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Path: /college-football/virginia-tech-hokies-vs-notre-dame-fighting-irish-preview-and-prediction-2016

It was right there for Virginia Tech's taking. With North Carolina’s loss to Duke on Thursday night, the Hokies knew that a victory over 5-4 Georgia Tech clinched the ACC Coastal Division and put them into the conference championship game in Orlando.


But Virginia Tech’s magic number is still one after the Yellow Jackets took advantage of several Hokie mistakes and came away with a 30-20 victory in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech now needs a win next week over Virginia or a North Carolina loss to NC State to claim the Coastal crown.


This week, though, the Hokies get a break from ACC action as they head north to play Notre Dame. The Irish improved to 4-6 with their most complete game of the season, a 44-6 blasting of Army in San Antonio.


This will be the first-ever meeting between the Hokies and the Fighting Irish.


Virginia Tech at Notre Dame


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: NBC

Spread: Notre Dame -1


Three Things to Watch


1. Virginia Tech Miscues

It was an ugly offensive performance against Georgia Tech. There was a botched placement on a field goal, there was a huge dropped pass, and a key bad snap from center. But again, turnovers killed the Hokies. For the season, Virginia Tech is minus-1 in turnover margin. But in their three losses, the Hokies are minus-8. Notre Dame has just 11 takeaways on the year, but the Virginia Tech turnovers have been less about the opposition and more about the Hokies.


2. Notre Dame Offensive Line
The Irish pushed around Army and averaged more than six yards per carry on the ground. But Virginia Tech’s defensive front seven is a little better than Army’s. The Notre Dame running game hasn’t been great this year, but the Irish need to get something out of Josh Adams and Tarean Folston to keep Virginia Tech honest. Most importantly, the Notre Dame blockers need to protect quarterback DeShone Kizer. In Woody Baron, Ken Ekanem and Vinny Mihota, Virginia Tech has some real playmakers along the defensive line.


3. Virginia Tech Receivers vs. Notre Dame Secondary
It’s been a rough year for the Notre Dame defensive backfield. Injuries and suspensions have not helped, but simple poor play has been the biggest problem. Since the firing of defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, the performance of the secondary has improved, though it’s hardly been great. This week they will face a good quarterback in Jerod Evans and a group of big, talented receivers. Isaiah Ford (6-2) has 55 receptions, Cam Phillips (6-1) has 46, and the biggest target of all Bucky Hodges (6-7) has 36. After dealing with two option teams in consecutive weeks, the Irish now have the challenge of stopping perhaps the best receiving corps they’ve seen so far this year.


Final Analysis


It is very hard to gauge either one of these teams. Notre Dame has talent, especially on offense. The question is, will it come together this week? The same question has been asked before each game this season and the majority of the time the answer has been no. Virginia Tech had a stretch early in the season where the Hokies looked like they may be able to challenge whoever came out of the Atlantic Division. Then they had a clunker against Syracuse. After getting back on track a bit, they crumbled again versus Georgia Tech at home. But Virginia Tech still has those receivers that can cause big problems for the Notre Dame secondary and a defensive front that will be hard for the Irish to handle. For those reasons, I think Virginia Tech gets a narrow win in South Bend.


Prediction: Virginia Tech 34, Notre Dame 30


— 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.

Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 18, 2016 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/missouri-tigers-vs-tennessee-volunteers-preview-and-prediction-2016

The Tennessee Volunteers’ (7-3, 3-3 SEC) chances of making it to Atlanta as SEC East champions got a little better last week after knocking off Kentucky 49-36 in Knoxville. However, Tennessee still needs to beat both Missouri this Saturday and Vanderbilt over Thanksgiving weekend in order to get the nod. The Vols are set to host the Tigers in Knoxville for the first of those two matchups. It’s a must-win game for Tennessee, but it isn’t the only SEC game of monumental importance to the Vols on Saturday. In addition to sweeping its final two SEC opponents, the Volunteers also need a helping hand from LSU against Florida to keep their divisional title hopes afloat.


The Missouri Tigers (3-7, 1-5) managed to snap a five-game losing streak, as well as an 11-game drought in SEC play, by scoring their first conference victory of the season last week over Vanderbilt. They now head into Saturday’s matchup against Tennessee with some much-needed momentum, and an opportunity to play the role of spoiler. The Tigers would like nothing more than to dash the Volunteers’ SEC East title hopes with a victory in Knoxville. It would provide a nice consolation for a Mizzou team that has no shot at making a bowl game.


Missouri at Tennessee


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Tennessee -16


Three Things to Watch


1. Rushing Yards a Plenty
The Tennessee ground game appears to be alive and well behind the three-pronged attack of Joshua Dobbs, Alvin Kamara and John Kelly. The trio combined for 369 rushing yards and four touchdowns last week against Kentucky. The Vols will look to better those numbers this week with an even more favorable matchup against Missouri. The Tigers’ porous run defense is giving up 225 yards on the ground per game, which ranks No. 109 in the country (No. 13 in the SEC).


Missouri should have plenty of success with its run game as well. The Volunteers are allowing 216 rushing yards per game (No. 102 in the nation) and gave up a ridiculous 443 yards to a potent Kentucky ground game just last week. The Missouri rushing attack isn’t quite as formidable as Kentucky’s, but freshman running back Damarea Crockett, who is averaging 6.5 yards per carry, will be a handful for a depleted Volunteer defense. There should be no shortage of rushing yards between these two teams on Saturday.


2. The Missouri Passing Game vs. Tennessee Pass Defense
A depleted Tennessee defense will have its hands full trying to contain the Missouri run game on Saturday. But if that wasn’t enough, the Vols also will be charged with trying to slow down a dangerous passing game led by sophomore quarterback Drew Lock and junior wide receiver J’Mon Moore. Lock leads the SEC with 2,811 passing yards, while Moore’s 743 receiving yards rank second in the conference. Tennessee also will have to contend with a Mizzou offensive line that has allowed the fewest sacks (11) in the SEC.


The Tennessee pass defense has taken its lumps this season, especially when it comes to injuries. But all things considered, the results have been reasonably favorable. The Vols rank 31st in the nation in passing yards allowed (200 ypg). And while they will have their work cut out for them trying to defend Missouri’s high-powered passing game, the Vols should match up relatively well. SEC sack leader Derek Barnett, who needs just two to tie Reggie White for the most sacks in Tennessee history, has the skill set to overcome a stout Missouri offensive line. And a healthy Cameron Sutton will provide the Vols with a much-needed lockdown presence in the secondary.


3. Boom or Bust for Joshua Dobbs?
While Dobbs will do his best to make his final game inside Neyland Stadium a success on Saturday, there are a couple of areas of concern regarding the Tennessee passing attack. The Missouri pass rush, led by defensive end Charles Harris, has accounted for 10 sacks in its last two contests. Dobbs has a tendency to make poor decisions under pressure, and a Tennessee offensive line that has allowed 21 sacks so far this season has struggles against elite pass rushers. Dobbs’ SEC-leading 12 interceptions are indicative of his issues under duress. An opportunistic Mizzou defense that leads the SEC with 13 interceptions will make Dobbs pay for any mistakes.


On the bright side, there should be ample opportunity to make some splash plays though the air against a fairly generous Missouri pass defense, particularly if Tennessee’s offensive line can give Dobbs enough time. The Tigers rank 12th in the SEC and No. 78 nationally against the pass (239 ypg), leaving plenty of room for optimism. Dobbs’ dual-threat capabilities should help keep the Tiger defense off balance. He should have no trouble finding success with his legs against the leaky Missouri run defense. All in all, the senior quarterback’s prospects of going out with a bang in front of the home crowd appear promising.


Final Analysis


Contrary to popular belief, this is not a foolproof matchup for Tennessee. Missouri has an offense that is more than capable of doing some serious damage against a beat-up Volunteer defense. The Tigers also have a renewed sense of confidence after scoring their first SEC win of the season last week. If Tennessee wants to avoid a similar result to the one it had against South Carolina, the Vols cannot afford to take Missouri lightly.


Tennessee has been playing with a rejuvenated spirit of its own as of late in spite of several setbacks. Butch Jones’ team will need a complete effort to avoid the upset. But with so much at stake for the Volunteers on Saturday, there will be no shortage of motivation. They should have enough firepower to outlast the Tigers in front of the home crowd on Senior Day. And provided they receive a little help from LSU against the Gators, they will find themselves one step closer to an SEC East title.


Prediction: Tennessee 41, Missouri 31


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

Missouri Tigers vs. Tennessee Volunteers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 18, 2016 - 09:50
Path: /college-football/florida-state-seminoles-vs-syracuse-orange-preview-and-prediction-2016

Hopes have begun to fade for Syracuse in its quest for bowl eligibility, and it appears that Florida State is ready to wipe those out when the two teams meet Saturday at the Carrier Dome.


After the Orange suffered a 35-20 setback to NC State last weekend, head coach Dino Babers and Co. fell to 4-6 on the season with the Seminoles and a trip to Pittsburgh left on the schedule. Given the overall strength and talent level of the former and the latter is brimming with confidence after an upset at Clemson, it would not be a surprise if the Orange have seen their last win of the 2016 season.


Meanwhile, for Florida State, head coach Jimbo Fisher's team at 7-3 overall and 4-3 in the ACC is out of the picture for an ACC Atlantic Division title, but can still finish strong and win at least 10 games for the sixth time in the last seven seasons. The Seminoles, who came into the year with legitimate national title hopes, will have to settle for less, as losses to Louisville, North Carolina and Clemson put those dreams aside.


Syracuse had significantly lower expectations in Babers' maiden voyage in central New York. Although the odds of making a bowl are long, Babers helped establish an identity for the program going forward with his no-huddle, up-tempo offense. The Orange made strides on that side of the ball, but an injury to quarterback Eric Dungey has slowed progress there.


As the teams set to face off on Saturday, Florida State is a heavy favorite, but a motivated Orange team to earn bowl eligibility can make things interesting if it can get its offense rolling despite the loss of Dungey.


Florida State at Syracuse


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC/ESPN2

Spread: Florida State -21


Three Things to Watch


1. QB Health Check
Dungey suffered a head injury two weeks ago against Clemson and has been ruled out for Saturday's game. The sophomore has suffered head injuries in the past, and there is some doubt over whether or not he plays the following week against Pittsburgh. For the season, Dungey has completed 230-of-355 passes (64.8 percent) for 2,679 yards, 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions, but look for Zack Mahoney to take over in his spot. Last week, Mahoney completed 13-of-24 passes for 190 yards, a touchdown and an interception. On the Florida State side, quarterback Deondre Francois injured his shoulder in his team's 45-7 romp over Boston College. Fisher took him out and put in senior Sean Maguire. Francois' injury is not considered serious, though, so look for him to play against the Orange.


2. Heisman hopeful
Sure, the Seminoles may be out of the national title picture, but running back Dalvin Cook is still a longshot candidate to make it to New York as a Heisman finalist. As of now, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson is the odds-on favorite to come away with the award, but that doesn't mean Cook can't make some lasting impressions in these final two regular season games. For the season, Cook has rushed for 1,242 yards and 13 touchdowns on 214 carries, averaging 5.8 yards per attempt. He currently ranks seventh in the nation in rushing yards and could use another big game to polish up his resume.


3. Deep threat
If the Orange are to have any shot Saturday, they will need a big game out of wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo, the graduate transfer from Maryland who has had a breakout season. A Biletnikoff Award semifinalist, Etta-Tawo has 79 receptions for 1,246 yards (sixth in the FBS) and eight touchdowns this season. In the loss to NC State, Etta-Tawo caught an 81-yard touchdown pass from Mahoney. While the Orange have a number of reliable pass catchers, Etta-Tawo is the most dangerous deep threat and could make the Seminoles pay over the top if they don't give him special attention.


Final Analysis


Even with Eric Dungey in at quarterback, this would be a tall task for the Orange, who are still a couple years away from consistently being able to compete with teams of Florida State's caliber in the ACC. Without Dungey, this is simply a mismatch. Florida State should be able to find success both in the air with Deondre Francois and on the ground with Dalvin Cook in what should be a comfortable win on the road.


Prediction: Florida State 41, Syracuse 17


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

Florida State Seminoles vs. Syracuse Orange Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 18, 2016 - 09:40
Path: /college-football/duke-blue-devils-vs-pittsburgh-panthers-preview-and-prediction-2016

During last weekend's rash of upsets, the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Duke Blue Devils were front and center. This week they meet up at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.


Pitt had lost two in a row, including a 51-28 loss to stumbling Miami just the week before. But the Panthers went down to Clemson and knocked off the No. 2 Tigers. It made Pittsburgh bowl eligible with two remaining games to give the Panthers an opportunity to increase their bowl resume.


Their first chance will be against Duke, who comes to Pittsburgh after reclaiming the Victory Bell with a 28-27 shocker of North Carolina. The Blue Devils are now 4-6 and need to win both of their final two games to officially secure a bowl berth.


Pittsburgh leads the all-time series 11-9, which includes last year’s 31-13 victory in Durham.


Duke at Pittsburgh


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 3 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ACC-RSN/WatchESPN

Spread: Pittsburgh -7.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Duke Taking Shots Downfield

The Blue Devils are not a team that makes a lot of big plays in the passing game. They only have six pass plays this season that have covered more than 40 yards. But Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi loves to be aggressive with his cornerbacks and with an inexperienced, injury-riddled group on the back end, the Panthers have given up a lot of passing yards. Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson each threw for more than 500 yards against a Pitt defense that can be carved up by good quarterbacks. Duke freshman Daniel Jones is getting better each week and now may be the time for the Blue Devils to open things up.


2. The Efficiency of Nathan Peterman

Until last Saturday, the Pittsburgh quarterback was quietly having a solid season. But against Clemson, quiet went out the window as the senior threw for 308 yards and five touchdowns. It is true that many of those passing numbers were on shovel passes that torched the Clemson defense, but they all count. While his 211 passing yards per game isn’t going to bowl anyone over, his 19 touchdowns against just four interceptions is very impressive. With James Conner running the ball, an effective Peterman takes the Pitt offense to another level.


3. Duke Defense Just Need to do its Job

Pitt likes to move guys all around on offense. Tackles that are eligible receivers move back into normal positions most of the time... but not all of the time. Jet sweeps are a common play, except when Peterman pulls it back and throws a shovel pass or takes a shot downfield. There are a lot of moving parts but Duke cannot not get caught up in the constant motion on the other side of the ball. The Blue Devil defenders need to know their roles and execute their assignments.


Final Analysis


Duke is 4-6 but the Blue Devils have been in every game this season. Interestingly, their most lopsided loss was by 14 points to 2-8 Virginia the week after the big win at Notre Dame. After their second major upset of the year, the Blue Devils face an up-and-down Pittsburgh team. The Panthers are averaging more than 37 points per game but are giving up 35. With safety Jordan Whitehead out with an arm injury, making a weak Pittsburgh secondary even weaker, Daniel Jones and the Blue Devils will have success throwing the ball. But the Panthers will find a way to score just enough points to win another close game.


Prediction: Pittsburgh 38, Duke 34


— 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.

Duke Blue Devils vs. Pittsburgh Panthers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 18, 2016 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/oregon-ducks-vs-utah-utes-preview-and-prediction-2016

Utah and Oregon have taken much different paths since the two teams played a season ago. The Utes have quietly established themselves as a legitimate Pac-12 South title contender. The Ducks, on the other hand, are no longer soaring above the Pac-12 North.


When Utah hosts Oregon on Saturday, the stakes are much higher for the No. 12 Utes than a year ago. Utah (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12) needs a victory to give itself a chance to clinch a division title when it plays Colorado on Thanksgiving weekend. The Ducks (3-7, 1-6 Pac-12) are relegated to acting as a spoiler at this point, having lost seven of eight games since a 2-0 start.


Oregon leads the all-time series 20-9. The Utes won the most recent matchup, demolishing the Ducks 62-20 in Eugene a year ago for their first Pac-12 victory over Oregon. Utah last beat Oregon in Salt Lake City in 2003, edging the Ducks 17-13 in Urban Meyer's debut season with the Utes.


Oregon at Utah


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 2 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Pac-12 Networks

Spread: Utah -14.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Can Hunter Dimick claim Utah's career sack record?
Dimick is coming off of one of the finest single-game performances ever by a Utah defensive player. Dimick tied a Pac-12 record and set a school record with five sacks in the Utes' 49-26 win over Arizona State last Thursday. He also set another school record with 6.5 tackles for a loss and helped Utah total a school record 22 tackles for a loss.


Dimick's single-game sack total is tied for third most in NCAA history and his TFL total was the sixth-most all-time in the NCAA. The senior defensive end is the nation's leader in sacks (12) and ranks third in tackles for a loss (17.5). He now has 27 career sacks and needs just one more to pass John Frank as Utah's career leader.


It's a meaningful accomplishment for Dimick after injuries limited him to seven games last season. He has played angry, wanting to give everything he has after missing so much time as a junior.


“You just can't make up lost time,” Dimick said. “It's always going to be one of those things you kind of look back at and it bugs you and frustrates you. But I guess it's paid some dividends in the fact I that I feel worked a lot harder. You realize how much you take things for granted when they're taken away from you. I've always been a hard worker, but this year I really didn't leave anything left in the tank.”


2. How will Oregon's shorthanded defensive line fare against the Utes?
One reason that Oregon's season has gone off the rails is a defense that can't stop any opponent from scoring. The Ducks have allowed 49.4 points per game in Pac-12 play and have held just three league opponents under 50 points. Oregon ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in scoring defense (43.5 ppg), rushing defense (243.0 ypg), passing defense (292.7) and total defense (535.7).


Things won't get any easier against Utah with the Ducks' already thin defensive line taking another blow. Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich dismissed starting defensive tackle Austin Maloata from the team on Sunday following a DUI arrest.


Oregon already suspended defensive ends Torrodney Prevot and Eddie Heard earlier. Defensive tackles Canton Kaumatule and Ratu Mafileo both medically retired and defensive tackle Drayton Carlberg is sidelined with an injury.


3. Will Joe Williams eclipse 1,000 rushing yards by halftime?
What Williams continues to do in Utah's backfield since coming back from a four-game retirement is nothing short of amazing. The senior has averaged 216 total yards per game and scored eight touchdowns since his return. In just six games, he has totaled 939 rushing yards and is averaging 7.0 yards per carry.


Williams currently ranks third in rushing yards in the Pac-12 behind Christian McCaffrey and Myles Gaskin. He needs just 61 yards to become the 13th player at Utah to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. At his current pace, Williams is averaging 156.5 rushing yards per game and is on track to shatter the single-season school record. The current record is 137.0 yards per game, set by Carl Monroe in 1982.


“He's maybe the most explosive and the fastest of any of the backs we've had here as far as a home run-type back that can go the distance from anywhere on the field,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said.


The odds are favorable for Williams breaking the record quickly on Saturday. No team from outside the state of Utah has held him to fewer than 100 rushing yards in a game since he became a starter late last season.


Final Analysis


Utah is now in the role Oregon once occupied as a Pac-12 title contender. The Utes should have little trouble enhancing that status against the Ducks. Oregon's defense has proven unable to slow down any offense it faces and Utah possesses more than enough weapons on that side of the ball to make it a long four quarters for the Ducks.


Prediction: Utah 49, Oregon 31


— 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.

Oregon Ducks vs. Utah Utes Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 18, 2016 - 09:20
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-sooners-vs-west-virginia-mountaineers-preview-and-prediction-2016

Since West Virginia joined the Big 12 in 2012, the Mountaineers have beaten every team in the conference... except Oklahoma.


The Sooners have found ways to pull out wins in their four meetings with WVU as conference mates. They’ve done it with defense. They’ve done it chucking the ball all over the lot. They’ve done it with a punishing ground game.


This year, OU is relying on a conglomeration of dangerous offensive weapons. The ‘Eers might have the Big 12 D best suited to slow them.


Sounds like a fun night is shaping up in Motown.


Oklahoma at West Virginia


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Oklahoma -3


1. Disrespect
Specifically, the Mountaineers have to be feeling it. An 8-1 record left them at No. 14 in the latest edition of the College Football Playoff rankings. Among the teams ahead of WVU: Oklahoma at 8-2.


WVU has more than pride to play for. Dana Holgorsen’s team ultimately might have the best chance to make the playoff of any team in the Big 12. Winning out should put the Mountaineers squarely in the final four mix.


2. How OU’s Offensive Line Handles WVU’s Front Six
West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson employs a unique 3-3-5 scheme that attacks gaps and tries to confuse opposing offenses with deceptive blitzes. After a strong stretch in October, Oklahoma’s offensive line appears to have taken a step or so back in the last couple weeks. The Sooners need their big uglies to play their best game of the year this weekend and keep the Mountaineers from causing havoc in the OU backfield.


3. Which Skyler Howard Shows Up?
By now, Holgo presumably knows that WVU has to live with what his starting quarterback does best. Howard isn’t the most accurate passer, but he generally puts the ball in an area where his underrated receivers can get to it. He also runs well enough to keep opposing defenses honest with the coverages and assignments.


Howard is prone to stinkers. He can’t pull that against the Sooners and expect to win.


Final Analysis


Weather actually could play a big role in this game. The Saturday forecast for Morgantown calls for cold temperatures and the possibility of precipitation in the afternoon and evening. That might play into the hands of OU’s superior running game.


Howard will have an even bigger impact than the weather on this contest. WVU’s QB misfired on numerous throws in his team’s only loss to Oklahoma State. He also tossed two interceptions to the Cowboys. In a near loss to Texas last week, he threw three picks. Spreading the ball around that way to OU defenders, rather than Howard’s own teammates, will kill any hope of a WVU win.


Count on Howard and the rest of the Mountaineers to give a game effort, though. The Sooners probably enjoy just enough of an edge on offense to make the plays necessary to stave off WVU, but the ‘Eers are more than capable of winning this game - on the way to putting the College Football Playoff selection committee in a bind in a couple of weeks.


Prediction: Oklahoma 28, West Virginia 27


— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.

Oklahoma Sooners vs. West Virginia Mountaineers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 18, 2016 - 09:10
Path: /college-football/washington-state-cougars-vs-colorado-buffaloes-preview-and-prediction-2016

A potential preview of the Pac-12 Championship is on tap this Saturday, as Washington State and Colorado meet in Boulder for one of the top matchups in Week 11. With two weeks remaining until the Pac-12 Championship, there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding both divisions in the Pac-12. Colorado (6-1) holds a slight edge over USC (5-2) and Utah (5-2) in the South. However, the Buffaloes face a difficult two-game stretch to close out the season, as Washington State visits this Saturday, followed by a home date against Utah on Nov. 26. The Cougars are in a similar position, with a trip to Boulder this Saturday and a home date against Washington on Black Friday.


After a disappointing 0-2 start, Washington State enters Saturday’s game riding an eight-game winning streak. Coach Mike Leach’s team is an unbeaten 7-0 in Pac-12 play and defeated its last two opponents – Arizona and California – by a combined score of 125-28. As usual under a Leach-coached team, the Cougars are led by a dynamic offense. Quarterback Luke Falk and receiver Gabe Marks are two of the nation’s top players at their position, helping the offense average 44.3 points a game. Falk and Marks aren’t the only reason for Washington State’s eight-game winning streak. The ground game is averaging 4.5 yards per carry – the highest mark under Leach – and the defense holds conference opponents to 5.77 yards per play.


While Washington State was expected to be a bowl team this year, the preseason expectations were much different for Colorado. The Buffaloes entered 2016 with a 2-25 record in Pac-12 play under coach Mike MacIntyre. However, Colorado has showed marked improvement in MacIntyre’s fourth year and enters Week 11 at 8-2 overall and 6-1 in Pac-12 play. MacIntyre is in the running for national coach of the year honors, as this team has taken a significant step forward this year. The Buffaloes’ only defeats in 2016 came at the hands of Michigan (45-28) and USC (21-17). Regardless of how Colorado finishes the year, the program will earn its first bowl trip since 2007. That’s a pretty big accomplishment and a sign that MacIntyre has this program moving in the right direction.  


Colorado leads the all-time series 5-4 over Washington State. These two teams have met three times since Colorado joined the Pac-12. The Cougars own a 2-1 edge in those meetings, including a 27-3 victory last season.


Washington State at Colorado


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Spread: Colorado -4.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Washington State’s Passing Attack

With Mike Leach calling the plays, it’s no surprise Washington State ranks second nationally and first in the Pac-12 in passing (385.5 ypg) offense. Quarterback Luke Falk is the catalyst for the Cougars, throwing for 3,610 yards and 33 scores through the first 10 games of 2016. Falk has a bevy of talented pass catchers at his disposal, with senior Gabe Marks working as the preferred target and one of the nation’s best receivers. The depth at this position suffered a setback when River Cracraft (53 catches) was lost for the year in last week’s game due to injury. Cracraft is second on the school’s all-time list for career catches (218) and will be missed. With Cracraft sidelined, Tavares Martin (54 grabs), Kyle Sweet (18), Robert Lewis (20) and Isaiah Johnson-Mack will be counted upon even more to take some of the pressure off of Falk.


Considering the firepower in Washington State’s offense, Colorado coordinator Jim Leavitt is going to have his hands full in developing a gameplan to slow down Falk and Marks. Leavitt’s arrival in Boulder has been a huge part of the improvement by Colorado’s defense in recent years, as the Buffaloes limit opponents to just 4.56 yards per play (best in the Pac-12). The success for this unit starts up front. Leavitt’s group ranks third in the Pac-12 in sacks (29), and the front seven is led by seniors Josh Tupou, Samson Kafovalu, Jimmie Gilbert and Kenneth Olugbode. Gilbert (nine sacks) is the top rusher, with Olugbode (78) leading the team in tackles.


Stopping Washington State starts in the trenches. And it’s not just the passing game the Buffaloes need to worry about. The three-headed attack of James Williams, Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks is capable of providing enough balance to prevent the defense from keying too much on Falk and Marks. Williams leads the team with 528 rushing yards, while Morrow (6.1 ypc) and Wicks (5.7) are also capable of popping a few big runs. Can Colorado’s front seven create enough havoc to disrupt the timing of Falk? Which brings us to the next level of the defense…


Related: Predictions for Every College Football Game in Week 12


2. Colorado’s Secondary

While the success of Colorado’s defense starts up front, the secondary features a couple of the nation’s most underrated players. Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie is a standout performer and doesn’t get the credit he deserves on a national stage. Awuzie has recorded 39 tackles, eight pass breakups and one interception this fall. The senior teams with senior Tedric Thompson (safety) and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon to form a standout secondary that leads the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense. Through 10 games, Colorado has only allowed nine passing scores and holds quarterbacks to just 50.9 percent on completed passes.


The stat sheet and talent level doesn’t lie: Colorado has one of the top defensive backfields in the nation. However, it’s also fair to suggest this secondary is going to face its toughest test of the year on Saturday afternoon. When the Buffaloes lost to USC, the Trojans passed for 358 yards behind freshman quarterback Sam Darnold. With Falk and Marks playing at a high level, this secondary will be tested early and often on Saturday.


3. Colorado’s Offense Versus Washington State’s Defense

While the defense has received most of the attention for Colorado’s improvement this year, the offense also deserves a tip of the cap. The Buffaloes ranked 11th in the Pac-12 in scoring last year (24.6 ppg), but the hire of co-coordinator Darrin Chiaverini to help implement more spread and no-huddle looks to spark this attack in 2016. Through 10 games, Colorado is averaging 35.2 points a game and 5.8 yards per play. A healthy Sefo Liufau at quarterback has also helped, as the senior has passed for 1,535 yards and 10 scores and added 316 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Liufau missed two games due to injury, but backup Steven Montez kept the offense performing at a high level. When Liufau throws, Shay Fields (40 catches), Devin Ross (48) and Bryce Bobo (40) are the preferred targets. The improvement of the passing attack has been instrumental, but the Buffaloes are also getting more production from their ground game. Junior Phillip Lindsay (937) is closing in on 1,000 yards and will be a good test for a Washington State defense ranked first in the Pac-12 against the run (116.9 ypg). The Cougars are only facing 29 rush attempts per game but only one opponent has managed to surpass 171 yards on the ground against this defense.


This matchup is likely to be decided on how well Colorado’s defense handles Washington State’s offense. But the matchup of the Buffaloes’ offense against the Cougars’ defense is just as important. Can Colorado control the overall pace of the game by establishing the run and keeping Washington State’s offense on the sideline? The Cougars have made significant strides on defense under coordinator Alex Grinch the last two years and received a boost during the week when nose tackle Robert Barber was cleared to return to the team. Grinch’s defense only has 17 sacks this year but ranks fourth in the Pac-12 in third-down defense.


Final Analysis


The line for this game should fall somewhere around four or five points in favor of Colorado. We have to agree with the oddsmakers on this one, as it’s hard to find a huge advantage for either team. Both programs have looked impressive for the most part this year but lack wins over teams with a winning record (Colorado – Stanford and Washington State – Stanford and Idaho). Washington State’s high-powered offense faces a stiff test from Colorado’s defense, but the Cougars’ last two trips outside of Boulder (Oregon State and Arizona State) resulted in narrow escapes. Colorado’s offense isn’t the high-powered machine that Leach’s group can be, but this unit is going to test the Washington State front seven and secondary with a balanced attack. Considering how tight this game is expected to be, keep a close eye on the turnover margin. The Cougars at plus-10 this year, while the Buffaloes are plus-seven. This one is tough to call, but the homefield advantage and defense propels Colorado to a last-second win.


Prediction: Colorado 34, Washington State 31
Washington State Cougars vs. Colorado Buffaloes Preview and Prediction 2016
Post date: Friday, November 18, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, syndicated
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-college-football-week-12-picks-and-odds-lines-2016

That was my first rough week of the season on the college football side, but there were bad beats with UTEP losing at the end as well as Air Force blowing the cover. The big question now with so few weeks left in the regular season is which team is still motivated to play and which ones have already mailed it in.


You've got to read articles and scan through press conferences to see what the players and coaches are saying. There may be some big numbers out there, but there are several teams that have already checked out and merely playing out the string.


Record: 29-30 (0-5 last week)


Note: All games are on Saturday, Nov. 19 and times are ET.


Oregon (3-7) at Utah (8-2), 2 p.m.

I'm pretty sure that Oregon has given up on the season as the defense has been torched to the tune of 40 or more points in six of the last seven games. This group has not been able to slow anyone down and Utah has put up at least 45 points in two of its last three games. The Utes will be playing their final home game of the season. Their defense has sprung a leak or two the last few weeks, giving up 102 points over a three-week span. The Ducks have some pieces to build off of on offense so they should be able to contribute to this total. They've gone over in six of their seven Pac-12 matchups. SELECTION: Over 70.5


Texas (5-5) at Kansas (1-9), 3:30 p.m.

I stubbornly will continue to go to the well with overs in Kansas games. The Jayhawks allow 39.3 points per game while Texas checks in at 32.3. The Longhorns will be a little ornery after losing at home to West Virginia last time out. They have not had problems putting up points, especially on the road where they have already scored 31 at Oklahoma State and 45 at Texas Tech. The Jayhawks have allowed at least 40 points in four of their last five games. They continue to try to find a quarterback to run the offense, but to no avail. The trends continue to point to the under, but I think this one will be a high-scoring affair. SELECTION: Over 63


The Citadel (10-0) at North Carolina (7-3), 3:30 p.m.

This is an intriguing matchup on Saturday as the Bulldogs are one of the best running teams in the country. They also have a pretty good FCS-level defense. The Citadel will be tested by quarterback Mitch Trubisky and the Tar Heels’ offense though. North Carolina has had few issues against FBS defenses so I can't see the Heels struggling at home against the Bulldogs. I can't imagine UNC will 100 percent be focused for this one so I see the letdown on the defensive side where they have allowed 222.3 rushing yards per game I could see The Citadel covering, but I think this one features a lot of points. SELECTION: Over 52.5


Austin Peay (0-10) at Kentucky (5-5), 4:30 p.m.

The Governors are pretty awful and are still in search of their first win of the season. They are second to last in the FCS in defense, allowing 516.3 yards per game. Austin Peay opened the season with a 57-17 loss to Troy and has been blown out in almost every game to some extent. It's the final game of the Governors’ season so some early scores by Kentucky will probably be enough. The Wildcats meanwhile are playing for an all-important sixth win and to get the taste of last week’s loss to Tennessee out of their mouths. Offense is not an issue, scoring 30 points or more in three of their last four. It is a bit concerning that they didn't cover against New Mexico State earlier in the year, but I think they do here. SELECTION: Kentucky -41.5


Air Force (7-3) at San Jose State (3-7), 10:30 p.m.

San Jose State got some extra time to prepare for Air Force and at this point is merely playing for pride with an eye towards setting the foundation for 2017. Kenny Potter and this offense will have to keep the Falcons off the field as Air Force has won three straight and is clicking offensively. The Spartans have won their last two home games and could put up a fight, at least on offense. The question will be if they can slow down the Air Force triple option. It's hard trying to find a lot of trends to back this pick, but I think the visiting Falcons struggle in this one. SELECTION: San Jose State +10




— I wish I had the stones to take UTSA in its non-conference matchup against Texas A&M. The Aggies have to be reeling with Trevor Knight out and another tough loss last time out against Ole Miss. The Roadrunners have been kind to me this year, but their defense is bad and it's their third straight road game. I'd love to play the over, but can UTSA contribute to that? I don’t think the Aggies will be fully invested in this one though, which makes it a tough play.


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

Betting Against the Spread: College Football Week 12 Picks and Odds
Post date: Friday, November 18, 2016 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-five-up-five-down-andy-dalton-cj-prosise-ben-roethlisberger-todd-gurley-week-11-2016

Welcome to the last week of the fantasy season with four teams on a bye. The Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets, Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers aren't playing this week, so fantasy owners will need to find replacements in their starting lineups for players from those teams. Plenty of wide receivers, especially, were likely starters, so be sure you have enough options for a fully active roster in Week 11.


Please note the five up/five down column is a guide on players that should exceed or fall below their rank this week. This is based on past performance, injury status and matchup. Five up/five down is not a start/sit column, but rather a guide.


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


Teams on bye: Atlanta, Denver, New York Jets, San Diego


Five Up


Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals

While the Buffalo Bills do allow the 10th-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, in recent weeks, they have been a little more generous. They've surrendered at least one TD pass in each of the past four games, and they've allowed eight out of the nine quarterbacks they've faced to throw for more than 200 yards. Dalton has had at least 200 yards in every game and he has a touchdown in all games except for one. He is coming off a mediocre Monday night performance, but this game isn't in prime time. He's ranked as the No. 14 quarterback, but he may sneak into QB1 territory.


C.J. Prosise, RB, Seattle Seahawks

While Prosise may not be the lead back for Seattle for the rest of the season, he will be for Week 11. Christine Michael is no longer in the picture, and Thomas Rawls is coming back from injury. Rawls will likely be on a snap count, which opens the door for Prosise. Even if Rawls handles more carries, Prosise will be the passing downs back, and if he repeats his Week 10 numbers, he should exceed his No. 21 ranking. In Week 10, he had seven receptions for 87 yards (along with 66 rushing yards). Look for a heavy dose of Prosise this week; start him before Rawls is back in the picture.

Related: Why You Should Start C.J. Prosise and Other RB Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 11


Robert Kelley, RB, Washington Redskins

With no fumbles in the 43 carries he's been given in the past two weeks, Kelley is a solid RB2 option for Week 11. He has a touchdown in that span and has earned the role of the starting running back for the Redskins. He's the 17th-ranked running back this week, but he could finish in RB1 territory. The Green Bay Packers were one of the best run defenses in the league, but Ezekiel Elliot and DeMarco Murray both went over 100 yards, and in the past three games, they've allowed five touchdowns to opposing RBs. Even if Kelley doesn't find the end zone on Sunday night, he's worth RB2 consideration with a high ceiling.


Steve Smith Sr., WR, Baltimore Ravens

Smith is ranked No. 30 this week, which is seven years below his age. However, he does not play like a 37-year-old wide receiver, and he could easily finish this week as a solid WR2. Joe Flacco has struggled a bit this season, but the Cowboys did just allow touchdowns to both Antonio Brown and Eli Rogers last week. They've allowed at least one touchdown to a wide receiver every week since Week 5 (except for their bye week). Smith has had nine receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown in the two games since returning from injury. Look for at least 50 yards and a touchdown again in Week 11.


Julius Thomas, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars

Before their bye week, the Detroit Lions were allowing the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Thomas is the No. 10 ranked tight end for Week 11, but he should finish as a TE1 in a great matchup. His snap count did decrease in Week 10, but the Jags have the best chance to score when they are looking at Thomas in the red zone. He had six receptions for 24 yards and a touchdown in Week 10. Thomas is a check-down target for Blake Bortles, which helps his value in PPR leagues.


Five Down


Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

This is the pick that I may regret. However, Roethlisberger is drastically better at home than on the road, and this game is in Cleveland. Yes, the Browns' defense has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Yes, they've allowed all opposing quarterbacks to throw for a touchdown. However, fantasy owners that are looking at this matchup like it is a sure thing that Roethlisberger will end up as a top quarterback may be disappointed. He's ranked No. 7, and he is a QB1, but he may finish outside the top 10. He struggles on the road, only throwing five touchdowns in four games away from Heinz Field this season. Don't bench Roethlisberger for anyone, but don't use him in DFS.


Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams

Gurley has been a disappointment all season, but now with Jared Goff starting, look for the Miami defense to stack the box and force Goff to throw. Gurley has been losing targets to Benny Cunningham and for some reason has just looked awful all season. It's tough to sit your first-round pick, but Gurley is ranked No. 13 this week, and he easily could finish outside the top 20. He hasn't found the end zone since Week 5 and he has yet to have a 100-yard rushing game. Fantasy owners may not have much better options, but it's not a bad call to have him on the bench this week.


Ryan Mathews, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

One amazing game, and suddenly Mathews is a must-start? I think not. He is ranked No. 25 for Week 11, but he faces Seattle, who has been known to shut down running backs. Prior to LeGarrette Blount's three-touchdown game, the Seahawks had only allowed three touchdowns to RBs. Mathews had been struggling and Darren Sproles has been stepping up. Fantasy owners trying to chase Mathews' Week 10 performance are in for a disappointment.


Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami Dolphins

Last year, Landry was a PPR monster. This year he's been struggling. Since Week 5, he's had seven receptions or more just once. He doesn't have a touchdown in that span and he hasn't gone over 100 yards in those games either. He started the season well, but has since declined. It's not clear if he's playing injured (he has missed practices with a shoulder injury) or suffering from poor quarterback play, but Landry has been a disappointment. He's the 24th-ranked WR for Week 11, but the Los Angeles Rams defense is solid. He may finish outside the top 30.


Cameron Brate, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Cameron Brate has been a great fill-in tight end for fantasy owners, scoring a touchdown in the past three games. However, he faces the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 11. The Chiefs allow the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends. They have not allowed a tight end to score a touchdown since their Week 5 bye. Greg Olsen last week was the first tight end they've allowed to have more than two receptions (since Antonio Gates had three in Week 1). Brate, ranked No. 13 this week, has five touchdowns on the year and is worth holding onto, but he's a low TE2 for Week 11.


Full Disclosure (Week 10):


Five Up

Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans, Ranked: 10, Finished: 1

Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints, Ranked: 16, Finished: 29

Jordan Matthews, WR, Philadelphia Eagles, Ranked: 21, Finished: 39

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears, Ranked: 6, Finished: Outside top 50

Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs, Ranked: 7, Finished: 19


Five Down

Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals, Ranked: 13, Finished: 21

Christine Michael, RB, Seattle Seahawks, Ranked: 21, Finished: 47

LeGarrette Blount, RB, New England Patriots, Ranked: 14, Finished: 5

Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Jets, Ranked: 14, Finished: Outside top 50

Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys, Ranked: 11, Finished: 14


— 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: Andy Dalton, C.J. Prosise Up; Ben Roethlisberger, Todd Gurley Down for Week 11
Post date: Friday, November 18, 2016 - 08:15
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, syndicated, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-must-start-julien-edelman-and-other-wr-te-start-sit-fantasy-advice-week-11-2016

As the fantasy playoffs approach, it's more important than ever to grab those last few wins. Nobody wants to be left on the outside looking in because of a dud two-point performance. Make sure to check your lineup before the games start and put your team in the best position to win.


I'm here to help by providing you with the best start and sit options for Week 11, but first we have to check out how I did last week as it relates to wide receivers and tight ends.


Good Calls...
Start Larry Fitzgerald (13.3 fantasy points) – Old man Fitz just keeps producing and is easily Carson Palmer’s No. 1 target.


Start Antonio Gates (12.3 FP) – Gates scored another touchdown, getting closer to the all-time TD record for tight ends.


I warned you about starting Jarvis Landry (5.3 FP) and with the Dolphins focused on running the ball with Jay Ajayi, Landry isn’t a focal point of their offense anymore


Bad Calls...
Let’s just say Week 10 wasn’t my finest effort.


Sit Allen Robinson (18.7 FP) – It looks like A-Rob has new life to go along with a new offensive coordinator.


Sit Stefon Diggs (16.4 FP) – He got a crazy 15 targets and caught 12 of them. He’s the new Jarvis Landry.


Sit Doug Baldwin (23.9 FP) – Who thought the Seahawks would march into New England on a short week and Baldwin would get three touchdowns?


Sit Martellus Bennett (10.2 FP) – After catching 10 balls for 88 total yards in the previous three games, Bennett was the Patriots' leading receiver against the Seahawks.


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


Teams on bye: Atlanta, Denver, New York Jets, San Diego


Wide Receivers




Julian Edelman, NE (at SF)

Edelman hasn't had more than 9.7 fantasy points in a game this season (standard scoring), but he does have a combined 20 catches in his last three contests, including seven last week against the Seahawks. I like him to post a nice PPR line against the 49ers, who have allowed 15 scores and the third-most fantasy points to WRs (26.7 ppg).


Related: NFL Best Daily Fantasy Football Lineups for FanDuel and DraftKings (Week 11)


Donte Moncrief, IND (vs. TEN)

Moncrief might not put up huge yardage totals, but he's a consistent end zone visitor with a touchdown in three of his four games this season. Next up is a date with the Titans, who have allowed five touchdowns and an average of more than 28 fantasy points to WRs over the last four weeks. Consider Moncrief a potential WR2 or flex option.


Davante Adams, GB (at WAS)

You might not know it, but Adams ranks 13th in fantasy points among wide receivers so far this season. Not bad for a player whose value had taken a big hit after the 2015 campaign, right? I'd start him against a Redskins defense that has been far less than stellar against wide receivers, even after the addition of All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman.




Jamison Crowder, WAS (vs. GB)

Crowder has been one of the more underrated WRs in fantasy football, scoring double-digit fantasy points in four straight games with three touchdowns. Owners should consider him an attractive WR2 or flex option against the Packers, who have surrendered 14 touchdowns and the fourth-most fantasy points (26.4 ppg) to the position.




Jarvis Landry, MIA (at LA)

Over the last five weeks, Landry is 66th among wide receivers in fantasy points (Yahoo! standard scoring) per game. Even in PPR leagues, where he's considered to be especially valuable, he ranks just 58th. There just isn't enough volume with the Dolphins leaning on Jay Ajayi and the running game, so don't make the mistake of feeling like you have to start Landry just because he was an early draft pick.


Marvin Jones, DET (vs. JAC)

Leading into the Lions' Week 10 bye, Jones had a five-game stretch where he averaged 5.6 targets, 2.8 receptions and 35.8 yards with two touchdowns. I'm hopeful the bye week gave the Lions time to find out how to get him more involved, but I want to see it happen first. For the time being, he's too risky to start against a Jaguars defense that just held DeAndre Hopkins in check and hasn't allowed a 100-yard receiver since Week 6.


Jordan Matthews, PHI (at SEA)

Matthews has scored double-digit fantasy points once in five road games this season, and he's averaged a modest 8.5 points outside of Philadelphia. While Seattle's defense isn't what it used to be on its home field, this unit has still given up the sixth-fewest points to WRs (20.8 ppg) this season.




DeAndre Hopkins, HOU (vs. OAK, Mexico City)

Hopkins is being completely hindered by Brock Osweiler, and he can’t be trusted in your lineup despite his obvious talent with his quarterback doing the worst job possible getting him the ball. The fact that the Raiders are one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL doesn’t mean a whole lot to me either. To put in perspective just how inefficient his season has been, Hopkins ranks 13th in the NFL with his 89 targets. Yet he has a total of 482 receiving yards (43rd) to this point.


Tight Ends



Julius Thomas, JAC (at DET)
Averaging 33.6 yards per game to go with four touchdowns in eight games, Thomas' fantasy value pretty much hinges on finding the end zone. Fortunately for his Week 11 status, he goes up against the Lions, who have allowed nine touchdowns and a two-point conversion to tight ends. Thomas has a low floor, but this is an ideal matchup for him.


Zach Miller, CHI (at NYG)

Miller was already getting targets and making an impact when Alshon Jeffery was in the lineup. But now that Jeffery has been suspended for four games, there’s no reason why Miller’s volume (8.0 targets per game over last five) won’t go up considering the limited reliable options Jay Cutler has to throw to. I’d be shocked if he didn’t get at least five catches, and it’s worth noting the Giants have allowed 90-plus yards to tight ends in back-to-back games heading into this one.


Martellus Bennett, NE (at SF)

So it looks like Rob Gronkowski is going to miss the juicy matchup against the 49ers, which leaves Bennett ready and available to chew up some yards against his brother’s division rival (that matters to a Bennett brother and you know it). Bennett had seven targets and 102 yards against Seattle. Yeah, playing opposite Gronk helps with the coverage, but playing the 49ers is like playing against nine men on D.




Jack Doyle, IND (vs. TEN)
Doyle hasn't found the end zone in each of his last two contests, but an upcoming matchup against the Titans makes him worth a look for those fantasy owners in need at the position. Tennessee's defense has struggled to stop tight ends, allowing the fifth-most yards (639) and almost nine fantasy points per game to the position thus far.




Jason Witten, DAL (vs. BAL)
Witten has tallied 18 targets, 14 receptions, 193 yards and a touchdown in back-to-back games, and he continues to serve as a reliable target for rookie Dak Prescott. That said, Witten could have a little more trouble in Week 11 against the Ravens, who are giving up the second-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. Baltimore has much more trouble on the outside, so don't be surprised if Prescott looks the way of Dez Bryant often in this one.


Cameron Brate, TB (at KC)

Brate is certainly starting to make his mark both in real life and in fantasy with touchdowns in three straight weeks and five games of double-digit fantasy points over his last seven, but this isn’t the week to use him. The Chiefs haven’t allowed a tight end they’ve faced this season to post as many as 44 yards and only one (Greg Olsen last week) has more than three receptions in a game. I hate the Buccaneers’ offense this week, and that includes Brate.


Zach Ertz, PHI (at SEA)

He’s been looking good with 15 targets in his last two games, but now he’s playing a Seattle D with Kam Chancellor. A Seattle D that injured Rob Gronkowski with a single hit and leaves most mortal teams reeling. The Eagles don’t have the caliber of weapons that the Patriots possess or even the Bills, and so I expect Ertz to be shut down.




Kyle Rudolph, MIN (vs. ARI)

The Cardinals are the absolute best in the league when it comes to defending TEs. You’re basically missing Eric Ebron, Antonio Gates and Rob Gronkowski this week, so there should be plenty of options on the waiver wire, especially considering Rudolph’s usage (14 targets last few games) has gone since the Vikings made a switch at offensive coordinator. Rudolph is just too unpredictable right now, even after getting eight targets last week in the loss to Washington.


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

Why You Must Start Julian Edelman and Other WR/TE Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 11
Post date: Friday, November 18, 2016 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, syndicated, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-should-start-cj-prosise-and-other-rb-start-sit-fantasy-advice-week-11-2016

By this point in the fantasy season the running back landscape usually bears no resemblance to the preseason rankings. Injuries, depth chart changes and other various factors seem to affect RBs more than any other position in fantasy. Owners often have to get creative with their lineup decisions in order to squeeze out a few extra points every week.


On that note, we’ll take a look at which RBs you should start or consider sitting in Week 11. But first, let’s see if I was on the right rack with my Week 10 suggestions.


Good Calls...
Start Jordan Howard (8 fantasy points) – Howard is the only bright spot on the Bears as he had another 100 rushing yards (and a fumble) against Tampa Bay.


Sit all Minnesota RBs (10.8 FP combined) – Matt Asiata had a touchdown, but just 13 rushing yards. Jerick McKinnon didn’t do any better, finishing with 16 yards on the ground.


Bad Calls...

Sit LeGarrette Blount (24.9 FP) – Everyone thought Tom Brady would air it out against Seattle, but instead Blount found the end zone three times.


Start Jonathan Stewart (3.9 FP) – It looks like Cam Newton is back to running the ball and stealing all the goal-line carries too.


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


Teams on bye: Atlanta, Denver, New York Jets, San Diego


Running Backs




C.J. Prosise, SEA (vs. PHI)

Prosise was already playing a ton – and playing well – with Christine Michael on the roster, but he’s since been cut (and picked up by Green Bay), which is a ringing endorsement for the rookie’s involvement moving forward. Thomas Rawls should finally return this week after a lengthy absence because of a leg fracture, but you have to think he’s eased in, especially after Prosise racked up more than 150 total yards last week. The Eagles aren’t the easiest matchup in the world, but he should get plenty of touches in what has emerged as one of the best offenses in the league recently. Fire him up as a borderline RB1 in Week 11.


LeGarrette Blount, NE (at SF)

Let’s run the big guy out here two weeks in a row. Even with Rob Gronkowski expected to miss because of a reported punctured lung, the Patriots will have no problem pummeling the 49ers and Blount figures to have a big part in the beatdown. If Blount can punch it in three times against Seattle and already has 12 scores this season, we all need to accept the fact that he is going to get his every week now.


Spencer Ware, KC (vs. TB)

Ware returned to action last week and went back to his featured role, playing 40 snaps and seeing 16 touches against the Panthers. While he didn't post great numbers, the veteran is still a solid option ahead of a great matchup against Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers have more than 20 fantasy points per game to running backs.




James Starks, GB (at WAS)

Last week, Starks was playing in his first game following a lengthy absence due to a torn meniscus. Add in the fact that the Packers were down early and forced to air it out, which seemingly would have been perfect for Ty Montgomery's pass-catching skill set, and it wouldn't have been surprising to see Starks play on a limited basis. Instead, he played 71 percent of the snaps and received 10 touches. It doesn't make sense for the Packers to basically bench Montgomery, who has provided a spark to the offense, but for now, Starks is the clear lead back, and a matchup against a Washington defense that is 28th in the league in yards per carry allowed is one that even this struggling running game should be able to exploit.




Carlos Hyde, SF (vs. NE)

Once upon a time, Hyde was averaging an absurd 18.0 fantasy points per game over the first five weeks and seemed destined to have his best season as a pro and solidify his status as a locked-in RB1. Fast-forward to Week 11 – Hyde has missed two games due to injury and was plain useless in the other two, producing just 66 rushing yards on 27 carries. It shouldn’t get any better this week. The Patriots haven’t allowed more than 89 rushing yards to an opposing RB this season, and the game script for this one – with the 49ers most likely playing catch up for most of the game – is heavily against a good day for Hyde. He’s a flex option at best for me.


Ryan Mathews, PHI (at SEA)

Mathews turned in his best game of the season in Week 10, carving up the Falcons for 139 total yards, two touchdowns and a two-point conversion on 21 touches. But we've seen him have productive games before, only to see him play 20 percent of the snaps (if that many) in subsequent weeks. With Darren Sproles still playing a significant role, and Wendell Smallwood also involved, it's difficult to predict what head coach Doug Pederson will do with his backfield on any given week. Add in a matchup at CenturyLink Field against a Seahawks defense that is third in the NFL in yards per carry allowed, and you're pretty much banking on a short touchdown if you start Mathews.


T.J Yeldon and Chris Ivory, JAC (at DET)

They’re splitting carries right down the middle still, and they’re getting basically the same touches through the air. They can both be penciled in for about 10 carries and two receptions each. Ivory may or may not be the red zone back, and this is just a reminder that there have to be better options out there for you (Rob Kelley or even the Minnesota backs). The Jags’ tandem could have RB3 or RB4 potential in PPR leagues.




Todd Gurley, LA (vs. MIA)

I've had Gurley listed in this “warning” section for two straight weeks (14.6 combined fantasy points), and I'll continue to list him as such until he shows some signs of life. Next on the schedule is a tough matchup against the Dolphins, who have allowed a mere three rushing touchdowns and an average of 15.9 fantasy points per game to opposing RBs. Also don’t forget that Jared Goff will make his NFL debut in this game.


— 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.


(C.J. Prosise photo courtesy of

Why You Should Start C.J. Prosise and Other RB Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 11
Post date: Friday, November 18, 2016 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, syndicated, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-should-start-kirk-cousins-and-other-qb-dst-start-sit-fantasy-advice-week-11-2016

Bye weeks in the NFL are starting to wrap up, with just six teams on bye over the next three weeks, which is music to the ears of many fantasy owners. For quarterback purposes, the only relevant players that are off in Week 11 are Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers. If you don't have a backup, now is the time to go grab one.


As to which QBs and defense/special teams (DSTs) you should start or sit in Week 11, let’s first take a quick look at my Week 10 advice.


Good Calls...
Start Marcus Mariota (28.6 fantasy points) – Mariota and the Titans laid a big-time beating on the hapless Packers last week.


Start Jameis Winston (18.48 FP) – It takes Winston a while to get going, but you’ll take 300 passing yards and three TDs every week.


Bad Calls...
Sit Kirk Cousins (18.38 FP) – Cousins did a great job against what used to be the best defense in the league in the Vikings.


I warned you against starting Drew Brees (21.02 FP) against the Broncos and while it wasn’t easy, he still produced and you probably started him regardless.


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


Teams on bye: Atlanta, Denver, New York Jets, San Diego






Kirk Cousins, WAS (vs. GB)

Quietly performing like a QB1, Cousins ranks 10th at the position in fantasy points per game over the last five weeks (standard Yahoo! scoring) and that includes difficult matchups against the Cowboys, Steelers and Vikings, all of whom are top-11 defenses in terms of fantasy points allowed to QBs. Now, Cousins is at home against a Packers defense that was just torched by Marcus Mariota for 216 passing yards and three touchdowns – in the first half – and he should continue his strong play.


Marcus Mariota, TEN (at IND)

It’s time to run him back out there again. The Titans are playing their “exotic smashmouth football” to perfection and they’re tearing up weak defenses. Now they’re traveling to Indianapolis to face one of the worst defenses in the league, so it’s a lock that Mariota continues his high-scoring ways. He’s also surprisingly cheap in DFS.


Tyrod Talyor, BUF (at CIN)

Taylor has been one of the most underrated quarterbacks in fantasy land this season. He's scored no fewer than 18.1 fantasy points in four straight weeks, and a matchup against the Bengals makes him a solid option once again. Their defense has allowed about 20 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, so Taylor has a terrific shot to succeed.




Colin Kaepernick, SF (vs. NE)

Don't look now, but the often-maligned Kaepernick has turned in two top-10 fantasy QB finishes in a row, most recently throwing for 210 yards and a touchdown and adding 55 rushing yards and a score in what appeared to be a brutal matchup at Arizona. He's still not going to impress many people as a passer, but his rushing ability (57 ypg since taking over as the starter) increases his floor, and the Patriots have been inconsistent on defense.




Carson Palmer, ARI (at MIN)

Palmer's weekly QB finishes since Week 3: 29th, 23rd, 19th, 17th, 8th, 17th. He's hard to trust even in a favorable matchup (as we saw last week), let alone one on the road against a Vikings defense that has yet to allow a 300-yard passer and has given up multiple TD passes just three times all year.


Joe Flacco, BAL (at DAL)

Flacco, listed as a sleeper last week, finished with 22.1 fantasy points in a win over the Browns. Before you get too excited, however, look at his numbers on the road. In four games outside of Baltimore, Flacco has thrown two touchdown passes with six interceptions and has averaged 11.6 fantasy points. He needs to be on the fantasy bench this week.


Ryan Tannehill, MIA (at LA)

Tannehill put up a 9.6-point stinker against a bad Jets pass defense two weeks ago, and then he traveled across the country and had almost 20 fantasy points in San Diego. Go figure. Regardless, I still don't trust him for another California contest, this time against a Los Angeles defense that's given up 14.9 fantasy points per game to QBs.




Jameis Winston, TB (at KC)

The Chiefs are around the middle of the pack in fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs, but that number is slightly skewed by Ben Roethlisberger’s five TD passes back in Week 4. This defense is actually ninth in the NFL in passing yards per attempt allowed, and that's despite having to play the likes of Big Ben, Derek Carr, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton. Winston is playing well as of late, but facing a tough matchup in what will be the Bucs' first road game since Oct. 23 is a recipe for a letdown.


Defense/Special Teams (DSTs)




Miami Dolphins (at LA)

Jared Goff is making his first NFL start, so owners with the Dolphins DST should be excited about their prospects this week. Opposing DSTs had averaged the second-most fantasy points (10.6 ppg) when facing Los Angeles with Case Keenum at QB, and a lot of NFL folks don't think Goff is ready to handle the rigors of the NFL.


Kansas City Chiefs (vs. TB)

Kansas City has once again become the class of fantasy DSTs. Over the last four weeks, no unit has scored more fantasy points than the Chiefs (46). Their streak of solid production should continue against the Buccaneers, who rank in the top 10 in the league in terms of fantasy points allowed to DSTs this season.




Baltimore Ravens (at DAL)

The Ravens DST, listed as a start 'em last week, put up a solid 14 fantasy points in a win over the Browns. This week, however, Baltimore travels to Dallas to face Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and an explosive Cowboys offense that grinds defenses down and doesn't turn the ball over. Put the Ravens back on the waiver wire.


Philadelphia Eagles (at SEA)

The Eagles DST has cooled off in recent weeks, scoring a combined 12 fantasy points over the last three games. This comes after producing a combined 38 points in the previous two weeks. Philadelphia doesn't figure to reverse this trend in Seattle, as Russell Wilson and the Seahawks have been pretty tough on DSTs.


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

Why You Should Start Kirk Cousins and Other QB/DST Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 11
Post date: Friday, November 18, 2016 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-12-best-position-battles-watch-week-12-2016

There have been some stellar matchups throughout the college football season but we’re entering the home stretch for many conference title races around the country so this week’s action might mean just a little bit more between the lines. While there are a ton of interesting games from coast-to-coast between the names on the front of the jerseys, it’s the one-on-ones between the names on the back of the jerseys that are even juicier.


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


1. San Diego State RB Donnel Pumphrey vs. Wyoming RB Brian Hill

These two won’t face off against each other at the same time but it’s hard to overlook the rare opportunity to catch the No. 1 and No. 3 rushers in all of FBS in the same game. Add in likely Group of Five bid implications and this Mountain West showdown is certainly worth tuning in to see what these terrific tailbacks can do.


2. USC OT Zach Banner vs. UCLA DL Takkarist McKinley

UCLA is one of the most disappointing teams in the country but the team’s defense has still played remarkably well up front in part because McKinley — No. 2 in the nation in sacks — has been just about everywhere when you flip on the film. It should be fun to see him square off against USC and a mammoth offensive tackle like Banner, who is hoping to give young quarterback Sam Darnold plenty of time to pick apart the Trojans’ crosstown rival.


3. Florida WR Antonio Callaway vs. LSU CB Tre’Davious White

This week’s LSU/Florida matchup also features two ex-Purdue quarterbacks and multiple first-round defensive backs — probably not a great combination. Still, Callaway is the top threat in the passing game for the Gators and a game-breaker as a returner. He’ll have his hands full trying to get past White, who also can take a punt to the house.


4. Houston LBs Matthew Adams and Steven Taylor vs. Louisville QB Lamar Jackson (Thurs.)

Lamar Jackson is about as close as you can get to being a lock for the Heisman Trophy but he has one last test left in a mid-week classic at Houston. Trying to prevent him from putting up big numbers and getting a win that could impress the CFP Selection Committee is the Cougars’ linebacker duo of Adams and Taylor.


5. Colorado DBs Chidobe Awuzie and Tedric Thompson vs. Washington State QB Luke Falk and WR Gabe Marks

If you’re looking for why Colorado has suddenly ascended into the top 10 and is a Pac-12 title contender, look no further than the Buffaloes’ huge jump up on defense, led in part by their secondary. This group will have its hands full though as Falk and Marks are one of the best QB-WR tandems in the Pac-12.


6. Virginia Tech DE Ken Ekanem vs. Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey

There’s not a ton left for Notre Dame to play for but you can bet the Irish want to extend their hopes at getting to a bowl game by closing out the home schedule with a win against Virginia Tech. McGlinchey returned to South Bend in part for battles like this one against Ekanem, who is tied for the team lead in sacks and is a terror off the edge.


7. West Virginia DB Rasul Douglas vs. Oklahoma WR Dede Westbrook

Westbrook has led an all-out assault on Big 12 defenses the past two months and turned himself into the Biletnikoff Award favorite as a result. He’ll have more trouble than usual against the Mountaineers’ stingy pass defense however, who will have Douglas looking to prevent any sort of big play.


8. Washington LB Keishawn Bierria, DBs Budda Baker and Sidney Jones vs. Arizona State RB Kalen Ballage, WRs Tim White and N’Keal Harry

It has not been a great season for Arizona State but the Sun Devils’ offense can still produce points in a hurry with their trio of big-play threats. They’ll be tested against a Washington defense that is the best in the Pac-12 but is looking to regroup after the Huskies’ first loss of the season.


9. Louisville LB Devonte Fields and CB Jaire Alexander vs. Houston QB Greg Ward Jr. (Thurs.)

Alexander has five interceptions on the season and really made the jump as one of the ACC’s best cornerbacks this season. He’ll team up with Fields, who has five sacks as the best pass rusher on the team, to try and help contain the Cougars’ dual-threat quarterback looking for another top-five win.


10. Michigan State RB LJ Scott vs. Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillan

It’s been miserable in East Lansing this season as the Spartans have gone from a College Football Playoff participant to out of the postseason in just one year. Scott has had to grind for yards even more than usual as a result of the team’s offensive struggles and if the Spartans harbor any hope of pulling off an improbable upset for the second season in a row, he’ll need to break off some big plays past the Buckeyes’ tackling machine.


11. Cal WR Chad Hansen vs. Stanford DB Quenton Meeks

Meeks is in the running for one of the best cornerbacks west of the Mississippi but faces one of his biggest tests since returning from injury this week in the annual Big Game against Cal. Hansen also has been slowed by injuries this season but is still one of the best in the Pac-12 at route running and making tough catches in traffic.


12. West Virginia DE Noble Nwachukwu vs. Oklahoma OT Orlando Brown

Nwachukwu missed West Virginia’s game at Texas with a leg injury but should be good to go this week for the team’s big showdown with Oklahoma. The Mountaineers’ defense doesn’t get a ton of pressure via the blitz so they’ll need for their star end to find a way around Oklahoma’s stone wall of a tackle in Brown.


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

College Football's 12 Best Position Battles to Watch in Week 12
Post date: Thursday, November 17, 2016 - 17:30
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-state-cowboys-vs-tcu-horned-frogs-game-preview-and-prediction-2016

While most are focused on the big Oklahoma-West Virginia tilt in Morgantown on Saturday night, it’s actually Oklahoma State (8-2. 6-1 Big 12) who controls its destiny in the Big 12 championship race. Winners of their last six games, including a 17-point victory over the Mountaineers, the Cowboys need to beat TCU this weekend and the Sooners on Dec. 3 to secure, at minimum, a spot in one of the New Year’s Six bowls.


Standing in the way of Oklahoma State this Saturday are the Horned Frogs, who have underachieved and still need one win to become bowl eligible. TCU (5-4, 3-3) righted the ship somewhat two weeks ago with a dominating 62-22 road victory at Baylor after losing its previous two games.


Oklahoma State at TCU


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FS1

Spread: TCU -4.5


Three Things to Watch


1. TCU has to limit turnovers

TCU enters this contest minus-2 in turnover margin. While that is not terrible it could play a significant factor in this game. By comparison, Oklahoma State has produced a plus-8 turnover margin in 10 games thus far.


TCU’s Kenny Hill has been inconsistent throughout much of this season, as evidenced by his 10 interceptions compared to 14 touchdown passes. He will need to make smart decisions against a defense that leads the Big 12 with 11 interceptions.


2. The first team to break 30 points may win
Both defenses come into this contest giving up fewer than 30 points per game. Oklahoma State may have the slight edge in scoring offense (41.3 ppg vs. 37.4), but TCU’s defense has the edge, statistically speaking, on the other side of the ball. The Horned Frogs and Cowboys are neck-and-neck in scoring defense (29.2 to 29.3 ppg), but TCU is allowing 41 fewer yards per game on the season (410.2 vs. 451.2).


From a scoring standpoint, Oklahoma State is 0-2 when it scores fewer than 30 points. If TCU can put forth at least an average performance on defense, the Horned Frogs will increase their chances of winning this game.


3. History gives the nod to TCU
The home team has won every game between these two teams since TCU joined the Big 12 in 2012. Since three of the four have been played in Stillwater that’s why Oklahoma State leads the relatively new conference rival 3-1, and it’s why the Horned Frogs could have an advantage on Saturday.


However, TCU is just 1-3 at Amon G. Carter Stadium this season, with losses to Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Both of Oklahoma State’s losses have come away from home (at Central Michigan, at Baylor), so it’s not like the Cowboys have been road warriors this season either.


So history is somewhat in the Frogs’ favor even though they have struggled at home, but Oklahoma State hasn’t exactly been a great road team. Either the status quo will continue or someone is going to buck a trend in this game.


Final Analysis


Both teams are playing well right now, Oklahoma State’s six-game winning streak and TCU’s recent dismantling of Baylor each impressive in its own right.


While scoring points has not been a problem for either offense this season there are variables that both teams possess that will cause problems for the other.


The Horned Frogs are second in the Big 12 in sacks with 34 or about four per game. Oklahoma State is second to last in the conference in sacks allowed with 27. Advantage TCU?


The Horned Frogs are dead last in the conference in red zone defense, allowing a score of 34 of 37 such trips (91.9 percent). The Cowboys are fifth in red zone offense, scoring on 48 of 55 (87.3 percent) visits inside their opponents’ 20-yard line. Advantage Oklahoma State?


You can go on and on with these comparisons proving only that this game will be almost too close to call. With that said you have to go with recent history and that is in the Horned Frogs’ favor. TCU will be the first to 30 points and become bowl eligible this weekend.


Prediction: TCU 31, Oklahoma State 28


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

Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. TCU Horned Frogs Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, November 17, 2016 - 11:40
Path: /college-football/virginia-cavaliers-vs-georgia-tech-yellow-jackets-preview-and-prediction-2016

Georgia Tech picked up its biggest win of the season last week, beating then No. 14 Virginia Tech 30-20 in Blacksburg. The Yellow Jackets (6-4, 3-4 ACC) rushed for 309 yards and three touchdowns as they won their sixth game to become bowl eligible a season after finishing 3-9. They will try to win their seventh game on Senior Day as they host Virginia.


Virginia (2-8, 1-5) was drilled by Miami 34-14 last week in Charlottesville. Quarterback Kurt Benkert was sacked five times, while the Hurricanes piled up 222 rushing yards.


Saturday will be the 39th meeting between these two longtime ACC foes. The Yellow Jackets hold a slim 19-18-1 advantage in the series, which dates back to 1965. In last year’s meeting, Virginia running back Albert Reid’s 24-yard touchdown gave the Cavaliers the 27-21 win at Scott Stadium.


Virginia at Georgia Tech


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 12:30 p.m ET
TV: ACC Network/ESPN3
Spread: Georgia Tech -10.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Georgia Tech rushing attack
Obviously, the key to any triple-option offense is an excellent running game. Georgia Tech certainly has that and Virginia will have a tough time slowing down Paul Johnson’s stable of ball carriers.


The Yellow Jackets are ranked 11th in the FBS in rushing offense at 266.4 yards per game. Quarterback Justin Thomas, who is the team’s second-leading rusher, missed the Virginia Tech game due to an upper-body injury, but backup Matthew Jordan filled in admirably. Jordan finished with 121 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the upset of the Hokies.


Virginia also will have to find a way to contain B-Back Marcus Marshall, who ran for 143 yards and a touchdown last Saturday.


2. Matt Johns
In an effort to give Virginia a spark on offense, head coach Bronco Mendenhall has benched quarterback Kurt Benkert and named backup Matt Johns the starter against Georgia Tech. Johns started all 12 games for the Cavaliers last season, throwing for 20 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He lost his job to Benkert, a graduate transfer from East Carolina, during preseason camp.


The reason Mendenhall is making the change at quarterback is because Benkert has turned the ball over a number of times this season. Benkert’s 11 interceptions are second only to Deshaun Watson's 13 in the ACC, but the Clemson star has thrown for nearly 600 more yards and seven more touchdowns. In the last two games alone, Benkert has been sacked 10 times and some of those were because he held the ball too long.


Johns hasn’t played a lot this season as he is just 5-for-9 passing for 77 yards and a touchdown. With Virginia just 2-8, Mendenhall is hoping that Johns can help put an end to the Cavaliers’ six-game losing streak.


3. Lawrence Austin
A junior nickel back, Austin was named ACC Defensive Back of the Week following an impressive performance against Virginia Tech. He was responsible for three of Georgia Tech’s four takeaways in the big win, intercepting two passes and recovering a fumble.


Austin became the first Yellow Jacket with two picks in a game since Jemea Thomas did it in 2011 against Clemson. On the season, Austin has 31 tackles, three interceptions and a forced fumble.


Final Analysis


In last season’s win over Georgia Tech, Virginia quarterback Matt Johns played a decent game, finishing 17-of-28 for 175 yards with a touchdown and an interception. With Johns back in as the starter under center in place of Kurt Benkert, Cavaliers head coach Bronco Mendenhall is hoping for a similar spark on offense in hopes of ending a six-game losing streak.


Georgia Tech should have Justin Thomas back at quarterback, as the senior has been the Yellow Jackets’ best player this season. That’s bad news for a Virginia defense that has given up 179.2 rushing yards per game. Georgia Tech should have a lot of success on the ground on its way to a seventh victory.


Prediction: Georgia Tech 34, Virginia 17


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

Virginia Cavaliers vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, November 17, 2016 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/miami-hurricanes-vs-nc-state-wolfpack-preview-and-prediction-2016

The Miami Hurricanes’ 2016 season has been a tale of streaks. First, the team got off to a 4-0 start under new head coach Mark Richt. But that was followed by a four-game losing streak at which point many questioned whether Miami would even play in a bowl game.


Since losing a close one at Notre Dame on Oct. 29, the Hurricanes have won their past two games to make them bowl eligible. Now Miami (6-4, 3-3 ACC) has a chance to impress bowl committees with a strong showing on the road in Raleigh against NC State this Saturday.


The Wolfpack (5-5, 2-4) still need one more victory to become bowl eligible and are coming off of a 35-20 win against Syracuse. Matt Dayes powered the NC State offense against the Orange, rushing for 108 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries.


Saturday will be the 14th time Miami and NC State have played each other. The Hurricanes hold an 8-5-1 edge. The last time Miami visited Carter-Finley Stadium was in 2008 when NC State quarterback Russell Wilson threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another one as the Wolfpack defeated the Hurricanes 38-28.


Miami at NC State


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 12:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ACC Network/ESPN3

Spread: Miami -3


Three Things to Watch


1. Matt Dayes
On Saturday, Dayes will play his final home game for the Wolfpack. One of the best running backs to play for NC State, Dayes has a chance to break some records if he can find running room against Miami’s defense.


Dayes needs 61 yards to become the first NC State running back with 1,000 in a season since 2002 when T.A. McClendon accomplished the feat. Dayes is currently third in the ACC in rushing (behind Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Florida State’s Dalvin Cook) with 939 yards.


More than half of Dayes’ yards have come after contact, so the Hurricanes will have their hands full trying to bring down the Wolfpack’s best player.


2. Miami’s pass rush
In last week’s 34-14 win over Virginia, the Hurricanes sacked quarterback Kurt Benkert five times, including a strip sack by defensive back Corn Elder, which was recovered by Joe Jackson. If Miami is going to come away with the victory on the road, the Canes must put a lot of pressure on NC State quarterback Ryan Finley.


Last week against Syracuse, Finley finished 20-of-29 for 340 yards and a touchdown. During NC State’s recent four-game losing streak, Finley was sacked an average of three times per game, so pass protection will be one of the keys for the Wolfpack in this one. On the other side, look for Miami to do whatever is necessary to get after Finley and disrupt NC State’s passing game.


3. NC State’s rushing defense
Miami has three running backs in Mark Walton, Joseph Yearby and Gus Edwards that break off a big gain at any point. This week, that three-headed rushing attack will be tested going up against a stout NC State defense.


Coming into Saturday’s game, the Wolfpack are an impressive fourth in the nation in rushing defense, giving up just 99.4 rushing yards per game. And this is after facing the likes of Louisville, Clemson and Florida State. Miami ran all over Virginia last week, to the tune of 222 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 5.3 yards per carry.


If NC State continues its good work against the run, then the Hurricanes will have to turn to quarterback Brad Kaaya and the passing game to move the ball and produce some points.


Final Analysis


While the Miami-NC State game isn’t generating a lot of buzz because both teams are unranked, it should be one of the most exciting matchups on Saturday. Both teams can put up a lot of points and each one has playmakers on the defensive side of the ball.


Miami’s offensive line has performed much better in the last two games. Brad Kaaya has been sacked just twice in the wins over Pittsburgh and Virginia, compared to when he was taken down 18 times during the Hurricanes’ four-game losing streak.


If Kaaya has time to throw, he should be able to exploit the NC State secondary, which is part of the 84th-ranked passing defense in the FBS. The Wolfpack will be able to keep it close because of their defense and running back Matt Dayes, but Miami should have enough to pull off the close win on the road.


Prediction: Miami 31, NC State 28


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

Miami Hurricanes vs. NC State Wolfpack Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, November 17, 2016 - 11:20
Path: /college-football/kansas-state-wildcats-vs-baylor-bears-preview-and-prediction-2016

Aside from the best head coach in Baylor history getting canned earlier this season, the Bears suffered a probation-like level of attrition in the wake of a sexual assault scandal that engulfed the program. As the season has worn on, the personnel hits have started taking their toll on the team’s performance. They’ve lost three straight games and have a realistic shot at finishing the season on a six-game losing streak.


Whatever happens in the next three games, the Bears will have to do it without quarterback Seth Russell, who suffered a severe leg injury last week against Oklahoma.


If all that’s not enough, Kansas State’s wizard in residence, Bill Snyder, had an extra week to prepare for this game. The Wildcats will look to make Baylor their bowl-clinching sixth win of the year.


Kansas State at Baylor


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Spread: Kansas State -2.5


1. Has Baylor Quit?
Baylor has the equivalent of a substitute teacher for a head coach. The assistants will all be looking for new jobs in a couple of weeks. The starting quarterback may never play football again. The school’s all-time rushing leader sat out last week with attitude issues.


None of that sounds like a functional team at the moment.


2. Keeping it Simple for Zach Smith
Even though he didn’t look ready to be the man, the Bears’ second-string quarterback made a few nice throws in relief of Russell against Oklahoma. However, offensive coordinator Kendal Briles can’t load the freshman down with too much against the crafty Wildcats, who will have a game plan in place intended to keep Smith confused.


3. Finding a Threat for KSU at Receiver
The Wildcats have thrown a grand total of eight touchdown passes this season. They’re gaining a measly 6.1 yards per throw. This facet of the offense isn’t keeping defensive coordinators up at night.


After nine games, if Bill Snyder hasn’t found reliable contributors out wide yet, he likely won’t this year.


Final Analysis


Setting aside the fact that these teams are playing in Waco, nothing about this matchup bodes well for Baylor. The Bears’ season is setting up as an epic limp to the finish line.


Kansas State’s patience on offense and flexible defense also present a challenge for a team that prefers to keep things moving.


The Wildcats’ style of play precludes the possibility of a blowout win (or loss). More likely, they will wear down a frustrated Baylor squad with their running game and a defense that won’t allow BU wideouts Ishmael Zamora and KD Cannon to get behind them.


Meanwhile, at the contest’s conclusion, the Bears will be able to take solace in the fact that they are one game closer to playing out the string.


Prediction: Kansas State 30, Baylor 24


— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.

Kansas State Wildcats vs. Baylor Bears Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, November 17, 2016 - 11:10
Path: /college-football/iowa-hawkeyes-vs-illinois-fighting-illini-preview-and-prediction-2016

Things got very real, very fast in the race to the finish line for the 2016 college football regular season as three of the top four teams lost last Saturday. To the surprise of many observers, Iowa was back in the thick of that excitement for the first time all season as they reached back to 1985, and beat No. 3 Michigan 14-13 on a walk-off field goal.


Illinois didn't fare nearly as well as against its top-10 opponent, No. 7 Wisconsin, however. The Badgers treated the Illini to an old fashioned beating behind the woodshed in Madison, in the form of a 48-3 romp.


This will be the 72nd meeting of the teams, with Illinois holding a 38-31-2 advantage in a series that dates back to 1899. Iowa has won seven of the past eight meetings and is 3-1 in its last four visits to Champaign.


Iowa at Illinois


Kickoff: Saturday, Jan. 19 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Big Ten Network

Spread: Iowa -9.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Offensive malaise on both sides of the field
Both these teams enter Saturday's matchup in the bottom of the Big Ten offensive rankings. Iowa checks in at No. 11 in scoring (25.1 points per game) with Illinois just a few spots behind at No. 13 (21.3 ppg).


Last week against Michigan, Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard was just 8-for-16 for a grand total of 66 yards. Fortunately, running back Akrum Wadley put the offense on his shoulders, as he accounted for 167 all-purpose yards (115 rushing, 52 receiving) with an assist to an improved Hawkeyes offensive line.


2. Hawkeye letdown or meltdown?
Iowa had big hopes at the start of the season as it eyed a repeat Big Ten West Division title. Those hopes began to crumble early, however, in a series of devastating home losses (North Dakota State, Northwestern, Wisconsin) in which the expected strengths of the team turned into liabilities.


Suddenly, however, Kinnick Stadium's pink locker room once again got the best of Jim Harbaugh and his Michigan Wolverines, albeit in a real offensive snoozer.


Hawkeyes have lost just one game on the road this season (Penn State) though, and Champaign, Ill., may be as close to Indianapolis as they will get this season. And for that reason alone, the Illini ought to be ready for a game played from the opening kickoff all the way until the final seconds tick off the clock.


3. Illini’s red zone efficiency
While Illinois’ offense hasn’t enjoyed much success in any one statistical category this season, there has been a small glimmer of hope when the Illini have been able to get the ball into scoring position.


Illinois ranks second to last in the Big Ten in total red zone opportunities (26), but it has converted 21 of those into points. That scoring percentage of 80.8 places them a respectable seventh in the conference. The Illini have a 2:1 touchdown-to-field goal ratio (14:7) inside the red zone, and for the season sophomore kicker Chase McLaughlin has been pretty reliable, connecting on 12 of his 16 attempts (75 percent, tied for sixth in Big Ten).


Of course it all comes down to how generous Iowa’s defense is should Illinois find itself in the red zone. And to that end, the Hawkeyes enter this game ranked third in the Big Ten in red zone efficiency (71.9 percent). Once again, points could be hard to come by for Illinois.


Final Analysis


As long as Iowa can avoid a mental letdown after an emotional home win over No. 3 Michigan, this game doesn't look to be the “trap game” many might expect with the Hawkeyes’ annual Heroes Trophy matchup on Black Friday against the No. 18 Nebraska Cornhuskers looming. At least not on paper.


But Illinois has had very little to celebrate this season, and the Iowa game is always big in Champaign. So could there be an upset brewing?


Not likely this time around. The Hawkeyes have been inconsistent for much of the year, but even in tough losses have shown improvements. This game might just be the showcase of offensive firepower they've been wanting in Iowa City as they gear up for a big home battle next Friday.


Prediction: Iowa 33, Illinois 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.

Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, November 17, 2016 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/wisconsin-badgers-vs-purdue-boilermakers-preview-and-prediction-2016

Wisconsin can take one more step toward a Big Ten West Division championship this weekend on the road in West Lafayette, Ind., against Purdue. The Badgers are sitting in a comfortable spot in the division with two games to play and are now starting to sniff a berth in the College Football Playoff. Looking to keep that momentum going forward, the Badgers look to secure a road win against a struggling program and avoid a slow start.


Wisconsin at Purdue


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Wisconsin -28


Three Things to Watch


1. Big Ten’s best rushing defense vs. Big Ten’s worst rushing offense
No team in the Big Ten has performed as well against the run this season as Wisconsin. The Badgers have allowed 101 rushing yards per game this season, and they have held each of their two most recent opponents (and three of the last four) to fewer than 100 yards on the ground. That includes 39 rushing yards by Northwestern. Only four teams have scored on the ground against Wisconsin this season as well. Wisconsin should thrive in taking away the run against Purdue, with the Boilermakers ranked last in the Big Ten in rushing offense. Good luck, Purdue.


2. Wisconsin runs the ball well too, and Purdue can’t stop the run
Let’s reverse the situation here, and it still is a massive mismatch in favor of the Badgers. Wisconsin has the Big Ten’s fourth-leading running game with an average of 198.7 rushing yards per game. Senior running back Corey Clement has rushed for 928 yards and 10 touchdowns and is third in the conference in rushing yards per game. Clement should have a big day on the ground as Purdue is giving up 248.0 rushing yards per game. Penn State’s Saquon Barkley just ran for 207 yards against the Boilermakers two weeks ago. Clement could potentially have the same stat line, unless the Badgers spread the ball around.


3. Wisconsin has not lost to Purdue since 2003
Purdue pulling an upset of the Badgers would be quite a shock for any number of reasons. History would certainly be one of them, although it has no tangible impact on the game this season. The Boilermakers have not celebrated a win against Wisconsin since 2003. Wisconsin has won the last 10 meetings. That streak should be expected to continue for at least one more year.


Final Analysis


To put it simply, this is a complete mismatch between one program that is looking to make a push to get into the College Football Playoff and another with an interim head coach just looking to find building pieces to use for a rebuilding project. The Badgers could probably name their score in this one, especially if they are looking to come up with some style points for the selection committee. Or Wisconsin could take it relatively easy and just stick to the ground to run the clock as much as needed to get out of West Lafayette with a win.


Prediction: Wisconsin 38, Purdue 13


— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.

Wisconsin Badgers vs. Purdue Boilermakers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, November 17, 2016 - 10:50
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-buckeyes-vs-michigan-state-spartans-preview-and-prediction-2016

Fresh off consecutive 62-3 victories over Nebraska and Maryland, Ohio State will travel to East Lansing to battle Michigan State. The Buckeyes have revenge on their collective minds, as the Spartans were the lone team in 2015 to defeat them, winning on a last-second field goal by Michael Geiger, 17-14. Despite winning every other game on their schedule that season, the Buckeyes were not included in the College Football Playoff, denying them the opportunity to successfully defend their 2014 national championship.


Michigan State enters this game, far removed from the successes the Spartans have enjoyed over the previous seasons. Last week’s 49-0 shutout of Rutgers snapped Michigan State’s seven-game losing streak, meaning the Spartans won’t be going to a bowl this season. Even at 3-7, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio, his staff, players, and fans will be eager and anxious to play spoilers to Ohio State's season once again.


Ohio State at Michigan State


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Ohio State -23


Three Things to Watch


1. Ohio State's Running Game vs. Michigan State's Rush Defense
Spartans head coach Mike Dantonio announced earlier this week that standout defensive lineman Malik McDowell may miss the game against Ohio State, which would be his second in a row. Ohio State's offense is built around its power running game, spearheaded by redshirt freshman Mike Weber, junior Curtis Samuel and redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett. In last year's victory over the Buckeyes, the Spartans were able to clamp down on Ohio State ball carriers. Will the result be the same, if McDowell is not in the lineup? Throw in the weather forecast that calls for it to be windy and raining at kickoff in East Lansing, and the Buckeyes may prefer to stay grounded to minimize any chances of turnovers or dropped passes.


2. Michigan State's Passing Game vs. Ohio State's Secondary
Michigan State has gone back to Tyler O'Connor at quarterback, after losing Brian Lewerke to injury against Michigan on Oct. 21. O'Connor seemed to regain some consistency in the win over Rutgers, throwing for three touchdowns in the first half alone and finishing with no interceptions. Ohio State prides itself on the play of their secondary with Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conley, Damon Webb and Malik Hooker all the types of players capable of capitalizing upon turnovers and turning them into points. Will Michigan State adopt a more conservative offensive approach against this ball-hawking secondary?


3. Special Teams Play
As stated above, the weather forecast calls for windy and rainy conditions during the game. As both teams will probably look to keep things on the ground, the battle for field position will be at a premium. Blocked punts, shanked punts, poor coverage on kickoff or punt returns, and fumbled punts may all wind up being the difference in this game.


Final Analysis


Beware Mark Dantonio and his wounded Spartans team. A master motivator, Dantonio will summon the collective pride of his team, reminding so many on his roster who are Ohioans that the Buckeyes did not deem them worthy of scholarship offers. Running back LJ Scott, offensive lineman Noah Listermann and cornerback Justin Layne were all recruited by Ohio State yet chose Michigan State. Michael Geiger, who kicked the game-winning field goal last year in Ohio Stadium, hails from the Buckeye State as well. Spartan starters center Benny McGowan, quarterback Tyler O'Connor, defensive end Robert Bowers, linebacker Andrew Dowell, linebacker Chris Frey, and cornerback Darian Hicks all came from Ohio, but were not offered scholarships by Ohio State. Dantonio will be preaching about respect and pride, while Urban Meyer will be reminding his team that the Spartans are once again looking to deny the Buckeyes of their goal of a national championship. The Las Vegas oddsmakers must know something, but this point spread seems awfully substantial for a game that traditionally is very close.


Prediction: Ohio State 31, Michigan State 17


— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Michigan State Spartans Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, November 17, 2016 - 10:40
Path: /college-football/maryland-terrapins-vs-nebraska-cornhuskers-preview-and-prediction

One week ago, we were wondering whether or not Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong would play against Minnesota due to a head injury suffered a week earlier. Well, here we are again, wondering whether or not the Cornhuskers' signal-caller will be taking the field against Maryland — this time due to a hamstring issue. Nebraska needed 100 percent of Armstrong's abilities to knock off the Gophers. Heading into this weekend, it is almost certain that Armstrong — if he plays — won't be anywhere near 100 percent. That's unfortunate, as Nebraska is very much alive in the Big Ten West race. The Huskers need some help from at least one other team, but a glimmer of hope remains.


On the other side of the field, it's been a largely forgettable first season for Maryland head coach DJ Durkin. Back-to-back blowout losses against Michigan and Ohio State have reminded the Terrapins of their current position in the Big Ten pecking order. That said, the prospect of facing a Nebraska team that could either be without or with a shell of its best player must look pretty good for Maryland right now. Durkin's squad only needs one win to become bowl eligible in 2016, and you can bet Maryland would like to secure a spot in the postseason on Saturday and head into next weekend's matchup with Rutgers with much less pressure.


Maryland at Nebraska


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPNews

Spread: Nebraska -13.5


Three Things to Watch


1. The quarterback position for Nebraska

Will Tommy Armstrong play? If he does, how much of a running threat will he be? His legs give the Nebraska offense another level on offense. If he's not as mobile as normal — or worse yet for Nebraska — doesn't play at all, the challenge just got a little easier for Maryland's defense. Ryker Fyfe, Nebraska's assumed backup quarterback, does not have anywhere near the mobility and athleticism that Armstrong possesses. The Terrapins would not need to account for another big-play threat in the Husker backfield.


2. The Nebraska receivers vs. Maryland's secondary

The Huskers have one of the top receiving corps in the Big Ten. Regardless of who is under center for Nebraska, Maryland is going to have its hands full all day. If the Terps can prevent big plays over the top early, it will force Nebraska to stick what what figures to be a fairly vanilla rushing attack. Additionally, Maryland may not have a ton of interceptions on the year, but getting open against the Terps can be easier said than done. If the Husker receivers struggle in that department, it will make life more difficult for what appears to be a fairly immobile quarterback — especially if Maryland brings a heavy pass rush.


3. Can Maryland move the ball on the ground?

The Terrapins have a fairly underrated and dynamic stable of backs. I can see them keeping fresh legs in the game in an attempt to control the clock and keep the ball away from Nebraska's dangerous offense. The Huskers give up 4.4 yards per rush — placing them in the bottom half of the nation statistically. If Maryland head coach DJ Durkin finds a week spot in that Nebraska front seven, he'll attack it until the Blackshirts can prove they can stop the Terps.


Final Analysis


I see this game going a bit like the Michigan-Iowa contest did a week ago. I just don't know how good Nebraska can be without Tommy Amrstrong under center and fully healthy. The Cornhuskers have playmakers, but a lot of their opportunities are created because of the extra attention Armstrong draws. When Maryland has the ball, I think the Terrapins have puncher's chance to set the tone on the ground and shorten this game with the running back duo of Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison. Look for Durkin to out-coach Mike Riley in this one and pull off the upset with a low-scoring, close win.


Prediction: Maryland 20, Nebraska 17


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

Maryland Terrapins vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, November 17, 2016 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/florida-gators-vs-lsu-tigers-preview-and-prediction-2016

The stakes are high in the SEC and for bowl positioning when Florida heads to Baton Rouge on Saturday to take on LSU. These two teams were originally scheduled to meet on Oct. 8, but Hurricane Matthew postponed LSU’s trip to Gainesville. After a back-and-forth on how this game should be scheduled and played, these two teams had to pay a buyout to South Alabama (LSU) and Presbyterian (Florida) in order for this game to be rescheduled for Nov. 19. There are some hard feelings between the two programs after the back-and-forth on rescheduling and the cancelation from early October. However, none of that matters now, as Florida is chasing a SEC East title and LSU is pushing for a berth in the Sugar Bowl.


With a win on Saturday, Florida will clinch its second consecutive trip to the SEC Championship. The Gators moved into the driver’s seat after Tennessee’s loss to South Carolina, but a defeat on Saturday would put the Volunteers in control once again. Florida has struggled to find the right answers on offense this season, but the defense is once again one of the best in the nation. Coach Jim McElwain’s team suffered defeats at the hands of Arkansas (31-10) and Tennessee (38-28) and closes the year with two tough road trips – at Baton Rouge this Saturday and the finale in Tallahassee against Florida State.


LSU’s season took an interesting turn after the 18-13 loss to Auburn on Sept. 24. Coach Les Miles was dismissed, with assistant Ed Orgeron promoted to interim coach. Orgeron promised changes to the offense, and despite a 10-0 loss against Alabama, the Tigers have played better on that side of the ball since September. Orgeron is building a case for the full-time job and last week’s win over Arkansas certainly helps. Following a loss to Alabama in 2014 and again in 2015, LSU dropped its next game against the Razorbacks and motivation appeared to be an issue for this program. However, Orgeron rallied the team and scored an impressive win in Fayetteville. With Florida and Texas A&M remaining, Orgeron has two more chances to build his resume for the full-time role.


Florida holds a slight 31-28-3 series edge over LSU. The Gators and Tigers have met in every year since 1971, and the overall momentum in this series has shifted in recent years. Florida dominated LSU in the 1990s, while the Tigers have claimed five out of the last six meetings.


Florida at LSU


Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 1 p.m. ET

TV Channel: SEC Network

Spread: LSU -13.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Florida’s Defensive Line Against LSU’s Ground Game

It’s a battle of strength versus strength when LSU’s offensive line and ground game takes on Florida’s defensive line. The Gators have limited SEC rushing attacks to just 3.7 yards per carry and opposing offenses have managed only seven scores against this unit in 2016. While coordinator Geoff Collins has one of the nation’s best defensive fronts in place, this unit has taken a few hits in the injury department. Linebacker Alex Anzalone is out for the year due to an arm injury, linebacker Jarrad Davis is out due to ankle injury, and defensive lineman Bryan Cox is not expected to play due to an ankle injury. The losses of Anzalone, Davis and Cox are significant, as all three players were starters. The depth on the defensive line is good enough to absorb the loss of Cox. Tackle Caleb Brantley is a standout on the interior, with Jabari Zuniga (five sacks), Jordan Sherit (3.5 sacks) and CeCe Jefferson (also dealing with an injury but has a good chance to play) anchoring the edges. The losses of Davis and Anzalone prompted freshmen David Reese and Kylan Johnson to step into starting roles in the front seven.


While Florida’s run defense has been stout all year, this unit is going to be tested by one of the nation’s best ground attacks. Leonard Fournette has been dealing with ankle injuries throughout the 2016 campaign, but the junior still has 803 rushing yards and eight scores on 117 attempts. Adding to the impressive totals in limited action is a healthy 6.86 yards per carry for Fournette. Backup and rising star Derrius Guice – 881 yards and nine scores – is only a sophomore and is poised to be one of the SEC’s top players on offense next season. LSU’s offensive line has been dealing with injuries too over the last few weeks but has cleared the way for rushers to record at least 300 yards in two out of the last three games.


The gameplan is pretty simple for LSU. Expect the Tigers to get Fournette and Guice plenty of attempts early on to test the rebuilt front seven for Florida’s defense. Considering the talent in the secondary, the Gators can probably devote an extra defender into the box to stop the run. If Florida can slow down Fournette and Guice, then coach Jim McElwain’s team will have a good shot to pull off the upset.


Related: Predictions for Every College Football Game in Week 12


2. LSU QB Danny Etling Against Florida’s Secondary

In an odd twist surrounding the signal-callers in this game, LSU’s Danny Etling and Florida’s Austin Appleby are both transfers from Purdue. Appleby was promoted to the starting job after an injury to Luke Del Rio, while Etling earned the starting job after Brandon Harris struggled early in the 2016 season. Etling hasn’t been flashy, but he’s doing just enough to keep the offense moving. The junior completed 10 of 16 passes for 157 yards in last week’s win over Arkansas and went 19 of 28 for 204 yards and one touchdown against Ole Miss on Oct. 22. Although Etling passed both of those tests within the SEC, he struggled (11 of 24 for 92 yards) against Alabama. Florida’s secondary represents another tough challenge for Etling. The Gators rank first in the SEC in pass efficiency defense and have allowed only six passing scores all year. Etling doesn’t need to throw for 300 yards or carry the team on his back. However, if Florida finds a way to slow down Fournette and Guice, can the junior make enough throws to keep the defense off balance? Considering the way LSU is running the ball, it may not matter. However, the concerns about the passing game still remain.


3. Florida QB Austin Appleby

With Luke Del Rio sidelined indefinitely due to a shoulder injury, McElwain handed the keys to the offense to Appleby once again. The Purdue transfer started two games earlier this season, completing 23 of 39 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns against Tennessee on Sept. 24. Appleby has a bigger arm and can open up the field for more big-play attempts for the passing game. In just five appearances, Appleby already has the same amount (five) of passes 30 yards or longer completed than Del Rio (five) had in six appearances. Appleby isn’t going to run for 100 yards or confuse a defender for a true dual-threat quarterback, but the senior does have the ability to make plays with his legs – as evidenced by the 34 yards on six carries he recorded against South Carolina last week. Considering Appleby has played in Neyland Stadium and started at Nebraska when he was at Purdue, his experience in a tough road environment should pay off. However, Appleby has a tough matchup against one of the nation’s best defenses.


LSU is limiting opponents to just 4.6 yards per play and is third in scoring defense (13.9 ppg). This unit has allowed only 12 plays of 30 yards or more this fall (the fewest among SEC teams this year). End Arden Key (nine sacks) headlines a standout group in the trenches, while the secondary is anchored by cornerback Tre’Davious White and safety Jamal Adams. Appleby doesn’t need to throw for 300 yards, but his play will be critical to the outcome for Florida. The Gators need the senior to play under control and limit the mistakes, while getting the ball in space to playmakers like Antonio Callaway (15.2 ypc).


Which Appleby shows up on Saturday? Is it the quarterback that threw for 296 yards and three scores against Tennessee and completed 17 of 21 passes for 201 yards in last week’s win over South Carolina. Or is Appleby the quarterback that completed only 19 of 28 throws for 144 yards against Vanderbilt on Oct. 1? Appleby doesn’t have to carry this team on his shoulders, but he has to connect on a couple of big plays to help loosen some of the defensive attention on the front seven and running back Jordan Scarlett.


Final Analysis


It’s tough to make a case for Florida to win this game. Sure, the defense will keep the Gators close, but the offense is going to struggle against a standout LSU defense. Even if Florida finds a way to slow down Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice early on, doing so for four quarters is going to be a huge challenge with all of the injuries on defense. With the SEC East title at stake, Florida finds a way to keep this one close into the third quarter. However, LSU simply has too much on the ground, and the defense shuts down the Gators in the second half to pull away for a comfortable victory.


Prediction: LSU 31, Florida 13
LSU Tigers vs. Florida Gators Preview and Prediction 2016
Post date: Thursday, November 17, 2016 - 10:20
Path: /college-football/unlv-rebels-vs-boise-state-broncos-preview-and-prediction-2016

UNLV gave Boise State an unexpected gift this past Saturday when the Rebels upset Wyoming 69-66 in triple overtime. The Broncos, who lost to Wyoming 30-28 on Oct. 29, still need either San Diego State or New Mexico to beat the Cowboys in order to reach the Mountain West title game – but last week’s results were a big step in that direction. Also, after traveling to Hawaii and coming away with a dominant 52-16 win, Boise State moved ahead of Western Michigan in the College Football Playoff rankings, giving the Broncos the inside track to the Cotton Bowl.


The victory over Wyoming boosted the 4-6 Rebels’ bowl hopes. However, a second straight upset would be a major surprise, especially on the blue turf at Albertsons Stadium. Nevertheless, at 3-3 in conference play after last week’s win, UNLV has proven itself to be a factor in the race for the West Division crown.


UNLV at Boise State


Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 18 at 9 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Boise State -28


Three Things to Watch


1. The Quarterbacks
Boise State QB Brett Rypien has been the best quarterback in the Mountain West this season. Rypien leads the league with 2,916 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, a 167.85 rating and a 65.0 percent completion rate. He has thrown just six interceptions in 297 pass attempts – only three of which have come in his last eight games. Over the last two weeks, Rypien is 34-for-42 passing (81.0 percent) for 557 yards and seven TDs without a pick.


Rypien also has arguably the top receiving duo in the conference at his disposal. Thomas Sperbeck leads the league with 1,023 receiving yards and is tied for the conference lead with 62 receptions. Sperbeck and Cedrick Wilson (44 receptions, 827 yards) each have nine touchdown receptions, though both are also capable of tossing TD passes. The pair is a combined 5-for-5 passing for 176 yards and four touchdowns (three of which belong to Sperbeck).


Unlike Rypien, who has started every game this season and 20 games in his first two years on campus, UNLV starter Kurt Palandech hasn’t been atop the depth chart consistently. In fact, Palandech made his first start of the season and only the fourth of his career last week against Wyoming. He also became the third player to start for the Rebels at quarterback this season.


However, despite the lack of consistency and experience, Palandech was tremendous against the Cowboys. The junior was named Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week after completing 20 of 32 passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, as well as 157 rushing yards and another TD. Palandech is 30-for-55 passing (54.5 percent) for 413 yards and four touchdowns with one interception, and has 197 rushing yards and two TDs this season. Unfortunately, Palandech will be without his top target, Devonte Boyd (45 receptions, 746 yards, 4 TD), who will miss the remainder of the season due to injury.


2. The Running Game
Palandech and backup QB Dalton Sneed (355 rushing yards, TD) give the Rebels an advantage in the quarterback run game, and with Charles Williams (665, 3) and Lexington Thomas (632, 8) splitting carries in the backfield, UNLV has a well-rounded ground game. The Rebels rank fourth in the Mountain West with 252.7 rushing yards per game and they rolled up an impressive 401 on the ground against Wyoming. However, the Broncos have access to one of the nation’s top offensive players.


If not for prolific San Diego State running back Donnell Pumphrey, Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols would be the runaway favorite to win Mountain West Player of the Year. McNichols leads the nation with 22 touchdowns – including 18 rushing, which is tied for second nationally – and ranks fifth in the country with 1,369 rushing yards on a hefty 242 carries. The junior also has 428 receiving yards and four TDs on 31 catches.


3. Which Defense Can Stop the Run?
UNLV and Boise State rank in the middle of the pack in the Mountain West in rush defense with a nearly identical 165.4 and 165.5 rushing yards allowed per game, respectively. The Rebels have surrendered 4.3 yards per carry this season while the Broncos have allowed 4.4 yards per attempt, though Boise State has had more success keeping the opponents out of the end zone with just seven rushing touchdowns allowed. UNLV has surrendered 20 touchdowns on the ground alone.


While both units have decent numbers overall, both have struggled at times. Boise State held each of its first four opponents to fewer than 100 rushing yards, but surrendered a massive 382 yards on 61 carries against New Mexico in Week 5. While the Lobos rank among the nation’s best in rushing offense, Boise State has allowed at least 215 rushing yards in three consecutive games, including 234 yards on 32 carries last week against Hawaii  (season-worst 7.3 ypc). The previous week, San Jose State averaged 6.6 yards on 33 attempts.


UNLV suffered its own slump earlier this season when San Diego State, Hawaii and Colorado State each ran for at least 229 yards. However, the Rebels have played better over their last two games, limiting San Jose State and Wyoming to fewer rushing yards (132 and 151, respectively) and a lower yards per carry average (3.1 and 4.7) than Boise State allowed to each team earlier this season.


Final Analysis


Both Boise State and UNLV are likely to have success running the football, though because of the inconsistency at the quarterback position and the loss of their top wide receiver, the Rebels are at a major disadvantage in the passing game. Brett Rypien has been hot in recent weeks, and despite holding opponents to the second-lowest completion percentage in the Mountain West (52.7 percent), UNLV ranks second to last in the league in pass defense (261.6 ypg).


Simply put, the Broncos are too balanced offensively, and have too many weapons for the Rebels. Expect Boise State to win big.


Prediction: Boise State 45, UNLV 21


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

UNLV Rebels vs. Boise State Broncos Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, November 17, 2016 - 10:10
Path: /college-football/memphis-tigers-vs-cincinnati-bearcats-preview-and-prediction-2016

The Memphis Tigers look to keep the offense clicking on the road this Friday night when they take on a Cincinnati team that could be limping to the finish line of the 2016 season. Memphis can put Cincinnait's bowl hopes out of reach entirely with a win, while also clinching a winning season for a third straight campaign. It has been about a decade since the last time that happened.


Memphis at Cincinnati


Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 18 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

Spread: Memphis -7.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Memphis offense taking flight over opponents
No Paxton Lynch? No problem for Memphis, apparently. The Tigers bring the No. 2 passing offense in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) to the field Friday night. Riley Ferguson has stepped in nicely as the leader of the Tigers’ offense, completing 63.4 percent of his passes for 2,896 yards and 24 touchdowns with nine interceptions on the year. Having Anthony Miller as a target has helped. Miller has already eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark this season with 1,077 and eight touchdowns. Cincinnati poses a mild threat to the Memphis air attack, with just 13 TD passes allowed this season and 15 interceptions.


2. Can Cincinnati force Memphis to leave points on the field?
This season may not be going as well as Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville would prefer to see, but if there is one bright spot to hang a hat on it may be the Bearcats’ ability to force opponents to settle for field goals once entering the red zone. Cincinnati has allowed opponents inside the red zone 37 times this season but has allowed just 15 touchdowns. No other team in the AAC has a better defensive red zone touchdown percentage than the Bearcats. Memphis comes into this game with the third-worst red zone scoring percentage this season.


3. Cincinnati fighting for a bowl game
Cincinnati is in a must-win situation with two games to play in the regular season. A shot at the conference championship has long passed by, but a chance to go to a bowl game is still on the line. Cincinnati has to win its final two games of the season in order to reach the six-win minimum. Getting two wins will be tough with Memphis this week and then a road game at an improved Tulsa in the regular season finale.


Final Analysis


There is no doubt which team has the better chance to win this game. It is Memphis with a much better offense that has been lighting up the scoreboard this season. Memphis has scored at least 40 points in a game four times this season, including 42 in a loss at Navy in the Tigers’ most recent game two weeks ago and 51 the previous week against SMU. Memphis should manage to score some points again this week, and may not need many to get a win. Cincinnati has scored six points total in the last two games, and has been held to fewer than 14 points in three straight games. That’s not a good trend developing for the Bearcats.


Prediction: Memphis 34, Cincinnati 20


— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook

Memphis Tigers vs. Cincinnati Bearcats Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, November 17, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl-thursday-night-football-schedule-kickoff-tv-times-2016

For years, fans were tired of waiting until Sunday each week to get a taste of pro football action. The NFL has responded in recent years by creating a full slate of Thursday Night Football games, on TV and online. These games will be aired on CBS, NBC and NFL Network over the next 16 weeks. In addition, this season Twitter will be streaming 10 games live on Thursday nights, free for fans worldwide. Check the list below to see when your favorite team is playing and how you can watch the game so you never have to ask, "Who plays on Thursday Night Football?" the rest of this season.


(All time ET)

Week 1

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

Final: Broncos 21, Panthers 20


Week 2

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

Final: Jets 37, Bills 31


Week 3

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

Final: Patriots 27, Texans 0


Week 4

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

Final: Bengals 22, Dolphins 7


Week 5

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

Final: Cardinals 33, 49ers 21


Week 6

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

Final: Chargers 21, Broncos 13


Week 7

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

Final: Packers 26, Bears 10


Week 8

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

Final: Titans 36, Jaguars 22


Week 9

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

Final: Falcons 43, Buccaneers 28


Week 10

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

Final: Ravens 28, Browns 7


Week 11

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


Week 12

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

See all Thanksgiving Day Game Schedules


Week 13

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


Week 14

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


Week 15

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


Week 16

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

Post date: Thursday, November 17, 2016 - 09:34