Articles By Braden Gall

All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, start or sit, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /columns/start-or-sit/nfl-fantasy-football-start-and-sit-week-10
Body:

-by Braden Gall ( @AthlonBraden on twitter)

Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Week 10 Rankings

NFL Bye Weeks: None

Note: The Bye Week is actually the only thing taking a bye this week in the NFL. There will be plenty of fantasy power sitting on the bench next weekend in the final bye of the season; however, Week 10 will feature full rosters for the first time in nearly two months. This means everyone's studs will be playing, and thus finding sleepers isn't nearly as difficult. Keep this in mind when setting your lineup this weekend. Get your best out there.

Start These Quarterbacks:

Tim Tebow, Denver (at Kansas City)
Say what you want about his efficiency, Tebow scores fantasy points. He has thrown five touchdowns against only one interception in his three starts with 240 yards rushing over that span. And the Chiefs just allowed a near perfect 147.5 QB rating to Matt Moore (244-3-0) last week.

Mark Sanchez, NY Jets (New England)
Stop me if you've heard this before: the Patriots rank last in the NFL in passing defense at 314 yards per game. Sanchez has an efficient seven-to-one touchdown-to-interception ratio over last four games, and Jets have won three straight. Sanchez posted a serviceable 166-2-0 line against the Pats in Week 5.

Matt Cassel, Kansas City (Denver)
Cassel has topped the 250-yard mark in four of his last five games, so if he can add a couple of scores to his yardage totals, he will be a solid fantasy starter. Who better to help with reaching paydirt than the Broncos? Denver is allowing a 31st-rated 28.0 points per game and has allowed the second-most passing touchdowns (17) in the league thus far. Cassel has a good chance this weekend.

Christian Ponder, Minnesota (at Green Bay)
If you are looking for a deep sleeper, take a look at the rookie from Minnesota. The Packers rank 31st in pass defense at 299.6 yards per game, and Ponder is familiar with Green Bay as he got his first start against the division rival in Week 7. He was productive in the loss with a 219-2-2 line to go with 31 yards rushing in first meeting. Only the Colts (18) and Broncos (17) have allowed more passing touchdowns than the Packers' 16. The Vikings should be trailing and Ponder should be throwing.

Bench These Quarterbacks:

Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay (Houston)
Freeman is coming off his most efficient performance of the season (103.5), but that won't continue that this weekend. Houston is No. 2 in the NFL in pass defense at 182.6 yards per game and is allowing an NFL-best 51.7% completion rate. The Texans are also fourth in NFL sacks (24.0) and will be chasing him down all game. The Bucs are just not trustworthy in the fantasy world.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo (at Dallas)
Fitz has failed to top 200 yards in three of his last five games and has averaged 217.8 yards per game over that span. He threw six touchdowns and six interceptions over that same span with the Bills limping to a 2-3 record. In the last two home games, Dallas allowed 417 yards, no touchdowns and four picks to starting quarterbacks.

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati (Pittsburgh)
The Steelers are the No. 3 pass defense in the NFL at 184.7 yards per game. By the way, rookie Andy Dalton will be facing the Blitz-burgh Steel Curtain for the first time in his career. Additionally, most of Dalton's scoring has come against mediocre defenses Cleveland, Indianapolis and Tennessee (7 TD, 0 INT). Against Buffalo, San Francisco and Seattle, Dalton struggled (3 TD, 6 INT).

Jay Cutler, Chicago (Detroit)
The Lions are rested after a bye week and are sixth in the NFL in pass defense at 193.6 yards per game. Detroit has surrendered only nine passing touchdowns and has forced 11 interceptions. Cutler posted a modest 247-1-0 line against the Lions earlier this year, and he would be lucky to repeat that performance in a must-win situation for both teams.

Start These Running Backs:

Chris Johnson, Tennessee (at Carolina)
CJ2K finally showed flashes of his former brilliance last weekend with a 110 yards from scrimmage on 18 touches against one of the top defenses in the NFL (CIN). The Panthers rank 28th in the NFL against the run at 133.3 yards per game, and no one has allowed more rushing touchdowns in the NFL than Carolina's 11 surrendered. If Johnson is ever going to reach the end zone, it's this weekend.

Willis McGahee, Denver (at Kansas City)
McGahee returned to the field with a vengeance last weekend with an incredible 20-carry, 163-yard, two-touchdown performance against Oakland. Reggie Bush just torched Kansas City for 142 yards from scrimmage on 16 touches and a trip to paydirt. Play Mr. McGahee.

DeMarco Murray, Dallas (Buffalo)
Only the Cardinals, Panthers and Colts have allowed more rushing touchdowns than the Bills' 10, and Murray has been smoldering of late. He has 466 yards rushing in three games at an incredible 8.5 yards per carry. Toss in five catches and one touchdown and you have a fantasy monster. Plug and play the Oklahoma rookie.

Jonathan Stewart, Carolina (Tennessee)
Stewart has 27 carries over the last two games. DeAngelo Williams has 17. Stewart has 127 yards from scrimmage in the last two games. Williams has 74 yards from scimmage. Stewart has scored in two of the last three games. Williams has scored one time all season (in Week 5). It's pretty clear who the better option is at this point.

Ben Tate, Houston (at Tampa Bay)
Tate has become a serviceable backup option for many fantasy owners. He has 32 carries in the last three games and has topped 100 yards in two of the last three games — despite Arian Foster getting 88 touches over the same span. The Bucs are 27th in the NFL against the ground game, so Tate is a quality sleeper option this weekend.

Bench These Running Backs:

Cedric Benson, Cincinnati (Pittsburgh)
Benson has averaged 2.2, 3.6 and 3.9 yards per carry over his last three games and now faces the NFL sixth-best rush defense (95.6 yards per game). His splits against the Steel Curtain aren't pretty either, as he has averaged 43.0 yards per game over six contests with only two touchdowns. Look elsewhere this weekend.

Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh (Cincinnati)
The Steelers have struggled to run the ball all season long, and Big Ben has taken over as the focal point of the offense over the last three weeks. Mendenhall has not topped 13 carries in any of the last three games, and the Bengals boast the NFL's No. 2 rush defense at 84.5 yards per game. A 49-1 line might be about right.

Brandon Jacobs, NY Giants (at San Francisco)
This one is pretty easy. Ahmad Bradshaw has been ruled out of the game and Jacobs produced in his absence last weekend (72-1). However, the Niners are downright nasty against the run. They lead the NFL by allowing only 70.8 yards per game and are the only team that has yet to allow a rushing touchdown on the season.

LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay (Houston)
Against a poor run defense last weekend, Blount produced a modest 72 yards in his first action since Week 5. The Texans are fourth in the NFL at 91.4 yards allowed per game and held Cleveland to 44 yards on 21 carries for a paltry 2.1 clip. Look for Houston's defense to pressure Freeman and stack the box.

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle (Baltimore)
The Ravens are third in the NFL against the run at 86.8 yards per game and have allowed only three rushing touchdowns the entire season. Baltimore permits only 3.4 yards per carry (201 attempts faced) and should destroy the Seahawks front line.

Start These Wide Receivers:

Jordy Nelson, Green Bay (Minnesota)
The banged-up Vikings secondary offers very little resistence and Nelson always seems to make one big play per game. And just in case you didn't know, Nelson is the No. 11 fantasy wide receiver in the NFL at the halfway point.

Santonio Holmes, NY Jets (New England)
After a slow start, Holmes has started to come on of late. He has scored in three of the last four games and is facing the NFL's worst pass defense at 314 yards per game.

Larent Robinson, Dallas (Buffalo)
With Miles Austin out, Robinson (who has scored in two straight games) looks to benefit. Dez Bryant is a must-play, but Robinson should get plenty of looks against the NFL's 25th-rated pass defense.

Michael Jenkins, Minnesota (at Green Bay)
The former Falcon is actually the highest-scoring receiver on the waiver wire of the Athlon Sports keeper NFL league. He posted his best game of the season in Ponder's first start (3-111-1) and should be playing from behind most of the season.

Bench These Wide Receivers:

AJ Green, Cincinnati (Pittsburgh)
Ike Taylor will be matched up against Green all game, and while it's hard to bench Green, his upside appears limited in Andy Dalton's first-ever experience against a Dick LeBeau defense.

Mike Williams, Tampa Bay (Houston)
Williams has averaged only 9.8 yards per catch this season and hasn't reached paydirt since Week 1. Expect the entire Bucs' passing attack to struggle against one of the NFL's best pass defenses.

Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis (Jacksonville)
It's hard to believe but Wayne is approaching waiver wire status. He hasn't topped 77 yards since Week 1 and hasn't scored since the first game, either. He is hard to endorse against a relatively stingy Jaguars pass defense (197.0 ypg).

Sidney Rice, Seattle (Baltimore)
The Ravens have allowed an NFL second-best six passing touchdowns all season long and are fourth in the league in pass defense (192.6 ypg). Look for the entire Seahawks offense to be stymied this weekend.

Start These Tight Ends:

Brent Celek, Philadelphia (Arizona)
The Eagles tight end is finally getting his looks from Mr. Vick. Celek has averaged six catches and 65 yards per game and scored twice over the last three weeks.

Greg Olsen, Carolina (Tennessee)
The Titans have allowed the third-most fantasy points to tight ends this season, and Cam Newton favors him in the redzone (four TDs).

Bench These Tight Ends:

Vernon Davis, San Francisco (NY Giants)
Bueller? Bueller? Davis has nine catches for 75 yards over his last three games, and the Giants have allowed one touchdown to tight ends this season.

Kellen Winslow, Tampa Bay (Houston)
Houston has allowed the third-fewest points to the tight end this season, and the entire Bucs' passing attack will struggle.

Start These Defenses/Special Teams:

Houston Texans (at Tampa Bay)
The Texans have turned into one of the top fantasy defenses in the NFL. Plug and play.

Philadelphia Eagles (Arizona)
Without Kevin Kolb and a banged-up Beanie Wells, there should be opportunities for big plays.

Pittsburgh Steelers (Cincinnati)
Dalton has been solid but is facing an angry Pittsburgh team for the first time in his career. The Steelers will finally force some turnovers.

Bench These Defenses/Special Teams:

Dallas Cowboys (Buffalo)
Ryan Fitzpatrick is the least-sacked quarterback in the NFL, and the Bills will look to run early and often.

New York Giants (at San Francisco)
The Niners are built around running the football, with a quarterback who has thrown only two interceptions all season.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports Week 10 NFL Fantasy Start and Sit</p>
Post date: Friday, November 11, 2011 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/penn-state-failed-miserably
Body:

I am not a parent. I cannot speak as one.

And I won’t understand what parents across this country are feeling until, God willing, one day I’ve become one myself. But what has happened at Penn State University has shaken me to the core, nonetheless.

On Monday afternoon, I sat at my desk and I read 23 pages of horrifying grand jury testimony. I had to stop on more than one occasion to look away from my computer screen and regain my bearings.

My first reaction was visceral – towards a man who no longer deserves the rights and freedoms afforded to him by this great country. Next, I wrote down a laundry list of questions I wanted answered. Not as a sports writer or radio jock or even a fan, but as a human being.

What would I have done if I was in Mike McQueary’s shoes? How much unnecessary evil could have been prevented? What did Joe Paterno really know? When did he know it? How many more victims are there? How long has this be going on?  How important is the game of football to me personally? Will there be NCAA sanctions? Should Penn State be allowed to finish the football season?

And why the hell was Jerry Sandusky walking around Penn State’s campus not two weeks ago as a free man?

Some of these questions have easy answers. The protection of children should come long before the retention of employment, maintaining a prestigious image or winning football games. You would think that is a pretty simple equation. And I am not hoping for probation or sanctions, which would be unprecedented behavior by the NCAA, I am rooting for an eight-by-eight cement cell without chance of parole.

And the current Penn State football players should not be punished for the irreconcilable mistakes of informed adult administrators over the last 15 years. So yes, Penn State fans, players and alumni should be proud to support their university against Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin.

We need to remember not to indict the masses for the disgusting acts of a few. The majority of people who work, attend, play for and support Penn State University are wonderful people who felt the exact same gut-wrenching pain I did when I read the attorney general’s report.

But for those few who are culpable - and you know who you are - there is a dark and special place reserved for you.

Unfortunately, however, some of those questions may never get answered. Paterno and McQueary will have to wrestle with their own consciences for the rest of their lives. They followed the letter of the law, but not the spirit. Honestly, who cares about a tarnished legacy or potential Big Ten championship when dealing with the molestation of children?

Even as I write this I am losing focus. This is not about Joe Paterno. Or Mike McQueary. Or how the Penn State seniors will play in their final contest in Beaver Stadium this Saturday.

This is about the kids – and there are no silver linings.

I cannot expect victims’ hearts to relax now that 40 counts (for now) of child sexual abuse have been levied against one sick human being. The arraignment of Gary Schultz and Tim Curley won’t repair the frayed nerve endings that have been permanently damaged. I cannot expect victims to sleep easier at night because Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier have been fired as head coach and President at Penn State. In fact, the attorney representing the victims, Ben Andreozzi, released a statement claiming that the Penn State “Board of Trustees got it wrong. They should have consulted the victims before making a decision on Mr. Paterno.”

And even when Jerry Sandusky gets what is most-assuredly coming to him in a federal penitentiary, the horrific memories of the past will not be expelled from the furthest reaches of those children’s memories.

I can only hope with every ounce of my soul that somewhere a frightened young child, panicked irresolute parent or morally weak graduate assistant will find the internal strength to learn from what has happened in State College, Pa., and vow to never let it happen again.

Teaser:
<p> Everyone is to be blamed for what has happened at Penn State.</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 10, 2011 - 14:01
All taxonomy terms: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, NFC North, NFL
Path: /nfl/green-bay-packers-will-not-go-undefeated
Body:

-by Braden Gall (follow him on twitter @AthlonBraden)

The Green Bay Packers will not go undefeated in 2011.

Since Super Bowl I decided the 1966 NFL championship, there have been 1,252 seasons played by official NFL franchises. There have been two undefeated regular seasons and one perfect season. Just in case you’ve been hanging out with the Geico caveman for the last four decades, the 1972 Miami Dolphins and the 2007 New England Patriots are the only two teams ever to roll through an NFL schedule unblemished. Obviously, the ’72 Fish were happy to pop champagne corks when the New York Giants toppled the Pats in Super Bowl XLII.

That gives any NFL franchise a 0.15% chance of going undefeated at the start of any season. This is the NFL, after all.

Just ask Drew Brees and the Saints what happened against winless St. Louis two weeks ago. Or how about the AFC West-leading Chiefs’ performance against the winless Miami Dolphins last Sunday? That said, the Packers are nine weeks deep into the NFL season and have yet to lose, so their odds have clearly increased.

But not by much.

Since 1966, only 17 teams have reached the 9-0 mark. During the 45-year Super Bowl history of the NFL, 11.8% of teams to reach the 9-0 plateau went on to finish the regular season undefeated. Three of those 17 didn’t even make it to the next week, as only 14 teams have made it to 10-0. Four more lost in Game 11 and three more lost in Game 12, leaving seven teams in the Super Bowl era to have ever breathed the rarified air of a 12-0 start.

Those are long odds considering the schedule (and defensive struggles) remaining for the Packers.

Green Bay faces only one team with a losing record in the second half; the 2-6 Vikings come to town next Monday night. The Packers then get Tampa Bay at home before back-to-back road trips to likely playoff teams Detroit (on Thanksgiving) and New York (Giants). The Oakland Raiders and a rejuvenated Carson Palmer visit Lambeau Field in Week 14 before the final road game of the year against the wildly unpredictable Kansas City Chiefs in Week 15. Green Bay wraps up the 2011 season by hosting division rivals Chicago and Detroit.

No one would be shocked if Green Bay lost any of those games with the possible exception of Monday night’s home contest. In the modern world of professional football, all of those games are easily losable. And it won’t be Aaron Rodgers who costs the Packers an undefeated season; it will be the defense. The secondary is banged up, and the front seven is not getting enough pressure on the quarterback.

Green Bay finished 2010 as the No. 5-rated total defense in the league at 309.1 yards allowed per game. They are 30th at the halfway point of 2011 at 399.6 yards per game. The Packers also ranked fifth in the league last fall at defending the pass at 194.2 yards per game – more than 105 yards better than the 31st-ranked pass defense Green Bay features this season (299.6 ypg). Additionally, the Green and Gold defense recorded an NFL second-best 47.0 sacks a year ago, but is not getting after opposing passers nearly as well this go around. The Packers’ 19.0 sacks rank 17th in the league.

Moreover, scoring points is still the name of the game, not rolling up yards. While Green Bay is on pace to score the third-most points in NFL history (34.4 ppg) on offense, the defense – ranked No. 2 in the NFL at a paltry 15.0 points allowed per game last season – is holding the opposition to a mediocre 22.4 points per game in 2011 (17th in the NFL).

Without even mentioning Mike McCarthy’s looming, unenviable decision to rest key starters against two extremely physical defenses to finish the year, the bright and shiny league-wide bull's-eye on their back and continued defensive woes have the odds stacked heavily against the Green Bay Packers going unbeaten.

But never fear, Packer nation – don’t start canceling plane tickets and hotel reservations in Indianapolis. There are also some excellent odds stacked in your favor as well. Of the 17 teams to make it to the 9-0 mark, 11 of them played in the Super Bowl, with seven of those 11 claiming the ultimate prize as World Champions.

And frankly, hoisting Titletown’s fifth Lombardi Trophy is all Rodgers and company should care about.

Here are the 17 teams since 1966 that have gone 9-0 to start the season:

1969: Los Angeles Rams (11-3) lost to Minnesota in Game 12
1972: Miami Dolphins* (14-0) Undefeated
1973: Minnesota Vikings^ (12-2) lost to Atlanta in Game 10
1975: Minnesota Vikings (12-2) lost to Washington in Game 11
1984: Miami Dolphins^ (14-2) lost to San Diego in Game 12
1985: Chicago Bears* (15-1) lost to Miami in Game 13
1990: New York Giants* (13-3) lost to Philadelphia in Game 11
1990: San Francisco 49ers (14-2) lost to the LA Rams in Game 11
1991: Washington Redskins* (14-2) lost to Dallas in Game 12
1998: Denver Broncos* (14-2) lost to NY Giants in Game 14
2003: Kansas City Chiefs (13-3) lost to Cincinnati in Game 10
2005: Indianapolis Colts (14-2) lost to San Diego in Game 14
2006: Indianapolis Colts* (12-4) lost to Dallas in Game 10
2007: New England Patriots^ (16-0) lost to NY Giants in Super Bowl
2008: Tennessee Titans (13-3) lost to NY Jets in Game 11
2009: New Orleans Saints* (13-3) lost to Dallas in Game 14
2009: Indianapolis Colts^ (14-2) lost to NY Jets in Game 15

* - went on to win the Super Bowl
^ - went on to lose the Super Bowl

Teaser:
<p> The odds are stacked heavily against the Packers going unbeaten in 2011.</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 10, 2011 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/joe-paternos-tenure-penn-state
Body:

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com

Joe Paterno has been fired three games before the end of his 46th year as the head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions.

Coach Paterno had recently announced that he would retire at the end of the 2011 season due to the circumstances surrounding Paterno's action or lack thereof regarding information he was given concerning the lewd and atrocious conduct of former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. The Penn State Board of Trustees decided not to give Coach Paterno the chance to retire on his own terms Now that Paterno's legendary career is over, let's look at JoePa By The Numbers:

Years WP% Conf. WP% 10-Win Seasons Losing Seasons National Champs. Bowl Games
46 74.64% 64.19% 21 6 2 38

Let's look at these numbers in a little more detail by decade:

Years WP% Conf. WP% 10-Win Years Losing Years Bowl Apps. Top 25 (EOS) Top 10 (EOS) Conf. Titles Nat. Champs.
66-69 81.40% N/A 2 0 3 3 3 N/A 0
70-79 81.36% N/A 6 0 9 9 6 N/A 0
80-89 76.74% N/A 5 1 8 6 5 N/A 2
90-00 75.56% 70.31% 5 1 10 10 4 1 0
01-11 65.41% 58.82% 3 3 6 5 3 2 0
* (EOS) = End of Season Ranking

A little more data on the 2001-Present data:

Years WP% Against Top 25 (TOG) WP% Against Top 5 (TOG) WP% Against Over .500 Teams Bowl WP% # of Top 25 Finishes
2001-2011 32.50% 0.00% 43.06% 50.00% 5
* (TOG) = Time of Game Ranking

So, what do the numbers tell us? 

They tell us that Paterno is one of the most successful college football coaches in history. They tell us that he won 409 of the 548 games he was the head coach. They tell us that he won 10 or more games in 46.67% of the full seasons he was the head coach. They tell us that he won two national titles, three Big Ten titles, and finished in the AP Top 10 21 different times. The numbers also unfortunately tell us that Joe Paterno's ability to compete for national championships and beat the elite programs in college football was deteriorating along with his eyesight.

Here at Coaches By The Numbers, we like to ignore the soft factors that far too often dominate conversations surrounding college football coaches. In this instance unfortunately, the soft factor of Paterno's inaction in the face of an unspeakable evil cannot be ignored and will forever tarnish his legacy By The Numbers.

Teaser:
<p> Here is a statistical look at JoePa's long tenure at Penn State University. Champion or tarnished?</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 10, 2011 - 04:00
Path: /columns/heisman-watch/athlon-sports-heisman-voting-week-11
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Each week, the Athlon editors will vote on the most prestigious award in all of college football. A nine-man conglomerate of college football gurus from Athlon Sports will vote for their top 10 Heisman Trophy candidates. The votes will be tallied and the result will be posted as the Athlon Sports Heisman Watch List every Wednesday of the regular season.

Note: The scoring system is as follows: A first place vote earns a player 10 points. A second place votes earns nine points - so on and so forth until the 10th place vote receives one point.

It only took 10 weeks of football but Stanford's Andrew Luck has claimed all nine Athlon Sports first place Heisman Trophy ballots. And rightly so, considering he is the best player in the nation on an unbeaten team.

Despite being the best player on the field, Trent Richardon's kicker might have cost him the Heisman Trophy. Robert Griffin III got Baylor over the hump with a big win over Missouri, boosting his stock back into finalist territory. And Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden and Boise State's Kellen Moore simply produce huge numbers every week and hold onto Top 5-status once again.

As a side note, only four players landed on all nine ballots. Luck, Richardson, Moore and Houston's Case Keenum.

1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (90/90 total points, 9/9 first place votes)
Season Stats: 194/272, 2,424 yards, 26 TD, 5 INT, 29 att., 147 yards, 2 TD

Luck and the Cardinal got off to a sluggish start in the cold and damp Corvallis this weekend. After a 0-0 first quarter, Stanford stormed off for a 38-13 win to give Luck his 17th straight victory. His two touchdown passes in less than two minutes in the third quarter put the Beavers away. Luck finished 20-of-30, for 206 yards and three touchdowns in the win. His Heisman Trophy, Pac-12 title and BCS National Championship are on the line this weekend. No pressure. Next Game: Oregon

  Name Pos. Team Pts 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Ballots
1. Andrew Luck QB Stanford 90 9 - - - - 9
2. Trent Richardson RB Alabama 75 - 4 4 1 - 9
3. Kellen Moore QB Boise State 66 - 2 3 1 2 9
4. Robert Griffin III QB Baylor 52 - 2 1 1 1 8
5. Brandon Weeden QB Oklahoma St 49 - - - 5 1 8
6. Case Keenum QB Houston 43 - - 1 - 2 9
7. Russell Wilson QB Wisconsin 30 - 1 - 1 - 8
8. Landry Jones QB Oklahoma 26 - - - - 2 8
9. Montee Ball RB Wisconsin 15 - - - - - 5
10. Matt Barkley QB USC 11 - - - - - 4
11. David Wilson RB Virginia Tech 10 - - - - - 4
12. Tajh Boyd QB Clemson 10 - - - - 1 3
13. Sammy Watkins WR Clemson 5 - - - - - 1
14. LaMichael James RB Oregon 5 - - - - - 1
15. Justin Blackmon WR Oklahoma St 4 - - - - - 2
16. Ryan Broyles WR Oklahoma 3 - - - - - 1
17. Brad Wing P LSU 1 - - - - - 1

2. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (75)
Season Stats: 172 att., 1,078 yards, 17 TD, 23 rec., 292 yards, TD

Trent Richardson was the best player on the field in the 9-6 overtime loss to LSU in this week's "Game of the Century." He was truly the most productive player for either team (except maybe LSU punter Brad Win) as he carried 23 times for 89 yards and caught five passes for 80 yards. T-Rich consistently moved the Tide into LSU territory all night and is still leading the SEC in rushing at 119.8 yards per game. However, if Bama doesn't get its rematch in the BCS title game, will Richardson have done enough to overcome Luck? Next Game: at Mississippi State

3. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State (66)
Season Stats: 192/259, 2,229 yards, 29 TD, 5 INT, 10 att., (-16) yards

In the 48-21 win at UNLV, Moore became the winningest quarterback in the history of NCAA football. His 46-2 record as the starter speaks for itself. Against the Runnin' Rebels, Moore went 18-for-31 for 219 yards and five touchdowns and he is now fourth in the nation passer rating at 179.51. Moore needs a huge showing in his last real test of the 2011 season this weekend against the Horned Frogs. Next Game: TCU

4. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (52)
Season Stats: 202/273, 2,781 yards, 26 TD, 4 INT, 107 att., 375 yards, 4 TD

Griffin has not had any issues posting huge numbers all season. The difference this weekend is that he lead his team to a big win over Missouri 42-39. RG3 finished 27-of-41 for 406 yards and three touchdowns through the air to go with 19 rushing attemps, 53 yards and another score on the ground. Griffin III is the nation's No. 2 rated passer at 188.06 and has his team poised for a second consecutive bowl game for the first time since 1991-1992. Next Game: at Kansas

5. Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State (49)
Season Stats: 282/391, 3,212 yards, 26 TD, 9 INT, 14 att., (-85) yards

If the offensive ineptitude in Tuscaloosa wasn't your cup of tea, then maybe the defensive woes in Stillwater were. Oklahoma State and Kansas State combined for 1,082 yards of offense in the thrilling 52-45 back and forth affair. Weeden made a couple of bad throws (2 INT, one returned for a touchdowns), but he also set a school record with 502 yards passing. He was an incredibly efficient 36-of-46 passing and threw four scoring strikes of his own. Most importantly, he kept the Pokes national title hopes alive. Next Game: at Texas Tech

6. Case Keenum, QB, Houston (43)
Season Stats: 257/347, 3,626 yards, 34 TD, 3 INT, 32 att., 27 yards, 2 TD

Keenum was downright flawless in the 56-13 win over UAB this weekend. He completed 39 of his 44 attempts for 407 yards and two touchdowns. He also batted 1.000 in the ground game as he scored two touchdowns on two rushing attempts. Keenum is now the NCAA's all-time leader in passing yards, passing touchdowns and total offense. In 2011, he is leading the nation in total offense at 405.9 yards per game and is the nation's No. 2 most efficient passer with a rating of 192.44 - which would be an single-season NCAA record if not for the player next on this Heisman list. And his Cougars remain one of the nation's five unbeaten teams. Next Game: at Tulane

7. Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (30)
Season Stats: 144/201, 2,238 yards, 21 TD, 3 INT, 48 att., 276 yards, 4 TD, 1 rec., 25 yards, TD

The records this Wisconsin team are establishing on offense are eye-opening. Wilson completed 15-of-20 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns to go with 10 carries, 76 yards and another score on the ground in the 62-17 win over Purdue. His 21 TD passes have tied a single-season school record set by John Stocco and he now has thrown a TD in 33 straight games - three short of the all-time NCAA mark of 36 set by Graham Harrell. Wilson is the nation's No. 1 rated passer at 196.66 - which would set a single-season NCAA record for passing efficiency (186.00). Too bad Wilson doesn't play safety. Next Game: at Minnesota

8. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma (26)
Season Stats: 254/393, 3,349 yards, 28 TD, 9 INT, 17 att., 22 yards, 2 TD

Jones is easily the saddest finalist on this list as he had to watch his partner in crime Ryan Broyles walk off the field in Norman in tears after tearing his ACL. But Jones led his team to victory and has the Sooners poised to sneak into the BCS title game should a few teams falter. Jones finished 18-of-38 for 255 and two touchdowns in the 41-25 dismantling of Texas A&M. He is No. 3 in the nation in total offense at 374.56 yards per game. Next Game: at Baylor

9. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (15)

Season Stats: 162 att., 1,076 yards, 21 TD, 13 rec., 229 yards, 3 TD, 1/1, 25 yards, TD

The accolades for the Wisconsin offense continue. Montee Ball scored his 22nd, 23rd and 24th touchdowns of the season in the 62-17 romp over Purdue. Ball is now two scores away from tying Ki-Jana Carter (1994), Anthony Thompson (1988) and Pete Johnson (1975) for the all-time Big Ten single-season touchdown record of 26. His 24 touchdowns (not counting his TD pass to Wilson) have already tied the Badgers single-season mark set by Brian Calhoun back in 2005. Ball also set a career high with 223 yards rushing and now sits No. 2 in the Big Ten with 1,076 yards. Ball leads the nation in scoring at 16.0 points per game. Next Game: at Minnesota

10. Matt Barkley, QB, USC (11)
Season Stats: 229/342, 2,608 yards, 28 TD, 6 INT, 20 att., 25 yards, TD

Barkley is putting his full NFL resume on display. The Trojan quarterback set a school record with six touchdown passes (four in the first half) in the 42-17 road win over Colorado on Friday night. He finished the game 25-of-39 for 318 yards. Barkley has already set a single-season career high in TD passes (28) and is 183 yards from setting his yardage record as well. It is a shame USC cannot play in the Pac-12 title game (and here's hoping he comes back for his senior year). Next Game: Washington

Previous Voting:

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 10

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 9
Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 8

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 7

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 6

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 5

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 4

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 3

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 2

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 1

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports Heisman Voting: Week 11</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: Ole Miss Rebels, College Football
Path: /college-football/houston-nutts-tenure-ole-miss
Body:

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com

With the recent announcement that Houston Nutt will be resigning from Ole Miss at the end of the season, we thought it would be useful to update an earlier piece we wrote on Coach Nutt and expand our list of recommended coaches to be the next head coach at Ole Miss.

The only thing worse than Ole Miss replacing the famed Colonel with the new and more politically correct "Rebel Black Bear" is their on-field performance this season. When Ole Miss decided to replace the Ragin' Cajun Ed Orgeron with Houston Nutt, it appeared they made a solid hire. At the very least, Nutt helped Ole Miss win the press conference. From 2001-2007 as the head coach at Arkansas, Nutt won nine or more games three different times and competed for an SEC Championship.

Coach Nutt is extremely familiar with the SEC and is a four star coach in our system. What is there not to like, right? Let's dig into Houston Nutt's  numbers since 2001 and see what we find;

Coach Years Overall WP% Conf. WP% Non-Conf. WP% WP% vs. Over .500 Teams WP% vs. Top 25 (time of game)
Houston Nutt 2001-Present 56.30% 44.83% 77.08% 35.37% 29.17%

A few more numbers to consider:

Coach Years Wins Conf. Wins Non-Conf. Wins Non-Conf. Non-AQ Wins
Houston Nutt 2001-Present 76 39 37 25

Almost one in every three of Coach Nutt's wins since 2003 came against a Non-AQ Conference opponent. And one final set of numbers:

Coach Years WP% Conf. WP% WP% Against Over .500 Teams
Houston Nutt 2005-2009 62.50% 55.00% 40.54%
Houston Nutt 2001-2004 & 2010-Present 50.70% 40.48% 35.37%

From 2005 to 2007 Nutt had Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, and Peyton Hillis in the backfield (three NFL starting running backs) and from 2008 to 2009, Nutt had Jevon Snead at quarterback (one of the nation's top QB's from 08-09), Michael Oher protecting his blind side, and Dexter McCluster and Mike Wallace at the skill positions. Every coach is better when they have superstars, but good coaches don't just win when they have special talent. Given the talent level of McFadden and Jones alone, you could argue that Nutt didn't win nearly big enough during the years they were in the backfield.

So, what do the above numbers tell us about Houston Nutt?

From our perspective, they tell us if you hire Houston Nutt, you better be prepared for the roller coaster ride on which he likes to take programs. If he gets the right talent and the right offensive coordinator, he is bound to put up a good year or two. However, if he doesn't have the right talent or the right offensive coordinator, he is bound to have some rough years.

For example, in his first two years at Ole Miss, Houston Nutt was 18-8 with elite skill position players on the offensive side of the ball. Since Snead, Wallace, and Oher have departed, Nutt is 6-15 with some really embarrassing losses (see Jacksonville State 2010, Vanderbilt 2010 & 2011, and Kentucky 2011).

So, should Houston Nutt have been forced to resign by Ole Miss? From our perspective, it depends?

If Ole Miss fans and alumni are content with a few good years mixed in with a few bad, than Nutt is your man. If Ole Miss fans want a little more out of their program, they are going to have to look beyond Houston Nutt. At this point, the numbers on Houston Nutt do a pretty solid job of telling his story as a head coach.

Now that the Ole Miss fan base has spoken and made it clear that they are not content in riding the Houston Nutt wave, it's time to assess the situation and make some job recommendations. Before we get to specific names, let's discuss the job itself. Looking at our proprietary CBTN Job Ranking, Ole Miss is the 26th best head coaching job in the country. The bad news about this number is that there are eight other SEC jobs ahead of Ole Miss and four are in the SEC West.

So, this is a good job in a great conference, but it certainly comes with its challenges. There are only three teams in the SEC (Kentucky, Mississippi State, and Vanderbilt) that have had lower average recruiting rankings over the last decade than Ole Miss. This isn't saying Ole Miss doesn't have talent. They just don't have talent like Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida have talent.

Let's consider this as well:

Years Games % Played w/Superior Talent % Played w/Equal Talent % Played w/Inferior Talent
2004-Present 85 43.35% 27.06% 30.59%

For some comparison, since 2004, Alabama has only played 12.50% of its game with inferior talent (only 2 since Saban arrived). This is all to say that while Ole Miss is an attractive job it is not attractive enough to lure a Gary Patterson or Chris Petersen from their current jobs or an Urban Meyer from the ESPN booth.

So, what kind of coach does Ole Miss need?

Looking at the data and information above, Ole Miss is not going to win by lining up and trying to out-physical the rest of the SEC. They simply don't have the horses to do this. They need a coach who can out-think his peers and take a solid talent base and help it overachieve, not through "motivation" or "energy" (see failed attempt with Ed Orgeron) but through better schemes and preparation. With this in mind, we are going to give the Rebel Black Bears (hurts to event write that) ten names to consider:

Gus Malzahn

This guy is the extremely obvious choice. He knows the conference, region, and has put up video game numbers as an OC at Arkansas, Tulsa, and Auburn. Additionally, he wants to become a head coach. You always take a risk with a coordinator, but given his numbers, Malzahn is well worth the risk. Fun stat on Malzahn: As an OC, his offenses have scored 30+ points 58.97% of the time, 40+ points 41.03% of the time, and 50+ points 23.08% of the time.

Mike Leach

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know he has some baggage. Read his book and you will understand that Leach's "baggage" is not really baggage at all. This guy is a great coach and a good man and should be on the list of any program looking to get better on the field. From 1970-1999, the 30-year period before Leach took the reigns at Texas Tech, the Red Raiders won eight or more games only six times. During Leach's ten years at the helm of Texas Tech, he accomplished this feat eight different times. From 2001-2009, among active and inactive head coaches with two years minimum experience, Mike Leach was our 23rd rated head coach. Keep in mind that during this same period, Leach had an average recruiting ranking of 31. Mile Leach is anxious is to get back on the sidelines and Ole Miss would be a great place for Leach to land.

Rich Rodriquez

The Rich Rod Michigan experiment failed, but we don't believe it failed because Rich Rodriguez is a bad coach. The Rich Rod experiment in Michigan failed because Rich Rod wasn't able to find a competent defensive coordinator (for more details, click here). If we were interviewing Rich Rod for a job, our first question would be regarding who he would hire as his defensive coordinator (we hear Mike Stoops is looking for a job). If we liked the answer (of course checking the numbers on the DC's he mentions), Rich Rod would be very high on our list. Even with three very subpar years at Michigan, Rich Rod still won over 60% of his games from 2001-2010, including four seasons with nine or more wins.

Paul Petrino

If you are wondering why Illinois is looking like a respectable program once again, look right past Head Coach Ron Zook to Offensive Coordinator Paul Petrino. Ron Zook's winning percentage without Petrino at Illinois (2005-2009) is 35.00%. Ron Zook's winning percentage with Paul Petrino calling plays for the Fighting Illini is 59.09%. Additionally, Petrino has helped increase Illinois' scoring offense by 25.29% compared to the five years prior. Like his brother Bobby, Paul is not going to win any beauty contests or PR awards, but he is going to help you win football games. Hiring a coordinator brings a certain amount of risk with it, but like with Malzahn, we believe the numbers make the risk one worth taking.

Kevin Sumlin

Since taking the reigns at Houston in 2008, Kevin Sumlin has won 64.44% of his games and has had a top 15 nationally ranked scoring offense in each of his seasons coaching the Cougars. Houston's overall winning percentage in the five years prior to Sumlin's arrival was 53.97%. However, Sumlin did take over a program that Art Briles had resurrected from the cellar of Conference USA. In the two years before Sumlin took over, Briles' Cougars won 66.67% of their games. Additionally, in Sumlin's first two years as Houston's head coach, Dana Holgorsen was running the offense and calling the plays. In 50% of the games Holgorsen has either been the offensive coordinator or head coach, his team has scored 40 points or more. In Sumlin's one year without either Case Keenum at QB or Dana Holgorsen as OC, the Cougars went 5-7. With Keenum back at the helm of the offense, Houston is off to a 9-0 start. Additionally, Sumlin has coached 65.85% of his games at Houston with superior talent. Coach Sumlin has won 70.37% of games when he has superior talent. However, with equivalent or inferior talent, he has won 42.86% (6-8) of the time. So, there are some things we really like about Coach Sumlin, but overall, there are too many question marks to warrant putting him on our A list.

Kirby Smart

When it comes to numbers, there's not much to dislike about Kirby Smart. Since being named the defensive coordinator in 2008, Alabama has won 88.00% of the time and has an average national scoring defensive rank of 3.25. Kirby Smart played in the SEC (UGA) and has spent a large portion of his coaching career in the SEC. He knows the conference and looks like he should be an A-Lister. The reason Coach Smart is not on our A-List is because of what we call the "Belichick Effect". For a while there, if you wanted to become an NFL head coach all you needed to do was work for Bill Belichick. First it was Romeo Crennel, then it was Charlie Weis and Eric Mangini, and finally Josh McDaniels. The last time we checked, not one of these coaches was still a head coach as of the writing of this article. Nick Saban is one of the best minds in college football (especially on the defensive side of the ball), and you have to be careful not to assume that because someone works for a great head coach they will be a great head coach. Additionally, don't forget that since Saban took over at Alabama, the Tide have entered 100% of its games with equal or superior talent. Ole Miss is not Alabama,  and the Rebel Black Bears have entered just over 70% of their games with equal or superior talent. Every job is unique and you have to make sure that you match up the right coach given the job at hand.

June Jones

The biggest problem we have with June Jones is that we can't picture him without that Lei, stache, and Hawaiian shirt. Once we get past this, we like what we see. In the five years prior to Jones taking over at Hawaii, the Fighting Rainbows had won 20.34% of their games. From 1999-2007, Jones won 64.96% of his games and won nine or more games in six of the nine seasons he was head coach. In the five years before Jones took over at SMU, the Mustangs won 25.86% of their games. Since Coach Jones took over in 2008, the Mustangs have won 45.83% of their games (this includes Jones' first year when SMU went 1-11). If SMU can avoid losing their last four games (assuming a bowl bid), they will have seen their first back-to-back-to-back .500 or better seasons since the mid 1980's. His name doesn't get mentioned that much, but June Jones is one heck of a coach.

Mark Hudspeth

Mark Hudspeth is currently in his first year as head coach of the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns. So far in 2011, Hudspeth is off to a 8-2 start. The Ragin' Cajuns have not won more than six games since 1993, so it's safe to say that Coach Hudspeth is having an immediate impact. After the first ten games, the Ragin' Cajuns are scoring 47.78% more points per game compared to 2010. Hudspeth spent the 2009-2010 seasons working as the passing game coordinator under Mississippi St. head coach Dan Mullen. Prior to his stop in Starkville, Hudspeth was the head coach at Division II North Alabama from 2002-2008, where he won 75.86% of his games. It's always risky to hire coaches after one year, but Hudspeth has a nice resume and a history of winning. He knows the state of Mississippi and Southeast and is definitely worth a call.

Hugh Freeze

(see here for pre-season analysis we did on Coach Freeze) One of the primary things we look for in coaches is coaches who are doing things out of the ordinary. In the five years before Hugh Freeze took the head coaching job at Arkansas State, the Red Wolves won 41.67% of their games. In fact Arkansas State has not won more than six games in a season since 1987 when they were playing FCS football. In Freeze's first year at the helm, the Red Wolves are 7-2. Considering that this is the best year they have had since 1987 (there are still three games remaining, all of which the Red Wolves can win), we would call this "out of the ordinary". Making the jump from the Sun Belt to one of the more challenging SEC jobs is not an easy one, and this accounts for Coach Freeze being on our C-List. If some of the bigger names say no, the Rebel Black Bears could do a whole lot worse than Hugh Freeze.

Larry Fedora

Along with Kevin Sumlin, Larry Fedora is probably the most popular flavor of the month in college football. Southern Miss is off to an 8-1 start and has a great chance at a 10+ win season. However, one great year doesn't make a coach great, nor does one lousy year make a coach lousy. In the five years prior to Fedora taking the job in Hattiesburg, the Golden Eagles won 60.94% of their games and had two 9-win seasons. In the nearly four years that Fedora has been the head coach, Southern Miss has won 62.50% of his games. Fedora has always been impressive on the offensive side of the ball, but hasn't always been so impressive in the win-loss column. From 2001-Present, as an OC and HC, Larry Fedora has had top 25 nationally-ranked scoring offenses seven times. However, during this same time period, as an OC and HC, Fedora's teams have lost at least five games in eight of eleven years. Additionally, Southern Miss traditionally has recruiting advantages in Conference USA. Since 2008 when Fedora took over, only UCF has had on average better recruiting classes. In fact, 62.22% of the games Fedora has coached have been with superior talent. We like a lot of things about Fedora, but we don't want to let this year's success blind us to yesterday's red flags.

Chad Morris

If you were truly starting to believe that Dabo Swinney's pre-game speeches were finally starting to take hold at Clemson, then we would like to introduce you to Chad Morris. Three years ago, Chad Morris was coaching high school football in Texas. During a 16-year head coaching career in Texas, Chad Morris won 169 games, including six state championships. In 2010, then Tulsa head coach Todd Graham hired Chad Morris to succeed Gus Malzahn as Tulsa's offensive coordinator. In 2011, Dabo Swinney hired Chad Morris from Tulsa to become Clemson's OC. To say the least, Morris has put up some impressive numbers. In his two years as an OC, Chad Morris' offenses have scored an average of 39.69 points per game and gained a total of 489.42 yards per game. In his 22 games as an OC, Morris has only tasted defeat three times. Morris would be a huge risk for Ole Miss (much smaller than Ed Orgeron of course), but he also might be the next great head coach. Hiring head coaches is much more art than science, but that doesn't mean there's zero science involved. We believe the above list is a list that based on the numbers gives Ole Miss a shot at hiring a successful head coach.

Teaser:
<p> A statistical look at Nutt's tenure at Ole Miss and who might be a good fit to replace him.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - 09:57
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-big-ten-6
Body:

By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)

Post-Week 10 Big Ten Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Michigan State (7-2, 4-1) – In a league where there is clearly no definitive No. 1 team, Michigan State used a Le'Veon Bell fourth-quarter touchdown run to beat lowly Minnesota 31-24 to take over the top spot in the Big Ten. The Spartans were smarting from last week's loss, and it took until 10:58 left in the fourth for MSU to put away the Gophers. Kirk Cousins threw for 296 yards and two scores, but the Spartans defense allowed uncharacteristically long (82-, 83- and 80-yard) scoring drives for Minnesota. The Spartans now control their own Legends Divison destiny with trips to Iowa and Northwestern sandwiched around a visit from Indiana. There is still plenty of work to do, but MSU got the help it needed to get to Indianapolis.

2. Wisconsin (7-2, 3-2) –  This is going to be the season of what-ifs and could-have-beens for Big Red fans. This team looks like the most complete, most talented team in the league but could be on the outside looking in come championship Saturday. The Badgers put up 62 points and 605 yards of offense, including 364 yards rushing, in a blowout win over Purdue. Tailback Montee Ball scored his 22nd, 23rd and 24th touchdowns to bring him within two of the all-time single-season Big Ten record of 26 while rushing for a career-high 223 yards on 20 carries. Russell Wilson (15-of-20, 205 yards, 2 TD) was efficient again and is the nation's No. 1 passer with a 196.6 raing (which would be a new single-season NCAA record). Wisconsin needs help to reach Indy and faces road tests against Minnesota and Illinois before the home finale against Penn State.

3. Penn State (8-1, 5-0) – The Nittany Lions were on bye this week and it likely could not have come at a worse time. Atheltic Director Tim Curley and senior vice president for business and finance Gary Schultz have surrendered to police after charges of child sexual abuse were filed against former PSU assistant Jerry Sandusky. With a three-game finish against Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin, Penn State and its anemic offense cannot afford any distractions as they attempt to earn a berth in the inaugural Big Ten title game.

4. Nebraska (7-2, 3-2) – The Big Ten rollar coaster ride for Cornhuskers fans continued this weekend with a heartbreaking home loss to Northwestern 28-25. The inability of Nebraska to consistently run the football against a defense that had been allowing 32 points and 432 yards per game was the story. Rex Burkhead was held to 69 yards on 22 carries (3.1 ypc) and Taylor Martinez mustered only 53 yards on 12 carries (4.4). The defense, on the other hand, could not stop Northwestern backup quarterback Kain Colter, who accounted for three second-half touchdowns. The Huskers now need to win out against Penn State, Michigan and Iowa and hope for a Michigan State loss in order to reach the Big Ten title game.

5. Ohio State (6-3, 3-2) – Woody Hayes would be proud. Ohio State ran the football with authority and played timely defense in a closer-than-anticipated 34-20 win over Indiana. The Buckeyes had three players top the century mark for the first time since 1989 as Carlos Hyde (15 att., 105 yards, TD), Boom Herron (14 att., 141 yards, TD) and freshman quarterback Braxton Miller (14 att., 105 yards, 2 TD) each contributed in a big way. Miller's 81-yard TD run was the longest scoring jaunt by any FBS quarterback in 2011. Luke Fickell used a Tre Roberson interception with just over four minutes to go in the game to seal the victory for the Buckeyes. OSU visits Purdue, hosts Penn State and plays that team from up North in the wrap-up to the season. 

6. Michigan (7-2, 3-2) – Denard Robinson had four chances to tie the game from the three-yard line and 16 seconds left on the clock. And Shoelace threw not one, two or three but four incompletions to lose 24-16 to the Hawkeyes in Iowa City. In a game of inches, Michigan was on the losing (yet, correct) end of two tough calls in the final minutes that took two touchdowns off the board. In the end, the Wolverines were held to roughly half of their average on the ground (127 yards), and Robinson threw 20 incompletions and one key interception. The dynamic quarterback has topped 63 yards rushing only once in his last five games — a stretch in which UM is 3-2. The Maize and Blue finish with Illinois, Nebraska and that team from down South — and need lots of help to land in the Big Ten title game.

7. Illinois (6-3, 2-3) – Ron Zook hopefully took some time during the bye week to refine his offense. The Illini ranked 13th nationally in rushing offense, were averaging 447.7 yards of total offense and 34.7 points per game after six weeks. Orange Crush was 6-0 then.  Zooker's squad has averaged 312.3 yards per game and has scored 28 total points in the three games since (0-3). With Michigan and Wisconsin up next on the schedule, the offense will need to show marked improvement if Illinois expects to reach eight wins.

8. Iowa (6-3, 3-2) – The Hawkeyes defense was the story of the 24-16 win over Michigan this weekend. The Wolverines entered Saturday leading the Big Ten in rushing at over 250 yards per game. Iowa held Michigan to 127 yards on the ground, got some timely (and correct) officiating and stopped Denard Robinson on four straight pass attempts from the three as time expired. Marcus Coker was the star on offense as he scored twice and rolled up 132 yards on 29 carries. With Michigan State visiting Iowa City this weekend and a trip to Nebraska to end the season, the Hawks still technically control their own destiny in the Legends Division race.

9. Northwestern (4-5, 2-4) – No Dan Persa, no worries. The growth and maturation of Kain Colter were on full display in the Wildcats' 28-25 upset of Nebraska as 17-point underdogs on Saturday. Colter steadily moved his purple offense up and down the field, passing for 115 yards, rushing for 57 and accounting for three second-half touchdowns after Persa left in the third with a shoulder issue. Jeremy Ebert set a personal high with 147 yards, including a massive 81-yard touchdown early in the fourth to put Northwestern up by 11. The defense held the Huskers running game in check all night (122 yards, 3.4 ypc). With Rice and Minnesota up next (followed by the finale with Michigan State), Pat Fitzgerald has his sights set on his fourth straight bowl game.

10. Purdue (4-5, 2-3) – The upset win over Illinois, the hard-nosed tight loss to Penn State and the blowout win over Minnesota seem a distant memory after two postseason-destroying losses. Purdue got pummeled at the hands of Wisconsin 62-17 this Saturday and now has to upset either Ohio State or Iowa at home to get to a bowl game — assuming the Boilermakers can beat Indiana on the road in the season finale.

11. Minnesota (2-7, 1-4) – If nothing else, Jerry Kill's Golden Gophers have shown marked improvement from the early season losses to New Mexico State and North Dakota State. In the last two weeks, Minnesota has upset rival Iowa and pushed Michigan State to the brink before losing 31-24 this weekend. Paul Bunyon's Axe is on the line this weekend with Wisconsin coming to town before the Gophers finish with Northwestern and Illinois. If Minny can pull off one more upset, fans in Minneapolis might have something to be excited about in 2012.

12. Indiana (1-9, 0-6) – The Hoosiers were on the Ohio State 44-yard line, down by seven with less than five minutes to go against the mighty Buckeyes. But freshman Tre Roberson made a bigger mistake than his freshman OSU counterpart Braxton Miller when he threw his lone interception to Travis Howard over the middle to seal IU's fate. Still, the 34-20 road loss was arguably the best showing by Kevin Wilson's bunch all season. Indiana is on bye this week before facing Michigan State and Purdue to finish 2011.

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the Big Ten stack up after the 10th week of action?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-pac-12-5
Body:

By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)

Post-Week 10 Pac-12 Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Stanford (9-0, 7-0) – A road test sandwiched between a triple-overtime thriller and the Pac-12's version of "Game of the Century" against Oregon led to a first half defined by the term "trap game." After a 0-0 score heading into the rainy, cold second quarter in Corvallis, Luck extended the nation's longest winning streak to 17 by outscoring Oregon State 38-13 over the final three periods. Stanford controlled over 40 minutes of possession and outgained OSU 507 to 285 yards. Luck finished with 206 yards and three touchdowns, including two scoring strikes two minutes apart late in the third quarter that put the game out of reach. All of college football should be focused on Palo Alto this weekend when the Oregon Ducks come to town with the Pac-12 race, and potentially the BCS national title, on the line.

2. Oregon (8-1, 6-0) – The Ducks started slow for the second straight week and took a 17-10 lead into halftime against the Washington Huskies in Seattle. But a 28-play, 17-point third quarter gave the Ducks the space they needed to hold on for the 34-17 win. Quarterback Darron Thomas still looked rusty (13-of-25), but LaMichael James has picked up where he left off as the focal point of the Ducks offensive attack - rushing for 156 yards and one touchdowns on 25 carries. The ground game rolled up 212 yards and overpowered the Huskies, but if Chip Kelly expects to beat Stanford on the Farm, he is going to have to get improved play from Thomas under center.

3. USC (7-2, 4-2) – We knew this team would (unfortunately) be the best team in the Pac-12 South. Matt Barkley's NFL skills were on full display on Friday night in the 42-17 road win over Colorado. The Trojan quarterback fired four first-half touchdowns and finished with 318 yards and school-record six touchdowns on 25-of-39 passing. Wideouts Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, who were high school teammates at Junipero Serra (Gardena, Calif.), combined for 18 catches, 254 yards and four of those Barkley touchdowns. USC finishes with a tough schedule: Washington, at Oregon and UCLA at home. It is a shame this team is not allowed to compete in the postseason.

4. Washington (6-3, 4-2) – On a night when the 1991 National Championship team was honored as Washington celebrated its final game in Husky Stadium before a state-of-the-art $250 million renovation, the Ducks spoiled the show. Keith Price was intercepted twice in the first half, but U of W trailed only 17-10 at the break. Then the third quarter happened. Oregon scored 17 points in the third period to push the lead to 34-17. Price was sacked six times on the night as the Husky offense was held to 151 yards under its season average. The uphill climb back to Pac-12 relevance is fully underway, but still has a ways to go in Seattle. The Huskies now finish with road games against USC and Oregon State and The Apple Cup at Qwest Field.

5. Arizona State (6-3, 4-2) – The Sun Devils had ten more first downs (29-19), averaged 5.3 yards per carry on 38 attempts, outgained UCLA 465-416, didn't commit a turnover and were better on third downs than the Bruins. However, when an Alex Garoutte 46-yard field goal attempt fell short (his third miss of the game), UCLA won the only stat that mattered: 29-28 on the scoreboard. This was another example of ASU's inconsistent play under Dennis Erickson. The Devils need to win out, which is a reasonable expectation with Washington State, Arizona and Cal left on tap, and hope for a UCLA loss along the way if Erickson wants to play in the first Pac-12 title game they seemed a lock for a week ago.

6. UCLA (5-4, 4-2) – Head coach Rick Neuheisel continues to add years to his life, despite his team getting completely outplayed by Arizona State. The 29-28 win over the Sun Devils was ugly — the Bruins were outgained, forced no turnovers and needed three missed field goals to win. Kevin Prince called it the "biggest win of his career" as he led a 10-play, 79-yard, 5:00-minute drive culminating in a Derrick Coleman game-winning touchdown with :49 seconds left in regulation. Prince finished 11-of-17 passing for 196 yards and a touchdown to go with his 61 yards rushing on 15 attemps. UCLA now controls its own destiny in the Pac-12 South with Utah, Colorado and USC left to go.

7. Utah (5-4, 2-4) – Utah jumped out to a 17-0 first quarter lead over Arizona and never looked back. Behind quality running from John White IV (27 attempts, 109 yards, 2 TD), effective passing from Jon Hays (12-of-21, 199 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT) and hard-hitting defense (three key forced turnovers), Utah toppled Arizona 34-21 for its second straight Pac-12 win. With UCLA, Colorado and Washington State to finish the 2011 season, Utah now needs only one win to get to its ninth consecutive bowl game.

8. California (5-4, 2-4) – Much-maligned Cal quarterback Zach Maynard, who had tossed seven interceptions in his last three games, protected the football on a damp day at AT&T Park in the 30-7 win over Washington State. Maynard threw a first-drive touchdown to pass to Anthony Miller as Cal surged to a 30-0 lead before the quarterback got hurt recovering a fumble with 4:52 left in the third. Jeff Tedford, who is fighting for his professional life, is now one game from the postseason with Oregon State, Stanford and Arizona State left on the schedule.

9. Arizona (2-7, 1-6) – This weekend's 34-21 loss to Utah featured the seventh 300-yard passing game for Nick Foles. But it was the sixth loss for Foles and the Cats in those seven contests. The big issue has been the big fellas up front. The offensive line is ranked 112th in rushing (94.7 ypg) and is last in the Pac-12 in sacks allowed. Until the Wildcats can move the ball on the ground and protect Foles from taking a beating, Arizona will continue to lose games.

10. Oregon State (2-7, 2-4) – The Beavers played valiant football this weekend — for a quarter. The 0-0 scoreboard after 15 minutes of the Beavers-Cardinal contest quickly turned into a not-so-valiant 38-13 loss to Stanford. Oregon State was outgained by 222 yards, was 2-of-9 on third downs and averaged 1.9 yards per carry. Things aren't getting better in Corvallis for Mike Riley, who is on track for his worst season as the head man of Oregon State (3-8 in 1997).

11. Washington State (3-6, 1-5) – This one has to be one of the more dissappointing performances of the season. The Cougars mustered only 224 yards of offense, converted on only 4-of-16 third down chances and failed to score any points until the 13:38 mark of the fourth quarter. The 30-7 loss to Cal was Wazzu's fifth straight loss with Arizona State, Utah and Washington left to face.

12. Colorado (1-9, 0-6) –
The Buffaloes' secondary will be seeing Matt Barkley throwing touchdowns in their sleep for years to come. Colorado allowed Barkley to break a USC passing record (6 TDs) en route to a non-competitive 42-17 loss to the Men of Troy. Colorado is still searching for its first Pac-12 win and faces Arizona, UCLA and Utah to finish the first-ever trip through west coast football.

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the Pac-12 stack up after Week 10 of action?</p>
Post date: Monday, November 7, 2011 - 11:42
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-week-10-picks
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

The last two weeks of college football have not been kind to me — either as a fan or as a points spread prognosticator. For the second straight week, I "lost" money and finished below .500 despite hitting on my top pick. The market did, in fact, over-correct on Washington and Purdue. The Huskies covered easily and so did Michigan.

And the most exciting streak in sports, Stanford's unbeaten streak against the spread, continued with a most improbable cover. In the third overtime, the Cardinal had to go for two, and it resulted in a 0.5-point cover.

Andrew Luck and company will keep that streak alive for at least one more week...

Season Record ATS: 55-34-3 (5-6 last week)

Week 10's Top Picks:

Stanford (-21) at Oregon State (8-0)
The talent difference between these two is mind-blowing. Stanford has dominated every opponent it has faced for over a year, and that will not change this weekend against a struggling Beavers team that lost to Utah 27-8 last week. Stanford, the only team left unbeaten against the spread in 2011, could easily match last year's 38-0 final score. My Pick: Stanford -21

Missouri (+3) at Baylor
The Bears have lost three of their last four games and have allowed 114 points in their last two (Texas A&M and Oklahoma State). Mizzou is leading the Big 12 in rushing and is coming off a huge road win over Texas A&M (a team that just beat Baylor 55-28). James Franklin has been masterful running the offense, accounting for 11 touchdowns (6 pass, 5 rush) over the last three games. The Tigers should win outright, so take the points and run. My Pick: Mizzou +3

South Carolina (+5) at Arkansas
Apparently, I have not learned my lesson. The Hogs came out flat two weeks in a row against Ole Miss and Vandy, failing to cover both times. But those games, and the flat first half against Texas A&M, kicked-off at noon eastern. This game starts 7:15 ET, and the Hogs will be ready this time for an undermanned Gamecock team. Arkansas beat Carolina 41-20 in Columbia last season, and there is no Marcus Lattimore or Stephen Garcia in the lineup. If you fail to cover for the third consecutive game, you will be dead to me, Arky! You hear me? My Pick: Arkansas -5

Houston (-27.5) at UAB
The poor, poor Blazers. UAB allowed 59 points, including five passing touchdowns, to freshman quarterback AJ Graham and Marshall last week. Just imagine what Case Keenum and his arsenal of weapons will do to the 115th-ranked defense in college football. The Cougars are one of 16 teams in the nation who are 6-2 or better against the spread this fall. My Pick: Houston -27.5

Texas A&M (+13.5) at Oklahoma
Sooners fans, players and coaches remember very well the 33-19 loss to Texas A&M a year ago. That doesn't bode well for the Aggies this weekend. The mentally flimsy football team from College Station has choked in three second halves, and Oklahoma still has its eyes set on a national championship. Look for Landry Jones and company to attack the NCAA's worst pass defense (318.3 ypg, 120th). My Pick: Oklahoma -13.5

Oregon (-16) at Washington

The Huskies are very close to competing for Pac-12 North titles — it just isn't going to happen in 2011. Washington will be able to score, but now that Chip Kelly has his full complement of offensive toys, so too will Oregon. LaMichael James and Darron Thomas combined for five rushing scores and six overall touchdowns in last season's 53-16 win. Look for Oregon to be clicking on all cylinders in what should be a high-scoring game. My Pick: Oregon -16

North Carolina (-3.5) at NC State
This one has gotten chippy this week — which makes it fun for fans, but not the coaches. NC State has taken control over this rivarly, but Russell Wilson, who threw eight touchdowns in three Wolfpack wins over UNC, is no longer under center for Tom O'Brien. NC State is coming off a 34-0 blowout loss to Florida State and will not be able to stop an offense that just dropped 49 on a quality Wake Forest team and 38 on Clemson. North Carolina is just the superior football team. My Pick: North Carolina -3.5

Michigan (-3.5) at Iowa
Rivalry games are always tricky, but the Wolverines are a new, more mentally tough bunch under the new regime. Michigan is 6-2 against the spread this year, and Iowa is coming off its worse loss in years (22-21 to Minnesota). The Maize and Blue made easy work of a pesky Purdue team and are getting more balanced on offense. Look for Denard Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint to excel against what has been an uncharacteristically weak Iowa defense: 76th in total defense, 81st in pass defense and 69th in rushing defense.My Pick: Michigan -3.5

If you're feeling lucky

Purdue (+25) at Wisconsin
The Badgers are angry and back in the friendly confines of Camp Randall. My Pick: Wisconsin -25

Louisville (+13.5) at West Virginia

WVU can score in bunches and has topped the 40-point mark in three of its last four. Louisville has won two straight games it should not have, but is on the road and has not even scored more than 27 all season. My Pick: WVU -13.5

TCU (-19) at Wyoming
The Frogs have won three straight by a total of 92 points and are playing as well as they have since 2010. The Cowboys' 105th-rated defense should be no challenge. My Pick: TCU -19

FIU (-3) at Western Kentucky
Four straight tough wins for WKU have the Hilltoppers thinking bowl game for the first time in their FBS existence. After a hot start, FIU has struggled over the last month, going 2-3 with losses to UL-Lafayette, Arkansas State and Duke. WKU will be fired up at home. My Pick: WKU +3

Kansas State (+20.5) at Oklahoma State
Something has to give. Kansas State is 6-2 on the year against the spread and Oklahoma State is 7-1. The Pokes are chugging along on offense, as Brandon Weeden is playing the most efficient football of his life. KSU is coming off a 58-17 home dismantling at the hands of Oklahoma last week. The Pokes know what is at stake and won't let the Wildcats sneak up on them — although, this has market over-correction written all over it too. My Pick: Oklahoma State -20.5

Special "Game of the Century" Pick ATS

LSU (+4.5) at Alabama
The Crimson Tide is 7-1 on the season against the spread, and across the board, looks like the slightly better football team. It will come down to, shockingly, turnovers, penalties, third-down conversions and special teams. Look for the Tide to Roll on Saturday. My Pick: Alabama -4.5

2011 Trends:

8-0 Against the Spread: Stanford

7-1 Against the Spread: Alabama, Arkansas State, Oklahoma State

6-2 Against the Spread: Houston, Kansas State, LSU, Louisiana Tech, Michigan, New Mexico State, Southern Miss, Temple, UTEP, Vanderbilt, Washington, Western Kentucky

7-2 Against the Spread: Clemson

2-7 Against the Spread: Colorado, Penn State

2-6 Against the Spread: UConn, Kent State, New Mexico, Texas A&M

2-7 Against the Spread: Colorado State, Tulane, Virginia Tech

1-8 Against the Spread: Central Michigan

Other Week 10 Content:

Mitch Light's Top Ten Games of Week 10
Four Ways Alabama Will Win the 'Game of the Century'

Four Ways LSU Will Win the 'Game of the Century'

Nick Saban: The Game's Best Coach

Les Miles: Love Him or Hate Him?

Teaser:
<p> Athlon's Braden Gall offers his top college football picks against the spread each week.</p>
Post date: Friday, November 4, 2011 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, start or sit, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /columns/start-or-sit/nfl-fantasy-football-start-and-sit-week-9
Body:

-by Braden Gall ( @AthlonBraden on twitter)

Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Week 9 Rankings

NFL Bye Weeks: Carolina, Detroit, Jacksonville, Minnesota

Start These Quarterbacks

Matt Ryan, Atlanta (at Indianapolis)
Matty Ice has had two weeks to get his ankle fully healthy, and there is no better way to walk back onto a field than against the Colts pass defense. No team in the NFL is less efficient against the pass than the Colts with their 72.4% completion rate allowed. No team has allowed more passing touchdowns than the Colts' 15. Expect Ryan to reach the Colts’ 258.9 yards allowed per game mark with relative ease.

Eli Manning, NY Giants (at New England)
New England’s woes against the pass are well documented; at 323.1 yards per game, they are more than 30 yards worse than anyone else in the league. Manning is coming off arguably his best game of the season (349-2-0) and should have a field day throwing due to the struggles of his ground game, which will be without Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. Manning produced a tasty 251-4-1 line in his only career regular season start against New England, and we all know what happened in the only postseason meeting (David Tyree, please pick up the red courtesy phone).

Matt Cassel, Kansas City (Miami)
The defeated Dolphins have been bad in all phases of the game but have been particularly putrid against quarterbacks lately. They have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks over the last four games. The emergence of names like Battle and Baldwin only help Cassel’s case to produce this weekend. Miami’s 14:2 TD:INT ratio against is the worst in the NFL, and only the Colts have allowed more TD passes.

Carson Palmer, Oakland (Denver)
The Broncos' 68.1% completion rate against is second-worst in the NFL, and their 14:3 TD:INT ratio against is third-worst in the NFL. Denver just allowed 267-3-0 to Matt Stafford, 197-1-0 (which is world-beating for him) to Matt Moore, 250-1-1 to Philip Rivers and 408-4-1 to Aaron Rodgers over the last four games. Palmer should reach the 249.7 yards allowed per game by Denver and probably reach paydirt at least once – especially with Darren McFadden potentially shelved for this one.

Bench These Quarterbacks

Joe Flacco, Baltimore (at Pittsburgh)
The Ravens quarterback has one touchdown pass in his last four games to go with four interceptions. He also has failed to reach 200 yards in every other game he has played (Weeks 2, 4, 7). With the way Baltimore embarrassed the Steelers in Week 1, there is no way Pittsburgh isn’t clicking on all cylinders on defense this weekend. Oh yeah, the Steelers are No. 1 in the NFL against the pass at 171.6 yards allowed per game.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo (NY Jets)
Reason No. 1 not to like the Harvard grad this week is the uber-talented Jets secondary, which leads the NFL with only four touchdown passes allowed and is tied for fourth with 11 interceptions. And Fitzpatrick has turned the ball over four times in the last two games. Reason No. 2 is Fred Jackson’s 132 attempts and NFL second-best 103 yards per game. The Jets have been susceptible to the ground game, and owners should expect a heavy dose of F-Jax this weekend. This week it’s once again Fitz and the Tempered Expectations that will be Breakin’ the Chains of Love.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (Baltimore)
The Ravens are third in the NFL in pass defense at 174.1 yards per game and are forcing turnovers in typical Ravens fashion. Baltimore has allowed five touchdown passes and has seven interceptions on the year. Big Ben committed five of his 11 total turnovers this season in the Week 1 debacle in Baltimore. Expect him to play better this weekend, but his upside is limited against a defense that is No. 2 in the NFL in sacks (25.0).

Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee (Cincinnati)
In the first four games, Hasselbeck averaged 288 yards per game with eight TDs and three INTs. Since Week 5, the level of competition has increased significantly, and it has shown in Hasselbeck’s production. He has three touchdowns, three interceptions and has averaged 196 yards per game since. The Bengals have allowed only six passing touchdown this fall and are fifth in the NFL in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks in 2011.

Colt McCoy, Cleveland (at Houston)
The Browns passer still is the starter and still throws the ball as much as any quarterback in the league not named Brees. However, the passes are rarely down the field, and the Texans have played stingy pass defense of late. Especially since there will be no running game for the Browns whatsoever.

Start These Running Backs

Shonn Greene, NY Jets (at Buffalo)
Expect Rex Ryan’s re-establishment of the ground game to continue this weekend. Greene, who averaged 12.8 carries per game through four weeks, has topped 20 attempts in all three games since Ryan’s public yearning to run. And Greene’s production has jumped to nearly 90 yards rushing per game. The Bills are 27th in the NFL in yards per carry allowed at a 4.9 clip. Look for lots of Greene this weekend.

Cedric Benson, Cincinnati (at Tennessee)
The Titans are 27th in the NFL against the run at 129.3 yards per game and have allowed a 100-yard rusher in two of their last three contests. Benson is, well, uh, rested after his mandatory penal bye week and will be fresh for what is a huge game with AFC Wild Card implications. Look for Benson to run early and often against the Titans.

LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay (at New Orleans)
Steven Jackson had his best game in years when he rolled up 159 yards (6.4 ypc) and two scores last week against the Saints. Reports are that Blount is back leading the way on offense after missing some time with his sprained MCL. The Saints are allowing a league-low 5.5 yards per carry for the season, and with the recent struggles of the Bucs’ passing game, owners can expect Raheem Morris to attempt to control the clock and keep Drew Brees on the sidelines.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Kevin Faulk, New England (NY Giants)
Faulk is a sneaky play in PPR leagues; he should see plenty of time on third down in what should be a high-scoring affair. Look for Green-Ellis get plenty of touches between the tackles against the NFL’s 28th-rated rush defense (130.1 ypg). Before last week’s five-carry game, BJGE had been averaging nearly 16 carries per game. Owners can expect him to return to that mark in Week 9.

Beanie Wells, Arizona (St. Louis)
Wells might not be fully recovered from his knee injury yet, but fantasy owners could still be in store for big things this weekend. The Rams are allowing a league-worst 165.6 yards per game and have been gashed all season long. Wells is eighth in the NFL in rushing attempts per game (18.8) and should get plenty of touches in an effort to protect Kevin Kolb.

Bench These Running Backs

Chris Johnson, Tennessee (Cincinnati)
One of the biggest bust values of the 2011 season should not be in the lineup this weekend. The overweight and under-motivated tailback has topped the 53-yard mark only one time in 2011. Against the NFL’s No. 2 rush defense (85.4 ypg), which is also No. 2 in the league in forcing fumbles (10) and allows a fourth-best 17.6 points per game, CJ will be nowhere near his former CJ2K self. And in case you missed it, in an easy win over an atrocious Colts defense, Javon Ringer out-paced (19 touches, 102 yards) Mr. Johnson (17 touches, 51 yards) by a wide margin.

Reshard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh (Baltimore)
The Ravens are allowing the second-fewest points in the NFL at 15.7 points per game, are third in the NFL against the run at 89.1 yards per game and only the 49ers have allowed fewer rushing touchdowns than the Ravens' two. Mendenhall has topped the 70-yard mark only once in 2011 and has 26 carries for 102 yards with no TDs over his last two. In six career games against Baltimore, Mendenhall has average 55.0 yards, fumbled twice and scored three times.

Willis McGahee, Denver (at Oakland)
McGahee is crying for a full workload this weekend after missing time with a broken right hand. The pins were inserted, he missed one game and is reported back practicing this week. But how much you can count on him against what should be nine-man front from Oakland remains to be seen. It might be safer to play the wait-and-see game with Willis.

San Diego Chargers (Green Bay)
Ryan Mathews will probably be sitting on the sideline in civilian clothing. Mike Tolbert is active but has been dealing with serious injuries all season long. Curtis Brinkley showed flashes but also is dealing with concussion issues. Jacob Hester might vulture you a touchdown, but the Chargers backfield isn’t likely to produce much of anything this weekend against a Packers defense that has allowed three rushing touchdowns and a solid 102.1 yards per game. Expect Philip Rivers and the passing game to take center stage for Norv Turner.

Start These Wide Receivers

Victor Cruz, Mario Manningham, NY Giants (at New England)
With Hakeen Nicks battling injuries, there should be plenty of space for the also very productive Cruz-Manningham combo to make plays against the worst pass defense in the NFL. The duo combined for 13 catches, 162 yards and two scores last week.

Brandon Lloyd, St. Louis (at Arizona)
After a few weeks in the system, Lloyd showed that he could still be an impact fantasy performer with a tidy 6-53-1 line last week against New Orleans. Arizona is 30th in the NFL against the pass at 277.6 yards allowed per game. Look for Lloyd’s role in the Rams’ offense continue to expand.

Julio Jones, Atlanta (at Indianapolis)
All signs point to Jones being back on the field this week after not playing since the fourth-quarter of Week 5. The Colts defense has been pathetic against, well, anyone on the opposing offense and Jones had back-to-back 100-yard games prior to his injury. If he is starting, play him without concern.

Michael Crabtree, San Francisco (at Washington)
If you are feeling serious lucky, Crabtree could be a sneaky play this week. He has caught 14 passes for 131 yards and a TD in his last two games and seems to be finally working at a level needed to succeed in the NFL.

Malcolm Floyd, San Diego (Green Bay)
Floyd looked like Rivers' top target on Monday night (5-107) and should be used heavily against the banged-up Green Bay secondary. With all of the injuries to the running game, look for the passing game to lead the way for San Diego.

Deion Branch, New England (NY Giants)
Wes Welker is still not 100% and Branch has been solid over the last month or so. Since disappearing for two weeks, Branch has caught 14 passes for 179 yards and two scores in three games.

Bench These Wide Receivers

Stevie Johnson, Buffalo (NY Jets)
Welcome to Revis Island. The Jets have been excellent on the edge against receivers all season long as they have allowed only four touchdowns to go with 11 interceptions. Stay away.

Brandon Marshall, Miami (at Kansas City)
Brandon Flowers is one of the NFL's most underrated covermen and will likely draw the assignment this weekend. Marshall will get his targets, but Matt Moore will struggle against a secondary that is second in the NFL with 13 interceptions.

Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (Baltimore)
The hard-working Brown has come to life with two great games in a row (7-102, 9-67-1) in a row. But Baltimore has been downright parsimonious against the pass this season. He caught two passes for 14 yards in the season opener in Baltimore.

Start These Tight Ends

Brent Celek, Philadelphia (Chicago)
Michael Vick has finally realized what type of weapon he has in Mr. Celek. I will take 18 targets, 11 receptions, 136 yards and a score in two weeks all day long.

Dustin Keller, NY Jets (at Buffalo)
Mark Sanchez still looks to Keller as a safety valve, and Keller has topped 50 yards in two straight games. Keller also scored twice against Buffalo last season and should be needed this week.

Jake Ballard, NY Giants (at New England)
Quietly becoming a steady fantasy producer at tight end after his fourth straight game with at least three catches and third straight game of at least 55 yards. He also scored twice over that four-game span, and the Pats are horrendous against the pass.

Bench These Tight Ends

Vernon Davis, San Francisco (at Washington)
Has topped 50 yards only once this season and has five total catches for 35 yards in last two games. Look for the ground game and receivers to get most of the offensive work this week.

Scott Chandler, Buffalo (NY Jets)
Don’t get sucked in by the two-touchdown performance last week. He has one game of more than two receptions and that was back in Week 1. Don’t do it!

Start These Defenses/Special Teams

San Francisco 49ers (at Washington)
The Niners are the No. 3-ranked fantasy defense this season and have yet to allow a rushing touchdown. The Skins O-Line is no match.

Oakland Raiders (Denver)
Tim Tebow is under center. Willis McGahee is banged up. Oakland is at home and needs a key division win.

Cincinnati Bengals (at Tennessee)
They have scored three weeks in a row, and Matt Hasselbeck has little to work with this weekend.

Bench These Defenses/Special Teams

Chicago Bears (at Philadelphia)
Michael Vick has been more stable of late, and the ground game figures to be featured prominently.

San Diego Chargers (Green Bay)
Aaron Rodgers protects the ball and could put up a big number on the struggling secondary.

Buffalo Bills (NY Jets)
Expect the Jets to run the football and minimize mistakes. Sanchez won’t take risks in this one.
 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports Week 9 NFL Fantasy Start and Sit.</p>
Post date: Friday, November 4, 2011 - 07:50
All taxonomy terms: Les Miles, LSU Tigers, College Football
Path: /college-football/les-miles-love-him-or-hate-him
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- by CoachesByTheNumbers.com

If you asked ten LSU fans last year their thoughts on Les Miles, five would say they love him and five would say they wouldn't be too disappointed if he took another job.

Let's get beyond the fickleness of the fans, take emotion completely out of the equation, and see what the numbers have to say about the Mad Hatter.

Before we get into the numbers on Miles, let's look at some quick numbers from LSU's football history to gather some perspective of the program's prestige.

Team Years Record WP% 10-Win Seas. SEC Champs Natl. Champs
LSU 1980-1999 124-100 55.4% 2 2 0

Over the 20 year period from 1980-1999, LSU football only won 24 more games than they lost. During this 20 year period, LSU only had two 10-win seasons and won only two SEC Championships. Nick Saban took the reigns in 2000 and here is what ensued:

Years Record WP% 10-Win Seasons Conf. WP% SEC Champs Natl. Champs CBTN Rating
2000-2004 48-16 75% 2 73.68% (56-20) 1 1

Clearly Nick Saban had a pretty large impact on LSU's program. He increased the WP% by 20 percentage points and had the same number of 10-win seasons as LSU did in the previous 20 years. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the National Championship he brought home. Given that LSU has only won seven national titles in school history, we can probably agree that this is a pretty big deal.

NOTE: LSU officially claims three national championships in 1958, 2003 & 2007, however, the school has been recognized as national champions by polling organizations on four additional occasions: 1908, 1935, 1936 and 1962.

Now, let's dive into Les Miles' numbers:

Years Record WP% 10-Win Seasons Conf. WP% SEC Champs Natl. Champs CBTN Rating
2005-2011 70-17 80.46% 4 72.22% (39-15) 1 1

Let's take a look at a few other data sets on Miles (rank below is for active and inactive coaches since 2001 with minimum of 3 years experience and only reflects their time coaching in the SEC)

School WP% in Close Games (4 pts. or less) Rank Among SEC Coaches in Close Games WP% in Blowouts (15 pts. or more) Rank Among SEC Coaches in Blowouts
LSU 68.42 (13-6) 2 (out of 18) 92.50 (37-3) 1 (out of 18)

_________________________________________________________________

School

WP% Against Teams Over .500 Rank Among SEC Coaches WP% Against Teams Under .500 Rank Among SEC Coaches
LSU 67.39% (31-15) 2 (out of 18) 93.94% (31-2) 4 (out of 18)

A huge aspect/trait that so many people value in a coach is recruiting. Let's look at how good of a job Les Miles has done in that area compared to his predecessor:

Coach Years Avg. Recruiting Rank Avg. Stars Per Recruit
Nick Saban 2002-2004 6.33 3.34
Les Miles 2005-2011 8.29 3.61

So on the recruiting trail, his classes are ranked almost the same as Saban, and his average player is actually better. From the looks of the numbers, Les Miles has done a pretty solid job of maintaining and building upon what Nick Saban built at LSU.

The "game of the century" this weekend will feature the two top defenses in the country. One stat that we track that we find interesting is the number of times a team gives up 10+, 20+, 30+, 40+, and 50+ points. You can check these numbers out on our Coach's Rankings tab.

Since Les Miles got to LSU in 2005, LSU defenses give up less than 10 pts 32.18% of the time. Even more impressive, LSU defenses under Miles give up less than 20 pts in 58.62% of their games. The game this weekend in Tuscaloosa, while only a regular season game, plays a prominent role in the BCS National Championship picture. So hopefully we have shown with our data that Les Miles is a terrific coach and has built upon what Saban left for him.

For those LSU fans that think that is an easy task, you need to look no further than LSU offensive assistant Steve Kragthorpe. Go ask him how easy it was to build upon Bobby Petrino's success at Louisville.

We look forward to tuning in along with the rest of the country to watch two great teams and two great coaches go to battle on Saturday night.

Teaser:
<p> What do the numbers say about Les Miles' tenure as head coach of the LSU Tigers?</p>
Post date: Friday, November 4, 2011 - 07:45
Path: /college-football/nick-saban-games-best-head-coach
Body:

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com

With the big showdown coming up in Tuscaloosa this weekend, it is only appropriate we write a piece on Nick Saban.

Though this game is being hyped by the media as one of the biggest college football games of all time, big games such as these are nothing new to Nick Saban. A true journeyman over the last 15 years, Saban has made stops at Michigan State, LSU, the Miami Dolphins, and Alabama. The interesting aspect of this game is that Nick Saban played a prominent role in elevating both schools to where they are today. It could be argued that if it weren’t for Nick Saban’s work over the last decade, this game might not carry any relevance whatsoever.

While Les Miles has taken what Saban left him at LSU and improved on it, the real story here is Nick Saban and his legacy as a college football coach.

So let’s take a trip down memory and look at the impact Saban has had at LSU and Alabama and how he has shaped what this game on Saturday means to college football. The revisionist historian would tell you that anyone can win at LSU and Alabama with the resources and talent at the disposal of the head coach. However, winning big hasn't always been the norm at either school. Take a quick look at the record books and you will find the following:

  • Prior to Nick Saban taking over at LSU in 2000, the Tigers had won only 55% of their games from 1980-1999.  During this twenty year period, LSU had 10 losing seasons.
  • Prior to Nick Saban taking over at Alabama in 2007, the Crimson Tide had won 57% of their games in the five preceding years his arrival. During this period, the Crimson Tide went 19-21 in conference play.

What this tells us is that, contrary to popular belief, not just anyone can walk into these programs and start winning. Often these so-called “football factories” don’t actually become “football factories” until a good coach comes in, implements a system, and sets the tone for winning. This was certainly the case for Saban at LSU and Alabama.

  • From 2000-2004, Saban's LSU Tigers won 75% of their overall games and 71.43% of SEC games before leaving to try his luck in the NFL.
  • From 2007-Present, Saban's Crimson Tide have won a remarkable 82% of their overall games and 79.49% of SEC games. Also keep in mind that 54.55% of Saban's 11 losses at Alabama came in his first season.

To go along with his exceptional turnarounds of LSU and Alabama, Saban has also won three SEC Championships and two BCS National Championships, all while competing in the toughest conference in college football. Through all of this success, Saban has been the only common denominator amongst his coaching staffs. While assistant coaches like Will Muschamp, Derek Dooley, and Jimbo Fisher leaving to take head coaching positions might have a negative impact on a coach, Saban just reloads his staff and continues his dominance. One of the core tenets we believe in at CBTN is that many of the great Head Coaches are masters of a particular craft and control a particular aspect of the game. For Nick Saban that craft is defense and that has been the staple of his teams for the last decade.

  • From 2001-2004, LSU’s defense gave up an average of 17 pts/game and under 300 yds/game (298). Pretty amazing considering the program Saban took over.
  • From 2007-Present, Alabama has averaged giving up 12 pts/game and only 244 yds/game in total defense.

This truly is a “lockdown” defense. Combine Saban's defense with a competent offense and you have a nearly unstoppable force. For comparison, John Chavis, the Five Star defensive coordinator at LSU, has averaged giving up 18 pts/game and 311 yds/game in total defense in the same time frame. We bring this up because “By The Numbers” Chavis is the second best defensive coordinator in the SEC, and he's giving up almost a TD/game more than Saban and 67 more yds/game…and that is the closest anyone is in the conference to Saban's defense.

So it is clear to us that Saban is a defensive mastermind who has a knack for consistently locking down his opponents. Combine this with Saban’s attention to detail and the fact that all he seems to care about in life is winning football games and you have yourself quite the formidable opponent. All of this brings us to this weekend's matchup, a prime time game featuring two of the programs that Saban revived from the depths of mediocrity.

So what should we be looking for this weekend in Tuscaloosa?

First off, the game is in Tuscaloosa. What does this mean for Alabama? Well, Saban is 29-4 in home games at Alabama. If you take out his first season coaching the Tide, he is 26-1 at home. Say all you want, but home games matter in today’s high pressure televised world of college football.

Second, while we know Alabama’s defense is stingy, their offense isn’t too shabby either. In SEC games so far in 2011, Alabama ranks first in Rushing Offense, Scoring Offense, and Total Offense, to go along with their #1 rank in conference games in Rushing Defense, Total Defense, and Scoring Defense.

Third, a somewhat low scoring affair should favor Alabama. The average score for Alabama-LSU game from 2007-Present is 27-25. At Alabama, Saban's defenses are near the very top in giving up less than 30 pts. In fact, they give up 30+ pts only 10% of the time compared to LSU giving up 30+ pts 18% of the time from 2007-Present (see detailed numbers here). Also, from 2007-Present, Alabama wins 89% (49-6) of the time when they score 20+ pts in a game . LSU wins 85% (46-8) of the time when scoring 20+ pts in the same time frame (details here).

Finally, from 2001-Present, Nick Saban is 6-5 (55%) in games vs. Top 5 teams (time of game), and Les Miles is 6-9 (40%) vs. Top 5 teams (time of game). As you can see, Nick Saban has played a prominent role in elevating both LSU and Alabama to elite status. Without his influence, there is no telling the direction both of these programs would’ve taken.

As an overall body of work (2001-Present), we have Saban ranked as our #2 coach. However, if you customize our ranking to just include his time at Alabama (2007-Present), he quickly becomes #1. Put simply, since taking the reigns at Alabama, Nick Saban is the best college football coach in the country and will probably go down as one of the best of all-time.


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If you go to our Gamblers Corner and enter Nick Saban, you will find the following interesting tidbit for Saban:

  • From 2007-Present: In Home Games vs. SEC opponents with an O/U between 40 and 50, the “under” hits 77% (10 out of 13) of the time.
Teaser:
<p> A statistical look at just how much Nick Saban will impact this weekend's LSU-Alabama game.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 08:00
Path: /columns/heisman-watch/athlon-sports-heisman-voting-week-10
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Each week, the Athlon editors will vote on the most prestigious award in all of college football. A nine-man conglomerate of college football gurus from Athlon Sports will vote for their top 10 Heisman Trophy candidates. The votes will be tallied and the result will be posted as the Athlon Sports Heisman Watch List every Wednesday of the regular season.

Note: The scoring system is as follows: A first place vote earns a player 10 points. A second place votes earns nine points - so on and so forth until the 10th place player receives one point.

With 3:08 left in the game, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck saw his pass land in the waiting arms of USC defensive back Nickell Robey. Robey proceeded to rumble 33 yards to the end zone to give the Trojans the lead, 34-27. The Stanford quarterback then showed the nation why he has been atop the Athlon Sports Heisman voting every single week of the 2011 season. Ten plays and 76 yards later, Luck had led Stanford down the field for the game-tying touchdown with 38 seconds left. He then led his team to three touchdowns and a two-point conversion in three overtime periods before his defense forced a fumble to keep the Cardinal's national title hopes alive.

Alabama's Trent Richardson is inching his way closer to Mr. Luck and has arguably the biggest stage in college football history on which to showcase his skills this weekend. Stay tuned.

1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (89/90 total points, 8/9 first place votes)
Season Stats: 174/242, 2,218 yards, 23 TD, 4 INT, 25 att., 119 yards, 2 TD

Luck finished the 56-48 thriller in the Coliseum 29-of-40 for 330 yards, three touchdowns and one big interception with nine carries, 36 yards and a rushing score as well. Luck was good for the better part of four quarters, made one bad pass and then turned in a sparkling final drive and overtime performance. The Heisman, Pac-12 title and potential National Championship will be on the line in two weeks when Oregon comes to the Farm. Next Game: at Oregon State

  Name Pos. Team Pts 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Ballots
1. Andrew Luck QB Stanford 89 8 1 - - - 9
2. Trent Richardson RB Alabama 81 1 7 1 - - 9
3. Kellen Moore QB Boise State 66 - 1 5 1 1 9
4. Brandon Weeden QB Oklahoma State 45 - - - 4 1 8
5. Robert Griffin III QB Baylor 45 - - 1 - 3 9
6. Russell Wilson QB Wisconsin 36 - - 1 - 1 9
7. Case Keenum QB Houston 34 - - - 1 - 8
8. Landry Jones QB Oklahoma 33 - - - 1 2 8
9. Ryan Broyles WR Oklahoma 18 - - 1 - - 5
10. Tajh Boyd QB Clemson 16 - - - 1 1 4
11. David Wilson RB Virginia Tech 10 - - - 1 - 3
12. Rex Burkhead RB Nebraska 9 - - - - - 3
13. Sammy Watkins WR Clemson 5 - - - - - 1
14. Justin Blackmon WR Oklahoma State 3 - - - - - 1
15. Denard Robinson QB Michigan 2 - - - - - 2
16. Matt Barkley QB USC 2 - - - - - 1
17. Joseph Randle RB Oklahoma State 1 - - - - - 1

2. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (81)
Season Stats: 149 att., 989 yards, 17 TD, 18 rec., 212 yards, TD

Richardson has had two weeks — and the better part of a calendar year — to prepare for the LSU Tigers defense. This is the biggest regular season college football platform since the 2009 SEC championship game between Bama and Florida. LSU has allowed five total rushing touchdowns and 76.6 yards rushing per game (third nationally) thus far in 2011. Next Game: LSU

3. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State (66)
Season Stats: 174/228, 2,010 yards, 24 TD, 5 INT, 8 att., (-12) yards

As candidates lose games around him, Moore continues to move up in the Athlon Heisman voting. Even on a bye week, Moore jumped Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson due to each losing his second consecutive game. With an easy test against the Rebels, Moore should become the NCAA's all-time winningest quarterback with his 46th victory as the starter. Next Game: at UNLV

4. Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State (45)
Season Stats: 246/345, 2,710 yards, 22 TD, 7 INT, 14 att., (-85) yards

Weeden completed 24-of-36 passes for 274 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in the 59-24 destruction of the Baylor Bears. It was the fifth time this season Weeden threw at least three touchdowns, and it was only the third time he failed to reach 300 yards. However, the Pokes passer has his team ranked third in the BCS standings and has tossed 14 touchdowns against a single pick over his last five games. He is hot at the right time — as his continued rise up these rankings indicates. Next Game: Kansas State

5. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (45)
Season Stats: 175/232, 2,375 yards, 23 TD, 4 INT, 88 att., 322 yards, 3 TD

Griffin III still might be the most invaluable piece of any team in the nation; however, unless that team starts winning games, RG3 won't make it to New York. The numbers are still there. Try 33-of-50 passing for 425 yards, 27 yards rushing and two total touchdowns. But Baylor lost in another blowout 59-24 to Oklahoma State and fellow Heisman candidate Brandon Weeden. Next Game: at Missouri

6. Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (36)
Season Stats: 129/181, 2,033 yards, 19 TD, 3 INT, 38 att., 200 yards, 3 TD, 1 rec., 25 yards, TD

Wilson got no help from his ground game in the heartbreaking 33-29 defeat at the hands of the Buckeyes — not to mention the the defensive secondary. Wilson did his best to rally the troops as he led the Badgers on a furious fourth-quarter comeback. The talented quarterback led Big Red to three touchdowns in the final 19:23 of play to take a 29-26 lead with 1:18 left in the game. But the defense let him down for the second straight week. His plane tickets to New York might need to be switched to Richmond, V instead. Next Game: Purdue

7. Case Keenum, QB, Houston (34)
Season Stats: 218/303, 3,219 yards, 23 TD, 2 INT, 26 att., 40 yards

Is 534 yards and nine touchdowns a good thing? Keenum needed only 24 completions to hit those marks in Thursday's 73-34 win over Rice as he threw scoring strikes of 57, 21, 64, 18, 41, 20, 37, 22 and 47 yards. The Cougars passer is now the NCAA's all-time leader in touchdown passes (139) to go with his ever-growing NCAA total offense record of 17,692 yards. Barring a Miracle on Ice-type performance from the Blazers, Keenum will be the NCAA's all-time leading passer by this time next week. He needs only 267 yards to break Timmy Chang's record of 17,072.  Next Game: at UAB

8. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma (33)
Season Stats: 236/355, 3,094 yards, 26 TD, 9 INT, 14 att., 22 yards, 2 TD

After failing miserably, Jones had his Sooners loaded for bear against the unbeaten Kansas State Wildcats. Jones threw for 505 yards and five touchdowns in the dominating 58-17 road win over KSU. Oklahoma's all-time leading passer has his team poised to get back into the national title picture as the top one-loss team in the BCS standings. If OU can win out and Jones can continue to post huge numbers (without the interceptions), he could sneak back into the Heisman mix. Next Game: Texas A&M

8. Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma (18)
Season Stats: 81 rec., 1,070 yards, 10 TD, 18 PR, 187 PR yards

The Broyles reception train continues to roll along at a staggering 347 career catches. In a huge road win over unblemished Kansas State, No. 85 recorded 14 grabs for 171 yards and his 45th career trip to paydirt. Broyles is now leading the nation in receiving yards per game (133.7 ypg) and is No. 2 nationally in receptions per game (10.1 rpg). There might not be a more productive receiver in college football history. Both of these Sooners are lurking in the Heisman weeds just waiting for candidates to fall by the wayside. Next Game: Texas A&M

10. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson (16)
Season Stats: 172/278, 2,379 yards, 24 TD, 3 INT, 81 att., 165 yards, 4 TD

Clemson is a perfect example of how every team needs to be prepared to play every weekend. Georgia Tech stormed to a big lead before Boyd finally cracked the end zone late in the second half. However, it was too little, too late for the Tigers as the defense could never get the ball back to Boyd in key spots in the second half (the turnovers didn't help, either). Boyd finished 23-of-40 passing for 295 yards and one touchdown in the 31-17 loss. Next Game: Bye week

Previous Voting:

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 9
Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 8

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 7

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 6

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 5

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 4

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 3

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 2

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 1

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports Heisman Voting: Week 10</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-big-ten-5
Body:

By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)

Post-Week 9 Big Ten Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Nebraska (7-1, 3-1) – The recipe for success against Michigan State was simple: Establish the ground game, don't ask Taylor Martinez to do to much and rattle Kirk Cousins. Nebraska rushed for 190 yards, Martinez needed only 13 pass attempts and Cousins played flustered all game long in the Huskers' 24-3 win over Sparty. Rex Burkhead (who should be on more Heisman ballots) was the star of the offense with 36 touches for 157 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns, while the Blackshirts defense made life miserable for Cousins. The Michigan State quarterback threw an INT on MSU's first drive and connected on only four of his first 16 attempts. Cousins finished 11-of-27 for only 86 yards and was lucky to toss only the one pick. Nebraska held Michigan State to 3-of-14 on third down, and controlled the clock with 80- and 89-yard third quarter scoring drives. Nebraska is now in full control of the Legends Division and is 6-0 against Sparty all-time. Northwestern comes to town this weekend.

2. Michigan State (6-2, 3-1) – "What a difference a week makes," Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio told the AP after Saturday's 24-3 loss to Nebraska. With the Legends Division championship essentially on the line, the Spartans played uninspired football. Quarterback Kirk Cousins once again played poorly on the road (86 yards, 0 TD, INT), the offensive line couldn't create running lanes (30 att., 101 yards, 3.4 ypc) and the receivers were not getting open. After beating Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin, the Spartans couldn't win arguably the most important game of the month and will now need Nebraska to lose if they expect to get to Indianapolis in December. Things get easier for Michigan State, however, as the Spartans get Minnesota at home this weekend with Iowa, Indiana and Northwestern still left on the schedule.

3. Wisconsin (6-2, 2-2) –  Pick your poison, Badgers fans: bad luck or miscommunication? A week after a lucky Hail Mary beat them with no time left on the clock, Wisconsin fell to Ohio State on another 40-yard touchdown pass in the final 30 seconds. Freshman Braxton Miller hit Devin Smith in the end zone with 20 seconds on the clock to beat UW 33-29. The Badgers, as is customary in the Horseshoe, could not run the football with any success and instead turned to Russell Wilson. The talented quarterback led Big Red to three touchdowns in the final 19:23 of play to take a 29-26 lead with 1:18 left in the game. Miller made the biggest play of all, however, by evading tacklers, rolling right and heaving it to a wide-open Smith for the game-winner. Wisconsin gets Purdue at home this week as its Leaders title hopes have shrunk to a glimmer.

4. Michigan (7-1, 3-1) – This is what Maize and Blue fans expected when they hired Brady Hoke. The Wolverines dominated the Boilermakers 36-14 by handing the ball to a tailback 20 times and by playing great defense — something that hasn't happened at Michigan in years. Fitzgerald Toussaint rushed for a career-high 170 yards and scored twice to keep the Big Ten title hopes alive in Ann Arbor. The defense held Purdue to 89 yards rushing (106 yards below their average) and 3-of-13 on third downs. Michigan controlled the game with more than 36 minutes of possession and 339 yards rushing. Denard Robinson finished 9-of-14 for 170 yards and 63 yards rushing on 15 carries. Michigan now has back-to-back road trips against Iowa and Illinois before hosting Nebraska and Ohio State to finish.

5. Penn State (8-1, 5-0) – Who has the best record in the conference? Yup, the Penn State Nittany Lions. The only Big Ten team left unbeaten in conference play overcame poor weather, six fumbles and a game-tying field goal attempt to beat Illinois 10-7. After a Silas Redd touchdown run with 1:08 left in the fourth quarter, Illinois drove to Penn State's 25 yard-line. But a Derek Dimke 42-yard field goal plunked off the right upright as time expired, giving Joe Paterno an NCAA D-I all-time record 409th win. While Penn State owns the best record in the league at 5-0, the Nits have yet to play Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin, so there is plenty of work left to be done.

6. Ohio State (5-3, 2-2) – The Ohio State University is still alive for a BCS bowl bid after an electrifying 33-29 win over the Badgers. Buckeyes fans watched true frosh quarterback Braxton Miller, with a little help from an inspired Boom Herron (33 att., 160 yards), come of age Saturday night. The talented youngster was impossible to tackle all night long, scoring twice on the ground to go with his 99 yards rushing. Yet, the biggest play he made all night involved his right arm. Miller, after Ohio State surrendered a 26-14 fourth-quarter lead in less than three minutes, slid right along the line of scrimmage past UW defenders before throwing across his body to a wide-open Devin Smith in the end zone with 20 seconds left on the clock. The 40-yard touchdown pass gave Ohio State the win — and kept OSU's Big Ten title hopes alive in the process. The Bucks tour the Hoosier State over the next two weeks with Indiana and Purdue as the next two before finishing with huge games against Penn State and that school up North.

7. Illinois (6-3, 2-3) – The Illini's 6-0 start feels like a decade ago. Illinois lost its third straight game this weekend when a Derek Dimke 42-yard field goal attempt struck the right upright with no time remaining in snowy Beaver Stadium. The defense has played solid football of late, but the offense has laid three eggs in a row. Nathan Scheelhaase threw for 63 yards and led the team to 286 total yards of offense and 3.8 yards per carry on 50 attempts. Still, Illinois had its chances. Penn State needed a fourth-down pass interference penalty to score its only touchdown with 1:08 left, and Dimke missed the game-tying field goal by inches. Illinois fans, after four total touchdowns in three games, are left to wonder "what if" about 2011. Michigan and Wisconsin come to town next.

8. Iowa (5-3, 2-2) – Iowa had a chance to enter November as a co-leader atop the Legends Division but choked on apple sauce in Minneapolis. Iowa outgained Minnesota 446 to 371, picked up six more first downs, turned the ball over only once and won the time-of-possession battle but lost the only statistic that matters in the 22-21 loss. Marcus Coker had his best game since his breakout bowl performance, running for 252 yards on 32 carries. It was the Hawkeye defense that couldn't get the job done in crunch time as they watched MarQueis Gray's fourth-down two-yard sprint to the endzone win the game for Minnesota with 2:48 left in the game. Iowa is now one game behind the Michigan schools and Nebraska in the Legends standings with all three left on the schedule. The Wolverines come to Iowa City this weekend.

9. Northwestern (3-5, 1-4) – The Wildcats were one yard away from the rare 300-300 game in their 59-38 win over Indiana this weekend. With 317 yards rushing and 299 yards passing, Northwestern picked up its first Big Ten win of the season. Backup quarterback Kain Colter is developing into a quality receiving option for Dan Persa, catching six passes for 115 yards against the Hoosiers. However, tight end Drake Dunsmore, with his 112 receiving yards, was the star of the offense as four of his seven catches went for touchdowns. The Wildcats now visit Nebraska.

10. Purdue (4-4, 2-2) – The Boilermakers have alternated wins and losses every single week of the 2011 season. So after a 36-14 thumping at the hands of Michigan, conventional wisdom would point to a win for Danny Hope's bunch this weekend. A trip to Camp Randall to face what has to be the nation's most unlucky (and likely angriest) team puts the trend in jeopardy. Purdue allowed 339 yards rushing to Michigan and mustered only 89 yards on the ground. Expect more of the same this weekend.

11. Minnesota (2-6, 1-3) – Throw out the records when the Floyd of Rosedale is on the line. For the second straight year, Minnesota has upset the Iowa Hawkeyes in dramatic fashion. MarQueis Gray, who scored in last season's upset as a running back/wide receiver, led the way in the 22-21 win as the man under center this time. Gray completed 11-of-17 passes for 193 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions to go with 62 yards rushing and the game's winning touchdown run with less than three minutes to play. Jerry Kill has Mr. Gray to thank for his first Big Ten win of 2011.

12. Indiana (1-8, 0-5) – The good news in Bloomington is that Indiana scored a season-high 38 points on offense. The bad news in Bloomington is that it allowed a season-high 59 points to Northwestern. The Hoosiers rank last in the Big Ten in rushing defense, total defense and scoring defense. Quarterback Tre Roberson is the lone bright spot, as the freshman rushed for 121 yards, threw for 169 yards and scored two touchdowns.

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the Big Ten stack up after the 9th week of action?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 - 06:40
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-pac-12-4
Body:

By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)

Post-Week 9 Pac-12 Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Stanford (8-0, 6-0) – It took nine weeks and three overtimes, but Stanford has finally taken over the top slot in Athlon Sports' Pac-12 Power Rankings. The 56-48 triple-overtime win over USC in the Coliseum extended the Cardinal's winning streak to 16 games, as quarterback Andrew Luck put his Heisman resume on display. He directed four late scoring drives — the most important coming directly after a pick-six with three minutes left in the fourth that had appeared to give the Trojans the win. Luck led a 10-play, 76-yard touchdown drive to tie the game at 34 with 38 seconds left in regulation. Stanford scored touchdowns in all three overtime periods. The Cardinal travel to Corvallis to play Oregon State this weekend before the November 12 showdown in Palo Alto against the Ducks.

2. Oregon (7-1, 5-0) – Darron Thomas and LaMichael James were back on the field for the game against Washington State this weekend. However, neither played a big role in the 43-28 win over the Cougars. Thomas (8/13, 156 yards, TD, 2 INT) and the Ducks struggled to a 15-10 halftime score before Chip Kelly inserted Bryan Bennett at quarterback. Oregon proceeded to outscore the Cougs 28-18 in the second half for its 21st straight home victory. James led the team in carries (13 att., 53 yards), but Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas did the most damage. The pair of backups accounted for 269 all-purpose yards and scored three touchdowns in three different ways (rushing, receiving, kickoff return). Darron Thomas is still the starter and did not appear to have any limitations mobility-wise. Oregon has a tricky game at Washington this weekend before heading to Stanford in two weeks.

3. Arizona State (6-2, 4-1) – After a loss to Oregon and a bye week, Arizona State showed why it will be the Pac-12 South's representative in the conference's first title game. Showing excellent offensive balance, the Sun Devils kept Colorado winless in the Pac-12 by thumping the Buffs 48-14. Arizona State rushed for 207 yards and four scores on the ground while throwing for 315 yards and two scores through the air. ASU leads the league in turnover margin at +1.5 per game and gets four winnable opponents to finish 2011: at UCLA, at Washington State, Arizona and Cal.

4. USC (6-2, 3-2) – Lane Kiffin and the Trojans can carry their heads high after a valiant 56-48 triple-overtime loss to Stanford. A timely penalty against T.J. McDonald and four fumbles — the only one USC lost ended the game — cost the Men of the Troy the win. The offensive line and the ground game were excellent (23 att., 148 yards, 2 TD) while Matt Barkley exhibited leadership and poise (284 yards, 3 TD). This team is clearly very talented and has showed marked improvement over the course of the season, so Washington (Nov. 12) and Oregon (Nov. 19) need to be careful or the Trojans will have something to say about the Pac-12 title after all. Next up, however, is a trip to Boulder to play the Buffaloes on Friday night.

5. Washington (6-2, 4-1) – After a demoralizing loss to Stanford, the Huskies got back into the win column with a 42-31 home win over Arizona. Junior tailback Chris Polk was on full display and has further cemented his long-term legacy as one of the Huskies' best. He became the first player in Washington history with 100 yards rushing and receiving and scored five touchdowns (4 rush, 1 rec.). After falling behind 10-0 at the end of the first quarter, Washington outscored the Wildcats 42-21 behind 38 touches for Polk. Keith Price struggled a bit with three interceptions and completed only 53.3% of his passes, but his defense forced four timely turnovers to keep Arizona at bay in the second half. The Huskies get a second chance to prove themselves this weekend as the Oregon Ducks come to Seattle.

6. Utah (4-4, 1-4) – After a slow first 20 minutes of action, one of the Pac-12's newest members finally got a conference win. The Utes thoroughly controlled the line of scrimmage in a 27-8 win over Oregon State. Utah averaged over five yards per carry on 44 attempts (225 yards) while holding the Beavers to only 32 yards rushing on 26 attempts. John White IV was the star of the offense, carrying the ball 35 times for a career-high 205 yards. His 114.4 yards per game are good for third in the Pac-12. The Ute defense forced four turnovers and sacked Sean Mannion six times. Kyle Whittingham will look to keep momentum going as Utah travels to Arizona this weekend.

7. UCLA (4-4, 3-2) – Head coach Rick Neuheisel might have saved his job in the Coaching Hot Seat Bowl with Cal's Jeff Tedford. UCLA caused five turnovers and rushed for 294 yards to hand the not-so-Golden Bears a surprisingly one-sided 31-14 loss. Quarterback Kevin Prince rushed for 163 yards while Johnathan Franklin (13 att., 45 yards, TD) and Derrick Coleman (16 att., 80 yards, 3 TD) did all the scoring. Freshman safety Tevin McDonald was the star of the defense as he intercepted his first three passes of his career. The Bruins are back on track to make a bowl game with winnable games against Utah and Colorado looming after this weekend's home test against Arizona State. Neuheisel needs to be playing in the postseason if he expects to return to Westwood in 2012.

8. California (4-4, 1-4) – Cal lost for the fourth time in five games as it was overrun in the second quarter by UCLA. The Bruins scored 17 points in the second frame en route to their 31-14 win over the Bears. Quarterback Zach Maynard, who has been wildly inefficient this season, threw four interceptions and completed only 46.7% of his passes while star wideout Keenan Allen had his worst statistical game of the year (7 rec., 83 yards). Cal committed five turnovers, allowed three sacks and converted only 2-of-12 third-down opportunities. With home games against Washington State and Oregon State next up on the slate, Jeff Tedford's tenure as the headman in Berkeley could be hanging in the balance over the next 14 days.

9. Arizona (2-6, 1-5) – The story has been writtern before for Arizona. Nick Foles threw for over 375 yards for the sixth time this season but lost the game for the fifth time. Foles threw for 388 yards and two touchdowns (and three interceptions) in the 42-31 road loss to Washington. After allowing 489 yards to the Huskies (244 to Chris Polk), Arizona ranks last in the Pac-12 in total defense (467.3 ypg) and 11th in scoring defense (34.8 ppg). Utah visits the desert this weekend.

10. Oregon State (2-6, 2-3) – The Beavers were completely dominated in the trenches in the 27-8 loss to Utah. Oregon State was held to 32 yards rushing and failed to score a point until the 14:55 mark of the fourth quarter. Utah exploded for 21 points over a seven minute span and OSU never recovered. Things might only get worse for Mike Riley as the Beavers finish with a brutal stretch against Stanford, at Cal, Washington and at Oregon.

11. Washington State (3-5, 1-4) – After an exciting 3-1 start to the season for Paul Wulff, the Cougars have now lost four straight games after a 43-28 loss at Oregon. Washington State turned to backup quarterback Marshall Lobbestael once again as Jeff Tuel missed another game due to injury (this time a calf issue). The Cougars played valiant football in the first half, trailing 15-10 at halftime, but got out-talented in the second 28-18. Wazzu will attempt to snap its losing streak this weekend against Cal in Berkeley.

12. Colorado (1-8, 0-5) –
Jon Embree's bunch is still searching for its first Pac-12 victory after a 48-14 beatdown at the hands of Arizona State. The Buffs have allowed at least 45 points in four straight games, and things won't get any easier this weekend against USC on Friday night. The final month of the season could offer some solace, however, as Colorado gets Arizona, UCLA and Utah — who are a combined 5-11 in conference — to finish 2011.

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the Pac-12 stack up after Week 9 of action?</p>
Post date: Monday, October 31, 2011 - 12:12
Path: /columns/national-notebook/betting-against-spread-week-9-picks
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Everyone has a bad week every now and then — just like Oklahoma and Wisconsin. It took eight weeks of college football but I finally had a sub-.500 weekend of action. The Razor-pigs rolled around in the Oxford mud for most of the day while the underdog Huskies proved they are still a year away from competing for Pac-12 titles. And cmon, we all get Zookered at least twice a season, right?

There is a lot to like this week as the market over-corrects itself (Purdue, Texas Tech, Washington, West Virginia, Arkansas). Do not hesitate to go after those teams who dramatically under or over-performed last weekend.

Season Record ATS: 50-28-3 (4-5-1 last week)

Week 9's Top Picks:

1. Arizona (+4) at Washington
Washington is coming off a bad loss to Stanford while Zona is soaking in the glow of what was an embarassing performance by UCLA last Thursday night. This is the first major over-correction. Arizona is 2-5 with one win over FBS competition, is allowing over 33 points per game and is last in the Pac-12 in total defense. The Huskies have relatively easy wins over Cal, Utah and Colorado and have not lost at home since Halloween of 2010. My Pick: Washington -4

2. Hawaii (-7) at Idaho
Horrendous. There is no other way to explain the Vandals' play over the last two months. Idaho has yet to beat an FBS opponent and last won in Week 2 over North Dakota. Losses to Texas A&M and Virginia on the road are understandable, but home losses to Fresno State and Louisiana Tech by a combined 37 points (and any loss to New Mexico State) are not. Idaho is 114th in total offense and 89th in total defense. Hawaii won this match 45-10 last fall and is averaging 328 passing yards per game. My Pick: Hawaii -7

3. Clemson (-3.5) at Georgia Tech
Only Stanford has a better record against the spread than Clemson's 7-1 thus far. This is an ACC title game rematch from a few seasons ago and if anyone watched the Jackets the last two weeks, there is just no way this number makes any sense. Tevin Washington cannot complete passes and the option attack hasnt't been productive in two loses to Virginia and Miami. In fact, Tech wasn't even competitive last week "in" Coral Gables. Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins continue to roll. My Pick: Clemson -3.5


4. SMU (+3) at Tulsa
This one is simple: Give credit where credit is due. When Athlon editor Steven Lassan has a gut feeling about a team winning outright at the mid-major level, I do not hesitate. He is affectionately known as the Lassanator. Tulsa's defense has been bad no matter the competition — and the competition has been very mediocre of late. SMU has been lighting up secondaries all season and has beaten quality competition in TCU. Tulsa's best win this year is a road W over Rice. My Pick: SMU +3

5. Baylor (+14) at Oklahoma State
The Bears will score plenty of points with RG3, but Oklahoma State will score plenty more. The Pokes rolled-up 725 yards of offense in this game last season and is humming along again in 2011: No. 2 nationally in passing, No. 3 in total offense and No. 2 in scoring. Okie State is also one of only four teams with a 6-1 record this season against the spread. This has an A&M-esque 55-28 feel to it. My Pick: Oklahoma State -14

6. Purdue (+12.5) at Michigan
Market correction No. 2. Someone was going to collect the benefit checks from Ron Zook and, in 2011, it was Purdue's Danny Hope. The Boilers played arguably the easiest schedule of any FBS team until Week 7 - and was 3-3 before Hope had the pleasure of being on the business end of a good Zookering. Michigan is coming off a bye week and has arguably the most electric player in the nation under center. This was an 11-point win by Michigan last season in West Lafayette. This is a new and improved Maize and Blue in The Big House. My Pick: Michigan -12.5


If you are feeling lucky

7. Bowling Green (-3.5) at Kent State
Few teams are statistically worse than the Golden Flashes of Kent State. At 10.7 points per game, they are the worst scoring team in the naton. At a pathetic 180.6 yards per game, they are the least productive offense in America. Bowling Green is riding high after a 13-10 win over Temple last week and sits at 4-4 for the year. Ignore last year's final score, these are two totally different teams in 2011. The Flashes are 1-6 against the spread this fall. My Pick: Bowling Green -3.5

8. Stanford (-7.5) at USC
There is only one team unbeaten against the spread for more than a calendar year. And there is only one Andrew Luck — no matter how well Matt Barkley can cover Jason Mraz. The Trojans have been playing great football so they will not sneak up on the Cardinal, who are favored on the road in the series for the first time ever. Luck will be able to pick apart a defense that is 104th against the pass (265.1 ypg). It will be 16 straight for the Cardinal. My Pick: Stanford -7.5

9. UAB (+5.5) at Marshall
The Herd has excellent wins over Southern Miss and Louisville to go with a another decent victory over Rice (two of which have come in the last four weeks). New quarterback AJ Graham has jump-started the offense in two starts and will slice up the 117th-ranked total defense. Don't worry about the 26-24 win over UCF last weekend, all you need to know is that UAB lost to Tulane at home. My Pick: Marshall -5.5


10. Cal (-4.5) at UCLA
The Bruins are one of three teams with a 1-6 mark against the spread this season and are staggaring around the ring after Arizona dropped them to the canvas on national TV 48-12 last Thursday night. Zach Marynard and half-brother Keenan Allen are possibly the most well-tethered QB-WR combo in the nation (Allen's 129.4 ypg leads the country) and are coming off a 34-10 destruction of Utah. A bad Cal team beat UCLA 35-10 last season. My Pick: Cal -4.5


11. Arkansas (-10) at Vanderbilt
It's a safe bet that Vandy defensive coordinator Bob Shoop isn't getting much sleep this week trying to prepare for the Razorbacks. The Hogs have come out flat all season long in the first half, but have scored plenty of points in the second half so there is little Vandy should be able to counter with on offense. This was a 49-14 game in Fayetteville last season. James Franklin has closed the gap some, but not from 35 points to nine. My Pick: Arkansas -10


2011 Trends:

7-0 Against the Spread: Stanford

7-1 Against the Spread:  Alabama, Clemson

6-1 Against the Spread: Arkansas St., Kansas St., Oklahoma St., UTEP

6-2 Against the Spread: LSU, Temple

2-6 Against the Spread: Virginia Tech

1-6 Against the Spread: Colorado St., Kent St., UCLA

1-7 Against the Spread: Central Michigan

Other Week 9 Content:

Steven Lassan's Key Storylines for Week 9
Athlons Sports In-Depth Preview: Michigan State vs. Nebraska

Mitch Light's Top Ten Picks of the Week

Athlon Sports Picks Every Game of Week 9

 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon's Braden Gall offers his top college football picks against the spread each week.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 28, 2011 - 07:59
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, start or sit, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /columns/start-or-sit/nfl-fantasy-football-start-and-sit-week-8
Body:

-by Braden Gall ( @AthlonBraden on twitter)

Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Week 8 Rankings

NFL Bye Weeks: Atlanta, Chicago, Green Bay, NY Jets, Oakland, Tampa Bay

Start These Quarterbacks

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (New England)
Despite the way the Patriots have owned the Steelers, Big Ben is still a relatively obvious play this week. The Pats are still ranked last in the NFL in pass defense (322.2 ypg) and are allowing a 65.5 percent completion rate. The Steelers have rediscovered their ability to go vertical in the passing game and Big Ben and Mike Wallace have been the biggest beneficiaries. He has nine touchdowns against a single pick and has averaged 263 yards per game over his last three.

Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee (Indianapolis)
During the 3-1 start for the Titans, Hasselbeck had eight TDs, three INTs and averaged 288 yards per game. Against the Steelers and Texans, middle Tennessee’s Matty-Ice has 366 total yards, two TDs and three INTs. Only the St. Louis Rams' (13 TD, 4 INT) defensive TD:INT ratio is even close to the Indianapolis Colts' 14-3 TD:INT pass defense ratio. The Colts did just allow 43 fantasy points and 62 actual points to Drew Brees.

Tim Tebow, Denver (Detroit)
The stat line for Tebow's first start of 2011 was ultra-predictable. He completed 48.1 percent of his passes for 161 yards, rushed for 59 yards and accounted for two touchdowns and a two-point conversion. That line should be a weekly benchmark for Tebow. Detroit's defense has not played up to snuff thus far after two straight losses in which they allowed 332 total yards. Expect a similar line for Tebow's raucous first home start of 2011.

Christian Ponder, Minnesota (at Carolina)
The Panthers have not gotten after the football (9 TDs, 4 INTs) in the secondary and just allowed 21.2 total fantasy points to the Washington Redskins' John Beck last week. Ponder showed poise in his first career start against the best team in the NFL, racking up 20.9 fantasy points of his own. If you are desperate for a spot start this weekend, Ponder looks to be the guy.

Bench These Quarterbacks

Kevin Kolb, Arizona (at Baltimore)
No team in the NFL has allowed fewer passing touchdowns than the Ravens' four. They are fourth in the league in total pass defense at 186.8 yards per game allowed. As a two-touchdown underdog (-13) to what should be a focused and angry Ravens team, Kolb has little chance of posting a usable total.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo (Washington in Toronto)
Only the Ravens and Jets have allowed fewer touchdown passes than the Redskins' five allowed. Fitz has not been a MoneyGrabber of late, throwing three total touchdowns over his last three games after nine TDs in his first three. He has not topped 250 yards since Week 3, failing to reach even 200 yards in two of his last three. Look for Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller to be the focal point of the offense once again.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit (at Denver)
This is more of a warning than a benching. If Stafford is healthy, then he is a great start against the lowly Denver defense. However, having a back-up plan ready for the brittle gunslinger is a wise move. There should be plenty of Ponders out there on the waiver wire in case Stafford cannot go last minute. Keep the refresh button cleared of all debris Sunday morning.

Colt McCoy, Cleveland (at San Francisco)
The Niners have been excellent on defense and McCoy is coming off his worst fantasy performance of the 2011 season (178 yards, 0 TD, INT). San Fran just held Matthew Stafford to his worst performance of the 2011 season (183 yards, TD) and sacked him five times in the win over Detroit two weeks ago.

Start These Running Backs

Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, New Orleans (at St. Louis)
The Rams were the worst rushing defense in the NFL heading into last week. And that was before they allowed a Dallas Cowboys record 253 yards to rookie DeMarco Murray in his first NFL start. Thomas posted a season-high 125 yards from scrimmage (and five receptions) while Ingram ran for a career-high 91 yards on 14 carries last week against the Colts. Look for both to excel (along with Darren Sproles) against a team allowing 183.8 yards per game on the ground.

Knowshon Moreno, Denver (Detroit)
Willis McGahee will not suit up for the Broncos, but John Fox is still the head coach. He wants to run the football, especially with Tebow under center, and Moreno figures to get the workload this weekend. The Lions have inexplicably been unable to slow the ground game this season. The Lions rank 28th in the NFL against the run (129.4 ypg) and have allowed 332 yards to Atlanta and San Francisco during their two-game losing streak.

Jackie Battle, Kansas City (San Diego)
The undrafted Houston Cougar has provided a nice fantasy boost over the last two weeks with 195 yards on 35 carries (5.6). And the Super Chargers have been anything but super against the run recently. The Jets and Broncos each rushed for exactly 162 yards against San Diego in the last two games. With the surging Chiefs playing for a huge leg-up in the AFC West race, look for Battle to continue to get plenty of work.

DeMarco Murray, Dallas (at Philadelphia)
If a rookie running back posted 25 carries and a touchdown in his first career NFL start, most would consider the debut a major success. Murray went above and beyond by setting a Cowboys' single-game franchise rushing record (253) and averaged over 10 yards per carry. The Eagles, due to D-line injuries and poor linebacker play, have struggled against the run, allowing 123.8 yards per game – a number that was 140.2 per game before holding the lowly Redskins to 42 yards. Murray certainly won’t hit the 200 mark again, but 100-1 is a very reasonable expectation.

Bench These Running Backs

Peyton Hillis, Cleveland (at San Francisco)
This one is pretty self-explanatory. The much-maligned runner has dealt with everything from strep throat to contract fallout to hamstring issues over the last month. Now, the big bruiser is facing the NFL's No. 2 rushing defense (74.7 ypg) – which is still the only unit to have yet to allow a rushing touchdown in 2011. Montario Hardesty didn’t look much better last week against Seattle either. Bench your Browns backs.

Bernard Scott, Cincinnati (at Seattle)
I will let Corby Yarbrough handle this one. I concur.

New England Patriots (at Pittsburgh)
Whether it’s Ridley, Woodhead or Green-Ellis, it is hard to endorse a fantasy start for any Patriots running back. As a team, New England ran for 69 yards and no touchdowns against the Cowboys. Against a similar 3-4 front with stellar linebacking play, it is hard to see anything but an aerial assault from the Pats this weekend.

Daniel Thomas, Miami (at NY Giants)
The Giants have struggled against the run this season (127.7 ypg) but will welcome back their best defensive player in Justin Tuck this weekend. Last week against the Broncos, one of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL, Thomas averaged 2.8 yards per carry on 19 attempts. Thomas should still get plenty of touches, but Miami could be playing from behind quickly and will likely need to throw much of the second half.

Seattle Seahawks (Cincinnati)
Yes, the Bengals' defensive statistics have come against lower-level competition: Cleveland, Denver, Jacksonville, Indianapolis namely. But Cincy is still ranked fourth in scoring defense (18.5 ppg), fifth in rushing defense (89.5 ypg) and fifth in passing defense (189.0 ypg). And considering the Seahawks managed three points against Cleveland last week, it is hard not lump Seattle in with those aforementioned “lower-level” teams.

Start These Wide Receivers

Anquan Boldin, Baltimore (Arizona)
The Ravens' top target reached paydirt for the second time last weekend and should be able to rip through the porous Cardinals secondary. Arizona allowed two Steelers to top the century mark and surrendered three touchdowns to Big Ben last weekend. Look for Joe Flacco and the entire Ravens offense to get on track this week.

Mario Manningham, NY Giants (Miami)
The disappointing wideout appears to be finally back on track with Eli Manning. He has back-to-back five-catch, 56-yard games and it's only a matter of time before the vertical threat makes a big play down the field. The Dolphins appear ripe for the picking. Victor Cruz, for what it's worth disappeared last week with a 2-12 line.

Jabar Gaffney, Washington (Buffalo, Toronto)
Santana Moss is out for a few games and Gaffney becomes the No. 1 wide receiver. While Fred Davis is the defacto No. 1 target in the offense, Gaffney still has plenty of value against the big-play prone Bills defense. This Redskin might not even need to reach the endzone to validate a starting spot this weekend.

Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (New England)
The speedy wideout posted season highs in catches (7) and yards (102) last weekend against the terrible Arizona Cardinals. New England hasn’t been much better against the pass and this AFC rivalry has traditionally been a high-scoring affair. Brown is a quality bye-week stopgap this weekend.

Bench These Wide Receivers

Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis (at Tennessee)
Fantasy owners must cringe at Wayne's game log since Curtis Painter took over. His once prestigious yardage totals have dropped three weeks in a row and his Painter highs are five catches (Week 6), 77 yards (Week 5) and nary a touchdown in four starts. Wayne is what he is: The No. 31 ranked fantasy wide receiver. Pierre Garcon isn't

Sidney Rice, Seattle (Cincinnati)
The Bengals cover duo of Leon Hall and Nate Clements has been excellent in 2011. I documented where the Bengals' defense has ranked and there is no reason to think that pattern will change against an offense that mustered 97 yards through the air last week against Cleveland. If Tavaris Jackson plays, bump Rice from a WR4 to a WR3.

Brandon Lloyd, St. Louis (New Orleans)
Each week that goes by should make owners more and more comfortable with Lloyd adapting to the new offensive scheme. Of course, if Sam Bradford plays, his value probably reaches WR3 status for this week due to the potentially high-scoring nature of this game.

Denver Broncos (Detroit)
From an aerial perspective, Tebow will struggle most weeks. His fantasy value is saved by his ability to improvise and pick up points on the ground. Eric Decker and company don't have such a luxury. The rapport Demaryius Thomas might have with Tebow further complicates the Broncos' receiving options.

Start These Tight Ends

Fred Davis, Washington (at Buffalo)
With Santana Moss out, Davis becomes the No. 1 target for John Beck.

Heath Miller, Pittsburgh (New England)
Has scored in two of his last three and the Pats' pass defense is atrocious.

Jake Ballard, NY Giants (Miami)
Has caught eight passes for 153 yards and a TD in last two. Beatable match-up.

Bench These Tight Ends

Dallas Clark, Indianapolis (at Tennessee)
Curtis Painter has yet to fully utilize the talented tight end.

Start These Defenses/Special Teams

Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Should see plenty of offense…and turnovers, mistakes and special teams potential.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Seattle Seahawks
Should see no offense whatsoever in this one – maybe AJ Green reaches paydirt.

Bench These Defenses/Special Teams

New England Patriots vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Two offenses clicking through the air in what has been a traditionally high-scoring affair.
 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports Week 8 NFL Fantasy Start and Sit.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 28, 2011 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-special-teams-coaches
Body:

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com

As the game of college football has evolved over the past 15 years, it has clearly become an “adapt or become extinct” type of game. Steve Spurrier’s “fun and gun” of the 1990’s at Florida has become “not so fun to watch” in his stint at South Carolina. Ralph Friedgen’s innovative and balanced offensive attack of the late 90’s and early 2000’s eventually became outdated and not so innovative and was passed up by the new “spread option” attacks of Gus Malzahn and Chip Kelly.

In the fast moving world of technology and information that we live in, it is more important than ever for a college football coach to try and stay one step ahead of the opponent, constantly striving to come up with different and innovative ways to win games.

This brings us to this week’s topic: Special Teams

Special Teams are indeed called “special” for a reason. Being able to flip field position on an opponent as well as the psychological momentum a team can gain from a big Special Teams play cannot be understated. Here are a few quotes from a couple coaches who put great emphasis on special teams (it’s not coincidence that these are three of the best coaches over the last few decades in college football):


A lot of teams take special teams for granted. Here, it's a privilege to play on the kickoff team or the punt return team. That's why you eat first on Friday night (before games). It's a big deal. He rewards guys who do good on special teams. It's not just overlooked like it is at some places. That's why they play so hard.
–-Urban Meyer

I was proud of our special teams. I think when you’re playing a good football team.....you better be good in your special teams.
–-Frank Beamer

I've seen too many games won or lost with special teams. On offense you run a play for zero yards, and you get up and do it again. On defense you can give up five yards, and you get up and do it again. But with special teams play, you get one shot. You don’t get second chances. You have one chance to do it, or one chance to defend it. It can change the complexity of the game so readily.
--Bill Snyder

As you know, here at CBTN we are big fans of Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson and the offensive system that he has implemented at Georgia Southern, Hawaii, Navy, and now Georgia Tech. However, as much as we admire the job Coach Johnson has done as a head coach and offensive mastermind, we have to bring to light Coach Johnson's attention or lack thereof to Special Teams. Below is a breakdown of how Georgia Tech has ranked nationally in the five major special teams categories in Paul Johnson’s tenure as the HC at Georgia Tech (national rankings are out of 120 teams):

Year Net Punting Punt Returns Punt Return Def Kickoff Returns Kickoff Return Defense
2008 93 88 73 95 40
2009 17 11 44 64 83
2010 114 97 98 97 11
2011 93 68 13 103 48
Averages 79 66 57 90 46

Not surprisingly, Georgia Tech’s best season on special teams was the 2009 season in which GT won 11 games and the ACC Championship and earned a birth to the Orange Bowl for the first time since 1966. Overall, Johnson's Special Teams have finished in the top half of FBS teams on average in only two of five categories, kickoff return defense and punt return defense. The kickoff return defense numbers can be a little misleading seeing as Georgia Tech’s kickers routinely kick the ball short, so even a short return gives the opponent quality field position.

Additionally, of the 20 rankings spots listed above, Georgia Tech's Special Team have been ranked in the bottom third of the nation in 11 of 20 spots (55%). Now let’s take a look at the CBTN top ten rated active coaches since 2007 (minimum of five years experience) and see how they have fared on Special Teams:

Coach Avg. Net Punting Rank Avg. Punt Return Rank Avg. Punt Return Def. Rank Avg. Kickoff Returns Rank Avg. Kickoff Return Def. Rank
Nick Saban 72.60 12.60 44.00 45.00 58.40
Bob Stoops 27.80 47.60 38.60 45.60 62.80
Chris Petersen 30.20 22.20 64.40 27.40 34.20
Les Miles 23.80 39.80 30.60 67.60 27.00
Frank Beamer 55.60 31.60 42.00 69.00 52.20
Gary Patterson 70.80 20.20 31.00 18.80 23.20
Mack Brown 51.00 41.20 67.80 50.60 67.80
Brian Kelly 54.00 71.00 69.80 31.20 41.60
Joe Paterno 54.80 63.60 54.40 53.80 72.00
Kyle Whittingham 58.20 51.00 79.00 45.00 43.20

So, of the top ten rated coaches over the last five years, here is the breakdown of the number of categories their Special Teams units have ranked on average in the top half of FBS teams:

Saban: 4 out of 5
Stoops: 4 out of 5
Petersen: 4 out of 5
Miles: 4 out of 5
Beamer: 4 out of 5
Patterson: 4 out of 5
Brown: 3 out of 5
Kelly: 3 out of 5
Paterno: 3 out of 5
Whittingham: 4 out of 5

Are we picking up on a theme here? Of the top ten CBTN rated head coaches from 2007-Present, eight are rated in the top half of four of the five major Special Teams categories listed above. Additionally, all ten are rated in the top half of at least three of the five major Special Teams categories.

So, are Special Teams important? According to the top coaches, yes they are. A quick review of Georgia Tech's 2010 season, in which they finished the year 6-7, sheds more light on the importance of Special Teams. In three games from the 2010 season, Georgia Tech saw the following Special Teams blunders, which played a major part in GT's loss:

  • In a 14-7 loss to Air Force in the Independence Bowl, Georgia Tech muffed two punts
  • In the game with arch rival UGA, Georgia Tech missed a PAT late in the 4th Quarter that would’ve tied the game
  • After tying the game late in the 4th Quarter against Virginia Tech on the road, Georgia Tech gives up a kickoff return for a TD

While there are many plays in a game that contribute to the final outcome, these Special Teams errors played a major part in the loss. After GT's recent 24-7 loss to Miami, in which three Special Teams blunders cost the Jackets dearly, Coach Johnson was asked about the Jackets' Special Teams' woes and about the possibility of hiring a coach whose primary responsibility was Special Teams. Here was his answer:

The whole thing is ridiculous. Guys calling for special teams coordinators don’t have any idea. You know how many teams in the ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten have special teams coordinators that don’t coach another position? Six. You know who it is in our league? Boston College – which is helping them a lot – and N.C. State. And the Big Ten, it’s Purdue. In the Big 12, it’s Kansas State. I think it’s Coach (Bill) Snyder’s son. Most staffs are set up the same as ours.
--Paul Johnson after a 24-7 loss to Miami

It is not our place to tell Coach Johnson who should be coaching what or how they should be coaching it. That being said, the numbers don't lie and the only ridiculous thing we see is the performance of Georgia Tech's Special Teams. As Mike Leach stated in his book, "you're either coaching it or allowing it to happen." If Paul Johnson wants to be considered among the elite coaches in college football, he had better figure out a way to get better on Special Teams.

Teaser:
<p> How do the best coaches fare on special teams and how much does it matter?</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 09:59
Path: /college-football/ron-zook-not-getting-job-done-illinois
Body:

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com

We don't believe Ron Zook is Irish, but we do believe he was born with the luck of an Irishman. Ron Zook is currently making over $1.5 million per year as the Head Coach of the Illinois Fighting Illini. Since he became a head coach in 2002, Ron Zook has made more than $10 million coaching college football.

He has been the head coach at the University of Florida (one of CBTN's Top 10 Rated Jobs) and the University of Illinois. These are two very attractive head coaching jobs in very attractive conferences. So, given that he has been a head coach since 2002 at two higher profile jobs, his numbers have to look pretty good don't they?

Let's find out. Below are Coach Zook's CBTN numbers from 2002-Present (rank is among active head coaches with minimum of three years experience)

Coach Yrs. Coached CBTN Rating CBTN Stars CBTN Rank (Out of 90 Head Coaches) Avg. Recruiting Rank
Ron Zook 10 48.04 42 27.10 (out of 120 teams)

Now, let's look at his Good Hire/Bad Hire Numbers at both Florida and Illinois:

Coach School WP% in Five Years Prior to Zook WP% Under Zook Differential
Ron Zook Florida 79.03% 60.52% -18.51%
Ron Zook Illinois 41.38% 41.98% 0.60%

So, at Florida  Coach Zook had a negative impact of 18.51% on the Gators' winning percentage and after almost seven years at Illinois he has had a positive impact of 0.60% on the Fighting Illini's winning percentage. Now, let's move to our Overachiever/Underachiever Index. This allows us to see if Coach Zook has underachieved or overachieved given the talent he has been able to bring on board (CBTN Head Coaching Rank below indicates where Coach Zook ranked in relation to other head coaches with a minimum of two years experience during the tenure at the school listed).

Coach School CBTN Avg. Recruiting Rank CBTN Head Coaching Rank Differential
Ron Zook Florida 10.67 #25 -14.33
Ron Zook Illinois 34.14 #61 -26.86

To say coach Zook has done less with more would be a bit of an understatement. We can't tell you the number of times we have seen people defend Coach Zook based on the fact that he is such a "great recruiter". Well, let's take a look at the numbers and see just how a great a recruiter Coach Zook really is:

Coach School Avg. Recruiting Class
Ron Zook Florida 10.67
Urban Meyer Florida 8.00
Ron Zook Illinois 34.14
Ron Turner Illinois 40.67

So, at Florida Urban Meyer proved that Ron Zook was not only underachieving in the win/loss column, but that he was also underachieving on the recruiting side as well. At Illinois, Zook has had a 16% positive impact on recruiting compared to Ron Turner's tenure. If you aren't too familiar with Ron Turner, don't worry because you are not alone. During his eight years as head coach at Illinois, Coach Turner lost 11 games twice and at least six games in six of his eight seasons as head coach.

This is all to say that Ron Zook didn't take over a program that was known for its top recruiting. We don't know about you, but Zook's record as a recruiter doesn't quite fall under the "great" category. Finally, let's look at Ron Zook's Talent Wins/Losses Ranking:

Coach School WP% w/Superior Talent WP% w/Equivalent Talent WP% w/Inferior Talent
Ron Zook Illinois 47.62% (20-22) 20.00% (3-12) 27.78% (5-13)

So, with equivalent and superior talent at Illinois, Ron Zook has only won 40% of the time. Just when you thought Ron Zook had turned the corner in 2011 with Illinois' first 6-0 start since the Eisenhower administration, he loses back-to-back games to a mediocre Ohio St. team and a very sub-par Purdue team. Additionally, Zook still has to play Penn State, Michigan, and Wisconsin this year.

From the standpoint of the numbers, it appears that Ron Zook has earned in excess of $10 million to make programs worse or keep them at their sub-par level. Just some numbers for everyone to think about.

Teaser:
<p> What sort of impact has Ron Zook really had on the Fighting Illini?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 14:30
Path: /columns/heisman-watch/athlon-sports-heisman-voting-week-9
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Each week, the Athlon editors will vote on the most prestigious award in all of college football. A nine-man conglomerate of college football gurus from Athlon Sports will vote for their top 10 Heisman Trophy candidates. The votes will be tallied and the result will be posted as the Athlon Sports Heisman Watch List every Wednesday of the regular season.

Note: The scoring system is as follows: A first place vote earns a player 10 points. A second place votes earns nine points - so on and so forth until the 10th place player receives one point.

And then there were two.

Andrew Luck is the best player in the country and until proven otherwise, he will be atop the Athlon Heisman voting. But the one name who continues to surge upwards, and may have a chance to catch him due to team circumstances, is Alabama's Trent Richardson. After the Badgers and Russell Wilson fell to Michigan State, Richardson sits alone in second place by a wide margin.

Wilson, who fell from No. 2 to No. 5 in the voting, and Oklahoma's Landry Jones experienced brutal conference losses and probably saw their Heisman chances tumble alongside their national championship aspirations. Boise State's Kellen Moore continues to roll along and was the big winner in the voting now that Wilson and Jones have experienced a loss.

Clemson's dynamic duo of Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins also continue to move up the charts as the Tigers continue to win games. If Clemson runs the table, with an excellent non-conference schedule, it will be hard to keep one of these two out of the Big Apple in Decemeber.

And finally, Tyrann Mathieu goes from 10th in the voting to nary a Heisman vote from nine different Athlon editors - go ahead and add losing a Heisman Trophy to the effects of Synthetic Marijuana.

1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (89/90 total points, 8/9 first place votes)
Season Stats: 145/202, 1,888 yards, 20 TD, 3 INT, 16 att., 83 yards, TD

Consider the grade on his first major test an A-. Stanford destroyed ranked opponent Washington 65-21 at home over the weekend, but Luck wasn't needed much. He completed 16 of his 21 passes for only 169 yards and two touchdowns. The Cardinal ran for a school-record 446 yards and five touchdowns on only 44 carries. Luck's 180.0 passer rating is first in the Pac-12 and fifth nationally. Next Game: at USC

  Name Pos. Team Pts 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Ballots
1. Andrew Luck QB Stanford 89 8 1 - - - 9
2. Trent Richardson RB Alabama 79 1 5 3 - - 9
3. Robert Griffin III QB Baylor 62 - 2 1 2 2 9
4. Kellen Moore QB Boise State 61 - 1 1 4 2 9
5. Russell Wilson QB Wisconsin 56 - - 3 - 2 9
6. Brandon Weeden QB Oklahoma St 40 - - - 1 3 8
7. Tajh Boyd QB Clemson 39 - - 1 2 - 8
8. Landry Jones QB Oklahoma 23 - - - - - 8
9. Case Keenum WR Houston 15 - - - - - 6
10. Sammy Watkins WR Clemson 11 - - - - - 5
11. Ryan Broyles WR Oklahoma 6 - - - - - 2
12. David Wilson WR Virginia Tech 4 - - - - - 1
13. LaMichael James RB Oregon 3 - - - - - 2
14. Robert Woods WR USC 3 - - - - - 1
15. Denard Robinson QB Michigan 2 - - - - - 2
16. Bernard Pierce RB Temple 1 - - - - - 1
17. Ray Graham RB Pitt 1 - - - - - 1

2. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (79)
Season Stats: 149 att., 989 yards, 17 TD, 18 rec., 212 yards, TD

Nick Saban inexplicably turned to the passing game in the first half of the 37-6 win over Tennessee. After watching the Tide sleepwalk to a 6-6 halftime score, Saban gave the ball to T-Rich in the second half and Alabama rolled. Richardson finished with 77 yards and two touchdowns to go with three receptions and 33 more yards. His six-game 100-yard streak came to an end but he still leads the SEC in rushing at 123.6 yards per game. The stiff-armed trophy could be won or lost in two weeks against LSU. Next Game: Bye

3. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (62)
Season Stats: 142/182, 1,950 yards, 22 TD, 2 INT, 72 att., 295 yards, 2 TD

Griffin, like Kellen Moore, benefited from Wisconsin and Oklahoma losing this weekend. RG3 is now the nation's most efficient passer with a would-be NCAA record 205.71 passer rating. Griffin and the Bears had better have taken advantage of the off week as Oklahoma State and Missouri are the next two opponents for Baylor. Expect only one of the two Heisman quarterbacks to be left standing after this weekend's trip to Stillwater for Baylor. Next Game: at Oklahoma State

4. Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State (61 pts)
Season Stats: 174/228, 2,010 yards, 24 TD, 5 INT, 8 att., (-12) yards

Moore won for the 45th time in 47 games as a starter and the Boise State starter is now tied with Colt McCoy as the winningest quarterback in NCAA history. In a tricky 37-26 win over Air Force, Moore completed 23-of-29 passes for 281 yards and three touchdowns. Boise State would likely need to land in the BCS title game for Moore to have a chance to win the Heisman, so watching two major dominoes fall had to make Chris Peterson and Company happy.  Next Game: at UNLV

5. Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (56)
Season Stats: 109/149, 1,780 yards, 16 TD, 3 INT, 32 att., 212 yards, 3 TD, 1 rec., 25 yards, TD

It's too bad Wilson cannot play defensive back. After making two of his worst throws as a Badger (two INTs), Wilson rallied his team with 14 fourth-quarter points to tie the game with 1:26 left in the game. Unfortunately, the Hail Mary heard 'round Madtown went the way of the Spartans. The Big Ten title is still very much in reach, but the national championship run is over for Wisconsin. Wilson finished with 223 yards, two TDs, two INTs, 30 yards rushing and a third touchdown on the ground. Next Game: at Ohio State

6. Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State (40)
Season Stats: 222/309, 2,436 yards, 19 TD, 7 INT, 14 att., (-85) yards

Weeden produced another workman-like victory for the unblemished Cowboys 45-24 over Missouri. The Pokes' quarterback completed 33-of-49 passes for 338 yards and three scores in the easier-than-anticipated triumph over the Tigers. It was his 12th 300-yard effort of the last two seasons, and undoubtedly, Weeden and his Stillwater brethren thoroughly enjoyed what took place later that night in Norman, Oklahoma. A Heisman elimination game between Griffin III and the Bears is up next for Weeden. Next Game: Baylor

7. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson (39)
Season Stats: 172/278, 2,379 yards, 24 TD, 3 INT, 81 att., 165 yards, 4 TD

Few players had as productive a Week 8 as Boyd did in the convincing 59-38 win over North Carolina. Boyd threw for 367 yards and five touchdowns will rushing for another score on the ground. At 318 yards of total offense per game, Boyd is the most productive player in the ACC thus far in 2011. A trip to Atlanta this weekend provides a rematch of the 2009 ACC title game. Next Game: at Georgia Tech

8. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma (23)
Season Stats: 201/308, 2,589 yards, 21 TD, 7 INT, 14 att., 22 yards, 2 TD

Jones' numbers were awesome: 412 yards, five touchdowns and 30 completions. Yet, the only stat that matters is the 41-38 final score. Jones' fifth consecutive game of at least 360 yards was all for naught as the Sooners watched their national championship hopes likely die with the inexplicable three-point home loss to Texas Tech. There is still a Big 12 title to be won so Jones will need to be at his best again this weekend at the unbeaten Wildcats. Next Game: at Kansas State

9. Case Keenum, QB, Houston (15)
Season Stats: 194/266, 2,685 yards, 23 TD, 2 INT, 26 att., 40 yards

It was a record-setting evening for the Houston Cougars' quarterback. The sixth-year senior threw for 376 yards and six scores to improve his team's record to 7-0 in the 63-28 win over Marshall. Keenum became the NCAA's all-time record holder for total offense with 17,173 (902 rushing, 16,271 passing). He is only 801 yards away from passing Timmy Chang as the NCAA's all-time leading passer (17,072). For his career, Keenum has scored 150 total touchdowns - 130 passing and 20 rushing. Next Game: Rice

10. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (11)
Season Stats: 60 rec., 815 yards, 9 TD, 13 PR, 128 yards

This true freshman has quickly become one of the most dynamic and electric athletes in all of college football. In the 59-38 win over North Carolina, Watkins caught eight passes for 91 yards, returned four kicks for 96 yards and scored a touchdown. It was his third straight game with at least seven catches and his sixth such game in eight career contests. Defenses are beginning to shade coverages towards Watkins as a sign of respect, so it will be interesting to see how the young receiver handles all the attention.  Next Game: at Georgia Tech

Previous Voting:

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 8

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 7

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 6

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 5

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 4

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 3

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 2

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 1

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports Heisman Voting: Week 9</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-big-ten-4
Body:

By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)

Post-Week 8 Big Ten Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Nebraska (6-1, 2-1) – Almost by default, and after an easy 41-14 win over Minnesota, the Cornhuskers take over the top spot in Athlon Sports' Big Ten Power Rankings. Big Red rushed for 346 yards and three touchdowns on 56 attempts while allowing a measly 254 yards of total offense to the Gophers. Rex Burkhead topped the century mark for the fourth time in five games and has scored a touchdown in every game this fall. With the Michigan State Spartans coming to town this weekend, not only is the top spot on this list on the line, but a Big Ten championship and potential BCS Bowl bid also hang in the balance in Memorial Stadium.

2. Michigan State (6-1, 3-0) – In what was the most exciting game of the 2011 season, the Spartans and Keith Nichol inched their way past the Wisconsin Badgers 37-31 on a 44-yard Hail Mary with no time remaining. Michigan State now brings the nation's No. 2 total defense, and the Big Ten's top rush defense, into Lincoln to square off with the Big Ten's top rushing offense. A second straight Big Ten championship is likely on the line when Sparty heads to Nebraska this weekend.

3. Wisconsin (6-1, 2-1) –  The Badgers suffered arguably the most painful loss in school history on Saturday night when a deflected Hail Mary heave from midfield was caught by Keith Nichol before a goalline tug-of-war went the way of the Spartans. The Badgers jumped to an early 14-0 lead, but an injury to the nation's leading scorer Montee Ball — and some inexplicable special teams blunders — allowed the Spartans to roll off 23 unanswered points. The Badgers, with Ball back in the lineup, scored 14 fourth-quarter points to tie the game before the heartbreaking heave ended their national championship hopes. Wisconsin still controls its own destiny but has to rebound quickly as it heads to Ohio State and the Horseshoe this weekend.

4. Michigan (6-1, 2-1) – Denard Robinson and the Michigan Wolverines sat back and watched the madness this weekenad as Brady Hoke's bunch prepares for a brutal stretch run in Big Ten play. The Maize and Blue host Purdue this weekend before finishing with road trips to Iowa and Illinois and home tests against Nebraska and Ohio State.

5. Penn State (7-1, 4-0) – Is there a quieter 4-0 conference team in the nation than Penn State? The Nittany Lions control their own destiny after taking care of business on the road against Northwestern 34-24. The Nits played balanced offensive football (192 yards passing, 197 yards rushing) and stuck with one quarterback, Matt McGloin, for the entire game. He played quality football by passing for 17-of-26 passes for 192 yards, two scores and no interceptions. Tailback Silas Redd ran for a career-high 164 yards and a touchdown of his own while the defense kept the Wildcats to only 94 yards rushing on 37 carries. Penn State now hosts Illinois and Nebraska before finishing 2011 with road trips to Ohio State and Wisconsin.

6. Ohio State (4-3, 1-2) – Without playing a game, the Buckeyes were one of the Big Ten's biggest winners in Week 8. With the Badgers losing, the Bucks now control their own Leaders Divison destiny. They will have two weeks to prepare for a visit from a Wisconsin team that is reeling after the devastaing defeat at the hands of the Spartans. With a win over Illinois already under their belt and the Badgers, Nittany Lions and Boilermakers still left on the schedule, Ohio State still has a very real shot at playing in Indianapolis in December.

7. Illinois (6-2, 2-2) – The Fighting Illini have played uninspired football two weeks in a row, and it has dropped them nearly out of the Leaders Divison race. With a 21-14 loss to Purdue, the Illini are now sitting in fourth (really fifth, since Ohio State owns the tiebreaker) place in the division. Nathan Scheelhaase struggled to complete passes all game and finished with only 16 yards on 13 carries (he is the team's leading rusher). The dynamic quarterback has rushed 29 times for 65 yards over his last two games as his team has posted only 21 points over the last two weeks. If it were not for two fourth-quarter touchdowns, the score would have been much worse. Illinois now travels to Penn State to face the Big Ten's top scoring defense.

8. Iowa (5-2, 2-1) – Iowa kept its Leaders Division title hopes alive with a 45-24 win over Indiana this weekend. After struggling two weeks ago against Penn State, quarterback James Vanderberg has played flawless football. He had as many touchdowns (4) as he did incompletions this weekend and has totalled 26-of-38 passing for 477 yards and six touchdowns in the Hawkeyes' last two wins. With division games with Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska still looming, Kirk Ferentz and company must travel north to Minnesota this weekend and get a win.

9. Northwestern (2-5, 0-4) – After two heartbreaking losses to Army and Illinois, Northwestern has struggled to stop anyone in three straight losses to Michigan, Iowa and Penn State. The Wildcats allowed Penn State tailback Silas Redd to set a career high in yards and actually made Matt McGloin look like an efficient passer. It has been a rough season for Northwestern, but the Wildcats should be able to get back on track this weekend with a trip to Bloomington.

10. Purdue (4-3, 2-1) – The Boilermakers might have saved Danny Hope's job by pulling the 21-14 upset over Illinois last Saturday. Caleb TerBush played efficient football, completing 16-of-25 passes for 178 yards, two scores and no interceptions. The Boilers led 21-0 for essentially the entire game, and the final score was not really indicative of how easily they handled the dynamic Illini offensive attack.

11. Indiana (1-7, 0-4) – The Hoosiers lost 45-24 against Iowa this weekend and have yet to defeat an FBS opponent under new head coach Kevin Wilson. In Tre Roberson, Indiana started a true freshman at quarterback for the first time in school history. Roberson showed reasons for optimism as he completed 16-of-24 passes for 197 yards and one touchdown while rushing 16 times for 84 yards on the ground. However, as if starting 1-7 weren't hard enough for Wilson, the IU coaching staff learned this week that the No. 2 quarterback recruit in the nation, Gunner Kiel, has reopened his recruitment and will likely end up at Notre Dame or Alabama instead of Bloomington.

12. Minnesota (1-6, 0-3) – There isn't much to say about a 41-14 home loss to Nebraska. Minnesota now ranks dead last in the Big Ten in total offense, scoring offense, scoring defense, turnover margin, passing efficiency and sacks. The Gophers are 11th in the Big Ten in rushing offense, passing offense, rushing defense and total defense. With Iowa, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Illinois left on the schedule, it is hard to see the Gophers winning again in 2011.

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the Big Ten stack up after the 8th week of action?</p>
Post date: Monday, October 24, 2011 - 17:22
Path: /college-football/college-football-power-rankings-pac-12-3
Body:

By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)

Post-Week 8 Pac-12 Power Rankings

Check out all of our college football rankings.

1. Oregon (6-1, 4-0) – No LaMichael James, no Darron Thomas, no problem. Behind redshirt freshman quarterback Bryan Bennett and junior tailback Kenjon Barner, the Ducks rolled to an easy 45-2 victory over Colorado in Oregon's first trip to Folsom Field in over 20 years. The Ducks still piled up 371 yards rushing while holding an injury-riddled Buffs team to only 231 yards of total offense. Bennett finished 11-of-20 passing for 156 yards and two scores to go with 11.5 yards per carry on six attempts (69 yards). Barner also scored twice and topped the 100-yard mark for the second straight game with James. With Stanford looming on November 12, resting Thomas and James for a second straight week might be the smart decision as the Ducks host Washington State this weekend.

2. Stanford (7-0, 5-0) – As it turns out, Andrew Luck doesn't have to be Superman for Stanford to completely dominate an opponent. Behind a stellar ground game, the Cardinal topped Washington, its toughest competition to date, 65–21 at home this weekend. Luck was efficient (16-of-22, 169 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT), but Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro led an offensive line that plowed the way for a single-game school rushing record 446 yards on 44 carries. Stanford is now winning by 36 points per game and has set an NCAA record with 10 straight wins by at least 25 points. The Cardinal have won 15 straight. Luck now takes his Heisman and National Championship hopes on the road to The Coliseum to take on the Trojans of USC.

3. Arizona State (5-2, 3-1) – The Sun Devils had an extra week to think about the 41-27 loss at the hands of the Ducks two weekends ago. With two weeks to prepare for lowly Colorado (1-7, 0-4), Arizona State should be well on its way to clinching the first-ever Pac-12 South title. Especially considering the rest of the schedule: at UCLA, at Washington State, Arizona and Cal at home.

4. USC (6-1, 3-1) – Matt Barkley began the 31-17 win over Notre Dame by completing his first eight passes and finished with three touchdowns and 224 yards as the Trojans outgained Notre Dame 443-267 in total yards. After falling behind 17-0, the Irish clawed their way back into the game, and behind back-up quarterback Dayne Crist (Tommy Rees left with a knee injury), drove to the USC 1-yard line with less than a minute to go in the third quarter. However, instead of a 17-17 game, Crist mishandled the snap, and Jawanza Starling scooped up the loose ball and returned it 80 yards for a Trojan touchdown to make the score 24-10. USC, an 8.5-point underdog, held on for what head coach Lane Kiffin called "our team's biggest win since we've been here." USC hosts Stanford this weekend.

5. Washington (5-2, 3-1) – Steve Sarkisian, Keith Price and the Washington Huskies are going to be a very good football team in the very near future. But they are not ready to compete for Pac-12 titles yet. A 65-21 loss to Stanford this weekend proves that. The Huskies allowed 615 yards of total offense, including 446 rushing yards, to arguably the hottest team in the nation. Price and tailback Chris Polk were their usual productive selves, but the defense let the Dawgs' faithful down, allowing 10.1 yards per carry on 44 attempts on the ground. The Huskies get a winnable game at home against Arizona before the second barometer game of the year when Oregon comes to town.

6. California (4-3, 1-3) – Zach Maynard was at his best on Saturday when he completed 19-of-29 passes for 255 yards, another Keenan Allen touchdown connection and no turnovers. More importantly, the Bears defense showed up by shutting the Utes out until the 11:16 mark of the fourth quarter. Ultimately, the 34-10 final score gave Jeff Tedford his much-needed first conference win, and with UCLA, Washington State and Oregon State as the next three, the Bears have a great chance at bowl eligibility.

7. Utah (3-4, 0-4) – The rude introduction to BCS conference play continues for the Utes after a 34-10 loss at the hands of the winless in conference Cal Golden Bears. Utah was held to 13 yards rushing on 26 carries while quarterback Jon Hays was sacked four times and intercepted three times. The Utes shedule is not terrible down the stretch at all — Oregon State, Arizona, UCLA, Washington State, Colorado — but they will have to play better football than they did on Saturday if they expect to get to a bowl game.

8. Arizona (2-5, 1-4) – In one of the more inspiring and shocking outcomes of Week 8, Arizona completely dismantled the then 2-1 UCLA Bruins. Nick Foles was his usual self, throwing for 291 yards and three scores, while the defense made the biggest statement under the guidance of interim head coach Tim Kish (the defensive coordinator). The Wildcats allowed 37 yards rushing on 25 carries and forced five UCLA fumbles. It was Arizona's first win since Week 1 against Northern Arizona. The Wildcats now travel to Washington to take on the Huskies.

9. UCLA (3-4, 2-2) – So much for that job-saving 3-1 Pac-12 start for Rick Neuheisel. On national television in a must-win situation, the Bruins laid a complete egg. Arizona led 42-7 at halftime as the Bruins were utterly uncompetitive against a team that had yet to win a Pac-12 game. UCLA had been averaging 194 yards rushing per game before the pathetic 37-yard showing on Thursday night. The Bruins will host Cal on Saturday.

10. Oregon State (2-5, 2-2) – After a pathetic 0-4 start, the Beavers have now won two of their last three after a quality 44-21 win over Washington State. True freshman Malcolm Agnew ran 23 times for 103 yards and a score while quarterback Sean Mannion contiunes his growth process. He completed 26-of-34 passes for 376 yards and four touchdowns. Mike Riley's squad is showing signs of life and could get over .500 in conference play with a road win over reeling Utah this weekend.

11. Washington State (3-4, 1-3) – The Cougars once again appeared to have lost starting quarterback Jeff Tuel, who led the game at halftime with an apparent injury (he was 11-of-13 for the game). Marshall Lobbestael stepped in but could do nothing to help a porous Wazzzu defense that allowed 551 yards of offense to Oregon State. The 44-21 loss to OSU was a must-win if Paul Wulff wanted to get his team to the postseason — or get himself a contract extention. Both now seem to be out of reach with a brutal upcoming schedule: at Oregon, at Cal, Arizona State, Utah and Washington.

12. Colorado (1-7, 0-4) –
The depleted Colorado Buffalos have now lost five straight and are technically 0-5 in conference  play after a humiliating 45-2 loss to Oregon (the 36–33 loss to Cal was not techincally a conference game). Colorado now ranks dead last in the Pac-12 in rushing offense, scoring offense, scoring defense, kick returns and sacks allowed. They are 11th in total offense and rushing defense. Welcome to the Pac-12, Boulder.

Teaser:
<p> How do the teams in the Pac-12 stack up after Week 7 of action?</p>
Post date: Monday, October 24, 2011 - 12:12
Path: /college-football/kansas-states-bill-snyder-national-coach-year
Body:

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com

One of the primary reasons we started this site is our belief in the power of coaching. Talent of course matters as evidenced by taking a quick look at the last decade of national champions in college football. However, even teams with every advantage possibles struggle, at least relatively so, when they don't have the right General running the army. For a few cases in point, consider the following:

  • Prior to the Nick Saban and Les Miles eras taking over at LSU in 2000, the Tigers won 55.36% of their games from 1980-1999. Since 2002, LSU has won 77.70% of their games.
     
  • Prior to Bob Stoops taking over at Oklahoma in 1999, the vaunted Sooners won 67.76% of their games from 1980-1998. Since 1999, the Sooners have won 81.33% of their games.
     
  • Prior to Mack Brown taking over at Texas in 1998, the Longhorns won 63.64% of their games from 1978-1997. Under Brown, Texas has won 79.19% of their games.
     
  • Prior to Pete Carroll taking over at USC in 2001, the Trojans won 61.37% of their games from 1981-2000. The Trojans won 83.62% of their games under Carroll.

Coaching matters and in our opinion, it matters above all else. For the ultimate example in how much coaching matters, we turn to Kansas State's Bill Snyder. Coach Snyder's Wildcats are off to a 6-0 start this season, with impressive victories over Texas Tech, Baylor, and Miami. However, we don't want to focus on one year. We want to focus on Coach Snyder's body of work as the prime example of how a single coach can change the entire identity of a football program. Let's consider a few things first with regards to the history of the program:

Team Years Wins Lossess WP% Bowl Appearances
Kansas St. 1896-1988 (93 years) 299 510 36.96% 1

Additionally:

Team Years 8+Win Seasons 8+ Loss Seasons
Kansas St. 1970-1988 0 12

Finally:

Team WP% in 5 Years Prior to Snyder
Kansas State 10.77%

These numbers culminated in 1989, leading to....

FUTILITY U: KANSAS STATE WINLESS SINCE 1986, HAS ONE CLAIM TO FAME: IT IS AMERICA'S MOST HAPLESS TEAM

--Article from September 4, 1989 edition of Sports Illustrated.

That year, Bill Snyder was hired and began his tenure as head coach at Kansas State. Now, let's fast forward and take a look at how the Wildcats have fared under Snyder's leadership:

Coach Team Years Overall WP% Bowl Appearances
Bill Snyder Kansas State 1989-2005, 2009-Present 65.68% 13*
*Assuming a Bowl Appearance for 2011 given the Wildcats are bowl eligible after first six games

Additionally:

Coach Team Years 8+ Win Seasons 8+ Loss Seasons
Bill Snyder Kansas State 1989-2005, 2009-2010 10 1

Finally and most impressively:

Coach Team Years 11+ Win Seasons
Bill Snyder Kansas State 1997-2003 6

We knew Bill Snyder was a good coach, but after digging into the numbers, we are simply astounded by the coaching job he has done for the Wildcats. Given the state of the program prior to his arrival in Manhattan (KS), it is nothing short of miraculous. This season, the Wildcats are off to a 6-0 start and appear to have at least two more victories on the docket and a really great chance at a 9-win season. Over the last four years, the Wildcats have had an average recruiting class of 80.25 (out of 120 teams), so it's pretty safe to assume that Snyder is not recruiting his way to victories. If he is not recruiting his way to victories, then how is Snyder doing what he is doing? This year may be a great example of how Snyder does what he does. Let's look at a few numbers:

Coach Team Year Scoring Off. Natl. Rank Avg. Scoring Def. Natl. Rank
Bill Snyder Kansas St. 2011 58 (out of 120) 21 (out of 120)

So, from the looks of it, Kansas State has a very average offense with an above average defense. Typically, teams with these kind of national rankings aren't 6-0 with victories over Miami (avg. recruiting class of 20.25 over last four years), Texas Tech (avg. recruiting class of 34.25 over last four years), and Baylor (avg. recruiting class of 49.75 over last four years). After digging around for a while, we think we may have stumbled on to the reason for the Wildcat's fast start:

3rd Down Efficiency - Offense 3rd Down Efficiency - Defense 3rd Down Differential Turnovers Lost Turnovers Gained
48.42% 32.05% 16.37% 7 13

So, the Wildcats have a 16.37% positive difference between how often they convert on third downs and how often they prevent their opponents from converting. Additionally, they have forced almost twice as many turnovers as they committed. From our standpoint, the above numbers really demonstrate coaching in action. Third down efficiency numbers are great indicators of coaching because they point to strategy, play calling, and execution.

As complicated as football can be, in the end it really isn't any more complicated than finding ways to score more points than your opponent. If you can find ways to keep your offense on the field more than your opponent, you have drastically improved your chances of winning the game. Offensive scheme, positive 3rd down efficiency differential, and positive turnover margin are all major contributing factors to overall success. The 2011 Kansas State team is certainly proof of that.

So, why is Bill Snyder a great coach and leader? Our best answer is that we don't know. The late, great leadership and management guru Peter Drucker once said the following about leadership: "Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes." From everything we have had read and know about Bill Snyder, he is a rather boring guy. He certainly doesn't fit the "energetic, motivating, recruiter" profile so many AD's seem enamored with these days.

However, from our standpoint, Snyder's somewhat plain style is just as much of a Red Herring as is a coach's energetic style. As Mr. Drucker noted, leadership should be defined by results not attributes. When you consider the results Bill Snyder has produced at Kansas State, it's hard not to place him the upper echelon of leaders and coaches in the history of college football.

Teaser:
<p> The Wildcats are unbeaten and all of the credit goes to Bill Snyder.</p>
Post date: Monday, October 24, 2011 - 11:39
Path: /columns/national-notebook/college-footballs-top-games-second-half
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

1. LSU vs. Alabama (Week 10)
Nov. 5, All-Time Series: Bama leads 45-24-5

This one pretty much has it all: Coaching and fanbase storylines, divisional and conference title implications, Heisman Trophy candidates and a potential BCS National Championship berth. Despite dominating for most of this rivalry and winning two of the last three, LSU has had Bama’s number for the better part of a decade – winning six of the last eight meetings. These are arguably the two best defenses in the nation and will both make things tough on the running game. Therefore, whichever quarterback can convert key third and longs in the fourth quarter will likely set his team up for a national title run. These are two of the best rosters in the nation, but the edge goes to the better coach and home-field advantage. This has been targeted as the biggest game of the season nationally and through seven weeks, nothing has changed. This will be the brightest and most important spotlight of the 2011 college football season.

Athlon’s Prediction: Bama by 3

2. Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State (Week 14)
Dec. 3, All-Time Series: Oklahoma leads 81-17-7
Dan Beebe and the Big 12 had to highlight one game on Championship Saturday after losing its title game and The Bedlam Series was an easy choice. Not only will in-state bragging rights be on the line for the 105th time, but the Big 12 title – and potential BCS National Championship – could be at stake as well. Oklahoma State appears to be the prime contender to Oklahoma in the league and will have a chance to prove it on the final weekend of the regular season. The Sooners have won eight straight in the series including last year’s 47-41 that featured 967 yards of total offense and 725 combined passing yards. Landry Jones and Brandon Weeden combined for 105 pass attempts, six touchdowns and six interceptions. Fans can expect fireworks once again from the Bedlam Series.

Athlon’s Prediction: Sooners by 3

3. Oregon vs. Stanford (Week 11)
Nov. 12, All-Time Series: Stanford leads 44-29-1

The Pac-12 conference title will likely be on the line when Oregon flies south to Palo Alto. Stanford has owned the all-time series, but over the last decade the Ducks have dominated. Oregon dropped 52 points on the Cardinal last fall and has won eight of the last nine meetings. The Ducks have struggled against power teams (Ohio State, Auburn, LSU) over the last two years and the Cardinal will have as close to a power rushing attack as there is on the West Coast. Will the Ducks’ front seven be able to pressure Andrew Luck and slow the ground game? And can the Cardinal keep the Ducks from scoring 52 points again?

Athlon’s Prediction: Cardinal by 4

4. Wisconsin vs. Michigan State (Week 8)
Oct. 22, All-Time Series: Michigan State leads 28-21

These two have swapped victories in the last six meetings including a tight 10-point win by Michigan State a year ago that cost the Badgers the outright conference title. Kirk Cousins converted a few key goalline fourth downs to give Michigan State its first share of a conference title since 1990. Wisconsin brings the nation’s No. 1 scoring offense and the top rated rushing attack, passing attack and total offense in the Big Ten to East Lansing. Jerell Worthy and the nation’s No. 2 defense will be prepared along the Spartan front. Kirk Cousins and Russell Wilson will likely hold the key to success. Whichever quarterback can complete passes down the field in the vertical passing game will likely lead his team to victory.

Athlon’s Prediction: Badgers by 4

5. Alabama vs. Auburn (Week 13)
Nov. 26, All-Time Series: Bama leads 40-34-1

The Iron Bowl is one of the single greatest football games of the season each and every year. And while the 2011 edition might lack the national appeal of last season’s unbelievable come-from-behind Tigers victory, there will be no loved lost come November 26. Auburn has rebuilt quicker than expected and while there is loads of young potential running around the Plains, Alabama has too much veteran talent to miss an opportunity at payback. Especially when a BCS national championship could be at stake.

Athlon’s Prediction: Bama by 10

6. Oregon vs. Washington (Week 10)
Nov. 5, All-Time Series: Washington leads 58-40-5

Two of the best uniforms in the nation will take the field in what should be a visual show in the richly colored Pacific Northwest. The scoreboard shouldn’t be short on color either as the winner of this game has averaged 43 points per game over the last nine meetings. In fact, the winner of this game has scored less than 42 points only twice (31 in 2004, 34 in 2006). The Ducks have won seven straight meetings and will likely post another crooked number. However, Steve Sarkisian has plenty of talent with Keith Price playing well ahead of schedule. The Huskies are the primary challenger to Oregon and Stanford in the North.

Athlon’s Prediction: Ducks by 7

7. Clemson vs. Georgia Tech (Week 9)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: Tech leads 48-25-2

The rematch of the 2009 ACC championship game could be a preview of the 2011 ACC title bout. Tech won that game - and had won six out of seven - but Clemson handled the Jackets with relative ease last fall 27-13 in Death Valley. This one will be in Atlanta and will feature the top two offenses in the ACC. Tech (at 347 yards rushing per game) leads the conference in scoring, rushing and total offense while the Tigers rank No. 2 in all three categories. How each defense plays quarterback Tevin Washington, who leads the ACC in passer efficiency, and Tajh Boyd, who leads the conference in total offense, will likely be the determining factor.

Athlon's Prediction: Clemson by 3

8. Arkansas vs. LSU (Week 13)
Nov. 25, All-Time Series: LSU leads 34-20-2

Arkansas has taken three of the last four from LSU, including a thrilling 50-48 win in Baton Rouge over the eventual National Champions in 2007. It is the Hogs only win in its last eight trips to the Bayou. The battle for control of the line of scrimmage will either make Jarret Lee and Jordan Jefferson’s job much easier or much more difficult. Should Arkansas win that match-up, it will be because Tyler Wilson and the excellent talent around him made plays down the field. The Hogs still has shown holes along the offensive line, so picking up yards on the ground against LSU sans Knile Davis will be a difficult task.

Athlon’s Prediction: LSU by 9

9. Michigan State vs. Nebraska (Week 9)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: Nebraksa leads 5-0

The Spartans are still looking for their first ever win over Nebraska, and with one in 2011, they could find themselves playing in December in Indianapolis. After a quality win over archrival Michigan, Sparty fancies itself as the primary contender in the Big Ten Legends Division. The last meeting between the two took place in the Alamo Bowl in 2003 and Nebraska has outscored Michigan State 181-34 in the five meetings with an average margin of victory just under 30 points. Nebraska possesses two of the top five rushers in the Big Ten and Michigan State is allowing a league best 186.2 yards per game.

Athlon’s Prediction: Huskers by 4

10. Ohio State vs. Michigan (Week 13)
Nov. 26, All-Time Series: Michigan leads 57-43-6

The greatest rivalry in all of college football will be renewed for the 107th time when these two Midwest powers lock horns in the final week of the regular season. Despite the prestige, tradition and nostalgia created from watching the Maize and Blue battle with the Scarlet and Gray, this rivalry has been totally one-sided of late. Ohio State has won seven straight and nine of the last ten. Brady Hoke and Denard Robinson clearly has Michigan pointed in the right direction and has the Wolverines in a position to surprise. However, the Buckeyes will only get better until the final week of the season and will still be able to control the trenches. Michigan will beat OSU in the near future, it just isn’t likely to happen in 2011.

Athlon’s Prediction: Buckeyes by 3

11. Texas vs. Texas A&M (Week 13)
Nov. 24, All-Time Series: 75-37-5

These two bitter rivals have only upped the ante with Texas A&M’s move to the SEC. The Aggies hate the Longhorns for a variety of reasons – not the least of which has been on the field domination by the Horns. Texas has won eight of the last 11 meetings, but TAMU currently holds the bragging rights with a 24-17 win last fall to go with three wins in the last five match-ups over Big Brother. Aggie fans still have Big 12 title hopes while Texas fans are reeling after two losses to the Sooner State. If Texas rebounds quickly and the Aggies can stay the course, the Lone Star Showdown could carry more weight than just eternal conference bragging rights. Otherwise, this will be a Turkey Day hangover game filled with nothing but Aggie one-liners and Burnt Orange hatred.

Athlon’s Prediction: Aggies by 7

12. Virginia Tech vs. Georgia Tech (Week 11)
Nov. 10, All-Time Series: Virginia Tech leads 5-3

The actual and football IQ will be off the charts in this Coastal contest. The home team has won the last three games in this budding rivarly, with all three games decided by one score or less. This Thursday night primetime get together in Atlanta will likely decide the Coastal's representative in the ACC title game. The battle within the battle will be intriguing as the Paul Johnson's ACC-leading rushing attack will go nose to nose with Bud Foster's ACC-leading rush defense. Get the ice-packs ready for this one.

Athlon's Prediction: Virginia Tech by 4

13. Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma (Week 10)
Nov. 5, All-Time Series: Oklahoma leads 18-11

Crimson and Cream faithful certainly have this one circled on the calendar this fall. Not only is Texas A&M is still one of the top contenders to the Sooners’ title hopes, but they also are programa non grata in the Big 12 and upset OU in last year’s bout. The Aggies entered the fourth quarter with a narrow 19-17 lead before two big play touchdowns from Cyrus Gray and Ryan Swope broke open the game. Landry Jones was sacked four times as the Sooners were held in check on the ground. TAMU held Oklahoma to 72 yards rushing on 44 carries. Without Von Miller, the game moves to Norman with revenge on the mind of Bob Stoops.

Athlon’s Prediction: Sooners by 10

14. West Virginia vs. Rutgers (Week 9)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: WVU leads 32-4-2

To say that the West Virginia Mountaineers have owned this series is an understatement to say the least. The Mounties have won 16 straight games against Rutgers dating back to a 1994 17-12 win by the Knights in New Brunswick. Greg Schiano's bunch hasn't played a great schedule, but with a dominating performance against Pitt (34-10) and an double-overtime win over Syracuse, the Knights are atop the Big East standings. With a win at Lousiville this weekend, Rutgers could make this the first of many title elimination games.

Athlon's Prediction: West Virginia by 10

15. Florida vs. Georgia (Week 9, Jacksonville)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: UGA leads 46-40-2

In one of the more exciting football games of the season, the Gators topped the Dawgs 34-31 in overtime last fall. The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party should be just as intense in 2011. Murray set a career high with his first 300-yard passing game (313) and tied his career best with three touchdown tosses. He also set a career mark with three interceptions (he had eight total in 2010). Georgia has eyes set on Atlanta in December and winning every game might be its only way back to the title game. And this is biggest conference test left for the Dawgs.

Athlon’s Prediction: Dawgs by 10

16. Wisconsin vs. Ohio State (Week 9)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: Ohio State leads 53-18-5
Ohio State won 21 straight meetings with the Badgers from 1960 to 1980. Since then, Wisconsin has held its own in the blossoming rivalry 11-14-1 in the 26 games since. In fact, these two teams have split the last six, eight and 10 games played. But Ohio State has won the last two in Columbus in convincing fashion (at least on the scoreboard) 69-30. Russell Wilson will be playing in the most hostile environment of his career when he walks into the Shoe and will need his running game if he expects to leave Columbus with a win. However, the Bucks have totally stymied the Badgers’ potent rushing game in the last two meetings on the Banks of the Olentagy’s. Sconie has mustered only 130 yards on 81 carries in the two losses. Ohio State is still stiff on defense, but keeping up with a team that averages over 50 points per game will be a tall order for true freshman Braxton Miller.

Athlon’s Prediction: Badgers by 7

17. USC vs. Notre Dame (Week 8)
Oct. 22, All-Time Series: Notre Dame leads 43-33-5
One the nation’s most prestigious rivalries will be renewed for the 82nd time when USC heads to South Bend this weekend. The Irish got off the schneid last season when they outlasted the Trojans 20-16 in Los Angeles as it was the first victory for Notre Dame over USC since 2001 (0-8). In a series that has featured second halves like Anthony Davis' and fourth quarter “heroics” like the Bush Push, this reunion is a must-see each and every season. Both teams appear to be improved from a year ago and customary year-long bragging rights will be on the line.

Athlon’s Prediction: Irish by 3

18. USC vs. Oregon (Week 12)
Nov. 19, All-Time Series: USC leads 37-18-2

This game should have been one of two potential Pac-12 championship game previews. USC is the best team in the South but will not be allowed to play in the inaugural conference title bout. That doesn’t really affect the players on the field, however, as these are arguably the most talent-laden rosters in the conference. Despite being dominated for the better part of the century, Oregon has reestablished its home field advantage in this budding rivalry, winning five of the last seven meetings in Eugene. The Ducks have also won three of the last four overall reunions, including a 53–32 shellacking in 2010.

Athlon’s Prediction: Ducks by 7

19. Oklahoma vs. Kansas State (Week 9)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: Oklahoma leads 70-17-4

Six of the 17 all-time series wins by the Wildcats have come with Bill Snyder at the helm (6-9 overall), including the 35-7 Big 12 title game rout in 2003 - and you can bet Bob Stoops still has nightmares about No. 43. The Sooners have done everything asked of them thus far as they march towards a potential Big 12 and National Championship. However, Kansas State has beaten the likes of Miami, Baylor, Missouri and Texas Tech over the last month and boasts the league's No. 2 scoring defense. Ty Zimmerman, Arthur Brown and Meshak Williams will have to be at thier best if they expect to pull the upset.

Athlon's Prediction: Sooners by 10

20. Kansas State vs. Oklahoma State (Week 10)
Nov. 5, All-Time Series: Oklahoma State leads 35-22

From 1990 to 2002, Oklahoma State got completely shutout by Bill Snyder (9-0). But since then, the Pokes have won three out of four and the last two in Stillwater. However, those two losses were by a combined six points and KSU averaged 36.5 points per game. Okie State boasts a tremendous offense, maybe the best in the nation, but the defense has had its issues - it's ranked 100th nationally in total defense. The Wildcats will be coming off of a battle with Oklahoma the week before, and if they somehow upset the Sooners, this game takes on added importance. If Kansas State cannot beat Oklahoma, it could be a long two weeks for Wildcats fans.

Athlon's Prediction: Oklahoma State by 14

21. Pittsburgh at West Virginia (Week 13)
Nov. 25, All-Time Series: Pittsburgh leads 61-39-3

The Backyard Brawl is the Big East’s top rivalry and there could be plenty on the line when these two teams meet in late November. The new coaches in this rivalry aren’t particularly fond of one another, so there will be some added spice to this matchup. West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen wasn’t happy with Pittsburgh’s Todd Graham during their time in Conference USA accusing Tulsa of faking injuries to slow down Houston’s high-powered offense. The Mountaineers have won the last two matchups in this series and three out of the last four in Morgantown.

Athlon’s Prediction: West Virginia by 10

22. Nebraska vs. Michigan (Week 12)
Nov. 19, All-Time Series: Michigan leads 3-2-1

Nebraska had a rough enough schedule through September and October, but won’t get any breaks in the final three weeks of the regular season either. In back-to-back weekends, the Huskers have to play in front hostile 110,000-seat crowds in Happy Valley and Ann Arbor. It was 1962 the last time Big Red visited the Big House. The Wolverines lost the first Legends Division elimination game this weekend in East Lansing, but still could push for division supremacy. However, the Wolverines have yet to prove it can match wills along the line of scrimmage with the Big Ten’s elite. And stopping the Rex Burkhead-Taylor Martinez combo takes strength up front.

Athlon’s Prediction: Nebraska by 4

23. Iowa vs. Nebraska (Week 13)
Nov. 25, All-Time Series: Nebraska leads 26-12-3

These two heartland powers really haven’t met since World War II. The border rivals met regularly during the World War I era as well as in the 30s and 40s, but have played only six times since 1946. The renewal of what is now an intra-divisional rivalry could still carry with it divisional implications - whole ear of corn, so to speak, could be on the line in the season finale in Lincoln. The Hawkeye offense, with the exception of its trip to Happy Valley, has been solid under James Vandenberg’s leadership, scoring at least 31 points in every other game the Hawks have played this season. If both can reach Thanksgiving without sustaining another loss, this game could hold major Big Ten title ramifications.

Athlon’s Prediction: Huskers by 7

24. South Carolina vs. Arkansas (Week 10)
Nov. 5, All-Time Series: Arkansas leads 12-7
This will be the third in a brutal late season road swing for the Gamecocks. After visiting Mississippi State and Tennessee the previous two games, Steve Spurrier will have to have his team prepped for another nasty environment in Fayetteville. Especially after getting torched by Ryan Mallett and company in Columbia a season ago. Stephon Gilmore and the USC secondary will have to play better against Tyler Wilson than it did against Mallett (or anyone else in 2011 for that matter) – who completed 21 of 30 passes for 303 yards and a score in the 40-21 drubbing. With their star tailback to grind out first downs on the ground, it is hard to see a Connor Shaw-led Gamecock team scoring enough points to beat Tyler Wilson and the Hogs.

Athlon’s Prediction: Hogs by 7

25. Florida State vs. Florida (Week 13)
Nov. 26, All-Time Series: Florida leads 33-20-2

This will be the first matchup of new blood between Florida’s Will Muschamp and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher. The two coaches became close friends during their time as assistants under Nick Saban and will certainly have to put aside personal feelings to square-off in this rivarly. The Gators were embarrassed in Tallahassee last year and will be looking to return the favor, while ruining Florida State’s bragging rights in the Sunshine State. Normally this game carries heavy national title implications, however, bowl eligibility could be on the line for one (or both) if the respective ships aren't righted immediately.

Athlon’s Prediction: Gators by 1

26. Stanford vs. USC (Week 9)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: USC leads 58-27-3
If Oregon is the most talented roster in the Pac-12, then these two teams are the clear challengers when it comes to raw ability. Unfortunately the budding disdain between Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh has come to an end. But Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley are still around and are still two of the most talented passers in the country. The Cardinal power rushing attack will test the uncharacteristically porous Trojan front seven from 2010, while Barkley and super-soph Robert Woods will offer a formidable test for the veteran Stanford secondary. Stanford has won three of the last four meetings, including the last two trips to the Coliseum.

Athlon’s Prediction: Cardinal by 1

27. Washington vs. Stanford (Week 8)
Oct. 22, All-Times Series: Washington leads 40-37-4

This series was dominated by the Huskies from 1977 through 2003, but Stanford has reversed the trend of late. The Cardinal have won five of the last six meetings in cluding a 41-0 thumping last season in Seattle. With Keith Price now leading the U of W ship with electric efficiency, the 2011 battle figures to be much closer. However, Stanford still has the nation’s best player and will be on The Farm for this one.

Athlon’s Prediction: Stanford by 13

28. Wake Forest vs. Clemson (Week 11)
Nov. 12, All-Time Series: Clemson leads 58-17-1

Wake Forest has lost four of the last five against Clemson and has not won in Death Valley since 1998. However, the Demon Deacons, behind excellent quarterback play, have established themselves as the top challenger to Clemson in the Atlantic Division (thanks to a fourth win in six years over Florida State). One could easily make the case that Tanner Price and Boyd have been the two most important signal callers in the ACC this fall. On paper, the supporting cast for Clemson seems to be a major advantage, but this has been true of nearly every game Jim Grobe has coached at Wake Forest. The Deacs will not be intimidated by the hostile environment and NFL talent of the Clemson Tigers.

Athlon's Prediction: Clemson by 7

29. Notre Dame vs. Stanford (Week 13)
Nov. 26, All-Time Series: Notre Dame leads 17-8

This game has a chance to dramatically impact the overall national title landscape in the penultimate week of the regular season. If things fall right for both, an at-large BCS bowl bid could be on the line. The Irish struggled out of the gate with turnovers but have righted the ship behind improved play by Tommy Rees. On the flip side, Andrew Luck has been as good as advertised and has the Cardinal destroying opponents by 34 points per game.

Athlon’s Prediction: Cardinal by 6

30. Miami vs. Florida State (Week 11)
Nov. 12, All-Time Series: Miami leads 31-24

This series was dominated by Miami in the early 2000s, but Florida State has won four of the last six games. The Seminoles have lost the last two games in Tallahassee, including a 38-34 shootout in 2009. Florida State thoroughly handled the Hurricanes last year, winning 45-17, easily the most lopsided final in this series since a 47-0 win by the Seminoles in 1997. The Hurricanes have shown improvement under Al Golden and Jacory Harris is starting to look like an actual BCS quarterback. The Noles dealt with a brutal three-game winning streak but have gotten their swagger back with a dominating win over Duke. This game lacks the luster that the preseason rankings might have indicated, but the passion and intensity will be running high in Tallahassee when these two historic rivals get together.

Athlon’s Prediction: Seminoles by 7

Athlon Sports Mid-Season Awards and Evaluations:

Athlon Sports First Half National Awards

Big 12 Mid-Season Predictions, Review and Awards

SEC Mid-Season Predictions, Review and Awards

Big East Mid-Season Predictions, Review and Awards

ACC Mid-Season Predictions, Review and Awards

Big Ten Mid-Season Predictions, Review and Awards

Pac-12 Mid-Season Predictions, Review and Awards

Teaser:
<p> What are college football's must-see match-ups of the second half?</p>
Post date: Friday, October 21, 2011 - 13:09
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, start or sit, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /columns/start-or-sit/nfl-fantasy-start-and-sit-week-7
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-by Braden Gall ( @AthlonBraden on twitter)

Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Week 7 Rankings

NFL Bye Weeks: Buffalo, Cincinnati, New England, NY Giants, Philadelphia, San Francisco

Start These Quarterbacks

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (at Arizona)
Eli Manning threw for 321 yards and two scores against
Arizona. Rex Grossman posted 299 and two scores (two INTs). And the Cardinals allowed 422 yards and two scores to Cam Newton in Week 1. Big Ben should have plenty of chances against the Redbirds.

Jay Cutler, Chicago (at Tampa Bay)
The Bucs are 26th in the NFL in passing defense (276 ypg) and has allowed 10 touchdowns (6th worst in the NFL). Despite forcing three interceptions and winning the game, Drew Brees still posted a 383-1 line against the Bucs. Cutler is coming off his best game (115.9) game of the season and should have some success this weekend.

Tim Tebow, Denver (at Miami)
The Dolphins are 29th against the pass and has intercepted only two passes – against 10 touchdown passes allowed – all season long. The Fish are also allowing 25.6 points allowed per game. This could be a make or break game for the polarizing quarterback, so expect his ground contributions to turn his middling passing numbers into a very viable fantasy performance.

Curtis Painter, Indianapolis (at New Orleans)
Josh Freeman lit-up the Saints defense a week ago to the tune of 303 yards and two scores while Painter was underwhelming last week (188-1-0). Yet, he has been serviceable in every one of his starts and no one has allowed more touchdown passes in the NFL than the Saints (12).

Bench These Quarterbacks

Matt Schaub, Houston (at Tennessee)
The Texans passer has failed to top 220 yards in two of his last three and has a total of four touchdown passes in three games (two INTs). The Titans have been great (other than against
Pittsburgh) against the pass (221 yards per game, six interceptions) and have had a week to get healthy and prepare for what has become a huge AFC South contest. Limited upside here with Andre The Giant still unlikely to play.

Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee (Houston)
The Texans are allowing only 221.7 yards per game and have allowed only seven passing touchdowns all season. They also have been pressuring the quarterback well with 17.0 sacks thus far and are holding opposing quarterbacks to a fourth-best 54.2% completion rate.

Kevin Kolb, Arizona (Pittsburgh)
Kolb has been underwhelming but has topped 232 yards in every game and has five touchdowns in the last three games. But this should be a no-brain bench against the NFL’s No. 1 passing defense (157.7 yards per game).

Sam Bradford, St. Louis (at Dallas)
Facing the NFL’s No. 1 rushing defense on the road in a must-win situation is never good for a fully healthy passer, much less one that is battling injuries. A.J. Feeley could see some time as DeMarcus Ware will be breathing down his neck all game long.

Philip Rivers, San Diego (at NY Jets)
I cannot tell you to bench someone who is averaging over 300 yards per game, but Rivers will be facing the toughest cornerback duo in football and all of his best targerts – Gates, Jackson, Floyd and Mathews – are all battling slight injuries. His upside is limited here.

Start These Running Backs

Willis McGahee, Denver (at Miami)
Knowshon Moreno is turning quickly into an after thought. McGahee is now the workhorse, has back-to-back 100-yard efforts, is coming off a bye week and will be needed to take the load off a first-time starter.

DeMarco Murray, Dallas (St. Louis)
Felix Jones won’t be on the field for a couple of weeks with a high ankle sprain, and with Tashard Choice’s inability to hold onto the ball,
Murray looks to be the beneficiary. Murray got the most carries last week and can be a versatile player against the NFL’s worst rush defense as the Rams allow over 160 yards per game.

Jackie Battle, Kansas City (Oakland)
Battle
got his first big taste of action two weeks ago when he ran 19 times for 119 yards against the Colts. After two full weeks to get acclimated with the offense, Battle should be another sneaky play against the fifth worst overall defense in the NFL (396 ypg).

Daniel Thomas (Reggie Bush), Miami (Denver)
Both Thomas (16 touches) and Bush (12 touches) got plenty of looks last week against a defense that has struggled against the pass. The Broncos are 31st in the NFL in scoring defense at 28.0 points per game and are allowing 123.4 yards per game on the ground.

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle (at Cleveland)
At 129.8 yards per game allowed rushing, the Browns are in no position to slow a team that will always be built around a power rushing attack. Lynch has scored in two straight games, posted a season-high 98 yards his last game out and has had two weeks to rest for this one.

Mark Ingram (Darren Sproles), New Orleans
Sproles, especially in a PPR league, has turned into a weekly starter no matter the match-up. But against a defense that has allowed 136.7 yards per game rushing (30th in the NFL), both Ingram, who has scored twice in a row, and Sproles should both be quality plays.

Bench These Running Backs

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville (Baltimore)
MJD is a one-man offense and has been facing eight and nine-man boxes all season and it isn’t going to change this weekend.
Baltimore boasts the league’s No. 3 rush defense at 76.6 yards per game allowed and has surrendered only one rushing touchdown all season. Seeing as how Blaine Gabbert isn’t using MJD in the passing game as he should, it might be time to turn elsewhere this week.

Steven Jackson, St. Louis (at Dallas)
The Cowboys are the best run defense in the NFL and Sam Bradford might not be able to play all game. While he should get plenty of touches, it is hard to imagine anything more than a modest performance from S-Jax this weekend.

Peyton Hillis, Cleveland (Seattle)
There was strep throat. Then there was a new contract. Now there is the hamstring and a
Seattle defense that isn’t bad at all against the run. They rank 8th in the league at 97.8 yards per game and are holding opponents to 3.1 yards per carry.

Jahvid Best, Detroit (Atlanta)
There is a reason
Detroit traded for Ronnie Brown (or at least has tried to). One of the most brittle backs in the league, Best cannot be counted on for true workload numbers. And Atlanta has been solid against the run, ranked 7th in the league at 97.5 yards per game and a nasty 3.8 yards per carry average.

Start These Wide Receivers

Greg Little, Cleveland (Seattle)
Only New Orleans attempts more passes per game than Cleveland and Little was targeted an NFL-high 12 times last week.
Seattle should slow the run, so the passing game has a chance in this one.

Doug Baldwin, Seattle (at Cleveland)
The heady, hard-worker had a breakout performance the last time out (8-136-1) and is likely more comfortable with back-up Charlie Whitehurst (who will start) than Tavaris Jackson. Without Joe Haden, the Browns are beatable in the air.

Davone Bess, Miami (Denver)
The Broncos are the worst team in the NFL agianst fantasy passing attacks, and while Matt Moore shouldn't be in your line-up, Brandon Marshall and even Bess should make a rare appearance in the starting grid.

Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (at Arizona)
Brown has not been used as much over the last two weeks as he was in the first four games, but he could be in for one or two big plays this weekend. The Cards have been terrible against the pass and are allowing more big plays than most everyone in the league (third most 20-plus yard pass plays allowed).

Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, Chicago (at Tampa Bay)
With Cutler in for a solid outing, some deep sleepers this week could be Hester and Knox. Hester could always add a special teams score and Knox could provide a serviceable number.

Bench These Wide Receivers

Brandon Lloyd, St. Louis (at Dallas)
The Rams won’t be able to control the line of scrimmage. His quarterback is not healthy and this will be his first game as a Ram. All signs point to next week as the breakout for Lloyd in a Rams uniform.

Julio Jones, Atlanta (Detroit)
Jones still hasn’t practiced and will be, as an incredibly important playoff commodity, eased back into action. Look for Harry Douglas to pick-up the slack once again.

Tampa Bay Bucs (Chicago)
Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn and
Preston Parker. Have fun picking which one will get the points on any given week. And you can bet the Bears will be chasing Josh Freeman around all day.

Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd, San Diego (at NY Jets)
Jackson
might need to be started (monitor his status) but against one of the top secondaries in the NFL, it is hard to imagine either of these producing anything other than mediocre fantasy numbers.

Mike Thomas, Jacksonville (Baltimore)
Blaine Gabbert might be the future but he is still on a steep present-day learning curve. Stay away from Thomas.

Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Green Bay (at Minnesota)
Nelson has saved many owners by making one big play, but he is not getting the number of receptions needed to be an every week start yet. The Tampa-2 is predicated on stopping the big play, so look for Greg Jennings, JerMichael Finley and even Donald Driver to be more heavily utilized.

Start This Tight End

Ben Watson, Cleveland (Seattle)
The Browns will struggle to run and the Colts are No. 2 in pass attempts per game.

Bench This Tight End

Dustin Keller, NY Jets (San Diego)
Five total catches for 70 total yards in the last three games says no thanks.

Start Defense/Special Teams

Dallas Cowboys (St. Louis)
The No. 1 rushing defense in the NFL is going to be chasing Sam Bradford - or A.J. Feeley for that matter - all over the field Sunday. It's going to be a long day for all Rams.

Washington Redskins (at Carolina)
Cam Newton threw three interceptions and the Panthers fumled twice last week. The Skins are in the top ten against the run, 11th against the pass and are third in points allowed (16.6).

Bench Defense/Special Teams

Detroit Lions (Atlanta)
The Lions have allowed some success on the ground and the Falcons are pounding the football right now. Detroit also empty the emotional fuel tanks last week as well.

Minnesota Vikings (Green Bay)
This one is pretty obvious, but the Vikings have been solid - just not this week.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports Week 7 NFL Fantasy Start and Sit.</p>
Post date: Friday, October 21, 2011 - 08:05

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