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Path: /college-football/ohio-state-buckeyes-vs-wisconsin-badgers-preview-and-prediction-2016

A potential preview of the Big Ten Championship Game is on tap Saturday night, as Ohio State puts its unbeaten record on the line in a tough road environment in Madison against Wisconsin. Thanks to Big Ten realignment, these two teams and traditional conference powers have not met in a regular season game since 2013 and last played in Madison since 2012.


Despite a massive departure of talent to the NFL, Ohio State hasn’t missed a beat in 2016. The Buckeyes are 5-0 and ranked as one of the top teams in the nation. Coach Urban Meyer continues to stockpile talent in Columbus, which ensures Ohio State maintains its place among the nation’s elite. Meyer’s revamped Buckeye team hasn’t faced too many hurdles so far this year. Ohio State cruised to wins over Bowling Green and Tulsa (after a tough first half), defeated Oklahoma 45-24, handled Rutgers 58-0 and eventually pulled away from Indiana (38-17). Quarterback J.T. Barrett and a standout defense is the foundation of this team, and this trip to Madison is likely the toughest hurdle remaining for this team until the season finale against Michigan.


Wisconsin’s schedule was projected as one of the toughest in the nation prior to the start of the 2016 season. Not only did the Badgers have to match LSU in non-conference play, but coach Paul Chryst’s team faced Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State in crossover action with the Big Ten’s East Division. Chryst has guided this team to a 4-1 start, which included upset wins over LSU and Michigan State. Wisconsin dropped its first game of the season against Michigan (14-7) in Week 5 but is still squarely in the mix to win the Big Ten’s West Division. However, with one loss already, the Badgers can’t afford another defeat to remain in the conversation for the College Football Playoff. And after Saturday night, the road isn’t going to get easier. Wisconsin travels to Iowa in Week 8, followed by a home date against Nebraska in Week 9.


Ohio State holds a 57-18-5 series edge over Wisconsin. The Buckeyes have won four in a row against the Badgers, including a 59-0 rout in the 2014 Big Ten Championship.


Ohio State at Wisconsin


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 15 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Ohio State -10


Three Things to Watch


1. Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook

Passing against Ohio State’s secondary has been a risky proposition for opponents in 2016. The Buckeyes lead the Big Ten in pass efficiency defense and have allowed only four passing touchdowns through five games. Additionally, only one opponent (Oklahoma) has managed to throw for more than 200 yards against Ohio State’s secondary. This unit is led by sophomore Malik Hooker and cornerback Gareon Conley, who have five combined interceptions in 2016 and figure to make life difficult for Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook on Saturday night. The redshirt freshman supplanted Bart Houston as the team’s starting quarterback after the 23-17 win over Georgia State and completed 16 of 26 passes in a win over Michigan State. However, Hornibrook and the offense struggled against Michigan’s standout defense, as the redshirt freshman completed 9 of 25 throws for 88 yards, one score and three interceptions. Not only is Hornibrook throwing against one of the nation’s best defensive backfields, he’s also facing a deep and talented Ohio State defensive line capable of generating pressure with its front four. Needless to say, the spotlight is on the redshirt freshman quarterback. With two weeks to get ready, coach Paul Chryst will have Hornibrook and his receivers prepared for this matchup. However, Hornibrook is going to have to play a lot better (and likely under a lot of pressure) for Wisconsin to pull off the upset.


Related: Predictions for Every College Football Game in Week 7


2. Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett

Considering the turnover at receiver from last season, it’s no surprise Ohio State’s passing attack has sputtered at times in 2016. The Buckeyes threw for 417 yards in the opener against Bowling Green but beat Tulsa with just 149 yards on 14 completions. The numbers were better against Rutgers (259) and Oklahoma (152 on 14 completions), but Indiana’s defense provided plenty of resistance last week. The Hoosiers held quarterback J.T. Barrett to only 93 yards and one touchdown on nine completions. There’s certainly no reason to panic for coach Urban Meyer, but the passing game is a work in progress for the Buckeyes. In order to win, Meyer doesn’t need a 300-yard effort through the air from Barrett on Saturday night. However, the Badgers rank fourth among Big Ten teams in pass efficiency defense and have generated 15 sacks through five games. Linebacker T.J. Watt (5.5 sacks) is responsible for most of the damage, and his presence and performance is even more critical with Vince Biegel sidelined once again due to a foot injury. Just like Wisconsin signal-caller Alex Hornibrook, Barrett is going to see his share of pressure on Saturday night. The Badgers will try to use the formula they used (pressure and different looks at the line of scrimmage) against LSU and Michigan State to pull off the upset on Saturday night. Will Barrett’s one-week blip become a two-week problem? Or will Ohio State’s offensive line protect Barrett, allowing him to connect with Curtis Samuel (15 ypc), Dontre Wilson (12.6) and Noah Brown (13.8) downfield? And when Barrett breaks containment in the pocket, his ability to make plays on the run is a huge x-factor. Can the Wisconsin defense limit the damage on Barrett’s running plays and make him win this game through the air?


3. The Ground Attacks

In order to pull off the upset on Saturday night, Wisconsin cannot afford to be one-dimensional on offense. The Badgers rank eighth in the Big Ten in rushing offense (161.6 ypg) and average 3.8 yards per rush. Those numbers are similar to what Wisconsin recorded last season, but coach Paul Chryst’s team has faced three talented defensive fronts – LSU, Michigan State and Michigan. Test No. 4 comes on Saturday night against Ohio State, as the Buckeyes have yet to allow a rushing touchdown and limit opponents to 2.7 yards per carry. Wisconsin running back Corey Clement missed most of 2016 due to injury and opened the year with 86 yards against LSU and 111 against Akron before suffering an ankle injury. He recorded 54 yards against Michigan State and 68 against Michigan but the bye should allow a return close to full strength. Clement’s production is essential. Can the Badgers get Clement on track and keep Hornibrook out of third-and-long situations? If Clement struggles to get on track, Wisconsin’s offense will struggle to move the ball.


Wisconsin has excelled against the run so far in 2016, limiting opponents to just 90.4 yards per game. The Badgers held LSU to 126 in the opener and limited Michigan to just 130 yards on the ground in Week 5. As evidenced in last week’s win over Indiana, Ohio State’s passing game is still working through some of the kinks this season. However, the Buckeyes gashed the Hoosiers for 290 yards and four touchdowns, which certainly lifted the offense in a 38-point effort. While Wisconsin contained LSU and Michigan, Ohio State’s ground attack is a little different. The Buckeyes are capable of testing the middle on traditional power runs, but this offense is going to attack the edges and perimeter of Wisconsin’s defense. Running back Mike Weber (566 yards) is the lead option, but hybrid running back/receiver Curtis Samuel (8.2 ypc) is a big-play threat off the edge on read or sweep plays. Additionally, Barrett (342 yards) is tough to contain in the pocket on breakdowns or on called quarterback runs and read plays.


Both teams have been stingy against the run all year. Will one team breakthrough with a big performance on Saturday night? Finding success here is more critical for Wisconsin, as Ohio State’s offense has more weapons and a better overall quarterback to carry the team in the passing game if needed.


Final Analysis


Points and overall big plays by both offenses are likely to be in short supply on Saturday night. The obvious strength for both Wisconsin and Ohio State is on defense, and those units are capable of controlling the flow of the game. The Badgers had an extra week to prepare thanks to a bye, which should allow Chryst and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox to throw a few new wrinkles at the Buckeyes. While both teams are salty on defense, there’s a clear edge on offense for one team: Ohio State. It’s hard to envision a scenario where Wisconsin generates enough of a consistent ground attack to move the chains, barring a huge effort by quarterback Alex Hornibrook. The Badgers’ defense should keep Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett in check early on. However, the Buckeyes have too many weapons and eventually put this game out of reach in the fourth quarter.


Prediction: Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 13
Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Wisconsin Badgers Preview and Prediction 2016
Post date: Friday, October 14, 2016 - 09:10
Path: /college-football/tennessee-volunteers-vs-alabama-crimson-tide-preview-and-prediction-2016

The Third Saturday in October is meaningful once again, as Tennessee and Alabama meet for a potential preview of the SEC Championship Game this Saturday in Knoxville. This is the first meeting between the Crimson Tide and Volunteers where both teams are ranked inside of the top 10 since 1999. Additionally, this is the first contest between these two programs where both are ranked entering the annual rivalry since 2005. While this rivalry hasn’t meant as much on the national stage as some of the games in the 1990s, last year’s game was decided in the final minute and the 2016 meeting is poised to play a key role in shaping the SEC title and College Football Playoff picture.


Tennessee was picked as the preseason favorite in the SEC East, but it hasn’t been easy for the Volunteers in 2016. Coach Butch Jones’ team needed overtime to beat Appalachian State, fell behind 14-0 against Virginia Tech, wasn’t impressive in a 28-19 win over Ohio and trailed at halftime against Florida and Georgia before rallying for huge second-half victories. Tennessee’s second-half luck ran out against Texas A&M last Saturday, falling 45-38 in overtime in College Station. While the Volunteers came up short, there’s no shame in losing by seven in overtime after losing seven turnovers and committing 12 penalties against the likely No. 2 team in the SEC. After a physical, overtime game last week, Tennessee is going to have its hands full against Alabama. However, while the Volunteers are nearly a two-touchdown underdog, they nearly won in Tuscaloosa last fall. 


Another year, another dominant Alabama team. The Crimson Tide have quickly addressed any preseason concerns on both sides of the ball and have won five out of their six games by 19 points or more. The only result by less than 19 points? The 48-43 victory at Ole Miss on Sept. 17. As usual under coach Nick Saban, Alabama’s defense is among the nation’s best, and the offense seems to be hitting its stride with true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts at the controls. Similar to Tennessee, the Crimson Tide are also in the midst of a difficult stretch on the schedule. After a trip (and victory) against Arkansas last Saturday, Alabama heads to Knoxville this week, followed by a home matchup against Texas A&M, then a road date at LSU after a bye week.


Alabama holds a 53-38-7 edge in the all-time series against Tennessee. The Crimson Tide have won nine in a row against the Volunteers, including the last four in Knoxville.


Alabama at Tennessee


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 15 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Alabama -13


Three Things to Watch


1. Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs

There’s not a clear or defined blueprint on the best way to beat Alabama. However, teams with dual-threat quarterbacks or passers with mobility generally give Nick Saban’s defense the most trouble. Earlier this season, Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly threw for 421 yards and added 48 on the ground in the Crimson Tide’s narrow 48-43 win in Oxford. And in the national championship victory over Clemson and standout quarterback Deshaun Watson, Alabama’s defense surrendered 6.5 yards per play. What does that mean for Tennessee? Quarterback Joshua Dobbs has experienced his share of ups and downs in 2016, but the senior has played better since the second half of the victory against Florida. Dobbs has passed for 1,433 yards and 14 scores (nearly equaled his total from 2015 – 15) and ranks second on the team with 324 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Dobbs is streaky (58.3%) as a passer but is capable of hitting on big plays (six completions of 40 yards or more). In last year’s game against Alabama, Dobbs was held in check (171 passing yards, 19 rushing). For the Volunteers to pull off the upset, Dobbs needs to have a performance similar to the one he had last week against Texas A&M (455 total yards). Alabama’s pass rush – led by linebacker Tim Williams and end Jonathan Allen – is relentless. The Crimson Tide have recorded 23 sacks in six games and will be handful for Tennessee’s offensive line. Can Dobbs make enough plays with his legs to slow down Alabama’s pass rush? If he can get to the edges and create opportunities downfield, as Arkansas showed last week (400 passing yards), there are plays available to be made against this secondary.


Related: Predictions for Every College Football Game in Week 7


2. Alabama’s Ground Attack and Tennessee’s Defensive Line

Alabama’s offense has morphed under coordinator Lane Kiffin to adapt to the spread/run-pass plays utilized by many teams. The Crimson Tide are no longer just a pro-style/run-first team. However, the success of this unit still starts on the ground. With a revamped offensive line and the loss of Derrick Henry, Alabama’s rushing attack took a few games to hit on all cylinders. The Crimson Tide averaged 7.8 yards per rush against Arkansas and recorded 6.96 in the 48-43 win over Ole Miss. Quarterback Jalen Hurts plays a key role in the ground attack, as the freshman has rushed for 296 yards on 62 carries. Damien Harris (478 yards) and Joshua Jacobs (307 yards) are the primary running backs, with Bo Scarbrough (164 yards) also seeing snaps.


Why is the battle up front so important on Saturday afternoon? Tennessee ranks 10th in the SEC against the run but last week’s game against Texas A&M was the first time this unit allowed more than 190 rushing yards in a contest in 2016. Additionally, the Volunteers did not allow an opponent (outside of the Aggies) to average more than 4.3 yards per carry. Those numbers aren’t as bad as the stat sheet would suggest, especially with the amount of injuries Tennessee has faced in 2016. Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin and cornerback Cam Sutton are sidelined indefinitely due to injuries, while linebacker Darrin Kirkland is a game-time decision. Stopping the run is essential to the Volunteers’ victory hopes. If Tennessee can stuff the Alabama ground attack, it can put Hurts into third-and-long situations. While Hurts has been effective, he’s also a true freshman starting in a tough environment. However, if the Crimson Tide effectively blocks Tennessee end Derek Barnett and keeps rushers away from Hurts, he should have no trouble connecting on big plays to receivers Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart.


3. Tennessee RBs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara

One overlooked aspect of last year’s meeting was Tennessee’s success on the ground. The Volunteers managed only 132 overall yards and 3.4 yards per carry, but those totals were higher than the 2015 average allowed by Alabama – 75.7 per game and 2.4 per carry. Tennessee’s offensive line has struggled at times to clear the way for running backs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara, but the Volunteers posted a season-high 282 yards on the ground in last week’s loss against Texas A&M. Can Tennessee find similar success on Saturday? Running room is going to be limited against Alabama’s defensive front, as this unit has suffocated opposing ground attacks all year (69.2 ypg). Hurd missed last week’s game due to a concussion but is expected to return for this game. Kamara delivered a standout effort against Texas A&M (288 overall yards), but Hurd brings more power to the ground game. Can Tennessee effectively mix-and-match with Hurd and Kamara to keep Dobbs out of third-and-long situations? Or will Alabama find a way to neutralize both players and limit Kamara’s opportunities as a receiver?


Final Analysis


Let’s state the obvious here: Beating Alabama requires a perfect effort. Some of the factors Tennessee has been able to overcome (first-half deficits, turnovers and penalties) in other games will be harder to rally from on Saturday. One factor working against the Volunteers is a rash of injuries to the defense, as well as the physical nature of last week’s game against Texas A&M. Motivation shouldn’t be a problem for Tennessee considering their recent history in this series. However, Alabama is simply the better team and is playing at a higher level. Hurts and the Crimson Tide offense could sputter early, but this unit should get better as the game progresses and the depth should show off in the second half. Dobbs needs a career effort to knock off Alabama and his dual-threat ability is going to create a few headaches for this unit. Tennessee has to find a way to win the turnover battle and keep the third downs manageable for its offense. The formula is there for the Volunteers to win, and Tennessee is a better overall program than the last meeting in Knoxville between these two teams (34-20). A win by the Volunteers wouldn’t be a surprise, but the matchups, talent and timing all favor the Crimson Tide.


Prediction: Alabama 34, Tennessee 24
Tennessee Volunteers vs. Alabama Crimson Tide Preview and Prediction 2016
Post date: Friday, October 14, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, syndicated
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-college-football-week-7-picks-and-odds-lines-2016

The college football season is at its halfway point with a lot of teams playing game number six or seven. The focus turns to bowl eligibility, and for the better squads, a place in the College Football Playoff. Houston took a massive blow last week in losing to Navy. Unfortunately, we may have missed a spot to fade the Midshipmen when their game against East Carolina that was scheduled to be played Thursday was postponed (moved to Nov. 19) due to the impact of Hurricane Matthew on the Greenville, N.C, area. Still, there are several intriguing matchups across the country.


Record: 16-16 (2-2 last week)


Note: All games are on Saturday, Oct. 15 and all times ET.


Western Kentucky (3-3) at Middle Tennessee (4-1), 2:30 p.m.

There should be plenty of fireworks with these two offenses matching up in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Western Kentucky has had a few tough losses, falling to Vanderbitl by one point and Louisiana Tech by three. The problem was a defense that couldn't make the stops when it mattered. The Hilltoppers will struggle against the offensive balance of Middle Tennessee, at team that can throw it and run it well. No one has really slowed down the Blue Raiders’ attack, and the defense also has made some stops when it mattered. WKU's offense is no slouch, either, although I'll take Middle Tennessee’s Brent Stockstill over Mike White when it comes to the QBs. It's a revenge spot as well for the home team after losing to the Hilltoppers 58-28 last season. SELECTION: Middle Tennessee -3


Louisiana Tech (3-3) at UMass (1-5), 3:30 p.m.

Louisiana Tech takes a break from C-USA play as it travels to Foxborough to play UMass. The Bulldogs are averaging more than 500 yards per game, but also giving up 33.5 points per game to the opposition. Their defense has allowed more than 35 points in three of their last four games and may struggle with the Minutemen. UMass has scored 75 points in its last three contests despite trying to figure out the quarterback position. Louisiana Tech should be able to score in this one as well, with the Minutemen allowing 114 points during that same three-game span. The Bulldogs have gone over in 21 of their last 33 games including 11 of 17 on the road. With this being an easy non-conference game, Louisiana Tech may not bring it’s A game to Gillette Stadium. SELECTION: Over 62.5


Nebraska (5-0) at Indiana (3-2), 3:30 p.m.

The No. 10 Corhushers enter this one with a lot of injury concerns on offense, as Devine Ozigbo, Cethan Carter and Jordan Westerkamp all could end up missing this game. Tommy Armstrong is coming off a minor ankle injury as well, and he's going to have to shoulder more of the load. Indiana's defense has struggled against the run, but the Hoosiers have played better at times at home. They held J.T. Barrett and Ohio State to just 93 passing yards in last week in Columbus. Indiana's offense is playing well right now with just one game with fewer than 20 points this season. Nebraska has covered in just 10 of its last 21 games as a favorite. We may have lost the value in this one, but I'll still take the home dog. SELECTION: Indiana +3


Tulsa (4-1) at Houston (5-1), 7 p.m.

There are a few ways for a team to come out flat after a bad loss. I think Houston's offense won't be the side that struggles in this one on Saturday night. The Cougars are putting up more than 500 yards on offense and should be able to roll on a Tulsa group that has had trouble stopping even mediocre attacks. The Golden Hurricane are averaging more than 230 rushing yards per game, and they should be able to hold up their end of the scoring bargain. Tulsa has gone over in 20 of its last 30 games, including three of five this year. The last two years, this game has been a high-scoring affair with 62 and 64 points put up. I think we go over the higher total. SELECTION: Over 73


Florida Atlantic (1-5) at Marshall (1-4), 7 p.m.

FAU has to be reeling a bit after a loss at home to lowly Charlotte in which a last-second Hail Mary was ruled not a touchdown. The Owls have had their issues on both sides of the ball and should struggle against a Marshall team whose problem isn't scoring. The Thundering Herd have put up at least 21 points in every game. Their issues are on defense, where they have allowed at least 38 points to every FBS opponent. Marshall has dominated this series and has covered 16 of its last 28 games as a favorite. FAU has not covered a single game this year and really isn't very good. SELECTION: Marshall -11




— Virginia Tech is in a prime letdown position as the Hokies play at Syracuse on Saturday. I've given up on my alma mater having success stopping anyone defensively. The Hokies have a matchup with Miami looming next Thursday, so focus could be a bit of an issue. Plus, this game is in the Carrier Dome, which is a different atmosphere than Virginia Tech’s players are used to. The problem is that the Orange already have a pair of blowout losses at home. I can't make it an official play, but definitely pay attention to this one.


— I really wanted to take Southern Miss and/or the over, but the uncertain status of quarterback Nick Mullens (thumb) made me not lock it in right now. I also don't like how LSU is coming off a bye and is chomping at the bit to play. The Tigers have bigger fish to fry and could overlook the Golden Eagles, who are coming off of a somewhat surprising loss at UTSA.


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

Betting Against the Spread: College Football Week 7 Picks and Odds
Post date: Friday, October 14, 2016 - 08:45
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-12-best-position-battles-watch-week-7-2016

It’s a huge week around the country for some underrated college football rivalries and several key cross-divisional showdowns. No matter where you turn, there should be some interesting matchups between the names on the front of the jerseys but it’s the one-on-ones between the names on the back of the jerseys that are even juicier.


Whether you’re a college football fan, a coach or an NFL scout, here are 10 of the best position vs. position battles between offensive stars and their defensive counterparts on the other side heading into Week 7:


1. Tennessee DE Derek Barnett vs. Alabama OT Cam Robinson

As injured as the Volunteers are, they still have their best player on defense playing at an All-American level in Barnett. He’ll find things a little tougher than normal against Robinson, who may join the Vols’ defensive linemen in the top 10 of next spring’s NFL Draft.


2. Wisconsin RB Corey Clement vs. Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillan

The game of the week in the Big Ten is Ohio State’s biggest test since heading to Norman early in the season. Clement has looked much sharper running the ball than he was a season ago but faces a stiff test in the tackling machine that is McMillan.


3. Stanford DB Quenton Meeks vs. Notre Dame WR Equanimeous St. Brown

Meeks has missed the past several weeks for Stanford and the Cardinal’s pass defense has suffered mightily in back-to-back losses. He won’t get eased into action this week with the very dangerous St. Brown able to make you pay using his height and speed on a variety of routes.


4. Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham vs. Georgia RB Nick Chubb

Cunningham is once again leading the SEC in tackles and one of the few bright spots on the year for the Commodores. If they stand any chance of landing a conference victory this week, the linebacker will have to put up a brick wall and stop the very dangerous Chubb.


5. Wisconsin LBs T.J. Watt, T.J. Edwards and Jack Cichy vs. Ohio State HB Curtis Samuel

Samuel lives in the shadow of J.T. Barrett when it comes to the Heisman Trophy but there’s no question the Buckeyes’ halfback has had an outstanding season so far. He’s on pace for nearly 2,000 yards of offense split evenly between rushing and receiving and will be a load for the Badgers’ talented linebacker corps to slow down.


6. Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey vs. Stanford DL Solomon Thomas

McGlinchey was considered one of the better left tackles in the country coming into the season and is holding his own since moving over from the right side. He’ll be challenged by Thomas however, who is one of the best all-around defenders playing out West.


7. Kansas State LB Elijah Lee vs. Oklahoma RB’s Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine

Lee is the latest Wildcat to fly under the radar nationally while producing at a super-high level for Bill Snyder’s defense. He was a big part in stone-walling Texas Tech’s run game last week but faces a pair of stud tailbacks on Saturday that should poise plenty of problems despite running the same system as the Red Raiders.


8. North Carolina DBs Des Lawrence and M.J. Stewart vs. Miami WRs Stacy Coley and Ahmmon Richards

Lawrence and Stewart are one of the best cornerback tandems in the nation even if they don’t get a ton of press outside the ACC. They’ll be tested once again this week with the Hurricanes’ dangerous combo of veteran Coley and big-play threat Richards.


9. Alabama LB Tim Williams vs. Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs

Dobbs has played behind a suspect offensive line this season and still been able to stand in and deliver some big plays by using his arm and his legs. He’ll be trying to avoid one of the best pass rushers in the country this week in Williams, who also should play a part in keeping him in the pocket if he can rack up a sack.


10. Virginia Tech DB Chuck Clark vs. Syracuse WR Amba Etta-Tawo

It was a surprisingly quiet Saturday against Wake Forest for Etta-Tawo last week, who is still the leading receiver in the FBS. Virginia Tech’s stingy secondary will hope to limit him some more in the Carrier Dome and Clark’s ability to cover over the top should play a big role in that.


11. Missouri WR J’Mon Moore vs. Florida DBs Quincy Wilson and Jalen Tabor

Moore is one of the biggest beneficiaries of Mizzou’s offensive changes this season and he torched Georgia’s secondary last month. Things get much tougher against the Tigers’ SEC East rival as Wilson might be the top corner in the country and Tabor isn’t too far behind him.


12. Kansas State DB Dante Barnett vs. Oklahoma WR Dede Westbrook

Westbrook was the star of the show in last week’s Red River Showdown win by racking up 232 yards and three scores. He’ll be tested by Barnett, one of the best in the Big 12 and a key factor in limiting anything in the middle of the field.


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

College Football's 12 Best Position Battles to Watch in Week 7
Post date: Friday, October 14, 2016 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, syndicated, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-five-up-five-down-derek-carr-giovani-bernard-eli-manning-jarvis-landry-week-6-2016

With only two teams on bye in Week 6, most fantasy owners aren't going to be missing too many players. Tampa Bay and Minnesota are off this week, so plan accordingly. After five weeks, we have a better grasp of what defenses look like. We can tell which matchups are going to be tough and which should be easier for players and/or positions. While anything can happen, we are starting to have more data to help make start/sit decisions.


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


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


Teams on bye: Minnesota, Tampa Bay


Five Up


Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Before their Week 5 bye, the Chiefs gave up 300 yards and five touchdowns to Ben Roethlisberger. While they should have spent some time in the film room reviewing that game, the reality is their defense is beatable through the air. Carr has six touchdowns in the past two games and he's clicking with his wide receivers. Both Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree have been solid for Carr, and all three should have a good game in Week 6. Carr is the sixth-ranked quarterback, and he is a clear QB1.


Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots 

With Jeremy Hill banged up and the Patriots' defense struggling against pass-catching running backs, this game has the makings of being a Bernard show. In Week 5, Bernard caught all six of his targets for 46 yards. He has 25 receptions so far this year, and the only concern with Bernard finishing higher than his No. 25 ranking is if Hill steals any goal-line work. Bernard has one touchdown so far this season (a receiving touchdown) and Hill has three rushing touchdowns.


Kamar Aiken, WR, Baltimore Ravens at New York Giants 

Six receptions for 28 yards. No, that's not Aiken's Week 5 stat line; that's his season total. Yet, he is on this list to finish better than WR69 for Week 6. The reason: Steve Smith Sr. is likely going to miss the game. The Giants give up the third-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, and a lot of that production isn't the No. 1 receiver. Randall Cobb had 108 yards to Jordy Nelson's 38 in Week 5 for example. Aiken will likely play out of the slot, which gives him value in PPR leagues. This isn't a recommendation to go out and pick him up unless you're desperate, but he may be worth a look in daily leagues or deeper leagues with owners looking for a risk/reward fill-in.


Jamison Crowder, WR, Washington Redskins vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Likely only owned in deep leagues, those looking for a wide receiver fill-in may gamble on Crowder this week. Tight end Jordan Reed is in the concussion protocol and it is highly unlikely that he'll play this week. While DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon will continue to get their targets, Crowder is most likely to soak up Reed's looks. Playing out of the slot, he has more value in PPR leagues, where he'll get short dump passes. While Philadelphia's defense is solid, someone has to get the ball. This may be a Crowder game. He's ranked as WR59, but will likely finish higher than that.


Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans vs. Cleveland Browns

Did you see what the Patriots' tight ends did to Cleveland in Week 5? A combined 176 yards and three touchdowns. Those figures helped Cleveland become the team that has now allowed the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, but it bodes well for Walker. He's had eight targets in each of the past two weeks, and Marcus Mariota will continue to throw the ball his way. He's ranked as the No. 6 tight end this week, but he should finish in the top five.


Five Down


Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants vs. Baltimore Ravens

While the Ravens did allow Derek Carr to throw four touchdowns against them in Week 4, they haven't allowed a quarterback to throw for more than 260 yards. In the past two weeks, Manning threw for 261 yards and 199 yards and one touchdown. Something has been off with the Giants' offense. Either Odell Beckham Jr. hasn't been effective or the running back situation has forced Manning to throw more, but something isn't working well. The Ravens allow the 10th-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, and Manning may finish below his No. 15 ranking.


Matt Jones, RB, Washington Redskins vs. Philadelphia Eagles 

When the head coach of the team believes that the rookie running back is deserving of more carries, that is never good news for the current starter. While Rob Kelley may not cut into Jones' workload right away, he is on a shorter leash. After a dreadful Week 5 performance of 31 rushing yards and 25 receiving yards, the Redskins may look to see what else they have. The Eagles haven't allowed more than 60 rushing yards since Week 1. They allow the 11th-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. Jones is ranked No. 23 among running backs, but he may finish well outside of RB2 territory.


Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami Dolphins vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 

The matchup against the Steelers is a decent one, as they just allowed more than 100 yards to Brandon Marshall in Week 5. However, the Miami offense is a disaster. Landry only had three targets in Week 5 and Ryan Tannehill has been struggling. Landry is the No. 21 wide receiver for Week 6, but he's hard to trust, especially in standard leagues. His value has been in PPR formats, but until Miami can figure out its offense, Landry is a low WR2.


Jeremy Kerley, WR, San Francisco 49ers at Buffalo Bills

In the past two weeks, Kerley has 14 receptions for 190 yards and two touchdowns. He's had extra time since the 49ers played last Thursday night, but he's still ranked No. 45 and may finish lower than that. The reason? Colin Kaepernick. Kerley's success was with Blaine Gabbert, for better or worse. Kaepernick will start in Week 6, and it is unclear who his favorite target will be - and how effective he will be after sitting on the sideline for so long. Kerley has been dealing with an ankle injury, but he will be fine to play on Sunday.


Zach Miller, TE, Chicago Bears vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Last week, Miller was in the "Five Up" section. This week, he's ranked lower (11th) and is in the Five Down. The matchup against Jacksonville is actually a difficult one. The Jaguars have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends. While Brian Hoyer does look to Miller, the emergence of Cameron Meredith has created another mouth to feed, in addition to Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal. Miller may get red zone looks, but this week may be tougher for him than the past ones.


Full Disclosure (Week 5):


Five Up

Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (Ranked: 8, Finished: 12)

Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears (Ranked: 8 in PPR, Finished: 5)

James White, RB, New England Patriots (Ranked: 27 in PPR, Finished: 20)

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers (Ranked: 21, Finished: 31)

Zach Miller, TE, Chicago Bears (Ranked: 7, Finished: 9)


Five Down

Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons (Ranked: 15, Finished: 14)

Theo Riddick, RB, Detroit Lions (Ranked: 18, Finished: 6)

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans (Ranked: 7, Finished: 19)

Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings (Ranked: 17, Finished: did not play)

Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys (Ranked: 11, Finished: 17)


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

Fantasy Football Five Up, Five Down: Derek Carr, Giovani Bernard Up; Eli Manning, Jarvis Landry Down for Week 6
Post date: Friday, October 14, 2016 - 08:15
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, syndicated, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-must-sit-brandon-marshall-and-other-wr-te-start-sit-fantasy-advice-week-6-2016

No matter what happened last week when it comes to wide receivers and tight ends at least fantasy owners can take solace in this: Allen Robinson, Doug Baldwin, Brandin Cooks, Travis Kelce and Jimmy Graham are all back in Week 6. Before I discuss who else I think you should start and consider leaving on your bench, let’s revisit Week 5.


Good Calls...

Sit Golden Tate (4.5 fantasy points) – Tate seems to be an afterthought in the Lions’ offense and might even be worth dropping.


Sit Jason Witten (4.3 FP) – Dak Prescott is looking to Cole Beasley instead of Witten on the short to intermediate routes.


Bad Calls...

Start Julian Edelman (3.5 FP) – It was Chris Hogan, Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski that were Brady’s favorite targets in his return.


Start Jordan Matthews (6.5 FP) – The Lions’ defense actually showed up and kept the Eagles in check in their 24-23 win.


Start Zach Ertz (3.7 FP) – The Lions were the worst team against tight ends, too bad the Eagles forgot that fact.


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


Teams on bye: Minnesota, Tampa Bay


Wide Receivers




John Brown, ARI (vs. NYJ, Mon.)

Through five weeks, the Jets are allowing 10.1 adjusted yards per pass attempt, easily the worst mark in the NFL. At home and with a long week of preparation, this is the perfect spot for the Cardinals' passing offense to start looking more like the 2015 version. Larry Fitzgerald is an obvious start with the way he's playing, but Brown disappeared with Drew Stanton under center, don't forget that he racked up a whopping 27 targets, 16 receptions and 214 yards in the two games before Carson Palmer suffered a concussion. With Palmer back, and Michael Floyd struggling immensely, Brown is a must-start against this leaky secondary.


Kelvin Benjamin, CAR (at NO)

Benjamin hasn't been a great fantasy option lately, but an upcoming matchup against the Saints still makes him attractive regardless. New Orleans has allowed an average of 213.7 yards and 25.9 fantasy points per game to opposing WRs, so look for Benjamin to make magic in what should be a high-scoring affair.


Doug Baldwin, SEA (vs. ATL)

Baldwin has alternated good and bad stat lines in his first four games, and he's due for a successful week when the Seahawks host Atlanta. The Falcons have not fared well against wide receivers, allowing seven touchdowns and an average of 25.1 fantasy points to the position. Look for the Seahawks to win this battle of the gridiron birds.




Michael Thomas, NO (vs. CAR)

Over the last two weeks, Brandin Cooks has played 83.1 percent of the snaps, tallying 14 targets and five receptions. Willie Snead missed Week 3, but in Week 4 played just 67.1 percent of the snaps, tallying one target and one reception. Thomas over that stretch: 83.1 percent of the snaps, 20 targets (six inside the red zone) and 11 receptions. The rookie's 10.9 yards per reception highlights his low upside, but his role is steady (if not increasing), he seems to be getting better each week, and the Saints are at home, where Drew Brees tends to play much better.




DeSean Jackson, WAS (vs. PHI)

Through five weeks, Jackson has finished as the WR24 or better (standard ESPN scoring) just once and finished outside the top 50 three times. He has the speed to produce a worthy fantasy day on any given play, and it's worth noting that he just missed a long touchdown last week, but with a little more than six targets per game, and a yards per reception mark (15.4) that is the lowest since his rookie year, there just isn't any consistency to bank on. And against an Eagles secondary that has only allowed two receivers (Antonio Brown and Alshon Jeffery) to tally more than 70 yards, this probably is another week when Jackson is close to basement-level floor.


Brandon Marshall, NYJ (at ARI, Mon.)

Patrick Peterson is arguably the best cornerback in the NFL right now, and is putting up some incredible shutdown numbers. He didn’t allow a catch in Week 5, and according to Pro Football Focus, hasn’t allowed more than three catches for more than 38 yards in any game this season. Marshall is somewhat banged up, and with Eric Decker out for the season, this could be a rough outing for any Jets receiver.


Alshon Jeffery, CHI (vs. JAC)

On paper, this is a great matchup for Jeffery against a Jaguars defense that's allowed an average of 26.1 fantasy points per game to wide receivers. Here's the problem... good matchups haven't meant good numbers from Jeffery this season. It's also notable that 43 different wide receivers have been targeted more often in 2016.




Julian Edelman, NE (vs. CIN)

Hopefully you haven’t needed Edelman to a do lot for your team thus far. His first four games left plenty to be desired and he’s coming off of a five-catch, 35-yard game against Cleveland in Tom Brady’s return. Edelman will get his, but Cincinnati has a decent defense, and you can’t expect him to be much more than a PPR WR 3/4 at this point, especially with Chris Hogan emerging and Martellus Bennett looking like a Pro Bowler.


Tight Ends




Charles Clay, BUF (vs. SF)

Clay has developed into Tyrod Taylor's No. 1 target in the passing game, tallying 12 targets, 10 receptions and 120 yards in the last two games. This is admittedly a run-first offense, but with a receiving corps void of talent, Clay is still a good bet for solid volume moving forward. In Week 6, he gets a 49ers defense that can't stop much of anything, especially without star linebacker NaVorro Bowman.


Martellus Bennett, NE (vs. CIN)

For this week at least, let’s keep riding the double Patriots TE train. Last week Bennett and Gronk combined for 15 targets, or over 36 percent of Tom Brady’s total. Gronk was a few feet from scoring a TD, and Bennett scored three. We’re possibly looking at a better combo than Gronk/Aaron Hernandez, and until otherwise noted, Bennett is a must-play.


Jimmy Graham, SEA (vs. ATL)

Graham has shown flashes of his past greatness over his last two games, scoring a combined 25.3 fantasy points on the strength of two 100-yard performances. He should be well rested after the bye week, and a matchup against the Falcons makes him a must-start. Their defense has allowed the third-most fantasy points (13.2) per game to tight ends.




Jesse James, PIT (at MIA)

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has thrown at least three touchdown passes in four of his five starts and James leads the team in red zone targets (five). He has caught four of those and turned three of them into touchdowns. The Dolphins meanwhile, don’t force many three-and-out drives (13.8 percent, 30th out of 32 NFL teams) and are allowing 6.1 catches and 64.2 yards per game to tight ends.




Dwayne Allen, IND (at HOU)

Allen had a good showing in Week 5 (six catches, 50 yards, TD), but he has struggled to find consistency, finishing as the TE3, TE34, TE20, TE26 and TE4 through five weeks. Expect him to come closer to his floor in Week 6, as he faces a Texans defense that has shut down Travis Kelce (five catches, 34 yards), Martellus Bennett (2, 10), Delanie Walker (2, 34) and Kyle Rudolph (2, 15) and has yet to allow a touchdown to a tight end.


Dennis Pitta, BAL (at NYG)

Fantasy fans in PPR leagues aside, Pitta has not been much of an option in recent weeks. Aside from his 102-yard performance against the Browns, the veteran has averaged a mere 3.9 fantasy points in his other four games. Furthermore, Pitta has a bad upcoming contest against a Giants defense that's made life tough on tight ends.


Jason Witten, DAL (at GB)

Witten's matchup might be favorable on paper, as the Packers have struggled to stop tight ends this season. With that said, he's been unable to exploit good matchups and is tough to start with confidence. In his last four games, Witten has averaged a mere 4.2 fantasy points. Keep him sidelined.




Zach Ertz, PHI (at WAS)

Ertz returned to action last week, but his stat line (three catches, 37 yards) was less than impressive for fantasy fans. Next on the schedule is a date with the Redskins, who have surrendered just one touchdown catch to opposing tight ends. Also, No. 1 tight ends have averaged a miniscule 4.2 fantasy points per game against them.


— 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 Brandon Marshall and Other WR/TE Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 6
Post date: Friday, October 14, 2016 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, syndicated, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-should-start-jordan-howard-and-other-rb-start-sit-fantasy-advice-week-6-2016

Week 5 brought some surprising and somewhat unexpected fantasy performances from running backs while others failed to produce in accordance with where they were drafted. But that’s how it goes, right? Before we turn our focus to Week 6, let’s take one more last look at Week 5 and see how my start/sit advice fared.


Good Calls...

Start Jordan Howard (22.3 fantasy points) – There’s no doubt that even when Jeremy Langford comes back, Howard will be the Bears’ starting RB.


Start Todd Gurley (14.8 FP) – Gurley still didn’t run for more than 100 yards, but he did have 36 receiving and one rushing TD.


Sit Matt Forte (6 FP) – Forte is banged up and losing more and more touches to Bilal Powell.


Bad Calls...

Start C.J. Anderson (6.2 FP) – With Paxton Lynch at QB, the whole Broncos offense couldn’t get rolling and Devontae Booker is starting to steal some of Anderson’s carries


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


Teams on bye: Minnesota, Tampa Bay




Ryan Matthews, PHI (at WAS)

Mathews returned to his Week 1 and 2 role – that of early-down and goal-line back –Sunday against Detroit, turning 16 touches (11 rushes, five receptions) into 75 yards and a touchdown. He's still going to split time with Darren Sproles, but it's clear that Kenjon Barner and Wendell Smallwood (one snap each) aren't threats to Mathews' playing time when he's healthy. While some fantasy owners aren't ready to trust Mathews after his Week 3 disappearance, he is the lead back against Washington, a defense that has been bulldozed for a league-worst 5.1 yards per carry. Sometimes it's that simple.


Jordan Howard, CHI (at JAC)

The Bears finally found their guy. Why did they even bother with Jeremy Langford? It wasted everybody’s time. That’s okay, hopefully you nabbed Howard off the waiver wire to bask in the glory of his 16 rushes for 118 yards and three catches for 45 yards and a TD. Yes, Indy has a poor defense, but you want the touches, and Howard is one of those rare every-down backs in the NFL. Play this rarity every week, especially against the Jaguars, who are giving up 110 rushing yards per game.


Christine Michael, SEA (vs. ATL)

The Awakening should continue for Michael, who scored a combined 38.1 fantasy points in his two games before Seattle's bye week and is now set to face the Falcons. Their defense has been vulnerable to running backs, surrendering an average of more than 20 fantasy points per game to the position. Start Michael with confidence.




Jamaal Charles, KC (at OAK)

Charles said he was at 100 percent after returning in Week 4, so when you toss in the extra week of rest during the team's bye, you have to figure he's ready to rock. Spencer Ware filled in admirably during Charles' absence, but he fumbled in each of the past three games, and even if he has created a timeshare, Charles is an All-Pro who should still lead the way and also get plenty of work in the passing game. If you're stacked at running back and can play the wait-and-see approach, then by all means do that. But at the least, Charles should see 12-to-15 touches against a defense that has given up the fifth-most fantasy points per game to running backs. Even with an unknown role, I'm willing to trust him as an RB2.




Terrance West, BAL (at NYG)

West has looked good in last two starts, piling up 208 yards on 32 carries (6.5 ypc). But those were against the Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins, two of the worst teams in the NFL in both yards per carry allowed and Football Outsiders' run defense efficiency rankings. Now he faces the Giants, who are in the top 10 in both of those categories, so there won't be nearly as much running room. Throw in the presence of talented rookie Kenneth Dixon, who played just four snaps last week but is expected to see his role grow, as well as a new offensive coordinator, and there are just too many variables in an already difficult matchup.


Tevin Coleman, ATL (at SEA)

Coleman is fresh off a monster performance (four catches, 132 yards, TD) against Denver, so it's difficult to even consider benching him. But he is still splitting touches with Devonta Freeman, and in Week 6 he goes to one of the most difficult places to play for road teams. Once again, the Seahawks have completely shut down running backs, with the exception of Carlos Hyde in garbage time. Coleman proved last week he can produce in a difficult matchup, but with a small amount of touches (11 and 10 the last two weeks), it's tough to see him doing it again, especially with Seattle having an extra week to prepare for Atlanta's surging offense.


Matt Forte, NYJ (at ARI, Mon.)

Surprisingly, Forte was on the field for 37 snaps after getting banged up in Week 4. Still, it’s clear that he’s hurt and not running nearly as strong as he did to start the season. Powell saw 27 (of 58 total snaps) and had eight targets (a 21 percent target share) to Forte’s two. Plus, he’s going up against a Cardinals defense that is stingy against the run, giving up the seventh-fewest fantasy points to the position and if the Jets get behind and have to play catch up, it’s likely that Powell will be on the field more than Forte.




Lamar Miller, HOU (vs. IND)

So, the Colts should give Miller a get-right game, but how can he get right if he doesn’t get touches? Miller only rushed eight times last Sunday. Some of that was game flow, but he only caught one pass as well. All of this is concerning, especially considering Miller has been one of the least effective backs in the league this season. All signs point to a better week ahead, but say you picked up Jordan Howard or Terrance West? Play them instead. Why not at this point? Even when Miller was touching the ball 26 times he was doing less than what many other backs have been doing.


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

Why You Should Start Jordan Howard and Other RB Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 6
Post date: Friday, October 14, 2016 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, syndicated, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/why-you-should-start-carson-palmer-and-other-qb-dst-start-sit-fantasy-advice-week-6-2016

Fortunately for fantasy owners, there are just two teams on bye in Week 7 compared to four last week. But that also means you have more options to choose from for your starting lineup. So what should you do at quarterback and defense/special teams (DST)? Before I get to my Week 7 advice let’s take a quick look back at last week’s start/sit suggestions.


Good Calls...

Start Ben Roethlisberger (29.20 fantasy points) – Starting Big Ben at home is automatic. His home/road splits are amazing


Start Philip Rivers (26.36 FP) – Even without all his weapons, Rivers is still going to be a QB1 in fantasy.


Start Derek Carr (21.98 FP) – It took him awhile to get going, but with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, Carr can put up big numbers anytime


Bad Calls...

Sit Matt Ryan (14.98 FP) – The Falcons found the Broncos’ weak spot on defense, just pass the ball to the running backs


I said it might be worth starting Eli Manning (10.06 FP). It was a good spot for him and Odell Beckham Jr., but something is wrong with the Giants’ offense.


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


Teams on bye: Minnesota, Tampa Bay






Ben Roethlisberger, PIT (at MIA)

Big Ben is simply not going to disappoint you in Week 6. The Steelers are playing the Dolphins (12th most fantasy points allowed to QBs), but Le’Veon Bell has changed everything for this offense. Roethlisberger threw the ball 47 times against the Jets, and is averaging about 40 passes a game. I think Bell catches a TD this week, and Roethlisberger can sleepwalk his way to three scoring strikes. He’s got nine over his last two games.


Carson Palmer, ARI (vs. NYJ, Mon.)

Palmer missed last week’s Thursday night game because of a concussion, but he was cleared early this week and will be back in time for a juicy matchup at home against the New York Jets. It’s true that Palmer has been rather disappointing so far this season, only scoring 20-plus fantasy points once, but if he’s going to get things going, this is the week. The Jets have given up the fourth-most fantasy points to QBs as the secondary has been victimized over and over again.


Marcus Mariota, TEN (vs. CLE)

It kind of feels bad picking on Cleveland every week, but you can’t deny the fact that every QB that faces this Browns defense has a good game. Mariota is coming off his best showing of the season, scoring 33.52 fantasy points thanks to four total TDs (3 passing, 1 rushing) and he finally found his legs, rushing for 60 yards against the Dolphins las week. At home against the Browns and their defense that is allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to QBs, Mariota should be good for at least another 20 points.




Andy Dalton, CIN (at NE)

Through five weeks, Dalton has finished as a top-10 fantasy QB (standard ESPN scoring) just once, and that was last week thanks to a pair of garbage-time touchdowns in the loss at Dallas. He has likely disappointed his owners thus far, but better times are ahead. Dalton currently has career-high marks in yards per game (300.6), completion percentage (67.4) and interception percentage (1.1), but a lack of touchdowns has tanked his fantasy production. Touchdowns follow yards, and he will regress back to the mean sooner rather than later. Week 6 is a good time for that to happen, with red-zone dynamo Tyler Eifert potentially back, and with the Bengals facing a game script — 8-point underdogs against Tom Brady and  Co. — that will call for lots of passing.




Matt Ryan, ATL (at SEA)

You’re going to have to sit Ryan again, even if he’s playing MVP-level football. The Falcons travel to Seattle after facing Denver, and the Seahawks have only given up a single TD pass all year. You should still play the Atlanta running backs, and Julio Jones might do just fine between the 20s (Brandon Marshall was able to do something things against Richard Sherman a few weeks ago), but keep your TD expectations in check. Things lighten up for Atlanta after this week, so hang in there. Play Marcus Mariota or even Brian Hoyer!


Kirk Cousins, WAS (vs. PHI)

The Eagles are second in the league against the pass, and while Cousins is playing perfectly fine since his poor (0 TD, 2 INT) Week 1 start, chances are he’s going to be shut down by a defense only allowing 10.12 fantasy points to opposing QBs. The garbage time could be real, but don’t depend on it.


Joe Flacco, BAL (at NYG)

The Ravens fired offensive coordinator Marc Trestman and promoted Marty Mornhinweg in an effort to jumpstart what has been a less-than-stellar offense. That's not enough to start Flacco, however. Not only has he been far less reliable on the road in his career, but the Giants have been tough on opposing quarterbacks this year, giving up the ninth-fewest fantasy points to QBs. Also, with Trestman out, the Ravens will look to get back to what John Harbaugh loves to do — run the ball.




Eli Manning, NYG (vs. BAL)

When the Giants hired then-offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo to be their head coach, the idea was that the offense and Manning would continue to hum along. Unfortunately, the opposite has happened. Manning has struggled all season and has only one game of 20-plus fantasy points this year. Things aren’t going to get much better this week with the Ravens coming to town. They are tough on QBs, only allowing about 15 fantasy points per game, which places them among the top 10 stingiest defenses in that respect.


Defense/Special Teams (DSTs)




Arizona Cardinals (vs. NYJ, Mon.)

The Cardinals’ defense is coming off a monster 15-point performance in last week's win in San Francisco, and an upcoming matchup against the Jets bodes well for the chances of another fat stat line. No team has been more generous to DSTs this season, as the opposition has averaged 14.5 fantasy points against the Jets.


Buffalo Bills (vs. SF)

Colin Kaepernick will be the starter for San Francisco, but this matchup is still a positive one for the Bills. Their defense has scored 10 or more fantasy points in four of five games, including a three-game stretch with a combined 54 points. Opposing DSTs have averaged nine fantasy points vs. the 49ers since Week 2.




Carolina Panthers (at NO)

The Panthers’ defense has scored fewer than eight fantasy points in each of the last three games, including two with a mere three points. That trend is likely to continue against Drew Brees and the Saints in what could be a high-scoring game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Sit the Panthers DST (and drop where needed).


Kansas City Chiefs (at OAK)

The Chiefs DST scored a ridiculous 35 fantasy points in a Week 3 win over the hapless Jets. In Kansas City’s other three games, this unit has combined to score six points. That might be the ceiling this week in Oakland against a Raiders team that has been the least-attractive matchup for opposing DSTs so far this season.


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

Why You Should Start Carson Palmer and Other QB/DST Start/Sit Fantasy Advice for Week 6
Post date: Friday, October 14, 2016 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News, Magazines
Path: /college-basketball/saint-marys-gaels-2016-17-basketball-team-preview-and-prediction

Saint Mary’s won 29 games a year ago, beat Gonzaga twice in the regular season for the first time since 1995, captured the West Coast Conference regular-season title and led the nation in field goal percentage and assist-to-turnover ratio. Even with a roster that returns virtually intact, it’s a lot to live up to.


“We could be better,” coach Randy Bennett says, “and not have as good a season as we did last year.”


Bennett notes that the Gaels had “a near-perfect season” in terms of staying healthy and winning the games they were supposed to win — as well as a few that perhaps counted as surprises. This season brings new challenges for the same players, including expectations they did not face a year ago, and the prospect that seniors could be distracted by their basketball futures.


“Now those things are in play,” Bennett says.


But all the Gaels achieved last season did not earn them a spot in the NCAA Tournament after losing to Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament final, so there will be plenty of motivation this time around.


“These guys came off a 29-win season. They lost six games,” Bennett says. “They believe.”


All West Coast Conference predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2016-17 Preview Magazine, available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere.


At a Glance


HEAD COACH: Randy Bennett

2015-16 RECORD (WCC): 29–6 (15–3)

2015-16 POSTSEASON: NIT: Lost to Valparaiso 60–44 in the quarterfinals

2016-17 PREDICTION: Second in WCC





The Gaels have size and depth up front, plus a nice mix of experience and youth. It starts with power forward Dane Pineau — one of two seniors on the roster — who had 22 double-digit scoring games last season but averaged just 5.7 points in three meetings vs. Gonzaga. Bennett is looking for “a little more confident version” of Pineau this season.


Evan Fitzner started all 35 games in his debut and shined against Gonzaga, averaging 14.7 points in three games against the Zags. “It’s hard to have a freshman season that good,” Bennett says.


Jock Landale returns after shooting 61.3 percent as a freshman, but Bennett wants him to accept the fact that he won’t be perfect. Landale will be joined by another Australian center named Jock, 7'1" Jock Perry.


Junior Calvin Hermanson, who led the Gaels with 74 3-point baskets, returns at small forward, backed by sophomore Kyle Clark.




The latest in a recent line of elite point guards at Saint Mary’s actually was the two-headed backcourt monster of Emmett Naar and Joe Rahon. The two combined to provide the Gaels nearly 25 points and 12 assists per game while both earning first-team All-WCC honors. But their contributions went well beyond the numbers. “They’re what our team is about. They make us what we are,” Bennett says. “They’re unselfish players. Smart. They make good decisions. Very calm, very composed, very mature. That’s not where it stops, but that’s where it starts.”


Naar, who shot 41.8 percent from the 3-point arc last season, has tweaked his form to create a quicker, more concise release. Rahon, who came to Saint Mary’s two seasons ago as a transfer from Boston College, scored 24 points in a win over Stanford and had 13 games of at least seven assists.


Stefan Gonzalez enjoyed a productive freshman season in a limited role, coming off the bench to make nearly 52.6 percent from the 3-point arc. He will be challenged for playing time by Aussie redshirt freshman Tanner Krebs, who once scored 31 points against Spain in the U-19 world championships.




Point guard Jordan Ford, a consensus 3-star prospect, figures to get an immediate chance to play off the bench. The Gaels went to Australia (again) for 7'1" Jock Perry, who will compete for playing time as a freshman. Randy Bennett has high hopes for shooting guard Elijah Thomas, but depth in the backcourt could force him to redshirt.


Final Analysis


On paper, this Saint Mary’s team looms as one of the best in school history. That’s saying something, given that the Gaels have had nine consecutive 20-win seasons. But no one in Moraga will be satisfied with anything less than an NCAA Tournament bid, which is not guaranteed. The Gaels have missed the NCAAs in three straight seasons after landing berths in three of the previous four, and they have fallen short three times since 2009 despite having at least 25 wins.


“It definitely can happen if you’re playing in a mid-major conference,” says Bennett, who accepts that there is only so much the Gaels can control. They enjoyed a strong RPI last season and had non-conference games against Bay Area rivals Cal and Stanford. They play the return game at Stanford this season, although a rematch against Cal could not be worked out. The problem last season was their WCC schedule. “It didn’t matter who we beat — there wasn’t a top-50 RPI win in our league,” Bennett says.


So, despite all their talent, the Gaels will enjoy little margin for error. It’s a familiar script for which they hope to write a different ending.

Saint Mary's Gaels 2016-17 Basketball Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 14, 2016 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News, Magazines
Path: /college-basketball/dayton-flyers-2016-17-basketball-team-preview-and-prediction

Archie Miller has become one of the hottest young coaches in the game after leading the Flyers to their third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. Dayton earned a share of the A-10 regular-season title despite dealing with the suspension of Dyshawn Pierre that kept him out of the first semester.


Dayton is expected to be in the hunt for the conference crown once again despite losing Pierre as well as big man Steve McElvene, who died tragically in the offseason.


The 2016-17 team may not be quite as overpowering, but the Flyers have experience among the starting group — and Miller is also optimistic that the second unit won’t result in as much of a drop-off as it has in the past.


All Atlantic 10 predictions and a full preview of each team in the conference can be found in the Athlon Sports 2016-17 Preview Magazine, available in our online store and on newsstands everywhere.


At a Glance


HEAD COACH: Archie Miller

2015-16 RECORD (A-10): 25–8 (14–4)

2015-16 POSTSEASON: NCAA: Lost to Syracuse 70–51 in the first round

2016-17 PREDICTION: First in the Atlantic 10


C Steve McElvene (6.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg)

F Dyshawn Pierre (12.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg)




One of Dayton’s primary advantages last season was that few teams in the league could match up with the mammoth McElvene. Now the Flyers won’t be able to overpower opponents up front.


However, Dayton still has a couple of proven commodities back in the frontcourt in Charles Cooke, the leading returning scorer, and Kendall Pollard. Cooke averaged 15.6 points and 5.8 rebounds in his first season with the Flyers after transferring in from James Madison. He’s a potential first-team all-league performer, and Miller wants to make sure he continues to play with a chip on his shoulder. Pollard was key for the Flyers last season, averaging 10.3 points and 4.9 rebounds. But he dealt with multiple injuries down the stretch that limited not only his effectiveness but also that of the entire team. Pollard had surgeries on both his wrist and knee in the offseason.


“He missed eight games in the second half of the year, and when he came back he was a shell of himself,” Miller says.


Miller is hoping 6'7" forward Josh Cunningham can make as big of an impact this season as Cooke did a year ago. Cunningham is a Chicago native who averaged 7.9 points and a team-leading 7.5 rebounds as a freshman at Bradley in 2014-15.


There’s depth in the frontcourt with a trio of sophomores — Sam Miller, Xeyrius Williams and Ryan Mikesell — who combined for about 27 minutes per game a yar ago.


Dayton also added Kostas Antetokounmpo, the brother of Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, late in the spring. Miller loves his upside but isn’t sure how long it’ll take for the 6'10", 190-pound forward to make an impact on the floor.




Scoochie Smith is a senior who has started every game for the past two seasons. Miller loves his ability to step up in key situations and big games, and the coach is hopeful that Smith will be even more consistent this season. Smith, who averaged 11.7 points and 4.3 assists last season, can distribute and also knock down shots. He should be one of the top point guards in the A-10.


He’ll be joined by another veteran in the backcourt in Kyle Davis, who Miller describes as his “glue guy.”


“He just does whatever we ask him to do,” Miller says. “He gives us that toughness.”


Davis, who has averaged 7.5 points over the past two seasons, can really defend, and he is a capable shooter who will need to be more effective in that area as a senior.


Darrell Davis didn’t shoot it nearly as well last season as he did as a freshman, but he’s a junior who is one of the top guards coming off the bench in the entire league. Dayton also has sophomore guard John Crosby back in the fold after a solid freshman campaign.




Kostas Antetokounmpo is a superb athlete who will provide some length to the frontcourt. Trey Landers is an in-state guard who will have to fight for minutes as a freshman. Josh Cunningham, a transfer from Bradley, will play a significant role up front.


Final Analysis


Miller and his players will have to deal with the loss of McElvene — both on and off the court. That won’t be easy. Neither will be having to replace Pierre.


However, this team is full of grown men in its starting unit. Smith, Cooke, Pollard and Kyle Davis are all seniors, and Miller likes that recipe for success. It’s a group that has won at least 25 games in three consecutive seasons.


The perimeter play is the strength of the Flyers with Smith, Cooke and Kyle Davis. While Dayton won’t be nearly as big up front, a healthy Pollard and the addition of Cunningham should be enough to match up with just about any team in the league.

Dayton Flyers 2016-17 Basketball Team Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, October 14, 2016 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Pick 6, Life
Path: /life/pick-6-our-favorite-things-october-2016

In each issue of Athlon Sports & Life, we pick six of our favorite things. They may be books, automobiles, games, gear, booze, apparel or whatever happens to be awesome. Here's what made our shortlist this month:


2017 Dodge Challenger T/A 392

Dodge flexes its American muscle once again with the latest incarnation of the Challenger. And yes, those extra letters and numbers at the end of the name are significant. Here's your cheat sheet: T/A models were initially built for the Sports Car Club of America's (SCCA) Trans Am racing series in 1970, with only 2,399 ever built, and considered one of the most sought after muscle cars of all time. The 392 denotes the 392-cubic-inch HEMI V-8, which offers 485 horsepower and 475 lb.-ft. of torque. Muscular lines, a 0-60 mph in mid-4-second time and unique badging make this foot-stomper a serious head turner., $43,995


QB: My Life Behind the Spiral

Most fans of Steve Young don't remember him as an eighth-string quarterback at BYU, who was homesick and told by a coach he couldn't throw. But Young certainly remembers, and uses it as an example of the journey that led him to becoming one of the greatest QBs in football history, earning two NFL MVP trophies and one Super Bowl MVP nod. Young also opens up about suffering anxiety, the physical toll the game took on his body, and (most interesting for football fans) competing against QB legend Joe Montana for the starting spot on the 49ers. This is a must-read for any San Fran faithful, providing a behind-the-scenes look at one of the team's most iconic figures., $30


Skinit Skins

SkinItFor those with electronic gear and a favorite sports team, these easy peel-and-stick skins are ideal. Show your fandom on your phone, laptop, tablet, gaming unit and more with these high-quality graphics. Pricing can range from a few dollars for a phone charger skin, to $40 to show your team loyalty on a PS4 console and controller. Pro and college teams are all represented.


Health Warrior Superfood Protein Bars

A favorite of several pro football players, these bars are unique in that they combine chia, quinoa, peas, and oats to offer 10 grams of plant protein and 20 percent of your daily fiber. Flavors include Honey Almond (our favorite), Dark Chocolate Coconut Sea Salt (our second favorite), Lemon Goldenberry, and Peanut Butter Cacao. Although we were skeptical of tasting anything that boasts plant protein instead of the typical soy or whey, we were pleasantly surprised by how delicious and filling these bars are. Eat up!, $24 (12-pack)


Tequila Centinela Anejo

Centinela has been crafting tequila for more than a century, which tells us two things: they're really, really old, and they're really, really good at making this agave-based liquor. This tequila's beautiful amber color comes courtesy of a two-year soak in oak barrels that also impart flavor. While there are definite notes that bourbon drinkers will find familiar—thanks to the barrel bathing—we also tasted a distinct spiciness and kick to our tongue. Finally, we loved the warm aftertaste this 80-proof party starter provided. It left us thinking, "Maybe we'll have just a little bit more." And we did., $35


eShave White Tea Face Moisturizer

This UV protective face moisturizer goes on light and helps keep skin safe. eShave says that it's "enriched with powerful antioxidants Vitamin E and Green Tea extract," but all we know is that it feels great going on our face. The best parts? It absorbs quickly and has a refreshing scent that makes it seem less like a chore, and more of a want when it comes time to apply it. Trust us, your skin will thank you., $28

Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 15:05
Path: /college-football/mississippi-state-bulldogs-vs-byu-cougars-preview-and-prediction-2016

BYU (3-3) returns home after a dominating 31-14 victory over Michigan State a week ago on the banks of the red cedar in East Lansing.


Mississippi State (2-3) travels west for the first time since 2002 (loss at Oregon) and is reeling after an embarrassing loss at home to Auburn. The Bulldogs were down 35-0 in the first half before ultimately falling 38-14 to the Tigers.


This is the first of a two-game series between the two schools. Next year BYU will travel to Starkville.


Friday night contests are not uncommon for BYU, but this is a rare occasion for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs haven’t played a regular season Friday game since a visit to New Orleans against Tulane in 1965.


Will the Bulldogs keep their bowl hopes alive or will BYU notch a victory against another Power Five team?


Mississippi State at BYU


Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 14 at 10:21 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: BYU -7.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Jamaal Williams set to become BYU’s all-time leading rusher
If the country wasn’t aware of Williams entering the season, they are now becoming familiar. Williams has been dominating his opponents the past two games, and the 163-yard performance against Michigan State has put Williams in the conversation as one of college football’s best running backs.


Williams is 64 yards away from becoming BYU’s all-time leading rusher, and he should get that by the end of the first half.


Mississippi State wants this game to be low scoring and the Bulldogs will rely on their front seven led by DE A.J. Jefferson, who currently is tops in the SEC with 1.8 tackles for a loss per game.


2. How will Mississippi State adjust to the late kickoff?
Friday’s game will be a unique challenge for the Bulldogs. Kickoff is set for 8:21 p.m. in Provo, Utah, which would be 9:21 p.m. in Starkville, Mississippi. That would be the latest start in the history of Mississippi State football.


Head coach Dan Mullen acknowledged in his press conference this week that the late kickoff will be a unique challenge.


It’s rare for teams in the SEC to leave the south, and it’s even rarer when they travel out west. Getting adjusted to the altitude, late start time, and a hostile BYU crowd that hasn’t hosted a SEC team since the Bulldogs last traveled to Provo in 2000, there’s a reason why going west isn’t common for the young men in the SEC.


3. What can we expect from Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald?
The redshirt freshman has had some ups and downs, which are to be expected from a young quarterback. But Mullen is excited about the future with Fitzgerald. Mullen has said that the young signal-caller is already a better passer than former Mississippi State great Dak Prescott was at this same point of his collegiate career. That’s lofty praise when you consider Prescott is the greatest quarterback in Bulldogs history and is now starting for the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL.


Fitzgerald is a good passer, but just like Prescott, he also can make plays his legs. BYU’s secondary has been vulnerable to giving up the big pass completion at times, and if the Bulldogs hope to pull off the upset, they’ll need Fitzgerald to air it out like he did against UMass earlier in the season when he threw for 305 yards. If Fitzgerald doesn’t put up big numbers through the air, it will be hard for Mississippi State to come away victorious.


Final Analysis


BYU is a confident football team right now, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Led by Jamaal Williams and QB Taysom Hill, the Cougars have found their groove in this new pro-style offense.


But the key to BYU’s offensive success has come up front. Three offensive linemen from last year’s team that were expected to start are currently not playing, yet the Cougars’ line has performed better than anyone could have expected. The emphasis on adding weight in the offseason has paid off as BYU dominated Michigan State at the line of scrimmage in last week’s upset victory in East Lansing.


Mississippi State will try to keep this a low-scoring game, but don’t count on the Bulldogs to be able to stop the confident backfield of Williams and Hill, who are ready for another offensive explosion in front of a national television audience.


Prediction: BYU 34, Mississippi State 20


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

Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. BYU Cougars Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 14:30
Path: /college-football/pittsburgh-panthers-vs-virginia-cavaliers-preview-and-prediction-2016

The Pittsburgh Panthers have been in a number of thrilling games this season. Four out of the team’s six games thus far have been decided by seven points or fewer, including last week’s 37-34 victory over Georgia Tech.


This week, the Panthers will face the Virginia Cavaliers, who have recently turned things around. After beginning the season 0-3, the Cavaliers have won their last two games over Central Michigan and ACC Coastal foe Duke. Now the Cavaliers will look to extend that streak to three in a row as they will host the Panthers on Saturday.


Pittsburgh leads the all-time series 5-3. Last season, Virginia had a chance to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, but an incompletion on fourth down sealed the Panthers’ 26-19 victory. Each team has won on their home field since Pittsburgh joined the ACC in 2013.


Pittsburgh at Virginia


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 15 at 12:30 p.m. ET

TV: ACC Network/ESPN3

Spread: Pittsburgh -3


Three Things to Watch


1. Pitt running attack
Pittsburgh will enter this game against Virginia as one of the best rushing teams in the country. The Panthers are ranked 19th in the FBS as they averaging 244.2 rushing yards per game.


Former ACC Player of the Year James Conner has certainly done his part in his return after missing all of last season while undergoing treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma. He leads the team in rushing with 441 yards and five touchdowns in five games.


All-purpose threat Quadree Henderson also has been an asset, as the sophomore has 343 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the season. Currently, Virginia is ranked 71st in rushing defense (162 yards per game), so that will have to improve if the Cavaliers have any hopes of limiting Pitt’s ground–oriented offense.


2. Kurt Benkert
In last week’s win over Duke, Benkert finished 23-of-41 passing for 336 yards and three touchdowns. The East Carolina transfer has been a productive quarterback for first-year head coach Bronco Mendenhall and coordinator Robert Anae’s offense. In five games this season, Benkert has thrown for 1,455 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. He’s sixth in the ACC in total offense at 281.8 yards per game.


Pittsburgh has struggled mightily against the pass this season, ranking 124th out of 128 teams at 302.3 yards per game allowed. Expect Virginia to counter the Panthers’ ground game by throwing the ball early and often.


3. Ejuan Price
Price had a breakthrough 2015 campaign, finishing his junior season with 48 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for a  loss, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He has followed that up with a start to his senior year that his him firmly in the conversation for ACC Defensive Player of the Year.


Price leads the nation in both sacks (8.5) and tackles for a loss (12.5). He has registered at least one sack in all five games Pittsburgh has played. Price also has forced three fumbles and will no doubt be priority No. 1 for Virginia’s offensive line.


Final Analysis


After losing to North Carolina earlier this season, Pittsburgh can’t afford a second divisional loss if the Panthers have aspirations of winning the ACC Coastal. Virginia isn’t the cakewalk the Cavaliers looked like the first three games, as the team is slowly improving under first-year head coach Bronco Mendenhall. However, Pittsburgh’s apparent advantage running the football combined with Ejuan Price’s defensive presence should be the difference in close contest in Charlottesville on Saturday.


Prediction: Pittsburgh 37, Virginia 30


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

Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Virginia Cavaliers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 14:15
Path: /college-football/west-virginia-mountaineers-vs-texas-tech-red-raiders-game-preview-and-prediction-2016

After a 4-0 start the West Virginia Mountaineers are one of the remaining bright spots in the Big 12 nearing the midpoint of the season. With wins over Missouri, BYU and Kansas State the Mountaineers have found their way back into the top 25 in both national polls.


Texas Tech is coming off a tough loss to Kansas State in which Patrick Mahomes still did not look 100 percent. The Red Raiders come into this contest 3-2. However, there still is yet to be a quality win on their resume. Wins over Louisiana Tech, FCS member Stephen F. Austin, and Kansas with losses to Arizona State and Kansas State leave many wondering if they really can compete in the Big 12 this season.


Many questions will be answered this weekend in Lubbock. Can Texas Tech compete against a quality Big 12 opponent? Is West Virginia really a contender in the Big 12? Let’s take a look at three big storylines in this game.


West Virginia at Texas Tech


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 15 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FS1

Spread: West Virginia  -2


Three Things to Watch


1. Is Patrick Mahomes healthy?
Mahomes enters Saturday leading almost every offensive category in the nation. However, the injury he sustained against Kansas did seem to affect has ability to throw against Kansas State last week. Mahomes is averaging more than 454 passing yards per game, which is 78 yards more than any other QB in the nation.


Yes it is odd to claim a quarterback still may not be 100 percent after throwing for more than 500 yards the previous week. However, there were times Mahomes did not seem to have the same zip on the ball as he did early in the season. Regardless, the Mountaineers will have to prepare for an all-out air attack. Texas Tech’s running game is all but non-existent and even if not at full strength Mahomes can tear apart a defense.


2. Can West Virginia’s secondary stop the Texas Tech pass attack?
The Mountaineers have yet to face an offense like that of Texas Tech. And while West Virginia is off to a 4-0 start, the defense hasn’t exactly been shutting the opposition down. The Mountaineers have five interceptions in four games, but three of those came against BYU, as the Cougars were playing from behind and forced to throw the ball.


Do not expect the WVU defense to hold Mahomes completely in check. Mountaineers defensive coordinator Tony Gibson will undoubtedly draw up blitz packages in an attempt to force Mahomes to throw earlier than he wants or get him out of the pocket, which doesn’t always spell success either, as the junior quarterback has 162 rushing yards this season.


Texas Tech has six wide receivers with at least 10 or more catches and average at least 12 yards per reception. There is no keying on one receiver; Mahomes will spread the ball around, as evidenced by the 17 different Red Raiders that have caught at least one pass this season.


3. Will Texas Tech stop the Mountaineers’ rushing attack?
One of the most underrated aspects of West Virginia’s offense is its running attack. Averaging 187.3 rushing yards per game, the Mountaineers have taken advantage of running behind one of the best offensive lines in the country.


Texas Tech has not fared well against the run this season, giving up about 180 yards per game. If West Virginia can continue to run the ball effectively, expect head coach Dana Holgorsen to keep his offense stay grounded in an effort to keep Mahomes and the Red Raiders’ offense on the sideline.


Final Analysis


There is no doubt there will be plenty of scoring in this game. Patrick Mahomes should be able to take advantage of a West Virginia secondary that is still finding its way. The Mountaineers have the ability to make plays in the passing game too with senior QB Skyler Howard off to his best start. However, don’t be surprised if the offense is more run-oriented in an effort to limit Texas Tech’s offensive possessions.


The Red Raiders were held to fewer than 50 points for the first time this season last week against Kansas State. While West Virginia’s defense may not be as stout as the Wildcats’, the Mountaineers have held their own on that side of the ball.


Even if West Virginia can mount a clock-killing, ground-heavy offensive attack, look for Texas Tech to have its chances and make the most the of them. Mahomes is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation and he’s always looking for the big play.


This pairing has produced its fair share of close games, so the small spread is no surprise. However, I would take the “over,” which currently stands at 83, as points for either team shouldn’t be much of an issue.


Prediction: West Virginia 44, Texas Tech 40


— 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.

West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders Game Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 14:00
Path: /college-football/kansas-state-wildcats-vs-oklahoma-sooners-preview-and-prediction-2016

Bill Snyder and his former assistant Bob Stoops have always had that whole teacher-pupil dynamic between them. This year, however, their teams couldn’t be much different.


The Sooners come into their meeting with the Wildcats playing dangerous football. On the one hand, they can score points with the best of teams around the country. On the other, they’ve needed all that firepower to offset some terrible decisions and all-around sloppy play.


Kansas State is winning with a meat-and-potatoes approach built around arguably the top defense in the Big 12 (insert joke here). Per usual, Snyder is springing traps for his opponents and capitalizing when they turn the ball over.


The Wildcats have snuck up on the Sooners in their last two meetings at Owen Field, helping to put a major dent in OU’s supposed home-field advantage. With Stoops’ team riding high after last week’s win over rival Texas, KSU is trying to finagle another opportunistic road win.


Kansas State at Oklahoma


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 15 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Oklahoma -11


1. Ball Security

Kansas State enjoys one of the healthiest turnover margins in the country this season at 1.2 per game, tied for eighth nationally. Much of the Wildcats’ success lies in their ability to protect the ball: They have fumbled just twice all year, losing one.


Conversely, Oklahoma has put the ball on the ground 10 times so far this year and lost it seven times. Overall, the Sooners are turning it over more than two times per game. K-State surely would appreciate such generosity.


2. Can OU Run the Ball?
If the Sooners can run successfully on KSU, they’d be the first this year. The Wildcats are allowing a scant 2.75 yards per rushing attempt this season. They’ve held three of five opponents under 100 yards rushing so far.


KSU will face its stiffest test of the entire season on Saturday, however. Lately, OU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley has demonstrated more of a commitment to his backfield combo of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, who are popping off 5.4 and 6.5 yards per carry, respectively.


If the Sooners are able to pound the ball all afternoon, the Wildcats have no chance of winning this game.


3. Can Kansas State Throw?
Passing the ball isn’t exactly KSU’s thing. The Wildcats are averaging all of 155 yards passing on just 12 completions per game. After throwing the ball 41 times against Stanford, K-State has dialed back its dropbacks significantly.


Quarterback Jesse Ertz and his receivers have to figure out a way to make OU defend them honestly. A one-dimensional offense won’t get very far against the Sooners, who stop the run fairly well.


Final Analysis


Through five games, Oklahoma has proved that the greatest threat to its success is itself. Even against Ohio State, cutting back on a few self-inflicted errors might have led to a far tighter contest.


The Wildcats are usually content to allow their opponents to beat themselves. However, unlike some of Snyder’s more recent teams, Kansas State lacks the one or two offensive standouts required to make timely plays and capitalize on opportunities afforded by the other team. That’s trouble against an OU offense that has proven to be fairly relentless of late.


K-State’s deliberate pace and bend-but-don’t-break D will keep the team at least within striking distance before the half. An offensive barrage early in the second half by OU will ultimately overwhelm the Wildcats, though.


Prediction: Oklahoma 34, Kansas State 20


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

Kansas State Wildcats vs. Oklahoma Sooners Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 13:45
Path: /college-football/iowa-hawkeyes-vs-purdue-boilermakers-preview-and-prediction-2016

The Iowa Hawkeyes will put their school-record eight-game road winning streak on the line this weekend in West Lafayette, Indiana, against a Purdue squad looking to build on the impressive offensive performance generated in a 34-31 overtime win at Illinois last Saturday.


While the Boilermakers’ offense found its footing last week, the Hawkeyes remain very much a team in disarray on that side of the ball. Iowa struggled to convert on trips inside the red zone against Minnesota despite the defense doing its part. The Golden Gophers were forced to punt on all but two possessions. Still the Hawkeyes made enough plays to escape TCF Bank Stadium with a 14-7 win.


This is the 87th meeting between these Big Ten teams, with Purdue leading all-time series 46-37-3. The Boilermakers’ last victory over Iowa came back in 2012.


Iowa at Purdue


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 15 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Iowa -12.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Iowa’s offensive line
Hawkeyes quarterback C.J. Beathard was the talk of the Big Ten during last season’s 12-0 run in the regular season. But much of his success in 2015, in true Iowa form, can be attributed to the talent and performance of his offensive line. That consistent, rock-solid play up front has not carried over to this season, and as a result Beathard has paid a heavy price. He has found himself constantly under duress and has ended up on his backside by the time the play is over far too often. Not surprisingly, the Hawkeyes’ offensive production has suffered as a result, as Iowa currently sits 10th in the Big Ten in total offense at 319.7 yards per game. Purdue, certainly not known for being an offensive juggernaut, is actually one spot ahead of the Hawkeyes right now in that category at 332 yards per game. If Iowa wants to get back to where it was last season from an offensive standpoint, the O-line must find its way, and quickly.


2. Purdue rush defense
Iowa’s struggles up front have also carried over to its usually reliable running game. A top-50 rushing offense in the FBS in 2015, the Hawkeyes are languishing at No. 94 in that same category this season. Both returning running backs, Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels Jr., have had their flashy moments, including the game-winning, 54-yard scamper by Wadley which put Iowa ahead of Minnesota for good last week. Purdue enters this game struggling mightily against the run. The Boilermakers are second to last in the Big Ten and 118th nationally in rushing defense at 244.2 yards per game allowed. This could be the matchup that the Hawkeyes need to regain their ground game swagger.


3. Head coaches
Even if they are willing to admit it out loud, you couldn’t tell from last week that either Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell or Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz believes his team is anything other than a national title contender this season. Purdue had one of its most impressive offensive outputs of the season against what had been one of the nation’s better defenses, from a statistical standpoint. On the other side, the Hawkeyes’ coaching staff did the nearly unthinkable in years past, choosing to for it on fourth-and-inches repeatedly in the hard-fought win at Minnesota. Clearly these are two coaches not all that fazed by the current negative chatter around their team’s performance to this point.


Final Analysis


Both the Hawkeyes and Boilermakers are within striking distance of that all-important sixth win, which means bowl eligibility. Given the preseason talk which put Iowa back in the Big Ten Championship Game after winning the Big Ten West Division again, there’s no question the heat is once again on Kirk Ferentz to deliver a win and extend the Hawkeyes’ school-record road winning streak by beating Purdue. Look for his team to finally get that message and respond, although in yet another underwhelming performance.


Prediction: Iowa 27, Purdue 17


— Written by Robert A. Boleyn, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a native Iowan currently calling Southern California home. Boleyn attended both the University of Iowa and UCLA, is a former Contributing Writer for the Daily Iowan and a die-hard Hawkeye and Big Ten alum. Follow him on Twitter @BoleynRobert.

Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Purdue Boilermakers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 13:30
Path: /college-football/vanderbilt-commodores-vs-georgia-bulldogs-preview-and-prediction-2016

The Vanderbilt Commodores travel to Athens on Saturday to take on Kirby Smart's Georgia Bulldogs in what should be a closely-decided SEC East battle. Vandy is looking for its first SEC win and is still on the outside looking in at a bowl game, while Georgia is looking to continue building on momentum. The Bulldogs could still be a long shot for an SEC Championship Game berth.  


Derek Mason's squad comes into this one reeling off back-to-back close division losses. In fact, against every SEC East opponent Vanderbilt has faced this season — South Carolina, Florida and Kentucky — it has lost by seven points or fewer. Vanderbilt is on the cusp of breaking through but it hasn't been able to win the close games yet.


Georgia heads into Saturday's game off a refreshing 28-14 win against South Carolina. After consecutive losses to Ole Miss and Tennessee, the Bulldogs needed some momentum and they found it in Columbia. With Georgia having corrected its course a bit, it will be interesting to see if this team can keep it up with several key division games looming in the coming weeks. 


Saturday will mark the 77th all-time meeting between Vanderbilt and Georgia. The Commodores don't win this matchup very often, as Georgia leads the series 55-19-2. Vanderbilt has only two wins in this millennium  — in 2006 and '13 — against the 'Dawgs. The last one before that came in 1994. Georgia has won back-to-back games in this series by an average of 22 points.


Vanderbilt at Georgia


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 15 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: SEC Network

Spread: Georgia -14.5


Three Things to Watch


1. The Red Zone

It couldn't be drawn up any better for the Commodores to score when they get inside the 20-yard line. Vanderbilt is surprisingly efficient, leading the SEC in red zone scoring. The Commodores have scored 18 times (12 touchdowns, six field goals) on 19 trips to the red zone this season. That's a vast improvement from last year. Georgia is last in the SEC in allowing opponent red zone conversions. Interestingly enough, the Bulldogs have allowed 18 scores on their opponents' 19 trips to the red zone — and 14 of those have been touchdowns. Vanderbilt's offense hasn't been stellar in gaining yards for the most part but when it gets close to scoring territory, it usually gets points.


2. Nick Chubb Revival 

He had been hobbling around since a season-opening performance that saw him run for 222 yards against North Carolina. Since then, Chubb's rushing yards had decreased every week; from 80 against Nicholls State, to 63 vs. Missouri, then 57 vs. Ole Miss and just three yards against Tennessee. But last week against South Carolina, Chubb looked a lot more like his usual, healthy. He ran for 121 yards and averaged 7.6 yards per carry against the Gamecocks — and also scored two of the Bulldogs' touchdowns. If Chubb can get back as the reliable No. 1 running back, it will help the Georgia offense tremendously, especially with the talented Sony Michel and Brian Herrien coming off the bench.  


3. Vandy Through The Air?

Something has to give here. Vanderbilt is ranked last in the SEC in passing, having thrown for only 914 yards this season. Also, the Commodores have only three touchdown passes compared to four interceptions. But Georgia is 13th in the conference in pass defense and has surrendered an SEC-high 11 touchdowns through the air. The 'Dawgs secondary has been shredded on multiple occasions, especially by Missouri's Drew Lock and Ole Miss' Chad Kelly, who each threw for more than 300 yards. The Commodores don't have anybody on the roster who is going to tear Georgia up, but Kyle Shurmur has had his bright spots. This could be an opportunity for Vandy to put together a little bit of a passing game.


Final Analysis


Georgia has had little trouble with Vanderbilt the past two seasons. But I think this year, the 14.5-point spread is a little much. Derek Mason's team still has a capable defense and its SEC losses have all been close. Georgia's wins over SEC East teams Missouri and South Carolina also were very close (the Bulldogs scored late on an onside kick return vs. the Gamecocks). If Vanderbilt's defense can put the Commodores in good field position on a few occasions, that red zone scoring stat could play a key role. Georgia's defense isn't great. Still, I like the team with the better running backs at home. The 'Dawgs will wear 'em out eventually.


Prediction: Georgia 21, Vanderbilt 13


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

Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Georgia Bulldogs Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 13:15
Path: /college-football/north-carolina-state-wolfpack-vs-clemson-tigers-preview-and-prediction-2016

It’s safe to say that Clemson has found its groove again. The defending ACC champs got off to a bit of a slow start this season, winning games though not dominating like many thought the Tigers would. But the big win over Louisville was followed by a romp of Boston College and anyone that wasn't all in is now back on board.


This week the Tigers host 4-1 NC State, who is probably just drying off after their 10-3 water-logged victory over Notre Dame. The Wolfpack are 1-0 in the conference but they now begin the meat of what is a very difficult ACC slate.


In a series they call the Textile Bowl, Clemson holds a 55-28-1 edge.


NC State at Clemson


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 15 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Clemson -17


Three Things to Watch


1. NC State Offensive Line vs. Clemson Defensive Line

The Wolfpack front has allowed just five sacks in five games this season and has done a very good job of opening up running lanes for Matt Dayes but this will be far and away this group's biggest challenge of the season. The Clemson front seven is nasty. Christian Wilkins, Carlos Watkins, and freshman Dexter Lawrence may be the best known of the defensive linemen, but they have plenty of help. The linebacker trio of Ben Boulware, Kendall Joseph and Dorian O’Daniel are playmakers as well. To win, NC State needs at least a stalemate in this battle.


2. Wayne Gallman

After rushing for 123 yards in the season opener at Auburn, the Clemson running back averaged just 44 yards a game over the next three contests. But against Louisville and Boston College, the junior from Loganville, Ga., totaled 219 rushing yards on just 25 carries. NC State has one of the nation’s best run defenses and Gallman’s tenacity will be valuable as the Wolfpack try to contend with Deshaun Watson and the passing game.


3. Third Down Conversions

With all of the talent on the Clemson offense, you would think these Tigers would be a big-play machine. But they are currently 80th in the FBS in number of plays of 30 or more 30 yards. Their offensive success this year has come from converting on third down, something NC State has been efficient at as well. Likewise, both defenses are in the top 12 in opponents' third down conversions. In particular, the Wolfpack offense will need to maintain its possessions and make sure third down is a manageable distance and therefore more convertible.


Final Analysis


It was hard to take much from NC State’s win over Notre Dame last week. The Fighting Irish are not very good right now and the conditions due to the effects of Hurricane Matthew made the game a mess. But you can glean a lot from Clemson’s last two performances. Coming off the emotional win against Louisville, a letdown against Boston College would not have been surprising. But after a few miscues early on, the Tigers once again flexed their muscles and destroyed the Eagles. The Wolfpack look like a good football team. But right now, good is not good enough against Clemson.


Prediction: Clemson 35, NC State 14


— 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.

NC State Wolfpack vs. Clemson Tigers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 13:00
Path: /college-football/minnesota-golden-gophers-vs-maryland-terrapins-preview-and-prediction-2016

The last time Minnesota played Maryland was in The Hall Of Fame Classic, played on Dec. 22, 1977, in Birmingham, Alabama. It is against this backdrop that these two programs will meet up again, this time as Big Ten Conference opponents.


Minnesota is coming off two consecutive close conference losses that have hampered the program's quest for a West Division title. A three-point loss in overtime at Penn State (29-26) on Oct. 1, followed up with a home loss to division foe Iowa (14-7) last Saturday that resulted in Iowa claiming the coveted Floyd Of Rosedale trophy, have blunted the positive 3-0 start by the Golden Gophers. Minnesota head coach Tracy Claeys stated after the Iowa loss, "You can always come up with excuses, but you have to find a way to get it done." And it looks like the Gophers will have to get it done on the road without senior quarterback Mitch Leidner, who is expected to miss this game because of a concussion he suffered last week.


Maryland also is coming off a loss, albeit in a much more dispiriting manner. Maryland raced out to a 4-0 start under first-year head coach DJ Durkin, only to be dominated on the road at Penn State 38-14. A defense that had allowed just 119 yards rushing in its first four games was gashed for 372 (on 62 carries for 6.0 yards per carry) and three scores by Saquon Barkley (202 yards, TD) and the other Nittany Lion ball carriers. Maryland is still in contention for the East title, but the Terrapins are just beginning to face the teeth of their B1G conference schedule.


After Minnesota, Maryland faces this daunting five-game stretch: vs. Michigan State, at Indiana, at Michigan, vs. Ohio State and at Nebraska. The Wolverines, Buckeyes and Cornhuskers are all undefeated and ranked in the top 10 of both the Associated Press and Coaches Polls. The Terrapins will close out their regular season against Rutgers, so a win on Saturday will get them one step closer to bowl eligibility while a second straight loss will make that task much more difficult.


Minnesota at Maryland


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 15 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPNU

Spread: Maryland -5


Three Things to Watch


1. Minnesota’s QB Situation
On Tuesday, Golden Gophers head coach Tracy Claeys said Mitch Leidner would not play because of a concussion he suffered in last week’s loss to Iowa. So barring a last-minute change, Minnesota will be without its senior quarterback. Even though Leidner has struggled as a passer (11th in Big Ten in passer rating, five TDs, four INTs), he has started 34 games in his career so his absence leaves a rather sizeable void at the quarterback position. Junior Conor Rhoda is expected to get the start and he’s played in three games in his three seasons and has attempted a grand total of one pass. Sophomore Demry Croft would back up Rhoda, but it may not matter against a Terrapins defense that is ranked eighth in the Big Ten in pass defense (195.4 ypg) and has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete a little more than half (51.2 percent) of their attempts. Given the inexperience at quarterback, Maryland’s defensive game plan may have just gotten a lot simpler.


2. Maryland's Rushing Offense vs. Minnesota's Rush Defense
The Gophers have done a solid job stopping the run thus far, ranking fourth in the Big Ten at 134.2 yards per game. The Terrapins have employed a committee approach on the ground with seven different players already with 15 or more carries. Freshman Lorenzo Harrison leads the way with 362 yards and is averaging 8.2 per carry. Senior quarterback Perry Hills is tied with Harrison for the most carries (44 each), but he re-aggravated a shoulder injury last week against Penn State. Head coach DJ Durkin said he expects the fifth-year senior to be ready to go for this game. Whoever is under center for Maryland, expect to see plenty of hand offs. The Terrapins are second in the Big Ten and ninth in the FBS in rushing at 274 yards per game. Minnesota’s defense will its work cut out for it against this ground-oriented attack.


3. William Likely Making a Big Play On Special Teams or Defense for Maryland
Listed at just 5-foot-7 and 175 pounds, Likely is a starting defensive back for the Terrapins, but the senior also has gained a well-deserved reputation as one of the most dangerous return specialists in the nation. He’s second in the Big Ten (11th nationally) at 30 yards per kickoff return and has returned four for touchdowns in his career. He also has returned two punts and two interceptions for scores in his career as well. So whether it’s taking a kick all the way or coming up with a big return to give the offense great field position or making a big play on the defense, look for Likely to leave his mark and potentially be one of the difference-makers in this game.


Final Analysis


Maryland is coming in off a disappointing road loss, while Minnesota has to travel to an unfamiliar stadium after two close losses and will be without its senior quarterback. The Terrapins looked impressive to start the season and will try to get back to the formula that helped them jump out to a 4-0 start. Expect to see Maryland lean heavily on the run in an effort to dictate tempo and game flow and also get back to being the more physical team on both sides of the ball. The Golden Gophers’ issues at quarterback will be too much to overcome, as the Terrapins wear down their visitors, regain their swagger and get one step closer to bowl eligibility.


Prediction: Maryland 28, Minnesota 13


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

Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Maryland Terrapins Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 12:45
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Path: /college-football/10-college-football-picks-against-spread-week-7-odds-lines-2016

The Week 7 edition of college football’s picks against the spread features predictions for some of Saturday’s biggest games, including Alabama-Tennessee, Ohio State-Wisconsin and Notre Dame-Stanford. Additionally, conference matchups such as Clemson-NC State, USC-Arizona, Oklahoma-Kansas State and Northwestern-Michigan State feature lines or odds that caught our attention for Week 7. Here are 10 predictions or picks against the spread for this weekend's action:


10 CFB Picks Against the Spread for Week 7


NC State (+17.5) over Clemson

The Wolfpack have gained over 500 yards in three of their five games (and three of their four not played in a Hurricane). This team has enough offensive weapons to make Clemson sweat … for a while.


Related: Predictions for Every College Football Game in Week 7


Kansas State (+10.5) over Oklahoma

Kansas State leads the Big 12 in total defense (310.2 ypg) and ranks last in the league in total offense (344.2 ypg). Oklahoma’s two wins over Power 5 opponents have come by six points and five points. K-State keeps it close.


Northwestern (+4.5) over Michigan State

Northwestern has played better of late after a disastrous 0–2 start, most notably in last week’s 38–31 win at Iowa. There’s been nothing fluky about Michigan State’s recent three-game slide; the Spartans have not played well since their Week 2 win at Notre Dame.


North Carolina (+7.5) at Miami

This line seems to be a bit high considering that North Carolina has not lost an ACC regular-season game not played in a Hurricane since the end of the 2014 season.


Alabama (-13) over Tennessee

Alabama is coming off an incredibly efficient offensive performance against Arkansas; the Crimson Tide averaged 10.1 yards per play, and quarterback Jalen Hurts averaged 14.9 yards on his 17 passing attempts.


Missouri (+13.5) over Florida

Even with Luke Del Rio back at quarterback, the Gators still have issues on offense. The guess here is that Missouri won’t get manhandled like it did two weeks ago at LSU.


Ole Miss (-7.5) at Arkansas

Here’s a scary thought for SEC defenses: Ole Miss has found a running game. The Rebels rushed for 180 vs. Georgia and 263 vs. Memphis.


Notre Dame (-3) over Stanford

Both teams are struggling. Notre Dame has some playmakers on offense. Notre Dame is at home. Take Notre Dame.


Ohio State (-10) at Wisconsin

The schedule hasn’t been overly taxing, but Ohio State is the only team in the nation in the top five in total offense and total defense. Wisconsin doesn’t have the firepower on offense to keep this in single digits.


USC (-8) at Arizona

It’s always dangerous to jump on the USC bandwagon, but the Trojans have seemingly turned a corner in recent weeks.


Last week: 5-4-1

Season: 13-16-1

10 College Football Picks Against the Spread for Week 7 Odds Lines 2016
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 12:30
Path: /college-football/san-diego-state-aztecs-vs-fresno-state-bulldogs-preview-and-prediction-2016

Mountain West Conference play is in full swing as San Diego State travels to Fresno State Friday night in the Battle for the Old Oil Can Trophy. The Aztecs, who haven’t won in Fresno since 1997, are 4-1 overall and 1-0 in league play following last week’s 26-7 victory over UNLV. The win helped San Diego State move forward from a disastrous fourth quarter that led to a 42-24 upset loss against South Alabama, which knocked the Aztecs out of the AP Top 25 and potentially ended their hopes of securing a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl.


With a 27-22 loss to Nevada last week, Fresno State dropped its fourth consecutive game and now sits with a 1-5 overall record and a 0-2 mark in the Mountain West. The Bulldogs have now lost 14 of their past 18 games, giving head coach Tim DeRuyter one of the hottest seats in the conference. DeRuyter and the Bulldogs must stage a major second-half turnaround to avoid a third straight losing season and a second consecutive season without a bowl game.


San Diego State at Fresno State


Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 14 at 10 p.m. ET

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

Spread: San Diego State -17


Three Things to Watch


1. San Diego State RB Donnel Pumphrey
Simply put, Pumphrey is one of the best running backs in the country. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound senior leads the nation with 891 rushing yards and an average of 178.2 rushing yards per game, as well as an average of 204.4 all-purpose yards per contest. He also is the FBS’ active leader with 5,163 career rushing yards, 54 rushing touchdowns, and 6,167 all-purpose yards. He needs 1,235 more rushing yards this season to break Ron Dayne’s all-time FBS record, which he set back in 1999.


Given how poorly Fresno State has fared against the run, Pumphrey could be in for another career night against the Bulldogs. While the Bulldogs have limited Pumphrey to 4.6 yards per carry in two previous meetings, Fresno State has allowed 272.0 rushing yards per game this season, which ranks last in the Mountain West and 126th (out of 128 FBS teams) nationally. Overall, opponents have gained an average of 5.3 yards per carry against the Bulldogs this season. FBS opponents have done a little at 5.6 yards per rushing attempt.


2. An Improving Fresno State Offense
Through six games this season, the Bulldogs have averaged just 5.05 yards per play, which ranks last in the Mountain West and No. 111 in the nation. Fresno State has scored just 23.5 points per game and averages 377.8 total yards per contest, which ranks No. 10 and No. 11 in the league, respectively. But, despite those unfortunate figures, the Fresno State offense has shown improvement: the unit averaged 22.3 points per game, 315.2 total yards per contest and 4.58 yards per play in 2015.


Fresno State currently ranks second in the Mountain West in passing (248.2 yards per game), and redshirt freshman quarterback Chason Virgil is second in the league (227.7 ypg) in that category. Though Virgil has struggled with his accuracy (completing just 48.6 percent of his passes), he has teamed up with arguably the best wide receiver trio in the conference for some big plays. He has three touchdown passes that have gone for at least 65 yards.


Aaron Peck (28 receptions, 479 yards, 3 TD), Jamire Jordan (24, 405, 2) and KeeSean Johnson (36, 402, 3 TD) all rank among the top seven in the conference in receiving. Peck, who has averaged 17.1 yards per catch, and Jordan (16.9 ypr), have been particularly explosive.


Also, running back Dontel James rushed for 169 yards and a touchdown last week, which pushed his season totals to 468 yards and three scores. James and the Bulldogs put together their best rushing performance of the season – 255 yards on 48 attempts for an average of 5.31 yards per carry, so perhaps there is more to come from this aspect of Fresno State’s offense.


3. The Best Defense in the Mountain West
San Diego State currently leads the Mountain West in total defense (313.2 yards per game), and yards allowed per play (4.76). The Aztecs have been at their best against the run, having surrendered just 102.0 rushing yards per game and 3.04 yards per carry. No opponent has averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry against San Diego State this season, and the Aztecs have held three teams to fewer than 100 rushing yards.


Those numbers are great on their own, but become more impressive given the outlying performance against a top-notch Cal offense in Week 2. The Aztecs surrendered 604 total yards in the 45-40 victory over the Golden Bears, but did force three interceptions including a pick-six by Ronley Lakalaka.


San Diego State’s defense has recorded eight interceptions in just five games. The Aztecs also have at least one sack in each game for a total of 12. Opposing quarterbacks have managed a 119.26 passer rating against this defense, which leads the conference.


And, to make matters worse for Fresno State, San Diego State put together its most complete defensive performance last week against UNLV. The Aztecs surrendered just 122 total yards and held the Rebels to a miniscule 2.49 yards per play. UNLV quarterbacks were just 2-for-13 for nine yards and an interception.


Final Analysis


If the Bulldogs are somehow able to control Donnel Pumphrey and the San Diego State running game, they can keep it close or potentially score an important upset. However, the Fresno State defense has yet to show any meaningful improvement against the run recently. Nevada ran for 226 (4.6 ypc) last week, the fewest the Bulldogs have surrendered to an FBS team this season. Only two other teams in the FBS are giving up more rushing yards per game than Fresno State ( 272.0 ypg).


The Bulldogs have shown promise at times this season, particularly in the passing game, but the Aztecs are the toughest defense, statistically speaking, Fresno State has faced yet. Even if the Bulldogs can put together one or two big plays in the passing game, it’s unlikely to be enough to help pull off the win..


Prediction: San Diego State 38, Fresno State 17


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

San Diego State Aztecs vs. Fresno State Bulldogs Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 12:30
Path: /college-football/memphis-tigers-vs-tulane-green-wave-preview-and-prediction-2016

After having its Oct. 8 game against UCF rescheduled due to Hurricane Matthew, Tulane enters this week’s matchup against Memphis with an extra week of rest. The 3-2 Green Wave have won their last two games beating UMass on Oct. 1 and Louisiana-Lafayette in overtime on Sept. 24.


Memphis continues to roll along under first-year head coach Mike Norvell. The Tigers are 4-1 on the season, with their lone blemish coming at hands of Ole Miss in a 48-28 loss. Memphis’ passing offense, led by junior quarterback Riley Ferguson, ranks 31st nationally at 281.6 yards per game. Behind it, the Tigers are averaging 43.4 points per game.


The Tulane-Memphis series dates back to 1954. The Tigers own a 20-11-1 series advantage, and won the past nine meetings. Tulane’s last win came at home back in 2000 when Chris Scelfo was the head coach.


Memphis at Tulane


Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPNU

Spread: Tulane +10.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Tulane’s defense vs. Memphis’ high-powered offense
When it comes to adjectives to describe Tulane’s defense, opportunistic quickly comes to mind. The Green Wave lead the American Athletic Conference (AAC) and rank fourth in the FBS in turnover margin (+8 or 1.6 per game). The defense has registered 12 takeaways, seven of those being fumble recoveries.


Opposing defenses have found Memphis’ offense difficult to corral this year. The Tigers are averaging 446.2 yards and 41.3 points per game. They are 11th nationally in scoring offense. While Memphis has leaned a little more on its passing attack, the ground game is gaining 164.6 yards per game as well.


Tulane’s defense has gotten the job done thus far, but will it face its toughest test yet on Friday night.


2. Memphis’ Riley Ferguson
Following the departure of record-setting quarterback Paxton Lynch, there were plenty of questions about how productive Memphis’ offense would be in 2016. Thanks to the emergence of Ferguson, those questions don’t really exist, as the Tigers are 31st nationally and third in the AAC in passing offense. Ferguson has thrown for 1,360 yards with 11 touchdowns and completion rate of 66.3. He got off to a great start in the opener against Southeast Missouri (295 yards, 3 TDs), and then had a field day three weeks later against Bowling Green, throwing for 359 yards and accounting for seven touchdowns (6 passing, 1 rushing) in just two quarters of work.


Tulane’s passing defense has been solid thus far, allowing 171.4 yards per game. The Green Wave have nearly as many interceptions (five) as touchdown passes allowed (six).


3. Tigers’ WR Anthony Miller
The Ferguson-Miller tandem has proved successful in Memphis’ hot start. Miller’s 408 receiving yards lead the Tigers, as does his 81.2 yards per game. Miller’s also a running threat, as he’s tallied 81 rushing yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Miller lit up the Ole Miss defense for 132 yards on 10 receptions, and he tallied another 100-yard effort against Southeast Missouri in the opener.


Miller has accounted for five of Memphis’ nine longest plays from scrimmage this season. His big-play ability is something Tulane’s defense will need to pay attention to and try to prevent.


Final Analysis


With three wins at this juncture of the season, optimism for long-term success under first-year head coach Willie Fritz is high in New Orleans as Tulane has won a total of three games each of its last two seasons. Memphis also is clicking on all cylinders under rookie head coach Mike Norvell thanks to solid play in all three phases. But the Tigers appear to have a little more offensive firepower, which will help them win this key AAC West divisional game.


Final Score: Memphis 37, Tulane 21


— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A sports reporter for The Meridian Star Newspaper, Hayes also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.

Memphis Tigers vs. Tulane Green Wave Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 12:15
Path: /college-football/duke-blue-devils-vs-louisville-cardinals-preview-and-prediction-2016

Louisville will look to bounce back from its first loss of the season on Friday night as the No. 7 Cardinals return to action at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium to take on Duke.


The Blue Devils will be looking for their first ACC win and will come in 3-3 overall. The first half of the season for David Cutcliffe’s team was highlighted by a thrilling victory at Notre Dame and lowlighted by a home loss to a Virginia team that was 1-3 coming in. Duke defeated Army last week, 13-6.


Louisville’s ACC title hopes hit a road block two weeks ago with a gut-wrenching 42-36 loss at Clemson, but the Cardinals remain in the hunt for a potential berth in the College Football Playoff. Louisville also will be in front of its home crowd for the first time since a 63-20 drubbing of Florida State on Sept. 17. The Cardinals beat Duke 40-3 in 2002 in the only other meeting between the schools.


Duke at Louisville


Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Louisville –35


Three Things to Watch


1. Lamar Jackson
The only thing keeping the Louisville quarterback from winning the Heisman Trophy at this point might be an act of God. Through five games this season, Jackson has accounted for more than 2,300 total yards and an ungodly 28 total touchdowns. Stopping Jackson might be impossible, but Clemson showed two weeks ago that he can be contained.


The Blue Devils have been pretty good defensively this season, ranking in the top 40 nationally when it comes to fewest yards and points allowed. Senior defensive tackle A.J. Wolf leads the team with five sacks. Duke however, struggled mightily in its only contest against an elite quarterback as Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer put up 441 total yards and three touchdowns. Duke also has lost DeVon Edwards, its best cover cornerback, for the season. If the Blue Devils can’t do better against Jackson, they’re in for a long night.


2. Running Backs
Just about everyone on the Louisville roster, or at the least the offense, has played in the shadow of Jackson, but running back Brandon Radcliffe, a senior, is in the midst of a career year. Radcliffe is on pace for about 1,200 yards rushing and currently leads the ACC, averaging 8.4 yards per carry. Radcliffe has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in three of the Cardinals’ five games and will be facing a good Duke rushing defense on Saturday.


On the other sideline, senior Jela Duncan is Duke’s biggest offensive weapon. After missing action in a loss to Virginia, Duncan returned the lineup for the Blue Devils in last week’s win over Army and is expected to have a bigger role this week. Duncan is averaging 5.4 yards per carry and leads the team with four touchdowns. In Duke’s three wins this season, he is averaging six yards per carry compared to just 3.9 in the three losses.


3. Turnovers
For Duke to have any real chance at making this one interesting on Friday night, the Blue Devils will probably need to win the turnover battle and win it decisively. Doing so however, has hardly been a strong suit for Duke, who is an ACC-worst minus-3 when it comes to turnover margin. In Duke’s two victories over FBS teams, the Blue Devils have just one turnover in each game. Duke quarterback Daniel Jones has seven total touchdowns and just one interception in Duke’s three wins this season compared to just three touchdowns and seven picks in the Blue Devils’ three losses.


Turnovers have been an issue for Louisville as well. The Cardinals have turned the ball over three times in four of their five games this season. Fortunately for Louisville, it hasn’t had much trouble taking the ball away either. Sophomore cornerback Jaire Alexander leads Louisville with three interceptions on the season, including two off Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. Linebacker James Hearns has already forced four fumbles this season.


Final Analysis


Bouncing back from its first loss of the season shouldn’t be too difficult for Louisville. The Cardinals have had an extra week to prepare and will be in front of their home crowd. Like Louisville with Bobby Petrino, Duke is a well-coached team. The Blue Devils however, lack the offensive firepower to keep up with the prolific Louisville attack. They also lack the athletes on defense to significantly slow it down.


Prediction: Louisville 52, Duke 13


— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the editor of The Daily Nole. Like The Daily Nole on Facebook and follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.  

Duke Blue Devils vs. Louisville Cardinals Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 12:00
Path: /mlb/alcs-preview-and-prediction-toronto-blue-jays-vs-cleveland-indians-2016

Both the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays swept what many might have called superior opponents in their respective American League Division Series. Cleveland shocked the baseball world by keeping Boston, the best offense in the game, in complete check, while Toronto slugged its way past an elite starting rotation and defense in top seed Texas.


After running away with the AL Central title this year, Cleveland is looking for its first AL pennant since 1997 and World Series championship since ‘48 — one of the longest droughts in American pro sports. While Toronto’s recent success has been fun to watch over the last season and a half, Blue Jays fans haven’t forgotten the two decades of petulance since their back-to-back World Series championships in 1992 and ’93.


One way or the other, at least one title-starved fan base will be ecstatic to watch their team raise the Commissioner’s Trophy by series end.


Toronto Blue Jays vs. Cleveland Indians

Game Day Time (ET) TV Pitching Matchup Location
1 Fri., Oct. 14 8:08 p.m. TBS Marco Estrada vs. Corey Kluber CLE
2 Sat., Oct. 15 4:08 p.m. TBS J.A. Happ vs. Josh Tomlin CLE
3 Mon., Oct. 17 8:08 p.m. TBS Trevor Bauer vs. Marcus Stroman TOR
4 Tues., Oct. 18 4:08 p.m. TBS Mike Clevinger vs. Aaron Sanchez TOR
5* Wed., Oct. 19 4:08 p.m. TBS TBD vs. TBD TOR
6* Fri., Oct. 21 8:08 p.m. TBS TBD vs. TBD CLE
7* Sat., Oct. 22 TBD TBS TBD vs. TBD CLE

*If necessary


Three Things to Watch


1. Jays’ Bats Waking Up
Toronto’s high-flying, record-breaking offense that blasted through the American League a season ago, might be waking up at just the right time this October. Last year, the Jays scored 127 more runs than any other team in the AL and led all of baseball in home runs, doubles, RBIs, and OPS. This season was less forgiving as the Jays dealt with injuries to key players (Jose Bautista), natural regression, and an improved AL East.


The Jays’ offense was clicking on all cylinders against the Rangers’ top-notch pitching staff, scoring 22 runs in their three-game sweep, 16 of which off of Texas’ starting rotation that features Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels. Cleveland’s rotation will be without Carlos Carrasco (broken hand) and Danny Salazar (strained forearm) for the entirety of the ALCS, leaving an already vulnerable Indians rotation susceptible to Toronto’s big bats.


2. Can Cleveland Pitching Keep Up?
If we didn’t see it on our TV screens or in person, it might have been too hard to believe — but the box score doesn't lie. Yes, the Cleveland pitching staff really did hold the Boston Red Sox, the best offense in baseball, to just seven runs and a .136 batting average with runners in scoring position in a three-game sweep, something that no other pitching staff was able to do this entire season.


The amazing part about the Indians’ pitching performance was that the Tribe were without two of their three best starters, the aforementioned Carrasco and Salazar, but still got two solid starts from Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin. Mixed in with a typical dominating performance from ace Corey Kluber, and brilliant bullpen management from manager Terry Francona, and great relief appearances from every Cleveland reliever, it was the perfect pitching mix for a shortened five-game series.


But what happens in a best-of-seven series, when starting pitching performances are so essential, and bullpens can easily get overused — especially against a red-hot Toronto offense? Do the Indians have enough arms to keep up with the Blue Jays’ bats?


3. Who is the Hero?
In postseason baseball, in every series, there is a player — often times the most unassuming of players — who steps up for his respective team and takes them to the next level. This series between the Blue Jays and Indians has no shortage of A-list players that can take over or change the course of a series.


For Toronto, the obvious choices are in its lineup. With the likes of reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson, and sluggers Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, one swing of the bat can change the series in the Blue Jays’ favor. But I’ve got my eyes on center fielder Kevin Pillar and not necessarily at the plate. Pillar is the best center fielder in baseball, ranking second in defensive runs saved (21) and ultimate zone rating (21.4), the two defensive metrics measuring the efficiency of a defender’s ability in the field.


For Cleveland, it’s all about the bullpen — and not just the usual suspects of Cody Allen and Andrew Miller, two of the best relievers in the AL. Allen and Miller are a given, especially with a worn-down Indians rotation. But it is the other bullpen arms that could make or break this series for the Tribe. The performances of relievers Bryan Shaw (vs. BOS: 2 1/3 IP, 2 hits, 2 runs, 1 HR) and Dan Otero (vs. BOS: 1 IP, 0 runs, 0 hits) are going to be vital if Cleveland hopes to advance to the Fall Classic.


Final Analysis


The Blue Jays’ red-hot offense isn’t going to be the only issue for the Indians in this series. The Jays have the best starting rotation in the American League this season in terms of ERA (3.78) and it’s a group with plenty of postseason experience. The likes of J.A Happ, Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada and Marcus Stroman could prove to be too much for Cleveland’s offense and be the catalyst for Toronto’s first World Series appearance since 1993.


Prediction: Blue Jays in 6


— Written by Jake Rose, an avid baseball fan who also is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.

ALCS Preview and Prediction: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Cleveland Indians
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 11:45
Path: /college-football/nebraska-cornhuskers-vs-indianan-hoosiers-preview-and-prediction-2016

For the first time since 2011, the Nebraska Cornhuskers are a top 10 team in college football. After a 2015 season where very little went right for Mike Riley's bunch, the Huskers have stuck to the process, taken it one game at a time, rode a balanced offensive attack and come out of the early portion of the season unblemished.


Are they ready for their biggest challenge to date?


The Indiana Hoosiers are 3-2 and have grown into a competitive football team and a tough out for most opponents. They bring an improved defense to the table to back up a bold, attacking offensive scheme that we have come to know every year recently in Bloomington.


This series is historically much closer than many might assume, favoring Nebraska 9-7. That said, it will be the first meeting between the two programs since 1978, when Tom Osborne's Huskers defeated Lee Corso's Hoosiers 69-17.


Nebraska at Indiana


Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 15, 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Nebraska -3.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Which team gets off to a fast start?

The Huskers were banged up heading into their bye last week. You'd like to think they are healthier and rested, which should lead to a little pep in their step early on. On the other hand, the week off could mean it may take a little extra time to get back into the swing of things. They might need to get punched in the mouth to wake up and realize what kind of fight they are in. The problem for Nebraska in that scenario is that Indiana can score and do so quickly. If the Hoosiers smell blood and see any haze in Nebraska's eyes, it's very possible Indiana could lead by two scores before Tommy Armstrong is finished lacing up his cleats.


2. Which offense establishes the run early?

Both of these teams can hang points on the scoreboard, but at some point, one of them will need to take control of this shootout with a consistent run game — especially to preserve a lead. Devine Redding is Indiana's workhorse back, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Nebraska's rush defense is among the worst in the country, allowing opponents 4.8 yards per carry. On the other side of the ball, the Huskers roll largely with a "running back by committee" setup, pounding the ball between the tackles with Devine Ozigbo and changing the pace with Terrell Newby and a couple of underclassmen. Additionally, the designed quarterback run has been extremely effective for Nebraska this season. All told, the Husker rushing attack is well within the top third of the nation in terms of effectiveness, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and punching it into the end zone 14 times. The Hoosiers have been slightly better than Nebraska against the run, limiting opponents to 4.2 yards per carry.


3. Which defense can create turnovers?

You get the sense that this could end up being a one-possession game. If that is to be the case, taking care of the football will be critical. Nebraska has done a better job than Indiana in that department this season. Indiana's passing attack lends itself to giving the Nebraska secondary plenty of chances to make a game-changing interception. On the flip side, the Huskers have had some difficulties securing the ball near the goal line. Some miscues similar to what we saw out of Nebraska against Northwestern could prove costly in this one.


Final Analysis


This should be a highly entertaining football game from a spectator standpoint. You'll see two of the most exciting offenses in the Big Ten trading blows all afternoon. The biggest difference in this one is likely going to be Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong's playmaking ability. He carries the Husker offense, which lives and dies based on his decision-making. Thus far, he has taken care of the football while simultaneously taking the initiative to make things happen. I expect a big day on the ground from Armstrong and perhaps one big play through the air — made possible with his elite mobility — that puts the game away for Nebraska.


Prediction: Nebraska 27, Indiana 23


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

Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Indiana Hoosiers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, October 13, 2016 - 11:00