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All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /2014-nfl-picks-against-spread-week-1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons


Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: New Orleans -3


Three Things to Watch


1. Big Expectations in the Big Easy

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


2. The Falcons' Hard-Nosed Attitude

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


3. Reversing the Road Woes

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


Final Analysis


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


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

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


Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens


Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Baltimore -1.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Home Sweet Home

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


2. Cincy's $115 million Man

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


3. Ravens on the Run

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


Final Analysis


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


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

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


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


. Didn't prevent a concussion, though.


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




when news broke of her death. Even .




. I'll meet you there.


• Last night, .


• Cincinnati chili has its detractors. .


• After killing with LeBron's letter, .


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



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

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

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


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


Virginia Tech vs. Ohio State


Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Ohio State -11


Three Things to Watch


1. The Quarterbacks

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


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

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

3. Young Talent at the Skill Positions

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


Final Analysis


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


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

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


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


Notre Dame vs. Michigan


Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: NBC

Spread: Notre Dame -3.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Michigan’s OL vs. Notre Dame’s DL

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


2. The Quarterbacks

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


3. Which team can establish the run?

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


Final Analysis


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


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

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


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


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


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


Last Week: 3-3

Year-to-Date: 3-3


Michigan St (+12) at Oregon

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


Week 2 Previews and Predictions:

| |  |  


BYU (+3.5) at Texas

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


Listen to the Week 2 preview podcast:


USC (+2.5) at Stanford

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


Missouri (-3.5) at Toledo

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


Kansas St (-12) at Iowa St

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


Top 25 Picks ATS:


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


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

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


Michigan State at Oregon


Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Oregon -12


Three Things to Watch


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

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


2. Marcus Mariota versus Michigan State’s secondary

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

3. Michigan State’s Defensive Line

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


Final Analysis


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


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


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


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

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



NASCAR’s new Chase system in review

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


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


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


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


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


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



Stakes high and complicated for Chase hopefuls at Richmond

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


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


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


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


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



Expectations of anonymity for Stewart should end

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


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


It didn’t sit right.


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


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


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



Final regular season race could be filled with payback

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


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


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


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



Circle Sport to run Junie Donlavey tribute

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


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


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


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


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



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

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


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

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

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


• Beyonce turns 33 today. .


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




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










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




. Please let her win something.


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



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

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

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


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks


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

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

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

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


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Backs

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

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

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

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


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers

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

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

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

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


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends

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

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

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

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


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


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

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

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

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

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


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


Positional Rankings: I I I I I


2014 NFL Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers



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


Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

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

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


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

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


Listen to the Week 2 preview podcast:


2. East Carolina (+16.5) at South Carolina

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


3. Missouri (-4.5) at Toledo

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


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

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


5. UAB (+27.5) at Mississippi State

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


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

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


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

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


8. San Jose State (+31) at Auburn

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


SEC Week 2 Predictions

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

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


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


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


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


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

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


Listen to the Week 2 preview podcast:


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Pac-12 Predictions:

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


Pac-12 2014 Week 2 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-2014-week-2-preview-and-predictions

Most of the Big 12 went about its business in Week 1.


All of the title contenders, with the exception of Texas Tech, won easily and looked good doing it. Unfortunately for Texas, however, their victory was far more costly than the rest of the Big 12 as the Longhorns lost two key offensive weapons.


Now, as most of the league looks to win easy (and possibly boring) games against overmatched competition, it’s those same Horns who have to battle in the biggest game of the weekend.


1. BYU at Texas
7:30 p.m., FS1

The numbers are simple. Texas is 12-4 when David Ash starts and 6-5 when he does not. The Longhorns, who also will be without starting center Dominic Espinosa for the rest of the year, will turn to Tyrone Swoopes (and maybe Jerrod Heard as well) this weekend against a BYU team that was very impressive in Week 1 and torched Texas for 679 yards last year. The Horns defense looked much improved in Week 1 but facing North Texas is totally different than having to slow one of the most dynamic weapons in college football. Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill threw for 308 yards and ran for 97 while scoring all five touchdowns for BYU in the road win over UConn to start the year. If Charlie Strong can’t slow down Hill, it may not matter who is playing quarterback for the Burnt Orange.


Listen to the Week 2 preview podcast:


2. Kansas St at Iowa St
Noon, FS1

What better way to recover from an ugly home loss to an FCS opponent than to face a Bill Snyder-coached team ranked in the top 20? Paul Rhoads has never beaten Kansas State in five tries and Week 1 did little to suggest that he can break through in 2014. Snyder used Tyler Lockett sparingly in Week 1 and instead gave the ball to seven different ball-carriers for 240 yards rushing. “A plus B equals C” is rarely accurate but if Iowa State can’t stop North Dakota State’s running game, why would it be able to stop the much more balanced Wildcats?


3. Texas Tech at UTEP
11 p.m., FS1

The seven-point win over Central Arkansas was a major disappointment despite Davis Webb throwing for 452 yards while completing 75 percent of his passes. Kliff Kingsbury won’t have any issues on offense this year but the questions raised in the preseason about his defense appear to be warranted after allowing 35 points and 406 yards in the opener. Tech will need to slow an offense that rushed for 330 yards — 237 by sophomore Aaron Jones — in the opener against New Mexico. This is the Miners' home opener so expect an inspired effort from the three-touchdown underdog.


4. Oklahoma at Tulsa

The Sooners did all of the things they needed to win easily in Week 1. These two in-state rivals have played 13 times since 1943 and Oklahoma has won all but once (Sooners fans don’t need any reminders of 1996). The Hurricane rolled up 592 yards of offense last week against Tulane but also allowed over 500 yards on defense. Trevor Knight and his stable of running backs should be able to produce big numbers in Week 2.


5. Northwestern St at Baylor
7:30 p.m.

The most watched vertebrae in college football shouldn’t be asked to do much against Northwestern State this weekend. After a dominating performance by the Bears' defense — it doesn’t matter how bad SMU is, holding a June Jones offense to less than 70 yards is absurdly impressive — Art Briles isn’t likely to ask too much of quarterback Bryce Petty. Keep the QB upright, run the ball and play defense and Baylor should start 2-0.


6. Missouri St at Oklahoma St
3:30 p.m.

Both Oklahoma State and West Virginia acquitted themselves admirably against the top two teams in the nation but neither got into the win column. Both should do so this weekend. Mike Gundy’s defense played well, J.W. Walsh was solid and Tyreek Hill announced his presence to college football. Look for a much lighter workload this week for Hill and for the Pokes to lean on Desmond Roland, Rennie Childs and their defense in what should be an easy win. Keep an eye on quarterbacks Daxx Garman and Mason Rudolph to see if Gundy gives either backup a look under center.


7. Towson at West Virginia
7:30 p.m.

Much like Oklahoma State, West Virginia showed an improved defense and found a playmaker on offense in Clint Trickett in a Week 1 loss. And like Ok-State, the Mountaineers should be able to celebrate this week with a victory. Trickett should have no issues topping a team that lost to Central Connecticut State last week in the opener.


8. SE Missouri St at Kansas
7 p.m., ESPN3

The Montell Cozart era begins for Kansas this weekend in a must-win situation for head coach Charlie Weis. Other members of the Big 12 have lost to FCS opponents in season openers the last two years and Weis cannot afford to struggle against SEMO — a team that won its 2014 debut 77-0 last week.


Off: TCU


Big 12 Predictions:

GamesBraden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
BYU (+4) at TexasBYU, 31-28BYU, 24-17BYU, 28-13BYU, 24-20
Kan. St (-12) at Iowa StKSU, 34-20KSU, 30-17KSU, 35-17KSU, 38-20
T. Tech (-20) at UTEPTech, 48-23Tech, 31-27Tech, 42-28Tech, 50-24
Okla. (-25) at TulsaOkla., 49-13Okla., 47-17Okla., 49-10Okla., 45-7
NW St at BaylorBaylor, 45-7Baylor, 47-10Baylor, 63-0Baylor, 61-10
Mizz St at Okla. StOSU, 34-7OSU, 48-17OSU, 42-14OSU, 51-10
Towson at WVUWVU, 44-17WVU, 41-20WVU, 35-10WVU, 41-17
SEMO at KansasKansas, 20-14Kansas, 27-21Kansas, 17-10Kansas, 34-7
Last Week:8-18-19-08-1


Big 12 2014 Week 2 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2014-week-2-preview-and-predictions


Three Big Ten teams will be the center of the college football world in the second week of the season.

The league will hope it’s not the last time that’s the case in 2014.

This could be the week the Big Ten establishes its College Football Playoff credentials and national perception, one way or another.

Michigan State has a chance to continue its status as the Big Ten’s leading program against Oregon. If the Spartans — winners of the Big Ten title and Rose Bowl last season — beat the Ducks in Eugene, it would be tough to argue against Sparty as a Playoff contender.

Meanwhile, Ohio State and Michigan will face their toughest non-conference opponents of the season. Win all three, and the Big Ten is in a place it hasn’t been in several years.

That’s a double-edged sword. Losses in those games will hurt, for sure. At the same time, the Big Ten has four games against the MAC and two against Conference USA that aren’t gimmes.

All games Saturday. All times Eastern.


Week 2 Previews and Predictions:

| |  |

1. Michigan State at Oregon
6:30 p.m., Fox

If Michigan State can defeat Oregon in Eugene, will anyone doubt the Spartans’ ability to compete on the national stage? Since the end of last season, Michigan State already has defeated an unbeaten Ohio State and Pac-12 champion Stanford on neutral fields. If Michigan State is going to pull of a win that could vault Sparty into Playoff contender status, the defense will have to contain the no-huddle spread.

Coordinator Pat Narduzzi’s defense has been among the best in the country in recent years, but it has rarely been tested against offense running at a high tempo. Michigan State has allowed opponents to run 75 or more plays only seven times since 2010. Oregon averaged 74.8 plays per game last season.

Meanwhile, Oregon has a little experience against a grinding, run-first offense by playing Stanford every season — it is worth noting Stanford won the last two matchups.

“We see quite a lot of spread offenses over the last four or five years, but just because you’re spread doesn’t mean you do the same things,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “Oregon is certainly cutting edge in terms of offensive philosophy, but think we players not plays.”

Michigan State vs. teams running 75 or more plays

2013MinnesotaW 14-3752493.32
2013Western MichiganW 26-13752042.72
2012NebraskaL 28-24764736.22
2011NorthwesternW 31-17752534.93
2011IowaW 35-27773494.53
2010NorthwesternW 35-27773855.00
2010Notre DameW 34-31 (OT)814615.69
2010Western MichiganW 38-14853233.8


2. Michigan at Notre Dame
7:30 p.m., NBC

Say goodbye to yet another rivalry. As Notre Dame begins its scheduling agreement with the ACC, the Irish are phasing out their Big Ten games. While Michigan State and Purdue games will continue, though not annually, the . That’s a shame as both teams have returned to national relevance. The rivalry has been in Michigan’s favor at 4-1 in the last five meetings, but those games have been decided by an average of six points. Could this game be another shootout? The two teams combined for 1,136 yards of offense in their openers and continue to be limited on defense. Or not. Michigan coach Brady Hoke isn’t when it comes to star freshman cornerback Jabrill Peppers and veteran linebacker Desmond Morgan.


Listen to the Week 2 preview podcast:

3. Virginia Tech at Ohio State
8 p.m., ESPN

How much of the opener against Navy was an aberration? The Buckeyes certainly hope facing a more conventional defense will show a more true picture of what the Buckeyes can do on that side of the ball. “(Defensive end) Joey Bosa didn't come to Ohio State to squeeze down blocks and keep people off his ankles,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said as an example of the challenges of playing Navy. “That's what he had to do last week. He came to rush a quarterback and penetrate.”

The version of Ohio State Meyer hopes to see in Week 2 is the second half edition of first-year starting quarterback J.T. Barrett, who was 4-for-4 for 130 yards with two touchdowns after the break against Navy. Barrett and the Ohio State passing game will face a Bud Foster-coached defense with four returning starters in the secondary. Not an easy matchup.

4. Ball State at Iowa
3:30 p.m., ESPN2

Iowa needed the fourth quarter to pull away from Northern Iowa for a 31-23 win, so the Hawkeyes need to show signs of improvement against the MAC contenders Ball State. Iowa’s offense in particular needs to recover from a lackluster performance against the Panthers. Quarterback Jake Rudock passed for 250 yards and two touchdowns, but needed 41 attempts to get there (6.1 yards per pass). Meanwhile, Iowa’s top two tailbacks didn’t have a run longer than eight yards. Keep an eye on Ball State coach Pete Lembo, whose destined for a high-major coaching job. Lembo is 3-2 against Power 5 teams as coach at Ball State. The wins have been over Indiana twice and Virginia, the losses to Clemson and Oklahoma. This Iowa team is somewhere in between.

5. Akron at Penn State

Penn State makes a one-week turnaround after playing in Dublin a week ago, but Akron may not be the kind of opponent the Nittany Lions want to see after a nail-biting 26-24 win over UCF. In the midst of a turnaround under Terry Bowden, The Zips has won five of its last six. In addition, Akron returns starting quarterback Kyle Pohl and 10 starters to a team that lost one-score games to Michigan, UL Lafayette and Northern Illinois a year ago. Penn State had trouble running the ball against UCF, entrusting the game in Christian Hackenberg’s arm.

6. Northern Illinois at Northwestern
3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

Northwestern’s nightmare 2013 carried into the 2014 opener with a 31-24 loss to a Cal team that went 1-11 last season. Northwestern was disjointed on a number of fronts, including a 23-of-44 with a touchdown and two interception game from Trevor Siemian. The Northwestern defense goes from an uncharacteristically balanced Cal team to an Northern Illinois team that carried 77 times of its 109 plays in its season-opening rout of Presbyterian.

7. Maryland at USF
3:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network

Maryland looked like one of Randy Edsall’s UConn teams in a 52-7 rout of James Madison. Other than the final score, that's not necessarily a great comliment. The run game was prolific (285 yards, five touchdowns) and the defense stifled former Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee. Starting quarterback C.J. Brown, though, went 11-of-24 for 111 yards. Brown called his own performance “.”

8. Middle Tennessee at Minnesota
3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

With seven returning starters on defense, Minnesota passed its first defensive test without Ra’Shede Hageman by shutting out Eastern Illinois before the Panthers tacked on three garbage-time touchdowns. The offense may be more of a question as Mitch Leidner, now the unquestioned starter, went 9-of-17 for 144 yards with a touchdown. David Cobb averaged 5.1 yards per carry in a vintage performance from the Minnesota run game.

9. Western Kentucky at Illinois
Noon, Big Ten Network

Tim Beckman is in for a long season — or perhaps short season — if the Youngstown State game is a preview of things to come. Illinois needed two touchdowns in the final 8:50 to beat the Penguins 28-17. Maybe Wes Lunt, an Oklahoma State transfer back in his home state, needed some time to warm up. He finished 24-of-38 for 285 yards with four touchdowns. Illinois’ struggling defense will need to find a way to stop a Western Kentucky pass game that threw for 569 yards and six touchdowns in a rout of MAC favorite Bowling Green last week.

10. Central Michigan at Purdue
Noon, ESPNews

Purdue escaped a dog fight with Western Michigan to win 43-34 last week, and now the Boilermakers must face the best of the directional Michigans. Central Michigan is no great rushing team, but neither was Western Michigan. The Broncos rolled up 213 yards on the ground and 6.7 yards per carry. Not a great start for Purdue.

11. Western Illinois at Wisconsin
Noon, Big Ten Network

This may be just the kind of game Wisconsin needs to recover from the last week. First came the collapse against LSU, then the miscommunication on the injury for star running back Melvin Gordon, then the revelation that the backup and former starting quarterback Joel Stave has Gordon will be back, but a game against an FCS team with three consecutive losing seasons would be a good time for quarterback Tanner McEvoy to find his footing.

12. Howard at Rutgers
Noon, Big Ten Network

Rutgers will get a warm welcome after rallying in the fourth quarter to beat Washington State 41-38 in Seattle. Rutgers has outscored Howard 127-14 in three meetings since 2006. This is a warm up before the Big Ten opener against Penn State.

13. McNeese State at Nebraska

After Nebraska demolished FAU 55-7 last week, what will the Cornhuskers do against McNeese? FAU is a Conference USA team with bowl aspirations, and Nebraska put up 784 yards, including 498 rushing, on the Owls. Nebraska will play without Randy Gregory, the Big Ten’s sack leader in 2013. Gregory had minor knee surgery Sunday and is expected to return for Fresno State next week.

Off: Indiana

Big Ten Week 2 Picks


GameDavid FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light
Western Ky. at Illinois (-6)WKU 35-27Illinois 38-34Illinois 38-31WKU 37-34

McNeese St. at Nebraska

Neb 49-7Neb 45-10Neb 45-13Neb 51-17
Akron at Penn State (-14 1/2)Akron 24-21PSU 37-21PSU 31-24PSU 37-21
Central Mich. at Purdue (-3 1/2)CMU 17-14Pur 37-31Pur 27-24Pur 31-30
Howard at RutgersRut 42-10Rut 31-10Rut 48-13Rut 37-10
Western Ill. at WisconsinWisc 35-14Wisc 45-7Wisc 48-3Wisc 49-7
Northern Ill. at Northwestern (-7)NIU 35-31NW 34-28NW 31-24NW 31-27
Middle Tenn. at Minnesota (-16)Minn 28-17Minn 34-21Minn 31-17Minn 27-13
Ball State at Iowa (-17)Iowa 21-14Iowa 30-14Iowa 31-20BSU 20-17
Maryland (-12 1/2) at USFMd 28-10Md 30-21Md 34-20Md 41-17
Michigan St. at Oregon (-12)Oregon 35-28Oregon 37-28MSU 31-27Oregon 30-24
Michigan at Notre Dame (-3 1/2)Mich 38-31ND 27-21ND 27-24Mich 27-21
Va. Tech at Ohio State (-11)OSU 24-14OSU 24-13OSU 31-17OSU 21-17
Last Week12-212-212-212-2


Big Ten Week 2 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/acc-2014-week-2-preview-and-predictions


It’s another light slate of games in the ACC in Week 2. Virginia Tech-Ohio State is the only game with national appeal, but there’s intrigue in the Friday night matchup between Pittsburgh and Boston College.

Most of the ACC’s top teams should win big in Week 2, as Florida State takes on Citadel, Clemson hosts South Carolina State, Miami plays Florida A&M and Louisville meets Murray State on Saturday.

It’s hard to learn much from lopsided non-conference games, but Week 2 is all about getting better and finetuning some of the mistakes from Week 1 for the top teams in the conference.


Week 2 Previews and Predictions:

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ACC Week 2 Game Power Rankings


1. Virginia Tech at Ohio State (-11)
8 p.m. ET, ESPN

It’s easy to overreact after one game. However, it’s also easy to see why Virginia Tech’s offense could be better in 2014. Quarterback Michael Brewer was steady in his Hokies’ debut (23 of 30, 251 yards and two scores), while freshmen running backs Shai McKenzie and Marshawn Williams and pass-catchers Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges played a key role in the gameplan. Of course, Saturday’s game against Ohio State will provide a much better barometer test for Virginia Tech. The Hokies’ offensive line should have its hands full against the Buckeyes’ defensive line, which is arguably the best in the nation. With both teams breaking in a new starter at quarterback and youth at the skill positions, this one could be a low-scoring affair. When the Buckeyes have the ball, look for Virginia Tech’s defensive line to challenge Ohio State’s offensive line. The Buckeyes struggled up front in Week 1, and the Hokies recorded four sacks in the opener against William & Mary.


Listen to the Week 2 preview podcast:


2. Pittsburgh (-4.5) at Boston College
7 p.m. ET, ESPN

This is the first meeting between these two schools as members of the ACC. Boston College and Pittsburgh are former Big East rivals but have not played since 2004. Both schools picked up victories in Week 1, but considering the opponents (UMass for Boston College and Delaware for Pittsburgh), it’s hard to take too much away from those games. Expect both teams to lean heavily on the ground in this one, as the Panthers gashed Delaware for 409 yards, and the Eagles recorded 338 against UMass. Neither team should find as much running room this week as they did last Saturday, which should put more emphasis which quarterback can make the most plays (and avoid the big mistake). This game is also a good test for both defenses, as Pittsburgh continues to search for the right mix up front without Aaron Donald, and Boston College has five new starters in the front seven.


3. Georgia Tech (-10) at Tulane
4 p.m. ET, ESPNEWS

Three non-conference games to open the season is a good way for Georgia Tech to develop new quarterback Justin Thomas and find a few answers on the defensive line before ACC play starts. The Yellow Jackets averaged a whopping 8.6 yards per play in the opener against Wofford, with Thomas accounting for 353 total yards and two scores. Georgia Tech is a double-digit favorite in this one, but Tulane should be a tougher test than Wofford. The Green Wave is opening a new stadium on Saturday and averaged seven yards per play against Tulsa. The Yellow Jackets could be tested early, but Thomas’ playmaking ability will be too much for Tulane in the second half.


4. San Diego State at North Carolina (-15)
8 p.m. ET, ESPNEWS

The Tar Heels had a sluggish first half against Liberty but scored 35 second-half points to win 56-29. North Carolina will need a better effort on Saturday, as San Diego State is one of the top teams in the Mountain West. Quarterback Marquise Williams will get the start over Mitch Trubisky, and Williams is hoping to bounce back after tossing two picks last week. The Aztecs won their opener 38-7 over Northern Arizona and feature a talented trio on offense, headlined by quarterback Quinn Kaehler and receiver Ezell Ruffin. San Diego State could hang around for a while, but North Carolina’s explosive offense should get on track after averaging only 4.8 yards per play in the opener.


5. Old Dominion at NC State (-16)
6 p.m. ET, ESPN3

The Wolfpack narrowly avoided an upset in Week 1, scoring 21 points in the second half to beat Georgia Southern 24-23. Coach Dave Doeren’s team should be on upset alert once again, as Old Dominion’s passing offense – led by senior Taylor Heinicke – will be a tough matchup. Heinicke has passed for 11,764 yards in his career. The Monarchs allowed 50.4 points per game against FBS teams last season, which should allow the Wolfpack offense to build off their opening week performance (6.2 yards per play). Quarterback Jacoby Brissett completed 28 of 40 passes for 291 yards and three scores last week and faces an Old Dominion secondary that allowed 407 passing yards to Hampton in Week 1.


6. Duke (-19) at Troy
7 p.m. ET, ESPN3

After cruising to an easy 52-13 win over Elon in Week 1, Duke stays out of conference for another favorable matchup in Week 2. The Blue Devils make the nine-hour trek to Alabama to take on Troy – a team that’s reeling a bit after losing 48-10 to UAB last Saturday. The Trojans allowed 6.6 yards per play to the Blazers in Week 1, which should allow Duke’s offense to move the ball with ease on Saturday. Quarterback Anthony Boone was efficient in Week 1, completing 22 of 33 throws for 247 yards and four scores. The Blue Devils need Boone to play at that level to repeat as Coastal Division champions. Considering the injury to standout linebacker Kelby Brown in the preseason, it’s important for Duke’s defense to build confidence before ACC play starts in late September. The Blue Devils shouldn’t have to sweat much in this one, and the focus for coach David Cutcliffe is keeping everyone healthy and likely playing as many players as possible.


7. Richmond at Virginia
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3

Virginia surprised most by hanging around against UCLA in Week 1, and coach Mike London may have found a quarterback in the process. Sophomore Matt Johns completed 13 of 22 passes for 154 yards and two scores against the Bruins and should be the Cavaliers’ starter on Saturday. If Johns plays well once again this week, it would be a huge boost for a program that has struggled to find consistent quarterback play under London. Richmond ranked as the No. 17 team in this week’s FCS poll and is coached by former Virginia assistant Danny Rocco. Quarterback Michael Strauss is a Virginia transfer and threw for 3,808 yards and 26 scores last year.


8. Citadel at Florida State
7:30 p.m. ET, RSN

The Seminoles can basically pick their final score in this one. Citadel went 5-7 last year was pounded 52-6 by Clemson last November. Florida State wasn’t as dominant in the opener as some expected, but this week’s game should give coach Jimbo Fisher an opportunity to work on a few things.


9. South Carolina State at Clemson
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network

The Tigers should be an angry bunch on Saturday. Clemson was unable to contain Georgia’s rushing attack or generate any offense in the second half of last week’s loss in Athens, but Week 2’s matchup against South Carolina State should allow Dabo Swinney’s team to work out the kinks before ACC play begins against Florida State on Sept. 20. Senior Cole Stoudt is expected to start at quarterback, but true freshman Deshaun Watson will see plenty of snaps.


10. Florida A&M at Miami
7 p.m. ET, ESPN3

After stumbling at Louisville on Monday night, Florida A&M is the perfect rebound opponent for Miami. The Rattlers went 3-9 last season and lost their opener to Jackson State. This game should be a good opportunity for freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya to gain experience after an inconsistent debut against the Cardinals. Kaaya completed 17 of 29 throws for 174 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. His development is critical to Miami’s hopes of contending for the Coastal Division title.

11. Murray State at Louisville
7 p.m. ET, ESPN3

It’s a short turnaround for the Cardinals after playing on Monday night, but coach Bobby Petrino’s team shouldn’t have much trouble with the Racers. Quarterback Will Gardner was efficient (20 of 28) in his debut as Louisville’s starter, and the defense held Miami to just 4.4 yards per play. Gardner should have a huge performance against the Racers, and Petrino should be able to empty his bench on Saturday.


12. Gardner-Webb at Wake Forest
6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3

As Thursday night’s loss to ULM showed, it’s going to be a long year for first-year coach Dave Clawson. Wake Forest managed only five first downs and 94 total yards against the Warhawks, with only one drive going more than 20 yards. Gardner-Webb opened its 2014 campaign with a loss to Furman and represents the Demon Deacons’ best shot at a win this year.

Week 2 ACC Predictions

Va. Tech (+11) at Ohio StOSU 24-14OSU 24-13OSU 31-17OSU 21-17
Pitt (-4.5) at Boston CollegePitt 27-17Pitt 33-21Pitt 27-24Pitt 31-17
Ga. Tech (-10) at TulaneGT 35-21GT 34-21GT 34-20GT 34-20
SDSU (+15) at UNCUNC 28-17UNC 41-28UNC 38-24UNC 30-20
ODU (+16) at NC StateState 28-21State 34-21State 41-30State 38-28
Duke (-19) at TroyDuke 42-21Duke 41-21Duke 45-17Duke 37-17
Richmond at VirginiaUVA 24-10UVA 27-10UVA 31-13UVA 21-20
Citadel at FSUFSU 56-7FSU 49-0FSU 55-3FSU 54-0
FAMU at MiamiMiami 28-10Miami 38-10Miami 45-7Miami 38-10
Murray State at LouisvilleLouisville 42-7Louisville 34-7Louisville 48-7Louisville 44-7
SC State at ClemsonClemson 35-14Clemson 48-7Clemson 52-10Clemson 51-4
Gardner-Webb at WakeWake 21-10Wake 24-13Wake 30-13Wake 17-7


ACC Week 2 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Green Bay Packers, NFC, Seattle Seahawks, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/green-bay-packers-vs-seattle-seahawks-game-preview-and-prediction-2014

The Seattle Seahawks open defense of their Super Bowl crown at home against the Green Bay Packers tonight on NBC to kick off the 2014 NFL regular season. All eyes will be on CenturyLink Field, as the Seahawks take the first step in their attempt to become the first repeat Super Bowl champions since New England in 2003-04. The Packers have won the NFC North each of the past three seasons and enter this season with Super Bowl aspirations of their own.


Pete Carroll’s Seahawks have won 19 of their last 20 games at CenturyLink Field, a stretch that goes back to the last time these two teams met. Seattle defeated Green Bay 14-12 back in Week 3 of the 2012 regular season. Fortunately for Aaron Rodgers and company, there will not be a replacement referee anywhere in sight tonight.


Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks


Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Seattle -6


Three Things to Watch


1.  Seattle’s Super Bowl Hangover?

The Seahawks thoroughly dominated the Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII in February and are a legitimate contender to get back to the big game this season. It’s been more than a decade since a team went back-to-back and only seven teams have ever accomplished the feat (Pittsburgh’s done it twice). Besides history, Seattle also will have to deal with the fac that this is not the same team that won the Lombardi Trophy seven months ago. Five starters and a couple of key reserves from the roster that manhandled the Broncos are gone, including the leading receiver and half of the defensive line. There’s still plenty of talent remaining and some “new” faces who should be immediate contributors, but depth, especially on defense, was one of Seattle’s hallmarks last season. With so much roster turnover and the added expectations of being the defending champions, one can’t help but wonder if it will take a game or two for this team to find its stride. Residing in the NFC West, the toughest division in the NFL, a game or two could be the difference between playing a playoff game at home or on the road. So if Seattle wants to increase its chances of playing in front of its “12th Man,” it can ill afford a flat performance out of the gates, especially against a quality opponent like Green Bay.

2. Green Bay’s re-Packaged Defense

While Green Bay’s offense was statistically superior to Seattle’s last season; there was no contest on the other side of the ball. The Seahawks were No. 1 in the NFL in total, scoring and passing defense, as well as interceptions and turnover differential. Everyone knows about the “Legion of Boom” secondary, but Seattle also was just as effective in rushing the passer and stopping the run. Contrast that to the Packers, who were 25th in the league in total yards allowed and rushing defense and not much better when it came to points and passing yards allowed. Green Bay won a third straight NFC North division title despite going just 8-7-1. Aaron Rodgers’ mid-season collarbone injury had a lot to do with this, but it’s no secret that the defense needs to a better job if the Packers want to be legitimate NFC contenders, let alone beat the Seahawks on the road tonight. The team addressed its defensive deficiencies in the offseason, signing free-agent pass-rush specialist Julius Peppers and using four of its seven draft picks on defenders, highlighted by safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, the No. 21 overall pick out of Alabama. Green Bay also is hoping for a full season from linebacker Clay Matthews and bounce-back campaigns from other key personnel. A strong statement from this beleaguered unit tonight would not only help the offense, which figures to have a tough assignment trying to move the ball against the NFL’s No. 1 defense on its own turf, but also help set the tone moving forward.


3. Dueling All-Purpose Wideouts

When healthy, Randall Cobb and Percy Harvin are among the most dangerous players in the NFL. Not only are both reliable targets in the passing game, they are both explosive return specialists capable of scoring any time they touch the ball. The problem is that both missed more games than they played last season. Cobb broke his leg against Baltimore in Week 6 and didn’t return until the final game of the regular season, while Harvin underwent offseason hip surgery and didn’t appear in a game until Week 17. His biggest contribution came in Seattle’s Super Bowl victory, when he led all rushers with 45 yards (on just two carries) and also took the second half kickoff back 87 yards for a touchdown. The impact Harvin had with those three touches underscores his importance to the Seahawks’ offense, especially now that fellow wide receiver Golden Tate, who was Russell Wilson’s favorite target the past two seasons, is now in Detroit. Meanwhile, a healthy Cobb gives Aaron Rodgers another target with which to attack Seattle’s vaunted secondary. With Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin and rookie Davante Adams at wide receiver and running back Eddie Lacy a capable pass-catcher out of the backfield, Rodgers has quality options to throw to, provided his offensive line gives him enough time in the pocket. Whether Cobb or Havin end up returning kickoffs or punts in this game remains to be seen, but the simple fact that they are options in the return game is yet another indicator why both will be a welcome sight on the field tonight for their respective teams.

Final Analysis


Seattle is the defending Super Bowl champions playing at home, where it has been basically unbeatable (17-1, including playoffs) the past two seasons. Green Bay is certainly no slouch of an opponent, having won its division the past three seasons and nearly beating the Seahawks on their home turf the last time these two teams met. While Seattle has a distinct advantage on defense, Aaron Rodgers will show why he’s a perennial MVP candidate by keeping his team in this one. However, Seattle has its own Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback in Russell Wilson, and in the end the young signal-caller will make enough plays to lead the reigning world champions to victory. I expect there to be plenty of penalty calls due to the crackdown on illegal contact and the physical nature of the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom.” But at least we can take comfort in the fact that tonight, the flags will be thrown by “real” referees.

Prediction: Seattle 27, Green Bay 23
Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 4, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/nfl-2014-regular-and-postseason-predictions

The NFL is back, as the 2014 regular season kicks off Thursday night when Seattle opens defense of its Super Bowl crown at home against Green Bay. With the journey to Super Bowl XLIX set to begin, Athlon’s editors have made their predictions for how the upcoming season and postseason will play out.


The Seahawks are trying to do something that hasn’t been done in more than 10 years — win back-to-back Super Bowls — and as a whole, Athlon’s NFL’s pundits don’t seem to like their chances. Only two of the five editors polled even picked Seattle to make it back to the Super Bowl and even those two don't have them pullong off the rare repeat. On the other hand, three editors not only like Denver's odds of getting back to the Super Bowl, they also have the Broncos finishing the deal this time.

In addition to the predicted standings for every conference, Athlon’s editors also make their Wild Card (WC) picks as well as the respective conference championship game (CG) matchups and their best guess as to which teams will face off in Glendale, Arizona, on Feb. 1 with the Lombardi Trophy on the line.    


AFC East
 Rob Doster
Braden Gall
Steven Lassan
Mark Ross
Nathan Rush
AFC North
AFC South
AFC West
AFC Playoffs
CGBroncos over
Patriots over
Broncos over
Broncos over
Patriots over


NFC East
 Rob Doster
Braden Gall
Steven Lassan
Mark Ross
Nathan Rush
NFC North
NFC South
NFC West
NFC Playoffs
CGSeahawks over
Saints over
Packers over
49ers over
Seahawks over


Super Bowl XLIX

 Rob Doster
Braden Gall
Steven Lassan
Mark Ross
Nathan Rush






NFL 2014 Regular and Postseason Predictions
Post date: Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - 13:00
Path: /college-football/foundation-built-michigan-state-enjoys-new-and-improved-mark-dantonio

Mark Dantonio didn’t set out to be everyone’s favorite coach in the Big Ten.

Seven seasons after he arrived to fix a broken Michigan State program, there’s a sense he still wants to be seen as a full-time taskmaster.

The image, though, is becoming tougher to maintain. Just as Michigan State has shed it’s image of the second fiddle to Michigan, Dantonio has transformed his demeanor, though it’s been an incremental process.

At the conference media day, the Big Ten Network asked one player from each team for the coach — other than their own — for whom he’d want to play.

The leading contender wasn’t the coach with the national titles and name recognition, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer. It wasn’t the younger, effervescent Pat Fitzgerald or James Franklin. The winner, , was Dantonio, one more than Meyer.

At least Dantonio can claim he won a plurality of votes and not the majority, allowing Michigan State to continue to play the underdog card that has worked so well during the last four seasons.

That may change Saturday if Michigan State is able to topple Oregon in Eugene, a game that could allow the Spartans to carry the Big Ten banner for the first College Football Playoff while giving Michigan State wins over national powerhouses in its last four games.

The Dantonio coaching at Autzen Stadium, though, isn’t the same Dantonio who took the job in 2007 after a three-year stint at Cincinnati. For all the changes at Michigan State, including its rise to one of the powers of a changing Big Ten, the biggest transformation may have been Dantonio.

Quarterback Connor Cook is playing for a different coach than the one who signed him. And even more different from the one Dantonio’s first quarterback, Brian Hoyer, knew.

Like Cook, Hoyer played high school football in Cleveland, and the two have remained in contact, including when the now-Cleveland Browns quarterback during spring practice visited East Lansing for the first time since his pro day in 2008.

Much had changed for Hoyer since the last time he was here — including a of the stadium’s north end zone, locker room and recruiting room  — but there was another upgrade Hoyer noticed.

“The main difference wasn’t new facilities,” Cook said. “The main thing was Coach D and how he changed. He’s all business when he’s around the football field and he’s in meetings. When it’s time to have fun, he does have fun. Coach D is human.”

Dantonio brushed off the compliment with the characteristic dry wit.

“Brian’s just older now, but he knows me better,” Dantonio said.

The evidence speaks to itself, though.

Dantonio joined in the now-requisite after a big win, in this case, a 26-9 win over Michigan.

The song, “Type of Way” by Atlanta rapper Rich Homie Quan, became the unofficial theme song of the season when cornerback Darqueze Dennard made popular among the team. By the time Michigan State won the Rose Bowl, Quan was in after the game.

Before the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in 2012, Dantonio — and that was after a 6-6 regular season (7-6 after the bowl).

“He’s way more loose,” Cook said.

Maybe that’s because Michigan State has scaled the Big Ten, winning the school’s first outright league title since 1987 and first Rose Bowl since 1955.

Dantonio certainly couldn’t afford being light when he first took over at Michigan State.

The program had four losing seasons in five years under John L. Smith and Bobby Williams. The Spartans had been known for mystifying in-game collapses, falling apart in the second half season and media histrionics from the head coach in Smith.

“When I came to Michigan State in 2007, the culture needed to be changed,” Dantonio said. “I don’t want to say anything about anyone in the past, but we hadn’t been to a bowl game in a while. We needed to establish who we were and the parameters of our program.”

Re-making Michigan State wasn’t a smooth process. The most visible speed bump came in Dantonio’s second season in 2009 when . Dantonio had given one of the players arrested in the brawl a .

After that season, Michigan State’s program turned a corner that’s included 10 or more wins in three of the last four years.

“I’m here for our players; I like to mentor them,” Dantonio said. “But I tell them when we have a discipline issue, you don’t want someone soft sitting behind the table. You have to establish discipline. That means treating everyone fairly and consistently.”

That’s the Dantonio that Cook first got to know, first through Hoyer and then through the recruiting process.

“Watching in him in high school when I was junior and sophomore to watch Brian Hoyer, I’d see Coach D on the sideline and there was never a smile. None. Not in an interview. Not on the sideline. When I was being recruited, I thought, Coach D is pretty freakin’ intense.”

While Dantonio says he hopes his freshmen now have the same impressions Cook did originally, odds are they don’t.

Perhaps it’s the Big Ten title that’s lightened his mood. Perhaps a mild heart attack in 2010 — — has given him a sense of perspective.

Or perhaps by Year 8, the discipline is ingrained enough in the program, as safety Kurtis Drummond said. That leaves Dantonio a little wiggle room to enjoy himself.

“You’ve got to start off strong. You have to lay a foundation,” Drummond said. “The respect is definitely there. He doesn’t need to be as stern anymore because guys understand.”

Foundation Built, Michigan State Enjoys New and Improved Mark Dantonio
Post date: Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - 11:23