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Path: /college-football/michigan-state-oregon-game-recap

Oregon has done many things since it became the leading program in the country for the hurry-up spread offense.

Saturday, though, may be one of its finest moments.

The Ducks scored 46 points against a Michigan State/Pat Narduzzi defense. Consider this: Ohio State and Stanford didn’t put up 46 points combined against the Spartans at the end of last season. No team since Alabama in a 2010 bowl game scored this much against the Spartans.

Yet, offense is so commonplace for Oregon, sometimes it seems the big takeaway for the Ducks was the defense. Either way, even though the weekend wasn’t the prettiest for the Pac-12, Oregon is right where it needs to be.

Read and React: Oregon 46, Michigan State 27

Mark Helfrich Gets Much-Needed Validation

Perhaps it never was fair to doubt Oregon simply because second-year coach Mark Helfrich is not Chip Kelly — especially after Oregon won 11 games last season. Helfrich and his staff, including first-year defensive coordinator Don Pellum, can’t be doubted anymore. Oregon took Michigan State’s best shot, falling behind by nine in the third quarter before outscoring the Spartans 28-0 in the final 19:33. In many ways, this looked like a Chip Kelly effort — close for a stretch before Oregon turned on the jets in the second half for a lopsided win. And that's the best compliment we can offer Helfrich.

Oregon Rallied on Defense
Speaking of major coaching developments, Oregon won on the strength of its defense in the second half after key adjustments from the first year coordinator Pellum. Oregon ramped up the pressure on Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook in the second half. The Spartans moved the ball 10 total yards on 12 plays on three possessions after taking a 28-17 lead — and that was before a fourth-down stop and this interception from All-America cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.

Marcus Mariota Made His Statement
Mariota almost made it look routine even if there was nothing routine about his second half against Michigan State. He went 7-of-12 for 128 yards with a pair of touchdowns and was finally able to break loose in the run game with 27 rushing yards. As Oregon plays without a full roster on offense — no Bralon Addison, no Tyler Johnstone, and only five carries for nine yards from Byron Marshall — Mariota moved the offense almost single handedly. And he did it against one of the most formidible defenses in the country.

Michigan State May Still be the Class of the Big Ten
That’s the kind of day it was for the Big Ten. A team that lost by 19 may still be the favorite in the league. Based on what we’ve seen so far, how many other Big Ten teams lead Oregon by 9 in the second half in Autzen? Certainly not Michigan, Ohio State or Wisconsin. Michigan State held Oregon’s run game in check for most of the first three quarters. Michigan State held Oregon to 3.4 yards per carry. Since 2011, only Stanford and LSU have done better. And while Michigan State’s offense couldn’t move late in the game, Connor Cook still finished 29-of-47 for 343 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Michigan State Oregon Game Recap
Post date: Saturday, September 6, 2014 - 21:26
Path: /college-football/usc-stanford-game-recap

USC’s upset of Stanford may have not been convincing enough to reset all of our expectations of the Pac-12, but it was a statement.

USC proved a week ago it can win with a dominating performance. Saturday proved the Trojans can win ugly.

Meanwhile, Stanford played an out-of-character game as the Cardinal missed scoring chance after scoring chance in a mistake-filled game from beginning to end.

Here’s what we learned from Sark’s signature win:

Read and React: USC 13, Stanford 10

USC Found a Way
Stanford spent much of the game self-destructing, but USC didn’t play a clean game, either. A week after running 105 plays against Fresno State, the Trojans were on the field for a mere 59 against Stanford. Stanford was able to keep the USC passing game in check as Cody Kessler went 15-of-23 for 135 yards with a touchdown. This wasn’t exactly a dominant effort by any means — particularly as the USC defense allowed Stanford to penetrate on every possession — but it’s tough to argue against a road win over the defending Pac-12 champion.

Still, Steve Sarkisian Gets an Early Signature Win
USC has established itself as a realistic Pac-12 South contender, and its credentials could improve even more over the next month. The Trojans visit Boston College next week and face Oregon State at home on Sept. 27. After that, USC gets the Arizona schools back to back with the Wildcats on the road. Navigate that stretch and stay healthy, and USC could play for the South against UCLA to finish this season. Considering the way the season started with the Josh Shaw fiasco, the ugly departure of Anthony Brown and a roster whittled to 57 scholarship players in Palo Alto, and Sarkisian has to be thankful to be 2-0.

Stanford Can’t Win the Pac-12 North with this Offense
Look at that drive chart for Stanford, nine trips inside the USC 40-yard line and 10 points. That’s 1.1 points per trip inside the 40, a metric considered to be more telling that red zone offense. Stanford averaged 4.1 points per trip inside the 40 last season. The Stanford offense moved the ball at will at times, but collapsed on USC’s side of the field. A team spending that much time in its opponents’ territory should have won easily, but Stanford walked away with three fumbles (two lost), two missed field goals and a loss. There were penalties, including two pre-snap penalties out of a time out, but Stanford playcalling with two punts inside the 35 didn't inspire confidence, either.


QTRBest Field PositionDrive EndedResult
1Second down, USC 21USC 32Missed FG (49 yards)
2First down, USC 17USC 29Punt
2Third down, USC 2--Touchdown
2Third down, USC 7USC 16Made FG (33 yards)
3Fourth down, USC 9USC 9Missed FG (26 yards)
3Fourth down, USC 3USC 3Failed fourth down
3First down, USC 32USC 28Fumble lost
4Third down, USC 23USC 32Punt
4Second down, USC 22USC 25Fumble lost

Andre Heidari is USC’s MVP against Stanford ... Again
USC’s kicker is a senior. That’s the good news for Stanford. The bad news for the Caridnal is that he’ll leave with two long game-winning kicks against Stanford. Heidari kicked a 47-yarder in the final 19 seconds to beat Stanford last year and topped that with a 5e-yarder Saturday. He’s the BMOC in LA.

USC-Stanford Game Recap
Post date: Saturday, September 6, 2014 - 19:46
All taxonomy terms: College Football, USC Trojans, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/usc-athletic-director-pat-haden-works-refs-during-stanford-game

A school or an athletic director communicating on behalf of a coach with league officials regarding a dispute isn’t uncommon — days after the fact.

USC athletic director Pat Haden apparently couldn’t wait. At one point in the fourth quarter, Haden spoke with officials on the sideline, shortly after head coach Steve Sarkisian was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and linebacker Hayes Pullard was ejected for targeting.

An athletic director speaking with officials during the flow of a game is highly unusual.

It’s worth noting Haden is one of 13 members of the College Football Playoff selection committee. The recrusal policy for committee members is not at play here, it seems.







USC Athletic Director Pat Haden Works Refs During Stanford Game
Post date: Saturday, September 6, 2014 - 18:39
Path: /college-football/cal-wr-kenny-lawler-makes-awesome-one-handed-td-grab-against-sacramento-state

A week after an upset win over Northwestern, California kept the momentum going with a blowout victory over Sacramento State.

Receiver Kenny Lawler added the Golden Bears’ good vibes with one of the weekend’s best catches. Lawler made a nifty one-handed grab to put California up 28-0 in the first half.


Cal WR Kenny Lawler Makes Awesome One-Handed TD Grab Against Sacramento State
Post date: Saturday, September 6, 2014 - 18:37
Path: /college-football/ameer-abdullah-rescues-nebraska-wild-play-against-mcneese-state

Ameer Abdullah saved Nebraska from embarrassment with a wild 58-yard catch for the Cornhuskers’ game-winning score in a 31-24 over McNeese State of the FCS.

Abdullah broke five tackles on a short pass from Tommy Armstrong with 1:03 to go against a McNeese team that had defeated USF and Middle Tennessee in the last two seasons.

Take a look:




The Nebraska running back had an otherwise quiet game with 54 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries as McNeese State gave Nebraska all it could handle. Nebraska never had a lead bigger than 10 points before McNeese tied the game with 4:21 to go.

Nebraska visits Fresno State next week.



Ameer Abdullah Rescues Nebraska with Wild Play against McNeese State
Post date: Saturday, September 6, 2014 - 15:40
Path: /college-football/utsa-wr-delivers-punishing-block-against-arizona

UTSA’s upset bid against Arizona came up short in Week 2. However, the Roadrunners certainly had a good showing against the Wildcats.

One of the top highlights of Week 2 came when UTSA’s Josiah Monroe demolished an Arizona player in the first half. 


UTSA WR Delivers Punishing Block Against Arizona
Post date: Saturday, September 6, 2014 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /2014-nfl-picks-against-spread-week-1

Locks of the Week
Bank on great teams outclassing good teams and terrible teams stumbling right out of the gate.

Saints (-3) at Falcons
Sean Payton’s Saints are 8–2 against Mike Smith’s Falcons, who struggle with an inferiority complex vs. NOLA.

49ers (-5) at Cowboys
There’s no D in Big D, which will be exploited by a San Fran squad that has been to three straight NFC title games.

Jets (-5) vs. Raiders
Oakland is riding a 12-game losing streak on the East Coast — 1 p.m. Eastern is 10 a.m. Pacific Time, after all.

Broncos (-7.5) vs. Colts
Peyton Manning will have his revenge, after losing 39–33 in his Indianapolis homecoming last season.

Eagles (-10) vs. Jaguars
Bet against the Jags every week until they move to London or start Blake Bortles, whichever comes first.

Straight Up Upsets
A pair of underrated road teams take on familiar foes for ready-made underdog specials.

Titans (+3) at Chiefs
New Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt had K.C.’s number last year as the Chargers OC, winning 41–38 in Week 12 and 27–24 in Week 17.

Bengals (+2) at Ravens
Granted, Cincy’s Andy Dalton has struggled with a 2–4 record, six TDs and 11 INTs against the Ravens.

Sucker Bets
Stay away from these games unless you’re a degenerate or a hometown homer who has to have action on all the action.

Buccaneers (-2.5) vs. Panthers
This could become a “Lock of the Week” if Cam Newton can’t play for the Cats.

Texans (-3) vs. Redskins
Poor RG3. His Texas homecoming could end in a head-on collision with J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.

Rams (-4) vs. Vikings
Expect both teams to run as much as possible to avoid their respective liabilities at QB.

Patriots (-4.5) at Dolphins
If only Rob Gronkowski were full-strength for fist-pumping on South Beach.

Steelers (-6.5) vs. Browns
This feels like a lock, but the mighty Steel Curtain is more like a flimsy shower curtain these days.

Bears (-7) vs. Bills
A team that plays in Toronto sometimes visits a team coached by a two-time CFL Grey Cup champ.

Monday Night Moolah
Monday night time is the right time to double up the weekend’s winnings or bounce back from the weekend’s losses.

Lions (-5.5) vs. Giants
Which No. 1 overall pick QB can throw the most INTs on national TV? Nice try, Matthew. But it’s Eli.

Chargers (+3) at Cardinals (-3)
The Bolts will bring electricity to the Monday Night Football double-header nightcap.

A betting preview of every game (against the spread) on Sunday and Monday in Week 1.
Post date: Friday, September 5, 2014 - 14:05
Path: /nfl/new-orleans-saints-vs-atlanta-falcons-game-preview-and-prediction-2014

Fresh off an appearance on HBO's “Hard Knocks,“ the Atlanta Falcons hope to deal an early blow to what many expect to be a Saints juggernaut in the NFC South. New Orleans is a near-unanimous choice to win the division, but an upset in the opener could signal a wide-open race. This traditional rivalry has yielded some classic moments, with Atlanta holding a 47–43 lead in the all-time series. In last year's opener, the Saints held off a Falcons team with Super Bowl aspirations, beating them 23–17 and sending them on an injury-filled downward spiral. 


New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons


Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: New Orleans -3


Three Things to Watch


1. Big Expectations in the Big Easy

Judging from the , the Saints are a lock for the playoffs and a decent bet to make a Super Bowl run. How will Sean Payton's team handle being the hunted in an improved NFC South? Last season, the Falcons entered the season with similar expectations and flamed out with a four-win disaster, although injuries were the primary culprit. These Saints look better prepared to deal with the hype than those Falcons did. Payton and quarterback Drew Brees have already combined to win a Super Bowl together, and they know what's required for a deep postseason run. The Saints have won 11 or more games in each of the last four seasons, and it will be a shock if New Orleans doesn't extend that streak to five.


2. The Falcons' Hard-Nosed Attitude

The Falcons' stint on “Hard Knocks” revealed a team with a mean streak. Tempers boiled over frequently while the cameras rolled, and efforts to establish a physical identity resulted in training camp fights and preseason game ejections. Atlanta will need to carry that attitude into the regular season while the respective lines, which were subpar last season, find their footing. The Falcons were last in the NFL in rushing in 2013, and they'll have to establish themselves up front to avoid falling into a shootout with the weapon-heavy Saints. Look for Atlanta to try to set a physical tone early in this one to take some of the pressure off of quarterback Matt Ryan.


3. Reversing the Road Woes

New Orleans was 3–5 away from the friendly confines of the Superdome in 2013, losing their last three regular-season road games to cost themselves playoff position. If the Saints have any hope of making a Super Bowl run, they'll need to secure home-field advantage — and to do so, they'll need to steal a few wins on the road. This is one of those opportunities. It's far too early to call this a must win for New Orleans, but the Saints need to excel in the winnable road games this season to earn what could be a decisive home playoff advantage.


Final Analysis


Drew Brees owns half of the 5,000-yard passing seasons in NFL history, and armed with a formidable array of weapons, he's a strong candidate to post more outrageous numbers and earn MVP honors this season. To help him in his quest, he has buzzed-about rookie receiver Brandin Cooks joining his arsenal. As if the Saints offense wasn't powerful enough, Cooks might be the most explosive offensive rookie of the 2014 season. The Falcons may have had an offseason attitude adjustment, but it will take more than attitude to slow the Saints. Neither team got much done on the ground last season, but a high-flying, back-and-forth aerial show certainly favors the visitors. Give the Saints the nod on defense, too; Rob Ryan's crew fashioned an impressive turnaround last year, finishing third in the NFC in total defense and first against the pass. Finally, there's a coaching advantage as well. Under Payton, the Saints have won 11 out of the last 14 games in the series, a run that was preceded by a 16–6 Falcons run. Look for the Saints' recent dominance in the series to continue, even on the road, as Brees & Co. lay the groundwork for a special season.


Prediction: New Orleans 27, Atlanta 17
New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 5, 2014 - 12:00
Path: /nfl/cincinnati-bengals-vs-baltimore-ravens-game-preview-and-prediction

Two teams with postseason aspirations collide in an AFC North tilt that already carries serious implications for both. The Bengals are in the midst of their best run in franchise history but have no postseason wins to show for it. A division title and home playoff game are the expectation for an increasingly restless fan base, and the march to those spoils starts in M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Ravens are looking for a bounce-back season following an injury-marred 8–8 disappointment and are glad to get back to football after an offseason that was dominated by the Ray Rice saga.


Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens


Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Baltimore -1.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Home Sweet Home

Even amid the disappointment of an underachieving 8–8 season, the Ravens were a tough out at home in 2013, going 6–2 at M&T Bank Stadium — including a 20–17 overtime win over the Bengals, who haven't won in Baltimore since 2009. Under John Harbaugh, the Ravens have posted a 39–9 mark at home, the NFL’s second-best home record during that span (2008-13). The Bengals were 3–5 on the road last season, and they must figure out a way to win more tough road tests to take the next step as a franchise. This game certainly qualifies.


2. Cincy's $115 million Man

When news broke of Andy Dalton's six-year, $115 million deal, the Internet exploded in righteous indignation over paying such a huge sum to a guy without a playoff win. Closer scrutiny reveals a deal that includes plenty of protection for the Bengals — only $17 million is guaranteed — and pays Dalton like the solid second-tier quarterback he is. That won't stop Bengals fans from demanding more from the copper-topped gunslinger than last season's 20-interception regular season and first-round playoff flameout. Dalton will be under pressure to lead his team to postseason success, and that starts with winning the division, making this season-opening AFC North showdown especially significant. "The way the schedule is, they start us off right off the bat with a division opponent," Dalton said. "So it does set the tone. It really shows the expectations of what we have here."


3. Ravens on the Run

When you have a game manager like Joe Flacco running the show, you need a ground-and-pound element to your offensive attack, something the Ravens were woefully lacking in 2013. Baltimore averaged only 83 yards rushing per game last season on an NFL-worst 3.1 yards per carry, and leading rusher Ray Rice (only 660 yards in 2013) will be missing in action while he serves his suspension for domestic abuse. The spotlight will be on fill-in lead back Bernard Pierce and an offensive line that will be seeking redemption in 2014, as they try to relieve some of the pressure from Flacco's shoulders. Forced to the air in 2013, Flacco tossed a career-worst 22 interceptions. The Ravens must be more balanced this season. 


Final Analysis


For Cincinnati to have the kind of season its players expect and its fans demand, a good start is important. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is only 4–7 in season openers in his career, including 3–5 on the road, but Cincy did play spoiler for the Ravens last season, dominating John Harbaugh's club 34–17 in the season finale and knocking Baltimore out of playoff contention. Joe Flacco should be operating behind a healthier, stouter offensive line, and he's added a weapon in wideout Steve Smith. His counterpart, Andy Dalton, has struggled against the Ravens, going 2–4 in his six starts and tossing 11 interceptions to only six touchdowns for a passer rating of 62.4. Even without Ray Rice to run the football, this one feels like a Ravens win and an important step in a season of redemption. 


Prediction: Baltimore 21, Cincinnati 17
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Baltimore Ravens Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 5, 2014 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-september-5-2014

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for September 5:


• Celebrate Seattle's reign with 19-year-old , who's back for her second year with the squad.


. Didn't prevent a concussion, though.


• Aaron Rodgers avoided Richard Sherman during last night's Seahawks beatdown, but .




when news broke of her death. Even .




. I'll meet you there.


• Last night, .


• Cincinnati chili has its detractors. .


• After killing with LeBron's letter, .


• Celebrities reading mean tweets about themselves is Kimmel's greatest contribution to western culture. Here's the NFL edition.



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

Post date: Friday, September 5, 2014 - 11:03
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-buckeyes-vs-virginia-tech-hokies-game-preview-and-prediction-2014

Virginia Tech and Ohio State passed their opening week tests, but a tougher challenge is ahead on Saturday night in Columbus. The Hokies are one of the favorites in a wide-open Coastal Division and handled FCS opponent William & Mary 34-9 in Week 1. Virginia Tech’s offense showed signs of life in the opener, but it’s tough to glean too much from overpowering a FCS opponent. The Buckeyes began life without Braxton Miller – at least for 2014 – with a 34-17 win over Navy. With Miller sidelined due to a shoulder injury, Ohio State has to lean on its defense and skill players to help redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett.


This will be the first meeting between Ohio State and Virginia Tech. These two teams are scheduled to meet on Sept. 7 in Blacksburg next season.


Virginia Tech vs. Ohio State


Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Ohio State -11


Three Things to Watch


1. The Quarterbacks

Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and Virginia Tech’s Michael Brewer have traveled an interesting road to the starting job this year, and both quarterbacks are making only their second career start on Saturday night. Barrett was pushed into the starting job after an injury to Braxton Miller and completed 12 of 15 throws for 226 yards and two scores in the win over Navy. Brewer was slated to be Texas Tech’s starter in 2013 but a back injury limited his availability for most of the season. He transferred from Texas Tech after graduating and won the starting job in the fall. Brewer completed 23 of 30 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns in the opener against William & Mary. Both quarterbacks are surrounded by talent – yes it’s young – at the skill positions and play behind questionable offensive lines. However, both players have a good defense on their side. Neither quarterback needs to throw for 300 yards for their team to win on Saturday night. Which quarterback – Brewer or Barrett – will make the fewest mistakes and turn in an efficient outing to lead their team to victory?


2. Virginia Tech’s OL vs. Ohio State DL

Again, we have to point out questionable competition, but there were some positive signs for Virginia Tech’s offensive line in Week 1. The Hokies averaged 5.3 yards per carry and did not allow a sack against William & Mary. After taking a positive step forward in the opener, the matchup with Ohio State is a much better barometer test for the line. The Buckeyes won’t have end Noah Spence (suspension), but this unit is arguably the best defensive line in the nation. Tackle Michael Bennett and end Joey Bosa are two All-American candidates, and this unit averaged three sacks per game in 2013. Keeping Brewer upright and clearing rushing lanes for talented freshmen Shai McKenzie and Marshawn Williams on the ground will be a challenge for Virginia Tech’s line. However, this is a good opportunity for the Hokies to show how far they have progressed on offense after managing only 22.5 points per game last year.

3. Young Talent at the Skill Positions

There’s a couple of areas we could go with this last key to watch, but there’s a plethora of talent at the skill positions for both teams. In the opener against William & Mary, newcomers for Virginia Tech accounted for 422 yards. Brewer threw for 251 yards, McKenzie and Williams accounted for 147 yards on the ground, tight end Bucky Hodges caught six passes for 38 yards and a score, while true freshman Isaiah Ford grabbed four passes for 43 yards and a touchdown. On the Ohio State sideline, there’s also plenty of help for young quarterback J.T. Barrett. Curtis Samuel, Ezekiel Elliott and Dontre Wilson each rushed for over 40 yards against Navy, and sophomore Michael Thomas led the team with three catches. With both teams having an inexperienced signal-caller, it’s important for the players at the skill positions to provide help on Saturday night.


Final Analysis


If you are looking for offense, this is probably not the game you want to watch. The over/under by Vegas is set at 47, and with two quarterbacks making only their second start, points could be at a premium. Virginia Tech’s offensive output in Week 1 was promising, and this group should get better with more time for Brewer, McKenzie, Williams and Ford to develop. However, it’s tough to win in Columbus, and the Buckeyes’ defense will control this game, allowing Barrett to ease into his second victory as Ohio State’s quarterback.


Prediction: Ohio State 27, Virginia Tech 17
Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Virginia Tech Hokies Game Preview and Prediction 2014
Post date: Friday, September 5, 2014 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-fighting-irish-vs-michigan-wolverines-game-preview-and-prediction-2014

The non-conference matchup between Michigan and Notre Dame features two of college football’s most-storied programs and has been played consecutively since 2002. But after Saturday’s game, this series is on hiatus, as the schools do not have a matchup scheduled for the future. Of course, that will likely change in a couple of years, but for now (or perhaps 5-10 years), this is it between the Wolverines and Fighting Irish.


While the future of this series has been discussed at length, this year’s game also provides plenty of intrigue. Michigan is hoping to rebound off a disappointing 7-6 season and had an impressive showing in the opener against Appalachian State. The Fighting Irish lost a couple of key players due to academic issues prior to the first game but looked sharp in a 48-17 victory over Rice.


Notre Dame vs. Michigan


Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: NBC

Spread: Notre Dame -3.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Michigan’s OL vs. Notre Dame’s DL

Michigan’s offensive line was criticized throughout last season for lackluster play. Despite having a first-round pick on the left side in Taylor Lewan, the Wolverines managed only 125.7 rushing yards per game and allowed 36 sacks. Level of competition is certainly a factor, but the early returns on Michigan’s revamped offensive line were promising against Appalachian State. Can this unit continue its growth against Notre Dame? The Fighting Irish has shifted to a 4-3 scheme under new coordinator Brian VanGorder and allowed 5.6 yards per play in the opener to Rice. Despite the high yards per play allowed, Notre Dame held the Owls to just two drives over 40 yards in the first half. The Fighting Irish is going through a transition up front, replacing standouts Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt. 


2. The Quarterbacks

All eyes are always on the quarterbacks, but Saturday night’s matchup between Everett Golson and Devin Gardner is intriguing. Golson sat out all of last season due to a suspension but turned in a sharp performance against Rice in Week 1. The junior accounted for 336 yards and five scores against the Owls and completed 14 of 22 passes. Gardner also had a standout performance last Saturday, throwing for 173 yards and three scores on 14 completions. Both quarterbacks need to be at their best in Week 2. Sure, 300 passing yards would be nice but efficiency and limiting mistakes is a bigger priority for both players, especially with a tight game expected.


3. Which team can establish the run?

Both teams entered 2014 looking for more out of their rushing attack. So far, so good. Notre Dame rushed for 281 yards in the opener against Rice, averaging 6.7 yards per attempt. Michigan recorded 350 yards versus Appalachian State and averaged a whopping 9.7 yards per attempt. Derrick Green struggled in his freshman season, but he sparked the ground game by recording 170 yards on 15 attempts last week. Which team will be able to find enough balance on Saturday night? Can Green continue the momentum from the opener? Or will Notre Dame’s three-back attack perform better? Expect the Fighting Irish to use Cam McDaniel, Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston on the ground to keep the Michigan defense from keying too much on Golson.


Final Analysis


This one is a tossup. Both teams are relatively even, and it’s tough to glean much from last week’s games. Michigan found a good fit in new coordinator Doug Nussmeier, and the former Alabama play-caller has Gardner and Green on the right track. For Notre Dame, Golson was impressive against Rice, and the junior’s re-emergence into the lineup is a boost for a team that has uncertainty on defense and in the receiving corps. Expect an entertaining game in South Bend, with the home team finding a way to squeeze out a three-point victory.


Prediction: Notre Dame 27, Michigan 24
Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Michigan Wolverines Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 5, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-college-football-2014-week-2-picks

Normally, Week 1 is a great place to make some cash.


Not for me. I broke even at 3-3 last week and will attempt to rebuild my already mediocre reputation.


The big thing to consider for Week 2 is line swings. Vanderbilt (+20) against Ole Miss in Nashville didn’t make my cut, but that is a perfect example of market overcorrection after Week 1 showings.


Be wary of lines that look off after bizarre outcomes last weekend. And with that…


Last Week: 3-3

Year-to-Date: 3-3


Michigan St (+12) at Oregon

Oregon is really, really good. But so is Michigan State. I like Oregon to win but when was the last time a Spartans defense lost by more than 10 points? Sept. 15, 2012 to a Notre Dame team that played in the national title game. Oregon to win, Sparty to cover. Prediction: Michigan State +12


Week 2 Previews and Predictions:

| |  |  


BYU (+3.5) at Texas

When all four Athlon Sports experts pick BYU to win outright, I listen (especially, since I am one of them). Texas is without its starting quarterback, center and two offensive tackles in a revenge game that they will have to score big in to win. I’m taking Taysom Hill and the Cougars to win outright so take the points. Prediction: BYU +3.5


Listen to the Week 2 preview podcast:


USC (+2.5) at Stanford

This will be a battle but that hook under a field goal makes this one too good to pass up. Stanford feels like the overlooked Pac-12 team and its defense is still the best in the league. With revenge on the mind after losing last year and playing at home, I will take the Cardinal to cover. Prediction: Stanford -2.5


Missouri (-3.5) at Toledo

The Rockets are obviously a solid opponent and are playing at home. But Maty Mauk and the Tigers are too powerful for Toledo to keep it within a field goal. The Tigers won this match by 15 last year so it’s a close game throughout but Mizzou pulls away and covers at the end. Prediction: Missouri -3.5


Kansas St (-12) at Iowa St

The Cyclones won't be as bad as they were last week when they allowed 34 unanswered points to an FCS team (albeit a really good one). But Kansas State is unbeaten against ISU coach Paul Rhoads and Bill Snyder has a balanced team with stability at the quarterback position. Take the Wildcats to win big. Prediction: Kansas State -12


Top 25 Picks ATS:


Top 25Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
FAU (+40) at Alabama
Michigan St (+12) at Oregon
Oklahoma (-25) at Tulsa
San Jose St (+31) at Auburn
Virginia Tech (+11) at Ohio St
Memphis (+24) at UCLA
USC (+2.5) at Stanford
Ole Miss (-20) vs. Vanderbilt
Michigan (+3.5) at Notre Dame
Arizona St (-25) at New Mexico
Kansas St (-12) at Iowa St
E. Carolina (+17) at S. Carolina
S. Diego St (+15.5) at N. Carolina
Missouri (-3.5) at Toledo
Last Week:7-810-58-76-9


Betting Against the Spread: College Football 2014 Week 2 Picks
Post date: Friday, September 5, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/oregon-ducks-vs-michigan-state-spartans-game-preview-and-prediction

All eyes in the college football world will be focused on Eugene, Ore. this Saturday, as Michigan State takes on Oregon in a clash of top 10 teams. The Spartans handled Jacksonville State 45-7 last Friday and dodged a bullet after a nasty hit to quarterback Connor Cook’s knee in the first half. The Ducks had a similar Week 1 outcome, thrashing South Dakota for a 62-13 victory. Both teams are relatively healthy for this critical showdown that should have major playoff implications.


Michigan State at Oregon


Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Oregon -12


Three Things to Watch


1. Oregon’s DL versus Michigan State’s Rushing Attack

The battle at the line of scrimmage is going to play a huge role in Saturday’s outcome. Oregon’s defense allowed 3.9 yards per carry in Pac-12 games last year, but one team – Stanford – has provided the Ducks with plenty of headaches over the last few seasons. Why is Stanford important? Michigan State and Stanford have similar styles on offense. There's a clear edge in offensive play to the Cardinal in recent years, but coach Mark Dantonio's line returns a veteran group up front. The Spartans were relatively balanced in 2013, recording 173.8 yards per game on the ground and 211.7 through the air. Running back Jeremy Langford leads the ground attack and could see 30-35 carries on Saturday afternoon. The Ducks spent the offseason trying to get stronger at the point of attack. No, this defense doesn’t have a huge problem against the run, but Oregon has to limit Michigan State’s production on the ground. Time of possession doesn’t mean much. However, the Ducks can’t afford to let the Spartans have several long, time-consuming (and successful) drives on Saturday.


2. Marcus Mariota versus Michigan State’s secondary

The Spartans allowed 222 passing yards in the opener, but a chunk of that yardage came with the outcome no longer in doubt. Again, it’s tough to read much into the opener, so this will be the first true test for a Michigan State secondary that has to replace two starters, including standout corner Darqueze Dennard. The cupboard isn’t bare for coordinator Pat Narduzzi, as junior Trae Waynes and safety Kurtis Drummond are All-Big Ten caliber players. Mariota is one of the top quarterbacks in the nation and is throwing to a revamped group of receivers. Despite the overhaul on the pass-catchers, the Ducks aren’t hurting for talent. Considering Michigan State’s strength in the trenches, will Mariota and coordinator Scott Frost look to use quick passes to neutralize the pass rush? Keep an eye on the matchup on the outside, as the Spartans’ defense tries to match the speed and quickness of the Ducks’ skill talent.

3. Michigan State’s Defensive Line

In Athlon’s 2014 preseason college football magazine, Michigan State’s defensive line ranked as the No. 3 group in the nation behind Alabama and Ohio State. And the Spartans certainly lived up to that billing in Week 1 by recording five sacks and limiting Jacksonville State to just 22 yards. Of course, the challenge is significantly tougher in Week 2. Oregon has a three-headed monster in the backfield, and junior Byron Marshall will be split more as a receiver in 2014. Marshall, sophomore Thomas Tyner and freshman Royce Freeman could find yards tough to come by against a defensive line that features All-American end Shilique Calhoun and rising stars in end Demetrius Cooper and tackle Malik McDowell. For Oregon to generate any room on the ground, it’s up to the five blockers in front of Mariota. And there’s been some shuffling this preseason with an injury to standout tackle Tyler Johnstone. If Calhoun, Cooper and Marcus Rush own the line of scrimmage, Mariota will have a tough time finding a clean pocket. One x-factor to watch: Mariota’s scrambling ability. With an active defensive front like Michigan State's, Mariota's ability to make plays outside of the pocket could be a valuable asset in Saturday's game.


Final Analysis


Without question, this is the marquee game of Week 2. Oregon and Michigan State have national title aspirations, and the winner of this matchup will take a huge step forward to securing a playoff spot. The loser of this game certainly isn’t out of it, but the head-to-head win could be huge when it’s time to determine the playoff selections.


Pace and tempo are two keys to watch. Michigan State would prefer a methodical approach, while Oregon wants to speed up the tempo. If the Ducks are able to establish their tempo and make the Spartans play in a shootout, Mark Helfrich’s team will win.


Even though it’s difficult to win in Autzen Stadium, Michigan State is built to knock off the Ducks. The Spartans have the players in the trenches and rushing attack to move the ball on the ground and keep Oregon’s offense on the sidelines. And quarterback Connor Cook is no stranger to delivering on the big stage after standout performances against Stanford and Ohio State last year.


Prediction: Michigan State 31, Oregon 27
Oregon Ducks vs. Michigan State Spartans Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 5, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /nascar/regular-season-finale-set-nascar-cup-series-richmond

Each week, Geoffrey Miller’s “Five Things to Watch” will help you catch up on the biggest stories of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ upcoming race weekend. This week, Miller looks back on the season to date and what influence NASCAR’s new Chase format has had. Also, Tony Stewart’s second race back in the Cup Series and a tribute to the late Junie Donlavey highlight the stories of the weekend as the series lines up for its regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway.



NASCAR’s new Chase system in review

So here we are, on the eve of the 26th race of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. As has been the norm since the first iteration of the Chase for the Nextel Cup in 2004, the 26th is occurring at Richmond International Raceway and is serving as the final race of the regular season.


Next up? A 10-race stretch to determine the sport’s champion — nothing new there, of course — in a manner fundamentally different than any NASCAR championship race ever. But before we get to NASCAR’s new “grid” format and the coming eliminations, it’s best to discuss the changes already enacted and seen in this first season of NASCAR’s biggest title overhaul to date.


The largest change in the regular season has been the added value of winning. Now, it’s the 16 drivers who win a race in the first 26 events of the year and remain in the top 30 in points who get to go racing for the title. If 16 don’t win — like this year — the 16-driver field is filled out with the highest non-winning drivers in the point standings. At least three drivers will get that bid after Richmond.


The best part of this new system is that drivers and teams have been rewarded instantly for even one-off success. Perhaps the most telling was AJ Allmendinger’s reaction to his surprise Watkins Glen win, or even the weight lifted from Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s shoulders after winning the season-opening Daytona 500. Some value was returned to regular season events that had been lost as the Chase was drummed up and promoted incessantly. 


In addition, it seems the sport has seen a slight uptick in aggressive team calls near the end of the race for drivers previously qualified. The only issue to that argument is that those risks haven’t always been front-and-center or made in an environment where realistic detriment was nearby. And all too often, the sport’s stakeholders were quick to jump on aggressive calls as if the new Chase format — and not decades of racing DNA — created eventful on-track decisions.


All told, the regular season portion of NASCAR’s new format has worked well. Perhaps the lone improvement would be an increased points payoff — or even an automatic entry to round two — for driver(s) who win the most races. This would create a bit more intrigue to late summer battles between known heavyweights, and not just attention on typically non-delivering underdog hopefuls.



Stakes high and complicated for Chase hopefuls at Richmond

Just one race and one checkered flag remain for several drivers hoping to earn entry to at least the first round of NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. The pressure to make that happen is probably no higher than on veterans Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer.


For Biffle, 10th in the cumulative point standings, a sixth entry to the Chase in the last seven years is on the line. He averaged a 15th-place running position in the spring Richmond race and without a win on Saturday will likely be hoping for Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman or a previous 2014 winner to take the win. Should that happen, Biffle can control his own line to the Chase with a finish of 22nd or better.


Should the series get a new 2014 winner Saturday night, Biffle will have to beat Newman by 19 points while also finishing ahead of Bowyer and Kyle Larson.


For Bowyer, the spot is a bit more dire — though fully controlled should he win the race. A win for Bowyer would be his third career victory at the track and also a heavy dose of irony after his willful, team-ordered actions one year ago sent the NASCAR world into a tailspin over allegations of race fixing.


In total, 18 drivers will be eligible to snare the final Chase position Saturday night should they pull off the win. It might get exciting.



Expectations of anonymity for Stewart should end

I wrote last week of Tony Stewart’s return to the Sprint Cup Series and focused heavily on how the driver was seeking refuge from grief in the one place he knew best — inside a race car. At the time, it seemed understandable that Stewart was going to be largely silent in correspondence with the media save for his quick Friday statement.


But then Stewart wrecked from Sunday’s race and opted to continue his media silence despite a verifiable interest in both why he crashed from the event and how he handled the return. His crew chief Chad Johnston instead became the face of the team, offering his best explanation and recap.


It didn’t sit right.


Stewart made no secret all weekend that he was open to communication with many, many people in the garage area that weren’t carrying a camera or notebook. He didn’t live in isolation at Atlanta, and had no problem accepting the adoration of fans during his moment in the driver introduction line. Plainly, those moments didn’t corroborate his insistence Friday that he wasn’t emotionally prepared to discuss anything relating or not relating to the fatal Kevin Ward Jr. incident.


Stewart’s reluctance to speak remains understandable seeing as he is still in the crosshairs of an ongoing criminal investigation in upstate New York. But if that’s the reason why Stewart isn’t willing to speak to reporters, then why is he back on track?


That’s a question only he can answer and, well, he’s not talking for the time being. In the meantime, expectations of Stewart being allowed to go through his very public — and fairly unnecessary — return to NASCAR in a private manner need to stop. He’s choosing to be at the racetrack and choosing to return to his status as a public figure. Pursuit of his thoughts and reactions should continue.



Final regular season race could be filled with payback

The best time to take a risk is when the fallout is low. Thus Saturday night’s regular season finale at Richmond might be the perfect time for drivers looking to a settle a score.


Think about it: Denny Hamlin still has to be steamed about Kevin Harvick’s mistake two weeks ago at Bristol Motor Speedway. A mistake from Harvick wrecked Hamlin from the lead and demolished his No. 11. At Richmond, the only thing on the line for Hamlin is, at most, three bonus points from a race win. Otherwise, it’s just an exhibition race before the championship fight begins in earnest next week at Chicago.


When else would be a better time for Hamlin to repay Harvick the favor with a bit of rough driving? An incident wouldn’t affect title hopes for Hamlin or Harvick, and Richmond provides ample cover for retribution as a short track.


Martin Truex Jr. may be thinking the same thing, even though he isn’t yet qualified for a Chase spot. Truex left Sunday night’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway with a damaged race car and a bone to pick with Kyle Busch — a driver who is locked in the Chase. Should Truex deliver Richmond payback, Busch won’t be terribly impacted but the point will have been made.



Circle Sport to run Junie Donlavey tribute

If you look for the No. 33 Saturday night, you won’t see it. Instead, the Circle Sport Chevrolet will be adorned with the No. 90 for one race only as team owner Joe Falk pays tribute to late NASCAR team owner Junie Donlavey.


David Stremme will drive the No. 90 with a special paint scheme — the team calls it “retro Truxmore-inspired livery made famous by Donlavey Racing the during the 1970s and earlier ‘80s” — at the track where Donlavey, a Richmond native, formerly called home. Donlavey passed away in June.


“Junie was a mentor of mine from the time I was competing in NASCAR all the way through my involvement in team ownership,” Falk said in a team press release.


Whenever Donlavey comes up, it’s always fun to discuss just how his team won its only race: the 1981 Mason-Dixon 500 at Dover. That day, Donlavey had Jody Ridley in the car and trailed a dominant Neil Bonnett. Bonnett, however, suffered engine issues and exited the race with 41 of 500 laps to go after leading a startling 404 circuits.


Second-place Cale Yarborough then assumed the lead after unlapping himself, only to suffer a similar fate about 20 laps later. That handed the lead to Ridley who held on to the finish and won his — and Donlavey’s — only career Cup race.



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Each week, Geoffrey Miller’s “Five Things to Watch” will help you catch up on the biggest stories of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ upcoming race weekend. This week, Miller looks back on the season to date and what influence NASCAR’s new Chase format has had. Also, Tony Stewart’s second race back in the Cup Series and a tribute to the late Junie Donlavey highlight the stories of the weekend as the series lines up for its regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway.
Post date: Friday, September 5, 2014 - 08:05
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-2014-week-2-preview

Hosts Braden Gall and Steven Lassan previews all of the big action from Week 2 including Michigan State-Oregon, USC-Stanford, Michigan-Notre Dame, BYU-Texas and so much more. The guys also give their locks of the week against the spread as well. 


Have a question or comment? Contact us at [email protected] or on Twitter at @AthlonSports, @BradenGall and @AthlonSteven

Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: 2014 Week 2 Preview
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 12:05
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-september-4-2014

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for September 4:


• Beyonce turns 33 today. .


. In other news, Yao Ming is still freakishly huge.




. Wonder if he still climbs in bed with his parents.










. He's made his caddie a rich man, so he can do whatever he wants.




. Please let her win something.


• Australian hurdler Michelle Jenneke did her legendary dance before racing a car.



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

Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 11:06
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-quarterback-rankings-week-1

Week 1 of the 2014 fantasy football season is here and is there any surprise who leads the first installment of Athlon Sports' weekly Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings? Peyton Manning was far and away fantasy's No. 1 scorer last season and as long as he stays healthy, he should post big passing numbers once again in 2014. While seven touchdown passes like he did in the 2013 season-opener against Baltimore will be hard to match, Manning should enjoy plenty of success throwing against an Indianapolis defense that has issues in the secondary and will be without its best pass-rusher.


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks


1Peyton ManningDENvs. INDHad 7 TDs in Week 1 last season. Encore?
2Drew BreesNOat ATLBrees ready to test Falcons' young CBs.
3Colin KaepernickSFat DALCK could be in for big day in Big D.
4Nick FolesPHIvs. JACReady to pick up where he left off?
5Andrew LuckINDat DENLuck gets first look at retooled Denver D.
6Aaron RodgersGBat SEA (Thurs.)Tough opening assignment for Packers' O.
7Matthew StaffordDETvs. NYG (Mon.)What will Lions' new O look like?
8Jay CutlerCHIvs. BUF 
9Russell WilsonSEAvs. GB (Thurs.) 
10Tom BradyNEat MIABrady ready to silence doubters.
11Tony RomoDALvs. SF49ers' D not at full strength.
12Matt RyanATLvs. NO 
13Cam NewtonCARat TBWill cracked rib be an issue?
14Philip RiversSDat ARICardinals' D missing key pieces.
15Robert Griffin IIIWASat HOURG3 ready to break out in Gruden's O?
16Carson PalmerARIvs. SD (Mon.)Improved O-line should only help Palmer.
17Ben RoethlisbergerPITvs. CLE 
18Alex SmithKCvs. TENNeeds reliable targets to emerge.
19Jake LockerTENat KCLooked sharp in preseason.
20Shaun HillSTLvs. MINIt's his offense for now.
21Ryan TannehillMIAvs. NE 
22Andy DaltonCINat BALCareer 6:11 TD:INT ratio in 6 G vs. BAL.
23Geno SmithNYJvs. OAKNew weapons = more success in Year 2?
24Joe FlaccoBALvs. CINCan Flacco take next step under Kubiak?
25Eli ManningNYGat DETNew O still a work in progress for G-Men.
26Ryan FitzpatrickHOUvs. WAS 
27Josh McCownTBvs. CARPanther pass rush could be an issue for Bucs.
28Matt CasselMINat STLCould thrive under Turner.

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

Fantasy Football 2014 Quarterback Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-running-back-rankings-week-1

Jamaal Charles may not finish the 2014 season as the top running back, but he starts in that spot in Athlon Sports' Week 1 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings. Charles will have to work with a practically brand-new offensive line and a passing game that doesn't exactly strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenses, but he also has an appealing opening matchup against a Titans' defense that's switching schemes and lacks established playmakers.


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Backs

1Jamaal CharlesKCvs. TENTEN making switch from 4-3 to 3-4.
2LeSean McCoyPHIvs. JACBruised thumb should not be an issue.
3Adrian PetersonMINat STLRams' D-line among league's best.
4Marshawn LynchSEAvs. GB (Thurs.)Packers struggled vs. run last season.
5Matt ForteCHIvs. BUF 
6Montee BallDENvs. INDHis time to shine?
7Arian FosterHOUvs. WASIf healthy he could have huge year.
8Eddie LacyGBat SEA (Thurs.) 
9Frank GoreSFat DALMay be "old," but he's consistent.
10DeMarco MurrayDALvs. SFGood time to face 49ers' depleted D.
11Alfred MorrisWASat HOUNeeds to make most of carries.
12Zac StacySTLvs. MIN 
13Giovani BernardCINat BALBengals set to unleash Gio?
14Le'Veon BellPITvs. CLEIs Bell the Steelers' bell-cow?
15Andre EllingtonARIvs. SD (Mon.)How many touches will he get?
16Doug MartinTBvs. CARCould get off to slow start vs. tough D.
17Reggie BushDETvs. NYG (Mon.)How will touches be split w/ Bell?
18Ben TateCLEat PIT 
19Toby GerhartJACat PHIIf anything he should get lots of work.
20Ryan MathewsSDat ARI (Mon.) 
21Shane VereenNEat MIAMore appealing in PPR leagues.
22C.J. SpillerBUFat CHIWill Spiller ever break out?
23Rashad JenningsNYGat DET (Mon.) 
24Steven JacksonATLvs. NOReady to put 2013 behind him?
25Joique BellDETvs. NYG (Mon.)Another appealing PPR option.
26Chris JohnsonNYJvs. OAK 
27Pierre ThomasNOat ATLCould lead all RBs in receptions.
28Bernard PierceBALvs. CINGets 2 games to carry the load.
29Fred JacksonBUFat CHI 
30Trent RichardsonINDat DENNeeds to get off to strong start.
31Stevan RidleyNEat MIABall security a must if he wants carries.
32Knowshon MorenoMIAvs. NEKeep eye on workload spilt w/ Miller.
33Maurice Jones-DrewOAKat NYJNew team = new MJD?
34Shonn GreeneTENat KCHow long until Sankey passes him?
35Lamar MillerMIAvs. NEPecking order to be determined?
36Mark IngramNOat ATL 
37Chris IvoryNYJvs. OAKCJ not a workhorse back anymore.
38Darren SprolesPHIvs. JACSimilar role expected w/ new team.
39DeAngelo WilliamsCARat TBComes down to # of carries.
40Danny WoodheadSDat ARI (Mon.)Should be plenty active in passing game.
41Bishop SankeyTENat KCStarts out behind Greene, but for how long?
42Carlos HydeSFat DALHow much work will he get?
43Jeremy HillCINat BALHe's the thunder to Gio's lightning.
44LeGarrette BlountPITvs. CLEDoes he steal goal-line looks from Bell?
45Khiry RobinsonNOat ATL 
46Ahmad BradshawINDat DENHis use depends on T-Rich's production.
47Darren McFaddenOAKat NYJOne injury away from being a starter.
48Jonathan StewartCARat TB 

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

Fantasy Football 2014 Running Back Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-wide-receiver-rankings-week-1

Calvin Johnson leads off Athlon Sports' Week 1 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings, but he's not the only dynamic target who could post big numbers in his season opener. Dez Bryant could be a busy Cowboy if for no other reason the likelihood his team will be playing catchup against the visiting 49ers. Demaryius Thomas also could see plenty of targets coming his way, as Denver hosts Indianapolis on Thursday night and Peyton Manning won't have Wes Welker (suspended) or Eric Decker (now with the Jets) to throw to. And Bryant and Thomas may not be the only ones on these two teams to thrive in Week 1 either. Dallas' Terrance Williams and Denver's Emmanuel Sanders also could benefit based on a combination of matchup (or game situation), offensive philosophy, quarterback play and the fact that their teammates are likely to draw plenty of attention from the opposition.


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers

1Calvin JohnsonDETvs. NYG (Mon.)Megatron thinking Super thoughts this season.
2Demaryius ThomasDENvs. INDNo Decker or Welker? No problem for Thomas.
3Dez BryantDALvs. SFCowboys could be forced to throw a lot.
4Brandon MarshallCHIvs. BUFStill Cutler's favorite target.
5Julio JonesATLvs. NOLooked awfully spry during preseason.
6A.J. GreenCINat BALRavens have held him in check in past.
7Antonio BrownPITvs. CLE 
8Alshon JefferyCHIvs. BUFPlenty of targets for Jeffery and Marshall to thrive.
9Andre JohnsonHOUvs. WASAll comes down to QB play.
10Jordy NelsonGBat SEA (Thurs.)"Legion of Boom" could limit production.
11Randall CobbGBat SEA (Thurs.)Cobb and Harvin on same field should be fun.
12Emmanuel SandersDENvs. INDWes Welker's loss is Sanders' gain.
13Keenan AllenSDat ARI (Mon.)Cardinals have stout secondary.
14Vincent JacksonTBvs. CARJosh McCown likes throwing to tall targets.
15Michael CrabtreeSFat DAL49ers more of a running team under Harbaugh.
16Victor CruzNYGat DET (Mon.)Could get off to slow start in new O.
17Larry FitzgeraldARIvs. SD (Mon.)Don't forget about Fitz just yet.
18Percy HarvinSEAvs. GB (Thurs.)Healthy Harvin ready to explode?
19Cordarrelle PattersonMINat STLHow will Turner use Patterson in new O?
20Pierre GarconWASat HOUHas more experience w/ RG3 than DJax.
21Roddy WhiteATLvs. NOAnother one whose health is paramount to success.
22Marques ColstonNOat ATLSays he as healthy as he's been in some time.
23Michael FloydARIvs. SD (Mon.)is this his year to take over as No. 1 in ARI?
24Torrey SmithBALvs. CINExpecting more versatile role this season.
25Jeremy MaclinPHIvs. JACIf he can stay healthy, he could explode.
26Reggie WayneINDat DENAndrew Luck gets his favorite target back.
27Mike WallaceMIAvs. NEAppears to be a better fit in new O.
28Julian EdelmanNEat MIAGronk may not be much of a factor in Week 1.
29DeSean JacksonWASat HOU 
30Eric DeckerNYJvs. OAKIt's not Denver, but he's still a No. 1 WR.
31Cecil ShortsJACat PHI 
32Kendall WrightTENat KCTitans planning on taking more deep shots.
33T.Y. HiltonINDat DENRole TBD w/ Wayne and Allen both back.
34Golden TateDETvs. NYG (Mon.)DET more of a passing team than SEA ever was.
35Brandin CooksNOat ATLHow soon will rookie make an impact?
36Terrance WilliamsDALvs. SFWill draw less attention in coverage than Bryant.
37Anquan BoldinSFat DAL 
38Riley CooperPHIvs. JAC 
39DeAndre HopkinsHOUvs. WASCan he emerge in his second season?
40Kelvin BenjaminCARat TBRookie could be Cam's go-to target immediately.
41Sammy WatkinsBUFat CHIRib injury hampered him towards end of preseason.
42Greg JenningsMINat STLHas been productive with Cassel at QB.
43Rueben RandleNYGat DET (Mon.) 
44Markus WheatonPITvs. CLEEager to prove himself after injury-plagued '13.
45Danny AmendolaNEat MIACould develop into reliable PPR option.
46James JonesOAKat NYJHis value tied to rookie QB's performance.
47Andrew HawkinsCLEat PITDe facto No. 1 WR w/ Gordon suspended.
48Justin HunterTENat KCEveryone's expecting him to break out in 2014.
49Mike EvansTBvs. CARHow soon will he and McCown click?
50Malcom FloydSDat ARI (Mon.) 
51Kenny BrittSTLvs. MINCan he be a fantasy factor once again?
52Aaron DobsonNEat MIACould emerge as legitimate deep threat for Brady.
53Doug BaldwinSEAvs. GB (Thurs.)Steps in to fill Tate's role as other starting WR.
54Tavon AustinSTLvs. MIN 
55Brian HartlineMIAvs.. NE 
56Hakeem NicksINDat DEN 
57Donnie AveryKCvs. TENAlex Smith won't have Dwayne Bowe vs. Titans.
58Cody LatimerDENvs. INDNo. 3 spot open during Welker's suspension.
59Steve SmithBALvs. CINHow will Rams use him this season?
60Rod StreaterOAKat NYJ 
61Mike WilliamsBUFat CHI 
62Nate WashingtonTENat KC 
63Jarrett BoykinGBat SEA (Thurs.) 
64Mohamed SanuCINat BALMarvin Jones expected to be out until Week 5.

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

Fantasy Football 2014 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-tight-end-rankings-week-1

Jimmy Graham is unquestionably the top choice at his position in Athlon Sports' Week 1 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings, but chances are the majority of the attention instead will be on a certain Patriot. Rob Gronkowski has already declared himself ready to go Sunday against Miami, but his head coach isn't quite so eager to confirm Gronk's opinion. There's no question that Gronkowski is one of the few tight ends that, when healthy, can match Graham in terms of production and fantasy potential. However, Gronk won't do your team any good if he plays limited snaps. Something to consider before plugging this Patriot into your starting lineup this week.


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends

1Jimmy GrahamNOat ATLHas 7 TDs in 8 G vs. Falcons.
2Julius ThomasDENvs. INDWent for 7-110-2 in Week 1 last season.
3Jordan CameronCLEat PITNo. 1 target with Gordon suspended.
4Rob GronkowskiNEat MIAHow much will Gronk play?
5Vernon DavisSFat DALMiddle of field could be wide open vs. DAL.
6Greg OlsenCARat TBOnly experienced target Cam has.
7Dennis PittaBALvs. CINKubiak loves using TEs in passing game.
8Zach ErtzPHIvs. JACIf he gets enough targets, he could break out.
9Jason WittenDALvs. SFNo NaVorro Bowman for 49ers' D.
10Jordan ReedWASat HOULike his QB, needs to stay healthy.
11Kyle RudolphMINat STLTurner's been good for TEs in the past.
12Antonio GatesSDat ARI (Mon.)Ahead of Green on depth chart, for now.
13Martellus BennettCHIvs. BUF 
14Charles ClayMIAvs. NEChance his numbers could rise in new O.
15Heath MillerPITvs. CLEBig Ben's most trusted target.
16Delanie WalkerTENat KC 
17Travis KelceKCvs. TENCould emerge as Chiefs' No. 1 target.
18Ladarius GreenSDat ARI (Mon.)Snap count worth watching early.
19Coby FleenerINDat DENDon't forget Dwayne Allen is back.
20Dwayne AllenINDat DENBack from a hip injury.
21Tyler EifertCINat PIT 
22Jared CookSTLvs. MIN 
23Tim WrightNEat MIABigger role dependent on Gronk's health.
24Eric EbronDETvs. NYG (Mon.)Lions have more established targets.
25Austin Seferian-JenkinsTBvs. CARShould see plenty of action right away.
26Levine ToiloloATLvs. NODoesn't need to be Tony Gonzalez to be effective.

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

Fantasy Football 2014 Tight End Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-1

To the victors go the spoils, which is one reason why Seattle checks in at No. 1 in Athlon Sports' Fantasy Football Defense/Special Teams Rankings? Yes, the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks get a pretty tough opponent in Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense, but Pete Carroll's defense was top dog in the NFL last season, dominated Denver's record-breaking offense in the Super Bowl, and just seems to play at a different level when it's at home in front of the "12th Man."


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams

1Seattle Seahawksvs. GB (Thurs.)Hawks always tough at home.
2Carolina Panthersat TBBucs' O-line shaky during preseason.
3Cincinnati Bengalsat BALBengals happy to get Geno Atkins back.
4New England Patriotsat MIAPats' D adds Revis + healthy Mayo, Wilfork.
5Kansas City Chiefsvs. TENPass rush should be effective once again.
6New York Jetsvs. OAKGet first look/crack at rookie QB Carr.
7St. Louis Ramsvs. MINRams' front 7 vs. Peterson will be fun.
8Chicago Bearsvs. BUFBears overhauled D-line w/ Allen, Houston.
9Arizona Cardinalsvs. SD (Mon.)Cardinals' D has holes, but not in secondary.
10Denver Broncosvs. INDWare, Talib, Ward ready to make an impact.
11San Francisco 49ersat DAL49ers' D not at full strength to start.
12Detroit Lionsvs. NYG (Mon.)Eli threw 27 INTs last season.
13Philadelphia Eaglesvs. JACOpportunistic D last season.
14Tampa Bay Buccaneersvs. CARSmith ready to unveil Bucs' Tampa 2.
15Pittsburgh Steelersvs. CLEYouth movement ready to pay off?
16Houston Texansvs. WASWatt and Clowney ready to wreak havoc?

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

Fantasy Football 2014 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-kicker-rankings-week-1

Stephen Gostkowski tops Athlon Sports' Week 1 Fantasy Football Kicker Rankings, but the bigger news lately concerns who won't be stretching out his leg for a while. Denver's Matt Prater, who was second only to Gostkowski in fantasy points last season, has been suspended the first four games of the season for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Brandon McManus will be filling in for Prater, and while I have no issue with starting him, it shouldn't be too hard in your league to find a more established option. After all, it's not like fantasy owners hoard kickers on their rosters, right?


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers



1Stephen GostkowskiNEat MIA
2Steven HauschkaSEAvs. GB (Thurs.)
3Justin TuckerBALvs. CIN
4Phil DawsonSFat DAL
5Mason CrosbyGBat SEA (Thurs.)
6Adam VinatieriINDat DEN
7Brandon McManusDENvs. IND
8Nick NovakSDat ARI (Mon.)
9Dan BaileyDALvs. SF
10Robbie GouldCHIvs. BUF
11Blair WalshMINat STL
12Matt BryantATLvs. NO
13Cody ParkeyPHIvs. JAC
14Nick FolkNYJvs. OAK
15Shayne GrahamNOat ATL
16Greg ZuerleinSTLvs. MIN


Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Fantasy Football 2014 Kicker Rankings: Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/sec-2014-week-2-preview-and-predictions

There’s only one game involving a pair of SEC teams — Ole Miss makes the trip to downtown Nashville to play Vanderbilt at LP Field — but there are a few interesting non-conference games. South Carolina’s defense will be tested by ECU’s impressive passing attack; Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel returns to Toledo for the first time as a visitor; and Tennessee hosts another (potentially) dangerous mid-major opponent.


1. Ole Miss (-20) at Vanderbilt
3:30 ET, SEC Network @ LP Field

This game lost a bit of its intrigue after Vanderbilt dropped a 30-point decision to Temple at home on Thursday night. The Commodores committed seven turnovers, only had one drive that went for more than 40 yards and did not have a snap in the red zone until the fourth quarter. In addition, Vanderbilt only had one play that went for 20 yards or more against a Temple defense that gave up 70 plays of 20-plus yards last season. The three quarterbacks who played — Patton Robinette, Stephen Rivers and Johnny McCrary — combined to complete less than 50 percent of their passes with no touchdowns and three interceptions. Rivers is the likely Game 2 starter, but don’t expect an official announcement. There is no such mystery at Ole Miss, where senior Bo Wallace will be under center for the Rebels. Wallace was intercepted three times in the first half of the Rebs’ win over Boise State, but he ended up with a solid stat line — 25-of-36 for 387 yards and four touchdowns. Ole Miss’ up-tempo attack, which is loaded with weapons, will be a huge challenge for the Dores’ new-look 3-4 defense.


Listen to the Week 2 preview podcast:


2. East Carolina (+16.5) at South Carolina

One week after getting torched by Texas A&M for 511 passing yards, South Carolina hosts one of the nation’s most underrated pass-catch duos in East Carolina’s Shane Carden and Justin Hardy. Last year, Carden struggled in an early season loss to Virginia Tech, throwing for only 158 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions, but he combined to throw for 631 yards with six TDs and one interception in wins over North Carolina and NC State. South Carolina ended up with solid offensive numbers (7.0 yards per play) in the A&M loss, but the Gamecocks were forced to abandon the running game due to the early deficit. Expect that to change this week. South Carolina will look to punish ECU at the line of scrimmage.


3. Missouri (-4.5) at Toledo

It’s a homecoming for Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, who went 73–37–3 during a highly successful 10-year run at Toledo from 1991-2000. These two teams met last year in Columbia. Missouri won the game, 38–33, but had trouble slowing down the Rockets’ attack. Toledo outgained Mizzou 387-to-384 but lost the turnover battle, 3-to-1. The Tigers won their ’14 opener, 38–18 over South Dakota State but didn’t exactly dominate wire to wire. The score was 21–10 at the half, and the Jackrabbits gained a respectable 365 yards for the game. Toledo, with former Alabama quarterback Phillip Ely running the show, will cause some problems for the MU defense.


4. Arkansas State (+16) at Tennessee
12 ET, SEC Network

Tennessee was extremely impressive in its surprisingly easy win over Utah State. With the possible exception of the running game, not much didn’t go well for Butch Jones’ team. Week 2 brings another solid mid-major team to Neyland Stadium. Arkansas State has won outright or shared three straight Sun Belt titles, and has done so under three different head coaches. Junior quarterback Fredi Knighten was recruited to Arkansas State by then-head coach Gus Malzahn to run the Red Wolves’ up-tempo offense. Knighten is a true dual threat who threw for 200-plus and rushed for 100-plus in the Red Wolves’ 37–10 win over Montana State.


5. UAB (+27.5) at Mississippi State

These two teams played very well in their respective debuts on Saturday. Mississippi State took care of business against an overmatched Southern Miss team, outgaining the Golden Eagles 550-to-283 en route to a stress-free 49–0 win. Meanwhile, UAB rolled past Troy 48–10 in Bill Clark’s first game as an FBS coach. This was a significant win for a program that won only two games last year and had lost three straight to Troy. This one could be tricky for Mississippi State.


6. Ohio (+13) at Kentucky
3:30 ET, ESPNU

No SEC team won with more ease in Week 1 than Kentucky, which jumped out to a 35–0 lead over UT Martin at the half. The level of competition was poor, but it was no doubt a good sign to see Patrick Towles so effective at quarterback (377 yards, no INTs) and the running game churn out yards with so much success. This week’s opponent will provide more resistance. Ohio is fresh off a solid 17–14 win at MAC East rival Kent State. The Bobcats lost the turnover battle 4-to-0 yet won the game thanks to a balanced offense that had 262 passing yards and 175 rushing yards. Quarterback Derrius Vick will be making his second career start.


7. Florida Atlantic (+40) at Alabama
12 ET, SEC Network

One week after giving up 784 total yards, including 498 on the ground, in a 55–7 loss at Nebraska, Florida Atlantic will make the trip to Tuscaloosa. This will not go well for the Owls. Alabama is still trying to figure things out at quarterback — Nick Saban says both Blake Sims and Jacob Coker will play — but FAU’s primary problem will be finding a way to slow down Alabama’s devastating group of running backs.


8. San Jose State (+31) at Auburn

Few teams were as impressive on the offensive end as Auburn in Week 1. With a new cast of characters in leading roles, the Tigers ripped through Arkansas with incredible balance — 293 yards passing and 302 yards rushing. Nothing has been announced, but it’s assumed that Nick Marshall will be the starter at Auburn. San Jose State played well in its opener, beating North Dakota 42–10. The guess here is that Auburn has a few more weapons on offense.


9. Eastern Michigan (+37.5) at Florida
4 ET, SEC Network

Florida was scheduled to open the 2014 season against one of the worst FBS teams in the nation. That still will happen, but the opponent is Eastern Michigan, not Idaho. The Eagles won their opener, beating Morgan State 31–28 despite giving up 479 yards of offense. Chris Creighton, EMU’s first-year coach, has won a ton of games at the lower levels of college football. Winning in Ypsilanti is a huge challenge.


10. Nicholls State at Arkansas
4 pm ET, SEC Network

Arkansas' SEC losing streak was extended to 13 games on Saturday, but the Razorbacks did some good things despite losing by 24 points at Auburn. Brandon Allen, who played through injuries last season, looked comfortable at quarterback, completing 18-of-31 attempts for 175 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. And the running game delivered as expected, with Alex Collins, Korliss Marshall and Jonathan Williams combining to average 5.9 yards per carry. Nicholls State gave up 539 yards on the ground in its Week 1 loss at Air Force. Good luck, Colonels.


11. Sam Houston State at LSU
7:30 ET, SEC Network

LSU returns home for its first game in Baton Rouge after surviving a significant scare from Wisconsin in Houston. The Tigers trailed 24–7 midway through the third quarter before scoring the game’s final 21 points on their way to a 28–24 win.  Quarterback Anthony Jennings completed less than 50 percent of his passes but averaged 11.4 yards on his 21 attempts and threw two TDs without an interception. Kenny Hilliard, not freshman Leonard Fournette, was the Tigers’ leading rusher, with 110 yards on 18 carries. There should be plenty of carries to go around this week. Sam Houston is a solid FCS program but should not pose too much of a threat to LSU.


12. Lamar at Texas A&M
7:30 ET, SEC Network

Kenny Hill, one of the breakout stars in Week 1, makes his first start in College Station. The Aggie offense looked unstoppable with the sophomore running the show in the win at South Carolina. Lamar won its opener, 42–27, over Grambling. It’s a safe bet that the Cardinals will be 1–1 after Saturday’s trip to A&M.


SEC Week 2 Predictions

 David FoxBraden GallSteven Lassan Mitch Light
Arkansas St at TennUT 27-17UT 34-17UT 38-17UT 31-14
Missouri at ToledoMU 35-24MU 41-24MU 38-27MU 30-20
FAU at AlabamaUA 42-10UA 41-13UA 45-3UA 51-0
UAB at Miss StateMSU 34-17MSU 38-10MSU 38-13MSU 34-24
Ohio at KentuckyUK 28-14UK 31-21UK 34-20UK 30-17
E. Michigan at FloridaUF 35-7UF 45-7UF 50-7UF 51-7
Nicholls St at ArkansasUA 42-10UA 41-13UA 48-7UA 48-10
Ole Miss at VanderbiltUM 35-14UM 35-21UM 34-20UM 30-17
E. Carolina at S. CarolinaUSC 38-28USC 38-28USC 41-31USC 37-24
San Jose St at AuburnAU 56-7AU 51-10AU 48-17AU 50-10
Lamar at Texas A&MA&M 28-7A&M 51-10A&M 60-10A&M 58-14
Sam Houston St at LSULSU 28-7LSU 37-7LSU 45-13LSU 37-10
Last Week8-39-29-29-2
SEC Week 2 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-2014-week-2-preview-and-predictions

All of college football should be watching the Pac-12 this weekend.


The two biggest games of the Week 2 slate will be played out West and will feature four teams ranked in the top 15 of the AP Poll. One of which will feature two top-10 teams.


In fact, over the last 10 years, only four times has a Pac-12 team ranked in the AP top 10 faced a non-conference foe also ranked in the AP top 10 during the regular season. USC won both legs of a home-and-home with Ohio State in 2008-09 while the Trojans also topped Notre Dame in the famed Bush Push in ‘05. The last such meeting was an Oregon loss to LSU to start the 2011 campaign.


This puts into perspective just how big Michigan State’s visit to Oregon will be this weekend.


1. Michigan St at Oregon
6:30 p.m., FOX

The hyperbole heaped upon this meeting may sound over the top, but it’s not. The loser of this contest could easily be knocked out of national title contention, as both teams could be vying for the same playoff spot at season’s end. Moreover, it’s a philosophical showdown between the fastest of up-tempo offenses and the stingiest of physical defenses. But while the Marcus Mariota-Pat Narduzzi chess match will be fascinating to watch on literally every play, it’s the other side of the ball that could determine the outcome. Connor Cook is developing into one of the best quarterbacks in the nation and the Ducks defense — now led by Don Pellum — will have to stop what has become an extremely balanced MSU attack. I won't bore you with (although, there are ) but the bottom line is whichever defense stays disciplined and makes the fewest mistakes will be the victor. For what it’s worth, the home team has won all four meetings between these two programs (2-2).


Listen to the Week 2 preview podcast:


2. USC at Stanford
3:30 p.m., ABC

Conference play begins in style with what has developed into one of the best West Coast rivalries in the game today. Both USC head coach Steve Sarkisian and Stanford defensive coordinator Lance Anderson debuted in impressive fashion as the Trojans ran nearly as many plays (105) as the Cardinal allowed yards (115) in their openers last week. A year ago, USC used three Stanford turnovers and a game-winning field goal in the final half-minute to pull off the upset at home. It was the first win in the series for the Men of Troy since 2008 — the last time USC won in Palo Alto. This could be Cody Kessler's toughest test of the year and it comes in Week 2.


3. Arizona at UTSA
Thurs., 8 p.m., FS1

The Wildcats and Roadrunners come into this Week 2 primetime meeting after decidedly different showings in Week 1. Both won but how they won was totally different. Arizona, behind the debut of Anu Solomon at quarterback, rolled up a school-record 787 yards of offense and scored 58 points. UTSA struggled mightily on offense, averaging just 3.55 yards per play, but was stifling on defense. The once-powerful Houston offense was held to just 2.85 yards per play, minus-26 yards rushing and just seven points. This will be much closer than the experts think. Rich Rodriguez is attempting to move his non-conference record at Arizona to 10-0 with a win Thursday evening.


4. E. Washington at Washington
3:05 p.m., Pac-12 Net

Eastern Washington isn’t an average FCS opponent. Just ask Oregon State. Chris Petersen gets Cyler Miles (thankfully) back under center after the Huskies' abysmal showing against Hawaii. And this offense will have to be much better if it expects to beat the No. 2-ranked FCS team in the nation. Especially, one filled with players who likely grew up dreaming of playing in the Purple and Gold.


5. Washington St at Nevada
Fri., 10:30 p.m., ESPN

One Evergreen State school that needs to rebound in Week 2, Washington State must face an always tricky Nevada team in Reno. Both quarterbacks will be on display as Connor Halliday, fresh off a 532-yard performance, will battle with the dynamic Cody Fajardo (303 pass, 68 rush in Week 1). The Wolfpack, whose offense started slowly last week but finished with 547 yards, won’t be scared of the mighty Pac-12, as Nevada has played UCLA, Arizona and Cal in the last two years. The Wolfpack have gone 1-2 in these games, beating Cal and nearly upsetting Arizona. Needless to say, Mike Leach’s bowl hopes may hang in the balance Friday evening.


6. Fresno St at Utah
3 p.m., Pac-12 Net

Fresno State will face its third consecutive Pac-12 foe and is hoping for a better outcome than the first two after getting boat-raced by USC last weekend. Utah used three different quarterbacks, eight different ball-carriers and nine different receivers in an easy Week 1 victory over Idaho State. Look for Travis Wilson to play most of the game, however, after a triumphant return to the field (13-18, 265 yds, 2 total TDs). This is a must-win situation for Kyle Whittingham if he wants to get his Utes back into the postseason.


7. Oregon St at Hawaii
10:30 p.m., CBS Sports

Washington struggled mightily in their trip to the Islands last weekend and Oregon State didn’t exactly dominate Portland State as expected. Did Sean Mannion throw for more than 300 yards? Sure, but Mike Riley is looking for a more complete performance against a bad Hawaii team – although one that has traditionally been tricky to beat in Honolulu.


8. Memphis at UCLA
10 p.m., Pac-12 Net

Jim Mora’s bunch escaped with a win over Virginia but he couldn’t have been happy with the way his offensive line played. Memphis won its opener 63-0 but that was against Austin Peay. Fans should expect some aggression to be enacted upon the poor Tigers after what was likely a rough week of practice in Los Angeles.


9. Arizona St at New Mexico
7 p.m., CBS Sports

The Sun Devils have won three consecutive road games and New Mexico doesn’t figure to be much of a test for Todd Graham’s bunch. Taylor Kelly and D.J. Foster were excellent on offense and the totally reworked defense pitched a shutout deep into the third quarter. The Lobos, coming off a loss to UTEP in Week 1, should be easy fodder for ASU in Week 2.


10. Colorado at UMass
3 p.m., ESPN3

After a fast start last week, the Buffaloes allowed their in-state rival to roll off 24 consecutive points and it resulted in a crushing defeat. Mike MacIntrye’s bunch needs to improve on defense against both the running and passing games if Colorado wants to get into the win column this week against a Minutemen team that posted just seven points, nine first downs and 202 yards of offense against Boston College.


11. Sacramento St at Cal
3 p.m., Pac-12 Net

The Bears might have been the nicest surprise in the league last week when they upset Northwestern on the road. Now, against a totally overmatched Sacramento State squad, Sonny Dykes could improve on his win total from last year in just two games. This should be a fun home opener for the fans in Berkeley. 


Pac-12 Predictions:

GameBraden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
Mich. St (+12) at OregonOre., 31-27Ore., 30-24Ore., 35-28MSU, 31-27
USC (+2.5) at StanfordStan., 24-17USC, 27-24Stan., 27-17 Stan., 27-24
Arizona (-7) at UTSAZona, 38-21Zona, 40-20Zona, 42-14Zona, 34-20
E. Wash. at Wash.Wash., 31-17Wash., 41-20Wash., 24-10Wash., 38-24
Wazzu (-4) at NevadaWSU, 45-28WSU, 34-20 WSU, 41-21WSU, 34-31
Fresno St (+10.5) at UtahUtah, 31-21Utah, 27-17Utah, 28-14Utah, 34-24
Ore. St (-10.5) at HawaiiOSU, 34-13OSU, 28-13OSU, 35-10OSU, 34-20
Ariz. St (-26) at N. MexicoASU, 54-10ASU, 37-10ASU, 49-14ASU, 48-17
Memphis (+24) at UCLAUCLA, 41-13UCLA, 30-13UCLA, 31-10UCLA, 38-13
Colo. (-17) at UMassColo., 30-14Colo., 27-13Colo., 27-10Colo., 40-13
Sacramento St at CalCal, 35-17Cal, 44-17Cal, 35-14Cal, 48-10
Last Week:9-39-310-29-3


Pac-12 2014 Week 2 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 09:00