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Rutgers’ road win over a team that lost in overtime to Louisiana-Monroe and 52-0 to Alabama saved the Big East further embarrassment in Week 4.

Only a week after the Big East went 3-0 against ACC schools, the Big East flopped Saturday with two losses on the road against MAC teams and two losses against vulnerable Big East teams on the road. Even league favorite Louisville struggled at times on the road at Florida International.

Thanks to Rutgers’ win over Arkansas, the week wasn’t a total loss for the Big East.

Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville --
Bridgewater had his worst game of the season despite playing in familiar territory in his hometown of Miami. The sophomore entered the game against Florida International completing 72-of-88 passes, but he was 19 of 36 against FIU. He also threw his first two interceptions of he season.

2. Gary Nova, Rutgers -- In a development that would have been unthinkable back in August, Nova outplayed Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson in Fayetteville. A week after a sound performance against USF in Tampa, Nova broke out by going 25 of 35 for 397 yards with five touchdowns against Arkansas.

3. Jawan Jamison, Rutgers -- The Scarlet Knights’ offense isn’t one dimensional. Jamison topped 100 yards for the fourth time this season, rushing for 118 yards on 33 carries against Arkansas. Rutgers may be watching his workload, though, as the sophomore has 74 carries the last two weeks.

Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Khaseem Greene, Rutgers --
The Scarlet Knights’ defense didn’t have its best game against Arkansas as Tyler Wilson passed for 419 yards, 303 of those to Cobi Hamilton. Greene, though, finished with seven tackles, two pass breakups and a quarterback pressure.

2. Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut -- With Western Michigan going to the air against UConn, Smallwood didn’t have the big-play numbers he’s had in other games this season, finishing with seven tackles. Yet Smallwood still leads the Big East in tackles and tackles for a loss.

3. Jason Hendricks, Pittsburgh -- After moving a few players the secondary, Pitt’s pass defense has become a strength in the past two games. Along with Jarred Holley, safety Jason Hendricks has helped lead the way with three interceptions in the last two weeks.

Coach of the Year Standings
1. Kyle Flood, Rutgers --
Rutgers looked shaky in the first two games of the season, but the Scarlet Knights appear to be capable of finally winning their first Big East title. The first-year coach leads the only team in the country with three wins on the road (Tulane, USF and Arkansas).
2. Butch Jones, Cincinnati -- Jones’ main task is navigating an odd stretch to start the season which has included two open dates, an early conference game, an FCS opponent and now a neutral site game against Virginia Tech.

3. Charlie Strong, Louisville -- The Cardinals’ last six quarters have to be of concern for Strong (right). North Carolina went on a 27-3 run against Louisville in the second half a week ago. The Louisville let a short-handed FIU hang around in a 28-21 win.

Big East Post-Week 4 Power Rankings

1. Louisville (4-0, 0-0)
Last week’s rank:
Week 4 result: Beat Florida International 28-21
Louisville’s offense sputtered at times, but the Cardinals avoided a second consecutive loss to FIU despite a curveball thrown to the coaching staff. All assistants from both teams coached from the sidelines when FIU’s staff found its headsets were inoperable (rules prohibit one team coaching from the press box if the other cannot). Teddy Bridgewater had his worst game of the season, but more troubling may be the play of the defense. FIU had 326 yards of offense despite playing without its top running back, Kendrick Rhodes, for the entire game and without starting quarterback Jake Medlock for part of the game. Louisville has four sacks and 12 tackles for a loss this season, Big East-lows in both categories.
This week: at Southern Miss

2. Rutgers (4-0, 1-0)
Last week’s rank:
Week 4 result: Beat Arkansas 35-26
Rutgers is 4-0 for the first time since 2006, when the Scarlet Knights started with nine consecutive wins and finished 11-2. Excluding Louisville wins over Kentucky, Rutgers notched the Big East’s first win in an SEC stadium since USF defeated Auburn on the road in 2007. After a couple of years of questions at quarterback and problems on the offensive line, Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova seems to be getting better by the week behind a line that has allowed two sacks all season.
This week: Off

3. Cincinnati (2-0, 1-0)
Last week’s rank:
Week 4 result: Off
Cincinnati will return from an open date to try to do what Pittsburgh did to Virginia Tech two weeks ago. The Bearcats have had two weeks to digest a dominating win over Pitt followed by a lackluster effort against Delaware State, where quarterback Munchie Legaux accounted for four turnovers (two interceptions, two fumbles).
This week: Virginia Tech (Landover, Md.)

4. USF (2-2, 0-1)
Last week’s rank: 3
Week 4 result: Lost to Ball State 31-27
The offense appeared to recover from its struggles against Rutgers a week ago with B.J. Daniels passing for 312 yards and three touchdowns on 19-of-30 attempts while rushing for 75. Daniels led scoring drives of 84 and 99 yards in the second half to narrow the deficit to a field goal. The defense, however, was a no-show. The Bulls were shutout in the “big play” department with no takeaways and no tackles for a loss. In the last two games, USF has allowed opponents to convert half of their third-down attempts (16 of 32 combined against Rutgers and Ball State). This is a team whose defense has been a calling card -- the Bulls were in the top four nationally in sacks and tackles for a loss just a year ago. DeDe Lattimore, Sam Barrington and Ryne Giddins are still at USF, but the results are not.
This week: Florida State

5. Pittsburgh (2-2, 0-1)
Last week’s rank:
Week 4 result: Beat Gardner-Webb 55-10
Has Pittsburgh overcome its dysfunction on both sides of the ball from the first two games of the season? It sure appears so over the last two weeks against Virginia Tech and Gardner-Webb. Pitt did what it couldn’t do against its last FCS opponent and built a big lead on Gardner-Webb by the end of the first half. Ray Graham rushed for a 78-yard touchdown in the first quarter and took most of the day off thereafter. And after completing 18 of 24 passes for 244 yards with three touchdowns and no turnovers, Tino Sunseri ranks 15th in the country in pass efficiency.
This week: Off

6. Connecticut (2-2, 0-0)
Last week’s rank:
Week 4 result: Lost to Western Michigan 30-24
Connecticut’s stifling run defense couldn’t help the Huskies against Western Michigan, who defeated UConn for the second season in a row. Western Michigan rushed for only 77 yards and 2.6 yards per carry, but Connecticut’s offense remained stuck in neutral. Chandler Whitmer passed for 333 yards, and Lyle McCombs had his first 100-yard game of the season. But Whitmer was sacked six times and turned the ball over three times (two interceptions one fumble). UConn is last in the Big East in turnover margin (minus-6), pass efficiency (119.8), yards per carry (2.9) and sacks allowed (10). The Huskies are also the only team in the league with more interceptions than touchdown passes.
This week: Buffalo

7. Syracuse (1-3, 0-0)
Last week’s rank:
Week 4 result: Lost to Minnesota 17-10
Through the first three weeks of the season, the line on Syracuse was that the Orange were not as bad as its record indicated thanks to hard-fought losses to Northwestern and USC. Maybe not. Syracuse was kept out of the end zone until the game’s final minute in a road trip to Minnesota. Quarterback Ryan Nassib struggled, passing for only 82 yards in the first half and turning the ball over three times (two interceptions, one fumble) in the game. The defense wasn’t much better as Minnesota backup quarterback Max Shortell passed for 231 yards. Turnovers continue to be a problem as Syracuse is minus-6 in turnover margin this season.
This week: Off

8. Temple (1-2, 0-0)
Last week’s rank:
Week 4 result: Lost to Penn State 24-13
Even with running backs Montel Harris and Matt Brown in the lineup, Temple was unable to move the ball against the Penn State defense thanks to the Owls’ non-functional passing game. Chris Coyer was 13 of 26 for 124 yards with a touchdown against Penn State, but it was clear the Nittany Lions didn’t spend much time worrying about Temple as a passing threat. The Owls have the fewest pass attempts and fewest completions in the Big East and average a Big-East-low 6.6 yards per attempt (every other team in the league averages at least 7.2). Harris and Brown combined for just 49 yards on 14 carries as Temple failed to score a touchdown until the final 1:33.
This week: Off

By David Fox


Related College Football Content

Three and Out: Week 4 Recap

ACC Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
Big 12 Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
Pac-12 Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 4 Power Rankings

<p> Big East Post-Week 4 Power Rankings</p>
Post date: Monday, September 24, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/big-ten-post-week-4-power-rankings

Big Ten fans have to be ecstatic that conference play is beginning this weekend. This has been a non-conference season from hell that can't end fast enough for most Midwestern college football fans. The league has two non-conference games left — Marshall at Purdue this weekend and Indiana at Navy on Oct. 20 — and its out of conference record includes a season sweep by Notre Dame (0-3), a 1-3 record against the archrival Pac-12 and three bad losses to the MAC. The Big Ten has a total of six wins over fellow AQ leagues, with Cal being the signature victory of a group that includes Temple, Vanderbilt, Boston College and Syracuse twice.

That said, 2012 has the makings of one the most dramatic Big Ten seasons in recent memory. Round robins in both divisions should be extremely competitive and virtually impossible to predict as conference play begins this weekend. 

Post-Week 4 Offensive Player of the Year Standings

1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State - Stop me when you've heard this before. Ohio State starts slow against inferior competition until the best player on the field takes over the game and leads OSU to victory? He rushed for 64 yards and two more scores to go with 143 yards passing and no turnovers. He has accounted for 14 total touchdowns, thrown only two interceptions and is No. 2 in the Big Ten in rushing.

2. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska - The Big Ten's most efficient passer (180.93 rating, 9 TD, 1 INT) led his team to 73 points this weekend on 9-of-13 passing for 165 yards and two scores. Nebraska boasts the league's No. 1 scoring offense, No. 1 total offense and No. 1 rushing offense.

3. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State - The formula seems to be pretty clear. Give the ball to Bell as much as possible and Michigan State wins. He posted a career-high 253 yards on 36 attempts (No. 2 in his career) and his fifth score of the season in the win over Eastern Michigan. 

Post-Week 4 Defensive Player of the Year Standings

1. Mike Mauti, LB, Penn State - He didn't play like an elite talent in the first two games and PSU lost. But he has taken his game to a new level to get the Nittany Lions back to .500. He posted nine solo tackles and a forced fumble in the win over Temple and now is No. 2 in the league in tackles.  

2. Kawann Short, DL, Purdue - By process of elimination, Short is No. 2 without playing a game last weekend. He is still No. 2 in the league in sacks on what has been a solid Boilermakers front line. 

3. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame - Yes, Will Compton, D.L. Wilhite, Ryan Shazier, Mike Taylor or Max Bullough could be listed here. But Big Ten fans need to bow to the most influential defensive player in the Big Ten thus far. Te'o posted 30 tackles, two interceptions, a fumble recovery, 2.0 tackles for loss, two passes defended and led his Irish defense to low-scoring wins over Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue, in what could be the best three-game stretch of his decorated career.


Post-Week 4 Coach of the Year Standings

1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State - Meyer has the best resume of the Big Ten unbeatens. He has the best player in the league and a chance to prove it all this weekend.

2. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern - Can you really blame Coach Fitz for playing at least one cupcake? There is no such thing as a bad 4-0 record in Evanston. Ill.

3. Bo Pelini, Nebraska - Nebraska is leading the league in scoring, rushing and total offense. They are leading the league sacks, tackles for loss and kickoff returns. This might be the best bowl-eligible team in the league.


Post-Week 4 Power Rankings

1. Ohio State (4-0)
Previous rank: 1
Week 4 result: Beat UAB 29-15

UAB had more total yards, more first downs, was better on third downs and controlled the time of possession but lost the only stat that matters. Ohio State continues to show its warts, especially in the first quarter, as it took until the 6:31 mark of the second period to put points on the board. And then the story gets awfully familiar. Braxton Miller led Ohio State on a 21-3 scoring run in the second half to pull away and keep their perfect record intact. He has willed his team to victory with clutch throws and tough runs on more than one occasion this fall. But can he do the same thing against much more physical Big Ten defenses?
This week: at Michigan State (3-1)

2. Michigan State (3-1)
Previous rank: 3
Week 4 result: Beat Eastern Michigan 23-7
The first weekend of Big Ten play will feature the top two teams in the Athlon Sports' Big Ten power rankings when Ohio State and College Gameday visit East Lansing on Saturday. Like the Bucks, Michigan State has to iron out some kinks. The offense is entirely too one-dimensional as Bell accounted for 253 of the 428 total yards of offense against Eastern Michigan. Quarterback play is still a big question mark, and Andrew Maxwell will be forced to beat the good teams in conference play as defenses stack the box against Bell. Otherwise, Sparty's defense should keep them in every game, as Mark Dantonio's unit leads the league in rushing defense, scoring defense and total defense.  
This week: Ohio State (4-0) 

3. Michigan (2-2)
Previous rank: 2
Week 4 result: Lost to Notre Dame 13-6
The Notre Dame defense is as good advertised. Just ask Denard Robinson. The star quarterback turned the ball over five times in what was arguably his worst game as a starting quarterback at Michigan. He couldn't get his team into the end zone and totaled just 228 total yards of offense in the loss. So does the bye week come at exactly the right time or precisely the wrong time? Does Robinson and Michigan need to get back onto the field to remove the horrible memory of this loss, or will the extra time help this team prepare for a grueling Big Ten slate that begins with a road trip to Purdue? Only time will tell.
This week: Open Date

4. Nebraska (3-1)
Previous rank: 4
Week 4 result: Beat Idaho State 73-7
Welcome back, Rex Burkhead (119 yards and two TDs). And Bo Pelini too for that matter. Certainly, it was a perfect storm for the poor Bengals of Idaho State and little was learned about the Cornhuskers in the lopsided victory. Taylor Martinez continues to blossom into one of the most efficient and dynamic passers in the country. The running game looks downright nasty with No. 22 atop a depth chart that also includes names like Abdullah, Heard and Cross. And the defense, while allowing yards, is starting to get its mojo back by leading the league in sacks and tackles for loss through four weeks. This team's big picture success has always been tied directly to Martinez' ability to play consistent football through the air. If he finishes the year as the Big Ten's top passer, odds are Nebraska is playing in Indianapolis.
This week: Wisconsin (3-1)

5. Northwestern (4-0)
Previous rank: 5
Week 4 result: Beat South Dakota 38-7 
Much like Nebraska, not much was learned about Northwestern in its win this weekend. The Wildcats breezed to an easy victory without turning the ball over, holding South Dakota to 240 total yards and putting the game out of question early on (28-0 at halftime). Perhaps the most important lesson to be gleaned from the one-sided win is the emergence of tailback Venric Mark. He scored his three touchdowns and 97 of 117 yards came in first half, giving Pat Fitzgerald what could be his first traditional running threat since Tyrell Sutton. A 5-0 start is likely for the purple Cats of Chicago.
This week: Indiana (2-1)

6. Purdue (2-1)
Previous rank: 6
Week 4 result: Off
After a bye in Week 4, the Boilers will play one of two remaining Big Ten non-conference games against Marshall this weekend. Additionally, for what it is worth, Purdue played Notre Dame the toughest of the three Big Ten teams. 
This week: Marshall (2-2)

7. Wisconsin (3-1)
Previous rank: 7
Week 4 result: Beat UTEP 37-26
The Badgers offense looked much different this week, as it welcomed new starting quarterback Joel Stave and star wide receiver Jared Abbrederis to the starting lineup. Abbrederis was out last week, while Stave was making his first career start as a redshirt freshman former walk-on. And did it make a difference. After 207 total yards in the loss to Oregon State and 234 in the nail-bitter over Utah State, Wisconsin posted a season-high 423 yards of offense and a season-high 213 yards rushing. Most of which came without star tailback Montee Ball. While Stave played consistent football and Abbrederis immediately stretched the field, Ball was lost near the end of the second quarter with a head injury. Melvin Gordon and James White, however, filled in admirably by carrying 23 times for 177 yards and three touchdowns. This team is a far cry from last year's championship squad, but if the offense stabilizes, UW will push for a division crown, albeit by default.
This week: at Nebraska (3-1)

8. Minnesota (4-0)
Previous rank: 11
Week 4 result: Beat Syracuse 17-10
Fans of Minnesota who are clamoring for respect are getting closer and closer to getting it. A great defensive effort and newly discovered running game helped the Golden Gophers defeat what is clearly their toughest opponent to date. D.L. Wilhite and Ra'Shede Hageman applied pressure all night long to an offense that had been scoring over 32 points per game with the nation's No. 3-rated passing offense. On offense, Max Shortell was adequate in place of the injured MarQueis Gray, but Donnell Kirkwood was the workhorse, carrying 28 times for 99 yards and accounting for both Minnesota touchdowns. This was the first real test for Minnesota and it looks as though it will be nearly impossible to keep Goldy out of the postseason.
This week: at Iowa (2-2)

9. Illinois (2-2)
Previous rank: 8
Week 4 result: Lost to Louisiana Tech 52-24
This wasn't how Illinois wanted to welcome quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase back to the starting lineup. In fact, this loss not only epitomizes the Big Ten's poor showing out of conference this fall, but encapsulates Scheelhaase's career as well. He got his team out to a 7-0 lead with a scoring strike. But then the offense stalled, due in part to turnovers from Scheelhaase, and he left the game for good. The Bulldogs then went on to score three first quarter touchdowns and finished the game on a 52-17 run. The Illini turned the ball over six times and now lead the Big Ten in that category with 11 turnovers lost. A loss to a defending conference champion who averages 56 points per game wouldn't have been the end of the world. But getting destroyed at home in this fashion is completely unacceptable.

This week: Penn State (2-2)

10. Penn State (2-2)
Previous rank: 10
Week 4 result: Beat Temple 24-13
The Nittany Lions began the year with two brutal, heart-breaking losses to Ohio and Virginia. But this team, and quarterback Matt McGloin in particular, have shown obvious improvement under the leadership of Bill O'Brien. The junior under center has looked like an actual college quarterback, throwing for a career high 318 yards and accounting for all three PSU touchdowns in one of the league's five wins over an AQ school. This offense lacks playmakers but if the signal caller can rally the troops, this defense should be good enough to keep the Lions in most games. Don't sleep on Penn State University.

This week: at Illinois (2-2)

11. Iowa (2-2)
Previous rank: 9
Week 4 result: Lost to Central Michigan 32-31
James Vandenberg connected with Kevonte Martin-Manley just 2:28 seconds into the game for the Hawkeyes first touchdown pass of 2012. For the next 57 minutes, however, Kinnick Stadium sat and watched its team choke away another win. Onside kicks, personal foul penalties, failed third downs and the play of Central Michigan gave the Big Ten one of its worst losses of the year. The crazy ending — nine CMU points in the final 45 seconds — overshadowed what should be one of the better stories in the league this year: walk-on Mark Weisman's 217 yards and fourth, fifth and sixth rushing touchdowns in two weeks. Kirk Ferentz needs to start winning games immediately.
This week: Minnesota (4-0)

12. Indiana (2-1)
Previous rank: 12
Week 4 result: Off
One has to wonder if two weeks to think about that loss to Ball State is good or bad for Kevin Wilson's bunch. 
This week: at Northwestern (4-0)

by Braden Gall


Related College Football Content

Three and Out: Week 4 Recap

ACC Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
Big East Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
Big 12 Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
Pac-12 East Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 4 Power Rankings 

<p> Big Ten Post-Week 4 Power Rankings</p>
Post date: Monday, September 24, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-post-week-4-power-rankings

Oregon and USC used stellar defensive performances to get key home conference wins. Oregon State and Mike Riley shocked the country once again with an upset win over a ranked opponent — this time on the road — as the Beavers have added their name to the crowded North Division race. The Colorado Buffaloes got what could be its first and only win of the 2012 season in stunning fashion. But the most startling performance of the weekend has to go to Todd Graham and the Arizona State Sun Devils. The one-sided win over Utah was the most impressive showing by any one team this weekend, as the South Division race continues to get more interesting by the day.

Post-Week 4 Offensive Player of the Year Standings

1. De'Anthony Thomas, AP, Oregon - Thomas got a career-high 12 rushing attempts in the big win over Arizona, but it was a 38-yard punt return that kickstarted the Ducks offense in a then-close contest. He is first in the league in scoring, second in punt returns and seventh in rushing...for the best team in the league.

2. Marqise Lee, WR, USC - There are too many options in this league (and on this team) to list just three, but Lee is leading the league in all-purpose yards (197.0 ypg), receiving yards (391) and receptions (9.7 rec./game). He caught 11 passes for 94 yards and two more touchdowns in the win over Cal. 

3. Brett Hundley, UCLA - Taylor Kelly, Marcus Mariota, Stepfan Taylor, Matt Barkley and Sean Mannion could all be listed here. But Hundley gets the nod after starting his career with three 300-yard efforts in his first four games. He is six passing yards behind Matt Scott for the league lead and has accounted for 11 total touchdowns. He is the reason UCLA has quickly returned to relevance.

Post-Week 4 Defensive Player of the Year Standings

1. Michael Clay, LB, Oregon - There were a lot of deserving performances this weekend, but the heart and soul leader of the Ducks unit was the best. He posted 13 total tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble, as Oregon pitched a shutout against a team averaging 46 points per game.

2. Morgan Breslin, DL, USC - The Trojans got back on the winning track due in large part to a fantastic effort from the junior lineman. Breslin totaled six tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks as USC completely manhandled the Cal offense. Breslin is No. 2 in the Pac-12 with 5.0 sacks.

3. Scott Crichton, DL, Oregon State - The most-improved unit in the league might be the Oregon State defense. Against the league's No. 1 offense and the nation's leading rusher, the sophomore defensive lineman was the star. He had six tackles, 3.0 tackles for a loss and 2.0 sacks in the road win over UCLA.

Post-Week 4 Coach of the Year Standings

1. Chip Kelly, Oregon - The Ducks' defense decided it wanted in on the scoring fest that has been Oregon's 2012 season. A 49-0 whitewashing of Arizona is as impressive as any other win in the league this season. Yes, even Stanford's over USC.

2. David Shaw, Stanford - No one has ever lost to "BYE WEEK," so Shaw is still very much the top contender to Kelly for COY. His team will face another tough primetime test this weekend against Washington on the road on Thursday night.

3. Mike Riley, Oregon State - Jim Mora and Rich Rodriguez both experienced hard first losses of the season, with UCLA's coming at the hands of Coach Riley. The Oregon State coach won his school record-tying 74th game has two wins over ranked opponents thus far in two games.

Post-Week 4 Power Rankings

1. Oregon (4-0)
Previous rank: 1
Week 4 result: Beat Arizona 49-0 
On a team known for its big-play, quick-strike offense, it was the underrated Ducks' defense that did the job in Eugene. Well, until the offense finally got rolling. Nick Aliotti's 3-4 scheme pitched Oregon's first conference shutout since 2003, as the Ducks won a key Pac-12 opener. They forced five turnovers, scoring two of their own touchdowns on interception returns in the fourth quarter. They continually stopped the vaunted Wildcats no-huddle attack in the redzone, holding Arizona's offense to nearly 300 yards fewer than its average. Marcus Mariota was solid under center, while tight end Colt Lyerla added a new power element to the ground game (7 att., 63 yards, TD). Alabama is the only team that has looked better through four weeks of action.
This week: at Washington State (2-2)

2. Stanford (3-0)
Previous rank: 2
Week 4 result: Bye Week
The Cardinal didn't play this week and will face a Washington team in primetime on Thursday night. Both teams should be well rested and well prepared for the short week.
This week: at Washington (2-1)

3. USC (3-1)
Previous rank: 3
Week 4 result: Beat Cal 27-9
It wasn't a vintage Matt Barkley performance (192 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT), but the Trojans got back on track in impressive fashion this week against Cal. USC ran the ball 40 times for 296 yards and the game's first touchdown as all-everything center Khaled Holmes returned to the lineup. Both Curtis McNeal and Silas Redd topped the century mark, and the defense did the rest, holding Cal to just 77 yards rushing on 36 attempts and just three field goals. The Trojans registered seven sacks, two interceptions and just 250 total yards of offense allowed. It was an all-around effort from the Men of Troy and it got Lane Kiffin's squad back on the Pac-12 championship tracks. Even it Barkley had his second-straight multi-interception performance.
This week: Open Date

4. Oregon State (2-0)
Previous rank: 8
Week 4 result: Beat UCLA 27-20
Mike Riley has opened the season with arguably the best tandem of wins in the nation, a home victory over ranked Wisconsin and a road upset over ranked UCLA. Sophomore quarterback Sean Mannion threw two long touchdowns and finished with 379 yards, while the Beavers defense was once again the story. The much-improved unit held the powerful Bruins' rushing attack to 72 yards on 28 attempts, limiting the nation's leading rusher - Johnathan Franklin - to 45 yards on 12 carries. Unblemished Oregon State and its suddenly stingy defense has another tough road test this weekend against Rich Rodriguez.
This week: at Arizona (3-1)

5. UCLA (3-1)
Previous rank: 4
Week 4 result: Lost Oregon State 27-20
Brett Hundley threw for a career-high 372 yards and rallied the Bruins to within one score of Oregon State, but the lack of a consistent running game cost UCLA its perfect record. Johnathan Franklin had been averaging 180.3 yards per game through three weeks but was completely shutdown by the revamped OSU defense. Hundley, who could be the best UCLA quarterback in over a decade, now has three straight 300-yard efforts in four career games, but will have to get his ground support back if Jim Mora expects to compete in the South. The same goes for a defense that entered the weekend as the Pac-12's No. 2 pass efficiency defense. It allowed the Beavers' Sean Mannion to throw for a career-high in yards to go with an 172.7 passer rating. UCLA isn't all the way back just yet.
This week: at Colorado (1-3) 

6. Arizona (3-1)
Previous rank: 5
Week 4 result: Lost to Oregon 49-0
Yes, the score was 13-0 Oregon with seven minutes to go in the third quarter. Yes, the Wildcat defense played solid against one of the nation's top offenses. But at the end of the day, a 49-0 loss is as demoralizing as it gets. Not many expected this type of blowout but if Arizona wants to be taken seriously nationally, it will have to do a better job in the redzone. Six times Matt Scott led his team into the scoring zone and each time his team came away without any points. Four turnovers, a blocked field goal and a turnover on downs sealed the Cats fate in Eugene. Much like UCLA, this team is vastly improved under the new coach. and much like the Bruins, it still has a long way to go.
This week: Oregon State (2-0)

7. Washington (2-1)
Previous rank: 6
Week 4 result:
Bye Week

See Stanford above.
This week: Stanford (3-0)

8. Arizona State (3-1)
Previous rank: 10
Week 4 result: Beat Utah 37-7
Taylor Kelly had a career day throwing for a personal best 326 yards and three touchdowns to go with no turnovers, as Arizona State made the biggest statement of the weekend out West. Kelly and his versatile backfield jumped to a 21-0 first quarter lead and led 31-7 before the defense shutdown the Utes in the second half. While Kelly's efficiency and a stout defense won the game, Todd Graham's ability to get the football into many different hands is worth noting. Cameron Marshall touched the ball 10 times and scored twice. Both quarterbacks ran the ball seven times each. Speedster dynamo DJ Foster led the team with 70 rushing yards. Marion Grice caught a touchdown pass. And even returner/receiver Jamal Miles was given a handful of carries. The depth and versatility of Graham's running game is what could be the difference between a bowl game and conference contention.
This week: at Cal (1-3)

9. California (1-3)
Previous rank: 9
Week 4 result: Lost USC 27-9
Quarterback Zach Maynard was running for his life all day long and Cal failed to reach the endzone because of it. The Golden Bears surrendered seven sacks, turned the ball over twice, converted only 3-of-14 third downs and totaled 250 yards of offense. The Bears also couldn't get stops on defense, allowing USC to use its power rushing attack to wear down the Cal front seven. Cal is now 87th nationally in total defense at 430.3 yards allowed per game. With the surging Sun Devils and UCLA next on the schedule, a 1-5 start for Jeff Tedford is very much a possibility. 
This week: Arizona State (3-1)

10. Utah (2-2)
Previous rank: 7
Week 4 result: Beat Lost to Arizona State 37-7
In a week with plenty of disappointing performances — Arizona's offense, UCLA's rushing attack, Washington State at home — the Utes' lackluster butt-kicking suffered at the hands of Arizona State has to be the most discouraging. A defense that was lights out against BYU watched Sun Devils' quarterback Taylor Kelly torch its secondary, while the offense was downright pathetic. Jon Hays threw for 117 yards while John White rushed 14 times for 18 yards. Utah's offense finished with only 10 first downs, went 4-of-14 on third downs and finished with a paltry 209 yards of total offense (117 passing, 92 rushing). This team was one win against Colorado away from playing for the Pac-12 title last year. Now, it appears destined for fifth in the South Division. The off week couldn't come at a better time.
This week: Open Date

11. Colorado (1-3)
Previous rank: 12
Week 4 result: Beat Washington State 35-34
Colorado won't finish the year winless after an improbable fourth quarter road rally in Pullman. The fans at Martin Stadium watched Jordan Webb lead the Buffaloes offense to three touchdowns in the final seven minutes of play to cap-off the unlikely victory for Jon Embree. Webb was the star of the day, completing 29-of-42 passes for 345 yards and four total touchdowns — the last of which was a game-winning four-yard dash into the endzone with nine seconds remaining on the clock. For a team that is 0-2 against the Mountain West and has lost to an FCS program, a road Pac-12 win cannot be overstated.
This week: at UCLA (3-1)

12. Washington State (2-2)
Previous rank: 11
Week 4 result: Lost to Colorado 35-34
There really is no excuse for the fourth-quarter performance Mike Leach's team put together this weekend. Connor Halliday threw for 401 yards and four touchdowns but that didn't mean anything when the game was on the line on Saturday. The Cougars defense couldn't get any stops late in the game and it led to one of the worst collapses of the year. Despite the success in the passing game and the 28-14 lead entering the final frame, Wazzu watched Jordan Webb and the Buffs go up and down the field to stun the crowd at Martin Stadium. Leach's team was outgained on the ground 186 to 50 and the lack of a consistent rushing attack will be a major issue for Washington State all season long.
This week: Oregon  (4-0)

by Braden Gall


Related College Football Content

Three and Out: Week 4 Recap

ACC Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
Big East Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 4 Power
Big 12 Post-Week 4 Power Rankings

Pac-12 Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 4 Power Rankings 

<p> Pac-12 Post-Week 4 Power Rankings</p>
Post date: Monday, September 24, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-post-week-4-power-rankings

Week 4 provided a few surprises in Big 12 play. Kansas State shocked Oklahoma in Norman, allowing the Wildcats to jump from No. 5 in Athlon's power rankings to No. 2. Kansas State is one of the least flashy teams in the nation but always finds a way to win. Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Texas and Iowa State had a bye week, while West Virginia knocked off Maryland and TCU beat Virginia. 

Post-Week 4 Big 12 Power Rankings

1. Texas (3-0, 0-0 Big 12)
Last Week:
Week 4 Result: Bye Week
It’s a close call between the Longhorns and Kansas State for the No. 1 spot in the Big 12. Texas gets the slight edge, but it’s really team 1A and 1B at this point.  The Longhorns had a bye in Week 4 and return to action this Saturday at Oklahoma State. The biggest question mark for Texas entering Big 12 play is quarterback David Ash. The sophomore has 703 yards and seven touchdowns through the first three weeks but a road game at Oklahoma State will be his biggest test. With Oklahoma suffering a loss to Kansas State, the race to win the Big 12 title is wide open.
Next Game: at Oklahoma State

2. Kansas State (4-0, 1-0 Big 12)
Last Week: 5
Week 4 Result: Beat Oklahoma 24-19
Just as we mentioned above, it’s essentially a 1A and 1B situation in Athlon’s Big 12 power rankings. The Wildcats scored one of Week 4’s most impressive victories, beating Oklahoma 24-19 in Norman. Quarterback Collin Klein carried the offense, throwing for 149 yards and adding 79 yards and one score on the ground. The defense limited the Sooners to 88 rushing yards and forced three turnovers. Kansas State isn’t the Big 12’s flashiest team but always finds a way to win. With upcoming games against Kansas and Iowa State, the Wildcats could be 6-0 before an Oct. 20 showdown against West Virginia.
Next Game: Kansas (Oct. 6)

3. West Virginia (3-0, 0-0 Big 12)
Last Week: 3
Week 4 Result: Beat Maryland 31-21
It wasn’t the blowout some expected, but the Mountaineers were never really in any danger of losing to the Terrapins. West Virginia jumped out to a 24-14 halftime lead and held on for a 31-21 victory. Quarterback Geno Smith completed 30 of 43 throws for 338 yards, with receiver Tavon Austin catching 13 passes for 179 yards and three touchdown tosses. The Mountaineers gave up 351 yards to Maryland’s offense but scored on a 51-yard fumble return in the first quarter. With a new scheme and a handful of new starters, West Virginia’s defense will be a work in progress through the first half of the season.
Next Game: Baylor

4. Oklahoma (2-1, 0-1 Big 12)
Last Week: 1
Week 4 Result: Lost 24-19 to Kansas State
After a sluggish performance against UTEP to open the season, most expected the Sooners would figure things out before Big 12 play arrived. Apparently not. Oklahoma dropped its first game of the year on Saturday, as Kansas State posted a 24-19 victory in Norman. Quarterback Landry Jones had a sluggish performance, completing 28 of 43 throws for 298 yards and one touchdown. The rushing attack was invisible, and the defense had no answer for Kansas State’s ground game. Oklahoma has another bye week this Saturday, which comes at a good time considering the performance against the Wildcats.
Next Game: at Texas Tech (Oct. 6)

5. TCU (3-0, 1-0 Big 12)
Last Week: 4
Week 4 Result: Beat Virginia 27-7
Three weeks, three impressive showings for the Horned Frogs. TCU held Virginia scoreless for 55 minutes, before the Cavaliers punched in a five-yard touchdown pass to end the shutout. Quarterback Casey Pachall threw for 305 yards and three touchdowns, while Matthew Tucker led the way with 52 yards on the ground. After three games, TCU leads the nation in scoring defense and ranks ninth in yards allowed.
Next Game: at SMU

6. Oklahoma State (2-1, 0-0 Big 12)
Last Week:
Week 4 Result: Bye Week
The Cowboys had a bye week in Week 4 and return to action against Texas this Saturday. The biggest question mark facing Oklahoma State against the Longhorns has to be who starts under center. Wes Lunt suffered a knee injury against Louisiana-Lafayette, and his status for Week 5 is uncertain. If Lunt can’t play, J.W. Walsh will get the nod. The Cowboys are looking for their third consecutive win over the Longhorns.
Next Game: Texas

7. Baylor (3-0, 0-0 Big 12)
Last Week:
Week 4 Result: Beat UL-Monroe 47-42
As expected, Baylor’s Friday night road test against ULM was no easy matchup. The Bears fell behind 21-7 but rallied to take a 24-21 halftime lead. Quarterback Nick Florence had an uneven start, before finding his rhythm and throwing for 351 yards and four touchdowns. The Bears got a nice boost on the ground from Glasco Martin, who rushed for 58 yards and one touchdown on 18 attempts. The defense allowed 560 yards but forced three turnovers and picked up two sacks. While Baylor has needed comebacks to beat Sam Houston State and ULM the last two weeks, the true test for this team will come in Big 12 play, starting this week at West Virginia.
Next Game: at West Virginia

8. Iowa State (3-0, 0-0 Big 12)
Last Week:
Week 4 Result: Bye Week
The Cyclones finished the non-conference portion of their schedule 3-0 and open Big 12 play this Saturday against Texas Tech. Iowa State’s defense has been rock solid so far, allowing just 280 yards per game. The offense has room to improve, especially in limiting turnovers. The Cyclones have won the last two matchups against the Red Raiders, including a 41-7 blowout victory in Lubbock last year.
Next Game: Texas Tech

9. Texas Tech (3-0, 0-0 Big 12)
Last Week: 9
Week 4 Result: Bye Week
The Red Raiders were off in Week 4 and open Big 12 play in Week 5 against Iowa State. Although it’s way too early to make any final assessments about Texas Tech’s defense, the early results have been positive. The Red Raiders are allowing just 160.3 yards per game and no opponent has managed more than 14 points through three games. Texas Tech’s schedule gets tougher the next few weeks, but the early results have been positive for the defense.
Next Game: at Iowa State

10. Kansas (1-2, 0-1 Big 12)
Last Week:
Week 4 Result: Lost to Northern Illinois 30-23
The Jayhawks held a 23-13 lead going into the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to beat Northern Illinois. The Huskies scored 17 points in the final period to give Kansas its third consecutive loss and a defeat in 12 out of its last 13 games. Running back James Sims returned from a three-game suspension to lead the Jayhawks with 89 yards and two touchdowns. However, quarterback Dayne Crist struggled (10 of 26), and the defense allowed Northern Illinois’ quarterback Jordan Lynch to record 370 total yards and two scores. Charlie Weis and his staff clearly has a lot of work to do, and the Jayhawks will struggle just to earn a win in Big 12 play.
Next Game: at Kansas State (Oct. 6)

Related College Football Content

ACC Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
Big East Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
Pac-12 Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 4 Power Rankings

<p> Big 12 Post-Week 4 Power Rankings</p>
Post date: Monday, September 24, 2012 - 05:58
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Legends Poll
Path: /college-football/legends-poll-top-25-college-football-week-4

Oregon and Florida State jumped over LSU in the Legends Poll rankings this week after the Tigers struggled to remain unbeaten at Auburn.

Second-ranked Oregon ran away from Arizona, 49-0, which landed the Ducks one spot behind No. 1 Alabama.

“Oregon is like some of those old wishbone teams back when we were all young that if you couldn’t stop them a little bit, you couldn’t stop them at all,” former USC head coach John Robinson said. “The thing that they have is they have a better defense and the quarterback… they’re all talking up there that the quarterback is better than anything they’ve ever had.”

No. 3 Florida State also moved up a spot in the Legends Poll, passing its first big test against Clemson Saturday night. After trailing by 10 points in the second half, quarterback EJ Manuel turned the tide and led Florida State to a 49-37 comeback victory.

LSU held on late, but stumbled against a struggling Auburn team, which caused LSU to fall two spots to No. 4 in the rankings.

Georgia rounded out the top 5 after dismantling Vanderbilt, 48-3.

No. 9 Notre Dame continued to roll against Michigan, dropping the Wolverines out of the rankings. Kansas State was the biggest mover of the week, moving up five spots and joining the Irish inside the top 10 after a making a bold statement at Oklahoma, defeating the Sooners 24-19.

Newcomers this week were No. 19 Mississippi State, No. 21 Oregon State and No. 23 Northwestern.

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


Rank Team Record Points PV RK  
1 Alabama (17) 4-0 425 1  
2 Oregon 4-0 393 3  
3 Florida State 4-0 385 4  
4 LSU 4-0 384 2  
5 Georgia 4-0 365 5  
6 West Virginia 3-0 323 7  
7 South Carolina 4-0 320 9  
8 Stanford 3-0 316 8  
9 Notre Dame 4-0 276 11  
10 Kansas State 4-0 267 15  
11 Texas 3-0 255 12  
12 Florida 4-0 231 14  
13 USC 3-1 204 13  
14 TCU 3-0 196 17  
15 Clemson 3-1 189 10  
16 Oklahoma 2-1 178 6  
17 Louisville 4-0 150 20  
18 Michigan State 3-1 121 22  
19 Mississippi State 4-0 112 -  
20 Nebraska 3-1 101 24  
21 Oregon State 2-0 87 -  
22 Boise State 2-1 54 23  
23 Northwestern 4-0 43 -  
24 UCLA 3-1 31 19  
25 Texas A&M 2-1 24 -  

* 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

<p> As voted on by 17 coaching legends</p>
Post date: Monday, September 24, 2012 - 05:45
All taxonomy terms: Missouri Tigers, SEC, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-countdown-no-16-missouri-countdown
Visit the online store for Missouri and other editions of the 2012-13 Athlon Sports College Basketball annual.

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

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

We continue our countdown with a preview of No. 16 Missouri.

After turning Missouri into the biggest surprise of the college basketball season — at least until its own shocking loss to No. 15 seed Norfolk State in the NCAA Tournament — coach Frank Haith and the Tigers are starting over.

Missouri bid farewell to five seniors, including All-American Marcus Denmon and all-conference selections Kim English and Ricardo Ratliffe, from last year’s team, which won 30 games while relying on a seven-man rotation. It also said good-bye this offseason to the Big 12 as it officially joined the SEC.

Guards Phil Pressey and Mike Dixon are the only Tigers who have logged minutes for Haith, so the team will have a distinctly different look as it wades into its new league. The Tigers regain the services of forward Laurence Bowers, who missed the ’11-12 season with a knee injury, and welcome in five recruits and four transfers. Missouri should be able to give opponents a lot of different looks, as well. That has Haith excited.
 “We can play big, we can play small,” he says. “Having a little bit of ability to adjust to who you’re playing against, I think that’s something we could not do (last) year.”

He’ll try to use it to his advantage as he attempts to keep the Tigers in the thick of the conference race and in line for a fifth straight NCAA Tournament berth.

Related: Q&A with Phil Pressey on becoming a better point guard, new faces at Mizzou

Few imagined Missouri would have as much success as it did playing without Bowers last season after he tore the ACL in his left knee in early October. When last healthy, he was the Tigers’ second-leading scorer (11.6 ppg) and top rebounder (6.1 rpg), a versatile forward with good shot-blocking skills, a dependable midrange jumper and a knack for making highlight plays around the rim. He’s been allowed to take his recovery slowly and is confident he can regain his old form.

Haith plans on having Bowers mentor freshmen big men Ryan Rosburg and Stefan Jankovic and junior college transfer Tony Criswell. With those four players, Haith already would have more options up front than a year ago when he was forced to start English out of position.

But the spring brought an unexpected gift in 6’9”, 255-pound transfer Alex Oriakhi, a three-year starter at Connecticut who averaged 9.6 points and 8.7 rebounds while anchoring the Huskies’ frontline during their national championship season in 2011.

“He’s a rim protector, and that’s something we needed,” Dixon says.

The ability of the 5’11” Pressey to break down the defense off the dribble and find the open man didn’t just benefit Ratliffe but the entire team last season when the Tigers averaged a Big 12-best 80.4 points. But they must replace two lethal wing scorers in Denmon and English, who combined to average 32.2 points while shooting 42.9 percent from 3-point range.

Earnest Dixon (13.5 ppg), the team’s sixth man last season, seems poised to step into the starting lineup and assume a bigger part of the scoring load. Ross, a 6’5” transfer from Auburn, could fill the other open spot on the perimeter. He led those Tigers in scoring (13.1 ppg) and rebounding (6.6 ppg) as a sophomore, though Missouri needs him to become a more consistent shooter. His size and strength will give Haith the versatility to use a four-guard lineup when he sees fit.

Keion Bell, an athletic combo guard who averaged 16.4 points over three seasons at Pepperdine, could occupy Dixon’s old role off the bench. Jabari Brown, a former 5-star recruit who appeared in two games at Oregon, should also add punch to the Tigers’ offense when he becomes eligible in December.

Missouri players believe they won’t just have more bodies this season but also more talent than they did a year ago. But to have a chance to meet or exceed last season’s accomplishments, they will also have to match the chemistry so integral to that success.

The additional options could make it harder for players to fit into defined roles, but if Haith can get them to play together, the Tigers should be a more well-rounded team. The tandem of Bowers and Oriakhi figures to make them better at protecting the rim, and their improved depth should help them extend their defense on the perimeter.

With Pressey, one of the nation’s top playmakers, directing the offense, Missouri should also generate enough points to contend in a league race led by reigning national champion Kentucky.


Athlon College Basketball Countdown So Far:
20. Florida

19. Notre Dame

18. Memphis
17. Baylor

<p> College Basketball Countdown: No. 16 Missouri Countdown</p>
Post date: Monday, September 24, 2012 - 05:13
Path: /golf/brandt-snedeker-wins-tour-championship-fedexcup

While you were watching football and checking your fantasy scores (and your bets), Brandt Snedeker was winning $11.44 million. So how did you do today?

Snedeker simultaneously earned the two biggest trophies of his career, taking the Tour Championship and $1.44 million and clinching the FedExCup with its accompanying $10 million payout. Snedeker continued his playoff putting clinic, missing exactly zero putts from inside eight feet during his 68-70-64-68 four-day performance at East Lake and heading to Medinah ready to anchor the U.S. team with his putter, the hottest flatstick in the game today.

On a day when many of the leaders were retreating like Lee from Gettysburg, Snedeker stood strong, firing a final-round 2-under 68, beating Justin Rose by three shots and placing his name in consideration for the title of Best Player Never to Win a Major. Sneds slayed several demons on a nearly flawless Sunday, winning for the first time when holding a 54-hole lead and overcoming a history of late meltdowns at majors. Most tellingly, he overcame an early double bogey at No. 6 that threatened to undo his round, hitting a clutch par putt at 7 and a brilliant birdie at 8.

Golf's best bromance, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, combined to shoot 6-over after entering the weekend among the five players who could clinch the Cup with a win. Late charges from Webb Simpson, Hunter Mahan and Luke Donald were too little, too late on a day that belonged to Brandt.

Final FedExCup Standings
1. Brandt Snedeker

2. Rory McIlroy

3. Tiger Woods

4. Nick Watney

5. Phil Mickelson

6. Justin Rose

7. Louis Oosthuizen

8. Dustin Johnson

9. Luke Donald

10. Lee Westwood

<br />
Post date: Sunday, September 23, 2012 - 17:52
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/nfl-quick-hits-titans-big-plays-save-season

The late Steve Sabol must have wanted to make his exit accompanied by a well-stocked highlight reel, because Week 3 produced enough fantastic finishes to fill an NFL Films documentary.

Let's start with the most amazing NFL game in my memory (and I'm pretty old): Tennessee's 44-41 overtime win over Detroit, which featured enough answered prayers to astound Mother Teresa.

With the season hanging in the balance, with the good ship Titan cruising toward an iceberg, the Titans picked the perfect time to unleash their arsenal of big plays. The only thing missing was the Stanford band as the Titans confounded the Lions with the most amazing onslaught of game-changers that we've seen in this young NFL season. The Titans scored their five touchdowns on plays of 65, 61, 105, 71 and 72 yards, in every way imaginable:

• A home run-throwback punt return, a la the Music City Miracle, with Tommie Campbell playing the role of Kevin Dyson.

• A 61-yard Jake Locker-to-Jared Cook scoring strike, with Cook doing an admirable Jerry Rice impression on his catch and run.

• Biggest of all, a 105-yard kickoff return by electric return man Darius Reynaud, when the Lions had climbed back to take a 27-20 lead.

• A 71-yard touchdown pass from Locker to Nate Washington, whose acrobatic grab is the early leader for catch of the season.

• Finally, an Alterraun Verner strip of Brandon Pettigrew and subsequent 72-yard return for a touchdown.

The Titans needed every one of those big plays, because the Lions countered with a game-tying Hail Mary from backup Shaun Hill to Titus Young on the final play of regulation that followed a successful onside kick. That's right — the Lions scored two touchdowns in the final 18 seconds of regulation, both of them thrown by Matthew Stafford's backup. Hill, who finished his limited work with a perfect 158.3 passer rating.

Undaunted, the Titans put together a field goal drive in OT to end a game that featured 85 points, 950 yards of offense and touchdowns via offense, defense, special teams and answered prayer. The Lions answered with a 70-yard drive of their own, but coach Jim Schwartz didn't trot out 90-year-old kicker Jason Hanson when the drive stalled, and Hill was stuffed by Jurrrell Casey on a fourth-down quarterback sneak at the Titans 10 to end the four-hour track meet.

Only an inept crew of scab refs prevents this game from going right into the time capsule. And to think — much of the crowd had left after Verner's TD, meaning that they missed the last 17 points of this instant classic.


• Two other games went to overtime — Jets-Dolphins and Chiefs-Saints. Kansas City stunned the reeling Saints in the Superdome, scoring the game's final 21 points on a 91-yard Jamaal Charles run, a safety and four Ryan Succop field goals, the last one a 31-yard game-winner. The Jets overcame some laughable quarterback play to beat the Dolphins 23-20. Neither starting quarterback — New York's Mark Sanchez or Miami's Ryan Tannehill — touched 50 percent completions.

The Vikings stunned the NFL's best team, drilling the 49ers 24-13 behind a nearly flawless performance from Christian Ponder, who threw for two TDs and scored another on a spectacular 23-yard scramble.

Greg Schiano tried to blow up another kneel-down, and once again, the ploy failed. But Schiano's continuing refusal to play by this unwritten rule is somehow refreshing.

The Bears and Rams went against type for the day, displaying offensive ineptitude and defensive dominance in a 23-6 Bears win. Jay Cutler and Sam Bradford combined for 0 TD passes and two interceptions.

• Andy Dalton outdueled Robert Griffin III as the Bengals beat the Redskins 38-31. Dalton threw for 328 yards and three scores.

Post date: Sunday, September 23, 2012 - 16:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-week-4-recap-florida-state-notre-dame-make-statements-0

Stop if you’re heard this: Florida State and Notre Dame are back.

Though they’ve fooled us before, the Seminoles and Fighting Irish sure looked like potential title contenders as they emerged as the big winners in a busy slate of primetime games Saturday.

Florida State overwhelmed Clemson on both sides of the ball (and got a huge kickoff return) in the final quarter and a half to walk away with a convincing 49-37 win. Meanwhile, Notre Dame did just enough on offense to defeat Michigan 13-6, but more importantly, the Irish conquered their Denard Robinson problem.

And while the college football world in recent years has been premature to hype Florida State and Notre Dame, its been slow to buy into Kansas State. The Wildcats erased doubts that last season’s 10-win effort was a fluke by defeating Oklahoma 24-19 in Norman, avenging a 41-point blowout from last season.



Florida State. The most convincing sign Florida State’s national title aspirations are for real came in the final 21 minutes or so against Clemson. The Tigers took a 10-point lead in the third quarter as the Tigers moved the ball at will, aided by two Florida State missed field goals. Instead of folding in an ACC game as has happened in the past, the Seminoles defense clamped down with four three-and-outs and an interception. Quarterback EJ Manuel masterfully led two touchdown drives to finish the day 27-of-35 for 380 yards with two touchdowns. Manuel also added 102 rushing yards to shatter a career high in total offense with 482 yards.

Notre Dame’s defense. Two Michigan teams. No touchdowns. A week after holding Michigan State to no offensive touchdowns, the Notre Dame defense did the same against Denard Robinson. The Michigan quarterback was nothing close the playmaker he had been the last two seasons against Notre Dame. Robinson threw four interceptions in the first half (running back Vincent Smith added a fifth pick in the first two quarters). Robinson accounted for only 228 yards of total offense -- just one more yard than he had against Alabama.

Connor Shaw, South Carolina. After missing the Sept. 8 game against East Carolina and leaving early last week against UAB, the Gamecocks quarterback proved all is well with his ailing throwing shoulder. Shaw missed his first pass and didn’t slip up after that, completing 20 consecutive attempts to finish the game. Shaw passed for 249 yards and two touchdowns, but Steve Spurrier figured out Marcus Lattimore should be the one getting the ball at the goal line. After Shaw failed to run the ball into the end zone on third and fourth down from the 1, Spurrier called Lattimore’s number in the next two plays from the goal line.

The Sooners have looked nothing like a national title contender in a too-close-for-comfort win over UTEP in the opener and then in a 24-19 loss to Kansas State at home. Now, Oklahoma should wonder if its even a Big 12 title contender. Turnovers at both goal lines doomed the Sooners in the loss, first on a Landry Jones fumble at his own 1-yard line then a Blake Bell fumble on the Wildcats’ goal line in the second quarter. After falling behind in the third quarter, Kansas State responded with two methodical drives in the second half to seal the win.

Arizona’s offense. Not that it was a total shock, but Arizona is not ready to contend in the Pac-12 in the first season under coach Rich Rodriguez. The same team that accounted for at least 500 yards in all three games this season and more than 600 yards in two of those, was shutout by Oregon in a 49-0 loss. Arizona kept it close with a 13-0 halftime score, but like so many Oregon games go, the Ducks overwhelmed the Wildcats in the second half. Arizona threw four interceptions, two returned for touchdowns, and the Wildcats rushed for only 89 yards on 32 carries. For Oregon, the four picks were an encouraging sign for a defense playing without star safety John Boyett.

Primetime overload. The drift of college football out of the afternoon and early evening hit critical mass with all of the week’s best games kicking off after 7 p.m. Eastern. All four games between ranked teams (Clemson-Florida State, Kansas State-Oklahoma, Michigan-Notre Dame and Arizona-Oregon) were in late time slots not to mention three more games involving ranked teams (LSU, Georgia, USC). The most nationally relevant games before primetime included Oregon State-UCLA and Missouri-South Carolina. Even ESPN College Game Day host Chris Fowler weighed in:

Collin Klein, Kansas State. The Wildcats quarterback turned in a vintage performance, completing 13 of 21 passes for 149 yards while rushing for 79 yards and a touchdown. One of the key plays was a 13-yard pass on third-and-11 late in the fourth quarter to prevent Oklahoma from getting the ball back. Running back John Hubert had his own moments with 23 carries for 130 yards and a touchdown.

Johnathan Franklin, UCLA. In playing only two games, Oregon State has derailed two running backs’ Heisman bids. After limiting Wisconsin’s Montee Ball to 61 yards on 15 carries, the Beavers held Franklin to 45 yards on 12 carries in a 27-20 win. The nation’s leading rusher through the first three weeks didn’t have a run longer than 13 yards, and that didn’t happen in the final minute of the third quarter.

Manti Te’o, Notre Dame. The top defensive player on a team that stifled Michigan State a week ago was even better against Michigan. Te’o, who didn’t have an interception in his career before this season, picked off two passes against Michigan and finished with eight tackles against the Wolverines. Te’o helped keep Michigan in check as the Wolverines averaged only 3.9 yards per carry.

Rex Burkhead returns. While other Big Ten teams were struggling with MAC programs, Nebraska made easy work of Idaho State. The most important development, though, was the return of running back Rex Burkhead, who missed the last two games with a sprained knee. Against Idaho State, Burkhead needed only eight carries to rush for 119 yards and two touchdowns.

Stefphon Jefferson, Nevada. The Wolf Pack running back scored seven touchdowns (six rushing, one receiving) in a 69-24 win over Hawaii to tie an FBS record for touchdowns against a major-college opponent. Jefferson’s seven touchdowns matched Ole Miss’ Arnold “Showboat” Boykin against Mississippi State in 1951, San Diego State’s Marshall Faulk against Pacific in 1991 and Oklahoma State’s Rashaun Woods against SMU in 2003.

Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs’ bid at being the top team outside of the BCS automatic-qualifying conferences got a major boost with a 52-24 win over Illinois on Saturday. Despite a brief return by quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois turned the ball over six times in a Louisiana Tech rout. Louisiana Tech, Ohio and Texas-San Antonio are the only non-Big Six teams without a loss.


LSU 12, Auburn 10
Ball State 31, USF 27
Central Michigan 32, Iowa 31

192:55. Alabama’s bid for three consecutive shutouts ended with 2:49 remaining in the fourth quarter against FAU when Owls tight end Alex Deleon caught a 6-yard touchdown pass. The scoreless streak lasted nearly 13 quarters (192 minutes, 55 seconds).

4. On Saturday, MAC teams defeated four opponents from the six power conferences: Western Michigan defeated Connecticut 30-24, Ball State defeated USF 31-27, Northern Illinois defeated Kansas 30-23, and Central Michigan defeated Iowa 32-31. In a single day, the MAC topped its win total against the six major conferences (three) from each of the last three seasons. With Ball State defeating Indiana and Ohio defeating Penn State already this season, the MAC has its most wins over the Big Six conferences since 2008.

24. New Mexico ended its 24-game road losing streak, the longest such streak in the nation, with a 27-14 win over New Mexico State. At 2-1, first-year coach Bob Davie matched his predecessor’s win total before the end of September. Previous New Mexico coach Mike Locksley went 2-26 before he was fired midway through his third season.

Tavon Austin, West Virginia. Overcoming the Heisman buzz around Geno Smith may be impossible, but Austin put on a show against Maryland. He had little trouble getting open with 13 catches for 179 yards and three touchdowns. No one else for West Virginia had more than six receptions. Smith, meanwhile, was as sharp as the Mountaineers have come to expect, yet he still passed for 338 yards with three touchdowns. After throwing nine incomplete passes in the first two games, he was 30 of 43 against the Terps.

Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas. A record day from Arkansas’ top receiver probably won’t console the Razorbacks from their three consecutive losses, but it was a record day nonetheless. Hamilton set a school and SEC record with 303 receiving yards in the loss to Rutgers, breaking the conference record belonging to LSU receiver Josh Reed in 2001. Hamilton is the only the second 300-yard receiver since 2007.

Ace Sanders, South Carolina. The South Carolina receiver had only one catch against Missouri -- though it was a 23-yard touchdown by his fingertips. But Sanders may have had the highlight of the day with his punt return for a touchdown against the Tigers where he bumped into two of his own blockers and then a Missouri player draped over him.

Tommy Rees, Notre Dame. For the second time this season, Brian Kelly yanked Everett Golson for maligned former starting quarterback Tommy Rees. The junior again answered the call by limiting mistakes. After Golson threw two first-half interceptions, Rees went 8-of-11 for 115 yards, including a 38-yard pass to tight end Tyler Eifert on third-and-4 in the fourth quarter to ensure Michigan wouldn’t get the ball back in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.

Stephen Morris, Miami. The Hurricanes may have found a key moment on which to build, partly on the arm of Stephen Morris. After sprinting to a 19-0 lead on Georgia Tech, Miami allowed 36 consecutive points. Miami bounced back with 23 unanswered points, capped with a 25-yard touchdown run from Mike James to win 42-36 in overtime. Miami’s offense wasn’t solely dependent on freshman Duke Johnson thanks to career days from Morris and James (113 yards from scrimmage, four touchdowns). Morris’ 436 passing yards was the fifth-most in school history.

Jordan Webb, Colorado. A week after Colorado appeared to take its place among the worst major conference teams of the BCS era, the Buffaloes showed resolve by scoring three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to defeat Washington State 35-34 after trailing by 17. Jordan Webb rushed for a 4-yard score on fourth down to seal the win. Webb finished 29 of 52 for 345 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, plus the game-winning touchdown run.


Florida State
Kansas State
Washington State
Stanford at Washington (Thu.)
Baylor at West Virginia
Texas at Oklahoma State

The Big Ten out of the title race. Michigan earned preseason top-10 rankings this season thanks to wins in their final four games in 2011, including Ohio State, Nebraska and Virginia Tech. The hype was short-lived as Michigan fell out of the national title picture before the end of September. If not for the weakness of the rest of the Big Ten, Michigan’s BCS hopes would be in doubt, too. Coupled with Michigan State's loss to Notre Dame a week ago and Nebraska's loss to UCLA earlier this month, the Big Ten is likely out of the BCS title race. Minnesota and Northwestern are the only undefeated teams in the conference.

Ohio State struggles at home. Though Ohio State has yet to lose, the Buckeyes haven’t looked like the Big Ten’s best the last two weeks, even taking into account the postseason ban. A week after Cal kept pace in a 35-28 Ohio State win, the Buckeyes played a close game with UAB for most of the day Saturday. Ohio State led 21-15 in the fourth quarter before taking control on a Braxton Miller touchdown run.

The middle of the Big Ten can’t keep up with the MAC and WAC. With a loss to MAC also-ran Central Michigan, Iowa hasn’t won consecutive games in nearly a year. Later in the day, Michigan State spent a little too much time letting Eastern Michigan hang around before the Spartans won 23-7. And Illinois never had a chance in a 52-24 loss to Louisiana Tech. Unfortunately for the Big Ten, the league’s best performances this week came against Big East non-contenders with Minnesota defeating Syracuse and Penn State defeating Temple.

By David Fox


<p> College Football Week 4 Recap: Florida State, Notre Dame make statements</p>
Post date: Sunday, September 23, 2012 - 11:20
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/sit-tom-brady-adrian-peterson-and-larry-fitzgerald-week-3

There are a few big name fantasy football players that will likely be duds this week. We examine three players that you should consider sitting and looking to your backups.

Tom Brady, New England Patriots, QB vs. Baltimore Ravens

Of course this sit depends on if you drafted a quality backup quarterback to go with what was likely a very early selection of Tom Brady. 

Here’s what he’s done in 2012: 552 yards passing with three scores and one interception — or 19 fantasy points per game against Tennessee and Arizona.

Here’s his history against the Ravens in four meetings since 2009: 235.8 yards passing per game with four touchdowns and seven interceptions — or 11.9 fantasy points per game. 

The Ravens allowed Michael Vick to throw for 371 with a passing TD and rushing TD last week. That 371 is the most allowed since Andy Dalton threw for 373 in Week 11 last season. In the seven games in between, Baltimore has allowed an average of 191.1 yards passing with four touchdowns and five interceptions.

Until Vick last week, the Ravens had a 19-game streak of not allowing a QB to have a multi-touchdown game.

Add in a road game, no Aaron Hernandez, not in sync with Brandon Lloyd yet and whatever’s going on with Wes Welker, and if you have a better matchup than Brady’s go with it.


Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings, RB vs. San Francisco 49ers

In his “snap-limited” debut against Jacksonville in Week 1, Adrian Peterson carried 17 times for 84 yards and two scores. We thought he was a safe start in Week 2 against a run defense ranked 29th last year, and he posted a 16-for-60 day with no scores. 

Now he gets the NFL’s top-ranked rush defense from a year ago and currently ranked sixth at 63.5 yards allowed per game. 

Just a quick history on what the 49ers have done to opposing running backs in the last 18 regular-season games: Only one back has gained over 100 yards, only two backs have gained over 75 yards. Those backs are Marshawn Lynch and Cadillac Williams, who also had the only two TDs San Francisco allowed running backs to score on the ground last season. 

And now a quick history on what Peterson has done against top-five rush defenses the last three seasons: There have been seven such games. Peterson averaged 66 yards rushing per game with three scores. The saving grace has been his 13 catches for 167 yards. That comes out to 13.4 fantasy points on average in PPR league, 11.6 in non-PPR.

I would take 13.4 or 11.6 from Peterson in a heartbeat, but that is averaging the top five rush defenses over the last three years. This is the 49ers, who have only allowed double-digit fantasy days four times the last 18 regular-season games and that was thanks in large part to a combined 28 catches for 236 yards.

Play AP at your own risk. 


Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals, WR vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Larry Fitzgerald may have lit Philadelphia up the last time he played the Eagles, but a couple of things have changed. Kevin Kolb is Arizona’s quarterback and Philadelphia’s pass defense has become much stingier. 

Since Tom Brady threw for three scores and 361 yards against Philadelphia in Week 12 last season, the Eagles have allowed just seven touchdown passes in the last seven games. Yes, they faced the likes of Tarvaris Jackson, Matt Moore, J.P. Losman, Mark Sanchez, Stephen McGee and Red Grossman to end last season and Brandon Weeden and Joe Flacco to start this season. But where do you rank Kevin Kolb among that list of quarterbacks?

And no receiver has eclipsed six catches of 62 yards since Week 12 (Dez Bryant) against Philly.

Fitzgerald torched the Eagles last season to the tune of seven catches on 13 targets for 146 yards and two scores. But that was via the arm of John Skelton, who threw for 315 yards and three scores on 40 attempts.

Kolb and Fitzgerald have played in 10 games together and have two touchdowns to show for it.  

Don’t let the reason of “what better option do you have” sway you from not starting a guy with the better matchup. You always hear “that’s why you drafted them this high,” well it’s also why you draft other players. Use them.

— By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

<p> Three big names to consider benching in Week 3</p>
Post date: Sunday, September 23, 2012 - 07:45
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/injury-updates-week-3-steven-jackson-greg-jennings-denarius-moore

There are a few key fantasy contributors that have had a number of injury question marks surrounding their playing status leading up to Week 3 of the 2012 NFL season. Here’s a little bit about these three and what you should consider.

Steven Jackson, St. Louis RB vs. Chicago Bears

It’s been injuries and boom or bust with St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson the last four years. And here we are in Week 3 dealing with the same issue. 

Jackson (groin) missed all week of practice leading up to today’s game against the Chicago Bears and their ninth-ranked rush defense (84.5 ypg). 

The older he gets and the more the injuries pile up it becomes too difficult to trust Jackson. In 60 games since the start of the 2008 season he has had 23 games of 90-plus yards rushing with 21 total touchdowns. The problem is: you can never get a good feel of when such a game may occur.

No practice. This matchup. No thanks. Look elsewhere.


Greg Jennings, Green Bay WR vs. Seattle

Greg Jennings missed the Week 2 Thursday night contest against Chicago with a groin injury. He is questionable for Monday’s game at Seattle but says he should be ready. Jennings has been able to have as much rest as a schedule will allow — save for bye weeks — and it would be a big risk to hope for Jennings to help you close out the Week 3 slate.

It could be a tough matchup for any Green Bay receiver, particularly if the Packers’ offense continues to look as out of sync as it has through two games. The San Francisco and Chicago defenses certainly helped in that regard and Seattle should be able to continue the tough stretch. 

The Seahawks have surrendered just 21 completions for 260 yards and two scores through two weeks — or 48.5 total fantasy points to seven receivers in PPR formats. 


Denarius Moore, Oakland, WR vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Looking for a flier in Week 3 that should become a weekly stud very soon? Look no further than Denarius Moore. 

The Raiders play host to Pittsburgh today and Oakland’s defense has not shown the ability to slow anyone down — 57 points and 710 yards allowed the first two weeks. 

Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer is third in attempts (94) and fourth in yards (670) this season. 

Moore returned from a groin injury last week and saw eight targets for three catches and 67 yards before cramps in the South Florida heat sidelined him. Last year’s top receiver, Darrius Heyward-Bey, also had eight targets, pulling down four for 41 yards against Miami.

In seven games together last season, Palmer targeted Moore 46 times for 20 catches, 410 yards and three scores. 

— By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Post date: Sunday, September 23, 2012 - 07:25
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-3-ryan-mathews-pierre-garcon-heath-miller

There are a few key fantasy contributors that have had a number of injury question marks surrounding their playing status leading up to Week 3 of the 2012 NFL season. Here’s a little bit about these three and what you should consider.

Ryan MathewsRyan Mathews, RB, San Diego vs. Atlanta Falcons

Today should be the debut for San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews. His first 2012 debut lasted just one play as he broke his clavicle on his first preseason carry. 

He gets an Atlanta Falcons defense that has already allowed two 85-yard-plus rushers and three scores on the ground to running backs. Jamaal Charles ran for 87 yards in the opener. Willis McGahee ran for 113 yards and two scores last week. Atlanta has also given up nine catches for 60 yards to running backs. 

In a game where the Chargers will want to try and limit the snaps Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Julio Jones get to work with, Mathews could help that along. He also could be eased back into his role as the team’s lead ball carrier. 

It’s hard to gauge what Mathews can do in his return when the already injury-prone back was hurt on his first preseason play. But the matchup, the need for him in this offense makes him at least an RB2 and certainly a flex play.


Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington Redskins vs. Cincinnati Bengals

We want more of those 88-yard touchdown passes — screen pass or not. It is evident Robert Griffin III gets to air it out just as he did at Baylor and Garcon, the big free-agent acquisition for the team, is the one that will benefit the most on the other end of those deep passes. 

However, he injured his foot in the opener against New Orleans — on that 88-yard TD. He missed last week against St. Louis and is not expected to play today against a pass-friendly Cincinnati Bengals defense.

Garcon was limited in practice on Friday and coach Mike Shanahan said earlier in the week the injury is “nagging a little bit more than I thought it would.” Even if Garcon were to miraculously be active, it is not suggested you start him. You likely got him in the later rounds, so plug in one of your higher picks.


Heath Miller, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Oakland Raiders

Heath Miller (ribs) returned to practice Friday and has a pretty good matchup against the host Oakland Raiders today.

Miller, who has been used more as a blocker in previous years, is actually a top-10 tight end currently. And he joins a top-10 list that currently includes Martellus Bennett, Scott Chandler, Dante Rosario and Dennis Pitta.

Miller has seven catches for 69 yards and two scores on 10 targets. He gets an Oakland team that held Antonio Gates to four catches for 43 yards in Week 1, gave up a TD to Anthony Fasano last week and surrendered 65 catches for 826 yards and seven scores to the position last season — ninth-worst in fantasy.

Post date: Sunday, September 23, 2012 - 07:10
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-starts-week-3-andy-dalton-benjarvus-green-ellis-dennis-pitta

There are a few key fantasy football players that look to earn big fantasy points in Week 3. Here are three players that are must starts.

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals QB vs. Washington Redskins

Andy Dalton, QB

Andy Dalton has a few things working in his favor as a solid fantasy play for Week 3. 

The Cincinnati quarterback gets a Washington defense that has been friendly to quarterbacks through two games this season, lost two of its best pass rushers to season-ending injuries a week ago and has his own defense that has been fantasy-QB friendly as well.

Linebacker Brian Orakpo (torn pectoral) and defensive end Adam Carriker (knee) are out for the season — 15.5 sacks gone from the last 18 games — and that should mean more time for Dalton, A.J. Green, Andrew Hawkins and Co. 

The Redskins have already allowed 63 points, 800-plus yards, two 300-plus-yards passers and six touchdown passes to begin the 2012 campaign. New Orleans’ Drew Brees threw for 339 and three scores in a comeback effort that fell short (40-32) and St. Louis’ Sam Bradford threw for 310 and three scores in a 31-28 Rams win.

Last season, the Redskins surrendered nine passing days of at least 250 yards and allowed multi-touchdown pass games seven times. Dalton, as a rookie a year ago, had five games of 250-plus and six multi-TD games. He is coming off a 318-yard, three-TD performance against Cleveland.

Washington’s defense is not the only reason to give Dalton a look; his own defense helps as well. 

The Bengals have allowed nearly 300 yards passing and two touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks in each of the first two games (Joe Flacco 299-2 and Brandon Weeded 322-2).


BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals RB vs. Washington Redskins

BenJarvus Green-Ellis is clearly the workhorse in Cincinnati, as expected. He has produced probably above expectations thus far in regards to fantasy. The Law Firm has 39 carries for 166 yards and a score and four catches for 34 yards — or 15 fantasy points per game in a PPR. 

Now he gets a Washington team that was friendly to running backs last week, was friendly to running backs a year ago and, as mentioned above, just lost Orakpo and Carriker for the season.

The Redskins jumped out quickly on New Orleans in the opener and only saw 10 rushing attempts for 32 yards. Darren Sproles did get five catches, 35 yards and a score out of the backfield. Last week’s game against St. Louis was a little more traditional, and the Rams rushed 24 times for 141 yards and had two catches for 19 yards. 

Washington was 15th against fantasy running backs last season, allowing eight backs to rush for at least 88 yards. The Redskins were 21st in rushing TDs allowed (12).

Ellis should continue his run as a solid RB2, certainly a flex, for a Bengals team that is defensively challenged itself and might want to run the ball to slow Robert Griffin III and the Redskins’ offense.


Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens, TE vs. New England Patriots

There are a number of factors in favor of starting Dennis Pitta against the Patriots. First, he is quarterback Joe Flacco’s favorite target this season and has been productive with those numbers. Second, New England has seen Tennessee’s Jared Cook and Arizona’s Todd Heap already this season and allowed a combined nine catches on 15 targets for 126 yards from the two tight ends. 

Pitta has 13 catches for 138 yards and a score on 24 targets in 2012 — 15 more targets than Anquan Boldin and 16 more targets than Torrey Smith.

Pitta did go 5-for-41 with a score against New England in the AFC Championship Game last season.

— By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

<p> Must start players for Week 3</p>
Post date: Sunday, September 23, 2012 - 07:00
Path: /fantasy/injury-updates-week-3-jamaal-charles-antonio-gates-kenny-britt

There are a few key fantasy contributors that have had a number of injury question marks surrounding their playing status leading up to Week 3 of the 2012 NFL season. Here’s a little bit about these three and what you should consider.

Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego vs. Atlanta Falcons

A late scratch against Tennessee last week, Antonio Gates (ribs) has practiced fully this week and should be good to go against high-powered Atlanta.

It was too bad Gates missed last week’s home game against a Titans team that has consistently been friendly to opposing tight ends and did not prove to be any different last week. Dante Rosario stepped in and scored three touchdowns.

 The Falcons have allowed nine catches, 102 yards and a score on just 14 targets to tight ends this season. Atlanta was generous to elite fantasy tight ends Jimmy Graham (11-for-124 and two scores in two meetings) and Jermichael Finley (4-for-67) last season.


Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee vs. Detroit Lions

Kenny Britt returned to action last week in San Diego after a one-game suspension and a knee injury that knocked him out in Week 3 of the 2011 season. He was expected to be on a limited play count and he was. The receiver was targeted just twice, catching one ball for five yards on 19 snaps. 

Detroit is 10th best against fantasy receivers through two games, having faced St. Louis and San Francisco. Those are not two of the premier passing offenses in the NFL, but neither are the Tennessee Titans.

You would have to figure Tennessee will be down early in this game. The Titans have little to offer in defending Calvin Johnson or Brandon Pettigrew. It should mean more time for Britt to get garbage-time production from Jake Locker. 

Britt was not limited this week and will be needed to help keep a struggling Titans squad in the game. The matchup could not be any better against a thin Lions secondary. The concern is obviously snap count for Britt and lack of work with Locker. 

Britt is the ultimate flier this week. Massive upside on an offense that is as down as it gets.


Jamaal Charles

Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City vs. New Orleans Saints

Jamaal Charles (knee) tweaked his surgically repaired knee in a blowout loss to Buffalo last week and said he still could have played. 

This week, the inept Chiefs get the Saints generous defense in New Orleans. The question will be whether the Kansas City defense can hang on long enough to keep the running game in play for Charles.

New Orleans allowed rookie Alfred Morris to run for 98 yards and two scores on 28 attempts in the opener and the Carolina duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to run for 120 yards and a TD on 25 carries. 

It is there for the taking for Charles to have a good day and show he is back from the knee injury. But the taking is also there for the Saints offense to quickly make the Chiefs’ use of a running game futile.



— By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Post date: Sunday, September 23, 2012 - 06:30
Path: /nfl/new-england-patriots-vs-baltimore-ravens-preview-and-prediction

Two elite teams will be looking to avoid a 1-2 start when the Baltimore Ravens host the New England Patriots tonight at 8:20 p.m. EST on NBC. Much will be made about the heartbreaking nature of Baltimore’s AFC Championship Game loss in New England last season, but the reality is that both of these squads with Super Bowl aspirations need to rebound from excruciating losses last week. The Ravens blew a 10-pont halftime lead in Philadelphia and lost 24-23 to the Eagles, while Patriots suffered a rare 20-18 home defeat to the Arizona Cardinals.

When the Baltimore Ravens have the ball:
It all starts with tailback Ray Rice, who has gone over 2,000 total yards in two of the last three seasons. The diminutive but powerful runner is off to another good start, totaling 167 yards on the ground and ranking second on the team with nine receptions. Quarterback Joe Flacco has found a new favorite target in tight end Dennis Pitta, who leads Baltimore with 13 catches. To beat New England, however, Flacco will need to involve receivers Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin more in the offense.

The Patriots defense struggled for much of last season, but rookies Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower have already paid dividends this year. New England was able to contain Rice (67 rush yards and just one catch) in last season’s 23-20 AFC title tilt victory, and that will be a key again tonight. Boldin and Smith can be effective if Flacco has time to throw, so the Patriots will look for another three-sack performance like they had last January.

When the New England Patriots have the ball:
Quarterback Tom Brady was rattled in week’s loss to the Cardinals, who had four sacks and an interception. One factor that will help protect Brady is a strong running game, and second-year back Stevan Ridley has 196 yards and a score in two games this season. Receiver Wes Welker only has eight catches (low by his standards) this year, and it will be interesting to see if he is a bigger focus for the offense against Baltimore. With tight end Aaron Hernandez out, the Patriots signed former first-round pick Kellen Winslow Jr. this week.

After a solid Week 1 performance against the Bengals, the Ravens defense allowed 17 second-half points in the Eagles loss. Ray Lewis and company will need to pressure Brady, and Baltimore has compiled six sacks this season. While it’s easy to concentrate on all of New England’s pass catchers, the Ravens must also contain Ridley. Baltimore has allowed 258 rushing in two games, and that must improve versus the Patriots.

Key Factor:
The Ravens allowed an alarming 486 total yards in Philadelphia, the highest total their defense had given up since 1998. They simply must be better against New England’s usually prolific offense. Baltimore’s ability to make Brady uncomfortable in the pocket should decide this game. The Patriots almost never lose twice in row under coach Bill Belichick, so we’ll take New England in a tight thriller.

Patriots 27 Ravens 23

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

<p> New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Sunday, September 23, 2012 - 06:14
Path: /college-football/florida-state-seminoles-vs-clemson-tigers-preview-and-prediction

College football’s premier matchup for Week 4 takes place in Tallahassee. Florida State and Clemson have combined for a 6-0 start, but this will be the first ACC contest for both teams.

Are the Seminoles back? That’s the question hovering over this team for the past couple of years. Although it’s early, Florida State looks like a serious contender for the national title. Sure, the competition has been light through the first three weeks, but the depth and talent in the program is getting back to the levels Florida State had in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Clemson is the defending ACC champs but has won only one matchup in Tallahassee since 1992. The Tigers opened the year with a solid victory over Auburn and handled Ball State and Furman in their next two matchups.

Five Things to Watch in Clemson vs. Florida State

1. Florida State’s defensive line vs. Clemson’s offensive line
There is plenty of firepower for both teams at the skill positions, but the matchup in the trenches will decide this game. Florida State owns one of college football’s top defensive lines and has allowed just 33.7 rushing yards per game through three contests. The headliner is junior Bjoern Werner, who has recorded nine tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks this season. Clemson’s offensive line has not allowed a sack the last two weeks but gave up four in the opener against Auburn. The Tigers have the ACC’s top trio – quarterback Tajh Boyd, running back Andre Ellington and receiver Sammy Watkins – but will struggle to get on track if the offensive line does not perform. Werner isn’t the only standout up front, as Florida State’s line is overflowing with depth, including senior Tank Carradine and sophomore Timmy Jernigan. Considering Clemson’s uncertainty on the offensive line, Florida State should be able to win the battle up front on defense.

2. Clemson’s receivers vs. Florida State’s secondary
With Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins leading the way, the Tigers have one of college football’s best receiving corps. Watkins missed the first two weeks of the season due to a suspension but caught four passes for 52 yards in his return. Hopkins has 26 receptions through the first two weeks, including 13 in the season opener against Auburn. Florida State’s secondary has yet to be tested but leads the nation by allowing just 69.7 passing yards per game. Junior Xavier Rhodes is one of the ACC’s top cover corners, but Clemson will test sophomore Nick Waisome on the other side. With Greg Reid’s dismissal from the team in the offseason, the Seminoles are short on experience at the spot opposite of Rhodes. If Clemson gives quarterback Tajh Boyd enough time to throw, he will have opportunities to find Watkins or Hopkins for big plays downfield.

3. Can Florida State protect EJ Manuel?
The offensive lines are clearly under the microscope on Saturday night. Clemson’s front five will be tested by a deep Florida State defensive front, while the Seminoles are anxious to see how their line performs against the Tigers. Florida State’s offensive line was a question mark all last season and is still a work in progress. This unit paved the way for the Seminoles to rush for 385 yards and four touchdowns last week, but pass protection was an issue. The Tigers are reloading on the defensive front but will be Florida State’s toughest test so far. Expect coach Jimbo Fisher to move Manuel out of the pocket and call some designed runs to slow down Clemson’s pass rush.

4.  Which team will make a play on special teams?
As with any big game, the battle on special teams will be something to monitor. Florida State’s Dustin Hopkins is one of the best kickers in college football, while Clemson’s Chandler Catanzaro has connected on all six of his attempts, and punter Spencer Benton hit a 61-yard field goal against Ball State. Returns are slightly in Clemson’s favor, especially with Watkins’ return to the lineup. The sophomore averaged 25 yards on kick returns last season and took one back for a score. Florida State will counter with Rashad Greene on punt returns, who is averaging 19.6 yards per return and has taken two for scores this year.

5. Chris Thompson vs. Andre Ellington
Neither team was able to generate much of a rushing attack in last season’s game. Florida State managed just 29 yards, while Clemson had 99 on 50 attempts. The Tigers will look to get Andre Ellington involved a little more this season, and the senior is off to a strong start. In the opener against Auburn, he rushed for 228 yards and has four touchdowns in his last two games. Chris Thompson is one of the best stories in college football, as he missed nearly all of last season with a broken back and has shown no ill-effects from that injury, gashing Wake Forest for 197 yards and two touchdowns last week. The team that wins the rushing battle won’t necessarily win the game, but both squads need to get the ball to Ellington and Thompson to give them opportunities to make big plays.

Final Analysis

Not only is this a huge game for the ACC, but both teams need to win to keep alive in the national title hunt. For Florida State, an impressive win over Clemson would help signal this team is officially back as a national title contender. If the Tigers win, it would be a huge boost to their hopes of repeating as ACC champions.

Florida State didn’t have EJ Manuel in last season’s game, yet nearly won in Death Valley. If the Seminoles can protect Manuel, while the defense holds Watkins, Boyd and Ellington in check, Florida State should move to 4-0 and take a commanding lead for the ACC Atlantic title.

Prediction: Florida State 31-24

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<p> Florida State Seminoles vs. Clemson Tigers Game Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Saturday, September 22, 2012 - 08:28
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Links, College Basketball, NFL, NBA, MLB
Path: /college-football/athlon%E2%80%99s-essential-eleven-links-day-17

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for September 21.

• College football fans were bewildered last night by BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall’s decision to go for two, while down by one point to Boise State with 3:37 left to go in the game. The Cougars failed on the conversion and lost 7-6 to the Broncos.

• The New York Giants pummeled the Panthers last night, 36-7, with backups Andre Brown and Ramses Barden leading the way.

• Alan Grant of the National Football Post has a wonderful piece on the work of Steve Sabol and NFL Films.

• Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at the return of Chris Carpenter to the Cardinals rotation.

• asks the question: is the iPhone 5 worth the upgrade?

• After 49ers quarterback Alex Smith was threatened with a fine by the NFL for wearing a San Francisco Giants baseball cap to his postgame presser, SF manager Bruce Bochy showed his support by wearing a 49ers lid yesterday.

• The Florida State-Clemson matchup is huge for the image of ACC football, which is consistently overshadowed by the powerful SEC.

• The Ravens will be seeking revenge against the Patriots on Sunday night.

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale looks at the futures of some big time MLB managers.

• Have a great weekend and be careful out there. Not everyone is as nice as these guys.

• It’s time for a little silliness as we head into the weekend. Louisiana Tech is 2-0 and headed to Illinois for an interesting contest on Saturday night. We have some entertaining scary footage of the Bulldogs offensive line preparing for the big game.

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

September 20

• Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News has the latest on the ailing Giants, who will be without Hakeem Nicks and other starters on offense tonight in Carolina.

• Bleacher Report’s Adam Jacobi looks at the struggles of Big Ten football this season.

• USC coach Lane Kiffin continues to be awkward personified. Apparently a question about an injured player was just too much to handle.

• Check out rapper DMX learning how to Google.

• Michigan and Notre Dame will battle Saturday night, so a good ole college prank was in order.

• looks at the possible falling draft stocks of quarterbacks Tyler Wilson and Tyler Bray.

• Jay Cutler’s play against Green Bay probably drove many Bears fans to smoking, and one has created a site dedicated to “the most apathetic looking athlete in the history of sports.”

• Could San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera still win the National League batting crown despite his 50-game suspension?

• The financial saga Arkansas coach John L. Smith has to be a distraction for the Razorbacks.

• The reduced role of Wes Welker in the Patriots offense has caused a ton of debate in New England.

• We have seen a lot of mascots do pushups after their team scores, but this one turned out a little differently than normal. The Clemson Tiger knocks out 27 pushups in last week’s win over Furman, and then reveals himself as school president James Barker.

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

September 19

• North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams is having surgery today to remove a tumor from his kidney.

• CBS’ Mike Freeman looks at Wes Welker’s reduced role and other NFL issues.

• ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reports that the Big East is currently in a debate over its future 14th football member, and that a 16-team football league is also a possibility.

• Shooter McGavin on the subway?

• The surprising Orioles continued their magic last night with an 18-inning win over the Mariners. Baltimore stayed tied with the Yankees for first place in the AL East.

• A few years after bring drafted third overall by the Titans, free agent Vince Young appears to be in bad financial shape.

• If you’re in the Big Apple, watch out for Lindsay Lohan.

• The NFL conversation is being dominated by referee bashing.

• Did Jalen Rose try to injure Kobe Bryant in the 2000 NBA Finals? Yes he did.

• Michigan may struggle to move the ball against Notre Dame’s defense.

• The pro football and media world lost one of its most influential figures with the passing of NFL Films president Steve Sabol. He and his father Ed were amazing artists in presenting the NFL and its players for decades.

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

September 18

• Did an NFL replacement referee really tell Eagles running back LeSean McCoy that he needed the runner to play well for his fantasy team?! Unreal.

• How does Falcons running back Michael Turner celebrate a MNF win and a 2-0 start? By throwing back some drinks and driving 97 MPH at 4 a.m.

• I might forgo this cup of coffee at Starbucks.

• FOX golf columnist Robert Lusetich interviews Greg Norman, who believes that Rory McIlroy is intimidating Tiger Woods.

• CBS’ Gary Parrish has the latest on the NCAA investigation into former Duke basketball player Lance Thomas, who has settled the lawsuit involving a jeweler and nearly $100,000 of merchandise acquired during his time with the Blue Devils.

• With Aaron Hernandez injured, the New England Patriots have signed polarizing tight end Kellen Winslow Jr.

• The Florida Gators second-half success has led to an encouraging 3-0 start.

• Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar is in hot water with MLB after putting a controversial message on his eye black.

• Check out this Tim Lincecum GIF.

• How close is an SEC Network?

• The talk around the NFL after two weeks is being dominated by the bad calls of replacement referees. Many in the media will gripe about anything that is an easy target, but the new refs are definitely in over their heads. ESPN’s Steve Young has some of the best commentary on the subject.

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

September 17

• ESPN Pac-12 blogger Kevin Gemmell looks at Stanford’s huge win over USC, including the excellent performance of running back Stepfan Taylor.

• The Arizona Cardinals went into New England and beat the Patriots 20-18, just like we ALL predicted.

• Veteran Giants boss Tom Coughlin was furious with new Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano after Tampa Bay rushed hard into New York’s victory formation.

• Just not sure about this dining establishment.

• Arkansas lost 52-0 at home to Alabama on Saturday, and the “Fire John L. Smith” Facebook page is getting a ton of likes from Razorback fans.

• The Dodgers are concerned that Clayton Kershaw’s absence could last into the beginning of next season.

• Redskins fans are livid with wideout Josh Morgan and his incredibly stupid penalty at the end of the loss to the Rams.

• Notre Dame had a huge win at Michigan State, but the Irish lost starting safety Jamoris Slaughter to a season-ending Achilles tendon injury.

• After an offseason filled with controversy, the 0-2 New Orleans Saints are struggling mightily on the field.

• The St. Louis Cardinals are fighting for the last NL wild card spot, and 2011 postseason hero Chris Carpenter is scheduled to return on Friday.

• There were several great moments during a wild football weekend, but the winning double pass in Western Kentucky’s victory over Kentucky was outstanding. The Hilltoppers made the risky call of going for two in overtime, and here’s what happened…

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)

<p> The best sports links from the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, NASCAR and the world of entertainment.</p>
Post date: Friday, September 21, 2012 - 12:01
Path: /nfl/nfl-picks-against-spread-week-3

A betting preview of every game (against the spread) on Sunday and Monday in Week 3.

Locks of the Week
Keep riding the hot hands and take two of the NFC’s top teams this season.

49ers (-7.5) at Vikings
San Fran has won back-to-back games by eight points, defeating Green Bay (30–22) and Detroit (27–19), respectively. Expect the Niners defense to engulf the Vikings and cruise for the cover.

Falcons (+3) at Chargers
The Dirty Birds fly to the West Coast to take on the Bolts. Matt Ryan looks like he’s taken the proverbial step forward, put your money where Matty Ice is.

Blowout Bargains
Don’t be afraid of a big spread. Through the season’s first two weeks, 19 of 32 games have been decided by eight or more points.

Bears (-7.5) vs. Rams
Smokin’ Jay Cutler has had 10 days to work out his issues. The Bears should be able to maul these sacrificial Rams.

Saints (-9) vs. Chiefs
The winless Aints will take out the Arrowheads — Gregg Williams style — in a Big Easy blowout at the Superdome.

Straight Up Upsets
These underdogs don’t look as good as Kate Upton’s Twitter pics, but they look good.

Broncos (+3) vs. Texans
Peyton Manning looked like MV-Peyton in Week 1 but was left making Manning faces on Monday night in Week 2.

Buccaneers (+8) at Cowboys
Will young Bucs line up in the Victory Formation? Depends. Is that how Greg Schiano did it at Rutgers?

Sucker Bets
Stay away completely. These games are meant for local yokels who always bet on their home team, or for degenerates who always have to have action.

Jets (-3) at Dolphins
Last season, the Fins ran a nickel defense at the goal line as Tim Tebow led the Broncos to victory.

Bills (-3) at Browns
Rabid fan bases from cities no one wants to live in will watch two of the more exciting young running backs in C.J. Spiller and Trent Richardson.

Redskins (-3) vs. Bengals
RG3 makes his home debut in D.C. against a Cincy club that has dangerous upset upside.

Ravens (-3) vs. Patriots
At least Billy Cundiff and Lee Evans won’t be around to choke out during a rematch of last year’s AFC title game.

Colts (-3) vs. Jaguars
Could be the first of many covers by Andrew Luck against the Jags.

Steelers (-4.5) at Raiders
The Steel Curtain drop by the Black Hole for an old school AFL matchup.

Lions (-4) at Titans
Chris Johnson’s 21 yards on 19 carries is not what fantasy owners were expecting.

Eagles (-4) at Cardinals
Mike Vick vs. Kevin Kolb in a rematch of Eagles training camp 2010.

Monday Money
Another chance to wager for those who have to “get back” or “let it ride” this week.

Seahawks (+3.5) vs. Packers
Home field advantage and an opportunistic ball-Hawk defense will keep Seattle around until the end of a contest that could be decided by a field goal either way.

<p> A betting preview of every game (against the spread) on Sunday and Monday in Week 3, including the San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons at San Diego Chargers, Houston Texans at Denver Broncos, New York Jets at Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens and Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks.</p>
Post date: Friday, September 21, 2012 - 11:56
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-predictions-every-game-week-4-1

College football’s fourth weekend of action is highlighted by a huge battle in the ACC Coastal Division, an intriguing showdown between Arizona and Oregon in the Pac-12 and Michigan’s trip to Notre Dame in a rare night game in South Bend. Here’s a prediction on every game this weekend.


No. 37 Baylor at No. 60 UL Monroe
After splitting two overtime decisions against SEC West foes in consecutive weeks — a win at Arkansas and a loss at Auburn — UL Monroe returns home to host Baylor on national television. The Warhawks have been a popular upset pick, but Baylor is also eager to prove itself in the first season post-RG3.
Baylor 38-24


No. 121 Florida Atlantic at No. 1 Alabama
Alabama’s defensive numbers are staggering, especially when you consider the Crimson Tide have faced two preseason top 25 teams away from home — Michigan in Texas and Arkansas in Fayetteville. Bama has recorded two straight shutouts and has only allowed points in two of 12 quarters this season.
Alabama 45-0

No. 2 LSU at No. 47 Auburn
The Tigers are 2–5 in their last seven SEC games, and the five losses have come by an average of 28.6 points. That’s a startling regression for a program that won a national championship just two years ago.
LSU 28-14

No. 24 Arizona at No. 3 Oregon
The Rich Rodriguez era is off to a great start in Tucson. The Wildcats are 3–0 and playing an exciting brand of football. Now the real fun begins: A trip to Eugene to face an Oregon team with legitimate national title hopes.
Oregon 48-23

No. 22 Kansas State at No. 4 Oklahoma
It’s rare when a 10-win college football team gets outgained by 450 yards in one of its losses. That’s what happened when Kansas State, 7–0 at the time, hosted Oklahoma last October: The Sooners outgained the Cats 690-to-240 en route to a 58–17 win. It won’t be quite as bad this time around.
Oklahoma 36-21

No. 108 UAB at No. 5 Ohio State
UAB’s tough road trip began with a trip to South Carolina (and a 49–6 loss) and will end in Columbus vs. the Buckeyes. Expect another productive game from sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller.
Ohio State 44-3

No. 53 Vanderbilt at No. 6 Georgia
Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels will be making his first start (we think) against an SEC opponent. Carta-Samuels has played against quality competition — he faced Texas and BYU twice as well as Boise State, Colorado, Utah and TCU once during his two years at Wyoming — but this Georgia defense will present an enormous challenge.
Georgia 28-10

No. 14 Clemson at No. 7 Florida State
The schedule has been ridiculously easy, but perhaps no team in the history of college football has been as statistically dominant as Florida State three games into the season. The Seminoles have defeated their three opponents — Murray State, Savannah State and Wake Forest — by a combined score of 176–3 and have outgained the opposition by an average of 440.4 yards per game.
Florida State 34-24

No. 83 Maryland at No. 9 West Virginia
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith has thrown for 734 yards in two games. Maryland, as a team, has 775 yards in three games.
West Virginia 41-10

No. 78 Kentucky at No. 10 Florida
Kentucky has lost 25 straight overall to Florida and 16 straight in Gainesville. The Wildcats’ last four trips to the Swamp have been especially gruesome, with the Gators winning by an average score of 39–7.
Florida 38-17

No. 43 California at No. 12 USC
This game features some of the elite skill-position players in the nation — especially at wide receiver — but neither team has played well defensively this season.
USC 30-20

No. 26 Missouri at No. 13 South Carolina
It’s the Battle of Columbia as Missouri and South Carolina meet for the first time ever as members of the SEC. It’s also the battle of the injured quarterbacks. Both Connor Shaw and James Franklin are expected to start. The question is: Can they finish the game?
South Carolina 21-17

No. 16 Michigan at No. 15 Notre Dame
Brian Kelly has a reputation as one of the finest offensive coaches in college football, but his Notre Dame Fighting Irish are getting it done this season on defense. The Irish manhandled Michigan State 20–3 in East Lansing Saturday night and have now allowed a total of 30 points in three games.
Notre Dame 24-21

No. 55 Virginia at No. 17 TCU
Virginia gave up 461 yards rushing last week in a 56–20 loss to Georgia Tech. TCU has given up a total of 450 yards in two games.
TCU 27-17

No. 18 Louisville at No. 96 FIU
The Cards are eager for revenge after losing last September to FIU at home. They should get it. The Golden Panthers have been a disappointment this season.
Louisville 38-14

No. 110 Eastern Michigan at No. 19 Michigan State
The Le’Veon Bell for Heisman talk has cooled over the last few weeks. After bruising his way to 210 yards vs. Boise State in the opener, Bell has a total of 147 yards in the last two games.
Michigan State 38-10

No. 42 Oregon State at No. 20 UCLA
UCLA’s hot start doesn’t seem to be getting enough attention on the national scene. The Bruins, 3–0 under new coach Jim Mora, are averaging 40.7 points and 622.0 yards per game. And those numbers aren’t simply a product of a soft schedule; the Bruins rolled up 653 yards — including 300-plus through the air and on the ground — in a Week 2 win over Nebraska.
UCLA 34-21

Idaho State at No. 23 Nebraska
Idaho State has got to be the first team ever to play Black Hills State and Nebraska in consecutive games. (In case you are wondering, Idaho State beat Black Hills State 38–5. And in case you were wondering, Black Hills State is in Spearfish, South Dakota).
Nebraska 51-3

No. 119 South Alabama at No. 28 Mississippi State
Mississippi State is after its first 4–0 start since the 1999 Bulldogs, coached by Jackie Sherrill, opened the season 8–0 en route to a 10–2 record.
Mississippi State 42-10

No. 29 Rutgers at No. 52 Arkansas
Rutgers isn’t Alabama — which shut out Arkansas 52–0 last week —but the Scarlet Knights are pretty nasty on defense. They ranked eighth in the nation in scoring defense and 14th in total defense in 2011 and have continued their strong play early in the ’12 season. Kyle Flood’s team has also experienced success on the road with wins at Tulane (24–12) and South Florida (23–13).
Arkansas 28-24

No. 61 Miami (Fla.) at No. 30 Georgia Tech
Kansas State rushed for 288 vs. the Canes in a 52–13 win two weeks ago. That’s a troubling number for a Miami team that is preparing to face Georgia Tech’s option attack.
Georgia Tech 37-24

South Carolina State at No. 31 Texas A&M
Redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel is completing 65.2 percent of his passes and has yet to throw an interception in 66 attempts. He’s good.
Texas A&M 41-0

No. 32 South Florida at No. 93 Ball State
Ball State is 2–1 with wins over Eastern Michigan and Indiana sandwiched around a 52–27 loss at Clemson. The Cardinals have been able to move the ball in every game; they had 380 yards (including 252 on the ground) vs. Clemson and 440 yards (200-plus through the air and on the ground) vs. Indiana. This is a solid team that is good enough to beat South Florida straight up.
Ball State 34-31

No. 33 Nevada at No. 107 Hawaii
Nevada features two of the most explosive playmakers in college football. Tailback Stefphon Jefferson ranks second nationally in rushing (176.3 ypg), and quarterback Cody Fajardo is eighth in total offense (362.3 ypg).
Nevada 41-20

No. 120 Akron at No. 34 Tennessee
Terry Bowden will make his first appearance as head coach in an SEC venue since Oct. 17, 1998, when his Auburn Tigers lost at Florida 24–3. Bowden, who went 47–17–1 in five-plus seasons at Auburn, is in his first season as the boss at Akron. Bowden only played Tennessee twice during his time at Auburn, losing 30–29 in the 1997 SEC Championship Game and 17–9 in Knoxville in 1998.
Tennessee 44-3

South Dakota at No. 35 Northwestern
After opening the season with wins over three AQ conference teams, Northwestern dips down into the FCS ranks for what should bean easy win.
Northwestern 41-13

No. 91 Bowling Green at No. 36 Virginia Tech
The Hokies were on the wrong end of one of the most surprising scores of the season: Pittsburgh 35, Virginia Tech 17. Frank Beamer’s club should get back in the win column this week, but the Hokies will have issues the rest of the season unless some playmakers emerge on offense to complement quarterback Logan Thomas.
Virginia Tech 34-13

No. 38 Utah at No. 50 Arizona State
For the third straight week, Arizona State will be facing a backup quarterback. Nathan Scheelhaase (Illinois) and James Franklin (Missouri) were hurt, and Utah’s Jordan Wynn retired from football due to injury after a Week 2 loss to Utah State.
Arizona State 27-17

Norfolk State at No. 40 Ohio
Ohio survived a scare last week but held on for a 27–24 win at Marshall, keeping its dream of a perfect season alive. There is no significant danger of losing this weekend.
Ohio 38-14

The Citadel at No. 41 NC State
This might not be as easy as some Wolfpack fans would like. The Citadel is 3–0 highlighted by a 52–28 win over Appalachian State last week. This is a solid FCS club.
NC State 30-17

No. 86 UTEP at No. 46 Wisconsin
UTEP is playing an AQ conference team for the third time in four weeks. Wisconsin isn’t nearly as formidable as we thought before the season started, but it’s still a very tall order for the Miners to win in Madison.
Wisconsin 24-10

No. 48 Utah State at No. 109 Colorado State
Utah State is a missed 37-yard field goal away from being 3–0 with wins over Utah and Wisconsin. Still, this is a very good team that will challenge Louisiana Tech for supremacy in the WAC.
Utah State 30-7

No. 56 Louisiana Tech at No. 54 Illinois
Louisiana Tech has scored exactly 56 points in its first two games and is ranked No. 56 in the Athlon Sports 124. Very interesting.
Louisiana Tech 31-23

No. 100 Army at No. 57 Wake Forest
Army is up to its old tricks: The Black Knights rank second in the nation in rushing (384.0 ypg) and No. 120 in passing (29.0 ypg). Wake must rebound after a humbling 52–0 loss at Florida State last weekend.
Wake Forest 30-10

No. 68 East Carolina at No. 58 North Carolina
North Carolina came extremely close to completing one of the great comebacks in college football history last weekend. The Tar Heels cut a 36–7 halftime deficit to 39–34 with 4:23 remaining. Louisville fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but North Carolina was unable to punch the ball in the end zone in the final minute. It will be interesting to see how this team responds.
North Carolina 27-10

No. 111 Central Michigan at No. 59 Iowa
Iowa is the only team in the nation that has not converted an extra point vs. another FBS opponent this season. That better not be the case after this week’s game vs. Central Michigan.
Iowa 38-10

No. 84 Temple at No. 62 Penn State
Penn State struggled to beat Temple in Philadelphia last year, escaping with a 14–10 victory at Lincoln Financial Field. And that Nittany Lion team had far more talent than the 2012 version. But this game is at home, and I’d expect Penn State — with a win under its belt — to play well.
Penn State 24-13

No. 63 Connecticut at No. 79 Western Michigan
These two teams played one of the most exciting fourth quarters of the 2011 season. Western Michigan outscored UConn 21–14 in the final 15 minutes en route to a 38–31 win in West Hartford. The two quarterbacks, Johnny McEntree and Alex Carder, combined to throw for 779 yards and nine touchdowns without an interception. Don’t expect as many fireworks this time around.
Connecticut 27-24

No. 65 Syracuse at No. 64 Minnesota
Syracuse is 1–2 and looked much better in its two losses (by one to Northwestern and 13 to USC) than its win (by 11 over Stony Brook). Ryan Nassib has been terrific for the Orange, averaging 379.7 yards passing with nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Syracuse ranked 90th in the nation in total offense last year with 348.2 yards per game. The Orange rank 15th through three games this season with 533.3 per game. This could be a shootout. Take the Orange at the other dome.
Syracuse 41-39

Coastal Carolina at No. 66 Toledo
Toledo is off to a solid start under first-year coach Matt Campbell. The Rockets aren’t quite as explosive on offense as a year ago, but they are 2–1 with the only loss coming in overtime at Arizona.
Toledo 48-10

Gardner-Webb at No. 69 Pittsburgh
College football can be tough to figure out. The same Pittsburgh team that lost by 14 points at home to Youngstown State beat Virginia Tech by 18 points. How does that happen?
Pittsburgh 34-10

No. 82 Southern Miss at No. 70 Western Kentucky
The challenge for Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart this week — other than scoring more points than Southern Miss — is to keep his team grounded. The Hilltoppers have been the talk of the state after beating Kentucky in overtime in Lexington last week. If the Toppers can play with focus, they should pick up win No. 3.
Western Kentucky 27-23

No. 122 Memphis at No. 71 Duke
Duke should be halfway to bowl-eligibility at about 9 p.m. on Saturday night. Getting three more wins, however, will be a challenge for a program that hasn’t played in the postseason since 1995.
Duke 38-10

No. 73 Fresno State at No. 72 Tulsa
Fresno State delivered one of the epic beatings in recent memory last weekend. The Bulldogs led Colorado 35–0 after one quarter and 55–7 at the half on their way to a 69–14 win. Colorado is bad (obviously), but I think Fresno State is better than we think.
Fresno State 30-28

Alcorn State at No. 75 Arkansas State
Alcorn State has scored a total of nine points in its last two games, losses at James Madison and vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The Braves will need to score about 40 to beat Arkansas State.
Arkansas State 40-3

No. 77 Ole Miss at No. 114 Tulane
Ole Miss tailback Jeff Scott is averaging 10.3 yards per carry in the two games he has played this season. The problem? He has only had 20 rushing attempts. Note to Hugh Freeze: Give Scott the ball.
Ole Miss 31-10

No. 112 Colorado at No. 80 Washington State
There is still a lot of football to be played, but Colorado is in the midst of an historically bad season. The Buffs are 0–3 with losses to Colorado State (which lost to an FCS team the next week), Sacramento State and Fresno State. And while there’s no shame in losing to Fresno State, there is plenty of shame in being down 35–0 at the end of one quarter.
Washington State  41-10

No. 90 Kansas at No. 81 Northern Illinois
Kansas is a 9-point underdog to a team from the MAC. That tells you all you need to know about how far this program has fallen in recent years. Just five years ago, the Jayhawks capped a 12–1 season with a win over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
Northern Illinois 31-30

No. 85 San Jose State at No. 88 San Diego State
San Jose State is very quietly having a solid season. The Spartans are 2–1, and the only loss came by three points at Stanford. This would be a huge win for Mike MacIntyre’s club.
San Jose State 30-27

VMI at No. 87 Navy
Navy should break into the win column this week, but the Midshipmen have not looked very good this year. The schedule has been relatively difficult — Notre Dame in Ireland and at Penn State — but they are averaging only 366.0 yards per game and have scored a total of 17 points.
Navy 41-3

No. 89 Rice at No. 94 Marshall
Rice is scoring some points this year — the Owls have averaged 28.7 against UCLA, Kansas and Louisiana Tech — but is also having trouble stopping the opposition. The Owls rank 117th in total defense and 118th in scoring defense.
Marshall 37-31

No. 92 Air Force at No. 116 UNLV
Air Force leads the nation in rushing, averaging 387.0 yards in its two games, a win over Idaho State and a six-point loss at Michigan. The Falcons could run for 500 yards vs. UNLV.
Air Force 38-17

No 97 Troy at No. 102 North Texas
Troy rolled up 572 yards of offense against Mississippi State in a 30–24 loss last week. To put that in perspective, Auburn had 216 total yards the week before vs. MSU.
Troy 34-20

Stephen F. Austin at No. 99 Texas State
Texas State dips into the FCS ranks after splitting its first two games against in-state foes. The Bobcats stunned Houston in the opener before falling at Texas Tech 58–10.
Texas State 31-13

No. 123 UMass at No. 104 Miami (Ohio)
UMass’ first season in the FBS isn’t going too well. The Minutemen aren’t quite giving up a point per minute, but it’s close (48.3 ppg). Miami quarterback Zac Dysert should have a productive game.
Miami (Ohio) 37-10

No. 105 Wyoming at No. 124 Idaho
Wyoming’s season has taken several disappointing turns. After losing the opener at Texas (no shame), the Cowboys have lost consecutive games at home to Toledo and Cal Poly.
Wyoming 24-10

No. 117 New Mexico at No. 113 New Mexico State
New Mexico State has won three straight in the Battle for the Land of Enchantment. Neither team is very good, but the Aggies are not quite as bad.
New Mexico State 34-20

Last week: 58–9
Season: 165–37

By Mitch Light

<p>  </p> <p> College football’s fourth weekend of action is highlighted by a huge battle in the ACC Coastal Division, an intriguing showdown between Arizona and Oregon in the Pac-12 and Michigan’s trip to Notre Dame in a rare night game in South Bend. Here’s a prediction on every game this weekend.</p>
Post date: Friday, September 21, 2012 - 07:55
All taxonomy terms: Baylor Bears, Big 12, College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-countdown-no-17-baylor
Visit the online store for Baylor and other editions of the 2012-13 Athlon Sports College Basketball annual.

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

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

We continue our countdown with a preview of No. 17 Baylor:

A half-dozen college basketball programs have appeared in the Elite Eight two of the last three seasons. Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, Florida and Butler are hardly a surprise.

But don’t feel bad if you couldn’t guess No. 6.

Even today, it’s still hard to believe Baylor has become a member of college basketball’s upper class less than 10 years after narrowly escaping the NCAA death penalty. Sparked by coach Scott Drew, the turnaround that has occurred in Waco is one of the most impressive in college basketball history.

Baylor won a school-record 30 games last season before losing to eventual national champion Kentucky in the regional final. Three players were selected in the NBA Draft, and Drew signed a recruiting class that was ranked No. 4 nationally by

Successful as the Bears were a year ago, there could be even better things in store in 2012-13 thanks to what may be the deepest backcourt in the country and the addition of a future NBA Lottery pick in the paint.

“As always,” Drew says, “we’re setting our sites high.”

The Bears took a major hit down low when underclassmen Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller left school early to turn pro and Quincy Acy graduated. All three players — who combined to average 36.1 points and 19.9 rebounds were selected in the NBA Draft.

Still, Baylor will hardly be lacking in the paint. Cory Jefferson would’ve started for almost any Big 12 team last season but was relegated to just 10 minutes per game behind the Bears’ talented frontline. Pencil the 6-9 junior in as a starter along with highly-touted signee Isaiah Austin, a 7-footer who may be the most talented prospect in the entire class of 2012. Austin can bring the ball up the court, swish 3-pointers, beat a defender off the dribble from the perimeter and can score from both mid-range and in the paint. Also a skilled shot-blocker, Austin is projected as a top-five pick in next summer’s NBA Draft.

Drew’s team will also tout a pair of quality backups in J’mison Morgan and Ricardo Gathers. Morgan, who began his career at UCLA, is a former McDonald’s All-American who redshirted last season. Coaches have praised the senior for improving his physical condition and his work ethic. At 6-8 and 240 pounds, Gathers is a banger and rebounder extraordinaire who has drawn comparisons to Acy, although Gathers, a freshman, may be more skilled offensively.

The Bears’ biggest strength will be on the perimeter, where they return five guards who averaged at least 10 minutes per game last season. Leading the way is point guard Pierre Jackson, a Cousy Award finalist who had team-highs in points (13.8 ppg), steals (1.8 spg) and assists (5.9 apg) as a junior last season. Jackson is as quick as any guard in the country and shot a respectable 40.8 percent from 3-point range a year ago. If he cuts down his 3.5 turnovers per game he could earn All-American honors.

Joining Jackson in the backcourt will be Brady Heslip, who is regarded as one of the top long-range shooters in America. Heslip connected on 45.5 percent of his shots from beyond the arc in 2012-13, including a 54.2 mark (26-of-48) in the postseason. Senior A.J. Walton, who ranked second on the team in steals (1.3 spg), could also start in Baylor’s three-guard lineup.

Another option is sophomore Deuce Bello, who coaches say improved as much as any Bears player during the offseason. Bello had blossomed into one of the team’s top defenders and offensive rebounders by the end of his freshman year, but now he’s a much better ball-handler and shooter.

Also returning is Gary Franklin, who contributed 10 minutes per game after transferring from Cal. L.J. Rose is a 6-4 freshman who is expected to back up Jackson at point guard.

Proud as they are of their recent success, the Bears are ready to take the next step by winning an outright conference championship for the first time since 1948. It certainly won’t be easy. Kansas has claimed the last eight Big 12 titles — and the Jayhawks will be the favorites to repeat again in 2013.

The keys to Baylor ending Kansas’ streak will be another banner season from Jackson and Heslip, breakthrough performances from Bello and Jefferson and significant contributions from freshmen Austin and Gathers, both of whom must develop quickly. If those things occur, the Bears’ potential is limitless.


Athlon College Basketball Countdown So Far:
20. Florida

19. Notre Dame

18. Memphis

<p> College Basketball Countdown: No. 17 Baylor</p>
Post date: Friday, September 21, 2012 - 06:56
Path: /nfl/giants-pummel-panthers-charlotte

The defending Super Bowl champions took the ‘next man up’ concept to another level on Thursday night. Despite missing three key offensive starters, the New York Giants throttled the Carolina Panthers, 36-7, in a game that was never close. The G-men jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead and never looked back. New York tailback Andre Brown, filling in for the injured Ahmad Bradshaw, had a stellar performance with 113 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Additionally, backup receiver Ramses Barden got the start in place of ailing wideout Hakeem Nicks and produced nine catches for 138 yards. Eli Manning had a very efficient night in completing 27-of-35 passes for 288 yards and a score to tight end Martellus Bennett.

Cam Newton and the Panthers were coming off an excellent offensive game in their win over the Saints last Sunday, but the star Carolina quarterback struggled all night against the New York defense. Newton was held to 242 passing yards and just six yards on the ground while being intercepted three times. Giants linebacker Michael Boley had one of those pilfers, making it his third straight game with an interception. The New York defenders showed great resolve in bouncing back from subpar performances against the Cowboys and Buccaneers to dominate Carolina.

The Giants will now have some time to heal before traveling to Philadelphia on September 30 to battle the Eagles on Sunday Night Football. The Panthers will try to regroup as they prepare for a tough road trip to Atlanta in 10 days.

<p> Giants Pummel the Panthers in Charlotte</p>
Post date: Friday, September 21, 2012 - 06:45
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-start-or-sit-week-3

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

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

Week 3 Positional Rankings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Running Backs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wide Receivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defense/Special Teams

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football: Week 3 Start or Sit</p>
Post date: Friday, September 21, 2012 - 06:36
Path: /college-football/college-football-week-4-preview-match-ups-upset-picks-and-storylines-watch-0

College football's Week 4 slate doesn't feature a ton of huge matchups, but there's plenty of impact games. Florida State-Clemson is a marquee ACC battle between two top-10 teams, while Michigan travels to Notre Dame. As usual, the SEC always has a few intriguing contests that are must-see games. Vanderbilt travels to Georgia, LSU hits the road for a matchup against Auburn and new SEC member Missouri takes on South Carolina. 

Top Storylines to Watch in Week 4

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

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

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

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

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

Six Intriguing Under-the-Radar Games to Watch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teams Looking to Bounce Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teams Desperate For a Win

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

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

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

Quarterbacks Under Pressure

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

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

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

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

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

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

Injuries to watch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upset Watch

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

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

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

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

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

Six Games to Avoid this Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Steven Lassan


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

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

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

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

Note: All lines are as of date of publication

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

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

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

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

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

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

BONUS ROUND: Road dogs I like…

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

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

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

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

- by Braden Gall


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

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

Is Nebraska the best team in the Big Ten?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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<p> Nebraska Football: Are the Cornhuskers the Best Team in the Big Ten?</p>
Post date: Friday, September 21, 2012 - 06:11