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All taxonomy terms: Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/nascar-news-12-drivers-2012-chase-sprint-cup
Body:
The NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup field—12 drivers in all—is finally set.
 
The final wild-card spot was earned in dramatic fashion last night at Richmond International Raceway, when Jeff Gordon squeaked into the 12th slot.
 
Notable names such as Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards didn't make this year's cut, after a grueling 26-week season that began in late-February with the Daytona 500. 
 
Here are the 12 drivers who will vie for the 2012 title over the next 10 races.
 
1. Denny Hamlin
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Tony Stewart
4. Brad Keselowski
5. Greg Biffle
6. Clint Bowyer
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
8. Matt Kenseth
9. Kevin Harvick
10. Martin Truex Jr.
11. Kasey Kahne
12. Jeff Gordon
Teaser:
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Post date: Sunday, September 9, 2012 - 11:20
Path: /nfl/robert-griffin-iii-expect-top-12-fantasy-performance-redskins-qb
Body:

Robert Griffin III (aka RG3) makes his debut at New Orleans in Week 1 in a game that seems to be getting labeled the shootout of the week. Of course, this probably means it will be the dud of the week. 

But you do have the new Washington Redskins quarterback in the Superdome trying to keep up with a team that scored 34.2 points per game last year (2nd) while allowing 21.2 (20th).

Washington, meanwhile, allowed 22.9 (12th) while scoring 18 (26th). It’s the latter where Griffin is expected to be able to help the Redskins make a marked improvement on and it begins Sunday in New Orleans.

He will be a top-12 fantasy quarterback when Week 1 comes to an end.

New Orleans was generous to rookie QBs a year ago — facing them four times for an average of 196 yards passing, 32.3 yards on the ground with eight TDs and three interceptions. 

The Saints allowed four rookies to throw for at least one touchdown last season, and they allowed 193 yards and two scores on the ground to opposing QBs a year ago. All three top performances came from rookies as Cam Newton had 59 yards and a score in two game, Jake Locker had 36 yards and a score and Christian Ponder rushed for 34 yards.

It comes out to an average of 23.04 points for the four rookies.

I would be happy with a 23-point day from RGIII in his NFL debut.

RGIII has a stable of receivers to throw to — Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan, Leonard Hankerson, Santana Moss — and a stable of pass-catching backs — Evan Royster, Roy Helu and Alfred Morris. He also has the ability to pull it down and run himself.

Expect a shootout of a game where each team scores at least 20. That happened to the Saints in half of their games last season, and opposing QBs averaged 283 yards and 2.1 touchdown passes with five total interceptions in those eight games.

Washington might be on the 20-point end of the shootout, while New Orleans is on the 40-point side, but that doesn’t matter in fantasy. What matters is RGIII can help you and the Redskins score 20 on the way there and be considered a top-12 start in Week 1.

—by Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Sunday, September 9, 2012 - 09:24
Path: /nfl/trent-richardson-dont-start-browns-running-back-week-1
Body:

Do something Trent Richardson was not able to do in preseason games in 2012 — run!

Run from starting the Cleveland Browns’ rookie running back in any capacity in Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Take away the fact that a knee injury kept him off the field during the four preseason games. Take away that it was his second knee surgery in six months. Take away that he has been limited in practice this week leading up to his highly anticipated debut.

Richardson’s knee is an issue — one that allowed him to participate in just the first 10 days of training camp — but what surrounds his team in this game is the bigger issue.

The issues are these:

Quarterback Brandon Weeden. No proven pass catchers. A Browns run defense that was eighth-worst against fantasy running backs. Facing an Eagles team that was a top-13 fantasy team at the quarterback (9), running back (12), receiver (9), tight end (13) and defense (8) positions last season.

They are all issues because you have an already unhealthy back that should be in no position to succeed in a game where the Eagles should lead comfortably.

Weeden is a rookie himself and will face one of the deepest pass rushing groups in the league — one that tied for a league-leading 50 sacks a season ago. Cleveland was 23rd in the league with 162 receptions from its receivers and ranked second to last with eight touchdowns from that group.

There are plenty more playmakers on the Philadelphia side that have the oddsmakers favoring the Eagles by nine.  Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek and the Eagles defense/special teams will be the ones coming out of this game in a favorable fantasy light.

The only plus for Richardson is that the Eagles were 24th against fantasy RBs last season. But were he cleared to play, it is expected that it would be in a limited capacity. Maybe he would be better served to make his debut against rival Cincinnati next week and its 16th-ranked fantasy defense against running backs from a year ago. Or better yet, get fully healthy and take on a Buffalo defense in Week 3 that, while they have bolstered their roster on that side of the ball, were 29th against fantasy backs last season. 

If you drafted Richardson — which you probably did pretty early — you don’t want to see him on the sideline long. But you also don’t want to see him on the field too soon and suffer another setback. Sit him, as the Browns should this week and get ready for the Bengals.

As an aside, the Browns are 1-11-1 against the spread in season openers.

—by Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Sunday, September 9, 2012 - 09:00
Path: /nfl/maurice-jones-drew-good-flex-option-week-1-0
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Maurice Jones-Drew had a 38-day holdout, missed training camp, missed preseason and as Week 1 is upon us, he is expected to be a third-down back for Jacksonville at Minnesota today.

So what do we do with the league’s returning leading rusher (1,606 yards), who also missed the 2011 preseason after a knee injury and went out and did what he did on the bum knee the rest of the season?

You play MJD as a flex. 

Like his counterpart across the field, Adrian Peterson, who, if he plays, is also said to be on a limited snap count as he comes back from a torn ACL and MCL, these two are going to be needed to win the opening game for their team.

MJD is healthy, and while he may not be in “football shape,” there are statistical advantages for him if he is reserved to a third-down role — which is unlikely that’s all it is if he is active.

The Vikings were 14th-best against fantasy running backs last season at 21 points per game but were tied for ninth with the fewest rushing touchdowns allowed (eight). Where it becomes interesting in regards to Jones-Drew’s role as potentially only a third-down back is what he can do as a receiver and what Minnesota allowed RBs to do as receivers last season.

The Vikings allowed five receiving touchdowns to backs last season — tied for second-most in the league — and MJD had three receiving touchdowns last season — tied for second-most in the league. His three scores came in back-to-back weeks against San Diego and Tampa Bay in Weeks 13 and 14

Jones-Drew caught his last two scoring passes from Blaine Gabbert on third-and-four plays from the 5. His receiving TD against San Diego came on a second-and-eight from the 9.

If the Jags get near the goal line, chances are it is MJD that is either punching it in or catching a pass and taking it in to the end zone. 

Gabbert threw 12 touchdown passes last season — five coming from inside the 10; MJD caught three of them. Gabbert threw nine of the 12 inside the red zone. MJD caught three of them and five of the other six are by players no longer on active rosters.

Of MJD’s eight rushing touchdowns, six came from inside the 6, one from 10 and the other from 21 in the season opener.

That’s 10 of his 11 scores coming from inside the 10 — and he accounted for 11 of the team’s 21 offensive scores last season.

It depends on what you want from a flex in regards to points, but the potential for a 12-point day in limited work is pretty appealing.

—Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Sunday, September 9, 2012 - 08:50
Path: /fantasy/pierre-garcon-or-vincent-jackson-whos-better-week-1
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Pierre GarconWhich big free-agent receiver signing will you go with in Week 1? 

Will it be Washington Redskins top receiver, Pierre Garcon? Or will you go with the receiver that had success on the West coast and hopes to keep it going in the Gulf coast in Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Vincent Jackson?

For matchup and necessity purposes, roll with Garcon in Week 1.

It is expected that Washington will be in a shootout with host New Orleans today, and Garcon is slated to be rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III’s top target and deep threat. Garcon goes against a 30th-ranked pass defense from a year ago that allowed 24 TDs through the air.

The same can be said for Jackson in Tampa Bay. He is expected to be the top target and the deep target and go against a bad pass defense.

Carolina’s was 24th in passing yards allowed per game (246.8) and 25th in TDs allowed (28). In half-point PPR scoring, the Panthers allowed 11 receivers to have double-digit days. However, Atlanta, Detroit, Green Bay and New Orleans receivers, all top eight passing offenses a year ago, accounted for seven of the 11 double-digit outputs.

It is expected that Carolina cornerback Chris Gamble will cover Jackson. Gamble allowed 27 catches and two scores on the 60 times he was thrown at, according to Pro Football Focus. PFF ranked him as the 17th-best cornerback last season. Not too shabby for a player in a division with the Falcons and Saints.

Now the Panthers face a Tampa Bay offense that many assume will be run, run, run and more run from new coach Greg Schiano. The Buccaneers were 16th in passing yards per game last season (228.1) and 26th in TD passes (17). Meanwhile, Carolina was 24th against the run in the NFL last season (246.8 yards per game).

Jackson was the big free-agent signing for Tampa Bay in the offseason, but on a team that is run first and will take its shots when it can, I’d rather roll with the team that is likely to be in a higher-scoring affair and must throw to keep pace.

Even if the Buccaneers get gashed on the ground and have to go to the air to keep up, I’d rather not gamble on the guy facing Gamble to get me the trash points late.

Give me Garcon for Week 1 and monitor Jackson’s progress in the opener. If he has success against Gamble or is targeted frequently, it will be a sign that perhaps it is not all ground and pound in Tampa.

—Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Sunday, September 9, 2012 - 07:30
Path: /nfl/pittsburgh-steelers-and-denver-broncos-preview
Body:

He’s back. Peyton Manning will return to the NFL gridiron Sunday night at 8:20 p.m. EST on NBC, as the Denver Broncos host the Pittsburgh Steelers in a much-anticipated matchup that could set a regular-season ratings record. The four-time MVP quarterback has recovered from multiple neck surgeries and will try to lead Broncos back to the playoffs, where they ended the Steelers season a year ago. Pittsburgh will be extremely motivated to revenge that painful 29-23 overtime loss, while Denver will have to adjust to Manning on offense and new coordinator Jack Del Rio on defense.

When the Denver Broncos have the ball:
We all know what Manning can do when healthy, but it will be interesting to see how long it takes him to develop chemistry with receivers Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas. The good news for No. 18 is that he will have quality offensive line and running game for the first time in almost a decade. Veteran runner Willis McGahee should take some pressure off Manning while the passing game develops.

The Steelers defense ranked No. 1 in the NFL last season, giving up the fewest yards (271.8 per game) and points (14.2 per game) in the league. However the heralded Pittsburgh unit played its worst game of the season in the playoff loss to Denver, as intrepid coordinator Dick LeBeau faced rare criticism for his scheme in that game. It will be a different challenge against Manning, and the Steelers will be without the services of safety Ryan Clark (his sickle cell trait is a higher risk in Denver’s elevation) and linebacker James Harrison.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers have the ball:
Ben Roethlisberger will be the focal point of the Pittsburgh attack once again, and he has two 1,100-yard receivers in Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. Big Ben will need better offensive line play after being sacked 40 times last year, but he also needs to get rid of the ball quicker. The Steelers run game is a question mark with top back Rashard Mendenhall still recovering from a knee injury, so expect to see both Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer tote the rock.

The Broncos defense will look for more consistency this season, and that will start by trying to force more turnovers. Denver only had 18 takeaways last year, compared to 28 for Del Rio’s old club in Jacksonville. The good news is that the Broncos can get to opposing quarterbacks, with pass rushers Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil combining for 21 of Denver’s 42 sacks in 2011.

Key Factor:
The adjustment to new players and coordinators will be critical on Sunday night. Manning’s rhythm passing usually takes a couple of games to get going, and Del Rio brings a new voice to the Denver defense. The Steelers have a new offensive coordinator in Todd Haley, and the defense will miss Clark and Harrison. But in a low-scoring affair, we’ll take the Pittsburgh defense to rebound in Denver and lead the way to an emotional win.

Prediction:
Steelers 20 Broncos 17


---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Teaser:
<p> Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos Preview</p>
Post date: Saturday, September 8, 2012 - 08:00
Path: /nfl/10-things-journalists-should-avoid-when-michael-vick-goes-dawg-pound
Body:

As Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick heads to the Cleveland Browns' "Dawg Pound" on Sunday in Week 1, journalist should watch what they write and say. Here's our quick list of 10 things writers should avoid before covering the game.

Headlines to Avoid 

1. “Vick Electrifies Dawg Pound”

2. “Vick Shows Killer Instinct at Dawg Pound”

3. “Vick Bad Newz for Dawg Pound”

 

Words to Avoid

4. “Slaughter”

5. “Maul”

6. “Dogfight”

7. "Beat"

8. "Whipped"

 

Subjects to Avoid

9. Michael Vick’s dogfighting conviction

10. The Cleveland Browns’ chances in 2012

 

Topic of Conversation That Might Actually Work Better

• Art Modell’s death

Teaser:
<p> Journalists should watch what they write and say when Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick plays at the Cleveland Browns' "Dawg Pound" on Sunday in Week 1.</p>
Post date: Friday, September 7, 2012 - 15:41
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Links, College Basketball, NFL, NBA, MLB
Path: /college-football/athlon%E2%80%99s-essential-eleven-links-day-15
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for September 7.

• Texas A&M is hyped for its first SEC contest against the Florida Gators.

• Bleacher Report’s Michael Felder looks at the SEC East ramifications if Missouri can beat Georgia in its SEC debut.

• Check out these “Hilariously Ironic Photos” from Mandatory.com.

• The Orioles have caught the Yankees and look ready to battle New York for the AL East crown.

• Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel believes MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers should curb his running against the 49ers defense.

• How will the five rookie starting quarterbacks fare in their first NFL games?

• The NCAA is considering moving the Final Four out of domes and back into actual basketball arenas. Probably makes too much sense to happen.

• The Big 12 has inked new deals with ESPN/ABC and FOX that will cover the next 13 years.

• The LSU Tigers suffered a huge loss this week with left tackle Chris Faulk’s season-ending injury.

• Unfortunately, some DeMatha High football players went all “Lawrence Taylor” after their season-opening win in North Carolina.

• Check out these classic answers from Family Feud, with a cameo by former NBA baller Brian Shaw.



--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


September 6

• ESPN NFC East blogger Dan Graziano looks at the huge statement the Cowboys made in winning the season-opener on the road against the Giants.

• Former Ravens and Browns owner Art Modell, one of the most influential figures in the growth of the NFL, has passed away at age 87.

• This Boston Red Sox season with polarizing manager Bobby Valentine has become a circus.

• There are going to be some kids riding around Dallas that aren’t feeling that trip to the zoo.

• Who wouldn’t want to see Shaq playing in the Mexican Basketball League this winter? The nickname possibilities are endless, and he already has a pool area called Shaq-Apulco.

• Taylor King of ChuckOliver.net compares the career path of Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson to that of former UGA coach Jim Donnan.

• Boxer Floyd Mayweather made headlines for his losing Michigan bet over the weekend, but he apparently won some back on the Cowboys last night.

• Texas A&M expects the Florida offense to be more creative this week than it was in the Gators’ opener.

• Connecticut fans are eagerly waiting to see what Jim Calhoun decides on his future.

• The U.S. Open crowd and tennis fans were shocked by Roger Federer’s ouster last night.

• Isla Fisher (the crazy redhead character in Wedding Crashers, “Good, ‘cause I’d find you”) confuses the Good Morning America crew with her ‘teabagging’ reference.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


September 5

• Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News previews tonight’s NFL season-opener between the Giants and Cowboys.

• It’s probably not a big surprise to many around college football to learn that USC head coach Lane Kiffin has pulled a scholarship away from a walk-on and given it to a linebacker who was just released from jail.

• Baseball fights are always a little weird, but what the heck are these guys doing?

• While a ton of attention is going to the SEC debuts of Texas A&M and Missouri, Bleacher Report’s Barrett Sallee breaks down a very important Auburn-Mississippi State battle.

• The Baltimore Orioles are looking to make the postseason for the first time since 1997, and they caught the Yankees in the AL East last night.

• Forbes has released its new list of most valuable sports franchises, with the Dallas Cowboys topping the NFL.

• Ravens safety Bernard Pollard warns Bengals receiver A.J. Green not to come across the middle in this Sunday’s game.

• Will MLB cut down on September rosters in the future?

• What is it with Texas teams and their scoreboards? Looks like the Houston Rockets are going Jerry Jones: a massive screen and no playoff team.

• The Texas Tech basketball turmoil continues to fester.

LSU’s Les Miles has to be one of the most entertaining coaches in college football history. Asked about his running back tandem after the North Texas win, the Mad Hatter goes 'Ricky Bobby and Cal Naughton Jr.' on us.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


September 4

• Alabama has taken over the top spot in the AP Top 25 after its 41-14 drubbing of Michigan.

• Some Michigan State players took to Twitter to pile on the Wolverines getting blown out versus Alabama. We’ll see these tweets again before the instate rivals go at it.

OUCH! If this isn’t a red card…

• ESPN’s Ivan Maisel takes a detailed look at Penn State’s week, before the Nittany Lions dropped a 24-14 decision to Ohio.

• Nationals manager Davey Johnson seems to be conflicted on the club’s decision to shut down ace Stephen Strasburg.

• Florida State received brutal news after beating Murray State. All-America defensive end Brandon Jenkins is out for the year with a foot injury.

• Bears’ middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, who has missed all of the preseason action with a knee injury, vows he will play in the opener against the Colts on Sunday.

• Will Vikings running back Adrian Peterson play in the season-opener?

• The NCAA continues to investigate the UCLA's incoming basketball signees.

• The United State Ryder Cup team is now complete with Davis Love III making his captain’s picks this morning.

• Nothing says college football season is back like an Iowa grandma hitting a beer bong while still in the passenger seat of a minivan. Hooray beer.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Teaser:
<p> The best sports links from the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, NASCAR and the world of entertainment.</p>
Post date: Friday, September 7, 2012 - 11:39
Path: /college-football/missouri-and-texas-am-5-things-watch-sec
Body:

Missouri and Texas A&M technically joined the SEC on July 1, 2012, but Saturday will be the official introduction for both programs into their new conference home. While it won’t be easy to win championships in the SEC, it’s a conference with more stability and neither program will have to worry about a home in future realignment.

Both teams have the necessary resources to win division titles and compete for BCS bowls, but there will be a transition period to the SEC. Texas A&M made one of the top hires of the offseason, pulling Kevin Sumlin away from Houston to lead the charge into the SEC. Missouri is better equipped to win right away, especially with the return of quarterback James Franklin and the arrival of No. 1 recruit Dorial Green-Beckham.

What should Missouri and Texas A&M expect on Saturday and into the future with the move to the SEC? There’s no doubt the competition will be tougher, but both teams will also have to adapt to a different style of play.

Here are five things to watch as Missouri and Texas A&M kickoff their SEC openers:

1. Increased Competition
The Big 12 is no slouch when it comes to competition, as it is arguably the No. 2 conference in college football. However, Missouri and Texas A&M move from a conference with just 10 teams to one with 14. The SEC had nine bowl-eligible teams last season, including LSU and Alabama – the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation. In the final BCS standings released last year, the SEC had four teams in the top 10, while the Big 12 had two. Recruiting is a key part of any successful program, but it’s an even bigger deal in the SEC. Thirty-four of the top 100 recruits in Athlon’s 2012 Consensus 100 signed with an SEC school. It may sound cliché, but the best recruits want to play in the No. 1 conference and that only adds to the pressure of coaching staffs to reel in the top talent. The Big 12 is a tough conference, but the SEC is the best of the best.

2. Different Style of Play
In the Big 12, it’s all about offense. Seven Big 12 teams ranked in the top 35 of scoring offense last season, each averaging at least 31 points a game. There are a few exceptions (Texas, Kansas State, Iowa State), but most of the teams in the Big 12 base its offense around a pass-first approach. The SEC had four offenses in the top 35, with Arkansas leading the way with an average of 36.8 points a game. However, only two teams (Arkansas and Tennessee) had more rushing attempts than passing attempts last season. While spread offenses like the ones Missouri and Texas A&M will be running can work in the SEC, the conference places more emphasis on the rushing attack and winning the battle at the line of scrimmage. The Tigers and Aggies will both see more 3-4 and 4-3 looks from SEC defenses, as opposed to the 4-2-5 alignments some Big 12 teams have been using. 

3. Tougher Defenses
This aspect relates to the style of play, as the SEC is home to some of the best defenses in the nation. Alabama swept the four main defensive categories last year, while LSU allowed just 11.3 points per game. The defense didn’t end with those two teams, as only three SEC teams ranked outside of the top 50 in scoring defense. One of the reasons for the SEC's dominance on defense is the depth and talent in the front seven. For instance, LSU could have five players drafted from its defensive line over the next couple of seasons. That type of depth in the trenches just wasn’t there in the Big 12. Instead of recruiting skill players to run four- and five-wide sets, the SEC places a heavy emphasis on speed and depth on defense. Missouri and Texas A&M are bringing in a variation of a spread offense and while both options can work in the SEC, expect the Tigers and Aggies to find less room to maneuver on offense this year.

4. The Week-to-Week Grind
Just as we mentioned with the increase in competition, the SEC will present a tougher week-to-week grind for Missouri and Texas A&M. It won’t be a huge difference, but there are no easy games in conference play. In a six-game stretch of conference games in late September-October, the Aggies play four games on the road, including matchups against Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State. Even though Ole Miss is down, the Rebels are capable of pulling an upset. The Big 12 was tough, but the SEC’s week-to-week grind and a slight disadvantage in depth will be something to watch for Texas A&M and Missouri. 

5. The SEC…Its Just Different
Vanderbilt coach James Franklin had the perfect analogy to describe just how important the SEC is. “There are three conferences that matter in football, the AFC, NFC and the SEC.” It’s difficult to describe, but life in the SEC is just different than it is in other conferences. The fan support and commitment to facilities and winning is the best in college football. And we can’t forget the message boards either. The SEC is home to most of college football’s most rabid fanbases, and the conference will only kick that up a notch with Missouri and Texas A&M coming into the fold.
 

Georgia at Missouri – One Key Matchup to Watch

Can Missouri’s offensive line block Georgia’s defensive front?
The Tigers have suffered a few injuries on the offensive line since fall camp, so this unit has had to do a little shuffling. The tackle spots are set with Elvis Fisher and Justin Britt, but the interior of the line will be under attack from Georgia’s massive tackle duo of John Jenkins (358 pounds) and Kwame Geathers (355 pounds). Center Mitch Morse has only one career start, right guard Max Copeland is a former walk-on and also has only one start in his career, while true freshman Evan Bohem is expected to start at left guard. Jenkins and Geathers aren’t just difficult to move as both players are active against the run and can wreck havoc in opposing backfields. In addition to finding ways to slow down Georgia’s defensive line, the Tigers will need to keep tabs on linebacker Jarvis Jones, one of the nation’s top pass rushers. With an inexperienced offensive line, expect the Bulldogs to throw a few different looks at Missouri to create pre-snap confusion.
 

Florida at Texas A&M – One Key Matchup to Watch

Can Florida take advantage of Texas A&M’s young cornerbacks?
The Gators struggled to establish any consistency on offense last week, recording only 145 yards through the air and 27 points against Bowling Green. Florida has settled on Jeff Driskel as its starting quarterback and he should have an opportunity to take advantage of Texas A&M’s young cornerbacks. True freshman De’Vante Harris will start on one side, while sophomore Deshazor Everett will man the other spot. Driskel showed he has a long ways to go as a passer, but he should be able to exploit an Aggies’ secondary that allowed 276.3 passing yards per game last year. The Gators can’t blame Driskel for all of their struggles through the air, especially with inconsistent play from the receiving corps and offensive line. Expect Texas A&M to counter with pressure to help protect the cornerbacks, especially linebacker Sean Porter who led the team with 9.5 sacks last year.


by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven
 

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Pac-12 Week 2 Preview and Predictions
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Post-Week 1 Bowl Projections
Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat After Week 1
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Teaser:
<p> Missouri and Texas A&amp;M: 5 Things to Watch in the SEC</p>
Post date: Friday, September 7, 2012 - 09:16
Path: /nfl/green-bay-packers-and-san-francisco-49ers-top-nfl-weekend
Body:

The marquee matchup of the NFL’s opening weekend will take place at historic Lambeau Field, with the Green Bay Packers hosting the San Francisco 49ers at 4:25pm EST on Fox. These two NFC stalwarts combined for 28 regular-season wins in 2011, and both clubs have Super Bowl expectations in 2012. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to a 15-1 mark a year ago before a 37-20 loss to the Giants ended their season in stunning fashion. The 49ers ascent under coach Jim Harbaugh was a top story around the league last year, and a stingy San Francisco defense was the catalyst. While these teams seem like opposites in personnel, a common bond is turnover margin. The Packers and Niners tied for the NFL lead in takeaways (38) last year and barely gave the rock away.

When the Green Bay Packers have the ball:
It all starts with Rodgers, who claimed the league’s MVP last year on the strength of 4,643 passing yards and 45 touchdown passes against only six interceptions. He probably has the best group of pass-catchers — Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver, James Jones, Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley — in the league, and they should lead the Packers offense to another stellar year. Any help in the running game would be welcome, and veteran tailback Cedric Benson could be a valuable addition.

The 49ers ranked second in scoring defense last season, and their play led the way to a 13-3 record and the NFC West crown. Inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman are as good as it gets in the NFL, and outside rushers Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks complete an amazing quartet. Their ability to rush past a reworked Green Bay offensive line and get to Rodgers will be a major factor on Sunday.

When the San Francisco 49ers have the ball:
Frank Gore and a powerful O-line led the Niners to a ranking of 11th in scoring last season at 23.8 points per game. Much of the offseason attention went to finding more weapons for quarterback Alex Smith, who is mainly known as a game manager. Randy Moss and Mario Manningham will join top targets Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree as San Francisco looks for more plays in the passing game in 2012.

The Green Bay defense is a high-risk/high-reward unit that prides itself on causing turnovers. The Packers were average against the run last season but terrible in coverage — allowing 4,924 pass yards, the most in NFL history. Obviously that number must improve this year, and their ability to take the ball away will be paramount once again.

Key Factor:
The 49ers offense must win the time of possession game to beat the Packers in Lambeau. Smith must find his spots to convert third downs and not be baited into turnovers. He was excellent at protecting the ball last season, but Green Bay led the league in interceptions (31) by a wide margin. If San Francisco can keep Smith in good down-and-distance situations and control the clock, a close victory can be had. But if the Packers can cause any turnovers or get an early lead, it will be a long day for the 49ers.

Prediction:
Green Bay 23 San Francisco 17

 

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

Teaser:
<p> Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers Top NFL Weekend</p>
Post date: Friday, September 7, 2012 - 08:53
Path: /nfl/new-orleans-saints-and-washington-redskins-preview
Body:

The storylines are plentiful in this much-anticipated NFC matchup, as Robert Griffin III debuts for the Washington Redskins against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints at 1pm EST on Fox. Heisman Trophy winners have often struggled in the NFL, but Griffin can look to Cam Newton’s stellar 2011 rookie campaign as a blue print for this year. Washington will face a New Orleans club in transition, coming off a bounty scandal that saw the NFL levee various suspensions on head coach Sean Payton, assistant head coach Joe Vitt, linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith (although the player suspensions have since been halted). However, the Saints still have Drew Brees directing an excellent offense and a raucous home crowd that could intimidate Griffin.

When the New Orleans Saints have the ball:
Brees has become one of the best quarterbacks in recent NFL memory, and he set a new league all-time record for passing yards last season with 5,476. Brees also tossed 46 touchdown passes and had a stellar completion percentage of 71.2%. Marques Colston and Lance Moore are back on the outside, while Jimmy Graham has emerged as a star at the tight end position.

The Redskins defense was decent in the yardage department last season but did not generate enough turnovers. Linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan led Washington to a solid total of 41 sacks in 2011, but they must get more help from the secondary. Obviously getting pressure on Brees and not letting him settle into a rhythm will be a major factor for the Redskins on Sunday.

When the Washington Redskins have the ball:
The heralded Griffin has a ton of expectations to deal with as he plays his first NFL game. The Redskins running game could be his best friend, as tailbacks Evan Royster and Roy Helu look to become the lead ball carrier in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Washington brought in receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan to help Griffin, and tight end Fred Davis should be a favorite target for the new signal caller.

The Saints defense was preparing for life without Vilma and Smith until their suspensions were overturned, but an improvement from last season’s 24th ranking may be difficult. New Orleans was fairly solid against the run a year ago but finished last in the NFC with only 16 takeaways. Stopping the Redskins running attack will be the top priority in this game.

Key Factor:
The Redskins will need to cause some turnovers in order to slow down the Brees-led passing game and to put Griffin in some advantageous positions. It’s difficult to see the rookie quarterback consistently leading the Washington offense on long drives, and Griffin must protect the ball. If the Redskins can establish the run and keep the ball away from Brees, they can keep it close and try to pull off an upset in the fourth quarter.

Prediction:
Saints 30 Redskins 17

 

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Teaser:
<p> New Orleans Saints and Washington Redskins Preview</p>
Post date: Friday, September 7, 2012 - 06:50
Path: /nfl/nfl-gambling-week-1
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A game-by-game betting preview (against the spread) for each of the 15 NFL games on Sunday and Monday in Week 1. Here are the teams to pick and the ones to stay away from.

Locks of the Week
These NFC South favorites are on the road, but should cover low numbers against a pair of teams with first-year coaches and quarterbacks coming off down 2011 seasons.

Panthers (-3) at Buccaneers
Cam Newton and Carolina crushed Tampa Bay twice last season — winning 38–19 in the Bucs’ boat in Week 13 and then 48–16 in Cat country in Week 16. Expect the Panthers to ruin Greg Schiano’s debut in the Bay.

Falcons (-3) at Chiefs
Atlanta’s “Matty Ice” Ryan takes on K.C.’s Matt “On Thin Ice” Cassel. The atmosphere at Arrowhead Stadium won’t be enough to slow down the Dirty Birds’ aerial attack led by Julio Jones, Roddy White and former Chief legend Tony Gonzalez.


Blowout Bargains
Don’t be afraid of a big spread. Last season, 10 of the 16 games in Week 1 were decided by eight or more points. Take advantage of wide margins of victory before the market adjusts.

Saints (-7.5) vs. Redskins
New Orleans’ Drew Brees will be a fantasy stud, while Washington’s Robert Griffin III learns the harsh reality of the NFL.

Lions (-7.5) vs. Rams
St. Louis lost by at least 7.5 points in nine of its 14 defeats last season. Ram tough coach Jeff Fisher will attempt to squeeze the air out of the ball, but his O-line won’t be able to keep Sam Bradford upright long enough to move the chains and keep the clock running.

Eagles (-9.5) at Browns
Mike Vick at the Dawg Pound?

Bears (-10) vs. Colts
Andrew Luck’s debut will be no match for Jay Cutler’s reunion with Brandon Marshall.


Straight Up Upsets
These underdogs don’t look as good as Kate Upton’s Twitter pics, but they look good.

Steelers (+2) at Broncos
Peyton Manning will need the grace of Tim Tebow to take down the Steel Curtain under the lights on Sunday night.

Bills (+3) at Jets
Gang Green’s locker room cancer will spread if New York, New York loses to upstate New York.


Sucker Bets
Stay away completely. These games are meant for local yokels who always bet on their home team, or who for degenerates who always have to have action.

Seahawks (-3) at Cardinals
For the birds.

Vikings (-4) vs. Jaguars
Bad teams, second-year quarterbacks, running backs with no preseason…

Packers (-5) vs. 49ers
Enjoy this strength vs. strength (Green Bay O vs. San Fran D) potential NFC title game matchup — but don’t bet on it.

Patriots (-6) at Titans
Tom Terrific will be fine, but a young Patriots defense may allow more points in a closer-than-expected opener.

Texans (-12.5) vs. Dolphins
Could be the first of many weeks where the Fins are nearly two-TD dogs.


Monday Money
There are two games to wager for those who have to “get back” or “let it ride” this week.

Raiders (-1) vs. Chargers
A coin-toss contest. The Bolts are 1–3 against the Silver-and-Black over the past two seasons. “Just win, baby.”

Ravens (-6.5) vs. Bengals
Baltimore beat Cincy twice last season — taking a 31–24 win in the town the late Art Modell called home in Week 11 and a 24–16 triumph in the state Mr. Modell left in Week 17.

Teaser:
<p> A game-by-game preview (against the spread) for each of the 15 NFL games on Sunday and Monday in Week 1.</p>
Post date: Friday, September 7, 2012 - 06:37
Path: /college-football/college-football-week-2-preview-match-ups-upset-picks-and-storylines-watch-0
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Week 2 of the college football season doesn't feature many marquee matchups, but there's plenty of intrigue around the nation this Saturday. The SEC welcomes Texas A&M and Missouri, while a handful of non-conference games should help compensate for the lack of matchups between top 25 teams.

Top Storylines for Week 2

1. A New Era in the SEC
Saturday represents a new era in the SEC. Gone is the 12-team format and in comes Missouri and Texas A&M. The Tigers cruised in Week 1, while the Aggies had their game canceled due to Hurricane Isaac. Both teams bring new markets to the conference, which in the age of big television deals, landing teams near St. Louis/Kansas City and Houston is huge. Both Missouri and Texas A&M are expecting a sellout crowd, and momentum will be on their sideline with this being the first SEC game. The Tigers need to win on Saturday to have any shot at contending in the East. The Aggies have a tough schedule, so there’s not much room for error when it comes to getting bowl eligible. Even if both teams lose, it’s a new era in the SEC, and it will be interesting to see how Missouri and Texas A&M transition into the conference over the next couple of seasons.

2. Jetlag in South Bend?
Notre Dame had one of the most interesting Week 1 road games, defeating Navy 50-10 in Dublin, Ireland. While the Irish have had almost a week to recover, there’s definitely an adjustment period after spending a couple of days overseas. Will it cost Notre Dame a victory on Saturday? History suggests it won’t be that big of a deal, especially since the Irish had no bye week after playing in Dublin in 1996 and defeated Boston College 48-21 the following Saturday. Purdue is a dangerous team but as long as Notre Dame doesn’t come out flat, the Irish should move to 2-0.

3. SEC West Intrigue
Since winning the 2010 national title, Auburn is a mediocre 8-6 in its last 14 games. Outside of beating Ole Miss, Mississippi State has not won a game against a team from the SEC West since Nov. 22, 2008 against Arkansas. Although Dan Mullen has led the Bulldogs to back-to-back bowl games, he needs to produce more victories against teams from the West. Saturday’s matchup between Auburn and Mississippi State is an under-the-radar game but could be one of the most intriguing matchups of Week 2. The last two games between these two teams were decided by a combined 10 points, so another close contest can be expected this week. With both teams breaking in a new starting quarterback, whichever squad wins the turnover battle and can establish the run will come out on top. Considering Mississippi State’s lack of wins against SEC West teams, and Auburn’s recent record, this is an important game for both teams to build some momentum for the rest of 2012. 

4. Will Nevada make it two in a row over BCS teams?
With a 31-24 win over California in Week 1, Nevada should be getting some consideration for a spot among the top 25 teams in the nation. And a matchup against South Florida could be all that stands between Nevada and an undefeated record until the season finale against Boise State. The Wolf Pack got a strong performance from quarterback Cody Fajardo and running back Stefphon Jefferson last week and both need to deliver for Nevada to win on Saturday. South Florida’s rush defense – which ranked No. 15 nationally last season – won’t be pushed around by the Wolf Pack on Saturday. Nevada recorded 450 yards on offense last week, while the defense held the Golden Bears to 24 points. Nevada knocked off the last BCS team to visit Reno (California in 2011) and with a win this week, Chris Ault’s team can realistically look at an 11-0 record before the Nov. 24 showdown against Boise State.

5. Bragging Rights in Iowa
It’s never a good idea to take everything that happened in Week 1 at face value. Case in point: Iowa. The Hawkeyes never got their offense on track, but the defense held Northern Illinois to 201 yards. It’s a safe bet Iowa was saving some of its new offense for Iowa State and the upcoming slate of Big Ten games, and it will be needed against Iowa State this Saturday. The Cyclones knocked off Iowa last season and won 38-23 in their opener against Tulsa. Iowa State quarterback Steele Jantz was solid against the Golden Hurricane, but will be tested by a Hawkeye secondary that allowed just 54 yards to Northern Illinois. Jantz struggled with turnovers last year but looked more comfortable in the pocket against Tulsa last Saturday. Iowa is a slight favorite at home and this game should go down to the wire, especially as the Hawkeyes hope to regain control of the Cy-Hawk Trophy.

6. Should LSU be worried about Washington?
Considering Washington is a huge underdog (24 points by the good folks in Vegas), most expect LSU to win easily on Saturday. However, there may be cause for concern in Baton Rouge, especially now that offensive tackle Chris Faulk is out for the year due to a knee injury. The Huskies should test the Tigers’ secondary, which has two freshmen seeing significant snaps at one corner spot. Washington’s Keith Price is one of the Pac-12’s top quarterbacks but needs help from his offensive line and rushing attack to have any shot at winning this game. LSU is deep and talented on the defensive line, which includes two potential All-Americans in Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo. If the Huskies can give Price time to throw, he could take advantage of the Tigers’ youth in the secondary. However, even if Washington’s offense can move the ball, its defense will have trouble slowing down LSU’s rushing attack. The Huskies should keep it closer than the spread set by Vegas, but it's hard to see Washington winning in Baton Rouge.
 

7. Five Quarterbacks Under Pressure

Kiehl Frazier, Auburn (at Mississippi State)
Frazier’s first start was average, as he threw for 194 yards on 11 completions. Even though the coaching staff wants to implement a pro-style attack, Frazier’s mobility should be used more in the coming weeks.

Perry Hills, Maryland (at Temple)
Hills is learning on the job after being thrown into the fire as a true freshman. He threw three picks last week and needs to give Maryland’s offense a spark this Saturday.

Andrew Maxwell, Michigan State (at Central Michigan)
Maxwell had a so-so debut, throwing for 248 yards but also tossing three picks. The junior should post better numbers against the Chippewas this Saturday.

Josh Nunes, Stanford (Duke)
Replacing Andrew Luck is no easy task, but Nunes was unimpressive in a 20-17 win over San Jose State, completing 16 passes for 125 yards and one touchdown.

Tyler Russell, Mississippi State (Auburn)
Russell passed his first test as a starter, completing 15 of 24 throws for 185 yards and two scores against Jackson State. However, it’s a tougher test on tap this Saturday, as the Bulldogs take on Auburn.
 

8. Five Players to Watch

Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame – Golson wasn’t spectacular against Navy, but he completed 12 of 18 passes for 144 yards and one touchdown. Look for the redshirt freshman quarterback to take another step in his development with a solid game against Purdue.

Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska – With Rex Burkhead likely out, the Cornhuskers will have to lean a little more on Martinez, who was impressive in the Week 1 victory over Southern Miss.

T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama – Yeldon rushed for 111 yards and one touchdown against Michigan. Will he eventually surpass Eddie Lacy as the team’s No. 1 running back?

Brandon Mitchell, WR, Arkansas – This converted quarterback was a favorite target for quarterback Tyler Wilson against Jacksonville State, catching four passes for 122 yards. With Alabama up next, look for Wilson and Mitchell to work on their timing this Saturday against UL Monroe.

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee – Da’Rick Rogers wasn’t missed by Tennessee’s offense, thanks to Patterson’s emergence against NC State. He caught six passes for 93 yards and one score, while rushing for 72 yards and one touchdown.
 

9. Teams Looking to Bounce Back

California – Opening a renovated stadium with a loss to Nevada certainly won’t help Jeff Tedford move off the hot seat. The Golden Bears shouldn’t have much trouble this Saturday, as FCS opponent Southern Utah visits Berkeley. It’s important for California to work out some of the kinks on both sides of the ball this Saturday, especially with road dates in the next two weeks at USC and Ohio State.

Michigan – After getting trounced by Alabama, the Wolverines have a difficult task to get ready for Air Force this Saturday. The Falcons cruised in their opener, and the triple-option offense won’t be easy to prepare for.

NC State – The Wolfpack don’t have much time to lick their wounds from the loss to Tennessee last Friday. Connecticut is a dangerous Week 2 opponent, especially now its offense seems to have found a quarterback in Chandler Whitmer. The Huskies are strong on defense, which will be a tough matchup for quarterback Mike Glennon.

Penn State – Although the Nittany Lions were able to ride the early momentum to a lead against Ohio, it wasn’t enough to hold off the Bobcats in the second half. However, Virginia won’t be an easy opponent to rebound against, and Penn State is facing its first 0-2 start since 2001.

Washington State – The much-anticipated return of Mike Leach to the sidelines was a dud. The Cougars scored only six points and managed only 224 yards of total offense. Leach should be able to unleash his aerial attack on Eastern Washington this Saturday, a FCS team that beat Idaho last week and gave Washington all it could handle last year. With Pac-12 play approaching, Washington State needs to find the right mix on offense, especially on a line that struggled to block BYU last Thursday.
 

10. Upset Watch

Note: Teams must be underdogs by Vegas spreads to be considered for the upset watch.

Nebraska at UCLA (+6)
Jim Mora opened his tenure at UCLA with a successful 49-24 victory over Rice. The Cornhuskers will provide a tougher test but could also be without running back Rex Burkhead.

Florida (+1.5) at Texas A&M
Both teams are a mystery, but the Gators defense will be a tough matchup for Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Iowa State (+5) at Iowa
The Cyclones looked good in their season opener against Tulsa, while the Hawkeyes struggled against Northern Illinois. This one is a tossup and there’s no question Iowa should be on upset alert.

UL Lafayette (+3) at Troy
It’s somewhat of a surprise to see the Ragin’ Cajuns listed as an underdog. Louisiana was the better team last season and should win at Troy on Saturday.

Utah at Utah State (+7)  (Friday)
The Aggies’ last victory against Utah came in 1997, so this one is a longshot on Friday night. Utah State has a solid offense but that will be tested by a Utes’ defense that allowed just 114 yards in the opener.

UTEP (+7) at Ole Miss
The Miners gave Oklahoma all it could handle last week. Can UTEP push Ole Miss this Saturday?
 

11. Key Injuries to Watch

Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan – Robinson was banged up in the loss to Alabama but should be in the lineup for Michigan’s game against Air Force.

Nathan Scheelhaase, QB, Illinois – Scheelhaase suffered an ankle injury in the win over Western Michigan and will probably be a gametime decision. If he cannot go, sophomore Reilly O’Toole will get the start.

Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina – Shaw briefly left last Thursday’s game against Vanderbilt with a bruised shoulder. The Gamecocks still have Marcus Lattimore and a tough defense, so if Shaw is sidelined, they should be fine against East Carolina.

Bill Belton, RB, Penn State – The Nittany Lions are already shorthanded on offense and could be without Belton’s services (sprained ankle) against Virginia.

Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina – Bernard left last week’s game against Elon with a knee injury but all signs point to a full workload this Saturday.

Rex Burkhead, RB, Nebraska – Burkhead suffered a sprained MCL in the win over Southern Miss and is not expected to play against UCLA.

Orleans Darkwa, RB, Tulane – Darkwa is dealing with a high-ankle sprain and will likely be out of action until Sept. 22.

Nathan Jeffery, RB, UTEP – Jeffery carried the Miners’ offense against Oklahoma and needs to be healthy for UTEP to have any shot at an upset against Ole Miss.

Montel Harris, RB, Temple – Knee injuries limited Harris at Boston College since 2010, but his return to the lineup was a short one in his Temple debut. A hamstring injury has Harris questionable for Saturday’s game against Maryland.

Chris Nwoke, RB, Colorado State – Nwoke is one of the Mountain West’s top running backs, but he is sidelined this week against North Dakota State with an ankle injury.

Chris Faulk, OL, LSU – Faulk suffered a knee injury in practice and will miss the rest of the year. Considering Faulk is one of the top linemen in the nation, he will be missed in Week 2.
 

12. Welcome to the 2012 season

These five teams did not play in Week 1:

Army – The Black Knights open the 2012 season with a trip to San Diego State.

Louisiana Tech – The Bulldogs’ first game was rescheduled due to Hurricane Isaac and will play at Houston this Saturday.

Oregon State – After the opener with Nicholls State was canceled, the Beavers take on Wisconsin this Saturday.

Texas A&M – With the opener against Louisiana Tech postponed, the Aggies won’t have any time to prep for SEC play with Florida coming to College Station this week.

TCU – The Horned Frogs had an off date in Week 1 and host FCS opponent Grambling this Saturday.

 

by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 2 Preview and Predictions

Big East Week 2 Preview and Predictions

Big Ten Week 2 Preview and Predictions

Big 12 Week 2 Preview and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 2 Preview and Predictions

SEC Week 2 Preview and Predictions

Week 2 Upset Picks

Teaser:
<p> College Football Week 2 Preview: Match-Ups, Upset Picks and Storylines to Watch</p>
Post date: Friday, September 7, 2012 - 06:14
All taxonomy terms: College Football
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Every Friday for entertainment purposes only, I will bring you my top college football picks against the spread. I do not condone, approve or encourage gambling on sports in any way. But if you are a fan of football — college or pro — and you don't think gambling has played a huge role in the growth and popularity of the sport, then you are simply being ignorant. And behind closed doors, the powers that be understand the impact betting has had on the game of football.

2012 Record Against The Spread: 7-2
Last Week: 7-2

Ohio State and Baylor were double-digit favorites last week and both provided easy covers while ACC teams Miami and Clemson provided winners as well in key season openers. Iowa State was the only BCS team facing a mid-major at home that was an underdog — and they won by two touchdowns. Alabama was an easy pick and Louisville was very impressive. The Big Ten supplied my two losses as Michigan State won outright but missed the cover while Penn State's emotional season debut ended in defeat.

Note: All lines are as of date of publication

Louisiana Tech (-3.5) at Houston
There may not have been a worse season debut than Houston’s 30-13 loss to Texas State. There is no Case Keenum, no Kevin Sumlin and the result ended up being 326 total yards of offense against a team that joined the FBS ranks this year. The Bulldogs are loaded on offense, are used to winning (reigning WAC champs), and went 11-2 last season against the spread. They have also had two weeks to prepare as their tough opener against Texas A&M was postponed last week. Prediction: Louisiana Tech (-3.5)

Georgia (-2) at Missouri
The Dawgs and Mark Richt fully understand what this game means to their SEC championship hopes. A trip to South Carolina is the only tougher road game facing UGA all season and Mizzou is making its SEC debut. These two offenses are led by stellar quarterbacks in Aaron Murray and James Franklin, but one team possesses a vastly superior defense. The second this line dropped below the field goal benchmark, I jumped on a team that was 3-1 against the spread as a road favorite last season. Prediction: Georgia (-2)

Vanderbilt (-3.5) at Northwestern
One of these two teams can play defense. One of these two teams is physical at the point of attack. One of these teams plays in the SEC. Vandy should overpower the Wildcats after the Northwestern defense allowed nearly 600 total yards last week to Syracuse. Vandy should be able to score at will and could pull away comfortably in the end. Northwestern was 0-3 as a home dog against the spread last season. Prediction: Vanderbilt (-3.5)

NC State (-4.5) at UConn
The Wolfpack secondary was under fire last weekend against the Vols, however, there might not be a player on the UConn offense (other than Lyle McCombs) that would start for Tennessee. And the one area that played well for NC State last weekend was the rushing defense. This is a great match-up for NC State’s strengths and quarterback Mike Glennon should bounce back this weekend. Prediction: NC State (-4.5)

UCF (+18) at Ohio State
If you throw out the 2011 season, the Buckeyes are 13-2 against the spread as home favorites since 2009. This includes doubling the 23-point spread last week in a 46-point win over Miami, Ohio. Yes, UCF scored 56 points last week but it was against lowly Akron. Ohio State is a far superior football team and will roll to another win this weekend. Prediction: Ohio State (-18)

Wisconsin (-7) at Oregon State
When the Beavers came to Madison last fall, no one gave them a chance to win. Montee Ball ran for 118 yards and two scores in the 35-0 win over Oregon State. After Wisconsin struggled breaking in new offensive pieces last weekend, bettors have brought this line down from 11 to 7 points. The Badgers will be on edge this weekend and Oregon State is walking into this game without the benefit of a warm-up against Nicholls State — a game that got postponed last weekend. Prediction: Wisconsin (-7)

UL Lafayette (+3) at Troy
Mark Hudspeth and ULL started their 2012 season with a 40-0 win over Lamar and look to clear their first big conference hurdle of the season this weekend. Quarterback Blaine Gautier didn’t even play much in this battle last fall that ended with an easy 31-17 Rajin Cajuns’ win. Gautier is back this time around he should be able to make big plays as the Troy defense allowed 459 yards and 29 points to UAB last weekend. Look for ULL to win a close, high-scoring game, so the points feel like a gift. Prediction: UL Lafayette (+3)

Washington (+24) at LSU
Since winning the 2007 BCS national title, LSU and Les Miles are 8-14-1 as home favorites against the spread. So for a team in Washington that has an explosive offense and veteran quarterback, 24 points seems like entirely too many. There is no chance LSU loses the game outright, but winning by four touchdowns for an offense that still has to iron out some kinks feels like a lot to ask. Predictions: Washington (+24) 

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

College Football's Week 2 Upset Predictions
Weekend On Tap: Picking the 10 Best Games of Week 2

ACC Week 2 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 2 Previews and Predictions

Big Ten Week 2 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 2 Previews and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 2 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 2 Previews and Predictions

Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat Post-Week 1 Rankings

Post-Week 1 Bowl Projections

Teaser:
<p> College Football Betting Against the Spread: Week 2</p>
Post date: Friday, September 7, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy-football-start-sit-1
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The 2012 NFL season has officially begun, which means fantasy football is back! One game has already been played, but there are fifteen others to go, which means there are still plenty of lineup decisions that need to be made.

Athlon Sports is to help you make those important decisions each week with our Start and Sit suggestions. Keep in mind these are merely our suggestions as the ultimate decision comes down to you, the owner.

Week 1 Positional Rankings

Sneaky Start of the Week
Danny Amendola, WR, St. Louis at Detroit
What? You were expecting Kevin Ogletree? In all likelihood, Calvin Johnson will probably put up bigger numbers when it comes to receivers in this game, but don’t sleep on Amendola, who should emerge as quarterback Sam Bradford’s favorite target this season. The fourth-year pro out of Texas Tech led the Rams with 85 catches in 2010, which also was Bradford’s rookie season.

Bigger things were expected of both last season, but Amendola dislocated his elbow in the first game, which in essence ended his 2011 season as soon as it got started. Look for Bradford to target Amendola early and often against the Lions, not only because of the likelihood the Rams will be playing catch up most of the game, but also because Detroit’s secondary is already banged up and could be down as many as two starters come Sunday.

Surprise Sit of the Week
Peyton Manning, QB, Denver vs. Pittsburgh
Although I am not expecting Pittsburgh to completely shut down Denver’s offense, especially since this game is in the Mile High city, I also am not expecting Manning to step on the field for the first time since Jan. 8, 2011 and throw for 300+ yards and three or more touchdowns. That’s asking an awful lot of someone who hasn’t played in a real game in more than 20 months, not to mention he’s with a new team and up until this game had played all of his home games indoors.

Then there’s the matter of the Steelers’ defense, the same defense that finished last season ranked No. 1 in the NFL and the one that’s been waiting more than eight months to return to the scene of the crime, a.k.a. their stunning overtime loss to Tim Tebow and the Broncos in last season’s AFC Wild Card playoff game. If that’s not enough backstory to give you pause on starting No. 18 this week, then how about this – in three career games against the Steelers, Manning has averaged 263 yards passing and two touchdowns per contest. And that’s before, the year-plus long layoff, multiple neck surgeries, switching teams, etc.

Quarterbacks
START
Sam Bradford (STL) at Detroit

The 2010 No. 1 overall pick and subsequent Offensive Rookie of the Year was unable to build upon his impressive debut last season, but Bradford and the Rams’ offense should get plenty of opportunities to make a strong opening statement on Sunday in Detroit. The Lions’ explosive offense figures to produce plenty of its own firepower, which means the Rams will be forced to throw to try and keep up. Then there’s the Lions’ secondary, which lost one starter (Eric Wright) to free agency and could be down two starters on Sunday. If the Rams’ offensive line can give Bradford enough time to throw he should be able to put up decent numbers against the pass defense that ranked 22nd in the league in 2011.

Jake Locker (TEN) vs. New England
Even though he looked shaky at times after being named Tennessee’s starting quarterback during the preseason, Locker will open the season with what appears to be a golden opportunity to put to rest any lingering doubts. New England should be able to score on the Titans, although probably not to the tune of the 59 points they put up the last time these two teams met in 2009. Regardless, as far as Locker’s fantasy prospects go, it’s more about matching up with a Patriots’ defense that finished second-to-last in the NFL in 2011.

Ryan Fitzpatrick (BUF) at New York Jets
Fitzpatrick threw four touchdown passes in Week 1 last season and even though he and the Bills faded down the stretch, losing eight of their final nine games, his best game by far during that stretch came against the Jets on the road. In Week 12 last season, Fitzpatrick completed 26 of 39 pass attempts with three touchdowns and no interceptions against the Jets in MetLife Stadium.

SIT
Matt Schaub (HOU) vs. Miami
I don’t think Houston will need to throw the ball that much to defeat Miami, not to mention that the Texans are a run-centric offense in the first place.

Andrew Luck (IND) at Chicago
There will be plenty of weeks when Luck will be a solid starting fantasy option; I just don’t see Week 1 as one of those. As good as Luck has looked in the preseason, making your NFL debut against the Monsters of the Midway in Chicago is not the most ideal situation to break in a rookie signal caller.

Russell Wilson (SEA) at Arizona
Arizona’s defense may not measure up to Chicago’s, but it shouldn’t be overlooked either. Wilson’s mention here falls under the “I believe it when I see it” category as it applies to his ability to produce when the games count, and the fact that the Seahawks may possibly be without the services of workhorse running back Marshawn Lynch, who’s dealing with back spasms.

Running Backs
START

DeAngelo Williams (CAR) at Tampa Bay
Carolina appears to have many mouths to feed when it comes to carries, but Jonathan Stewart could miss the opener against Tampa Bay because of a sprained ankle. Further, I think the Panthers coaching staff is to be believed when they say they want to limit the punishment Cam Newton takes when he's out of the pocket, which is why the team signed goal-line bruiser Mike Tolbert. Still, Carolina running backs as a whole were very productive last season in terms of fantasy scoring, whereas Tampa Bay surrendered the most fantasy points to the position in 2011. The pieces appear to be in place for Williams to potentially bust out in Week 1.

Stevan Ridley (NE) at Tennessee
BenJarvus Green-Ellis is now in Cincinnati and there’s a strong chance that backup Shane Vereen could miss the game against Tennessee because of a leg injury, so Ridley may get plenty of opportunities to show he can be a valuable fantasy producer in 2012. The Titans allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs last season and will probably be more focused on slowing down the Patriots’ aerial attack instead of the ground game.

Kevin Smith (DET) vs. St. Louis
Jahvid Best is out until at least Week 7 and Mikel Leshoure won’t see the field until Week 3, meaning the bulk of the carries and catches out of the backfield should fall to Smith. The Lions figure to get plenty of yards and a fair number of points against St. Louis and Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford can’t be expected to do it all, can they?

SIT
Maurice Jones-Drew (JAC) at Minnesota and Adrian Peterson (MIN) vs. Jacksonville
Either both All-Pro running backs will be on the field in this game Sunday, one will or both could end up watching the action from the sidelines. Regardless of how much or how little either ends up playing, neither should be in your starting line up nor expected to produce along the lines of where they were undoubtedly drafted. Let backups Rashad Jennings and Toby Gerhart take the lion’s share of carries this week and not lose sight of the fact that there are still 15 more games to go after this one.

Trent Richardson (CLE) vs. Philadelphia
Richardson has been practicing, so at this point  it seems like he will make his NFL debut at home on Sunday. Unfortunately for him, it will come against an Eagles defense that finished eighth last season. Oh yeah, rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden will be making his debut as well. Do you want to trust that combination against this defense?

Evan Royster, Roy Helu, Alfred Morris (WAS) at New Orleans
Royster is listed as the starter headed into the game in New Orleans, but that matters very little when it comes to the current state of the Redskins’ backfield. By now we should be used to this, but yet Mike Shanahan continues to bewilder fantasy owners with his RBBC approach. This season it’s the trio of Royster, Helu and Morris, each of whom could get double-digit carries against the Saints or one of them could end up with the bulk of the work. The bottom line is this – until one of them clearly establishes themselves as the top dog, I am staying as far away from the situation as possible.

Wide Receivers
START
Malcom Floyd (SD) at Oakland (Mon.)

Floyd has a reputation for being injury-prone, but he’s also produced when on the field. He finished last season with a bang, hauling in seven passes for 127 yards and a touchdown against Oakland, who San Diego opens against on Monday night. Plus with Ryan Mathews’ expected absence, Philip Rivers may take to the air more than usual and he has more experience and seemingly more chemistry with Floyd than with new target Robert Meachem.

Brandon LaFell (CAR) at Tampa Bay
Steve Smith has been dealing with a foot injury, but he is expected to play against Tampa Bay. Still, the opportunity clearly exists for LaFell to establish himself as a dependable target for Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. LaFell’s best game last season came against the Buccaneers when he caught three passes for 101 yards and a touchdown in Week 16.

Justin Blackmon (JAC) at Minnesota
The first-round pick twisted his ankle in practice earlier this week, but was a full participant on Thursday and should make his NFL debut on Sunday against Minnesota. If he does get on the field, expect second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert to look for Blackmon early and often, as the athletic target should be able to find some seams in the Vikings’ susceptible secondary.

SIT
Mike Wallace (PIT) at Denver

He’s no longer holding out, but he also missed practically the entire preseason, so don’t be surprised if Wallace plays a supporting role in Pittsburgh's passing attack against Denver. Antonio Brown established himself as Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite target during the second half of last season and in the preseason and expect more of the same on Sunday.

Vincent Jackson (TB) vs. Carolina
Jackson left San Diego as a free agent for the greener pastures of Tampa Bay, but Josh Freeman is not Philip Rivers and more importantly, the Buccaneers’ passing attack doesn’t appear to be near as vertical as the Chargers. Don’t be surprised if it takes Jackson and Freeman a few weeks to develop their chemistry.

Michael Crabtree (SF) at Green Bay
Crabtree may be San Francisco’s No. 1 wide receiver, but the 49ers just don’t throw the ball that much and the team has even more pass-catching options this season with the additions of Mario Manningham, Randy Moss and first-round pick A.J. Jenkins. Also tight end Vernon Davis appears to be quarterback Alex Smith’s favorite target, not Crabtree.

Tight Ends
Start
Greg Olsen (CAR) at Tampa Bay

Carolina tight ends were targeted a total of 155 times last season, with all but three of those going to either Olsen (90) or Greg Shockey (62). Shockey is no longer on the Panthers roster. Any questions?

Kyle Rudolph (MIN) vs. Jacksonville
Rudolph and quarterback Christian Ponder were both drafted by Minnesota in 2011. Now they are entering  their second years in the league and going forward, along with wide receiver Percy Harvin, figure to make up the bulk of the Vikings’ aerial attack. It also doesn’t hurt that Jacksonville gave up the fourth-most fantasy points to tight ends last season.

Coby Fleener (IND) at Chicago
While Andrew Luck may end up struggling in his pro debut against Chicago, it wouldn’t shock me if he and Fleener hook up quite often. The Bears surrendered the seventh-most fantasy points to tight ends in 2011 and there’s no denying the chemistry and familiarity between the two former Stanford teammates.

SIT
Jermichael Finley (GB) vs. San Francisco

It’s not that I don’t like Finley, as I have him ranked seventh among his position for Week 1, it’s more that I’m wary of this match up. San Francisco’s defense was one of the league’s best last season, they are strong at linebacker, and my guess is the Packers will try to exploit the 49ers on the outside and deep rather than in the middle, which is where Finley does a considerable amount of his damage.

Jermaine Gresham (CIN) at Baltimore (Mon.)
Gresham tweaked his knee during the preseason, but should be ready to go against Baltimore on Monday night. Depending on your options, however, I would consider benching this Bengal. The Ravens gave up the second-fewest fantasy points to tight ends last season and still have you-know-who roaming the middle at linebacker.

Jacob Tamme (DEN) vs. Pittsburgh
Tamme and Peyton Manning know each other from their days in Indianapolis, which could result in some big games from the tight end at some point, just not in Week 1. Pittsburgh was the league’s stingiest defense in 2011 and as I have already stated, I just don’t see Manning lighting it up in his Broncos’ debut either.

Defense/Special Teams
START
Philadelphia at Cleveland

Let’s see, a rookie quarterback and a rookie running back coming off of knee surgery both making their NFL debuts? Yes please!

Seattle at Arizona
John Skelton was named Arizona’s starting quarterback for Week 1. Yes, he gets to throw to Larry Fitzgerald and promising rookie wideout Michael Floyd, but he also gets to do so against Seattle’s young and continually improving defense. A defense that was the NFC’s third stingiest against the pass in 2011, not to mention that the Cardinals’ starting and backup running backs come into this game with lingering injury questions.

Buffalo at New York Jets
The Jets’ offense looked awful in the preseason, while the Bills’ new-look defense is more than ready to see how they measure up against their in-state, division rival. Unless the offensive line opens up some holes for the running game and provides better pass protection than it has shown so far, it could be a long afternoon for whoever is under center for the Jets, regardless of whether that’s Mark Sanchez or Tim Tebow.

SIT
San Francisco at Green Bay
Don’t get me wrong, this is a really good defense. It’s just that this Week 1 match up in Green Bay against a Packers’ offense makes me a little nervous. The Packers' aerial attack, led by reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, is more than capable of exploiting the 49ers' most apparent defensive weakness (secondary/pass defense). Don’t be surprised if this one ends up looking like last season’s playoff game against New Orleans, a game in which the 49ers gave up nearly 500 yards of total offense and 32 points, albeit in a victory.

Kansas City vs. Atlanta
By season’s end I think Kansas City's defense will be among the better units in the AFC, but I see a rocky start to the campaign as the Falcons will look to utilize all of its weapons in their passing attack and take advantage of the injury issues the Chiefs are dealing with at key positions.

Miami at Houston
Houston will look to run over, around and through the Dolphins, using its ground game to wear down the defense. To make matters worse, a tired and beleaguered defensive unit won’t get much time to catch its breath as the Fins' offense led by rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill will go three-and-out consistently against a staunch Texans’ defense.

Kickers
START
Mike Nugent (CIN) at Baltimore (Mon.)

Not expecting an offensive explosion from either team, but I think Cincinnati will give Nugent a fair share of field goal opportunities.

Nate Kaeding (SD) at Oakland (Mon.)
Kaeding’s 2011 season lasted all of one kickoff. He’s back in 2012 and the Chargers should give him plenty of opportunities to flex his leg against the Raiders on Monday night.

Greg Zuerlein (STL) at Detroit
Rookie has a big leg and I think the Rams will be able to move the ball enough against the Lions to give him some chances to show it off.

SIT
Dan Carpenter (MIA) at Houston

Just don’t see many scoring opportunities, look elsewhere.

Phil Dawson (CLE) vs. Philadelphia
See above. Both kickers are relying on offenses led by rookie quarterbacks making their pro debuts against tough defenses.

Blair Walsh (MIN) vs. St. Louis
If you want to trust this rookie as your starting kicker, you go right ahead. I would rather take my chances with one of the 31 other available, including the aforementioned Carpenter and Dawson.

— By Mark Ross, published on Sept. 6, 2012

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Fantasy Football: Week 1 Start or Sit</p>
Post date: Friday, September 7, 2012 - 06:00
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Why should the Heisman Trophy have all the fun?

Unfair to award contenders or not, the Heisman Trophy is the only major sports award where the favorites are decided almost as soon as the previous winner is named.

We think college football’s rich history of trophies and awards deserves more fanfare all season long. That’s why we’ll take a look at contenders for major position awards, and later coach of the year awards. We’ll name our weekly leaders for the Davey O’Brien, the Doak Walker, Nagurski, Lombard, Outland and more each week, here in the weekly awards watch.

If you’re looking for our thoughts on that other trophy, check our weekly Heisman poll.

Davey O’Brien (Top quarterback)
Last year’s winner: Robert Griffin, Baylor
Our leader: Geno Smith, West Virginia
USC’s Matt Barkley is the Heisman favorite, but it was tough to beat Geno Smith’s stat line against Marshall. Smith completed 32 of 36 passes for 323 yards with three touchdowns. He also rushed for 65 yards and a score, a career high. He never ran for more than 26 yards in a game last season. Smith leads an offense that has scored 139 points in two games.
Others: USC’s Matt Barkley, Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez

Doak Walker (Top running back)
Last year’s winner: Trent Richardson, Alabama
Our leader: Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State
Bell took the pressure off first-time starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell by rushing for 210 yards and two touchdowns against Boise State. Bell, who had split time in past seasons, had never topped 20 carries in a game in his career.
Others: UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin, Clemson’s Bruce Ellington

Biletnikoff Award (Top wide receiver)
Last year’s winner: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
Our leader: Marqise Lee, USC
Lee may be overtaking the more veteran Robert Woods as USC’s most visible receiver. Against Hawaii, Lee caught 10 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown. He added a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to boot, marking the second time in his career he’s had a touchdown catch and a special teams score. Lee has 10 touchdowns in his last six games.
Others: Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins, Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews

Mackey Award (Top tight end)
Last year’s winner: Dwayne Allen, Clemson
Our leader: Kaneakua Friel, BYU
The junior tight end caught seven passes all of last season and almost topped that against Washington State. Friel caught six passes from 101 yards, including touchdown catches from two different quarterbacks.
Others: Arkansas’ Chris Gragg, Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Outland Trophy (Top interior lineman)
Last year’s winner: Barrent Jones, Alabama
Our leader: Jones, Alabama
No offensive lineman came into this season with more fanfare than the defending Outland winner, even earning a little bit of Heisman attention from those who’d like to see the award go to a lineman every once in a while. Led by Jones, the Alabama offensive line was dominant against Michigan, opening gaping running lanes for Alabama backs. The Crimson Tide rushed for 232 yards and 5.2 yards per carry in the win over The Wolverines.
Others: Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, Alabama’s D.J. Fluker

Rimington Trophy (Top center)
Last year’s winner: David Molk, Michigan
Our leader: Alabama’s Jones
Others: Clemson’s Dalton Freeman

Bednarik Award/Nagurski Award (Defensive Player of the Year)
Last year’s winners: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU (Bednarik), Luke Kuechly, Boston College (Nagurski)
Our leader: Dee Milliner, Alabama
Michigan probably tested Alabama’s new first-time cornerback one too many times in the 41-14 rout. Milliner finished the game with four pass breakups and an interception returned 35 yards to set up a short Alabama field goal. Denard Robinson completed only 5 of 16 passes in the first half against the Alabama defense.
Others: Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, Florida State’s Bjoern Werner

Lombardi Award (Top lineman or linebacker)
Last year’s winner: Keuchly
Our leader: Manti Te’o, Notre Dame
Notre Dame’s star linebacker recorded six tackles and picked up two turnovers (one interception and a fumble recovery) in the 50-10 Irish win over Navy. Hard to believe for one of the nation’s best linebackers, but it was just his first career interception.
Others: BYU’s Kyle Van Noy, Florida State’s Bjoern Werner

Butkus Award (Top linebacker)
Last year’s winner: Kuechly
Our leader: Te’o, Notre Dame
Others: Michigan State’s Max Bullough, West Virginia’s Isaiah Bruce

Thorpe Award (Top defensive back)
Last year’s winner: Morris Claiborne, LSU
Our leader: Milliner, Alabama
Others: Rutgers’ Brandon Jones, Texas’ Kenny Vacarro

Groza Award (Top kicker)
Last year’s winner: Randy Bullock, Texas A&M
Our leader: Sean Ianno, UTSA
Ianno accounted for 15 points, including a 51-yard field goal with 23 seconds remaining to clinch a 33-31 win over South Alabama. in UTSA’s debut as an FBS program Ianno also kicked field goals of 47, 32 and 21 yards.
Others: Clemson’s Chandler Catanzaro, Iowa’s Mike Meyer

Ray Guy Award (Top punter)
Last year’s winner: Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech
Our leader: Kirby Van Der Kamp, Iowa State
Van Der Kamp averaged 43 yards per kick on nine punts, landing five of them inside Tulsa’s 20-yard line in the Cyclones 38-23 win.
Others: Colorado’s Darragh O’Neill, Michigan’s Will Hagerup

Freshman of the Year
Our leader: Duke Johnson, Miami
Whether breaking tackles or running to the end zone untouched, Duke Johnson hinted at entering his spot in Miami’s long running back tradition. Johnson rushed for touchdowns of 54 and 56 yards against Boston College, finishing with 135 yards on seven carries.
Others: UCLA’s Brett Hundley, Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon

by David Fox

@davidfox615

Related College Football Content:

ACC Week 2 Previews and Predictions

Big East Week 2 Previews and Predictions
Big Ten Week 2 Previews and Predictions
Big 12 Week 2 Previews and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 2 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 2 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 2 Upset Picks

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Teaser:
<p> College Football Award Watch: Post-Week 1</p>
Post date: Friday, September 7, 2012 - 05:55
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
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If you checked-in with us at the end of last week, you were handed a few fantasy gems.  In fact, our emergency running backs list posted more points per player than our top ten running backs (21.5 vs. 20.7).  The quarterbacks list (19.3) offered tremendous value late in the week, while our receivers (8.7) did little to help your cause.  Our favorite combination this week:  QB-Gillett, RB-Alexander, WR-Amidon.

Emergency Starters—Week 2


Joe DiSalvo: (@theCFFsite on Twitter)

Quarterback

Alex Gillett-Eastern Michigan vs Illinois St

MarQueis Gray-Minnesota vs New Hampshire

Tre Roberson-Indiana at UMass

Matt Schilz-Bowling Green vs Idaho

Zac Dysert-Miami (OH) vs Southern Illinois


Last week’s list (points/player)—19.3
 

Running Backs

Trey Watts-Tulsa vs Tulane

Walter Kazee-San Diego St vs Army

Travon Van-Marshall vs Western Carolina

David Oku-Arkansas St vs Memphis

Donnell Alexander-Colorado St vs North Dakota St

Tony Pierson-Kansas vs Rice

Jeremy Wright-Louisville vs Missouri St

CJ Anderson-Cal vs Southern Utah
 

Last week’s list (points/player)—21.5


Receivers

Robert Herron-Wyoming vs Toledo

Alex Nuetz-Buffalo vs Morgan St

Davante Adams at Oregon

Isaiah Burse at Oregon

Jaime Wilson-Western Michigan vs Eastern Illinois

Alex Amidon-Boston College vs Maine                 


Last week’s list (points/player)—8.7


Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

Quarterbacks

Rakeem Cato, Marshall vs. Western Carolina

Garrett Gilbert, SMU vs. Stephen F. Austin

Taylor McHargue, Rice at Kansas

Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt at Northwestern

Eric Soza, UTSA vs. Texas A&M-Commerce

Bo Wallace, Ole Miss vs. UTEP
 

Running Backs

Beau Blankenship, Ohio vs. New Mexico State

Tim Cornett, UNLV vs. Northern Arizona

De'Leon Eskridge, SJSU vs. UC Davis

Raymond Maples, Army vs. San Diego State

Damien Williams, Oklahoma vs. Florida A&M


Wide Receivers

Ryan Burbrink, Bowling Green vs. Idaho

Brandon Coleman, Rutgers vs. Howard

Bennie Fowler, Michigan State at Central Michigan

La'Rod King, Kentucky vs. Kent State

Chip Reeves, Troy vs. UL Lafayette



by Joe DiSalvo

The College Fantasy Football Site

Follow Joe on twitter (@theCFFsite)

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Post date: Friday, September 7, 2012 - 04:23
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College football's second weekend of action is highlighted by three key games in the SEC. Here's a prediction on every game this weekend.

FRIDAY

No. 32 Utah at No. 85 Utah State
Utah has won 12 straight over its in-state rivals from Logan, and only two games have been decided by 10 points or less. But it would be a surprise if this one got away from the Aggies, especially on their home field. Not sure if Utah State can win, but it should be close.
Utah 28-20

SATURDAY

No. 102 Western Kentucky at No. 1 Alabama
They’ve won eight of their last nine games dating back to the 2011 season with the only loss coming against LSU. No, not Alabama. We’re talking about Western Kentucky, which was the only seven-win team last season that did not go to a bowl game.
Alabama 44-10

No. 2 USC vs. No. 62 Syracuse (East Rutherford, N.J.)
Syracuse rolled up 596 yards of offense against Northwestern in Week 1 at home — and lost. Now, they head to the Meadowlands to face one of the elite teams in the nation. The Orange might have some success through the air against the USC defense, but they will have a very difficult time slowing down the dynamic — and balanced — Trojan attack.
USC 41-14

No. 24 Washington at No. 3 LSU
Washington is embarking on a stretch that will feature three of its next five against teams currently ranked among the top four in the nation. In addition to this trip to the Bayou, UW travels to Oregon on Oct. 13 and hosts USC on Oct. 20. The Huskies are making strides under third-year coach Steve Sarkisian, but the program isn’t yet in position to seriously threaten any of the three looming superpowers.
LSU 30-17

No. 83 Fresno State at No. 4 Oregon
The most important thing that we learned in Oregon’s Week 1 win over Arkansas State? That the quarterback’s last name is pronounced MAR-ee-oh-tah.
Oregon 44-17.

Florida A&M at No. 5 Oklahoma
Florida A&M scored 14 points last week against Tennessee State. The Rattlers will probably need to score about 50 to win this game. Don’t see that happening.
Oklahoma 48-13

No. 61 UCF at No. 6 Ohio State
UCF boasts some quality talent on offense. The Knights have an outstanding quarterback (Blake Bortles) and deep backfield that includes former Miami Hurricane Storm Johnson. This game could be interesting into the second half.
Ohio State 31-14

No. 7 Georgia at No. 29 Missouri
Missouri’s journey into the SEC begins Saturday in Columbia, Mo., when the Tigers host Georgia, the defending champs of the East. Both teams won their respective openers with ease, though Georgia couldn’t have been thrilled about allowing 347 total yards (199 on the ground) in its 45–23 win over Buffalo.
Georgia 27-21

Savannah State at No. 8 Florida State
Savannah State’s march of death continues. Last week, the Tigers fell behind Oklahoma State 35–0 after one quarter en route to an 84–0 loss that could have been much, much worse. This week, Savannah State makes the short trip to Tallahassee. This, too, will get very ugly.
Florida State 58-0

No. 116 New Mexico at No. 9 Texas
The Bob Davie era got off to a nice start with a 66–21 win over Southern. Now, however, the real fun starts for the Lobos. They play five of their next seven on the road, beginning with Saturday’s trip to Austin.
Texas 41-3

No. 71 East Carolina at No. 11 South Carolina
Conner Shaw is questionable for Saturday’s home opener after suffering a bruise to his left (non-throwing) shoulder against Vanderbilt. If Shaw can’t go, sophomore Dylan Thompson would be the next man up. The South Carolina offense sputtered with Thompson in the game last Thursday. He went 0-of-3 (and didn’t come close) and was sacked twice. This could be a struggle if Shaw isn’t healthy.
South Carolina 28-10

No. 101 UL-Monroe at No. 12 Arkansas
Arkansas struggled a bit in the first half with Jacksonville State before pulling away for a 49–24 win. The Hogs had trouble, at times, stopping the Gamecocks’ passing attack. UL-Monroe features a solid quarterback (junior Kolton Browning) and some experienced playmakers at wide receiver. The Hogs’ secondary could be tested.
Arkansas 38-14

No. 13 Nebraska at No. 42 UCLA
It was no great surprise Nebraska beat Southern Miss with such ease — the final was 49–20. Nor that the Cornhuskers had 632 yards of offense. But what was surprising was the play of quarterback Taylor Martinez. The junior, who is known more for his running exploits, completed 26-of-34 passes for 354 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. The Nebraska staff would be thrilled to get that type of production from Martinez on a consistent basis.
Nebraska 27-21

No. 104 Ball State at No. 14 Clemson
Andre Ellington played his way into some (very) early Heisman talk by rushing for 231 yards in the Tigers’ win against Auburn. He can remain in the conversation with a big game against the Cardinals.
Clemson 51-24

No. 91 Air Force at No. 15 Michigan
The Wolverines need a get-well game after their humbling loss to Alabama at Cowboys Stadium. I’m guessing that Denard Robinson will have more than 27 yards rushing.
Michigan 37-17

Austin Peay at No. 16 Virginia Tech
The Hokies’ secondary doesn’t figure to be threatened too much this weekend. Austin Peay threw for 11 yards in a season-opening 49–10 loss at Western Kentucky.
Virginia Tech 61-0

No. 17 Michigan State at No. 111 Central Michigan
Michigan State makes its first-ever trip to Central Michigan in a game that is expected to set an attendance record at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. The Chippewas’ coach, Dan Enos, was a starting quarterback at Michigan State in 1989-90.
Michigan State 38-10

No. 18 Oklahoma State at No. 51 Arizona
Somehow, Arizona only scored 17 points in regulation vs. Toledo last week despite rolling up 599 yards of offense through the four quarters. The Wildcats will need to be far more efficient this weekend against a powerful Oklahoma State team that puts points on the board in a hurry.
Oklahoma State 34-20

No. 53 Purdue at No. 19 Notre Dame
The matchup to watch in South Bend will be Purdue’s underrated defensive tackle tandem of Kawann Short and Bruce Gaston vs. Notre Dame’s interior offensive line.
Notre Dame 28-17

Grambling at No. 20 TCU
TCU begins its 2012 season after sitting out Week 1 with a bye. Grambling is 0-1 after losing at Alcorn State 22–21.
TCU 48-0

No. 21 Wisconsin at No. 59 Oregon State
Wisconsin’s 26–21 win over Northern Iowa was a little too close for comfort. Danny O’Brien played well in his debut at quarterback, but the Badgers did not run the ball as efficiently as usual. Montee Ball topped the 100-yard mark but averaged only 3.8 yards on his 32 carries. Oregon State is making its 2012 debut.
Wisconsin 28-17

Missouri State at No. 22 Louisville
Louisville is feeling pretty good about itself after dominating rival Kentucky on Sunday afternoon. Teddy Bridgewater was terrific at quarterback, and two running backs (Senoris Perry and Jeremy Wright) ran for more than 100 yards.
Louisville 44-14

Georgia State at No. 25 Tennessee
After an impressive Week 1 win over NC State in Atlanta,
the Vols return home to Neyland Stadium for what will be a stress-free Saturday. Georgia State poses absolutely no threat.
Tennessee 51-0

No. 33 South Florida at No. 26 Nevada

Cody Fajardo did his best Colin Kaepernick impersonation last week, throwing for 230 yards and rushing for 97 in the Wolf Pack’s 31–24 win at Cal. South Florida held Chattanooga to 151 total yards in a 34¬13 win last week.
Nevada 30-21

No. 43 Miami (Fla.) at No. 27 Kansas State
Kansas State is looking for quarterback Collin Klein to be more of a threat throwing the ball this season. He should have a big game, both with his arm and legs, against the suspect Miami defense that gave up 542 yards to Boston College last week.
Kansas State 34-28

No. 28 North Carolina at No. 73 Wake Forest
Wake Forest struggled to beat Liberty last week, holding on for a 20–17 win in Winston-Salem. North Carolina, meanwhile, dominated Elon (62–0) with surprising ease.
North Carolina 34-21

No. 63 Duke at No. 30 Stanford
Duke posted a solid Week 1 win, rolling past FIU 46-26 in Durham. The Blue Devils broke open a close game with a 30-point second quarter. Stanford had some trouble in its first game of the post-Andrew Luck era, beating San Jose State 20–17. Josh Nunes threw for 125 yards on 26 attempts for a very un-Luck-like 4.8 yards per completion.
Stanford 27-17

No. 34 Florida at No. 32 Texas A&M
Florida’s search for competent quarterback play continues. Jeff Driskel received the majority of the snaps in the Gators’ tougher-than-expected 27–14 win over Bowling Green. His numbers weren’t bad (10-of-16 for 114 yards and one TD), but Florida only had one pass play that went for longer than 18 yards. This offense must be more balanced if the Gators plan on being a factor in the SEC East.
Texas A&M 17-14

No. 35 Auburn at No. 47 Mississippi State
This a huge early season showdown between two teams that will be jockeying for position in the middle of the SEC West. Auburn remains a work in progress on defense under first-year coordinator Brian VanGorder. The Tigers, who gave up an average 421.1 yards in 10 games vs. AQ conference opponents in 2011, struggled to stop Clemson despite giving up only 26 points. Mississippi State, however, doesn’t have offensive weapons like Tajh Boyd and Andre Ellington at Clemson.
Auburn 24-21

Presbyterian at No. 36 Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech returns home after a gut-wrenching overtime loss at Virginia Tech on Monday night. The Yellow Jackets’ option attack should have little trouble with the Blue Hose defense.
Georgia Tech 50-10

Weber State at No. 37 BYU
BYU was one of the most impressive teams in Week 1, holding the Mike Leach-coached Washington State Cougars to 224 total yards in a 30–6 win in Provo.
BYU 38-7

No. 57 Penn State at No. 38 Virginia
Penn State is fresh off a humbling loss at home to Ohio in the debut of coach Bill O’Brien. Now, the Nittany Lions take their show on the road against a Virginia team that threw for 361 yards in a 43–19 win over Richmond.
Virginia 27-14

No. 115 New Mexico State at No. 40 Ohio
Ohio must avoid a letdown after its big win at Penn State last week. Frank Solich is a veteran coach who will make sure his team is ready to play.
Ohio 31-13

No. 44 Illinois at No. 54 Arizona State
This would be a tough spot for Illinois at full strength, but the Fighting Illlini might be without starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, who injured his ankle in the win over Western Michigan. Arizona State scored 63 points in the first showing of the Todd Graham Experiment. Now, we will see what happens against a quality defense.
Arizona State 30-24

No. 41 NC State at No. 48 UConn
UConn didn’t allow UMass to cross its own 40-yard line in a 37–0 Week 1 win over the Minutemen. Don’t expect a repeat of that dominant defensive effort, but also don’t be surprised if the Huskies pull off the mild upset.
UConn 27-24

No. 45 Vanderbilt at No. 48 Northwestern
Vanderbilt struggled to move the ball with consistency in a 17¬–13 loss to South Carolina last Thursday. The Dores picked up 276 total yards, but 28.7 percent of the yards came on one play, a 78-yard touchdown from Jordan Rodgers to Jordan Matthews. This week, they will face a Northwestern defense that gave up 596 yards to Syracuse in a thrilling 42¬–41 win at the Carrier Dome.
Vanderbilt 34-24

No. 46 Iowa State at No. 52 Iowa
The ’12 season got off to a good start offensively for Iowa State. The Clones, a surprising home underdog to Tulsa, rolled up 441 yards in a 38–23 win over the Golden Hurricane. This rivalry game often doesn’t go as expected. This is just a hunch, but I like the Clones on the road.
Iowa State 21-20

Howard at No. 49 Rutgers
Rutgers survived a mild scare from Tulane in the opener, holding on for a 24–12 win over the Green Wave in New Orleans. Now, it’s time for a tune-up before a difficult road swing through South Florida and Arkansas.
Rutgers 41-3

Southern Utah at No. 50 California
The Golden Bears should take out the frustrations from last week’s loss at home to Nevada by pounding a Southern Utah club that gave up 569 yards to Utah State last week.
California 38-6

No. 87 Texas State at No. 56 Texas Tech
Texas State was the biggest mover in the post-Week 1 Athlon 124, jumping from No. 121 in the preseason to No. 87 after its stunning win at Houston. The magical run will end in Lubbock.
Texas Tech 31-17

No. 60 Louisiana Tech at No. 100 Houston
Houston, meanwhile, fell from No. 70 in the preseason to No. 100 after losing at home, 30–13, to Texas State. This is a very important game for first-year coach Tony Levine.
Louisiana Tech 31, Houston 20

New Hampshire at No. 64 Minnesota
This won’t be a gimme for Minnesota. New Hampshire rolled up 531 yards of offense in a 38–17 win at Holy Cross last weekend.
Minnesota 34–20

No. 122 Memphis at No. 65 Arkansas State
Memphis lost at home to UT Martin last week in Justin Fuente’s debut as the Tigers’ head coach. This could get ugly. Gus Malzahn will be eager to score a ton of points in his first game in Jonesboro.
Arkansas State 56-10

No. 98 Maryland at No. 66 Temple
People who are surprised that Maryland is a 10-point underdog at Temple must have forgotten that the Terps lost at home to the Owls 38–7 last September.
Temple 17-14

No. 97 Kent State at No. 67 Kentucky
Perhaps no coach in American needs a win this week more than Kentucky’s Joker Phillips, who is 0–1 after losing badly to rival Louisville in Week 1.
Kentucky 24-14

No. 68 UL-Lafayette at No. 105 Troy
UL-Lafayette has an opportunity for a big early season road win in the Sun Belt. Troy played well last week in a win at UAB, but UL-Lafayette is a more formidable foe with a bunch of offensive weapons.
UL-Lafayette 33-23

No. 80 UTEP at No. 70 Ole Miss
Ole Miss hosts a UTEP team that went toe-to-toe with Oklahoma into the fourth quarter before losing 24–7. The key to avoiding the upset for Ole Miss will be slowing down tailback Nathan Jeffery, who rushed for 177 yards on 21 carries vs. Oklahoma.
Ole Miss 17-14

No. 72 Toledo at No. 93 Wyoming
Toledo gave up 624 yards but only 24 points in a Week 1 overtime loss at Arizona. Wyoming isn’t as skilled as Arizona, but the Cowboys did manage 345 yards of offense last week against a very good Texas defense.
Wyoming 41, Toledo 34

No. 114 Rice at No. 74 Kansas
Rice ranked last in the nation among the 117 teams that played last week by giving up an average of 9.36 yards per play in its loss to UCLA. That is not good.
Kansas 41-10

No. 113 Tulane at No. 76 Tulsa
Tulsa has won all seven meetings (by an average of 30 points) between these two teams since Conference USA formed in 2005. Don’t expect this game to be any different.
Tulsa 43-10

Eastern Illinois at No. 77 Western Michigan
Eastern Illinois scored 49 points and rolled up 522 yards vs. Southern Illinois last week. Western Michigan should win, but the Broncs will have to play well.
Western Michigan 38-17

North Dakota State at No. 78 Colorado State
Jim McElwain began his tenure in style, beating rival Colorado 22–17 in Denver. Now, he makes his debut at home against a North Dakota State team that outgained Robert Morris 495-to-88 in a 52–0 win.
Colorado State 24-14

Maine at No. 79 Boston College
Boston College opened the season with 41–32 loss at home to Miami, but the Eagles did show signs of significant improvement on offense, recording 542 total yards.
Boston College 34-10

Eastern Washington at No. 81 Washington State
The Mike Leach era opened with a six-point, 224-yard effort against BYU. Not exactly what the Cougar faithful had in mind. Wazzu will have an opportunity to pick up a W this week, but it might not be easy. Eastern Washington won at Idaho last Thursday night.
Washington State 27-10

Tennessee-Martin at No. 82 Northern Illinois
Northern Illinois came close to knocking off Iowa in Chicago despite picking up only 201 yards of offense (73 on one play). The Huskies should have more success in Week 2.
Northern Illinois 37-14

No. 124 Idaho at No. 84 Bowling Green
These are not good times for the Idaho Vandals. The team without a conference — the school recently declared its Independence — lost last week 20–3 at home to Eastern Washington.
Bowling Green 34-0

No. 119 Akron at No. 86 FIU
FIU has to be a bit disappointed after losing its opener by 20 points at Duke. The Golden Panthers will take out their frustrations on Terry Bowden and the Zips.
FIU 37-10

UC Davis at No. 88 San Jose State
The Spartans played well in their opener, falling 20–17 at Stanford. Last year, the lost to Stanford 57–3.
San Jose State 31-10

Sacramento State at No. 89 Colorado
Jon Embree’s second season at his alma mater didn’t start in fine fashion. The Buffs lost to rival Colorado State — and didn’t look good doing so.
Colorado 37-13

No. 90 Indiana at No. 12 UMass
The Hoosiers avoided disaster by holding on for a seven-point win over Indiana State in Week 1. Now, they hit the road to play a UMass team that has yet to advance the ball past its own 40-yard line this year.
Indiana 28-7

Western Carolina at No. 92 Marshall
Marshall had some trouble on the defensive end last week, getting torched by West Virginia for 69 points. The Herd will be eager to do the torching this Saturday.
Marshall 34-10

Stephen F. Austin at No. 94 SMU
SMU did some good things on offense in a 59–24 loss at Baylor last Sunday. The Mustangs picked up over 500 yards of offense but were undone by some costly turnovers. This has a chance to be a good team.
SMU 37-17

No. 96 Army at No. 95 San Diego State
San Diego State played well defensively in its 21–12 loss at Washington last week, holding the Huskies to a total of 326 yards. Army is making its 2012 debut.
San Diego State 24-17

Southern Illinois at No. 103 Miami (Ohio)
The Red Hawks held their own early vs. Ohio State before being overwhelmed by the Buckeyes’ offense in a 56–10 loss. Zac Dysert threw for 303 yards to lead the one-dimensional Miami attack.
Miami (Ohio) 33-10

Texas Southern at No. 106 North Texas
Think the talent differential is great between North Texas’ first two opponents? First LSU. Now Texas Southern.
North Texas 33-10

Illinois State at No. 107 Eastern Michigan
Eastern Michigan needs to get out of this game as healthy as possible with trips to Purdue and Michigan State looming.
Eastern Michigan 30-17

Morgan State at No. 110 Buffalo
Buffalo can’t be too disappointed with its performance at Georgia. The Bulls picked up 347 yards of offense and only trailed 24–16 at the half.
Buffalo 28-7

Northern Arizona at No. 112 UNLV
UNLV missed a golden opportunity to beat a Big Ten team, losing to Minnesota in triple-overtime. The Rebels should improve to 1-1 against a Northern Arizona team that gave up 66 points to Arizona State in Week 1.
UNLV 28-13

Nicholls State at No. 118 South Alabama
South Alabama dropped its first game as an FBS school last week, falling to Texas-San Antonio (another FBS newbie) 33–31 in Mobile.
South Alabama 31-10

No. 120 FAU at No. 121 Middle Tennessee
This game is depressing. Middle Tennessee lost at home to McNeese State last week, while FAU “escaped” with a 10–7 win over Wagner. Both teams desperately need a win.
Middle Tennessee 20-3

Last Week: 55-9
 

Teaser:
<p> Predictions on every college football game in Week 2.</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 23:06
Path: /node/12203
Body:

NFL Week 1 previews and predictions for every game on the schedule:

Colts (0-0) at Bears (0-0)
The Colts’ Andrew Luck era begins with a trip to Soldier Field, where Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher says it’s a “done deal” he will play.
Bears by 6

Eagles (0-0) at Browns (0-0)
Michael Vick will wear a new flak jacket to protect his sore ribs. Cleveland fans will wear the traditional Browns paper bags over their heads.
Eagles by 7

Rams (0-0) at Lions (0-0)
Jeff Fisher’s first game as a Ram is against his former D-coordinator, Lions boss Jim Schwartz.
Lions by 8

Dolphins (0-0) at Texans (0-0)
Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill returns to the Lone Star State, where he played at Texas A&M.
Texans by 11

Falcons (0-0) at Chiefs (0-0)
Atlanta’s “Matty Ice” Ryan faces off against K.C.’s Matt “on thin ice” Cassel in a battle royale.
Falcons by 5

Jaguars (0-0) at Vikings (0-0)
Second-year signal-callers Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder both wish their All-Pro runners were in game shape — but neither will be.
Vikings by 3

Redskins (0-0) at Saints (0-0)
RG3 vs. Drew Brees could be a fantasy field day — or a reality check for Washington fans.
Saints by 7

Bills (0-0) at Jets (0-0)
The Wild Tebow formation will steal the show whether it is effective or not.
Jets by 1

Patriots (0-0) at Titans (0-0)
Jake Locker’s first start comes against Tom Brady, who passed for 517 yards and four TDs in Week 1 last season.
Patriots by 6

Seahawks (0-0) at Cardinals (0-0)
This battle of the NFC West birds will headline the league’s two least likely starting QBs — Russell Wilson and John Skelton.
Seahawks by 3

49ers (0-0) at Packers (0-0)
A potential NFC title game preview features the Niners’ solid gold D vs. the Pack’s passing attack.
Packers by 3

Panthers (0-0) at Buccaneers (0-0)
Cam Newton will look to build upon the legend of his rookie season against the new-look Bucs.
Panthers by 2

Steelers (0-0) at Broncos (0-0)
Peyton Manning takes the field against the Steelers in prime time on Sunday night in his first meaningful action since Jan. 8, 2011.
Steelers by 3

Bengals (0-0) at Ravens (0-0)
Last year was a breakthrough, but Cincy did go 0–4 vs. Baltimore and Pittsburgh — losing to the Ravens 31–24 on the road in Week 11, and 24–16 at home in Week 17.
Ravens by 5

Chargers (0-0) at Raiders (0-0)
The Raiders open their first full season without Al Davis since 1966 as the Monday nightcap.
Raiders by 1
 

Teaser:
<p> A game-by-game rundown of the NFL’s Week 1 schedule, including the Bengals at Ravens, 49ers at Packers and Steelers at Broncos.</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 12:16
Path: /node/12202
Body:

After 25 races, the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season will roll into Richmond International Raceway for the final event before the 12-driver Chase field is set. While the top 10 is essentially a lock, the race for the wild card positions is all about wins, with eight drivers still eligible for the two spots.

Although the points will reset for the Chase drivers after the checkered flag falls on Saturday night, the fantasy NASCAR season will roll on. What you will need to pay close attention to is what each driver in Saturday night's field has at stake.

With a host of differing agendas, many look at this race as a “no-holds-barred,” anything-goes contest. There is a ton of risk for those trying grab the two wild card spots, yet no risk at all for many others.

While Kasey Kahne leads the wild card contenders with two victories, the drivers to watch Saturday night are Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon. The two with the most on the line this weekend, both have stellar records at Richmond and will be doing all they can to put their cars in Victory Lane.

For Busch, there could be no better track than the .75-mile Richmond International Raceway. His lone win this season came here in April, he has the best average finish among active drivers (4.7), and has four wins in the last seven races — winning every other race dating back to May 2009.

However, this season has been anything but ordinary for Busch and his Dave Rogers-led team. Inconsistency, poor luck, wrecks and engine failures have led to his most difficult campaign since his sophomore season in 2007. Given the struggles, Busch says he feels “OK” about his chances of making the Chase, but knows there are no guarantees going into Saturday night’s race.

“I’m not saying I’m for sure going to be in at all,” he admits. “Anything can happen. Jeff is no slouch at Richmond, either. He will be fine. I feel like he’s the guy we’re racing — the 24 car. We’ll just have to see how it all plays out. Jeff could give us a run for our money.”

Truer words have never been spoken by young Busch. If he wants to make the Chase he must beat a four-time series champion in Gordon to do so.

Since the summer stretch kicked off, Gordon and his Alan Gustafson-led team have been in contention to win nearly every week. In the 11 races since Michigan in June, Gordon has scored one win, five top 5s and eight top 10s, with a 21st-place finish at Watkins Glen due to a late-race spin in oil. In the last five races alone, Gordon has one win, a second and a third.

However, for one of NASCAR’s most decorated drivers, those numbers have not been enough to secure a Chase bid. He knows in order to celebrate his 20th season in the Cup Series with a shot at title No. 5, he has to win on Saturday night.

Taking a different approach than Busch, Gordon’s attention will be on his race — not the competitions’.

“Our focus won’t be on what ‘this team’ is doing or what ‘this driver’ is doing,” he says. “We’re just going to focus on our own program like we always do. We’ll focus on tuning the car, communicating and working the setup the best we possibly can to try to have the fastest racecar. I’m not going into the race thinking that we’ve got to finish 12 positions ahead of Kyle. I’m thinking we have to win.”

Unless Busch and Gordon suffer the poor luck that has put them in this situation in the first place, both should run and finish up front, capable of solid fantasy points.

That said, Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Denny Hamlin, heads to Richmond fresh off consecutive wins, giving him four on the season. Carrying momentum, confidence and the support of the hometown crowd behind him, the driver of the No. 11 Toyota will be hard to beat.

In 13 Cup starts at Richmond, Hamlin has only one finish outside the top 20, three finishes outside the top 10, six finishes of third or better and two wins. With 12 bonus points on his side heading into the Chase, the Virginia native has the opportunity to score another three bonus points with a win Saturday night. For fantasy players, Hamlin is about as sure of a bet as you will find in the field.

For the past few weeks, Carl Edwards has been our fantasy darkhorse pick. Nearly every week he has lived up to that title — while carrying the risk associated with a darkhorse — mixing strong runs with, ultimately, poor finishes.

Down and out after an engine failure ended his Atlanta race (and Chase hopes) early, Edwards struggled to come to terms with his situation after nearly winning the title last season. When the series last raced in Richmond, though, Edwards had the strongest car in the field. Leading 206 of the 400 laps, he was hit with a late-race penalty for beating the leader to the line on a restart and was penalized, forced to swallow a bitter 10th-place finish.

Feeling as if NASCAR stole a win out from under them, Edwards and his No. 99 team are heading to RIR looking for redemption, a little luck and a win. While he has yet to win at Richmond, the Roush Fenway Racing driver has three top 5s and five top 10s in his last five starts. The series runner-up in 2011 is likely to miss the Chase this season, but expect him to go out swinging, scoring strong fantasy points for your team.

Five Favorites: Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Jay Pennell looks at fantasy NASCAR favorites and darkhorses for Saturday's Federated Auto Parts 400 from Richmond International Raceway.</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 10:58
Path: /key-games-week-2
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College football’s second week of action features the debut of the two newest members of the SEC and a huge road trip for Nebraska.

10 Biggest Games of Week 2

Georgia (-3.5) at Missouri
Missouri’s journey into the SEC begins Saturday in Columbia, Mo., when the Tigers host Georgia, the defending champs of the East. Both teams won their respective openers with ease, though Georgia couldn’t have been thrilled about allowing 347 total yards (199 on the ground) in its 45–23 win over Buffalo. On a positive note, it doesn’t appear the Bulldogs will miss Isaiah Crowell too much; true freshman Todd Gurley, a 6-1, 218-pound North Carolina native, ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns on only eight carries. Missouri quarterback James Franklin, who underwent major shoulder surgery in the spring, was relatively sharp in the Tigers’ 62–10 win over Southeastern Louisiana. He completed 13-of-21 for 131 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Franklin, one of the top playmakers in the SEC when healthy, will have to be at his best on Saturday.
Georgia 27, Missouri 21

Florida (+2.5) at Texas A&M

The other new SEC member, Texas A&M, also plays its first league game this weekend. It will also be the first game of the season for the Aggies, who had their opener vs. Louisiana Tech in Shreveport postponed due to Hurricane Isaac. Now, quarterback Johnny Manziel will make his first career appearance against an outstanding Florida defense that gave up fewer than 300 yards per game in 2011. Speaking of quarterbacks, Florida’s search for a competent signal-caller continues. Jeff Driskel received the majority of the snaps in the Gators’ tougher-than-expected 27–14 win over Bowling Green. His numbers weren’t bad (10-of-16 for 114 yards and one TD), but Florida only had one pass play that went for longer than 18 yards. This offense must be more balanced if the Gators plan on being a factor in the SEC East.
Texas A&M 17, Florida 14

Miami (Fla.)(+7) at Kansas State

Beating Boston College, even on the road, is no reason to get overly excited, but Miami has to feel good about its offense after a 41–32 win in Chestnut Hill. Junior quarterback Stephen Morris was sharp (28-of-45 for 207 yards), but the big story for the Canes was true freshman tailback Duke Johnson, who ran for 135 yards and two scores on only seven rushes. The Miami defense, however, was not quite as impressive. Boston College, which ranked 112th in the nation in both total offense and scoring offense last season, rolled up 542 total yards — 441 through the air and 101 on the ground. Kansas State struggled early against FCS foe Missouri State before pulling away in the fourth quarter in a 51–9 win. The Wildcats are looking for quarterback Collin Klein to be more of a threat throwing the ball this season. He should have a big game, both with his arm and legs, against the suspect Miami defense.
Kansas State 34, Miami (Fla.) 28

Nebraska (-5) at UCLA

It was no great surprise Nebraska beat Southern Miss with such ease — the final was 49–20. Nor that the Cornhuskers had 632 yards of offense. But what was surprising was the play of quarterback Taylor Martinez. The junior, who is known more for his running exploits, completed 26-of-34 passes for 354 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. The Nebraska staff would be thrilled to get that type of production from Martinez on a consistent basis. There was some bad news in Lincoln, however. Tailback Rex Burkhead went down with a sprained MCL in his left knee in the first half and isn’t expected to play this weekend. UCLA pounded Rice in Houston in coach Jim L. Mora’s debut with the Bruins. Tailback Johnathan Franklin ran for 214 yards and three scores on 15 carries, and quarterback Brett Hundley, playing in his first career game, threw for 202 yards and two touchdowns. This is one of the most intriguing games of the weekend. Nebraska has the edge in the trenches, so go with the Huskers.
Nebraska 27, UCLA 21

Washington (+23.5) at LSU

Washington is embarking on a stretch that will feature three of its next five against teams currently ranked among the top four in the nation. In addition to this trip to the Bayou, UW travels to Oregon on Oct. 13 and hosts USC on Oct. 20. The Huskies are making strides under third-year coach Steve Sarkisian, but the program isn’t yet in position to seriously threaten any of the three looming superpowers. Washington features some high-quality offensive players — most notably quarterback Keith Price — but its defense will have a tough time against quality competition. LSU will be tested for the first time after disposing of North Texas in predictable fashion (41–14) in Week 1. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger, in his first start at LSU, completed 19-of-26 for 192 yards and a touchdown. If he plays well — and gives the Tigers’ offense balance — this team will very difficult to beat.
LSU 30, Washington 17

Purdue (+14.5) at Notre Dame
Notre Dame returns to the mainland after an impressive 50–10 win over Navy in Dublin, Ireland. Redshirt freshman Everett Golson was solid in his first career start, but the Irish got it done with their rushing attack. With starter Cierre Wood back in South Bend while serving a two-game suspension, Notre Dame turned to Theo Riddick (19 carries, 107 yards) and George Atkinson III (nine for 99) to power a ground game that averaged 6.4 yards per attempt. Purdue had no trouble with Eastern Kentucky, the alma mater of Boilermakers coach Danny Hope. Starting quarterback Caleb TerBush was suspended for the opener, leaving Robert Marve and Rob Henry, who have played significantly at Pudue, to handle the snaps. On Monday, Hope announced that TerBush will get the start for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame 28, Purdue 17

Vanderbilt (-3.5) at Northwestern

Vanderbilt struggled to move the ball with consistency in a 17¬–13 loss to South Carolina last Thursday. The Dores picked up 276 total yards, but 28.7 percent of the yards came on one play, a 78-yard touchdown from Jordan Rodgers to Jordan Matthews. This week, they will face a Northwestern defense that gave up 596 yards to Syracuse in a thrilling 42¬–41 win at the Carrier Dome. Rodgers and Matthews figure to test the Wildcats’ shaky secondary with frequency. Northwestern, too, will present some problems on offense for Vanderbilt. The Wildcats are likely to play two quarterback; Kain Colter, the starter (if healthy), is a runner who is developing as a passer, while Trevor Siemian is a polished passer who came off the bench to lead NU’s game-winning drive at Syracuse. This is an important game for two programs who are hoping to find six wins to reach bowl-eligibility.
Vanderbilt 34, Northwestern 24

Iowa State (+4) at Iowa
Iowa State scored a total of 15 points en route to losing three straight to Iowa from 2008-10. Last year, however, the Cyclones erupted for 44 points in a three-point win in Ames. The ’12 season got off to good start offensively for Paul Rhoads’ club. The Clones, a surprising home underdog to Tulsa, rolled up 441 yards in a 38–23 win over the Golden Hurricane. Yards will be tougher to come by in Iowa City this weekend. Iowa gave up only 201 total yards (73 on one play) in an 18–17 win over Northern Illinois in Chicago. Take out that one big play — a run by NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch — and the Iowa defense gave up an average of 2.4 yards per play. Offensively, Iowa had to be thrilled to get a big game from tailback Damon Bullock. A sophomore who rushed for a total of 20 yards last season, Bullock carried the ball 30 times for 150 yards. Now, Iowa just needs to keep him healthy. This rivalry game often doesn’t go as expected. This is just a hunch, but I like the Clones on the road.
Iowa State 21, Iowa 20

Auburn (-3) at Mississippi State
This a huge early season showdown between two teams that will be jockeying for position in the middle of the SEC West. Auburn remains a work in progress on defense under first-year coordinator Brian VanGorder. The Tigers, who gave up an average of 421.1 yards in 10 games vs. AQ conference opponents in 2011, struggled to stop Clemson despite giving up only 26 points. Mississippi State, however, doesn’t have offensive weapons like Tajh Boyd and Andre Ellington at Clemson. Mississippi State barely broke a sweat in a win over in-state “rival” Jackson State. The Bulldogs’ offense showed nice balance, with 202 yards rushing and 193 yards passing. They have some playmakers at the wide receiver position; it will be up to quarterback Tyler Russell to get them the ball.
Auburn 24, Mississippi State 21

Pittsburgh (+4) at Cincinnati (Thu)
Paul Chryst appears to be the ideal fit at Pittsburgh, but his tenure as the Panthers’ head coach got off to a miserable start — a 31–17 loss to FCS foe Youngstown State. The most alarming part of the loss? It wasn’t a fluke. The Penguins were the better team. Youngstown State outgained Pitt (381 to 369), converted 11-of-16 on third down and did not commit a turnover. Tino Sunseri, who struggled in Todd Graham’s system, completed 19-of-30 for 239 yards but missed on some key throws. He will need to play better to give this team a chance to be successful. Despite their poor showing, the Panthers are only a four-point underdog on the road to a Cincinnati team that has won or shared three of the past four Big East titles. The Bearcats, however, must replace several significant contributors on both sides of the ball, most notably tailback Isaiah Pead, quarterback Zach Collaros and defensive tackle Derek Wolfe. We’ll find out early this season if the 2012 Bearcats are rebuilding or if they have reloaded for another Big East title run.
Cincinnati 24, Pittsburgh 17

Last week: 9–1 overall (7–3 against the spread)
 

Teaser:
<p> SEC Newcomers Mizzou and Texas A&amp;M take center stage in Week 2 action of college football</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 09:49
Path: /college-football/sec-week-2-preview-and-predictions
Body:

It's a big week in the SEC, as Missouri and Texas A&M open conference play with huge matchups. The Tigers begin their debut season in the SEC with a key showdown against Georgia, while the Aggies host Florida. Washington travels to LSU for an interesting non-conference matchup, while Auburn and Mississippi State square off in an important SEC West showdown.

Other Week 2 conference storylines

ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 

SEC's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 2

1. Texas A&M starts a sophomore and a redshirt freshman at cornerback: Can Florida take advantage?
Some have maintained that Florida played it close to the vest offensively in its Week 1 win over Bowling Green. That may be true, but we still saw nothing from this team that would suggest its offensive problems from a year ago have been solved. Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett combined to connect on 13-of-21 for 145 yards, with only one completion going for more than 18 yards. To have success this weekend in College Station, Florida will have to take advantage of a suspect A&M secondary that is especially green at the corners. It’s time for guys like Quinton Dunbar and Franklie Hammond Jr., or even true freshman Latroy Pittman, to emerge as playmakers.

2. LSU’s defense vs. the tight end
The plan for LSU this week is simple: Contain tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Washington’s 6-6, 266-pound sophomore is among the best players at his position in the nation. He caught nine passes for 82 yards in the Huskies’ 21–9 win over San Diego State and is one of few proven playmakers on the UW offense. Washington figures to have a tough time running the ball against the LSU front seven — especially now that junior Jesse Callier is out with a torn ACL — so the Huskies will lean heavily on the passing attack. Sophomore receiver Kasen Williams is a potential All-Pac-12 talent, but Seferian-Jenkins is emerging as Keith Price’s favorite target. If the Tigers can shut him down, the UW offense will struggle to move the ball with consistency.

3. Georgia is road tested
It’s one of the most highly anticipated games in the history of Missouri football. The crowd at Faurot Field will be at a fever pitch on Saturday afternoon when the Tigers play their first-ever SEC game. But don’t expect Georgia to be spooked by the atmosphere. This is a program that has made a habit of winning in the most difficult environments in the nation under Mark Richt. The numbers are staggering: Georgia is 30–8 in true SEC road games (doesn’t include the Florida games in Jacksonville) the past 11 years, and three of those losses came in one season (2010). “I like away games,” Richt said earlier this week. “I enjoy the travel with the team, and I enjoy the single purpose of the mission. There really aren’t a lot of distractions on the road — at least when it comes to travel, and the night before, and the time before the game. Now when the game kicks off, there is distraction with the crowd noise, but other than that I enjoy away games.”

4. David Yost vs. Todd Grantham
It is, as the saying goes, about the jimmy’s and joe’s, but the X’s and O’s also matter, especially in college football. And we have an intriguing matchup this week of David Yost’s spread offense at Missouri vs. Georgia’s 3-4 defense coordinated by Todd Grantham. “It’s fun to game-plan against good defenses,” Yost said in Wednesday’s Columbia (Mo.) Tribune. “It's fun to game-plan against good defensive coordinators that you know are going to keep bringing stuff at you. You know what you see on the first drive isn’t what you’re going to see all game. They’re going to keep pulling stuff out, so you’ve got to constantly be on your toes.” Georgia ranked fourth nationally in total defense last season — Grantham’s second at the school — and was equally stout against the run and the pass. The Dawgs feature playmakers at all three levels of the defense, highlighted by All-America outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. Missouri will counter with a dual-threat quarterback in James Franklin, who threw for 2,865 yards and rushed for 981 in 2011, his first season as the starter.

5. Vanderbilt’s offense vs. Northwestern’s defense
One week after struggling to move the ball with consistency against South Carolina, Vanderbilt hopes to flex its muscles against a Northwestern defense that gave up 596 yards in a win at Syracuse. The Wildcats allowed 23 plays of 10 yards or more, seven of 20 yards or more and four of 30 yards or more. The NU defensive backs struggled to play the ball and were whistled three times for pass interference and once for defensive holding. Look for Vanderbilt to take advantage of some favorable matchups on the outside with big receivers Chris Boyd (6-5) and Jordan Matthews (6-4). And if the Commodores have success in the passing game, tailback Zac Stacy should be productive running the ball. It could be a big night for the Vanderbilt offense.

6. Can Auburn stop the run in Starkville?
Auburn gave up 320 yards rushing in its 26–19 loss to Clemson in Atlanta in Week 1. The Tigers allowed nine runs of at least 10 yards, including two of at least 40 yards. Gene Chizik and his staff were disappointed with the play of the defensive tackles (failed to get much push) and the safeties (missed too many tackles). Mississippi State isn’t as talented offensively as Clemson, but the Bulldogs have been a very good running team under Dan Mullen, ranking fifth, second and first in the SEC in rushing the last three seasons. Auburn is staring at an 0–2 start if it doesn’t make some significant improvements against the run.

7. Can South Carolina beat East Carolina without Connor Shaw?
Shaw is questionable for Saturday’s home opener after suffering a bruise to his left (non-throwing) shoulder against Vanderbilt. If Shaw can’t go, sophomore Dylan Thompson would be the next man up. The South Carolina offense sputtered with Thompson in the game last Thursday. He went 0-of-3 (and didn’t come close) and was sacked twice. “We’re trying to get his confidence up,” coach Steve Spurrier said on Tuesday. “It’s a struggle. He works at it. He works hard. Sometimes too hard. We have to loosen him up a bit.” That doesn’t sound like a coach who has much confidence in his backup quarterback. If Thompson is forced to start, expect to see a heavy dose of tailback Marcus Lattimore, who looked good in his first game back from a serious knee injury. Despite being favored by more than three touchdowns, the Gamecocks could be in for a serious fight on Saturday if Shaw is not in the lineup.

8. Can Ole Miss avoid an upset?
Ole Miss won in Hugh Freeze’s debut as the head coach, but there were some anxious moments in Oxford. Central Arkansas led 20–14 until midway through the third quarter before the Rebels seized control by scoring twice in a three-minute period. This week, Ole Miss hosts a UTEP team that went toe-to-toe with Oklahoma into the fourth quarter before losing 24–7. The key to avoiding the upset for Ole Miss will be slowing down tailback Nathan Jeffery, who rushed for 177 yards on 21 carries vs. Oklahoma. Last season, Ole Miss allowed at least one 100-yard rusher in 10 of 12 games (and that doesn’t include the LSU game in which five Tigers rushed for at least 50 yards).

9. How many Alabama tailbacks will run for 100 yards vs. Western Kentucky?
Alabama’s tailback rotation, for now, goes four deep, and all four figure to get plenty of carries this week against Western Kentucky. True freshman T.J. Yeldon, the most physically gifted of the group, rushed for 111 yards on 11 carries in the opener against Michigan. Jalston Fowler, Eddie Lacy and Dee Hart all received at least eight carries vs. the Wolverines. Don’t be surprised if three of the four run for at least 100 yards against the Hilltoppers.

10. Can Maxwell Smith continue to shine?
Lost in Kentucky’s disappointing loss at Louisville on Sunday was an outstanding performance by sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith. The California native completed 35-of-50 passes for 280 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Obviously, the UK staff doesn’t want to have its quarterback throw the ball 50 times, but offensive coordinator Randy Sanders would love to have Smith keep his completion percentage up in the 60 percent range and not turn the ball over. Kent State clearly won’t present the type of resistance Smith will face once the Cats enter SEC play, but the Golden Flashes are one of the better defensive teams in the MAC. It would be another positive sign if Smith played well once again this weekend.
 

Week 2 SEC Predictions

SEC David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light
Auburn at Miss. State (-3) Auburn 14-10 Miss. State 24-20 Miss. State 24-20 Auburn 24-21
E. Carolina at S. Carolina (-22.5) South Carolina 38-6 South Carolina 34-13 South Carolina 34-10 South Carolina 28-10
Florida at Texas A&M TAMU 21-17 TAMU 20-17 Florida 24-20 TAMU 17-14
W. Kentucky at Alabama (-40) Alabama 52-10 Alabama 42-6 Alabama 45-10 Alabama 44-10
Georgia State at Tennessee Tennessee 42-7 Tennessee 38-10 Tennessee 51-7 Tennessee 51-0
UTEP at Ole Miss (-7.5) UTEP 17-13 Ole Miss 28-20 Ole Miss 31-20 Ole Miss 17-14
Washington at LSU (-23.5) LSU 28-14 LSU 38-20 LSU 34-13 LSU 30-17
UL Monroe at Arkansas (-30.5) Arkansas 38-10 Arkansas 42-14 Arkansas 45-17 Arkansas 38-14
Kent State at Kentucky (-7) Kentucky 17-14 Kentucky 30-23 Kentucky 31-17 Kentucky 24-14
Georgia (-2.5) at Missouri Georgia 31-28 Georgia 27-14 Georgia 27-24 Georgia 27-21
Vanderbilt(-3) at Northwestern Vanderbilt 38-35 Vanderbilt 41-38 Vanderbilt 34-27 Vanderbilt 34-24
Season Record 11-1 12-0 11-1 12-0


by Mitch Light

@athlonmitch

Teaser:
<p> SEC Week 2 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 05:55
Path: /college-football/pac-12-week-2-preview-and-predictions
Body:

The story in the Pac-12, at least until Nov. 3, will be attempting to compare Oregon and USC. These were arguably two of the best looking teams in the nation last weekend and, if anything, fans in Eugene should actually be more confident in their quarterback situation. While Chip Kelly and Lane Kiffin are seemingly on a collision course, four new head coaches attempted to kickstart their new tenures. Arizona State and UCLA obliged with force while Arizona slipped past Toledo in overtime, only further muddling the mix of teams behind the Men of Troy in the South. Meanwhile, Wazzu fans weren't so lucky. 

Pac-12's Top 10 Storylines to Watch in Week 2:

1. New Huskies defense heads to the Bayou
It was only one game, but the totally reworked Washington defense played well in Week 1. A totally new coaching staff — along with some talented newcomers — held a normally potent offense to 12 points and 327 total yards while providing three turnovers and four sacks. LSU will be a slightly different beast than the Aztecs, as the Huskies enter Death Valley as a three-touchdown underdog. One of the most powerful offensive lines and deepest running back corps in the nation will put the new U of W defense to the test early and often. There are no such thing as moral victories, but if Washington can keep it close into the fourth quarter, fans will have to be happy about the potential for success against physical Pac-12 offenses like Oregon, USC and Stanford — all of which Washington will face before Oct. 13.

2. Week 1 duds look for critical rebounds in Week 2
I will be the first to stand up and be counted. I felt strongly that Washington State was going to give BYU a tough run for their money last weekend. That certainly wasn't the case as Wazzu completely wet the bed in Provo. The Cougars weren't the only team to disappoint out West, however, as Colorado and Cal were upset by Colorado State and Nevada respectively. All three head coaches desperately need to win in Week 2 and all three face FCS opponents. These three should go 3-0 this weekend, but Eastern Washington — who beat Idaho on the road last week — won't be an easy out for Washington State.

3. Is Brett Hundley, UCLA ready for a marquee upset?
Nebraska comes to town Saturday night in what might be the best match-up of the weekend in the Pac-12. UCLA looked great under Hundley's leadership as the Bruins offense showed toughness and balance. Nebraska gained as much confidence as any team in the nation last weekend and heads to Pasadena with Big Ten title aspirations. That said, if superstar tailback Rex Burkhead is ready to go, the Huskers have the clear advantage and an upset is less likely. However, Burkhead is currently listed as questionable and his ability to contribute this weekend seems doubtful. If the very talented, but at times underachieving, front seven of UCLA can stack the box and force Taylor Martinez to make tough throws on the road, Jim Mora Jr., could begin his tenure 2-0. If the Huskers walk into L.A. and roll on offense, fans will know the road back to respectability for UCLA is a long and winding one.

4. New offenses set to duel in the Desert
While Nebraska-UCLA is likely the most marquee and competitive game of the weekend, Arizona and Oklahoma State could be the most entertaining. True freshman Wes Lunt led the Cowboys to an 84-0 win over Savannah State last weekend while first-year starter Matt Scott executed Rich Rodriguez' zone-read to near perfection in Week 1. The Cats signal caller's 461 yards of total offense are second nationally and, more importantly, Arizona held on to beat a tough Toledo team. The Pokes are heavily favored but fans should not be shocked to see this one finish much closer than expected as two of the best offensive minds in the game go head-to-head in Tucson. This should be an extremely fast-paced game with lots of points and a high enjoyment factor. Well, for everyone but the defensive coordinators.

5. Primetime Battle of the Brothers
Washington and Stanford were picked by many to be the top challengers to Oregon and USC in the race for the Pac-12 crown. However, Utah might actually be the No. 3 team in the league. Jordan Wynn returned to the line-up last week and was effective enough to create balance on offense while the power running game and stingy defense performed as expected. Against in-state rival Utah State on the road in primetime, however, Kyle Whittingham better have his team ready to compete. Gary Andersen has an explosive offense led by a three-headed rushing attack and dynamic sophomore quarterback Chuckie Keeton. The Aggies won 34-3 with 569 yards of offense over Southern Utah in Week 1 and most of the USU roster likely grew up wanting a scholarship from the Utes. Guys in Vegas know it will be close, as Utah is only a 7.5-point favorite.

6. How long is Josh Nunes' leash?
Nunes and Brett Nottingham battled throughout the spring and summer for the right to replace Andrew Luck. Nunes won the job but poor play across the board nearly cost Stanford its opener against lowly San Jose State. The senior didn't look particularly comfortable in the 20-17 nail-bitter, completing 16-of-26 passes for 125 yards and one very ugly touchdown throw. While the ground game should still be effective — especially against Duke this weekend — one has to wonder how long David Shaw will allow his quarterback to struggle. He has options waiting in the wings, so Nunes needs to prove he deserves to the be starter. 

7. The Big Ten comes to town
LSU provides a huge opportunity for Washington and Utah has an intriguing battle with Utah State, but the trio of Big Ten/Pac-12 match-ups offer some interesting bragging rights. Illinois visits Arizona State, Nebraska visits Westwood and Wisconsin will head to Corvallis to face Oregon State in three key intersection contests. UCLA is looking for vindication, Arizona State wants to prove Week 1's 63-point outburst was no fluke and Oregon State is making no bones about what this game will mean to Reser Stadium...

8. Reser Stadium hosts biggest non-conference game ever?
Mike Riley began his press conference this week by explaining he believed this weekend's visit from Wisconsin is the biggest non-conference home game in program history. While not too many ranked non-conference foes visit Corvallis, the Oregon State Beavers are making sure everyone involved understands what a win would mean. The Badgers struggled against Northern Iowa last week and will be facing a team making its season debut after last week's opener was postponed. This game wasn't close last year in Madison, but OSU is expected to be improved and UW is clearly not the same team without star quarterback Russell Wilson, offensive coordinator Paul Chryst and three first-team All-Big Ten blockers.

9. Oregon defense gets a second test
The Ducks looked like the well-oiled machine fans have come to expect from Chip Kelly teams. Redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota (MAR-e-o-TAH) was as difficult to stop as his name is to pronounce. The Ducks were up 50-3 with seven minutes to go in the second quarter. While Fresno State isn't going to stop Oregon anytime soon, Derek Carr and the new uptempo Tim DeRuyter offense could provide another interesting test for Nick Allioti and company. Carr completed 20-of-25 passes for 298 yards and two scores in the blowout win over Weber State and will test a group that allowed 34 points and 341 yards of offense to Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin.

10. USC travels 2,700 miles to New York
The Matt Barkley Heisman campaign won't be this close to Radio City Music Hall until December as USC heads across the country to face Syracuse. The game shouldn't be close as the Cuse defense has major issues, but as the clear preseason favorite for the stiff-armed trophy, every snap of every game will be under heavy scrutiny. Anything but a blowout with big numbers will be disappointing for the Trojans.

Week 2 Pac-12 Predictions:

Week 2 Pac-12 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
Utah (-7.5) at Utah St Utah, 31-14 Utah, 28-20 Utah, 27-24 Utah, 31-17
Southern Utah at Cal Cal, 31-10 Cal, 38-6 Cal, 48-7 Cal, 35-7
Sacramento St at Colorado Colorado, 27-10 Colorado, 37-13 Colorado, 45-10 Colorado, 28-10
E. Washington at Washington St Wash. St, 34-20 Wash. St, 27-10 Wash. St, 45-20 Wash. St, 27-14
USC (-26) at Syracuse USC, 55-17 USC, 41-14 USC, 48-20 USC, 42-14
Wisconsin (-8) at Oregon St Wisconsin, 27-17 Wisconsin, 28-17 Wisconsin, 34-24 Wisconsin, 21-14
Fresno St (+34.5) at Oregon Oregon, 51-21 Oregon, 44-17 Oregon, 55-24 Oregon, 49-21
Washington (+23.5) at LSU LSU, 38-20 LSU, 30-17 LSU, 34-13 LSU, 28-14
Nebraska (-5.5) at UCLA UCLA, 24-21 Nebraska, 27-21 Nerbraska, 31-27 Nebraska, 35-28
Illinois (+3.5) at Arizona St Arizona St, 24-21 Arizona St, 30-24 Arizona St, 30-27 Illinois, 28-14
Duke (+15) at Stanford Stanford, 28-14 Stanford, 27-17 Stanford, 31-20 Stanford, 27-10
Oklahoma St (-11) at Arizona Okla. St, 34-31 Okla. St, 34-20 Okla. St, 38-31 Okla. St, 35-14
Yearly Totals: 9-3 10-2 10-2 9-3

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 2 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 2 Previews and Predictions

Big Ten Week 2 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 2 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 2 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 2 Upset Picks

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 Week 2 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 05:50
Path: /college-football/big-ten-week-2-preview-and-predictions
Body:

Things didn't exactly play out the way most expected in Week 1 of the Big Ten season. Penn State's emotional roller coaster continued and doesn't look to be slowing anytime soon. Wisconsin, Iowa, Northwestern, Indiana and Minnesota escaped upset bids. And Michigan was thoroughly man-handled by the defending champions. More importantly, however, some key injuries could shape the Big Ten landscape for weeks to come.

Big Ten's Top 10 Storylines to Watch in Week 2:

1. Will Rex Burkhead play and will it cost the Huskers a win?
Other than possibly Ohio State, no team in the Big Ten gained more confidence about its 2012 championship hopes than Nebraska. Taylor Martinez was excellent and the defense did just enough to breeze past reigning C-USA champ Southern Miss while Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa struggled. However, some key injuries could impact the Big Red's Week 2 outlook. Star tailback Rex Burkhead left the game with a knee issue and is listed as questionable for the UCLA game as of Thursday morning. UCLA looked outstanding under new coach Jim Mora Jr. and new quarterback Brett Hundley provided a much-needed spark on offense. The Bruins have had a long week to prepare for Nebraska and stand a much better chance of winning at home than previously expected. If Burkhead plays, Nebraska should win a close one. If the heart and soul of the Big Red offense does not play, all bets are off.

2. How will the bruised Michigan run defense handle the option?
More than just the Maize and Blue egos got bruised last weekend in Dallas. Taylor Lewan left the game with a knee injury (but should be back) and starting corner Blake Countess is out for the season. Michigan's defensive line was the major concern heading into this season and Alabama's 232-yard performance on the ground only highlighted those issues. Now, Greg Mattison's defense is charged with stopping Air Force's triple-option offense that rolled-up 484 yards rushing last week. Idaho State certainly isn't Michigan, but the option always causes trouble to those who are unaccustomed to facing it. The Wolverines should win fairly easily as Denard Robinson should get back on track, but keep a close eye on how the front seven plays this Saturday.

3. The battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy
Week 2 in the Big Ten features many intriguing interconference match-ups, but none will carry as much emotion as the Iowa State-Iowa showdown in Iowa City. The Cyclones haven't won on the road in this series since 2002 but this Saturday will provide their best chance in years. Iowa's offense was rather inept last week against Northern Illinois while ISU scoffed at Vegas' odd-makers who pinned Tulsa as a 1.5-point favorite last week (Iowa State won 38-23). This game was a thrilling 3-OT victory by State in Ames last season and this season's meeting could feature another tight finish. 

4. No rest for the weary Nittany Lions
It was a tough weekend for Penn State fans. Their embattled football program took a 14-3 halftime lead and Matt McGloin looked like a real quarterback. But then starting tailback Bill Belton got hurt and Ohio signal caller Tyler Tettleton went to work. Unfortunately, there is no rest for Bill O'Brien in Week 2 as a trip to Charlottesville looms large. Virginia has been markedly improved over the past few seasons and the Cavaliers defeated Richmond 43-19 in their opener last weekend. The two-headed backfield monster of Kevin Parks and Perry Jones helped UVa pile up 545 yards of offense, so PSU will have to be even better on offense this week than it was in the loss to Ohio. A tall order against a well-coached team that, as shocking as this sounds, simply has more talent.

5. Will Nathan Scheelhaase play against the Sun Devils?
The second major injury to keep track of this week will be that of Illinois' starting quarterback. He looked sharp in the early going last Saturday but left the game in the third quarter and the Illini offense came to a screeching halt. Tim Beckman said his QB needed to practice by Wednesday in order to play, but as of Wednesday evening, Scheelhaase's status was still up in the air. Meanwhile, Arizona State dropped 63 points and 554 yards of offense under new head coach Todd Graham and new quarterback Taylor Kelly. The Xs and Os match-up of the nation's No. 1 rushing defense that held Western Michigan to minus-6 yards and the Sun Devils' three-headed ground attack should be fun to watch. Keep an eye on ASU freshman DJ Foster, who touched the ball 12 times for 99 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in his first college game. That said, coaching may not matter if Beckman is forced to go to battle with Riley O'Toole under center.

6. Notre Dame begins Big Ten schedule with Boilermakers
The Fighting Irish looked as good as they have in six years in their 50-10 win over Navy in Dublin, Ireland last weekend. However, the schedule gets much tougher for ND as it begins a three-week Big Ten slate this weekend against Purdue. A quarterback controversy could be brewing in West Lafayette as Caleb TerBush returns from suspension this week after watching Robert Marve carve up the Eastern Kentucky defense in Week 1. Settling on a signal caller has to be a top priority for Danny Hope if he expects to pull the upset. Keep an close eye on how these two QBs play this week against a nasty ND front seven. On defense, the Boilers struggled to stop the Irish rushing attack in the 38-10 loss last year as they allowed 287 yards on the ground to Brian Kelly's bunch. Eastern managed only 190 yards of total offense last weekend against Purdue, giving the Boilermakers the top total defense in the Big Ten after one week. But while Purdue is improved on defense, there is a reason Notre Dame is a two-touchdown favorite. 

7. SAT Bowl eligibility
Northwestern and Vanderbilt are two of the most prestigious academic institutions in this great country. But, of late, these two programs are achieving on the football field at unprecedented levels. So as two rising programs scrap and claw for bowl eligibility each year, a win this weekend over the other could be the difference between playing in the postseason or sitting at home during Christmas. Vandy endured a tough home SEC loss to South Carolina in the rain last Thursday while the Wildcats overcame an atrocious second-half collapse to beat Syracuse on the road. Both offenses have big-time play-makers, so offense should be plentiful in this key swing contest.

8. Big Ten heads out to the West Coast
Notre Dame and Virginia offer some interesting East Coast non-conference tests for Big Ten teams, but most fans will be watching the Western seaboard this Saturday. Illinois heads to Arizona State, Nebraska heads to UCLA and Wisconsin heads to Oregon State in a trio of Pac-12/Big Ten showdowns. All three games could be toss-ups and one league could exit Week 2 with a decided head-to-head advantage. The Huskers and Badgers have Big Ten title hopes and have to show well in these type of road tests if they expect to be in Indianapolis at season's end.

9. Look for improved play from Andrew Maxwell
Le'Veon Bell was a workhorse. The defense was stout. Now, Mark Dantonio needs the final piece of the puzzle to fall into place. New quarterback Andrew Maxwell threw three interceptions and no touchdowns in 38 pass attempts in his first game as the Spartans starter. Certainly, Dantonio doesn't want his first-year starter throwing the ball that much, but when he does, Maxwell needs to be more efficient. Against a Central Michigan team that allowed 27 points against Southeast Missouri State last week, he should be able to find more windows to throw. It could be a long day for the Chippewas.

10. Minnesota, Indiana should start 2-0
The Golden Gophers and Hoosiers combined for four total wins last season. After two weeks of action, these two could easily match that total. With a win over UMass, Kevin Wilson would double his win total from last year while New Hampshire should pose little threat to Minnesota. These four wins wouldn't mean postseason play is in sight this fall, but it would be a sign of progress for both.

Week 2 Big Ten Predictions:

Week 2 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
New Hampshire at Minnesota Minnesota, 31-17 Minnesota, 34-20 Minnesota, 34-24 Minnesota, 28-17
Penn St (+10) at Virginia Virginia, 28-13 Virginia, 27-14 Virginia, 27-17 Virginia, 27-10
UCF (+18) at Ohio St Ohio St, 41-17 Ohio St, 31-14 Ohio St, 38-13 Ohio St, 35-10
Indiana (-14) at UMass Indiana, 24-17 Indiana, 28-7 Indiana, 38-10 Indiana, 21-7
Iowa St (+5) at Iowa Iowa, 27-21 Iowa St, 21-20 Iowa, 27-24 Iowa St, 21-17
Purdue (+14) at Notre Dame Notre Dame, 35-24 Notre Dame, 28-17 Notre Dame, 31-20 Notre Dame, 24-21
Air Force (+21) at Michigan Michigan, 38-20 Michigan, 37-17 Michigan, 40-17 Michigan, 28-13
Michigan St (-22) at C. Michigan Mich. St, 35-3 Mich. St, 38-10 Mich. St, 38-10 Mich. St, 42-10
Wisconsin (-8) at Oregon St Wisconsin, 27-17 Wisconsin, 28-17 Wisconsin, 34-24 Wisconsin, 21-14
Nebraska (-5.5) at UCLA UCLA, 24-21 Nebraska, 27-21 Nebraska, 31-27 Nebraska, 35-28
Vanderbilt (-3.5) at Northwestern Vanderbilt, 41-38 Vanderbilt, 34-24 Vanderbilt, 34-27 Vanderbilt, 38-35
Illinois (+3.5) at Arizona St Arizona St, 24-21 Arizona St, 30-24 Arizona St, 30-27 Illinois, 28-14
Yearly Totals: 11-1 10-2 12-0 10-2

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 2 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 2 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 2 Previews and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 2 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 2 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 2 Upset Picks

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

Teaser:
<p> Big Ten Week 2 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 05:50
Path: /college-football/acc-week-2-preview-and-predictions
Body:

The ACC didn’t quite capitalize on its opportunity to earn national respect last week, but the conference did pickup a key victory with Clemson knocking off Auburn. Florida State easily handled Murray State, while Virginia Tech took an early lead in the race to win the Coastal Division with an overtime victory over Georgia Tech. Week 2 in the ACC features only one conference game, but some intriguing non-conference matchups, including Miami-Kansas State and NC State-Connecticut.

Other Week 2 conference storylines

Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

1. Will NC State bounce back?
There’s no shame in losing to Tennessee, but the Wolfpack did not play their best game on Friday night. Quarterback Mike Glennon tossed a career-high four interceptions, while cornerback David Amerson had an uncharacteristic performance, giving up two long touchdowns to Tennessee receivers. NC State doesn’t have much time to dwell on the loss, especially with a trip to Storrs to take on Connecticut this Saturday. The Huskies suffocated UMass’ offense in Week 1, allowing only 59 yards and pitching a shutout. Moving the ball against Connecticut’s defense will be tough, so it’s important for NC State to eliminate the turnovers that plagued the offense last week. When the Huskies have the ball, the Wolfpack needs to stop the run and force quarterback Chandler Whitmer to win this one through the air. Whitmer was solid in his first start (15 of 25, 219 yards) but this will be his first test against a BCS defense. 

2. Can Maryland slow down Temple’s rushing attack?
With a true freshman starting at quarterback, it’s going to take Maryland’s offense a few games to find its rhythm. Perry Hills threw for only 145 yards in the win over William & Mary but also tossed three picks. The Terrapins have little margin for error once again in Week 2, as they travel to Philadelphia to take on Temple. The Owls recorded 47 rushing attempts in their opener against Villanova, while quarterback Chris Coyer attempted only 11 passes. Even with Montel Harris dealing with a hamstring injury, Temple has capable backs in Matt Brown and Kenny Harper, along with quarterback Chris Coyer to test the Maryland rush defense. With the Terrapins limited on offense, it’s important for the defense to limit Temple’s rushing attack, while creating a few turnovers to put Hills in a situation to get points. If Maryland’s defense can’t slow down Brown and Coyer on the ground, the Terrapins will need a big day from their young quarterback.

3. How will Florida State replace Brandon Jenkins?
Replacing a player of Jenkins’ caliber is never easy. However, thanks to some strong recruiting by Jimbo Fisher and his staff, Florida State has depth on the defensive line and should be able to maintain one of the nation’s top pass rushes without Jenkins. Bjoern Werner registered 37 tackles and seven sacks last season and recorded four sacks against Murray State in Week 1. He should be set on one side of the line, while senior Tank Carradine holds down the other spot. Werner and Carradine should be a solid duo, but the real question for Florida State will be depth. Redshirt freshman Giorgio Newberry and true freshmen Mario Edwards Jr. and Chris Casher will have to play significant snaps the rest of the year and could be forced to start if Werner or Carradine suffers an injury. Although Savannah State won’t provide much of a test, this is a good opportunity for Florida State to get some of the young linemen reps.

4. Can Virginia keep its momentum?
Mike London has Virginia rolling in the right direction and Saturday’s game against Penn State is an opportunity to score a solid non-conference victory. While the Nittany Lions are trending down, the Cavaliers best win outside of ACC play last season was against Indiana. Quarterback Michael Rocco was solid in Week 1, completing 25 of 37 passes for 311 yards and one touchdown. Rocco needs to continue playing mistake-free ball, while developing a rapport with his improving receiving corps. Penn State could be short handed on offense due to an injury to running back Bill Belton. The Nittany Lions still have a solid defense, but if the Cavaliers don’t give Penn State’s offense any help with turnovers, Virginia should win by at least a touchdown.

5. Can Miami upset Kansas State?
With a handful of young and inexperienced players stepping into playing time, Miami was a hard team to peg in the preseason. The Hurricanes showcased some of their promising talent in the first game, including freshman running back Duke Johnson. The victory against Boston College should give Miami some confidence this Saturday for its road trip to Kansas State. The Wildcats upset the Hurricanes last season, so there’s a revenge factor going for Al Golden's team. Kansas State’s pass defense is a question mark, which should allow quarterback Stephen Morris and the receivers to make some plays downfield. Although Miami should be able to score some points, it needs to find a way to slow down Wildcats’ quarterback Collin Klein. The Hurricanes had no answer for Klein last season, as he recorded 226 total yards and three touchdowns. It will take a perfect effort, but it's not out of the question for Miami can exit Manhattan with a 2-0 record.

6. Tuneups for Clemson, Florida State and Virginia Tech
The ACC’s top three contenders – Clemson, Florida State and Virginia Tech – should all have an easy outing in Week 2. Clemson hosts Ball State, Virginia Tech welcomes Austin Peay to Blacksburg, while Florida State takes on Savannah State. The Tigers have the toughest opponent out of that trio, but none of these teams should have to sweat much to win on Saturday. While there’s not a ton the coaching staffs at Virginia Tech and Florida State can take from one-sided non-conference games, it’s an opportunity to get reps for some of the younger players. The Hokies and Seminoles need their offensive lines to jell, while Clemson needs to develop depth on the defensive line. Although all three teams should win easily, the most important aspect for all of the coaching staffs will be to make it through without any injuries.

7. Battle for bragging rights in North Carolina
Larry Fedora had an impressive debut in Chapel Hill, as the Tar Heels easily handled Elon 62-0. Things get a little tougher for North Carolina this Saturday with a road trip to Wake Forest on the schedule. Running back Giovani Bernard left last week’s game with a knee injury but all signs point to a full workload for him in Week 2. The Demon Deacons struggled to beat Liberty in Week 1, but were they saving something for this matchup? The Tar Heels have the edge on offense and if they can jump out to an early lead, it will put extra pressure on Wake Forest’s young offense. North Carolina won’t be able to play in a bowl this year, but it looks like Fedora should have this team ready to play and motivated to make a run at nine victories.

8. Georgia Tech’s passing attack against Presbyterian
Even though the Yellow Jackets don’t throw it a ton, entering the year with a cast of unproven receivers was a concern for coach Paul Johnson. No Georgia Tech receiver on the roster has a career reception and all 10 catches against Virginia Tech went to running backs. The Yellow Jackets should have no trouble beating Presbyterian this Saturday, but expect the coaching staff to allow quarterback Tevin Washington to throw a little more than usual, especially as the offense looks to work in the receivers. Georgia Tech has some ground to make up in the Coastal Division and it’s important to develop a go-to receiver before playing Virginia next week.

9. Can Duke upset Stanford?
Despite having a handful of players out due to injuries, Duke easily handled FIU (46-26) last Saturday. The win was huge for the Blue Devils’ bowl hopes, but the competition only gets tougher in Week 2 with a long trip to Stanford. The Cardinal was unimpressive in a Week 1 victory against San Jose State and is still dealing with the transition from Andrew Luck to Josh Nunes at quarterback. The Blue Devils gave up 165 rushing yards last Saturday and will be challenged even more by Stanford’s physical offensive line. Duke was crushed by the Cardinal 44-14 last season, but this matchup should be much closer in 2012. An upset over Stanford would be a huge boost to the Blue Devils’ bowl hopes this year. 

Week 2 ACC Predictions

Games David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light
NC State (-5) at Connecticut NC State 21-10 NC State 31-20 NC State 27-20 UConn 27-24
Penn State at Virginia (-10) Virginia 27-10 Virginia 28-13 Virginia 27-17 Virginia 27-14
Maryland at Temple (-10) Temple 14-7 Maryland 14-10 Temple 24-20 Temple 17-14
Miami (Fla.) at Kansas State (-7) K-State 35-14 K-State 31-24 K-State 34-27 K-State 34-28
Ball State at Clemson (-27) Clemson 56-14 Clemson 41-10 Clemson 45-17 Clemson 51-24
Maine at Boston College BC 38-17 BC 27-10 BC 41-10 BC 34-10
Austin Peay at Virginia Tech Va Tech 42-10 Va Tech 34-3 Va Tech 62-3 Va Tech 61-0
UNC (-10) at Wake Forest UNC 21-17 UNC 30-13 UNC 31-23 UNC 34-21
Savannah State at Florida State FSU 70-3 FSU 56-7 FSU 70-0 FSU 58-0
Presbyterian at Georgia Tech Ga Tech 35-7 Ga Tech 34-7 Ga Tech 55-3 Ga Tech 50-10
Duke at Stanford (-15) Stanford 27-10 Stanford 28-14 Stanford 31-20 Stanford 27-17
Season Record 9-1 10-0 9-1 10-0


by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

Teaser:
<p> ACC Week 2 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 05:47

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