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Path: /college-football/east-carolina-pirates-vs-south-carolina-gamecocks-preview-and-prediction-2016

East Carolina has made a living of upsetting schools in Power Five conferences in the last 20 years. No matter if it was Miami, North Carolina, Virginia Tech or NC State, the Pirates have always brought their best when they play teams they’re not expected to beat.


This weekend, the Pirates will face the second of three straight Power Five opponents on their 2016 schedule as they will travel to Columbia to play the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium. Last week, ECU held off NC State 33-30 to improve to 2-0 on the season. In Week 4, East Carolina will visit Virginia Tech in Blacksburg before beginning American Athletic Conference (AAC) play on Oct. 1 against UCF.


Unlike ECU, the Gamecocks had a rough time in their second game of the season. South Carolina lost to Mississippi State 27-14 in Starkville as Bulldogs' quarterback Nick Fitzgerald rushed for 195 yards and threw for two touchdowns.


South Carolina leads the all-time series against the Pirates as they hold a 13-5 advantage. Even though the Gamecocks have won the previous three meetings, the two schools have split the last 10 matchups.


East Carolina at South Carolina


Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 17, 4 p.m. ET

TV Channel: SEC Network

Spread: South Carolina -3


Three Things to Watch


1. East Carolina’s Offense

The catalyst for the East Carolina offense this season has been quarterback transfer Philip Nelson, who also has spent time at both Minnesota and Rutgers. In two games this season, Nelson has thrown for 695 yards and six touchdowns.


East Carolina likes to show a variety of offensive looks and will use running back James Summers in a number of different ways. He is averaging 8.5 yards per carry and had a 27-yard touchdown run against NC State last week.


The Gamecocks will have to be on alert to where Zay Jones is at all times. The All-AAC receiver has caught 17 passes for 253 yards and a touchdown thus far. South Carolina also will need to pay attention to Quan Johnson, who had 13 receptions against NC State.


2. South Carolina Defense

Last week against Mississippi State the Gamecocks gave up 485 yards with 290 of those coming on the ground. South Carolina’s tackling was less than stellar as Mississippi State scored 24 points before halftime.


Despite their struggles last week, East Carolina head coach Scottie Montgomery has a ton of respect for the South Carolina defense.


“They are extremely talented at the defensive line position,” Montgomery said. “They're anchored at linebacker by great players. (Chris) Lammons at corner presents a challenge for us because he can truly cover and he's physical. Usually, you get one — a cover guy that's not physical or a physical specimen that can't really stay close to receivers, so we'll be challenged at that position. I've got so much respect for Coach (Travaris) Robinson and Coach (Will) Muschamp. They've been doing it together a long time.”


While East Carolina doesn’t run the ball the way Mississippi State does, the Pirates love to throw the ball all over the field. South Carolina will be without defensive back Chaz Elder, who is out with a rib contusion. Junior college transfer Jamarcus King is set to make his first start in place of Elder.


3. East Carolina’s defense

East Carolina’s defense through two games has allowed an average of 18.5 points and 408.5 yards per game. Jordan Williams leads the Pirates in tackles with 13 while Yiannis Bowden has 3.5 tackles for a loss.


Against NC State last week, East Carolina surrendered 215 yards on the ground. Despite solid games from Williams and Demetri McGill, the Pirates will need to find a way to plug the holes and force the Gamecocks to throw the football.


Final Analysis


This will be South Carolina’s home opener, so the 80,000 fans at Williams-Brice Stadium will be jacked up, which could put East Carolina at a disadvantage. The problem is, the Gamecocks lack the defensive talent to keep up with the Pirates' offense.


This could be a game where East Carolina relies a lot on James Summers and the running game. Look for the Pirates to take the crowd in the Columbia out of the game early. Then the Pirates will eventually wear down the short-handed Gamecocks defense with their passing game.


Prediction: East Carolina 38, South Carolina 24


— 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, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

East Carolina Pirates vs. South Carolina Gamecocks Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 16, 2016 - 09:35
Path: /college-football/alabama-crimson-tide-vs-ole-miss-rebels-preview-and-prediction-2016

The battle to win the SEC West officially kicks off in Week 3, as Ole Miss hosts Alabama hoping to earn its third consecutive victory over the Crimson Tide. There’s also a lot at stake for coach Hugh Freeze’s team in terms of the national picture. The Rebels lost in Week 1 to Florida State and can’t afford another defeat in order to stay alive for the College Football Playoff. After the loss to the Seminoles, Ole Miss rebounded with a comfortable 38-13 victory over Wofford.


Alabama has looked like the nation’s best team through the first two weeks of the season but opening SEC play in Oxford is no easy task. The Crimson Tide handed the keys to the offense to true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts and head into Saturday’s game averaging 45 points per contest. This is a huge test for Hurts and Alabama’s offensive line, but the Crimson Tide continue to boast one of the nation’s best defenses and have a handful of talented playmakers to lean on. And there’s no shortage of motivation here for Alabama. After losing two straight to the Rebels, the Crimson Tide would like nothing more than to deal an early blow to Ole Miss’ SEC title hopes.


Alabama leads the all-time series 47-11-2 over Ole Miss. However, the margin is a little closer in games played in Oxford. The Crimson Tide holds a 5-4 edge over the Rebels in nine matchups all-time in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. 


Alabama at Ole Miss


Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 17 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Alabama -11


Three Things to Watch


1. Alabama’s Ground Game

Surprisingly, Alabama’s ground attack has struggled through the first two weeks of the season. The Crimson Tide had to replace a couple of starters on the offensive line and running back Derrick Henry also departed to the NFL, but a strong ground game is a hallmark of Nick Saban’s teams. Through two weeks of action, Alabama is tied for seventh in the SEC with an average of 183 rushing yards per game and is only recording 4.4 yards per rush. Can the Crimson Tide get back on track this week? Damien Harris leads the team with an average of 9.2 yards per carry (183 yards) and has emerged as the starter, while B.J. Emmons (59 yards) and Bo Scarbrough (55 yards) are also slated to see carries. It may take a few games for the new offensive line to jell, but it won’t be easy finding cohesion against the Ole Miss defensive line. The Rebels limited Florida State to 3.9 yards per carry in the opener, and Heisman Trophy contender Dalvin Cook recorded only 91 yards on 23 carries. Defensive end Marquis Haynes is one of the best in the SEC, and Ole Miss has plenty of depth at tackle with Breeland Speaks, Benito Jones, D.J. Jones and Isaac Gross. Will Alabama’s ground attack take a step forward this week? Or will Ole Miss win the battle up front and force quarterback Jalen Hurts into third-and-long situations?


Related: Predictions for Every Week 3 College Football Game


2. The Quarterbacks

There’s quite a contrast between the two quarterbacks in this game. Ole Miss senior Chad Kelly is the SEC’s top returning quarterback and has started all 15 games in his career. Kelly was instrumental in guiding the Rebels to an upset victory over Alabama last fall, as he passed for 341 yards and three scores in a 43-37 win in Tuscaloosa. Kelly is trying to become the first SEC quarterback to beat Nick Saban twice and has plenty of support in the passing game from tight end Evan Engram, receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow and talented freshman A.J. Brown. On the other sideline, redshirt freshman Blake Barnett started the opener against USC, but true freshman Jalen Hurts has emerged as the team’s starting quarterback. In two games this year, Hurts has completed 29 of 47 passes for 405 yards and four scores, while rushing for 51 yards and two touchdowns. Hurts is a different quarterback than what Alabama has previously used under Saban’s direction, as the true freshman is a good playmaker on the run and brings an element of mobility to offense. While Hurts has been sharp in his first two starts, a road trip to Oxford isn’t an easy place for a true freshman quarterback to make his first start in an SEC contest. The freshman doesn’t have to outduel Kelly in order for Alabama to win. However, the true freshman also can’t make mistakes after the Crimson Tide tossed three in last year’s loss. Which leads us…


3. Ole Miss Secondary

Total yards allowed isn’t the best gauge of the strength or weakness of any secondary, but it’s notable Ole Miss surrendered 419 yards to Florida State in the opener and has allowed two plays of 30 yards or more through the first two games of 2016. Adding to the concerns about this unit was the season-ending knee injury to Kendarius Webster in the opener. With Webster sidelined, there’s extra pressure on freshmen Jalen Julius and Jaylon Jones, along with seniors Tony Bridges and Carlos Davis to contain the passing game. While Alabama’s ground attack has sputtered at times this year, the Crimson Tide lead the SEC with an average of 9.6 yards per pass attempt and record 287 yards per game through the air. True freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts has been sharp through the first two games and has one of the nation’s top receiving corps at his disposal. Calvin Ridley is the team’s go-to threat (11 catches), but ArDarius Stewart (22.6 ypc), Gehrig Dieter (101 yards on three catches) and tight end O.J. Howard will also see plenty of passes in their direction. Will Ole Miss tighten its coverage from the opener and find the right mix at cornerback? With a defensive line that’s capable of generating pressure with just four, the Rebels can utilize their linemen to minimize some of the coverage on the defensive backs. However, Alabama can counter with quick passes to the edge to get the ball in the hands of its playmakers. If the Rebels have trouble covering in secondary, it’s going to be tough to pull off the upset. 


Final Analysis


The formula for coach Hugh Freeze’s team is simple on Saturday afternoon. If the Rebels can win the battle in the trenches, throw a few looks at freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts and create turnovers, Ole Miss should have a good shot at its third consecutive win over the Crimson Tide. Alabama has yet to get its ground game going and isn’t firing on all cylinders. However, the Crimson Tide still dominated its first two opponents. In last year’s game, Alabama lost five turnovers and suffered a six-point defeat (43-37). If Hurts minimizes his mistakes, and the Crimson Tide doesn’t allow Kelly and the Rebels’ up-tempo attack to control the pace, Alabama should snap its two-game losing streak to Ole Miss.


Prediction: Alabama 30, Ole Miss 20
Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Ole Miss Rebels Preview and Prediction 2016
Post date: Friday, September 16, 2016 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, syndicated
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-college-football-week-3-picks-and-odds-lines-2016

Conference play is approaching in college football. After a down week last Saturday, we've got a pretty solid slate in week three. Some teams are still dabbling with FCS opponents while others are officially entering the grind.


With respect to me, it's been a rough start to the year picking games, but it's only week three and there's plenty of time left.


Record: 3-7 (2-3 last week)


North Dakota State (2-0) at Iowa (2-0)

Sat., Sept. 17 at 12 p.m. ET

North Dakota State has been dominant in the FCS level with five national titles in a row and are 8-3 against the FBS level having won five in a row. The Bison have struggled somewhat in their first two games, winning both in overtime, which is ironic because they had never played an extra period in program history previous to that. NDSU is led by QB Easton Stick, who was pivotal in the postseason last year. Meanwhile Iowa is a very good football team that has beaten Iowa State and Miami (Ohio) handily already this season. I wish there was a look-ahead factor here but a road trip to Rutgers is next for the Hawkeyes. NDSU is no slouch so I'll take the Bison plus the points. SELECTION: North Dakota State +19


Ohio (1-1) at Tennessee (2-0)

Sat., Sept. 17 at 12 p.m. ET

Tennessee is back home to host Ohio after playing in front of the largest crowd to see a college football game. The Volunteers got off to a slow start at Bristol Motor Speedway before crushing the Hokies. Now they get one more tune up in the Bobcats. Last week for some reason, Ohio was an underdog to Kansas and the Bobcats presented us with a gift, beating the Jayhawks outright. This is a squad that is averaging nearly 600 yards of offense per contest. Tennessee has covered in just seven of its last 15 home games. Defenders Darrin Kirkland and LaTroy Lewis won't play for the Vols due to sprains. I'll take a chance at a lack of focus here and go with the road team. SELECTION: Ohio +27.5


South Florida (2-0) at Syracuse (1-1)

Sat., Sept. 17 at 3:30 p.m. ET

Welp, my alma mater crapped the bed against Louisville last Friday night. Now Syracuse gets South Florida in a revenge game after the Bulls undressed the Orange last year. Syracuse has a better offense this year under new head coach Dino Babers and with quarterback Eric Dungey at the controls. The problem has been the other side, as the defense has allowed nearly 500 yards of offense per game. USF is coming off a pair of easy home wins over Towson and Northern Illinois and is staring at a home tilt with Florida State next week. Focus could be a bit of an issue here for the road team, which would love nothing more than to beat the Seminoles. Syracuse has won just one of its last 16 games as an underdog, but we are just asking the Orange to cover here. SELECTION: Syracuse +15


Western Kentucky (1-1) at Miami (Ohio) (0-2)

Sat., Sept. 17 at 3:30 p.m. ET

Western Kentucky hits the road to play Miami from the MAC on Saturday. The Hilltoppers won this game 56-14 at home last year with Brandon Doughty under center. This season, it's Mike White at the helm. He left last week’s game because of an injury, but is expected to play Saturday. WKU is coming off a 38-10 loss at Alabama so the Hilltoppers have already been tested. The RedHawks meanwhile are 0-2 after losing to FCS member Eastern Illinois and Iowa. The offense has shown flashes, but the defense has struggled, especially against the run. They let Eastern Illinois rack up 142 yards rushing last week. Western Kentucky has gone over in 20 of its last 29, including 10 of 14 on the road. SELECTION: Over 62


UC Davis (1-1) at Wyoming (1-1)

Sat., Sept. 17 at 4 p.m. ET

This one seems to be too many points. UC Davis lost 53-28 at Oregon in week one, but the Aggies from the FCS ranks followed that up with some nice numbers against Southern Oregon. Wyoming was quite the opposite; getting a wild win against NIU in week one before getting crushed by Nebraska 52-17 last Saturday. UC Davis has a pretty solid passing attack that could give Wyoming some trouble. The Aggies also mix in the run with Manusamoa Luuga, who has five rushing touchdowns in two games. I think they can stress the Cowboys’ defense, which is giving up more than 500 yards and 43 points per game. SELECTION: UC Davis +21.5


Delaware (2-0) aat Wake Forest (2-0)

Sat., Sept. 17 at 6 p.m. ET

Here's a general rule of thumb I would like to pass on. Whenever you see a game with a really low total (35) and a spread that is really high, the underdog isn't a bad play. In this case we are getting a decent FCS team with a good defense taking on an FBS team that struggles to score and is coming off a solid road upset. The Blue Hens are competent under head coach Dave Brock although I do wish running back Wes Hills was playing. I'm not a believer in the Demon Deacons offensively and I think they struggle in this one. SELECTION: Delaware +21




— Penn State is in a revenge spot on Saturday as the Nittany Lions host Temple. The Owls snapped a long losing streak to PSU last year, a game that featured 10 sacks of Christian Hackenberg. For this one, the road team enters a buzzed-up atmosphere a bit banged up with several key injuries on offense. The Nittany Lions are coming off a tough loss to Pittsburgh last week. They will be really angry and may cover the big number.


— Before the season started, I stated that FIU was going to win one of its two home games against Big Ten teams. Well, that didn't happen and now the Panthers head to play UMass in a sleepy game. The Minutemen kept things close with Florida and Boston College and are looking for their first win. I came really close to making them a play this week as I just don't know what FIU's motivation will be after blowing two home games against Power Five programs.


— I came really close to adding Liberty, which takes on SMU this week. The Mustangs are continuing to break in a new QB after Matt Davis suffered a torn ACL. Davis meant a lot to the offense, although almost anyone can get playmaking wide receiver Courtland Sutton the ball. SMU lost in this situation (home game vs. FCS team) last year at home to James Madison so the Mustangs may focus a little more in this contest. If I had gotten a few more points, I'd be looking for another upset.


— 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 Week 3 Picks and Odds
Post date: Friday, September 16, 2016 - 09:25
Path: /college-football/boston-college-eagles-vs-virginia-tech-hokies-preview-and-prediction-2016

Neither Virginia Tech nor Boston College is quite where each respective program wants to be at the start of the season.


Although the Eagles are coming off of a 26-7 win over UMass last weekend, they started off with a disappointing 17-14 loss in the opener to Georgia Tech and have yet to win an ACC game since 2014. Meanwhile, the Hokies had a promising start in their primetime, nationally-televised showdown with Tennessee, but gave away the lead and lost five fumbles in a 45-24 loss in their first game against an FBS opponent this season.


Both squads have played in unique neutral-site games so far, with BC's loss to Georgia Tech in Dublin, Ireland, and the Hokies' loss to Tennessee in front of the largest college football crowd ever at Bristol Motor Speedway. However, the Eagles have yet to play a game at Alumni Stadium, while this marks the second matchup at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg for the Hokies.


All of that matters a lot less, though, than what the actual players and coaches bring to the table, and what that is at this point has yet to yield a totally positive outcome against a quality opponent. So as these teams set to square off at one of the nation's best venues, look for one to try to find a measure of consistency that has yet to come to fruition.


Boston College at Virginia Tech


Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 17 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

Spread: Virginia Tech -10


Three Things to Watch


1. Turnover trouble

Through two games, Virginia Tech leads the nation in a category no one wants to lead the nation in: fumbles lost, at nine. The next closest team, Duke, has lost seven, and after that four are tied with just four. In other words, the Hokies have a major issue with holding on to the ball, and after jumping out to a 14-0 lead on the Volunteers last week, it cost them in a major way. This might be the best chance for BC to take advantage and pull off the upset because its defense has already recovered three fumbles. In that respect, keep an eye on Eagles middle linebacker Connor Strachan, a 6-foot, 237-pounder, who is coming on as one of the top players in the league at his position. Against UMass he forced one fumble and recovered another.


2. Receiver rumble

Virginia Tech's Isaiah Ford has already established himself as one of the top wide receivers in the ACC, and BC will obviously be looking to contain the 6-foot-2, 195-pound junior. Hokies head coach Justin Fuente, in his first year at the helm, will continually find ways to get him in one-on-one opportunities on the outside. The question is whether or not quarterback Jerod Evans can adequately get him the ball, as he misfired on one pass attempt that would have been a touchdown early in last week's game after Ford got behind his man. For BC, quarterback Patrick Towles has struggled at times to find a rhythm, but found Jeff Smith twice for touchdowns against UMass. If Smith can remain a threat, it will open up lanes for a BC rushing attack that to this point of the season has been a little disappointing.


3. Kicking into high gear

It appears the Eagles have finally found competency in their field goal kicking. Colton Lichtenberg has had a kick blocked, missed another and whiffed on a PAT this season, so BC head coach Steve Addazio made the switch against UMass to Mike Knoll. The junior from Copley, Ohio, who also holds down the team's punting duties, nailed both of his attempts last week, so the Eagles may finally have settled on a player whom they can count on, which hasn't been the case in a while.


Final Analysis


Given Boston College's defensive prowess, ability to force turnovers and Virginia Tech's extreme ball security issues, this game has upset potential. The Eagles, though, have yet to find a groove on offense, whereas the Hokies moved the ball fairly well at times against a talented Tennessee defense. Had the Hokies simply held on to the ball, maybe this is a 2-0 team right now. Ifs and buts aside, BC's defense should keep the Eagles in the game long enough to make things interesting, but the Hokies should be able to slip through enough times to earn the victory.


Prediction: Virginia Tech 24, Boston College 17


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

Boston College Eagles vs. Virginia Tech Hokies Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 16, 2016 - 09:20
Path: /college-football/colorado-buffaloes-vs-michigan-wolverines-preview-and-prediction-2016

Albeit against inferior opponents, the Michigan Wolverines (2-0) have looked impressive through the first two weeks of the season, beating both Hawaii and UCF by a combined total of 97 points. Given the expectations coming into 2016 and the talent level of both teams, those results were fully anticipated.


What was not expected, however, was how good Colorado would look through the first two weeks of the season. The Buffaloes have trounced their first two opponents, including a 44-7 blowout victory over in-state rival Colorado State where they put up 578 yards of total offense.


Can Colorado keep up its forward momentum for its first visit to the Big House since 1997? Or will Michigan continue to win in dominant fashion as it has through the first two games of the year?


Colorado at Michigan

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Spread: Michigan -20.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Airing it Out
It seems funny to think at this point there even was a quarterback competition during Michigan's fall camp given the way Wilton Speight has played thus far. Outside of one interception on his first pass of the season, the sophomore quarterback has been nearly flawless, completing 70 percent of his attempts with seven touchdowns. And Speight did not get to that high completion percentage just by dinking and dunking his way to the end zone. In fact, Speight leads the Big Ten with 10 completions for 20 yards or more. Passing against the Colorado secondary, though, could prove to be a challenge this week for Speight as the Buffs have given up just 130 yards through the air with three interceptions.


2. Establish the Run
Despite the dominating performance against UCF last week, the Wolverines allowed more than 270 rushing yards to the Knights, though 87 of those yards did occur on just one play. It is still very early but Michigan comes into Week 3 ranked 90th in the country in rushing defense after finishing 16th a season ago. On the flipside, Colorado has gotten off to a great start running the football, averaging 261 yards per game with eight touchdowns. Junior Phillip Lindsay is the team's No. 1 back with 125 yards and four touchdowns, but the Buffs have gone with a committee approach thus far with backups Donovan Lee and Kyle Evans getting in the action. Watch out for quarterback Sefo Liufau as well, as he comes in as the team’s second-leading rusher in his return from a Lisfranc foot injury. Mobile quarterbacks have given the Wolverines fits early on in the year.


3. Missing in Action

The Michigan defense has not missed a beat the past two weeks despite not having the services of three key playmakers on that side of the ball — primarily All-American Jourdan Lewis. The senior cornerback was held out of the opening game against Hawaii due to an undisclosed injury that had been lingering since fall camp. It was thought that Lewis could make his return to the field against UCF last week until head coach Jim Harbaugh revealed that Lewis had a separate muscle pull that would keep him out once again. As for Lewis’ status this Saturday against Colorado, Harbaugh would not divulge whether or not he would be available, so we likely will not find out right up until pregame warmups. Starting defensive end Taco Charlton and nose tackle Bryan Mone are both likely to miss Saturday’s matchup as well.

Final Analysis


Colorado has been exceedingly impressive early on in the season on both sides of the football. The offense has scored seemingly at will, posting 100 points in the first two games, while the defense has allowed just 321 total yards and forced five turnovers. The Buffaloes will need a few more of those this week, along with a Heisman-like effort from quarterback Sefo Liufau, to even have a chance at pulling off another upset (1994 anyone?) at the Big House. Expect this to be a game midway through the first half before Michigan’s offense overwhelms Colorado en route to a third straight victory at home to open the season.


Prediction: Michigan 38, Colorado 17


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

Colorado Buffaloes vs. Michigan Wolverines Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 16, 2016 - 09:15
Path: /college-football/james-madison-dukes-vs-north-carolina-tar-heels-preview-and-prediction-2016

For North Carolina, it’s home sweet home. Finally.


After opening the season against Georgia in Atlanta and then heading to Champaign, Illinois, to face the Fighting Illini, the Tar Heels will kickoff their home schedule with James Madison this Saturday. UNC is now 1-1 after downing the Illini 48-23.


James Madison comes in at 2-0 and is currently ranked No. 8 in the FCS Coaches Poll. The Dukes have routed their two overmatched opponents by a combined score of 136-28. JMU is no stranger to FBS competition, having pulled a big upset of Virginia Tech in 2010 and beating SMU in Dallas last year.


This will be the first-ever meeting between the Tar Heels and the Dukes.


James Madison at North Carolina


Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 17 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: WatchESPN/ACC-RSN

Spread:  N/A


Three Things to Watch


1. Mitch Trubisky’s Progress

The redshirt junior didn’t have the greatest start to the season as he struggled to make big plays against Georgia, but the UNC quarterback cleaned things up considerably in week two. Trubisky was a very efficient 19-of-24 for 265 yards and two touchdown passes versus Illinois. He also showed some mobility, running for 42 yards and a couple of first quarter touchdowns. Head coach Larry Fedora would like to see Trubisky’s development continue against JMU this week.


2. What More Can T.J. Logan Do?

The senior from Greensboro was sensational for the second week in a row. He averaged six yards per carry, had a 24-yard touchdown reception, and his big 58-yard kickoff return switched momentum after Illinois had taken a 14-7 lead. Prior to Elijah Hood’s late 62-yard touchdown run, Logan was the more dangerous threat in the running game and through two weeks he has 414 all-purpose yards and totaled three touchdowns.


3. North Carolina Run Defense

There were signs of improvement for the troubled Heels' run defense. Illinois did have 182 yards on the ground, but 65 of those came on one play just 1:25 into the game. After that, Nazair Jones was disruptive up front and linebacker Andre Smith was all over the field, limiting the Illini's rushing attack. It did help that Illinois constantly put itself in long-yardage situations with penalties and that UNC got up by a couple of scores. But it was still a positive step for Gene Chizik’s unit. JMU has rushed for 810 yards in its first two games, so this will again be an area of focus for the UNC defenders.


Final Analysis


James Madison is not your run-of-the-mill FCS program. The Dukes came into the year at No. 14 in Athlon Sports' FCS rankings and after two decisive victories their sights are set on a run at the national title. But the two teams that JMU has devoured this year are weaker FCS programs and North Carolina is not just a big step up in competition, it’s a trampoline bounce. North Carolina has to be worried about a letdown coming off of games against two Power Five schools and with Pittsburgh trekking to Kenan Memorial Stadium next week. That could allow James Madison to hang around a bit, but the Tar Heels will eventually open the gap and enjoy a comfortable win.


Prediction: North Carolina 38, James Madison 17


— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.

James Madison Dukes vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 16, 2016 - 09:10
Path: /college-football/south-florida-bulls-vs-syracuse-orange-preview-and-prediction-2016

Both teams come into this game with the same offensive philosophy: Run as many plays as possible, as quickly as possible, in order to score the most points as possible.


In other words, the slower the tempo, the worse off these teams feel they are, so expect a track meet at the Carrier Dome Saturday afternoon.


We know a little bit more about what Syracuse is capable of than South Florida to this point. Each team defeated an FCS opponent in Week 1, but last Friday night the Orange hung around for a little while against a ranked Louisville squad before the Lamar Jackson-led Cardinals pulled away for a 62-28 win.


The loss dropped Syracuse to 1-1 overall and 0-1 in ACC play, but the Louisville game was chalked up as a loss before the season began, so it's not like the Orange feel dejected. If anything, hanging around until the fourth quarter against a team that opened in Vegas as a favorite for this weekend's game against Florida State may even give the Orange a minor emotional boost.


Meanwhile, the 2-0 Bulls are coming off of a 48-17 win over Northern Illinois, which was impressive, but not exactly a signature win of any sort. Northern Illinois isn't going to be confused with what Louisville brings to the table this year anytime soon.


That said, South Florida has an experienced team coming back from last year and is an underrated team in the grand scheme of things. With the emergence of Houston this year, people are starting to gain more respect for the AAC, and despite not belonging to a Power Five conference, South Florida is a pretty heavy favorite in this game.


South Florida at Syracuse


Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 17 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ACC Network

Spread: South Florida -10


Three Things to Watch


1. Etta-Tawo Time
Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey has found a go-to weapon in wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo. The transfer from Maryland has separated himself as a legitimate deep threat and he and Dungey have developed a nice chemistry over the first two games. After catching 12 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown against Colgate in the opener, he followed with eight receptions for 103 yards and two touchdowns — including a 47-yarder — against Louisville, further proving his value as someone who can make plays regardless of the opponent. South Florida this season has yet to face a receiver with Etta-Tawo's ability, so expect the Bulls to have to adjust to the 6-foot-2, 202-pounder's speed early on and maybe even roll a safety over to his side to limit his big-play capabilities.


2. Bull Rush
South Florida's offensive exploits are certainly noteworthy, but it would be a mistake to overlook its defensive line, which has some talented players that may be flying under the radar at this point in the season. Defensive end Daniel Awoleke can be a problem off the edge, as Northen Illinois found out last weekend. The 6-foot-5, 295-pounder out of Lakeland, Fla., had five tackles and a sack against the Huskies, while fellow defensive end Kevin Bronson, a 6-foot-4, 270-pound sophomore, also recorded a sack plus another tackle for a loss. While the Syracuse offense does a good job of getting the ball out of Dungey's hands quickly, the Orange offensive line isn't at the point yet where it can be counted on to consistently slow a relentless pass rush.


3. Middle Men
The strength of each defense lies at the middle linebacker position. For Syracuse, Zaire Franklin calls the plays, shows good sideline-to-sideline pursuit and is smart in coverage. South Florida's main man is Auggie Sanchez, who piled up 13 tackles with a sack last week. Each player is the prototypical quarterback of the defense and will be critical in getting his team in position in a timely fashion against these quick-strike offenses.


Final Analysis


Each team has the potential to put its fair share of points on the board in this game, but this is going to come down to which one makes the most stops and wins the turnover battle. It's hard to grade exactly what Syracuse's defense can do based off of the Louisville game, because Lamar Jackson will run up big numbers on almost everyone. That said, Auggie Sanchez and the South Florida front seven has a little more of an advantage, so in a back-and-forth game, expect the Bulls to hold serve a few more times to come away with the victory.


Prediction: South Florida 38, Syracuse 31


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

South Florida Bulls vs. Syracuse Orange Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 16, 2016 - 09:05
Path: /college-football/nebraska-cornhuskers-vs-oregon-ducks-preview-and-prediction-2016

Oregon and Nebraska are off to 2-0 starts, but the Week 3 matchup in Lincoln should provide a better barometer test of where both programs stand in 2016. The Ducks easily handled UC Davis and Virginia this year, while the Cornhuskers defeated Fresno State (43-10) in the opener and used a big second half to take a commanding 52-17 victory over Wyoming last Saturday.


It’s unfair to call this a “must-win game” for either team, but there’s a lot at stake for Oregon and Nebraska. The Ducks won nine games last year, which was the program’s first mark of fewer than 10 wins since 2007. Oregon is still one of the Pac-12’s top teams, but it’s fair to wonder if coach Mark Helfrich can maintain the level of success that Chip Kelly brought to Eugene from 2009-12. On the other sideline, Nebraska enters the second year under coach Mike Riley looking to erase the disappointment of last season’s 6-7 mark. The Cornhuskers had some bad luck and turnover problems that played into the seven losses. However, Nebraska is expected to contend for the Big Ten West title on an annual basis and another losing record certainly wouldn’t sit well in Lincoln. Riley is recruiting well, and the program seems to be on better footing in 2016. A win over Oregon wouldn’t solve all of Nebraska’s concerns, but a victory on Saturday would provide more evidence Riley has this program trending in the right direction.


This is the seventh meeting between Oregon and Nebraska. The Cornhuskers own a 5-1 series edge. However, this is the first meeting between the Ducks and Cornhuskers since 1986.


Oregon at Nebraska


Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 17 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Nebraska -3


Three Things to Watch


1. Nebraska’s Run Defense

The defensive line was Nebraska’s biggest concern entering 2016. The Cornhuskers were breaking in four new starters on the defensive line and had to replace standouts Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine on the interior. So far, so good for coach Mike Riley. Nebraska has limited its first two opponents to an average of just 81 yards per game and only 2.8 yards per carry. However, this unit will face its best test of the year so far, as Oregon brings its deep stable of backs to Lincoln. Running back Royce Freeman is one of the best in the nation and has rushed for 294 yards on just 32 attempts in 2016. Freeman isn’t the only option for the Ducks. Backups Kani Benoit, Taj Griffin and Tony Brooks-James are capable backs for coach Mark Helfrich and all four rushers will test Nebraska’s rebuilt line. Will the Cornhuskers continue to stuff the run? Or will the Ducks have their way at the line of scrimmage?


Related: Predictions for Every Week 3 College Football Game


2. Nebraska’s Offense Against Oregon’s Defense

Oregon’s defense struggled mightily in 2015, ranking 95th nationally in pass efficiency defense, 115th in points allowed per game (37.5) and tied for 98th in yards per play allowed (6.03). New coordinator Brady Hoke seems to have this group on the right path, and the Ducks have limited their first two opponents to just 4.88 yards per play. However, much like the Nebraska defensive line, Oregon’s defense faces its toughest test of the year on Saturday. The Cornhuskers own one of the Big Ten’s top offenses and average 47.5 points a game. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong can hurt defenses with his arm or his legs and has a deep set of receivers at his disposal. Running backs Devine Ozigbo (4.6 ypc) and Terrell Newby (5.1 ypc) will test a rebuilt Oregon defensive line. Turnovers were a big problem for Nebraska’s offense last season, but the Cornhuskers have lost only one through the first two games of 2016. This is a strength versus weakness opportunity for Nebraska. The Cornhuskers should be able to move the ball, but Armstrong has to limit the mistakes. Will Oregon continue to make progress on defense? Or does Nebraska simply have too much firepower?


3. Oregon QB Dakota Prukop

For the second year in a row, it looks like Oregon hit a home run with a FCS to FBS transfer at quarterback. Dakota Prukop transferred as a graduate student after a huge 2015 season at Montana State and is off to a fast start with the Ducks. The senior has completed 42 of 61 passes for 602 yards and nine scores, while rushing for 55 yards and one touchdown through two games. While Prukop has been sharp, the road trip to Lincoln will be the toughest of his career. The senior is surrounded by one of the nation’s best receiving corps and big-play threats on the outside, but the offensive line features three freshmen starting on the projected two-deep. Nebraska’s defensive line features four new starters but this unit has played well so far this year. Additionally, the back seven is the strength of coordinator Mark Banker’s defense. Prukop’s mobility is an x-factor to watch on Saturday afternoon. Can the Cornhuskers limit Prukop’s mobility and force him to stay in the pocket? Additionally, if Nebraska struggles to generate pressure on Prukop, it’s a tough assignment for this secondary to maintain coverage against Oregon’s deep receiving corps.


Final Analysis


Expect a lot of points and an entertaining back-and-forth affair. Oregon has a good mix of firepower and balance on offense, but the Cornhuskers can counter by playing keep away with a strong ground attack. Both defenses enter this game with question marks and will be tested early and often on Saturday afternoon. Nebraska needs to keep Oregon running back Royce Freeman in check and make the Ducks work the field instead of churning out big plays. Turnovers and close losses plagued Nebraska in 2015. And it wouldn’t be a surprise if one turnover or the team with the last possession decides which team emerges as the winner. This one is a tossup.


Prediction: Oregon 38, Nebraska 34
Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Oregon Ducks Preview and Prediction 2016
Post date: Friday, September 16, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, syndicated, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-week-3-start-or-sit-2016

We are entering Week 3 of the college fantasy football season where it was surprisingly difficult filling up the Sit portion of this article, meaning plenty of mouth-watering matchups are on tap this weekend.


Note: Obvious choices will not be given such as Deshaun Watson or Leonard Fournette as those players are typically starters regardless of the matchup.


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




Start ’Em


Kent Myers, Utah State vs. Arkansas State
This is set up to be the perfect week for a breakout performance from Myers. From reports earlier in the week, it sounds as if star running back Devante Mays will be a game-time decision, which likely means we could see Myers getting more carries. His opponent this week, Arkansas State, has played very little defense the first two weeks of the season. The Red Wolves currently rank 127th out of 128 FBS teams in rush defense while also ranking in the bottom third in defending the pass. Myers’ dual-threat abilities should give the Red Wolves’ D all sorts of problems this week.


Chase Litton, Marshall vs. Akron
Marshall was near perfect on offense in its season opener last week against Morgan State, racking up 62 points and 530 yards of total offense. Litton, a sophomore completed 81 percent of his passes for 309 yards and six touchdowns and zero turnovers. This week, Litton faces an Akron pass defense that has surrendered 290-plus passing yards in each of its first two outings. And those games were not against the Texas Techs of the world either. It was VMI (who?) and Wisconsin.


Sit ’Em


Wilton Speight, Michigan vs. Colorado
What quarterback competition? Speight has played exceptional football outside of one errant throw on his first pass attempt of the season. The junior QB has completed 70 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and just one interception through the first two weeks, but will face his toughest test to date against Colorado. Yes, it is still extremely early, but the Buffaloes have given up the second-fewest passing yards in the entire country through the first two games with three interceptions. Adding in possible storms that are in the forecast and it may be wise to sit Speight this week to be safe.


Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State vs. LSU
After rotating quarterbacks in Week 1, Fitzgerald took the reins in Week 2 against South Carolina and did not look back, combining for more than 370 total yards with 195 of those coming on the ground. After a performance like that, it is oh so tempting to insert him in your lineup right away, but I strongly suggest otherwise. Going on the road at night to Tiger Stadium to face LSU is a different animal and most teams don’t enjoy their visit to Death Valley. Fitzgerald is still an option for your team in the long-term, just not this week.


Top 10 Quarterbacks for Week 3:

Luke Falk, Washington State vs. Idaho

Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech vs. Louisiana Tech

Quinton Flowers, South Florida vs. Syracuse

Lamar Jackson, Louisville vs. Florida State

Kenny Hill, TCU vs. Iowa State

Seth Russell, Baylor vs. Rice

Greg Ward, Houston vs. Cincinnati

Deshaun Watson, Clemson vs. South Carolina State

Davis Webb, California vs. Texas

Chase Litton, Marshall vs. Akron


Running Backs


Start ’Em


Troy McCormick/Zack Moss, Utah vs. San Jose State
It was announced earlier this week that Utah will be without the services of starting running back Joe Williams, as he elected to end his playing career. That decision opens the door for McCormick and Moss, who carried the majority of the load last week against BYU. As for who starts against San Jose State this week, it sounds as if both will receive playing time but it was telling that Moss received a chunk of his carries late in a close game. The Spartans allowed 300-plus rushing yards against Tulsa in Week 1, and were gashed yet again last week against Portland State (202 yards), so both running backs should have productive weeks.


Nick Wilson, Arizona vs. Hawaii
Wilson is looking like his old self through two weeks after an injury-riddled season last year, topping 100 yards rushing in each game. Even more promising is the workload as Wilson has 17 or more carries in both games to give him 41 total, with quarterback Brandon Dawkins a distant second with 16. In each of its first three games, Hawaii has given up at least 90 yards to the opposing team’s leading rusher and is allowing more than six yards per carry on the season. Wilson will hit 100 yards with at least one touchdown this week against the Rainbow Warriors.


Sit ’Em


Devante Mays, Utah State vs. Arkansas State
As mentioned above, it sounds like Mays could be a game-time decision. Monitoring the news wire before the game will be critical if Mays is on your roster, but if you have the depth, you may want to sit him this week despite the favorable matchup. Utah State is deep at the running back position and quarterback Kent Myers can also assist in the running game as a dual-threat option. Even if Mays is available, who is to say he will be at 100 percent? Play it safe and sit him.


Shock Linwood, Baylor vs. Rice
In any previous year, Linwood would be a must-have in your lineup this week. Rice is a terrible football team that is having major struggles yet again in stopping the run, and Baylor will likely be up by four or more touchdowns once halftime rolls around. And while Linwood is all but assured of breaking the school’s all-time rushing record this week, the senior running back has put up mildly pedestrian numbers the past two games. In fact, Linwood was third behind Terence Williams and JaMycal Hasty in rushing yards last week with just 56 on 18 attempts. With both of the younger backs pushing for more playing time, this has the looks of an RBBC moving forward.


Top 10 Running Backs for Week 3:

Christian McCaffrey, Stanford vs. USC

Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State vs. Northern Illinois

Royce Freeman, Oregon vs. Nebraska

Corey Clement, Wisconsin vs. Georgia State

Brian Hill, Wyoming vs. UC Davis

Dalvin Cook, Florida State vs. Louisville

Ito Smith, Southern Miss vs. Troy

Elijah McGuire, Louisiana-Lafayette vs. South Alabama

Nick Wilson, Arizona vs. Hawaii

Nick Chubb, Georgia vs. Missouri


Wide Receivers


Start ’Em


Noel Thomas, Connecticut vs. Virginia
Considering Connecticut was 103rd in the country last season in passing offense, it is surprising to see Thomas now tied for third in the FBS with 20 receptions just two weeks into the year. Sure the competition level hasn’t been overwhelming (Maine, Navy), but it is promising to see improvement thus far from a Huskies’ passing game that averaged just 185 yards last year. This Week UConn gets Virginia, which is giving up 334 passing yards per game through two weeks.


Brandon Powell, Florida vs. North Texas
Powell has had a solid start to the 2016 season with a touchdown catch in each of the first two games and is second on the team in catches with 11. The Gators’ No. 1 receiver, Antonio Callaway, is looking more and more like he will not play Saturday against North Texas due to a quad injury that has kept him out of practice for much of the week. With Callaway unlikely to be in the lineup, and very little proven options beyond that, plenty of targets should be coming in Powell’s direction.


Sit ‘Em


KeeSean Johnson, Fresno State vs. Toledo
Just two games into his sophomore season, Johnson is nearly half way towards reaching his freshman year totals with 15 receptions. This could be a tough matchup, though, against a Toledo pass defense that has given up just 189 yards in the first two weeks combined, and 83 of those came on just one play in the opening game. Don’t expect Fresno State to have much success throwing the football against the Rockets.


Kenny Golladay, Northern Illinois vs. San Diego State
When Drew Hare has been under center for the Huskies, Golladay has been a top-10 fantasy wide receiver. Trouble is, that hasn’t been often in the past calendar year. Hare was carted off during the third quarter of last week’s loss to South Florida with a leg injury that is now being reported as possibly season-ending. Since the beginning of last season, when Hare was not in the starting lineup, Golladay’s catches drop by almost three per game. Golladay is a tough sit, but he may have a difficult time matching his normal production with a backup quarterback and against a quality opposing defense in San Diego State.


Top 10 Wide Receivers for Week 3:

Gabe Marks, Washington State vs. Idaho

Richie James, Middle Tennessee vs. Bowling Green

Chase Hansen, California vs. Texas

Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky vs. Miami (Ohio)

Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech vs. Texas Tech

Amba Etta-Tawo, Syracuse vs. South Florida

Courtland Sutton, SMU vs. Liberty

Corey Davis, Western Michigan vs. Illinois

KD Cannon, Baylor vs. Rice

Allen Lazard, Iowa State vs. TCU


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

College Fantasy Football Week 3 Start or Sit
Post date: Friday, September 16, 2016 - 08:45
Path: /fantasy/why-you-must-start-desean-jackson-and-other-wr-te-start-sit-fantasy-advice-week-2-2016

Some surprises, both the good and bad kind, in Week 1 in terms of fantasy performances by wide receivers and tight ends. Before we look ahead to Week 2, let’s see how my Week 1 advice fared.


Good Calls...


Start Donte Moncrief (12.4 fantasy points) – The Colts' offense is going to score A LOT of points this year.


Sit Jarvis Landry (5.9 FP) – Landry was in a tough spot going up against the Seahawks in Week 1, he’ll rebound this week.


Start Dwayne Allen (13.3 FP) – Once again Allen scored a touchdown in the season opener.


Bad Calls...


Start Golden Tate (4.3 FP) – In a game where Matthew Stafford threw for more than 300 yards, Tate managed only 41.


Start Coby Fleener (0.6 FP) – In a shootout with the Raiders, somehow Fleener managed only one catch for six yards.


I also warned you against starting Jeremy Maclin, who happened to catch five balls for 63 yards with one touchdown, which was good for 12.2 fantasy points.


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


Wide Receivers




Travis Benjamin, SD (vs. JAC)

Keenan Allen‘s torn ACL has paved the way for Benjamin to get even more playing time. Benjamin will now start opposite of Dontrelle Inman on the outside, and should see an uptick in targets from this point on. Benjamin, who put up 966 yards receiving and five touchdowns a season ago with mediocre quarterback play in Cleveland, now has Philp Rivers throwing to him. That combination has the potential to be very enticing for fantasy owners. The Chargers will host the Jaguars in Week 2, a defense that finished 29th against the pass last season. All signs point towards giving Benjamin a start in Week 2.


Related: 5 Wide Recevier Replacements for Fantasy Owners With Keenan Allen on Team


Jordan Matthews, PHI (at CHI, Mon.)

Matthews had quite the start to the season, catching seven of 14 targets for 114 yards and one touchdown, good for 17.4 fantasy points. This week Matthews has a solid matchup ahead against the Bears. Last week, Chicago surrendered almost 30 fantasy points to Houston's WRs, including two touchdowns. Combined that with Matthews’ early rapport with Carson Wentz, and he is now on the WR2/3 radar for Week 2.


DeSean Jackson, WAS (vs. DAL)

Jackson was Kirk Cousins' main passing option in Week 1 against the Steelers, where he caught six of 10 targets for 102 yards. He’s always going to be the team’s top deep threat and that should be on full display this week as Jackson gets to play what seems to be his favorite opponent, the Dallas Cowboys. He's put up no fewer than 12 fantasy points in each of his last three games against them. That includes one game with 136 yards and two others where he scored a touchdown. When you also consider the question marks on the current Dallas defense, Jackson becomes a nice option.




Sterling Shepard, NYG (vs. NO)

As a 4.5-point home favorite in a game with a huge over/under of 53, the G-Men boast one of the highest projected team totals of Week 2 at 28.75. In Week 1, Shepard and Victor Cruz were each targeted four times, each caught a touchdown and were each on the field for the majority of the game (Shepard 53 of 56 offensive snaps, Cruz 50 of 56), as the Giants mostly used 3-WR sets. While that makes it difficult to know who to trust, Shepard looked great in his NFL debut, and even with Cruz involved, there should be enough opportunity and success against the Saints' cobbled together secondary for Shepard to make some big plays.




Randall Cobb, GB (at MIN)

It looks like we should be expecting more of the 2015 version of Cobb this season, even with Jordy Nelson back. Cobb isn’t off to a great start, posting 57 yards and no touchdowns in a win over the Jaguars. This could continue against the Vikings, which have held him to 258 yards (36.8 YPG) and two touchdowns in seven career meetings. Cobb is difficult to sit, so if you do start him it should be with real caution.


T.Y. Hilton, IND (at DEN)

Andrew Luck looked like the 2014 version last week as he carved up the Lions for 385 yards and four touchdowns. But in a game where Luck threw the ball 47 times, Hilton only had six catches for 79 yards and zero touchdowns, good for only 7.9 fantasy points. Teammates Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett both lapped Hilton on the stat sheet. He could be in for another tough week against CBs Aqib Talib, Chris Harris and a Broncos’ pass defense that is among the toughest in the league.


John Brown, ARI (vs. TB)

After missing much of the preseason with a concussion, he played just 35 snaps (59 for Larry Fitzgerald, 58 for Michael Floyd) and wasn't even the most-targeted Brown on the team (Jaron Brown had six compared to John’s four). A home matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a high projected team total (28.25) may make it tempting to play Brown, but it's really difficult to trust him with a shaky role as the No. 4 target (behind Fitzgerald, Floyd and David Johnson) at best.


Tight Ends




Coby Fleener, NO (at NYG)

Was there a bigger fantasy bust in Week 1 than Fleener? All preseason everyone and their grandma was predicting what wonderful things Fleener was going to do in the Saints’ offense and what did he do in Week 1? He scored a pathetic 0.6 fantasy points on one measly catch for six yards. There are real concerns about Fleener because he has struggled to learn the playbook, but if he is going to have the season that everyone expects him to have, this is the game to show it as the Giants have done a poor job defending tight ends the past couple of years.


Jason Witten, DAL (at WAS)

The old guy still has it, and Dak Prescott is currently most comfortable making intermediate passes. Witten saw 14 targets, and like the days of old he didn’t see the end zone. But that will have to change, and he’s game flow-proof.


Antonio Gates, SD (vs. JAC)
The Chargers are down two wide receivers (Keenan Allen, Stevie Johnson), and there are not a lot of experienced options around aside from Travis Benjamin. So who is Philip Rivers going to lean on when it’s third-and-6 or he’s in the red zone? You guessed it, his old favorite target. Gates will see more than his share of offensive opportunities against the Jaguars. Their defense allowed the sixth-most points to TEs last year.




Gary Barnidge, CLE (vs. BAL)

Last year’s TE surprise laid a goose egg in Week 1, but Robert Griffin III is likely out for the season, so in comes Josh McCown with whom Barnidge had undeniable chemistry in 2015. Barnidge averaged more than 14 fantasy points a game while McCown was in the lineup, and there’s no reason for this to change. Barnidge also put up a combined 15 catches, 230 yards and a score versus Baltimore in 2015.




Dwayne Allen, IND (at DEN)

You had to like what you saw from Allen in Week 1. Andrew Luck looked his way early and often, especially in the red zone, where the two hooked up for one touchdown and narrowly missed a second. While that translates into a good season-long outlook for Allen, this isn’t the week to give him a go. The Broncos boast some of the best cover linebackers in the league, and rarely allow scores to tight ends. Look to stream another tight end this week.


Martellus Bennett, NE (vs. MIA)

He’s not looking like the TE we were hoping he’d be for the Patriots. He had five targets, yes, but only caught three of them for a measly 14 yards. Right now the Patriots have a healthy Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and a shockingly healthy Danny Amendola. Not to mention James White. Oh and it looks like some guy named Rob Gronkowski is going to play this week. Lots of mouths to feed and Bennett doesn’t need to be one. He can catch a TD at any time, but let’s not worry about that. Just sit him.


Jared Cook, GB (at MIN)

Cook’s strong preseason and combination of size and speed led some people to believe he could usurp incumbent tight end Richard Rogers as the starter. If Week 1 taught us anything, that has not yet happened. Cook nabbed just one pass for seven yards in a victory over Jacksonville, but clearly remains the second tight end on the depth chart in Green Bay. Traveling to Minnesota, which finished in the top half of the league against the pass, isn’t a favorable matchup either, making Cook a bench player in Week 2. Cook has the potential to finally break out, but until the numbers tell us otherwise, he’s best served as a backup/streaming option/bye week fill-in.




Jimmy Graham, SEA (at LA)

The whole tight end position last week was just terrible and contributing to the disaster was Graham, who shockingly played in Week 1 but only managed 11 yards receiving. Just because Graham is a big name and you might have drafted him way earlier then you should have, there is no reason to keep putting him out there for him to only score 1.1 fantasy points every week. Either try to trade him to someone who still thinks Graham has something left, or cut him and pick up Eric Ebron, Jesse James or even Virgil Green 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.


(Top photo courtesy of

Why You Must Start DeSean Jackson and Other WR/TE Start/Sit Fantasy Advice For Week 2
Post date: Friday, September 16, 2016 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-should-start-cj-anderson-and-other-rb-start-sit-fantasy-advice-week-2-2016

So with one week of fantasy action in the books, let’s see how many fantasy start/sit advice for running backs did for Week 1 shall we?


Good Calls...


Start Spencer Ware (25.90 fantasy points) - This might have been too easy of a call with Jamaal Charles out, but it’s nice to start the year off on the right foot.


Sit Jeremy Hill (9.1 FP) - Hill only had 31 rushing yards and his day was saved by a touchdown.


Sit Arian Foster (10 FP) - The Dolphins vs. Seahawks game was tough to watch and Foster was easily held in check.


Bad Calls...


Start Eddie Lacy (7.8 FP) - In what should have been the game where Lacy showed everyone he was back against the Jags, he only carried the ball 14 times for 61 yards.


Sit Melvin Gordon (17.70 FP) - Who knew that Gordon’s first two touchdowns of his career would come in Week 1 against the Chiefs?


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




Rashad Jennings, NYG (vs. NO)

Would you like a piece of advice? Start your running backs against the Saints. After ranking second  to last (31st) against the run in 2015, they started 2016 in similar fashion, giving up 167 yards on the ground to Raiders in Week 1. Jennings got 18 carries in the Giants’ opener, and seems to have a lock on the job despite Shane Vereen getting a good amount of work. Jennings won’t be as valuable in PPR leagues, but he’s facing New Orleans and should see the red zone work against a soft defense.


C.J. Anderson, DEN (vs. IND)

Anderson sure did look good in Week 1 and anyone who thought it was risky to draft him early is really happy about it now. He went off in the season opener, scoring two touchdowns and 25.90 fantasy points in a win over the Panthers. He also saw 48 snaps compared to six for rookie Devontae Booker, so CJA looked like a true featured back. This week, Anderson faces a Colts defense that surrendered 46.90 fantasy points to RBs in Week 1.


LeGarrette Blount, NE (vs. MIA)

The Dolphins' defensive line is in shambles heading into this game, which should mean the Patriots can lean on Blount, especially if they are playing with a lead in the fourth quarter. Blount had a good start to the season last week at Arizona with 22 carries for 70 yards and a touchdown. You never know how the Patriots will use their running backs, but it appears that Blount and James White (one carry for four yards, five catches for 40) are locked into their respective roles. And with Jimmy Garoppolo still starting for the suspended Tom Brady, we expect Blount to have a chance for a solid outing this week.




Jeremy Langford, CHI (vs. PHI, Mon.)

Langford's Week 1 performance was the definition of "meh": 17 carries, 57 yards (3.4 YPC), two receptions on four targets for six yards, but he did have a rushing touchdown to save his day. The important part, though, is that he was very obviously Chicago's three-down back, playing on 96 percent of offensive snaps and out-touching backup Ka'Deem Carey, 19:1. A similar workload against a much more favorable opponent (the Eagles allowed 84 rushing yards on 15 carries to Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson in Week 1) gives Langford RB1 upside in Week 2.




Frank Gore, IND (at DEN)

Gore carried the ball 14 times for 59 yards against a decent Lions defense, but his Week 2 task is a little more difficult. Gore, who is now 33, faces a Denver defense that limited Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart to just 64 yards on opening night. Denver’s defense lost some key contributors in the offseason, but returns many from a unit that finished third against the run last season. Playing in Denver is never an easy task, and the Broncos’ stout run defense makes Gore an unattractive option this week.


Ameer Abdullah, DET (vs. TEN)

Abdullah was a pleasant surprise last week, scoring 18 fantasy points in a win over the Colts. But can he do it in back-to-back weeks? Probably not because he'll be facing a Titans defense that held Adrian Peterson to 31 yards and a terrible 1.6 yards per attempt a week ago. This defense also allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to RBs last season.


Jeremy Hill, CIN (at PIT)

Hill struggled in Week 1, gaining just 31 yards on nine carries, although he did manage a goal-line touchdown. While Hill is a constant threat to score a touchdown every game, he's also become dependent on end zone visits to fuel his fantasy impact. This week he goes up against the Steelers, which have held him to an average of 6.7 fantasy points in four career meetings. Hill also has never scored a touchdown against them, making him tough to start.




Todd Gurley, STL (vs. SEA)

In most leagues, sitting Gurley just isn't a realistic option. You likely drafted him in the first round, and you should always play your studs no matter what, but this is more of a way to say you should keep your expectations in check. While Gurley is an electrifying talent and can easily break a big gain at any given moment, the offense around him is terrible. Teams are going to continue to stack the box with Case Keenum and the Rams' vanilla passing offense not serving as much of a threat. And against the 49ers in Week 1, that resulted in very little running room for Gurley, who had to work hard for his 47 yards rushing (2.8 ypc). It probably won’t get much better for Gurley this week against Seattle, which has ranked first or second in the NFL in total defense in each of the past three seasons. Gurley will likely need a touchdown to provide a useful line in fantasy.


— 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 C.J. Anderson and Other RB Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 2
Post date: Friday, September 16, 2016 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-should-start-eli-manning-other-qb-dst-start-sit-fantasy-advice-week-2-2016

Welcome to Week 2's fantasy advice for which quarterbacks (and defense/special teams) to start and which to leave on your bench. But first I know you’re really interested to see how I did last week, so let’s take a look shall we?


Good Calls...


Start Matthew Stafford (26.1 fantasy points) - Stafford sure looks good in that new up-tempo Lions offense.


Start Derek Carr (22.36 FP) - If only Carr could have thrown at least one more touchdown pass, he would have finished in the top 3.


Sit Philip Rivers (14.62 FP) - Rivers and the whole Chargers' offense was humming along until Keenan Allen got hurt and then Rivers started to sputter.


Bad Calls...

Sit Andy Dalton (17.34 FP) - Dalton threw for 366 yards and would have had an ever bigger day if he threw more than one touchdown.


I said it might be worth the risk to start Tyrod Taylor. Hopefully you didn’t listen because he and the whole Bills' offense were terrible, as Taylor scored a meager 5.54 fantasy points.


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






Eli Manning, NYG (vs. NO)

This one is easy. Manning is playing at home against a Saints team that always makes opposing quarterbacks top-five fantasy players. Manning put up a solid 18.28 fantasy points last week in Dallas and now gets to face a Saints defense that gave up 7.6 yards per play in Week 1. Even if you drafted Manning as your QB2, don’t overthink this, start him.


Matthew Stafford, DET (vs. TEN)

Stafford looked great last week, shredding the Colts for 340 yards on 31-of-39 passing and three touchdowns. Now, Stafford and the Lions welcome the Titans to town. Since Jim Bob Cooter took over as the Lions’ offensive coordinator, Stafford has averaged 20.76 fantasy points per game. That includes 23 touchdown passes and a mere four interceptions. Stafford should once again score 20-plus fantasy points this week.


Derek Carr, OAK (vs. ATL)

Carr had an excellent start to his 2016 season, scoring 22.36 fantasy points against the Saints. And this happened on the road where Carr has struggled. This week Carr and the Raiders return home, where he has thrown 15 touchdowns in his last seven games. The Falcons come to town after surrendering four touchdowns and 25.5 fantasy points to Jameis Winston last week.




Jameis Winston, TB (at ARI)

Most people would probably sit Winston this week against the Cardinals, one of the best defenses in the NFL. But don’t forget that last week Jimmy Garoppolo managed to throw for 264 yards and a touchdown in his first NFL start and without the assistance of Rob Gronkowski and a couple of offensive linemen. Winston looked amazing in week 1 (281 yards, 4 TDs) and he's an underdog in a game that is projected to be a potential shootout (over/under: 50). This means he should see another high volume of pass attempts. Another top-five showing may be difficult to achieve, but I expect Winston to put up QB1 numbers in

12-team leagues.




Russell Wilson, SEA (at LA)

A mobile QB with a potential ankle sprain? No thanks. Even if Wilson plays, and throws the ball a ton (43 pass attempts vs. Miami), it’s just not worth having him in your lineup just in case something happens. Plus, Wilson is playing in the Rams' home opener as the NFL finally returns to LA and the Rams always play the Seahawks tough.


Matt Ryan, ATL (at OAK)

Ryan played great last week against the Buccaneers. He scored 24.36 fantasy points, but he was at home and has a history of dominating the Bucs. This week you should return Ryan to the bench as he has averaged a mere 14.87 fantasy points in his last nine road contests. Plus, look for the Raiders’ defense to be a whole lot better this week at home than the unit fared last week in New Orleans.


Andy Dalton, CIN (at PIT)

Dalton played well in Week 1, and his stat line of 23-of-30 for 366 yards, one touchdown and one interception is probably what he is going to average every week. That might sound good, but it’s only 18 fantasy points. The last time Dalton faced the Steelers in Week 8 of the 2015 season, he had just 231 passing yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for 11 fantasy points. He has just one game with more than 20 fantasy points in his past five trips to the Steel City. He should have another tough game at Heinz Field on Sunday and is QB2 material at best.




Andrew Luck, IND (at DEN)

Luck reminded us of just how good he can be after scoring  43 fantasy points (standard scoring) thanks to 385 yards passing and four touchdowns (and 21 yards rushing). But Detroit at home is different than Denver on the road, and Luck could be in store for a big letdown this week. The Broncos just held Cam Newton to 22 fantasy points, which is more than respectable, but now what we are used to seeing Cam doing. Luck did play well last year against the Broncos (25 fantasy points), but that was at home, not in Denver. You should definitely still start Luck, but temper your expectation against the Broncos' dominating defense.


Defense/Special Teams (DSTs)




Baltimore Ravens (at CLE)

Remember when the Ravens' defense was among the elite units in fantasy football? Well, owners should have faith in the purple and black this week against the Browns and backup quarterback Josh McCown. Maybe he's an upgrade of Robert Griffin III, maybe he's not... but the Browns remain a matchup and streaming option among DSTs.


Philadelphia Eagles (at CHI, Mon.)

The Eagles put up an impressive 11 fantasy points in last week's win over the Browns, and another favorable matchup awaits against turnover-prone quarterback Jay Cutler and the Bears. Philadelphia's DST is still a free agent in more than 70 percent of leagues, so fantasy fans who like to stream are in business.




New York Giants (vs. NO)

The Giants spent a mint on defensive additions in the offseason, but this unit still scored a total of one fantasy point last week against Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott. Next on the schedule is Drew Brees and the Saints, which are coming off an impressive Week 1 showing. Keep the G-Men on the bench this week.


Miami Dolphins (at NE)

In what was a shock to some (including me), that the Dolphins DST put up 11 fantasy points on the road against the Seahawks. And while Miami’s upcoming matchup against the Patriots features Jimmy Garoppolo and not Tom Brady at quarterback; New England is not a team that turns the ball over often. Keep these fish in the waiver wire pool.


— 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 Eli Manning and Other QB/DST Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 2
Post date: Friday, September 16, 2016 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/ohio-bobcats-vs-tennessee-volunteers-preview-and-prediction-2016

The Tennessee Volunteers improved to 2-0 on the young season after overcoming yet another slow start to defeat Virginia Tech by a score of 45-24 in the "Battle at Bristol" in front of the largest crowd to ever watch a college football game. In spite of the Vols' record, Butch Jones’ squad still has some glaring obstacles to overcome if the team is going to meet the lofty expectations bestowed upon it in the preseason. The Vols will have an opportunity to correct some of those issues on Saturday as they play host to the Ohio Bobcats out of the MAC.


Ohio was able to follow up a disappointing triple-overtime loss to Texas State in its home opener with an impressive 37-21 road victory over Kansas last week to even its record at 1-1. Frank Solich’s Bobcats are considered heavy underdogs despite bringing one of the nation’s most productive offenses (45.5 ppg) into Neyland Stadium for Saturday’s matchup. If the Volunteers look past the Bobcats in anticipation of their big game against Florida the following week, an upset-minded Ohio team could give Tennessee more than it bargained for, just like Appalachian State did in the opener.


This will be the second meeting all-time between the Bobcats and Volunteers. Tennessee won a closer-than-expected 2009 matchup against Ohio by a score of 34-23.


Ohio at Tennessee


Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 17 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: SEC Network

Spread: Tennessee – 27.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Will the Volunteers Get Off to Another Slow Start?

Last season, Tennessee built a reputation as a team that struggled to finish games. So far in 2016, the Volunteers have struggled to even get started. Tennessee has been outscored by a combined 21-3 in first quarter play, producing just one offensive drive that did not result in a punt or a turnover.


It is critical that the Volunteers avoid yet another slow start on Saturday. They cannot continue to put themselves in a hole against underdog opponents. Nor can they afford to let their sluggish starts trend into the most difficult part of their schedule. Tennessee is certainly capable of jumping out to a fast start, but it may not be the cakewalk many expect against an Ohio team that has outscored its first two opponents 21-0 in the opening 15 minutes.


2. Tennessee’s Offensive Line vs. Ohio’s Front Seven

The Vols' offensive line was supposed to be an area of strength heading into the 2016 campaign. Instead, it has become somewhat of an enigma through the first two weeks of the season. Tennessee's front struggled mightily against an undersized Appalachian State defensive line in Week 1, and looked even worse in the early going against Virginia Tech last week.


The good news is that front line was finally able to show some signs of life after a few much-needed changes to the lineup midway through last week’s win over the Hokies. That’s not to say that the group didn’t continue to have issues, but the improvement from the Vols' revamped offensive line was clearly noticeable. Tennessee head coach Butch Jones may continue to experiment with his front five against Ohio, hoping to find that magic combination before heading into SEC play.


Much like the Volunteers' first two opponents, the Bobcats will attempt to create confusion within Tennessee’s zone-blocking scheme by using stunts and creating chaos with multiple looks up front. They may just have some success as well. Ohio's front seven on defense have produced seven sacks in two games while limiting opponents to just 2.3 yards per carry.


3. Can Tennessee Finally Gain Traction in the Passing Game?

No one likes to beat a dead horse, but following lackluster performances by the Volunteer passing attack in the first two games, it remains an area of concern. Poor pass protection has been the most glaring factor in the Vols' inability to consistently move the ball through the air. However, Joshua Dobbs' issues with downfield accuracy coupled with the receiving corps’ inability to create separation continue to play roles as well. Regardless of who’s at fault, it is crucial that Tennessee find some semblance of a downfield passing game before heading into SEC play.


Ohio could provide just the matchup Tennessee needs to get things going with its passing attack. While Ohio’s front seven could present Tennessee with some challenges, the Volunteers may be able to have success against an inexperienced Bobcats secondary that has already allowed 624 yards and six touchdowns through the air. If the Volunteers' passing game fails to materialize this week, it may not happen all season.


Final Analysis


This should be a tune-up game against a cupcake opponent conveniently sandwiched between two much bigger matchups for Tennessee. But if the Volunteers treat it as such, they could once again find themselves in trouble early. Ohio has averaged 283 rushing yards through two contests and it is not unreasonable to think that the Bobcats could find some success against a Tennessee defense that has already allowed huge run plays in each of its first two games. And the the loss of starting middle linebacker Darrin Kirkland to injury can only help Ohio's cause. That being said, Ohio has yet face a team anywhere close to Tennessee’s caliber. So, while the Bobcats appear to match up well in some regards on paper, it probably won’t translate well on the field against an overall far superior Volunteers team on Saturday.


Prediction: Tennessee 41, Ohio 17


— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McVey is a diehard Tennessee Volunteers' fan who loves singing "Rocky Top" every opportunity he gets. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.

Ohio Bobcats vs. Tennessee Volunteers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 14:00
Path: /college-football/temple-owls-vs-penn-state-nittany-lions-preview-and-prediction-2016

It is a phrase that may be considered a once-in-a-lifetime fact: Penn State is looking for revenge against Temple. In football.


A week after taking a loss on the road on the west side of the state, the Nittany Lions return home to Beaver Stadium to host the Owls from Philadelphia. Temple ambushed Penn State last season and sacked Christian Hackenberg 10 times, as the Owls ripped off 27 straight points to stun the blue and white.


Things should be a tad different this season as Temple’s defense takes a step back, Penn State’s offense comes together and the venue shifts to State College. One thing remains constant, and that’s the pressure on James Franklin to get a win. The coach who once shouted Penn State is going to “dominate the State” is at risk of losing three straight games to teams in the Keystone State, in all three FBS stadiums.


Temple at Penn State


Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 17 at 12 p.m. ET

TV: Big Ten Network

Spread: Penn State -9


Three Things to Watch


1. Can Penn State avoid a slow start?
Penn State’s offense is still working out the kinks with a new starting quarterback and offensive coordinator. If you can go off the first two games of the season, it appears the trend is Penn State’s offense gets off to a slow start but once it starts getting in gear, it is tough to get it to stop. Such was the case last week on the road at Pittsburgh. Penn State’s offense sputtered and had costly turnovers that helped Pitt build a substantial lead the Nittany Lions were unable to battle back all the way from. But they did show an ability to climb out of the hole.


Against Temple, the key will be to get quarterback Trace McSorley to protect the football better and get in a rhythm earlier in the game. Temple’s defense may still be a feisty one for the Nittany Lions, but it is not as fearsome as it was a season ago.


2. Injured thumb has Temple RB Jahad Thomas in doubt
Temple could be without one of its best offensive players this week. Thomas injured his left thumb late in training camp and has not appeared in either of Temple’s first two games against Army and Stony Brook. He returned to practice this week but was forced to leave Tuesday’s session early after appearing to be in some pain after making a catch. It remains unknown if he will see the field on Saturday, or how effective he may be if he should happen to get some carries.


Thomas rushed for a team-high 1,262 yards and 17 touchdowns last year for the Owls, including 135 yards and two touchdowns in the season-opening win against Penn State.


3. Saquon Barkley is ready to explode
If you are waiting for Penn State’s sophomore running back to explode, this could potentially be the week. Barkley rushed for 85 yards and four touchdowns last week on the other side of the state, and 105 yards in the opener, but the time is now to witness just how big of a factor he can be in a game.


Don’t be fooled by stats through two weeks, because it shows the Owls at the bottom of the AAC in rushing defense. Keep in mind that is because Army piled up 329 yards in its run-heavy offensive attack in the first game of the season. Temple held Penn State to 80 rushing yards a season ago. Barkley will look to improve on that number all by himself in the first half.


Final Analysis


Penn State is coming off a tough loss against Pittsburgh, but there were some positives to draw form it. First, the offense is a potent unit once it gets going. It just needs to start better than it has in the past two games. Temple’s offense is not one that will strike much fear in the Nittany Lions on a regular basis, but this is not one of the better Penn State defenses we have seen over the years. This Penn State defense can be cracked with a versatile offense and misdirection and speed. This is not quite a strong area for the Owls, however, so even an average Penn State defense should be able to contain Temple and give the offense a chance to take control.


Prediction: Penn State 27, Temple 17


— 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 contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook

Temple Owls vs. Penn State Nittany Lions Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 13:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-podcast-week-3-preview

Could Week 3 of college football be even better than Week 1? With the top three teams in the nation playing true road games against ranked opponents, the answer is a big old yes.


Can Lamar Jackson carry Louisville to a program-defining win over division rival Florida State? Can the youth of Ohio State handle one of the most hostile environments in the country in Norman, Oklahoma? Will Ole Miss do the unthinkable and beat mighty Nick Saban and Alabama three straight years?


Big Ten teams Michigan State, Nebraska and Michigan have interesting non-conference games with Notre Dame, Oregon and Colorado respectively this weekend.


What should we make of two big SEC West showdowns? Mississippi State visits LSU while Texas A&M heads to Auburn.


Can Pitt recharge it's emotional battery for a road trip to face what should be a very angry Oklahoma State team?


Stanford hosts USC and we have no idea what to expect. UCLA-BYU, Miami-Appalachian State and Texas-Cal are all interesting as well.


- PICKS AGAINST THE SPREAD: Braden and Mitch will go head-to-head all season long.



1. Mitch: 5-6 (1-4 LW)

2. Braden: 3-7 (3-2 LW)


Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall @AthlonMitch or @DavidFox615 or email [email protected]. The podcast can be found on and our podcast RSS feed.

College Football Podcast: The Week 3 Preview
Post date: Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 13:06
Path: /college-football/arizona-state-sun-devils-vs-utsa-roadrunners-preview-and-prediction-2016

Kalen Ballage's record-setting, eight-touchdown performance against Texas Tech lifted Arizona State to an impressive victory last Saturday night. The Sun Devils are now among an increasingly rare club of Pac-12 teams with unblemished records. Half the league ended Week 2 with at least one notch in the loss column.


The Sun Devils can cap off the non-conference portion of the 2016 season undefeated Friday against UTSA, the upstart Conference USA program.


Arizona State's trek to San Antonio puts ASU in another rare category: Power Five programs willing to play a Group of Five program on the Group of Five team's turf. The trip continues head coach Todd Graham's ongoing mission to plant a flag in his home state of Texas, marking the third Sun Devil game in the Lone Star state since the 2013 season.


While Arizona State is a heavy favorite, Cal and Washington State both took losses playing on Group of Five turf in Week 2.


Arizona State at UTSA


Kickoff: Friday, Sept. 16 at 9:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Line: Arizona State -18.5 


Three Things to Watch


1. Ballage's Encore

Kalen Ballage made quite a debut on the national stage with seven rushing touchdowns and an eighth via reception in Arizona State's defeat of Texas Tech. His performance tied Howard Griffith's eight-touchdown deluge on Southern Illinois in 1990 for the NCAA single-game record.


What will the junior back do for an encore? Tough to say, given Ballage's touches are typically limited.


The Sun Devils' leading rusher of 2015, Demario Richard, remained the focal point of the run game against Texas Tech with 30 carries for 109 yards. Ballage should continue to be a secondary option in the running game, complementing Richard and dual-threat quarterback Manny Wilkins.


Ballage's showing in Week 2 perhaps speaks less to his own move toward individual stardom and more about Arizona State finding another weapon in a deep, run-oriented arsenal.


2. Getting into the Backfield

Two weeks into the campaign, UTSA has allowed more sacks (8) than all but five teams in the FBS. That does not bode well for a matchup with one of the more blitz-happy programs in college football.


Graham calls for the blitz aggressively, occasionally to a fault. Against a young and still building UTSA offense, however, look for the Sun Devils to feast.


UTSA could run either Dalton Sturm or Jared Johnson out at quarterback, but either one can anticipate heavy and consistent pressure. Arizona State has just three sacks through the first two weeks, uncharateristically low for a Graham defense. This should be the week that changes.


3. Turnover Creation

With the risk inherent in heavy pressure comes the reward of turnovers.


Since Arizona State's been able to get into the backfield less than usual in the first two games, it should come as no surprise the Sun Devils' turnover creation is slightly down at two takeaways in total.


The good news for the ASU defense: it's a small sample size, and a sample that includes facing explosive quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Friday should present more opportunities for takeaways, particularly if the pass rush is as effective as it seems it should be on paper.


Final Analysis


After sputtering out of the gate against Northern Arizona, Texas Tech's visit to Sun Devil Stadium provided Arizona State an early gut-check of sorts. Graham said a win could be a launching pad for bigger and better things, while a loss risked sending a young Sun Devil team still finding its identity into the wrong direction.


The emphatic response to the moment, particularly on offense, sets a much-needed tone for Arizona State's new-look offense. The Sun Devils are still feeling out the passing element of the offense, but in averaging close to 300 yards per game through the first two, Arizona State's found at least one phase under new coordinator Chip Lindsey that's clicking.


UTSA has cultivated a strong following in just six years of existence, during just five of which the Roadrunners have played in actual games. The Runners have a legitimate home-field advantage playing in the Alamodome, and they used it to nearly pull off an upset the last time a Pac-12 team visited (Arizona in 2014).


First-year head coach Frank Wilson is sitting on a potential gold mine at UTSA. It's a high-potential program, but one still very much finding its identity. The Roadrunners are overmatched against Arizona State.


Prediction: Arizona State 48, UTSA 14


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

Arizona State Sun Devils vs. UTSA Roadrunners Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 13:00
Path: /college-football/arkansas-state-red-wolves-vs-utah-state-aggies-preview-and-prediction-2016

Utah State did a 180-degree turn on both sides of the ball in two weeks. After dominating Weber State in their season opener, the Aggies fell flat in a 45-7 loss to USC last weekend. Utah State generated just 253 yards of total offense and 13 first downs. It marked their most lopsided loss to a Power Five school since falling to Oregon 66-24 in 2008.


The Aggies will try to bounce back against an experienced and talented opponent. Arkansas State returns 13 starters from a team that won a Sun Belt Conference championship a season ago. The Red Wolves have been a model of consistency, putting together five straight winning seasons and finishing first in the Sun Belt four times in that stretch.


This is the seventh all-time meeting between the schools. The series is deadlocked at 3-3 as both schools are 3-0 in their home stadium.


Arkansas State at Utah State


Kickoff: Friday, Sept. 16 at 9 p.m. ET

TV: CBS Sports Network

Spread: Utah State -8


Three Things to Watch


1. Mays on track for 1,000-yard season
Stopping Utah State RB Devante Mays will be a huge problem for Arkansas State. The senior is averaging 8.9 yards per carry this season, which ranks fifth among FBS running backs. Mays is averaging 116 rushing yards per game and has scored three rushing touchdowns in two games.


He led Utah State in rushing a season ago and fell just shy of the 1,000-yard plateau. Mays totaled 966 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior while averaging 5.9 yards per carry. He has four 100-yard rushing games in his career so far.


If Mays can run for at least 100 yards against the Red Wolves, it could be just what the Aggies need to pull out a victory. Utah State has won 18 of its last 19 games overall when it has a 100-yard rusher.


2. Can the Red Wolves find a defense?
Arkansas State had serious trouble stopping drives in its first games against Toledo and Auburn. The Red Wolves are getting gashed on nearly every play early in the season. They are allowing 631.0 yards per game and 7.84 yards per play.


Not surprisingly, Arkansas State ranks last among 128 FBS teams in total defense. The Red Wolves are 127th in rushing defense (323.5 ypg), 127th in passing efficiency defense (206.4), 115th in passing yards allowed (307.5 ypg) and 119th in scoring defense (41.0 ppg).


It hasn't helped that Arkansas State has been equally unproductive on offense. The Red Wolves rank 117th nationally in total offense (296.0 ypg) and 126th in the FBS in scoring (12.0 ppg) after two weeks.


Arkansas State quarterback Chad Voytik did show improvement with his passing numbers against Auburn last week. The senior finished with 215 yards and completed 71 percent of his attempts against the Tigers.


3. Who wins the turnover battle?
For all of its struggles elsewhere, Arkansas State has done a good job of taking care of the football. The Red Wolves are one of just seven FBS teams that have not committed a turnover yet this season. This is just the second time since 2001 that Arkansas State has gone back-to-back games without a turnover.


Ball security will be put to the test against Utah State, as the Aggies have a knack for forcing takeaways. Utah State has forced 1.9 turnovers per game dating back to the start of the 2012 season. When they get the ball off of a turnover, the Aggies find a way to make the most of it.


Utah State scored three defensive touchdowns last year to rank second in the Mountain West and 25th in the nation. Over their last 36 games, the Aggies have scored 11 defensive touchdowns.


Final Analysis


Arkansas State should contend for a Sun Belt Conference title again this season if it can solve its problems on offense and defense. Beating Utah State on the road, on the other hand, is a tall task. The Aggies have won eight straight September home games dating back to 2011. Utah State is further ahead than the Red Wolves on both sides of the ball and should have no trouble snapping a two-game losing streak in the series between the former Sun Belt and Big West rivals.


Prediction: Utah State 34, Arkansas State 19


— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.

Arkansas State Red Wolves vs. Utah State Aggies Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 12:30
Path: /college-football/baylor-bears-vs-rice-owls-game-preview-and-prediction-2016

Friday night will mark the end of an uneventful non-conference slate for the Baylor Bears. Winning their first two contests by an average of 37.5 points per game has left many still waiting to see what the 2016 Bears truly have to offer. Unfortunately this weekend will not be very telling.


The Rice Owls have started the season 0-2 despite hanging with Army last weekend before ultimately losing 31-14. Rice lost this game last season to the tune of 70-17 and does not look to be much improved so far this season.


On paper this does not look to be a contest, but let’s see if there are any interesting side stories in this game.


Baylor at Rice

Kickoff: Friday, Sept. 16 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Baylor -30


Three Things to Watch


1. Has Baylor become a run-first offense?
Through their first two games the Bears had have more rushing yards than passing. While Seth Russell has looked good through the first two weeks it has been the running back-by-committee approach that has caught everyone’s eye. No single tailback for the Bears has yet to surpass 100 rushing yards in a game. Look for Shock Linwood and Terence Williams to share the load in the backfield again this Friday.


2. Can Rice’s offense get on track?

So far this season the Owls have not had a tailback rush for 100 yards. I’m not talking per game, I am talking for the season. After two games the Owls' leading rusher has 93 total yards, albeit on 17 carries.


The passing game has been just as unimpressive, averaging only 191.5 yards per game. What is most troubling for Rice is that the leader in both categories is redshirt senior QB Tyler Stehling. If Rice is to get any type of sustainable offense going someone else is going to have to step up, especially against Baylor, which currently boasts the best defense (statistically speaking) in the Big 12.

3. Will playing at home make a difference for Rice?

The Owls have struggled out of the gate this season, giving up 38.5 points and close to 600 yards per game on defense. However, the Owls have yet to play at home. While it may very well not make a difference, three of the Owls' five wins did come at home last season.


There is always something to be said for home-field advantage.


Final Analysis


Baylor will end its non-conference slate 3-0, there is no doubt about that. This game may not be as out of hand as last season’s contest simply because the Bears have taken on a more of run-oriented offensive approach.


Unfortunately for Rice, its inability to find a playmaker outside of its quarterback will spell doom for the Owls early in this game. Baylor will shut down Tyler Stehling and the rout will be on.


Prediction: Baylor 56, Rice 10


— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.

Baylor Bears vs. Rice Owls Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/5-greatest-notre-dame-vs-michigan-state-college-football-games-all-time

One of college football’s greatest rivalries will be renewed this weekend. No, I’m not talking about Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt (they have played each other 37 times). I’m, of course, talking about Notre Dame and Michigan State. These two schools have played 77 times since 1897 with the Fighting Irish winning 48 games and the Spartans winning 28. Oh, and the one tie is considered to be one of the greatest moments in college football history.


I recently tallied a list of Notre Dame’s greatest rivalries and the series with Michigan State clocked in at No. 3 for its longevity and competitiveness. There have been countless games over the years that have stood out for their drama and bearing on the national title. Here are the five greatest.


5. Michigan Agricultural College 13, Notre Dame 7

East Lansing, Mich. – Nov. 16, 1918

In this early game in the series, both teams struggled to move the ball through inches of mud in the pouring rain. The Aggies (the school did not become Michigan State and adopt the Spartans mascot until 1925) got on the board first with a touchdown but missed the extra point. Notre Dame responded in the second quarter thanks to a drive engineered by the play of George Gipp (yes, “The Gipper”) and took a 7-6 halftime lead. The Aggies then put together a drive in the third quarter that was comprised of smash-mouth runs and short passes to take a 13-7 lead. The Aggies held on to win, giving Irish head coach Knute Rockne the first loss of his career. Notre Dame would not lose to the Aggies/Spartans again until 1950.


4. Notre Dame 14, Michigan State 10

South Bend, Ind. – Oct. 6, 1973

Some fans of these programs may argue this game’s placement but let me say this: Notre Dame’s 1973 national championship team sported one of the toughest defenses in college football history. The Irish gave up an average of eight points a game and blew out most of its regular season opponents. Michigan State was an exception. Notre Dame jumped out to a 14-0 halftime lead, but the Spartans pulled within four points in the fourth quarter thanks to a field goal and an interception returned for a touchdown by linebacker Ray Nester. On its next series, Michigan State drove all the way down to the Irish 24-yard line, but Mike Townsend intercepted Charlie Baggett’s pass and Notre Dame held on to win. The only team to play a closer game with the Irish that year was then-undefeated Alabama, which the Irish beat 24-23 in the Sugar Bowl.


3. Michigan State 34, Notre Dame 31

East Lansing, Mich. – Sept. 18, 2010

Michigan State’s first 11-win season ever was made possible by winning this slugfest. Both teams seemed to trade scores and neither led by more than a touchdown throughout the game. A pair of touchdown passes by quarterback Dayne Crist put Notre Dame ahead 28-21 early in the fourth quarter, but Michigan State tied the game when Kirk Cousins hit B.J. Cunningham with a 24-yard touchdown pass with 7:43 left. Neither team was able to move the ball through the remainder of regulation and the game went into overtime. Notre Dame kicked a field goal on its first possession to take a 31-28 lead, which was followed by Irish linebacker Darius Fleming sacking Cousins for a nine-yard loss during Michigan State’s possession. Facing fourth-and-14 yards from Notre Dame’s 29-yard line, the Spartans set up to kick a game-tying field goal. Holder Aaron Bates took the snap, stood up and tossed the ball to tight end Charlie Gantt for the game-winning touchdown. In the hours after the game, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio suffered a mild heart attack and missed the next two games so he could recover.


2. Notre Dame 20, Michigan State 19

East Lansing, Mich. – Sept. 22, 1990

The top-ranked Irish got on the board in the first quarter with a five-yard touchdown run by Ricky Watters. However, the Spartans responded by scoring 12 points within 5:20 in the second quarter, thanks to a field goal, a blocked punt out of the end zone and a one-yard touchdown run by Hyland Hickson. Michigan State added another touchdown to take a 19-7 lead into the fourth quarter. Notre Dame closed the gap with a second touchdown by Watters. Irish quarterback Rick Mirer then drove his team 81 yards for the game-winning score. For Michigan State, the heartbreaking play came when Mirer lined up on the Spartan 36-yard line and fired a pass that bounced off Michigan State defensive back Todd Murray’s shoulder pad into the hands of wide receiver Adrian Jarrell just two yards from the end zone. The play is known amongst the two teams as “The Immaculate Deflection.”


1. Michigan State 10, Notre Dame 10

East Lansing, Mich. – Nov. 19, 1966

The first college football matchup to receive the “Game of the Century” moniker in 20 years pitted 8-0 Notre Dame against 9-0 Michigan State. The legendary game featured a cadre of talent, including Alan Page, Jim Lynch and Bubba Smith. In a hard-fought contest, Michigan State took a 10-7 lead into halftime, but Notre Dame tied the game with a 28-yard field goal at the start of the fourth quarter. Another field goal attempt by Irish kicker Joe Azzaro went wide right with 4:39 left, giving Michigan State the ball back. The Spartans actually converted a fourth-and-one situation on its own 29-yard line with a quarterback sneak, but were eventually forced to punt. Notre Dame got the ball back and head coach Ara Parseghian chose to run the clock out instead of go for the win. His decision has been debated for the last 50 years, but Notre Dame still won the AP and UPI Coaches Poll national championships, while Michigan State was crowned by four minor ranking systems.

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)
5 Greatest Notre Dame vs. Michigan State College Football Games of All-Time
Post date: Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-12-best-position-battles-watch-week-3-2016

Week 3 of the 2016 college football season means the we’re on the last legs of the big non-conference games and the slate does not disappoint when it comes to fantastic matchups. As good as the games between the names on the front of the jerseys are on Saturday though; the one-on-one battles between the names on the back of them might be even juicier.


Whether you’re a college football fan, a coach or an NFL scout, here are 12 of the best position vs. position battles between offensive stars and their defensive counterparts on the other side heading into Week 3:


1. Oklahoma RBs Samaje Perine/Joe Mixon vs. Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillan

When Oklahoma was rolling last season, the Sooners were doing so because of their power run game behind two of the best backs in college football in Perine and Mixon. They’ll need a huge game to come out on top against Ohio State but it won’t be easy against a Butkus Award finalist in McMillan.


2. Georgia Tech QB Justin Thomas vs. Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham

On a weekend full of great games, this one is going to fly under the radar given that it pits two mediocre teams against each other. This position battle doesn’t however, as Thomas tries to lead the triple option against the stingy defense that Cunningham, a tackling machine, is in charge of. This one-on-one is for the old school purists of the game to be sure.


3. Florida State RB Dalvin Cook vs. Louisville LB Keith Kelsey

Cook hasn’t gotten going on the ground quite like he did a season ago but he’s become a much more complete back as a big component of the Seminoles’ passing game. It will be up to the underrated Kelsey to slow him down in both phases of Louisville’s big test on Saturday.


4. Alabama WR Calvin Ridley vs. Ole Miss CB Tony Conner

Ridley had a big game against Western Kentucky but things get much tougher in the Crimson Tide’s SEC opener on Saturday. Conner still doesn’t seem 100 percent recovered from a knee injury, but the senior will still present a big challenge if he’s tested in the passing game.


5. Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey vs. USC LB Cameron Smith

The last time McCaffrey played USC, he racked up 461 all-purpose yards. Smith wasn’t involved in that game and was limited earlier in the year when the two met up but he should play a big part in this matchup. If the Trojans have a prayer, they’ll need their top linebacker to shutdown running lanes in the middle of the field and wrap up McCaffrey.


6. Louisville QB Lamar Jackson vs. Florida State DE DeMarcus Walker

Had FSU safety Derwin James been healthy and playing in this contest, his chess match with Jackson likely would have been No. 1 on this list. With James out though, the pressure is on Walker to come through big on Saturday by both pressuring Jackson when he drops back in the pocket and also containing him when he takes off running.


7. Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly vs. Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick forced a fumble on a kickoff last week and played a big role in helping limit USC’s dangerous receivers during the Crimson Tide’s opener. The Alabama secondary will be tested by Kelly for the second season in the row, as the quarterback has some very good receivers to target and loves to take shots down the field.


8. Michigan State RB L.J. Scott/Madre London vs. Notre Dame LB Nyles Morgan

The run game is the backbone of the Spartans’ offense and both Scott and London will need to be on the top of their games if they want to pull off a win in South Bend. Morgan has been a productive cog in the Fighting Irish defense but will need to be at his best in order to slow down MSU’s backfield combo.


9. Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield vs. Ohio State DE Tyquan Lewis

The season-opening loss to Houston may have dampened Mayfield’s shine as a star quarterback but he has a chance for redemption on the big stage Saturday. It will be up to Lewis to cause havoc in the passing game as well as limit Mayfield’s ability to scramble in and out of the pocket.


10. Colorado QB Sefo Liufau vs. Michigan ATH Jabrill Peppers

This is the first game of the year where Michigan will play a team with a pulse and the Wolverines are likely to get tested early by an improving Colorado team. Liufau is off to his best start in years and the veteran signal-caller poses problems with his arm and his legs. Peppers will play a variety of roles and line up all over the field as Don Brown’s defense looks to contain the Buffaloes’ Air Raid offense.


11. Oregon RB Royce Freeman vs. Nebraska LB Josh Banderas

Freeman is one of the best backs in the country and he’ll have plenty of eyes on him for Oregon’s big non-conference test on Saturday. Whether it’s up the middle or in pursuit, Banderas will have his hands full against Freeman and the Ducks’ quick tempo.


12. Texas A&M OT Avery Gennesy vs. Auburn DE Carl Lawson

This battle is going a bit under the radar but it will be quite revealing as to where each team stands in the pecking order of the SEC West. Gennesy is one of the few Aggie linemen with any experience and he’ll have his hands full with a prolific edge rusher in Lawson.


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

College Football's 12 Best Position Battles to Watch in Week 3
Post date: Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 11:15
Path: /college-football/outrageous-college-football-predictions-week-3-2016

If the first two weeks of the 2016 college football season have taught us anything, it's that no team is safe. We've already had teams we thought were almost shoo-ins to make the College Football Playoff lose games and find themselves on the brink of elimination from national contention.


Related: First Two Weeks of 2016 Season Have Already Showcased Everything We Love About College Football


In Week 3, the outrageous outcomes shall continue, as a number of contenders will have their fraudulence exposed. Some will lose to other contenders, while others will just be caught sleeping.


Outrageous College Football Predictions for Week 3


Oklahoma State drops its second game in a row

Last weekend stunned me, as I had the Cowboys as my dark-horse pick to win the Big 12 and qualify for the Playoff. Forget the controversial end to the game against Central Michigan, Oklahoma State looked flat out average at best throughout the day. It was the passing game that caused the Cowboys fits on defense last Saturday. This weekend, it will be Pitt's punishing rushing attack wearing down the Pokes all afternoon, complimented by a vintage Pat Narduzzi defensive effort to stymie Oklahoma State for a second consecutive week.


Appalachian State "upsets" Miami

The quotes are meant to be snarky, just in case there were any questions. I won't consider this an upset personally, but Miami's borderline-laughable ranking in the AP Top 25 combined with the Hurricanes being anywhere from a 3.5- to four-point favorite would would make it so on paper. Miami has two wins this season, one over an FCS school and one over a team from the Group of Five. Those two programs combined for four total wins in 2015. As Tennessee found out in Knoxville two weeks ago, Appalachian State is a quality team that brings it each and every week. Miami isn't just walking into a trap. The Canes are about to be ambushed.


The Big Ten runs the table

I made the same prediction last weekend for the SEC and nailed it (Let's just not talk about my UCF over Michigan pick). This week, look for the Big Ten to come out on top of every game the conference plays in. Don't get it twisted — I'm not going all in because league members play a slate of cupcakes. Nebraska hosts Oregon, Michigan hosts Colorado, Ohio State travels to Oklahoma, Illinois hosts Western Michigan, Northwestern hosts Duke and Michigan State travels to Notre Dame. I like the Big Ten in all of those games.


Louisville beats Florida State by double digits

Louisville has started fast in both of its games so far. I don't expect that to change in this one, meaning Louisville will jump out to another comfortable lead early. The starting quarterbacks for both teams have been spectacular so far this season, but few have been better than Lamar Jackson. Once the Cardinals have the lead, look for Jackson to pilot the Louisville running game to clock-killing perfection en route to a big win at home over the Seminoles.


Ole Miss takes down Alabama for the third straight year

The Rebels are always up for Alabama, and the crowd in Oxford is going to be behind them in their SEC opener against the Crimson Tide. Ole Miss is one of the few teams in the country with the horses to go toe-to-toe with Alabama on both sides of the ball. I like Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly to have another great game against a young Alabama secondary. On the other side of the ball, Ole Miss has a collection of defenders whose collective skill level is several notches above anything Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts has seen in his young college career.


— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

Outrageous College Football Predictions for Week 3
Post date: Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, syndicated
Path: /college-football/fcs-football-best-games-and-predictions-week-3-2016

The conference schedule is beginning to beckon for more FCS teams, but in a September to remember, there are still key intersectional matchups and potential FBS upsets to carry the action.


Seven FCS teams have beaten FBS opponents through two full weeks of college football, including five ranked in the Athlon FCS Power Poll. The biggest FCS non-conference games continue to include Big Sky and Missouri Valley conference teams, but Ohio Valley Conference champ Jacksonville State has a huge matchup as well this week.


Here are the FCS games of the week:


Note: All times ET


Saturday, Sept. 17


No. 1 North Dakota State (2-0) at Iowa (2-0), noon

The Bison have won five straight and are 8-3 overall against FBS teams, but this is the toughest assignment to date. Just scoring a point would be a first in this series as the Hawkeyes won the only two meetings in the 1940s by a combined 98-0. Bison quarterback Easton Stick’s perfect 10 – his record as a starter – comes to an end.

Pick: Iowa


Related: 15 Best FBS vs. FCS Football Games in 2016


Western Carolina (1-1, 0-0 Southern) at East Tennessee State (0-1, 0-0), 1:30 p.m.

Now about those 156,990 that Tennessee and Virginia Tech drew to Bristol Motor Speedway last weekend... uh, this Southern Conference game at the cavernous racetrack won’t come quite so close in attendance. But the fans there should keep a close eye on Western Carolina’s skill position standouts.

Pick: Western Carolina


No. 15 Coastal Carolina (2-0) at No. 5 Jacksonville State (1-1), 2 p.m.

Burgess-Snow Field will be rocking to this big matchup. Coastal’s FBS-transitioning program doesn’t face a tougher road game than this one and Jacksonville State’s offense is relying too much on quarterback Eli Jenkins. Imagine if Coastal running back De’Angelo Henderson doesn’t score a touchdown.

Pick: Coastal Carolina


Eastern Illinois (1-1) at No. 8 Illinois State (2-0), 3 p.m.

Neither wants to give an inch to the other as their longtime rivalry hits 105. Enough so that they both beat FBS teams last week — Illinois State over Northwestern and Eastern Illinois over Miami of Ohio.

Pick: Illinois State


No. 11 James Madison (2-0) at North Carolina (1-1), 3:30 p.m.

OK, the Dukes have proven they can score points in bunches — a Division I-high 68 per game. But can running back Cardon Johnson and co. do it against this level of opponent? The veteran Dukes should be competitive.

Pick: North Carolina


No. 19 Towson (1-1, 0-0 CAA) at No. 20 Villanova (1-1, 0-0), 3:30 p.m.

In the crowded CAA Football race, this is a key game for two contenders for FCS playoff bids. Neither has gotten off to a flying start, but a victory here would change that.

Pick: Villanova


Delaware (2-0) at Wake Forest (2-0), 6:30 p.m.

Do you get the feeling CAA Football is in the spotlight this week? A win here and the Blue Hens can solidify they are back behind fourth-year head coach Dave Brock, whose record has moved above the .500 mark (19-18) again.

Pick: Wake Forest


Stephen F. Austin (1-1, 0-0 Southland) at No. 13 McNeese (1-1, 0-0), 7 p.m.

Saddle up for long drives because the host Cowboys’ offense is averaging more than 40 minutes in time of possession. Of course, they want to keep the ball away from dangerous SFA quarterback Zach Conque. McNeese's defense is also much better than SFA's.

Pick: McNeese State


No. 7 Northern Iowa (1-1) at No. 4 Eastern Washington (1-1), 7:05 p.m.

With another injury to a starter — All-America wide receiver Cooper Kupp (shoulder) makes it five — EWU is going to reach a tipping point. It’s a good thing sophomore quarterback Gage Gubrud has been spectacular. Credit these two powers for the tough non-conference scheduling, but one of them is going to be 1-2.

Pick: Eastern Washington


No. 3 Sam Houston State (1-0, 0-0 Southland) at Lamar (0-2, 0-0), 8 p.m.

Even with two weeks to prepare last September, Sam Houston had no answer for Lamar's 2,000-yard rusher Kade Harrington in the Cardinals’ road upset. This time, he has the Bearkats’ full attention.

Pick: Sam Houston State


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

FCS Football: Best Games and Predictions for Week 3
Post date: Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/vanderbilt-commodores-vs-georgia-tech-yellow-jackets-preview-and-prediction-2016

With 12 starters returning this fall, bowl eligibility was the hope for Derek Mason and his Vanderbilt football team. But when the Commodores dropped a winnable game at home to South Carolina on the opening Thursday night, the reaction around the SEC was, “Same ol' Vandy.”


After beating Middle Tennessee in week two, Vanderbilt has another opportunity for a Power Five victory when the Commodores travel to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech from the ACC. The Yellow Jackets started their campaign by squeezing out a victory over Boston College in a game played in Dublin, Ireland. They then returned stateside and throttled Mercer 35-10 last Saturday.


Georgia Tech holds a 19-14-3 edge in a series that dates back to 1906 and the Jackets have gone 11-0-1 since Vandy last won back in '41.


Vanderbilt at Georgia Tech


Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 17 at 12:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: WatchESPN/ACC Network

Spread: Georgia Tech -6.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Taking the Heat Off of Ralph Webb

The Vanderbilt offense is predicated on how well its junior running back plays. Teams are going to stack the line and make sophomore quarterback Kyle Shurmur win the game. Against South Carolina, Shurmur couldn’t make the Gamecocks pay. Last Saturday against the Blue Raiders, he didn’t complete a pass until there was 5:04 left in the second quarter. But then Shurmur got hot and the offense exploded. The Commodores need Shurmur to make an impact because as good as Webb is, he can’t beat Georgia Tech alone.


2. Containing the Georgia Tech B-Backs

When thinking of the Georgia Tech offense, quarterback Justin Thomas comes quickly to mind. His decision-making is vital in coach Paul Johnson’s option attack. But the offense is really opened up when the B-Backs are effective as the first part of the triple option. Freshman Dedrick Mills ran for 68 yards against Boston College and will return to the lineup after missing the Mercer game for a violation of team rules. Marcus Marshall got the bulk of the action last Saturday and performed well. Vanderbilt’s first goal is to stop the fullback run and make Thomas do other things.


3. Turnovers

Last season, Georgia Tech was minus-seven in turnover margin, ranking No. 105 in the FBS. Vanderbilt was even worse at minus-eight (109th nationally). It’s not surprising that the two programs combined for a 7-17 record. Both teams have improved early this year, with Vanderbilt seeing a large spike to plus-three and Georgia Tech at even. Turnovers are always vital but in a game featuring a complex option offense on one side and an inexperienced quarterback on the other, mistakes will be made. The team that capitalizes on those miscues will probably be the team that wins.


Final Analysis

This is an important non-conference game for both teams. A win over Georgia Tech would help Vanderbilt get the South Carolina taste out of its mouths before the bulk of the SEC schedule begins. The Yellow Jackets are sitting at 2-0, but that’s where they were last year before their season unraveled. Georgia Tech also would like to gain some positive momentum going into next Thursday’s clash with Clemson. Vanderbilt’s one-dimensional offense and tough defense will ensure that this will be a low-scoring affair. But it will be Georgia Tech that makes the plays at the end and comes out with a hard-fought victory.


Prediction: Georgia Tech 17, Vanderbilt 13


— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.

Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 10:15
Path: /college-football/north-dakota-state-bison-vs-iowa-hawkeyes-preview-and-prediction-2016

It will be a high-anxiety affair in Iowa City this Saturday for at least the early portion of the game between North Dakota State and Iowa. The Hawkeyes are on all cylinders this season, but that's easy to do when you are playing against sub-par competition.


Enter the North Dakota State Bison.


The boys from Fargo make the trip south fully loaded, looking to demonstrate to a national audience the caliber of football that has won them five consecutive FCS national championships. They'll present Iowa with far and away its biggest challenge so far in this young season. The Bison are technically sound at every position, well-coached and arguably as talented as a few Power Five teams.


North Dakota State at Iowa


Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 17 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: N/A


Three Things to Watch


1. The Battle in the Trenches

North Dakota State is probably the FCS' most physical team at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Unfortunately for the Bison, that is an area where the Hawkeyes excel at the FBS level. If the Bison can't line up and gain any ground pounding it up the gut with running back King Frazier, it could make for a long day. On the other side of the ball, Iowa has one of the best offensive lines in the country and will likely attempt to set the tone early with its own run game. If North Dakota State can have any success early moving the ball on the ground and slowing the Iowa rushing attack, we could be in for an interesting afternoon.


2. Risk-taking in the passing game

Both teams feature signal-callers who will likely play on Sundays. Both also seem to make big plays during big moments with both their arms and their legs that shift momentum in their respective team's favor. It will be their ability to lead, improvise and take risks throughout the day that will ultimately decide the final outcome. Part of that risk-taking will involve forcing the ball through small windows as they target two of the most sure-handed receivers in college football — North Dakota State's R.J. Urzendowski and Iowa's Matt VandeBerg. Those two are almost worth the price of admission alone.


3. Signs of an Iowa hangover

Sure, it was just Iowa State, but the fact remains that the Hawkeyes just played their first of a handful of rivalry games on their schedule. Their performance and execution against the Cyclones tells you just how prepared they were. If they are just as prepared for the Bison, we may be looking at a similar outcome. On the off chance that Iowa takes the field for the 11 a.m. local kickoff a little groggy and going through the motions, the home team risks falling behind by a couple of scores early and playing catch up the rest of the day. I'm not sure the Hawkeyes are built to play that game against a team as disciplined as North Dakota State.


Final Analysis


These two teams are very similar in style and preparation. Additionally, they have similar recruiting footprints. North Dakota State features a roster full of kids who could have, should have and in some cases did play for Big Ten schools. As a result, the Bison shouldn't have an issue going toe-to-toe with the Hawkeyes early on. As the game progresses, however, look for the Iowa depth to be the difference. Expect Kirk Ferentz to lean on the run early to wear down North Dakota State's defense, loosening things up for his offense to hang more points in the second half than in the first. On the other side of the ball, I have a tough time seeing Easton Stick and the Bison offense moving the ball consistently against one of the best defenses in college football. The end result will be a hard-fought yet convincing win for Iowa.


Prediction: Iowa 38, North Dakota State 13


— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

North Dakota State Bison vs. Iowa Hawkeyes Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/miami-hurricanes-vs-appalachian-state-mountaineers-preview-and-prediction-2016

For the first time, the Miami Hurricanes and the Appalachian State Mountaineers will meet on the gridiron with an ACC team making a rare trip to Boone, N.C. This will be Miami’s first road game of the 2016 season and it will take place in one of the toughest venues for a visiting team to win at in college football.


Appalachian State is 77-15 in its past 92 games at Kidd Brewer Stadium, which is nicknamed “The Rock.” The stadium usually seats 30,000, but the school is expecting a record-setting crowd when the Hurricanes come to town on Saturday.


This will be the first time Appalachian State has hosted a school from a Power Five conference. After falling 20-13 in overtime to Tennessee in Knoxville to open the season, the Mountaineers got their first victory by beating Old Dominion at home.


Miami will enter Saturday’s game at 2-0. In their last game, the Hurricanes defeated the FAU Owls 38-10 behind running back Mark Walton, who rushed for 155 yards and four touchdowns.


Miami at Appalachian State


Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 17, 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Miami -3.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Brad Kaaya
Coming into the 2016 season, Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya received a lot of praise from scouts and analysts as some said he was one of the top two quarterback prospects in the nation. After the first two games of the season, Kaaya certainly hasn’t played like one of the best players in the country.


Against FAU, Kaaya probably had his worst collegiate game, going just 17-of-31 for 191 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions. He had a 20.4 total quarterback rating and a completion percentage of 54.8, which was the third lowest in any game he has played at Miami.


Head coach Mark Richt said earlier this week that he isn’t worried about Kaaya’s play two games into the season.


“I think part of it is not being 100 percent sure what they were going to do,” Richt said. “We ran the ball well last week, and I’m sure they (FAU) wanted to hold up against the run without being in kind of a two-deep type of look, which they do quite often. I think we’ll look at that film but either the ball or the protection or, there will be something in the pass game that kept us really being sharp and having some big numbers.”


If Kaaya’s struggles continue, look for Miami to rely more on running the football, much like it did in the second half of the FAU game.


2. Appalachian State defense
Despite being a smaller school from the Sun Belt Conference, Appalachian State has a very physical and athletic defensive line. The Mountaineers gave Tennessee’s offensive line everything it could handle in the season opener.


Appalachian State gave up only 127 yards rushing on 43 carries against Tennessee. The Mountaineers also sacked Volunteers quarterback Joshua Dobbs twice and recorded five tackles for a loss.


Appalachian State’s defense features plenty of experience with nine returning starters. The player that the Hurricanes will need to keep their eye on is strong-side defensive end Antonius Sims. In two games, Sims has seven tackles, three sacks and 3.5 tackles for a loss. Miami also will need to account for Caleb Fuller, who has two tackles for a loss and a sack.


3. Hurricanes' defensive line
Miami's 4-3 scheme under new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has already paid dividends. Through the first two weeks of the season, the Hurricanes are No. 1 in the FBS with 10 sacks. The team also leads the nation in tackles for a loss with 28.


The Hurricanes are currently the stingiest defense against the run, allowing just 34.5 yards per game on the ground. Appalachian State’s leading rusher is Marcus Cox, who has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in each of the first two games. Cox’s running room could be limited against Miami’s physical and athletic defense.


Final Analysis


This game will be by far the biggest ever played in Boone, N.C. Tickets for the game are the priciest in the history of Kidd Brewer Stadium.


Considering how closely Appalachian State played Tennessee, the Hurricanes should not take this game lightly. The Mountaineers have the players and athletes to hang with the Hurricanes. In the end, Brad Kaaya and the Hurricanes’ deep, talented backfield will do just enough to avoid the upset.


Prediction: Miami 34, Appalachian State 30


— 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, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

Miami Hurricanes vs. Appalachian State Mountaineers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 09:45