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Path: /fantasy/week-7-fantasy-injury-updates-darren-mcfadden-jerome-simpson-aaron-rodgers
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It’s Week 7 and there are six teams with a bye week. The injuries continue to pile up and teams taking a week off are not helping you as lineup decisions are made. Here’s a little info about those that are injured or those replacing the injured that can hopefully help lead you to a fantasy victory this week as you decide who to start.

 

Darren McFaddenDarren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders vs. Jacksonville
A shoulder injury has Darren McFadden on the injury report as probable, but he is expected to start against the Jaguars and their 31st-ranked defense against fantasy running backs. It would be nice to see Run DmC finally pay off for his high draft pick this week. He has averaged 2.6 yard per carry or less in four of six games and his only solid ground day was an 18-for-113-yard performance against Pittsburgh — which included a 64-yard TD run. There is no time like the present for McFadden as he faces a run defense that has surrendered six rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown to the running back position. All five feature backs that have faced the Jags this season have combined for at least 87 total yards and four of the seven TDs allowed.

 

Jerome Simpson, WR, Minnesota Vikings vs. Arizona Cardinals
Remember when we stashed Jerome Simpson on the roster with the hopes that he would return from his suspension and play like gangbusters for the Vikings? That was fun, right? He has eight targets, which have turned into four catches for 50 yards and no scores, including last week’s three targets that produced no catches. A lower back injury has him on the injury report and he is listed as probably for the Cardinals game. He was a full participant in practice this week, and it would be great to say “play him” against Arizona’s 16th-ranked fantasy defense against wide receivers. But we need to see the connection between himself and QB Christian Ponder before you can take a flier on Simpson. Take a flier on a proven flier like Cleveland’s Josh Gordon instead.

 

Aaron RodgersAaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers vs. St. Louis Rams
Aaron Rodgers showed up on the injury report with a calf injury and is listed as probable. He practiced on Friday and should be ready to continue his torrid pace after a tepid start to the 2012 season. After three games with three touchdowns and two games under 225 yards, Rodgers has thrown for at least 319 yards in two of the last three outings and 13 TDs in those three games. Outside of Matthew Stafford’s 355-yard, one-TD performance in Week 1, the Rams have held opposing QBs to no 206 yards or less in four of the last five games. But this is Rodgers, likely a top-five pick in your fantasy drafts, and if healthy there is no way you are sitting the Packers’ QB.


— By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Should you start or sit them?</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 21, 2012 - 07:34
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/week-7-fantasy-injury-updates-jimmy-graham-david-thomas-rashard-mendenhall-jonathan-dwyer-ba
Body:

It’s Week 7 and there are six teams with a bye week. The injuries continue to pile up and teams taking a week off are not helping you as lineup decisions are made. Here’s a little info about those that are injured or those replacing the injured that can hopefully help lead you to a fantasy victory this week as you decide who to start.

Jimmy GrahamJimmy Graham and David Thomas, TEs, New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jimmy Graham (ankle) went into the bye week in a walking boot and he returns from the bye listed as out today against Tampa Bay. Graham did some light work in practice on Thursday and Friday but was declared out on Saturday. David Thomas could be a desperation replacement for you as there are six teams on byes and many of the waiver wire tight ends have probably been scooped up. As far as his opponent, Tampa Bay has given up catches and yards to some of the better tight ends but have surrendered just one touchdown all season to the position. Greg Olsen (6-56, Martellus Bennett (5-72) and Fred Davis (4-70) have had the bigger days, with Bennett scoring the lone touchdown.

 

Trent RichardsonTrent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns vs. Indianapolis Colts
Richardson (ribs) saw limited work the last three days of practice this week and it could just be a matter of how much of a pain tolerance the rookie running back has. One thing that should brighten him up is the Colts' defense, or lack thereof, against fantasy RBs. They are third worst at it this season and just let Shonn Greene — yes, that Shonn Greene — rip off 161 yards and three scores on 32 carries. It's the second time in three games the feature back has gone for at least 161; Maurice Jones-Drew went for 177 and a score on 28 carries in Week 3. It's a noon game, and even if he were on a shared amount of carries with Montario Hardesty, the matchup is too good to let go by for Richardson.

 

Rashard MendenhallRashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and Baron Batch, RBs, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday night)
The Pittsburgh backfield is a mess with injuries and usage. Just when Mendenhall returned from injury and was the bell cow, an Achilles injury has sidelined him for Sunday night's game against the Bengals. Redman is also out for the game with an ankle injury. That leaves Batch and Dwyer. Dwyer was a healthy scratch last week, so trusting him is a little dicey. But we've seen plenty of players go from zero action to featured player in a week's time. Batch stepped in and carried the ball 10 times for 22 yards against a Tennessee defense that is sixth worst in the league against defending fantasy RBs. It took until Mendenhall returned in Week 5 for the Steelers to get a double-digit fantasy back and they are 31st in the league in rushing. While Cincinnati is ninth worst in the league in points allowed to fantasy backs, it's a tough call to say "go with any Steelers running back tonight." 
— By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Should you start or sit them?</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 21, 2012 - 07:29
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/week-7-fantasy-injury-updates-rob-gronkowski-greg-jennings-james-jones-dustin-keller
Body:

It’s Week 7 and there are six teams with a bye week. The injuries continue to pile up and teams taking a week off are not helping you as lineup decisions are made. Here’s a little info about those that are injured or those replacing the injured that can hopefully help lead you to a fantasy victory this week as you decide who to start.

Rob GronkowskiRob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots vs. New York Jets
A lingering hip injury has limited fantasy’s No. 2 tight end in PPR leagues this week, including in Friday’s practice. But unless you are not required to start a tight end and with the six teams on bye it is unlikely you can afford to sit Gronk on the pine this week. He has received at least five targets in five of six games this season and come through with at least five catches in four of those five games. The Jets are ranked 22nd in PPR leagues against fantasy TEs, although Houston’s Owen Daniels (4-79-1) in Week 5 has been the only one to any major damage. The tight end position may be deep in fantasy over the last couple of seasons. The Jets may have limited a majority of tight ends they have faced. Gronkowski may be dealing with a hip issue. But with six teams on bye weeks and the No. 2 fantasy TE on your roster, you’d be hard pressed to sit him in any situation save for his bye week.

 

Greg JenningsGreg Jennings and James Jones, WRs, Green Bay Packers vs. St. Louis Rams
Greg Jennings is out again with the groin injury. Jordy Nelson finally shined in his absence last week against the Texans, catching nine of 12 targets for 121 yards and three touchdowns. And that was against top CB Jonathan Joseph nonetheless. James Jones has been the man stepping in for Jennings the last two weeks. He has seven targets each of the last two games, pulling in seven catches for 79 yards and a score — or 10.45 points in a PPR each of the last two games. Only Larry Fitzgerald (8-92) has over 75 yards against the Rams since Calvin Johnson’s 6-for-111 Week 1 performance. There are a number of targets Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers can choose from, but Jones seems to at least be high on his list in Jennings’ sted. You can’t argue with the seven targets each of the last two weeks, and the Rams have been relatively tough on the run. Start Jennings with whatever is a smidge below confidence.

 

Dustin KellerDustin Keller, TE, New York Jets vs. New England Patriots
Dustin Keller returned from injury last week and played in his first game since Week 1 — although you would not have known it. He received one target and caught it for six yards on 49 offensive snaps played. There is no way you are playing Keller this week — six teams on bye or not. Regardless of his injury or lack or production upon his return last week, the Patriots have given up no more than 64 yards at the position and no more than five catches this season. Jets QB Mark Sanchez has other options in the red zone and it is hard to rely on any Jet offensive player right now. If you are looking for a tight end flier look somewhere other than the Jets’ offense; look at a Heath Miller or Jermaine Gresham.


— By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Should you start or sit them?</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 21, 2012 - 07:10
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/week-7-fantasy-injury-updates-dez-bryant-lance-moore-alex-green
Body:

It’s Week 7 and there are six teams with a bye week. The injuries continue to pile up and teams taking a week off are not helping you as lineup decisions are made. Here’s a little info about those that are injured or those replacing the injured that can hopefully help lead you to a fantasy victory this week.

Dez BryantDez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys vs. Carolina Panthers
Dez Bryant joined the injury report on Friday after not practicing due to a groin injury; he is now listed as questionable. This is not what we wanted to hear for a receiver coming off a career fantasy day (13-95-2 on 15 targets) a week ago vs. Baltimore. And perhaps he will be primed for more targets with DeMarco Murray (foot) sidelined in the Cowboys’ backfield. Bryant should be able to play, but with his inconsistency during his three-year career, you would rather see no red flags entering a game. The Panthers have allowed Ramses Barden (9-138) and Roddy White (8-169-2) to go off this year but have been quite respectable against the pass otherwise. Only Golden Tate and Mike Williams have scored against them outside of White and Sidney Rice's 67 yards is the closest anyone has come to Barden's 138. Bryant has led the Cowboys' receivers in targets by double the last two games and had one less than Miles Austin's nine in Week 3. If Bryant goes, you play him. It's an early game, so you should be able to make the call with ease.

 

Lance MooreLance Moore, WR, New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Lance Moore sat out Week 5 and was able to use the bye week to heal up a little bit in regards to his hamstring. He practiced in full this week and with the news that Jimmy Graham is out this week (ankle), Moore is a solid option for the Saints and a decent option for your fantasy lineup. Tampa Bay, while ranked 24th against fantasy receivers, has been rather stubborn over the last three weeks. Miles Austin had 5-for-107 and no scores in Week 3 and no receiver has eclipsed 62 yards since. No receiver has scored on the Bucs since Hakeem Nicks (10-199-1) and Victor Cruz (11-179-1) torched them in Week 2. Moore's history vs. Tampa Bay is not great. He does have three scores in six games, but has not had over 57 yards or more than six catches. He has caught right at two passes against them in four of the six meetings. One bright spot was his last outing in Week 4, at Green Bay. Known for being an indoor threat, Moore caught seven balls for 67 yards on 15 targets. It was his second double-digit target day of the season.

 

Alex Green, RB, Green Bay Packers vs. St. Louis Rams
Green joined the injury report with a shoulder, but is listed as probable and should be good to go against the Rams in their early game. It is kind of hard to gauge how Green is going to be used because the Packers lost to Indianapolis two weeks ago and Aaron Rodgers' arm helped them cruise past the Texans last week. In the two games, Green had 31 carries for 120 yards (3.9 YPC). James Starks should not cut into his workload that much, and hopefully the Rams will have their hands full with the Green Bay receiving corps. The receiving threat might be the thing that makes Green viable this week after St. Louis limited Arizona and Miami to 57 yards from running backs the last two weeks. Green should find running room due to his receivers and be a good RB2 for you this week.


— By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Should you start or sit them?</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 21, 2012 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/week-7-fantasy-injury-updates-jermichael-finley-wes-welker-pierre-garcon
Body:

It’s Week 7 and there are six teams with a bye week. The injuries continue to pile up and teams taking a week off are not helping you as lineup decisions are made. Here’s a little info about those that are injured or those replacing the injured that can hopefully help lead you to a fantasy victory this week.

Jermichael FinleyJermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay Packers vs. St. Louis Rams
If you're still trusting Jermichael Finley in your lineup then you are a braver fantasy owner than I. Not only is he listed as probable with a shoulder injury, but he is 20th amongst fantasy tight ends in PPR formats. He opened the season with 11 targets, seven catches, 47 yards and a TD against San Francisco. Since then, he has had no more than five targets in a game, no more than four catches in a game and no touchdowns in a game. The last two weeks, Finley has five catches for 23 yards on nine targets — 7.3 in a PPR, 2.3 in non-PPR. It doesn't really matter what the Rams do or do not allow to tight ends since Finley should be on the waiver wire, but just in case here are the numbers. St. Louis is ranked No. 8 against the position, having allowed the first TD to the position last week (Anthony Fasano). The Rams have not allowed a tight end to catch more than four passes since Detroit had two tight ends catch five in Week 1; Fasano had four last week.

 

Wes WelkerWes Welker, WR, New England Patriots vs. New York Jets
An ankle injury has Wes Welker as questionable on the injury report, but he is expected to start against a Jets team that is fourth against fantasy wide receivers. Reggie Wayne's 5-for-87 last week was the most yards and the second-most catches allowed to the position this season by the Jets. They have surrendered three scores to the position, all three coming in the first two weeks. You are not sitting Wes Welker, particularly if Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are limited and the shoulder injury Brandon Lloyd suffered last week carries over into today's late game.  Welker has double-digit target outings in each of the last six games and double-digit receiving days in the last two (he had games of nine and eight catches the two weeks before the last two). He has four straight 100-yard receiving games. Welker has 31 catches for 380 and two TDs in the last five meetings with the Jets.

 

Pierre GarconPierre Garcon, WR, Washington Redskins vs. New York Giants
The foot injury suffered in Week 1 continues to hinder the Redskins' key free agent acquisition. And it doesn't look like it's going to get better any time soon. Garcon did not practice this week and is not expected to play against the Giants. The Redskins have their bye in Week 10. It'd be a surprise to see Garcon suit up against the Giants, Steelers and Panthers in the three games leading up to that bye. Garcon is already teetering on the brink of release back into the FA pool. If he doesn't play in the Week 11 game against Philadelphia, it'd be time to cut bait. In shallow leagues, he should already be on the waiver wire. In keepers, dynasties and deep leagues, you have to hold out hope.
— By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Should you start or sit them?</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 21, 2012 - 07:00
Path: /nfl/pittsburgh-steelers-vs-cincinnati-bengals-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Two divisional foes coming off disappointing road losses will meet on Sunday Night Football, when the Cincinnati Bengals host the Pittsburgh Steelers at 8:20 pm EST on NBC. The Bengals dropped to 3-3 on the season last week with a surprising 34-24 defeat in Cleveland to the previously-winless Browns. The Steelers have had 10 days to recover from their 26-23 loss to the Titans that dropped Pittsburgh to an uncomfortable 2-3 on the year.

When the Cincinnati Bengals have the ball:
Quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green have become the focal point of the Bengals attack. The second-year signal caller has hooked up with his fellow sophomore pass catcher for six touchdowns this season, but the dynamic duo needs a little help from the running game. Cincinnati needs more from lead runner BenJarvus Green-Ellis (averaging only 3.4 yards per carry) to keep the Pittsburgh pressure off Dalton, who has thrown nine interceptions and been sacked 17 times in six games.

The Steelers defense has been inconsistent this season, especially in the three road losses. Injuries (highlighted by the absence of Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu) have played a big part in that, but Dick LeBeau’s unit must find a way to get late stops when Pittsburgh has the lead. The Steelers rank fourth in the NFL in yardage allowed, but 17th in points per game. Pittsburgh must apply pressure on Dalton and improve on a total of just six takeaways in five games.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers have the ball:
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been solid this season, throwing for 1,487 yards and 10 touchdowns against only two interceptions. However, the Steelers attack has been hampered greatly by injuries on the offensive line and at running back. Pittsburgh ranks 31st in the league in rushing, only compiling 74.8 yards per game on the ground. It won’t get any easier this week with top runners Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) and Isaac Redman (ankle) listed as questionable. The good news for the Steelers is that the receiving trio of Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace and tight end Heath Miller has been very productive this season.

The Bengals defense will need a solid performance coming off two straight losses. Cincinnati should catch a break with a banged-up Steelers rushing attack, and Mike Zimmer’s crew leads the AFC in sacks with 20. The Bengals will look to continue that type of pressure on Roethlisberger, who can be very crafty in avoiding the pass rush. Cincinnati must improve in creating turnovers, only totaling seven takeaways in six games this year.

Key Factor:
The Steelers had started at least 6-2 in each of coach Mike Tomlin’s five seasons at the helm, so the 2012 campaign is unusual territory for Pittsburgh. Even with the injuries, it is difficult to see Roethlisberger and company falling to 2-4 on the year. The Bengals will benefit from the home crowd, but look for the desperate Steelers to continue their recent dominance over Cincinnati and get back to .500 on the season.

Prediction:
Steelers 27 Bengals 23


---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Teaser:
<p> Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 21, 2012 - 07:00
Path: /fantasy/week-7-fantasy-injury-updates-adrian-peterson-demarco-murray-felix-jones-ahmad-bradshaw-andr
Body:

It’s Week 7 and there are six teams with a bye week. The injuries continue to pile up and teams taking a week off are not helping you as lineup decisions are made. Here’s a little info about those that are injured or those replacing the injured that can hopefully help lead you to a fantasy victory this week as you decide who to start.

Adrian PetersonAdrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings vs. Arizona Cardinals
An ankle injury has Peterson on the injury report and his limited practice seems to be more of a reduction of unnecessary wear and tear. Yes, save those carries for Sundays where fantasy owners want to see him in the end zone — somewhere he has not been since Week 1. This might be the week. Peterson had his best fantasy day of 2011 when these two met in Week 5 last year. He ran for 122 yards and three scores on 29 carries. The Cardinals are ranked 14th against fantasy running backs and have given up production the last two weeks to the position. Two RBBC teams over the last two weeks — St. Louis' Steven Jackson (18-76) and Daryl Richardson (9-35) and Buffalo's C.J. Spiller (12-88-1) and Fred Jackson (16-53-1) — have had over 100 yards on the ground. The Buffalo duo also added nine catches for 52 yards.  

 

DeMarco MurrayDeMarco Murray, Felix Jones, Phillip Tanner, RBs, Dallas Cowboys vs. Carolina Panthers
DeMarco Murray (sprained foot) is out for today's early game against the Panthers. Felix Jones was the must-have on the waiver wire this week. It was a three-part must-have: He gets the start, it's a bye week for some and the Panthers' fantasy run defense. Carolina has allowed double-digit fantasy days in PPR formats in all five games this season. Five backs have had at least 85 yards on the ground; three backs have had at least 40 yards receiving. Jones is the model of inconsistency, much like the team he plays for. But he did have three 100-plus-yard rushing days last season and three 30-plus-yard receiving days. Along with Jones' inconsistency is the fact that he's had just two 20-carry game in five seasons. Phillip Tanner or Lance Dunbar, two former Sun Belt Conference studs, will also be worked in to the mix. This is not what we want to hear, but roll the dice with Jones and take a chance on Tanner in deeeeep leagues.

 

Ahmad BradshawAhmad Bradshaw, Andre Brown, David Wilson, RBs, New York Giants vs. Washington Redskins
Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) sat out Friday's practice but is expected to start against the Redskins in their early game. Andre Brown is expected to be back from his concussion suffered in Week 4. And rookie David Wilson appears to be out of the doghouse of Tom Coughlin after a career-high seven carries for 35 yards last week. Bradshaw has had 57 carries the last two weeks for 316 yards and two scores. The Giants and Eli Manning will be facing a Redskins defense that has allowed at least 24 points in every game this year, allowed all six QBs to throw for at least 299 yards and surrendered 14 TDs through the air versus three to running backs. If Bradshaw goes, you start him because you cannot sit a guy that's gone 57-200-2 the last two weeks. But a three-headed timeshare is the potential against a team the Giants should be able to score on in a multitude of ways. If you're looking for a second Giants RB, lean toward the hot hand in Wilson as Brown is still listed as probable with the concussion.


— By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Should you start or sit them?</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 21, 2012 - 06:36
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/week-7-fantasy-injury-updates-stephen-hill-jeremy-kerley-ben-tate-brandon-pettigrew
Body:

It’s Week 7 and there are six teams with a bye week. The injuries continue to pile up and teams taking a week off are not helping you as lineup decisions are made. Here’s a little info about those that are injured or those replacing the injured that can hopefully help lead you to a fantasy victory this week as you decide who to start.

 

Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears (Monday night)

Brandon PettigrewBrandon Pettigrew (knee) received the third-highest target day of his of four-year career a month ago in Tennessee. He had 12 balls thrown his way that day, pulled in eight for 61 yards and also dropped a TD in the end zone. His targets dropped to nine the following week, catching seven for 67 yards and dropping another potential TD pass. His targets dropped to seven last week, catching three for 38 yards. Now he gets a Bears team, ranked 24th against fantasy tight ends. Most of the damage done against Chicago came on Jason Witten's 13-for-112-1-TD day two weeks ago when the game was out of hand. There's nothing to say that the game won't get out of hand for Detroit Monday night and Pettigrew can get garbage-time production. But so could Titus Young, Nate Burleson and Tony Scheffler. Pettgirew is currently 15th at his position in PPR leagues. If you're going to go for someone in prime time this week, go grab Heath Miller or Jermaine Gresham, who are sixth and seventh at TE and play on Sunday night.

 

Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley, WRs, New York Jets vs. New England Patriots
Stephen Hill (hamstring) is questionable and Jeremy Kerley (finger) is probable for their late game against the Patriots. Hill returned to action last week for the first time since Week 3 — the seven-target, no-catch game against Miami. The rookie caught all three targets for 23 yards and a score. After back-to-back games with three targets, Kerley has had games of nine and six targets each of the last two weeks, turning them into eight catches for 118 yards and no scores. It is a tough call to say "go with any Jet." The Patriots are ranked 27th against fantasy receivers and have allowed and have allowed at least one touchdown per game to the position. They allowed to different Denver receivers and three different Seattle receivers to score in the last two weeks. The Pats have allowed 33 passes of 20-plus yards — six last week to Seattle — and nine for scores. If you are going to take a flier on anyone in the Jets' passing game this week, it should be Hill.

 

Ben TateBen Tate, RB, Houston Texans vs. Baltimore Ravens
It's easy to say "No Ray Lewis, so start Ben Tate with ease." But the Ravens were not the run-stopping team of old with Lewis in the lineup this season anyways. They are 22nd against fantasy running backs and are coming off a game in which DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones each ran for 90-plus yards. A week earlier, Jamaal Charles went for 140 yards. The Texans are tops in the league in production from fantasy backs, and that is after their lackluster game against Green Bay a week ago. Tate (toe) is still a risk as Justin Forsett is also in the mix. But it's a bye week for six teams, the Texans should want to get back to ground and pound and Tate is still one of the better flex options for a team that should have rushing success against the Ravens.
 

— By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Should you start or sit them?</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 21, 2012 - 06:33
Path: /college-football/west-virginia-mountaineers-vs-kansas-state-wildcats-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Just like last week’s matchup between Oklahoma and Texas, Saturday’s game between Kansas State and West Virginia will play a key role in helping to clear the Big 12 title picture. The conference crown won’t be decided this week, but there’s a clear pecking order starting to form. The Wildcats are the Big 12’s only unbeaten team and scored a huge road win over Oklahoma earlier this season. The Mountaineers watched their national title hopes fade in a disappointing loss to Texas Tech last Saturday. However, all is not lost for West Virginia, as it remains a viable Big 12 title contender and should be in the mix for one of the at-large BCS bowl spots.

These two teams have met only twice, with the last meeting occurring in 1931. West Virginia won 23-7 in 1930, while Kansas State claimed a 19-0 victory in 1931. Both games in this series have been played in Morgantown.

Storylines to Watch in West Virginia vs. Kansas State

Will Stedman Bailey play this Saturday?
Lost in the shuffle of West Virginia’s loss to Texas Tech was the injury to receiver Stedman Bailey. The junior caught six passes for 56 yards and one touchdown in the first half but did not play in the final two quarters due to an ankle injury. Bailey is one of the nation’s top deep threats and helps to stretch the field, which allows Tavon Austin to work underneath. If Bailey cannot go, West Virginia will need contributions from a couple of young players. Freshmen Travares Copeland, Jordan Thompson and Dante Campbell have combined for 15 receptions but could be counted on for a bigger role this Saturday. Bailey's status isn't officially known but most signs out of Morgantown seem to indicate he will be able to play in some capacity aginst Kansas State.

Does West Virginia have an answer for Kansas State’s offense?
The Mountaineers have struggled to get stops in Big 12 play this season, giving up at least 45 points in all three of their conference games. To emphasize how bad this defense has been: West Virginia ranks 114th nationally in total defense, 109th in points allowed and 118th in pass defense. Kansas State will present a different challenge than the ones the Mountaineers have played so far, as the Wildcats are a run-first team and aren’t as prolific through the air. Kansas State is averaging 31:47 minutes in time of possession each game, and coach Bill Snyder hopes to control the clock and keep West Virginia’s high-powered offense on the sidelines. The Mountaineers’ rush defense ranks 43rd nationally but opponents have scored 12 touchdowns on the ground. Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein is averaging 264 total yards per game and will be a tough assignment for West Virginia’s defense. The Mountaineers need to load the box and force Klein and the Wildcats to win this game through the air. If Kansas State controls the time of possession, it will wear down West Virginia’s defense.

Can Geno Smith get back on track this week?
Although his performance against Texas Tech wasn’t awful, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith had his worst game of the season. The senior completed 29 of 55 throws for 275 yards and one touchdown. Smith was widely believed to be the Heisman favorite, but his mediocre performance opened the door for Ohio State’s Braxton Miller and Kansas State’s Collin Klein to close the gap. Smith takes on a Kansas State secondary that ranks 74th nationally in yards allowed and 42nd in pass efficiency defense. The Wildcats allowed Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones to throw for 299 yards in late September, so there are plenty of plays to be made for Smith and West Virginia’s receiving corps. Considering how well the senior has played this season, last week’s game figures to be a small bump in the road. The senior will have to dodge a Kansas State pass rush that is averaging 2.3 sacks per game, but Smith should top 300 passing yards for the fifth time this year.

The x-factors…players not named Geno Smith and Collin Klein
With all of the focus on the two quarterbacks (Geno Smith and Collin Klein), there are plenty of opportunities for other skill players to step up in this game. West Virginia’s rushing attack has shown flashes of promise behind sophomore Andrew Buie, while Kansas State’s John Hubert is one of the nation’s most underrated players. On the defensive side, keep a close watch on the linebackers. Wildcats’ linebacker Arthur Brown is having an All-American-caliber season, while the Mountaineers have a budding star in redshirt freshman Isaiah Bruce. There’s no question Smith and Klein will play a huge role in determining the outcome of the game, but some of the other players will need to step up for their team. 

Final Analysis

Whichever team can dictate the tempo should gain the upper hand in this game. Kansas State wants to grind the clock and limit West Virginia’s possessions, while the Mountaineers hope to use their high-powered passing attack to jump out to an early lead and keep the pressure on the Wildcats’ offense. Kansas State is not built to rally from 14 or 17 points down, so it’s important for Bill Snyder’s club to control the tempo.

Another factor that could determine how this game goes is the health of West Virginia receiver Stedman Bailey. Although the Mountaineers can move the ball without Bailey, the junior is a key cog in the passing attack and helps to relieve the pressure on Tavon Austin. If Bailey can’t go, Kansas State can focus more on stopping Austin. And that means West Virginia’s young receivers have to have their best game of the year.

As usual, turnovers will play a key role in this game. Kansas State ranks seventh nationally in turnover margin, while West Virginia checks in 14th.

Even though the Mountaineers have struggled on defense, facing a run-first Kansas State squad is a good matchup for a team with secondary question marks. This one should be a tossup and will be decided late in the fourth quarter. It’s hard to pick against the Wildcats, but the Mountaineers find a way to rebound at home.

Final Prediction: West Virginia 38, Kansas State 34


by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

 

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Teaser:
<p> West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Kansas State Wildcats Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Saturday, October 20, 2012 - 08:40
Path: /nascar/nascar%E2%80%99s-cookie-cutter-crisis
Body:

Denny Hamlin began Thursday playing the role of NASCAR Chase contender. How’d he end it?

Trying to avoid the label of tragic footnote.

Smashing his car into the Turn 1 wall at a reported 202 mph, a test at the repaved Kansas Speedway turned into a headache—literally—as Hamlin fought dizziness to the point he made a second trip to the infield care center for further evaluation.

“It was the first time I really had some dizziness after a hit,” Hamlin told ESPN afterward. “Usually I’m sore or your jaw hurts from clenching your jaw. This is the first time I really got dizzy.”

His car was totaled, the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team forced to pull out a backup for Sunday, but that was minor compared to the possible head injury this track had given a second title contender in less than two months.

Hamlin, who claims he’ll be fine for the race, was showing signs of concussive-like symptoms, ones that will be monitored closely the next 48 hours as NASCAR is suddenly making the NFL’s measures look tame by comparison. Dale Earnhardt Jr. suffered head injuries after a 40 G impact during a tire test Aug. 29 at the same track that will keep him out of the No. 88 car for the second straight race. As the show goes on, amd with virtually the entire field shattering Kansas’ qualifying record of 180.856 mph in testing, record speeds are leading to serious concerns about both the tire compound and the ability for drivers to race effectively.

Sound familiar? Welcome to NASCAR’s Cookie Cutter Crisis, 2012, a drama-less disaster of parade laps, aerodynamics and injury risk that’s threatening to suck the life out of what once was the second-most popular sport in America. Kansas is the latest example of one of these, an “intermediate track” at 1.5 miles in length whose shape and size reflects the majority of ovals the series competes on. Five of the 10 Chase races are at intermediates (add Charlotte, Chicagoland, Texas and Homestead) while a whopping 14 of 36 races overall take place at facilities 1.5 to 2 miles in length. It’s the highest percentage for any track type on the circuit, a tough reality considering they don’t deliver enough excitement to keep a local librarian awake.

Example No. 1? Last weekend’s Charlotte’s race, which was so focused on fuel mileage that cars were dialing it back, running at 80 percent throttle for up to one-third of the race in order to conserve precious Sunoco. It was taking the gas game to a new level, slowing down in between multiple pit stops because teams felt the only way to reach Victory Lane was not to pass, but stay conservative over a long, green-flag run. The result? An ugly series of parade laps where every car ran slower than race pace, hesitant to challenge cars in front while crossing their fingers in hopes that less time on pit road would give them the position instead.

The winner, Clint Bowyer, was really the fifth-fastest car but used that strategy—plus the 20-second “I’m out of gas on the backstretch” drama of Brad Keselowski in front of him—with 58 laps remaining to “coast” to the victory. He beat fellow Chaser Hamlin, both of them more concerned about the points lost for running empty themselves that they’d probably have drafted up on each other, nose-to-tail rather than taken any sort of side-by-side risk to fight for first place.

Imagine if you’re trying to explain that race to a possible new NASCAR fan on Monday.

“Hey, what’d you do Saturday night?”

“Watched the race.”

“How’d it go?”

“Oh, just waited to see if cars were going to run out of gas for an hour and a half.”

Who other than your single, middle-aged aunt who hangs on every word you say is going to find that conversation exciting? Sitting on a hill watching cars drive around your local highway might be a better option; no wonder why, halfway through the postseason, we’re on track for the least-watched Chase since the inception of the sport’s playoff format in 2004.

Boredom wasn’t always the norm with NASCAR’s intermediate ovals. A decade ago, Charlotte was one of the sport’s signature tracks, every bit deserving of its hometown label as three different grooves often turned the sport’s two races, plus the All-Star event, into “must see” TV. But then track owner Bruton Smith, inciting a trend that’s hit far too many tracks of late, began a repaving process that changed the way drivers race the facility. New asphalt meant record speeds, putting the pressure on Goodyear’s tires to the point holding up under a long green-flag run was simply impossible. Even the best engineers, when dealing with the science of physics, can’t find a way to outfox nature. In the end, there’s a limit to how fast cars can go while turning left.

Sadly, NASCAR and its longtime tire company found out the hard way as the crisis peaked in an Oct. 2005 event that was nearly cut off early from tires blowing virtually every 20-25 laps. Ever since, steps have been taken to keep speeds in check while Goodyear’s tire compound has been made more conservative than a Rick Santorum stump speech.

Why does that matter? It means no wear over the course of a run, leaving every driver to run the same speed on new asphalt that makes the track “easy” to drive. Let’s review: similar engines among the top teams, no way to beat someone through managing your equipment and it’s difficult-to-impossible to “outbrake” someone in the turns when you’re, well, not doing much braking in the first place.

No wonder drivers are banking on fuel mileage. It’s the best way to gain spots.

Higher speeds have led to other unintended consequences, making the sport far too predictable and prosaic. As technology evolves, pinpoint engineering has left these cars sleek but sideways the second they get close to another car around them, a phenomenon known as “aero push.” The second you’re underneath another car, handling goes from a 1 to a 10 on a scale of difficulty, making it even harder for drivers to adjust since they’re not fighting the car as much in clean air. The result has been some horrifying wrecks (see, Jimmie Johnson last fall) that will come under greater scrutiny in the wake of Earnhardt’s concussion problem. When the risk is your health, drivers these days are willing to take a step back and preserve it.

Perhaps that explains why, over the course of 11 intermediate races this season, we’ve seen an average of just over two cautions for wrecks. If you take out the 10 yellows from the repaved Michigan Speedway—where Goodyear again struggled with the correct tire compound—that number drops to an astounding 1.6. Those low numbers have occurred during the same time equipment is holding up better than ever; with millions spent on fine-tuning parts, engine failures among the top teams have almost disappeared within the course of a 500-mile race. The result is long green-flag runs spreading out the field, forcing NASCAR to try and engineer mystery debris cautions in order to keep the racing close enough where more than a handful of cars wind up on the lead lap.

But manufactured excitement can only go so far. Drivers have caught on to the only ways they can win at these ovals: track position, gas mileage and keeping their nose clean. Even double-file restarts now sort out quickly, as drivers hold their position and wait for pit stops to come so they can pass cars quicker than being stuck behind them for 20, 30 or 40 laps on end. The risks come from the pit box now, not on the speedway, as Cup races on intermediates now resemble a game of high-speed chess.

Don’t get me wrong, chess is a fine hobby, but that also raises two major concerns. One: chess is not a game you see people spend $300 million annually to televise. Two: the average chess game doesn’t typically last over three hours. Even in a shortened race, like Kansas’ 400-mile affair this Sunday, you can’t expect people to wait that long to see if their driver simply runs out of gas or uses a late-race, two-tire stop under a debris caution to gain the track position needed for a top-5 finish.

No, to solve NASCAR’s “cookie-cutter” crisis big swings are needed, a way to slow down the cars further, eliminate the aero push and bring a tire compound that’s more competitive and on the ragged edge, yet doesn’t put a driver’s health at risk. Oh, and did I mention NASCAR must make the cars difficult enough to drive so handling comes back into play?

It’s a complicated physics problem, one that has no easy answer and that the 2013 car can’t possibly solve in one fell swoop. But as the pressure heats up on the sport from all fronts, it’s one NASCAR can no longer ignore if it wants to keep the fan base paying attention.

 

by Tom Bowles
Follow Tom on Twitter: @NASCARBowles
 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Tom Bowles examines the proliferation of "cookie cutter" tracks on NASCAR's Sprint Cup circuit.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 12:36
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Links, College Basketball, NFL, NBA, MLB
Path: /college-football/athlons-essential-eleven-links-day-1
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for October 19.

• John Harper of the New York Daily News looks at the Yankees meltdown in the ALCS. Did getting booed really affect the team?

• Jon Cooper of Saturday Down South previews the huge South Carolina-Florida matchup in the Swamp.

• This idiot pretty much gets what he deserves.

• 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh declined a safety in last night’s 13-6 win over the Seahawks, and the betting world is abuzz over the decision.

• The New York Post has a well-played cover ripping Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees.

• The Texans-Ravens and RG3’s trip to New York highlight this week’s NFL schedule.

• Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder is not lighting up the NFL, but he has played well enough to help Minnesota to a 4-2 start. And now comes word that the second-year signal caller is dating ESPN’s Samantha Steele. Life is good.

• Sort of like the Longhorns defensive game plan, Big Tex caught on fire at the Texas State Fair.

• The St. Louis Cardinals are getting hot in October once again.

• Dwight Howard is aiming to make his Lakers debut this weekend.

• Check out high-school kicker Austin Rehkow (Spokane Valley, Wash.) making this record 67-yard field goal to send the game to overtime, where his team would go to win. Boise State should be calling soon Austin.

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


October 18

• Rushing yards will be at a premium in tonight’s NFC West slobberknocker between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.

• Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times looks at the Tutogi brother vs. brother matchup in this weekend’s Arizona-Washington game.

• This has got to hurt. I keep picturing this guy yelling “Nowitzki!!” each time.

• Will the Jets use Tim Tebow at running back this week against the Patriots?

• Timberwolves star Kevin Love could miss two months with a broken hand.

• From way downtown….Bang. Poor little bro.

• Check out this LSU-Texas A&M GIF duel.

• Bob Brenly is leaving the Cubs booth, and many feel that the former Diamondbacks manager may join the Arizona broadcast.

• Arizona State is off to a 5-1 start under new coach Todd Graham, and tonight’s home game against undefeated Oregon will be a quality litmus test for the Sun Devils.

• Could Ravens Pro Bowl pass rusher Terrell Suggs, who tore his Achilles this spring, return for this week’s game against the Houston Texans? It may happen.

• Check out the Texas wind taking this high schooler’s punt straight backwards. We apologize for the annoying music.

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


October 17

• NBA star Kobe Bryant is giving Alex Rodriguez pep talks to help the Yankees benched third baseman out of his current slump. Good luck with that.

• USA Today’s Christine Brennan covers the divorce of Nike and former Tour de France champion (and cheater) Lance Armstrong.

• Somebody make sure Kevin Bacon is okay.

• Chuck Oliver looks at the rise of LSU running back Jeremy Hill, who had 124 yards and two touchdowns in last Saturday’s win over South Carolina.

• Tigers ace Justin Verlander has achieved almost everything in baseball — from awards to no-hitters to dating Kate Upton — and a championship could be next.

• Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson has been cleared to practice this week. He suffered a concussion is last week’s win over Stanford.

• Check out Bill Laimbeer and Isiah Thomas back in the day.

• College basketball is getting close, and here is the latest from the ACC, Big East and Big 12 Media Days.

• New York Giants defensive back Antrel Rolle says that Redskins rookie Robert Griffin III is a much different quarterback than Michael Vick.

• Can 5-1 Arizona State keep up with 6-0 Oregon on Thursday night?

• The Florida Gators are looking for more from junior big man Patric Young on the court this season. We’ll see if his game improves, but his workout regimen is doing just fine.
 


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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)


October 16

• He did it again. Peyton Manning led the Denver Broncos to the largest comeback in Monday Night Football history, winning 35-24 over the Chargers after trailing 24-0 at the half. Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post says the victory will last with Broncos fans for ages.

• ESPN Big 12 blogger David Ubben looks forward to this weekend’s Kansas State-West Virginia battle, where quarterbacks Collin Klein and Geno Smith will spice up a “painfully boring” Heisman race.

• I get pretty excited about weather as well.

• The 3-3 Philadelphia Eagles fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo today, although many believe he is just a scapegoat for Andy Reid. We’re not sure that will help Mike Vick from turning the ball over so much, but who knows.

• Thayer Evans and Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated look at the “real story” of LSU’s Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu.

• Playing a four-on-four hoops in Los Angeles soon? If so, you can bid to have Shaq (The Big Bavetta?) referee your game.

• How will the Yankees fare against Justin Verlander in Detroit?

• Nebraska and Northwestern meet in a key Legends Division battle this weekend at tiny Ryan Field. But could this game be played at iconic Wrigley Field in 2014?

• Beyonce will perform at this year’s Super Bowl in New Orleans. Will Jay-Z hit the stage as well?

• New Browns owner Jim Haslam will reportedly replace team president Mike Holmgren with former Eagles president Joe Banner.

• I have no clue what game these kids are playing, but the one guy who won’t fall in line gets smashed in the face.



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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)


October 15

• What has happened to the Yankees bats in the playoffs? A-Rod is not the only Bronx Bomber struggling, as Robinson Cano is hitting 2-for-32 (.063) in the 2012 postseason. New York trails the Tigers two games to none with the ALCS headed to Detroit.

• Many Texas fans and media members are calling out Longhorns’ coach Mack Brown after their embarrassing 63-21 loss to Oklahoma. Is it time for a change in Austin?

• It’s important to spend time with kids, like taking them to the mall for an unforgettable learning experience. This is going to leave an impression.

• Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune sets the stage for Monday Night Football, where the Chargers will host Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

• Many college football fans believe Notre Dame received a very fortunate call on the last play of its 20-13 overtime victory over Stanford.

• Aaron Rodgers was back to MVP form on Sunday night, tossing six touchdowns in Green Bay’s 42-24 road win over the Texans. The Packers are back to .500 at 3-3 on the year.

• Things do get a little crazy in Baton Rouge for LSU night games, but one South Carolina fan went a little far with the multiple pants drops.

• The Ravens have started 5-1 this season, but multiple injuries on defense have Baltimore fans concerned.

• West Virginia was finally stopped on offense by Texas Tech, and the Mountaineers poor defense caught up with them in a crushing 49-14 loss to the Red Raiders.

• Ty Willingham is back at Stanford….as the volunteer assistant coach to the women’s golf team in charge of psychology?!

• Many of you would probably like to throw a football at Chris Berman or Rich Eisen, but NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport actually took one to the face during a Packers-Texans pregame segment.



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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

Teaser:
<p> The best sports links from the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, NASCAR and the world of entertainment.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 12:18
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-predictions-every-game-week-8-0
Body:

College football’s Week 8 action features several key matchups in the SEC (as usual), a pivotal Big 12 game in Morgantown a battle for supremacy in the state of Michigan.

Friday

No. 77 Connecticut at No. 67 Syracuse
Four of the eight teams in the Big East do not have a loss in league play. Connecticut and Syracuse are not in that group. The Huskies are 0–2 after losing at home to Temple last week. The Orange are 1–1 with a win over Pittsburgh and a loss at Rutgers.
Syracuse 23-20

Saturday

No. 1 Alabama at No. 35 Tennessee
The Volunteers are 0–3 in the SEC for the third time in Derek Dooley’s three seasons as the head coach. There is a very good chance UT will be 0–4 in league play for the third time in three years after Alabama’s visit to Neyland Stadium Saturday night.
Alabama 38-13

No. 52 BYU at No. 3 Notre Dame
The Notre Dame defense has now gone four straight games without giving up a touchdown — although Stanford came very, very close to crossing the goal line in overtime last Saturday. It won’t be a surprise if the streak reaches five games. BYU ranks 78th in the nation in scoring (25.6 ppg).
Notre Dame 24-10

No. 9 South Carolina at No. 4 Florida
It’s stop No. 3 for South Carolina on what has to be the most difficult three-game stretch that any team in the nation will face in 2012. The Gamecocks split the first two games, beating Georgia at home and losing last Saturday at LSU. Now it’s off to Gainesville in a game that will go a long way in determining the SEC East champion.
Florida 20-14

No. 5 Kansas State at No. 13 West Virginia
Heisman voters will be watching this game with interest. WVU’s Geno Smith and K-State’s Collin Klein are strong favorites to be among the finalists.
West Virginia 34-30

No. 66 Purdue at No. 6 Ohio State
Urban Meyer put out an APB for “tough guys” after the Buckeyes gave up 49 points in a too-close-for-comfort win over Indiana last week. There are no issues with the Ohio State offense; Braxton Miller & Co. have scored a total of 115 points in the past two weeks and are averaging just over 40 points for the season.
Ohio State 41–20

No. 7 LSU at No. 22 Texas A&M
Good pitching usually stops good hitting. We’ll find out on Saturday afternoon if the LSU defense can slow down what has been the SEC’s most explosive offense. Texas A&M leads the league in both total offense (543.7 ypg) and scoring offense (47.0 ppg) and is led by redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, one of the most exciting players in college football.
LSU 27-20

No. 94 Kansas at No. 8 Oklahoma
The OU offense has come alive after losing at home to Kansas State. The Sooners have totaled 1,057 yards and 104 points in wins over Texas Tech and Texas. Kansas continues to struggle; the Jayhawks are one of two AQ conference teams (Boston College is the other) in the nation without a win over an FBS opponent.
Oklahoma 37-7

No. 10 Georgia at No. 82 Kentucky
Kentucky’s offense has been beyond bad over the last month. Forced to play with either a true freshman (Jalen Whitlow) or a senior who was buried on the depth chart at the beginning of the season (Morgan Newton) at quarterback, the Wildcats have failed to gain more than 250 yards in any of their four SEC games. In fact, UK ranks last in the nation in total offense in league games, averaging 215.0 yards in SEC play.
Georgia 41-7

No. 99 Colorado at No. 11 USC
Colorado ranks last in the Pac-12 in both scoring offense (20.8 ppg) and scoring defense (41.3 ppg). That is not a good combination.
USC 47-13

No. 12 Florida State at No. 48 Miami (Fla.)
The Hurricanes’ offense is slumping. After scoring 38 points or more in four of their first five games, the Canes have scored a total of 17 in the past two.
Florida State 41-24

No. 54 Virginia Tech at No. 14 Clemson
Here’s a troubling stat if you are a Clemson fan: The Tigers are allowing an average of 7.6 yards per play in ACC games, the worst in the league by a considerable amount. That needs to improve down the stretch.
Clemson 33-20

No. 60 Utah at No. 15 Oregon State
The Beavers continue to be the biggest surprise in the nation. Last week, backup quarterback Cody Vaz stepped in and threw for 332 yards with three touchdowns and no picks in a 42–24 win at BYU.
Oregon State 30-13

No. 75 South Florida at No. 16 Louisville
South Florida is the only team in the Big East that has given up over 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards passing. The Bulls rank seventh in the league in total defense and have allowed 93 plays of at least 10 yards. Not good.
Louisville 30-20

No. 17 Rutgers at No. 65 Temple
Temple handed Rutgers some of its most disheartening losses in school history in the late 1990s early 2000s. Some bad Temple teams won four straight over some bad Rutgers teams, the worst of which was a 48–14 loss at home in 2000. Those were not fun times for the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers 21-14

No. 47 Michigan State at No. 18 Michigan
Michigan is 4–2, but both losses came away from home vs. top-five teams (Alabama and Notre Dame). The Wolverines have won their two Big Ten games by a combined score of 99–13. This is a solid Michigan team that is better than its ranking (No. 23 AP, No. 25 coaches). The Wolverines will snap their five-game losing streak to State — and do so in convincing fashion.
Michigan 30-14

No. 84 Middle Tennessee at No. 19 Mississippi State
Mississippi State fans are looking forward to a likely showdown at Alabama in two weeks between a pair of 7–0 teams. But first the Bulldogs must focus on a Middle Tennessee club that has a 49–28 win at Georgia Tech on its 2012 résumé. The Blue Raiders, however, will make the trip to Starkville without running back Bennie Cunningham, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in last week’s 34–30 win at FIU. Cunningham had two 200-yard games this season, including 217 and five touchdowns in the win over Georgia Tech.
Mississippi State 34-20

No. 20 Stanford at No. 50 California
For only the second time ever — and the first time since 1892 — the Big Game will not be played in November or December. Stanford must bounce back from an emotional (and controversial) overtime loss at Notre Dame last Saturday. Close games are nothing new to this team; five of the Cardinal’s six games have been decided by seven points or less.
Stanford 24-21

No. 21 Cincinnati at No. 63 Toledo
The schedule hasn’t been daunting, but Cincinnati has been quite impressive on offense in 2012. The Bearcats are averaging 6.8 yards per play, which ranks ninth in the nation. That number likely will go up after playing Toledo.
Cincinnati 41-20

No. 24 Texas Tech at No. 26 TCU

Last October, Texas Tech stunned the college football world by knocking off Oklahoma, ranked No. 3 at the time, 41–38 in Norman. The next week the Red Raiders lost at home to Iowa State 41–7. Now, after beating previously unbeaten West Virginia 49–14, Tech finds itself in another “week after” game. This time around, will the Red Raiders be able to avoid a no-show the week after a breakthrough game?
Texas Tech 28-27

No. 69 Minnesota at No. 25 Wisconsin
After three games, Wisconsin ranked 94th in the nation in rushing offense (119.7 ypg) and 116th in total offense (276.0 ypg). Now, the Badgers rank 48th in rushing (181.1 ypg) and 87th in total offense (374.0 ypg). It’s still not what we expect from this program, but there are significant signs of life.
Wisconsin 31-10

No. 117 Idaho at No. 27 Louisiana Tech
Louisiana Tech rolled up over 600 yards of offense vs. an SEC team last week, but it wasn’t enough. The Bulldogs battled Arkansas to the wire before falling 59–57 in what will be one of the more memorable games of the season. This one will be far less exciting.
Louisiana Tech 65-17

No. 29 Nebraska at No. 40 Northwestern
This is a sneaky good game between two teams that have aspirations of representing the Legends Division in the Big Ten title game. Nebraska, which gave up 63 points in a loss at Ohio State two weeks ago, has to win this game to remain a threat in the division race.
Nebraska 27-21

No. 42 Baylor at No. 30 Texas
Baylor snapped a 12-game losing streak to Texas with a 30–22 win in Austin in October 2011 and followed up with a 48–24 victory in Waco last December. Now, the Bears will be aiming for their first-ever three-game winning streak against UT. Scoring shouldn’t be too much of a problem against a Texas defense that has given up 111 points in the last two games. But can Baylor slow down the Longhorns enough to win the game? That is the big question.
Texas 38-30

No. 31 Washington at No. 32 Arizona
Washington has faced arguably the most difficult schedule in the nation to date. The Huskies have played teams ranked third (Oregon), sixth (LSU), 10th (USC) and 20th (Stanford) in the initial BCS standings. They are 1–3 in those games, with the one win coming vs. Stanford. This is not a bad team, despite its rather ordinary 3–3 overall record.
Washington 37-31

No. 41 Iowa State at No. 33 Oklahoma State
Should we be concerned that Oklahoma State was held to 371 total yards and 20 points against Kansas last week? Possibly, but we are willing to give the Pokes a mulligan.
Oklahoma State 31-27

No. 101 UNLV at No. 34 Boise State

UNLV held leads of 21–0, 28–7 and 31–21 last week against rival Nevada but ended up on the wrong end of a 42–37 final. Bobby Hauck’s team doesn’t have much to show for it, but the Rebels are an improved team in 2012. Now, can they keep it interesting in Boise this week? Not likely.
Boise State 37-17

No. 36 NC State at No. 64 Maryland
Maryland is a surprise at 4–2 overall and 2–0 in the ACC despite having an offense that ranks last in the league with 267.5 yards per game.
NC State 24-17

No. 91 San Diego State at No. 37 Nevada
The Wolf Pack avoided disaster last week, rallying from 21–0 to beat UNLV 42–37 in Vegas. Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo, who missed last week’s game with an injured back, is expected to return to action. That’s not good news for San Diego State.
Nevada 37-20

No. 39 Penn State at No. 46 Iowa
Penn State has won four straight after losing its first two games, and each of its four wins has come by 11 points or more. Bill O’Brien has done a tremendous job in a very difficult spot.
Penn State 21-20

No. 43 North Carolina at No. 59 Duke
Duke must recover from a gut-wrenching loss at Virginia Tech last Saturday. The Blue Devils, seeking their sixth win of the season, led 20–0 in the first quarter but did not score again and lost 41–20. The Devils still have five more opportunities to become bowl-eligible, but they might be an underdog in all five games. North Carolina, which can’t play in a bowl game due to NCAA sanctions, is quietly playing very good football.
North Carolina 24-20

No. 106 Rice at No. 44 Tulsa
Tulsa has emerged as the team to beat in Conference USA West thanks to a 4–0 start in the league. The Golden Hurricane lead the nation in sacks (4.71 per game) and tackles for a loss (9.86 per game).
Tulsa 41-17

No. 49 ULM at No. 45 Western Kentucky
It’s the game of the year in the Sun Belt. Western Kentucky is 5–1 with the lone loss at Alabama, while ULM is 4–2 with an overtime loss at Auburn and five-point loss at Baylor. These aren’t just good Sun Belt teams; they are good teams period.
Western Kentucky 31-30

No. 121 New Mexico State at No. 53 Utah State
Utah State has lost two games — at Wisconsin and at BYU — by a total of five points. New Mexico State has lost all five of its games vs. FBS foes. Maybe that’s why Utah State is favored by 30.5 points.
Utah State 47-17

No. 55 Northern Illinois at No. 110 Akron
Northern Illinois has 14 plays from scrimmage of 40 yards or more. Only two teams nationally have more (Baylor and Georgia Tech). It could be a long night for the Akron defense.
Northern Illinois 37-16

No. 72 Auburn at No. 56 Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt finds itself as a 7-point favorite over Auburn this Saturday. It’s only the seventh time in the past 10-plus years the Commodores have been favored by at least a touchdown against an opponent from an AQ conference. They are 3¬–3 straight up in those previous six games, with wins vs. Kentucky (-13) in 2011, Duke (-8) in 2006 and Mississippi State (-12.5) in 2003 and losses to Mississippi State (-9) in 2009, Duke (-9.5) in 2008 and Kentucky (-8) in 2006.
Vanderbilt 27-20

No. 95 Boston College at No. 58 Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech has given up 42 points or more in its last three games — all losses. That streak will come to an end this week.
Georgia Tech 34-20

No. 62 UCF at No. 118 Memphis
It was back to reality last week for Memphis. One week after breaking through with a 14–10 win over Rice, the Tigers lost 41–7 at East Carolina. UCF is playing its first road game since Sept. 8.
UCF 34-13

No. 68 Pittsburgh at No. 116 Buffalo
The first season of the Paul Chryst era has been a disappointment — the Panthers have lost four games — but Tino Sunseri has shined at the quarterback position. The oft-maligned quarterback ranks eighth in the nation in passing efficiency and has thrown 10 touchdowns and two picks.
Pittsburgh 31-7

No. 111 Wyoming at No. 71 Fresno State
I thought Fresno State was ready to make a statement and beat Boise State last week. I was wrong. The Bulldogs lost 20–10 to fall to 4–3 overall. They should get win No. 5 without much trouble.
Fresno State 30-20

No. 76 Western Michigan at No. 73 Kent State
Darrell Hazell has done a tremendous job at Kent State. The Golden Flashes are 5–1 overall and 3–0 in the MAC despite playing only two of their first six games at home.
Kent State 30-27

No. 74 Ball State at No. 105 Central Michigan
Central Michigan has failed to capitalize on a potential breakthrough win at Iowa in Week 3. Since that victory in Ames, the Chippewas are 0–3 and have given up a total of 136 points. Last week, they were beaten soundly by Navy 31–13 at home before a sparse crowd. Dan Enos could be in trouble.
Ball State 37-13

No. 78 East Carolina at No. 98 UAB
Don’t expect too much production on the ground in this game. East Carolina ranks 108th in the nation in rushing with 103.7 yards per game. UAB is at 117th with 82.3 yards per game.
East Carolina 34-20

No. 81 Wake Forest at No. 80 Virginia
These two struggling teams have something in common: They’ve both lost to Duke and Maryland, in that order, in their last two games. Statistically, Virginia ranks in the middle of the pack in both total offense (51st) and total defense (53rd), but the Cavs have been undone by turnovers (119th in turnover margin).
Wake Forest 27-23

No. 83 San Jose State at No. 113 Texas-San Antonio
The Spartans must regroup after losing at home 49–27 to Utah State in a battle of improving WAC programs. Here’s a scary stat: San Jose State quarterback David Fales had a net of negative-98 yards rushing thanks to getting sacked 13 times.
San Jose State 34-10

No. 85 Indiana at No. 92 Navy
Indiana has averaged 35.0 points in its three Big Ten games. That’s the good news. The bad news? The Hoosiers are giving up 42.3 points in league games. The result is an 0–3 record, but Kevin Wilson’s club is showing signs of significant improvement. IU has lost its last two games, to Michigan State and Ohio State, by a combined seven points.
Indiana 41-30

No. 104 FIU at No. 86 Troy
Mario Cristobal’s name won’t be linked to as many jobs this offseason. FIU is 1–6 overall and 0–3 in the Sun Belt after losing at home to Middle Tennessee last week. The Golden Panthers ranked 14th in the nation in scoring defense last season (19.5 ppg) when they went 8–5; this year, they rank 108th (37.3 ppg) with five games to play.
Troy 33-17

No. 88 Marshall at No. 103 Southern Miss
No program has fallen faster than Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles went 12–2 last year and capped their season with a 24–17 win over a very good Nevada team in the Hawaii Bowl. This year, however, USM is 0–6 under new coach Ellis Johnson, who is not a popular man in Hattiesburg.
Marshall 31-30

No. 90 New Mexico at No. 107 Air Force
New Mexico is last in the nation in passing offense (59.0 ypg) and is the only team in the country with just one passing touchdown. But the Lobos are winning games under first-year coach Bob Davie, who has implemented an option attack in Albuquerque.
New Mexico 27-24

No. 93 Bowling Green at No. 123 UMass
Bowling Green has won three straight games and is in position to challenge Ohio for the MAC East title. The Falcons should be 4–1 in the league when they head to Oxford on Nov. 7.
Bowling Green 44-13

No. 112 Tulane at No. 97 UTEP
Curtis Johnson picked up his first win at Tulane last week, a 27–26 victory over SMU at the Superdome. The Green Wave hadn’t scored more than 13 points in any game before “busting out” and putting 27 on the board.
UTEP 30-14

No. 114 Army at No. 115 Eastern Michigan
These two teams have combined to win one game this season —Army's 34–31 victory over Boston College. Eastern Michigan ranks 70th or worse in every key stat maintained by the NCAA, with the exception of net punting. The Eagles, who have a lot of practice in the area, rank seventh with an average net of 42.2 yards.
Army 30-24

No. 124 FAU at No. 122 South Alabama
It’s been a rough first season for Carl Pelini at FAU. The Owls are 1–5 overall and 0–3 in the Sun Belt. They have been bad on defense and really bad on offense. It’s tough to find a win on FAU’s schedule if it doesn’t get one this week.
South Alabama 27-17

Last week: 40-11
Season: 317-90
 

@AthlonMitch

Teaser:
<p> College football’s Week 8 action features several key matchups in the SEC (as usual), a pivotal Big 12 game in Morgantown a battle for supremacy in the state of Michigan.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-post-week-7-award-watch
Body:

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

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

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

Week 8 Previews and Predictions

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

OFFENSIVE AWARDS
Davey O’Brien (Top quarterback)
Our leader: Geno Smith, West Virginia
Smith had his worst game of the season against Texas Tech, going 29 of 55 for 275 yards and a touchdown in a 49-14 loss. His overall resume, though, remains the best of any quarterback in the country. Smith has thrown 314 consecutive passes and 31 touchdowns since his last interception, including 259 attempts and 25 TDs this season.
Others: Kansas State’s Collin Klein, Alabama’s A.J. McCarron, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller

Doak Walker (Top running back)
Our leader: Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State
Bell rebounded from a lackluster performance against Ohio State to rush for 261 yards and three touchdowns in his last two games against Indiana and Iowa. Bell also has two 200-yard games under his belt this season.
Others: Oregon’s Kenjon Barner, North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard, UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin, Florida’s Mike Gillislee, Kansas State’s John Hubert, Nevada’s Stefphon Jefferson, South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore, Northwestern’s Venric Mark

Biletnikoff Award (Top wide receiver)
Our leader: Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech
Odds are, one or both of the West Virginia receivers is going to be a finalist for the award. This week, we should recognize of the best games by a receiver this season when Patton had 21 catches for 233 yards and four touchdowns against Texas A&M. Patton has 765 receiving yards and nine touchdowns on 55 receptions this year.
Others: Cal’s Keenan Allen, West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, West Virginia’s Stedman Bailey, Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins, USC’s Marqise Lee, Penn State’s Allen Robinson, Baylor’s Terrance Williams

Mackey Award (Top tight end)
Our leader: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
Seferian-Jenkins caught five passes for a season-high 83 yards with a touchdown against USC last week, giving him 29 receptions for 337 yards with two touchdowns this season.
Others: Arizona State’s Chris Coyle, Stanford’s Zach Ertz, Stanford’s Levine Toilolo

Outland Trophy (Top interior lineman)
Our leader: Barrett Jones, Alabama
Alabama dominated the ground game in a rainy 42-10 win over Missouri last week. Jones helped pave the way for 362 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns in the rout of the Tigers.
Others: North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper, Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel, Utah’s Star Lotulelei, Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt, Florida State’s Bjoern Werner

Rimington Trophy (Top center)
Our leader: Alabama’s Jones
Others: Kansas State’s B.J. Finney, Clemson’s Dalton Freeman

 

 


DEFENSIVE AWARDS
Bednarik Award/Nagurski Award (Defensive Player of the Year)
Our leader: Manti Te’o, Notre Dame
Te’o had 11 tackles in the 20-13 win over Stanford last week and continues to be the face of a defense that has allowed three offensive touchdowns (all passing) this season. Opponents have scored touchdowns on only 2 of 16 trips into the red zone against Notre Dame this season. Generally, the team leading the nation in that stat allows opponents to score touchdowns on approximately 35 to 40 percent of red zone chances.
Others: South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, Rutgers’ Khaseem Greene, Utah's Star Lotulelei, Penn State's Michael Mauti

Lombardi Award (Top lineman or linebacker)
Our leader: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
In a 23-21 loss to LSU, Clowney failed to record a sack for the first time since the second game of the season, but he did finish with six tackles and two pass breakups. Coming up this week: A critical matchup against the Florida offensive line and the slippery Jeff Driskel.
Others: Oregon State’s Scott Chricton, Rutgers’ Khaseem Greene, Utah’s Star Lotulelei, Penn State’s Michael Mauti, Texas A&M’s Damontre Moore, Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt, Florida State’s Bjeorn Werner

Butkus Award (Top linebacker)
Our leader: Te’o, Notre Dame
Others: USC’s Dion Bailey, Kansas State’s Arthur Brown, Rutgers’ Khaseem Greene, Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, Iowa State’s Jake Knott, Penn State’s Michael Mauti, LSU’s Kevin Minter, Alabama’s C.J. Mosely

Thorpe Award (Top defensive back)
Our leader: Jordan Poyer, Oregon State
Poyer’s pick six against BYU last week gave the Beavers cornerback his fifth interception in his last three games. Oregon State is third in the Pac-12 and 24th nationally in pass efficiency defense.
Others: Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks, Florida’s Matt Elam, Alabama’s Dee Milliner


SPECIAL TEAMS AWARDS
Groza Award (Top kicker)

Our leader: Mike Meyer, Iowa
Meyer was 4 for 4 on field goal attempts against Michigan State, including a 42-yard game-winner in the second overtime. Meyer is 14 of 15 on field goals this season, converting 13 in a row since the opener.
Others: Louisiana-Lafayette’s Brett Baer, Northwestern’s Jeff Budzien, Clemson’s Chandler Catanzaro, Florida’s Caleb Sturgis

Ray Guy Award (Top punter)
Our leader: Florida’s Kyle Christy
Florida is a field position and defensive team this season, making Christy’s role critical. He’s delivered by averaging 46.4 yards on 29 kicks for a team that ranks fourth nationally in net punting.
Others: Louisiana Tech’s Ryan Allen, Texas A&M’s Ryan Epperson, Utah’s Sean Sellwood, Oklahoma State’s Quinn Sharp


OTHER NATIONAL AWARDS
Freshman of the Year
Our leader: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
“Johnny Football” now holds the top two SEC single-game records for total offense with 576 total yards against Louisiana Tech and 557 against against Arkansas. That broke the record of 540 yards held by Ole Miss’ Archie Manning and LSU’s Rohan Davey.
Others: Georgia’s Todd Gurley, UCLA’s Brett Hundley, Miami’s Duke Johnson, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota

Coach of the Year
Our leader: Bill O’Brien, Penn State
No team faced more adversity this season than Penn State, which watched a handful of key players bolt via transfers after the NCAA announced crippling sanctions. Despite no postseason in the future and a dwindling of numbers, Penn State is much improved on offense. The Nittany Lions have scored at least 24 points in four consecutive games, a benchmark they reached only three times all of last season.
Others: Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, Rutgers’ Kyle Flood, West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, Florida’s Will Muschamp, Oregon State’s Mike Riley, Kansas State’s Bill Snyder

Broyles Award (top assistant)
Our leader: Art Kaufman, Texas Tech
The idea of holding a team like West Virginia to two touchdowns would have been foreign to the Texas Tech defense a year ago when the Red Raiders ranked 113th in pass efficiency defense and 120th in run defense. Under the first-year defensive coordinator, Texas Tech ranks seventh in pass efficiency defense and 12th in run defense.
Others: Oregon State’s Mark Banker, Notre Dame’s Bob Diaco, Alabama’s Kirby Smart, Washington’s Justin Wilcox

by David Fox

@davidfox615

Related College Football Links

Week 7 Upset Predictions
10 key games in Week 8

Teaser:
<p> College Football Post-Week 7 Award Watch</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 09:11
Path: /nfl/20-scariest-players-physical-freaks-and-real-life-monsters-nfl
Body:

We watch the NFL for fantasy numbers, civic pride, the strategy and maybe for a few friendly wagers.

Oh, and we watch the NFL for freakish displays of athleticism. Athlon Sports has assembled a list of real-life NFL “monsters.” By simply stepping on the field, these players put fear into opponents for one reason or another.


TOP 10 SCARIEST PLAYERS IN THE NFL


1. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
Watt crawled from the primordial abyss — as a tight end at Central Michigan before being a walk-on at Wisconsin — to become the gnarliest, scariest player in the most frightening league on the planet. The 6'5", 295-pound 3-4 defensive end has an 82.5-inch wingspan and plays with a physicality and nastiness that makes him a menace to anyone in his path. Whether he’s stuffing the run, rushing the passer or swatting down passes from the line of scrimmage like he played for the Knicks (which Rex Ryan would prefer), Watt is a terror on the field. Through six games this season, Watt already has 9.5 sacks and eight pass deflections.

2. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, New York Giants
JPP is the second-coming of the original "Freak" Jevon Kearse. His out-of-this-world athleticism has manifested itself in YoutTube sensational backflip competitions as well as a 16.5-sack second season in the league last year. The 6'5", 278-pounder has the ability to transcend the traditional job description of a defensive end, using his 81-inch wingspan, massive hands, quick-twitch speed and trampoline vertical leap to not only wrap up quarterbacks but also chase down running backs from behind and cover tight ends on zone blitzes.

3. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
An opposing defender called Gronkowski “a new kind of monster.” The Gronk is a 6'6", 265-pound ball of uncontrollable energy who is just as likely to dance in the end zone in the afternoon as he is shirtless at the club later that night. Always the life of the party (on and off the field), Gronk cannot be stopped, he can only hope to be contained.

 

4. Haloti Ngata, DT, Baltimore Ravens
Ray Lewis and Ed Reed may not be the Ravens’ most invaluable defensive players — or the scariest. That honor belongs to Ngata, the 6'4", 340-pound D-tackle. Ngata turns the table on inevitable double-teams, engulfing his blockers and pushing them aside or towards the playmaker they are attempting to protect. Even more frightening, Ngata was once a beast of a rugby player. Come to think of it, the Ravens should use Ngata more at the goal line.

5. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
"Megatron" is a machine more than monster, as a 6'5", 236-pound athlete with the power to play defensive end, but the speed, hands and coordination to be arguably the best wide receiver alive. The laws of physics are defied by Johnson's sheer existence and his status as a human being (as opposed to futuristic cyborg) is up for debate.

6. Patrick Willis, MLB, San Francisco 49ers
P-Willie is slang for Mississippi sledgehammer. The 6'4", 240-pound Willis is the obvious heir to the Ray Lewis throne as the best middle linebacker in the game. Over the last three years, he’s the second most efficient tackler in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. More than that, Willis punishes ball-carriers with violent legal hits that reverberate in an opponent's memory bank, resulting in alligator arms over the middle and second-guessing which way to cut downfield. How scary is he? The New York Giants' Victor Cruz knows. "I've been hit by him too many times," says Cruz. "Too many. Way too many."

 

7. DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Dallas Cowboys
Ware is simply a 6'4", 254-pound Elephant pass rusher capable of stampeding backfields and goring opposing quarterbacks. Only Jared Allen has more sacks than Ware since the start of the 2009 season.

8. Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
When this 5'9", 230-pound bowling ball coming screaming at defenders, they make a business decision to get out of the way or get knocked down like pin-heads. Six games into his rookie season, T-Rich from T-Town has 526 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns.

9. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions
So dirty he will stomp you in front of everyone's grandmother on Thanksgiving Day, this man named Suh will shoot the gap and body slam a man just to watch him writhe. The Motor City's meanest man is also apparently a road-rager with bad intentions behind the wheel, as evidenced by his multiple car wrecks off the field and on the mean streets.

10. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Green rarely sees the fear in opposing defensive backs eyes because all he knows is wide open field in front of him. The 6'4", 207-pound wideout from Georgia already has 43 receptions for 628 yards and six touchdowns, numbers which will easily top his prolific production from his rookie season.

THE NEXT 10...

MONSTERS ON THE MEND

Desmond Bishop, MLB, Green Bay Packers - Lambeau’s fearsome linebacker is out for the season.

James Harrison, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers - The linebacker is still hobbled, but he might be back to paying NFL-levied fines in no time.

Ray Lewis, MLB, Baltimore Ravens - The scariest player of his era may have played his last snap.

Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh Steelers - The Steelers are awaiting the return of their soft-spoken big hitter.

Darrelle Revis, CB, New York Jets - Quarterbacks can finally test the whole field agains the Jets with Revis out.

Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings - The veteran pass rusher last season fell a half sack short of matching Michael Strahan’s record of 22.5 sacks in a season.

Brandon Browner, CB, Seattle Seahawks - Emerged from the Canadian Football League to become one of the NFL’s biggest hitters, and at 6-4 he has unusual size for a cornerback.

Richie Incognito, G, Miami Dolphins - The former Saints lineman is repeatedly accused for dirty play. He doesn’t seem to mind.

LaRon Landry, S, New York Jets - The safety plays with reckless abandon thanks to thundering head-first hits.

Jake Long, LT, Miami Dolphins - A 6-foot-7, 319-pound offensive tackle who was one of the best in the league since his rookie season.

Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers - The sophomore campaign has yet to live up to the rookie effort, but he’s still a 6-5, 245-pound quarterback with ridiculous athleticism.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks - Have to give a shout out to a running back who refers to himself as being in “Beast Mode.”

Clay Matthews, OLB, Green Bay Packers - Quarterbacks in his wake must also deal with the humiliation of being sacked by a defensive end with blonde flowing locks.

Julius Peppers, DE, Chicago Bears - The defensive end who also played a little college basketball for the Tar Heels had 11 sacks in his ninth NFL season.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers - His size makes it a monster task to bring him down in the backfield.

@AthlonSports

Teaser:
<p> 20 scariest players, physical freaks and real-life monsters in the NFL</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 08:40
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/20-twitter-accounts-every-pac-12-football-fan-should-follow
Body:

It's time for everyone to shed their east-coast bias once and for all and admit that they play good football out on the left coast (even if some of the games don't even start until after your bedtime). With its emphasis on offense, the Pac-12 might even be the most action-packed league in the land. Heck, Oregon might just be the most influential team in college football over the last five years — from their fast-break offense to their godawful uniform choices.

Anyone who wants a front-row seat for the happenings out west needs to follow these 20 Pac-12 insiders.

 

@wilnerhotline
A blogger for the Mercury News, Jon Wilner covers the Pac-12 with a special emphasis on the Bay Area teams, which means that his Super Bowl is this week.

 

 

@LyaWodraska
Lya's on the Ute beat for the Salt Lake Tribune. Her bio says she also covers gymnastics and is a health and fitness writer and trainer and avid mountain biker. In other words, she could probably kick your ass, so if you criticize her coverage, do it anonymously.

 

 

@cfosterlatimes
Chris Foster is the LA Times' UCLA beat writer and dispenses nuggets from Bruin-land. As you would expect from a school with 11 national titles, he leans basketball in his tweet count.

 

 

@KyleRingo
Kyle has the sad task of covering the dying days of the Jon Embree regime at Colorado, but at least he's doing it in the beautiful environs of Boulder. It'll be getting cold soon, though.

 

 

@DougHaller
Doug covers Arizona State for azcentral sports. Things are looking up in the Valley of the Sun, and Doug's on the front lines.

 

 

@ryan_finley
Ryan says he covers Arizona football "sideline to sideline and goal-line to goal-line." That's pretty comprehensive coverage. He backs it up with links, retweets and observations from RichRod Central.

 

 

@Pnbuker
Paul Buker bills himself as a 35-year veteran at The Oregonian, meaning that he's lived through the lowest of lows and appreciates the highs in the Pacific Northwest. Funny guy, too.

 

 

@ChristianCaple
Christian covers the Washington State Cougars for the Spokesman-Review, meaning that he's got one of the best jobs in college sports: chronicling the eccentricities and outbursts of Coogs coach Mike Leach.

 

 

@KyleBonagura
Kyle is a 49ers beat writer for CBSSports.com but also covers Stanford for @stanfordrivals.com. He handles both chores on one feed, with plenty of general sports chat and current events thrown in.

 

 

@LindsayRae19
Lindsay Schnell covers Oregon State, and while she's a hoops gal at heart, she's still a key source for happenings in Beaver Nation.

 

 

@DuckFootball
Rob Moseley covers Oregon football for the Eugene Register-Guard, and he tweets pithy observations from the front lines of Chip Kelly's offensive juggernaut. Also not afraid of lively interactions with fellow tweeters.

 

 

@DanGreenspan
Dan's the publisher of CalSportsDigest.com, meaning that he's uniquely qualified to offer unvarnished insights on Bears football. Especially interesting this year, as Jeff Tedford coaches for his professional life.

 

 

@USC_Athletics
All the news straight from Traveler's mouth. The Trojans may not win a national title this year, but they're always relevant and always interesting.


 

 

@UCLACoachMora
Jim Mora has wasted no time jockeying for attention in ADHD-afflicted Southern California. He hasn't really extended his pot-stirring to Twitter yet, but there's always hope.

 

 

@UCLAFootball
It's the official Twitter account for Bruins football, so take it with a grain of true blue and gold salt — it's doubtful that anything not Jim Mora-approved is getting through. Still worth a follow for fans of a program on an upward trajectory.

 

 

@pac12
The mother ship for all things Pac-12. Not exactly a no-spin zone, but plenty of useful information and links provided. It's far from football-only, though; prepare for plenty of soccer and women's volleyball.

 

 

@oregonliveducks
The Oregonian and OregonLive.com keep their Twitter feed quacking with all things Ducks. Fans of offense and hideous color schemes welcome.

 

 

@InsideUSC
Scott Wolf is a staff writer for the LA Daily News, meaning he has a front-row seat for the ongoing circus that is the Lane Kiffin era in LA.

 

 

@ESPN_Pac12blog
The worldwide leader has its finger on the pulse of the Pac-12 thanks to Ted Miller and Kevin Gemmell. Their feed is mostly links and retweets, but it's all good stuff, and you get occasional gems like this one:

 

 

@bcondotta
Bob Condotta covers the Washington Huskies for the Seattle Times in an informative, no-nonsense way. Condotta's gotta be as hungry as any Husky fan for the U-Dub to rejoin the elite; he was there for the dark days of 0-12.

Teaser:
<p> These tweeting 20 will you keep you entertained and educated about Pac-12 football</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 06:20
Path: /college-football/lsu-tigers-vs-texas-am-aggies-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Texas A&M and LSU have played 50 times, but the 2012 meeting will be the first as SEC foes. These two campuses are separated by less than 400 miles, and this is a crucial game in the fertile recruiting area of Texas and Louisiana.

So far, Texas A&M’s debut season in the SEC has been a success. The Aggies suffered a three-point loss to Florida in the opener but have won their last two conference games. Texas A&M rallied to beat Ole Miss on Oct. 6 and destroyed Arkansas 58-10 on Sept. 29.

LSU suffered a 14-6 loss to Florida two weeks ago but rebounded with a 23-21 victory over South Carolina last Saturday. Not only was the win over the Gamecocks a huge confidence boost, but also the Tigers were able to keep pace with Alabama in the SEC West standings.

Storylines to Watch in LSU vs. Texas A&M

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel vs. LSU’s defense
It’s not often a redshirt freshman quarterback comes into the SEC and makes a run at the Heisman Trophy but that’s exactly what Manziel has done through the first seven weeks of the season. Johnny Football leads the SEC with 676 rushing yards and is tied with South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore for the No. 1 spot in rushing touchdowns with 10. Manziel is completing 67.4 percent of his throws and ranks third in the conference with an average of 280 passing yards a game. Although the redshirt freshman has been one of this season’s breakout players and one of the top-10 candidates to win the Heisman after seven weeks, Saturday’s matchup against LSU is easily his toughest assignment. The Tigers are the fastest defense Texas A&M has played since the season opener against Florida and rank second nationally in pass defense and total yards allowed per game. Manziel is certainly a special player and will have his moments against the Tigers’ defense. However, expect LSU to counter with several different looks to confuse Manziel, as well as keeping him in the pocket to not allow him to get to the edge to make plays with his feet. Helping Manziel’s cause on offense is two NFL tackles in Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews. These two linemen will be in charge of keeping two of the best pass-rush ends (Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo) away from Manziel.

Can LSU get its passing game on track?
It’s no secret the Tigers build their offense on a punishing ground attack and rely on timely plays from their passing game to keep the chains moving. After watching Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee struggle last season, most LSU fans expected Zach Mettenberger to be an upgrade at quarterback. However, that hasn’t been the case, as the junior college recruit ranks 10th in the conference in SEC-only games with 158.3 yards per game and ranks 12th in passing efficiency. Although LSU doesn’t want to throw it 40 times a game, as Louisiana Tech showed against Texas A&M last week, there are holes in the Aggies’ secondary. Texas A&M ranks 107th nationally against the pass, but its defensive line has helped to make up for some of the struggles by registering 3.2 sacks a game. Mettenberger may not top 200 passing yards in this game, but he needs to be efficient and play mistake-free ball to give LSU a chance to win.

Texas A&M’s defensive line vs. LSU’s offensive line
LSU’s offensive line was a huge concern going into last week’s game against South Carolina, but the unit responded with one of its best showings of the season. With Alex Hurst and Chris Faulk out – two potential All-American tackles – the Tigers gashed the Gamecocks for 258 yards and two scores. This unit will be under pressure once again, as it will be greeted by a hostile environment in College Station, along with one of the nation’s most underrated defensive ends in Damontre Moore. The junior has 8.5 sacks and 15 tackles for a loss through the first six weeks and will be a tough assignment for LSU left tackle Josh Dworaczyk. Texas A&M is allowing 147.7 rushing yards per game in SEC play, which is one area the Tigers will look to exploit. LSU has one of the deepest backfields in college football and received a boost from true freshman Jeremy Hill in the win over South Carolina last week. The Aggies aren’t bad against the run, but this is one area LSU should be able to take advantage of on Saturday afternoon.

Final Analysis

With a raucous home crowd for Texas A&M, LSU needs to weather the early storm and avoid any big mistakes in the first quarter. The Aggies need quarterback Johnny Manziel to be a playmaker but also need a big day from running backs Ben Malena and Christine Michael. If the Tigers control the line of scrimmage and keep Manziel contained in the pocket, the Aggies will struggle to get their offense on track.

When LSU has the ball, look for the Aggies to load the line of scrimmage and force Mettenberger to win this game through the air. The Tigers will have opportunities to make plays in the passing game but need to contain Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore.

Expect a tight game into the fourth quarter, but LSU’s edge in depth will show, as it will take control of the trenches in the second half and wear down the Aggies.

Final Prediction: LSU 27, Texas A&M 20 


by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

 

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 8 Preview and Predictions
Big East Week 8 Preview and Predictions

Big Ten Week 8 Preview and Predictions

Big 12 Week 8 Preview and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 8 Preview and Predictions

SEC Week 8 Preview and Predictions

Teaser:
<p> LSU Tigers vs. Texas A&amp;M Aggies Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 06:08
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-start-or-sit-week-7
Body:

Welcome to Week 7 of the NFL season, also known as the lightest slate of action before the playoffs get started. Six teams are on bye this week, which to the fans means there are only 13 games on tap. To the fantasy owners, however, this means a lot of players aren’t available and quite a few teams will be going deep into their bench to put together a starting lineup.

Athlon Sports is here to help you make all of those important lineup decisions for your Yahoo!, NFL.com or ESPN fantasy football league with our weekly Start and Sit suggestions. Keep in mind these are merely our suggestions as the ultimate decision comes down to you, the owner.

Week 7 Positional Rankings

Week 7 Waiver Wire

Bye week teams: Atlanta, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Philadelphia, San Diego

Sneaky Start of the Week
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Tennessee at Buffalo
Hasselbeck will make his third, and probably final, start this week in Buffalo in place of Jake Locker. Locker has been sidelined the past three weeks with a shoulder injury, but he returned to practice this week and Titans head coach Mike Munchak has already said the second-year player will get his job back from the veteran Hasselbeck once he’s healthy.

So if this is in fact Hasselbeck’s last start (provided Locker stays healthy), what better way for him to go out than to get the NFL’s worst defense, no? Prior to last week, Buffalo had given up more than 1,200 yards and 97 points in a span of two games.

While the Bills’ D looked much better in the overtime win in Arizona, this unit still has its share of issues. In fact, this game features two of the bottom three defenses in the entire league, so chances are this affair will feature plenty of offensive fireworks.

I like Hasselbeck to go back to the bench swinging, if you will, as the Bills are allowing the most fantasy points to quarterbacks. If Chris Johnson can take advantage of the Bills’ rush defense (worst in the league), that should open up things even more for Hasselbeck, who has multiple weapons in the passing game in receivers Kenny Britt, Nate Washington and Kendall Wright, as well as tight end Jared Cook. The Titans may not win, but if you decide to start Hasselbeck, I think you will at least like that outcome.

Surprise Sit of the Week
Steve Smith, WR, Carolina vs. Dallas
Even though Smith is not currently leading the Panthers in receptions (tight end Greg Olsen is with 22), he’s still Cam Newton’s top target. The problem with this lies in the fact that the Panthers are 27th in the league in passing offense and Newton hasn’t been near as productive this season as he was at the start of his record-setting 2011 campaign.

Smith has a total of 21 receptions in the Panthers’ first five games. He’s still getting it done in terms of yardage (18.5 ypc), but he has yet to find the end zone. Since opening the season with consecutive 100-yard efforts, Smith has averaged less than four catches and 60 yards receiving over the past three games.

Dallas is No. 1 in both total and passing defense and has allowed the fewest receptions and yards to opposing wide receivers. Outside of Brandon Marshall (138 yards) and Anquan Boldin (98) no wide receiver has gone for more than 58 yards receiving against the Cowboys.

The Panthers’ offensive line is in a state of flux without All-Pro center Ryan Kalil, so don’t be surprised if Newton has no choice but to get rid of the ball quickly and for the Panthers to try and do some damage with short, underneath routes, which is not necessarily Smith’s bread and butter. Neither the match-up nor the likely offensive game plan, otherwise known as chuck and duck or tuck and run, bodes well for the dynamic, diminutive wideout.

Quarterbacks
START

Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) at Cincinnati
Somewhat quietly, Big Ben is putting together yet another solid, productive season. He’s fourth in passer rating and tenth among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring, and eight of those in front of him have the benefit of one more game played. He has thrown 10 touchdown passes compared to only two interceptions (and has yet to lose a fumble), which is even more impressive considering the injuries and upheaval that the Steelers’ offensive line has already gone through. Roethlisberger is 12-4 in his career against Cincinnati, this week’s opponent, and he has accounted for a total of 23 touchdowns (20 pass, 3 rush) in those 16 games. Provided his patchwork o-line gives him enough time to throw the ball, it should be another productive day at the office for No. 7.

Andrew Luck (IND) vs. CLE
Luck is averaging 300 yards per game and has thrown six touchdowns and just two interceptions at Lucas Oil Stadium. Cleveland is 30th in the league in pass defense (294.2 ypg) and has allowed 15 passing touchdowns in six games. Care to guess where and against whom the Colts are playing this Sunday?

Ryan Fitzpatrick (BUF) vs. TEN
Matt Hasselbeck may have gotten the “Surprise Start” nod above, but that’s not to take anything away from Fitzpatrick or rather his match-up against Tennessee’s defense. As was stated previously, this game features two of the league’s bottom three defenses, not to mention that the Titans are 29th against the pass. Fitzpatrick’s biggest issue this season has been interceptions as he has eight already, but the Titans have only picked off four passes, while surrendering 13 scoring strikes. This Buffalo-Tennessee tilt is what I would call a “Green Light Fantasy Special,” meaning I wouldn’t hesitate to start any of your Bills or Titans here, other than the defenses of course.

SIT
Matt Schaub (HOU) vs. BAL
This is not a knock on Schaub, who is a capable passer (12th in passer rating) and does a good job of protecting the ball (4 total turnovers). It’s just that Houston loves to run the ball, as the Texans are sixth in rushing yards and second in attempts. Plus there’s the matter of this week’s opponent, Baltimore, who have gave up a franchise-worst 227 yards on the ground to the Cowboys last week. The Texans strangely went away from the run early in last week's game against the Packers, which contributed to their offense sputtering, resulting in them falling behind early and eventually losing big. I don’t think the coaching staff makes that same mistake twice, especially against a Ray Lewis-less Ravens defense.

Christian Ponder (MIN) vs. ARI
Ponder was flawless in his first four games, throwing no picks and contributing five total touchdowns. In the past two games he has thrown four touchdown passes, but also four interceptions. Arizona is allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and has picked off more passes compared to aerial scores allowed. This seems like a good week for the Vikings to put more of the offensive burden on running back Adrian Peterson rather than their second-year quarterback.

Sam Bradford (STL) vs. GB
Bradford is coming off of a season-high 315-yard effort, in which he didn’t throw a touchdown pass and also got sacked three times. Oh and the Rams lost too. This week the Rams host the Packers, a team that leads the NFL in sacks (21) and just handled a previously undefeated Houston team rather easily. While he should get plenty of opportunities to throw the ball, I’m just not so sure he will have enough time to pull the trigger.

Running Backs
START

Trent Richardson (CLE) at IND
So it appears I was a week early in including Richardson here, as a rib injury and a fairly stingy Cincinnati defense held the rookie to just 37 yards on 14 carries. The important thing is Cleveland won, right? Oh yeah, there’s also the little matter that the Browns get the Colts this week. Richardson has insisted all along that he won’t let the rib/cartilage issue prevent him from playing this week. Then again I think pretty much every running back in the league would say the same thing if they had a date with Indianapolis awaiting them. Don’t forget the Colts put up little resistance to the Jets’ ground and pound attack last week, including 161 yards and three touchdowns to Shonn Greene alone. Flak jacket? Check. Momentum after last week’s win? Check. Really bad rush defense on tap? Double check. Talented, bruising young back ready to roll? Oh yeah.

Felix Jones (DAL) at CAR
Thanks to a foot injury suffered by DeMarco Murray, Jones saw his first significant action in some time and made the most of it. He started things off early with a 22-yard scoring run and finished the day with 92 yards on 18 carries. Murray’s sidelined at least this week after the Cowboys discovered he sustained some ligament damage in his left foot, which means Jones will get the start against Carolina. Jones has disappointed many a fantasy owner in the past with his untapped potential and injury-prone nature, but I think this time it will be different. He looked pretty good against the Ravens last week and should find some running room against the Panthers on Sunday. Carolina is allowing the third-most fantasy points to running backs and is giving up an average of 127.4 yards on the ground per game.

Darren Sproles (NO) at TB
Outside of Drew Brees, I could make an argument that the other Saint who has been most impacted by the season-long suspension of Sean Payton has been Sproles. A significant part of the offense throughout last season, Sproles’ usage to start this campaign has left many an owner scratching their head. Through the first five games of 2011, Sproles had already accumulated 57 touches (26 rushes, 31 receptions) on offense alone. So far this season, he’s had 45 (17 rushes, 28 receptions), but it goes beyond just the number of opportunities. He didn’t get a single rushing attempt in the first two games, while he didn’t catch a single pass in the Saints’ third game. Whatever the reason, I think Sproles returns to his more prominent role in the offense beginning this week against Tampa Bay, a team that he had a total of 161 yards of offense (not including returns) against in two games last season.

SIT
Shonn Greene (NYJ) at NE
Greene, who was my Sneaky Start for Week 6, exploded last week for a career-high 161 yards rushing and three touchdowns against Indianapolis. Prior to his career performance, Greene had rushed for 217 yards and one touchdown in his first five games. In other words, he nearly quadrupled his per-game average over five games in only four quarters of play. As valuable as Greene was to those owners who stuck by him, I wouldn’t expect anywhere near similar results this week. New England is eighth in the NFL in rushing defense, compared to Indianapolis, who is No. 26. The Patriots are allowing 3.4 yards per carry and have surrendered only two rushing touchdowns. In two games last year against his AFC East rivals, Greene had 144 yards rushing and one touchdown. It may be hard to bench last week’s top-scoring running back, but I just don’t see Greene putting up big numbers this week.

Mikel Leshoure (DET) at CHI (Monday)
Since rushing for 100 yards in his NFL debut in Week 3, Leshoure has collected 96 yards in his last two games combined. Detroit as a team has been inconsistent in running the ball, averaging less than 100 yards on the ground per contest, and this doesn’t figure to get any easier on Monday night in Chicago. The Bears are tops in the league in rushing defense, not to mention scoring defense and second in total defense, and are allowing less than 66 yards rushing per game. They have surrendered just one rushing touchdown and are coming off of a bye headed into this NFC North clash. Leshoure is anything but a sure thing when it comes to his fantasy outlook this week.

William Powell (ARI) at MIN
Even though he didn’t start, Powell was the most productive Cardinal running back last week against Buffalo. Powell finished with 70 yards rushing on 13 carries (5.4 ypc) and also caught a pass. However, I wouldn’t get too excited over Powell’s fantasy value because of two factors. One, unless the Cardinals decide to change it up, it appears that Powell will continue to share the workload with LaRod Stephens-Howling and possibly Alfonso Smith. The bigger reason is Arizona’s opponent this week. Minnesota’s defense has given up just one rushing touchdown so far and the only back to rush for more than 63 yards against this unit has been Maurice Jones-Drew. Powell may be a nice story and could prove valuable down the road, but MJD he isn’t. This simply isn’t the week to expect much from him in terms of fantasy points.

Wide Receivers
START

Dez Bryant (DAL) at CAR
Twenty-eight, 21, 200 and two. What do these numbers mean? They are the total number of targets, receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns Dez Bryant has in his last two games. To put it simply, Bryant is going too hot to bench right now, especially against a Carolina secondary that doesn’t have anyone as tall or big as the 6’2, 220-pound target.

Stevie Johnson (BUF) vs. TEN
Johnson is off to a decent, but not spectacular, start to the season with 27 catches for 316 yards and three touchdowns. Don’t be surprised to see these numbers go up quite a bit this Sunday as Johnson and the Bills welcome Tennessee and its 30th-ranked pass defense to Orchard Park. Calvin Johnson, Malcom Floyd and Percy Harvin have already hung 100-yard games on the Titans, and I expect Johnson to follow suit this week.  

Josh Gordon (CLE) at IND
Gordon is quickly establishing himself as not only a legitimate deep threat, but as quarterback Brandon Weeden’s favorite target. Gordon has three touchdowns in his last two games, and two of these scoring strikes were plays of more than 60 yards. For the season he is averaging 22.8 yards per catch and is starting to get more opportunities thrown his way. He has a total of 12 targets in his last two games, after seeing 14 in the first four combined. Indianapolis has done a decent job of limiting the amount of damage done by opposing wide receivers in terms of yardage, but the Colts’ secondary has been burned several times on the long ball. If you’re looking for someone to take a flyer on this week, and beyond for that matter, Gordon is certainly a worthy candidate.

SIT
James Jones (GB) at STL
Jones has definitely made his presence felt for both his team and those owners who were fortunate enough to get a hold of him. Jones posted his third straight two-touchdown game last week against Houston, and he is second only to Arian Foster in the entire NFL in touchdowns with seven. On the other hand, St. Louis is seventh in the league against the pass and the Rams’ defense has only given up two touchdowns to opposing wide receivers. By no means, am I saying the Rams are going to shut Aaron Rodgers and the Packers completely down, but I wouldn’t be surprised to not only see Jones’ two-TD streak come to an end, but see him shut out, at least when it comes to the end zone.

Anquan Boldin (BAL) at HOU
After a slow start to the season, Boldin has reemerged as a key part of Baltimore’s passing attack. He has 28 catches for 311 yards in his last three games combined and now leads the Ravens in both targets and receptions. The problem I see this week, however, is who will be on the others side, Houston. One, the Texans are still smarting from the whipping Green Bay handed them on their home turf last week. Two, the Texans’ secondary is having the most trouble with the deep passes and wideouts who are vertical threats. That’s why players like Jordy Nelson, Eric Decker, Randall Cobb and Jeremy Kerley have had the most success against their defensive backs. Boldin is not the Ravens’ deep threat; Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones fill that role. So I expect Joe Flacco, who loves to throw the ball downfield, especially when using play-action, to try and follow the same script this week, which makes Boldin a somewhat risky option.

Nate Burleson (DET) at CHI (Monday)
Burleson has settled in nicely as the Lions’ No. 2 wide receiver, as he’s tied with tight end Brandon Pettigrew (more on him below) for second place on the team in receptions (26). He also leads the way with two touchdown catches so far. That’s all well and good, but Chicago’s defense has given up just three receiving touchdowns, and no team’s No. 2 wide receiver has caught more than four passes or had more than 43 yards receiving against it. Undoubtedly the Bears will be focused on slowing down Calvin Johnson, but this doesn’t mean Burleson’s going to be the beneficiary of such attention. You never sit your studs, which applies here to Johnson and Matthew Stafford (unless you have a better option available), but I think discretion is warranted this week when it comes to Burleson.

Tight Ends
START

Heath Miller (PIT) at CIN
Ben Roethlisberger and Miller have been teammates since 2005 and it’s apparent the quarterback trusts his tight end. Miller is second on the Steelers with 25 catches and his four touchdowns tie him for the team lead with wide receiver Mike Wallace. Big Ben inexplicably trusts Miller to get open and catch the ball (25 receptions on 34 targets) when it’s thrown his way. Cincinnati is allowing the eighth-most fantasy points to tight ends, so there’s little doubt in my mind that Roethlisberger will be looking for his long-time teammate over the middle early and often this Sunday night.  

Brandon Pettigrew (DET) at CHI (Monday)
As good as Chicago’s defense has been (and it has been VERY good, especially in terms of fantasy scoring as a DST), its one weak spot appears to be defending tight ends. The Monsters of the Midway are allowing the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, while the 35 receptions by them are the fourth-most. Enter Pettigrew, who is second only to All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson in targets for the Lions. He has 26 receptions, which ties him with wideout Nate Burleson for second, along with 261 yards and a touchdown. Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford is certainly keeping Pettigrew heavily involved as the 6-5, 265-pounder has seven or more targets in all but one of the team’s five games. In two games against the Bears last season, Pettigrew had a total of 14 catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. As good a job as the Bears have done pressuring the quarterback (18 sacks) and shutting down opposing wide receivers (3 TD catches), Stafford may have no choice but to look Pettigrew’s way early and often come Monday night.

SIT
Benjamin Watson (CLE) at IND
Watson has caught a touchdown pass this season, but he’s also ceding more and more targets to fellow tight end Jordan Cameron with each passing week it seems. Cleveland plays Indianapolis this week and considering the Colts have allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends, it’s probably best to just stay from either Brown tight end.

Dallas Clark (TB) vs. NO
Remember when Clark caught 100 passes? Yeah me too, it was back in 2009 when he was still in Indianapolis. Clark’s now in Tampa Bay and the only way he’s catching that many passes this season is if it gets expanded to 56 games. He has nine receptions in five games. Case closed.

Defense/Special Teams
START
Minnesota vs. Arizona

Arizona has given up 27 sacks already. Minnesota has collected 15 sacks and has surrendered a total of 20 points in its last two home games. The Cardinals are down to their No. 3 running back as their starter and quarterback John Skelton is getting his first start since Week 1. Any other questions?

Oakland vs. Jacksonville
The Raiders are last among DSTs in fantasy scoring as they have collected a total of four sacks and six turnovers in five games. Fortunately for them, their first game off of the bye is against a Jacksonville team (also coming off of its bye) that has scored one touchdown in its last two games. If there was ever a time to employ the Silver and Black attack in your lineup, it’s this week.

SIT
Baltimore at Houston

I don’t need to tell you that this is a Ravens defense that will be playing its first game without Ray Lewis, a future Hall of Famer who’s the unquestionable leader and heart and soul of this team, and Lardarius Webb, one of the best cover corners in the entire NFL, do I? Or that the Ravens will be playing a Texans team that’s champing at the bit to put last week’s disappointing showing, at home and in primetime no less, against Green Bay behind it, right? Or that the Ravens gave up a franchise-worst 227 yards rushing last week and will face Arian Foster and the Texans’ vaunted ground attack on Sunday? Just checking.

Tampa Bay vs. New Orleans
The Buccaneers’ DST put up 18 fantasy points on the board last week against a Chiefs team that had Brady Quinn at quarterback. This week Tampa Bay’s D gets a rested New Orleans team that has record-setting quarterback Drew Brees at the helm. Yes the Bucs have been very good against the run, but tell me again when was the last time the Saints beat a team by running the ball?

Kickers
START
Dan Bailey (DAL) at Carolina

Carolina is allowing the most fantasy points to opposing kickers. Dallas’ ground game is coming off of its best effort yet and Dez Bryant and Jason Witten have both picked it up after slow starts. As long as Tony Romo can take care of the ball, Bailey should get a fair number of chances to score some points of his own.

Kai Forbath (WAS) at New York Giants
Forbath won the tryout to be the new Redskin kicker after Billy Cundiff was let go. He then promptly endeared himself to his new teammates by connecting from 50 yards out in the win over Minnesota last week. I think the Giants will bend but not break in the red zone more times than not, giving Forbath more three-point tries rather than solo shots.

SIT
Greg Zuerlein (STL) vs. Green Bay

The rookie known as Legatron hit his first bump in the road last week as he missed three field goal attempts. To be fair these are the first misses of his brief career and two of them were from beyond 50 yards (66 and 52 to be exact). Still, a miss is a miss and this first-year kicker has had all of this week to dwell on the fact that he has missed his last three field goal tries. I can’t help but wonder if Rams coach Jeff Fisher may think twice before sending Zuerlein out there for a long one this week against Green Bay. You may want to do the same thing for your lineup.

Jay Feely (ARI) at Minnesota
Feely was almost the hero last week against Buffalo as his franchise-record 61-yard field goal with 1:09 left tied the game at 16. He had a chance to win it at the end of regulation, but his 38-yard attempt was tipped at the line and hit the upright as time expired. To be clear, that “miss” isn’t why I’m not high on Feely this week. I just don’t see him getting as many chances against a Minnesota defense that’s tied for ninth in the league in points allowed (19.5 ppg), especially given the Cardinals’ own offensive issues.

— By Mark Ross, published on Oct. 19, 2012

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 7</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 06:05
Path: /college-football/south-carolina-gamecocks-vs-florida-gators-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Even with South Carolina’s loss to LSU last week, Saturday’s game between Florida and South Carolina is one of the marquee games for Week 8. The Gamecocks still have national and SEC title aspirations but another loss would eliminate those possibilities. Florida ranked No. 2 in the first release of the BCS standings and needs a victory over South Carolina to strengthen its grip on the No. 1 spot in the SEC East. The Gators take on Georgia next Saturday, so wins over the Gamecocks and Bulldogs would likely assure Will Muschamp’s team a spot in Atlanta in early December.  

Florida dominated South Carolina in the 1990s and early 2000s, but the Gamecocks have won the last two matchups. The Gators fell 17-12 in Columbia last season, while South Carolina won 36-14 in Gainesville in 2010.

While much of the focus for this matchup will be on the field, let’s not forget about the old ball coach’s return to the Swamp. Gainesville is certainly a special place for South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, but there’s no doubt he wants to go into the Swamp and exit with a victory. Spurrier is 3-4 in seven career games against Florida and is 1-2 in games played in Gainesville.

Storylines to Watch in South Carolina vs. Florida

Will South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore play?
In last week’s loss to LSU, South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore ran for a season-low of 35 yards on 13 attempts. However, that wasn’t the only bad news, as the junior back suffered a hip injury and may not be able to play in this Saturday’s game against Florida. If Lattimore cannot go, it would be a huge setback for the Gamecocks’ offense. Of course, there’s always the thought coach Steve Spurrier is playing mind games with the Gators, and the junior back will play in Saturday’s game. Freshman Mike Davis and senior Kenny Miles  - a combined 217 yards this season - will carry the workload if Lattimore cannot play. Quarterback Connor Shaw ranks second on the team with 280 rushing yards and will figure more into the rushing attack if Davis and Miles are forced into action. Florida ranks 20th nationally against the run, so it’s unlikely South Carolina would be able to have a huge day on the ground. However, Lattimore’s presence would be a huge boost to the Gamecocks’ offense and is a significant setback if he is unable to play.

Will South Carolina’s defense hold Florida’s Mike Gillislee in check?
There’s really no secret what Florida wants to do on offense. The Gators are averaging 233.3 rushing yards per game and rank 114th nationally in passing offense. Running back Mike Gillislee has been one of the nation’s best running backs through the first half of the season, recording 615 yards and seven touchdowns on 120 attempts. Gillislee rushed for 146 yards in the victory against LSU and seemed to get stronger as the game progressed. South Carolina has been stout against the run this year but allowed LSU to record 258 yards and two scores last week. In addition to trying to shore up last Saturday’s problems, the Gamecocks could be shorthanded this week. Defensive tackles Byron Jerideau and J.T. Surratt are nursing ankle injuries, while Kelcy Quarles may not play due to a shoulder problem. Additionally, South Carolina's top pass rusher (Jadeveon Clowney) is also questionable with a foot injury. At full strength, the Gamecocks’ defensive line should be able to hold their own against Gillislee and the Gators’ offensive line. However, the injuries are adding up, and Florida should own an edge in the trenches.

Which quarterback will make the most plays: Connor Shaw or Jeff Driskel?
With two of the SEC’s best defenses and running backs squaring off, it’s not crucial for either quarterback to have a huge game throwing the ball. However, it’s about timely plays and not making big mistakes. South Carolina’s Connor Shaw ranks 14th nationally in passing efficiency and has thrown only two interceptions in four SEC games. Florida’s Jeff Driskel has not thrown for more than 100 yards in each of his last two contests, but the sophomore is making big plays on the ground, including a 70-yard scamper against Vanderbilt. Neither quarterback will throw for 300 yards in this game but converting third downs and keeping drives alive with their legs will be two areas both quarterbacks can make an impact. Shaw has the edge in playmakers at receiver, which will be crucial with this matchup expected to be undecided deep into the fourth quarter.

Special teams…the x-factor
As with every big game, keep a close eye on the special teams. South Carolina punt returner Ace Sanders is averaging 17.4 yards per punt return and took one for a touchdown against Missouri. The Gators don’t have a standout on returns this season but have the edge on field goals and punts. Florida kicker Caleb Sturgis has converted 11 of 13 attempts, while punter Kyle Christy is averaging 46.4 yards per kick.

Can Florida’s defensive line take advantage of South Carolina’s offensive line?
Even though the Gamecocks are 6-1 and clobbered Georgia 35-7 two weeks ago, the offensive line is a significant question mark for this team. Line coach Shawn Elliott has shuffled some players around, but the front five is allowing 2.6 sacks a game. Florida’s defensive line seems to be getting stronger as the year goes on and it has allowed just one rushing touchdown in the last two games. With concerns on the offensive line, expect South Carolina to move quarterback Connor Shaw around the pocket. However, the Gamecocks have to be able to move Florida’s defensive front in short-yardage situations, as well as paving the way for Lattimore, Davis and Miles to gain ground on first and second downs.

Final Analysis

Considering both teams are allowing less than 20 points a game, expect a low-scoring defensive struggle on Saturday afternoon. Injuries will play a key role in deciding the outcome of this matchup, especially with South Carolina potentially missing running back Marcus Lattimore, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and a couple of defensive tackles. The Gamecocks have the edge at quarterback, but Florida’s defense has allowed only six points in two SEC home games. Expect the Gators to once again establish their rushing attack in the second half, which will be just enough for Florida to edge South Carolina and setup a huge showdown against Georgia next week that could decide the SEC East title.

Final Prediction: Florida 20, South Carolina 17
 

by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

 

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 8 Preview and Predictions
Big East Week 8 Preview and Predictions

Big Ten Week 8 Preview and Predictions

Big 12 Week 8 Preview and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 8 Preview and Predictions

SEC Week 8 Preview and Predictions

Teaser:
<p> South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Florida Gators Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-betting-against-spread-week-8
Body:

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

2012 Record Against The Spread: 32-23
Last Week: 6-2

Note: All lines are as of date of publication

Western Michigan (+3.5) at Kent State
Darrell Hazell has done an excellent job in one and a half seasons with the Flashes. The only loss of the year came on the road against an SEC opponent and, against the spread, his team is equally strong at 5-1. The Flashes have won their last two games by a combined 72-31 behind 604 yards rushing. Western Michigan will be without starter Alex Carder at quarterback and has lost two out of the three games. Look for the Golden Flashes to continue down its winning path, both in the standings and against the number. Prediction: Kent State -3.5

Indiana (+3) at Navy
The Midshipmen are always strong at running the football, but its 233.3 per game average is well-below what Navy has grown accustomed too over the last decade. The Hoosiers, meanwhile, boast the Big Ten's top passing attack under the guidance of second-year coach Kevin Wilson. A win over Navy would triple Indiana's win total from a year ago and give the fans in Bloomington a lot to be excited about it. Navy has no chance of stopping a team that scores over 35 points per game and just dropped 49 on Ohio State. Prediction: Indiana +3

San Diego State (+6.5) at Nevada
The Wolfpack gets star quarterback Cody Fajardo back after missing last weekend's contest. He leads the Mountain West in total offense and the Aztecs defense, which ranks 67th nationally in scoring (95th in pass efficiency defense) and has allowed 72 points in its only two road games, will have a tough time stopping the Nevada rushing attack. The nation's leading rusher, Stefphon Jefferson at 162.9 yards per game, is happy to have his backfield mate back in action. Take the Pack to win its sixth straight fairly comfortably. Prediction: Nevada -6.5

Penn State (+3.5) at Iowa
A battle of two Big Ten unbeatens should be defensively minded in Iowa City. Walk-on turned superstar bowling ball tailback Mark Weisman has an injured ankle and is doubtful for the Hawkeyes, leaving the depleted backfield in the questionable hands of James Vandenberg. On the other side, Matt McGloin has played superbly in a new offensive scheme that is as balanced as any in the nation the last month. The Nittany Lions are 5-1 against the spread this season and are a few plays from being unbeaten. They are simply the better team. Prediction: Penn State +3.5

USF (+6.5) at Louisville
The South Florida Bulls are one of the least trustworthy teams in the nation these days. And better may point to three straight close wins for the Cards by a combined 21 points over inferior teams. However, all three were on the road. The three best offensive yardage totals of the season have come at home for Charlie Strong's bunch and USF has done little to prove it belongs on the same field as the 6-0 Big East frontrunners. The Bulls have lost four straight by an average of 11.6 points per game and lost this bout by 10 at home last fall. Prediction: Louisville

Other games to investigate:

Stanford (-2) at Cal
The Cardinal are a superior team that crushed the Bears the last time they visited Berkeley. But it's a rivalry game.

Texas Tech (-1.5) at TCU
Tech hasn't won back-to-back Big 12 games since Nov. 2009. The Toads defense is slightly different than West Virginia.

Kansas State (+3) at West Virginia
I wouldn't bet against Bill Snyder and Collin Klein.

Northern Illinois (-16.5) at Akron
The Huskies are the far superior team behind do-everything dynamo Jordan Lynch.

Colorado (+41) at USC
Isn't this entirely too many points? Even for the Buffaloes?

Iowa State (+14) at Oklahoma State
The Cyclones play these types of games close behind solid defense.

Minnesota (+17) at Wisconsin
Badgers have won eight straight in this series and the Gophers haven't won in Madison since 1994.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

2012 Trends Against the Spread:

Undefeated ATS: Arizona State (5-0-1), Utah St (7-0), Western Kentucky (6-0)

Winless ATS: Virginia (0-6-1)

One Loss Against the Spread One Win Against the Spread
Fresno State (6-1) Auburn (1-5)
Kansas State (4-1-1) Boston College (1-5)
Kent State (5-1) Central Michigan (1-5)
UL Monroe (5-1) Colorado (1-5)
Ole Miss (6-1) Colorado St (1-6)
Northwestern (6-1) Idaho (1-6)
Oregon State (4-1) Kentucky (1-6)
Penn State (5-1) Miami-OH (1-6)
San Jose State (5-1) Michigan State (1-6)
South Carolina (6-1) USC (1-5)
Texas Tech (5-1) Syracuse (1-5)
TX-San Antonio (3-1)  

Other Noteables: Ball State (5-2), Duke (5-2), LSU (2-5), New Mexico (5-2), Northern Illinois (5-2), Toledo (5-2), UNLV (5-2)

Related College Football Content

College Football's Week 8 Upset Predictions
Weekend On Tap: Picking the 10 Best Games of Week 8
ACC Week 8 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 8 Previews and Predictions

Big Ten Week 8 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 8 Previews and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 8 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 8 Previews and Predictions

Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat Post-Week 7 Rankings

Post-Week 7 Bowl Projections

Teaser:
<p> College Football Betting Against the Spread: Week 8</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-draft-rankings-defensive-tackles
Body:

It is never too early to begin looking ahead to next year's NFL Draft. Each year a unique set of prospects enters the professional ranks with a chance to make an immediate impact on the country's most powerful sport. The 2013 NFL Draft won’t be any different.

Today, we rank college football's best defensive tackles prospects:

1. Jonathan Hankins, Ohio State (6-3, 320, Jr.)
The big Buckeye lineman has just a touch more upside than Star Lotulelei but has a similar skillset. He has a massive frame that is excellent at clogging space in order to stop the run. But he is a three-down tackle who can get penetration and disrupt the passer from the interior. In what should be a very deep and talented defensive tackle class, Hankins could be the best. There are potentially five first round defensive tackles in the 2013 class.

2. Star Lotulelei, Utah (6-3, 320, Sr.)
The big fella from Utah was voted as the best defensive lineman in the Pac-12 by his peers last season. If the offensive lineman who try to block him each Saturday say he is the best defensive lineman in the league, I believe them. He, too, is a three-down tackle who can be used against the pass and run equally — which is a rare commodity highly coveted by the NFL. He has great size, has been extremely productive and will likely be a top ten pick. He may be viewed as safer than Hankins but likely has slightly less upside.

3. Kawann Short, Purdue (6-3, 315, Sr.)
Purdue's heart and soul on defense has tons of ability. He is roughly the same size as all the best tackle prospects in this class with the rare of exception of John Jenkins (who is massive and bigger than everyone else). He has proven his abilities to play in opposing backfields with four years of consistent play in the middle of a defense that rarely gave him the help he deserved. He is a Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year candidate this fall. 

4. John Jenkins, Georgia (6-3, 358, Sr.)
Few players will go to the combine bigger than Jenkins. While he will need to prove his stamina, flexibility and commitment to physical conditioning, he doesn't have to prove much in the form of on-field production. He has experience in a professional 3-4 defense that has been one of the best in the vaunted SEC. He has the skills and size to develop into the best player at his position in this class, but has to refine his fitness, size and consistency.

5. Sylvester Williams, North Carolina (6-3, 320, Sr.)
The big Tar Heel has been a fast riser throughout the fall. He has the needed size and power to play at the next level but needed to prove himself one more season. He was surrounded by elite talent and was a junior college transfer, yet has continued to improve and has held his own without names like Coples, Martin, Powell there to help him this fall. He is more upside than most in the top ten at this point.

6. Jesse Williams, Alabama (6-3, 320, Sr.)
There may not be anything flashy or freakish about this young Australian, but he absolutely gets the job done with tremendous strength and technique. He has been coached by the best, been extremely productive against the best and should be viewed as one of the best. He won't wow scouts with any one talent, but should be a major contributor on the next level for years to come.

7. Sharrif Floyd, Florida (6-3, 303, Jr.)
The Gators active lineman is much lighter than his elite level counterparts and is generously listed at 6-foot-3. But he is extremely active, disruptive and will make plenty of plays on the next level. This nose tackle was an elite recruit back in 2010 and made an immediate impact as a freshman in Gainesville. Look for him to continue to improve and could easily raise his stock into the first round with a great end to his Gators career. 

8. Bennie Logan, LSU (6-3, 290, Jr.)
Only one player on the Tigers roster gets to wear No. 18 each season as the unquestioned leader of the program and Logan got that distinguished honor in 2012. Like Floyd, he won't tip the scales with his smaller frame, but he is as tough a leader as there is at the position. He is a dependable performer that will give scouts exactly what they expect. Logan has limited upside but extremely low downside. 

9. Sheldon Richardson, Missouri (6-3, 295, Jr.)
Despite his wordy taunts, Richardson is one of the most talented tackles in the nation. Every SEC coach to have scouted the Tigers point to the defensive line as the area to focus on, and most of that is due to the play this big guy. He has had some injury issues in the past (shoulder) and will need to prove himself at the combine, but the upside is obvious for the one of the highest-rated recruits to ever sign with Mizzou.

10. Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota (6-6, 300, Jr.)
This massive prospect has been a late mover on draft boards. He has a huge frame with plenty of room to add bulk and power. He also hasn't played a ton of football so his better days are well of ahead of him. He has quickly proven to be a productive member of an improving defense. He has extremely intriguing upside and could be a value pick in the early middle rounds.

Other names to watch:

11. Akeem Spence, Illinois (6-1, 305, Jr.)
12. Josh Boyd, Mississippi State (6-3, 300, Sr.)
13. Everett Dawkins, Florida State (6-2, 304, Sr.)
14. Abry Jones, Georgia (6-3, 308, Sr.)
15. Dominique Easley, Florida (6-2, 280, Jr.)
16. Joe Vellano, Maryland (6-2, 285, Sr.)
17. Jordan Hill, Penn State (6-1, 294, Sr.)
18. Cory Grissom, USF (6-2, 316, Sr.)
19. Anthony Rashad White, Michigan State (6-2, 330, Sr.)
20. Baker Steinkuhler, Nebraska (6-6, 290, Sr.)

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related NFL Draft Rankings By Position:

2013 NFL Draft: Running Backs

2013 NFL Draft: Tight Ends
2013 NFL Draft: Safeties

2013 NFL Draft: Defensive Tackles

2013 NFL Draft: Wide Receivers

2013 NFL Draft: Offensive Tackles

2013 NFL Draft: Inside Linebackers

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Defensive Tackles</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/nebraska-cornhuskers-vs-northwestern-wildcats-preview-and-prediction
Body:

The Big Ten is having a rough 2012 campaign, and the news only got worse with the first release of the BCS standings. The conference failed to have a team inside of the top 25 and only one squad is ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. While the Big Ten has seemingly dealt with only bad news this year, the battle to win the conference title should be one of the nation’s most intriguing races. The Legends Division is a wide-open battle, with Michigan and Iowa undefeated at 2-0. Northwestern and Nebraska each have one loss, while Michigan State isn’t out of the mix at 1-2.

Considering how tight the battle is at the top of the Big Ten, Saturday’s matchup between Nebraska and Northwestern should be a crucial game to sort out the pecking order in the division. The Cornhuskers are coming off a bye week but lost 63-38 to Ohio State in its last appearance. Northwestern won 21-13 at Minnesota last week and is 10-2 in its last 12 regular season games.

These two teams have met only five times and once as Big Ten foes. Northwestern upset Nebraska 28-25 in Lincoln last year, which was its first victory over the Cornhuskers since 1931. The Cornhuskers claimed an easy victory in the 2000 Alamo Bowl against Northwestern and won the only matchup in Evanston (1931) between these two teams.

Storylines to watch in Nebraska vs. Northwestern

Can Nebraska stop Northwestern’s rushing attack?
Stopping the run has been a huge issue for the Cornhuskers this season. The off week should have allowed Bo Pelini and his defensive staff a chance to examine his team’s performance in the first half of the season and find a few answers. Will it make a difference? Nebraska’s defense is uncharacteristically ranked 91st nationally against the run and is giving up 27.7 points a game. Northwestern’s rushing attack ranks 18th nationally and has found a spark behind Venric Mark and quarterback Kain Colter. Mark has 797 yards and eight scores through seven games, while Colter ranks second on the team with 421 yards. Considering Northwestern rushed for 207 yards last season, an improved Wildcats’ ground attack is a bad sign for Nebraska’s defense.

Can Trevor Siemian get back on track for Northwestern?
Siemian and Kain Colter form a dangerous one-two combination for the Wildcats at quarterback, and both will be expected to see significant snaps on Saturday. Northwestern’s offense seems to be at its best when Colter is used in an all-purpose role, while Siemian starts at quarterback. In last week’s win over Minnesota, Siemian completed only 1 of 7 throws for four yards. Although it’s just a one-game struggle, the sophomore is a key piece in the Northwestern attack and needs to be sharp on Saturday. However, Nebraska ranks 15th nationally against the pass and won’t give the Wildcats many easy opportunities through the air. The Cornhuskers are generating 3.5 sacks a game, so Northwestern’s quarterbacks (Siemian or Colter) needs to get rid of the ball quickly and on target.

Which Taylor Martinez will show up for Nebraska this weekend?
There’s no question Martinez is a much-improved passer. The junior is on pace to set a career-high in passing yards and is just two touchdown passes away breaking his total from last season (13). Despite his improvement, Martinez has struggled in Nebraska’s two losses. He tossed one interception and threw for 179 yards against UCLA, while throwing three picks on 25 attempts against Ohio State. Martinez is completing 72.2 percent of his throws at home but only 57.1 percent on the road. The Cornhuskers don’t need 300 passing yards from their junior quarterback, but he needs to be more efficient than he has in his career on the road. Northwestern’s secondary is allowing 270.9 yards per game, so the opportunities for big plays will be there. As Martinez goes, so goes Nebraska. Hitting some easy throws and allowing Martinez to make plays with his legs early on should help the junior ease into the game and erase some of the road demons.

Is Rex Burkhead 100 percent?
Rex Burkhead’s senior year hasn’t gone according to plan, as he suffered a knee injury in the opener and missed the next two contests. Burkhead reinjured his knee against Ohio State but is expected to play against Northwestern. However, it’s fair to wonder if Burkhead is at full strength or if he can handle 25-30 carries. Against the Buckeyes, the senior averaged 8.5 yards per carry and appeared to be close to 100 percent. Even if Burkhead isn’t at full strength, Nebraska has depth in the backfield. Ameer Abdullah leads the team with 514 yards and seven rushing scores, while averaging six yards per carry. Imani Cross and Braylon Heard are also capable of contributing, while quarterback Taylor Martinez is averaging five yards per carry this season. Even though Burkhead is ready to assume 20 carries, don’t be surprised if Abdullah gets a share of the touches.

Final Analysis

This is a crucial game for positioning in the Big Ten Legends Division and there should be no shortage of points with two of the conference’s top offenses. Nebraska is also out for revenge after Northwestern won in Lincoln last season, but there’s also plenty of focus to get things pointed in the right direction after losing at Ohio State on Oct. 6

Both offenses should be able to move the ball, with a turnover or late defensive stop likely deciding this game.

Nebraska should be motivated after losing to Ohio State, and the Cornhuskers make a late defensive stand to win and remain alive for the Big Ten Legends Division title.

Final Prediction: Nebraska 34, Northwestern 31

 

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Teaser:
<p> Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Northwestern Wildcats Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 05:54
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketballs-top-international-players-2012-13
Body:

Stars like Syracuse’s Fab Melo (Brazil), St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson (Canada) and Vanderbilt’s Jeffrey Taylor (Sweden) and Festus Ezeli (Nigeria) may have left the college ranks for the NBA in June, but that doesn’t mean the college game isn’t still flush with international talent.

If we were to assemble a NCAA international dream team for the upcoming season, here are the 10 players who would make our rotation.

Related content:
Top 10 Freshmen for 2012-13

Impact Transfers for 2012-13
Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2012-13
10 Players Returning from Injury

2012-13 INTERNATIONAL DREAM TEAM
STARTERS

G Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s
Country:
Australia
The perfect leader for our international dream team is Matthew Dellavedova. Before even starting his senior season, the 6-foot-4 do-it-all guard has already made an indelible mark on the Gaels’ record book — first in career assists, second in career 3-pointers, eighth in career steals, ninth in career scoring. The reigning West Coast Conference Player of the Year, Dellavedova bolstered his résumé by representing his native land in the Summer Olympics.

G Myck Kabongo, Texas
Country:
Canada
Rick Barnes has a thing for Canadian point guards — two years ago he had Cory Joseph, then when Joseph bolted for the NBA after one season, he was seamlessly replaced with Myck Kabongo. The slender 6-1 floor general, on of the top recruits in the Class of 2011, led the Longhorns in assists last season, averaging 5.2 per game. Kabongo brings to our team a reliable ball-handler and expert distributor.

F Brock Motum, Washington State
Country:
Australia
Providing the inside scoring for our international team is last season’s leading scorer in the Pac-12, Brock Motum. The 6-10 Aussie averaged 18.0 points and 6.4 rebounds for the Cougars last season. Motum made a dramatic improvement from his sophomore season (7.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg), so don’t be surprised if he is even more productive in his final season in Pullman.

F Elias Harris, Gonzaga
Country:
Germany
Elias Harris has long been on NBA scouts’ radar, but luckily for the Zags he stuck around for four years in Spokane. The 6-7 combo forward led the squad in rebounding (8.4 rpg) last season, earning All-WCC honors. He also has international experience playing for the German National Team. His inside/outside versatility brings a unique dimension to our international squad.  

C Gorgui Dieng, Louisville
Country:
Senegal
Dieng was one of the most improved players in the nation last season for a Louisville team that reached the Final Four. The big man from Senegal has always been effective on the defensive end, but he emerged as a threat on offense as a sophomore. Overall, he averaged 9.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game. He gives our International team some size and shot-blocking.

THE BENCH
G Brady Heslip, Baylor
Country:
Canada
Every team needs a 3-point sharpshooter, and our international squad has one of the best in the nation, Baylor’s Brady Heslip. In his first season on the court for the Bears (after transferring from Boston College), Heslip knocked down 100 3s at a 45.5 percent clip, including a memorable 9-of-12 performance against Colorado in the Round of the 32 of the NCAA Tournament.

G Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga
Country:
Canada
Our second Canadian guard off the bench is Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos. The Bulldogs have always had a strong recruiting pipeline to Canada, and they imported another key player from the Great White North last season. Despite playing on a roster full of veterans, Pangos surprisingly led the team in scoring (13.6 ppg), as well as assists, steals and 3-pointers made. Pangos can penetrate and kick it out to Heslip behind the arc.

F Ryan Broekhoff, Valparaiso
Country:
Australia
Providing veteran leadership off the bench for our team is Valpo’s Ryan Broekhoff. The reigning Horizon League Player of the Year, Broekhoff, a 6-7 senior, can play forward or guard, and no doubt is on a confidence high training with the Australian National Team this past offseason.

F Arsalan Kazemi, Oregon
Country:
Iran
The first Iranaian to play Division I basketball, Kazemi is a versatile scorer who has averaged a double-double for Rice in each of the last two seasons while shooting over 50 percent from the field. Kazemi transferred from Rice to Oregon in September and is seeking a hardship waiver to play this season.

C Steven Adams, Pittsburgh
Country:
New Zealand
New Zealand isn’t exactly a hotbed of hoops talent, but don’t tell that to Steven Adams. Despite being orphaned and living on the streets as a teen, the 7-foot “Kiwi Phenom” blossomed into one of the top-ranked incoming freshmen to the NCAA this fall. Adams is an explosive, athletic big man who gives Jamie Dixon perhaps his most ballyhooed recruit since taking over the reins of the Panthers.

@AthlonSports

More previews for the 2012-13 season can be found in the Athlon Sports College Basketball annual available in the online store

Athlon College Basketball Countdown:
1. Indiana
2. Louisville

3. Kentucky

4. Kansas
5. Syracuse
6. Michigan
7. Arizona
8. Ohio State
9. Duke
10. Michigan State
11. NC State
12. UCLA
13. UNLV
14. North Carolina
15. San Diego State
16. Missouri
17. Baylor
18. Memphis
19. Notre Dame
20. Florida

Teaser:
<p> College Basketball's Top International Players for 2012-13</p>
Post date: Friday, October 19, 2012 - 05:29
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /nfl/report-andy-reids-son-died-heroin-overdose
Body:

Easton, PA (Sports Network) - Garrett Reid, the son of Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid, died in August of an accidental heroin overdose.

Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli held a news conference Thursday to release details of the investigation and coroner Zachary Lysek confirmed the cause of death was "acute opiate 'heroin' toxicity."

Garrett Reid died Aug. 5 at the age of 29. He was found dead in a dorm room at Lehigh University, site of the Eagles' training camp.

The younger Reid had battled substance abuse for a few years, spending time in jail as a result, and Andy Reid had mentioned the drug problems in the immediate aftermath of Garrett's death, saying in a statement his son had "lost the battle that has been ongoing for the last eight years."

Teaser:
Garrett Reid, the son of Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid, died in August of an accidental heroin overdose.
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 19:00
All taxonomy terms: crossword, Monthly
Path: /monthly/october-2012-crossword-solution
Body:

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 16:31
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-fighting-irish-vs-byu-cougars-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Last week’s goal-line stand against Stanford moved Notre Dame to 6-0 and one step closer to getting the Irish back to a BCS bowl. With six contests remaining, Notre Dame has four games it should be heavy favorites in, while tough road matchups await the Irish against USC and Oklahoma.

With a tough road trip to Oklahoma next week, Notre Dame has to be careful not to overlook this week’s opponent: BYU. The Cougars are 4-3 but have lost to Oregon State and Boise State - a combined 10-1 record – along with rival Utah.

These two teams are the nation’s top Independent squads but have played only six games. Notre Dame holds a 4-2 edge on BYU, with the last matchup coming in 2005. The Cougars claimed victories in 1994 and 2004, but their four losses to the Irish have come by 19 points or more.  

Storylines to Watch in Notre Dame vs. BYU

Winning the turnover battle
Turnovers were a big problem for Notre Dame’s offense last season, but the Irish rank 10th nationally in turnover margin and have lost only four fumbles. The Cougars have been quite generous with turnovers this year, tossing 10 interceptions and losing four fumbles through the first seven games. Quarterback Riley Nelson has been slowed by a back injury the last few contests and has tossed six picks over his last two games. If BYU continues to give the ball away, it will have no shot to leave South Bend with a victory. The weather certainly was a factor last week, but Notre Dame lost three fumbles against Stanford, which has to be a focus for Brian Kelly and his staff this week. Although the Irish are a big favorite, losing the turnover battle is a good way to allow an underdog to hang around until the fourth quarter.

Will BYU be able to run the ball on Notre Dame’s defense?
Establishing the ground attack against Notre Dame has been nearly impossible for opposing offenses this season. The Irish rank 25th nationally in rush defense, allowing only 113.5 yards per game. Also, only three opponents have managed more than 100 yards in a game, and Notre Dame has yet to allow a rushing touchdown this season. BYU ranks 52nd nationally in rushing offense, and starting running back Michael Alisa is out indefinitely due to a broken arm suffered against Utah State. With Alisa and backup dual-threat quarterback Taysom Hill out, the Cougars have struggled to find a spark on the ground. True freshman Jamaal Williams has big-play potential but was held in check by Oregon State’s defense last week (36 yards). Establishing balance will be critical to BYU's upset hopes, but considering Notre Dame’s rush defense is a strength, that’s easier said than done.

Everett Golson or Tommy Rees?
Notre Dame’s quarterback carousel continued to spin last week, as Everett Golson was forced to leave the game due to a concussion. However, the redshirt freshman was cleared to practice on Wednesday and if he doesn’t suffer any setbacks, should be the starting quarterback on Saturday afternoon. Golson hasn’t posted eye-popping numbers, but he hasn’t made any huge mistakes to cost his team a chance to win and is completing 58.5 percent of his throws. Tommy Rees has been effective as a change of pace option and shined in relief duty against Stanford, completing all four of his passes for 43 yards and one touchdown. Regardless of who starts or finishes this week, it’s crucial for Notre Dame to build some confidence in Golson, especially with a trip to Oklahoma next week. BYU’s defense ranks 24th nationally against the pass but was torched by Oregon State’s backup quarterback for 332 yards last week. The Irish will have plenty of opportunities to make plays through the air, but it’s up to Golson or Rees to deliver.

Can Riley Nelson attack the Notre Dame secondary?
A back injury slowed Nelson in late September and had an underwhelming performance in his return to the lineup. Against Oregon State, Nelson threw for 305 yards but tossed three picks and completed only 28 of 51 passes. The Cougars have some weapons in the receiving corps, led by receiver Cody Hoffman and tight end Kaneakua Friel. However, Nelson won’t have an opportunity to deliver the ball downfield to his receivers if the offensive line continues to struggle. BYU’s offensive line is allowing 2.6 sacks per game, which is a bad sign against Notre Dame’s defensive front. Even though the Irish have some inexperienced players stepping into key roles at cornerback, the secondary is allowing only 173.5 yards per game. If Nelson has time to throw, Hoffman and Friel will have opportunities to make plays downfield. However, Notre Dame’s defense will certainly have other plans, as it looks to copy Oregon State's gameplan last week and force Nelson into a few mistakes to give its offense a short field and easy points. 

Final Analysis

As each week passes, the stakes get a little higher for Notre Dame. The Irish are squarely in the national title mix and next Saturday’s game against Oklahoma will be a huge measuring stick and opportunity. However, the Irish have to focus on BYU this Saturday, a team that is dangerous despite its 4-3 record.

The Cougars should be able to hang around early, especially with a defense that ranks fifth nationally in yards allowed and seventh in scoring defense. However, expect a strong performance from Notre Dame’s defense, while the offense will find its rhythm in the second half. Considering next week's opponent (Oklahoma) will be the Irish's toughest challenge of the season, this is an important game for the offense to get on track and most importantly, build some confidence for quarterback Everett Golson.

Final Prediction: Notre Dame 31, BYU 13

 

by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

 


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Teaser:
<p> Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. BYU Cougars Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 13:48

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