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Path: /college-football/10-best-acc-games-2013

The 2013 college football regular season had distinct and unique character. The No. 2 team in the nation didn’t lose every weekend like in 2007. And one player didn’t captivate the nation like Cam Newton in 2010 or Johnny Manziel last fall.

Every major conference race — and some of the smaller ones as well — came down to the final weekend, and, in some cases, the final moments of the final game. It was a season to remember for college football fans. Especially, for those in Durham or Tallahassee.

So that is what Athlon Sports is going to do. For some, this will be a stroll down memory lane while others may develop reoccurring nightmares. Here are the ACC’s most entertaining and pivotal games of the 2013 season.

1. Clemson 38, Georgia 35 (Aug. 31)
It was hyped all summer long and the two top 10 teams delivered in a big way. Tajh Boyd and Aaron Murray teamed with Sammy Watkins and Todd Gurley to give fans in rabid Death Valley big play after big play. This anticipated non-conference season-opener was either tied or within one score for all but six minutes and ended with Tigers fans chanting “A-C-C” deep into the night in South Carolina.

2. Duke 27, North Carolina 25 (Nov. 30)
With an outright Coastal Division championship on the line, Duke battled its arch in-state rival to the bitter end of the regular season. The red-hot Tar Heels had won five straight games and gave Duke all they could handle, going back-and-forth with the Devils and eventually taking a late fourth-quarter lead. But like it had all season, Duke found a way to win when Ross Martin hit a 27-yard field goal with 2:22 left to play. The win gave David Cutcliffe an outright division championship and Duke its first 10-win season in school history.

3. Georgia 41, Georgia Tech 34 (2OT, Nov. 30)
The Dawgs, playing without Aaron Murray for the first time since 2009, trailed 20-0 to begin the game. But slowly new quarterback Hutson Mason settled in and led the offense to 10 unanswered points to send the game into overtime. Vad Lee set a career high in passing yards but it wasn't enough to overcome a late-game performance from Todd Gurley — who scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter and overtime to win one of the best-named rivalry games in the nation. 

4. Florida State 51, Clemson 14 (Oct. 19)
The most high-profile conference game in the ACC turned out to be quite a dud. But the performance by Jameis Winston in Death Valley won’t be soon forgotten. The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner completed 22-of-34 passes for 444 yards and three touchdowns in the impressive statement victory. The win set the Seminoles soaring towards the national championship and put Winston directly into the heart of the Heisman race.

5. Miami 21, Florida 16 (Sept. 7)
At the time it took place, few games meant more to the ACC’s bruised reputation than Miami’s physical win over then-No. 12 Florida. The Sunshine State conversation had been dominated by the SEC for years until the Canes broke through early in the season with a win in a game that had been talked about all summer. Miami’s defense made big plays all game long, indicating development and growth from the year before.

6. Miami 27, North Carolina 23 (Oct. 17)
On a Thursday night on the road, unbeaten Miami won a dramatic and thrilling divisional tilt that vaulted the Canes well into the AP poll's top 10. Trailing 23-13 and without Duke Johnson, Miami turned to Dallas Crawford and the power running game to score two touchdowns in the final 12 minutes, including the game-winner with 16 seconds left. Tar Heels tight end Eric Ebron had a historic night catching eight passes for 199 yards and a touchdown. It wasn’t enough, however, as Miami moved to 6-0 for the first time in a decade.

7. Florida State 48, Boston College 34 (Sept. 28)
Boston College did something that Clemson, Duke, Florida State or Maryland didn’t even come close to doing. The Eagles kept the game with Noles close for much of the contest. In fact, Florida State needed a Hail Mary at the end of the half to take its first lead. Eventually, the Seminoles wore down BC and took a 48-27 lead midway through the fourth on a P.J. Williams interception return for a touchdown. No other team scored more than 17 on FSU and the 14-point margin was by far the smallest for Jimbo Fisher’s bunch.

8. Duke 13, Virginia Tech 10 (Oct. 26)
It was an ugly affair wrought with turnovers and inefficiency. Duke was outgained 387 to 198, didn’t convert on any of its 11 third-down chances, didn’t complete a pass in the second half and lost the possession battle by 19 minutes (39:27 to 20:33). But the opportunistic defense forced four turnovers, including a late, game-clinching play, and broke through against a ranked team on the road for the first time in 42 years. The win catapulted Duke into the ACC title talk and it happened in typically dramatic fashion.

9. Duke 48, Miami 30 (Nov. 16)
Two teams battling for Coastal Division supremacy went toe-to-toe for the first 50 minutes or so in what was an electric shootout. Miami held the lead with three minutes left in the third quarter when Duke went on a dramatic 20-point run. A 33-yard Shaquille Powell run with 6:50 to go in the game ended the see-saw affair and gave Duke control of its own destiny in the divisional race.

10. Miami 24, Wake Forest 21 (Oct. 26)
The Demon Deacons came into play against the unbeaten Canes a heavy underdog and played arguably the best game of their season in defeat. An evenly played and tough first half gave way to a back-and-forth affair that saw momentum swing three separate times in the final five minutes. Duke Johnson twice scored go-ahead touchdowns in the final few minutes with the last one coming with just 53 seconds left. It sealed the Miami win and kept the Hurricanes unblemished on the season.

Just missed the cut:

11. Georgia Tech 28, North Carolina 20 (Sept. 21)
An early-season tilt featured a big Tech comeback in the rain in Atlanta.

12. Maryland 27, Virginia Tech 24 (OT, Nov. 16)
C.J. Brown led his team to victory with 122 yards rushing and the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

13. Florida State 37, Florida 7 (Nov. 30)
The Noles capped the season with a celebratory whipping of its SEC counterpart.

14. Florida State 45, Duke 7 (Dec. 7)
Hugely important but largely uneventful after a pesky first quarter.

15. Virginia Tech 29, Marshall 21 (3OT, Sept. 21)
A thriller Tech was lucky to win featured three OTs and plenty of big plays.

Best of the Rest:

16. Pitt 58, Duke 55 (Sept. 21)
17. Syracuse 34, Boston College 31 (Nov. 30)
18. Clemson 24, Boston College 14 (Oct. 12)
19. Boston College 34, Virginia Tech 27 (Nov. 2)
20. Duke 28, Wake Forest 21 (Nov. 23)
21. Virginia Tech 17, Georgia Tech 10 (Sept. 26)
22. Boston College 29, Maryland 26 (Nov. 23)
23. Florida State 41, Miami 14 (Nov. 2)
24. Virginia Tech 27, North Carolina 17 (Oct. 5)
25. Clemson 40, Maryland 27 (Oct. 26)

10 Best ACC Games of 2013
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-12-bowl-stats-you-need-know

Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of the game. Some like to keep it simple and use the ol' eyeball test, while others fall on the sabermetric side of things. In the football world, that means total offense, total defense and points scored versus points per play and defensive efficiency ratings. Rational and logical arguments can be made for the legitimacy and relevance of both sides of the stats spectrum.

With that in mind, Athlon Sports brings you the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre bowl stats so that fans are fully prepared for the 2013 college football postseason:

34: Fewest touchdowns scored by any bowl team
That dubious honor belongs to the embattled Virginia Tech Hokies. Running backs Trey Edmunds (12), Joel Caleb (1) and Chris Mangus (1) scored 14 times. Wide receivers D.J. Coles (6), Demitri Knowles (3), Willie Byrn (2) and Joshua Stanford (1) combined to score 12 times. Tight end Kalvin Cline scored twice and quarterback Logan Thomas rushed for four touchdowns. And the Hokies scored two defensive touchdowns thanks to Derek DiNardo and Detrick Bonner. The Hokies were 96th nationally in scoring offense at 23.4 points per game.

Jan. 1, 1963: First time No. 1 and No. 2 played on New Year’s Day
The first time the No. 1 team in the nation played the No. 2 team in the nation on New Year’s Day was back in 1963 (ending the 1962 season). Top-ranked USC beat second-ranked Wisconsin 42-37 in the Rose Bowl, giving the Trojans the ’62 national championship. The Badgers finished 8-2 while the Men of Troy finished 11-0.

9: Bowl-eligible teams that didn’t get a berth
Western Kentucky (8-4), Toledo (7-5), Florida Atlantic (6-6), Central Michigan (6-6), San Jose State (6-6), South Alabama (6-6), Texas State (6-6), Troy (6-6), and Louisiana-Monroe (6-6) are the nine bowl-eligible teams that did not get a postseason invitation. The Hilltoppers have a particular gripe having the Sun Belt Player of the Year (Antonio Andrews), Offensive POY (Andrews) and Defensive POY (Xavius Boyd). Additionally, Penn State, Old Dominion and UTSA won enough games to be eligible but were not allowed to go to a bowl for various reasons.

4: Teams Tommy Tuberville has taken to a bowl game
Tuberville got his first head coaching job in 1995 with the Ole Miss Rebels. It took him three seasons but he got the Rebels to the postseason in 1997 with a trip to the Motor City Bowl. He’s been leading his team to bowls ever since. He led Ole Miss to two bowls in four seasons before leading Auburn to eight bowls in 10 seasons and then Texas Tech to two bowls in three years. And in his first season in Cincinnati, Tuberville led the Bearcats to the Belk Bowl against North Carolina. That’s four different “BCS conference” teams that he has led to the postseason.

331.2: Combined rushing yards per game for Ka’Deem Carey and Andre Williams
The AdvoCare 100 Bowl in Shreveport, La., will feature the top two rushers in the nation. Boston College’s Andre Williams led the country with 175.2 yards per game while Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey finished with 156.0 yards per game. The duo combined for 3,818 yards rushing and 34 rushing touchdowns — 17 each. The Eagles were 50th nationally with 152.1 rushing yards allowed per game and the Wildcats were 71st at 169.8 yards per game, so there should be plenty of fireworks in the bayou.

0: Times Duke and Texas A&M have ever played
Throw out the records when the Chick-Fil-A, err, Peach Bowl kicks off this winter. That’s because Texas A&M and Duke have never faced each other. But Johnny Manziel getting to face the veteran and stingy Blue Devils defense should be fun to watch. The Aggies boast the worst defense (106th) of any of the 70 bowl teams. Nothing harkens back to the history and tradition of a game like the Peach Bowl like a matchup between Duke and Texas A&M.

0-5: USC and Fresno State's combined record in last five bowl games
USC hasn’t won a bowl game since the Emerald Bowl following the 2009 season. Fresno State hasn’t won a bowl game since the Humanitarian Bowl following the 2007 season. So collectively, the two teams that will match up in the Las Vegas Bowl have combined to lose five straight bowl games (Fresno State 4, USC 1). With quarterback Derek Carr facing USC's defense, there is plenty of star power to watch. And guess what? One of these teams will get to win a bowl game this year.

2000: The last time UNLV was in a bowl game
The longest bowl drought that was broken this season was from the Runnin’ Rebs of UNLV. They won the Las Vegas Bowl in 2000 under John Robinson. The other long bowl-less streaks broken this postseason come from Tulane (2002), Washington State (2003) and North Texas (2004). UNLV is playing in a bowl game outside of its home stadium for the first time since the 1984 California Bowl. 

32: Florida State’s bowl streak, the longest active one in the nation
The Seminoles kept their nation’s best bowl streak alive in style by landing in the BCS National Championship Game. It marks 32 consecutive seasons that the Noles have been playing in the postseason. Boise State (12 straight) owns the longest active bowl streak by a team not in an automatic-qualifying (AQ) conference.

1978: Woody Hayes punched a Clemson player in the Gator Bowl
There are a lot of great stats concerning the Ohio State-Clemson Orange Bowl matchup this winter. The game marks the 10th BCS bowl for the Buckeyes, the most by any team in the nation. The trip to the Orange Bowl is the first for Ohio State since 1976. But more importantly, it will be the first meeting between Ohio State and Clemson since Woody Hayes famously punched Clemson’s Charlie Bauman at the end of the 1978 Gator Bowl. Clemson won the only meeting between these two that day 17-15 and Hayes was fired the next day.

2,600: Miles between San Diego State and Buffalo
The Aztecs and Bulls will meet in Boise, Idaho, in the 16th annual Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. If one were to drive from one campus to the other, it would be a trek of roughly 2,600 miles across the country. These two will meet on the blue turf of Boise State's Bronco Stadium. This bowl has been named the Humanitarian Bowl, the Humanitarian Bowl, the MPC Computers Bowl, the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl and the U Drove Humanitarian Bowl.

45-31: Score of last year’s Capital One Bowl
Georgia topped Nebraska 45-31 in last season’s Capital One Bowl. These two will rematch this season on New Year’s Day in Jacksonville in the Gator Bowl. The meeting this bowl season will be just the third all-time between the two historic programs with the only other battle coming on Dec. 20, 1969 in the Sun Bowl. Nebraska won 45-6 in El Paso.

Bonus Stat - 22: Florida's bowl streak, which comes to an end
Will Muschamp's Gators went 4-8 this fall, meaning Florida won't be playing in a bowl game for the first time since the end of the 1991 season (Sugar Bowl, lost to Notre Dame 39-28). Other notable bowl streaks that came to an end this year include West Virginia (11 in a row), TCU (8), Air Force (6), and Northwestern (5).


College Football: The 12 Bowl Stats You Need To Know
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/las-vegas-bowl-preview-and-prediction-fresno-state-vs-usc

Fresno State and USC are separated by less than 300 miles, but the two California programs have met only twice on the gridiron. That number will change on Saturday, as the Bulldogs and Trojans are set to kickoff the first weekend of bowl action with a matchup in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Fresno State was on the doorstep of playing in a BCS bowl, but the Bulldogs lost a 62-52 shootout to San Jose State on Nov. 29, knocking Tim DeRuyter’s team out of contention for one of college football’s premier postseason destinations. But all was not lost for Fresno State, as the Bulldogs won 11 games for the first time in school history since an 11-3 record in 2001. And thanks to a 24-17 win over Utah State on Dec. 7, Fresno State claimed its first outright conference title since 1989.

While 2013 was mostly a good year for Fresno State, this season was a roller-coaster ride for USC. The Trojans started 3-2, and after a 62-41 loss to Arizona State, Lane Kiffin was fired as the team’s head coach. Ed Orgeron was promoted to the top spot, guiding USC to a 6-2 finish and a third-place finish in the Pac-12 South. Orgeron was not promoted to the full-time gig and chose to leave Los Angeles after Steve Sarkisian was hired from Washington. Sarkisian won’t take over until after the bowl game, leaving offensive coordinator Clay Helton as the interim coach.

Fresno State and USC have split the all-time series, with the Bulldogs winning in 1992 and the Trojans claiming a victory in 2005. Fresno State is 0-4 in its last four bowl appearances, but it has won its last four postseason games against BCS foes. Last year’s loss to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl snapped a four-game winning streak for USC in bowl games. The last time the Trojans played in the Las Vegas Bowl, they were defeated 10-6 by Utah.

Fresno State vs. USC

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 21 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: USC -6.5

Fresno State’s Key to Victory: Stop USC’s rushing offense
During USC’s 6-2 finish under Ed Orgeron, the rushing attack seemed to find its stride. The Trojans averaged 173.8 rushing yards per game over their final six victories and recorded at least 240 yards on the ground in three out of the last five games. Depth in the backfield is a little thin due to injuries, as Silas Redd and Tre Madden are questionable to play. With Redd and Madden likely sidelined, Javorius Allen and Ty Isaac will become the go-to backs against Fresno State. The Bulldogs held up relatively well on the ground this year, limiting opponents to 147.7 yards per game. As evidenced by its 98 tackles for loss, Fresno State’s defense is active around the line of scrimmage. Linebacker Ejiro Ederaine leads the team with 15.5 tackles for a loss, while safety Derron Smith (69 tackles, 6 INTs) is another playmaker to watch. USC’s passing attack (10th in the Pac-12) isn’t quite as effective as its ground game, but quarterback Cody Kessler has not thrown an interception over his last four games. If the ground game gets on track, Kessler should be able to take advantage of Fresno State’s secondary and connect with Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor on big plays downfield. The Bulldogs need to make USC one-dimensional and force other receivers outside of Lee and Agholor to step up.

USC’s Key to Victory: Get pressure on Derek Carr and minimize the big plays
Fresno State’s offense has been lethal all season. Only two defenses (Cal Poly and San Diego State) managed to hold the Bulldogs under 400 yards. Behind quarterback Derek Carr and an excellent group of receivers, Fresno State is averaging 6.7 yards per play. Although Orgeron isn’t coaching the team, coordinator Clancy Pendergast is calling the plays in the Las Vegas Bowl, and he was a key reason why USC’s defense improved to No. 2 in the Pac-12 in yards allowed this year. The Trojans are loaded with talent on defense, starting in the trenches with sophomore defensive end Leonard Williams (13.5 TFL, 6 sacks), and continuing into the back seven with linebacker Hayes Pullard (89 tackles) and safety Dion Bailey (5 INTs). Each level of the defense has an All-Pac-12 performer, with Williams taking home Athlon Sports third-team All-America honors this year. Fresno State’s offensive line has allowed only 11 sacks in 2013, but USC’s defense is easily the toughest unit it has faced. The Trojans have registered 34 sacks through 13 games and held opponents to just five yards per play. USC’s secondary ranks 21st nationally in efficiency defense, and this group will be under the microscope on Saturday, with Fresno State having three receivers with at least 79 catches. Getting pressure on Carr is critical to slowing down the Bulldogs’ passing attack. Even if the Trojans don’t record a lot of sacks, just disrupting the timing of Fresno State’s offense will have a huge impact on this game.

Key Player: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
We could mention a couple of players here, including Fresno State left tackle Austin Wentworth or USC quarterback Cody Kessler. But let’s highlight Adams, who did not get enough credit nationally for his 2013 season. Adams led the nation with 122 receptions, averaged 13.5 yards per catch and caught 23 touchdowns. The sophomore is clearly Derek Carr’s go-to receiver, and he could be counted on even more if Josh Harper is unable to play due to a groin injury. USC has not allowed a team to throw for more than 300 yards in its last seven games. Can Fresno State change that on Saturday? If the line protects Carr, Adams will have a chance for his fourth consecutive 100-yard game. 

Final Analysis

Motivation is a key factor in every bowl. USC didn’t seem interested to be in the Sun Bowl last year – will 2013 be any different? The Trojans are now on their third head coach, and the staff is shorthanded with Orgeron and line coach Peter Jenkins leaving the team after the regular season. Talent isn’t an issue for USC, but the motivation is clearly on Fresno State’s sideline. This is the final game for quarterback Derek Carr, and receiver Davante Adams could declare early for the NFL Draft. And if Carr has a huge game against the Trojans, his draft stock will only continue to climb before pre-draft workouts. If USC is motivated to play, the Trojans will win this game. However, the guess here is USC isn’t as interested in this bowl as Fresno State, and the Bulldogs pull a slight upset in Las Vegas.

Prediction: Fresno State 31, USC 27

Las Vegas Bowl Preview and Prediction: Fresno State vs. USC
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/new-mexico-bowl-preview-and-prediction-colorado-state-vs-washington-state

Think there are too many bowl games this year? Don’t tell that to Colorado State and Washington State. The Rams and Cougars are set to open the bowl season in Albuquerque, and even though the combined record of these two teams is 13-12, this game could be one of the better pre-Christmas bowl matchups.

Washington State is back in the postseason after a nine-year absence. The Cougars’ last bowl appearance was a 28-20 win over Texas in the Holiday Bowl.

Under coach Mike Leach, Washington State made significant progress from 2012 to 2013. The Cougars won only three games last year, but Leach’s team rebounded with a 6-6 mark this season, which included wins over Arizona and USC.

Colorado State’s last bowl appearance came in 2008, which was a 40-35 New Mexico Bowl win over Fresno State. Under the direction of second-year coach Jim McElwain, the Rams improved their win total by three games from 2012 to 2013.

The Rams didn’t beat a team with a winning record, but this team played tough against Boise State and Utah State in conference play and trailed Alabama only 17-6 going into the fourth quarter.

This is the first meeting between Colorado State and Washington State. The Rams are 5-7 in previous bowl appearances, while the Cougars are 6-4.

Colorado State vs. Washington State

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 21 at 2 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Washington State -3.5

Colorado State’s Key to Victory: A big game from Kapri Bibbs
This game features a stark contrast in styles. Colorado State’s offense is based on the ground, led by sophomore running back Kapri Bibbs. On the other side, Washington State prefers to air it out, leading the nation with 698 passing attempts this year. Which style will win out? For Colorado State, establishing Bibbs and keeping the Cougars’ offense on the sideline is the key to its hopes at hoisting the New Mexico Bowl trophy. Despite not recording a game of over 20 carries until the seventh contest of the year, Bibbs finished 13th nationally with an average of 120.9 rushing yards per game. The sophomore produced some huge efforts, gashing Nevada for 312 yards and New Mexico for 291. Bibbs was slowed late in the year by an ankle injury, but the sophomore should be at full strength for the bowl. If Bibbs gets on track, it will open up play-action passes for quarterback Garrett Grayson. The junior tossed only 10 picks this season and finished the year by throwing six touchdown tosses over the final three games. Stopping Bibbs will be a challenge for Washington State. The Cougars ranked ninth in the Pac-12 against the run and allowed an average of 243.6 yards on the ground over the final five games.

Washington State’s Key to Victory: Control the offensive tempo
As we mentioned above, this game is a matchup in contrasting styles. Time of possession is an overrated stat in college football, but if Colorado State has success on the ground and controls the clock, Washington State will be in trouble. Quarterback Connor Halliday wore out his right arm this season, throwing 656 times for 4,187 yards and 28 touchdowns. As expected with a high number of attempts, Halliday tossed 21 picks but completed 62.8 percent of his throws. The junior will be throwing to a receiving corps that features eight players with at least 34 receptions. Gabe Marks is the headliner (69 catches), but River Cracraft (13.2 ypc) and Dominique Williams (16.5 ypc) are names to watch. The Cougars don’t run the ball often (18.7 attempts per game) and average only 3.1 yards per attempt. However, a little balance is needed to keep the Rams' defense on their heels. Colorado State’s front seven has to get pressure on Halliday to disrupt the timing of Washington State’s offense. The good news for defensive co-coordinators Marty English and Al Simmons is the Rams have four senior starters in the front seven, including standout Shaquil Barrett. The senior recorded 20.5 tackles for a loss and 12 sacks this season. If Barrett and Colorado State’s front seven can’t get to Halliday, it could be a long afternoon for the secondary. The Rams allowed 265.4 yards per game through the air and ranked 100th nationally in pass efficiency defense.

Key Player: Garrett Grayson, QB, Colorado State
The Rams hope they can keep Washington State’s offense off the field and this game in the 27-24 type of final. Should the Cougars jump out to an early lead or this bowl turn into a shootout, Grayson will have to shoulder more of the offensive focus. The junior threw six touchdowns to only two interceptions over his final three games and finished 2013 with a 62.2 completion percentage. Grayson has a good group of weapons at his disposal, including true freshman receiver Rashard Higgins and tight ends Crockett Gillmore and Kivon Cartwright. In his two games against BCS opponents this year, Grayson threw for 429 yards and no touchdowns. If Colorado State wants to win, Grayson has to be efficient and keep the offense on schedule for Bibbs to have favorable down and distance situations in run downs. 

Final Analysis

Last year’s New Mexico Bowl was one of the most entertaining games of the postseason, with Arizona winning a 49-48 thriller over Nevada. Could we see another back and forth affair this season? Despite contrasting styles, Colorado State and Washington State combine to average 65.1 points a game this year. The turnover battle is worth monitoring, as the Cougars were -5 and the Rams were +2. In a tight game, a turnover could be the difference. Led by senior center Weston Richburg, Colorado State’s veteran offensive line should be able to open rushing lanes for running back Kapri Bibbs. If the Rams eat up the clock and keep the Cougars’ offense on the sidelines, Colorado State will have a chance to score the upset. Washington State’s gameplan on offense should be to score quickly early in the game, putting the Rams behind schedule on offense. Bibbs will have success, but the Cougars’ passing attack is the difference in the fourth quarter.

Prediction: Washington State 38, Colorado State 30

New Mexico Bowl Preview and Prediction: Colorado State vs. Washington State
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-basketball/sec-basketball-best-and-worst-2013-14-so-far

Suffice to say, the SEC has not shaken out the way anyone would have predicted in mid-December.

Missouri is the last undefeated team in the league, and Kentucky has the same amount of losses as Vanderbilt and Auburn. Granted, not every loss or undefeated season is created equal. But Kentucky’s losses in two of the last three games have fans in Lexington wondering what’s going on with Big Blue.

In lauding Kentucky’s great freshman class, maybe we forgot the freshman part as the Wildcats are finding their way through the season.

Kentucky headlines will dominate in the SEC as long the Wildcats have John Calipari on board, but Florida is looking every bit the contender Kentucky was expected to be, especially after Wednesday’s wins over Memphis and Kansas. Missouri hasn’t had the same breakout performance, but the Tigers keep absorbing big personnel losses and chugging along under Frank Haith.

Early Season Report Card: SEC

NCAA teams as of today: Florida, Kentucky, Missouri

Bubble watch: LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee

Best win: Florida 67, Kansas 61

Worst loss: Northwestern State 111, Auburn 92

Power rankings so far
1. Florida
2. Kentucky
3. Missouri
4. Tennessee
5. LSU
6. Ole Miss
7. Arkansas
8. Texas A&M
9. Alabama
10. Vanderbilt
11. Georgia
12. South Carolina
13. Mississippi State
14. Auburn

Important non-conference games remaining:
Missouri vs. Illinois (Dec. 21)
Louisville at Kentucky (Dec. 28)
Dayton at Ole Miss (Jan. 4)
MVP so far: Casey Prather, Florida
Tuesday’s game against Memphis was a chance for Casey Prather to further his case for SEC player of the year, a major upset not only in a league with Kentucky but also on his own roster. Between suspensions, academic casualties and injuries, Florida hasn’t played with its full roster for most of the season, but Prather has been the steadying influence for the Gators around the basket. By averaging 18.7 points, Prather has pulled off the rare senior breakout by topping his 181 points as a junior in his 10th game as a senior.

Top freshman: Julius Randle, Kentucky
Matched up against James Michael McAdoo, Randle struggled with 11 points and five rebounds in an 82-77 loss to North Carolina on Saturday, but he is still one of the most athletically overwhelming players in the country only 11 games into his career. Randle is averaging 17.2 points and 11.4 rebounds. We’re not backing off Randle's potential.

Top newcomer: Jordan Clarkson, Missouri
Missouri expected to rely heavily on Clarkson to replace point guard Phil Pressey. The Tulsa transfer has delivered as much as Frank Haith expected and probably more. Clarkson averaged 16.5 points in his final season at Tulsa but has averaged 19.4 during Mizzou’s undefeated start. Clarkson is producing, but a Pressey clone he is not. Freshman Wes Clark may be the better distributor, and Clarkson isn’t much of an outside scoring threat. But Clarkson has shot 56.9 percent from inside the 3-point line.

Surprise player: Michael Qualls, Arkansas
Qualls showed flashes of his athleticism as a freshman, but his name was tough to find in the preseason for Arkansas. After averaging 15.6 minutes last season, Qualls is averaging 14.8 points per game as a sophomore.

Early season flop: Alabama
Athlon projected this year’s Alabama team to go to the NIT, but even that’s looking iffy. The Crimson Tide has lost to Duke, Wichita State and Oklahoma (not so bad), but losses to Drexel and USF will put the pressure on Anthony Grant. At 5-5 and games upcoming against Xavier, UCLA and Robert Morris, Alabama could enter conference play with a losing record.

Lingering concerns: Is Kentucky ready to contend for the title?
The ludicrous talk of Kentucky going 40-0 was dispensed with a Nov. 12 loss to Michigan State. The Wildcats, though, have more questions after losing to the top three teams on their schedule so far (Baylor and North Carolina). Kentucky is one of maybe three teams capable of winning the SEC, but are the Wildcats better than Florida? Not right now. Jason King of Bleacher Report spelled out the issues plaguing Kentucky right now from lack of leadership to an underachieving point guard and problems on the wing and the perimeter.

Best NCAA resume: Florida
Florida lost in Madison with a skeleton crew of a roster in the second game of the season and to Connecticut on the road on a last-second shot by Shabazz Napier. Neither Wisconsin nor UConn have lost this season. Along the way, Florida has defeated three teams ranked in the top 40 on — Florida State, Kansas and Memphis. And there’s a case that Florida will be getting even better when freshman Chris Walker is eligible.

SEC Basketball: The Best and Worst in 2013-14 So Far
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/acc-basketball-best-and-worst-2013-14-so-far

Let’s get this out of the way: The greatest conference in college basketball history the ACC is not. ... yet.

Don’t blame the powerhouses, though. Even though North Carolina has two losses it would like to forget, the Tar Heels have three wins as good as anyone in the country. Meanwhile, Syracuse and Duke are contending for the ACC and probably more thanks to the play of key freshmen — Jabari Parker at Duke and Tyler Ennis at Syracuse.

The rest of the ACC has some work to do. After the top three, the league’s other teams are works in progress. We’ve seen signs of encouragement from teams like Pittsburgh, Virginia, Notre Dame and Florida State, but not enough to think any of them can challenge the league’s top three.

Early Season Report Card: ACC

NCAA teams as of today: Duke, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Syracuse

Bubble watch: Florida State, Maryland, Notre Dame, Virginia

Best win: North Carolina 76, Michigan State 65

Worst loss: St Francis (NY) 66, Miami 62

Power rankings so far
1. Syracuse
2. Duke
3. North Carolina
4. Pittsburgh
5. Virginia
6. Florida State
7. Notre Dame
8. NC State
9. Maryland
10. Georgia Tech
11. Clemson
12. Wake Forest
13. Boston College
14. Virginia Tech
15. Miami

Important non-conference games remaining:
Duke vs. UCLA (Dec. 19)
Virginia Tech vs. VCU (Dec. 21)
Florida State vs. UMass (Dec. 21)
Villanova at Syracuse (Dec. 28)
MVP So Far: Jabari Parker, Duke
Parker has head-to-head losses to fellow top freshmen Andrew Wiggins at Kansas and Aaron Gordon at Arizona on neutral courts, but it’s hard to be too critical about the Duke forward. Parker has been Duke’s go-to player from the start, averaging 22 points (second in the ACC) and 7.6 rebounds (fourth) per game. He’ll be in the No. 1 overall draft pick and national player of the year discussions all season.

Top freshman (non-Jabari Parker division): Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
Ennis was a five-star freshman, too, but he may be in danger of being lost amid talk of Parker and other rookies. All Ennis has done is step in as a freshman to lead an undefeated team while compiling 50 assists to 11 turnovers.

Top newcomer: Rodney Hood, Duke
Duke’s other ridiculously versatile wing, Hood is averaging 18.9 points and five rebounds. His season will be overlooked due to the presence of Parker, but Hood’s mid-range game has been lethal as he’s improved from shooting 50.6 percent from 2-point range in his final year at Mississippi State to 61.6 at Duke.

Surprise player: Marcus Paige, North Carolina
Paige is every bit the MVP contender in the league as C.J. Fair or Parker. Might as well call him the MVP of the Bluegrass State as he was the top player on the court in wins over Louisville (32 points) and Kentucky (21 of his 23 points came in the second half). Paige’s development from an average point guard to the top player for the Heels has been staggering. On a team that had been reeling from the absence of P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald, who was reinstated Wednesday, Paige ended up picking up the slack.

Early season flop: Boston College
With returning veterans, Boston College looked like a team that could work its way onto the NCAA bubble. By early December, Boston College looks like it will be ACC Tournament or bust. The Eagles lost virtually every notable non-conference game (Providence, UMass, Toledo, UConn, Purdue, USC).

Lingering concerns: Where will the ACC find depth?
Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse are as good as any top three teams in any league, but where will the ACC find its second tier? Pittsburgh started 9-0 before scoring only 43 points in its first real test against Cincinnati (in fairness, Cincinnati scored only 44). Notre Dame has lost to Indiana State and North Dakota State at home, and that’s before facing teams in a new league. Virginia has lost to VCU, Wisconsin and Green Bay as Joe Harris has slumped to 11.3 points per game. Florida State may be the team to watch as the Seminoles’ big men are starting to emerge. Florida State’s three losses include an overtime loss to Michigan and one-point defeat in Gainesville.

Best NCAA resume: North Carolina
The losses to Belmont and UAB were baffling, and Wednesday's loss to Texas suggests Carolina's Jekyll and Hyde act isn't finished. No team has three better wins than Kentucky, Michigan State and Louisville — three of Athlon’s top four teams. With McDonald returning and marked improvement by James Michael McAdoo and Kennedy Meeks, North Carolina may be closer to winning the ACC than landing on the bubble.

ACC Basketball: The Best and Worst of 2013-14 So Far
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-positional-rankings-week-16

It’s Week 16, which means, for most fantasy leagues, it’s championship week! If you are one of the last teams standing, congratulations. However, your work is not completely done, not if you want to take home the title, trophy, bragging rights and whatever other spoils of victory that may come with finishing in first place.

If you are still vying for a championship, I am guessing there’s a pretty good chance that you have Jamaal Charles on your team. After all, when your running back catches four touchdown passes and scores you 55.5 fantasy points (Athlon scoring), your chances of winning have to be pretty good.

However, that’s not to say it’s not out of the realm of possibility that you lose. A colleague of mine had Jamaal Charles (as well as Kirk Cousins, Julian Edelman and Ryan Mathews) on his team and yet he still lost. His opponent had Ryan Fitzpatrick, who threw for 402 yards and four touchdowns, but it was Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker who destroyed his championship dreams.

In fact, between Tucker’s SIX field goals on Monday night, including the game-winner from 61 yards away, and Matthew Stafford’s last-second interception (his third of the game, which also meant a third INT for the Baltimore DST), my guess is that quite a few people went from enjoying the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat. If it’s any consolation for the former group, the latter will have to endure that roller coaster one more time, with even more on the line.

2013 NFL Week 16 Fantasy Football Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams


Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

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

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

Fantasy Football 2013 Positional Rankings: Week 16
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-quarterback-rankings-week-16

Peyton Manning is on the verge of reaching some significant milestones, so no one should be surprised to see him leading off Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 16 quarterback rankings. But while Manning no doubt carried many a fantasy team to the championship game, he's not the only quarterback who could end up helping an owner bring home the title this week.

As far as Manning goes, he needs just 189 yards passing to reach 5,000 in a season for the first time in his career. He's also three touchdown passes shy of tying Tom Brady's single-season record of 50. Unless the Broncos decide to rest Manning next week there's a pretty good chance that record will be his before Week 17 is complete. Manning does have to face Houston's second-ranked passing defense this week, but this is a Texans team that has lost 12 games in a row and has allowed 25 touchdown passes compared to six interceptions. There was no debate when it came to the No. 1 quarterback this week.

That doesn't mean that Manning's the only quarterback whose outlook we don't like though. The Sunday night Chicago vs. Philadelphia game not only is a critical matchup as it pits the NFC North and East division leaders against each other, it features two of the NFL's more generous defenses. Nick Foles and Jay Cutler both have the weapons and the ability to post big numbers in any given week, and this head-to-head matchup has all the makings of a high-scoring affair.

Foles has been more consistent (21.4 or more fantasy points in six straight games), but that's because Cutler has missed time because of a groin and ankle injury. He returned last week against Cleveland and after a shaky start that saw him toss two interceptions, Cutler finished with 265 yards passing and three touchdowns. There's certainly some risk in starting a "rusty" Cutler with so much at stake, but you also can't ignore the prospect of him throwing to the likes of Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte against an Eagles defense that gave up 382 yards passing to Minnesota's Matt Cassel last week.

For those who have an appetite for risk-taking, what about rolling the dice with Kirk Cousins? In his first game replacing Robert Griffin III, Cousins threw for 381 yards and three touchdowns against Atlanta. This week Cousins gets a reeling Dallas defense that has given up the most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Cousins did turn the ball over three times (2 INTs, fumble) and will be making just his second career NFL start. However, unless you already have Manning, Foles, Cutler or a better option on your roster, you could certainly do worse than taking a chance on the Redskins' backup quarterback.

2013 NFL Week 16 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks

1Peyton ManningDENat HOU
2Nick FolesPHIvs. CHI
3Drew BreesNOat CAR
4Cam NewtonCARvs. NO
5Matthew StaffordDETvs. NYG
6Philip RiversSDvs. OAK
7Russell WilsonSEAvs. ARI
8Jay CutlerCHIat PHI
9Colin KaepernickSFvs. ATL (Mon.)
10Tony RomoDALat WAS
11Andy DaltonCINvs. MIN
12Tom BradyNEat BAL
13Ben RoethlisbergerPITat GB
14Kirk CousinsWASvs. DAL
15Alex SmithKCvs. IND
16Andrew LuckINDat KC
17Ryan FitzpatrickTENat JAC
18Joe FlaccoBALvs. NE
19Ryan TannehillMIAat BUF
20Jason CampbellCLEat NYJ
21Matt RyanATLat SF (Mon.)
22Matt FlynnGBvs. PIT
23Matt CasselMINat CIN
24Carson PalmerARIat SEA
25Eli ManningNYGat DET

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 16 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams


Fantasy Football 2013 Quarterback Rankings: Week 16
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-running-back-rankings-week-16

Even though he had just 20 yards rushing, is there any question who sits atop Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 16 running back rankings? Jamaal Charles probably single-handedly won many a fantasy game last week after scoring five total touchdowns, four of those coming through the air, and producing a grand total of 55.5 fantasy points (Athlon scoring).

Besides not only posting one of the biggest fantasy performances ever, Charles became just the fifth player in the past 50 seasons in NFL history to produce more than 200 yards from scrimmage and score five touchdowns. His 195 yards receiving also were the most by a running back since 1999. While it's pretty much unfathomable to think that Charles can top what he did last week, that doesn't mean he can't potentially help carry a team to a fantasy championship by putting up decent numbers against Indianapolis and the 27th-ranked rushing defense.

Those who aren't as fortunate to have Charles on their roster could still enjoy plenty of success, thanks to matchups such as Chicago vs. Philadelphia and Dallas vs. Washington, which set up nicely for the likes of LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, DeMarco Murray and Alfred Morris. Murray in particular has been hot lately, leading all running backs with 429 yards rushing over the past four weeks. He also has averaged more than 19 fantasy points per game during this stretch and gets a Redskins defense that is giving up the third-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. Fret not Morris owners, because it's the the Cowboys who are allowing the most, especially after getting run over by Eddie Lacy (141 yards rushing, TD) and Forte (175 total yards, TD) the last two games.

Another thing to keep an eye on this week is injuries. Adrian Peterson (sprained foot/groin) and Maurice Jones-Drew (hamstring) both did not play last week because of their ailments. Peterson is expected back against Cincinnati and we have him ranked in the top five. MJD's outlook is much cloudier, which is he is not ranked, but his backup Jordan Todman (24th) is. Why is that you ask? Because Tennessee is yielding the second-most fantasy points to running backs.

The other big piece of injury new is that Houston's Ben Tate has been placed on injured reserve after breaking his fifth rib in last week's loss to Indianapolis. Dennis Johnson and Deji Karim will share the load out of the backfield, but unlike Todman, we are not too encouraged by either backup's potential this week against Denver.

2013 NFL Week 16 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Back

1Jamaal CharlesKCvs. IND
2LeSean McCoyPHIvs. CHI
3Matt ForteCHIat PHI
4Eddie LacyGBvs. PIT
5Adrian PetersonMINat CIN
6Marshawn LynchSEAvs. ARI
7DeMarco MurrayDALat WAS
8Knowshon MorenoDENat HOU
9Alfred MorrisWASvs. DAL
10Reggie BushDETvs. NYG
11Le'Veon BellPITat GB
12Frank GoreSFvs. ATL (Mon.)
13Zac StacySTLvs. TB
14Ryan MathewsSDvs. OAK
15Chris JohnsonTENat JAC
16Rashad JenningsOAKat SD
17Giovani BernardCINvs. MIN
18C.J. SpillerBUFvs. MIA
19Shane VereenNEat BAL
20Bobby RaineyTBat STL
21Andre BrownNYGat DET
22Ray RiceBALvs. NE
23Fred JacksonBUFvs. MIA
24Jordan TodmanJACvs. TEN
25DeAngelo WilliamsCARvs. NO
26Chris IvoryNYJvs. CLE
27Danny WoodheadSDvs. OAK
28Steven JacksonATLat SF (Mon.)
29Lamar MillerMIAat BUF
30BenJarvus Green-EllisCINvs. MIN
31Rashard MendenhallARIat SEA
32Pierre ThomasNOat CAR
33Andre EllingtonARIat SEA
34Darren SprolesNOat CAR
35Chris OgbonnayaCLEat NYJ
36Montee BallDENat HOU
37Joique BellDETvs. NYG
38Dennis JohnsonHOUvs. DEN
39Daniel ThomasMIAat BUF
40Stevan RidleyNEat BAL

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 16 Positional Rankings

Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams


Fantasy Football 2013 Running Back Rankings: Week 16
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-wide-receiver-rankings-week-16

Calvin Johnson hasn't scored a touchdown or gone over 100 yards in two straight games, but he's still No. 1 on Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 16 wide receiver rankings. For one, Johnson still leads his peers in fantasy points, despite the best efforts of Josh Gordon, Antonio Brown, Brandon Marshall, Demaryius Thomas and others, but also because he's home this week against a pretty beat-down Giants defense. Megatron is one of the few players who can make a lot of noise even if he catches a few passes.

As for the rest of this week's field, Gordon, Marshall, Brown and Thomas are all must-start options, along with A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, DeSean Jackson and Marshall's teammate, Alshon Jeffery. In particular, we really like the Chicago vs. Philadelphia matchup, as the Eagles are giving up the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. The Vikings aren't too far behind, which bodes well for Green and we wouldn't be at all surprised if the Dallas-Washington pairing is a high-scoring affair. That's good news for Bryant owners as well as Pierre Garcon, who caught seven passes for 129 yards and a touchdown with Kirk Cousins as his quarterback last week.

That's not to say that Denver won't be up to its usual tricks against Houston, so by no means are you sitting either Thomas or Eric Decker. And likewise, Andre Johnson should add to his league-leading receptions total (99) against the 28th-ranked passing defense in the league. What remains to be seen for that game, however, is will Wes Welker return after missing last week because of a concussion? Larry Fitzgerald and Victor Cruz are also going through the required concussion tests and are questionable for Sunday. Although Fitzgerald's road matchup in Seattle and the Giants' offensive struggles may be enough reason alone to leave both on the bench this week.

As far as some less-heralded options go, what about New England's Julian Edelman? He's picked up the slack and then some since Rob Gronkowski tore his ACL and MCL, racking up 39 receptions over his last four games, including 13 for 139 yards and a touchdown against Miami. It's pretty clear that he has become Tom Brady's favorite target, as Edelman has quietly put together a top-15 fantasy season. And then there's San Diego rookie Keenan Allen. He caught just two passes in last week's surprise win in Denver, but both of them went for touchdowns. He's emerged as not only Philip Rivers' No. 1 target, Allen is a leading contender for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. He has seven touchdown grabs on the season and needs just 69 yards receiving against Oakland to reach 1,000. All Allen did in his first game against the Raiders was haul in six passes for 115 yards and a score.

2013 NFL Week 16 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers

1Calvin JohnsonDETvs. NYG
2Josh GordonCLEat NYJ
3A.J. GreenCINvs. MIN
4Brandon MarshallCHIat PHI
5Alshon JefferyCHIat PHI
6Dez BryantDALat WAS
7Demaryius ThomasDENat HOU
8Antonio BrownPITat GB
9DeSean JacksonPHIvs. CHI
10Andre JohnsonHOUvs. DEN
11Pierre GarconWASvs. DAL
12Vincent JacksonTBat STL
13Keenan AllenSDvs. OAK
14Jordy NelsonGBvs. PIT
15Eric DeckerDENat HOU
16Julian EdelmanNEat BAL
17Torrey SmithBALvs. NE
18Mike WallaceMIAat BUF
19Marques ColstonNOat CAR
20Michael CrabtreeSFvs. ATL (Mon.)
21Anquan BoldinSFvs. ATL (Mon.)
22Kendall WrightTENat JAC
23Dwayne BoweKCvs. IND
24Larry FitzgeraldARIat SEA
25Wes WelkerDENat HOU
26Roddy WhiteATLat SF (Mon.)
27Danny AmendolaNEat BAL
28T.Y. HiltonINDat KC
29James JonesGBvs. PIT
30Greg JenningsMINat CIN
31Brian HartlineMIAat BUF
32Riley CooperPHIvs. CHI
33Steve SmithCARvs. NO
34Doug BaldwinSEAvs. ARI
35Rod StreaterOAKat SD
36Golden TateSEAvs. ARI
37Cordarrelle PattersonMINat CIN
38Harry DouglasATLat SF (Mon.)
39Hakeem NicksNYGat DET
40Rueben RandleNYGat DET
41Jarrett BoykinGBvs. PIT
42Stevie JohnsonBUFvs. MIA
43Michael FloydARIat SEA
44Emmanuel SandersPITat GB
45Robert WoodsBUFvs. MIA
46Denarius MooreOAKat SD
47Marlon BrownBALvs. NE
48Andre HolmesOAKat SD
49DeAndre HopkinsHOUvs. DEN
50Ace SandersJACvs. TEN

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 16 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams


Fantasy Football 2013 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 16
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-tight-end-rankings-week-16

It was a rough day at the office last week for Jimmy Graham, but he's firmly entrenched in the top spot on Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 16 tight end rankings. Graham still leads all tight ends in fantasy points by nearly 60, leads the NFL in touchdown receptions (12), and is facing a Carolina defense against which he recorded two scores just two weeks ago. Graham brought you this far, you may as well let him finish the job.

As impressive a season as Graham has had, Vernon Davis is putting up some nice numbers of his own. His 12 touchdown catches are second only to Graham and he's on pace to record nearly 60 catches and more than 900 yards even though he missed a game earlier because of injury. San Francisco hosts Atlanta on Monday night and the Falcons have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to tight ends.

Even though the 49ers' defense has been tough, that doesn't mean that Tony Gonzalez won't have success against it. The future Hall of Famer has recorded a touchdown catch in three straight games and has once again produced a top-five fantasy season. Cleveland's Jordan Cameron is currently third behind Graham and Davis in fantasy points, but he sustained a concussion last week and will have to pass the required tests before he's cleared to play against the Jets. The matchup is definitely appealing (Jets allowing seventh-most fantasy points to TEs), but you need to make sure that Cameron is playing before leaving him in your lineup. Especially in a week with so much at stake.

If Cameron can't go, some potential replacement options for him could include Delanie Walker, Dennis Pitta, Tyler Eifert, Timothy Wright or even Zach Miller or Andrew Quarless. In Miller's case the Cardinals have surrendered 92 catches and 15 touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season, while Quarless has caught exactly six passes for 66 yards and a score in each of the past two games.

2013 NFL Week 16 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends

1Jimmy GrahamNOat CAR
2Vernon DavisSFvs. ATL (Mon.)
3Julius ThomasDENat HOU
4Jason WittenDALat WAS
5Greg OlsenCARvs. NO
6Tony GonzalezATLat SF (Mon.)
7Jordan CameronCLEat NYJ
8Delanie WalkerTENat JAC
9Charles ClayMIAat BUF
10Antonio GatesSDvs. OAK
11Martellus BennettCHIat PHI
12Dennis PittaBALvs. NE
13Tyler EifertCINvs. MIN
14Coby FleenerINDat KC
15Heath MillerPITat GB
16Timothy WrightTBat STL
17Zach MillerSEAvs. ARI
18Garrett GrahamHOUvs. DEN
19Jared CookSTLvs. TB
20Andrew QuarlessGBvs. PIT

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 16 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Defense/Special Teams


Fantasy Football 2013 Tight End Rankings: Week 16
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-defspecial-teams-rankings-week-16

After flexing its muscles on the road last week, Seattle increased its grip on the No. 1 spot on Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 16 defense/special teams rankings. The Seahawks picked off Eli Manning five times and recorded four sacks in the dominating 23-0 win over the Giants at MetLife Stadium, the site of Super Bowl XLVIII in February.

This week the Seahawks are back home, where they are virtually unbeatable, facing an Arizona team against which they collected seven sacks and two picks (22 PA) in their first meeting back in Week 7. The Cardinals' DST meanwhile has been fantasy's most productive DST over the past four weeks, scoring 58 points (Athlon scoring) thanks to 13 sacks and three defensive touchdowns.

Another repeat matchup has New Orleans visiting Carolina with the NFC South division title potentially on the line. The Saints had their way with the Panthers' defense two weeks ago, winning 31-13 behind 313 yards passing and four touchdowns from Drew Brees, but Carolina hasn't lost at home since the season-opener against the aforementioned Seahawks. New Orleans also has struggled on the road this season, losing 27-16 in St. Louis last week and 34-7 in Seattle three games ago. The Saints' defense has been solid in its own right, so don't be surprised if there aren't a bunch of points scored in this game.

2013 NFL Week 16 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams

1Seattle Seahawksvs. ARI
2San Francisco 49ersvs. ATL (Mon.)
3Kansas City Chiefsvs. IND
4Cincinnati Bengalsvs. MIN
5St. Louis Ramsvs. TB
6Carolina Panthersvs. NO
7Detroit Lionsvs. NYG
8Cleveland Brownsat NYJ
9Denver Broncosat HOU
10Arizona Cardinalsat SEA
11Tampa Bay Buccaneersat STL
12Buffalo Billsvs. MIA
13Miami Dolphinsat BUF
14San Diego Chargersvs. OAK
15Pittsburgh Steelersat GB
16New Orleans Saintsat CAR

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 16 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends


Fantasy Football 2013 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 16
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-kicker-rankings-week-16

Matt Prater is still No. 1 on Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 16 kicker rankings, but there's no doubt who the most polarizing kicker is. After booting six field goals on Monday night, including the eventual game-winner from 61 yards out, Baltimore's Justin Tucker is either the most loved kicker right now or the most despised, depending on whether his exploits were the difference between a thrilling victory or a shocking defeat for your team.

No matter how your league assigns points for field goals, Tucker's six makes against the Lions produced quite a few. And his stat line looked even better in those leagues that give bonus points for distance. Besides the 61-yarder, Tucker also connected on one from 53. However, Tucker wasn't even the most productive kicker in Week 15, at least not by Athlon's scoring standards.

That distinction belongs to Dallas' Dan Bailey, who made five field goals, including two longer than 50 yards, and three PATs in the Cowboys' stunning loss to the Packers. Even though Tucker made one more field goal, the three PATs by Bailey were enough to edge him in fantasy points, 24 to 23. Again, this is based on Athlon's scoring and it does nothing to ease the pain of those who lost their game, as well as a potential title shot, because of the foot of Tucker, or Bailey for that matter. 

2013 NFL Week 16 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers

1Matt PraterDENat HOU
2Phil DawsonSFvs. ATL (Mon.)
3Justin TuckerBALvs. NE
4Stephen GostkowskiNEat BAL
5Steven HauschkaSEAvs. ARI
6Mason CrosbyGBvs. PIT
7Dan BaileyDALat WAS
8Nick NovakSDvs. OAK
9Robbie GouldCHIat PHI
10Ryan SuccopKCvs. IND
11Adam VinatieriINDat KC
12Blair WalshMINat CIN
13Graham GanoCARvs. NO
14Shaun SuishamPITat GB
15Nick FolkNYJvs. CLE
16Caleb SturgisMIAat BUF

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 16 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Fantasy Football 2013 Kicker Rankings: Week 16
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 06:30
Path: /college-football/bowling-green-hires-dino-babers-its-new-head-coach

Bowling Green is coming off a MAC Championship, but coach Dave Clawson left for Wake Forest after the victory over Northern Illinois. The Falcons have picked Clawson’s replacement, choosing Eastern Illinois’ coach Dino Babers to take the top spot at Bowling Green next year.

Babers is considered a rising star in the coaching ranks and has a wealth of experience on his resume.

Babers started his coaching career at Hawaii in 1984 and worked at a handful of programs, including Purdue, San Diego State, Arizona, Texas A&M, Pittsburgh, UCLA and Baylor.

Babers has spent the last two years at Eastern Illinois, recording a 19-7 mark in the process.

With a good chunk of their roster returning in 2014, the Falcons should be picked near the top of the MAC East.

Bowling Green Hires Dino Babers as its New Head Coach
Post date: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 - 22:35
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-college-football-podcast-dec-18

Who says there’s a lull in the college football season? The coaching carousel gets new life with the Texas job. Braden Gall and David Fox talk about their top three realistic candidates for the job.

It’s also time for a bit of reading as our hosts react to columns on Mack Brown as Mr. Football and the Nickelback of college football coaching. Lastly, a moderately successful game of word association for the early bowl games.

Contact us with questions, comments and debate topics at [email protected] or on Twitter at @AthlonSports, @BradenGall and @DavidFox615.

Athlon Sports College Football Cover 2 Podcast: Dec. 18
Post date: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 - 16:29
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-december-18-2013

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Dec. 18.

Presenting the 100 sexiest athletes of 2013. Spoiler alert: No. 1 is golfer Blair O'Neal (pictured).

A seven-year-old Bengals fan sent an adorable letter to injured punter Kevin Huber in which he wished homelessness on the offending Steeler.

• Year's not over yet, but year-end lists are everywhere. Here are the best viral sports videos of the first 352 days of 2013. While we're at it, here are the 50 best sports plays of the year.

SIU coach Barry Hinson tossed his players under the bus, then backed over them a few times in an epic postgame rant.

Brandon Marshall wore fuzzy slipper cleats against the Browns. I'm all for comfort, but really?

Idiot radio yakker ripped into Mets ace Matt Harvey for living life, because apparently he should be recovering from Tommy John in private or something.

When a 5-8 point guard bumps into a 7-6 center, you get photographic gold.

Of the top 100 NFL Draft prospects, 31 of them are from the SEC. To further prove that it was a great year in the league, here are the top 25 SEC games of 2013.

A visual timeline of every office Christmas party.

• The Blazers' Damian Lillard is making a habit of game-winning baskets. That's a nice habit to have.




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

Post date: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 - 11:41
Path: /college-football/top-25-sec-games-2013

The 2013 college football regular season had distinct and unique character. The No. 2 team in the nation didn’t lose every weekend like in 2007. And one player didn’t captivate the nation like Cam Newton in 2010 or Johnny Manziel last fall.

Every major conference race — and some of the smaller ones as well — came down to the final weekend, and, in some cases, the final moments of the final game. It was a season to remember for college football fans. Especially, for those in the nation’s best conference.

So that is what Athlon Sports is going to do. For some, this will be a stroll down memory lane while others may develop reoccurring nightmares. The Iron Bowl and The Prayer on the Plains stole the headlines nationally but there were a litany of other great moments to remember in the SEC this season. Here are the SEC's most entertaining and pivotal games of the 2013 season.

1. Auburn 34, Alabama 28 (Nov. 30)
What else can be said about this game that hasn’t already been written? The ending is second only to the famed 1982 Stanford-Cal “Band is out on the field” game in terms of being the most bizarre finish in NCAA history. But when it comes to the gravity, importance, passion and history of the “Kick-6,” no game may ever compare to the 2013 Iron Bowl. The SEC West title, a spot in the SEC championship game and claim to a spot in the BCS title game, as well as in-state bragging rights, were all hanging in the balance and Auburn returned a missed field goal 109 yards on the final play of the game to beat the two-time undefeated defending national champions? Nothing may ever come close to matching that type of resume.

2. Alabama 49, Texas A&M 42 (Sept. 14)
The most anticipated game of the offseason didn’t disappoint. A revenge-minded Nick Saban versus the tawdry, reigning Heisman Trophy winner in one of the best venues in the nation? The Aggies jumped out early 14-0 before Alabama answered with 35 straight points and appeared to have ended the game midway through the third quarter. That was until a big Bama fumble allowed Manziel to get his team back into the game. In the end, the Tide was too much for the Aggies' poor defense as AJ McCarron (334 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs) matched Manziel (464 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs) pass for pass and eventually the national champs held on for a narrow victory.

3. Auburn 43, Georgia 38 (Nov. 16)
In the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, Auburn dominates Georgia for three quarters before the Dawgs come storming back in the final period. Aaron Murray leads his team to three touchdowns, including a gusty fourth-down touchdown run to take the lead with less than two minutes to play. On the next possession, Auburn could muster only five yards on six plays in a minute and a half of time. It left the Tigers with a 4th and 18 with 25 seconds left and needing a miracle to survive. Then Nick Marshall heaved a prayer into the Auburn night air that was tipped into infamy by two Georgia defenders. The ball landed gingerly into Ricardo Louis’ waiting arms and he strolled into the SEC history books with one of the most dramatic finishes in conference history.

4. Auburn 45, Texas A&M 41 (Oct. 19)
Trailing 41-38 with five minutes to go on the road against the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Auburn turned to tailback Tre Mason to save the day. The Tigers put together a 13-play, 75-yard drive that took 3:46 off the clock and culminated in a five-yard, game-winning Mason touchdown run. Auburn ran the ball 10 times, including six Mason carries, on a drive that defines head coach Gus Malzahn’s relentless offensive system. On the ensuing possession, Dee Ford sacked Johnny Manziel twice on the final series with No. 7 Texas A&M knocking on the door of the red zone, including a fourth down play that ended the game. The national stage welcomed Auburn to the party following this performance.

5. Auburn 59, Missouri 42 (Dec. 7)
Auburn set 16 SEC Championship Game records by rolling through a highly regarded and equally effective Missouri Tigers defensive line. Tre Mason rushes 46 times for 304 yards and four touchdowns — all SEC title game records — in the win. The performance sent Mason to New York as a Heisman finalist. Malzahn becomes just the third head coach in SEC history to win a conference title in his first season in the league and it won him the Home Depot National Coach of the Year award.

6. Georgia 44, LSU 41 (Sept. 28)
McCarron-Manziel might have been the best SEC QB duel this fall but Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray put on a show in Athens late in September. The duo combined for 670 yards and seven touchdowns in the see-saw affair. No team ever held a lead of more than seven points, no team scored twice in a row after the 8:16 mark of the second quarter and both teams scored at least 10 points in every quarter except LSU in the second. It was probably the best game of Mettenberger’s career and his team came up just short between the hedges in dramatic fashion when Murray led the Bulldogs on a long 75-yard scoring drive with less than three minutes to play.

7. South Carolina 27, Missouri 24 (2OT, Oct. 26)
The first three quarters were rather tame as Missouri commanded the score board and the line of scrimmage 17-0 when the fourth quarter began. But then Connor Shaw did his best Willis Reed impersonation, limping around Faurot Field to give South Carolina one of the most historic and improbable wins in SEC history. Shaw led the Cocks to 17 unanswered points, including a game-tying TD with 42 seconds left and a 4th-and-15 game-tying TD pass in overtime. When Missouri missed a short field goal in double-overtime, Carolina stormed the field and Shaw supplanted his legacy in Gamecocks lore.

8. Texas A&M 41, Ole Miss 38 (Oct. 12)
Johnny Manziel forced some throws and made a bad decision or two, but Johnny Football bailed him out. He threw for 346 yards and rushed for 124 and provided three critical, late drives to keep his Aggies alive in Oxford. These two teams combined for 41 fourth-quarter points and Manziel overcame what appeared to be a bad knee injury to lead Texas A&M to the game-winning field goal with no time remaining on the clock.

9. Georgia 41, South Carolina 30 (Sept. 7)
A week after losing to Clemson (more on that in a second), the Dawgs returned home to open their 2013 home campaign against SEC East rival South Carolina. Aaron Murray was brilliant and running back Todd Gurley was unstoppable for most of the day. Murray made the play of the day in the critical win with an 85-yard touchdown pass on a third-and-long early in the fourth quarter. His defense did the rest and Georgia threw the season’s first big SEC punch in a game that saw momentum swing back and forth all afternoon.

10. Clemson 38, Georgia 35 (Aug. 31)
It was hyped all summer long and the two top 10 teams delivered in a big way. Tajh Boyd and Aaron Murray teamed with Sammy Watkins and Todd Gurley to give fans in rabid Death Valley big play after big play. This anticipated non-conference season-opener was either tied or within one score for all but six minutes and ended with Tigers fans chanting “A-C-C” deep into the night in South Carolina.

11. Ole Miss 39, Vanderbilt 35 (Aug. 29)
On the season’s opening night, the Rebs and Dores delivered on a national stage in dramatic fashion. Ole Miss won the first quarter 10-0 while Vandy took the second 21-0. The frantic back-and-forth game ended when Jeff Scott rumbled 75 yards for the eventual game-winning touchdown with 1:07 to play. The lead changed hands three times over the final nine minutes in one of the best games of the season.

12. Missouri 28, Texas A&M 21 (Nov. 30)
It was a non-descript but critical regular-season finale and Henry Josey rushed into Mizzou history in dramatic fashion. Josey, a fan favorite in Columbia, broke free for a game-winning 57-yard TD run with three minutes to play to send the Tigers to Atlanta as SEC East champs.

13. Ole Miss 27, LSU 24 (Oct. 19)
The first half wasn’t pretty for LSU as Ole Miss led 10-0 at the break. But an exciting second half eventually led to a tie game when LSU scored 10 straight points to start the fourth quarter. But Bo Wallace led his team into field-goal range and Andrew Ritter drilled a 41-yarder with two seconds left to pull off one of the biggest upsets in Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium history.

14. Missouri 41, Georgia 26 (Oct. 12)
The final score isn’t nearly as indicative as to how entertaining and important this game was in the SEC. James Franklin got hurt late in the action but backup Maty Mauk and some unique play-calling gave Mizzou one of its biggest wins in program history. The Tigers led big most of the way but UGA stormed back and nearly took the lead in the final period before a critical fumble ended the comeback. This win set Gary Pinkel’s bunch up on their magical run to Atlanta.

15. Georgia 34, Tennessee 31 (OT, Sept. 5)
The battered and bruised Bulldogs escaped Knoxville in dramatic overtime fashion when Aaron Murray scored the game-tying TD with five seconds left. Then, in overtime, the Vols' heart-break continued when Pig Howard appeared to score the game-winning TD but instead fumbled the ball out of the end zone just inches before crossing the goal line.

16. Alabama 38, LSU 17 (Nov. 9)
Alabama and LSU is always one of the most anticipated and physical games of the season regardless of conference affiliation. The Tigers fought hard and were tied at 17 late in the third quarter. However, the Crimson Tide proved its mettle by pounding the rock to 21 unanswered points over the final 20 minutes to stake a claim atop the SEC West (well, for the time being).

17. Tennessee 23, South Carolina 21 (Oct. 19)
It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t well played but it was dramatic, important and exciting. Michael Palardy kicked a short game-winner with no time remaining to cap a physical and defensive struggle in Neyland Stadium. The win was the Vols' first over a ranked team in five years.

18. Vanderbilt 31, Georgia 27 (Oct. 19)
A historic upset for the Dores — its first over a ranked opponent in six years — was marred by bad officiating. Vanderbilt took advantage of Georgia miscues to score 17 unanswered points in the final quarter to pull off the improbable upset

19. Georgia 41, Georgia Tech 34 (2OT, Nov. 30)
The Dawgs, playing without Aaron Murray for the first time since 2009, trailed 20-0 to begin the game. But Hutson Mason settled in and stormed back to win one of the best-named rivalry games in the nation.

20. LSU 31, Arkansas 27 (Nov. 29)
The Battle for the Golden Boot wasn’t very pretty but it sure was dramatic. Without Zach Mettenberger, who got hurt in the fourth quarter, LSU rallied behind Anthony Jennings to top the winless Hogs. The 10-point final period was capped with a game-winning 49-yard TD pass to Travin Dural with 1:15 to play.

21. Mississippi State 17, Ole Miss 10 (OT, Nov. 28)
It was slow and boring but tightly played and MSU won the critical rivalry game in overtime on a Dak Prescott TD run.

22. Auburn 30, Ole Miss 22 (Oct. 5)
Both teams tried to give the game away but Auburn’s Nick Marshall made his first big statement of the year.

23. Auburn 24, Mississippi State 20 (Sept. 14)
The other game on Sept. 14 featured a Nick Marshall TD pass with less than 10 seconds to play to give the Tigers the win.

24. Vanderbilt 14, Tennessee 10 (Nov. 23)
The Dores claimed eight wins and beat their in-state rival with a last-second touchdown that also knocked the Vols out of a bowl game.

25. LSU 34, Texas A&M 10 (Nov. 23)
Les Miles proved again that he has Johnny Football figured out by shutting down the reigning Heisman winner for a second straight season.

Best of the Rest:

South Carolina 19, Florida 14 (Nov. 16)
Vanderbilt 34, Florida 17 (Nov. 9)
South Carolina 28, UCF 25 (Sept. 28)
LSU 35, Auburn 21 (Sept. 21)
Georgia 23, Florida 20 (Nov. 2)
Ole Miss 44, Texas 23 (Sept. 14)
South Carolina 31, Clemson 17 (Nov. 30)
Mississippi State 24, Arkansas 17 (OT, Nov. 23)
Alabama 35, Virginia Tech 10 (Aug. 31)
Rutgers 28, Arkansas 24 (Sept. 21)

The Top 25 SEC Games of 2013
Post date: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-basketball/mountain-west-basketball-best-and-worst-2013-14-so-far

The Mountain West has had a legitimate claim on being the top conference out West in recent years. That’s not going to happen this season.

With the Pac-12 making its long-awaited comeback and turnover at key programs in the Mountain West, the MW may have trouble just holding off the West Coast for league bragging rights.

Even so, the two teams at the top of the league are as good as ever. San Diego State and New Mexico have had standout non-conference seasons, fueled by unexpected breakouts by Xavier Thames and Cameron Bairstow. Boise State doesn’t have a marquee win yet, but the Broncos have one of their best rosters in program history.

Other programs have work to do — both in the short term and long term.

Early Season Report Card: Mountain West

NCAA teams as of today: New Mexico, San Diego State

Bubble watch: Boise State

Best win: New Mexico 86, Creighton 80

Worst loss: Cal State Bakersfield 74, Nevada 66

Power rankings so far
1. San Diego State
2. New Mexico
3. Boise State
4. Utah State
6. Colorado State
7. Fresno State
8. Wyoming
9. Nevada
10. San Jose State
11. Air Force

Important non-conference games remaining
New Mexico vs. Marquette (Dec. 21)
San Diego State at Kansas (Jan. 5)
MVP so far: Xavier Thames, San Diego State
A secondary scorer on teams featuring Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley, the point guard Thames has come into his own as a senior. His opportunities have increased, but his efficiency numbers explain why Thames has gone from barely averaging double figures to averaging 17.4 points. Thames has gone from shooting 35.1 percent from the field to 44.9 and from 35.6 percent from 3 to 51.4. Thames scored 29 points against Marquette and 26 against Creighton in San Diego State’s breakout performance in the Wooden Legacy tournament.

Top freshmen: Matt Shrigley and Dakarai Allen, San Diego State
Standout signing classes for San Diego State and UNLV are a year away, so the best candidates are the Aztecs duo off the bench. The forward Shrigley and the guard Allen are averaging a combined 12 points per game.

Top newcomer: J.J. Avila, Colorado State
A transfer from Navy, Avila is a major reason Colorado State may keep its head above water despite an exodus of seniors from last year’s 26-win team. Avila is averaging 19.2 points while shooting 50.7 percent from the field. The 6-7 junior leads his team in assists (3.4) and is second in rebounds (6.1)

Surprise player: Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico
New Mexico already has Kendall Williams and Alex Kirk, the foundation of the Lobos’ Mountain West champion team last season. Bairstow has given first-year coach Craig Neal a big three. Bairstow is leading the Lobos in scoring at 20.7 points per game, more than twice his average from a year ago.

Early season flop: UNLV
Few teams can lose a No. 1 overall draft pick without much of a dropoff, but UNLV is flirting with missing the NCAA Tournament. Home losses to UCSB, Arizona State and Illinois are particularly concerning, especially for a team that underachieved a year ago. There’s still talent here, led by Khem Birch, but the Runnin’ Rebels are last in the Mountain West in offensive efficiency on

Lingering concerns: The depth of the league
The Mountain West produced a league-record five NCAA teams last season but won’t come close to that number this season. San Diego State is a virtual lock for the Tourney, and Boise State a legitimate hopeful. New Mexico looks like a strong contender even if the Lobos lost at home to New Mexico State on Tuesday. After that, the league has few certainties. The bottom half of the league is dead weight. UNLV is 4-4, and Colorado State is rebuilding. Utah State might have the potential to surprise in league play, but the Aggies lost in the non-conference schedule to BYU and Pacific from the West Coast Conference. Three NCAA bids may be the maximum here.

Best NCAA resume: San Diego State
Steve Fisher keeps losing key players (Kawhi Leonard, Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley) and continues to put Mountain West contenders on the court. San Diego State did most of its heavy lifting against Creighton and Marquette in the Wooden Legacy, played in Anaheim, Calif. But don’t forget the Aztecs gave Arizona a game on Nov. 14, a showing that’s more impressive in retrospect.  Kansas doesn’t lose in Lawrence often, but San Diego State’s trip there on Jan. 5 is awfully interesting.

Photo courtesy of Ernie Anderson/San Diego State athletics.

Mountain West basketball: The Best and Worst of 2013-14 So Far
Post date: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-picks-every-game-week-16

A quick look at every game on the NFL schedule for Week 16, along with the consensus picks of Athlon Sports' editors.


Dolphins (8-6) at Bills (5-9)
Buffalo edged Miami, 23–21, in Week 7, thanks to a fourth-quarter forced fumble from Mario Williams that set up a game-winning FG. Dolphins by 3

Vikings (4-9-1) at Bengals (9-5)
Andy Dalton is happy to be back in Cincinnati, where he has thrown 14 TDs and five INTs, compared to 13 TDs and 11 INTs on the road. Bengals by 8

Broncos (11-3) at Texans (2-12)
Peyton Manning carries a 16–3 career record vs. Houston — a team with 12 straight losses. Broncos by 13

Titans (5-9) at Jaguars (4-10)
Talk about a slump-buster. J-Ville was 0–8 before beating Tennessee, 29–27, in Week 10. The Jags are 4–2 since their winless start. Titans by 2

Browns (4-10) at Jets (6-8)
Cleveland has hit the 10-loss mark yet again. New York still has a shot with Geno Smith at QB. Jets by 2

Saints (10-4) at Panthers (10-4)
The game of the week pits the NFC South’s top two teams against each other in a winner-take-all heavyweight fight. New Orleans defeated Carolina, 31–13, in Week 14. Panthers by 1

Colts (9-5) at Chiefs (11-3)
A pair of former No. 1 overall picks go head-to-head when Andrew Luck plays Alex Smith. AFC playoff pecking order is also up for grabs in what could be a potential postseason preview. Chiefs by 5

Cowboys (7-7) at Redskins (3-11)
Who would have guessed RG3 would have more detractors than Tony Romo this season? Cowboys by 6

Buccaneers (4-10) at Rams (6-8)
Tampa Bay is 4–2 since an 0–8 start to the year. St. Louis has only won two straight weeks once this year — against the Jaguars and Texans. Rams by 5

Giants (5-9) at Lions (7-7)
Matthew Stafford is coming off a rough week, but nothing like Eli Manning’s five-INT debacle. Lions by 10

Cardinals (9-5) at Seahawks (12-2)
This NFC West birdfight is a rematch of Seattle’s 34–20 win at Arizona in Week 7. Seahawks by 11

Raiders (4-10) at Chargers (7-7)
The Silver-and-Black shocked the Bolts, 27–17, in Week 5, as Philip Rivers threw three INTs. Chargers by 8

Steelers (6-8) at Packers (7-6-1)
Odds are, Matt Flynn will continue to start in place of Aaron Rodgers when Blitz-burgh visits Title Town in a rematch of Super Bowl XLV. Steelers by 1

Patriots (10-4) at Ravens (8-6)
New England lost to Baltimore twice last year — 31–30 in Week 3 and 28–13 in an AFC title game defeat Tom Brady blamed himself for. Ravens by 1

Bears (8-6) at Eagles (8-6)
Strange coincidence, the current division leaders in the NFC East and North are both plus-15 net points this season. Eagles by 3

Falcons (4-10) at 49ers (10-4)
ESPN executives at Monday Night Football were loving this matchup preseason. But not now. 49ers by 13

A preview and prediction of every game on the NFL schedule in Week 16.
Post date: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 - 19:51
Path: /nfl/2013-fantasy-football-dream-team

It’s fantasy football Super Bowl time. This week, the majority of leagues across the country will crown a champion who will win bragging rights, trophies, a few dollars, a trip to Vegas, who knows? And while every league is different, there are several key players acquired throughout the season who push a contender over the top, regardless of scoring, league size or any other variable.

With that in mind, here’s a look at this year’s best fantasy stars — with a mix of high-rounders who lived up to expectations, longshots who panned out and undrafted All-Pros who helped make up for a few expensive, high-pick busts.

QB – Peyton Manning, Broncos
Obviously, Manning wasn’t the fantasy risk in 2013 that he was in 2012, when he was fresh off four neck surgeries and playing for a new team. But the Manning faithful have been rewarded with his best statistical season yet (4,811 yards, 47 TDs).

QB – Nick Foles, Eagles
A waiver wire goldmine, Foles has thrown 23 TDs and just two INTs in just eight starts in place of the injured Michael Vick.

RB – LeSean McCoy, Eagles
“Shady” has bounced back from an injury-riddled 2012 season and thriving in Chip Kelly’s new-look Philly offense — with a league-leading 1,343 rush yards, 507 receiving yards and eight total TDs.

RB – Eddie Lacy, Packers
The rookie out of Alabama got off to a slow start, with 51 yards through the first three games. But he’s been a beast since, with 977 yards and seven TDs in the last 11 games.

WR – Josh Gordon, Browns
Those who stashed away Gordon during his two-game suspension have been rewarded with an NFL-best 1,467 yards and nine TDs.

WR – Alshon Jeffery, Bears
Teammate Brandon Marshall was the early-round pick, but Jeffery has been a second-year sensation, with 1,265 yards and seven TD grabs.

WR – Eric Decker, Broncos
Manning’s WR3 in Denver has been a fringe WR1 in fantasy, with 1,130 yards and eight TDs.

TE – Jimmy Graham, Saints
Drew Brees’ red zone target has scored in nine games, with five multi-TD contests to his credit.

K – Justin Tucker, Ravens
A recent fantasy football playoff hero with six FGs — including two from 50-plus yards — in Week 15.

DEF – Seattle Seahawks
The Legion of Boom has held six opponents to 10 or fewer points.

The best in the business of fantasy football this season.
Post date: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 - 19:39
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-power-rankings-week-15

Ranking all 32 NFL teams, from the soaring two-loss Seahawks to the cellar-dwelling two-win Texans.

1. Seahawks (12-2) Legion of Boom has five INTs in shutout victory.

2. 49ers (10-4) Frank Gore records seventh 1,000-yard season.

3. Broncos (11-3) Loss to Bolts snaps 14-game home winning streak.

4. Saints (10-4) Good grief! Charlie Brown benched in loss to Rams.

5. Panthers (10-4) Captain Munnerlyn posts team-record fifth pick-six.

6. Chiefs (11-3) Clinch playoff berth one year after finishing 2–14.

7. Patriots (10-4) Tom Brady unable to pull off game-winning drive.

8. Bengals (9-5) Kevin Huber has broken jaw, cracked vertebrae.

9. Colts (9-5) Robert Mathis breaks franchise sack record (16.5).

10. Cardinals (9-5) Escape with wild overtime victory at Tennessee.

11. Eagles (8-6) Chip Kelly to Texas? Rumors are pure “speculation.”

12. Ravens (8-6) Justin Tucker 61-yard FG ices road win at Detroit.

13. Packers (7-6-1) Matt Flynn keeps hope alive in epic win at Dallas.

14. Bears (8-6) Jay Cutler returns, leads comeback at Cleveland.

15. Dolphins (8-6) End seven-game losing streak against New England.

16. Chargers (7-7) Time of possession (38:49-to-21:11) beats Denver.

17. Lions (7-7) Megatron defends Matthew Stafford after MNF loss.

18. Cowboys (7-7) Dez Bryant leaves field early after epic collapse.

19. Steelers (6-8) Antonio Brown shines on Sunday night in Cincy.

20. Jets (6-8) Geno Smith “let Rex (Ryan) down” with pick-six.

21. Rams (6-8) Rattle Drew Brees, shock the Saints for upset win.

22. Titans (5-9) Score 17 points in final 3:12 to force overtime, lose.

23. Giants (5-9) Eli Manning ties career-worst with 25th INT of year.

24. Bills (5-9) EJ Manuel earns first road win in return to Florida.

25. Vikings (4-9-1) Optimistic Adrian Peterson will return this week.

26. Falcons (4-10) Score 20 points off of seven Washington turnovers.

27. Raiders (4-10) Matt McGloin tosses four INTs, loses fumble in loss.

28. Buccaneers (4-10) Convert just 1-of-10 on third down in loss to 49ers.

29. Browns (4-10) Have lost at least 10 games in six straight seasons.

30. Jaguars (4-10) Leading receiver Cecil Shorts (groin) placed on IR.

31. Redskins (3-11) RG3 watches from sideline as Kirk Cousins loses.

32. Texans (2-12) Lose 12th straight, fall to 0–12 all-time at Indy.

Ranking all 32 NFL teams from first to worst.
Post date: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 - 19:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/prime-time-players-week-15

Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs
Give the ball to Jamaal. That was the motto of Kansas City coach Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith during a 56–31 win at Oakland. Charles had just eight carries for 20 yards and one trip to the end zone on the ground. But through the air, the track star out of Texas had eight catches for 195 yards (24.4 ypc) and four scores, including a highlight-reel 71-yard sprint to the end zone. Charles’ five total TDs tied the Chiefs franchise single-game record and his 195 receiving yards were the third-most by a running back since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.

Matt Flynn, QB, Packers
With MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers sidelined by a collarbone injury, Flynn stepped up to deliver his best performance of the season in an unlikely 37–36 come-from-behind win on the road in Dallas. Trailing 26–3 at halftime, Flynn threw four second-half TDs — while Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw two INTs in the final three minutes — to earn the Packers’ second straight win and keep Title Town in the NFC playoff picture. Flynn finished 26-of-39 for 299 yards, four TDs and one INT in an unbelievable winning effort. “What a feeling,” Flynn said. “As we were taking a knee, we were thinking, ‘Is this real? Is this happening?’”

Greg Jennings, WR, Vikings
No Adrian Peterson? No problem. Minnesota’s offense was too much for Philadelphia to handle in a 48–30 victory. Jennings hauled in a career-high 11 catches for 163 yards and a 57-yard TD from quarterback Matt Cassel. On the ground, the Vikings were without A.D. and backup Toby Gerhart but were still able to gash the Eagles with third-stringer Matt Asiata, who finished with three TDs — or the same number of career carries he had entering his first start.

Robert Quinn, DE, Rams
St. Louis’ pass rush battered Drew Brees in a 27–16 upset win over New Orleans. Quinn led the charge with two sacks for 16 lost yards, a forced fumble and fumble recovery. In his third season, Quinn has an NFL runner-up 15 sacks and league-leading seven forced fumbles, establishing himself as a legitimate candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. Quinn continues to show marked improvement — with five sacks as a rookie, 10.5 sacks last season and 15 (and counting) this year. The sky is the limit for the 6'4", 264-pound 23-year-old.

The best performances in the NFL from Week 15.
Post date: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 - 19:21
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-2013-14-bowl-predictions-and-picks

College football’s bowl season kicks off on Saturday, Dec. 21 and extends until Jan. 6 with the BCS National Championship in Pasadena between Auburn and Florida State.

With the bowl lineup set and confidence pools and pick’em contests set to start on Dec. 21, Athlon’s editors give their predictions for the bowl season.

There’s plenty of consensus among the staff, starting with East Carolina, Arizona State and Notre Dame all picked as a heavy favorite in the confidence rankings.

Some of the earlier bowl games (Hawaii, New Orleans and Military) are lower on the confidence scale. And it’s no surprise, but two of the BCS bowls feature plenty of confidence in Alabama and Baylor.

Note: Number in parentheses indicates confidence in prediction. A No. 35 ranking indicates more confidence in the prediction, while a lower number indicates less confidence in a pick.

College Football's 2013-14 Bowl Predictions

New Mexico  (13)(6)(13) (3) (23)
Las Vegas(7)(8) (6) (4) (20)
Idaho Potato(3)(22) (12) (29) (10)
New Orleans(2)(12) (8) (30)(3)
Beef 'O' Brady's(31)(23) (34) (31)(32)
Hawaii(8)(10) (9) (12)(12)
Little Caesars(6) (15) (15) (11) (14)
Poinsettia(16) (24) (14) (13) (11)
Military(4) (14) (5) (20) (9)
Texas(17) (25) (22) (21) (26)
Fight Hunger(9) (11) (3) (22) (2)
Pinstripe (32) (34) (29) (33) (35)
Belk(5) (7) (7)(6) (8)
Russell Athletic(19) (27) (20) (7) (18)
Buffalo Wild Wings(12) (13) (21) (14) (25)
Armed Forces(22) (4) (23) (15) (28)
Music City(23) (18) (16) (8) (4)
Alamo(14) (2) (32)(23) (27)
Holiday(33) (33) (35)(32)(34)
AdvoCare V100(15) (3) (27) (9) (31)
Sun(27) (26) (26)(24) (22)
Liberty(20) (32)(4)(1) (17)
Chick-fil-A(29) (35) (31) (34) (21)
Gator(28) (31) (28) (10) (6)
Heart of Dallas (1) (1) (19) (2) (5)
Capital One(26) (29) (11) (17) (7)
Outback(25) (30) (24) (25) (19)
Rose(10) (9) (18) (18) (13)
Fiesta(35) (28) (30) (35)(33)
Sugar(34) (21) (33) (26) (30)
Orange(24) (20) (10) (5) (16)
Cotton(11) (5) (2) (19) (1)
BBVA Compass(21) (19) (17) (16)(15)
GoDaddy(30) (16) (25)(27) (29)
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College Football's 2013-14 Bowl Predictions
Post date: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 - 11:17
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-december-17-2013

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Dec. 17.

• Here's a fun slideshow: Scantily clad sports fans. Gotta love 'em: ignoring the elements while singlehandedly keeping the body paint industry alive. 

• Another thing you gotta love: Creative Wikipedia page edits. This one for kicker Justin Tucker after his game-winning 61-yard field goal last night.

• Speaking of Tucker's brief takeover of the Internet, here he is giving a shout-out to his fantasy team owners in his postgame interview.

Torrey Smith took the opposite approach, blasting fantasy owners and their "fake teams."

The weekly "Sorry Your Team Lost" NFL roundup. It was a rough week of watching teams like the Cowboys and Lions and players like Eli live down to their stereotypes.

The Catch of the Week came courtesy of an alert airport security guard. Note to Megatron: This is how you do it.

Here some pretty amazing then-and-now photos of college basketball coaches. Some highlights: Kevin Stallings rocking a righteous comb-over, and Tom Izzo channeling a '70s porn star.

• Excellent debate fodder: the best and worst NFL broadcast crews, quantified scientifically.

For some reason, Paul McCartney sat in the cheap seats at a Nets game and really seemed to want a free t-shirt.

Jason Dufner had a humiliating Silly Season putting mishap. He consoled himself by Dufnering with beautiful women.

A hockey stick made the defensive play of the night.

• Newly minted Heisman winner Jameis Winston stopped by the David Letterman Show to deliver the Top 10.


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

Post date: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 - 10:32
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/amazing-stats-nfls-week-15

Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of the game. Any game, for that matter.

Some fall on the sabermetric side of things, while others like to keep it simple and use the ol' eyeball test. In the football world, that means total offense, total defense and points scored versus points per play and defensive efficiency ratings. Rational and logical arguments can be made for the legitimacy and relevance of both sides of the stats spectrum.

With that in mind, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from Week 15 of the NFL season:

23: Russell Wilson's record wins by a QB in his first two seasons
During the Super Bowl era, no quarterback has ever won more games in his first two seasons as a starter than Seattle's Russell Wilson. Wilson's Seahawks handled the Giants with ease in East Rutherford on Sunday 23-0, moving their NFC-best record to 12-2. After an 11-5 record in 2012, Wilson now boasts a 23-7 record as a starter in just under two full seasons as the starting quarterback in Seattle. The Seahawks are the only team in the NFC to have clinched a playoff spot. Ben Roethlisberger owned the previous NFL record with 22 wins.

9: Miami's league-leading TDs in the final two minutes of a half
In a critical win over division foe New England, Ryan Tannehill did his best Tom Brady impersonation by leading the Dolphins down the field to take the lead 24-20 with just over a minute to play. The Dolphins beat the Patriots for the first time since 2009 when Tannehill connected with Marcus Thigpen with 1:15 left in the fourth quarter. He did the same thing at the end of the first half when he found Mike Wallace for a 39-yard touchdown strike with only 32 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Miami now leads the NFL with nine touchdowns scored in the final two minutes of a half — of six of which are Tannehill touchdown passes. He also has a league-leading 17 scoring drives that began with less than five minutes left to play in a half. The win not only puts Miami in great wild card position but actually keeps it alive in the AFC East race as well.

1: Players who've scored four receiving TDs and a rushing TD in a game
Jamaal Charles and Alex Smith rolled through the Oakland Raiders 56-31 on Sunday to clinch a playoff spot in the AFC. Charles rushed just eight times for 20 yards but accomplished something no player in the NFL has ever done. He is the first player in history to catch four touchdown passes and score a rushing touchdown in the same game. His five touchdowns are tied for fourth-most in NFL history because three players — Ernie Nevers (1929), Dub Jones (1951) and Gale Sayers (1965) — own the NFL record with six touchdowns in a game.

2: Saints takeaways in the last seven games
In the first seven games of the season, the Saints had 15 takeaways and boasted a 6-1 record. After losing to the Rams 27-17 without forcing a turnover or generating a sack, the Saints dropped to 4-3 over their last seven games. New Orleans has forced just two turnovers during that span. In those three losses, the Saints have turned the ball over six times without creating a single turnover on defense. They are now tied with the Panthers at 10-4 for the NFC South lead with two games to play — including a trip to Carolina next weekend.

34-10: Green Bay outscored Dallas in the second half
The Cowboys entered halftime of a pivotal showdown with an Aaron Rodgers-less Packers in complete control up 26-3. The Packers came storming back behind the running of Eddie Lacy (141 yards) and two Tony Romo interceptions in the final five minutes to outscore the Cowboys 34-10 in the second half. Dallas ran the ball six times in the second half, allowing the Packers to make the improbable 23-point comeback. The Pack now sits a half of a game behind in the NFC North race while the Cowboys missed a chance to tie the Eagles for first place in the East.

45,873: Lowest attendance at Heinz Field
The Steelers jumped out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead over the division-leading Bengals at Heinz Field on Sunday. Pittsburgh held on to win 30-20 despite only 290 yards of offense and going 2-of-10 on third down conversions. No one seemed to notice, however, as the 45,873 in attendance was the smallest in the 13-year history of Heinz Field. Ironically, James Harrison's first game back in the building where he built a reputation as a physical force on defense ended when he left in the first quarter with a concussion.

16.5 and 108: Robert Mathis' Colts single-season and career sack records
The Colts got back on track with an impressive 25-3 home win over division foe Houston. Robert Mathis, a front-runner for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, posted 4.0 total tackles, 1.0 sacks and forced a safety in the win. The sack gave him an NFL-best 16.5 sacks on the season, breaking former teammate and friend Dwight Freeney's Colts franchise single-season and career records. Mathis now has 108 career sacks. Freeney's records were 16 and 107.5 respectively.

93: Rushing yards allowed by Chicago
The Bears welcomed back Jay Cutler and won a huge road game over the Browns by scoring 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. More importantly, however, the embattled Bears' rushing defense played much better by holding Cleveland to just 93 yards rushing. It was the lowest total by any Bears opponent since Week 5 (New Orleans, 64) and it snapped an NFL record six-game streak of allowing a 100-yard rusher. This unit had allowed 234 yards rushing per game over the last three and had allowed 204.1 yards on the ground over the last seven contests.

4-0: Arizona's record against the AFC South, Chicago's record against the AFC North
The Cardinals topped the reeling Titans 37-34 in overtime in Nashville, moving their record to a perfect 4-0 against the AFC South. Earlier on Sunday, Chicago overcame a slow start from quarterback Jay Cutler to come from behind and beat Cleveland 38-31 on the road to finish undefeated (4-0) against the AFC North. Arizona is nipping at the wild card heels of teams like Carolina, San Francisco and New Orleans (one game back), while the Bears (8-6) control their own destiny in a crowded NFC North. If either team ends up in the postseason, their fans can thank their crossover AFC schedule. This marks the first sweep by an NFC team of an AFC division since realignment in 2002.

Amazing Stats from the NFL's Week 15
Post date: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 - 07:15