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Path: /nfl/cleveland-browns-vs-pittsburgh-steelers-preview-and-prediction-2015

It seems the quarterbacking situation of the 127th meeting of "The Blue Collar Bowl" between the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers may be backwards.


If the season ended today, the Steelers (5-4) would make the playoffs as a wild card. While overtaking the 8-0 Cincinnati Bengals to win the AFC North seems unlikely, with a favorable schedule for the rest of the season a playoff berth appears to be well within reach.


Therefore, why risk further injury and rush Ben Roethlisberger back into the lineup until he is fully healed after backup Landry Jones led the Steelers' game-winning drive last Sunday, especially against a last-place opponent?


The last-place opponent is, of course, the Browns (2-7). Time to see what 2014 first-round draft choice, Johnny Manziel, can do, right?


So naturally the Browns are doing everything they can to get veteran Josh McCown in the lineup despite his injured ribs and the Steelers, instead of just resting their meal ticket against a team they've beaten 26 of the last 30 times they've played, have Roethlisberger practicing with a sprained foot.


Cleveland at Pittsburgh


Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)


Spread: Steelers - 4.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Just who is going to play quarterback, anyway?

The fact Johnny Manziel, a former Heisman Trophy winner and first-round draft choice, is still second-string for a 2-7 team doesn't speak highly of his status as the future of the Browns. At press time, Josh McCown was listed as Questionable or 50-50 to play with injured ribs, but the question is why he would play even if he can. This is McCown's 13th season in the NFL, but only his third as a full-time starter.


Remember this is football, not baseball. In baseball a prospect might take his lumps while batting seventh to learn the game. In football there is practice, and if a prospect isn't showcasing himself well then it's unlikely he'll do well in a game.


Furthermore, McCown is the NFL's top-rated passer on third down.


It's likely Cleveland head coach Mike Pettine, a one-time assistant coach at Pitt under John Majors, feels his choice at quarterback is a decision between short term and suicide. If Manziel is uncomfortable throwing from the pocket in practice, how will he ever translate that to success in games?


Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger sat out Wednesday's practice before returning on a limited basis on Thursday, but one has to wonder if this is a decoy. Landry Jones is far more likely to start than McCown. The question is if Jones will perform like he did coming in relief of Michael Vick against Arizona and Roethlisberger last week against Oakland (12-for-18, 247 yards, two touchdown passes) or starting against Kansas City (16-for-29, 209 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, and a lost fumble).


2. How will DeAngelo Williams play? Will he play?

It appeared the Steelers were still in good shape when Le'Veon Bell went down with a season-ending injury. Veteran DeAngelo Williams, 32, rushed for 170 yards and has been so dominant if he continues on his current pace he will rush for more yards than any back his age has in history. And he's started three games.


An inflamed foot made Williams questionable at the start of the week, but he had a full practice on Thursday.


Furthermore, the Browns' defense is ranked 31st in the league against the run. If he's healthy and Jones starts at quarterback, Williams figures to continue and perhaps even increase the workload that saw him handle the ball nearly half of the time the Steelers had it in their 38-35 victory against Oakland. One figures he'll eat the Browns alive.


If Williams can't play, then fourth-year pro Jordan Todman, who has two carries this season, will start at running back.


One of the most memorable games in this rivalry occurred in 1980 when Browns quarterback Brian Sipe's Kardiac Kids came back in the fourth quarter against the Steelers in Cleveland with two touchdowns to win 27-26. Of course, Pittsburgh was playing without Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, and Jack Lambert.


Sound familiar?


3. Will the Browns change their game plan and how?

According to Steelers' color commentator Tunch Ilkin, the Browns have gone from a team that likes to run the ball outside to one that prefers to run the ball inside under new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. Yet last year it was the Browns' outside running game that gave the Steelers fits in a 31-10 Cleveland victory, piling up 158 yards on the ground. So impressed were the Steelers that Ben Tate, who scored two touchdowns against them that day, was signed to play and started for Pittsburgh in the wild card game last season.


Somebody tell DeFilippo to run a sweep behind the tight end!


Defensively, the Browns have 15 sacks and five interceptions. The cliché is "the Browns need to do something different; to gamble." But in reality they cannot gamble, for they have nothing to lose at this point by attempting something new.


Final Analysis


The Steelers are 13-1 lifetime against the Browns at Heinz Field. Once upon a time famed Cleveland sports talk show host Pete Franklin went to Pittsburgh to provide karma at old Three Rivers Stadium to snap the Browns' 16-game losing streak to the Steelers. Apparently it worked, as the Browns won 27-24.


Unfortunately for this Cleveland team and the Browns' fan base, Franklin died 11 years ago.


Prediction: Steelers 23, Browns 18


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

Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 13:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/nfl-releases-statement-colorblindness-issue-concerning-bills-jets-game

The Thursday night game between the Bills and the Jets was hard to watch, and not just because of the teams involved. 


There were many who suffer from colorblindness that had trouble telling the teams apart. The NFL debuted "Color Rush" uniforms that had the Bills in all red and the Jets decked in green. Those with red-green colorblindness tweeted about the difficulties watching the game.




This is what the game looked like to those with red-green colorblindness, and it does in fact look like one giant team is on the field.



The NFL has released a statement saying they didn't take into account the issue of colorblindness and will do so with other "Color Rush" uniforms, making sure they pass the screen test.


Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 13:22
All taxonomy terms: Dallas Cowboys, NFC, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NFL
Path: /nfl/dallas-cowboys-vs-tampa-bay-buccaneers-preview-and-prediction-2015

There is one inevitable truth that will take place on Sunday. Either Dallas or Tampa Bay will take a serious hit to their respective playoff chances. 


The Dallas Cowboys enter Sunday's game riding a six-game, Tony Romo-less losing streak. Although Romo has one more game to sit due to injured reserve protocol, there may not be much for him to hurry back to. The Cowboys have essentially lost six games in a row the exact same way. They have struggled to find the end zone ( although last Sunday's loss to the Eagles featured a much better performance by QB Matt Cassel), they have struggled to run the ball (although again, this part of the offense looked better last week as Darren McFadden continues his renaissance in Big D) and the defense is struggling to get KEY stops at the right moments. Although the game Sunday was a much better performance, the Cowboys are still prone to the big play and will succumb to it at the wrong times. And when you can't score when you want...


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been bad, are getting better, and seem like a team on the verge of something. Marcus Mariota may have gotten off to the faster start with Tennessee, but Jameis Winston is the guy who seems to be growing faster. After going 1-3 in the first four games, the Buccaneers are 2-2 over their last four, and the margin of defeat is shrinking each week. In other words, the Buccaneers are starting to figure it out. Winston is starting to figure it out. Each week is becoming his tutorial for success. And when you can learn and grow...


Dallas at Tampa Bay


Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)


Spread: Dallas  -1


Three Things to Watch


1. 0-for-4

No that's not the number of games won by the Cowboys without Tony Romo. That number is actually 0-6. No, 0-4 is an abbreviation for zero in the last four games, or the number of interceptions thrown by the rookie QB Jameis Winston. That is incredibly important because Winston, who was a stumbling, interception-throwing, mistake-prone signal-caller early on is developing into the efficient rookie quarterback of the last 15 years (which incidentally is the last time a rookie QB went four games without an interception). Winston is as good as his potential said he would be. He can beat you with his monstrous arm, incredible size, and he is starting to extend plays intelligently with his legs. For the Cowboys, this rapid development could be a real problem. For the Bucs, Winston could be the solution they have been waiting on and the thing that pushes them back into relevance.


2. Cassel to Beasley II

The loss to the Eagles was not all bad for Dallas. The Cowboys discovered that Matt Cassel seems to have established good chemistry with WR Cole Beasley. Beasley seems to enjoy playing with Cassel as well, as he produced nine catches for 112 yards and two TDs in the loss. Cassel and Beasley enjoyed a wonderful first outing together. Whether or not it was a fling or the real thing will show up on Sunday. And what effect that has on the rest of the offense will also be seen, as against the Eagles, it seemed to be the missing ingredient that settled Cassel down and helped him find his groove. It also got Dez Bryant and Jason Witten involved in the passing game as well. Amazing what can happen when a guy gets comfortable and into the flow.


3. The More Desperate Team Will Win

The Cowboys don't want to win Sunday. They MUST win on Sunday. The team that everyone was predicting would bounce back from a crushing divisional loss to become a Super Bowl powerhouse is now stuck in the NFL outhouse, with no way out. Romo's absence was supposed to result in a FEW unwinnable games, not six losses in a row. And certainly not a position where the Cowboys won't make the playoffs at all. The Buccaneers started the season just wanting to improve. And their early 1-4, interception-riddled start reflected life in the rebuild zone. But something has happened over the last four games as Tampa Bay be on the verge of starting... something. The offense is playing better, averaging 24 points a game. The margin of defeat is shrinking. The game Sunday will come down to one thing and one thing only... hunger.


Final Analysis


A Tony Romo-less Cowboy team is like a developmental Buccaneer team at midseason. They can beat you, but everything must be perfect. The challenge for both teams is to get as close to that perfection as they can. Both quarterbacks can make mistakes. Both defenses will give up the big play. Both quarterbacks can scramble when necessary. But who can keep from throwing the crucial interception? Who can involve others into the offense and play with passion and pride? The Buccaneers are poised to pounce on the Cowboys, and its hard to see the argument against that. The good news is that the Cowboys may get their No. 1 QB back next week. The bad news is Romo will be looking to pick up the pieces from what will become an 0-7 run.


Prediction: Buccaneers 27, Cowboys 14


— Written by Lloyd H. Spence, Jr., who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Spence also has written for the Dallas Morning News, Yahoo!'s, and ESPN Louisville. Follow him on Twitter @TalkinNOIZ.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: videos, Overtime
Path: /overtime/seahawks-give-jimmy-fallon-nfl-superlatives-russell-wilson-michael-bennett

A few guys in Seattle are tired of Jimmy Fallon's "NFL Superlatives."


The Seahawks decided to give Fallon a taste of his own medicine by putting him on full display for their own set of superlatives. Russell Wilson, Michael Bennett, and more lay in on the late night host.

Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 12:34
All taxonomy terms: Carolina Panthers, Tennessee Titans, NFL
Path: /nfl/carolina-panthers-vs-tennessee-titans-preview-and-prediction-2015

The return of Marcus Mariotta, along with the firing of Ken Whisenhunt, has undoubtedly given the Tennessee Titans a spark of momentum. The question is, can the Titans transcend last week’s success into an even bigger upset in Week 10? Tennessee’s victory on the road last week over New Orleans spoke volumes as to how this team feels about interim head coach Mike Mularkey. Perhaps, it says even more about their feelings towards former head coach Ken Whisenhunt. Regardless, the momentum of a seemingly re-invigorated Titans team will be put to the ultimate test as they play host to the undefeated Carolina Panthers in Week 10.


The Carolina Panthers, who stand alone as the only undefeated team left in the NFC, are coming off of a big win of their own in Week 9 against Green Bay. Ron Rivera’s Panthers will attempt to extend their perfect season by avoiding a major upset against an inspired Tennessee team on the road. A Panthers victory would also extend their consecutive regular season game win streak to 13 games. A streak that dates back to last season and stands as the longest active streak in the NFL.


This will be the fifth meeting all-time between the Titans and Panthers. Tennessee has commanded the brief series by compiling a record of 3-1 against Carolina. The two teams last played in 2011 with Tennessee coming away with a dominant 30-3 victory. Carolina’s one and only win against Tennessee came in the first ever meeting between the two teams in 1996.


Carolina at Tennessee


Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)


Spread: Carolina  -5.5


Three Things to Watch


1. The Titans Re-Vamped Offensive Line vs. Carolina's Strong Pass Rush

One of the first orders of business on Mike Mularkey’s list after taking over head coaching duties for the Titans was to figure out a way to sure up an anemic offensive line. Heading into Week 9, Tennessee’s offensive line had allowed an atrocious 28 sacks in just seven games.


Mularkey’s experiment would include benching rookie RT Jeremiah Poutasi, sliding RG Byron Bell over to RT, and inserting recent signee Joe Looney into the RG spot previously manned by Bell. Mularkey’s plan would prove effective. Tennessee’s new look offensive line did not allow a single sack last week against a Saints pass rush that had been averaging two and a half sacks per game.


The Titans' upgraded offensive line showed improvement and promise last week. However, they will be put to a true test on Sunday. A potent Carolina pass rush, led by the emergence DT Kawann Short (6 sacks), has already accumulated 25 sacks in just eight games this season. In spite of the upgrades, the Tennessee front will have their hands full trying to keep Marcus Mariota clean on Sunday.


2. The Cam Newton Experience

The Carolina Panthers' simplistic strategy of running the football and playing great defense has been the model for their success all season. At the risk of stating the obvious, the biggest reason that model has had so much success lies primarily with Cam Newton. Newton’s numbers may not jump off the paper at you this year, but what makes him truly special is his ability to keep opposing defenses off balance. The simple fact that opposing defenses have to constantly second guess themselves against the versatile Newton puts them at a distinct disadvantage against the entire Carolina offense.


While the Tennessee Titans are no slouch on the defensive side of the football, they will have a full plate trying to account for Cam Newton on each and every snap. Carolina will maintain its typical slow and steady efficiency on offense, emphasizing its ground game, but this offense is most dangerous when plays break down in the passing game, allowing Newton to improvise his way to success. Newton’s ability to make something out of nothing is unmatched by any other quarterback in the NFL. Be it by ground or air, look for the unpredictable Newton to make another strong case for his MVP candidacy in Week 10.


3. Marcus Mariota Shines Against the NFC South (until now)

While the Titans have had little to cheer about overall so far this season, they do seem to have some strange mojo for success against NFC South opposition. Tennessee is now 2-1 against the NFC South. The only loss coming against the Falcons by just three points. A game that Tennessee could have easily won, also a game played without Marcus Mariota at quarterback.


Mariota is a perfect 2-0 against NFC South opponents, playing by far his best football against teams from that division. In contests against New Orleans and Tampa Bay, Mariota combined to complete 75 percent of his passes for 580 yards, 8 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Granted, his success did not come against the best defenses the NFC South has to offer, but it is notable nonetheless.


In Week 10, Tennessee will face the NFC South’s best defense. Carolina’s defense allows the fewest passing yards per play in the NFL (5.9 ypp), it is tied for the most interceptions in the NFL (13), and boasts an elite pass rush that averages just over four sacks per game. Mariota’s track record of dominance against NFC South foes so far this season suggests that he is in for another big performance in Week 10, but common sense and a nasty Carolina defense suggests otherwise.


Final Analysis


Tennessee will carry some momentum into Sunday’s matchup, and the Titans have played well against all of the other teams in the NFC South. Unfortunately, the Carolina Panthers are not like all of the other teams in the NFC South. The Panthers actually play defense, and they have All-Pro caliber playmakers at every level on that defense. Offensively, the Panthers aren’t flashy, but they will move the chains, eat up clock, and Cam Newton will force the Titans' defense into mistakes that lead to touchdowns.


The bottom line is this, the Titans lack an effective rushing attack, and a solid passing game will be difficult to come by against a stout Carolina pass rush and secondary. Regardless of how motivated and re-energized the Tennessee Titans may be under new leadership, it cannot make up for the lack of fire power necessary to beat the red-hot Panthers.


Prediction: Panthers 27, Titans 17


— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.

Carolina Panthers vs. Tennessee Titans Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC West, Oakland Raiders, NFL
Path: /nfl/oakland-raiders-2015-midseason-grade

For the first time in a while, the Oakland Raiders and their fan base have a reason to be excited. After most experts predicted the team to finish in last place in the AFC West in 2015, the Raiders have a chance to make the playoffs this season. 


Oakland’s 4-4 record could be a lot better, as three out of the four losses have been by a combined total of 11 points. If first-year Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio could get the silver and black to the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 season, he would have to be one of the candidates for NFL Coach of the Year.


Through eight games, how do the Raiders grade out?



There’s one person who has been the Raiders' offensive MVP this season — quarterback Derek Carr.


The second-year player out of Fresno State has thrown for 2,094 yards and 19 touchdowns against only four interceptions. Carr’s 104.3 quarterback rating is places him fourth in the AFC and sixth in the NFL.


Carr has made his teammates better and he even led the Raiders to their first victory of the season against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 2. It hasn’t just been Carr that has made the Raiders' offense go this season, he has had a lot of help.


Running back Latavius Murray leads the AFC in rushing (sixth in the NFL overall) with 630 yards and three touchdowns. He is averaging 4.8 yards on 132 carries.


It is only halfway through the season, but wide receiver Amari Cooper is likely to get a lot of votes for offensive rookie of the year. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft has 45 receptions for 653 yards and four touchdowns.


Last offseason, receiver Michael Crabtree signed a one-year, $3.2 million deal. The Raiders appear to have picked up a bargain, as Crabtree has been a perfect complement to Cooper. Crabtree is on pace to have a career year — 94 catches, 1,182 yards and 10 touchdowns.


The most surprising unit on the Raiders may be their offensive line. Oakland all of a sudden has one of the better pass-blocking lines in the entire NFL. The Raiders have allowed only 10 sacks this season, which is the second fewest in the entire league.


Overall, the Raiders rank 11th in total offense after eight games. That’s a huge improvement from last season when the team ranked dead last. If the team took care of the ball better, their offense would get an A+.


Offensive Grade: A-



What can anyone say about 18-year veteran Charles Woodson that hasn’t been said? Even at age 39, he has been the best player on the Raiders' defense.


The safety is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with five. More importantly Woodson’s leadership has been invaluable to the this otherwise young unit.


Another positive for the Raiders has been the play of Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith. While Mack hasn’t had the amount of sacks (four) at the midway point that some might have expected, he is still wreaking havoc in opposing backfields. Smith has 2.5 sacks this season and has managed to be a very key offseason signing for the Raiders. 


One of the biggest surprises on the Raiders' defense is how rookie defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. has played since taking over for an injured Justin Tuck (torn pectoral). Edwards has been an excellent run stopper and he has even forced a fumble.


The biggest downfall of the Raiders' defense has been against the pass. Oakland ranks 29th in passing defense, giving up 315 yards per game through the air.


Against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 9, wide receiver Antonio Brown set a franchise record against the Raiders with 284 yards receiving on 17 catches.


With the Raiders only giving up an average of 97 rushing yards per game, it has been their passing defense or lack thereof that has been holding that side of the ball back.


Defensive Grade: C


Special Teams

Sebastian Janikowski, the most-tenured Raider on the roster, is having a solid season, as he is 13-of-16 on field goal attempts. Punter Marquette King also has been consistent, ranking eighth in the NFL in punts inside the 20-yard-line with 15.


Taiwan Jones has been mostly returning kickoffs, averaging a respectable 25.1 yards per return.


Special Teams Grade: B-



Last season, Oakland won only three games the entire season. This year, the Raiders could potentially triple that total and make their way to the postseason. If Carr continues to play like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, there’s no reason the Raiders won’t be in the playoff mix at season’s end.


The secondary has to improve, especially when the Raiders still have to face quarterbacks like Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers before the end of the season.


Del Rio has done an excellent job with the Raiders when many people didn't expect the team to be a possible playoff contender.


Overall Grade: B-


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

Oakland Raiders 2015 Midseason Report Card
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC East, Miami Dolphins, NFL
Path: /nfl/miami-dolphins-2015-midseason-report-card

This past offseason, the Miami Dolphins made a number of additions that had their fan base optimistic for the 2015 season. The club signed Ndamukong Suh to a six-year, $114 million contract and many people expected that the Dolphins would have one of the best defenses in the NFL, but that hasn’t been the case.


Now the Dolphins have crossed the midway point of the season and the year has not gone the way most folks had predicted. The team has a 3-5 record after many expected the Dolphins to be one of the six team in the AFC to make the playoffs.


The start of the season was so disappointing, the Dolphins fired former head coach Joe Philbin after the team's first four games (1-3). Interim head coach Dan Campbell hasn’t done much better in his first four games leading the team (2-2).


So how do the Dolphins grade out after eight games?



At the beginning of the year, many people expected Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill to make the next leap in his career and for good reason. In his first three seasons under center, Tannehill’s numbers have gotten better each year.


However after signing a six-year, $95 million contract extension, 2015 appears to be the first year that Tannehill’s numbers have declined from his previous season.


In 2014, Tannehill completed 66.4 percent of his passes for 4,045 yards and 27 touchdowns against only 12 interceptions, all career highs. Through eight games, Tannehill is on pace to throw 26 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.


The lack of production isn’t all Tannehill’s fault. Miami’s offensive line has had a number of injuries, namely to left tackle Branden Albert and most recently Ja’Wuan James. Even without the injuries, the offensive line hasn’t played well, as the Dolphins tied for seventh in the league in sacks allowed with 23.


The brightest spots of the Dolphins' offense has been the play of Jarvis Landry, Rishard Matthews and Lamar Miller. Landry leads Miami in catches with 53 and he also has three touchdowns (two receiving, one punt return). After being an afterthought in his first three seasons in the NFL, Matthews has been the Dolphins' second best-receiver with 37 receptions for 554 yards and four touchdowns thus far.


One of the biggest complaints of Philbin was that he never utilized Miller properly in the Dolphins' running game. In the four games since Campbell became the interim head coach, Miller has rushed for 347 yards and six touchdowns.


Miami is averaging 21.4 points per game this season, which is 21st in the NFL. When your defense is performing the way the Dolphins are, that just isn’t going to cut it. 


Offensive Grade: D



As much as the Dolphins' offense has had its struggles this season, the defense has been worse. The addition of Suh was supposed to improve the rushing defense, but that hasn't happened. 


Miami’s rushing defense ranks 31st in the NFL, which is second to last, due to the 142.1 rushing yards per game allowed. The Dolphins' passing defense has been a little better, as it is ranked 13th (242.4 ypg). But teams are preferring to run the ball down the Dolphins' throat as opposed to throwing it.


Losing Cameron Wake for the season to an Achilles injury is a massive blow, as he recorded seven sacks in his last three games prior to his injury against the New England Patriots. 


The only positive of the Dolphins' defense has been the play of Reshad Jones. He has 74 total tackles and two interceptions, both returned for touchdowns. Jones is likely one of the few Dolphin players that will make the Pro Bowl.


Defensive Grade: F


Special Teams

It is rare a team has a rookie kicker and a rookie punter at the same time, but that's what the Dolphins have on special teams. Andrew Franks has made six of eight field goals this season, but he has already missed two extra points.


Matt Darr is second in the NFL in punting average (49.1 yards per punt) and 10th in net punting (41.5).


Landry’s punt return against the Washington Redskins was the primary reason the team won its season opener. He is averaging 10.9 yards per punt return, which is the seventh-highest average in the NFL.


Special Teams Grade: B



There have been 15 teams in NFL history to make the playoffs after opening the season at 3-5. The Dolphins aren't likely to become No. 16. When a team’s defense is giving up more points than the offense scores, that isn’t a great sign of future success.


While Miami isn’t likely to make the playoffs, the team could somewhat salvage this season by finishing 8-8 for the third straight year. That could be enough for Dolphins' management to make Campbell the permanent head coach. Anything less than a .500 record and it's likely the team will go in a different direction at head coach.


Overall Grade: D


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

Miami Dolphins 2015 Midseason Report Card
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/bold-fantasy-predicitions-week-10-nfl

This is the fantasy column you've been waiting for. You’ve been dying of anticipation and now it’s finally here!


What does the magic crystal ball say will happen in Week 10? Which superstar will truly shine bright or which under-the-radar player will make a name for himself? Will one of your players score 40 fantasy points this week? The possibilies are endless, but you can be sure of one thing: whatever is mentioned below will be BOLD.


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


Teams on bye: Atlanta, Indianapolis, San Diego, San Francisco


Eli Manning Out-Duels Tom Brady

Of course this is crazy, but stranger things have happened. Like when the Giants beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII in 2008 and crushed their undefeated season. I still have an 18-1 t-shirt in my house somewhere. There’s no doubt that Brady isn’t going to have a big game against a very weak Giants defense, but when this defense bends (and bends a lot), but doesn’t break, it’s going to be LeGarrette Blount once again scoring the touchdowns. With the Patriots up by two scores in the second half, Manning will lead the Giants to an improbable comeback and thanks to Odell Beckham Jr. (who should also have a big game), Manning will throw for well over 300 yards and at least three touchdowns. Who will win the game? This is a bold fantasy predictions article silly, not a pick’em article.


Tavon Austin Scores More Fantasy Points Than Todd Gurley

Yes, you read this right. Notice how that does not say Todd Gurley. It says Tavon Austin. How is that even possible? While it’s true that Todd Gurley will do his usual thing and run for more than 100 yards and a touchdown against the Chicago Bears, it’s Tavon Austin that will score more fantasy points. The Bears know that the only way the Rams can win is by using Gurley all the time, so they are going to do everything in their feeble powers to stop him. When the Rams’ offense starts to sputter, and you know it will because Nick Foles is their quarterback, the team will turn to multi-purpose threat Austin, who will have more than 150 total yards and score two touchdowns.


Gray Barnidge Retakes His Throne as Fantasy’s No. 1 TE

Has there been a bigger fantasy surprise than Barnidge? The Josh McCown-to-Barnidge combination is something to be reckoned with. Barnidge has at least 100 receiving yards and/or one touchdown in the last six games started by McCown. Guess who will start at quarterback this week for the lowly Browns? That’s right, McCown, if he’s healthy enough. Even in a game against the Steelers without Ben Roethlisberger, things could get ugly fast for Cleveland. That means more McCown to Barnidge magic that we have grown so accustomed too. Plus, throw in the fact that the Steelers have allowed the third-most fantasy points to tight ends this season and Barnidge could easily score over 20 points this week.


Kirk Cousins Finishes Sunday as a Top-3 Fantasy QB

This really isn’t as bold or as crazy as you might think. All you really need to know is that Cousins and the rest of his Washington teammates are playing host to the New Orleans Saints, who have by far the worst defense in football. The Saints are allowing 292 passing yards per game and a league-high 24 TD passes on the season. Plus, they’ve allowed the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. If you add into the mix that Drew Brees is back to his gun-slinging ways, with 10 TD passes in his last two games, and this one will no doubt be high scoring. Look for Cousins to replicate his Week 7 seven numbers, when he scored 30.18 fantasy points thanks to 317 yards passing and three touchdowns.


Related: Fantasy Football Five Up, Five Down — Giovani Bernard Up, Carson Palmer Down For Week 10


Mark Ingram, Not DeAngelo Williams Finishes the Week as the No. 1 RB

So Ingram was supposed to have a huge game last week against the Tennessee Titans since his main competition for touches, Khiry Robinson, is out for the year. Unfortunately, all Ingram was able to do was score 9.6 fantasy points thanks to only 54 yards on 22 carries and four catches for 42 yards. But one bad game doesn’t make a season. Ingram has been very consistent from a fantasy standpoint. He’s scored double-digit fantasy points in six of his nine games. This week he gets to play against a Washington Redskins defense that has allowed 100-plus rushing yards in each of the past four games and has been pretty decent in defending the pass. This game looks like one where Ingram will touch the ball around 30 times and get over 150 total yards of offense with two touchdowns.


Carson Palmer Throws for More Than 300 Yards and 3 Touchdowns in Seattle

Seattle’s dreaded “Legion of Boom” defense is starting to show some cracks in its armor. The Seahawks are no longer the shutdown unit that led the team to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. In Week 6 Cam Newton led a Carolina comeback in Seattle, finishing with 269 passing yards and a TD. That’s something that never would have happened the year before or even last year. This week Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals come to town fresh off their bye week. You know that head coach Bruce Arians has been brewing up a special offensive scheme that will help Palmer utilize all his weapons (Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd). There’s no doubt that Palmer will have to be at his best on Sunday in Seattle, but if the Cardinals are going to be considered serious contenders in the NFC, this is a game that Palmer and the rest of the Cardinals need to stand up and make everyone take notice.


— 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.

Bold Fantasy Predictions for Week 10 in the NFL
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-five-up-five-down-giovani-bernard-carson-palmer-week-10

Can you believe we're in Week 10 of the fantasy season already? By now, fantasy playoffs are on the mind of many owners, with just a few weeks left in the regular season.


The key is winning now while also keeping an eye out for playoff time. If you're in the middle of the pack in your league, you need to make sure you get wins so you can get into the playoffs.


We look at some players that are ranked higher or lower than usual based on past performance, injury and matchups. Be aware this is not a start/sit, but a guide if you're looking for flex options.


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


Teams on bye: Atlanta, Indianapolis, San Diego, San Francisco


Five Up


Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins

While Cousins has only thrown for more than one touchdown in a game once this year, the matchup against the Saints is juicy enough to have him as the ninth-ranked quarterback for Week 10. In the past five weeks, the Saints have allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw for at least 295 yards and two touchdowns. Four of the past five opposing quarterbacks have thrown for more than 300 yards. Eli Manning just threw for six touchdowns; Marcus Mariota threw for four. Cousins should have a great day against this terrible secondary.


Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

Houston has given up six rushing touchdowns to opposing running backs (including three to Devonta Freeman) as well as three receiving touchdowns. Bernard is more of a pass-catching back than Jeremy Hill, and this game is likely going to be close, which is when Bernard shines. Jeremy Hill hasn't found the end zone since Week 4. He's been given carries and he hasn't done anything with them, so it opens the door for Bernard. Bernard is the 15th-ranked running back for Week 10.


Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Martin was supposed to have a big game last week against the Giants, and he only managed 31 yards on 11 carries. He fumbled the ball and Charles Sims came in and had eight carries for 78 yards, although that number was skewed by a 59-yard run. Sims also fumbled the ball, and Martin should return to RB1 status for Week 10. The Cowboys allow the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. They've allowed 10 touchdowns to opposing running backs, which does include the three-touchdown game by Devonta Freeman. However, there have only been two games this season when a running back hasn't scored a touchdown against them. Martin should find the end zone this week.


Allen Robinson, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

With Allen Hurns banged up and the Jaguars playing one of the worst defenses in the league (Baltimore), Robinson is just outside the top 5 in the wide receiver rankings for this week. The Ravens have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. They've allowed four different wide receivers to have over 100 yards and an additional five wide receivers to have 75 yards or more. Expect Robinson to have a great game on Sunday against this defense.


Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins

While the perception was that Oakland and the New York Giants are the teams to play your tight ends against, New Orleans actually gives up the most points to opposing tight ends. The Saints' secondary is atrocious, and all Redskins pass catchers should have a good day. However, the Saints have given up seven touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season, including three in the past two weeks. While Reed only had three receptions in Week 9, it was a tougher matchup. Even though DeSean Jackson is back, Reed is a top-tier TE1 this week.


Five Down


Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals

Palmer didn’t get to play against the Seahawks last year (when the Cardinals were embarrassed in Seattle) and coming off the bye, Palmer should be ready to face Seattle. However, it's still a tough matchup, especially in Seattle. The weather calls for a cold, rainy Sunday, which isn't great news for either quarterback. Seattle gives up the third-fewest points to opposing quarterbacks, including just six touchdown passes. The Seahawks have held four different QBs to no touchdowns. While Palmer will likely get at least one touchdown, if you have a better option, use him in Week 10.


Jeremy Langford, RB, Chicago Bears

While Adrian Peterson just had a big game against the Rams last week, the St. Louis defense has allowed just two running backs to rush for more than 100 yards (Peterson and Matt Jones, Week 2). The Rams have allowed only five touchdowns to opposing running backs (four rushing, one receiving). Langford looked good in Week 9, but the Rams' defense is tougher than the Chargers'. He'll be OK as a RB2, but don't expect the type of game the rookie had on Monday night. With the short week and the trip to St. Louis, he won't put up the same numbers.


Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers

While Stewart has been quietly putting together a solid season, he faces a tough matchup this week. The Titans have given up the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. They've allowed just four touchdowns to opposing running backs, and Stewart only has three scores on the year. With Cam Newton stealing goal-line work, Stewart's value comes on the ground (he hasn't had more than one reception since Week 1). He still has value this week, but as a low-end RB2/high RB3.


Jeremy Maclin, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

While there have been some weeks where Maclin has been close to a WR1, for Week 10, he is the 30th-ranked wide receiver. The reason? He's playing the Denver Broncos, who have shut down wide receivers all season. They have allowed one wide receiver to score a touchdown (Mike Wallace, Week 4). While the Chiefs' offense isn't exactly a powerhouse, it looks like this will be a down game for Maclin, who has been on a decline recently.


Julius Thomas, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars

Between his injury and the lack of use, Thomas is nearing the point where he could be found on waiver wires. While the Ravens give up the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, they give up the second-fewest fantasy points to tight ends. In the four games that Thomas has been back, he has 13 receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown. Most of that came in one game against Houston, where he had seven catches for 78 yards and his lone score. In a tough matchup, Thomas is barely in the top 20 of the tight end rankings for Week 10.


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

Fantasy Football Five Up, Five Down: Giovani Bernard Up, Carson Palmer Down For Week 10
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/georgia-bulldogs-vs-auburn-tigers-preview-and-prediction-2015

Auburn has had one of the weirdest seasons of any college football team. The Tigers failed to live up to preseason expectations as a national contender by losing four of their first five conference games, yet managed to pull off a 26-10 upset at Texas A&M in Week 10. Despite the early disappointment, Auburn could still secure a postseason berth by earning its sixth win on Saturday.


The only SEC team that could compare is Georgia, who took the opposite approach by starting 4-0 before losing three of its last five games. Similarly, the Bulldogs were predicted by many to win the SEC East and contend for a College Football Playoff berth before a rout by Alabama and Nick Chubb's injury the following week derailed their championship hopes.


Saturday's game is an intriguing matchup, despite receiving far less hype than what was assumed in preseason. Here's a look at which SEC team will reign supreme in Week 11.


College Football Podcast: Week 11 Preview

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Georgia at Auburn


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)


Spread: Auburn -1.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Can Muschamp's defense repeat last week's success?

Let's be honest, Will Muschamp's defense has been underwhelming in 2015. That is, except for last week when Auburn allowed a season-low 303 yards against Texas A&M.


The Tigers also forced three interceptions and held the Aggies' passing attack to just 137 yards and one touchdown. Muschamp-coached teams hadn't ranked lower than the top 10 nationally since 2009, a streak that will end after Auburn's disappointing start. But the Tigers have shown improvement through the season and should fare well facing a struggling Georgia offense.


2. Georgia's rushing attack vs. Auburn's front seven

Sony Michel has fared well in Nick Chubb's absence. Last week, Michel rushed for 165 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries.


The sophomore has averaged 110.5 yards in each game since Chubb's injury and is averaging 5.7 yards per carry on 126 total attempts. Auburn's rushing defense has allowed 191.22 yards per game, which ranks 11th in the SEC.


The Tigers have also allowed 19 rushing touchdowns, which ranks 12th in the conference and allowed 166 yards in last week's win. Auburn will need to see immediate improvement on Saturday facing the SEC's second-best rushing attack and a rising star in Michel.


3. Jeremy Johnson's impact on Auburn's offense

It's tough to fall back into the Johnson hype after a failed preseason Heisman campaign saw him lose the starting quarterback job, which freshman Sean White still holds. But Johnson managed to throw for 132 yards and a score on 13-of-17 passing in a limited role against Texas A&M last week.


Another strong performance could boost Johnson back into the starting role. He has the intangibles to be a succesful quarterback, but needs to prove his confidence has improved.


Final Analysis


Auburn is on the right side of momentum entering Saturday's game. It also doesn't hurt to have home-field advantage, as well a bowl appearance on the horizon.


Georgia's recent struggles should continue on the road against an Auburn team that looks more like what many expected to see in preseason. The Tigers should earn a postseason berth with a big win on Saturday.


Prediction: Auburn 28, Georgia 20


— Written by Jason Hall, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and works for Fox Sports Florida. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhallFSN.

Georgia Bulldogs vs. Auburn Tigers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 10:05
Path: /college-football/washington-state-cougars-vs-ucla-bruins-preview-and-prediction-2015

UCLA has reached another November in control of its destiny for the Pac-12 South title. This season makes five straight in which the Bruins have a navigable road map to the conference championship game.


A win at Utah Nov. 21 would place UCLA in first atop the division, but only if the Bruins survive a classic trap game against resurgent Washington State.


Saturday is the first meeting between the Bruins and Cougars since 2012, and Washington State’s first visit to the Rose Bowl under head coach Mike Leach.


“There’s so many kids down there in Southern California [on the Washington State roster], I think it’s exciting for them to go back home, but also exciting for anyone to play [in the Rose Bowl],” Leach said.


Washington State is out of the running for the Pac-12 North’s berth in the conference championship game, but the Cougars can spoil UCLA’s aspirations by making themselves at home in Pasadena.


College Football Podcast: Week 11 Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


Washington State at UCLA


Kickoff: 10:45 p.m. ET (Saturday)
Spread: UCLA -10


Three Things to Watch


1. Can the Bruins Rattle Washington State QB Luke Falk?

From walk-on to the nation’s leading passer, Luke Falk’s meteoric rise to stardom is among the biggest stories in the Pac-12 this season.


Falk won conference Player of the Week honors for a third time after going off for 497 yards and five touchdowns in the Cougars’ bowl-clinching, 38-24 win Week 10 over Arizona State. He now has 3,736 yards on the season and could surpass another Leach-coached quarterback, former Texas Tech standout BJ Symons, as the NCAA’s single-season passing leader.


“I thought he’d be pretty good. He’s very even-tempered and continuously improves. Over the course of a game, he has the ability to correct himself if he gets off track.”


UCLA’s defense is predicated on getting quarterbacks off track. Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley oversees an aggressive 4-3 base reliant on bringing pressure, which translates into takeaways.


The Bruins have forced 11 interceptions on the season with just 12 passing touchdowns.


Washington State will counter in the same way Leach’s teams have always attacked defenses, lining up four-and-five-wide to generate mismatches.


2. UCLA’s Rushing Offense

Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone’s scheme thrives on run and pass balance, but the Bruins have been especially prolific going to the ground this season. A multifaceted backfield gives the offense stability under talented, if not inconsistent freshman quarterback Josh Rosen.


The Bruins are averaging 5.2 yards per carry, with last year’s Pac-12-leading rusher Paul Perkins producing at a 6-yard per carry clip.


Freshman Soso Jamabo has fast established himself a reliable No. 2 option. Together with Perkins, the duo have combined for well over 1,300 yards and scored 14 touchdowns on the ground.


Washington State’s run defense has allowed right around UCLA’s per-carry average at 5.1, and given up multiple rushing touchdowns in each of the last five games.


3. Over at Halftime? 

For those wary of a 10:45 p.m. ET kickoff, good news. The way these teams play, the squad that takes advantage in the second quarter wins.


Interestingly, both UCLA and Washington State make their bones in the second quarter. The Bruins are outscoring opponents in the second frame 119-56, far-and-away their most dominant period.


The Cougars' margin is almost exactly the same at 115-54.


Final Analysis


The 2015 season has been a pivotal one for Washington State. The Cougars have already matched the single-season benchmark for wins under Leach, and are now playing to set a new standard.


The Cougars are quality opponents, and this has the textbook makeup of a UCLA trap game. Five of the Bruins' last six Pac-12 losses, dating back to 2013, all occurred in the Rose Bowl.


However, just about every positional matchup favors the Bruins.


Washington State's offensive line is one of the best in the Pac-12, which will make disrupting Falk in the pocket a challenge, but the Bruins' tenacious style should at least limit the prolific passer as few teams have been able.


Expect a shootout that lasts well into the early hours of Sunday on the East Coast, with UCLA keeping its Pac-12 championship hope alive.


Prediction: UCLA 42, Washington State 38


— 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.

Washington State Cougars vs. UCLA Bruins Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/utah-utes-vs-arizona-wildcats-preview-and-prediction-2015

Arizona has had Utah's number over the past three seasons. Since Rich Rodriguez took over the Wildcat program before the 2012 season, the Utes have not beaten Arizona. Utah has struggled to find ways to even slow down the high-powered Arizona offense.


Will this season offer a different scenario? It looks like a total mismatch on paper with an elite defense going against a porous one.


Utah has one of the best all-around defenses in the Pac-12. The Utes lead the league in interceptions gained and rushing defense. They are second in turnover margin and fumbles recovered. Utah also ranks third among Pac-12 teams in total defense, scoring defense, red-zone defense, sacks per game, tackles for loss per game and first downs allowed. Arizona, on the other hand, ranks near the bottom of the Pac-12 in nearly all of the same defensive categories.


Utah leads the overall series with Arizona 20-18-2. The Wildcats have won three straight over the Utes, but have dropped two of their last three games against Utah in Tucson.


College Football Podcast: Week 11 Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


Utah at Arizona


Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET (Saturday)


Spread: Utah -6


Three Things to Watch


1. Fantastic Four

Great receivers always bring an explosive offensive scheme to life. It's one reason Arizona has been able to churn out yards and points in bunches in recent seasons. The Wildcats will test Utah's secondary with a group of wide receivers that includes four different players with more than 100 career catches and 1,000 career receiving yards. Leading the way is Cayleb Jones with 114 catches for 1,558 yards. Nate Phillips has 122 catches for 1,441 yards. Samajie Grant has 119 catches for 1,312 yards. David Richards joined the group after catching nine passes against USC last week. Richards now has caught 106 passes for 1,139 yards. The four receivers have also combined for 42 career touchdowns.


2. Changing Momentum

Gionni Paul is a major reason why Utah leads the Pac-12 or ranks second in the league in so many key turnover categories. Paul simply knows how to put himself in the right place at the right time to make plays. He leads the Utes in several major defensive categories a year after having his junior season cut short by injury. Paul has 84 tackles and 12 tackles for a loss — both team highs. The senior linebacker also has tallied a team-best six takeaways — three interceptions and three fumble recoveries.


3. Fourth-Quarter Heroes

Utah is a team that finishes strong. The Utes have outscored Pac-12 opponents 60-23 in the fourth quarter this season. Devontae Booker has been especially effective in the final 15 minutes of game time. Booker ran for 101 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter against Arizona State. Then, against Washington, the senior ran for 69 yards to fuel both of Utah's scoring drives during the final quarter. Andy Phillips has also been effective in getting points for the Utes late in game. Seven of Phillips' 15 made field goals this season have come in the fourth quarter.


Final Analysis


There's no denying that Arizona typically gives Utah fits when the two teams play. The formula of past seasons probably won't work this time around. The Utes have a knack for dominating on defense and special teams and controlling the ball offensively this season. Arizona has allowed all but one Pac-12 team it has faced this season to score 31 or more points. That's not likely to change against Utah.


Prediction: Utah 38, Arizona 21


— 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.

Utah Utes vs. Arizona Wildcats Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 09:55
Path: /college-football/minnesota-golden-gophers-vs-iowa-hawkeyes-preview-and-prediction-2015

It's college football border rivalry and grudge game season as the Minnesota Golden Gophers arrive in Iowa City with the coveted bronze pig once again on the line against a school-record 9-0 and No. 8-ranked Iowa Hawkeye squad.


Minnesota laid down the hammer on the Hawkeyes in 2014 at home in the Twin Cities, winning 51-14 in a game that exemplified the late season woes of that Iowa squad.


The Gophers lead the all-time series against Iowa 62-44-2, including a 42-36-2 edge when playing for “Floyd,” and three out of the last four contests.


College Football Podcast: Week 11 Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


Minnesota at Iowa


Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Spread: Iowa -12.5


Three Things to Watch


1. A “healthy” competition

Both Iowa and Minnesota have suffered through a key stretch of players being hauled off the field with injuries. The Hawkeyes saw themselves nearly regain full strength after their bye-week in a game with Maryland. They're likely to get the rest of the way there this week, with the return of RB Jordan Canzeri and possible return of RT Ike Boettger.


The Gophers are moving back toward full strength themselves, after injuries that have sidelined no fewer than 12 different starters this season to date, with each missing an average of five games.


With all sides playing with nearly the teams they envisioned at the start of the season, it could make for another competitive game.


2. Gopher QB Mitch Leidner and his offensive weaponry

In spite of the injuries that have seen his team limp to a 4-5 record in 2015, Gophers QB Mitch Leidner has put together a relatively impressive season, going 168-of-288 for 1,908 yards on the year. That includes three straight 250-yard performances (Nebraska – 301, Michigan – 317, Ohio State – 281) and games in which he's also found three different 100-yard receivers in the trio of KJ Maye (116), Drew Wolitarsky (114), and Brandon Lingen (111).


Their overall quartet of offensive firepower will need to be in peak performance mode as it faces the B1G and NCAA interception leader in CB Desmond King, up-and-coming sack-master in MLB Josey Jewell, and an Iowa pass defense yielding just 199.4 yards per game.


3. The Hawkeyes' “4 Deadly Horsemen”

The Hawkeyes have found themselves lacking any sort of depth at the RB position the last few years, which prevented an effective execution of their traditionally run-first offense. Early season injuries in 2015 have proven that weakness has been turned into a strength, as injuries have given the Hawkeyes a depth they haven't recently enjoyed.


With the re-insertion of Jordan Canzeri into the rotation this week, the Gophers will be forced to defend against a very talented 4-back attack, led by Canzeri and Akrum Wadley, and assisted by LeShun Daniels and Derrick Mitchell. Any one of whom is capable of breaking the “big play” from scrimmage that changes the trajectory of an entire game.


Final Analysis


The Hawkeyes are playing focused and disciplined football, not to mention looking to apply some much needed salve to the “scar tissue” of last season's spanking in Minneapolis. They'll be doing it in front of the season's largest home crowd, in a prime-time night game, under the lights, for a school record all-time best 10-0 start, and possible hop into the College Football Playoff top 4, where they currently reside at No. 5.


It's fitting that this is a night game. If the execution and dedication of this Iowa team holds true to season's form, it could spell “lights out” on the Gophers' 2015 bowl hopes.


Prediction: Iowa 37, Minnesota 10


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

Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Iowa Hawkeyes Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 09:50
Path: /college-football/oregon-ducks-vs-stanford-cardinal-preview-and-prediction-2015

Starting in November 2009 with a 51-42 contest, the annual Oregon-Stanford game has been the centerpiece of each Pac-12 season.


The Ducks and Cardinal account for four Heisman finalists over four different seasons, one Heisman winner, two national championship game appearances, four Rose Bowl berths, and the conference championship winner every season since that 2009 encounter.


Stanford’s win that season is also the last time the Cardinal-Ducks winner didn’t produce the Pac-12 champion. This game has been a de facto title bout of sorts each year since 2010, and the stakes are no different when they meet again Saturday in the Bay Area.


“There’s a tremendous amount of respect we have for them, and I believe they have for us,” Stanford head coach David Shaw said. “Yes, we have different styles offensively, but the mentality’s the same... We both have high aspirations for what we want to accomplish, and we’ve both won a lot of games the last couple years.”


The Cardinal are ranked No. 7 in the latest College Football Playoff poll. While last year’s national runner-up Oregon is currently out of the picture, the Ducks can fight their way back into the conference championship discussion with a win Saturday.


College Football Podcast: Week 11 Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


Oregon at Stanford


Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
Spread: Stanford -10


Three Things to Watch


1. Royce Freeman vs. The Stanford Run Defense

Oregon put up point totals of 42, 52 and 53 in games against Stanford from 2009 through 2011. The Ducks’ rushing yardage in those contests: 236, 388 and 232 yards.


Former Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason devised a scheme prior to the 2012 meeting in Autzen Stadium, which keyed in on the running backs. The Cardinal invited quarterback Marcus Mariota to beat them exclusively, with their focus primarily on limiting ball carrier Kenjon Barner.


It paid off: Barner rushed for just 66 yards on 21 carries. Stanford successfully duplicated the game plan in 2013, holding Ducks to 62 total yards rushing. But last season, Stanford’s first without Mason, the Ducks tallied 267 yards on the ground. Then-freshman Royce Freeman led the way with 98. Freeman has now grown into a super sophomore, leading the Pac-12 in rushing at 1,287 yards with 11 touchdowns.


Royce Freeman’s one of the best backs in the country,” Shaw said. “He’s only going to keep getting better. He’s still young. He’s got a huge, bright future ahead of him.”


Shaw added that the return of quarterback Vernon Adams to full-strength from a finger injury makes defending Oregon all the more challenging, as Adams’ ball-carrying ability diversifies the Duck run game.


With linebacker Blake Martinez setting the pace, this Stanford defense is living up to the standard of recent predecessors. Opponents average just 3.85 yards per carry on the Cardinal.


“They’re really versatile,” Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich said. “They mix-and-match some of their down-guys — three-down with two-down and one-down — and successfully integrate that into their base package.”


That flexibility allows Stanford to easily adjust to an offense like Oregon’s, which relies heavily on isolation and mismatches in space. Being able to neutralize such plays while also containing Freeman on power runs is Stanford’s defensive key to victory.


2. Hogan the Hero

Stanford remains the pace-setter in the Pac-12 North and is still in contention for the College Football Playoff because of the heroics of senior quarterback Kevin Hogan.


Hogan shocked a sputtering Stanford offense to life on Halloween, rushing for 112 yards — most of which came in the second half — and two touchdowns to lead the Cardinal to a 30-28 win at Washington State.


Saturday marks Hogan’s fourth career start against the Ducks.


“He can go at any time as far as we’re concerned,” Helfrich joked. “He’s been fantastic. Two years ago against us, he played one of the best games I’ve ever seen him play.”


Helfrich is referring to 2013, when Hogan completed just 7-of-13 pass attempts, but helped fulfill the Cardinal’s mission of ball control by rushing for 57 yards on eight carries with a touchdown. Much like against Washington State two weeks ago, Hogan’s timely play-making transcended his final stat line.


Oregon must limit Hogan’s running lanes as part of an overall effort to contain the Cardinal on the ground. Northwestern, the only opponent to beat Stanford this season, successfully turned the Stanford offense into an almost pass-exclusive attack.


3. Christian McCaffrey’s Run at the Heisman

Stanford sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey first emerged onto the Heisman scene last month with a record-setting performance against UCLA. The Cardinal’s relative lack of high-profile games in the weeks since, however, has precluded him from jumping into the forefront of the race.


A prime-time kickoff on national, broadcast TV this week could change that. McCaffrey is the nation’s yards-from-scrimmage leader at 1,532, operating as a key cog both in the rushing and passing plan.


He’ll get plenty of opportunities to rack up yardage against an Oregon defense surrendering nearly 490 yards per game — the most in the Pac-12. The key for the Ducks is ensuring McCaffrey’s yards are empty calories. Oregon must keep him out of the end zone with a bend-don’t-break style, sprinkling in some three-and-outs here and there to give the defense an opportunity to rest.


The defense staying on the field too long was Oregon’s Achilles’ heel in previously losses to Stanford, and McCaffrey’s ability to pound away feeds into that strategy.


Final Analysis


In some ways, this year’s Stanford team may be the best since the beginning of this friendly rivalry with Oregon. No, Hogan isn’t Andrew Luck, and the current defense isn’t performing at the historic level of the 2013 edition.


However, the sum total of the Cardinal’s parts make for a well-balanced team that is still imposing on defense, but has the ability to score in a variety of ways. 


Coincidentally, Oregon’s off to its worst start predating the burgeoning rivalry with Stanford, but the Ducks invading Stanford Stadium aren’t the same that lost 3-of-4 in September and October.


Adams’ return from a finger injury and the wide-receiving corps gaining missing players like Devon Allen have reinvigorated a previously struggling offense. The Ducks have the weapons to score some points on the Cardinal — the question is if the defense can contain Stanford.


McCaffrey brings an explosive element past Cardinal teams lacked. The result is a more dangerous Stanford offense than any since Luck’s departure, when games between these two teams were among the conference’s highest scoring.


This year’s installment won’t be a shootout in the vein of the 2009, 2010 or 2011 contests, all Duck wins. But the Cardinal won’t need to keep it in the teens or low 20s to win.


Prediction: Stanford 38, Oregon 30


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

Oregon Ducks vs. Stanford Cardinal Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 09:45
Path: /college-football/byu-cougars-vs-missouri-tigers-preview-and-prediction-2015

A week ago, this game between BYU and Missouri would have been buried on the watch list for college football fans. Now, with the recent player boycott linked to the student protest at Missouri, this game has shot up the charts in terms of interest.


There was serious doubt that this game was going be played with the Missouri coaching staff showing their support for the players’ boycott. Then University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe resigned and football activities resumed for the Tigers.


Now Missouri (4-5) is looking to get a signature win over a 7-2 BYU team, and keep its bowl hopes alive.


Meanwhile, BYU is looking to get its second win this season over a Power 5 program. The Cougars are 1-2 against P5 teams this season, with the lone victory coming in the season opener against Nebraska on the final play of the game.


This is the first of a two-game series between the two schools. Missouri will be considered the home team on Saturday in Arrowhead Stadium, and then the Tigers will make the trip to Provo, Utah, in 2020.


College Football Podcast: Week 11 Preview

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


BYU vs. Missouri (Kansas City)


Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV: SEC Network

Spread: BYU -6.5


Three Things to Watch


1. The emotion surrounding the game

It’s hard to ignore what’s been taking place on campus in Columbia this week. From the boycott, to the system president resigning and to the feelings of fear that currently reside over the Missouri campus. With all of these events and emotions taking place since the last time the Tigers stepped on the field 10 days ago, one would think that this team is going to be playing with a lot of emotion in this game.


Will these recent events help propel Missouri to have a long overdue breakout game on offense? Will BYU be able to match the intensity and passion that the Tigers are expected to play with?


Maybe some of the emotion gets taken away with this game being played in a neutral site at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, but I’d still wager that the Tigers are going to have an inspired performance compared to what we’ve seen in previous weeks from Gary Pinkel’s team.


2. BYU’s passing game vs. Missouri’s press coverage

The last time we saw BYU go up against a defense that has the personnel to press the line of scrimmage was against Michigan in September. BYU was shutout for only the second time in the last 40 years after that game, and the Cougar coaching staff questioned the physicality of their players, most notably the wide receivers.


All eyes will be on senior Mitch Mathews to have a big game against a talented Missouri secondary that boasts two experienced cornerbacks in Aarion Penton and Kenya Dennis, a team captain.


If BYU has success through the air early, it could be a long evening for the Tigers, who have yet to see a passing attack like the one BYU boasts with Tanner Mangum at quarterback.


3. First team to 14 points wins?

It’s not every day that you see a team averaging 14.9 points per game on offense, yet somehow are still outscoring the opposition on the season. Say hello to the Missouri Tigers in 2015.


The Tigers’ offense, for lack of a better term, has been a mess this season. Even when Maty Mauk (suspended for season for violation of team rules) was at quarterback, the Tigers struggled to score touchdowns against the likes of UConn. Still, Missouri has been in every game it’s played this season because the Tigers have one of the best defenses in the country, giving up only 12.5 points per game.


BYU’s defense is no slouch either. The Cougar D is only giving up 17.8 points per game, and feeling confident after a game against San Jose State where the Spartans threw every trick in their playbook on the Cougars, yet BYU still held the Spartans to only 16 points.


The first offense to get to 14 points is likely going away as the winner in this one.


Final Analysis


This game has suddenly become one of the more intriguing matchups of the week. With all the drama still on campus at Missouri, it’s going to be fascinating to see how these two teams perform.


Expect both teams to struggle offensively. Physical defensive fronts like the one Missouri boasts have historically given Bronco Mendenhall teams fits over the years, but the Tiger offense is such a liability that it’s hard to pick Gary Pinkel’s squad.


BYU has the edge at quarterback and also in special teams. Both areas are going to play a significant role in this game. BYU squeaks by Missouri to get a hard-fought win, as the Cougars continue their pursuit of a 10-win season.


Prediction: BYU 16, Missouri 13


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

BYU Cougars vs. Missouri Tigers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 09:40
Path: /college-football/arkansas-razorbacks-vs-lsu-tigers-preview-and-prediction-2015

When Arkansas (5-4, 3-2) travels to Baton Rouge to face the LSU Tigers (7-1, 4-1) for the 61st time in the long storied tradition of the two programs, more will be at stake than just the Golden Boot, as both squads still have an outside shot to claim a share of the SEC West title.


Arkansas rolls into Death Valley after unseating then-No. 19 Ole Miss 53-52 in overtime. The Hogs' win was far from usual needing a 15-yard backward heave from tight end Hunter Henry on fourth-and-25 landing miraculously in front of All-SEC running back Alex Collins who then scrambled for 31 yards to pick up the first down. The Hogs scored the needed touchdown but decided to go for the win on the road against the Rebels on a two-point conversion instead of opting for another overtime session. On the first two-point conversion attempt, starting quarterback Brandon Allen was stopped for a loss — game over, but a facemask call gave Arkansas a second shot seeing Allen run the ball in for the winning score.


LSU returns home after a humbling 30-16 road loss to then- No. 4 Alabama. The loss knocked the Tigers from the ranks of the undefeated putting them in a tie with the Crimson Tide atop the SEC West but with Bama holding the head-to-head tie-breaker. LSU was limited to 182 yards in the loss with just 54 yards gained on the ground, 31 by Heisman Trophy candidate Leonard Fournette.


Arkansas and LSU seemingly always play one another tough no matter how well either team is playing until they meet on the field in November. Since the Golden Boot was introduced in 1996, LSU has taken home the rivalry trophy 11 times to Arkansas’ seven wins.


College Football Podcast: Week 11 Preview

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Arkansas at LSU


Time: 7:15 p.m. ET (Saturday)

Coverage: ESPN

Line: LSU -8


Three Things to Watch


1. Leonard Fournette vs. Arkansas Rush Defense

Despite Fournette’s season low 31 rushing yards put up against Alabama, the sophomore is still leading the nation with 1,383 yards on the ground. One thing the Arkansas defense does well is stop the run. The Hogs are ranked No. 27 in the nation limiting teams to 129 yards per game.


When the Razorbacks upset the No. 17 ranked Tigers 17-0 in Fayetteville a year ago, Arkansas was able to shut down the LSU offense holding the Tigers to 123 total yards. Yes, Fournette was on the team last year and did play but only got five touches. It's doubtful head coach Les Miles will let his team leave the field until the Tigers have the “W” or Fournette has touched the ball at least 30 times if needed.


2. Brandon Allen vs. LSU Pass Defense

Just like LSU, Arkansas likes to run the ball and grind it out, but this year senior quarterback Brandon Allen has come into his own for the Hogs. Allen leads the SEC in quarterback rating with a 164.7 and his second in the conference with 2,476 yards and 21 touchdowns against just five picks.


LSU may like the moniker of “DBU” for Defensive Back University but this group of Tigers has fallen off the tone set in years past. LSU has the nation’s No. 60 ranked pass defense allowing 217 per contest. Arkansas has a stable of weapons to throw at the LSU secondary led by All-SEC tight end Hunter Henry (34/469/2), junior receiver Drew Morgan (44/620/9), and emerging junior college transfer Dominique Reed (18/342/5).


3. Weakness vs. Weakness: Arkansas Rush Offense vs. LSU Passing Offense

The counterbalance to the game will be how either offense can pick up needed yards. For Arkansas, running the ball against LSU’s No. 16 ranked run defense will be a big factor. For LSU, passing the ball against Arkansas’ porous pass defense.


LSU is only allowing 113 yards per game on the ground, while Arkansas is picking up 192 yards per game.

LSU’s passing offense is statistically one of the worst in the nation, ranked No. 116 producing 153 yards per game. On the other side of the ball, the Razorbacks have one of the worst pass defenses in the nation ranked No. 114 giving up 284 yards per.


Arkansas has to hope Collins can turn in a Derrick Henry kind of game after the Bama running back rumbled for 210 yards on 38 carries with three touchdowns. On the other side, LSU is looking for sophomore quarterback Brandon Harris to torch the Arkansas defense the way Ole Miss’ quarterback Chad Kelly did passing for 368 yards with three touchdowns and rushing for 110 yards on 11 carries with three more touchdowns.


Final Analysis


Both teams are coming off physical games against tough teams, so neither team will come into the battle fresh. Both teams have something to play for going forward, hoping Alabama falls one more time to an in-conference opponent allowing the winner of the Arkansas vs. LSU game to sneak back into the SEC West championship race, if both can win out.


Arkansas is a little more balanced on offense, able to move the ball with Allen’s arm if the run game is stopped. LSU has trouble moving the ball down the field if Fournette is not running wild. The Hogs beat essentially the same squad a year ago so there will be no shock value playing a Top 10 team at play. The early evening start time will not stop but will slow the Geaux Tigers crowd as night games tend to get wild.


The team with the most forward momentum is Arkansas. The question is how much gas is left in LSU’s tank after the Alabama defeat?


Prediction: Arkansas 28, LSU 21


— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, Follow him on Twitter @HogManInLA.

Arkansas Razorbacks vs. LSU Tigers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 09:35
Path: /college-football/memphis-tigers-vs-houston-cougars-preview-and-prediction-2015

A week after suffering their first loss of the season, the Memphis Tigers have a chance to remain in the hunt for the AAC West Division title. It will not come easily though, as Memphis takes to the road to play an undefeated Houston team that continues to rise as the season progresses with a dynamic offense and a capable defense.


Memphis and Houston should provide plenty of fireworks to make for an entertaining game Saturday night, but this has become a must-win game for the Tigers, who just a week ago looked to be the clear favorite to reach the New Year's Six out of the Group of 5. Now, Houston is looking to take on the role of front-runner in that conversation, and it can do that with a victory over the Tigers to go to 10-0 with Navy still two weeks away.


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Memphis at Houston


Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)


Spread: Houston -5.0


Three Things To Watch


1. Top American Offenses Collide

Expect plenty of yards and points when Memphis and Houston take the field this week. Both are averaging at least 525 yards per game and 6.5 yards per play. In 18 combined games, Houston and Memphis have accumulated over 9,800 yards of offense. Memphis and Houston also lead the conference in average scoring, with Memphis averaging 44.8 yards per game and Houston averaging 44.4 points per game. No other team in the conference has an average within six points.


If you are curious, Houston's scoring defense is considerably better than Memphis' through nine games. The Cougars are allowing just 18.7 points per game. Memphis has allowed an average of 28.7 points per game, including 45 to Navy last week. Memphis has also given up 41 points to Bowling Green and 42 to Tulsa, but they held Ole Miss to 24 points in a 37-24 victory over the SEC team that beat Alabama.


2. QB Showdown: Paxton Lynch vs. Greg Ward Jr.

Two of the top quarterbacks in the American Athletic Conference will look to keep pace with each other. Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch leads the conference with his 3,014 passing yards and 19 touchdowns with just two interceptions thrown. Lynch may have suffered a shot at being invited to New York last week in a loss to Navy, but Lynch remains a rising quarterback and a potential high draft pick in the NFL Draft according to most scouts. He is a perfect fit for the Memphis offense and has thrown a touchdown in each of his last 14 games dating back to last season. He has also thrown for at least 300 yards in all but one game this season, but that one game was the season opener against Southwest Missouri State, where he got an early rest in a blowout.


Houston's Greg Ward Jr. is more of a dual-threat quarterback. Through nine games, Ward has thrown for 2,116 yards and 13 touchdowns with four interceptions. He is also fourth in the conference in rushing with 829 yards and a conference-leading 16 rushing touchdowns. This will be the second week Memphis has faced a team with a running threat at quarterback after facing Navy and Keenan Reynolds last week. The Tigers played well against Reynolds, but Navy had another option in running back Chris Swain to do the damage. Memphis will focus on slowing down Ward in a similar fashion, but must be prepared to tackle Houston running back Kenneth Farrow, the AAC's second-leading rusher. Doing both may end up costing Memphis another game because Ward can beat a team with his legs and his arm if needed.


3. Houston's Turnover Happy Defense

Lynch has only been picked off twice this season, but this week he takes on one of the top defenses when it comes to turnovers. Houston has picked off 14 passes this season, second-most among AAC teams with Temple and UConn each with 15. No team in the AAC has returned more interceptions for touchdowns than Houston, who has done so three times this season. Houston has eight interceptions in its last three games, including two that have been returned for a touchdown. Seniors Adrian McDonald and William Jackson III have combined for seven of the Houston interceptions this season. Junior linebacker Steven Taylor has two, and five others each have one interception this season.


Interceptions are not the only thing Memphis needs to be concerned about. Houston is also second in the AAC in fumble recoveries this season, with 11 recovered fumbles (Navy leads the AAC with 12 recoveries). Last week against Navy, Memphis lost two fumbles and Lynch was picked off once. Only one of those turnovers led to points against Memphis. If Houston gets its hands on the ball, it will have to take advantage of the extra opportunities.


Final Analysis


Before the season started, this looked to be a pivotal game in the AAC West Division, and that continues to be the case in mid-November. Houston has played very well under first-year head coach Tom Herman and gets the luxury of having homefield advantage for the biggest game of the season. What remains to be seen is how Memphis comes out of the gates a week after taking its first loss of the season, one that may end up knocking them out of the division and conference title race. This is now a must-win for Memphis, and it has all of the tools to rebound if it can get off to a good start. Houston's offense could jump on a sluggish Memphis team if the Tigers are not in the right mindset. The difference will be Houston's defense. If the Cougars can make some plays on defense, as they have done frequently this season, they will gain an edge and come out on top of what should be a wildly entertaining shootout.


Prediction: Houston 47, Memphis 46


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

Memphis Tigers vs. Houston Cougars Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/kentucky-wildcats-vs-vanderbilt-commodores-preview-and-prediction-2015

It is one of the SEC's oldest rivalries, but historically, it hasn't meant much for either team. However, in this year's contest, major program implications could be on the line when the Wildcats take on the Commodores in Nashville. Both teams come into this one with hopes of a bowl game in the near future.


For Kentucky, hopes of a bowl are a bit more realistic. The Wildcats are 4-5 (2-5 SEC), but have lost four straight games to conference opponents. It is beginning to look a lot like last year with a hot start only to end in disappointment. But there is still hope for Kentucky. A win over Vandy would get the 'Cats to five wins with a game against Charlotte looming next week.


Vanderbilt can't afford another loss if it wants to keep bowl game hopes alive. The Commodores are 3-6 (1-4 SEC) but still have to play Texas A&M and Tennessee. They have proven their ability to hang with division foes, having beaten Missouri and coming awfully close to knocking off Florida a week ago. It isn't likely, but there's still a chance for Vandy to get to the postseason. The 'Dores are better this year.


This series is nearly deadlocked at 42-41-4 in favor of the Wildcats. At least it would appear that way, but the truth is Vanderbilt beat Kentucky 16 times before 1939. So really, the 'Cats have the upper hand in the modern era. The Commodores have won three of the last four.


Kentucky at Vanderbilt


Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: SEC Network

Spread: Vanderbilt -3


Three Things to Watch


1. Which quarterback will throw the most interceptions?

Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason's biggest struggle since arriving in Nashville has been figuring out who to play at quarterback. The Commodores tried three in one game against Temple last year. This season, Johnny McCrary has been the go-to guy, but Kyle Shurmur has also taken snaps the past few weeks. McCrary will probably play the most on Saturday, but he has thrown 12 picks this year. Kentucky's Patrick Towles hasn't looked much better, throwing 12 himself. Towles' upside is his occasional ability to throw the deep ball. If there were an over/under for turnovers in this game, my guess is that it would be pretty high.


2. Will the Vanderbilt defense continue to be stifling?

The Commodores' defense has kept them in games for the most part, other than an abysmal 34-0 defeat at the hands of Houston. Even the losses to Georgia and Ole Miss earlier in the season were close for most of the game. Vandy only gave up nine points to the Gators last week. On average, the Commodores are giving up just over 17 points per game. Kentucky has had trouble finding the end zone in its five losses, especially last week when it only managed a field goal against Georgia. This game is shaping up to be another low-scoring affair and by now, Vanderbilt should have the advantage in that kind of game. 


3. Whose seat will be warmer after the game?

I use the word "warm" because neither coaches seat will be on fire after this one. Still yet, a loss on Saturday won't do much to quiet the naysayers in Lexington or Nashville. Mark Stoops is in year three at Kentucky and has an 11-22 record. For the second consecutive year, it looks as though his team has lost steam during the second half of the schedule and folks are beginning to take notice. Mason probably has another year guaranteed to get his program's foundation set, but after beating Missouri, Commodore fans are expecting another win against a beatable division opponent.


Final Analysis


Two programs that have historically dwelled near the bottom of the SEC standings, Kentucky and Vanderbilt, have a lot to play for this weekend. A Kentucky win will almost guarantee bowl eligibility for the Wildcats. A Vanderbilt win will provide more tangible momentum for the Commodores and at least keep bowl hopes alive. But as always, someone has to lose. It just seems as though Vanderbilt is playing better down the stretch, despite a couple tough losses. Kentucky looks like it has lost all hope. I'll take the home team with the better defense in this one.


Prediction: Vanderbilt 17, Kentucky 13


— Written by Cody McClure, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a radio host and lead SEC Writer for Three Point Stance Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @CodyMcClureCFB.

Kentucky Wildcats vs. Vanderbilt Commodores Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 09:25
Path: /college-football/week-11-college-football-picks-against-spread

Picked against my own rooting interest last week and, while it helped my overall football predictions (TCU was overrated and Alabama is awesome), it meant two big losses in two big games.


But, Navy and Stanford — both 7-2 against the spread this year — continued to pay off and I won the week. 


What have you done for me lately, so, we move on to Week 11. So as usual, choose wisely from the list below.


Last Week: 4-3

Year-to-date: 36-29


Arkansas (+7.5) at LSU

Leonard Fournette will get back on track but the LSU defense will struggle once again. The Hogs won this game 17-0 last year and have scored at least 53 points in three straight games. Brandon Allen, Alex Collins and company trail only Ole Miss in offense in SEC games at 446.6 yards per game. Prediction: Arkansas +7.5


Arkansas St (-14) at UL Monroe

ULM has lost seven straight games, has allowed 41.8 points per game over the last four weeks and has scored more than 14 points just once over that span. The Red Wolves have won five straight and has topped 296 yards rushing in four of the last five games. Prediction: Arkansas State -14


Oregon (+10) at Stanford

This winner of this game has gone on to become Pac-12 champion five straight years and this trend will likely continue following a Stanford victory Saturday night at home. But this is a lot of points to give a high-powered (and healthy) offense that is capable of hanging 50 points and 700 yards of offense on almost anyone. Prediction: Oregon +10


Alabama (-8) at Mississippi St

Dak Prescott is awesome but is a one-man show in Starkville. For State to win, Prescott will have to do something extraordinary. On both sides of the ball, Alabama won’t be stopped up front and there won’t be much Mississippi State can do about it. Prediction: Alabama -8


Utah (-6) at Arizona

The Wildcats have not been good on defense this year, giving up 34.6 points per game. During the current three-game losing streak, it’s been even worse. Arizona has allowed 44.0 points per game and 523.7 yards per game during that span. Utah has a division title in sight and has allowed more than 23 points just once all year. Prediction: Utah -6


Maryland (+15) at Michigan St

The Spartans likely feel like they got robbed last weekend but are still in the hunt for a Big Ten championship and potential College Football Playoff berth. Connor Cook is surging with four consecutive 300-yard passing games for an offense scoring 33.9 points per game. Maryland is awful and will be outclassed from start to finish. Prediction: Michigan State -15


Best/Worst Records Against the Spread


Best TeamsRecordWorst TeamsRecord
C. Michigan7-1-1Old Dominion1-7-1
Southern Miss7-2Fresno St1-7-1
Bowling Green7-2UCF2-8
Notre Dame7-2Arizona St2-7
Temple7-2Michigan St2-7
Washington St7-2Missouri2-7
Navy6-2Oregon St2-7
N. Illinois6-2-1South Alabama2-6
USF6-2-1Texas St2-6
Week 11 College Football Picks Against the Spread
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 09:20
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-sooners-vs-baylor-bears-preview-and-prediction-2015

The Big 12 is on the outside looking in of the College Football’s Playoff after the Nov. 10 rankings release, but the news isn’t all bad for the conference, as Baylor and Oklahoma have a chance to make an impression on the committee Saturday night in Waco. The Big 12 schedule wasn’t intentionally backloaded, but this league features a handful of the best games in the nation over the next four weeks, with the Sooners and Bears at the center of most of those matchups.


Heading into Week 11, Baylor does not have a victory against a team with a winning record. However, the month of November represents an opportunity for the Bears to impress. After Saturday’s game against Oklahoma, Baylor still has games against Oklahoma State and TCU, followed by the season finale versus Texas. Despite losing quarterback Seth Russell to a season-ending neck injury, coach Art Briles’ team won 31-24 at Kansas State last week. The offense is in good hands with true freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham, but the performance of the defense is likely to determine whether this team can finish 12-0 and reach the playoffs.


While the Bears entered the season as the co-favorite with TCU to win the Big 12 title, Oklahoma opened 2015 looking to rebound after an 8-5 mark last year. Bob Stoops made changes to his coaching staff get the program back on track. Rising star Lincoln Riley was hired to call the plays, and three other new assistants joined the staff. The moves have paid off for Stoops, as Oklahoma is 8-1 and is in the mix to climb in the rankings and contend for a playoff spot. The lone defeat for the Sooners this season came at the hands of rival Texas in early October.


Oklahoma has a 21-3 all-time series edge against Baylor. However, the Bears have won two in a row against the Sooners and three out of the last four meetings.


Related: The Top Five College Football Games in Baylor vs. Oklahoma Series History


Oklahoma at Baylor


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 17 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Baylor -2.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Baylor QB Jarrett Stidham

Stidham earned high marks in his first start. The true freshman replaced the injured Seth Russell prior to last week’s game against Kansas State and torched the Wildcats for 419 yards and three touchdowns on 23 completions. For the season, Stidham has completed 47 of 61 passes for 750 yards and nine scores. Additionally, the talented true freshman has yet to throw an interception and averages 12.3 yards per attempt. While Stidham has been impressive, the schedule is going to get tougher. Saturday night’s matchup against Oklahoma is the true freshman’s toughest opponent so far this year, as the Sooners rank No. 1 in the Big 12 in pass efficiency defense and have allowed just six passing touchdowns so far in conference matchups. Only one opponent (Tulsa – 427 surpassed more than 260 yards through the air against Oklahoma. The Golden Hurricane’s 427 yards is notable, as former Baylor assistant Philip Montgomery is in his first season as Tulsa’s head coach. The Sooners’ secondary also has reinforcements on the way. Standout Zack Sanchez returns to the lineup after missing two games due to an ankle injury. Sanchez’s return comes at an ideal time. Stidham is throwing to the nation’s No. 1 receiving corps, headlined by explosive junior Corey Coleman (20.3 ypc), Jay Lee (21.9 ypc) and KD Cannon (16.8 ypc). Even though Oklahoma’s secondary is having a standout 2015 season, stopping Baylor starts up front. The Sooners lead the Big 12 with 33 sacks generated, but the Bears have a protective wall in front of Stidham, giving up just nine sacks this season. The true freshman was in clear control of the offense last Thursday, made decisive reads and showcased the talent that made him top 50 prospect in the 2015 signing class. How will he perform against a tougher defense?


Related: Post-Week 10 Bowl Projections


2. Oklahoma’s Rushing Attack

The best way to slow down Baylor’s offense is to simply keep them off the field. The Bears are fifth in the Big 12 against the run and surrendered a season high of 258 yards against Kansas State last week. Standout defensive tackle Andrew Billings suffered an ankle injury against West Virginia on Oct. 17 and is getting closer to 100 percent, which should help the interior of this defense. Last week’s struggles against the run are a bad sign for Baylor with Oklahoma’s offense coming to Waco. The Sooners struggled early in the year to get a push from their offensive line and managed only 67 yards in a loss against Texas. However, ground game has progressed in recent weeks, recording at least 232 yards in each of the last four games. Samaje Perine (806 yards) is the headliner, but Joe Mixon (6.65 yards per carry) and quarterback Baker Mayfield all contribute to the ground attack. Can Oklahoma match Kansas State’s success last week? If the Sooners can, that’s a big problem for the Bears.


3. Preventing Big Plays in the Passing Game

With both offenses averaging over 45 points per game, this should be a high-scoring affair. It’s unlikely either defense can deliver a shutdown performance on Saturday night, which is why both units need to eliminate the big plays. Oklahoma will challenge Baylor at the point of attack with Perine and Mixon, with Mayfield spreading the ball to an improved group of receivers. Sterling Shepard and Dede Westbrook are the primary targets for Mayfield, but Durron Neal and Mark Andrews, along with Mixon out of the backfield will contribute. The Sooners rank fifth in the Big 12 with 19 passing plays of 30 yards or more, but this unit jumps to first in plays of 60 yards or more. The potential is there to take any play to the house for six points. The same theory applies on the Baylor sideline. Stidham is confident in this offense and has a strong supporting cast to lean on. In addition to a deep receiving corps and standout offensive line, running back Shock Linwood leads the Big 12 with 1,046 yards. Both defenses will bend and yield yardage. However, it’s critical for both units to not allow 15-yard gains to become 60-yard touchdowns. Oklahoma has allowed only nine plays of 30 yards or more, while Baylor has surrendered 19. Which team can prevent the big play on Saturday night?


Final Analysis


The Big 12 might be college football’s most intriguing conference for the month of November. Some of the best remaining games are in this league, and Saturday night’s matchup between Oklahoma and Baylor shouldn’t disappoint. Both teams are going to land their share of punches and points on the scoreboard. The Sooners’ ground attack presents a big challenge for the Bears after struggling to stop the run in Manhattan last Saturday. The secondary is also limiting big plays, which is critical with Baylor receiver Corey Coleman looming this weekend. While optimism should be high in Norman for the upset, the Bears connect on one big play in the fourth quarter to remain unbeaten.


Prediction: Baylor 45, Oklahoma 41
Oklahoma Sooners vs. Baylor Bears Preview and Prediction 2015
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 09:15
Path: /college-football/clemson-tigers-vs-syracuse-orange-preview-and-prediction-2015

The ACC Atlantic Division is secured, but there is plenty at stake for the nation’s No. 1 team. That’s good because there are plenty of reasons that Clemson could sleep through this week’s game against Syracuse.


The Tigers will head up to the Carrier Dome after putting away their chief competitor in the Atlantic Division, Florida State. The Orange have lost six straight after winning their first three games of the season. The last two games have been especially bad as Cuse lost to FSU 45-21 and then to Louisville 41-17.


Syracuse joined the ACC in 2013 and has played Clemson just three times with the first coming in 1995. Clemson holds a 2-1 series edge and has won both of the ACC contests.


College Football Podcast: Week 11 Preview

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Clemson at Syracuse


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m ET (Saturday)


Spread: Clemson -27.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Defending Deshaun

The Syracuse defense is a middle of the pack rush defense, but they are No. 111 against the pass, giving up 274.2 yards per game. That’s never good, but that’s really bad when Deshaun Watson and his merry band of receivers are coming to town. Watson is completing 69.7 of his passes, which is good for eighth nationally. The last ACC quarterback to finish the season with a higher percentage was Riley Skinner of Wake Forest in 2007. Clemson always wants balance and Wayne Gallman along with Watson will run the ball. But the easiest way through the Syracuse defense is by air so expect Artavis Scott, Jordan Leggett, and the other receivers to see a lot of balls coming their way.


2. The Syracuse Quarterback Situation

Freshman Eric Dungey has had a nice season in upstate New York throwing 11 touchdowns and completing nearly 60 percent of his passes. But he’s also absorbed some big hits and late in the fourth quarter against Louisville, with the game far out of reach, Dungey suffered a head injury after being hit by the Cardinals' James Hearns. Orange head coach Scott Shafer says that Dungey is day-to-day. If the freshman cannot go against the Tigers, walk-on sophomore Zack Mahoney will probably be the starter.


3. The Syracuse Offensive Line Against the Clemson Defensive Front

With either a banged up freshman or a sophomore walk-on starting at quarterback, Syracuse will need to run the ball to have any type of effectiveness on offense. The Orange are not a great running team, but they run better than they throw and if Dungey is not healthy, they will be giving the ball more to running back Jordan Fredericks. Dungey is also the team’s second leading rusher behind Fredericks. So if he is out, the Cuse running game will be affected. The good news is that the Syracuse offensive line is very experienced. The bad news is that they are going to have to try to block Shaq Lawson, Kevin Dodd, and the rest of the nasty Clemson defensive front seven.


Final Analysis


It is true that motivation could be an issue for Clemson coming off the huge victory over Florida State, especially since this is a road game against a lesser foe. However, Syracuse has some focus concerns as well. Shafer, who is on one of the hottest seats in America, now has to explain why his starting quarterback was in the game late in the fourth quarter of a blow out. Really though, Syracuse’s biggest problem is that it doesn't have anywhere near the talent of Clemson. It might be wise for Shafer to sit Dungey this week instead of putting him in harm’s way against this defense. Clemson is going to win this game by as many points as they want to.


Prediction: Clemson 52, Syracuse 7


— 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.

Clemson Tigers vs. Syracuse Orange Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 09:10
Path: /college-football/miami-hurricanes-vs-north-carolina-tar-heels-preview-and-prediction-2015

On Oct. 25, a day after a 58-0 whitewashing by Clemson, Miami fans finally got what they wanted. Al Golden was out. Since that time, the Hurricanes are 2-0, improving their record to 6-3. Miami won’t be going to a major bowl game, but with three games remaining, the Canes could compile a decent record that would be a building block for next year. Couple that with the hope that always comes with a regime change, and there could actually be some optimism in Coral Gables.


The first step for Miami, though, is going to Chapel Hill and beating the red-hot Tar Heels. North Carolina has won eight straight after its 66-31 dismantling of the hated Duke Blue Devils. UNC has a one game lead over Pittsburgh in the ACC Coastal Division and owns the tie-breaker over the Panthers thanks to the 26-19 win on Oct. 29. The division will be theirs if the Heels beat Miami and Pittsburgh falls at Duke.


The Heels and the Canes have split the previous 18 meetings with Miami winning last year 47-20.


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Miami at North Carolina


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPNU

Spread: North Carolina -12.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Brad Kaaya vs. the North Carolina Pass Defense

Kaaya was knocked out of the Clemson game with a concussion and missed the following week’s crazy game against Duke. But he was cleared to play last week and completed 20-of-26 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns in the 27-21 win over Virginia. When he is right, the sophomore quarterback is a special player. He'll be going against a special pass defense, though. The Gene Chizik-led Tar Heel defense is third in the nation in pass defense, allowing just 159 yards a game. With the exception of the Clemson game, Miami has done a decent job of protecting the quarterback and with the exception of the Pittsburgh game, UNC has not been a team with a big pass rush. That means that Kaaya should have time to throw. Then it depends on Miami receivers getting open and Kaaya feeding them the ball.


2. Joseph Yearby vs. the North Carolina Rush Defense

The sophomore from Miami has had a fairly consistent season so far, rushing for 724 yards. That is an average of 80 yards a contest and he has been right around that number in a majority of the games. While North Carolina’s pass defense may be stellar, its run defense is not. It ranks No. 116 in America and even in last week’s blowout, Duke averaged 7.4 yards a carry and racked up 327 yards on the ground. Miami would love to take some pressure off Kaaya by establishing Yearby — and freshman Mark Walton — on Saturday. A running game would also be helpful in keeping the high-powered UNC offense off the field.


3. Slowing Down That Carolina Offense

Here’s the problem for Miami. As stated, Duke ran for 327 yards. And North Carolina still scored 66 points. Whether Miami can run the ball or not, its defense is going to have to stop the Heels on occasion and that is easier said than done. North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams is throwing and running at an elite level and Elijah Hood has 813 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns. They are No. 17 in total offense and No. 12 in scoring offense, rankings that seem to go up each week. Miami’s defense has been pretty mediocre for much of the year and will have to play its best game of the season if the Hurricanes intend on pulling off the upset.


Final Analysis


On Friday night, the top-ranked North Carolina basketball team opens its season in Annapolis against Temple. This is always a great time of year to be a Tar Heel fan. But this season, Carolina supporters are able to double dip on supporting championship contenders. By the time they kick off at Kenan Stadium, fans will know if Duke has beaten Pittsburgh and if a UNC win means a Coastal title. Either way, if the Heels beat Miami, they will eventually win the division. And North Carolina will beat Miami. The Hurricanes have some offensive weapons that can team with Kaaya to cause some problems for the UNC defense. But stopping the boys in blue is an entirely different animal. The Tar Heels will roll and start to smell a meeting with Clemson in the ACC Championship Game.


Prediction: North Carolina 38, Miami 21


— 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.

Miami Hurricanes vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 09:05
Path: /college-football/alabama-crimson-tide-vs-mississippi-state-bulldogs-preview-and-prediction-2015

Alabama seized control of the SEC West with a victory over LSU last week, but the Crimson Tide still have obstacles to navigate, starting with a trip to Starkville to take on Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon. Alabama’s win against the Tigers, along with an Ole Miss loss to Arkansas cleared the way for coach Nick Saban’s team to win the SEC West once again. Mississippi State is also in the mix to win the SEC West, but its scenario to take the No. 1 spot in the division is a little complicated.


The Crimson Tide ranked No. 2 on Tuesday night’s College Football Playoff rankings release and could unseat Clemson for No. 1 overall depending on what transpires over the next four weeks of action. Since losing to Ole Miss 43-37 in mid-September, Alabama has dominated against Georgia, Texas A&M and LSU and posted conference wins over Tennessee and Arkansas. On the other sideline, Mississippi State quietly landed at No. 17 in the latest rankings, as the Bulldogs have gained momentum behind a four-game winning streak. Coach Dan Mullen had to replace several key starters from last year’s team but managed a quick rebuild behind senior quarterback Dak Prescott.


Related: Predictions for Every Week 11 Game


Alabama leads the all-time series against Mississippi State 77-18-3. The Crimson Tide have won seven in a row against the Bulldogs. Mississippi State’s last win in this series was in 2007.


Alabama at Mississippi State


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

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Alabama -8


Three Things to Watch


1. Avoiding a Letdown

Alabama has a tough assignment on Saturday afternoon, as the Crimson Tide have to find a way to match the intensity and energy displayed in last week’s matchup. After a showdown between top-five teams, can Alabama rekindle that energy on the road after a physical affair against LSU? In each of the last two seasons, the Crimson Tide have played Mississippi State the week after a game against LSU. Alabama won 25-20 in Tuscaloosa last season and claimed a 20-7 slugfest victory over the Bulldogs in 2013. While Mississippi State may not be as strong of a team as it was last season, the Crimson Tide cannot afford to show up in Starkville with a flat performance. The Bulldogs are hungry for the upset and could spoil Alabama’s national and SEC title hopes with a win. Last week’s game against LSU was arguably the biggest of the season for the Crimson Tide. Fast forward to Saturday and Mississippi State is in the same position. Will Alabama match the Bulldogs energy and avoid a letdown on Saturday afternoon?


Related: Post-Week 10 Bowl Projections


2. Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott

It’s no secret the SEC’s best quarterback resides in Starkville. Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott is having an outstanding senior campaign, throwing for 2,351 yards and 18 touchdowns to just one interception. He also leads the team with 418 rushing yards and seven scores. Prescott isn’t a one-man show, but he drives the Mississippi State offense and is the key to the upset hopes on Saturday afternoon. The senior has to continue to limit mistakes and use his mobility to escape the nation’s best front seven. Additionally, he needs a little help from his supporting cast. The Bulldogs are dealing with a few ailments to their offensive line, but this unit has allowed just nine sacks in five SEC games. Prescott can spread the field with one of the SEC’s best receiving corps, including De’Runnya Wilson (eight touchdowns) and Fred Ross (51 catches). The rushing attack will be under the spotlight, as Prescott needs more help from Brandon Holloway (220 yards), Ashton Shumpert (174 yards) and Aeris Williams (164 yards) out of the backfield. Prescott might be the most valuable player in this game. He’s capable of carrying Mississippi State to the upset and is a tough matchup for Alabama’s defense with his dual-threat ability. After all, dual-threat quarterbacks have provided the most headaches for Nick Saban's defense in recent years. The Crimson Tide is going to focus on Prescott. Will the supporting cast step up in this matchup? Just how far can the senior quarterback carry Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon?


Related: Three Keys to a Mississippi State Upset Victory Over Alabama


3. Battle in the Trenches

On paper, this area is where Alabama has an advantage over Mississippi State. The Crimson Tide has the best front seven in the nation on defense, and the offensive line is among the best in the SEC. Alabama’s rush defense ranks second nationally, limiting opponents to 75.8 yards per game. Additionally, this group wreaks havoc at the line of scrimmage with 29 sacks and 60 tackles for a loss. The offensive line has experienced a few ups and downs so far this year but is coming off a standout performance against LSU. The front five led the way for the Crimson Tide to rush for 250 yards and three touchdowns on 55 attempts last week. Stopping the run has been a challenge at times for Mississippi State this season and this defense faces another test against Alabama running back Derrick Henry. The Bulldogs rank 10th in the SEC by giving up 167.7 rushing yards per game. This unit surrendered 215 yards on the ground to Missouri last week, while LSU recorded 266 back in September. However, the numbers are better for coordinator Manny Diaz in terms of per carry totals. Mississippi State is allowing only 3.9 yards per rush and just 2.7 inside of the red zone. Even if Prescott finds rushing lanes or makes a few big throws against Alabama’s secondary, it won’t matter if Mississippi State struggles to keep the pass rush away from its senior quarterback. Additionally, the Bulldogs have to find a way to slow down Henry and force quarterback Jake Coker to win this game with his arm.


Final Analysis


There are factors working in Mississippi State’s favor on Saturday afternoon. The atmosphere, a potential letdown by Alabama and senior quarterback Dak Prescott all provide hope for the Bulldogs. However, will a huge performance from Prescott be enough to score the upset? Probably not. As good as the senior quarterback is, the other pieces for Mississippi State have to step up. The defense has to shut down Henry, force a couple of turnovers and get help from the supporting cast. That’s a lot to ask. Sure, Alabama may not be as fired up for this game as it was last week. However, there’s an edge in talent on the Crimson Tide sideline. History is also in Alabama’s favor. In the last seven matchups between these two teams (all Crimson Tide wins), Mississippi State has scored more than 10 points one time. Alabama starts slow but takes control in the second half to move one step closer to winning the SEC West.


Prediction: Alabama 27, Mississippi State 20
Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs Preview and Prediction 2015
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/michigan-wolverines-vs-indiana-hoosiers-preview-and-prediction-2015

Indiana and Michigan have met 19 times since 1988 and not once have the Hoosiers come away victorious, including last year’s 34-10 loss in which the Wolverines allowed just 191 yards on offense.


Unlike last year, though, this season’s matchup has high stakes on both sides.


For the Hoosiers, there are only three more opportunities left in the year to secure bowl eligibility, something they have not accomplished since 2007. The Wolverines find themselves smack dab in the middle of the Big Ten race following the Michigan State loss last week against Nebraska.


Plenty of motivation on both sides should result in a very intriguing matchup on Saturday.


Michigan at Indiana

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ABC/ESPN2
Spread: Michigan -11.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Five-game slide
The five-game losing streak the Hoosiers are currently in the midst of can be a bit deceiving. Outside of the blowout loss to Penn State, Indiana has played each of its opponents right until the end, including three Top 10 teams in Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa. Each of those matchups went into the fourth quarter a one-score game, but ultimately resulted in an Indiana loss and another step closer to yet another bowl-less season for the Hoosiers. For the Hoosiers to reach their goal of making a bowl game in 2015, they knows it’s not good enough anymore to just be competitive — they need to start winning and they must do it quickly.


2. A healthy Jordan Howard
During Indiana’s four-game win streak to start the season, running back Jordan Howard had a combined 675 rushing yards, good for the top spot in the country in rushing yardage. Then injuries occurred and Howard was held out for two weeks due to an ankle injury suffered against Ohio State. The former UAB transfer was in his early-season form this past week against the No. 9 rush defense in the country in Iowa, rushing for 174 yards and two touchdowns. The result was the same as it had been the past month, ending in a loss, but the Hoosiers' offense is much more dynamic with Howard in the backfield. Job number one for the Michigan defense is trying to limit Jordan Howard.


3. Keeping pace

Michigan State’s loss last week to Nebraska has opened the door for the Wolverines to get right back into the thick of the Big Ten East race and a possible chance at the Big Ten title game. Because the Wolverines lost to the Spartans, Michigan would need its in-state rivals to fall once more this season, and that could very well happen in two weeks when State travels to Columbus in a showdown with Ohio State. If Michigan State lost that game, then the Big Ten West would be decided by the Michigan-Ohio State matchup the last week of the year, assuming the Wolverines were able to run the table until then. There is a lot that needs to happen, but thanks to the Spartans' loss last week, Michigan is back in the championship hunt.

Final Analysis


Not that Michigan wouldn’t have been up for this matchup, but the Spartans' loss last week should provide the Wolverines with some added urgency to secure another Big Ten victory against the Hoosiers. Indiana has enough firepower on offense in quarterback Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard to challenge the Michigan defense, but the questions remain the same — can it get the necessary stops on defense in crunch time? The prediction here is no. A second-half surge from the Wolverines should put this game away late.


Prediction: Michigan 34, Indiana 20


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

Michigan Wolverines vs. Indiana Hoosiers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 08:55
Path: /college-football/wake-forest-demon-deacons-vs-notre-dame-fighting-irish-preview-and-prediction-2015

Forgive Wake Forest if it's having a case of déjà vu. In 2012 the Demon Deacons came to South Bend to play No. 3 Notre Dame on Senior Day. Fast-forward three years and Wake is again heading to Michiana to face No. 4 Notre Dame on Senior Day. Since the Irish won 38-0 that day, ND hopes for déjà vu as well.


Notre Dame returns home after its two-week Pennsylvania excursion, coming away with victories over Temple and Pittsburgh. Notre Dame still may need some help in its quest to get into the College Football Playoff. But first and foremost, it must take care of its own business and that starts with Wake Forest.


Wake Forest and Notre Dame have played just twice before with Notre Dame coming out on top on both occasions.


Wake Forest at Notre Dame


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: NBC

Spread: Notre Dame -27.5


Three Things to Watch


1. The Health of C.J. Prosise

Prosise is cleared to play after suffering a shoulder injury and concussion in the Pittsburgh game. It will be interesting to see how effective he will be and how much he is actually used. Josh Adams had a huge game at Pitt, but the Irish do not want to rely too heavily on the freshman from Warrington, Pa. In a perfect Irish scenario, ND would get up big early, Prosise would get some touches, but Adams and fellow freshman Dexter Williams would see the bulk of the action.


2. Notre Dame Offensive Line vs. the Wake Forest Defensive Front

In his Tuesday press conference, head coach Brian Kelly said that Wake Forest has a very good defense and he would be right. They are No. 21 against the pass and tied with Florida State at No. 32 in total defense. Linebacker Brandon Chubb is a great player and he is supported by fellow linebacker Marquel Lee. Before the season started, Athlon ranked the Wake Forest linebacker group as the second best in the ACC. Their defensive line doesn’t make a lot of plays, but what they do is provide space for the linebackers to roam. The Notre Dame offensive line will not only have to secure their first block, but will also have to be able to get to the second level to open up running lanes for Prosise and Adams.


3. Testing the Notre Dame Secondary

Wake Forest is 121st in the country in rushing yardage and its leading rusher is quarterback Kendall Hilton, who is listed behind John Wolford on the depth chart. The Irish secondary has been suspect throughout the season and to move the ball Wake is going to have to throw. Tight end Can Serigne is the Deacs' leading receiver and will get plenty of opportunities in this game. Wake Forest will also test the Irish downfield with Cortez Lewis, K.J. Brent, and Tabari Hines. These receivers have some skill, but Wolford has to have time to get the ball out, something he hasn’t had much of this season. Wake Forest quarterbacks have been sacked 31 times which is No. 122 in the FBS.


Final Analysis


Defensively, Wake Forest has played pretty well for most of the season. They gave Louisville a hard time in their last game and hung with Florida State as a result of solid play on the defensive side of the ball. But Notre Dame features a balanced attack that teams like North Carolina and North Carolina State used to give the Deacons all kinds of problems with. Also, Wake’s offense is just not good. They can’t run the ball against anyone, so running against Sheldon Day, Isaac Rochelle, and company will be next to impossible. Wake Forest’s defense will put forth a good fight for a while, but the Irish big offensive will wear them down and DeShone Kizer (did it really take me this long to finally mention him?) will make big plays in the passing game. Notre Dame keeps its playoff hopes alive with an easy win.


Prediction: Notre Dame 34, Wake Forest 10


— 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.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 08:50