Articles By Athlon Sports

Path: /college-football/penn-states-defense-delivers-once-again-clinch-bowl-spot-win-over-temple

It is hardly a secret to anyone watching Big Ten football that Penn State is getting by this season on the strength of the defense. With an offense struggling to find a rhythm behind a shaky offensive line, Penn State’s defense has had to carry the team to hard-fought victories. On Saturday it was the defense that once again led the way, this time guiding Penn State to its sixth win of the season to clinch bowl eligibility.


Early in the season, Penn State had the final two years of a postseason ban lifted by the NCAA. When the ban was lifted, James Franklin cautioned fans and his team there was still plenty of work to be done in order to be making bowl plans. Fortunately for Franklin, he has one of the top defenses in the country at his disposal.


Penn State was receiving plenty of fight from upset-minded Temple, with the Owls looking for a rare win over Penn State to clinch their own bowl eligibility. Penn State’s offense was once again off to a rough start, but the defense, led by players like linebacker Mike Hull, and defensive linemen Deion Barnes and Anthony Zettel up front, provided all the sparks needed in the second half. Penn State forced five turnovers to squash any upset plans Temple had in mind. This time it was the secondary that came up with the big plays with four interceptions being hauled in by Adrian Amos, Jesse Della Valle and freshmen Grant Haley and Christian Campbell. Through mid-November, Penn State now has the nation’s top passing defense efficiency rating with 15 interceptions and just six touchdowns allowed.


The turnovers turned a tight game into a bit of a blowout in favor of a celebratory Penn State. Not only did the Penn State defense keep a game within reach, it was the defense that helped deliver the knockout blows.


Penn State has allowed just 16.2 points per game, and they have had to play at that level. Penn State’s offense has been a constant work-in-progress with a shaky offensive line leading to quarterback Christian Hackenberg feel pressure to make plays which lead to bad decisions. The running game has had a tough time getting on track as well. Penn State’s defense has been put in some difficult situations all season long, but they have always managed to keep games within reach, with the exception of the Northwestern game.


Penn State’s defense has had moments where it has to resort to a bend-but-don’t-break philosophy, but more often than not that seems to work. This defense also finds ways to get off the field. On 155 third-down situations this season, opponents have converted just 45. Only five schools have a better defensive success rate on third down. Penn State has also limited touchdowns inside the red zone. Opponents have reached Penn State’s 20-yard line 29 times this season, but have scored just 13 touchdowns. They have had to settle for nine field goals as well, leaving seven red zone trips with zero points produced against Penn State’s defense.

By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)

Penn State's Defense Delivers Once Again to Clinch Bowl Spot in Win Over Temple
Post date: Sunday, November 16, 2014 - 16:00
All taxonomy terms: Monthly
Path: /monthly/why-do-boxers-swish-and-spit-out-water-instead-drinking-it

Why do boxers swish and spit out water instead of drinking it? — Jim Brigman, Jacksonville, Fla.
We posed this question to a guy who’s done a lot of swishing and spitting over the years, 49-year-old boxing legend Bernard Hopkins. Here’s what he told us: “Because our mouths can become dry in the ring, and a lot of times you just want to get your mouth moist enough to be able to continue to the next round. We do swallow some water, though, and spit the rest.”


Post date: Sunday, November 16, 2014 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: Monthly
Path: /monthly/are-there-any-outdoor-games-planned-nhl-season

Are there any outdoor games planned for the NHL season? — Joe Rush, St. Paul, Minn.
The NHL Winter Classic — an outdoor hockey game played at an iconic stadium on New Year’s Day — has become one of the highlights of the sports calendar. The 2015 Classic is set for New Year’s Day at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., and will feature the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals. In addition, the NHL is launching a proposed “Stadium Series” with a game at San Francisco’s Levi’s Stadium on Feb. 21, 2015, featuring the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks.

Post date: Sunday, November 16, 2014 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: Monthly
Path: /monthly/what-player-nba-nfl-or-mlb-has-spent-most-years-one-team

Which one player in the NBA, NFL or MLB has spent the most years with one team? I’m thinking it’s either Derek Jeter or Tom Brady. — Nelson Jimenez, Stamford, Conn.
Jeter’s not a bad guess; he holds the Yankees’ record for most games in pinstripes with 2,747, over 20 seasons. But in terms of total seasons...

• Carl Yastrzemski, Boston Red Sox (23 years)

• Brooks Robinson, Baltimore Orioles (23 years)

• Jason Hanson, Detroit Lions (21 years)

• John Stockton, Utah Jazz (19 years)

Post date: Saturday, November 15, 2014 - 14:44
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-week-12-fantasy-value-plays

DraftKings has released their Daily Fantasy college football salaries for the week, and the experts at have hunkered down and scoured all of the data to find the best Value Plays on the docket. 

These Value Plays are comprised of players poised to out-produce their DraftKings salaries this week.  These are the “diamonds in the rough” that your DFS competitors may overlook.  They are the difference-makers you need in your lineup to win one of the big DFS contests!

For your convenience, we have broken the picks down by DraftKings contest game set. Best of luck this week!

(For more detailed Daily Fantasy analysis, picks, player news, player rankings, and stat breakdowns, check out
CollegeFootballGeek.comLearn how to SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE!)




1)    QB Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee vs. Kentucky ($7400)

Mr. Dobbs was magnificent in his last outing with 467 total yards and five total touchdowns. He is a spectacular runner and could make plenty of big plays against Kentucky.


2)    QB Treon Harris, Florida vs South Carolina ($4800)

Harris showed his running ability with 49 yards rushing and two scores last week against Vandy. He has a nice match up this week with a South Carolina defense that is really struggling to stop opponents.



1)    RB Aaron Green, TCU vs. Kansas ($5200)

Green filled in nicely for BJ Catalon last week with 171 yards and a score against Kansas State. Green could have a huge day against Kansas with or without Catalon on the field.


2)    RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State vs. Minnesota ($5600)

Elliott had 154 yards rushing and two scores last week against Michigan State. He could run wild against Minnesota and comes in at a juicy price. Ride this Buckeye.


3)    RB Jalen Hurd, Tennessee vs. Kentucky ($4700)

Hurd had 183 total yards and a score in his last game against South Carolina. He could find plenty of room to run against a Kentucky defense that is on the decline recently.


4)    RB Wayne Gallman, Clemson vs. Georgia Tech ($4300)

Gallman has back to back games over 100 yards rushing and comes in at a ridiculously low price. He appears to be an outstanding punt option this week.




1)    WR Mike Williams, Clemson vs. Georgia Tech ($5800)

DeShaun Watson loves to throw to Mr. Williams. He averaged 116 yards and scored four touchdowns in the three games that Watson started earlier in the season. We like this Tiger this week.


2)    WR Cayleb Jones, Arizona vs. Washington ($4600)

Jones comes in this week at a dirt cheap price after a bad game last week. A bounce back effort might be in the cards against Washington.


3)    WR Devin Smith, Ohio State vs. Minnesota ($4300)

Smith has scored three times in the last two weeks and is a big play waiting to happen for Ohio State. Another trip to the end zone could be in line for Smith against Minnesota.


4)    WR Kaelin Clay, Utah vs. Stanford ($3200)

Clay is a big time play maker and is about all Utah has left at the wide out position due to injuries. He is very cheap this week and could easily exceed value.



1)    TE David Grinnage, NC State vs. Wake Forest ($3000)

Grinnage has scored a touchdown in three of the last four games and could score against versus a soft Wake Forest defense.



1)    QB Matt Davis, SMU vs. USF ($6600)

Davis showed off his rushing prowess last week with 181 yards and two scores versus Tulsa. He could have another big day on the ground against a soft South Florida defense. High risk, high reward here folks.  




1)    RB Marlon Mack, USF vs. SMU ($4400)

Mack will be facing the 115th ranked rush defense in the country. Expect him to see plenty of huge holes to run through and pile up the yards.


2)    RB Antoinne Jimmerson, North Texas vs. UTEP ($4000)

Jimmerson had a nice game last week against FAU and will be facing the 74th ranked rush defense this week. A score or two seem within reach this week.


3)    RB Tyreek Hill, Oklahoma State vs. Texas ($4400)

Hill filled in nicely for Desmond Roland last week and could see a ton of carries this week with Roland questionable to play. The Texas rush defense is ranked 84th in the nation and could give up a few big plays to the speedy Hill.





1)    WR Andre Davis, USF vs. SMU ($5400)

The SMU pass defense is ranked 112nd and is just pathetic. Look for Davis to have a big game and easily reach value.


2)    WR Devante Davis, UNLV vs. BYU ($4900)

Davis is a stud fantasy WR who returned from injury last week and racked up 114 yards and a score against Air Force. He looks like a must play at this price!


3)    WR Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M vs. Missouri ($4600)

Reynolds had 88 yards and two scores in last week’s upset over Auburn. He was targeted often by Kyle Allen and that could continue this week versus Missouri.


4)    WR Chris Conley, Georgia vs. Auburn ($4200)

Conley scored twice last week against Kentucky and will be going against the 99th ranked pass defense of Auburn. He could have another productive night against the Tigers.




1) TE Josiah Price, Michigan State vs. Maryland ($3500)

Price has scored in three of the last four games. He looks to be a solid option against the Terrapins.


By Todd DeVries & Kevin Mount,

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College Fantasy Football: Week 12 Fantasy Value Plays
Post date: Saturday, November 15, 2014 - 14:12
All taxonomy terms: Monthly
Path: /monthly/will-next-super-bowl-performer-have-pay-play

Is it true that the NFL will require the next Super Bowl halftime performer to pay the league for the chance to play? — Tim Johnson, Phoenix, Ariz.

Not if Katy Perry  gets her way, which she usually does. The pop princess and social media phenom (she has more than 58 million Twitter followers) was tabbed for music’s most high-profile gig over fellow finalists Coldplay and Rihanna, but she wasn’t exactly thrilled by reports that this year’s performer would have to pay to play. During her memorable stint as a guest picker on ESPN's GameDay college football preview show, Perry said she’s “not the kind of girl who would pay to play the Super Bowl,” a sentiment she reportedly shared with the other finalists. The NFL doesn’t need more bad PR, nor is the league short on cash, so expect them to withdraw their request for compensation quietly.



Post date: Saturday, November 15, 2014 - 11:43
All taxonomy terms: NBA, News
Path: /nba/ranking-nbas-best-undersized-players

Folk heroes in basketball almost always come in tiny packages. There’s nothing more thrilling to the common viewer than watching a veritable David rise up in a league full of Goliaths. Winning big when you’re small, in a vertically oriented game, is lightning in the NBA.


While a lower center of gravity creates a speed and dribbling advantage—almost all of the league’s best ball-handlers are diminutive—there’s still usually a bigger, longer player capable of sticking with the short and nimble. You’ve got to have something more than the chops of a dancer to be mini and thrilling. You need moxie, and these guys all have enough of it to light an arena on fire.


5. Isaiah Thomas

The Suns’ big pickup over the offseason could become 2014-15’s Sixth Man of the Year winner. Isaiah Thomas is a scoring machine, darting through coverage and stopping on a dime to drain sweet jumpers seemingly whenever he pleases.


His tiny 5’9” frame has been a refuges for Thomas doubters around every corner. He was drafted just No. 60 overall in 2011 NBA draft, and was passed over in free agency by his Sacramento Kings squad in 2014. Let all that be fuel for Thomas, though, as he wows the league in Phoenix on an almost nightly basis in the season’s early goings.


4. Tony Allen

Tony Allen is a mongoose. He doesn’t look like he could kill a king snake, but he does it all the time. Just ask Kevin Durant, who Allen took out of his comfort zone in last year’s playoffs after Durant dominated the league through his MVP-winning season. Despite having a five-plus inch deficit next to KD, the 6’4” Allen had Durant so frustrated with his aggressive defense that an Oklahoma City newspaper ran the headline “Mr. Unreliable” about their star.


That paper's phrasing was (obviously) overcooked, and Allen isn’t exactly on the smaller side of NBA players. But his performance on Durant gave fans the same thrill a true giant slayer brings—he gives up pounds consistently, but makes up for the gap with tenacity and strategy, reliably pleasing the underdog in all of us.


3. Ty Lawson

The Denver Nuggets’ best player is one of their smallest, too—they’ve also got the hummingbird frame of Nate Robinson on board. Lawson is languishing in the Rockies this season, as the Nuggets have been mismanaged into the NBA’s basement. But it wasn’t long ago that he was the engine of a 58-win team coached by George Karl, dazzling the league with open court savvy and impressive dexterity in the pick-and-roll.


Watch this terrific instructional video with Lawson, in which he demonstrates how he regularly makes dunces of big men in PnR actions by “putting them in jail”:

2. Eric Bledsoe

Eric Bledsoe held out all summer to get his money from the Phoenix Suns. After much speculation that things had gone sour and the two signs would inevitably part, “The Bledshow” got paid to the tune of $70 million over five years. Bledsoe is worth it; he’s the very best point guard defender in the game, routinely making fools of bigger point guards and thriving as a shot-blocker of big men.


Bledsoe’s other nickname is “Mini LeBron,” since he’s one of the only athletes who can approximate the versatile athletic explosion that the King brings to the court. The two friends share an agent in Rich Paul, and fans of both should keep their fingers crossed for Paul to somehow get Bledsoe and James on a roster together.


1. Chris Paul

The little general wins the list. The Los Angeles Clippers’ fearless leader is one of the hottest competitors in the league; with the smart conviction he moves with, most fans get too engaged to even notice how small Paul is. At 6’0”, he’s cracked a most unlikely category as one of the game’s best point guards. Regularly going head-to-head with the likes of Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook requires CP3 to do battle with true beasts of the position.


Paul is frequently criticized for his relative lack of playoff success. Real enthusiasts of the game understand that his legacy should be cemented regardless—he’s one of the best to ever play his position. But if he can lead the Clippers to the Western Conference Finals or deeper in 2014-15, Paul will hold the hearts of the everyday fan forevermore.


— John Wilmes

Post date: Friday, November 14, 2014 - 09:10
Path: /college-basketball/athlon-sports-2014-15-ncaa-tournament-predictions

Athlon Sports would be the first to tell you to sit back and enjoy the college basketball regular season from start to finish.


But let’s face it: The big prize — the only prize, it seems — is the NCAA Tournament. And that’s part of the excitement of the season. Essentially every team has a chance to play in the championship event. Finish in last place in your conference? You’ve got the conference tournament to remedy a lost season.


For us, bracketology starts early. Here’s our first projection of the field of 68.


2FloridaWichita StateNorth CarolinaKansas
4VirginiaIowa StateMichigan StateSan Diego State
5ColoradoGonzagaVCUOhio State
8IllinoisOklahomaKansas StateUConn
9Georgia StateLSUCincinnatiGeorgetown
10Florida StatePittsburghDaytonIowa
11Rhode IslandMemphisUNLVNC State
12Louisiana TechXavier

Notre Dame/

Northern Iowa


George Washington

13BelmontNew Mexico StateGreen BayAkron
14NortheasternStephen F. AustinUC IrvineIona
15Stony BrookCoastal CarolinaWoffordAmerican

St. Francis (NY)/

Weber State


Ark.-Pine Bluff

NC CentralFlorida Gulf Coast

NCAA bids by conference


ACC (9): Duke, North Carolina, Louisville, Virginia, Syracuse, Florida State, NC State, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh

American (4): SMU, Connecticut, Cincinnati, Memphis

Atlantic 10 (4): VCU, Dayton, Rhode Island, George Washington

Big 12 (5): Kansas, Texas, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma

Big East (3): Villanova, Georgetown, Xavier

Big Ten (7): Wisconsin, Michigan State, Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois, Iowa

Missouri Valley (2): Wichita State, Northern Iowa

Mountain West (2): San Diego State, UNLV

Pac-12 (5): Arizona, Colorado, Stanford, UCLA, Utah

SEC (4): Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas, LSU

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, BYU


One-bid conferences


America East (Stony Brook), Atlantic Sun (Florida Gulf Coast), Big Sky (Weber State), Big Sky (Coastal Carolina), Big West (UC Irvine), Colonial (Northeastern), Conference USA (Louisiana Tech), Horizon (Green Bay), Ivy (Harvard), MAAC (Iona), MAC (Akron), MEAC (NC Central), Northeast (St. Francis Brooklyn), Ohio Valley (Belmont), Patriot (American), Southern (Wofford), Southland (Stephen F. Austin), Summit (IPFW), Sun Belt (Georgia State), SWAC (Arkansas-Pine Bluff), WAC (New Mexico State)

Athlon Sports 2014-15 NCAA Tournament Predictions
Post date: Friday, November 14, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/ranking-nbas-best-modern-big-men

Being bulky in the NBA has taken a much different look in recent years. New defensive rules and evolving basketball bodies mean that a center or power forward can no longer quite take permanent residence in the post. Simply having some extra size on the enemy isn’t going to beguile contemporary teams. Deep shooting, mobility and passing skills closer to the perimeter have all become staples in today’s frontcourt game. Big men who can boast the skill sets of guards and wingmen are an ever-increasing population.


This is not to say that the classic distinguishing characteristics of big men are gone from our world; they’ve just become more marginal aspects of a larger picture. Some exceptions notwithstanding, it takes a kind of new breed of men in the middle to compete at the highest level in 2014.


5. Al Jefferson

Behold the master of the big man past. Big Al—whose nickname is lately becoming “Professor Al”—has a brilliant, hypnotic touch on the block and a sweet touch with his mid-range shot. Even Mister No. 1 on our list can sometimes be fooled by his crafty veteran footwork:

Jefferson is the centerpiece of his Charlotte Hornets' offense, and can spread defenses beyond the block with a rangy jump shot. He consistently draws a double team almost regardless of where he catches the ball, and opens up the Hornets offensive in a way so big it's hard to measure.


4. Marc Gasol

It comes as no surprise that one of the poster boys of modern, versatile big men comes from abroad, where the frontier of NBA strategy has exploded past the bruising style of the 1990s. Paired with the more vintage, down-low approach of Memphis Grizzlies teammate Zach Randolph, Gasol is allowed to freelance and put his uncanny stamp on the game in myriad ways. Watch Gasol toss the ball to the perimeter with the arc of a league-leading shortshop:

There's almost too much to account for, from the defense's perspective, when a player as big and skilled as Gasol is on the floor. It doesn't hurt his resume being one of the very best defenders of the lane, either—Gasol had a remarkable 5.23 defensive real plus-minus in 2013-14, second in the league for all centers.


3. Joakim Noah

The spirit animal of his domineering coach Tom Thibodeau, Noah is a relentless emotional and intellectual beast who overwhelms the opposition with a critical mass of hustle plays and his vision for seemingly invisible passing lanes. Often referred to as a “point center” as he ran the Chicago Bulls’ offense from outside the lane in 2013-14, Noah is one of the most unique players in the game.


Joakim inspires something like culture shock every time his towering frame takes the ball down the court with an authority and fluidity nearing that of Chris Paul’s. Despite coming in at 6'11", Noah’s comfort on offense has never been as a backdown man. His savant passing, clever off-ball motion and advanced understanding of spacing make for a package that no team wants to deal with.


2. Dwight Howard

Along with then-coach Stan Van Gundy, Dwight Howard formed the template for contemporary rim-protection with the Orlando Magic. A spry, hulky enforcer who can chase sharper-shooting bigs to the perimeter and fall back to the basket fast enough to squash slashers, Howard’s “Superman” moniker is what results from an impressive athlete also mastering the complex tenants of a thorough defensive system.


There’s never been a shortage of Dwight criticism from his predecessors, however. The desk of Shaq and Charles Barkley has long been a petri dish for misunderstandings of a big boy’s role in today’s game, as both beloved figures never miss an opportunity to snipe at Howard for his shortage of aggressive, butt-first action on the block. Howard often kowtows to such rhetoric and stalls his defense trying to perform so to match the moves of yesteryear. But when he blocks out that nostalgic babble and relishes his strengths as a pick-and-roll finisher and defensive demon, D12 points the way toward the paint action of tomorrow.


1. Anthony Davis

Meet the future. The 21-year-old Davis is already putting his New Orleans Pelicans squad on his back for a playoff push in the spiky Western Conference, and doing it by playing basketball like no one has before him. His 6'10" frame makes most people call Davis a center, but the unibrowed phenom’s game can fit into any positional box—but his role probably shouldn’t be squeezed into any of those categories.


AD played a dominant point guard as high-school sensation in Chicago, and his court awareness and coordination frequently remind us how that looked. He’s a threat from any part of the floor not just because he’s bigger, faster and stronger than most of the league, but also because he’s smarter. And he’s made an unparalleled art out of the act of swatting a shot while recovering the ball—a corralling takeaway that acts as a telling symbol for just how singular Davis’ value is. Anthony is the league’s best big man now, but in a few years or less, we might be talking about him as the very top specimen in the game.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 15:40
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/10-biggest-disappointments-nfl-so-far-2014

More than halfway through the NFL season, most “experts” have already thrown their preseason predictions out the window. But the predictions back then weren’t as ridiculous as they seem now. They were probably based on reasonable expectations.


Then teams, units or players started falling woefully short.


That’s just how it goes in sports. Disappointments are a big part of the games. So with only seven weeks left until the NFL playoffs start, here’s a look at the league’s biggest disappointments. They’re either disappointing teams in general, or the units, players or coaches that have caused their teams to fall short:


The Chicago Bears offense

They are unbelievably loaded with weapons to make Jay Cutler’s life easier. There are few receiving corps as talented as Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey. Martellus Bennett developed into one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league. And whatever Matt Forte lacks as a runner, he makes up for as a dual-threat as a receiver out of the backfield. Yet the Bears are 3-6 and their offense ranks 15th in the NFL. Cutler’s numbers aren’t even terrible, but clearly the Bears should be scoring a lot more than they are.


The New Orleans Saints

They were a trendy pick to win the Super Bowl because they seemed to have it all, including a rejuvenated Rob Ryan defense. Then they stumbled out of the gate in part because that defense (now ranked 19th) turned out to be much worse than expected. The Saints are still in good position in the awful NFC South, but at 4-5 they are hardly the NFC power many thought they would be.


Redskins QB Robert Griffin III

Finally back to health and free of any Mike Shanahan-caused controversy, this was supposed to be RGIII’s breakout season. But yet another injury – a dislocated ankle – has limited him to only two full games this season. He’s back now and maybe things will get better. But he still has just one TD pass in his two starts, which is less than anyone expected given all the weapons around him.


Panthers QB Cam Newton

The fourth-year quarterback’s numbers took a dip last season, but he became a winner and showed signs of maturing into the franchise quarterback many expected him to be. But this year he’s become a little more erratic, his interceptions are surging, and he’s been far more sack-able behind a suspect offensive line. Maybe it has more to do with the crumbling cast around him, but Newton is taking steps backwards this year.


Bucs coach Lovie Smith

The confusion and controversy of the Greg Schiano era was supposed to be vanquished by the arrival of Smith, an ultra-professional coach who had plenty of success in Chicago. The Bucs were supposed to be underachievers in the past, which seemed to set up a successful quick transition. Instead, the Bucs began the season mired in a quarterback controversy and now they’re 1-8, searching for talent and an identity. It looks like it’ll take Smith a lot longer than expected to turn this mess around.


The Atlanta Falcons

They were the biggest disappointments in the NFL last season, plummeting from one of the best teams in the NFC to one of the worst. But they had so much talent – especially on offense – that last year could easily be excused as an anomaly. It wasn’t. The offense is a little better, but their defense is the second-worst in the NFL, leaving them at 3-6 and barely holding their heads above water in the worst division in the NFL.


The New York Giants defense

They spoke before the season of how they could carry a still-growing offense and even be one of the Top 5 defenses in the league. Instead, as their rebuilt secondary crumbled around them, they plummeted to rock bottom. The Giants rank dead last in the NFL in defense right now, and they earned it with a horrendous performance in Seattle on Sunday when then gave up an incredible 350 yards on the ground.


Bengals QB Andy Dalton

In August, Dalton signed a six-year, $115 million contract which seemed to solidify his place among the best up-and-coming quarterbacks in the game. But he has taken a nosedive, especially lately. More than halfway through the season he’s even thrown more interceptions (nine) than touchdown passes (eight). Now there are serious questions about whether the Bengals invested in the right quarterback, and whether they’ll need to find a way out of that deal in a couple of years.


Packers RB Eddie Lacy

When Lacy rushed for 1,178 yards as a rookie last year it seemed to be only the beginning. He was on a terrific team with the pressure off because of MVP-candidate Aaron Rodgers. His performance has been fine – especially since it can be argued he’s been underused – but fantasy owners surely are dissappointed in his 478 yards and four touchdowns through nine games. It’s not that he’s having a bad season. It’s more that expectations were much, much higher than what he’s done.


Lions RB Reggie Bush

The last three years Bush finally was starting to live up to his potential and looking like a former top draft pick. And this year, even at age 29, he figured to build on what he had started on a team loaded with offensive talent. Instead, with injuries slowing him down, he’s starting to show his age and no longer looking like anything other than a part-time running back. With 191 rushing yards and 169 receiving yards, he actually looks like a guy playing his way right out of the league.


—By Ralph Vacchiano

Post date: Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 10:40
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/15-college-basketball-mid-majors-watch-2014-15

It’s November and that means the college hoops season is knocking on the door. Next thing you know we will be engulfed in January conference play. Come March, we will all be filling out our brackets, looking for the perfect 12-5 upset, seeking out the the dark horses and searching for Cinderella.




We’ve got the top 10 mid-majors to keep an eye on throughout the college hoops season and heading into March Madness.


A bit of a disclaimer: The lines between mid-major and high-major programs are always blurred. Though teams like Wichita State, Gonzaga and VCU may may in the so-called mid-major conferences, we consider those perennial NCAA contenders and top 25 teams to be high-major programs.



After three NCAA trips in six seasons, the Zips are to a spot where 21 wins qualifies as a down season. Akron won 20 games for the ninth consecutive season but failed to reach the MAC title game for the first time since 2007. All-MAC power forward Demetrius “Tree” Treadwell returns, but the Zips will need to find scoring punch to complement him.



Longtime coach Rick Byrd is a basketball institution at Belmont. Byrd loves to use his backcourt’s depth, ball handling and shooting ability to leave opposing team’s defenses baffled. Guards Craig Bradshaw, Reece Chamberlain, and Caleb Chowbay have big shoes to fill as they have to replace last year’s OVC Player of the Year J.J. Mann.



A No. 11 seed, the Flyers were one of the last at-large teams in the field but made it count with upsets of Ohio State, Syracuse and Stanford on the way to the Elite Eight. Coach Archie Miller is already a hot contender for other programs even if he has his work cut out for him this season. Two starting forwards are out of eligibility, and his starting point guard transferred. Leading scorer Jordan Sibert is back, and sophomore Scoochie Smith should step up at the point.


George Washington

Even without leading scorer Maurice Creek and forward Isaiah Armwood, George Washington has three players who averaged in double figures a year ago, plus starting point guard Joe McDonald. If Kethan Savage and Patricio Garino stay healthy, the Colonials could have a second consecutive NCAA Tournament team.


Georgia State

It’s hard to say a team that went 17-1 in conference play has unfinished business,  but Georgia State has unfinished business. After winning the Sun Belt regular season title by five games, GSU was one point shy of a bid to the Big Dance last season when the Panthers lost to third-seeded UL Lafayette 82-81 in the conference tournament final. Reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year R.J. Hunter and all-conference first-teamer Ryan Harrow, a Kentucky import, highlight a GSU team bound for spot in the field.


Green Bay

Returning conference player of the year Keifer Sykes and the rest of the Phoenix have their sights set on much more than a Horizon League title. Guard play is what wins in March, and Sykes can be that guard that turns heads at the Dance. Green Bay also returns four starters from last year’s team that went 24-7. The one departure is a big one in 7-1 center Alec Brown.



After NCAA wins in each of the last two seasons, coach Tommy Amaker is looking to keep the Crimson’s March hot streak rolling. In three consecutive NCAA appearances, Harvard has been known for its backcourt and deadly perimeter shooting. This season, Amaker has plenty of frontcourt depth, easing the burden on returning guards Wesley Saunders and Siyani Chambers. The Crimson are again the clear favorite in the Ivy. 



First-year coach Jon Coffman is looking to build upon last season’s 25-win breakout. The Mastodons will lean heavily on 6-foot-9 forward Steve Forbes and Gardner-Webb transfer Max Landis will be critical to shoring up the backcourt. While IPFW might not be the belle of the ball come late March, the Mastodons are more than capable of winning the Summit League.


Louisiana Tech

The Bulldogs are early Conference USA favorites because they not only return four starters from last year’s squad that won 29 games, but coach Michael White turned down a chance to go to Tennessee to return to Ruston. Bulldogs fans should savor this season because White is going to be one popular fella to bigger schools come March. 


Northern Iowa

Keeping up with Wichita State will be tough, but the Panthers could make the Missouri Valley a two-bid league again. The Valley has been a one-bid league five times in the last seven seasons. Ben Jacobson’s team returns five seniors and loses one role player from a team that went 10-8 in the Valley a year ago. This is Northern Iowa’s best squad since the 2010 Sweet 16.


Rhode Island

The Rams haven’t won more than five Atlantic 10 games since 2011 but the rebuilding project is in full swing under Dan Hurley. The roster was full of transfers and freshmen a year ago. Now, Rhody is hopeful that group will come together around rising A-10 star E.C. Matthews.


Stephen F. Austin

The Lumberjacks might be the Southland Conference team to beat for the next decade if head coach Brad Underwood isn’t scooped up by a higher profile program. The 32-win team of 2013-14 will be hard to top, but SFA returns plenty of talent, including the conference player of the year, Jacob Parker, Thomas Wallup and point guard Trey Pickney.



Thirty-five years is a long time to wait for anything, especially an NCAA Tournament berth. But this is the year the Rockets can reverse their self-inflicted curse. Toledo has the senior leadership in point guard Julius Brown, Justin Drummond and J.D. Weatherspoon that could lead this team to their first Tournament since 1980. If Toledo can improve on the defensive end, the rest of the MAC better look out, the Rockets are for real. Fifth-year coach Kowalczyk built the Rockets from 4-28 in his first season to 27-7 season and the best record in the MAC by his fourth.



UTEP will battle Louisiana Tech for the crown of Conference USA and for possibly a bid to the Tournament. With the help of sophomore forward Vincent Hunter and senior swingman Julian Washburn, the Miners have a legitimate chance of upsetting the early favorite Bulldogs or at least making at the case that Conference USA is a two-bid league. 



The Terriers have to be the early SoCon favorites going into 2014-15. Coach Mike Young returns essentially the entirety of last year’s 20-win squad including first team all-conference and SoCon tournament MVP Karl Cochran and third team all-conference player Lee Skinner. Two of Young’s best guards, Spencer Collins and Eric Garcia, were just freshmen last year. Look for that backcourt duo to leave their mark on the conference as sophomores.


-By Jacob Rose

15 College Basketball Mid-Majors to Watch in 2014-15
Post date: Thursday, November 13, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/season-over-49ers-lb-patrick-willis

Santa Clara, CA ( - The San Francisco 49ers placed linebacker Patrick Willis on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday.


The seven-time Pro Bowler will undergo surgery on his strained left big toe, according to multiple reports.


Willis injured the toe in a win at St. Louis on Oct. 13 and had missed the 49ers' last three games. He registered 49 tackles and one interception in six games this season.


The 49ers signed running back Alfonso Smith to fill the spot on the active roster.

Post date: Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - 11:38
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/cardinals-place-qb-carson-palmer-ir

Tempe, AZ ( - The Arizona Cardinals placed quarterback Carson Palmer on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday.


The move comes one day after Cards coach Bruce Arians confirmed Palmer tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee when he was sacked by Rams safety Mark Barron early in the fourth quarter of Arizona's 31-14 win over St. Louis on Sunday.


Drew Stanton threw a late touchdown pass in relief of Palmer, helping the Cardinals improve to 8-1 and remain perfect in five home games this season. Stanton will be under center for the Cardinals the rest of the year.


Palmer, who missed three games earlier this season with a shoulder injury, had reconstructive surgery on the same knee in 2006 as a member of the Bengals. Both of his ACL tears came just days after signing lucrative contract extensions.


On Dec. 29, 2005, Palmer agreed to a six-year extension with Cincinnati. Ten days later, the Bengals met Pittsburgh in the first round of the AFC playoffs and Palmer lasted just one play, injuring his knee on a 66-yard pass to rookie Chris Henry.


Palmer signed a three-year, $50 million contract extension with Arizona last Friday.


Arizona signed quarterback Ryan Lindley off the San Diego Chargers' practice squad to fill the spot on the active roster.

Post date: Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - 11:35
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/chicago-bears-cut-ties-santonio-holmes

Lake Forest, IL ( - The Chicago Bears released Santonio Holmes on Tuesday to end the former Super Bowl MVP's unproductive nine-game stint with the team.


Holmes signed a one-year contract with the Bears in August to presumably serve as the club's No. 3 receiver, but managed just eight catches for 67 yards over nine games.


The nine-year veteran became expendable with fellow wideout Marquess Wilson ready to be activated from injured reserve/designated to return.


Holmes' numbers have declined since he posted career bests of 79 catches and 1,248 yards with Pittsburgh in 2009. He had only 23 receptions totaling 456 yards with one touchdown in 11 games last season with the New York Jets, who released the 30-year-old in March.


The 2006 first-round pick helped the Steelers to a dramatic victory in Super Bowl XLIII to conclude the 2008 season, compiling nine catches for 131 and scoring the game-winning touchdown in the final minute of Pittsburgh's 27-23 triumph over the Arizona Cardinals.

Post date: Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/legends-poll-top-8-college-football-rankings-week-11

For the first time this season, the SEC West did not hold the majority in the Legends Poll Top 8.


The top four remained largely unchanged, with No. 4 Oregon replacing Auburn. And the biggest surprise might have been Florida State receiving zero first-place votes for the first time all year while still holding on to its second-place ranking.


But No. 6 Baylor, No. 7 Ohio State and No. 8 Arizona state were all newcomers to the rankings this week, each after prevailing in statement games.


Baylor manhandled Oklahoma, 48-14, in its first-ever victory in Norman. Seventh-ranked Ohio State vaulted to the top of the Big Ten with a road victory of its own, outlasting Michigan State, 49-37. And No. 8 Arizona State continued to roll with a 55-31 victory over Notre Dame in Tempe.


Top-ranked Mississippi State and No. 3 Alabama are set up for a showdown this coming weekend, with the winner in the driver’s seat to take home the SEC West crown.


Auburn, Michigan State and Notre Dame dropped from the top 8 this week. No. 5 TCU moved up two spots.


1Mississippi StateMississippi State (10)9-01011
2Florida StateFlorida State9-0872
3AlabamaAlabama (3)8-1803
7Ohio StateOhio State8-129-
8Arizona StateArizona State8-118-

To see the individual votes by coach, visit the Legends Poll.


Post date: Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - 15:18
Path: /nba/ranking-nbas-biggest-trash-talkers

A list of the NBA’s best trash talkers might also read as “the game’s most old-school dudes.” In our modern, hyper-aware media era, such behavior can quickly become public knowledge, as nearly all affluent Americans carry a phone that’s also a video camera and a microphone. So it takes a truly dedicated verbal bully — a special sort of vinegar-tongued competitor — to keep speaking in dirty, destructive insults when they could so easily be outed for it.

But to those with a genuinely vindictive approach, the possible reputation hit is more than worth it. As our president recently reminded us in his public squabbling with Michael Jordan — who chided POTUS about his golf game, only to be cited by Mr. Obama for poor management of the Charlotte squad he owns — athletic dominance is great, but sometimes, there’s nothing that cuts as deep as the perfectly chosen piece of rhetoric. If you say certain words, and target the most sensitive parts of a man’s psyche with them, you can cut to the quick. Here are the best of the best at doing so.


5. Lance Stephenson

Forget language for a second. Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson tries diving into the brain of his adversaries through more visceral means. In his attempt to rattle LeBron James in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals (when Stephenson was still with the Indiana Pacers and not Jordan’s Hornets) one of the silliest, most unforgettable acts of the contemporary NBA occurred when Lance blew into LeBron’s ear:

Stephenson learned from one of the best when he was in the midwest — Pacers executive Larry Bird. Lance recently told Grantland’s Zach Lowe that the former Celtics legend hasn’t lost his cagy touch with words. “Yeah,” Stephenson said, “he talks a lot once you get to know him. He’s a cool guy. Of course he talks trash. If that’s you, that’ll always be you. He talks a lot, and he’s always challenging us to 3-point contests.”


4. Kendrick Perkins

The enforcer of the Oklahoma City Thunder holds value not so much for his abilities as an athlete as for his effect on the comfort of his teammates and enemies; he makes his allies feel protected, while the other team grows weary of his menacing scowl and hulky figure. Kendrick Perkins is one of the scariest people in the league, and he uses it to his advantage.

He’s also a proud fighter whose character doesn’t break after the game. Once, he let Chicago Bulls big man Joakim Noah know that as Noah entered the OKC locker room to greet former teammate Thabo Sefolosha. Perkins didn’t want the enemy in his barracks, looking at Noah to rhetorically ask, “We just let anyone in here now?” After some more heated squabbling between the two centers, Perkins said to Noah, "get your ass up out of here.”


3. Paul Pierce

When the acidic Stephen Jackson says you’re being “disrespectful,” you know you’re a top-tier trash talker. Paul Pierce earned that badge in 2010 when saying God-knows-what to Jackson, then with the Charlotte Bobcats. Jackson, via ESPN’s Chris Forsberg, had this to say: "I respect them as a team, they're a great team and they play hard, but when they get to a point where they get to disrespecting people, and it's not about basketball, that's where I have a problem. Everybody knows me as a basketball player, but everybody knows me off the court, too. So if it's about basketball, I'm cool, I respect everybody on their team, and I respect them as being a good team. But when it gets to the point where you're disrespecting [me] as a man, that's another problem… Certain things were said, quotes by certain people, and there's no need for me to drop names, they know what was said,” Jackson said, obviously referring to Pierce after the two looked heated during the Celtics victory.


2. Kobe Bryant

Kobe’s slithery, Jordanesque scoring maneuvers on the court are still what he’s most known for — but it seems only a matter of time before he becomes remembered as a hyper-charged personality above all. Bryant’s downright sociopathic commitment to his process and winning basketball games has seen him smear irrelevant former teammates like Smush Parker and even become the target of some zen-laden scourge in a book by his old coach Phil Jackson.


Kobe is difficult to deal with. He’s also not afraid to talk big to King James, the man who stole the NBA’s throne from Bryant long ago. After James’ infamous “The Decision” production, Bryant sent him some gamey texts. From Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding: “With a brutal seven-game victory over the Celtics in the bank for Bryant, the 2010 offseason is dominated by LeBron James' decision to leave Cleveland for Miami. What matters to Bryant is Phil Jackson agreeing to return to coach the Lakers again in pursuit of a third consecutive NBA title. Bryant sends James a text message. It goes like this: ‘Go ahead and get another MVP, if you want. And find the city you want to live in. But we're going to win the championship. Don't worry about it.’"


1. Kevin Garnett

The stories surrounding KG’s crippling levels of verbal venom are endless. But perhaps none is more memorable than the 2013 tale of his words that got New York Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony so riled up that he waited for Garnett at the Boston Celtics team bus after the game. Police officers were on hand at the stadium, and the two never came to blows — but what could Garnett have said to so get under Melo’s skin?

According to now-infamous rumors, KG told Anthony that his wife LaLa Anthony “tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios.” Anthony never confirmed that phrasing — no one did — but in regards to what started the fissure between the two players, he replied, “there’s some things as men that you just don’t say.”


— John Wilmes


Post date: Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - 14:02
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Golden Arm award, News
Path: /johnny-unitas-golden-arm-award-finalists-announced

The field of candidates for one of college football’s most prestigious awards has been narrowed down to five with the announcement of this season’s finalists for The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. UCLA’s Brett Hundley, USC’s Cody Kessler, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Baylor’s Bryce Petty and Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott are the 2014 finalists for the award that’s named after Hall of Fame legend Johnny Unitas, who many refer to as the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.


Here is a closer look at this season’s finalists:


Brett Hundley, UCLA

Through 10 games this season, Hundley has completed 72.1 percent of his passes for 2,547 yards with 17 touchdowns and four interceptions for a QB rating of 158.1. The redshirt junior also has 564 yards rushing and seven touchdowns for the 8-2 Bruins.


Cody Kessler, USC

In his second season as the Trojans’ starting quarterback, Kessler has emerged as one of the nation’s most productive passers. After 10 weeks, the fourth-year junior is fourth in the nation in QB rating (168.2) with a sparkling 25:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He is completing 69.7 percent of his passes and has posted four 300-yard games thus far.

Marcus Mariota, Oregon

One of the nation’s most athletic and dynamic quarterbacks, Mariota is putting together a spectacular junior season for the 9-1 Ducks, who have almost wrapped up another Pac-12 North Division title. The third-year starter is well on his way to establishing career bests across the board, as he leads the nation in QB rating (184.5), has accounted for a total of 37 touchdowns (29 passing, 8 rushing) and 3,304 yards of total offense through 10 games.


Bryce Petty, Baylor

A fifth-year senior in his second season as the starter, Petty is once again posting impressive numbers for Art Briles’ Bears. A back injury cost Petty a game earlier in the season, but he’s still among the nation’s leaders in passer rating (152.2), as he’s thrown 21 touchdown passes and just three interceptions through nine games.


Dak Prescott, Mississippi State

The redshirt junior has enjoyed a breakthrough season, leading his Bulldogs to a 9-0 record and the No. 1 ranking in the polls. Prescott has been making plays with his arm and legs all season, accounting for 29 total touchdowns (18 passing, 11 rushing). Besides being the nation’s seventh-rated passer (158.5), Prescott also is averaging 5.4 yards per carry.


The five finalists were narrowed down from an original field of 27 candidates. This season’s winner will be announced on Dec. 8. Candidates for the Golden Arm Award, which has been presented annually since 1987, must be college seniors or fourth-year juniors on schedule to graduate with their class. Besides their on-field accomplishments, candidates are judged on their character, citizenship, scholastic achievement and leadership qualities.


Past Golden Arm Award winners include current NFL quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer and Colt McCoy. Last season’s recipient was Alabama’s A.J. McCarron.


The Golden Arm Award is presented by the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation, Inc. and Transamerica. Athlon Sports is proud to be a Golden Arm Award sponsor.

Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award Finalists Announced
Post date: Monday, November 10, 2014 - 17:00
Path: /nba/nba%E2%80%99s-best-sixth-men

Having a strong starting lineup simply isn’t enough in the NBA. Teams like the Indiana Pacers and Portland Trail Blazers prove that, today, a front five with great chemistry and well-defined roles can only get you so far. Both teams fell out of last year’s postseason on the heels of bad scoring margins every time they had to rest their best men.


Not every squad has this problem. The Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Pelicans all bring men off the bench who are every bit as valuable to their culture as many of the players technically ahead of them in depth chart.


Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors

Also filed under “would start in almost any other circumstance.” Warriors coach Steve Kerr has opted to make the versatile veteran a bench man simply so he can boost the confidence of third-year forward Harrison Barnes, who has started ahead of Iggy this year. Barnes is a fragile, developing prospect who struggled mightily in 2013-14 after a brilliant rookie season. Iguodala is one the game’s consummate professionals — his acceptance of a role as a reserve proves it.


He’s a former gold-medal winner with Team USA in the 2012 Beijing Olympics, and the game’s foremost analysts see one of basketball’s very best players when Andre takes the floor. He won’t usually fill up the box score, as his strengths lie in perfecting team strings on defense and offense both, and in wearing down the opponent with his relentless, intelligent hustle.


Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls

Taj Gibson, the Chicago Bulls’ lengthy, beefy big man who originally hails from Brooklyn, was one of the best paint defenders in the NBA last year, and his offense saw a big spike, too, as he found more touch with his jumper and backdown game.


In tandem with Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and rookie Nikola Mirotic, Gibson makes Chicago’s front court an entity of extraordinary talent. And when the Bulls inevitably run up against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in their quest for a championship, don’t be surprised if you see Gibson closing tight games and often acting as his contending team’s central star.


Isaiah Thomas, Phoenix Suns

Hardcore NBA fans shook their heads at the Sacramento Kings all summer. Letting the swift, diminutive point guard go for nothing was one of the more puzzling moves of the offseason. The 5’9” Washington product has overshadowed the work of similar former Huskie Nate Robinson. More than just an occasional microwave man and folk hero, Thomas is simply one of the better scorers in the league.


His career 44 percent field goal percentage is exemplary for an undersized perimeter player, and now that he’s in a smarter, faster Phoenix offense, you can expect that number to rise. If the Suns can break through into the prickly Western Conference playoffs this year — after a heartbreaking finish in 2013-14 that saw the team miss the big dance after winning 50 games — it’ll have a lot to do with their adding one of basketball’s elite reserves.


Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers

If, for whatever reason, you can’t remember Crawford’s birth name, just call him “Heat Check.”


When Jamal gets his shot going, there’s arguably no one in the league who’s a scarier sight for defenses, and no spot on the court that doesn’t look like a layup for the 15-year veteran. His possession of obscure statistical crowns like “most four-point plays in league history” shows us how unconscious he can become from beyond the arc:

Last year’s recipient of the Sixth Man of the Year award, Crawford has had a journeyman career that has seen him play for a whopping six teams. But nowhere has he looked more at home than in Lob City.


Ryan Anderson, New Orleans Pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans’ starting front line of Anthony Davis and Omer Asik has led them to the third-best rebounding rate in the league. Both big men are absolute horses on the boards, wearing down the enemy at an impressive rate. And when the Pelicans bring the deep-shooting Anderson off the bench for a new look, Western Conference enemies simply won’t know what to do with New Orleans.


At 6’10” and 240 pounds, Anderson comes in an overwhelmingly sized package in terms of shooters. His ability to stretch the floor was paramount to the Orlando Magic’s offense when he was there with the post-oriented Dwight Howard, and now Anderson is re-establishing that chemistry with Davis, the heir to Howard’s throne as the game’s best big.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Monday, November 10, 2014 - 16:06
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/10-most-important-things-watch-college-basketball-2014-15

If the 2014-15 season is anything like the 2013-14 edition, we’re in luck.


Just think of all that transpired a year ago: Wichita State’s run for history, a fantastic freshman class led by Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker, Syracuse’s hot start as an ACC member.


And then think of how all of that was flipped in the NCAA Tournament as Kentucky finally delivered on its title-contending promise only to be stopped by a seventh-seeded UConn team in the championship game.


Say this about 2014-15: There’s more where that came from. Duke, Kentucky and Kansas have superstar freshmen again. The ACC adds another powerhouse program in Louisville. And Wichita State should keep rolling.


The only question is what wild twists and turns this season will take down the stretch. We’re ready.


Athlon Sports contributor Gary Parrish is a college basketball columnist for Find his recent columns on or follow him on Twitter.


1. Duke’s Big Three


Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones promised each other (and anybody else who would listen) in the summer before their senior years of high school that they’d take visits together and enroll at the same college. Ultimately, they settled on Duke, then started working on Justise Winslow. And the result is a college-aged “Big Three” that should give Mike Krzyzewski a reasonably good chance to capture his fifth national championship.


“We just wanted the best opportunity to win,” Okafor explains, and there’s no denying that their decisions created an ideal situation for lots and lots of wins.


Okafor, Jones and Winslow are all consensus top-15 national recruits who play different positions. Basically, they represent the nation’s top incoming point guard (Jones), the nation’s top incoming center (Okafor), and one of the nation’s top three incoming wings (Winslow), and they’re the main reasons why Duke should actually be better this season despite losing its best two players — Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood — early to the NBA Draft.


Who’s the best of the group?


That’s Okafor, for sure.


He’s a 6-11, wide-bodied big who makes up for what he lacks in athleticism with a unique skill set and understanding of the game. More than anybody else, he’s likely to go first overall in the 2015 NBA Draft, and it should surprise nobody if Okafor is a first-team All-American during what’s expected to be his lone year in college.


“We consider Jahlil Okafor as good a big man as there is in the country,” Krzyzewski says. “He’s had an amazing amount of experience playing for the United States and for a great high school program.”


And now he’ll play for a great college program.


“The great thing about all of the kids is that they want to share a spotlight and they want to be on a great team,” Krzyzewski adds. “They’re team-first guys — even though they have this excellent amount of individual talent.”


2. Kentucky’s Loaded Frontcourt


John Calipari is so used to losing players early to the NBA Draft that he recruits as if he’s roster-less, and prospects typically commit as if he’s roster-less, too. In most years, it works well for all involved. And it’ll work well again this season — probably. But the fact that Julius Randle was the lone Kentucky big to turn pro created quite the logjam in the Wildcats’ frontcourt, and there’s now no scenario (barring injury or suspension) where Calipari finds minutes for every forward and center who’s going to think he deserves minutes this season.


Have you counted the bodies yet?


Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee are all back, and they’ll be joined in the frontcourt by freshmen Trey Lyles and Karl-Anthony Towns. That’s six future pros who are natural power forwards or centers, and so the obvious question is this: How will Calipari find proper minutes for all of them?


Answer: He won’t. Because it’s impossible. Granted, Poythress will be asked to play some small forward, and it’ll help if he’s successful. But even if he is, and if Lyles and Johnson start at power forward and center, that’ll still leave Cauley-Stein and Towns as big reserves, which would leave Lee, most likely, caught in a numbers game and completely buried on the bench even though he’d be the best and most athletic big at like 90 percent of the nation’s high-major programs.


“For the first time I’ve had players return that had their chance to put their names in the draft, so we’re in a unique situation where we have veterans now,” Calipari says. “I’m excited about it. The returning players and the freshmen are getting along well. So it’s all good.”


All good for now, of course.


But will it be all good when the games start?


That’s the biggest challenge facing Calipari this season.


3. Wichita State, Obviously


Gregg Marshall’s Shockers became the story of last college basketball season — and the nation’s most divisive team — while taking a perfect record into their Round of 32 game against Kentucky. As you know, the Wildcats won on that Sunday afternoon in St. Louis thanks to a flurry of 3-pointers and free throws in the second half. But Wichita State still finished 35–1 overall, and the Shockers are returning enough to roll through the Missouri Valley Conference again.


Fred VanVleet is back. So is Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton.


That means Wichita State returns its starting 1, 2 and 3 from that 35-win team, and now you know why Marshall decided to return for an eighth season at WSU despite the fact that Tennessee, Missouri, Wake Forest, California and basically every other power-conference school with an opening tried, either directly or indirectly, to lure him away from the MVC power he’s built. Put another way, Marshall’s stock won’t slip this season because he’ll win plenty thanks to the presence of VanVleet, Baker and Cotton. They combined to average 35.0 points, 11.7 rebounds and 10.9 assists last season.


Bottom line, pencil the Shockers down for another 30 wins.


Then we’ll see if the school can keep Marshall for a ninth season.


4. KU’s quest for another Big 12 title


Bill Self has developed over the years into one of the surest things in college basketball, if not the surest, proof being that his Jayhawks have won at least a share of 10 consecutive Big 12 titles. So this season’s challenge is trying to win an 11th straight despite losing three starters — including the players who were picked first (Andrew Wiggins) and third (Joel Embiid) overall in the 2014 NBA Draft.


That sounds like a tall task. And it would be for most coaches. 


But you’d be silly to bet against Self because A) he’s really, really good, B) he returns Wayne Selden, Perry Ellis, and Frank Mason from a 25-win team, and C) KU is once again enrolling a stellar recruiting class featuring Cliff Alexander, Kelly Oubre and Devonte’ Graham, the last of whom the Jayhawks added late after the point guard was released from his signed National Letter of Intent with Appalachian State.


“He’s good,” Self says. “He’s a true point guard.”


Assuming that’s true, KU will have something this season that it never had last season— i.e., a true point guard — to help create for Selden, Mason, Oubre and Ellis, and Self will have no shortage of interesting combinations at is disposal.


“We should be good 1 through 4,” Self says. “We have some talented guys.”


The most interesting piece will be in the middle.


That’s Alexander.


He’s a 6-8 forward and physical specimen who projects as a future NBA Lottery pick, but Alexander is unproven defensively and hardly a shot-blocker/shot-alterer like Embiid. And that might be an issue (although Arkansas transfer Hunter Mickelson should alleviate some of those concerns). Either way, Self has an incredible roster featuring veterans and newcomers and no fewer than four future NBA Draft picks, and that, more than anything else, is the point here — that Kansas will be fantastic again and, probably, Big 12 champions again.


5. Montrezl Harrell’s Breakthrough


Every year, without exception, there are underclassmen who surprise college basketball fans when they announce they’re leaving college early, and then, also every year, also without exception, there are other underclassmen whose decision to remain in college a year longer than most anticipated doubles as a shocking development.


Which brings us to Montrezl Harrell.


“I was shocked that he came back,” says Louisville’s Rick Pitino.


Harrell was a projected Lottery pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. He could be a millionaire right now. Instead, he’s still in Louisville, still enrolled and set to have the type of breakthrough season that could make him a first-team All-American and, perhaps, a top-five pick in next June’s NBA Draft. Physically and athletically, Harrell already checks every box because he’s a 6-8, 235-pound freak. So as long as he expands his offensive game, his decision to delay getting paid NBA money for a year should pay off and, of course, give Louisville a chance to compete at the top of the ACC in its first season in the ACC.


Did you realize that, by the way?


In a move motivated by football (duh!), Louisville has relocated to the Atlantic Coast Conference after spending one season in the American Athletic Conference after spending eight seasons in the Big East that were preceded by a stint in Conference USA. (The Cardinals sure do bounce around a lot, don’t they?) The byproduct from that development is that it’s safe to call the ACC the nation’s best basketball league thanks to the presence of Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, Virginia, Maryland, Georgia Tech, NC State, Pittsburgh and, yes, Louisville. As for Pitino, well, he’d rather be in the old Big East still, frankly. But he knows those days are gone forever. So now he’s looking forward to coaching in some new spots.


“I’ve never coached at Duke or Virginia,” Pitino says. “So I’m excited about it. I really am.”


6. John Beilein’s Magic


Kentucky’s John Calipari has transitioned more prospects from high school to the NBA than any other college coach in recent years, and he really is on an unprecedented run. It’s amazing. But what’s equally impressive — and perhaps even more impressive — is how John Beilein has taken two prospects ranked outside of the top 75 of their high school classes and turned them into top-10 picks in consecutive years.


One is Trey Burke, who left Michigan after two seasons and was picked ninth in the 2013 NBA Draft. The other is Nik Stauskas, who left Michigan after two seasons and was picked eighth in the 2014 NBA Draft. Both were Big Ten Players of the Year.


So what’s Beilein’s secret?


“We try to project whether a player is on the rise,” Beilein says, “or if he’s already where he’s gonna be (when we sign him).”


Let the record show the Michigan staff is great at those projections. They clearly saw something in Burke and Stauskas that nobody else saw, and the byproduct of that was the Wolverines averaging 27.6 wins per season in the past three years.


So why is this relevant this preseason? Because Beilein has yet another unheralded recruit positioned to possibly be a top-10 pick. His name is Caris LeVert. He’s a 6-7 guard who was ranked 215th in the Class of 2012. Now he’s on every NBA franchise’s radar and projected, by most right now, to be a Lottery pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, provided LeVert makes himself available. Either way, most of the shots Stauskas took last season will be LeVert’s to shoot this season. That means he should average more than 15 points per game for a nationally relevant program and be in contention for All-American honors.


7. The re-emergence of Arkansas


One of the more unbelievable facts about college basketball (given the history of the program and resources available) is that Arkansas hasn’t made a Sweet 16 since 1996. Did you realize that? The Razorbacks won the national title in 1994, lost in the title game in 1995, made the Sweet 16 in 1996, and they really haven’t escaped the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament since then.


“I hear it every day, man. Every day — from like the elderly people,” says Bobby Portis, the Hogs’ 6-11 forward. “Because, you know, back in the 90’s, we were a powerhouse. But it’s kinda flipped. So now somebody says something about it every day.”


The good news is that Portis’ decision to return to Arkansas for his sophomore year (rather than declare for the NBA Draft after last season) gives the Razorbacks a legitimate chance to break through and end this streak. Portis averaged 12.3 points and a team-best 6.8 rebounds last season, and his return ensured that coach Mike Anderson would have his top three scorers back. The others are Rashad Madden and Michael Qualls.


That trio doesn’t compare to the top three players at Kentucky, obviously. But they’re talented and good enough to lead Arkansas back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008, and it should surprise nobody if the Hogs escape the opening weekend of that 68-team event for the first time in 19 seasons.


“Every year they talk about Kentucky and Florida and nobody else in the conference,” Portis says. “But maybe we can change that.”


8.  North Carolina (on the basketball court)


UNC is one of the best and most accomplished programs in college basketball — proof being the 18 Final Fours and five NCAA Tournament titles. Beyond that, it’s the place Michael Jordan played, and the impact of those three years spent in Chapel Hill will probably last forever. And yet, all that said, the Tar Heels have been in the headlines recently more for off-the-court issues than on-the-court performance.


P.J. Hairston being ruled ineligible because of impermissible benefits dominated talk early last season. Meantime, that academic scandal is the story that keeps on giving, and who knows where that will ultimately lead? But it’s important to remember that the Tar Heels are still, you know, really good at basketball, and this season should serve as a reminder thanks to the return of Marcus Paige and enrollment of another heralded recruiting class featuring five-star prospects Joel Berry, Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson.


“We are ecstatic that these three young men … decided to join our basketball family,” Williams says. “Each of them (is) talented, comes from a wonderful family and shares a common trait in that they have a tremendous desire for their teams to do well.”


Yes, that’s probably coach-speak on some level. But there’s no denying that the Tar Heels are equipped to have a team that does well and possibly advances to the Elite Eight for the third time in five seasons, if not farther. Navigating the ACC will be tough as usual thanks to Duke and Virginia — and the additions of Louisville (this year) and Pittsburgh (last year). But Paige, a 6-1 junior who averaged 17.5 points and 4.2 assists last season, could become the 17th consensus first-team All-American in UNC history this season, and, if he does, the guess here is that the discussion surrounding North Carolina will be more about hoops than fraudulent classes.


9. Sean Miller’s Emerging Monster


National championships are hard to come by for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the single-elimination nature of the NCAA Tournament. One bad shooting night, you’re done. One freak injury to a key player, you’re done. One questionable foul, you’re done. So it’s possible to be great and never actually cut nets on the first Monday in April, and there are lots of great coaches who fall into that category.


Which brings us to Sean Miller.


He’s likely the biggest power (at a top-shelf program) working today who hasn’t yet won a national title. In fact, he’s never made a Final Four in 10 years as a head coach. But his time is probably coming — perhaps as soon as this season courtesy of a roster that is loaded to the point where at least two players (Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson) project as future Lottery picks in the NBA Draft.


How’d this happen?


Recruiting, obviously.


Miller has lured commitments from 11 five-star prospects in the past five classes, which is at least four more than every other program not called Kentucky. That’s why Arizona is the clear favorite in the Pac-12 despite the losses of its top two scorers from last season’s 33-win team (Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon), and it’s hard to imagine a scenario (barring injury) where Arizona doesn’t finish first or second in the Pac-12 for the fourth time in five years.


10. The Wide-Open Race to Make an All-America Team


College basketball is a sport where most of the top players turn pro every single year. So nobody was surprised, nor should they have been, when Duke’s Jabari Parker, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, UCLA’s Kyle Anderson and lots more like them exited school after last season. That’s par for the so-called course.


Still, it’s worth noting that not a single first-team Associated Press All-American, second-team Associated Press All-American, or third-team Associated Press All-American is back in college for just the second time since 2003, and that means nobody seems like a sure-bet to collect first team honors at the end of this season. Which is fun, right?


Last year, around this time, pretty much every media outlet (including this magazine) had Marcus Smart, Doug McDermott and Russ Smith listed as preseason first-team All-Americans because they were awesome players who performed brilliantly at the college level in the year prior. But there are no can’t-leave-them-off guys entering this season, really. For instance, a reasonable person could pick Wichita State’s Fred VanVleet as the first-team point guard … or Duke’s Tyus Jones or West Virginia’s Juwan Staten, and it’s like that at every single position. 


There’s nothing silly about selecting Marcus Paige (UNC), Ron Baker (Wichita State), Caris LeVert (Michigan), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Arizona), Sam Dekker (Wisconsin), Stanley Johnson (Arizona), Montrezl Harrell (Louisville), Georges Niang (Iowa State), Karl-Anthony Towns (Kentucky), Jahlil Okafor (Duke), Cliff Alexander (Kansas), Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin) or any number of players. So, for the first time in a long time, literally every single position on every single postseason All-American team seems to be there for the taking, and it’ll be a blast watching players try to earn those spots.


Perhaps all five will come from the names listed above.


Maybe not.


Either way, get ready.


The college basketball season is almost here.

The 10 Most Important Things to Watch in College Basketball for 2014-15
Post date: Monday, November 10, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/arizona-state-continues-build-playoff-resume-win-over-notre-dame

For the first time since Jake Plummer was leading Arizona State to the Rose Bowl, it seems Arizona State is going to be a viable contender in the chase for national supremacy. And it’s not a fluke either.


There may not be many teams that can give up 62 points at home and still be considered a legitimate contender for the College Football Playoff, but Arizona State has managed to rise from the ashes of that awful Thursday night performance against UCLA. Arizona State could have sunk in their malaise after that game, but instead the Sun Devils fired up wins at a ranked USC and returned home to score revenge against Stanford in a Pac-12 Championship Game rematch. Though the Trojans and Cardinal are no longer ranked, at the time it was vital for Arizona State to bounce back against respected opponents. The Stanford win more than anything helped Arizona State put behind them their disappointments over the past year, and they have not let up since.


Arizona State’s road win at Washington was nice, but winning a defensive battle with ranked Utah in overtime at home and following that up with an impressive victory at home against top 10 Notre Dame team has served as a nice statement to the College Football Playoff selection committee. The committee may have been withholding some judgments on Notre Dame the past two weeks, but that should change now. The committee will likely hammer Notre Dame with a second loss against a ranked team, but at the same time the committee may reward Arizona State for their effort. Arizona State started strong and managed to finish strong after losing the momentum. Regardless of what happens to Notre Dame, the selection committee should feel inclined to respect the full performance from Arizona State.


Few teams have shown the kind of balance Arizona State has this season. Despite playing through some quarterback injury concerns for Taylor Kelly, Arizona State has kept a balanced attack with the nation’s 26th best passing offense and the 44th best rushing offense. Maybe those numbers do not impress much, but put them together and that is one dependable and balanced offense that keeps defensive coordinators on their toes. The defense has also been resurgent since seeing UCLA score 62 points in Tempe in late September. Arizona State has held three of its past four opponents to fewer than 20 points, and it was the defense that helped set the tone to a big start against Notre Dame. Arizona State forced five turnovers, including two interceptions returned for a touchdown. This Arizona State team is hot as the sun. Can they keep the focus on the bigger prize at the end of the tunnel?


Arizona State still has a game with Arizona looming at the end of the season, and it is on the road. No game should be taken for granted by Arizona State, especially a rivalry game against the Wildcats. Keeping in mind how dangerous this Arizona team is capable of being, Arizona State will have its work cut out for it the rets of the way if the Sun Devils are intent on staying in the playoff picture. Arizona is the only team to defeat Oregon. If Arizona State can get by Arizona and avoid upset bids by Oregon State and Washington State, the Sun Devils will get their chance to upend the Ducks with a possible playoff spot on the line in addition to the Pac-12 trophy.

- By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)

Arizona State Continues to Build Playoff Resume With Win Over Notre Dame
Post date: Sunday, November 9, 2014 - 16:15
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-regains-control-big-ten-after-win-over-michigan-state

Ohio State’s stay in second place in the Big Ten pecking order did not last very long. After being dethroned as the class of the Big Ten in last season’s conference championship game by Michigan State, the Buckeyes had to wait until Nov. 8 to get back on top.  Naturally, and perhaps fittingly, that opportunity to jump back on top of the Big Ten came at the expense of Michigan State.


For Urban Meyer, Saturday night’s win against Michigan State was his first against a top-15 team since being hired as Ohio State’s coach in 2012. With that proverbial monkey off the back of Meyer now, the focus shifts to getting to the Big Ten championship game. With a head-to-head tiebreaker against Michigan State, Ohio State is two more wins away from clinching a return trip to Indianapolis as division champion. Ohio State is also now the team to beat in the Big Ten.


The success of Ohio State this season has been overshadowed by a Week 2 loss at home to Virginia Tech, but the Buckeyes have shown they are a far superior team than the one that took the field that night against the upset-minded Hokies. Sure, the Virginia Tech loss is not good, and looks worse as the season unfolds, but it is also important to remember the situation then and it should be put into perspective. J.T. Barrett was making just his second start for Ohio State, and it showed. Barrett had just taken over the starting job weeks before when Braxton Miller underwent season-ending surgery before it ever got started. Watching Barrett against Michigan State, you would have thought you were watching a completely different player. In reality, you were.


Barrett threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns against a Michigan State defense often referred to as the best in the Big Ten. Maybe the Spartans defense is lacking a no-fly zone this season, but to do what Barrett did on the road against Michigan State should open some eyes to what he and everyone else at Ohio State is doing. Ezekiel Elliott was a beast running the football (154 yards, two touchdowns) and Devin Smith showed off some wheels with 129 receiving yards and a touchdown.


Ohio State’s 49-37 victory in East Lansing was exactly the kind of victory the Buckeyes needed to re-enter the College Football Playoff discussion in the coming weeks, although it is still a crowded pool Ohio State is now swimming in with one-loss teams at TCU and Baylor in the Big 12, Oregon and Arizona State in the Pac-12, Alabama generating momentum in the SEC and undefeated teams at Mississippi State and Florida State. There may still be a chance for Ohio State to reach the playoff, but the only thing Urban Meyer’s team can focus on now is winning its first outright Big Ten championship since 2009.


Next up? A road trip to a surprisingly good Minnesota. Can the Buckeyes keep things rolling against a Gophers squad coming off a 51-14 win over Iowa?

-By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)

Ohio State Regains Control of Big Ten After Win Over Michigan State
Post date: Sunday, November 9, 2014 - 15:45
Path: /college-football/nebraskas-november-bye-week-could-pay-dividends-big-ten-title-race

This was a great weekend to have off if you are Nebraska. With Ohio State and Michigan State doing battle in the big Ten East, Minnesota and Iowa colliding in the west and Wisconsin on the road, this was a good weekend to sit back, relax and check out the rest of the conference. A bye week in November is always nice to have, especially when in the midst of a division race that has certainly heated up. For the Huskers, giving Heisman Trophy candidate running back Ameer Abdullah some extra time to heal up could not have come at a better time either.

Abdullah sprained his knee in Nebraska’s last game against Purdue. Bo Pelini said at the time there was no reason to believe he would have to sit his top offensive player for the big game this week against Wisconsin, and that was clearly some good news. Giving Abdullah an extra week not to worry about missing playing time can only help him and Nebraska as the Huskers look to make a run toward a return to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game. Nebraska has had a rash of bad luck in conference championship games under Pelini, but if Abdullah is healthy for the final games of the season this year could be different.

Nebraska’s only loss this season came on the road against Michigan State, but Nebraska has pretty much been a solid from September through mid-November in Big Ten play. The Huskers have won four conference games by double digits, and Abdullah has piled up big numbers to boost his Heisman profile. At 8-1 coming out of the bye week, these Huskers are looking to shrug aside a recent history of reaching nine wins as a ceiling all too often. With Nebraska currently in a three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten West, the pressure is officially on for Nebraska to prove capable of reaching double-digit wins and making a case for a spot in the College Football Playoff. Though there is plenty of competition for the four playoff spots, the odds are still pretty decent a one–loss Big Ten champion would at least be in the conversation. Ohio State and Nebraska are the only two one-loss teams in the conference, and if things go well for Nebraska, the Huskers could have a chance to hand Ohio State a second straight conference championship game loss and make a case for the playoff in the process. There are three critical weeks before this can even become a realistic conversation worth having.

Nebraska, Wisconsin and Minnesota are all tied for first place in the division, which makes the next few weeks especially intriguing. Nebraska travels to Wisconsin this week and hosts Minnesota next week before closing out the regular season at Iowa. Nebraska is going to need to be at full strength to go toe-to-toe in Madison against the Badgers in what should be a terrific showdown of the Big Ten’s top two running backs (Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin and Abdullah).

There is no question Nebraska is much more of a threat with Abdullah healthy. The extra week of rest could prove to be extremely valuable.

- By Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)

Nebraska's Early November Bye Week Could Pay Dividends in Big Ten Title Race
Post date: Sunday, November 9, 2014 - 15:25
Path: /college-football/minnesotas-passing-offense-and-qb-mitch-leidner-improving-critical-time

It goes without saying that Minnesota’s offense starts with running the football. David Cobb has already rushed for 1,200 yards this season and leads the team with eight rushing touchdowns. The Minnesota rushing attack has carried the Gophers to a 7-2 record heading into mid-November. It has been needed because the Minnesota passing game has struggled to take flight this season. The Big Ten’s worst passing offense has averaged just 140.2 yards per game this season, but against Iowa it appeared the Gophers finally found some rhythm throwing the football.


After a couple of struggles throwing the football against Purdue and Illinois, Minnesota was smart and accurate with the football against Iowa. Though still relying on the performance of the running game, Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner completed 10 of his 13 pass attempts against the Hawkeyes for 138 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. Leidner had thrown for six touchdowns all season entering the battle for the Floyd of Rosedale.


In the second quarter, Leidner connected with Donovahn Jones for a 44-yard touchdown strike to break a 7-7 tie. Midway through the quarter, Leidner threw the first of two red zone touchdown passes before halftime and Minnesota was on its way to a rout of visiting Iowa. This was not just Minnesota taking advantage of a poor pass defense either. The Hawkeyes entered the week ranked second in the Big Ten against the pass. Opposing quarterbacks are averaging just over 50 percent in completion percentage this season. Leidner completed 76.9 percent of his attempts, by far his most accurate performance this season.


If nothing else, Minnesota gained some confidence passing the football at just the right time. The final few games for Minnesota are still considered an uphill battle for a Minnesota team that is continuing to develop and mature. Next week Minnesota will host Ohio State, with the Buckeyes coming off a big road win at Michigan State. Ohio State is around the middle of the pack in the Big Ten against the pass. So is Nebraska, also still to come on Minnesota’s schedule. Wisconsin, Minnesota’s final opponent this season, Wisconsin, leads the Big Ten against the pass.


Minnesota is going to need to have a balanced attack in order to make a run in these final three games. If the Gophers can get the running game on track early and often, it will open things up for the passing game as well. With what Minnesota has to work with, that is not a terrible way to go. Mitch Leidner may not be a guy who will throw for 250 or 300 yards, but if he can be put in a situation to make some safe throws, Minnesota’s offense should have enough to make things a little more interesting these next few weeks.


This is Minnesota’s time to prove they belong in the Big Ten race. A superior TCU team humbled the Gophers earlier in the season, but Minnesota has matured a bit since that early season loss. Now lets see if the passing game has found its groove at the right time or if it was just a blip on the radar against Iowa.

- by Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB)

Minnesota's Passing Offense and QB Mitch Leidner Improving at a Critical Time
Post date: Sunday, November 9, 2014 - 15:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/college-fantasy-football-week-11-fantasy-value-plays

DraftKings has released their Daily Fantasy college football salaries for the week, and the experts at have hunkered down and scoured all of the data to find the best Value Plays on the docket. 

These Value Plays are comprised of players poised to out-produce their DraftKings salaries this week.  These are the “diamonds in the rough” that your DFS competitors may overlook.  They are the difference-makers you need in your lineup to win one of the big DFS contests!

For your convenience, we have broken the picks down by DraftKings contest game set. Best of luck this week!

(For more detailed Daily Fantasy analysis, picks, player news, player rankings, and stat breakdowns, check out
CollegeFootballGeek.comLearn how to SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE!)





1)    QB Luke Falk, Washington State vs. Oregon State ($6600)

Falk came in for an injured Connor Halliday last week against USC and looked very good considering the situation. The Cougars offense won’t change and Falk will be throwing the ball all over the field against Oregon State. He looks like a great play this week.



1)    RB Synjyn Days, Georgia Tech vs. NC State ($4300)

Days has gone over 100 yards rushing in the last two games and also added two scores last week against Virginia. Look for him to make it three in a row with a suspect NC State on the docket. He appears to be an awesome punt option this week.

2)    RB Ryan Jackson, Houston vs. Tulane ($4800)

Jackson is averaging 20.30 DK fantasy points over the last two games and could top that against Tulane this week. The Green Wave run defense comes in ranked 85th in the country and gives up plenty of big plays.


3)    RB Tarean Folston, Notre Dame vs. Arizona State ($5400)

Folston is averaging 28.20 DK fantasy points over the past three games and has a nice match up with Arizona State. The Sun Devils are ranked 88th against the run and may have a hard time containing Folston. He looks like a nice value play in Week 11.




1)    WR Jamison Crowder, Duke vs. Syracuse ($5900)

Crowder looked unstoppable last week with 165 yards and two scores against Pitt. He appears to finally be in rhythym with Anthony Boone and looks to be way under priced this week. Expect more fantasy goodness out of this Blue Devil.


2)    WR Victor Bolden ($4900) & Jordan Villamin ($4700), Oregon State vs. Washington State

Both Bolden and Villamin had big games against Cal last week and could post huge numbers against Washington State. The Cougars pass defense is ranked 119thand is allowing 295 yards per game. Play both of these Beavers.


3)    WR Deshon Foxx, UCONN vs. Army ($4100)

Fox had 11 carries for 102 yards and a score last week against Central Florida. He carries big upside this week with the potential for plenty of carries. Foxx may be hard for a bad Army defense to contain.



1)    TE Blake Bell, Oklahoma vs. Baylor ($2500)

Bell scored twice last week and somehow his price came down $100. He could find the end zone again in a potential shoot out with Baylor.




1)    QB Connor Cook, Michigan State vs. Ohio State ($5500)

Connor has a difficult match up against Ohio State, but could throw a couple of touchdowns and reach value. Cook seems to save his best games for the biggest games and this certainly qualifies.  




1)    RB Michael Dyer, Louisville vs. Boston College ($5200)

Dyer ran for 134 yards and three scores against Florida State last week. He is running like the Michael Dyer of old and could tear through the BC defense this week. Put Mr. Dyer in your lineups.


2)    RB Jhurell Pressley, New Mexico vs. Boise State ($4900)

Pressley has scored five rushing touchdowns in the last two games and comes in at a solid price this week. He could add to his touchdown total this week and prove to be an excellent punt option.


3)    RB Matt Jones ($4800) & Kelvin Taylor ($4600), Florida vs. Vanderbilt

Jones and Taylor went ballistic last week against Georgia with a combined 389 rushing yards and four touchdowns. They both received 25 carries and both look like great plays against a weak Commodores defense. 





1)    WR Curry Sexton, Kansas State vs. TCU ($5100)

DFS owners may be shocked to learn that Sexton and Tyler Lockett have the same number of receptions on the season (49). He could have a very nice game in what could be a high scoring affair with TCU. Sexton looks like a nice punt option in this BIG 12 showdown.


2)    WR Jordan Payton, UCLA vs. Washington ($4800)

Payton’s price makes absolutely no sense this week. He averages 20.3 DK fantasy points on the season and will be facing the 109th ranked pass defense of Washington. He could easily blow out his price this week.


3)    WR Tyler Winston, San Jose State vs. Fresno State ($5200)

Winston is the Spartans top receiving target and could blow right past Fresno State this week. The Bulldogs ranked 101st in pass defense and are very suseptable to big plays.




1)   TE Steven Scheu, Vanderbilt vs. Florida ($3300)

Scheu has scored double-digit fantasy points in the last two games.



By Todd DeVries & Kevin Mount,

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College Fantasy Football: Week 11 Fantasy Value Plays
Post date: Friday, November 7, 2014 - 10:44
All taxonomy terms: Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose, NBA
Path: /nba/derrick-rose%E2%80%99s-injury-concerns-continue

The Cleveland Cavaliers look rocky right now. But unless the Lord has reached into this roster’s mostly young bodies and snatched the immense talent out of them, LeBron James and Co. won’t appear so fragile later. Despite their surprising 1-3 start, the Cavs are still title contenders and the most likely to emerge from the Eastern Conference. Once they figure out their chemistry woes, we’ll start fearing them again.

The Chicago Bulls, of course, are the greatest potential caveat to this truth. The defense-heavy monsters of the Midwest, led by taskmaster coach Tom Thibodeau, can’t truly challenge the King without their own prodigal son, however, and Derrick Rose’s health continues to be a source of major worry in Chicago, after two seasons of Rose missing all but ten games due to dual knee injuries.

Rose sprained both of his ankles against Cleveland on October 31 — the second game of the season. He subsequently sat as his team took care of two inferior opponents in the Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando Magic. More recently, Rose returned on November 5, and although the Bulls got the win over the Milwaukee Bucks to improve to 4-1 while the point guard put up an efficient, 13-point, seven-assist line, he didn’t look exactly like himself.

Rose moved with hesitation in the contest, clearly not 100 percent on those ankles. He still knows how to utilize his hefty court mythos to beguile defenders and get his way in the halfcourt, but Rose will need need to be nothing short of the lane-penetrating destroyer his city loves if Chicago is going to compete for a championship in earnest.

The heavy question here is whether that’s even possible anymore. Fretful Chicagoans wonder whether Rose’s body can ever withstand the pressure he puts on it with his torque-driven style. And until Rose strings together something like a month or two of unbroken, top-notch play, his health will remain the biggest question mark of the 2014-15 championship outlook.


— John Wilmes


Post date: Friday, November 7, 2014 - 10:04