Articles By Braden Gall

Path: /college-football/pac-12-2012-second-half-predictions-and-midseason-review
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At the midpoint of the 2012 season, it's time to take a look at the first half and predict how the second half will turn out in the Pac-12.

First-Half Awards

Coach of the Year: Mike Riley, Oregon State
Todd Graham has quickly turned around Arizona State. Chip Kelly has the best team in the league. And Lane Kiffin will certainly have a chance to join the fray. But for the time being, no one has done a better job than Mike Riley. His defense has gone from one of the worst in the conference to one of the best in one offseason. Now, he is winning tough road games without his starting quarterback. With one of the best resumes in the nation, Riley isn't just Pac-12 Coach of the Year material, he is squarely in the National COY race as well.

Freshman of the Year: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
UCLA's Brett Hundley deserves a lot of credit for stabilizing the quarterback position in Westwood for the first time in over a decade. But Mariota is leading the league's top team, scoring the most points (52.3 ppg) and is the Pac-12's No. 2 most efficient passer (156.42). He is poised beyond his years and has proven in short order to be a leader on and off the field. He is completing 67.9 percent of his passes for 1,301 yards, 15 touchdowns, five interceptions, 221 yards rushing and another score on the ground. Honorable mention falls to Oregon State stud freshman blocker Isaac Seumalo.

Newcomer of the Year: Xavier Su'a Filo, OL, UCLA
The team's top offensive lineman has been a huge part of the improvement on offense for the Bruins. The big Utah native was a top-100 prospect coming out of high school before taking his two-year LDS mission. He returned this fall and stepped directly into the starting lineup. The Bruins rank No. 2 in the Pac-12 in rushing, No. 3 in total offense and are top 10 nationally in sacks allowed, due in large part to improved offensive line play. Of which, Su'a Filo is the best player. USC's Silas Redd gets a big honorable mention here for the work he has done in the Trojans' backfield.

Offensive Player of the Year: Pick a quarterback, any quarterback!
Matt Barkley is the best player in the league and leads the Pac-12 with 16 touchdown passes. Taylor Kelly is the most efficient passer on a surprise team but has played a weak schedule. Sean Mannion's team is unbeaten against a nasty schedule, but he will miss at least two more games with a knee injury. Marcus Mariota is No. 2 in passing efficiency and leads the league's top offense on the Pac-12's best team. Matt Scott is lapping the field from a statistical standpoint, leading the league in total offense. Brett Hundley has been extremely productive at a position UCLA hasn't been good at in over a decade. The argument is likely between Barkley vs. Kelly with beauty falling to the eye of the beholder. For right or wrong, I lean towards the best player on what could be the best team over slightly better stats on a surprise team against a weak schedule. Don't even get me started on Lee vs. Woods vs. Allen vs. Hill vs. Crooks vs. Wilson. Or Taylor vs. Barner vs. Thomas vs. Franklin vs. Carey. This has to be one of the deepest collections of elite offensive skill talent ever assembled in any league.

Defensive Player of the Year: Jordan Poyer, DB, Oregon State
After his league leading fifth interception of the season — this one he returned for a touchdown to clinch the road win over BYU — the talented Oregon State cover man became the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year honors. This defense could be considered the best in the league and his team is undefeated because of it. He has 15 total tackles, one sack, five interceptions, a forced fumble, and also returns punts for the unbeaten Beavers.

Midseason Disappointment (Team): Utah
The Utes were one win away from playing in the Pac-12 championship game last season when it lost to lowly Colorado in the season finale. Kyle Whittingham's squad is 2-5 in regular season action and hasn't won a conference game since. John White set a school record for rushing yards last season and has only one 100-yard effort on his resume this fall and that came against Northern Colorado. Quarterback play has been downright atrocious after the injury to starter Jordan Wynn. All three of this team's league losses have come within the division.

Midseason Disappointment (Player): Keith Price, QB, Washington
Certainly, Price hasn't gotten much help from his decimated offensive line, but Price has been a shell of his 2011 self. At the halfway point of the season, the Huskies passer has completed 61.3 percent of his passes for 1,080 yards, almost as many interceptions (6) as touchdowns (7) and wasn't able to keep his team very competitive against Oregon or USC. This from a guy who threw for 3,063 yards and accounted for 36 total touchdowns on 66.9 percent passing a year ago.

Midseason Surprise (Team): Oregon State
Arizona State has been the South's version of Oregon State, except the Beavers have played a dramatically tougher schedule. In fact, with wins over Wisconsin, UCLA, Arizona and BYU, it might be the best resume in the country. Mike Riley's defense is arguably the most improved unit in the entire nation and it has led to an undefeated first half of the season — the latest win coming on the road against BYU without starting quarterback Sean Mannion. 

Midseason Surprise (Player): Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State
The sophomore signal caller battled with Michael Eubanks all summer long for the right to run Todd Graham's new offense in Tempe — a unit that had to replace its quarterback and top two pass catchers. Kelly, the league's top-rated passer, has made it look easy. He is completing 68.3 percent of his passes for 1,600 yards, 14 touchdowns, only two interceptions with 210 yards rushing on 57 attempts. Most importantly, his team is unbeaten in conference play.

What Athlon Sports got right: Predicting the division champions is the most important part of Athlon's preseason prognostication and both USC and Oregon are the class of the Pac-12. Colorado and Washington State also appear to be right on as the worst two teams in the league. UCLA and Arizona will battle for third in the South as expected while Cal wallows in fifth up North. Stanford could also finish as the North's top challenger to Oregon if it can defeat Oregon State.

What Athlon Sports got wrong: The Utah-Arizona State flip-flop is one of the biggest misses by our staff. Utah, picked second, will likely finish fifth in the South while the Sun Devils, picked to finish fifth, have a good shot at finishing second. Up North, the Oregon State Beavers are the only miss as they are dramatically outperforming preseason expectations. Otherwise, the other nine slots could finish exactly as predicted in the summer.

Second-Half Predictions

Here's how we think the final standings will look before the Pac-12 Championship.

North Division

1. Oregon
2. Stanford
3. Oregon State
4. Washington
5. Cal
6. Washington State

South Division

1. USC
2. Arizona State
3. UCLA
4. Arizona 
5. Utah
6. Colorado

Pac-12 Championship: Oregon over USC

Three Things to Watch

Oregon's four second-half road games 
The Ducks, behind the best defense of Chip Kelly's tenure in Eugene, have made it to the halfway point unbeaten without really breaking a sweat. But things get a lot tougher from here on out. Four road trips dot the perilous second-half slate beginning with a Thursday night primetime showdown with much-improved Arizona State in Week 8 and wrapping up with an in-state Civil War battle in Corvallis. In between are trips to national power USC and Cal — a team that nearly derailed the Ducks' 2010 national title hopes in Berkeley — as well as a home test against Stanford. There is a lot of work left for the high-flying Ducks if they expect to win their fourth straight Pac-12 championship and possibly, the program's first-ever national championship.

The 2012 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year race
This is going to be a crazy race to watch the rest of the season. Matt Barkley looks like he is in the best position to win the award, while power names like Kenjon Barner, Stepfan Taylor, De'Anthony Thomas, Johnathan Franklin, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee have all lived up to the preseason hype. But new faces like Taylor Kelly, Matt Scott, Ka'Deem Carey, Brett Hundley, Sean Mannion and Marcus Mariota have all produced in a fashion that warrants consideration. And I haven't even mentioned Keenan Allen, Marquess Wilson, Markus Wheaton or Austin Hill (or anyone from Washington, for that matter). This league is loaded with elite offensive weapons and should make the second half out West extremely entertaining. 

Who has staying power out West?
Arizona State and Oregon State are two of the biggest surprises in the nation at the midway point of the season. UCLA has also shown that it is much improved. Washington and Stanford have flashed major potential as well. In a league that could be second only to the mighty SEC, can any of these conference upstarts that are looking up at favorites USC and Oregon stay in the race deep into the winter months? Many believe the Sun Devils will come back to earth as the schedule gets tougher, while the Beavers should take some sort of a hit without Mannion under center. And the Bruins' schedule is a nasty five-game stretch following next week's bye. Are these teams simply nice stories worth noting in the grand scheme of the USC-Oregon dominated 2012 Pac-12? Or does one of these unexpected contenders pull off a huge upset, totally shaking up the league and sending ripples throughout the national title picture?

Three Games to Watch in the Second Half

1. Oregon at USC (Nov. 3)
The Ducks and Trojans have been on a collision course since the 2011 season ended last January. It will likely be the first of two meetings between the two, and fans can only hope it is as entertaining as the 38-35 USC win a year ago in Eugene.

2. Oregon at Oregon State (Nov. 24)
The only two teams left unbeaten out West hail from the Beaver State. It is highly unlikely both make it to The Civil War unbeaten, but if by chance it does happen, it could be the single biggest in-state bout between these two adversaries in the 118-year history of the rivalry. The Beavers will likely be the underdog regardless of what happens from here on out, but getting the Ducks at home gives the Beavers as good a chance as anyone to upset Oregon.

3. Notre Dame at USC (Nov. 24)
The Arizona State Sun Devils have the unfortunate luck of facing both Oregon and USC, so their round-robin with the Ducks and Trojans is more important within the Pac-12. But when it comes to national importance, interest and history, there are few games that would be able to match a Notre Dame-USC top 5 match-up. Even if one or both lose a game along the way, a BCS bowl bid and potential top 10 bragging rights should be on the line.

Post-Week 7 Power Rankings

1. Oregon (6-0, 3-0)
Perfect first half gives way to tough second half road slate with visits to USC, Arizona State, Oregon State and Cal. 

2. USC (5-1, 3-1)
It hasn't been pretty at times, but Lane Kiffin still has his team poised for a Pac-12 title. 

3. Stanford (4-2, 2-1)
The most physical team in the league played valiant football in South Bend. An upcoming tilt against Oregon State looms large.

4. Oregon State (5-0, 3-0)
No Sean Mannion, no problem. Even without their star quarterback, the Beavers won on the road to stay unbeaten.

5. Arizona State (5-1, 3-0)
Todd Graham has found himself a quarterback in Taylor Kelly, but ASU faces tough second half.

6. UCLA (5-2, 2-2)
The Bruins bounced back from an ugly loss to Cal to get back to even in the league. This team goes as Brett Hundley goes.

7. Arizona (3-3, 0-3)
A much better team than the 0-3 mark indicates but the defense needs to show up at some point to win games.

8. Washington (3-3, 1-2)
The Huskies' defense is dramatically improved. But can Justin Wilcox and Tosh Lupoi coach the O-Line?

9. Cal (3-4, 2-2)
Got two clutch wins when Jeff Tedford needed them most. But Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford and Washington still left.

10. Utah (2-4, 0-3)
Shocking turn of events in Salt Lake City have led to horrific start to 2012 — with little light at the end of the tunnel. 

11. Washington State (2-5, 0-4)
Home games against Colorado and Cal were best two chances at league wins and Cougs lost both.

12. Colorado (1-5, 1-2)
The Buffaloes have shown little fight all season and might not win another game the rest of the way. 

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 2012 Second-Half Predictions and Midseason Review</p>
Post date: Monday, October 15, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-betting-against-spread-week-7
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Every Friday for entertainment purposes only, I will bring you my top college football picks against the spread. I do not condone, approve or encourage gambling on sports in any way. But if you are a fan of football — college or pro — and you don't think gambling has played a huge role in the growth and popularity of the sport, then you are simply being ignorant. And behind closed doors, the powers that be understand the impact betting has had on the game of football.

2012 Record Against The Spread: 26-21
Last Week: 4-4

Note: All lines are as of date of publication

Oregon State (+6) at BYU
No, Sean Mannion isn’t going to be playing. But Oregon State still has a talent advantage at every other position on the field — and on the sideline. And with the offensive struggles of BYU, 12 total points scored against Boise State and Utah State, Oregon State’s fully healthy defense should keep this game close. The Beavers rank No. 1 in the Pac-12 in rushing defense (67.3 ypg) and are No. 2 in scoring defense (17.0 ppg). If BYU wins, it will be very low scoring and very close. Prediction: Oregon State +6

Fresno State (+7.5) at Boise State
The Bulldogs, behind great play from quarterback Derek Carr, are 6-0 against the spread this fall. This team is scoring nearly 40 points per game and has great balance on offense — 315.5 pass yards per game, 178.3 rush yards per game. So it is on Boise State to outscore FSU-West and the Broncos are 85th in the nation in offense. I like Fresno State to win outright in a marquee upset for new coach Tim DeRuyter. Prediction: Fresno State +7.5

North Carolina (-8) at Miami
Which Miami team shows up this weekend? The one that got beat by a total of 77 points to Kansas State and Notre Dame? Or the one that dropped more than 40 points on ACC foes Georgia Tech, NC State and BC? At home, I like Al Golden’s bunch to play very well against a Tar Heels team primed for a letdown after the big win over Virginia Tech last weekend. Both backfields should be on full display in what should be a high-scoring affair. North Carolina wins, but not by much. Prediction: Miami +8

Wisconsin (+3) at Purdue
Both teams understand what this game means. A chance at a Big Ten title. This is the de facto Leaders Division championship game and each team enters the weekend on much different notes. The Badgers have rediscovered the ground game and have found a quarterback after a thrashing of Illinois. Purdue still isn’t sure what quarterback to use and is coming off of a home beatdown at the hands of Michigan. Wisconsin has won six straight in the series, Bret Bielema has never lost to Purdue, and UW hasn’t lost in West Lafayette since 1997. And frankly, this game hasn’t been close since a three-point win in 2004 for UW. The Badgers have won the last four by an average of 31 points (and at least 21). Prediction: Wisconsin +3

Utah State (+3) at San Jose State
This one is getting a lot of love in the Athlon Sports offices due to severe man-crushes on both head coaches. The Aggies are 6-0 against the spread this fall and San Jose State is 5-0 so, baring a three-point Spartans win, something has to give, right? Utah State has played the tougher schedule and is road tested (despite tough, close losses). This is going to be a great game and I’ll take Gary Andersen to edge Mike MacIntyre. Prediction: Utah State: +3

Kent State (-2) at Army
The Golden Flashes have quietly started 4-1 this fall with the same mark against the spread. They have won three straight and have scored 86 points in their last two wins. They are leading the MAC in rushing defense, they create turnovers and are solid in the return game. Army does little well (other than run the ball) and won’t be able to stop Kent State. Prediction: Kent State -2

West Virginia (-3.5) at Texas Tech
This line opened with the Mountaineers as a 5.5-point favorite. Somebody somewhere knows something that we don’t know, so the betting public worked this line down two full points by agreeing with shadowing Vegas wise guys. Now that it is down to 3.5, I am back on the 'Eers. Certainly, the letdown factor must be considered after the win over Texas and weird things can happen in Lubbock, but Geno Smith knows full well he can’t take a break. Tech is improved on defense, but they are much closer to the team that allowed 41 points and 380 yards of offense to Oklahoma than the unit that was ranked No. 1 in the nation two weeks ago. As a program, WVU is 172-0 when scoring 40 or more points. Prediction: West Virginia -3.5

Texas A&M (-7.5) at Louisiana Tech
The Bulldogs have built an impressive resume thus far in 2012. Road wins over Big Ten and ACC members validate the 523.4 yards of offense and 53.2 points per game Louisiana Tech is posting this fall. The Aggies, led by star quarterback Johnny Manziel, will score plenty too, but this could be the biggest "home" game — it's being played in the Independence Bowl — to ever take place in program history, so Tech has a chance to win the game outright. Prediction: Louisiana Tech +7.5

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

2012 Trends Against the Spread:

Undefeated ATS: Arizona State (4-0-1), Fresno St (6-0), UL Monroe (5-0), San Jose St (5-0), TX-San Antonio (3-0), Utah St (6-0), Western Kentucky (5-0)

Winless ATS: Virginia (0-5-1)

One Loss ATS One Win ATS
Cincinnati (3-1) Arkansas (1-5)
Duke (5-1) Auburn (1-4)
Florida (4-1) Boston College (1-4)
Kansas St (4-1) Central Michigan (1-4)
Kent St (4-1) Colorado (1-4)
Ole Miss (5-1) Colorado St (1-4)
Northwestern (5-1) Eastern Michigan (1-4)
Notre Dame (4-1) Idaho (1-5)
Oregon St (3-1) Iowa (1-4)
Penn St (5-1) Kentucky (1-5)
South Carolina (5-1) Miami, Ohio (1-5)
Texas Tech (4-1) Michigan St (1-5)
Toledo (5-1) USC (1-4)
Troy (4-1) Southern Miss (1-4)
  Syracuse (1-4)
  Virginia Tech (1-5)

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Teaser:
<p> College Football Betting Against the Spread: Week 7</p>
Post date: Friday, October 12, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-week-7-preview-and-predictions
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A huge injury to a player of the year candidate. A marquee top 25 showdown in a historic college town. A Thursday night primetime affair. And the former No. 1 team in the nation going on the road. The weekend of action out West has a little something for everybody, there is no doubt, so let's hope it lives up to the hype. On to Week 7...

Pac-12's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 7:

1. Which quarterback makes the fewest mistakes in South Bend?
Josh Nunes played the best game of his career last week in the win over Arizona but had three horrible games prior to that. Everett Golson has loads of upside and raw talent but still makes freshman mistakes — on and off the field. And now each will have to face one of the great defensive front sevens in the nation. Notre Dame has allowed 12 total points in its last three games, while Stanford is fourth in the nation in tackles for loss and averages almost three sacks per game. There will be plenty of NFL talent on the field for both defenses, so best of luck to both inexperienced signal callers in this one.

2. Therefore, the ground game will be key for both
Both Stanford and Notre Dame have big, powerful offensive lines and the aforementioned quarterback issues. Therefore, Stepfan Taylor will have to be the key cog for the Cardinal against Heisman contender Manti Te'o and that nasty Irish frontline. Cierre Wood had his best game of the season last weekend against Miami (118 yards, 2 TD) as the ND rushing attack continues to be the focal point of Brian Kelly's offense. The magic number on rushing yards should be around that 100-yard mark. If either team can crack the century mark on the ground, they will have a great chance at winning the game. Notre Dame has allowed two teams to top the 100-yard mark, but Navy runs the triple option and Denard Robinson contributes to the ground game in a unique way. Stanford allowed 124 yards rushing total in its first three games, before both Washington and Arizona topped that mark with 136 and 126 respectively. First team to 100 yards on the ground wins?

3. Can Oregon State win without Sean Mannion?
The bad news? Mannion is going to be out for a few weeks after surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. The good news? Mannion's prognosis is generally 2-4 weeks and the Beavers, at 3-0 in league play already, can survive without him for the time being. This weekend's game will be a test, but a win or loss against BYU has no impact on the greater goal of a Pac-12 championship. Utah, who visits Corvallis next weekend, hasn't yet shown it is capable of going on the road and scoring against the mighty Beavers defense. The road trip to Washington will be tricky, but ideally, backup Cody Vaz will be settled in by the time that game rolls around. A road trip to face the Cougars is a great (or brutal) way to break in the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder who hasn't thrown a pass in a game since Dec. 4, 2010.

4. The Huskies defense has to get off the mat one more time
After a tremendous performance on national TV in a win over Stanford, the Huskies defense came plummeting back to earth last weekend. Certainly, the Ducks make most defenses look silly, but Washington cannot hope to upset USC this weekend if it allows another 500 yards of offense and 52 more points this Saturday. Matt Barkley's offense scored 40 points and rushed for 252 yards in the blowout home win over the Huskies last season. If Justin Wilcox and company expect to keep this game close, his front seven must stop the developing USC rushing attack while his talented secondary locks down arguably the top pass-catching tandem in the nation. If not, the Barkley Heisman train will continue to roll along.

5. Brett Hundley can't turn the ball over this week
After a rock-star beginning to his UCLA career, redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley experienced what big-time college football can feel like last weekend. He threw four interceptions, fumbled twice (losing one) and got sacked six times in the ugly blowout loss to Cal. He entered the game averaging 327 yards of total offense per game with 15 total touchdowns before the Golden Bears silenced the Bruins quarterback. Hundley returns home to face a Utah team that has struggled all season. This was a demoralizing 31-6 beatdown in Salt Lake City by the Utes last year and UCLA will be aiming for revenge this time around. Much like last weekend, if Jim Mora's team wants to be taken seriously on the national stage, it has to win these types of games. And it starts with the star signal caller protecting the football against a normally savvy defensive front.

6. Letdown Alert: Cal heads to Washington State
Jeff Tedford posted one of the more surprising box scores last weekend — at just the right time. The embattled coach kept the critics at bay for one more week with the impressive defensive showing against UCLA. But there is no rest for this weary head coach as his team needs to be on full "Letdown Alert" this weekend against Washington State. Mike Leach's tenure has been anything but successful thus far, but one has to believe he will pull an upset somewhere along the way. A touchdown underdog at home against a 2-4 conference opponent who is riding high after an big win the week before feels like the perfect storm for just that.

7. Athlon Sports challenges the Colorado Buffaloes to...
NOT make this Thursday's meeting with Arizona State the worst Thursday night college football game of the season. The Sun Devils are heavily favored and are crushing people on offense while Colorado has been worthless other than one night in Pullman. Please make this one at least watchable Buffs!

Week 7 Pac-12 Predictions:

Week 7 Pac-12 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
Arizona St (-23) at Colorado Arizona St, 31-20 Arizona St, 34-10 Arizona St, 45-17 Arizona St, 45-17
Utah (+8) at UCLA UCLA, 27-20 UCLA, 30-17 UCLA, 31-20 Utah, 21-14
Oregon St (+2.5) at BYU Ore. St, 17-14 Oregon St, 24-14 BYU, 20-17 BYU, 17-7
Stanford (+8) at Notre Dame Notre Dame, 20-7 Notre Dame, 24-13 Notre Dame, 27-27 Notre Dame, 28-10
USC (-11.5) at Washington USC, 34-21 USC, 30-23 USC, 34-24 USC, 35-17
Cal (-7) at Washington St Cal, 31-24 Cal, 37-13 Cal, 31-27 Wazzu, 21-14
Last Week: 4-1 4-1 4-1 3-2
Yearly Totals: 34-15 35-14 35-14 33-16

Bye: Arizona, Oregon

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 Week 7 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/big-ten-week-7-preview-and-predictions
Body:

Fans knew the Big Ten Leaders Division race could be lacking in excitement this year due to two power programs not being eligible to play for the championship. So Wisconsin at Purdue in Week 7 leaves a bit to be desired on a national level when it comes to big-time title bouts. But that is what Big Ten fans are getting this weekend.

Otherwise, any outlandish outcomes this weekend will come as major surprises as Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State are all heavy favorites.

Big Ten's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 7:

1. De facto Leaders Division championship game
Wisconsin will visit Purdue this weekend in what will likely decide one half of the 2012 Big Ten championship game. While Penn State and Ohio State are the two best teams in the Leaders Division (possibly the entire league), neither will be allowed to play in Indianapolis. And with Illinois imploding in Champaign, the Boilermakers and Badgers are left to battle for the division crown. Stop the presses. Drop what you are doing. There is a championship on the line in West Lafayette this Saturday.

2. Caleb TerBush and Company vs. Joel Stave
Danny Hope is sticking with TerBush as his starter but Robert Marve is sure to see time. The two combined for 153 yards passing and both threw an interception in the ugly loss to Michigan last weekend. Neither has played all that well, but Hope needs to get production from his quarterback to win this weekend. Meanwhile, Stave missed the end of the Nebraska game and it cost Wisconsin the win. He returned last weekend to throw for 254 yards and two scores in the easy win over Illinois. The redshirt freshman makes his second career road start against the Boilers. Both defenses will have to stop the run in an effort to force these suspect signal callers into passing situations, so whichever passer can complete clutch third-down throws will emerge victorious.

3. Look for Northwestern to go back to the ground
The Wildcats have made a concerted effort to run the football in 2012. And for most of the year, they have been extremely successful. Try 974 yards in the three games prior to visiting Penn State last weekend — where Northwestern totaled 112 yards on 25 attempts. Venric Mark and Kain Colter form a dynamic 1-2 punch that rushes for 168.3 yards per game, and moving the football against Minnesota's defensive line on the ground will be key. The Gophers' defensive front had allowed under 130 yards rushing per game until Iowa gashed them before the bye. Who wins the battle in the trenches will decide who stays with one loss and who becomes a Big Ten after-thought.

4. What type of impact could MarQueis Gray make?
Head coach Jerry Kill is "cautiously optimistic" that his star senior quarterback will play this weekend in a huge game against Northwestern. While Kill is it playing close to the vest, as he should, Pat Fitzgerald knows Gray is a totally different monster to account for than the young back-up Max Shortell. Gray's dual-threat capabilities and veteran presence give the Gophers a dramatically more complicated offensive look. Shortell failed to throw a touchdown against Syracuse and tossed three interceptions against Iowa, so any production Gray can offer will be a huge upgrade this weekend. The Gophers will need to score points against the Cats and No. 5 gives them the best chance to do so.

5. Heavy favorites need to avoid major letdowns this weekend
Michigan State hosts Iowa and is a 10-point favorite. Michigan hosts a reeling Illinois team. And Ohio State visits overmatched Indiana in an effort to pad Braxton Miller's Heisman Trophy statistics. All three, if they expect to compete for the best record in the league, have to hold serve this weekend. Obviously, the Spartans have the toughest test with the Hawkeyes coming off their best performance of the season — a 31-13 win over Minnesota — and resting over the bye week. That said, Sparty has no business losing this type of game at home if it expects to win the Legends Division.

6. Nearly 500 pounds of running back on display
Walk-on fullback Mark Weisman is listed at 6-foot and 230 pounds. He is a load to bring down and has sparked the once-dormant Iowa rushing attack with 507 yards rushing and seven scores in his last three games. Meanwhile, Michigan State counters with the 6-foot-2, 245-pound Le'Veon Bell who has proven to be a workhorse with three games of at least 36 carries this season already. The ground game will be heavily featured in a game with two struggling quarterbacks, so my condolences go out to both Iowa and Michigan State linebackers and safeties charged with tackling these two beasts. It should be fun to watch, however, if you like big hits and truck sticks.

7. Watch Denard Robinson drive a stake into Illini
Robinson got back on track last weekend with a statement road performance against Purdue. He posted his fifth career 200-yard rushing game with 235 yards on 24 carries, and much to Brady Hoke's delight, didn't throw an interception (even though he did fumble). The Wolverines under Shoelace are nearly unbeatable at home, so this weekend should, for all intents and purposes, signal the end of the Illini's 2012 season. Illinois would be 2-5 and 0-3 in the Big Ten with a loss and still have Ohio State, Purdue and Northwestern remaining on its schedule. 

Week 7 Big Ten Predictions:

Week 7 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
Iowa (+10) at Michigan St Mich. St, 20-17 Mich. St, 13-10 Mich. St, 27-17 Mich. St, 38-14
N'Western (-3) at Minnesota N'Western, 30-24 Minnesota, 33-30 N'Western, 31-24 N'Western, 21-14
Wisconsin (+2.5) at Purdue Wisconsin, 27-24 Wisconsin, 23-17 Wisconsin, 27-20 Purdue, 17-14
Illinois (+23.5) at Michigan Michigan, 41-20 Michigan, 38-13 Michigan, 38-13 Michigan, 42-14
Ohio St (-17) at Indiana Ohio St, 45-27 Ohio St, 48-17 Ohio St, 38-17 Ohio St, 56-10
Last Week: 5-0 3-2 5-0 4-1
Yearly Totals: 47-10 44-13 46-9 45-12

Bye Week: Nebraska, Penn State

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 7 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 7 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 7 Previews and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 7 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 7 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 7 Upset Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

Teaser:
<p> Big Ten Week 7 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Heisman Trophy, College Football
Path: /college-football/2012-heisman-trophy-contenders-post-week-6
Body:

Each week, the Athlon editors and others who closely follow college football vote on the most prestigious award in the sport. A 13-man conglomerate of college football gurus from Athlon Sports and other publications cast their votes this week for their top Heisman Trophy candidates. The votes will be tallied and the result will be posted as the Athlon Sports Heisman Watch List every week of the regular season.

Voting: Each first-place vote receives 10 points. A second-place vote receives nine points. So on and so forth with a 10th-place vote receiving one point. Here are Athlon's guest voters:

Barrett Sallee: Bleacher Report SEC Lead Writer (@BarrettSallee)
Jim Young: ACCSports.com (@ACCSports)
Blair Kerkhoff: Kansas City Star (@BlairKerkhoff)
Chris Level: RedRaiderSports.com (@ChrisLevel)

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia (13 first-place votes)
Season Stats: 
166-204, 1,996 yards, 24 TD, 0 INT, 26 att., 66 yards, TD
His 268 yards and four touchdowns paled in comparison to his monster game against Baylor, but this one came in a road win over Texas. It was a signature performance in a marquee win for the Mountaineers. Smith got all 13 first-place votes and is leading the nation in passing efficiency at 202.38. Next game: at Texas Tech

  Last Name Pos. Team Tot. Pts 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Ballots
1. (1) Geno Smith QB W. Virginia 130/130 13 - - - - 13/13
2. (4) Braxton Miller QB Ohio St 104/130 - 7 1 4 - 13/13
3. (3) Collin Klein QB Kansas St 102/130 - 3 8 1 - 13/13
4. (7) Manti Te'o LB Notre Dame 73/130 - 2 2 2 2 12/13
5. (9) Marcus Lattimore RB S. Carolina 48/130 - - 1 2 1 9/13
6. (6) De'Anthony Thomas AP Oregon 46/130 - 1 1 1 3 7/13
7. (8) Matt Barkley QB USC 40/130 - - - 2 2 8/13
8. (10) A.J. McCarron QB Alabama 26/130 - - - 1 1 6/13
9. (ur) Kenjon Barner RB Oregon 18/130 - - - - 2 4/13
10. (ur) Mike Gillislee RB Florida 17/130 - - - - 1 7/13
11. (2) E.J. Manuel QB Florida St 17/130 - - - - - 6/13
12. (17) Stedman Bailey WR W. Virginia 15/130 - - - - 1 3/13
13. (12) Marqise Lee WR USC 14/130 - - - - - 5/13
14. (ur) Tavon Austin WR W. Virginia 11/130 - - - - - 4/13
15. (16) Johnny Manziel QB Texas A&M 10/130 - - - - - 4/13
16. (ur) Jadeveon Clowney DE S. Carolina 10/130 - - - - - 4/13
17. (ur) DeAndre Hopkins WR Clemson 9/130 - - - - - 2/13
18. (14) Barrett Jones OL Alabama 6/130 - - - - - 2/13
19. (13) Sean Mannion QB Oregon St 5/130 - - - - - 1/13
20. (20) Tajh Boyd QB Clemson 4/130 - - - - - 1/13
21. (5) Aaron Murray QB Georgia 3/130 - - - - - 2/13
22. (11) Jarvis Jones LB Georgia 3/130 - - - - - 1/13
23. (ur) Denard Robinson QB Michigan 2/130 - - - - - 1/13
24. (ur) Venric Mark RB Northwestern 1/130 - - - - - 1/13
25. (ur) Joseph Randle RB Oklahoma St 1/130 - - - - - 1/13

2. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Season Stats: 
83-135, 1,060 yards, 9 TD, 3 INT, 106 att., 763 yards, 8 TD
The Ohio native continues to make video game-esque runs and clutch throws for the Buckeyes. He rushed for a school-record 186 yards for a quarterback on 16 carries without a turnover in the blitzing of Nebraska last Saturday. He helped drop 63 points on the Black Shirts and is now second in the Heisman voting. Next Game: at Indiana 

3. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
Season Stats:
 63-94, 887 yards, 7 TD, 2 INT, 73 att., 405 yards, 7 TD
It was a bit of a slow start for CK7, but eventually he finished with 129 yards passing, 116 yards rushing, four total touchdowns and a 40-point win over his in-state rival. Smith, Miller and Klein are the only three players on all 13 ballots and are clearly the top three candidates for the 2012 stiff-armed trophy.
Next Game: at Iowa State

4. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
Season Stats: 48 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 3 INT, FR, 3 PBU
The heart and soul of the Irish defense continues to lead by example with 10 tackles in the virtual shutout of Miami. Notre Dame is No. 2 nationally in scoring defense at 7.8 points allowed per game and has allowed 12 points in its last three games — against Michigan State, Michigan and Miami.
Next Game: Stanford

5. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
Season Stats: 116 att., 549 yards, 9 TD, 18 rec., 133 yards
Another SEC win and another 100 yards rushing for the best runner in the nation. Lattimore is No. 2 in the SEC in all-purpose yards (Todd Gurley) and is averaging 136.3 yards from scrimmage and has scored seven touchdowns in four SEC wins for the Gamecocks. He has touched the ball 106 times in those games. 
Next game: at LSU

6. De’Anthony Thomas, AP, Oregon
Season Stats: 41 att., 377 yards, 6 TD, 20 rec., 205 yards, 3 TD, 10 PR, 150 PR yards, 6 KR, 88 yards
Next Game: Bye Week

7. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Season Stats: 111-173, 1,308 yards, 15 TD, 5 INT, 12 att., minus-64 yards
Next game: at Washington

8. A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
Season Stats: 73-111, 999 yards, 12 TD, 0 INT, 19 att., minus-41 yards
Next Game: at Missouri

9. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
Season Stats: 116 att., 727 yards, 9 TD, 11 rec., 111 yards, TD
Next Game: Bye Week

10. Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida
Season Stats: 103 att., 548 yards, 7 TD, 2 rec., 14 yards
Next Game: at Vanderbilt

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

Three and Out: Week 6 Recap

ACC Post-Week 6 Power Rankings
Big East Post-Week 6 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 6 Power Rankings
Big 12 Post-Week 6 Power Rankings
Pac-12 East Post-Week 6 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 6 Power Rankings 

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Heisman Trophy Contenders: Post-Week 6</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-draft-rankings-running-backs
Body:

It is never too early to begin looking ahead to next year’s NFL Draft. Each year a unique set of prospects enters the professional ranks with a chance to make an immediate impact on the country’s most powerful sport. The 2013 NFL Draft won’t be any different.

Today, we rank college football best running back prospects:

1. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina (6-0, 220, Jr.)
He appears to be fully recovered from his torn ACL in 2011. He still might be a bit tentative but he is rounding into form. He is big, physical, never goes down on first contact, is a tremendous receiver and works hard off the field. He is the most talented, most complete runner in the nation. For his career (26 games), he is averaging 126.6 yards from scrimmage per game and has scored 39 touchdowns. He might be the only back taken in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Comparison: Adrian Peterson

2. Stepfan Taylor, Stanford (5-11, 215, Sr.)
Few players have as complete a game as the Cardinal ball-carrier. He is the workhorse back for a program that uses a physical, pro-style attack based around Taylor’s ability. He is thickly built, has a tremendous work ethic, plays smart football, can catch passes and runs hard every game. His workload in college could be his only negative, as he will be over 800 touches from scrimmage by the time his career is over. Comparison: Frank Gore

3. Giovani Bernard, North Carolina (5-10, 205, rSo.)
This tough little runner came to UNC from St. Thomas Aquinas H.S., a storied South Florida program that prepares football talents for the next level. And as a redshirt freshman, Bernard exploded onto the scene with 239 carries for 1,253 yards, along with 45 receptions for another 362 yards and a total of 14 touchdowns. He has missed some time in 2012 but also delivered a huge performance in a win over one of the best defenses in the country (262 yards against Virginia Tech, Week 6). He is a bit smaller than a proto-type back but has speed to burn and the talent to play all three downs. In addition, as a redshirt sophomore, Bernard will have the most “tread left on the tires” of any back in the class. Comparison: LeSean McCoy

4. Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State (6-1, 240, Jr.)
Bell has some negatives — average shiftiness, straight line speed and work ethic — but also has the biggest, most powerful frame of anyone in the class. He is accustomed to power-I formations and can carry the load if needed (see games of 44, 36 and 37 carries in 2012). He is right at home in a play-action style offense and will be a huge asset around the goal line. If he can stay focused on keeping his weight down and works hard, he could be a future feature back. Comparison: Steven Jackson

5. Joseph Randle, Oklahoma St (6-0, 205, Jr.)
Production hasn’t been an issue for Randle after a school-record 26 touchdowns in 2011. He has been outstanding as the leader of the revamped Pokes offense this fall and brings breakaway speed to the edge, power up the middle and will play a big role in the passing game. Randle is taller than most ideal backs who aren’t 230 pounds, but he has plenty of big-play ability. Comparison: DeMarco Murray

6. Montee Ball, Wisconsin (5-11, 210, Sr.)
Scouts cannot argue the production for a guy who has a chance to finish his career with more rushing touchdowns than anyone in the history of the sport (73). He dropped weight before his junior season and it helped with quickness and burst. Yet, he lacks the top-end skills of the NFL’s elite. However, he is a tough player who consistently produces and has fumbled one time in his entire career. Comparison: Ahmad Bradshaw

7. Andre Ellington, Clemson (5-9, 190, Sr.)
The only real knock on Ellington is his durability, which stems from his overall lack of size. His frame isn’t ideal and he has been banged up throughout his Tigers career. That said, he will finish with over 4,000 yards from scrimmage and more than 30 touchdowns in his career. He has the raw ability to do everything an NFL back is asked to do, but can he be a true workhorse on Sundays? Comparison: Donald Brown

8. Rex Burkhead, Nebraska (5-11, 210, Sr.)
He won’t wow scouts at the combine with his average measurables, but he makes up for it with things that simply cannot be tracked with a stop watch: intangibles, leadership, blitz pick-ups, toughness and heart. He is one of the most complete players in the nation and will be a welcome addition to any NFL locker room. He will be a late-round steal and could be very productive for many years — even if he is never a star. Comparison: Matt Forte

9. Silas Redd, USC (5-10, 210, Jr.)
Redd was the only star for an average Penn State team (1,241 yards, 7 TD as a sophomore) before heading out West to USC for his junior season. He is a pro-style runner who has the skills to be a three-down back should he get a little bigger. He runs with power and has adequate speed. Should he develop his skills, he could be a sneaky good player on Sundays. Comparison: Rashard Mendenhall

10. Mike Gillislee, Florida (5-11, 210, Sr.)
This Gator tailback was a late bloomer — 920 yards and 10 TDs in his first three seasons — but developed into an SEC Player of the Year candidate with hard running and toughness throughout a brutal conference schedule in 2012. He was miscast in Urban Meyer’s scheme and fits much better into the pro-style attack Will Muschamp brought to Gainesville. Look for Gillislee to continue to move up draft boards with his excellent play this fall. Comparison: Cedric Benson

11. Eddie Lacy, Alabama (6-1, 220, Jr.)
All the physical talent in the world, but can never stay healthy.

12. Jonathan Franklin, UCLA (5-11, 195, Sr.)
Long track record of success but could be limited physically on the next elevel.

13. Ray Graham, Pitt (5-9, 195, Sr.)
Has NFL ability but is still regaining form after torn ACL. Size could be an issue as well.

14. Knile Davis, Arkansas (6-0, 225, Sr.)
Not the same back as he was before suffering a major ankle injury in 2011.

15. Christine Michael, Texas A&M (5-11, 220, Sr.)
Much like Davis and Lacy, he has the talent... and the long track record of injuries.

16. Cierre Wood, Notre Dame (6-0, 215, Jr.)
Off the field focus issues have knocked him down a peg, but coming on strong.

17. DJ Harper, Boise State (5-9, 205, Sr.)
This should be a sneaky draft day value for someone. Can do a little bit of everything.

18. Kenjon Barner, Oregon (5-11, 192, Sr.)
Tremendous talent, but has been banged up and scouts will question scheme and size.

19. Spencer Ware/Michael Ford/Alfred Blue, LSU (5-11, 225/5-10, 215/6-2, 220, Jr.)
Three burly backs who are tremendously physical. Each could be a steal on draft day.

20. Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt (5-9, 210, Sr.)
Short, stocky player with lots of potential and is accustomed to high level of competition.

Third-Down Speedsters 

Curtis McNeal, USC (5-7, 190, Sr.)
Chris Thompson, Florida State (5-8, 190, Sr.)
Onterio McCalebb, Auburn (5-11, 175, Sr.)
Perry Jones, Virginia (5-8, 187, Sr.)
Dennis Johnson, Arkansas (5-8, 212, Sr.)

Other Names to Watch:

Michael Dyer, Ark. Baptist (5-8, 210, Sr.)
Orwin Smith, Georgia Tech (6-0, 205, Sr.)
Cameron Marshall, Arizona St (5-11, 220, Sr.)
Miguel Maysonet, Stony Brook (5-9, 205, Sr.)
John White, Utah (5-8, 190, Sr.)
Matthew Tucker, TCU (6-0, 225, Sr.)
Dominique Whaley, Oklahoma (5-11, 205, Sr.)
Mike James, Miami (5-11, 220, Sr.)
Ronnie Wingo, Arkansas (6-2, 230, Sr.)

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related NFL Draft Rankings By Position:

2013 NFL Draft: Running Backs

2013 NFL Draft: Tight Ends
2013 NFL Draft: Safeties

2013 NFL Draft: Defensive Tackles

2013 NFL Draft: Wide Receivers

2013 NFL Draft: Offensive Tackles

2013 NFL Draft: Inside Linebackers

Teaser:
<p> 2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Running Backs</p>
Post date: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 - 05:50
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/eight-amazing-stats-nfl-sunday-week-5
Body:

NFL football is the greatest reality TV program of all time. The Giants and Colts made sure of that back in 1958. Each NFL fall weekend is a completely new and original experience for every player, fan and coach alike. New stories, new personalities, new winners and new losers. And new statistics.

Here are the most important, most intriguing and most bizarre statistics from Week 5 of NFL play:

9-4: Tom Brady's win-loss record against Peyton Manning
When it comes to raw football talent and overall ability, Peyton Manning may get the slight edge over Tommy Boy. But ask any quarterback who has ever taken a snap in the National Football League and they will tell you, winning is all that matters. Brady has clearly owned the head-to-head series with Mr. Manning after a dominating 31-21 performance this weekend. The former Michigan grad won the first six meetings, has won three of the last four and is 2-1 in playoff meetings all time against his rival. Brady's Patriots have never scored fewer than 20 points against the Tennessee grad while Manning has failed to reach the 20-point plateau four times. Sunday marked the first time in NFL history that a game featured two quarterbacks with at least 300 touchdown passes and was only the second meeting of two quarterbacks with at least 125 wins (Elway-Marino, 1998).

No. 12: Jersey number for Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck
These two quarterbacks put on a show on Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis. It's only fitting considering these two signal callers will likely be tethered to one another for the rest of their careers. Both got prestigious degrees from Pac-12 Bay Area programs. Both are first-round saviors replacing legends in Midwestern NFL strongholds. They are virtually identical in stature, athletic ability, arm strength and demeanor. And both wear No. 12.  In their first career meeting, however, it was The Pupil who took The Master to school in what was the fourth battle of a reigning MVP and reigning No. 1 overall pick — and the first time the rookie won. Luck became only the second QB to throw for 300-yards in three of his first four career games (Cam Newton) and is the first rookie QB to ever throw for at least 1,200 yards and record two wins in his first four career games. He is averaging 302 yards passing per game, has two final-minute, game-winning drives and is leading all AFC quarterbacks in rushing (104 yards, TD). While Redskins fans are wondering how long RGIII will be out after a nasty smack from Sean Weatherspoon, Colts fans might be thinking Wild Card.

7-to-11: Michael Vick's total touchdown-to-total turnover ratio in 2012
Michael Vick lost his fourth and fifth fumbles on the season in the two-point loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday. It is the most lost fumbles for Vick in a season since 2005 (5) and is just two shy of his career-worst mark (7), which he set in 2004. That gives him 11 total turnovers in five games (really four games since he had none last week against the Giants) and only seven total touchdowns (6 pass, 1 rush). In 25 career starts with the Eagles prior to 2012, Vick turned the ball over only 27 times with 52 total touchdowns. Phily has played four of five games in which the final margin of victory was two points or less, so a quarterback who is turning the ball over 2.2 times per game isn't acceptable. Vick is on pace for 19 interceptions and 16 fumbles lost and just 22 total touchdowns. 

5-0: The best start in Atlanta Falcons' franchise history
Matt Ryan moved to 15-0 when throwing for at least 300 yards with another stellar performance against Washington. It gives the Falcons their first-ever 5-0 start in franchise history. Ryan tossed it around for 345 yards and two touchdowns — including a gorgeous scoring strike to Julio Jones to take the lead in the fourth quarter. It was Ryan's 18th career game-winning drive, the most by a quarterback in his first five years in the Super Bowl era. Future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez posted his 29th career 100-yard receiving effort, as his 13 catches and 123 yards were personal bests as a Falcon. The Redskins fall to 2-3, but more importantly, lost Robert Griffin III to an injury after the young quarterback made a terrible decision to cut up field instead of throwing the ball away near the goal line.

35-27: The Bears defense has outscored its last three opponents
Chicago has scored five defensive touchdowns in the last three games against St. Louis, Dallas and Jacksonville. Those three teams combined to score 27 points against the Bears defense. Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs both scored again this weekend on INT-TDs, marking the first time in NFL history two teammates each returned an interception for a touchdown in consecutive games. Had the offense not scored a single point in any of the three games, the Bears would have finished 2-1 over that span with wins over the Rams and Jags. This unit is right there with San Francisco as the best in the NFC. Speaking of...

556: Rushing yards by the 49ers in the last two weeks
Jim Harbaugh is now 17-4 as a head coach in the NFL after the Niners posted its best two-game stretch in 50 years. No 49ers team has had back-to-back 30-point wins since 1961, but did so with wins over the Bills and the Jets the last two weeks by a combined 76 points (79-3). Buffalo entered the game leading the NFL in offensive touchdowns (16) and managed just three points in the crushing road loss. The Niners rolled-up a franchise record 621 yards of offense and have rushed for an absurd 556 yards rushing over the last two weeks (245 and 311). Alex Smith continues his evolution from first round bust to All-Pro as San Fran looks like the best team in the league right now.

212: Career-high receiving yards by Reggie Wayne
The former Miami Hurricane abused Charles Woodson all afternoon in Indy to the tune of 13 receptions, a career-high 212 yards and the game-winning touchdown. He showed toughness, heart and plenty of spring in his 33-year-old legs. It was a tremendous day for a historic player who is two catches shy of 900 for his career and scored his 75th receiving touchdown to give the Colts their second win of the year. It was a remarkable performance for a truly great player who has 12,214 career receiving yards in 12 NFL seasons. And by the way, his 506 yards this season is his best four-game start to any of those 12 years.

0: Seconds the Kansas City Chiefs have led in regulation
It's hard to believe, but the Chiefs have yet to hold a lead in regulation in 2012. The Ravens never trailed this weekend in the 9-6 victory that dropped KC to 1-4. Even in the overtime win over New Orleans last weekend, the Chiefs never held a lead in regulation. To make matters worse for one of the worst teams in the league, Arrowhead faithful were cheering when embattled starting quarterback Matt Cassel got hurt late in the game. It was ugly football, but have some class folks. Even if your team has played five football games and never has really been ahead at any point.

Bonus Super Stat!

48: Drew Brees consecutive games with a TD pass
I covered this in last week's stats, so I didn't want to dive too deep into Brees' record. It is an amazing accomplishment and congrats are due. But the most important number for the Saints is the "1" in the win column. As a side note, Brady moved into sole possession of third place with his 37th consecutive game with a touchdown pass.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Eight Amazing Stats from NFL Sunday: Week 5</p>
Post date: Monday, October 8, 2012 - 06:50
Path: /college-football/pac-12-post-week-6-power-rankings
Body:

This weekend in college football was the biggest and most volatile to date. However, out West, Week 6 functioned more as an elimination weekend. Utah and UCLA have been all but removed from South Division contention. Washington proved it was still miles from competing with the North Division champs. And while Rich Rodriguez appears to have a solid team in Tucson, Arizona has started its conference slate 0-3, albeit in somewhat unlucky fashion.

Post-Week 6 Offensive Player of the Year Standings


1. Matt Barkley, QB, USC - It was only a matter of time before Barkley returned to the top slot. He completed 23-of-30 passes for 303 yards and three scores with no interceptions in a huge come-from-behind road conference win over Utah. He leads the league with 15 TDs and is still the best player in the league.

2. Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State -
 The Beavers quarterback showed flaws this weekend, throwing three picks, but in a league loaded with huge statistical performers, Mannion is still unbeaten and is No. 2 in total offense at 324.3 yards per game. 

3. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon - His running backs continue to cancel each other out, Taylor Kelly was on bye, Matt Scott and Ka'Deem Carey can't win a big game, the UCLA Bruins backfield choked this weekend and Mariota played his best in the biggest spot. He is tied with Barkley with 15 TD passes after four against UW and he is No. 2 in passing efficiency behind only Kelly. He has settled in as the leader of the best team in the league.
 

Post-Week 6 Defensive Player of the Year Standings

1. Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State - The defense had to carry the Beavers to victory this weekend and Poyer was one of two stars. He intercepted three passes and now leads the league in INTs. He also had four tackles, one for loss and his seventh pass defended. He added a 24-yard punt return as well. 

2. Scott Crichton, DL, Oregon State - Normally two defenders from the same team would cancel each other out (see Oregon's RBs), but on the league's top defense, Crichton has been equally as important as Poyer. He posted four tackles, four tackles for loss and three sacks while holding Wazzu to 20 yards rushing. He now leads the league in TFL and sacks.

3. Nickell Robey, CB, USC - Oregon's Michael Clay falls off the list after not playing this weekend while Robey was brilliant on Thursday night. He had seven tackles, a forced fumble and the ended the game with a 38-yard INT returned for a touchdown. 


Post-Week 6 Coach of the Year Standings

1. Chip Kelly, Oregon - The Ducks are clearly the best team in the league to date. The offense hasn't missed a beat after losing two stars from last season and the defense is much improved — despite not having leader Michael Clay on the field against Washington.

2. Mike Riley, Oregon State - Oregon State's defense is starting to deserve some national attention as one of the best in the country. It allowed 227 total yards and six points to a MIke Leach team to stay undefeated.

3. Todd Graham, Arizona State  - Graham's team didn't play but made significant gains in the South standings due to key losses by UCLA, Utah and Arizona. The road trip to Heritage Hall on Nov. 10 is starting to look like a huge national game.

Post-Week 5 Power Rankings

1. Oregon (6-0, 3-0)
Previous rank: 1
Week 6 result: Beat Washington 52-21
Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas combined for 197 yards rushing, but Mariota was the star of the show. He kept plays alive with his legs, threw four scoring strikes and got the entire offense involved in the Ducks' attack (five different players scored six offensive touchdowns). The defense scored a touchdown for the third straight weekend as well. This team is clearly the best in the league, as the top offense in the Pac-12 scored at least 50 points for the fourth time in six games. Oregon averages over 300 yards rushing per game, has the league's No. 2 most efficient quarterback and, now, gets a chance to rest up for a marquee Thursday night trip into the desert to face an improved Arizona State team in 11 days.
This week: Open Date

2. USC (4-1, 2-1)
Previous rank: 2
Week 6 result: Beat Utah 38-28
Lane Kiffin's offensive line was shaky to start and it gifted Utah a 14-0 lead with bad turnovers deep in their own territory. But Matt Barkley wasn't fazed and led his team back with, at one point, a 28-0 run to keep USC headed in the right direction. He posted his 13th career 300-yard effort and three big scoring strikes, including a game-changing 83-yard scoring toss to Marqise Lee. Curtis McNeal, who suffered an early concussion, and Silas Redd, who paced the team with 77 yards and a touchdown, both missed time due to minor injuries but both are expected to be fine for the trip to Seattle next weekend. There is no such thing as a bad road conference win on national television, but Kiffin will likely address the 14 penalties and two early turnovers accrued by the Trojans on Thursday night.
This week: at Washington (3-2)

3. Oregon State (4-0, 3-0)
Previous rank: 3
Week 6 result: Beat Washington State 19-6
The offense carried this team to a road win over Arizona two weeks ago. This week, Mike Riley used a dominate defense to stay unblemished. The Beavers allowed 20 yards rushing to the Cougars and continues to pace the league in rushing defense at 67.3 yards allowed per game. The improvement in stopping the ground game in Corvallis is one of the most remarkable one-year turnaround stories in the nation. Last fall, Riley's bunch ranked dead last in the Pac-12 and 101st overall at just under 200 yards rushing allowed per game. They are fourth nationally at stopping the run after four games. And while Sean Mannion reminded fans that he is still a sophomore this weekend, he is still leading his team to 458 yards per game.
This week: at BYU (4-2)

4. Stanford (4-1, 2-1)
Previous rank: 6
Week 6 result: Beat Arizona 54-48 (OT)
Josh Nunes was highly criticized after three straight poor passing performances for the Cardinal. Well, the normally dreaded vote of confidence turned out to be just what Nunes needed (facing the Wildcats defense helped some too). The senior signal caller set career highs in nearly every category — 365 passing yards, 33 rushing yards, 5 total TD — and was efficient throwing the football (21-of-34 passing). He led Stanford to 20 straight points to end the game and secure the overtime win. Stepfan Taylor also got back on track with 32 touches, 147 yards rushing and two touchdowns. This was a quality gut-check, bounce-back victory for David Shaw's squad.
This week: at Notre Dame  (5-0)

5. Arizona State (4-1, 2-0)
Previous rank: 8
Week 6 result: Off
There is a good chance that Todd Graham starts 5-1 in his first year in Tempe. More importantly, a win over Colorado next Thursday night would give him a 3-0 start in league play. And the national television opportunity gives him a chance to showcase his program in a big way against the lowly Bufffs.
This week: at Colorado (1-4)

6. Washington (3-2, 1-1)
Previous rank: 4
Week 6 result: 
Lost to Oregon 52-21

The Huskies defense made a huge statement in a Week 5 win against Stanford and then came crashing back down to earth in Eugene. It allowed Oregon to rush out to a 21-0 lead and an eventual 35-7 halftime lead. It allowed 299 yards rushing and six offensive touchdowns to the Ducks. Washington's rushing game showed signs of life (208 yards rushing, 3 TD), but Keith Price could never get anything going through the air  — and actually scored more for Oregon (INT return TD) than he did for Washington. Oregon has now won nine straight games against the Huskies. Things don't get any easier as Steve Sarkisian's month from hell culminates with a visit from a resurgent USC team.
This week: USC (4-1)

7. UCLA (4-2, 1-2)
Previous rank: 5
Week 6 result: Lost to Cal 43-17
This was one of the most disappointing scores in the league to date this fall. This is the type of game true contenders have to win to stay relevant in the Pac-12 title race and Jim Mora's bunch was completely out-played. Brett Hundley and the offense turned the ball over six times, including four interceptions from the developing passer, and allowed four sacks. Meanwhile, the defense got torched through the air (295 yards, 4 TD) as well as on the ground (186 yards, 2 TD). This performance against a reeling Cal team likely reminds UCLA fans entirely too much of previous regimes. UCLA and Utah square-off this weekend in a game that could determine bowl eligibility.
This week: Utah (2-3) 

8. Arizona (3-3, 0-3)
Previous rank: 7
Week 6 result: Lost to Stanford 54-48
It was a great game with 10 lead changes, superstar performances and over 1,200 yards of offense. But for Matt Scott (506 yards, 3 TD) and Ka'Deem Carey (133 yards, 3 TD), the result was the same: Another crushing conference loss. With just over nine minutes to go, the Wildcats pushed its lead to 48-34 only to watch its defense allow yet another fourth-quarter comeback. Rich Rodriguez' offense is virtually unstoppable and was very impressive against a normally sound Stanford defense, but this team won't be able to compete in the South until it upgrades the talent on the defensive side of the ball. 
This week: Open Date

9. California (2-4, 1-2)
Previous rank: 10
Week 6 result: Beat UCLA 43-17
Jeff Tedford's tenure in Berkeley isn't over just yet. With their backs against the wall, the Golden Bears put together what was easily their best performance of a very disappointing 2012 campaign. They set a season-high for rushing attempts (42), passing yards (295), turnovers forced (6), points allowed (17) and scored more points than they had against FBS competition all year. Quarterback Zach Maynard played his best game of the year. The win merely stopped the bleeding for Tedford, who needs to continue to win to stay employed at Cal.
This week: at Washington State (2-4)

10. Utah (2-3, 0-2)
Previous rank: 
9
Week 6 result: Lost to USC 38-28
The Utes got a few lucky turnovers early, capitalized on them to build a 21-10 second quarter lead, but simply couldn't hold onto victory against a far superior football team. USC held the Utes running game in check and got off the field on third-downs — Utah was just 3-of-12 converting them — to rally for a clutch road win. Jon Hays was forced to throw short passes and couldn't get much going on offense after the nine minute-mark of the second period. With back-to-back road trips to UCLA and Oregon State now facing Kyle Whittingham's bunch, bowl eligibility is looking more and more unlikely by the week. At least, the uninformed national media got a clear look at just how good Star Lotulelei can be.

This week: at UCLA (4-2)

11. Colorado (1-4, 1-1)
Previous rank: 11
Jon Embree's squad needed the bye week to regroup after a brutal first month of the season. Next on top is a much-improved Arizona State Sun Devils team coming to Boulder with a balanced attack and off of a week of rest as well. Every game is a must-win for the embattled Buffs coach.
This week: Arizona State (4-1)

12. Washington State (2-4, 0-3)
Previous rank: 12
Week 6 result: Lost to Oregon State 19-6
Mike Leach has coached 132 games in his career and has failed to score 10 points only six times. Saturday's dreadful offensive performance featured five turnovers and only 227 yards of total offense as the Cougars failed to reach the end zone for the second time in five games this fall. Leach never has featured a stellar ground attack but 20 yards on 14 attempts isn't even trying. Wazzu now ranks 98th in scoring offense, 96th in total offense, 100th in total defense and 91st in scoring defense. It's been a rough return to the field for the quirky head coach.

This week: Cal  (2-4)

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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ACC Post-Week 6 Power Rankings
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Big Ten Post-Week 6 Power
Rankings
Big 12 Post-Week 6 Power Rankings

Pac-12 Post-Week 6 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 6 Power Rankings 

Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 Post-Week 6 Power Rankings</p>
Post date: Monday, October 8, 2012 - 06:15
Path: /college-football/big-ten-post-week-6-power-rankings
Body:

There may not be an elite team capable of winning a national championship in the Big Ten this fall, but no one can criticize the league for lacking dramatics. Michigan State survived a thriller. Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State made statements in big games against quality opponents. Wisconsin continues to show gradual improvement. But trying to pinpoint who will play in the Big Ten title game is impossible after six weeks of action. One week, the Huskers look like the favorites. The next, it's Michigan and Penn State. There won't be a national title in the Midwest this fall, but there will be plenty of excitement that should make fans proud.

Post-Week 6 Offensive Player of the Year Standings

1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State - There is no way to watch No. 5 in Scarlet and Gray and not be impressed. He provides jaw-dropping shiftiness and explosiveness (186 yards rushing, TD) while continuing to efficiently lead his team to victory. He has accounted for 17 total TDs and is already 237 yards away from 1,000 yards rushing.  

2. Matt McGloin, QB, Penn St - This is starting to be one of the more amazing stories nationally. After 282 yards passing and two more scores, the Penn State passer leads the Big Ten in passing TD (12), passing yards (1,499) and completions (136) on a team that could be one of the best in the league. He has also scored five rushing touchdowns in the last three games.

3. Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern - It wasn't enough to get a win, but Mark is quickly becoming one of the league's top play-makers. He is fifth in rushing (102.5), second in all-purpose yards (180.5) and third in scoring (9.0 ppg) after two more scores against Penn State.


Post-Week 6 Defensive Player of the Year Standings

1. Mike Mauti, LB, Penn State - He posted another nine total tackles as Penn State shutout Northwestern in the fourth quarter for the Lions' fourth straight win. 

2. John Simon, DL, Ohio State - There are a few POY candidates on the OSU defense, but Simon gets the nod this week after a monster performance against Nebraska. He posted seven total tackles, five tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble.

3. Mike Taylor, LB, Wisconsin - The Badgers' defensive leader had another workman-like performance in the key divisional win over Illinois. After a 12-tackle (1.5 for a loss) effort, Taylor is now No. 2 in the Big Ten in tackles on a team quietly showing improvement.


Post-Week 6 Coach of the Year Standings

1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State - This was beginning to look like an instant classic until Meyer's bunch blitzed the Huskers in the final 20 minutes of play. Dropping 63 on Nebraska is about as impressive as it gets in the Big Ten.

2. Bill O'Brien, Penn State - The only coach who could earn Coach of the Year honors over an unbeaten Urban Meyer would be the guy taking over Penn State following this particular off-season. Penn State has won four straight and is a few plays from being 6-0. Coach BOB has done a remarkable job.

3. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern - 
His team battled to the end in a hostile environment against a superior team. It didn't end in victory, but Northwestern belongs in the Legends Division race conversation due to Coach Fitz' leadership. 


Post-Week 6 Power Rankings

1. Ohio State (6-0, 2-0)
Previous rank: 1
Week 6 result: Beat Nebraska 63-38

This was a great game — for about 35 minutes. Back and forth these two traditional powers went until Braxton Miller does what Braxton Miller does best. Take over a game and single-handedly abuse a defense en route to another victory. He rushed for a school-record (for a QB) 186 yards and passed for 127 yards while scoring two touchdowns in electrifying fashion as Ohio State ended the game on a 28-7 run over the final quarter and a half. But what should make Buckeyes fans excited about the rest of Big Ten play was the contributions of complementary pieces. Special teams and defense chipped in a touchdown each while Carlos Hyde rushed for a career-best 140 yards and four touchdowns. Miller is a Heisman front-runner, but if Urban Meyer wants the best record in the Big Ten, he will have to continue to get support from the rest of his team. 
This week: at Indiana (2-3)

2. Michigan (3-2, 1-0)
Previous rank: 3
Week 6 result: Beat Purdue 44-13
After a dominating road win over the Boilermakers, Michigan takes it turn back atop the Legends Division weekly power poll. Denard Robinson got back on track with a huge day on the ground (24 att., 235 yards), but more importantly, didn't turn the ball over. Brady Hoke, as expected, established the run early, but it was his defense that won the game. Purdue entered Week 6 averaging 42.5 points and 463.5 yards per game, but the Maize and Blue defense impressively held the Boilers to 56 yards rushing on 26 attempts and only 157 yards passing. The formula for success is obvious for Michigan: Robinson needs to protect the football and make plays with his legs, while the front seven needs to continue to develop. A home test against Illinois precedes the two-week round robin with Nebraska and Michigan State, so a win is a must next weekend. 
This week: Illinois (2-4)

3. Michigan State (4-2, 1-1)
Previous rank: 4
Week 6 result: Beat Indiana 30-27
Michigan State did everything in its power to give this one away, but its defense came up with two huge three-and-outs late in the game to preserve the comeback road victory over Indiana. The Hoosiers jumped out to a 17-0 lead before Andrew Maxwell and Le'Veon Bell led the Spartans on a 30-10 run over the final three quarters. Maxwell played his best game of his short starting career, throwing for 290 yards and two scores without a turnover. He showed improved leadership, poise and toughness while attempting 40 passes. Bell finished with 121 yards and two scores of his own. Michigan State has obvious warts in the passing game — and playing IU might not be the truest barometer — but Maxwell and his receivers played their best game to date. All of that said, however, inching out a victory over a coaching staff that has yet to win a Big Ten game for Mark Dantonio has to be very concerning. 
This week: Iowa (3-2)

4. Nebraska (4-2, 1-1)
Previous rank: 2
Week 6 result: Lost to Ohio State 63-38
Taylor Martinez accounted for three touchdowns and led his team to 38 points and 437 yards of offense. Rex Burkhead topped the 100-yard mark and moonlighted as a quarter/full-back on two scoring runs for Ameer Abdullah. But the defense simply couldn't stop the dynamic play-making ability of Braxton Miller and Martinez threw three costly interceptions. Bo Pelini was up to his old tricks berating his players on the sideline as he watched his team give away a chance at a road win over the Buckeyes. This defense had shown improvement at playing in opponents backfields of late, yet allowed a season-worst 371 yards rushing. This unit has allowed nine rushing touchdowns over the last two games and will have plenty to think about during the off week.
This week: Open Date

5. Penn State (4-2, 2-0)
Previous rank: 8
Week 6 result: Beat Northwestern 39-28
Bill O'Brien is entering National Coach of the Year territory with yet another gutty performance from his much-maligned program. In fact, with the unlikely development of Matt McGloin and continued leadership of Michael Mauti, Penn State could be in line for all three Big Ten "Of the Year" awards (Coach, Offensive Player, Defensive Player). This team is a few plays from being unbeaten and is quickly becoming one of the great stories in college football. There is a chance that the best two teams in the league could be ineligible to win the league title. And O'Brien gets all of the credit for implementing a complex and innovative offensive scheme in such short order. This is a totally different football team than a year ago — and that team started 8-1.  

This week: Open Date

6. Northwestern (5-1, 1-1)
Previous rank: 5
Week 6 result: Lost to Penn State 39-28
Northwestern missed a golden opportunity to make a statement on the road against Penn State. The Wildcats took a 28-17 lead with less than a minute left in the third quarter on Venric Mark's second punt return touchdown of the season. But after holding up extremely well against the physical Nittany Lions rushing attack and ever-improving passing game for three quarters, the Wildcats crumbled in the fourth. Penn State exerted its will in the final frame, scoring three touchdowns in a nine minute span to give Coach Ftiz' group their first loss of the year. Penn State was the better team, but Northwestern played valiantly. 
This week: at Minnesota (4-1)

7. Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1)
Previous rank: 7
Week 6 result: Beat Illinois 31-14
Joel Stave was able to start and finish the game. The rushing attack looked more like 2011 than it did 2012. And the defense played a physical brand of football, holding everyone on the Illini offense not named Nathan Scheelhaase to 22 total yards. Stave, who missed a key drive late against Nebraska, threw for 254 yards and two touchdowns while Montee Ball rushed for 116 yards and two scores of his own. Ball is quietly returning to form, after scoring five times in the last two weeks to bring his season total to eight and his career total to 69 total touchdowns. It won't have much national fanfare, but the road trip to West Lafayette next weekend could decide the Leaders Division crown. 
This week: at Purdue (3-2)

8. Purdue (3-2, 0-1)
Previous rank: 6
Week 6 result: Lost to Michigan 44-13
This was one of the more disappointing performances by any team in the league this fall. Purdue still controls its own destiny with a visit from Wisconsin coming in Week 7, so a Big Ten title is certainly within grasp. However, if the Boilers play like they did against Michigan again, the Badgers will end those hopes next weekend. The normally stout Boilers front-seven was gashed by Denard Robinson and company for 304 yards rushing on 54 attempts. And the normally explosive Caleb TerBush-led offense was completely shut down by a Michigan defense that has struggled at times this fall. The season is still out in front of the Boilermakers, but this team needs to regroup quickly after being crushed in its Big Ten opener.
This week: Wisconsin (4-2)

9. Iowa (3-2, 1-0)
Previous rank: 9
Week 6 result: Off
Iowa played arguably its best game of the year back in the Week 5 win over Minnesota. So fans have to wonder if the bye week was perfectly placed to allow this team to build on its confidence or if it halted what little momentum the Hawkeyes may have built in the victory?
This week: at Michigan State (4-2)

10. Minnesota (4-1, 0-1)
Previous rank: 10
Week 6 result: Off
Getting MarQueis Gray healthy and addressing the defensive woes that led to a blowout loss to Iowa was the likely focus of Jerry Kill's squad during the off week. The Gophers have a winnable home game this weekend that is bordering on must-win status.
This week: Northwestern (5-1)

11. Illinois (2-4, 0-2)
Previous rank: 11
Week 6 result: Lost to Wisconsin 31-14
Things continue to get worse for Tim Beckman. After an embarrassing loss to Penn State at home last week, the Illini failed to show up in Madison. Illinois has allowed 108 points in its three-game losing streak as both PSU and UW rushed for 173 yards over the last two weeks. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase accounted for all but 22 yards of total offense on a team that offered little support to its quarterback. Things only appear to be getting worse for a team that is scoring the fewest points per game in the Big Ten (21.2 ppg) and that is allowing the most points in the league (28.3 ppg). Illinois will face Michigan and Ohio State on the road in the next three weeks.

This week: at Michigan (3-2)

12. Indiana (2-3, 0-2)
Previous rank: 12
Week 6 result: Lost to Michigan State 30-27
This was his chance. Kevin Wilson has yet to win a Big Ten game and after a 17-0 lead at the end of the first quarter — and a 27-14 halftime lead — the Hoosiers failed to capitalize on a golden opportunity. The Indiana defense allowed Andrew Maxwell to grow up in Bloomington on Saturday and Cameron Coffman went three-and-out on the game's final two possessions. This would have been a signature win for Wilson and company, but he now finds himself 0-10 in Big Ten play.
This week: Ohio State (6-0)


by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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Big Ten Post-Week 6 Power Rankings
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Pac-12 East Post-Week 6 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 6 Power Rankings 

Teaser:
<p> Big Ten Post-Week 6 Power Rankings</p>
Post date: Monday, October 8, 2012 - 06:03
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-betting-against-spread-week-6
Body:

Every Friday for entertainment purposes only, I will bring you my top college football picks against the spread. I do not condone, approve or encourage gambling on sports in any way. But if you are a fan of football — college or pro — and you don't think gambling has played a huge role in the growth and popularity of the sport, then you are simply being ignorant. And behind closed doors, the powers that be understand the impact betting has had on the game of football.

2012 Record Against The Spread: 22-17
Last Week: 5-3

Note: All lines are as of date of publication

Michigan State (-15) at Indiana
The Hoosiers lost 55-3 in East Lansing last season and are currently last in the Big Ten this fall in rushing defense after allowing 394 yards last week to Northwestern. Michigan State, however, will enter this game with a chip on its shoulder after the tough loss to Ohio State last fall. The Spartans will have no trouble at all moving the ball behind that big line and Le’Veon Bell, so expect this one to get out of hand fairly quickly. Prediction: Michigan State -15

Navy (+7.5) at Air Force
The Midshipmen have scored a total of 17 points in three games against FBS competition this fall, including being shutout by San Jose State last week. This isn’t a vintage Navy triple-option attack as it is averaging only 219.3 yards per game rushing. Meanwhile, Air Force’s option is clicking on all cylinders, leading the nation in rushing at 396.3 yards per game. The success of the ground game has helped the Falcons score 37.8 points per game and Navy, who is 1-3 against the number this fall, will have a tough time stopping AFA. Prediction: Air Force -7.5

UCLA (-2.5) at Cal
This is the type of game that the Bruins have to win if they expect to compete in the Pac-12. The Bruins boast the league’s No. 1 offense at 558.4 yards per game after getting back on track last week with 42 points in Boulder. Meanwhile, Cal only has 535 yards of total offense in its last two Pac-12 games combined. Look for Brett Hundley and Johnathan Franklin to attack and expose the worst rushing defense in the league. The Golden Bears haven’t beaten an FBS team all year and are on the verge of total collapse. Jim Mora is happy to push Cal over the cliff’s edge. Cal is 1-4 against the spread this season. Prediction: UCLA -2.5

UL Monroe (-3) at Middle Tennessee
Had MTSU been on a bye last week, the point spread on this game could have been in the double digits. Monroe is unbeaten against the spread this fall and Middle Tennessee is coming off of arguably the biggest non-conference win in program history. Expect the Blue Raiders to hang in there for three quarters, but Kolton Browning and company are way too powerful — try 63 points last week and at least 550 yards of offense in three of four games this fall. Prediction: UL Monroe -3

Mississippi State (-10) at Kentucky
This Bulldogs team leads the nation in turnover margin and that spells trouble for a team that will rotate two freshman quarterbacks. State is allowing only 13.3 points per game and is off to its best start in over a decade, but still have room to improve. Coming off of the bye week, Dan Mullen should have his guys ready to play against the lowly Wildcats. Prediction: Mississippi State -10

North Texas (+12) at Houston
The Cougars are not a good football team, as losses to Texas State, Louisiana Tech and UCLA indicate. And the win over Rice last week came mostly due to the fact that starting QB Taylor McHargue didn’t play. North Texas should be able to run and could win outright, so I will take the 12 points and run all the way to the bank. Prediction: North Texas +12

Arizona (+9) at Stanford
Josh Nunes has struggled mightily of late, completely less than half of his passes in each of the last two games. Arizona has lost two straight but has explosive offensive talent and should be able to score points on the edge. Stanford should be able to control the line of scrimmage but there is no reason Arizona can’t win outright against a team lacking in offensive confidence. Take the Cardinal to win outright but the Cats to keep it real close. Prediction: Arizona +9

Utah State (+6.5) at BYU
The Aggies of Utah State have played a tough schedule and, with the exception of a missed field goal in Madison, should be undefeated. BYU bounced back with a complete performance last week against Hawaii, but Chuckie Keeton and company are a different animal. This could be a low-scoring affair with two underrated defenses taking the field in Provo. Never bet against Gary Andersen, whose team is 5-0 against the spread this fall. Prediction: Utah State +6.5 

Take the big-game dogs:

Georgia (+2) at South Carolina
West Virginia (+7) at Texas
LSU (-3) at Florida
Nebraska (+3.5) at Ohio State

2012 Trends Against the Spread:

Unbeaten ATS One Loss ATS One Win ATS (min. 4 games) Winless ATS
Arizona St (4-0-1) Ball St (4-1) Texas (3-1) Army (1-3) Michigan (1-3) Arkansas (0-5)
Fresno St (5-0) Cincinnati (2-1) Texas St (3-1) Auburn (1-3) Michigan St (1-4) Virginia (0-4-1)
UL Monroe (4-0) Duke (4-1) Toledo (4-1) Boston College (1-3) Navy (1-3)  
Northwestern (5-0) Florida (3-1) Troy (4-1) Cal (1-4) NC State (1-3-1)  
Oregon St (3-0) Kansas St (3-1) UCLA (4-1) C. Michigan (1-3) Oregon (1-4)  
San Jose St (5-0) Kent St (3-1)   Colorado (1-4) USC (1-3)  
Texas Tech (4-0) La. Tech (3-1)   Colorado St (1-4) S. Miss (1-3)  
TX-SA (3-0) UL Lafayette (3-1)   E. Michigan (1-3) Syracuse (1-3)  
Utah St (5-0) MTSU (3-1)   Houston (1-3) Tulane (1-3)  
W. Kentucky (5-0) Ole Miss (4-1)   Idaho (1-4) Utah (1-3)  
  Notre Dame (3-1)   Indiana (1-3) Va. Tech (1-4)  
  Penn St (4-1)   Iowa (1-4) Wazzu (1-4)  
  Purdue (3-1)   Kentucky (1-4) W. Virginia (1-3)  
  S. Carolina (4-1)   Memphis (1-3) Wisconsin (1-4)  
  Texas A&M (3-1)   Miami-OH (1-4)    

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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Teaser:
<p> College Football Betting Against the Spread: Week 6</p>
Post date: Friday, October 5, 2012 - 05:55
Path: /college-football/big-ten-week-6-preview-and-predictions
Body:

Michigan State and Ohio State transported Big Ten fans back last Saturday to an era of physical play the league has been missing this season. Trash talk, big hits, recruiting storylines and even some gamesmanship concerning pre-game film created a truly great football atmosphere that lived up to the hype. 

This week there are loads of storylines across the league. Ohio State-Nebraska could feature the league's top two teams. Northwestern tries to stay unbeaten. Michigan looks to get back on track with a tough road test. And something will happen at Camp Randall this weekend, right?

Big Ten's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 6:

1. Which QB plays better: Braxton Miller or Taylor Martinez?
These have been the best two players in the league on what could be the best two teams in the Big Ten. And since Ohio State can't play in the title game, this could be the de facto Big Ten championship game for all intents and purposes. Martinez is leading the league in passing efficiency and passing touchdowns for the league's top offense. Miller is the MVP of the league, willing his team to victory last week against Michigan State. However, Miller turned the ball over and has been frequently banged up while T-Mart has a two-year resume that is loaded with poor throws and inefficient play. Whoever protects the football, makes smart decisions and converts on key third downs will emerge victorious Saturday night.

2. Who steps up around Miller on the Buckeyes' offense?
Ohio State has the edge for a variety of reasons in this game. The Bucks have the home field edge, the head coach edge, a slight defensive edge and the revenge edge. However, Nebraska has tons of support players on offense for Martinez while Urban Meyer is still looking for consistent play-makers with which to surround Miller. So who steps up and makes the play this weekend for the Buckeyes? Jordan Hall is doubtful so Rod Smith or Carlos Hyde will have to play well in the running game. The roster of non-descript pass-catchers also needs to be there for Miller. The O-Line is playing much better for Ohio State, so if Miller can get solid production from his peers on offense, Ohio State should remain unbeaten.

3. Can Michigan overcome road woes in West Lafayette?
Reading MLive.com this week, it is obvious that the fans in Ann Arbor have major concerns about their road trip to Purdue this weekend. Michigan averages 40.1 points per game at home under the Brady Hoke coaching regime, but only 20.9 per game on the road. Denard Robinson has been dramatically less efficient and productive on the road, including five turnovers the last time he was out on the field against Notre Dame. Look for offensive coordinator Al Borges to reestablish the ground game early this weekend against a solid Boilermakers team in an effort to make Robinson's job easier. Because if...

3. The Boilermakers control the pocket, they will win
Danny Hope's defense, led by Kawaan Short, is allowing just over 100 yards rushing per game. This matters because if Robinson can be contained within the pocket, Purdue should be in this one. When Shoelace has been held to less than 100 yards rushing this season, Michigan has lost. When he has topped the century mark, the Wolverines have won. Additionally, despite two relatively easy wins (36-14 and 27-16) previously over Purdue, Robinson has struggled to pass the ball against the Steamers (1 TD, 3 INT, 173 ypg). This should be a high-scoring game, but Purdue has the horses on the D-Line to keep No. 16 between the tackles. If the defense can do its job, the Boilers will pull off the upset and begin Big Ten play 1-0.

4. Northwestern's bid for 6-0 hinges on defense
After five weeks of play, the Wildcats are leading the league in rushing defense at 90.0 yards allowed per game. But this will be its toughest test yet. Penn State's rushing attack has totaled 173 yards in each of its last two games and has accounted for six touchdowns in victories over Temple and Illinois. The turnaround can be attributed to the emergence of burly power backs Zach Zwinak and Michael Zordich and the return of starter Bill Belton from injury. In front of Nittany Nation at Beaver Stadium, Pat Fitzgerald knows his defensive front has to be physical and disciplined this weekend if the Wildcats want to stay unbeaten. 

5. Bill O'Brien's offense continues to improve
If you would have said that after five weeks Matt McGloin would be leading the Big Ten in passing yards, would be second in passing touchdowns, second in attempts and second in completions, I would have called you a liar this summer. But O'Brien's offense has continued to improve each week, showing innovation and creativity not seen in a Happy Valley passing attack in years. McGloin should be productive once again against Northwestern's secondary, so it's the PSU defense that must deliver this weekend. Northwestern quarterbacks Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian create unique match-up issues for most teams and Michael Mauti and co. will have their hands full stopping the dynamic and versatile Wildcats offense.

6. Big Ten's worst two offenses battle in Madison
Illinois and Wisconsin are ranked 97th nationally in scoring offense as each team is generating 22.6 points per game. They are 11th and 12th respectively in the Big Ten in total offense. And both team's struggles can be attributed to major quarterback issues. Nathan Scheelhaase returned last week as the turnover-prone, inconsistent passer Illini fans have grown accustomed to. If he is fully healthy, he needs to prove to Tim Beckman that he belongs under center. Meanwhile, Joel Stave appears to be the answer for Wisconsin, but he took so many hits last week, he was unable to play during critical fourth quarter drives against Nebraska. The Badgers appear to be in better shape and look to be improving — especially if Stave can play this weekend — so it falls to Scheelhaase if Illinois wants to win in Madison for the first time since 2002.

7. Who starts at QB for Indiana? Does it matter...
Kevin Wilson has seen everything this season from his quarterbacks. Tre Roberson was off to an excellent start before a season-ending injury pushed Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld into action. Both have had success and both have looked shaky at times. The head coach has stated he would like to settle on one guy, but both have shared reps this week evenly and both should see time against Michigan State. That said, will an angry 3-2 Spartans team allow either passer time to throw the ball effectively this weekend? It's highly unlikely.

Week 6 Big Ten Predictions:

Week 6 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
Michigan St (-15.5) at Indiana Mich. St, 34-10 Mich. St, 30-13 Mich. St 34-13 Mich. St, 35-14
N'Western (+3) at Penn St Penn St, 27-17 Penn St, 17-13 Penn St 24-20 Penn St, 17-14
Illinois (+14) at Wisconsin Wisconsin, 30-21 Wisconsin, 28-21 Wisconsin 34-17 Wisconsin, 20-10
Michigan (-3) at Purdue Michigan, 27-24 Purdue, 24-20 Michigan 31-24 Purdue, 21-20
Nebraska (+3) at Ohio St Ohio St, 28-24 Nebraska, 24-21 Ohio St 27-24 Ohio St, 28-21
Last Week: 6-0 5-1 5-1 5-1
Yearly Totals: 52-12 50-14 54-10 52-12

Bye Week: Iowa, Minnesota

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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Teaser:
<p> Big Ten Week 6 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 4, 2012 - 06:08
Path: /college-football/pac-12-week-6-preview-and-predictions
Body:

USC and Oregon are still on a collision course for Nov. 3. Yet, both divisions appear to be much improved. And what's more interesting is the hierarchy shift in both the North and South that took place last week. Oregon State and Washington could be the top challengers in the North while Arizona State and UCLA look like the best bets to topple USC in the South. UCLA and Oregon State have must-win games this weekend, while Washington's season could be on the line in Eugene. And the wild and crazy Player of the Year race out West will undoubtedly take another big turn this weekend as well.

Pac-12's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 6:

1. Can the Washington offensive line protect Keith Price?
Three injuries to the Huskies offensive line had Keith Price running for his life last week against Stanford. Luckily, it didn't impact the outcome of the game. But if Washington cannot give its quarterback time to throw this weekend, U of W will be in for a long night. The Ducks posted seven sacks a week ago against Washington State and has returned three interceptions for touchdowns in the last two games. The only score UW allowed last weekend was on a Price INT returned for six points — and it nearly gave Stanford the win. The Dawgs can't afford such mistakes in a game they need to play perfectly to win. 

2. Huskies defense must step up for a second straight week
Trying to stop Chip Kelly's offense is an exercise in futility. Pick your poison: Stop one running back and the other goes for 200 yards. Gear up to stop the ground attack and Marcus Mariota will stretch the field with his arm and athleticism. The Washington defense showed massive improvement last week, holding Stanford to 65 yards rushing. But that was at home on a Thursday night against Josh Nunes. This is the three-time defending conference champ. The Ducks have won eight straight over Washington and have scored 45.8 points in the last five meetings. Steve Sarkisian needs another magical performance from his defense to end Oregon's recent dominance in this series. Nothing would be sweeter for Huskies defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, who grew up 15 minutes from Eugene and played at Oregon.

3. Great teams win these types of games
Looking at you UCLA (and maybe Oregon State too). If Jim Mora and the Bruins want to be taken seriously on a national level as a Pac-12 contender, this is a game they have to win. Cal is better than its 1-4 mark indicates, but great teams don't lose to teams on the verge of collapse. If Johnathan Franklin and Brett Hundley can't take advantage of the league's worst rushing defense then they likely don't deserve to compete with USC and Arizona State for the South Division title. The Trojans and Sun Devils have defeated the Bears with relative ease over the last two weeks and a loss for UCLA would drop them to 1-2 in the league with four division games still left on the schedule. Great teams simply don't lose these games.

4. Can Josh Nunes bounce back after the loss?
The Stanford quarterback struggled mightily in his first road start. While coach David Shaw called talks of a quarterback switch "asinine," Nunes knows he cannot afford too many more performances like last Thursday night in Seattle. He completed only 48.4 percent of his 37 passes, giving him two straight games in which he failed to complete at least half of his attempts. Arizona's improved offense will be able to score points and Nunes cannot allow the Wildcats to stack the box like Washington did last week. He has to be more accurate if the Cardinal are going to hold serve at home. 

5. How does the Arizona line of scrimmage perform?
Stanford might feature the most physical lines, on both side of the ball, in the league. The Cardinal's defensive front seven is downright nasty and will get after Matt Scott and Ka'Deem Carey while the o-line will look to push around the 'Zona defensive line. The match-up is a bad one for the more finesse Wildcats. They don't pressure the quarterback (last in the Pac-12 in sacks) and they don't stop the power running game (11th in rushing defense). If Stanford can get Stepfan Taylor rolling like he was against USC and give Josh Nunes time to throw, it could be a long day for the 'Cats defense. And it will likely put too much pressure on the offense to convert on third down. 

6. How many interceptions will Matt Barkley throw?
The struggles of Utah have taken a lot of the luster off of this Thursday night game. But USC is still a national contender playing on the road in primetime against a program accustomed to winning. So while I would love to say 'anything can happen,' the likely storyline coming out of Salt Lake City on Friday morning will be the performance of Matt Barkley. He has four interceptions in his last two games and his pursuit of the Heisman Trophy has slowed to a crawl the last few weeks. Look for Lane Kiffin to get his star quarterback on track against a defense that was torched the last time out — try 326 yards and three touchdowns from first-year Arizona State starter Taylor Kelly. I wouldn't be surprised to see USC roll up a big number on the Utes.

7. Sean Mannion must take care of business at home
Washington State is struggling. Oregon State is unbeaten. This game was a blowout in favor of the Beavers a year ago. All signs point to Mannion and company taking care of business against an over-matched opponent. However, Mike Leach's bunch will likely pull off one upset this season at some point. Mike Riley knows this is the weakest opponent his team has faced all year, so guarding against a major letdown is paramount. Fans can expect big numbers in the passing game from both teams. This match-up features the No. 1 (Oregon St) and No. 3 (Wazzu) passing games in the league as both average more than 333 yards per game. And these are the worst two passing defenses in the Pac-12 (112th and 113th in the nation respectively). 

Week 6 Pac-12 Predictions:

Week 6 Pac-12 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
USC (-14) at Utah USC, 31-14 USC, 34-13 USC 34-13 USC, 35-13
Arizona (+9) at Stanford Stanford, 24-21 Stanford, 30-27 Stanford 27-24 Arizona, 28-24
Washington St (+15.5) at Oregon St Ore. St, 35-21 Ore. St, 37-20 Ore. St, 34-20 Ore. St, 31-13
UCLA (-2.5) at Cal UCLA, 31-24 UCLA, 27-21 UCLA 34-24 UCLA, 28-10
Washington (+24) at Oregon Oregon, 41-21 Oregon, 38-17 Oregon 45-24 Oregon, 42-21
Last Week: 2-3 3-2 3-2 4-1
Yearly Totals: 30-14 31-13 31-13 30-14

Bye: Arizona St., Colorado

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 6 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 6 Previews and Predictions

Big Ten Week 6 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 6 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 6 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 6 Upset Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 Week 6 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 4, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/2012-heisman-trophy-contenders-post-week-5
Body:

Each week, the Athlon editors vote on the most prestigious award in all of college football. A 13-man conglomerate of college football gurus from Athlon Sports voted this week for their top Heisman Trophy candidates. The votes will be tallied and the result will be posted as the Athlon Sports Heisman Watch List every week of the regular season.

Voting: Each first-place vote receives 10 points. A second-place vote receives nine points. So on and so forth with a 10th-place vote receiving one point.

Since the college football season is five weeks old, we figured we would expand our Heisman voting to include some of the best college sports analysts and writers from around the nation. So instead of just nine Athlon editors, our Heisman voting panel is made up of a total of 13 respected members of the college sports media, including:

Barrett Sallee: Bleacher Report SEC Lead Writer (@BarrettSallee)
Jim Young: ACCSports.com (@ACCSports)
Blair Kerkhoff: Kansas City Star (@BlairKerkhoff)
Chris Level: RedRaiderSports.com (@ChrisLevel)

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia (13 first-place votes)
Season Stats: 
141-169, 1,728 yards, 20 TD, 0 INT, 20 att., 99 yards, TD
This was a showcase moment for the WVU signal caller. He threw for a school-record 656 yards and tied the Big 12 record with eight touchdown passes on an ridiculous 35-of-41 passing rate. He now leads the NCAA in passing efficiency and total offense and has yet to turn the ball over for West Virginia. No rest for the weary, however, as Smith leads his team into Austin, Texas for a huge game against the Longhorns. Next game: at Texas

  Last Name Pos. Team Tot. Pts 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Ballots
1. (1) Geno Smith QB W. Virginia 130/130 13 - - - - 13/13
2. (5) E.J. Manuel QB Florida St 90/130 - 2 2 5 2 13/13
3. (4) Collin Klein QB Kansas St 88/130 - 2 4 3 2 12/13
4. (3) Braxton Miller QB Ohio St 87/130 - 4 2 - 5 13/13
5. (11) Aaron Murray QB Georgia 62/130 - 1 1 2 2 12/13
6. (2) De'Anthony Thomas AP Oregon 55/130 - 2 3 - - 9/13
7. (6) Manti Te'o LB Notre Dame 37/130 - 1 1 - - 8/13
8. (7) Matt Barkley QB USC 34/130 - - - 2 1 7/13
9. (9) Marcus Lattimore RB S. Carolina 29/130 - - - - 1 8/13
10. (12) A.J. McCarron QB Alabama 23/130 - - - 1 - 6/13
11. (10) Jarvis Jones LB Georgia 19/130 - 1 - - - 5/13
12. (15) Marqise Lee WR USC 11/130 - - - - - 4/13
13. (UR) Sean Mannion QB Oregon St 8/130 - - - - - 3/13
14. (16) Barrett Jones OL Alabama 7/130 - - - - - 2/13
15. (17) Kolton Browning QB UL Monroe 6/130 - - - - - 2/13
16. (UR) Johnny Manziel QB Texas A&M 5/130 - - - - - 1/13
17. (UR) Stedman Bailey WR W.Virginia 5/130 - - - - - 2/13
18. (14) Johnathan Franklin RB UCLA 4/130 - - - - - 2/13
19. (UR) David Ash QB Texas 4/130 - - - - - 2/13
20. (18) Tajh Boyd QB Clemson 3/130 - - - - - 1/13
21. (UR) Kain Colter QB N'Western 3/130 - - - - - 1/13
22. (UR) Joseph Randle RB Oklahoma St 2/130 - - - - - 2/13
23. (UR) Stefphon Jefferson RB Nevada 2/130 - - - - - 1/13
24. (UR) Taylor Martinez QB Nebraska 1/130 - - - - - 1/13

2. EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State
Season Stats: 69-94, 905 yards, 8 TD, 1 INT, 24 att., 188 yards, TD
It wasn't the same type of performance that earned him national notoriety two weeks ago, but Manuel led his team to a relatively easy road win over an in-state BCS conference rival. He threw for 242 yards and a touchdown in the 30-17 win. The top challenger to Geno Smith gets another tricky test this weekend on the road at NC State. He missed the last trip to Raleigh two seasons ago when FSU lost. Don't expect the same outcome this time around.
Next Game: at NC State

3. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
Season Stats:
 56-80, 758 yards, 5 TD, 2 INT, 63 att., 289 yards, 5 TD
CK7 got to rest his bloody elbows this weekend after the huge road win over Oklahoma. Kansas State now gets rival Kansas and Iowa State in the next two, making a 6-0 start for the Wildcats extremely likely.
Next Game: Kansas

4. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Season Stats: 
76-121, 933 yards, 8 TD, 3 INT, 90 att., 577 yards, 7 TD
Miller's toughness was on full display in the gritty road win over Michigan State this weekend. He carried the ball 23 times for 136 yards and threw the game-winning scoring strike late in the second half. He battled injury and willed his team to a 5-0 mark. He is the clearcut Big Ten POY and is the Big Ten's No. 2 rusher. He received the most second-place votes with four. Next Game: Nebraska

5. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Season Stats: 89-130, 1,378 yards, 12 TD, 3 INT, 21 att., minus-8 yards, 3 TD
Murray had to battle with SEC East counterpart Tyler Bray more than he anticipated. But when the game was over, the Dawgs were unbeaten and their quarterback had another 286 yards and two touchdowns on his resume. He is leading the SEC passing efficiency and is second to only Bray in yards and touchdown passes.
Next Game: at South Carolina

6. De’Anthony Thomas, AP, Oregon
Season Stats: 25 att., 276 yards, 4 TD, 13 rec., 165 yards, 3 TD, 8 PR, 131 PR yards
Next Game: Washington

7. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
Season Stats: 38 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 3 INT, FR, 2 PBU
Next Game: Miami (Chicago)

8. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Season Stats: 88-143, 1,005 yards, 12 TD, 5 INT, 11 att., minus-61 yards
Next game: at Utah

9. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
Season Stats: 92 att., 440 yards, 8 TD, 16 rec., 109 yards
Next game: Georgia

10. A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
Season Stats: 73-111, 999 yards, 12 TD, 0 INT, 19 att., minus-41 yards
Next Game: Bye Week

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

Three and Out: Week 5 Recap

ACC Post-Week 5 Power Rankings
Big East Post-Week 5 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 5 Power Rankings
Big 12 Post-Week 5 Power Rankings
Pac-12 East Post-Week 5 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 5 Power Rankings 

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Heisman Trophy Contenders: Post-Week 5</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 - 06:10
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/ranking-nfls-starting-quarterbacks-week-5-update
Body:

After four weeks of play, the preseason NFL starting quarterback rankings have changed dramatically. It is a difficult undertaking and the criterion are endless. Toughness, efficiency, physical ability, injury history, leadership, statistical production and, of course, winning are all taken into account.

But taking all aspects of playing the position into account, I ranked all 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL prior to the start of the season. So after reaching the quarter pole of the 2012 season, has anything changed?

I put my general manager's hat on and asked this question:

If my goal is to win the Lombardi Trophy in 2012, who do I want under center?

Note: Age is at time of start of 2012 season

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (Age: 28, Record: 43-23)
2012 Stats: 1,064 yards, 69.9%, 7 TD, 3 INT, 15 att., 51 yards
The Packers' offense struggled by their lofty standards through the first three weeks — albeit against three of the top defenses in the NFC. But against the Saints, Rodgers looked like the reigning MVP, throwing for 319 yards and four touchdowns on 75.6% passing. Preseason Rank: 1

2. Tom Brady, New England (Age: 35, Record: 128-39)
2012 Stats: 1,227 yards, 65.6%, 7 TD, INT, 6 att., 11 yards, TD
Brady is currently fourth in passing yards this season and has tied Brett Favre for the third longest streak in NFL history of at least one touchdown pass in a game. His resume speaks for itself. Preseason Rank: 2

3. Drew Brees, New Orleans (Age: 33, Record: 92-65)
2012 Stats: 1,350 yards, 10 TD, 5 INT, 3 att., rush TD
The Saints have started 0-4 but the NFL's leader in passing yards can't be blamed too much. Yes, he has five picks, but this team has no head coach and no defensive identity. Brees played his best last weekend against Green Bay, nearly pulling off the upset, and is still one of the elite passers in the NFL. Preseason Rank: 3

4. Eli Manning, New York Giants (Age: 31, Record: 71-52)
2012 Stats: 1,320 yards, 7 TD, 4 INT
The younger Manning already has had some insane second halves of play (did you see what he did to Tampa?). And he still throws a few too many interceptions. But his talent and track record makes him one of the game's most dependable signal callers. He is the defending Super Bowl champion. Preseason Rank: 4

5. Peyton Manning, Denver (Age: 36, Record: 143-69)
2012 Stats: 1,162 yards, 8 TD, 3 INT
Manning clearly doesn't have the same arm strength as he used to, but he has the same everything else. His mental preparation and commitment to winning is unmatched. And his three interceptions all came in one quarter against the 4-0 Falcons. Neck surgeries and diminishing physical skills keeps him from the top four. Preseason Rank: 5

6. Matt Ryan, Atlanta (Age: 27, Record: 47-19)
2012 Stats: 1,162 yards, 11 TD, 2 INT, 10 att., 48 yards, TD
No quarterback has played better in 2012 than Matty-Ice (No. 1 in QB rating 112.1). He leads the NFC in touchdown passes and owns the best record in the league at 4-0. The only thing keeping him from the top five, however, is his lack of production in the playoffs. His career winning percentage is remarkable but the 0-3 mark in the playoffs needs to be rectified. Preseason Rank: 10

7. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (Age: 30, Record: 81-36)
2012 Stats: 904 yards, 8 TD, INT
Big Ben has been lights out in 2012 and is off to one of the best starts of his career. The 109.2 QB rating is tops in the AFC for qualifed passers and he is fifth in yards per game (301.3). His playoff mark alone makes him one of the best options in the league. Preseason Rank: 7

8. Joe Flacco, Baltimore (Age: 27, Record: 47-21)
2012 Stats: 1,269 yards, 7 TD, 3 INT, 6 att., 6 yards, TD
The Ravens quarterback is consistently one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the league. He has improved his numbers each of his three seasons and appears to be headed for his best year yet. No QB benefited more from a change in offensive scheme than Flacco in the Ravens' shift to their up-tempo, no-huddle attack. Preseason Rank: 11

9. Matt Schaub, Houston (Age: 32, Record: 36-34)
2012 Stats: 953 yards, 7 TD, INT
The quarterback for the best team in the AFC has proven to be a tough customer this season. And his 105.3 QB rating is No. 3 in the NFL and No. 2 in the AFC. His history of serious injuries keeps him from being much higher, however — he has missed at least five games in three of the last five years. Preseason Rank: 12

10. Tony Romo, Dallas (Age: 32, Record: 49-32)
2012 Stats: 1,148 yards, 5 TD, 8 INT
Cowboys fans certainly don't feel like they have a top 10 quarterback after his 5-INT game on Monday night. However, the loss wasn't just Romo's fault. The offensive couldn't block. The running game was non-existent. And No. 88 continues to waste his remarkable raw talent. The front office hasn't helped much either with few quality high draft picks. Romo is better than his 2012 numbers indicate. Preseason Rank: 8

11. Matthew Stafford, Detroit (Age: 24, Record: 14-19)
2012 Stats: 1,182 3 TD, 4 INT, 8 att., 36 yards, TD
He snapped his 21-game streak of throwing at least one TD when his Lions lost to the Vikings. He has regressed from last year as he is currently on pace for just 12 TDs after 41 last fall. Preseason Rank: 7

12. Philip Rivers, San Diego (Age: 30, Record: 66-34)
2012 Stats: 897 yards, 6 TD, 4 INT
His abrasive attitude and penchant for turnovers — as well as his inability to win big games — drops him outside of the top ten. Preseason Rank: 9

13. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati (Age: 24, Record: 12-8)
2012 Stats: 1,111 yards, 8 TD, 4 INT, 14 att., 36 yards, TD
Dalton has been outstanding during the Bengals' quiet three-game winning streak. His 103.0 QB rating is No. 5 in the NFL as the redhead continues to grow into a star. Preseason Rank: 18

14. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis (Age: 22, Record: 1-2)
2012 Stats: 846 yards, 5 TD, 4 INT, 10 att., 80 yards
It didn't take long for fans to see how good this kid is going to be. He already has two 300-yard games and a fourth-quarter game-winning drive in his first three games. He is 11th at 282.0 ypg. Preseason Rank: 17

15. Michael Vick, Philadelphia (Age: 32, Record: 56-38-1)
2012 Stats: 1,146 yards, 4 TD, 6 INT, 27 att., 130 yards, TD
Vick has led the Eagles to three close wins, but continues to turn the ball over like crazy (nine TO lost) and he takes more hits than anyone else in the NFL. Will he survive? Preseason Rank: 14

16. Cam Newton, Carolina (Age: 23, Record: 7-13)
2012 Stats: 1,013 yards, 4 TD, 5 INT, 33 at., 167 yards, 3 TD
Defenses are starting to catch up with Newton, who can still out-athlete most teams. But he needs to stay focused and start winning games to be considered elite. Preseason Rank: 16

17. Robert Griffin III, Washington (Age: 22, Record: 2-2)
2012 Stats: 1,070 yards, 4 TD, INT, 39 att., 252 yards 4 TD
This kid will set plenty of Washington team records this fall. He has a game-winning drive and is No. 4 in QB rating (103.2). But how long can he play the game the way he does and stay healthy? Preseason Rank: 21

18. Carson Palmer, Oakland (Age: 32, Record: 51-59)
2012 Stats: 1,081 yards, 5 TD, 2 INT
Palmer continues to find yards in Oakland, but needs some support from the defense and pass-catchers. He protects the football and moves the offense, but one man can only do so much. Preseason Rank: 15

19. Jay Cutler, Chicago (Age: 29, Record: 44-38)
2012 Stats: 917 yards, 5 TD, 6 INT
Cutler played well on MNF against Dallas, but has had a terrible start to the year. His toughness, dedication and maturity will continue to be major question marks for a guy who has obvious talent. Preseason Rank: 13

20. Alex Smith, San Francisco (Age: 28, Record: 35-35)
2012 Stats: 784 yards, 5 TD, INT, 15 att., 58 yards
He continues to be one of the most efficient QBs in the league — his 98.1 rating is No. 7. He leads arguably the best team in the NFL and rarely turns the ball over (two total in 2012). Preseason Rank: 25

21. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo (Age: 29, Record: 19-33)
2012 Stats: 931 yards, 12 TD, 7 INT, 15 att., 66 yards
Fitz continues to cause tantrums on the sidelines. He is a solid player who is leading the NFL in TDs. But is also leading the NFL in INTs as well. Preseason Rank: 19

22. Sam Bradford, St. Louis (Age: 24, Record: 10-20)
2012 Stats: 881 yards, 4 TD, 4 INT
Bradford has loads of ability but has struggled to stay upright behind a porous offensive line. He has led the Rams to two wins six weeks earlier than this team's second win last fall. Preseason Rank: 20

23. Jake Locker, Tennessee (Age: 24, Record: 1-3)
2012 Stats: 781 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT, 8 att., 67 yards
The second-year player is dripping with talent. He was coming off of a 400-yard offensive performance and was the Titans leading rusher before being knocked out after two pass attempts last week. Health is an issue, but his ability is not. Preseaon Rank: Unranked

24. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets (Age: 25, Record: 29-22)
2012 Stats: 813 yards, 5 TD, 4 INT
Right there with Romo and Cutler, Sanchez is the most scrutinized QB in the league. His team is tied for the division lead with two AFC East wins after getting little to no help from his defense and running game last weekend. Stop the Tebow talk right now. Preseason Rank: 22

25. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay (Age: 24, Record: 18-26)
2012 Stats: 790 yards, 5 TD, 4 INT
Freeman has a big frame and a big arm. But he also has 50 career interceptions and 27 fumbles (10 lost) in 45 career games. Will the light bulb ever click on again or was 2010 a complete fluke? Preseason Rank: 24

26. Kevin Kolb, Arizona (Age: 28, Record: 9-10)
2012 Stats: 752 yards, 7 TD, 2 INT, 10 att., 32 yards, TD
The former Eagle is slowing rebuilding his credibility. He is 3-0 as the starter this season and stepped in late in Week 1 to lead the Cards to a win over Seattle. He did the same against Miami last weekend. Kolb has a positive trajectory once again. Preseason Rank: 30

27. Christian Ponder, Minnesota (Age: 24, Record: 2-8)
2012 Stats: 824 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT, 12 att., 46 yards, TD
He has been incredibly efficient by not taking sacks and protecting the football. He has wins over the 49ers and Lions, but special teams and the defense won the game last weekend. There is a lot to like here and Ponder has plenty of upward mobility. Preseason Rank: 27

28. Russell Wilson, Seattle (Age: 23, Record: 2-2)
2012 Stats: 594 yards, 4 TD, 4 INT, 22 att., 80 yards
He is a natural leader who competes on every play and is a wonderful face to any franchise. But he also has a lot to learn still about playing QB in the NFL. Preseason Rank: Unranked

29. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland (Age: 28, Record: 0-4)
2012 Stats: 997 yards, 3 TD, 7 INT, 4 att., 31 yards
The early production indicates that Weeden has some staying power in the NFL. But he will have to get some support and learn how to protect the ball quickly due to his age. Preseason Rank: 28

30. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville (Age: 22, Record: 5-13)
2012 Stats: 654 yads, 5 TD, INT, 11 att., 41 yards
He has shown drastic improvement from a year ago by not throwing an interception until Week 4 and showing signs of confidence in the pocket. But on a bad team, he has a ways to go before he is a top 25 QB. Preseason Rank: 32

31. Matt Cassel, Kansas City (Age: 30, Record: 29-29)
2012 Stats: 1,058 yards, 5 TD, 7 INT, 7 att., 47 yards, TD
Cassel is leading the NFL in interceptions and fumbles lost by a quarterback through four games. His team is 1-3 and there are signs that he could lose his starting job soon if he can't produce. Preseason Rank: 31

32. Ryan Tannehill, Miami (Age: 24, Record: 1-3)
2012 Stats: 1,046 yards, 2 TD, 6 INT, 9 att., 16 yards, TD
The athletic ability is obvious. The arm strength is obvious. And he just dropped 431 on a solid Cards defense. He could jump Cassel, Gabbert and Weeden quickly, but inexperience and inefficiency keeps him on the bottom for now. Preseason Rank: Unranked

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Update: Ranking the NFL's Starting Quarterbacks in 2012</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /nfl/8-amazing-stats-nfl-sunday-week-4
Body:

NFL football is the greatest reality TV program of all time. The Giants and Colts made sure of that back in 1958. Each NFL fall weekend is a completely new and original experience for every player, fan and coach alike. New stories, new personalities, new winners and new losers. And new statistics.

Here are the most important, most intriguing and most bizarre statistics from Week 4 of NFL play:

47: Drew Brees' NFL record consecutive games with a touchdown pass
Not too many records in sports stand for more than 50 years. Hitting streaks and Major championships are the types of things that last more than five decades. That makes what Brees accomplished on Sunday in Green Bay that much more impressive. He tied Johnny Unitas' NFL record for consecutive games played with a touchdown pass that has stood since 1960. In fact, Brees and Unitas are the only two to even crack 40 straight while names like Elway, Montana, Young, Aikman and Eli never even got to 20. Brett Favre, who went 36 straight from 2002-2004, and Tom Brady's active streak are tied at 36 for the third longest string of games with a touchdown pass. Congrats to a fellow Westlake Chaparral. However, the only number on Sunday bigger than Brees' remarkable accomplishment is the Saints 0-4 mark. Anyone still think the punishment for Bounty Gate fit the crime?

2,903: Miles from San Francisco to East Rutherford, N.J.
The San Francisco 49ers traveled roughly 2,900 miles and crossed three times zones to face the NFL's biggest circus (yes, I know, technically, they just never went home). At what was 9:00 AM San Fran time, Jim Harbaugh's bunch picked apart the New York Jets 34-0, making a mockery of the "long journey" theory. The Niners rushed for exactly 100 more yards (245) than the total offense allowed by their defense (145). They forced four turnovers, scored on defense and return the Bay after a long two-week stint away from home at 3-1. I have a better theory for the fans: Great teams roll out of bed ready to win.

Dec. 24, 2011: The date the Vikings won their third game last year
It took until Week 16 for the Minnesota Vikings to win their third game of the year in 2011. They have matched their win total from last fall in just four short weeks and they have done so against two NFC playoff teams. The Vikes gained just 224 total yards and neither Christian Ponder nor Matt Stafford threw a touchdown pass in the 20-13 divisional road win — which snapped his 21 game streak with at least one TD pass. Yes, winning a game on two special teams touchdowns is a bit of a fluke, but through the quarter pole of the season, there is no bigger story than the Minnesota Vikings.

14-0: Matt Ryan's record when he throws at least three touchdown passes
The Falcons moved to 4-0 on the year behind a 369-yard, 3-TD performance from their franchise quarterback. According to the NFL, only Daryle Lamonica had a better record in such 3-TD circumstances (19-0). He also completed 3-of-4 passes on the final drive in which he moved his team from their own one yardline to Carolina's 22, setting up the game-winning field goal, in just 45 seconds. His career starting record as an NFL quarterback is now a remarkable 47-19.

300: Receiving yards for A.J. Green in his last two games
The second-year wide receiver from Georgia is quickly making a case that he is the best wideout in the NFL. In two key road wins for the Bengals, Green has 14 receptions, including two touchdowns, for 300 yards receiving — 183 in Week 3, 117 in Week 4. This team has quietly won three straight since losing to Baltimore on opening weekend due in large part to Green's play. Cincinnati has already played three road games (2-1) and will get four of the next five at home in Paul Brown Stadium. In fact, the Bengals won't leave the state of Ohio again until Week 11 as the only road trip in the next five games is North up 71 a few miles to Cleveland.

Minus-17: Eagles point differential in 2012
Philadelphia is off to a 3-1 start having been outscored by 18 points in four games. It means they have won three extremely close games — by one, one and two points — and were blown out in their loss to Arizona. Most importantly, Michael Vick and the team didn't turn the ball over one time in the big Sunday night win over the rival Giants. After leading the NFL with 12 turnovers through three weeks, the Eagles protected the ball and Vick drove his team for the game-winning field goal. Although, Andy Reid nearly gave the Giants the game by icing the kicker and giving Lawrence Tynes a second shot at a 54-yard field goal. I've never been a fan of the obnoxious end game strategy.

6:52: Total time Houston has trailed since first quarter of the year
The Texans trailed 3-0 after the first quarter of the 2012 season. But once the Texans took the lead over Miami in the second quarter of Week 1, they have trailed a total of 6:52. The Broncos got a safety and a field goal to lead Houston for a few minutes in the first quarter of Week 3. Otherwise, Gary Kubiak's bunch has looked like the class of the league. No t has been more complete thus far and I see no reason to change my 49ers-Texans Super Bowl pick.

7: Penalties needed on MNF to make Dallas the most penalized team
Considering the Cowboys are the only team averaging more than 10 yellow hankies per game, one has to think Dallas will become the most penalized team in the NFL sometime in the third quarter on Monday night. Baltimore and Seattle currently lead the league with 37 total penalties each through four games. Oakland has been the most flagged team in each of the last two seasons, but strangely enough, the Raiders have only 19 penalties through four games. The Atlanta Falcons are actually the least penalized team per game with only 3.5 per contest.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> 8 Amazing Stats from NFL Sunday: Week 4</p>
Post date: Monday, October 1, 2012 - 06:02
Path: /college-football/big-ten-post-week-5-power-rankings
Body:

In what was the best weekend of football the Big Ten has experienced all season, some order appeared to be restored. Iowa and Penn State both posted huge wins in league openers, indicating that the traditional powers both still have much to say about the title race. Northwestern and Nebraska held serve in tough home wins. And Ohio State continues to overcome mistakes and imperfections to stay unbeaten, as evidenced by its gritty performance against Michigan State.

Post-Week 5 Offensive Player of the Year Standings

1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State - He fumbled twice and threw an interception, but Miller was once again the best player on the field. He simply won't allow his team to lose and continues to be one of the toughest leaders in the nation. He ran for 136 yards on 23 carries and added a beautiful game-winning 63-yard scoring strike late in the third.  

2. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska - The Huskers quarterback threw for 176 yards, 0 TD and 3 INTs in the ugly loss to Wisconsin last fall. He got his revenge Saturday night. The league's most efficient passer threw for 187 yards, rushed for 107 and accounted for three touchdowns.

3. Kain Colter, AP, Northwestern - There aren't too many season stat lines like this: 369 yards passing, 2 TD, INT, 59 att., 371 rush yards, 6 TD, 9 rec., 131 receiving yards. He was all over the field on Saturday against Indiana. His teammate Venric Mark deserves a mention as well.


Post-Week 5 Defensive Player of the Year Standings

1. Mike Mauti, LB, Penn State - The Nittany Lion leader posted six total tackles, two interceptions for 105 yards and half a sack in the dominating performance against Illinois.

2. Kawann Short, DL, Purdue - Purdue finished the non-conference slate with a tidy 3-1 mark after Short posted three tackles, a sack, a blocked kick and a forced fumble in the win over Marshall.

3. Will Compton, LB, Nebraska - There are a lot of solid LBs that deserve to be in this slot. This senior posted 10 total tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss, a sack and got consistent pressure on Wisconsin's quarterbacks.


Post-Week 5 Coach of the Year Standings

1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State - Meyer's team hasn't been perfect on the field, but this team continues to win tough games with clutch play from the most important player in the league.

2. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern - This team consistently over achieves on offense, even with multiple quarterbacks. Coach Fitz is off to a great start, but  the schedule definitely gets tougher from here out for the Wildcats.

3. Bo Pelini, Nebraska - This was a gut-check performance from the Huskers after trailing big in the first half. His team scrapped and clawed its way to a win, setting up a huge trip to Columbus this weekend.


Post-Week 5 Power Rankings

1. Ohio State (5-0, 1-0)
Previous rank: 1
Week 5 result: Beat Michigan State 17-16

As long as No. 5 is under center, the Buckeyes will have a chance to run the table. However, staying on the field for the Big Ten POY front runner is looking more and more like a long shot. Braxton Miller had to leave twice due to injury, after another 23 carries took its toll on his body. At the end of the game, however, when Ohio State needed clutch decision making, Miller was there to lead his team to yet another hard-nosed win. So was OSU's defense. They held the league's leading rusher Le'Veon Bell to only 45 yards on 17 carries. This was a physical battle that left both teams battered and bruised. It personified Big Ten football and was a great showcase for a league that needed a good showing.
This week: Nebraska  (4-1)

2. Nebraska (4-1, 1-0)
Previous rank: 4
Week 5 result: Beat Wisconsin 30-27
The Huskers got off to a slow start and fell behind 20-3 in the second quarter. But another efficient performance from quarterback Taylor Martinez gave Nebraska sweet revenge over Wisconsin. T-Mart led four straight second half drives resulting in points that took a 27-10 deficit and turned it into a three-point lead with 9:41 left in the game. The Huskers defense never looked back, holding the Badgers scoreless for the final 25 minutes of play. Will Compton led a unit that knocked starting Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave out of the game and held Montee Ball to 2.8 yards per carry on 32 attempts. This team leads the Big Ten in rushing, scoring, total and pass efficiency offense.
This week: at Ohio State (5-0)

3. Michigan (2-2, 0-0)
Previous rank: 3
Week 5 result: Off
The down time came at just the right time for Michigan. A rough 2-2 start isn't what Brady Hoke planned for this fall, and a breather before starting eight straight weeks of Big Ten play likely helped to recharge the Maize and Blue's batteries. The remaining slate starts off with a tricky road trip to Purdue.
This week: at Purdue (3-1)

4. Michigan State (3-2, 0-1)
Previous rank: 2
Week 5 result: Lost to Ohio State 17-16
It was an old school, Mark Dantonio slugfest that nearly went the way of the Spartans. And as many believed going into the game, the difference was quarterback play. Andrew Maxwell continues to struggle, as do his pass-catchers, but this time around he got zero production from the league's top running back. Le'Veon Bell was held in check all day and never provided Maxwell with any support. The defense was stout, physical and opportunistic, but Braxton Miller was simply better. This team can still have something to say in the Legends Division race, but only if Sparty can figure out a way to produce a balanced offense
This week: at Indiana (2-2)

5. Northwestern (5-0, 1-0)
Previous rank: 5
Week 5 result: Beat Indiana 44-29
This Northwestern offense has a chance to be scary if it can continue to run the football like it has of late. Kain Colter rushed for 161 yards and four touchdowns, while Venric Mark added 139 yards and a score in the workman-like win over Indiana. The balanced, two-quarterback offense finished with 394 yards rushing and 310 yards passing to set a school record for total yards (704). To top it off, Colter was the game's leading receiver (9 rec., 131 yards). Mark has gone over the century mark in three of his last four, and with his emergence, the Wildcats offense has posted 82 points in the last two games. Now the hard work comes in the form of back-to-back conference road games.
This week: at Penn State (3-2)

6. Purdue (3-1)
Previous rank: 6
Week 5 result: Beat Marshall 51-41
It was a tale of two halves in the final non-conference game for Purdue. The Boilers won the first half 42-14, while Marshall countered with a 27-point second half. Big plays, record-setting performances, 92 points and 977 total yards of offense top the headlines. Quarterback Caleb TerBush threw four touchdown passes and went toe-to-toe with the Herd's Rakeem Cato — who completed 45 of his 68 passes. In the end, the defense did just enough to hold off the C-USA program to top off a quality first month of the season for a sneaky Purdue team. 
This week: Michigan (2-2)

7. Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1)
Previous rank: 7
Week 5 result: Lost to Nebraska 30-27
The Badgers capitalized on some Nebraska miscues early to jump out to a 20-3 lead. And with a 27-10 edge five minutes into the third quarter, Big Red faithful (of the dairy variety) were feeling very confident. Clearly, this team played up to the competition, looking as good as it has all season for the first 35 minutes. However, Joel Stave was knocked out the game, Montee Ball was held to only 30 yards rushing, and the Nebraska offense used big plays from their star quarterback to simply wear down the Badgers. This team showed fight and was extremely competitive, but Bret Bielema has to feel like he let a crucial win slip through his fingers.
This week: Illinois (2-3)

8. Penn State (3-2, 1-0)
Previous rank: 10
Week 5 result: Beat Illinois 35-7
This one had to be particularly satisfying for head coach Bill O'Brien. After a sensitive summer for the coaching staffs from Penn State and Illinois, the play on the field told the story in the end. The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 21-0 first half lead and never looked back in the dominating win over the Illini. Matt McGloin continues his renaissance by playing efficient and turnover free football, while the running game welcomed Bill Belton back to the line-up after missing the last three contests. And for the second straight week sophomore tailback Zach Zwinak played a big role, this time rushing for 100 yards on 19 carries, including a pair of one-yard touchdown runs. This Penn State team is a few plays from being unbeaten and will have an under-the-radar showdown with unblemished Northwestern on Saturday.

This week: Northwestern (5-0)

9. Iowa (3-2, 1-0)
Previous rank: 11
Week 5 result: Beat Minnesota 31-13
The Floyd of Rosedale returns to Iowa City after two seasons in the Twin Cities. And it could not have come at a better time for Kirk Ferentz. The Hawkeyes used four Golden Gopher turnovers and a 24-0 run to start the game to put away rival Minnesota and earn a huge Big Ten victory for the embattled coach. Walk-on fullback Mark Weisman continues to be one of the better stories in the league, rushing 21 more times for 177 yards and his seventh rushing touchdown in three games. Thanks to him, this team has rediscovered its running game, topping the 180-yard mark for the third straight contest. It appears to have helped quarterback James Vandenberg as well. The senior has struggled most of the year, but had his best game of the season in the Big Ten opener, accounting for two touchdowns, 192 yards passing and no turnovers. He has to regain his 2011 form if the Hawks expect to win more than it loses in the league this fall.
This week: Open Date

10. Minnesota (4-1, 0-1)
Previous rank: 8
Week 5 result: Lost to Iowa 31-13
Backup quarterback Max Shortell, who is playing in place of senior starter MarQueis Gray, didn't fare too well. He threw three interceptions and the offense created only 300 yards of offense — which is less than two different receivers in the Baylor-West Virginia game. However, Gray might not have made any difference. The running game struggled to get anything done as Donnell Kirkwood was held to nearly 60 yards under his per game rushing average (12 att., 33 yards). The straw that broke the Gophers' back was a Shortell interception returned for a touchdown late in the third quarter when they were driving to cut the lead to 10 points. The road trip to Iowa City was easily the toughest game of Goldy's schedule thus far, and Jerry Kill's team forgot to show up. A 24-0 start for Iowa in the first 21 minutes of play says as much.
This week: Open Date

11. Illinois (2-3, 0-1)
Previous rank: 9
Week 5 result: Lost to Penn State 35-7
Year one under Tim Beckman isn't going as fans might have hoped. Nathan Scheelhaase was able to play an entire game, attempting 46 passes, carrying the ball 11 times and ending with 277 yards of total offense. However, it made little difference as a pair of interceptions and the offense's inability to run the ball kept the Illini from being competitive. The defense let Penn State jump out to a 21-0 halftime lead and then couldn't stop the ground game — it allowed 173 yards and four touchdowns rushing. Beckman's team is allowing more points than any other team in the league and is ranked 11th in total offense. Bad offense + bad defense = Ugly 28-point blowouts at home. And things won't get any easier this weekend.

This week: at Wisconsin (3-2)

12. Indiana (2-2, 0-1)
Previous rank: 12
Week 5 result: Lost to Northwestern 44-29
The Hoosiers defensive front was outmatched from the word go, as the Wildcats rushed to a 27-0 lead early in the third quarter. Indiana showed heart, scoring 29 points in the final 26:24 as IU continues to pace the Big Ten in passing offense (311.0 ypg). Kevin Wilson's offense is ranked No. 2 in the league and has been using a third-string quarterback, Nate Sudfeld, to spark slow starts in the last two games. But until something is done about a defense that allowed Northwestern to produce in record fashion, Indiana will have trouble competing in the league.
This week: Michigan State (3-2)


by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

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ACC Post-Week 5 Power Rankings
Big East Post-Week 5 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 5 Power Rankings
Big 12 Post-Week 5 Power Rankings
Pac-12 East Post-Week 5 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 5 Power Rankings 

Teaser:
<p> Big Ten Post-Week 5 Power Rankings</p>
Post date: Monday, October 1, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-post-week-5-power-rankings
Body:

This league seems to get deeper and deeper each Saturday. After another stellar weekend of action out West, six Pac-12 schools now reside in the AP Top 25. Washington and UCLA slide into the rankings, while Arizona State is knocking on the door and Arizona is clearly another solid team. And as strange as it may sound, Cal might be the best 1-4 team in the nation.  

Post-Week 5 Offensive Player of the Year Standings


1. The Running Backs, Oregon - De'Anthony Thomas has the highlight reel big-plays. He scored once and totaled 126 all-purpose yards this weekend. But Kenjon Barner made his statement with 195 yards rushing, 37 yards through the air and four total touchdowns. Good luck picking just three names for this list in a league this deep.

2. Matt Barkley, QB, USC - Your guess is as good as mine, so by default Barkley gets the nod. This league has so much talent at so many positions that odds are the USC quarterback works his way back to the top. Sean Mannion, Taylor Kelly, Ka'Deem Carey and Marquess Wilson all moved up the charts this weekend.

3. Brett Hundley, UCLA - Only Matt Barkley has more touchdown passes (12 to 11) in the Pac-12 and only Matt Scott has more yards passing (1,608 to 1,470). Hundley has added 165 yards rushing and four touchdowns on the ground. He accounted for 295 total yards and four touchdowns in the road win over Colorado.
 

Post-Week 5 Defensive Player of the Year Standings

1. Michael Clay, LB, Oregon - Clay finished with eight total tackles, another sack and a tackle for loss in the win over Washington State — in which the defense once again made big plays.

2. Morgan Breslin, DL, USC - The Trojan defender was on a bye week but still holds the league lead (per game) in sacks with 1.38 sacks per game and tackles for loss at 2.38 per contest.

3. Will Sutton, DL, Arizona State - The junior had a career day in the road win over Cal. He posted eight total tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks and a forced fumble. He is tied for the league lead in sacks (6.5) and is tops in tackles for loss (10.0).


Post-Week 5 Coach of the Year Standings

1. Chip Kelly, Oregon - The Cougars made it a game into the third quarter but Kelly's Ducks pulled away and finished with another 51 points, 26 first downs and 469 yards of offense in yet another blowout win.

2. Mike Riley, Oregon State - The Beavers are quickly becoming one the top stories nationally. His resume is as nice as any in the nation with two road conference wins and a victory over Wisconsin at home.

3. Todd Graham, Arizona State  - New coaches in the Pac-12 have been excellent, and Graham now has two impressive Pac-12 wins in a row: A home blowout win over Utah and a road battle against Cal.

Post-Week 5 Power Rankings

1. Oregon (5-0, 2-0)
Previous rank: 1
Week 5 result: Beat Washington State 51-26
It took maybe a little longer than Ducks fans had hoped, but in the end Oregon simply out-athleted the Cougars by scoring four straight touchdowns in the second half. Kenjon Barner had arguably the best game in his career by touching the ball 23 times for 232 yards and four touchdowns. The defense once again made big plays, providing a game-clinching INT touchdown return and seven sacks. With an offense that leads the league in rushing at over 300 yards per game and scoring over 50 points per game, Oregon's defensive growth makes them the best team in the league and possibly the top challenger to SEC national domination. 
This week: Washington (3-1)

2. USC (3-1, 0-1)
Previous rank: 3
Week 5 result: Off
The Men of Troy rested up before they go on three road trips in four games. It begins with a visit to Utah on Thursday night, before USC will head to Washington and Arizona (with a harmless home game against Colorado mixed in).
This week: at Utah (2-2)

3. Oregon State (3-0, 2-0)
Previous rank: 4
Week 5 result: Beat Arizona 38-35
It's almost impossible to think that this team was 3-9 a year ago. Mike Riley has done one of his best coaching jobs in the nation, building as good of a three-game 2012 resume as any team in the nation. And the Beavers are winning in every possible way. This weekend it was a game of runs and nifty play-calling in a shootout road thriller in Tucson. Oregon State started 17-0 before Zona responded with three straight touchdowns to take the lead. Then one of the best games of the year saw six straight lead changes. Sean Mannion, who threw for a career-high 433 yards, went 6-for-6 on the final drive and tossed the game-winning touchdown with just over a minute to play. Wideout Brandin Cooks continues to emerge as one of the league's more dangerous playmakers, adding another nine receptions and 149 yards to his resume. Mannion now has 1,088 yards in three games and is right in the heart of the POY discussion.
This week: Washington State (2-3)

4. Washington (3-1, 1-0)
Previous rank: 7
Week 5 result: 
Beat Stanford 17-13

The improvement was obvious. Justin Wilcox, Peter Sirmon and Tosh Lupoi have instilled a toughness, a physicality and an attitude that has been lacking on the defensive side of the ball in Seattle for years. After allowing a Stanford school-record 446 yards and 65 points in the blowout loss to the Cardinal in 2011, the Huskies held Stanford to 65 yards on 28 carries and no offensive touchdowns. The offensive line is still a major issue that needs to get healthy quickly.
This week: at Oregon (5-0)

5. UCLA (4-1, 1-1)
Previous rank: 5
Week 5 result: Beat Colorado 42-14
Brett Hundley scored four touchdowns, and the Bruins much-improved defensive front made sure this game was never in question. A big part of UCLA's struggles last fall stemmed from the lack of a pass rush and the ineffectiveness of the rushing defense. Datone Jones, Anthony Barr and Damien Holmes have made this one of the most improved units in the league as the Bruins are 10th nationally with 3.4 sacks per game. Colorado was sacked four times and produced just 83 yards rushing on 30 attempts. Johnathan Franklin continues his stellar senior season as he bounced back with 159 yards from scrimmage, 145 of which came in the 21-point first half. Jim Mora's bunch reenters the AP Top 25 with the program's first 4-1 start since 2007.
This week: at Cal (1-4) 

6. Stanford (3-1, 1-1)
Previous rank: 2
Week 5 result: Lost to Washington 17-13
Josh Nunes was just a little off the entire game. He missed all types of throws all night long, including a near connection down the sideline in the final minutes. And the ground game didn't help out like many expected. The Cardinal defense chased Keith Price all over the field and scored their own touchdown, however, two second-half breakdowns cost Stanford. One long touchdown run on the final play of the third quarter and one big catch and run by Kasen Williams last in the fourth gave Stanford their first loss of the year. 
This week: Arizona  (3-2)

7. Arizona (3-2, 0-2)
Previous rank: 6
Week 5 result: Lost to Oregon State 38-35
Matt Scott and Ka'Deem Carey are really good. But unfortunately, the Wildcats ran into a pair of offensive buzz saws from The Beaver State to start the conference slate with two losses. For the second week in a row, a high-flying offense from Oregon posted big numbers against the Arizona defense, this time in heart-breaking fashion. The Copper Tops fell behind early but battled back behind another huge day from Carey — 183 yards from scrimmage and two scores. But the defense allowed 613 yards of offense and couldn't get a key stop when it had to late in the game. This was a learning experience for a team that appears to be better than its 0-2 Pac-12 record might indicate.
This week: at Stanford (3-1)

8. Arizona State (4-1, 2-0)
Previous rank: 8
Week 5 result: Beat Cal 27-17
The Sun Devils continue to impress in year one under first year head coach Todd Graham. Quarterback Taylor Kelly completed 26 of his 45 passes for 292 yards and three touchdowns without turning the ball over again this weekend. Kelly now leads the league in passing efficiency, while defensive stopper Will Sutton now leads the league in sacks and tackles for loss. This was a barometer test for the young Arizona State team and they passed with flying colors. Graham's bunch now has two excellent wins to start league play, and, without Stanford or Washington on the schedule, has fans in Tempe thinking ASU can challenge for the division crown.
This week: Open Date

9. Utah (2-2, 0-1)
Previous rank: 10
Week 5 result: Off
Entering Week 6 after a bye week against, Utah's season could be hanging in the balance on Thursday night when USC comes to town. This team was destroyed in Tempe two weeks ago and has had a long time to think about it. An 0-2 start in league play would all but end the Utes chances at contending in the South.
This week: USC (3-1)

10. California (1-4, 0-2)
Previous rank: 9
Week 5 result: Lost Arizona State 27-17
After a brutal home loss to Arizona State in which quarterback Zach Maynard completed just 9-of-28 passes, Cal became the best 1-4 team in the nation. Jeff Tedford has lost four times to teams with a combined 16-3 record thus far and could include the best team in the Pac-12, Big Ten and Mountain West. But Tedford knows that his worst start ever as the head coach at Cal is still all about wins and losses. His back is now securely pressed against the wall in Berkeley staring difficult second-half schedule. Five of Cal's seven remaining opponents are ranked, so things are starting to look bleak for the longtime coach of the Golden Bears.
This week: UCLA (4-1)

11. Colorado (1-4, 1-1)
Previous rank: 11
Week 5 result: Lost to UCLA 42-14
Jordan Webb couldn't build on his big performance against Washington State last weekend. He was hounded all day by the improved UCLA front seven, while the Buffaloes defense provided little resistance to the Bruins extremely balanced offensive attack. In the league, The Buffs fell behind quickly and never challenged Jim Mora's squad. Colorado now ranks dead last in scoring offense, scoring defense, total defense and turnover margin. And Jon Embree has two weeks to think about it.
This week: Open Date

12. Washington State (2-3, 0-2)
Previous rank: 12
Week 5 result: Lost to Oregon 51-26
After falling behind quickly, the Cougars battled back to within four points at halftime. Then an onslaught of Oregon big plays put Washington State out of its misery in the third quarter. Connor Halliday and Marquess Wilson continue to build rapport and produce big numbers in the passing game, but this defense and the Pac-12's worst rushing attack have provided little support all season. Mike Leach has a long way to go in Pullman.

This week: at Oregon State  (3-0)

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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Rankings
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Pac-12 Post-Week 5 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 5 Power Rankings 

Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 Post-Week 5 Power Rankings</p>
Post date: Monday, October 1, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-betting-against-spread-week-5
Body:

Every Friday for entertainment purposes only, I will bring you my top college football picks against the spread. I do not condone, approve or encourage gambling on sports in any way. But if you are a fan of football — college or pro — and you don't think gambling has played a huge role in the growth and popularity of the sport, then you are simply being ignorant. And behind closed doors, the powers that be understand the impact betting has had on the game of football.

2012 Record Against The Spread: 17-14
Last Week: 2-4

Note: All lines are as of date of publication

Clemson (-9.5) at Boston College
The Tigers had two double-digit leads in the second half over Florida State on the road, so the only reason this line is so small has to be the “letdown” factor. The Tigers crushed the Eagles 36-14 last fall as Dabo Swinney’s team is vastly superior at basically every position. Boston College has allowed 502 yards rushing in two games against FBS opponents so Andre Ellington and Tajh Boyd should find plenty of space in this one. Prediction: Clemson (-9.5)

Minnesota (+7) at Iowa
The Gophers haven’t won in Iowa City since 1999, but have won the last two in this series. In fact, the one-point win over the Hawkeyes last season kick-started the Jerry Kill era in the Twin Cities. Minnesota has won five straight games and, while the Gophers may not win, they will certainly keep it close against a team that is teetering on the brink of self-destruction. Quarterback play for Iowa has been atrocious as the league’s worst scoring offense has accounted for one passing touchdown all season. Iowa may win, but it will be close — like the four total points separating these two since 2010. Prediction: Minnesota (+7)

Nevada (-19.5) at Texas State
The Wolfpack has scored at least 31 points in all four games and has put up 104 points in the last two games. They are averaging 317.8 yards rushing per game and destroyed Hawaii by 45 points last weekend. While Texas State has been sneaky good, like beating Houston in Week 1, they are still getting acclimated with big boy football. Good luck stopping the Pistol. Prediction: Nevada (-19.5)

Ohio State (+3) at Michigan State
These might be the best two teams in the Big Ten. These might be the best two coaches in the Big Ten. And these might be the best two defenses in the Big Ten. But there is one huge difference between these two teams: Quarterbacks. Braxton Miller has been special, accounting for 14 total TDs and 1,195 yards of offense. Andrew Maxwell has been a liability, accounting for 3 total TDs and 851 yards of offense. Miller is the difference. Prediction: Ohio State (+3)

Texas (-1.5) at Oklahoma State
The Longhorns appear to be motivated this season and the offensive statistics play that out. Texas averaged 28.1 points and 392.5 yards per game on offense last season. This season the 'Horns have posted 49.3 points and 514.3 yards per game through three contests thus far. The play of quarterback David Ash has been the difference. Oklahoma State, while still potent on offense, will be asking a freshman — either JW Walsh or Wes Lunt — to defeat one of the most talented defenses in the land. After two losses at home to Brandon Weeden, the Burnt Orange will be fired up for revenge on Saturday. Prediction: Texas (-1.5)

Indiana (+11) at Northwestern
The Wildcats are 4-0 in the standings and 4-0 against the spread in 2012. This offense is beginning to round into form with a power rushing game now at its disposal. And since Week 1, the defense has shown marked improvement — from 596 total yards allowed in a Week 1 to less than 318 in each of the last three games. Against the Hoosiers last fall, Northwestern won by 21 while scoring 59 points. This fall should feature a similar outcome. Prediction: Northwestern (-11)

Baylor (+11.5) at West Virginia
The Mountaineers have been great on offense and not so great on defense. West Virginia is ranked 74th in total defense and is 52nd in scoring defense — against Marshall, James Madison and Maryland. Meanwhile, Baylor has been just as electric on offense — try 51.3 points per game and 568.7 yards per game — in three games. Look for a high-scoring, close game that WVU wins by one score. After all, this is the Mounties first-ever taste of Big 12 action. Prediction: Baylor (+11.5)

Texas Tech (-3) at Iowa State
The Red Raiders claim the nation’s No. 1 defense at an absurd 160.3 total yards allowed per game. But these numbers are a mirage — they did it against Northwestern State, Texas State and New Mexico — for a team that allowed 39.3 points per game last season. Iowa State has a salty defense that destroyed Tech 41-7 last year in Lubbock and returns largely intact. This unlikely battle of unbeatens should go the way of the home team. Prediction: Iowa State (+3)

Others I like: 

South Carolina (-20.5) at Kentucky
NC State (+3) at Miami
Wisconsin (+11.5) at Nebraska
Central Michigan (+11.5) at Northern Illinois
San Diego State (+7) at Fresno State

2012 Trends Against the Spread:

4-0 ATS 3-1 ATS 1-3 ATS 0-4 ATS
Arizona St (3-0-1) Akron Auburn Arkansas
Ball St Duke Bowling Green Houston (0-3)
Fresno St Florida Cal Iowa
UL-Monroe (3-0) Georgia Tech Colorado Miami (Ohio)
Northwestern Kansas St Colorado St Southern Miss (0-3)
Oregon St (2-0) Minnesota E. Michigan Virginia (0-3-1)
Purdue (3-0) Ole Miss Idaho Washington St
San Jose St Nebraska Kentucky Wisconsin
Texas Tech (3-0) Notre Dame UMass  
UT-San Antonio (2-0) Ohio Memphis  
Utah St Penn St Michigan  
Western Kentucky South Carolina Michigan St  
  Toledo South Florida  
  Troy USC  
  UCLA Syracuse  
  UNLV Tennessee  
    Utah  
    Virginia Tech  

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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Teaser:
<p> College Football Betting Against the Spread: Week 5</p>
Post date: Friday, September 28, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /nfl/nfl-week-4-under-pressure-michael-vick-chris-johnson-drew-brees
Body:

Each week, Athlon Sports will highlight the three most important names in the NFL. Our editors debate which player must play his best this weekend.

Who needs to step up the most in Week 4: Michael Vick, Chris Johnson or Drew Brees?

Mark Ross, Athlon Sports: Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia
The Eagles are 2-1, so everyone’s happy in The City of Brotherly Love, right? Not so much. The Eagles have been out-scored by 19 points. After posting consecutive one-point victories over the Browns and Ravens to start the season, they got thoroughly out-played by the Cardinals last week, losing 27-6.

What’s more Andy Reid has spent part of this week backtracking/clarifying statements he has made regarding Vick and his job security. That’s what happens when you are currently sporting a 2.3-to-1 turnover-to-touchdown ratio.

At first glance, it appears that Vick, who is third in the NFL in passing yards with 905, is off to a good start throwing the ball. That is until you find out he’s completing just 55.2 percent of his passes (25th in the league), and he’s thrown twice as many interceptions (six) as touchdown passes (three). Add in his three fumbles lost, and he’s responsible for nine of the team’s NFL-worst 12 turnovers. Put it all together and he’s 29th in the league in passer rating at 66.3. Not exactly the type of production you want from your $100-million man, right?

That said, the Eagles can make a huge statement this Sunday when they host the Giants, their division rival and the defending Super Bowl champions. Vick has had his share of success in his career against the G-Men. He holds a 5-2 record, has completed better than 60 percent of his passes and thrown for five touchdowns versus just three interceptions. He’s also rushed for 381 yards (6.8 ypc) and four touchdowns in those games.

To be fair, the offensive line, which has given up nine sacks already, needs to do a better job protecting Vick. Also wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson have both either missed games or been limited by injuries early on, so you could say Vick has yet to have his full complement of weapons. Still in the NFL, it all comes down to the quarterback and it’s up to Vick to silence the critics and put an end to any doubts about his status as the starter. Otherwise, it won’t just be his job security that becomes a hot topic of discussion, right Andy?

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans
Saints quarterback Drew Brees set a new NFL all-time record with 5,476 passing yards last season to go 46 touchdowns passes, and New Orleans finished with a 13-3 record and an NFC South title. However after an offseason bounty scandal that resulted in the suspension of head coach Sean Payton and others, the Saints have shockingly equaled their loss total of last year. Brees’ 904 passing yards and seven scores are solid numbers through three games, but he has already thrown five interceptions and been sacked seven times. The New Orleans defense and offensive line have had major issues this season, but it will have to be the All-Pro signal caller that leads the team out of its current hole if the Saints are going to salvage the 2012 campaign.

The grind gets tougher this week, as the Saints travel to Lambeau Field to meet the 1-2 Packers. The two NFC stalwarts combined for only four losses during the 2011 regular season but have five defeats this year. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is also under pressure this week, but Brees and the Saints offense must find a way to recapture some of last year’s magic in Wisconsin on Sunday. With weapons like Marques Colston and Lance Moore on the outside and elite tight end Jimmy Graham, New Orleans still has a shot to outscore its opponents. But since 1990, only three teams that started the NFL season 0-3 have made the playoffs. That’s a daunting statistic for Brees and company as they head to Green Bay this weekend.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall): Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee
On Sept. 1, 2011, the Tennessee Titans made Chris Johnson the highest paid running back on the planet by paying him $53.5 million over four years with $30 million guaranteed. Since being drafted in 2008, Johnson rushed for an NFL-best 4,598 yards on 925 carries, caught 137 passes for 1,008 yards receiving and scored 38 total touchdowns in 47 games. That is 5.0 yards per carry and 119.2 yards from scrimmage per game. The Titans went 13-3 in his rookie season and went 27-21 overall in that span.

In 19 games since the contract was signed, Johnson has rushed for 1,092 yards on 295 carries for an average of 3.7 yards per attempt and has scored four total touchdowns. Clearly, the $50-million man has mailed it in since signing his big contract.

The Titans tailback has been completely uninspired this fall, averaging 1.4 yards per carry (33 att., 45 yards) with nary a trip to paydirt in three games. Jake Locker is the team’s leading rusher currently.

After starting 1-2, the Titans go on the road to face the unbeaten Houston Texans in a huge divisional contest this weekend and Johnson needs to revert to his CJ2K form ASAP. In fact, the Titans will play three of the next four on the road with Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Minnesota coming up after the trip to Texas.

Locker appears to be the long-term solution at quarterback for the Titans, but if this team wants to challenge the Texans in the AFC South, it has to get production from its rushing attack.

@bradengall

Related Content:

2012 Fantasy Football Positional Rankings: Week 4
2012 Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 4

Teaser:
<p> NFL Week 4 Under Pressure: Michael Vick, Chris Johnson, Drew Brees</p>
Post date: Friday, September 28, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-week-5-preview-and-predictions
Body:

The 2012 season is turning into one of the best fans have seen out West in years and it has a chance to get even better. Oregon State and Arizona State made huge statements last week, but both have huge road tests this weekend that will prove if they belong in conference contention. Otherwise, all eyes across the college football world should be on the Pac-12 this Thursday evening.

Pac-12's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 5:

1. Who wants to challenge Oregon?
Stanford and Washington square-off Thursday evening in a game that will likely decide the No. 2 slot in the Pac-12 North. Both teams have had two weeks to prepare for this one and the winner will be the top challenger to the Oregon Ducks in the North. The Huskies, who have been outscored 106-21 in the last two meetings with the Cardinal, begin a four-week stretch that will determine their entire season. After Stanford, Washington visits Oregon, hosts USC and visits Arizona. Meanwhile, Stanford's run isn't much easier with a home game against 'Zona and a road trip to Notre Dame coming up. As if there wasn't enough already riding on this primetime national TV game. 

2. Oregon State defense vs. Arizona offense
The 2-0 Beavers are likely asking, what about us in the North? Mike Riley's bunch boasts the No. 2 rushing defense in the nation and have allowed a total of 27 points thus far in 2012. Despite what fans saw last week from Arizona, the Matt Scott/Ka'Deem Cary-led Wildcats offense is still one of the nation's best. Scott is still leading the league in total offense and Carey has more than one big play up his sleeve for this weekend. If Oregon State wants to be taken seriously in the North, it will have to come up with its second straight road upset (Arizona is a three-point favorite). This is a classic Letdown Alert situation as the Beavers are coming off of an emotional road upset while 'Zona returns home after being shutout 49-0 against Oregon.

3. Arizona State to face first starting quarterback
Assuming nothing tragic happens to Cal starting quarterback Zach Maynard between now and Saturday afternoon, the Sun Devils will actually have to play against someone else's first-string quarterback. Jordan Wynn was the starting quarterback at Utah but has retired from the game, giving way to Jon Hays. Missouri's James Franklin sat out two weeks ago against Arizona State. Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase didn't play in Week 2 against ASU. And in Week 1, Todd Graham's guys knocked out Lumberjack starter Cary Grossart early in the game. As a result, the Sun Devils have surrendered more than 150 passing yards only once and have yet to allow a 200-yard passer. Opposing quarterbacks are averaging 139.8 yards per game with eight INTs and only three TD passes. Maynard and his talented trio of pass-catchers — Keenan Allen, Chris Harper and Bryce Treggs — will easily present the toughest test to date for the Sun Devils' secondary.

4. Cal's 1-3 record is very deceiving
All that may matter to Cal boosters and administrators is the win-loss record, but the 1-3 mark in Berkeley likely has no effect on Arizona State head coach Todd Graham. Cal lost in a nail-bitter at home to a very good Nevada team and has losses to USC and Ohio State on the road. This team is much better than its record indicates and brings a host of elite play-makers on offense into a must-win situation at home. And Graham knows his team will have to click on all cylinders to win a tough road test over the Bears. 

5. How will injuries affect Arizona-Oregon State?
Matt Scott is dealing with a hip injury he sustained on the first drive against Oregon. He is starting for sure, but how will the bum hip impact his ability to run the zone-read option? The talented Oregon State backfield of Sean Mannion, Storm Woods and Malcolm Agnew all missed practice on Monday. Mannion was back on the field after dealing with a sore throwing arm. Woods (ankle) and Agnew (calf) both returned to work on Tuesday as well. Will any of these key players experience any lingering effects? Only time will tell.

6. I wouldn't want to be a Buffalo this weekend
UCLA was flying high when the Oregon State Beavers grounded their 3-0 start last weekend in Los Angeles. Johnathan Franklin rushed for 431 yards in the Bruins first two games but has mustered only 155 yards on 37 carries in the last two. The inability to run the ball cost UCLA the win last week, but didn't slow down star quarterback Brett Hundley. The redshirt freshman has three 300-yard efforts in his first four career games and should have this offense back on track this weekend against the lowly Buffs. The three-touchdown underdog will have to get a huge game once again from Jordan Webb (345 yards passing, four total TD last week) to even have a chance to stay with the angry Bruins.

7. What can we learn from the Ducks visit to Seattle?
There is likely to be a heavy Duck contingent in the semi-road game against Washington State in Seattle this weekend. After Wazzu lost to Colorado at home in heart-breaking fashion, it's hard to see the Cougars keeping pace with Oregon. So what can we learn about the Ducks? Chip Kelly flashed a few wrinkles on offense last week against Arizona, namely a tight end turned power back named Colt Lyerla. He fills the only void on an already explosive unit as a short yardage and goal-line specialist. As usual, fans never know what they will see from the Oregon offense.

8. Athlon's Weekly Player of the Year Watch
One POY awards list this week had De'Anthony Thomas listed as the front-runner with Johnathan Franklin, Taylor Kelly and Matt Barkley listed as the top challengers. While those names are all deserving, others like Matt Scott, Ka'Deem Carey, Marcus Mariota, Kenjon Barner, Stepfan Taylor, Brett Hundley, Keith Price, Marqise Lee, Keenan Allen, Robert Woods, Marquess Wilson, Sean Mannion, Brandin Cooks and even Silas Redd aren't too far behind. The point being, it is impossible to narrow this POY race to three names and the depth of offensive play-making skill in the Pac-12 is second to none (not even the SEC).

Week 5 Pac-12 Predictions:

Week 5 Pac-12 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
Stanford (-7) at Washington Stanford, 27-21 Stanford, 28-23 Stanford, 27-24 Stanford, 35-24
Arizona St (+2.5) at Cal Cal, 28-24 Cal, 27-24 Arizona St, 31-27 Arizona St, 28-21
UCLA (-20.5) at Colorado UCLA, 38-20 UCLA, 35-21 UCLA, 45-17 UCLA, 38-14
Oregon St (+3) at Arizona Arizona, 30-24 Oregon St, 23-17 Arizona, 31-28 Oregon St, 35-28
Oregon (-29) at Washington St Oregon, 49-21 Oregon, 51-10 Oregon, 55-17 Oregon, 56-10
Last Week: 2-3 3-2 3-2 3-2
Yearly Totals: 28-11 28-11 28-11 26-13

Bye: USC, Utah

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 5 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 5 Previews and Predictions

Big Ten Week 5 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 5 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 5 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 5 Upset Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 Week 5 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 05:48
Path: /college-football/big-ten-week-5-preview-and-predictions
Body:

The Big Ten is having a rough year. Possibly its worst of the BCS era. But that doesn't mean there isn't great football still left on the schedule. Conference play begins this weekend with a trio of unbeaten teams and at least four juicy match-ups (sorry, Purdue and Indiana). With the entire nation fixed on East Lansing this weekend, the Big Ten needs a showcase performance from the league's top two coaches and what could be the top two players (Braxton Miller, Le'Veon Bell).

Big Ten's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 5:

1. Bring on conference play...please!
The struggles for the Big Ten have been well documented, but a dramatic conference season could make the first four weeks a distant memory. And Week 5 gets Big Ten play kick-started in style. Ohio State and Michigan State could be the best two teams in the league and has the Mark Dantonio, who won a national title at Ohio State, backstory. The corn-fed Big Red will host the dairy-fed Big Red in what should be a fashionable showdown of tailbacks, unique uniforms and revenge. A rivalry trophy is on the line in Iowa City. And two new coaches who don't like each other do battle in Illinois. Let the games begin.

2. Quarterback differential will decide the big game
Braxton Miller has been not only the Big Ten Player of the Year through four weeks but could be considered the top challenger to Geno Smith for the Heisman Trophy (if voting took place today, of course). His ability to complete clutch throws and pick up key first downs with tough runs makes him the best player on the field this weekend in East Lansing. His counterpart is Andrew Maxwell, who ranks 12th in the league in passer efficiency (that's last). Let's compare the numbers:

Miller: 754 yards, 61.2% passing, 14 total TD, 2 INT, 441 yards rushing
Maxwell: 869 yards, 56.6% passing, 3 total TD, 3 INT, minus-18 yards rushing

3. Sparty has to win the battle in the trenches
If it comes down to quarterback play, Ohio State will win. But the Spartans can win if it controls the line of scrimmage. Le'Veon Bell is the Big Ten's top rusher and has single-handedly carried MSU to wins over Boise State and Eastern Michigan. If John Simon and the rest of the Buckeyes' front line of defense can stop Bell, few believe Maxwell can win the game with his arm. Meanwhile, Ohio State's traditional rushing attack has been questionable at best, but it should have its full complement of players for the first time this fall. Jordan Hall, Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith all expect to see action. William Gholston, who has been underwhelming thus far in 2012, might be the most important player on the field. He has to play better to stop Miller and Company.

4. Recruiting-gate: Bill O'Brien vs. Tim Beckman
During the summer months following the announcement of the Penn State sanctions, Tim Beckman openly and actively recruited current Penn State players to come to Illinois. The result of the questionable tactics? One reserve offensive lineman Ryan Nowicki defected from Happy Valley to Champaign. And one frosty relationship developed between the new Leaders Division coaches. And Penn State players haven't forgotten either — Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year candidate Mike Mauti in particular. Beckman was simply trying to improve his team within the framework of the rules, but in the process, he gave O'Brien and the Lions plenty of extra motivation for this weekend's showdown.

5. Floyd of Rosedale Trophy
From 2001 to 2009, the Golden Gophers defeated the Iowa Hawkeyes just once, claiming the famous pork trophy only in 2006. However, the Gophers have won two straight, including a one-point win last Halloween that seems to have jump-started the Jerry Kill era in the Twin Cities. Minnesota enters this weekend undefeated (4-0) while Iowa has struggled mightily through four games. Quarterback MarQueis Gray won't play according to Kill, so a wounded Hawkeye team is very dangerous — especially, considering Minnesota hasn't won in Iowa City since 1999. The wise guys in Vegas know that the records don't count in this one as Iowa is a touchdown favorite.

6. Keep an eye on that first quarter
Ohio State has been a notorious slow starter this season, trailing and being shutout by Miami (Ohio) and UAB after one quarter. Wisconsin has scored a total of five points (no, and it wasn't even a safety) in the first quarter this season and was shutout by both Utah State and Oregon State. Iowa trailed after one against Northern Iowa and Iowa State while trailing at halftime to all three FBS opponents. Illinois was outscored 35-7 in the first by Louisiana Tech and Arizona State. And Michigan State has been shut out in its last two first quarters. Seemingly bucking the trend, however, is the Nittany Lions. They have outscored four teams 35-0 in the first quarter and 55-9 in the first half. 

7. Revenge a dish best served Big Red
It was a night game in Madison on Oct. 1, 2011. That was the first time Nebraska played a Big Ten football game. And it wasn't pretty. Wisconsin rushed for 231 yards and scored seven offensive touchdowns while Taylor Martinez threw three interceptions in the 48-17 destruction of the Cornhuskers. Welcome to the Big Ten, right? Well, the tables have turned rather quickly. Martinez is the league's best quarterback currently, the offense is the best in the league and a struggling, injured Badgers team limps into one of the most hostile environments in the nation. This one could get ugly quickly — and should make soon-to-be retired Nebraska legend Tom Osbourne smile. 

8. College GameDay comes to Big Ten country
The last time ESPN brought its flagship Saturday morning program to the Big Ten, Michigan State defeated Wisconsin on a Hail Mary in arguably the best game played anywhere last fall. This is the sixth time Gameday has been in East Lansing and Sparty is 2-3 in those games. Each of the last four has been a one-score game with an average margin of 4.3 points. This bodes well for fans of both teams, fans of the Big Ten and the national TV audience that will likely be tuned in.

9. Northwestern could be only team left unbeaten
The Wildcats are a double-digit favorite over Indiana and are at home. So assuming Northwestern begins the year 5-0 with a win, there is a very good chance they are the lone team left unblemished in a down Big Ten. If Iowa and Michigan State can win at home, Pat Fitzgerald's bunch will be the only team in the league left without a loss with road trips to Penn State and Minnesota looming.

10. Unsung tailbacks could turn into heroes
Mark Weisman has rushed for six touchdowns and 334 yards on 51 carries in his last two games. If Iowa wants to hurt the improving Minnesota defense, the walk-on fullback will have to be effective again. Venric Mark has been on a tear for Northwestern and should be heavily involved in Northwestern's quest for 5-0. Giving Mark the ball will keep the league's No. 1 passing attack (yes, that's Indiana) off the field. Rod Smith has been worked back into the Ohio State rotation of late and could be a big factor against the Spartans front seven. In Lincoln, fans can expect five or six running backs to get the ball with third-string names like Melvin Gordon and Imani Cross potentially playing big roles. And Bill Belton could be back for Penn State this weekend.

Week 5 Big Ten Predictions:

Week 5 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
Indiana (+10.5) at Northwestern N'Western, 31-20 N'Western, 28-7 N'Western, 34-17 N'Western, 28-7
Penn State (+2) at Illinois Penn St, 20-14 Penn St, 21-10 Illinois, 24-20 Penn St, 21-10
Minnesota (+7.5) at Iowa Iowa, 24-21 Minnesota, 28-21 Iowa, 27-24 Minnesota, 28-21
Marshall (+17) at Purdue Purdue, 27-14 Purdue, 35-14 Purdue, 31-27 Purdue, 35-14
Ohio St (+3) at Michigan St Ohio St, 24-17 Ohio St, 24-21 Ohio St, 23-20 Ohio St, 24-21
Wisconsin (+12.5) at Nebraska Nebraska, 34-21 Nebraska, 35-17 Nebraska, 27-20 Nebraska, 35-17
Last Week: 6-4 8-2 7-3 8-2
Yearly Totals: 46-12 45-13 49-9 47-11

Bye Week: Michigan

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

ACC Week 5 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 5 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 5 Previews and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 5 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 5 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 5 Upset Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

Teaser:
<p> Big Ten Week 5 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 05:46
Path: /college-football/college-football-big-ten-facing-worst-season-bcs-era
Body:

The Big Ten has two non-conference games remaining on the schedule: Marshall will visit Purdue this weekend, and Indiana will visit Navy on Oct. 20. Otherwise, Big Ten may breathe a sigh of relief with conference play beginning this weekend.

The non-conference performance by the great Midwestern football league has been nightmarish so far and the case could be made this is the worst edition of Big Ten football during the BCS era.

Here's why:

Big Ten vs. the big boys

The Big Ten went 0-3 against Notre Dame as the Irish steamrolled through conference and divisional contenders Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue by a combined score of 53-26. This includes nine total points allowed to the pair of Big Ten title hopefuls from the state of Michigan. To add insult to injury, the Irish opted out of its rivalry game with Michigan beginning in 2014. It is the end of an era as Notre Dame begins its football agreement with the ACC, with the series with Michigan as an apparent casualty.

Against other BCS automatic-qualifying conferences, the resume is just as bad. The league went 6-9 against AQ programs (ACC, Big 12, Big East, Pac-12, SEC and Notre Dame) with a 1-3 mark against Rose Bowl rival Pac-12. The best win of the bunch is Ohio State’s home victory over 1-3 Cal. And that one went down to the wire.

The Big Ten’s non-conference BCS wins include Temple, Boston College, Vanderbilt and Syracuse twice. Those six AQ wins for the Big Ten have come against teams with a combined record of 6-16.

Additionally, the league lost three home games to the MAC — Ohio over Penn State, Central Michigan over Iowa, Ball State over Indiana — and Illinois got crushed at home by Louisiana Tech.

Yes, the mighty SEC only has four AQ wins in 2012, however, those victories came over Michigan, Washington, Arizona State and NC State. The Big 12 is 5-1 against AQ leagues with wins over Iowa, Miami, Maryland, Virginia and Ole Miss. Even the Big East has marquee AQ wins over Arkansas (Rutgers), Virginia Tech (Pitt), Maryland (UConn), North Carolina and Kentucky (Louisville).

In short, the Big Ten has failed miserably against the nation’s top competition.

Big Ten in the Associated Press rankings

No. 14 Ohio State, No. 20 Michigan State and No. 22 Nebraska are the only ranked Big Ten teams after four weeks of play. If Boise State, which will join the Big East next year, counts as a Big East team, only the ACC’s two (Florida State and Clemson) are worse than the Big Ten’s trio. And the Seminoles are poised to make a run at a national championship with their No. 4 ranking. With Ohio State facing a postseason ban (and thus ineligible for the coaches' poll and BCS rankings), technically only two eligible top 25 teams reside in the Big Ten.

By comparison, the SEC has four of the top six, five of the top 11 and six overall in the AP top 25. The Big 12 claims five of the top 16 and six overall, which does not include defending conference champion Oklahoma State. The Pac-12 has three of the top 13 and four teams overall with UCLA and Arizona falling out of the poll last weekend.

Michigan State’s season-opening 17-13 home win over Boise State is the league’s best win to date — and its only win over an AP top 25 team.

Already eliminated from the national title hunt?

Only four weeks into the season, the Big Ten appears to be eliminated from the national championship race. Ohio State, Minnesota and Northwestern are the only teams left unbeaten as conference contenders Nebraska, Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin have a combined five losses already.

The Buckeyes could finish 12-0 and it wouldn’t matter as far as the BCS is concerned. And with all due respect to great coaching jobs by Pat Fitzgerald and Jerry Kill thus far, the Gophers or Wildcats going undefeated appears to be a long shot. Northwestern at Minnesota on Oct. 13 for a trip to Miami Gardens? Not likely.

Could Nebraska or Michigan State work their ways back into national title contention with unblemished Big Ten conference records? Possibly. But to jump one-loss teams like USC, the loser of Alabama-LSU or any conference champ from the Big 12 appears virtually impossible. The winner of the Louisville-Rutgers season finale may be higher in the polls than a one-loss Big Ten champ. And Notre Dame already has proven it might be the best team in Big Ten country already.

On the Heisman front, Montee Ball and Denard Robinson have been unofficially eliminated from contention as well. Ball lost his first fumble of the season this weekend and has been a shell of his 2011 self. Robinson has two terrible performances in losses to national contenders, including a five-turnover loss to Notre Dame in what was his worst game as a starter last weekend.

The numbers rarely lie

Last year, the Big Ten’s potent rushing attacks featured three of the top-15 ground games nationally. This year, only one Big Ten team (Nebraska) is ranked in the top 23. In 2011, three of the top 19 individual rushers hailed from the Big Ten. In 2012, only one running back, Le’Veon Bell, is ranked in the top 25 in rushing.

Last year, Wisconsin led the league in scoring (No. 6 nationally) and Michigan State was No. 3. Both averaged more than 31 points per game, and the duo matched-up in the Big Ten title game. Both could show up in Indianapolis again this fall, but the game could be a considerably lower scoring game. Both are  ranked outside of the top 100 in scoring. Additionally, Iowa and Penn State are ranked 97th or worse in scoring offense as well.

Nebraska and Indiana are the only two teams ranked in the top 25 nationally in total offense while only the Hoosiers claim a passing attack ranked in the top 45 nationally. Penn State wideout Allen Robinson is the only receiver in the Big Ten ranked in the top 60 nationally in receiving yards per game.

Defensively, six Big Ten teams finished in the top 20 nationally in total defense last season. This year, only three Big Ten teams are ranked in the top 25 (Michigan State, Purdue and Minnesota) with only the Spartans, at No. 6, residing in the top 15 nationally. Last fall, seven of the top 18 pass defenses played football in the Big Ten. This year, only two of the top 20 passing defenses are from the Big Ten.

History isn’t on the Big Ten’s side

The Big Ten won its first four BCS bowl appearances from 1998 to 1999 and then claimed the national championship in 2002. However, since that win, the big bowl games have been a blood bath for the Big Ten.

The league is 7-11 in BCS bowls since the league’s last national title in 2002 with a 1-7 mark in the Rose Bowl and 0-2 record in the BCS National Championship Game. Two of those seven wins have since been vacated — Penn State in 2006 and Ohio State in 2010 — and the Buckeyes are the only Big Ten team with a winning record in BCS bowl games all-time (6-3).

Can the Big Ten work its way back into national relevance with a stellar conference slate? Of course. But with two major powers ineligible to complete for bowl games or conference titles and traditionally strong programs like Wisconsin and Michigan State having major quarterback issues, the Big Ten could be facing its worst year of play since the advent of the BCS.

Bring on the playoff.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> College Football: Big Ten Facing Worst Season of BCS Era</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/2012-heisman-trophy-contenders-post-week-4
Body:

Each week, the Athlon editors vote on the most prestigious award in all of college football. A nine-man conglomerate of college football gurus from Athlon Sports voted this week for their top Heisman Trophy candidates. The votes will be tallied and the result will be posted as the Athlon Sports Heisman Watch List every week of the regular season.

Voting: Each first-place vote receives 10 points. A second-place vote receives nine points. So on and so forth with a 10th-place vote receiving one point.

At the quarter pole of the 2012 season, the haves and have-nots are beginning to separate themselves. Last week, 22 different players received Heisman votes from Athlon Sports. Following Week 4, only 18 got votes this time around. Unofficially, Denard Robinson and Montee Ball are out of the running. Quarterbacks Tyler Wilson, Tajh Boyd and Landry Jones likely joined them this weekend as well.

Meanwhile, Collin Klein and EJ Manuel won the two biggest games of the weekend and are leading their respective teams into national contention. Defensive dynamos Jarvis Jones and Manti Te'o are leading two of the nation's best units with big plays and leadership. Electric playmakers Braxton Miller and De'Anthony Thomas are wowing fans at every step.

And Geno Smith continues to torch defenses.

1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia (eight first-place votes)
Season Stats: 
96-118, 1,072 yards, 12 TD, 0 INT, 16 att., 67 yards, TD
Just another day in the life of a Dana Holgorsen quarterback. Smith was 30-of-43 for 338 yards — his fourth straight 300-yard effort — and three touchdowns in the win over Maryland. He has yet to turn the ball over and is No. 2 nationally in total offense (379.7 ypg) and passer efficiency (191.23). Things will start to get interesting this weekend as Big 12 play opens up for the first time in Mountaineer history. Next game: Baylor

  Name Pos. Team Tot. Pts 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Ballots
1. Geno Smith QB W. Virginia 89/90 8 1 - - - 9/9
2. De'Anthony Thomas AP Oregon 64/90 1 2 1 - 3 9/9
3. Braxton Miller QB Ohio St 62/90 - 2 2 2 1 9/9
4. Collin Klein QB Kansas St 51/90 - 2 - 1 2 8/9
5. EJ Manuel QB Florida St 49/90 - - 2 2 1 9/9
6. Manti Te'o LB Notre Dame 29/90 - - 2 - - 6/9
7. Matt Barkley QB USC 26/90 - 1 - 1 1 4/9
8. Stepfan Taylor RB Stanford 22/90 - - - 1 1 6/9
9. Marcus Lattimore RB S. Carolina 21/90 - - 1 - - 4/9
10. Jarvis Jones LB Georgia 15/90 - - - 1 - 5/9
11. Aaron Murray QB Georgia 13/90 - 1 - - - 3/9
12. AJ McCarron QB Alabama 12/90 - - 1 - - 3/9
13. Le'Veon Bell RB Michigan St 11/90 - - - 1 - 2/9
14. Johnathan Franklin RB UCLA 11/90 - - - - - 5/9
15. Marqise Lee WR USC 9/90 - - - - - 4/9
16. Barrett Jones OL Alabama 5/90 - - - - - 2/9
17. Kolton Browning QB UL Monroe 5/90 - - - - - 1/9
18. Tajh Boyd QB Clemson 1/90 - - - - - 1/9

2. De’Anthony Thomas, AP, Oregon
Season Stats: 25 att., 276 yards, 4 TD, 13 rec., 165 yards, 3 TD, 8 PR, 131 PR yards
Thomas was given a career-high 12 rushing attempts this weekend to go with a pair of receptions. And for the most part, DAT was kept under wraps with 59 total yards from scrimmage and (gasp!) no trips to paydirt. That said, Thomas still might have made the biggest play of the game. It was 13-0 halfway through the third quarter when his 38-yard punt return into Arizona territory set up the first score of the second half three plays later. His big play signaled the beginning of the end for the Wildcats. Next Game: at Washington State

3. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Season Stats: 
60-98, 754 yards, 7 TD, 2 INT, 67 att., 441 yards, 7 TD
The story is getting awfully familiar. Ohio State struggles in the first half, turns to its star quarterback to carry the team to victory and No. 5 delivers in a big way in the second half to keep the Buckeyes undefeated. Miller, behind clutch passes and gritty runs, scored his sixth and seventh rushing touchdowns while not turning the ball over in the closer-than-expected win against UAB. The OSU quarterback is No. 2 in the Big Ten in rushing (110.3 ypg), No. 2 in total offense (298.8 ypg), and he is leading the league in scoring (11.5 ppg). Next Game: at Michigan State

4. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
Season Stats:
 56-80, 758 yards, 5 TD, 2 INT, 63 att., 289 yards, 5 TD
He didn't stuff the stat sheet with gaudy passing or rushing numbers — he finished with 149 yards passing and one overall touchdown — but his team pulled-off the biggest win of the Week 4 slate in Norman, Okla., over the Sooners on Saturday night. Klein didn't turn the ball over and rushed 17 times for 79 yards while his offense executed to perfection in the first home loss to a ranked opponent for Bob Stoops. CK7 is a truly great young person that does things the right way. Now, his team is in the driver's seat for a Big 12 title. Next Game: Bye Week

5. EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State
Season Stats: 69-94, 905 yards, 8 TD, 1 INT, 24 att., 188 yards, TD
Manuel's come-from-behind win over Clemson was on par with Kansas State as the biggest win of the weekend and it has dropped the Seminoles signal caller right into the middle of the Heisman race. Manuel posted career highs in passing (380) and rushing yards (102) and led Florida State to 28 straight points as the game moved into the fourth quarter. Overcoming multiple double-digit deficits in the second half? Check. Beating the reigning ACC champs in an Atlantic Division de facto title game? Check. Posting the single best statistical performance of your career in the process? Check. Next Game: at South Florida

6. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
Season Stats: 17 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, INT, 3 FF, 2 PBU
The Notre Dame tackler should be the leader for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. The Irish allowed 26 total points and went 3-0 against the B1G on the back of 30 tackles, two INTs and a fumble recovery in those three games by their senior stalwart. Next Game: Bye Week

7. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Season Stats: 88-143, 1,005 yards, 12 TD, 5 INT, 11 att., minus-61 yards
For the second week in a row, it wasn't a vintage performance by Barkley. He threw for 192 yards and two scores in the win over Cal, but also threw two interceptions. So after posting one multi-interception performance in 14 games, the USC quarterback now has had back-to-back such games. Next game: at Utah

8. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
Season Stats: 67 att., 338 yards, 3 TD, 10 rec., 89 yards, TD
Stanford was on bye but Taylor maintains a presence in the top 10 in the continuing afterglow of the Cardinal's huge win over USC. He has another national primetime slot this week in a key Pac-12 North showdown on Thursday night against the Huskies. Next Game: at Washington

9. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
Season Stats: 
48 att., 235 yards, 4 TD, 6 rec., 33 yards
The most underrated Heisman contender (third on my ballot) posted 145 yards from scrimmage and two more touchdowns in the easy win over Mizzou. He had 28 touches, including seven receptions, and has scored four times in two SEC East wins. Next game: at Kentucky

10. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia
Season Stats: 24 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, INT, 3 FF, 2 PBU
Few players had as big of an impact in last week's games than the junior linebacker from Georgia. After sitting out last weekend against FAU, Jones posted seven total tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss and a sack in the destruction of SEC East rival Vanderbilt. Next Game: Tennessee

11. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Season Stats: 69-104, 1,092 yards, 10 TD, 2 INT, 19 att., 1 yards, 3 TD
Next Game: Tennessee

12. A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
Season Stats: 
51-81, 819 yards, 10 TD, 0 INT, 15 att., minus-39 yards
Next Game: Ole Miss

13. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State
Season Stats: 117 att., 610 yards, 5 TD, 12 rec., 67 yards
Next Game: Ohio State

14. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
Season Stats: 78 att., 586 yards, 3 TD, 9 rec., 132 yards, TD
Next Game: at Colorado

15. Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Season Stats: 29 rec., 391 yards, 3 TD, 6 KR, 200 kickoff return yards, TD
Next Game: at Utah

by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related College Football Content

Three and Out: Week 4 Recap

ACC Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
Big East Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
Big Ten Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
Big 12 Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
Pac-12 East Post-Week 4 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 4 Power Rankings 

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Heisman Trophy Contenders: Post-Week 4</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 05:59
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/roger-goodell-time-end-nfls-replacement-referee-debacle
Body:

I don’t blame the replacement referees. I don’t blame the angry coaches who are getting fined by the day. I don’t blame the fans. And I don’t blame the actual NFL refs who are holding out for fair market compensation.

I blame Roger Goodell and the owners entirely for an NFL product that is bordering on unwatchable. As the old cliché goes, heavy is the head that wears the crown.

The Ravens-Patriots game Sunday evening should have been a tale of two AFC contenders and their star quarterbacks battling in a playoff atmosphere. It should have been about 900 yards of offense and six lead changes in a game steeped in postseason implications.

It should have been about Torrey Smith.

But instead, the replacement refs stole the spotlight with 24 combined penalties, 218 penalty yards and Bill Belichick’s illegal contact with an official following the loss.

Things only got worse Monday evening in Seattle as 24 more yellow flags for 245 more penalty yards stole the show once again.

Green Bay and Seattle battled in front of a frenzied crowd in a game that could carry heavy NFC playoff importance. And instead of a hard-fought road win for the Packers, Mike McCarthy watched as the refs inexplicably snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

There were many questionable calls that had Jon Gruden ready to jump out of the booth in the fourth quarter. How about a phantom pass interference call on 1st and 25 or a roughing the passer call that overturns a game-clinching turnover? But the game’s final play, a Hail Mary heave to the corner of the end zone, featured not only one but two horrendous calls.

In fact, the enduring image of Referee Lockout Gate will be two officials staring directly at each other standing two yards from the play signaling two totally different outcomes simultaneously. And it cost Green Bay the win.

Don't be angry at the replacement refs. They are simply doing the best they can. They are not prepared or qualified to take on this type of responsibility. They get no respect from coaches or players and have lost control of the game. And, on more than one occasion, I have seen with my own eyes coaches intentionally try to trick a replacement ref into making the wrong call (looking at you Mike Shanahan).

The inmates are running the asylum and enough is enough.

It’s time for Roger Goodell and the NFL owners to step up to the plate and end this nonsense. In a recent Forbes valuation, 20 of the 32 NFL franchises are worth more than $1 billion. The Detroit Lions and St. Louis Rams were tied for last in the NFL with $231 million in revenue while the Cowboys led the way with $500 million. The NFL’s current TV contract is a combined $20.4 billion per the deal that run out in 2013.

The NFL isn’t big business, it’s huge business. And clearly, the real NFL refs were not given enough respect for the job they do each and every Sunday. The importance of quality officiating has been dramatically undervalued and its compensation needs to catch up with the rest of football’s wealthy moneymakers.

These NFL fat cats could reach into last night’s suit and use pocket change to close the $50 million gap that supposedly exists at the negotiating table.

What will it take? A severe injury to a marquee player? Another botched call at the end of a game that costs a team a postseason berth? Hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for coaches? Better yet, how about the fans simply just stop watching the garbage product the NFL is putting on the field.

So come on Roger, get it done.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related NFL Content:

The Most Amazing Stats from NFL Sunday: Week 3
Green Bay Packers Robbed by Refs
The 15 Worst Officiating Moments in Sports History
 

Teaser:
<p> Roger Goodell: Time to end NFL's replacement referee debacle</p>
Post date: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 12:42
All taxonomy terms: Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, NFL
Path: /nfl/amazing-stats-nfl-sunday-week-3
Body:

NFL football is the greatest reality TV program of all time. The Giants and Colts made sure of that back in 1958. Each NFL fall weekend is a completely new and original experience for every player, fan and coach alike. New stories, new personalities, new winners and new losers. And new statistics.

Here are the most important, most intriguing and most bizarre statistics from Week 3 of NFL play: 

24: Total penalties in the Baltimore-New England showdown
On a Sunday with multiple overtime games and crazy endings across the league, the Patriots and Ravens previewed the AFC playoffs in rare fashion. There were 899 combined yards of total offense, 61 combined first downs, six lead changes, a game-winning field goal and one finable illegal contact penalty. The reason Bill Belichick decided to clutch and grab a referee following the loss? An extremely questionable performance by the replacement officials leading to 10 penalties for New England, 14 for Baltimore and a combined 218 yellow flag yards. A great atmosphere between two rivals, a last-second victory and a gut-wrenching, but memorable moment for Torrey Smith should be the reason fans are talking about Sunday night's showdown around the water cooler this week. However, the replacement officials seemed to lack control, waffled on questionable calls and eventually became the top story. Enough is enough, Roger.

332.8: average passing yards from AFC North quarterbacks in Week 3
Who says those North Division are black-and-blue, defensive clouds of dust? Big Ben (384), Joe Flacco (382) and Andy Dalton (328) had the first, second and fifth-best passing days of the week in the NFL through Sunday, while all three teams scored at least 30 points. Brandon Weeden added 237 of his own yards as well to what turned out to be huge day through the air in the AFC North.

4.0: Eagles turnovers per game
This one was a lay-up. Michael Vick was beaten all to hell in the desert on Sunday and his team turned the ball over three more times in the ugly loss to the Cardinals. The Eagles' 12 giveaways leads the NFL by a wide margin and the team is lucky to be 2-1. Meanwhile, Vick is lucky to be walking after Arizona teed-off on him all afternoon, sacking him five times and allowing six total points. This offense has a lot of big-play speed, but will it last the entire 16-game slate? Not if they keep giving the football to the other team four times per game.

43: Ken Whisenhunt career wins as Arizona Cardinals head coach
With the dominant win over the Eagles on Sunday, Whisenhunt became the all-time winningest coach in Cardinals franchise history. Three games into his sixth season with the organization, he has passed the great Don Coryell (42). The Cards are 3-0 for the first time since 1974 and have marquee wins over New England, Philadelphia and Seattle. Currently, Arizona has its second-longest home winning streak in team history with seven straight wins — and is currently in position to claim a bye week and home-field advantage. It's never too early to starting looking ahead because, with that defense, the Cardinals have tremendous staying power. Oh, and Larry Fitzgerald became the youngest player to ever catch 700 passes. Including that dude named Rice.

0: Total combined turnovers and sacks for Christian Ponder
The surprise story of the day has to be the performance of the developing Vikings quarterback against arguably the league's nastiest and toughest defense. Ponder led an incredibly efficient Minnesota squad in the huge upset win over the San Francisco 49ers. Not only did he not turn the ball over or get sacked, but he converted on both redzone attempts, his only fourth down attempt, 7-of-14 third downs and the Vikes had just one team penalty. Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers couldn't beat the Niners, but Ponder did — with a career-high 89.9 QB rating. The loss now puts Atlanta and Arizona one game up in the race for the NFC bye week.

2,092: Total yards of combined offense for Ponder, Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker
The other three guys in the 2011 first-round QB class combined for 194 yards of total offense through three weeks of play last fall. All of it was Gabbert's as Locker and Ponder hadn't even taken an NFL snap at this stage of last season. Ponder (251.3 ypg) and Gabbert (163.3 ypg) have yet to throw an interception this year while Locker (282.7 ypg) provided the Titans with 413 yards of total offense in their first win of the year. There have been many doubters of this class of signal callers, some of which has to be tied directly to poor surrounding casts, but these three youngsters are beginning to acquit themselves rather well in relatively short order. Just for reference, their 2,092 yards of total offense is more than Phillip Rivers, Jay Cutler and Sam Bradford combined (2,051).

18: Seconds it took Detroit to score two touchdowns to tie the game
A three-yard touchdown pass from Shaun Hill to Calvin Johnson cut the Tennessee Titans lead from to seven points with 18 seconds remaining. Detroit recovered the onside kick and two plays later connected on a Hill-to-Titus Young Hail Mary from the Titans 46-yard line as time expired. After a Titans field goal in overtime, all the Lions had to do was match with three of their own to keep the game going. But on a bizarre 4th-and-1 QB sneak call on the Tennessee seven-yard line, Hill was stopped well short and the game was over. As a bonus amazing stat, the Titans became the first team in NFL history to score five touchdowns of at least 60 yards or more (AP).

230: Difference in yards rushing from Week 2 to Week 3 for Jamaal Charles
The former Texas Longhorn has played in 52 career NFL games and his three yards rushing last weekend in the loss to Buffalo was his worst career showing as a professional. Charles bounced back in a big way with his second-best rushing day of his career with 233 yards in the road win over New Orleans. His 91-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter not only sparked the victory but turned out to be the longest play in franchise history. Most importantly, Kansas City avoids an 0-3 start while putting the embattled Saints in the nearly impossible position of being winless after three games.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Amazing Stats From NFL Sunday: Week 3</p>
Post date: Monday, September 24, 2012 - 06:40

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