Articles By Braden Gall

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:
|  |  | 

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).


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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:
|  |  | 


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.


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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:


, 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.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:

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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:

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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, 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.


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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.


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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


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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.


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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:

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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.


Listen to the Week 5 recap podcast:

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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