Articles By Athlon Sports

All taxonomy terms: College Football, Pac 12
Path: /college-football/amazing-pac-12-college-football-stats-week-3-2013
True college football fans like to examine and dissect statistics, whether its a quarterback's completion percentage or a team's winning record on the road. We, however, love stats. With that in mind, we scoured the Pac-12 to put together some of the strangest, most amazing, and just plain cool numbers from around the conference.
Sean Mannion18: Red zone perfection remains for Oregon State in overtime victory
Oregon State remained a perfect 18-for-18 in the red zone after its 51-48 overtime win at Utah Saturday — the first win for the Beavers in Salt Lake City since 1968.
Twenty-two FBS teams are perfect in the red zone this season, but OSU’s 18 appearances are the most. The Beavers have scored 11 passing touchdowns, three rushing and kicked four field goals inside the 20. They were 6-for-6 in the Utah win, scoring four passing touchdowns and two field goals.
8: UCLA’s Hundley outduels Nebraska’s Martinez in the second half — again
It has been a tale of two halves in the last two meetings between UCLA and Nebraska. And just like last year, it was the second half that was the difference maker for the Bruins.
In Saturday’s 41-21 victory in Lincoln — including 38 unanswered points — Bruins’ QB Brett Hundley bounced back from a 7-of-15 first half to go 8-of-8 for 143 and three touchdown passes in the second half. Hundley also completed eight second-half passes in last year’s 36-30 win. As a freshman, he was 8-of-14 for 104 yards in the second half, and his last pass was the game-winner with 2:13 left in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, Cornhuskers’ QB Taylor Martinez has faltered in the second half both times. On Saturday, Martinez was 5-of-6 for 25 yards on the first drive of the second half (ending in a punt from the UCLA 41) before finishing 4-of-13 for 56 yards and three carries for one yard. In 2012, Martinez was 4-for-14 in the second half with 30 yards passing — completing no passes in the Huskers’ last six possessions — and 11 yards rushing. 
UCLA has combined to outscore Nebraska 43-6 in the second half of the last two meetings. 
22: Time of possession just a number for Oregon offense
It does not take long for Oregon to be one of the best scoring teams in the nation. While the Ducks are second in the nation in scoring (61.3) and yards per game (672), they are last in the FBS in time of possession at just 22 minutes a game. Being third in the nation in turnover margin certainly helps as Oregon has seven turnovers gained to none lost.
The Ducks have had 43 possessions, scored on 29 of them — 26 TDs, three field goals — and no scoring drive has taken longer than 3:15. No drive has taken longer than Oregon’s last one on Saturday — a 4:25 possession that ended in a punt while already leading Tennessee 59-14 with 2:46 left in the game. The Ducks have scored at least eight touchdowns for a third straight week.
USC32: From Marcus to Madden as USC running back has historic day
USC running back Tre Madden became the first Trojan to start a season with three straight 100-yard rushing games in 32 years.
The sophomore ran for 102 yards and his first-ever touchdown in USC’s 35-7 home win against Boston College, to go along with games of 151 and 109, making him the first Trojan back to open a season with three century games since Marcus Allen’s 1981 Heisman Trophy season. Allen, who wore No. 32, eclipsed 200 yards in his first five games.
200: Welcome to the Huskies’ 200-club, Sankey
Bishop Sankey rushed for a career-high 208 yards on 35 carries in Washington’s 34-24 win over Illinois at Soldier Field, and entered an exclusive UW club.
Sankey’s second 200-yard performance in three games — he had 205 in December’s MAACO Bowl Las Vegas — and joined Napoleon Kaufman, Corey Dillon and Louis Rankin as the only Huskies to rush for 200 yards in a game more than once. Kaufman accomplished the feat three times in the 90s, Dillon twice in 1996 and Rankin twice in 2007.
The chances Sankey goes 3-for-4 and joins Kaufman this week might be tough as UW faces Idaho State and its FCS third-best rushing defense (63.5 YPG).
3: Cardinal the best-behaved team in the nation
Stanford is the least penalized team in the nation through its first two games. The Cardinal have committed just three penalties for 40 yards. 
Stanford received a 15-yard facemask penalty on offense Saturday against Army but still scored a TD on the following play. In the opener against San Jose State, the Cardinal was hit with a 15-yard pass interference and a 10-yard holding penalty. The Spartans went on to score on both flagged drives.
Arizona State is just behind Stanford with four penalties in two games, and the Sun Devils lead the nation with just 20 penalty yards. That’s the third-best start for ASU since 2006.
438.7 and 99.7: Pac-12 teams lead nation in passing and pass defense
Oregon State and California lead the nation in passing with identical 438.7 yards per game averages over the first three games. Both teams have passed for 1,316 yards. The Beavers are 99-of-138 with an interception; the Bears are 104-of-169 with four picks. 
On the pass defense side of the ball, Washington State is the only FBS team holding opponents under 100 yards per game in the air (99.7). The Cougars have allowed the opposition 299 yards on 43-of-71 passing in the first three games.
1-2: Cal, Oregon State quarterbacks are FBS’ most productive
California quarterback Jared Goff and Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion are 1-2 in the nation in total offense per game, passing yards per game, completions.
Goff is tops in total offense (429.7), passing yards per game (435.3) and completions (103). Mannion is averaging 404 yards per game of total offense, 412.3 in passing yards per game and has 95 completions.
15: Wildcats have reached the end zone in all but one quarter
Arizona has scored a touchdown in 15 of 16 quarters in each of its three games this season, and scored in all 16 quarters.
The Wildcats have scored 17 touchdowns — five in the first quarter, six in the second, three in the third and three in the fourth. Quarterback B.J. Denker has been a part of all five first-quarter scores — two TD passes and three TD runs — as Arizona has outscored its opponents 38-3 in the first quarter.
The only non-touchdown quarter was in the third against UNLV last week with Jake Smith’s 29-yard field goal being the only points in the 15-minute span.
3: A rare postponement for Buffaloes’ program
The postponement of Saturday’s Colorado-Fresno State game due to flooding in Colorado is the third football game in CU history to be postponed. 
A 1963 game with Air Force in Colorado Springs was delayed two weeks after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The Buffaloes were scheduled to play at Washington State in 2001, but the 9-11 terrorist attacks postponed all games. The CU-WSU game was eventually made up in 2004 in Seattle.
Colorado lost the Air Force game, 17-14, and won the Washington State game, 20-12.
Arizona State21: Sun Devils enjoy having FBS’ stingiest first-down defense for now
Arizona State has surrendered an FBS-best 21 first downs — eight on the ground, 13 through the air and none via penalty — through two games.  
Granted, 15 of them came during Saturday’s wild 32-30 win over Wisconsin, it was the 15th one that made the difference in the win. Joel Stave’s kneel down with 15 seconds left in the game on first-and-10 from the ASU 13 was the play that the clock expired on.
The Sun Devils held Sacramento State to six first downs in the season-opening, 55-0 shutout. Five of the Hornets first downs came on its opening drive. 
Post date: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - 16:39
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/byu-utah-announce-two-game-series-2013

The Beehive State is overjoyed as BYU and the University of Utah have agreed to a home-and-home series for 2017 and 2018. Under the new contract, the Cougars will play in Provo on Sept. 9, 2017 and in Salt Lake City on Nov. 24, 2018. BYU and Utah will now play the Deseret First Duel four times in the next six years — 2013, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

It was previously announced BYU and Utah would not play in 2014 or 2015, ending a 67-year straight "Holy War" matchup. While games were scheduled for 2013 and 2016, the future of this tense rivalry was up in the air, as conference realignment has complicated things for the two schools. Since BYU officially began playing football in 1922, the Cougars and Utes have played 88 times. Utah holds the overall series record of 53-31-4.

Post date: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - 16:39
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/syracuse-names-terrel-hunt-starting-qb-against-tulane-2013

Sophomore Terrel Hunt will make his first start at quarterback for Syracuse on Saturday against Tulane in the Carrier Dome. Scott Shafer's decision comes on the heels of the Orange's 54-0 blowout of Wagner, in which Hunt relieved starter Drew Allen and completed 15 of 18 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns. Hunt has been incredibly effective this year, leading Syracuse to touchdowns on each of his seven series. While Allen will likely see some playing time against the Green Wave, the job appears to be Hunt's moving forward.

guiding five first-half touchdown drives to carry the Orange to a 54-0 rout of FCS foe Wagner at home. He completed 15 of 18 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns. - See more at: guiding five first-half touchdown drives to carry the Orange to a 54-0 rout of FCS foe Wagner at home. He completed 15 of 18 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns.  guiding five first-half touchdown drives to carry the Orange to a 54-0 rout of FCS foe Wagner at home. He completed 15 of 18 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns. guiding five first-half touchdown drives to carry the Orange to a 54-0 rout of FCS foe Wagner at home. He completed 15 of 18 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns.
ophomore Terrel Hunt will start at quarterback for Syracuse on Saturday against Tulane in the Carrier Dome. - See more at:
Post date: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - 16:39
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas A&M Aggies
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-week-4-episode-4-2013

In the Week 4 episode of the Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast, co-hosts Braden Gall and David Fox recap the key developments of Week 3 and take a quick look ahead at Week 4.

In this week’s podcast:

• The final score may have been unpredictable, but the way Alabama and Texas A&M got to 49-42 was by the numbers for the Tide. Braden wants to know if A&M is still in the title race, but David is having none of it. As for Alabama, should Ole Miss and LSU see signs of weakness?

• After assessing blame in the fiasco at the end of Arizona State's win over Wisconsin, we take a look at the Sun Devils' important matchup this week against Stanford.

• Nebraska's defense fell apart, but what does that mean for Bo Pelini? Braden sees a repeat of past games for the Huskers, but David is entertaining the possibility that UCLA is just that good.

• Auburn-LSU is the more interesting SEC matchup this week, but the two hosts take a second to talk about Braden's alma mater (Tennessee) facing David's (Florida).

• In this week's rapid fire, we ask which of the Big Ten losing teams from last week have the best chance of getting to the Rose Bowl, potential for crazy in Week 4 and a hypothetical for Urban Meyer.
The podcast can be found on, iTunes and our podcast RSS feed.

Please send any comments, questions and podcast topics to @AthlonSports, @BradenGall and @DavidFox615 on Twitter.

Thanks to Moon Taxi for sharing their tunes for bumper music. Their new album Mountains Beaches Cities is now available.

Post date: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - 16:31
All taxonomy terms: College Football, NC State Wolfpack, SEC
Path: /college-football/8-outrageous-college-football-predictions-week-3-2013

The beauty of sports, in particular college football, lies in their complete unpredictability and reality TV-like drama.

Who would have thought NC State would have converted on four fourth-downs to hand Florida State it's first and only ACC loss of the year last fall? Did anyone see Oregon scoring just 14 points at home and losing to Stanford? Who picked Baylor to beat undefeated Kansas State by four touchdowns? What about two years ago, when Wisconsin basically missed a shot at the national championship game because of not one but two Hail Mary's and Oklahoma State missed out because of a road loss to Iowa State?

Certainly, no one picked a three-star recruit-turned-redshirt freshman quarterback from Texas A&M to win the Heisman Trophy?

With that in mind, here are out our outrageous Week 3 College Football predictions.

Note: The point of this column is to have some fun and make some outlandish predictions. Please react accordingly.

Missouri will be the last unbeaten in the SEC East
This one is sort of a layup, but had anyone uttered the above statement in the preseason they would have been laughed out of the room. Georgia, South Carolina and Florida all have lost in marquee showdowns with quality opponents while Vanderbilt and Kentucky lost to Ole Miss and Western Kentucky already, respectively. That leaves Tennessee and Mizzou left unbeaten in the SEC East. And since the Volunteers are heading west to Eugene to face Oregon this weekend and the Tigers are off, Gary Pinkel's squad will be the final unbeaten SEC East team entering the fourth weekend of the season.

Ole Miss will have more yards against Texas than BYU
The Cougars produced 679 yards of total offense last week against Texas, including a school record for both the BYU offense and the Texas defense with 550 rushing yards. Mack Brown fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and hired in-house analyst Greg Robinson, but don't expect a dramatically different outcome this weekend. Ole Miss comes to town with a load of playmakers, a great offensive scheme and tons of confidence. The Rebels rolled up 489 yards of offense on the road in the season opener against an SEC defense before hanging 532 yards on poor little Southeast Missouri State last week. This was a game that featured 97 total points and 1,075 total yards of offense last year in Oxford. Expect much of the same this weekend.

AJ McCarron will out-pass Johnny Manziel
To show how outlandish this one is, Manziel enters the game with 520 yards passing in six quarters while his roommate at the Manning Passing Academy has just 110 yards in four. Of course, this says nothing of broken-play, Houdini rushing yards Manziel will have to create in order to defeat Alabama, but, through the air, McCarron will have the better day in College Station. This after McCarron's worst game of his career on offense against Virginia Tech (10 of 23). While Bama has one of the best defenses in the nation, the Aggies have been on their heels defensively against the likes of Rice and Sam Houston State. Texas A&M ranks 94th on that side of the ball at 449.5 yards allowed per game and has given up 59 points in two games. Look for Amari Cooper and Co. to find plenty of space in the Texas A&M secondary this weekend.

The Big Ten will go 4-0 against the Pac-12
The Pac-12 is the better league both at the top and in the middle of the league as compared to the Big Ten. Yet, after this weekend, the Big Ten could have Rose Bowl-esque bragging rights. Ohio State's defense will be tested by Jared Goff and Cal but should win handily in Berkeley. Nebraska has enough offensive firepower to take advantage of UCLA's rebuilt secondary at home in Lincoln despite its own defensive short-comings. Wisconsin, the three-time defending Big Ten champion, has the most daunting task by heading southwest to Tempe, but it has yet to allow a point in back-to-back six-touchdown blowouts to start the year. Not to mention the Badgers' back-to-back games with thee different 100-yard rushers. And Illinois' neutral site bout with Washington in Chicago has gotten dramatically more interesting as Illini offensive coordinator Bill Cubit and quarteback Nathan Scheelhaase appear to be perfectly suited for one another. Don't be that shocked if the Big Ten goes unbeaten against the Pac-12 this weekend.

Andre Williams will outgain the entire USC offense
USC should should score more points than Boston College this weekend, but the Eagles running back likely will be the most productive offensive player on the field. Williams has rushed for 318 yards — good for third in the nation — and two touchdowns on 58 carries in two games for BC. USC has a total 557 yards of offense in two games, making them the 115th-rated unit in the nation. Both the Eagles (300.5 ypg, 29th nationally) and Trojans (226.5 ypg, 11th) are salty on defense and will be on display in what should be yet another low-scoring, ugly affair. Williams could be the difference.

Lane Kiffin will burn Max Browne's redshirt
This one will be on this list for the entire season — or until it happens. Max Wittek and Cody Kessler are clearly not getting the job done for one of the worst passing offenses in the nation — ranked 114th nationally (113.0 ypg). Max Browne was the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the nation last cycle and is being redshirted. But should the Trojans lose to Boston College at home to start the year 1-2, Browne could be forced into action much sooner than anticipated.

Paul Richardson will top 200 yards for the third straight game
The Colorado Buffaloes have taken to new coach Mike MacIntrye's system in short order. Richardson, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, has posted two career games in a row after 208 yards on 10 receptions against Colorado State in Week 1 and 209 yards on 11 catches last week against Central Arkansas. The Buffs will face Fresno State, a team that ranks 109th in scoring defense after allowing 76 points to Rutgers and Cal Poly. There could easily be 1,000 total yards and 100 total points scored in this one. Don't look away.

Vanderbilt will have more sacks than South Carolina
Yes, that includes Jadeveon Clowney. The loser of the Vanderbilt-South Carolina game in Columbia this weekend will start the year in an 0-2 SEC hole. And offensive line play will be huge. The Carolina defensive line might be the best in the nation, despite giving up big yards to a powerful Georgia, but it is the Commodores who lead the SEC in sacks (fourth nationally) after two games. The Dores have eight sacks thus far with four coming against rising SEC contender Ole Miss in the opener. On the flip side, Vandy's offensive line has allowed just one QB sack this season, good for eighth nationally. Could the Commodores' D-Line out-play the Gamecocks' D-Line?

Post date: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - 09:03
All taxonomy terms: College Football, USC Trojans
Path: /college-football/usc-or-texas-will-either-team-turn-their-season-around-2013

Through two weeks of the college football season, USC and Texas might be the nation’s biggest disappointments.

The Longhorns were dominated by BYU last Saturday, allowing the Cougars to rush for 550 yards in a 40-21 defeat. As a result of the poor showing in Provo, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was fired, and former Syracuse coach Greg Robinson will call the plays this Saturday against Ole Miss.

USC’s defense is one of the best in the Pac-12, but the offense is a disaster. The Trojans recorded only 54 passing yards against Washington State and had two costly turnovers.

It’s only Week 2, so there’s plenty of time to turn things around. However, Mack Brown and Lane Kiffin are running out of time. And considering both teams face tough opponents in Week 3, it may get worse before it gets better.

USC or Texas: Will Either Team Turn Their Season Around?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Even though both USC and Texas are coming off bad showings in Week 2 losses, there’s still plenty of time for a rebound. It’s only Week 3 after all. And I do find it odd that both programs are experiencing problems with a side of the ball that’s traditionally been a strength. I give Texas a slight edge over USC to have a chance to salvage its season. The offense was the Longhorns’ biggest question mark going into the season, but this unit is averaging 7.4 yards per play, and quarterback David Ash is off to a good start (62.9 completion percentage and 594 yards). Texas’ schedule isn’t going to get any easier with Ole Miss and Kansas State visiting Austin the next two weeks, but the rest of the Big 12 is still wide open. And Oklahoma State – the frontrunner for the conference title – has to visit Texas on Nov. 16. The late-season matchup should give Mack Brown and Greg Robinson plenty of time to fix a few of the issues on defense. I wouldn’t totally sell USC at this point, especially with one of the Pac-12’s best defenses. However, the quarterback play may not get much better.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Both teams have loads of talent in the starting 22 and both teams could make quick turnarounds and make the postseason. That said, I lean towards Texas for a variety of reasons. First, the Longhorns roster is dramatically deeper and Texas appears to have a functioning offense, two things USC lacks in a big way. Second, a road loss to a very good and well-coached BYU is much easier to swallow than an atrocious home loss to a Washington State team that didn't score an offensive touchdown. Third, the Big 12 is a significantly more wide open and therefore easier league to win than a conference with Oregon, Stanford, Arizona State, UCLA and Washington. Finally, Mack Brown is much more of a proven commodity than Lane Kiffin as Brown's resume is substantially more impressive than Kiffin. All signs point to Texas bouncing back and still contending while the Men of Troy look doomed in 2013.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Can I say neither? Both seem fairly doomed. For Texas, this is two years of dreadful run defense. Maybe a change will help, but one coach isn’t the cause of a 550-yard outburst. And now the offense is dealing with injuries. USC’s quarterback situation is a mess. What has to happen for freshman Max Browne to get a chance? After deciding to redshirt Browne, does USC even want to go down that road? I don’t see either of the situations at USC or Texas getting a quick fix unless something drastic happens. If the bulk of the Big 12 is evenly matched or better than Texas right now, and if USC can’t beat Washington State at home despite allowing no defensive touchdowns, what hope do either have to finish the season with seven or eight wins?

Nathan Rush
Texas. The Big 12 remains wide open. Oklahoma State has a black cloud hanging over the program, which could derail a promising Pokes team. Oklahoma has quarterback issues and "Big Game Bob" Stoops' nickname has turned from deferential to sarcastic. A Red River Rivalry win — which would be the first for UT since 2009 — would turn the Horns' season around, at least as far as Burnt Orange Nation and Texas Exes are concerned. But even that might not be enough. After the OU game, Texas' shaky defense has to face TCU, West Virginia, O-State, Texas Tech and Baylor. The lone cupcake down the stretch is Kansas, a team the Horns struggled to beat 21–17 last season.

Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler)
I’d say neither, but if forced to pick one, give me the Texas Longhorns. While I don’t agree with Mack Brown’s decision to let go of Manny Diaz, I do trust the longtime Texas coach over the underwhelming Kiffin. At least the Texas offense will put some points on the board and keep things competitive. Texas does have five games left against ranked teams to the Trojans three, but the quality of coaching and instability at quarterback leads me to believe that USC is more likely to continue its losing ways. 

Related College Football Content

Amazing College Football Stats from Week 2
College Football's Post-Week 2 Bowl Projections
College Football's Post-Week 2 Coaches on the Hot Seat
Big 12 Post-Week 2 Power Rankings
Pac-12 Post-Week 2 Power Rankings
National Awards from Week 2
SEC Week 2 Recap and Awards

Post date: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - 09:01
Path: /nfl/nfl-power-rankings-week-1

1. 49ers (1-0) By land or by air, Colin Kaepernick owns Green Bay.

2. Broncos (1-0) Peyton Manning throws seven TDs in opening win.

3. Saints (1-0) Sean Payton marches back victorious in N’Awlins.

4. Seahawks (1-0) Russell Wilson rallies Hawks with big fourth quarter.

5. Packers (0-1) Clay Matthews lays late hit in loss at San Fran.

6. Texans (1-0) Shock Chargers with 21-point comeback victory.

7. Patriots (1-0) Tom Brady improves to 20–2 all-time vs. Buffalo.

8. Falcons (0-1) Roddy White limited by ankle injury in loss at Saints.

9. Eagles (1-0) Chip Kelly debuts high-flying Philly offense in win.

10. Bears (1-0) Marc Trestman’s play-calling impresses Jay Cutler.

11. Cowboys (1-0) Finally beat Big Blue at $1.2 billion stadium in Big D.

12. Giants (0-1) Six turnovers, no run game results in loss at Dallas.

13. Redskins (0-1) RG3 rusty in first game back from knee surgery.

14. Bengals (0-1) A.J. Green says Charles Tillman “one of the best.”

15. Ravens (0-1) Jacoby Jones out 4-6 weeks with sprained MCL.

16. Colts (1-0) Andrew Luck leads eighth comeback win of career.

17. Titans (1-0) Year starts with fluke safety on opening kick return.

18. Steelers (0-1) Maurkice Pouncey out for season with knee injury.

19. Chiefs (1-0) Andy Reid era starts with a bang in Jacksonville.

20. Chargers (0-1) Philip Rivers “sick” that Bolts unable to beat Texans.

21. Lions (1-0) Eminem, Brent Musburger both happy with big win.

22. Vikings (0-1) Adrian Peterson scores 78-yard TD on first carry.

23. Rams (1-0) Defeat Cards on 48-yard FG with 40 seconds left.

24. Cardinals (0-1) Palmer-to-Fitzgerald connect for two TDs in loss.

25. Dolphins (1-0) Mike Wallace unhappy with role despite victory.

26. Panthers (0-1) Cam Newton quiet (125 pass yards, TD) in defeat.

27. Raiders (0-1) Terrelle Pryor breaks team QB rushing record in loss.

28. Bills (0-1) Fall to 1–19 in last 20 meetings with New England.

29. Jets (1-0) Mark Sanchez to seek second opinion on shoulder.

30. Buccaneers (0-1) Late hit out of bounds sets up game-winner for Jets.

31. Browns (0-1) Have lost 14-of-15 season openers since returning.

32. Jaguars (0-1) Blaine Gabbert ruled out for Week 2 at Oakland.

Post date: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - 19:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, USC Trojans
Path: /college-football/lane-kiffin-picks-cody-kessler-qb-will-uscs-offense-improve-2013

USC’s offense has struggled mightily through the first two games of the season. The Trojans are averaging just 278.5 yards per game and only four yards per play.

Quarterback play is at the root of USC’s problems, as neither Cody Kessler or Max Wittek have done enough to secure the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. Kessler has thrown for 136 yards and one touchdown in two games, while Wittek is just 8 of 18 for 90 yards and one interception.

And after Saturday’s offensive debacle against Washington State, it was clear coach Lane Kiffin had to do something about the quarterback play. Instead of going into the week with uncertainty under center, Kiffin – announcing via YouTube – has picked Kessler as his starting quarterback for this Saturday’s game against Boston College.

Kessler reportedly outplayed Wittek throughout fall camp, so it was a bit of a surprise to not see the sophomore named as the No. 1 quarterback before the opener.

Will it make a difference? Maybe. But Kiffin also needs to open up the offense and allow Kessler to take some shots down the field. USC’s quarterbacks are averaging just 4.5 yards per attempt this season. For a team that has weapons like Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor at receiver, the Trojans have to be more aggressive.

There’s still plenty of time for Kiffin to turn things around at USC, but the Trojans are running out of time. Boston College is improving, and Utah State will give USC all it can handle in two weeks. After playing Utah State, the Trojans play at Arizona State for their second Pac-12 game.

If Kessler can stabilize the quarterback situation, USC’s defense is good enough to win eight or nine games this year.


Post date: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /nfl/fantasy-football-2013-waiver-wire-week-2

Week 1 of the 2013 NFL season is complete and the coaching staffs and the players aren’t the only ones taking a closer look at the initial results. Fantasy football general managers everywhere are undoubtedly scratching their heads over some of the things that transpired while also looking to their league’s waiver wire for answers.

Athlon Sports is here to help. The players listed in Athlon’s weekly fantasy football waiver wire may be one-week adds, some may be worth holding onto all season long and some are of the “sleeper” variety that you may want to keep an eye on. So without further ado, here are some players worth grabbing.


Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
Bradford took a step forward last season when he threw for 3,702 yards and posted a respectable 21:13 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The Rams brought in even more weapons for their fourth-year quarterback during the offseason, and if the early results are any indication, it could be a big year for the No.1 overall pick of the 2010 draft. Bradford had 299 yards passing with two touchdowns and an interception in Sunday’s 27-24 victory over Arizona. He connected with seven different receivers, as new weapons tight end Jared Cook and wide receiver Tavon Austin led the way with a combined 13 catches for 182 yards and two scores. It’s just one game, but certainly a promising start for someone still available in more than half of Yahoo! leagues.

Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Cutler’s numbers weren’t extraordinary (242 yds., 2 TDs, INT), but perhaps the most important thing is he wasn’t sacked once by a Bengals defense that finished second in the NFL in that category last season. If the offensive line continues to afford Cutler that kind of protection, expect his numbers to go up, especially with tight end Martellus Bennett (3 rec., 49 yds., TD) and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (5-42-0) around to help Brandon Marshall (8-104-1) and Matt Forte (91 total yards, TD) carry the load.

Terrelle Pryor, Oakland Raiders
Make no mistake, the Raiders probably won’t win many games this season, but if Pryor can continue to put up 300 yards of total offense on a weekly basis, he will maintain fantasy relevancy. Yes, Pryor threw two picks against Indianapolis, but it’s his dual-threat ability that’s appealing, especially the 112 yards rushing he had against the Colts on just 13 carries. If you are going to take a chance on Pryor this week would be as good as any with Jacksonville on tap.

Running Backs

Joique Bell, Detroit Lions
Reggie Bush (191 total yards, TD) stole the show, but it was Bell who scored two touchdowns on the ground and also had five catches for 67 yards. Bush is the clear-cut No. 1 option, but he also got a little banged up on Sunday and in the Lions’ pass-happy offense (43 pass attempts by Matthew Stafford vs. the Vikings), there’s room for a guy like Bell. Don’t forget last season that Bell caught 52 passes and averaged five yards per carry. If anything, Bell is worthy of handcuff consideration for Bush owners.

Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills
C.J. Spiller is the lead back, but it was the veteran Jackson who was more effective against New England on Sunday. Jackson out-rushed Spiller (67 yards to 41) and also did more damage in the passing game (4 rec., 41 yds. compared to Spiller’s 5, 14). Spiller is certainly more explosive and carries more upside, but if the Bills run the ball 34 times per game like they did against the Patriots and also give their running backs double-digit targets, then the opportunities should be there for both Spiller and Jackson to produce for fantasy owners.

Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos
Montee Ball is the first-round pick, but until he gains the coaching staff’s (and Peyton Manning’s) trust when it comes to blocking assignments, his workload figures to be limited. Case in point on Thursday night when it was Moreno and not Ball or Ronnie Hillman who led the Broncos with nine carries. Moreno gained a total of 28 yards on those carries, but he also had three receptions for 37 yards. Thursday night showed just how explosive this Broncos offense can be, so if Moreno’s the back who continues to get the most carries, he figures to be the one with the most fantasy potential too.

Da’Rel Scott, New York Giants
Poor David Wilson. Another season opener, more fumbles and another seat on the bench. It took Wilson a while to escape Tom Coughlin’s doghouse last season, and although Andre Brown’s injury helps his case, it looks like the second-year running back could already be on a short leash this season too. Enter Scott, who was tabbed Wilson’s backup following Brown’s injury. Scott had just 23 yards rushing against Dallas on Sunday night, but he added five catches for 51 yards, while Wilson had just 19 yards rushing on seven carries. If Wilson stays in Coughlin’s bad graces, someone has to take the handoffs from Eli Manning, and for now that someone appears to be Scott.

Wide Receivers

Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks
Percy Harvin’s injury opened the door for another Seahawk wide receiver to step through, and Baldwin took full advantage of the opportunity on Sunday. Russell Wilson posted his first career 300-yard passing game, as Baldwin led the way with seven catches for 91 yards. Baldwin also led the team with eight targets, while starters Golden Tate and Sidney Rice combined for six receptions on 10 total targets. Wilson probably won’t throw for 300 yards every game, especially with San Francisco next up on the schedule, but Baldwin is certainly worth keeping an eye on.

Marlon Brown, Baltimore Ravens
Jacoby Jones is out four to six weeks with a knee injury, presenting Brown with a golden opportunity. The undrafted rookie from Georgia impressed during the preseason and carried that over to his first NFL game. Following Jones’ freak injury, Brown caught four of the six passes Joe Flacco threw his way for 65 yards and a touchdown. If Brown can continue his good work, he could find himself lined up opposite Torrey Smith as the Ravens’ other starting wide receiver.

Julian Edelman, New England Patriots
Danny Amendola did his part (10 rec., 104 yds., nine of those going for first downs), but it was Edelman and not hotshot rookie Kenbrell Thompkins (4 rec., 42 yds.) or tight end Zach Sudfeld (1 target, 0 rec.) who came up big for Tom Brady against the Bills. Edelman caught two touchdown passes and had seven total catches in helping the Patriots escape Buffalo with a win. Brady obviously trusts Amendola, but for now it appears Edelman is second on the list.

Brian Hartline, Miami Dolphins
Lost in the interest of Mike Wallace joining the Dolphins as a free agent, was the re-signing of Hartline, who enjoyed a breakout 2012 season with 74 receptions for 1,083 yards. The only knock on Hartline was he had just one touchdown catch all of last season, a total he has already tied after just one game. Hartline led the Dolphins in targets (15), catches (nine) and receiving yards (114) in Miami’s win in Cleveland on Sunday, while Wallace had just one grab for 15 yards. If Ryan Tannehill is to take that next step as a quarterback in Year 2 he needs both Wallace and Hartline to produce, and there’s no question which wideout is getting the job done right now.

Jerome Simpson, Minnesota Vikings
Greg Jennings was signed as a free agent to try and replace Percy Harvin’s production, but the former Packer managed just three catches for 33 yards in his Vikings’ debut on Sunday. Meanwhile it was Simpson who was Christian Ponder’s favorite and most productive target, catching seven passes for 140 yards. The jury is still out on whether or not  Ponder can be a consistent, productive passer in the NFL. If he does get there, it will be with plenty of help from Simpson.

Tight Ends

Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos
If not for Peyton Manning’s record-tying seven touchdown passes against Baltimore, Thomas probably would have been the story of the first game of the 2013 NFL regular season. The third-year pro out of Portland State had a coming out party against the Ravens, catching five passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns. His athleticism and upside were on full display on primetime TV, and as long as he takes care of his other duties when he’s on the field, the sky is seemingly the limit for the latest former collegiate hoops player who found new life on the gridiron.

Kellen Winslow, New York Jets
Winslow led the Jets with seven catches for 79 yards and a touchdown in Geno Smith’s NFL debut against Tampa Bay. The Jets’ rookie quarterback will need all the help he can get from veterans like Winslow, who may finally be healthy enough and in the right opportunity to contribute to a fantasy team again. It’s definitely a bit of a risk to take your chances on Winslow, given Smith’s rookie status, the Jets’ offensive issues, and other factors, but the potential reward could pay off handsomely in the end.

Defense/Special Teams

Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys had six takeaways against the Giants in their Sunday night win, obviously a very positive opening statement for Monte Kiffin’s defense. For one game at least, the Dallas defenders seemed very comfortable in Kiffin’s 4-3 scheme, especially defensive linemen DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher. Even though the Cowboys gave up 31 points to the Giants, consider that all of last season they produced a total of 16 takeaways. If anything, Kiffin’s attacking, aggressive system should provide the opportunity for plenty more as the season goes along.

Scoring is based on Athlon Sports default scoring which is 6 points for all TDs, .5 points per reception and 1 point PER 25 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving and 40 return yards.

Post date: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-week3-episode-3-2013

In the Week 3 episode of the Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast, co-hosts Braden Gall recap the key developments of Week 2 and take a quick look ahead at Week 3.

In this week’s podcast:

• Georgia changes direction on its season after a major win over South Carolina. Now, we ask if there’s anything we should be worried about when it comes to the Gamecocks and Jadeveon Clowney.

• Fox and Gall debate if Florida is good or not. Gall says the Gators are still a top team despite a turnover-filled loss to to Miami. Fox says the turnovers make Florida a bad team despite its dominant defense.

• Michigan’s win over Notre Dame proved that Devin Gardner is indeed a star, and so is his “tiny” receiver. Should Notre Dame be more worried about its defense than Tommy Rees?

• In moving onto Week 3, the podcast takes a look at four intriguing Big Ten-Pac-12 matchups, plus picks for the showdown in College Station.

• In a not-so-cleverly named segment, our hosts each pick overlooked games for Week 3 they’re going to watch, plus rapid fire picks on backup QBs and surprise teams.
The podcast can be found on, iTunes and our podcast RSS feed.

Please send any comments, questions and podcast topics to @AthlonSports, @BradenGall and @DavidFox615 on Twitter.


Thanks to Moon Taxi for sharing their tunes for bumper music. Their new album Mountains Beaches Cities is now available.

Post date: Monday, September 9, 2013 - 15:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, UCLA Bruins
Path: /college-football/jim-mora-storms-out-nick-pasquale-press-conference-2013

On the heels of the tragic news that UCLA freshman WR Nick Pasquale died after being stuck by a car on Monday, the media gathered to hear Mora speak about his former player. However, a local media member (a TV technician) interrupted the session by talking on the phone in the back corner. This drew a death stare and a walkout from an irate Mora.


Post date: Monday, September 9, 2013 - 15:00
Path: /college-football/arizona-state-honor-yarnell-firefighters-helmet-decal-2013

This week, against Wisconsin, the Arizona State will pay tribute to nation's biggest loss of firefighters in a wildfire in 80 years. This summer, a wildfire broke out in the tiny mountain town of Yarnell, Arizona. More than 200 firefighters were called in to battle the blaze; however, 19 firefighters were fatally trapped by the wind-driven wildfire. The 19 who died were members of an elite wildfire specialist unit called the Hotshots.


Post date: Monday, September 9, 2013 - 15:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/texas-qb-david-ash-questionable-ole-miss

After a bad weekend in Provo against BYU, things may not get much better for Texas this Saturday.

Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was canned, and the injury report for the Longhorns is growing.

Quarterback David Ash is dealing with a head and a shoulder injury and is questionable to play against Ole Miss. However, running back/wide receiver (and playmaker) Daje Johnson is out with an ankle injury.

If Ash cannot go, the Longhorns will turn to Case McCoy as the No. 1 quarterback.

With Johnson sidelined, expect to see Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron utilized more against the Rebels.

Considering all that has transpired over the last few days for the Longhorns, Saturday’s game against Ole Miss is a good opportunity to turn things around. However, a blowout loss would be damaging to Texas before Big 12 play starts.


Post date: Monday, September 9, 2013 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: Cheerleaders, College Football
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-cheerleaders-week-2

A look at our favorite cheerleaders from week 2 of the college football season. They can cheer for us anytime!

College Football's Post-Week 2 Bowl Projections for 2013 2013-09-10 08:00:08

College football's bowl season is still a few months away, but it's never too early to take a look at what the matchups might look like. With only two weeks of results in the books, it's hard to make long-term projections about teams, especially with several teams still playing overmatched non-conference games.
With very little data to work with, the post-Week 2 bowl projections are a mixture between preseason projections, how things would look if the season ended today, and a small dose of the results so far this year. Expect more changes over the next few weeks, especially as we see how teams perform in conference games.

A few teams barely missed the projections this week, including Boston College, Utah, Virginia, Washington State and Illinois from BCS conferences. And Ohio, San Diego State, Arkansas State and Toledo from the non-BCS ranks.

As the season progresses, it will be easier to project which teams will get to the six-win mark or finish below.

College Football's Post-Week 2 Bowl Projections

New MexicoDec. 21Pac-12 vs. MWCOregon State vs. Wyoming
Famous Idaho PotatoDec. 21MAC vs. MWCBall State vs. Nevada
Las VegasDec. 21Pac-12 vs. MWCFresno State vs. Arizona
New OrleansDec. 21Sun Belt vs. CUSARice vs. UL Lafayette
Beef 'O' Brady'sDec. 23American vs. CUSALa. Tech vs. West Virginia*
HawaiiDec. 24MWC vs. CUSAEast Carolina vs. San Jose State
Little Caesars PizzaDec. 26MAC vs. Big TenNorthern Illinois vs. ULM
PoinsettiaDec. 26Army vs. MWCBoise State vs. Notre Dame*
Military Dec. 27CUSA vs. ACCPittsburgh vs. MTSU
TexasDec. 27Big 12 vs. Big TenTCU vs. Indiana
Kraft Fight HungerDec. 27BYU vs. Pac-12BYU vs. USC
PinstripeDec. 28American vs. Big 12Kansas State vs. Rutgers
BelkDec. 28American vs. ACCNC State vs. Cincinnati
Russell AthleticDec. 28American vs. ACCNorth Carolina vs. UCF
Buffalo Wild WingsDec. 28Big 12 vs. Big TenTexas vs. Northwestern
Armed Forces Dec. 30MWC vs. NavyNavy vs. Utah State
Music CityDec. 30ACC vs. SECGeorgia Tech vs. Auburn
AlamoDec. 30Big 12 vs. Pac-12Oklahoma vs. Arizona State
HolidayDec. 30Pac-12 vs. Big 12Texas Tech vs. Washington
AdvoCare V100Dec. 31ACC vs. SECMaryland vs. Arkansas
SunDec. 31Pac-12 vs. ACCVirginia Tech vs. UCLA
LibertyDec. 31SEC vs. CUSAMarshall vs. Tennessee
Chick-fil-ADec. 31ACC vs. SECMiami vs. Texas A&M
GatorJan. 1SEC vs. Big TenMichigan State vs. Ole Miss
Heart of DallasJan. 1Big Ten vs. CUSAMinnesota vs. Tulsa
OutbackJan. 1SEC vs. Big TenNebraska vs. Florida
Capital OneJan. 1SEC vs. Big TenWisconsin vs. South Carolina
RoseJan. 1BCS vs. BCSOregon vs. Michigan
FiestaJan. 1BCS vs. BCSOklahoma State vs. Stanford
SugarJan. 2BCS vs. BCSGeorgia vs. Florida State
CottonJan. 3SEC vs. Big 12Baylor vs. LSU
OrangeJan. 3BCS vs. BCSClemson vs. Louisville
BBVA CompassJan. 4SEC vs. AmericanHouston vs. Vanderbilt
GoDaddyJan. 5MAC vs. Sun BeltBowling Green vs. Western Kentucky
National TitleJan. 6BCS vs. BCSAlabama vs. Ohio State

Related College Football Content

College Football Week 2 Recap
College Football's Coach on the Hot Seat Rankings
Week 2 National Awards
ACC Post-Week 2 Power Rankings
Big 12 Post-Week 2 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 2 Power Rankings
Pac-12 Post-Week 2 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 2 Power Rankings
Amazing Stats from Week 2

Post date: Monday, September 9, 2013 - 13:00
Path: /nfl/philadelphia-eagles-vs-washington-redskins-preview-and-prediction-0

The first Monday night game of the 2013 NFL season will take place in our nation’s capital when the Philadelphia Eagles square off against the Washington Redskins at 6:55 p.m. ET on ESPN. This Week 1 matchup is all about firsts for both teams. Not only is this the first game of the season for both teams, it marks Chip Kelly’s debut as the Eagles’ head coach and Robert Griffin III’s first game back since injuring his knee in the Redskins’ playoff loss to Seattle in January.

These long-time NFC East division rivals have met 158 times with Washington holding an 81-71-6 lead in the all-time series. The Redskins swept both meetings last season, winning by a combined score of 58-26. This will be the first time the Redskins and Eagles have opened the season against each other since 1996. Philadelphia won that game, which was played at RFK Stadium, 17-14 behind 269 yards passing and two touchdowns from Eagles quarterback Rodney Peete.

Four Things to Watch

RG3’s Knee
There has been no more talked about, analyzed and scrutinized body part in the NFL this offseason than the surgically repaired right knee that belongs to Robert Griffin III. He sustained the second significant injury to his right knee late in the Redskins’ 24-14 Wild Card game loss to the Seahawks back on Jan. 6. RG3 has already proven what he can do returning from major knee surgery, as he won the Heisman Trophy two years after tearing his ACL as a sophomore at Baylor, but the degree of difficulty and the stakes have been raised. Everyone, from the player to his head coach to his doctor, are saying RG3 is ready, but no one will know for sure until we see how No. 10 handles his first snap, his first drop back, and, perhaps most importantly, his first scramble out of the pocket.

Can the Eagles’ offense fly like Kelly’s Ducks?
Chip Kelly made his reputation first as Oregon’s offensive coordinator and then later the Ducks’ head coach. In four seasons as the head Duck, Kelly’s Oregon teams piled up the yards and points, finishing in the top five in the nation in both total and scoring offense in each of the past three years. Can Kelly’s immensely successful and equally entertaining offensive system, not only work, but also thrive in the NFL? Only time will tell, but everyone can’t wait to find out.

Washington’s Secretary of Defense
The Redskins’ defense ranked 28th in the NFL last season in yards allowed and fared even worse (30th) against the pass. This unit was impacted greatly by several key injuries, and perhaps no loss was more important than when linebacker Brian Orakpo went down with a torn left pectoral muscle. The injury cost the two-time Pro Bowler 14 games last season, and the results without Orakpo on the field speak for themselves. Having Orakpo back out there is not a cure-all for the Redskins’ defensive issues, but his presence in the starting lineup shouldn’t be underestimated either.

Putting the “D” in Philadelphia?
Compared to Washington’s defense, Philadelphia’s wasn’t near as bad statistically speaking, with the exception of one category. The Eagles were tied for 29th in points allowed (27.8 ppg), although the offense’s propensity to turn the ball over should take some of the blame here. Regardless, Chip Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis basically started over from scratch as free agency brought in five new starters. The secondary alone is pretty much brand new and will be the center of attention considering the Eagles’ surrendered an NFL-worst 33 touchdown passes in 2012. The defense’s performance during the preseason can be characterized as uneven, but all that matters now is how well this unit plays from here out.

Philadelphia Key Player: Michael Vick, QB
As important as running backs LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown, wide receiver DeSean Jackson and the Eagles’ two-tight end sets are to Kelly’s offense, the motor that makes everything hum is the quarterback. Kelly’s Oregon teams had productive quarterbacks from Jeremiah Masoli to Darron Thomas to Marcus Mariota. Vick, 33, beat out the younger competition during training camp and wants to prove to everyone that he can still be a productive, reliable starting quarterback in the NFL. Early success running Kelly’s offense would not only go a long ways towards building the Eagles’ confidence, but also improving Vick’s future outlook, especially considering he’s signed for just this season.

Washington Key Player: Fred Davis, TE
The last two seasons have been interesting for Davis. The tight end was on his way to a potential Pro Bowl invite in 2011 before he was suspended the final four games for failing repeated drug tests. Then last season he played in just seven games before a torn Achilles tendon ended things in October. When fully healthy and focused, Davis has shown himself to be a valuable weapon in the passing game. His size (6-4, 247) and athleticism can help open things up for Pierre Garcon and the other Redskin receivers and also give Robert Griffin III even more reason to stay in the pocket, which is a good thing considering this is his first game back from a serious injury.

Final Analysis

With apologies to Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll, Chip Kelly's debut on the NFL sidelines tonight is arguably the most anticipated one by a former college coaching superstar since Steve Spurrier did the same for the Redskins back in 2002. Spurrier won his first game, 31-23 over Arizona at FedEx Field, and Kelly will try to do the same on the very same turf, but as the visiting team. While a lot of attention will be paid to how Kelly's offense fares, just as many eyes will be focused on Robert Griffin III and how fluid he is on his surgically repaired knee.

In the end, however, I think it will be another Redskin offensive player, running back Alfred Morris, who will determine the outcome of this one. Morris finished second in the NFL in rushing last season as a rookie, and I believe he will be too much of a load for Philadelphia's new-look defense. With Morris leading the way on the ground, RG3 will be able to stay in the pocket and look for the open man. The Eagles do make a little noise of their own on offense, but the defense can't get enough stops to help Kelly collect his first NFL win.

Washington 27, Philadelphia 21

Post date: Monday, September 9, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, NCAA football
Path: /college-football/big-12-post-week-2-power-rankings-2013

In a league filled with questions in the preseason, Big 12 teams are getting answers, but few of them are satisfactory.

Texas’ run defense is somehow getting worse, much worse. In a sign of desperation, the Longhorns will shuffle their defensive coaching staff after firing Manny Diaz, who was considered a rising star only two years ago.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma and West Virginia have learned they can’t rely on their passing games. TCU has an answer to its quarterback quandary, but that’s only because Casey Pachall’s season was cut short for the second time in two seasons.

For TCU and Texas, there’s little time for recovery after eventful Saturdays as the Horned Frogs catch Texas Tech’s high-powered offense and the Longhorns play host to Ole Miss, a team with SEC talent, if not experience and depth.

Oklahoma State and West Virginia also will deal with off-field concerns as a Sports Illustrated report will allege corruption and violations of NCAA rules (though they are outside of the NCAA’s statute of limitations) in Stillwater. A West Virginia assistant who used to work at Oklahoma State, Joe DeForest, will be named in the report.

Big 12 Post-Week 2 Power Rankings

1.1Oklahoma State (2-0, 0-0): The Cowboys’ defense may be a concern at first blush. Oklahoma State allowed 35 points and 504 yards to UTSA, but much of that was on four long touchdown drives in the third and fourth quarters. Perhaps a bigger concern should be the run game. Oklahoma State averaged only 2.7 yards per carry on 32 attempts. The Cowboys averaged 7.2 yards per carry against Mississippi State, so maybe this was an aberration. This week: Lamar
2.5Baylor (2-0, 0-0): The Bears are running their offense with brutal efficiency despite a starting quarterback in Bryce Petty who was untested to start the season. Baylor has only one TD drive that exceeded two minutes (2:07 against Wofford). The Bears will have a chance to build upon their gaudy numbers against ULM, West Virginia, Kansas State, Iowa State and Kansas before the Big 12 gauntlet in November. This week: Off
3.2Oklahoma (2-0, 1-0): Oklahoma briefly benched starting quarterback Trevor Knight, who was 10 of 20 for 119 yards with a TD and two third-quarter interceptions. Blake Bell directed to second half possessions, but only accounted for three plays himself (one incomplete pass, two carries for 21 yards), but that may be enough to signal a reevaluation of the quarterback position. This week: Tulsa
4.4TCU (1-1, 0-0): TCU will carry on again with Trevone Boykin as the starting quarterback as Casey Pachall will miss eight weeks with a broken arm. Boykin went 3-6 as a starter last season, but three of those loses were decided by a touchdown or less. Boykin brings athleticism to the position, but now that speed is confined to quarterback. He had been logging time at receiver as well this season. The TCU defense has been vulnerable to the big play in two games this season, an interesting storyline entering the first conference game. This week: at Texas Tech (Thursday)
5.6Texas Tech (2-0, 0-0):  How much do we really know about Texas Tech and quarterback sensation Baker Mayfield? Texas Tech has defeated a mediocre FCS opponent and an SMU team that gutted out a 31-30 win over Montana State the following week. Kliff Kingsbury’s high-powered offense faces its toughest challenge of the year against TCU. This week: TCU (Thursday)
6.3Texas (1-1, 0-0): Mack Brown fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz after the debacle in Provo, but Texas’ problems run deeper than one playcaller on defense. The addition of Greg Robinson to the staff is a curious one, but he led a top-25 defense at Texas in 2004 before his failed tenure at Syracuse. The offense could be an issue as well as quarterback David Ash and running back Daje Johnson are evaluated for injuries. This week: Ole Miss
7.7Kansas State (1-1, 0-0): This was the Kansas State we’re used to seeing, if only in the win column. The Wildcats defeated Louisiana-Lafayette 48-27, but they threw an uncharacteristic 34 passes. Kansas State was on the wrong end of the turnover margin (minus-1) and allowed 370 yards. After UMass this week, Kansas State goes on the road for back-to-back games against Texas and Oklahoma State. This week: Massachusetts
8.8West Virginia (1-1, 0-1): West Virginia stuck with quarterback Paul Millard despite an ugly game for the Mountaineers’ offense (three fumbles, one interception). West Virginia averaged seven yards per carry, but that was buoyed by a 75-yard touchdown run by Dreamius Smith in the first quarter. The Mountaineers have a game against Georgia State to work out some issues before a stretch against Maryland, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas Tech, Kansas State and TCU. This week: Georgia State
9.10Kansas (1-0, 0-0): Let’s move Kansas out of the cellar for at least a week after the Jayhawks ended their 11-game losing streak. Despite its high-profile quarterback transfers, KU will be anchored by its run game. James Sims and Darrian Miller led a 280-yard (5.6 yards per carry) effort against South Dakota. Seeking its first FBS win in 21 games, Kansas faces a Rice team that beat the Jayhawks 25-24 in Lawrence last year. This week: at Rice
10.9Iowa State (0-1, 0-0): Iowa State had the week off to prepare for Iowa with hopes of avoiding an 0-2 start against in-state programs. This week: Iowa


Big 12 Week 2 Recap and Awards

Offensive player of the week: Brennan Clay, RB, Oklahoma
Oklahoma’s 16-7 win over West Virginia wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t anything near the aerial showdown last year’s meeting was. As the Sooners sorted through their quarterback situation, Bob Stoops put the offense on the back of the run game. Brennan Clay rushed for a career-high 170 yards on 22 carries to lead a 316-yard rushing day for the Sooners.

Defensive player of the week: Ty Zimmerman, S, Kansas State
Kansas State’s mainstay at safety ended any momentum Louisiana-Lafayette hoped to build in the second half. The Ragin’ Cajuns scored a touchdown on a kickoff return and then on a Terrance Broadway run in less than two minutes to cut a 34-3 lead to 17 points. On UL Lafayette’s next possession, Zimmerman took an interception back 32 yards for a touchdown to effectively put the game away in a 48-27 victory.

Freshman of the week: Baker Mayfield, QB, Texas Tech
The Texas Tech walk-on continued his torrid start to the season by completing 21 of 30 passes for 367 yards with three touchdowns in a 61-13 win over Stephen F. Austin. Mayfield’s 780 passing yards and and seven touchdown passes in two games both rank third in the country.

Team of the week: Baylor
In the first two weeks of the season, Baylor has put on a quick-strike spread offense showcase that only Oregon can match. Baylor’s 70 points against Buffalo was the most for the Bears since 1929. With 501 yards in the first half, Baylor extended its streak of 400-yard games to 29 consecutive games going back to the 2010 Texas Bowl against Illinois. First-year quarterback Bryce Petty completed 13 of 16 passes for 338 yards with two touchdowns, averaging an astounding 21.1 yards per pass attempt.

Coordinator of the week: Del Miller, Kansas State
Kansas State’s offense stalled last week against North Dakota State, particularly in the run game. The Wildcats opened things up against UL Lafayette with an uncharacteristic 34 pass attempt to 37 rushing attempts. Kansas State topped 30 pass attempts only four since 2011. All four were either high scoring shootouts or games in which K-State played from behind; all four were losses. Jake Waters completed 22 of 31 passes for 278 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions for Kansas State’s first win with at least 30 pass attempts since Nov. 22, 2008 against Iowa State.

Post date: Monday, September 9, 2013 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Big Ten
Path: /college-football/big-ten-post-week-2-power-rankings

Braxton Miller's sprained left knee will be under the microscope this week as the Buckeyes head west to face Cal. The star Ohio State quarterback left the Week 2 game with San Diego State early after getting sandwiched by a pair of Aztecs defenders. The Heisman Trophy contender never returned to the game after being carted off the field.

While the league posted an 11-1 record this weekend — including a huge rivalry win by Michigan over Notre Dame — the biggest storyline in the Big Ten this week might be the health of Miller's left knee.

Early reports are Miller could return to action this week, but Urban Meyer didn't commit to it. All signs point to Miller returning to the starting lineup next weekend in Berkeley. And due to an excellent backup plan in Kenny Guiton, Ohio State still sits atop the Big Ten power rankings.

More Post-Week 2 Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC

Big Ten Post-Week 2 Power Rankings:

1.(1)Ohio State (2-0, 0-0): Scarlet and Gray Nation can collectively exhale. Braxton Miller's left knee wasn't seriously injured, and he should be ready to go in short order. Besides, Kenny Guiton isn't a bad backup option after throwing for 152 yards, rushing for 83 and scoring three times Saturday. The win over San Diego State was a much more complete effort from OSU than the opener against Buffalo, and Urban Meyer should be pleased with his team heading into a long West Coast road trip this weekend — as long as Miller plays. This Week: at Cal 
(2)Michigan (2-0, 0-0): No one should ever have to get used to watching a quarterback wearing No. 98 throw pick-sixes to 300-pound defenders wearing No. 7. But Michigan fans should get used to watching their star quarterback run around and make plays. Devin Gardner delivered on big-time preseason hype in the league's first marquee showdown win of the year. Better still, the defense played better than the 30 points on the scoreboard indicate. This Week: Akron 
(3)Nebraska (2-0, 0-0): More will be learned about Nebraska's defense next week when UCLA comes to town but, for now, the Blackshirts rebounded in a big way this weekend. Nebraska forced four turnovers, returning two interceptions for touchdowns, and allowed just 284 yards of offense to Southern Miss. Taylor Martinez and Ameer Abdullah had typically outstanding offensive days as the Huskers rolled big, setting up a huge visit from the Bruins in Week 3. This Week: UCLA 
(4)Northwestern (2-0, 0-0): Kain Colter returned to the lineup while star tailback Venric Mark watched from the sidelines. Both were injured last week in the opener, but Colter took center stage this weekend. He led the team in rushing and completed 15 of 18 passes while accounting for two total touchdowns. Partnered with Trevor Siemian (259 yards, 3 TD), Northwestern rolled to an impressive and easy win over Syracuse. This Week: Western Michigan 
(5)Wisconsin (2-0, 0-0): So far, so good for Gary Andersen. The Badgers have yet to allow a point in 2013 after another dominating performance against an inferior opponent. Wisconsin has had three 100-yard backs in each of the first two games and Joel Stave has accounted for six total touchdowns. That trend will have to continue if UW expects to go into Tempe and beat an impressive — and high-scoring — Sun Devils team.  This Week: at Arizona State 
(6)Penn State (2-0, 0-0): Christian Hackenberg started slowly but finished in grand fashion, setting a school freshman passing record with 311 yards. More important, the defense and running game looked improved from a week ago. The Lions rushed for 251 yards and allowed 183 total yards and no offensive points to Eastern Michigan. This Week: UCF 
(7)Michigan State (2-0, 0-0): Mark Dantonio has major issues on offense after netting 265 yards and seven offensive points in the win over USF this weekend. Just about every QB on the roster has seen time and none seem to be the answer (is it time for Damion Terry?). But the defense continues be one of the nation's best. The Spartans defense scored two more touchdowns this weekend, bringing its two-game total to four. The offense has scored twice. This Week: Youngstown State 
(8)Minnesota (2-0, 0-0): Philip Nelson was, along with Rodrick Williams, productive on the ground again this week, but he looked like a first-year starter through the air. The passing game wasn't needed in the relatively easy win over New Mexico State, but it will be a major factor in the very near future. The Gophers have a Michigan-Northwestern-Nebraska three-game stretch coming up in a few weeks. This Week: Western Illinois 
(12)Illinois (2-0, 0-0): After a sluggish start to the season in Week 1, Tim Beckman's bunch played excellent football in a big upset win over Cincinnati. Nathan Scheelhaase, who had four total TD passes last year, had four scoring strikes in the win. The embattled quarterback is finally regaining his form after back-to-back 300-yard games at better than 70-percent passing to start the season. This Week: Washington (in Chicago) 
(9)Indiana (1-1, 0-0): Kevin Wilson gave Nate Sudfeld the reins to the offense against Navy and he produced (355 yards, 4 TD), but the defense couldn't stop the Midshipmen's triple option. The Hoosiers allowed 444 yards rushing and 41 points without forcing a turnover or a punt. Navy completed just two passes. Next Week: Bowling Green 
(10)Iowa (1-1, 0-0): Kirk Ferentz didn't mess around with Missouri State as his gameplan was ground and pound from the outset. The Hawkeyes rushed for 296 yards and four TDs behind a tremendous effort from burly running back Mark Weisman (180 yards, 2 TD). Other than two late scores, Iowa's defense was stifling, as expected against a Missouri Valley team. Next Week: at Iowa State 
(11)Purdue (1-1, 0-0): Well, the Boilermakers won, but that's about all you can say about the 20-14 win over Indiana State. Rob Henry wasn't much better this week after a horrendous performance in Week 1 and has yet to throw a TD pass in two games. The running game was held under three yards per carry and the Sycamores out-gained Purdue. A win is a win is a win, but this team has serious issues on both sides of the ball. Next Week: Notre Dame 

Big Ten Week 2 Awards and Superlatives:

Offensive Player of the Week: Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan
Aside from one boneheaded play early in the fourth quarter, Gardner played Heisman-caliber football befitting a quarterback wearing No. 98 on his chest. He completed 21 of 33 passes for 294 yards and four touchdowns and the one bizarre interception from his end zone when he would have been better off taking a safety. He also led the Wolverines in rushing with 82 yards on 13 carries and another score on the ground. The fans may never get used to seeing their dual-threat, new-age quarterback sporting a jersey number in the 90s, but they should welcome his big-play ability. Gardner danced away from a powerful Fighting Irish front seven all night to take advantage of weaknesses down the field in the secondary — especially, with Jeremy Gallon (who gets honorary mention with his 8-184-3 stat line).

Defensive Player of the Week: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
The Spartans emerging star at end has already scored three defensive touchdowns this season after scoring on a four-yard fumble return and a 56-yard interception return this weekend in the 21-6 win over USF. Calhoun finished the game with three tackles, two for loss, a sack and those two huge plays after scoring last weekend on a 16-yard fumble return touchdown as well. He has quickly become a front-runner for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

Team of the Week: Michigan
It was one of the best three wins nationally by any team so Michigan's win over Notre Dame gave it the best weekend of any team in the league. Despite being entertaining the entire way, the game wasn't as close as the 11-point score indicates. The Wolverines held the Irish to fewer than 100 yards rushing, and Tommy Rees was lucky to be intercepted only twice. A late gift-wrapped defensive touchdown made the game tighter in the fourth quarter, but Michigan appeared to be the better team right from the kickoff. With a manageable schedule coming up — Akron, UConn, Minnesota, Penn State and Indiana — the hype will begin in earnest now in Ann Arbor.

Coordinator of the Week: Bill Cubit, Illinois
Illinois had to be mentioned somehow. Nathan Scheelhaase was runner-up to Gardner for player of the week and the team's performance was second only to Michigan due, in large part, to Bill Cubit's offense. In just two games with the maligned Illini quarterback, Cubit's offense has scored 87 points and matched last year's win total. Scheelhaase has been transformed into a stat-producing monster in the first two weekends as the Illinois signal-caller threw for 312 yards and four touchdowns (as many as he had all of last season) and a second consecutive week of better than 70 percent passing. More important, a team that had no running game to speak of in Week 1 rolled up 210 yards and two touchdowns on 39 carries against a solid Cincinnati defense.

Freshman of the Week: Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
It was against lower-tier competition, but the prized freshman had arguably the best day of any Penn State freshman quarterback in school history. He set a school record for a PSU freshman with 311 yards and another long touchdown strike to Allen Robinson. The Lions offense churned out 574 yards of offense and 25 first downs in the lopsided 38-point win over Eastern Michigan. His 589 yards through two games rank him second nationally among all freshmen behind Cal's Jared Goff and second in the Big Ten only to Scheelhaase (728).

Fifth Down

• Michigan State's defense is outscoring its offense with four defensive touchdowns to two on offense this season.

• Through two games, Ohio State backup quarterback Kenny Guiton is 20-of-29 with 173 yards and three touchdowns in the air to go with 89 yards rushing and another TD on the ground. He's played critical minutes in both Buckeyes wins.

• Wisconsin had three 100-yard rushers in back-to-back games to start the year. Melvin Gordon (144, 140), James White (143, 109) and Corey Clement (101, 149) have each rushed for 100 yards twice already. They are first, third and fourth in the league in rushing, respectively.

• The Badgers became the first Big Ten team since 2009 and the first UW team since 1958 with back-to-back shutouts.

• Iowa's Mark Weisman rushed for 180 yards and two scores to carry Iowa to its first win of the year. He trails only Gordon for the Big Ten rushing lead by 4 yards. 

• Kain Colter returned to the field with 15-of-18 passing for 116 yards and a TD to go with 87 yards rushing and another TD on the ground (11 attempts) against Syracuse. Venric Mark didn't play due to a "lower body injury."

• The Cornhuskers defense allowed 318 fewer yards against Southern Miss (284) this weekend than it did to Wyoming (602) in Week 1.

• Minnesota's Philip Nelson has 205 yards rushing on 27 carries and three TDs on the ground through two games.

Post date: Monday, September 9, 2013 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, SEC
Path: /college-football/sec-post-week-2-power-rankings-2013

Another week, another meaningful slate of games in the SEC.

Georgia wrestled control of the East Division by beating South Carolina 41-30. The Bulldogs got a huge performance from quarterback Aaron Murray and running back Todd Gurley, while the defense delivered with a key fourth-down stop on the goal line.

LSU and Texas A&M picked up solid non-conference victories, but Florida fell to Miami 21-16.

More Post-Week 2 Power Rankings: ACC |Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 

Post-Week 2 SEC Power Rankings

11Alabama (1-0, 0-0): The Crimson Tide had the week off, giving Nick Saban and his staff an extra week — plus all the time spent over the summer — to prepare for the Texas A&M offense. Next Week: at Texas A&M.
23Georgia (1-1, 1-0): It’s early, but Georgia took a big step toward its third straight SEC East title with a 41-30 win over South Carolina in Athens. The Bulldogs were outstanding on offense (7.1 yards per play) and good enough on defense. Aaron Murray, who had to answer questions all week about his inability to win the big game, threw for 309 yards and four touchdowns en route to his first victory against South Carolina. Next Week: Bye
34LSU (2-0, 0-0): The Tigers returned home after their impressive win over TCU in Week 1 and disposed of UAB with little trouble. The offense continues to impress under first-year coordinator Cam Cameron. LSU rolled up 445 total yards, led by another stellar performance from quarterback Zach Mettenberger. The fifth-year senior completed 16-of-19 passes for 282 yards and a school-record five touchdowns. Jeremy Hill, who was suspended for the first week of the season, rushed for 50 yards on six carries. Next Week: Kent State
45Texas A&M (2-0, 0-0): Johnny Manziel made his first start of the season in the Aggies’ final tune-up before Alabama comes to town. Manziel threw for 426 yards and three touchdowns to lead an A&M offense that torched Sam Houston State for 714 total yards. Manziel, who is making an effort to improve as a pocket passer, only had seven rushing attempts — the fewest of his career in a game in which he started. Next Week: Alabama
52South Carolina (1-1, 0-1): The Gameocks’ season took a troubling turn on Saturday. Not only did Carolina lose a key SEC East game to Georgia, but two members of the coaching staff had to be separated on the field and the team’s star player, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, voiced his displeasure on how he is being used by the coaches. One early season loss doesn’t necessarily doom an entire season — just ask Georgia — but South Carolina has several issues to deal with (both on and off the field) in the coming weeks. Next Week: Vanderbilt    
66Florida (1-1, 0-0): The box score will tell you that Florida completed 66.7 percent of its passes and rolled up 413 total yards. But in reality, the Gators’ offense struggled mightily and was the culprit in the 21-16 loss at Miami. Florida’s defense did its job, holding Miami to 212 yards and allowing the Canes to convert only 1-of-11 on third down. But the Florida offense, led by quarterback Jeff Driskel, committed six turnovers and accounted for only nine points — with the lone touchdown set up by a blocked punt — until late in the fourth quarter. Next Week: Bye
77Ole Miss (2-0, 1-1): Ole Miss jumped out to a 31-0 lead at the half and cruised to a 31-17 win over Southeast Missouri State in its 2013 home opener. Not much didn’t go well for the Rebels, who outgained SEMO 532-to-252 and converted 10-of-17 on third down and 3-of-4 on fourth down. Bo Wallace only completed eight passes (in 15 attempts), but those eight completions resulted in 188 yards and two touchdowns. Next Week: at Texas

Vanderbilt (1-1, 0-1): Vanderbilt was a bit sluggish at times on offense but still rolled to an easy 38-3 win over Austin Peay. The Commodores scored all five of their touchdowns in the second quarter and led 38-0 at the half. Austin Peay did not record its first first down until early in the third quarter. Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels did not play in the second half. Sophomore Josh Grady played two series before giving way to redshirt freshman Patton Robinette. Next Week: at South Carolina

913Auburn (2-0, 0-0): Auburn was quietly one of the more impressive teams in the SEC in Week 2. The Tigers easily defeated Arkansas State 38-9, handing the Red Wolves their first loss since last September — when they were led by current Auburn coach Gus Malzahn. Quarterback Nick Marshall was efficient (10-of-17 for 147 yards, two TDs, no INTs), but the story was the Tigers’ rushing attack. Junior college transfer Cameron Artis-Payne led the way with 102 yards on 19 carries, while Tre Mason added 99 yards on 14 rushes and Marshall chipped in with 53 yards on eight attempts. Next Week: Mississippi State

Tennessee (2-0, 0-0): So far so good for Butch Jones, who improved to 2-0 as the boss at Tennessee with an impressive 52-20 win over Western Kentucky. The Vols struggled a bit early but took advantage of six Hilltopper turnovers in the first half to seize control of the game. After a slow start, quarterback Justin Worley ended up with decent numbers — 11-of-19 for 152 yards with one TD and one INT. Still, he will have to play better against top competition to give the Tennessee offense its desired balance. Next Week: at Oregon

119Arkansas (2-0, 0-0): It was a little tougher than expected, but Arkansas improved to 2-0 under Bret Bielema with a 31-21 win over Samford in Little Rock. The Razorbacks trailed 21-17 in the third quarter but then seized control thanks to a running attack led by freshman Alex Collins (172 yards) and sophomore Jonathan Williams (126 yards). The Hogs outgained Samford 458-to-231. Next Week: Southern Miss

Missouri (2-0, 0-0): The Tigers pulled away in the final 15-plus minutes to beat Toledo, 38-23, giving Missouri coach Gary Pinkel a win over his former school. James Franklin, who battled various ailments through a disappointing 2012 season, was the offensive star for Mizzou. The dual-threat quarterback threw for 212 yards and one touchdown and added 77 yards on the ground. Next Week: at Indiana


Mississippi State (1-1, 0-0): With Tyler Russell sidelined by a concussion, the Bulldogs turned to Dak Prescott at quarterback. The junior from Louisiana responded, throwing for 174 yards and two touchdowns and adding a score on the ground in the Bulldogs’ 51-7 win over outmanned Alcorn State. MSU held the Braves to two first downs in the first three quarters. Next Week: at Auburn

1414Kentucky (1-1, 0-0): The Wildcats picked up win No. 1 for Mark Stoops, dominating overmatched Miami (Ohio) with ease. Kentucky jumped out to a 24-7 lead in the first quarter and was never threatened. With Maxwell Smith (the starter) and Jalen Whitlow sharing time at quarterback, UK accumulated 675 yards of offense on 74 plays for a healthy 9.1 yard average. The Kentucky defense, which gave up 487 yards in a Week 1 loss to Western Kentucky, limited Miami to 122 yards and no offensive touchdowns. Next Week: Louisville

SEC Week 2 Awards


Offensive Player of the Week: Aaron Murray, Georgia
Murray delivered on the big stage, completing 17-of-23 passes for 309 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in Georgia’s pivotal 41-30 win over South Carolina. The fifth-year senior quarterback, who entered the weekend with a 1-6 career mark against top-10 opponents, had been 0-3 vs. South Carolina. Last year, he completed 11-of-31 passes for 109 yards in a 35-7 loss in Columbia.

Defensive Player of the Week: Brian Randolph, Tennessee
Randolph, a sophomore safety who missed most of last season with a torn ACL, recorded eight tackles and intercepted two passes in Tennessee’s 52-20 win over Western Kentucky. The Vols forced seven turnovers, including five during one amazing six-play stretch in the first half.

Team of the Week: Georgia
The Bulldogs bounced back from a tough loss at Clemson last week and beat SEC East rival South Carolina 41-30 in Athens. Georgia was brilliant on offense, with Aaron Murray throwing for 309 yards and Todd Gurley leading a rushing attack that picked up 227 yards on 53 carries. For the game, The Dawgs averaged 7.1 yards per play — an impressive number against one of the nation’s elite defense.

Coordinator of the Week: D.J. Durkin, Florida
Georgia’s Mike Bobo deserves a ton of credit for the Bulldogs’ 41-point outburst against South Carolina, but we will give the nod to Durkin in the interest of spreading the wealth. The Gators lost to Miami, 21-6, but Florida’s defense was sensational for the majority of the game. Miami gained a total of 212 yards (with 10 first downs) and converted only 1-of-11 on third down. Standout tailback Duke Johnson was limited to 59 yards on 21 carries, and quarterback Stephen Morris connected on only 12-of-25 passing attempts.

Freshman of the Week, Alex Collins, Arkansas
One of the key pieces in Bret Bielema’s first recruiting class, Collins rushed for 172 yards and one touchdown on 24 carries in Arkansas’ tougher-than-expected 31-21 win over Samford. In two games, the Florida native has rushed for 303 yards on a 6.7-yard average.

Fifth Down
• Nick Marshall has yet to throw an interception in 36 passing attempts in his two games as the starter at Auburn. Last year, Marshall threw 20 interceptions at Garden City (Kan.) Community College.

• Vanderbilt did not give up a first down in the first half of its 38-3 win over Austin Peay. The Commodores led 38-0 at the half after scoring 35 points in the second quarter.

• Kentucky averaged 9.1 yards on 74 snaps in its 41-7 win over Miami (Ohio). The Wildcats outgained the overmatched RedHawks 675-to-122 in Mark Stoops’ first win as a head coach.

• Zach Mettenberger set an LSU record by throwing five touchdown passes in the Tigers’ 56-17 win over UAB. The senior quarterback completed 16-of-19 passes for 282 yards and did not throw an interception.

• Dak Prescott made his first start for Mississippi State and threw for 174 yards with two touchdowns and rushed for 20 yards and one TD to lead the Bulldogs to a stress-free 51-7 win over Alcorn State. Prescott, a junior, stepped in for Tyler Russell, who was knocked out of the Oklahoma State game with a concussion.

Post date: Monday, September 9, 2013 - 08:00
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-picks-every-game-week-1

A quick look at every game on the NFL schedule for Week 1, along with the consensus pick of Athlon Sports’ editors.

Ravens (0-0) at Broncos (0-0)
Peyton Manning threw two INTs and lost one of his two fumbles in a 38–35 overtime playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens last year. Manning’s ready for Mile High redemption in the Thursday night season-opener. Broncos by 5

Patriots (0-0) at Bills (0-0)
The Pats are 4–4 in openers vs. the Bills — with a defeat in 2009, the last time they met Week 1. Patriots by 16

Titans (0-0) at Steelers (0-0)
Tennessee has not made the playoffs since stomping on the Terrible Towels in 2008. Steelers by 4

Falcons (0-0) at Saints (0-0)
Coach Sean Payton returns from his year-long “BountyGate” suspension to play New Orleans’ chief rivals for NFC South supremacy. Saints by 1

Buccaneers (0-0) at Jets (0-0)
Darrelle Revis makes his Bucs debut by bringing “Revis Island” back to New Jersey. Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith will be making his first career start. Get ready to hear booing. Buccaneers by 6

Chiefs (0-0) at Jaguars (0-0)
The two worst teams from last season square off for a guaranteed 1–0 start for one team. Chiefs by 6

Seahawks (0-0) at Panthers (0-0)
This marks the first of four Eastern Time Zone contests for the Pacific Northwest Seahawks. Seahawks by 7

Bengals (0-0) at Bears (0-0)
Former CFL coach Marc Trestman makes his NFL debut. Remember, there are four downs. Bears by 1

Dolphins (0-0) at Browns (0-0)
Cleveland has lost 13 of its 14 season-openers since returning to the NFL in 1999. Dolphins by 1

Vikings (0-0) at Lions (0-0)
Adrian Peterson “only” rushed for a combined 273 yards and one TD vs. Detroit last season. Lions by 1

Raiders (0-0) at Colts (0-0)
Silver-and-Bleak to start Terrelle Pryor at QB, while lucky horseshoes still have Andrew Luck. Colts by 11

Packers (0-0) at 49ers (0-0)
The last time Colin Kaepernick played against Green Bay, he passed for 263 yards, rushed for 181 yards and accounted for four TDs in a 45–31 win over the Packers in the NFC playoffs. 49ers by 4

Cardinals (0-0) at Rams (0-0)
The Cards return to St. Louis, where the team played 1960-87 before flying the coop to Zona. Rams by 6

Giants (0-0) at Cowboys (0-0)
Big Blue has a 7–3 record against Big D over the past five seasons, but did lose last year’s opener. Giants by 1

Eagles (0-0) at Redskins (0-0)
The start of the Chip Kelly era and the return of RG3 collide on Monday Night Football. These NFC East division rivals could combine for a high-scoring shootout in prime time. Redskins by 5

Texans (0-0) at Chargers (0-0)
The Week 1 nightcap pits volatile Philip Rivers against sleep-inducing Matt Schaub. Texans by 8

Predictions for every game on the NFL schedule for Week 1 of the 2013 season.
Post date: Thursday, September 5, 2013 - 16:03
Path: /nfl/nfl-picks-and-predictions-week-1

A quick look at every game on the NFL schedule for Week 1, along with the consensus pick of Athlon Sports’ editors.

Ravens (0-0) at Broncos (0-0)
Peyton Manning threw two INTs and lost one of his two fumbles in a 38–35 overtime playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens last year. Manning’s ready for Mile High redemption in the Thursday night season-opener. Broncos by 5

Patriots (0-0) at Bills (0-0)
The Pats are 4–4 in openers vs. the Bills — with a defeat in 2009, the last time they met Week 1. Patriots by 16

Titans (0-0) at Steelers (0-0)
Tennessee has not made the playoffs since stomping on the Terrible Towels in 2008. Steelers by 4

Falcons (0-0) at Saints (0-0)
Coach Sean Payton returns from his year-long “BountyGate” suspension to play New Orleans’ chief rivals for NFC South supremacy. Saints by 1

Buccaneers (0-0) at Jets (0-0)
Darrelle Revis makes his Bucs debut by bringing “Revis Island” back to New Jersey. Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith will be making his first career start. Get ready to hear booing. Buccaneers by 6

Chiefs (0-0) at Jaguars (0-0)
The two worst teams from last season square off for a guaranteed 1–0 start for one team. Chiefs by 6

Seahawks (0-0) at Panthers (0-0)
This marks the first of four Eastern Time Zone contests for the Pacific Northwest Seahawks. Seahawks by 7

Bengals (0-0) at Bears (0-0)
Former CFL coach Marc Trestman makes his NFL debut. Remember, there are four downs. Bears by 1

Dolphins (0-0) at Browns (0-0)
Cleveland has lost 13 of its 14 season-openers since returning to the NFL in 1999. Dolphins by 1

Vikings (0-0) at Lions (0-0)
Adrian Peterson “only” rushed for a combined 273 yards and one TD vs. Detroit last season. Lions by 1

Raiders (0-0) at Colts (0-0)
Silver-and-Bleak to start Terrelle Pryor at QB, while lucky horseshoes still have Andrew Luck. Colts by 11

Packers (0-0) at 49ers (0-0)
The last time Colin Kaepernick played against Green Bay, he passed for 263 yards, rushed for 181 yards and accounted for four TDs in a 45–31 win over the Packers in the NFC playoffs. 49ers by 4

Cardinals (0-0) at Rams (0-0)
The Cards return to St. Louis, where the team played 1960-87 before flying the coop to Zona. Rams by 6

Giants (0-0) at Cowboys (0-0)
Big Blue has a 7–3 record against Big D over the past five seasons, but did lose last year’s opener. Giants by 1

Eagles (0-0) at Redskins (0-0)
The start of the Chip Kelly era and the return of RG3 collide on Monday Night Football. These NFC East division rivals could combine for a high-scoring shootout in prime time. Redskins by 5

Texans (0-0) at Chargers (0-0)
The Week 1 nightcap pits volatile Philip Rivers against sleep-inducing Matt Schaub. Texans by 8

Predictions for every game on the NFL schedule for Week 1 of the 2013 season.
Post date: Thursday, September 5, 2013 - 15:52
Path: /nfl/nfl-picks-every-game-week-1

A quick look at every game on the NFL schedule for Week 1, along with the consensus pick of Athlon Sports’ editors.

Ravens (0-0) at Broncos (0-0)
Peyton Manning threw two INTs and lost one of his two fumbles in a 38–35 overtime playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens last year. Manning’s ready for Mile High redemption in the Thursday night season-opener. Broncos by 5

Patriots (0-0) at Bills (0-0)
The Pats are 4–4 in openers vs. the Bills — with a defeat in 2009, the last time they met Week 1. Patriots by 16

Titans (0-0) at Steelers (0-0)
Tennessee has not made the playoffs since stomping on the Terrible Towels in 2008. Steelers by 4

Falcons (0-0) at Saints (0-0)
Coach Sean Payton returns from his year-long “BountyGate” suspension to play New Orleans’ chief rivals for NFC South supremacy. Saints by 1

Buccaneers (0-0) at Jets (0-0)
Darrelle Revis makes his Bucs debut by bringing “Revis Island” back to New Jersey. Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith will be making his first career start. Get ready to hear booing. Buccaneers by 6

Chiefs (0-0) at Jaguars (0-0)
The two worst teams from last season square off for a guaranteed 1–0 start for one team. Chiefs by 6

Seahawks (0-0) at Panthers (0-0)
This marks the first of four Eastern Time Zone contests for the Pacific Northwest Seahawks. Seahawks by 7

Bengals (0-0) at Bears (0-0)
Former CFL coach Marc Trestman makes his NFL debut. Remember, there are four downs. Bears by 1

Dolphins (0-0) at Browns (0-0)
Cleveland has lost 13 of its 14 season-openers since returning to the NFL in 1999. Dolphins by 1

Vikings (0-0) at Lions (0-0)
Adrian Peterson “only” rushed for a combined 273 yards and one TD vs. Detroit last season. Lions by 1

Raiders (0-0) at Colts (0-0)
Silver-and-Bleak to start Terrelle Pryor at QB, while lucky horseshoes still have Andrew Luck. Colts by 11

Packers (0-0) at 49ers (0-0)
The last time Colin Kaepernick played against Green Bay, he passed for 263 yards, rushed for 181 yards and accounted for four TDs in a 45–31 win over the Packers in the NFC playoffs. 49ers by 4

Cardinals (0-0) at Rams (0-0)
The Cards return to St. Louis, where the team played 1960-87 before flying the coop to Zona. Rams by 6

Giants (0-0) at Cowboys (0-0)
Big Blue has a 7–3 record against Big D over the past five seasons, but did lose last year’s opener. Giants by 1

Eagles (0-0) at Redskins (0-0)
The start of the Chip Kelly era and the return of RG3 collide on Monday Night Football. These NFC East division rivals could combine for a high-scoring shootout in prime time. Redskins by 5

Texans (0-0) at Chargers (0-0)
The Week 1 nightcap pits volatile Philip Rivers against sleep-inducing Matt Schaub. Texans by 8


Predictions for every game on the NFL schedule for Week 1 of the 2013 season.
Post date: Thursday, September 5, 2013 - 15:44
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/biggest-nfl-injuries-will-affect-2013-season

The preseason was littered with bodies throughout the NFL. In a string of meaningless games to get players ready for the ones that matter, the scene left behind was mostly carnage. Every week, it seemed, another player was hurt. Often the injury was significant, if not season ending.

It’s a casualty of war in the NFL that everyone accepts, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Teams enter the summer optimistic, dreaming Super Bowl dreams, and then – just when they think they’re ready – a key player is stolen by an act of fate. It’s not fair, but it happens every preseason. And this summer it seemed to happen a lot.

In fact, several key players for teams with postseason aspirations didn’t even make it to training camp healthy. So what are the biggest injuries that have already happened before the regular season even kicks off? Here’s a look at six that could have catastrophic effects on the injured player’s team:

Seattle Seahawks WR Percy Harvin (hip)
He is the prime example of a key, if not catastrophic, injury that happened before training camp even started. Yes, the Seahawks were outstanding without him last season and still have the same powerful defense and dominant rushing attack. But the addition of Harvin was going to not only help the development of second-year quarterback Russell Wilson, it was going to give them another dimension that would make them impossible to stop.

Now, maybe they get him back midseason for a stretch run that could include a Super Bowl chase. That’s a heck of a midseason acquisition. But with Harvin the Seahawks could’ve threatened to be a powerhouse, 14-win type of team. Now they’re back to where they were – neck and neck with the 49ers in what promises to be a tight NFC West race.

Baltimore Ravens TE Dennis Pitta (hip)
The loss of Pitta may not be devastating on the surface, and it’s likely the Ravens will find a way to replace his 61 catches, 669 yards and seven touchdowns. This one is more about piling on to a Super Bowl championship team that has seemed to be hemorrhaging players since the end of their parade. Ray Lewis retired. Ed Reed wasn’t re-signed. Neither were Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger, and Anquan Boldin was traded away.

Then came the injury to Pitta who seemed to be a nice security blanket for Joe Flacco. Now it’s up to Ed Dickson, assuming he can stay healthy.

Philadelphia Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin (torn ACL)
Welcome to the NFL, Chip Kelly, and good luck installing your revolutionary, hyper-speed, spread-option offense without your team’s No. 1 receiver. Considering all that goes into Kelly’s high-octane offense, about the only bigger blow would’ve been the loss of his quarterback. Yes, they still have DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper could be a sleeper as Maclin’s replacement. But Cooper doesn’t have the speed or resume of Maclin, so there’s no guarantee he can pick up the slack.

Green Bay Packers T Bryan Bulaga (torn ACL)
The Green Bay Packers are all about Aaron Rodgers, so protecting him has to be one of the most important jobs in the organization. Bulaga, a former first-round pick, was being installed as the left tackle before he tore his ACL. So now the blind side of one of the leading candidates for NFL MVP is being protected by David Bakhtiari, a rookie fourth-round pick from Colorado. The Packers like him, but that sure isn’t the way they drew it up for what was already a shaky offensive line.

New Orleans Saints LB Will Smith (knee)
Rob Ryan had his hands full already switching the Saints – the NFL’s worst defensive team last season – from the 4-3 to a 3-4, but his task may be impossible without one of his best defensive players. Smith, who was switching from a 4-3 end to a 3-4 linebacker, was probably the Saints’ best bet to provide a consistent pass rush. He certainly would’ve provided more pressure on the pocket than Martez Wilson will provide. It’s particularly devastating for a Saints team that has already lost linebacker Victor Butler to a torn ACL in the spring and may be without Jonathan Vilma for quite a while, too. It leaves the Saints looking like an all-offense, no-defense team once again.

San Diego Chargers LB Melvin Ingram (torn ACL)
The Chargers had high hopes for their 2012 first-round pick, who was going to be a key part of their attack along with newly signed Dwight Freeney. There hasn’t been a lot of optimism in San Diego, where they’ve suffered free-agent losses and a string of injuries, but they seemed to really believe Ingram was ready for a step forward after a lackluster rookie season. Now with him gone – at least for half the season – the Chargers are extremely thin at his position and Freeney, at age 33, might have to play a lot more than the Chargers expected him to play.

— By Ralph Vacchiano, @RVacchianoNYDN

Biggest NFL Injuries That Will Affect the 2013 Season
Post date: Thursday, September 5, 2013 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-2013-week-2-start-or-sit-report

Still second-guessing your plans for Week 2?  Are you still trying to decide whether or not to start the guys you grabbed off the waiver wire this week?  Hopefully, this week’s Start/Bench will give some additional insight to make a few of those decisions a little easier for you.

College Fantasy Football: Start/Bench—Week 2

JW Walsh, QB-Oklahoma State at UTSA
Walsh has been named the starter and his dual-threat ability makes him a solid play this week against an overmatched Roadrunners defense.

Angel Santiago, QB-Army at Ball State
Santiago was a fantasy stud last week against Morgan State and may have similar success this weekend against a Ball State defense that gave up 28 points and over 350 yards to Illinois State in Week 1.

Jared Goff, QB-California vs Portland State
Goff put the ball in the air 63 times in a 44-30 loss to Northwestern in Week 1.  We are pretty certain that he will not get close to that many attempts against Portland state, but he should be more efficient and productive enough to warrant a start this week.

Baker Mayfield, QB-Texas Tech vs Stephen F Austin
The walk-on freshman proved himself in Week 1 by accounting for five touchdowns against SMU.  This week, Mayfield will solidify himself as the unquestionable starter with another solid showing against Stephen F. Austin.

Zach Zwinak, RB-Penn State vs Eastern Michigan
Zwinak carried the ball 24 times last week against Syracuse for a modest 61 yards.  He will do a lot more with 20-plus carries this week against MAC opponent Eastern Michigan.

David Fluellen, RB-Toledo at Missouri
Some fantasy owners were wise to sit Fluellen in Week 1 when the Rockets opened up against the Gators in The Swamp.  The workhorse back will have a lot more success against a Missouri defense that gave up over 120 yards on the ground to Murray State last week.

Tevin Coleman, RB-Indiana vs Navy
Coleman made everyone forget about fellow Hoosiers tailback Stephen Houston.  The sophomore back should have similar success this week against a Navy defense that ranked 94th nationally against the run in 2012.

Jeff Scott, RB-Ole Miss vs SE Missouri State
The Rebels figure to be playing out in front this week against SE Missouri State and Scott should see enough carries to top the century mark and add a score or two.

Daniel Spencer, WR-Houston at Temple
Spencer caught nine passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns in the Cougars’ opener and should have another productive game going against a Temple defense that gave up over 350 yards in the air last week against Notre Dame.

Charone Peake, WR-Clemson vs South Carolina State
We were waiting to see who would step up as the second receiving option behind Sammy Watkins and Peake responded by catching five passes for 58 yards last week against Georgia.  This week, the junior receiver should have his moments when the Tigers host South Carolina State.

Corey Davis, WR-Western Michigan vs Nicholls State
The freshman receiver was impressive in his debut, catching eight passes for 96 yards and a touchdown against Michigan State.  We are expecting bigger and better things this week when the Broncos host Nicholls State.

Antwan Goodley, WR-Baylor vs Buffalo
We were high on Goodley coming out of spring ball, but suddenly tempered our enthusiasm with the emergence of freshman Robbie Rhodes.  After one week, we are back on the Goodley bandwagon.

Deon Long, WR-Maryland vs Old Dominion
After watching East Carolina torch the Old Dominion defense last week, we are confident that Long and teammate Stefon Diggs will reward fantasy owners handsomely by making a mockery of the Monarchs’ secondary this weekend.

Paul Millard, QB-West Virginia at Oklahoma
Millard looked comfortable and decisive last week against William and Mary, but he certainly did not set the world on fire.  After what the Sooners’ defense did against Kolton Browning last week, we are not going to roll the dice with Millard in Week 2.

David Fales, QB-San Jose State at Stanford
Fales was solid in the opener last week against Sacramento State, not great.  This week he faces the top defensive unit on the west coast and it would be wise to have a plan B if Fales is your fantasy quarterback.

David Ash, QB-Texas at BYU
Ash was exceptional last week against New Mexico State……but, it was New Mexico State.  We want to see how he performs on the road against a much tougher defense before giving him the nod.

Marcus Shaw, RB-South Florida at Michigan State
Shaw was the lone bright spot in the Bulls’ offense last week when they were thrashed 53-21 by McNeese State.  The competition gets much stiffer this week when USF travels to Michigan State.

Darrin Reaves, RB-UAB at LSU
Reaves got off to a solid start last week when the Blazers opened the season against Troy.  This week, fantasy owners should have an alternative option at running back when UAB travels to Baton Rouge to take on the Tigers.

Jason Simpson, RB-San Jose State at Stanford
Simpson was one of the breakout running backs in Week 1, but fantasy owners are better off waiting until the September 21 matchup against Minnesota before inserting him into the lineup.

Adam Muema, RB-San Diego State at Ohio State
Muema did not play in the second half last week against Eastern Illinois due to an ankle injury.  Reportedly, the junior running back is expected to play at Ohio State this weekend, but we’re not taking a chance of starting a player that may not be 100% against the Buckeyes’ defense.

Trayion Durham, RB-Kent State vs Bowling Green
We are believers in the Bowling Green defense.  Expect yards, and especially touchdowns, to be hard to come by for the junior running back this week.

Mike Davis, RB-South Carolina at Georgia
Davis only carried the ball twelve times last week against North Carolina, with a majority of his 115 yards coming on one long touchdown run.  We just aren’t confident that Davis will get enough carries on the road in Athens to make a fantasy splash.

Alonzo Harris, RB-Louisiana at Kansas State
Harris punched one in the end zone last week at Arkansas, but you can bet that the Kansas State defense will be playing with a chip on their shoulder after last week’s loss to North Dakota State.

Venric Mark, RB-Northwestern vs Syracuse
We did not pick up on any signals last week that the all-purpose back was nursing an injury.  Well, we have not heard anything this week to indicate that Mark is 100%.

For Start/Bench advice from Joe DiSalvo, send an email
Follow Joe on twitter (@theCFFsite) -

College Fantasy Football 2013: Week 2 Start or Sit Report
Post date: Thursday, September 5, 2013 - 07:35
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/nfl-2013-regular-and-postseason-predictions

The 2013 NFL regular season kicks off Thursday with Baltimore opening defense of its title in Denver. With the countdown to Super Bowl XLVIII set to begin, what better time than now for Athlon editors to make their predictions on how this season will play out?

The Ravens may be the current holders of the Lombardi Trophy, but the consensus from our panel of five is that the Broncos will represent the AFC in the Big Apple in February. The panel also feels strongly that New England and Houston will win their respective divisions, while Cincinnati is the pick to dethrone Baltimore in the AFC North.

In the NFC, there's solidarity when it comes to the North (Green Bay) champion, with the Giants, Falcons and 49ers the preferred picks in the East, South and West, respectively. The group as a whole believes the Seahawks will make the playoffs, while the majority has the Saints in the postseason too. As far as the Super Bowl goes, all but one panelist has a team from the NFC West playing in New York in February, with three of those votes going to the 49ers. San Francisco also is the popular pick to beat Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII, although one editor cast a vote for a potential storybook ending for Peyton Manning's Hall of Fame career.

The panel's picks for the major award winners offer a little more variety, with the exception of league MVP. Our panel believes that not only will this honor go to a quarterback for the sixth time in seven seasons, but also to one that has previously won the award. The majority feel that the league's only four-time recipient will add to his record total, while the others like the 2011 winner's chances of becoming the ninth player in history to claim multiple MVP awards.

NFL 2013 Regular and Postseason Predictions

AFC East
AFC North
AFC South
AFC West
AFC Wild Card
AFC Wild Card
AFC Championship
Broncos over
Broncos over
Broncos over
Broncos over
Broncos over
NFC East
NFC North
NFC South
NFC West
NFC Wild Card
NFC Wild Card
NFC Championship
49ers over
49ers over
49ers over
Seahawks over
Giants over
Super Bowl
49ers over
49ers over
49ers over
Broncos over
Giants over
MVPAaron Rodgers
QB, Packers
Peyton Manning
QB, Broncos
Peyton Manning
QB, Broncos
Peyton Manning
QB, Broncos
Aaron Rodgers
QB, Packers
Defensive Player
of the Year
J.J. Watt
DE, Texans
Geno Atkins
DT, Bengals
J.J. Watt
DE, Texans
DeMarcus Ware
DE, Cowboys
Patrick Willis
LB, 49ers
Comeback Player
of the Year
Darren McFadden
RB, Raiders
Larry Fitzgerald
WR, Cardinals
Darrelle Revis
CB, Buccaneers
Maurice Jones-Drew
RB, Jaguars
Robert Griffin III
QB, Redskins
Offensive Rookie
of the Year
Giovani Bernard
RB, Bengals
Giovani Bernard
RB, Bengals
Eddie Lacy
RB, Packers
EJ Manuel
QB, Bills
Lane Johnson
OT, Eagles
Defensive Rookie
of the Year
Ziggy Ansah
DE, Lions
Eric Reid
S, 49ers
Alec Ogletree
LB, Rams
Ziggy Ansah
DE, Lions
Manti Te'o
LB, Chargers
Coach of the YearSean Payton
Sean Payton
Andy Reid
Andy Reid
Bill Belichick

Related NFL Content:

Ranking the NFL's Starting Quarterbacks for 2013
Ranking All 32 NFL Head Coaches in 2013
2013 AFC Coordinator Carousel
2013 NFC Coordinator Carousel

NFL 2013 Regular and Postseason Predictions
Post date: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /nfl/denver-broncos-2013-nfl-team-preview

John Elway the front office suit is much like John Elway the quarterback. The man is always in a hurry, always looking for a competitive edge, always trying to pull off the next big play. And so it was that, in the aftermath of the Broncos’ shocking 2012 playoff exit, Elway wasted exactly zero time wallowing in the disappointment. Instead, he did something. Sign the top-rated guard in free agency. Check. Provide a parachute for Wes Welker when his relationship with the Patriots’ front office was in freefall. Check. Use a second-rounder on a Heisman Trophy finalist running back to keep the pressure off Peyton Manning. Check.

Having taken a proactive path to improve what already loomed as the most talented roster in the AFC, Elway, like everyone else out there, can sum up the Broncos’ 2013 season in a hurry: Super Bowl or bust.

Athlon Sports AFC Power Ranking: 1st

Related: 2013 Denver Broncos Schedule Analysis

Manning called the right audible when he decided to join the Broncos after being shown the door in Indianapolis. He would have been the MVP of the league if not for Adrian Peterson’s incredible comeback from knee surgery. And now Manning has even more weapons: The Broncos signed two of the most attractive names in free agency, Welker and former Chargers guard Louis Vasquez, who figures to amp up a running game featuring rookie tailback Montee Ball.

Manning doesn’t just make his teammates better; he creates instant stars. Case in point: Receiver Demaryius Thomas, whose career before 2012 had been defined by injuries and unfulfilled potential. Having caught 94 balls for 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns, Thomas looms as one of the most dangerous deep threats in the league. And when Manning wants to move the chains with short stuff, he can turn to Welker (118 catches with the Pats) or Eric Decker, whose 13 touchdown catches led the team. It’s a foursome unmatched on any other roster in the league.

If Welker makes an already potent receiving corps even more dangerous, Ball could do the same for the running game. He has a lot of wear and tear on his body (663 carries in his final two seasons at Wisconsin), but Elway and Co. believe he’ll provide an upgrade for the running game. If so, the Broncos can virtually name that score.

And no, the upgrades don’t end with the ball-handlers. Vasquez, a 335-pound masher at right guard, was the team’s No. 1 target in free agency. His presence gives the Broncos one of the league’s premier offensive lines, one that could be better than ever if young right tackle Orlando Franklin continues to make strides as a pass-blocker. Vasquez' addition is even more important considering what has already happened to the Broncos at center. Starting center Dan Koppen tore his ACL in late July while backup J.D. Walton will miss at least the first six games after being put on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list as he continues his recovery from multiple offseason ankle surgeries. Manny Ramirez, who started 11 games at right guard last season, is penciled in as the starting center with vetean Steve Vallos behind him on the depth chart.

There was a time not so long ago when the Broncos were undersized on the defensive line. No more. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio wants big bodies who can clog the middle and create push, opening opportunities for players on the perimeter to make plays.

Derek Wolfe saw playing time in the middle last year as a rookie, but at 300 pounds, he doesn’t fit the profile of a Del Rio tackle. Enter free agent Terrance Knighton, a player Del Rio drafted at Jacksonville, and No. 1 draft pick Sylvester Williams. Knighton goes 330, give or take a Big Mac or two, and Williams 313. With so much size in the middle, Wolfe should be a bigger factor in the pass rush at defensive end. Then there’s strong-side linebacker Von Miller, arguably the most feared pass-rusher in the league. Miller is a once-in-a-lifetime player who could make a run at the all-time sack record after racking up 18.5 last season. Unfortunately, Miller will miss the first six games of the season after being suspended by the NFL for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. Denver signed veteran Paris Lenon to help fill the void, but everyone in the linebacking corps will need to step up while Miller is out.

After losing defensive end Elvis Dumervil in free agency, the Broncos considered Dwight Freeney and John Abraham but signed ex-Chargers defensive end Shaun Phillips, he of the 9.5 sacks in 2012.

The Broncos are solid in the secondary after the signing of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who’s hungry to re-establish himself after signing a one-year deal, but they need someone to step up and anchor the middle at linebacker, a gaping hole since the days of Al Wilson. Nate Irving, a third-rounder in 2011, will be given every opportunity to win the job. If he struggles, the defense could be hard-pressed to stage an encore from 2012, when the Broncos were one of the stingiest run defenses in the league.

The bottom line? The Broncos lack depth at some positions but have a handful of premier defensive players and a talented coordinator who figures to be a hot commodity on the head-coaching market after the season.

If you’re the rest of the AFC West, this is just wrong. The Broncos, that is, having not only Manning and a handful of other stars, but also the most electrifying return man in the league. At least Trindon Holliday can stake a claim to the title after his performance in the Broncos’ playoff loss to Baltimore when he became the first player in NFL history to record kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns in the same playoff game. His signing with the Broncos during the 2012 season was the move that gave Denver arguably the best special teams in the league.

Kicker Matt Prater is the most accurate kicker in league history from 50 yards-plus. Not bad for a guy who was cut by Detroit, Miami and Atlanta and failed tryouts with Green Bay and Minnesota before finding a home in Colorado. Then there’s punter Britton Colquitt, whose net averages for the past three seasons read like this: 36.6, 40.2 and 42.1. Yes, Colquitt, like Prater, benefits from Denver’s mile-high air, but he’s the real deal.

Final Analysis: 1st in AFC West
With the clock ticking on the 37-year-old Manning, the Broncos’ window for winning a Super Bowl is closing. But frankly, there’s no reason to believe they can’t win two with No. 18 under center. Remember all that talk about those surgical procedures on Manning’s neck? No, you probably don’t because any concerns about his physical condition died early last season. And by the time he threw his 37th touchdown pass, any notion of Manning not being his old self was ancient history. If anything, he’ll be more comfortable in his skin this season. Not only that, but he also has Welker around to provide a security blanket on third down.

Add in a defense that includes Miller (less the six games he will sit out) and future Hall of Famer Champ Bailey, and the Broncos are loaded for another Super Bowl run. They should dominate the weak AFC West, putting them in position to have home-field advantage in the playoffs. If it comes down that way, don’t count on them botching the opportunity this time around. The Broncos were embarrassed by how last season ended, and had to watch as the Ravens, a team that needed an 11th hour miracle to beat them in the playoffs, went on to win the Super Bowl.

Order your 2013 Denver Broncos Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

2013 Athlon Sports NFL Team Previews:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
MiamiCincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New EnglandClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburghTennesseeSan Diego
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
NY GiantsDetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen BayNew OrleansSan Francisco
WashingtonMinnesotaTampa BaySeattle


Denver Broncos 2013 NFL Team Preview
Post date: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 - 10:00