.

11. Eddie Payne, Oregon State
Years: 1995-2000
Record: 50-90, 20-70 Pac-10
Since the retirement of Ralph Miller in 1989 until the hire of current coach Craig Robinson, none of the coaches in Corvallis had distinguished tenures. Payne’s best season was 7-11 in the Pac-10, but the Beavers went 3-15 in conference or worse in three of his five seasons.

12. Billy Gillispie, Kentucky
Years: 2007-09
Record: 40-27, 20-12 SEC
Hopes were high for Texas A&M’s Gillispie he took over for Tubby Smith, a national title coach who never wowed the Kentucky fan base. A first-round loss in the NCAA Tournament to Marquette followed by an NIT ended his tenure in Lexington after only two seasons.

13. Larry Shyatt, Clemson
Years: 1998-2003
Record: 70-84, 20-60 ACC
Shyatt took over after a successful run under Rick Barnes and was replaced by Oliver Purnell, who remade the Tigers into a postseason contender. In between, Shyatt had only two winning seasons and never finished better than 5-11 in the ACC.

14. Jerry Wainwright, DePaul
Years: 2005-10
Record: 59-80, 20-51 Big East
DePaul clearly was not ready to be competitive in the Big East and had long since fallen behind in recruiting the Chicago area. An Illinois native, Wainwright couldn’t help matters. He was fired midway through the 2009-10 season amid a stretch in which DePaul went 1-35 in Big East games.

15. Fred Hill, Rutgers
Years: 2006-10
Record: 47-77, 13-57 Big East
Like Jerry Wainwright and DePaul, Rutgers hoped Hill’s local ties would help revive a moribund Big East program. Hill signed McDonald's All-American Mike Rosario (who later transferred to Florida), but he never won more than five Big East games in four losing seasons at Rutgers. Hill caused further problems for his program when he got into a shouting match with the Pittsburgh baseball coach after a game between the two schools (Hill’s father is the Rutgers baseball coach). Hill disobeyed his athletic director by attending later games in the series, a development that played a role in his ouster.

16. Jeff Bzdelik, Colorado
Years: 2007-10
Record: 36-58, 10-38 Big 12
Bzdelik makes his second appearance on the list. Again, he won at Air Force and coached in the NBA, but he couldn’t manage a winning season at Colorado. Successor Tad Boyle, meanwhile, took over to lead the Buffaloes to back-to-back postseason appearances.

17. Todd Lickliter, Iowa
Years: 2007-10
Record: 38-57, 15-39
Perhaps a cautionary sign for Brad Stevens that the grass isn’t always greener. Lickliter left Butler after a Sweet 16 appearance for a failed tenure with the Hawkeyes. Iowa was a postseason regular under four coaches since the late ‘70s, but the Hawkeyes finished eighth or lower in the Big Ten each season under Lickliter.

18. Ricky Stokes, Virginia Tech
Years: 1999-2003
Record: 29-55, 10-38 Big East
The above record does not include Stokes’ first season when the Hokies were a member of the Atlantic 10, which was also his only winning season (16-15) in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech was already struggling before joining the Big East as a basketball member in 2000, so the Hokies’ first three seasons in the league were no big surprise.

19. Jay John, Oregon State
Record: 72-97, 28-69 Pac-10
Again, Oregon State has never been an easy basketball job since and hasn't been a consistent winner since the '80s. John led Oregon State to its first postseason appearance in 15 years when the Beavers went to the NIT in 2005. But four years later he also laid the groundwork for a 6-25 season in which the Beavers went winless in Pac-10 play. John did not finish that season, however, as he was fired after 18 games.

20. Darrin Horn, South Carolina
Years: 2008-12
Record: 60-63, 23-41 SEC
In his first season, Horn led South Carolina to its first SEC winning record in 11 years, but it was downhill from there. The Gamecocks' overall and conference record declined in each of Horn’s final three seasons, bottoming out at 10-21 overall and 2-14 in the SEC last season.

<p> College Basketball's Worst Coaching Tenures since 1984-85</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - 06:30
Path: /college-football/ole-miss-or-missouri-will-either-team-make-bowl-2012

The SEC has 10 guaranteed slots for both teams but there's a chance the conference has at least 11 or 12 squads eligible for the postseason. Ole Miss and Missouri are two teams on the edge of bowl eligibility, as the Rebels sit at 4-3 and the Tigers are 3-4. 

Ole Miss or Missouri: Will Either Team Make a Bowl In 2012?

Barrett Sallee, Lead SEC Blogger for Bleacher Report (@BarrettSallee):
Ole Miss is the better team, but the stretch run is too tough for the Rebels to make a bowl game. They are getting Arkansas at the wrong time this week, and if they want to go bowling, they'll need to get that win and vs. Vanderbilt to secure a six-win season and a bowl trip. I don't think they can get a win over the resurgent Hogs this weekend.

Missouri, on the other hand, has a better shot at the postseason. The need three wins down the stretch, but games vs. Kentucky, Tennessee and Syracuse could get them there. The season will hinge on the Tennessee game. Missouri doesn't play a lot of defense and the Vols can sling it all over the field. Gary Pinkel's crew will have to play old school, Big 12-style football to have a shot. I don't think they get it done though, and fall just short of making a bowl game in their first season in the SEC.

David Fox (@DavidFox615):
The chances look much better for Ole Miss than Missouri. With quarterback James Franklin out against Kentucky -- a team that has been competitive with South Carolina and Georgia -- I’m not sure if Missouri is going to win another game in the SEC. Ole Miss’ schedule shapes up much nicer for a postseason trip, despite the next two road games. Arkansas is getting better, but the Hogs are still vulnerable. And who knows what we’re going to see out of Georgia on a week-to-week basis? When Ole Miss returns home, it should have a good chance against Vanderbilt in Oxford. And while I would not pick Ole Miss to win in Baton Rouge, it’s just been that kind of year at LSU. Then there’s a home finale in the Egg Bowl. I don’t know how Ole Miss is going to do it, but the Rebels are going to win two of those games and reach a bowl. The Rebels have shown they can beat up on bad SEC teams (Auburn) and play with resilience against good ones (Alabama, Texas A&M). Meanwhile, none of the teams left on Ole Miss’ schedule can make me say without a doubt that they’ll be able to defeat the Rebels easily. 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall):
I will go with neither. Ole Miss would likely have to beat both Vanderbilt and Mississippi State at home in order to get to six wins. Otherwise, three road games to Arkansas, Georgia and LSU are almost certain losses. One upset at home is possible, but two feels highly unlikely. Mizzou has a clear path to five wins with Syracuse and Kentucky at home but would also have to win one of three brutal road games at Florida, Texas A&M or Tennessee. If I had to place a bet on one or the other, I would take the Rebels. Is it possible for both to get to bowl eligibility? Yes. Will it happen? I say no. 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): 
Both teams have a good chance to get bowl eligible, but I’m going to say neither will get to six wins. Ole Miss is a much-improved team under new coach Hugh Freeze and has winnable games against Arkansas and Vanderbilt remaining, along with the Egg Bowl showdown against Mississippi State in the finale. Making the Rebels’ quest to get to six wins even more difficult is the Razorbacks have won two in a row, while the Commodores have won two out of their last three games. Although Ole Miss is an improved team, I just don’t think it can muster six wins out of the remaining schedule.

Missouri’s remaining schedule isn’t as difficult as Ole Miss’, especially with home games left against Kentucky and Syracuse. If the Tigers win those two games, they would need to pickup a win at Florida, Tennessee or Texas A&M. Not exactly easy. Missouri’s best bet might be picking up a victory against former Big 12 foe Texas A&M or against a Tennessee team that could be distracted by its coaching situation. The Tigers have a better chance than the Rebels to get to six wins, but I think they fall just short and finish 5-7.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch):
My guess is no. Ole Miss is vastly improved under first-year coach Hugh Freeze, but the Rebels have a difficult closing schedule. They are 4–3 overall, with wins over Central Arkansas, UTEP, Tulane and Auburn. It’s tough to find two wins on their remaining schedule — at Arkansas, Georgia and LSU and home vs. Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. They will be an underdog in at least four of the five games, and potentially all five if Vanderbilt continues to play well. Missouri has been a bit of a disappointment in its first year in the league. Injuries have hurt — both at quarterback and on the offensive line — but nobody envisioned an 0–4 start in league play. The Tigers should take care of Kentucky on Saturday (even without James Franklin at quarterback) to improve to 4–4 overall, but three of their final four games are on the road — at Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M. My guess is that Mizzou ends the year 5–7 overall and 1–7 in the SEC.   

Mark Ross: 
It's kind of a shame these two don't play each other to end the regular season in what could have been a bowl-elimination game. That said, if I had to choose, I would give Ole Miss a better shot at sneaking into the postseason rather than Missouri. The Tigers have had a rough introduction to the SEC and have suffered too many key injuries, most notably to quarterback James Franklin, to finish with six wins. I think five is the best they can hope for this season. On the other hand, Ole Miss only needs two more victories to get to six and I think can get there, provided they beat Arkansas in Fayetteville this Saturday. If the Rebels can beat the Hogs, who are riding a modest two-game winning streak of their own, then their bowl fate likely comes down to the Nov. 10 home game against Vanderbilt. Wins over the Hogs and Commodores would make the Rebels bowl eligible. However, should they stumble in either of these games, I don't see Hugh Freeze going to the postseason in his first season in Oxford because the Rebels' other three remaining games are against teams ranked in the top 11 of the BCS standings — at Georgia (No. 10), at LSU (No. 6) and against Mississippi State (No. 11). The opportunity is there for the Rebels to get back to a bowl for the first time in three seasons, it's just up to them to capitalize on it.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): 
I think the Rebels (4-3) find a way to get to 6-6, while the Tigers (3-4) first SEC campaign looks destined for a 5-7 finish. Coach Hugh Freeze has done an amazing job in Oxford this season, and he will need a strong finish to chalk up two bowl-clinching wins in five games where Ole Miss will be an underdog. The Rebs’ road is difficult, but I think Freeze and staff will “coach’em up” this weekend at Arkansas and grab a win over either Vanderbilt or Mississippi State. Meanwhile, the Tigers have struggled on offense and with injuries this year. The Kentucky and Syracuse games are the top candidates for wins, but I’m not sure Mizzou can score enough points to keep up in road contests versus Tennessee and Texas A&M. The odds probably favor both teams finishing 5-7, but I’ll take Ole Miss to surprise down the stretch and get back to the postseason.


Related College Football Content

College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat After Week 8
Post-Week 8 Bowl Projections

SEC Post-Week 8 Power Rankings

Post-Week 8 Heisman Contenders

<p> Ole Miss or Missouri: Will Either Team Make A Bowl In 2012?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - 06:15
Path: /college-basketball/2012-13-college-basketball-countdown-sun-belt-preview

Athlon Sports continues its countdown to the start of the 2012-13 basketball season, which begins with the first games on Nov. 9, with a countdown of the nation’s top conferences. We will release one conference preview each day, counting down to the top conference. For profiles of every team in each conference, check out the 2012-13 Athlon Sports College Basketball annual available in the online store.

Western Kentucky emerged last season from the rubble to go on an unlikely NCAA Tournament run. This season, the margin may be more slim.

The Hilltoppers started 5-11 and fired coach Ken McDonald midseason. Interim coach Ray Harper went on an 11-8 run that included a Sun Belt tournament title and a win over Mississippi Valley State in the NCAA First Four. Naturally, it earned Harper the full time job in Bowling Green as well.

Western Kentucky, the Sun Belt’s most successful basketball program, will try to continue that momentum into 2012-13, but the conference may be tougher at the top than it was a year ago.

North Texas has one of the nation’s most underrated stars in Tony Mitchell, a potential NBA Draft lottery pick who landed in Denton after he failed to qualify at Missouri. Middle Tennessee, which had the league’s best record at 14-2, returns most of its firepower from a year ago as well.

This will also be the last year for the Sun Belt in its current incarnation. The departure of Denver to the WAC leaves the league with just 11 teams this season before Georgia State, Texas State and UT Arlington replace FIU and North Texas in 2013-14.

G Marcos Knight, Middle Tennessee 2011-12 regular season champion: Middle Tennessee (East), UALR (West)
G Trey Finn, Arkansas State 2012 NCAA Tournament teams: Western Kentucky#
F George Fant, Western Kentucky New coaches: Tony Benford (North Texas), Richard Pitino (FIU)
F Augustine Rubit, South Alabama Realignment: Lost Denver to the WAC
F Tony Mitchell, North Texas*  
*preseason player of the year #conference tournament champion


1. Middle Tennessee (27–7, 14–2)
Kermit Davis, MTSU’s all-time winningest coach, must replace 2012 Sun Belt Player of the Year LaRon Dendy, but he returns 10 of the top 12 players from last season’s squad, which broke the program’s single-season wins record. Playmaking guard Marcos Knight and steady forward J.T. Sulton are all-league players. Point guard Bruce Massey is a lockdown defender and team leader. Raymond Cintron is a sharpshooting guard (43.2 percent from 3 last year) who plays with toughness, and juniors Shawn Jones and Kerry Hammonds are rising standouts. The roster is loaded, and expectations are soaring.
NCAA Tournament prediction: One and done

2. Western Kentucky (16–19, 7–9)
Coach Ray Harper revitalized the slumping Hilltoppers with a second-half surge, Sun Belt Tournament title and First Four victory in the NCAA Tournament last season following Ken McDonald’s midseason firing. Harper must stretch that momentum to an entire season and do it without leading scorer Derrick Gordon, who transferred to UMass. George Fant, a 6-6 forward, is a rising star after a breakout freshman season, and fellow sophomore T.J. Price also carries a big upside. Point guard Jamal Crook is a steady veteran. Freshman forward Eddie Alcantara could be inserted into the lineup early.

3. South Alabama (17–12, 8–8)
Veteran coach Ronnie Arrow returns nearly his entire roster, highlighted by 6-6 forward Augustine Rubit, one of the Sun Belt’s elite players. Freddie Goldstein is a streaky shooter, and Mychal Ammons showed shades of standout play as a 6-5 freshman swingman. Add shot-blocking post player Javier Carter and returning point guard Trey Anderson, and USA has a core that is ready challenge for a league title. Size and proven depth are still needed. The addition of 6-10 Slovakian center Viktor Juricek could help in both areas.

4. Troy (10–18, 5–11)
Starting point guard and leading scorer Will Weathers left a year early to play professionally, but Troy is accustomed to retooling its lineup every year. Don Maestri, Troy’s coach for 31 years, puts together an up-tempo, streak-shooting squad every season. Justin Wright, Emil Jones and R.J. Scott are each threats from 3-point range, and Maestri is a master at adding junior college transfers who fit his system. Also, former FIU commitment Antoine Myers, a true freshman, will join the Trojans, perhaps as an eventual replacement for Weathers at point guard.

5. Florida International (8–21, 5–11)
Richard Pitino, Louisville associate head coach and son of Rick Pitino, takes over after the failed three-year experiment of Isiah Thomas as head coach (26–65 record). Pitino must rebuild the roster, as no starters return and five signees are added to the mix. Jerome Frink, a 6-6 freshman forward, and junior college guards Malik Smith and Tymell Murphy should find roles immediately. FIU always seems to have the talent to play with any team in the Sun Belt, but the Golden Panthers have lacked the consistency to contend for a full season.

6. Florida Atlantic (11–19, 7–9)
Last season’s squad greatly underachieved, as the Sun Belt East preseason favorite started slowly, lost its final five games and never made a push in the league race. And the offseason has been tumultuous, with the early departures of standout point guard Raymond Taylor (pro ball) and post player Kore White (South Florida) among others. The honeymoon of coach Mike Jarvis is over, and now he must rebuild earlier than planned.

1. North Texas (18–14, 9–7)
New coach Tony Benford, a former Marquette assistant, inherits a team led by 6-8 sophomore forward Tony Mitchell, who is projected to be an NBA Lottery pick next year. Mitchell was the only freshman in the nation to average a double-double last season (14.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg), and he returns as the league’s undisputed star. Plus, the top seven players are back, including guards Chris Jones (14.1 ppg), Jordan Williams (10.9 ppg) and Alzee Williams (10.5 ppg). The Mean Green narrowly lost in the Sun Belt Tournament title game last season, and they will be a prime contenders to return this season.

2. Arkansas State (14–20, 6–10)
Coach John Brady’s squad took its lumps last season, but the Red Wolves could be the sleeper in this year’s Sun Belt race. Four starters return, paced by seniors Marcus Hooten, Trey Finn and Brandon Peterson. Despite a knee injury, Finn averaged 11.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game and shot 46 percent from 3-point range last season. Now at full strength, Finn will help lead a veteran lineup. Houston transfer Kendrick Washington, a 6-7 forward, will add another weapon.

3. Arkansas-Little Rock (15–16, 12–4)
UALR won the West Division title last season, but only two starters return for a team with no scholarship seniors. Will Neighbour, a 6-10 smooth shooting forward, is a key returnee after an all-conference season, but the Trojans need another dynamic scorer. Coach Steve Shields always puts together a scrappy team that is tough on defense, but a rebuilding year looks to be ahead.

4. Louisiana-Lafayette (16–16, 10–6)
An offseason of mass exodus puts the Ragin’ Cajuns in an uncertain position. The departures included four graduating seniors (top scorer Josh Brown among them) and five notable players transferring. That leaves coach Bob Marlin, who has only three of his top 12 scorers back, searching for role players to step forward and newcomers to make an instant impact. Sophomore point guard Elfrid Payton has upside, while Mississippi State transfer Sean Long and Tulane transfer Kevin Brown could provide a boost. This team, however, has a lot of issues.

5. Louisiana-Monroe (3–26, 2–14)
The Warhawks were winless at home and ineligible for the Sun Belt Tournament due to NCAA sanctions last season. It will again be an uphill climb for Keith Richard’s team, which has no seniors. Charles Winborne, a 6-1 junior guard, will be the centerpiece after averaging 11.2 points last season. He is the lone full-time returning starter.


More previews for the 2012-13 season can be found in the Athlon Sports College Basketball annual available in the online store

Athlon Conference Previews and Power Rankings
14. MAC
15. Horizon

Athlon College Basketball Countdown:
1. Indiana
2. Louisville

3. Kentucky
4. Kansas
5. Syracuse
6. Michigan
7. Arizona
8. Ohio State
9. Duke
10. Michigan State
11. NC State
12. UCLA
13. UNLV
14. North Carolina
15. San Diego State
16. Missouri
17. Baylor
18. Memphis
19. Notre Dame

20. Florida

More from the 2012-13 College Basketball Preview:
Top 10 Freshmen for 2012-13

Impact Transfers for 2012-13
Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2012-13
10 Players Returning from Injury

Gonzaga leads International Dream Team

<p> 2012-13 College Basketball Countdown: Sun Belt Preview</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - 06:14
Path: /college-football/should-jeff-tedford-return-california-2013

Jeff Tedford is the winningest coach (overall victories) in California football history. However, the program has been in a backslide over the last few seasons, going 5-7 in 2010 and 7-6 in 2011. The Golden Bears have played a difficult schedule in 2012 but another losing season won't sit well in Berkeley. 

Should Jeff Tedford Return to California in 2013?

Kyle Kensing (@Kensing45),
Jeff Tedford is the winningest coach in Cal history, with just a single losing campaign in his tenure. He’s also the highest paid state employee in an economically turbulent California, and last month the university christened Memorial Stadium after its controversial $321 million renovation. Losing that first game in the revamped facility cast an ominous shadow. Cal made Rose Bowl-quality investments for Sun Bowl-level returns.

At 3-5 and with Oregon and Oregon State still to come, Tedford may be a lame duck. But consider this: he’s won 82 games in his 10½ seasons as Cal’s head coach, the same amount the five head coaches prior to him from 1983 through 2001 compiled. Aside from Bruce Snyder and Pappy Waldorf, he’s the only post-War era Golden Bear coach to reach multiple bowl games. Unlike Snyder, Tedford never bolted for green pastures elsewhere in the Pac; unlike Waldorf, Tedford won a postseason game. So the $6.9 million (amount Cal would owe Tedford should it cut ties with him) question is, who can the university brass attract that will be more successful?

David Fox (@DavidFox615): 
The expectations are higher at Cal than they’ve ever been. But the reason they’re higher is because Tedford has raised them over the past decade. That's quite the conundrum.  But look at it this way: If Tedford left when he was in high demand after the 2006 season, and his replacement went 41-33 overall and 22-27 in conference as Cal has the last six seasons, the replacement probably wouldn’t coach an extra year. Cal was ranked as high as No. 2 in 2007 but hasn’t made an appearance in the polls since 2009. The administration, despite its own struggles with cash, has followed through with facility upgrades, but the Bears are headed to their third consecutive losing season within conference play. Meanwhile, the majority of the Pac-12 seems to be on the upswing. Cal’s going to be hard-pressed to keep up, but right now, its coach is just treading water.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall):
Jeff Tedford’s tenure at Cal is developing into one of the most complex and intriguing in the nation. He has coached more games than any head coach in Cal history (127), he has won more games than any coach in Cal history (79),, has had one losing season in a decade on the job and earned the school’s first conference championship (2006) since 1975. Additionally, he has accounted for eight of the program’s 21 bowl appearances and five of the program’s 10 bowl wins. And the NFL is littered with elite Tedford superstars — Aaron Rodgers, Marshawn Lynch, Desmond Bishop, DeSean Jackson, Thomas DeCoud and Alex Mack to name a few.
Yet, the program has gotten stale while the rest of the Pac-12 has seemingly improved across the board. His record is 15-17 over the last two-and-a-half seasons and hasn’t had a 10-win season since the league co-championship in 2006. Cal still has to face both Oregon schools, Utah and Washington. A 2-2 mark the rest of the way in 2012 means his second losing season in three years and a parting of the ways in Berkeley. 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): 
How quickly things can change. Jeff Tedford was previously one of the hottest coaching candidates in college football and now heads into the final games of 2012 fighting for his job. After going 25-13 in his first three seasons at California, Tedford appeared poised to move up the coaching ladder. However, his last three full years have resulted in a 20-18 record, and the Golden Bears are off to a disappointing 3-5 start. Although Tedford has an 82-53 overall record during his tenure at California, it’s probably time for a coaching change in Berkeley. The Golden Bears seemed to have peaked and have been passed in the Pac-12 pecking order by Stanford, and Washington is capable of closing the gap with Steve Sarkisian as head coach. There’s not a ton of candidates that make sense for California, but this program could use an infusion of energy. Tedford can win a lot of games at another school, but sometimes a coaching tenure runs its course and it’s time for a change. Barring a four-game winning streak to end the season, I think California will have a new head coach going into 2013. 

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): 
I think it’s time for a change. Tedford has no doubt done a tremendous job in Berkeley, but things have gotten a bit stale. The Golden Bears, 3–5 overall in 2012, have now lost at least five games in five of the past six seasons. Tedford built Cal into an upper-echelon Pac-12 program in the mid-2000s, but the Bears have slipped down a few notches on the league’s food chain in recent years. It hasn’t helped that Cal’s chief rival, Stanford, won 12 games in 2010 and 11 games last fall. I don’t know if it’s realistic to expect Cal to contend for the Pac-12 title on an annual basis, but the program should be more relevant, both in the league and nationally. I’d be reluctant to call this a firing — it doesn’t feel right to fire a guy who is 82–53 overall and 50–41 in league play. It just seems like the time is right for a mutual parting of ways.

Mark Ross: 
It's still possible for Tedford to get his team to a bowl game, but it won't be easy. The Golden Bears have four Pac-12 games left, and while the first two (at Utah, home against Washington) appear winnable, ending the regular season with games against the two Oregon schools will be a tough challenge. If Tedford can somehow find a way to lead his team to a 3-1 finish, it will secure a ninth bowl bid in his 11 years at the helm in Berkeley. With that type of sustained success, if you will, I think it would be hard for the powers that be to not bring him back for at least one more season. However, should the Bears finish 2-2 or worse and miss out on the postseason, then the timing could be right for a change of direction and leadership for the Golden Bears program.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): 
It’s difficult for Cal fans to see a solid era of Golden Bears football fading, but that is the case in Tedford’s 11th season. We all know how the veteran coach rescued a depressed program under Tom Holmoe and went 43-20 during his first five years. The momentum has shifted in Strawberry Canyon, however, as Cal has gone 36-28 over the last five seasons including a missing bowl game in 2010. That declining record precedes a 3-5 start to this season, one where the Bears are in jeopardy of missing another postseason. Tedford is a solid football mind, but his program has regressed recently. Losing top recruiter Tosh Lupoi — someone who defines Cal football — in a lateral move to Washington this offseason was an ominous sign of where the program is headed, and losing to Stanford three years in a row and four out of the last six seasons doesn’t help either. It may be time for a fresh voice at Cal, but it is difficult to see anyone having the impact that Tedford has had on the Golden Bears program.

Related College Football Content

College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat After Week 8
Post-Week 8 Bowl Projections

Pac-12 Post-Week 8 Power Rankings

Post-Week 8 Heisman Contenders

<p> Should Jeff Tedford Return to California in 2013?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - 06:05
Path: /college-football/north-carolina-duke-virginia-tech-or-miami-who-wins-coastal-division

After eight weeks of the 2012 college football season, there is very little clarity in the battle to win the ACC Coastal. North Carolina is ineligible to play in the postseason but can finish No. 1 in the standings. Duke currently ranks at the top, but Virginia Tech and Miami aren't far behind.

Which Team Will Win the ACC Coastal Division?

Ryan Tice (@RyanTice),
Call me crazy, but I’m picking Miami in the Coastal Division, which is kind of funny because during our last ACC Roundtable, I think I was in the minority when declaring the Hurricanes an ACC contender. I expect I’ll be in the minority once again.

6-2 Duke, who is 3-1 so far against conference foes, has the hardest part of their schedule coming up, and I don’t think they can keep the pace that they have set so far. The Blue Devils will have their work cut out for them just to get another win, although you can never say never in the ACC in 2012.

North Carolina is obviously not eligible for the postseason or the Coastal Division title, so once you rule them out, it really comes down to Miami or Virginia Tech. I think it’s smart to say that wins next weekend’s matchup between the two will find themselves in Charlotte. Miami’s defense can’t stop anybody, but I think their offense finds a way to score more than the Hokies in Coral Gables. This isn’t the typical Virginia Tech defense we’re used to seeing.

Miami is clearly not a top-tier team in the country — their recent three game losing streak proves that — but a team doesn’t need to be to win the Coastal Division. If the Hokies find a way to pull out a win on the road this weekend, expect to see Frank Beamer’s squad in Charlotte for the sixth time since the birth of the Championship game in 2005. I suspect Tech will be the popular pick, but if there’s one thing that this ACC season has taught all of us, it is to expect the unexpected, and that’s why I’m picking Al Golden’s Hurricanes to win the Coastal.

David Fox (@DavidFox615): 
Duke sure is tempting. The Blue Devils are the flavor of the moment after digging deep to beat North Carolina, but the toughest game are ahead with Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Miami. Perhaps if Duke played a little closer in its losses (50-13 to Stanford, 41-20 to Virginia Tech), I’d be more enthusiastic. Miami has lost three in a row, but the Hurricanes may find a way to sneak into the title game. Quarterback Stephen Morris got hurt in a four-point loss to North Carolina and returned for a surprise start against Florida State, a game that was much closer than expected. Miami’s defense is still struggling, but the Hurricanes don’t play any teams (Virginia Tech, Virginia and Duke) who run the ball particularly well. And by the the time Duke faces Miami in the finale, the Blue Devils may already be out of the race.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall):
Duke Polytechnic Institute of Florida? Can I take a three-way tie between Duke, Virginia Tech and Miami? Georgia Tech is still in the mix but would have to win out and then get some help. Duke doesn’t own any key tiebreakers yet as it lost to the Hokies and has a nasty four-game end to the season (at Florida State, Clemson, at Georgia Tech, Miami). Therefore, I think it comes down to Miami or Virginia Tech. The Hokies, who already own tiebreakers over Duke and Georgia Tech, will finish the year with two wins (at Boston College and Virginia at home) and should finish no worse than 4-4. Miami, who has lost three straight games, finishes with two road trips to Virginia and Duke. So it all comes down to Thursday, Nov. 1 when Virginia Tech visits Miami. If the Hokies win at Miami, both will likely finish 5-3 and Frank Beamer will have his sixth Coastal Division title in eight seasons.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): 
After nine weeks, there’s really no clarity in the race to win the Coastal Division. Surprisingly, Duke sits atop the division with a 3-1 record, but the Blue Devils still have games against Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Miami remaining. North Carolina, Miami and Virginia Tech each have two losses in ACC play and there are plenty of landmines on the schedule for all three teams. The Tar Heels are ineligible to win the ACC crown but could finish with a 5-3 record and own victories over Miami and Virginia Tech to claim the Coastal Division crown. With North Carolina unable to play for the title, the race to represent the Coastal in the title game is likely between Miami and Virginia Tech, who meet on Nov. 1 in Sun Life Stadium. Although the Blue Devils could certainly get into the mix, the winner of the Miami-Virginia Tech game should decide who plays the Atlantic champ. The Hokies have been inconsistent this year, but I think their defense steps up, while the offense does just enough to finish 5-3 in conference play and win the division. 

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): 
Five wins will be enough to win the division — maybe even four. At this point, I’d give the slight edge to Miami. Duke and Miami both have three wins, but Duke’s closing schedule (at FSU, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Miami) is more difficult. Miami has this week off before hosting Virginia Tech next Thursday in a huge game for both teams. After playing Tech, the Canes have two more league games — at Virginia and at Duke. Virginia Tech can play its way back in to the mix with a win at Miami, but the Hokies still have to play Florida State. One thing to note: Virginia Tech has a win over Duke, so the Hokies have the edge in a two-team tiebreaker. This is a mess.

Mark Ross:
As great a story as Duke has been this season, I see the Blue Devils losing at least two of their remaining four ACC games, if not more. One thing's for sure, we will certainly find out how good David Cutcliffe's team is as the Blue Devils will face Florida State and Clemson the next two Saturdays. So if I have Duke with at least three conference losses, who does that leave atop the Coastal? I think it comes down to Miami and Virginia Tech, with the winner most likely decided when these two get together next Thursday night in south Florida. The Hurricanes have two conference losses already, but end their regular season in Durham. The Hokies also have two ACC losses, but hold the tiebreaker over Duke by virtue of their 41-20 victory two weeks ago, and can do the same to the Hurricanes by beating them on the road next week. As bad as the Hokies have looked, I think they will use the bye this week to straighten some things out and will find a way to finish their conference slate 3-1, which is good enough to get them back to Charlotte for their third straight ACC Championship Game berth. 

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): 
I am going to take North Carolina to beat NC State for the first time since 2006 this weekend, a victory that will propel the Tar Heels to the division’s best record — even though there will be no trip Charlotte in December. UNC may seem like an unusual choice after losing to Duke and Wake Forest this season, but I believe the excellent offense and favorable November schedule of Larry Fedora’s club will leave UNC atop the divisional standings. The Blue Devils lead the Coastal currently, but still have to play conference top dogs Florida State and Clemson. And despite UNC’s earlier defeats, the Tar Heels do have victories over Virginia Tech and Miami in the race for the Coastal’s best record. As far as who makes it to the league title game, I see it coming down to the winner of the Miami-Virginia Tech battle on Thursday November 1 with the Hokies prevailing.

Related College Football Content

College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat After Week 8
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Post-Week 8 Heisman Contenders

<p> North Carolina, Duke, Virginia Tech or Miami: Who Wins the Coastal Division?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/2012-heisman-trophy-contenders-post-week-8

Each week, the Athlon editors and others who closely follow college football vote on the most prestigious award in the sport. A 13-man conglomerate of college football gurus from Athlon Sports and other publications cast their votes for their top Heisman Trophy candidates. The votes will be tallied and the results will be posted as the Athlon Sports Heisman Watch List every week of the regular season.

Voting: Each first-place vote receives 10 points. A second-place vote receives nine points. So on and so forth with a 10th-place vote receiving one point. Here are Athlon's guest voters:

Barrett Sallee: Bleacher Report SEC Lead Writer (@BarrettSallee)
Jim Young: (@ACCSports)
Blair Kerkhoff: Kansas City Star (@BlairKerkhoff)
Chris Level: (@ChrisLevel)

1. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State (12 first place votes)
Season Stats:
 98-139, 1,397 yards, 10 TD, 2 INT, 110 att., 551 yards, 14 TD
There is CK7 and then there is everybody else. Klein vaulted to the top of most Heisman ballots with another otherworldly performance on the road against a Big 12 favorite. He posted his first 300-yard passing effort (323 yards) and totaled seven touchdowns (3 pass, 4 rush). He is leading the Big 12 and is second nationally in passing efficiency (175.79) while ranking No. 2 in rushing in the league (94.0 ypg). He also leads the Big 12 in scoring (12.0 ppg). Next Game: Texas Tech

  Last Name Pos. Team Tot. Pts 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Ballots
1. (3) Collin Klein QB Kansas St 129/130 12 1 - - - 13/13
2. (2) Braxton Miller QB Ohio St 91/130 - 3 5 2 2 13/13
3. (4) Manti Te'o LB Notre Dame 90/130 1 2 1 3 3 13/13
4. (1) Geno Smith QB W. Virginia 87/130 - 2 3 1 2 13/13
5. (8) Kenjon Barner RB Oregon 75/130 - 2 2 3 - 13/13
6. (9) A.J. McCarron QB Alabama 64/130 - 3 - 1 1 12/13
7. (6) Matt Barkley QB USC 57/130 - - 2 1 2 12/13
8. (24) Seth Doege QB Texas Tech 24/130 - - - - 2 5/13
9. (10) Barrett Jones OL Alabama 20/130 - - - 2 - 4/13
10. (5) Johnny Manziel QB Texas A&M 20/130 - - - - - 9/13
11. (19) Montee Ball RB Wisconsin 8/130 - - - - - 3/13
12t. (17) Giovani Bernard RB North Carolina 7/130 - - - - - 2/13
12t. (13) DeAndre Hopkins WR Clemson 7/130 - - - - - 3/13
14. (7) De'Anthony Thomas AP Oregon 6/130 - - - - 1 1/13
15. (21) Jadeveon Clowney DE S. Carolina 5/130 - - - - - 1/13
16. (15) Denard Robinson QB Michigan 4/130 - - - - - 1/13
17t. (ur) Stepfan Taylor RB Stanford 3/130 - - - - - 1/13
17t. (26) Aaron Murray QB Georgia 3/130 - - - - - 2/13
17t. (14) E.J. Manuel QB Florida St 3/130 - - - - - 2/13
17t. (ur) Damontre Moore DE Texas A&M 3/130 - - - - - 1/13
21. (22) Nick Florence QB Baylor 2/130 - - - - - 1/13
22t. (ur) Jordan Lynch QB N. Illinois 1/130 - - - - - 1/13
22t. (ur) Teddy Bridgewater QB Louisville 1/130 - - - - - 1/13
22t. (ur) Taylor Martinez QB Nebraska 1/130 - - - - - 1/13
22t. (ur) Kevin Minter LB LSU 1/130 - - - - - 1/13

2. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Season Stats: 
105-179, 1,384 yards, 11 TD, 5 INT, 141 att., 959 yards, 10 TD
Miller had 160 total yards of offense midway through the third quarter when he broke off a long run down the right sideline. He was thrown to the ground violently and at an awkward angle, sending him to the hospital for the remainder of the game. The Buckeyes were able to win the game and stay unbeaten and Miller cleared all initial medical tests. Everyone is saying the right things in Columbus, but Miller's long-term future has to be considered when Urban Meyer decides who will start in Happy Valley. He is a tough customer but with nothing to really play for this fall, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Miller either on the sidelines or not running as much. Either way, his Heisman candidacy takes a big hit. Next Game: at Penn State

3. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame (1 first place vote)
Season Stats: 69 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 4 INT, FR, 3 PBU
BYU scored two offensive touchdowns, the first allowed by Notre Dame since Week 2 against Purdue. But it was Te'o's 10 total tackles and key interception that kept the Irish unbeaten. Helped by a stellar defensive front, ND still has yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season.  Next Game: at Oklahoma

4. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Season Stats: 
216-291, 2,414 yards, 26 TD, 2 INT, 35 att., 56 yards, TD
His interception streak ended this weekend with two picks against Kansas State in the Mountaineers' second-straight blowout Big 12 loss. The 143 yards passing were his lowest total since Nov. 20, 2010 and he will have to be play special football from here on out to make it to New York. Any help from his defense would be nice as well. Next game: TCU

5. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
Season Stats: 116 att., 727 yards, 9 TD, 11 rec., 111 yards, TD
The senior tailback has flipped a switch over the last month, rushing for 153.3 yards per game over his last three and scoring seven total touchdowns. He posted 143 yards and three scores in the convincing, statement road win on Thursday night over Arizona State. Look for the Ducks running back to pad his stats once again this weekend against the Buffs.
Next Game: Colorado

6. A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
Season Stats: 106-154, 1,476 yards, 16 TD, 0 INT, 26 att., minus-45 yards
Next Game: Mississippi State

7. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Season Stats: 140-213, 1,773 yards, 22 TD, 6 INT, 17 att., minus-60 yards
Next game: at Arizona

8. Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech
Season Stats: 
189-267, 2,209 yards, 28 TD, 7 INT, 20 att., minus-19 yards
Next Game: at Kansas State

9. Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama
Season Stats: 217.2 rush yards per game, 423.0 total yards per game, 40.5 points per game
Next Game: at Tennessee

10. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Season Stats: 157-246, 1,956 yards, 14 TD, 6 INT, 108 att., 703 yards, 10 TD
Next Week: at Auburn

by Braden Gall


Related College Football Content

Three and Out: Week 8 Recap

ACC Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
Big East Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
Big 12 Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
Pac-12 East Post-Week 8 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 8 Power Rankings 

<p> 2012 Heisman Trophy Contenders: Post-Week 8</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /fantasy/don%E2%80%99t-start-dwayne-bowe-brian-hartline-trent-richardson-dallas-defense-week-8

Fewer teams are on bye in Week 8 than last, meaning the player pool is deeper for this week. That still doesn’t mean there aren’t those who should probably be left on your bench this week. Here are a few names I am not that crazy about in Week 8.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City vs. Oakland
As bad as Matt Cassel has been this season, there’s no guarantee new starter Brady Quinn will fare any better. Quinn threw for just 180 yards and two interceptions in his first start in Week 6 against Tampa Bay, but he will get another shot this Sunday at home against Oakland. Coming off of the bye week, the Chiefs decided to stick with Quinn rather than going back to Cassel. As of right now, the safest fantasy bet in KC is probably Jamaal Charles. After that it’s play-at-your-own-risk when it comes to the Chiefs and that includes Bowe, their No. 1 wide receiver. Bowe’s numbers weren’t spectacular with Cassel under center, but two weeks ago with Quinn pulling the trigger he had just three catches (on nine targets) for only 25 yards. Prior to that game, Bowe was averaging 13.6 yards per reception. Bowe is more of a vertical threat than a possession-type of receiver, and Quinn’s 4.7 ypc average, which is what he produced against Tampa Bay, does not bode well for the wideout’s fantasy outlook.

Brian Hartline, WR, Miami at New York Jets
It was only about a month ago when Hartline was one of football’s best early surprises after his 12-catch, 253-yard performance against Arizona. In his two games since, he’s caught a total of four passes and all of those came in Week 5 against Cincinnati. Whether it’s defenses paying more attention to him or the ups and downs that come with relying on a rookie quarterback (Ryan Tannehill), Hartline’s production has plummeted. He didn’t catch a single pass in Miami’s last game against St. Louis, and this week faces a Jets’ defense that’s allowing the fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. This includes a Week 3 game against the Jets in which Hartline had one catch for 41 yards. Darrelle Revis may not be playing, but the Jets’ secondary hasn’t missed a beat, which is why it may be in your team's best interests to see that Hartline "misses" this Sunday's game.

Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland vs. San Diego
On paper, the conditions seemed right for Richardson to have his first breakout game as a rookie last week against Indianapolis. Or at least that’s what I thought. After all, he was getting his shot at a Colts’ defense that had been gashed by the Jets, particularly Shonn Greene, the week prior. Instead of a breakout, however, what everyone saw was pretty much a breakdown, as Richardson’s rib injury was worse than he let on and he was held to a measly eight yards rushing on as many carries. It got so bad that Richardson ended up getting benched for the second half as Montario Hardesty (7 att., 28 yds.) took over and finished the game. The coaching staff is concerned about Richardson’s ribs, so there’s a chance he may not even see the field this Sunday. Plus considering San Diego is allowing the fewest rushing yards per game in the league, this is shaping up to be a good week to leave the rookie on your bench.

Dallas, DST, vs. New York Giants
The Cowboys are fourth overall in total defense, third in pass defense, 15th against the run, and 14th in points allowed. Statistically, there are no glaring weaknesses on this defense. Unfortunately, Dallas’ on-field performance has not translated into fantasy success. The Cowboys’ DST is currently tied for 26th in fantasy scoring, behind the likes of Tennessee and Buffalo, who are currently 30th and 31st in total defense. Why is this? It’s mainly because the Cowboys have only generated 12 sacks, six turnovers (2 INTs, 4 fumble recoveries), and have yet to score a defensive or special teams touchdown. In some leagues, yards allowed and three and outs and other categories count too, but in standard leagues a DST’s value really comes down to sacks, turnovers and touchdowns. As good as the Cowboys’ defense has played on the field, the unit simply isn’t scoring enough to merit fantasy consideration right now.

Week 8 Positional Rankings

Week 8 Waiver Wire

— By Mark Ross, published on Oct. 25, 2012

<p> Don’t Start Dwayne Bowe, Brian Hartline, Trent Richardson, Dallas Defense in Week 8</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - 05:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-using-vegas-odds-determine-best-week-9-plays

In the world of fantasy football, some team owners are relentless in their search for information that will give them a competitive edge over their competition.  Others just simply rely on projections from so-called experts, who try to convince everyone they have devised a computer program that accurately projects player stats by using a scientific formula so complicated that it makes the Drake equation seem elementary.  Eventually, those computer-driven computations prove no more accurate than an old-fashioned gut feeling.  However, in a quest to find a formula for fantasy success, one should just ask the question, “What are the odds?”

Quite simply, Vegas odds could give you all of the necessary insight to make smart roster decisions on a week-to-week basis.  In this weekly article, theCFFsite considers the point spreads and totals(over/under) in order to give our readers a unique perspective into some of the week’s most interesting fantasy matchups.

Week 9

Best Fantasy Matchups(Games with the most fantasy potential)

Baylor at Iowa St

Line:  Iowa St -2.5(O/U-71)

Projected score based on point spread:  Iowa St 37-34

Best plays:

Baylor (QB-Nick Florence, WR-Terrance Williams)

Iowa St (WR-Aaron Horne)

Also consider:

Baylor (RB-Jared Salubi, WRs-Tevin Reese, Lanear Sampson)

Iowa St (QB-Jared Barnett, RB-Shontrelle Johnson)

theCFFsite projects:  Baylor 35-28


Nevada at Air Force

Line:  Nevada -3(O/U-65.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Nevada 34-31

Best plays:

Air Force (QB-Connor Dietz, RB-Wes Cobb)

Nevada (QB-Cody Fajardo, RB-Stefphon Jefferson, TE-Zach Sudfield)

Also consider:

Air Force (WR-Ty MacArthur)

Nevada (WRs-Brandon Wimberly, Richy Turner)

theCFFsite projects:  Nevada 31-30


Central Florida at Marshall

Line:  UCF -2.5(O/U-68.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  UCF 36-33

Best plays:

Central Florida (QB-Blake Bortles, RB-Latavius Murray)

Marshall (QB-Rakeem Cato, WRs-Tommy Shuler, Antavious Wilson, TE-Gator Hoskins)

Also consider:

Central Florida (RB-Storm Johnson, WR-JJ Worton)

Marshall (RB-KevinGrooms, WR-Aaron Dobson)

theCFFsite projects:  UCF 35-31


USC at Arizona

Line:  USC -6.5(O/U-65.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  USC 36-30

Best plays:

USC (QB-Matt Barkley, RB-Silas Redd, WRs-Marqise Lee, Robert Woods)

Arizona (QB-Matt Scott, RB-KaDeem Carey, WR-Austin Hill)

Also consider:

USC (TE-Xavier Grimble, K-Andre Heidari)

Arizona (WR-Dan Buckner)

theCFFsite projects:  USC 38-28


One-Sided Matchups(Using the odds to find a dominating ‘D’)

Utah St at Texas-San Antonio

Line:  Utah St -22(O/U-50.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Utah St 36-14

Stay away from:

UTSA (RB-Evans Okotcha)

theCFFsite projects:  Utah St 34-10


Memphis at SMU

Line:  SMU -20.5(O/U-48.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  SMU 35-14

Stay away from:

Memphis (RB-Jai Steib)

theCFFsite projects:  SMU 42-21


Washington St at Stanford

Line:  Stanford -23.5(O/U-51)

Projected score based on point spread:  Stanford 37-13

Stay away from:

Washington St (QBs-Connor Halliday, Jeff Tuel)

theCFFsite projects:  Stanford 30-14


Colorado at Oregon

Line:  Oregon -46(O/U-68.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Oregon 58-11

Stay away from:

Colorado (RB-Tony Jones)

theCFFsite projects:  Oregon 58-3


Must Watch Games(The games with the biggest headlines)

Michigan at Nebraska

Line:  Nebraska -2.5(O/U-57.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Nebraska 30-27

Outlook:  This may not be the Nebraska and Michigan of old, but the Big Ten Legends division lead is on the line and the winner has the inside track to the conference title game.

theCFFsite projects:  Nebraska 28-21


Mississippi St at Alabama

Line:  Alabama -24(O/U-48)

Projected score based on point spread:  Alabama 43-12

Outlook:  It seems odd looking at a matchup between two 7-0 teams from the SEC playing in a game with a point spread so high, but the Bulldogs don’t have a signature win on their schedule.  Mississippi State faces a tough five-game slate to close the season and this game may reveal their true identity.

theCFFsite projects: Alabama 31-14


Florida vs Georgia

Line:  Florida -6.5(O/U-48)

Projected score based on point spread:  Florida 27-21

Outlook:  The Gators have the best resume of any team in the country and a win this week will all but assure them a spot in the SEC title game.

theCFFsite projects:  Florida 31-21


Notre Dame at Oklahoma

Line:  Oklahoma -10.5(O/U-48.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Oklahoma 30-19

Outlook:  After two consecutive physical wins at home, the Irish must win in Oklahoma to keep their perfect season dreams alive.  The Notre Dame defense will attempt to hold it together one more time as they face their biggest test of the season.

theCFFsite projects:  Oklahoma 31-14


theCFFsite in Must Watch games:

2012 Season:  Straight Up (15-11)  ATS: (11-15)

2011 Season:  Straight Up (40-9) ATS: (35-14)


by Joe DiSalvo,

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Email us:   [email protected]

<p> College Fantasy Football: Using Vegas Odds to Determine Best Week 9 Plays</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - 03:09
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /mlb/2012-world-series-position-position-breakdown

The Detroit Tigers finally found a World Series opponent and will open the 108th edition of the Fall Classic against the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday at AT&T Park.

While the Tigers were waiting, though, the Giants were fighting for their lives against the St. Louis Cardinals and on Monday staved off elimination for a sixth straight time and advanced to their second World Series in three years with a 9-0 win in Game 7.

Resiliency has been the Giants' calling card this October, as they also became the first team in NL history to rally back from an 0-2 hole and win a Division Series with a five-game win over the Cincinnati Reds.

Now, history has told us that the long layoff doesn't give any advantage and the Tigers can attest to that, as they were in a similar situation in 2006 and were defeated in five games by a Cardinals team that had just played a seven- game series.

In fact, since the LCS expanded to a seven-game format in 1985 there have been three instances where a sweeping team will be going up against a club that was forced to win in seven games and all three times the team with the additional rest was defeated.

Amazingly, these two storied franchises have never met in the World Series, despite this being the 19th trip for the Giants and the Tigers' 11th appearance. However, this is only the fifth time the Giants will be playing in this round since the team moved from New York to San Francisco.

Of course, the Giants' last trip to the World Series resulted in the franchise's first title since 1954, a five-game victory over the Texas Rangers in 2010.

Detroit will be seeking its first title since besting the San Diego Padres in 1984.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the matchups at each position:



Alex Avila regressed a bit this season after an All-Star campaign in 2011. His batting average fell more than 50 points (.245) and he hit 10 fewer homers (9 HR). His struggles have continued in the postseason, as he is just 5-for-22 with an RBI.

Buster Posey drove the Giants' offense during the regular season with a league-best .334 average, but has struggled here in the playoffs and is coming off an NLCS in which he hit just .154 with only one RBI.




Prince Fielder enjoyed his first year in Motown by hitting .313 with 30 home runs and 108 RBI. However, he's only hit .211 in the postseason and has just one home run and three RBI to his credit.

Brandon Belt offers nowhere near the production of Fielder, but he's a much better defender and is better on the bases than his counterpart. Still, he hit .304 in the NLCS and homered in the Game 7 clincher.




Omar Infante was acquired midseason from Miami to help address a need at second base that has plagued the team the past couple of seasons. He's not a superstar, but has played real well in the playoffs, batting .274 primarily out of the nine hole.

Marco Scutaro may be the hottest hitter entering this series, and is coming off an NLCS that saw him bat .500 (14-for-28) with six runs scored and four RBI. Scutaro has been terrific since coming over from Colorado in a midseason deal, as he is hitting .362 with 44 RBI in 61 games for the Giants.




With a batting average of .330 along with 44 home runs and 139 RBI, Miguel Cabrera led the American League in all three categories to become the majors' first Triple Crown winner since 1967. After a poor ALDS showing, Cabrera showed why he will be the league's MVP a month from now in the ALCS, as he went 5-for-16 with a home run and four RBI. Quite simply he's the best hitter in baseball.

San Francisco counters with a pretty good third baseman of its own in Pablo Sandoval, whose three-run triple in the All-Star Game is a big reason why the Giants will have home-field advantage for this series. Even though he hit .310 in the NLCS with a pair of home runs, this is no contest when matched up with Cabrera.




After a terrific 2011, Jhonny Peralta struggled this past season, as he saw his average drop 60 points to .239. He's been a big part of the Tigers' offense in the playoffs, though, especially against the Yankees, as he hit .388 (7-for-18), including a pair of home runs and three RBI in the clincher.

Brandon Crawford may not give you the type of production that Peralta is capable of, but there may not be a better defensive player in this series.




Detroit manager figures to use ALCS MVP Delmon Young in left for the games in San Francisco. Primarily the team's designated hitter, Young continued his postseason prowess against the Yankees, hitting .294 with two home runs and eight RBI.

When the series shifts to Detroit, Leyland will likely to go with Andy Dirks in left.

Gregor Blanco took over in left for the Giants when Melky Cabrera was suspended for steroids and was a solid replacement. However, he has only hit .211 this postseason, but four his seven hits have gone for extra bases. He's much better defensively than whoever the Tigers run out there, but won't match their offensive numbers.




Austin Jackson is already one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball, but this year he hit .300 for the first time and put up the best power numbers in his career, swatting 16 home runs with 66 RBI. He also scored 103 times. Jackson has continued to hit here in the playoffs and batted .353 in the Tigers' ALCS sweep, adding a homer in Game 4.

Angel Pagan led the National League in triples this past season, but that hasn't translated into the postseason, where he is hitting a mere .208. Defensively, he'd probably have an edge on most center fielders, but not Jackson.




Leyland will likely employ a platoon here with rookies Avisail Garcia and Quintin Berry, as well as Dirks. The three of them have combined to hit .282 with five RBI this postseason.

Hunter Pence was acquired near the trade deadline to help the Giants' woeful lineup, but has struggled mightily this postseason, batting just .188. He has become the team's inspirational leader, though, with fiery clubhouse speeches, as his "look into each other's eyes" speech has become a rallying cry for the team.




Young has become somewhat of a postseason stud for the Tigers, as his seven playoff home runs are the most in team history. He's also the first player with four game-winning RBI in one postseason.

San Francisco skipper Bruce Bochy hasn't tipped his hat as to who he will use as his DH. Aubrey Huff seems like a logical choice, but he could also opt to go with Posey and put Hector Sanchez behind the plate.




Justin Verlander, the AL's reigning MVP and Cy Young Award winner was sensational again in the regular season, but has taken his game to yet another level this October, going 3-0 with a 0.74 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings.

It hasn't been just Verlander this postseason either. The Tigers' starters as a whole have been tremendous, as righties Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer have combined with Verlander to post an amazing 1.02 ERA in nine postseason starts.

Since the Giants went seven games against the Cardinals, Bochy won't have ace Matt Cain until Game 3. He will likely go with lefty Barry Zito in Game 1, as the Giants have won in each of his last 13 trips to the hill.

Then has some decisions to make for Game 2. He could opt to go with Ryan Vogelsong on short rest and have two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum ready to go in relief, a role he has flourished in this postseason, or he could start Madison Bumgarner, who won 16 games during the regular season, but has pitched to an 11.25 ERA in his two postseason appearances.

Then again, Bochy could just go with Lincecum, who is coming off the worst season of his pro career. The Freak lost 15 games and pitched to a 5.18 ERA and was hit hard in his only start this postseason. But, in 8 1/3 innings of relief he has surrendered just one run.




Leyland does have some concerns, specifically a bullpen that has seemingly removed Jose Valverde from the closer's role. After Valverde blew big leads against both Oakland and then New York in Game 1, Leyland opted to go with a closer by committee, but lefty Phil Coke seemed to be his go-to-guy against the Yankees.

Leyland hasn't stated if Coke will be used as his closer against the Giants, but he hasn't allowed a run in 7 1/3 innings this postseason and saved two games in the ALCS. Fellow bullpen mates Octavio Dotel, Drew Smyly and Al Alburquerque have also yet to allow a run in these playoffs

The Giants' bullpen suffered a big blow when animated closer Brian Wilson was done for the season with a right elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. But, their relief corps - specifically, Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo - have been lights out in the playoffs and have combined for a 2.63 ERA in 41 innings, with a 2-0 record.




Leyland already has a World Series title to his credit with the 1997 Marlins and is one of the best managers this game has ever seen with 1,676 wins over 21 seasons.

Bochy, meanwhile, has been manager of the Giants since the 2006 season and, like Leyland, is one of only a few active managers with at least 1,000 wins. Before leading the Giants to a World Series title in 2010, he had guided the San Diego Padres to the postseason four times.


<p> The Detroit Tigers finally found a World Series opponent and will open the 108th edition of the Fall Classic against the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday at AT&amp;T Park.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - 23:00
Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-picks-every-game-week-8

NFL Week 8 previews and predictions for every game on the schedule:

Buccaneers (2-4) at Vikings (5-2)
This thrilling matchup was once an NFC Central “black and blue” division rivalry. This season, it’s the reason ratings will be up for Game 2 of the World Series between the Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants.
Vikings by 5

Dolphins (3-3) at Jets (3-4)
The Fins and the J-E-T-S go toe-to-toe for the second time in six weeks. New York took down Miami 23–20 in overtime in Week 3. That game was a battle of attrition — with both Reggie Bush and Darrelle Revis leaving the game with knee injuries — and kickers, as Dan Carpenter missed a potential game-winner but Nick Folk split the uprights for a Jets victory.
Jets by 4

Chargers (3-3) at Browns (1-6)
The NFL should allow both the Bolts and Browns to use Stickum adhesive tape. These teams need all the help they can get.
Chargers by 6

Colts (3-3) at Titans (3-4)
After many years of welcoming home state hero Peyton Manning to Nashville, the Titans will face their new No. 1 pick nemesis, Indy rookie face of the franchise Andrew Luck.
Titans by 4

Jaguars (1-5) at Packers (4-3)
The Jags stagger into Green Bay as easily the biggest underdog of the week. There will be plenty of Lambeau Leap-ing by the Packers.
Packers by 14

Falcons (6-0) at Eagles (3-3)
The Michael Vick Bowl pits the dual-threat lefty signal-caller against his former team. Atlanta drafted Vick No. 1 overall in 2001 and he played for the Falcons until being convicted of felony charges in August 2007 for his involvement in a dog fighting ring. Vick’s roller coaster career was on the upswing after being signed by the Eagles in 2009 and given a $100 million deal in 2011. But 13 turnovers and only nine total TDs after six games have put Vick’s job in jeopardy.
Falcons by 2

Redskins (3-4) at Steelers (3-3)
Rookie quarterbacks have a 1–14 record against Pittsburgh defensive guru Dick LeBeau since the 75-year-old took over in 2004. The only win was a worthless Week 17 giveaway to Baltimore’s Troy Smith in 2007. Clearly, RG3 does not have a “rookie mindset” or the skillset of a first-year QB. Griffin III has 13 total TDs, five turnovers, a 101.8 passer rating and an NFL-best 70.4 completion percentage through his first seven games as a pro. LeBeau may be 53 years older than the 22-year-old RG3, but the old dog better be ready for new tricks.
Steelers by 1

Seahawks (4-3) at Lions (2-4)
The Hawks will have had 10 days to rest up from their Thursday night loss, while the Lions have a short week after a Monday night defeat.
Lions by 1

Panthers (1-5) at Bears (5-1)
Former Bears linebacker and defensive coordinator Ron Rivera is 9–29 since taking over the top spot with the Panthers. A homecoming win would go a long way for the top Cat.
Bears by 8

Raiders (2-4) at Chiefs (1-5)
The Silver-and-Black have not lost a game at Arrowhead Stadium since 2006. The five-game winning streak for the road Raiders is the longest in the series’ history at the venue.
Raiders by 1

Giants (5-2) at Cowboys (3-3)
Jerry Jones’ $1 billion “Palace in Dallas” has given New York royal treatment. The Giants earned the first-ever win at Cowboys Stadium and are a perfect 3–0 at the Boys’ new pad. Eli Manning, in particular, really likes being on the 159-by-71-foot big screen HDTV. The two-time Super Bowl MVP has passed for 1,036 yards and eight TDs in three games, along with a memorable (and comical) autograph on the visiting locker room wall after a game-winning drive in his stadium debut.
Giants by 2

Patriots (4-3) vs. Rams (3-4)
Tom Brady has come a long way since being the then-youngest quarterback in history to win a Super Bowl. Since knocking off Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and the “Greatest Show on Turf” Rams as a 24-year-old former backup to Drew Bledsoe, Tom Terrific has gone on to win two more rings, break a few records, sign a couple multi-million dollar contracts and marry the world’s highest-paid supermodel. This week, he’ll be playing at London’s Wembley Stadium.
Patriots by 8

Saints (2-4) at Broncos (3-3)
Drew Brees and Peyton Manning meet under the lights on Sunday night in a Super Bowl XLIV rematch of sorts. Broncos corner Tracy Porter — who made a Big Game-changing pick-six of Manning — will face his old Saints squad.
Broncos by 4

49ers (5-2) at Cardinals (4-3)
NFC West supremacy is on the line on Monday night. If the Cards are to be taken seriously, they have to defend their turf vs. the Niners.
49ers by 7

Last week: 13–0 // Season: 67–37

<p> 2012 NFL Picks, Every Game: Week 8, including the New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints at Denver Broncos, Washington Redskins at Pittsburgh Steelers, Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins at New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - 16:15
All taxonomy terms: Houston Texans, J.J. Watt, NFL
Path: /nfl/jj-watt-nfls-best-defensive-player

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt came out of the smokescreen — as a tight end at Central Michigan before being a walk-on (and part-time pizza delivery driver) at Wisconsin — and stepped into the spotlight as arguably best defensive player in the NFL this season.

“The first thing, you love the fanatical effort,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said during his conference call prior to a Week 5 Monday night matchup with the Texans.

“The guy plays with his hair on fire and that’s something you notice. But the size, strength, athleticism; it’s rare to find a guy with that kind of combination. … Really, it’s a guy, as a defensive coach all my life, it’s one of those rare guys that comes along once in a long time and he’s doing a tremendous job.”

The 6'5", 295-pounder with the 82.5-inch wingspan dominated Ryan’s Jets, during a 23–17 victory, just like he has owned every team the Texans have played en route to their 6–1 start this year. The second-year star has earned enormous respect while becoming a larger-than-life character over the first half of 2012.

Through seven games, Watt has 9.5 sacks and an incredible 10 pass deflections — or J.J. “Swatts,” as ESPN analyst Jon Gruden calls the batted balls. Watt’s latest tipped pass fell into the hands of Houston cornerback Johnathan Joseph, who went 52 yards for a pick-six. While Ryan jokingly suggests Watt should play for the Knicks because of his shot-blocking ability, the 3-4 end can also dish out assists that lead to easy scores.

Watt may only just now be getting the recognition he deserves, but he announced himself as a force to be reckoned with during his first two career playoff games last year — when he posted 3.5 sacks and an interception returned for a touchdown.

But now Watt’s playmaking prowess and contagious energy is permeating throughout the Texans’ defense. Houston made a statement during its 43–13 complete domination of Baltimore this past week. The stop-unit scored eight points of their own — on the Joseph pick-six and a first-quarter safety by Connor Barwin — while forcing three turnovers and recording four sacks.

“It’s a lot of fun. It’s nice when everybody’s in on the party,” said Watt, after his first game of the year without a sack. “It’s always fun when everybody’s getting sacks, everybody’s getting plays, and we’re just having fun out there as a defense together.”

After earning their first AFC South division title and winning the franchise’s first playoff game last season, Houston has Super Bowl aspirations. And 6–1 is not nearly good enough; Watt is ready for the long haul.

“We’re only seven games in,” said Watt. “I’ve got a lot bigger goals on my plate than some seven-week goal. There’s 16 weeks in a season, and I plan to use them all.”

<p> Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt has established himself as arguably the best defensive player in the NFL, with 9.5 sacks and 10 pass deflections in just seven games.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - 16:02
Path: /nascar/dale-earnhardt-jr-cleared-race

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been medically cleared to race this weekend at Martinsville Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports announced Tuesday.

Earnhardt missed the past two races after suffering a concussion Oct. 7 in a last-lap crash at Talladega Superspeedway. It was his second concussion within six weeks. He suffered a concussion in a crash during an Aug. 29 tire test at Kansas Speedway.

Earnhardt’s rehabilitation program was directed by Charlotte neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty, who also consulted with Dr. Micky Collins, director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

“Dale Jr. has done everything asked of him,” Petty said in a statement issued by Hendrick Motorsports. “He hasn’t had a headache since Oct. 12, and we have not been able to provoke any symptoms since that time. I have informed NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports that he is medically cleared for all NASCAR-related activity.”

Earnhardt sought Dr. Petty because of lingering headaches after the Talladega race.

“The one symptom that is more important than all the tests is headache, and as long as there’s any headache, the brain is not healed,” Petty said Oct. 11 during a press conference at Charlotte Motor Speedway announcing that Earnhardt would miss the next two races because of a concussion.

“We want him to have four or five days after he has no headache, and then we'll give him some sort of test like to get his pulse rate up, see if we can provoke a headache, and then if we can't, we'll let him go out and drive a lap or two and see how that goes, and if that goes well, we'll probably clear him to race.”

Earnhardt drove 123 laps in a Sprint Cup car Monday at the half-mile Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, Ga., without any issues.

Crew chief Steve Letarte wrote on Twitter after the test that Earnhardt “looked great and ran some awesome laps.”

Petty monitored the test. He cleared Earnhardt Tuesday morning after a final neuropsychological evaluation in Charlotte.

On Sunday at Kansas Speedway, car owner Rick Hendrick said that it was never a consideration to hold Earnhardt the rest of the season.

“He’s burning up to get in the car,” Hendrick said. “He wanted to run this weekend. He’s very anxious. He wants to get back. No way you’re going to hold him out unless the doctor wouldn’t clear him, but he’s good to go.”

While Earnhardt was out, Regan Smith drove his car. An engine failure left Smith with a 38th-place finish at Charlotte, but he placed seventh at Kansas last weekend.

Earnhardt is the second driver in NASCAR’s national series to suffer a concussion and miss races this season. Eric McClure suffered a concussion, along with other injuries, in a crash during the May 5 Nationwide Series race at Talladega Superspeedway. McClure, who suffered his third concussion in less than two years in that incident, sat out five races before returning.

Hendrick Motorsports’ announcement did not include a statement from Earnhardt. He’s scheduled to talk to the media Friday morning at Martinsville Speedway before practice.

<p> Dale Earnhardt Jr. will make his return to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this weekend at the Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - 14:42