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Texas State has had a trying season under new head coach Everett Withers. After losing a plethora of players up and down the lineup, this year’s team just hasn’t had the talent or experience to compete with its Sun Belt foes, stumbling to an 0-7 conference record to this point. At this stage of the season the main focus for the Bobcats is figuring out what they have on their roster moving forward.

 

Arkansas State, on the other hand, is fighting to defend its Sun Belt title. After losing to UL Lafayette last week, the Red Wolves conceded at least a share of the championship to Appalachian State. Arkansas State and Troy both have an opportunity to become co-champions with victories this week.

 

The “Border Brawl” began in 2013, with Arkansas State holding the edge 2-1. A victory for the Red Wolves would be the second straight title-clinching win in this rivalry.

 

Arkansas State at Texas State

 

Kickoff: Sat., Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Arkansas State -23

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Texas State’s Quarterback Carousel
Tyler Jones has been Texas State’s quarterback for the vast majority of this season. The senior has completed 64.8 percent of his passes for 2,168 yards, 11 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Last week against Troy, however, Withers decided to replace his QB with two younger players who will be competing for the starting job next year. Junior Eddie Printz and sophomore Connor White each had their turn, with both signal-callers throwing interceptions while Printz added a touchdown.

 

It remains to be seen who will be under center for the Bobcats on Saturday. This would be Jones’ final game, so Withers may decide to give him one last start at home. However, particularly if the game gets out of hand, it could be another opportunity to give some younger players experience.

 

2. Red Wolves’ Offensive Balance
Arkansas State has had a successful Sun Belt campaign partially because of its ability to show balance on offense. The unit averages 251.3 passing and 143.4 rushing yards per game. The Red Wolves are getting contributions from a variety of players. The running back tandem of Warren Wand and Johnston White has been effective, combining for more than 1,100 rushing yards with 10 TDs. Quarterback Justice Hansen has done a good job distributing the ball, as five different Arkansas State players enter this game with at least 20 receptions. Texas State will have a hard enough time with the talent level of the Red Wolves, but the ability to incorporate so many different players will mean that the Bobcats have a monumental task ahead of them defensively.

 

3. Chinks in the Defensive Armor
Arkansas State built its six-game winning streak largely on the back of its defense, which gives up only 22.9 points per game (third in Sun Belt, 32nd in the FBS). In fact, opponents were held to 10 or fewer points three times during that run. However, there are two areas that Texas State can exploit if it hopes to have a chance of pulling off the upset.

 

While the Red Wolves have been stingy on the scoreboard and lead the conference in sacks, turnovers have been an issue. The defense is tied for seventh in takeaways and the team’s turnover differential is just plus-1. One turnover can do the work of multiple defensive stops, so this is certainly an area where Texas State can take advantage.

 

Additionally, Arkansas State’s defense has had some trouble in the red zone. The Red Wolves are fifth in the Sun Belt (81.1 percent), but UL Lafayette’s success in that area (10 points on two trips) was the difference in last week’s game. Texas State’s offense could have trouble moving the ball against the Red Wolves, but if the Bobcats can string together enough plays to get in scoring position, it could put more pressure on Arkansas State.

 

Final Analysis

 

By all indications this game shouldn’t be much of a contest. Texas State is dead last in the Sun Belt in scoring offense, scoring defense, total offense and turnover margin while Arkansas State is among the leaders in most categories. The Red Wolves will come out with hunger and a share of the conference title on the line while the Bobcats will be taking a look at some young players who may be starting next year. There’s always the possibility of the unexpected, but this game just doesn’t feel like one of those.

 

Prediction: Arkansas State 45, Texas State 14

 

(Top photo courtesy of www.astateredwolves.com)

Teaser:
Arkansas State Red Wolves vs. Texas State Bobcats Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, November 30, 2016 - 13:30
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Troy would claim a share of the Sun Belt Conference title Saturday with a win over Georgia Southern. Arkansas State snapped a seven-game Trojan winning streak on Nov. 17, but Troy (9-2, 6-1 Sun Belt) responded with a resounding 40-7 road victory last week at Texas State. The Trojan defense held Texas State’s offense to 256 yards and forced two interceptions. Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers finished with 218 passing yards and two touchdowns, while running back Jordan Chunn ran for 74 yards and a score.

 

After a much-needed open date last week, Georgia Southern (4-7, 3-4) will look to close its season in the win column. The Eagles’ last win came on Oct. 22 when they defeated New Mexico State 22-19. Since then, they’ve dropped four in a row. The Eagles did rush for 241 yards on 46 attempts in their most recent loss, a 30-24 defeat at Georgia State on Nov. 19.

 

For Troy, a win over the Eagles would mean the Trojans would claim a piece of the Sun Belt conference title. A Troy victory and an Arkansas State win over Texas State on Saturday night would result in a three-way tie for first with Appalachian State (9-3, 7-1). For what it’s worth, the Trojans beat the Mountaineers 28-24 earlier in the season while the Red Wolves defeated Troy 35-3 and Arkansas State and Appalachian State didn’t play each other. At least this will be taken care of when the Sun Belt introduces a championship game in 2018.

 

Troy and Georgia Southern first played each other back in 1934 and the Trojans lead the all-time series 10-5. The Eagles have won the past three meetings, including a 45-10 blowout last season.

 

Troy at Georgia Southern

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 3 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Spread: Troy -7

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Troy RB Jordan Chunn
It’s no secret that much of the Trojans’ success on offense this season is due to their ultra-talented running back. Chunn enters this game with 1,153 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the season. He leads the Sun Belt in both rushing touchdowns and all-purpose yards per game (122.2) and is currently second in rushing to Appalachian State’s Jalin Moore (1,367).

 

The junior has five 100-yard games and was just 26 yards shy of a sixth last week, finishing with 74 rushing yards against Texas State. Chunn’s 32 career touchdowns rank third on the school’s career list, and he needs just three more to become the new record holder.

 

2. Georgia Southern’s two-headed QB-RB monster
While Chunn’s name is met with much fanfare – and for good reason – the Eagles boast two talented ball carriers of their own in quarterback back Kevin Ellison and running back Matt Breida. In last week’s loss to Georgia State, Ellison had just 31 passing yards, but he ran for 101 and a touchdown with Breida adding 56 on the ground and a score. Ellison is more than a one-trick pony, as the senior currently sits fifth on the school’s career passing leaderboard with 3,098 yards.

 

When the tandem gets going, the results are usually positive for Georgia Southern, although it may not be reflective in the Eagles’ record this season. Troy is allowing 115.1 rushing yards per game, but will definitely have its hands full against a team that’s averaging more than 200 yards per game on the ground in Sun Belt games.

 

3. Road Warriors
You don’t roll up nine wins without winning a good amount of games on the road. Troy is no different, as the Trojans are currently riding a four-game winning streak away from home. Troy has beaten Southern Miss, South Alabama, Idaho and Texas State all on the road. In fact, the Trojans’ only road loss this season was a six-point defeat to current No. 2 Clemson back on Sept. 10. Meanwhile Georgia Southern has lost its last two home games – 33-26 to UL Lafayette on Nov. 10 and 34-10 to Appalachian State Oct. 27.

 

Final Analysis

 

With any season-ending game, emotions will be strong. Troy enters with the hopes of ending the regular season with 10 wins and a share of a conference title, while Georgia Southern hopes to stem the tide of losing and close out its 2016 campaign with a victory. The Eagles have bested the Trojans in their last three contests, and that fact is sure to be on the minds of Troy’s senior class. Anything can happen when teams with the histories such as these meet, but barring a cataclysmic breakdown by Neal Brown’s team, win No. 10 should come Saturday afternoon in Statesboro.

 

Prediction: Troy 35, Georgia Southern 21

 

— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A sports reporter for The Meridian Star Newspaper, Hayes also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.

Teaser:
Troy Trojans vs. Georgia Southern Eagles Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, November 30, 2016 - 13:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-championship-game-preview-and-prediction-colorado-buffaloes-vs-washington-huskies-2016
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Pac-12 Championship Game participants Colorado and Washington won their divisions with remarkably similar styles.

 

Both thrived defensively, holding opponents to 17.8 points per game in Washington's case, 10th best in the nation; and 18.8 points per for Colorado, 13th in the FBS. Two of the premier secondaries in all of college football helped power those stingy defensive yields.

 

Quarterbacks Jake Browning and Sefo Liufau ranked among the most prolific and consistent playmakers the Pac-12 had to offer. Both operate behind stout offensive lines, with a bevy of talented receivers to catch passes.

 

But in reaching Levi's Stadium for Friday's conference title tilt, the Huskies rode a wave of lofty preseason expectations. The Buffaloes stampeded through 2016 as perhaps the single biggest surprise college football had to offer.

 

Colorado vs. Washington (Santa Clara, Calif.)

 

Kickoff: Friday, Dec. 2, at 9 p.m. ET
Where: Levi's Stadium
TV Channel: FOX 
Spread: Washington -7.5 

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Solving The Secondary

No two secondaries in the Pac-12 — perhaps in all of college football — feature as much star power as those of Colorado and Washington. The Buffaloes' group featuring Tedric Thompson, Chidobe Awuzie and Ahkello Witherspoon proves critical to the nation's No. 20 passing defense, and sixth-best turnover-generating defense.

 

Thompson, Awuzie and Witherspoon combined for 42 passes broken up, and Thompson's seven interceptions rank near the top of the FBS. Two came in last week's South division-sealing win over Utah. Not bad for a defense that gained just one interception as a team two seasons ago.

 

"I see experience, I see really good athletes back there and a scheme they know inside and out," Washington head coach Chris Petersen said. "There's no gimmes. There's no easy passes. Everybody all year long has to earn this. When you have to earn it down after down, that's really tough to do, and that's why they don't give up a ton of points."

 

Few teams were as good this regular season at creating turnovers as Colorado, and even fewer were better. Washington was one of them. In fact, the Huskies finished with 30 takeaways, the most among all FBS defenses.

 

Despite his reputation for overseeing exciting offenses rife with trick plays, Petersen's teams typically make their bones on the defensive side. The 2016 Huskies took that to another level.

 

The secondary of Budda Baker, Kevin King, Sidney Jones and Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year Taylor Rapp combined for nine of them.

 

Much credit for both teams' success in the secondary goes to the players up front. Colorado and Washington both stymied opposing quarterbacks, getting into the backfield to disrupt plays and force bad decisions — though coordinators Jim Leavitt (CU) and Pete Kwiatkowski (UW) did so with differing approaches.

 

The Buffs' blitz is tenacious, starting with end Jimmie Gilbert, the Pac-12's leader in sacks. The Huskies were just as imposing off the lines, though Kwiatkowski rarely called blitzes, instead relying on three-and-four-man rushes to disrupt the backfield. With big Elijah Qualls plugging up rushing lanes, and Greg Gaines and Vita Vea handling the edges, Washington forced quarterbacks to throw into stifling coverage. Linebacker Joe Mathis' injury hurts Washington's ability to get into the backfield somewhat — at least in theory.

 

The Huskies still managed two sacks and generated a remarkable four turnovers in last week's Apple Cup defeat of Washington State.

 

2. Get It Going On The Ground

Key to limiting each defenses' proficient turnover generation is establishing an effective ground game. Easier said than done, with Washington allowing just 3.5 yards per carry, and Colorado yielding only 3.9.

 

The inability to jumpstart the running game impacted both teams in their losses this season. The Buffs mustered just 1.94 yards per rushing attempt at Michigan, and failed to reach 100 yards on the ground at USC. Sluggish rushing performances against UCLA and Utah also made those games a little too close for comfort, with the defense providing the necessary plays to hold off the Bruins and Utes.

 

Washington's two-pronged attack of Lavon Coleman and Myles Gaskin was rarely bottled up any time in 2016, but USC managed to do so in Seattle on Nov. 12. The Huskies gained just 17 total yards on the ground — a statistic slightly skewed by the Trojans' yard-gobbling sacks of Jake Browning. However, USC was able to get to Browning because the Husky run game was so overwhelmed.

 

Running Sefo Liufau is central to Colorado's rushing attack. It's no coincidence that two of the Buffs' worst rushing performances came with Liufau injured. His dual-threat ability helps open the field for running back Phillip Lindsay.

 

For Washington, the tag team of Gaskin and Coleman — "thunder and lightning," as Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre dubbed them — need to offset Leavitt's aggressive play-calling from the front seven.

 

3. Explosive Plays

Both Colorado and Washington excelled in generating explosive plays, particularly those of 30-plus yards. The Buffs ranked No. 20 in the nation, while the Huskies' 31 plays of 30 yards or more ranked seventh. Deep and multifaceted receiving corps played central roles in each teams' big-play proficiency, which should make for an interesting chess match with those aforementioned secondaries.

 

Washington's John Ross ranks among the most dynamic big-play threats in the nation, but his performance has at times overshadowed that of Dante Pettis. Pettis averages almost two yards more per reception, and has just two fewer touchdowns despite hauling in 23 fewer catches overall than Ross.

 

Tight end Darrell Daniels is good for some explosive catches, as well. Just last week, Daniels was the recipient of a deep ball from Pettis, thrown on a trick play that caught Washington State off-guard. In a game for a possible College Football Playoff spot, don't be surprised to see Petersen go to his trick-play well again.

 

Colorado's pass-catching corps took a hit last week, losing Bryce Bobo to an ankle injury. He could be back to join Jay MacIntyre, Shay Fields and Devin Ross this weekend, however, at a time when the Buffs will need all-hands-on-deck.

 

Final Analysis

 

Colorado and Washington dominated the college football landscape at times through the 1990s and into the early 2000s, but hit lows over the last decade-plus. Friday's matchup in Santa Clara is something of a throwback for those who grew up on the game in the '90s, and serves as a great reminder as to just how unpredictable this sport can be.

 

Few could have foreseen a Buffaloes-Huskies championship, though Petersen said former Boise State player and current Colorado offensive line coach Klayton Adams texted the Washington coach this summer, "See you in Santa Clara." 

 

Count him as someone who believed, just as the rest of the Colorado believed. The Buffs may have been easily dismissed before the season, but they cannot be any longer. A win Friday just might insert them into the College Football Playoff conversation — though a trip to the Rose Bowl would be a nice consolation prize.

 

With a win, Washington is likely assured a playoff berth. The Huskies last won the national championship in 1991, so a quarter-century of hope rests on Friday's outcome. The Huskies face more pressure than their opponents — but Washington also might have just a little bit more than Colorado.

 

Browning will get his moment to shine in what should shape up as the Pac-12 Championship Game's first competitive contest since 2012, and the South's woes in the title round will continue. The division is winless since its inception in 2011, and Friday night should extend the record to 0-6.

 

Prediction: Washington 31, Colorado 28 

 

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of CFBHuddle.com. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.

Teaser:
Pac-12 Championship Game Preview and Prediction: Colorado vs. Washington
Post date: Wednesday, November 30, 2016 - 12:30
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#MACtion enters the final stretch on Friday night from Ford Field in Detroit as the 2016 MAC Championship Game kicks off between an upset-minded Ohio squad and a Western Michigan team aiming for an undefeated season and an elusive berth in a New Year’s Six bowl game.

 

The Broncos have carried the league’s banner all season long and are riding a 14-game winning streak heading into the league title game, a mark good for second in the country behind fellow undefeated Alabama. A high-powered offense has been a big reason for their success under head coach P.J. Fleck as wide receiver Corey Davis could be a first-round draft pick this spring after becoming the FBS career leader in receiving yards last week. Quarterback Zach Terrell (third in the country in passing efficiency) and tailback Jarvion Franklin round out a potent trio that is trouble for any defense and are hoping to bring home the school’s first conference title since 1988.

 

Standing in Western Michigan’s way is an Ohio team looking to prove people wrong and end an 0-3 mark in the league championship game. Veteran head coach Frank Solich has done one of his best jobs this season in leading the Bobcats to the East Division title, navigating a tricky injury situation down the stretch at quarterback while rotating tailbacks Dorian Brown and Maleek Irons effectively. The defense has been the team’s calling card as well and allowed the fewest yards per play in the conference this season.

 

This is Ohio’s first trip to the MAC title game since 2011, with the Bobcats seeking their first conference championship since 1968. Western Michigan also is looking to end a long drought, making its first trip to Detroit for the neutral-site title game and hoping to come home with just its second MAC championship (1988). The two didn’t face each other this season in conference play, but the Broncos came out on top 49-14 in Athens last October in the most recent meeting.

 

Western Michigan vs. Ohio (Detroit)

 

Kickoff: Friday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. ET

Where: Ford Field

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Broncos -19

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Broncos’ Offensive Fireworks
If you’ve caught any bit of mid-week #MACtion over the years, you know the league is known for some offensive fireworks during conference play. That trend should continue on Friday as Western Michigan sports one of the best groups of skill position players in the Group of Five and beyond. Quarterback Zach Terrell has an astonishing 30-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio on the season and has hit the 3,000-yard passing mark for the third year in a row. A big part of his success is wideout Corey Davis, who holds a host of WMU, MAC and FBS career records. While you may think the Broncos are pass-happy, they can run the ball very effectively as well. Jarvion Franklin is 20th in the country in rushing and his backup, Jamauri Bogan, ran for 198 yards against a good Toledo team last week.

 

2. Backs Against the Wall
Ohio enters the championship game with a respectable 8-4 record but won one of the worst divisions in all of FBS football thanks to a 9-3 win over Akron in the final game of the season. The Bobcats aren’t flashy and rely heavily on their stingy defense to win games in one of the most offensively-fueled leagues in the country. There’s a reason the team is a nearly three-touchdown underdog heading to Ford Field on Friday but at the same that also means the team has little to lose. The coaches on Frank Solich’s staff have seen just about everything in their lengthy tenures and are no strangers to pulling off with an upset. There’s some talented players on the roster like defensive end Tarell Basham and young cornerback Javon Hagan (three picks, five forced fumbles on the year) and it will be interesting to see what they do with their backs against the wall and a championship on the line.

 

3. Outside Noise
Every head coach wants his team focused on the task at hand but it’s inevitable in today’s age that some outside noise comes across the players on the team. In the case of Western Michigan, that noise is coming across through a loudspeaker. The Broncos are playing with the burden of trying to run the table undefeated and are sitting at No. 17 in the College Football Playoff rankings. While they are in line for the Group of Five bid to a New Year’s Six bowl game, Western Michigan will need to win and win convincingly in order to make sure it stays ahead of a surging Navy team in the rankings. Add to that constant rumors about the status of head coach P.J. Fleck and there’s plenty the players are hearing about that doesn’t even include their opponent in Ohio. Stranger things can happen in college football so WMU better bring its A-Game or else things could get very interesting against a well-coached Bobcats team in Detroit.

 

Final Analysis

 

There are few leagues in the country that are quite as wild during the regular season as the MAC has been over the years and the end result has produced some whacky and memorable conference title games. While many of those featured a number of very good teams, few have had quite the stakes of the 2016 edition at Ford Field.

 

Western Michigan enters with the second-longest winning streak in the country and dreams of a Cotton Bowl berth if the Broncos can convincingly close things out on Friday. WMU has some of the best skill position players in the country and maybe the hottest head coaching candidate in all of FBS in P.J. Fleck. While some may knock the Broncos for playing in the MAC, everybody from the College Football Playoff Selection Committee on down agrees there’s plenty to like about the West Division champions.

 

Standing in their way is an experienced Ohio squad out of the East Division that is built on playing tough defense, running the ball and creating turnovers. Few are giving the team much of a chance in this game but that’s probably just what veteran head coach Frank Solich wants after pulling off some remarkable upsets over the years. There is some hope that senior quarterback Greg Windham will be back for this one after missing the team’s last three games and he could provide a nice boost to the offense that will need some sort of jolt if the Bobcats’ defense can’t dominate in the trenches like they were earlier in the year.

 

With all that being said though, Western Michigan is the far superior team in this one and is well aware what a win could mean beyond the first conference championship in 28 years. No MAC team has come within two scores of the Broncos during the regular season and it’s hard to see that being the case with Ohio. Maybe there’s a surprise or two left for Friday but otherwise, Western Michigan rows the boat all the way to a title and states its case that the Broncos are the best Group of Five team in the land.

 

Prediction: Broncos 45, Bobcats 17

 

— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.

Teaser:
MAC Championship Game Preview and Prediction: Western Michigan vs. Ohio
Post date: Wednesday, November 30, 2016 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: syndicated, NFL
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Hope everyone enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday as we get down to towards the end of the NFL regular season. As we head to this part of the slate, we start to wonder which teams have already packed up for the season and which are still in the playoff hunt. Both conferences have a lot at stake still so there are more teams that haven't checked out yet. I will say that situational plays continue to occur even in Week 13.

 

Record: 11-22 (2-1 in Week 11)

 

Teams on bye: Cleveland, Tennessee

 

Note: All games are on Sunday, Dec. 4 and times are ET.

 

Kansas City Chiefs (8-3) at Atlanta Falcons (7-4), 1 p.m.

This is a terrible sandwich spot for Kansas City, who is coming off a road victory in overtime against the Broncos. Now the Chiefs have to fly east to take on Atlanta in the Georgia Dome where the Falcons usually thrive. Combine that with a Week 14 Thursday night date with current AFC West leader Oakland and you've got some trouble. The Falcons dismantled Arizona 38-19 last week and they've won three of their last four. The concern with Atlanta is the loss of cornerback Desmond Trufant, but I don't know if it'll hurt them as much here with Kansas City lacking a true No. 1 WR. Tyreek Hill is going to be a handful on the turf, but can Alex Smith get him the ball? The Chiefs have covered just four of their last 11 non-conference games. Atlanta is 7-4 ATS this season and should be able to get the victory in this one. SELECTION: Falcons -3.5

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) at San Diego Chargers (5-6), 4:25 p.m.

Here's another spot play on Sunday as the Bucs make the long trek to play in San Diego. Tampa Bay has beaten the Chiefs and Seahawks the last two weeks and will be hosting the Saints on Dec. 11. Between those games is this matchup with the Chargers, who have won two of three and four of their last six. Tampa Bay's offense has scored just 33 points in their last two games, but held opponents to just 22, including only five to Seattle last week. San Diego's defense has allowed 66 points in its last two home games against Tennessee and Miami. I think Philip Rivers will stress the Bucs corners. These two teams have very similar stats, but I'll lean to the home team especially since the Bucs have bigger fish to fry next week. They are playing a bit over their heads. SELECTION: Chargers -3.5

 

Washington Redskins (6-4) at Arizona Cardinals (4-6), 4:25 p.m.

Washington heads west to play Arizona who is on the brink of falling completely out of the playoff chase. Arizona's offense has struggled to get traction as Carson Palmer has regressed a bit. David Johnson is still doing big work for the Cardinals, but he's seeing more people in the box with the pass game struggling. Washington's rush defense has held four of its last six opponents to fewer than 100 yards on the ground. The Redskins could find some success offensively considering the Cardinals have been torched for 118 points over the last four weeks. You can say that they haven't been right since the 6-6 home tie against the Seahawks just over a month ago. Washington has been an underdog six times already this season covering five of those matchups. I think the Redskins can win this one outright over desperate ‘Zona. SELECTION: Redskins +3

 

Notes:

 

— The Lions won last year in New Orleans in a shootout, but I don't know if that will happen again this season. Believe it or not, but New Orleans' defense has actually played well the last three weeks, holding each opponent to under 350 total yards of offense. I realize that's still a relatively high number in terms of actual defense, but it’s marked improvement for this unit from earlier in the season. Detroit has held five straight opponents to 20 points or fewer, but outside of Washington, none of those teams have offenses that inspire fear for the opposing defense.

 

— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.

Teaser:
Betting Against the Spread: NFL Week 13 Picks and Odds
Post date: Wednesday, November 30, 2016 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/college-football-poll-watch-alabama-and-ohio-state-are-locks-playoff-michigan-still-alive-2016
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Just one weekend of games is all that separates us from knowing once and for all who the four teams that qualify for the College Football Playoff will be. On Tuesday night, the selection committee released its latest rankings, establishing the narrative for this weekend's games while also leaving us with a couple of questions.

 

Alabama is a lock to make the College Football Playoff

The Crimson Tide have been at the top of every poll all season and have looked like the best team in the nation pretty much every weekend. Even if Florida is able to pull off a monumental upset in the SEC title game, I really don't see any way that the committee could drop Alabama outside of the top four of the final rankings. The earth is round, water is wet and Alabama will be in the College Football Playoff.

 

Ohio State also is a lock

We can sit here and debate all day whether or not this should be the case, but the fact of the matter is that the current rankings basically guarantee it. The Buckeyes sit at No. 2. Should both Clemson and Washington win, they are the only two teams that could jump them. There is no possible way the Buckeyes fall out of the top four. For the second time in the three-year history of the College Football Playoff, Ohio State will have the chance to play for a national title.

 

Michigan is still alive

We also can debate all debate whether or not this should be the case, but the rankings don't lie. The Wolverines have head-to-head wins over Wisconsin, Penn State and Colorado. Because of that, the committee has Michigan ahead of all three in the rankings. I don't see how the results of the Big Ten and Pac-12 Championship Games change that. If that were to be the case, you would think that the committee would already have Penn State, Wisconsin and Colorado ahead of Michigan in order to avoid any controversy, but that's not what we are seeing. The way the rankings are set up right now, a loss by either Clemson or Washington puts Michigan in the playoff.

 

If head-to-head is good enough for Michigan, why isn't it good enough for Louisville?

Florida State and Louisville have identical records. When the two teams met earlier this season, the Cardinals beat the Seminoles by a score of 63-20. For some reason, the committee has Florida State ranked ahead of Louisville. I get that the Cardinals lost their last two games, but is that enough to put a team that they blew out ahead of them? If so — with Michigan losing two of its last three — why aren't Penn State, Wisconsin and Colorado ahead of the Wolverines? Some consistency from the committee would be much appreciated.

 

Western Michigan finally cracks the top 20

If this season told us anything, it's that no Group of Five team will ever have a chance to play for a national championship unless they begin the season ranked somewhere in the Top 25 of the AP or Coaches Poll. Even then, it would be difficult. Thirteen teams from the AP's preseason Top 25 are nowhere to be found in the latest College Football Playoff rankings. The preseason polls have proven time and time again to be mostly inaccurate, and yet they continue to drive the narrative and dictate what is and is not a quality win throughout the season. As a result, a team like Western Michigan — not ranked in the preseason — can run the table and barely break into the playoff committee's top 20.

 

In the meantime, Colorado and Penn State -- two teams that also were unranked in the preseason — can lose two games during the year and still find themselves in the top 10 at the end of the regular season. That entire process does not sit well with me — and it shouldn't sit well with you.

 

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

Teaser:
College Football Poll Watch: Alabama and Ohio State are Locks for the Playoff, Michigan Still Alive
Post date: Wednesday, November 30, 2016 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: syndicated, NFL
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Body:

The Thanksgiving games were certainly a treat, but the NFL saved the best for last as far as Week 12 played out. All four of the later Sunday games were close, highlighted by the overtime thriller in primetime between Kansas City and Denver.

 

The Chiefs’ fourth-quarter comeback and late field goal in extra time propelled them to 8-3, just a game behind the Raiders (9-2) for first in the AFC West and a game clear of the Broncos (7-4) for the first wild card spot. Up next for Andy Reid’s team is a trip to Atlanta to play the high-flying Falcons (7-4) on their own turf.

 

Atlanta knows it needs to keep winning with Tampa Bay (6-5) surging. The Buccaneers knocked off Seattle 14-5 at home on Sunday and will look to make it four wins a row when they fly across the country to take on San Diego.

 

As for the rest of the Week 13 slate, it kicks off in Minnesota with the Vikings hosting the Cowboys (10-1) for Thursday night football. Dallas has won 10 in a row, while Minnesota (6-5) hasn’t been the same team since getting off to a 5-0 start. Will either trend change this week?

 

Other intriguing matchups have the Giants (8-3), winners of six in a row, paying a visit to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers (6-5), who are tied for first in the AFC North with the Ravens. Miami (7-4) aims for its seventh straight victory as the Dolphins will travel to Baltimore. Buffalo (6-5) heads west hoping to continue its recent momentum against an Oakland team that’s the top seed in the AFC and has won five in a row. And the aforementioned Seahawks (7-3-1) will try to rebound at home on Sunday night against a Carolina team hoping for better results on the West Coast after coming up just short against the Raiders.

 

So which teams will come out on top in every NFL game in Week 13? Athlon's own Rob Doster (AthlonDoster), John Gworek (JohnGworek), Steven Lassan (AthlonSteven), and Mark Ross (AthlonMarkR), along with AthlonSports.com contributor Bryan Fischer (BryanDFischer), predict the winners for every game this week:

 

NFL Week 13 Predictions

 

Teams on bye: Cleveland, Tennessee

 

 

Rob

Doster

Bryan
Fischer

John

Gworek

Steven

Lassan

Mark

Ross

Dallas at
Minnesota (TNF)

Kansas City at
Atlanta

Detroit at
New Orleans

Los Angeles at
New England

Denver at
Jacksonville

Houston at
Green Bay

Philadelphia at
Cincinnati

Miami at
Baltimore

Chicago at
San Francisco

Buffalo at
Oakland

NY Giants at
Pittsburgh
Washington at
Arizona

Tampa Bay at
San Diego

Carolina at
Seattle (SNF)

Indianapolis at
NY Jets (MNF)

Week 12 12-4 12-4 11-5 12-4 12-4
Season 116-59 103-72 104-71 106-69 107-68

 

Note: Ties are not included in season record.

Teaser:
Predictions for Every NFL Game in Week 13
Post date: Wednesday, November 30, 2016 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Funny, Green Bay Packers, NFL, Overtime
Path: /overtime/10-funny-football-green-bay-packers-memes
Body:

We love a great, funny, clever and downright stupid football meme. The meme has become a great way to make a point and/or express an opinion, whether you're a Redskins fan mocking your friend's Dallas Cowboys fandom with a meme, or a Packers fan making fun of a rough season. We scoured the interweb to bring you some of our favorite of all time.

 

Green Bay Packers Meme

 

Green Bay Packers Meme

 

Green Bay Packers Meme

 

Green Bay Packers Meme

 

Green Bay Packers Meme

 

Green Bay Packers Meme Aaron Rodgers

 

Green Bay Packers Meme Adrian Peterson

 

Green Bay Packers Meme

 

Green Bay Packers Meme

 

Green Bay Packers Meme

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, November 30, 2016 - 10:29
Path: /college-football/outrageous-college-football-predictions-week-14-2016
Body:

By this time next week, we'll know which four teams are headed to the College Football Playoff, as well as which teams are headed to New Year's Six bowls. This coming weekend — championship weekend — will be what decides all of that once and for all.

 

There are narratives and projections aplenty, and with them come discussions of chaos and controversy in anticipation of the results of this weekend's games. If there is one thing we know for certain, however, it's that the 2016 college football season does not care about narratives and projections. The entire season has been quite outrageous, and championship week will be no different.

 

Outrageous College Football Predictions for Championship Week

 

Ohio upsets Western Michigan in the MAC title game

I've been driving the P.J. Fleck train all season, begging the Broncos to get more attention and touting the young head coach as an option for some of the biggest job openings in the land (some of which are not yet vacant). That said, in a one game, winner-take-all scenario, I like Ohio head coach Frank Solich to have his squad up to the task of taking down the top Group of Five team in the land. Bobcats freshman quarterback Quinton Maxwell is a future star in the MAC and likely beyond. I like his playmaking ability and Ohio's underrated defense to be the difference as the Bobcats shock Western Michigan and take home the conference crown.

 

Colorado upsets Washington

The Buffaloes are one of the hottest teams in the country right now — riding a six-game winning streak. They have established an identity as one of the meanest, most physical teams on both sides of the ball — something you need to be in order to defeat a very good Washington team. Colorado's ability to take care of the football on offense, take away the ball on defense and control the tempo with the running game will keep this a lower-scoring affair that many are projecting. In the end, however, look for a couple of big plays by Buffaloes wide receiver Shay Fields to be the difference.

 

Oklahoma State blows out Oklahoma in Bedlam

The Sooners are still thinking they have an outside shot of cracking the College Football Playoff. Unfortunately for Oklahoma, the Cowboys are getting healthy at the right time. Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph has been hanging some gaudy numbers as of late. He'll be foaming at the mouth to get after a Sooner secondary that gives up more than 287 passing yards per game. I see the Cowboys as the more physical team in this one. Look for them to take Dede Westbrook off the table as a consistent option for OU quarterback Baker Mayfield, forcing other playmakers to beat them. Once that happens, the Cowboys will have turned the game into a boat race where Oklahoma is unable to keep up.

 

Wisconsin beats Penn State by double digits

We're all so focused on what happens if Penn State wins the Big Ten and how that impacts Ohio State — possibly opening the door for the old conference to get two teams into the College Football Playoff. Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Badgers sit off in the corner, quietly favored in this game. We know all about Wisconsin's elite defense, but Paul Chryst's bunch looks to have used the last three games of the season to fine-tune its offensive attack. The Badgers are averaging more than 42 points per game during that stretch. If they can put up two thirds of that and just allow their defense to do what it does, I'm not sure Penn State is built to win a game like that. Wisconsin running back Corey Clement will be the star in this one, adding to his four-game streak of 100 yards or more on the ground.

 

Virginia Tech shocks the world, takes down Clemson

It's been a roller coaster of a first year for Justin Fuente in Blacksburg, but it's safe to say Virginia Tech made the right choice in hiring him. Fuente's high-octane offensive attack has been installed and is now a dangerous complement to Bud Foster's always-solid defense. The Hokie defense is good enough to allow its corners to play on islands, opening the doors for the front seven to pin its ears back and go after Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson like nobody has this season. This too will be a lower-scoring game than most think, thanks to two of the finest defensive coordinators in the land doing what they do best. In true Virginia Tech fashion, however, look for a special teams play to be the difference that wins the game and the ACC title for the Hokies.

 

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

 

(Justin Fuente photo by Dave Knachel - Virginia Tech Athletics)

Teaser:
Outrageous College Football Predictions for Week 14
Post date: Wednesday, November 30, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army West Point Black Knights, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami (OH) RedHawks, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, syndicated, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Troy University, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/predictions-every-college-football-game-week-14-2016
Body:

College football’s 2016 regular season concludes with a small, but meaningful slate on Friday and Saturday for Week 14. The action begins on Friday night with the MAC Championship between Western Michigan and Ohio, with the Pac-12 title game between Washington and Colorado kicking off later that evening. With a win over Ohio, the Broncos likely ensure a trip to a New Year’s Six bowl. On Saturday, 14 games dot the schedule, starting with the American Athletic Conference title game between Temple and Navy, Conference USA’s title matchup with WKU and Louisiana Tech and Oklahoma-Oklahoma State in the first wave of matchups. The afternoon slate features Baylor at West Virginia and the SEC title game between Alabama and Florida. The Gators hope to derail the Crimson Tide's perfect season, but the Crimson Tide are a heavy favorite and the matchups clearly favor coach Nick Saban's team. The nightcap on Championship Saturday starts in Orlando with Virginia Tech and Clemson in the ACC Championship, with Penn State and Wisconsin meeting in the Big Ten title game.  

 

Which teams will come out on top in every FBS game for Week 14? Bryan Fischer and Jim Weber join Athlon Sports' Steven Lassan and Mitch Light to provide weekly predictions for every contest:

 

College Football Week 14 Predictions
 

Steven

Lassan

Mitch

Light

Bryan

Fischer

Jim 

Weber

Ohio vs.

Western Michigan

(MAC Title - Detroit)

Colorado vs. 

Washington

(Pac-12 Title -

Santa Clara)

Kansas State at

TCU

Troy at

Georgia Southern

Temple at

Navy

(American Title)

Louisiana Tech at

WKU

(C-USA Title)

Oklahoma State at

Oklahoma

NMSU at

South Alabama

Louisiana at

ULM

Baylor at

West Virginia

Alabama vs.

Florida

(SEC Title -

Atlanta)

Georgia State at

Idaho

Arkansas State at

Texas State

SDSU at

Wyoming

(MW Title)

Clemson vs. 

Virginia Tech

(ACC Title - Orlando)

Wisconsin vs. 

Penn State

(Big Ten Title - Indy)

Army vs.

Navy

(Dec. 10 - Baltimore)

 

Teaser:
Predictions for Every College Football Game in Week 14 2016
Post date: Wednesday, November 30, 2016 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/10-coaching-candidates-replace-mark-helfrich-oregon
Body:

Oregon fired coach Mark Helfrich on Tuesday night, ending a four-year run in charge of the program. Under Helfrich’s direction, the Ducks went 37-16 over the last four seasons. However, after winning 24 games from 2013-14, Oregon was just 13-12 over the last two years, including a 4-8 mark in 2016. Helfrich was promoted after Chip Kelly left for the NFL but was unable to maintain the program’s place at the top of the Pac-12 and as a playoff contender.

 

While Oregon has slipped in the Pac-12 pecking order over the last two years, this program is still one of the better jobs in the conference and has some promising young talent to build around for 2017 and beyond.

 

Who might replace Helfrich at Oregon? Here are 10 candidates to watch:

 

10 Candidates to Replace Mark Helfrich at Oregon

 

Beau Baldwin, head coach, Eastern Washington

Baldwin is one of the top coaches at the FCS level and has ties to the Pacific Northwest after a playing career at Central Washington, followed by a coaching stint at the school from 1994-02 and 2007. Baldwin worked as Eastern Washington’s offensive coordinator from 2003-06 and was hired as the program’s head coach in 2008. Under Baldwin’s watch, the Eagles are 83-31 and have made the FCS playoffs in five out of the last six years. Additionally, Baldwin is a sharp offensive mind and has coordinated some of the top offenses at the FCS level in recent years.

 

Larry Fedora, head coach, North Carolina

Fedora is 39-24 in five seasons at North Carolina and guided the program to its first Coastal Division title in 2015. Prior to taking over in Chapel Hill, Fedora went 34-19 at Southern Miss and also made stops as an assistant at Oklahoma State, Florida and MTSU. Fedora has proven himself as a head coach at two different jobs and has a strong track record of success on the offensive side of the ball.

 

P.J. Fleck, head coach, Western Michigan

Fleck is one of college football’s top coaches on the rise and should be one of the favorites to replace Helfrich. The 36-year-old Illinois native is regarded as an outstanding recruiter and has brought significant improvement to Western Michigan in just four years. After a 1-11 record in his first season (2013), Fleck guided the program to back-to-back 8-5 records, followed by a 12-0 mark in 2016.

 

Scott Frost, head coach, UCF

Does Oregon want a clean break from the previous coaching regime? If not, Frost is a name to watch. The former Oregon assistant had a successful debut in his first year at UCF, guiding the Knights to a 6-6 record – a six-game improvement after the program went 0-12 in 2015.

 

Bryan Harsin, head coach, Boise State

Considering Harsin is a former Boise State quarterback and has spent a good chunk of his coaching career with the Broncos, it won’t be easy to hire him to another job. But if there is a job that could interest Harsin, Oregon would figure to be near the top of the list. Under Harsin’s watch, Boise State is 31-8 and claimed the 2014 Fiesta Bowl after a 12-2 record. He also has a strong background on offense, a two-year stint as the offensive coordinator at Texas and spent one season as the head coach at Arkansas State (2013).

 

Dana Holgorsen, head coach, West Virginia

Holgorsen is making a case for Big 12 Coach of the Year honors this season, but his long-term future at the school is uncertain. Holgorsen’s contract at West Virginia ends after 2017 and talks for an extension didn’t yield a resolution in the offseason. The Iowa native is regarded for his work on the offensive side of the ball, spending time as a coordinator at Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State before landing in Morgantown. Under Holgorsen’s direction, West Virginia is 45-30 and is poised to reach 10 wins with a victory over Baylor in Week 14. Adding to Holgorsen’s successful resume with the Mountaineers was helping the program transition from the Big East to the Big 12.

 

Lane Kiffin, offensive coordinator, Alabama

It’s only a matter of time before Kiffin lands another job as a head coach. However, the rumor mill seems to be placing Kiffin as a potential candidate to coordinate LSU’s offense under new head coach Ed Orgeron. Kiffin’s previous stint at USC did not go well, resulting in his firing early in the 2013 season. Kiffin went 28-15 with the Trojans and also recorded a 7-6 mark in one year at Tennessee (2009). There’s no question Kiffin is a sharp X’s and O’s coach. However, is he ready to be the head coach at a Power 5/national title contender once again?

 

Dan Mullen, head coach, Mississippi State

Mullen’s name has popped up in the rumor mill for other Power 5 jobs over the last few seasons and could do so again in connection with the Oregon job. The Pennsylvania native is one of the nation’s most underrated coaches, guiding Mississippi State – the toughest job in the SEC West – to a 60-42 record since 2009. Additionally, the Bulldogs ranked No. 1 in the first College Football Playoff selection committee top 25 and have played in six consecutive bowl games (seven if you count the likely bid in 2016). He’s also a sharp X’s and O’s coach on offense and is regarded for his work in developing quarterbacks.

 

Greg Schiano, co-defensive coordinator, Ohio State

Schiano is the only coach with a defensive background on this list, but his name generated a lot of buzz after Helfrich's firing on Tuesday night. This may seem like an odd fit for Schiano, but the New Jersey native is due for another head coaching gig. Schiano inherited a program in need of a major overhaul at Rutgers in 2001 and led the team to a 68-67 record from 2001-11. Under Schiano's watch, the Scarlet Knights earned six bowl appearances and winning records in six out of his final seven seasons. After a two-year stint in the NFL with the Buccaneers and two seasons out of coaching, Schiano was hired to coordinate Ohio State's defense with Luke Fickell. Schiano helped Ohio State's defense rank among the best in the nation, limiting opponents to just 14.2 points a game.

 

Willie Taggart, head coach, USF

Taggart is another rising star in college football’s head coaching ranks. The Florida native has ties to the Pac-12 after a stint under former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh (2007-09) and has adapted at USF from more of a traditional pro-style offense to a spread attack. Taggart is 24-25 with the Bulls, including an 18-7 record over the last two seasons. He also went 16-20 at WKU (2010-12), winning 14 games in the last two years after a 2-10 debut.

Teaser:
10 Coaching Candidates to Replace Mark Helfrich at Oregon
Post date: Wednesday, November 30, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /enter-chance-win-copy-suicide-squad-digital-hd-download
Body:

A secret government agency recruits imprisoned supervillains to execute high-risk, black-ops missions in exchange for clemency.

 

Available on Blu-ray™ 12/13

Digital HD Available Now.

 

Sign up for our free newsletter below for your chance to win one of 10 copies. And increase your chances by tweeting us @AthlonSports with the hashtags #AthlonSquad and #SuicideSquad for a second chance at the prize. All entries must be submitted by December 13 at noon EDT. Good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, November 29, 2016 - 13:31
All taxonomy terms: syndicated, NFL
Path: /nfl/nfl-power-rankings-week-13-2016
Body:

We’re not yet to December and yet we’re already up to two teams mathematically eliminated from this season’s NFL playoffs. There are bound to be even more in the coming weeks as the race for the No. 1 overall pick heats up just as much as the chase for the No. 1 seed in both conferences.

 

Related: NFL 2016 Regular and Postseason Predictions

 

With that in mind and factoring in everything from overall roster strength, to quarterback play, to the coaching staff, to injuries, here is the latest edition of NFL power rankings and where every team stacks up from 1 to 32.

 

Week 13 NFL Power Rankings

 

Note: Last week refers to Week 11 power rankings.

 

1. Dallas Cowboys

Last week: 1
It’s not just that the Cowboys keep winning and continue to look like the class of the NFL, but they’re now putting considerable distance between themselves and others in the NFC East and their conference as a whole.

 

2. New England Patriots

Last week: 3
The rare struggle with the Jets may have been attributed to division familiarity and the fact that it was essentially New York’s Super Bowl. Still, the narrow win and the fact that there’s real competition for home-field advantage means the team needs to pick things up going forward. 

 

3. Oakland Raiders

Last week: 4
That Derek Carr MVP talk should be enhanced by the way he played with a finger injury in leading his team to a comeback win. He may need to continue to play that way if the Raiders make mental mistakes like they did in allowing the Panthers back into the game on Sunday.

 

4. Kansas City Chiefs

Last week: 6

The Chiefs can thank Gary Kubiak and his overtime decision for their latest victory, which makes them 3-0 in the division and just a game behind Oakland overall.

 

5. Seattle Seahawks

Last week: 2
Another lackluster offensive performance that came as the result of the woeful offensive line. Maybe it was a letdown outing that was bound to pop up but the Seahawks are still in line for a first-round bye so the damage wasn’t too bad.

 

6. Atlanta Falcons

Last week: 8

The best part of the Falcons’ win on Sunday over Arizona had to be their Twitter trolling of the Cleveland Browns over Taylor Gabriel’s remarkable performance.

 

7. Denver Broncos

Last week: 5

For a stretch there against Kansas City, Denver looked plenty capable of running with the top tier of the AFC. Then the Broncos lost in overtime and find themselves currently out of the playoff picture.

 

8. New York Giants

Last week: 8
We didn’t learn much from a win over the Browns but it’s still impressive that the team is winning close games and have moved into the No. 5 seed in the NFC.

 

9. Detroit Lions

Last week: 10

Detroit fans have to pinch themselves that the Lions occupy sole possession of first place and are suddenly in the running for a home playoff game.

 

10. Miami Dolphins

Last week: 19
That’s six wins in a row with quarterback Ryan Tannehill doing much of the damage in the win over San Francisco. Can the 'Fins keep the momentum going against Baltimore on the road?

 

11. Baltimore Ravens

Last week: 11
The Ravens keep living dangerously but continue to win and remain atop the division. We’ll find out if the team is for real in the month of December however, but at least could benefit from the return of top cornerback Jimmy Smith soon.

 

12. Pittsburgh Steelers

Last week: 12
Maybe the most impressive thing about the romp over Indianapolis was not the three-touchdown margin of victory but the way the defense played (albeit against a quarterback not named Andrew Luck). 

 

13. Washington Redskins

Last week: 14
The Cowboys put a halt to their win streak but it didn’t knock the team out of the playoff picture. Kirk Cousins continues to play well but it wasn’t been enough to top the best in the league. This is still a team capable of making a run down the stretch but the Redskins will need to get over the hump of this extra-long road trip.

 

14. Buffalo Bills

Last week: 13
The return of Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy’s long run were bright spots in a closer-than-expected win over Jacksonville. We’ll see if the team can make a jump in its level of play with the upcoming cross-country trip to Oakland. 

 

15. New Orleans Saints

Last week: 16
You think Sean Payton enjoyed running up the score on Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams? It certainly seemed that way. 

 

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Last week: 25
That’s two straight wins (one on the road) against two of the best teams in the league. If the Bucs can keep things up on the road at San Diego, it might be time to move the team way up in the rankings. The status of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is in the air and is very concerning given the way he played against Seattle.

 

17. Philadelphia Eagles

Last week: 9

The team has come back to Earth with back-to-back losses, one understandable in Seattle and another that is puzzling at home to Green Bay. The flaws in the offense are becoming readily apparent and that’s spilling over on the defensive side of the ball.

 

18. Tennessee Titans

Last week: 20
You can probably count on one hand the number of quarterbacks who are playing as well as Marcus Mariota has recently. Now if the defense can find another gear, that whole winning the AFC South thing might become more of a reality.

 

19. Green Bay Packers

Last week: 21
Was that performance at Philadelphia a sign of things to come or a flash in the pan for the Packers? We’ll find out but it’s a positive first step for Aaron Rodgers and company.

 

20. San Diego Chargers

Last week: 23
There are few roller coasters in the league quite like the Chargers, who impressed with their ability to get a tough road win at Houston. Things don’t look great to sneak into the playoffs but this is a team that has developed some building blocks the past few weeks.

 

21. Houston Texans

Last week: 17
Somebody has to win the AFC South and with each passing week, it seems like the Texans are doing their best to squander their chances.

 

22. Arizona Cardinals

Last week: 15
The list for most disappointing teams in the NFL this season is growing but Arizona finds a way to remain near the top of it with each passing week. At least David Johnson hasn’t given up on the season.

 

23. Indianapolis Colts

Last week: 18
Andrew Luck has returned to practice and that is the only good news about this team at the current moment.

 

24. Minnesota Vikings

Last week: 22
That’s now losses in five out of the last six and there’s no sign this team is capable of slowing down the juggernaut that is the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night. There’s still a door open to sneak into the playoffs given the late-season schedule but there are too many issues all over the place to buy into the team right now.

 

25. Cincinnati Bengals

Last week: 24
The way things are going, the trip to the Browns next month might be the only win left on the schedule. Not exactly what the Bengals had in mind coming in to the season. 

 

26. Carolina Panthers

Last week: 26
The Panthers showed plenty of resolve during their trip to Oakland even if the lack of depth defensively became apparent in allowing the Raiders to re-take the lead. With a trip to Seattle coming up, chances are slim Carolina even makes it back to .500 the season after going to the Super Bowl. 

 

27. Los Angeles Rams

Last week: 27
It’s one thing if the offense isn’t moving the ball, it’s another for the normally reliable defense to get embarrassed like it did at New Orleans. Getting to 7-9 looks like a big stretch and the upcoming trip to New England could get really ugly. 

 

28. New York Jets

Last week: 28
Even as bad as the Jets have looked, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that they saved one of their best performances for the Patriots. It wasn’t enough, of course, but could be encouraging for a few late moves in December.

 

29. Chicago Bears

Last week: 29
All things considered, Matt Barkley didn’t look half bad as the Bears quarterback. Of course, the numbers weren’t great for the signal-caller as a result of his wide receivers dropping just about everything thrown their way.

 

30. Jacksonville Jaguars

Last week: 30
An upcoming decision on Gus Bradley is all but made but the team faces a much bigger question regarding quarterback Blake Bortles, who looked far better running the football than he did throwing it on Sunday.

 

31. San Francisco 49ers

Last week: 31
The 49ers are so, so close to breaking through and getting a second victory. If they don’t do it in the next two weeks, they can enjoy their draft position.

 

32. Cleveland Browns

Last week: 32
There are times where this team flashes enough on the field to look capable of getting a win but then there are half a dozen other plays right after that show why the Browns are 0-12.

 

— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.

Teaser:
NFL Power Rankings: Week 13
Post date: Tuesday, November 29, 2016 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/joe-namath-vs-steve-spurrier-first-big-time-alabama-vs-florida-matchup
Body:

Joe Namath vs. Steve Spurrier. It’s not a phrase found in the annals of college football history, but as Alabama and Florida face off in the SEC Championship Game for the ninth time (and second straight season), it is fitting that we look at this brief matchup.

 

The two gridiron legends only faced each other for 11 minutes in October 1964, but it was precious time in a game that was monumental for numerous reasons. It was the first time both schools were undefeated and ranked in the top 10 at the time of their meeting. It was a game where Spurrier, then a sophomore, would show Gator fans and the SEC just how special a player he was. For Namath, it was another example of his determination and guts as a player.

 

Alabama head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant had been waiting to play this game since the year before, when a 1-1-1 Florida team upset his No. 3-ranked Crimson Tide 10-6. It was Bryant’s first loss at Alabama’s Denny Stadium and he had been looking for revenge ever since.

 

Spurrier was on the freshman team at the time, but in 1964 was splitting duty with veteran quarterback Tom Shannon. The setup gave Florida head coach Ray Graves the ability to alternate between his seasoned field general in Shannon and young gunslinger in Spurrier, who also could run and punt.

 

“We have been very pleased with the quarterbacking thus far,” said Graves. “Shannon’s poise and experience has gotten us off on the right foot in each game and Spurrier’s dash and daring already has enabled to explode us some big plays.”

 

In addition to the quarterbacks, the 4-0 Gators had numerous weapons, including a strong running game and a murderous pass defense. The week before, the Gators had limited Dan Reeves (yes, that Dan Reeves) to only six completions for 43 yards in a 37-0 shellacking of South Carolina.

 

Namath was literally limping through his senior year.  Two games earlier, he had cut right in the second quarter against NC State and suffered the famous knee injury that he would struggle with through the remainder of his entire career. While his arm remains the stuff of legend, only those who saw him play during his sophomore and junior seasons at Alabama saw how remarkable a runner he was as well.

 

Bryant had planned to keep him on the bench during the next week’s game against Tennessee. However, when the Volunteers closed within a touchdown in the third quarter, he put Namath in to guide them through the remainder of the game. Even with a 19-8 win, Bryant was gloomy about his team’s prospects against Florida, even with Namath starting.

 

“We’re going to have to play over our heads, a whole lot better than we have played against anyone to hope to win,” said Bryant. “I think they are better than we are. They are the best looking team I’ve seen since I came back to Alabama except for our (1961) national champions.”

 

When the two teams met on Oct. 24, Alabama was a six-point favorite and ranked third in the Associated Press poll, while Florida was ranked ninth. The Tide had the top-ranked total defense in the country and the Gators had the fifth best. For both schools, it was a moment of truth.

 

“The Alabama game is very much like last season’s game,” said Graves. “There’s just as much electricity in the air as last year. Only this fall we have more to gain by beating Alabama.”

 

“We’ll learn one way or another how we can complete the season, but no matter how it comes out tomorrow, we’ll be trying to get ready for Mississippi State on Monday just the same,” said Bryant.

 

The game also was homecoming for Alabama and Alpha Delta Phi’s float of an elephant eating an alligator took top honors at the parade festivities.

 

A sell-out crowd of 45,000 packed into Denny Stadium for an uneventful first quarter. The only major surprise was that Spurrier started and continued to play the whole game, instead of switching out with Shannon.

 

“It was just the way the game developed,” said Graves. “We knew we were going to have to pass against ‘em — so we left Spurrier in.”

 

During the first quarter, Spurrier was unable to move the ball, but made up for it with three exceptional punts, each of which placed Alabama inside its own 11-yard line. Finally, Namath was able to get the offense moving late in the first quarter. He completed passes of 10 and 18 yards to move the Tide up to midfield. Then, he took the snap and ran around the right end, but his knee caved and he fell to the ground, fumbling the ball. Florida’s Dick Kirk pounced on it at the Gators’ 47-yard line. Sadly, Namath was finished for the day as thought turned to his football future.

 

Spurrier and Florida capitalized with a nine-play drive that was punctuated with a touchdown pass to Randy Jackson three minutes into the second quarter. The Gators led 7-0.

 

After the kickoff, Namath’s backup, junior Steve Sloan, took over at the Alabama 13-yard line and led the Tide on an 87-yard drive that took almost nine minutes. With 3:20 left in the first half, Alabama fullback Steve Bowman jumped over the plie at the Florida 1-yard line for the touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.

 

Alabama took the opening kick in the second half, but was unable to move the ball. Spurrier responded with a balanced 15-play, 61-yard drive that ended with a two-yard TD run by John Feiber. Florida’s 14-7 lead carried over into the fourth quarter.

 

A Spurrier punt early in the final period was fielded by Alabama halfback John Mosley and returned 37 yards to the Florida 34. Spurrier, the last defender in Mosley’s way, brought him down. A few plays later, Bowman broke loose for a 30-yard touchdown run, tying the score at 14-14 with plenty of time remaining.

 

After another Florida drive sputtered, Sloan took over on his own 20. Several runs by Bowman and running back Leslie Kelly and a 20-yard completion to end Wayne Cook brought the Tide to the Florida 4-yard line, but the drive stalled there.  A short David Ray field goal gave Alabama its first lead at 17-14 with a little more than three minutes to go.

 

It was here where the Legend of Steve Spurrier was born. He took over on his own 20-yard line and hit Charlie Casey for a 16-yard completion followed by a 19-yard play to get Florida moving. On the next play, another completion to Casey put the Gators on the Alabama 25.

 

At that point, Alabama’s “Million Dollar Band” began playing furiously, drowning out Spurrier’s signal calls at the line. Yet he still managed to lead the Gators to the Tide’s seven-yard line. Out of timeouts with the clock winding down, kicker Ray Hall raced on to the field and attempted a field goal, but his kick petered to the right of the goal post. The fans in Tuscaloosa exploded in joy and relief.

 

“Every team has its own individuality and personality,” said Bryant. “This is brought on offense on critical third down plays and on defense when your opposition has the ball on your five-yard line on fourth down.”

 

The character of Bryant’s team would show throw throughout the year. Alabama won the rest of its regular season games, with Namath playing when his knee allowed it, and the was named national champions by the AP and UPI. The Crimson Tide lost the Orange Bowl to Texas 21-17 in spite of an intense comeback attempt led by Namath.

 

The Gators did not fare as well, losing two of their next five games. Nevertheless, Graves knew he had something special in Spurrier.

 

“Steve is one of the best sophomore quarterbacks I have ever seen at this stage of his career,” he said. “I don’t know of an SEC quarterback I would trade him for.”

 

Spurrier only improved, leading Florida to the Sugar Bowl, the first major bowl game in school history, the next year. In 1966, he led Florida to the Orange Bowl and won the Heisman Trophy.  It is fitting that Spurrier’s rise and the origins of this rivalry were first forged on the field when he and Namath met albeit briefly.

 

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.

Teaser:
Joe Namath vs. Steve Spurrier: The First Big-Time Alabama vs. Florida Matchup
Post date: Tuesday, November 29, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/5-truths-texas-longhorns-fans-need-accept
Body:

On paper, Texas’ decision to fire Charlie Strong and replace him with Tom Herman makes sense. Strong went 16-21 during his time in Austin, becoming the only coach in Texas history to have three consecutive losing seasons. Herman went 22-4 in the same span at Houston and already has built relationships throughout the Longhorn State that can carry over into his new job.

 

However, the whole situation is just sad. Strong was the most sought-after head coach in the country when he was hired in 2013, but was immediately criticized by Texas mega-booster Red McCombs. That was not a great way to start. Strong did not deliver on the field and carries the blame for getting fired, but Texas fans – and that includes the boosters, who are essentially fans with money and power – are partly at fault too for their lack of support.

 

Whether Herman works out or not, Texas fans need to have a reality check as it begins this new era. Here are five truths they need to accept immediately.

 

5. Texas is a State Like Every Other One

Yes, Texas did win its independence from Mexico and joined the United States as a republic. I don’t know how that makes the ancestors of Texans different from those that sailed from Europe and defeated the British, but Texans have a different air about them and believe crazy things about their state. You’ve probably heard a Texan say that his or her state flag is the only one allowed to fly as high as the U.S. flag (Not true. There is no law prohibiting any flag from flying that high) or that Texas can secede from the United States at any time (the Supreme Court struck that notion down in the late 1860s.). There is no way that mentality is not carrying over to the flagship college football program of the state and it is not healthy.

 

4. Your Record is Good, but Not Magnificent

For a school that considers itself to have one of the premiere college football programs, Texas has an impressive record. The Longhorns have won four national championships and 31 conference titles, but let’s take a closer look. Eighteen schools have as many national titles or more than Texas, who won three of those four titles in the 1960s. Also, 26 of its conference titles came in the Southwest Conference (SWC), which declined significantly in its last two decades. After Texas won it all in 1970, the SWC did not produce another national champion before dissolving in ‘95. Even in the SWC, Texas had waned, winning only four conference championships from 1978-95, a period where Arkansas left for the SEC, Texas A&M and Houston were put on probation and SMU received the “Death Penalty.” Only the arrival of Mack Brown returned the program to the level it enjoyed in the 1960s and ‘70s under Darrell Royal.

 

3. Recruiting is Not Like it Used to Be

Texas, California and Florida by far have the most five-star recruits in the country, but the days of stockpiling recruits the way programs used to in the 1960s and ‘70s are over. Programs are only allowed to give out 85 scholarships, which results in an average of a little more than 20 a year. In recruiting players, the Longhorns are competing with the 11 other FBS schools in Texas and the countless others across the country that recruit the fertile Lone Star State. They may be the state’s biggest program, but they can only sign so many recruits from a talent pool that has many fishermen.

 

2. Rebuilding Takes Time

This is not the ‘70s and Texas is not in the SWC anymore. Rebuilding may take time and every program can attest to how a few seasons of bad recruiting classes can set a program back. Brown’s success dropped off in his final four seasons and despite recruiting well, Strong had a worse run. Herman may turn the tide immediately, but he will have to do so in a conference with six other programs that can truly compete.

 

1. The Boosters Need to Shut Up

Strong had turned Louisville’s program around and was considered the best head coaching prospect in the country when Texas hired him in 2013. The fact that McCombs said Strong did not belong at “what should be one of the three most powerful university programs in the world right now at UT-Austin” was just stupid. McCombs’ alternative was to go after Jon Gruden, who has consistently demonstrated that he is happier broadcasting for “Monday Night Football.”  Why he thought he could be the one booster to actually sway Gruden to leave was just arrogant and destructive to the new coach who was just hired. Nevertheless McCombs was right about one thing. Texas should be one of the three most powerful programs in college football, but it is not and with the exception of five glorious years with Vince Young and Colt McCoy, has not been for decades. I can’t help but think meddling by boosters has played a role in that.

 

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.

Teaser:
5 Truths Texas Longhorns Fans Need to Accept
Post date: Tuesday, November 29, 2016 - 09:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-waiver-wire-week-13
Body:

As the bye weeks come to an end with only the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans off in Week 13, the waiver wire may not be a flush for fantasy owners as it has been. By this point, many have already clinched a playoff spot and done so with a a roster that has remained relatively stable and intact. Those owners probably aren't tinkering with much. But those that have had to deal with multiple injuries may still be looking for players to help them get into and hopefully advance through the playoffs.

 

Please note that no running backs appear in this week's waiver wire. The reason: no replacement running backs are must-adds. Rather, this is the time of year to absolutely be sure you own your stud's handcuff, if a clear handcuff is known and available. DeMarco Murray owners should own Derrick Henry (46 percent owned); Ezekiel Elliott owners should own Alfred Morris (12 percent owned); Le'Veon Bell owners should grab Fitzgerald Toussaint (1 percent owned); Melvin Gordon owners should pick up Kenneth Farrow (0 percent owned); Jay Ajayi owners should pick up Damien Williams (4 percent owned); Todd Gurley owners should pick up Benny Cunningham (4 percent owned).

 

Teams on bye: Cleveland, Tennessee

 

Here are some other players that can help fantasy owners in Week 13 and once the fantasy playoffs commence:

 

Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco 49ers (24 percent owned)

Depending on league scoring, Kaepernick has produced at least 20 fantasy points in the last four weeks. He's not a great real-life quarterback, but in fantasy, he's a solid option. With the Bears, Jets and Falcons on the schedule for the next three weeks, he does have favorable matchups as well. Kaepernick gets a lot of his points on the ground. In Week 12 he rushed for 113 yards, which was the third most by any player that week. He's thrown eight touchdown passes in the past four games, compared to two interceptions. He's worth owning, even if you don't start him — just so you don't have to play against him.

 

Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs (37 percent owned)

In the past three weeks, Hill has had at least 50 receiving yards. That leads the Chiefs during that span. Jeremy Maclin’s absence has helped Hill’s emergence, as the Chiefs need another reliable target besides Travis Kelce. On Sunday night against Denver, he scored on a pass, had a rushing a TD and took a kickoff return 86 yards to the house for good measure. Hill’s schedule coming up (at Atlanta, vs. Oakland, vs. Tennessee) is fairly appealing but Kansas City faces off with the Broncos again in Week 16.

 

Marquess Wilson, WR, Chicago Bears (1 percent owned)

It's hard to trust any Bears receiver, however, Matt Barkley did seem to connect with Wilson more than any other pass catcher on the team. He led the way in targets (11), receptions (eight) and yards (125) in the loss to the Titans. He had one touchdown and dropped two other potential scores. He’s not going to be a must-start, but he is a WR3 with some upside depending on the matchup if you're looking to add bench depth.

 

Malcolm Mitchell, WR, New England Patriots (3 percent owned)

In deeper leagues, Mitchell is worth an add. He's stepped up in the past two weeks with injuries to the likes of Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan. Mitchell recorded nine catches for 140 yards and three touchdowns in those two games. With Gronkowski dealing with a new injury (back), he could miss this Sunday’s game. If that’s the case, Mitchell would be worthy of WR3 consideration for Week 13 in deeper leagues. And if Mitchell is able to build on his recent performances, he could play himself into a bigger role in the offense down the stretch.

 

C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Houston Texans (35 percent owned)

With at least four receptions in every game but one dating back to Week 4, Fiedorowicz has been a solid option for fantasy owners searching for a tight end. He doesn't put up 100-yard games (thanks, Brock Osweiler), but he is a key part of the Houston passing attack. He has three touchdowns so far this season, and his schedule for the next few weeks includes Green Bay, Indianapolis and Jacksonville. For those lacking a solid tight end (or perhaps, looking at losing Gronkowski for another week), Fiedorowicz is a solid TE2 with upside.

 

— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2016 Waiver Wire: Week 13
Post date: Tuesday, November 29, 2016 - 09:15
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army West Point Black Knights, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami (OH) RedHawks, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, syndicated, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Troy University, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-post-week-13-bowl-projections-2016
Body:

College football’s 2016 regular season is down to its final weekend of action. And with just one week remaining, the bowl picture for every game and teams involved is starting to clear. A majority of the matchups won’t be announced until Sunday, Dec. 4 but some clarity about teams and destinations could pop up throughout the week. With that in mind, Athlon Sports will update its bowl projections as needed before the final weekend of games. 

 

The bowl season features 41 matchups, with five games on Dec. 17 starting the 2016-17 slate. The postseason concludes on Jan. 9 with the national championship, while the playoff semifinals are on Dec. 31 this year.

 

The post-Week 13 bowl projections are a mixture between picks for the final week of the season and the results from the first 13 weeks of action. 

 

* Indicates conferences did not have enough projected teams to fill tie-ins.

 

Teams in bold have accepted a bid to that bowl game.

 

College Football's Post-Week 13 Bowl Projections
Bowl Date Matchup Projection
New Mexico Dec. 17

C-USA vs.

MW

 UTSA vs.

New Mexico 

Las Vegas Dec. 17

Pac-12 vs.

MW

San Diego State vs.

Mississippi State* 

AutoNation Cure Dec. 17

American vs.

Sun Belt

 Appalachian State vs.

UCF 

Camellia Dec. 17

MAC vs.

Sun Belt

 Miami (Ohio) vs.

Arkansas State 

New Orleans Dec. 17

C-USA vs.

Sun Belt

 Southern Miss vs.

UL Lafayette 

Miami Beach Dec. 19

American vs.

MAC

 Toledo vs.

Temple 

Boca Raton Dec. 20

American/MAC vs.

C-USA

 WKU vs.

Tulsa 

Poinsettia Dec. 21

BYU vs.

MW

 BYU vs.

Wyoming 

Famous Idaho Potato Dec. 22

MW vs.

MAC

Colorado State vs.

Central Michigan 

Bahamas Dec. 23

American/MAC vs.

C-USA

 Old Dominion vs.

Eastern Michigan 

Armed Forces Dec. 23

American vs.

Big 12

 Navy vs.

North Texas* 

Dollar General Dec. 23

Sun Belt vs.

MAC

 Ohio vs.

Troy 

Hawaii Dec. 24

MW vs.

C-USA

 Hawaii vs.

MTSU 

St. Petersburg Dec. 26

American vs.

ACC

 Memphis vs.

South Alabama* 

Quick Lane Dec. 26

ACC vs.

Big Ten

Northwestern vs.

Boston College 

Independence Dec. 26

ACC vs.

SEC

 South Carolina vs.

Wake Forest 

Heart of Dallas Dec. 27

Big Ten vs.

C-USA

 Louisiana Tech vs.

Army*  

Military Dec. 27

American vs.

ACC

 Houston vs.

NC State

Holiday Dec. 27

Big Ten vs.

Pac-12

 Washington State vs.

Iowa 

Cactus Dec. 27

Big 12 vs.

Pac-12

 Baylor vs.

Boise State* 

Pinstripe Dec. 28

ACC vs.

Big Ten

 Maryland vs.

North Carolina 

Russell Athletic Dec. 28

ACC vs.

Big 12

 West Virginia vs.

Pitt 

Foster Farms Dec. 28

Big Ten vs.

Pac-12

 Utah vs.

Minnesota 

Texas Dec. 28

Big 12 vs.

SEC

 Kansas State vs.

Texas A&M 

Birmingham Dec. 29

American vs.

SEC

Vanderbilt vs.

USF 

Belk Dec. 29

ACC vs.

SEC

 Arkansas vs.

Virginia Tech 

Alamo Dec. 29

Big 12 vs.

Pac-12

Oklahoma State vs.

USC 

Liberty Dec. 30

Big 12 vs.

SEC

 TCU vs.

Georgia 

Sun Dec. 30

ACC/ND vs.

Pac-12

 Stanford vs.

Georgia Tech 

Arizona Dec. 30

Sun Belt vs.

MW

 Idaho vs.

Air Force 

Music City Dec. 30

ACC/Big Ten vs.

SEC

 Tennessee vs.

Indiana  

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Dec. 31

Big Ten/ACC vs.

SEC

 Louisville vs.

LSU 

TaxSlayer Dec. 31

ACC/Big Ten vs.

SEC

 Kentucky vs.

Miami 

Outback Jan. 2

Big Ten vs.

SEC

 Florida vs.

Nebraska 

       
New Year's Six
   
Orange Dec. 30

ACC vs.

ND/SEC/Big Ten

Florida State vs.

Michigan 

Cotton Jan. 2

At-large vs.

At-large

 Western Michigan vs.

Penn State 

Rose Jan. 2

Big Ten vs.

Pac-12

 Colorado vs.

Wisconsin 

Sugar Jan. 2

Big 12 vs.

SEC

 Oklahoma vs.

Auburn 

       
CFB Playoff
   
Chick-fil-A Peach Dec. 31

Playoff

Semifinal

 Alabama vs.

Washington 

Fiesta Dec. 31

Playoff

Semifinal

 Clemson vs.

Ohio State 

       
National Title Jan. 9

Peach Winner vs.

Fiesta Winner

 Alabama vs.

Ohio State 

Teaser:
College Football's Post-Week 13 Bowl Projections 2016
Post date: Tuesday, November 29, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-podcast-week-13-recap
Body:

Athlon Sports breaks down Week 13 in college football. Don't forget to subscribe here and rate us if you like (or don't like) what you hear!

 

- Congrats are in order for Colorado, Washington, Penn State, Wisconsin and Virginia Tech for clinching spots in their respective conference championship games this weekend.

 

- Were the refs the reason Michigan lost to Ohio State? Is Jim Harbaugh right to be critical? Are Ohio State and Michigan two of the best four teams in the country?

 

- LSU promoted Coach O but did they settle? Texas landed Tom Herman but is he the home run everyone says he is?

 

- What about Lamar Jackson's Heisman campaign after back-to-back losses? Who else should be in New York as a Finalist?

 

- Is Colorado's Mike MacIntyre the National Coach of the Year?

 

 

Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall or @AthlonMitch or email [email protected]. The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com/podcastiTunesStitcher and our podcast RSS feed.

Teaser:
College Football Podcast: The Week 13 Recap
Post date: Monday, November 28, 2016 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/week-14-college-football-picks-challenge-athlon-sports-experts-2016
Body:

It's Championship Week, as playoff spots and bowl positions are decided along with conference titles.

 

The Athlon Sports College Football Experts Club gives you the chance to compete with your friends and our experts each week.

 

Think you’re up for taking on our experts every week? Think you can beat the writers and editors each week? Join our weekly pick 'em game and compete for tons of cool prizes.

 

Here are this week’s top picks from Athlon Sports senior editor Rob Doster:

 

Western Michigan vs. Ohio

It's been an amazing season for P.J. Fleck's Western Michigan Broncos, who became the first team ever to win all of its MAC games by 14-plus points. Look for that trend to continue against a well-coached but slightly outmanned Ohio team.

Doster's pick: Western Michigan 34–17

 

Colorado vs. Washington

Colorado's Mike MacIntyre is a solid contender for national Coach of the Year honors, and he could lock down the award with a win over Washington. But Chris Petersen's Huskies won't let a chance at the College Football Playoff slip through their fingers. 

Doster’s pick: Washington 31–24

 

Kansas State at TCU

Kansas State is a couple of close losses away from a spot in a New Year's Six bowl, while the Frogs are finishing up an inconsistent season. Go with the even-keeled Wildcats in this one. 

Doster’s pick: Kansas State 24–23

 

Louisiana Tech vs. Western Kentucky

These C-USA rivals played a wildly entertaining game earlier this season that ended with a 55–52 Tech win. Look for a similar game with a slightly different result. The surging Toppers have won six in a row, five of them in blowouts.

Doster’s pick: Western Kentucky 49–45

 

Temple vs. Navy

Navy's potent option offense reached a peak in a 75-point outburst against SMU that included nearly 500 yards rushing. Temple has won seven of eight, most of them in lopsided fashion. In other words, the American championship game could be a classic between two underrated teams.   

Doster's pick: Navy 34–31

 

Oklahoma State at Oklahoma

The Bedlam matchup doubles as a de facto Big 12 championship game, adding to the annual hysteria surrounding this rivalry game. Oklahoma is on the fringes of playoff contention; that extra motivation combined with homefield advantage should give the Sooners the edge.

Doster’s pick: Oklahoma 38–34

 

Baylor at West Virginia

It's been a resurgent season in Morgantown, and the Mountaineers should reach 10 wins against a Baylor team that has seen a promising season disintegrate into a five-game losing streak. 

Doster's pick: West Virginia 31–17

 

Alabama vs. Florida

There's a strong sense of deja vu associated with this year's SEC Championship game. Just like last year, a dominant Alabama team without a weakness faces a scrappy Florida team that relies on its defense. Expect a similar outcome to last year's 29–15 Bama win.  

Doster's pick: Alabama 31–14

 

San Diego State vs. Wyoming

San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey looks to close out his record-setting career in style, but he's facing a Cowboys defense that held him to 76 yards in a 34–33 Wyoming win a few weeks ago. The Aztecs should snap a two-game skid and get a little revenge in the process.

Doster's pick: San Diego State 35–31

 

Wisconsin vs. Penn State

It's been a remarkable season for the Big Ten's two division champions, who will meet in a Big Ten Championship game no one could have predicted. Wisconsin suffered its two losses by a touchdown apiece, while Penn State is riding a wholly unexpected eight-game winning streak. The Badgers can stay in the playoff picture with a win.  

Doster's pick: Wisconsin 24–17

 

Clemson vs. Virginia Tech

Clemson has bounced back nicely from its upset loss to Pitt and remains solidly in the playoff picture. Tech has enjoyed a nice season under first-year coach Justin Fuente, but the Hokies lack the firepower to deny Deshaun Watson a victorious ACC sendoff. 

Doster's pick: Clemson 45–24

 

Last Week: 11-9

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, November 28, 2016 - 11:09
Path: /college-football/being-michigan-fan-agony-unknown-mankind
Body:

I can still picture former Michigan quarterback Drew Henson as he scored the game-sealing touchdown the last time the Wolverines beat Ohio State in The Horseshoe in 2000.

 

It’s glorious.

 

That game took place two months into my freshman year at the University of Michigan after growing up in Columbus as an Ohio State fan who endured most of John Cooper’s infamous 2-10-1 record against That Team Up North. Words cannot describe how good it felt to finally experience winning The Game — if only because I switched sides. Whatever guilt I felt was drowned out by me and my best friend belting out “Hail to the Victors” as Buckeye fans streamed out of Ohio Stadium with an annual look of misery on their faces.

 

At the time, I thought I’d finally be able to experience college football from the winner’s circle. Instead, being a Michigan fan has been an agony unknown to mankind.

 

Since that beautiful day in Columbus, Michigan has now lost 14 of 16 to Ohio State. And if Braxton Miller had been able to hit a wide-open DeVier Posey in the closing moments of the 2011 game, it would be 15 of 16 and an ungodly 13 losses in a row to the Buckeyes.

 

During this stretch, Michigan has lost to Ohio State in pretty much every way imaginable.

 

There have been the ass kickings, like last year’s 42-13 loss in Ann Arbor or the Rich Rodriguez years in which OSU won the three matchups by a combined score of 100-24.

 

There have been the oh-so-close losses, like in 2013 when Michigan failed to convert a go-ahead two-point conversion with 32 seconds left and 2002 when Will Allen intercepted John Navarre at the goal line as time expired, propelling Ohio State to a national title.

 

And then there have been the “rip your heart out and hand it back to you in a doggy bag” defeats that are reserved for when everything is on the line for both teams. I’m still haunted by Shawn Crable’s late hit on Troy Smith that was the difference in the 2006 “Game of the Century” and left me (right) looking like this:

 

But nothing could compare to what I experienced on Saturday.

 

Michigan dominated The Game for three quarters yet found itself leading only 17-14 after a litany of errors including a pick-six, a second interception returned inside Michigan’s own red zone and an unforced fumble at Ohio State’s goal line. Add two crucial missed pass interference calls and a controversial fourth down spot in the second overtime to extend the game and you have all the pain and frustration of being a Michigan football fan over the last 15 years rolled up into one diabolical, double-overtime, four-hour football game (seriously, The Game had more commercials than the Super Bowl).

 

For inquiring minds: Yes, I have pondered all this being payback from the Football Gods for being a traitor and am not ruling that out.

 

Sadly, the purgatory of being a Michigan fan isn’t just limited to the Ohio State game. There was also the 2001 Michigan State game, better known as “Clockgate.” The 2005 Rose Bowl defeat on a Texas field goal as time expired. The 2007 season-opening loss to then-FCS member Appalachian State. The disastrous Rich Rodriguez Experiment that blew up in Michigan’s face. Brady Hoke’s headset-less buffoonery. And on and on.

 

That’s why Jim Harbaugh was treated like the Messiah when he returned home to coach Michigan two years ago.

 

But for as great of a coach as Harbaugh is, even his “enthusiasm unknown to mankind” can’t save Michigan fans from sadistic losses like Saturday’s death by 1,000 cuts or last year’s Michigan State game lost on a botched punt as time expired (just typing that made me throw up in my mouth).

 

I know we won’t get much sympathy from fans at places like Kansas but it’s one kind of pain to just be terrible; as a Cleveland Browns fan, I’ve just become numb to losing on Sundays. It’s a new form of agony to continually get your hopes up only for them to keep come crashing down in the end.

 

And yet we Michigan fans trudge on with Harbaugh as our beacon of light and our eternal hope that someday all this pain and suffering will be worth it and optimism that we’re just one win over Ohio State away from the tide of the entire series shifting back up north.

 

After all, there’s only 362 days left until Meyer-Harbaugh III.

 

See you in Ann Arbor.

 

— Written by Jim Weber, a veteran college sports journalist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. Weber has written for CBS Sports Network, NBCSports.com, ESPN the Magazine and the college sports website he founded and sold, LostLettermen.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JimMWeber.

Teaser:
Being a Michigan Fan is an Agony Unknown to Mankind
Post date: Monday, November 28, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/seven-step-drop-powerhouse-hires-big-ten-paying-sec-not-so-much
Body:

The timing in college football during the rivalry week/Thanksgiving combination in late November always tends to throw things off but there was a moment this year that was a little more jarring than most.

 

In the middle of the biggest edition of “The Game” between Ohio State and Michigan in decades — one that could very well wind up being between two College Football Playoff teams when all is said and done — there was LSU announcing its next head coach in a press conference most saw only in the brief few moments where halftime overlapped with it.

 

It was a perfectly fitting end to a bizarre process that led Ed Orgeron taking over full time in Baton Rouge. The school let Les Miles go a season too late and paid the price by having to let him go mid-year. What ensued was weeks upon weeks of speculation about Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Houston’s Tom Herman and half a dozen others who could take the job.

 

In the end it was Orgeron who was the choice through a strange combination of those two other big names saying no, and the eclectic head coach’s personality seemingly being a perfect fit for the flagship school of his native state. Who knows how the hire of Orgeron, who went 11-4 over two recent interim stints at LSU and USC, will ultimately be judged. That’s for another time with much more hindsight. After all, it would shock nobody if the relentless recruiter hires a top-notch offensive coordinator and turns into the Cajun version of Dabo Swinney.

 

What we do know now though, is one of the powerhouses in the SEC (and a top five or 10 job nationally) had months to conduct a national search but wound up with an interim coach who still has a 10-25 mark on his record from a disastrous stint at Ole Miss. Hiring Orgeron is by no means a bad decision but, when viewed in the context of Saturday’s games and a season of floundering results outside of Tuscaloosa, it begs the question if the most feared conference in all of college football is doing no more than just riding Nick Saban’s coat tails.

 

Because no matter how you slice it, the league has fallen behind. And while the dearth of good quarterbacks is undoubtedly playing a big role, so too has been the rather lackluster hiring practices from some of the SEC’s major powers.

 

Just think back four years ago to the 2012 season. Six SEC teams were in the top 10 of the final BCS standings, ranging from typical powers like Alabama, Georgia and LSU but also teams like newcomer Texas A&M and perennial underachiever South Carolina. Just three Big Ten teams even made the rankings, the highest being Nebraska at No. 16 (undefeated Ohio State was ineligible).

 

Flash forward to today and the script has been flipped. Saban and Alabama still lord over the sport like they did back in the day but the makeup of elite teams in college football has shifted considerably in recent years. The Big Ten has undergone the biggest metamorphosis and has four teams in the top 10 of the latest AP Poll, and six overall. The SEC? Just one in the top 10 and four overall.

 

How has the league once written off and laughed at by its southern counterparts done this? The B1G has out-hired the SEC and that is particularly true at the historical powers in the league.

 

Ohio State brought Urban Meyer home in 2012. He’s brought a national title and a 61-5 record since then. Michigan landed the biggest fish in the coaching pond back in 2015 with Jim Harbaugh and he’s turned the ship around in Ann Arbor quicker than imagined. The Wolverines doubled their win total in his first year and may have been inches away from a semifinal berth on Saturday at the Horseshoe.

 

But it’s not just the Big Ten’s traditional big two that have hired well. Many questioned James Franklin’s credentials after two lackluster years in Happy Valley, not realizing the toll scholarship reductions can have down the road. One doesn’t win nine games at Vanderbilt (twice) without being a good coach though, and that was evident this year as he has Penn State on the doorstep of a Big Ten title. His opponent on Saturday night, Paul Chryst, may not be the flashiest head coach in the country but the program’s native son is 20-5 leading Wisconsin.

 

Elsewhere around the league, there have been a number of good coaching jobs done by recent additions Tracy Claeys, Mike Riley (9-3 at Nebraska this year) and DJ Durkin. The jury will likely be out for some time on Lovie Smith’s tenure at Illinois but it should at least say something that the school moved quickly to hire a name of that caliber after being so dreadful the past few years.

 

The bottom line is those hires — especially at the blue bloods — have paid off for a league that has reinvented itself in a short time. This sport has certainly proven to be a cyclical one but helping move the process along like some of the athletic directors around the conference have done helps lead us to this point.

 

And what of the SEC, a group that could have an entire division full of five-loss teams? The conference’s past five hires alone include two interim coaches elevated to the full-time gig and three former Saban assistants. That’s not exactly living up to expectations when it comes to 14 choice jobs most in the coaching industry would kill for.

 

The SEC East in particular has had a fascination with replicating Saban’s “Process” at Alabama — only with less talent, sub-par facilities and without the key ingredient: Saban himself. The big-time anchor schools haven’t pulled their weight either if you look at the search processes at LSU and Georgia in particular.

 

Stretching back even further in time, only Bret Bielema at Arkansas has entered the league with previous head coaching experience at a Power Five school if you don’t count Will Muschamp’s re-entry at South Carolina. That’s not to say there aren’t good coaches (Jim McElwain getting to the SEC title game twice with tackling dummies for a quarterback is still impressive) but for all the high salaries and top recruiting classes that have become common place, the results have not come through between the lines in 2016.

 

After Saturday’s results and the realization that one of the best jobs in the country couldn’t land a big name, it’s become increasingly clear that hiring the right coach just means a little more north of the Mason-Dixon Line the past few seasons. That’s why there’s talk of two Big Ten teams in the playoff. That’s why there’s talk that the only team capable of knocking off the Tide resides in the North, not the South.

 

And that’s why, when all is said and done, Big Ten fans can head into the postseason this year far happier than their counterparts to the South.

 

Stat of the Week

In the month of November, Navy punted just twice and Alabama didn’t allow a single touchdown.

 

Tweet of the Week

 

 

Superlatives of the Week

Best player(s): Adoree’ Jackson (USC), Derrius Guice (LSU)

Heisman five: 1. Lamar Jackson (Louisville), 2. Dede Westbrook (Oklahoma), 3. Jake Browning (Washington), 4. D’Onta Foreman (Texas), 5. Adoree’ Jackson (USC)

Team of the week: Miami (Ohio)

Honorary Les Miles Goat of the week: Butch Jones, Tennessee

Quote of the week: Jim Harbaugh has professed his love of milk several times this season. After beating him, Urban Meyer picked up a call from his wife during his press conference and then deadpanned: "She said bring a gallon of milk home."

 

Play of the Week

 

And in the same game, the rarest of unicorns:

 

Super 16

I’m a voter in the FWAA/National Football Foundation Super 16 Poll and will be releasing my ballot here every week. Here’s my ballot heading into Week 14.

 

1. Alabama

2. Ohio State

3. Washington

4. Clemson

5. Michigan

6. USC

7. Penn State

8. Wisconsin

9. Colorado

10. Oklahoma

11. Florida State

12. Oklahoma State

13. West Virginia

14. Western Michigan

15. Navy

16. LSU

 

Best of the rest: Louisville, Virginia Tech, USF, Stanford, Auburn, Pitt, Temple, Houston, Iowa

 

Pre-snap Reads

 

Colorado vs. Washington (Santa Clara, Calif.)

I know a lot of folks wanted to see a rematch between the Huskies and USC in the Pac-12 title game but sign me up for this one between a pair of top-10 teams. If you can’t get excited about Colorado’s extremely stingy secondary trying to contain Jake Browning, John Ross and company, you’re not a real college football fan. Washington ends up winning on Friday night after a slow start to clinch a playoff berth however.

 

Oklahoma State at Oklahoma

Bedlam for all the marbles, just how the Big 12 drew things up even if a championship game is a year away for the league. Expect a shootout to develop given the offensive playmakers involved in this one, including two terrific quarterbacks in Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph. Both defenses are a tad better than the numbers suggest and each team is playing really well right now. The Sooners are at home however and it’s tough to see them falling in Norman to their rivals up the road.

 

Wisconsin vs. Penn State (Indianapolis)

The Big Ten Championship Game has produced some classics over the years and there’s little reason to think that this matchup won’t give us another good one. Both squads have injury questions on offense that will be a key thing to pay attention to with Nittany Lions tailback Saquon Barkley (ankle) and Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook (chest) both banged up. Each should play but and whoever can have the better day against these defenses should come out with the trophy. We’ll lean Wisconsin by a field goal in a close game.

 

— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.

 

(Ed Orgeron photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Teaser:
Seven-Step Drop: Powerhouse Hires for Big Ten Paying Off, SEC Not So Much
Post date: Monday, November 28, 2016 - 09:30
Path: /nfl/green-bay-packers-vs-philadelphia-eagles-preview-and-prediction-2016
Body:

Monday night’s matchup between Green Bay and Philadelphia serves as a virtual playoff elimination game for the Packers. A loss leaves them three games out of the NFC North lead with five to play and 2.5 games behind the Redskins for the second wild card. Green Bay’s streak of seven consecutive postseason appearances is in jeopardy.

 

Who would have believed that heading into the season for a team once considered a Super Bowl favorite? Head coach Mike McCarthy is under fire for his coaching style; the team itself has taken criticism for lack of effort despite impassioned statements by quarterback Aaron Rodgers. But what really matters is that the Packers find themselves trailing a team (Lions) that hasn’t won a division title since 1993.

 

The Eagles head into this game with a better record and arguably higher upside behind the development of a young offense and quarterback Carson Wentz. Sitting at 5-5 puts them last the competitive NFC East but still in the playoff hunt. Philadelphia also has been a different team at Lincoln Financial Field, just one of two undefeated at home this season (Seattle).

 

Series History: Packers lead 26-16-0

 

Green Bay at Philadelphia

 

Kickoff: Monday, Nov. 28 at 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Eagles -3.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Can the Packers step up against the Eagles run game?
Ryan Mathews, recovering from a sprained MCL will miss Monday night’s contest just two weeks after posting the Eagles’ only 100-yard rushing effort of the season. Darren Sproles and rookie Wendell Smallwood will share the backfield work in Mathews’ absence.

 

Sproles, an explosive playmaker in the passing game and on special teams, is not suited to serve as an every-down back. The 33-year-old veteran has more gotten more than five carries in just three of the Eagles’ 10 games. Sproles is most effective when he’s used as the change-of-pace option or in space as a receiver.

 

That leaves Smallwood, Philadelphia’s fifth-round pick this year, with the opportunity to prove his mettle against the NFL’s sixth-ranked rushing defense (91.1 ypg). Green Bay’s defense has shown a few more cracks against the run lately, and it can ill afford to let an unproven ball carrier like Smallwood come up with big gains on the ground. Smallwood’s best showing this is 79 rushing yards. If he tops that, chances are the Eagles will be in good shape.  And any production out of the ground game will make Carson Wentz that much more dangerous.

 

2. Rodgers vs. Wentz
After struggling, by his own lofty standards, earlier in the season, Aaron Rodgers has turned things around and he’s certainly not the reason the Packers have lost four in a row and five out of six. Take last week for example. He finished with a season-best 351 passing yards, three touchdowns and a 115.0 passer rating on the road against Washington. But Green Bay still lost 42-24 because it gave up 515 total yards (375 passing to Kirk Cousins) to the Redskins. Rodgers’ margin for error is slim because it seems like the Packers are struggling in every other area – running the ball, defense, special teams. Besides Rodgers, one other bright spot for Green Bay has been the resurgence of Jordy Nelson, who has caught a touchdown in four straight games.

 

The question for Wentz, then is not whether he can reach Rodgers’ elite status in his first season but if he can stay in the ballpark. The past three games have seen him make some typical rookie mistakes: four interceptions, two fumbles (one lost) and just two touchdown passes. The Eagles, as you might expect went 1-2 during that stretch.

 

Wentz got off to a strong start before encountering the obstacles that most rookies must deal with in their first season. Wentz certainly doesn’t have the same supporting cast at his disposal that Rodgers does, and that’s even if Mathews were healthy. But Wentz still has to find a way to make plays against a defense that hasn’t stopped anyone in a month. The No. 2 overall pick is still looking for his first three-touchdown performance and has yet to show that he can win a close game. Four of Philadelphia’s five losses have been by a touchdown or less. Wentz has plenty going in his favor tonight – matchup, at home, national spotlight – now it’s up to him to take advantage and show why the future is bright for the Eagles.

 

3. Which team will win the turnover battle and excel in special teams?
One reason the Packers’ defense has struggled is where it has to start defending. Opponents start drives from their own 29, the worst field position allowed in the league and it constantly puts Green’s Bay defense, well… on defense. That’s a bad stat to have against an Eagles special teams unit that leads the league in kickoff returns (33.7 ypr) and has taken two all the way back for touchdowns.

 

Those intangibles have really hurt the Packers. Their minus-6 turnover margin is tied for 26th in the NFL and they have as many giveaways (16) as the Eagles have takeaways. Holding onto the ball and keeping the game manageable is crucial for a team that’s spent a month making far too many mistakes.

 

Final Analysis

 

I once thought it impossible a team with Aaron Rodgers on its roster could miss the playoffs. But it’s important to realize, he’s only one person. Look at the Colts, suffering despite the success of Andrew Luck and the way Drew Brees can’t lift up the Saints. Both suffer from minimal defensive support and it’s the Packers’ “D” that will fall short once again. Carson Wentz has been looking for a moment to step up and the Monday night spotlight will provide it.

 

Prediction: Philadelphia 31, Green Bay 21

 

— Written by Tom Bowles, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @NASCARBowles.

 

(Carson Wentz photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Teaser:
Green Bay Packers vs. Philadelphia Eagles Preview and Prediction
Post date: Monday, November 28, 2016 - 09:00
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Path: /college-football/college-football-week-13-awards-2016
Body:

Week 13 of the 2016 college football season produced several big performances and memorable moments. The Thanksgiving slate provided one of the best weeks of action of the year, starting with the Michigan-Ohio State showdown from Saturday. The Buckeyes edged the Wolverines in overtime to keep their playoff hopes alive and earn their fifth straight win in this rivalry. Alabama handled rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl, Washington and Colorado scored victories to clinch spots in the Pac-12 Championship Game, and Florida State knocked off Florida to maintain bragging rights in the Sunshine State.

 

With the last weekend of November games in the books, it’s time to take a look at the best of the best and honor some of the top performances. Here’s a look at Athlon Sports’ picks for the offensive, defensive, coordinator, team, freshman and unsung hero from Week 13:

 

College Football Week 13 Awards

 

Offensive Player of the Week: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech

Mahomes capped a prolific 2016 season by guiding Texas Tech to a win over Baylor on Friday afternoon. The junior completed 30 of 46 passes and torched the Bears for 586 passing yards and six scores. Mahomes finished his 2016 season ranked first nationally in total offense per game (444.8) and accounted for 53 overall scores.

 

Defensive Player of the Week: Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State

Ohio State’s defense came up big in Saturday’s win over Michigan. The Buckeyes held the Wolverines to just 91 rushing yards and delivered a handful of key plays to keep this team in the game until the offense was able to get on track. Baker finished with 15 tackles, recorded one sack and intercepted a pass in the third quarter that changed the momentum in the second half.

 

Best All-Around Player of the Week: Adoree’ Jackson, DB, USC

This category isn’t a weekly award, but Jackson’s unique performance was simply too good to ignore. The dynamic junior was a factor in all three phases of the game in USC’s 45-27 rout against Notre Dame. On offense, Jackson rushed for 12 yards and caught a pass for a 52-yard touchdown. He chipped in two tackles and two pass breakups on defense and accumulated 227 total return yards on special teams, including a 55-yard punt return for a score in the second and a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter.

 

Coordinator of the Week (Offense): Joe Moorhead, Penn State

The Nittany Lions clinched the Big Ten’s East Division with a 45-12 victory over Michigan State on Saturday afternoon. A big reason for Penn State’s trip to Indianapolis was the development of the offense under Moorhead in his first year in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions recorded 463 yards against the Spartans (8.1 ypp) and scored on seven of their last nine drives.

 

Coordinator of the Week (Defense): Pete Kwiatkowski, Washington

Containing Washington State’s high-powered offense is no easy task. However, for the third consecutive year, Kwiatkowski’s defense won the battle against the Cougars. In Friday’s 45-17 victory, the Huskies limited Washington State to just 17 points and 4.5 yards per play, while forcing four turnovers and generating six tackles for a loss. Washington also made two goal-line stands on fourth down to prevent the Cougars from reaching the end zone.

 

Freshman of the Week (Offense): Martell Pettaway, RB, West Virginia

Injuries in the West Virginia backfield forced the coaching staff to remove Pettaway’s redshirt in Saturday’s game against Iowa State. The freshman provided a much-needed boost to the backfield, recording 181 yards and one touchdown on 30 carries. He also caught one pass for 25 yards.

 

Freshman of the Week (Defense): Brian Burns, DL, Florida State

The Seminoles dominated the line of scrimmage in Saturday’s 31-12 victory over Florida. In addition to a standout performance from senior DeMarcus Walker, Burns wreaked havoc throughout the game in the Gator backfield. The freshman recorded four tackles (1.5 for a loss) and 1.5 sacks.

 

Team of the Week: Ohio State

The Game certainly lived up to the hype. And after two overtimes, Ohio State knocked off Michigan 30-27 to keep its playoff hopes alive and secure its fifth straight win in this series. The Buckeyes had trouble maintaining drives on offense, but the defense stepped up and delivered a couple of clutch plays. Safety Malik Hooker returned an interception for a score, linebacker Jerome Baker’s pick set up a touchdown in the third quarter, while Davon Hamilton recovered a fumble with Michigan poised to score from the one-yard line. In overtime, quarterback J.T. Barrett and receiver Curtis Samuel delivered a couple of clutch plays, including a fourth-down conversion from Barrett and Samuel’s 15-yard touchdown run to seal the victory.

 

Unsung Hero of the Week: Tedric Thompson, S, Colorado

Colorado’s win over Utah on Saturday night clinched the program’s first trip to the Pac-12 Championship. The Buffaloes have several standouts on this defense, but a tip of the cap goes to Thompson for his performance against Utah. He recorded four tackles (one for a loss), four pass breakups and two interceptions.

Teaser:
College Football Week 13 Awards 2016
Post date: Sunday, November 27, 2016 - 13:01
Path: /college-football/sec-week-13-awards-2016
Body:

Week 13 of the 2016 college football season produced several big performances and memorable moments from the SEC. The weekend rivalry slate featured a win by LSU over Texas A&M on Thursday night, while Missouri upset Arkansas on Friday afternoon. The action picked up again on Saturday, as Georgia Tech and Kentucky scored upsets over their in-state rivals, Mississippi State reclaimed the Egg Bowl trophy with a victory over Ole Miss and Alabama remained undefeated after a 30-12 win over Auburn.

 

With the third weekend of November games in the books, it’s time to take a look at the best of the best and honor some of the top performances from the SEC. Here’s a look at Athlon Sports’ picks for the offensive, defensive, coordinator, team, freshman and unsung hero from Week 13:

 

SEC Week 13 Awards

 

Offensive Player of the Week: Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Mississippi State

Thanks to a big performance from Fitzgerald, the Egg Bowl trophy is headed back to Starkville. The sophomore completed 8 of 17 throws for 109 yards and three scores and gashed the Ole Miss defense for 258 yards (a new school record) and two touchdowns on the ground.

 

Defensive Player of the Week: Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt

Cunningham continued to bolster his case for SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors by helping Vanderbilt upset Tennessee on Saturday night. The junior linebacker tied for the team lead with 10 tackles, recorded one pass breakup and forced a fumble at the third of the third quarter that helped the Commodores gain control of the game.

 

Coordinator of the Week (Offense): Eddie Gran, Kentucky

Gran has been a key cog in Kentucky’s seven-win campaign, as the offense emerged as one of the SEC’s top ground attacks and adapted after an early injury to starting quarterback Drew Barker. The Wildcats recorded 581 yards in Saturday’s win over Louisville, with quarterback Stephen Johnson throwing for 338 and the ground game generating 229. Kentucky also went two-for-two in red zone trips and 10 of 18 on third-down attempts.

 

Coordinator of the Week (Defense): Jeremy Pruitt, Alabama

The Crimson Tide suffocated Auburn’s offense in Saturday’s 30-12 victory. The Tigers never reached the end zone and only one drive lasted more than 50 yards. Auburn’s ground attack entered Saturday’s game ranked No. 1 in the SEC but was held to just 66 yards on 26 attempts. Pruitt’s defense also limited the Tigers to just two third-down conversions on 12 attempts and generated seven tackles for a loss.

 

Freshman of the Week (Offense): Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama

Hurts led the way for Alabama’s offense in the Iron Bowl victory against Auburn. The true freshman completed 27 of 36 throws for 286 yards and two scores and rushed for 37 yards and one touchdown. Hurts also led the offense to points on four out of the final five drives.

 

Freshman of the Week (Defense): Cale Garrett, LB, Missouri

Garrett was instrumental in Missouri’s upset over Arkansas. The freshman tied for the team lead with 10 tackles and his interception in the third quarter prevented a score in the red zone by the Razorbacks.

 

Team of the Week: Vanderbilt

The Commodores secured bowl eligibility for the first time under coach Derek Mason and in-state bragging rights for a year with a 45-34 victory over Tennessee on Saturday night. Vanderbilt’s offense continued to show marked improvement, as this unit recorded 608 yards, 27 first downs, went 8 of 14 on third-down attempts and scored on all six red zone trips. The defense stepped up in the second half, holding Tennessee to just three points on five drives.

 

Unsung Hero of the Week: Stephen Johnson, QB, Kentucky

All of the attention on quarterback play in Saturday’s Kentucky-Louisville game was clearly focused on Lamar Jackson. However, it was the other quarterback – Kentucky’s Stephen Johnson – that quietly delivered a standout performance. Johnson completed 16 of 27 throws for 338 yards and three scores and rushed for 83 yards on eight attempts to help the Wildcats win 41-38.

Teaser:
SEC Week 13 Awards 2016
Post date: Sunday, November 27, 2016 - 13:00
Path: /nfl/kansas-city-chiefs-vs-denver-broncos-preview-and-prediction-2016
Body:

When it comes to arguing over what the best division in the NFL in, there are only two that really have an argument heading into Week 12: the NFC East and the AFC West. Both have the No. 1 seed in the playoff picture at the moment and each has two wild card teams in the fold.

 

One pair of those contenders faces off on “Sunday Night Football” in one of the more anticipated matchups of the month (and the first flexed game of the year for NBC). The defending Super Bowl champions are off to a 7-3 start to the season and are coming off their bye week ready to make another big run at the division crown. They’ve beat the teams they are supposed to but still haven’t been convincing enough on offense for folks to fully buy in to a title defense. Von Miller and company have been playing at a high level but the national spotlight will be on quarterback Trevor Siemian and the team’s run game with rookie Devontae Booker.

 

After an uneven start to the season where talk of who wasn’t playing dominated the losses, Kansas City has run off five of their last six since their early bye week. While no game has been pretty, Andy Reid’s squad has alternated between being lucky and good during this run but has really found its stride lately. The defense is in the top third in the NFL in points allowed and lead the league in interceptions. While the run game hasn’t been what it once was with Jamaal Charles in the backfield (injured again), quarterback Alex Smith has been completing 67 percent of his passes this year and has a solid 9:4 touchdown-interception ratio.

 

It should all make for a must-see game on Sunday night with big-time playoff seeding implications a few months down the road, to say nothing of chasing down Oakland in the division. Kansas City leads the overall series by just two games over 112 meetings and won the last matchup between the two division rivals when the Chiefs snapped a Denver streak of seven in a row dating back to 2012.

 

Kansas City at Denver

 

Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 27 at 8:25 p.m. ET

TV Channel: NBC

Spread: Broncos -3.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Chiefs’ Secondary Handling Denver’s Wideouts

Injuries are a fact of life in the NFL at this time in the season and both squads have had to deal with their fair share of key players missing time. Marcus Peters has proven to be one of the best young cornerbacks in the game (five interceptions this season) but is questionable to play on Sunday as he deals with a sore hip. If he’s out, that’s a big blow to Kansas City’s secondary facing off against one of the more dangerous wide receiver corps in the game. Denver’s Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and others provide plenty of matchup nightmares with their speed so it will be key to the game for whatever team can get their downfield attack going.

 

2. Quarterbacks Breaking Out

When you’re talking about NFL storylines, quarterbacks like Kansas City’s Alex Smith and Denver’s Trevor Siemian won’t be mentioned in the same conversation with the Tom Bradys, Drew Brees and Russell Wilsons of the world. Neither has been bad overall this season but neither is exactly the type of signal-caller to game plan around. In such a close matchup between a pair of quality defenses and two offenses that have struggled to find the end zone, whichever quarterback is able to protect the ball and hit some big plays over the top will almost assuredly come out with a win. Both Smith and Siemian are not asked to do a ton in their offensive systems but they’ll be key to making enough plays on Sunday to capture a win.

 

3. Defensive Scoring

Chances seem pretty high that at least one of the two teams will be able to force a turnover in this one and there are enough athletes on defense that returning one to the house isn’t out of the question. Just ask Denver, which used a blocked extra point to get past a pesky Saints squad in one of the wildest endings of Week 10 and maybe the season as a whole. The Chiefs aren’t too shaby themselves, leading the league in takeaways having forced 10 fumbles to go along with a whopping 13 interceptions. This one figures to be played close to the vest given the offensive coaching staffs involved so a pick-six or a scoop-and-score could be the deciding points.

 

Final Analysis

 

With a resurgent Oakland Raiders, the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos and a red-hot Kansas City Chiefs, the AFC West race has been as good as it has been in years. Each team is still in the running to capture the division title and a first-round bye in the playoffs if they can pick things up and make a run in the second half of the season.

 

For two of those squads, Sunday represents an early make-or-break point in the year. Denver has not truly lost a beat with the retirement of Peyton Manning on offense but has struggled to run the ball with consistency given some of the injuries, as the Broncos have once again relied on their stingy defense to keep them in the running. The franchise is one of the best at winning games coming off a bye week and will be looking to make a statement with the national focus on Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Sunday night.

 

Kansas City is looking to make a statement of its own and announce itself as a real contender just like the Chiefs did down the stretch last season. While the IR list for the Chiefs has had some big names on it, they’ve overcome a lot of injuries to remain competitive and are a hard out each game with the style they play. The defense is extremely feisty and the offense has a number of game-breakers who can turn short plays into big gains.

 

This has been one of the best rivalry games in the league the past few years and nothing suggests that won’t be the case when these two meet again in primetime. Denver is at home where the Broncos play extremely well and are just a tad healthier coming in. It should be a close AFC West battle but ultimately the defending champs come out on top.

 

Prediction: Broncos 20, Chiefs 17

 

— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.

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Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, November 27, 2016 - 08:45

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