Articles By Braden Gall

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, 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 (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 . The podcast can be found on, , and .

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:
 |  |  |

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:
 |  |  |

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: |


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:


, FOX Sports

, Big Ten Network 

, CBS Sports

, SBNation

, Sports Illustrated


, Big Ten Network

, Bleacher Report, B/R Radio


, Athlon Sports

Athlon Sports

, Athlon Sports

, 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: |

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: |


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
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-2014-week-5-recap


Hosts Braden Gall and David Fox cover all of the action from the college gridiron in Week 5. The Pac-12 races start to heat up, the ACC struggles again and Kansas is looking for a new coach. The guys also have some strong words for Brady Hoke and quarterbacks in the SEC.

Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall or @DavidFox615 or email . The podcast can be found on, , and .

Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: 2014 Week 5 Recap
Post date: Monday, September 29, 2014 - 12:18
Path: /college-football/usc-fixes-defense-rebounds-big-against-oregon-state

Oregon State may not be a Pac-12 title contender but that didn't keep people like me from picking the Beavers to upset the Trojans this weekend. At the very least, most were taking Mike Riley's bunch to cover the 9.5-point spread.


The response from the Men of Troy after an extremely trying last two weeks was resounding. USC used stifling defense and a big play offense to cut through a solid Oregon State team with surprising ease.


The Beavers mustered only 181 yards of total offense on a putrid 3.2 yards per play, converted just 1-of-10 on third down chances, turned the ball over twice and allowed a Hail Mary touchdown on the final play of the first half. 


This from a USC defense that allowed 452 yards rushing to Boston College — a team that lost at home to Colorado State this weekend.


Again, Oregon State isn't a team on par with league championship contenders but Sean Mannion is the all-time leading passer in OSU history and this team had yet to lose. USC totally slammed the door.


Listen to the Week 5 recap podcast:

Subscribe: |


Despite the horrendous showing in Chestnutt Hill and longterm questions about depth hanging over the entire roster, this defense proved that it has the talent and ability to be dominant on any given night. The Trojans lead the Pac-12 in interceptions (seven) and are seventh nationally in turnover margin (plus-1.75 per game), good for second in the league behind Washington (plus-2.20). It's also getting off the field on the most critical down, leading the league in third-down defense (25.5 percent).


The defense even got the scoring started this weekend as Su'a Cravens' 31-yard interception return for a touchdown posted the Trojans to an early first quarter lead.


The offense took advantage. Steve Sarkisian and Cody Kessler rolled up 461 yards of offense — rushing and passing for over 200 yards — and scored on plays of 48, 21, 17 and 16 yards. Kessler was brilliant once again, throwing for 261 yards and two touchdowns on 24-of-32 passing while protecting the football.


In fact, Kessler has been this perfect all season, but he often gets overlooked in a league with huge numbers and high-profile dual-threat players. The USC quarterback is 16th in the nation in pass efficiency (167.41) but is sixth in the Pac-12 in the same category. He's fifth in the nation in completion percentage by connecting on a crisp 72 percent of his passes — third in the Pac-12. He's throw 10 touchdowns and not one interception while averaging nearly 300 yards per game but is sixth in the league in both yards (1,107) and touchdowns.


The quarterback position cannot be executed much better than Kessler is playing it right now and, statistically, he's not even a top five player at his position in the league. It's a testament to the depth, talent and coaching that's under center in the Pac-12. 


With Arizona State and Utah losing critical games in painful fashion, Sarkisian might have been the biggest winner in the Pac-12 South in Week 5. UCLA and Brett Hundley looked outstanding but have long been considered the favorite. And Arizona should figure heavily in the mix as well. But it feels like this will be a Los Angeles-centered battle for the right to represent the division in the Pac-12 title game.


The country has seen how ugly it can get when things start to go haywire for USC, but when the Trojans get balance on offense and are healthy on defense, this team is capable of beating anyone in the nation.


Coach Sark just needs to hope that anyone is the Bruins.

USC fixes defense, rebounds big against Oregon State
Post date: Sunday, September 28, 2014 - 16:30
Path: /college-football/usc-ucla-wins-bring-pac-12-south-race-focus

The Pac-12 South race got a little clearer in Week 5.


UCLA took a two-game lead on Arizona State. USC fixed its defensive issues and sits atop the South at 2-0. Utah missed a huge opportunity to enter the fray by choking away a big lead at home against Washington State.


UCLA's impressive victory over Arizona State on the road cannot be overstated. Brett Hundley returned to the field and destroyed the defending division champs totally reworked defense. He looked as good as he has looked at any point during this season.


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The win gives Jim Mora the first big leg up on the race to Levi's Stadium. Arizona State, without Taylor Kelly, is essentially two games behind UCLA and doesn't look like a team that will be capable of jumping back into first place. The Sun Devils next three games are road trips to USC and Washington sandwiched around a home game with Stanford.


Frankly, the only hope ASU had of repeating was a win over UCLA at home and it wasn't even competitive. Todd Graham's bunch could be out of Pac-12 contention by the first week of October if it can't beat the Trojans this weekend.


Speaking of the Men of Troy, USC against a team it should defeat if it wants to contend with the Bruins. Against Oregon State, the Trojans defense was suffocating, and Cody Kessler was masterful. When this team is healthy on defense and balanced on offense, it's capable of beating anyone in the nation.


Meanwhile, Kyle Whittingham missed a major opportunity to get his team into the conversation. Utah hasn't been to the postseason in either of its first two Pac-12 campaigns and a bowl game would quiet a lot of Whittingham doubters in Salt Lake City. With a 21-0 lead after one quarter, a 24-7 halftime lead and a 13-point fourth quarter advantage at home, the Utes should have entered Week 6 with a perfect record. However, Utah's bowl hopes may have disappeared as Connor Halliday threw two touchdowns in the final nine minutes to complete the shocking comeback.


Arizona, which was off this weekend, should figure into the mix as it has yet to play a divisional game yet. Rich Rodriguez won't have to wait long to find out if his young team can contender in the South, however. The Wildcats will face Oregon, USC, Washington State and UCLA in the next four weeks with all but the Cougars coming on the road. Odds are Arizona will pull an upset somewhere along the line but likely won't be capable of contending week in and week out in the South just yet.


No, after five weeks of play, all signs point to USC and UCLA duking it out for the Pac-12 South championship over the next eight weeks. The two will meet on Nov. 22 in Pasadena. UCLA has a heavy depth advantage and gets the key late season game at home but the Trojans have a significant schedule advantage. UCLA still has to face Oregon, Stanford, USC, Washington and Arizona.


After hosting the Kelly-less Sun Devils this weekend, USC faces just one ranked opponent in league play the rest of the season and that's the Bruins.

USC, UCLA wins bring Pac-12 South race into focus
Post date: Sunday, September 28, 2014 - 16:15
Path: /college-football/stanfords-defense-makes-statement-against-washington

A finished product Stanford is not, but David Shaw in the fourth quarter watched a defense that re-established the Cardinal’s Pac-12 credentials.


As the offense sputtered at times, the Stanford defense picked up two critical stops in the fourth quarter to pick up a 20-13 road win to keep alive the Cardinal’s opportunity to repeat as conference champs.


A loss to Washington would have eliminated Stanford from the College Football Playoff and would have made winning the North or the Pac-12 unlikely. Avoiding 0-2 was a must for Shaw's bunch to remain relevant in the national conversation.


The nation's top defense wasn't brilliant only in the final few minutes, though. Stanford held Washington to 179 total yards of offense and six offensive points — all in the second quarter. The Huskies offense averaged just 2.1 yards per carry and passed for merely 98 yards. Four of Washington's seven second-half possessions ended in punts while the other three ended on failed fourth down conversions. This came against a team that had scored at least 44 points in three consecutive games. It's why the Cardinal were able to overcome three costly turnovers.


In four games this season, Stanford's defense has allowed 19 total offensive points.


However, if Stanford is going to repeat as Pac-12 champs, quarterback Kevin Hogan needs to take the next step in his development process. While Stanford's dismal red zone statistics indicate that maybe hasn't happened fully, Hogan led the game-winning drive in the final minutes of play.


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With the help of a facemask penalty, the veteran quarterback marched his offense 47 yards on six plays to take the lead with 5:14 left in the game. Hogan ran the ball four times for 21 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown. He got the job done when Shaw needed him most and the offensive line was adequate (one sack allowed) against a defensive line that entered Saturday leading the nation in sacks.


For what it's worth, Hogan is on pace to blow past his 2013 numbers. As a passer, he's increased his production (220.8 ypg vs. 188.2) and efficiency — improving on both his completion percentage (71 percent vs. 61 percent) and efficiency rating (167.57 vs. 151.64). Those are significant improvements since he's already faced two of the better Pac-12 defenses.


While Hogan is clearly taking the right steps forward, finishing drives is still a big problem for the Cardinal. Hogan was solid against Washington, getting points on four of his five trips into scoring territory. But even after that strong showing, Shaw's offense ranks dead last in the Pac-12 with a 63.2 percent red zone scoring percentage (12-of-19). This must improve as the schedule continues to get tougher.


While this Cardinal team is still searching for itself on offense to some extent, the gaping holes left by departures to the NFL and a defensive coordinator leaving for the SEC appear to have been filled. This team leads the nation in total defense (198.0 ypg), passing defense (74.0 ypg), scoring defense (6.5 ppg) and has allowed an opponent to drive into its red zone only three times all season — which, of course, leads the nation. 


As long as this defense continues to thrive, there will always be time for the offense to play catch up in September. However, October is here and the final two months bring road games against Notre Dame, Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA. There is no more time for catch up.


Things don't get any easier for Washington, either. The Huskies will face road games in three of their next four, including a trip to Oregon. Home tilts with Arizona State and UCLA loom over the next few weeks as well. After 179 yards, six points and not one trip into the Stanford red zone, Chris Petersen must acknowledge his program may not be ready to compete in the North yet.


Stanford is back in control of its own destiny in the North after a huge road win in Seattle. Its defense looks as good as ever and its quarterback appears to be coming into his own as the leader of the offense. 


Mark Helfrich and his woefully thin offensive line have been warned.

Stanford's defense makes statement against Washington
Post date: Sunday, September 28, 2014 - 15:20
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-college-football-2014-week-5-picks

Finally, a winning record. I am still hovering around .500 and need to continue to post winning records to get above the break-even point.


Again, the good news is I hope you are looking at Mitch Light’s Top 25 picks. He is smoldering hot this season at 36-22-1 against the spread for all Top 25 games this season. (I am holding my own at 32-26-1.)


On to Week 5, which is loaded with a whole bunch of intriguing conference games. I’m taking you deep into the smaller leagues this weekend, so hold on…


Last Week: 3-2

Year-to-Date: 11-12


Baylor (-21) at Iowa St

The Bears are 3-0 against the number thus far in 2014 and it should cover once again. The Cyclones have played Baylor tough at home under Paul Rhoads but this is a different Bears squad — one that is getting healthy with names like Antwan Goodley returning to the lineup. This is Baylor’s toughest game to date but has won three times by 50.3 points. Prediction: Baylor -21


Notre Dame (-9) vs. Syracuse (East Rutherford, NJ)

Brian Kelly has had two weeks to prepare for the Orange and not having to play in the Carrier Dome will help as well. The Irish are a significantly more talented team and should be able to run away and hide with relative ease against an overmatched opponent. Prediction: Notre Dame -9


Middle Tennessee (+3.5) at Old Dominion

Old Dominion won its first C-USA game last weekend at Rice but now must face a MTSU team that can score big points of its own behind quarterback Austin Grammer. The Blue Raiders scored 61 in the opener and 50 against Western Kentucky and should be able to score in bunches against ODU. Prediction: MTSU +3.5


Nevada (-4.5) at San Jose St

The Wolf Pack has been very competitive against Pac-12 teams, so handling San Jose State shouldn’t be an issue for Nevada. Beating Wazzu and nearly beating Arizona indicates that this Nevada team is a darn solid team. Prediction: Nevada -4.5


Texas St (+3) at Tulsa

The Golden Hurricane have been really, really bad this year. They’ve lost to Oklahoma by 45 and to FAU by 29 — the latter being much more disturbing. Texas State has played Illinois and Navy tough in two losses and could easily win this one outright. Predictions: Texas State +3


Bonus: Take road dogs in important games


Missouri (+5.5) at South Carolina

Maty Mauk should be able to take advantage of the issues in South Carolina's secondary. Someone knows something about this line so I’ll take the smart money.


Arkansas (+9.5) vs. Texas A&M (Arlington, TX)

It’s not a true road game for the Hogs but their running game should be capable of challenging the Aggies' front seven. Take the over and the underdog to cover.


Oregon State (+9.5) at USC

This game is always close and USC has major depth and defensive issues. Sean Mannion should be able to exploit this depleted defense and it seems like too many points.


Duke (+7.5) at Miami

The Blue Devils are a quality team and the atmosphere won’t be challenging at all. This number seems way too high for a defending division champ.


Maryland (+4.5) at Indiana

Yes, this is a sneaky meaningful game in the Big Ten and the Terps are surging on offense. Take the over and the Terps to cover. 


Top 25 Picks ATS:


Top 25Braden Gall Mitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
Florida St (-19) at NC State 
La. Tech (+32.5) at Auburn 
Arkansas (+9.5) vs Texas A&M 
Baylor (-21) at Iowa St 
Notre Dame (-9) at Syracuse 
Wyoming (+31) at Michigan St 
Memphis (+19) at Ole Miss 
Tennessee (+17) at Georgia 
Missouri (+5.5) at S. Carolina 
Stanford (-8) at Washington 
N. Mex. St (+42.5) at LSU 
Oregon St (+9.5) at USC 
USF (+34) at Wisconsin 
Illinois (+20) at Nebraska 
Cincinnati (+15) at Ohio St 
UTEP (+26) at Kansas St 
Last Week:7-6 9-46-77-6
YTD:32-26-1 36-22-126-32-128-30-1


Betting Against the Spread: College Football 2014 Week 5 Picks
Post date: Friday, September 26, 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-5-preview


Hosts Braden Gall and Steven Lassan previews the big games of Week 5. The Pac-12 takes center stage with a deep slate of action while the SEC has three marquee showdowns. Florida State, Baylor and Ohio State all have interesting tests 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 . The podcast can be found on, , and .

Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: Week 5 Preview
Post date: Thursday, September 25, 2014 - 11:18
Path: /college-football/pac-12-2014-week-5-preview-and-predictions

The slate of action last weekend in the Pac-12 was seriously lacking but that didn’t stop the West Coast from entertaining the college football world thoroughly.


After a wild Hail Mary in Tucson and an intense back-and-forth affair in Pullman, both Oregon and Arizona deserve a week off. Cal and Washington State, however, must get off the mat and get back to work.


Conference play begins in earnest this weekend with a marquee showdown in both the South Division on Thursday night and the North on Saturday evening. In fact, they might be the two biggest games of the weekend nationally.

Week 5 Previews and Predictions:
 |  |  |

Pac-12 Game Power Rankings for Week 5


1. UCLA at Arizona St
Thurs., 10 p.m., FS1

First things first. Taylor Kelly isn’t going to play for Arizona State and, despite Jim Mora playing it coy, most would be shocked if Brett Hundley wasn’t on the field. The Sun Devils will start Mike Bercovici, who has spent three years in Todd Graham’s offense and has a powerful right arm, but has only attempted 24 career passes. While all eyes will focus on the quarterbacks (rightly so), the most critical matchups will take place in the trenches. UCLA will have to stop one of the nation’s most productive players in D.J. Foster, a guy who is averaging 216.3 yards from scrimmage per game. On the other side, Arizona State’s rebuilt defense will have a shot to get after one of the worst offensive lines in the league. If the Bruins can protect Hundley, UCLA should be able to move the ball against a defense that is still an unknown. If the most sacked QB in the nation the last three years has no time to throw, the Sun Devils have the offensive weapons to win at home. For what it’s worth, in two games between Mora and Graham, the home team is 0-2 and has scored at least 33 points in both games.


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2. Stanford at Washington
4:15 p.m., FOX

Few games in the Pac-12 will have as much importance attached or will be played with as much physicality as this one. Stanford lost the last time it visited Seattle in dramatic fashion on a Thursday night. While the names on the field and on the sideline have changed plenty since that game, the identity of each program has not. Stanford still plays nasty defense, allowing under five points per game this fall and will pressure quarterback Cyler Miles in a big way. The Huskies currently lead the nation in sacks and will make life miserable for Kevin Hogan while looking to pound the football on offense. Hogan has played in this game and has already battled USC’s front seven this fall but the very talented Miles is still largely unproven. He is completing nearly 68 percent of his passes and hasn’t thrown an interception, but he also hasn’t faced anything like what he will get from this Stanford defense on Saturday. David Shaw’s team is a proven commodity with a fairly distinct identity and it falls to the Huskies to stop them on both sides of the ball. Chris Petersen’s team has been schizophrenic but has the talent to win at home. Few games in this league will feature the talent in the trenches as this nationally televised North Division bout.


3. Oregon St at USC
10:30 p.m., ESPN

Was two weeks enough to fix the issues USC had on defense against Boston College? Trying to stop Sean Mannion, the Beavers' all-time leading passer, figures to be a good test to find out just how depleted that Trojans defense really is. The OSU quarterback has been excellent (301.0 ypg) but what Justin Wilcox and Steve Sarkisian have to be worried about is the Beavers' running game. Storm Woods and Terron Ward have combined for 424 yards and six scores in three games, as the duo has added balance to the Oregon State offense. Cody Kessler is playing excellent football but the Trojans' ground attack needs to be more consistent after just 20 yards on 29 carries against BC. This matchup has been a sneaky good rivalry as Mike Riley has consistently been a thorn in the side of the Men of Troy. A win in L.A. for Oregon State would be a crippling blow to USC’s title hopes.


4. Washington St at Utah
8 p.m., P12 Net

After a great win in Ann Arbor last weekend, Kyle Whittingham’s bunch has a great shot to continue that momentum into league play with Wazzu coming to town. Salt Lake City has been a tough place for league foes, as six of Utah's nine Pac-12 wins since joining the league in 2011 have come at home. Washington State got after Marcus Mariota last week (7.0 sacks) but both sides of the ball have been wildly inconsistent for Mike Leach. This is a huge chance for Whittingham to move one win closer to the postseason. Look for Utah’s excellent special teams to play a huge role again this weekend.


5. Colorado at Cal
4 p.m., P12 Net

The Buffs and Bears combined for one Pac-12 win and five total victories last year. Four weeks into the season, these two have already registered four wins. The one league win last year was Colorado’s 41-24 win over Cal when Mike MacIntrye’s team produced more yards (485) than in any other league game. Sefo Liuafau threw for 364 yards and will undoubtedly target the league’s top receiver Nelson Spruce in a big way this weekend. Cal will turn to Jared Goff (and some Luke Rubenzer) to match the Buffs on offense, as the Bears try to erase the awful taste in their mouth from the debacle in the desert last weekend. Sonny Dykes' team is clearly improved and is a two-touchdown favorite at home so Cal could give Dykes his first career Pac-12 win.


Off: Oregon, Arizona


Pac-12 Predictions:

 Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
UCLA (-3.5) at Ariz. StUCLA, 33-30UCLA, 27-23UCLA, 28-10UCLA, 30-24
Stanford (-8) at Wash.Stan., 28-21Stan., 24-20Stan., 24-14Stan., 27-24
Ore. St (+9.5) at USCOSU, 31-30USC, 30-20USC, 38-31USC, 34-24
Wazzu (+13.5) at UtahUtah, 40-30Utah, 41-30Utah, 27-21Utah, 38-30
Colo. (+13.5) at CalCal, 38-30Cal, 34-24Cal, 42-38Cal, 34-27
Last Week:5-16-06-05-1


Pac-12 2014 Week 5 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 25, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-2014-week-5-preview-and-predictions

It was an extremely light week in Big 12 action despite two contenders (Kansas State and Oklahoma) playing critical nationally televised games last weekend.


Things return to normal somewhat in Week 5 as this league gets back into full scale play with three conference tilts, a North Texas rivalry and… UTEP.

Week 5 Previews and Predictions:
 |  |  |


Big 12 Week 5 Game Power Rankings


1. Texas Tech at Oklahoma St
Thurs., 7:30 p.m., ESPN

The Red Raiders haven’t won in Stillwater since 2001, have lost five straight to the Cowboys overall and will need to show marked improvement coming off an ugly 21-point loss to Arkansas at home if they want to win their Big 12 opener. Kliff Kingsbury is also replacing his defensive coordinator after Matt Wallerstedt stepped down during the off week. Former alum Mike Smith is now in charge of the defense — one that has to stop Mike Gundy’s improving Air Raid. But while Daxx Garman has been a solid fit in replacing J.W. Walsh, it’s Glenn Spencer’s defense that has the Pokes ahead of the perceived rebuilding schedule in Stillwater. Ok-State has been excellent in the red zone on defense and held UTSA to just 206 yards and 3.2 yards per play the last time out. Davis Webb and company cannot make the mistakes that have plagued this team — Tech is last in the Big 12 in turnover margin (-4) and penalties (10.0/game) — or Oklahoma State will run away with its first league victory.


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2. Baylor at Iowa St
8 p.m., FOX

The Cyclones may not be considered a Big 12 title contender but they are easily the toughest competition Baylor has faced all season. Iowa State is 2-0 under Paul Rhoads against Baylor at home while holding the Bears to just 31 total points in the two victories. That said, the Bears have run through the Big 12 since losing in Ames in 2012 and will be getting top playmaker Antwan Goodley back on the field this weekend. Bryce Petty may never return to full strength this season, so protecting the quarterback will be key for Art Briles. This was a 64-point win for Baylor in Waco last season and, while this is the Bears’ toughest test to date, it’s hard to see ISU closing the gap enough to compete for four quarters.


3. Texas at Kansas
4 p.m., FS1

Charlie Strong is in desperate need of some good news and a quality performance on the road in his Big 12 opener would be just that. Even if it is against Kansas. Fans in Austin know that Texas cannot take a trip to Lawrence lightly, as the Jayhawks nearly upset the Horns in 2012. Tyrone Swoopes showed a lot of promise in losses to BYU and UCLA, but this will be his first true road start of his career. If he is as efficient (70.6 percent) throwing the ball as he was against the Bruins, the Longhorns should be able to move the chains consistently. Kansas’ offense, led by quarterback Montell Cozart and tailback Corey Avery, needs to show up against quality competition. Against SEMO and Central Michigan, Kansas posted 826 yards of offense and 5.8 yards per play. Against the only Big 5 team it’s played (Duke), it accounted for just 297 yards and 3.9 yards per play. Look for Texas’ defensive line to control the tempo and get off the field on third downs.


4. UTEP at Kansas St

Bill Snyder’s bunch desperately needs to get back onto the field after self-inflicted wounds cost Kansas State a shot at a major upset over Auburn. The defense was excellent, in particular, against the Tigers' rushing attack. The Cats will need to bring the same type of intensity to the trenches again this week, as UTEP averages 315 yards rushing per game on 6.1 yards per carry. If K-State can regroup (easier said than done after the letdown last Thursday), then the home team should roll big. Jake Waters and the offense likely had a sobering week of practice and should be able to move the ball effectively against UTEP.


5. TCU at SMU
Noon, CBS Sports

The Battle for the Iron Skillet won’t be nearly as heated as its name would indicate. SMU is in rough shape under interim head coach Tom Mason after allowing 9.8 yards per play in the 52-point loss to Texas A&M last weekend. Gary Patterson’s squad, meanwhile, has had two weeks to prepare for its crosstown rival after rolling through both Samford and Minnesota in the first two weeks. Trevone Boykin looks like he’s settled in as the starting quarterback and should direct a similar attack to the one the Aggies just used to crush the Mustangs. It’s going to be a long year for the Pony Express.


Off: Oklahoma, West Virginia


Big 12 Predictions:

 Braden GallMitch LightDavid FoxSteven Lassan
T. Tech (+14) at Okla. StOSU, 42-28OSU, 34-28OSU, 35-21OSU, 41-30
Baylor (-21) at Iowa StBay., 49-21Bay., 48-17Bay., 56-14Bay., 55-20
Texas (-14) at KansasTexas, 30-17Texas, 31-10Texas, 21-13Texas, 30-13
UTEP (+26) at Kansas StKSU, 45-7KSU, 34-16KSU, 35-10KSU, 41-17
TCU (-31.5) at SMUTCU, 40-10TCU, 41-0TCU, 42-7TCU, 45-10
Last Week:3-03-02-13-0


Big 12 2014 Week 5 Preview and Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 25, 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-5

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 4.


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

Mike Bercovici will throw for more yards than Brett Hundley


The Sun Devils' backup quarterback is stepping into a starring role this Thursday against No. 12 UCLA having thrown just 24 career passes. But the strong-armed righty has plenty of experience in this offense, as he battled with Taylor Kelly for starting duties two years ago. Bercovici will chuck it around all night while UCLA will turn to the running game.


Arkansas will rush for more yards than Texas A&M will pass


Much like the Arkansas-Texas Tech game two weeks ago, this meeting in Arlington, Texas, will feature an exciting battle of tempo and scheme. The Razorbacks have been unstoppable on the ground, rushing for 324.5 yards per game. The Aggies, behind Kenny Hill, have averaged 405.0 yards passing per game. If Bret Bielema wants to win, he will have to control the clock so look for more yards rushing from the Hogs than passing from the Ags.


Bonus: Also, keep an eye on Western Kentucky and Navy this weekend. The Hilltoppers are No. 2 nationally in passing offense (486.3 ypg) while the Midshipmen rank No. 4 nationally in rushing (345.0 ypg).


Shaq Thompson will lead the Huskies in tackles and rushing


Washington and Stanford have played two physical and epic showdowns the last two seasons with each team winning a close one at home. The Huskies will turn to the best player on the field for either team in two-way star Shaq Thompson to carry them this weekend. Thompson will lead the Huskies in rushing against the most physical defense in the Pac-12 while also leading the Huskies in tackles against the most physical offense in the Pac-12. It should be another brutal battle for the lead in the Pac-12 North.


Neither Minnesota nor Michigan will complete a pass (to their own team)


Michigan’s offensive struggles have reached epic proportions, scoring just three points on offense against Big 5 teams this year. The Wolverines rank 100th in passing offense and both Devin Gardner and Shane Morris threw interceptions last weekend. Meanwhile, Minnesota ranks 124th in passing offense and backup quarterback Chris Streveler completed just one pass a week ago against San Jose State. The battle for The Little Brown Jug could set the forward pass back two decades if these two aren’t careful.


Duke will win an ACC game in Miami


Duke and Miami have played just 11 times, including the last nine as members of the ACC Coastal Division. The Blue Devils defeated the Canes 48-30 in Durham last season and won the first-ever meeting between these two back in 1976 in Miami (non-conference). The Hurricanes have won every other meeting (9-2) between those two games. That will change this weekend when Duke posts its first-ever ACC win at Miami. The four previous conference meetings in South Florida saw the Devils outscored by an average of 27 points.

Outrageous College Football Predictions: 2014 Week 5
Post date: Wednesday, September 24, 2014 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/expert-poll-week-4-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:


, FOX Sports

, Big Ten Network 

, CBS Sports

, SBNation

, Sports Illustrated


, Big Ten Network

, Bleacher Report, B/R Radio


, Athlon Sports

Athlon Sports

, Athlon Sports

, Athlon Sports, SiriusXM


The Results:


1.Marcus Mariota6312-1--
2.Todd Gurley41-911-
3.Amari Cooper31126--
4.Kenny Hill20-2222
5.Ameer Abdullah15--241
6.Dak Prescott6---14
7.Taysom Hill5---21
8.Everett Golson4--1-1
9t.Jameis Winston2---1-
9t.Melvin Gordon2---1-
9t.Bryce Petty2---1-
12t.Nick Marshall1----1
12t.Shaq Thompson1----1
12t.Shane Carden1----1
12t.James Conner1----1

Dropped out: Demarcus Robinson


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The Top 3:

1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Mariota was brilliant late on Saturday evening against an upstart Washington State squad. Without two starters along his offensive line, the Oregon quarterback ran for his life all game long, as the Cougars consistently forced him out of the pocket. He finished 21-of-25 passing (84 percent) for 329 yards and five touchdowns while rushing 13 times for 58 yards in the seven-point win. In four games, Mariota has 1,135 yards passing, 214 yards rushing, 16 total touchdowns and no interceptions.


2. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

The UGA tailback wasn’t needed much in the 66-0 win over Troy. Gurley carried six times for 73 yards and didn’t reach the end zone in extremely limited time. He still leads the SEC in rushing yards per game (134.0 ypg, 10th nationally) but is third behind Alex Collins (490) and Josh Robinson (485) when it comes to yards alone.


3. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

There is no doubt Lane Kiffin has made a huge difference with the Alabama offense and no one is more appreciative than Cooper. The Bama wideout caught 10 passes for 201 yards and three huge touchdowns against Florida in a marquee win in Alabama’s SEC opener. He is leading the nation with 43 receptions (10.8 pg) and receiving yards at 655 (163.8 pg) and has scored five times. He is on pace for 129 receptions, 1,965 yards and 15 touchdowns — all of which would be school records.

Expert Poll: Week 4 Heisman Trophy Voting
Post date: Wednesday, September 24, 2014 - 07:45
Path: /college-football/10-amazing-college-football-stats-week-4-pac-12

Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from around the weekend of Pac-12 football action:


44: Yards allowed in the second half by Washington

One of the most shocking halftime scores of Week 4 was the Huskies trailing 35-point underdog Georgia State 14-0. Washington had allowed 219 yards of offense in the first quarter. In the second half, the Dawgs stiffened up, outscoring the Panthers 45-0 and holding them to just 44 yards of total offense.


0: Interceptions thrown by Cyler Miles this season

Part of the reason Washington stormed back to beat GSU was creating four Panthers turnovers while not giving the ball up once. Quarterback Cyler Miles has a model citizen on the field when it comes to protecting the ball. Miles has 71 pass attempts for 525 yards in three games and has yet to throw an interception. He has scored eight total touchdowns.


36: Points Scored by Arizona in Fourth Quarter Against Cal

The Golden Bears led the Wildcats 31-13 at the end of the third quarter. One quarter later, the shootout everyone expected finally started. The Wildcats and Golden Bears combined for 50 points in the fourth quarter, with Arizona recording a school-record 36 in a crazy 49-45 victory.


47-of-73: Anu Solomon school records for completions and attempts

Quarterback Anu Solomon is a burgeoning star in the Pac-12 for Arizona. He set school records for both completions (47) and attempts (73) attempts in the wild, come-from-behind win over Cal at home. He finished with 520 yards passing and led the team in rushing with 46 yards. Solomon is second in the nation with 1,621 yards of total offense.


7.0: Sacks allowed by Oregon

The Ducks won on Saturday evening but there are some glaring concerns about the Oregon offensive line moving forward. With two starters missing up front, Marcus Mariota was running for his life and was sacked seven times. Oregon gave up a total of 18 sacks last year and had allowed just three in three games this season entering Week 4. Now, the Ducks are 11th in the Pac-12 with 10 sacks allowed (UCLA, 11).


11,339: Sean Mannion career passing yards

Oregon State’s quarterback threw for 275 yards in the 28-7 win over San Diego State. For his career, Mannion has thrown for 11,339 yards, passing Derek Anderson (11,249) this weekend for No. 1 all-time in school history. Mannion is seven touchdowns behind Anderson’s school record of 79.


0: Trips allowed into the red zone by Utah

Michigan has some major offensive issues and Utah exploited them this weekend in the easy 26-10 win in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines had 12 offensive possessions and didn’t advance into the Utes’ red zone one time. Technically, Utah’s defense allowed just three points since UM’s only score came on defense. Additionally, Kyle Whittingham is 2-0 in The Big House.


3: Kaelin Clay return touchdowns

Clay returned a punt 66 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter against Michigan this weekend. It was his second punt return for a touchdown this year and his third return for a score overall. Only Vanderbilt’s Darius Sims has two return scores this fall, so Clay leads the nation with three.


8.0: Yards per play for Cal

The Golden Bears choked away a chance at a quality road win in the Pac-12 in Tucson this weekend. That ugly fourth quarter shouldn’t overshadow the fact that this team is clearly improved. This offense averaged just 5.2 yards per play a year ago (98th nationally) but posted 8.0 yards per play against Arizona. In three games, Cal is averaging 6.8 yards per play (28th).


518: Nelson Spruce receiving yards

The Colorado Buffaloes' star wide receiver has quickly replaced Paul Richardson in Boulder. Spruce caught 13 passes for 172 yards and a touchdown in the win over Hawaii. He is now third in the nation with 518 yards (Amari Cooper, Kevin White) and is leading the nation with seven receiving touchdowns.

10 Amazing College Football Stats from Week 4 in the Pac-12
Post date: Tuesday, September 23, 2014 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/10-amazing-college-football-stats-week-4-big-12

Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from around the weekend of Big 12 football action:


359: Yards allowed by Kansas State

Kansas State lost an ugly one to the Tigers on Thursday night but not for a lack of effort. Bill Snyder’s bunch held Auburn to a Gus Malzahn-low 359 yards of total offense. Only four other times has a team held a Malzahn-coached Auburn team to less than 400 yards of offense: Alabama (393), Arkansas (366) and Washington State (394) are the only other teams to keep the Tigers under 400 yards of offense in the Malzahn era.


2.0: Points per trip inside the 40 for Kansas State

Points per trip inside the opponent’s 40 is a great way to calculate a team’s ability to finish drives effectively. And the Wildcats mustered just 2.0 points (14) per trip inside the Auburn 40-yard line (7). To put this into perspective, FIU was last in the nation last year in this category with 2.36 points per trip inside the 40.


0: Kansas State penalties

While big miscues cost the Wildcats in a big way — missed field goals and turnovers namely — Kansas State still managed to stay off the stat sheet in one important category. The Cats weren’t penalized one time against Auburn and currently lead the Big 12 with just 13 penalties in three games (14th nationally). They have been hit with 92 yards of yellow flags — good for sixth nationally.


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4-8: Big 12 record against Big 5 schools

Counting the independent BYU Cougars as a “Big 5” school leaves the against power conference teams. The wins? Oklahoma over Tennessee and a 3-0 mark against the Big Ten (Minnesota, Iowa, Maryland). Losses to Alabama (WVU), Florida State (OSU), Auburn (KSU) and UCLA (Texas) were at least competitive. There are no more games left with the Big 5 for the league.


152: Samaje Perine’s Big 12 rushing lead

After rushing for 242 yards — the most by any Sooner since DeMarco Murray in 2010 — on 34 carries and scoring , Oklahoma’s freshman tailback is now leading the Big 12 in rushing with 419 yards. In fact, he’s 152 yards ahead of No. 2, the Mountaineers' Rushel Shell (267). Additionally, both Shell (4.1 ypc) and Perine (6.4) have 66 rushing attempts this season.


8: Oklahoma interceptions this season

After two more interceptions this weekend, the Sooners are leading the nation with eight picked off passes. Oklahoma’s plus-6 turnover margin is tops in the Big 12 and tied for sixth nationally.


5: Yards Clint Trickett is shy of matching his 2013 total

Through four games, few players in the nation are as improved as West Virginia’s Clint Trickett. He has 1,600 yards passing in four games, two of which came against teams ranked in the top five. His grand passing total from 2013: 1,605 yards.


9: Kevin White's fewest receptions in a game this season

With another 10 receptions for 173 yards in the loss to Oklahoma, West Virginia wideout Kevin White kept pace with Alabama’s Amari Cooper. He’s is second in the nation in both receptions (42) and yards (633) to only Cooper and has caught at least nine passes in each of the four games he’s played in this fall.


16.3: Tony Pierson yards per touch this season

In the 24-10 win over Central Michigan, Pierson ran three times for 77 yards and caught three passes for 12 yards. On the season, the Jayhawks' top playmaker has 245 yards from scrimmage (121 rush, 124 rec.) on just 16 total touches for a per-touch average of 16.3 yards. It might make sense to get him as involved in the offense as possible.


2: Times Charlie Weis has had a winning record at Kansas after Week 1

Kansas has won each of its season openers under Charlie Weis, so the Jayhawks had a winning record after Week 1 in each of the last three seasons. But other than Week 4 of last year, the Jayhawks haven’t had a winning record after Week 1 under Weis until beating Central Michigan this weekend (2-1). In fact, this is the latest in the calendar year Kansas has been above .500 under Weis.

10 Amazing College Football Stats from Week 4 in the Big 12
Post date: Monday, September 22, 2014 - 16:22
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-week-4-recap


The guys recap the big weekend of action in the SEC, including Florida-Bama, Mississippi State-LSU and Missouri's lose to Indiana. The Big Ten deserves credit with the exception of Michigan, so what does the lose to Utah mean for Brady Hoke? The ACC struggled in Week 4 and the guys break down all of the action from Florida State-Clemson and the rest of the ACC. And Week 4 ended with some serious fireworks from the Pac-12. 

Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall or @DavidFox615 or email . The podcast can be found on, , and .

Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: Week 4 Recap
Post date: Monday, September 22, 2014 - 11:55
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Utah Utes, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/utah-utes-complete-team-effort-embarrasses-michigan

The Utes used a narrow upset over a Michigan team that would eventually lose nine games to catapult itself to an unblemished 13-0 season to start 2008.


Kyle Whittingham is hoping that a similar outcome in the Ann Arbor could do something similar for his Utah squad again six years later. And after navigating an extended (try 2 hours and 24 minutes) lightning delay, Utah put an end to Michigan's sobering evening in front of a bizarrely empty Michigan Stadium.


The most encouraging aspect of the Utes impressive win in Ann Arbor is how complete this roster appears to be.


Travis Wilson, who has navigated numerous concussion issues during his time in Salt Lake City, again dealt with some minor problems after his helmet popped off and he landed awkwardly on his neck. But, under the tutelage of first year coordinator Dave Christensen, Wilson led his offense to three second-half scoring drives — which was plenty for Whittingham's defense.


The Utes were relentless on defense, forcing four Michigan turnovers, allowing just three offensive points and holding the Wolverines to a season-low 4.1 yards per play. 


While the defense was dominant and the offense was just good enough, what makes Utah's thorough victory the Big House so impressive was the third aspect of the game.


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Kicker Andy Phillips drilled four field goals and two extra points for a perfect evening and has made 23 of his 24 total kicks this fall. Kick and punt return dynamo Kaelin Clay proved once again to be a mighty weapon. The electric senior from Long Beach, Calif., returned a punt 66 yards for his third return score of the season (the two others were on kickoffs).


This was a relatively easy and utterly complete road victory over a Big Ten blueblood. The importance of this workmanlike win for a team that has failed to reach the postseason since joining the Pac-12 in 2012 cannot be overstated. The Utes will be a factor in some capacity in the South Division race.


For Michigan, the glaringly empty and eerie 105,000-seat stadium following the weather delay told the entire story.


Utah's complete team effort embarrasses Michigan
Post date: Sunday, September 21, 2014 - 14:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oklahoma Sooners, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-sooners-flex-big-12-muscle-against-west-virginia

If you are going to win the Big 12, you are going to have to beat Oklahoma.


This may have been an idea that most agreed with or believed to be true. But after a dominating second half performance against West Virginia along the offensive and defensive lines, it's likely a fact now. 


Trevor Knight wasn't perfect (16-of-29, 205 yards, 0 TD, INT), Keith Ford didn't play and Bob Stoops was just 6-7 in last 13 road night games.


So on a night where the Sooners had a lot working against them — not the least of which was a surging Mountaineers offense — the big uglies in the trenches took over in the second half and showed the Mountaineers what a complete team looks like.


The Sooners front seven got pressure throughout the second half, finishing with three turnovers, three sacks and countless knockdowns of WVU's Clint Trickett. Eric Striker (8 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 1.0 sack) and company did what you have to do against Dan Holgorsen's offense if you want to win — make it one dimensional. Oklahoma now leads the nation in interceptions (8) and is 16th in sacks (12.0).


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On offense, Knight turned to a true freshman to carry the load in an effort to slow things down, keep the ball away from Trickett and allow the offensive line to impose it's will. Samaje Perine was the Sooners' No. 3 tailback entering the season but the 240-pound running back was the star of the show on Saturday night, carrying 34 times for 242 yards and four touchdowns in the win. It was the first 200-yard night for a Sooners runner since Adrian Peterson did it in 2004.


In a hostile environment, it was the physical domination of the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball that was most impressive for Oklahoma. Once the game settled down in the second half — the Sooners outscored the Mountaineers 21-3 in the second half until a late score — Stoops' squad turned the game into a slugfest brawl in the trenches.


Which is exactly where opposing coaches don't want to find themselves against the Sooners. Entering this game, West Virginia had a chance to make a big statement and announce to the Big 12 it was going to be in the title mix. That didn't happen.


What happened was Oklahoma put a firm stake in the ground atop the Big 12 standings at 1-0 and if your favorite Big 12 team wants to be mentioned in contention for a conference title, the odds are they will have to beat Oklahoma head-to-head.


Good luck, with that.


Hear my interview with Oklahoma's Trevor Knight last night after the game. He credits the O-Line and the running backs for the big win over West Virginia:

Oklahoma Sooners flex Big 12 muscle against West Virginia
Post date: Sunday, September 21, 2014 - 14:15
All taxonomy terms: Arizona Wildcats, College Football, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/anu-solomons-hail-mary-proves-arizona-must-see-tv-pac-12

In just four career games, Arizona redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon has established himself as a future star of college football.


Rich Rodriguez has always gotten dynamic and productive quarterback play ever since breaking into big time college football West Virginia. Pat White, Denard Robinson and Matt Scott are the legacy Solomon is now trying to surpass. 


And in just four career games, it appears like he might succeed. 


Solomon's final pass in a game in which he threw the ball 73 times will be one of the most memorable in Arizona football history and is arguably the greatest play of the young 2014 season. 



The improbable game-winning, 47-yard Hail Mary as time expired completed one of the most remarkable comebacks the Pac-12 has ever seen. Solomon led the Cats offense to a school-record 36 fourth-quarter points to beat an obviously improved Cal Golden Bears team at home. (Which, unfortunately for Sonny Dykes, will get lost amid the wild finish.)


He finished the game with 520 yards and five touchdowns on 47-of-73 passing while also leading the team in rushing as well with 46 yards on 16 carries. Of the Pac-12 record 106 plays from scrimmage, Solomon either threw it or carried it 89 times.


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The young star quarterback for Arizona is second in the nation in total offense with 1,621 yards (1,454 pass, 167 rush) of total offense, trailing only Washington State's Connor Halliday (1,845) . Solomon is also third in the nation in passing touchdowns with 13, behind only Halliday (16) and Missouri's Maty Mauk (13).


Most importantly, Arizona got a win in the conference opener in what is shaping out to be a much deeper and more unpredictable Pac-12 South race.

Anu Solomon's Hail Mary proves Arizona is must-see TV in the Pac-12
Post date: Sunday, September 21, 2014 - 14:00