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Path: /georgia-southern-eagles-vs-georgia-bulldogs-preview-and-prediction-2015

After a huge win against rival Auburn last week, the Bulldogs come back home to Athens and will end the season without leaving the state of Georgia. The Bulldogs can still get to 10 wins this season but will need to finish strong if they are to do so. 

In just their second year as an FBS program, the Eagles are bowl eligible (although winning the Sun Belt Conference last year should have been enough but you know, the NCAA and their rules.) The Eagles would almost need a miracle to win the Sun Belt again with Arkansas State being undefeated and Appalachian State having a head-to-head win over Georgia Southern. The Eagles can still finish strong and end up in a nice bowl even with a loss to Georgia.


College Football Podcast: Week 12 Preview

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Georgia Southern vs. Georgia

Kickoff: 7 p.m. (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: -14.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Georgia’s defense
For the next two weeks Georgia will see similar offenses as Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech both love to run the ball. Georgia’s defense is only allowing 139.6 rushing yards per game while the Georgia Southern offense leads the nation in rushing yards at 379 yards per game. Something has to give. This should also be a nice tune up before Georgia takes on Georgia Tech next week. 


2. Keith Marshall
Mark Richt announced on Tuesday that Keith Marshall will not return to Athens. Instead Marshall will try his luck in the NFL Draft. Marshall has suffered multiple injuries while at Georgia but has showed promise at times. In 2015, he only has 255 yards on 49 rushes and three touchdowns. Marshall also missed the Auburn game with an ankle injury but will have a chance to finish out his career and improve his draft grade in the last three games for the Bulldogs. Richt also said Marshall will participate in Senior Day with the rest of the seniors on Saturday.


3. Willie Fritz
If you don’t know this name, you should. Fritz is the head coach at Georgia Southern and his name continues to come up in conversations concerning open positions throughout college football. Fritz has been successful at multiple stops including winning the SunBelt last year in the Eagles' first year as an FBS school. A win over a big time program like Georgia would certainly get his phone ringing even more. 

Final Analysis

Georgia Southern and Georgia will meet for just the sixth time on Saturday. In no previous meeting has Georgia ever really been in any danger of losing the game and this year should be no exception. The Bulldogs just have more talent and it’s usually very visible. Even though the Bulldogs have struggled scoring this year, the talent alone should be enough to prevent any huge upset. Don’t put it past the Eagles to fight hard but Georgia should pull away in the fourth quarter. 

Prediction: Georgia 38, Georgia Southern 14


— Written by Justin Nails, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @justinnails.

Georgia Southern Eagles vs. Georgia Bulldogs Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 20, 2015 - 09:10
Path: /college-football/louisville-cardinals-vs-pittsburgh-panthers-preview-and-prediction-2015

Offense vs. defense. The classic match-up. And even if Louisville is the 64th-ranked offense and Pittsburgh is the 25th-ranked defense (which isn't bad) in the country, that's not important.


For when the Cardinals play the Panthers Saturday, the billing for the football game is more about the coaches than the players.


Bobby Petrino is controversial, condescending and, if you're an Atlanta Falcons fan, cowardly. This season he continued to drive the masses up a wall by refusing to name a starting quarterback before kickoff of Louisville's opener against Auburn and the Cardinals lost their first three games.


But ask rival coaches and they'll say he is likely the toughest offensive mastermind in college football to prepare for, which helps explain why Louisville has won six of its last seven games and has scored 41 and 38 points in its last two games.


Meanwhile at Pitt, in his first season as head coach Pat Narduzzi has continued the mastery of defense he displayed as Michigan State's defensive coordinator despite not having any true stars. Yes, the Panthers are not limiting opponents to 100 total yards any more, and against Notre Dame Narduzzi made the dreadful decision to cover wide receiver Will Fuller man-on-man, but  they also held Duke to their lowest point total in four weeks in a 31-13 victory last week


The game is a must-win for Pitt (7-3), in that it can still win the ACC Coastal Division with a victory against the Cardinals (6-4) and then in its season finale against Miami if North Carolina loses its final two games at Virginia Tech and NC State.


Unlikely, but not impossible.


But ultimately both teams need a victory to go to a higher profile bowl.


College Football Podcast: Week 12 Preview

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Louisville at Pittsburgh 


Kickoff: 3:45 p.m. ET (Saturday)


Spread: Pitt -2


Three Things To Watch


1. Is Pitt's defense really back?

One can't discount the fact Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk was not playing last week. The Blue Devils only rushed the ball with their running backs 10 times, and backup Parker Broehme was less than accurate against the Panthers.


Louisville is also starting something of a backup quarterback. Kyle Bolin is the third different starter for Petrino but took over as the starter after Lamar Jackson's ankle injury three games ago. Bolin has since thrown for 362 yards against Syracuse and guided the offense to five touchdowns last week.


The key, therefore, to stopping Louisville this week will be to provide a pass rush. Pitt is one of the most prolific teams in the ACC in collecting sacks; Louisville gives them up at an even higher rate.


2. How secure is Bolin behind center, really?

Despite the point total, Bolin completed less than half of his 21 passes and had only 139 yards last week. The Cardinals beat Virginia 38-31 thanks to running back Brandon Radcliff's 146 yards and two touchdowns and former quarterback Reggie Bonnafon's halfback option touchdown pass.


This shows just how dangerous Louisville can be. While Pitt is most comfortable running behind Qadree Ollison, the Cardinals have and will find multiple ways to score.


So if Bolin continues to struggle against the Panthers, Jackson could easily return behind center.


Of course, both quarterbacks are somewhat prone to interceptions...


3. The best player on the field is likely Pitt receiver Tyler Boyd. How will he be used?

Boyd has caught nearly three times the amount of passes the next most prolific Panthers' receiver, Dontez Ford, has. Yet his yards per catch average is half that of Ford's.


Granted, it's likely the more catches a receiver has, the more he will catch shorter passes that will bring down his average. Yet one wonders if Boyd barely averaging 10 yards a catch is due to short routes or double teaming.


As such, Narduzzi has found all sorts of ways to get Boyd the ball, including rushing and returning. Last week against Duke, Boyd had eight carries against only three catches.


The dirty little secret is that while Pitt's defense has received more ink than Louisville's, the Cardinals are actually ranked higher (14th), primarily because of their ability to stop the run with ACC defensive linemen of the week Devonte Fields.


But there's a big difference between thwarting the fullback dive and being able to guard against a reverse with a receiver that has a run-pass option. Boyd's performance will likely determine the outcome of the game.


Final analysis


A lot to like on both teams. And a lot to be worried about as well. What isn't deniable is Louisville has been hotter lately.


Prediction: Louisville 24, Pitt 21


— Written by Marky Billson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. An experienced beat reporter and sports writer, Billson began contributing to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2000. He has covered the Steelers, Pitt Panthers, MLB and more during his career. Follow him on Twitter @MarkyBillson.

Louisville Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Panthers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 20, 2015 - 09:05
Path: /college-football/baylor-bears-vs-oklahoma-state-cowboys-preview-and-prediction-2015

Oklahoma State is inching closer to the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings, but two huge tests remain for coach Mike Gundy’s team, with the first coming on Saturday night with a matchup against Baylor. The Bears suffered their first loss of the season last week, losing to Oklahoma 44-34 in Waco. While Baylor needs a lot of things to go its way in order to make the playoff, coach Art Briles’ team isn’t necessarily out of the picture after dropping to No. 10 in Tuesday’s rankings release.


After surviving a scare in Ames against Iowa State, Oklahoma State moved into the No. 6 spot and is the highest ranked Big 12 team in the playoff rankings. The Cowboys have made a habit out of winning close games this year, needing last-minute escapes against Texas, Kansas State and West Virginia. Additionally, Oklahoma State rallied from a 24-7 deficit in the first half against Texas Tech to win 70-53. While the late-game magic has been a running storyline, it’s also important to note the Cowboys easily handled TCU (49-29) two weeks ago.


Baylor entered the season as a co-favorite with TCU to win the Big 12 title. The Bears were on track to meet preseason expectations before last week’s loss to Oklahoma. Quarterback Seth Russell was lost for the season due to a neck injury suffered against Iowa State. True freshman Jarrett Stidham played well against Kansas State but was limited by a back injury against Oklahoma. Russell’s injury was a setback for the Bears in the Big 12 title picture. However, there’s time to make up ground, as matchups against Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas – combined with chaos in other leagues – leave enough margin for Baylor to remain a factor for the playoffs.  


Related: Predictions for Every Week 12 Game


Oklahoma State holds a 19-14 series edge over Baylor. The Cowboys have not lost to Baylor in Stillwater since 1939 and hold a 12-4 advantage in home matchups against the Bears.


Baylor at Oklahoma State


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Oklahoma State -1


Three Things to Watch


1. Can Baylor’s Offense Get Back on Track?

While Baylor’s 34 points last week are hardly anything to be concerned about, there were some concerning totals for Briles. The Bears averaged 5.9 yards per play, threw for 257 yards and rushed for 159 – all the second-lowest totals of the season for this offense. A deeper look at the rushing totals shows Baylor has averaged less than four yards per carry in back-to-back games. Getting the offense back on track is priority No. 1 for Briles this week. However, Oklahoma State’s defense is one of the best in the Big 12. The Cowboys rank second in scoring defense (24.5 ppg), are holding opponents to 5.2 yards per play, have generated 35 sacks and lead the conference with 24 takeaways. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham suffered a back injury against Oklahoma and played at less than full strength. Stidham is not expected to be sidelined on Saturday night, and the coaching staff hopes the true freshman rebounds from a sluggish performance against a good Sooner defense (16 of 27 for 257 yards and two interceptions). Additionally, receiver Corey Coleman was quiet (three catches for 51 yards). Oklahoma State’s defense is going to bend and give up some yards. However, the Cowboys put the clamps on opponents in the red zone and on third downs. Will Baylor connect on a few big plays and turn those into touchdowns? Or will Oklahoma State’s defense trade yards for giving up three points or a turnover? That’s the key battle to watch on Saturday night.


Related: Post-Week 11 Bowl Projections


2. Turnover Margin

Luck and good fortune are two driving forces behind turnover margin and takeaways. While defenses can gameplan and put players in the best position to succeed, it’s impossible to predict turnovers. Simply, you need some good luck to generate turnovers and catch all of the right bounces each week. So far this year, Oklahoma State and Baylor rank as the top two teams in the Big 12 in turnover margin. The Cowboys are +12 and the Bears are plus-nine. The Cowboys have forced 24 takeaways, while the Bears have 22. In Oklahoma State’s victory over TCU, coordinator Glenn Spencer’s defense generated four turnovers. And to further illustrate why turnover margin is important, Baylor was minus-two in last week’s loss. With the ability of both offenses and the timely defenses, one or two mistakes could shift this game. Whichever team comes out on top in turnover margin is likely to end up with the victory.


3. Oklahoma State’s Two-Quarterback System

If you have two quarterbacks, you really don’t have a quarterback. That’s the general cliché about quarterbacks and offenses. While there is some truth to that statement, using a two-quarterback system actually works for some teams. Oklahoma State’s offense has thrived under the tandem of Mason Rudolph and J.W. Walsh, averaging 43.6 points per game this season. Rudolph is the better passer (316.1 ypg), while Walsh is the better runner (20 overall TDs). Walsh’s rushing ability is critical for an offense struggling to establish a traditional ground attack (3.8 ypc), and the senior is expected to play a key role on Saturday, as Baylor has struggled to stop the run (181.3 ypg in conference matchups) and is not expected to have defensive tackles Beau Blackshear and Byron Bonds due to injuries. When the Cowboys throw, big-play threat James Washington (20.5 ypc) and David Glidden (45 catches) are the top options. Baylor’s defense held Oklahoma to 5.87 yards per play last week. That’s not bad. Can the Bears do it again – with injuries hitting the defensive line and secondary hard – versus an offense that has scored at least 49 points in three out of the last four games?


Final Analysis


Another shootout in the Big 12. Even though quarterback Jarrett Stidham might be less than 100 percent, Baylor’s offense should get back on track this week. Expect receiver Corey Coleman to see a few more deep shots in his direction, while running back Shock Linwood will be a tough matchup for Oklahoma State’s rush defense. While the Bears are going to get their share of points, the Cowboys once again find a way to win a close game. Baylor’s injuries on defense and a quarterback at less than full strength could be the difference in a tight game. The lead changes hands a few times in the second half, but Oklahoma State finds a way to win another close game, improving to 11-0 and setting up a huge showdown against Oklahoma next Saturday.


Prediction: Oklahoma State 41, Baylor 38
Baylor Bears vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys Preview and Prediction 2015
Post date: Friday, November 20, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/michigan-state-spartans-vs-ohio-state-buckeyes-preview-and-prediction-2015

Big Ten supremacy and a spot in the College Football Playoff could be on the line Saturday in Columbus, as Ohio State hosts Michigan State in one of the biggest remaining matchups of the 2015 season. The Buckeyes ranked No. 3 in the latest committee rankings, with the Spartans at No. 9. Saturday afternoon’s contest won’t necessarily decide the Big Ten East champ – Michigan will have a chance to stake its claim after a matchup against Ohio State next week – but this game will have major ramifications in the national landscape.


Ohio State has its share of imperfections, but the Buckeyes are 10-0 and poised to make another late-season run at the national championship. The upcoming schedule isn’t kind to coach Urban Meyer’s team. According to the playoff committee, Ohio State does not have a win over a team currently ranked in the top 25. However, the Buckeyes have arguably the toughest three-game stretch to close the regular season. After Saturday’s game against Michigan State, Ohio State plays at Michigan on Nov. 28. Assuming the Buckeyes beat the Spartans and Wolverines, they will face Iowa (No. 5 in this week’s rankings) in the Big Ten Championship.


Just like Ohio State, Michigan State has showed flaws through the first 10 games but also had the misfortune of questionable officiating in a 39-38 loss at Nebraska on Nov. 7. Despite the defeat to the Cornhuskers, the Spartans are still alive for a playoff spot. If Michigan State wins out, it’s safe to assume coach Mark Dantonio’s team will be one of the four remaining teams battling for the national championship in late December.


Related: Predictions for Every Week 12 Game


Ohio State leads the all-time series 29-14 over Michigan State. The Buckeyes have won nine out of the last 11 matchups in this series. The Spartans won the 2013 Big Ten Championship and claimed a 10-7 victory in Columbus in 2011.


Michigan State at Ohio State


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 21 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Ohio State -13.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Michigan State’s Defensive Line Versus Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott

It’s a battle of strength versus strength in the trenches on Saturday afternoon. Michigan State owns one of the nation’s best defensive lines, headlined by standout end Shilique Calhoun (11 TFL, 8.5 sacks), and there's depth and talent on the interior with rising star Malik McDowell (10.5 TFL) and Joel Heath. The front seven is also anchored by a solid group of linebackers, including Riley Bullough (79 stops) and Darien Harris (65 tackles). In Big Ten-only matchups this season, the Spartans are limiting opponents to 122.5 rushing yards per game and only one opponent over the last four matchups has managed to eclipse more than 110 yards. Those totals will be put to the test this week. Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott is quietly building an impressive Heisman resume and enters this matchup with 15 consecutive games of 100 rushing yards or more. In last year’s game, Elliott rushed for 154 yards and two scores on 23 attempts. This defense also has to contend with quarterback J.T. Barrett’s mobility. Ohio State’s passing attack is working to find its rhythm under Barrett, and this offense thrives off establishing the ground attack. If Michigan State can force Barrett into third-and-long situations and keep him in the pocket, that’s a win for Mark Dantonio’s defense. 


2. Michigan State QB Connor Cook

Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook suffered a shoulder injury in last week’s win over Maryland and finished with just 77 yards on six completions. Just how healthy is Cook? While Dantonio won’t discuss injuries, Cook is not expected to miss any snaps on Saturday. But is the senior quarterback at full strength? That’s the million dollar question surrounding this matchup. When healthy, Cook is one of the nation’s best quarterbacks. Through 10 games, the senior has passed for 2,482 yards and 21 scores and tossed only four picks. Michigan State has a standout supporting cast, but the offensive line – largely due to injuries – hasn’t lived up to preseason expectations. One area the Spartans have to find answers to before Saturday is with the rushing attack. Michigan State is averaging only 3.9 yards per carry. That’s a huge concern against an Ohio State defensive line giving up only 3.6 yards per rush and has generated 30 sacks in 2015. Cook can put this team on his back and keep the Spartans in the mix for the win. However, he also needs a lot of help from his supporting cast.


Related: Post-Week 11 Bowl Projections


3. Ohio State’s Passing Game

Looking for a spark on offense, Ohio State made the switch from Cardale Jones to J.T. Barrett under center prior to the Oct. 24 game against Rutgers. In his first start of the season, Barrett helped the Buckeyes tie their highest point total of the season (49) and averaged a healthy 7.5 yards per play mark. Barrett was suspended due to an off-field incident for the Nov. 7 game against Minnesota but returned to the lineup against Illinois and completed 15 of 23 passes for 150 yards and one score and rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown on 16 attempts. While Ohio State’s offense wasn’t bad with Jones at the controls, Barrett is more dynamic and his mobility is a huge asset. The sophomore has connected on three passes of 30 yards or more this season. In 10 games (with seven starts), Jones only has 11 completions of 30 or more yards. If Ohio State was looking for a week to turn in a breakout performance for its passing attack, Saturday afternoon against Michigan State’s secondary has plenty of potential. The Spartans “No Fly Zone” has been more vulnerable than in recent years, surrendering 14 touchdown tosses and 17 passing plays of 30 yards or more. Receivers Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall and Braxton Miller each average just over 14 yards per catch. This could be the week Barrett and his receivers turn in a breakout performance.


Final Analysis


Ohio State entered 2015 as the favorite to repeat, but the Buckeyes are still working to put all of the pieces together for a run at another playoff title. Saturday’s game against Michigan State is the biggest test so far on Ohio State’s schedule and the start of the most critical stretch for this team in 2015. How will the Buckeyes respond? The guess here is the switch is flipped on this weekend and Ohio State shows why it was the favorite to win the national title this preseason. Michigan State’s defensive front presents some challenges, but Barrett’s mobility and ability to make plays on the run is a huge asset against an aggressive front seven. The Spartans need Connor Cook to be at full strength to have a shot at the upset, and the rushing attack has to perform better than it has over the last four games (3.2 yards per carry). Michigan State battles and keeps it close into the fourth quarter, but Ohio State just has too much on both sides of the ball and has its eyes set on moving one step closer to the Big Ten title. 


Prediction: Ohio State 34, Michigan State 24
Michigan State Spartans vs. Ohio State Buckeyes Preview and Prediction 2015
Post date: Friday, November 20, 2015 - 08:55
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Path: /college-football/college-footballs-10-most-underappreciated-head-coaches-2015

With the 2015 season reaching its final stretch, all 128 teams, players and coaches are making their last push to reach preseason goals, play in a bowl or avoid the hot seat going into the offseason. And this is also the portion of the season where the award scene starts to clear and the candidates for some of college football’s top hardware begins to emerge.


With 128 head coaches at the FBS level, it’s not easy for every one of them to get the proper attention or appreciation they deserve for their coaching job during the 2015 season. Entering Week 13, it’s fair to say most of the attention for coach of the year honors is with Florida’s Jim McElwain, Houston’s Tom Herman, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly or Clemson’s Dabo Swinney. But what about the coaches doing an under-the-radar job this season? With that question in mind, Athlon Sports examines 10 coaches – plus one wildcard name – that deserve more attention for the job they have done in 2015.


10 Underappreciated Coaching Jobs in 2015


Bret Bielema, Arkansas

The Razorbacks won four out of their last six games last season and finished 2014 as one of the hottest teams in the nation. The momentum for Bielema slowed with a 2-4 record through the first six games of 2015, but the third-year coach has Arkansas positioned once again as one of the teams no one wants to play at the end of the year. The Razorbacks have won four in a row, including a dominant 31-14 victory at LSU on Nov. 14. Arkansas enters Week 13 with wins in five out of its last six games and will be favored to get to 8-4 overall with home games remaining against Mississippi State and Missouri. Bielema’s hire of Dan Enos as play-caller has helped the Razorbacks offense take a step forward in 2015, as this unit leads the SEC (conference-only games) in yards per play (6.4) and points per game (32.8).


Related: Predictions for Every College Football Game in Week 12


Bob Davie, New Mexico

Davie has rebuilt a program that won three games from 2009-11, as the Lobos are poised for their first bowl trip since the 2007 season. New Mexico went 11-26 in Davie’s first three seasons and is 6-4 through 10 games in 2015. The offense hasn’t been the problem for Davie, but the defense ranked near the bottom of the Mountain West from 2013-14. The Lobos have made gains on that side of the ball in 2015, limiting opponents to 26.1 points per game and 5.7 yards per play (down from 6.8 in 2014). New Mexico has scored huge back-to-back victories, defeating Utah State 14-13 on Nov. 7 and a road win at Boise State on Nov. 14. Davie’s team still has a chance to play for the Mountain West title with wins in their last two games of the year – Colorado State and at Air Force.


Larry Fedora, North Carolina

Fedora is making a strong case for ACC Coach of the Year honors. After losing to South Carolina in the opener, North Carolina has reeled off nine wins in a row and is on the doorstep of winning its first Coastal Division title. Offense is always a strength for Fedora’s teams, but the Tar Heels had to get better on defense to contend for an ACC title. Fedora hired former Auburn coach Gene Chizik to coordinate the defense, and this unit has made marked progress under his watch. North Carolina gave up 6.5 yards per play last season, surrendered 22 plays of 40 yards or more and allowed 39 points a game. Those totals have decreased significantly under Chizik’s direction. The Tar Heels are fourth in the ACC in points allowed per game (18.8), limit opponents to 5.2 yards per play and allowed seven plays of 40 yards or more. This is North Carolina’s best season under Fedora, and the fourth-year coach has this program trending in the right direction. 


Related: Bowl Projections After Week 11


Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

There were plenty of doubts surrounding Ferentz’s long-term outlook at Iowa entering 2015. The Hawkeyes seemed to be trending down after a disappointing 7-6 record in 2014 and no finish in the final Associated Press poll from 2010-14. But Ferentz has reinvented himself and made a few tweaks to his coaching style, which included bringing more of an aggressive approach on offense to pair with a solid defense (4.75 yards per play allowed). Ferentz has pushed all of the right buttons in 2015, guiding the Hawkeyes to a 10-0 record and a chance to clinch the Big Ten West Division with a win over Purdue on Saturday. Even if Iowa falls short of winning the Big Ten Championship, Ferentz’s reinvention – known as Ferentz 3.0 in Iowa City – there’s a chance the program wins 12 games for the first time in program history.


Mike Leach, Washington State

Leach’s 2015 season started with a disappointing 24-17 loss to Portland State. But since the opening week defeat, Leach has guided Washington State to a 7-2 mark over the last nine games. During that nine-game slate, the Cougars picked up road wins over Oregon, Arizona and UCLA and lost by only two points to Stanford. As expected from a Mike Leach-coached team, Washington State leads the nation by averaging 414.4 passing yards per game. However, new coordinator Alex Grinch has brought improvement to a defense that allowed 38.6 points per game last season. With remaining games against Colorado and Washington (and a bowl trip), Leach has a good chance to lead Washington State to first campaign of double-digit wins since 2003. 


Related: 7 Coaches to Replace Gary Pinkel at Missouri


Rocky Long, San Diego State

Long isn’t the flashiest coach at the FBS level, but the defensive mastermind is simply a winner. He was promoted to head coach at San Diego State after Brady Hoke left for Michigan in 2011, and the Aztecs are 39-23 over the last five years. Additionally, San Diego State has not missed out on a bowl appearance under Long’s direction. The formula for success for Long's teams are pretty simple - run the ball and play defense. Since 2011, the Aztecs have not finished lower than third in the Mountain West in fewest yards per play allowed. At 7-3 in 2015, the Aztecs are poised for their best season in Long’s tenure at San Diego State. If this team finds a way to win its last four games (assuming SDSU wins the Mountain West’s West Division and plays in the conference championship), the 11 wins will tie the most in program history (11 in 1969). 


Todd Monken, Southern Miss

Southern Miss fell on hard times after Larry Fedora’s final season (2011). Ellis Johnson was picked as Fedora’s replacement, and the Golden Eagles suffered through a miserable 0-12 season in his only year in Hattiesburg. Monken replaced Johnson in 2013 and inherited a significant rebuilding project. Even though Southern Miss went 4-20 in Monken’s first two years, there were signs of progress. The Golden Eagles are in the midst of their best season since 2011, sitting at 7-3 with two games remaining and a chance to win Conference USA’s West Division on Nov. 28 at Louisiana Tech. Monken’s offense ranks third among Conference USA teams at 38.6 points per game, while the defense went from 12th in the league in yards per play allowed (6.4 in 2014) to 5.03 in 2015.


Ken Niumatalolo, Navy

Houston, Memphis and Temple have garnered most of the national attention from the American Athletic Conference this season, but Navy ranks as the highest Group of 5 team headed into Week 12 action. The Midshipmen are 8-1, with the only loss coming at Notre Dame in a matchup where quarterback Keenan Reynolds missed over two quarters of snaps due to injury. Navy has a huge showdown at Houston on Nov. 27 to decide the American Athletic Conference’s West Division – and likely a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl. Niumatalolo has won at least eight games in each of the last four seasons and deserves coach of the year consideration if Navy wins the American Athletic Conference in its first year in the league.


Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State

Barring two losses by Arkansas State in its last two games, Appalachian State is going to fall just short of winning the Sun Belt title. However, the Mountaineers are going to be a factor for the conference championship on a yearly basis under Satterfield’s direction. After going 4-8 in his first year as Appalachian State’s coach, Satterfield guided the program to a 7-5 mark in its first season at the FBS level (2014) and is 8-2 through 10 games in 2015. The Mountaineers have nothing to be ashamed about when it comes to their losses – Arkansas State and Clemson – this year. With games remaining against UL Lafayette and South Alabama, there’s a good chance for Appalachian State to reach double-digit victories for the first time since 2010.


Willie Taggart, South Florida

With a 6-18 record in his first two seasons at South Florida, Taggart entered 2015 sitting squarely on the hot seat. While all signs suggested Taggart would be a home-run hire for the Bulls, this program struggled to find its footing and was 5-11 in American Athletic Conference games in Taggart’s first two years. However, Taggart is building a strong case as one of the leading contenders for coach of the year honors in the American Athletic. The Bulls have showed marked improvement after a 1-3 start, winning five out of their last six games, including a 44-23 victory over Temple last Saturday. Taggart is one of the top recruiters in the Group of 5 conferences and has USF pointed in the right direction.


Bonus Candidate: ​Bill Clark, UAB

At first glance, it may seem odd to consider Clark for a space in this article. However, let’s consider all the UAB coach has had to overcome over the last year. The Blazers shut down their football program in December but later reinstated the team for 2017 after donations and fan support showed there was more than enough interest for UAB’s team to return. Needless to say, Clark has a monumental task in rebuilding a program from scratch. Clark is already putting the pieces into place for 2017, which includes improved facilities and a recruiting class that ranks No. 1 (247Sports Composite) among Conference USA teams. With no team in 2016, Clark is simply selling a vision to this year’s recruiting class. Imagine what Clark and his staff can do with better facilities (a new stadium?) and on-field results in the next few years.

College Football's Most Underappreciated Head Coaches in 2015
Post date: Friday, November 20, 2015 - 08:52
Path: /college-football/fresno-state-bulldogs-vs-byu-cougars-preview-and-prediction-2015

An old WAC rivalry renews this Saturday afternoon in Provo, Utah, as BYU hosts Fresno State in the Cougars’ final home game of the season.


The last time these two teams faced other was in 1998 when both programs were in the Western Athletic Conference. The Bulldogs lead the overall series 5-4.


BYU’s (7-3) five-game winning streak was snapped last week in a disappointing loss to Missouri in Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. The Bulldogs on the other hand had reason to celebrate for once this season following a road victory against Hawaii to improve their record to 3-7.


Fresno State at BYU


Kickoff: 3 p.m. ET (Saturday)


Spread: BYU -26


Three Things to Watch


1. Senior Day at BYU

This Saturday will be the final game at LaVell Edwards Stadium for 18 members of the BYU football team. The most notable senior on this list is quarterback Taysom Hill. Hill’s future at BYU in 2016 is still up in the air and will be discussed between him and head coach Bronco Mendenhall after BYU’s bowl game. But for now, the Cougars plan on celebrating the talents of the talented Hill along with defensive end Bronson Kaufusi, who has shot up NFL draft boards after that dominating 10-tackle performance against Missouri a week ago.


2. Pair of Bulldogs pursuing career records

There haven’t been many bright spots for Fresno State on the defensive side of the ball this season, as the Bulldogs have given up 37.1 points per game. Despite those stats that would even make Big 12 defensive coordinators cry, Fresno State boasts a talented linebacker in Ejiro Ederaine.

Ederaine has been a three-year starter for and is creeping up the all-time Mountain West tackles for a loss leaderboard. Currently Ederaine sits third all-time, and is one away from tying former BYU defensive end Jan Jorgensen, who will see Ederaine play in person this week as he is a graduate assistant for the Cougars. Ederaine needs four more TFLs to tie former San Diego State LB Miles Burris.


On the other side of the ball, senior running back Marteze Waller is 51 yards rushing away from 3,000 in his career.


3. BYU’s offense wants to start fast

After a strong October, BYU’s offense has struggled since the calendar turned to the month of November. The previous two games have seen the Cougars score just 33 points. A far cry from the 30-plus point outings they had in all four games last month.


This offense is mad and angry after the lackluster showing against Missouri. Look for BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum to distribute the ball to seven or eight different receivers, including a pair of seniors in Mitch Mathews and Devon Blackmon.


Final Analysis


Where has the time gone for Fresno State? Feels so long ago since former Bulldogs head coach Pat Hill would shout to Power 5 teams around the country, “anybody, anytime, anywhere,” and the Bulldogs were always pulling off upsets everywhere you looked. Now that mantra applies to all the blowout losses the valley has had to endure since Derek Carr left two years ago for the NFL.


Fresno State football is struggling to say the least, and an angry BYU team on the road is not the remedy to get better. BYU wants to finish its homes slate strong and with an undefeated record, something the Cougars haven’t accomplished since 2008.


BYU cruises to an easy win in this matinee snoozer.


Prediction: BYU 41, Fresno State 10


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

Fresno State Bulldogs vs. BYU Cougars Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 20, 2015 - 08:50
Path: /college-football/lsu-tigers-vs-ole-miss-rebels-preview-and-prediction-2015

Oh, how much things can change in just two weeks. Prior to the Nov. 7 meeting with Alabama, the LSU Tigers were 7-0 and ranked No. 2 in the initial College Football Playoff poll. That same day, the No. 18 Ole Miss Rebels were still in control of their destiny in the race for an SEC Western Division title. However, the Crimson Tide dominated LSU 30-16 and the Rebels lost to Arkansas 53-52 in overtime. One week later, the Razorbacks whipped the Tigers 31-16 to eliminate LSU from SEC Championship contention.


Two teams that were both ranked among the nation’s top five earlier this season are in desperate need of a victory in the 104th Magnolia Bowl.


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LSU at Ole Miss


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Ole Miss -4.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Can the Ole Miss defense contain Leonard Fournette?

LSU running back Leonard Fournette is the nation’s leading rusher this season with 1,474 yards on 214 carries — a hefty 6.9 yards per carry. Fournette also ranks second nationally with 17 rushing touchdowns. However, Fournette has lost his stranglehold on the Heisman Trophy because he gained just 31 rushing yards on 19 carries against Alabama two weeks ago (1.9 yards per attempt). Last week against Arkansas, Fournette ran for 91 yards, giving him two straight performances in which he failed to reach 100 yards after seven straight games of 150 rushing yards or more.


Simply, Fournette and the LSU offensive line were beaten up by both Alabama and Arkansas, and containing the talented sophomore was the key to victory for the Crimson Tide and Razorbacks. If the Ole Miss defense — which has held opponents to 125.7 rushing yards per game this year and boasts elite talent in the form of Robert Nkemdiche and Tony Conner — has similar success, the Rebels are very capable of picking up a victory.


2. Tre’Davious White and the LSU secondary versus Laquon Treadwell

Because of their history of producing NFL defensive backs (32 LSU defensive backs have been selected in the NFL Draft since 1966), LSU has taken to the nickname “DBU.” This year’s Tiger secondary also has its fair share of talent, including Tre’Davious White, Jamal Adams, Jalen Mills and Kevin Toliver II — all of whom are likely to play on Sundays in the future. But the Tigers have a heavy burden this week trying to contain likely future first round draft pick Laquon Treadwell and the Ole Miss passing attack.


Treadwell leads all SEC receivers with 68 catches and 1,002 receiving yards. The 6-foot-2, 229-pound junior also has six touchdown catches. Combined with quarterback Chad Kelly, who leads the SEC with 3,224 passing yards and 23 TDs, and fellow receivers Cody Core (500 receiving yards, 3 TD), Quincy Adeboyejo (483 receiving yards, 7 TD) and Damore’ea Stringfellow (385 receiving yards, 3 TD), the Rebels are the most talented passing team LSU has faced this season.


3. Les Miles on the hot seat

LSU head coach Les Miles has never lost three straight games since taking over the program in Baton Rouge 11 years ago. However, as a 4.5-point underdog against the Rebels, Miles is in danger of dropping his third straight game this weekend — and doing so would put Miles firmly on the hot seat. Despite a 110-31 record at LSU, which includes the 2007 national championship, reports out of Baton Rouge say that Miles is “coaching for his job” over the next two weeks. A victory over Ole Miss would quiet some of the criticism that has been building.


Final Analysis


Ole Miss needs a victory to keep its hopes alive for a spot in the SEC Championship Game, so the Rebels are motivated for this rivalry matchup. And, because Ole Miss scheduled a late-season bye week, the team should be well rested and prepared for the Tigers. Those factors, paired with the home field advantage and a suddenly struggling LSU squad, should give the Rebels the edge.


Prediction: Ole Miss 27, LSU 24


— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Allen's work on college football can also be found on and Follow him on Twitter @NicholasIAllen.

LSU Tigers vs. Ole Miss Rebels Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 20, 2015 - 08:45
Path: /college-football/northwestern-wildcats-vs-wisconsin-badgers-preview-and-prediction

Northwestern and Wisconsin are arguably the two quietest two-loss teams in the country. Their combined four losses have come at the hands of three ranked teams, and the result is respect from the College Football Playoff committee via a Top 25 placement for both teams.


They'll meet Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison — basically for second place in the Big Ten West. The winning team will improve its bowl resume, possibly getting a chance to play in a New Year's Six bowl.


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Northwestern at Wisconsin


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

Channel: Big Ten Network

Spread: Wisconsin -10.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Wisconsin's patchwork O-line

Traditionally a signature of Wisconsin football, this year's Badger offensive line has been held together by duct tape. Three freshmen have found themselves in starting roles throughout the year, thanks to injuries to what were projected to be key pieces. That — and the injury-marred season of running back Corey Clement — has had a detrimental effect on Wisconsin's rushing attack. Joel Stave has felt the pain as well. Wisconsin has given up 18 sacks through 10 games — five more than they gave up in all of 2014. The young line is maturing by the day. They'll need to bring their A-game to stop a Northwestern defense that thrives off of point off turnovers caused by pressure.


2. Justin Jackson's touches

In Northwestern's two losses, Justin Jackson carried the ball a combined 22 times. In the seven games where he's carried the ball 20 or more times, he's eclipsed the 100-yard mark in six and the Wildcats are 7-0. Jackson is Northwestern's bread and butter. The Wildcats go how Jackson goes, and the number of times he touches the ball will tell the story. If he's getting a lot of carries, it means Northwestern is moving the ball and controlling tempo.


3. Which defense can make a play?

These are two of the better defenses in the nation. They don't allow a lot of yards or points, so don't look for an offensive explosion from either team. In what should be a low-scoring, grind-it-out game, look for one of the defenses to make that one play — likely a turnover that results in points — that turns the tide of the game or seals the deal altogether.


Final Analysis


My heart and gut tell me Northwestern is going to pull this one out, but my mind and stats tell me it's going to be tough. Wisconsin has only lost one game at home all year — a matchup with Iowa that it was in position to win. I think the Badger passing game is just good enough to spread the field and open up the running game enough to have more success when they have the ball than Northwestern will. Look for the Wildcats to trail but keep it close throughout, before the Badger defense makes that big play to put the game away.


Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Northwestern 17


— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Scott is the editor-in-chief of, a Big Ten site for Big Ten fans. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

Northwestern Wildcats vs. Wisconsin Badgers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 20, 2015 - 08:40
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Path: /college-football/oklahoma-releases-hype-video-promote-qb-baker-mayfield-heisman-trophy

With just three remaining weeks in the 2015 college football regular season, the race to win the Heisman Trophy is officially entering the homestretch.


Thanks to strong performances in recent weeks, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield has emerged as one of the frontrunners for the Heisman. The junior delivered a clutch performance against Baylor last Saturday, throwing for 270 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-34 win in Waco. Mayfield has passed for 3,082 yards and 31 touchdowns through 10 games and rushed for 301 yards and six scores.


Oklahoma is doing all it can to promote Mayfield for college football’s top award, as the school released a hype video with some of the junior's top highlights and plays from the season:  

Oklahoma Releases Hype Video to Promote QB Baker Mayfield for Heisman Trophy
Post date: Friday, November 20, 2015 - 08:37
Path: /college-football/duke-blue-devils-vs-virginia-cavaliers-preview-and-prediction-2015

The Duke Blue Devils began the season with a 6-1 record, seemingly in control of the ACC Coastal Division as they were ranked as high as 22nd in the nation. However, the team has lost three straight games, which includes their controversial loss to the Miami Hurricanes. 


While Duke (6-4) can no longer win the division title, the team can still qualify for a solid bowl game. The Blue Devils will first have to snap their losing streak by defeating the Virginia Cavaliers this weekend. 


The Mike London era appears to be coming to an end as with last week’s 38-31 loss to the Louisville Cardinals, Virginia (3-7) will not qualify for a bowl for the fourth straight season. 


The Duke-Virginia rivalry dates back to 1890 and the series is tied at 33-33. The Blue Devils have won six out of the last seven meetings, which includes last season’s 20-13 Duke win in Durham. 


Duke at Virginia

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. EST
TV Channel: ESPN3
Spread: Virginia -2.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Thomas Sirk

Duke starting quarterback Thomas Sirk missed last week's 31-13 loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers because of an upper-body injury. Sirk is expected to play this week and his playmaking ability is something the Cavaliers will have to be aware of this week. 


Sirk leads Duke in both passing and rushing yards. While Sirk’s statistics (1,979 passing yards, 555 rushing yards and 17 total touchdowns) doesn't say Heisman Trophy Award winner, he is a duel-threat quarterback that can hurt the Virginia defense, which is 78th in the nation. 


2. Taquan Mizzell
Virginia also has a duel-threat playmaker on its offense, but it is at the running back position. Taquan Mizzell is 14 receptions away from setting the ACC single-season record by a running back, set by Boston College’s Andre Callender with 76 in 2007.


He has 63 catches this season, tied for fourth-most all-time with former Virginia running back Alvin Pearman.


Mizzell is also just 123 rushing yards and 72 receiving from having 700 yards in each category. 2007 was the last time anyone rushed for 700 yards and recorded 700 receiving yards in the same season. Boston College’s Andre Callender (989 rushing, 720 receiving), Florida’s Percy Harvin (764 rushing, 858 receiving) and Nebraska’s Marlon Lucky (1,019 rushing, 705 receiving) were the last players to accomplish this feat. 


3. Blue Devils defense 
In Duke’s first seven games of the season, the team had the nation’s No.4 rank defense in the country. During its three-game losing streak, that unit has taken a step back. 


In Duke’s last three games, its defense has given up an average of 514 yards per game. It has also allowed 42.3 points per game as well. 


All-American safety Jeremy Cash doesn’t have an interception on the season, but he has done what he can in run support and he still needs to be accounted for on every play. Cash needs help from the other 10 members of the Duke defense for the team to return to the level they were playing at during their first seven games. 


Final Analysis 


With two winnable games against Virginia and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons to end the 2015 season, Duke can still finish with a respectable 8-4 record. If Sirk and their defense don't play up to their capabilities, Virginia can easily come away with the victory. 


If Cavaliers' quarterback Matt Johns can have another day throwing the football like he did against Louisville when he finished 25-of-41 for four touchdowns and zero interceptions, Virginia can win this game. 


The problem is, Johns has been inconsistent the entire season as he has thrown an interception in every game except last week against Louisville and Notre Dame in Week 2. 


Prediction: Duke 31, Virginia 28


— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

Duke Blue Devils vs. Virginia Cavaliers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 20, 2015 - 08:35
Path: /college-football/wake-forest-demon-deacons-vs-clemson-tigers-preview-and-prediction-2015

It is hard for Clemson fans this week to not think about the cherished 1981 national championship team. Not only because the Tigers are again the top-ranked football team in the land, but because they are going to play Wake Forest.




Anyone with even token knowledge of the history of the two programs knows the significance of the score. When third-ranked Clemson trounced Wake Forest by that score on Halloween Day in 1981, it established the Tigers as a true national championship contender.


True, Clemson was ranked third in the country at the time, but the Atlantic Coast Conference had put only one team in a New Year's Day bowl since 1961.


Prior to the game, though the Tigers were one of three undefeated teams in the country and their victory against defending national champion Georgia meant they had beaten a higher ranked team than either fellow unbeatens Penn State or Pitt had, the Tigers had not received a single first-place vote in the AP Poll.


After the game, Clemson received nine. The Tigers were on their way.


The Demon Deacons (3-7) come into this game just as they did in 1981, with three victories. But if there is any historical karma on Wake Forest's side, perhaps it is that No. 1 Clemson (10-0)already has enjoyed its 58-point victory this season.


Furthermore, if Wake Forest were to pull the upset, it would likely be as historic victory for the Deacons as that long-ago game was for Clemson.


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Wake Forest at Clemson 


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)


Spread: Clemson -29


Three Things To Watch


1. How will Clemson's defense play?

The Tigers' defense, led by junior defensive lineman Shaq Lawson, is allowing less than 300 yards a game this season and is ranked seventh nationally. But immediately after shutting out Miami 58-0, the Tigers allowed 41 points in a 56-41 shootout and 242 rushing yards last week against Syracuse.


The latter is Wake Forest's key to victory. The Demon Deacons played reasonably effective ball control last week against Notre Dame, possessing the ball for more than 10 minutes longer than the Fighting Irish, running 74 plays to Notre Dame's 49, and outgaining them by 58 yards.


2. So how will Wake run the ball?

Herein lies the problem. No Wake Forest running back is averaging four or more yards a carry this year. The Deacs have two freshmen tackles to block Lawson. And instead of having a fullback lead sweeps, head coach Dave Clawson has often preferred to run a single back set out of a shotgun. Even in a 4th-and-goal situation from the Notre Dame one yard line last week, the Deacs lined up in this formation, which might be why Wake Forest only scored once in four red zone situations against the Irish.


Freshman Tyler Bell is the Deacs' leading rusher, but incredibly nine of Wake Forest's 10 rushing touchdowns this season have been scored by its quarterbacks. On passing downs Wake often asks its offensive linemen to line up in a "V" with two point stances, but such a style lends itself up to gaps, and frankly even though both quarterbacks John Wolford and Kendall Hinton have long rushes this year for touchdowns, a strategy lending itself to open lanes for Lawson, who has 7.5 sacks and 10 more tackles for a loss this year, seems doomed to failure.


3. How will Clemson move the ball?

Throwing. Yes, running back Wayne Gallman already has more than 1,000 yards rushing, but quarterback Deshaun Watson is completing 70 percent of his passes, has a nice 23:8 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and has thrown for 297 yards (is 297 close enough to 300 for you?) or more the last four times he's played a full game. He's also done it despite the fact Mike Williams, a 1,000-yard receiver last season, suffered a broken neck in Clemson's opener, sidelining him for the rest of this season.


Watson has also rushed for more than 500 yards, which has allowed him to become a late Heisman Trophy candidate. It's likely Dabo Swinney will try to pad Watson's stats in an effort to best Alabama running back Derrick Henry at the Downtown Athletic Club.


If Wake Forest was the team Clemson proved they were national championship material against in '81, perhaps this year the Deacs are the team Watson will prove he is Heisman worthy in.


Final Analysis


Both of these teams are surprisingly young; Wayne Gallman and Deshaun Watson are both sophomores, for instance, and Shaq Lawson is a junior, though he'll likely enter the NFL Draft after the season.


But realistically, the question here isn't if Wake Forest can win. It's if the Clemson Tiger will have to ask the Demon Deacon help him with post-score pushups again.


Prediction: Clemson 82... (Just kidding, Clemson won't score 12 touchdowns again... or miss two extra points)


Prediction: Clemson 38, Wake Forest 9


— Written by Marky Billson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. An experienced beat reporter and sports writer, Billson began contributing to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2000. He has covered the Steelers, Pitt Panthers, MLB and more during his career. Follow him on Twitter @MarkyBillson.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. Clemson Tigers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 20, 2015 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/georgia-tech-yellow-jackets-vs-miami-hurricanes-preview-and-prediction-2015

After their embarrassing 59-21 loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels last weekend, the Miami Hurricanes will return to Sun Life Stadium for the final time this season as they will take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.


In its last game, Georgia Tech (3-7) lost at home to the Virginia Tech Hokies 23-21. The loss will likely end the Yellow Jackets' streak of 18 consecutive bowl appearances.


Georgia Tech leads the all-time series 11-9 over Miami (6-4), but the Hurricanes have a 4-2 record in games played at home and they have never lost to the Yellow Jackets at Sun Life Stadium (3-0).


The Hurricanes have won five of the last six matchups against the Yellow Jackets dating back to 2009, including five straight from 2009-13. Miami lost to Georgia Tech last season, 28-17 in Atlanta.


Georgia Tech at Miami


Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ACC Network/ESPN3

Spread: Even


Three Things to Watch


1. Hurricanes’ offense

Last week against North Carolina, Miami quarterback Brady Kaaya was 24-of-43 for 326 yards and he finished with a touchdown pass and an interception. If the Hurricanes want to defeat the Yellow Jackets, Kaaya will need help from Joseph Yearby and the rest of the Hurricane offense.


Yearby hasn’t rushed for over 100 yards since Miami’s 34-23 loss to Cincinnati on Oct.1. Some of that has to do with the Hurricanes being down in a number of games, but the team’s offensive line hasn't played particularly well.


“The running game has been kind of spotty for us," Miami interim head coach Larry Scott said. "We are constantly addressing and trying to find the runs and surfaces where we can attack. The bottom line is to stay consistent and continuing to drive home the point to the guys up front that we are going to stick with it." 


Georgia Tech gives up an average of 171.1 yards per game, so Miami should have some opportunities to try and exploit the Yellow Jackets' weak rushing defense.


2. Justin Thomas

The key to the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option offense is quarterback Justin Thomas. In his last two games since Georgia Tech’s upset victory over Florida State, Thomas hasn’t been rushing the ball well.


Thomas has a combined 70 yards on 25 carries and zero touchdowns in his last two games. Miami’s defense gives up an average of 202.7 rushing yards per game, so Georgia Tech should have its opportunities to run against them.


Scott knows how important it is for the Hurricanes defense to stay disciplined on Saturday. 


“The option is such an assignment and alignment deal," Scott said. "When you know the option is coming, it’s about alignment and assignment football. There are not four verticals to defend, as well. There are not the pass concepts with posts, wheels and digs that you have to defend. When you can focus on assignment, alignment and details, it changes the whole dynamic."


3. Penalties

Miami and Georgia Tech couldn’t be any more different when it comes to hurting themselves with penalties. The Hurricanes are the nation’s most penalized team as they average 9.6 penalties per game. Miami’s 12 penalties for 103 yards helped North Carolina score on two separate drives last week.


Georgia Tech, on the other hand is the most disciplined team in the FBS as it only average 3.5 penalties and 31.1 penalty yards per game.


The Hurricanes aren’t good enough to overcome 10 or more penalties against anyone in the FBS, especially a conference opponent. They will have to cut down on the mistakes on Saturday.


Final Analysis


Miami has enough weapons on offense to defeat Georgia Tech, but its defense is what will likely keep Georgia Tech in the game. The Hurricanes gave up 7.2 yards per play, along with 206 total yards and four touchdowns to North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams.


With a young offense and a number of injuries, it has been hard for Georgia Tech to persevere leads late in games. The Yellow Jackets held fourth quarter leads to both Virginia Tech and North Carolina, only to lose the game.


Expect Georgia Tech to get off to a good start, but Miami’s talent will likely be the difference late in the game.


Prediction: Miami 28, Georgia Tech 21


— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs. Miami Hurricanes Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 20, 2015 - 08:25
Path: /college-football/purdue-boilermakers-vs-iowa-hawkeyes-preview-and-prediction-2015

The Purdue Boilermakers travel to Iowa City to meet the No. 6 Iowa Hawkeyes this weekend, on a mission to upend Senior Day and a school-record 7-0 mark by the Hawkeyes inside Kinnick Stadium.


For its part, an Iowa victory assures t head coach Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes at least a share of the Big Ten West Division crown and their first-ever appearance in the conference championship game in Indianapolis on Dec. 5.


Purdue leads the all-time series against the Hawkeyes 46-36-3, with the last Iowa loss coming at home in 2012.


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Purdue at Iowa


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPN2
Spread: Iowa -21


Three Things to Watch


1. An improving “Spoilermaker” squad

Although it's been said the only score that matters is the final score of the game you're currently playing, one look at the Boilermakers' 21-24 road loss to Northwestern last week, coupled with a 55-45 win at home against Nebraska earlier in the season, can give you a pretty solid idea of the direction this team has taken following its October bye week. They've played Nebraska and Northwestern right down to the final minutes. Their only blowout came against a much-improved Illinois squad. This week's news that head coach Darrell Hazell will return to his post for the 2016 season will only intensify the Boilermakers' emotional resolve to win "the big one" for their coach.


2. The arm of Purdue QB David Blough

In his first play from scrimmage against Northwestern, Boilermaker freshman QB David Blough looked deep and found WR Dominique Young for a 68-yard touchdown. On the season Blough leads the B1G on passes of 60-plus yards. And if there's any place the Hawkeyes got lucky in escaping Minnesota, it was off the “big plays” such as those Blough has shown he can deliver. It's an area the Iowa staff has undoubtedly been talking about all week long, and rightly so.


In each of the last three games the Hawkeyes have played, they've seen their pass yards allowed per game go up, currently standing at No. 48 in the nation at 209.6. That's a trend you can bet the Boilermakers quickly discovered, and they'll look to exploit it at every opportunity with their future star Blough under center.


3. An emotional letdown by the Hawkeyes

There was electricity inside Kinnick Stadium for the matchup with the Gophers. And the Hawkeyes certainly delivered one for the books. But the feeling since that 40-35 border rivalry victory has been anything but electric around Iowa City. More than 8,000 tickets still remained for the season's final home game as of Wednesday afternoon for a game that could, potentially, be the division clincher for the Hawkeyes on the road to Indianapolis while also keeping them near the striking point to that College Fotoball Playoff top four that puts them into the season-ending tournament.


But it's not just a possible championship matchup. It's yet another school all-time record for wins, which would move the Hawkeyes to 11-0 while bidding farewell to this group of seniors. The Hawkeye Nation needs to regroup and respond in a big way to keep the momentum heading north.


Final Analysis


The contrast in the two head coaches' weekly press conferences was unmistakable. Kirk Ferentz didn't directly address a question about the Boilermaker squad until more than halfway through his meeting with the press. I'm pretty sure he tossed that one out himself, just to make it official.


On the other side of the B1G universe in West Lafayette, Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell was all-Hawkeyes.


That is not a good position for this Iowa squad to be standing as it balances on the edge of its first B1G West Division championship, with two and possibly three games remaining in the regular season. The coaches and team leaders will need every ounce of motivational trickery to get this team focused on the Boilermakers. But if there's one area where this Iowa squad has proven to excel, that's exactly it.


Prediction: Iowa 41, Purdue 30


— Written by Robert A. Boleyn, a member of the Athlon Contributor Network and a native Iowan currently based in Southern California. Boleyn attended both the University of Iowa and UCLA, and is a former contributing writer for The Daily Iowan and a die-hard Hawkeye. Follow him on Twitter @BoleynRobert.

Purdue Boilermakers vs. Iowa Hawkeyes Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 20, 2015 - 08:20
Path: /college-football/north-carolina-tar-heels-vs-virginia-tech-preview-and-prediction-2015

Two huge storylines revolve around Saturday's North Carolina at Virginia Tech matchup. For the Tar Heels, a victory clinches the Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal Division. North Carolina is peaking at the right time with nine straight victories, including back-to-back blowouts of bowl-eligible Miami and Duke.


A spot in the College Football Playoff seems unlikely, but if the Tar Heels were to win out, including a victory over current No. 1 Clemson in the ACC Championship Game, who knows if North Carolina could gain the fourth spot?


Virginia Tech's story line doesn't reflect standings so much, though a victory would likely clinch a bowl berth for the Hokies.


Rather it is the end of an era; the last home game of Frank Beamer's head coaching tenure at Virginia Tech, which began in 1987.


Beamer is the winningest and longest serving active coach in FBS, so Beamer's departure doesn't just close the most glorious coaching chapter in school history, it makes Generation X feel rather old.


Much has been said about where the program has gone under Beamer. When he became the coach at Virginia Tech, the Hokies were a major independent in football and a member of the Atlantic 10 in other sports, but credit for rising to the ACC goes mainly to administrators.


Nor was Virginia Tech a sad sack prior to Beamer's arrival. The 1986 Gobblers, a more common nickname in that era, were 9-2-1. They capped the season with a 25-24 Peach Bowl victory against Erik Kramer's NC State Wolfpack, who missed winning the ACC by a half-game, on "The Kick" — All-American kicker Chris Kinzer's game ending 40-yard field goal.


But it was Virginia Tech's first bowl victory in school history, and the program was heavily in debt under the guidance of head coach/athletic director Bill Dooley, who then departed for Wake Forest. Beamer was allowed the chance to grow as the VPI administration went through turmoil early in his career.


Perhaps the turning point was in 1993, the first season a Big East football champion was crowned. Virginia Tech traveled to old Pitt Stadium to play the Panthers for their first conference game.


Both teams were 1-0, but Beamer was coming off a 2-8-1 season and the decision to retain him in 1993 wasn't universally popular. Meanwhile John Majors, who had won a national championship at Pitt in 1976, had returned to the Panthers from a successful tenure at Tennessee that saw him win the Southeastern Conference three times.


The point spread was even. The final score was Virginia Tech 63, Pitt 21, signifying the directions both programs would take in the future.


In two years the Hokies were beating Texas in the Sugar Bowl. In six they were playing for the National Championship with Heisman Trophy winner Michael Vick.


Virginia Tech also has been to a bowl game every season since 1993, and a loss to the Tar Heels would require a season ending victory at Virginia to keep that streak alive.


College Football Podcast: Week 12 Preview

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North Carolina at Virginia Tech


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)


Spread: UNC -6


Three Things To Watch


1. What can Virginia Tech do to slow down the North Carolina offense?

In its last two games, North Carolina has scored 125 points behind quarterback Marquise Williams. No team in ACC history has ever scored more points in back-to-back games.


While some have said halting this streak would do wonders for defensive coordinator Bud Foster's credentials to replace Beamer, it's hard to believe that after 29 years as a Virginia Tech assistant one game is going to make that much of a difference on his resume.


Here are some positives for Virginia Tech. It has as many takeaways as North Carolina — 20. Freshman sensation Adonis Alexander, who leads the Hokies with three interceptions, is back from injury, though he didn't have a tackle last week. And they are the seventh-best team in the country defending the pass without possessing an overwhelming pass rush.


2. Can Virginia Tech win the time of possession battle?

Speaking of freshmen sensations, Travon McMillan has rushed for more than 100 yards in his last three games. In the Oct. 17 game against Miami prior to the streak, McMillan rushed for 99.


Clearly this streak must continue for Virginia Tech to have a chance. The Tar Heels Achilles' heel has been their rushing defense, as they've allowed more than 200 yards a game on the ground this season. It's how they lost to South Carolina.


3. Virginia Tech special teams

During the glory days of Beamer's tenure it always seemed the Hokies would get a blocked punt to help them win. In the 1990s alone they blocked 66 kicks.


Unfortunately their kickoff coverage unit now ranks as the third-worst in the country. Yes, there is such a statistic.  


The only points not scored by the UNC offense during its scoring splurge was last week's 78-yard punt return for a touchdown from Ryan Switzer, who is probably the best punt returner in the ACC if not college football. Luckily for the Hokies, they defend punt returns well, and Switzer does not return kickoffs.


Virginia Tech has blocked two kicks on the season. The Hokies may be losing five games every season these days instead of winning 10, but even so some things really never change.


One final note on Beamer's longevity and special teams. When he took on the head coaching reigns many would say the aforementioned placekicker Kinzer was his best player.


Kinzer kicked straight ahead, a la Mark Mosley, who would later become Kinzer's agent.


Final Analysis


It might be nice to the casual onlooker to have Beamer go out with a victory in Blacksburg, but certainly North Carolina fans will disagree. Virginia Tech matches up reasonably well against the Tar Heels, but North Carolina just has too many weapons and, as stated before, is peaking. For old times sake we'll say the Hokies block three extra points and a punt out of the end zone but...


Prediction: North Carolina 32, Virginia Tech 26


— Written by Marky Billson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. An experienced beat reporter and sports writer, Billson began contributing to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2000. He has covered the Steelers, Pitt Panthers, MLB and more during his career. Follow him on Twitter @MarkyBillson.

North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 20, 2015 - 08:15
Path: /college-football/michigan-wolverines-vs-penn-state-nittany-lions-preview-and-prediction-2015

The Big Ten may still be won by either Ohio State or Michigan State, but the revival of Michigan is real and the rebuilding of Penn State continues. The Wolverines and Nittany Lions square off Saturday afternoon in Happy Valley with plenty to play for on both sides of the field. Michigan can continue to make a late push for a possible spot in the Big Ten Championship Game, while Penn State can make a push to play in one of the conference's New Year's Day bowl games.


Penn State head coach James Franklin is still searching for his first career victory over a top 25 program. Getting that elusive win against the Wolverines will not come easily, although Penn State's defense gives them a fighter's chance to win if they can slow down Michigan's running game. Michigan has run for 23 rushing touchdowns this season, good for third-most in the conference. Penn State's run defense has also been gashed at times this season, giving up 200 yards or more against Army, Ohio State, Maryland and Northwestern. Penn State held Michigan to just 54 rushing yards last season in Ann Arbor, but the Wolverines prevailed in a hard-fought 18-13 victory. Can Penn State pick up revenge this time around?


College Football Podcast: Week 12 Preview

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Michigan at Penn State


Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Saturday)


Spread: Michigan -4


Three Things to Watch


1. Big Ten's top passing defenses vs. Rudock and Hackenberg

No team in the Big Ten has given up fewer yards than Penn State and Michigan. Both the Nittany Lions and Wolverines have favorable touchdown-to-interception ratios as well, with Penn State allowing seven passing touchdowns with nine interceptions and Michigan allowing five touchdowns with eight interceptions. Each pass defense will present a stiff challenge to the opposing team's quarterback.


Michigan's Jake Rudock has been a pleasant surprise this season for the Wolverines, and his ability to manage the offense has proved to be quite effective. Inside the red zone, Rudock has completed 56.4 percent of his passes and his nine touchdowns with zero interceptions. This is an area Penn State's defense has been vulnerable in this season. The Nittany Lions have allowed seven passing touchdowns inside the red zone and have failed to come up with an interception inside their 20-yard line. Michigan's pass defense tightens up inside the red zone as well, allowing just two touchdowns this season. Penn State's Christian Hackenberg has had some ups and downs this season, but he has played well in the red zone, with seven touchdowns and no interceptions.


2. Penn State perfect at home this season, Michigan an adventure on the road

When Michigan takes to the road, crazy things seem to happen. Last week the Wolverines got tangled up in an overtime thriller against Indiana. Two games before that was a fascinating finish against Minnesota that went down to the wire. Last time Michigan visited Penn State, in 2013, the two programs played a multiple overtime game. Could there be more road craziness in store this weekend?


Penn State has lost all three of their games on the road (the lone win away from Beaver Stadium came on a neutral field in Baltimore against Maryland), but they are perfect at home this season. Each of Penn State's home wins this season have come by double-digit margins except for a 20-14 decision over Army. Michigan will be the best opponent to step foot in Happy Valley this season though, and the Nittany Lions will be put to the test against a surging and revitalized Big Ten power. With a Whiteout in full effect, even for a noon kickoff, Penn State will have to feed off the energy. It will be on the defensive line with Carl Nassib, Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson to set the tone.


3. Michigan's Big Ten title hopes alive with a win

Michigan was supposed to be a couple of years away from returning to Big Ten championship form, but the Wolverines can play themselves right into the Big Ten title game with a road win at Penn State. Of course, the Wolverines would still have to beat Ohio State next week, but a loss to Penn State would take Michigan out of the running heading into the final week of the season. Michigan wins the Big Ten East Division with wins against Penn State and Ohio State and a Michigan State loss to either the Buckeyes this week or the Nittany Lions next week.


Penn State cannot win the Big Ten East's spot in the Big Ten championship game, as they would lose a head-to-head tiebreaker with Ohio State. Penn State can claim a share of the division championship with wins against Michigan and Michigan State and two losses by Ohio State.


Final Analysis


Both teams have some young blossoming stars worth paying close attention to this weekend. Penn State's freshman running back Saquon Barkley continues to be one of the biggest threats Penn State has. Last time out he rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns in a losing effort against Northwestern. He will have to earn his yardage this week against Michigan's stiff run defense. Michigan defensive back Jabrill Peppers is showing why he was such a highly-rated recruit out of high school in New Jersey. Look for him to continue getting a chance to dazzle with his athleticism on offense and special teams, which will keep Penn State's entire coaching staff guessing. If Michigan can keep Penn State's coaches on their toes, the advantage appears to go toward the Michigan sideline.


Prediction: Michigan 26, Penn State 24


— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.

Michigan Wolverines vs. Penn State Nittany Lions Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 20, 2015 - 08:10
Path: /college-football/memphis-tigers-vs-temple-owls-preview-and-prediction-2015

Everything was going so smoothly for Memphis but the Tigers have hit a snag in the carpet of the 2015 season. A two-game losing streak in conference play to division foes Navy and Houston has knocked Memphis out of the running for the division and conference title, but the Tigers can play quite the spoiler for Temple as the Owls look to stay on top of the American Athletic Conference East Division. Temple's loss last week to South Florida opened the door for the Bulls, but the Owls still have a one-game lead in the division with two games to play.


Both teams are looking to shrug off conference losses, and the meeting of Memphis and Temple looks to be one of the conference's best matchups between offense and defense this season.


College Football Podcast: Week 12 Preview

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Memphis at Temple


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)


Spread: Memphis -1.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Memphis offense vs. Temple defense; Something has to give

Memphis has the conference's top scoring offense with an average of 43.7 points scored per game. Temple's offense should struggle to keep up with that pace, but the Owls will bring a defense that could help slow things down a bit. Temple has allowed 21.0 points per game this season, which is fourth-best among AAC programs. That number has been inflated the past two weeks by giving up 40 points on the road against SMU and last week giving up 44 points in a loss to USF. Is Temple's defense recovering from a hard-fought matchup with Notre Dame, in which the Owls held the Irish to 24 points and came up with a pair of red zone takeaways?


Temple linebacker Tyler Matakevich remains one of the top defensive players in the nation, but he and the Owls will face a tough challenge against Paxton Lynch and the Memphis offense looking to snap a losing streak. Memphis left Temple last season with a 16-13 victory. Lynch completed 21 of 28 passes for 230 yards and a touchdown and Memphis was limited to 312 yards of total offense.


2. Paxton Lynch to the rescue?

Paxton Lynch was just a couple of weeks ago being revered as a potential Heisman Trophy long shot, but two straight losses have derailed that idea. Still, Lynch remains one of the top quarterbacks in the nation and is still being viewed favorably by NFL scouts, so Temple will have their hands full with slowing Lynch down. Even in losses the last two weeks, Lynch played well against Navy and Houston, completing roughly 63 percent of his passes for 583 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. It is the first time Lynch has been picked off in consecutive games this season.


3. Temple home -ield advantage?

The season started with a 10-sack performance and a rare win against Penn State and has seen the Owls shut down a handful of conference foes and give Notre Dame a tough battle. Lincoln Financial Field has a new buzz to it this season when Temple is playing, but how much of an advantage can it be this weekend against Memphis? Temple is 6-4 in The Linc since the beginning of the 2014 season, but the losses have come by no more than eight points in that stretch.


Final Analysis


Temple may have started to show some cracks after letting a fourth-quarter lead slip away against Notre Dame a few weeks ago. The defense has typically been the strength of the Owls but the last two weeks have shown opposing offenses rack up some big plays and scores against Temple. With two games to go, the Owls must keep their foot on the gas pedal to stay ahead of USF and wrap up the AAC East. Facing Memphis, still one of the most dangerous Group of 5 programs looking to snap a two-game losing streak feels like a bad situation for Temple this week. Memphis may have to win an ugly game and grind out some drives against Temple.


Prediction: Memphis 20, Temple 18


— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.

Memphis Tigers vs. Temple Owls Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 20, 2015 - 08:05
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-college-football-picks-week-12-2015

The finish line of the college football regular season is almost upon us and for me it's pretty much trying to stay above .500. Much like many teams across the country, .500 is a magical record as it means bowl eligibility and a continuing of their season. Bowl season may mean nothing to the common college football fan other than something else to keep them away from their families, but for some schools, it means validation for of all the hard work they have put in this year. All that said, time to put in my own hard work and maintain "bowl eligibility" for my picks.


Record: 49-48 (3-5 last week)


Charlotte (2-8) at Kentucky (4-6)

The 49ers have lost nine straight after winning their first two games of the season. Charlotte is coming off a hard-fought, tough loss in overtime at home and will finish the year at Kentucky and at Rice. The 49ers’ offense has had two turnovers or more in four of the last five games and should struggle against Kentucky, which has held its last two SEC opponents to 48 points on the road. Kentucky has lost five straight and is not the best team themselves, but Charlotte is nowhere near ready for an SEC opponent. UK has been a favorite just 10 times the last three seasons, covering in six of those games. This is a clear mismatch and the Wildcats will take out some frustrations. SELECTION: Kentucky -24


West Virginia (5-4) at Kansas (0-10)

Two struggling defenses will meet up in Lawrence, Kan., as the Jayhawks host the Mountaineers. For the fourth straight game, we are going to play the over as there should be plenty of points. Kansas actually has scored 37 points in its last two games against Texas and TCU. West Virginia's once-stout defense has given up 20 points or more in six straight so the Jayhawks should be able to score. The WVU offense though should be able to put up points on a defense that has allowed 66, 30, 58, 62, 59 and 23 over the last six weeks. Head coach Dana Holgorsen has talked about how the Mountaineers haven't forgotten the loss in Kansas back in 2013 and you've got to think that they will want to make up for that. SELECTION: Over 59.5


Western Kentucky (8-2) at FIU (5-6)

There are a lot of factors involved that make the home team a worthy wager. Western Kentucky has a huge contest on a short week against Marshall at home and that one will determine which team moves on to the Conference USA title game. The Hilltoppers also are coming off a bye, which may have cooled off their offense. Tyler Higbee, one of the most underrated TEs in the country, isn't likely to play in this one. FIU has scored 141 points in its last three home games and figure to be quite angry after being shut out 52-0 at Marshall. It's the final game of the Golden Panthers’ regular season and they are playing for potential bowl eligibility. WKU has failed to cover in 10 of its last 18 road games. SELECTION: FIU +17


North Carolina (9-1) at Virginia Tech (5-5)

This is the ultimate situational play. Frank Beamer is coaching his final game in Blacksburg on Saturday. Virginia Tech also is playing for bowl eligibilty and a bunch of seniors. On the other hand you have a North Carolina team that is smoking hot offensively, but has a road game against their hated rival next week. The Tar Heels are playing good defense, but that's also because teams are taking more chances to keep up in the scoring category. Virginia Tech has been a home underdog of 3.5 to 7 points just three times since 1992 and has covered each one of those games. Another odd trend in the Hokies’ favor is the 6-0 ATS since 1992 when the total is between 56.5 and 63 at home. SELECTION: Virginia Tech +6.5


Tennessee (6-4) at Missouri (5-5)

Much like Virginia Tech, Missouri is playing its final home game of the year for a departing head coach. Gary Pinkel recently announced he's stepping down at the end of the year. The Tigers are coming off an emotional win over BYU, getting just enough offense to hold down the Cougars. The last two games the Tigers have discovered a run game which has taken the pressure off of freshman quarterback Drew Lock. Tennessee may have won three straight but the Volunteers sleepwalked through their last game against North Texas and nearly lost to South Carolina the week before. Missouri has covered in nine of its last 10 November games and 15 of its last 24 against SEC opponents. SELECTION: Missouri +8


Old Dominion (5-5) at Southern Miss (7-3)

Old Dominion is one win away from bowl eligibility despite giving up more than 400 yards of offense per game. The Monarchs will be without RB Ray Lawry, which means they may become one-dimensional. Southern Miss has held five of its last six opponents to 14 points or fewer. The Golden Eagles are pounding teams offensively right now as well. This is a unit averaging 525.1 yards per game and should find no issues cutting through ODU's swiss-cheese defense. The home team has covered in eight of their 10 games while the road team has failed to cover in eight of 10 contests. Plain and simple, this one will get ugly. SELECTION: Southern Miss -21


Tulane (3-7) at SMU (1-9)

This game won't cause a single ripple in the college football landscape, but that doesn't mean we can't find a little angle to exploit. You've got a horrible offense facing a worse defense. The big question is if Tulane can take advantage of that matchup and I just don't think so. The Mustangs have pieces that will be able to move the ball on Tulane's porous defense. SMU QB Matt Davis was able to help the team score 40 on Temple and 31 on Tulsa in its last two home games. This is the fourth road game for the Green Wave in their last five. SELECTION: SMU -2.5 (If you want to, take the moneyline)




— It's an intriguing matchup in Tampa Friday night as South Florida hosts Cincinnati. The Bulls beat up on the AAC East-leading Temple Owls last time out behind a stout defense and great offense. Now USF is an underdog to Cincinnati, who comes to town having won three of its last four. The Bearcats guys have won just one road game this year falling short at BYU, Memphis and Houston by a combined 24 points. I probably would have installed USF a small favorite in this one so it makes me wonder why the Bulls aren't. The Bulls have struggled at times in the secondary and may be overconfident after last week's big win.


— North Texas has just one win this season, but the Mean Green are coming off a cover at Tennessee last week. This is their third straight road game, which makes me leery about their effort against Middle Tennessee on Saturday. The Blue Raiders have won two straight and three of their last four games. The offense is clicking and getting it done through the air. Still, they've been a favorite of 21.5 to 31 points just nine times since 1992. They've failed to cover in eight of their last 12 games against teams with a losing record. There are factors going in both directions in this one.


— Miami opened up as a favorite against Georgia Tech, but now is around a two-point underdog. The Hurricanes have won three of their last five while the Yellow Jackets have lost two straight and now have no chance for a bowl game this season. The Canes were gifted a win a few weeks ago in Duke and now take on a GT team that may be out of motivation for a road trip like this. Lean to Miami, but hesitantly considering the line move.


— 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: College Football Picks for Week 12
Post date: Friday, November 20, 2015 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News, Magazines
Path: /magazines/athlon-cover-catch-mike-hass-talks-about-working-nike-getting-his-scholarship

Former Oregon State wide receiver Mike Hass remains one of the Pac-12’s most prolific receivers, and if his post-playing career vocation goes well, he’ll continue to slip in the record book.


Hass is one of two Pac-12 receivers with three consecutive 1,000-yard receivers, winning the Biletnikoff Award in 2005. His 1,532 yards in 2005 was a record at the time, one that’s been exceeded twice, by USC’s Marqise Lee in 2012 and Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks in 2013.


Since retiring from the NFL in 2011, Hass has kept himself in the sport — and impacting the next generation of receivers, even if they don’t know it. Hass returned to Portland where he started working with Nike as a developer for football gloves.


Hass, who appeared on the cover of the 2005 Athlon Sports Pac-12 football preview annual, talked to Athlon about working with Nike, walking on at Oregon State and the moment he was put on scholarship.


What do you do for Nike?

I develop football gloves, of all things.


When you say you develop football gloves, do you mean the design and look or the “Sport Science” part of it?

I would say more like the technology part of it, so to speak: The fit, the function, the costing, the manufacturing and engineering.


How did you get started with it?

I got done playing, and I was a Nike athlete when I was in the NFL. I had connections and some friends that worked there. I started networking and meeting the right people and finding my place with the company.


What would a normal day or week be for you?

A lot of meetings, answering emails, usually from Asia. We’re negotiating manufacturing, costing and then going back to Portland to make sure the gloves fit and form properly for the players and that the sizing is OK.


So do you test the gloves yourself?

That’s one of the things that helped me get the job. I used them for 15 years and whatnot. When samples come in, I can try them. We rely on the athletes out there to give us the insights but I can at least put them on and figure out if something is wrong.


Was this in line with your academic background or something you targeted for after your playing career?

My background was civil engineering at Oregon State. While it’s not civil engineering by any means there are definite aspects of school that I use in my day to day job, just in putting things together, solving problems.


I know Oregon State is a Nike school, but do any of your OSU friends have any opinions on you working for the most visible Oregon backer in the world?

I’ve got to do a lot of stuff for Oregon. We do so much stuff for them compared to any other school. There are times when I want to sneak some gloves through for the Beavers, but I need to get the right people on board for that one.


You played for Mike Riley when he was getting started at Oregon State. What are Nebraska players getting to know about this guy?

That he’s genuine. A lot of times coaches in the college profession churn you through and spit you out when you’re done. I think his program allows you to grow as a man. You’re cared about. He’ll be a good fit there.


Were you surprised he left after being there for so long and turned down other opportunities?

Yes and no. Change was a good thing in this situation. He was getting a lot of criticism. I think a lot of it has to do with what’s happening down the road with Oregon and their success. Oregon doesn’t have the money and the things that Oregon does. There are things to improve in that aspect. It’s a good change for him.


Do you still keep in touch with the Oregon State program and people there?

Sure. They’ve had the same equipment manager for I don’t know how long, maybe 20 years. I like to go down there and meet those familiar faces. The coaching staff has changed, so I need to meet with them and keep that relationship going. I’ll always be a Beaver and fan.


You were a walk-on at Oregon State. Now it seems like any time a walk-on gets a scholarship, it’s a YouTube video and people see that moment in real time. What do you recall about the time you were put on scholarship?

It’s a big deal. It’s what every walk-on’s goal is. I remember mine. It was my redshirt sophomore year and we were out at practice, and they drew up a pass play for me, and James Newson, a receiver who was the No. 1 guy at the time, said if you catch this one you’re going to get a scholarship. They ran the play, and I caught the ball and Coach Riley called it in and announced it in front of everybody. It was a cool experience and one I’ll never forget.


Do you ever watch those walk-on videos whenever they come up? Does it take you back?

Definitely. They’re cool. As a young man who’s worked his ass off when no one would give him a chance, it’s always cool to see guys own it. Guys come out of high school and get stars put on them and some don’t pan out and some to. But those guys actually earned it.


I had remembered you won the Biletnikoff in 2005, but I forgot what a monster year it was. You had 300 more yards than anyone else and your peers that year were Dwayne Jarrett, Greg Jennings and Jeff Samardzija. What do you remember about that year?

That was the season we wanted to have. We didn’t go to a bowl game. We only got to play 11 games. I wish I had another game to put more yards on that total. I remember we had a young team on defense, and it was frustrating to put up points and then have a defense that was going through growing pains.


Do you have your Biletnikoff Trophy? Where do you keep it?

It’s in my house, in my office. It has the program to it (from the ceremony) that I keep with other awards that I had accumulated through my career, NFL game ball and those things.

Athlon Cover Catchup: Mike Hass Talks About Working for Nike, Getting his Scholarship
Post date: Friday, November 20, 2015 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/air-force-falcons-vs-boise-state-broncos-preview-and-prediction-2015

The Mountain West Conference Mountain Division (that just rattles off the tongue, doesn’t it?) is up for grabs when Air Force faces Boise State on the blue turf on Friday night.


Boise State (7-3, 4-2 MW) is reeling right now after a shocking loss to New Mexico at home that snapped the Broncos’ 18-game winning streak at Albertsons Stadium.


Air Force (7-3, 5-1 MW) meanwhile is riding high into the wild blue yonder on a four-game winning streak, with last week’s 35-28 triumph at home against Utah State being the most impressive victory during this stretch.


College Football Podcast: Week 12 Preview

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Air Force at Boise State


Kickoff: 9:30 p.m. ET (Friday)


Spread: Boise State -12


Three Things to Watch


1. Revenge game for Boise State

Last season, the only loss Boise State suffered in Mountain West play was against Air Force in Colorado Springs.


After that 28-14 loss to the Falcons, many around Bronco Nation were questioning the hire of head coach Bryan Harsin. Then after the loss to Air Force, the Broncos went on a tear, winning their next nine games, including a victory over Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl.


Air Force has always given the Broncos struggles since the two became conference foes in 2011. Two years ago, the Falcons jumped out to an early lead on the road before quarterback Joe Southwick set a MWC completion percentage record of 93.1 percent (27-for-29) en route to a 42-20 Boise State win.


With this Friday’s game being Senior Day for 20 Boise State players, I’d expect emotions to be running high, as those Broncos certainly don’t want to end their careers on the blue turf with another loss to the Cadets.


2. The Air Force passing attack?

Air Force is currently on a four-game winning streak and a large part of the Falcons’ success has come through the air. Ironic, isn’t it? Air Force, the air, okay never mind. But seriously, the Falcons have had success passing the football this season, and last week quarterback Karson Roberts posted 271 yards and a touchdown in the win over Utah State.


Wide receiver Jalen Robinette had a career day, as his 210 yards receiving put him third in the Air Force record books for most in a single game.


We all can expect the triple option attack to be a tall order for any opposing defense, but when the passing game is clicking for Air Force, the Falcons become a tough team to stop.


3. Restore dominance on the blue turf
The loss last week to New Mexico – a 30-point underdog – was one of the worst in the past 20 years for the Boise State program. For that loss to the Lobos to happen at home on the blue turf made it even tougher to swallow for the Broncos, who may be losing their mystique as one of the top Group of 5 programs.


Getting back on track with a win over a quality Air Force team is critical for the Broncos, who want to restore that dominance they’ve had for nearly two decades at home.


Final Analysis


This is always an intriguing matchup between Boise State and Air Force. I expect a quality football game to be played, but don’t count on the Broncos coughing up the football four times again in this one like they did against New Mexico.


Freshman quarterback Brett Rypien is a star in the making, but their needs to be a more concerted effort to run the football and not rely on the passing game. Last week, the Broncos attempted 74 passes in the shocking home loss to the Lobos. Boise State should win at the point of attack against an undersized Air Force squad, and I’d expect the home team to come away with a statement victory to get back in the race to win the Mountain Division, and have a shot at playing in the Mountain West Conference Championship Game.


Prediction: Boise State 37, Air Force


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

Air Force Falcons vs. Boise State Broncos Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, November 19, 2015 - 13:30
Path: /college-football/cincinnati-bearcats-vs-south-florida-bulls-preview-and-prediction-2015

A week after scoring an upset at home against Temple, South Florida is making some noise in the American Athletic Conference, and that is good news for head coach Willie Taggart. After a 1-3 start to the season, with losses to Florida State, Maryland and Memphis, things looked bleak for Taggart's future in Tampa. But he remained in control of his bus and now has USF making a late run at a division title with two winnable games left to play. First up is Cincinnati.


Cincinnati has fallen well shy of preseason expectations, but the Bearcats remain a tough out in conference play. Cincinnati gave Houston a good challenge a couple of weeks ago and last week saw the Bearcats put 49 points on the scoreboard in a win over Tulsa. Can it keep that offense chugging against a USF team that has started to feel good about itself?


College Football Podcast: Week 12 Preview

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Cincinnati at South Florida


Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV: CBS Sports Network

Spread: Cincinnati -2.5


Three Things to Watch


1. USF's running game the best-kept secret in the AAC?

When you think about the top rushing offenses in the American Athletic Conference, the odds are good you think of the top two without much hesitation. Navy and Houston, thanks in large part to their mobile quarterbacks, lead the conference in rushing yards per game, but Willie Taggart's Bulls have been running well too. USF enters this week with the conference's third-best rushing offense, with an average of 5.17 rushing yards per attempt. Sophomore Marlon Mack has been leading the charge with 1,065 yards and six touchdowns, and quarterback Quinton Flowers has been a dual threat flying under the radar with 747 rushing yards and a team-high eight touchdowns. Cincinnati can be run on. The Bearcats have the conference's ninth-ranked rushing defense, allowing 186.1 yards per game.


2. Cincinnati's offense is a turnover factory of sadness

Only one team in the AAC has a worse turnover margin than Cincinnati's minus-12, and that is lowly UCF (-15). No other teams in the conference have a turnover margin lower than minus-seven (-7). On offense, Cincinnati has lost the football nine times to a fumble and 14 times to an interception. Starting quarterback Gunner Kiel has thrown eight of those interceptions. The defense has struggled to help even things out, with a total of 11 takeaways with four fumble recoveries and seven intercepted passes. South Florida is on the plus-side of the turnover margin with a plus-three (+3), so Cincinnati will have to avoid losing control of the football if it is to score the win to move into second place in the division. Cincinnati has had a negative turnover margin each of the past two weeks, in which it has gone 1-1.


3. South Florida still alive for the AAC East Championship

Thanks to a home win last week against Temple, USF is still in the running for the AAC East Division championship, although it needs a little bit of help. In addition to beating Cincinnati and UCF next week, USF still needs Temple to lose at least once in order to take advantage of a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Owls. If USF and Temple end the season with the same conference record, USF will play either Houston or Navy in the first AAC Championship Game. Temple can clinch the division with a USF loss and a win over Memphis in Philadelphia on Saturday.


Cincinnati has already been eliminated from the division race, even with a win against the Bulls. Cincinnati trails Temple by two games and lost back in Week 2 to the Owls to lose a head-to-head tiebreaker out of the gates of a new season.


Final Analysis


Though it has been a bit of a roller coaster of a season at times, Cincinnati's offense is still a potent one that could give South Florida some troubles. USF's defense has tightened things up in the second half of the season, and the running game has come along very nicely. Keeping Cincinnati's offense off the field will be key for the Bulls to continue to carry the momentum gained last week against Temple. If Quinton Flowers breaks lose, it could lead to a long night down south for the visiting Bearcats.


Prediction: South Florida 29, Cincinnati 24


— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.

Cincinnati Bearcats vs. South Florida Bulls Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, November 19, 2015 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/aaron-rodgers-girlfriend-olivia-munn-rips-fox-espn-washington-post-twitter

When football players are playing badly, the first place fans look is at their significant others. Look at Russell Wilson and Ciara, James Harden and Khloe Kardashian, and so on.


People are trying to put the blame for Aaron Rodgers' bad play on anyone other than the quarterback himself. Unfortunately for them Rodgers' girlfriend Olivia Munn has decided to strike back at media outlets who used certain Packers fans' comments to justify their articles





Post date: Thursday, November 19, 2015 - 11:41
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-patience-or-panic-peyton-manning-green-bay-packers-lucky-fantasy-team

The fantasy season is truly winding down and for many it is only a few more weeks before you are fulfilling your destiny to become a league champion. For others, you are biting your fingernails dangerously low each and every minute of the next three weekends hoping for victory and a chance to advance.


Then there are those of us whose season is already over and setting a lineup is merely a formality at this point. And to add insult to injury, while you are doing this a tear drops from your eye as you think of what could have been with the team you had such high hopes for back in September.


Either way you should fit into one of these groups and whether it was injury, disappointing seasons from highly drafted players, dangerously slow starts, or even worse, poor fantasy management... (I know, I know but it DOES happen!) this is the point of the season where there is no rest for the weary. Uou must kick it into overdrive, not get complacent and most importantly know whether to stand pat or cut bait. It’s time for...


Patience or Panic?


1. Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos

I have had Manning in this post before early on in the season and begged for patience. However, we are well past that point after the last several weeks. And now he’s injured, which all but seals his fate in fantasy leagues.


The Verdict: Panic (Hopefully you did weeks ago!)

It’s time to send Manning off into the dreaded sunset or the waiver wire, whichever you prefer. It actually was weeks ago, but if for whatever reason you are still holding out hope for a return come fantasy playoff time expect to be disappointed. Also, is there anyone out there who could play him with any confidence at this point? I think not.


2. Green Bay Packer fans and fantasy owners

This is my chance I guess to jab at Packers fans a little as a Vikings fan. I also fully realize this weekend’s upcoming battle could be the week Green Bay gets back on track, but either way this is about fantasy, not reality.


Although you can’t have one without the other, Green Bay has been more than disappointing over the past three weeks. The seemingly unstoppable offense from the start of the season can’t complete big plays or deep passes. Their running game is hit or miss and James Starks, not early-round draft pick Eddie Lacy, appears to be the focal point now.


Jordy Nelson is deeply missed, as it seems like Davante Adams is simply not a plug-and-play receiver to fill those big shoes. Aaron Rodgers is still an elite fantasy QB and producing, but other than that the seed of doubt both offensively, and defensively, has been planted.


The Verdict: Patience

As a fan you likely aren’t worried, and still consider your squad to be one of the best in the league, the world and of all-time. After all, you have Aaron Rodgers and those championships of long ago. You also are only one game behind Minnesota and if your team wins this week, normalcy will have returned to Titletown.


In all reality Rodgers and Randall Cobb are too good to ignore, and eventually this team has to get the offense cooking again. The Packers’ defense should really have you scared, but in fantasy that doesn’t really matter too much right?


3. That Owner in the running for the final playoff spot, but in the bottom quarter of the league in points scored

OK, that was long-winded I know, but hopefully you got the point. There is one of these owners in every league and almost every season. They have a winning record but only because they are LUCKY! They play the team that loses players in the first quarter, or simply puts up a dud that week. You know which ones I am referring to. The team that somehow gets a win even though it would have only beat one other team that week. This team can win but can't put up points.


The Verdict: Panic

There should be no confidence in this owner’s mind and know that their team will likely struggle if it makes the playoffs. This team may even miss the playoffs altogether. If you are that owner of said team, there may still be a window to try and make moves to improve your team for a push to make the playoffs. However, you must realize you have been lucky most of the season and in all likelihood it will come to an end sooner than later. Luck typically fades when you need it most.


— 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.

Fantasy Football 2015 Patience or Panic: Peyton Manning, the Green Bay Packers, and that Lucky Team
Post date: Thursday, November 19, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-must-start-larry-fitzgerald-and-other-wr-te-startsit-fantasy-advice-week-11

Julian Edelman went down with a broken foot and several top fantasy wide receivers and tight ends are on bye in Week 11. So who should you start and who should you sit? Before we get to that, let’s see how some of my advice for Week 10 turned out.


Good Calls:


Start Allen Robinson (11.1 fantasy points) – Robinson is the No. 1 target in an improving passing attack.


Sit Jeremy Maclin (1.7 FP) – Maclin has taken a back seat in the Chiefs’ offense since the emergence of Charcandrick West.


Sit Sammy Watkins (1.4 FP) – Watkins didn’t do anything last week against Darrelle Revis and the Jets on Thursday night.


Start Jordan Reed (14.9 FP) – Thank goodness he scored another two touchdowns.


Sit Martellus Bennett (1.8 FP) – It’s probably a good idea to sit Bennett for the rest of the year


Bad Calls:


Start Demaryius Thomas (7.1 FP) – Who knew Peyton Manning was going to struggle that badly against the Chiefs?


Sit Larry Fitzgerald (13 FP) - Fitzgerald is back to being the 1,400-yard Fitzgerald of old


Start Delanie Walker (5.2 FP) – As goes Marcus Mariota, so does Walker.


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


Teams on bye: Cleveland, New Orleans, New York Giants, Pittsburgh


Wide Receivers




Larry Fitzgerald, ARI (vs. CIN)

Fitzgerald shredded the vaunted Seahawks defense last week for 130 yards on 10 catches in a matchup that many thought the entire Cardinals offense would struggle in. If Carson Palmer is going to be matchup-proof, then you have to put his No. 1 wide receiver in the same category. This week is another tough matchup for Fitzgerald and the Cardinals against the Bengals, a team that is giving up the sixth-fewest fantasy points to WRs. Both Michael Floyd and John Brown are hampered by hamstring injuries, which means plenty of targets for Fitzgerald in this one. Look for another 100-yard receiving game and Fitzgerald’s first touchdown catch since Week 8.


Amari Cooper, OAK (at DET)

You could gamble and also say that Michael Crabtree should be the must-start, but I’m going with super rookie Cooper as the Raiders travel across the country to take on the Detroit Lions. Cooper’s quarterback (Derek Carr) has been one of the most consistent and productive over the past several weeks and that’s not going to stop this week against the Lions and their 23rd-ranked pass defense.  In fact, the Lions rank eighth in most fantasy points allowed to WRs. Cooper has been slumping lately, but this is the perfect game for him to break out of it. Look for him to go well over 100 yards for the first time since Week 7 and add at least one touchdown.


Brandon Marshall, NYJ (vs. HOU)

While Marshall has been slowed by injuries lately, which has led to a decent drop in production, he has been a touchdown machine on the year. He’s gotten into the end zone in six of his nine games and now he should be as close to 100 percent healthy as he can be at this time of year after getting 10 days’ rest. This week the Jets travel to Houston to take on a Texans team that has allowed 16 touchdown passes in nine games this season and also is currently giving up the 12th-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season. It’s true that the Texans were able to hold down a pretty good Bengals passing attack on Monday night, but the Jets are playing for their playoff lives and this is a game where Marshall will step up and make both New York fans and his fantasy owners happy.




Davante Adams, GB (at MIN)

It appears that you never know what you are going to get with the Packers offense on a week-to-week basis. One week Aaron Rodgers throws for only 77 yards, the next week he throws for more than 300 and Randall Cobb comes back from the dead to be fantasy relevant. Then last week Cobb disappeared once again and all Rodgers did was throw the ball Adams’ way, targeting him an incredible 21 times. Adams was able to haul in 10 of those passes for 79 yards, which led to a pretty respectable 17.9 fantasy points in PPR leagues. This week the Packers have a very tough matchup as they travel to Minnesota to take on the division-leading Vikings. The Vikings are currently allowing the eighth-fewest fantasy points to WRs and you can bet that this is another game where Cobb will be a non-factor. Rodgers will need to throw the ball to someone, so look for Adams to have another game with 12-plus targets and if he can catch 75 percent of those, he might end up with 100 yards receiving.




Randall Cobb, GB (at MIN)

If you look under bust in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of Cobb. Easily a second-round pick in many fantasy drafts this season, Cobb has only had two games where he’s scored more than 15 fantasy points. He’s more likely to hurt your fantasy team by scoring five or fewer fantasy points than help on any given Sunday. It’s just too hard to trust Cobb on a week-to-week basis and Week 11 has the Packers heading to Minnesota to take on a Vikings defense that is currently allowing the eighth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers. You can count on Cobb to be a complete non-factor once again this week.


Demaryius Thomas, DEN (vs. CHI)

Good thing Thomas got his boat load of money before the season. Thanks to erratic and poor quarterback play, Thomas has seen his fantasy production take a decent hit in recent weeks. It’s not as if Thomas has been a bust or anything like that. He does have 68 catches for 816 yards on the season and is seeing on average at least 10 targets per game. The problem is that he’s only scored one touchdown on the year, after scoring 14 in 2013 and 11 last year. Again, that’s not his fault, but like any wide receiver, Thomas is dependent on the QB getting him the ball. This week Thomas will have Brock Osweiler throwing passes to him and no one knows what to expect. Thomas should still see his share of targets, but Osweiler is likely to struggle and Thomas will be more in line for a game with five catches for 60 yards than a game where he goes over 100 yards and scores two touchdowns.


A.J. Green, CIN (at ARI)

Would you believe that Green has only scored double-digit fantasy points in three games this season? And one of those games he only scored 10.5 fantasy points. In his last two games Green has been a complete non-factor, scoring only 5.3 and 4.7 fantasy points. He’s watched as Tyler Eifert has taken a more prominent role in the red zone and Green has even seen his targets drop to well under 10 per game. This week the Bengals travel all the way to Arizona for another prime time game. This means that Andy Dalton will struggle just like he did last week on Monday night, where he led the Bengals to only six points. Obviously if Dalton is going to struggle, Green isn’t going to do much of anything. The Cardinals have an excellent defense and are currently giving up the 10th-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this season. Another five-point fantasy game is in store for Green this week.




Alshon Jeffery, CHI (vs. DEN)

In a game where the Bears scored 37 points and Jay Cutler threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns, Jeffery saw only four targets, catching three of them for a whopping 23 yards. So much for the thought that Cutler would throw the ball to Jeffery no matter the game plan. Okay, so it’s not as if Jeffery had a terrible game. He only played 35 of 65 snaps thanks to a groin injury. Who knows how his groin will feel this week, but he’s got a terrible matchup this week with the Denver Broncos paying a visit to Solider Field. Aqib Talib, Denver’s best cover cornerback, will be back from his one-game suspension and providing blanket coverage on Jeffery all game. Throw in the fact that even though the Chiefs scored 29 points on them last week, the Broncos are still allowing the second-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers on the season. Jeffery isn’t going to help your quest to make the fantasy playoffs this week.


Tight Ends




Tyler Eifert, CIN (at ARI)

Coming off of a three-touchdown performance, many fantasy owners were expecting another big game last week against the Houston Texans. Instead Andy Dalton once gain laid an egg in prime time and Eifert sure didn’t help with three massive drops. Eifert went from scoring 23.3 fantasy points to just 2.6. Talk about consistency issues. Now this week Eifert and the Bengals travel to the desert to play the Arizona Cardinals, which on paper is a terrible matchup for Eifert. The Cardinals are fourth in terms of fewest fantasy points given up to tight ends, so you might think it best to sit him, but hold on a second. Dalton is going to have to throw the ball to keep the Bengals in the game and his go-to wide receiver A.J. Green will be a non-factor as he will see blanket coverage from Patrick Peterson. This will mean plenty of opportunities for Eifert to catch six or more passes for more than 70 yards and we already know that Dalton loves looking Eifert’s way in the red zone.


Travis Kelce, KC (at SD)

So much for Kelce being called “Little Gronk” because his size and athleticism compares very well to Gronkowski’s. As long as Kelce is on the Chiefs with Andy Reid as his head coach and Alex Smith as his quarterback, Kelce will never reach his full potential. That doesn’t mean however that Kelce can’t produce great fantasy numbers from time to time. It all depends on his matchup. As it goes so happens, this week the Chiefs get the lucky assignment of travelling to San Diego to play a Chargers defense that would struggle to stop a DIII school right now. The Chargers are giving up the ninth-most fantasy points to tight ends and since the Chiefs really don’t have anyone else to throw the ball to (sorry Jeremy Maclin), look for Kelce to possibly have his best game of the season with around eight catches for close to 100 yards and a touchdown.


Antonio Gates, SD (vs. KC)

Gates’ knee injury should be as close to 100 percent as it can be given his age and the time of year coming off his bye week. On paper, this week’s matchup against the Chiefs isn’t a favorable one. The Chiefs have been one of the toughest defenses in the league against tight ends, currently giving up the second-fewest fantasy points to the position. However, you need to consider what Gates has done against the Chiefs in his career. In his last five home games against Kansas City, Gates has scored a touchdown six times, meaning he’s scored at least once in all five of those games. The Chargers’ wide receiver corps is decimated with injuries so look for Gates to be targeted heavily and end up with at least one touchdown.




Zach Ertz, PHI (vs. TB)

Last week Ertz set season highs in yards, catches and targets in the Eagles’ loss to the Dolphins, but unfortunately, Ertz still has yet to find the end zone on the season. What makes Ertz an intriguing play this week is the fact that he has seen a steady dose of targets over his last five games, which means he is a solid part of Chip Kelly’s game plan and is starting to get some opportunities in the red zone. This week the Eagles play host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their defense that is middle of the road against tight ends. The Bucs are 16th in the league in most fantasy points allowed to the position. Look for Ertz to see another seven-plus targets and this is the week he finally scores a touchdown.




Vernon Davis/Owen Daniels, DEN (at CHI)

Stay away from the Broncos’ tight ends this week because of the huge unknown that is Brock Osweiler. Other than a couple of games when Daniels was able to get into the end zone, Broncos tight ends have been an afterthought this year in the passing attack with Peyton Manning under center. Now with Osweiler set to make his first career NFL start, you know that the Broncos are going to lean heavily on their running game (which sucks), and when he goes back to throw, he’s going to be looking in the direction of Demaryius Thomas. Plus, the Broncos travel to play in Chicago against a Bears defense that is allowing the sixth-fewest fantasy points to opposing TEs. Stay away from Davis and Daniels moving forward.


Charles Clay, BUF (at NE, Mon.)

Other than in Weeks 3 and 4, where Clay scored 14.2 and 11.1 fantasy points, he really hasn’t done anything. He’s been injured, completely ineffective and not even fantasy relevant for most of the season. This week the Bills travel to New England where they consistently struggle to score points. Throw in the fact that while the Patriots do allow a lot of yards through the air (around 250 per game), they are currently allowing the seventh-fewest fantasy points to tight ends. It will be a good game for Sammy Watkins, not Clay.


Martellus Bennett, CHI (vs. DEN)

Bennett has been one of the most disappointing players from a fantasy perspective so far this season. Many thought that he would have a breakout season where he became one of the elite tight ends, especially when the Bears started the season with Alshon Jeffery sidelined by injury. Who else was Jay Cutler going to throw the ball to? As it turns out, Cutler likes throwing to anyone but Bennett. Just look at last week when Zach Miller (5-107-2) did most of the damage. This week the Bears play host to the Broncos, whose only chance of winning is to lean on the defense. The Broncos are allowing an average of 6.61 fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season, so put Bennett on your bench this week.




Jordan Reed, WAS (at CAR)

Normally Reed is a must-start because he is easily Kirk Cousins’ favorite target, but the two don’t really seem to be on the same page as of late and the game flow has gone away from Reed and more towards using Matt Jones out of the backfield to catch screens and balls in the flat. Reed has caught five touchdown passes in his last three games, which is outstanding. But touchdowns are fickle and it’s highly unlikely that Reed keeps finding the end zone at his current rate. What is much more alarming is that Reed has a total of six catches in his last two games and this week the Redskins travel to play the undefeated Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have given up the 15th-fewest fantasy points to tight ends, which isn’t good or bad, but the problem is that Cousins might not have the time he needs in the pocket to get Reed the ball. Be cautious with using Reed this week.


— Written 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.

Why You Must Start Larry Fitzgerald and Other WR/TE Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 11
Post date: Thursday, November 19, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-should-start-marshawn-lynch-and-other-rb-startsit-fantasy-advice-week-11

No DeAngelo Williams or Mark Ingram in Week 11, so which fantasy running back do you want to start and which should you consider leaving on your bench? Before I address that, here’s a quick look at some good and not-so-good calls in Week 10.


Good Calls:


Start DeMarco Murray (17.9 fantasy points, PPR league) – Murray is a key cog in the Eagles’ passing game, which makes him a must start in PPR leagues


Sit Doug Martin (10.3 FP) – Martin’s averaging barely over 3 yards per carry in his last three games


Sit Jeremy Hill (2.0 FP) – Ugh. Leave Hill on your bench for the rest of the season


Bad Calls:


Start Mark Ingram (9.8 FP) – Ingram only got five carries because the Saints’ defense is so bad that the offense was forced to play from (way) behind the entire game last week against the Redskins.


Start Justin Forsett (6.4 FP) – Forsett failed to either total 100 yards from scrimmage or score a touchdown for the first time since Week 3.


Sit Lamar Miller (15.3 FP) – Miller keeps catching balls out of the backfield and running a few of them into the end zone.


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


Teams on bye: Cleveland, New Orleans, New York Giants, Pittsburgh




Darren McFadden, DAL (vs. MIA)

Since taking over the No. 1 role for the Cowboys, McFadden has been a fantasy gem and anyone who was smart enough to draft him or pick him up has been pleasantly surprised. Prior to last week where he only scored 5.8 fantasy points (32 yards rushing on 17 carries), McFadden had scored 10 or more fantasy points in each of the previous three games, including a season-high 22.2 fantasy points in Week 7. Two things are really going in McFadden’s favor this week. First off, Tony Romo is back, which means the Dolphins’ defense can’t just focus on stopping the run. Second, only one team has given up more fantasy points to opposing RBs than the Dolphins thus far. Put those two things together and you have a game where McFadden should easily gain more than 100 yards rushing with at least one touchdown and that’s not even taking into account the numbers that he’ll put up in the passing game.


Marshawn Lynch, SEA (vs. SF)

It wasn’t too long ago when Lynch was an absolute must-start and would never be considered as someone that you might sit based on a matchup. Well, the way that Lynch has played this year, you’ve been better off leaving him on your bench for most of the year. Lynch has been banged up a lot and looks like his career is trending downwards. He only has 417 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the season. But don’t fret, he still has gas left in the tank. The last time Lynch played the 49ers he had his best game of the year, scoring 18.2 fantasy points thanks to 122 rushing yards and one touchdown. This week the 49ers (6th in terms of most fantasy points allowed to RBs) come to pay a visit to the Seahawks. Even though the Seahawks’ offensive line is terrible, you can expect Lynch to reach the century mark with at least one touchdown on the day. He might even score more than 20 fantasy points.


Charcandrick West, KC (at SD)

It appears that Andy Reid has realized that if the Chiefs have any shot at winning and staying in the wild card race, they need to make sure that West gets the ball early and often. In his last three games, West has scored 18.9, 18.2 and 28.1 fantast points, helping the Chiefs win all three of those games. This week the Chiefs travel to San Diego to play a Chargers defense that is allowing the most fantasy points to opposing running backs on the season. Not only is West the best running back on the Chiefs’ roster, he might be their best receiver as well because quarterback Alex Smith loves throwing him the ball in the flat and in the open field. Look for West to have another monster game and come close to scoring another 20 fantasy points.




Jeremy Langford, CHI (vs. DEN)

This is 100 percent dependent on whether or not Matt Forte plays. If Forte does play Langford will no doubt still have a role in the Bears’ offense, especially the way he’s been playing, but you know Forte would see his share of touches. If Forte doesn’t play, Langford should be in for a decent day against a Broncos defense that has really gotten beaten up lately and might be on the field a lot with Brock Osweiler as the starting quarterback this week. Langford is a key contributor both on the ground and in the passing game and it’s that volume that makes him an interesting play. Even though the Broncos have been pretty stingy to fantasy running backs, Langford’s versatility should allow him to once again score north of 15 fantasy points and a heck of a lot more in PPR leagues.


Related: Evaluating Chicago Bears Backfield, Danny Amendola's Outlook, Carson Palmer's Season and More Week 10 Fantasy Observations




Justin Forsett, BAL (vs. STL)

The term fantasy bust gets thrown out a lot, but you can definitely call Forsett that this season. While he wasn’t a sleeper or a breakout candidate, he was a guy who was coming off his best season as a pro, rushing for 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns. Forsett was expected to at least duplicate those numbers and see an increase in production in the passing game. So far Forsett hasn’t done much of anything. He’s had seven games this season already where he’s scored 10 or fewer fantasy points. He only scored 6.4 fantasy points last week against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars. This week the St. Louis Rams come to town, a defense that has arguably one of the best front fours in the NFL and is currently allowing the 11th-fewest fantasy points to RBs on the season. Hopefully you have been able to play it smart on the waiver wire and have another RB you can plug in place of Forsett this week.


Chris Johnson, ARI (vs. CIN)

Don’t look now but Johnson’s fantasy magic might be wearing off. In his last two games he’s scored 6.9 and 5.8 fantasy points respectively, despite getting over 25 carries in each game. Last week against the Seahawks it was Andre Ellington who led to way helping the Cardinals knock off the Seahawks in Seattle. This week the Cardinals play host to the Bengals and it should be a decent matchup, as they are middle of the pack (17th) in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs. The problem if you have Johnson on your team is that Ellington’s touches have been going up with each passing game. Johnson needs all the opportunities he can get to maintain his fantasy relevance.


Doug Martin, TB (at PHI)

From Weeks 4 to 7 Martin looked like the best fantasy running back in the game today. He scored 20.3, 33.8 and 17.1 fantasy points in that span (three games). There’s no doubt he helped many fantasy owners to victory during this stretch. Those of you who have been trotting Martin out there in your lineups ever since however have surely been disappointed. He’s scored about 20 total fantasy points in his last three games and now it appears he’s in a time share with Charles Sims. It also doesn’t help that this week Martin and the Buccaneers travel to the City of Brotherly Love to take on the Eagles. Philadelphia’s defense has done a fine job against running backs, allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points on the season. Martin is an easy must-sit this week.




LeSean McCoy, BUF (vs. NE, Mon.)

McCoy has looked like his old self again since the Bills had their bye week. In his last two games, McCoy has scored 17.9 and 15.9 fantasy points, going over 100 yards rushing in each game. It appears that McCoy might not be the fantasy bust so many thought he was destined to be. But unlike past years, McCoy is not matchup-proof and this week the Bills travel to New England, a place where Buffalo usually struggles. It doesn’t help matters that the Patriots play some defense. New England has given up the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing RBs thus far. This looks like a game where McCoy will be splitting carries with Karlos Williams and both should probably be left on your bench if you can stomach it.


— Written 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.

Why You Should Start Marshawn Lynch and Other RB Start/Sit Fantasy Advice For Week 11
Post date: Thursday, November 19, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-should-sit-andy-dalton-and-other-qb-dst-startsit-fantasy-advice-week-11

It’s Week 11 and time for another installment of which fantasy quarterback and defense/special teams (DSTs) you should start or sit. But first, I know you are really interested to see how I did in Week 10.


Good Calls:


Start Eli Manning (21.44 fantasy points) – Manning always plays well against Tom Brady and the Patriots.


Start Joe Flacco (22.34 FP) – Flacco always plays well at home and he torched the Jaguars last Sunday.


Sit Marcus Mariota (8.8 FP) – When Mariota plays against a good defense, he’s not very good.


Sit Russell Wilson (17.8 FP) – Wilson finished as the 11th-best fantasy QB last week.


Bad Calls:


Sit Jay Cutler (24.72 FP) – Thanks to a couple of short passes that turned into huge gains; Cutler had a great game against the Rams.


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


Teams on bye: Cleveland, New Orleans, New York Giants, Pittsburgh






Derek Carr, OAK (at DET)

For a player that went mostly undrafted in the majority of fantasy drafts this year, Carr has been quite the pleasant surprise. He’s already had five games (out of nine) where he’s thrown for more than 300 yards and on the year he has 21 touchdown passes touchdowns to only six interceptions. Those are elite numbers. What is making Carr so consistently good in fantasy is that he can put up numbers not only at home, but on the road as well. That will come in handy this week as the Raiders travel to Detroit to take on a Lions teams that is currently giving up the fifth-most fantasy points to QBs. Amari Cooper has had a couple of quiet games in a row now, so expect Carr and the first-round draft pick to hook up a lot on Sunday, as the young QB posts another 300-yard game with three TDs.


Philip Rivers, SD (vs. KC)

Guess who trails Tom Brady by 10 yards for the league lead? No it’s definitely not, Peyton Manning or even Drew Brees. It’s Rivers, who has 3,033 yards passing and 19 TDs in nine games. A lot of those yards are due to the fact that the Chargers are only rivaled by the Saints in having the absolute worst defense in football. That means that there is a lot of garbage-time fantasy points to be had by Rivers and if you have him on your team, you should be very thankful for that. You might not think that there will be a lot of garbage time this week as Kansas City comes to town, but the Chiefs just put up 29 points on Denver, so Alex Smith and company could be in for a big day against the Chargers’ pathetic defense. Look for Rivers to put up another 20-plus fantasy points this week against a Chiefs defense that ranks middle of the road against fantasy quarterbacks (15th to be exact).


Carson Palmer, ARI (vs. CIN)

It appears that Carson Palmer is matchup-proof (I really hope he is as I have him on three of my fantasy teams). Last week he travelled to Seattle and took the heart out of the once-feared “Legion of Boom,” throwing for 363 yards and three touchdowns. Palmer does face another tough matchup this week in prime time, as the Cincinnati Bengals and their defense, which is giving up the seventh-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season, comes to town. With the weapons that Palmer has at his disposal you can see why he is matchup-proof. Throw in the fact that this is kind of a “revenge” game as Palmer faces his old team, and you can expect him to throw for close to 300 yards and three touchdowns again.

Related: Evaluating Chicago Bears Backfield, Danny Amendola's Outlook, Carson Palmer's Season and More Week 10 Fantasy Observations




Alex Smith, KC (at SD)

Alex Smith is Alex Smith, the king of the check-down and the dink-and-dunk pass. Combining him with head coach Andy Reid makes for one of the most conservative offenses in the history of football. That said, Smith and the entire Chiefs offense have really picked things up as of late and a large part of that has to do with how well RB Charcandrick West is playing right now. With guys like Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning and Drew Brees all on bye, you might be looking for a quarterback to stream. Thanks to his matchup this week against the Chargers, Smith could be in for a decent game. Don’t expect Smith to throw more than 300 yards with three touchdowns, but he should creep close to 20 fantasy points this week and at least keep you in your matchup.




Andy Dalton, CIN (at ARI)
It appears that playing in prime time once again led to Dalton shrinking under the pressure. How else do you explain him putting up a pathetic 9.88 fantasy points thanks to 197 passing yards, zero touchdowns and one interception against one of the worst defenses in football, the Houston Texans? Since Dalton has been one of the best and most consistent fantasy quarterbacks this season you might think that it can’t get any worse. Well it can and it will. Up this week is yet another prime time game for Dalton and the Bengals as they travel to face Arizona on Sunday night. If you think his game against the pitiful Texans was bad, wait until Dalton takes the field against a Cardinals defense that is currently giving up the eighth-fewest fantasy points to QBs this season? It would be wise to find an alternative to Dalton this week.


Ryan Tannehill, MIA (vs. DAL)

So much for the breakout season that everyone and their grandmother were predicting for Tannehill at the start of the season. If you look back to everyone’s breakout players list for 2015, you’d be hard pressed to find one that didn’t include Tannehill. Too bad that isn’t going to happen this year. In nine games this season, Tannehill has eclipsed 20 fantasy points twice. That’s brutal. Things don’t get any better for Tannehill this weekend as the Dallas Cowboys come to town. For all of the Cowboys’ ills, their defense has given up just nine touchdown passes on the season and are sixth in the league in fewest fantasy points allowed to QBs.  Hopefully by now you’ve found a better option at quarterback.


Joe Flacco, BAL (vs. STL)

Believe it or not but Flacco has been one the better fantasy quarterbacks the past three weeks, a span that includes two games and his bye week.  Back in Week 8 Flacco had 22.96 fantasy points against the San Diego Chargers and last week he scored a nice 22.34 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. So you could say that Flacco is hot right now and that you should keep on riding the wave. But notice the opponents for those two games – the Chargers and the Jaguars. Do those teams even have a defense? This week the St. Louis Rams come to town and they will be angry. The Rams are currently allowing the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs, but are coming off a game where they surrendered 37 points to Jay Cutler and the Bears. That won’t happen this week as the Rams D will get back on track and stymie Flacco all game.




Tony Romo, DAL (at MIA)

Romo is back to save the Dallas Cowboys’ season. Romo missed the past seven games and the Cowboys lost all seven, as they barely were able to do much on offense. Now that Romo is back everyone will assume that he will pick up right where he left off. Remember back in Week 1 Romo scored 24.14 fantasy points thanks to 356 yards passing and three touchdowns (with two picks). This is an absolute must-win game for the Cowboys if they want to have any chance at a wild card berth, but Romo might be playing a week or two early, so rust and rhythm could be issues. If you need to play Romo this week to save your fantasy season, then you’re already out of it. I would wait one week on Romo and see how things go before starting him. He could easily have a big game against the Dolphins, who are a middle-of-the-pack defense (15th) in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks this year, but Romo aslo could play conservative and check down a lot or hand the ball off to Darren McFadden all game.


Defense/Special Teams (DSTs)




New York Jets (at HOU)

The Jets haven’t really been a “elite” defense over the past several games, as they have allowed opposing teams to score a lot of points. Regardless of the past, this week’s matchup against the Texans is a great one for the J-E-T-S. Texans starting quarterback Brian Hoyer might not play due to a concussion and that will mean that T.J. Yates will be under center. Yates wasn’t even in the league three weeks ago. If Darrelle Revis can contain DeAndre Hopkins, Houston isn’t going to score many points.


New England Patriots (vs. BUF, Mon.)

It’s true that the Patriots DST has been on a steady fantasy scoring decline over the last three weeks, culminating in a lowly five-point effort last week against the New York Giants. But this week the Patriots are at home and playing against a Rex Ryan-led Buffalo Bills team that struggles in the hostile environment that is Gillette Stadium. Plus, over the last four weeks, DSTs that have faced the Bills have averaged a solid 10 fantasy points per game. Start the New England DST this week.




Cincinnati Bengals (at ARI)

The Bengals have scored a respectable 33 fantasy points over the last four weeks and it wasn’t their fault that they lost to the Houston Texans last week. Cincinnati only gave up 10 points, which should be more than enough to win. This week the Bengals travel to play the uber-hot Carson Palmer and all the weapons that the Arizona Cardinals have. Opposing defenses that have gone up against Palmer and company have averaged a meager 4.78 fantasy points per game.


Buffalo Bills (at NE, Mon.)

The Bills are not the elite defense that many thought they would be. This week the Bills travel to New England to take on Tom Brady and that is never good for opposing defenses. Even though Brady has lost a few of his weapons over the past couple of weeks in Dion Lewis and Julian Edelman, that’s not enough to turn a matchup against the Patriots into a favorable one for any defense. After the first 10 weeks of the season, opposing DSTs are averaging 3.11 fantasy points against the Patriots. Don’t be silly and start the Bills this week.


— Written 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.

Why You Should Sit Andy Dalton and Other QB/DST Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 11
Post date: Thursday, November 19, 2015 - 09:30