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With the completion of Week 7, the first half of the 2012 college football season is officially in the books. As expected, there have been plenty of surprises from the first two months of action and no shortage of preseason picks gone awry. With West Virginia's loss on Saturday, the race to win the Heisman Trophy is wide open, with Ohio State's Braxton Miller taking a slight lead over Geno Smith. Alabama and Oregon are the favorites to play for the national championship, but both teams still have plenty of hurdles left to clear the rest of the way. While a lot will happen over the second half of the year, it's time to step back and take a look at some of the top performers and disappointments for 2012. 

College Football's Midseason Awards for 2012

Heisman frontrunner: Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Geno Smith’s Heisman hopes didn’t completely disappear in Lubbock, but they certainly took a hit, especially considering West Virginia lost by 35 points to an unranked team. Due to Smith’s setback, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller takes a slight edge as the new Heisman frontrunner. The sophomore has thrown for 1,271 yards and 11 scores, while adding 912 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. Miller ranks 17th nationally with 311.9 total yards per game and also places third nationally in rushing yards by a quarterback. Most importantly, the sophomore has delivered in the clutch this season. With Ohio State still searching for playmakers around him, Miller has produced big plays late in games against California, Michigan State and Nebraska to lead his team to victory. The Ohio State coaching staff would like to reduce Miller’s workload to keep him fresh for the final five games of the year, but the sophomore is simply too valuable and too much of a playmaker to take away his touches.

The Next Four Candidates:

2. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
3. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
4. Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
5. De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
 

Offensive Player of the Year – Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Since Braxton Miller is listed as our Heisman favorite, we thought we would spread the wealth and give Smith the nod as our offensive player of the year for the first half of the season. Despite the disappointing showing at Texas Tech, the senior has thrown for 2,271 yards and 25 scores this year. Smith is completing 75.3 percent of his passes and has yet to toss an interception through the first six games. With match-ups against Kansas State and Oklahoma in the second half of the year, the senior will have a chance to climb back into the Heisman mix, along with pushing West Virginia into contention for a BCS bowl.

Honorable Mention:

Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
 

Defensive Player of the Year: Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
Te’o has been simply outstanding this year, as he is the heart and soul for one of the nation’s best defenses through the first seven weeks of the season. The senior leads Notre Dame with 59 stops, has recorded two tackles for a loss, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Te’o’s impact goes beyond the box score, especially in terms of leadership and was a key cog in Notre Dame’s goal-line stand over Stanford in Week 7. It’s not often a defensive player is a serious Heisman contender, but if Te’o continues to perform at this level, he should be one of the five finalists for college football’s most prestigious award.

Honorable Mention:

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
 

Coach of the Year: Mike Riley, Oregon State
After finishing 2011 with a 3-9 record, the expectations were low in Corvallis. Even though Mike Riley had resurrected the program from one of the worst in the nation to respectability, some wondered if he should be on the hot seat if Oregon State got off to a slow start this season. Fast forward to October, and the Beavers are in the thick of the Pac-12 title hunt. Oregon State is one of 12 unbeaten teams and quietly has one of the best resumes in the nation with victories over Wisconsin, UCLA, Arizona, Washington State and BYU. The Beavers are a much-improved team in the stat box, ranking fourth nationally against the run and are averaging 83.9 yards more per game on offense. Oregon State has a shot to be unbeaten when it plays Oregon on Nov. 24, but the biggest takeaway through the first seven weeks is Riley remains one of the Pac-12’s best coaches.

Honorable Mention:

Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Will Muschamp, Florida
Bill Snyder, Kansas State
 

Best Coaching Hire: Urban Meyer, Ohio State
As expected, Meyer and Ohio State have been a perfect combination. The Buckeyes had plenty of talent last season, but the uncertainty surrounding the coaching staff and inexperience of quarterback Braxton Miller contributed to a disappointing 6-7 record. Meyer’s spread attack has ignited an offense that was conservative under former coach Jim Tressel, while turning Miller into a Heisman frontrunner. Ohio State’s defense still needs some work but help is on the way from another impressive recruiting class. Even though the Buckeyes are banned from postseason play, Meyer has this team poised to claim a top-five finish at the end of the year.

Honorable Mention:

Bill O’Brien, Penn State
Kyle Flood, Rutgers
Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
 

Biggest surprise: Notre Dame
It’s a tossup between Oregon State and Notre Dame for this honor, but since we gave Mike Riley the coach of the year spot, let’s give some credit to the Irish. Notre Dame is off to its best start since beginning 8-0 in 2012. High expectations surrounded the Irish last season, but Brian Kelly’s team didn’t quite meet those goals, finishing 8-5 with a loss to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl. However, the Irish are on track to finish with at least 10 victories and make a BCS bowl appearances. Kelly developed an impressive resume at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan and Cincinnati with high-scoring offenses, but it has been the defense leading the way for Notre Dame in 2012. The Irish rank second nationally in scoring defense and are allowing just 287 yards per game. The offense needs to show improvement if Notre Dame wants to challenge for a national title, but a 10-2 season and a BCS bowl would go a long way towards making the Irish a yearly top-10 team once again.

Honorable Mention:

Duke
Florida
Oregon State
Penn State
Rutgers
 

Biggest disappointment: Auburn
No one anticipated Auburn would compete for the national title in 2012, but the Tigers weren’t expected to be this bad either. Auburn is off to its worst start since 1998, opening the year 1-5 with a narrow 31-28 win over Louisiana-Monroe as its only bright spot of the season. Both sides of the ball are to blame, as the Tigers rank 115th nationally in scoring offense and 78th nationally in total defense. Auburn’s quarterback play has been a disaster, and there’s too much talent on this defense to be ranked 12th in the SEC in yards allowed after six games. The Tigers have recruited as well as anyone in the SEC but the results on the field aren’t matching up. With only two winnable games remaining on the schedule, Auburn will likely miss out on a bowl game for the first time since 2008. Even though Gene Chizik won a national title in 2010, he may not be back for 2013.

Honorable Mention:

Arkansas
Michigan State
South Florida
Virginia Tech
 

Breakout player: Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida
Although Florida’s defense has been stingy this year, the real reason for the Gators’ turnaround has been the offense. Gillislee had 920 career rushing yards coming into the season but has been a workhorse through the first six games. The senior has 615 yards and seven rushing scores on 120 attempts, while catching four passes for 26 yards. Gillislee’s best performance came in the win over LSU, rushing for 146 yards and two touchdowns on 34 attempts. The senior’s performance is a key reason why Florida is second in the BCS standings and is one of college football’s top national title contenders.

Honorable Mention:

Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern
 

Top Freshman: Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Life in the SEC was supposed to be tough for Texas A&M. However, the emergence of Johnny Manziel has quickly turned the Aggies from a likely .500 finish into a solid top-25 team. The redshirt freshman has thrown for 1,680 yards and 14 touchdowns, while adding 676 yards and 10 scores on the ground. Manziel has tossed only three picks and is completing 69.3 percent of his throws. In addition to his stats, Johnny Football has produced several highlight-reel plays and will be a handful for the rest of the SEC over the next three-plus seasons.

Honorable Mention:

Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Devonte Fields, DE, TCU
 

Coach on the Hot Seat: Joker Phillips, Kentucky
Phillips has experienced some bad luck this season, as the offense has lost two quarterbacks (Maxwell Smith and Patrick Towles), while several young players have been forced to step into significant playing time on both sides of the ball. However, the Wildcats haven’t been competitive in SEC competition and suffered a crushing 32-31 defeat to Western Kentucky in Week 3. Although Phillips led Kentucky to a bowl game in his first season, he is just 6-13 since 2010 and the program has fallen behind Vanderbilt in the new 14-team SEC.

Honorable Mention:

Gene Chizik, Auburn
Derek Dooley, Tennessee
Frank Spaziani, Boston College
Jeff Tedford, California
 

Worst Coaching Hire: Ellis Johnson, Southern Miss
Johnson seemed like a strange fit at Southern Miss when he was hired and so far, the results have matched those initial feelings. The Golden Eagles have played a difficult schedule but are off to a miserable 0-6 start. Southern Miss has struggled to be competitive most of the year, before taking UCF to two overtimes in Week 7. Johnson’s career record as a head coach is 17-34, with previous stints at Gardner-Webb and The Citadel resulting in four .500 or worse seasons. It’s unlikely Johnson will be fired after one year; however, he may not last past 2013 if Southern Miss has another losing season.

Honorable Mention:

Tim Beckman, Illinois
Norm Chow, Hawaii
Carl Pelini, FAU
Charlie Weis, Kansas
 

From Hot Seat to Low Pressure:  Randy Edsall, Maryland
Edsall had a disastrous start to his tenure at Maryland, as the Terrapins went 2-10 last season and 25 players have left the team since his arrival. However, Maryland appears to be one of the most-improved teams in the ACC, doubling its win total from last season with a 4-2 record through six games. With starting quarterback C.J. Brown sidelined for the year with a torn ACL, the Terrapins have been forced to start true freshman Perry Hills at quarterback, but the young passer has held his own and continues to get better with each snap. Even if Edsall doesn’t lead Maryland to a bowl game this season, it’s clear the program is headed back in the right direction.

Honorable Mention:

Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech
 

National Title frontrunners: Alabama vs. Oregon
There’s a lot of football left, but Alabama and Oregon hit the halfway point of the season as the favorites to meet in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Jan. 7. The Crimson Tide’s schedule is very favorable, with a road trip to LSU on Nov. 3 the toughest game the rest of the year. The Ducks have a few more landmines on their schedule, starting with a Thursday night game at Arizona State this week. Oregon also travels to USC, California and Oregon State in the regular season. If both teams manage to navigate the rest of the schedule unbeaten, each will have to survive a conference title game. Alabama has avoided the top teams from the East Division this year, but a match-up against Florida or South Carolina is no cupcake. If Oregon makes it to the Pac-12 title game, a rematch against USC appears likely. If this is the national title match-up, these two teams have never met and it will be Oregon’s second championship appearance against an SEC squad.
 

Newcomer (JUCO) – Morgan Breslin, DE, USC
The defensive line was one of USC’s top concerns in the preseason, but Breslin has emerged as a force in his first season out of the junior college ranks. The Diablo Valley (Calif.) transfer has 26 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss and seven sacks through the first six games. Breslin has been one of the Pac-12’s top defenders through the first half and his play will be especially critical down the stretch, as USC takes on Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA and Notre Dame in November.

Honorable Mention:

Bo Wallace, QB, Ole Miss
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Will Smith, LB, Texas Tech
Deion Belue, CB, Alabama
 

Coach on the Rise: Willie Taggart, Western Kentucky
When the coaching carousel begins later this year, expect Taggart’s name to be floated for many of the top vacancies. The Hilltoppers have won 12 out of their last 14 games, with the only losses coming to Alabama and LSU. In the two seasons prior to Taggart’s arrival, Western Kentucky was 2-22. The Hilltoppers are in good position to make their first bowl appearance since moving to the FBS level in 2008, but keeping Taggart will be a challenge with a couple of marquee jobs likely to be open at the end of the year. 

Honorable Mention:

Gary Andersen, Utah State
Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech
Darrell Hazell, Kent State
Mike MacIntyre, San Jose State


by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven


Related College Football Content

ACC Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

Big East Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

Big Ten Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

Big 12 Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

Pac-12 Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

SEC Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

College Football Week 7 Recap

Teaser:
<p> College Football 2012 Midseason Awards and Recap</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 11:50
Path: /college-football/bcs-standings-2012-statistical-breakdown-championships
Body:

With the first release of the 2012 BCS Standings, Athlon Sports wants to make sure fans are aware of some stats, trends and rankings when sifting through the debut of the rankings that will eventually determine who will play for the national championship.

No. 1 has a 50% chance to play in the BCS National Championship Game
The No. 1 team in the initial BCS release has gone on to play in the national championship game seven of the 14 total releases. LSU was No. 1 in the first poll last season, but the Bayou Bengals were the first team since Ohio State in 2007 to debut at No. 1 and still play in the title game. But there is bad news coming for the Alabama Crimson Tide...

However, No. 1 doesn’t win the national title
Yes, seven of the 14 BCS title games featured a team ranked No. 1 in the debut release of the standings. But the last four — and five of seven — No. 1s have lost in the national championship game. LSU (2011), Ohio State (2007, '06) and USC (2005) all debuted in the BCS at No. 1, made it to the title game and lost. Florida State in 1999 and USC in 2004 are the only teams to win the national title after debuting at No. 1. Oklahoma in 2003 also began the BCS at No. 1 only to lose in the championship game to LSU.

You better be ranked in the top six
Of the 28 teams that have played in BCS title game, only two of those got there after being ranked outside of the top six in the initial release. In 2003, LSU debuted at No. 12 in the initial BCS standings and is by far the lowest ranked eventual national champion. Florida in 2008 was ranked No. 10 in the first poll and is the only other team to get to the title game after being ranked outside of the top six in the first BCS standings. Here is a breakdown of how the top 12 have fared in the title game:

Ranking in Initial Release Played in Title Game Won Championship
1st 7 2-5
2nd 7 4-3
3rd 4 1-3
4th 4 3-1
5th 1 0-1
6th 3 2-1
7th, 8th, 9th 0 0-0
10th 1 1-0
11th 0 0-0
12th 1 1-0

Projected Championship Game Match-up: Alabama (1) vs. Florida (2)
The odds of this happening are slim. Only twice in 14 years have the top two teams in the first BCS release go on to play in the championship game. In 2005, USC (1) and Texas (2) were clearly the best two teams in the nation and they eventually met in what many consider the greatest college football game ever played. Last year, LSU (1) and Alabama (2) become only the second such meeting. Both times No. 2 went on to win the title.

How should the Florida Gators feel?
Based on the 14-year history of the BCS, the Florida Gators should feel the best about their current title hopes. The No. 2 team in the first release has made it to the championship game about the same number of times as the No. 1 team (7). But while No. 1 is 2-5 in title game performances, No. 2 has won more titles than any other slot in the first release (4-3). This means the Gators have the best statistical chance of winning the national championship. 

Sneaky Pick: Kansas State Wildcats
While No. 1 and No. 2 make it to the title game the most, the No. 4 team in the first BCS standings has the best record in the national championship game. Fourth place is 3-1 in national title games as Miami (2001), LSU (2007) and Auburn (2010) went from fourth to national champ.

Some comfort for LSU
Being in the top six is huge as I previously pointed out, so LSU has to feel good about landing there. Additionally, the sixth place team in the first BCS standings is 2-1 in national title games. Ohio State (2002) and Florida (2006) both went from No. 6 to champions. So don’t count the Tigers out just yet.

Bad News for South Carolina, Oregon State and Oklahoma
No team ranked No. 7, 8 or 9 in the debut of the BCS standings has ever gone on to play in the national championship game. The No. 11 team has never made it either. This is also bad news for the Georgia Bulldogs. Alas, it also means we won't get the highly anticipated Beavers-Gamecocks match-up fans have been clamoring about for years.

New faces or traditional powers?
No team has ever played for the national title coming from outside of the top 12. But fans could expect to see a totally new look to the championship game this fall. Of the top 12, six have never made an appearance in the BCS championship game. However, of the other six teams, five have won the BCS national championship. Only Oregon has played in the title game and not claimed at least one crystal football.

How many Top 10 teams stay in contention?
On average, 6.4 teams per season ranked in the top 10 of the first release will stay in the top 10 for the final release. This means that 3-4 teams ranked in the top 10 right now will fade from relevance. Who are the most likely candidates? Oregon State? South Carolina? Oklahoma?

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

Three and Out: Week 7 Recap

ACC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big East 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big Ten 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big 12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Pac-12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
SEC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review 

Teaser:
<p> BCS Standings 2012: A Statistical Breakdown of Championships</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 11:22
Path: /nfl/denver-broncos-vs-san-diego-chargers-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Two divisional foes coming off painful road losses will clash on Monday Night Football, when the San Diego Chargers host the Denver Broncos at 8:30 p.m. EST on ESPN. The Lightning Bolts appeared to be on their way to a 4-1 start with a 24-14 lead over the Saints late in the third quarter last week, but New Orleans would rally with 17 unanswered points to win 31-24 and send San Diego home with a 3-2 mark. The Denver defense was gashed in New England eight days ago, as the Patriots piled up 251 rushing yards in a 31-21 defeat of the Broncos.

When the San Diego Chargers have the ball:
The Chargers offense entered the weekend ranked 23rd in the NFL in yards per game (334.8) but 13th in scoring (24.8 ppg), so Philip Rivers and company have done a good job of capitalizing on their opportunities. The veteran quarterback has spread the ball around this season, as five San Diego pass catchers have double-digit receptions. And that does not include offseason signee Robert Meachem, who had two touchdowns versus New Orleans. The Chargers will look for a big game from running back Ryan Mathews, who had 139 total yards and a score last week and has torched the Broncos defense in the past.

The Denver defense has been very inconsistent under new coordinator Jack Del Rio, digging early holes against top opponents. In their three losses to Atlanta, Houston and New England, the Broncos have allowed a combined 58 first-half points. That must stop if Denver is going to compete with the Chargers in the AFC West. The Broncos must also start generating turnovers, as they have totaled only four takeaways in five games. Denver will look to limit Mathews while pressuring Rivers, who has been sacked 14 times this season.

When the Denver Broncos have the ball:
The Broncos have started to adjust to new quarterback Peyton Manning, but turnovers, offensive line injuries and an average running game have hurt the offense. The four-time MVP has thrown for 975 yards and eight touchdowns against no interceptions over the last three games, but Denver has lost two of those contests. The Broncos have a potential star in receiver Demaryius Thomas, but he has lost a fumble in three straight games. Denver needs to get more out of veteran runner Willis McGahee, but the early deficits have hurt his opportunities.

The Chargers defense has been solid against the run this season, ranking fifth in the NFL. McGahee has had past success versus San Diego, so he will be a focal point as the Chargers look to make the Broncos one-dimensional. Manning struggled against San Diego during his days with the Colts, and John Pagano’s unit will try to continue that trend by adding to its 10 takeaways on the season.

Key Factor:
The Broncos defense must simply solve its first-half issues and not keep putting the team into uphill battles in key games. The team that can establish a running attack will have a huge advantage in this Monday night battle. The early AFC West lead is at stake in San Diego, and we’ll take the home team to prevail with Rivers and Mathews leading the way.

Prediction:
Chargers 27 Broncos 23


---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Teaser:
<p> Denver Broncos vs. San Diego Chargers Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 07:19
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/eight-amazing-stats-nfl-sunday-week-6
Body:

NFL football is the greatest reality TV program of all time. The Giants and Colts made sure of that back in 1958. Each NFL fall weekend is a completely new and original experience for every player, fan and coach alike. New stories, new personalities, new winners and new losers. And new statistics.

Here are the most important, most intriguing and most bizarre statistics from Week 6 of NFL play:

12-for-12: Redskins have scored in all 12 goal-to-go situations
After going a perfect 3-for-3 in the come-from-behind win over Minnesota, the Redskins are now a perfect 12-for-12 in goal-to-go situation in 2012. More importantly, Robert Griffin III has led his team to 11 touchdowns in those 12 first-and-goals and just one field goal. This indicates that the offensive line is finishing drives and RG3 is protecting the football deep in the opponent's red zone. The talented first-year QB finished with 138 yards rushing, including an electric game-clinching 76-yard touchdown run. The 138 yards are the most since Michael Vick rushed for 166 in 2006 and the TD run was the longest by an NFL quarterback since Kordell Stewart broke off an 80-yard scoring run back in 1996.

5-of-7: NFC teams with a winning record who lost on Sunday
Since the 4-1 Chicago Bears were on a bye this weekend, there were only seven NFC teams with winning records playing on Week 6. Five of those seven lost. Four of the five came against teams with a losing record and three of those five came at home. The NFC is clearly the dominant conference, claiming all three divisions with a winning record: NFC West (15-9), NFC North (12-9) and NFC East (12-11). Wins from teams like Detroit and Washington this weekend only further indicate just how deep and complicated the NFC is in 2012. Add to it a Green Bay win over Houston in impressive fashion and the NFC claims the last unbeaten in 6-0 Atlanta.

16-0: Packers record when Jordy Nelson has at least 75 receiving yards
The Green Bay Packers are unbeaten when star wideout Jordy Nelson catches at least 75 receiving yards, including a 2-0 postseason mark. Aaron Rodgers was downright ruthless Sunday night and No. 87 abused the Texans secondary to the tune of nine receptions, 122 yards and three touchdowns. The Pack also moves to 15-3 in the regular season when the Kansas State wide receiver catches at least one touchdown (29-20 when he does not). This was a statement win for the reeling Packers and Rodgers' aerial assault in Houston has Green Bay right back into the heart of the NFC race. And for good measure, after two touchdown receptions Sunday night against the Texans, James Jones now leads the NFL in receiving touchdowns with seven.

10:30: Time left in the fourth quarter and the Eagles leading 16-6
The Lions scored a touchdown with 10:30 left in the game trailing 16-6. The Matt Stafford one-yard touchdown run was the first of four different scoring drives, including the last three of the game, resulting in 20 points to cap the game for the Lions — a 26-23 road overtime win. This game was virtually dead even other than one major statistic. Detroit ran 73 plays and got 25 first downs while Philly ran 78 plays for 24 first downs. Stafford threw 45 passes while Michael Vick attempted 46. The Lions ran the ball 28 times while the Eagles ran it 29 times. Both teams had 14 total possessions and 15 passing first downs. And after 60 minutes, both teams had 23 points. But the only stat that matters? The big reason the Lions went on a 20-7 run while the City of not-so-Brotherly Love watched its team collapse? Michael Vick's 13th turnover (8 INT, 5 FL). After three more giveaways, he is on pace for 37 turnovers this year.

10-0: Giants record when Ahmad Bradshaw rushes for 100 yards
Ahmad Bradshaw carried the ball 27 times for 116 yards and a touchdown in the dominating road win over the 49ers. It took Bradshaw until his 43rd career game before he got at least 20 carries, but the Giants are now 7-1 when the former Marshall running back gets 20+ rushing attempts — 10-0 when he tops the century mark. His 27 carries were his second-most carries in a game, trailing only the 30 he got last week against Cleveland. The 49ers offense, on the other hand, were held to roughly half (314 yards) of its franchise record output set last week against the Bills (621 yards). Alex Smith has now been sacked nine times in the last two meetings with the Giants — including last year's NFC Championship game.

108 and 13: A.J. Green's NFL record catches and TDs in first 21 career games
No wide receiver has had a better start to a career than Cincinnati's second-year superstar. He has 108 receptions, 1,685 yards and 13 touchdown catches — two of which are the best in the history of the sport for anyone in their first 21 games. Green is leading the NFL in receiving yards (628), is second in receiving touchdowns (6) and is third behind only Percy Harvin (49) and Wes Welker (48) in receptions. His current rate of production would put him on pace for 115 receptions, 1,675 yards and 16 touchdowns, all three of which would have ranked No. 2 in the NFL last year. He has quickly become one of the most uncoverable players in the league and has obviously developed an excellent rapport with fellow youngster Andy Dalton.

67.8: Yards rushing per game for Dallas prior to Week 6
If the Cowboys are going to make a push for a playoff spot, improving their 30th ranked rushing attack at 67.8 yards per game was a must. Despite coming up just short on the road on Sunday to fall to 2-3, Jason Garrett can take comfort in how his ground game performed. The Boys rushed 42 times for 227 yards — a franchise record for rushing yards allowed by a Baltimore Ravens defense — at a hearty 5.4 yards per carry clip. The injury-prone DeMarco Murray rushed for 93 yards before leaving with a foot injury in the second half, but Felix Jones picked up the slack with 92 yards and a touchdown of his own. With many of the NFC contenders losing in Week 6, Dallas is clearly right in the thick of the playoff hunt. And if Garrett's bunch can run the rock like it did against Baltimore, they will be in the mix until all season long. It also makes Tony Romo's job dramatically easier.

252: Jets total rushing yards
The Jets' 252 yards rushing on Sunday was the most productive game for the New York franchise since Week 17 of 2010. It was more than the three previous games combined (207 yards) and was 169 yards more than the season average of 83.0 yards per game. Shonn Greene was a monster in the easy win over the Colts, rushing for a career-high 161 yards, or 38 more than his previous four games combined, and three touchdowns. It was his fifth career 100-yard effort. As a side note, Tim Tebow had seven yards on four carries.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> 8 Amazing Stats from NFL Sunday: Week 6</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 06:55
Path: /college-football/sec-midseason-report
Body:

At the midpoint of the 2012 season, it’s time to take a look at the first half and predict how the second half will turn out in the SEC.

First-Half Awards

Coach of the Year — Will Muschamp, Florida
After struggling through a difficult first season — the Gators’ 3–5 record in the SEC in 2011 was the school’s worst since 1986 — Muschamp has the Gators in the thick of the SEC East race in Year 2. Florida improved to 6–0 overall and 5–0 in the league with a 31–17 win at Vanderbilt on Saturday. The Gators are winning with defense and power-running game — a formula that has served Muschamp’s former boss, Nick Saban, quite well over the years. Senior tailback Mike Gillislee ranks second in the SEC in rushing with 102.5 yards per game and is on pace to be Florida’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2004. The defense has been dominant, ranking 13th in the nation in total yards and sixth in points allowed.

Freshman of the Year — Todd Gurley, Georgia
Johnny Manziel is the midseason Offense Player of the Year, so we will tab Gurley as the SEC’s top freshman. The 6-1, 218-pound native of North Carolina ranks fourth in the SEC in rushing with 95.8 yards per game on a healthy 7.1-yard average. He has topped the 100-yard mark in four of six games and had back-to-back 130-yard efforts in wins over Vanderbilt and Tennessee. Fellow freshman tailback Keith Marshall is averaging 77.5 yards per game and 7.3 yards per carry.

Newcomer of the Year — Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
Patterson has lived up to the hype in his first season out of junior college. The 6-3, 205-pound wide receiver is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Through six games, Patterson has 23 catches for 315 yards and three touchdowns and has carried the ball 11 times for 214 yards (19.5 per rush) and two scores. He teams with junior Justin Hunter to form one of the nation’s most dangerous wide receiver tandems.

Offensive Player of the Year — Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Manziel, a one-time Oregon commitment, has been spectacular for Kevin Sumlin and the Aggies in their first season in the SEC. A true dual-threat quarterback, Manziel is one of three quarterbacks in the nation with over 1,500 yards passing and 500 yards rushing. He has been efficient throwing the ball, completing 67.4 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Most important, he’s winning: The Aggies are 5–1 overall and 2–1 in the SEC, with the only loss coming by three points to Florida in their season-opener. Manziel was at his best in A&M’s 59–57 win at Louisiana Tech on Saturday night. He broke is own SEC record for total yards in a game (576) by throwing for 395 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 181 and three scores.

Defensive Player of the Year — Jadaveon Clowney, South Carolina
Georgia’s Jarvis Jones received a lot of buzz early in the season, but Clowney has been the most dominant defender in the first half of 2012. A freakishly athletic 6-6, 256-pound defensive end, Clowney spearheads a defense that has limited all seven opponents — including five in conference play — to 17 points or fewer. Clowney, the likely No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, has recorded 31 tackles, including 12.0 for a loss (with 6.5 sacks).

Midseason Disappointment (Team) — Auburn
Just two years removed from winning the national championship, Auburn is now the worst the team in the SEC West. The Tigers secured that dubious honor by losing on Saturday at Ole Miss, which had not won an SEC game since October 2010. Auburn is 1–5 overall and 0–4 in the SEC and ranks last in the league in total offense and 12th in total defense. The Tigers head to Nashville this week to play Vanderbilt in a game Gene Chizik cannot afford to lose.

Midseason Disappointment (Player) — Knile Davis, Arkansas
Maybe he’s not 100 percent healthy after missing last season with an ankle injury, but Davis has yet to show the skills that made him one of the elite offensive players in the nation in the final two-thirds of the 2010 season. Through seven games, Davis has a total of 337 yards on 98 carries for an alarmingly low 3.4 yards-per-carry average — almost three yards less than his career average heading into the ’12 season.

Midseason Surprise (Team) — Florida
Mississippi State deserves a ton of credit for its 6–0 start, but Florida gets the nod thanks to its top-5 ranking and the quality of its wins. The Gators, a fringe-top-25 team in the preseason, already have three SEC road wins and have a victory over LSU at home. There are still more hurdles to climb — the Gators play South Carolina and Georgia in the next two weeks — but right now Florida looks like the best team in the much-improved SEC East.

Midseason Surprise (Player) — Jeff Driskel, Florida
The quarterback position was a huge concern for Florida heading into the 2012 season. Now it’s a strength. Driskel has emerged as a weapon in the Gators’ run-first offense and has also shown the ability to hurt defense’s in the passing game. He has completed 74-of-111 passes for 836 yards with four touchdowns and only one interception. He had moderate success running the ball in Florida’s first five games but then busted out with 181 yards (a record for a Gator quarterback) and three touchdowns in a 31–17 win at Vanderbilt Saturday night.

What Athlon Sports got right — We weren’t exactly going out on a limb, but Kentucky was the preseason pick to finish last in the SEC East. We also projected a three-way tie for fourth place in the East between Missouri, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, and it looks like all three teams will be jockeying for position in the middle of the division throughout the conference season.

What Athlon Sports got wrong — We undervalued South Carolina and Florida, projecting both to finish 5–3 and in a tie for second place in the East behind Georgia. We thought LSU would finish ahead of Alabama in the West, but it looks as though the Crimson Tide will represent the division in the SEC title game. And we also didn’t envision that Auburn would be quite so bad. We picked the Tigers to finish with a .500 mark in the SEC and in fourth place in the West.

Second-Half Predictions

Here’s how we think things will look at the conclusion of the 2012 season.

SEC East
1. Florida
2. South Carolina
3. Georgia
4. Tennessee
5. Vanderbilt
6. Missouri
7. Kentucky

SEC West
1. Alabama
2. LSU
3. Mississippi State
4. Texas A&M
5. Arkansas
6. Ole Miss
7. Auburn


Three Things to Watch

Coaches on the Hot Seat — Joker Phillips is almost assuredly gone at Kentucky, and the John L. Smith experiment will come to an end some time in December, but what about the other coaches on the hot seat? Can Derek Dooley do enough in the second half of the season to save his job? Conventional wisdom suggest that Dooley must win at least eight games, but would an 8–4 record that doesn’t include a quality win in SEC play be enough to give him another year? What about Gene Chizik? Would the Auburn administration pull the plug only two years after he won a national title. Here’s some advice for Chizik: Don’t lose to Vanderbilt next week in Nashville.

LSU’s offense — The Tigers, as usual, are fielding a championship defense. The offense, however, isn’t quite doing its part. Through six games, LSU ranks 73rd in the nation in total offense (395.7) and 49th in scoring offense (32.0 ppg). In three SEC games, wins over Auburn and South Carolina and a loss at Florida, the Tigers have scored a total of 41 points. Quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who was expected to upgrade the passing attack, ranks 10th in the SEC in passing efficiency and has only six touchdown passes in seven games. Despite the disappointing showing in Gainesville two weeks ago, LSU is still very much alive in the national title race. The offense, however, must improve significantly for this team to live up to its preseason expectations.

Auburn’s question to win a game — Take a look at Auburn’s schedule. If the Tigers don’t win this weekend at Vanderbilt — and they opened as an 8-point underdog — it’s quite possible they will end the 2012 SEC season with an 0–8 record. After Saturday’s trip to Nashville, Auburn hosts Texas A&M (Oct. 27) and Georgia (Nov. 10) and plays at Alabama (Nov. 24) — games that range from difficult to very difficult to sure death. The Tigers have gone winless in the SEC five times, most recently in 1980 when Doug Barfield’s final team went 0–6.


Three Games to Watch in the Second Half

1. South Carolina at Florida, Oct. 20 — The winner of next week’s showdown at the Swamp will emerge as a strong favorite to represent the East in the SEC Championship Game. Two years ago, South Carolina clinched its first-ever SEC East title with an impressive 36–14 win over the Gators in Gainesville. This Florida team, however, is much tougher — both physically and mentally. It should be a great game.

2. Alabama at LSU, Nov. 3 — The hype won’t be quite as outrageous as last year, but this is still the game of the year in the SEC. Alabama is the consensus No. 1 team in the country, and LSU proved last week in its win over South Carolina that it’s still very capable of beating any team in the nation.

3. Florida vs. Georgia, Oct. 27 — Georgia’s ego took a big hit with its humbling 35–7 loss at South Carolina a few weeks ago, but this still a very good team that can still have a special season. The Dawgs need some help, but don’t rule out a return to Atlanta for the SEC title game. Beating Florida in Jacksonville, however, is a must.

Post-Week 7 Power Rankings

1. Alabama — Crimson Tide overpower Missouri to remain unbeaten.

2. Florida — It wasn't easy, but Gators survive in Nashville thanks to Jeff Driskel.

3. LSU — Tigers' defense shuts down Gamecocks attack.

4. South Carolina — Did Carolina's title hope die in Death Valley?

5. Georgia — Dawgs still very much alive in SEC East race.

6. Mississippi State — Russell was the better Tyler as State stays perfect.

7. Texas A&M — Johnny Manziel runs and throws Aggies past Louisiana Tech.

8. Tennessee — Vols doomed by slow start in Starkville.

9. Arkansas — Hogs dominate Kentucky with ease.

10. Vanderbilt — Special teams was the difference in loss vs. Florida.

11. Ole Miss — Rebels pick up first SEC win in two years.

12. Missouri — Shorthanded Tigers no match for powerful Alabama.

13. Auburn — Tigers show signs of life on offense but lose in Oxford.

14. Kentucky — Wildcats whipped in every phase in Fayetteville. 

@AthlonMitch

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Big 12 Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions

Teaser:
<p> At the midpoint of the 2012 season, it’s time to take a look at the first half and predict how the second half will turn out in the SEC.</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 06:45
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The first half of the Big 12 season is in the books. It’s been a strong first seven weeks for the conference, as four teams are ranked in the Associated Press poll and only one team is out of bowl contention (Kansas). The Big 12 still has a legitimate national title contender, along with two players who could get into the Heisman mix (Geno Smith and Collin Klein). It’s still a wide-open battle to win the conference, but Kansas State, West Virginia and Oklahoma appear to be the frontrunners. However, Texas Tech cannot be ignored after last week’s win over the Mountaineers.

Coach of the Year – Bill Snyder, Kansas State
Underrate the Wildcats at your own risk. Kansas State was picked by most to finish outside of the top four in the preseason, yet hit the midpoint of the year as the No. 1 team in the conference. Once again, Snyder’s team isn’t overwhelming or overly impressive on paper but always finds ways to win games. Kansas State simply isn’t beating itself, as the Wildcats are averaging just three penalties per game and rank seventh nationally in turnover margin. Quarterback Collin Klein has carried this offense, averaging 264 yards per game, but running back John Hubert is quietly averaging 101 yards per contest. Kansas State is 3-0 in Big 12 play after seven weeks and has a huge test at West Virginia next Saturday. Snyder isn’t flashy and will never have the nation’s most prolific offense. However, the Wildcats are a national title contender and can take a commanding lead in the Big 12 standings with a win in Morgantown.

Freshman of the Year – Devonte Fields, DE, TCU
Fields was one of TCU’s top recruits and has lived up to the hype through the first six weeks of the season. The true freshman leads the Big 12 with 6.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for a loss. In the 42-21 win over Baylor, Fields recorded five tackles, one sack and one forced fumble. With Stansly Maponga on the other side, TCU has one of the nation’s most dangerous end combinations.

Newcomer of the Year – Damien Williams, RB, Oklahoma
Williams came to Oklahoma via the junior college ranks and has helped to spark a rushing attack that ranked seventh in the Big 12 last year. The junior had back-to-back 100-yard efforts to open the season and gashed Texas for 167 yards and one score on 22 attempts last Saturday. The Sooners have one of the Big 12’s top passing attacks but needed to establish more balance this year. If Williams continues to average 7.7 yards per carry, he should be a lock for first-team All-Big 12 honors, and Oklahoma’s rushing offense should be in great shape the rest of the year.

Offensive Player of the Year – Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Even though Smith didn’t have a standout performance against Texas Tech, he still gets the edge for the top spot in this category. Smith has thrown 25 touchdowns and 2,291 yards, while tossing no interceptions through the first six games. Although the win over Texas looks worse with its loss to Oklahoma, Smith threw for 268 yards and four touchdowns in a key road victory against the Longhorns. Although West Virginia is out of the national title picture, there’s still plenty (Big 12 title and BCS bowl) for Smith and his team to play for in the second half of the year.

Defensive Player of the Year – Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State
This is a tough award to hand out after the first half of the season. The Big 12 has produced a handful of solid defensive performances so far but none that standout as the clear No. 1 pick. However, let’s give a slight nod to Brown, who has 47 stops, four tackles for a loss, one sack and three passes broken up this year. While Brown’s stats aren’t eye-popping, his presence has been a big reason why Kansas State ranks 15th nationally against the run and no opponent has scored more than 21 points this year. In addition to Brown, Iowa State linebackers Jake Knott and A.J. Klein, Texas defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor, Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin, and TCU end Devonte Fields all deserve consideration for this spot.

Midseason Disappointment (Team) – Texas
With 12 returning starters and a three-win improvement from 2010 to 2011, most expected the Longhorns would return to a spot among the top 10 teams in college football. That’s still possible but would seem like a longshot for Texas at this point of the year. The Longhorns have allowed 111 points in the last two games, which is a shock considering this unit was hailed as one of the nation’s best in the preseason. Although quarterback David Ash has played better this year, he was off against Oklahoma and the rushing attack has been average the last two weeks. If Texas continues to struggle the rest of the year, it’s fair to wonder if coach Mack Brown will be back on the sidelines next season.

Midseason Disappointment (Player) – Dayne Crist, QB, Kansas
No one expected Crist to lead Kansas to the Big 12 title but most expected he would be an upgrade over last year’s quarterbacks. However, Crist has been awful so far, throwing for 1,088 yards and three touchdowns, while tossing seven interceptions. Redshirt freshman Michael Cummings replaced Crist against Oklahoma State and may see more playing time the rest of the year. 

Midseason Surprise (Team) – Texas Tech
After the disastrous finish to last season, Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville was on the hot seat and the Red Raiders were picked by many to finish in the bottom three spots in the Big 12. A soft non-conference schedule allowed Texas Tech to build some early confidence, but it’s clear this team is no fluke. The Red Raiders owned one of the nation’s worst defenses last year but held West Virginia to 14 points and have allowed only one opponent to manage more than 20 points this season. New defensive coordinator Art Kaufman has been one of the best assistant hires in college football and has finally brought some stability to that side of the ball. As usual, the offense is deadly, but the defense has been a key point of the turnaround. Texas Tech still has games remaining against TCU, Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma State, but getting to eight wins and a solid bowl game is a good sign for Tuberville and his staff.

Midseason Surprise (Player) – David Ash, QB, Texas
Anytime a true freshman plays the way Fields has through the first six weeks, it’s certainly notable and worth a mention in this space. However, since Fields earned the freshman of the year award, let’s spread the wealth a little bit and give Ash a mention. Sure, his performance against Oklahoma was forgettable and he may be out with an injured wrist this week, but Ash has thrown for 1,389 yards and 11 touchdowns through the first six games. The sophomore’s emergence gave Texas’ offense more balance than it had last year, but Ash still needs to play better than he did against the Sooners (113 yards, two picks) if the Longhorns want to get back to a BCS bowl.

What Athlon Sports got right: With so much uncertainty still surrounding the Big 12 standings, it’s hard to call much right or wrong at this point of the year. However, Athlon predicted Oklahoma would finish as the conference champ, which is still possible after its win over Texas. And it should be no surprise Kansas was picked to finish last in the conference and is clearly on its way to end up in 10th this year.

What Athlon Sports got wrong: As we mentioned with the other section, the Big 12 still has a lot to sort out in the second half of the year. However, it’s clear we missed on Kansas State, who we picked to finish sixth in the final standings. The Wildcats are the only Big 12 team without a loss in conference play and appear to be the favorite to win the conference crown in 2012. Also, picking Texas Tech to finish eighth seems low after the Red Raiders knocked off West Virginia in Week 7.

Second Half Predictions

Here's how Athlon predicts the standings will look at the end of the regular season.

1. Kansas State
2. West Virginia
3. Oklahoma
4. Texas
5. Oklahoma State
6. Texas Tech
7. TCU
8. Baylor
9. Iowa State
10. Kansas


Three Things to Watch in the Second Half

Who Wins the Big 12? – Through seven weeks, there isn’t a ton of clarity in the battle to win the Big 12. Kansas State is the conference’s only unbeaten team, but it has a showdown against West Virginia next Saturday. Thanks to a blowout win over Texas, Oklahoma cannot be counted out of the title picture. Don’t be surprised if the top contenders in this league each has at least one conference loss, which could make it difficult for the Big 12 to have a representative in the national title game.

Heisman Winner? – Even though West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith had an off day against Texas Tech, the senior still has to be considered one of the frontrunners to win the Heisman. Smith has 25 touchdown passes and has yet to throw an interception through the first six games. Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein continues to inch his way into the Heisman discussion, recording 292 overall yards and three scores against Iowa State. If Smith and Klein continue to perform like they have, it’s possible the Big 12 has two players in New York City for the trophy presentation.

Where does Texas go? – After a 4-0 start, it looked like Texas was back on track. However, after the last two weeks, there’s plenty of unrest starting to creep back into Austin. The Longhorns have allowed 111 points in their last two games and there’s simply no excuse for losing to Oklahoma 63-21. If Mack Brown and his staff can’t find some answers in the second half of the year, is it possible a coaching change could be coming?
 

Five Games to Watch in the Second Half

Kansas State at West Virginia (Oct. 20) – This matchup has lost some of its appeal after the Mountaineers’ loss in Week 7. However, with a win, West Virginia can climb back into Big 12 title contention.

Notre Dame at Oklahoma (Oct. 27) – Barring an unexpected loss, the Irish should be 7-0 when they visit Norman.

West Virginia at Oklahoma State (Nov. 10) – Dana Holgorsen returns to Stillwater, which comes one week before West Virginia’s matchup against Oklahoma.

Oklahoma at West Virginia (Nov. 17) – If the Mountaineers beat Kansas State this Saturday, this game figures to be an elimination game in the Big 12 standings.

Texas at Kansas State (Dec. 1) – The Wildcats have won the last four matchups against Texas.
 

Post-Week 7 Power Rankings

1. Kansas State (6-0, 2-0 Big 12) – It’s not pretty, but the Wildcats always find a way to win. Kansas State’s victory over Iowa State sets up a huge showdown against West Virginia next Saturday.

2. Oklahoma (4-1, 2-1) – The Sooners have thrashed Texas by a combined score of 118-38 in their last two meetings. Not only was it a huge victory to beat their rival, Oklahoma stays alive for the Big 12 title.

3. West Virginia (5-1, 2-1) – The Mountaineers were due for a letdown after beating Texas last Saturday and having to make back-to-back long road trips. However, losing 49-14 is certainly worse than most expected and knocks West Virginia out of the national title picture.

4. Texas Tech (5-1, 2-1) – New coordinator Art Kaufman has made a huge difference in Lubbock, as Texas Tech’s defense shut down West Virginia and propelled the Red Raiders to an upset 49-14 victory.

5. TCU (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) – After losing to Iowa State, the Horned Frogs appeared to be in a lot of trouble, especially with quarterback Casey Pachall sidelined for the rest of the year. Not so fast. TCU rebounded with an impressive 49-21 victory over Baylor to move to 5-1 on the year.

6. Texas (4-2, 1-2 Big 12) – There’s still a long way to go in the 2012 season, but it’s fair to wonder if this program is any better than it was from last year. The Longhorns are out of the Big 12 title mix and now have to set their sights on getting to 10 wins and a BCS bowl.

7. Oklahoma State (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) – A weather delay certainly didn’t help, but Saturday’s victory over Kansas was an overall sluggish performance for the Cowboys.

8. Iowa State (4-2, 1-2 Big 12) – The Cyclones had a chance to knock off Kansas State, but the offense just couldn’t make enough plays late in the fourth quarter to get into scoring position.

9. Baylor (3-2, 0-2 Big 12) – After winning their first three games to start the year, the Bears have lost two in a row, including a surprise defeat to TCU in Week 7.

10. Kansas (1-5, 0-3 Big 12) – The Jayhawks gave Oklahoma State all it could handle but are winless in Big 12 play since beating Colorado on Nov. 6, 2010. 
 

by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

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SEC Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Big 12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 06:21
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At the midpoint of the 2012 season, it's time to take a look at the first half and predict how the second half will turn out in the Big East.

First-Half Awards

Coach of the Year – Kyle Flood, Rutgers
Hired after Greg Schiano unexpectedly left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job and after FIU coach Mario Cristobal turned down the job, Kyle Flood has defied expectations since Day One. The long-time assistant added to the Big East’s best signing class in the days after his Jan. 30 hire and topped that with the Scarlet Knights’ best start since 2006. The quarterback situation and the offensive line are as stable as they’ve been in three seasons, and the defense hasn’t missed Schiano’s touch at all. Now, Flood has Rutgers in contention to do what Schiano couldn’t in 11 seasons — win a Big East title.

Freshman of the Year – Nate D. Smith, LB, Temple
It’s tempting to pick Pittsburgh running back Rushel Shell, but nearly half of his production occurred in a single game (157 yards against Virginia Tech). The brother of Philadelphia Eagles tight end L.J. Smith, Nate D. Smith is making his own mark at Lincoln Financial Field. The Owls starting middle linebacker is third in the Big East in tackles and has come up big in Temple’s 2-0 start in Big East play with 22 tackles and 2.5 tackles for a loss against USF and Connecticut.

Newcomer of the Year - R.J. Dill, OT, Rutgers
Again, it’s tempting to opt for a running back. In this case, the nod goes to Dill over Temple’s Montel Harris. A two-year project to repair the Rutgers offensive line has culminated at the halfway point thanks in part to Dill, a transfer from Maryland, locking down the right tackle spot. Rutgers has allowed only three sacks this season after allowing 30 all of last year. The line has also paved the way to Jawan Jamison topping 100 yards in all but one game this season.

Offensive Player of the Year – Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
The sophomore started the season on a tear by completing 75 of 94 passes for 870 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions in his first three games. After a couple of challenging games, including one in a downpour in Southern Miss, Bridgewater bounced back with a 17-of-27 performance for 304 yards and a TD against Pittsburgh. Rutgers’ Gary Nova and Cincinnati’s Munchie Legaux are off to good starts, but no Big East coach is a confident in his quarterback situation as Charlie Strong is with Bridgewater.

Defensive Player of the Year – Khaseem Greene, LB, Rutgers
The best defensive player in the Big East the last two seasons had the best game of his career against Syracuse with 14 tackles, 1.5 sacks, an interception and three forced fumbles last week. The game added to his tally of 63 tackles (second in the Big East), 5.1 tackles for a loss, two picks, four pass breakups and four forced fumbles.

Midseason Disappointment (Team) – USF
  The Bulls’ fourth quarter misfortune from last season carried over into 2012 with the exception of a comeback win over Nevada, the Bulls’ only win over an FBS foe this season. USF is riding a four-game losing streak, including losses to Ball State and Temple. If the losing streak increases to five in a row, USF will have its longest losing streak in program history. And with a road trip against Louisville coming up, it would be a major upset for the streak to end. The Bulls have a fourth-year starting quarterback and some of the best talent on defense in the league, making the 2-4 start that much more baffling. A 1-8 record in the Big East since last season has put Skip Holtz’s job security in question.

Midseason Disappointment (Player) – USF defense
Quarterback B.J. Daniels hasn’t progressed as much as USF would have liked, but the criticism shouldn’t be all on his shoulders. The title for biggest disappointment has to go to an entire side of the ball. The Bulls defense gave up 28 points in the second half against Temple and 21 in the second half against Ball State, both thanks to long sustained drives. USF is last in the Big East in rush defense and scoring defense and seventh in total defense. Moreover, USF is the only team in the country that hasn’t intercepted a pass. For a team with talented veterans like DeDe Lattimore, Sam Barrington and Kayvon Webster, those numbers are unacceptable.

Midseason Surprise (Team) – Cincinnati
Picked fifth in the Athlon preseason rankings, Cincinnati has ended up among the league’s top three contenders with Louisville and Rutgers. The Bearcats set the tone early with a 34-10 win over PIttsburgh in the season opener and then followed it with a 27-24 win over Virginia Tech three weeks later. The offense has been explosive at times, and the defense has held its own. The next step will be to get into a routine over the final half of the season after an odd first-half schedule that included two off weeks and two FCS opponents.

Midseason Surprise (Player) – Gary Nova, Rutgers
Rutgers’ revolving door at quarterback has been one of the most pressing questions in Piscataway the last four seasons. After splitting starts with Chas Dodd last season, Nova took hold of the job in the preseason and hasn’t let go. He was shaky in the first two games of the season, but since then, he’s completed 63 percent of his passes for 938 yards with eight touchdowns and no interceptions in the last four games. The defense and the run game remain the backbone for Rutgers, but quarterback is no longer a liability thanks to Nova.

What Athlon Sports got right – Louisville atop the conference, for now.
Picking the Cardinals No. 1 in the Big East was near-unanimous among the Athlon staff, though there was a strong contingent for Rutgers as well. The Cardinals are 6-0 and passed their lone Big East test against Pittsburgh last week. They also remain the highest ranked team in the league at No. 16, though that may be more a factor the Cardinals starting higher than Rutgers or Cincinnati. Whether Louisville lives up to its status as preseason favorite remains to be seen, but either way the Cardinals have more company atop the league than Athlon envisioned.

What Athlon Sports got wrong – Temple finishing in last place
The Athlon staff thought USF’s fourth-quarter struggles were a result of bad luck, and that Paul Chryst would bring instant stability to PIttsburgh. Both turned out to be wrong, but Athlon’s pick for Temple in last place may be the biggest misstep. Despite returning only two offensive starters and five on defense, Temple is 2-0 in the Big East in its first season back in the league since 2004. The back-to-back wins over USF and Connecticut are the first consecutive Big East wins in program history.

Second-Half Projections

1. Louisville
2. Rutgers
3. Cincinnati
4. Pittsburgh
5. Syracuse
6. Temple
7. Connecticut
8. USF

Three Things to Watch

Are Louisville and Rutgers aiming for another undefeated matchup? Rutgers’ 28-24 upset of Louisville on a Thursday night in November 2006 remains one of the signature moments in Big East history as both entered the game undefeated. Six seasons later, the two programs could be on a similar collision course, this time in the regular season finale -- again on a Thursday night in November. It would be a spotlight moment for a conference in need of a nationally relevant football game between two ranked teams late in the season. That said, Cincinnati will look to upset that goal for both teams.

Is Munchie Legaux ready to lead Cincinnati to a Big East title? We love the name. We love the hair. We love the talent. But Legaux’s consistency may be they key to Cincinnati’s ability to contend for a conference championship. Legaux is completing fewer than half his pass attempts against FBS competition, though he’s accounted for seven touchdowns and one interception.

Will anyone escape the mess at the bottom of the Big East? Connecticut, USF and Pittsburgh are a combined 0-7 in the Big East. Those three plus Syracuse already have four losses. If the trend continues, the Big East will fail to fill its six bowl slots, not including its agreement with the Liberty Bowl. UConn, USF and Syracuse all have to play two of the Big East’s top three (Cincinnati, Louisville and Rutgers) in the second half of the season. Pitt has only of the top three remaining (Rutgers), but faces Notre Dame on the road.

Three Games to Watch in the Second Half

1. Rutgers at Cincinnati, Nov. 17 - The first in a three-team round robin that may decide the league pits Munchie Legaux and George Winn against the salty Rutgers defense.

2. Cincinnati at Louisville, Nov. 26 - Cincinnati has claimed the last four games for The Keg of Nails.

3. Louisville at Rutgers, Nov. 29 - The stakes could be two 11-0 teams playing the Big East title.

Post-Week 7 Power Rankings

1. Louisville (6-0, 1-0) - The Cardinals started to put Pittsburgh away in the second half, but the Panthers tacked on two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Should Charlie Strong be worried?

2. Rutgers (6-0, 3-0) - Rutgers and Alabama are the only teams in the country that have not allowed an opponent to run for 100 yards in a game this season.

3. Cincinnati (5-0, 1-0) - The Bearcats visit Toledo this week before playing their first Big East game since the opener. The return to Big East play will be interesting: At Louisville on a Friday night.

4. Temple (3-2, 2-0) - The Owls spotted Connecticut a 14-0 lead in the first quarter but crawled back to win 17-14 in overtime.

5. Syracuse (2-4, 1-1) - The Orange have managed four offensive touchdowns in its last three games against Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Rutgers.

6. Pittsburgh (2-4, 0-3) - Pitt is making progress on offense, but the Panthers probably couldn’t afford losses to Youngstown State and Syracuse if it wanted to reach a bowl game.

7. Connecticut (2-4, 0-2) - An inept offense is spoiling the effort of a top-flight defense. The Huskies rank sixth nationally in total defense, 107th in total offense.

8. USF (2-4, 0-2) - Will any soul searching over the off week help the Bulls pull out of their two-year funk? Louisville will be tough next week, but following two games against Syracuse and Connecticut in Tampa are winnable, right?

By David Fox

@DavidFox615

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Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 06:10
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At the midpoint of the 2012 season, it's time to take a look at the first half and predict how the second half will turn out in the Big Ten.

First-Half Awards

Coach of the Year: Bill O'Brien, Penn State
Urban Meyer would likely win Coach of the Year should Ohio State finish the season undefeated, especially considering the Bucks lost seven games last fall, and his resume would include a win over Bill O'Brien, Michigan and defending league champ Wisconsin. For now, however, O'Brien has done more with less and has done so in the face of the worst football scandal in NCAA history. Matt McGloin looks like a real quarterback and the Nittany Lion offense looks more creative and innovative than it has since Kerry Collins was under center. Coach O'Brien, whose team leads the Big Ten in turnover margin (+1.17/game), has done a remarkable job in Happy Valley.

Freshman of the Year: Joel Stave, QB, Wisconsin
Danny O'Brien was supposed to be a savior for a Badgers offense that watched architect Paul Chryst, leader Russell Wilson and three-fifths of its all-world offensive line move on from Madison. That didn't work. But Stave has been a godsend in place of O'Brien. The redshirt walk-on has energized the Wisconsin passing attack, throwing for 214 yards per game, completing 55.8% of his passes with five touchdowns earning a 3-1 starting record. He has shown the ability to push the ball down the field with his big frame and arm, something O'Brien simply couldn't do.

Newcomer of the Year: Mark Weisman, RB, Iowa
Kirk Ferentz sat back and watched his running back position get thinner and thinner by the week in summer and fall camp. Then his team struggled out of the gate against Northern Illinois and Iowa State. So what is an old school, black and blue type of head coach to do to fix his offense? How about hand the ball to a 230-pound walk-on fullback and tell him to punish defenses. And Weisman has done just that, carrying 98 times for 623 yards and seven rushing touchdowns in four games — including a 2-0 start in league play. If you love the game of football and you don't enjoy watching Weisman pound the rock, there is something wrong with you.

Offensive Player of the Year: Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
While there is literally a dozen quality candidates for Pac-12 Player of the Year, Big Ten POY is one man's to lose. Ohio State clearly has warts on defense, so no player has been more valuable, more productive and more electric than the Buckeyes sophomore signal caller. Miller has accounted for 20 touchdowns, is No. 3 in the league in rushing (162.7 ypg), No. 2 in total offense (311.9 ypg), No. 3 in passing efficiency (145.32) and is the unquestioned leader of the only unbeaten team in the league — one of only two 7-0 teams in the nation (Ohio). This is Miller's honor to lose.

Defensive Player of the Year: Michael Mauti, LB, Penn State
Penn State's senior linebacker deserves much of the credit for holding together an entire program in the face of tremendous adversity. Through six games, Mauti has 57 total tackles, a pair of interceptions, two forced fumbles, 1.5 sacks and is leading a defense allowing a Big Ten second-best 16.0 points per game. His heart and toughness is a huge reason the Nittany Lions could challenge for the best record in the league.

Midseason Disappointment (Team): Michigan State
This award could go to a number of teams as this league struggled so mightily outside of conference play. Illinois, one could argue, has been much more of a disappointment, however, the Illini weren't considered a title contender in 2012. A 1-2 start to Big Ten action isn't what fans where expecting in East Lansing. Quarterback play — and the pass-catchers too for that matter — have been atrocious as the offense continues to be completely one-dimensional. It ranks 11th in the league in scoring offense, 10th in rushing and 11th in passing efficiency. The defense is solid, despite claiming the league's worst pass rush, and there are big wins left to had should Mark Dantonio's bunch turn it around. But for now, this team lacks the killer instinct that made it Legends Division champions a year ago. 

Midseason Disappointment (Player): Danny O’Brien, QB, Wisconsin
O'Brien had some huge shoes to fill when Russell Wilson departed for the NFL. And as a fellow ACC transfer who posted a productive season as a freshman at Maryland two seasons ago, expectations were sky high in Madison. Unfortunately, O'Brien looked completely lost in Matt Canada's new offense system and was pulled in the Utah State game. Wisconsin was dead last in the Big Ten in scoring (16.3 ppg) and total offense (276.0) after three starts by the former Terrapin. Luckily, backup Joel Stave has stepped in and saved the Badgers season. Big Red has averaged 33.3 points per game since Stave entered the picture.

Midseason Surprise (Team): Penn State
This team has dealt with a coaching change of the most tumultuous variety. It dealt with a mass exodus of current players transferring away — most of whom were starters on offense. And it began the year 0-2 after two heart-breaking losses. But after four straight wins, and marked improvement from the offense, Penn State has a chance to make a big statement in the first year under Bill O'Brien. 

Midseason Surprise (Player): Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern
The junior from Tomball, Texas has emerged as one of the most productive players in the league. Mark has rushed for 797 yards on 134 attempts and has scored 11 total touchdowns in three different ways (eight rush, one receiving, two return). He has become Northwestern's all-time kick return leaders in yards and attempts, while also scoring twice on punt returns. His versatility and dependability has opened up the offense and has given Pat Fitzgerald a traditional rushing threat he has been craving for years. He leads the league in all-purpose yards with 184.6 yards per game.

What Athlon Sports got right: Wisconsin's convincing win over Purdue indicates they are clearly the best bowl eligible team in the Leaders Division. Ohio State was ranked No. 6 in the Athlon Sports preseason Top 25 and was picked No. 1 in the league. Nothing has happened this season to indicate that the Buckeyes aren't the best team in the league. It also appears Michigan and Nebraska will play for the Legends Division crown on October 27 as expected. Should the Wolverines win that game, a Michigan win over Wisconsin in the title game would likely come true as believed in the preseason.

What Athlon Sports got wrong: Actually, most teams at this stage are slotted to finish exactly where Athlon Sports projected with a small tweak. Penn State has outperformed all preseason expectation and are only a few plays from being 6-0. Michigan State, on the other hand, could easily finish worst than third (where they were projected). Iowa has struggled mightily, as predicted, but is somehow 2-0 in the league. Iowa and Northwestern could still finish where Athlon predicted, but are much closer to the top of the division than anticipated. 

Second-Half Predictions

Here's how we think the final standings will look before the Big Ten Championship.

Legends Division

1. Michigan
2. Nebraska
3. Michigan State
4. Northwestern
5. Iowa
6. Minnesota

Leaders Division

1. Ohio State
2. Penn State
3. Wisconsin
4. Purdue 
5. Illinois
6. Indiana

Big Ten Championship: Michigan over Wisconsin

Three Things to Watch

How does the Legends round robin play out?
Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska all still have yet to face each other while Iowa and Northwestern have also crept into the picture. All five still have yet to face each other with the only exception of Iowa's road win over Michigan State this weekend. Michigan gets the Spartans, Wildcats and Hawkeyes at home, while having to visit Nebraska. The Cornhuskers' schedule is flipped as it has to face Michigan State, Iowa and Northwestern all on the road while also getting Penn State at home. Michigan State gets Nebraska and Northwestern at home with two nasty road trips to Michigan and Wisconsin looming. Hold on for dear life in this division because the next two months of action should be extremely entertaining. 

Ohio State's unbeaten record and Braxton Miller's Heisman campaign
There are two teams in the nation with 7-0 records and both reside in the state of Ohio. The Bobcats and Buckeyes have, by definition, the best records in the nation. Additionally, Ohio State's quarterback would be sitting in New York if the Heisman voting was taken today. The defense, which is ranked 10th in the Big Ten at 400 yards allowed per game, is a major question mark. But if Urban Meyer can finish the year unbeaten and Miller can stay healthy, there is little doubt that this team would be the heavy favorite to win the 2013 National Championship. 

The Penn State Nittany Lions
The Jerry Sandusky scandal transcended not only Big Ten football but all of college football, bringing Penn State University into living rooms of non-football fans everywhere. And after many players left the program, a coaching change and two tough losses to start the year, the story in the Big Ten in 2012 could be the performance of the Nittany Lions. Crippling NCAA punishments may be easier to overcome than originally believed if Bill O'Brien is as good as his first half coaching job indicates. With games left against Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa, the Nits will most definitely play a huge role in the Big Ten championship — whether they are eligible to win the crown or not.

Three Games to Watch in the Second Half

1. Michigan at Ohio State (Nov. 24)
It's arguably the best rivalry game in college football, and this season, it could feature an undefeated top-10 Ohio State team and a Big Ten favorite Michigan squad. Consider this Brady Hoke-Urban Meyer Chapter 1 in what could be a long storybook feud between two "new" coaching regimes.

2. Michigan at Nebraska (Oct. 27)
The Legends Division race is completely wide open but these two programs look like the odds-on favorites to win the division. The Cornhuskers will be looking for revenge after a 45-17 beatdown in Ann Arbor last fall.

3. Ohio State at Penn State (Oct. 27)
The Ineligible Bowl could feature the best two teams in the league. It also could feature the top two Offensive Players of the Year in quarterbacks Braxton Miller and Matt McGloin. Look for a huge crowd in Beaver Stadium should the Buckeyes show up undefeated.

Post-Week 7 Power Rankings

1. Ohio State (7-0, 3-0)
Still some weaknesses, but this team refuses to lose behind leadership of Braxton Miller. 

2. Michigan (4-2, 2-0)
Denard Robinson is back on track and the schedule sets up nicely for UM after two top-10 losses.

3. Nebraska (4-2, 1-1)
Nothing wrong with the offense in Lincoln, but something needs to be done to the Blackshirts' defense.

4. Penn State (4-2, 2-0)
Matt McGloin has been spectacular, and the defense has been great. Nits could spoil more than one season in the second half.

5. Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1)
Two straight impressive division wins puts Badgers in driver's seat for a trip to Indianapolis.

6. Northwestern (6-1, 2-1)
Pat Fitzgerald got back to the ground game and it led to big road division win over Minnesota.

7. Iowa (4-2, 2-0)
Key road win at Michigan State puts the Hawkeyes squarely in the Legends Division race.

8. Michigan State (4-3, 1-2)
Devastating loss at home in double overtime to Iowa puts Sparty behind the eight ball in the division.

9. Purdue (3-3, 0-2)
Terrible start to conference play and has four of the next five on the road. Things could get ugly for the Boilers.

10. Minnesota (4-2, 0-2)
Great to hear Jerry Kill has been safely released from care after suffering a seizure. Return of MarQueis Gray is also a positive. 

11. Illinois (2-5, 0-3)
The wheels have official come off the Illini train after third straight blowout Big Ten loss.

12. Indiana (2-4, 0-3)
Same old story for the Hoosiers: Pretty solid offense can score. Defense of any kind? Not so much.

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

Three and Out: Week 7 Recap

ACC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big East 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big Ten 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big 12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Pac-12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
SEC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review 

Teaser:
<p> At the midpoint of the 2012 season, it's time to take a look at the first half and predict how the second half will turn out in the Big Ten.</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 06:10
Path: /college-football/acc-2012-second-half-predictions-and-midseason-review
Body:

The first half of the season has been an up and down affair for the ACC. After watching Florida State climb into the top five of the polls, the Seminoles suffered a disappointing loss to NC State, effectively ending any national title hopes. While the ACC is without a national championship contender, this conference still has a lot of intrigue to follow in the second half of the year. The Coastal Division is wide open, while the Seminoles, Clemson and NC State figure to be locked in a tight battle for the Atlantic crown.

Coach of the Year – David Cutcliffe, Duke
Despite the 41-20 loss to Virginia Tech in Week 7, Cutcliffe takes this award at the midpoint of the season. The Blue Devils are in the thick of the Coastal title race with a 2-1 record and need just one victory to get bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. Duke doesn’t have a marquee win, but it also doesn’t have a bad loss. With upcoming games against North Carolina, Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Miami, the Blue Devils won’t have an easy time getting to six victories. However, this is clearly Cutcliffe’s best team at Duke and should be able to find one more win to get bowl eligible.

Freshman of the Year – Duke Johnson, RB, Miami/Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland
There’s not really much separating Johnson and Diggs, so we’ll give them each a share of the award. Johnson leads Miami with 428 rushing yards and five touchdowns, while adding 447 yards on kick returns. He ranks second in the ACC with 151 all-purpose yards per game. Diggs seems to be getting stronger as the year progresses, and he leads the conference with an average of 168.8 all-purpose yards per game.

Newcomer of the Year – Eddie Johnson, LB, Miami
The Hurricanes have struggled all season on defense, but this unit is playing a lot of young players, which will pay dividends for future seasons. Johnson has been a bright spot for this team, ranking second on the team with 39 tackles, along with recording 5.5 tackles for a loss, one sack and three forced fumbles.

Offensive Player of the Year – Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
There’s really not a clear standout for this award through the first seven weeks of the season. Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel and North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard each could stake a claim for the top spot, but Boyd gets a slight nod over his teammates (Andre Ellington and DeAndre Hopkins). The junior quarterback has thrown for 1,748 yards and 14 touchdowns, while adding 224 yards and two scores on the ground. Boyd is an improved runner and is completing an impressive 68.2 percent of his throws.   

Defensive Player of the Year – Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
With Brandon Jenkins sidelined for the year, the Seminoles needed a big season from Werner and fellow end Tank Carradine. Both players have responded with huge seasons, as Florida State’s defense ranks fifth nationally against the run and fourth in scoring defense. Werner ranks second in the ACC with 6.5 sacks and 10 tackles for a loss.

Midseason Disappointment (Team) – Virginia Tech
Even with Saturday’s win over Duke, the Hokies are still 4-3 – a far cry from what most expected in the preseason. With eight starters returning, Virginia Tech expected to have one of the nation’s best defenses. However, the Hokies allowed at least 20 points in each of their last three games and rank 73rd nationally in stopping the run. Quarterback Logan Thomas has accounted for 16 touchdowns but hasn’t had much help from the running backs or offensive line. J.C. Coleman appeared to give the offense a spark against Duke, but the rushing attack has to be more of a factor the rest of the season. Despite the early struggles, Virginia Tech still has a chance to win the Coastal, especially with North Carolina ineligible to win the division title. With a schedule that features games against Clemson, Miami and Florida State, it’s important the Hokies find some answers for the second half of the season.

Midseason Disappointment (Player) – David Amerson, CB, NC State
The overall numbers for Amerson aren’t bad, as he has recorded 24 tackles, three interceptions and three pass breakups. However, the junior cornerback struggled in the opener against Tennessee and gave up a few big plays in the loss to Miami. For a player that had All-American potential in the preseason, Amerson has not lived up to the hype so far.

Midseason Surprise (Team) – Maryland
After a disastrous 2-10 campaign last year, no one could have predicted the Terrapins would be the only unbeaten team in ACC play after the first seven weeks of the season. True freshman quarterback Perry Hills has done just enough to keep the offense moving, while the defense ranks ninth in the nation in yards allowed. Maryland may not eclipse the seven-win mark, but it’s clear Randy Edsall has this team moving in the right direction.  

Midseason Surprise (Player) – Ross Cockrell, CB, Duke
A big reason for Duke’s five victories this season has been the play of its defense. While the Blue Devils don’t have a lockdown defense, this unit has made significant progress over the last couple of years. Cockrell had 23 starts coming into this season but is having his best year. The junior ranks second on the team with 38 tackles but leads all defenders with four picks and 13 passes defended. Cockrell is a strong candidate to earn first-team All-ACC honors at the end of the year.

What Athlon Sports got right: It’s still too early to declare how the Coastal Division will shape out, but we had a pretty good feel for the Atlantic in the preseason. While Maryland is currently at the top of the division, Athlon’s top three teams – Florida State, Clemson and NC State – are still in the mix for the Atlantic crown. As expected, Boston College is ticketed for a sixth-place finish in the division. 

What Athlon Sports got wrong: As mentioned above, the Coastal Division is difficult to sort out after seven weeks. If Miami and Duke continue on its path, we would have clearly missed on both teams in the preseason. We also thought Virginia would build on its promising 2011 season and threaten seven or eight victories in 2012. However, the Cavaliers will struggle just to get bowl eligible in 2012.


Second Half Predictions

Here's how Athlon sees the standings looking at the end of the regular season:

Atlantic

1. Florida State
2. Clemson
3. NC State
4. Maryland
5. Wake Forest
6. Boston College

Coastal

1. North Carolina
2. Virginia Tech
3. Miami
4. Georgia Tech
5. Duke
6. Virginia

ACC Championship Game: Florida State over Virginia Tech
 

Three Things to Watch in the Second Half

The Coastal Division – With North Carolina ineligible to play for the ACC title, can either Virginia Tech or Miami wrestle control of the division? Since the Tar Heels have wins over the Hokies and Hurricanes, they will likely finish with the best record in the division. However, someone has to represent the Coastal in the championship game, which leaves Miami and Virginia Tech as the most likely candidates.

A crucial moment in the Paul Johnson era at Georgia Tech? – Despite recording 19 wins in his first two years at Georgia Tech, Paul Johnson could be sitting on the hot seat at the end of 2012. The Yellow Jackets are just 16-16 in their last 32 games and are no lock to get bowl eligible with BYU, North Carolina, Duke and Georgia remaining on the schedule. Johnson canned defensive coordinator Al Groh and shuffled his defensive staff to find some answers for one of the ACC’s worst units. If Johnson finishes with a 5-7 or 6-6 record, he could be one of the top coaches on the hot seat entering 2013.

Will Florida State win the ACC title? – Even though the Seminoles lost to NC State last week, most still believe this is the best team in the ACC. The schedule isn’t too difficult, but Florida State plays three of its next four games on the road. Although the Seminoles missed out on a chance to remain in the national title hunt, winning the ACC Championship and finishing in the top five of the BCS would be a good season. While Florida State may not be ready to be “back” as a national championship team, there’s still a lot of talent on this team and a subpar finish to the season won’t sit well in Tallahassee.
 

Five Games to Watch in the Second Half

Virginia Tech at Clemson (Oct. 20) – The Tigers smacked the Hokies twice last season. Can Virginia Tech return the favor this year?

NC State at North Carolina (Oct. 27) – Can the Tar Heels snap a five-game losing streak to the Wolfpack?

Virginia Tech at Miami (Nov. 1) – Could this game decide who represents the Coastal Division in the ACC Championship?

Florida State at Virginia Tech (Nov. 8) – The Hokies are struggling, but a Thursday night matchup in Blacksburg won’t be an easy victory for Florida State.

NC State at Clemson (Nov. 17) – If the Wolfpack avoid a loss until Nov. 17, a victory over Clemson could put them in the ACC Championship.
 

Post-Week 7 Power Rankings

1. Florida State (5-1, 2-1 ACC) – The Seminoles bounced back after a disappointing loss to NC State, crushing Boston College 51-17 to move to 5-1 on the season.

2. Clemson (5-1, 2-1 ACC) – The Tigers had a bye week on Saturday and return to action next Saturday against Virginia Tech.

3. NC State (4-2, 1-1 ACC) – The bye week came at a good time for the Wolfpack, as Tom O’Brien’s team had plenty of time to forget about the win over Florida State. NC State takes on Maryland in Week 8.

4. North Carolina (5-2, 2-1 ACC) – With Saturday’s 18-14 win over Miami, the Tar Heels control their destiny to win the Coastal Division. However, there’s just one problem – North Carolina is ineligible to win the division title.

5. Miami (4-3, 3-1 ACC) – The Hurricanes’ defense held North Carolina to just 18 points, but an injury to quarterback Stephen Morris prevented any shot at a comeback victory late in the fourth quarter.

6. Virginia Tech (4-3, 2-1 ACC) – It wasn’t a particularly impressive first half, but the Hokies rallied to get a key 41-20 victory over Duke. The win over the Blue Devils snapped a two-game losing streak.

7. Georgia Tech (2-4, 1-3 ACC) – The Yellow Jackets’ defense is in desperate need of a turnaround, which coach Paul Johnson hopes a change in coordinator will provide a spark.

8. Duke (5-2, 2-1 ACC) – The Blue Devils need one more win to get bowl eligible, which won’t be easy with a schedule that features North Carolina, Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Miami.

9. Maryland (4-2, 2-0 ACC) – With the 27-20 win over Virginia, the Terrapins have doubled their win total from last season (two).

10. Virginia (2-5, 0-3) – The Cavaliers look to snap a five-game losing streak with a home date against Wake Forest this Saturday.

11. Wake Forest (3-3, 1-3 ACC) – The Demon Deacons had a bye in Week 7 and return to action against Virginia this Saturday.

12. Boston College (1-5, 0-3 ACC) – The Eagles’ miserable season continued with a 51-7 loss at Florida State.


by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven

Related College Football Content

Week 7 College Football Recap

Big 12 Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions
Big East Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions

Big Ten Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions

Pac-12 Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions

SEC Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions

Teaser:
<p> At the midpoint of the 2012 season, it's time to take a look at the first half and predict how the second half will turn out in the ACC.</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-draft-rankings-tight-ends
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 tight end prospects:

1. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame (6-6, 250, Jr.)
The big Fighting Irish tight end is easily the top prospect at his position for this upcoming draft. But poor quarterback play has limited his statistical production in 2012. He entered his final season as more of a pass-catcher but has gotten stronger at the point of attack as ND looked to pound the football more this fall. He projects as an excellent receiver on the next level and, should he continue to develop as an in-line blocker, he could creep into the first round next spring.

2. Joseph Fauria, UCLA (6-7, 255, Sr.)
From a pure athletic stand point, few players in the nation will match the size and speed combination Fauria brings to the table. He has more upside as a receiver than a blocker but is adequate at both. He needs to polish his overall game and prove his dedication and commitment to being a great player. Developing a killer instinct might be his only weakness.

3. Jordan Reed, Florida (6-3, 245, Jr.)
He will likely function more as an H-Back due to his overall lack of speed, but there are no weaknesses to his overall game. He is strong, physical and solid in a blocking role. He has speed and quickness on the outside in the passing game. And he showed loads of versatility as a runner and quarterback prior to the pro-style switch in 2012. He has dealt with three different coordinators in three seasons in Gainesville, so he is only scratching the surface of his overall potential.

4. Michael Williams, Alabama (6-6, 269, Sr.)
The pros for Williams: A huge frame. A nasty, powerful run-blocker. He played in a pro-style system coached by football czar Nick Saban. His pass-catching skills are limited, particularly down the field, but there is plenty of room in the NFL for a guy with his in-line blocking talents.

5. Zach Ertz, Stanford (6-6, 252, Jr.)
Ertz is a slightly less talented version of Coby Fleener. He isn’t quite as fast, isn’t quite as a powerful and hasn’t been quite as productive. Otherwise, he is a very similar player with similar skills. He has played in a pro-style attack that focuses on NFL skills at the tight end position. Few programs have prepared this position for the next level like Stanford.

6. Dion Sims, Michigan State (6-5, 285, Jr.)
Sims entered his final season with no help at quarterback or wide receiver and will likely finish as the top Sparty pass-catcher. He is a powerful blocker with a big frame and solid athleticism. He won’t wow scouts with his overall speed or quickness, but he has enough talent to stay on an NFL field due to his physicality and overall size. He should be a solid first and second down option with red zone potential.

7. Levine Toilolo, Stanford (6-8, 265, Jr.)
No player at this position will bring a bigger, better frame to the next level than Toilolo. His is massive. He can be used equally as a pass-catcher and in-line blocker, but needs to refine his talents at both. He is a more of a long-term project than some of his peers, but few can match his raw upside. When it comes to working vertically down the seam or in the red zone, few have the potential to be as dangerous as the 6-8 monster from out west.

8. Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn (6-5, 255, Sr.)
Without being elite at any one thing, Lutz is the complete package at tight end. He has suffered through horrendous quarterback play, multiple offensive systems and complete coaching turmoil. Yet, back in 2010 with Cam Newton as his quarterback, he produced in key situations and was a big part of the championship run as only a sophomore. He has middle-round steal written all over him — once he can get out of Auburn.

9. CJ Fiedorowicz, Iowa (6-6, 265, Jr.)
This big fella’s production will never match his overall upside. Iowa will never be a pass-centric offense so his production in the passing game will never give an accurate picture of his talents. He has a huge frame and the ability to contribute equally in both the running and passing games. This is a player who should be a much better pro player than college.

10. Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State (6-5, 245, Sr.)
This Buckeye is a slightly smaller version of Fauria. Electric athletic ability with the ability to stretch the field vertically with ease. Yet, an overall lack of production and in-line blocking potential stand out on the resume as well. His offensive scheme limited his usage and overall numbers at times, so he could blossom on the next level if he lands in the right system.

Other Names to Watch:

Chris Gragg, Arkansas (6-3, 236, Sr.)
DC Jefferson, Rutgers (6-6, 250, Sr.)
Ryan Griffin, UConn (6-6, 245, Sr.)
Ben Cotton, Nebraska (6-6, 255, Sr.)
Mychal Rivera, Tennessee (6-3, 245, Sr.)
Matt Furstenburg, Maryland (6-4, 245, Sr.)
Ryan Otten, San Jose State (6-6, 245, Sr.)
Kyler Reed, Nebraska (6-3, 230, Sr.)
Nick Kasa, Colorado (6-6, 260, Sr.)
Chris Pantale, Boston College (6-6, 255, 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: Tight Ends</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-2012-second-half-predictions-and-midseason-review
Body:

At the midpoint of the 2012 season, it's time to take a look at the first half and predict how the second half will turn out in the Pac-12.

First-Half Awards

Coach of the Year: Mike Riley, Oregon State
Todd Graham has quickly turned around Arizona State. Chip Kelly has the best team in the league. And Lane Kiffin will certainly have a chance to join the fray. But for the time being, no one has done a better job than Mike Riley. His defense has gone from one of the worst in the conference to one of the best in one offseason. Now, he is winning tough road games without his starting quarterback. With one of the best resumes in the nation, Riley isn't just Pac-12 Coach of the Year material, he is squarely in the National COY race as well.

Freshman of the Year: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
UCLA's Brett Hundley deserves a lot of credit for stabilizing the quarterback position in Westwood for the first time in over a decade. But Mariota is leading the league's top team, scoring the most points (52.3 ppg) and is the Pac-12's No. 2 most efficient passer (156.42). He is poised beyond his years and has proven in short order to be a leader on and off the field. He is completing 67.9 percent of his passes for 1,301 yards, 15 touchdowns, five interceptions, 221 yards rushing and another score on the ground. Honorable mention falls to Oregon State stud freshman blocker Isaac Seumalo.

Newcomer of the Year: Xavier Su'a Filo, OL, UCLA
The team's top offensive lineman has been a huge part of the improvement on offense for the Bruins. The big Utah native was a top-100 prospect coming out of high school before taking his two-year LDS mission. He returned this fall and stepped directly into the starting lineup. The Bruins rank No. 2 in the Pac-12 in rushing, No. 3 in total offense and are top 10 nationally in sacks allowed, due in large part to improved offensive line play. Of which, Su'a Filo is the best player. USC's Silas Redd gets a big honorable mention here for the work he has done in the Trojans' backfield.

Offensive Player of the Year: Pick a quarterback, any quarterback!
Matt Barkley is the best player in the league and leads the Pac-12 with 16 touchdown passes. Taylor Kelly is the most efficient passer on a surprise team but has played a weak schedule. Sean Mannion's team is unbeaten against a nasty schedule, but he will miss at least two more games with a knee injury. Marcus Mariota is No. 2 in passing efficiency and leads the league's top offense on the Pac-12's best team. Matt Scott is lapping the field from a statistical standpoint, leading the league in total offense. Brett Hundley has been extremely productive at a position UCLA hasn't been good at in over a decade. The argument is likely between Barkley vs. Kelly with beauty falling to the eye of the beholder. For right or wrong, I lean towards the best player on what could be the best team over slightly better stats on a surprise team against a weak schedule. Don't even get me started on Lee vs. Woods vs. Allen vs. Hill vs. Crooks vs. Wilson. Or Taylor vs. Barner vs. Thomas vs. Franklin vs. Carey. This has to be one of the deepest collections of elite offensive skill talent ever assembled in any league.

Defensive Player of the Year: Jordan Poyer, DB, Oregon State
After his league leading fifth interception of the season — this one he returned for a touchdown to clinch the road win over BYU — the talented Oregon State cover man became the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year honors. This defense could be considered the best in the league and his team is undefeated because of it. He has 15 total tackles, one sack, five interceptions, a forced fumble, and also returns punts for the unbeaten Beavers.

Midseason Disappointment (Team): Utah
The Utes were one win away from playing in the Pac-12 championship game last season when it lost to lowly Colorado in the season finale. Kyle Whittingham's squad is 2-5 in regular season action and hasn't won a conference game since. John White set a school record for rushing yards last season and has only one 100-yard effort on his resume this fall and that came against Northern Colorado. Quarterback play has been downright atrocious after the injury to starter Jordan Wynn. All three of this team's league losses have come within the division.

Midseason Disappointment (Player): Keith Price, QB, Washington
Certainly, Price hasn't gotten much help from his decimated offensive line, but Price has been a shell of his 2011 self. At the halfway point of the season, the Huskies passer has completed 61.3 percent of his passes for 1,080 yards, almost as many interceptions (6) as touchdowns (7) and wasn't able to keep his team very competitive against Oregon or USC. This from a guy who threw for 3,063 yards and accounted for 36 total touchdowns on 66.9 percent passing a year ago.

Midseason Surprise (Team): Oregon State
Arizona State has been the South's version of Oregon State, except the Beavers have played a dramatically tougher schedule. In fact, with wins over Wisconsin, UCLA, Arizona and BYU, it might be the best resume in the country. Mike Riley's defense is arguably the most improved unit in the entire nation and it has led to an undefeated first half of the season — the latest win coming on the road against BYU without starting quarterback Sean Mannion. 

Midseason Surprise (Player): Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
The sophomore signal caller battled with Michael Eubanks all summer long for the right to run Todd Graham's new offense in Tempe — a unit that had to replace its quarterback and top two pass catchers. Kelly, the league's top-rated passer, has made it look easy. He is completing 68.3 percent of his passes for 1,600 yards, 14 touchdowns, only two interceptions with 210 yards rushing on 57 attempts. Most importantly, his team is unbeaten in conference play.

What Athlon Sports got right: Predicting the division champions is the most important part of Athlon's preseason prognostication and both USC and Oregon are the class of the Pac-12. Colorado and Washington State also appear to be right on as the worst two teams in the league. UCLA and Arizona will battle for third in the South as expected while Cal wallows in fifth up North. Stanford could also finish as the North's top challenger to Oregon if it can defeat Oregon State.

What Athlon Sports got wrong: The Utah-Arizona State flip-flop is one of the biggest misses by our staff. Utah, picked second, will likely finish fifth in the South while the Sun Devils, picked to finish fifth, have a good shot at finishing second. Up North, the Oregon State Beavers are the only miss as they are dramatically outperforming preseason expectations. Otherwise, the other nine slots could finish exactly as predicted in the summer.

Second-Half Predictions

Here's how we think the final standings will look before the Pac-12 Championship.

North Division

1. Oregon
2. Stanford
3. Oregon State
4. Washington
5. Cal
6. Washington State

South Division

1. USC
2. Arizona State
3. UCLA
4. Arizona 
5. Utah
6. Colorado

Pac-12 Championship: Oregon over USC

Three Things to Watch

Oregon's four second-half road games 
The Ducks, behind the best defense of Chip Kelly's tenure in Eugene, have made it to the halfway point unbeaten without really breaking a sweat. But things get a lot tougher from here on out. Four road trips dot the perilous second-half slate beginning with a Thursday night primetime showdown with much-improved Arizona State in Week 8 and wrapping up with an in-state Civil War battle in Corvallis. In between are trips to national power USC and Cal — a team that nearly derailed the Ducks' 2010 national title hopes in Berkeley — as well as a home test against Stanford. There is a lot of work left for the high-flying Ducks if they expect to win their fourth straight Pac-12 championship and possibly, the program's first-ever national championship.

The 2012 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year race
This is going to be a crazy race to watch the rest of the season. Matt Barkley looks like he is in the best position to win the award, while power names like Kenjon Barner, Stepfan Taylor, De'Anthony Thomas, Johnathan Franklin, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee have all lived up to the preseason hype. But new faces like Taylor Kelly, Matt Scott, Ka'Deem Carey, Brett Hundley, Sean Mannion and Marcus Mariota have all produced in a fashion that warrants consideration. And I haven't even mentioned Keenan Allen, Marquess Wilson, Markus Wheaton or Austin Hill (or anyone from Washington, for that matter). This league is loaded with elite offensive weapons and should make the second half out West extremely entertaining. 

Who has staying power out West?
Arizona State and Oregon State are two of the biggest surprises in the nation at the midway point of the season. UCLA has also shown that it is much improved. Washington and Stanford have flashed major potential as well. In a league that could be second only to the mighty SEC, can any of these conference upstarts that are looking up at favorites USC and Oregon stay in the race deep into the winter months? Many believe the Sun Devils will come back to earth as the schedule gets tougher, while the Beavers should take some sort of a hit without Mannion under center. And the Bruins' schedule is a nasty five-game stretch following next week's bye. Are these teams simply nice stories worth noting in the grand scheme of the USC-Oregon dominated 2012 Pac-12? Or does one of these unexpected contenders pull off a huge upset, totally shaking up the league and sending ripples throughout the national title picture?

Three Games to Watch in the Second Half

1. Oregon at USC (Nov. 3)
The Ducks and Trojans have been on a collision course since the 2011 season ended last January. It will likely be the first of two meetings between the two, and fans can only hope it is as entertaining as the 38-35 USC win a year ago in Eugene.

2. Oregon at Oregon State (Nov. 24)
The only two teams left unbeaten out West hail from the Beaver State. It is highly unlikely both make it to The Civil War unbeaten, but if by chance it does happen, it could be the single biggest in-state bout between these two adversaries in the 118-year history of the rivalry. The Beavers will likely be the underdog regardless of what happens from here on out, but getting the Ducks at home gives the Beavers as good a chance as anyone to upset Oregon.

3. Notre Dame at USC (Nov. 24)
The Arizona State Sun Devils have the unfortunate luck of facing both Oregon and USC, so their round-robin with the Ducks and Trojans is more important within the Pac-12. But when it comes to national importance, interest and history, there are few games that would be able to match a Notre Dame-USC top 5 match-up. Even if one or both lose a game along the way, a BCS bowl bid and potential top 10 bragging rights should be on the line.

Post-Week 7 Power Rankings

1. Oregon (6-0, 3-0)
Perfect first half gives way to tough second half road slate with visits to USC, Arizona State, Oregon State and Cal. 

2. USC (5-1, 3-1)
It hasn't been pretty at times, but Lane Kiffin still has his team poised for a Pac-12 title. 

3. Stanford (4-2, 2-1)
The most physical team in the league played valiant football in South Bend. An upcoming tilt against Oregon State looms large.

4. Oregon State (5-0, 3-0)
No Sean Mannion, no problem. Even without their star quarterback, the Beavers won on the road to stay unbeaten.

5. Arizona State (5-1, 3-0)
Todd Graham has found himself a quarterback in Taylor Kelly, but ASU faces tough second half.

6. UCLA (5-2, 2-2)
The Bruins bounced back from an ugly loss to Cal to get back to even in the league. This team goes as Brett Hundley goes.

7. Arizona (3-3, 0-3)
A much better team than the 0-3 mark indicates but the defense needs to show up at some point to win games.

8. Washington (3-3, 1-2)
The Huskies' defense is dramatically improved. But can Justin Wilcox and Tosh Lupoi coach the O-Line?

9. Cal (3-4, 2-2)
Got two clutch wins when Jeff Tedford needed them most. But Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford and Washington still left.

10. Utah (2-4, 0-3)
Shocking turn of events in Salt Lake City have led to horrific start to 2012 — with little light at the end of the tunnel. 

11. Washington State (2-5, 0-4)
Home games against Colorado and Cal were best two chances at league wins and Cougs lost both.

12. Colorado (1-5, 1-2)
The Buffaloes have shown little fight all season and might not win another game the rest of the way. 

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

Three and Out: Week 7 Recap

ACC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big East 
2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big Ten 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Big 12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Pac-12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
SEC 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review 

Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-basketball/2012-13-college-basketball-preview-top-freshmen
Body:
Visit the online store for UCLA and other editions of the 2012-13 Athlon Sports College Basketball annual.

Led by Anthony Davis, Marcus Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague,  Kentucky ended the notion that freshman-laden teams couldn’t win a national championship.

Granted, the group in Kentucky was one of the best rookie classes in college basketball history with David and Kidd-Gilchrist being selected Nos. 1 and 2 in the NBA Draft. There likely won’t be a class that strong in the country this season, but plenty of prominent programs are counting on freshmen to rebuild or reload.

Of course, John Calipari has another star-studded class coming to Kentucky, led by Nerlens Noel. On the other side of the country, UCLA is counting on Shabazz Muhammad and Ryan Anderson to 1.) pass NCAA eligibility standards and 2.) lead the Bruins back to national prominence.

And at Indiana, the addition of Cody Zeller as a freshman last season was only the start. The Athlon preseason No. 1 team added Yogi Ferrell, listed below, to a veteran mix ready to contend for a national title.

Here’s a look at the top 10 freshmen who could shape the national and conference landscapes:

TOP 10 IMPACT FRESHMEN FOR 2012-13
Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
The highest-rated recruit ever to sign with Pittsburgh, Adams will be asked to be a factor on both ends of the court for the Panthers. The native of New Zealand is still relatively new to the game, so there might be some growing pains early in the season, but he has the size (7-0, 210) and athleticism to be a dominant big man in the Big East.

Kyle Anderson, F, UCLA
Anderson will team with guard Shabazz Muhammad to give Ben Howland two of the elite freshmen in the nation. Anderson, who played for legendary prep coach Bob Hurley at St. Anthony (N.J.) High School, is a swingman who boasts a true inside-outside game. Anderson can knock down the perimeter jump shot but is at his best when taking the ball to the basket.

Related: Arrival of Muhammad, Anderson leads makeover at UCLA

Brandon Ashley, F, Arizona
Fellow Arizona freshman big man Kaleb Tarczewski received more hype through the recruiting process, but don’t be surprised if Ashley makes a bigger impact this season for the Wildcats. At 6-8, 230 pounds, Ashley can play both forward spots, though he likely will see most of his minutes at the 3. He should be one of the most productive players in the Pac-12.

Isaiah Austin, C, Baylor
The 7-footer from Arlington, Texas, will be one of the best big men in the Big 12 in ’12-13. His game has few weaknesses, if any. He has the skills to play on the wing but has the size to be a dominant player around the basket — both offensively and defensively. It will be a surprise if he doesn’t average a double-double for a Baylor team that had three frontcourt players taken in the first 38 picks of the 2012 NBA Draft.

Yogi Ferrell, G, Indiana
Ferrell is a true point guard who will be a great facilitator on an Indiana team loaded with weapons. The Indiana native has range out to 3-point line, but don’t expect him to be a high-volume shooter. His job will be to penetrate the defense and find the open man. Big man Cody Zeller will be the biggest beneficiary of Ferrell’s arrival in Bloomington.

Gary Harris, G, Michigan State
Harris is a shooting guard from Indiana who does just about everything well on the court. He isn’t an elite outside shooter, but he is a threat from behind the arc. Harris will thrive on the defensive end for Tom Izzo’s club right away.

Shabazz Muhammad, G, UCLA
UCLA managed to keep Muhammad, the No. 1 player in the class according to some, away from the likes of Kentucky and Duke. The left-handed swingman is adept at getting to the rim and scoring in traffic, and he shines on the defensive end. This was a huge get for Ben Howland, who is trying to return UCLA to elite status on the national scene.

Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
Noel will replace Anthony Davis as the shot-blocking machine on the back end of the Kentucky defense. His offensive game is still a work in progress, but he will get his share of points on dunks and put-backs. His decision to sign with UK over Georgetown instantly made the Wildcats a threat to repeat as national champs.

Marcus Paige, G, North Carolina
Paige will have an opportunity to slide into the starting point guard spot vacated by Kendall Marshall. A 6-1 lefthander, Paige averaged 28.4 points per game as a senior at Linn-Mar (Iowa) High School and played in the McDonald’s All-American Game. He suffered a stress fracture in his left foot in the spring but is expected to be 100 percent by the time practice starts.

Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford signed an elite talent from Texas for the second straight season. Smart will join forward LeBryan Nash, a rising sophomore, to give the Pokes two of the top players in the Big 12. Smart is a combo guard who is regarded as a tremendous leader. Opposing coaches have raved about Smart.

@AthlonSports

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> 2012-13 College Basketball Preview: Top Transfers</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 05:59
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Legends Poll, News
Path: /college-football/legends-poll-top-25-college-football-week-7
Body:

In the seven-year history of the Legends Poll, fifth-ranked Notre Dame had never been ranked in the top 5.

That streak ended this week as the Fighting Irish and Kansas State made their first ever top 5 appearances in the Legends Poll rankings. Both teams improved to 6-0 and benefited from a second straight week of upsets.

“I think Notre Dame’s offense is definitely getting better,” former Indiana coach Bill Mallory said. “But I think their defense is the thing that’s really improved. From what I’ve seen last year to this year, they’ve definitely improved on the defensive side of the ball. Their defensive front is really strong and that linebacker (Manti Teo) is really outstanding.”

Alabama continued its dominance with a commanding victory at Missouri and remained the unanimous No. 1 team. Idle Oregon maintained its spot at No. 2.

No. 3 Florida also moved up two spots this week after a win over Vanderbilt, but the Gators face another tough test next week when their former coach pays a visit to Gainesville with his South Carolina Gamecocks.

The SEC gauntlet caught up with Steve Spurrier and South Carolina, and they failed to stay unbeaten, falling 26-23 at LSU. The Gamecocks fell six spots to No. 9.

With the victory, LSU moved up four spots to No. 6, and jumped seventh-ranked Florida State as the highest ranked one-loss team.

No. 8 Oklahoma moved back into the top 10 after a resounding 63-21 victory over archrival Texas. The lopsided loss catapulted Texas out of the top 25.

No. 11 Oregon State was the biggest mover in the poll this week, jumping five spots following a 42-24 win at BYU.

West Virginia slid 11 spots all the way to No. 15 after it was embarrassed at Texas Tech, 49-14. The loss was a huge blow to quarterback Geno Smith’s Heisman hopes.

Texas Tech moved into the rankings for the first time following their surprise upset, debuting at No. 21. No. 24 Michigan and No. 25 Arizona State joined the Red Raiders as newcomers to the rankings.

Iowa State and Louisiana Tech along with Texas dropped out of the top 25 this week.

To see the individual votes by coach, visit the Legends Poll.

THE LEGENDS POLL TOP 25

RK TEAM RECORD POINTS PV RK
1 AlabamaAlabama (17) 6-0 425 1
2 OregonOregon 6-0 408 2
3 FloridaFlorida 6-0 384 5
4 Kansas StateKansas State 6-0 361 6
5 Notre DameNotre Dame 6-0 352 7
6 LSULSU 6-1 344 10
7 Florida StateFlorida State 6-1 307 8
8 OklahomaOklahoma 4-1 302 11
9 South CarolinaSouth Carolina 6-1 287 3
10 USCUSC 5-1 266 9
11 Oregon StateOregon State 5-0 250 16
12 ClemsonClemson 5-1 230 12
13 GeorgiaGeorgia 5-1 218 14
14 Mississippi StateMississippi State 6-0 193 17
15 West VirginiaWest Virginia 5-1 180 4
16 LouisvilleLouisville 6-0 170 18
17 Texas A&MTexas A&M 5-1 150 19
18 StanfordStanford 4-2 144 13
19 RutgersRutgers 6-0 117 21
20 CincinnatiCincinnati 5-0 108 20
21 Texas TechTexas Tech 5-1 82 -
22 TCUTCU 5-1 74 22
23 Boise StateBoise State 5-1 60 23
24 MichiganMichigan 4-2 53 -
25 Arizona StateArizona State 5-1 18 -
 

Others Receiving Votes: Louisiana Tech 13, Wisconsin 5, Ohio 4, Nebraska 4, Iowa State 4, Northwestern 4, Oklahoma State 4, UCLA 3, Iowa 1

Teams Dropped Out From Last Week's Poll: Texas, Iowa State, Louisiana Tech

* The Legends Poll voting process is exactly what the BCS is trying to create and Athlon will bring it to you as the de facto Selection Committee for fans to follow over the next two seasons, allowing you to see how the Selection Committee will operate from 2014 onward.  You can see the entire Poll at www.legendschannel.com.

Teaser:
<p> As voted on by 17 coaching legends</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 05:55
Path: /news/ball-states-crazy-tip-drill-interception-highlights-win-over-wmu
Body:

The MAC is a conference known for its offensive fireworks, but Ball State used a little creativity on defense to beat Western Michigan on Saturday.

With Western Michigan ready to punch in a score to take a lead, the Cardinals tipped a pass intended for a receiver in the endzone. One tip is usually enough for a pass to be intercepted or caught, but this time, the ball was tipped twice and picked off. Another element to the play was another Ball State defender ripping the ball from a defensive lineman in an attempt to take it back for a score.

Teaser:
<p> Ball State's Crazy Tip Drill Interception Highlights Win over WMU</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 05:17
Path: /news/streaker-interrupts-texas-tech-west-virginia-game
Body:

Saturday's West Virginia-Texas Tech matchup was supposed to be one of the weekend's best games. However, the Red Raiders scored an easy 49-14 win, effectively ending any hopes the Mountaineers had of making the national title game.

Although the game had a few highlights, one of the best moments was when a streaker jumped onto the field in the second half. Although the streaker managed to make his way around the field, he was quickly nabbed before he removed all of his clothing.

The best part of this video? Watching the police in cowboy hats trying to catch and tackle the streaker.

Teaser:
<p> Streaker Interrupts Texas Tech-West Virginia Game</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 05:10
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-post-week-7-waiver-wire-report
Body:

This week's Waiver Wire may be the weakest of the season in regards to past fantasy performance, but the list offers several names with a lot of fantasy potential over the final six weeks of the season.  For those of you jockeying for a playoff spot, do not sleep on anyone listed below because you must assume that your opposition will not.

Trevone Boykin, QB-TCU

Boykin was impressive commanding the offense against Baylor on Saturday and his dual-threat ability adds extra value for owners needing quality depth at the quarterback position.

Taylor Kelly, QB-Arizona St

Kelly has thrown at least three touchdown passes in three consecutive games and has rushed for at least 40 yards in three of his six starts.

James Sims, RB-Kansas

Since his return from suspension, Sims has rushed for 344 yards and four touchdowns in three games and has carried the ball at least 27 times the past two weeks.

Jeff Scott, RB-Ole Miss

Scott has three 100-yard performances to his credit this season and has scored a touchdown in five of the six games in which he has played.

Bronson Hill, RB-Eastern Michigan

When a guy comes out of nowhere and rushes for 283 yards and four touchdowns this late in the season, we’re going to make room on our roster for him, especially when he plays in the MAC

Jeremy Hill, RB-LSU

We know the Tigers are loaded at running back, but don’t leave him on the waiver wire and let someone else have a shot at the talented freshman, especially if you play in a BCS-only league.

Devin Street, WR-Pitt

Street has caught at least ten passes in his last two games and has scored a touchdown in three of his last four.  Even better, the junior receiver should continue his hot streak over the next two weeks as the Panthers play Buffalo and Temple.

Richy Turner, WR-Nevada

Turner has caught at least seven passes in four of Nevada’s previous five games and has found the end zone two weeks in a row.

Jordan Leslie, WR-UTEP

Leslie is averaging five catches and 83 yards per game and has scored in four of seven contests.  UTEP’s six losses have all been by ten points or more, so expect the Miners’ to be playing from behind for most of the remainder of the season.


by Joe DiSalvo

Follow Joe on twitter (@theCFFsite)

Email:  [email protected]

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: Post-Week 7 Waiver Wire Report</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 04:22
Path: /college-football/college-football-bcs-analysis-post-week-7
Body:

The first BCS standings for 2012 began where they ended in 2011 -- with an all-SEC title game scenario.

A near-unanimous No. 1 in the coaches’ and Harris polls, Alabama began in the BCS standings in the top spot. But the surprise was at No. 2.

Propelled by a No. 1 average in the computer polls, Florida opened the BCS standings at No. 2 ahead of Oregon. The Ducks were No. 2 in both human polls, but ranked sixth in the computer component.

Florida’s spot at No. 2 was a surprise, but yet another sign of the SEC’s dominance of the BCS rankings. Six SEC teams were in the top six -- Alabama, Florida, No. 6 LSU, No. 7 South Carolina, No. 11 Georgia, No. 12 Mississippi State).

The Gators’ rank was only part of the story in the disparity between the two human polls, which each count as one-third of the BCS formula, and the average of the six computer rankings. With a limited sample size, the computers are expected to digress from the human polls at this stage of the season.

Here are a few observations from the first release of the BCS standings:

BCS Standings: Oct. 14

Coaches Poll Harris Poll

Computer
 Avg.

1. Alabama 1 1 3
2. Florida 4 3 1
3. Oregon 2 2 6
4. Kansas State 3 4 4
5. Notre Dame 5 5 2
6. LSU 6 6 9
7. South Carolina 8 7 7
8. Oregon State 11 10 5
9. Oklahoma 7 9 10
10. USC 9 11 15
11. Georgia 12 12 17
12. Mississippi St 16 14 T-12
13. West Virginia 15 15 T-12
14. Florida State 10 8 28
15. Rutgers 17 17 11
16. Louisville 14 16 19

The computers love Florida. With road wins over Texas A&M, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, plus the win over LSU, the Gators were the No. 1 team in the computer average. Only the Richard Billingsley computer had Florida outside of the top two at No. 5. Florida ranked third in the Harris poll and fourth in the coaches poll. Florida will face three more BCS top-15 teams (South Carolina, Georgia and Florida State) during the regular season.

The computers also love Notre Dame. All six BCS computers had Notre Dame in the top four, resulting in the Irish’s computer rank averaging to No. 2. Notre Dame ranked fifth in both human polls. This sets up a huge game with BCS implications with No. 9 Oklahoma on Oct. 27. A win over Oklahoma may all but clinch a BCS berth for Notre Dame. A win over Notre Dame may be the Sooners back into the title picture.

Seeing a trend? Road wins against big teams matter. Oregon State barely cracked the top 10 in the human polls, but the Beavers are fifth in the computers thanks to road wins over UCLA, Arizona and BYU.

Oregon needs to make up ground... and it can. And the Ducks will have ample opportunity to do so. Despite being No. 2 in both human polls, the Ducks were ranked sixth or lower in five of the six computers. Four home games and none against BCS top 25 teams hammered Oregon in the schedule strength department, but the Ducks face three BCS top-25 teams in November (USC, Stanford, Oregon State).

Alabama has a commanding presence at No. 1. The Crimson Tide have a BCS average of 0.9761 compared to 0.9092 for Florida. The difference between Alabama and Florida is more than the difference between the No. 2 Gators and No. 5 Notre Dame. All 59 voters in the coaches’ poll and 110 of 115 voters in the Harris poll voted Alabama No. 1 on their ballots.

The non-AQ teams picked a bad year to have a down season. The Big Ten is absent from the first BCS standings. Normally, this news would be a boon to BCS busters. A champion of a non-automatic qualifying conference finishing in the top 16 would receive an automatic BCS bid. (Otherwise, a non-AQ champ has to finish in the top 12). Right now, that rule would not be in effect. Ohio is the only remaining undefeated team in the non-AQ conferences, but the Bobcats are absent from the BCS top 25. Instead, this may be better news for one-loss Boise State, ranked 22nd in the BCS. The Broncos would need to move up six slots to capture an automatic bid as long as the Broncos are ranked ahead of the Big Ten (or ACC, or Big East) champion. Ranked seventh the Associated Press poll, Ohio State is ineligible for the BCS standings.


Notes on BCS selection:
Automatic BCS bids go to the top two for the title game, the champions of the ACC (Orange Bowl), Big 12 (Fiesta), Big Ten (Rose), Pac-12 (Rose) and SEC (Sugar). The Big East’s automatic bid is not tied to a particular bowl.

Notre Dame receives an automatic bid if it finishes in the top eight.

A champion from a non-automatic qualifying league (Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt, WAC and non-Notre Dame independents) receive an automatic bid if it finishes in the top 12 of the standings or if it finishes in the top 16 and ahead of a champion from a non-AQ conference.

To be eligible for an at-large BCS bid, a team must have nine or more wins and finish in the top 14 of the BCS standings.

Once automatic tie-ins are placed, the selection order for BCS bids goes as follows: 1. The bowl losing the BCS No. 1 team to the championship game, 2. The bowl losing the BCS No. 2 team, 3. The Fiesta Bowl, 4. The Sugar, 5. The Orange.

By David Fox

@DavidFox615

Related College Football Content
Week 7 Recap: Notre Dame, Texas Tech make defensive statements
Who votes in the Harris Poll?

Teaser:
<p> College Football: BCS Analysis Post-Week 7</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 19:51
Path: /mlb/st-louis-cardinals-vs-san-francisco-giants-nlcs-preview
Body:

Neither the Giants nor the Cardinals made anything look easy in the NLDS. After losing the first two games at home, the Giants handed the Reds three losses in a row in Cincinnati, the only time the Reds dropped three straight at home all season. The Cardinals — stop me if you’ve heard this before — were down to their last strike twice, down two runs at Washington. Now the last two world champions will meet in a rematch of the 1987 and 2002 NLCS. The teams split six regular season games. The Giants outhit the Cardinals .281 to .247 but the Cardinals hit for extra bases and outslugged the Giants .428 to .389. San Francisco outscored St. Louis 30-22, but that included a 15-0 blowout. Bruce Bochy’s troops win with excellent pitching and just enough hitting. St. Louis relies on a potent offense, which at times struggles with inconsistency. They scored 2, 12, 8, 1 and 9 runs against the Nationals in the NLDS.

Keys for San Francisco
The Giants hit just .194 in the Reds’ series, getting outhit in two of their wins. They managed just three hits in their 10-inning win in Game 3. San Francisco cannot win games that turn into shootouts, but they love close, low-scoring games.

Keys for St. Louis
The Cardinals seem to manage the staff through the first six innings pretty well. Whether it’s Chris Carpenter shutting down teams, or relievers Joe Kelly et al picking up the slack when Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright couldn’t get through three innings. And closing out games can be an adventure, but when given run support, the Redbirds’ pitchers don’t throw away too many games. So getting the offense going will be the difference.

Giants to Watch
The offense revolves around Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey. However, center fielder Angel Pagan provided a huge spark in August and September and was instrumental in the wins at Cincinnati from his leadoff positon. The Cardinals will try to negotiate around the big hitters in the middle. If Marco Scutaro can be effective as a table-setter and Hunter Pence proves he can drive in big runs, the Giants will be tough to beat. It will be interesting to see whether Bochy goes with Tim Lincecum or Barry Zito in Game 4. The Giants have won 12 straight when Zito starts, but he struggled in Game 4 and was bailed out by Lincecum, who looked more like the Cy Young Lincecum than the out-of-sorts pitcher we’ve seen all season. Lincecum was certainly more effective than Zito, but is more suited to coming out of the pen, where he has proven to be a weapon.

Cardinals to Watch
Leadoff hitter Jon Jay is 11-for-18 against the scheduled starters for the first three games. With Jay on base in front of Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday and Allen Craig, life will be much more difficult for the Giants’ starters. Manager Mike Matheny, who has juggled lineups all season in an effort to keep guys sharp, has stuck with the same batting order in the postseason. But if he needs to change things up, look for Matt Carpenter in the lineup against Matt Cain. He was 4-for-4 this season off the Giants’ ace while David Freese was 0-for-4 with three Ks. However, I don’t see Matheny pulling Freese. Adam Wainwright appears to have hit a wall, not unexpected coming of Tommy John surgery and missing all of 2011. So Lance Lynn must step up and be the No. 3 starter behind Chris Carpenter and Kyle Lohse. Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal and rookie Shelby Miller could be instrumental out of the bullpen as reliever Mitchell Boggs is showing signs of fatigue.

SAN FRANCISCO IN 6

-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

Teaser:
<p> Athlon previews the Cardinals-Giants matchup in the NLCS.</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 13:16
Path: /college-football/college-football-week-7-recap-notre-dame-stops-stanford-aggies-manziel-shines
Body:

The 24 hours before the first BCS standings of 2012 gave voters -- and computers -- plenty to consider.

Teams like Alabama and Oregon may be secure at the top of the polls, but other spots may be a mystery. LSU upended South Carolina’s dominance in another night game win in Baton Rouge. Against Texas, Oklahoma looked like a title contender, despite a loss to Kansas State on its resume. And Notre Dame, despite its juggling act at quarterback, may have the best defense North of Tuscaloosa, perhaps with the help of some beneficial officiating.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 7 RECAP: THREE AND OUT

MOVING THE CHAINS
Texas A&M 59, Louisiana Tech 57.
Good things come to those who stay up until 1 a.m. Eastern to watch college football. The late-night college football crowd watched one of the games of the year so far when Louisiana Tech overcame a 27-0 deficit to come within a fade pass into the end zone to force overtime against Texas A&M. The wild game included a 23-point second half comeback, 40-point fourth quarter, record-breaking heroics by Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel and 21-catch performance from Louisiana Tech receiver Quinton Patton. Louisiana Tech never led but scored two touchdowns in the final two minutes to keep the pressure on Texas A&M. And even in shootout, the little things matter -- Louisiana Tech had an extra point blocked in the second quarter, returned for two points for the Aggies.

Texas Tech’s pass defense. The aura of invincibility around the West Virginia came to a convincing end in Lubbock. After a setback against Oklahoma, the Texas Tech defense kept the pressure on Geno Smith like no defense has so far this season. The West Virginia quarterback was 29 of 55 for a season-low 275 yards with a touchdown. One of the worst pass defenses a year ago, Texas Tech held West Virginia to 5 yards per pass attempt, compared to the Mountaineers’ 9.4 yards per attempt entering the game. New defensive coordinator Art Kaufman, a former North Carolina assistant, has been the best assistant coach hire of the offseason.

Notre Dame in the clutch. A disputed call may have been the difference in the win over Stanford, but the Notre Dame defense again stifled a quality opponent in crunch time in the 20-13 win over Stanford. The Cardinal advanced to first and goal from the four, but Notre Dame held Stepfan Taylor to 3 yards on four consecutive carries, the last of which was ruled a stop before the end zone. Almost as important, Notre Dame clamped down on a Stanford drive to the 5 to force a field goal. On the disputed play, Fox Sports’ officiating guru Mike Pereira Tweeted the following:



FALSE STARTS
Texas’ last two years against Oklahoma
Early in the first quarter, Texas defensive back Quandre Diggs returned Oklahoma’s blocked extra point for two. For most of the Red River Rivalry, that was pretty much all that went right for Texas. In the final minute of the first half, Oklahoma had run more plays (52) as Texas had gained yards (48) in the eventual 63-21 rout. The loss was embarrassing enough for Texas, but the trends may be even worse. Oklahoma has outscored the Longhorns 118-38 the last two seasons. The Sooners’ 118 points against Texas since 2011 is the most against the Longhorns in a two-year span in the series. By allowing 677 yards, Texas has allowed 450 yards in three consecutive games. The pressure is on defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and coach Mack Brown, who is now 5-9 against Bob Stoops.

South Carolina Just a week ago, South Carolina looked like a dominant title contender, and LSU looked like it was stumbling through the SEC season. Both were on hold in Baton Rouge. LSU’s defense held serve until the offense could catch up as South Carolina amassed only 211 yards. Gamecocks running back Marcus Lattimore, who was automatic for about 100 yards and a touchdown in every game this season, rushed for only 34 yards and a touchdown against LSU. The Gamecocks were a paltry 3 of 13 on third down (compared to 11 of 19 for LSU), leaving South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier as exasperated as he’s been all season. The loss may not necessarily knock South Carolina out of the BCS title race, but puts more pressure on the Gamecocks against Florida next week.

Louisiana Tech’s BCS hopes. The thrilling finish for Louisiana Tech against Texas A&M was probably a good thing in exposing Sonny Dykes’ program to the masses, but the loss likely costs Louisiana Tech a trip to the BCS. The Bulldogs already defeated Illinois and Virginia on the road, but needed the win against Texas A&M to secure a spot for BCS inclusion. Despite the bowl picture, going toe to toe with Texas A&M in front of a late-night national crowd gave the program the most exposure it has seen in years. In related news, Ohio remains the only undefeated team in the BCS non-automatic qualifying leagues.

HEISMAN MOVERS
Collin Klein, Kansas State.
In typical fashion, Klein didn’t have the Heisman-capturing deep pass play or long run, but he did what he always does, grinding out yards and picking up third downs. Klein was 16 of 24 for 187 yards and rushed for 105 yards with three touchdowns to set up a key game against West Virginia and Geno Smith next week.

Geno Smith, West Virginia. Whether the windy conditions in Lubbock affected him (as coach Dana Holgorsen said) or not (as Smith contended), the Mountaineers quarterback had his worst game of the season. Smith still finished with a stat line most quarterbacks would love -- 29 of 55 for 275 yards with a touchdown. Smith remained an overwhelming favorite for player of the year entering the week, one bad performance may not derail his ability to win the Heisman. But it cracked open the door for others.

Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M. A freshman on a freshman team in the SEC has the top two single-game totals for total offense with 576 yards against Louisiana Tech and 557 yards against Arkansas, beating out records from Ole Miss’ Archie Manning and LSU’s Rohan Davey. No freshman has ever won the Heisman, but Manziel could make a case for votes -- prolific numbers for a winning team and making key plays (a 72-yard run in the fourth quarter that turned out to be the winning score.). He’s a Heisman moment waiting to happen on every play.

STAT WATCH
72.
With three touchdowns agains Purdue this week and 72 in his career, Wisconsin running back Montee Ball broke Ron Dayne’s Big Ten record of 71 career touchdowns. Ball isn’t going to be a Heisman finalist again, but he has returned to his 2011 form. Ball rushed for a career-high 247 yards in the 38-14 win over the Boilermakers, giving him seven touchdowns in three Big Ten games.

20. With four touchdowns on 11 carries against Texas, Oklahoma backup quarterback Blake Bell has 20 rushing touchdowns on 72 career carries. That gives “The Belldozer” a touchdown every 3.6 plays. By comparison, Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas averages a touchdown every eight plays. Granted, Thomas’s touches aren’t confined to goal line.

2.Through the midway point of the season, only two teams have not allowed an opponent to rush for 100 yards in a game. One is Alabama, which held Missouri to three rushing yards in a 42-10 win Saturday. The other is Rutgers, which limited Syracuse to 62 yards in a 23-15 win. Not surprisingly, both are 6-0.

 

SCORES THAT MAKE YOU GO ‘HUH?’
Oklahoma State 20, Kansas 14
Ohio State 52, Indiana 49
Texas State 38, Idaho 7
THREE SURPRISING 5-1 TEAMS
Arizona State
Kent State
Western Kentucky
THREE SURPRISING TEAMS UNDEFEATED IN CONFERENCE
Iowa (2-0 Big Ten)
Maryland (2-0 ACC)
Temple (2-0 Big East)

BURIED ON THE DEPTH CHART
Giovani Bernard’s hot streak. North Carolina can’t play in a bowl, but running back Giovani Bernard is a worthy candidate for postseason awards. Bernard rushed for 177 yards in an 18-14 win over Miami to give him 439 rushing yards the last two weeks against Virginia Tech and the Hurricanes. North Carolina is 5-0 when he plays and 0-2 when he doesn’t.

No panic at TCU. A week after TCU lost 37-23 to Iowa State days after quarterback Casey Pachall left the team, the Horned Frogs regrouped against Baylor. Redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin was stellar in his second start, finishing 22 of 30 for 261 yards with four touchdowns to go with 56 rushing yards and a score against a struggling Baylor defense. More impressive was an offense that forced six turnovers (four interceptions from four players and two recovered fumbles).

Tulane ends losing streak. The Green Wave ended the nation’s longest losing streak with a 27-26 win over SMU, snapping a 15-loss skid. With Army, Idaho and Memphis all ending eight-game losing streaks last week, the nation’s longest winless streak now belongs to Eastern Michigan. The Eagles put up a fight Saturday, but lost 52-47 to Toledo to extend their losing streak to eight games.

THREE KEY WEST COAST DEVELOPMENTS
USC’s pass game falls flat.
Matt Barkley and his receivers may still be the strength for the Trojans, but they haven’t been overwhelming since this first two weeks of the season. Against Washington, Barkley was 10 of 20 for 167 yards, the third time USC has passed for fewer than 200 yards this year. Silas Redd, who wasn’t even a part of the team until weeks before the season, carried the offense with 155 yards and a touchdown. Not to be ignored: The USC defense recovered four turnovers and the special teams blocked a punt in a 24-14 win over the Huskies.

Oregon State survives without Sean Mannion. Oregon State scored more touchdowns against BYU (five) than the Cougars had allowed all season (four). And the Beavers did it with a backup quarterback making his first start. Cody Vaz was 20 of 32 for 332 yards with three touchdowns in a 42-24 win over BYU, proving he can win on the road just as well as injured starter Sean Mannion.

Boise State gets stronger each week.The Broncos are out of the spotlight thanks to a rebuilding season, but they still manage to impress. Boise State dominated both sides of the run game against a solid Fresno State team. Boise State’s D.J. Harper and and Jay Ajayi combined for 213 rushing yards while the defense held the Bulldogs to 56 yards. Meanwhile, Boise State shut out its opponent in the first half for the fourth consecutive game.

THREE BREAKOUT PERFORMANCES
Jeremy Hill, LSU.
Just what LSU was lacking: Another quality running back. That’s sarcasm, but where had Hill been this season? The freshman had three carries in the last three games, but emerged for 124 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries against South Carolina.

Bo Wallace, Ole Miss. Four touchdowns in an SEC game have been tough to find for the Rebels over their 16-game conference losing skid. Wallace delivered one in style. The Ole Miss quarterback accounted for two touchdown runs, a touchdown pass and a touchdown catch in a 41-20 win over Auburn. It was Ole Miss’ first win over an SEC opponent since Sept. 25, 2010 against Kentucky.

J.C. Coleman, Virginia Tech. Have the Hokies finally found the answer to their stagnant run game? Coleman entered the game against Duke with 136 yards this season but responded with 183 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Duke. Virginia Tech had rushed for 136 yards a touchdown as a team in its two ACC games this season before Coleman’s breakout. The rookie from Chesapeake, Va., had touchdown runs of 45 and 86 yards against Duke.

DANG, THEY’RE GOOD
Alabama
Florida
Oklahoma
DANG THEY’RE BAD
Boston College
Kentucky
Texas
BEST GAMES NEXT WEEK
South Carolina at Florida
LSU at Texas A&M
Kansas State at West Virginia

THREE COMEBACKS
Virginia Tech 41, Duke 20.
For nearly a quarter, Duke looked prepared to make December plans not involving Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils jumped to a 20-0 lead on Virginia Tech in a dominating effort on both sides of the ball, including a interception returned for a touchdown off Logan Thomas. Duke’s long wait for a bowl eligibility will have to wait another week as the Hokies scored 41 unanswered points.

Temple 17, Connecticut 14 (OT). With its limitations in the passing game and an injured Matt Brown, Temple isn’t really built to stage a major comeback -- unless it has help. Connecticut obliged. The Huskies jumped to a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but an inept offense and four missed field goals allowed Temple to crawl back -- and crawl the Owls did. Temple didn’t tie the game until the final 19 seconds and then clinched the 17-14 win with a field goal in overtime.

Nevada 42, UNLV 37. Without starting quarterback Cody Fajardo, Mountain West contender Nevada fell behind 31-14 at halftime to lowly UNLV. Nevada regrouped in the second half with both Stefphon Jefferson and backup quarterback Devin Combs topping 100 rushing yards.

By David Fox

@DavidFox615

Teaser:
<p> College Football Week 7 Recap: Notre Dame stops Stanford, Aggies' Manziel shines</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 11:09
Path: /nfl/green-bay-packers-vs-houston-texans-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Two preseason favorites with drastically different 2012 results will meet on Sunday Night Football when the Houston Texans host the Green Bay Packers at 8:20 pm EST on NBC. The Texans are off to a perfect 5-0 start, besting their opponents by a combined 76 points on the season. Meanwhile, the Packers have languished through two excruciating losses in the last three weeks. A terrible call in Seattle and a blown 21-3 halftime lead in Indianapolis have Green Bay standing at 2-3 and in desperate need of a victory.

When the Houston Texans have the ball:
The Texans offense is tied for third in the NFL in scoring at 29.8 points per game, and they of course are led by Pro Bowl runner Arian Foster. The league’s second-leading rusher has 532 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, and he can be a threat in the passing game as well. Quarterback Matt Schaub has been excellent in spreading the ball around this season, as five Texans have already reached double-digits in receptions. Tight end Owen Daniels and veteran receiver Andre Johnson have been the top pass-catching targets, while fullback James Casey has been a solid dual-threat player with quality blocking and 16 catches on the year.

The Packers defense has been inconsistent against the run this season, and that cannot be the case versus Foster and the Texans. Another concern for Green Bay is the likely absence of defensive tackle B.J. Raji, who is listed as questionable with an ankle injury. If the Packers can limit the Houston run game, then they will have an opportunity to add to their NFL-leading sack total (T-1st with 18) against Schaub. Houston will definitely focus on Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews, who tops the entire league with eight sacks (0.5 ahead of Watt).

When the Green Bay Packers have the ball:
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense have not been able to find the same rhythm as last season, and the reigning MVP will be without several key weapons on Sunday night. Star wide receiver Greg Jennings is still out, and running back Cedric Benson was lost for the year with a foot injury suffered in the Colts loss. Additionally, tight ends Jermichael Finley (shoulder) and D.J. Williams (hamstring) are listed as questionable against Houston. The Green Bay offensive line must play well versus the formidable Texans pass rush, as Rodgers has been sacked 21 times in five games.

The Texans defense has been very stingy this season, ranking No. 3 in the NFL after five weeks. However, Houston suffered a huge blow last Monday night against the Jets when top linebacker Brian Cushing tore a knee ligament on a low block. Without their top tackler, the Texans will need to rally around replacement Tim Dobbins to continue their current momentum. Houston has found a star in second-year end J.J. Watt, who has seven and a half sacks and eight pass deflections on the season.

Key Factor:
The Packers defense must improve on its recent play to stay in this game, as Green Bay has allowed 57 points and over 900 yards in its last two contests. The undefeated Texans will be tough to beat at home in front of an electric crowd, as Houston has proven to be solid on all phases of the game this season. Look for the Packers to play inspired ball as they try to get back to .500, but for the better team to win a close one.

Prediction:
Texans 27 Packers 24


---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

Teaser:
<p> Green Bay Packers vs. Houston Texans Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-6-jerome-simpson-alex-smith-aaron-hernandez
Body:

The injuries are piling up, the bye weeks are in full effect and there are some names in the fantasy world you did not think you would have to rely on so early. Such is life as a fantasy owner as we reach Week 6 of the 2012 NFL season. 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.

 

Alex Smith, injury updateAlex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers vs. New York Giants
Alex Smith (finger on his throwing hand) is coming off of a 303-yard, three-touchdown game against visiting Buffalo and now gets another New York team at Candlestick. The Giants are ranked 22nd in defending fantasy quarterbacks, having allowed all starters to throw for at least 241 yards and all but Cam Newton to throw for at least one touchdown. Smith's three-TD game last week was his third multi-TD game of the season and he has just one interception. San Francisco is a running team and the Giants are 16th against fantasy running backs. Bye weeks for others, home game for Smith, friendly pass defense means he's worth a shot if you're looking.

 

Jerome Simpson, WR, Minnesota Vikings vs. Washington Redskins
A back injury has Jerome Simpson's status in the air for a late game at Washington today; he is listed as questionable. While the Redskins are the worst in the league at defending fantasy receivers, you just cannot take the risk with an iffy receiver in a late game that has done little since the return from his suspension. Simpson has four catches for 50 yards and is a waiver-wire prospect until further notice.

 

Aaron Hernandez, injury updateAaron Hernandez, TE, New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks

It appears Aaron Hernandez (ankle) is ready to make his return this week after being close last week. Seattle is the fourth-best team against fantasy tight ends, but we are talking Todd Heap, Jermichael Finley, Lance Kendricks and Greg Olsen to go along with a drop-happy Jason Witten in Week 2.Of course, you are starting a healthy Hernandez over any of the aforementioned, but therein lies the problem: How healthy is he? The Boston Globe is reporting that while Hernandez made the trip to Seattle and is expected to play it will likely be in a limited stint. The tight end field is deep and there is no need to take a chance on Hernandez against this defense in a late-afternoon game. Consider this one a scouting game; see how Hernandez does and hope for an increased role against the Jets in Week 7.

—   Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Which NFL player is healthy enough to start for your fantasy football team</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 07:55
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-6-brandon-pettigrew-ben-tate-brian-hartline
Body:

Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Detroit LionsThe injuries are piling up, the bye weeks are in full effect and there are some names in the fantasy world you did not think you would have to rely on so early. Such is life as a fantasy owner as we reach Week 6 of the 2012 NFL season. 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.

Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Detroit Lions vs. Philadelphia Eagles
A knee injury limited Brandon Pettigrew in practice this week but he is listed as probable and should start today against Philadelphia. But should you start him against the Eagles and their fifth-best defense against fantasy tight ends? Only Dennis Pitta has had over four catches and only Pitta has had over 41 yards against Philly this season. Pettigrew has eclipsed four and 41 in three of four games this season, in fact he's had at least five and 61 in those three games. But will he have to stay on the line to try and fend off that Eagles pass rush or can he roam free and help move the Lions down the field? He's worth a shot on a team that has attempted at least 32 passes every game and at least 42 in three of four games. Do keep in mind that Bear Pascoe has the only TD scored against the Eagles at the position this season.

 

Ben Tate, RB, Houston TexansBen Tate, RB, Houston Texans vs. Green Bay Packers (Sunday night)
The toe injury that kept Ben Tate out of the Monday night game against the Jets has him as probable on the injury report for this week's Sunday night game. The Houston Chronicle reports that Tate will play, but does he resume his more-than-a-handcuff role behind Arian Foster? The Chronicle goes on to say the team is hopeful he can get 10-12 touches. In the six games last season where Tate got 9-15 touches, he averaged 76.2 yards with two touchdowns. Sounds like Tate could be right back in his flex wheelhouse.

 

Brian Hartline, WR, Miami Dolphins vs. St. Louis Rams
Miami is still the 25th ranked team when it comes to wide receiver production and that is because the Dolphins don't score touchdowns at the position. Hartline has the lone score and that was as a part of his 12-253-1 day. He has never dipped below 50 yards receiving this season and he has the 253 and a 111-yard day. But you have to wonder if he is not going to settle in as a 4-59 guy like he was against a more than gracious fantasy WR defense like Cincinnati last week. Now Hartline gets a Rams team that allowed Larry Fitzgerald to go 8-for-92 on 15 targets last week - the most any receiver has been targeted against St. Louis this season. Outside of his 92-yard, no-TD day, the Rams have allowed four receivers to eclipse a 4-59 day (Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Leonard Hankerson and Brandon Marshall). It is Hankerson who has the lone wide receiver TD against St. Louis this season. Look elsewhere for a receiver this week as there is nothing to say Hartline can get loose against the Rams.

—   Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Which NFL player is healthy enough to start for your fantasy football team</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 07:45
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-6-adrian-peterson-hakeem-nicks-titus-young
Body:

The injuries are piling up, the bye weeks are in full effect and there are some names in the fantasy world you did not think you would have to rely on so early. Such is life as a fantasy owner as we reach Week 6 of the 2012 NFL season. 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.

Adrian PetersonAdrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings vs. Washington Redskins
Whether he is in the clear after the knee surgery is not known, but five double-digit fantasy efforts is good enough for me. He is dealing with an ankle injury this week but was a full participant in practice on Thursday and Friday. Now he gets a Redskins team that is ranked 10th against fantasy running backs, mostly because they are ranked last against fantasy receivers and 30th against quarterbacks. Only three backs have had double-digit carries against Washington and two of them have had double-digit fantasy days. If Peterson is playing he is in your lineup.

 

Titus Young, WR, Detroit Lions vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Titus Young (knee) was limited in practice the last two days after missing Wednesday's practice. He is listed as probable and has a decent flex play matchup playing for a team that has attempted at least 42 passes in three of four games. The Eagles are ranked 14th against fantasy receivers, allowing No. 2 options to catch 21 balls for 347 yards (4.2 catches for 69 yards a game) to average 11.1 fantasy points in a PPR. Just because it's a relatively decent flex play doesn't mean Young should be in there. He has been stuck on three targets in three of the four games and caught one pass apiece in those games. His highlight of the year was the seven-target, six-catch, 75-yard, one-touchdown day against Tennessee - 46 yards and the score coming on a Hail Mary at the end of regulation.

 

Hakeem NicksHakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers
After missing the last three games (foot and knee), Hakeem Nicks made the trip to San Francisco and made it through two limited practices and Saturday's walkthrough. This one has all the makings of a one-play-and-injured again type of game. In addition to his durability is it being a late-afternoon start and the 49ers' fantasy defense against wide receivers. The team has allowed just one TD to receivers this season (Week 1). San Francisco faced Buffalo and the New York Jets the last two weeks - not a hot bed of reliable receivers - and played Minnesota, Detroit and Green Bay the first three weeks. Which group do you think had the better production? It was the first three, and that gives fantasy owners hopes against the 49ers. Percy Harvin had nine catches for 89 yards, Calvin Johnson had eight catches for 94 yards and the Packers' four-headed WR corps combined for 23 catches and 256 yards. It's a tough call with the health and the late start, but if you have Domenik Hixon or Ramses Barden, it might be worth the wait and plug in whoever goes.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Which NFL player is healthy enough to start for your fantasy football team</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 07:39
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-6-percy-harvin-martellus-bennett-malcom-floyd
Body:

The injuries are piling up, the bye weeks are in full effect and there are some names in the fantasy world you did not think you would have to rely on so early. Such is life as a fantasy owner as we reach Week 6 of the 2012 NFL season. 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.

Percy HarvinPercy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings vs. Washington Redskins
Percy Harvin joined the injury report on Thursday with a hamstring but was a full participant in Friday's practice. He is listed as probable and you certainly are not going to sit fantasy's No. 8 receiver. And you won't sit him with such an appetizing matchup as he has today against a Washington Redskins team that allows the most points to fantasy receivers. The 'Skins have surrendered eight touchdowns, 77 catches and 1,234 yards thus far; ten receivers have eclipsed at least 60 yards against Washington. Six of the 10 had double-digit target days and five of them have the highest scoring fantasy days. Now the Redskins face Harvin, again the No. 8 fantasy receiver, who has done his damage with just three double-digit target days so far.

 

Martellus Bennett, TE, New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers
A knee injury hampered Martellus Bennett's day against Cleveland last week. He stayed in the game after suffering the injury in the first quarter and finished with three grabs for 30 yards. That was certainly not the kind of day we wanted to see with Hakeem Nicks out himself. Bennett, after drawing 23 targets for 15 catches, 185 yards and three scores the first three weeks of the season, has just four catches for 32 yards on seven targets the last two weeks. The luster might have worn off a bit, but chances are he will return to fantasy relevance later this season as injuries pile up and knowing that Eli Manning has gone to reliable tight ends in the past in new York. I am not playing Bennett today at the 49ers. The tight end class is deep and there is someone else like a Jermaine Gresham, Jacob Tamme or Owen Daniels that has a better matchup.

 

Malcom Floyd, WR, San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos (Monday night)
A groin injury has Malcom Floyd as questionable on the injury report and he was limited at practice on Friday but returned in full on Saturday. It is a little concerning since he is Philip Rivers' only reliable receiver at this point in the season. When did you think you'd ever read that sentence about Maclom Floyd? It is interesting to note that Floyd has never been targeted more than nine times as the team's No. 1 receiver this season. He has caught 20 of his 34 targets (58.8 percent) for 358 yards and one TD so far. Robert Meachem, the free agent signing, has 19 targets for nine catches and 159 yards and two scores. Antonio Gates has 13 catches for 143 yards and no scores on 25 targets. Monday, Rivers and Floyd get a Broncos team ranked 19th against fantasy receivers with five touchdowns and six receivers having already eclipsed 60 yards. The matchup is there but is the consistency from Floyd going to follow. That would be a tough Monday for me, knowing I had to depend on Floyd to bring home the week for me.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Which NFL player is healthy enough to start for your fantasy football team</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 07:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-6-josh-gordon-dustin-keller-darrius-heyward-bey
Body:

The injuries are piling up, the bye weeks are in full effect and there are some names in the fantasy world you did not think you would have to rely on so early. Such is life as a fantasy owner as we reach Week 6 of the 2012 NFL season. 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.

 

Dustin KellerDustin Keller, TE, New York Jets vs. Indianapolis Colts
Dustin Keller (hamstring) has not played since Week 1 and has aggravated the injury already this season. He expects to play today and the Jets need him in the worse way. If Mark Sanchez is the starter and Keller is playing it's a decent combo. Keller was targeted 115 times last season for 65 catches, 815 yards and five TDs in 16 games. To put it in perspective, conflict between the two or not, No. 1 receiver Santonio Holmes was targeted 101 times in 16 games. The Colts have only allowed 11 catches for 97 yards and one TD to tight ends. You are likely not playing Keller but don't be surprised if he makes some noise in his expected return.

 

Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals
I told you to take a flier on Josh Gordon here last week and he came through with two touchdowns and 82 yards on just two catches from eight targets. The receiving injuries are about the same this week, and now add Jordan Norwood (foot) to the list. Gordon is about all Brandon Weeden has left outside of Greg Little; so Gordon is all Weeden has left. So take that flier again. In Week 2 against these Bengals, Little and Mohamed Massaquoi combined for 10 catches, 147 yards and a score on 14 targets - and that was with Trent Richardson getting 19 carries for 109 yards and a TD on the ground and 4-36-1 through the air. Since the Week 2 game, the Bengals have allowed five receivers to eclipse 60 yards, seven receivers to have at least five catches and have allowed six passing touchdowns. A matchup is a matchup is a matchup.

 

Darrius Heyward-BeyDarrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Oakland Raiders vs. Atlanta Falcons
Last time we saw DHB, he was being laid out in the end zone against Pittsburgh. A bye week and a return to practice later, and Heyward-Bey is listed as probable and slated to be back in the lineup this afternoon against the Falcons. Atlanta has allowed just three touchdowns to receivers this season and Santana Moss' two-catch, 80-yard, one-TD performance was the first time a receiver has had over 60 since Demaryius Thomas in Week 2. Coming off a concussion, the way the Falcons' defense is playing (258 yards allowed to Matt Cassel in Week 1 is a season high) and Oakland being on the road makes for a scary proposition.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
<p> Which NFL player is healthy enough to start for your fantasy football team</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 07:30

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