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All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News, Magazines
Path: /college-basketball/virginia-tech-hokies-2016-17-basketball-team-preview-and-prediction

Virginia Tech’s NCAA Tournament drought reached its ninth year in 2015-16, but there were signs that it may soon come to an end. Buzz Williams, entering his third season as head coach, worked his magic and led the Hokies to a nine-win improvement from the previous year and their first postseason appearance since 2011.


Making the NIT was noteworthy for a program that had finished in last place in the ACC four straight years, but Tech is building to something much bigger.


The Hokies return their top four scorers and top five rebounders from a team that matched a program high with 10 ACC wins. And they welcome back two players, sophomore guard Ahmed Hill and junior swingman Ty Outlaw, who missed last season for medical reasons.


With a fortified roster and a coach well-versed in building a winning program — Williams led his previous team, Marquette, to the Sweet 16 in his third season there — this could be the year the Hokies put that NCAA Tournament futility streak to rest.


All ACC predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2016-17 Preview Magazine, available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere.


At a Glance


HEAD COACH: Buzz Williams

2015-16 RECORD (ACC): 20–15 (10–8)

2015-16 POSTSEASON: NIT: Lost to BYU 80–77 in the second round

2016-17 PREDICTION: Fifth in the ACC


G Jalen Hudson (8.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg)




Power forward Zach LeDay made quite an entrance last year in his first year with the Hokies after transferring from South Florida. The 6'7", 235-pound senior, who averaged a team-high 15.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks last season, was a welcome addition to a program that has been lacking star power in the paint in recent seasons.


LeDay is the senior member of an otherwise young frontcourt. Sophomore Chris Clarke showed flashes of potential in an injury-interrupted freshman campaign, and Kerry Blackshear is an accurate scorer in the paint who came on late last season. Freshman power forward Khadim Sy starred for prep powerhouse Oak Hill (Va.) Academy.


Clarke, a top-100 recruit coming out of high school, has prolific scoring potential and finished second on the Hokies with a 6.0 rebounding average last season. He averaged 6.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in the final 11 games after returning from injury. Fully recovered, he is expected to be one of Tech’s top scoring and rebounding options this season.


The Hokies aren’t lacking for depth inside. Senior Johnny Hamilton, the only center listed on the roster, shot 52.0 percent in limited minutes. Outlaw, who put up big scoring and rebounding stats in junior college, has been cleared to play after missing last season with an undisclosed medical condition.




The Hokies are loaded with playmaking point guards, including prolific scorer Seth Allen, accurate distributor Justin Robinson and Devin Wilson, who moonlights on the Virginia Tech football team.


Tech may be most successful with Robinson starting at the point and Allen taking on a bigger scoring role. The Hokies won seven of their final nine games with Robinson at point guard and Allen coming off the bench. Allen, who finished second on the team in scoring, averaged 17.6 points during that final stretch and poured in 31 points in Tech’s ACC Tournament loss to Miami.


Wilson, known more for his defense and distributing skill, joined the football team as a wide receiver in the spring but plans to resume his role as a reserve with the basketball team once football season is over.


Tech has plenty of backcourt scorers as well. In addition to Allen, the Hokies boast Justin Bibbs, who shot 46.9 percent from the field and also led the team in 3-point shooting (45.0 percent), and Hill, who missed last season with a knee injury after starting 30 games and averaging 8.7 points as a freshman.


The Hokies will miss Jalen Hudson, who transferred to Florida, but they added freshman Tyrie Jackson, who averaged 18 points, seven rebounds, five assists and five steals as a high school senior in Tifton, Ga.




With so much returning talent, the Hokies signed a modest recruiting class that includes 6'1" guard Tyrie Jackson and 6'9" forward Khadim Sy. Tech also signed 6'7" forward Seth LeDay, the younger brother of Hokies senior Zach LeDay. Seth, a junior college transfer, plans to enroll in December and is expected to be eligible for the 2017-18 and ’18-19 seasons.


Final Analysis


It’s been a long time since Tech had this much talent returning from a successful team. It has a good mix of veteran leadership (LeDay and Allen) and young potential (Clarke could be a star) on the roster to make it one of the top up-and-coming teams in the ACC.


Tech has seen its win total improve by two and nine, respectively, in Williams’ two seasons in Blacksburg. Making the next step to the NCAA Tournament isn’t a given, but at the rate the Hokies have been moving under their current coaching regime, it seems like a realistic expectation this season.

Virginia Tech 2016-17 Basketball Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 21, 2016 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, syndicated, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/nfl-best-daily-fantasy-football-lineups-fanduel-and-draftkings-week-7-2016

It’s become a trend, but once again Week 6 in daily fantasy football for FanDuel and DraftKings was a mixed bag. With plays such as Sammie Coates, who served as a useless decoy, and Will Fuller (active, but did not get on the field Sunday night against Indianapolis), I am hoping readers made some swaps in time for Sunday.


I fully realize that sharing lineups along with the top plays is the main enticement for returning readers. However, I strongly encourage everyone to build their own lineups using a few of the top plays I suggest. More often than not the plays will hit, but building the roster around these plays is what is critical. Relying solely on a lineup I built as early as Tuesday evening is risky to say the least.


The DraftKings lineup with Drew Brees, Le’Veon Bell, LeSean McCoy, Doug Baldwin and Zach Miller actually cashed for me, as some late swaps of Terrelle Pryor and Michael Thomas helped boost the original lineup to 183.74 points. Again these last-minutes changes on Sunday were the reason for success. The original lineup would have produced 129 points.


As for the FanDuel lineup... well that was the definition of a stink bomb. Racking up 73 points Russell Wilson, Isaiah Crowell, and Doug Baldwin put up weaker performances. Once again some late swaps helped savage this atrocious lineup to allow a few lineups to cash.


But enough dwelling on the past and let’s move forward to an exciting Week 7.


What I will be doing in this space is sharing my top plays for the week, a value play, and most importantly a lineup or two. I will likely be focusing on cash games (50/50 and Double Up) and not GPP (tournaments, multi-player) contests. My Week 5 lineups should work in both formats.


So let’s get into my top plays, value play and lineups for Week 6 shall we? As always any questions, arguments, or glowing praise can be sent to me via Twitter @fantsychillpony.


Week 7 Top Plays


These will be my top plays of the week. These are players who I will try to have in as many lineups of mine as possible. If I can, I will use all three in one lineup. A reminder for cash games: going with an elite quarterback is typically recommended. If you opt for a value quarterback he MUST meet value for your loaded lineup to be worth it.


Editor's note: Some of the players have changed from when this was originally posted on Oct. 19 because of injuries.


QB: Matt Ryan, Atlanta vs. San Diego ($8,700 FanDuel/$7,200 DraftKings)

Matt Ryan has been the top scoring player in fantasy all season long and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. This week he gets the Chargers, who have allowed an average of 20 fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. They certainly have a middle-of-the-road secondary, but with Julio Jones and the Falcons’ dangerous pass-catching running backs, Ryan makes a great play this week. This game also has the makings of developing into a high-scoring affair.


RB: Jacquizz Rodgers, Tampa Bay at San Francisco ($5,600 FanDuel/$4,300 DraftKings)

The news of Doug Martin’s setback with his hamstring injury instantly puts Rodgers back in the must-start category for your DFS lineups, especially in light of LeSean McCoy's own hamstring issues (he was initial recommendation here). Martin would have been primed for a big day and although Rodgers isn’t Martin, he can do some damage and the matchup is very, very good. At this price you can definitely do some lineup shifting and add some big hitters at other positions.


WR: A.J. Green, Cincinnati vs. Cleveland ($8,500 FanDuel/$8,600 DraftKings)

There isn’t a wide receiver with a much better matchup than Green, besides Julio Jones. Green faces the 29th-ranked pass defense, and comes at a price tag significantly cheaper than Jones or Antonio Brown, who is without his favorite quarterback. If Green and Andy Dalton can’t connect this weekend I would be completely surprised.


TE: Hunter Henry, San Diego at Atlanta ($5,800 FanDuel/$3,600 DraftKings)

The rookie tight end has really stepped up since Antonio Gates got hurt, and the passing of the torch in San Diego may have already taken place. Henry is affordable, gets plenty of targets and costs less than my initial recommendation of Travis Kelce. I would still be fine rolling with Kelce in some GPP contests, but the safe play is Henry.


Value Play of the Week


Allen Hurns, Jacksonville vs Oakland ($6,000 FanDuel/$5,000 DraftKings)

Blake Bortles is one of my favorite cheap quarterback targets this week, due in large part to the matchup with Oakland. The Raiders are playing well but they have a vulnerable secondary and as you likely already know the Jaguars like to throw the ball plenty. Accuracy may not be a strong suit for Bortles, but with Hurns all you care about is getting enough catches to pile up some decent yards and hopefully find the end zone. The price is worth the flyer.


The Lineup(s)


This week I am only posting one lineup for each site. After a few weeks of some great plays, and plenty of duds I am hoping thinning out the lineups help us get back to our winning ways.


As a reminder, when looking for your cheaper value plays each week, comparing matchups, cost, and projected outcome can be difficult. This week I utilized the NFL Salary Exploitation Tool over on It helps gauge player projected outcomes with their price, and rates their values each and every week. For example, if you are torn on which $3,400 wide receiver to use, this tool can help you make your decision.


This week I constructed a lineup I will be playing in both types of games (Cash and GPP) on both sites.


Editor's note: Lineups have changed slightly from when they were originally posted on Oct. 19 because of injuries.


FanDuel Cash/GPP Lineup


DraftKings Cash/GPP Lineup


— Written by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.

NFL Best Daily Fantasy Football Lineups for FanDuel and DraftKings (Week 7)
Post date: Friday, October 21, 2016 - 01:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl-thursday-night-football-schedule-kickoff-tv-times-2016

For years, fans were tired of waiting until Sunday each week to get a taste of pro football action. The NFL has responded in recent years by creating a full slate of Thursday Night Football games. These games will be aired on CBS, NBC and NFL Network over the next 16 weeks. In addition, this season Twitter will be streaming 10 games live on Thursday nights, free for fans worldwide. Check the list below to see when your favorite team is playing and how you can watch the game.


(All time ET)

Week 1

September 8, 8:30 PM, Panthers @ Broncos [NBC]


Week 2

September 15, 8:25 PM, Jets @ Bills [CBS/NFL Network/Twitter]


Week 3

September 22, 8:25 PM, Texans @ Patriots [CBS/NFL Network/Twitter]


Week 4

September 29, 8:25 PM, Dolphins @ Bengals [NFL Network]


Week 5

October 6, 8:25 PM, Cardinals @ 49ers [CBS/NFL Network/Twitter]


Week 6

October 13, 8:25 PM, Broncos @ Chargers [CBS/NFL Network/Twitter]


Week 7

October 20, 8:25 PM, Bears @ Packers [CBS/NFL Network/Twitter]


Week 8

October 27, 8:25 PM, Jaguars @ Titans [NFL Network]


Week 9

November 3, 8:25 PM, Falcons @ Buccaneers [NFL Network]


Week 10

November 10, 8:25 PM, Browns @ Ravens [NFL Network]


Week 11

November 17, 8:25 PM, Saints @ Panthers [NBC/NFL Network/Twitter]


Week 12

November 24, 8:30 PM, Steelers @ Colts [NBC]


Week 13

December 1, 8:25 PM, Cowboys @ Vikings [NBC/NFL Network/Twitter]


Week 14

December 8, 8:25 PM, Raiders @ Chiefs [NBC/NFL Network/Twitter]


Week 15

December 15, 8:25 PM, Rams @ Seahawks [NBC/NFL Network/Twitter]


Week 16

December 22, 8:25 PM, Giants @ Eagles [NBC/NFL Network/Twitter]

Post date: Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 15:43
Path: /college-football/oregon-ducks-vs-cal-golden-bears-preview-and-prediction-2016

Oregon's visit to the Bay Area on Friday comes with surprisingly dire implications for both the Ducks, and the host Cal Golden Bears.


Oregon is guaranteed its worst regular-season finish since the 2006 season, the result of a 2-4 start. Things could get dramatically worse for the Ducks if they fail to get into the Pac-12 win column this week against a Cal team looking to stay on track for a bowl bid.


The Golden Bears were surging after a goal-line stand sealed a win over nationally ranked Utah three weeks ago, but Cal's anemic defensive performance last time out at Oregon State dropped Sonny Dykes' squad below .500 in conference play. The unpredictable volatility of the Pac-12 thus far ups the ante on every league game from here on out, and handling a team struggling to the extent Oregon has puts the pressure on Cal to end its seven-game losing streak in this series.


Oregon at Cal


Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 21 at 10:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Cal -3 


Three Things to Watch


1. All It Takes Is One Stop 

One of the most popular cliches in sports: Hold an opponent to zero, you need only score once to win. Take that philosophy, flip it on its head, and it applies to Oregon and Cal.


Just get a single, crucial defensive stop, and that just might be enough to win.


Considering the defensive woes both teams have endured throughout the 2016 season, there should be no shortage of points scored Friday night. Cal ranks No. 123 in scoring defense in the FBS, Oregon checks in at No. 125.


The key is coming away with one stop, perhaps late in the game — although an early defensive stand could prove enough for the winning side to build a big lead early.


2. Running Wild

The defensive inadequacies of both teams start with an inability to slow the run. Cal's giving up a staggering 283.9 rushing yards per game — only Buffalo's been more porous against the run. Expect a monster performance from running back Royce Freeman, one of the nation's top ball carriers this season.


Oregon has performed slightly better at 238 yards per game allowed on the ground, but the Ducks' maligned secondary giving up huge totals through the air is partially to blame for that. Regardless, Cal can and will attack the Ducks up front.


Quarterback Davis Webb's ability to attack with the run-pass option can exploit Oregon in both facets, and Golden Bears running back Khalfani Muhammad's yards per carry average of 6.9 can expect an uptick.


3. Justin Herbert's Second Go-Around

Oregon Head coach Mark Helfrich has made some changes at key spots, which served as a tacit acknowledgement of 2016 as a rebuilding year for the Ducks. Freshman Justin Herbert replaced transfer quarterback Dakota Prukop in the Oregon starting lineup, and threw a pair of touchdown passes against the Pac-12's best defense, Washington.


Not a bad debut for the youngster, whose play could determine the immediate future of Oregon football. A strong showing at Cal should spark optimism for 2017 and beyond.


At 6-foot-6, Herbert looks quite a bit different than previous Ducks quarterbacks like Vernon Adams, Jeremiah Masoli and Darron Thomas. He's not as much of a running threat as Marcus Mariota, but his big arm introduces an intriguing new element to the Oregon offense. Considering the Ducks' identity has long been staked to evolving offensively, Herbert's arrival might function as a hint for where the team's headed.


Final Analysis


Put together two teams capable of putting up points and susceptible to allowing just as many, and the forecast is wildly unpredictable. I'll admit to waffling on this one, per my Athlon midseason awards and predictions, slotting Oregon higher in the Pac-12 North's final standings on the basis of Oregon winning the head-to-head.


Now, I'm not so sure. This has been an unusual year for the Ducks, who really should have beaten a Nebraska team now ranked in the top 10. Since that loss in the Lincoln, it's been a continuous downslide.


Likewise, Cal showed its potential in beating a top-20 team in Utah. Getting gashed by Oregon State, a program without a Pac-12 win since 2014, exposed the worst side of the Golden Bears. These are two truly Jekkyl-and-Hyde squads, which makes predicting this one difficult.


Buckle in, great ready for plenty of #Pac12AfterDark madness, and expect a close one. Advantage, home team.


Prediction: Cal 51, Oregon 48 


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

Oregon Ducks vs. California Golden Bears Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 13:30
Path: /college-football/south-florida-bulls-vs-temple-owls-preview-and-prediction-2016

Temple (4-3) and South Florida (6-1) meet Thursday night in Philadelphia in a battle for first place in the American Athletic Conference East Division.


USF carries a sparkling 3-0 conference record into this game and at 6-1 overall, the Bulls would like to keep things rolling in an effort to stay in the conversation in regards to the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six candidates. Quarterback Quinton Flowers single-handedly lifted the Bulls over UConn last week with 213 passing yards and 160 rushing yards in a five-touchdown performance. Flowers led the team in both categories in the 42-27 victory at home.


While the Bulls were handling business in the Sunshine State last week, so was Temple, as it squeezed out a 26-25 victory in Orlando against UCF. Temple’s defense held the Knights to just 86 rushing yards. At 2-1 in AAC action, a win Thursday would put the Owls in a desirable position for the division title and a spot in the conference championship game.


South Florida running back Marlon Mack gashed Temple for 230 rushing yards and three scores in last season’s meeting. He is certainly someone the Owls’ defense must account for and focus on slowing him down. This is just the third meeting between these schools with each team winning at home.


South Florida at Temple


Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: South Florida -6.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Quinton Flowers
It’s possible that Flowers doesn’t get the deserved recognition when discussing the AAC’s top quarterbacks. In seven games played this season, A dual threat in every sense of the word, Flowers has amassed 1,535 passing yards to go along with 718 rushing yards, both team highs. He’s tossed 13 touchdown passes and has rushed for seven. He ranks behind only Houston’s Greg Ward Jr. in total offense in the conference, and is one of just three AAC quarterbacks that are averaging more 300 yards per game.


Additionally, he’s averaging more than 300 yards to total offense per game In South Florida’s 38-22 win over East Carolina two weeks ago, the junior accounted for 365 yards of offense. He also has two 100-yard rushing games this season. Flowers is the most integral cog in South Florida’s Gulf-Coast offense, and when he’s clicking, he’s one of the best players in the country.


Related: College Football's 12 Best Position Battles to Watch in Week 8


2. Jahad Thomas
When Thomas leaves Temple, his name will remain in the record books as he’s been one of the most productive backs to come through the Philly school. The senior has a career 2,003 rushing yards to his name, along with 24 touchdowns. In 14 games last season, Thomas exploded for 1,262 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also tallied 216 receiving yards on 22 receptions, good for nearly 10 yards per catch.


After sitting out the first two games with a hand injury, it took Thomas a while to get going, but he earned his first 100-yard rushing game last week against UCF, finishing with 120 yards and two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving). In Temple’s one-point loss to Memphis two weeks ago, Thomas managed just 37 yards on 13 carries, but he hauled in six passes for 121 yards and two scores.


3. Marlon Mack
Mack is the thunder to Flowers’ lightning in South Florida’s Gulf-Coast offense. After rushing for 100 yards nine times last season, Mack already has four such games under his belt in 2016, the most recent coming last week against UConn (107 yards). Prior to that, Mack posted 152 yards against East Carolina and 118 against Cincinnati. Despite missing his team’s game against Northern Illinois in early September, Mack has rushed for 592 yards and nine touchdowns.


Mack’s name was called early and often last year when these teams faced off, and that should be the case again Friday night.


Final Analysis


South Florida’s only hiccup this year was against Florida State. The Bulls have breezed past every other opponent on their schedule. The Quinton Flowers-Marlon Mack tandem has given opposing defensive coordinators fits, and Friday won’t be much different. Temple will offer a challenging test early as its defense is holding opponents to fewer than 25 points per game, but USF’s talented roster and deep bench will see that the Bulls win yet another contest against the Owls.


Prediction: South Florida 35, Temple 20


— 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.

South Florida Bulls vs. Temple Owls Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 13:00
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-week-8-start-or-sit-2016

Week 8 of the college fantasy football season is upon us and this week will be critical to monitoring some of the pregame reports as injuries will play a major factor in setting your lineups.


Will Western Michigan running back Jamauri Bogan return to the lineup and how will that affect Jarvion Franklin's playing time? Is Patrick Mahomes fully healthy? Can California wide receiver Chad Hansen return to his early-season form after suffering through injures? These are just some of the big injury-related storylines heading into this weekend.


Note: Obvious choices will not be given such as Lamar Jackson or Donnel Pumphrey as those players are typically starters regardless of the matchup.


Also below are the top 10 rankings for each position for the given week.




Start ’Em


Chase Litton, Marshall vs. Charlotte

Litton’s play has quieted down since his first two games of the year where he combined to throw for 722 yards and seven touchdowns. In the last three weeks, Litton has just four TD passes and has topped 300 passing yards just once in that span. I am fully expecting an early-season type of performance out of Litton this week against a Charlotte pass defense that is currently ranked in the bottom five nationally, allowing close to 300 yards per game and 17 TDs. While every season is different, it can’t hurt to look back either at what Litton did to the 49ers last season when he threw for a career-high 486 yards and two scores. A repeat performance this season is not out of the question.


David Washington, Old Dominion vs. Western Kentucky

While his completion percentage may not be where he wants it at, Washington is playing extremely well to start the year with 12 TD passes and just two interceptions. Pretty good for a former wide receiver, huh? Washington has his best matchup of the season this weekend against a Western Kentucky secondary that has been absolutely torched the last two games, giving up a whopping 888 yards through the air and seven TD passes. While you may argue that was against two top-tier fantasy quarterbacks in Louisiana Tech’s Ryan Higgins and Middle Tennessee’s Brent Stockstill, just look at how the Hilltoppers’ defense has fared for most of this season. WKU gave up 339 passing yards to Miami (Ohio) and 279 to Vanderbilt. Those two schools currently rank 62nd and 120th nationally in passing offense, respectively. Pretty safe to assume Washington will have a monster day.


Sit ’Em


Philip Nelson, East Carolina vs. Cincinnati

Nelson is set to return this week against the Bearcats after being out the majority of the last two weeks due to injury. The former Minnesota transfer was off to a hot start in 2016 with 11 TD passes and four interceptions. But if you look closer, five of those touchdowns came in the first week alone against FCS member Western Carolina. Nelson has put up big-time yardage numbers, mostly in the direction of his favorite receiver Zay Jones, but the touchdowns really haven’t been there. That brings us to Cincinnati’s defense, which ranks 94th in passing yards allowed, but has more interceptions (12) than touchdown passes allowed (eight). Nelson may be able to move his offense up and down the field, but will the Pirates get in the end zone is the question.


Brandon Silvers, Troy vs. South Alabama

Silvers has been the model of consistency for Troy this season, leading the Trojans to a undefeated Sun Belt record (5-1 overall) thus far. The junior quarterback is off to the best start of his collegiate career, completing 62 percent of his passes and is well on his way to topping the 20 touchdown passes he had last year with 14 already through six games. Silvers has accounted for at least two TD passes in each game this season and also has a pair of rushing scores. That said, it could be a struggle this week on the road against a South Alabama defense that is currently third in the country against the pass, allowing just 143 yards per game. I expect a proficient game out of Silvers this week as that is what we have come to expect, but not one that will fill up the stat sheet in any way.


Top 10 Quarterbacks for Week 8:

Luke Falk, Washington State vs. Arizona State

Lamar Jackson, Louisville vs. NC State

Ryan Higgins, Louisiana Tech vs. FIU

Greg Ward Jr., Houston vs. SMU

Davis Webb, California vs. Oregon

Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma vs. Texas Tech

Quinton Flowers, South Florida vs. Temple

J.T. Barrett, Ohio State vs. Penn State

Mike White, Western Kentucky vs. Old Dominion

Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma


Running Backs


Start ’Em


Joe Mixon, Oklahoma vs. Texas Tech

Mixon is typically worthy of a starting spot in your lineup despite being the No. 2 back behind Samaje Perine, but this week, he will have the starting role all to himself. On Monday it was announced that Perine would miss at minimum two weeks with an injured hamstring, leaving just two scholarship running backs left on the roster for the Sooners in Mixon and freshman Abdul Adams. With Mixon likely set to see 20-plus carries, in addition to being an excellent receiver out of the backfield, he is a must-start this week against a Texas Tech defense that is allowing well over five yards per carry on the ground and has given up 17 rushing touchdowns.


Terrell Newby, Nebraska vs. Purdue

After being relegated to backup duties the first three weeks of the season, Newby has made the most of his opportunities with Devine Ozigbo out with an injury. The senior back has had consecutive 100-yard rushing performances the past two weeks and four rushing touchdowns in his last three games. While Ozigbo was dressed and available to play last week, head coach Mike Reilly stayed with the hot hand in Newby as Ozigbo got just one carry. Look for Newby to get his third consecutive 100-yard performance this week against a Purdue defense that is currently 124th in the country against the run, coughing up more than 260 yards per game.


Sit ’Em


Dillon Birden, Houston vs. SMU

Birden has filled in admirably the last four weeks as the Cougars have dealt with multiple injuries at the running back position. The junior walk-on has been the team’s primary option in the red zone and has six rushing touchdowns over the last four games, including a career-high 82 yards and three scores last week against Tulsa. Typically this would be an excellent sleeper play against a bad SMU defense, but news broke on Wednesday that starting running back Duke Catalon is expected back in the lineup after missing the last four weeks with a concussion. Catalon has returned to practice, and if no signs of symptoms reoccur, head coach Tom Herman has already stated he will be the top back in the rotation moving forward. Not a good sign for Birden this week and really for the rest of the year.


Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M vs. Alabama

Has there been a better freshman in college football this season than Williams? You could make an argument for the quarterback on the other side of the field in this matchup between Texas A&M and Alabama, but there is no doubting that Williams has been outstanding in his first season at College Station. Williams has been on a tear the past month with a combined 595 rushing yards and five touchdowns in his last four games, including a career-high 217 yards two weeks ago against Tennessee. However, the freshman will face his toughest test to date against an Alabama front that currently ranks No. 1 in rushing defense by a wide margin, allowing just 64 yards per game. The next closest team is Army at 84 yards per game. Teams just don’t run against Alabama and Williams won’t either.


Top 10 Running Backs for Week 8:

Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State vs. San Jose State

Joe Mixon, Oklahoma vs. Texas Tech

Royce Freeman, Oregon vs. California

James Gilbert, Ball State vs. Akron

Aaron Jones, UTEP vs. UTSA

Brian Hill, Wyoming vs. Nevada

Jeremy McNichols, Boise State vs. BYU

Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan vs. Eastern Michigan

Myles Gaskin, Washington vs. Oregon State

Jamaal Williams, BYU vs. Boise State


Wide Receivers


Start ’Em


J’Mon Moore, Missouri vs. Middle Tennessee

When Moore has shown up in games, he has been one of the best receivers in the country. The problem is that’s only been half of the time. Against West Virginia, Georgia and Delaware, Moore had a combined 24 catches for 414 and six touchdowns. In the other three games? Just four receptions for 51 yards and zero touchdowns. To be fair, two of those matchups were against two of the top secondaries in the country in LSU and Florida. Middle Tennessee does not present the same kind of challenge this week as the Blue Raiders are a middle-of-the-road pass defense within Conference USA. While it may be a bit of a risk considering the inconsistencies of his performances, if Moore hits this week, he will hit big.


River Cracraft, Washington State vs. Arizona State

I hope Gabe Marks doesn’t read this article and call me “kinda douchey” for not putting him in this spot, but it has been his teammate Cracraft that has led the Cougars in receiving in each of the last three games. This season has been a tough one for those who own any of the Washington State receivers. Quarterback Luke Falk is still putting up huge numbers, ranking fifth in the country in passing, but is seemingly spreading the ball around more than usual. But how can you ignore the matchup this week against Arizona State? It’s become common knowledge if you read these articles how bad the Sun Devils’ passing defense has been so I won’t delve too far into it, but the Cougars have to be licking their chops heading into Saturday. Cracraft, Marks and Tavares Martin should all be in your starting lineups if you have any of them.


Sit ‘Em


Amba Etta-Tawo, Syracuse vs. Boston College

I know what you are thinking. How could you possibly sit the No. 2 wide receiver in all of college football? Well if you are short on wide receivers, then no, I would not take Etta-Tawo out of your lineup for a flier. But if you are stacked at the position and have options, you can absolutely consider sitting Etta-Tawo this week. Boston College enters this game as the No. 5 pass defense in the country, allowing fewer than 150 yards per game. The Eagles have yet to allow a receiver to gain more than 100 receiving yards against them. Etta-Tawo has not been his dominant self the previous two weeks either with just nine catches for fewer than 100 yards and zero touchdowns combined against Wake Forest and Virginia Tech. With windy and rainy conditions expected on Saturday, it’s not out of the question to consider benching Etta-Tawo for this week.


Chris Godwin, Penn State vs. Ohio State

Too often, Godwin has been invisible on the field in 2016. A big season was expected from the junior receiver coming of a 1,100-yard campaign, but things have not transpired the way many thought through the first six games. Godwin still has a share of the team lead with 23 receptions, but has disappeared far too often, including games against Michigan and last week against Maryland where he totaled just one catch. Facing an Ohio State defense that is sixth in the country against the pass and has allowed just five touchdowns through the air all season long, I don’t expect Godwin to have much of an impact this week.


Top 10 Wide Receivers for Week 8:

Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma vs. Texas Tech

Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech vs. FIU

Carlos Henderson, Louisiana Tech vs. FIU

Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky vs. Old Dominion

Chad Hansen, California vs. Oregon

Zay Jones, East Carolina vs. Cincinnati

Corey Davis, Western Michigan vs. Eastern Michigan

Jonathan Giles, Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma

Kenny Golladay, Northern Illinois vs. Buffalo

Richie James, Middle Tennessee vs. Missouri


— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeBainbridge2.

College Fantasy Football Week 8 Start or Sit
Post date: Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/byu-cougars-vs-boise-state-broncos-preview-and-prediction-2016

BYU (4-3) and No. 14 Boise State (6-0) renew their annual series with a Thursday night nationally televised game.


The Broncos are undefeated and ranked in the top 15 for the first time since the 2011 season. The Cougars enter Boise riding a three-game winning streak and are looking for their first-ever victory on the blue turf.


This game appears on paper to be the toughest challenge remaining on the Broncos’ schedule. Win this game and the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bid to the Cotton Bow is within reach.


For BYU, the Cougars have never won at Boise State. They had a heartbreaking loss on a last-second field goal in 2004 and their most recent visit in ‘14 wasn’t as close as the 55-30 drubbing showed on the scoreboard. Like Boise State, BYU has a great opportunity to run the table the remainder of the season, but only if the Cougars pull off an upset victory on the famous blue turf.


BYU at Boise State


Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 20 at 10:15 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Boise State -7


Three Things to Watch


1. Boise State’s passing attack vs. the BYU secondary

Ever since Ryan Dinwiddie was slinging the rock and pulling off big wins on ESPN for the Broncos, Boise State has always had a good quarterback and sophomore Brett Rypien is the next in line.


Rypien has thrown for 1,622 yards and 14 touchdowns with just three interceptions. Rypien is a star and this is the first time BYU has faced him.


Rypien’s favorite target to throw to is slot receiver Thomas Sperbeck, who has 701 yards receiving on the year and six touchdowns.


BYU’s secondary, albeit improved from previous years, is still the 114th-ranked pass defense in the country. Part of that is the new aggressive man coverage the Cougars are incorporating this year, but it’s also youth and being vulnerable to giving up the big play. Expect Rypien and Boise to have success through the air.


2. How effective will BYU LB Butch Pau’u be in this game?

Pau’u earned the starting role at mike linebacker as a sophomore this season after new after BYU head coach Kalani Sitake switched senior Harvey Langi to defensive end. Pau’u became a household name among BYU fans, racking up impressive tackling numbers and laying vicious hits on the opposition.


In week four against West Virginia, Pau’u suffered a knee injury that kept him sidelined the following two weeks. Pau’u returned a week ago against Mississippi State and clearly wasn’t his normal self. Pau’u was unable to finish last week’s game.


Going into a hostile environment like Boise State, BYU needs its star players to be on the field and performing at a high level. Pau’u makes everyone in BYU’s front seven better with him as the quarterback of the defense. He’s a game-time decision right now, and it’s unknown if and how much he will play against the Broncos.


3. Measuring stick game for Boise State

There are a handful of really good teams in the Group of Five this season. Houston still stands out as probably the best right now, but Boise State is next in the line. The Broncos were fortunate to play Washington State early in the season after the Pac-12’s Cougars dropped a game to FCS Eastern Washington. Playing BYU is the toughest game on the Broncos’ schedule, and it’s the game Boise State fans look forward to every season.


Boise State has become a national brand in college football because of these weeknight nationally televised games over the years. If the Broncos come away with a dominating performance in this game against a battle-tested BYU team, the Broncos will come away as the favorite to earn the automatic Group of Five spot to the Cotton Bowl this season.


Final Analysis


The natural assumption for this game is likely offensive fireworks, but don’t expect that to happen. Both of these teams have physical defenses that limit their opponent from getting into the end zone.


Expect a low-scoring battle that’ll go down to the final minutes of the fourth quarter to be decided.


The game will ultimately be decided in favor of the home team in a close one. Boise State hasn’t lost a regular season, non-conference game on the blue turf since 2001! That’s 15 years ago. Now, I know streaks are meant to be broken, but I have to question how much BYU has left in the tank in this one. Short week and the Cougars played six Power Five teams in their first seven weeks, and now arguably face their toughest opponent to date. It’s a tall order for BYU, and that’s why I’ll go with the Broncos to squeak a hard-fought victory over their budding rival.


Prediction: Boise State 20, BYU 16


— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is publisher of Rivals' BYU site,, and also is the BYU reporter and insider for 1320 KFAN and co-host of "The Cougar Center" podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.

BYU Cougars vs. Boise State Broncos Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 10:15
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-12-best-position-battles-watch-week-8-2016

We’ve had some big weeks in college football during the first half of the season but things certainly are not going to slack off as we cross the midway point. This week in particular has some huge Top 25 matchups between some big-name teams but it’s the one-on-ones between the names on the back of the jerseys that are even juicier.


Whether you’re a college football fan, a coach or an NFL scout, here are 12 of the best position vs. position battles between offensive stars and their defensive counterparts on the other side heading into Week 8:


1. Alabama OT Cam Robinson vs. Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett

Robinson and Garrett are no stranger to this list in 2016 given how highly regarded they are (both potential top 10 picks in the upcoming NFL Draft) and how well they’ve been playing. If the Aggies are to pull off a huge upset of No. 1, they’ll need a big game out of their star defender in order to make QB Jalen Hurts look like the freshman he is — just what Robinson is aiming to prevent as the left tackle.


2. Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillan vs. Penn State RB Saquon Barkley

Barkley exploded onto the scene in a big way during last year’s meeting with Ohio State to the tune of 194 yards and has continued to excel in Happy Valley as the focal point for the Nittany Lions’ offense. Looking to stop him is McMillan, a veteran presence and tackling machine in the middle of the OSU defense.


3. Alabama DBs Marlon Humphrey and Minkah Fitzpatrick vs. Texas A&M WRs Josh Reynolds and Christian Kirk

Humphrey and Fitzpatrick are playing at an All-SEC level this year and are one reason why the Crimson Tide’s defense is one of the best units Nick Saban has ever had. They’ll be tested by Reynolds and Kirk though, with each having the ability to break long touchdowns any time they’re targeted.


4. LSU DB Jamal Adams vs. Ole Miss TE Evan Engram

Adams is in the top 10 of the league in tackles and a key part of the Tigers’ stingy defense under first-year coordinator Dave Aranda. Adams will have his hands full trying to contain Engram, who leads the SEC in receiving and is one of the best pass catchers in the country regardless of position.


5. Kansas State DE Jordan Willis and LB Elijah Lee vs. Texas QB Shane Buechele and RB D’Onta Foreman

Willis leads the Big 12 in sacks and tackles for a loss and teams up with Lee to help the Wildcats’ league-leading run defense. They’ll have a great battle between freshman signal-caller Buechele and the No. 2 rusher in the country in Foreman.


6. Boise State QB Brett Rypien vs. BYU DB Kai Nacua

Nacua has a whopping five interceptions on the year and is among the better ball hawks west of the Mississippi (he had three picks against BSU in 2015 too). Rypien will have to be aware of where the safety is on every snap or else risk a repeat of last season’s loss to the Cougars.


7. Texas A&M RB Trayveon Williams vs. Alabama LBs Ryan Anderson and Reuben Foster

Williams has been one of the biggest surprises for the Aggies this year and the true freshman leads the SEC in rushing entering the week. It will be hard for him to keep his ridiculous 8.6 yards/carry average up against the hard-hitting duo of Anderson and Foster however.


8. BYU LB Butch Pau’u vs. Boise State RB Jeremy McNichols

Pau’u will be a game-time decision for the game but when healthy he is one of the best linebackers west of the Rockies and a huge playmaker for the Cougars. If he’s good to go he’ll have a tall task in front of him in McNichols, who is coming off a school-record 40 carries for a career-best 217 yards last week.


9. Miami CB Corn Elder vs. Virginia Tech WR Isaiah Ford

Ford doesn’t get the press he should but you can ask anybody in ACC country about him and find out quickly that he’s one of the best receivers in the nation. The Coastal division could hang in the balance on Thursday night so Elder will need to be on his A-game this week trying to lock down the Hokies’ star.


10. Texas A&M OT Avery Gennesy vs. Alabama DE Jonathan Allen

The Aggies’ run of stud left tackles continues with Gennesy, who has benefited quite a bit from the return of Jim Turner as offensive line coach. In both paving the way for the run game and protecting Trevor Knight, Gennesy will need to step up even more on Saturday though with Allen likely the best overall defensive end in the country.


11. Boise State LB Tanner Vallejo vs. BYU RB Jamaal Williams

Williams became the school’s all-time leading rusher last week and hopes to put up even more numbers against his team’s regional rival. That means it will be up to Vallejo to turn into a brick wall as one of the Broncos’ best defensive players.


12. Temple DE Haason Reddick vs. USF QB Quinton Flowers

Flowers is one of the most dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks in the AAC and is coming off a five-touchdown effort last week against UConn. Looking to contain him in the pocket will be Reddick, who has three straight games with multiple sacks.


Best of the rest:
Oklahoma LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo vs. Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes III
Wisconsin RB Corey Clement vs. Iowa LB Josey Jewell
Virginia Tech CB Brandon Facyson vs. Miami WR Stacy Coley
Arkansas RB Rawleigh Williams III vs. Auburn DT Montravius Adams
Arkansas OT Dan Skipper vs. Auburn DE Carl Lawson


— 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.

College Football's 12 Best Position Battles to Watch in Week 8
Post date: Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: syndicated, NFL
Path: /nfl/betting-against-spread-nfl-week-7-picks-and-odds-lines-2016

It's time for your NFL Sunday fade material. When you go winless two straight weeks, then the picks you put up turn to mush. I have to stop trying to beat Dallas and Atlanta because they are just better then I think they are. The good handicappers stick to the numbers more then what they see. The key for you the reader right now is to decide if my logic is strong or if it's faulty and go against it.


Record: 5-13 (0-3 last week)


Teams on bye: Carolina, Dallas


Note: All games are on Sunday unless otherwise noted and all times ET.


New York Giants (3-3) vs. Los Angeles Rams (3-3), 9:30 a.m. (London)

This one is taking place across the pond and a wise man once told me that the better team wins overseas. To me, that's the Giants who have the better offense and a comparable defense. New York snapped a three-game losing streak last week in beating the Ravens behind nearly 400 passing yards from Eli Manning (and two long TDs from Odell Beckham Jr.). The defense clamped down on Baltimore's run game and made enough stops when it mattered. Los Angeles has lost two straight despite the fact that the Rams have perked up a bit offensively. I really don't believe in this offense outside of Todd Gurley. They also are banged up especially up front with Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers and William Hayes all dealing with various ailments. Los Angeles has covered in just 18 of its last 53 games against the NFC East. SELECTION: Giants ML -145


Baltimore Ravens (3-3) at New York Jets (1-5), 1 p.m.

For the second straight week Baltimore will play in New York. The Ravens have lost three straight, including two at home. Baltimore's struggling to stop the pass, which the Jets should be able to do if they complete it to their own team. New York has a very good defense that was embarrassed by the Cardinals on Monday night. The Jets should be able to make Baltimore one-dimensional, which puts more pressure on Joe Flacco, who is dealing with a shoulder injury. The Jets, meanwhile, are going to deal with a week's worth of questions after their fourth straight loss. They just finished up a tough stretch of four road games in five weeks with losses against the Chiefs, Seahawks, Steelers and Cardinals. Joining Flacco in the ranks of the Ravens’ walking wounded are Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Jimmy Smith, C.J. Mosley and Steve Smith Sr. I'll take the team at home playing for pride right now even though I'm not thrilled it's Geno Smith now at quarterback for the J-E-T-S. SELECTION: Jets pick


Seattle Seahawks (4-1) at Arizona Cardinals (3-3), 8:30 p.m.

There are things that just don't seem right with these two NFC West rivals. Carson Palmer has struggled this season with the passing attack, throwing just one touchdown pass against the Jets’ porous secondary on “Monday Night Football.” Luckily for the Cards, David Johnson (3 more TDs) continues to be a very good running back. Seattle's defense has been stellar all year, allowing just 78 points this season. The problems have been with the Seahawks’ offense, as some still don't think that Russell Wilson is 100 percent healthy. The Cardinals’ defense has allowed just 50 points in four home games thus far. They have all the right pieces to keep the Hawks in check in this one. Arizona has gone under in 14 of its last 21 home games including all four in 2016. I think this one is an under. SELECTION: Under 43.5




— It seems almost too easy to take the Bears on the road on Thursday night. Green Bay just doesn't seem right and neither will the run game without Eddie Lacy (or James Starks). Aaron Rodgers has not cracked the 300-yard mark this season and the Packers’ secondary has been ravaged by injuries. Yet Chicago's defense is hard to trust in its own right. Weird results happen on Thursday with that quick turnaround.


— The Dolphins continue the rare four straight at home with the Bills on Sunday. They are coming off a huge win over the Steelers so it's hard to back them in a potentially unfocused spot. The Bills are a road favorite, but they have a home tilt with the Patriots next and you know how Rex Ryan loves his battles with New England. I'd stay away from this one.


— 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.

Betting Against the Spread: NFL Week 7 Picks and Odds
Post date: Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 09:45
Path: /nfl/chicago-bears-vs-green-bay-packers-preview-and-prediction-2016

When the NFL schedule was revealed, the Packers’ was about as quirky as could be: Green Bay opened with two on the road, then returned home for four in a row with a Week 4 bye mixed in. That stretch ends tonight against the Bears, and then it’s back on the road. On the plus side, even with the early bye, Green Bay gets 10 days off to gear up for playing four of its next five away from Lambeau Field.


The bad news is, the Packers are battling injuries, and lots of them. Their bye was nearly a month ago, and while a couple extra days before next week’s game at Atlanta will be nice, it doesn’t help with a division rival coming to town on three days rest.


Seven Packers were officially ruled out a day before the game, including their top two running backs (Eddie Lacy and James Starks) and their top three cornerbacks (Sam Shields, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins). Can the Bears take advantage?


That’s a good question. Chicago ranks seventh in total offense and 11th in total defense, not horrible numbers. Yet the Bears are 1–5 because they have a negative turnover differential and can’t finish drives (they rank 31st in points). They have had some recent success in Lambeau, winning two of the last three meetings there, but it’s tough to win if you don’t score more than 17 points. The Bears have done that just once this season — and lost. 


Chicago at Green Bay


Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 20 at 8:25 p.m. ET (Thursday Night Football)

Broadcast Channels: CBS, NFL Network, Twitter

Spread: Packers -7.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Will the real Aaron Rodgers please stand up?

Most quarterbacks would take Rodgers’ numbers this season: 60.2 completion percentage, 10 touchdowns, four interceptions, on pace for more than 3,700 yards. But the fact is that Rodgers is not most quarterbacks. An average full season from 2008-14 for Rodgers meant connecting on better than 65 percent of his passes for nearly 4,300 yards, 35 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. But last season his completion percentage was a career-low 60.7, and it’s not getting better. No one wants to bet against him, but something has changed. Given all the injuries, the Packers need the old Aaron Rodgers back, and fast.


2. Brian Hoyer vs. the Packers’ secondary

Just like it is odd to think that the play of Rodgers might be a problem for Green Bay, it’s not often that the thought of Brian Hoyer has struck fear into an opponent. But perhaps the Packers should be a bit scared. With their top three corners out, they can’t take anything for granted against the pass. And Hoyer has been hot: In four starts since Jay Cutler was injured, Hoyer has thrown for more than 1,300 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions. His streak of four straight games with 300-plus passing yards is a career high; in fact, he had only five such games before this season since entering the league in 2009. Hoyer is missing some targets — wide receivers Kevin White and Eddie Royal are injured — but Alshon Jeffery (29 rec., 487 yards) and tight end Zach Miller (31 rec., 265 yards, 3 TDs) could do some damage against Green Bay’s depleted defensive backfield.


3. Bears RB Jordan Howard vs. the Packers’ run defense

While Hoyer should be able to exploit the Packers’ secondary, the Bears have been at their best this season when Howard gets going. The rookie is averaging 5.0 yards per carry despite having his worst game as a pro (15 att., 34 yds.) last week against Jacksonville. Before that, he had back-to-back 100-yard efforts, in which Chicago beat Detroit and blew a fourth-quarter lead against Indianapolis. But running on the Packers is a tall task. Green Bay ranks second in rushing defense at just 72.4 yards per game and has allowed just one rushing touchdown all season. And no team is allowing fewer yards per carry (3.0).


Final Analysis


While the injuries — and Aaron Rodgers’ relative struggles — point to Chicago pulling an upset here, there is a reason Vegas still favors Green Bay by more than a touchdown. While the Bears’ offensive numbers look good, they can’t seem to score. Unless the Packers giving the ball away — they have seven turnovers in two losses and just two otherwise — Chicago can’t squander scoring chances. And then there’s this: Rodgers has historically killed the Bears to the tune of a 12–4 record and a 107.3 passer rating. Maybe he’s not what he once was, but he’ll beat the Bears this week.


Prediction: Packers 26, Bears 16

Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, syndicated
Path: /college-football/fcs-football-best-games-and-predictions-week-8-2016

North Dakota State suffers one of its rare losses and now is in jeopardy of it becoming two in a row. The Citadel beats a top-5 opponent and comes right back with just as tough an assignment.


Whoa, Nellie! The FCS season has moved into the heart of conference play and the action is sizzling.


And we’re not just talking about the big boys in the Missouri Valley, Big Sky, CAA and SoCon, the Ivy League and Northeast Conference both have one of their bigger games of the season on tap this weekend as well.


Here are the FCS games of the week:


Note: All times ET


Friday, Oct. 21


Duquesne (4-2, 1-0 Northeast) at Saint Francis (4-3, 2-0), 7 p.m.

Who’s the more focused team might have slipped out last week when defending NEC champ Duquesne had to rally past Robert Morris and Saint Francis blasted Bryant. The short list of candidates for the year’s best FCS player should include Red Flash safety/kick returner/do-everything Lorenzo Jerome.
Pick: Saint Francis


Saturday, Oct. 22


No. 18 Stony Brook (4-2, 3-0 CAA) at Delaware (2-4, 0-3), 1 p.m.

Dennis Dottin-Carter makes his debut as Delaware’s interim head coach after Dave Brock was fired in his fourth season. Dottin-Carter knows defense, so he’ll be impressed by Stony Brook rover Tyrice Beverette and safety Jaheem Woods, who are enjoying big seasons.
Pick: Stony Brook


Harvard (4-1, 2-0 Ivy) at Princeton (4-1, 2-0), 1 p.m.

Suddenly, Harvard doesn’t seem so invincible and the Tigers believe their two quarterbacks (passer Chad Kanoff and runner John Lovett) are better than anyone else’s one. Penn also is unbeaten in Ivy games.
Pick: Princeton


No. 8 The Citadel (6-0, 4-0 Southern) at Wofford (4-2, 2-1), 1:30 p.m.

vAfter the Bulldogs took down three-time defending SoCon champ Chattanooga, they have to go on the road against a Wofford squad that’s had an extra week of preparation. Can two triple-option offenses finish a game in under two hours?
Pick: Wofford


No. 3 Jacksonville State (5-1, 2-0 OVC) at Eastern Kentucky (2-4, 1-2), 3 p.m.

In an oddity, Jacksonville State is opening its Ohio Valley Conference schedule against the three new head coaches in the conference – this time EKU’s Mark Elder. Eli Jenkins has 3,420 career rushing yards, just 57 shy of the top 10 among quarterbacks in FCS history.
Pick: Jacksonville State


No. 13 Youngstown State (5-1, 3-0 Missouri Valley) at No. 7 South Dakota State (4-2, 3-0), 3 p.m.

This year’s Youngstown rushing defense has been ridiculously good. Too bad the Penguins don’t have last year’s FCS-leading passing defense to slow the roll of SDSU quarterback Taryn Christion, wide receiver Jake Wieneke and tight end Dallas Goedert.
Pick: South Dakota State


No. 4 Sam Houston State (6-0, 5-0 Southland) at Nicholls (3-3, 3-1), 3:30 p.m.

The Bearkats were No. 2 in the Athlon FCS Preseason Top 25 and a pick to get to the national championship game. But they’ve played a 1-6 Division II team and five Southland opponents that are a combined 9-23. After losing 25 of 26 games, Nicholls is 5-4 since last November.
Pick: Sam Houston State


Albany (4-2, 1-2 CAA) at No. 19 Villanova (5-2, 3-1), 3:30 p.m.

One of these teams is going to clear out the cobwebs, but which one? Albany has lost close CAA games in back-to-back weeks and Villanova was knocked from first place with its first shutout loss since 2004. Wildcats QB Zach Bednarczyk suffered a concussion in that game.
Pick: Villanova


Lamar (3-3, 3-1 Southland) at No. 20 Central Arkansas (5-1, 4-0), 7 p.m.

Lamar arrives on a three-game winning streak, but the loss of All-America running back Kade Harrington to a broken foot is emotionally draining. Plus, UCA is coming off its most impressive performance – a 35-0 win at McNeese – which is saying a lot considering the Bears own an FBS win this season.
Pick: Central Arkansas


No. 10 Montana (5-1, 2-1 Big Sky) at Northern Arizona (3-4, 2-2), 7 p.m.

Griz fans are frustrated they have outscored their last two opponents 135-14 and not moved up in the national polls. But these next two road games (NAU and Eastern Washington) would provide many more style points than the last two home games (Mississippi Valley State and Sacramento State).
Pick: Montana


No. 1 North Dakota State (5-1, 2-1 Missouri Valley) at No. 12 Western Illinois (5-1, 2-1), 7 p.m.

The Bison have rebounded from their last 12 losses with a win and are 4-0 in Macomb, with two of the wins coming after home losses. WIU sophomore Sean McGuire has passed for more than 300 yards in four of his last five games.
Pick: North Dakota State


— Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.


(Top photo by University of Montana Athletics)

FCS Football: Best Games and Predictions for Week 8
Post date: Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 09:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-wide-receiver-rankings-week-7

There has already been a slew of injury-related news this week that fantasy owners have had to process, but for the most part, the wide receiver position remains relatively healthy. Yet the loss of players such as Vincent Jackson (ACL) and, most importantly, Ben Roethlisberger (knee surgery) will have residual effects.


To say Antonio Brown struggled last season without Big Ben would be an understatement. Try less than 60 receiving yards and no touchdowns in the four games Landry Jones and Michael Vick started in place of Roethlisberger in 2015. Now Brown owners are now facing potentially average or worse numbers from their first-round pick (if not the No. 1 overall selection) for the next 4-6 weeks. Brutal.


Meanwhile target hog Mike Evans will only get more looks with the loss of Jackson, starting this week in a drool-worthy matchup against San Francisco. Don’t overlook new No. 2 Adam Humphries either.


Besides Evans, studs like Julio Jones, A.J. Green and Odell Beckham Jr. also appear well positioned for big games based on matchups. But as we have learned this season (many times already), this isn’t always a guarantee. Buckle up folks, it should be a very interesting Week 7.


And since there have been so many developments already this week, be sure to check back as I will updating these rankings all the way up until game time.


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


Teams on bye: Carolina, Dallas




— Rankings by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.

Fantasy Football 2016 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 7
Post date: Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-flex-rankings-week-7

After what seemed to be a decent streak of relatively injury-free weeks, fantasy owners are faced with processing a whole new batch of aches, pains and health-related developments. Wednesday alone brought news of a setback for Doug Martin (hamstring), hamstring tightness for LeSean McCoy and a projected timetable that will keep Ben Roethlisberger (knee surgery) sidelined for at least a month.


Big Ben’s prognosis also impacts Antonio Brown’s fantasy outlook potentially through the end of November, and perhaps Le’Veon Bell’s too. Carlos Hyde (shoulder) and Eddie Lacy (ankle) are other No. 1 RBs that are dealing with injuries that could cost them multiple games. Their backup(s), and some others, will certainly rise up both the running back and these flex rankings, but should they? Will Jacquizz Rodgers, Mike Gillislee, Shaun Draughn/Mike Davis and/or Don Jackson/Knile Davis (whew!) be able to fill the void? Should you value any of these options more than a third-down, pass catching RB?


More than ever fantasy owners will be filling in flex spots or other positions with bench players, or perhaps waiver wire gems such as Kenny Britt or Jay Ajayi. Where do they land in the flex rankings? Only time will tell, but for now Week 7 is filled with a bunch of fantastic matchups as well as plenty of question marks as you probably already realized. 


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


Teams on bye: Carolina, Dallas




— Rankings by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.

Fantasy Football 2016 Flex Rankings: Week 7
Post date: Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-tight-end-rankings-week-7

It took longer than his fantasy owners were hoping, but Rob Gronkowski is back atop the tight end rankings for Week 7. He might not even be 100 percent healthy, but all Gronk needs is Tom Brady, although that touchdown spike had to feel awfully good too.


Moving forward you can assume that Gronk will maintain his spot atop the weekly tight end rankings (except for Week 9 when the Patriots are on bye), so that leaves a big-time battle for No. 2. Who will it be this week? Well there’s no Greg Olsen (on bye), so that eliminates one usual suspect. Kansas City is hosting New Orleans, so that helps Travis Kelce’s case. Kyle Rudolph returns from bye and then there’s rookie Hunter Henry, who’s rather quickly making a future Hall of Fame teammate irrelevant. Check below to see how the tight end chips fall in line after Gronk for Week 7.


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


Teams on bye: Carolina, Dallas


Rk Players Team Opp
1 Rob Gronkowski NE at PIT
2 Travis Kelce KC vs. NO
3 Jimmy Graham SEA at ARI
4 Martellus Bennett NE at PIT
5 Zach Miller CHI at GB (Thurs.)
6 Dennis Pitta BAL at NYJ
7 Delanie Walker TEN vs. IND
8 Kyle Rudolph MIN at PHI
9 Jordan Reed WAS at DET
10 Gary Barnidge CLE at CIN
11 Cameron Brate TB at SF
12 Jack Doyle IND at TEN
13 Hunter Henry SD at ATL
14 Coby Fleener NO at KC
15 Eric Ebron DET vs. WAS
16 Charles Clay BUF at MIA
17 Julius Thomas JAC vs. OAK
18 Vernon Davis WAS at DET
19 Lance Kendricks LA vs. NYG (London)
20 Antonio Gates SD at ATL
21 Zach Ertz PHI vs. MIN
22 Tyler Eifert CIN vs. CLE
23 Richard Rodgers GB vs. CHI (Thurs.)
24 C.J. Fiedorowicz HOU at DEN (Mon.)
25 Vance McDonald SF vs. TB
26 C.J. Uzomah CIN vs. CLE
27 Jacob Tamme ATL vs. SD
28 Clive Walford OAK at ATL
29 Jesse James PIT vs. NE
30 Larry Donnell NYG at LA (London)


— Rankings by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.

Fantasy Football 2016 Tight End Rankings: Week 7
Post date: Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-running-back-rankings-week-7

Last week was a great one for fantasy running backs as guys like LeSean McCoy, David Johnson and Lamar Miller (finally!) put up big numbers. But that was somewhat due to the fact that several of the elite starting options had great matchups.


Looking ahead to Week 7, the matchups and overall running back landscape isn’t quite as rosy. There are plenty of questions that need to be answered, such as how concerned should fantasy owners be about the "hamstring tightness" McCoy experienced on Wednesday, causing him to leave practice early? How will Le’Veon Bell fare against New England without Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback? Is Jacquizz Rodgers really a top-10 option this week? (He is because Doug Martin had a setback in his recovery from a hamstring injury.) Who will get the carries for Green Bay on Thursday night against Chicago (and will it matter)? And who will fantasy owners turn to with Ezekiel Elliott on bye this week?


Let’s find out who falls where in this week’s RB rankings.


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


Teams on bye: Carolina, Dallas


Rk Player Team Opp
1 DeMarco Murray TEN vs. IND
2 David Johnson ARI vs. SEA
3 Melvin Gordon SD at ATL
4 Le'Veon Bell PIT vs. NE
5 Devonta Freeman ATL vs. SD
6 Jacquizz Rodgers TB at SF
7 Todd Gurley LA vs. NYG (London)
8 Matt Jones WAS at DET
9 Christine Michael SEA at ARI
10 Spencer Ware KC vs. NO
11 Lamar Miller HOU at DEN (Mon.)
12 Frank Gore IND at TEN
13 LeSean McCoy BUF at MIA
14 Carlos Hyde SF vs. TB
15 Mark Ingram NO at KC
16 Matt Forte NYJ vs. BAL
17 Terrance West BAL at NYJ
18 Giovani Bernard CIN vs. CLE
19 C.J. Anderson DEN vs. HOU (Mon.)
20 Jerick McKinnon MIN at PHI
21 Mike Gillislee BUF at MIA
22 Jeremy Hill CIN vs. CLE
23 Jordan Howard CHI at GB (Thurs.)
24 Isaiah Crowell CLE at CIN
25 Jamaal Charles KC vs. NO
26 Tevin Coleman ATL vs. SD
27 LeGarrette Blount NE at PIT
28 T.J. Yeldon JAC vs. OAK
29 Theo Riddick DET vs. WAS
30 Jay Ajayi MIA vs. BUF
31 Knile Davis GB vs. CHI (Thurs.)
32 Rashad Jennings NYG at LA (London)
33 James White NE at PIT
34 Ryan Matthews PHI vs. MIN
35 Duke Johnson CLE at CIN
36 Chris Ivory JAC vs. OAK
37 Devontae Booker DEN vs. HOU (Mon.)
38 Bilal Powell NYJ vs. BAL
39 Matt Asiata MIN at PHI
40 Jalen Richard OAK at JAC
41 Chris Thompson WAS at DET
42 Bobby Rainey NYG at LA (London)
43 DeAndre Washington OAK at JAC
44 Latavius Murray OAK at JAC
45 Arian Foster MIA vs. BUF
46 Darren Sproles PHI vs. MIN
47 Derrick Henry TEN vs. IND
48 Dwayne Washington DET vs. WAS
49 Josh Ferguson IND at TEN
50 C.J. Spiller SEA at ARI

— Rankings by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.

Fantasy Football 2016 Running Back Rankings: Week 7
Post date: Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-quarterback-rankings-week-7

After Week 6, fantasy owners can gingerly say Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan is matchup-proof, which is one of the reasons he leads of this week’s positional rankings  Against the vaunted Seahawks defense (in Seattle no less), Ryan threw for 335 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He and Julio Jones are connecting no matter what opposing defenses are throwing at them. San Diego has given up at least a touchdown in every game the Chargers have played so far this season, and Ryan, back at home, should be one of, if not the, top fantasy quarterbacks for Week 7.


Ryan’s counterpart in that game, Philip Rivers, checks in at No. 2 because this is a game that could develop into a high-scoring affair, otherwise known as a fantasy owner’s dream. The Falcons are giving up the third-most fantasy points to opposing QBs this season. And even though the defense has looked better in recent weeks, Rivers should still wind up with plenty of opportunities to throw the ball all over the field.


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


Teams on bye: Carolina, Dallas





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

Fantasy Football 2016 Quarterback Rankings: Week 7
Post date: Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-kicker-rankings-week-7

Depending on league scoring, Adam Vinatieri is the leader in terms of fantasy points for kickers. The wily old veteran has made five field goals from 50 yards and out, two more than any other kicker in the league. He's made six field goals from between 40-49 yards, one more than anyone else in the league. Indianapolis plays Tennessee in Week 7, and while this doesn't seem like it will be a high-scoring game, there’s no reason to think Vinatieri won’t see several scoring opportunities.


Justin Tucker and Cairo Santos follow Vinatieri in the Week 7 kicker rankings.  Tucker is tied for second in terms of fantasy points for kickers, while Santos and Kansas City host New Orleans, the team that ranks last in the NFL in scoring defense (33.6 ppg). Santos hasn't been as solid this year as he has been in the past, but Sunday should give him plenty of chances for him to get on the field and put his leg to work.


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


Teams on bye: Carolina, Dallas





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

Fantasy Football 2016 Kicker Rankings: Week 7
Post date: Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2016-defense-special-teams-rankings-week-7

After losing to San Diego last Thursday night, the Denver Broncos are going to be home, which is enough reason in itself to like the chances of a fantasy-pleasing, bounce-back showing from their defense/special teams. On top of that, the opponent is none other than Houston and former Denver quarterback Brock Osweiler.


Last week, the Texans didn’t really get anything going offensively against Indianapolis until the fourth quarter, as the eventual overtime win momentarily took some heat off of Houston’s well-paid, yet still largely unproven, young quarterback. The Broncos have had a few extra days to rest, recover and prepare for the Texans, while Houston is dealing with a short turnaround. And despite his late-game success and the win last week, Osweiler still has as many interceptions as touchdown passes (eight each) and enters Week 7 ranked 29th in the NFL in passer rating (74.1). Whether you attribute it to having more time to prepare, being at home, the matchup or the extra juice attached to it, Denver is the top-ranked fantasy DST for Week 7.


Elsewhere, Minnesota is back from bye and the top-scoring fantasy DST checks in at No. 2 against Philadelphia and Carson Wentz, who is coming off of his worst game in the loss to Washington. Seattle is right behind the Vikings in a week where fantasy owners shouldn’t have much trouble finding a DST since Dallas and Carolina are the only teams on bye.


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


Teams on bye: Carolina, Dallas





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

Fantasy Football 2016 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 7
Post date: Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 08:30
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 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 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, 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, 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/10-college-football-picks-against-spread-week-8-odds-lines-2016

The Week 8 edition of college football’s picks against the spread features predictions for some of Saturday’s biggest games, including Alabama-Texas A&M, West Virginia-TCU, Wisconsin-Iowa and Arkansas-Auburn. Additionally, conference matchups such as Ole Miss-TCU, Texas-Kansas State, Louisville-NC State and Penn State-Ohio State feature lines or odds that caught our attention for Week 8. Here are 10 predictions or picks against the spread for this weekend's action:


10 CFB Picks Against the Spread for Week 8


Texas A&M (+18) over Alabama

Alabama is playing at an incredibly high level in all phases of the game, but 18 points just seems to be a bit high. Texas A&M will have to establish some semblance of a running game to give it a chance to win in Tuscaloosa.


Related: Predictions for Every College Football Game in Week 8


West Virginia (-6.5) over TCU

The last time we saw TCU was two weeks ago when Gary Patterson & Co. escaped Lawrence with an alarmingly close 24–23 win over Kansas. The Jayhawks rolled up 470 total yards against TCU one week after gaining 296 vs. a hapless Texas Tech defense and one week before totaling 217 in a 49–7 loss at Baylor.


Wisconsin (-3.5) over Iowa

With the possible exception of Louisville, no team has been more impressive in defeat this year than Wisconsin. The Badgers lost to both Michigan and Ohio State (in overtime) by seven points and have shown an incredible amount of toughness in both games.


Texas (+2.5) over Kansas State

Texas hasn’t been overly impressive this season, but the Longhorns can score some points. Kansas State ranks last in the Big 12 and isn’t well-equipped to take advantage of Texas’ main area of weakness (pass defense).


Louisville (-19) over NC State

Louisville only scored 24 points in its win over Duke last week, but the Cardinals’ offense was still productive. Limited to 61 total snaps, U of L averaged 7.7 yards per play, including 8.3 yards on its 35 rushing attempts.


Colorado (+2.5) over Stanford

The Cardinal rallied to beat Notre Dame last week, but this is still a team with plenty of issues on offense. Colorado is averaging 515.3 yards per game — 210.1 yards per game more than Stanford.


Arkansas (+9.5) over Auburn

There’s a lot to like about this Auburn team. Sean White has been surprisingly effective at quarterback. The Tigers are running the ball well. And the defense has surpassed expectations. That being said: This seems like too many points.


Penn State (+19.5) over Ohio State

Ohio State survived in overtime last week at Wisconsin and must now visit another hostile environment. The Buckeyes are the superior team, but Penn State has played better of late — and is well rested after enjoying a week off. 


Ole Miss (+6) at LSU

LSU has passed two tests under Coach O, beating Missouri and Southern Miss in Baton Rouge with ease. Ole Miss is far more talented than either of those teams.


Middle Tennessee (+6.5) over Missouri

Middle Tennessee’s Brent Stockstill will be the best quarterback Missouri has seen to date this season. (Georgia’s Jacob Eason will be a better pro, but right now Stockstill is the better college player). This won’t be easy for the Tigers.


Last week: 5-5

Season: 18–21–1

10 College Football Picks Against the Spread for Week 8 Odds Lines 2016
Post date: Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News, Magazines
Path: /college-basketball/purdue-boilermakers-2016-17-basketball-team-preview-and-prediction

From the end of March through May 23, Purdue coach Matt Painter must have felt like he was sitting on pins and needles. That’s because the Boilermakers’ leading returning scorers — junior forward Vince Edwards (11.3 ppg) and sophomore forward Caleb Swanigan (10.2 ppg) — declared for the NBA Draft without hiring agents.


On May 24, Edwards announced he would return for his junior season, and a day later, Swanigan also announced his decision to come back. Given that information, it’s a safe bet that Purdue will once again be one of the better teams in the Big Ten after finishing in a third-place tie a year ago with a 12–6 league record.


All Big Ten predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2016-17 Preview Magazine, available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere.


At a Glance


HEAD COACH: Matt Painter

2015-16 RECORD (BIG TEN): 26–9 (12–6)

2015-16 POSTSEASON: NCAA: Lost to Little Rock 85–83 (2OT) in the first round

2016-17 PREDICTION: Fourth in the Big Ten


G Rapheal Davis (8.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.3 apg)

C A.J. Hammons (15.0 ppg, 8.2 rpg)

G Johnny Hill (5.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.3 apg)

G Kendall Stephens (6.1 ppg, 1.3 rpg)




With Edwards and Swanigan coming back to join 7'2" junior center Isaac Haas (9.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg), Purdue will boast an experienced and imposing front line. Swanigan, a power forward, averaged 8.3 rebounds and became only the second freshman in school history to amass 300 points, 200 rebounds and 50 assists. Edwards, a small forward, led the team in 3-pointers with 46 and in assists with 100.


Haas is expected to step in for A.J. Hammons, who was selected in the second round of the NBA Draft by the Dallas Mavericks after being voted the 2016 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.


Purdue’s big and talented frontcourt will be bolstered by the return of 6'6" junior Basil Smotherman, who redshirted during the 2015-16 season after averaging 2.7 points and 1.8 rebounds as a sophomore and 5.0 points and 3.8 rebounds as a freshman. Smotherman can play either the small forward or power forward position.


Another player to watch is 6'10" sophomore Jacquil Taylor, who had a 12-point, 10-rebound performance in a 107–57 victory at Rutgers last season. Taylor will get time at center and power forward.


“With the return of Caleb and Vince to go along with Isaac Haas, we really should have one of the best front lines in the country,” Painter says. “I like our experience.”




If Purdue is to challenge for the Big Ten title, the backcourt will be the key. P.J. Thompson is the likely starter at point guard after averaging 5.7 points and 2.7 assists as a sophomore. He emerged as a threat from the perimeter last season, shooting 41.5 percent from 3 — up from 28.6 as a freshman.


Dakota Mathias and Ryan Cline will be the primary shooting guards. Mathias likely will be asked to replace ace perimeter defender Rapheal Davis, who was the Big Ten’s 2015 Defensive Player of the Year.


The Boilermakers made 268 3-pointers last season — second most in school history — and that figure should increase with the addition of freshman Carsen Edwards, a combo guard who averaged 25.3 points per game as a high school senior.


While Purdue lost 3-point specialist Kendall Stephens to a transfer to Nevada, Painter added former Michigan Wolverine Spike Albrecht as a graduate transfer. Albrecht underwent double-hip surgery before the 2015-16 season and left the team after eight games to rehab. During his time at Michigan, Albrecht shot 39.9 percent from 3-point range, and if he is healthy, he can not only add to Purdue’s perimeter scoring but also provide quality minutes at the point.


“Spike is trying to knock the rust off,” Painter says. “We have to make sure we listen to him and to our doctors and trainers. We have to be cautious with him and not let him overdo it. He says he feels great. He always has been a good team guy.”




Graduate transfer student Spike Albrecht is a point guard who played three seasons at Michigan and was team MVP for 2014-15. Freshman combo guard Carsen Edwards, from the Houston suburb of Humble, went 13-of-15 from 3-point range in one game last season in high school. Tommy Luce is a walk-on.


Final Analysis


Purdue has participated in the NCAA Tournament eight times in Painter’s 11 seasons but has not won an NCAA game since 2012. With Edwards and Swanigan returning, it would appear the Boilermakers are ready to take the next step.


The non-conference schedule is loaded, with games against Villanova, Louisville, Notre Dame, Arizona State and possibly Auburn and Texas Tech in November. In the Big Ten, Purdue will play Indiana and Michigan State twice each but plays Wisconsin only once — at Mackey Arena, where Painter’s team was 17–1 last season.


The Boilermakers shot 47 percent from the field last season — the program’s best since 1997-98 — and have an excellent chance to top that mark this season with a nice blend of interior and perimeter options.


“Everyone has to get better, but I like this team’s potential,” Painter says. “We are an experienced team, but we still are a relatively young team.”

Purdue Boilermakers 2016-17 Basketball Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News, Magazines
Path: /college-basketball/louisville-cardinals-2016-17-basketball-team-preview-and-prediction

Rick Pitino will need to work his Hall of Fame magic as Louisville must replace its three leading scorers, top rebounder and deal with the ongoing fallout from an NCAA investigation that resulted in the school imposing a postseason ban a year ago. The Cardinals expect to be eligible for the 2017 NCAA Tournament but cannot be certain until the school receives official word from the NCAA on the sex scandal that shook the program last fall.


Nevertheless, Pitino says he likes his returning pieces. He has also done more with less, but his primary challenges will be settling on a center, developing depth at point guard and finding multiple 3-point threats.


All ACC predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2016-17 Preview Magazine, available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere.


At a Glance


HEAD COACH: Rick Pitino

2015-16 RECORD (ACC): 23–8 (12–6)

2015-16 POSTSEASON: None

2016-17 PREDICTION: Fourth in the ACC


G Damion Lee (15.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.0 apg)

G Trey Lewis (11.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.3 apg)

C Chinanu Onuaku (9.9 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.0 bpg)




Pitino maintains that Louisville will be fine without center Chinanu Onuaku, who jumped to the NBA after his sophomore season. Not everybody is as certain, considering Onuaku was the team’s top rebounder (8.5 rpg), third-leading scorer (9.9 ppg) and best interior defender. His replacements come with questions. Senior Mangok Mathiang missed the end of 2016 as well as summer drills with a foot injury. Anas Mahmoud is 7'0" and 210 pounds; he hoped to bulk up to 225 pounds but actually lost some weight during the summer. Matz Stockman, another 7-footer, has a nice left-handed hook but has footwork issues. Look for Pitino to play the hot and healthy hand.


The Cardinals are considerably stronger at forward. Deng Adel, a sophomore, struggled with injuries last season, but Pitino says he believes Adel has the talent to become the Cardinals’ best player. Adel, 6'7", is a powerful slasher who must improve his 3-point shot after hitting only seven (in 20 attempts) last season.


Raymond Spalding, a sophomore, and Jaylen Johnson, a junior, provide options at power forward. Spalding is a better defender, with the quickness and wingspan to defend away from the basket. He averaged a modest 5.6 points per game last season but hit 56.0 percent from the field. Johnson is stronger and plays with more grit. He’s likely to become Louisville’s best low-post scorer, but he scored in double figures only one time against an ACC opponent last season.




The battle for playing time will be intense with Quentin Snider (junior), Donovan Mitchell (sophomore), Tony Hicks (grad transfer) and V.J. King (freshman) giving Pitino the option of a three-guard attack.


Snider, the top returning scorer at 9.4 points per game, will serve as a co-captain with Mathiang. He is the only returning player who made more than 18 3-pointers last season, but his job will be to initiate the offense and direct the Cardinals’ match-up zone defense. His finishing needs work. Snider made 40.4 percent of his 3-point attempts but only 40.1 of his 2-pointers.


As much as Pitino likes Adel, many believe Mitchell will develop into the Cardinals’ signature player. He’s a muscular high-flier who plays in the old Doctors of Dunk style. Defenders will continue to give Mitchell open perimeter shots until he can improve his 25.0 percent 3-point stroke.


King, a McDonald’s All-American, is Louisville’s most acclaimed recruit since Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear. He’s a mature swingman who figures to earn an opportunity at off guard as well as small forward.


Hicks is the X-factor. After leading Penn in scoring as a sophomore and junior, he did not play for the Quakers last season following the departure of coach Jerome Allen. Hicks is the latest graduate transfer to play for Pitino, who had success with both Damion Lee and Trey Lewis last season.




V.J. King is prolific in the open court but must refine his perimeter game. Tony Hicks, a grad transfer from Penn, ranked sixth in the Ivy League in scoring (13.2 ppg) in 2014-15 before sitting out last season after a coaching change. The Cards will look to him to provide some 3-point shooting.


Final Analysis


Louisville is eager to make a major splash. The Cardinals have the talent to deliver, but this team has some issues.


Snider is a poised and savvy leader who is comfortable sharing the basketball. Adel and Mitchell have the ability and confidence to make the jump from freshman role players to sophomore stars. Pitino needs Hicks, King and Adel to develop as 3-point shooting threats and for Mahmoud to increase his strength and intensity in the middle. Johnson has the upper-body strength and touch to develop into the most consistent low-post threat.


It’s a top-25 team with the potential to become a top-10 squad and legitimate contender in the ACC if all of that happens.

Louisville Cardinals 2016-17 Basketball Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 20, 2016 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/troy-trojans-vs-south-alabama-jaguars-preview-and-prediction-2016

Don’t look now, but a win over South Alabama this week will seal bowl eligibility for Troy. The Trojans, 3-0 in the Sun Belt Conference, grabbed the nation’s attention in Week 2 after taking Clemson the distance in a 30-24 loss and has since rattled off three consecutive wins with their most recent coming against Georgia State last week.


Like Troy, South Alabama grabbed college football fans’ attention in the first week of the season after beating Mississippi State in Starkville, but head coach Joey Jones' team hasn't been able to capitalize on that signature win. The Jaguars moved to 3-3 on the season after their 17-7 loss to Arkansas State last week. Prior to the loss, South Alabama had won back-to-back games in which it scored 83 points. Winless in Sun Belt play, the Jaguars look to nab their first conference victory Thursday in Mobile.


This is the fifth all-time meeting between these two teams. It’s split at two wins apiece with South Alabama beating Troy 24-18 last season.


Troy at South Alabama


Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPNU

Spread: South Alabama +8


Three Things to Watch


1. Troy’s no-fly zone
When it comes to defending the pass, there’s no better group of defensive backs in the country than Troy’s. On the season, the Trojans have tallied 14 interceptions, the most of any team in the FBS. Troy also ranks in the top 25 nationally in passes defended with 28. Against Clemson’s Heisman Trophy hopeful quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Trojans limited him to 27-of-53 passing and a RAW QB rating of 36.5, the lowest of his career.


2. Have ball, will score
Troy’s offense this season, for the most part, has been able to impose its will on opponents. The Trojans have broken the half-century mark in points on two occasions (57 vs. Austin Peay, 52 vs. New Mexico State) and are averaging a Sun Belt-best 39.2 points per game. That’s also good enough for 21st in the FBS.


Running back Jordan Chunn can beat you with his legs, quarterback Brandon Silvers has established himself as one of the conference’s top-tier passers and the Trojans’ defense also has contributed to the scoring. If that’s not enough, special teams play under head coach Neal Brown has improved greatly. Troy scored on a blocked punt and a kickoff return in its 52-6 dominating win over New Mexico State on Sept. 24.


3. South Alabama's Randy Allen
Allen, a junior college transfer from the College of San Mateo (Calif.), has been a bright spot at defensive end and linebacker for the Jaguars. He played sparingly last season and tallied just three tackles, but he’s poised for a breakout year after his strong a first half.


Against FCS member Nicholls, Allen had a monster performance with six tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles. On the year, the Sacramento native has 36 total tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, six quarterback hurries, and three forced fumbles. He leads the Sun Belt and is among the top five nationally in tackles for a loss, sacks and forced fumbles. Not bad for a first impression.


Final Analysis


Troy and its unblemished league record enter Thursday night’s game in the driver’s seat in the Sun Belt conference. South Alabama began its season with much optimism after its road win against Mississippi State, but has since struggled with consistency.


Both teams consider the other a strong conference rival, and with rivalry games, anything can happen. The early week road contest sets up nicely for a South Alabama upset, but Troy should eventually pull away in what should be an entertaining and fairly competitive matchup.


Prediction: Troy 35, South Alabama 17


— 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.


(Top photo courtesy of Troy Athletics)

Troy Trojans vs. South Alabama Jaguars Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, October 19, 2016 - 16:00
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-state-cowboys-vs-kansas-jayhawks-preview-and-prediction-2016

The Oklahoma State Cowboys travel to Lawrence Saturday to square off with Big 12 foe Kansas in what is expected to be a tune-up ahead of next week’s showdown with presently undefeated West Virginia.


Fresh off a bye week, the Cowboys are 4-2 overall and 2-1 in Big 12 play. Oklahoma State picked up some much-needed momentum with back-to-back victories over Texas and Iowa State, but must improve defensively in order to contend for the conference crown. Five straight opponents have scored 30 or more points against the Cowboys.


The Jayhawks have lost five consecutive games, 12 straight in conference play, and 20 of their last 21 overall, but Oklahoma State would be unwise to overlook a Kansas squad that pushed TCU to the limit two weeks ago.


Oklahoma State at Kansas


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 22 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FS1

Spread: Oklahoma State -24


Three Things to Watch


1. The Quarterbacks
Overlooked in the Big 12 by big names like Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes, Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph is in the midst of a terrific season for the Cowboys. Rudolph has completed 61.9 percent of his passes this for 2,039 yards with 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He set a school record with 540 passing yards against Pitt earlier this season, and posted a combined 743 yards and seven touchdowns without an interception in back-to-back Big 12 victories over Texas and Iowa State.


Highlighted by big-play receiver James Washington, Rudolph also has plenty of weapons to work with on offense. Washington ranks among the top 10 in the nation with 731 receiving yards and 121.8 receiving yards per game. He averages an explosive 20.3 yards per catch and has scored six touchdowns.


Kansas has been far less consistent at the quarterback position. Junior captain Montell Cozart threw for 581 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions over the first four games of the season, but was replaced two weeks ago as the starter and hasn’t played since. Ryan Willis, who was impressive in relief duty through the first four games, led the Jayhawks against TCU and tallied 348 passing yards and a touchdown run, but also threw three interceptions. Willis tossed three more interceptions against Baylor, including a pick six. The sophomore has completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 811 yards with three touchdowns and seven interceptions. He is expected to make his third consecutive start on Saturday


2. The Line of Scrimmage
The Oklahoma State offense has been explosive in 2015, but if there’s one area the unit can improve, it’s in pass protection. The Cowboys have surrendered 18 sacks in six games this season, which is the second most in the Big 12 and ranks No. 101 in the nation. And Oklahoma State will be tested at the line of scrimmage Saturday.


Led by defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr., Kansas ranks fourth in the Big 12 with 15 sacks. Armstrong has six of those and has gotten to the quarterback at least once in four straight games. Cameron Rosser has four sacks, including three in the near upset against TCU. The aggressive Jayhawks also rank second in the Big 12 and rank among the top 10 nationally with an average of 8.5 tackles for a loss per game. Prior to the last week’s blowout loss at Baylor, Kansas had recorded nine or more TFLs in four consecutive games.


Similarly, the Oklahoma State pass rush matches up well with the Kansas offensive line. The Cowboys have recorded 18 sacks thus far, including seven a week ago against Iowa State. The Jayhawks have surrendered 17 sacks this year, 14 of which have come in their last three games.


3. Turnovers
No team in the nation has turned the ball over more than Kansas. The Jayhawks had five turnovers alone in last week’s loss to Baylor and four against TCU, which pushed the team’s total to 22 on the season. Overall, Kansas has thrown 12 interceptions (only Bowling Green has more among FBS teams), and has lost 10 fumbles (only Virginia Tech has more). It’s not surprising that the Jayhawks also rank next to last in the country in turnover margin (minus-11).


On the other hand, Oklahoma State ranks second in the Big 12 and No. 28 nationally with 13 takeaways. The Cowboys have forced six interceptions, recovered seven fumbles and have scored two touchdowns. The Oklahoma State offense has had its issues holding on to the football – six lost fumbles rank No. 96 nationally – but the Cowboys have only thrown two interceptions in 191 pass attempts, giving the squad a plus-5 turnover margin that ranks third in the conference and among the top 25 teams in the country.


Final Analysis


On paper, this game shouldn’t be close, which is a big reason why Oklahoma State is more than a three-touchdown favorite on the road. Kansas has struggled to hold on to the football, and to score. The Jayhawks have averaged just 15.4 points per game against FBS competition, and have surrendered 41.4 points on average during their five-game losing streak.


However, Kansas has played its best two games of the season at home and opponents have scored just 22.3 points per game in Lawrence this year. Also, an 11 a.m. kickoff local time could help the Jayhawks – especially if Oklahoma State comes in a little rusty following last week’s bye. Expect a lazy first half, but for the Cowboys’ offensive firepower to help them to pull away late.


Prediction: Oklahoma State 35, Kansas 14


— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasIAllen.

Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. Kansas Jayhawks Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, October 19, 2016 - 15:45
Path: /college-football/syracuse-orange-vs-boston-college-eagles-preview-and-prediction-2016

Syracuse and Boston College are coming off two games that couldn't be further apart on the spectrum of program momentum.


Last weekend, the Orange beat a ranked Virginia Tech team, 31-17, to improve to 3-4 and give new head coach Dino Babers his first ACC win at Syracuse. The Hokies were riding high from a blowout win over reigning Coastal Division champion North Carolina and left the Carrier Dome with a shocking loss.


To say the very least, the victory confirmed that Babers is making progress in his rebuilding effort. Even though the Orange aren't likely to be favored much down the stretch, there is some hope that he can eventually bring about the same type of turnaround he did in previous stops at Eastern Illinois (FCS program) and Bowling Green (from the MAC).


What is happening in Chestnut Hill at the moment can only be described as the exact opposite. Before last weekend's bye, the Eagles were embarrassed by Clemson at Alumni Stadium, 56-10, to drop their record to 3-3. Boston College still has not won an ACC game since 2014, and while many of those previous losses were at least competitive, its three defeats in league play this season have been by a combined 122-24.


In his fourth year with the Eagles, head coach Steve Addazio's seat has never been hotter. The only thing that could cool it a little is an ACC win. Even though his team comes into this game favored, not many are expecting the Eagles to come out on top.


The silver lining? The last team Boston College did beat in ACC play was Syracuse, 28-7, two years ago. The Eagles need a similar performance to stop the bleeding.


Syracuse at Boston College


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 22 at 12:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ACC Network

Spread: Boston College -5.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Diversified options
For the better part of the season, Syracuse wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo has been the main threat for quarterback Eric Dungey. However, over the last two games, that has not been the case. While no one really got going in the loss to Wake Forest two weeks ago, the Orange spread the ball around well in the win over the Hokies, as Ervin Phillips and Brisly Estime combined for 19 receptions for 270 yards and two touchdowns. For Etta-Tawo to rack up just 54 yards and the Orange to still score 31 points against an opponent of Virgnia Tech's caliber says quite a bit about how far Babers' offense has come through the season's halfway point.


2. Turning a corner?
The statistics are a bit deceiving because of who the Orange have played, but any way you cut it, their defense has been awful for the greater part of this season. In terms of total yardage, the Orange are ranked 113th in the nation. But even though Syracuse didn't completely shut down the Hokies, the 17 points allowed counts as progress, as it marked the lowest total since the 33-7 season-opening win over FCS Colgate. Going against an offensively-challenged Boston College team, this could be a chance for the Syracuse defense, led by middle linebacker Zaire Franklin, to build off that performance.


3. Back to basics
The reverse is true for Boston College when it comes to how the defense looks statistically compared to how it's actually performing. The Eagles are ranked fourth in the nation in yards allowed, but the games against UMass, Buffalo and Wagner – two of the worst FBS teams in the country and an FCS team, respectively – tilt those numbers. The Eagles returned quality personnel from last year's unit, but the loss of defensive coordinator Don Brown to Michigan over the offseason has made a difference against the better offenses on the schedule. If the Eagles want to break their ACC hex, a solid defensive effort against Syracuse's high-flying, up-tempo attack would be a great place to start.


Final Analysis


Maybe Vegas knows something the rest of us don't, but all signs point to the Orange trending up as the Eagles continue to spiral downward. This could be a bit of a hangover for Syracuse after last week's big win while Boston College has the benefit of a bye week. However, Orange head coach Dino Babers' offense has rounded nicely into form and the defense finally made enough stops last week to resemble a competent unit against quality competition. The Eagles don't quite have much to hang their hat on at the moment and need to find something fast or a second straight year of no ACC wins is a distinct possibility.


Prediction: Syracuse 30, Boston College 17


— Written by Adam Kurkjian, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a reporter for the Boston Herald. He has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Marathon and Little League World Series, among other events from the high school, college and pro ranks. Follow him on Twitter @AdamKurkjian.

Syracuse Orange vs. Boston College Eagles Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, October 19, 2016 - 15:30
Path: /college-football/indiana-hoosiers-vs-northwestern-wildcats-preview-and-prediction-2016

After an awkward start to the 2016 campaign, which featured consecutive, close losses to Western Michigan out of the MAC and FCS member Illinois State, Pat Fitzgerald’s Northwestern Wildcats have found their groove — especially on offense. The Wildcats have won three of their last four and put up 92 points combined in back-to-back road wins against Iowa and Michigan State.


The Indiana Hoosiers are two possessions away from having a 5-1 record. But that is the difference between decent and good teams; good teams find a way to finish games — something the Hoosiers have struggled to do under head coach Kevin Wilson. As it stands now, the Hoosiers are 3-3 with a goal of making back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time since 1990-91. With games against Maryland, Rutgers and Purdue still to come, a victory over the Wildcats in Evanston could give the Hoosiers a shot at their first seven-win season since 2007.


Indiana at Northwestern


Kickoff: Sat., Oct. 22 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Big Ten Network

Spread: Northwestern -1.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Justin Jackson Running Wild
Neither team is very impressive when it comes to running the football. The Hoosiers (148.5) and Wildcats rank (139.8 11th and 12th, respectively, in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game. But each team has a game-breaker in their backfields. Indiana’s Devine Redding is sixth in the conference in rushing (548 yards, TD) and averages almost 100 yards per game. But the Wildcats’ Justin Jackson leads the way in the B1G with 698 yards and 116.3 yards per game, to go along with six rushing touchdowns. Jackson has broken out the last two weeks against Iowa and Michigan State, rushing for a total of 359 yards and three touchdowns on 60 carries. Although Indiana has improved defensively, Jackson still faces a Hoosier defense that gave up nearly 300 yards on the ground to Ohio State, and is allowing 166 rushing yards per game on the season.


2. Where is Indiana’s Offense?
When Kevin Wilson signed on to be the head man for the Hoosiers in 2011 he brought his high-flying, high-scoring offense from Oklahoma with him. Wilson’s offense-first m.o. has sent several Indiana running backs and wide receivers (Jordan Howard, Tevin Coleman, Cody Latimer) to the NFL while the Hoosiers’ defense remained at the bottom of the Big Ten barrel.


This season the roles have reversed — for the most part. People aren’t going to mistake Indiana’s defense for Michigan’s anytime soon, but the Hoosiers have — dare, I say — become reliable on defense in 2016. In Wilson’s first five seasons, the Hoosiers ranked dead last in the conference in total defense four times. This season, Indiana is still in the bottom half of the conference, but is giving up 10 fewer points per game than it has in any season since Wilson’s arrival. It’s the offense that has struggled to find its flow, averaging just 25.8 points per game, which is 11 points fewer than what this unit did in 2015 (36.5 ppg).


If the Hoosiers hope to leave Evanston with a win, quarterback Richard Lagow (1,656 yards, 12 TD, 9 INT) and the Hoosiers’ offense — especially on third downs (36.6 percent, 11th in Big Ten) — must be more efficient.


3. Second-Half Turning Point
Its not unfair to say that Wilson is trying to move his Indiana football program to where Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern football already are — into the realm of consistency. Since Fitzgerald arrived in Evanston in 2006, the Wildcats have been to six bowl games, been bowl eligible seven times, and have posted two 10-win seasons. A victory Saturday afternoon against Indiana would set up Northwestern nicely for its second straight bowl appearance. The Wildcats finish the regular season with three winnable games against Purdue, Minnesota and Illinois, but those come after making the trip to Columbus to play Ohio State and hosting Wisconsin these next two Saturdays.


The Hoosiers would love to find the consistency on the field that the Wildcats have developed under Fitzgerald. The Indiana athletic department has committed itself to the long-term success of the football program, namely in the form of a $124 million capital raising campaign whose primary goal is to enclose the south end zone of Memorial Stadium — giving The Rock a better Big Ten football atmosphere. But the best way to gain interest in the Hoosier football program is to win games during the season and go to bowl games in December. The Hoosiers have only appeared in two bowl games in the last 23 seasons, losing both. A win on Saturday puts the Hoosiers in the driver’s seat to appear in back-to-back bowl games for the first time in a generation, slowly moving the program in the right direction.


Final Analysis


While running back Justin Jackson and quarterback Clayton Thorson are garnering the attention for Northwestern’s offensive resurgence, it’s truly the Wildcats’’ offensive line that is largely responsible for this success. In the first four weeks of the season Thorson was sacked 15 times. Since then he has been taken down behind the line of scrimmage just twice. Although Indiana’s defense has improved, the Hoosiers come into this game ranked second to last in the Big Ten in sacks. Indiana’s defense must find way to get to Thorson and stop Jackson before he runs all over the Ryan Field turf on Saturday afternoon.


Prediction: Northwestern 27, Indiana 24


— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.

Indiana Hoosiers vs. Northwestern Wildcats Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, October 19, 2016 - 15:15