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

 

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

Week 4 Previews and Predictions:
ACC Big 12 | Big Ten | SEC


Pac-12 Week 4 Game Power Rankings

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Off: Stanford, UCLA, Arizona State, USC

 

Pac-12 Predictions:

 

 Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
Oregon (-24) at WazzuOre., 51-27Ore., 44-20Ore., 56-27Ore., 55-28
Utah (+5) at MichiganMich., 28-27Utah, 30-27Utah, 27-21Mich., 27-24
Cal (+9) at ArizonaZona, 41-31Zona, 37-33Zona, 38-21Zona, 38-30
S. Diego St (+10) at Ore. StOSU, 34-27OSU, 33-24OSU, 35-31OSU, 34-24
Hawaii (+7.5) at Colo.Colo., 31-21Colo., 27-17Colo., 28-10Colo., 38-20
Ga. St (+35) at Wash.Wash., 38-7Wash., 41-3Wash., 51-17Wash., 55-17
Last Week:7-17-17-17-1
Year-to-Date:25-626-526-524-7

 

Teaser:
Pac-12 2014 Week 4 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/acc-2014-week-4-preview-and-predictions
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After a week of surprises in non-conference action, the focus in the ACC shifts slightly to league play. Clemson-Florida State and Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech headline a solid slate of games for Week 4. And in non-conference matchups, East Carolina looks to knock off another ACC opponent with a home date against North Carolina, and Miami visits Nebraska.

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

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

Week 4 Previews and Predictions:
Big 12Big TenPac-12SEC 

 

ACC Week 4 Game Power Rankings

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

3. Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech (-8)
Noon ET, ESPN

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

 

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

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

 

5. Iowa at Pittsburgh (-6.5)
Noon ET, ESPNU

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Week 4 ACC Predictions

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

 

Teaser:
ACC 2014 Week 4 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Syracuse Orange, College Basketball, News
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College basketball season is creeping up fast, and Athlon Sports is counting down to Midnight Madness and the start of practice on Oct. 17. 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 


No. 22 Syracuse Facts & Figures

Last season: 28-6, 14-4 ACC

Postseason: NCAA round of 32

Consecutive NCAAs: 6

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

ACC Projection: Fifth

Postseason Projection: NCAA round of 32

 


 

Frontcourt

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Backcourt

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Final Analysis

 

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

 

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

 

Newcomers

 

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

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College Basketball 2014-15: Syracuse Orange Team Preview
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 07:00
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Stephen Gostkowski checks in at No. 1 on Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Kicker Rankings for Week 3, but he’s yet to show off his powerful leg. Matt Bryant leads all kickers with two field goals of 50 yards or longer, while 10 other kickers have already connected from that distance as well. Dallas’ Dan Bailey is one of those, as he was good on four attempts from 40 yards and beyond, including a 51-yarder, in the Cowboys’ easy 26-10 road win over the Titans. Dallas travels to St. Louis this week, a game that features two kickers with big legs in Bailey and the Rams’ Greg Zuerlein (career long of 60 yards).

 

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

 

Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K

 

2014 NFL Week 3 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers

 

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

 

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

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

 

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

 

Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K

 

2014 NFL Week 3 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams

 

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

 

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

 

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

 

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

 

Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K

 

2014 NFL Week 3 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends

 

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


Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

 

Need more fantasy help? Visit www.FantasyRundown.com

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2014 Tight End Rankings: Week 3
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-wide-receiver-rankings-week-3
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It’s only fitting that the top two wide receivers in fantasy football right now occupy the same space in Athlon Sports’ Week 3 rankings at the position. Calvin Johnson and Jordy Nelson are set to share the same field when Detroit hosts Green Bay in what should be an entertaining and likely high-scoring affair Sunday afternoon. Megatron checks in at No. 1 in our rankings, but it’s actually Nelson who’s the top scorer at WR, after exploding for 209 yards against the Jets last week. Other matchups this week to watch include Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” secondary against the Broncos’ stable of Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Wes Welker, who was reinstated this week according to the stipulations of the NFL's new drug policy. Chicago’s Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery each gutted through injuries last week, and on Monday night they will try and take advantage of the same Jets’ passing defense that Nelson and his Packer teammates torched in Week 2.

 

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

 

Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K

 

2014 NFL Week 3 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers

 

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

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING

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

 

Need more fantasy help? Visit www.FantasyRundown.com

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

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

 

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

 

Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K

 

2014 NFL Week 3 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Backs

 

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

 

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

 

Need more fantasy help? Visit www.FantasyRundown.com

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2014 Running Back Rankings: Week 3
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2014-quarterback-rankings-week-3
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A Super Bowl rematch has led to some shuffling at the top of Athlon Sports’ Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings for Week 3. Denver and Seattle will go head-to-head once again, but this time the game will take place in the Pacific Northwest, not the Big Apple. Regardless of the venue, the Broncos’ matchup with a Seahawks defense that held them to one touchdown and forced three turnovers back in February is enough reason to drop Peyton Manning out of his usual No. 1 spot. Instead, top billing for this week goes to Drew Brees. The Saints’ offense has struggled some out of the gates, but it’s usually pretty reliable, not to mention productive, at home in the comfy Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Another intriguing matchup to keep an eye on is Green Bay vs. Detroit at Ford Field. This has all the makings of a high-scoring affair.

 

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

 

Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K

 

2014 NFL Week 3 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks

 

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

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

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

 

Need more fantasy help? Visit www.FantasyRundown.com

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2014 Quarterback Rankings: Week 3
Post date: Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 06:30
Path: /nascar/nascar-chase-report-previewing-race-no-2-new-hampshire
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New Hampshire Motor Speedway

New Hampshire Motor Speedway hosted the opening race in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup until 2011, when it was replaced by Chicagoland Speedway. That’s a shame, since the 1.058-mile track in Loudon has turned in some of the best racing and most memorable Chase moments over the last 10 years. The weather looks beautiful this weekend, the Red Sox are out of playoff contention and the Patriots are sure to destroy the Raiders, so there are no excuses for the Chowds to miss this one. If you say you have something better to do than hit the track, that’s a load of GAH-BAGE.

 

 

Contenders

The obvious answer here: Morgan Shepherd … or is that too soon?  Brad Keselowski

 

In all seriousness, if the July edition at NHMS was any indication the Team Penske twins are going to be a hard to handle (and that’s without even factoring their performance last week at Chicagoland). Brad Keselowski dominated the action two months in Loudon, leading 138 of 300 laps, while Joey Logano tangled with the aforementioned Shepherd while running second, sending him into the wall. The duo has conspired to win three of the last four Cup races on the schedule, with Keselowski already locked into the playoff’s second round and Logano showing signs of Chase blessings as his engine blew coming to the finish line on Sunday.

 

Elsewhere, Jeff Gordon was running third at NHMS in July before his car ran out of gas as the yellow came out, forcing him to stop for fuel after having led 19 laps. He and teammate Jimmie Johnson have enviable records here with three wins apiece. Also in the Hendrick camp, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne were 10th and 11th, respectively, in July. 

 

Additionally, all four were at the track two months ago trying to figure out how to speed up the No. 5, so they have test notes galore from which to work.

 

Last week I said all Ryan Newman needed to do was ride things out and aim for a top 15 in Joliet, as his bread ‘n’ butter track was next on the docket. So what’d he do? He finished 15th and is headed to the site of first career win — and arguably his best track on the circuit. He has three wins, seven top 5s, and 16 top 10s at NHMS and finished fifth in July. Anything less than a top 5 should be viewed as a disappointment for a team that needs to make a splash.

 

Don’t count out the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas of Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, either. While I was ready to throw dirt on the latter going into Chicago, what with the way they bumbled and stumbled through the end of the regular season, Busch managed a respectable seventh-place showing. Hamlin was one better, slotting in sixth. 

 

Busch was second at NHMS in July, leading 62 laps, with Hamlin eighth after leading 20 circuits. Busch seems legitimately pleased with the new power TRD brought to the track at Chicago, but can the Toyotas pull the Hendrick and Roush-Yates engines off of Loudon’s slow sweeping corners? It’s all about getting off to a decent start and avoiding any points disasters; this is a comparatively short race, too, so early mishaps can spell disaster. I’m still a little leery of the No. 18’s performance — particularly with Kansas looming as the first race in Round 2.  Kyle Larson

 

The sleeper pick for the weekend? Kyle Larson — though at this point he may not qualify in that category. The rookie finished third last weekend after a spirited battle for the win against some savvy vets, and was third at Loudon in July. Crew chief Chris Heroy won here in 2009 as car chief for Mark Martin, so he obviously knows how to set up a car to win. Mark it down: Larson wins a race before the season is over. 

 

 

Pretenders

After the measured improvement the Roush Fenway cars showed the past month with increasingly strong runs at Michigan and Atlanta, it was a forgone conclusion that they’d be contenders at Chicagoland, right? Eurrggh, wrong answer, Hans! 

 

What an absolute disaster that first race was for a team that appeared to have found some answers. How bad were things? Carl Edwards: 20th, Greg Biffle 23rd (worst among Chase drivers who finished), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — the highest finishing RFR car — 17th (and that was with the right side smashed in from tangling with his girlfriend for the umpteenth time). If I didn’t know any better, it looked like they brought whatever cars they ran at Michigan in June and didn’t change anything on them. Edwards and Biffle came home 13th and 15th at NHMS in July, but replicating those showings won’t do much good following last weekend’s momentum-killer.  Carl Edwards

 

So whatever good vibes RFR had are suddenly DOA — The Cat in the Hat needs to send The Captain a gift basket, post-haste and garner whatever intel he can. Heck, even The King’s car was a top-5 contender until the engine blew. Something is amiss here once again, and at the worst possible time.

 

 

Chase Hope-Enders

Aric Almirola, running Roush Fenway garage sale specials, was running sixth in Joliet before his engine expired with just handful of laps remaining. Almirola isn’t out of this Chase yet, but it’s not looking good. The Chicago disappointment spells trouble in that the team, which finished 12th at Dover in June, could have hobbled its way through a so-so finish at Loudon with the hope of a second top-15 run in two of the first three Chase events. 

 

That’s not happening now.

 

That said, Almirola and the Roush Fewnay duo best do something of substance this weekend, otherwise Ford is in danger of losing three-fifths of its Chase contingent in Round 1. 

 

The other hapless fellow here: AJ Allmendinger. No offense to the ‘Dinger or the No. 47 JTG-Daugherty team, but they’re just not ready for prime time. Allmendinger finished 18th here in July and after a 22nd-place run at Chicagoland, the reality check I predicted last week is coming to pass. If only NASCAR had a road course or a plate track in the first elimination round for teams like these. Hey, don’t look at me — the sanctioning body is the one that’s trying to manufacture drama …

 

 

New Hampshire Winner: Joey Logano  Joey Logano

Last week I picked Kevin Harvick to win in Joliet and, after leading 77 laps, it looked like he was going to hold off Kyle Larson — right until Brad Keselowski shot that Chevy gap and road off into the sunset.

 

With that image burned onto my retinas and until someone proves to me they have something for the Penske Fords, I say ride those two horses as long as they’ll gallop. Keselowski dominated here in June, but his teammate was just as fast prior to tangling with a lapped car. This is Logano’s home turf (he hails from Middletown, Conn.) as well as the site of his first career Cup win. Could Keselowski run the table in Lob-stah Land? Absolutely, and he has nothing to lose if a roll of the dice comes into play. But then again, ensuring the second Penske team car makes it into Round 2 may be of greater importance this week.

 

 

Follow Vito Pugliese on Twitter: @VitoPugliese

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
Contenders, pretenders and predicted winners for the second race of NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup, the Sylvania 300 at New hampshire Motor Speedway.
Post date: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 15:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/5-running-backs-replace-jamaal-charles
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Kansas City All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles will miss an extended period of time after suffering an ankle injury in the Chiefs’ Week 2 loss. Charles, last year’s leading fantasy scorer (Athlon scoring) at running back, didn’t make it through the team’s first series before leaving after rushing the ball twice for four yards and catching one pass for eight.

 

The good news is that Charles’ MRI came back “clean,” showing no fracture or significant structural damage. The bad news is that head coach Andy Reid has already thrown out the dreaded phrases “high ankle sprain” and “out indefinitely.” So fantasy owners are faced with a dilemma similar to the Adrian Peterson situation last week. How does one replace one of the best scoring options at his position?


In fact, this dilemma also could apply to an owner who drafted Ryan Mathews (out 4-5 weeks with a sprained MCL) or Doug Martin (did not play last week because of an ankle injury) or Ben Tate (sprained knee, return unknown). Injuries have not been kind to the running back ranks early on with Knowshon Moreno (dislocated elbow), Mark Ingram (broken hand), Maurice Jones-Drew (hand injury) and DeAngelo Williams (thigh) also hurting.

 

And after some initial optimism, Peterson owners find themselves in a different boat now that he's been placed on the exempt/commissioner's permission list. Any initial hopes of getting the No. 1 overall pick in many leagues have now been dashed. The only difference is that Peterson is not technically suspended, so no on one knows when he will be back this season, if at all. Depending on how your league (referring to redraft leagues, not keeper/dynasty) is structured, an owner may have no other choice but to simply "sit" on Peterson unless they want to risk the chance of dropping him and someone else stashing him in hopes of an eventual return this season.

 

Here are five running backs that could help a Charles or similarly beleaguered owner weather the storm.

 

Knile Davis, Kansas City Chiefs

The no-brainer for Charles owners, who hopefully were wise enough to grab him with a late draft pick. Now the starter for the Chiefs, Davis has top-10 fantasy potential given his familiarity with the offense and how Reid uses his backs. Case in point, Davis posted 79 yards rushing on 22 carries, caught six passes for 26 yards and scored both of Kansas City’s touchdowns in the 24-17 loss to Denver. A back that is likely to see 20-30 touches each game? Yes please.

 

Bobby Rainey, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Doug Martin was a late scratch last week, opening the door for Rainey. And all the diminutive (5-8) back did was explode for 144 yards on 22 carries against St. Louis. Rainey has excelled as the starter before, rushing for a total of 290 yards in games against Atlanta and Buffalo last season, so this isn’t exactly out of the blue. Add to this that his latest 100-yard effort came against a pretty good St. Louis defense and the fact the Bucs have a short week ahead of them, it’s highly likely Rainey will get another crack at those aforementioned Falcons on Thursday.

 

Khiry Robinson, New Orleans Saints

Ingram was off to a great start (6.0 ypc, 3 TDs) before breaking his hand against the Browns. New Orleans still has Pierre Thomas, but his role doesn’t figure to change that much moving forward. If anyone can benefit from Ingram’s injury, it’s Robinson who should see more rushing attempts, especially as the short-yardage and goal-line back. To this point, Robinson has more carries (14) than Thomas (10) and he’s been fairly effective (4.2 ypc, TD) when he’s gotten the ball. Robinson also could be attractive because unlike Davis and maybe even Rainey, he’s more likely to fly under the radar.

 

Ahmad Bradshaw, Indianapolis Colts

Trent Richardson is still getting his chances, but even when he’s been able do something positive (79 yards on 21 carries on Monday night), he does something else to cancel it out (2 fumbles, 1 lost). Regardless, Bradshaw is not going away, as the veteran is certainly a factor in the passing game. Look no further than his two touchdown catches against the Eagles, while also chipping in 70 yards on the ground. He may be No. 2 on the depth chart, but he’s currently seventh in fantasy points at his position.

 

Donald Brown, San Diego Chargers

Similar to Pierre Thomas in New Orleans, San Diego has Danny Woodhead, a versatile back who is more of a factor in the passing game. So it looks like that Brown will be the one given the opportunity to fill Mathews’ role as the primary ball-carrier. While Brown’s early impact with his new team has been minimal (9 att., 3 rec., 23 total yards), this is a guy who’s been successful before. He was Indianapolis’ leading rusher last season, averaging 5.3 yards per carry with six touchdowns. He’s also a capable receiver out of the backfield, which should only help his fantasy potential with Mathews out of the picture for at least a month. It may be time to find out what this Brown can do you for your fantasy team.

Teaser:
5 Running Backs to Replace Jamaal Charles
Post date: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 13:00
Path: /college-football/florida-state-suspends-qb-jameis-winston-first-half-against-clemson
Body:

Florida State has suspended quarterback Jameis Winston for the first half of Saturday’s game against Clemson due to inappropriate comments made on Tuesday on campus.

In a statement from the university, Florida State also indicated Winston will undergo internal discipline.

 

With Winston missing the first two quarters, the Seminoles will turn to backup Sean Maguire.

Maguire completed 13 of 21 passes for 116 yards and two scores last season and has attempted just five throws in 2014.

Maguire has not started a game during his Florida State career and was rated as a three-star prospect in the 2012 signing class.

Prior to Winston’s suspension, Florida State was considered at least a 20-point favorite on Saturday.

While the Seminoles are still likely to be picked to win by most, the margin for error for Jimbo Fisher’s team has narrowed.

Maguire has experience but none against a first-team defense. Clemson’s defensive line is one of the best in the nation and features All-American end Vic Beasley.

Expect a limited gameplan for Maguire, and Fisher will likely place the bulk of the offense on the shoulders of running backs Mario Pender and Karlos Williams.

Also, Florida State’s defense can help its offense by creating a few turnovers. The Tigers’ offense struggled in the second half against Georgia and is a work in progress with new quarterback Cole Stoudt. 

Teaser:
Florida State Suspends QB Jameis Winston for First Half Against Clemson
Post date: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 12:23
All taxonomy terms: Graeme McDowell, Golf
Path: /golf/ryder-cup-2014-4-questions-graeme-mcdowell
Body:

After a miracle comeback at the Ryder Cup Matches at Medinah in 2012, Europe is the prohibitive favorite to retain the Cup on home turf, as Tom Watson takes a shorthanded American team to Scotland for the most pressure-packed event in golf. Can a U.S. team led by crafty veteran Phil Mickelson and young gun Rickie Fowler upset a European powerhouse led by four-time major champion Rory McIlroy and Ryder Cup maestro Sergio Garcia?

 

Athlon caught up with Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, a Ryder cup veteran with a match record of 5-5-2 in three Cups, to get his perspective.

 

How is the pressure of the Ryder Cup compared to a major championship?

It’s very different. One’s individual pressure. Obviously, I had a chance to experience both things in the space of three or four months of each other (in 2010). Back nine of the U.S. Open and then coming down the stretch against Hunter (Mahan at the Ryder Cup). I can safely say it was ten-fold the pressure at the Ryder Cup. No doubt about it. You’re only letting yourself down by not taking care of it at a major championship. But you feel the fates of all your teammates and everything that goes into the Ryder Cup. And especially how passionate Europe is about the Ryder Cup. We’re certainly very, very into it.

 

Describe the experience of playing in a Ryder Cup.

I feel like I’ve experienced everything I can experience at the Ryder Cup. I’ve lost. I’ve won. I hit the last shot, I hit the first shot, I’ve played both sides of the Atlantic. At Gleneagles, I’ve made a promise to myself that I’m going to go and enjoy it. Try to shrug the pressure off a little bit. Play with my eyes open and take it all in and really embrace and enjoy as opposed to getting all tense and feeling like it’s pretty painful at times.

 

What about Gleneagles as a venue?

I think it will be a good venue. Weather is something we can’t control, and I’m sure it’ll be a talking point. But I think from a crowd’s point of view, Scottish fans are very educated and they love their golf and they will be absolutely fired up. First Ryder Cup (in Scotland) for many, many years. I’m expecting it to be pretty amazing. From a match play standpoint, the course is kind of irrelevant. Take Dove Mountain (former home of the WGC-Match Play Championship). That’s a golf course where you couldn’t play a stroke-play event. It would just be impossible. But it works for match play. The golf course can be irrelevant from a match play standpoint. It’s just ball against ball. Doesn’t matter if there is lots of rough or no rough. Long, short. Doesn’t really matter. Beautiful, not beautiful. Match play, the golf course is less relevant than it is at a major championship. I’m all for the Ryder Cup being at iconic venues. But it’s more about the people and the atmosphere and the experience and the matches.

 

You’ve played on two winning teams and one losing team. How do you view this one?

It’s something I’m very much looking forward to. A huge honor. I paced myself well this season, coming off good form in the summer, and I think I can be an instrumental part of the team. I’m getting to the veteran stage and I feel like I can definitely be a decent sort of leader for the young guys on the team.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 11:46
All taxonomy terms: Rickie Fowler, Golf
Path: /golf/ryder-cup-2014-4-questions-rickie-fowler
Body:

After a miracle comeback at the Ryder Cup Matches at Medinah in 2012, Europe is the prohibitive favorite to retain the Cup on home turf, as Tom Watson takes a shorthanded American team to Scotland for the most pressure-packed event in golf. Can a U.S. team led by crafty veteran Phil Mickelson and young gun Rickie Fowler upset a European powerhouse led by four-time major champion Rory McIlroy and Ryder Cup maestro Sergio Garcia?

 

One of the keys to the U.S. effort, Rickie Fowler will be participating in his second Cup after a record of 0-1-2 in 2010 — but with four top-5 finishes in this year's majors under his stylish white belt. Athlon talked to Fowler for his perspective as the teams head to Gleneagles.

 

How is the pressure of a Ryder Cup different than a major?

It is different. I think the biggest ones for me, that kind of set me up for The Ryder Cup, it wasn't any of the professional events I played.  It was the Walker Cup experience, being in the team atmosphere. I think coming off and playing right out of college helped me, as well in 2010. So I'll still definitely be feeling the nerves this year as well, but I'm looking forward to it and pulling from the past experiences in 2010 and the two Walker Cups I have played.  It's a bit different when you are playing for a few other guys on the team, captain and wearing the red, white and blue.

 

Although you were not on the 2012 team, you sense any extra motivation to win it this year after what happened at Medinah?

You always want to go into those wanting to win, but with the way the last couple have gone, being on the losing side in '10 and then watching the guys come up short on the final day there at Medinah, yeah, it gives us a little fire to get it all together this year. I think the biggest thing is kind of get the team together, get everyone kind of on the same page. I know everyone's going to want to win, but bringing the team together is always big. I know Europe's always very strong at team camaraderie. Not that the U.S. doesn't get along, but I feel like we can work on getting the team together a little bit better and see if we can all pull together as a team and bring the cup home.

 

How tough was it not to be on the team the last time?

It was a struggle for me through that summer because my main goal that year was to make the Ryder Cup team. I was in position and was playing decent, and then I didn't make it well known, but after the fact, a lot of people knew that I was playing injured with my back that was giving me trouble. So it was a struggle just because I knew I could play well and I wanted to play well, and I wasn't able to because of the pain that my back was giving me and wasn't able to put myself in a position to make good swings. I'm definitely pleased with what I've done fitness-wise, and I've put myself in a position now where I'm locked up for the Ryder Cup team and I can go ahead and play.

 

What impact do you expect captain Tom Watson to have on the U.S. team?

I've gotten to know him a little bit. He's a living legend of the game. It will be cool to have him as a captain and it will be a lot cooler if we're able to bring the Cup back for him.

 

Teaser:
Ryder Cup 2014: Athlon Talks to Rickie Fowler
Post date: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 11:20
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-september-17-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for September 17:

 

The top 35 cheerleading squads of the NCAA. This list will require extensive study to assess.

 

The Nats and Orioles clinched, leading to celebrations like the one in the photo above and the one seen here where Adam Jones smashes pies into fans' faces, and also conjuring visions of a Beltway World Series.

 

• No matter your opinion of Adrian Peterson, I think we can all agree that the Vikings are stumbling around cluelessly.

 

• In addition to a new contract, LeBron James also has new hair.

 

Greg Doyel caught up with the fainting goat kid from Arkansas State.

 

Blake Griffin hit Open Mic Night at the Laugh Factory. I'm afraid to watch it; let me know how he did.

 

A Cubs fan lost his wedding ring onto the field while giving high-fives. That's the most Cubs fan thing possible.

 

Watch Texas A&M punter Drew Kaiser campaign for the Heisman Trophy. If I had a vote, he'd get it.

 

Dwight Howard's problems with authority extend to red lights.

 

Lolo Jones' stint on Dancing with the Stars was … ill-fated.

 

• Why do celebrities even throw out first pitches? Charles Barkley bounced one last night.

--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 10:45
Path: /college-football/offensive-line-play-could-doom-oregon-and-uclas-title-hopes
Body:

Offensive line play is often overlooked when analyzing and predicting a college football season. Outside of quarterback play, the five players in the trenches are the most important position on offense. Good skill players won’t go far with a limited offensive line, and a passing game won’t get on track if there’s no protection.

In Athlon’s predicted top 25 offensive lines for 2014, five of the units hailed from the Pac-12. Stanford, Oregon, Washington, Arizona and UCLA ranked among the nation’s best, with the Cardinal grabbing the No. 1 spot in the conference.

While optimism ran high at those schools in the preseason, some teams are still searching for the right answers three weeks into 2014.
 

Oregon's Post-Spring Projected OL
LTTyler Johnstone26 career starts
LGHamani Stevens16 career starts
CHroniss Grasu43 career starts
RGCameron Hunt9 career starts
RTJake Fisher25 career starts

Each team has a different story in the trenches, but for Oregon, injuries have limited a unit that returned all five starters and was poised to be one of the best in the nation.

Improving the production from the guards and overall physicality of the line was a priority in the offseason, and so far, it appears Oregon’s offensive line has answered the call. The Ducks have scored on 93.3 percent of their red zone trips in 2014. Oregon rushers are averaging 6.3 yards per carry through three weeks and that includes a solid (4.3 ypc) performance against one of the best defenses in the nation (Michigan State).  

But will those numbers hold over the course of the season? The Ducks’ line has been thinned by injuries, as Tyler Johnstone was lost for the year due to a knee injury in the preseason, and tackles Andre Yruretagoyena and Jake Fisher have been injured in the last two weeks.
 

Oregon's Projected OL for Week 4  
LT Matt Pierson/Jake FisherFisher's Status Uncertain 
LG Hamani StevensStarted all 3 games in 2014. 
C Hroniss GrasuBest center in nation? 
RG Cameron HuntStarted 2 games in 2014. 
RT Tyrell CrosbyTrue freshman pressed into duty. 

Oregon is secretive with injury updates, so there’s no long-term diagnosis on Fisher or Yruretagoyena.

With Fisher and Yruretagoyena sidelined, the Ducks will rely on junior Matt Pierson and freshman Tyrell Crosby to handle the tackle duties. Crosby ranked as the No. 401 recruit in the 2014 signing class and started the Week 3 contest against Wyoming. Crosby started on the right side and is expected to stay there, even with Fisher’s absence in Week 4. Pierson is a walk-on but has game experience by playing in six contests in 2013 and three games in 2012. He also filled in against Wyoming, helping a line that did not allow a sack last Saturday.

But if either player is out for an extended period of time, the Ducks could go into the heart of their schedule (at UCLA – Oct. 11, Washington – Oct. 18 and Stanford – Nov. 1) without their top three tackles from the preseason.

Matchups against the Bruins and Cardinal will be huge for Oregon’s playoff hopes and could decide whether or not the Ducks or Stanford represents the North in the Pac-12 title game.

Will Oregon’s offensive line woes derail the offense against Washington State or Arizona? Probably not, but a thin offensive line could create more pressure on quarterback Marcus Mariota.

 

The Cougars have just four sacks in three games and have allowed 28.7 points per game so far this year. Washington State’s defensive line is underrated, headlined by tackle Xavier Cooper. The Cougars also sacked Mariota three times in 2013.

 

The Wildcats have allowed 21.3 points per game and 5.2 yards per play through three weeks. Oregon’s matchup against Arizona is more favorable, as the Wildcats are breaking in two new starters on the line.

But the reality for Oregon is simple. Good luck and injuries are required to win a national title. Not having three of your top tackles from the preseason is something that will be difficult to overcome. Of course, having a quarterback like Mariota certainly alleviates the concerns up front. And the Ducks can use their spread to get rid of the ball and allow their athletes to make plays in space.
 

If Fisher and Yruretagoyena return soon, Oregon’s offensive line should be fine. However, if these two miss the rest of the year, the Ducks’ depth up front could be a huge issue, especially against physical defenses like Stanford, UCLA and potential matchups in the playoffs.

 

On the other side of the division, UCLA is also dealing with uncertainty on its offensive line.


In the opener against Virginia, the Bruins allowed 11 tackles for a loss and five sacks. Center Jake Brendel (All-Pac-12 candidate) did not play against the Cavaliers due to a knee injury, which clearly attributed to some of UCLA’s struggles up front.
 

GameYPRSacks AllowedTFL Allowed
at UVA3.05 (33 att)11
Memphis3.54 (44 att)6
Texas4.63 (34 att)3

Brendel returned in Week 2 against Memphis, and the Bruins allowed four sacks on 44 pass attempts, gave up six tackles for a loss and improved their yards per carry average from 3.0 in the opener to 3.5 against the Tigers.

 

UCLA’s line took a step forward in Week 3, recording a 4.6 yards per rush against Texas – the best defensive front the Bruins have played in 2014 – and gave up only three sacks on 34 pass attempts.

 

The good news for coach Jim Mora and quarterback Brett Hundley is the line seems to be improving with each game. However, tackle Malcolm Bunche was injured against Texas and his status for next week’s Thursday night showdown against Arizona State is uncertain.

If Bunche can’t go in Week 5, redshirt freshman Conor McDermott is listed on the backup on the depth chart, but UCLA could shuffle its line to move someone else to the left side.

Losing Bunche for an extended period of time would be a huge setback for a line that is still developing and thin on proven options off the bench. While that’s ominous for the Bruins, Bunche does have a week to get healthy before playing Arizona State (Sept. 25).

Assuming UCLA is able to win in Tempe, an aggressive Utah defense awaits on Oct. 4, followed by a date against Oregon on Oct. 11. Getting Brendel fully entrenched at center once again, along with Bunche back to full strength is critical in a key stretch run for the Bruins.

However, there’s one major caveat to UCLA’s title hopes that won’t revolve on the offensive line. Is quarterback Brett Hundley healthy and capable of returning soon? The early reports suggest Hundley’s elbow injury isn’t serious, but the Bruins need their signal-caller and No. 1 quarterback at full strength.

UCLA was Athlon’s pick to win the South Division this preseason. Even if the wins haven’t been impressive or as dominating as some may have anticipated in the preseason, the Bruins are still squarely in the mix for the division and conference title. And if UCLA wins the Pac-12 title with one loss or remains unbeaten, Jim Mora's team is going to be in college football's playoff.

 

The stats from the first three games suggest the offensive line is improving. But what type of impact could a long-term injury to Bunche hold for this group? And assuming Bunche does return to full strength, can this unit jell and continue to improve after a sluggish start to the season?

 

With its strong defense and quarterback Brett Hundley leading the way, UCLA is capable of pushing for a playoff spot. However, much like Oregon, the Bruins’ title hopes depend on the five blockers leading the way in key games against the Ducks, Sun Devils, along with late-season matchups against Washington, USC and Stanford.

It's early, but the development (and health) of offensive lines at UCLA and Oregon are going to play a huge role in determining the Pac-12 champion in 2014.

Teaser:
Offensive Line Play Could Doom Oregon and UCLA's Title Hopes
Post date: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/expert-poll-2014-week-3-heisman-trophy-voting
Body:

Athlon Sports has formed a Heisman Trophy committee. Each week, we will ask 13 members of the national college football media to rank their top candidates for the Heisman Trophy.

 

Each voter will rank their top five candidates, with each first-place vote getting five points and each last-place vote getting one point.

 

The Panel:

 

Stewart Mandel, FOX Sports

Dave Revsine, Big Ten Network 

Adam Zucker, CBS Sports

Steven Godfrey, SBNation

Zac Ellis, Sports Illustrated

Bryan Fischer, NFL.com

Tom Dienhart, Big Ten Network

Barrett Sallee, Bleacher Report, B/R Radio

Josh Ward, MrSEC.com

Mitch Light, Athlon Sports

David Fox, Athlon Sports

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports, SiriusXM

 

The Results:

 

 PlayerTeamPts1st2nd3rd4th5th
1.Marcus Mariota63112---
2.Todd Gurley4828111
3.Jameis Winston24-1513
4.Kenny Hill21-1251
5.Everett Golson12-12-2
6t.Taysom Hill8--121
6t.Amari Cooper8--121
8t.Ameer Abdullah4--1-1
8t.Shaq Thompson4---12
10.Bryce Petty2---1-
11.Demarcus Robinson1----1

Dropped out: none

 

Listen to the Week 3 recap podcast:
 



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

The Top 3:

 

 
1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

The Ducks quarterback wasn’t needed at all in the fourth quarter after leading Oregon to a big lead over Wyoming. He finished with a sterling line: 19-of-23 passing for 221 yards, two touchdowns, no turnovers, 71 yards rushing and two more touchdowns. He’s got 962 yards of total offense and 11 touchdowns in three games. A road trip to Washington State this weekend should provide big numbers and another big win for the Ducks.

 

2. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

The Dawgs took one on the chin in Columbia but it has only hurt Gurley’s Heisman stock slightly. He is still the only player in the same realm as Mariota. The Georgia workhorse finished with 131 yards and a touchdown (another one was called back) on 20 carries to go with four receptions as well. Maybe he should have gotten the ball around the goal line late in the fourth quarter? Gurley has 329 yards and four touchdowns rushing on 35 carries in just two games but the loss could eventually cost him the award. He shouldn't be needed much this weekend against Troy.

 

3. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida St

Florida State and Jameis Winston were off in Week 3 but will be the focal point of the voters in Week 4 as Clemson comes to town. This could be the toughest ACC game of the year for the Noles and another big performance from Winston could move him into contention with Mariota and Gurley. Winston has completed over 70 percent of his passes and has 626 yards through the air in two wins thus far in 2014.

Teaser:
Expert Poll: 2014 Week 3 Heisman Trophy Voting
Post date: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Arkansas Razorbacks, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/arkansas-rebuilding-project-track-bret-bielemas-second-season
Body:

Arkansas has experienced its share of highs and lows since joining the SEC in 1992. The Razorbacks have won at least 10 games three times since 2006 but also bottomed out with an 0-8 record in conference play in 2013.

 

Finishing 0-8 in SEC play in 2013 was the result of several factors, but the winless season is largely attributed to the coaching carousel that transpired in Fayetteville. 

 

Bobby Petrino’s four-year stint in Fayetteville was successful, which included 21 wins from 2010-11 and an appearance in the Sugar Bowl after the 2010 season. But Petrino’s tenure ended on a motorcycle ride in the spring of 2012, forcing the Razorbacks into uncertainty after the best two-year stint since Arkansas joined the SEC.

 

Athletic director Jeff Long’s options were limited in replacing Petrino and he chose familiarity by selecting former assistant John L. Smith to serve as a one-year option.

 

But that one year was surrounded in uncertainty in numerous ways, and the Razorbacks slipped to 4-8 overall and just 2-6 in SEC play.
 

Long’s hire of Bret Bielema from Wisconsin was a surprise, and Bielema endured a rough debut in 2013. Arkansas finished 3-9 overall and recorded its first winless season in conference play since joining the SEC.

 

While Bielema shouldered much of the criticism from the 2013 campaign, the Razorbacks’ problems were bigger than a coach.

 

Three coaches in three years, changes in scheme, personnel departures – including quarterback Tyler Wilson – and uncertainty in recruiting all compounded Arkansas’ issues.

Switching from Petrino’s high-powered offense to Bielema’s ground-and-pound attack required time and adjustments, but the Razorbacks started to show signs of life late in the 2013 season.

After being outscored by 139-24 against South Carolina, Alabama and Auburn, Arkansas lost by 10 to Ole Miss, lost by seven in overtime to Mississippi State and nearly upset LSU in Baton Rouge to close out 2013.

 

Those signs of life late in the season have carried over into 2014. Arkansas battled defending SEC champion Auburn for a half, losing 45-21 after the Tigers scored 24 unanswered points over the final two quarters.

The Razorbacks thoroughly dominated FCS opponent Nicholls State in Week 2 and gashed Texas Tech’s defense for 438 yards in a huge 49-28 road victory for Arkansas.

The Red Raiders may end 2014 as an overrated team based on the preseason rankings, but the Razorbacks are clearly improving under Bielema.

Why has Arkansas improved? Outside of the rushing attack and dynamic duo of running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, here are three reasons why the Razorbacks are improving in Bielema’s second season:

A healthy Brandon Allen at QB
In his first two starts of 2013, Allen completed 24 of 39 throws for 355 yards and five scores. After a shoulder injury against Southern Miss, Allen wasn’t the same quarterback. He finished 2013 by throwing just nine touchdowns over the final eight games and a lackluster 49.6 completion percentage. Allen is off to a good start once again, completing 28 of 48 passes for 353 yards and six scores. The Razorbacks will always lean on the run, but Allen’s health (and development) should keep opposing defenses honest.

 

Recruiting
Arkansas will always have trouble attracting five-star talent, but Bielema and his staff inked the No. 23 class in 2013 and the No. 30 haul in '14. And the Razorbacks are targeting another top 20-30 class this year, which is ranked No. 26 by 247Sports. The 2015 class already includes five four-star players. Bielema and his staff have done a good job of quickly developing talent, as eight players from the 2013 class are listed as starters. And nine players from the 2014 class are listed on the depth chart for Week 4, including nose guard Bijhon Jackson, center Frank Ragnow and cornerback Henre’ Toliver.


Reviewing Arkansas' Recruiting Over the Last Five Years

Year3-Stars Signed4-Stars Signed5-Stars SignedSEC Class RankNational Rank
20112160921
201220501028
20131840923
201419401130
2015650926
Rankings compiled from 247Sports

In the Trenches

This is one area Bielema has made an immediate difference. In a short time, Arkansas’ offensive line went from a question mark to a strength. Sophomores Dan Skipper and Denver Kirkland headline a unit that bulldozed Texas Tech’s defensive line and leads the way for a rushing attack that ranks No. 2 nationally with an average of 7.9 yards per carry. The future for the offensive line looks bright with freshmen Frank Ragnow and Brian Wallace already appearing on the depth chart. Defensively, Arkansas has six freshmen or sophomores listed up front. It sounds cliché, but winning in the SEC starts in the trenches. The Razorbacks have the makings of a solid offensive and defensive line over the next few seasons.

 

Obstacles to Overcome

 

Brutal SEC West

Arkansas 2014 Schedule 
Aug. 30
Sept. 6Nicholls State
Sept. 13
Sept. 20
Sept. 27
Oct. 11
Oct. 18
Oct. 25
Nov. 1at 
Nov. 15
Nov. 22
Nov. 29 at 

Sure, Arkansas – yes it’s a small sample size – looks to be improved in 2014. But realistically, what’s the win total for this team by December? The SEC West is unforgiving, hosting two national title contenders in Alabama and Auburn, teams on the rise in Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, while LSU appears to be on track to quickly reload after a rash of personnel departures. Winning a game against an opponent from the West will be tough, and the Razorbacks play Missouri and Georgia in crossover play with the East. Ouch.

 

Developing the Passing Attack
A healthy Brandon Allen at quarterback will solve some of the Razorbacks’ passing game, but this offense averaged only 148.5 yards passing per game last year. Through three games, Arkansas is averaging just 141.7 yards per game through the air, but quarterbacks have already tossed six touchdowns after tossing a total of 15 in 12 games in 2013. In addition to Allen, the Razorbacks need more help from the receiving corps. Can Bielema and coordinator Jim Chaney develop a gamebreaker or two here?

 

Talent at Linebacker/Defensive Back

The Razorbacks will miss defensive end Trey Flowers next year, but the depth chart up front is mostly comprised of sophomores and freshmen. Sophomore Darius Philon is one of the SEC’s rising stars, and sophomore nose guard Taiwan Johnson has 3.5 sacks in 2014. Despite the optimism up front, the back seven is still a work in progress. Arkansas’ linebacking corps and defensive backfield ranked near the bottom of most SEC unit rankings in the preseason. If the Razorbacks are going to take a step forward on defense, secondary and linebacker play has to improve.
 

Looking Ahead to 2015

 

Arkansas is slated to lose 19 seniors this offseason. However, just nine are listed as starters on the depth chart.

 

Next season's schedule also is more favorable, featuring a rebuilding Tennessee team from the East and a home date against Mississippi State.

 

With most of the core returning, 2015 should be a better gauge of how far the Razorbacks have come in Bielema’s tenure.

 

Regardless of the final record in 2014, Arkansas is on the right track. The Razorbacks are building a ground-and-pound offense that resembles Bielema’s offenses at Wisconsin, and there’s young talent to build around on defense.

 

Winning a SEC game with a difficult schedule is going to be a challenge in 2014. However, Bielema and this staff won’t have to have wins to show progress, especially if the Razorbacks are competitive in every conference game.

 

Patience is required with a coaching change, especially in Fayetteville – in a brutal SEC West – after going through a messy end to Petrino’s tenure and the tumultuous one-year stint under Smith.


Bielema has plenty of work to do and by no means is Arkansas a finished product. But with a talented (and youthful) core in place, combined with the improvement at the end of 2013 and start to '14, the Razorbacks are turning a corner and appear to be deepening what is already college football’s toughest division. 

Teaser:
Bret Bielema's Rebuilding Project on Track at Arkansas
Post date: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/outrageous-college-football-predictions-2014-week-4
Body:

The original reality TV show is sports. No contrived setting where seven strangers living in a house or one bachelor searching for love can match the excitement the Iron Bowl delivered last fall.

 

The beauty of college football lies in its complete unpredictability and drama. Here are some outrageous predictions for Week 4.

 

Note: The point of this column is to have some fun and make some outlandish predictions. Please react accordingly.

 
Duke Johnson and Ameer Abdullah will rush for more than their combined weight

 

Nebraska lists Ameer Abdullah as 195 pounds and Miami lists Duke Johnson at 206 pounds. While both of those numbers seem extremely suspect (both look a lot lighter than that), the explosive and exciting duo will combine to rush for more yards against each other's team than their combined weight of 401 pounds. This is a historic rivalry that has been played in three national title situations and these two electric tailbacks will make the 2014 version a memorable one.

 

Deshaun Watson will be the most productive QB in the Clemson-Florida State game

 

Jameis Winston and FSU topped a much better Clemson team last season 51-14 in Death Valley. It isn’t out of the question to think that Winston has 177 yards and one touchdown at halftime with a 50-point lead and no need to play in the second half. On the flip side of that, Cole Stoudt could easily be benched or, worse, injured by the halftime whistle. Instead look for Tigers freshman Deshaun Watson to have the most yards of total offense in this game. You heard it here first, folks.

 

Listen to the Week 3 recap podcast:



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

 

Mississippi State scores more points in the first half than LSU has allowed all season

 

LSU has given up 24 total points in three games this fall and has a current streak shutout streak going of 147 minutes and 24 seconds. When Mississippi State comes to town this weekend, Dak Prescott will bring his triple-threat ability to the bayou. LSU may still win the game but Prescott — and his 323 yards per game average — should lead his Bulldogs to 24 points in the first half alone. The Tigers have yet to face a legitimate quarterback all season and Prescott could open some eyes against LSU.

 

Marcus Mariota and Connor Halliday will combine for 1,000 yards of offense

 

Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday set an NCAA record a year ago against Oregon with 89 pass attempts. It netted him 557 yards in the 62-38 defeat to the Ducks. Meanwhile, Marcus Mariota rolled up 394 yards of offense (327 pass, 67 rush) in the win. These two will be prominently featured once again and could easily combine for 1,000 yards of total offense and 100 points.

 

Amari Cooper will post season lows against Florida

 

Cooper is off to an unreal start to the season for the Crimson Tide. He is leading the nation with 33 receptions and is third nationally in yards with 454 in three games. But he will be matched up with the best corner in the SEC this weekend when Vernon Hargreaves III and Florida come to town. The guess is Lane Kiffin will attack other areas of the Florida defense with great success and won’t let the Cooper-VH3 matchup dictate the direction of the offense.

 

 

BONUS: Clint Trickett will be the focal point of Bob Stoops' defense

 

If I had written that sentence last year, I might have been fired from my current position and relegated to restocking Dana Holgorsen's RedBull Frigidaire. Thus, making my bonus prediction totally outrageous and bizarre.

 

Teaser:
Outrageous College Football Predictions: 2014 Week 4
Post date: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/college-basketball-2014-15-michigan-wolverines-team-preview
Body:

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

 

Michigan continues our top 25 countdown at No. 23 as the Wolverines look to replace Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and more. Michigan has bounced back quickly before under John Beilein. Will that trend continue in 2014-15?

 

The Michigan edition is one of dozens available in our online store on newsstands everywhere this week.

 

All those years wandering the post-Fab Five desert are over in Ann Arbor, and it’s not a mirage. 

 

Coming off a 2013 Final Four appearance that most credited to National Player of the Year Trey Burke and sidekick Tim Hardaway Jr., coach John Beilein proved his program had staying power last year. With Burke and Hardaway departed, he took his youth-laden Wolverines, featuring one senior and one junior, to a Big Ten regular-season championship and an Elite Eight appearance. 

 

Now Beilein, a 61-year-old entering his eighth season at Michigan, gets to rebuild all over again. Three more Wolverines — Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary — bolted for the 2014 NBA Draft after two seasons, leaving U-M again as one of the youngest teams in the country. 

 


No. 23 Michigan Facts & Figures

Last season: 28-9, 15-3 Big Ten

Postseason: NCAA Elite Eight

Consecutive NCAAs: 4

Coach: John Beilein (150-94 at Michigan, 70-56 Big Ten)

Big Ten Projection: Fifth

Postseason Projection: NCAA round of 32

 


 

Frontcourt

 

The loss of McGary still stings, but the enigmatic forward played only eight games last season due to injury and was facing a yearlong ban from NCAA play due to a failed drug test. What in fact stings worse is a complete overhaul on the Michigan frontcourt. 

 

Beilein plays only one true post player in his famed two-guard offense. That spot was split last year between two veterans who have also departed, Jordan Morgan (graduation) and Jon Horford (transfer to Florida). 

 

What’s left is 6-10 redshirt freshman Mark Donnal, an inside-outside forward; junior forward Max Bielfeldt, a burly 6-7 career reserve; and Ricky Doyle, a 6-9 freshman. Donnal drew strong reviews for his practice play last season and is expected to earn a starting role and be the pick man in U-M’s ball-screen offense. He can step out and hit the 3, but questions remain whether he can handle the rigors of post play in the Big Ten.

 

Two additional freshmen, Kameron Chatman and D.J. Wilson, are likely to play offensively as wings but defend the 4 spot on the other end of the floor. Chatman, at 6-8, boasts a methodical offensive game and a high skill set. Wilson, a wiry 6-8 forward, is athletic but needs development. 

 

Of them, only Bielfeldt has appeared in a collegiate game.

Related: Caris LeVert joins the Athlon Sports All-Junior Team

 

Backcourt

 

As it always has under Beilein, Michigan’s success will hinge on its guards. The 2014-15 Wolverines will go as far as the trio of Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin takes them. 

 

LeVert is Michigan’s leading returner in points (12.9 ppg), rebounds (4.3 rpg) and assists (2.9 apg). Much of Beilein’s offense will operate through the 6-6 junior, who emerged from relative obscurity to earn All-Big Ten honors last year. Before leaving U-M as a lottery pick, Stauskas pointed out: “Caris is ready to blow up a little bit. I think Caris is ready to make that jump to a star player.”

 

The hope is that Walton and Irvin can take similar freshman-to-sophomore leaps seen from LeVert and Stauskas. Walton is a true point guard but will look to increase his scoring and is capable of doing so. Irvin, a 42.5 percent 3-point shooter, is a gifted 6-6 scorer needing to prove he can be versatile offensively and add rebounding on both ends.

 

Junior point guard Spike Albrecht returns as a steadying force in the backcourt and a threat from 3-point distance. Freshmen Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Aubrey Dawkins, a pair of wings who signed late in the spring, add depth and will look to crack the rotation. 

 

Final Analysis

 

With every starting player from its 2013 Final Four appearance having entered the NBA early, Michigan is a clean slate. 

 

From last year’s roster, Stauskas, Robinson, Morgan and Horford accounted for 54.5 percent of the team’s total points, 55.8 percent of its made field goals and 52.4 percent of its rebounds. 

 

That’s gone, but the expectations aren’t. Beilein’s system has proven resilient and is bolstered by a keen eye on the recruiting trail. Having already rebuilt Michigan, Beilein says this team “isn’t starting over.” 

 

“I think the foundation is there and now we have to start putting the bricks back in,” he adds. 

 

Starting in the backcourt, Michigan has the talent to return to the NCAA Tournament and potentially compete for a top-three Big Ten finish. Youth, scoring options and questions surrounding rebounding and interior defense, though, leave plenty of uncertainty. 

 

Newcomers

 

Six of Michigan’s 12 scholarship players are first-year freshmen, while a seventh belongs to redshirt frosh Mark Donnal, a potential starter. Kameron Chatman, a top-50 recruit, should make an immediate impact. D.J. Wilson and Ricky Doyle add much needed length. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Aubrey Dawkins, (Johnny’s son) were late signees and add depth.

Teaser:
College Basketball 2014-15: Michigan Wolverines Team Preview
Post date: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: San Francisco 49ers, NFL
Path: /nfl/everything-you-need-know-about-san-francisco-49ers-levis-stadium
Body:

Earlier this year, the San Francisco 49ers moved out of their old digs at Candlestick Park and into their new home, the $1.2 billion Levi’s Stadium. The Santa Clara, Calif., venue, which seats approximately 68,500, is more than just a place to catch a game; it’s a cathedral to football and an homage to the Silicon Valley. And it’s blowing fans’ minds. Here’s why:

 

1. It's Wired!

Befitting a stadium in the heart of the Silicon Valley, you're never more than 10 feet away from a wireless hotspot. Seventy miles of Wi-Fi specific cable offer 40GB/s of bandwidth (40 times more than any other stadium). Which is good, because…

 

2…You’re Plugged In

The 49ers’ new app lets you order food for pickup or have it delivered to your seat (for an extra $5), gives you turn-by-turn directions to locations like bathrooms and parking areas, and allows access to real-time instant replays. Speaking of which…

 

3. Comprehensive Instant Replay 

Thirteen stadium cameras and a TV crew of 40-plus will be filming the game, providing at least six replay angles of every play, making attendees the most informed armchair referee in the league.

 

4. It's Green (figuratively)

Levi’s Stadium’s 38,000 square feet of solar panels soak up the sun and keep the stadium running on its own electricity.

 

5. It’s Green (literally)

The natural grass stadium has a 27,000-square-foot garden on the roof of the suite tower is made up of local plants that require minimal water. It soaks up heat, minimizes the HVAC cooling requirements, and grows herbs for the concession stands.

 

6. Eat Up!

Want a burger? How about a jalapeno cheddar kielbasa? The fare at Levi’s Stadium befits the area’s foodie atmosphere. Vegan franks, curry stations, crepe desserts and Chef Michael Mina’s onsite Bourbon Steak and Pub restaurant give “stadium food” a whole new meaning. There’s even an $18 Double Barrel Wagyu topped with pork chicharrones that may be the craziest hot dog in sports.

 

7. Pedestrian Expressways 

They've organized the pedestrian walkways to be more efficient than Candlestick: the food lines don't intersect with the bathroom lines anymore, and they've created lanes on the exterior of the stadium so you don't have to wade through the food lines to get from one end of the stadium to the other.

 

8. It’s Drought-Friendly

All of the plumbing fixtures are low flow, almost twice as efficient than building code requirements, and 85 percent of the water used is recycled water provided by the city.


9. It's LOUD!

The lower bowl has over 45,000 seats (one of the largest in the NFL), and the glass-fronted box seats on the West side will provide a reverberating effect. The result could spell an end to Seattle’s title as the NFL’s loudest stadium.

 

—Billy Brown

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - 17:24
Path: /nascar/chicagoland-winner-keselowski-prepares-reset-nascar-chase-marches
Body:

Qualifying has never been so important in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series — just ask the six drivers with the best qualifying average on the circuit. Each has scored multiple wins in 2014.

 

Brad Keselowski is amongst that group. In fact, he leads it. Keselowski’s five wins are a series best, as is his 7.2-place average starting position.

 

That’s what made Sunday’s Chase kickoff race at Chicagoland Speedway unusual.

 

Keselowski posted the 25th fastest speed in Friday’s first practice session at the 1.5-mile track, and when qualifying was rained out, the field was set using the session’s times. On an aero-dependent track like Chicagoland, fighting dirty air in the middle of the pack is strike one for those with a realistic shot at the win.

 

With strategy on pit road coming into play virtually every week — two tires, four tires, splash ’n’ go — teams want an optimal pit box. The quickest in qualifying get the best choice of pit box. Twenty-fifth on the grid is a long way from optimal. Strike two for Keselowski.

 

There’d be no strike three, though. 

 

Oh, Keselowski and crew fouled a couple off — namely, a missed lug nut on pit road under yellow that necessitated an additional stop. That dropped the No. 2 Ford from second to 16th with 86 laps remaining. But that’s where pure speed came into play.

 

The 2012 Sprint Cup champion drove back to the top 5 over the ensuing laps and by the time a caution waved on lap 244 of 267, he was sitting fourth. Then, it was a matter of taking advantage of the situation presented.

 

As Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson battled side-by-side for the lead on a late restart, Keselowski calmly stalked, then struck, splitting the pair in a daring thread-the-needle pass with 15 laps to go.

 

And oh, what a pass it was. Misjudge and three cars are trashed; hit that sweet spot and it’s an automatic pass into the next round — the “Contender” round — of NASCAR’s elimination-style playoff.

 

“I just saw a hole and I went for it,” Keselowski explained. “The 4 (Harvick) and the 42 (Larson) were racing really hard, doing all the things they needed to do. It just opened a hole. 

 

“I didn’t know if my car would stick or not, but I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t try it. I tried it, it did. That got us into the lead.”

 

And just like that, Keselowski is the hottest thing on tour. Winner of consecutive events, he knocked Jeff Gordon off the point standings throne the four-time champ had occupied since early April after a Richmond win in which Keselowski decimated the field.

 

Dodging and weaving his way to victory at Chicagoland was a statement of sorts for the No 2 bunch. It was no rout, demanding driver and team to overcome adversity. Of course, for a strategic, thinking-man like Keselowski, it’s always “onward.”

 

“Nobody cares that we won Chicago, nobody cares that we won Richmond or the other three races,” Keselowski said. “It keeps resetting. You have to reset yourself. You have to keep developing the car and pushing as a team, whether it’s on pit road, the car handling, spec, whatever it might be, or driver tactics.

 

“It’s a statement for this week. After we get done with Dover, everything resets.”

 

In the meantime, multiple-race winners and chief competitors Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick kept pace, each finishing in the top 5 at Chicagoland. And they weren’t alone: twelve of the top-15 finishers were Chase drivers. 

 

However, survival is the name of the game in this Chase, as the bottom four in the standings will be eliminated after the three-race first round. Currently, that includes Ryan Newman, AJ Allmendinger, Greg Biffle and Aric Almirola — though a lot can change in the coming pair of races.

 

Then the Chase “resets,” and Keselowski — or Gordon, or Logano, or whoever catches fire  — can make statements all over again.

 

 

Follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro

Photo by Action Sports, Inc.

 

 

Google

Teaser:
Brad Keselowski makes statement with win at Chicagoland Speedway. NASCAR pushes on to second Chase for Sprint Cup event.
Post date: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - 12:51
Path: /nascar/nascar-rookie-report-did-cup-newbies-making-passing-grade-seasons-third-quarter
Body:

Welcome to the Athlon Rookie Report, where each week David Smith will evaluate the deepest crop of new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series talent since 2006. The Report will include twice-monthly rankings, in-depth analysis, Q&A sessions with the drivers and more.

 

Today, David analyzes the third quarter passing splits of rookies from the 2014 season.

 

 

In July, I wrapped up my analysis of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season’s first half by looking into first and second quarter passing splits in an effort to evaluate the growth of the seven rookies in this year’s class. Whereas average finishes tend to emphasize team growth — easily confused as a proper barometer for driver growth — studying passing splits allows us to understand how well a driver is acclimating to a series, a car and his or her surrounding competition.

 

When I analyze passing numbers, I choose to focus on adjusted pass efficiency (APE), which measures the percentage of pass encounters that are successful passes while omitting pit road gains under green-flag conditions, and surplus passing value (SPV), which measures the average difference between a driver’s actual efficiency from a driver in their average running position, telling us how well a driver passes against other drivers in his or her “track position neighborhood.”

 

APE and SPV are peripheral numbers that help explain the greater goal; the ultimate measure of drivers is their position at the conclusion of the final lap, and passing is one explanation as to how the result came to be.

 

 

Austin Dillon’s drop in efficiency, from 47.47 percent to 46.67, is not the most precipitous among the rookies; however, it may be the most disheartening. After earning a 49.27 percent APE in the first quarter of the season, he became less efficient with each nine-race span.

 

That efficiency dip played a hand in his drop in average finish from second quarter to third. He scored an average result of 17.2 in the nine events spanning from Talladega to the July Daytona race; he averaged a finish of 18.3 in the most recent nine, which began with three consecutive top-15 finishes. His worst outings, and an average finish of 23.5, came in the Michigan-to-Richmond spell, wherein Dillon earned an APE of 43.09 percent — 50 percent means that exactly half of a driver’s pass encounters are positive passes and anything below that is in the red — during that span.

 

If the pattern of diminished efficiency continues, there is reason to believe that it could make the fourth and final quarter the worst of Dillon’s rookie season and reaffirm previous concerns over the 2012 Nationwide Series champion’s ability to overtake for position.

 

The most improved passer in the season’s third quarter was, ironically, the driver that regressed the most from the first quarter to the second.

 

Justin Allgaier’s 2.8-percent improvement in efficiency and gargantuan 5.05-percent jump in SPV was the most fetching among the rookies, as he rejoined the ranks of plus passers — drivers with efficiencies in the black in both APE and SPV — the last nine races. For the season, he holds a 50.82 percent efficiency that contains a 1.93 percent surplus value.  Justin Allgaier

 

My hypothesis on why Allgaier dropped in the season’s second quarter was because of improved average running position. Evident by a 0.3-position increase, from 25.3 to 25.0, Allgaier was competing against stronger competition more often in the season’s second quarter. Following the last nine races, his season-long average running position dropped to 25.2. That slight drop in running whereabouts means he saw and passed cars that he had no problem overtaking.  

 

His might be a case of simple regression to the mean, or it might mean that the dichotomy between cars averaging a 25.1-place average running position or better and those averaging 25.2 or worse just happens to be extremely problematic for him for whatever reason. Regardless, his rookie-year ebb and flow has been intriguing to watch.

 

Ryan Truex’s improvement from his first quarter to his second was really the first positive thing to emerge from a troublesome rookie campaign, so it’s good news that efficiency regression didn’t take place in the third quarter. In fact, his 45.82 percent adjusted pass efficiency in the last nine races was identical to his second quarter tally.

 

Ryan TruexTruex did, however, encounter a drop in SPV, falling from a plus-3.44 percent value to a minus-2.6 percent take, a decrease of more than 6 percent. That’s the result of six straight races, beginning with Indianapolis and skipping Michigan (he sat out due to a concussion suffered in a practice crash), which saw negative SPVs. In last Sunday’s race at Chicagoland, he registered a value of minus-7.18 percent. It was his worst single-race SPV of the entire season.

 

Though the efficiency remained the same, his SPV took a hit due to increased running position. Two races in the season’s third quarter, at Indianapolis and Pocono, saw him earn race-long average running positions of 32.8 and 29.9, respectively, which served as two of his three best single-race ARPs of the year.

 

 

David Smith is the founder of Motorsports Analytics LLC and the creator of NASCAR statistics for projection, analysis and scouting. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidSmithMA. 

 

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
David Smith analyzes the third quarter passing splits of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookies from the 2014 season.
Post date: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - 12:15
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-september-16-2014
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for September 16:

 

• Jessica Biel is guest-starring on "New Girl" tonight. Seems like a good excuse to link to this slideshow of some of her greatest on-screen moments.

 

• Redskins fans have this bizarre notion that Kirk Cousins is their savior. These t-shirts are just one example.

 

• Bad news for the NFC: Darren Sproles is running wild.

 

Jetes delighted an old lady in Tampa with a picture and a wave.

 

• Interesting stuff here: What schools give out multi-year scholarships?

 

• Bizarre play of the weekend: an Arkansas State fake punt in which a player acted like he was dead. Oh, and it was intercepted.

 

Eastern Kentucky's football intro video is worth the click. It's like The Matrix meets Tron.

 

The great Gus Johnson soccer experiment is over.

 

Serbia: No. 2 and loving it.

 

China has walking lanes for texters.

 

50 Cent is bodyguarding for Melo now.

 

• Mets phenom Jacob deGrom fanned the first eight batters he faced.

 

 

--Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - 11:41
Path: /nascar/nascar-chase-race-no-1-four-things-we-learned-chicagoland-speedway
Body:

Wait a second. Are you telling me there was a pass for the lead in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ visit to Chicagoland Speedway within the last 20 laps of the race? Not just one, or two, or three … but four passes? 

 

Those types of numbers wouldn’t make anyone blink an eye at Talladega. But for one of NASCAR’s much-maligned 1.5-mile tracks, where even getting decent attendance for a playoff opener is considered a stretch, we’ll label the type of racing witnessed on Sunday progress. There were two drivers, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson, trading paint in the final 100 miles before Brad Keselowski stepped up and snookered them both. There was contact in the form of frantic late-race restarts and shuffling for position instead of running in place. Yes, four of the six cautions witnessed were debris-related, almost like “competition yellows,” but the Larson-Harvick battle would have happened regardless of those bunch-ups. Passing, seemingly on hibernation for most of the summer on intermediates, chose to make a token appearance.

 

It’s a small foundation from which Chicagoland can hopefully build a better future.  Those four lead changes in the final 25 laps Sunday? That’s one less than the number seen over the last five years at that track during those final circuits. For Chicagoland’s sake, as well as this new “Chase,” let’s hope it’s not a one-hit wonder.

 

“Through the Gears” we go …

 

 

FIRST GEAR: Penske Power  Brad Keselowski

The first round of NASCAR’s “new” Chase brought with it a more intense style of racing. Every position meant a little something extra within the postseason grid of 16 as drivers fought to remain above the 12-man cutline just three races away.

 

But what we didn’t see was a new cast of characters celebrating in victory lane. Instead, Penske Racing threw the first punch, as Brad Keselowski made it back-to-back victories while mounting his case as a title favorite. Now armed with five wins – no one else in Cup has more than three – Keselowski becomes the first to punch his ticket to the next stage in NASCAR’s new round-by-round playoff system.

 

“It means a lot,” he said when asked about the impact. “My boss would say don't read your own press clippings. I want to enjoy the moment but I still know there's nine weeks to go. We have a bit of a hall pass for the next two, which I'm very appreciative. But those other seven, nobody cares that we won Chicago, nobody cares that we won Richmond or the other three races. It keeps resetting. You have to reset yourself.”

 

But until that happens in two weeks, Keselowski’s No. 2 team has time to get aggressive, testing strategy at Loudon and Dover that could potentially play out in the season finale. Like at Richmond the week prior, he remains in position to make a strong statement, sniffing two titles in three seasons to kick this team out of “one-hit wonder” territory. It’s also part of a renaissance for Ford Racing, which has won seven of the last 12 races, with Keselowski taking four. Even powerful Hendrick Motorsports, the other organization in strong title contention, has four wins combined during that same span. 

 

 

SECOND GEAR: Larson Looking Good  Kyle Larson

With an expanded Chase field — more than one-third of the grid you see each week — it’s become nearly impossible for an underdog to fight his or her way up front. However, this playoff push might prove an exception to the rule when it comes to non-participants visiting victory lane. Among those drivers left out are three-time champ Tony Stewart, former title runner-up Clint Bowyer and talented rookie Kyle Larson. 

 

Larson, so close so many times this season, struck first, putting together his season’s finest performance at Chicagoland. Running down Harvick, the duo engaged in a spirited battle for the lead that ultimately appeared to go Larson’s way. If not for the way those final cautions fell, the first-year driver would have almost certainly won. Of course, third is still nothing to sneeze at, especially when one considers his late-race battle with Jeff Gordon. 

 

“I think this kid is the real deal,” Gordon said of Larson. “He’s going to be a star for a long time. I really wanted to see him win because I like him and I know he’s going to win a lot of races.”

 

“I know Jeff thinks a lot about me and I think a lot about him, too,” said the rookie, sitting in the same presser next to Gordon. “It was fun racing him. I definitely wanted to beat him.“

 

Ultimately, the bid for Larson fell short, but at this point his “Rookie of the Year” crown is virtually assured over Austin Dillon. No Chase means no pressure for this Chip Ganassi group and they have a few solid tracks forthcoming (Kansas, Charlotte) where I can see this rookie getting the job done. 

 

 

THIRD GEAR: No Mulligans Here

Perhaps the biggest lesson in “New Chase, Round 1” was how hard it’ll be to come back from a mistake. Like every year, Chicagoland reached out and bit one Chaser, this time in the form of Aric Almirola. Already an underdog, a blown engine while running inside the top 10 appears to make his title bid toast. Now 52 points outside the top 12, Almirola would need to out-point Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman and AJ Allmendinger by 23 positions — and perhaps more depending on bonus points — in just the next two weeks to move forward.

 

“Win,” he said when asked of how to rectify the problem. But that’s unlikely for the No. 43 car, just like it is for struggling Greg Biffle in the No. 16 and AJ Allmendinger in the road-course-victory-only No. 47 Chevrolet. They’re a tick below their rivals and that gap in speed was quickly revealed Sunday.

 

Can any of those drivers complete a Hail Mary? A lot depends on how many problems the other contenders have. Currently, the gap between fifth-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. to 13th-place Ryan Newman is just 13 points. That’s not enough to withstand an engine explosion, meaning some of the series’ top drivers (Earnhardt, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch) remain skating on very thin ice. All it takes is one bad break and, suddenly, they’re on the outside looking in. 

 

Should make for a very interesting Talladega down the road, huh?

 

 

FOURTH GEAR: Couples Problems

Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., both of whom have endured disappointing seasons on the Cup circuit, took each other out on Sunday. Typically that’s not a big deal, but when the participating parties are in a personal relationship? Well, that changes things a bit.

 

Patrick blamed the wreck on her spotter, claiming he didn’t know Stenhouse was beside her before the duo made contact on the frontstretch. Both claim their relationship is fine as we move on to the next race. But it’s not the first time these two have come together — the most infamous incident occurring at the Charlotte race last May. The Chicagoland accident made for a little press, some splash NASCAR needs, but the underlying problem? Both will almost certainly be outside the top 20 at Loudon this weekend. Can’t pump up a story if neither of the chief participants is on the TV screen during the race.

 

 

OVERDRIVE

It was a bit puzzling to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson a step behind in Chicagoland. Earnhardt, especially, was a bit of a surprise after a team meeting to delegate responsibility and pump the organization up for crew chief Steve Letarte’s swan song. An eleventh-place finish, with zero laps led after a 13th-place starting spot, just won’t cut it. … With Marcos Ambrose headed back to Australia in 2015, Richard Petty Motorsports has an opening for its No. 9 Ford. David Ragan is an early favorite for the seat, looking to “move up” from Front Row Motorsports and challenge for more than just restrictor plate victories. But the honest truth is there just aren’t many other choices out there. … In a rare occurrence, six drivers led 20 or more laps at Chicagoland on Sunday. It was a rare moment of parity in the series where a good portion of the top drivers took their turn up front.

 

 

Follow Tom Bowles on Twitter: @NASCARBowles

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
Post-race reaction from Chicagoland Speedway, where Brad Keselowski won his fifth race of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season and earned a pass into Round 2 of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Post date: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - 11:00

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