Articles By Braden Gall

Path: /college-football/big-12-2014-week-8-preview-and-predictions

Few weekends in the Big 12 will be as important and as critical as Week 8.


The top ranked team and lone unbeaten in on the road at one of the most difficult places to win in the league. Two of the greatest coaches in Big 12 history will battle in Norman with two ranked teams. And Oklahoma State has its first of many brutal road trips against a ranked TCU squad without its star quarterback.


More so than any other weekend thus far, the Big 12 takes center stage nationally in the college football world.

Week 8 Previews and Predictions:
ACC Big Ten Pac-12 | SEC

Big 12 Week 8 Game Power Rankings


1. Kansas State (+8) at Oklahoma
Noon, ESPN

Two of the most successful coaches in Big 12 history square off in an always interesting and important showdown near the top of league. The Wildcats defense has proven it can stop the nation’s best (See: Auburn) and Trevor Knight has been human ever since Katy Perry called him out on Gameday. Knight has struggled and the running game might not be able to help as KSU has allowed a total of 407 yards rushing in five games (81.4 ypg). Meanwhile, Jake Waters has been excellent, be it torching Texas Tech (395 yards, 5 TD) or carrying his team to victory (Iowa State), but will be faced with his toughest task against Eric Striker and Zack Sanchez on the road. Bill Snyder is 3-3 in his last three trips to Norman, including the last visit in 2012 and has had two weeks to prepare. On two evenly matched and similarly built teams coached by equally impressive leaders, the edge generally falls towards the home team.


Listen to the Week 8 preview podcast:

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2. Baylor (-8) at West Virginia
Noon, FS1

Strange and bizarre things happen in Morgantown so Baylor better click on all cylinders for all four quarters if it wants to return to Texas unbeaten. Two of the best passing attacks will be on full display when Clint Trickett (367.2 ypg) and Bryce Petty (306.8) do battle in what is one of the highest scoring rivalries in the nation. In two games since joining the Big 12, Baylor and WVU have combined for 248 points as the Mountaineers scored 63 and 42 points in losses. It took a miracle fourth quarter for the Bears to survive at home against TCU last weekend and that won’t work against a West Virginia team that is capable of beating any team in the nation. West Virginia fans need to hope that Dana Holgorsen finally speaking with his kicker hasn’t jinxed a player who has won two games for WVU thus far.


3. Oklahoma State (+8) at TCU
4 p.m., FS1

Cowboys defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer is charged with stopping arguably the nation’s most improved player in Trevone Boykin (who will play despite bizarre internet reports on Tuesday). TCU’s quarterback is second in the league at 353.6 yards of total offense per game and is leading the No. 3 scoring offense in the nation (45.8 ppg). The key for Gary Patterson’s balanced squad is how they handled the crushing fourth-quarter defeat at Baylor last weekend. If there is any letdown factor whatsoever, Daxx Garman, Tyreek Hill and the Pokes offense is good enough to walk into a normally not very hostile Amon Carter Stadium and win. While the Frogs have already announced themselves as Big 12 contenders, a win for Mike Gundy would give OSU a 4-0 start in the Big 12 and a sixth consecutive win.


4. Iowa State (-12.5) at Texas
8 p.m., LHN

This has become a must-win game for Charlie Strong if his team wants to get to a bowl game and Paul Rhoads certainly hasn’t forgotten about how this controversial game ended last year in Ames. The Horns defense has been excellent and should be able to stop the Cyclones modest attack. The real difference maker should come under center for Texas. Tyrone Swoopes played the best game of his young career against Oklahoma and it’s critically important he continue his positive development. A clear outcome against ISU could be a sign the tide has turned in Austin.


5. Kansas (-14.5) at Texas Tech
3:30 p.m.

Much like Texas, Kliff Kingsbury is in desperate need of a Big 12 win after losing eight straight in the league. That losing streak continued last week in painful fashion on a long, last-second field goal but there were signs of hope. After losing the turnover battle in 13 straight games, Tech broke even and Davis Webb had his best game since beating UTEP in Week 2. Penalties and defense are still a major issue and if this team can’t “get healthy” against Kansas, it may not win against the rest of the season.


Big 12 Predictions:


 Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
KSU (+8) at OklaOkla., 28-24Okla., 27-20KSU, 21-17Okla., 30-24
Baylor (-8) at WVUBay., 51-42Bay., 48-40Bay., 63-48Bay., 50-40
Okla St (+8) at TCUTCU, 30-27TCU, 37-21TCU, 31-21TCU, 34-24
ISU (+12.5) at TexasTexas, 24-7Texas, 17-10Texas, 28-17Texas, 31-13
Kansas (+14.5) at TechTech, 38-24Tech, 44-24Tech, 35-21Tech, 44-20
Last Week:5-04-15-05-0


Big 12 2014 Week 8 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, October 16, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/expert-poll-week-7-heisman-trophy-voting

Athlon Sports has formed a Heisman Trophy committee. Each week, we will ask 13 members of the national college football media to rank their top candidates for the Heisman Trophy.


Each voter will rank their top five candidates, with each first-place vote getting five points and each last-place vote getting one point.


The Panel:


Stewart Mandel, FOX Sports

Dave Revsine, Big Ten Network 

Adam Zucker, CBS Sports

Steven Godfrey, SBNation

Zac Ellis, Sports Illustrated

Bryan Fischer,

Tom Dienhart, Big Ten Network

Barrett Sallee, Bleacher Report, B/R Radio

Josh Ward,

Mitch Light, Athlon Sports

David Fox, Athlon Sports

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports, SiriusXM


The Results:


1.Dak Prescott62103---
2.Marcus Mariota523811-
3.Melvin Gordon29-1712
4.Bryce Petty18-1232
5.Everett Golson12--222
6.Shaq Thompson7---23
7.Tevin Coleman6---3-
8.Ameer Abdullah5--11-
9t.Todd Gurley1----1
9t.Bo Wallace1----1
9t.Jameis Winston1----1
9t.Amari Cooper1----1

Dropped out: Nick Marshall, Shane Carden, Jared Goff


Listen to the Week 7 recap podcast:

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The Top 3:

1. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi St

Prescott takes over the top slot after his third consecutive win over a top 10 team. Against Auburn, Prescott sparked an early 21-0 lead and never looked back. He completed 18-of-34 passes for 246 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions while carrying 21 times for 121 yards and two scores on the ground.


Season Stats: 1,478 yards, 61.5%, 14 TDs, 4 INTs, 576 rush yards, 8 TDs


2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Mariota has been brilliant despite a bad offensive line. In a blowout win on the road over UCLA, the Ducks quarterback completed 17-of-27 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns to go with 75 yards rushing and two more scores on the ground. He now has wins over Michigan State and UCLA and has yet to throw an interception.


Season Stats: 1,621 yards, 69.7%, 17 TDs, 0 INTs, 290 rush yards, 5 TDs


3. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

Gordon rushed for 175 yards and four touchdowns in the blowout win over Illinois last weekend. It’s his fourth consecutive game rushing for at least 175 yards and he has scored 12 times over that span. He’s second in the nation in rushing behind only Tevin Coleman.


Season Stats: 132 att., 1,046 yards, 7.9 ypc, 13 TDs, 6 rec., 27 yards, TD 

Expert Poll: Week 7 Heisman Trophy Voting
Post date: Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/outrageous-college-football-predictions-2014-week-8

The original reality TV show is sports. No contrived setting where seven strangers living in a house or one bachelor searching for love can match the excitement the Iron Bowl delivered last fall.


The beauty of college football lies in its complete unpredictability and drama. Here are some outrageous predictions for Week 7.


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

Washington will lose by less than one score


Wait, why is it outrageous that a really good Huskies team will play well against Oregon’s depleted offensive line? Because Washington hasn’t beaten Oregon since 2003 (10 straight) and hasn’t lost by fewer than 17 points. The average score of the this important Pac-12 North Division rivalry over the last 10 years is 43.6 to 18.2. Only once (2011) has this game been within 20 points.


Everett Golson or Jameis Winston will lose a start


Everett Golson and Jameis Winston have had off-the-field issues, to say the least. One has missed an entire season and the other has been buried under salacious headlines ever since winning the Heisman Trophy. However, it’s worth noting that Golson and Winston are a combined 35-1 as starters with the only loss coming against Alabama in the 2012 BCS title game for Golson. Someone WILL, in fact, lose a game as a starter this weekend.


Listen to the Week 7 recap podcast:

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


Oklahoma State will be in first place next week


Should Oklahoma State top TCU on the road, the Pokes would move to 4-0 in the Big 12. If Kansas State can beat Oklahoma in Norman, it would move to 3-0 in the Big 12. And if West Virginia can topple Baylor at home, the Cowboys would be alone atop the Big 12 standings. With five ranked teams in the top 15 of the AP Poll and four of them playing each other, Mike Gundy could be alone in first place after Week 8.


Kevin Hogan will throw for 300 yards


The Stanford Cardinal offense has been atrocious this fall. At least, until they played Washington State last weekend where Hogan threw for 284 yards and three touchdowns. Hogan has one career 300-yard game (Cal, 2013) in 30 career games but will post his second this weekend. Arizona State has allowed 313.7 yards passing per game and seven touchdowns in three Pac-12 games thus far. Stanford has won four straight in the series and should make it five behind what could be a career game from its QB.


A coordinator won’t survive the Alabama-Texas A&M game


I’m not sure which one it will be but Nick Saban could attack and destroy one of his coordinators against Texas A&M this weekend. The Tide and Aggies have played very close and entertaining games since becoming conference foes two years ago and this year figures to be the same. Lane Kiffin’s offense has gotten plenty of heat after poor showings against Ole Miss and Arkansas while Kirby Smart’s defense was attacked by Bo Wallace in the loss to the Rebels. Smart’s unit could face serious heat from Kenny Hill and the Aggies passing attack.

Outrageous College Football Predictions: 2014 Week 8
Post date: Wednesday, October 15, 2014 - 08:45
Path: /college-football/big-12-2014-second-half-predictions-and-midseason-review

Entering the season, many believed the Big 12 to be a two-horse race between Baylor and Oklahoma. But at the midseason point, the Big 12 has as many teams ranked in the AP Top 15 as any other league in the nation. (Yes, that includes the SEC.)


Those five teams ranked in the top 15 all feel like they have a legit shot at winning the Big 12 championship and likely landing one of the coveted four playoff spots. The top five teams in the league have a combined four losses — all of which have come against teams ranked 11th or better in the current AP Poll.


Only TCU has faced one of the other five ranked opponents. Needless to say, there is a plenty of ball left to be played in the Heartland.

Midseason Reviews and Second-Half Predictions
ACC | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC


2014 Big 12 Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

Coach of the Year: Gary Patterson, TCU

The Horned Frogs were 4-8 last year and now sit 4-1 and ranked No. 12 in the nation - AFTER playing Oklahoma and Baylor. The Frogs are still facing huge tests on the road against West Virginia and Texas as well as home games with Kansas State and Oklahoma State. But the changes Patterson made on the offensive coaching staff have paid huge dividends in just five games thus far in 2014.

Newcomer of the Year: Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma and Tyreek Hill, AP, Oklahoma State
Perine is third in the league in carries (109), second in the league in rushing (568) and is leading the Big 12 in rushing touchdowns (9). The 240-pound true freshman from Pflugerville, Texas (aka, Mack Brown’s backyard) has been brilliant in place of Keith Ford for Bob Stoops. Oklahoma State’s do-everything dynamo Tyreek Hill deserves mention as well as the junior college playmaker has made a huge impact for Mike Gundy’s squad. Hill is second in the Big 12 in all-purpose yards.

Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
Dealing with a back injury, Petty performed at his best in the biggest spot of the season thus far. Trailing late in the second half, he rallied the Bears with 24 straight points to stay unbeaten against rival TCU. Petty has thrown for 1,534 yards and scored 18 total touchdowns in just five games (he missed one start) and is poised for another run at the Heisman Trophy.

Defensive Player of the Year: Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor
Shawn Oakman gets the slight nod over Eric Striker or Zack Sanchez in what is a very tight race for top defensive player in this league. Oakman has been a force for the top team in the league, posting 24 tackles, 8.0 for loss, 5.0 sacks and one forced fumble. Striker has 28 tackles, 4.5 sacks while Sanchez has five interceptions and 25 tackles.

Midseason Disappointment: Texas Tech
After a tenuous start to the year in wins over Central Arkansas and UTEP, Kliff Kingsbury’s bunch has lost four straight games in ugly fashion. After it’s first 0-3 conference start since 1990, Texas Tech is staring at eight straight losses in the Big 12. This team has problems with turnovers and penalties and has already changed defensive coordinators.

Midseason Surprise: TCU's offense 
Gary Patterson has found the formula. He brought in Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham to run his offense and quarterback Trevone Boykin has flourished. The TCU quarterback has thrown for 292.6 yards per game and scored 14 total times while only throwing two interceptions and rushing for 305 yards. In a league known for offense on a team known for defense, TCU ranks No. 2 in the Big 12 at 45.8 points per game and No. 3 in total offense at 510.0 yards per game.


Listen to the Week 7 recap podcast:

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

Three Things to Watch in Second Half 

1. Can Baylor repeat and does the Big 12 make the playoff?
The trip to Norman in November obviously looms large, but since the league is so much deeper and more balanced than anticipated, the Bears will face plenty of other hurdles en route to a second straight league crown. A road trip to Morgantown as well as games with Oklahoma State and Kansas State still loom. That said, the path to a title still runs through Norman, and the Bears are in control of their own destiny. A second championship for Art Briles puts him alongside the nation's best and likely lands Baylor in the College Football Playoff.

2. Who are the challengers?
TCU, Oklahoma State and Kansas State have all joined the championship conversation and all three have yet to face each other. Both Oklahoma State and K-State have yet to face Baylor or Oklahoma as well. Someone will jump into the title fray — much like TCU already has — and this could become a three- four- or five-team race for the top. Which one of these programs has staying power and can any of these "second-tiered" teams step into contention remains to be seen. Either way, it figures to be an exciting final two months in the middle of the Big 12.

3. Tyrone Swoopes development
The Longhorns have a great defense. But Tyrone Swoopes showed Longhorns fans glimpses of the future with his play against Oklahoma. This offense is in desperate need of a spark and Swoopes might be capable of supplying it. He finished 27-of-44 for 334 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the close loss to Oklahoma. He added 50 yards rushing on 11 carries and another score on the ground.

Top Five Games in Second Half


1. Baylor at Oklahoma (Nov. 8)

The Bears have never won in Norman. Ever. And if Art Briles wants to win another Big 12 title, his squad will have to go up North to Oklahoma and win.


2. Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (Dec. 6)

The rivalry aspect gives this game extra juice. Mike Gundy has struggled in this bout but at the season’s end, both teams could still be in the title race.


3. Kansas State at Baylor (Dec. 6)

Bill Snyder defense faces Art Briles offense? Yes, please. The Cats could be the top challenger to Oklahoma or Baylor but will have to win some key road games.


4. Kansas State at Oklahoma (Oct. 18)

See: Kansas State at Baylor above.


5. Kansas State at TCU (Nov. 8)

TCU has already played the two toughest games of its season and it split. Kansas State could be the No. 3 biggest game on the schedule if KSU can upset the Bears or Sooners along the way.


Next up: Oklahoma State at Baylor, Oklahoma State at TCU, TCU at Texas, Oklahoma State at Kansas State, Texas at Oklahoma State, Baylor at West Virginia

Projecting the Final 2014 Big 12 Standings


Big 12 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Post date: Monday, October 13, 2014 - 14:10
Path: /college-football/pac-12-2014-second-half-predictions-and-midseason-review

There are 11 Big 5 teams left in college football that have yet to lose a conference game and none of them reside in the Pac-12.


The talk in the preseason was that the Pac-12 could be the league that was deep enough to challenge the SEC for national conference supremacy. It certainly doesn’t appear that like that talk was accurate, as the SEC is head and shoulders above the rest of the nation.


But that doesn’t mean that the Pac-12 isn’t the most entertaining league in the nation.


The quarterback play has been as good as advertised with four of the top eight Big 5 quarterbacks in the nation in terms of total offense playing in the Pac-12. And this list doesn't include Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley, Sean Mannion or Cody Kessler.


The quality of coaching is shining in places like Tucson, Seattle, Berkeley and Salt Lake City as every road trip in this league has become extremely difficult no matter the situation.


And what other league can boast three successful Hail Marys — two of which came on the final play of the game?


Oregon’s win over UCLA has given the Ducks the top spot in the Pac-12 power rankings and likely the best shot at making the College Football Playoff moving forward. But the real story out West is the quality of depth this league can offer. Neither division is even close to being decided, as the North and South each boast four one-loss teams with seven weeks left to play.


It may not be the best league in the nation but it’s definitely the most entertaining.

Midseason Reviews and Second-Half Predictions
ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | SEC


2014 Pac-12 Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions

Coach of the Year: Rich Rodriguez, Arizona

Very few (me) picked Arizona higher than fourth in the Pac-12 South entering the season (I had them at No. 2), so the job Rich Rodriguez has done in Tucson getting his Wildcats to a Top 10 ranking (for one week) has been nothing short of shocking (to some). Despite the loss to USC, Arizona is still right in the mix for the Pac-12 South championship with games looming against UCLA, Arizona State and Utah in the division. The win over Oregon might be the best win for any team in the nation to date.

Newcomer of the Year: Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona
The redshirt freshman has been brilliant in his first six games as a college quarterback. Solomon is third in the nation in total offense at 382.7 yards per game and has thrown 15 touchdown passes. His play in the fourth-quarter comeback against Cal as well as the road win at Oregon would be considered brilliant for a senior much less a freshman. Solomon is a big reason why Zona is in the thick of the Pac-12 South race.

Offensive Player of the Year: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The stats speak for themselves. Mariota has completed 69.7 percent of his passes for 1,621 yards, 17 touchdowns and no interceptions while running for his life behind a banged-up offensive line. He has added 290 yards rushing and five touchdowns on the ground while leading the nation in passer rating at 193.72. He has been brilliant all season and already has wins over ranked opponents Michigan State and UCLA.   

Defensive Player of the Year: Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
A defensive player can’t do much else to get himself mentioned in the Heisman Trophy conversation than what Thompson has accomplished in the first half of the season. He is tied for the team lead with five touchdowns — four of which have come on defense — a total that would also pace UCLA, Stanford or Utah. He is top 10 in the league in tackles with 45 and has 220 return yards on his four defensive touchdowns. He has 2.0 tackles for a loss, one sack and two forced fumbles as well.

Midseason Disappointment: Washington State
UCLA’s offensive line might also qualify for this award, but with losses to Nevada, Rutgers and Cal, Mike Leach’s squad is likely to miss a bowl game. After positive growth last season and a clearly improved Conn0r Halliday, a 2-5 start to the season for the Cougars is a major disappointment. Especially, for a team many believed would be playing in the postseason.

Midseason Surprise: Cal 
Arizona would qualify as well, especially, if the Cats go on to win the South. But right now, the most pleasant surprise in the Pac-12 has to be the Cal Golden Bears. This team is one play away from being 3-1 in the league after losing 14 consecutive Pac-12 contests entering this fall. There are a lot of tough games left on the schedule but to be two wins from a bowl game just halfway through the schedule is a huge tip of the cap to Sonny Dykes.


Listen to the Week 7 recap podcast:

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

Three Things to Watch in Second Half 

1. Oregon's offensive line
With Jake Fisher back against UCLA, the Ducks' offensive line looked as good as it has since the beginning of the season. Oregon has two huge games looming with Stanford and Washington — two of the best defensive fronts in the nation — and this group will have to be excellent to win those games. If this group stabilizes, Oregon could win the Pac-12 and land in the Playoffs while giving Marcus Mariota a great shot at the Heisman. If not, the Ducks could finish with three losses and another Alamo Bowl bid.

2. South Division upstarts
Arizona, Utah and Arizona State were not supposed to be in the race in the South but all three already have key wins over conference contenders. USC and UCLA still might be the best teams and have the inside track on playing at Levi’s Stadium but the rest of this division is extremely competitive. The Utes, Wildcats and Sun Devils all feel like they belong in the conversation and with wins over UCLA, Oregon and USC respectively, it appears they might be right about that.

3. Connor Halliday's assault on the record book
Halliday already owns the NCAA single-game record for attempts (89) and yards (734) but is charging toward the NCAA single-season passing record as well. With a host of other records on the line, the one bright spot in Pullman this season could be the nation’s leading passer and his chase for more history. Let’s face it, no one makes losing more entertaining than Halliday and the Cougs.

Top Five Games in Second Half


1. Stanford at Oregon (Nov. 1)
It's been the biggest game in the Pac-12 for the last half decade and it appears this matchup will fill the bill as far as the rest of the slate goes. A trip to the Pac-12 title game and/or College Football Playoff could be on the line. Stanford has dominated this series of late and its defense should be extremely difficult to move the ball against based on Oregon's offensive line woes.

2. USC at UCLA (Nov. 22)

The Pac-12 South title could be on the line when these two cross-town rivals and historic brands meet on the second to last weekend of the regular season. A win for either team could knock the loser out of the South Division race.


3. Stanford at UCLA (Nov. 28)
The Bruins' front line will be tested once again against one of the nastiest defensive fronts in the nation. UCLA might already be out of the race by the final weekend but if not, this game could decide the South Division champion.

4. Washington at Oregon (Oct. 18)

This game got a lot more interesting when the Huskies and Ducks won impressive road games in Week 7 over Cal and UCLA respectively. With a loss to Stanford, Washington's North Division title hopes hang in the balance against Oregon in Eugene.

5. UCLA at Washington (Nov. 8)

Most of the big games left for UCLA will come at home with the exception of this road trip north to Seattle. Both teams should still by eyeing a spot in the Pac-12 title game when they meet in Husky Stadium. And two of the best uniforms will be on the same field at the same time.

Next up: Arizona State at Arizona, Washington at Arizona, Arizona at UCLA, Notre Dame at USC, Oregon at Utah, Oregon at Oregon State

Projecting the Final 2014 Pac-12 Standings
NorthBraden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
SouthBraden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan


Pac-12 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review
Post date: Monday, October 13, 2014 - 14:09
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-week-7-recap


Hosts Braden Gall and David Fox recap all of Week 7's action in college football. The state of Mississippi once again dominated, Oregon made a huge statement in the Pac-12 and the wide open and wacky Big 12 highlight this week's conversation. The fellas also give you their playoff teams as well.

Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall or @DavidFox615 or email [email protected]. The podcast can be found on, iTunes, Stitcher and our podcast RSS feed.

Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: Week 7 Recap
Post date: Monday, October 13, 2014 - 13:50
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-college-football-week-7-picks

At 3-3 last weekend, I feel like a winner considering how much bloodshed there was across the Top 25.


In fact, Steven Lassan’s 10-6-1 mark last week in Top 25 games makes him like some sort of Nostradamus to be honest. He’s been on a tear lately against the number, as experts begin to gain a clearer picture of each team.


On to what should be another crazy weekend of college football (which is probably why I am going after heavy favorites in the Big 5):


Last Week: 3-3

Year-to-Date: 21-17-1


Louisville (+9.5) at Clemson

The Cardinals are a solid team but the Tigers are 4-1 against the spread and are playing at home. Clemson's defense should be able to handle Louisville's underachieving offensive line and true freshman quarterback sensation Deshaun Watson is more than capable of scoring points against pretty much anyone. Prediction: Clemson -9.5


Listen to the Week 7 preview podcast:

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


Michigan State (-21) at Purdue

Purdue played its heart out last week in an upset win over Illinois but it has no shot against Sparty. The Spartans need style points in a race to the Big Ten championship game and College Football Playoff. Look for a big number from MSU. Prediction: Michigan State -21


Texas (+14.5) at Oklahoma

Texas can’t score points and the Sooners should be angry for two major reasons. First, they were embarrassed by Oklahoma last year and just got beat by TCU. After last year and last week, fans in Dallas should expect some revenge to be exacted by Bob Stoops. Prediction: Oklahoma -14.5


Oklahoma State (-20.5) at Kansas

Kansas is wildly overmatched and is playing for an interim coach. Oklahoma State has found itself right in the heart of a Big 12 race and can’t avoid any letdowns like a trip to Lawrence. The Pokes have scored at least 37 points in each of their last four games (all wins) and Kansas has scored 17 total points in three games against Big 5 teams. Prediction: Oklahoma State -20.5


Washington (+3.5) at Cal

The Huskies are rested and facing a Cal team that has allowed 116 points in the last two games — both wins. Look for the physicality and offensive prowess of Chris Petersen’s bunch to show up in a road win outright. Prediction: Washington +3.5


North Carolina (+16) at Notre Dame

The Tar Heels are 0-5 against the spread this season and Notre Dame just got done playing Stanford’s defense. Facing this defense will be like practicing against air. Just don’t look ahead Notre Dame. Prediction: Notre Dame -16


If you must, take the home dogs:


USC (-3) at Arizona

Always a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair. Whichever has the ball last wins. I like the Cats at home.


Auburn (-3) at Mississippi State

This isn’t a normal Hail State squad and getting this game at home should help the Bulldogs avoid a letdown. A defensive battle where Dak Prescott makes a play.


Georgia (-3) at Missouri

Maty Mauk is rested and will get to attack the Bulldogs' secondary. Mizzou’s defensive front should be able to “slow” down Todd Gurley and shut down Hutson Mason.

Oregon (-2.5) at UCLA

Both O-lines are atrocious and while Marcus Mariota has more weapons than Brett Hundley, it’s tough to trust the Ducks' coaching staff.


Top 25 Picks ATS:


Top 25Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
Florida St (-23.5) at Syracuse
Auburn (-3) at Miss. State
Ole Miss (+2) at Texas A&M
TCU (+7.5) at Baylor
N. Carolina (+16) at N. Dame
Alabama (-10) at Arkansas
Mich. St (-21) at Purdue
USC (-3) at Arizona
Texas (+14.5) vs Oklahoma
Oregon (-2.5) at UCLA
Georgia (-3) at Mizzou
Okla. St (-20.5) at Kansas
E. Carolina (-15) USF
Duke (+3) at Georgia Tech
Wash. St (+17) at Stanford
Last Week:7-9-16-10-17-9-110-6-1


Betting Against the Spread: College Football Week 7 Picks
Post date: Friday, October 10, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-week-7-preview
Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: Week 7 Preview
Post date: Thursday, October 9, 2014 - 11:08
Path: /college-football/big-12-2014-week-7-preview-and-predictions

The Big 12 was a huge part of the mass confusion that took place across the college football landscape last weekend.


The conference figures to be in the spotlight once again as two of the nation’s 10 remaining unbeaten teams will battle in Waco. It means that the Red River Shoo… Rivalry isn’t even the biggest game in Texas this weekend.

Week 7 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Big 12 Week 7 Game Power Rankings


1. TCU (+8.5) at Baylor
3:30 p.m., ABC

It will be extremely difficult for Gary Patterson to get his team up for a second straight weekend, but a rivalry game against an unbeaten top-five opponent should do the trick. Baylor has won 16 straight games in the state of Texas by an average of five touchdowns, but an eight-loss TCU team nearly upset the Bears last season in Fort Worth. The last loss for Art Briles’ bunch in the Lone Star State came against TCU in 2012. Bryce Petty is coming off the worst performance of his career as a starter (7-of-22, 111 yards) while Trevone Boykin is riding high after the signature performance of his career (318 pass yds., 77 rush yds). Both defensive fronts can wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks, so whichever QB manipulates the defense more effectively will come out on top. That could mean turning to two of the Big 12’s top rushing attacks. Baylor is leading the Big 12 (247.4 ypg) and TCU is third (196.3).


Listen to the Week 7 preview podcast:

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


2. Texas (+14.5) vs. Oklahoma
Noon, ABC, Dallas

It’s a statement about where Charlie Strong’s program is for this Texas Fair-sized rivalry to be the third most important game in the state this weekend (See above and Ole Miss at Texas A&M). That said, there is always something special about the pageantry and split crowd of the Cotton Bowl early in October. Both teams are coming off of disappointing losses but the onus of victory falls to the heavy underdog to make plays on both sides of the ball. The Texas defense has been excellent, stopping Baylor and Bryce Petty last week with unique schemes and varying formations. It will have to repeat its performance against Trevor Knight and the Sooners if Texas is going to have any chance to win. Knight was knocked around and turned the ball over, but still produced big numbers on offense in the loss to TCU. Weirder things have happened in this game (see last year) but Texas' defense needs to continue its strong play and the offense is going to have to elevate its game significantly if the Horns expect to pull another shocking upset over Oklahoma.


3. West Virginia (-6) at Texas Tech
Noon, Fox Sports 1

The longest road trip in the Big 12 features two of the best passing attacks in the nation. The difference is lies with the quarterback executing these offenses and the overall trajectory of the programs. Clint Trickett leads the Big 12’s top passing attack, is coming off an easy win over Kansas, and a victory would match the Mountaineers' win total from a year ago. Davis Webb is averaging 320.6 yards per game, is leading the Big 12 with 16 TDs, but has been wildly inconsistent and also leads the league in interceptions (10). With Texas Tech facing a fourth consecutive loss and a slew of ranked opponents in the second half, Kliff Kingsbury must stress the importance of winnable game like this one, especially at home.


4. Oklahoma St (-20.5) at Kansas
4 p.m., Fox Sports 1

Aside from courting Jim Harbaugh, which seems highly unreasonable for too many reasons to count, there isn’t any conversation about this Jayhawks program. That is the problem obviously, as Kansas enters another game as a three-touchdown underdog. In three tries against Big 5 teams, the Jayhawks have scored a total of 17 points and gone 0-3. There is no reason to expect anything different against an Oklahoma State team that has topped 37 points in each outing during its four-game winning streak. Interim coach Clint Bowen’s only shot at victory is to create Daxx Garman turnovers — he’s thrown four interceptions in the last two games. If not, a repeat of last year’s 42-6 score is likely.


5. Toledo (+3) at Iowa St
3:30 p.m.,

No one wants to move forward more than Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard after getting fined for his postgame criticism of the officials last weekend. Win or lose against the Rockets, the officials shouldn’t have anything to do with the outcome. The Cyclones have proven they are good enough to compete with anyone in the Big 12 but haven’t been able to finish games. Toledo has won three straight in the MAC but allowed 107 points in two losses against bigger programs (Missouri, Cincinnati). This is a must-win situation for Paul Rhoads’ squad which likely will be favored to win, at most, one more time the rest of the season (at Kansas).


Off: Kansas State


Big 12 Predictions:
 Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
TCU (+8.5) at BaylorBay., 38-30Bay., 44-34Bay., 42-28Bay., 34-31
Texas (+14.5) vs Okla.Okla., 41-13Okla., 31-20Okla., 35-14Okla., 34-13
W. Virginia (-6) at T. TechWVU, 41-35Tech, 38-36WVU, 49-31WVU, 38-31
Okla. St (-20.5) at KansasOSU, 41-17OSU, 37-20OSU, 31-10OSU, 41-10
Toledo (+3) at Iowa StISU, 34-28ISU, 30-20ISU, 17-10ISU, 34-31
Last Week:4-14-14-14-1


Big 12 2014 Week 7 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, October 9, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-2014-week-7-preview-and-predictions

It’s not a huge slate in the Pac-12 with just four games, but the quality of the Week 7 matchups out West is second to none in college football this weekend.


A preview of the Pac-12 championship game could take place in the hallowed ground of the Rose Bowl. The only undefeated team is a home underdog to a traditional power. And both Evergreen State schools head to the Bay Area for critical road games in the North Division.

Week 7 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | SEC


Pac-12 Week 7 Game Power Rankings


1. Oregon (-2.5) at UCLA
3:30 p.m., FOX

Brett Hundley can relate to Marcus Mariota. And vice versa. The two Heisman-caliber quarterbacks have been running for their respective lives this season behind two of the worst offensive lines in the Pac-12. Hundley was sacked 10 times last week in a home loss to Utah, as UCLA ranks last in the Pac-12 with 22.0 sacks allowed. Oregon isn’t much better, ranking ahead of only the Bruins in this category (15.0). Offensive coordinator Scott Frost claimed that Mariota wasn’t fully healthy in the loss to Arizona last week, but the Ducks QB told the media on Tuesday that he is good to go against UCLA. He will need to be at full strength against a dangerous but underachieving Bruins front seven if Oregon wants to avoid losing back-to-back games for the first time since 2007. Despite the offensive line woes, Hundley and Mariota are first and fourth respectively in completion percentage nationally. The dynamic duo has met just once, with Oregon winning 42-14 in Eugene last season, and whomever stays upright longer is likely to come out a winner.


Listen to the Week 7 preview podcast:

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


2. USC (-2.5) at Arizona
10:30 p.m., ESPN2

Is there any doubt that this won’t be one of the most entertaining games in the Pac-12 this season? These two have played seven consecutive games within one score and are separated by a grand total of 10 points over the last five games (USC 163, Arizona 153). USC has dominated the series overall but Rich Rodriguez has split with the Men of Troy, as the home team has won both games since he took over in Tucson. Arizona enters the game ranked in the top 10, unbeaten and riding high after a huge road win over Oregon. The Trojans limp into the desert after having their hearts ripped out by Mike Bercovici’s Hail Mary. Cody Kessler and Anu Solomon figure to get the headlines under center but both squads are loaded with skill talent on offense and both defensive units will be challenged to stop the efficient and diverse offensive schemes. Last team with the ball wins.


3. Washington (+3.5) at Cal
6 p.m., Pac-12 Net

Quick, which team is alone atop the Pac-12 North standings? Sonny Dykes has turned around the Golden Bears program in one quick offseason and is looking to put his stamp on the North Division race with a key win over a rested Huskies squad. Quarterback Jared Goff has been a part of record-setting performances in each of the last two games as he’s thrown for 985 yards and 12 touchdowns. The concern is Dykes needed every inch of that production, as his defense has allowed 56 and 59 points in those wins. The off weekend couldn’t have come at a better time for Chris Petersen’s bunch after getting knocked around by Stanford. Cyler Miles and company shouldn’t have any issue moving the ball so if the Washington defense can get stops, the road upset is well within reach.


4. Washington St (+17) at Stanford
Fri., 9 p.m., ESPN

There won’t be a bigger clash of strengths in the nation than Washington State’s record-setting offense and Stanford’s suffocating defense. The Cardinal are No. 2 in the nation in total defense (232.4 ypg) and are leading the nation in yards per play allowed (3.72) and trips into the red zone allowed (7). Mike Leach’s Cougars are leading the nation in passing offense (523.0 ypg) by nearly 100 yards per game (Western Kentucky, 433.0 ypg). Conversely, the Stanford offense is averaging nearly 300 yards fewer per game (229.8) through the air and the Wazzu defense is ranked 92nd nationally at 438.2 yards allowed per game. Nothing about either team indicates that this should be much closer than the 55-17 win for David Shaw’s bunch a year ago. 


Off: Colorado, Arizona State, Oregon State, Utah


Pac-12 Predictions:
 Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
Oregon (-2.5) at UCLAOre., 34-31Ore., 40-30Ore., 31-27UCLA, 34-30
USC (-3) at ArizonaZona, 40-38USC, 35-30Zona, 42-31Zona, 38-34
Wash. (+3.5) at CalWash., 35-33Cal, 40-34Cal, 44-28Wash., 34-31
WSU (+17) at StanfordStan., 31-17Stan., 28-14Stan., 24-10Stan., 34-20
Last Week:2-42-43-32-4


Pac-12 2014 Week 7 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, October 9, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/expert-poll-week-6-heisman-trophy-voting

Athlon Sports has formed a Heisman Trophy committee. Each week, we will ask 13 members of the national college football media to rank their top candidates for the Heisman Trophy.


Each voter will rank their top five candidates, with each first-place vote getting five points and each last-place vote getting one point.


The Panel:


Stewart Mandel, FOX Sports

Dave Revsine, Big Ten Network 

Adam Zucker, CBS Sports

Steven Godfrey, SBNation

Zac Ellis, Sports Illustrated

Bryan Fischer,

Tom Dienhart, Big Ten Network

Barrett Sallee, Bleacher Report, B/R Radio

Josh Ward,

Mitch Light, Athlon Sports

David Fox, Athlon Sports

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports, SiriusXM


The Results:


1.Todd Gurley59841--
2.Dak Prescott55562--
3.Marcus Mariota31-2451
4.Everett Golson13-1122
5.Nick Marshall12--222
6.Melvin Gordon11--213
7.Amari Cooper10--131
8t.Ameer Abdullah1----1
8t.Shaq Thompson1----1
8t.Shane Carden1----1
8t.Jared Goff1----1

Dropped out: Kenny Hill, Taysom Hill, Brett Hundley, Bryce Petty


Listen to the Week 6 recap podcast:

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

The Top 3:

1. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

Against an overmatched opponent (Vanderbilt), Gurley rushed for 163 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns. He caught two passes for 24 yards and added a 50-yard completion from the Wildcat formation for good measure. After six weeks, Gurley leads the SEC in rushing (773 yds), yards per game (154.6 ypg), and rushing touchdowns (8), and he is second in yards per carry (8.2). A revenge game against a tough Missouri defensive front in Columbia is key for Gurley’s Heisman chances and Georgia’s SEC East hopes.


2. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State

The biggest mover in the Heisman conversation is Mississippi State’s star quarterback. Prescott completed 20-of-26 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns to go with 23 carries for 77 yards and three scores on the ground in the Bulldogs' convincing 48-31 victory over then-No. 6 Texas A&M. In two wins over top 10 teams in the last two games, Prescott has 527 yards passing, 182 yards rushing and eight total touchdowns. He gets another top 10 team at home this weekend in No. 2 Auburn. He’s leading the SEC in passing efficiency (180.69) and is leading all SEC QBs with 455 yards rushing and six touchdowns.


3. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Mariota still leads the nation in passing efficiency at an absurd clip (202.35) but his loss on Thursday night to Arizona at home was crippling to his Heisman chances. He threw for 276 yards and two touchdowns, but had just one yard rushing on nine carries. For the season, he’s got 1,411 yards passing and 15 touchdowns with no interceptions while rushing for 215 yards and three more scores. His numbers are still spectacular but Oregon likely needs to run the table and win the Pac-12 to get Mariota to New York.

Expert Poll: Week 6 Heisman Trophy Voting
Post date: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 09:15
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/outrageous-college-football-predictions-2014-week-7

The original reality TV show is sports. No contrived setting where seven strangers living in a house or one bachelor searching for love can match the excitement the Iron Bowl delivered last fall.


The beauty of college football lies in its complete unpredictability and drama. Here are some outrageous predictions for Week 7.


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

Anyone who beat a top 10 team last week will lose


Arizona beat No. 2 Oregon, Ole Miss beat No. 3 Alabama, TCU beat No. 4 Oklahoma and Mississippi State beat No. 6 Texas A&M. (Technically, Utah beat No. 8 UCLA but is on bye this week and therefore cannot lose). But all four teams that won massive games over top 10 opponents will lose this weekend. Ole Miss visits Texas A&M and TCU heads to Baylor. Both Arizona and Mississippi State are at home but both are underdogs to USC and Auburn respectively.


Listen to the Week 6 recap podcast:

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


Notre Dame will score 60 points


The Irish haven't scored 60 points since Nov. 23, 1996 in a 62-0 win over Rutgers. But against North Carolina, fans should expect a huge number from Everett Golson and the Irish offense. The Tar Heels have given up 154 points in the last three games — all losses. North Carolina gave up 70 to East Carolina, 50 to Clemson and 34 to Virginia Tech. Watch out, UNC.


Brett Hundley and Marcus Mariota will be sacked 20 times


The best two quarterbacks with the two worst offensive lines will face off against each other in Pasadena Saturday afternoon. Brett Hundley is the most-sacked QB in college football the last two seasons and UCLA is ranked 124th in sacks allowed (22.0) after yielding 10 in the loss to Utah. Oregon is ranked 108th in the nation in the same category (15.0). Whichever QB’s jersey is cleaner when the game is over will be the victor.


Florida and LSU will combine for more interceptions than completions


Jeff Driskel is benched. Treon Harris is suspended indefinitely. Skyler Mornhinweg is getting into fights with a teammate outside The Swamp. And that’s just Florida. For LSU, Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings have been completely inept. The LSU duo completed 8-of-24 passes for 142 yards and no touchdowns in the loss to Auburn last week. Driskel was 11-of-23 passing for 53 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions in the near-loss to Tennessee. The quarterback play in this game may cause momentary blindness.


Connor Halliday will be held to less than 200 yards passing


The Washington State quarterback is averaging over 500 yards passing per game and is already over 3,000 yards for the season. He set a single-game record with 734 yards passing last weekend (in a loss to Cal). Halliday failed to reach 300 yards passing just four times last season and the only team to keep him under 200 yards was Stanford. The nation’s top defense held the WSU QB to just 184 yards and no touchdowns on 36 attempts in a 55-17 loss.

Outrageous College Football Predictions: 2014 Week 7
Post date: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-week-6-recap
Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: Week 6 Recap
Post date: Monday, October 6, 2014 - 17:05
Path: /college-football/utah-sacks-ucla-creates-wide-open-pac-12-south-race

Not protecting the quarterback finally caught up with UCLA.


Just one week after looking like a national title contender on the road against Arizona State, Brett Hundley was sacked a staggering 10 times by Utah on Saturday night in the disappointing 30-28 home loss.


The UCLA quarterback entered this season as the most sacked QB in the nation over the last two years with 87 sacks under Jim Mora. After giving up 10 sacks to the Utes, those issues are still painfully obvious as the Bruins now rank 124th in sacks allowed for the year — 22.0 for 131 lost yards.


The home loss capped a month of wondering when UCLA's offensive line woes would cost the Bruins a victory and Utah took advantage.


One week after coughing up a big second half league to Washington State at home, Utah's defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage. Nate Orchard tied a school record with 4.0 sacks while setting a personal best with 11 tackles. In all, six different Utes registered a sack against the Bruins Heisman Trophy candidate.


It wasn't just the defense that stepped up, however, as backup quarterback Kendal Thompson replaced Travis Wilson just two series into the game. His quickness caused UCLA issues on defense as he led the Utes on the game-winning drive over the final four minutes of play. Thompson finished 10-of-13 passing for 95 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 83 yards on 19 carries.


Clearly, Kyle Whittingham is still looking for consistency but road wins over UCLA and Michigan (stop laughing) prove his bunch can play with anyone. Mora, meanwhile, still has major offensive line and playmaker issues surrounding Hundley on offense. Both teams have glaring warts but both teams are capable of beating anyone in the league at anytime.


And they are both right in the thick of what should be an entertaining Pac-12 South race over the final two months. A week ago, this battle looked like a two horse race with UCLA and USC poised to collide near the season's end.


Seven days later and it looks like a completely different division.


Arizona toppled Oregon in impressive fashion and is the lone remaining unbeaten team both in conference (2-0) and overall (5-0) but has yet to play a division game. Arizona State staved off elimination with a final play Hail Mary against USC but still faces a nasty slate of North Division opponents. USC is also in desperate need of consistency but has the easiest schedule of any team in the South. Lastly, Utah, whose special teams and defensive line give it as good a shot as any in the South, now owns the tiebreaker over UCLA.


The Bruins are still the frontrunner to get to Levi's Stadium but could easily fall to 1-2 in the league with an angry Oregon team visiting the Rose Bowl this weekend. A three- or four-game hole might be too much to overcome.


Especially, if this unit cannot keep Brett Hundley off the turf.

Utah sacks UCLA, creates wide open Pac-12 South race
Post date: Sunday, October 5, 2014 - 15:50
Path: /college-football/connor-halliday-sets-ncaa-passing-record-and-washington-state-loses

Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday is slowly but surely rewriting the college football record book.


The Cougars signal caller threw for an FBS single-game passing record 734 yards against the Cal Golden Bears late on Saturday night, breaking David Klingler's longtime record of 716. Halliday was 49-of-70 passing with six touchdowns and nary an interception. For good measure, he also ran for 17 yards on three carries. He was just two yards shy of the NCAA all-division record of 736 set by Eureka College's Sam Durley against Knox in 2012.


This from the same guy who set the NCAA single-game record for pass attempts with 89 against Oregon last season. Halliday has thrown for 3,052 yards and 26 touchdowns in six games this year. He's averaging 508.7 yards per game. (pause to reread that.)


Mississippi State has never had a player throw for 3,000 yards in a entire season and Halliday has accomplished it in six games. He is on pace to break B.J. Symons' NCAA single-season record of 5,833 yards set back in 2003. The Wazzu quarterback has improved across the board, too, by limiting his interceptions — he has seven in 369 attempts (52.7 attempts/INT) this fall after 22 in 714 attempts last year (32.5).


Symons was, of course, also coached my Mike Leach. For what it's worth, Leach also owns No. 2 on the single-season passing list as he coached Graham Harrell's 5,705-yard 2007 campaign as well.


There is one big issue, however. Washington State lost the game. All of the numbers and headlines block the view of the 60-59 home defeat. Cal scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns to comeback to win, moving to 2-1 and into sole possession of first place in the North. Quarterback Jared Goff was brilliant opposite Halliday. 


Only in the Pac-12 can you throw for 527 yards and five touchdowns on 70 percent passing, not turn the ball over once, score 60 points in a win and still get overshadowed. The duo set an NCAA record with 1,261 combined passing yards. Goff also set the combined single game TD record by teaming with Colorado's Sefo Liufau to throw 14 combined TD passes last week.


Washington State appeared to have some momentum after the impressive come from behind win in Salt Lake City last weekend, but this crushing defeat halts any bowl game talk in its tracks.


Leach's bunch plays at Stanford, Arizona, USC, at Oregon State, at Arizona State and Washington the rest of the way, needing to win four of those to go bowling. A losing season seems like a foregone conclusion in Pullman after the disappointment at home.


The records are prolific but doing it on a losing team certainly takes the shine off the plaque.

Connor Halliday sets NCAA passing record… and Washington State loses
Post date: Sunday, October 5, 2014 - 15:30
Path: /college-football/mike-bercovicis-hail-mary-gives-new-life-arizona-state

The Sun Devils were literally on their last gasp when a backup quarterback changed the entire complexion of the season for Todd Graham with two throws.


Trailing for most of the game, Arizona State's back-up quarterback Mike Bercovici flipped the Pac-12 South on its head with two long touchdown passes, the last of which came on the final play of the game from 46 yards out.


USC scored with just over three minutes to go, giving the Trojans a nine-point lead with 3:02 left in the game. Berocvici then led a one-play drive by connecting with Cameron Smith from 73 yards out to answer immediately. 


Following a USC three and out, the Sun Devils got the ball back with 23 seconds left and their season hanging in the balance. A loss to USC would have all but knocked Arizona State out of the Pac-12 South race after getting thumped by UCLA last weekend. 


Bercovici moved his team to the USC 46 yard line in three plays, facing an obvious Hail Mary situation.


For the second time in a few weeks, a school from Arizona was just under 50 yards away from victory trailing a school from California with one play remaining in the game. And exactly like Arizona's 47-yard Hail Mary against Cal, Arizona State's prayer was answered when all-everything wideout Jaelen Strong snatched Bercovici's heave out of mid-air for the game-winning touchdown.


The affable and well-spoken Sun Devils back-up signal caller finished with 510 yards and five touchdowns in just his second start after throwing for 488 a week ago against the Bruins.


Yes, it was a miracle completion. Yes, it was a historic comeback. Yes, it was an amazing way to cap what turned out to be a wild day in college football. Yes, Arizona State — which threw for 510 yards and ran for 31 — needs to find more balance on offense. But most importantly, it salvaged the Sun Devils season and gave Graham's bunch hope in the Pac-12 race.


Arizona State is now 2-1 in the Pac-12 while USC falls to 1-1, essentially a game behind ASU due to the all important tie-breaker. With UCLA also losing in Week 6, the improbable comeback creates a logjam in the South Division. Only Arizona, who has yet to play a division game, is left unbeaten in the conference (2-0) and only Colorado has more than one league loss (0-3).


After last weekend, it appeared to be a two-horse race in the South. Seven days later, everyone but Colorado is still very much in the hunt. And the season is just starting to heat up.


Hear my interview with Sun Devils star Mike Bercovici:


Mike Bercovici's Hail Mary gives new life to Arizona State
Post date: Sunday, October 5, 2014 - 15:10
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-college-football-2014-week-6-picks

Break out the band, because two straight winning weeks has me surging into the black.


I was 4-0-1 in top picks digging deep into C-USA and the Sun Belt for winners. And in the big games, the road dogs went 3-2.


Overall, Mitch Light is still leading the way in Top 25 picks with a very sturdy 43-30-2 season mark. That said, both myself (41-32-2) and Steven Lassan (38-35-2) are above the break-even line for Top 25 picks as well. So if the three of us agree on something, it might be time to make a phone call.


My advice this weekend would be to stay away from the huge games in the SEC. If you are desperate to jump on the big games in the Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12, I’d take the favorites.


Last Week: 7-2-1

Year-to-Date: 18-14-1


Ohio State (-8.5) at Maryland

Ohio State is a significantly better and more talented team than Maryland. While the Terps bounced back nicely on both sides of the ball last weekend, Randy Edsall's bunch won't be able to keep up with a Buckeyes team that is rounding into form on offense. Prediction: Ohio State -8.5

Purdue (+8.5) at Illinois

The Illini are at home and Purdue is simply awful. Wes Lunt is back under center for Illinois and that should be enough to roll through what is statistically one of the worst Big 5 teams in the nation. Tim Beckman won one Big Ten game last year and, you guessed it, it came against the Boilermakers. Prediction: Illinois -8.5


If you have to go after the big games…


Oklahoma (-5) at TCU

TCU scored late in last year's game to make it look closer than it was in Norman but this Sooners team is much better. Trevone Boykin has been great this fall but hasn't faced anything like this OU team. Take the Sooners.


Baylor (-14.5) at Texas

Texas will likely have to score 35-40 points to win this game and I'm not sure Tyrone Swoopes has led Texas to 40 points in his three starts combined (okay, it's 47). Baylor rolls big and should cover easily.


Nebraska (+7) at Michigan St

Nebraska has one elite player. Michigan State has an elite team. I'll take Sparty to win what is normally a very feisty game in the Big Ten. Mark Dantonio knows he needs style points to reach the playoffs and this is one of the few chances he has left.


Arizona State (+11.5) at USC
The Sun Devils defense is still a long way from being rebuilt and the offense is still without star quarterback Taylor Kelly. USC proved last week they are legit on defense (when at home) and Cody Kessler has been brilliant at QB.


LSU (+7.5) at Auburn
I don't like the hook but I like this LSU team even less. Auburn lost only once in the regular season last fall and that was in Baton Rouge. Auburn might be better on both sides of the ball and LSU is significantly worse. This is the only SEC game I feel good about. War Eagle.


Top 25 Picks ATS:


Top 25Braden Gall Mitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
Wake Forest (+38) at Florida St 
Alabama (-6.5) at Ole Miss 
Oklahoma (-5) at TCU 
LSU (+7.5) at Auburn 
Texas A&M (+2) at Miss. St 
Baylor (-14.5) at Texas 
Utah (+13) at UCLA 
Stanford (-1.5) at N. Dame 
Nebraska (+7) at Mich. St 
Vanderbilt (+33.5) at Georgia 
Arizona St (+11.5) at USC 
Wisconsin (-8) at Northwestern 
Utah St (+20.5) at BYU 
Ohio St (-8.5) at Maryland 
Iowa St (+17) at Oklahoma St 
SMU (+40.5) at E. Carolina 
T. Tech (+12.5) at Kansas St 
Last Week:9-6-1 7-8-18-7-110-5-1
YTD:41-32-2 43-30-234-39-238-35-2


Betting Against the Spread: College Football 2014 Week 6 Picks
Post date: Friday, October 3, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-week-6-preview


Hosts Braden Gall and Steven Lassan previews the big games of Week 6. The SEC West has a massive trio of games while Michigan State hosts Nebraska in the Big Ten. Baylor and Oklahoma also have big road trips in the Big 12 as well. The guys also offer up some locks of the week against the spread.

Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall or @AthlonSteven or email [email protected]. The podcast can be found on, iTunes, Stitcher and our podcast RSS feed.

Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: Week 6 Preview
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 11:27
Path: /college-football/pac-12-2014-week-6-preview-and-predictions

The first shot was fired across both the Pac-12 North and Pac-12 South bows last weekend as Stanford and UCLA earned critical division wins over two conference contenders.


But in what could be the best league in football, there is no rest for the weary (well, except Washington) as Stanford, Oregon, USC, Arizona State and UCLA all have critical showdowns in this Week of Doom in college football.

Week 6 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | SEC

Pac-12 Week 6 Game Power Rankings

1. Stanford at Notre Dame
3:30 p.m., NBC

There is more than just rivalry bragging rights on the line in this heavyweight bout. A loss for either highly ranked team could knock them out of the College Football Playoff picture. These are two of the most physical teams in the nation and are, statistically, two of the best defenses in the land. Stanford leads the nation in total defense (198.0 ypg), scoring defense (6.5 ppg) and has allowed a nation’s best three trips into the red zone and is totally legit. It will be a great test for a surging and electric Everett Golson. Notre Dame, which is fourth in the nation in scoring defense (11.5 ppg) has forced 10 turnovers in four games, might not be as good as its numbers indicate. Playing Michigan, Syracuse, Rice and Purdue doesn’t exactly create an accurate portrayal. So while Stanford's offense has had its red zone woes, Brian Kelly should find out just how good his defense (and offense) could be in 2014 after hosting the Cardinal.


2. Arizona St at USC
7:30 p.m., FOX

This was considered one of the critical round-robin Pac-12 South matches between the contenders (UCLA being the other). After ASU was smoked at home by the Bruins, Todd Graham’s championship hopes are dangling by a thread as he leads his team into the Coliseum. Backup signal-caller Mike Bercovici was adequate in his first career start as he threw for 488 yards in the loss. But he gave the ball away too much and will have to be much better in that department if he wants to top a Trojans defense that looked healthy, fast and physical against Oregon State last Saturday night. Cody Kessler is playing as well as any QB in the league and isn’t likely to give Arizona State too many chances so the Sun Devils' conference title hopes likely hang on the strong right arm of Bercovici once again.


Listen to the Week 6 preview podcast:

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3. Arizona at Oregon
Thurs., 10:30 p.m., ESPN

Late last season in the desert with a Pac-12 North title hanging in the balance, a less-than-healthy Marcus Mariota watched his Heisman hopes disappear at the hands of the Wildcats in an ugly 42-16 defeat. Mariota, now healthy and clicking on all cylinders, is likely to exact some revenge on the solid but unequipped Arizona defense. The Ducks quarterback is completing 74percent of his passes, has 1,349 yards of total offense and has scored 16 times without throwing an interception in four games. Unless Oregon’s offensive line issues are worse than excepted following two weeks of rest, Arizona isn’t likely to keep this primetime showdown respectable.


4. Utah at UCLA
10:30 p.m., ESPN

This game lost some luster when the Utes choked away a big lead against Washington State at home last weekend. So topping a UCLA team coming off its most complete performance with a healthy and surging Brett Hundley under center will be a tall order. Utah’s nasty front line — fifth nationally with 18.0 sacks — will have to take advantage of a Bruins offensive line that is one of the worst in the Pac-12 — tied for last with 12.0 sacks allowed — if the Utes want any chance at pulling off the upset. This game featured six Utah turnovers last year in Salt Lake City, so Travis Wilson will have to protect the football as well. A few big plays from Kaelin Clay (and his four return touchdowns) on special teams would certainly help.


5. Cal at Washington St
10:30 p.m., P12 Net

Both the Bears and Cougars escaped Week 5 with critical Pac-12 victories and are looking to build upon momentum. Quarterbacks Jared Goff and Connor Halliday combined for 866 yards and 11 touchdown passes in these wins and should once again be on full display. Needless to say, whichever defense can get stops in the second half and on third down will likely win the game.


6. Oregon St at Colorado
4 p.m., P12 Net

Both teams are looking to get back on track using two of the more productive quarterbacks in the nation. Colorado’s Sefo Liufau is coming off one of the best games of his career (449 yds, 7 TD) while Oregon State’s Sean Mannion is coming off one his worst (123 yds, 0 TD, 2 INT). In fact, the 181 yards of total offense posted against USC was just the second time since 2010 the Beavers failed to reach 250 yards of offense. It appears OSU star wideout Victor Bolden will be out again while Colorado will turn to its own star playmaker. Nelson Spruce will attempt to maintain his hold on the national lead in receptions (56), yards (694) and touchdowns (10). This would be a breakthrough win for Mike MacIntyre. 


Off: Cal, Washington


Pac-12 Predictions:


 Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
Stanford (-1.5) at N. DameStan., 24-23Stan., 24-21ND, 21-14ND, 24-20
Ariz. St (+12) at USCUSC, 38-20USC, 31-17USC, 38-21USC, 34-24
Arizona (+23.5) at OregonOre., 45-30Ore., 44-31Ore., 45-21Ore., 48-24
Utah (+13.5) at UCLAUCLA, 34-24UCLA, 24-17UCLA, 42-14UCLA, 31-20
Cal (+3.5) at WazzuWSU, 38-35WSU, 41-40Cal, 35-31WSU, 45-41
Ore. St (-7) at ColoradoOSU, 31-20OSU, 38-30OSU, 35-24OSU, 34-31
Last Week:3-24-14-14-1
Pac-12 2014 Week 6 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-2014-week-6-preview-and-predictions

After two lackluster weeks filled with off weekends and snoozers, the Big 12 takes center stage nationally on what is being referred to as the Week of Doom in college football.


Oklahoma and Baylor will face nasty road games while contenders TCU, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and West Virginia are in must-win home situations.


Week 6 could be one of the best weekends of action in the Big 12.

Week 6 Previews and Predictions:
ACC | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Big 12 Week 6 Game Power Rankings

1. Oklahoma (-5.5) at TCU
3:30 p.m., FOX

The Sooners will have to navigate a few brutal road trips in the Big 12 and this one to Fort Worth should be one of the toughest. Oklahoma’s defense has been salty all season but still allowed 33 points and 376 yards passing in the win over West Virginia. The Stoops brothers' top priority on defense against TCU will be slowing the newly invigorated spread attack led by Trevone Boykin. The TCU signal-caller is averaging 347.0 yards of total offense per game and has accounted for 11 total touchdowns and just one interception. Sony Cumbie and Doug Meacham have clearly worked minor miracles with this unit. On the flip side, the Sooners' backfield is getting deeper and healthier by the week but should be challenged by a defense that has yet to allow 100 yards rushing in any game. TCU leads the nation with 3.1 yards per play allowed.


Listen to the Week 6 preview podcast:

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


2. Baylor (-16.5) at Texas
3:30 p.m., ABC

The Bears come to Austin more than a two-touchdown favorite as one of only two teams in the nation ranked in the top 10 of total offense and defense (Alabama is the other). Bryce Petty and his offensive weaponry are healthier than they’ve been all season and are surging after rolling through Iowa State with ease on the road in their Big Ten opener. Charlie Strong’s squad won easily on the road against Kansas but it didn’t inspire confidence. The bottom line is 329 yards of offense and 4.7 yards per play aren’t the type of numbers that can compete with Art Briles’ offense. Despite being at home, the Longhorns and Tyrone Swoopes will have to play their best game to beat Baylor this Saturday. The Bears rolled Texas last year at home but lost 56-50 the last time they visited Austin.


3. Texas Tech at Kansas St
7 p.m., ESPNU

Until proven otherwise, Texas Tech will struggle to beat quality competition due to sloppy play and self-inflicted mistakes. The Red Raiders are dead last in the nation (127th) in penalties (11.5/game) and are tied for last in the Big 12 in turnover margin (-1.25/game). These are the types of mistakes Bill Snyder and Kansas State normally feast on. Jake Waters got back on track against UTEP while the Wildcats' front seven continues to prove to be one of the most hard-working, disciplined groups in the game today. This was a 49-26 Wildcats win in Lubbock last fall and Kliff Kingsbury doesn’t appear to have fixed any of the issues that plagued his team over the last 10 games.


4. Iowa St at Oklahoma St
Noon, FS1

Mike Gundy has to be pleased with where his team stands entering October. What was supposed to be a rebuilding project has quickly turned into a reloading situation. Daxx Garman still has a lot of kinks to work out of his game but he should only continue to get better. The Cyclones play hard for Paul Rhoads but don’t have the horses to keep up with most teams in this conference — especially one that has beaten it by 52 points in the last two meetings.


5. Kansas (-26) at West Virginia
4 p.m.

Clint Bowen is now running the ship in place of Charlie Weis and his first task is to try to stop the top passing attack in the Big 12. Clint Trickett is managing the No. 3-ranked passing offense in the nation, which is averaging 401.8 yards per game. Bowen, the former defensive coordinator, has little hope of competing in such a difficult environment against a team that is looking for revenge after an ugly defeat in Lawrence a year ago. Look for Kevin White to have a field day in what should be a blowout win. 


Big 12 Predictions:


 Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
Okla. (-5.5) at TCUOU, 34-17OU, 24-13OU, 31-14OU, 30-20
Baylor (-16.5) at TexasBay., 38-20Bay., 37-17Bay., 49-13Bay., 38-17
T. Tech (+13) at KSUKSU, 30-20KSU, 30-20KSU, 27-10KSU, 38-24
Iowa St (+17) at Ok-StateOSU, 37-21OSU, 41-20OSU, 31-20OSU, 41-20
Kansas (-26) at WVUWVU, 41-7WVU, 51-10WVU, 52-21WVU, 45-17
Last Week:5-05-05-05-0


Big 12 2014 Week 6 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/expert-poll-week-5-heisman-trophy-voting

Athlon Sports has formed a Heisman Trophy committee. Each week, we will ask 13 members of the national college football media to rank their top candidates for the Heisman Trophy.


Each voter will rank their top five candidates, with each first-place vote getting five points and each last-place vote getting one point.


The Panel:


Stewart Mandel, FOX Sports

Dave Revsine, Big Ten Network 

Adam Zucker, CBS Sports

Steven Godfrey, SBNation

Zac Ellis, Sports Illustrated

Bryan Fischer,

Tom Dienhart, Big Ten Network

Barrett Sallee, Bleacher Report, B/R Radio

Josh Ward,

Mitch Light, Athlon Sports

David Fox, Athlon Sports

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports, SiriusXM


The Results:


1.Marcus Mariota621111--
2.Todd Gurley49282-1
3.Amari Cooper26-1531
4.Ameer Abdullah24-2242
5.Kenny Hill13-1122
6.Taysom Hill6---22
7t.Everett Golson4--1-1
7t.Dak Prescott4--1-1
7t.Brett Hundley4---12
10.Bryce Petty2---1-
11.Shaq Thompson1----1

Dropped out: Shane Carden, James Conner, Melvin Gordon, Jameis Winston, Nick Marshall


Listen to the Week 5 recap podcast:

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

The Top 3:

1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Mariota and the Ducks were off this weekend but will host a revenge game against Arizona on Thursday night. Mariota was still nursing a knee injury when Oregon lost to the Wildcats in the desert last year, costing Mark Helfrich the Pac-12 North title in the process. This one could get ugly very quickly.


2. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

Gurley had a career day in a critical home win over Tennessee. In a game that saw quarterback Hutson Mason struggle mightily, Gurley was needed to carry his offense to victory. And he did just that by rushing 28 times for a career-high 208 yards and two touchdowns in the three-point win.


3. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

Cooper and the Tide were on bye in Week 4, giving Nick Saban two weeks to prepare for the daunting trip to Oxford this Saturday. ESPN's
"College Gameday" will be at The Grove for the first time and the moment couldn't be bigger for Ole Miss. A huge game from Cooper could launch Alabama into the top slot in the polls and Cooper to the top of many Heisman ballots.

Expert Poll: Week 5 Heisman Trophy Voting
Post date: Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - 08:45
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/outrageous-college-football-predictions-2014-week-6

The original reality TV show is sports. No contrived setting where seven strangers living in a house or one bachelor searching for love can match the excitement the Iron Bowl delivered last fall.


The beauty of college football lies in its complete unpredictability and drama. Here are some outrageous predictions for Week 6.


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

The Magnolia State will go unbeaten


It’s no secret this could be the biggest college football weekend in the state of Mississippi… ever. Ole Miss is hosting Alabama while Mississippi State is hosting Texas A&M. All four teams are unbeaten and Oxford has never hosted ESPN’s College Gameday (they will be at The Grove). Both the Rebels and the Bulldogs have the defenses needed to hold up against two extremely talented offenses, so two wins for the Magnolia State is very much a possibility.


Listen to the Week 5 recap podcast:

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


The Irish and Cardinal won’t score a touchdown


Stanford has allowed 19 total offensive points and just three trips into the red zone for the entire season. The Cardinal rank No. 1 in the nation in total defense and scoring defense at 6.5 points per game allowed. Notre Dame is fourth in the nation by allowing just 11.5 points per game in four contests. Stanford wins 12-9 on field goals alone.


Auburn, Oregon win by a combined 80 points


Auburn hosts LSU while Oregon hosts Arizona. Both the Wildcats and Bayou Bengals won these games last year and fans in both Auburn and Eugene should expect revenge in a big way this weekend. LSU was completely stomped by Mississippi State two weeks ago, so Gus Malzahn should have little trouble topping the Tigers with a big number. Marcus Mariota will run roughshod over a still developing Arizona squad. Look for two massive blowouts.


Ameer Abdullah will be held to less than 50 yards rushing


Very few players have been able to top 100 yards rushing against the Spartans but Ameer Abdullah is one of them. He rushed for 123 yards on 22 carries in a 41-28 loss at home to Sparty last season. After three 200-yard performances in five games this fall, the Nebraska running back is squarely in Heisman conversations. That all ends this weekend, however, as Michigan State will stack the box and totally shut down the Huskers' star player. Look for a big MSU win this weekend. 


Tennessee will do something it hasn’t done in 10 years… beat Florida


If there ever was a time for the Vols to snap the painful losing streak to the Gators, it’s this weekend. The Gators are smarting after the whipping they took at the hands of Alabama while Tennessee should be buoyed by another strong showing on the road against a highly ranked opponent. The Vols haven’t beat Florida since 2004 and will be at home for the first time since Week 2.

Outrageous College Football Predictions: 2014 Week 6
Post date: Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/dolphins-raiders-latest-lackluster-nfl-product-london

Miami beat Oakland 38-14 on Sunday in Wembley Stadium in London.


It was a putrid football game between one team that hasn’t won a game in its last 10 tries and another that hasn’t won a playoff game since 2000. It meant very little to the AFC playoff picture or to NFL fans in general.


It mattered to the Dolphins' starting quarterback, the fans in London and, most importantly, to Roger Goodell.


Ryan Tannehill hasn’t played well this season but he put together his best outing of the season against the Raiders after back-to-back losses to the Bills and Chiefs. But that is the only real football-related headline to come from the United Kingdom.


No, the most important headlines lie in the periphery. Wembley Stadium, which began hosting one NFL game per year in 2007, hosted 83,436 fans for the Dolphins' win over Oakland. With two more games scheduled this season — Detroit faces Atlanta on Oct. 26 and Dallas battles Jacksonville on Nov. 9 — the powers that be are excepting nearly 250,000 tickets sold for NFL games in London this fall. And, you’ll notice, none of those six teams made the playoffs last season.


At roughly, 100 pounds per ticket, these three games will net approximately 25 million pounds just at the turnstile alone. That’s more than $40 million.


Goodell is shipping the bottom third of his product to London and the fans are eating it up. There is a reason that rumors indicate the number of games played in London could jump from three to five in the very near future. Clearly, Goodell wants to grow the brand internationally and a vast global reach is the only space left for the NFL to conquer.


Despite the unexpected popularity abroad of the mid-season trip across the pond and the pressure to find new streams of revenue locally, talks of a team calling London home permanently may be premature, however.


Exorbitant travel costs, impossible scheduling, salary cap implications and even things as simple as facilities could keep a team from relocating to London.


It’s nearly 5,000 miles from Seattle to London, so scheduling becomes enormously difficult for every team West of the Mississippi. Players aren’t going to want to live most of the year overseas and that could impact the salary cap in a way that 31 other owners won’t appreciate. And there is no guarantee that there’s even a stadium capable of hosting eight home games a season.


Today, fans are flocking to these games because they get to see something they don’t see every day. They get different teams spaced out over three months for a rare and special experience. London has yet to even prove it can successfully host games in back-to-back weekends.


Once the average European realizes he’s paying $160 per game to see Derek Carr lose, the novelty and interest may dry up quicker than anticipated.

Dolphins, Raiders Latest in Lackluster NFL Product for London
Post date: Monday, September 29, 2014 - 17:00
Path: /nfl/teddy-bridgewater-blake-bortles-shine-nfl-starting-debut

The future was on full display in Minneapolis and San Diego on Sunday when both the Vikings and Jaguars started rookie quarterbacks.


Teddy Bridgewater made his first NFL start against the Falcons at home while Blake Bortles made his first on the road against the Chargers.


Despite different outcomes, both played exceptionally well in their starting debuts.


Both quarterbacks came out of the gate firing. Bridgewater completed every pass on the Vikings' first two drives (6-of-6), both of which ended in touchdowns. Bortles connected on 13 of his first 15 passes, directing the Jaguars to two touchdowns in the first half.


Bridgewater finished the game 19-of-30 for 317 yards and no turnovers to go along with 27 yards rushing and a touchdown. His last carry was the most costly, as the unflappable rookie hurt his ankle. He was carted off the field, but an MRI taken later showed no fracture. (Luckily, it doesn’t appear like the talented rookie will miss much time.)


More importantly, the Vikings' offense rolled up 588 yards and didn’t turn the ball over in a win over Atlanta, a team many consider to be playoff-caliber. The offense was balanced and Bridgewater looked like he did his entire college career at Louisville – in control and confident.


The outcome for Bortles wasn’t as noteworthy, as the Chargers pulled away in the second half from the overmatched Jaguars. But don’t let that dampen the performance of the young gunslinger.


The former UCF star was also in complete control of the offense and showed poise in a hostile environment. He finished 29-of-37 passing with 253 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and 24 yards rushing on five carries.


Again, look past the numbers to evaluate Bortles in his first career start. This offense looked like it was in sync for the first time all season. Jacksonville was solid on third downs (9 for 14), was perfect in the red zone (2-2) and committed just three penalties all game. In a very tough situation against a quality opponent, Bortles performed more than adequately.


Coming into the 2014 NFL Draft and throughout the summer, Johnny Manziel got all of the headlines. Manziel was the Heisman Trophy winner. Manziel was the draft day story as he dropped down boards. Yet Manziel was still the player thought to have a chance to start in Week 1.


As it turns out, the two forgotten first-rounders — the two guys who actually won conference championships in college — are the two names making headlines just four weeks into the season while Manziel has yet to complete a pass in the NFL.


Fans in both the Twin Cities and Jacksonville should be excited about the future of their team's quarterback position.

Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles Shine in NFL Starting Debut
Post date: Monday, September 29, 2014 - 15:00
All taxonomy terms: Dallas Cowboys, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/cowboys-running-game-could-save-jason-garrett-tony-romo-dallas

Jason Garrett and the Cowboys find themselves in unfamiliar territory after thumping the Saints at home on Sunday night.


Ranked No. 1 in the NFL in rushing and two games above .500.


Dallas ranked 24th in rushing last season, was 31st in rushing in 2012 and 18th in rushing in Garrett’s first season in '11. But after rushing for 190 yards in the surprisingly easy win over New Orleans; the Cowboys are leading the NFL with 165.0 yards rushing per game.


A big part of that has been DeMarco Murray, who ran 24 times for 149 yards and two more touchdowns in Week 4. It was his fourth 100-yard effort to start the season, placing him in rarified NFL air. Murray became just the fourth player in NFL history to rush for at least 100 yards and a TD in each of his team’s first four games. The other three? Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson and Emmitt Smith.


That’s pretty impressive company.


What’s more important for Garrett is the 3-1 record. It’s only the fourth time in Garrett’s coaching career in Dallas that his Cowboys were two games over .500. With a win over Houston at home next weekend, Garrett would move three games over .500 for just the second time in his career and the first time since Week 12 of his first season.


Tony Romo was excellent on Sunday night — 22-of-29, 262 yards, 3 TDs — but he is still a 34-year-old quarterback with a bad back and a tendency to throw interceptions. The defense still has plenty of work to do as well after allowing 438 yards in the win, leaving this unit ranked 24th in the NFL (390.0 ypg). If Dallas is going to make the playoffs, the running game has to continue to take pressure off of Romo.


The next few weeks will be critical for Garrett, Romo and Murray to prove this start isn’t a fluke, however. Four of the next five games will come at home for Dallas, giving the Cowboys an excellent chance to grab a foothold on at least a potential Wild Card berth. An in-state test against Houston at home is very winnable next weekend, as are critical NFC East home tilts with the Giants and Redskins.


Even if the trip to Seattle in two weeks is a guaranteed loss, Dallas is still looking at a glut of winnable games over the next six weeks before going on bye in Week 11. A home game with Arizona and road trip to Jacksonville is how Dallas will head into the off weekend.


A 7-3 record isn’t out of the question heading into the bye and that would put potentially put Dallas on a path to even less charted territory for Garrett. The playoffs.

Cowboys running game could save Jason Garrett, Tony Romo in Dallas
Post date: Monday, September 29, 2014 - 13:15