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Path: /college-football/clemson-tigers-vs-syracuse-orange-preview-and-prediction-2015

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


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


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


College Football Podcast: Week 11 Preview

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Clemson at Syracuse


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m ET (Saturday)


Spread: Clemson -27.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Defending Deshaun

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


2. The Syracuse Quarterback Situation

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


3. The Syracuse Offensive Line Against the Clemson Defensive Front

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


Final Analysis


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


Prediction: Clemson 52, Syracuse 7


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

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

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


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


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


College Football Podcast: Week 11 Preview

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Miami at North Carolina


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPNU

Spread: North Carolina -12.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Brad Kaaya vs. the North Carolina Pass Defense

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


2. Joseph Yearby vs. the North Carolina Rush Defense

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


3. Slowing Down That Carolina Offense

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


Final Analysis


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


Prediction: North Carolina 38, Miami 21


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

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

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


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


Related: Predictions for Every Week 11 Game


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


Alabama at Mississippi State


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

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Alabama -8


Three Things to Watch


1. Avoiding a Letdown

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


Related: Post-Week 10 Bowl Projections


2. Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott

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


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


3. Battle in the Trenches

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


Final Analysis


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


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

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


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


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


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


Michigan at Indiana

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


Three Things to Watch


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


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


3. Keeping pace

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

Final Analysis


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


Prediction: Michigan 34, Indiana 20


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

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

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


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


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


Wake Forest at Notre Dame


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: NBC

Spread: Notre Dame -27.5


Three Things to Watch


1. The Health of C.J. Prosise

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


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

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


3. Testing the Notre Dame Secondary

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


Final Analysis


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


Prediction: Notre Dame 34, Wake Forest 10


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

Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 08:50
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/5-teams-could-play-spoiler-college-football-playoff-contenders

The College Football Playoff selection committee’s top 25 rankings are the biggest source of discussion and criticism among fans and media after their release on Tuesday nights. While the rankings are important to show where teams stand relative to the other contenders, as well as how the committee is evaluating different teams, it’s important to remember that the top 25 is going to change significantly by Dec. 6.


With four weeks of games remaining, college football is due for a few upsets. Which teams could play spoiler and end the playoff hopes of some of the leading contenders after Week 10? Here are five teams to watch the rest of 2015: 


5 Teams That Could Play Spoiler to CFB Playoff Contenders


Michigan (7-2)

High expectations surrounded Jim Harbaugh’s return to Ann Arbor, and the first-year coach has the Wolverines sitting at 7-2 and in position to play in one of college football’s top bowl games. Michigan should be favored in upcoming matchups against Indiana and Penn State, with the regular season finale at Ohio State looming large. Assuming the Buckeyes defeat Illinois on Nov. 14 and Michigan State on Nov. 21, coach Urban Meyer’s team will take a 31-game winning streak in Big Ten play to Ann Arbor. The Wolverines are a work in progress on offense with an average of 5.4 yards per play in Big Ten matchups, but the defense leads the conference by holding opponents to just 11.9 points a game. Harbaugh’s defense also leads the Big Ten in fewest third-down conversions allowed and ranks third nationally in rush defense. After losing three in a row to the Buckeyes, Michigan will be hungry to spoil the season of its bitter rival. 


Related: Predictions for Every Week 11 Game


Mississippi State (7-2)

The Bulldogs were picked by most to finish last in the challenging SEC West, but coach Dan Mullen has relied on the right arm and legs of senior quarterback Dak Prescott to guide Mississippi State back in contention for a 10-win season. Prescott is the SEC’s top quarterback, throwing for 2,351 yards and 18 scores and rushing for 418 yards and seven touchdowns through nine games. Prescott needs more help from his rushing attack and offensive line, but the senior has one of the SEC’s top receiving corps. Coordinator Manny Diaz returned to Starkville after four years away and has helped Mississippi State’s defense reload after returning only three starters. The Bulldogs are giving up 5.2 yards per play and rank fourth in the conference by holding opponents to 17.2 points a game. It’s a longshot, but Mississippi State is still alive in the SEC West title picture. To keep those slim West Division title hopes alive, the Bulldogs have to upset Alabama on Saturday. The Crimson Tide are coming off a huge win in a physical affair against LSU and have to quickly refocus for a tricky road trip to Starkville. A win by Mississippi State on Saturday would have huge implications in the playoff picture.   


North Carolina (8-1)

The Tar Heels have reeled off eight wins in a row after losing to South Carolina 17-13 in the season opener. Coach Larry Fedora’s team is in control of the Coastal Division and could clinch this Saturday with a win, combined with a Duke victory over Pittsburgh. As usual, the offense is a strength under Fedora. North Carolina ranks second nationally with an average of 7.6 yards per play, quarterback Marquise Williams is second in the ACC with 297.2 total yards per game, and freshman running back Elijah Hood is having a standout season with 813 yards and 11 scores in nine games. While the offense is explosive, the difference in North Carolina’s run at the Coastal title in 2015 is its defense. The addition of new coordinator Gene Chizik has paid huge dividends for Fedora’s team, as this unit has made significant strides. The Tar Heels are limiting ACC opponents to 5.3 yards per play, down from 6.3 in 2014. Additionally, Chizik’s defense has surrendered only 11 plays of 30 yards or more. With an explosive offense and an improving defense, North Carolina could give Clemson trouble in the ACC Championship. 


Related: Baylor vs. Oklahoma Preview and Prediction


Texas (4-5)

The final Saturday in the regular season shouldn’t be short on drama as teams make their final pitch to the committee for a playoff spot. If – and it’s a big if – Baylor can run the table in November and defeat Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU, the Dec. 5 matchup against Texas could determine whether or not coach Art Briles’ team makes the playoff or just misses for the second year in a row. On paper, Baylor should be a heavy favorite against Texas. However, coach Charlie Strong and coordinator Vance Bedford have experienced some success in slowing down the high-powered Bears’ offense. In 2013, the Longhorns limited Baylor to 30 points and 5.5 yards per play (third-lowest mark of the season). Last year, Texas held the Bears to 28 points and just 4.7 yards per play. The personnel is different for the Longhorns’ defense, but this unit has not allowed more than 234 passing yards in each of its last four games. Additionally, Texas can control the pace of the game with an offense averaging 227.8 rushing yards per game in Big 12 contests. It’s a long shot, but the season finale could determine whether or not the Longhorns go to a bowl. If that’s the case, Texas will have plenty of motivation on Dec. 5 in Waco.  


Related: Post-Week 10 Bowl Projections


UCLA (7-2)/USC (6-3)

The Pac-12 South title is a three-team race with three weeks remaining until Championship Saturday. Utah is the clear favorite at 5-1 in league play, but USC and UCLA are both positioned to make a run at 4-2. The Trojans also own a critical tiebreaker over the Utes thanks to a head-to-head win on Oct. 24. The Bruins will have their shot at Utah on Nov. 21 in Salt Lake City, followed by a road test at USC on Nov. 28. For USC or UCLA to play spoiler, it needs some help. Utah has to lose once – UCLA on Nov. 21 is the most-likely outcome – and the Bruins or Trojans have to win out and play Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship. If the Cardinal defeats Notre Dame on Nov. 28, there’s a good chance for David Shaw’s team moves to No. 4 in the committee rankings. While Stanford would be favored over UCLA and USC, both teams would have revenge on their mind after losing to the Cardinal already in the regular season. 

5 Teams That Could Play Spoiler to College Football Playoff Contenders
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 08:48
Path: /college-football/nebraska-cornhuskers-vs-rutgers-scarlet-knights-preview-and-prediction-2015

The head coaches of both Nebraska and Rutgers have said that they’re not thinking about the potential for bowl eligibility as a result of this game and that’s a good thing. If we’ve learned one thing about Nebraska this season it’s that no game is a guaranteed win and Rutgers... well, Rutgers stinks.


Both have to pull off some upsets to even become bowl eligible and for the Scarlet Knights, it begins with the Cornhuskers.


Nebraska at Rutgers


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
Network: Big Ten Network
Spread: Nebraska -9.5


Three Things to Watch For


1. Tommy Armstrong vs. the Rutgers Defense

Armstrong looked as good as he ever has in Nebraska’s second half effort versus Michigan State including the 91-yard game-winning drive. Say what you will about the Huskers’ rank passing defense, Rutgers’ isn’t much better. In fact, the Scarlet Knights best the Big Red’s mark by only two places at No. 123 out of 128.


Nebraska head coach Mike Riley obviously isn’t going to want to pass 35-40 times as that means the Big Red is in the same trouble it faced at Illinois and Purdue. The Rutgers rushing defense isn’t exactly stellar giving up 155 yards per game.


If offensive coordinator Danny Landsdorf can dial up an attack that was as varied as what the Spartans from East Lansing saw, the Scarlet Knights will have more than their fair share of problems with No. 4 taking snaps.


2. Rutgers Wide Receiver Leonte Carroo

Carroo is the difference between a likely loss and a chance for a Rutgers win. There’s a reason Vegas points out his probability to play. In 15 quarters, he’s put up nine touchdowns. He’s not a safety valve, he’s an NFL prospect and quite possibly the best receiver Nebraska will go up against this season.


As goes Carroo, so goes Rutgers.


3. Defensive Discipline

Last week I pointed out that Nebraska needed to win the turnover margin and play near flawless ball to have a chance at winning. The Big Red had no second half penalties which helped negate a minus-one (-1) margin. Fortunately, the Huskers also forced a turnover for the first time in three games by way of a Connor Cook interception.


The Blackshirts came out of the gate looking like a unit ready to swallow up the Michigan State offense whole. Cook did bounce back from first quarter hiccups, but no one on Rutgers’ squad can duplicate the efforts of Cook.


Final Analysis


Logic dictates that Nebraska goes in, gives up a few scores to Carroo and ultimately limps into its bye week with a 5-6 record. As I mentioned last week, the moment you lend logic to college football, you have failed in truly appreciating the sport.


That said, I’m going to look at how Rutgers’ schedule has been going lately. They received beat downs from Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan respectively coming into this game. If there’s a team that can relate to the mental anguish Nebraska’s had this year, it’s these Scarlet Knights.


Quite frankly, I think either team could win. If the Huskers come out and make a defensive stand similar to the one they did against Michigan State, I can’t see how Rutgers doesn’t extend their losing streak to four regardless of what Carroo can do. That said, if Rutgers can find momentum early and get to Armstrong, Lincoln locals may get the pitchforks back out of their closets.


I’m wincing as I type this, but give me Nebraska to win and have transportation ready to go the second the final gun sounds.


Prediction: Nebraska 33, Rutgers 23


— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow Brandon on Twitter @eightlaces and like his Facebook page.

Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 08:45
Path: /college-football/washington-huskies-vs-arizona-state-sun-devils-preview-and-prediction-2015

Arizona State and Washington are two teams in desperate need of two wins. Both sitting at 4-5, these final weeks will determine their postseason fates.


Washington hasn't missed bowl season since 2009, former head coach Steve Sarkisian's first year taking over from the disastrous 0-12 finish. Arizona State last missed the postseason in 2010.


Either team is capable of winning out to ensure a finish above .500; either could just as easily collapse to go 4-8. Saturday's meeting in Tempe, Arizona sets the tone for the crucial, final stretch ahead of two programs at a pivotal juncture.


Washington at Arizona State


Kickoff: 3 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Spread: Arizona State -2.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Defense Setting the Tone

Though known for a high-scoring, up-tempo offense throughout head coach Todd Graham's tenure, the 2015 Sun Devils are at their best controlling the pace on the defensive side.


Arizona State holds opponents to just 19.25 points per game in wins. In losses, the Sun Devils allow a staggering 42.6 points per game.


Washington isn't typically going to put up 40-plus points. The Huskies have been up-and-down offensively, at best, enduring the growing pains of playing true freshman quarterback Jake Browning and an inexperienced offensive line.


However, the Huskies employ a stout defense that's particularly rugged in the front seven. Washington's strategy relies on grinding down the pace until its offense can break through with one or two big plays.


“Our defense played at a high level most of the season, so they feel pretty good about things,” Washington head coach Chris Petersen said.


The Huskies must ride the side of the ball with which they feel confident.


2. Establishing the Run

Washington freshman running back Myles Gaskin is settling in nicely as the Huskies' primary ball carrier. Since going for 134 yards against USC on Oct. 8, Gaskin's rushed for at least 93 yards in four of five games. He's also reached the end zone at least once in four of five outings over that same stretch.


Getting Gaskin going is critical for Washington to mount any kind of offensive attack, but that's easier said than done against Arizona State's No. 24-ranked run defense. The Sun Devils held five of their last six opponents under 100 yards rushing.


Arizona State faces a similar challenge. Sun Devil offensive coordinator Mike Norvell gives quarterback Mike Bercovici the green light to air it out, but Arizona State is most effective when functioning with a balance of run and pass.


Since sustaining an injury against Colorado and missing the Sun Devils' loss at Utah, running back Demario Richard returned to rip off 135 yards against Oregon and 111 against Washington State.


Establishing Richard as a threat early against a Washington defense holding opponents to just 3.3 yards per carry opens the field for Bercovici and reins in the pass rush. With 23 sacks, Washington is among the Pac-12's best pass-rushing teams.


3. Dawgs in the Desert

Washington hasn't won in the state of Arizona since 2006, going 0-7 in that time. The Huskies' last victory at Sun Devil Stadium came in 2001, a 33-31 decision.


Maybe it's the dry, desert air. Perhaps it's the trip; trekking to the Grand Canyon State is Washington's longest Pac-12 hike any season.


Whatever the cause, the Huskies struggle in Arizona.


Final Analysis


Petersen called Washington's sub-.500 record frustrating, commensurate with the team's efforts. The Huskies lost three games by single digits, and had a pair of touchdowns called back last week in an 11-point loss to Utah.


Washington is a young team enduring foreseeable struggles. Arizona State's mirroring record is somewhat more difficult to parse, given the Sun Devils' lofty expectations entering the season.


On paper, Arizona State should overwhelm Washington. The Sun Devils' aggressive, blitzing defense can cause problems for Browning, and the multifaceted offense has the weapons to put Washington back on its heels. The question facing Arizona State isn't if it has the goods to blow past the Huskies and take a step toward bowl eligibility.


The issue is which Arizona State shows up.


Washington's visit comes at an opportune time. Arizona State has dropped three straight, though been competitive in each. This week, the Sun Devils should get over the hump with two chances to lock up a bowl bid in the final two weeks.


Prediction: Arizona State 38, Washington 21


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

Washington Huskies vs. Arizona State Sun Devils Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 08:40
Path: /college-football/nc-state-wolfpack-vs-florida-state-seminoles-preview-and-prediction-2015

The 2015 season has been a little different for the Florida State Seminoles. Unlike the previous three seasons, the Seminoles will not win the ACC championship after losing to the Clemson Tigers 23-13 last weekend. With the win, Clemson clinched the ACC Atlantic Division for the first time since the 2011 season.


Florida State (7-2, 5-2 in the ACC) will look to snap back as the team will return home to Doak Campbell Stadium to host the NC State Wolfpack on Saturday.


In its last game, NC State (6-3, 2-3) defeated the Boston College Eagles 24-8 in Chestnut Hill behind 212 yards from quarterback Jacoby Brissett.


Florida State is 24-11 all-time against NC State, including 14-4 at home. The Seminoles have won two straight in the series and they have not lost at home to the Wolfpack since the 2005 season.


NC State at Florida State


Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ACC Network/ESPN3

Spread: Florida State -9.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Everett Golson

On Thursday, Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher named redshirt senior Everett Golson the team's starting quarterback for Saturday's game against NC State. Golson did not play in the Seminoles last two games against Syracuse and Clemson. 


In seven starts this season, he has thrown for 1,659 yards, 11 touchdowns against only one interception. Fisher thought Golson did enough in practice this week to get this week's start. 


“The quarterback situation has been good,” Fisher said. “I’ve been pleased. We’ll start Everett. He had a real good week of practice and I liked what he did.”


2. NC State running game

NC State leading rusher Matthew Dayes injured his foot against Clemson on Nov. 1 and is out for the rest of the season. Without Dayes last week against Boston College, the Wolfpack were able to record a combined 139 rushing yards on 33 carries.


This week, the Wolfpack will face a Seminole rushing defense that has been very good minus last week’s game against the Tigers. Florida State gave up 215 yards and a rushing touchdown to Clemson.


Jimbo Fisher has an explanation for the way the Florida State defense played last week.


“I thought we tackled well,” said Fisher. (Defense) played the inside runs very well. I think we got out our gaps because, as they were running past us with quarterback draws in the quarterback run game, got us a little bit.”


It will be interesting to see if NC State can have success running the ball on Florida State much like Clemson did. The Wolfpack also have a mobile quarterback in Brissett that can keep the Seminole defense on its heels.


3. Dalvin Cook

In eight games this season, Florida State running back Dalvin Cook has rushed for 1,231 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is averaging 153.9 yards per game and 8.3 yards per carry.


With just 13 yards on Saturday, Cook will break Florida State’s single-season rushing record, which is held by former great Warrick Dunn. In 1995, Dunn rushed for 1,242 yards on 166 carries, which broke Sammie Smith's record of 1,230 yards.


After dealing with a number of injuries this season, Fisher said Cook is as sharp as he has been all season.


“Probably as healthy as he's been all year, maybe since the first of the year," said Fisher. "His hamstring is fine. Very happy with that." 


If Cook is as healthy as he has been all season, that’s bad news for the NC State defense. The Wolfpack are ranked 15th in rushing defense this season, but their unit hasn’t played against a running back of Cook’s caliber.


Final Analysis 


Now that Florida State no longer can play for a national championship and/or an ACC title, how will the team perform the rest of season? The Seminoles can still play in a huge bowl game, but they have to play well in their last three games of the regular season. 


NC State has the ninth ranked defense in the FBS as they have given up an average of 296 yards per game. While the Wolfpack should be able to compete with the Seminoles, NC State hasn't had the toughest of schedules. 


Clemson is the only ranked opponent NC State has played this season and the Tigers were able to gain 623 yards of total offense against them. Florida State’s offense isn’t as talented as Clemson’s, but they have just as good of athletes.


Cook should have another game over 150 yards rushing and unlike last week, the Seminoles should be able to find big plays in the passing game. NC State will likely keep it close for a bit, but Florida State should pull away late in the afternoon.


Prediction: Florida State 37, NC State 20


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

NC State Wolfpack vs. Florida State Seminoles Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 08:35
Path: /college-football/virginia-cavaliers-vs-louisville-cardinals-preview-and-prediction-2015

Virginia and Louisville are both experiencing streaks, just in two different directions. The Louisville Cardinals have won four of their last five games and seem to be settling down in ACC play. The Cardinals are averaging 26 points per game, but are only giving up 21 points on the season and even fewer than that over the last five games. That consistency has made them ready to seize another bowl game opportunity, which would be the fifth in a row for the university.


Louisville has not settled all of its issues but this team has done just enough to win games. Head coach Bobby Petrino's young team has taken its fair share of bumps and bruises this season and have survived, even though it has not always looked pretty. There are a myriad of questions that still exist with this team, but the Cards have found ways to win by piecing their needs together to pull out victories.


The Virginia Cavaliers are streaking downward, with no visible end in sight, losing four of the last five. The Cavaliers can't seem to score when they have to score, and have lost a bunch of heart-breakers this season with the only exception being a beatdown by Boise State and the opener against UCLA. Virginia has given up an average of 32 points a game and over 400 total yards per game. Head coach Mike London is searching for answers everywhere and needs to inspire his team to win the close games, if the Cavaliers can keep it close. They need a spark, a critical play, and a moment that shifts their season and changes the trend. They need... something.


Virginia at Louisville


Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)


Spread: Louisville  -11


Three Things To Watch


1. The Future QB of Louisville Is...

Since Bobby Petrino has taken over the Louisville Cardinals, they have yet to settle the one position that Bobby Petrino is known for: quarterback. Freshman quarterback Lamar Jackson is available, but still not playing due to his ankle injury. Sophomore QB Kyle Bolin went 24-of-35 for 362 yards and a career-high three TDs Saturday. Every time it appears that Petrino is ready to finalize the decision for their immediate future at the "head" position, something happens and makes that decision very difficult. Bolin performed masterfully on Saturday. Can he do it again?


2. Defense is To Winning As...

The past four wins for Louisville have seen great offensive games from former backup and now starting quarterback Kyle Bolin, as well as RB Brandon Radcliff, who picked up his fourth 100-yard game, rushing for 117 yards on just 10 carries. However the "rushing number" that is most impressive over the last few weeks has been 42.7, which is the total yards per game on the ground given up in the Cardinals' last three conference games. Add to that, a masterful individual defensive performance by sophomore CB Trumaine Washington, who recorded 12 tackles, including four tackles for a loss. The Cardinals have only surrendered 16 points per game over the past three performances. They seem to be figuring things out and an offensively challenged Cavalier team should not change that much.


3. The Cavs Are Big-Play People Who Can't Finish

The Virginia Cavaliers are not good at the small plays. They are great at the big plays. And it's the big plays that have kept them in games. They just can't seem to close the deal. The Cavs have five players on their roster with big offensive plays of 35 yards or more. It's this love, however, for the spectacular that has probably caused Virginia's quarterback Matt Johns to throw more interceptions (14) than touchdowns (13). Virginia can't seem to help itself and old habits are just hard to break sometimes.


Final Analysis


The Louisville Cardinals, regardless of their offensive leader, have begun to get the stops necessary to make an impact and win games with defense. They are ready to send their winningest senior group out with a bang on Saturday, and Virginia will pay dearly for the fever pitch of excitement that will be in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Expect to see the quarterback duo of Lamar Jackson and Kyle Bolin light up the Cavaliers on Saturday, while an overly charged Cardinal defense feeds on Matt Johns' mistakes.


Prediction: Louisville 37, Virginia 17


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

Virginia Cavaliers vs. Louisville Cardinals Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-buckeyes-vs-illinois-fighting-illini-preview-and-prediction-2015

Just when the college football world believes Ohio State has turned the corner, the Buckeyes turn in an underwhelming performance in their 28-14 victory over Minnesota. Cardale Jones did not throw any interceptions, suffered four sacks, threw one touchdown, and ran for the decisive touchdown, but did not have the type of showing that would cause Ohio State fans to believe Jones had reclaimed the starting quarterback position from suspended teammate J.T. Barrett.


The Ohio State defense had a solid game, limiting Minnesota to 33 yards rushing, while also capitalizing on a turnover that was turned into a score by Ohio State safety Vonn Bell. I received this comment about Ohio State's victory over Minnesota that seems to summarize the overall impression of the Buckeye victory ~ "Not sure what to expect from this team any more, but all they keep doing is win while others around them get tripped up..."


Illinois rebounded nicely from a three-game losing streak, decisively winning on the road at Purdue 48-14, to set up their 2015 record at 5-4. Needing one more victory for bowl eligibility, Illinois will welcome Ohio State back to Memorial Stadium, hoping to solidify interim Fighting Illini head coach Bill Cubit's quest to gain the full-time position.


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On paper, Ohio State is the strong favorite, and the college football world may be surprised if traditional Ohio State fans tell these individuals the cautionary tales of seasons past when Illinois troubled, or upset, the Buckeyes in Memorial Stadium. Nearly derailing the 2002 national championship season, Ohio State escaped Illinois with a 23-16 overtime victory. The 2006 Fighting Illini, who finished 2-10, gave Ohio State all the Buckeyes could handle, until Ohio State prevailed 17-10. Other close calls in Memorial Stadium for Ohio State took place in 2008 (Ohio State 30, Illinois 20), 2010 (Ohio State 24, Illinois 13), and 2011 (Ohio State 17, Illinois 7), before Urban Meyer was named Ohio State's head coach in '12. In 2013, Ohio State led Illinois 28-0, but Illinois clawed back to make it interesting, until Ohio State won 60-35.


Ohio State at Illinois


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)


Spread: Ohio State -16.5


Three Things To Watch


1. The Return Of J.T. Barrett As Ohio State's Quarterback

While Urban Meyer has not yet announced Barrett will regain the starting quarterback position, most believe Barrett will play predominantly at the quarterback position for the Buckeyes. Barrett's skill with the read option provides the Ohio State offense an added dimension within the running game, and could force the Fighting Illini from stacking the line of scrimmage to stop Ezekiel Elliott.



2. Ohio State's Rush Defense Against The Fighting Illini Rush Offense

Josh Ferguson returned to play after a month away, teaming with KeShawn Vaughn to pace a running game that put 382 yards on the ground against Purdue. Ohio State's front seven, led by defensive end Joey Bosa and linebacker Joshua Perry, has been playing well against the run in its last two contests, with stifling performances against Rutgers and Minnesota. Something has to give here.


3. Illinois Special Teams Units

See the below posted tweet. Anyone think Urban Meyer will bring this up repeatedly in preparations this week?



Final Analysis


Ohio State may have demolished Illinois 55-14 in Ohio Stadium last season, but the Fighting Illini always play Ohio State tough in Memorial Stadium. With the probability of swirling winds wreaking havoc in Memorial Stadium, Ohio State will try to win the game on the ground with Ezekiel Elliott and J.T. Barrett. Illinois will keep it interesting for the first three quarters, but look for the Buckeyes to pull away in the fourth quarter.


Prediction: Ohio State 35, Illinois 21


— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a diehard Ohio State fan. Minnich also writes and podcasts for, a site dedicated to Ohio sports with a special emphasis on the Buckeyes. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Illinois Fighting Illini Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 08:25
Path: /college-football/texas-longhorns-vs-west-virginia-mountaineers-preview-and-prediction-2015

The Texas Longhorns (4-5, 3-3) come into Morgantown off a dominating 59-20 win over Kansas last week. Unfortunately they are still recovering from a 23-9 loss to Iowa State the week before.


West Virginia (4-4, 1-4) was just happy to get out of the month of October. Their victory over Texas Tech last week was their first in over a month. It looks as though the Mountaineers will be looking to become bowl eligible soon while the Longhorns have some work to do in order to reach the post season.


Both teams are evenly matched; do not expect a high scoring game here as ball control will be the plan of the day.


Texas at West Virginia

Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: West Virginia -8.5


Three Things to Watch


1. West Virginia run game

Wendell Smallwood is having a career season that has been overshadowed mostly by the Mountaineers' losing streak. Smallwood rushed for 163 yards on 22 carries last week in the win over the Red Raiders. Pair that with Rushel Shell’s 111 yards on 14 carries and what you have is a solid one two punch in the backfield.


The Longhorns' run defense is currently ranked 89th in the country allowing 187.2 yards per game on the ground. If the Mountaineers are able to develop the same kind of ground game this week as they were last Texas could be in for a long day.


West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen said earlier this week that the Mountaineers have turned into a “ground and pound” offense. Expect West Virginia to keep the ball on the ground most of the game, something that should concern the Longhorns.


2. Jerrod Heard
Just like Texas should be concerned with West Virginia’s running game, the Mountaineers should be concerned with the mobility of Longhorn quarterback Jerrod Heard.


West Virginia has struggled to contain mobile quarterbacks this season. Both Trevone Boykin and Patrick Mahomes have been able to effectively extend drives with their feet against the Mountaineers.


Heard will definitely be the X-factor for the Longhorns' offense on Saturday. With a passing attack that is almost non-existent and a West Virginia secondary that has been prone to shutting down the pass, Heard will have to rely on his legs to move the ball.


3. Which defense will prevail?

On paper neither defense has looks to be overly impressive. What you have to remember though is the Mountaineers have played the most prolific offenses the Big 12 has to offer. Coming into this game the Longhorns are ranked 97th in the nation in total defense while the Mountaineers are ranked 88th.


With this game likely being a low-scoring affair, defensive stops will probably be plentiful. However, with long sustaining drives being the theme, defensive takeaways will play a huge factor in this game. Whoever is able to win the turnover battle and keep the other’s offense off the field may very well prevail in this game.

Final Analysis


Both teams are in desperate need of a win this weekend. Texas may very well fail to become bowl eligible without a win this weekend. On the other sideline the West Virginia head coach is looking to get off the hot seat by finishing the season strong.


Even though the Longhorns and Mountaineers are evenly matched, West Virginia does have the better defense. Do not expect a lot of offensive fireworks in this game. Both teams will rely on ball control and a running attack.


Jerrod Heard will make his presence known in this game but he alone will not be able to carry the Longhorns. The newly established Mountaineer running game will simply be too much for the Longhorns to handle in what will be a close game.


Prediction: West Virginia 24, Texas 20


— 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.

The Mountaineers and Longhorns enter this weekend evenly matched in almost every category.
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 08:20
Path: /college-football/maryland-terrapins-vs-michigan-state-spartans-preview-and-prediction-2015

Maryland staggers into East Lansing with nothing to lose. The Terrapins are already guaranteed to stay home during bowl season and have a losing record in Big Ten games. Their interim head coach and the rest of the staff are distracted with the thought that they will need to find employment elsewhere at the end of this month.


The Spartans are stunned and angry about last week's game. That is due to more than just the obviously blown call by the officials allowing Nebraska's controversial clinching touchdown to stand. The defense allowed the Cornhuskers to pile up yards and points like no one else had done up to that game. The totals from the game in Lincoln were 67 yards more and 11 points higher than anyone else had gained and scored in the previous eight contests.


Michigan State leads the all-time series 5-1. The Spartans hold an advantage of 3-1 in games played in East Lansing. Last season's meeting in College Park was the first between these two programs since the 1950s.


Maryland at Michigan State


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Michigan State -14.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Terrapins' mediocre passing attack versus Spartans' inexperienced and injured secondary

Maryland has yet to gain more than 300 yards through the air in any game in 2015.  The Terps have averaged only 165 passing yards per game. Against Big 10 opponents, the average drops to 142.4 yards per game. They have completed more than 20 passes in a game once, in a non-conference contest. In Big Ten matches, they have fewer than 13 receptions on average.


In four games, the Spartans have allowed their opponents more than 300 passing yards, including the last two. All but one team, the option-based offense of Air Force, failed to complete at least 15 passes. Those numbers have been so inflated in part due to injuries. Inexperienced underclassmen have been pressed into playing because junior and senior starters have missed time on the field. Three defensive backs suffered season-ending injuries. Two freshmen are listed as starters for this game; two more are in the second string.


Can the struggling Terrapins' offense exploit the undermanned defensive backs of Michigan State?


2. Maryland needs to pile up points

The Spartans lost the sole game in which they allowed more than 30 points. When the Terrapins have scored more than 30 points, they won both contests. Maryland has averaged 19.4 points in its Big Ten contests. Michigan State has permitted Big Ten opponents an average of 26.6 points per game. Can Maryland exceed that 30-point barrier for the first time in a conference game?


3. Spartans' focus versus Terrapins' motivation

Will the Spartans be able to forget about the penalty that was not called giving Nebraska the deciding touchdown? Will they not look ahead to gaining control of the Big Ten East in Columbus next week? Can they avoid the distraction of pondering their playoff chances?


What is the mindset of the Terrapins? Do they even care at this point of this inevitably losing season? Can they summon enough pride to grab their first conference victory?


Final Analysis


Both teams are dealing with something awful. For Michigan State, it is the final minute was last Saturday's game. For Maryland, it is the firing of the head coach. Despite those calamities, both teams can aim for something in this game. Maryland can prevent a winless finish in its second season in the Big Ten. Michigan State can maintain control of its path to a Big Ten championship. The Spartans' goal will provide more motivation.


Prediction: Michigan State 34, Maryland 20


— Written by John La Fleur, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network. A graduate of Michigan State and LSU, La Fleur also has been a Saints fan since he was old enough to understand football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.

Maryland Terrapins vs. Michigan State Spartans Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 08:15
Path: /college-football/pittsburgh-panthers-vs-duke-blue-devils-preview-and-prediction-2015

Two teams trying to salvage their seasons will meet in Durham when Pitt (6-3) travels to play Duke (6-3). The Panthers have suffered two setbacks, a 26-19 to North Carolina and 42-30 to Notre Dame in games that legitimately weren't that close. Meanwhile the Blue Devils were trounced by the archrival Tar Heels last week 66-31.


But while these two teams are still in the Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal Division race, the storylines around the game figure to be historical. Not only did the two teams play high scoring games last week, but they also scored 99 points in 2014 and 113 in '13 in their first conference matchups. To put that in perspective, that's more points than the universities' basketball teams scored in their first two games against each other.


Of course, Duke and Pitt didn't just start playing each other two years ago. Generations ago the two schools ruled college football; in fact Jock Sutherland's last game was a 7-0 loss to the Blue Devils that knocked the defending national champion Panthers out of a bowl in 1938.


Back then the punt was still used as an offensive weapon, the idea being that field position was as important as possession. It's how Duke went through the 1938 regular season without being scored on and, in fact, the only score of the game came on a blocked punt.


So if David Cutcliffe or Pat Narduzzi decides to kick on 4th-and-1, don't be so hard on them. They're just adhering to tradition.


Pittsburgh at Duke 


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)


Spread: Duke -3.5


Three Things To Watch


1. Duke's up-tempo offense against Pitt's defense

Notre Dame game aside, Pitt is still one of the higher ranked defenses in the country (27th). But can the Panthers stop Duke, which often tries to run a no-huddle offense that limits defenses from blitzing? The Blue Devils have given up only six sacks this season.


That could work in Pitt's favor, as sophomore cornerback Avonte Maddox was burned for three touchdowns by Notre Dame's Will Fuller and, despite starting since his freshman season, would seem to need all the help he could get when playing against Duke's Max McCaffrey.


But such an up-tempo style also tends to keep offenses basic, and the Blue Devils still run more than they throw. Part of that is because dual-threat quarterback Thomas Sirk delivers in this area, as he is Duke's leading rusher. Sirk is questionable for this game because of an upper body injury, so that's definitely something to keep an eye on. If Sirk can't go, sophomore Parker Boehme woudl get the call.


Still, Pitt has struggled the last two weeks against running quarterbacks Marquise Williams and DeShone Kizer and recently its run defense has been suspect. Duke running back Shaun Wilson could miss his second straight game with a lower back injury and has split time with Shaquille Powell this season, but junior Jela Duncan rushed for 115 yards in Wilson's absence against the Tar Heels.


2. How firm of a hold does Nate Peterman have on the quarterback position?

Perhaps very. Peterman completed only three of his first 18 passes against the Irish, yet Pitt head coach Narduzzi praised his efforts after the game and, in Peterman's defense, many of his passes were dropped and his statistics improved in the second half.


But he didn't begin the season as the starter. True, Chad Voytik was pulled partly because he had trouble getting the ball downfield and perhaps partly because he was recruited to play in former head coach Todd Graham's "High Octane" offense rather than current Pitt offensive coordinator Jim Chaney's "Diesel" one, which has called for rushes 116 times more than passes this year.


But if Pitt were to fall behind early for the third straight game, and Tyler Boyd, who had only three receptions last week, isn't getting the ball, could a change be in order?


3. Can a defense that gave up 66 points last week stop anyone?

Duke likes to play with a five defensive back set, and the lack of a linebacker would seem to aid Pitt running back Qadree Ollison for inside running lanes.


Blue Devils' safety Jeremy Cash said of Boyd "You can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him."


There's no question Pitt has weapons on offense. The question is if Duke's defense, which is still ranked 30th nationally, can rebound after such a horrible performance last week.


Final Analysis


The key may be what strategy Narduzzi elects to go with. Running the ball successfully will keep possessions away from Sirk, but may limit scoring opportunities. The rookie head coach has proven to be, depending on your point of view, stubborn or loyal in his strategy, such as keeping Maddox alone on Fuller when double coverage was needed last week.


Because of that, this game may be decided early despite the fact that both teams have played two games this year decided on the final play.


The Pitt running game will probably keep the score from being as high as it has the last two years, but we hope not.


Prediction: Duke 27, Pitt 24


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

Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Duke Blue Devils Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 08:10
Path: /college-football/florida-gators-vs-south-carolina-gamecocks-preview-prediction-2015

Just a week ago, anyone who said South Carolina (3-6) had a chance against Florida (8-1) would have been accused of being a "COCK-eyed" optimist.


But after Florida's sluggish 9-7 victory against Vanderbilt and Carolina's 27-24 near miss at Tennessee, perhaps the idea of the revived Gamecocks defeating the Gators, who have already clinched the SEC East, isn't so far fetched.


The game figured to have lost some spice once Steve Spurrier resigned as South Carolina's head coach a month ago, but perhaps it now has more. Shawn Elliott may have only won one of his three games as the Gamecocks' head coach, but the team's efforts have been revived and a victory against either the Gators or certainly Clemson might earn the energetic coach the position permanently.


No knock against Spurrier, who won't be attending the game, but isn't Elliott's mini-revival a more satisfying story than the Ol' Ball Coach limping through a blowout loss against the program he essentially established? Wouldn't Florida fans, hopeful their team can sneak into the College Football Playoff by winning out, want victories against the strongest possible opponents to enhance their cause?


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Florida at South Carolina


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)


Spread: Florida -7.5


Three Things To Watch


1. The quarterbacks

Certainly any fan watching a football game will focus on the quarterbacks, but South Carolina's Perry Orth and Florida's Treon Harris both began the season on the bench before leading their teams to comebacks last week.


Sort of.


Harris was behind center when he led the Gators to their game-winning drive, but it came after Florida got the ball at the Vanderbilt 45 following a 12-yard punt. He did complete both passes he threw to pave the way for much-maligned Austin Hardin's game-winning 43-yard field goal, but it is telling head coach Jim McElwain elected to run the ball on third and three with three minutes remaining than attempt a pass.


Harris has not been an accurate passer since taking over for Will Grier and threw his first interception of the season against Vanderbilt.


Meanwhile, Perry Orth led South Carolina back from a 17-0 deficit at Tennessee that likely would have resulted in a Gamecocks victory had Malik Foreman not stripped the ball from tight end Jerell Adams on the final drive. While Elliott mentioned this week Connor Mitch, who began the season as the starter before injuries sidelined him, would see some time this season, this game would be a curious time to go back to the two-quarterback system. 


It's true the winning percentages of quarterbacks who throw for 300 or more yards in a game isn't necessarily outstanding, but the thought occurs if either of these quarterbacks have a really big game his team is probably going to win the game.


2. Pharoh Cooper vs. Vernon Hargreaves III

It's likely Hargreaves, the SEC's best cornerback, will be asked to cover Cooper, the Gamecocks' best wide receiver.


Hargreaves is the very definition of a "shutdown corner," a primary reason why the Gators have the 12th best pass defense in the nation, limiting opponents to fewer than 175 yards through the air a game. Additionally, Hargreaves has four of Florida's 11 interceptions this year.


Historically South Carolina has been very innovative in finding ways to get Cooper the ball. But in the long run it is in the Gamecocks' best interest if Cooper can get the ball 40 yards downfield instead of behind the line of scrimmage on a run-pass option.


While NFL draft order is often determined by combine performance as much as anything else, if Cooper was able to, say, catch a long pass against such a formidable cornerback wouldn't it speak highly of his pro prospect status?


3. How will Florida's defensive line injuries affect them?

The Gators' defensive line reads like a medical chart. Nose tackle Joey Ivie (3 1/2 sacks) is out for the second straight game and left defensive end Jon Bullard (44 tackles- 13 for loss) is doubtful. Backup rush end Jordan Sherit won't be available for the first half after getting ejected against the Commodores and Thomas Holley continues to be sidelined.


Free safety Keanu Neal (55 tackles- third on team) may also miss the game with a foot injury.


Granted, Sherit and Holley haven't been tremendous impact players this season. But Bullard, Neal, and Ivie have and line up on Hargreaves' side of the field, though one gets the feeling Hargreaves' side of the field will be whichever side Cooper lines up at.


Ivie and Bullard's replacements are freshmen, Neal's is sophomore Duke Dawson.


Do the Gamecocks try to exploit this by running Brandon Wilds and throwing to the right, possibly to newfound linebacker-fullback hybrid Jonathan Walton? Something to watch.


Final Analysis


The feeling here is the Gators had their let down last week. The Gamecocks already had their big victory this season against North Carolina. They just didn't know it at the time. It won't be a blowout, but Florida can continue to hold on to their national championship dreams after the game.


Prediction: Florida 27, South Carolina 20


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

Florida Gators vs. South Carolina Gamecocks Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 08:05
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-college-football-picks-week-11-2015

There are few college football teams I'd rather watch more than the Naval Academy. The way they run the option with such precision that bridges the talent gap between them and their opponent is something to behold. Let's be honest, if they ran a normal offense, the Midshipmen wouldn't have just one loss. Keenan Reynolds is such a joy to watch and if I wasn't such a big Temple fan, I'd be rooting for them to play in a New Year's bowl. Navy is what is right in college football right now.


Record: 46-43 (3-4 last week)


UTSA (1-8) at Charlotte (2-7)

It's the final home game for Charlotte in its first season as a FBS member. Since winning its first two games, the 49ers have lost seven straight with a lot of those games being uncompetitive. There is a bit of momentum though offensively after scoring 31 points last week and committing only one turnover in a 48-31 loss at FIU. Defensively it's been a struggle for the 49ers although you have to wonder how much of a threat the Roadrunners present. UTSA has had its issues on defense, allowing four straight games of 30 points or more. The Roadrunners were in a similar situation back on Halloween when they played at woeful North Texas, who was winless at the time. The Mean Green took the game 30-23 and added to UTSA's misery. I'm going with the home team and hoping Charlotte puts it all together for the home crowd one last time this season. SELECTION: Charlotte +6


Akron (4-5) at Miami (Ohio) (2-8)

The RedHawks are coming off a 28-13 win over Eastern Michigan last time out and are now welcoming Akron to town. It's the Zips’ fourth road game in their last five, and the final one of the regular season. Miami's offense has been alright this season.  The RedHawks had a stretch of five straight games where they couldn't produce more than 14 points. Akron's defense has been respectable outside of allowing 59 points to Bowling Green. The Zips have held five of their last seven opponents to 14 points or less. Akron has gone under in 22 of its last 33 games including six of nine this season. The Zips have gone under in 18 of their last 26 Saturday games as well. SELECTION: Under 43


Kansas (0-9) at TCU (8-1)

The Horned Frogs are going to be an ornery bunch on Saturday after losing to Oklahoma State last time out. The Horned Frogs need to put up points and win comfortably in order to get back on the positive side with the College Football Playoff committee. TCU has been rolling opponents this season, averaging 46.7 points per game. Kansas has allowed more than that, giving up 48.4 points and 584.2 yards per game. The Jayhawks have given up 30 points or more in six straight games with four of those being 58 points or more. TCU has gone over in 17 of its last 29 Saturday games. The Frogs can't make totals involving awful Kansas high enough. SELECTION: Over 70.5


Arkansas State (6-3) at ULM (1-8)

These two Sun Belt teams are heading in different directions although neither can play defense that well. Arkansas State outscores its opponents 36.2-31.1 points per game because of a balanced attack led by QB Fredi Knighten. Michael Gordon has been very good at running back and should find success against a ULM team that allows 229.9 yards per game on the ground. These two teams have combined for 10 overs in 18 games this season. The Red Wolves have gone over in 15 of their last 22 games as a favorite and 10 of their last 11 in November. ULM has already given up 51 points at home to Georgia Southern and 59 to Appalachian State. SELECTION: Over 57


Alabama (8-1) at Mississippi State (7-2)

This is Dak Prescott's chance to shine on a big stage as Alabama comes to Starkville. The Crimson Tide are fresh off a convincing win over LSU where the defense held down Leonard Fournette. They have allowed just 75.8 rushing yards per game. Mississippi State wants to be balanced as an offense and may struggle to do so against Bama. The good thing is that the boys from Starkville play good defense themselves. They've held four straight opponents to 20 points or less. We may get an unfocused Alabama team after the LSU win. These two SEC West foes have played seven unders in their last 11 games in Starkville. Last year it was a 25-20 Tide victory. SELECTION: Under 52


Arkansas (5-4) at LSU (7-1)

I know what you are thinking... am I really going to make another SEC wager? This one seems to be too good to be true. We've got Arkansas coming in off a thrilling road win at Ole Miss in overtime. It's the Razorbacks’ third straight victory and third straight great offensive performance. Now they run into an LSU defense that is holding opponents to just 330.6 yards per game. The Tigers are coming off a deflating loss to the Crimson Tide where they couldn't get the offense going. Leonard Fournette will be eager to regain the status of Heisman front-runner and could do so against an Arkansas defense that allowed 222 rushing yards to the Rebels. The Tigers are going to be extremely motivated for this one. SELECTION: LSU ML (top off your moneyline parlay with the Tigers)


North Texas (1-8) at Tennessee (5-4)

It's a mismatch of sorts as Tennessee hosts North Texas. The Mean Green have lost by 43 points at Louisiana Tech, 35 at Southern Miss and 46 at Iowa. They don't do a lot well and are currently playing their second of three straight road games. North Texas has scored 14 points or less in four of its last six, as the passing attack has been up and down all season.  Tennessee is in a good spot here as the Volunteers are coming off an unimpressive win over South Carolina and only have a road game at Missouri next. The Volunteers beat Western Carolina 55-10 at home back in September and have a 31-point win at Kentucky as well so they are capable of big numbers. North Texas has failed to cover in 13 of its last 19 games as an underdog. I hate laying big numbers but... SELECTION: Tennessee -41


Western Carolina (6-3) at Texas A&M (6-3)

It's the final home game of the season for the Aggies, who are looking to bounce back after last week's lackluster performance at home against Auburn. Western Carolina is no slouch although the FCS member did fall 55-10 to Tennessee earlier this season. The Catamounts’ offense is capable of scoring on an unfocused Aggies defense especially in garbage time. Western Carolina has struggled against teams with any semblance of offense, as evidenced by the 41 points scored by Chattanooga. Texas A&M wants to send the 12th Man out with a big win and big numbers in this one. Last year the Aggies smoked Lamar 73-3 while beating Sam Houston State 65-28 at home in 2013. SELECTION: Over 62




- Where's Indiana's head at right now after another close home loss this season? The Hoosiers were beating Ohio State and Iowa at times at home before collapsing late. This is a team on a five-game losing streak including a defeat at the hands of Rutgers, who shouldn't be beating anyone. Michigan comes to town with renewed motivation after Michigan State’s loss last week. The Wolverines’ offense is clicking right now, but the defense is about to get one of its stiffest tests of the season. Michigan has covered in five of its last seven road games in this series.


- Marshall has more motivation then just a football game on Saturday, as it's the 45th anniversary of the plane crash that killed the entire football team back in 1970. The school will be holding their fountain ceremony earlier in the day, which the football team will take part in. The Thundering Herd are 3-2 on the anniversary of the crash with the last game coming back in 2013, a 45-34 win over Tulsa. I've backed FIU several times this season and the Golden Panthers are 6-3-1 ATS, but who knows how the Herd will handle everything surrounding this game. We'll sit this one out, but I think the visitors can hang around in this one.


- Florida State is coming off a tough loss at Clemson and has lost two of its last three games. The Seminoles have an early 12:30 kickoff as they host NC State. The Wolfpack are bowl eligible and playing good defense. Upon closer review though, some of those numbers are fraudulent. They have allowed 149 yards or more on the ground to four of their last five ACC opponents. Any unit can look good with the non-conference schedule this team has played. Because of the opponent's success on the ground, there's not as much need for airing it out. I don't know who is starting under center for the Seminoles, but I really can't trust NC State on the road.


- Oklahoma State is the flavor of the week after its convincing win over TCU. The Cowboys have home games against Baylor and Oklahoma coming up, but will be in Ames, Iowa, on Saturday. It's been a house of horrors for OSU, having lost five of the last eight there. Iowa State shut out Texas at home 24-0 on Halloween and didn't play too awful against the Sooners last week. The Cowboys have a lot at stake, but focus in this one has to be an issue. The question I have for you the reader is if you have the stones to take the Cyclones in this spot even though they are outmanned.


- Florida has clinched its spot in the SEC title game after an ugly 9-7 win over Vanderbilt. The Gators have just three games left with FAU and Florida State coming after a harmless road game at South Carolina, right? The Gamecocks have lost four of their last five, but will close out the season with three at home. South Carolina's offense has put up some good numbers as of late and the Gamecocks have won their last two home games. Florida will be without potentially three defensive starters in this one. The Gators should be on upset alert.


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

Betting Against the Spread: College Football Picks for Week 11
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News, Magazines
Path: /magazines/kentuckys-tyler-ulis-taking-charge-being-small-and-watching-his-friends-leave-lexington

Tyler Ulis may be the most unique player John Calipari has coached in the last decade at Kentucky or Memphis. Since Derrick Rose in 2005-06, Calipari point guards for the most part have been big and physical — and one and done. In 2015-16, the 5'9" Ulis, a sophomore, will be Calipari’s floor general a year after averaging 3.6 assists in 23.8 minutes per game in UK’s platoon system. Ulis joined Athlon Sports to talk about his new leadership role, his confidence even as an undersized point guard recruit, and his outlook on the Wildcats’ upcoming season.


Now that you’ve had time to reflect, how do you view last season’s accomplishments? That was clearly a great team, a great Kentucky team, but one that lost in the Final Four to another good team.


As a whole, we did a great job. We made history. It was fun playing with those guys. I got better individually, and playing with seven people who went to the pros, it was a special team. This year I think we’re going to come out and compete like we did last year but not fall short.


One thing that was evident at the SEC Tournament was how loose and relaxed you guys were. Was it always that way last season?


No, it wasn’t always that way. When we got to the SEC Tournament everybody started playing a lot better as a team. That comes with playing together all year. Eventually you want to click, and we started playing really good basketball.


So you felt like the SEC Tournament was a turning point, even though you didn’t lose during the regular season?


We were at our best in a lot of games during the regular season, but in the SEC Tournament we came out every game and played well. Everybody came in and did their job. For the most part, everyone played well.


Why do you think things changed then in terms of attitude?


We just had more chemistry as a team as the season went on. We were going on trips. Our guys started playing games together, started playing Super Smash Bros.


This interview and previews of every team in the country is available in the Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview Magazine, available on newsstands or online.


There was a moment during the SEC Tournament where you stared down Auburn’s 7'2" center Trayvon Reed. What do you remember about that moment?


I was standing on the block and he pushed me a little bit, so I pushed him back. We exchanged a few words. That’s about it.


How often has that happened in your career where you’ve stared down a bigger player?


It doesn’t happen often. But when it does happen, people are going to make a huge deal of it because of my size.


After last season, coach John Calipari told you, “Get your guys and let’s do this again.” Can you describe that interaction?


He texted me. It might have been right after the game (the loss in the Final Four to Wisconsin) or that night. It was a good moment because I felt like he trusted me with the team this year and he felt like we could do this again.


How did it feel to watch seven of your teammates go to the NBA Draft when you were returning to school?


It was a good feeling when guys that you played with saw their dreams come true and knowing you can do the same. I’m happy for all those guys, happy they got drafted. It worked out for the best for everyone. They helped me get better. I’m going to miss practices with those guys because it was non-stop competition.


Did you watch the draft and text those guys?


Oh yeah, of course. I congratulated them and tweeted them.


Related: Kentucky Team Preview | SEC Predictions


Was it weird to watch almost your entire team leave all at once?


It wasn’t weird. Those guys were ready. I figured they would be leaving because we had so many great players. They were ready to take their game to the next level.


Do you feel like this year’s team has to be your team?


I feel like that’s the way it’s got to be. Me, Alex (Poythress) and Marcus (Lee). We’ve got a lot of young guys coming in and a lot of people left. Derek (Willis) is going to have to step up, but he doesn’t have that much experience. Once everybody gets used to playing the game of basketball together, it will be the same way it was last year. We’ll have a ton of talented players who will share leadership.


A huge part of your game is your vision and playmaking ability. When was the first time you realized you could see things other guys couldn’t or could see plays develop better than other guards?


At a young age. High school, middle school, ever since I’ve been playing I’ve been known as a high-IQ guy, so I always used that to my advantage, like bigger guys always use their size as an advantage. I was always the smallest guy. That was always my gift. I always played that way, trying to find my teammates, trying to get everyone involved.


What was the first sense of validation that you could be a high-major player and the point guard at a place like Kentucky?


I’ve always felt like that. I’m very confident in my game. I can play at a high level. My parents always told me I’m going to get there. I’ve always had the confidence that my friends and family had. I just waited around for all the offers to come in.


You mentioned your confidence. Your height has been a topic ever since you were a recruit. How did that confidence in your abilities and your future develop?


I don’t know. But I just have been playing so long. I trust my game and I trust in myself and know everything is going to work itself out.


When you were being recruited, you said that a primary reason you went to Kentucky was Calipari’s record of developing point guards. Where are you in that development?


Just make sure I stay healthy. Get more flexible. Get my body together. Get in the weight room, gain weight. Try to polish my game in every way. Right after the season ended, I got with the strength coach and we did a lot of work over the summer. I went back home, and my best friend back there worked me out a lot. We were in the weight room every day. I’m just trying to get stronger. Regardless of my size, I am pretty strong. I’m just trying to go out there and show it.


More than any position on the court, point guard has an identity that comes with it. For you last season, do you feel like you had one even though you were coming off the bench?


I felt like I developed an identity in practice because guys know what you’re doing. And they trust you, trust your game and trust you with the ball in your hands. With me and Andrew (Harrison) playing together, that could have gone wrong because we’re both point guards, but I trusted him and he trusted me.


You’ll have another big freshman point guard this season in Isaiah Briscoe. What did you learn from Andrew in how to handle that dynamic?


Andrew didn’t have to accept me coming in and taking some of his minutes. He never made a big deal about it, never made a problem of it. He just accepted it, and we both played together.


You’ve mentioned your size and how it becomes a big deal. Do you ever get tired of people asking you about your size and how stories always bring it up?


Not anymore. I’m not really focusing on what people say. I just try to listen to my family, my friends and coaches. I’m not trying to live up to anybody’s expectations. I feel like I know what I can do, and no matter what my size is, at the end of the day, you have to know how to play the game.


Was there ever a time when that bothered you?


Of course. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. I wasn’t getting recruited highly early in my career, and that was because of my size. That’s what a lot of people said. I kept at it, and kept working and it all worked out.


What was the toughest place to play last season?


LSU and Georgia and Texas A&M were pretty tough games. I actually like away games. I like the crowd and when they boo you. I like to feed off that.


Who was the toughest team to guard last season?


Probably Ole Miss. Everyone I guarded against Ole Miss seemed like they made a shot. It was a rough game.


Where would you want to play college basketball if not Kentucky?


Right now, this is where I want to be. I love it here. I grew up a Michigan State fan. That’s probably where I would want to be if I wasn’t at Kentucky.

Kentucky’s Tyler Ulis on taking charge, being small and watching his friends leave Lexington
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News, Magazines
Path: /magazines/lsus-ben-simmons-talks-rugby-fame-australia-choosing-tigers

Ben Simmons is the top-ranked freshman in the country and the most heralded recruit to land in Baton Rouge since Shaquille O’Neal. The 6'10", 225-pound Aussie arrives at LSU having lost only one game in high school during the past three years, and some observers even compare him to LeBron James due to his versatility and ability to make others better from the forward position.


Simmons talked to Athlon about why he chose LSU over Duke and Kentucky, the players to whom he compares himself and why he gave up rugby.


When did you start playing basketball in Australia?


It was always more basketball for the simple fact that my dad played professionally in Europe and Australia. I grew up playing. Everyone in my family played — my brothers and sisters. My mom was always supportive of everybody. Basketball was always the main thing.


You also played rugby growing up. Were you any good?


I think I could have played at the professional level of Australian football, but I stopped playing. It was a lot of running, and I’m not going to run the whole time unless I’m giving a lot to the team. I felt like I was running so much and wasn’t giving a lot to the team. I felt like I had to be in a position where I could score and I was playing forward. I was the tallest guy, and I had to kick the ball to the shortest guys downfield. For me, I felt I like I didn’t contribute that much because I didn’t score. I wanted to be the guy who kicked the furthest goal and celebrate, but I had to stick to my role. I stuck to basketball because I’m in love with the sport.


When I spoke to Dante Exum before he was drafted last year, he said he was fairly anonymous in Australia. What’s it like for you when you go home?


I remember going out with him after he had been drafted. I think one person came up to him. It was crazy. Last year when I went home as a junior everybody was coming up to me. I don’t think he had much media attention since he stayed in Australia and then it all hit him. For me, I’m on YouTube highlights, and there’s been more media attention on me than there was with him.


Looking back, do you feel it was it the right decision to leave Australia and play high school basketball in the U.S.?


I think it was the perfect decision for me. It helped me develop as a person. I’ve been through so much and learned so much over the past three years. As a person and a player, I’ve developed more than I would have back home.


Was it difficult to leave?


It was definitely my idea. It was more of a family decision, but I always wanted to play high school over here — and the next goal is college.


This interview and previews of every team in the country is available in the Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview Magazine, available on newsstands or online.


What was your personal highlight of playing at Montverde Academy?


Just winning the national championship three times. Now I go down in history as one of the top guys in national high school basketball — which is a cool thing.


You are a pretty even-keeled guy. What gets you emotional? What gets you worked up?


When I’m playing PlayStation. That’s probably (the) only time. I try and keep a level head. Playing NBA2K, that’s the one. Especially losing to my (friend), Corey. That kills me. When he started playing, he used to dominate me all the time, and it used to frustrate me. I kind of caught up. He’s the better player, but I feel like I’m better. He’s better, but I’m not going to accept it. That’s why I just keep playing — and keep losing, so it’s kind of frustrating. I show emotion when I need to. Winning a game or the national championship, I was happy. But it didn’t really satisfy me. It was my third one and I still have much more to do. I want to be the best player in the NBA and winning an NBA Championship and the MVP. All of that, if I’m able to do that. At LSU, I want to win as many games as we can. I’m not used to losing, so I’m going to do everything I can to make sure we win.


Do you know your overall record at Montverde?


I lost one game — to Wheeler out of Georgia at the City of Palms Tournament in Florida. I remember being sick the whole week. It was just one loss. I didn’t really care that much.


Why did you choose LSU?


My godfather, David Patrick, is the main reason. He’s an assistant coach at LSU. He’s family to me. I’ve known him my whole life. He played with my dad, and my dad took him under his wing when he was a rookie in the professional league back home. I feel like he’s never done anything wrong by me. For me it’s just another team. It’s about the people on the team and the people around it. I really trust Coach (Johnny) Jones — he’s been the same guy from when he started recruiting me until now. He hasn’t changed at all.


Was it an easy decision because of your relationship with David?


Definitely. For me, it was cool having offers from Duke and some of the other big schools. I felt like I kind of waited to see who I could get offers from just because I’m an Australian kid. To have Coach Cal and Coach K call. That was cool for me. Once I had everyone calling, I already knew where I wanted to go — so I didn’t want to hold them up, get more attention or lead them on, so I committed pretty quickly.


Have you had a chance to meet former LSU star Shaquille O’Neal yet?


I haven’t met him yet, but we’ve spoken on the phone. I think I’m fine when I meet big pro athletes. I’ve met Michael Jordan, Kobe — to me, they are just other hoopers. To meet him, it will be cool — with his personality and what he’s done.


What are your expectations at LSU?


I don’t really have any besides to win. I don’t have any pressure on me. I don’t have any. I’m not worried about that. I’m going to do what I know how to do, and if that’s not good enough, the expectations are too high.


Related: LSU Team Preview | SEC Predictions


Who is the best player you’ve ever played against?


LeBron at his camp before my senior year. I played against James Harden recently. To me, they are just other players. I don’t get nervous when I play against guys. Back when I played against LeBron, I was a little nervous — but not anymore. Now I know what I can do.


Your confidence level was completely different during your junior season in high school compared to this past year. Why?


I think I was holding back a little bit. I had my role and I was sticking to it. My role this year was to be a leader and make sure I took over games — and I think I did that.


Your dad taught you the game and played it professionally. How are your games different?


I have more skill than my dad. He was more of a center or a power forward.


What player do you think is the best comparison for your game?


It’s kind of hard because I’m not as athletic as LeBron, but I’m athletic. I think I handle the ball a bit better, but at the same time he’s stronger, more physical and athletic. I don’t even know. I couldn’t tell you a player. I think sometimes LeBron, or Magic (Johnson) or Scottie Pippen.


What’s the area you’ve been working on most in preparation for college?


My perimeter shot and being a better ball handler. I think I have a good handle, but I want to tighten it up a little more.


What’s your position?


It was point forward, but I think now it’s 1 through 5. I can guard the 5-man, and I showed that at the Nike Camp. I can guard a 4, 3, 2 and 1 — and can run all positions, too. I think I’m able to be versatile.


Favorite music to listen to?


Future, Kanye, JayZ, Rick Ross.


What would you say is the coolest part of the whole ride so far?


Just being Ben Simmons. Being me and being recognized for that. Having a chance to be a role model for people back home. I love people knowing who I am. I think it’s cool. It’s just a blessing. 

LSU’s Ben Simmons Talks Rugby, Fame in Australia, Choosing the Tigers
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News, Magazines
Path: /magazines/wisconsins-nigel-hayes-regrets-duke-game-bo-ryans-possible-final-season

During his first two seasons at Wisconsin, Nigel Hayes often chose to deflect any attention sent his way. That wasn’t always the case, of course, as Hayes’ fascination with NCAA Tournament stenographers last spring was a hit with fans and media from around the country.


But much of the time, Hayes steered the focus away from himself and onto someone else. When he was asked questions after a big performance, he’d look into the cameras and say he was just trying to be like Frank or Josh, referring to two of the Badgers’ elder statesmen, Frank Kaminsky and Josh Gasser.


Now, Kaminsky and Gasser are gone. So are Sam Dekker, Traevon Jackson and Duje Dukan, three other key pieces from a Wisconsin team that won a program-record 36 games and advanced to the NCAA title game for the first time in 74 years before falling to Duke.


Hayes will be asked to step into a leadership role as a junior, but he seems poised to take on that extra responsibility. Athlon sat down with Hayes, who averaged 12.4 points and 6.2 rebounds last season.


Were you surprised by all the attention you got during the NCAA Tournament?


For all that stenographer stuff? Kinda sorta, but then after awhile not really. They just loved our team, and I guess it was something for people to talk about. So they kept talking about it. I guess I have one of those personalities that attract people. I guess it worked out perfectly. Thanks to that, they wanted to follow us a little bit more, and they got to see how good of a bunch of guys that we are and how close of a team we were. But I didn’t expect any of that to happen at all. It kind of got carried away a little bit. But as they say in Hollywood, any publicity is good publicity.


What was the funniest moment last season? Years from now, when you look back on the season, will there be a go-to story that shows how loose this team was?


It may not be appropriate right now to say, so that just goes to show what kind of team we were. We had some good guys.


Have you watched the video of the loss to Duke in the NCAA Tournament title game?


I have not.


Do you plan to?


I don’t.


Too painful?


No, not too painful. It’s just that I think I know personally what I could have and should have done better. Usually after games, you can watch film and you can see what you did wrong. But when it’s a loss that big, as soon as the game is over, the first 38 things you say to yourself is, ‘Damn, I should have done this, this, that, that, that and that,’ because you remember the entire game play by play.


This interview and previews of every team in the country is available in the Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview Magazine, available on newsstands or online.


What’s No. 1 on the list?


I missed two layups, I think. I missed two free throws, I think. I didn’t help over once on Tyus (Jones) curling to the rim for a wide-open layup. I could just go down the list of what I did wrong, so there’s no need to go back and watch it again.


Why did you go to Wisconsin?


When I was being recruited during my junior year, I was always told to go to the place that loves you the most and you’ll be the happiest. And here we are. I’m pretty happy, and these two years haven’t been too shabby.


Where would you have gone if you hadn’t chosen Wisconsin?


I really liked Stanford a lot. Being from Ohio, I always wanted to go to Ohio State, but I definitely liked Stanford. You can’t go wrong with a Stanford degree or the connections that you create at Stanford. And then the California atmosphere, that was just a pretty good place to be.


You lived alone last year, right?


I still do.


How come? That’s pretty rare.


I was going to live with a couple of guys and I was like, ‘You know, I’m way too clean and precise to live with other people.’ I can afford it now, so here I am by myself, and it’s been great. I’m my own best friend. It’s clean.


There can’t be many 20-year-old guys on campus who are that concerned about keeping their apartment clean.


People have said I have moderate OCD, which I guess would make my mother proud because she raised us to be clean. She would definitely be proud to hear that. What’s ironic, though, is I’m messy at home (in Toledo, Ohio) because I think that she’ll clean it up. But when I’m on my own, she raised me right. I can take care of myself.


Ever get lonely in the apartment, though?


Not at all. I usually read, and reading can take you places as they say. When you’re engaged in a book, there’s no such thing as lonely.


What book are you reading now?


I’m almost finished with the Malcolm X autobiography.


Related: Wisconsin Team Preview | Big Ten Predictions


How do you expect your role to change this season?


I probably will have to shoot the ball more and, man, I know players hate when they have to do that. (Smiles) So I’ll probably have to shoot the ball more. I’ll probably have to become more of a vocal leader. Last year, we never had a true vocal leader; it was kind of a collective thing. But this year with all the inexperience we have, I think I may definitely have to evolve into the role of a vocal leader.


The known commodities on this team are you and junior point guard Bronson Koenig. Do you expect some of the lesser-known guys — junior forward Vitto Brown, redshirt freshman forward Ethan Happ, sophomore guard Jordan Hill — to emerge this season?


I definitely expect them to, and if we want to have any type of season that we’ve been accustomed to these past two years, they’re going to have to. And I think they’ll be ready for it. They’ve been working hard this offseason.


Were you surprised when Bo Ryan announced he’d retire following the 2015-16 season?


Surprised? Not really. I know he’s on the old side of things. He’s been doing this for a while. And I’m sure it’s caught up to him, all the obligations and engagements that he has to do. But if he’s doing it because he’s had his fair share of it, then all you can do is tip your hat to him and say thank you for your contributions in coaching us so far and best of luck. But I just have this weird feeling that he’s not going to be done. I just don’t see him having anything else to do or anything else that he loves as much to do besides coach basketball.


So you think he could change his mind between now and the end of the season?


I personally think so, yeah. He has a great life here — he walks outside, and he’s treated like royalty. What better life can you ask for? Coaching Wisconsin, people love you, fans love you, the world loves you. Pretty good life right there.


(Ed. Note: This interview was conducted in July, before reports indicated Ryan may not retire at the end of the season. Hayes may have been correct in his assumption that Ryan is not done.)


If this is it, do you expect him to change much this year?


He’ll still be the same old Bo. Lots of expletives, lots of anger and lots of crouching.


What is your favorite place to play in the Big Ten, other than the Kohl Center?


I’ve never been to Michigan State, so I don’t know how that is. That could be in there. I really don’t have a favorite place to play at.


Do you have a least favorite place to play?


Probably Penn State. I don’t want this to go bad — it probably will — but it’s just because we’re used to an atmosphere at our home games where there are more people and we can feed off the energy. When you play at Penn State, there’s not as many people there at the game, so we have to play off our own team energy. Which is fine. It’s just not as much of a full, exciting environment as we’re accustomed to.


What coach in the league would you like to play for, other than Bo Ryan?


Coach (Mark) Turgeon (of Maryland) was my coach for the first couple of days at the Pan-Am Games (tryouts). He seemed like pretty good people. So I guess just by default, since he’s the only other one I’ve ever been coached by, it’d be him.


Who was the toughest player you had to guard last season?


For me, it probably would have been my mismatch with (Maryland’s) Dez Wells. I pride myself on defense, and I’m usually able to guard 1 through 5 for the most part, but he was just that perfect combination of, ‘I can get around Nigel,’ and whatever he had together, he had it. That right there was definitely the toughest for me personally.


Who was the toughest defender who guarded you?


Probably Willie (Cauley-Stein) from Kentucky. That’s always been his staple. He’s 7-foot and he can move like a guard, so you can just see the problems that would create.


Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes on regrets from the Duke game, Bo Ryan’s (possible) final season
Post date: Friday, November 13, 2015 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: videos, NFL, Overtime
Path: /overtime/dez-bryant-erupts-media-dallas-cowboys-locker-room-interview-jason-witten

Dez Bryant is having issues with the media yet again.


The Cowboys wide receiver went off during an interview regarding the media and the way they report things about him. It's unclear who specifically Bryant is speaking of, but he was pretty heated about it.





Here's video of tight end Jason Witten's interview being halted by Bryant's arguing in the background. He did his best to recover well.



Ironically a reporter was accused of misreporting, which is what many think this situation is all about, and alas we may never know the direct source of what caused Bryant's initial reaction.



Post date: Thursday, November 12, 2015 - 16:38
Path: /college-football/usc-trojans-vs-colorado-buffaloes-preview-and-prediction-2015

The USC Trojans will make history on Friday night. For the first time in the program's existence, they will play a game on Friday the 13th. It will be just the fifth time USC has played a Friday game since 1990, but the Trojans have won all of them and they have never lost to Colorado in nine meetings. For added measure, USC has put up at least 40 points in each of their last five matchups against the Buffaloes. Colorado, historically and recently, has gone down fairly easily to the Men of Troy, all the more reason to take this game seriously.


USC interim head coach Clay Helton continues to do what his predecessors could not. Aside from the in-game adjustments, Helton shows a willingness to stick with what is working — albeit only after going away from it for an inexplicable period of time. While this may sound like a slight at Helton, it is anything but. Previous head coaches got away from what was working and never circled back. It's unreasonable to fault Helton for falling back on some of his preferable philosophies without acknowledging his malleable approach to those tendencies when the game is on the line.


Helton's refusal to be stubborn inspired USC to its first come-from-behind victory since 2012 and first after trailing entering the fourth quarter since the Pete Carroll era. The following will seem like a journalistic reach for those who've not followed USC for the last five years, but anyone plugged into Los Angeles during that same stretch wouldn't blink an eye: It's crazy that it took USC nearly five years to find a head coach willing to try something different when their original strategy wasn't working or to go back to trying something that was working with tremendous efficiency.


Quarterback Cody Kessler had another great game against Arizona and will be looking to continue the momentum against Colorado. Kessler was 22-of-36 for 243 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 72-yard strike to JuJu Smith-Schuster to put the Trojans back in the game in the second quarter. Kessler continues to be efficient, but struggles with hanging on to the ball too long and getting sacked as a result. USC has surrendered a total of 23 sacks on the season.


Probably more interesting than the fact that USC has give up 23 sacks is how the Trojans have done so under the different coaching regimes. Under former head coach Steve Sarkisian, Kessler was sacked 13 times in a span of five games. Under Helton, Kessler has been sacked 10 times in four games. The real oddity is in the fact that Helton's team has only surrendered more than two sacks one time while Sarkisian's squad gave up four or more on three different occasions. It suggests that the overall offensive line play is a concern, but that Helton has improved the game-to-game results.


If you look at Kessler's play as a result of the more consistent protection, it's not hard to tell when Helton took over. While the senior signal-caller has always been an efficient passer, Helton's ability to use Kessler's strengths to the team's advantage instead of forcing a square peg into a round hole has paid dividends. The Trojans look more competent on offense and running back Ronald Jones II has emerged as a revelation not just for the Trojans, but for the entire nation. Now the Trojans look to keep the efficiency train on track against Colorado, a team that has never beaten USC.


College Football Podcast: Week 11 Preview

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USC at Colorado


Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET (Friday)


Spread: USC -16.5


Three Things to Watch


1. USC's Rushing Attack

At this point in the season, who to watch is just as important as what to watch. More crazy things happen in November than any other month of the season. Those things may not be that much more spectacular in terms of the visual, but their significance takes on a whole new meaning. Robert Griffin III likely cemented his Heisman campaign with a thrilling November defeat of Oklahoma. Auburn stunned an entire nation with the kick-six, and now Ronald Jones II has the chance to etch his name not just in Trojan greatness, but possible national greatness as well.  


At present, Jones only needs 148 yards to break the freshman rushing record at USC. Should Jones accomplish this feat within the next three games, he would join some elite company at USC. The current owner of that record is Charles White, a future Heisman winner for USC. Given that Jones ran for 177 yards against Arizona, he should be able to find yards against a rushing defense ranked No. 110 in the nation (208.9 ypg).  


It's also worth mentioning that this is a November road game against Colorado. Running the ball in cold weather has been a staple in football. Though USC has managed to torch Colorado through the air in previous meetings, there really is no need to approach this game with anything other than a rushing mindset. Establishing the run and limiting the passing game has made the Trojans an efficient and deadly machine on offense, sticking with what has been working should also led Helton to the conclusion that running the ball is the best idea.


Colorado's total defensive ranking is almost as woeful as its standing just against the run. The Buffaloes check in at No. 91 in the nation and are giving up 428.2 yards per game, most of that coming on the ground. Their pass defense isn't amazing, but it's substantially better than their rushing defense. In fact, at No. 61 in the nation, the Buffaloes are in the middle of the pack. That's not to say that USC should stay away from throwing the ball against an average passing defense, just that riding Jones seems like an easier and more evident path to victory.


2. Expect the Flags to Fly Freely

The Trojans are checking into this game averaging 69 penalty yards per game (No. 106) and they're 93rd in the nation in penalties per game (7.1). Add in the goodness that is Colorado's 59.3 penalty yards per game (No. 84), top it with a very savory 6.5 flags per game, and you have a recipe for a penalty-filled game with tons of bad calls mixed in. These two teams are not exactly known for their discipline and the shorter week isn't likely to improve matters on that front. As the Trojans prepare for Colorado, perhaps a new approach is in order since the other stuff doesn't seem to be working.


Since the Trojans seem incapable of eliminating penalties altogether, perhaps a more effective approach would be to focus on eliminating the more costly penalties. These are usually the flags that occur on big plays or take manageable downs and turn them into an adventure. Flags like offensive holding after a huge pass play or false starts on 3rd-and-two have become too common. USC must eliminate these before its final two games of the season and Colorado presents the last real chance to do that before Oregon and UCLA put the Trojans in their crosshairs.


3. Statistics Tell an Interesting Story About Helton

Something crazy happens if you go in-depth with USC splits and game logs. It's not that anything has dramatically changed in the overall scheme, it's that they have leveled out and become more consistent. Sacks were already mentioned earlier, but turnovers are also an illustration of Helton's stability in progress. Steve Sarkisian had stressed turnovers prior to the season and USC did gain half its turnovers under Sarkisian. Sarkisian and Helton both have only won the turnover battle twice, but Helton has forced a turnover in every game while Sarkisian came up empty against Stanford and Idaho.


Pace of play also has picked up under Helton's leadership. It's curious that Helton has yet to call a single game with less than 73 plays, but Sarkisian only had one game of more than 69. Even though Helton was supposedly calling plays the entire time, there has been a significant increase in the number of plays USC is able to get in over the course of a game. Whether that's due to efficiency, execution, or a combination of both is yet to be determined. Things appear to be running more efficiently under Helton and the famous football "eye test" would reinforce that even if the numbers say they're similar or worse.


USC isn't averaging nearly as many yards per play as it was under Sarkisian, but production is there and more importantly, the team is winning more games than it's losing. What you do is not always as important as how you go about it and USC has found a more measured sense of self with Helton at the reigns. It's pointless to forecast what this means for the future, but it sure is helpful to USC in the present. With the ups and downs of the Pac-12 season, Helton's steady approach may be just what USC needs to get its rematch with Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game.


Final Analysis


Maintaining a steady course might be the battle, but overall improvement is the war for USC interim head coach Clay Helton. The Trojans are settling into an identity and the fans aren't the only ones excited about these prospects. The coaching staff seems to be gaining an understanding of what they have in Ronald Jones II and a working Trojan running game is about the last thing the Pac-12 wants to see down the stretch. Expect USC to affirm this identity moving forward and to hit Colorado with everything it has. It's not because the Trojans are trying to make a statement against the Buffaloes, but rather because USC needs one for its own benefit. This is a team and a staff craving knowledge about their operational capabilities. It's a lot of fun to watch what a machine can do once it has been built.


Helton has preached a philosophy of iron sharpening iron and USC knows it needs to be at its sharpest for the final stretch of November. If USC is to have any hope of winning out and competing for a Pac-12 title, then the truth of the matter is that Colorado must become a formality. There really is no alternative for the Trojans. Get right or get beat, it's that simple. Helton has had USC going in the right direction since he took over, now he plans to see this thing out.


To paraphrase Cardale Jones, Helton didn't come to USC to play school. He came to USC to win and be the next head coach. Colorado is just another obstacle keeping Helton from his dreams and he will act accordingly.


Prediction: USC 48, Colorado 19


— Written by Josh Webb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Webb is a recruiting analyst for BarkBoard, Scout’s Fresno State affiliate. A contributor to, Scout’s USC affiliate. He is also a regular guest and contributor for Reign Of Troy, USC’s FanSided affiliate. Follow him on Twitter @FightOnTwist.

USC Trojans vs. Colorado Buffaloes Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, November 12, 2015 - 15:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/dale-hansen-sounds-greg-hardys-innocent-until-proven-guilty-remark-cowboys

The talk surrounding Greg Hardy is not going to be over in the near future. 


The Cowboys defensive end changed his Twitter bio recently to include that he is "innocent until proven guilty." What might have slipped his mind, however, is that he has been in fact proven guilty.



Dale Hansen, who's been covering Dallas sports for decades, has never been one to hold his tongue. He's earned his stripes and discusses Hardy so eloquently, as only he could. 




Post date: Thursday, November 12, 2015 - 13:55
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/jt-barretts-dash-cam-video-released-ohio-state-quarterback-dui

J.T. Barrett is not one to shy away from pulling the "do you know who I am" card.


The dash cam video from the Ohio State quarterback's October 31 DUI incident was released. Barrett went through multiple tests and when the officer was not convinced of his sobriety, he can be heard saying, "I'm the quarterback of Ohio State ... officer, there's nothing you can do?"


Post date: Thursday, November 12, 2015 - 12:14
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-must-sit-larry-fitzgerald-and-other-wr-te-startsit-fantasy-advice-week-10

Fantasy owners who have stuck with Antonio Brown (the again why wouldn’t you) were rewarded in a huge way (17 rec., 284 yds.) in Week 9, while some other big names continued to struggle. As for the wide receivers and tight ends I told you to start or sit last week, how did that advice pan out? Let’s look at a few examples.


Good Calls:


Start Mike Evans (13.2 fantasy points) – He finally looked like an elite No. 1 WR, even though he dropped several balls.


Start Emmanuel Sanders (15 FP) – Sanders was Peyton Manning’s go-to target against the Colts.


Start Amari Cooper (14.8 FP) – Cooper got over shadowed by Michael Crabtree (7-108-2), but 88 receiving yards and a TD isn’t bad.


Bad Calls:


Sit Randal Cobb (15.9 FP) – Looks like Cobb does exist! He finally scored more than four fantasy points for the first time since

week 3.


Sit Allen Robinson (12.1 FP) – Both Robinson (6-121-0) and Hurns (5-122-1) were fantastic against the Jets. Blake Bortles is going to keep airing it out so Robinson is a must-start from here on out.


Start Benjamin Watson (6 FP) – Ceded a touchdown to Josh Hill, but Watson was worthy of starting last week for sure.


Start Heath Miller (3.2 FP) – Ben Roethlisberger (and then Landry Jones after Big Ben got hurt) basically only threw the ball all game to Antonio Brown.


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


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


Wide Receivers




Allen Robinson, JAC (at BAL)

Robinson has easily played his way into the WR1 conversation and he is starting to look matchup-proof. Last week he was paired against Darrelle Revis and the New York Jets and he managed to score 12.1 fantasy points thanks to six catches and 121 yards. That game also was the first time in the past four weeks that Robinson didn’t score a touchdown. This week the Jaguars travel to Baltimore to play a Ravens defense that has given up the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season. You can bet that Jags are going to drop back to pass a lot in this game and look for Blake Bortles to connect with Robison to the tune of 100-plus yards and at least one touchdown.


Demaryius Thomas, DEN (vs. KC)

In a game where Peyton Manning almost threw for 300 yards, it’s very disappointing to see that Thomas was only targeted seven times, catching five balls for a grand total of 50 yards. A lot of that has to do with the fact that he saw blanket coverage throughout most of the game by Vontae Davis, the Colts’ elite cover corner. This week Thomas should be back with a vengeance as he has an appealing matchup vs. the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are terrible against the pass. They are currently giving up the most fantasy points to wide receivers. Thomas should come close to catching 10 balls for well over 100 yards in this one. The real problem is that Thomas might not score a TD because those have been hard to come by this year from Manning.


Amari Cooper, OAK (vs. MIN)

This might be the last time that I can put Cooper in the start section because he is slowly, but surely becoming matchup-proof. We’ll see how he does this week because on paper he’s got a very tough matchup at home against the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings’ pass defense is moving into the elite category, as they are allowing the eighth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers on the season. But what makes Cooper a must-start this week is that the Vikings have allowed No. 1 WRs to post more than six receptions per game. That’s great news if you have Cooper in a PPR league. Plus the way that Derek Carr is playing right now, Cooper should end the day with close to 100 yards and another touchdown.




Tavon Austin, STL (vs. CHI)

It looks like Austin isn’t going to be the first-round draft bust that we all thought he was destined to be after all. Austin is now being used as a featured weapon in both the Rams’ running and passing game. He’s still a boom-or-bust option, but he has a chance to make a big boom this week. The Rams host the Chicago Bears, and the Bears have a decent run defense, highlighted by the fact that they are currently giving up the 10th-fewest fantasy points to running backs. What this means is that the Bears are going to do everything possible to slow down Todd Gurley. That should mean plenty of opportunities for Austin, whether it’s out of the backfield or on short and intermediate routes because the Bears have given up the third-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season. If you’re looking for a what the heck flex play this week, go with Austin.




Larry Fitzgerald, ARI (at SEA)

Fitzgerald has slowed down considerably since his Week 2 and Week 3 outbursts where he scored 29.2 and 25.4 fantasy points respectively. Since then he hasn’t had a 100-yard receiving game, has only scored two touchdowns and has produced  fewer than 10 fantasy points in three of his last five games. A lot of that has to do with the emergence of John Brown and the return to health of Michael Floyd. Carson Palmer really does have a lot of options to throw the ball too. Fitzgerald will be a fine start for the rest of the year, but not this week as the Cardinals travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks, who are notoriously tough to beat at home. The Seahawks have given up the second-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers on the season and that isn’t going to change this week. Palmer could struggle this week and that’s not good news if you start Fitzgerald.


Jeremy Maclin, KC (at DEN)

Maclin has had a rough few weeks after a great start to the season. He’s seen his production take a nose dive and he suffered a nasty concussion. Now presumably he’s back to 100 percent health and what does he get as a welcome back gift? How about playing the vaunted Denver Broncos secondary? Since Aqib Talib is suspended for this game for being an idiot, Maclin will draw coverage from Chris Harris, who also is a shutdown corner. It’s not as if the Chiefs have another wide receiver that the Broncos need to worry about either. Look for the Broncos to smother Maclin all game, as he should struggle to score even five fantasy points this week in standard leagues.


Sammy Watkins, BUF (at NYJ)

Last week Watkins played the game of his life, catching all eight passes he saw for 168 yards and a long touchdown. That’s good for 22.8 fantasy points in standard scoring leagues. That’s after he has basically been a non-factor all season. This week, however, things will be different as the New York Jets are a legitimate defense and it doesn’t help that Watkins is going to be matched up against Darrelle Revis all game. Throw in the fact that this is a short week since the game is on Thursday night and that Watkins’ quarterback Tyrod Taylor is very inconsistent and you have the makings of a dud game for Watkins.




Mike Evans, TB (at DAL)

So far this season Evans has been up and down, up and down. One week he scores 4.1 fantasy points then he scores 22.4 fantasy points. He follows that big game up with a dud, scoring 4.8 fantasy points and then last week scored 13.2 fantasy points, although he could have had a lot more if he didn’t drop six balls. So if we continue the good game, bad game trend, Evans is due for a stinker this week in Dallas. This would make sense because the Cowboys are pretty good against the pass, allowing the sixth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this season. You also have to consider that tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins may finally be back to steal targets away from Evans.


Tight Ends




Tyler Eifert, CIN (vs. HOU, Mon.)

Much like other elite tight ends, Eifert is very inconsistent, but when he’s good, he’s really good. Two weeks ago Eifert managed only 3.9 fantasy points. He then followed that dud of a game up with a three-touchdown performance last Thursday night. Since Andy Dalton loves throwing Eifert’s way in the red zone, Eifert is a must-start every week. He might not go off for 100-plus yards, but he could score multiple touchdowns in any game, and for that reason, you must start him every week. He’ll probably score again this week on Monday night against the Houston Texans and their defense that has given up nearly 26 points per game.


Jordan Reed, WAS (vs. NO)

When healthy, Reed is one of the most consistent fantasy scoring tight ends in the NFL. He looks to have recovered from his latest concussion and saved his fantasy owners last week with a late touchdown grab against the New England Patriots. It’s easy to see that Reed is Kirk Cousins’ favorite target and he will throw Reed the ball anytime, anywhere. This week the Redskins play host to the New Orleans Saints and their awful defense. Right now a high school team could put up 30 points on the Saints. They are allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to tight ends this season and there’s no reason to think that Reed won’t have his first 100-yard game of 2015 this week.


Delanie Walker, TEN (vs. CAR)

Walker absolutely exploded last week against the Saints for 23.5 fantasy points thanks to seven catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns. While those numbers will be hard to duplicate, Walker and Marcus Mariota seem to be developing some nice chemistry. It also helps that the Titans really do not have any other receiving threat and with Dorial Green-Beckham taking the top off of defenses, there’s plenty of room for Walker to roam over the middle. That said, this week’s matchup isn’t necessarily a great one against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers are giving up the 13th-fewest fantasy points to tight ends this year, but as mentioned before the Titans have no other option but to keep getting the ball to Walker. Another double-digit fantasy day is in store for Walker this week.




Eric Ebron, DET (at GB)

Ebron has been a pleasant fantasy surprise this season, especially those who were smart enough to jump on him after he scored 10-plus fantasy points in each of the first two games. His fantasy production has slowed down a bit, but more of that has to do with Matthew Stafford’s inability to get him the ball than anything else. This week the Lions travel to Green Bay in a game that the Packers could be up by three scores at half time. That means that Stafford might have to throw the ball more than 50 times to get the Lions back into the game and he can’t throw all of those passes to Calvin Johnson. Throw in the fact that the Packers are allowing the 10th-most fantasy points to tight ends this season and you have a smart play in Ebron this week.




Heath Miller, PIT (vs. CLE)

Everyone was on Miller last week; he was the No. 1 streamed tight end and for good reason. The previous week Ben Roethlisberger finally returned to the field and Miller caught 10 balls for 105 yards. So of course they’d be in store for an encore last week against the Oakland Raiders, the worst team in the NFL when it comes to defending tight ends, right? Wrong. Big Ben basically only threw the ball to Antonio Brown before he got hurt. Miller ended the game with only 32 receiving yards and it looks like it Landry Jones’ gig once again. This means that if you picked up Miller off the waiver wire, you should return him immediately. In Weeks 3 to 7 when Big Ben was out, Miller was a complete afterthought in the Steelers’ offense and that’s what he’ll be this week against the Browns.


Julius Thomas, JAC (at BAL)

So much for Jacksonville’s big free agent splash this offseason. Thomas has been basically hurt all year and even when he does play, he’s highly ineffective. On the year, Thomas has only 116 receiving yards and one touchdown. To make things worse the Jaguars’ other tight end, Bryan Walters, is now ahead of him in the pecking order. Throw in the fact that the Jaguars are playing the Ravens, who are giving up the fourth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends on the year and you should realize that dropping Thomas is probably the way to go.


Martellus Bennett, CHI (at STL)

What a bust Bennett has been so far this year. Many thought that Bennett could easily be a top-3 fantasy tight end with now Alshon Jeffery for much of the first half of the season and the fact that Jay Cutler really had no other pass-catching options. Instead Bennet has only scored double-digit fantasy points in three games this season and is more likely to score closer to his season average of five points when the Bears play the Rams this week. The Rams have an elite defense and are currently giving up the eighth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends this season. Plus, it’s evident that Cutler only really wants to throw the ball to Jeffery. Bennett is an easy must-sit this week.




Jimmy Graham, SEA (vs. ARI)

By now we all know that Jimmy Graham in Seattle isn’t going to be anything like the Jimmy Graham in New Orleans. Of course you’re probably not going to bench Graham since you probably spent such a high draft pick on him, but he’s very hard to trust on a week-to-week basis, which can kill any chance you have of winning your weekly matchup. Graham has posted fewer than eight fantasy points in five of his eight games this season. This week he faces the Arizona Cardinals and their vaunted defense that is allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to tight ends. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


— 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 Sit Larry Fitzgerald and Other WR/TE Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 10
Post date: Thursday, November 12, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/jeff-van-gundy-rips-dallas-fans-booing-deandre-jordan-greg-hardy-mavs-clippers-cowboys

DeAndre Jordan and the Clippers played in Dallas after a crazy summer. Jordan had an eventful offseason after agreeing to play for the Mavericks, an emoji war, people "holding him hostage," and ultimately changing his mind and staying in Los Angeles. The city of Dallas prepared for him as only they could. First it was in the paper:



If that wasn't enough, when Jordan was introduced at the game, the inevitable boos started (and never ended). That's when commentator Jeff Van Gundy gave his two cents on the city of Dallas and how it's so quick to cheer Cowboys star Greg Hardy. Van Gundy made it clear that all Jordan did was change his mind while Hardy was found guilty on charges of domestic abuse.


Post date: Thursday, November 12, 2015 - 10:29