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Path: /college-football/lsu-tigers-vs-mississippi-state-bulldogs-2014-game-preview-and-prediction

Mississippi State and LSU open SEC play with an intriguing and critical conference matchup in Baton Rouge on Saturday night. This game likely will be overshadowed nationally by Florida-Alabama and Florida State-Clemson, but the meeting between the Bulldogs and Tigers could end up being one of the best games of Week 4.

One game should never define a coach’s tenure at a program, but Saturday’s game is a huge opportunity for Mississippi State and coach Dan Mullen. In six seasons, Mullen is 39-28 and has guided the Bulldogs to four consecutive bowl appearances. Expectations are always high at a SEC program. But realistically, it’s tough to consistently win big at Mississippi State – especially with Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Texas A&M are top 10 teams. Mullen is doing a good job at one of the SEC’s toughest jobs, but the Pennsylvania native has yet to beat a team ranked in the top 10. Again, expectation levels for each fan are different, but while Mullen is doing a good job in Starkville, it’s time to take the next step as a program and beat one of the top programs in the SEC.


Players depart, new starters emerge and LSU doesn’t miss a beat. That’s the theme in Baton Rouge under Les Miles, as the Tigers have won at least 10 games in four consecutive years. Even though the win over Wisconsin was a solid non-conference victory, how much did we learn about LSU against a one-dimensional offense? And it’s hard to read too much into the Tigers’ blowout wins over ULM and Sam Houston State.


LSU has not lost to Mississippi State since 1999. But the Bulldogs have not won in Baton Rouge since 1991.


Mississippi State at LSU


Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: LSU -9.5


Three Things to Watch


1. MSU’s Front Seven vs. LSU’s Rushing Attack

Mississippi State’s upset hopes likely rest on its ability to stop the run. LSU’s offensive line is a veteran group that ranks among the best in the SEC. The Tigers boast a solid yards per carry (4.3), and the offense is averaging 226.3 rushing yards per game. Also, LSU is tied for third in the SEC with seven rushes of 20 or more yards. Five Tigers have at least 20 rushes, with Kenny Hilliard and Leonard Fournette leading the way as the team’s top options. Hilliard and Fournette will test a Mississippi State defense that has allowed just one rushing score on 103 attempts. The Bulldogs rank No. 2 in the SEC against the run and are holding opponents to 2.3 yards per carry. Additionally, Mississippi State leads the SEC with 29 tackles for a loss, and there’s no shortage of depth up front, headlined by end Preston Smith and tackles P.J. Jones and Chris Jones. If the Bulldogs can stop LSU’s power (and run-first offense), then this forces extra pressure on quarterback Anthony Jennings.


2. LSU’s Big-Play Passing Offense

Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris were locked into a tight battle for the starting quarterback job in the preseason, and both players were expected to play early in the year to sort out the No. 1 spot. But after three games, Anthony Jennings has seized control of the starting job. So far, Jennings has produced a mixed bag of results. The good: Averaging 20.9 yards per completion. The bad: Completing only 51.9 percent of throws. If LSU establishes its ground attack, Jennings will have ample opportunities to hit big plays downfield to top target Travin Dural (30.8 ypc). However, what if the Tigers can’t get anything going on the ground and Jennings has to win it through the air? Is he ready to do that in his fifth career start? Big plays are always a positive for any offense. Can Jennings show consistency to move the ball downfield in smaller chunks if the Bulldogs play deep to prevent the big play?


3. LSU’s Defense vs. Dak Prescott

The growth of LSU’s defense is something to monitor over the course of 2014. The Tigers lost a couple of key players from last year’s unit, including both starting defensive tackles. But so far, this defense hasn’t missed a beat. LSU has not allowed a point in 147:24 minutes of game action and is limiting opponents to just 3.5 yards per play. This defense is young (only three projected seniors in the lineup) but incredibly talented. Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott will be the best quarterback the Tigers have played this year, so this is a much tougher test than the Wisconsin, Sam Houston State and ULM offenses. Prescott is the catalyst for the Bulldogs’ offense, averaging 323 yards per game and has scored 11 touchdowns in three contests. The junior isn’t the only weapon on offense for Mullen, as receiver Jameon Lewis and running back Josh Robinson provide plenty of big-play ability.


Final Analysis


LSU has been impressive so far this year, but this is the first real test for Les Miles’ team. Mississippi State’s offense has more balance than Wisconsin, and quarterback Dak Prescott will test the Tigers’ stout run defense and secondary. If the Bulldogs are going to break through with a big win, this is the perfect opportunity. However, even though Mississippi State’s rush defense should be able to hold its own against LSU, the Tigers will find a way to win this game in the fourth quarter.  


Prediction: LSU 27, Mississippi State 20

LSU Tigers vs. Mississippi State 2014 Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 19, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/florida-state-seminoles-vs-clemson-tigers-2014-game-preview-and-prediction

Florida State’s ACC title defense begins on Saturday night, as the Seminoles host Clemson in one of the conference’s emerging rivalries. Coach Jimbo Fisher’s team opened the year with a closer-than-expected win over Oklahoma State and cruised to an easy win over Citadel in Week 2.


A win over Clemson would give Florida State an early commanding lead in the Atlantic Division, and allow Fisher and his team to cross one of the few hurdles on a schedule that is considered one of the most favorable in the nation.


Fisher would prefer the focus of Week 4 to be strictly on Clemson-Florida State, but instead, he’s dealing with a controversy surrounding quarterback Jameis Winston. The sophomore was suspended for the first half of Saturday’s game due to inappropriate comments made on campus earlier in the week. And on Friday night, the defending heisman winner was suspended for the entire game. Sophomore Sean Maguire will start in place of Winston, but the Seminoles are still a 16-point favorite over the Tigers.


Florida State has won three out of the last four meetings against Clemson. The Tigers have not won in Tallahassee since 2006.


Clemson at Florida State


Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Florida State -16.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Sean Maguire's Debut

With Jameis Winston suspended for the entire game, how will coach Jimbo Fisher approach Sean Maguire’s first start? Will the Seminoles attempt to use up as much clock as possible in order to limit Clemson’s opportunities without Winston in the lineup? Or will Fisher allow Maguire to have the full playbook at his disposal? Maguire has been solid in limited action (16 of 26 for 144 yards and two scores), but this is the biggest test of his career. Luckily for Maguire, he has one of the nation’s top supporting casts at his disposal. Karlos Williams and Mario Pender headline a deep backfield, receiver Rashad Greene is averaging 18.9 yards per reception, and the offensive line features five senior starters. Maguire doesn’t need to win this game on his own, as simply managing the offense and limiting mistakes would be enough for Florida State.


2. Florida State’s Defense

Without Winston, every other unit on Florida State’s team has to step up. The defense held an explosive Clemson offense to just 14 points last year, and the Tigers will have their hands full with the Seminoles once again. Coordinator Chad Morris is breaking in a new quarterback (Cole Stoudt), has a committee of options at running back, and no longer has Sammy Watkins or Martavis Bryant at receiver. But Morris is one of the nation’s best play-callers, and Clemson is averaging 6.1 yards per play through two contests. Stoudt threw for 302 yards against South Carolina State but struggled against Georgia (16 of 29, 144 yards). Freshman Deshaun Watson will also see time under center and could see more snaps if Stoudt struggles early. Freshman Artavis Scott is emerging as one of the top targets at receiver, while four running backs have at least 10 carries in 2014. Florida State’s defense is under the direction of a new coordinator (Charles Kelly), but this unit returns a good chunk of its core from last year’s title team. Can Clemson’s offense pickup where it left off against South Carolina State? Or is this unit closer to the offense that struggled to get on track against Georgia? Defensive tackle was arguably the biggest concern for the Seminoles this preseason, and injuries hit the position hard against Citadel. However, all signs point to Eddie Goldman and Nile Lawrence-Stample playing on Saturday night, which is bad news for a suspect Clemson offensive line.


3. Florida State’s OL vs. Clemson’s DL

This is a matchup of strength versus strength. Florida State’s line features five senior starters, while Clemson’s starting four on the defensive front is also comprised of seniors. In last year’s matchup, the Tigers recorded six tackles for a loss and three sacks against the Seminoles. If Clemson wants to pull off the upset, it needs to up those totals in 2014 and limit the pressure on its secondary. Winston torched the Tigers for 444 yards last year, and regardless of who is under center for Florida State, a similar theme could play out if end Vic Beasley and tackle Grady Jarrett don’t win the battle at the point of attack.


Final Analysis


Will Florida State be aggressive or play it safe with Maguire under center? As long as Maguire doesn’t make a huge mistake and put the Seminoles in a deficit, the Seminoles should cruise in the second half to a convincing win. Clemson has the necessary talent to pull an upset but several factors have to go its way. The Tigers were a better team last year and was easily handled by the Seminoles in Death Valley. Without Winston, the door is open for Clemson to hang around in this game. Even with Maguire making his first start, Florida State has simply too much talent to lose on Saturday night.


Prediction: Florida State 30, Clemson 20

Florida State Seminoles vs. Clemson Tigers 2014 Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 19, 2014 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-college-football-2014-week-4-picks

I really wanted to take Mizzou (-10) and Washington (-14) last weekend but couldn’t pull the trigger and it cost me… again.


I am teetering around .500 and need a big week to bounce back. The good news is Mitch Light (27-18-1) has been crushing the Top 25 (below), while I have had a winning record each week in Top 25 picks (25-20-1).


I'm going to shake it up this week and only address the big games (and a few others) and see if it works.


Last Week: 3-4

Year-to-Date: 8-10


Florida (+15) at Alabama

The Tide is a better team; there is no arguing that. But this game would have to be pretty high scoring for Alabama to cover the spread. Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel operates a type of offense that has worked against Bama in the past, and the Tide is 0-3 against the number this season. Alabama wins easily — by 10 points. Prediction: Florida +15


Oklahoma (-7) at West Virginia

This game has gotten a lot more run nationally than expected and lends me to believe that Oklahoma will be ready. The Sooners should dominate the line of scrimmage and has the secondary to slow down the WVU passing attack. Seven doesn’t feel like enough points here at all. Everyone is taking the Mountaineers, so I am going the other way. Prediction: Oklahoma -7


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Mississippi St (+10) at LSU

Historically, State has struggled mightily in Baton Rouge and against LSU overall. But this is Dan Mullen’s best team and the Tigers are extremely young. Additionally, LSU hasn’t faced an opposing quarterback that is even in the same conversation as Dak Prescott. LSU wins with some Les Miles magic late but it will be a battle to the end. Prediction: Mississippi State +10


Indiana (+13.5) at Missouri

Very quietly, the Mizzou Tigers have blown out two quality opponents and covered the spread the last two weeks. Indiana is a nice team — better than the Sam Houston States of the world — but the Tigers operate on a different level along both lines of scrimmage and at quarterback. Mizzou big against an IU team that is winless against the number this year. Predictions: Mizzou -13.5


N. Illinois (+13.5) at Arkansas

There will be a lot of rushing yards in this game and the over is looking nice (65). Arkansas should dominate the line of scrimmage exactly the way it did last weekend against Texas Tech. Look for a similar score as well — something in that 49-28 range. Prediction: Arkansas -13.5


Top 25 Picks ATS:


Top 25Braden Gall Mitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
Clemson (+16) at Florida St 
Oregon (-24) at Wazzu 
Florida (+15) at Alabama 
Oklahoma (-7) at W. Virginia 
Texas A&M (-33.5) at SMU 
Mississippi St (+10) at LSU 
E. Michigan (+45) at Michigan St 
Troy (+41) at Georgia 
S. Carolina (-21.5) at Vanderbilt 
Indiana (+13.5) at Missouri 
B. Green (+27) at Wisconsin 
Virginia (+14) at BYU 
Miami (+7) at Nebraska 
Last Week:9-7-1 7-9-16-10-17-9-1
YTD:25-20-1 27- 18-120-25-121-24-1


Betting Against the Spread: College Football 2014 Week 4 Picks
Post date: Friday, September 19, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/miami-hurricanes-vs-nebraska-cornhuskers-game-preview-and-prediction

There’s plenty of history between Miami and Nebraska, but when these two teams play on Saturday night, the focus will shift to 2014 and two programs that are looking to reclaim their place among college football’s elite.

After going 9-3 in back-to-back years from 2004-05, Miami is just 57-44 since 2006 (and 72-50 if you include 2004-05). Nebraska saw its share of ups and downs since 2004, including a 5-6 mark ('04) and a 5-7 record in 2007. However, the Cornhuskers have fared much better in its overall mark, recording an 84-46 mark since the start of the 2004 season.


A win on Saturday night won’t move Miami or Nebraska back to the top of college football’s elite. But this game has plenty of importance for both programs as a key non-conference matchup, as well as a good barometer test before conference play begins in full.

The all-time series is tied at five between Nebraska and Miami. The last meeting was in the 2001 Rose Bowl, with the Hurricanes winning 37-14.


Miami at Nebraska


Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Nebraska -7.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Quarterback play

As simple as it sounds, this is where the game could be won or lost. Miami’s Brad Kaaya and Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong are two quarterbacks with bright futures. However, both quarterbacks are still developing, and with a tight game expected, a mistake or two could be magnified. Kaaya – a true freshman – has thrown for 693 yards and seven touchdowns on 45 completions. Kaaya is coming off his best performance of 2014 (342 yards, four scores) and faces a Nebraska secondary that has allowed just two passing touchdowns. Of course, the Cornhuskers haven’t exactly faced the gauntlet of quarterbacks, but the secondary is limiting opponents to just 9.4 yards per completion. On the other sideline, Armstrong is off to a fast start, completing 43 passes for 773 yards and seven scores. The sophomore has only one interception and has been an effective runner (258 yards, 9.6 ypc). Considering Armstrong’s experience and growth from 2013 to 2014, the edge at quarterback should go to Nebraska. Can Kaaya pickup where he left off against Arkansas State? Or will the Cornhuskers’ defense simply be too much?


2. Improvement for Miami’s defense?

The Hurricanes struggled mightily on defense last year. But through three games, there’s some optimism in Coral Gables for some improvement on the stat sheet in 2014. Miami is allowing only 19.3 points per game through three weeks, a significant step forward after giving up 26.8 in 2013. The Hurricanes are also allowing 3.7 yards per play, a major improvement after allowing 5.8 last year. And Mark D’Onofrio’s group has been tougher against the run so far, giving up just 2.0 yards per rush after giving up 4.4 last year. Considering Miami was big favorites in two out of its three games, it’s tough to read too much into these stats. However, the addition of junior college recruit Calvin Heurtelou, along with the steady play of senior linebacker Denzel Perryman has made Miami’s front seven a tougher matchup for opposing offenses. But will that hold true on Saturday? Nebraska’s offensive line and rushing attack will be the best Miami has played this year. Can running back Ameer Abdullah find rushing lanes? Or will the Hurricanes hold the Cornhuskers to less than three yards per carry?


3. Ameer Abdullah vs. Duke Johnson

Normally, we would devote one of the three keys to breaking down a matchup, but let’s give some attention to the battle at running back on Saturday night. Ameer Abdullah and Duke Johnson were both popular selections on preseason All-America teams, and neither have done anything to dispel the notion they will finish with high accolades this year. Johnson is returning from a leg injury that ended his 2013 season early, but the junior has yet to show any rust. In three games, Johnson is averaging 6.4 yards per carry and has scored twice. Abdullah has already provided one of the year’s highlight plays by taking a short reception for a 58-yard score to beat McNeese State. The senior ranks second among Big Ten rushers by averaging 132.0 yards per game and leads the conference with 17 runs of 10 or more yards. Watching two of the nation’s top 10 running backs makes the Nebraska-Miami matchup one of the key reasons to tune in on Saturday night.


Final Analysis

In terms of name value, it doesn’t get much better than Nebraska and Miami. While both programs have dropped in national hierarchy in recent years, this game still has plenty of intrigue. The battle between Duke Johnson and Ameer Abdullah will produce plenty of highlights, but quarterback play and defense will decide this one. Can Kaaya be trusted to win a huge road test? Will Miami’s defense revert to its old form against a good offense? For the Cornhuskers, can Armstrong continue his solid start to the season? With this game in Lincoln, combined with an edge at quarterback, Nebraska should win this one by a touchdown or 10 points.

Prediction: Nebraska 31, Miami 24

Miami Hurricanes vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 19, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/big-answers-auburn-nick-marshall-will-have-wait

Resounding answers about Auburn’s ability to defend its SEC title will have to wait.


Perhaps that’s a strange statement given a 20-14 win on the road against a ranked Kansas State team, but the Tigers didn’t need to show a mastery of the passing game or overwhelming defense for this win.


Auburn did to Kansas State what it proved it could do a year ago — Gus Malzhan’s team won’t squander opportunities. And Kansas State gave Auburn plenty of time to atone for early third-down issues, a slow start in the passing game and an uncharacteristically quiet day on the ground.


Kansas State’s three missed field goals and three turnovers sealed Auburn’s win as much as Nick Marshall’s arm.


"We should have won that," Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters told the media. "There is no excuse. It almost hurts worse. It is frustrating because you work so hard to get in those situations and to play a great team like that."


The Wildcats followed a plan most SEC teams are sure to follow this season — shut down the run game and make Nick Marshall prove he’s improved as a passer. A year ago, Auburn backed off the passing attack and allowed Marshall’s legs and Tre Mason to carry the way.


Kansas State held Auburn to 128 rushing yards on 45 carries. Auburn accounted for more yards through the air (231) than on the ground for only the second time under Malzahn and the first time since a loss to Mississippi State on Sept. 14, 2013.


The Auburn passing game was far from consistent as drops from D’haquille Williams and Sammie Coates and tipped passes at the line prevented Auburn from extending drives and cost one probable touchdown. Marshall and his receivers eventually settled in, converting 10 of their final 13 third down attempts and delivering on a 39-yard pass on third-and-9 to seal the game.


"Nick is always level headed, and he keeps his spirits up no matter what," Auburn running back Cameron Artis-Payne told the media after the game. "Whether he completes three passes in a row or whether he gets ten drops in a row, he is our leader so we look to him."


And the Auburn defense? Holding Kansas State to 285 yards and 4.1 yards per play should be noted. Kansas State managed only 40 rushing yards.


At the same time, Kansas State managed fair amount of self-sabotage with missed field goals of 34, 42 and 22 yards and an interception from the 1-yard line. On its first six trips inside Auburn’s 40-yard line, Kansas State scored 7 points. An extra 13 points, certainly would make those yardage figures seem awfully hollow.


In other words, not a very Bill Snyder-like performance in terms of turnovers and efficiency.


For that, Auburn has to be thankful. The Tigers leave Manhattan with all playoff dreams intact even if the team remains a work in progress.

Big Answers for Auburn, Nick Marshall Will Have to Wait
Post date: Friday, September 19, 2014 - 08:30
Path: /college-basketball-2014-15-stanford-cardinal-team-preview

College basketball season is creeping up fast, and Athlon Sports is counting down to Midnight Madness and the start of practice on Oct. 17. 


No. 21 Stanford enters 2014-15 after its first NCAA Tournament appearance in six years seasons, a run that resulted in an upset of Kansas and a trip to the Sweet 16. The Cardinal follows that with a veteran core and standout signing class that could keep Stanford in the NCAA conversation.


The Stanford edition is one of dozens available in our  and on newsstands everywhere this week.


The pressure is off coach Johnny Dawkins and his Cardinal, but the bar is now set higher. Dawkins’ future with Stanford was in question throughout his sixth season until a late run gave the program its first NCAA Tournament bid during his tenure. An upset victory over Kansas advanced the Cardinal into the Sweet 16 and gave fans a reason to expect an encore performance.


“It benefits us going forward because we’re returning three guys who were part of a really good run at the end of the year, guys who have accomplished things,” Dawkins says. “That’s a big part of us going forward.” 


Stanford returns three starters, including senior guard Chasson Randle, but must find replacements at forward for NBA Draft picks Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis, who combined for 43 percent of the team’s rebounding total.


Even before being given a contract extension, Dawkins had landed a recruiting class that ranks among the nation’s top 20. That group will merge with the returnees to create a roster that should compete for a return trip to the NCAAs.



No. 21 Stanford Facts & Figures

Last season: 23-13, 10-8 Pac-12

Postseason: NCAA Sweet 16

Consecutive NCAAs: 1

Coach: Johnny Dawkins (117-87 at Stanford, 49-59 Pac-12)

Pac-12 Projection: Third

Postseason Projection: NCAA round of 32




Senior center Stefan Nastic returns after an unexpected late-season surge in which he averaged 11.7 points in three NCAA games and shot a stunning 87.1 percent (27-for-31) from the field over the team’s final seven outings. “He really had a presence for us, playing with passion and intensity,” Dawkins says. “He needs to keep developing offensively and stay out of foul trouble.” Nastic fouled out nine times last season.


Sophomore Rosco Allen, who played one game last season before being shelved by a stress fracture in his foot, will get the chance to win the job at small forward. “We missed his versatility,” Dawkins says. “He has a good feel for the game, the ability to pass the ball. He thinks the game very well.”


A key is freshman power forward Reid Travis, who had a minor arthroscopic procedure on his knee in July but is expected to be fully recovered well before practice begins. “He’s got a heck of a motor,” Dawkins says.




Randle and Anthony Brown give the Cardinal the Pac-12’s most experienced backcourt tandem. Randle has been a starter his entire career and last season produced 16 games of 20 or more points. Dawkins believes he “will be in the conversation” for Pac-12 Player of the Year.


Stanford again figures to at least start the season without a true point guard, using Randle to bring the ball up court and then shifting him to the wing. “Chasson is a scorer by nature,” Dawkins says. “We don’t want to take that away from him. We’re going to tweak what we do based on our personnel.”


While Powell was Stanford’s top assist man last season, Dawkins is eager to see what he gets from freshman point Robert Cartwright. “We think he can come in and contribute,” the coach says. “He has the mindset for it.”


Brown, who rebounded nicely last season after missing the 2012-13 campaign with a hip injury, gives Stanford defensive length and a perimeter scoring threat from the wing. He averaged just 6.5 points over the final four games, but Dawkins likes his upside. “He’s had moments where he’s as good as any player at his position in the country,” Dawkins says. “His growth will be in realizing how good he can be and be that player every game.”


Sophomore Marcus Allen (twin of teammate Malcolm but unrelated to Rosco Allen), had a solid freshman campaign as a combo guard and should play an elevated role.


Final Analysis


Dawkins has much to replace with the departures of Powell and Huestis, but he has a nice returning nucleus, led by Randle, whose confidence should be at a peak entering the season. Stanford’s strong recruiting class will have to contribute immediately, but there is reason for optimism.


“I think we’re a team that can develop and learn the things we have to do,” says Dawkins, alluding to defense and rebounding in particular. “If we can shore those areas up, I think we can be a tournament-caliber team.”


Returning to the NCAA Tournament is not a make-or-break proposition for Dawkins and his team. But it’s now the expectation, and the Cardinal have enough parts to make a legitimate run at an upper-division Pac-12 finish and another NCAA bid.




Power forward Reid Travis, a McDonald’s All-American, is physically mature enough at 6-8, 240 pounds to immediately step into the lineup. Johnny Dawkins says Travis’ offensive game is more developed at the same stage than former Cardinal star Mark Madsen. Robert Cartwright, the team’s only true point guard, will get the chance to play early. Forward Michael Humphrey needs to add strength to his length.

College Basketball 2014-15: Stanford Cardinal Team Preview
Post date: Friday, September 19, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /free-hugs-angry-tweets-and-kicker-swag-week-kicking

In just another example of the madness of a college football season, much of the most dramatic swings come down to players who weren’t recruited and may or may not be on scholarship.


As we learned this week, the coach might not even speak to such a pivotal piece of the puzzle.


The last week proved again how college kickers can surprise and infuriate — and also why they go through a different experience than the rest of college football players.


“No one really knows what a specialist goes through unless you’re another specialist at this level,” said Kentucky’s Austin MacGinnis, whose 51-yard attempt in the fourth quarter tied a game with Florida. “It’s such a different sport within itself.”


Let’s give that a try in a look back at what life’s like for a college kicker.




Adam Butler’s teammates saw the moment happen in real time. His coach, Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason, didn’t see it until he started breaking down film. His aunt saw it on TV.


Millions of others saw the moment on TV or on social media.


Pretty much everyone Adam Butler knows had one question after Vanderbilt escaped with a 34-31 win over UMass on Saturday:


Why did the Vanderbilt defensive lineman hug that kicker?

“I didn’t realize that we had two seconds left,” Butler told Athlon Sports. “I thought the game was over. I thought he was the first person I’d say ‘Good game’ to. I said good game and get us next time.”


It was also a sweet moment. The UMass kicker, Blake Lucas, had just missed a 22-yard chip shot that would have tied the game with two seconds to go. UMass had led the game by 11 in the second half and had a real chance to put together a signature win for the program.


Understandably, Lucas didn’t take the gesture the same way.


“He said ‘get off me,’” Butler told Athlon Sports. “That’s normal, though. He might have taken it as me being a jerk.


“It was our first win. I was excited. I didn’t know what I was doing in the moment. I felt for the guy.”




For the second time in two seasons, South Carolina kicker Elliott Fry was on the other side of an opponents’ missed kick that led to vitriol on Twitter.


A year ago, South Carolina defeated Missouri 27-24 in double overtime. The Tigers still won the SEC East but the loss at the time seemed to be a major blow.


And who was to blame? According to some Missouri fans, Andrew Baggett, who missed a 46-yarder in the fourth quarter and a 22-yarder in overtime. Some Missouri fans filled Baggett’s mentions with angry, profane tweets.


Proving that no one is immune from such reaction, Georgia’s Marshall Morgan took the brunt of frothing fans on social media. Never mind that Morgan set an SEC record with 20 consecutive made field goals thanks to two makes in the first half against South Carolina.


A missed 28-yarder that would have tied the game in the fourth, though, was enough to make a vocal segment of fans forget the 20 consecutive field goals.


Georgia lost 38-35, and Morgan’s Twitter mentions were filled with taunts of “You had one job” and blame for the Bulldogs’ defeat.


By now, most of Morgan’s mentions are those of support, starting with the kicker on the other sideline.



Fry doesn’t know Morgan that well personally, but they’ve attended the same kicking camps and are part of an unofficial fraternity of specialists.


“Those situations, they can be tough,” Fry told Athlon Sports. “After that happens, a late field missed in a game, I’ve seen the tweets people say terrible things, talking about killing the guy.”


As Morgan may learn, fans can be fickle with kickers. Fry, for example, missed early field goals in games against Missouri and Florida only for South Carolina to win the game later in part due to Fry’s field goals.


“You look at your phone after and you can see how quickly fans change on you. You open twitter and it’s fun . You see ‘Fry sucks’ and other worse things. You see it go from complete hatred to praise.”




Then again, maybe it’s just nice to be acknowledged.


West Virginia picked up a key win with a 40-37 win over Maryland. And what did Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen say to Josh Lambert before his game-winning 47-yard kick on the road?


Nothing. Not then, not ever, apparently.


“I haven’t talked to Josh Lambert since he got on campus, and we’re going to keep in that way,” Holgorsen .


“He’s a guy we have complete confidence in when it comes to make that shot. I know his name and who he is, but other than that, I’d doing the hands-off approach.”


Lambert is a redshirt sophomore and has been West Virginia’s primary kicker for two years.




Kentucky fans might not have too much trouble remembering the name Austin MacGinnis after last week.


MacGinnis got both the highs and lows of the kicking experience in only his third game at Kentucky.


A redshirt freshman, MacGinnis kicked a 51-yard field goal with 3:26 remaining to tie the Gators at 20. Kentucky hasn't defeated Florida since 1986 and not at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium since 1979.


In other words, quite the pressure situation for a kid whose last field goal came two years ago in high school in Wedowee, Ala.


“It was loud there for sure, but you try to block it out as a soothing noise rather than a bad noise,” MacGinnis said.


MacGinnis missed a 41-yard attempt in the third OT, but even a make may not have stopped the Gators — they scored a touchdown on their possession to win 36-30.


MacGinnis said he didn’t any grief on Twitter for his overtime miss — not that it would have mattered given the final score — but he did see Fry backing up Morgan on Twitter from earlier in the evening.


The SEC kicking fraternity has one more member, and another one with a sense of humor at that.


MacGinnis’ bio for Kentucky says he picked No. 99 because — and this is not a lie — “.”


“I don’t know really why I put that down, but everyone thinks of a kicker as the last number you can have, like the last guy on the team,” MacGinnis said. “Kickers always look like the little kid that doesn’t belong, so the number kind of matches.”




When a kick goes wrong, a fellow kicker may be the only ones with a sense of empathy — even moreso than defensive linemen offering free hugs after a shanked kick.


When UMass’ Lucas missed his 22-yarder, former Vanderbilt kicker Carey Spear watched from the sideline and winced.


He wanted his former team to win, for sure, but not like this. Not at the expense of another kicker.


The missed field goal was salt in the wound for Spear, who missed a 27-yard attempt in 2011 that would have tied a game against a top-10 Arkansas team. Spear didn’t attempt another field goal the rest of the season.


Spear returned for the next two seasons to go 35-of-43 on field goals the rest of his career.


“I definitely felt more for him,” Spear said. “I think it will make him a better kicker if he learns how to handle it. It’s a defining moment in some guys’ careers.”

Free hugs, angry tweets and that kicker swag: A week in kicking
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 16:20
Path: /college-football/texas-tech-fires-co-defensive-coordinator-matt-wallerstedt

It’s unusual to see changes in the coordinator ranks just three weeks into the season, but Texas Tech has decided to fire co-defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt.

Wallerstedt was fired one week after the Red Raiders’ defense was gashed for 438 rushing yards in the 49-28 loss to Arkansas.

However, according to reports, Wallerstedt’s firing isn’t related to Texas Tech’s on-field performance.

that Wallerstedt was fired after being under the influence of an unknown substance in the school’s football building.

Wallerstedt shared the defensive play-calling with Mike Smith, and Smith is going to call the plays for the remainder of the 2014 season.

Most of Smith’s experience as a coach is in the NFL ranks, including three years with the Jets.

Smith played linebacker at Texas Tech from 2001-04 and recorded 104 tackles during the 2012 season.

With only three returning starters, Texas Tech’s defense was expected to be a work in progress in 2014. And so far, the Red Raiders have struggled on that side of the ball.

The Red Raiders are allowing 5.2 yards per play and ranked last in the Big 12 by giving up 36.7 points per contest.

An infusion of junior college recruits was slated to help the defensive line, but Texas Tech has just three sacks in three games and was dominated by Arkansas last Saturday – a week after struggling against UTEP.

Smith will have three tough opponents to open his tenure as the defensive coordinator, starting with the Sept. 25 date at Oklahoma State, followed by games against Kansas State and West Virginia.

Texas Tech Fires Co-Defensive Coordinator Matt Wallerstedt
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 15:04
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-september-18-2014

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for September 18:


• With the new schedule gearing up, enjoy , including the still-enticing Tea Leoni.


. Of course, Hansel's not as hot as he once was.




, who has all but disappeared.


• Artifact of the day: . So where do you see yourself in five years, Mr. Brady?


• Inspirational story of the day: .






for him, funny for the rest of us.


• Ever wonder how NFL ref Ed Hochuli maintains those guns of his? .




• Watch Brandon McCarthy's immaculate inning — nine pitches, nine strikes, three outs.



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

Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 10:44
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/nfls-0-2-teams-ranking-their-chances-making-playoffs

The reality in the NFL is that teams generally can’t afford slow starts. Unlike in other sports, there just aren’t enough games to absorb an early stumble. The percentage of teams that lose their opener and go on to make the playoffs is low. It’s exponentially lower for 0-2 teams, and the odds are virtually non-existent at 0-3.

So there are seven teams, all 0-2, on the dangerous hot seat as they head into a “must-win” Week 3 showdown against somebody. Most of them probably already have no shot at making the playoffs. Anyone that loses next week definitely won’t.

So of the seven two-time losers, who has the best shot at pulling off a stunning turnaround and salvaging their season? Here’s a look at their chances in order of most likely to save their season all the way down to most likely to already be done:


Playoff bound

New Orleans Saints (Next up: vs. Minnesota Vikings) – They were victimized by two surprising collapses and some shockingly bad performances by their once-respected defense. But it’s important to remember that both their first two losses were on the road (at Atlanta, at Cleveland). They still have the ability to score in bunches (they are 2nd in the NFL with 29 points per game and 3rd with 434.5 yards) and they still have all-pro quarterback Drew Brees and an assortment of weapons. Their return to the Superdome to face a Vikings team reeling from the Adrian Peterson mess should be one of the easiest bets of the year, and don’t be surprised if the Saints take off from there.

Indianapolis Colts (Next up: at Jacksonville Jaguars) – Whom did the Colts anger in the NFL office that they drew an opening game at Denver and a Week 2 game against the Philadelphia Eagles? That immediately put their thin defense, their powerful offense, and their come-from-behind abilities to the test. They nearly did pull things out in Denver, falling by a touchdown, and their defense coughed up the game against the Eagles. The Jaguars, Ravens and Texans are next, which should give Andrew Luck and his team a chance to get right back on track.

Outside shot

New York Giants (Next up: vs. Houston Texans) – They have looked absolutely terrible in the first two games, on offense and on defense. But here’s the thing: They spent $116 million in the offseason to improve the roster and they brought in a whole new offensive coaching staff. They are destined to be better than they were last year, but putting all the pieces together will take time. They don’t have that, of course, but they’ll buy themselves some if they can beat the Texans at home on Sunday. Eli Manning and the offense showed signs of life in a loss to Arizona, and in theory it will only get better from there. 

Forget it

Kansas City Chiefs (Next up: at Miami Dolphins) – Their offensive line has been terrible and their already shaky offense has paid the price, and that was before the loss of running back Jamaal Charles. And really, this was coming last season when the Chiefs faded as bad as anyone down the stretch. The problem now is the schedule does them no favors. The Dolphins look pretty good, they play the Patriots, then at San Francisco, then at San Diego. They may be the best of the remaining 0-2 teams, but forget about them turning this around during a stretch like that.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Next up: at Atlanta Falcons) – You were expecting more out of a Josh McCown led offense on a team where Jonathan Martin gets just nine carries in two games. Lovie Smith took over a rebuilding project in Tampa and it’s obviously going to take some time. Last week’s game against St. Louis was his best opportunity to get an early win. Now the Bucs hit the road for a three-game trip against the Falcons, Steelers and Saints? They just don’t have the horses on either side of the ball to keep up.
Oakland Raiders (Next up: at New England Patriots) – They had to know there were always going to be growing pains the moment they made a late switch to rookie quarterback Derek Carr. At that moment, the Raiders season ceased being about this year and started focusing on 2015. And back-to-back losses to two beatable opponents – the Jets and Texans – only cemented that fact. It won’t get any easier in future weeks with the Patriots, Dolphins, Chargers and Cardinals up next in order. And don’t forget they still have a home-and-away looming with the Denver Broncos, too.
Jacksonville Jaguars (Next up: vs. Indianapolis Colts) - There was a moment in their opener, when they led 17-0 at halftime against the Philadelphia Eagles, where it looked like everyone was wrong about the Jaguars and they had finally turned their fortunes around. In the six quarters since then, though, they were outscored by the Eagles and Washington Redskins 75-10. They stink on defense. They stink on offense. And they were blown out by two teams in a division (the NFC East) that might end up stinking too. Their 0-2 start could turn into 0-6 or worse in a blink of an eye. They should think about turning the show over to rookie quarterback Blake Bortles so they can focus on their future, because at this point it sure looks like they’ll be a contender again for the No. 1 pick in the draft.


—By Ralph Vacchiano

Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /nfl/tampa-bay-buccaneers-vs-atlanta-falcons-game-preview-and-prediction

A stoppable force encounters a movable object, as the offense-challenged Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to the Georgia Dome to face the virtually defenseless Atlanta Falcons in the second installment of “Thursday Night Football” on CBS. New Bucs coach Lovie Smith is still seeking his first win in his new job, but it's far too soon for Bucs fans to panic — Smith was 5–11 in his first season in Chicago before winning back-to-back NFC North titles. Tampa Bay likely faces a similarly challenging season given its 0–2 start, but good times could be ahead. 


Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons


Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS/NFL Network

Spread: Atlanta -6.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Time for a Return on the Josh McCown Investment

Josh McCown's spectacular performance for the 2013 Bears in relief of Jay Cutler — McCown bested his higher-profile counterpart in virtually every downfield passing stat in posting a 109.0 passer rating — earned the journeyman quarterback a big payday in Tampa Bay, but the investment has yet to yield dividends for the Bucs. In two games, the Tampa offense has produced only 31 points, and while McCown is completing a high percentage of his throws (67.9 percent), he's only 24th in the NFL in yards per attempt and has thrown only two TD passes to three interceptions. He has a pair of inviting downfield targets in Vincent Jackson and rookie Mike Evans, both of whom stand 6-5, so look for McCown to test the suspect Falcons pass defense with some longer throws. Through two games, the Falcons are next-to-last in the NFL against the pass, surrendering 317.5 yards per game. 


2. The Matt Ryan Roller Coaster

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan followed the best game of his career with one of the worst. Ryan was spectacular in the opener against the Saints, completing 31-of-43 for 448 yards and three touchdowns, but away from the confines of the Georgia Dome, he suffered an untimely reversal against the Bengals, completing 24-of-44 passes for 231 yards and one touchdown against three interceptions. His lone TD came in the fourth quarter with the Falcons trailing 24–3 — garbage time, in other words. This follows a career-long home/road pattern for Ryan, who has a 97.7 career rating and 29 interceptions at home, compared to an 84.7 rating and 51 picks on the road. Fortunately for Ryan and the Falcons, he's back in the Dome and should have opportunities to get his numbers back on the right side of the curve.


3. Next Man Up

Injuries are an unfortunate fact of life in the NFL, but the Bucs have been simply devastated by the injury bug. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Mason Foster were hurt in the loss to the Rams, joining running back Doug Martin, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, defensive ends Michael Johnson and Adrian Clayborn and cornerback Michael Jenkins on a crowded, cluttered shelf. In all, five defensive starters were missing for the stretch run of the Rams loss. Running back Bobby Rainey took advantage of his opportunity in relief of Martin, rushing for 144 yards on 22 carries and catching three passes for 30 yards. Now, it's up to other subs to step into the void. "There's no excuse. Whoever's out there we believe in wholeheartedly," said cornerback Alterraun Verner. "Obviously, Gerald going down was a big blow, and some of the other guys from previous weeks. I mean, that's the game. Everybody knows that this game is going to have injuries and people going down. People have to step up."


Final Analysis


There's not a lot of pressure on the Bucs, who aren't burdened by expectations under a new regime that is still finding its footing amid an 0–2 start that already has fans thinking about the 2015 draft. The Falcons, on the other hand, have a sense of urgency. The Mike Smith/Matt Ryan duo can't afford another 4–12 debacle, putting a home game against a struggling opponent into the must-win category. Look for the Falcons to hold serve against the injury-depleted visitors.  


Prediction: Atlanta 28, Tampa Bay 17
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-2014-week-4-preview


Hosts Braden Gall and Steven Lassan previews the big games in the SEC, Oklahoma's visit to West Virginia, the ACC's turn to crush the Big Ten and much more. The guys also give their locks of the week against the spread in this Week 4 college football preview.

Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall or @AthlonSteven or email . The podcast can be found on, , and .



Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: 2014 Week 4 Preview
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 09:58
Path: /college-football/kansas-state-wildcats-vs-auburn-tigers-game-preview-and-prediction

The college football world is focused squarely on the Little Apple on Thursday night, as Auburn visits Kansas State in a high-profile non-conference matchup and one of the top games of Week 4. Tough non-conference matchups usually aren’t the norm under coach Bill Snyder, and the Tigers are the highest ranked non-league opponent to visit Manhattan since Penn State (ranked No. 2) played there in 1969.


The Wildcats are 2-0 after defeating Stephen F. Austin and Iowa in the first two weeks of the season. As expected, K-State easily defeated SFA 55-16. However, the Wildcats struggled in a 32-28 win over Iowa State – a week after the Cyclones lost to FCS opponent North Dakota State.

On the other sideline, Auburn has picked up where it left off last season. The Tigers offense is predicated on tempo and speed, and Gus Malzahn’s attack is averaging 52 points a game so far in 2014.

Auburn leads the all-time series against Kansas State at 3-0. The last meeting between these two teams occurred in 2007, with the Tigers winning 23-13 in Auburn.


Auburn at Kansas State


Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Thursday night)

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Auburn -9


Three Things to Watch


1. K-State’s Rush Defense Against Auburn’s Offense

This battle is where the game could be won or lost for Kansas State. Auburn’s offensive line was one of the best in the nation last year, but the Tigers lost standout left tackle Greg Robinson to the NFL, and guard Alex Kozan suffered a back injury in the offseason and won’t play in 2014. Auburn’s revamped line has performed well through two games, allowing just one sack and paving the way for rushers to average 6.7 yards per carry. But the Wildcats’ defensive line is the best unit the Tigers will see until the LSU matchup on Oct. 4. Kansas State’s line is led by senior end Ryan Mueller and tackle Travis Britz, and both players need to win the one-on-one matchups at the point of attack. If Mueller and Britz can disrupt the Auburn rushing attack and prevent the Tigers from getting out in space, the Wildcats can limit the damage on the ground and force quarterback Nick Marshall to win this one through the air. When Marshall doesn’t run or looks to hand it off, expect senior Cameron Artis-Payne (289 yards, 6.9 ypc) and Corey Grant (8.8 ypc) to shoulder most of the load.

2. Auburn’s Defense vs. K-State’s Offense

Much of the preseason hype for this game should revolve around how Kansas State will handle Auburn’s pace on offense. While stopping the Tigers’ up-tempo attack is a huge task for the Wildcats, let’s also not forget about the Auburn defense against Kansas State’s offense. The Wildcats average 6.3 yards per play this year and scored 33.2 points per game in 2013. There’s no question Kansas State can put up enough points to keep pace with Auburn, but it’s how the Wildcats plan to attack the Tigers that is worth monitoring. Time of possession can be overrated when judging teams or using to predict the outcome of a game. However, Kansas State leads the Big 12 in time of possession in 2014 and ranked first or second in the Big 12 from 2011-13. Ball control against Auburn is critical, as limiting the possessions of Malzahn’s offense is a good (and simple) way of slowing the Tigers down. Quarterback Jake Waters isn’t flashy, but he’s quietly off to a good start this year (462 yards, 61.4%) and is an effective runner (193 yards in two games in 2014). Waters leads the team in rushing attempts, but Charles Jones and DeMarcus Robinson will anchor the carries from the running back spot. Auburn’s defense gave up its share of yards and points last year but was at its best on third downs and in the red zone. Can Kansas State control the tempo or will the Tigers control the line of scrimmage?

3. K-State WR Tyler Lockett

Even though Tyler Lockett received a mention on several preseason All-America teams, it’s still possible the senior might be one of the nation’s most underrated players. Lockett is an explosive athlete with the ability to score anytime he touches the ball. On offense, the Oklahoma native averages 15.6 yards per reception and has 19 career touchdown catches. Lockett is also a dangerous weapon on special teams, averaging 31.1 yards per kickoff return and has four career scores. Auburn’s secondary allowed 257.7 yards per game last year and gave up 19 touchdown tosses in 14 games. The Tigers have played two suspect passing teams this season, so it’s hard to gauge whether or not this unit has improved. But late Wednesday night, reports indicated safety Jermaine Whitehead – 41 career games – won’t play on Thursday night. Whitehead’s absence is critical against Lockett and a K-State passing attack that ranked third in the Big 12 last season by hitting on 13 passing plays of at least 40 yards. Expect the Wildcats to take a few deep shots against Auburn’s suspect secondary.

Final Analysis


This should be one of the better Thursday night games of the season. Kansas State’s offense has just enough firepower to hang with Auburn’s high-powered attack. And as long as Bill Snyder roams the sidelines in Manhattan, the Wildcats will have a chance to win a game like this one.


Expect plenty of points, and both teams could hit on their share of big plays. Auburn’s defense struggles to stop Jake Waters and Tyler Lockett, but the Tigers have too many playmakers and too much firepower to lose.


Prediction: Auburn 38, Kansas State 30

Kansas State Wildcats vs. Auburn Tigers Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/acc-2014-week-4-preview-and-predictions

After a week of surprises in non-conference action, the focus in the ACC shifts slightly to league play. Clemson-Florida State and Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech headline a solid slate of games for Week 4. And in non-conference matchups, East Carolina looks to knock off another ACC opponent with a home date against North Carolina, and Miami visits Nebraska.

Due to suspension, Florida State won’t have quarterback Jameis Winston available for the first half of Saturday’s game against Clemson. But the Seminoles are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, which should allow Jimbo Fisher’s team to hold their own in the first half.

Elsewhere in the ACC, Virginia travels to BYU and Pittsburgh hosts Iowa in other top games around the league for Week 4.

Week 4 Previews and Predictions:


ACC Week 4 Game Power Rankings


1. Clemson at Florida State (-20)
8 p.m. ET, ABC

The outlook for this game has changed drastically since last week. On Wednesday, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was suspended for a half due to inappropriate comments made on campus. Winston’s absence leaves inexperienced Sean Maguire as the Seminoles’ No. 1 quarterback. While Winston will return to action in the third quarter, Florida State’s task of beating the Tigers is tougher without the Heisman Trophy winner under center. Clemson’s defensive line is among the nation’s best and has registered 19 tackles for a loss in two games. If the Tigers can get pressure on Maguire and force the sophomore into a mistake or two, Florida State’s margin of error gets smaller. Can Clemson take advantage of a Winston-less offense in the first half? Or can Maguire keep the Seminoles’ offense moving, while the defense contains the Tigers’ attack?


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2. Miami at Nebraska (-7)
8 p.m. ET, ESPN2

In terms of name value, it doesn’t get much better than this. Two of college football’s iconic programs square off for the first time since the 2001 Rose Bowl on Saturday night. And for both teams, this game is a good opportunity to build momentum before the bulk of conference play starts. Nebraska pounded FAU and Fresno State by a combined score of 110-26 but needed a last-minute miracle to beat McNeese State 31-24. Miami lost its opener to Louisville and rebounded by beating Florida A&M and Arkansas State. Considering the light non-conference schedules for both teams, it’s hard to gauge where both programs are entering Week 4. Running backs Duke Johnson (Miami) and Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska) are two of the best in the nation and will test the opposing defensive lines. But while the spotlight is on Abdullah and Johnson, it’s likely the battle between young quarterbacks Tommy Armstrong (Nebraska) and Brad Kaaya (Miami) will determine which team emerges victorious. 


3. Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech (-8)

Considering how tight the Coastal race is expected to be, this is a critical showdown for positioning within the division. Virginia Tech has won six out of the last seven matchups against Georgia Tech, and the Yellow Jackets have lost three consecutive games in Blacksburg. As expected, Georgia Tech’s rushing offense (306 ypg) ranks as one of the best in the ACC. But in addition to his role in the ground game, quarterback Justin Thomas has added a big-play (19.4 yards per completion) component to the passing attack. Thomas and Georgia Tech’s rushing attack will test Virginia Tech’s defensive line, as tackles Luther Maddy and Corey Marshall are dealing with injuries. On offense, the Hokies need to limit their turnovers (seven in three games), but they should have the upper hand against Georgia Tech’s defense – a unit allowed 6.6 yards per play. Expect Virginia Tech’s offense to use a lot of freshmen backs Shai McKenzie and Marshawn Williams against the Yellow Jackets’ rush defense, which ranks as the worst in the ACC.


4. North Carolina at East Carolina (-2)
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU

Can East Carolina go 2-0 against the ACC? The Pirates knocked off Virginia Tech last weekend 28-21 and are a slight favorite against the Tar Heels after winning in Chapel Hill last year. With that in mind, North Carolina won’t take East Carolina lightly, but the Tar Heels will have to overcome a few matchup problems. North Carolina’s secondary is allowing 265 yards per game, and the pass rush has struggled (two sacks in two games). That’s bad news against a Pirates’ offense that is led by quarterback Shane Carden (343.7 ypg) and a dynamic group of playmakers, headlined by receiver Justin Hardy and running back Breon Allen. Considering the Tar Heels’ concerns on defense, they may need to score over 30 points to win this one. Quarterback Marquise Williams is off to a solid start (67.2%), and coach Larry Fedora has recruited well at the skill positions. North Carolina’s offensive line is a concern without guard Landon Turner, especially against an active defensive front from ECU. If you like offense, this should be the highest-scoring game in the ACC this week.


5. Iowa at Pittsburgh (-6.5)

There are some similarities between the Iowa and Pittsburgh programs, but heading into Saturday’s game, it seems the two teams are headed in opposite directions. The Panthers have looked impressive in a 3-0 start, including a 30-20 road win at Boston College. Iowa is 2-1, but the Hawkeyes won by eight against Northern Iowa and by four to Ball State and lost 20-17 to Iowa State last week. Despite a veteran core returning, Iowa’s offense is averaging only 21.7 points per game. The Hawkeyes have also struggled to establish their ground attack (3.6 ypc). Turning those numbers around this week will be tough, as Pittsburgh is allowing just 15 points per game and ranks second in the ACC against the run. Stopping the run has been a strength of Iowa’s defense (2.3 ypc), which is a good barometer test for the running back James Conner (181 ypg). Quarterback Chad Voytik hasn’t been asked to do much this year, but he’s been efficient (58%) and has tossed just two picks on 50 attempts. The Hawkeyes’ defense is good enough to pull off an upset. However, can Iowa’s offense get anything going on Pittsburgh’s defense?


6. Virginia at BYU (-14)
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Can Virginia pull off another upset? The Cavaliers knocked off Louisville 23-21 last Saturday, and a win in Provo, combined with a victory over Kent State on Sept. 27 would allow Virginia to be 4-1 heading into the heart of ACC play. Saturday’s game is a matchup of strength (BYU’s offense) versus strength (Virginia’s defense). The Cavaliers are allowing just 4.8 yards per play and holding opponents to 20.7 points per contest. BYU will test those numbers behind dynamic quarterback Taysom Hill (348.3 ypg) and running back Jamaal Williams. Even if Virginia’s defense finds a way to contain Hill, can the Cavaliers get something going on offense? BYU is allowing just 14 points per game, while Virginia is averaging just 21.5 points per contest against FBS opponents this year.


7. Maryland at Syracuse (-1.5)
12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network

For the second consecutive season, Maryland and Syracuse meet on the gridiron – only these two teams meet as non-conference foes in 2014. The Terrapins and Orange played last year as ACC members, with Syracuse winning 20-3 in College Park. It’s tough to read too much into that game, as Maryland was without top receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. The Terrapins have both back in the lineup this year, and quarterback C.J. Brown threw for a season-high 241 yards in last week’s loss to West Virginia. Syracuse looked sharp in last Saturday’s 40-3 win over Central Michigan, a clear improvement after struggling against Villanova in the opener. Expect the Orange to challenge the Terrapins’ defensive front, which has allowed 142.3 rushing yards per game. Linebacker play is a unit to watch for Maryland, especially with injuries limiting Cole Farrand, Matt Robinson and Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil this year.


8. Tulane at Duke (-17)
12:30 p.m. ET, RSN

The Blue Devils look to continue their hot start to the season with a win over Tulane. With a victory over the Green Wave, Duke will have its first 4-0 start since 1994. Tulane’s defense allowed 38 points in back-to-back games to open the year and gave up 20 in a win against SE Louisiana last Saturday. This unit will be tested once again, especially with the emergence of running back Shaun Wilson (245 yards last week) and steady play of quarterback Anthony Boone. The Green Wave’s offense is led by talented freshmen Tanner Lee (QB) and Sherman Badie (RB), but a young line (six sacks) will be tested by a Duke defense that leads the ACC in fewest points per game allowed in 2014 (11.0).   


9. Army (-2.5) at Wake Forest
3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3

Brighter days and better years are ahead for Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson and Army’s Jeff Monken, but both first-year coaches have a tough job in 2014. The Demon Deacons are starting four freshmen in 2014, including quarterback John Wolford. Army went 8-28 in Rich Ellerson’s final three years and is 1-1 through Monken’s first two games. Wake Forest’s rush defense has allowed only two scores and is allowing just 2.7 yards per carry. But that will be tested against the Black Knights’ option offense, averaging 269.5 yards per game. With a tight game expected, keep an eye on the turnover margin. The Demon Deacons are -2 through three games, while Army is even through two contests.


10. Louisville (-27) at FIU
3:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1

Pittsburgh started slow last week but eventually had no trouble putting FIU (42-25) away in the second half. Louisville dominated the Panthers 72-0 in the infamous running clock game last season. The Cardinals shouldn’t have much trouble with FIU once again, and this game is a good opportunity for this team to work out the kinks after a 23-21 loss to Virginia last week. Quarterback play is under the spotlight after Louisville’s loss last Saturday, but freshman Reggie Bonnafon won’t make the trip due to a death in his family. Coach Bobby Petrino should be able to build Will Gardner some confidence in an easy win for the Cardinals.


11. Maine at Boston College
1 p.m. ET, ESPN3

After last week’s 37-31 victory over USC, Boston College could be in for a small letdown in Week 4. Of course, the Eagles are big favorites over Maine, so even a sluggish start shouldn’t be a concern. With a punishing ground attack, quarterback Tyler Murphy hasn’t been asked to make too many plays through the air. The senior ranks second in the ACC with 133.7 rushing yards per game. However, in his last two games, Murphy has completed only 15 of 41 throws. This week’s matchup against Maine should allow the Eagles a chance to work on their passing game, along with getting some of the younger players valuable reps.


12. Presbyterian at NC State
6 p.m. ET, ESPN3

The Wolfpack close out non-conference play as huge favorites in Saturday’s game against Presbyterian. With a win over the Blue Hose, NC State would surpass its win total from 2013 and take another step towards bowl eligibility. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett is off to a fast start for the Wolfpack, completing 70.4 percent of his throws and seven touchdowns to just one interception. Presbyterian lost 55-3 to Northern Illinois in its opener in 2014 and lost to Wake Forest 31-7 last year. This should be a one-sided matchup in favor of NC State.

Week 4 ACC Predictions

Ga. Tech (+8) at Va. TechVT 24-14VT 27-20VT 30-20VT 28-24
Iowa (+6.5) at PittsburghPitt 27-10Pitt 27-20Pitt 27-20Pitt 27-17
Maryland (+1.5) at SyracuseCuse 17-14Cuse 34-30MD 27-24MD 24-20
Tulane (+17) at DukeDuke 35-10Duke 40-17Duke 41-17Duke 34-16
Maine at Boston CollegeBC 42-7BC 34-10BC 41-7BC 37-10
UNC (+2) at ECUECU 31-24UNC 31-27ECU 38-34ECU 34-30
Virginia (+14) at BYUBYU 42-28BYU 27-24BYU 30-20BYU 28-20
Army (-2.5) at WakeArmy 28-10Wake 21-20Wake 24-20Wake 20-13
Louisville (-27) at FIUUL 35-14UL 38-13UL 52-7UL 31-0
Presbyterian at NC StateNC State 42-14NC State 45-7NC State 48-3NC State 34-10
Clemson (+20) at FSUFSU 35-21FSU 45-20FSU 38-24FSU 34-13
Miami (+7) at NebraskaNebraska 38-14Nebraska 41-31Nebraska 31-24Nebraska 27-21
Last Week6-46-46-45-5
Season Record30-530-530-529-6


ACC 2014 Week 4 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-2014-week-4-preview-and-predictions

Most of the contenders are resting up this weekend out West. Last place (that’s right) Stanford is on a bye. USC is licking its wounds. And Arizona State and UCLA are tending to injured stars under center.


That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to watch in the Pac-12. Oregon, Washington State, Arizona and Cal will open up conference play while Utah, Oregon State, Washington and Colorado will wrap up non-conference play.

Week 4 Previews and Predictions:
|  | 

Pac-12 Week 4 Game Power Rankings


1. Oregon (-24) at Washington St
10:30 p.m., ESPN

It might not be the closest game in the Pac-12 this week but it should be the most entertaining. These two combined for 1,278 total yards of offense, 100 points scored, 67 first downs and eight turnovers while Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday set an NCAA record with 89 pass attempts (much to Nick Aliotti’s chagrin) in last year’s meeting in Eugene. With Halliday and Marcus Mariota both back and humming on offense right now — the duo averages a combined 792.4 yards per game — fans on both sides should expect big-time fireworks. Even if the game gets out of hand in the second frame.


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2. Utah (+5) at Michigan
3:30 p.m., ABC

No one in Ann Arbor or Salt Lake City will forget what happened in The Big House in 2008 when Utah came to town. Brian Johnson and the Utes knocked off Michigan 25-23 behind a defensive effort that held the Wolverines to just 203 yards of offense. The Utes never lost that year while Michigan posted its worst season in program history (3-9). While Utah isn’t as talented or deep as it was then, Travis Wilson has led a resurgent Utes offense that is churning out 7.0 yards per play and 557.5 yards per game. Michigan bounced back last week with 34 points and 460 yards (against Miami-OHIO) after being totally embarrassed by Notre Dame. Expect something in between this week from the Wolverines' offense-in-progress.


3. Cal (+9) at Arizona
10 p.m., P12 Net

After another perfect non-conference record for Rich Rodriguez — he’s 11-0 since arriving in Tucson — and a very positive start for Cal that has provided more wins in two games than it did in all of 2013, the Bears and Wildcats will get Pac-12 play started. In what should be an entertaining offensive affair, quarterbacks Anu Solomon and Jared Goff look to match statistics on Saturday night. Solomon is second in the Pac-12 with 351.7 yards of total offense per game in just first three career games while Goff has completed 67.9 percent of his passes with only one interception in two wins for Cal. Both defenses rank in the top half of the Pac-12 but that is due in large part to the level of competition each has faced. This should be the first real defensive test for both.


4. San Diego St (+10) at Oregon St
10:30 p.m., FS1

The Aztecs have had two weeks to think about how they choked away a win at North Carolina. So this team is clearly capable of competing with Big 5 teams and that should have Oregon State on edge (who also has had two weeks to prepare). Especially, considering how the Beavers struggled to put away Portland State and Hawaii thus far in 2014. Sean Mannion was over 300 yards passing in each game and should be able to take advantage of a San Diego State defense that gave up plenty of big plays to the Tar Heels in the second half two weeks ago. Offensive balance will be key as is the case for all of Mike Riley’s good teams. Terron Ward and Storm Woods have each posted a 100-yard game on the ground and if both can get rolling along with Mannion, the Beavers should stay unbeaten.


5. Hawaii (+7.5) at Colorado
2 p.m., P12 Net

The Warriors will be happy to say goodbye to the Pac-12 as they will be facing their third such opponent in four weeks. Narrow losses on the Islands to Washington and Oregon State by a combined nine points should have Colorado focused, but this will be Hawaii’s first trip to the Mainland. Despite losing in its first game at Folsom Field last week to Arizona State, Colorado has increased its offensive production — both in yards per game and per play — in each of its first three games. The Warriors would be a sneaky outright upset pick if this game was in Honolulu but since this game is coming at home, Mike MacIntyre knows this is a must-win situation.


6. Georgia St (+35) at Washington
6 p.m., P12 Net

The Huskies played easily their most complete game last weekend in the blowout win over Illinois. Shaq Thompson is starting to get Heisman buzz and the offense has churned out 1,000 yards in two games with Cyler Miles under center. Georgia State should merely serve as a tune-up for a visit from Stanford in Week 5.


Off: Stanford, UCLA, Arizona State, USC


Pac-12 Predictions:


 Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
Oregon (-24) at WazzuOre., 51-27Ore., 44-20Ore., 56-27Ore., 55-28
Utah (+5) at MichiganMich., 28-27Utah, 30-27Utah, 27-21Mich., 27-24
Cal (+9) at ArizonaZona, 41-31Zona, 37-33Zona, 38-21Zona, 38-30
S. Diego St (+10) at Ore. StOSU, 34-27OSU, 33-24OSU, 35-31OSU, 34-24
Hawaii (+7.5) at Colo.Colo., 31-21Colo., 27-17Colo., 28-10Colo., 38-20
Ga. St (+35) at Wash.Wash., 38-7Wash., 41-3Wash., 51-17Wash., 55-17
Last Week:7-17-17-17-1


Pac-12 2014 Week 4 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-2014-week-4-preview-and-predictions

Six of the 10 teams in this league are taking a break this weekend but that doesn’t mean that the Big 12 will be boring in Week 4.


No, it’s quite the opposite in fact, as two marquee matchups dot a very limited schedule.


Heck, even the Jayhawks have a shot at a win in what could be a competitive game with the MAC.

Week 4 Previews and Predictions
|  |  | 

Big 12 Week 4 Game Power Rankings


1. Auburn (+8.5) at Kansas St
Thurs., 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Bill Snyder has never lost at home to a Big 5 non-conference opponent (4-0) but this Thursday night primetime showdown with the defending national runner-up figures to be his toughest test. The Tigers have won three straight true road games and 11 of the last 12 games overall. Snyder’s bunch — a group with an astounding 58 former or current walk-ons according to Dennis Dodd — will be faced with stopping a rushing attack that has topped 300 yards in five of the last seven games and has scored nine rushing touchdowns in two games in 2014. While the overmatched KSU defense should have issues with Nick Marshall and Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn’s defense should have issues with Jake Waters as well. The Wildcats quarterback is a tremendous leader and is averaging 327.5 yards of total offense per game. Look for both quarterbacks to make things happen on the ground and whichever defense can get stops on third down will win.


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2. Oklahoma (-8) at W. Virginia
7:30 p.m., FOX

Some pointed to this game as a potential trap for Oklahoma in the preseason but after the Mountaineers' performance in the first three weeks, this game has become a critical, must-win situation for the Sooners. According to ESPN’s Dane Beavers, Bob Stoops started out his career 9-0 in road night games but is an even 8-8 since, and Milan Puskar Stadium figures to be rocking on Saturday night. West Virginia will likely struggle to stop Trevor Knight and company on defense so the real battle will be waged when Clint Trickett is on the field. Oklahoma’s secondary is extremely talented (third nationally with six interceptions) and the front seven has been dominant (21st in sacks with 9.0). If Trickett has no time to get the ball to Kevin White and Mario Alford, it may not matter if they are open or not. If the WVU O-line can hold its own against the Eric Striker-led defensive front, fans could be in for a shootout in Morgantown.


3. C. Michigan (+4.5) at Kansas
3:30 p.m.

This could be a battle of offensive ineptitude — and that could make it quite entertaining. Charlie Weis needs a win badly after the horrendous showing last week against Duke when his offense mustered just 95 passing yards and went 4-of-17 on third downs in the 41-3 blowout. The passing yards have been a disturbing trend for Weis, as his offense has averaged less than 150 yards passing since he took over in Lawrence. Central Michigan, which ranks 119th nationally in total offense, has already knocked off one Big 5 school this year when it smoked Purdue two weeks ago. If Weis and the Jayhawks are not ready, the embarrassment at Kansas could continue this weekend.


Off: Baylor, Iowa St, Oklahoma St, Texas, TCU, Texas Tech


Big 12 Predictions:


 Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
Auburn (-8.5) at KSUAub., 38-27Aub., 34-21Aub., 31-30Aub., 38-30
Okla. (-8) at W. VirginiaOkla., 38-27Okla., 30-23Okla., 42-31Okla., 38-24
C. Michigan (+4.5) at KansasKan., 18-17Kan., 17-14CMU, 24-17Kan., 24-20
Last Week:7-26-38-18-1


Big 12 2014 Week 4 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/sec-2014-week-4-preview-and-predictions

We dive into the heart of the SEC season with three games involving two league teams. Florida’s new-look offense, which showed some signs of life last week against Kentucky, will face a stiff test against Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium; Mississippi State heads to LSU seeking a program-changing win; and South Carolina visits Vanderbilt hoping to continue its momentum after beating Georgia last week.

Week 4 Previews and Predictions:

SEC Week 4 Game Power Rankings

1. Florida (+14.5) at Alabama

3:30 ET, CBS

First the good: Florida beat Kentucky and in the process identified a playmaker at running back (Matt Jones, 156 yards) and wide receiver (Demarcus Robinson, 216 yards). Now the bad: The Gators only scored 20 points in regulation  — and did so despite making seven trips inside the Kentucky 40-yard line — in the first test under new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. This week, the task is far more difficult as Florida makes its first visit to Alabama since 2010. The Gators lost that game 31–6 and have not scored more than 17 points in Tuscaloosa in any of their last nine trips dating back to 1963. The Crimson Tide defense showed some signs of vulnerability in the opener against West Virginia — giving up 393 total yards (365 through the air) — before shutting down Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss in lopsided wins. Florida will need a productive (and efficient) game from quarterback Jeff Driskel to have a shot at knocking off the Tide.


2. Mississippi State (+9.5) at LSU


The strength of the SEC West is at an all-time high. Five of the seven teams are ranked in the top 10 in the latest AP poll, and the other two teams (Mississippi State and Arkansas) are both receiving votes. Mississippi State struggled a bit in a Week 2 win over UAB but rebounded with a dominating 35–3 victory at South Alabama — a solid Sun Belt team — on Saturday. This might be the best team of the Dan Mullen era, but it’s time for this program to make a statement with a big win over an SEC West power. And LSU could be ripe for an upset. The Tigers have talent — that’s never an issue in Baton Rouge — but they are still very young at the skill positions and have sputtered offensively in the first half of their two games against FBS opponents. The Bulldogs will need to be at their best, but they are good enough to win this game. Mississippi State by 1


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3. Auburn (-8.5) at Kansas State

Thursday, 7:30 ET, ESPN

Auburn, ranked No. 5 in several major polls, will be the highest-ranked non-conference opponent to play at Kansas State since No. 2 Penn State made the trip to Manhattan in 1969. The Tigers have cruised to easy wins over Arkansas and San Jose State and look to be even better on offense in Gus Malzahn’s second season as head coach. They are averaging 7.6 yards per play and have seven touchdown-scoring drives of 60 yards or more in only two games. Kansas State has been solid defensively — giving up an average of 306.5 yards — but the competition has been weak (Stephen F. Austin and Iowa State). The Wildcats have seen some up-tempo attacks in recent years, but none that operate with the type of speed and skill they will see from Auburn.


4. South Carolina (+22) at Vanderbilt

7:30 ET, SEC Network

There is obviously a long way to go, but the Gamecocks are back in SEC East race thanks to last week’s win over Georgia. Tailbacks Brandon Wilds and Mike Davis played key roles, but quarterback Dylan Thompson was the offensive star in the 38­–35 season-saving victory. Now, the Gamecocks hit the road for the first time to play a Vanderbilt team that is off to a troubling 1–2 start. The Commodores finally showed some life on offense but still only had 310 total yards against a UMass team that gave up 511 to Boston College and 474 to Colorado. Patton Robinette will get the start at quarterback, but true freshman Wade Freebeck is also expected to play.


5. Northern Illinois (+14) at Arkansas


Arkansas is fresh off one of the most impressive rushing performances — against a worthy opponent — we have seen in recent years. The Razorbacks bludgeoned Texas Tech with 438 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdown. That is a blueprint that Bret Bielema would love to follow as he rebuilds the Arkansas program. This week’s opponent, Northern Illinois, has been outstanding against the run en route to a 3–0 start. The competition hasn’t been great, but the Huskies do have road wins over Northwestern and UNLV on their resume. They have given up a total of 243 rushing yards and only 2.4 yards per attempt in three games.


6. Indiana at Missouri

4 ET, SEC Network

Missouri is a very quiet 3–0 with impressive wins at Toledo and vs. UCF. The Tigers are getting solid play from quarterback Maty Mauk — in his first full season as the starter — and are better than they get credit for on both lines of scrimmage. Indiana’s hopes of reaching a bowl game for the first time since 2007 took a hit with a 45–42 loss to Bowling Green — a team that lost to Western Kentucky by 28 points in Week 1. The Hoosiers, as usual, can score, but their defense has yet to prove it can slow down a decent offense.


7. Texas A&M (+33.5) at SMU

3:30 ET, ABC

Tom Mason’s first game as the interim head coach will not go well. The Mustangs have scored a total of six points in two games, losses to Baylor (45–0) and North Texas (43–6). They will be playing a team that specializes in scoring points. Texas A&M, off to a 3–0 start, is tied for first nationally with 22 touchdowns and is averaging 54.3 points per game. This is a colossal mismatch.


8. Troy (+41) at Georgia

12 ET, SEC Network

Larry Blakeney has won a bunch of games — 175 to be exact — and done great things at Troy, but the program has fallen on hard times in 2014. The Trojans are 0–3, including a 38-point loss to UAB and a three-point loss at home last week to Abilene Christian. Georgia must rebound from a painful loss at South Carolina, but the Bulldogs shouldn’t have to expend much energy to beat Troy.


Week 4 SEC Predictions

 David FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light
Auburn at K-StateAU 31-30AU 38-27AU 38-30AU 34-21
Troy at GeorgiaUGa 45-7UGa 41-13UGa 55-7UGa 51-0
Texas A&M at SMUA&M 63-7A&M 45-10A&M 62-10A&M 58-7
Florida at AlabamaUA 35-14UA 27-21UA 34-20UA 33-17
Indiana at MissouriMU 42-28MU 42-17MU 45-24MU 40-17
Miss. State at LSULSU 27-14LSU 31-28LSU 27-20MSU 24-20
No. Illinois at ArkansasUA 49-21UA 44-28UA 45-24UA 27-20
Vanderbilt at S. CarolinaSC 38-10SC 43-7SC 34-13SC 30-17
Last week10-110-110-110-1
SEC Week 4 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2014-week-4-preview-and-predictions

Turn back the clock to the the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s. In fact, Nebraska and Miami might prefer that you do.


Nebraska and Miami will play the rare in-season matchup, but the two teams played in five bowl games that helped define the era. The Cornhuskers and Hurricanes met in six bowl games from 1983-2001 with four of those meetings resulting in a national championship.


The Cornhuskers, despite the Big Ten’s struggles, still have all of their goals in play this season, but not if they can’t defeat Miami.


As non-conference play starts to wind down, here’s a look at the week ahead in the Big Ten.

Week 4 Previews and Predictions
 |  |  |


Big Ten Week 4 Game Power Rankings

All games Saturday, all times Eastern.


1. Miami at Nebraska

8 p.m., ESPN2

Hard to believe, but these two storied programs haven’t met since Miami’s 37-14 rout of an Eric Crouch-led Nebraska team for the 2001 national title. Moreover, this pair of teams that met in four classic Orange Bowl matchups hasn’t played during the regular season since 1976. This meeting will lack the luster of any of those bowl games, with Miami already 0-1 in the ACC and Nebraska carrying the flag for an otherwise embarrassed Big Ten. The Cornhuskers have defeated FBS opponents 110-26 this season with a 31-24 escape against McNeese State of the FCS the only real cause for concern for Nebraska’s outlook.


Nebraska’s defense is at full strength with the return of end Randy Gregory this week, who leads a rejuvenated Huskers pass rush (four sacks vs. Fresno State last week). Still, all eyes should be on running back Ameer Abdullah. This may be his opportunity to vault into the Heisman race. He has the numbers (second in the Big Ten in all-purpose and rushing yards, both to Indiana’s Tevin Coleman), he has the and he has . All he needs is a big game against a major opponent on a national stage.


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2. Utah at Michigan

3:30, ABC/ESPN2

Michigan’s tour of past embarrassing losses continues. After dispatching of Appalachian State 52-14 in a rematch of the 2007 loss, Michigan faces Utah. The Utes handed the Wolverines a 25-23 loss in Ann Arbor in the debut for Rich Rodriguez in 2008. Michigan, however, has more recent losses for which to atone — the 31-0 defeat to Notre Dame two weeks ago, for example. Michigan’s 34-10 win over Miami (Ohio) was a nice rebound from the Notre Dame loss, especially with the return of cornerback Jabrill Peppers and tight end Jake Butt. But Michigan is still a team with clear flaws. The Wolverines have recorded one takeaway and four sacks on defense and remains capable of turnovers in bunches on offense.


3. Iowa at Pittsburgh


Northern Iowa and Ball State couldn’t make Iowa pay for playing a subpar game.  Iowa State finally did. Now, the Hawkeyes play their toughest opponent of the season in Pittsburgh. If there’s any consolation in this matchup, Iowa has yet to allow 100 yards rushing in a game this season. Iowa is one of eight teams not to allow a rushing touchdown this season and ranks eighth at 2.26 yards allowed per carry. The run game — specifically national rushing leader James Conner — is the cornerstone of the Pittsburgh offense. Iowa’s offense has no such identity after averaging a season-low 4.04 yards per play against Iowa State.


4. Maryland at Syracuse

12:30, ACC Network

Maryland continues its start to the Big Ten era with its third consecutive game against the old Big East (USF, West Virginia at Syracuse). The Terrapins will need to recover from allowing more yards against West Virginia (694) than they did in its first two games combined (559). Syracuse doesn’t run the Air Raid like WVU, but quarterback Terrel Hunt will be tough to contain. Meanwhile, Maryland’s offense continues its identity crisis. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs finally had his breakout game of the season in the shootout against West Virginia, but the tailbacks were virtually non-existent. Quarterback C.J. Brown ran the ball 18 times on a . No one else on the Maryland offense had more than four carries.


5. Indiana at Missouri

4 p.m., SEC Network

A game with two high-powered spread offenses from the Big 12 school of thinking always has shootout potential. Perhaps Indiana will have the key player to neutralize Missouri’s once-again formidable pass rush led by ends Markus Golden and Shane Ray. Indiana running back Tevin Coleman has rushed for a touchdown in 11 consecutive games he’s played for 17 total. Coleman leads the nation with 437 rushing yards this year.


6. Bowling Green at Wisconsin

Noon, ESPN2

Wisconsin will find out if its off week came at a good time, especially Melvin Gordon. The bread-and-butter of the Wisconsin offense has been hobbled with a hip injury since the second half of the opener against LSU, contributing to 38 rushing yards on 17 carries against Western Illinois two weeks ago. Wisconsin’s defense also will be tested against a team that ran 113 plays in a 45-42 win over Indiana despite being down to a second-string quarterback.


7. Rutgers at Navy

3:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network

A road trip against Navy doesn’t set up well for a team that just suffered a 13-10 home loss to Penn State. Navy’s option already has proved plenty effective against one Big Ten team (370 yards, two touchdowns against Ohio State). Rutgers’ athletic defensive line will be on the spot.


8. UMass at Penn State

4 p.m., Big Ten Network

UMass may be the weakest opponent Penn State has faced so far, but even the 0-3 Minutemen might not be a pushover. UMass took both Colorado and Vanderbilt to the wire in losses by a combined a field goal each. Perhaps overlooked in Penn State’s season — which has included the debut of James Franklin, the lifting of NCAA sanctions and heroics from Christian Hackenberg and Sam Ficken — has been the play of the front seven. Penn State has picked up seven tackles for a loss in each game this season, led by defensive tackle Anthony Zettel’s seven.


9. San Jose State at Minnesota

4 p.m., Big Ten Network

with quarterback Mitch Leidner playing through turf toe. Left tackle Zac Epping and running back David Cobb are also battling ankle injuries. All of it — plus Minnesota’s limitations in the passing game — caught up with the Gophers in a 30-7 loss at TCU last week. Minnesota should be able to run the ball on a San Jose State team that has allowed 5.8 yards per carry and seven touchdowns in two games. What that means for Big Ten play is up for discussion.


10. Texas State at Illinois

4 p.m., ESPNews

Illinois got a wake-up call when it lost 44-19 to Washington, a score that’s not too surprising. Illinois will need to bounce back against Texas State, a program three years removed from FCS status, if the Illini are to have any shot at a bowl game.


11. Eastern Michigan at Michigan State

Noon, Big Ten Network

Michigan State is 21-3 all-time against the directional Michigans, with all three losses coming to Central Michigan. No reason for that trend to change.


12. Western Illinois at Northwestern

Noon, ESPNews

This would be a good time for Northwestern to end its 1-9 skid. Northwestern’s next seven games are: at Penn State, Wisconsin, at Minnesota, Nebraska, at Iowa, Michigan and at Notre Dame.


13. Southern Illinois at Purdue

Noon, Big Ten Network

Purdue played well in a 30-14 loss to Notre Dame, leading the game until the final 13 seconds of the first half. The Boilermakers can’t let that encouraging moment slip away against an FCS opponent.


Week 4 Big Ten Staff Picks

 David FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light

Iowa at Pitt (-7)

Pitt 27-10Pitt 27-20Pitt 27-20Pitt 27-17

Eastern Mich. at Michigan State (-45)

MSU 52-7MSU 45-0MSU 48-3MSU 41-0

Western Ill. at Northwestern

NW 35-21NW 30-13NW 40-10NW 33-10

Southern Ill. at Purdue

Pur 28-10Pur 34-17Pur 34-20Pur 27-7

Bowling Green at Wisconsin (-27)

Wisc 42-24Wisc 42-24Wisc 41-20Wisc 44-20

Maryland at Syracuse (-1)

Cuse 27-24Cuse 34-30Md 27-24Md 24-20

Utah at Michigan (-5)

Utah 27-21Mich 28-27Mich 27-24Utah 30-27

Rutgers at Navy (-6)

Navy 31-28Navy 34-30Navy 31-27Navy 27-20

UMass at Penn State (-27)

PSU 31-13PSU 34-13PSU 38-10PSU 34-14

San Jose St. at Minnesota (-9)

Minn 35-17Minn 35-27Minn 31-20Minn 28-14

Texas State at Illinois (-14)

Illinois 38-14Illinois 38-30Illinois 38-20Illinois 34-10

Indiana at Missouri (-14)

Mizzou 48-28Mizzou 42-17Mizzou 35-24Mizzou 40-17

Miami at Nebraska (-8)

Neb 38-14Neb 41-31Neb 31-24Neb 27-21
Last Week8-27-38-26-4
This Season29-828-929-825-12


Big Ten 2014 Week 4 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Syracuse Orange, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-2014-15-syracuse-orange-team-preview

College basketball season is creeping up fast, and Athlon Sports is counting down to Midnight Madness and the start of practice on Oct. 17. 


No. 22 Syracuse moves into 2014-15 with a freshman point guard and a handful of role players expected to take starring roles. Jim Boeheim has major personnel challenges, but he’s rebuilt a roster in short order before.


The Syracuse edition is one of dozens available in our  and on newsstands everywhere this week.


Jim Boeheim has been through this before. Of course, a coach who’s been around for 38 years has probably experienced just about all there is in college basketball.


Boeheim is used to players leaving his program early. And over the years, the veteran coach has done a remarkable job of guiding his teams to successful seasons following the loss of a star player. The year after Pearl Washington left, Syracuse went to the NCAA championship game. Following Billy Owens’ departure, Syracuse won 22 games and went back to the NCAA Tournament. After Carmelo Anthony led Syracuse to the 2003 NCAA championship, Syracuse went to the Sweet 16 the next season.


In recent years, Boeheim has seen Donté Greene, Jonny Flynn, Dion Waiters, Fab Melo and Michael Carter-Williams leave school early for the NBA. In the next season, Syracuse has never failed to reach the NCAA Tournament.


So here are Syracuse and Boeheim again. In this case, Boeheim is having to deal with the loss of three starters from last year’s team that went 28–6 overall after winning its first 25 games. The loss of C.J. Fair, who led the Orange in scoring as a senior, was expected. Then Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant decided to cut their college careers short, leaving Boeheim with yet another rebuilding job.


No. 22 Syracuse Facts & Figures

Last season: 28-6, 14-4 ACC

Postseason: NCAA round of 32

Consecutive NCAAs: 6

Coach: Jim Boeheim (948-319 at Syracuse, 14-4 ACC)

ACC Projection: Fifth

Postseason Projection: NCAA round of 32





Syracuse struggled to score in 2013-14. The Orange averaged just 68 points per game, their lowest output since the 1962-63 season. And Syracuse’s most consistent scoring came from a frontcourt that’s now depleted. 


Fair averaged a team-high 16.5 points per game. Grant chipped in with 12.1 points. The only returning starter is senior center Rakeem Christmas, who posted 5.8 points and 5.1 rebounds. 


“Rak’s getting better,” Boeheim says. “He’s a late-developing big guy. I think he’s figured it out. He’ll have a good year.”


DaJuan Coleman, who started 12 games last year, is coming off his second knee surgery in as many seasons, and Boeheim doesn’t expect him to return to the court until October at the earliest.


That leaves Boeheim with a frontcourt that’s both young and thin. He’ll look to sophomores Tyler Roberson and B.J. Johnson along with incoming freshman Chris McCullough. Chino Obokoh, a 6-10 center, redshirted last season and could provide some depth this year. 


Don’t be surprised if Michael Gbinije, a 6-7 combo guard, sees some time at small forward due to the Orange’s lack of depth up front.




Syracuse’s backcourt situation is a little steadier than its frontcourt, but there is still one gaping hole to fill. Ennis played superbly as a freshman last year. He proved to be the ultimate playmaker, doling out 5.5 assists per game against just 1.7 turnovers. Kaleb Joseph, a 6-2 freshman, will be the fourth starting point guard in as many years for Syracuse. He’s a terrific athlete, but will he have the poise and maturity that enabled Ennis to handle the position as a freshman?


Trevor Cooney, a 6-4 junior, is coming off an up-and-down season, which was his first as a starter. Through SU’s first 22 games, Cooney was making 44 percent of his 3-point attempts, but he slumped in the final third of the season. He finished the year at 37.5 percent from the arc. Gbinije, a former top-40 national recruit, played both guard positions last year and will again in 2014-15. After shaking off the rust of the redshirt year taken after his transfer from Duke, Gbinije should provide more consistent contributions as a junior. 


Ron Patterson, a 6-2 guard, didn’t see any meaningful minutes as a freshman. This could be a make or break year for the Indiana native.


Final Analysis


This could be one of Boeheim’s biggest challenges in years. When previously facing major personnel losses, Boeheim has had a young player like Sherman Douglas, Wes Johnson, Carter-Williams or Fair waiting in the wings. 


For this year’s Orange to earn an NCAA Tournament berth for the 32nd time in Boeheim’s 39 years, Christmas must emerge as a scoring option down low, Roberson will have to take a big jump as a sophomore, and McCullough and Joseph — the two true freshmen — will have to play like upperclassmen.




Syracuse brings in just two freshmen, but in all likelihood, both will start for the Orange this season. Kaleb Joseph figures to step into the starting point guard role. Chris McCullough is the prototypical Syracuse forward. He’s long and lean. McCullough averaged 22 points and 9.0 rebounds per game at IMG Academy last year.

College Basketball 2014-15: Syracuse Orange Team Preview
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-quarterback-rankings-week-3

A Super Bowl rematch has led to some shuffling at the top of Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings for Week 3. Denver and Seattle will go head-to-head once again, but this time the game will take place in the Pacific Northwest, not the Big Apple. Regardless of the venue, the Broncos’ matchup with a Seahawks defense that held them to one touchdown and forced three turnovers back in February is enough reason to drop Peyton Manning out of his usual No. 1 spot. Instead, top billing for this week goes to Drew Brees. The Saints’ offense has struggled some out of the gates, but it’s usually pretty reliable, not to mention productive, at home in the comfy Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Another intriguing matchup to keep an eye on is Green Bay vs. Detroit at Ford Field. This has all the makings of a high-scoring affair.


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 3 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks


1Drew BreesNOvs. MINHoping for some home cooking vs. MIN.
2Aaron RodgersGBat DETEarly fumble only miscue (336-3-0) vs. Jets.
3Andrew LuckINDat JAC3 TDs on MNF vs. Eagles, but costly INT.
4Matthew StaffordDETvs. GBYards (291) there, but little else vs. CAR.
5Peyton ManningDENat SEAMust-see rematch vs. Seahawks D.
6Matt RyanATLvs. TB (Thurs.)Picked off 3 times in sloppy effort vs. CIN.
7Jay CutlerCHIat NYJ (Mon.)Only 176 yards, but 4 TDs, 0 INTs in huge W.
8Nick FolesPHIvs. WASDid enough (331-1-1) to get the MNF W.
9Cam NewtonCARvs. PITWelcome back Cam! Solid (281-1-0) vs. DET.
10Russell WilsonSEAvs. DENMore success against Denver coming?
11Tom BradyNEvs. OAKBrady throws for just 149 yds., TD in win.
12Philip RiversSDat BUFMade it look easy (284-3-0) vs. champs.
13Colin KaepernickSFat ARI"Terrible" (4 TOs) vs. Bears.
14Kirk CousinsWASat PHIIt's his show now w/ RG3 (ankle) out.
15Tony RomoDALat STLSo-so numbers (176-1-0), but Cowboys won.
16Andy DaltonCINvs. TENAlready missing Eifert, may be w/o Green.
17Ryan TannehillMIAvs. KC 
18Joe FlaccoBALat CLE 
19EJ ManuelBUFvs. SD 
20Ben RoethlisbergerPITat CARNeeds to be wary of Panthers' pass rush.
21Alex SmithKCat MIA 
22Geno SmithNYJvs. CHI (Mon.)Bears had 3 INTs vs. SF last week.
23Josh McCownTBat ATL (Thurs.) 
24Jake LockerTENat CINStruggled (18-34, 2 INTs) vs. Dallas D.
25Ryan FitzpatrickHOUat NYG 
26Chad HenneJACvs. INDSacked 10 times by Redskins.
27Eli ManningNYGvs. HOUTurnovers (4 INTs) still an issue for Eli.
28Brian HoyerCLEvs. BAL 

​Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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


Need more fantasy help? Visit 

Fantasy Football 2014 Quarterback Rankings: Week 3
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-running-back-rankings-week-3

Injuries and off-field matters have certainly left their mark on the NFL season thus far, as Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings for Week 3 can attest. When Adrian Peterson will return (if he returns) is anyone’s guess, while , Doug Martin, Ryan Mathews, Ben Tate, Knowshon Moreno, Maurice Jones-Drew, Mark Ingram and DeAngelo Williams all either got hurt last week or missed last week because of injury. With so many backfields already impacted, it’s good to know there are still some constants to lean on. Such as LeSean McCoy, last year’s rushing champion who has produced back-to-back games of at least 95 total yards. Shady should be in for another productive afternoon when the Eagles host the Redskins on Sunday.


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 3 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Backs


1LeSean McCoyPHIvs. WASPicked up 102 total yards, TD vs. Colts.
2DeMarco MurrayDALat STLNo. 1 fantasy RB ran wild (167 yds.) vs. Titans.
3Arian FosterHOUat NYGTwo straight 100-yard games for Foster.
4Marshawn LynchSEAvs. DENJust six carries (plus 4 rec., TD) vs. Chargers.
5Giovani BernardCINvs. TENGio's talents (90 rush, 79 rec.) on display vs. ATL.
6Alfred MorrisWASat PHIWho needs catches if you score 2 TDs?
7Matt ForteCHIat NYJ (Mon.)Bottled up (36 total yds.) vs. 49ers.
8Le'Veon BellPITat CAR107 total yards in loss to Ravens.
9Eddie LacyGBat DETHeld to just 43 yards rushing vs. Jets.
10Knile DavisKCat MIAStepped up (79 yds., 2 TDs) after Charles injury.
11Montee BallDENat SEASlow start could be prolonged vs. Seahawks.
12C.J. SpillerBUFvs. SD5.8 ypc + 102-yard KOR for TD vs. MIA.
13Rashad JenningsNYGvs. HOU109 total yards vs. Cardinals.
14Zac StacySTLvs. DAL 
15Joique BellDETvs. GBTwice as many touches (16 to 8) as Bush.
16Andre EllingtonARIvs. SFAveraging 5.1 ypc despite foot issue.
17Stevan RidleyNEvs. OAKThe 25 carries are certainly encouraging.
18Darren SprolesPHIvs. WASLittle man came up HUGE (152 rec. yds.) on MNF.
19Lamar MillerMIAvs. KCShould see bulk of the carries w/ Moreno out.
20Reggie BushDETvs. GBHopefully better matchups ahead for Bush.
21Frank GoreSFat ARIBig TD run vs. Bears wiped out by penalty.
22Doug MartinTBat ATL (Thurs.)Late scratch (ankle) last week. Watch closely.
23Bernard PierceBALat CLEGot the work (22 att.) and yards (96).
24Pierre ThomasNOvs. MINMore work coming w/ Ingram (hand) out?
25Toby GerhartJACvs. IND8 yards on 7 carries not getting it done.
26Chris JohnsonNYJvs. CHI (Mon.)Averaging just 3.6 yards per carry thus far.
27Ahmad BradshawINDat JAC70 yds. rushing and 2 rec. TDs.
28Terrance WestCLEvs. BALRookie did his job (68, TD) vs. Saints.
29Shane VereenNEvs. OAKOut-touched (25 to 7), upstaged by Ridley.
30Matt AsiataMINat NOHis job for now w/ Peterson on exempt list.
31Bobby RaineyTBat ATL (Thurs.)Exploded for 144 yds. In Martin's absence.
32Chris IvoryNYJvs. CHI (Mon.)Just 43 yards, but was still better than CJ.
33Khiry RobinsonNOvs. MINFigures to benefit from Ingram's (hand) injury.
34Donald BrownSDat BUFShould see more work w/ Mathews out.
35Trent RichardsonINDat JACLooked great against Eagles until fumble.
36Fred JacksonBUFvs. SDSpiller more effective against Dolphins.
37Steven JacksonATLvs. TB (Thus.)Yet to be much of factor.
38Danny WoodheadSDat BUFWill his role change w/ Mathews (MCL) out?
39Shonn GreeneTENat CIN 
40Darren McFaddenOAKat NEOut-rushed by QB (37 to 58) w/ MJD out.
41Jeremy HillCINvs. TEN15 carries and first career TD vs. Falcons.
42Jonathan StewartCARvs. PITStruggled as starter w/ DeAngelo (thigh) out.
43DeAngelo WilliamsCARvs. PITDid not play last week b/c of thigh injury.
44Justin ForsettBALat CLE8 carries vs. BAL compared to 22 for Pierce.
45Isaiah CrowellCLEvs. BAL11 carries a good sign for him moving forward.
46Carlos HydeSFat ARI 
47Bishop SankeyTENat CINGets two carries in loss to Cowboys.
48Jerick McKinnonMINat NORookie could get more opportunities w/ Peterson out.


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


Need more fantasy help? Visit 

Fantasy Football 2014 Running Back Rankings: Week 3
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-wide-receiver-rankings-week-3

It’s only fitting that the top two wide receivers in fantasy football right now occupy the same space in Athlon Sports’ Week 3 rankings at the position. Calvin Johnson and Jordy Nelson are set to share the same field when Detroit hosts Green Bay in what should be an entertaining and likely high-scoring affair Sunday afternoon. Megatron checks in at No. 1 in our rankings, but it’s actually Nelson who’s the top scorer at WR, after exploding for 209 yards against the Jets last week. Other matchups this week to watch include Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” secondary against the Broncos’ stable of Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Wes Welker, who was reinstated this week according to the stipulations of the NFL's new drug policy. Chicago’s Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery each gutted through injuries last week, and on Monday night they will try and take advantage of the same Jets’ passing defense that Nelson and his Packer teammates torched in Week 2.


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 3 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers


1Calvin JohnsonDETvs. GBPanthers held Megatron in check (6-83, 13 targets).
2Jordy NelsonGBat DET80-yard TD highlights huge (9-209-1) game.
3Brandon MarshallCHIat NYJ (Mon.)3 TDs vs. SF. What ankle injury?
4Julio JonesATLvs. TB (Thurs.)His usual productive self (7-88-1) vs. Bengals.
5Dez BryantDALat STLSomewhat quietly posted 100-yard game vs. TEN.
6Demaryius ThomasDENat SEATweaked his knee, but played through it and scored.
7Antonio BrownPITat CARAvoided injury scare, paced Steelers (7-90).
8Randall CobbGBat DETNelson got the yards, but Cobb gets 2 TD grabs.
9Andre JohnsonHOUat NYG 
10Julian EdelmanNEvs. OAKClearly Brady's No. 1 target right now.
11Alshon JefferyCHIat NYJ (Mon.)Played through sore hamstring.
12Vincent JacksonTBat ATL (Thurs.)He and McCown struggling to get on same page.
13Mike WallaceMIAvs. KCTwo games, two TDs in new O. Progress.
14Percy HarvinSEAvs. DENRushing TD nice, but need more than 1 catch.
15Keenan AllenSDat BUFNot that impressed with Richard Sherman.
16Roddy WhiteATLvs. TB (Thurs.)Dealing with hamstring injury, but should play.
17Cordarrelle PattersonMINat NOFour catches and no rush attempts vs. Pats.
18Jeremy MaclinPHIvs. WASJust four catches, but one went for TD vs. Colts.
19Pierre GarconWASat PHIWill he and Cousins click?
20Reggie WayneINDat JACQuiet (3-28) vs. Eagles on MNF.
21Emmanuel SandersDENat SEAMaking himself right at home with new team.
22Michael FloydARIvs. SFSix targets, but only one catch (19 yds.) vs. Giants.
23Michael CrabtreeSFat ARIMost productive 49er target (7-82-1) vs. Bears.
24Sammy WatkinsBUFvs. SDHello breakout. 8-117-1 vs. Dolphins.
25DeSean JacksonWASat PHILeft last week w/ shoulder injury. Watch status.
26Larry FitzgeraldARIvs. SFTargeted 10 times (6-51) by backup Stanton.
27Marques ColstonNOvs. MIN0 targets vs. Browns? Not good.
28Wes WelkerDENat SEAWelcome back Wes! Hello Legion of Boom!
29Eric DeckerNYJvs. CHI (Mon.)Hooks up with Smith for first TD as Jet.
30Golden TateDETvs. GB 
31Steve SmithBALat CLELeading receiver after two games w/ new team.
32T.Y. HiltonINDat JACLed the way with 6 rec., 65 yds. vs. Eagles.
33Kendall WrightTENat CINOvershadowed by Bryant, Walker vs. DAL.
34Victor CruzNYGvs. HOUStill looking for fit in new offense.
35DeAndre HopkinsHOUat NYGJust three catches, but one was for a TD.
36Kelvin BenjaminCARvs. PIT 
37Brandin CooksNOvs. MINSecond-most targets (6) behind Graham (13) vs. CLE.
38A.J. GreenCINvs. TENToe injury could sideline him. Watch closely.
39Brian QuickSTLvs. DALMost effective Ram WR (14-173) thus far.
40Torrey SmithBALat CLETorrey been non-existent Smith so far for Ravens.
41Anquan BoldinSFat ARI 
42Mohamed SanuCINvs. TENBengals' No. 1 WR with Green, Jones sidelined.
43James JonesOAKat NEHas been Derek Carr's favorite target thus far.
44Justin HunterTENat CINGetting the snaps, still waiting on the breakout.
45Markus WheatonPITat CAR 
46Andrew HawkinsCLEvs. BALBrowns' No. 1 WR until further notice.
47Greg JenningsMINat NO 
48Terrance WilliamsDALat STL 
49Dwayne BoweKCat MIAHauls in three passes in his season debut.
50Riley CooperPHIvs. WAS 
51Cecil ShortsJACvs. INDHas yet to play due to hamstring issue.
52Rueben RandleNYGvs. HOUTD catch hopefully sign of things to come.
53Mike EvansTBat ATL (Thurs.) 
54Miles AustinCLEvs. BALHooked up with Hoyer for TD pass last week.
55Allen HurnsJACvs. INDJust 2 rec. and sprained his ankle.
56Marqise LeeJACvs. INDOne of many Jags who struggled vs. Redskins.
57Danny AmendolaNEvs. OAKDisappearing Danny? 0 targets vs. Vikings.
58Donnie AveryKCat MIA 
59Malcom FloydSDat BUF 
60Harry DouglasATLvs. TB (Thurs.)Role could expand if White (hamstring) is limited.
61Davante AdamsGBat DETRookie appears to have replaced Boykin as No. 3.
62Hakeem NicksINDat JAC 
63Robert WoodsBUFvs. SD 
64Aaron DobsonNEvs. OAK 

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


Need more fantasy help? Visit 

Fantasy Football 2014 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 3
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-tight-end-rankings-week-3

Jimmy Graham’s two touchdown catches against Cleveland was more than enough for him to maintain his hold on the top spot in Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings for Week 3. However, for the second straight week, Graham didn’t post the best numbers for his position. Instead that honor in Week 2 belongs to Antonio Gates, who victimized Seattle’s vaunted defense for three touchdowns as the Chargers overwhelmed the defending Super Bowl champions 30-21. Even though this game took place in San Diego and the Seahawks return home to CenturyLink Field for a Super Bowl rematch with the Broncos, one can’t help but wonder if Julius Thomas will enjoy similar success Sunday afternoon. After all, despite Graham’s and Gates’ big days, it’s Thomas who is tied for the NFL lead with four touchdown grabs after two games.


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 3 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends


RankPlayerTeam Comments
1Jimmy GrahamNOvs. MINGets first 2 TDs vs. Browns.
2Julius ThomasDENat SEATied for NFL lead w/ 4 TD catches.
3Rob GronkowskiNEvs. OAKPlaying time becoming an issue.
4Greg OlsenCARvs. PIT 
5Antonio GatesSDat BUFWho's old now? 3 TDs vs. Seahawks.
6Dennis PittaBALat CLEUpstaged by Daniels in win vs. Steelers.
7Zach ErtzPHIvs. WASAlready has seven catches of 20+ yards.
8Martellus BennettCHIat NYJ (Mon.)Two games, two TD catches.
9Kyle RudolphMINat NO 
10Vernon DavisSFat ARILeft loss to CHI early w/ ankle injury. Watch status.
11Jason WittenDALat STLSlow target for reliable target.
12Delanie WalkerTENat CINEnjoys career day (10-142-1) vs. Cowboys.
13Jordan CameronCLEvs. BALDNP (shoulder) Week 2. Watch very carefully.
14Travis KelceKCat MIAYoung buck made some nice plays vs. DEN.
15Niles PaulWASat PHISteps in for injured Reed, excels (8-99-1).
16Larry DonnellNYGvs. HOUQuickly making name for himself.
17Charles ClayMIAvs. KCFantasy impact has been minimal to this point.
18Heath MillerPITat CAR 
19Jared CookSTLvs. DAL 
20Coby FleenerINDat JACReserve Jack Doyle had more rec., TD.
21Dwayne AllenINDat JACFollowed up solid Week 1 w/ dud (0 rec.).
22Jermaine GreshamCINvs. TEN 
23Owen DanielsBALat CLETwo TDs among five receptions vs. Ravens.
24Garrett GrahamHOUat NYGMade season debut (back) last week.
25Levine ToiloloATLvs. TB (Thurs.) 
26Eric EbronDETvs. GBPosts first three career catches.

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


Need more fantasy help? Visit 

Fantasy Football 2014 Tight End Rankings: Week 3
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-3

Seattle’s coming off of a loss and gets Denver at home in a Super Bowl rematch, so, for at least one week, there’s a new team leading off Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Defense/Special Teams Rankings for Week 3. After struggling with Miami’s running game in Week 1, New England’s defense rebounded in a big way on the road against Minnesota. The Patriots collected six sacks, picked off Matt Cassel four times and scored as many points as the Vikings’ offense (six) thanks to a blocked field goal that Chandler Jones returned 58 yards for a touchdown. The good times should continue this week with 0-2 Oakland and rookie quarterback Derek Carr set to visit Gillette Stadium.


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 3 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams


1New England Patriotsvs. OAKPats rack up 6 sacks, 4 INTs and block FG for TD.
2Carolina Panthersvs. PITPanthers' D has been stout thus far.
3Cincinnati Bengalsvs. TENBengals picked off Ryan 3 times last week.
4Houston Texansat NYGAfter feasting on Raiders, TO-prone G-Men next.
5San Francisco 49ersat ARI49ers struggled to stop Bears after 1st Q.
6Seattle Seahawksvs. DENChamps struggled vs. SD, get Manning and co. next.
7Arizona Cardinalsvs. SFCards' D getting job done early.
8Baltimore Ravensat CLERavens' D manhandled Steelers last week.
9Denver Broncosat SEABarometer game for Broncos' new-look D.
10Buffalo Billsvs. SD6 sacks, 5 takeaways in 2 games.
11St. Louis Ramsvs. DALRams gave up 144 rushing yards to Rainey.
12New Orleans Saintsvs. MINSaints' D usually tougher at home.
13Chicago Bearsat NYJ (Mon.)Revamped D came up big (4 sacks, 4 TAs) vs. SF.
14Cleveland Brownsvs. BALPick-six helps fuel Browns' W over Saints.
15Kansas City Chiefsat MIAShorthanded D kept Broncos in check.
16Tennessee Titansat CINTitans got run over by Murray last week.


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


Need more fantasy help? Visit 

Fantasy Football 2014 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 3
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-kicker-rankings-week-3

Stephen Gostkowski checks in at No. 1 on Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Kicker Rankings for Week 3, but he’s yet to show off his powerful leg. Matt Bryant leads all kickers with two field goals of 50 yards or longer, while 10 other kickers have already connected from that distance as well. Dallas’ Dan Bailey is one of those, as he was good on four attempts from 40 yards and beyond, including a 51-yarder, in the Cowboys’ easy 26-10 road win over the Titans. Dallas travels to St. Louis this week, a game that features two kickers with big legs in Bailey and the Rams’ Greg Zuerlein (career long of 60 yards).


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 3 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers


1Stephen GostkowskiNEvs. OAK
2Steven HauschkaSEAvs. DEN
3Justin TuckerBALat CLE
4Matt BryantATLvs. TB (Thurs.)
5Nick NovakSDat BUF
6Dan BaileyDALat STL
7Mason CrosbyGBat DET
8Cody ParkeyPHIvs. WAS
9Adam VinatieriINDat JAC
10Phil DawsonSFat ARI
11Shayne GrahamNOvs. MIN
12Dan CarpenterBUFvs. SD
13Mike NugentCINvs. TEN
14Robbie GouldCHIat NYJ (Mon.)
15Greg ZuerleinSTLvs. DAL
16Brandon McManusDENat SEA


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 3
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 06:30