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Week 3 of the 2012 NFL season has already begun, which means it's time to get those fantasy lineups ready for the rest of this week's action in your Yahoo!, NFL.com or ESPN fantasy football league. It’s still early enough to turn your team’s outlook around, but it all starts with making the right roster moves.

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

Week 3 Positional Rankings

Sneaky Start of the Week
Matt Cassel, QB, Kansas City at New Orleans
Believe it or not, Cassel is currently No. 12 at his position in fantasy scoring. He’s averaging about 280 yards passing per game and has accounted for a total of four touchdowns (3 pass, 1 rush) through the first two games. It also should be pointed out that he’s turned the ball over five times (3 INT, 2 fumbles).

Still, his inclusion here is more a matter of the competition. Kansas City goes to New Orleans on Sunday to play the Saints. Not only are the Saints the worst defense in the NFL right now in both yards and points allowed; they also are giving up the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks (Kansas City has yielded the most). As long as Cassel can limit his turnovers, he could put up some surprising numbers in the Super Dome this Sunday.

Surprise Sit of the Week
Wes Welker, WR, New England at Baltimore
A lot of things can happen in a week, as evidenced by Welker going from the “Start” list to here in seven days. But the reality is that through the first two games, Welker just hasn’t been as big a part of the Patriots’ offense as he has been in recent years.

Some of this can be attributed to the fact that Welker has been ceding some snaps to teammate Julian Edelman, especially when the Patriots have been in two-wide receiver sets. There’s also the presence of tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, both of whom have more receptions than Welker so far. Whatever the reason, there’s no disputing that Welker’s production so far (8 rec., 109 yards) hasn’t been what we’ve grown accustomed to seeing.

The good news is that Welker is still getting plenty of targets from Tom Brady. His 16 are second only to Lloyd on the team. But it’s clear that he and Brady are having trouble connecting (50 percent catch rate) and he’s yet to find the end zone.

Ironically, Aaron Hernandez’ ankle injury, which will sideline him for several weeks, could actually help Welker, as the Patriots may put more wide receivers on the field. That said, between Welker’s early results, this Sunday’s match up with Baltimore, a team that he has not enjoyed a great deal of success against in his career, and the fact that the Patriots seem to be shifting to more of a run-oriented offense (only 14 fewer rushing attempts compared to passing so far), that’s more than enough reasons to strongly consider leaving him out of your starting lineup.

Quarterbacks
START
Tony Romo (DAL) vs. Tampa Bay
Romo (251 yards passing, TD, INT) and the Cowboys clearly did not enjoy their trip to Seattle last week. Fortunately, they get to return to the comforts of home and get a Tampa Bay defense that Eli Manning and the Giants shredded for more than 500 yards through the air last week. Romo probably won’t throw for quite that many, but he should be able to connect with Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and his other weapons more than enough to put last week’s disappointing showing completely behind him.

Jay Cutler (CHI) vs. St. Louis
Cutler also is looking to bounce back from a rough Week 2 outing as Green Bay picked him off four times and he was sacked seven times. St. Louis’ defense isn’t considered to be on the same level as the Packers, so this should present Cutler with a nice opportunity to regain some confidence, for both himself and in the eyes of his teammates and always-vocal critics. The key for Cutler is to trust his offensive line to give him the time to make the throws that are there, and to not try and force feed Brandon Marshall down the field.

Andy Dalton (CIN) at Washington
Dalton threw for 318 yards, three touchdowns and an interception last week against Cleveland. This week he and the Bengals get a Washington defense that’s ranked 28th in the league overall, and is tied for second-to-last in passing defense. It’s also a defense that has lost two of its best players – defensive end Adam Carriker and linebacker Brian Orakpo — to season-ending injuries.

SIT
Peyton Manning (DEN) vs. Houston
Manning had a really rough start on Monday night in Atlanta, throwing three first-quarter interceptions. He was able to settle down, but in the end he finished with an atypical line of 241-1-3. The Broncos are back home on Sunday, but they will face an even more fearsome defense in Houston, which has given up a total of 392 yards (248 pass, 144 rush) in its first two games. The Texans are more athletic throughout their defense, their secondary is healthier than the Falcons’ was, and I think they will be able to bring even more pressure on Manning. Put it all together and I am expecting this week’s line to look more like last week’s compared to his Week 1 showing (253-2-0) against Pittsburgh.

Josh Freeman (TB) at Dallas
Freeman was at his best in leading his Buccaneers to an early lead over the Giants in New York. Unfortunately, the Giants’ defense did a better job of keeping Freeman and the Bucs’ offense in check, as Freeman finished with 243 yards passing to go along with two touchdowns and two interceptions. This week Freeman has to go into Dallas and face a Cowboys’ defense that’s surrendering 160 yards through the air per game. Look for the pass rush to rattle Freeman as the game goes on, resulting in some poor decisions and throws.

Sam Bradford (STL) at Chicago
Bradford and the Rams’ passing attack were running on all cylinders last week against Washington as he threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns. Unfortunately, next on the schedule is a Chicago defense that’s been stewing in its own juices since last Thursday’s loss to Green Bay. The Bears have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks so far and I expect that trend to continue against Bradford.

Running Backs
START

Michael Bush (CHI) vs. St. Louis
Matt Forte will not play this Sunday against the Rams because of an ankle injury. That means Bush will assume the starting role, which makes him a must-start if he’s on your roster. Remember, Bush ran for 977 yards last season with Oakland when Darren McFadden was sidelined or limited by injuries. The Rams have given up nearly 130 yards on the ground per game so far.

Stevan Ridley (NE) at Baltimore
Start a Patriots running back against a Ravens defense? Oh, how the times have changed. The fact is Ridley has clearly established himself not only as the Patriots’ top back, but a reliable one as has he’s averaging nearly 100 yards (5.0 ypc) per game. On the other side there’s a Ravens defense that has had some problems stopping the run thus far, giving up 129 yards per game on the ground. To this point the Patriots have showed a willingness to run the ball (5th in the league in rushing attempts), so Ridley should get his chances against what appears to be a more susceptible than usual Ravens rush defense.

Jamaal Charles (KC) at New Orleans
Everyone probably held their breaths when Charles was removed from last week’s game against Buffalo after falling on his surgically repaired left knee and limping off the field. The team and Charles have both since said that he only sustained a bruise and he could have gone back in, if he was needed. Charles’ production so far (22 att., 90 yds.) hasn’t been that great, but if there’s ever a week for him to get back on track it’s this one. New Orleans has given up a total of 372 yards rushing in its first two games.

SIT
Adrian Peterson (MIN) vs. San Francisco
The good news for Peterson owners is that his workload is expected to increase starting this week. The bad news is his next opponent is a San Francisco defense that’s already limited Green Bay and Detroit to a total of 127 yards rushing combined. Christian Ponder is not Aaron Rodgers or Matthew Stafford, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Peterson finds the yards very tough to come by this Sunday.

Willis McGahee (DEN) vs. Houston
McGahee is coming off of an impressive 113-yard, two-touchdown game against Atlanta on Monday night. However, Houston has given up a total of 144 rushing yards and no rushing touchdowns in their first two games. McGahee’s Broncos host the Texans this Sunday. Any questions?

Shonn Greene (NYJ) at Miami
Greene has struggled out of the gate, averaging a little better than three yards per carry. Miami’s rush defense has limited opponents to an NFL-best 2.2 yards per carry (53 yards per game). Miami’s first two games were against Houston and Oakland, otherwise known as the teams Arian Foster and Darren McFadden play for. Greene is not on the same level as these two, which should tell you all you need to know about his outlook for this week.

Wide Receivers
START

Torrey Smith (BAL) vs. New England
Smith has caught a total of four passes in the first two games, but half of those have been completions of 40 or more yards. Smith’s deep threat ability is well documented, but he still needs to show he’s more than just a one-trick pony. He should get his chance this week against the Patriots. Although the Patriots have done a very good job defensively, the Ravens’ offense will be by far their toughest challenge yet. Smith also has shown an ability to get open against the Pats’ secondary, as he caught three passes for 82 yards and a touchdown in last season’s AFC Championship game.

Lance Moore (NO) vs. Kansas City
For all their troubles on defense, the Saints have been fine on offense, as they are currently third in the league. Kansas City has had plenty of its own issues on defense and is surrendering nearly 38 points a game. I think there will be more than enough offense in this game for not only the must-starts (Dwayne Bowe, Drew Brees, Charles, Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles), but also for the likes of a Moore, who should be able to find plenty of space to make the catch and then some in a Chiefs’ secondary that’s battled injuries from the start.

Jon Baldwin (KC) at New Orleans
Put Baldwin into the same category as Moore as the Saints’ defensive issues (last in NFL in yards and points allowed) have already been referenced here. What’s more for Baldwin is that he went from zero targets in Week 1 to six in Week 2. He turned three of those targets into receptions, which went for a total of 62 yards (20.7 ypc). Given his play-making ability and how he can complement Dwayne Bowe as the Chiefs’ deep threat, I expect him to build on last week’s showing and make a little noise against the Saints’ suspect pass defense.

SIT
Larry Fitzgerald (ARI) vs. Philadelphia
As a huge Fitzgerald fan (and owner of him in one of my leagues), I really hope that this turns out to be a one-week deal, but I can’t ignore the early results or this Sunday’s opponent. Fitzgerald has been targeted a team-high 15 times, as he should be, but he’s only turned five of those into receptions for 67 yards. He also has yet to get into the end zone. For whatever reason, Fitzgerald and quarterback Kevin Kolb just can’t seem to get on the same page. Until these two start showing some consistent chemistry, it may be in your best interests, if you have other serviceable options, to bench the All-Pro. As far as this week goes, it certainly doesn’t help Fitzgerald’s case that Philadelphia has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers.

Vincent Jackson (TB) at Dallas
Dallas’ revamped secondary passed its first test in the opener against the Giants' tandem of Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz with flying colors. They limited the duo to 10 catches and 96 yards combined, compared to the 21 receptions, 378 yards and two touchdowns the two had last week against Tampa Bay. Now it's Jackson's turn to test the ‘Boys pass defense and unfortunately for him, the Bucs' receiving corps is more of a one-man show compared to what the Giants put on the field (Ramses Barden anyone?). In other words, good luck.

DeSean Jackson (PHI) at Arizona
The Eagles will be without the services of Jeremy Maclin (hip) this Sunday at Arizona, meaning the Cardinals will be able to focus their efforts on Jackson and attempt to limit the big plays down the field. Without them, he’s a different receiver. Last week against Baltimore, Jackson had seven receptions for 114 yards. One of those went for 49 yards, meaning the other six went for 65, or an average of 10.8 yards per catch. The big play has always been what has driven Jackson’s fantasy potential, and without it, he’s fairly ordinary, as evidenced by the fact he’s yet to score. It also doesn’t help that Jackson himself has been limited in practice by a hamstring injury.

Tight Ends
Start
Brandon Pettigrew (DET) at Tennessee
Pettigrew is second on the Lions in targets (14) and has eight catches on the year for 95 yards and a score. Next up for Pettigrew is a Tennessee defense that is giving up the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Last week, San Diego's Dante Rosario, who was only playing because Antonio Gates sat out with a rib injury, victimized the Titans for three touchdown catches. Anyone else thinking Pettigrew can't wait for this one to kick off?

Brent Celek (PHI) at Arizona
I guess Celek didn't like me putting him on last week's Sit list as he promptly went out and caught eight passes for 157 yards (19.7 fantasy points) against Baltimore. Celek is leading the team in targets and the Eagles will be short-handed at receiver on Sunday against Arizona with Jeremy Maclin (hip) already ruled out and DeSean Jackson dealing with a hamstring injury. As long he keeps getting the volume of opportunities he has been, Celek can certainly maintain fantasy relevance. Getting into the end zone every now and then wouldn't hurt either.

Jermaine Gresham (CIN) at Washington
Gresham has gotten off to a slow start (4 rec., 37 yards), but Washington has given up the second-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends so far. He and the Bengals also are facing a defense that's lost two key starters (Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker) for the rest of the season, so now it's just a matter of Andy Dalton, Gresham and company to take advantage.

SIT
Jared Cook (TEN) vs. Detroit
Cook made the Start list last week and then went out and caught three passes for a grand total of 23 yards. Cook's slow start (8 rec., 87 yards) is representative of the Titans' offensive struggles as a whole. Until the Titans find some sort of consistency with both their rushing and passing attacks, Cook's probably not going to put up a lot of fantasy points.

Jacob Tamme (DEN) vs. Houston
Tamme got off to a fast start as the renewed chemistry between him and Peyton Manning resulted in four receptions for 43 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. Last week in Atlanta, however, Tamme only caught two balls for 13 yards. This week could be even worse as Denver hosts Houston, one of the toughest defenses in the league right now. To make matters worse for Tamme (and Joel Dreessen for that matter), the Texans are giving up the fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends.

Marcedes Lewis (JAC) at Indianapolis
Lewis also got off to a nice start (5 rec., 52 yds., TD) in Week 1, but looked more like his 2011 form last week as he didn't catch a single pass. Lewis' fortunes are tied directly to how well Blaine Gabbert performs, which is enough reason in itself to not trust this Jaguar to be your starting tight end.

Defense/Special Teams
START

Dallas vs. Tampa Bay
The Dallas defense/special teams haven't really done all that much in terms of fantasy scoring to this point, but they are ranked 10th in the league in total defense and do a good job of pressuring the quarterback. As long as the Cowboys can stifle Tampa's running game, I think the pressure on Josh Freeman will help the secondary make some big plays, possibly even turn one of those into six points.

Arizona vs. Philadelphia
Arizona's defense has been very solid through its first two games, holding New England to just 18 points in the Cardinals' surprising Week 2 victory in Foxboro. Next up is Philadelphia, who has a banged up receiving corps and a quarterback in Michael Vick that's prone to turning it over. Even with LeSean McCoy in the backfield, I think the Cardinals can make enough plays (both kick returners also are capable of taking one back for a score) and hold the Eagles offense in check to be fantasy relevant this week.

SIT
New England at Baltimore
Don't look now, but New England is the No. 2 defense in the league. This can largely be attributed to the fact that the Patriots first two opponents have been Tennessee and Arizona, the 30th- and 31st-ranked offenses. That's why I don't see the Patriots defense having near as much success against Baltimore, the ninth-ranked offense and one that can beat you with both with the run and pass. If the Patriots come out of this game as the second-ranked defense, color me impressed.

Washington vs. Cincinnati
It's already been said a couple of times, but here's where it really matters most. The Redskins will be without linebacker Brian Orakpo and defensive lineman Adam Carriker for the rest of the season. Orakpo is a two-time Pro Bowler and he and Carriker combined for 14.5 sacks last season. Those are two significant losses that I think will be very hard for this defense, which by the way is currently ranked 28th in the league, to overcome, especially this week against Cincinnati.

Kickers
START

Justin Tucker (BAL) at Philadelphia
Considering this is the second straight week Tucker has made this list, not to mention the fact that I added him in two of my three leagues, consider me all in on the Ravens' rookie kicker. Tucker is a perfect 6-for-6 from field goal range, with a long of 56, and has connected on all seven of his PATs so far. There's no reason to think the Ravens won't continue to give him opportunities to put the ball through the uprights.

Blair Walsh (MIN) vs. San Francisco
Just like Tucker, Walsh is a rookie who has shown everyone why the Vikings cut ties with veteran Ryan Longwell before the season started. Walsh has connected on all six of his field goal tries, including two from more than 50 yards out. This week, I don't expect the Vikings to visit the red zone many times against San Francisco, so Walsh's leg may be the best scoring option they have.

SIT
Rob Bironas (TEN) vs. Detroit
Bironas is as reliable as they come, but the Titans' offense just hasn't given him many chances to kick. So until the Titans show some form of life on offense, it's probably best to look elsewhere.

Matt Prater (DEN) vs. Houston
Prater's big leg is a perfect fit for the thin air in Denver, but Houston has allowed a grand total of one field goal attempt and just two PATs so far. Even though the Broncos are at home, I expect for them to have their share of trouble moving the ball against the Texans, limiting Prater's opportunities in the process.

— By Mark Ross, published on Sept. 21, 2012

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<p> 2012 Fantasy Football: Week 3 Start or Sit</p>
Post date: Friday, September 21, 2012 - 06:36
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College football's Week 4 slate doesn't feature a ton of huge matchups, but there's plenty of impact games. Florida State-Clemson is a marquee ACC battle between two top-10 teams, while Michigan travels to Notre Dame. As usual, the SEC always has a few intriguing contests that are must-see games. Vanderbilt travels to Georgia, LSU hits the road for a matchup against Auburn and new SEC member Missouri takes on South Carolina. 

Top Storylines to Watch in Week 4

1. Who will stake an early claim for the ACC title: Clemson or Florida State?
The ACC hasn’t had many big games on a national scale in recent years, but Saturday night’s matchup between Florida State and Clemson will have BCS title implications. The loser of this game is probably out of the picture when it comes to a national title, while the winner takes a huge step towards winning the ACC title. Clemson has been tested a little more this season, as the Tigers beat Auburn in the season opener, while Florida State played two FCS teams (Murray State and Savannah State) to start the year. The battle in the trenches will be especially important for this game. Clemson and Florida State’s offensive line came into the year with question marks, and both units have yet to emerge as a strength. If the Seminoles’ defensive line controls the line of scrimmage, it will be tough for the Tigers to get quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins on track.

2. Oklahoma looks to take early control of the Big 12
Most of the Big 12 teams have played only non-conference games thus far, so this week’s Oklahoma-Kansas State matchup is an early opportunity to seize control of the conference. The Sooners have dominated the recent series, as Kansas State’s last win in a regular-season meeting came in 1997. For the Wildcats to have any shot at winning on Saturday night, quarterback Collin Klein has to get on track. In last season’s meeting, Klein had just 150 yards of total offense, which won’t get it done this time around. The Sooners will gear up to stop Klein, while looking to get its passing game on track. Kansas State’s secondary has struggled in the first three weeks of the season and will be tested against Landry Jones and his receivers.

3. Is Notre Dame ready to be a national title contender?
After a 20-3 win over Michigan State last week, Notre Dame has positioned itself for a run at a BCS bowl. It’s early, so the Irish still have a lot to prove. However, if the first three games have shown anything, Notre Dame seems to have corrected its turnover program from last season and fixed its quarterback issues. Redshirt freshman Everett Golson still has a lot to learn, but is a clear upgrade over Tommy Rees. This Saturday presents another challenge for the Irish, with Michigan set to visit South Bend. The Wolverines are still trying to find the right pieces on the offensive and defensive lines, but Denard Robinson has torched Notre Dame in the last two meetings. This is a relatively even matchup, so once again, turnovers are crucial. If the Irish don’t turn the ball over and win the battle in the trenches, they should be able to hold Robinson in check and snap a three-game losing streak to Michigan.

4. Does Auburn have any chance to beat LSU?
So far, Auburn has shown nothing to suggest it can beat LSU this week. The offense has struggled to get anything going through the air, while the defense ranks a disappointing 94th in yards allowed. LSU is dealing with a few injuries on the offensive line and in the backfield, but remains one of college football’s top teams. This will be the first big road test for quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who should be a big upgrade under center for LSU over Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee. With a road date against Florida in two weeks, it’s important for the Tigers to get Mettenberger comfortable before the competition increases. Winning on the road in the SEC is never easy, but all signs point to a LSU rout on Saturday night.

5. Oregon… the new Pac-12 favorite?
With USC losing to Stanford, the focus shifts to Oregon as the Pac-12’s best hope at playing for a national title. However, the Ducks have yet to be tested, as Arizona will be their toughest game through the first four weeks of the season. The scoreboard operator should be busy, especially with both teams averaging over 45 points a game. Oregon redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota has been solid through the first three starts of his career, recording 782 overall yards and eight touchdowns. The Wildcats should be able to move the ball, especially with quarterback Matt Scott and running back Ka’Deem Carey combining to average over 450 yards a game. Both teams won’t field a dominant defense in this matchup but getting timely stops is crucial to the outcome. Look for Oregon to make a few more stops than Arizona, which will help the Ducks pull away in the fourth quarter.

Six Intriguing Under-the-Radar Games to Watch

Louisiana Tech at Illinois
The Bulldogs are one of the best non-BCS teams and has won nine of their last 10 games. Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is expected to return after missing the last two weeks with an ankle injury. The Fighting Illini owns one of the Big Ten’s best defenses, but they will be tested by a Louisiana Tech offense averaging 56 points a game.

Miami at Georgia Tech
Can the Hurricanes slow down Georgia Tech? Miami’s defense has been invisible against BCS competition, allowing 32 points to Boston College and 52 to Kansas State. The Hurricanes rank 102nd nationally against the run – a bad sign against a Georgia Tech team averaging 374 rushing yards per game.

Fresno State at Tulsa
These teams are quietly two of the best from the non-BCS conferences. The Bulldogs ran wild over Colorado last week, winning 69-14 to move to 2-1 this season. Tulsa lost to Iowa State in the opener, but looks like the favorite to win Conference USA’s West Division. With both teams averaging over 40 points a game, this matchup could be one of the highest-scoring games of Week 4.

Utah at Arizona State
The Sun Devils have experienced some interesting luck this year, as Saturday’s game against Utah will be their third consecutive matchup against a team with a backup quarterback. The Utes are coming off of a huge win against rival BYU last Saturday and should get injured running back John White back in the lineup this week. Arizona State is 2-0 at home this year and with games coming up against California, Oregon and UCLA, this is a must-win game to keep pace with the Bruins in the Pac-12 South.

Rutgers at Arkansas
The Razorbacks aren’t going to win a national title, but there’s plenty for this team to salvage the rest of the way. Arkansas will have its hands full with Rutgers this Saturday, especially if quarterback Tyler Wilson isn’t able to play. The Scarlet Knights own one of the Big East’s top defenses, while their offense is rapidly improving under sophomores Gary Nova (QB) and Jawan Jamison (RB).

Vanderbilt at Georgia
These two teams met for an entertaining 33-28 matchup in Nashville last season, but the real fireworks started after the game. Vanderbilt coach James Franklin and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham exchanged words after the final whistle, and there’s no love lost between these two teams.

Teams Looking to Bounce Back

North Carolina – With East Carolina visiting Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels should snap a two-game losing streak. However, the bigger concern is the health of running back Giovani Bernard. The sophomore has missed the last two games due to a knee injury, and his status is up in the air for this week’s contest.

Tennessee – There’s no shame in losing to Florida, but the Volunteers’ second-half performance left a lot to be desired. Akron won’t present much of a challenge, which is good news for a Tennessee team looking to build confidence with Georgia and Mississippi State up next.

Virginia Tech – The Hokies’ performance against an 0-2 Pittsburgh team was one of the biggest surprises from Week 3. Both sides of the ball struggled, especially a rushing attack that generated just 59 yards. Virginia Tech should get back into the win column against Bowling Green, but it’s important for this team to find some answers.

USC – If the Trojans want to have any shot at playing for the national title, they have to win out and look impressive in the process. The road to climbing back in the national title picture starts against California – a team USC has won eight consecutive matchups against.

Virginia – The Cavaliers were steamrolled in last week’s 56-20 loss to Georgia Tech, allowing the Yellow Jackets to rush for 461 yards and seven touchdowns. Virginia has struggled to get its rushing game on track, which is bad news for an offense that lacks a dynamic passing attack. With a trip to TCU on tap this Saturday, the Cavaliers will have a tough time getting back into the win coloumn.

Wake Forest – A week after picking up a solid win against North Carolina, the Demon Deacons were demolished 52-0 by Florida State. Wake Forest should beat Army this Saturday, but the Black Knights are never an easy matchup.

Teams Desperate For a Win

Arkansas – After last week’s 52-0 loss to Alabama, the Razorbacks need something positive before SEC play picks back up on Sept. 29 at Texas A&M. Quarterback Tyler Wilson is close to returning, which should help spark the offense against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights’ defense is allowing only 8.3 points a game, so it’s no guarantee Wilson’s return will be enough for Arkansas to win this game.

Auburn – Sure, the Tigers won last week, but it wasn’t exactly the most impressive showing. Auburn needed overtime to beat Louisiana-Monroe, and this team still has plenty of question marks, which loom large against LSU this Saturday. To win in Baton Rouge, Auburn will need a flawless effort from quarterback Kiehl Frazier and for its defense to slow down LSU’s rushing attack. It’s possible, but unlikely considering how much Auburn has struggled through the first three weeks.

California – Jeff Tedford’s seat isn’t getting any cooler, especially as the Golden Bears are off to a 1-2 start. California played tough at Ohio State, but moral victories aren’t going to get it done. The Golden Bears play at USC this Saturday, where they have not won at since 2000. As Stanford showed last week, the Trojans are vulnerable. Can California take advantage of the question marks and pull off a key victory this Saturday?

Quarterbacks Under Pressure

Austyn Carta-Samuels, Vanderbilt – Carta-Samuels transferred to Vanderbilt after starting two years at Wyoming. He was an efficient 13 of 20 for 195 yards and one touchdown in the win over Presbyterian, but the competition (Georgia) will be much tougher this Saturday.

Kiehl Frazier, Auburn – It seems Frazier gets mentioned in this section each week, but his performance against Louisiana-Monroe didn’t do much to ease the concerns about the Tigers' quarterback play. The sophomore completed 10 of 18 passes for 130 yards, one touchdown and one interception, with a chunk of his yardage coming on a 33-yard Hail Mary scoring strike to end the first half.

Andrew Maxwell, Michigan State – Maxwell deserves time to grow into the starting job, but his first three starts have produced mixed results. He threw for 248 yards and three interceptions in the 17-13 win over Boise State and completed 23 of 45 passes for 187 yards in the loss to Notre Dame. Since Eastern Michigan visits East Lansing this Saturday, the Spartans will have an opportunity to work out the kinks in the passing game.

Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech – Thomas is in no danger of losing his starting job, but he needs a good performance to erase last weekend’s awful showing. The junior completed 14 of 31 passes for 265 yards and three interceptions in the loss to Pittsburgh. With Bowling Green up next, all signs point to Thomas putting up a big performance on Saturday.

Michael Rocco, Virginia – With a struggling rushing attack, it’s up to Rocco to take on a bigger role in Virginia’s offense. The junior hasn’t been awful through three weeks, throwing for 712 yards and four touchdowns, but he has tossed three picks and is coming off of a forgettable performance against Georgia Tech. If the Cavaliers want to knock off TCU this Saturday, they need a big game from Rocco.

Joel Stave, Wisconsin – The Badgers are desperately looking for a spark on offense. Danny O’Brien threw for 454 yards and three touchdowns in the first three games but was benched in favor of Stave against Utah State. The redshirt freshman was just 2 of 6 for 15 yards, but the coaching staff will give him a chance to ignite the offense against UTEP this Saturday.

Injuries to watch

Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina – Bernard has missed the last two games due to a knee injury. Larry Fedora doesn’t say much about injuries, so Bernard’s status could be in question until kickoff. Even if Bernard plays this week against East Carolina, the Tar Heels can afford to limit his touches.

Damon Bullock, RB, Iowa – Depth in the Hawkeyes’ backfield took another hit with Bullock’s injury against Northern Iowa last week. Bullock is not expected to play against Central Michigan this Saturday.

Rex Burkhead, RB, Nebraska – Burkhead left the season opener against Southern Miss with a knee injury and is expected to return to the field for this week’s game against Idaho State.

James Franklin, QB, Missouri – Franklin sat out last week’s game against Arizona State due to a shoulder injury. The junior is expected to play this Saturday, which is a crucial game for Missouri, as it looks to avoid an 0-2 start in the SEC.

MarQueis Gray, QB, Minnesota – Gray suffered a high ankle sprain in last week’s win over Western Michigan. Backup Max Shortell has experience and is a capable replacement. However, the Golden Gophers will miss Gray’s playmaking ability on the ground if he can’t start.

Montel Harris, RB, Temple – Harris has not played since posting 12 yards on five carries against Villanova in the season opener. The senior is dealing with a hamstring injury but could return this Saturday against Penn State.

Khaled Holmes, C, USC – Holmes was clearly missed last week, as USC struggled to block Stanford’s aggressive front seven. The senior may not be able to play this week, which means junior Abe Markowitz will get the call at center.

Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia – Jones missed last week’s game against FAU due to a groin injury. The junior is expected to play this Saturday, especially with a key SEC East game against Vanderbilt on the schedule.

John White, RB, Utah – White missed last week’s rivalry game against BYU due to an ankle injury. The Utes need the senior back in the lineup if they want to win on the road against Arizona State.

Nikita Whitlock, DT, Wake Forest – The Demon Deacons clearly missed Whitlock last week, as Florida State rushed for 385 yards and four touchdowns against Wake Forest. Whitlock is not expected to play this Saturday, which is bad news for the Demon Deacons against one of the nation’s top rushing offenses.

Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas – In order for Arkansas to get back into the win column, Wilson has to play on Saturday against Rutgers. The senior sat out against Alabama due to a concussion and could be a game-time decision on Saturday.

Upset Watch

Baylor at Louisiana-Monroe (+7) (Friday)
The Warhawks beat Arkansas in Week 2 and nearly knocked off Auburn last Saturday. Louisiana-Monroe should have no shortage of confidence after its performances against SEC teams, so this will be no easy matchup for Baylor.
Prediction: Baylor 41-31

Kansas (+9) at Northern Illinois
It’s a little strange to see a BCS team as a nine-point underdog, but the Jayhawks lost to Rice in Week 2 and barely beat the Huskies last season. Although Kansas is an underdog, it should hold Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch in check long enough to win.
Prediction: Kansas 31-27

South Florida at Ball State (+10)
The Bulls are reeling after last week’s 23-13 loss to Rutgers, while the Cardinals are riding a wave of momentum thanks to the last-second win over Indiana last week. The battle in the trenches will be crucial, as South Florida’s defensive line could dominate the line of scrimmage and limit Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning and running back Jahwan Edwards.
Prediction: South Florida 34-31

Syracuse (+1) at Minnesota
Considering the line has hovered around one point all week, it’s hard to consider this an upset. However, Minnesota will likely be without quarterback MarQueis Gray, and Syracuse suffered close back-to-back losses against Northwestern and USC to open the year.
Prediction: Syracuse 31-27

Connecticut at Western Michigan (+1)
Just like Syracuse-Minnesota, it’s hard to call a one-point spread much of an upset. However, the Broncos knocked off Connecticut in Storrs last season, and a high-powered offense led by senior quarterback Alex Carder will give the Huskies all they can handle.
Prediction: Connecticut 27-24

Six Games to Avoid this Saturday

Maryland at West Virginia
At first glance, the Terrapins would seem to have a shot against the Mountaineers, especially with a defense that ranks sixth nationally against the pass. However, a deeper look into the numbers reveals Maryland has yet to play an offense with a developed passing attack. The Terrapins’ offense is averaging only 258.3 yards per game – a number West Virginia should equal at halftime.

FAU at Alabama
Talk about a coaching mismatch: Carl Pelini vs. Nick Saban.

Colorado at Washington State
If the Buffaloes continue on their current path, they could finish 2012 with the worst season by a team in a BCS conference since 1998. Colorado’s offense is averaging 19.7 points a game, while the defense is allowing 479.7 yards and 40.3 points a game. Washington State is struggling to find the right mix under new coach Mike Leach, but the Buffaloes are in for a long afternoon against the Cougars’ offense.

Idaho State at Nebraska
The Cornhuskers still have concerns about the defense, but running back Rex Burkhead is back, and Idaho State shouldn’t present much of a challenge for Bo Pelini’s team.

UAB at Ohio State
The only storyline to monitor in this game is Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller. The sophomore is averaging 19 rushing attempts per game – a number Urban Meyer and his staff would like to see decrease the rest of the year.

Kentucky at Florida
Even though the Gators are coming off of a huge road win at Tennessee, don’t expect any letdown against Kentucky. Florida has not lost to the Wildcats since 1986 and only five matchups since 1990 have been decided by 10 points or less. 


by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

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Teaser:
<p> College Football Week 4 Preview: Match-Ups, Upset Picks and Storylines to Watch</p>
Post date: Friday, September 21, 2012 - 06:31
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-betting-against-spread-week-4
Body:

Every Friday for entertainment purposes only, I will bring you my top college football picks against the spread. I do not condone, approve or encourage gambling on sports in any way. But if you are a fan of football — college or pro — and you don't think gambling has played a huge role in the growth and popularity of the sport, then you are simply being ignorant. And behind closed doors, the powers that be understand the impact betting has had on the game of football.

2012 Record Against The Spread: 15-10
Last Week: 5-3

I bounced back last week, despite possibly the worst pick of the season (thank you, Virginia Tech). We are going to try to keep the positive momentum rolling by adding a year Against The Spread rankings below my picks. Do with them what you may. Now, on to Week 4...

Note: All lines are as of date of publication

Baylor (-7.5) at UL Monroe
The glass slipper won’t fit anymore. After using every ounce of fight to defeat Arkansas and nearly upset Auburn, Baylor catches ULM at the right time on a short week. The Bears have scored 107 points in two games and haven’t missed much of a beat since Robert Griffin III departed. Art Briles and Nick Florence have this offense rolling, so the clock should strike midnight on this mid-major Cinderella. Prediction: Baylor (-7.5)

Missouri (+10) at South Carolina
Three straight tough tests for Mizzou will prove to be too much for a team in transition. James Franklin will play but isn’t 100 percent and the same could be said for Connor Show. However, on the road in a physical contest against a massive SEC front seven? This seems like a tall order for Gary Pinkel’s bunch. Georgia’s offensive and defensive lines wore down the Tigers and eventually made the game a three-touchdown difference. Much of the same should be expected in this one. Prediction: South Carolina (-10)

Louisville (-13.5) at FIU
Where is T.Y. Hilton when you need him? Duke and UCF both defeated FIU with relative ease and the Panthers' only win thus far is a home overtime win over lowly Akron. Louisville, meanwhile is staring an unblemished 2012 record right in the face — with the added and all-important “revenge factor” after losing to FIU at home last season. Look for Teddy Bridgewater to continue his efficient play and for Charlie Strong to leave little doubt. Prediction: Louisville (-13.5)

LSU (-20.5) at Auburn
The road team in this series is normally not the pick. And Auburn has been strong at home in SEC games as the underdog (8-3 in last 11). So taking that all into consideration, there is no logical reason to pick Auburn here. The Yellowhammer Tigers are 0-3 against the spread this fall and haven't scored an offensive touchdown in SEC play in 171 minutes of action. LSU is way too strong and has a huge talent advantage at every position on the field. The embattled Auburn coaching staff will need to coach the best game of their lives to keep this one close. Auburn won’t be able to run and won’t be able to stop the run. This one will get ugly quick. Prediction: LSU (-20.5)

Miami (+14) at Georgia Tech
Tech is 3-0 against the spread this season and should stay unbeaten this weekend. Miami has been terrible on defense against FBS programs (32 points to Boston College, 52 points to Kansas State) and there is no reason to think it will slow down Tech. The Canes won a shocker last season and Paul Johnson hasn’t forgotten. He will lay the triple-option lumber on the young Miami team. Prediction: Georgia Tech (-14)

Army (+6.5) at Wake Forest
This one feels like classic market over-correction. Army was destroyed in Week 1 by San Diego State 42-7 and lost to Northern Illinois last weekend. Wake Forest was also destroyed, but by a motivated, angry, out-for-revenge Florida State team that could be in the BCS Championship game come January. The Demon Deacons have played two of the better teams in the ACC already and Jim Grobe should have his team ready to play its best game of the year thus far. Prediction: Wake Forest (-6.5)

BONUS ROUND: Road dogs I like…

Clemson (+14.5) at Florida State
The Noles are awesome on defense but the Tigers offense is first real test.

Utah (+7.5) at Arizona State
Defense is salty and Jon Hays might surprise some people with win outright.

Michigan (+5) at Notre Dame
Denard Robinson has never lost to the Irish and this game is always tight.

3-0 Against the Spread in 2012 0-3 Against The Spread in 2012
Ball State Arkansas
Fresno State Auburn
Georgia Tech Colorado
Northwestern Eastern Michigan
Purdue Houston
San Jose State Iowa
Texas Tech Miami, Ohio
Toledo Oregon
UCLA Virginia Tech
Utah State Washington St
Western Kentucky Wisconsin

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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Teaser:
<p> College Football Betting Against the Spread: Week 4</p>
Post date: Friday, September 21, 2012 - 06:20
Path: /college-football/nebraska-football-are-cornhuskers-best-team-big-ten
Body:

It's early, but it's not a stretch to say the Big Ten has been one of the most disappointing conferences in college football. Michigan wasn't competitive in its season opener against Alabama, Nebraska fell on the road to UCLA, and Michigan State was dominated by Notre Dame. 

Is Nebraska the best team in the Big Ten?

David Fox (@DavidFox615): 
Only if you slept through the weekend of Sept. 8 and UCLA’s 36-30 win over the Cornhuskers. The Big Ten’s not great, but not bad enough for a team with an erratic quarterback and porous run defense to win the league. I asked myself this: Where will Nebraska stand after the first weekend in November? One Big Ten loss? Two? Three? In that span, Nebraska goes to Ohio State, which may have the best team in the Big Ten despite its postseason ban. Then Nebraska faces Michigan in Lincoln and Michigan State on the road. All have good run games. Ohio State can force a turnover or two, and Michigan State, the Notre Dame loss notwithstanding, may have the best defense in the Big Ten. And I haven’t even mentioned a road trip to Northwestern, a team that beat Nebraska 28-25 in Lincoln last season. I’m not ready to make the leap for Nebraska as the league’s best team.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall):
No, but can I reserve the right to change my opinion? Ohio State seems like it has the best all-around combination of talent, coaching and schedule to finish the regular season with the best record. Nebraska and Michigan both have to visit the Horseshoe and trips to East Lansing and Madison don't seem as daunting today as they appeared in Week 1. Urban Meyer also has the best player in the league in quarterback Braxton Miller, who, if he survives the entire season, could be in New York come December. Nebraska is very good and could very well win the Big Ten crown against some fledgling Leaders Division place-holder, but the Buckeyes should be the best team at season's end.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): 
I thought Ohio State was the best team in the Big Ten going into the season, and I’ve seen nothing that makes me want to change my opinion. As long as Denard Robinson stays healthy, Michigan should push for nine or ten wins, but the offensive and defensive lines are a concern. Michigan State might have the conference’s best defense, while running back Le’Veon Bell could challenge for All-American honors. However, quarterback Andrew Maxwell has struggled and needs more time to develop a rapport with an inexperienced receiving corps. Quarterback Taylor Martinez has looked great for Nebraska, but surprisingly, the defense has question marks. I think the Cornhuskers have a great chance to win the Legends Division, but still believe Ohio State is the No. 1 team in the conference.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): 
I’d have to go with Ohio State as the best team in the Big Ten at this point in the season — almost by default. The Buckeyes haven’t always looked great, but they beat a solid UCF team in Week 2 and then survived a scare from California last Saturday. Ohio State doesn’t have an abundance of talent at the skill positions, but the Buckeyes will have the best player on the field in almost every game they play. Sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller is thriving under first-year coach Urban Meyer, and don’t be surprised if he makes the trip to New York in December as a Heisman finalist. Regarding Nebraska, it’s hard to proclaim a team that gave up 653 yards of offense to UCLA as the best in any league. I credit the Huskers for testing themselves on the road — something Ohio State has yet to do — but that was an alarming defensive performance in Week 2.

Mark Ross: 
Nebraska has been fairly impressive so far, but the Cornhuskers will only go as far as quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead can carry them. Burkhead has missed the last two games with a knee injury, but is expected to be back on the field perhaps as early as this week. As long as he's not limited too much by the knee, his presence only helps Martinez, who has done a much better job in the pocket and with ball security this season. For now, given the questions surrounding Michigan State's quarterback situation and struggling offense and Michigan's issues on both lines, Nebraska, if healthy, appears to have the upper hand in the Legends division.

The Leaders is entirely up for grabs mainly because of Ohio State being ineligible for postseason play. My vote for the Big Ten's best team right now would go to the Buckeyes, who are 3-0 thanks to the arm and legs of quarterback Braxton Miller and gotten just enough out of their defense thus far. Urban Meyer's squad is the most balanced team in my opinion right now, but it matters little since the Buckeyes can't play in the Big Ten title game. When is a championship game not a true title game? When the best team in the league can't play in it, and just like the Pac-12 had to go through last season with USC ineligible, that's the scenario the Big Ten appears headed for this season with Ohio State.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): 
I would say no after three games, but that could change in a few weeks. Ohio State has been the most impressive B1G club so far, even though tackling was an issue in the close home win over Cal. Since the Buckeyes are ineligible for the postseason, let’s look at the best team that can win the league title in Indianapolis. I would give Michigan State the slight edge (just by one of Zeke’s frisbees) over Michigan and Nebraska right now, but MSU quarterback Andrew Maxwell must show marked improvement soon. Obviously Denard Robinson is a big-time playmaker against most defenses, but the Wolverines’ struggles against the run — something the Spartans and Cornhuskers do very well — are very concerning.  Nebraska could be the team in the Legends if the defense can to start performing better for new coordinator John Papuchis. Will Compton and crew played well against Arkansas State, but I still can’t get those 653 total yards in the UCLA loss out of my head. Taylor Martinez has been a solid passer through three games, and we know that his running combined with excellent tailbacks Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah will put points on the board. If the NU defense can rise to the occasion against division opponents, the Huskers will be right there to play for the Big Ten championship.

 

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Teaser:
<p> Nebraska Football: Are the Cornhuskers the Best Team in the Big Ten?</p>
Post date: Friday, September 21, 2012 - 06:11
Path: /college-football/college-football-award-watch-post-week-3
Body:

The Heisman Trophy isn’t the only award worth watching on a weekly basis. The Lombardi, Outland, Davey O’Brien and Biletnikoff races are all worth watching and debating as the season goes along.

Throughout the season, we’ll keep an eye on all the prominent position trophies through college football in addition to the Heisman.

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

OFFENSIVE AWARDS
Davey O’Brien (Top quarterback)
Our leader: Geno Smith, West Virginia
Matt Barkley failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in nearly two seasons in USC’s loss to Stanford, so his stock has fallen a bit. Though the competition has been light (Marshall and James Madison), Smith has enviable numbers. He’s accounted for more total touchdowns (10) than he has incomplete passes (nine). Upcoming opponents Maryland and Baylor are both ranked in the top 40 nationally in pass efficiency defense, but the the toughest test will be Texas on the road on Oct. 6.
Others: USC’s Matt Barkley, Kansas State’s Collin Klein, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, ULM’s Kolton Browning, QB Teddy Bridgewater

Doak Walker (Top running back)
Our leader: Johnathan Franklin, UCLA
Franklin rushed for merely 110 yards after topping 200 in each of the first two games. He’s still the nation’s leading rusher, though, at 180.3 yards per game. Beyond his success on the ground, he’s topped 50 receiving yards in the last two games. This week, UCLA faces Oregon State, which held Wisconsin’s Montee Ball to 61 rushing yards in the Beavers’ opener.
Others: Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas, Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor, South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore, Fresno State’s Robbie Rouse

Biletnikoff Award (Top wide receiver)
Our leader: Marqise Lee, USC
Barkley’s stock dropped after the Stanford loss, but Lee continued to produced like the top receiver in the nation with eight catches for 100 yards. Those would be season bests for many wideouts, but Lee’s eight catches were the fewest in the last four games. Despite USC’s failed final possession, Lee delivered a great catch on a fourth-and-5, keeping one foot in bounds for an 18-yard reception.
Others: USC’s Robert Woods, West Virginia’s Stedman Bailey, West Virginia’s Tavon Austin

Mackey Award (Top tight end)
Our leader: Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Washington
Sefarian-Jenkins has arguably been the most consistent tight end in the country whether facing Portland State or LSU. He’s had at least five catches and 50 yards in each game this season. With 20 catches this season, he’s nearly halfway to his reception total last season (41).
Others: Arkansas’ Chris Gragg, Arizona State’s Chris Coyle

Outland Trophy (Top interior lineman)
Our leader: Barrett Jones, Alabama
Alabama continues its dominating play up front with Jones leading the way at center. Against Arkansas, the Tide rushed for 225 yards, averaged five yards per carry and scored six touchdowns on the ground. That gives Alabama two games against power conference teams in which the Tide topped 40 carries, rushed for at least 200 yards and averaged five yards per carry.
Others: Syracuse’s Justin Pugh, Virginia’s Oday Aboushi, Utah’s Star Lotulelei

Rimington Trophy (Top center)
Our leader: Alabama’s Jones
Others: Clemson’s Dalton Freeman

 

 


DEFENSIVE AWARDS
Bednarik Award/Nagurski Award (Defensive Player of the Year)
Our leader: Manti Te’o, Notre Dame
After a week of grieving the loss of his girlfriend and grandmother, Te’o had one of the best games of his career against Michigan State, recording a season-high 12 tackles with a tackle for a loss a fumble recovery and a pass breakup. Moreover, Notre Dame limited running back Le’Veon Bell to 77 yards.
Others: Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, Alabama’s Dee Milliner, Utah’s Star Lotulelei, Mississippi State’s Johnathan Banks

Lombardi Award (Top lineman or linebacker)
Our leader: Te’o, Notre Dame
Others: Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt, Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, Stanford’s Ben Gardner, Utah’s Star Lotulelei, Maryland’s Joe Vellano, UCLA’s Datone Jones, BYU’s Kyle Van Noy

Butkus Award (Top linebacker)
Our leader: Te’o, Notre Dame
Others: Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, Kansas State’s Arthur Brown, Connecticut’s Yawin Smallwood, Iowa State’s Jake Knott. Alabama’s C.J. Mosely

Thorpe Award (Top defensive back)
Our leader: Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
Troy avoided Banks last week after watching Mississippi State’s cornerback intercept Auburn quarterback Kiehl Frazier a week earlier. The Trojans, instead, fed into fellow cornerback Darius Slay, who intercepted Troy twice last week. Others: Alabama’s Dee Milliner, Texas’ Kenny Vacarro, Texas’ Quandre Diggs, Stanford’s Jordan Richards, Rutgers’ Brandon Jones


SPECIAL TEAMS AWARDS
Groza Award (Top kicker)

Our leader: Caleb Sturgis, Florida
Sturgis hit two short field goals against Tennessee before capping Florida’s second-half surge with a 49-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. Sturgis is 7 of 8 this season with two field goals of longer than 50 yards.
Others: Iowa’s Mike Meyer, Northwestern’s Jeff Budzien, UTSA’s Sean Ianno

Ray Guy Award (Top punter)
Our leader: Brad Wing, LSU
LSU has not needed Wing to control field position in a tightly contested game yet, but Les Miles knows he’s ready. Wing averaged 45.2 yards per kick last week against Idaho and has averaged 48.6 yards per punt on a team that ranks fifth nationally in net punting.
Others: Sean Sellwood, Utah, Michigan’s Will Hagerup, Texas A&M’s Ryan Epperson


OTHER NATIONAL AWARDS
Freshman of the Year
Our leader: Duke Johnson, Miami
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley threw two interceptions last week, so our attention turns to Duke Johnson. The Miami running back accounted for four touchdowns against Bethune-Cookman with two touchdown runs, a touchdown catch and a score on a kickoff return. He’s one of four players with at least one touchdown run, catch and return this season. He and North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard are the only players to deliver all three in one game.
Others: UCLA’s Brett Hundley, Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon

Coach of the Year
Our leader: Jim L. Mora, UCLA
Though sloppy at times (five turnovers last week against Houston), UCLA has shown it will make the Pac-12 race interesting. The Bruins may not face a ranked team until the final month of the season.
Others: Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, Stanford’s David Shaw

by David Fox

@davidfox615


Teaser:
<p> College Football Award Watch: Post-Week 3</p>
Post date: Friday, September 21, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-what-biggest-concern-kentucky-indiana-louisville
Body:

It's shaping up to be a big year of basketball in Kentuckiana: Indiana, Kentucky and Louisville will be in the top national three of the Athlon Sports 2012-13 College Basketball annual when it hits newsstands in late September.

None of these teams is without its flaws, whether it's youth, experience or a deficiency somewhere on the court. We asked our members of our editorial staff for their thoughts on what might hold these teams back from achieving their goals.

The Athlon Sports' top three includes Indiana, Kentucky and Louisville. What is the biggest Achilles' heel for any of these three teams to reach the Final Four?

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
This is the easy answer, but I believe it's the inexperience at Kentucky. In each of his three previous seasons at Kentucky, John Calipari has stocked his roster with freshmen who were prepared to make significant contributions. This year's class is as highly regarded as the other three, but we just won't know how good this crop is until we see them in action. We are told that Nerlens Noel might even be a better shot-blocker than Anthony Davis, but will he be able to contribute as much on the offensive end and will he be able to stay out of foul trouble like Davis? Archie Goodwin appears to be a ready-made 2-guard, but can he replace the intangibles that guys like Darius Miller and Doron Lamb brought to the team. Calipari has raved about forward Alex Poythress, but the freshman from Tennessee must demonstrate that he can get the job done on a consistent basis. The Wildcats do have experience at the point in sophomore Ryan Harrow, but the transfer from NC State must prove that he can handle the demands Calipari places on his lead guard. Then there is the issue of chemistry: Can this group show the cohesiveness that is needed to win a title? Last year's Kentucky did. Some have said Cal's first UK team didn't. This is something that must evolve as the season progresses.

Nathan Rush
Once again, John Calipari has reloaded at Kentucky with an incoming recruiting class of five-star, blue-chip NBA prospects. That's nothing new. Anyone who doubts whether or not Coach Cal will succeed with his new group is either a Calipari hater or someone who hasn't been watching the mad scientist work his magic with team chemistry. In his three seasons at UK, Calipari has a national championship, another trip to the Final Four and a "disappointing" Elite Eight run with what were essentially three different rosters. But this year, Cal's top recruit (shockingly, the No. 1-ranked player in the nation), Nerlens Noel, has been hounded by the NCAA regarding his eligibility. If the 6'10" shot-blocker with the high-top fade is unable to play, the Wildcats would take a significant step backwards defensively and might even slide out of Final Four contention.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Perhaps the biggest barrier for any of these three teams is the streakiness at Louisville. It’s easy to over-inflate success in the NCAA Tournament, and perhaps we’re doing this with the Cardinals. Before the Big East Tournament, Louisville was 22-9 overall and 10-8 in the conference. This was a team that lost 90-59 at Providence, that went to overtime with DePaul. Louisville returns a ton of talent, including Peyton Siva, who was a changed point guard in the postseason. The frontcourt should be one of the best in the league. But this was also one of the worst 3-point shooting teams Rick Pitino has had. And for whatever reason, the Cardinals have struggled to avoid injuries the last two years. That’s a major concern for Louisville in 2012-13. And since no one else has mentioned this yet, I’ll throw Indiana’s road record as a potential concern: The Hoosiers were 3-6 on the road in the Big Ten last season.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
Kentucky’s yearly inexperience is probably the easiest answer here, but the Wildcats will have the best talent in the nation as long as John Calipari is in Lexington and World Wide Wes is part of the famous ‘Blue Mist.’ I’m more concerned with Louisville’s ability to score points against a tough matchup in the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight. Rick Pitino’s bunch had an amazing offensive run to beat Florida in last year’s regional final, but his Cardinals may not be able to repeat that feat in a difficult one-game setting. Over the course of the season, Pitino’s stifling defense will be enough to give Louisville a great shot at taking the Big East and winning 30 games once again. But to get back to the Final Four, the Cardinals will need to find more offense while having to replace top 3-point shooters Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith.

@AthlonSports

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Teaser:
<p> College basketball: What is the biggest concern for Kentucky, Indiana, Louisville?</p>
Post date: Friday, September 21, 2012 - 05:50
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-football-are-fighting-irish-national-title-contender
Body:

Notre Dame is 3-0 and ranked among the top 15 teams in the nation. After a win at Michigan State, the Irish are in position to make a run at a BCS bid. However, can the Irish start to think about a national title berth? A tough schedule that features games against Oklahoma, USC and Stanford will test this team, but does Notre Dame have the personnel to go 12-0?

Is Notre Dame a National Title Contender?

Coach Bill Mallory, former head coach of the Indiana Hoosiers, and current voting member of the Legends Poll:
I’ve got a son a Curt Mallory who is the secondary coach at Michigan. He feels they’re definitely improved from last year. And I’ve been watching them get better, too. They’ve been very good on defense. They’re more sound. They’re better balanced with the run and the pass. It’s more complete. They’re better against the run and the pass. I see more maturity there. To me it looks like a sounder defense. That was very evident last week. They really shut Michigan State down. Going into the season, we [the Legends Poll] felt Michigan State was the best team in the Big Ten. I would rank Notre Dame now around 15th in the country. I don’t feel that strong about being a top 10 team. They’re going with the young quarterback. That offense will get better as the season goes along. It’s a team that has to be watched. I’d think they have makings of being a very good football.

David Fox (@DavidFox615): 
A BCS contender, maybe. A national championship contender, not yet. Don’t get me wrong, the Michigan State win was a notable feat -- no turnovers against that defense, holding the Spartans to a field goal on the road. But we still don’t know how Notre Dame will fare against an elite passer, not when the Irish has faced Caleb TerBush and Andrew Maxwell. Road trips to face Landry Jones and Matt Barkley are on a brutal schedule. The Michigan State win is to be applauded for sure, but it’s going to be tough to win many games if Notre Dame continues to convert only 1 of 14 third downs. There’s reason to be optimistic, but not enough to start feeling confident about a big bowl game, much less a national title.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall):
No, Notre Dame isn't a national title contender. At least, no yet. Quarterback play has been this team's undoing for years and I am not sure Brian Kelly has plugged that leak entirely. I'm a huge fan of Everett Golson and think he has a chance to be a perfect fit for Kelly's spread offense, but he will make a couple of key mistakes along the way because that is what freshman do. The defense is downright nasty and few teams will be able to run the ball against them, which gives ND an intriguing Xs and Os match-up against, say, an SEC champ. Or Oregon. But the schedule seems too difficult for the Irish to finish the season unblemished — something they would likely have to do to be in the national title game. Is Notre Dame back, however? It certainly seems that way.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): 
I don’t think Notre Dame is ready to challenge for a national title this season, but it can certainly make a BCS bowl. The Fighting Irish are clearly headed in the right direction, spearheaded by a defense that has allowed just 30 points through three games and is generating 3.7 sacks a game. Redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson will only get better with more playing time, especially as some of the young receivers in the program (DaVaris Daniels, Davonte’ Neal and Chris Brown) have a chance to pickup Brian Kelly’s system. While the early results for Notre Dame are promising, a schedule that features games against Michigan, Stanford, Oklahoma and USC is simply too much to navigate for a national title this year. However, Kelly is the right coach and will have the Irish in the mix for an at-large BCS bid this year.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): 
No. The Fighting Irish are better than they were a year ago and are showing signs of returning to elite status, but I’m not ready to put them in national championship race. This team is still limited offensively — though Everett Golson is showing a lot of positive signs at quarterback — and the secondary will be an issue when Notre Dame meets a team with a legitimate passing attack. You have to be impressed with the Irish’s performance at Michigan State on Saturday night, but they are not quite ready to beat teams like Alabama, LSU or Oregon.

Mark Ross: 
As long as the Fighting Irish keep winning, they will be in the discussion as a national title contender. Because of its schedule, Notre Dame is in the best position of any non-BCS conference school to crash the party, if you will, and steal a spot in the national championship game from an ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 or SEC school, although it will be difficult. That said, Notre Dame will certainly get plenty of opportunities to state its case. Starting with this Saturday's tilt with Michigan, Notre Dame has games remaining against teams from every BCS conference with the exception of the SEC. Besides the Wolverines, these games include road games at Oklahoma and USC, along with a home date against Stanford. Those are four opportunities at signature victories that the Irish must capitalize on if they want to remain in the discussion. If they can come up big when the spotlight is on, such as they did in beating Michigan State in East Lansing last Saturday night, both the voters and computers will have to give Brian Kelly's team its due. The onus, however, is also on the Fighting Irish, who can't afford any slip ups against its other remaining opponents, which include Miami (Fla.), Brigham Young and Pittsburgh. One of the unique things about college football, at least until the new playoff system starts in 2014, is that the regular season really does matter as it's No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the end. That's even more true for Notre Dame as the Irish don't have a conference championship game to support its win total or body of work when it comes to the BCS standings. If Notre Dame runs the table and finishes 12-0, I think it will be very difficult, but not impossible by any means as we have seen, to not present the Irish with a shot at their 14th national title.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): 
I do not see Notre Dame as part of the BCS title conversation yet, but Brian Kelly does have the Fighting Irish program headed back towards elite status. The ND schedule still has many tough opponents, but Bob Diaco’s defense should keep the Irish in most games. However to put Notre Dame in the national championship hunt, I will need to see a little more explosiveness on offense and the secondary hold up against a solid passing attack. Redshirt freshman Everett Golson seems to be the answer at quarterback, but there is immense room for growth with both him and the receivers. Oklahoma and USC will challenge ND’s inexperienced corners, and the loss of senior safety Jamoris Slaughter is significant. Michigan and Stanford will also be challenging, but Notre Dame fans should be pleased with the current momentum after dominating Michigan State.

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Teaser:
<p> Notre Dame Football: Are the Fighting Irish a National Title Contender?</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 13:11
All taxonomy terms: Fred Couples, Golf
Path: /golf/fred-couples-elected-world-golf-hall-fame
Body:

Fred Couples has been elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame, having met the minimum criteria for enshrinement — at least 40 years old, PGA Tour member for at least 10 years, 10 PGA Tour wins and/or two majors or Players Championship wins. A debate has since erupted on Twitter and elsewhere over Couples' Hall worthiness. It's a complicated case.

In my mind, one word describes Couples' approach to the game better than any other: effortless. Couples' relaxed, looping swing is a picture of effortless grace, generating maximum clubhead speed with mimimum exertion. Couples was hitting 300-yard drives long before juiced balls and spring-loaded drivers made that stat far less meaningful, and his swing is such an efficient and reliable motion that he's still a competitive player in his golden years. Since turning 50, Couples has finished 6th, T15 and T12 at The Masters, and it wouldn't be a shock to see him contend at Augusta into his 60s.

But you could also argue that a lack of effort prevented Couples from ascending to the golf pantheon. He's never seemed to put enough work into his game to get the requisite results for a player of his skill, relying instead on pure talent. That talent carried him to 15 PGA Tour wins and the 1992 Masters, but there's this nagging feeling that a less lackadaisical approach to the game might have yielded a truly historic career. Part of Freddie's seeming reluctance to put in the necessary work can be blamed on his body; a balky back has plagued him for much of his career. But it's undeniable that he's been something of an underachiever.

Even his election requires something of an asterisk. Couples received only 51 percent of the vote, and the minimum is normally 65 percent. But when no one reaches that threshhold, the leading vote-getter is elected provided he has at least 50 percent of the vote. In what some would say is typical Couples fashion, he limps over the finish line having done the minimum.

So Freddie is in. But does he deserve to be? Let's look at the case for and against:

The Case for Couples
• 15 PGA Tour wins, 8 Champions Tour wins.

• 1992 Masters Champion.

• Two-time winner of the Players Championship.

• Two-time major winner on the Champions Tour.

• PGA Tour Player of the Year and Vardon Trophy winner in 1991, 1992.

• 5-time Ryder Cup team member (record: 7-9-4).

• 5-time Presidents Cup team member; captain of the winning 2009 U.S. Presidents Cup team.

• Spent 16 weeks as the No. 1 player in the World Golf Ranking.

• 8 top-3 finishes in majors; 26 top-10 finishes.

• He has a better career record than some players who have already been enshrined — guys like Chi Chi Rodriguez, who won only eight PGA Tour events, but like Freddie, was a pied piper for the game's casual fans.

The Case Against Couples
• He has a lesser record than other players who remain unenshrined: Mark O'Meara (16 wins, two majors), Davis Love III (20 wins, 1 major), Tom Weiskopf (16 wins, 1 major).

• His results at times have veered beyond underachievement and into outright choking. Even his 1992 Masters win required an amazing stroke of good luck — his ball hanging on the bank at No. 12 on Sunday instead of trickling into Rae's Creek.

• He's only really harnessed his talent for short bursts — five of his 15 wins came in a 10-month period in 1992-93. Essentially, he's done less with more than many of his Hall of Fame peers. Nicklaus and Palmer, Ballesteros and Trevino — those guys were grinders. Couples has coasted.

My Take
Couples is on golf's Mount Rushmore of talent, and his personal charisma has made him one of the most popular players in the game's history. He's been relevant for more than three decades, with plenty more in the tank. Unlike other Halls of Fame, the World Golf Hall of Fame retains some latitude in its selection process, making concepts like "fame" and "popularity" relevant criteria, and on those counts, Couples has few peers.

Yes, he's underachieved, but it's impossible to tell the story of the game in the modern era without mentioning his name. Freddie belongs in the Hall.

— by Rob Doster
Follow on Twitter @AthlonDoster

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 12:58
All taxonomy terms: Penn State Nittany Lions, Big Ten, News
Path: /news/penn-state-football-new-billboard-shows-support-joe-paterno
Body:

The Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State is one of the worst in NCAA history. Although Sandusky's trial is over, and the Nittany Lions have learned their fate from the NCAA, this story won't be going away anytime soon.

Former coach Joe Paterno has been the subject of criticism since the allegations came to the surface. However, he still has plenty of of support in State College. 

This billboard recently popped up in State College, pledging support for the former coach amid the NCAA sanctions and allegations since they broke last season.

Here's a look at the billboard, tweeted by @OnwardState

Teaser:
<p> Penn State Football: New Billboard Shows Support for Joe Paterno</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 12:35
Path: /nfl/new-york-giants-injury-update-ahmad-bradshaw-and-hakeem-nicks-both-out
Body:

The New York Giants’ offense will look quite different on the field tonight against the Carolina Panthers as starting wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and running back Ahmad Bradshaw will both be out due to injury.

Nicks will be sidelined due to a foot injury, while Bradshaw will not play because of a neck injury he sustained in last week’s game against Tampa Bay. In addition, wide receiver Domenik Hixon, who is the Giants’ regular No. 3 wide receiver, is also out due to a concussion.

With all these injuries, several Giants will have the opportunity to step up and be a difference-maker tonight, although the greatest opportunity in terms of fantasy relevance belongs to that of Andre Brown.

Brown, the fourth-year running back out of North Carolina State, has already shown what he’s capable of as he had 71 yards rushing on 13 carries (5.5 ypc) against the Buccaneers last week after Bradshaw left the game. He also caught two passes for 19 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown, a two-yard plunge into the end zone with just 31 seconds remaining.

Brown will get the start tonight in Carolina and should receive the lion’s share of carries. The Panthers enter tonight’s game ranked 28th in the NFL in rushing defense, as they have given up an average of 146.5 yards per game, not to mention 4.7 yards per carry, to their first two opponents — Washington and New Orleans.

This combination of opportunity and opponent makes Brown an appealing RB2 fantasy option this week, as evidenced by our own Week 3 running back rankings. The only reason he’s not ranked higher is due to the fact he’s still a relatively unknown commodity. That may very well change after tonight, but regardless, he’s certainly worth taking a flyer on, depending on your other options.

Brown’s present position is where many pundits and prognosticators thought rookie David Wilson would be in before the season started. However, since Wilson fumbled early in his first NFL game he has seen very few touches on offense. That could change tonight as Bradshaw’s absence moves Wilson into the No. 2 spot in the backfield.

There’s a reason the Giants took Wilson in the first round of April’s draft, and they are well aware of the speed and play-making ability he brings to the field, as he’s averaging more than 26 yards on kickoff returns. Now it’s up to Wilson to show that he can do things to help the offense, starting with holding onto the football.

For now, Wilson is fantasy irrelevant, but that could change depending on how many chances he gets tonight and what he does with those opportunities. He certainly is worth keeping an eye on, especially in deeper and keeper leagues.

With both Nicks and Hixon out, Ramses Barden and Rueben Randle both move up the depth chart. Barden will get the start opposite of Victor Cruz, and unless the Giants dramatically change their game plan, Randle, the Giants’ second-round pick from LSU, should see plenty of snaps in their three-wide sets as well. Even with the playing time and opportunities both could see, I am nowhere near as optimistic regarding their fantasy value compared to the running backs.

First, Barden has one catch on two targets through the first two games. Now that one catch did go for 24 yards, but contrast that to Nicks, who has 21 targets in two games. The point is this, unlike running back, where you just have to receive the hand off to get the ball; chemistry plays a much bigger role when it comes to a quarterback and his wide receivers. I’m just not so sure that Eli Manning will “trust” Barden, or Randle for that matter, as much as he does Nicks.

If anything, Cruz (who leads the team with 28 targets) and tight end Martellus Bennett (third with 16) should see even more passese thrown their way than they usually do. Cruz remains a top wide receiver option this week, while Bennett also enters must-start territory at his position, for this week anyways.

As far as Barden and Randle go, Barden is the better fantasy option between the two, but even then it’s really only as a flex option in deeper leagues. To that end, our wide receiver rankings have Barden at No. 54 with Randle just making the cut at No. 64.

Another way to look at it is this. Before the news came down late Wednesday about Nicks being declared out for tonight’s game, Manning was ranked No. 3 among quarterbacks for Week 3. In the aftermath of this development, Manning was moved down to No. 7, just behind Tony Romo and one spot ahead of Robert Griffin III.

The adjusted ranking shows we still have plenty of faith in Manning, who’s coming off of a 500-yard, three-touchdown (also 3 INTs) effort against Tampa Bay, but our expectations have been somewhat lowered now that we know Nicks won’t be out there to haul in his passes. After all, it’s not easy to replace someone, either on the field on on your fantasy roster, who’s 6-1, 208 and currently averaging nearly 17 yards per reception.

— By Mark Ross, published on Sept. 20, 2012

Related:

2012 Fantasy Football Positional Rankings: Week 3

Teaser:
<p> New York Giants Injury Update: Ahmad Bradshaw and Hakeem Nicks Both Out</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 10:44
Path: /college-football/college-football-predictions-10-key-games-week-4-0
Body:

College football’s fourth week of action features a huge showdown in the ACC Coastal Division, a big matchup in South Bend between Michigan and surging Notre Dame and key battle in the Big 12 between Kansas State and Oklahoma.

Clemson (+14) at Florida State
The schedule has been ridiculously easy, but perhaps no team in the history of college football has been as statistically dominant as Florida State three games into the season. The Seminoles have defeated their three opponents — Murray State, Savannah State and Wake Forest — by a combined score of 176–3 and have outgained the opposition by an average of 440.4 yards per game. Now, however, comes the first true test of the season. Clemson, also 3–0, is loaded with playmakers who will challenge the stout Florida State defense. The Tigers boast star power at quarterback (Tajh Boyd), running back (Andre Ellington) and wide receiver (Sammy Watkins). Last year, Clemson beat Florida State 35–30 in a game that featured two 300-yard passers (Boyd and Clint Trickett) and no 100-yard rushers. Establishing the running game will be key for both teams. 
Florida State 34, Clemson 24

Michigan (+6) at Notre Dame
Brian Kelly has a reputation as one of the finest offensive coaches in college football, but his Notre Dame Fighting Irish are getting it done this season on defense. The Irish manhandled Michigan State 20–3 in East Lansing Saturday night and have now allowed a total of 30 points in three games. The defensive front, which lost its best player in the spring when Aaron Lynch transferred to South Florida, was effective against both the pass and the run. This week, Notre Dame faces a dynamic offensive attack led by unconventional quarterback Denard Robinson. Last year, he threw for 338 yards and rushed for 108 in Michigan’s thrilling 35–31 win in Ann Arbor. Obviously, the Irish must do a better job controlling Robinson this time around. If you can take away his ability to run — which is easier said than done unless you are Alabama — you can limit the Michigan offense. 
Notre Dame 24, Michigan 21

Kansas State (+14) at Oklahoma
It’s rare when a 10-win college football team gets outgained by 450 yards in one of its losses. That’s what happened when Kansas State, 7–0 at the time, hosted Oklahoma last October: The Sooners outgained the Cats 690-to-240 en route to a 58–17 win. Kansas State is once again undefeated, with all three wins coming at home by at least 14 points. It has to be a bit of a concern, however, that North Texas was able to score 21 points and pick up 353 yards of offense in last week’s game. The Oklahoma offense isn’t quite as potent as it was when these teams met last season, but the Sooners are still capable of scoring a bunch of points.
Oklahoma 36, Kansas State 21

Arizona (+23.5) at Oregon
The Rich Rodriguez era is off to a great start in Tucson. The Wildcats are 3–0 and playing an exciting brand of football. After struggling a bit to beat Toledo in the opener — the Cats won 24–17 in overtime — Arizona pounded defending Big 12 champ Oklahoma State 59–38 and then rolled past FCS foe South Carolina State 56–0. Now the real fun begins: A trip to Eugene to face an Oregon team with legitimate national title hopes. The Ducks have found their next great quarterback (redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota) and feature elite talent at the running back position. The Arizona defense has already faced two quality offensive teams (Toledo and Oklahoma State), but there is nothing quite like playing the mighty Ducks at cozy Autzen Stadium. 
Oregon 48, Arizona 23

Missouri (+10) at South Carolina
It’s the Battle of Columbia as Missouri and South Carolina meet for the first time ever as members of the SEC. It’s also the battle of the injured quarterbacks. South Carolina’s Connor Shaw returned to the starting lineup after sitting out last week’s game vs. East Carolina, but he had to leave the game in the second quarter after taking a big hit to his shoulder. Missouri’s James Franklin is also nursing an injured shoulder. He did not play in the Tigers’ win vs. Arizona State and is questionable for Saturday. Missouri obviously stands a better chance to win the game with Franklin at quarterback, but a big key for the Tigers will be the play of their makeshift offensive line. This group had trouble with Georgia’s defensive front in the loss two weeks ago. South Carolina’s defensive line, led by ends Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor, presents a huge challenge.
South Carolina 21, Missouri 17

Oregon State (+8) at UCLA
UCLA’s hot start doesn’t seem to be getting enough attention on the national scene. The Bruins, 3–0 under new coach Jim Mora, are averaging 40.7 points and 622.0 yards per game. And those numbers aren’t simply a product of a soft schedule; the Bruins rolled up 653 yards — including 300-plus through the air and on the ground — in a Week 2 win over Nebraska. Brett Hundley, a redshirt freshman, has been terrific at quarterback, and the Bruins are getting great production from tailback Johnathan Franklin, the nation’s leading rusher. The sample size — only one game — has been much smaller for Oregon State, but the Beavers have also been a surprise. They opened the season two weeks ago with a 10–7 win over Wisconsin at home. The Badgers clearly aren’t as good as we expected, but this is still a good win for a program that has suffered through two straight losing seasons.
UCLA 34–21

Rutgers at Arkansas
In one of the low points in Arkansas football history, the Razorbacks put up little fight in a 52–0 loss to Alabama. The Hogs, playing without quarterback Tyler Wilson, managed only 137 yards of offense and averaged a paltry 2.2 yards per snap. (Last year, in a 38–14 loss to the Tide in Tuscaloosa, Arkansas averaged 3.9 yards per play.) Rutgers isn’t Alabama, but the Scarlet Knights are pretty nasty on defense. They ranked eighth in the nation in scoring defense and 14th in total defense in 2011 and have continued their strong play early in the ’12 season. Kyle Flood’s team has also experienced success on the road with wins at Tulane (24–12) and South Florida (23–13). Arkansas is hoping to have Wilson back at quarterback — and they need him. Last week, Brandon Allen and Brandon Mitchell combined to complete 11-of-25 attempts for 79 yards. If Wilson plays, the pick is Arkansas. If he doesn’t, flip a coin.
Arkansas 28, Rutgers 24

Vanderbilt (+15.5) at Georgia
Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels will be making his first start against an SEC opponent. Carta-Samuels has played against quality competition — he faced Texas and BYU twice as well as Boise State, Colorado, Utah and TCU once during his two years at Wyoming — but this Georgia defense will present an enormous challenge. Last year, the Commodores threw for 149 yards vs. Georgia in a 33–28 loss in Nashville, but 78 of those yards (and the only passing TD) came via trick plays — a 43-yard throw by running back Zac Stacy and a 35-yard toss by punter Ryan Fowler on a fake. Vanderbilt’s two quarterbacks, Larry Smith and Jordan Rodgers, combined to complete only 9-of-29 passes for 71 yards with three interceptions. Carta-Samuels will have to play extremely well to give Vanderbilt a chance for the upset.
Georgia 28, Vanderbilt 10

Syracuse (-2) at Minnesota
Minnesota is favored vs. an AQ conference team for the first time since the 2009 Insight Bowl vs. Iowa State. The Gophers are 3–0, but it’s a rather soft 3–0. Their two wins against FBS teams are by three in triple OT at UNLV and by five at home vs. Western Michigan. Quarterback MarQueis Gray isn’t expected to start due to a sprained ankle, but that might not be a bad thing. Sophomore Max Shortell has played well in relief, combining to complete 15-of-23 passes for 250 yards and four touchdowns. Syracuse is 1–2 and looked much better in its two losses (by one to Northwestern and 13 to USC) than its win (by 11 over Stony Brook). Ryan Nassib has been terrific for the Orange, averaging 379.7 yards passing with nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Syracuse ranked 90th in the nation in total offense last year with 348.2 yards per game. The Orange rank 15th through three games this season with 533.3 per game. This could be a shootout. Take the Orange at the other dome.
Syracuse 42, Minnesota 39

Utah (+7) at Arizona State
Give Utah a ton of credit. The Utes bounced back from a disappointing overtime loss at Utah State to beat hated rival BYU in the Holy War. And they did so without their projected starting quarterback (Jordan Wynn retired from football after suffering a shoulder injury vs. Utah State) and All-Pac-12 running back John White (injured). Arizona State is coming off its first loss of the season, a 24–20 setback in Columbia to a Missouri team playing without its starting quarterback (James Franklin). The Sun Devils had two chances to take the lead in the final minutes but had two drives deep in Mizzou territory end without points. We still don’t know too much about Arizona State. The Devils have played two AQ conference teams that didn’t have their No. 1 quarterback; they pounded Illinois at home and lost to Missouri on the road. We’ll know more after this weekend.
Arizona State 27, Utah 17

Last week: 6–4 overall (5–5 against the spread)
Season: 21–9 overall (16–14 against the spread)
 

Teaser:
<p>  </p> <p> College football’s fourth week of action features a huge showdown in the ACC Coastal Division, a big matchup in South Bend between Michigan and surging Notre Dame and key battle in the Big 12 between Kansas State and Oklahoma.</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 08:00
Path: /nfl/new-york-giants-vs-carolina-panthers-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Two NFC teams will be looking to sustain their Week 2 momentum when the Carolina Panthers host the New York Giants tonight at 8:20pm EST on the NFL Network. The defending champions lost to the Cowboys in the season-opener and were down two touchdowns against the Buccaneers, but then Eli Manning rallied the G-men for 25 fourth-quarter points and a victory. The Panthers had a rough showing at Tampa Bay in Week 1, but then bounced back at home with a 35-27 victory over the Saints last Sunday. This quarterback matchup is a special one, with former top picks Manning and Cam Newton trying to lead their respective squads to a 2-1 start.

When the New York Giants have the ball:
Who is going to play? The quick turnaround this week is not doing the Giants any favors, as star wideout Hakeem Nicks, running back Ahmad Bradshaw, right tackle David Diehl and backup receiver Domenik Hixon are out for this game. Manning will still have Victor Cruz and tight end Martellus Bennett as top targets, but New York’s depth will be tested. Many football pundits believed first-round pick David Wilson would back up Bradshaw this season, but fourth-year journeyman Andre Brown got the call against the Bucs and gained 71 yards on 13 carries.

The Panthers defense gave up 325 passing yards to Drew Brees last week, but also intercepted him twice. That will be the goal against Manning, who threw three picks last week before rallying his team with 295 second-half passing yards. The Panthers gave up 163 yards on the ground last week, and that number must decrease tonight with both Bradshaw and Diehl out. Expect Cruz to get the most attention from the Carolina defenders.

When the Carolina Panthers have the ball:
We know it all starts with Newton, who has thrown for 556 yards in two games and leads the club in rushing. He should find success tonight attacking the Giants secondary. Top receiver Steve Smith has two 100-yard efforts on the year, and Carolina fans have to be excited by the continued production of Brandon LaFell (155 yards and a score in 2012). If the Panthers can mix in some production from runners DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, they should score plenty of points against New York.

The Giants defense has been fairly pedestrian so far, giving up a ton of yards in the Cowboys loss and several big pass plays versus Tampa Bay. Newton definitely presents a challenge with his run threat, as well as a big arm. New York could load the box to try and stop the Carolina run game (219 yards in last week’s win over the Saints), but the banged-up Giants secondary could struggle without support. The Panthers receiving tandem of Smith and LaFell consistently puts up solid numbers, so New York will need improved play on the back end.

Key Factor:
This primetime contest should come down to turnovers and the run game. Manning and Newton have thrown some early picks this season, but both quarterbacks should have big nights through the air. The team that protects the ball and gets a little help from the ground game should prevail. In a Thursday night thriller, I’ll take Carolina at home over an ailing New York team.

Prediction:
Panthers 27 Giants 24


---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Teaser:
<p> New York Giants vs. Carolina Panthers Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 06:25
Path: /college-football/sec-week-4-preview-and-predictions
Body:

Week 4 action in the SEC is highlighted by the Battle of Columbia, Vanderbilt's trip to face Georgia and LSU's visit to Auburn.

Other Week 4 Previews and Predictions

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

SEC Top Storylines to Watch in Week 4:

1. Todd Grantham vs. the Vanderbilt coaching staff
This is not a creation of the media: There is legitimately bad blood between the Vanderbilt coaching staff and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Last year’s game, won by Georgia 33–28 in Nashville, ended with Grantham and Commodore head coach James Franklin jawing near midfield before being separated by a Vanderbilt police officer. The Vanderbilt staff thought that some Georgia players, specifically safety Shawn Williams, were a bit too chippy during and immediately following the game. Grantham didn’t appreciate Franklin talking to his players on the field. Fortunately, no punches were thrown, but there is no denying this was a heated exchange.

Both parties are saying all the right things — Franklin recently joked that his family vacationed with the Granthams during the offseason — but there is no doubt there is some lingering animosity.

2. Austyn Carta-Samuels vs. the Georgia defense
Grantham’s defense will be facing a quarterback, junior Austyn Carta-Samuels, making his first start against an SEC opponent. Carta-Samuels has played against quality competition — he faced Texas and BYU twice as well as Boise State, Colorado, Utah and TCU once during his two years at Wyoming — but this Georgia defense will present an enormous challenge. Last year, the Commodores threw for 149 yards vs. Georgia, but 78 of those yards (and the only passing TD) came via trick plays — a 43-yard throw by running back Zac Stacy and a 35-yard toss by punter Ryan Fowler on a fake. Vanderbilt’s two quarterbacks, Larry Smith and Jordan Rodgers, combined to complete only 9-of-29 passes for 71 yards with three interceptions. Carta-Samuels will have to play extremely well to give Vanderbilt a chance for the upset.

3. Can Arkansas beat an FBS opponent?
Arkansas was touted by some as a legitimate national championship contender during the offseason. Now, the Hogs are simply hoping to win a game. The Razorbacks are 0–2 vs. FBS competition, with a loss to UL Monroe in overtime and a 52–0 debacle against Alabama last Saturday. The good news is that Tyler Wilson likely will be back at quarterback after missing the Bama game with a concussion. The bad news is that Wilson can’t help a defense that is allowing 436.7 yards per game. The Hogs’ issues on defense will put pressure on the offense to score a bunch of points in virtually every game. And that could be a problem on Saturday. Rutgers isn’t Alabama, but the Scarlet Knights are pretty nasty on defense. They ranked eighth in the nation in scoring defense and 14th in total defense in 2011 and have continued their strong play early in the ’12 season. Kyle Flood’s team has also experienced success on the road with wins at Tulane (24–12) and South Florida (23–13). This will be a significant test for Arkansas.

4. The Battle of Columbia
South Carolina and Missouri meet for the first time ever as members of the SEC. All things equal, you probably have to give South Carolina the edge due to the location of the game (Columbia, S.C.) and the Gamecocks’ advantage on defense. But all things might not be equal. Both quarterbacks are nursing injuries. South Carolina’s Connor Shaw returned to the starting lineup after sitting out last week’s game vs. East Carolina, but he had to leave the game in the second quarter after taking a big hit to his shoulder. Shaw will get the start on Saturday, but he has yet to complete a game this season. Missouri’s James Franklin is also nursing an injured shoulder. He did not play in the Tigers’ win vs. Arizona State but is expected back on Saturday. South Carolina is better suited at this point to win with its No. 2 quarterback in the game. After struggling in a brief appearance in the opener against Vanderbilt, Dylan Thompson has been solid in relief of Shaw — albeit against inferior competition. Missouri’s backup, Corbin Berkstresser, played relatively well in the Tigers’ 24–20 win over Arizona State, but he is a redshirt freshman who has yet to take a snap on the road.

5. Can Auburn be competitive?
Even the most ardent Auburn fan realizes it will be a tall order for the Tigers to beat mighty LSU this Saturday — even at Jordan-Hare Stadium. But it’s not too much for the Auburn faithful to expect their team to be more competitive against the elite programs in the league. The Tigers are 2–5 in their last seven SEC games, and the five losses have come by an average of 28.6 points. That’s a startling regression for a program that won a national championship just two years ago. Through three games, Auburn ranks 102nd in the nation in total offense and 104th in scoring offense. In the two games vs. AQ conference opponents (Clemson and Mississippi State), the Tigers have scored a total of one touchdown.

6. How ugly will get it in Gainesville?
Kentucky has lost 25 straight overall to Florida and 16 straight in Gainesville. The Wildcats’ last four trips to the Swamp have been especially gruesome, with the Gators winning by an average score of 39–7. And barring a major reversal from both teams, Saturday’s game at Florida Field figures to be just as one-sided. Florida returns home with a ton of swagger after winning two tough SEC road games. The Gators played the finest game of the Will Muschamp era on Saturday night, surging past Tennessee 37–20 in Neyland Stadium. Kentucky, meanwhile, is fresh off a humbling overtime loss at home to Western Kentucky. UK has now lost to the other two FBS programs in the state of Kentucky. This is a tough spot for Joker Phillips and the wounded Wildcats.

7. Can Ole Miss get more touches for Jeff Scott?
Jeff Scott is averaging 10.3 yards per carry in the two games he has played this season. The problem? He has only had 20 rushing attempts. Hugh Freeze acknowledged on Monday that he would like to get Scott, one of the few proven playmakers on the Ole Miss offense, more touches. But Scott is only 5-7 and 170 pounds, which can cause some problems when he is asked to get involved in protecting the quarterback. “If he’s in there for a consistent amount of time, we’re going to have to ask him to (pass protect) also,” Freeze said. “I don’t question Jeff’s or (tailback) Jaylen (Walton)’s heart at all with that. (But) we had defensive ends the other night (vs. Texas) that are 6-5 and 280 pounds.”

8. Can the Alabama defense pitch another shutout?
Alabama’s defensive numbers are staggering, especially when you consider the Crimson Tide have faced two preseason top 25 teams away from home — Michigan in Texas and Arkansas in Fayetteville. Bama has recorded two straight shutouts and has only allowed points in two of 12 quarters this season. This Saturday, the Tide will seeking their third straight shutout — something that hasn’t happened since 1966 — against a Florida Atlantic team that ranks 116th in the nation in scoring (14.7 ppg).

9. Bowden returns to the SEC … sort of
Terry Bowden will make his first appearance as head coach in an SEC venue since Oct. 17, 1998, when his Auburn Tigers lost at Florida 24–3. Bowden, who went 47–17–1 in five-plus seasons at Auburn, is in his first season as the boss at Akron. The Zips, 1–2 in ’12, visit Neyland Stadium on Saturday to a face a Tennessee team eager to get back on track after losing to Florida. “I’ve had the fortune of coaching in all the SEC venues,” Bowden said earlier this week. “And this is one of the most electric.” Bowden only played Tennessee twice during his time at Auburn, losing 30–29 in the 1997 SEC Championship Game and 17–9 in Knoxville in 1998.

10. Will Johnny Manziel ever throw a pick?
We don’t expect Manziel to navigate Texas A&M’s brutal SEC slate without making his share of mistakes, but the Aggies’ redshirt freshman quarterback is off to a great start. Manziel is completing 65.2 percent of his passes and has yet to throw an interception in 66 attempts. He is also a threat on the ground, with 184 yards rushing on 30 carries. “He’s a very talented guy,” A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said earlier this week. “He has to continue to work on moving from an athlete that’s playing quarterback to a quarterback that’s an athlete. And there’s a big difference.”

By Mitch Light
 

WEEK 4 SEC PREDICTIONS

  David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light
Ole Miss (-17.5) at Tulane Ole Miss 21-7 Ole Miss 24-10 Ole Miss 40-14 Ole Miss 31-10
Kentucky (+24) at Florida Florida 35-7 Florida 41-0 Florida 45-13 Florida 38-17
Missouri (+10) at South Carolina South Carolina 28-14 South Carolina 35-24 South Carolina 31-20 South Carolina 21-17
Florida Atlantic (+49.5) at Alabama Alabama 56-3 Alabama 41-0 Alabama 55-0 Alabama 45-0
Rutgers (+7) at Arkansas Arkansas 21-17 Arkansas 34-20 Arkansas 28-20 Arkansas 28-24
LSU (-20.5) at Auburn LSU 38-10 LSU 41-10 LSU 34-7 LSU 28-14
South Alabama (+34) at Mississippi State Mississippi State 42-7 Mississippi State 35-7 Mississippi State 45-10 Mississippi State 42-10
S.C. State at Texas A&M Texas A&M 45-10 Texas A&M 45-14 Texas A&M 58-0 Texas A&M 41-0
Akron (+35) at Tennessee Tennessee 56-10 Tennessee 44-0 Tennessee 48-17 Tennessee 44-3
Vanderbilt (+16) at Georgia Georgia 28-10 Georgia 34-10 Georgia 34-20 Georgia 28-10
Last Week: 11-1 11-1 11-1 11-1
Season Record: 28-7 31-4 31-4 30-5

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The ACC will be under the spotlight this weekend. Clemson and Florida State meet in Tallahassee on Saturday night, and the winner of this matchup will take an early, but commanding lead for the ACC Atlantic crown. Miami and Georgia Tech meet in a key Coastal contest, while Virginia travels to TCU and Maryland plays at West Virginia.

Other Week 4 Previews and Predictions

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

ACC's Top Storylines for Week 4

1. Can Clemson’s offensive line block Florida State?
The biggest question mark surrounding Clemson’s offense coming into the season was its line. With the departure of three key performers, the Tigers had big concerns about protecting quarterback Tajh Boyd. The line has been a mixed bag of results through the first three weeks, as Clemson is averaging 5.2 yards per rush and has scored seven rushing touchdowns. The Tigers have allowed only four sacks but all of them came in the opener against Auburn. Considering Florida State’s defensive line is even better than Auburn, Clemson’s coaching staff has to be worried. The Tigers have the ACC’s best set of playmakers on offense, led by quarterback Tajh Boyd, running back Andre Ellington and receivers Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. However, if the line can’t protect Boyd, Clemson’s offense will struggle to move the ball against the Seminoles.

2. Will Florida State’s offensive line protect EJ Manuel?
Just like Clemson, the biggest question surrounding Florida State in the preseason was its offensive line. This unit was a major weakness last season and features three sophomore starters for Saturday’s matchup. Florida State has yet to be tested by a top-25 team, but the line showed promise in last week’s victory over Wake Forest, recording 385 rushing yards and four touchdowns. However, quarterback EJ Manuel was sacked three times, and the Demon Deacons were able to get consistent pressure in the pocket. Clemson’s defensive line is inexperienced and has generated only three sacks through the first three games. This is the biggest test for Florida State’s offensive line, and a passing grade would go a long way to helping the Seminoles remain in the national title picture.

3. Can Miami’s defense slow down Georgia Tech?
The combination of youth and inexperience has produced some awful results for Miami’s defense so far this season. The Hurricanes rank 102nd against the run, 86th against the pass and are allowing 463.3 yards per game. Making matters worse for Miami is the loss of linebacker Denzel Perryman, who will sit out this week’s game due to an ankle injury suffered in last week’s win over Bethune-Cookman. Considering the struggles through the first three weeks of the season, Georgia Tech’s option attack is the worst possible matchup for the Hurricanes. The Yellow Jackets rank third nationally in rushing offense and had two scoring plays over 70 yards in last week’s win over Virginia. Miami has plenty of speed and athleticism to matchup against the option attack, but it will need its best effort of the year to slow down Georgia Tech this Saturday.

4. Can North Carolina win without Giovani Bernard?
Larry Fedora doesn’t say much about injuries, so it’s hard to know how serious Giovani Bernard’s knee really is. However, the sophomore running back hasn’t played in the last two games, and North Carolina has lost back-to-back contests. Bernard’s status isn’t as critical for this week’s game against East Carolina and the Week 5 matchup against Idaho. However, the sophomore will be needed for the Oct. 6 showdown against Virginia Tech. Considering he really has only one half under his belt in Fedora’s new offense, North Carolina probably would like to get Bernard some game action over the next couple of weeks. Bernard doesn’t need to play for the Tar Heels to beat East Carolina, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to get him prepared for ACC competition.

5. Does Maryland have any shot of beating West Virginia?
It’s hard to envision the Terrapins having the firepower to pull off an upset over West Virginia this Saturday. Maryland’s offense ranks 119th in the nation with an average of just 258.3 yards per game, and freshman quarterback Perry Hills isn't putting much fear into defenses so far. However, the Terrapins have options at running back, and receiver Stefon Diggs is a playmaker. Despite having some promising young talent, it’s unrealistic to expect the Terrapins to be able to match West Virginia’s scoring ability. For Maryland to have any shot at winning on Saturday, the defense has to force a few turnovers and create pressure on Mountaineers’ quarterback Geno Smith. The Terrapins ranks sixth nationally in pass defense but have yet to face a quarterback with as much ability as Smith. Anything can happen, but Maryland faces an uphill battle just to keep this game close going into the second half.

6. What’s wrong with Virginia’s offense?
A year after finishing fourth in the ACC in rushing offense, the Cavaliers’ ground attack ranks 107th nationally, and Perry Jones has barely been involved in the offense over the last two weeks (29 yards). It’s no secret Virginia doesn’t have a dynamic passing attack, which only adds to the importance of establishing the ground game. With Jones and Kevin Parks struggling to find running room, quarterback Michael Rocco has gotten off to a sluggish start, tossing three interceptions and throwing for only 143 yards in the 56-20 loss to Georgia Tech. It’s not fair to blame Rocco for all of Virginia’s struggles, especially with an offensive line that is struggling to open up rushing lanes for Parks and Jones. Getting back on track won’t be easy for the Cavaliers this Saturday, as TCU has allowed only six points through the first two weeks of the season.  

7. Wake Forest, Virginia Tech look to get back on track
The Demon Deacons and Hokies suffered tough losses last week, and both look to get back on track in Week 4. Wake Forest was a heavy underdog against Florida State, and the Seminoles made quick work of the Demon Deacons. Wake Forest was blown out 52-0, managed only 126 yards and gave up 385 rushing yards. The Hokies were heavy favorites against Pittsburgh – a team that lost to Youngstown State and Cincinnati open the year – but didn’t put up much of a fight against the Panthers, losing 35-17. Both teams should get back into the win column this Saturday, as the Demon Deacons take on Army and Virginia Tech hosts Bowling Green. While these matchups aren’t as exciting as Clemson-Florida State, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech need to get back on track with key games ahead in Week 5.  
 

ACC Week 4 Predictions

ACC Week 4 Games David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light
Bowling Green at Virginia Tech VT 28-14 VT 38-13 VT 34-13 VT 34-13
Maryland at West Virginia WVU 52-10 WVU 41-21 WVU 45-17 WVU 41-10
Virginia at TCU TCU 21-17 TCU 31-21 TCU 30-13 TCU 27-17
Army at Wake Forest WF 35-21 WF 34-13 WF 34-17 WF 30-10
Miami at Georgia Tech GT 42-21 GT 31-17 GT 38-24 GT 37-24
East Carolina at North Carolina UNC 35-14 UNC 31-17 UNC 38-17 UNC 27-10
Citadel at NC State NC State 42-10 NC State 42-10 NC State 41-13 NC State 41-3
Memphis at Duke Duke 35-21 Duke 34-14 Duke 42-17 Duke 38-10
Clemson at Florida State FSU 35-21 FSU 34-28 FSU 31-24 FSU 34-24
Last Week: 9-1 8-2 9-1 9-1
Season Record: 27-4 28-3 27-4 27-4

 

by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

 


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Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue, Iowa and Penn State all bounced back in Week 3 with wins. The problem, however, is that Utah State was the best win of the bunch and it took a missed field goal as time expired for the Badgers to hold on to the win. 

Otherwise, the tragic story continues for the Big Ten as Michigan State got man-handled against Notre Dame in the marquee showdown of the weekend. It wasn't pretty and to top it all off, Ball State defeated Indiana to wrap up the week of action. 

This weekend does not offer a large slate of compelling games either as all but one team is at home and all but one is favored to win over middling competition. That one road team, however, is in for a nationally televised battle in the final noteworthy non-conference game of the year for the Big Ten.

Big Ten's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 4:

1. Denard Robinson vs. Notre Dame's front seven
Brian Kelly has clearly reinvented the Irish defense. Notre Dame enters the game ranked eighth nationally in scoring defense at 10.0 points per game allowed and has already held three solid opponents to less than 300 yards of offense per game (288.7 ypg, 18th nationally). Meanwhile, Robinson has bounced back from the loss to Alabama in fine fashion with 324 yards rushing and eight total touchdowns in two wins. Shoelace is 3-0 against ND (2-0 as a starter) and should be the best player on the field Saturday night. But staying on the field against that big, physical, nasty Irish front seven might be easier said than done. This is where the game figures to be won or lost.

2. Enjoy this great rivalry while you can
We all remember the way the this game finished last season. Robinson capped a miraculous final quarter with an improbable game-winning touchdown heave that made the 2011 edition of Michigan-Notre Dame one of the greats in the series' illustrious history. But for how much longer will these two Midwest rivals square off? The Irish recently joined the ACC in all of its other sports and could be playing its five-team ACC football schedule as soon as 2014. This could mean the end of Big Ten-ND play. This series is set to play until 2017 before a break — which could become a permanent one — to one of the great rivalries in college football. So enjoy it while you can.

3. Rex Burkhead returns to the field
Nebraska fans could not be more excited to welcome back starting tailback Rex Burkhead. He was back at practice on Monday and should get some snaps this weekend against lowly Idaho State. But don't expect a heavy workload as Bo Pelini, who also returns to the sidelines this weekend, will likely ease his running back into action. Get him some contact, maybe get him into the endzone, and then turn it over to the capable hands of Ameer Abdullah and Braylon Heard.

4. Who will start at quarterback?
Pick a Big Ten town, any Big Ten town. Wisconsin watched Danny O'Brien un-inspire his way to the bench and Joel Stave has taken the majority of first-team reps this week. Neither was good last week, but Stave has more upside and could kick-start the lethargic Badgers offense. Down in Chicago, Trevor Siemian and Kain Colter are having the opposite time under center than up in Madison. Both Northwestern signal callers have been productive and both are still battling for time. An MRI on Minnesota's MarQueis Gray's left leg revealed no damage to the knee but a high ankle sprain could press Max Shortell into action this week. He actually ignited the offense last week and should be able to find space in the Orange secondary. Finally, down at Illinois...

5. Nathan Scheelhaase expects to play 
If it were up to him, he would be the starting quarterback against "as good a team as we've seen." The quarterback hasn't played since Week 1 and is giving Louisiana Tech a healthy amount of respect. As he should with a team that has scored 112 points in two games. Head coach Tim Beckman hasn't announced who will start as of Thursday morning but he has admitted that his starting QB is "close to 100%." This is a tricky game for Illinois' defense and the Fighting Illini need No. 2 under center if they wish to emerge victorious against the defending WAC champs.

6. What is wrong with the Wisconsin offense?
Certainly, quarterback play has been less than adequate. Matt Canada's switch to Stave hopefully will help. But the offensive line has been as big, if not a bigger, issue for this unit. Bret Bielema made a switch after two games, firing Mike Markuson and elevating 27-year old Bart Miller to the position. The line was slightly better against Utah State than it was against Oregon State — but not by much. Four times this team failed to convert on third-and-2 or less and had four penalties (three holding, one false start). This defense has been solid, but dead last in the Big Ten in scoring (113th nationally) and total offense (276.0 ypg) is completely unacceptable in Madtown.

6. Big Ten tries to improve BCS record
The league's record against AQ teams and Notre Dame hasn't been pretty. Against BCS conference teams and the Irish, the Big Ten is a well-documented 4-8. And while Week 4 isn't a huge weekend in the Big Ten, there are some key match-ups that Big Ten faithful need to help them sleep. Illinois will be pushed to the limit by La. Tech, Penn State can't lose to Temple for the first time since 1941 and Minnesota will have its toughest test with Syracuse coming to town. And by the way, Michigan heads to South Bend. A 4-0 mark in those games would stabilize a league teetering on the brink of obscurity this fall.

7. Lots of work for Ohio State in final tune-up
The Bucks open up Big Ten play in Week 5 with a road trip to East Lansing before welcoming Nebraska to the Horseshoe the following week. This means that Urban Meyer needs to iron out several kinks this weekend against UAB. Jordan Hall and the running game has to get more consistent. The pass rush and secondary needs to build on its six-sack performance last weekend. And the defense has to tackle better. All of these issues will come to light in conference play, so this Saturday is the final chance to correct these problems. One thing Meyer doesn't have to fix? His quarterback. Braxton Miller refuses to allow the Buckeyes to lose.

8. Weisman for Heisman!
How can you resist not screaming that at the top of your lungs if you are in the stands at Kinnick Stadium this weekend? He pushed Iowa to victory last week by scoring three touchdowns — two more than any other Hawkeye this season... combined. The passing game is completely inept with no touchdown tosses in three games, and so the offense will likely lean once again on the ground game this weekend. The big fullback had two career rushing attempts before carrying the load 23 times for 113 yards in the win over Northern Iowa and should once again get plenty of touches even with Damon Bullock and Greg Garmon set to return from injury. Heck, three more touchdowns this week and this rhyme may not be that far-fetched.

Week 4 Big Ten Predictions:

Week 4 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
UTEP (+17.5) at Wisconsin Wisconsin, 30-20 Wisconsin, 24-10 Wisconsin, 38-13 Wisconsin, 21-10
C. Michigan (+16) at Iowa Iowa, 28-10 Iowa, 38-10 Iowa, 34-10 Iowa, 24-9
UAB (+37) at Ohio St Ohio St, 45-10 Ohio St, 44-3 Ohio St, 45-7 Ohio St, 42-14
S. Dakota at Northwestern N'Western, 45-10 N'Western, 41-13 N'Western, 41-7 N'Western, 35-10
Temple (+9) at Penn St Penn St, 21-14 Penn St, 24-13 Penn St, 24-20 Penn St, 28-17
Idaho St at Nebraska Nebraska, 41-7 Nebraska, 51-3 Nebraska, 51-7 Nebraska, 38-7
E. Michigan (+33) at Michigan St Mich. St, 41-10 Mich. St, 30-10 Mich. St, 45-13 Mich. St, 28-10
Michigan (+5.5) at Notre Dame Michigan, 28-27 Notre Dame, 24-21 Notre Dame, 27-24 Notre Dame, 35-28
Syracuse (+2) at Minnesota Syracuse, 34-28 Syracuse, 41-39 Syracuse, 31-27 Syracuse, 31-17
Louisiana Tech (off) at Illinois Illinois, 27-21 La. Tech, 31-23 Illinois, 27-24 La. Tech, 35-27
Last Week: 10-2 9-3 11-1 10-2
Yearly Totals: 40-8 37-11 42-6 39-9

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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The Pac-12 is a really good football league. And while Arizona State and Cal barely missed huge upset wins on the road in the SEC and Big Ten respectively, the league is still nipping at the heels of the SEC for national supremacy.

But things are about to get real out West. Conference play is only one game old and it was an instant classic (unless you live in L.A.) and the rest of the Pac-12 opens up conference play across the board this weekend. It is a small slate of action as two teams are off this week (Washington, Stanford), but teams like Oregon State, Utah and Arizona will be thrown into the league fire this weekend.

Pac-12's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 4:

1. Is Arizona ready for big time college football?
The Wildcats are 3-0 and have been humming on offense under the leadership of Matt Scott and Rich Rodriguez. Even the defense has played improved football the last two weeks, slowing Oklahoma State enough to win and shutting out an FCS opponent last week. But this trip to Eugene is a totally different monster. Arizona hasn't come close to proving that it belongs with the league's elite, despite two quality wins over Toledo and the Pokes, and this weekend is a great chance to do that, even if it's simply a moral victory. It's difficult to see a scenario where Arizona walks in Autzen Stadium and hands the Ducks only their second home conference loss since 2007. 

2. Utah's quarterback play will be the difference this weekend
The Utes will face their third straight tough game and they better get used to it as the schedule doesn't appear to get any easier. Arizona State is markedly improved under Todd Graham, but home wins over Illinois and Northern Arizona leave much to be desired. Utah played extremely well last weekend against BYU and will have to get another huge performance from Star Lotulelei if it expects to stop the deep and versatile ASU backfield. That said, a key road win in the Pac-12 South race will likely fall to the Utah quarterback. Travis Wilson should get some reps under center as a change of pace, but Jon Hays played efficient against the Cougars and it led to an upset win. He tossed two scores and no interceptions and will have to continue his quality play to beat the Sun Devils. Of course, a better performance on the ground would help to — Utah rushed for 49 yards on 35 carries against BYU.

3. Beavers weird schedule heads to SoCal
Oregon State got its first game suspended in Week 1. Then the Beavers defeated No. 12 Wisconsin at home in what many believe to be the biggest non-conference home-win in program history (well, as long as UW doesn't implode). And then Mike Riley's squad road the pine again during a bye week last Saturday. So while UCLA will be playing its fourth game this weekend, the Beavers will only be playing their second game. Will the lack of field time negatively impact Riley's chances of going into Los Angeles and pulling off the upset? Only time will tell. This OSU defense could be the best UCLA has faced all season — it held Wisconsin to 207 total yards — and Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley has to have a rough game at some point. The bottom line in this game? If Oregon State can control the nation's leading rusher Johnathan Franklin like it did to Montee Ball, and force Hundley to beat them (and star covercorner Jordan Poyer), then this game will be much closer than Vegas believes. If not, it could be a long night for the Beavs.

4. Former Fresno State quarterbacks battle in The Coliseum
Cal is a tough-luck 1-2, but a losing record is a losing record — especially, for a embattled coach. USC is coming off the biggest loss of the year nationally through three weeks of play. Thus, the stakes could not be higher for either team or coach — two guys who both played quarterback at Fresno State. Jeff Tedford was under center for the Bulldogs from 1981-1982 and eventually took his first coaching job in 1992 at Fresno. Lane Kiffin was a quarterback at FSU from 1994-1996 and took his first job at his alma mater immediately following graduation. The Bears have expended a lot of energy in the first three weeks of the year and one can bet USC will be out for blood. 

5. How do you handicap the Offensive Player of the Year race?
De'Anthony Thomas, Stepfan Taylor or Johnathan Franklin? How about Brett Hundley, Marcus Mariota, Matt Scott or Matt Barkley? Robert Woods, Keenan Allen, Marquess Wilson or Marqise Lee? Oh, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins could be the best tight end in the nation. It is virtually impossible to peg who will be the top finalists for the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year by the end of the season. It's a testament to the level of athlete out west and indicator of the depth of the league this fall. Kick back and enjoy the show folks.

6. What would a 3-1 start mean for Washington State?
Mike Leach's team looked horrible on opening night against BYU, but has bounced back with two "solid" wins. But after starting 3-1 a year ago only to finish 1-7, a home game against the worst AQ team in the country is a must-win. This program hasn't had a winning program since 2003, hasn't even been .500 since 2006 and won a total five games in previous regime's first three seasons. The schedule gets much tougher, but if this team can win against Colorado and pull a couple of upsets along the way (Cal, UCLA, Washington at home, let's say), a five-win season is within reach. Leach is the reason fans in Pullman are excited about football again, and rightly so, he will win games. But if it to be a quick turn around, there is no space for error this weekend.

7. Eugene's race to 100
This week's highest total is Arizona-Oregon at 77.5 — give or take a half of a point. These are the top two scoring offenses in the Pac-12 and sit at No. 5 (Oregon) and No. 12 (Arizona) nationally. Through three games, they have combined to score 301 points — or more than 100 points per game (100.3 ppg). Temple-Penn State, in stark contrast, is the week's lowest total at 43. This should be quite an explosive way to wrap-up the fourth Saturday of the season.

Week 4 Pac-12 Predictions:

Week 4 Pac-12 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
Oregon St (+9.5) at UCLA UCLA, 27-20 UCLA, 34-21 UCLA, 38-23 UCLA, 28-21
Colorado (+19) at Washington St Wazzu, 34-14 Wazzu, 41-10 Wazzu, 55-20 Wazzu, 35-10
Cal (+15.5) at USC USC, 31-17 USC, 30-20 USC, 38-20 USC, 38-14
Utah (+7) at Arizona St Utah, 24-21 Arizona St, 24-17 Arizona St, 31-24 Arizona St, 31-21
Arizona (+23.5) at Oregon Oregon, 49-31 Oregon, 48-23 Oregon, 56-30 Oregon, 56-38
Last Week: 9-1 8-2 8-2 8-2
Yearly Totals: 26-8 25-9 25-9 23-11

Bye: Stanford, Washington

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

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Non-conference play highlights the majority of the college football action this Saturday in the Big 12. Two teams take on opponents from the ACC (Virginia vs. TCU and Maryland vs. West Virginia), while Kansas travels to Northern Illinois and Baylor takes on Louisiana-Monroe. The biggest game of the Week 4 slate in the Big 12 is Oklahoma hosting Kansas State.

Other Week 4 Previews and Predictions

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

Big 12's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 4

1. What does Kansas State need to do in order to upset Oklahoma?
Outside of the 2003 Big 12 Championship, the Wildcats haven’t had much success against Oklahoma. Kansas State has lost its last four games by at least 12 points to the Sooners, while its last victory in a regular season matchup came in 1997. Needless to say, the odds aren’t in the Wildcats’ favor for Saturday’s game. For Kansas State to knock off Oklahoma, its secondary has to play its best game of the year, while the offense has to move the ball through the air. Collin Klein is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, but he managed only 150 yards in last season’s meeting against the Sooners. While Klein has carried the team on his back, he needs other players to step up. Running back John Hubert opened the year with back-to-back 100-yard efforts, while receiver/return specialist Tyler Lockett has just nine touches on offense this season. If the Wildcats open up the offense some, they should be able to move the ball on Oklahoma. However, can they stop the Sooners? Kansas State has allowed 251 passing yards per game this year – a bad sign after playing Missouri State, Miami and North Texas.

2. Will Maryland’s defense slow down West Virginia’s offense?
The Mountaineers have been nearly flawless through the first two weeks of the season, averaging 55.5 points and 612 yards per game. Quarterback Geno Smith has thrown only nine incompletions, while tossing nine touchdowns and zero interceptions. However, will Smith and West Virginia’s offense struggle against Maryland this Saturday? The Terrapins rank sixth nationally in pass defense and are allowing only 19 points a game. A deeper look into those numbers suggests the Terrapins have yet to be tested. Temple and Connecticut both attempted less than 20 passes against Maryland, and neither possesses the firepower that the Mountaineers have. Although the Terrapins’ defensive line could create a few issues for Smith, the only thing that could slow down West Virginia’s offense at this point is turnovers and penalties. 

3. Can Oklahoma slow down Collin Klein once again?
In last season’s 58-17 win over Kansas State, Oklahoma limited Klein to just 150 overall yards. There’s no question Klein is the most valuable member of the Wildcats’ offense, so stopping him will be crucial for the Sooners. Oklahoma’s defense features a revamped front seven, which is allowing 134 rushing yards per game through their first two games of 2012. Expect the Sooners to try and make Klein one-dimensional and force Kansas State to win this game through the air. If the Wildcats can establish Klein and running back John Hubert, they should be able to control the clock and hang around this game deep into the fourth quarter.

4. Can Baylor avoid the upset?
Considering what has transpired the first two weeks of the season, the Bears certainly won’t take Louisiana-Monroe lightly. The Warhawks knocked off Arkansas in Week 2 and nearly won at Auburn last Saturday. Baylor is coming off a sluggish performance against Sam Houston State, as it trailed at halftime before rallying for a 48-23 victory. Louisiana-Monroe is a dangerous opponent for the Bears, especially with the confidence it has developed playing SEC teams over the last two weeks. Expect quarterback Kolton Browning to test Baylor’s secondary, especially since it ranks 113th nationally by allowing 323.5 yards per game. The Bears should be able to move the ball against Louisiana-Monroe’s defense, but this is a game where a turnover or key play on special teams could swing the momentum in favor of the underdog.

5. Will TCU’s defense continue to dominate?
With only five returning starters, some expected the Horned Frogs would take a while to find the right pieces on defense. However, this defense has been dominant through the first two games of the season, shutting out Grambling in the season opener and holding Kansas to six points last week. Sophomore linebacker Joel Hasley has been one of the season’s biggest surprises, recording 17 tackles and two sacks, while freshman defensive end Devonte Fields has 3.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. The competition steps up a notch this Saturday, as Virginia visits Fort Worth. The Cavaliers have scored only 18.5 points a game against BCS teams this season and rank 107th nationally in rushing offense. Virginia has struggled on the offensive line, which is bad news against TCU’s disruptive defensive line.  Although the Cavaliers should present the toughest offense TCU has played against this year, the Horned Frogs still have a decided edge in this matchup.

6. Will Kansas’ defense slow down Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch?
Although the Jayhawks are allowing 433.7 yards per game, they are giving up just 20.7 points each contest. A big reason why the defense has been able to hold opponents out of the end zone has been turnovers and sacks. The defense has generated six sacks and 12 turnovers through the first three games, which is crucial for a unit that lacks depth, speed and talent. Northern Illinois lost to Kansas 45-42 last season and will present another tough challenge for the Jayhawks once again. Quarterback Jordan Lynch recorded 467 overall yards in the win over Army and has 10 overall scores through the first three weeks of the season. The Huskies have been struggling to establish a consistent ground attack from its running backs, but Lynch has been a difference marker on the ground and has been hitting a few big plays in the passing game. Kansas will allow some yards to Lynch, but it cannot allow the junior quarterback to run wild on Saturday.

7. Will Lache Seastrunk receive more playing time?
One of the biggest surprises in the Big 12 through the first three weeks of the season has been the lack of playing time for Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk. The Oregon transfer has been productive with his limited opportunities, averaging 13.5 yards per rush on four attempts. Starter Jarred Salubi is averaging 5.8 yards per rush on 30 attempts and is clearly the No. 1 back for Baylor. However, Seastrunk is an important weapon and his big-play ability would be an extra boost to an offense that is already one of the best in the Big 12. Is Friday night the game Seastrunk has a breakout performance?

8. Where does James Sims fit in for Kansas’ offense?
The Jayhawks are averaging 178.3 yards per game on the ground and should get a boost with the return of James Sims this weekend. Sims missed the first three games due to a suspension but led the team with 727 yards and nine rushing scores last year. Tony Pierson and Taylor Cox have been solid, but Sims is the most complete back on the roster. With three capable running backs, Charlie Weis needs to find a way to get plenty of opportunities for each player and get them onto the field at the same time. Sims could reclaim the starting job at some point this year, but Pierson and Cox will likely handle the bulk of the workload in Week 3.

Week 4 Big 12 Predictions

Big 12 Games David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light
Baylor at ULM ULM 42-35 Baylor 38-24 Baylor 41-31 Baylor 38-24
Maryland at W. Virginia WVU 52-10 WVU 41-21 WVU 45-17 WVU 41-10
Virginia at TCU TCU 21-17 TCU 31-21 TCU 30-13 TCU 27-17
Kansas at Northern Illinois N. Illinois 14-10 N. Illinois 31-28 Kansas 31-27 N. Illinois 31-30
K-State at Oklahoma K-State 21-17 Oklahoma 34-24 Oklahoma 38-27 Oklahoma 36-21
Last Week: 8-0 8-0 8-0 8-0
Season Record:  23-2 22-3 22-3 23-2


by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven


Related College Football Content

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Post-Week 3 Bowl Projections

Teaser:
<p> Big 12 Week 4 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 05:59
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Big East teams passed three key nonconference tests a week ago even if Louisville had to survive a scare against North Carolina. In addition the Cardinals’ victory over the Tar Heels, Connecticut defeated Maryland and the coach who spurned them and -- most shockingly -- Pittsburgh easily handled Virginia Tech.

This week may as well be road test week for Big East teams. Six Big East teams will be on the road this week, including some odd road trips to two MAC schools and a Sub Belt program. Meanwhile, Temple and Rutgers will face two Penn State and Arkansas, respectively. Both of those programs are struggling, but the opportunity for Big East statement games remain.

Big East’s Top Storylines to Watch in Week 4:

What did Louisville learn out of last week’s collapse?

The Cardinals were a dominant team for two quarters, taking a 36-7 lead at halftime against North Carolina. The game ended with North Carolina stopped at the Louisville 4-yard line on a potential go-ahead scoring drive. North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner shredded the Louisville defense with 138 passing yards in the fourth quarter alone as the Tar Heels converted 5 of 6 third downs in the second half. Should Louisville be concerned about its pass defense? The numbers (Louisville ranks 90th nationally in pass efficiency defense) could be a product of picking up big leads on all three opponents this season or a standout run defense, but the Cardinals have recorded only three sacks on 120 pass attempts by opponents this season. Should we be concerned about Louisville’s resolve with three consecutive road games coming up (FIU, Southern Miss, Pittsburgh)? Or was the North Carolina comeback just a one-time event? We’ll find out in the coming weeks.

Could the Rutgers’ offense have a breakout game against Arkansas defense?
Arkansas’ struggles are well-documented after a 34-31 loss to Louisiana-Monroe and a 52-0 loss to Alabama in the last two weeks. Meanwhile, Rutgers’ offense was as sound as it has been all season in the win over USF on Thursday. Quarterback Gary Nova made good decisions and helped the Scarlet Knights to convert 8 of 19 third downs. Jawan Jamison rushed for at least 100 yards for the third time this season. And the offensive line has allowed only one sack all year. The Scarlet Knights will take on a Arkansas team stinging from the last two weeks. The Razorbacks’ defense has been bad on third down (22 of 53 converted) and even worse on fourth (6 of 10). Arkansas may not be as bad as it’s shown but the Razorbacks’ defense is vulnerable. The question is if Rutgers is good enough to capitalize.

Will USF tweak its offensive line against Ball State?
Bulls coach Skip Holtz was not happy with the way quarterback B.J. Daniels was on the run for much of last week’s loss to Rutgers, even if Daniels was never sacked. Beyond pass protection, USF struggled to move the ball on the ground. Other than Daniels’ 68 rushing yards, USF managed only 1.9 yards per carry. The Bulls are tinkering with offensive line combinations, including moving veteran left guard Mike Popek back to left tackle, where he played last season. Youth has been an issue on the line, so Holtz could lean on Popek’s experience.

How will Syracuse fix its dreadful special teams?
Syracuse may be one of the worst all-around teams in the country on special teams. Thanks in part to kicking toward Northwestern’s Venric Mark in the opener, Syracuse is allowing 44.3 yards on punt returns, contributing to only 23.6 net yards per punt. The return units aren’t much better at 1.8 yards per punt return and 17.4 yards per kickoff return. Meanwhile, kicker Ross Krautman hasn’t made a field goal of longer than 40 yards in two seasons. On the bright side, Syracuse is allowing only 13.8 yards per kickoff return. With a new starting quarterback, Max Shortell, Minnesota may look to special teams to even the odds. So far this season, Syracuse has obliged.

How will Connecticut contain the Western Michigan passing game?
Connecticut’s run defense has been among the best in the nation this season, holding all three opponents to fewer than 100 rushing yards. Western Michigan, though, may not be impressed. The Broncos generally are a pass-oriented team, a trend that has continued with quarterback Alex Carder attempting at least 40 passes in every game this season. And a year ago, Carder passed for 479 yards and five touchdowns against UConn. For that game, the Huskies were without top cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson, and they’ll be short handed now without starting defensive end Jesse Joseph. He’s not UConn’s top pass rusher (that’s Trevardo Williams), but Joseph had one sack against NC State and 8.5 sacks two seasons ago. That said, UConn has shown signs its pass defense is nearly on par with the run defense as the Huskies held NC State quarterback Mike Glennon to 15-of-30 passing and 204 yards two weeks ago.

Can Temple find the balance it needs to upset Penn State?
After a week off, running backs Matt Brown and Montel Harris may be healthy for Temple, but it’s tough to see the Owls defeating Penn State for the first time since 1941 without some sense of balance on offense. The Owls haven’t attempted 20 passes in a game since Oct. 1 of last season and haven’t completed more than 10 passes since last year’s 14-10 loss to Penn State. The Owls were 12 of 28 with two interceptions in that game against the Nittany Lions. Penn State has shown it can be vulnerable against the pass allowing 324 yards and two touchdowns to Ohio and 263 and two touchdowns against Virginia. Even Navy completed 13 of 23 passes against Penn State last week.

Has the new-look Pittsburgh offense turned a corner?
After two embarrassing losses to Youngstown State and Cincinnati, Pittsburgh looked like a new team on offense against Virginia Tech. The embattled Tino Sunseri enjoyed one of the best games of his career with his best single-game efficiency rating (181) since a win over Syracuse (218.9) on Oct. 16, 2010. Perhaps more impressive given Pitt’s history, Sunseri was sacked only once. Meanwhile, the Panthers showed the possibility of a strong two-headed run game with Ray Graham (94 yards, two touchdowns) and Rushel Shell (157 yards). Pittsburgh this week faces Gardner-Webb of the FCS, which the Panthers have learned does not equal an automatic walkover.

Week 4 Big East Predictions:

Week 4 Big East Games David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light
Connecticut (-1) at Western Michigan WMU 24-21 UConn 20-7 UConn 27-24 UConn 27-24
Temple at Penn State (-7 1/2) Penn State 28-17 Penn State 21-14 Penn State 24-20 Penn State 24-13
Gardner-Webb at Pittsburgh (off) Pitt 35-14 Pitt 49-10 Pitt 45-7 Pitt 34-10
USF (-10) at Ball State USF 35-14 USF 31-14 USF 34-31 Ball State 34-31
Rutgers at Arkansas (-7) Arkansas 21-17 Arkansas 24-17 Arkansas 28-20 Arkansas 28-24
Louisville (-13 1/2) at FIU Louisville 42-10 Louisville 35-21 Louisville 38-17 Louisville 38-14
Syracuse at Minnesota (-1) Syracuse 31-17 Syracuse 34-28 Syracuse 31-27 Syracuse 41-39
Last week: 4-2 4-2 4-2 4-2
Yearly totals: 15-5 16-2 14-6 14-6

by David Fox

@davidfox615

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 4 Previews and Predictions
Big Ten Week 4 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 4 Previews and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 4 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 4 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 4 Upset Picks

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

Teaser:
<p> Big East Week 4 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 05:58
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College football's Week 4 slate features some intriguing games, including the ACC showdown between Clemson and Florida State and the showdown of Notre Dame and Michigan. Athlon's editors correctly hit on the Notre Dame win over Michigan State and the Ball State victory over Indiana last week. Here are a few upset picks to watch in Week 4:

College Football's Week 4 Upset Picks

David Fox (@DavidFox615): Kansas State (+14) over Oklahoma
Time to start buying into Kansas State. It’s easy not to sometimes -- the talent disparity, the feeling the Wildcats won 10 games last season on luck. And this is a risky pick with Oklahoma defeating K-State 58-17 in Manhattan last season, but one interesting development has been the Wildcats' passing game so far this season. Collin Klein passed for 210 yards against Miami and 230 yards against North Texas. Those numbers would have been Klein’s third- and fourth-most passing yards all season in 2011. Elsewhere, Tramaine Thompson is developing into an intriguing playmaker, already doubling his touchdowns from a year ago (three receiving and one on a punt return). Meanwhile, I’m still a little worried about an Oklahoma team that struggled to put away UTEP in the opener.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall): Michigan (+6) over Notre Dame
There are three major upsets that I am keeping an eye on this weekend (stay tuned for the Week 3 edition of Betting Against the Spread on Friday for more), but I will go with the Michigan Wolverines over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Brian Kelly's bunch is flying high after a strong 3-0 start led by its defense. But Denard Robinson is back on track after a tough Week 1 performance. He has rushed for 324 yards and has accounted for eight touchdowns in two wins since losing to Alabama and enters this game with three straight 200-yard passing efforts for the first time in his career. He is 3-0 against Notre Dame and his dynamic skillset can negate the powerful Irish front seven. I'm a big fan of Everett Golson but he will make one key freshman mistake in a tightly-played, physical Midwestern rivalry game that should live up to the hype.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Syracuse (+2) over Minnesota
It’s hard to call a two-point spread much of an upset. Then again, there’s not a ton of games that have upset potential in Week 4. Syracuse started 0-2 with close losses to Northwestern and USC but had a sluggish win over Stony Brook last Saturday. The Golden Gophers are a much-improved team in Jerry Kill’s second season but could be without starting quarterback MarQueis Gray. Backup Max Shortell has experience, but Gray’s dual-threat ability will be missed. Syracuse’s offense – led by quarterback Ryan Nassib and receivers Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales – will test a Minnesota defense that allowed 27 points to UNLV in the season opener. The Orange will struggle to stop the Golden Gophers’ offense, but Nassib should make just enough plays to win. 

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): Ball State (+10) over South Florida
The Cardinals return home after their big 41–39 win over in-state rival Indiana — their third straight victory vs. IU — to take on an inconsistent South Florida team. The Bulls dropped to 2–1 with a 23–13 loss at home to Rutgers last Thursday night. They were fortunate to win in Week 2, rallying to beat Nevada 32–31 with two touchdown passes of more than 50 yards in the final three minutes. Ball State is 2–1 with wins over Eastern Michigan and Indiana sandwiched around a 52–27 loss at Clemson. The Cardinals have been able to move the ball in every game; they had 380 yards (including 252 on the ground) vs. Clemson and 440 yards (200-plus through the air and on the ground) vs. Indiana. This is a solid team that is good enough to beat South Florida straight up. Ball State 34, South Florida 31

Mark Ross: Fresno State (+5.5) over Tulsa
Both teams enter this game 2-1 and ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation in both total and scoring offense, as each is averaging more than 500 yards and 43 points per game. Both also are coming off of wins last week in which they scored more than 66 points. That said, there are two reasons why I am picking Fresno State to beat home favorite Tulsa. The first has to do with level of competition. Fresno's only loss so far came on the road against Oregon, who is currently the No. 3-ranked team in the country, while Tulsa lost its opener at Iowa State. Both teams made strong showings in defeat, but I'm a little more impressed by what the Bulldogs were able to do against the Ducks, finishing with 365 yards of total offense and 25 points. The other reason I like Fresno over Tulsa is I trust the Bulldogs' defense a little more as far as being able to slow down the Golden Hurricane offense. Removing the Oregon game, in which Fresno surrendered 532 yards to the No. 7 offense in the nation, the Bulldogs have only given up an average of 276 yards per game. Tulsa on the other hand yielded 441 yards to Iowa State (which is No. 49 in total offense) and last week gave up 370 to FCS member Nicholls State. Both teams should be able to move the ball and score on the other, but in the end I like Fresno to end up on the winning side of what should be an entertaining match up.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): BYU (+7.5) over Boise State
Selecting winners in all three weeks of our upset predictions has obviously filled my head with enough confidence to make me go loco, because this week I’m picking against a squad that is 74-7 under its current coach and 75-3 in its last 78 home games. However I believe the aggressive BYU defense can frustrate Boise State and new quarterback Joe Southwick, and that the Cougars will shock the Broncos on the absolute eyesore that is the blue turf. Bronco Mendenhall’s bunch suffered a frustrating loss at Utah last week, but BYU outgained the Utes and should have won after a late rally. Boise State looked good against Miami (Ohio), but BYU’s defense is closer to the Michigan State group that the Broncos faced in their season-opening loss. It may be crazy for going against Boise State at home, but I’ll take BYU to pull off a 20-17 upset.

 

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 4 Preview and Predictions
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Big Ten Week 4 Preview and Predictions

Big 12 Week 4 Preview and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 4 Preview and Predictions

SEC Week 4 Preview and Predictions

College Football Week 4 Upset Predictions

The 15 Worst BCS Teams Since 1998

Teaser:
<p> College Football Week 4 Upset Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 05:43
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We have surprised ourselves by including names like James Franklin, Tajh Boyd, and Alex Carder on the Bench list in the same week.  However, we feel that there are safer options available to fantasy owners, especially when Week Four features games rich with fantasy potential for quarterbacks (Baylor at UL-Monroe, Arizona at Oregon, and Marshall at Rice). 

Start

Johnny Manziel, QB-Texas A&M vs South Carolina St

Manziel looks as if he should be a must-start every week except when the Aggies play Alabama and LSU later in the season.

Taylor McHargue, QB-Rice and Rakeem Cato, QB-Marshall Marshall at Rice

This game has the second-highest Vegas total on the board.  Expect a lot of scoring from both offenses and solid fantasy production from their quarterbacks.

Connor Halliday, QB-Washington St vs Colorado

The Cougars’ offense may not be on par with some of the PAC-12’s elite, but expect big numbers from Halliday as he faces a defense giving up over 40 points and 476 yards per game.

Kolton Browning, QB-Louisiana-Monroe vsBaylor

After impressive games against Arkansas and Auburn to start the season, Browning faces a Baylor defense ranked 117th nationally against the pass.

LaDarius Perkins, RB-Mississippi St vs South Alabama

Perkins has had a nice start to the 2012 season, averaging over 100 yards rushing per game and scoring four touchdowns.

Shawn Southward, RB-Troy at North Texas

After rushing for 137 yards and two touchdowns last week against Mississippi State, Southward’s fantasy owners should be excited about Troy’s upcoming five-game conference slate.

Antonio Andrews, RB-Western Kentucky at Southern Miss

We’re not expecting him to duplicate his 34-125-3 numbers from a week ago, but he should come close.

Cody Getz, RB-Air Force vs New Mexico St

Getz may be a forgotten man because the Falcons did not play last week, but don’t get caught sleeping on a guy that has rushed for 348 yards and six touchdowns.

Andy Cruse, WR-Miami (OH) vs UMass

The 6-4 senior seems to be picking up the slack in the absence of fellow receiver Nick Harwell, who has been bothered by a leg injury.

Gabe Marks, WR-Washington St vs Colorado

Marks received a lot of attention throughout fall camp and he made a name for himself on the national stage last week with a six-catch, 126-yard game at UNLV.

Chad Bumphis, WR-Mississippi St vs South Alabama

Bumphis only has ten receptions on the season, but five of those have been for touchdowns and he is averaging 23 yards per catch.

Eric Ebron, TE-North Carolina vs East Carolina

Ebron’s eleven receptions are second-best on the team and his three receiving touchdowns lead the team.

 

Bench

James Franklin, QB-Missouri at South Carolina

Franklin may be the best fantasy option on the Missouri roster this week, but the Gamecocks are seventh-best against the run nationally (53.0 ypg) and are only allowing 9.7 points per game.

Tajh Boyd, QB-Clemson at Florida St

This move could come back to haunt many fantasy owners, but we are not risking our week against the nation’s #1 rated defense.  Be on the lookout for our Emergency Starters list at the end of the week.

Alex Carder, QB-Western Michigan vs Connecticut

We have Carder listed at #30 in our weekly quarterback rankings because he’ll face a defense highly-rated against the pass (5th nationally) and points allowed (11th).

Rex Burkhead, RB-Nebraska vs Idaho St

Coach Pelini has indicated that Burkhead should play this weekend, but we are guessing that he’ll get just enough work to shake off the rust and then rest for next week’s matchup against Wisconsin.

Kevin Parks, RB-Virginia at TCU

The season is still young, but the TCU defense may be a lot better than we thought after three weeks.

Kendial Lawrence, RB-Missouri at South Carolina

Lawrence has been productive over the first three weeks of the season rushing for 224 yards and four touchdowns, but this week the Tigers travel east and face a defense that has not given up more than 70 yards rushing in a game this season.

LaRod King, WR-Kentucky at Florida

King is the best fantasy option on the Wildcats’ roster, but we wouldn’t take a chance against a tough Gators defense.

Alec Lemon, WR-Syracuse at Minnesota

Lemon is being overshadowed by the reemergence of fellow receiver Marcus Sales and has yet to find the end zone.

 

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

Follow Joe on twitter (@theCFFsite)

thecffsite.com

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: Week 4 Sit or Start</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 05:34
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Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any website can give you.

2012 NFL Week 3 Fantasy Football Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Week 3 Start or Sit

 

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
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

DEFENSIVE SCORING
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

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

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Positional Rankings: Week 3</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 05:29
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-tight-end-rankings-week-3
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Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

The top-scoring tight end in fantasy football last week was none other than San Diego's Dante Rosario, who caught three touchdown passes against Tennessee. However, you won't see him listed below because Antonio Gates, whose absence because of a rib injury made Rosario's big day possible, is already back at practice and is expected to go on Sunday against Atlanta. One tight end who will not be playing this Sunday or for several weeks to come is New England's Aaron Hernandez. He suffered an ankle injury that is expected to sideline him for multiple weeks. His absence only helps increase teammate Rob Gronkowski's value, although Gronk still sits behind Jimmy Graham on this week's rankings. Brandon Pettigrew, already a solid weekly starting option, could be in for a career day against Tennessee considering the Titans were the team that surrendered the three touchdown catches to Rosario last week. Martellus Bennett continued his strong start to the season as he posted six more catches for 73 yards and his third touchdown on the season in the Giants' win over Carolina on Thursday night. If Bennett's able to maintain this production over the course of the season, the tight end position becomes even deeper than it was believed to before the start of it.

2012 NFL Week 3 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Jimmy Graham NO vs. KC
2 Rob Gronkowski NE at BAL
3 Brandon Pettigrew DET at TEN
4 Vernon Davis SF at MIN
5 Jermichael Finley GB at SEA (Mon.)
6 Tony Gonzalez ATL at SD
7 Brent Celek PHI at ARI
8 Martellus Bennett NYG at CAR (Thurs.)
9 Antonio Gates SD vs. ATL
10 Jason Witten DAL vs. TB
11 Dennis Pitta BAL vs. NE
12 Owen Daniels HOU at DEN
13 Kyle Rudolph MIN vs. SF
14 Jared Cook TEN vs. DET
15 Coby Fleener IND vs. JAC
16 Jacob Tamme DEN vs. HOU
17 Jermaine Gresham CIN at WAS
18 Greg Olsen CAR vs. NYG (Thurs.)
19 Scott Chandler BUF at CLE
20 Fred Davis WAS vs. CIN
21 Brandon Myers OAK vs. PIT
22 Dustin Keller NYJ at MIA
23 Marcedes Lewis JAC at IND
24 Heath Miller PIT at OAK
25 Dallas Clark TB at DAL
26 Todd Heap ARI vs. PHI

Injury-Related News:
Fred Davis, WAS: Sustained head injury in last week's game, but passed concussion tests and was back at practice on Wednesday. He should start on Sunday against Cincinnati.
Antonio Gates, SD: Missed last week's game with rib injury, but was back at practice on Wednesday and should play Sunday against Atlanta.
Todd Heap, ARI: Is considered day-to-day after suffering a sprained PCL in his left knee during last Sunday's game. His status for this week is uncertain.
Aaron Hernandez, NE: He is expected to miss the next several weeks due to an ankle injury sustained last week.
Dustin Keller, NYJ: Missed last week's game because of a hamstring injury. He was back at practice on Thursday, so the team is hopeful he will be able to play in Miami on Sunday.
Heath Miller, PIT: He sustained a rib cartilage injury last week and missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday. There's a strong possibility he will not be able to play in Oakland on Sunday.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
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 3 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Week 3 Start or Sit

— By Mark Ross, updated on Sept. 21, 2012

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings: Week 3</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 05:26
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-quarterback-rankings-week-3
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Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

Drew Brees and his Saints have struggled mightily out of the gates in the standings. This coming Sunday presents the team with a golden opportunity to not only get into the win column, but also put up some big offensive numbers in the process, as they will host Kansas City. However, don't be surprised if the Chiefs' Matt Cassel also joins in on the fun, as the Saints' defense is currently last in the league in both yards and points allowed. Jay Cutler will look to bounce back from his four-interception showing against Green Bay as Chicago hosts St. Louis. Likewise, Aaron Rodgers is hoping for better things this week than what he did (219 yards passing, TD, INT) in the win over the Bears, but he will have to do in Seattle against a Seahawks' defense that held Tony Romo (251 yards, TD, INT) and the Cowboys' offense in check last Sunday. Another quarterback match up to watch is in Foxboro as Tom Brady and the Patriots face off against Joe Flacco and the Ravens in a rematch of last season's AFC Championship game. Both teams are coming off of disappointing losses and to this point, the quarterbacks have put up similar numbers.

2012 NFL Week 3 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Drew Brees NO vs. KC
2 Matthew Stafford DET at TEN
3 Cam Newton CAR vs. NYG (Thurs.)
4 Aaron Rodgers GB at SEA (Mon.)
5 Tom Brady NE at BAL
6 Tony Romo DAL vs. TB
7 Eli Manning NYG at CAR (Thurs.)
8 Robert Griffin III WAS vs. CIN
9 Michael Vick PHI at ARI
10 Matt Ryan ATL at SD
11 Philip Rivers SD vs. ATL
12 Jay Cutler CHI vs. STL
13 Peyton Manning DEN vs. HOU
14 Ben Roethlisberger PIT at OAK
15 Andy Dalton CIN at WAS
16 Matt Cassel KC at NO
17 Joe Flacco BAL vs. NE
18 Alex Smith SF at MIN
19 Josh Freeman TB at DAL
20 Matt Schaub HOU at DEN
21 Andrew Luck IND vs. JAC
22 Sam Bradford STL at CHI
23 Carson Palmer OAK vs. PIT
24 Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF at CLE
25 Jake Locker TEN vs. DET
26 Mark Sanchez NYJ at MIA

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
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 3 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Week 3 Start or Sit

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings: Week 3</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 05:24
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-running-back-rankings-week-3
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Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

Opportunity knocked for Andre Brown, who got the start for the Giants Thursday night against Carolina in place of an injured Ahmad Bradshaw (neck), and the fourth-year back from North Carolina State certainly answered. Brown piled up 113 yards on the ground and two touchdowns against the Panthers, leading the Giants to a convincing 36-7 victory in the process. Like Brown, Michael Bush is in a similar position as will see an increased workload for the Bears against St. Louis with Matt Forte ruled out because of an ankle injury. Although it's possible, it's highly unlikely that either Brown or Bush will have the impact that C.J. Spiller has had since assuming the starting role in Buffalo following Fred Jackson's injury. Spiller is currently leading the league in rushing (292 yards) and should have another productive game this Sunday against Cleveland. Maurice Jones-Drew and Adrian Peterson also appear to be fully reinstated as the starter for their respective teams. Jones-Drew is probably the safer play this week, however, as Peterson will test his surgically repaired knee with a heavier load against a San Francisco defense that's given up a total of 127 yards rushing so far. Willis McGahee, who had 113 yards on the ground against Atlanta on Monday night, may also find the going a little tougher this week against an equally stingy (144 yards rushing in two games) Houston defense. Another situation that bears watching is who gets the most carries in Kansas City. Last week both Peyton Hillis and Shaun Draughn got more attempts than Jamaal Charles, who limped off of the field after suffering what turned out to be a knee bruise during the Chiefs' loss to Buffalo. The good news for Charles owners is it doesn't appear to be anything serious, especially considering the Chiefs have a date in New Orleans (last in NFL in rush defense) this Sunday.

2012 NFL Week 3 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Backs

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Arian Foster HOU at DEN
2 Ray Rice BAL vs. NE
3 LeSean McCoy PHI at ARI
4 Maurice Jones-Drew JAC at IND
5 C.J. Spiller BUF at CLE
6 DeMarco Murray DAL vs. TB
7 Darren McFadden OAK vs. PIT
8 Frank Gore SF at MIN
9 Marshawn Lynch SEA vs. GB (Mon.)
10 Michael Bush CHI vs. STL
11 Trent Richardson CLE vs. BUF
12 Stevan Ridley NE at BAL
13 Reggie Bush MIA vs. NYJ
14 Doug Martin TB at DAL
15 BenJarvus Green-Ellis CIN at WAS
16 Adrian Peterson MIN vs. SF
17 Ryan Mathews SD vs. ATL
18 Darren Sproles NO vs. KC
19 Chris Johnson TEN vs. DET
20 Jamaal Charles KC at NO
21 Steven Jackson STL at CHI
22 Andre Brown NYG at CAR (Thurs.)
23 Alfred Morris WAS vs. CIN
24 Willis McGahee DEN vs. HOU
25 Michael Turner ATL at SD
26 Shonn Greene NYJ at MIA
27 Peyton Hillis KC at NO
28 Donald Brown IND vs. JAC
29 Mark Ingram NO vs. KC
30 Cedric Benson GB at SEA (Mon.)
31 Beanie Wells ARI vs. PHI
32 DeAngelo Williams CAR vs. NYG (Thurs.)
33 Ben Tate HOU at DEN
34 Pierre Thomas NO vs. KC
35 Kevin Smith DET at TEN
36 Jonathan Stewart CAR vs. NYG (Thurs.)
37 Jonathan Dwyer PIT at OAK
38 Isaac Redman PIT at OAK
39 Mikel Leshoure DET at TEN
40 Ryan Williams ARI vs. PHI
41 David Wilson NYG at CAR (Thurs.)
42 Dexter McCluster KC at NO
43 Daryl Richardson STL at CHI
44 Jacquizz Rodgers ATL at SD
45 Lamar Miller MIA vs. NYJ
46 Toby Gerhart MIN vs. SF
47 Kendall Hunter SF at MIN
48 Jackie Battle SD vs. ATL

Injury News:
Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG: Did not play Thursday night against Carolina because of a neck injury.
Jamaal Charles, KC: Expected to play on Sunday in New Orleans after leaving last week's game due to a knee bruise on his surgically repaired left knee (ACL tear last season).
Jonathan Dwyer, PIT: Dealing with a toe injury, missed practice on Wednesday, but practiced fully on Thursday in preparation for Sunday's game in Oakland.
Matt Forte, CHI: Will not play Sunday against St. Louis because of an ankle injury.
Steven Jackson, STL: Missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday because of a groin injury, but he is still hopeful of being able to play on Sunday against Chicago.
Ryan Mathews, SD: Participated in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, including contact drills. Appears to be on track to season debut Sunday against Atlanta after missing just about all of the preseason and the first two games because of a broken collarbone.
Jonathan Stewart, CAR: Did not play Thursday night game against the Giants because of an ankle/toe injury.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
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 3 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Week 3 Start or Sit

— Updated on Sept. 21, 2012

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings: Week 3</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 05:24
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-countdown-no-18-memphis-preview
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Visit the online store for Memphis and other editions of the 2012-13 Athlon Sports College Basketball annual.

The first practices of college basketball season begin in mid-October, and Athlon Sports 2012-13 preview annuals are starting to arrive on newsstands all over the country.

To prepare for the start of college basketball season, we will preview one team each weekday, counting down to the first official day of basketball practice on Oct. 15, or for some teams on Oct. 12.

We continue our countdown with a preview of No. 18 Memphis.

Josh Pastner has had Conference USA’s most talented roster each of the past two seasons, but those rosters were as short on experience as they were long on gifts. The top three scorers two years ago were all freshmen while the top five scorers last season were either in their first or second seasons with the program, which is young by anybody’s standards.

But this season will be different.

“The good thing is that even though this is my fourth year as the head coach, it’ll be the first time we’ve had an upperclassman-type of team, and I think that’s important,” Pastner says. “In our summer workouts, we didn’t have to go over terminology or start new. There was carryover. And that’s big for us because other than the three guys we signed, everybody knows what I want offensively, what I want defensively, what I want in general. The majority of our guys have now played major minutes at a very high level of college basketball, and though it doesn’t guarantee anything it should allow us as a team to have a better understanding of what it takes to be successful.”

FRONTCOURT
The Memphis frontcourt has been an issue in Pastner’s first three seasons because nobody has ever developed into a consistent scorer or rebounder in the paint. Will Barton, a now-departed 6-6 guard, was the team’s leading rebounder last season.

That’s why why the arrival of Shaq Goodwin is welcomed. The McDonald’s All-American helped USA Basketball win the gold medal in this summer’s FIBA Americas U18 Championship by, among other things, scoring 30 points in a win over the Virgin Islands. He’s expected to be Memphis’ starting power forward, with junior Tarik Black back at center. Sophomore Adonis Thomas will start at small forward a year after an ankle injury that cost him most of the C-USA schedule and convinced him to delay entering the NBA Draft .

“The thing about Adonis is that he doesn’t need to score 25 to dominate a game,” Pastner says. “I mean, he has the ability to do that. But he can affect the game in lots of ways. He can defend three positions and be a stat-sheet stuffer. He can be a high-level rebounder and high-level assist man, and his shooting, right now, is at a high level. So I’m expecting and counting on him to play at a high level for us.”

BACKCOURT
The Tigers’ backcourt will be led by a pair of local guards — namely Joe Jackson and Chris Crawford, either of whom could emerge as a first-team all-conference selection. Jackson, the MVP of the past two C-USA Tournaments, averaged 11.0 points and 3.9 assists last season while Crawford averaged 9.1 points and 3.8 assists. They have in the past and will again this season take turns bringing the ball up the court.

“The great thing about Joe and Chris is that they can play with and off of each other,” Pastner says. “They complement each other well and have great clarity in what they want to accomplish as a unit together.”

Antonio Barton, another junior, projects as a steady reserve. And the wild card in all this is Geron Johnson, regarded by some the best junior college prospect in the country. The 6-3 guard’s talent is undeniable, but he was dismissed from two different junior colleges and has had legal issues. Can Pastner get Johnson on the right path? Who knows? But the Memphis coach decided to give it a shot.

“Geron has to learn to play under control and use his athleticism within the game,” Pastner says. “But he’s a pro-level athlete. He’s a really talented guy.”

FINAL ANALYSIS
Pastner has done a tremendous job keeping Memphis relevant post-John Calipari, but he’s still looking for his first NCAA Tournament win. And though that might not be a problem nationally, it’s an issue locally and why Memphis needs to not only win C-USA but also advance in March. Otherwise, the program will be facing lots of questions as it transitions into the Big East next year.

“But our focus is this year, not the Big East,” Pastner says. “We’re not thinking about the Big East. We just want to have the best year we can have this year because teams are not gonna want us to leave on a good note, which is why we’ll have to be extra sharp and extra good.”

@AthlonSports

Athlon College Basketball Countdown So Far:
20. Florida

19. Notre Dame

18. Memphis

Teaser:
<p> College Basketball Countdown: No. 18 Memphis Preview</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 05:17

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